Thursday, August 31, 2017

Great Smoky Mountains and Maggie Valley, NC {Part 1}

A couple of weeks ago, my family and I began packing for a trip to Maggie Valley, North Carolina. We knew the total eclipse was happening around the time we wanted to take a trip to the mountains, so we decided to book a cabin somewhere in the mountains close to where the path of the eclipse was going to be. And I say "we", but really it was my husband who convinced me that it would be a neat experience for us all to witness such a happening. It took me a little bit longer to get on board with that idea, but after thinking about it, I realized he was right. It was a really great experience for us all and I'm so glad we got to do that with family.
My in-laws and sister-in-law met us in NC and we stayed in a beautiful cabin in the mountains of Maggie Valley.  We had a fun activity-packed trip and I took tons of pictures for us to remember all of it! In fact, I have a little over 200 pictures so I will be breaking them down into 2 separate posts. It will be neat to look back on all of this someday and read/see all of the memories we shared together.

Day 1: Arrive at our rental cabin and hangout with family in the evening.

All smiles after a long trip in the car. So worth it though!!

Lydia mimicking Poppie and "working on her computer". The cute bright yellow computer was a SpongeBob one that the owners of the cabin just happened to have lying under the coffee table along with some other fun board games and cards. :) It didn't take too long for her to spot it shortly after arriving at the cabin. If there's such a thing as a tech-savvy 4 year old, it would be her!

Day 2: Head to the Great Smoky Mountains to watch the eclipse, relax by the creek, and sight-see.
Walk 0.5 miles to see a waterfall- Juney Whank Falls.

Checking out the roosters...who were having a good 'ol time just strutting around the place.

The kids got a lesson in animal skin/fur from one of the park rangers. Our oldest, Tessa, even got quizzed from the ranger on all of the different kinds of animal skins. She was able to identify each one correctly! That's our girl!!

Looking at a large apple tree.

More roosters!!

Striking a pose down by the creek.

Our girl trying on her solar eclipse glasses while our son plays in the dirt. :)

Cuddle time with Poppie.

Group photo! You can tell by the lack of sunlight in these next couple of photos that we were getting closer to the total eclipse. We were all pretty amazed at how bright it was even when the sun was blocked more than halfway. It was pretty crazy, but also pretty amazing!

More views of the Smoky Mountains during the eclipse.

This was taken during the total eclipse when we were able to take off our glasses and look up. From this photo, it doesn't really look all that spectacular because of the type of camera that I use, but you'll have to trust me when I say it was. You can even see one of the planets (which I believe is Venus) to the lower right. How cool is that?!
God's handiwork was clearly present all around us- from the running waters of the creek, the majestic mountains of the Smokies, the animals and people nearby, and of course the sun and the moon lining up for us to witness. Definitely a time to remember!

Crescent suns in the shadows of the trees...NEAT!!

Walking to see Juney Whank Falls.

Our oldest loved all of the hiking/walking we did on this trip. Our other daughter...not so much. She passed on most of these scenic routes and stayed back with family. ;)

We stopped for some yummy sweets at a local shop after our hike.

Being silly!

Day 3: Santa's Land in Cherokee, N.C. At first, I have to admit the place sounded a bit cheesy. However, to my surprise, this place was actually pretty awesome! There were rides (even a large Ferris wheel and rollercoaster), food, multiple playgrounds, animals (including baby bears), a magic show, train ride around the park, and a blacksmith where the kids got their own rings made out of a steel nail. I think we spent about 4.5 hours there. The kids LOVED it and we did too!

Play time on one of the playgrounds!

So many little kiddie rides.

Feeding some of the animals.

We even did a little paddle boating- apparently, we had a race (unbeknownst to my husband and I) to see who could peddle the fastest from one end of the pond to the other. My oldest told us that she and Poppie won this race. :) 
I blame losing on the fact that my partner (cute little face pictured below) couldn't reach the peddles and kept trying to jump in after the fish that were swimming around us. Ha!!
BUT, it was still fun.

Our kids still talk about Santa's Land. If you ever have the chance to visit Cherokee, NC, and you have younger kids, definitely check this place out. It's one for the books for sure!

I will have another post up soon of the second half of our trip once I have time to look through those photos and write. Stay tuned!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Happy Birthday, Little Big Man

Oh, Gavin! How can it be that you are now 2?! 
My how the time flies.

You have brought so much joy, energy, and love to our family. We all want to wish you a happy, happy birthday! Here's to an amazing year for you, my son- our train loving, dirt playing, rough and tumble boy! 

I hope you enjoy some of the many photos I took of our most recent family trip (more pictures to come!).

Notice the dirt on your pants. My how you love playing in the dirt- and when it's been mixed with water, what a fun combo that becomes for you! 

You spent a good 10 minutes picking apart the leaves off of this plant. ;) For some reason, you were so focused on taking off each little leaf one by one to expose the little branch. Wish I could know what you were thinking about as you did this.

Beep, beep!

And yes, you still LOVE your thumb! Can't go a day without it. 

My loves!!

On our most recent family trip to the mountains, you couldn't resist stopping on our walks to pick up rocks and rubble. What a boy!

We are so thankful you have been given to us. To be able to celebrate another birthday with you is a blessing. Almost every night, we pray for God to protect you and love you. We also pray that the older you get, the more you will come to know Him and know of His promises. He has given us much hope- a great hope that we need in this world. He loves you greatly, as do so many. Happy birthday, little big man!