Sunday, August 31, 2008

Some Sweet Treats

Tonight is the last church picnic for the summer. The picnics are always a wonderful time to get to connect with friends and also meet new people. I wanted to make something a little special for the event.

When we were at Dollywood's candy shop, I saw a cute idea I thought I would make for tonight—Rice Krispie Cones. I seem to be making a lot of interesting edible items this summer with ice cream cones. Who knew they were so versitile?

First I made peanut butter rice krispie treats:

Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Treats

1 cup white Karo syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter
5 cups Rice Krispies

Bring syrup and sugar to a slow boil. Stir in peanut butter. Remove from heat and add Rice Krispies.

Then I assembled the cones. I used an ice cream scoop and topped off the ice cream cones. After letting them harden for about an hour, I dabbed vaniila icing on each one. I quickly placed sprinkles on each one.

For this recipe I used small ice cream cones. This made 22 desserts.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Best Laid Plans

First the good news
We had a meeting at the school yesterday afternoon in which we adjusted some of David's classes. He will go from special education social studies to advanced social studies. We did this with his science class last year and we were very pleased with the results. Most advanced classes have a high ratio of girls, which David loves. Whereas there is a higher ratio of boys in the special ed classes. David is still in advanced science and enjoyed the Skittles experiment he did with his lab partner yesterday. They then had to eat the evidence. He begins his advanced social studies class today.

We are very thankful for David's case manager at school. She is taking pro-active steps in managing his schedule and potential issues.

Now the bad news
When I returned home from the school meeting I got a message from the agency that provides David's one-on-one. You know, the one that is supposed to start with David today. They have not heard back from her since Tuesday. She was to bring in her paperwork and all the forms. She has not returned their phone calls and they can't get in touch with her. This is the second person they hired to work with David this summer who has done this. They have never worked with him and I have to wonder if his old one-on-one has been talking behind backs.

The agency has no one to work with David. So what to do? I am working with the school and we may go back to a day treatment counselor. We tried that last year at the beginning of the school year, but since they could only work with David for two classes this didn't work. David has grown up a lot and is behaving much better in school—in fact, the sub one-on-one that was with him yesterday didn't even have to go into two of the classes with him. I also feel that the teachers he has this year as a whole are much more equipped to deal with him.

This may actually be a blessing since we may be pulling supports out faster then we had planned. The question is if David is ready to have these supports removed.
This morning has been taken up with phone calls, e-mails and prayer for this situation.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Going Dutch

I've posted many times about my times in Tennessee, but I also spent time in the Catskill Mountains of New York with my mom's parents.

My grandpa was a construction worker who drove big Caterpillar trucks to help build the highways of upstate New York. He also built their house in the mountains. My grandma was a homemaker that never worked outside the home.

The Catskills were the setting of Washington Irving's "Rip Van Winkle," a story I have always loved. As in the story, the area is full of Dutch who settled there when they came to America. It was easy to picture good old Rip hunting in the woods around my grandparents home.

Gradma's cast iron stove
Since there were no other children to play with we had to be more creative. One of my favorite activies was to go into their root celler and see all the treasures they had stored from their life together. My grandmother had a cast iron stove that was just the right size to play with my Barbie dolls They became Pilgrim Barbies for the week or so that we visited. They also had an old stereoscope with cards from the Catskill area. My grandfather was a coin and stamp collector so we often poured over his collection.

We always made a visit to my grandmother's younger sister and her husband. We always had fun at Dot and Ed's and they were like another set of grandparents. Dot always had fresh goodies baked and over the years she gave me special little necklaces. Dot and Ed's one daughter never had any children so in some ways we did become her grandchildren. A few years ago their daughter died following a car accident. I still send them a Christmas card every year.

My grandparents celebrate their 72nd weding anniversary this year. They live in an assisted living home together where my grandmother still looks after my grandfather, who has alzheimer's. Grandma's cast iron stove sits proudly in my kitchen. The picture that has hung over my kitchen table since my marriage is the one that use to hang over their table during my childhood.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Mom's Homework

Today was the first day of school and David was excited. I had worked hard to get all the supports in place so there would a smooth beginning to the school year. About an hour after school began I got a phone call with the news that there was a mix-up and David's one-on-one was not able to go to school today. Aargh!!

Now the worries began. David was expecting to have his one-on-one to meet him at the bus. David doesn't do well with change and I was worried this might derail the day. But, we didn't get a call from the school, just the agency that provides the one-on-one.

David, dressed and
ready for school
David arrived home and reported that he had a great day. I even got a note from his new case manager saying what a great day he had. This teacher is the one who will take over David's IEP and accommodations. When I met her last week I got a very good impression of her.

