Sunday, January 8, 2017

Vasectomy and Winston-Salem Day Trip (Nov. 25)

Jesse and I have felt confident for a few years now that our family is complete. However, we both felt like we should wait until our 30's to make any permanent decisions. Jesse turned 30 in late August. Two and a half months later, he scheduled a consultation with a urologist. They originally scheduled his vasectomy for December 16. However, Jesse and I had both wanted to go to the Biltmore that weekend. Jesse called back a week later to reschedule. To his surprise, they informed him that there was a cancellation and they would schedule the vasectomy for the following week on Black Friday. I was disappointed about this date as well since that is usually when we decorate and shop for Christmas. I got over myself quickly.

Jesse's post-procedure restrictions included lifting anything heavy, walking around a lot, and having anything in his lap. We thought the best thing I could do was take the kids for the day so he could rest in peace without worrying about a 30 lb child jumping on his lap. The kids and I dropped him off for the quick procedure. We entertained ourselves at the library across the street until he texted to say he was finished. In less than 45 minutes, we were back at the office to pick him up.

I picked up his medicine and a sub sandwich, made sure he was comfortable at home, then took the kids to Winston Salem. I love day trips and have taken the kids to so many museums that it's rare to go somewhere new. I've exhausted all our free resources within a 2 hours radius. Now I'm exploring all the 50% off admission places. With our NC Zoo membership, we can get in free at the Children's Museum of Winston Salem. Even better, teachers receive free admission with a valid school ID. That meant we only had to pay $14! As if that wasn't enough of a bargain, I found out at the front desk that we could get in free at SciWorks, a children's museum 15 minutes away, using our receipt. It's only good for same day admission, but that was a $47 value! We will definitely be returning to Winston Salem with Jesse.

All children's museums blur together, but this particular one had several distinct features. The kids loved the climbing structure, felt snowmen, and sock-skating area.

They built igloos and had snowball fights.

The weather was pleasantly warm, so we were able to enjoy the unique outdoor climbing area that was entirely crocheted.

Back inside the museum, we became part of fairy tales and classic stories such as Three Billy Goats Gruff and Godlilocks and the Three Bears.

Another unique exhibit was the Krispy Kreme doughnut factory. We aren't lucky enough to have a Krispy Kreme nearby, but the kids experience the mouth watering treats at the beach and on Pirate Day each year. They loved pulling stuffed doughnuts off the conveyor belt and placing them in boxes.

Grocery shopping is a fun staple at most children's museums, is the arts and crafts area.

We did not see all there is to see because I wanted to take advantage of the same day admission to SciWorks. With only an hour left before closing, we rushed through SciWorks as well. We spent most of the time in the biology exhibit. I tried to teach Amelia how to play this life size game of Operation.

The kids thought it was hilarious to climb inside the giant mouth.

There was another area that had a track with some kind of vehicle kids could sit down and drive around the track. The cars were tricky to maneuver, though Maddie and Jackson were determined to figure it out.

James and Amelia were more interested in dropping action figures with parachutes from a vertical conveyor belt.

We rushed through an area for younger children, which proved to be highly entertaining. The kids could have spent an hour just in this one large room.

The whole museum was grossly outdated, with low ceilings and exhibits in a basement. With that said, there were so many treasures and impressive displays. An entire wall was covered floor to ceiling with taxidermied animals.

James wanted a picture beside the lion. He is a "Loyal Lion' at school and wanted me to show his teacher.

There was a cute little fishing area that attracted the kids. The museum was literally closing so I had to take the fishing poles out of their hands and promise that we would come back another day.

We called to check on Jesse in the parking lot. His mom was bringing him dinner and he had just watched movies all day. I think he had a pretty easy recovery.

We continued on for dinner at our favorite K&W. Jackson became animated and ran to this sign and said, "Look. This says 'To Go'!"

All but Amelia ate their dinner, then we drove to Tanglewood, an area famous for Christmas lights. At $15 per car, I was skeptical on if the lights would be worth the price. (We enjoy walking through the city of McAdenville for free each year, so it seems odd to have to pay to see lights.) I had inquired about it on Facebook and many of my friends came to the rescue with advice. We arrived early and avoided any major traffic.

