Wednesday, June 29, 2016

"The Mountains of Summer"

We continued a new tradition of a family vacation for the second year in a row. This tradition includes the 5  of us, My mom & bonus-dad & my sister & her family, 6 adults, 4 - 5 year olds & a 2.5 year old.

A few days before we were scheduled to leave the boys & I took a short road trip to Grandma's, my bonus-mom. She graciously agreed to watch all 4 of our furry friends for us while we were gone. Knowing that Donna would be putting in some extra hours at work before heading off on vacation for a week, the boys & I decided to make a few days of it at Grandma's.

Caden, Garren, Kellan
Haddie & Eason
Murphee & Cecil Cat (unseen but in the crate)

We had a fun couple of days with Grandma. I had the van serviced & checked out while we were there & we took the boys to a new (to us) playground & splash pad.

Leaving Grandma's is never a happy endeavor & leaving behind our four legged loves made it even more difficult...

Garren obviously not happy.
Kellan & Caden bought into the "it's time to pick up Mommom & go on vacation!" excitement

When we first planned this years vacation & booked the cabin in the Smokies, the boys deemed it "The Mountains of Summer." They counted down the months, weeks & days until we went. So as soon as we got back from Grandma's they had to mark the days off the calendar that we had been gone & were super excited to see we left the very next day!!!

Donna after an exhausting work week & a mystery infection that had her knocked out in bed the weekend before with a 103 degree fever. The doctor couldn't even figure out what she had but gave her a strong antibiotic to fight whatever it was. Needless to say, she was ready for some R&R!

Our friendly neighborhood send-off 

The drive to Tennessee wasn't too bad other than some congested traffic in SC & the boys asking when we were going to be there about a bagillian times. LOL
It was raining when we arrived but the view was stunning for a couple of flatlander FL girls! 

Sunday morning we got a good glimpse of what the "stocked kitchen" actually had for us & it certainly wasn't enough to keep up with feeding 11 people. There wasn't a griddle or a broiler pan so we took matters to the grill. I honestly can't think of a better way to cook bacon now! 

Grillon' bacon with a view :)

What could be more fun than waking up with your cousins?!

Family breakfast

Kids watching a movie while the rest of us got ready for the day

Rain was forecasted for our first day in the mountains so we decided on an indoor adventure & headed to the Aquarium in Gatlinburg.

Dr Kellan, Caden, Garren, Nadia, & Chandler

Caden has been drawing seahorses lately, so I made sure that he saw some real ones.

Caden & Kellan

Papa, photo courtesy of Caden

After the aquarium, we all headed back to the cabin for dinner & an early bedtime. Of course not before trying out the jacuzzi tub in our room.

Day two, we did what we had initially planned to do our first day in the mountains & that was to let the kids swim & the grown ups relax, so a pool day it was!


Garren, Chandler, & Nadia trying to figure out what this wheel did.

Nadia & Caden

Aunt Autumn & Garren

Another group of kids arrived & it was non stop fun for everyone!

Garren is all about the pool tricks these day, he's doing a flip here.


A less cloudy view

Everyone helping Papa make homemade blueberry ice cream, YUM!

We snuck into the hot tub leaving all the kids inside

Nadia & Garren, cousin snuggles

Day three, we headed to Ober Gatlinburg. It was recommended by everyone we spoke to who had ever been to Gatlinburg before. This was the day the boys were finally going to be able to 'climb the mountain.' 

Donna making breakfast before we headed out

Nana, Papa, & all their grandchildren
(plus Donna, Kellan wouldn't let her put him down)

The 'flying bus!'

The boys were slightly disappointed there wasn't actual climbing involved to get up the mountain but the excitement of riding the sky tram or rather the "flying bus" as they called it, outweighed the disappointment.

The boys all playing while we bought armbands

First up was the Aspen Slide, I thought this would make or break our day so I wanted to do it first. A ski lift to the top & a slide back down, the boys were going to love or hate it & that would determine wether we spent the rest of the day doing kiddie rides or riding the big kid rides...

Kellan, riding the ski lift

Aunt Autumn & Garren

Kellan & I with Garren & Caden gaining on us.
The boys all LOVED it!!! They wanted to get right back on it again but the line was long so we decided to try out some of the other rides first.

Chandler & Garren

Caden & Kellan

Garren & Caden


Garren, Kellan, Caden

The kiddie rides had absolutely no lines so we had all the boys ride them in between the big rides since they had long lines. We didn't get many photos on the big rides since we were on them too but my mom caught these pics of each of us coming off the biggest water slide there...

