Vacation, Day 4

From March 27 –

We got up early on Tuesday to eat breakfast, pack up and get to Dollywood as it opened.  I don’t think we were the only ones who had that plan.  (This is the line for the shuttle bus that takes you up to the entrance.)

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Dollywood was the number one thing everyone wanted to do on our trip.  We had such a great time at Silver Dollar City two years that we just assumed Dollywood would be as much fun since so many people in our area go there and just love it.  And we’re big Dolly fans since she donates books to all the kids up until age 5.  So we overlooked the ridiculous price of tickets and were hoping it would be worth it! We got in (using a 10% AAA discount) and got the girls measured for their ride wristbands.

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We took off and found a roller coaster Lilli was tall enough for.  She was tall enough for quite a few things and lines were still pretty short.  They had a really good time on this one.  Abbi was in a good mood and we found a small little roller coaster she was tall enough for and while we waited in line the ride broke.  There was nothing else around she was big enough to do so we just waited for Brent and Lilli to finish up.

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We headed to a part of the park with carnival rides so there would be something for her to do, and basically it was just your basic carnival rides.  We did the carousel and she enjoyed that.  Otherwise that area was pretty boring and really too little for her.

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As we were  getting off the train that just takes you around the park was loading up to go so we ran over – we were able to get on but had to split up and we were right behind Brent and Lilli.  As soon as we raced on Abbi started throwing a fit that she didn’t want to do it.  I figured she’d get over it and as much as she loves trains that she’d end up loving it.  Boy, was I wrong.  As soon as we started moving she started crying and yelling that she was going to throw up.  The 12-13 year old boy she was sitting next to looked THRILLED and tried to give her all the space.  It was a long, long ride.  She eventually calmed down but I was so glad to get off that train.

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All she wanted to do was watch these dancers.  So on the train I’d promised her as soon as we got off we’d head straight there for the next show and that calmed her down.

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Their show was funny and cheesy and she loved it.

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Afterwards we grabbed some lunch and walked around some more.  Lilli and I rode a coaster and then Brent and Lilli did.  There were a lot she wasn’t big enough for, and there really wasn’t much of anything for Abbi at all.   One of us spent most of the day keeping her entertained while the other two were in lines.

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I eventually took Abbi to the Dolly museum and we looked at all her stuff while Brent and Lilli rode.  Overall Dollywood was a big disappointment.  I’d go back when they’re both teens and can ride all the big stuff, but at their ages it was incredibly overpriced.  This one day ended up being over 25% of our entire vacation spend – lodging and dog boarding included! It just wasn’t worth it.  It was also really crowded and made lines long for the things we did do.

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We grabbed a few things in the gift shop (not this) and then got in the car to start the drive home.

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I’d say one of them got vacationed!

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Vacation Day 3

From March 26-

Our original plan was to spend Monday at Dollywood, but since Abbi had passed out so early on Sunday we didn’t want to spend the million dollars Dollywood costs and have her not be able to enjoy it or be her best, so we swapped some of our planned Tuesday activities for Monday and let her sleep in a bit.

She woke up feeling a lot better and starting to eat some.  Our first stop was the Muse Children’s Museum.  We got in free with our Adventure Science membership, which was about the best part of the thing.  Overall it was all of our least favorite thing of the trip.  It was really small, super crowded with young kids, and it just didn’t have a lot to do.  And did I mention crowded with young kids??

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They had a few older Science type things for older kids and Lilli pretty much camped out over there.

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One of the air/butterfly things at the end.

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They also closed at noon and at about 11:30 the staff spent the entire time picking up everything a child had touched about three seconds after they set it down.  So if Abbi put down her mustard to turn around and get an apple – the mustard was gone.  It was pretty ridiculous.  And afterwards I felt we all needed a good hose down with Purrell.

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From there we headed towards Ijams Nature Center.  We’d wanted lunch but didn’t run across anything on the way, so we promised them heavy trail snacks and then we’d eat lunch.  We hit the Nature Center first and they loved all the turtles and other fish inside.

