Anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis already knows that I am not very much like my mother and yet I love and admire her. They say that imitation is the best form of flattery, but in my world, if I poke fun at you, it means that I am in awe of you. So to honor my mom today, I will dedicate this post to her. It is an account of our trip to the mountains, with a little fun poked at our differences along the way....
When we went to North Carolina with my mom, I knew that it would be a challenge -- for both of us. She is structured, I am not. She plans meticulously and I sort of wing it. It has been a while since she has dealt with little kids on a daily basis and I have 4. So although I was excited about the trip, I was apprehensive about whether or not we could make it 4 days without an argument. I was convinced that there would be trouble from the moment that my mother informed me that she wanted to pull out Tuesday morning by 7:00am, stop for breakfast around 9:00 at a specific Cracker Barrel in Tennessee, be to Roan Mountain by 2:00 our time, to the hotel by 4:00 our time to check in and make it to dinner and to see Horn of the West (a Revolutionary War drama about Daniel Boone) by 7:00. Whoa. That was a lot of deadlines to meet. We made the first one -- on the road by 7:00 (or at least within 15 minutes of it) and got to the Cracker Barrel in Tennessee before 9:30. Then the fun began. We sit and they bring menus and take drink orders and it went something like this:
Me: "William, what do you want to drink?"
William: "Can I have Coke?"
William: "Can I have sweet tea?"
Me: "No, not for breakfast. You can have apple juice, orange juice, milk, or chocolate milk."
William: "Can I have hot chocolate?"
Me: "No. You can have apple juice, orange juice, milk, or chocolate milk."
William: "I'll have orange juice."
Me: "Bella, what do you want to drink?"
Bella: "Can I have Coke?...."
You get the idea. So we ordered the drinks, and then set about having the same type of conversation with all 4 kids about what they wanted for breakfast. About the time I figured out what the 4 of them wanted to eat and I was ready to look at the menu to see what I wanted, the waitress shows up to take our order. My husband and my mother, of course, have spent all of this time figuring out what they wanted and I haven't looked at the menu yet. I order for the kids and my mother and husband order and then it is my turn. So I stall to give myself time to read more than the first choice or 2 and I see my mother roll her eyes because I am taking too long. Finally, after we eat and take 4 kids to the bathroom and peel them away from the toys and candy in the store part, it's time to hit the road. I walk out with the 2 youngest to find that my mother already has the 2 oldest in her car, strapped in and engine idling. As soon as she sees me, she assumes it is safe to leave since we will obviously be right behind her. She has zero understanding of what it takes to get a 2 and 4 year old strapped into the car, put on their movie, get them their stuffed animals and toys to keep them happy for the next 200 miles and get myself in the car. So by the time I get all of that taken care of, she has left us....and we have no idea where we are going. I call her cell phone and figure out where we are headed and take off. I also called my dad at work to tell him that mom was already driving me nuts with the whole rush, rush, rush routine. (I found out later that right before I called him, my mother had called him to complain about how slow I was ordering -- she didn't realize that I ordered very fast since I spent all of my time determining what to order for the kids. This became a constant theme, by the way, every time we ate out.)
We get to Roan Mountain and to the visitor's center at its base, about on time, despite the fact that we had to stop several times for the little ones to pee with my mom growing more and more impatient every time and trying to leave us every time. About the time that we get there, it starts raining. Not a gentle mountain rain, but a full-out downpour. We decide NOT to go up the mountain today to see the flowers, but we do sit and watch the rain and have a snack -- or lunch to my mother -- of trail mix and a soda and chips for the kids. When the rain lets up, we head to our hotel which is about 30-35 minutes away in North Carolina. We get there, check in, get all of our stuff inside and head out to eat dinner. Our first choice for dinner has too long of a wait, so we head into Boone to find somewhere else and settle on a bar-be-que place called "Bandanna's." Repeat scene from breakfast, but this time my mother says "Come on now, its just drinks! It isn't hard!" Indicating that this is taking too long. I look at her and calmly say "Yes, but it is drinks for 4 kids under 10, who will fuss and complain if they do not get what they want to drink. We do this all the time, let us handle it." And we do. After the waitress leaves, my mother says "All of that is unnecessary. Your sister just orders Sprite for her kids and is done with it." Wow. I hadn't expected the comparisons to my sister to start so soon, nor had I expected them in this department. My sister sometimes forgets that her kids haven't had lunch if they don't ask her for it, she and I are very different mothers. I chose not to respond to that remark. When we ordered the food, I knew what my 9 year old had ordered was not going to be enough for him. He can out eat me and he had opted to split a rib plate with his sister. So after he inhaled his 3 ribs, I gave him half of my food to try and keep him from getting hungry. My mother, of course, said "Why didn't he get his own rib plate then?" I told her as tactfully as I knew how, that it was because William understands that SHE is paying for this trip, and the rib plate was $9.99 and NOT on the kid menu. He was trying to save her money. She didn't say anything back.
