Unschooling: Living Without School; Living Free Range-Freedom to Learn What One Wants When One Wants

Friday, October 30, 2015


Vacation. Was. Awesome.

I gotta be honest. I was a little afraid it wouldn't be. A few reasons why. The week preceding vacation I did so much preparation due to my OCD. I made detailed schedules - right down to the meal and price of the meal each of us planned to order at every restaurant.  I made sure everything that needed to be fixed or organized before we left-was.  I made a packing checklist and rewrote it 6 times.  Let's just say, I looked crazy.  I even bought a pad lock for my dog's crate and requested my dog sitters send me pics when they are put up.

Not on not that,  but I spent a lot of time prior to the trip feeling sorry for myself for not being pregnant.  I'm thinking now it was a good thing. I was happy to not worry about if I could do certain things the whole time.

The trip started rough. I had to check every light,  every outlet,  every door exactly 5 times. J got impatient.  But once we were off. And fed. The rest of the trip was smooth.

We started out with our traditional "all out" breakfast at Hardee's. Monster biscuits for everyone-including Sam.  That's what we get every year on the way to family reunion and any other big trip that is on Sunday.  (Otherwise,  we stop by Chick Fil A.)

The drive up was not too grueling. We stayed with one of Jessie's old co-workers/friend and his wife/their teenage daughter the first night. We visited, played with all their exotic pets (They have several: 3 kinkajus, 2 wild cat/house cat breeds which were interesting,  a bearded dragon,  a leopard gecko, and then of course like 4 dogs.)

Afterward we went up a mountain to a restaurant overhanging a cliff.  Called McCloud. Very fancy restaurant. The food was so so.  Nothing too special.  It was mostly the atmosphere. You could look it the long glass windows. Our trip was very foggy and drizzly. Our "hosts" kept apologizing about it,  but I thought the fog was beautiful. It was one reason we came down in late Fall and kept the vacation plans despite a little rain. On the way back down we saw several pretty leaf colors. It was a sight worth taking the time to see. Then we hiked a trail nearby their house that lead to a waterfall which was 3 large teirs. And if you count the smaller teirs that lead up to the top there had to of been around 10 or more.  S identified some trees and we took pictures of leaves to identify later. She enjoyed being on top of the waterfall. That is one of her favorite scenic locations.

We spent  the rest of the night goofing off and talking. We had planned to spend time in their hot tub and/our watch a movie in their awesome theatre room, but didn't get the chance. We went to bed around 11 and got up early on Monday.

Jessie's friend was the only one not scheduled to go to school or work.  He made us a huge breakfast. We left out around 11.

And got to the condo right in time.  Check in want until 4 but we got there early to dibs a fireplace room. (Only certain King suites had them.) We got the last one. And it was already ready! I booked 3 days and 2 nights in that baby so we got comfortable. Unloaded or things.  And then headed off to ride the trolley to the aquarium.  It was a neat experience for S, but we won't do that again.  Took to long to b get from one place to another.

She. Loved.  The Aquarium. S and I got homeschool pricing and J could have too, but the hotel had given us a coupon for a ticket to any Ripley's attraction for $1.00+tax.  So we only paid like $15 for all 3 of us. Also,  another "service" they had for homeschoolers was a souvenir book for free.  It had all kinds of work to do as you went through or at home. S chose to do it at home on her own time.  I have never seen her so enthralled at a place like that. She was so into it. She was reading the information herself and asking lots of questions. Instead of just looking. (This age is great!) And J is such a great teacher.  She learned a lot from him. Things the signs didn't include. She got to pet a shark and stingray and horse shoe crab. She could have picked it up but she freaked. She stuck her hand in water with little sucker fish. They also have tons of tanks you can crawl under and play in like you are in the tank.  She loved the tank with the conveyor belt running through it. She got to see the bottoms of the sharks.  We took pictures to look up some things we saw underneath that we didn't know about.

Once we left the aquarium,  we went for seafood at Bubba Gump's. From the movie Forrest Gump. It was so good.  Their fries were delicious. And J lived the gush puppies so much-he ordered a second order.

Then we walked the town.  Bought fudge.  S watched candy being made.  Moonshine Taffy. We bought a jar of that too.  :) All S really wanted was a lollipop. One of the medium sized.  Original rainbow lollipops. So we got her one.  She cherished it the whole time. Then we went to the Rock Shop. I had a collection of rocks growing up that I loved.  I had a few books on them.  I learned a little that way.  But mostly I just liked to sit a go through them. So that's what I did as a kid. I took S in there to share that love with her. And she fell in love too. Her absolute favorite were the pink Geodes. We bought her a small leather bag full of chipped off rock pieces that again-she wants to research.  She says rocks and gems are a new interest of hers. (Conviniently there was a Geology exhibit at the museum we went to on Wednesday.) Last stop was the Moonshine distillery for a tour and taste testing. We bought a jar of their orange moonshine that they only make once a year at football season. After that batch is gone, it isn't back for another year. So I picked it over Pumpkin.

Then we headed back for the night and played in the indoor water park which was completely empty!! Not only was it a weekday, but all the people we talked to around the town and at the hotel said everybody came a week too early for peak season. Last week was so packed you couldn't move your car and the colors were not completely in yet. Now the colors is in and the tourism had died down. We came on the perfect week. Inside they had 2 giant water slides,  a pool with a volleyball net, a pool with a fountain,  and a splash pad. Not to mention a hot tub. We played with S on the slides for an hour and then got in the hottub before leaving.  It was so relaxing. Just talking about it makes me sad it is over.