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We talked to the host and she gave us a good trail for kids to follow so we set out for a few miles to hike next to the river.

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Abbi was pretty excited to pose for pictures.

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I think she keeps making these crazy faces because she can see how much we all laugh and she just loves the attention.

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The walk was really pretty next to the River and all the rocks and things starting to grow and bloom.

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Family snap.

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The walk got into a hillier, rockier landscape.  It seemed very “East TN” to us.

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Such pretty views.  From here it did level out.  I think we went about 2-3 miles on this trail.

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Afterwards we let them play for a while in the outdoor kids area.  They had all kinds of natural play spaces for them to climb, play, dig and be creative.

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They loved this little playhouse.

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From there we all wanted Mexican food so we found a little local spot and ordered a really late lunch/early dinner.  We were all enjoying chips and queso and our food had just came when Abbi looked at me and said she needed to throw up.  So I ran her to the bathroom and she lost it all.  Sigh.  The rest of us quickly ate and went back to the room and she rested for a few hours.  Brent took Lilli to the McKays bookstore near our hotel room and they did some shopping while I relaxed with Abbi.  She napped and I watched HGTV and did Soduko.  Not a terrible way to spend an evening.

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After her nap she was feeling good and we all wanted a little bit of snack so she and Brent went out to Starbucks and Krispy Kreme for some treats.  At least she was feeling better and wanted to get out.  Poor thing never even got to go swimming in the hotel pool – and I’d picked that hotel because it was one of just a few that had an indoor pool.

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Spring Breaking: Day 2.Part2

From March 25 –

We spent the majority of the day at the zoo, so it was late afternoon by the time we were leaving and too late to squeeze in any other attractions.  So we headed downtown to visit the Sunsphere.  We’d seen it many times as we drove through Knoxville headed other places and were really curious to go up inside it and see what it was all about.

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It was built years ago for the Worlds Fair, and it has a nice little park below it.  Admission is free, so we were all about that! Compared to other cities it’s nowhere near as tall as the Space Needles or any of the sites in Chicago or New York, but it’s still pretty neat.  And did I mention free??

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The views from the top are nice, you could see the university and downtown, and the mountains in the distance.  The angles of the sphere are also pretty neat.  There’s just not really a lot of “skyline” to see in Knoxville.

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We walked all around the circle and read about Knoxville history.

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Abbi wasn’t that interested in a selfie with the Sphere!

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They were pretty interested in the cute playground we saw as we had walked by earlier.  We stopped there to burn off some last energy of the day since we had nowhere else to be.  There were a lot of people around playing Pokemon, which we had no idea was even still a thing.

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It was nice to have such a cute little playground downtown.

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Afterwards we went back to the hotel and Abbi pretty much passed out for the day.  She hadn’t eaten much because her throat still hurt so badly and she was just worn out.  So we had a hotel room picnic for dinner.  We got the girls Happy Meals (which Abbi never ate) and Brent got this fast food Indian for us.  I wish we had one of these near us! Such a fun and neat place for quick serve Indian.  It was really good.

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Abbi slept on our bed pretty much the entire evening and barely ever woke up.

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Brent took Lilli to swim while I stayed in the room with Abbi.  I’m not sure she ever knew Lilli made it to the pool.

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After they got back to the room Lilli had water in her ear that she couldn’t get out.  We lived through her having swimmer’s ear last year and it was about the worst thing ever and she was in so much pain.  So they made trip number 85 of this “vacation” to Walgreens for drops.  I’m pretty sure by this point they knew us.  But, it’s way better than swimmer’s ear and another doctor’s visit and thankfully this Walgreens was a late night one!  Just another vacation memory in the books…..

