Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Turkey, Deer, Pancakes and Bears, Oh My!

Day 4
Tuesday, June 14

Today was our first day to really experience what we came for, the beauty of the Smoky Mountains! We enjoyed a great sit down breakfast at one of the many pancake houses in Pigeon Forge. Seriously, what is with pancakes and this town? There was a pancake place every other building it seemed. We had a great breakfast and headed out in the two vans to the entrance of the national park.

The plan was to enjoy the drive and head into Cades Cove and drive that loop. It features old cemeteries, churches and other buildings.

On the drive in, we stopped at a few places to just enjoy the creek. William had a ball throwing rocks and loved it when Alan threw a HUGE boulder in the water.

We also spotted a little spot where 4-5 gorgeous butterflies were hiding out!
We continued on the drive to Cades Cove, where we spotted wild turkey and a deer. My parents got a pic with all of the grandkids.
Then we finally made it to the little village and explored the mill and old buildings. The mill was operational and we were able to purchase some ground cornmeal from it!

On the way out, my parents and sister and her family spotted a black bear and its cubs, but we couldn't find a place to park since we were driving the larger van, so we missed it. We stopped for ice cream at the campground area on the way out.
We also spotted a few waterfalls on the drive back. I would have loved to have hiked over to it, but with all the kids and the baby, it just wasn't going to happen. Maybe another trip.
We also saw many spots where kids and adults were swimming and jumping off cliffs. We stopped to have a look.

We made the drive back and stopped in Gatlinburg for a bit to shop. Oh the cheesiness was oozing from every crevice. Cheesy souvie shops, Ripley's Believe or Not Museums, candy store after candy store etc. The streets were pretty crowded with foot traffic too, so we didn't shop for long. We did find a little alcove that had some decent real stores. Note mini golf in the background (again, they were every 100 ft or so it seemed!).

That night, we had dinner at the Old Mill in Pigeon Forge. The food was delicious, all home cooking! All in all, a great day, taking in the beauty of nature!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Vacation Day 3- Dollywood or Dollyworld?

Vacation Day 3

Monday, June 13

It really is Dollywood, but it was fun hearing Jeff keep calling it Dollyworld. I can't blame him, since Disney World is a pretty popular word in our household.

Monday, our first full day of enjoying vacation was spent at the popular Dollywood, which as it turns out, was literally right down the street from our cabin. It took only a few minutes to get there. We arrived right at opening and rode the tram into the park. We all bought the 3 day pass, which allowed us access to either Dollywood or Dolly's Splash Country for 3 days within the next 7 days. It was pricey at $90 per adult, but the best deal since we planned to do the waterpark.

We laughed at some of the strange characters that were out for pictures with kids. I couldn't even tell who or what they were, some strange round furry thing. We headed to the new Barnstormer ride which was pretty fun and swung you almost upside down. My dad tried on the barnstormer hat and he gave the ride a thumbs up!

William enjoyed the kids playground area there and then discovered the "beach". They had two large sand tables set up with sand and toys. He loved it and later asked to go back to the "beach". Alan figured out what he was talking about....the sand. Oh the mind of a toddler.

We spent the rest of the day exploring Dollywood, which exceeded my expectations. It was very clean (much better than Six Flags in that aspect) and I loved the woodsy feel with all the shade and trees and creeks running through it.I have high expectations when it comes to theme parks after my time as a cast member at the theme park all others attemp to mimic, Walt Disney World. But Dollywood wasn't half bad. At least there wasn't 2000 pieces of gum stuck to a tree, trash everywhere or rude employees a la Six Flags.
Of course, as is our luck, it turned out to be a really hot day. We split off from the rest of the family to take William to do some kid-friendly stuff. We rode the Dollywood steam train which was fun and then we hit the ferris wheel and a kiddie coaster that William demanded we ride twice. The kid is scared of blow dryers and bugs, but he'll take on any roller coaster or thrill ride. He's already done Test Track, Soarin and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disney before he turned 3!

