Thursday, July 12, 2012

Our trip to the Smoky Mountains and my tips for traveling with lots of children.

We are loaded down in the Swagger Wagon once again, leaving the Smoky Mountains.  We got here on Monday and have been pretty much going full-speed everyday until our heads hit the pillow much later than our usual bedtime.
We found this place last year when Jason was asked to speak at a preaching conference called "Polishing the Pulpit."  No, Jason isn't a preacher, but he was asked to speak on the Medical Aspects of the Bible, a lesson he's taught several times at our home congregation.  He also spoke on demon possession and proper nutrition (He named this lesson, "Death by Potluck; Supersizing the Holy Spirit's temple".... ha!!!).  We left the kids behind last time since we were going to multiple lectures and Jason would need to be able to focus on his material.  The people that put this lectureship together are fantastic (and one is a good friend of our's) and they are VERY conservative.  So, last year, we were pretty much commanded to not partake of the waterpark that is located at this resort/ conference center. Their hearts were in the right place... don't get me wrong.  They didn't want any responsibility on their part if people struggled with lust or impure thoughts while at the waterpark.  I get it.  But, let's face it... there weren't many opportunities to lust at this waterpark.  Unless you're a chubby-chaser. :)
Anyway, we knew last year at the conference that we wanted to go back with the girls to this water park.
We made plans in February to go this week.  The girls LOVED it!  There were tons of slides and smaller areas for the girls to play.  Julianne had the time of her life on the swings.  She could drag her feet through the water and splash in front and behind her while she was swinging.  She lost her breath from laughing so hard!  There was also an area with a giant bucket that dumps 1000 gallons of water every few minutes.  There was a smallish slide, tons of levers to pull that shoot water, buckets to fill and such.  They were in water-fun heaven.  Adelaide and Jason tried out all the slides and loved them all... except the one Adelaide called "the mint." I'm going to try to come up with a picture of this one.... it was too fast and she wasn't a fan.  But the rest of them she was thrilled with.
Along with the water-park, there was mini-golf, laser tag, a rock wall, mini-bowling, an indoor playground, and a huge arcade.  We took advantage of all of that with the exception of laser tag... I wasn't prepared for the drama that might ensue in the dark with people chasing my little girls with laser guns.
I would recommend this place to anyone looking for some fun water-park time.  The resort wasn't on their game this time as far as service goes, but the water-park didn't disappoint.
I'll try to give some highlights of our trip along with a few funny things the kids said...I'm typing in the car, so I'll try to update with photos when we get them uploaded.
We left Monday morning with our road trip binders found here.  I also packed little toiletry bags that I found at Target that had a clear zipper pocket for markers, I also filled it with dry erase markers (for marking in their road trip binder (on page protectors), and a snack (animal crackers, gum and starbursts).  As far as road trips go, I hate being in the car... as an adult.... much less with high maintenance children that are always demanding something.  So, this trip, instead of dreading it, I tried to prepare better.  Our normal trips to Memphis to see family are about 4 hours long (sometimes longer, sometimes shorter depending on how many times we have to stop).  This trip was going to be quite a bit longer and I wanted to make it fun for all of us.  In their road trip binders are several road trip games and a license plate game that Jason and I played also.  It was a huge hit!
We arrived Monday around 3 (did I mention that nobody slept in the car?)  and took a look around.  I did my usual unpacking (I HATE living out of a suitcase) and then we went to eat dinner in the "kids eat free" restaurant.  The kids restaurant boasted that kids eat free.... the fine print said that one child ate free with one adult purchase... and there's no "under 3 eat free" or anything like that.  So, our bill was $70!!!!  For gross food!  That was our last meal at The Thirsty Miner.  After dinner, we put our swimsuits on and headed for the indoor water-park.  We played until 9:15!!!  Our kids usually go to bed around 7:30 or 8, so this was huge treat for them!  We bathed them and put them to bed.  This part worried me.  Our children all have their own rooms right now.... so they aren't used to sleeping all together... but they did great!  They were all exhausted!!!
We got up and ate at Cracker Barrel (aka Cracker Bears according to Jules) and went back to get our swimsuits on again.  We spent all day at the water park and arcade.  During our afternoon at the arcade, we had Jason's biggest laugh of the trip.  He and Lucy were driving one of the arcade cars and Adelaide was racing against them in her own car, while I held Julianne.  At the beginning of the game, the game takes a picture of the driver which shows up in a little frame above the car, so you can see who you are racing against.  Well, Jason held Lucy up to take her picture and I reached down to try to hold Adelaide up so it could snap her photo.  Well,  I was too late... instead of a picture of Adelaide, it took a picture straight down my shirt (while I was bent over trying to pick her up).  Jason thought that was hilarious!!!  So, all throughout the game and at the end when it showed the winners, there was a shot of my boobs, right on the screen.  Lovely.
Wednesday, we got up and ate breakfast on the go while we drove through the mountains.  It was rainy and gross, so the views weren't fantastic and it was a bit annoying to get everyone out with umbrellas and such.  Also, there was a huge storm Sunday night that knocked down tons of trees, so a lot of the trails were closed (including Cade's Cove).
We visited the Cherokee Indian Village and learned all about the Cherokee indians and how they lived.  Adelaide and Lucy hung on every word the tour guide said and really took it all in.  Julianne and I even got to participate in a friendship dance.
We headed back over the mountain for our 3:30 reservation at the Dixie Stampede.  We arrived just in time to take our seats.  Julianne was considered a lap baby... which meant she didn't have a seat... so she would have to sit with me and eat from my plate.... which she certainly did.  If you've never been to the Dixie Stampede, it was actually pretty fun, albeit a little hokey.  The girls loved it and all say that was their favorite part of the trip.
Now we're headed home.  It's going to be time to pack everyone up again for them to go to Memphis next week for VBS at my Mom's church.  I must say, I'm looking forward to some quite time!!!!