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Spring Breaking, Day 2/Part 1

From March 25-

The next morning I set my alarm early to get up and spend some time in the gym before our day got started (which always helps me feel better!) and as I left I put my hand on Abbi’s (sleeping) forehead and could tell she was burning up.  Lilli and Brent had swapped places in the night because Abbi was feeling bad, and I hadn’t even realized it.  When I got back and they started waking up we knew she was running a temperature and she was complaining about her throat hurting.  We pretty much figured it was strep.

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When the Walgreens Clinic opened Brent took her and they confirmed it.  We didn’t think she’d ever had strep before (and then later remembered she had scarlet fever once) so we weren’t sure how long it might take her to feel better.

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She still said she wanted to go to the zoo, so when we got there we rented her a stroller – which she was THRILLED about.  We rarely take a stroller unless we’re going somewhere like DC or Chicago where we’re walking MILES so she was happy to get one.  We figured she could at least relax and enjoy the animals.

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I had really never heard anything about the Knoxville Zoo and figured it was probably small – and we were VERY wrong about that! We got in for half admission with our Nashville Zoo membership and immediately thought their bear exhibit was better than ours since it was so easy to see!

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We first started out in a newer exhibit of theirs that featured pandas – a favorite of both girls.  We were amazed how close the animals seemed!

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Their monkey exhibit was so cool! All their ropes and toys were so close to us.  One monkey was right next to us the entire time eating and playing and didn’t mind us a bit.  And on a side note, it was so cold and didn’t feel a bit like “spring” break.

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It was really so crazy how close the monkeys could be to us.

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A side view of us with the gibbon exhibit

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And the tiger was just RIGHT THERE

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Because it was so cold and overcast it wasn’t at all crowded, so we had lots of space and it was easy to get pictures with the characters walking around.

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And Abbi…..

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This goat would not stop trying to eat my jacket!

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The traditional goat selfie

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For the most part we kept telling Abbi to slow down and take it easy – she really didn’t want to eat much because of her throat, but overall was up to taking on the zoo.

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The stroller was a big hit for all – and a good workout for us! The zoo was so much bigger than we imagined, it had everything from the monkeys and tigers to giraffes, elephants, reptiles, rhinos, camels – basically everything!

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This was how I experienced the open air bird area.

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Their gorillas were so cute – we could have watched the babies play and tumble all day.

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Eventually later in the day she did wear down and fell asleep, and slept for quite a while in the stroller while we looked at some indoor reptile exhibits.

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Two animals who need to be caged.

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We stopped in the gift shop and got a few things and then headed on our way.  It really was such a nice Zoo and despite the strep throat ended up being everyone’s favorite spot we visited on our trip.

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Spring Breaking, Day 1/Part 2

From March 24 –

After the Children’s Museum we drove up the street to the American Museum of Science and Industry.  This museum was more focused on the nuclear plant and its involvement in World War 2, along with some fun science things for kids to do.  And we got in free with our Adventure Science Museum membership from home!

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Oak Ridge’s most frightening resident.  It was really interesting to read all about the town built around the nuclear site, and all the security and housing that went along with it.  It’s hard to imagine living in a secret town and not really even understanding what you’re doing.

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They had a lot of background on how the city was built and how it all operated, along with tons of memorabilia and pictures.

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Basically these people just moved buttons and lever all day without knowing they were building a bomb!

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Outside of all the Manhattan project information, there was also other general science exhibits and we sat in on one show.  The girl from the audience really did have blue hair and it just added to the experiment she was part of!

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The girls were pretending to build things using the same types of tough clothing/gloves that people used back years ago building the bomb.

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They even had a little replica house like the employees had lived it.  They had to build tons of quick, small affordable houses and dorms to house all the employees.  It was a cute little house and still had a lot of original furnishings in it.

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Afterwards we went and checked into our hotel and then picked a burger and shake place to eat dinner.  We were all worn out from the busy day and traveling to Knoxville, and before we left for dinner Abbi was saying her throat hurt.

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Afterwards we ran to Walgreens (for the first of about 300 times) and got some sore throat medicine and a few other things, all of which she refused to take when we got back to the room, in typical Abbi fashion.  We went to bed hoping she was just tired and would wake up feeling better (spoiler alert – that didn’t happen.)