This was not the case last year. I felt last year's teacher and I were working against each other instead of together. When I would disagree with anything she said, her face would turn red and she would stiffen up. It came very close to us formally asking that she be removed from his case since I often felt she wasn't looking out for David's best interest. Once she even stated in a meeting that "all the teachers feel they can't teach with David in the room." When I gathered all his teachers together and asked them point blank, I only had one teacher who felt that way. I even had one teacher say she felt that David was a good contributor to her class. So I promptly had this corrected with the other members who had been in the meeting.

Anyone who has ever sent a child off to school knows that the kids are not the only ones who must complete homework. Last week I completed and returned all the paperwork the school required. However, today David brought home the rules and expectations due in each class. Each student must sign the contract, then the contract is to be signed by the parents.

We have survived the first day of school and are eager to see what is in store for the rest of the year.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Visit From Relatives

Rich's sister and her family live overseas as missionaries so we didn't have much of an opportunity to see them. When they do return to the States for furlows and visits their homebase is in New Jersey. This has always made it hard for visits since it means long traffic jams through DC, Baltimore and New York.

This week they are taking our oldest nephew to college for his freshman year, with their younger son to follow next year. Where does the time go? Next will be David's turn—aargh! Since we are about an hour off their route they came early and spent the night.

David has always loved his big cousins and enjoys spending time with them and this time was no different. Unfortunately the younger of his two cousins had to return to school before the visit, but David still roped the older one into lots of bike rides.
Since it was just an overnight visit I decided to not spend my time in the kitchen and instead we ordered Papa John's Pizza. We ate on disposible plates and drank from cans and bottles, no fuss dinner. This decision was a big hit with all of us.

Our nephew will be about seven hours away so we may get to see him more often. They had planned on him returning to the mission field over the Christmas break but unless the price of gas breaks and reduces air fare that doesn't seem as likely. We are praying for this, but if he can't go home, he is more then welcome to stay with us.

Rich's sister and brother in law have been really good about guiding their kids and lending advice on these major life isues. They talked their kids through about not only the subjects they wanted to learn, but also the school environment. Big campus with lots of activities going on or a more intimate campus with less activities to choose from. So often this is not thought of when making the decision.

I have a relative that has taken all choices out of their child's hands. They have stated not only what college she will attend but also the parents have decided to move to the same town to watch over the child. The child has voiced her opposition to attending this college, but it is falling on deaf ears. There is still a couple more years before she leaves home, so we will see if the parents will take into consideration the child's wishes or if this will cause a breach in their relationship.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Preparing For 8th Grade

This week I have been very busy with school prep for David. We have now gotten David's new one-on-one in place. She has never worked with David, but we know her from her previous job. I think this will be a better fit then some of the people who have worked with David in the past. It is very difficult to find the right person. The person needs to be young enough to keep up with David and his hyper activity while still having enough sense to make good judgement calls on the fly. I have also learned from past experience that I need to be more pro-active in my communication and goals with the one-on-one.

While David is enrolled in school, they also require you to attend registration day. I was very thankful that Rich was home with David so I could meet the teachers and pass along pertinent information without his little ears being present. Since there are several "stations" you must stop at to complete everything that needs to be done before school on Monday, it took a very long time. There was a very long line to get the "home" school books. This is a wonderful service for the families in the district since it allows the children to keep one set of text books at home so they don't have to lug home all the books each time they have homework. This also prevents the "I can't do my homework, I left my book in my locker" excuse.

I was able to get his schedule, locker with combination, bus info, and meet his teachers.

I have high hopes for this school year. His homeroom teacher also teaches him for another class. After talking for a while about both our goals for David she said "I can see we are going to get along real well this year."

Her goals for David mesh well with our goals for him. She is the adoptive mom of two little girls. There was only one other new teacher for David. The other teachers he has had previous contact with and luckily these were not the ones he had problems with last year. The only teacher we will truly miss is Mrs. Anderson. She is a wonderful and caring teacher that has moved to another school.

Our Internet access went out yesterday and it took a while to get the problem corrected. But, we are glad to be back online.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Death Wish David

While we were at Dollywood David rode "Thunder Head." It has won an award for the best wooden roller coaster in the world so you know David had to try it. He and Dylan waited for their turn and got the front of the car (always the best seats.) After riding David came running out and told us he loved the ride. But, as you can see from this picture he wasn't quite feeling that on the ride. Make sure you take notice of the white knuckles gripping the bar. I had to purchase this picture!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Home Again, Home Again

David and me on the swings
Friday morning we returned for another fun filled day at Dollywood. We got in lots of rides that David wanted to return to. We also hit up some of the food stands that we had not tried yet. The food at Dollywood is so wonderful!

On the way out of Pigeon Forge we stopped at the candy store and bought some taffy. I bought normal taffy for our friends while Rich bought jalapeño taffy for the guys. Yes, I said jalapeño. We arrived at the right time to watch the taffy machine in action.

