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Archive for posts tagged with ‘Vacation’

Our mountain vacation

Thoughtfully penned on October 22nd, 2009 and generally concerning Us, Vacation

Last week the kids and I had the opportunity to visit the Smoky Mountains (specifically Pigeon Forge) with my parents and nephews. My Dad was kind enough to come to West TN to pick us up so that I wasn’t on the road alone with both kids during the 7ish hour trip.

We headed East on Friday morning and met my brother about lunch time to pick up his boys before making the last bit of the journey. When we got into Pigeon Forge Friday afternoon, we checked into the hotel and took the kids to the indoor pool to enjoy a swim after being cooped up in the car for several hours. Little wasn’t wild about the pool (as I expected), but she enjoyed sitting on the steps with her Bebe and watching her cousins swim and wrestle around in the water (the boys are 12 and 8 years old).

Saturday was M’s day (M is the 12 year old) since that was the only day he was going to be with us (for some reason he thought it would be more fun to spend the week at the beach with his best friend than to spend the weekend with his grandparents and aunt). We ended up at a place called WonderWorks which is a kind of hands-on museum/interactive attraction. It has all kinds of “exhibits” that range from a climbing wall to stacking blocks with robotic arms, computer quizzes (anything from weather to space travel), a bubble lab, and a lot more. It was quite interesting (although quite busy since it was a rainy day), and the kids (all four of them) really enjoyed it, and so did the adults. Boo’s favorite part was pushing all the buttons he could reach, and Little really liked the bubble lab and the computerized painting station. We swam some more Saturday, and Little was brave enough to get in the water with me, although she held on very, very tightly the whole time.

Sunday we spent the day at Dollywood. Unfortunately, I couldn’t ride anything! Aunt L and Uncle J met us for the day, and Little and Boo really liked getting to spend some time with them (we hadn’t seen them since Christmas). Little rode the kiddie coaster with Aunt L and L (her 8 year old cousin), and Little and Boo both rode the Rockin’ Roadway cars and loved it. After the kiddie coaster, Little wasn’t too sure about the other kids’ rides, but Boo rode the Piggy Parade and Lucky Ducky (both just go around in a circle). After those two Little said, “I think there’s some other rides that go around in a circle that Boo can ride.” As in, “I’m not going to ride them, but Boo seems to be having fun!” It was a fun day wandering around the park, watching the kids enjoy themselves, and spending time with my brother and SIL. And I got to eat chili-cheese ribbon fries…yum!

Monday we loaded up and went into Gatlinburg to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. I had heard a lot of good things about the aquarium but had never visited. When we first walked in there was a HUGE tank of fish, and it would have been worth admission just to see Little and Boo’s faces when they saw that! We spent about 4 hours winding our way through the tanks of fish, lizards, and frogs. There is a section of “valves” that have wheels the kids can turn and my two would have spent hours right there. Little, although very hesitant in the beginning, really liked the “moving sidewalk” that carries you through a huge course of tunnel tanks containing sharks, schools of fish, stingrays, and various other sea creatures. It was really neat to see the sharks and HUGE stingrays swimming over and alongside of you. Little’s favorite parts were the ginormous stingrays (both in the tunnel tanks and the stingray tank) and a statue of a blue marlin with a fish impaled on it’s spear.

Monday afternoon/evening we swam again and Little went as far as sitting on the side of the pool and “jumping” into my arms. I was very proud of how brave she was in the pool because she has always been pretty terrified of water that is over her head! Boo on the other hand thought he could swim on his own and was constantly trying to get away from whoever held him. I let go of him a couple of times and let him go under thinking it would show him that he needed to be held, but he wasn’t buying it. He came up spitting and sputtering and was ready to go again. That boy is fearless.

Tuesday morning we went on a trolley ride and then Grandad took Little and L mini golfing and to the arcade while Bebe, Boo, and I did a little shopping. Boo ate up the trolley ride (he was very excited to ride the “choo choo”), and Little loved mini golf. I’m told she uses a croquet swing instead of a golf swing, but it must be effective since she shot a hole-in-one on one hole. Then we loaded everyone up and headed back to my parents’ house for Tuesday night before Grandad brought me and the kids home on Wednesday.

We had a few rough times (Little and Boo were tired, clingy, and missing their Daddy by the end of the trip), but it was definitely worth it. It is so much fun to see the looks of discovery on the kids faces when they experience something new and the looks of delight when they are having a great time with grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. It would have been better if Matt could have joined us, but we all had a great time!

There is always something you didn’t consider

Thoughtfully penned on October 20th, 2008 and generally concerning E, Vacation

We’ve spent the last few months, and especially the last few weeks, trying to prepare Little for all of the new things she would experience on vacation.  We covered the airplane – pointing out planes in the sky, talking about how we would go way up high, really talking it up.  We covered the beach – talking about the sand, the big water, all the fun things we would do.  We covered our living arrangements – talking about the condo, who all would be there, where we would sleep.  I thought we had covered everything.  I was wrong.

I failed to consider the shuttle bus.

We parked our car in an off-site covered parking lot, so we had to ride a shuttle from the lot to the airport.  The bus pulled up behind our car while we were unloading the luggage, and Little stopped dead in her tracks.

“School bus hurt.”

“No, baby, the school bus won’t hurt you.  It is just waiting to take us to the airport to ride the airplane.”

“No want to ride school bus.”

“But we have to ride the bus, sweetie.  It isn’t scary; it will be fun.”

