Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Gatlinburg Vacation...I mean, Trip.

It was once explained to me that a vacation is a time you get away for relaxation. But a Trip is a time you get away... but with kids. (You see how I left out the "relaxation" part. So we just returned from our Gatlinburg "Trip."

We left Sunday day for the 7 hour minivan ride with me, Lindsey, and our 3 boys to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The car ride was pretty uneventful, thanks to an in-car DVD player and plenty of snacks. There were 2 gas stops and one lunch stop. You may be thinking, "that was not a whole lot of stops for 7 hours" but we planned ahead and everyone was wearing diapers to cut out those unnecessary "bathroom breaks." When we arrived at Gatlinburg, we met my brother and his family along with my parents at a cabin in the Smoky mountains. When my brother asked Zachary how his trip was, Zachary answered, "Awesome!!!!!" which was news to me. He proceeded to tell him how we made 2 stops at a gas stations and got ring pops at both stops and got a McDonald's happy meal, with toy!

In our beautiful 3 story cabin, we got the upstairs room with private bathroom with included bidet. My 4 year old nephew told us this news when we arrived by stating, "you guys have an awesome bathroom and guess what is in it? A butt washer!!" Well apparently our boys did not hear what the bidet was used for because later that day Lindsey calls me upstairs. I go up and she tells me Zachary needs to take a shower. I look at Zachary whose face and head are dripping wet. She then tells me that Zachary decided to wash his face in the bidet, and now required a shower. Who would have thought washing your face would later necessitate a shower? Then later, Lindsey again calls me up and shows me a dripping wet Drew, and proceeds to tell me that he not only washed his face but took a drink from the bidet as well. And to make a triple play, that same day I caught Nate pulling used toilet paper out of the toilet.

The next day we went hiking with the 2 grandparents, my brother and his wife, Lindsey and I, and the 7 grandboys (3 of ours and 4 of my brothers). We went up the Rainbow Falls trail all along the mountain river giving us multiple opportunities to jump the rocks, pick up salamanders, walk across fallen trees over the river, and give Lindsey multiple "mom heart attacks" and freak-out moments. But she did so well letting boys be boys and kept her shouts of warnings to herself so that the boys could build confidence on their own and learn to be adventurous without someone holding their hands. It was a very poignant "kick them out of the nest and hope they fly" moment for her and luckily she and the boys did well. No one fell in or was hurt, except maybe the permanent fingernail marks left in Lindsey's hands from stress.

On the way down the mountain, I walked with my nephew Will who is 6 and my 2nd, Drew who is 3. Well Will loves to move and move fast especially when hiking. The only problem is that Drew wanted to hold his hand and mine as we walked down the mountain and his legs are half as long as Will's. So we went down the rocky, tree-limbed path at break-neck speed with Will in the lead pulling Drew and I down as fast as his little legs would allow. But I swear, Drew fell most of the way down the trail, with only Will and I holding him up. At one point I wondered if he was doing it on purpose but then I realized "I am having a hard time keeping up with the 6 year old, how is Drew doing it?" He would take 3 steps then all of the sudden he was hanging in mid-air, then 4 steps then mid-air, 3 steps, mid-air, etc. Will even turned around and said, "Stop doing that" to Drew but he couldn't help it. But bless his heart, Drew would not stop holding our hands. Probably cause he knew if he did, he would roll down the rest of the way!

That evening we went to a pizza parlor with a game room. The boys loved running around and playing games but Grandpa stopped me and told me that Drew needed to go to the bathroom. When I was about to take him, I noticed he didn't have to...he already started to. So what does any good dad do in that situation? I took him to mom. So we go to the patio where we are sitting and while we are discussing what to do, Drew takes his pants and underwear down on the patio and stands there for all to see. But not only that, he also begins peeing on the patio too. He might as well finish what he started, right? Luckily my brother has an extra pair of shorts from there 2 year old for Drew to wear, so crisis averted. Except for the wet spot we had to keep avoiding the rest of dinner. But for some reason, our 2 oldest boys kept having to go to the bathroom. I went to that pizza parlor bathroom 5 times for only 2 kids. Drew had to pee 2x, poop 1x, and Zachary pee 2x. Its not like they had a lot to drink, but for some reason, they saved a little bit each time they went. It was more popular than the arcade room. I thought about just staying in there, putting out a tip jar and handing out toilettes for the rest of the evening. It would have saved me 5 trips and I would have made a little extra vacation money.