So, here are my tips of things to leave in the car and have on hand for traveling with children (or just for emergencies on a daily basis).
1. Paper towels.  (I don't use them at home, but on the road, they are necessary sometimes).  Spills, accidents, gum, whatever... I keep a roll in the car.
2. Toilet paper, you never know.
3. Ziploc bags... these can be barf bags, collect trash if necessary, or whatever...
4. Snacks- mainly on a trip, but I usually try to have some sort of snack in the car.  I try for dry, not messy snacks like goldfish, animal crackers, wheat thins... but this time I also packed Starbursts.  Mainly because they take a long time to open and eat. :)
5. Wipes- I don't have to buy wipes anymore (so thankful), but I still keep them in the car... they're perfect for sticky hands, or for wiping off gross tables... or whatever.
6. A trash can- I found on pinterest to use a plastic cereal container for trash.  I love this!  I put a grocery bag in it.. and I can pass it around the car throughout our trip to collect trash. Then, I just pull the bag out when we get to our destination (or while we buy gas) and toss it.
7. Hand sanitizer- because I'm married to Jason McKeown.
8. A little potty- I used to keep a Baby Bjorn little potty in the car, but it got nasty.  Every time it was used, I had to carry the whole thing inside and clean it.  Not fun.  I recently bought a portable potty that takes liners that fit over the whole seat and can be tossed after they're used.  It is a little bit of a pain having to buy new liners, but it's not as bad as cleaning crusty pee out of the potty when we return from a trip.  The potty folds up and fits in the seat pocket (in front of Juli) and can be used while in the car, or if a restroom is disgusting.... I've thought about using it before, but I'm pretty sure it has a weight limit.
9. A change of clothes.  Right now, I only have a change for Jules, but I have plans to put at least an extra t-shirt for all of us incase we are the victim of someone's mess.
I also have dreams of putting some sort of organizer in the trunk with bug spray, sunscreen, bandaids, and some of the things I named above that aren't necessary for everyday use.
What all do you keep in your car?  Does anyone have any road trip tips?

My next tip post will probably be on packing for a long trip with children. :)

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