The Capitol movie theater
With candy in hand we headed to my home town, Greeneville. As we entered Main Street I admit I got very teary eyed. It has been too long since I have been home. The old movie theater still stood there, but is in desperate need of an overhaul. I was glad to see that there is a sign that is requesting funds to restore it to it's former glory. I spent many a hot summer day in the plush velvet seats, sometimes in the balcony. The red velvet curtains with the gold fringe would open as the film began. On the next block where the Depot grill once stood, the building was restored but I couldn't tell what new business was residing in that old familiar friend. We headed to my Aunt Carol's house where another aunt and uncle and several cousins joined us.

As David swam and tried his hardest to get his cousin Haley to join him. We all caught up on the years that have passed.

My cousin Wendy had offered for us to spend the night at her house, but since her daughter was having a birthday party the next day we decided to head out. Haley, like David, became a teenager this year.

We arrived home in the wee hours of Saturday morning. After sleeping for four hours in the car David was wide awake at 3am. However, Rich and I were dead tired. Finally, David fell asleep at 5 in the morning.

I have unpacked our clothes and stowed the luggage. Now I have to wrap and store the many gifts we purchased for our loved ones.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

My Choice For President

I don't usually talk about politics on my blog. But today I have made an exception. My candidate for president is Dolly Parton. Just think about it—she took a limping theme park and made it a thriving business. Each year the park expands and the entire area that surrounds the park is booming economically. As you can see in the picture, I am not the only one who feels this way.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Friend From Home

Yesterday it was back at Splash Country. Boy, are we making use of our season passes. We found it was cheaper to buy the season passes then if we paid on a day-to-day basis. We also found that upgrading my pass to a gold pass was well worth the price. It was $30.00 more then the regular season pass price, but it gives us free parking plus 20% off everything in the park.

David at the end of his Water Drop
They are also running a special in August, if you buy an adult meal with a season pass the kid's meal is free. Anytime you make a purchase at a store you are entered into a $500.00 spending spree at Dollywood. I'm keeping my fingers crossed since we hope to come back for a weekend in the fall.

After playing at the wavepool David wanted to go down the water drop again. I, on the other hand, declined the offer. At the bottom he began to talk to the boy that went down at the same time. You will never believe this. Nicholas is from our hometown and they knew each other from playing at the Y pool. He was there with his father and two older brothers who left home the same day we did and are leaving here today. The boy joined our group and he and David had a blast together. But, after several hours together, David began to get very quiet and wanted to cuddle with me. I think there were two reasons for this. First, Nicholas never shut up and I think this was wearing on David's nerves. Second, Nicholas talked about his mom but she wasn't with them. David is so used to the traditional family, with vacations together and all, that the thought of not being together was hard for him to think about.

David giving me water rides
After lunch David became a cuddle buddy with me. I got lots of kisses and he took me out to the wave pool in an inner tube and gave me rides. You would think a day at the water park would water log David, but no way. He was back in the pool at the hotel.

God has really given us a wonderful week. The weather forecasts said it would thunderstorm on Wednesday and yesterday it was to rain on and off all day with thunderstorms in the afternoon. Neither of those predictions came true.
It is hard to believe that it is already time to pack up and head home. But even in that we are very fortunate. We have lots of wonderful friends that we have missed and a wonderful home to return to. And we have all missed Roger and look forward to seeing him.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mystery Mine

I thought I would share a little bit of the rides here at Dollywood. This is the ride that David says he will never ride again.


A Day To Relax

When we were at Dollywood we saw a sign that made me laugh and nudge Rich. "Aunt Granny's Country Buffet" serves fried bologna! This has been an ongoing disagreement since we got married. Rich says he has never heard of anyone ever eating fried bologna while I on the other hand say everyone eats fried bologna. Every time I would cook this, he would just shake his head. I have explained it has to be cooked just right—at a slow temperature til it gets a bit crispy but not burnt. He has never appreciated the fine art of cooking bologna.

Aunt Granny's Restaurant
I made a little headway when the movie "Sweet Home Alabama" came out and the father asks the mom to pull out the bologna cake. But, this little restaurant has finally vindicated me after all these years.

So we got up early to get to the park before it opened and had breakfast at "Aunt Granny's." Since we were first in line at the gate we began to talk to the lady at the front and we explained our errand and disagreement. She was on my side and even told us that when they bring in the fried bologna sandwiches to the employee lounge the word spreads fast and there is a rush to get them. Yes, everyone loves fried bologna sandwiches. While we were entering the restaurant Rich asked the hostess out front if she were Aunt Granny, she explained that Dolly is Aunt Granny.

Part of the menu from Aunt Granny's
David has always shared my love for fried bologna and always asks why daddy doesn't like it. Well, it's a good thing they make lots of food because David really chowed down on the bologna and other food. Rich didn't have any bologna but there was lots of other good food for him to enjoy.

