Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Our family vacation to Gatlinburg and the Smokies

Our first full week of summer break was spent in Gatlinburg and in the Smoky Mountains. We went 2 years ago, unbelievable the amount of change in our kids since then. It was a huge blessing to be able to go back so soon and to be spend an entire week on vacation. It was our longest vacation as a family, we had such a great week.
We ate lots of ice cream and more donuts than ice cream. Joe has quite the obsession for donuts, the proof was in the fact that we went to Krispy Kreme twice and Dunkin Donuts once! Joe and I had a date night and ate at J.T. Hannah's and that was really good food and service too. You're not on vacation unless you are eating terrible, delicious food!
Vacation or not, our kids love to play in creeks and there are no better creeks than the ones in the Smokies.
My mom, was able to go with us. We loved spending the week with her. I got to go on vacation with my family and my best friend, it doesn't get any better than that! I was feeling super tired with low iron and thyroid levels, so in addition to having her join in on our fun and memory making, it was nice to have her there to hold little hands, babywear Laynee, keep an extra eye out for everyone and have the opportunities to do things separately too.
Joseph would rather play in a creek than go to a theme park! Every time he gets to swim in a creek, he is so happy. There is a deep laugh he has that is just pure joy and I only hear it when he's excitedly wading and climbing along a creek.
Laynee is the best little traveling baby, ever. She rode in the van so many hours, to and from home and while we were in the park. She definitely missed her bed and didn't sleep as well but I guess when you are the 6th child you just learn to go with the flow. As long as she has all of us to entertain her and take care of her, she is happy. She loves watching us and someone is always around to give her a pat, a kiss or a smile. We all just find her completely irresistible.
It never rained the entire week, but it was very hot and humid.
We stayed in a 2 bedroom condo, as soon as we got the key and opened the door we started moving furniture around. Packing coffee table, artificial plants, chairs and decor in the closets to make room for all of us and air mattresses for the kids.
The accommodations were great, the pool was in the shade much of the day and the condo was within walking distance of Gatlinburg. We walked along the street several nights.
Before we left for our trip I picked up 2 Body Glove PDF's from Sam's and then a third one I bought at Aldi. I liked the ones from Sam's better but both kinds worked great and gave me much needed peace of mind with the kids in the pool. Joe and I both had more freedom and I couldn't believe how well Brady and Anne both did in the pool because they were wearing them. We don't have opportunities to swim often so my kids aren't real comfortable in water usually, this time though we all had a blast!
 Joseph and Jenna both loved jumping.

One afternoon, early in our trip, Brady and Anne were supposed to be taking naps. Brady was sleeping on an air mattress and Anne was sleeping on a bed next to each other. From what they both told us, Brady yanked Anne by her hand and pulled her off of her bed and onto his bed. She was crying and extremely upset. Joe and I both thought is was nursemaids elbow because it's been something that has happened with our littles before.
Joe tried to put it back in place, our pediatrician had showed him how and he has been successful doing it in the past with Jenna. It was so sad, Anne screamed and screamed, we were all crying. At first she couldn't move her fingers or grasp anything and after a few attempts she could move them a tiny bit but it was obviously painful and she didn't want to use it. We wrapped her wrist in some gauze and everyone wrote our names on it. We were all so sad to see her hurt.
That night, we walked along the strip and had ice cream. Anne was determined to feed herself but absolutely could not get the spoon to her mouth. I had to coax her to let me feed her, she was so angry that it hurt and she couldn't use her arm. We decided to let it rest and give it the night to see if it was better the next morning. That night, Joe and I let her sleep with us. Despite getting Motrin, us propping her up and letting her watch Netflix in our bed, she was miserable. She woke up in pain mutiple times.
The next morning, after about 3 hours or less of sleep, we got up at 4:30am to drive to Cade's Cove in hopes of seeing a bear or two. We arrived at the cove right at sunrise, I am so glad I took pictures because honestly I was just trying to keep my eyes open to drive and remember very little of the trip.
Disappointingly, we didn't see any bear. We took a little nature hike that should have been easy and fun with 6 kids but I was so tired from my health issues that it was miserable. It was so frustrating to not be able to do such a simple task, I may have ended up sitting in the trail crying on a hillside... tired does not begin to describe my exhaustion.
After we finished in the park, we decided to get Anne's arms looked at and make sure something major wasn't wrong with it. She still wasn't using it, was very protective of it and we could see that it really did hurt.
She was such a trooper at the ER. She did everything they asked her and each time some one saw her they would give her stickers. Each time she got more stickers she would tell us who she was going to give that sticker too. It was so sweet, Brady was the first person she was giving her stickers too. All of her siblings and even her cousins had designated stickers by the end of the trip.
We saw a PA and she too thought it was nursemaid's elbow, tried to put it in place and said she didn't think it worked either. They did xrays and didn't see anything abnormal, we were glad to hear that. Then a doctor came in and tried to maneuver it back in place and still no success. Their conclusion was that it was a severe sprain and we left with a sling.
Anne hated the sling, so we just kept it wrapped in an ACE bandage the rest of the week and each day it improved little by little.

We drove to Clingman's Dome, anyone who has walked the trail to the lookout knows it's not an easy hike, even though it's short. I realized real fast, there was no point in me pushing myself to further exhaustion, so I sat and waited while Joe, Mom and the kids went to the lookout tower. It was a really pretty day.
We rode the tram, Ober Gatlinburg. I'm not a lover of heights or beautiful scenes from up high. I ended up sitting in the floor on the first time we went up the mountain. The next day we took the 3 oldest out with just Joe and I, we rode it again and I was fine.
One of our favorite things we happened upon was Glades Soda Fountain. The shops surrounding it were really neat too. We hadn't planned to eat and it wasn't really time to eat. I think we had already eaten donuts, so we just bought 3 floats for the kids to share. We will definitely go back again if we are in the area.
All week we hoped to see at least one bear, so we decided to drive back to Cades Cove our last full day in TN. We heard the evening had been better for bear sightings, so we went in the evening.
When Joe and I went on a date, we did a little shopping. After what Brady did to Anne we had to buy them these shirts, I didn't get any pictures of him in his but his reads, "One man wrecking crew" and her's says, "Will trade brother for ice cream."
We didn't go very far in Cade's Cove and we saw the cars backed up and people looking at bears. This happened several times, we would always be on the tell end so, it was small glimpses or through dense woods. I could actually take a picture of this little guys walking through a field.
After seeing 4 bears, we could see the road ahead and a bear was crossing in front of a car. I hurried to get there, by that time the bear was in the tall grass and we could only see the grass moving. All of the sudden he popped up and looked around, this happened about 3 times before I could get a picture. We were all a bit crazy and thrilled to be so close to such a beautiful animal.
 Super fun way to end the last night of our trip, worth the drive back to another look at Cade's Cove. The sunset was really pretty too. I was nursing Laynee so I missed the opportunity to get some pictures but the golden light was gorgeous.
I am just really grateful for the opportunity to take a vacation and for a safe trip. It was great to come home to a spotless house, ready to list for sale. Summer is flying by, even though I don't have much energy, it feels like we are finally settling into summer being a bit more restful this week.

I have started and stopped this post so many times over the past week, it's a little all over the place and a ton a pictures, but I'm over it! Hitting Publish and moving on with my life. :) Sometimes I must remind myself this is a personal blog that I enjoy writing, not a research paper that has to be perfectly worded and grammatically accurate.

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