Monday, December 29, 2008
It wasn't quite as dramatic this year. A few weeks before the big day, I was given a CD with the two songs so that Sarah and I could practice at home. Sarah took her duty of learning the songs very seriously, and we listened and sang along with that CD so many times that I was ready to burn the CD! The first song, "Happy Birthday, Jesus," was pretty easy for Sarah to learn. The lyrics were simple and straightforward. Song number 2, titled "Glory to God in the Highest," was a bit more difficult. The words were hard for her to understand. Since she wasn't really certain what the lyrics of the song meant, she had a harder time learning them.
But as I said, for whatever reason, Sarah took to heart that she needed to learn these songs. And so we kept practicing. Finally, the day of the performance rolled around. The children did their normal good job, singing loudly and sincerely and not necessarily in key. Sarah was on the front row, looking very serious, but singing every line. The girl next to her (the same one she fought with over the microphone last year) stood swishing her skirt while she sang. But Sarah ignored all distractions, determined that she would do these song "right."
She did well enough that the head of Kids' Community commented that she was one of the few who really knew the words, so I guess all of our practice (and her solemn attitude) paid off. Nelson was able to capture video of the performance. If you would like for him to try to get a copy of the video to you, please leave a comment, or email either me or him.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
I was beginning to feel comfortable with the idea that Santa was just going to have free reign to bring Sarah whatever he chose. How easy for him to choose whatever he wished to fill her stocking!
And then...IT happened. Sarah decided exactly what she wanted from Santa. And she picked a doozy! She declared that she wanted Santa to bring her Christmas carrots.
The problem? No one was exactly sure what Christmas carrots are.
So I asked some questions. "Christmas carrots? What are Christmas carrots?"
Sarah looked at me disdainfully. "They're vegetables!"
Okay...maybe she was talking about the baby-cut carrots we sometimes used for dipping in guacamole or hummus. "So they're the carrots we use to dip?"
You could almost see Sarah roll her eyes. "No. They're Christmas carrots. They're blue, and they come with stickers!"
Blue carrots?? With stickers?! Now I was truly confused. I pondered for awhile. Normally, even if Sarah says something that sounds completely crazy, if I think on it long enough I can see where she's coming from and how it makes sense in her mind. But this time I was completely stumped.
I tried to dig for information again. But this irritated Sarah. After all, she insisted, I didn't need to know what the Christmas carrots were! Santa could take care of it! (Something tells me Santa may be somewhat short-lived at our house. Sarah can't be outsmarted). I did at least get her to tell me where she had seen the Christmas carrots: at Wal-Mart, of course!
Blue Christmas carrots from Wal-Mart...Nelson and I discussed back and forth for a few days, but we were getting nowhere. We began to worry that Santa was going to strike out, even though Sarah is only four!
So Tuesday of this week, I had my final idea. If this didn't work, we were going to be out of luck. But we had to try one last time to solve this mystery of the Christmas carrots. Nelson ended up being off of work, and I wanted to take Sarah to the mall to see Santa and have her picture made with him. Before the picture though, I wanted her to get a haircut. It just so happens that we usually have Sarah's hair cut at Wal-Mart. So off we went to the Super Center. Casually I mentioned to Sarah as the stylist worked, "Since we're going to visit Santa after this, why don't you show me the Christmas carrots while we're here at Wal-Mart so we can tell Santa all about them when we see him?"
Lo and behold, it worked! Sarah agreed that she would lead us to the Christmas carrots after her haircut. But here's where the story takes a truly comical turn. I don't know if Sarah even remembered herself at this point exactly where she had seen these mythical carrots or what they really were. She led us all the through the store trying to find them. And a Wal-Mart Super Center is not a small place! With my ever-expanding pregnancy belly, I was growing exhausted as she wandered about. Finally, I asked her if she remembered the section where she had seen the carrots. Was it in the Christmas section, or maybe the grocery? She decided it was in the grocery part. So we headed toward to the grocery area. We began going up and down each aisle.
Finally we hit pay dirt. Sarah picked up a package of white yogurt-covered raisins and proclaimed them "Christmas carrots!" They were not blue, and they had no stickers, but she was absolutely satisfied that they were indeed the elusive carrots we had been stalking. Big sighs of relief all around.
On Christmas morning, Sarah woke up to find a package of yogurt-covered raisins in her stocking. She squealed in delight, "Christmas carrots! Santa filled my stocking! I KNEW he could do it!" She had left Santa a thank-you note under the tree the night before (her idea! I have to do a little motherly bragging about that), and Santa had responded on the back of the note that he had also left a gift in the refrigerator. Sarah ran to the fridge and found a package of baby carrots and a bottle of ranch dressing for dipping. "More Christmas carrots!" she exclaimed excitedly.
So in the end, Santa was very successful this year, even though we were certainly sweating it out. And interestingly, Sarah hasn't eaten any of the baby carrots and dip yet; when she asks to eat her "Christmas carrots", she heads straight for the pantry for her yogurt-covered raisins. She loves them!