He had a good time and we enjoyed some of the famous Dollywood food. By about 4pm, most of us had had it. We met back up with my parents and Mandy/Jeff for a bit and decided to call it a day. It was hot and crowded and we knew we could come back later in the week. So we headed back to the cabin.

We got back to the cabin and got William down for a nap and same for Brynley. As you know, a cabin doesn't really have any insulation, so we could hear every single footstep, someone grabbing a drink from a cooler upstairs etc. Wasn't great for getting the kids to nap, but what can you do?

We had bought a ton of food at the store of course. If you've ever eaten with the Easler clan, you know we always have way too much food. We decided to grill out tonight- chicken, hot dogs and burgers. Jeff is our king griller. But we all joked that it was taking him like 3 hours to grill. Turns out we didn't have enough charcoal, but we got it all grilled eventually and it was delicious. We ate sort of late, around 8pm or so. We enjoyed a nice relaxing afternoon and a great home-cooked dinner. Everyone enjoyed an adult beverage and hanging out on the deck again. Loved the rocking chairs out there. Time for night-night and resting up for another big day tomorrow!

Tonight we decided to cook and eat in. Jeff took over the grill and grilled up some hot dogs, chicken breasts and burgers. We all joke that it took him like 3 hours to grill it all. But the food was divine and worth the wait.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Log Cabin Living

Vacation- Day 2

Sunday, June 12

We finally locate the right cabin and the code works. Thankfully no one was home in the other cabni we had been trying to get into. We would have felt really stupid. Our cabin is a nice spacious cabin with two stories. Master bedroom, bath (with jacuzzi tub), living area, dining and kitchen plus a huge balcony. Downstairs are three bedrooms, 2 baths, a den and pool table, plus a lower balcony. The one thing missing? Insulation. Oh yeah, log cabins don't have that. Poor Mandy took the room under the stairs, not realizing she would hear every single footstep on the stairs as the baby tried to sleep. We could hear anyone getting a drink out of the ice chest in the dining room or opening the balcony door upstairs above our room. It sort of became a joke after a while.

We were starving after getting settled in and headed to the main strip in Pigeon Forge for a late lunch. We found a McAlister's which sounded good since we wanted something light. It was after 2pm already. Next was time for groceries. It became a game on our last big family trip to the beach two years ago to see how many times we could stop at the local IGA. Fortunately we only made two grocery stops or so this time. The grocery store had beer, but did not sell wine. So strange. Only Gatlinburg sold wine and liquor. I just thought it was odd to sell beer, but not wine?

Half of us loaded into the smaller mini van for the trip to Kroger. The others took all the kiddos back to the cabin for a while to burn off some energy. We ended up buying groceries to make dinner twice and enough for lunches and quick breakfasts. And beer, don't forget the beer. Lots of beer. Oh, and ice. To keep the beer cold.

We also checked out some of the views further up the cabin area- some really amazing ones!

That night, we had to find a sports bar for dinner. Why, might you ask? Our precious Mavericks were in game 6 that Sunday for the NBA championship! We asked around at the store, management office etc. for a good suggestion. Someone mentioned a new Buffalo Wild Wings that had just opened down the road. We tried finding it online and no luck, no phone number, nothing. Finally we just risked it and drove over that direction and ended up finding it. We got seat, had a nice dinner and watched the game until half time. But watching a full game at a sports bar isn't conducive to kiddos or a baby much less. So most of us left at halftime. My brother in law, Mike and my parents stayed to watch until the end. My mom is a HUGE Mavs fan as is Mike. The rest of us watched it back at the cabin where we could lay the baby on the floor without risk of her being trampled by a drunk guy.

As you know, we got our happy ending and the Mavs won! After a long day of travelling and basketball, it was time to call it a night.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wednesday Williamisms

Vacation Williamisms

We heard several new funny "Williamisms" this past week on our vacation. He kept asking "Mommy, why?" about every thing (you know that fun stage). So we finally came up with "because I said so" or "because I'm on vacation" or "because it is fun" and he started just answering himself with one of those.