Cars park 1/2 a mile around a loop before entering the actual gated community.I asked the people around me who had young kids if they were going to keep their kids in their carseats or let them sit in their laps. One man with a heavy Southern accent said, "You'll see a bunch of kids hanging out the windows and standing through the roofs. It's fine."  I let the kids outside at this part, waiting for the lights to begin, then let them sit upfront with me.

We spent the rest of our experience in the van. We could have opted to stop at the barn and pay to roast s'mores and a visit with Santa. Knowing that the girls hate Santa and I didn't want to manage four young kids around a fire, it was an easy decision to keep driving. The lights were fantastic. The kids had the best reactions! Here are a few of my favorites.

Full disclosure, I had a major parenting fail when I had to suddenly slam on my brakes and both boys hit their heads on the dash. We were going a steady 5-10 mph when the car in front of me stopped completely to take a picture. It was hard to tell since none of the cars had headlights on. Oops.

My other parenting fail was that I just assumed there would be somewhere to stop to buckle the kids back in their seats. Nope, that was not the case. Suddenly cars just exited onto a main road with no warning. I had to pull off the shoulder and climb in the back to buckle everyone.

I didn't let the kids get dessert at K&W because I thought I would stop for s'mores at Tanglewood. I told them they would have a special treat with the lights. When I realized Santa and S'mores were part of an overcrowded money trap with open flames, I kept on driving. Unfortunately, Jackson kept asking for our treat. We stopped at a Bojangles for a final snack (BoBerry biscuits and water). I changed the kids into pajamas and drove home.

It was a pretty smooth trip with lots of fun memories. The kids enthusiasm over the museum exhibits and lights made me excited about Christmas break so we could celebrate and spend more time together.

Maddie's Haircut (Nov. 26)

Jesse took the girls' for their first haircut in April. Maddie just barely had a trim then. Her hair is so thin and she has dry skin/eczema on her scalp. We've never known what to do with Maddie's hair. She's looked like a ragamuffin for many months now.

On Saturday I took Maddie to get her second ever haircut. Since Jesse didn't take any pictures at her first haircut, I made sure to take a picture this time.

The hairdresser cut Maddie's hair an even length just above her shoulders. She asked if Maddie liked it, and Maddie shook her head no. To our surprise, Maddie specifically said, "I want it short." The hairdresser cut a cute bob right at chin length. Maddie left a happy girl with her "pretty hair" and lollipop.

Following the hairdresser's advice, I parted Maddie's hair on the opposite side and put a clip in it. She looks a thousand times better with her new haircut!

Breakfast with Santa (Dec. 10)

Saturday morning was the annual Breakfast with Santa event at our brother and sister- in-law's church. The night before, James was awake crying throughout night. He threw up twice. Jesse and I were apprehensive about taking him to the event. He was acting fine, had no fever, and was hungry when he awoke. We eventually decided to take him, and gave everyone a heads up that he may or may not be sick. Thank goodness he was fine the entire time and no one else got sick.

Breakfast with Santa began with a pancake feast. The kids ate happily, once we worked out all their odd quirks of who required their own cup of syrup, what they wanted to drink, etc. 

Maddie continues to have a deep fear of Santa Claus. (He joins the ranks of the Easter Bunny, Chick-Fil-A cow, and any other adult in a full size costume.) Amelia isn't a fan, either. Thankfully they have a a PaPa that continues to hold them both for pictures every year.

MiMi was able to engage Maddie in a conversation with Mrs. Claus.

The highlight of Breakfast with Santa is neither the breakfast, nor Santa. The kids are always happiest making Christmas crafts. This year was no exception.

I kept a close eye on James. He acted 100% like himself and was eager to show me the train set and book as one of the table centerpieces.

A fun surprise was when the "reindeer" visited at the end.

I haven't been in the Christmas spirit much this season, so this event was an easy way to keep the kids excited about Christmas and to celebrate with family.

Asheville Getaway Weekend (Dec. 16-18)

On December 16, 2006, Jesse proposed to me at the Biltmore House. We celebrated our engagement by dining in Asheville, touring Biltmore by candlelight, and showing every random stranger my ring.

