We pulled out of our driveway, drove through town, and took the exit to the highway. I turned on a Jack Johnson playlist, turned the music up, and smiled at our boys who were jumping up and down with excitement in their car seats…we were going on a much-needed family weekend get-a-way to the lake!
Our original vacation plans had changed, so I quickly found an alternative a few days before we were scheduled to leave. It was a secluded little town…the rustic little cabin was surrounded by beautiful views, and honestly, my only concern was whether or not it was clean. Once I confirmed on all the booking websites, that it consistently had good reviews about cleanliness…I pressed submit and entered my credit card information. We had no real plan, but no matter what, I was determined to make this weekend a special one for our little family.
We weren’t on the road for 20 minutes, when I saw a rock come flying at our windshield…and SMACK!…it cracked the glass. Now, I can’t fail to mention that we just had the windshield replaced a couple of months ago on this car. And lately, we have had several incidents with our vehicles…rotten luck where our transportation is concerned! Some of them may or may not have been my fault…I claim innocence despite what Brian might say. I mean…who parks a rental car in a driveway, why do they make those vacuums at the car wash so close to the parking spaces, and why on earth aren’t the warning beeps on the side cameras louder?! Okay, admittedly I haven’t been Rico Suave behind the wheel, but besides that, we have had some uncontrollable doozies occur as well…let’s get back to our trip!
As the glass crackled into the shape of a large star anise, I told Brian as he looked at me with annoyance on his face, “It doesn’t matter, forget about it…nothing is going to ruin this trip!” And as I said the words, a little voice in the recesses of my brain told me, “Uh-oh, you might have just jinxed yourself.”
We arrived at our destination without another incident…the boys even traveled well! When we pulled into the lakeside lodge, the view and all of the sailboats parked in the harbor instantly excited Laythan and Graham…me too, I am a little obsessed with sailboats. The registration building was flanked with small wooden boats that look as if they had crashed upon the shore of the building’s porch. Colorful flowers tumbled out of the boats, giving the little white building a whimsical feel. I quickly went inside and got the keys and map to our cottage.
As we pulled around the bend and up the steep hill to our cabin, Brian looked at me with raised eyebrows. It was indeed “rustic,” but it was cute. We pulled into our cabin parking space, and the boys jumped out of the car and raced up the porch stairs. They shouted, “Come on Mommy and Daddy!” as they jumped up and down trying to see into the windows on the front door.
I put the key into the lock and opened the door. I was instantly hit with what smelt like years of must built-up from a place being uninhabited. Brian walked in and, again, looked at me with raised eyebrows…I shook my head and said, “Doesn’t matter…nothing is going to ruin this trip. We will open all the windows and turn on the ceiling fans.” Brian said, “Alright,” and began unlocking and opening the windows. The boys, on the other hand, didn’t notice the smell…they were just excited about getting to share a bedroom. Graham screamed, “Look Brother! It’s our room!” Laythan yelled back, “YES! This is my bed…let’s go get our toys Graham!”
They ran past me, knocking over a couple of the bags that Brian had just carried into the room…random objects spilled onto the floor. I smiled at Brian, “Well..they don’t seem to mind the smell.” Brian chuckled and turned on the ceiling fan. I began unpacking and organizing the little cabin. While I found a place for everything and put everything in its place, the boys were yelling with excitement as they pointed out all of the different things inside of the cabin. Laythan said, “Look Graham, here’s our bathroom!” Graham ran into the bathroom and said, “Yay, a bathtub!” They sat on all of the different chairs in the room as if each seat gave a drastically different perspective to the one room cabin.
All was well until I heard a panicked scream from Laythan, “Mommy…wasps!” Brian ran into the cabin from the deck, and proceeded to declare war on the wasps that had entered our cabin. Brian yelled, “Give me something!” I didn’t have anything to give him. I looked around the cabin and told him to use a magazine in the basket behind him. He rolled one up, took aim, and started chasing the wasps. He tried to hit them, but missed them…every single time. Then the wasps decided to fight back, they went after Brian…and as he wildly swiped his magazine left and right up and down, the boys and I fell down on the couch in a fit of laughter. Brian looked ridiculous…not only was he dancing around the cabin, but his face was worth a 1,000 words. You would have thought that he was fighting a grizzly bear with all the fierceness that was playing across his face. By the time he conquered the wasps, I was honestly afraid that he had hurt his lower back as hard as he was swatting and missing…we aren’t getting any younger here! After that, Brian’s magazine and fly swatter (which we later found in the closet) were never more than an arms reach away. Okay, so the cabin definitely had a wasp problem.
Once we got settled, we decided to go take a dip in the lake. I brought sand toys thinking that the beach by the lake would be sandy. The boys were really excited about building sand castles…nope. It was rocky, and not pea gravel rocky, it was “can’t take your shoes off, sharp edges that would really hurt” kind of rocky. Again, Brian looked at me with those raised eyebrows. I kept walking, yelling over my shoulder, “Doesn’t matter, it’s going to be fine…we will keep their shoes on.”