We hadn't planned on riding the rides yesterday since the previous day Rich's knees were bothering him. David even complained about how his legs hurt because they were so tired. I on the otherhand felt just fine thanks to my treadmill sessions. So we decided to take it a bit easy. That lasted until after breakfast and the rides kept calling David, please ride me. So we headed to the midway and rode a few rides several times before heading over to take some pictures and buy a few gift items we had spotted the day before. Our early day at the park lasted until after lunchtime.

One of the Lid'l Dolly's dressmakers
Then we headed to a leather shop to buy a gift for David for Christmas. Then we had to buy a Lid'l Dolly dress. These dresses are old fashioned ruffled dresses in pretty colors and lots of bows. We bought one many years ago before David was born for our little girl. It was eventually given away since she turned out to be a he baby. We also bought my neice one of these dresses. Now that our good friends the McKinley's are about to have a baby we wanted to pick one up and stash it away. If it is a boy then we will have to hold on to it until they have a baby girl.

Choosing just the right dress
The store is set up in the front with quilts, dresses, purses and pillows but in the back Monday through Friday you can watch them making these beautiful items. All the work is done by ladies sitting at sewing machines, no big mass production here. A had to buy a wonderfully intricate baby quilt and lap quilt. The prices are amazingly low and I had a 10% off coupon from an ad I picked up at the hotel.

We ate at Fuddruckers, which is a place I love. Then I found a scrapbook store that I could buy my Tennessee scrapbook items at.

Dollywood central fountain
When we got back to the hotel the guys headed to the pool and I headed for the laundry (yuck!) I hated having all these dirty clothes piling up and the thought of waiting until we got home sent me into action. I wasn't the only mom who had this bright idea. Just as I was taking my clothes out of the washer another mom was bringing hers in. There are only two washers and dryers and one of the dryers wasn't working. So I explained this to the lady. She told me "Well, I used to work in the hotel industry and I'm going to go to the desk and give them a piece of my mind." Since there were more clothes in the one dryer I told her it would take more then one cycle for ours to get done since I had washed two loads. As she was loading her clothes into the two washers another mom came in with her dirty clothes. She wasn't happy that someone beat her to the machines.

Dollywood's "Friendship Path"
As it came near to the time the second lady's clothes were due to finish washing, I sat outside of the laundry room. Sure enough she showed up just as her wash cycle was done (which was still 20 minutes before my dry cycle was done.) She said she thought she saw me take my clothes out already. I explained I had taken some of the dry ones out to allow the others to dry quicker but it would still be a while. She then told me the front desk hadn't heard the last of the situation since her husband was going to give it to them when they checked out the next morning.

The weather forecast is calling for thunderstorms this afternoon, but that's what they said for yesterday and we had wonderful weather. The plan at this point is to head to the water park and see if we can keep from burning today.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Craftsmen and Beauty of the Smokies

Glass working artisan
Visiting Dollywood is a great way to see traditional craftsmanship at work. There is a section called "Craftsman's Valley" where the age old crafts are being plied. You can watch glass blowing, candy making, candle making, and even a blacksmith at work. Then you can purchase the products that have been made there.

It makes me sad when I think of "progress" and how it has replaced so much of the artistry that can only happen when things are made by hand. We have purchased many items to stash away as Christmas gifts for our family and friends. I would much rather help enable a master craftsman to be able to continue his proud heritage then to hand my money over for mass produced gifts.

Hand made glass pumpkins
Dollywood has been very careful to keep the beauty of the Great Smokey Mountains as a focal point. The land has remained hilly and windy with the most amazing flowers and plants throughout the park. Pride in both the area's heritage and Dolly's own personal history is evident everywhere you look. Many people become ashamed of their humble beginnings when they achieve success. Not so with Dolly. She is rightly proud of her roots and the people of her home.

Blacksmith in action
Something you also begin to notice about Dollywood is the abundance of workers that are what our society would call "retirement age." Talking to these workers you sense a deep respect for Dolly and a love for their jobs. We have seen several that used scooters to get around or walk with canes. Most employers would not view these as prime candidates for employment but they do a great job and have very upbeat personalities. The food vendors seem to be college or high school students.

Yes, we had another full day of riding the rides. The coal burning train is always a favorite of David's. He rode the Demolition Derby for the first time. You know David—he had a blast and rammed everyone he could. Then we ended up getting soaked on River Battle.

We found a place we knew we had to eat at for breakfast today. In fact it's been a running joke in our family for 22 years. You'll have to wait until tomorrow to hear about it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What Was I Thinking?

Splash Country's Lazy River
Yesterday we hit Dollywood's Splash Country, a waterpark. We started the day with a lazy ride down the river. It was wonderful to just lay back and let the river gently rock you. Needless to say this didn't last long with David along.

Next we headed to a raft ride. You have to walk up a whole lot of steps, get on a raft that takes you down and around tunnels then lands you at the bottom. This was not quite as relaxing as the lazy river. But, it was lots of fun.

