Addison was nervous about this afternoon because Nina was going to go home on the bus, and she was going to get picked up in carpool to go to taekwondo. She likes the security of having her sister around when things are different (she usually rides the bus). I'm guessing this didn't help her anxiety level...
1. J.C. and I had a conversation tonight about how much pizza to order while both of us were online simultaneously placing orders without realizing the other one was also ordering. How does that happen? How did each of us think we were in charge of the pizza and not figure that out over the course of the conversation? He was on a computer. I was on the iPhone app, and we placed our similar but not quite identical orders at the exact same time. The Domino's folks had to be wondering what the heck we were doing. The delivery guy showed up with both orders, and that's when we realized what we had done. I suppose this was better than both of us thinking the other was ordering and no pizza ever arriving; however, we now have enough pizza to feed the whole neighborhood all weekend. Come on over!
2. J.C. has introduced the girls to The Greatest American Hero. Thank you, Netflix! Our children now have a new found appreciation for 70's TV. Believe it or not, I'm walking on air. I never thought I could feel so free eee eee. Flying away on a wing and a prayer. Who could it be? Believe it or not it's just me.
J.C. spends several weekends of his summers up on Snowshoe Mountain, WV, downhill biking with a bunch of buddies. During the winter, he spends his weekends counting down the days until ski season is over and he can get back up to Snowshoe. For years, he has been saying, "We should go up there for a family vacation! I always see families up there having fun! The kids would love it!" No matter how many times he has said this, I had a hard time wrapping my head around the six hour drive. Call me a wimp. Call me spoiled. You won't hurt my feelings. I can own it. I just really hate being in the car. I have restless leg syndrome, and car rides are my own little personal version of torture.
Besides the drive, I just couldn't get past picturing Snowshoe solely as a place where grungy, muddy bikers...
ride their ridiculously expensive downhill bikes...
at breakneck speeds down the mountain. (I use the term "breakneck" very deliberately. Two of his biking buddies are out of commission this season - one for a broken collarbone, the other from a broken humerus last summer. On his trip up there last month, one of his friends came back with broken ribs.)
J.C. would tell me, "No! It isn't just for bikers! There are all kinds of things to do up there! There is a pool..."
"and a lake..."
"and the kids can bounce on the bungie thing!"
He would say, "The weather is gorgeous, and we can ride the chairlift! The girls will love it!"
Somehow, none of his arguments could convince me to take the trip. I don't fault him. He really did his best to accurately describe the place. I think I just had so many images ingrained in my head of the world of Snowshoe that is downhill biking. A lot of his biking buddies are my coworkers, so I have heard about Snowshoe from all of them for years as well. After years of seeing photos and videos of the rocks, mud, ramps, jumps, and biking gear, "family vacation destination" was never what I pictured. Plus, there was still that six hour drive.
He finally convinced me to go though, and I'll go ahead and admit it now... I was wrong. There. I said it. J.C. now has it in writing. Snowshoe is absolutely a wonderful place for a family vacation. Don't let the scary jumps that my husband flies off on his bike make you think otherwise. (Yes, he really rides off that thing.)
We all had a blast. When we first arrived, as if eager to welcome us, deer were hanging out in the backyard of the condo.
As J.C. had promised, there were plenty of non-downhill-biking activities to keep us occupied. The older two went zip lining through the village, and...
a huge smile was plastered on Addie's face any time she was bouncing on the bungie thing.
The lake was loads of fun for swimming,
and paddle boating.
Everybody tried out the slack line.
Mostly, we just enjoyed the cool mountain air,...
hung out in the village,...
rode the lifts,...
and took in the views.
In the evenings, we could relax in the hot tub with a view of the mountains,
and enjoy the sunsets.
So... while Snowshoe is very much a Mecca for scrappy downhill bikers, it is also an absolutely lovely destination for families!
I even managed to survive the six hour drive there and back and would do it again.
Monday was the first day of school for us. When I tell people that, I invariably get the comments, "School in July?" or "I can't imagine sending my kids back to school this early!" or "That's just plain wrong!" Starting school in July is all my kids have ever known though. Instead of twelve weeks of summer, they have three week breaks in summer, spring, winter, and fall. While my traditional calendar friends are paying a small fortune to go skiing the week of Christmas, we are taking a bargain winter vacation in early December. In the spring, when traditional calendar teachers, parents, and kids are feeling completely drained and burned out on school and homework, we are just coming back from a three week break, feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the end of the year. You may think we are crazy for having school in July, but compare what you spend on Disney World or the beach in the high season to what I pay in the off-season, and you would be singing the praises of year-round school as well.
Addison headed off to first grade this year. She was a bundle of nerves leading up to that morning, but she had a great day and says her teacher is really nice. Both Elise and Nina had this teacher in third grade, so we know her well and like her a lot. Addison was especially anxious about finding her classroom, but Nina helped her out. Sometimes, it is nice to have a big sister.
