Sunday, June 28, 2009

Aquarium of the Smokies

Who knew that one of the best aquariums we've visited would be in the mountains of Tennessee? We spent another fun day with Kim and Tim and their lovely girls, Cate and Grace, in Tennessee and, believe it or not (he he, get it?), we loved Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies. Here you get a chance to view the large shark lagoon from just about every angle, even from above. Ella and Jack most enjoyed spending time with their friends, asking the scuba diver questions about the sea life, seeing the orange jellyfish, and petting the horseshoe crabs. Thanks, Miner family, for inviting us to join you on your vacation! We had a "totally awesome" time hanging out with you all and checking out Gatlinburg! Check out all of our photos from this trip at My Picasa Albums.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Ober Gatlinburg

Our good friends, The Miners, invited us to join them this weekend on their family vacation to the mountains of Tennessee. They had rented a cabin for the week in the Great Smoky Mountains, close to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. We met them today for an adventure at Ober Gatlinburg, an "amusement park" which is, of course, up in the mountains over Gatlinburg. We had (open!) window seats in the Aerial Tram (much like the one behind Cate, Jack, Ella, and Grace here) ride up the mountain. This 10-minute scenic journey took us up over 1300 feet in elevation. It amazes me that 3 simple cables can carry up to 120 people up the mountain (yikes!)--the kids loved it!

Ober Gatlinburg's "amusement park" offered so many new experiences for the kids (and us!). We took a scenic chair-lift ride further up the mountain. Where we got off, the only way to get back down the mountain is to ride down the Alpine Slide. Each grown-up paired off with a kid and together got onto a sled to ride down a bobsled-like track that was 1800 feet through the woods and ski trails. Each sled did have a brake for speed control, but Ella and Jack tried their best to push our hands off the brakes. This ride was "totally awesome", as exclaimed by Ella, so we did it twice!

I can't understand why spinning in circles is so much fun for these kids, yet it is. Ella, Jack, Grace, and Cate had a ball riding the cars, snowmobile, and train kiddie rides, all of which simply went around and around and around...I'm dizzy just thinking about it.

If you look below Jonathan and Ella on the chairlift here you'll see someone on a sled going down a track of the Alpine Slide. So fun!

Ober Gatlinburg also had three "dry-ride" water rides, although a few of us got a little wet for sure. Our little thrill-seekers loved the 40-foot drop of the Ober's Lightnin' Raft Ride and covered Shoot-the-Chute Ride, but their favorite was the Blue Cyclone Rapids Ride. Read the description and you'll know why--Get a good grip on the handles of your air-inflated bob sled as you plunge from over 60 feet high into a dark hole pushing "white water" waves as you race down a fully-enclosed fiberglass chute. Riding high on the sidewalls, you'll reach speeds in excess of 30 mph and pull 2.9 G's as you twist and turn through over 600 feet of water and exhilarating fun-filled excitement.
This is Jack and Jonathan at the bottom of Ober's Lightnin' Raft Ride.

We wrapped up our fun-filled day at Ober Gatlinburg by checking out the Wildlife Encounter zoo there. A visit to the Smokies isn't complete, after all, without seeing a black bear. We saw black bears cuddling, otters swimming and playing, and skunks and other nocturnal animals sleeping.
After a ride down the mountain on the Aerial Tram and dinner in Gatlinburg (and some well-deserved beer for the grown-ups), Ella and Cate joined some cloggers in the spotlight for a chicken dance. Yee-haw!

"I can see the mountains back there!"

Jack slept through dinner and had to eat his pizza when we got back to the Miners' cabin. It's hard to believe a day like today wore him out, eh?
"Those girls' shoes are loud!"

Friday, June 26, 2009


The kids said "Jambo!" (hello) to Vacation Bible School (VBS) this week at our church/preschool, St. John's Episcopal Church. This year's VBS theme was The Kingdom of the Son, so Ella and Jack went on a safari to learn new Bible stories, songs of fellowship, and The Lord's Prayer. They had an awesome time meeting new friends and seeing their preschool buddies, doing crafts, playing games, singing songs, learning about new cultures, and just being a part of the fantastic youth program our church has to offer. Ella's teachers told me they were ready to take her home with them because she's so sweet, attentive, and excited about everything. One of her classroom's teenage helpers also told me that Ella has great manners--makes me so proud to hear that one (we've really worked hard on it and I'm glad that Ella is proud of her good manners, too). About five teenage helpers, two in Jack's classroom and three in the Arts & Crafts room (where I was volunteering), told me independently of each other that Jack is hilarious. Other than smacking himself in the face for a few laughs, I'm not sure what he does or says to be so hilarious. He is pretty silly and cute, so I'm not surprised that he makes people smile. And, after a very tentative first day at VBS for Jack, I am happy to hear that Jack doesn't shy away from attention and was having fun.

Where's Ella, Jack, and me? Can you find us? Sorry, no red and white striped shirts to help the search, we're all in orange, of course.