One of the raft rides
Next the wave pool and lunch. We ate our lunch next to the wave pool and enjoyed watching all the others getting rocked by the waves. After lunch Rich and David played in the wave pool while I worked on my tan.

Have no fear my resting didn't last long. Before you knew it David had me heading up an even bigger flight of steps to the water drop. David almost chickened out of the ride as he saw person after person going back down without riding. If the older kids were scared he was considering not riding.

Yes—that's David
But, up and up we went to the top of the stairs. We layed down in the slide, crossed our legs crossed our arms and whoosh. A straight drop down before the slide bends and you land at the end of the slide. You'll hear no screaming on this ride since if you tried to open your mouth the water would choke you. I had water going up my nose the entire ride and I lost my headband somewhere along the ride. It was fun, but David decided not to try it again—just yet.

Next David decided to head for the water playground. This was quite a sight. Kids running all over a jungle gym with water squirting everywhere. Rich headed under the overhang to get some shade while I laid out some more. David must have played for two hours running around having a blast before he was ready to stop.

One of the water playgrounds
So it was a trip to Logan's Roadhouse for dinner (since David had accidentally dropped the leftovers that were to be dinner). We headed for Aloe Vera for Rich's sunburn then it was an early evening at the hotel. O.K., earlier then we have had the last two nights but still after David's bedtime.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Day of Adventure

Yesterday while waiting for our cousins to join us at the hotel we kept David busy. Right after breakfast it was a trip to the pool. David's swimming has improved so much over the summer since he has spent almost everyday at the Y's pool.
When it was time to go to the room nearer our guests arrival time David opened the curtains and questioned me about who was coming, their ages and our relation to each other. Each vehicle that pulled up he would ask "Is that them?" He was very excited when Wendy and her kids got out of their truck, spotted him and waved. David's first comment was "Haley's pretty."

Smokey Mountain River Rampage
After the greeting we headed to Dollywood. We started with the tamer rides and worked our way up. Dylan, Haley and Peyton are not as daring as David is. While they rode many of the rides, there were some that I had to ride with David. We rode the rampaging river boats and got soaked, while Rich stood on shore to capture our ride. We headed to the Midway that held rides that brought back memories of traveling carnivals. This is a great area for the younger kids and eight-year-old Peyton got to ride more rides in this section.

David, the day before, had wanted to ride the Thunder Head—a traditional wooden roller coaster. It is a long and very nerve-racking looking ride. We told him to wait until Sunday, since the park was closing when he asked. We were hoping Wendy's kids would ride it with him. Luckily, Dylan was willing to ride it and the two of them set off.

Mystery Mine Roller Coaster
We had to purchase the picture that was taken on the ride. I will scan the picture when we get back home and will be able to post it. None of the other kids would ride the Mystery Mine, I can't understand it. Just as we were pulling out David looked at me and said "I changed my mind, I don't want to ride this." The ride has two straight up hills, you are flat on your back and all you can see is track. Then the drop is amazing! On our first straight uphill climb David grabbed my hand and didn't let go until after the ride was over. We were seated in the very front and even felt the heat of flames that shot out at us. The ride also has two upside down turns. He decided that the ride was too intense for him, until next year.

The result of River Battle soaking
We all rode on River Battle. We floated down a winding river on a raft with people spraying water from cannons on the side of the river. But, we had our own cannons and fought a hard fight. We were so soaked by the end of the ride that we went right back on for a second soaking.

We rode many other rides with the kids making up different combinations of riding with each other. David loved telling everyone who would listen that these were his cousins. We have made plans on visiting them on our way back home—the day before Haley becomes a teenager.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

All Tuckered Out

It's 7 a.m., do you know where your child is? Mine is still fast asleep and hasn't moved since around 4 a.m. (maybe earlier). Usually David does a lot of moving even in his sleep so this is really amazing. We are often woken up several times in the night by his moving around in his sleep. Before we bought him a full size bed for his birthday we often heard a loud thud in the night as he fell out of bed. This was so normal he would just yell "I fell out of bed again," then pick himself up and return to sleep. You can't tell in the picture but David is sleeping in his normal place in the bed—sideways.

In the bed is his new friend Smoothie. Since babyhood all his stuffed animals have been named with an "ie" sound at the end. Smoothie is a ten-foot stuffed red and black snake. David was required to work at special chores around the house in order to earn spending money for the trip. Besides the normal make-your-bed and take-out-the-trash chores, he had to weed around the front of the house, lay down new mulch, edge the sidewalk and wash the cars. Some of the money he spent last week before we even left home and he would have spent the rest if he could have.

When we saw the sign at the front of the John Deere store yesterday he desperately wanted to buy a toy truck there. We refused to allow this and told him he would have to wait until the end of the vacation and we would return if that is what he chose. All day yesterday as we walked around the park he, with great glee, announced he was right and had not seen anything he wanted more than the truck. That lasted until we were leaving the park, when he saw Smoothie and had to have him. He still has a few dollars more to spend and is very happy with his purchase.