"Mommy, let's go back to the cabinet (cabin)."

"Mommy, I want to go back to the beach." Me- huh?...........turns out he was referring to a little sand box area at Dollywood to play in the sand. Sand = beach, I mean, duh! Doesn't matter that we are in the mountains and not near a beach.

"Mommy, Ally is hiding." ....as he woke up on our last day, realizing Ally, who had fallen asleep in the same bed as him, was now gone (she left early that morning to head home with her family). He thought she was hiding and didn't realize she had left.

William also had a thing suddenly about bugs, especially in bathrooms. If he saw a fly in the bathroom, he freaked. If the bathroom was dirty, he wouldn't go in it either. At one stop, after viewing a pretty dirty stall in the bathroom, he says "Mama, you can go in that one (the dirty one)." Poor Mama (my mom)! Next thing I would hear, "Mommy, there's a bug, there's a bug!". As he quickly runs out of the stall with his pants still around his ankles.

Best of all, on the way home and this week, William has already been asking to go back. "Mommy, can we leave on vacation again?". So sweet. Little does he know we are heading to San Diego for a quick weekend getaway in late August and then Disney World in October!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Vacation- The Journey. Two Vans, Two Blowouts and a Mountain

We were lucky enough to spend the last week among family, enjoying the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains in TN. Our trip started with an early wake up call on Saturday, to meet my parents, my sister Wendy, her hubby and two kids, plus my baby sister, her hubby and 6 month old baby. So it was 8 adults, 3 kids and one baby.

So what's with the title? Well, we decided to take two vans. My sister, her hubby and two kids took my parents mini van, while the rest of us rented a 12 passenger van for the trip. For those of you with a baby, you know how much "crap" you have to take with you, so we needed the extra room. Mike was ready to go with his Captain's hat on!
Blowouts? Well not a tire, thankfully, but the other kind isn't much better. Poor Brynley baby had a big diaper blowout a few hours into the trip. She was suddenly fussy and Mandy realized she had one of those, you know, the kind of messy diaper where you just give up and throw the whole onsie/outfit away rather than deal with even trying to wash it later. Poor kiddo. We also discovered hardly any of the bathrooms on the way, especially in AR had diaper changing tables. So what did we do? We "white-trashed" it (yep, I just made up that word). She changed Brynley on the playgorund outside. Hey, it's better than doing it inside on a table, right? And this was a blowout of massive proportions that could not be accomplished on the seat of the van.

We stopped at a great little barbeque place for a nice sit down lunch and stopped just outside Nashville for the night. After checking in, we headed across the street to Cracker Barrell, a favorite of road trippers nationwide.

After a good meal, we settled down for the night, except, not really. William would ask me what every single noise we heard was. "Mommy, what's that noise out the window?". Me- "That's cars driving down the street outside." Him- "Oh.". Then we hear some annoying kids trying to stick their card key into our door about 10x before they moved on. Next up, a screaming baby (and no, not Brynley). Finally I got William to drift to sleep after he had asked me about every single sound within 100 feet of us.
We were up early again, ready to head out on the road again I think by 7ish after partaking in the free breakfast (if you call it that). We only had about 3-4 hours to go to get to our cabin outside of Pigeon Forge, in Sevierville. After missing a turn, then missing a second turn after that, we finally get straightened up and find out way to the cabin, off a little road behind Dollywood theme park. We get checked in and head up to our cabin.
There are probably 20-30 cabins up there, all different sizes. We find the one we think is ours. Ours is called "Smoky Mountain Retreat". We head to try the keycode for the door. Not working. We realize we are at the "Mountain Retreat". Oops. Right next door is "Smoky Mountain Retreat". Really, you give two cabins right next to each other almost identical names? We actually did find a second "Smoky Mountain Retreat" further up the hill too. Crazy. And this wasn't an isolated incident. Don't get me started on "The Pancake House" that had locations within a mile of each other. Same exact restaurant, within a mile. Seriously- how am I supposed to know which one to check in on on foursquare?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Trash Man Cometh!