She stood perfectly still clutching dee and asking to be held while we got the bags and carseats from the car into the shuttle.  When it was time to board the bus she flatly refused.  Matt carried her on and sat her in his lap.

We drove a little ways through the parking lot and then stopped to pick up another couple.  As soon as the doors opened Little said, “get off now.”  We explained that we couldn’t get off, that we had to stay on until we got to the airport.  We drove a little farther around the lot and stopped again.  Little said, “get off now.”  The lady from the first stop chuckled a little, and I said, “this could be an interesting day.”

We were successful in keeping her on the bus until we reached the airport at which point she gladly disembarked.

Now what does she answer when you ask her favorite part of going to the airport?  Riding the “bumpy, bumpy bus.”

Go figure.

The sand, the wind, the waves

Thoughtfully penned on October 15th, 2008 and generally concerning E, Vacation

Our trip last week was the first time either of the children had been to the beach. I was a little concerned with how the week would go since Little tends to be a bit timid and doesn’t always deal well with new things, and Boo, well, he’s just Boo. I am pleased to report that they both did great.

My first concern was the airplane.  We’ve been talking to Little for weeks about riding on the airplane and really trying to play it up as a fun experience so she would be excited.  She didn’t like the walkway or having to walk past all the flight crew and passengers in the first class cabin, but once we got past that point she was fine.  When the engines started she said something about it being loud, but she wasn’t upset or afraid, just commenting.  During take-off she sucked her thumb and held on tight to her dee, but Matt talked to her the whole time and she even said, “Whee!  This is fun!” during the initial ascent.  Neither of the kids acted like the pressure change bothered them (maybe because Little was sucking her thumb and Boo was nursing or had his paci), and both were content during the flight without the aid of video or excessive distraction.

My next concern was the sand considering that Little doesn’t like to get her feet dirty.  We didn’t make it onto the beach on Sunday afternoon/evening due to a big rainstorm that lasted for several hours.  On Monday morning, we got up, “sunscream”ed (according to Little) the kids, and headed to the beach.  Little wasn’t real keen on the idea of putting her feet in the sand at first, but after some gentle coaxing and a few minutes of watching everyone else she was willing to walk in it.  Each time we walked onto the beach it took a few minutes before she would get down.  She loved playing in the sand, though, and had a great time shoveling, filling her bucket, and helping Matt build sandcastles.

And then there was the water.  Little isn’t even a fan of swimming pools, so I really didn’t think we would ever get her into the ocean.  Once she saw the Gulf of Mexico “big, big swimming pool” she was in awe, but only desired to view it from afar.  Fortunately, the water was very calm and the waves were just barely breaking, so it wasn’t as intimidating as it would have been with big waves.  The first couple of times Matt took her into the water she was very hesitant and did not want the water to touch her at all.  He continued to take her out despite her protests (half-hearted though they might have been), and by the end of the week she was sitting in the water (in Matt’s lap, of course) and letting the waves hit her body.  It was so cute to hear her giggle as she played in the water with her Daddy.

Since it’s in the title of the post, I guess I should mention the wind, too.  It was there.  It blew.  Sometimes it was strong enough to blow over the umbrella, but it was never bad enough to kick up sand or drive us off the beach.

It was so much fun to watch the kids, especially Little, experience so many new things in such a short time.  She was a bit overwhelmed at first, but she was up to all the changes and did a great job of taking things in stride.  It did my Mommy heart good to see her react so well and have such a wonderful time.

Is it time to go back yet?

The day I thought I might die

Thoughtfully penned on October 14th, 2008 and generally concerning Family, Of games and good things, Vacation

We spent two days of our vacation enjoying the sights and rides of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.  Matt, my brother, my nephews and I are all big roller coaster fans, so we were excited to try the five big coasters in the park.  We were excited, that is, until we saw this

Meet Sheikra.  Or, as we came to refer to it, Shriekra.

All day we eyed this bad boy.  All day it taunted us as it towered above the lesser rides.  All day we alternated between giddy excitement and terrified respect.  All day we tried to work ourselves up for the ride.

When the time came to suck it up or go home all four of us decided to throw caution to the wind and climb aboard.

Now, let’s get a bit of perspective that might be missed when seeing this beast in pictures and not in person.

First, there’s this:

and from a different angle:

a ninety degree (that’s straight down) vertical drop of 200 feet.

Then there’s this:

what’s known as an Immelmann loop, or, in layman’s terms, a loop where you go upside down.

Then, there’s this:

a second vertical drop.

Also notable about this ride are the facts that: 1. it reaches a maximum speed of 70 mph; 2. there is no floor to the coaster “car”; and 3. at the top of the 200 foot drop the coaster pauses to dangle you – yes, dangle you – over the edge before letting the car plunge down the track.

Let me just tell you, that plunge was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before!

So, here’s how it played out…

The four of us boarded the car, pulled our safety harnesses as tight as possible, and set off to see if we’d live to walk off the ride.

Up the ascent.  clack.  clack.  clack. All the time seeing nothing but the clouds.

Around the bend.  brake.  release.  brake. Ease forward until we are hanging over the edge of the precipice.  pause.  pause.  pause.  RELEASE!

Into the descent that pushes you out of your seat up into the seat restraints; forces that require you to think about breathing; an adrenaline rush that makes you question whether or not your heart just stopped.

Quickly into the Immelmann loop, around to the second vertical drop, skidding across water, and back into the coaster station.

My brother left the park with a tee-shirt that said “I survived the five”.  After riding Sheikra, he deserved it.