We Are Family...Day 3, 4, and 5. And a Disclaimer.

Dear Sweet Precious Readers,

My family vacation is drawing to a close. It is 1:30 in the morning of our last night together, and we are all exhausted. I haven't posted in 3 days, but I did write out my blog posts in the car today. I had second thoughts of posting all 3 days, because they are so long and wordy and pictury, and I didn't want to bore the stink out of you. And I also know how highly irritated some of you become if you have uber-long posts to read or more than one post in a day in your Google Readers. But, then I decided that as much as this blog is about you, it is really about my family. And about it being a journal of our lives. And so, I'm going to post all 3 days. So that one day I can remember the Dude Ranch discussion. And Caitlin and her ponchos. And what I ate.

So please know that you won't hurt my feelings if you don't read it. Jim-Dad will. And that is good enough for me.

The missionary reunion ended Sunday morning. We had an outstanding time of worship together, and everyone headed out with sweet memories and anticipation for the next reunion in 2011….which I somehow was suckered into organizing again. How this happens to me, I’m not sure. I checked the mirror before I went into the meeting where they discussed the plans for ’11, but apparently I missed the big “SUCKER” stamp that was plastered on my forehead.

After our cars were loaded and everyone was buckled in, we headed out. For Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. And all things Smokey Mountain and Dolly Parton related.

We were going to all stop at the tattoo parlor across the street from our hotel and get matching Dolly tattoos, but Jim-Dad was a party pooper and nixed the idea. Too bad. My mama was really aching for one on her arm.

We poured over tourist brochures, and we finally decided on a visit to Wonderworks.

The sign out front said that it was an amusement park for the mind….and that it was. It was this hugacious, nifty interactive museum/playground/crazy-lose-your-parental-mind place. There were simulators and rock walls and crazy optical illusions and bizarre hands –on exhibits. Wanna see?
And then my mom played laser tag.

And apparently was really sneaky and stealth-like.

Go Grammy. It’s your laser tag birthday.

And then we were hungry. And we ate at Happy Days. Yes. Happy Days. Think Richie Cunningham and the Fonz and Chachi. Only minus Richie Cunningham and the Fonz and Chachi. I was slightly disappointed that Fonzie wasn’t there banging on the jukebox, but my Cadillac Cheeseburger and Loaded Fries brought me right back to my place of ‘50s blissfulness.

And then, when Elvis wanted to take his picture with me, I was over the moon. Because you know how I roll with the King.
Oh….and that tramp Marilyn went and hung all over my husband.
Oh wait. He’s hanging on her. And SMILING!!! Hurmph.

And then it was back to the hotel for working on the computers….in the lobby. Still find that weird. And the kiddos all went swimming in the nifty hotel pool with the father figures.

We Are Family is shaping up to be a true adventure. But we are all having a blast and enjoying just doing what we do best….being family.


Do you know how many times Dolly Parton songs get stuck in my head?

JOLEEN. 987 times.



9 TO 5. 602 times.


That chick’s songs just stick. And I dig her gnarly hair, and her very blingified outfits. Because I just think if you can pull off all of that Southern Belle glam, then you must be something.

So, when plans were struck to head over to Dollywood for the day, my heart skipped a beat. Because the idea of a day spent bleach blonde wig deep in all things Dolly just sounds like good fun. And I’m all about some amusement park bizness, so I was all over this trip. Like sequins. On Dolly.

We woke up early early early Monday morning and headed to the pancake house next door to our hotel. You talk about some deliciousness. Oh my stars.
I ate every single last syrup drenched crumb. And mulled licking my plate over in my head, but decided against it.

After eating, we headed out to the big D. And we did it all.

Here….just look at all this family fun.

We rode roller coasters, got drenched on water rides, and screamed like little girls while doing it.

And we listened to a concert. Of, of course, Dolly music.

And I bought this.

Yes. That is a bag of kettle corn the size of Nebraska.
And, yes. It was yummy. And yes, we still have it and are still munching on it.

After buying our obligatory teeshirts (I opted for a cutesy teeshirt instead of the gaudy black one emblazoned with Dolly’s face….although it was a hard decision), we went in search of dinner.

And because Jim-Dad deserved it, we went to the Golden Corral. And loved on the 3,389options for food we had on what just might have been the largest food bar I’ve ever seen in my life.
Look at Jim-Dad. Pleased as punch, I tell ya. Pleased as punch.

After dinner, we all waddled back out to our cars and headed back up to the hotel. No computering in the lobby. No watching tv. Just showers and straight to the covers.