It is now 7:24 a.m. and he just woke up and is very happy and wants to go to the pool. But, breakfast first!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Welcome To Your Blog-cation

Today we are taking you on the first day of your blog-cation. After a five-and-a-half-hour drive, we have arrived. Unfortunately you are not the only ones who decided to join us. The road was jammed with many others who wanted to have a great time.

Before we arrived at the hotel, our fun began. We had to stop and take pictures that we really wanted to share. The first was of a "Beef Jerky Outlet" but we never entered the shop. As we entered the John Deere store, we saw a sign that requested that we not bring "food, drinks or spit cups into the store." Now I ask you, what are we suppose to do with our spit cups?

So what are we supposed
to do with them?
Upon arriving at the hotel David had decided he didn't want to go to Dollywood, but would prefer to swim in the hotel pool. You'd think that spending five days a week at the pool would make him a little less enthralled with it, but not my son. After about 20 minutes in the pool he decided he was ready to hit the park.

Instead of driving in all the traffic, we walk one block over to the trolley. We have to switch trolleys part way through our journey. But finally arrive at Dollywood! David is scoping out the rides as we pull into the parking lot and knows which ride will be the first one on his list. First we head to the cars that go around a track. We then went to one of my favorite types of rides—the river raft ride. I ended up in the seat that would soak me more then any of my fellow passengers. By the time the ride finished my shoes sloshed with the water that flowed down my backside on the ride.

My boys, flying high
We arrived at the train station just in time as the steam engine pulled in just as we entered the gate. Our ride was very spacious and David had a smile from ear to ear the entire trip. Then David and his dad rode a ride that took them high in the air and spun them outwards. I stayed on the ground and photographed them. There were a couple other rides we were able to cram in before the park closed.

While the ride on the trolley worked well for our journey from the hotel to Dollywood the same can not be said for the return trip. You see, we caught the right trolley but we thought they would turn around a lot sooner then they did. So we were still on the trolley long after we expected. David was very sleepy on the trip and laid his head on me to rest.

It is now about midnight and we have just finished dinner and are getting ready to go to sleep. It has been a very fun and exhausting day. Tomorrow my relatives will join us for the day so it promises to hold even more excitement since we will also have a full day here.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Dollywood Revisited

David riding the planes
As we went through our photo album from our last visit at Dollywood, it is amazing how much has changed.

First, David was just over a year old. He loved the rides. The race cars and trucks that went round and round on a track were his favorites. While he loved the chairs that would go up in the air and then swing out and the airplanes that went up and down, his mommy didn't. I was so afraid that my precious little baby would squirm and fall out.

Holding Mommy on the frightening merry-go-round
None of these dire things happened. However we did have to jump off the merry-go-round while it was at full speed. Yes, my daredevil child freaked out as the merry-go-round began playing music and the horse he was on went up and down. The day was filled with fun with his second cousins who went with us. David even did something he does not do—he fell asleep! We rented one of those cute little baby buggies that looks like a car and at the end of the day as we were leaving he was sacked out in it.

David driving the cars
We also were amazed at how few pictures we took at the time. Since these were the days before digital cameras we only have a few pages of pictures. I remember the those days when we would buy film before a trip and hope we had enough, and there was never enough, since we all know how much tourist places charged for film. We then had to wait to get home and usually put in a few rolls in time to only pick up the pictures later and sort through the good and the bad images. Now we are prepared with two digital cameras and one digital video camera. We always love to return at the end of a day and see the images that each of us took. It can really show what captured each of our attention.

Sacked out
We've checked the weather for next week and the temperature is supposed to be a more moderate temperature then we have been experiencing. However, two days are calling for thunderstorms.

We hope you enjoy us taking you on a blog-cation as we share our vacation with you.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Family Ties

As we plan our vacation, one of the things I'm most looking forward to is seeing my cousin Wendy. Wendy was like the little sister I never had, but always wanted. During the summer and almost all school holidays we were at each other's homes. Sometimes her parents would send her and her sister up to stay for three weeks at a time and sometimes I would be at their home for weeks at a time.

Wendy is four years younger than I am and there were three girl cousins that were born between my birth and hers. Wendy and I were bridesmaids in each other's weddings and talked about having our kids grow up together like we did. But life got in the way and that didn't happen.

Dylan helping David into the pool
She is the busy mother of three children and I am the mother of one busy son. The last time we were together was when David was just over a year old. But, our kids did play wonderfully together. Her son Dylan loved to chase David around and David loved giggling the whole time he was being chased. Her daughter Hailey is just three months younger than David and was just learning to walk, so she would crawl through all the chasing. Dylan and David played in the baby pool like the best of friends with Dylan helping David whenever he wanted to climb in or out. Wendy's youngest child had not even been born yet!

