Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Palm Sunday was Grand!

M was excited about Palm Sunday for months before it. He was anticipating it much more than the Resurrection actually. The reason??? He was going to be singing a Miss Pattycake song in church AND Grandma Kathy and Grandpa Daryl were going to be there. His repeated phrase was, "Grandma Kathy, Grandpa Daryl coming one week! Palm Sunday! clip clop!" Sometimes he added "SUV" into the mix. Finally the weekend came. We had a great time with my parents. M convinced my dad to take him outside for a walk, then to head to the park, and then that it was OK for him to "pee outside" at the park. Oh the memories! I am not the best at getting the camera out, but much fun was had and much good food was eaten.

While my parents were here I got to have a special girls night and see the Duggar family! Here I am with Duggar's bus! Charissa and I had a great time!

Loving Grandma and Grandpa and excited about Palm Sunday!

I am on the end next to Debbie. I am not sure why L and I both have a big person sitting with us! Any ideas?

L and I manning our post after church. We are exit greeters and bus/car watchers!

Aww, cute!

The great thing about grandparents is they are interested in everything I do!

I can roll my tongue, just like Grandpa Daryl!

Yes, Grandpa Daryl, I can ride in this bus!

The smiles before the tears... right before they left!

Grandma took a photo of our family before she left. "Aww, cute!" (Aww cute is a phrase M really likes to say right now!)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

"Snow-tee Mount-ins"

We had a great time in the Great Smoky Mountains last month! It was such a blessing to get away and vacation as a family. It was a sweet gift and treasure for all three of us. The Smoky Mountains are so beautiful. I feel a deep sense of peace being there. It was awesome to be there with M this time as I vividly remember reading adoption books during our last vacation and dealing with infertility during our first trip there. The Smoky's are also special to us as that is where Brandon and I really started praying about the possibility of considering a senior pastor role over an associate pastor role. Such memories from the past and now we were able to make new memories.
An added blessing to our travel was that we left at the end (or is it start I never remember) of daylight savings time. We also crossed a time zone which meant that our little cherub slept until after 8:00 a couple of mornings! Yahoo! This post is going to have info, quotes and photos about our trip. Some photos will have M's commentary and some will not.
One more note: I HIGHLY recommend that every family spend some time in TN. It is such a family friendly vacation destination and the park is free so it is one of the cheapest vacations you will ever take!

Sunday, Day 1 :
Brandon preached and wrapped everything up at church while M and I (and the baby-sitter we hired) packed. Getting someone to watch M for the 90 minutes we loaded the car was brilliant. He crashes every week after church and we knew he needed to stay awake so he could sleep in the car. He did great on the first leg of our drive. We ended up spending the night in Indiana. The room had one king size bed so Mikias set up camp on one end of it with the bed rail holding him in. I think he was so thrilled to sleep with both mommy and daddy in one big bed that he could not stop chatting and giggling and saying very funny things. His first slumber party! He also thought we were at our destination every time we stopped the car.

Monday, Day 2:
Brandon celebrated his 33rd Birthday with another long day in the car. Bathroom report: M does so well now with "holding it" and we don't have to stop any more for him than we did before kids! We estimated that we would arrive in Gatlinburg by mid-afternoon, but there was a rockfall on the interstate (YIKES) and we were detoured to tiny back country mountain roads. We were barely moving for much of the time. I am so glad that I was the driver as I would have been very ill if I was riding. M doesn't get car sick and he was overall happy to listen to Miss Pattycake and "Easter Story Songs" (a Resurrection CD for kids) over and over again.

By the time we arrived and unloaded we were hungry and tired. Unlike our pre-kid trips we actually had to go to the grocery store to buy all of our perishable food. When you are traveling in a tiny car, cooler space is limited. M was fascinated with the lobsters in the grocery store calling them "robber" and staring into the tank. At the checkout, M was walking past me and the cart and crashed into the person who came to bag the groceries. I quickly picked him up and he was screaming. I was doing the whole "You are fine" thing when I looked at his face and saw lots of blood. Fearing the view of a nasty loose tooth smile I passed him off to Brandon immediately. The poor grocery store worker felt so bad, which made me feel bad. It was all so emotional, but luckily no teeth were damaged and by the time we were in the parking lot the bleeding had pretty much stopped. The funny part of the story is that for the rest of the vacation M would say frequently and randomly, " M run into man pants... hurt."

Other day two highlights included M falling in love with both the elevator and the carts that people use to bring luggage up to their rooms. Our condo had a fireplace that turns on with a switch. M really enjoyed turning it on and off. We had several "fires" on our vacation even though it was in the upper 70's and we could hear other units using their air conditioning.

Tuesday, Day 3:

The balcony is my favorite spot!

After two days filled with travel we were ready to have some outdoor fun! We started our day with a trip to the National Park nature center. We decided to do our first hike to Laurel Falls. It is a very well known hike. It is quite easy, less than 3 miles round trip, paved, and well traveled. We thought all of those sounded like good things for M's first hike. (We did not take a stroller with us to TN). M walked for almost half of the hike, but also rode on daddy's back in a great carrier that some friends let us use. You all know what a HUGE Ergo fan I am, but this backpack was great for hiking because it had lots of room for water bottles and snacks! M really enjoyed the waterfall and the loud sound it made. He also liked the snacks we ate on the hike and the thrill of saying hello to every.single.person on the hike!

Mommy wanted to look cool with me on our way to the waterfalls!

Our little family at Laurel Falls

Check out my sweet ride. Everyone that saw me wanted to ride in there too. Seriously, they kept asking to trade with me. Daddy was sweating a lot just carrying me so I think he would have had a hard time with those big people!