I don't know how this Christmas carrot obsession came about, or even what she might have been referring to originally. But after days of thinking it over, Nelson and I have come up with at least some possibilities. Sarah has really enjoyed Frosty the Snowman this Christmas season, both the animated TV special and the song. I've even told you about her version of the song. And her version of course emphasizes carrots. So maybe the "Christmas carrots" morphed somehow from that. (And yogurt-covered raisins are white like the snowballs Frosty is made of).
But all this is just speculation. For once, I have been unable to get in Sarah's head and figure out her thinking. I'm just relieved that Santa pulled this one off and gave Sarah Christmas carrots that satisfied. He's a pretty smart guy! ;)
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Since we have our blue box for all of our recyclables, Sarah has gotten extremely good at picking out the recycling symbol. She will point it out to us if Nelson or I happen to miss it (aren't you proud of her, Tara?). She usually enjoys finding the symbol and setting an item aside for recycling.
But she certainly didn't enjoy discovering it the other day. :-p A couple of years ago, Nelson and I bought Sarah a Wiggles plate, cup, and bowl. Sarah loves the Wiggles, so she was thrilled to have her own dish set decorated with their image. On Monday, she was drinking orange juice from her Wiggles cup (a common morning occurrence) when she made what was to her a horrifying discovery: the bottom of the cup sported a recycling symbol.
As an adult, of course I knew that the cup manufacturers were simply saying that once the cup was no longer usable, it could be recycled rather than tossed in the trash. But to Sarah, that symbol indicated devastating news. It dictated that she throw her beloved cup into the recycling bin. She was in tears, even as I tried to explain that the cup was still fine and I could wash it as always. "No!" she wailed in despair. "It says recycling!"
It took several minutes to convince her that we really could keep her cup, symbol or no symbol. Honestly, who would have thought that a little bitty triangle could cause so much trouble? Apparently environmentalism and environmental print don't make a good combination! :-p
We have made a tradition out of visiting the Speedway every year for several years now. Sarah absolutely loves lights, especially Christmas lights, so she gets a big kick out of these big animated lights. Once you have driven through all the various light displays, you can visit Christmas Village, a small carnival set up in the middle of the race track. They have a few rides, hot chocolate, etc. It's pretty fun.
They also set up an ice rink, and we have been meaning to take Sarah there to try out ice skating. We didn't make it last year, so we are planning to go back in time to do it this year. Of course, Nelson will have to be the one skating with her! But she's excited at the prospect of attempting to ice skate. :) So hopefully we'll be able to post about that experience soon! :)
Thankfully, Sarah qualified (they had a weight minimum, but she just barely squeaked past it). And she LOVED it! She had such a good time doing it with Dad that later when Mom, Nelson, and I rejoined them, she wanted to do it again so we could watch it. It was fun watching her face; you could tell that she was having the time of her life. It definitely lived up to all the expectations she'd had all this time.
Here's a picture of her enjoying her new activity:
Friday, December 26, 2008
I have several posts that I need to write up. I got very behind. My computer got bitten by a very ugly virus (Nelson said it was root kit), so I went for several days without any sort of computer access. But of course, that didn't keep bloggable events from occurring! So now that Nelson has my laptop back up and running, I am going to try to fill you in on all the goings on around here. Here's a preview of what's to come: ultrasound pics and a name for the new baby, Sarah's experience with bungee jumping, and the saga of our confusing search for "Christmas carrots." :) So stay tuned and enjoy!
And belated Merry Christmas! :)
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
If you would like to donate anyway, Ashley and Jillian will accept donations up until they leave for Ethiopia (they are adopting two children there!).
More info here.
Good luck if you choose to purchase tickets! :)
*UPDATE* Ashley and Jillian extended the deadline through 4 p.m. tomorrow (December 18). So there's still time to let them know you want raffle tickets! Head on over to their site!
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
It’s that time of year again. Advent is upon us. I LOVE the whole Christmas season. I love looking at lights and decorating the tree and opening presents and drinking cider and egg nog. I also love remembering God’s wondrous gift to us and singing songs of praise and doing my Advent Bible study. I love How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (the book and the original cartoon version, NOT the Jim Carrey movie) and the Charlie Brown Christmas special. I love trying to teach Sarah about Jesus and the true meaning of this wonderful holiday season.
I also love Santa Claus. There, I said it. I love Santa Claus! I think he’s fun. This time of year, a lot of blogs as well as church literature start spewing all the evils of commercialism and consumerism at Christmastime (I agree completely with that; those things are wrong). But poor Santa gets caught right in the middle of it as a symbol of greed and a distraction from what Christmas is all about.
If you find that Santa does inspire greed in you and that he indeed takes your focus from all that is holy and sacred about Christmas, by all means ignore him. Shun him. But please leave me alone to enjoy my Santa fun. I may indeed be less devout than you, but not necessarily because I like Santa and you don’t.
Let's face it; the overemphasis on commercialism at Christmas is a relatively recent trend. People didn't used to have fistfights and literally trample people to death over "stuff" in the stores. Since Santa has been around for quite a long time now, I don't think it's fair to blame him for all these recent atrocities.