So you might not be aware, but my son has a little obsession with something strange. Not hot wheels or legos. He loves trash and trash cans. Mainly trash cans. He just can't get enough of them. We have a full collection of different sized ones, varied colors etc. He loves playing with them upstairs in his playroom. I don't give him trash bags, for fear of him putting them over his head or something, but he found a way to make his own. He took the netted bag out of his clothes hamped and pretended it was a trash bag and put it inside his trash can. He likes to throw his fake food in the trash cans and then pretend to take the trash out.

He actually does like helping with the real trash too. He helps us bag and carry the trash outside, plus you better not even consider putting a new bag in. That's William's job. I simply get a bag out, lay it on the empty can and he puts the new bag in. He'll throw a fit if you don't let him help out. And believe me, he can hear it. If you are fluffing open a new bag, he'll be there in 2 seconds, telling you that is his job! While I love the help with the chores, he has taken it to a completely different level.
When we go to the grocery store or Target, he has to stop on the trash can aisle to check out all the new trash cans. If we are driving through an alley, he is pointing all of them out. If there is a trash can on TV, he points it out. And what does he remember from Granny's house? That she keeps a small trash can under the sink and then big ones out in the garage.

What did we do at Disney World? We found (and touched) every single trash can we came across. And just for you non-disney folk, Disney does a great job with maintenance of their parks, so most trash cans are extremely clean and well kept by the custodial crew. Plus, there is a trash can almost every 30 feet. Walt wanted to make sure folks had access to throw their trash away and hence keep the park cleaner. Well William was in heaven with the abundance of trash cans. Some were themed, some were normal and of course, there was even PUSH, the talking animatronic trash can. We lucked out and found him the first day and he sang Happy Birthday to William. I don't think I have seen the kid happier- having a conversation with a trash can that talked back.
So everywhere we go, the trash can obsession continues. At the mall, if the trash is full, he points it out, runs over and promptly tells me "someone needs to take this trash out, it's full."

My poor dad is even under fire now. Everytime we visit their house, William immediately heads to the kitchen where they have a really nice high end stainless steel trash can with the slow shutting lid. If that trash can is even near full, William demands that his Papa take it out. So now my dad always takes the trash out prior to Will coming over, knowing he will get in trouble!

William loves Papa's expensive trash can, but given it is over $100, we won't be getting one anytime soon. We promised if he is good, maybe Santa Claus will bring the family one this year. And yes, William asked Santa for a hefty brand black trash can last year and got it. He strolls down the stairs Christmas morning and what is the first toy he goes to? Not the cool new McDonald's kitchen/drive through. Not the new games or trains. The trash can.

At Target, we have to stop on the way out each time, since they have 4 different trash cans- there is a green for bottles, one for electronics (red), one for regular trash and one for plastic bags. He loves it.

As many of you know, we even decided to play on his love for trash cans and I made him a trash can costume for Halloween this past year. He loved it and we got lots of comments on what a unique costume it was. He had a lot of fun in it, although it wasn't very practical for wearing long.

So when will this obsession end? Who can say. Since our trip to Disney, it has diminished a bit and he isn't as crazy about pointing out every single one, but we still have to go down the trash aisle at the store. I figure it is harmless and hey, if it means I get someone to help take out the trash, then I am a happy gal.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wednesday Williamisms

"Mommy those birds wake me up being loud. And that's not good."

After his Granny brought over his cousins for a visit..."Mommy, Granny's kids played with my toys." Um, no honey, those aren't Granny's kids, I am sure she doesn't want anymore at this point in her life.

"Mommy, I want Brynley to reach out and touch me."