Because wagging around kettle corn is exhausting, y'all.


What do you get when you have 11 people in a family who refuse to make a decision because they are afraid to hurt someone else in the family’s feelings?

Uh….you get my family.

Minus the husbands and the children. Because the husbands and children aren’t afraid to speak their minds.

The parents, my sister, and I….um...we would be the people pleasers. Heaven forbid we do something that would make anyone else feel uncomfortable.

And so went the decision making process for Tuesday morning. What to do? What to do? After each of us uttering, “It doesn’t matter to me” and “I don’t care” 203 times, we FINALLY did things the democratic way and took a vote. Only we didn’t ask the children. Because they don’t count. Only because their choices would have only included overpriced go-carts and mini-golf. No thank you, small people.

Vote came out:

Go in a cave -- 2
Go to a Civil War Battleground – 3
Go to the hotel and sleep/swim/read/blog – 1
Go to Loretta Lynn’s Dude Ranch – 1

I was the vote for the Dude Ranch. Shocking, I'm sure. I thought it sounded fun, and I thought the idea of Jim-Dad on a horse would have just been good blogging material. But no one else saw things my way. So much for saddling up with the Coal Miner’s Daughter.

We decided that hearing “I’m bored” all day didn’t sound like a ton of fun, so we scratched out the history lesson, and that left us with cave dwelling.

My three boys don’t do caves. Remember?

So….then Rock City came up in conversation. And just like that....our decision was made.

Rock City, it was. We hopped in the cars and skidaddled on down Chattanooga way. I fell asleep for 3 seconds in the car. 3 seconds. And when I woke up, I found us in the middle of a downpour. Ummm…Rock City is outside. And we didn’t have a backup plan.

I called up Caitlin, who works at Rock City, and inquired of what the weather was doing up on the mountain and what exactly the good ole’ folks at Rock City do when it rains. Miss Caitlin, who loves her job very much (I could hear her ponytail swishing, she was so perky), told me that they “just hand out ponchos!” Thanks, but no thanks, Miss Caitlin McPoncho, I might mess up this fabulous hotel bedhead ‘do that I’m sporting today.

So. Back to square one.

Stuck in Chattanooga. In the rain. With our hotel reservations 4 hours away…..completely out of our way.

We did a little digging around and discovered a gold mine. Who knew. I’m sure that Rock City would have been fabulously amazing, but this place rocked our eleven-people-roadtrip world.

Drumroll, please.

The Tennessee Aquarium.


It was the most intense aquarium I’ve ever been to. Very cool. We saw huge fish and tiny fish. We saw funky fish and normal fish. We saw scary fish and friendly fish. We saw jellyfish and crabs and seahorses. We found Nemo. And Nemo’s dad.

And I touched a frog. (Oh…he’s not real. Are you nuts?)
And I found this out. And wasn’t really sad about it…..at all.
And we petted sturgeons. But passed on the caviar.
And we petted sharks. And sting rays. And the kids petted a snake….a real one. Michele petted one, too….only hers was fake. Because she and I….well....we're chickens.

And Keaton was a little nerd. He carried around a notebook and took notes. (And I have a picture, but it isn't uploaded yet....but just imagine Bill Nye the Science Guy in a Razorback teeshirt....that would be Keaton.)

It was an amazing place. Highly recommended.

And probably better than the Dude Ranch.



Dear Sweet Precious Reader,

If you hung in here this long, then good for you. Our trip was amazing, and I'm glad that you could come along with us.

If the only one reading this is Jim-Dad.....well, just know that I heart you like crazy, Daddy. And know that you hanging with me in cyberspace is pretty darn funaliscious.



Jim said...

Where are all the other forty.leven.hundrd picts we musta took? Let's see, the one of me "sleepin' in the train seat o'r the gorge", and the one of me "wobblin' after the upside.down space capsul", and the one of me "sleeping before the Dolly's Family Concert", and the one of me "comin' down the log chute", and the one of me "sleepin' in a rockin' chair" ...well, I was awake ever' uther time, at least! Them rascals ul wer ya out, I tellya!

Wouldn'na missed er' minut of hit!
All the better with yer whol fam'ly around ja!


Carpoolqueen said...

I was happiest seeing the picture of Jim-Dad at the Golden Corral. For somewhere deep inside, I knew that he had eaten the yeast rolls that I struggled mightily to ignore on my recent visit there.

Well done, Jim-Dad. Well done.

Andrea said...

What a great time! I agree with you - the Dude Ranch would have been cool.

