Now that school has started back up, I will take a few minutes to reminisce about the first family vacation I have been on in more than five years.
It came about on a fluke. Sometime in July Kimani got sick right before a family birthday party. She stayed home with daddy while my mom and I drove with the four other kids to the birthday party a few hours from my house. On the way back my mom remarked that everyone was so good in the van that the trip was "easy". Right then a crazy idea occurred to me. Mom and I could drive these kids all the way to Tennessee to visit my dad and stepmom (who can no longer travel to us).
My husband agreed, plans were made, and a vacation was born.
On the way, we stayed overnight at a hotel with an indoor pool because I learned long ago that the hotel pool is the best way to break up a long drive.
We arrived at the house my dad built for my grandmother (which is right next to his own on the TN river) on what would have been her 100th birthday. I have not been there since before my grandmother died, so it was sad for me and I missed her terribly. It took my kids a few hours to stop running around like maniacs in the house which is about four times the space they are used to. My dad had gone out of his way to get baby gates to block certain doorways and the stairs. Ha, Autumn got through them in about five minutes. She was so proud of herself standing at the top landing.
My little daredevil.
We enjoyed a couple lazy days of visiting, playing, and fishing. My oldest son caught his first fish. He was so proud of it that my dad froze it and insisted we take it home to show daddy.
Playing doctor. Poor baby doll needed a shot.
Waiting for a nibble.
Showing off his first fish.
Mom and I loaded the kids up and drove them to Gatlinburg to visit the Ripley’s Aquarium (so worth it if you can ever get there).
Taking a cuddle break.
My clowns checking out the clown fish inside the tank.
Jade wishing for a snack.
Walking through the aquarium tunnel admiring the sharks.
Masha and Autumn were awestruck.
The King crabs were a favorite of the kids but I love the jellyfish.
All of us posing in front of the tunnel mural.
We had only one afternoon of bad weather. And wow, did that monster storm ever come on fast. We barely made it back from the dock to the house without getting poured on. The boys loved watching the lightening, wind, and rain over the river from the safety of the couch.
Trees ravaged by the winds.
The next day we took them to the Knoxville zoo. School had already started for the kids in TN, so the zoo was fairly empty and the weather was perfect making for a delightful day.
Getting silly by the elephants.
Trying to get the gorilla to get up and play.
Enthralled with the meerkats.
They offer camel rides and for a few brief moments Autumn indicated that she wanted to do it. As the boys were climbing on, she came to her three year old senses and ran the other way.
The Knoxville zoo has a play area with a water stream that the kids can splash in. Masha showed great balance as she hopped over the stones. Autumn, not so much.
And Jade... that boy can’t go anywhere without attracting a little girl to him. He is a natural gentleman.
Family shot near the black bears. Oh my, a white tiger crashed our pose!
That evening everyone was exhausted, and though Autumn’s darling personality held up...
Her strength did not...
Every visit to TN ends with family photos in front of the fireplace. The kids were excited to pose with grandma but by the time it got to my turn they were getting antsy and bored.
Then we went over to grandpa’s for pictures and good-byes.
That little extra push to get back to that hotel with the indoor pool... so worth it!
Monkey see, monkey do!
So there you have it. Nine action packed days of travel and fun. We all missed daddy and Kimani and by the end the girls were asking me everyday, "Home? Daddy? Kimani?"
Yeah, they missed their daddy for a week, but I miss mine all the time... I love hanging out with my dad and I look forward to getting back to Tennessee soon.
(You might be wondering why we would not just all go. Kimani does travel in the car fairly well, and for the most part she enjoys riding in the stroller through entertaining places, but as you can see from the pictures the house is not and cannot easily be Kimani-proofed. And, the deciding factor was that both houses literally sit on the points of side-by-side capes jutting into the river; water on three sides with no fencing.)
View from outside grandpa’s front door, as beautiful as it is dangerous.
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