Dylan and David are now teenagers with Hailey to reach that grand milestone this month. Where does the time go? I pulled out the photo album with pictures from our last visit and we all had a good time remembering. David can't wait to see them again and hear their accents. I called Wendy and we have arranged to meet at Dollywood next week.

I am hoping my other cousin Paula will be able to go also. Paula never had any children of her own but has always been a favorite aunt to all the children. She has a deep love for children and has worked for many years as a secretary at the local elementary school.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Uncle Russ

My dad's uncle Russ was quite easily a favorite for Rich and me. Russ married a wonderful women named Nell after knowing each other just a few weeks. He was headed off to fight in World War II and, like so many others, they decided to wed before he left. Their marriage lasted for over 50 years, until his death in 1995. We have some very precious pictures of Nell holding our baby David during Russ's final days in the hospital.

Russ was the family historian. Several years before he passed away I was doing some research on our family and he was a fount of knowledge. He even requested that we videotape his memories so that when he died there would be a record. It was funny that at the time we recorded this many in the family weren't interested in obtaining a copy. It was only after his death that we got several requests for the video. It's such a shame that we don't value those around us as much during their lives as we do after we can no longer show them how much we care.

Aunt Nell holding David
Russ took us to the coal mining town, Buggero, that my grandfather worked at. He showed us the wooden house my grandparents raised their children in. The house was covered in vines and falling down. The house was no bigger then my living room and kitchen put together! Often Russ would stay in the house too, making it at least ten people living under the tiny roof. He showed us the creek that the kids played in during hot summers. He also told us of the incredibly cold winters with only coal to heat the house. We saw the larger brick homes that the foremen and their families lived in.

If you are not familiar with the way the coal companies ran their towns, it will amaze you. See the employees were not paid in U.S. currency. They got paid by company script—the coal company's own form of money. Employees could use this script to purchase their needs from the company store—items such as food, clothing and furniture were available there. However, if they wanted to purchase outside of the company, the script would be converted at a much lower rate. They would also have to travel since all the town was owned by the coal company. In Russ's youth coal was king and no one would imagine the towns would become virtual ghost towns within their lifetime.

Russ told us of the mining accidents were he remembered the family members waiting to see if their loved ones would be lucky and survive. But, so often more bodies were brought out then survivors. Ghost sightings were a common occurrence in the town. It was believed the ghosts were a warning that an accident was about to happen.

Even though the census shows only a handful of blacks in the area during this time, the KKK was a strong influence. Russ recalls not being allowed to sit in the back row of church because this was reserved for the KKK. He was told to never look back or stare at them. One day as he passed a house he saw switches stacked up across the front door of the house. When he got home and questioned his mother she explained he needed to stay away from the house—that this was a warning to the husband of the house. He had been out of work for several months and while capable of working had allowed his wife to work and friends help to provide for the family while he laid around all day. The KKK was warning the husband that if he didn't start taking care of his family they would take the switches after him. The next day the husband went back to work!

During the days of my father's youth the mining being done was by men going down into the mine shafts and digging for the coal. However, my husband saw his first sight of the land that they do now called strip mining. Russ was driving us around when Rich saw the large bases of mountains and the upper layers just stripped away. He wasn't sure if this was some deformity of the mountains since it was seen on several mountains.

Uncle Russ's mountain home
Russ spoke to us of his memories of the death of his grandfather (my great-great grandfather.) When Russ was still very young there was a epidemic that was sweeping the area. His grandfather went down the mountain into the holler to get his daughter to remove her from the danger. However, there had been a dispute with one of the men in town and he shot and killed the grandfather. They brought the body back up the mountain and laid him out in the living room. Russ remembered vividly the bullet wounds in the chest. I tried to research this to see what the dispute was about, but while I did obtain the court record it doesn't offer any explanation—just that the man indeed killed my great-great grandfather, was tried, convicted, and sentenced.

While these stories are not my memories, the stories that Russ told us speak to my heart. It is a part of what builds and makes each generation who they are.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Not A Single Luxury

As I have stated before, sometimes my childhood seems like stepping back in time. Here is a great example.

We spent several holidays and vacations traveling back to Tennessee to visit our relatives. These were the days before I-81, which has shortened the trip through the Appalachian Mountains to just eight hours. In those days we would pile everything in the middle seats of our station wagon and make a bed in the back. We often left in the evening so my brother and I could sleep through the twelve- to fourteen-hour trip. The winding up one side of a mountain only to be followed by the winding down the other side. This would repeat itself throughout our journey.

The funny thing I found about these trips is that we would stay in Tennessee about three to four days then load up the car along with many cousins and my grandfather to drive back into Virginia. My cousin Rusty always got car sick and we made many stops along the side of the road.