I'm doing my classroom in a frog theme this year. But good thing they're cartoony. My friend did this one year and a parent brought her some tree frogs for a class pet. I'm hoping all tree frogs stay where they belong this year - which is not in my classroom.

Anonymous said...

I hung with you to the end and wanted some more! Can I just go on vacation with We Are Family next year? Please?

Hope your transition to the real world is an easy one and that your laundry does itself.

buscher3 said...

Oops - I was looking and reading though your mini novella and apparently tuned out the jabber of my 2 year old and missed the fact that she was telling me she needed to go poopy in her little potty. I was pulled out of my trance just about the time she went, "Uh-oh". So Dora got a bit dirty as we were making the mad dash from the kitchen table to the bathroom. See what your blogs do to me?? :-)

Lindsay said...

Well, probably skimmed this one more than the shorter entries. Love the pictures. Fun seeing what it takes to get your hubby to smile. Will be good to see y'all again but have enjoyed traveling with you via blog and pictures.

Gretchen said...

Now I kinda feel like I'm "We Are Family", too. Maybe I should get a tee shirt with Jim-Dad's picture on it. Or a bag of kettlecorn, either one.

Thanks for takin' us along, Amber. You rocketh. Hugs.

Musings of a Homeschooling Mom said...

Those pictures are awesome! I love reading about your adventures! Being able to vacation with family sounds like a ton of fun!

Stephanie said...

I read every word! It was great entertainment during mom's treatments today. I'm really sad that you were in pigeon forge AND Chattanooga and we didn't get together. You were literally all around me. Next time you're around maybe life won't be so crazy and we can meet.

I really hope you took Jim-dad to Tanger Outlets. They have some great napping benches outside every store!

Mich said...

I had a blast with you sister dear!
I'm so glad we are family! :)
Love ya!

Cathy said...

You could never bore the stink out of me, for I heart you too stinkin' much!

And I do believe we need a "We are bloggy besties" super vaca, watchya think?:) Although, based on what you said and what my hubby says about me (ahem) we might need someone else along to tell us what we should do....other than get another bag of that kettle corn, cause that there just rocks my socks off. Well, it would if I was wearing any.

And I don't know that I will ever get enough pics of Jim-Dad in astronaut suits or eating at the Golden Corral...whatever THAT is.

AND, this is the last "and", I promise...I'm really glad you had a great time and all, but selfishly, I'm glad you're back.:)

AND (ok, I lied. Not quite done.) that picture of you and Sawyer is GORGEOUS, girlfriend!

Jennifer said...

Looks like ya'll had a blast!!

Love the food pics!!

The picture of you and Sawyer needs to be framed and hung somewhere!! Just precious!!

Glad you had a great time!! More glad you're home!! LOL!!

Tiffani said...

So glad you decided to go ahead and post!! Gosh, what a FUN Sister Sledge vaca...I absolutely LOVE Tennessee and it's the only state I would live in outside of Georgia!

let's see...that pic of you and Sawyer better be in a frame very soon. Oh.my.pictureness is it GREAT!

The monstrosity that was the kettle corn?! Just bring it with you to Atlanta...

I HAVE to go that upside down museum!! Wowzers!! That looks like a TON of fun!

Your shirt at the aquarium was cutie patootie and I thought you might jump on in w/ the I don't remember whats you were pettin' sheesh, girl! ;)

What else...OH, you look like you were touchin' the King's butt! ;) Thank you, thank you.. ver'much!

Lemonade Girl said...

Amber - I have enjoyed vacationing with you. First Vancouver, now Smokey Mountains! Fun times! See, when One's family moves to AR instead of taking super fun vacations, you just read about others and dream a big dream. :)

Terry Lewallen said...

Amber- Thanks for sharing vacation with us....made me wish I was really there tagging my rascals along as well. Looks like you guys had a really fun time. Captured some great digital memories....sounds like there are some good ones of Jim-
Dad that we've yet to see????
Beautiful part of Tennessee that you all got to spend some time in. FYI...the cabin life there in the the spring time makes for a great anniversary trip!

Also let me say THANKS for combining your posts together...I think ultimately you were doing that to make me feel better about having to do that all the time! ha!ha!

Emily said...

Wanna know something fun about Dolly? She has a book program in SE Kansas and sends a book a month to every kid until they're five! Isn't that fun?

Oh, and my dad is Jim, too. So I guess I have a Jim-Dad!

Jackie @ Our Moments Our Memories said...

I read all of this. And loved every bit. :)

Oh, Golden Corral. How I love that place. It is evil, though, because it has a baked potato bar that I cannot resist.