Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Mark and I went to Gatlinburg 18 years ago for our honeymoon.  We were excited to take the kids back and see how much it had changed over 18 years.  Oh man, had it changed!   We were looking forward to hiking while we were there, especially since it has been a while since we spent time camping or backpacking.  Mark and Raeley wanted to get some waterfall shots, so our hikes revolved around waterfalls.  That ended up working out great since it rained almost every day we were there.

We also hung out downtown Gatlinburg, shopped in Pigeon Forge, hit historical sites, and drove the arts and crafts circuit.  My favorite shopping was at the NOC outdoor store.  I racked up on some good deals. We spent too long in Pigeon Forge shopping, but with growing kids, outlets can be a great way to do a one stop rush to get some much needed additions to the wardrobes.  Raeley finally found her tan pants for work.  Jonathan and Cameron really needed new sneakers, and me, well, I can always find something I think I need!  I got Cameron a swimsuit for $5 and Jonathan got Nike Lunars for $30.  I scored a beautiful shirt from J Crew for less than $30, and a cute dress from Tommy Hilfiger for around $30 also.  We took time out from shopping to eat lunch at the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant.  It was a cool experience and how could we pass up getting a bag of fresh apples?

Enough about shopping.  The kids loved the Wonderworks house in Pigeon Forge, which it was like an interactive science museum with a huge indoor ropes course.  The Ripley Mirror Maze in Gatlinburg was a hilight for me because we all laughed so much!  I didn't think I would enjoy it as much as I did.  I loved hearing Raeley laugh and laugh every turn when we found the real us.  If you've done it, you'd know what I meant.  We were the only people in there, which really added to the experience.  We also did the Ripley Aquarium.  It was impressive as well.  With a big dolphin fan in the family (Cameron), how could we skip it?  We knew there wouldn't be any dolphins there, but we had to go none the less.

We were there for a week, and we ate most meals either from the cooler or at the condo.  The kids also had their schoolwork to keep up with.  They would do that while I cooked dinner, which worked since it was too rainy to go swimming.  Cameron loves swimming, so if there's a pool,  she wants to be in it.  We were wet so much on our trip, though, that everyone had enough of water by the time we got back to the condo.

Raeley's Party

For the big sweet sixteen, Raeley wanted a large party. With her diversity of friends, I let her choose two groups of friends to invite, so the party wouldn't have too many people who didn't know each other. I also asked her to limit it to under 30 people. We didn't do a head count, but I think there were 20 kids there.

Raeley had a joint birthday party with her friend, Ahnna, who has recently moved to Tupelo. Ahnna's birthday was Saturday, so they are 3 days apart. We were thrilled to have a party for both girls. I thoroughly enjoyed the extra help from Ahnna's mom. She did a ton of work for the party!

The party started with the Kinect going on in the background, then we went in the backyard to tie dye shirts and bandanas. The kids did a great job with the tie dye. While the guys flipped burgers for dinner, we had cake and ice-cream, with an ice-cream bar of toppings. The kids sang karaoke while we put out the hamburgers. After hamburgers, the kids played sardines and we got the chocolate fondue set up. They came back, snacked on that, and set up for Capture the Flag Glow in the Dark style. It was a HUGE hit! It was the most fun of the night. I think they could have played it for hours.

Raeley's party was so much fun and she has such great friends, we enjoyed having them all over to hang out for a few hours.