Friday, March 31, 2023

Highlights of Spring Break in the Smokies

We've had a Happy Spring Break!  We headed to the Smoky Mountains this year.  Kevin found us a condo in Sevierville, Tennessee with is very very close to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.  I love visiting new cities and he loves a good deal so we were both happy with this plan.  The kids were excited to try some place new and just a little nervous about visiting a new city.  It was 5 1/2 hours from home so we loaded up and left right after school on Friday.

 As with any family travels, there were highs and lows.  The highs always outweigh the lows.  The memories are always worth the effort it takes to travel.  But I want you to know that there were lows - major interstate shut downs for over an hour that meant we didn't check into our condo until 1am, car sickness - TN is beautiful but those mountainy roads are hard on kid bellies, toddler tantrums and one of us might have forgotten to pack underwear.  Whoops!  We can laugh about all of those things now.

Short Recap: This was our first trip to the Smoky Mountains.  We LOVED it.  There was so much to do and see.  We barely scratched the surface of our to do lists and cannot wait to return.  We found ton to do with younger kids and there was so much more to look forward to doing with older kids.

Long Highlight Recap:

1 // Wilderness at the Smokies Resort

This was our first visit and our first day exploring the property.  We into their moose mascots.  Leo was terrified of them so we just snapped a picture with Olive and Fletch.

2 // Arcade Time

All of the kids love the arcade.  Leo is the cheapest arcade date because he's just happy hop around from machine to machine and pretend to play.  Zero dollars required.  Olive was in heaven with the Squishmallow claw machine and Fletcher wanted to try all the games.

3 // Indoor Swim Time

We were excited to check out the indoor water park.  We've been to the Wilderness Resort location in Wisconsin and love it so we were eager to see this one.  It's much smaller than the Wisconsin location - they only have one indoor water park and Wisconsin has 5.  We still had fun, but it was pretty crowded.  I think we'd like to go back in the Summer time when their outdoor water park is open, too.

4 // New Favorite

Fletcher tried and loved the Chick-Fil-A sandwich with pickles.  He says he's never going back to nuggets.  I'm just wondering how long before he starts asking for two sandwiches :)

5 // Cozy Condo

Our condo was comfortable and cozy.  Leo was thrilled to be across the road from this helicopter tour location.  The helicopters were busy all day which was perfect for him.  We really enjoyed being on the top floor and seeing the pretty views all around.  The resort has an adjoining golf course.  Kevin would definitely bring along his golf clubs next time.

6 // Camp Social Breakfast

We were excited to try their camp social buffet breakfast!  It was delicious.  Smaller than the Wisconsin version, but really tasty.  The kids loved looking out at the water park while we ate.

7 // Nap Time Adventures

Kevin took the big kids out and about to do fun things each day while Leo napped.  I was happy to snuggle him and they were happy to go on adventures.  They did the ropes course over the arcade (they said it was harder and scarier than the Wisconsin version!), they played at the arcade, did the rock climbing wall, painted pottery, went on the big water slides, tried surfing at the water park and play play played!  Fletcher said he made memories here that he'll remember FOREVER.  It's true - we all did!

 8 // Perfect Weather

The weather in Tennessee was sunny and in the 70s for our whole trip!  It was so nice.  We spent a lot of time out on the patio and playing outside.  We loved the view of the mountains and the water that was in front of our condo.

9 // Gem Mining in Pigeon Forge

I wanted to take the kids gem mining and Kevin found the perfect spot with really great reviews.  We opted for the big bucket so that all of the kids could share it.  They promise lots of gems and a big variety.  That was true!  All three kids really enjoyed it.  They sifted through the sand and loved finding everything from shark teeth to fools gold to a whole rainbow of rocks.  They each came home with a big bag of big rocks.  This was something all three kids loved and can't wait to do again.  They've got tons of dinosaurs and rock specialists that will help you identify your stones.  You can even have the smaller ones polished and made into jewelry.  You get a little sandy and a little wet, but it's not that big of a deal.

Fletcher asked if this place would be open forever because he'd really like to bring his kids here one day.  Sweet guy!