We stopped half way for a LaraBar break.

This is the view from the photo above.

I love my mommy and my mommy loves me!

After nap we took M to the pool. We took it very slow and that was the ticket. By then end of our time in the pool that evening M was jumping in to Brandon and had rallied a crew of 6 or so girls to jump in the pool with him. The girls ranged in ages from about 8-12. He was the talk of the pool and they were all captivated by his charm and laugh.

This is the day that M discovered the delight of standing on the balcony railing. He enjoyed talking with trees, people, vehicles etc. By the end of the trip I wished we had a balcony at our home that was easy to use as M would be out there all day if permitted.

I really like the "pole"

After a good bath it always feels good to hang out on the balcony.

Wednesday, Day 4:

After a good morning dose of the balcony I was ready to hike!

Today we decided to check out Grotto Falls. This is the famous falls that you can walk behind. M did great on the hike again, but spent a lot more time riding than walking due to lots of roots and muddy ground. M did try his had at "pee outside" with great success and joy!

Can you see us behind the waterfall?

Behind Daddy who was behind a waterfall!

Mommy and the Ergo went behind the waterfall too!

After the hike we drove through the Roaring Fork Nature Trail and stopped several places to check our little buildings and rocks and things. M enjoyed walking in and out of the house.

Funny Mommy eating apple holding squeeze fruit! ( I know this isn't a great photo of either of us, but it is sort of unique and I really like the setting)

Come in friends, there is room for everyone in my house!

Just chillin and honestly a little upset that my glasses were removed for no good reason!

After lunch and nap Brandon and M went swimming again. I chose to just watch that night as the water was a little cold for me. Every time we would walk into our condo M would say "Snow-tee Mount-in home" with great delight!

Daddy and I really like to swim!

Thursday, Day 5: We decided that we were all ready for Baskin Falls. This is our favorite hidden falls that I have blogged about HERE. M enjoyed seeing the falls and the creek the the trail followed, but this was a much longer and more challenging hike for all of us. There were also very few people on the trail which is hard on our social butterfly.

After lunch and nap we all hit the pool again for some swimming. I swam with the guys for a while, impressing M with my handstands. Eventually, I headed to the hot tub which was about the temp. that I would prefer a swimming pool to be. So relaxing!

Friday, Day 6:
Three weather websites said that it would rain today so we decided to make a morning trip over to a neighboring town with a huge Christian bookstore. We got lots of great Easter books for M and some future gifts as well. It turns out the store had discount books of all sorts! It also turns out that the website was wrong and there was no rain that morning.

After lunch and nap there was still no rain so we decided to take a short hike to Cataract Falls. It started to rain on our way to the falls. We were there long enough for a couple of quick photos and then it really started to rain. We sprinted back to the car getting soaked in the process. M was laughing like crazy and having a blast the whole time. A memory maker for sure!

Nice view! Nice family!

Look Mommy, a waterfall!

Another added thrill for the day was the Santa convention going on in Gatlinburg. There were Santas in costume and out of costume every where we looked. I just couldn't look away. These are dedicated men who live the Santa lifestyle year around! I was caught staring and pointing more than once. I would gasp (like a 7 year old) and say "Look another Santa!" M knows nothing about Santa by the way. So after my obsession during our commutes to the park (Did I mention that if you go to Gatlinburg during TN spring break and road construction you will have a slow ride to the park each day?) M started joining in my Santa squeals.
Me: What do you know about Santa?
M: White beard
Me: What does Santa do?
M: Wave
It is true that as I stared many a Santa gave me a wave. I find it funny that my 2.5 year old things that Santa's job is waving!

Saturday, Day 7:
Today we took a long car ride over to North Carolina. This marked the sixth state that we visited on the trip! On our way we stopped at the border and then we drove up to Clingman's dome to see the cool lookout at the highest point in the park... BUT it was so foggy (or smokey) that could not even read signs a few feet away from us. No beautiful views captured there.

I felt like I was in two places at once!

Hey, the man told me to smile!

Go Vikings!

We drove on into NC and got to see Mingo Falls. It was a very short hike and a HUGE falls. Sadly, because the bridge you hike to is so far away from the falls, the falls appears to be small. It is actually huge and loud and amazing! After our time at the waterfall we checked out an awesome nature center full of hands on things for children and even live music. M really enjoyed this. Then we headed back to the Smoky Mt. home for lunch and nap.

Sweet family!

Mingo Falls!

Yes, I can hear better with two phones!

A view from our drive!

After nap we decided to get in one last hike before we had to pack things up. We did a short paved loop near the TN nature center and M walked and ran most of the trip.

Mommy was excited because she said this fireplace looked like the one at the top of Walton's Mt. from a TV show I have never seen, but I got to climb on rocks so I was happy.

Sunday, Day 8: trip home

Upside Down House Upside Down Trees!!!!!!

We made the whole trip in one day. Our first stop on the way home was to take the above photo. M was fascinated with this place each time we drove by so we knew he would enjoy stopping and admiring it!

By the time we got home the car was trashed and we were tired, but it felt great to be home! We had no major roadwork and the time change worked in our advantage. We had smooth sailing through Chicago (a first us) which helped us gain more ground. It ended up taking us about 11 hours if I remember right! M was glad to be home and wandered around that night and the next day saying "happy home" over and over! On top of all of the lovely conveniences of home I was thankful for our round doorknobs and heavy push toilet handles. The resort we stayed at prob. thinks there were six people in our unit with all the toilet flushing that went on in there. I am also quite thrilled that M still can't open our doors at home and I hope that lasts a few more weeks!