Last week, James and I flew to Gatlinburg TN to spend the week with my family for our summer vacation. Will couldn't come because of work commitments, but I survived the plane ride with a two-year old nonetheless. In some of the pictures, you may see a friendly-looking backpack/harness that looks like a puppy. Yes, I broke down and bought a harness/leash for my child. Before you judge me, just know that I have a very fast, active little boy who loves to run and jump, but hates the stroller. We were flying solo and would be going to theme parks and downtown Gatlinburg and I thought that this was the best time for a leash. As it turns out, I used it a LOT and James affectionately asks for "puppy" when it is time to head out the door. Yes, my friends, "puppy" was a life saver! We visited the Gatlinburg Aquarium. It is by far, the best aquarium we've been to so far! It's not super huge, but the views of the tanks and the exhibits are really well-designed. They have a large, interactive area for kids. It's pretty interested for us "big kids" too. If you ever get a chance to go, I highly recommend this aquarium! Part of the aquarium takes you on a moving walkway through a glass-tunneled view of the large shark tank. The dome-shaped ceiling is painted to look like the sky, so above the fish and sparkling water, it looks like you are outside. Very cool!
Here I am with my baby brother, Elliott. Yes, I am the runt of the family.
Here is my mom, my brothers and me.
Here are James, Mason and Christian (his cousins). The boys had a great time playing together! It was a wild, loud house when all three boys were playing!
James and I even had a special visit from an old friend of mine (Hunt) from Greenville. We've known each other for about 13 years (we did the math) and he is now a professor of history at Western Carolina University. It was such a treat to catch up with a good friend and laugh about some old times together.
Here is James and his new buddy, Austin. Austin's parents own the Condo and Motel that my mom works at and they are wonderful people. They are like a second family to my mom and even let us stay at this huge house for free! The house was very roomy, a great space for all the kids there and was only 1/4 a mile from downtown Gatlinburg- great location! Their son, Austin, immediately took to James and they were best buds during the week.
Here we are on a carousel in Dollywood! James had several firsts this week (first Mc Donald's cheeseburger and fries, first trip to an amusement park, first train ride and first ride on a carousel.)
One of the last things we did was ride the Dollywood Steam Engine. It's 15 minutes of loud, whistle-blowing, steam-filled, soot-covered fun! James was a tired pup at the end of the day, but he was awe-struck by this train. Just mesmerized the whole ride! Apparently, most kids all asleep with all of the rocking, but he just stared and stared....
With a few eye rubs in between.
One pretty cool section of Dollywood is full of classic cars. One of James' favorite rides (one of the few he was tall enough to ride) was a track with these models of classic cars that you could drive around in. The pictures were pretty fuzzy and far away, not blog worthy. But, here is James and Austin "at the drive in."
This was James' first official amusement park ride- The Flying Ducks. Not too scary and he fit the height requirement (yeah!)
Overall, our week flew by and it was wonderful seeing James play and getting to know his cousins. The kids kept busy playing and swimming and the grown ups were busy relaxing and resting up for the next outing/activity. My mom really hooked us up with a free place to stay all week, free tickets to Dollywood and the Aquarium. I love freebies!
It was good family time and good vacation time!