10 // More Swimming

We swam at least once a day and some days twice.  There were fun things for the older kids and Leo found things to do, too.  We noticed more lines and far fewer chairs so we often used our stroller for our landing pad.  Fletcher was so busy I could barely catch him for a photo :)

11 // Rainforest Adventures Zoo

We headed to this zoo with the hopes of seeing some really cute, unique creatures.  Olive loves Axolotls so she was thrilled to see a tank full of them.  Our zoo only has one black one so these pink creatures made her day.  All of the animals were out and about and pretty busy in their enclosures.  We had a lot of fun here.  It takes about an hour to go through and feed the animals.  I don't know that we'd go back now that we have seen everything, but it was fun to go once.

The petting zoo with goats and sheep was really fun.

12 // Graze Burgers

Kevin found a new restaurant for us to try and our food was delicious!  We arrived early and didn't have to wait for a table.  We enjoyed the brussles sprout appetizer, burger, chicken sandwich and chicken tenders.  It was a fun splurge meal to wrap up our trip.  Their menu isn't super clear on pricing for things like drinks and kids meals so be sure to ask for those details up front.  We were a little surprised when we got our bill.  Thankfully we had fun and our food was delicious.

13 // Stroll around downtown Sevierville

We enjoyed being back on eastern time and having more daylight.  We walked around the downtown area and admired the pretty planters.  We also got to see the Dolly bronze statue since this is her hometown.  It was really quiet and nice.  Only the restaurants seemed open.

We packed a lot of fun into our days in Tennessee.  Can you see why we're excited to go back??

 Linking up with Momfessionals

Thursday, March 30, 2023

7th Birthday Recap

Fletcher had the best birthday yesterday.  I don't normally post on Thursdays, but I wanted to make sure this recap landed in my March archives.  The weather was gorgeous and his day was simple and sweet!  It's such a fun time of year for a birthday.  Especially when it falls over Spring Break.

We woke up and opened gifts bright and early.  Fletcher is an early bird and insists on getting dressed to get ready for the day as soon as he wakes up every day.  Ignore the Christmas wrapping paper :)  I really only buy the reversible Christmas paper from Sams.  He loved the red and white stripe.  But he really loved his new bike.

He got a tent for the climbing dome, some new pjs, a putting game and a few other things.  He was super sweet and let Leo help him unwrap his gifts.

I made him his favorite canned cinnamon rolls from Aldi in the shape of a 7.  He was thrilled!  It was such an easy breakfast that he loved so much.

We hopped onto campus to surprise Kevin with a quick visit.  The kids were cracking up making a plan to knock on his door.  They walked in and said they were interested in applying for his psychology program.  We all loved the quick visit.

We ran some routine errands and Fletcher got to pick lunch.  He landed on Jason's Deli.  The kids ordered their favorite meals and couldn't wait to get their own ice cream.  They were all well behaved and acted like such big kids.  They helped me with Leo when I went to the salad bar.  It was a genuinely enjoyable lunch out with just me and the kids.  That felt like a big kid/parenting milestone for sure!

We did grocery pick up and Fletcher got to pick our spot - #7 just seemed right for the day.  I was surprised at how much he loved making these little decisions throughout the day.  It was a good reminder for me that extra attention and love go a long way.

Fletcher was born at 11:47am so I set an alarm on my phone for exactly that time.  I told him I couldn't wait to give him a big squeeze on his exact birthday.  Kevin called at the same time.  I gave him a big squeeze and snapped a selfie.  He loved it.  I was glad he was home to get a squeeze and all the extra love on his birthday.

I got major flashbacks to 2016 and one of our first selfies together.  Fletcher was just an hour or two old.  He was the sweetest chunk of a baby.  He was so calm and happy and snuggly.  I couldn't believe he was almost 10lbs.  He was born just before lunch.  Olive came in the afternoon to meet him and I was ready to go home.  He was my easiest delivery and recovery.

Back to 2023...  Kevin's schedule surprisingly cleared in the afternoon so he got to hurry home to do some bike riding lessons in the backyard.  It was such a nice day!  Fletcher requested Panda Express for dinner so we ate and played some more.

We played with friends and the kids all worked on their bike skills.  Fletcher requested my chocolate chip cookies for dessert.  I make a cookie tower and Leo was fully convinced all the excitement was for him.  Next week is your turn, Leo.

We ended the day by telling Fletcher one thing we each loved about him.  He said it was a great day and he felt really special.  Win-win!  We love you, Fletcher!