Today was the last day of VBS and the kids performed skits and songs they'd been practicing all week. From my seat way in the back of the sanctuary, these are the best shots I could get with my mega-zoom lens! Jack lucked out with the front row, but, of course, Ella's about half a face, stuck behind a tall boy. In another picture, which turned out even worse than these, that I was taking of Jack I noticed that Ella was waving at me--I guess it was easy for her to spot me as the mom behind the big camera!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

It's Not Easy to Be Me

This is what happens when you push a 3-year-old a little too far in a day. Between Vacation Bible School, a 3-hour double playdate at the pool, and being awakened from a nap for dinner, it was all too much for our little Superman. After all, it's not easy to be him. What a sweet, sad face.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Somebunny to Love

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day

Me [to Ella and Jack]: You guys have a good daddy.

Ella (without hesitation): No, he's not just a good daddy, he's a WONDERFUL daddy.

Happy Father's Day, Jonathan! And, Happy Father's Day to our wonderful dads and granddad!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Joys of Summer

Eating watermelon slices....

Not a care in the world....

Smiles from ear to ear...

Chasing and catching fireflies...

And, staying up way past your bedtime...

All in the name of Summertime fun.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

And, Action!

The kids really wanted to see their action caught on camera today, so I was happy (to try) to oblige. Ella has come a long way in the past year with her cartwheels and handstands. It didn't take many tries by her (or me in catching it) to hold her handstand up perfectly straight.

Jack decided his best "action" was jumping off of things.

Ella couldn't possibly miss out on that fun!

Red, Yellow, and Blue

Ella, Jack, and I have spent the past three mornings taking an art class at the Mint Museum. This week's "camp" was focused on the primary colors--red, yellow, and blue. We explored the museum looking for these colors in the artwork (their current exhibit has "masterworks" by Cassatt, Degas, Kandinsky, Matisse, Miro, Monet, O'Keeffe, Picasso, Pollock, Renoir, get the point--it's pretty impressive), mixed the colors in several different mediums (paint, gel paper, and play-dough) to create secondary colors, and then created several fun pieces of artwork ourselves.

On Tuesday, Jack, of course, chose not to wear a smock but then thinks nothing of leaning into his artwork. Getting messy is part of the fun, right!

Ella decided to make teeny-tiny snowballs and snowmen with her play-dough today.

Jack had more fun pounding it to smithereens.

This is Jack's "art man".

This is Ella's gel paper family portrait à la little blue and little yellow, a cute little story we read in class--that's little yellow and his family, Jack (although he makes it quite clear he's "not that small"), Ella, me, Jonathan, and Gator.
Ella and Jack also made really cool paint smear butterflies, but we left those at the museum to be put on display during a student exhibit in August. It was another fun time at the Mint Museum! I'm already looking forward to our next camp there in July!

Monday, June 15, 2009

I ♥ Faces: Sepia Toned

I'm having more fun with I Faces and their weekly contests. This week's theme is Sepia Toned and I love the warm, brown look of this effect, especially with beach pictures. However, since a beach contest is coming up next month I decided to take a look through the other face shots I have taken. I am entering this photo of my nephew Drew in this week's kids category. I took this photo of Drew last Spring before his first birthday. Drew is my sister's third son and it seems that with each new boy she bears, the eyelashes get longer and longer. I love how in this photo Drew's eyelashes are so long that even on the shaded side of his face his eyelashes pick up the sunlight.

Check out all of the other beautiful entries and join the fun at I ♥ Faces.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Getting Outdoors

The weather cooperated this weekend for Uncle Chris and Aunt Chrissy's visit (although it was quite hot), so we were able to take them to see one of Charlotte's coolest outdoor attractions. We went to check out the U.S. National Whitewater Center. At our youngest kids' ages, our fun is still limited to hiking around the river, climbing in the boulder garden, and hitting the great restaurant for lunch (Ella and Jacob are old enough to climb the rock wall and do parent-accompanied flatwater paddling--but, let's keep that to ourselves until Jack's upcoming birthday). This time around the Mega-Zip line was up and running and it was so fun to watch people zoom past us, dangling in the air, across the rapids. I love this place and am looking forward to partaking in some of the fun outdoor activities in the coming years.

The cousins had a great time hanging out, climbing the rocks, and then, of course, cooling down in the shade for lunch on the patio. Aunt Chrissy, Uncle Chris, Jacob, and Noah, we're so glad you came to visit! We hope you had a nice time getting outdoors in Charlotte, for once!

"I'll be back."

Friday, June 12, 2009

Our Nephew Noah

Jonathan's brother, Chris, and his family are visiting us for the weekend-yea! We're looking forward to a fun weekend hanging out with Uncle Chris, Aunt Chrissy (or Aunt Chris and Uncle Chrissy, as Ella and Jack used to call them), and nephews Jacob and Noah. Hopefully the rain will hold off (they've never had a rain-free visit to Charlotte) and we'll get to enjoy lots of fun Summer activities together this weekend, starting with a backyard barbecue.
Isn't Noah such a cutie? I love the Disney tween-style hairdo. When we saw these boys last weekend down in Florida, Jonathan lifted the hair covering Noah's ear and said, "I'm Uncle Jon." I think I might've seen Noah's eyes roll over that one--ha ha, Uncle Jon, you're hilarious.

Back to the Neighborhood Pool

Public school is finally out (we've been out for weeks!) so they've opened up the area pools in the daytime during the week. We celebrated this much-anticipated event with Brooke, Beth, and Susannah and their kids. In a reprise of last Summer, I'm sure you'll see many more pictures of us and our friends at the neighborhood pool in the months to come. We plan on spending a lot of time here!