We proceeded to the show. It really is a wonderful drama and I suggest that if you are in or around Boone, North Carolina that you go and see it. It is an outdoor drama about Daniel Boone and a group of settlers during the beginnings of the Revolutionary War. They fire muskets and cannons, have fight scenes, and a hanging, but there is also a lot of dialog, dancing, and political rhetoric that went right over my kids' heads. The 2 year old LOVED the battle scenes, but during the long dialog he kept saying, "When are they gonna shoot each other already?" Bella was frightened by the gunshots, and I think the only kid who really knew what was going on was William. Honestly, I really enjoyed it, but it was beyond my kids' grasp. But Grandmother wanted to take them to see it and so we went. The tickets were NOT cheap -- just one more example of how my mom and I are different. I never would have spent that kind of money on a play that the kids wouldn't get.
After the play, we headed back to our hotel to go to bed because our next day was to start early. My husband and I got the little ones to bed and the older ones were with my mom in her room. We knew that my mom's plan for the next day was to eat breakfast in our rooms and then head back to Roan Mountain to see the Rhododendrons, so we all went to sleep before midnight. When we got up the next morning, I went down to my mom's room to get breakfast for me and the husband. Mom had brought individual cereal packets and had stopped and bought 2 small containers of milk. Unfortunately, she had not counted on my 2 oldest drinking most of that milk themselves, so there was only enough milk for one small bowl of cereal. Now, I don't know about the rest of you, but when I eat cereal, I do not eat 1/4 cup. I generally fill my bowl. So does my husband. So when mom said that there was enough milk for one bowl of cereal, that immediately meant to me that he and I would need to find something else to eat. The hotel had a restaurant and they had a breakfast special for $5.99 that included 2 eggs, bacon, biscuit, potatoes, and coffee. We decided that we would go have that. My mother disapproved. It was an unnecessary expenditure in her opinion. To me, it was insurance against a bad morning. If I want my husband to be in a pissy mood I underfeed him. Giving him a 1/4 of a cup of cereal and telling him that is it until later when we might have some chips and trail mix would have been a very bad start to the day. So we had our $12 breakfast and set out for Roan Mountain with full, happy bellies. (Part of it was that this breakfast out did not fit into my mother's schedule, but luckily the breakfast was fast and did not put us too far behind schedule.)
Up on Roan Mountain, my oldest had a meltdown that I have already covered in a previous post about the bees. Once I got him calmed down and we left the flower gardens, we took a short hike up a different section of the mountain. It was beautiful. Everything was so green -- a big difference from Texas. And cool. We hiked about 30 minutes with all 4 kids and then my mother and I took the 2 youngest and headed back down so that the husband could take the older 2 up the rest of the way. At one point, Jackson just sat down in the middle of the path and decided that he wasn't going any further. He's almost 3 and this hike was a little rough on him. So I carried him. This slowed us down to the point that all 7 of us reached the bottom at roughly the same time. By this point, we had been on the mountain for about 2 1/2 hours. SO naturally, the younger ones needed to stop to use the bathroom. Unfortunately, my mother took off down the mountain, leaving us in her dust and the cell phones had no signal. We took off after her, with the husband driving and me staring at my phone waiting for at least one bar to appear so I could call her to let her know that we needed to stop. When I finally got her and let her know that we needed to stop, she said "Why didn't you just stop at the visitor's center?!" I politely pointed out (again) that she was ahead of us and that we had no idea where we were going. After we got that all taken care of, we headed to "Tweetsie Railroad."
"Tweetsie Railroad" is an ammusement park. They have rides, shops, and a train. We got there about 3:00 and they close at 6:00, so our tickets (which were VERY expensive) were good for the next day as well. We rode the chair lift, let the kids ride a few rides, the older ones did a little gem mining that netted a bag full of glorified rocks, and we rode the train. After the husband saw how much my mom paid for the tickets, he declared that we WOULD come back tomorrow to be sure that we got our money's worth. The kids loved that idea, but I could see my mom calculating her schedule in her head....she was quick to say "If we have time." Now, we hadn't eaten since breakfast at this point and I mention to mom that we are getting hungry. She informs me that she has eaten some trail mix in the car and that she had planned on waiting to eat until dinner. I was sure to remind her that WE had not had any trail mix and that we were hungry. So she gave us some trail mix....
For dinner that night, we just picked up some Subway sandwiches and ate them in the room and we awoke the next morning to rain. In an attempt to kill a little time to see if the rain would blow over, we went into Banner Elk and had breakfast at a small cafe. The kids were all cold so they ordered hot chocolate. Now, maybe its just because I am a mom, but when a KID orders a cup of hot chocolate, common sense would tell me that perhaps I should inform the parents that the hot chocolates cost $5 each and come in a cup that is about the size of a small mixing bowl, but our server did not apparently think that this would be a problem and so my kids had enough hot chocolate to swim in and therefore only ate about half of thir food. When breakfast was over, the rain had not stopped, but it had worsened. SO we decided to go to a historic General store called "The Mast General Store" and look around before heading on to Blowing Rock and Grandfather Mountain. Well, the kids loved it. THey wanted to buy EVERYTHING and William and Bella kept bringing me stuff and saying things like "Look! It's ONLY $12...." Jackson and Lorelei just thought that the stuff was free so we had to keep making them put things back -- like the $40 velour top hat the Lorelei REALLY wanted. After about an hour or so at the store, my mother called Blowing Rock and Grandfather Mountain to check on weather conditions and we headed out -- Blowing Rock first, then back to Tweetsie, and finally Grandfather Mountian.