When I was still teaching, one of the children had a mother who was very much anti-Santa. And she was eager to persuade the rest of us to her viewpoint as well. I remember she had one little boy in tears, telling him he needed to choose between Jesus and Santa Claus, because he couldn’t have both. And the poor little boy was miserable, because he did love Jesus, but he also really thought Santa was a lot of fun.
I do have my reasons for my Santa affections. :) First of all, I grew up with him. My mom is another big fan of the jolly old elf, so Santa was always a part of our Christmas traditions (we did the tooth fairy and Halloween too. Heathens all the way round, I know). It was exciting to wake up on Christmas morning and run to see what Santa had brought. I don’t even remember when I learned the “truth” about Santa, that he wasn’t really real. On some level, I think children always know or at least suspect that it’s all a giant game of make-believe. But what child doesn’t love to pretend? And there was never some big dramatic moment when I realized I’d been “lied” to.
And it was fun as a child to notice that the TV that Santa brought was from the same factory where my dad worked. Or that the note he left was on the same kind of paper that my mom used in the kitchen. I felt smart and smug as I observed these little “slips.” And it was really fun the year that roles reversed slightly. I noticed that my mom, brother, and I all had stockings and gifts from Santa, but my dad did not. This was horribly unfair. So I gathered up some candy I had and left it with a note from “Santa” (again on Mom’s paper) apologizing for having neglected him for so many years. And even though looking back on it, it was probably old Halloween candy full of artificial color that Dad couldn’t even eat, I was SO proud of myself for being his “Santa.”
I still think Santa is good, clean fun for kids. Today, many children are overbooked, overstimulated, stressed out, and strung out. They have very little time just to be kids. Santa Claus is a small way to allow them something fun and a chance to experience some childlike wonder.
But as an adult, my reasons for appreciating Santa have deepened a bit. We all give presents at Christmas. We give gifts to one another because God gave the ultimate gift to us. We show love and kindness to one another because of the love and kindness God has shown us. And Santa absolutely embodies that spirit of giving and kindness. He is a tangible example of generosity.
There are several versions of the legend of Santa Claus. I won’t even attempt to relate them all. I will simply tell my favorite one, which comes from a book I bought in college. Nicholas was a toy maker living in Amsterdam. His sales picked up around Christmas, of course, as parents bought presents for their children. But he noticed that the poor young orphans of the city got no presents at all. Because Nicholas was a compassionate man, this disturbed him. He made toys for all the orphans of the city and left them in secret, along with food and candy. The orphans were of course thrilled, and giving made Nicholas happy too. He continued to leave his secret presents each year, and as time went on he not only gave gift to the orphans and the impoverished but to all of the children of the city. And eventually he was giving gifts to all the children of the world, simply for the enjoyment it gave him. Is that not a perfect illustration of Jesus’ words, “It is more blessed to given than to receive”?
And when the focus on Santa takes a backseat to the focus on Jesus, he CAN be a delightful addition to the holiday celebrations. And most children do know the difference between the fun of Santa and the sacredness of Jesus. I don’t remember ever being confused or uncertain as to what the real meaning behind Christmas is. A book I read once demonstrates it perfectly. A small child was asked who was more important, Jesus or Santa. The child was right in the middle of enjoying Santa’s gifts at that particular moment, but she still responded with eloquence: “Jesus. Santa comes only at Christmas. Jesus came at Christmas too, but He stays with us all the time, in our hearts. Plus, Santa only brings presents if we’ve been good. Jesus loves us all the time, even if we forget to be good.” And one of the adults present in the story responded with, "Best sermon I've heard in a long time!" Children know what is real and what isn't, and what is important and what isn't.
Also, there are many traditions at Christmas that originally came from pagan practices. Yet no one protests Christmas trees and such. And no one complains at Easter when children dye eggs (not even the aforementioned mother who was trying to proselytize my kindergarten students against Santa!). So I honestly don't see why Santa has to be singled out for ridicule and revile.
So there it is, my Santa rant. You don’t have to celebrate or acknowledge Santa at all if you don’t wish to. It isn’t at all important, and I would not want to be guilty of talking someone into a practice they weren't comfortable with, or simply just didn't care about. I simply grow weary of all the “anti-Santa” railing and thought I’d offer the opposite perspective. And I wish you a very merry Christmas, with or without the jolly old elf!
Sunday, December 7, 2008
But Sarah has seen her daddy use his computer to play games (her mommy too--crosswords, Sudoku, and the like), and she decided today that she wanted to be able to play games too. So this was the scene when I walked into the living room earlier.
It was kind of a sweet moment, father and daughter bent over the computer, with Nelson very patiently teaching Sarah what to click in order to play the game correctly. I got warm fuzzies watching him share one of his loves with her. Perhaps this can grow into something of a shared hobby for the two of them. I wouldn't want Sarah to spend an inordinate amount of time playing computer games, but as active as she is I don't really see that happening. But it was neat watching a bonding moment between father and daughter as he taught her how to play. :)
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Sarah, of course, is thrilled. She has been eager for snow for awhile now. The last several nights, she has requested Ezra Jack Keats' book The Snowy Day as her bedtime story, and she has wanted a snowy day of her own. Plus, she has those boots she's been wanting to wear! She didn't have much snow to play with today, but she did get some, so she's happy. :)
Some photos of our wintry weather...
