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Ben and I met in 1996, began dating in 1999 and married in 2001. Now 20 years and 2 children later, we have returned to where our life together began. Ben works for the Federal Reserve and I have the privilege of staying home with our two precious boys.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Almost Caught Up - Great Smoky Mountains

Last fall, we celebrated Mimi's birthday in the mountains and we enjoyed it so much that we decided to make it an annual tradition. So, the first weekend in November we planned an extended weekend and headed for Pigeon Forge after an early Saturday morning breakfast. We had grandiose plans of all we wanted to do over the few days we would be there, but Mother Nature had a different idea...What started out looking so pretty soon became one of the most nerve-wracking trips I've been on since the boys were born.
An unexpected cold front came through and dropped 16 inches of snow in the mountains the night before we left. The DOT was unprepared and had not salted the roads. The snow and ice shut down several of the roads going up into the mountains as well as parts of the interstate and we had no idea until we got stuck 2 hours into the our drive up. Typically it takes us 3 and a half hours to get to Pigeon Forge but seven hours later we were sitting in a parking lot of ice on the interstate. We drove 2 cars up since Mimi was going to leave going back to her house from Pigeon Forge so I drove her car and Ben drove separately. I left plenty of room between us and whoever was in front of us, prayed that no one slid into our car, and that the 18 wheelers knew what they were doing. Having the boys in the car with me made me extremely nervous. Ethan and Caden were amazing the whole day, no fussing, crying, potty emergencies, or complaining about the extra long time spent in the car strapped in car seats. They had their snacks, drinks, DVD player, as well as the iPad and Kindle and were oblivious to everything except getting to see the snow and being right next to all of the big trucks.
When we did move, it was at 4 miles an hour and between intermittently sitting with the car in park and moving at a snail's pace, we were eventually able to turn around and head back down the interstate going South. In brainstorming our options it was either go home or find another entertaining weekend destination that was kid-friendly. When we reached the next exit, we went straight to a gas station for restroom breaks and to stretch. As I stood in line behind the 30 ladies that were in front of me (not kidding, the line went from the back of the store to the door at the front), the cashier behind the register announced that there had been an accident a couple of miles further south and the interstate had been shut down for 4 hours in that direction. Sooooo, since we couldn't go north or south, we took back roads and headed west. We made a quick decision to spend the weekend in Cherokee, which had absolutely no snow and was 15 degrees warmer. When we finally arrived that evening, we found out that The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad in Bryson City was 10 miles from where we stayed so we booked reservations for the next day's train ride. We had a wonderful time checking out the countryside, stopping in quaint little Dillsboro for lunch and sightseeing, and walking through the largest interactive miniature train museum that I have ever seen. It was an amazing experience and completely redeemed our weekend. 
 The train was so long that you could see it going around the bend in front of us and our rail car was in the middle of the train.
 The scenery was beautiful!
 Caden loved checking it all out
 The train ride came with a guitarist for our entertainment, drinks and snacks, and a tour guide. Our entertainer played a few favorites and then tried to get to know the crowd a bit by asking if it was anyone's birthday or anniversary. Well, since it was Mimi's actual birthday she got serenaded by the whole train car :-)
 She was a great sport! 
Happy Birthday Mimi!!
Photo op at the Dillsboro stop
When we returned from the train ride, we headed back to Cherokee and walked through town visitng the shops and watching the Native Americans in their traditional Indian dress weave yarn and whittle wooden objects along the sidewalk. After dinner that night and a wonderful breakfast the next day, we said goodbye to Mimi and loaded up to go back home. Two and a half hours later we were unloading the car in 60 degree weather. What an amazing contrast to our drive up! Although the weekend took an unexpected turn, we ended up having a great trip and got to experience something that we never would have had it not been for a treacherous 7 hours and quick thinking.