Nina started fifth grade this year - top of the school! She likes her teacher too and has some good friends in her class.
Elise's first day of seventh grade was like a comedy of errors. She really didn't know whether to laugh or cry when she got home. The air conditioning was out in the seventh grade building. Clearly, the July school start date is a disadvantage when it comes to air conditioning problems. They weren't assigned lockers or gym lockers on the first day, so she had to carry around 10 tons of school supplies, gym clothes, sneakers, a lunch box, and a locker shelving unit all day long. That's especially fun with no air conditioning. The real kicker of her day though was finding out her lunch time. She has lunch smack in the middle of P.E. Yes, really. Twenty-five minutes of P.E., then twenty-five minutes of lunch, then twenty-five more minutes of P.E. Aside from the fact that it sounds like a perfect storm for post-lunch vomiting, cramps, and muscle strains, can you imagine having to go to lunch every single day in stinky, sweaty gym clothes? Think back to middle school and how often you washed your gym clothes. Now imagine going to lunch in those gym clothes when you were hoping to flirt with the cute guy from math class. It is just wrong on so many levels. That's her schedule though, and she is stuck with it for the year.
Now that Elise has a locker and the air conditioning has been fixed, I think that with the exception of her wonky lunch schedule, the 2014-15 school year has gotten off to a great start!
After leaving Great Wolf Lodge (Summer Vacay Part 1), we headed down to Atlanta, Georgia, to partake in the touristy scene. Nina had been bouncing around elated when we first told her we were going to Atlanta. We weren't really sure why she was so excited or what she had heard about Atlanta, but we were glad she was so thrilled. After a day or so, we finally realized that she thought we were going to Atlantis in the Bahamas rather than Atlanta in Georgia. Ummm, big difference. We had to reel back her expectations a bit before the trip. I'm glad we figured it out before we got there though. That could have been a huge disappointment.
We stayed at the Hampton Inn and Suites in downtown. It was a cute little place... sort of retro modern, and it was walking distance to most of the downtown attractions.
Our first stop was Centennial Olympic Park which was so nice. I had walked through some of it during previous visits to Atlanta, but never really stopped to smell the roses. It is really a fabulous urban park.
Next we headed off to the World Of Coca-Cola. This was the big suprise hit of the trip. J.C. and I had both been there a few years ago and enjoyed it. We weren't entirely sure if the kids would like it or not though. None of them are Coke drinkers, but we decided to take a chance on it anyway. It turned out to be their favorite part of the whole trip! At the end of the trip when we asked each one what was their favorite place to visit in Atlanta, they all said the World of Coke!
The World of Coke seemed to provide lots of photobombing opportunities.
We all had fun there, even Nina who was scared of the polar bear.
Our next destination was the Georgia Aquarium which is spectacular. I really shouldn't even share pictures because my photography skills inside an aquarium are apparently atrocious. Just trust me that this is a great place to visit. Don't judge it by my photos!
We finished off the day (and, um,... every day) at Johnny Rockets.
We spent the next day at Zoo Atlanta where seeing the pandas was our number one priority.
As I get older, I'm finding more and more that I am just not a big fan of animals in captivity. It isn't like I'm a major animal lover or animal rights activist. I eat meat. I wear leather. I don't have pets. It is just something I'm discovering about myself. The zoo made me sad more than anything. On the one hand, I enjoyed seeing the animals, but I hated seeing their habitats and small enclosures. I have the same problem with the Kilimanjaro Safari ride at Animal Kingdom. I just have a hard time enjoying it. Anyway, the zoo was fine. I just think maybe zoos aren't my thing any more.
Once again, the day ended with smiles and shakes at Johnny Rockets.
On our last day, we had reservations for lunch at the American Girl Bistro. We thought this would be a huge treat for Addie. She loves her American Girl doll, and the last time we had the chance to go to an American Girl store, she was two.
When the older girls had been her age, they were positively giddy about going to the American Girl store. It was like floating up to doll heaven for them. I'm not sure whether it is just the fact of Addie being a jaded third child or whether we didn't hype it up as much as we did in the past, but she was just sort of "meh" about the whole thing. She had a good lunch, and she enjoyed seeing the store, but I don't know that it was any more special to her than if we had gone to PF Chang's in the mall and walked around Toys R Us. Sigh. Live and learn. We won't be shelling out the big bucks for an American Girl lunch again.
It was J.C.'s first time at an American Girl store, and you have to figure a Dad of three girls needs to experience that place at least once in his life, so at least now he can say he has been there, done that.
Our last stop of the trip was a meal at the Atlanta hot spot, The Varsity. We figured we couldn't take the kids all the way to Atlanta without at least one greasy meal at The Varsity.
The next day, we packed up and headed for home. All-in-all, it was a fun trip. It wasn't the beach, but I survived. I'm sure it is healthy and educational for the girls to be exposed to non-beach destinations every now and then too!