Sarah, all bundled up and ALWAYS ready to strike a pose...
Happy to be playing in the snow.
Trying (not so successfully) to throw a snowball...
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
She is also frequently singing her own unique version of "Frosty the Snowman." She's got the tune pretty close to right, but her lyrics are a bit unusual! Try to imagine these words being sung to the "Frosty" music:
Frosty the Snowman,
he never, ever starts
but when he puts a carrot to his nose!
And she just sings those same lines, over and over again! :) Hilarious.
In other news, Sarah is still missing dear Ethan from Bible study. Our class doesn't start until Jan. 7, but she is still proclaiming, "When I grow up, I'm going to marry Ethan and he's going to love me forever!"
We went to watch Nelson's first basketball game for the church team tonight. Sarah has talked for weeks about wanting to go see the games, so she was really excited. And she did well throughout most of the game, clapping and cheering and saying, "Nice shot!" The last ten minutes or so of the game, she got tired and cranky and ready to go home. But overall, she really seemed to enjoy the experience of attending her first sporting event.
Little Baby Girl is moving around a lot today. She has been quite the active little thing! I think she must be having a party in there! ;)
Hopefully we will get the house decorated this week for Christmas and be able to post pictures (not to mention appease Sarah, who is begging for the Christmas tree). :) She needs a place to put all these presents she's bought, after all!
Monday, December 1, 2008
We went to my parents' for Thanksgiving dinner. Dad had bought a gingerbread kit for Sarah to build and decorate a gingerbread house after we ate. Sarah LOVED doing this! Here is a picture of her finished handiwork:
She has had a very good time eating the gingerbread house too. It's about halfway gone now. So it's a good thing Dad got a picture to preserve the project! ;)
On Saturday, we went to do a bit more Christmas shopping. I was shopping for a teenager, so we were in the Junior department at Kohl's. One of the skimpy shirts that is so in fashion these days caught Sarah's eye. Her comment? "That's too small!" What a good girl! ;)
We watched the cartoon version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! last night. Fun!
And since yesterday officially kicked off the Advent season, I wish you all a joyful and blessed time of celebration and reflection. :)
Sunday, November 30, 2008
I told you she had all the important people in her life covered! ;)
Saturday, November 29, 2008
I thought Sarah would be all excited about what she wanted for Christmas this year and that she would start making a lengthy list. But no. She actually doesn't really want anything terribly much long term; she only wants what she sees in front of her at the toy store that moment. Once we're out of the store, she forgets pretty quickly.
But she is excited about choosing gifts for other people! She has picked out presents for all the important people in her life. However, some of her selections are a bit strange. So fair warning: if you receive a present labelled "from Sarah" and you wonder what in the world you are supposed to do with it, just know that she did the best she could and she picked out exactly what she wanted to give you. At least her heart is in the right place, and she understands the spirit of giving at Christmas! :)
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
I have shared before how Sarah is NOT a morning person, and she does NOT like having to get up early or engage in any sort of activity right at the start of her day. As I was looking at pictures of our new baby's ultrasound from last week (yes, I know we need to get those posted), I remembered a story that proves Sarah has always been this way.
Because of the health problems I was having with my pregnancy, I had a myriad of ultrasounds with Sarah. Toward the end, I was having at least one per doctor visit; the doctor wanted to ensure that my issues weren't negatively affecting Sarah. One of the last ultrasounds I had was a biophysical profile. There were certain things the technician needed Sarah to do, and then a score was given. This particular ultrasound was conducted at 8:00 a.m. No matter how the tech poked or prodded, Sarah would not do any of the things needed. She "failed" the profile, for lack of a better way to put it.
The doctor grew deeply concerned, as this could indicate that Sarah was having some sort of problem as a result of my own. He ordered another biophysical profile to be done the next day. If Sarah "failed" this one as well, he would induce labor.
However, the next ultrasound was scheduled later in the day. And this time, Sarah cooperated beautifully, doing absolutely everything the tech needed her to do. The tech concluded that the previous day, Sarah had simply not been awake or alert enough at that early hour to do the tasks successfully.
So even in utero, Sarah wasn't a morning person! ;) It will be interesting to see what kind of personality baby girl #2 possesses at birth--and even before!
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
You may be very curious by now if you haven't already heard the story. :) So as Monk would say, "Here's what happened." Sarah and I were on our way to Greeneville for Kindermusik. However, I needed gas before we made the drive. I only ever use pay at the pump. I do not like the hassle of taking Sarah out of the car seat to go inside to pay, and I like leaving her by herself in the car even less. So, although my beloved Dave Ramsey recommends cash for everything, when it comes to buying gas I am debit card at the pump all the way.