Uncle Steven & Chandler

Donna & Garren

Kellan & I
Look at his face!!! He LOVES these rides!!!

Aunt Autumn & Caden

I was so impressed & surprised by the boys' love for the big rides, especially Kellan since he is so nervous about new things. 

Wednesday morning, Donna got an email first thing that time cards hadn't been entered at one of her stations. So her & I took a drive into Knoxville to the station there while the boys hung out with Aunt Autumn, Uncle Steven, & their cousins at the pool. We were only gone a couple hours & were back in time for lunch. 

Nadia wasn't quite ready to wake up from her nap & wanted snuggles from Caden

My parents had offered to watch the kids if we wanted to go out one night. After a very brief discussion, Donna, Autumn, Steven & myself decided we would do a tour of the local breweries & distilleries. Fist stop was Smoky Mountain Brewery. We sampled a bunch, had an appetizer & moved on to the good stuff.

Our second stop of the evening was to Ole Smoky Moonshine at The Island in Pigeon Forge

We sampled every flavor & brought home 3 flavors.

After the distillery we headed to a local hot spot the Blue Moose. The beer there was awesome, they had one that tasted like cream soda, yum! We also sampled some more moonshine from a distillery in Gatlinburg, Sugarland. The sweet tea was Steven & I's favorite. We had a great time but wanted to be home to put our kids to bed so I (designated driver, I only sipped a little at our tastings) took the tipsy, one maybe drunk, bunch back to the cabin. My sister was REALLY in good spirits!

When we got back the kids were lined up in blankets on the floor watching a movie. They told us Nana & Papa made them PB&J's made with pancakes & that they had so much fun! 

Caden's idea of snuggling with Chandler, sitting on him, lol

Thursday we had plans to go see one of Donna's childhood friends & her parents. Donna & Terry's parents were best friends when they were growing up & it had been "about 17, or maybe 20 years" since they'd seen each other. They lived about 30 minutes from where we were staying on a beautiful piece of property. 

The boys were antsy so we sent them outside to run. They ran up & down the hill a few times before they decided they were hot & asked if they could swim. We happily obliged so we could visit in peace.

Caden joining in on the tricks, summersaulting into the pool.

Garren enjoying a float

Trio of Terror, just kidding, they had a really good time!

Terry & Donna
Thora, Terry's mom, says some things never change!

Donna, Kellan, Therry, Caden, Thora, Garren, & Tommy.
Tommy tells the best stories but most ended with, "that's a damn lie" LOL

They  put out a sign so we didn't miss their house

We stayed clear through dinner, visiting & catching up. It was really nice meeting/seeing them all! Hopefully we catch up again sooner than 17 or 20 years!

Friday was our last full day at the Cabin. We spent the day relaxing at the pool, doing laundry, eating up the food that was left, & cleaning up. We had to check out by 11 on Saturday but wanted to be on the road much earlier than that so we packed & loaded up all that we could Friday night leaving just our clothes for the morning .

Donna, the boys & I did sneak off for one more adventure before having to head home. I really thought the boys would like The Island at Pigeon Forge. We let them choose between riding some rides or going to Build A Bear. They choose the bears, well Kellan chose Peppa Pig which was no surprise & Caden & Garren chose Iron Man & Captain America bears

The Eye at The Island

Bubbles above the trees...
Chandler & Caden


Their last sleep in the cabin

Darren with Captain America, Peppa & Kellan, & Caden. 
Iron man is buried in there somewhere.

The Cabin, 3 stories, 5 bedroom & bathrooms, a game room with pool table, air hockey, & arcade games, a theater room, a hot tub & lots of family memories made!

With this vacation we crossed 3 items off our Summer Bucket List...

1. Grow a vegetable garden
2. Pick Blueberries
3. Go to Kennedy Space Center, aka see space rockets
4. Climb mountains
5. FIND sharks teeth!!!
6. Go bowling
7. Make the dye shirts
8. Go to a drive in theater
9. Make fancy bird/fairy houses
10. Take a family vacation
11. Go fishing 
12. Ride water slides
13. Go camping
14. Hang out with our triplet BFFs!!!
15. Check out 2 new State Parks
16. Make paper mache' planets
17. Discover a new beach
18. Go hiking
19. Go to the waterpark
20. See fireworks


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