We proceed to the water line. I do what I do best when things don’t go to plan…I turned on music, smiled, and organized. I began to set-up our little spot on the rocks. And after I am done, I have to say, it looked pretty inviting and relaxing. It was beautiful, peaceful, and it was just us…we floated around in the water as the music played and the breeze blew in the trees overhead. After the boys got over the fact that most of their toys were useless, they got creative and found other ways to use their toys. They started collecting rocks and shells, stacked the rocks up in little piles like blocks, and made a game out of finding the biggest rocks. It took some adjustments, but once again, the boys’ enthusiasm turned the situation around.
We rounded out the night with a calm dinner on the back deck. As we looked out across the sparkling surface of the lake, we ate quietly…all four of us pretty worn-out from the day. After bath-time, shocking both Brian and I, the boys asked if they could go to bed. They wanted to go to sleep, because they said they needed good rest for their “big full day of fun that we were going to have tomorrow.” I looked at Brian. I had NO idea what we were going to do the next day.
That night, Brian and I got to watch the sunset together, and it might have been the prettiest sunset I have ever seen. We listened to music and caught up with each other. Brian had just got off of his fourth straight week of travel for work, so neither of us had really had the time to talk and just “be” without any distractions.
The next morning we woke up, and like I said, we had no plans. The sweet lady at the reception desk told me about the annual Hummingbird Festival that was going on about fifteen minutes away. I asked Brian, “You want to go check it out? There are supposed to be animals there that the boys might like to see. It could be cool to see this hummingbird migration.” He shrugged and said, “Sure, why not? Let’s go.” We got the boys packed up and began the drive to the festival.
As we got closer to the location, I noticed that the amount of cars on the road quadrupled in size. It seemed like out of nowhere dozens of cars appeared behind us on the twisty tree-canopied roads. Neither one of us had any idea what a big deal this hummingbird migration was to a lot of people. As we entered the parking lot, we were shocked. As I looked around at all the cars, I noticed that the license plates were from at least a dozen different states. And the people…I felt like I had entered the film set of The Big Year (if you haven’t seen this movie…you should…it is a sweet feel-good movie starring Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, and Jack Black). The people were dressed in outdoor sun hats, colorful tops and bottoms, had lunch boxes slung over their shoulders, and were carrying the largest cameras I had ever seen…some of the lenses were as long as my arm. And these people, these bird watchers, were ecstatic! Married couples, friends, and family duos all rushed to the entrance. I saw one gentleman, who was smiling widely, gently tug his wife’s arm to hurry her along as she frantically looked for something in her purse.
Brian dropped us off at the entrance and went to park the car. As I waited with the boys, one thing was very clear. Everyone who was here on this day, was very happy and excited to be there. The boys could feel the excitement in the air as well. They bounced up and down looking for Brian, so that we could hurry up and go inside to see the hummingbirds.
NOW, I had birds growing up…three to be exact (RIP Tiki and Taco…the sweetest Cockatiels there ever were. I had a Parakeet named Venus in the second grade too, but she was a little crazy. She jumped off her perch and broke her own neck…it was very traumatic for a second grader!) BUT…here is the honest truth…this hummingbird migration was one of the coolest things I have seen. First off, I had never really seen a hummingbird up close and personal, especially in their natural environment…they are pretty magnificent. These tiny little birds can flap their wings up to 80 beats per second! I mean these birds work, and I respect anything or anyone who has to work so hard to simply get around. There were hundreds! Their wings make this incredible humming sound, again, something I had never heard before. And people were propped up every where…setting up camp with their coolers, cameras, and chairs to watch the annual migration.
The boys were enamored…they couldn’t contain their awe. Not only were the hummingbirds there, but the park also had a lot of educational tables set-up for other animals…we saw how bees made honey inside of a real hive and how butterflies go through their life cycle, the boys petted a snake, we saw a red wolf, lots of owls, hawks, eagles, bobcats, coyotes, and several other local animals. You know, the kinds of animals that actually surround you everyday, but you never normally get to see up close.
After we left the Hummingbird Festival, we got in the car, and simply continued to drive. We came upon a Bison and Elk Prairie, so we drove through it. Another first…never seen a bison before…that animal was huge and looked like one of the monsters from Where the Wild Things Are.
Then we stopped off at a planetarium. We watched a star show, which was just okay (actually, it was awful, the picture was terrible…you could hardly make out what was on the screen). BUT after the star show came the laser show, and this was AWESOME! The boys had ear-to-ear smiles across their faces the entire time. When we got done, Brian asked me, “What did that remind you of?” It took me just a few seconds to place it, but then it came to me instantly. I laughed and we both said, “CHAOS!”