Fast forward ten years, we thought it would be a fun trip and much needed getaway to return to the Biltmore in December. Our last overnight trip together was when I was pregnant with the triplets, so it had obviously been a while. Jesse made all of the arrangements, including for his mom to spend the weekend at our house. 

Exactly ten years since proposing, we returned to Asheville for our weekend away. We're both so drained every Friday night. We left as soon as Jesse's mom arrived, drove the two hours, got dinner at a Mexican restaurant beside the hotel, then crashed. We slept nearly 12 hours uninterrupted. It was glorious!

Our only real plan for the weekend was to go to Biltmore, which left a lot of time to fill. Jesse wanted to go see the new Star Wars movie. I wanted to go for a hike. After brunch at Cracker Barrel, we headed to the parkway for a hike. This past summer our family visited Craggy Gardens. At the time we took a family friendly hike. My plan for Jesse and I was to drive to the same area and take the more difficult Craggy Pinnacle Trail with the 360 degree panoramic views. After twenty minutes on the parkway, we were forced to abruptly turn around!

My mind had been made that we were going on a hike. There was another trail (Max's Patch) that has been at the top of my list for many years, but it was nearly an hour from where we were. I pulled into the first random spot off the parkway I could find that promised a trail. It was a nice enough trail at first.

I enjoy hiking with a purpose. I expect an end result, such as hiking to a waterfall or reaching the summit for amazing views. I'm content with an open field and stream. This random hike was just a narrow, never-ending walk in the woods. It felt no different than walking in the woods at home.

There was one spot that cleared a bit and had a nice view. Jesse and I walked for 40 minutes, before deciding to just turn around.

We climbed some boulders and stopped for a cheesy photo session. The sun was blinding, so there were quite a few outtakes.

The next item on our plan-as-we-go agenda was a nap in the hotel room. Jesse and I called around for dinner reservations at the Grove Park Inn so we could see the gingerbread houses. They were booked at each restaurant, so improvised with downtown Asheville. We saw a few gingerbread houses at the Grove Park Arcade. 

Feeling nostalgic, we thought it would be fun to eat at the same restaurant we went to after Jesse proposed. I'm not sure if we had lower standards when we were in college or the restaurant has really declined, but it was not the same experience. The food was practically inedible. We left most of our food,

then wandered the local shops.

The highlight of our trip was touring the Biltmore. Jesse had purchased tickets for the candlelight hours. Our scheduled entrance time was after 9 pm, yet we arrived  just after 7. We had plenty of time to kill!

Jesse tried to take me to the gardens to the exact spot where he proposed. It was pitch black and felt like we were trespassing, though we never crossed any closed gates or saw signs of closings. Still, my anxiety got the best of me, alone in the darkness. I urged Jesse to turn around after what felt like hours of wandering. I idiotically chose not to wear my winter jacket, and consequently was freezing while outside. The only place we could go to warm up were the gift shops. We window shopped for a long time, then sat under an outdoor heater for an entire hour. We had fun people watching.

Of course we had to take an obligatory photo in front of the house. We've easily gained over 100 lbs as a couple in the last decade, as the pictures clearly show. We could have never predicted when we decided to get married what events would occur over the next decade. In some ways, our lives have been very predictable. We graduated college, began our careers, bought a house, and had kids. On the other hand, I don't think either of us would have planned to work at so many schools (seven between the two of us) or have so many children so close together. There have been plenty of challenges over the last decade, but I have never once regretted saying yes.

I didn't bother taking many pictures inside the Biltmore. I knew I couldn't take anything that compared to online photos. Plus, it's impossible to convey in a photo the size of the rooms. They are breathtaking!

I've been to the Biltmore a handful of times throughout my childhood and young adulthood. This was the first time I've toured it since becoming a mother. The only photo I took was of this room. This is the room where Cornelia Vanderbilt was born, and where she never gave birth to her sons. I found it so intimate and beautiful that thousands of people regularly tour the exact room where they took their first breaths.

We returned to the hotel room and went to bed. Not wanting to keep Jesse's mom with the kids any longer, we drove home right after checkout. Every family vacation I plan is jam packed with things to do. It was nice to take a more relaxed approach and be able to enjoy one another's company again.