My husband is not necessarily afraid of heights, but he DOES have a healthy respect for them and when you involve small children who run around like ours do he can get pretty freaked out. Blowing Rock freaked him out a little. Huge drop offs onto rocks, decks with widely spaced railings, overlooks with no railings at all -- he wanted to have hold of the little ones' hands at all times. My mother wanted him to relax and let the kids run around and have fun, but all he could picture was one of our daredevil children taking a header off of a cliff. My mother said privately to me that if this was bothering him, he was going to flip out at Grandfather Mountain. She was almost right. After going back to Tweetsie long enough to ride a few rides and have the picture made that I refered to in a previous post, we went to Grandfather Mountain. We wound round and round the mountain on our way to the summit. About 2/3 of the way up, we start seeing signs for the "Swinging Bridge." This, prompts my husband to begin his protests that he WILL NOT take our kids out on a swinging bridge across a chasm of death. I am laughing on the inside but keeping a very solemn outward appearance. I have a healthy respect for heights -- I have no desire to dangle my feet over the edge of a cliff, but I also know that there is no way they would allow people on a bridge of any kind that wasn't safe because they would be sued. When we reach the top, the views are brethtaking. The wind is strong and it is pushing the clouds through the gorge below us. We get to the "Swinging Bridge" to discover that it isn't really a swinging bridge at all. It is a suspension bridge, and it does move a little in the strong winds, but it is not the death trap that my husband was envisioning. We go across, take a picture, and cross back. Then, we head back down the mountain a little ways to the nature center to see if we can see the animals in their "natural" (caged) habitats. We are in luck -- we see bear, mountain lion, otter, and deer, after which Jackson looks at us and says "Now let's go see the DINOSAURS!!" We had to explain that this particular nature center did not, unfortunately, have any dinosaurs. After a brief stop at the snack bar where everyone shares some fries (my mom's idea of lunch) we let the kids browse through the gift shop.
One thing you should know if you ever go to the mountains with kids is that every gift store you will ever enter sells polished rocks. We do NOT buy polished rocks because I have no desire to pay $5.99 for something that I will vacuum up next month. So after being told that they could not have rocks, I was shocked to discover after we left that Lorelei had pocketed a rock. I immediately made her go back into the store and give the rock to the clerk and apologize for stealing. She was upset, and the clerk (who was probably about 17) said "That's okay, everyone takes those rocks." WHAT? Why would you say that??! I am obviously trying to teach my kid an important lesson here: stealing is wrong and has consequences. So why would you tell her "Oh, that's okay, everyone does it."?? If everyone does it then why doesn't the sign say "Polished Rocks: $5.99 per bag -- individual rocks FREE"?? Now that this 17 year old clerk has undermined the seriousness of stealing to my 4 year old, we get ready to head back to the hotel. My mother had planned to send us out to eat at a fancy resturant while she and the kids ate pizza at the hotel. (There will be an entirely different post on that later -- it was awesome).
We had, luckily, brought our GPS with us, so being left by my mother was becoming less of a problem. We simply entered the hotel address and followed that instead of following my mom. When we got back to the hotel, my mother handed me her room key and asked me to put her stuff in the room while she went to get the pizza. No big deal. Except that when I went to go get into her room, the security lock had somehow been flipped on the inside and I could not get in. She was gone for about 20 minutes and it took me that entire time to break into her room -- and I ruined her key card in the process. We got the kids eating, and got ready to go out to eat. Our plan was to return to Alabama the following morning.
The next morning, I awoke and immediately began packing up our stuff so that we could hit the road as soon as my mom was ready to go. She had decided that it would be fun to stop at this Trout Farm and let the kids fish. Since the cooler was almost empty, we could take our catch back with us. So we did. We got the hooks baited and the lines cast, and the 2 little ones caught a fish on their first casts. Then we let the 2 older ones each catch a fish and mom decided that the 2 older ones could catch another one. Jackson, couldn't care less -- he'd caught a fish and he was having fun just walking around looking at everything. But Lorelei wanted to catch another fish. She sat down on a rock and began to wail and moan. Mom didn't know what to do. We had to pay for the fish that we caught AND take them with us. But she eventually let Lorelei catch another fish and she was happy. And we ended up with about 13 pounds of trout....
After that, we headed home, each at our own pace since we had the GPS and mom was leaving us everytime we stopped anyway. We all had a very good time, and we are all very thankful to my mom for taking us on this trip. But our differences were glaring. Her rush, rush, rush attitude was a source of both giggles and extreme annoyance with me and my husband. We joked that we weren't sure she'd really wanted us on this trip because she kept trying to lose us or starve us. Had I been in charge, we probably would have slept until 9:00 at least every day, eaten out more, and done a whole lot less. Luckily, I wasn't in charge because she had it planned to make the most of our time and our money. My mother is an amazing woman and I admire her. I may not be very much like her, but I admire her. I've also started to really like trail mix....