Halloween Festivities

Our Fall festivities leading up to Halloween included the Pumpkin Patch, pumpkin carving, and then finally, the big night of Trick-or-Treating.
Pumpkin Patch
Checking out the chickens
 Pony rides
 A little help from Mimi
 "Driving" the antique tractor
 The yearly attempted pumpkin picture...I must say this one isn't too bad compared with previous years
 My silly boys
 Pumpkin Carving
Ben and the boys moved the messy part of cleaning out the pumpkin onto the deck. While Ethan couldn't wait to stick his hand in the pulp, Caden much preferred watching from the sidelines so that he could keep his hands clean.
 Then they moved to the kitchen table for the carving. Daddy said he would carve both Ethan and Caden their own pumpkin so each boy got to pick out what they wanted their pumpkin to look like and Daddy set to work.
 Ethan chose Star Wars R2D2 which was an extremely intricate design so Mommy started on Caden's pumpkin silly monster face(which was much easier, by the way). The boys' quickly lost interest and decided the iPad was much more interesting :-)
 After a while, Ben had had enough of the tedious little poking and cutting, so he decided to pull out the jigsaw.Yep, that's right, he sure did. I wasn't too thrilled at this idea because I could envision pumpkin splattered all over the kitchen and breakfast area. And while it was fun to watch and he enjoyed the much quicker way of carving a pumpkin, after a few slices into the pumpkin he ultimately decided to return to the more traditional method of pumpkin carving. And I must say when it was complete, it was quite a masterpiece...too bad pumpkins have a short-lived life span after they're cut.
Finally, the day came and Mimi was able to come into town to go trick-or-treating with us for the very first time! Spiderman and race car driver Lightning McQueen were quick to show her the ropes.
Once the boys got tired or walking we returned home and spent the rest of the evening passing out candy to trick-or-treaters that came to our house. This is one of Ethan's favorite parts of Halloween :-)

Playing Catch Up - October

A completely blurry picture, but October began with Dining with Dads at school. Ben went to eat lunch with the boys. They performed a short program, prepared all kinds of cute mementos for Daddy, and ate a tailgate style lunch.
My favorite treasure that Ben came home with was this precious magnet that Ethan made at school. I love looking at it on our fridge!
Then, a couple of weeks later Ethan and Caden got to meet Collier for the first time! They didn't quite know what to think of their new little cousin and I think she was a bit unsure of them as well :-)
 And the end of Fall Ball
Love these action shots!

 After the final game, each child is individually presented with their league shirt for the season
 Then we headed over to the pavilion and playground for the End of Season Party. After pizza and cupcakes, each teammate was given a season trophy and these AWESOME full-size vinyl posters with their name, action shot, and team picture on it! This was the first season we have ever received anything like that and it is so cool!
And just like that, ball was over!

Last of the September Catch Up- A final visit to Legoland

The county scheduled a random maintenance inspection of the church/school so Shadowbrook had a random day off when every other school around was in session. We decided to take advantage of it and went down to Legoland. It's usually packed so it was soooo nice having the place pretty much to ourselves!
Vroom, Vroom!!
  After building and racing a Lego car...
It was time to play
By far, this day was the most fun we have had at Legoland!

Playing Catch Up...September- The Dekalb-Peachtree Air Show

One of the highlights for both boys is visiting the airport. So, when the WWII Fighter Jet Air Show came to the Dekalb-Peachtree Airport we knew we wanted to go. Ethan had a morning ball game so we headed down there around lunchtime and met up with Aunt Wanda. They were immediately in awe of everything they saw!

WWII Glider 
This gentleman spent so much time and was so very gracious to Ethan! He had a million questions about how it worked and what the glider was used for and the pilot happily answered all of this inquisitive little boy's questions.
 Evidently, every boy has a fascination with guns. This demonstration was set up to practice aiming at a target.
 Inside the cockpit of the flight school's practice plane
 The Swamp Fox
 The highlight of the air show was getting up close and personal with this bomber, The Sentimental Journey. It was an amazing plane to see!
 The Air Show was a blast and we can't wait until the next one!