I usually leave the keys in ignition while I pump gas, so that Sarah can listen to music. I don't lock the doors, because I'm standing right there. You can probably guess what's coming now. You're right: I locked the keys in the car. With Sarah still sitting strapped in her car seat. :( It has been literally years since I have done this. The two times most recent were right after Nelson and I got married, and right after I was hired to teach preschool at Head Start. I guess you could call those times of high stress that scrambled my brain cells a bit. But I got in the habit of always carrying a spare key in my purse, just in case I needed it after locking up my keys.
However, we acquired the Taurus that I drive now fairly recently, and I didn't have the spare purse key yet. So there I was, stuck outside the car with Sarah trapped inside. And like most mothers, I panicked completely. I frantically called Nelson, who really wasn't in a good position to help. He works in Bristol, not Kingsport, and so was 40 minutes away with his key. And although he was perfectly willing to come to the rescue, he was at work and he was right in the middle of something.
But he at least was thinking more clearly than I was, and he came up with the idea of seeing if Sarah could get out of her car seat and unlock the door for me. So I (yelling through the window) told Sarah to undo the chest clip on her seat.
She struggled with this. Sarah can snap the clip shut like a pro, but pulling it apart is much harder. I really didn't think at first she was going to be able to do it. But after several minutes of struggling, she did manage to get the clip unhooked. Step 1 accomplished.
But she still needed to reach down to press the button to release the harness over her head. And although she tried, she simply could not reach it. At all. Sarah is small for her age, and her arms just don't stretch that far. I thought we were truly stuck now.
But again, Nelson came up with a solution. "See if she can wiggle out of the shoulder straps, then pull her legs up and climb out over the harness." So once again, I called instructions and encouragement to Sarah. Once again, she wrestled with following through, looking for all the world like she simply was not going to be able to accomplish it.
But she finally did it. Part of me still can't believe I taught her how to how to climb out of her car seat, but desperate times call her desperate measures. After a solid fifteen minutes of struggle, she made it out of that seat. I told her to come unlock the door.
I really only expected her to pull up the lock on the door to the backseat. I could take it from there. But if Sarah does something, she does it completely. She climbed up to the front seat so she could hit the button to unlock all the doors. She got to the front seat and tried to figure out which button it was she was supposed to push. I told to her to look at the door and find the letter U. "Once you've found the U, push it!" That did it. She studied the buttons, found the U, and unlocked the doors! Whew! I think I almost collapsed in relief.
Sarah was soooo proud of herself for doing the job, even though it was hard, and saving her mommy. I was pretty proud of her too! Not to mention extremely grateful.
And thanks to my mom, I now have my spare purse key for the Taurus. :)
Friday, November 14, 2008
I hope I have given an adequate glimpse of our week's activities and experiences. I wasn't able to include as many pictures as I would have liked, so I tried to make up for it with descriptive text. Not sure if I succeeded in that or not. But hopefully you were able to tell that we had a great week overall (one or two things didn't go quite as planned), and we're looking forward to wherever we go in 2010 (although Sarah is rooting for the cabin again!). :) Cue the music: "Thanks for the Memories!" ;)
One last family photo before we saddled up to leave:
We all arrived home safe and sound (although I did have a Coke spill in the car, and I had a very long, wet ride home). :-p I've already blogged about the rest of our Saturday back at home. You can find that here if you want to read it again.
Oh, wait. Maybe that isn't what most people would do. Oops.
But we did figure that maybe the drizzling rain would keep other hikers away and that the "easy"" trail we had picked out would not be as crowded. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
So off Sarah, Tara, Nick, Jeannie, and I went to tackle the hike up to Laurel Falls. For some reason, Darrell and Nelson did not want to go hiking in the rain. I cannot imagine why not. :-p
Good points about the hike: 1) The scenery was beautiful. 2) The trail was paved. 3) We didn't die.
Bad points about the hike: 1) "Easy" isn't all it's cracked up to be. We struggled. A lot. 2) Somehow, we forgot to eat lunch. Or take lunch. Or anything remotely related to lunch. OOPS! 3) We felt like we were going to die! :-p
Truly, we did see some lovely fall colors. I took a ton of pictures of all the trees sporting their fall finery. I took way more pictures than I could ever post here. And frankly, I can't guarantee that I'm even going to be able to select the best ones to post, because there were just so many that are amazingly beautiful. (Plus, stopping to snap another photo gave me lots of opportunities to rest along the way!).
As you can see, we picked a short hike. Only 1.3 measly little miles. Total round trip 2.6 miles. Why wasn't it easy for us?! Surely it couldn't be the fact that it was 1.3 miles UP the mountain. Or that I'm pregnant. Or that Tara has other issues to deal with. Or that we hadn't eaten any lunch. Surely none of that could have anything to do with it. ;)
Ah, the leaves in autumn...
And finally, the waterfall itself...
See? We all made it! (Barely.)
