Traveling by car had turned into a nightmare since Little Man came along 8 months ago. He has had very little patience with his carseat. He does not understand why he is not in Mommy's arms where he believes (logically, of course) he belongs 24-7. Therefore, we put off traveling big distances for awhile.
However, a year ago we had purchased a discounted travel voucher deal that was expiring this week. It was use it or lose it, and we (or at least the kids and I) really needed to get out of the house. It was important for us to go somewhere fun together as a family to slow down and reconnect without the hustle and bustle of daily life.
I was inspired by one of my facebook friends to make (Pinterest-inspired) traveling notebooks for the kids. I didn't know how these would go over, but they were a success! They never really used this license plate game because it proved to be a little advanced for them.
I did love these state abbreviation pages I made by copying off a capital T pattern, then an N which I cut out and clued onto the T page before making copies. I had searched for something like this but couldn't find anything. (If there ARE pages like this available, please let me know, to save me the trouble for our next states.) I hope these will help make the state abbreviations stick in their heads.
I also printed off a Tennesse state outline for them to color and label. They also labeled our route on the United States map. In addition, the boys had a Tennessee word search.
I think this was one of their favorite pages they used the most.
I ripped some pages out of this hidden pictures workbook for the middle two and more difficult pages for Tornado. There was also a spot for some of their homework pages.
Something else I tried this trip was "Car Bucks." I attached a baggie inside their notebooks for their bucks. Each car buck was equivalent to a dollar.
Every time they completed a couple of pages in their notebooks they earned a Car Buck. Whenever I noticed they had been riding well without fighting or complaining for a couple of hours, they earned a Car Buck. Because we were generous about handing them out, they were aware that any (Mommy-approved) snacks (even juice) from gas stations or souvenirs from shops were their responsibilities. (Meals and water were provided, of course.)
Car Bucks could also be taken away, but fortunately that only happened a time or two. It was fun to see them calculating how many car bucks they might have left if they bought something and whether the purchase would be worth it or not. We'll definitely use these on future road trips.
We left our house about 8:00 p.m. and made it a few hours to Jackson, Tennessee. It was almost dark by the time we made it to Gatlinburg. This is the night view of our resort, which is a Holiday Inn property just a couple of blocks from the main downtown street in Gatlinburg. Great location!
master bedroom with jacuzzi tub
the big kids' room
After a great supper at Mellow Mushroom, we let the kids play video games at an arcade.
The next morning, we headed to WonderWorks in Pigeon Forge. This was #1 on our list of intended destinations. I mean, look at it; how could it not have been? There are four WonderWorks locations in the U.S. (Myrtle Beach, Panama City, Orlando, and this one plus one coming soon to Syracuse, NY).
It is a combination of a science museum, children's museum, and amusement park.
The bed of nails was cool. You lie on the smooth bed, then the nails raise up underneath you.
There are birds throughout the park, beyond this feeding area, sitting on perches. They are taken into cages at night. Other birds are kept in large outdoor cages. They do no allow photos taken in the bird nursery, but the kids got to interact with the babies, as well.
this video. I am fascinated by the talking abilities of birds. The term "bird brain" is actually a giant misnomer. Even chickens (which have to endure such treachery and lack of dignity in factory farms) are very intelligent beings!!! That's not something I learned at Parrot Mountain, just a little something extra I thought I'd throw in here for ya.
This guy who talked to us for a long time about the birds and showed the kids their tricks was super friendly and helpful.
I could stare closely at each bird's amazing designs all day.
It makes me sad to see birds with clipped wings. It feels so unfair. (What I didn't know until now is that wings grow back; it isn't permanent.)
I really enjoy magic shows. I spend my whole time, desperate to figure out the trick. But I never can! So then I constantly whisper, "HOW did he do that?!"
What I especially loved about this show is that Terry Evanswood (above) was very clear upfront that there was nothing "magical" about what he was doing. It was PRETEND, simply tricks he learned from practicing, and only God can perform miracles. He was very funny, charming, and talented. He was also an inspiring motivational speaker! I loved that he turned the conversation toward people appreciating life and choosing to be happy, etc. It was great for the kids to hear, I thought. He said that it would be arrogant for him to perform without telling everyone that it was God who gave him his success, encouragement, and inspiration. For anyone who is reluctant to attend a magic show because of the hocus-pocus, I thought he presented it in a very responsible, honest way that did not feel compromising.
And, with a lot of urging and encouragement, Dash ended up making it to the top.
We didn't have as much luck with the Ropes Challenge Course. Earlier in the day, Ryan took Dash up there, and he (my 7 year old) totally panicked a few feet into it, and they had to come back down.
Sis, my one brave child, was ready to go that night, which encouraged her 23 months older brother to try again. It went a little better this time, but Ryan had his hands full up there, trying to help both of them. It wasn't that it was scary for Sissy; it was just difficult for her to maneuver.
And Dash - he gets really scared with things like this, which is something that surprises people sometimes because of his "active boy" nature. He's not really a risk-taker. I think he gets this from his father.
Clingman's Dome is the highest mountain in the Smokies and the third highest point east of the Mississippi. It's beautiful, and the kids were able to see how the "Smoky" Mountains got their name. And wouldn't you know, after taking just a few pictures at the top of this remarkable spot...my camera battery died.
Fun trip. I'm sad that it involved finding out about the passing of my very special, beloved grandfather. The next morning (as was the plan all along), we packed up for home, which we reached around 11 p.m. After a load of laundry and a few adjustments to the luggage, we were back on the road by 10 a.m. toward Missouri for his visitation and funeral.