For all the Tennessee Kids out there reading this, you know about CHAOS! For everyone who didn’t get to grow up attending the fabulous Opryland Theme Park…let me explain. CHAOS was THE ride to ride in Opryland! The ride was cool…it was in the dark and had these wild laser lights that flashed as you rode through the pitch black at racing speeds. However, that was not the reason why everyone liked CHAOS. Everyone liked CHAOS, because the seats were set up in a piggy back style…meaning that you basically had to sit in the lap of the person you were riding with. So, if you went with a group of friends to Opryland and rode CHAOS…you could normally tell who had a crush on who by the time you got to the top of the line. People would methodically pair up…the girl always waiting for the boy to ask her, and the boy acting like he couldn’t care less who he rode with even though he clearly did. If you didn’t get to ride with the person you wanted to ride with, then you strategically kept riding the roller coaster throughout the day until you did. And when the ride started, you tried your best to look remotely cute as your hair whipped in every direction, and your body was tossed around like a potato sack. CHAOS was classic…oh to be young again!
SO…we had had an unexpectedly beautiful day! The boys’ couldn’t have been happier, and Brian and I were having a great time! We began to load the boys up in the car after the laser show. Brian was strapping in Laythan while I strapped in Graham. Then, all of the sudden, I heard the incredibly loud sound of crunching metal, and Brian yelled out in pain. I slammed Graham’s door shut and ran around to Brian’s side of the car. A car had hit our car door as it was pulling out of the parking space next to us. Brian was wedged in the door. He calmly told the person to pull back up, so that he could get out. She did, and then we started the long and exhausting process of exchanging insurance information while I silently thanked God that Laythan had already gotten inside the car and that Brian wasn’t hurt. I sighed as we stood there. As the lady talked to her insurance agent, Brian looked at me. I said, “It doesn’t matter, it’s fine…that’s why we have insurance.”
Finally, we got everything squared away. I had noticed earlier as she was giving her insurance company her license plate number, she had said “Foxtrot, Bravo, Sierra…” I asked her, “Are you in the service?” She said that yes, she was. I said, “That’s awesome, what branch?” She said the army. Brian said, “Well, thank you for your service.” I said, “Absolutely, we appreciate you.” She thanked us and said again how sorry she was. We told her that it didn’t matter, that’s why we all have insurance. We said our goodbyes, and we were on our way. Throughout this whole encounter, the boys were in the car eating snacks and watching Toy Story. When we got into the car, Graham said “Mommy, I had fun watching Toy Story.” I chuckled to myself and said, “That’s’ great Baby.” Brian smiled at me and said, “Okay, where to next?”
We stopped off at a pizza place ran by some locals…the sign flapping in the wind said “Pizza In Basement.” A little hesitant as we walked to the basement stairs, but once we opened the door, it was a sweet little place. I must say, the eighties playlist that resounded from the speakers was good…but the cheesy bread and pizza were incredible! Laythan said more than once, “This is the best pizza ever!” I nodded my head in agreement.
When we got back to the cabin, we watched the boys as they rode their bikes by the water, the waves gently slapping against the rocks as they raced each other with all their might. We smiled as they ran around and tried to catch the iridescent bubbles spitting out from their bubble machine, the wind whistling through the leaves of the trees we sat under. We played Candyland as the boats passed by in the water, their engines loud in the setting sun.
As I listened to the last boat whiz by, it occurred to me that this trip was filled with a lot of sounds…the sound of rock cracking our windshield, the sound of the wasps chasing Brian, the sound of the rocks being stacked by the water, the sound of the hummingbirds’ wings, the sound of the bison loudly panting, the sound of the galactic star and laser show, the sound of metal crunching as our car was hit, the sound of the waves hitting the shore, the sound of the wind in the trees…but there was one sound that stayed constant throughout this entire trip…the one sound that MADE this entire trip…the sound of laughter from our little boys!
They couldn’t care less about the fact that we had no plans, that our cabin was very rustic, that we had wasps, that we had car mishaps, that it was hot, that there wasn’t much to do…the only thing that mattered to them was that they were with their Mommy and Daddy on an adventure.
Which made me think…all they want, the only thing they ever really need…is you. YOU ARE THEIR “HAPPY!” It didn’t have to be extravagant…they were just as happy chasing bubbles by our rustic little cabin as they were when we went to a beach house in Florida. They don’t care…and we could all take a page from these little guys. They are the perpetual definition of “glass half full” or better put, their “cup runneth over” in every situation…and I LOVE them so much for teaching me to FOCUS on THE GOOD, especially when it’s so easy in this world to lose so much energy focusing on the bad.
They didn’t care about anything else in the world on this trip. And to this point, this trip will go down as one of the best family weekends we have had…despite any incidents we had, simply because we did something different. I encourage you, I challenge you this month…to take your family and explore the things in your local area and hometown! I bet you will discover something that you never knew existed! Do NEW things! Who knew that a random Google search would lead to a weekend filled with hummingbirds and an immense amount of sweet chaos with the three people who make me “shine” most in the world!
Merry Monday Leisurelings! GET OUT THERE and EXPLORE!