Sarah out-hiked us all, charging up the mountainside the way she charges through life in general. Thankfully, her grandma was able to keep up with her, because her mommy and Aunt Tara certainly weren't! :-p (Uncle Nick no doubt could have kept up with her as well, but he was being very chivalrous and hanging behind with his wife and sister-in-law!)
However, at the end of the hike, Sarah was apparently as worn out as the rest of us. Here she is in the car, once we were headed back to town to get some food!!!
So yes, we were very exhausted and very HUNGRY people as we headed back to town for sustenance. After bandying about several restaurant ideas, we decided to head back to the Old Mill. Only Jeannie, Tara, and I had eaten there--we needed to share the experience with everyone else!
Old Mill is so good that it always has a wait. Even at 3:00 in the afternoon, we were told it would be about 1.5 hours before we got a table. I think I wilted at this news. Those who know me know I don't do well if I don't eat. I was in full-blown crash mode as we sat and waited. Fortunately, my marvelous mother-in-law managed to bribe, beg, or steal a basket of corn fritters for me. I ate them and managed to survive until our table was ready (far sooner than expected! YAY!!). :)
Nelson and Darrell met us at the restaurant for whatever our meal was (what do you call it when you combine lunch and supper, anyway?). And this time, I remembered to ask about ingredients! Old Mill uses MSG in only three of their dishes.
I had eaten two of those three dishes on Tuesday. No wonder I was in such bad shape that night.
And yes, the beloved dumplings were one of the poison-laden items. Sigh. I will never again be able to eat the world's best dumplings (no wonder they were so good, huh?). :( Tara ordered them again, and I lived vicariously through her for a few moments.
But I did have a perfectly fine meatloaf, and some darn good yeast rolls that evening, so all was not lost. :)
Ironically, while we waited for our table, I overheard a gentleman talking about how good the Apple Barn was. Oh, sure, just rub in the fact that I picked the wrong apple restaurant! (Sorry again, Nick.) :-p
As always, you may go to Tara's site for additional pictures and commentary about our day.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
But of course at the end of a long day I got confused. We ended up at Applewood Farms instead of the Apple Barn. :-p Fortunately, it worked out fine, for everyone except Nick (sorry, Nick!). He did not enjoy his meal at all. :( But the rest of us had a good dining experience. Applewood Farms has some really good apple fritters. I think they were really good anyway--I only managed to eat two before Sarah got a hold of the basket and finished off every last one of them! :) They also had delicious homemade apple butter and a unique beverage called apple julep. I remember to ask about ingredients this time, and Tara and I both sampled the restaurant's chicken and dumplings. Sadly, they were not as good as Old Mill's, but they were good. So at least our little mishap didn't end too badly. Nelson and I will try to eat at the Apple Barn one of these days; we never actually made it there on our trip. I do think I vaguely remember eating there as a little girl though.
Sarah in one of the rocking chairs outside of the restaurant.
Okay, moving on to Day 6 now. We wanted to head back to Gatlinburg for three very important reasons: 1) Ripley's Aquarium is there. 2) I love shopping in the Village. I also love the doughnut shop that is there. :) 3) We needed to eat at the Pancake Pantry! Like Bennett's and the Old Mill, this restaurant showed up everywhere I did research. People raved about the incredible pancakes this place offered. Who could resist checking it out? :)
YUM. It really was delicious. I had these fantastic blueberry pancakes. Sarah ordered an adorable dish called "bears in the snow": bear-shaped pancakes dusted with powdered sugar. Nelson got a combo plate of pancakes, bacon, and eggs. ALL of us were happy with our selections!
Then it was on to Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies. What a fascinating place to visit! They have some really great exhibits. Sarah especially loved seeing a diver go into a tank and swim with the fish. We rode a moving sidewalk through the shark tunnel (which also had swordfish, sawfish, and other large ocean critters). We spent time in the interactive area. We browsed the incubation area. They had so many interesting tidbits to share and beautiful ocean creatures to see. We all really enjoyed our visit.
Unfortunately, Nelson left our camera in the car that day, so I don't have any pictures to share! But don't fret; just head over to Tara's website and look at her pictures. They're definitely worth seeing! :)
After the aquarium, we headed over to the Village to do some shopping. I have always loved this part of Gatlinburg. It seems so quaint and old-world. As a little girl, I used to pretend I lived in some long-ago time when we visited Gatlinburg and walked through the shops. (Okay, now I've really embarrassed myself!)
We hit the doughnut shop first. I think the Donut Friar has been in Gatlinburg for as long as I can remember. I wouldn't say they were the best doughnuts I've ever had, but I have such strong childhood associations with the shop that I can't go to Gatlinburg without stopping in for one of their pastries. :) I'm so nostalgic.
We also visited this fabulous little cheese shop (there's a restaurant upstairs; one day I shall have to eat there!). I chose some delectable smoked gouda and smoked cheddar. Tara picked out some chocolate for Nick and also a treat for herself. What was it? Well, it was a pickle. A big, fat, homemade pickle. I'll confess that I will probably never choose a pickle over cheese--or chocolate. But she shared a bite, and it was a darn good pickle. :) Gotta give the pickle maker credit. But my cheese was better. ;)
Finally, after another long day, we headed back to our cabin home. Only one day left in our vacation!
