I know someone was praying for us because I felt like we had some neat blessings at the beginning of the drive. The first one was the van started making weird noises right out of the gate. I know that doesn't sound great - but we were able to stop at the mechanic and get everything fixed before our big drive. And it was kind of a big deal - like we would have died. Good to not die.
So this is what the beginning of our trip looked like...
Then we FINALLY got on the road and after about 5 minutes of driving - I couldn't find my phone. We pulled over and searched high and low. I ended up driving BACK to the car place and my phone was just sitting on one of the black chairs. I was so glad I didn't drive any further than 5 minutes. Like all the way to Nashville and then wonder where my phone was.
Here we are - made it the 3 hours in one piece. I would say out of the 22 hours of driving - the first leg was the worst. After about 40 minutes of driving - all 4 kids were whining and tired. And Freddy seemed miserable but luckily that wasn't indicative of the rest of the drive. phew.
This place is funny. WAY overpriced food and it's super disgusting but you pay for the atmosphere - which makes it worth it. The kids loved it.
For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to let them all order drinks the size of their heads.
roaring tigers and elephants spraying steam - what's not to love?
Another story that makes me look dumb but shows how we were being watched over...
So, we left the restaurant and went to use the mall's bathroom. When we got out of the bathroom I looked down and noticed Luke wasn't wearing shoes!! "LUKE!!! Where are your shoes!!??" Luke: "Um, oh maybe I left them in the restaurant. I think they are under the table." And then I said, "Are you serious? Oh man, sometimes I wonder about your brain" Or some such snarky remark I probably shouldn't have said. So we go back to the restaurant, back to our table and are looking around for the shoes and can't find them. Our waitress comes out and sees us and says "oh, are you looking for your credit card ma'am?" ??? "Oh ... actually no, I was looking for my son's shoes but did I leave my credit card here!?" Yes, I did. I'm a dork. And Luke actually saved the day by being a weirdo leaving his shoes there and walking around a mall bathroom in his bare feet. Hurray for Luke!! Ha ha. And he fittingly said, "mom, sometimes I wonder about your brain." Touche Luke, touche.
Then we get back to the van and I decide to let Freddy roam free while I get the movie all set up. Well, that was a bad idea because he found my dark chocolate that had melted in the sun and smeared it all over the van. It was a very trying moment, but we got through it.
The drive to Knoxville was easy peasy because Freddy fell asleep and the kids just watched a movie. We got to our sweet hotel that was tiny - which was perfect for a single mom schlepping all the bags in by myself. We basically parked right by the room AND the room was right by the pool.
And the very next day - guess whose face I got to see in real life??
She does everything perfectly. She's really busy - teaches piano lessons, home schools and is the relief society president and basically never sees her husband. But she doesn't ACT like that. She just is the same funniest girl ever. I really don't know how she does it. I asked her husband one night (when he got home at 10pm!) if she ever looses her temper. He said, no - she doesn't and he didn't know how she did it either. Anyway - she's pretty much my idol. Ever since Jessica Roylance judged her legs to be sexiest - I should have known I would never measure up. Darn Jessica Roylance. I just loved basking in her happy funniness and watching her family flourish under her gentle and delightful ways.
Trying to capture this funny moment of Trisha telling my girls highly inappropriate bedtime stories. They were giggling so hard at her really immature bedtime raps and impromptu songs. what a dork. grow up trish. Oh man, that sweet little Evie has no idea what she is in for.
The next morning we drove to one of the coolest places I've ever been. I can't even remember what it's called but it's just so quirky and small-towny and it made the kids so happy.
The funniest part was this little train ride that took you around a loop. They had a few plastic animals along the way and the kids were like - "oh look a bear!" "and a deer!" It was pretty much the best.
The coolest thing of the day was this. Every kid gets a big bucket of sand and they sift it and strain it until they find the sparkly beautiful rocks. Trisha and my kids bonded over their love of rocks for sure.
Most of this trip consisted of the kids having a blast in the Lee backyard - playing on the trampoline and making "cities" in the pine needles under the trees.
Our kids all got along wonderfully - I don't think there was a single fight. I don't think that had anything to do with my kids. I'm telling you - these kids are angels.
A lot of time was spent at what the kids called "the islands" next to the walking trail in their neighborhood. They live in a really cool neighborhood.
And I also just want to add this picture I took of her home school room. I got to see her charts and schedules and curriculum. I even got to hear the songs she makes up to help her kids remember things. I wish Trisha was my teacher!! They are learning Chinese and Spanish and violin and piano and reading up a storm and collecting rocks and coins and PLAYING and being kids. It's a good life.
We miss those guys. It was really fun to visit them. Even though I went to visit MY friend - it ended up being more of a trip for the kids. I was surprised how much fun they had and as we left Luke sadly said - "I will never forget my time here.
And I want to say - being two high school kids is a lot different than being two moms with a bunch of kids and babies. It's a lot of work to be moms and Trisha had a newborn and was still getting up at night and then making food and cleaning. And Freddy was really clingy and Maryanne had a few epic meltdowns (one was warranted - when her new white stuffed kitty fell in the pond when she was standing on the bridge and floated away) Anyway - what I'm trying to say is we aren't as carefree as the 17 year old us but I say we are even better. We might not have had time to do any prank calling or Christmas photo shoots but I loved watching my friend in action as a mother. It was truly inspirational.
Ok, blah blah - now on to DOLLYWOOD. We decided to stop at Dolly Pardon's very own amusement park on the way back. And Joey just happened to be in Nashville for a work thing and drove over to Pigeon Forge, TN to join us.
We went Friday afternoon but my phone died so I didn't take pictures. I'm just going to have to remember the look on Freddy's face on the little bees and piggies and ducks. It was so darn cute. So the tricky thing was I was by myself and there wasn't much that the girls could ride by themselves. They needed to ride with someone big but I had Freddy. So, what I did was find random teenagers and ask if they would take my girls on the rides - like the swings and the sky rider and the scrambler. Rides like those. Luke could go on just about anything. But he had to go by himself. So it was hard.
The girls and a random teenager. Most of them were so nice to take them and the girls loved meeting all the cool big girls.
First thing on Saturday morning - since we had a daddy now to take the little ones - Luke and I got to run away and go on a couple really big rollercoasters. It was really fun - but it was also the first Saturday since the park opened and it was crowded. So we waited in line for 45 mins to an hour. But I like Luke and it was fun to hang out with him and play games. This is us before our first big ride (I think it was Thunderhead)
And this is Luke playing on my phone while we were waiting in line for the second ride (Mystery Mine)
Smokey Mountain River Rampage.
I splurged because we were waiting for Dad and Luke to ride some roller coasters and these guys sort of ran out of rides they could ride. So, face painting it is.
And cotton candy
Daredevil Falls - Luke and Joey
Mine and Joey's favorite ride was barnstormer. It feels like you are flying. And I will have to ask Luke - I think he said it was Dizzy Discs or Mystery Mine. The girls said Swings and Sky Rider. We had a lot of fun.
And I picked up a little thank you gift on my way out.
Our drive home was actually...
Easter Sunday 2016
the easter bunny found the hotel
And to wrap things up .... here's more weird pictures my kids took --
And then it was home again home again jiggity jig. Just in time to get some sleep before starting school the next day. A very good spring break.