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Spring Breaking (Part 1)

From March 23- 24….

On the last day before Spring Break Lilli got her third report card of the year – another round of Straight A’s and high scores!  Considering the amount of tests and work they do, it’s definitely no small feat to achieve grades like this!

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Saturday morning we headed out for our Spring Break trip.  We wanted to do something small since Fall Break had been large (Chicago) and this summer we’re doing another airfare trip (Philly).  We landed on Knoxville because we’ve never actually visited Knoxville – it’s always something we pass through on our way somewhere else.  Lilli really wanted to do Dollywood, too, so instead of staying in the crowded Pigeon Forge area we decided to have Knoxville as our base and spend one day of our time away up at Dollywood.

Since it’s just a three hour drive we got up, loaded up, dropped Olli off and headed East.  We got there right at lunchtime and ate at Chipotle.  The girls LOVE eating at Chipotle and their cute kids meals.

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Our first stop on the rainy afternoon was the Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge.  We’d always seen the large smoke stacks at Oak Ridge and heard it was a nuclear plant but didn’t know anything else at all about it or the area.  It just so happened that this Children’s Museum was also the national historic park for the Manhattan Project – the secret nuclear plant that played a huge part in World War 2 and building the atomic bonds.  So we killed two birds with one museum stone.

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Most of the museum was a typical kids museum – this place didn’t look impressive from the outside but on the inside it just kept going and going and going.  It was an old schoolhouse from the World War 2 days, and each room was a different type of play area for the kids.  It covered Tennessee history in spot, and then branched into all kind of various play spaces.  The girls LOVE these grocery/farm/farm stand types of play spaces and really could’ve stayed here ALL day.  Up and down the main corridors there were exhibits telling the history of the Manhattan project and the building of the bomb.

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Brent stopped at the main Manhattan Project desk and talked to them for a while about the nuclear plants and found out about another Museum devoted to the history of the area just up the street that we decided to add to our day.

There were so many neat exhibits all throughout the Museum.  They had a really cool Girl Scout exhibit in one section of a hallway – lots of old Girl Scout uniforms, dolls, artwork – and a big display of old patches.  I sent this photo to several of my mom friends – we loved the “Magic Carpet” patch and also the “Homemaker” patch! Lilli has earned several cool ones this year but nothing like that!

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One room was devoted to space – lots of things to climb, slide, and ride.

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They loved this cute little space “car”.

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One of my favorites was this cute little playhouse.  It was a two story house built just for kids, with everything to their scale.  Due to the size adults weren’t allowed in.  They also had all kinds of toys from past decades, and we saw several things we grew up playing with in the glass case.

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Abbi loved this little house that was just her size.  This is another one they could have easily spent the entire day in.

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There was a water play room sponsored by Ingram – they had water play and also this neat Barge.  Inside the Barge they even had a little sleeping quarters.  Everything at the museum was really well done and if we lived in this area I could see us spending a lot of time there.   We went through the entire thing and let them pick a couple of things to go back to before we headed out for an additional Museum in the area.  More to come!

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Short n Sweet

From March 21-22….

Short and sweet because I have to download more pictures from my phone – I’m all caught up to our last download! It’s nice to at least getting somewhat closer and less behind…..

After the fun run at school her class had won several awards for various fundraising targets.  One day they got to wear hats to school so she was really excited about that!

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Little Bunny.  Someone asked her if she liked Star Wars when she was wearing this shirt and she gave them a look and said “No.”.  Ha! Poor thing hasn’t seen it, she just wears what we buy!

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We’ve been teaching her to play Uno.  Lilli’s old card holder is a game changer, literally.  It’s such a smart invention.  She still basically shows us all her cards, but it helps her see them all, too.

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A Sam’s run before heading out on Spring Break vacation! Abbi wanted to be in the basket with all our snacks and things, there wasn’t too much room left her by the time we were done.

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