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
The baby seems to be doing well, is growing nicely (now a whole 10 oz.!), has all the essential body parts, etc. The heartbeat is good and strong, and we even got to see some wiggling fingers. :) Fun!
I have several pics, and if Nelson will help me scan them in tonight, I will post them. :)
Sarah is adjusting a bit to this girl idea. Although she started out insisting it was a girl, she soon changed her tune and decided she wanted a brother...and she was just as insistent about that! At some points, she said she wanted one of each (which may happen one day, but not this pregnancy!). But mostly, she just wanted a brother. So she was a bit taken aback by this whole sister thing. But she's coping. :) And she's got several months now to get used to it. So I think she'll by fine by April. :)
And we have a ton of hand-me-down clothing we can use!
Too often, today gets overlooked. People don't notice, remember, or care that it is Veteran's Day. I know when I taught at Head Start, we got the day off (government holiday). So many parents could not even think of any holiday that might fall on Nov. 11. This is a tragic shame, for we are so indebted to all of the fine, brave men and women who serve in our military, whatever the capacity. So I choose not to overlook or forget the significance of today. I pray for the safety of those currently serving, say another heartfelt thanks to those who served in the past, and honor the memories of those who do not make it home. Thank you.
So if you know any veterans, be sure to remember that today is all about them. And make their day special in some way if you can. At the very least, show your gratitude. Happy Veteran's Day.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
The water tree...
A view from the train...
The bald eagle sanctuary...
All wet from one of the water ride...
Sarah chose this hat as a souvenir of the day.
Pregnancy "loosens" a lot of things. After hours of walking through the park, I pulled something. I was really hurting. Nelson is a very concerned, chivalrous husband. He rented a wheelchair for me as well. So here I am in my wheelchair, wearing Sarah's hat (she wanted me to try it on).
Our family photo at the end of the day (Dad, aren't you proud of our UT shirts?).
For more photos and descriptions of our day, check out Tara's site. :)
Unfortunately, I woke up with my head throbbing and my tummy nauseous and my mood cranky. There are so many things that can trigger a migraine. Change in routine (hello! We were on vacation!). Stress (hello! We were living with people we weren't used to!). Too much sleep. Too little sleep. The weather. Etc. As my beloved show Farscape once said, "Too hot, too cold, too happy, too sad--boom, boom, boom." (Bonus points if you know who said it and why. Nelson, give everyone else a chance!).
But a common trigger for me is food. Particularly food containing MSG in any form, be it monosodium glutamate itself, or autolyzed yeast extract, hydrolyzed proteins, protein concentrates, or even brown rice. And as I sat crying in pain and trying very hard not to hit anyone (congratulate me--I succeeded. No one got struck), I realized that I had made a terrible error at the Old Mill restaurant the day before. I had never asked about any of their ingredients. I ALWAYS ask about ingredients when trying a restaurant for the first time. I know better than to leave it to chance. But in the enjoyment of the "girls' day," I had simply forgotten. Oops.
So I wasn't in the best condition to head off to Dollywood. But I went anyway. :) And thankfully, I finally began to feel better as the day wore on...at least in the headache department.
And we did have a very fun day at Dollywood. There are quite a few rides that I can't ride being pregnant, but I was able to enjoy several. We started with a ride on the train, we rode the River Rampage, and a few other rides I can't remember. Nelson, Nick, and Tara enjoyed the roller coasters. Sarah got to ride some of the kiddie rides (including the kids' Veggie Tales roller coaster!). We looked at the birds in the sanctuary and browsed through some of the shops. Fun day!
I do have pictures from the day, but Blogger is giving me fits uploading them right now. I'm going to go ahead and post this, and I'll try putting the pictures in a separate post. Stay tuned!
Friday, November 7, 2008
Apparently, Sarah only likes the idea of go-carts. The actual experience itself did not please her. At all. You see, Sarah has a problem with noise. She doesn't like vacuums, or blenders, or even public restrooms with their extra-loud toilet flushes. And a wooden go-cart track is nothing but loud and noisy. Sigh.
But after riding a lap with Daddy, Sarah got to hang out with Grandpa and man the camera. Or woman the camera. Kid the camera, maybe? That part she liked.
But she still hasn't forgiven me for not taking her to the spa. :(
Here are some pictures from the "guys' day out."
You can just barely see Sarah riding with her daddy...
So the ladies enjoyed their day, and the fellows enjoyed their day. However, the end to my day didn't go so well. Just before bedtime, a migraine struck. I had been doing so well for the vacation thus far, and I knew we were headed to Dollywood the next day. :( And while I LOVE being pregnant, it does create a problem in the headache department. All you can take is Tylenol. Which in the case of migraines is to say you have no options whatsoever, because Tylenol is worthless. I took some anyway, hoping that if I did that and went to bed, I might get some relief.
Alas, it was not to be. More on that when I write up Wednesday's summary, though.