Then we went back up in the room, showered and all, started the fire up-which was romantic as all get out, decided we hated cable, turned it off, and went to bed. S slept on the sleeper sofa-which she loves doing. And we got the king bedroom. But of course we woke up cuddling with her in the middle of the bed. :)

The next morning we got up early. I made a big breakfast before Ziplining! We got a call from the place asking us if we still wanted to zipline in the rain. It was just sprinkling mostly and we would be covered by the trees so we said sure. When we got there they told us we were the only ones willing to keep our reservations that day. So it was just us in our "group" with 2 guides who were hilarious by the way.  We got geared up and headed out. I was so confident beforehand,  but after reading the waiver I got nervous. J went first.  S in the middle so that she would always be with at least one of us.  Then me. It was such a thrill!! It was pretty much beginners courses.  Only 50' off the ground.  And the ziplines weren't super long. Enough to make you want more.  We did 9 ziplines.  The guides would tease us and bounce us or send us back and have us slide again. One guide pushed me over the edge the first time because I was nervous to jump off. S was so brave! She loved it! She would just jump right off! S and I only got brave enough to let go and "fly," but J was flipping upside down! Oh man. We were so sad when it was over. But it was an experience worth having!  We bought our family ornament from their giftshop. And we couldn't stop talking about it the entire day.

We went for lunch at a BBQ place. I tried Philly Cheese Steak for the first time. Amazing! Then we went up on the mountain to hike but instead ended up on the motor trail by accident.  Which was still lovely!  The colors were astonishing!  We took tons of photos. S is now dead set on painting a scene we took a picture of that was drop dead gorgeous. So we are going to go over leaf techniques next week. We stopped at a little general store at the bottom of the mountain and bought a handmade puzzle to add to our coffee table collection, some homemade jalapeƱo jam,  some coloring books from the '70s for S and me, and some trail badges for S's Heritage Girls uniform-which is getting packed in already!

S feel asleep on the way back down the mountain and J and I got some alone time to talk about the mountains,  which was pretty nice. She woke up though when we stopped for doughnuts. A tradition it seems to be becoming for us.  (We used to do it when I was little.) And we bought hot chocolate.

Then we got back to the hotel and did it all over again. The slides were even more fun the second time around. And the bed felt even softer. I got to take a bath in a jetted tub! We had more time in front of the fire that night which was so cozy. And we slept like tranquilized lions.

Breakfast the next morning and I packed up and cleaned up. Our first stop was Bass Pro Shop.  J didn't find much. Although had he had $1,000 or so I'm sure he would have.  But S spent some of her birthday money on a toy she had been wanting.  A little boy we know sparked her interest in bugs before we left. He had a bug vacuum. So she got one at the store too. She can't wait to use it!

Then we headed to the McClung Museum of Natural History at UTK. Sam saw just a portion of the campus and couldn't believe it's size! We went in the museum and toured every section but paid special attention to the Egyptian section and the Geology section as well as the Tennessee History section where we learned a lot about the other side of the story about Indians. S loved seeing mummified animals and a sarcophagus. She learned a lot and recognized the names of the pharaohs. And I learned what the Rosetta Stone is! Always learning.  J gets absorbed in this stuff.  There is no telling what all he will remember. He reads every sign and takes in everything said in every video. We were there for 2 hours and still didn't cover everything.

When we left we were tired and a bit grumpy and considered heading home, but I'm glad we didn't.  We waited around for Ye Old Steak House to open-dinner only.  That was our big dinner day.  We ordered anything we wanted.  We both got the best steak I have ever eaten. The best fried pickles in the world. The best ranch I've ever had!  We even bought desert-homemade Hershey cake and ice cream-which was so good. There wasn't enough. Best place I've ever eaten. And the bill was only $103 after tax, tip, everything. And they even give you 2 free appetizers. Rolls. Which are so soft and warm.  And cheese dip to go with Captain crackers. Tasted like the cheese and crackers you eat in the little plastic packs as a kid. Simple. But yummy.

We were stuffed.  J did all the driving. He drove us home.  We pretty much listened to the music on the way back. S slept. We were worn out. Once we got home, I quickly unpacked. (I had a very efficient system so it only took like 5 minutes.) S watched a movie. And then we mixed some moonshine and Sprite. Per the distillery's recommendation. It tasted just like orange soda. And then J and I had some time together and eventually passed out.

I would say that was the best vacation we have ever had.  It was longer than we have ever had.  I want worried about the money.  And we did so many things that we have been wanting to do.  See the colors-which J requested last year while we visited (his first time) in August.  Ziplining. We love a good rush. Ate at some restaurants we have been wanting to try. We stayed in n the nicest place we have ever stated at on vacation. No arguing. S was great the whole time. So grown up.  We had a good balance. Nobody got left out.  (Occasionally S feels left out because she is the only kid there.) The weather was prefect.  Even though it rained a little, it just felt vacation. And for the first time ever I felt completely relaxed and refreshed when we returned home. (And sorrento the next day do absolutely nothing.)
We couldn't recreate that trip if we tried.  But we can have another trip-in December. :) It will just be a day trip. To hike and see the lights again.  This time we will hike Alum Cave trail. Eat Calhoun's as usual.  Ride around for lights. And eat Krispy Kreme! Memories I doubt S will ever forget.

I have hundreds of pictures but decided to spare anybody who reads this.

Waterfall in Jacksboro



Coming in for a Landing! 

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