Notice the pee stain on the floor.

The next day we went to the Aquarium in Gatlinburg where the thing Zachary most wanted to see was the gift shop. The second most important thing there, lunch. And one hour and $65 later, we left. The joys of parenting. He would have been more happy to eat lunch at home and go to the free playground down the road. But does he tell you that before or after you have spent the money and the frustration? And get this, they wont give you your money back if your kid is ungrateful for taking them to the aquarium. That is not a valid "reason for refund." I think most places should have the "ungrateful" clause built into their business. If a child does not fully appreciate the nice thing you were trying to do for them, 100% money back guarantee. It would take the pressure off Christmas and any Wendy's kids meal toy. I mean come on. What kid wants a DVD in their kids meal?

That night before dinner, Zachary went around with his cousin Will collecting caterpillars. (Another mom freak-out moment that Lindsey successfully navigated.) Will collected then in this green Easter egg. The day before, grandpa had handed these Easter eggs out filled with skittles. Now Will used it as his make-shift caterpillar collector. He must have had 20-30 caterpillars collected in this egg before dinner and put the closed egg on the table. Well, at the end of dinner, Drew decides to grab this egg and retrieve some delicious skittles for an after-dinner desert. It was like a candid camera, funniest home video moment. He opened the egg, and the caterpillars literally sprang from this egg! He freaked out so much, he screamed and jumped, he had the "gross-out" shiver as these things went everywhere! All over the dinner table, grandma, the floor, everywhere! It was so funny to watch his absolute moment of surprise and terror as his would-be skittles turned into 30 caterpillars.

The next day we packed up and headed home for the 7 hour car ride back. And let me tell you, I am not exaggerating when I say this, Lindsey is my witness to this, but Nate our 18 month old, screamed the entire 7 hours home! Part of the time he was upset, the other part I think he like to hear himself scream. Because he would scream then laugh at himself, then scream again and then laugh. If you want to know what it was like, record a screaming baby for 3 seconds, put on headphones, turn it up to 11 (Spinal Tap the movie reference), put it on continuous repeat, lock your self in a 3'x4' area, add annoying high-pitched cartoon character voices in the background from the DVD playing, with an undercurrent of a 3 year old and 5 year old arguing about who is or is not the parent, and stay in this place for 9 hours. You are allowed a 1 hour break for lunch, but then continue the noise-mageddon. And when Nate was not screaming, he was eating and eating and eating. It was the only thing that prevented the screaming was to have his mouth full. Lindsey and I both agreed that he probably consumed 5000 calories on the trip home. And you could tell what he ate because he wore most of it on his outfit and face.

Did Nate take his morning nap? for 30 minutes. Did Nate and/or Drew take their afternoon nap? Not one head nod. Not to mention, Nate is not only into the game of "If I drop something, they will pick it up, no matter how many times I drop it," but he is also into the game of "how far can I launch my pacifier and goldfish across the van." Yep, I was hit multiple times with his pacifier while driving. The thoughts that ran through my head during Screamfest 2011:
-After 7 hours, wouldn't he be hoarse by now?
-How many bones will I break going 65 mph on the highway if I were to abandon ship?
-Should I put my arms out in front of me to brace my fall or just tuck and roll?
-What illegal thing would I have to do and how long would I get to spend in jail before they would post bail? Is it worth one peaceful, quiet night of sleep?
-How expensive would it be to buy a hotel room for each of the kids to keep them separated from each other and me for one night?
-Where is the closet airport?
and the always popular:
-Why God? Why me?

Well, we made it home safely and in one piece. We had fun and made memories which is the most important part of the family vacation. The sad part is the memories that will stick with them will be about ring pops, gift shops, and bidets.

Hoping our trips will be vacations someday,
The Joyful and Tired Dad

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