Off the ladies headed to the spa. Interestingly, on our way to the spa, we found the missing church from Sunday! Hee hee. We arrived a bit early (we had given ourselves plenty of time), so we spent a few minutes just enjoying the scenery. This spa is in an absolutely ideal location for serenity and relaxation.
A lovely little park near the restaurant...
Like Bennett's, the Old Mill deserved every single rave it got. YUM. It was delicious, Southern homestyle-type cooking. The chicken and dumplings were the best I have ever had. Ever. The flavor was perfect. The texture was perfect. They were amazing. The corn fritters were good too. The meal also came with green beans, mashed potatoes, biscuits, and corn chowder. All were quite tasty. But oh, man, those dumplings...
There was a general store next to the restaurant, and we explored it after we ate. They had some mixes for things they made in the restaurant. I looked and looked but alas, no dumpling mix. Sigh. I did find strawberry butter though (I am well stocked with fruit butters now. Monday night, after Bennett's, we went to Christmas Place. There I bought apple butter and pumpkin butter. YUM). So I bought the strawberry butter, and we headed home to check on how the men and Sarah were doing....
To be continued...
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We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
*Note: These photos are obviously not all from Monday. We were extremely lazy that day, so we weren't really taking a whole lot of pictures. But they give a pretty good idea of the things we would have been doing as we lazed around our cabin.
Sarah shows off a moose she got from Grandpa.
Painting at her easel (another gift from Grandma and Grandpa).
Sarah discovers the joys of a slinky. Digression: my 3rd grade teacher bought all the boys in the class a slinky for Christmas that year. The girls did NOT get slinkies. I was really bummed. Apparently I also have psychological scarring, because I'm kind of envious of Sarah's slinky.
Playing a game with Grandma.
Playing the same game with Aunt Tara.
After our lovely restful day, we did get hungry, and we decided to venture out for supper. I mentioned that we had vowed to stick the list of "rave review" restaurants that I had compiled. Some restaurants showed up once or twice on the list. But far and away, there was one restaurant that EVERYONE seemed to love. I read more glowing accolades for Bennett's Barbecue than any other place in the area. So off we headed to see if it really lived up to all that hype.
It did. I'm a Southern girl, and I LOVE good barbecue. And I can testify to the fact that Bennett's is darn good barbecue. YUM!
Tara had never had real Southern barbecue before, and she sure had a good first experience. She took lots of pictures of the occasion. Rather than try to re-post her photos, I will just tell you to click here and read all about our delicious meal! :)
"Oh!" Sarah exclaimed. "Are we going to their church?"
"No," I said again. And for lack of a better way to explain it, I said, "We're going to a vacation church!" Sarah really liked this idea. She eagerly dressed and got ready to go to the "vacation church." (People who read the post about the party church may be wondering about our theology at this point).
Unfortunately, anyone who has read Robert Burns knows what happens to the "best laid schemes of mice and men." Sunday was definitely a day of plans going "a-gley."
Problem #1: Traffic as we convoyed to church was still atrocious. Problem #2: We couldn't actually find the church Darrell and Jeannie wanted to attend. We tried valiantly but alas, no such luck. We ended up not making it to church that Sunday morning.
This both confused and distressed Sarah. She loves church and really wanted to attend. Plus, we had told her that we were going to church, so she couldn't figure out why suddenly now we weren't. Third, Pigeon Forge has quite a few churches. Sarah spent the rest of Sunday (and a few days after) pointing out every single one. "There's a church! Why don't we go there? There's a church! Can we got to that one??"
Since church didn't quite work out, we drove into Gatlinburg for Plan B. This turned out to be another misadventure for the day. I mentioned that traffic between Sevierville and Pigeon Forge on Saturday afternoon was horrific. Traffic between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg on Sunday morning was even worse! I have never seen traffic this bad. It took forever to drive the few miles between the two cities. Then there was the matter of parking (we actually lucked out on this one, and we managed to park both vehicles in the same parking lot). Finally, it was now lunch time, and we needed to EAT!
And here misadventure #3 occurred. I had done a lot of research on restaurants in the area, and I compiled a list of ones that got rave reviews. One such restaurant was right across the street from where we were. However, it was CROWDED. We're talking line backed out the door crowded. And we were hungry now. We could also smell something incredibly yummy wafting through the air, but we couldn't quite pinpoint where it was coming from (sorry, "from whence it came"). So we took a gamble on a restaurant that had not shown up in any review and did not have any enticing aromas emitting from it.
We stuck to the restaurants that made the reviews after that. :-p That's all I'm going to say. However, we did get a good photo op out of it, so all was not lost. :)
We returned to the cabin after lunch and spent the remainder of the day quite lazily, thank you very much. We napped and read and generally had a "day of rest."
My favorite way to relax...with a good book.
Enjoying the back porch swing on a warm fall day...
Grandpa wasn't the only one who napped that afternoon...he was just the only one who got caught on camera! Sarah, Little Miss Nonstop Energy, can't figure out why Grandpa needs a nap anyway!
And that was Day 2! Day 3 to follow! :)