My grandfather had been raised in southwest Pound, Virginia, (coal mining country) along with his four brothers and one sister. When my great-grandmother died, the house and land was left to all her children. The boys (my grandfather and his brothers) gave their portion to their sister. So we always took Papa (my grandfather) to visit his only sister on the mountain.

His sister was born Eliza Ruth but she was always Aunt Ruth to us. Ruth had married Cornelius Horne who was always called Corn Horne. They would go on to have 13 children in the home that Ruth was raised in. She lived from the cradle to the grave in that little house. For, you see, it was truly a little house. There was a front porch that everyone sat out on during the long, hot days of summer, a living room, kitchen, three bedrooms, and a water closet.

Now the reason I call it a water closet is not because I'm trying to be British but because it was truly a water closet. There was no indoor toilet. There was indoor water for washing hands or taking a bath but if you needed to relieve yourself it was outside and along a well worn path. I would always beg to go to Ruth's house because I loved the mountains, the freedom, and all the kids she had. We also got to ride one of her kids' horses. The only problem was that confounded bathroom. So every time someone had to go into town for gas or anything else I would ask to go so I could go to an indoor toilet. I only remember using the outhouse twice and became quite good at holding it.

Oh, did I forget to mention the fact that there were not only three bedrooms but also just three beds. When her last child was born the two oldest had moved out. So most of the time we had her family (with thirteen) and we took at least five or six people, so there wasn't much sleep being done. But, we still had enough energy for piggy back races and walking up the gravel road to collect flowers.

The meals prepared in the house was amazing. They had to be to feed the army that lived there and their guests. Good old country cooking was always on the menu.
The last time I went before my marriage was in the late 1970s and they still had not gotten the toilet inside yet.

But after my marriage I took my husband up for a visit and he got and gave several chuckles for his "city ways." Yes, by the late 1980s they had an indoor toilet! When Rich asked where he could fire his gun Ruth's kids looked at him like he wanted something special and asked "is the backyard OK?" They weren't too sure about him. They were also very excited because they had just got their first big store, Wal-Mart. This was my first experience with a Wal-Mart.

Ruth died several years ago from Parkinson's but I will always treasure the time we got to spend with her family in the mountains.

*The names and events have NOT been changed, my imagination isn't that good!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Main Street USA

After Rita's comments about my vacation plans in Tennessee she asked if we are even living in the same country. I thought I would blog a little about my memories of growing up in the south in the 60s and 70s.

I was born in a clinic on Main Street in Greeneville, Tennessee. Yes, Main Street. How small a town does this seem?

To help you picture it just close your eyes and think Mayberry from "The Andy Griffith Show." On Main Street you would find The First Baptist Church. There was The Depot Grill, which I would spend much time at. Another church that still holds a cannon ball left from the War Between the States and on the far end of Main Street you will find President Andrew Johnson's home.

When my parents took me home it was to a duplex that overlooked Andrew Johnson's backyard, I think this was the beginning of my love of history.

My brother was just 11 months old when I was born. But our home was always full since often my father's brother and two cousins stayed with us. I was the fifth grandchild on both sides of my family.

My mom's family lived in update New York, but all my father's family lived in Greeneville. With my father's six brothers and sisters and six cousins living there, everyday was a family reunion. My great-grandmother and her sister (and her family) also lived in town. Within a year of my birth there would be four more cousins. Within the next couple of years the total of grandchildren reached 19.

When I was two our landlord referred us to Shriner's Hospital in South Carolina bacause I had been born with a dislocated hip. I spent months in the young children's ward.

My brother Mike and me (in my body cast)
Next to me was a little girl that had been born with no arms or legs. The Shriners would provide her with the prosthetic arms and legs at no charge. The Shriners operated on my legs several times. I then spent months in a body cast and leg braces.

I was shuttled between home and the hospital between surgeries. I really have no memories of this time. One doctor thought it was good that I didn't have any memories since this was a very painful process.

Even as a young child I was a cheap date. My dad and his cousins took me out for the day and at lunch we ended up at the Depot Grill. My "Aunt Pearl" worked there so our family was often there. (It wasn't until I was in middle school that I found out Pearl wasn't my dad's aunt, but my grandmother's!) When it was finally time to order, I whipped out a fried bologna biscuit I had stashed in my purse during breakfast. Let me tell you—I have never lived that one down. Hey, I was only two.

When I was four we moved to the Washington, D.C., area when my dad began working for Western Union. We lost our constant playmates, but I think my mother was much happier to not have people just walking in and out of her house.

As an adult I can understand how difficult it can be to not know how many will show up for a meal while living on a strict budget. And to be fair, the influence of some of the "guests" was not the best on two small children. There is even a picture of me in a crib (while I was in my body cast) where I am giving Don (my dad's cousin) the evil eye for drinking a beer.

This is just a bit of background information before I tell some of my memories. My love for Tennessee has always been very strong and I can't wait to visit it again for our vacation.