A Vacation To Remember (Day 3)

Wednesday morning began with more of my wife’s delicious microwave scrambled eggs!  While the adults cleaned up (everyone clears at home), the kids spent some time playing on the deck, trying out the hammock and the porch swing, but their favorite thing about the deck was . . . the BELL!

bell

They had a ball with that bell, ringing it till I thought it might crack.  So much for quiet, peaceful cabin life!  🙂

Day 3 was the day we planned to travel into Nashville to visit some stores and maybe pick up a souvenir or two.  Sadly, we knew we’d be having lunch out and so we had to leave Casper behind.  The only other wrinkle was that it looked like it might rain.

The plan was simple.  Eat first then walk around Nashville.  Since we were on vacation we really wanted to do something for lunch we wouldn’t do at home, so we were option to finding something new.  We drove around Nashville for a while checking out various restaurants (not as many as you might think) until we settled on one – the Holy Cow Steakhouse and Grill.  We figured the menu selection there would likely allow everyone to get something they’d like.  We parked the van in a GREAT spot (one of the few around) right across the street from the restaurant!

That’s when the rain began.

We hurried across the street to the covered deck and picked up a menu from the outer door to check pricing.  The kids menu items alone were around $7 each and adult meals started around $11! (OUCH!)  Okay, so we expected to spend a little more on lunch than normal, but not THAT much.  If we were going to spend $50, we were at least going to go somewhere really nice.

We settled on the Brown County Inn Restaurant and everyone raced through the rain back to the van.  Unfortunately, this was all we ever saw of it because it wasn’t open for lunch.

bc_inn

Alas!  We considered what was left of our options then drove around some more.  45 minutes after we’d left the cabin for a *quick visit* to Nashville, and with four very hungry and slightly cranky kids in the back, we settled on a place we’d never even consider stopping at home – McDonald’s. {sigh}

We still spent nearly $25 (it takes a lot to feed six people).  However, in our new “let’s look on the bright side approach” to our many vacation setbacks, we gave ourselves permission to spend the $25 we’d just *saved* on some family souvenirs! (A Fall turkey for our front entry table and two Christmas ornaments from the Holly Shop – one for the family and one for Casper.)

turkey ornament ornament2

Note to Holly Shop:
Since your policy states that parents MUST pay for anything children may break, PLEASE don’t hawk over my kids as they admire your beautiful treasures while you explain how fragile they are.  Geesh!

Thankfully, the rain had slackened just after we left the Holly Shop so we went on to the Visitor’s Center to get some maps and find out where the best places are to eat (actually in Nashville) were for next time.  While we were there the kids were excited to get their own illustrated maps of the village.  I was surprised to see how many shops there actually were tucked away on some of those back streets.

After the Visitors Center we hit the Toy Chest to play where my wife snapped this photo of me goofing around.  (It’s good to be king!)

the_pharoh

Our last stop before heading back to the cabin to let poor Casper out was the Copperhead Creek Gem Mining Company to pan for gold and  gems,  but at $11.00 per bag of preloaded panning dirt, we opted for six bowls of homemade pumpkin ice cream instead.  No complaints about this from the young’uns!

mining

Back on our cabin, Casper was thrilled to see us!  Everyone, including Casper, curled up while my wife read some more of The Wind Boy (by Ethel Cook Eliot).  My wife and kids are usually reading through a book together most days.  Since I’m at work at that time I miss out.  Although sometimes I read the same one on my own so I can share too.  I hadn’t kept up on this one and didn’t want to come in mid-read. Instead, I grabbed my camera and slipped off to check out the woods behind the house. Following the path past the chain link dog kennel I found we had a third pond on the property.  What the cabin lacked in working amenities, it certainly made up for in natural beauty!

pond3

The last thing we did before dinner and bed that night was to break out the swim suits.  You may recall from my Day 1 post that the hot tub had gone AWOL.  So we filled the sunken tub in the master bathroom upstairs and let the kids have at it.  I suspect they enjoyed playing in there much as they would have enjoyed playing in the actual hot tub, even it was a bit cramped. 🙂

Oh!  I nearly forgot to mention we played one last round of sardines.  We’d actually run out of time on Day 2 for my wife to hide before our movie.  Sardines was her idea after all and she REALLY wanted a turn to hide!  She found a great spot too – under the vanity in the master bath.

We all wandered through there more than once and overlooked her every time.  I was with our 4YO when I finally spotted her so the two of us crouched between the vanity and the closet door with a damp bath towel (all I could find in the dark) pulled over us.  We waited and waited and waited, quietly laughing together about how cramped my wife was getting under the vanity.

Eventually, we started knocking on the walls to help the others find us, but it didn’t work.  Now we couldn’t stop laughing.  Finally, I cranked up my iPod Touch and started blasting timer alarm sounds until they found us.

Day 3 was definitely a high point for everyone!

A Vacation To Remember (Day 2) . . . TV

One thing I neglected to mention about Day 2 was Satellite Television.

We made the choice to be TV free in our home more than 10 years ago (really) and have never regretted it.  However, the cabin rental came with satellite TV, so on Tuesday night I snapped on the TV after the kids were in bed to see how much things had changed in TV land over the last decade.

So with the volume down very low, I began to scroll through the menu of the available options.  With access to satellite you’d expect to have at your fingertips the best that television has to offer, right???  Well once I’d scrolled past the few basic network stations with each click I was more and more surprised by what I found.  After quickly scrolling through about 400 channels (surely time well spent!) I concluded we’d NOT made a mistake to give it up years ago.

With a few exceptions the predominance of what I found fell into three categories:

1) Sports
2) Infomercials for beauty & healthcare products
3) Shopping

As I happily returned the remote control to the mantle and resumed my writing I couldn’t help wondering what sort of social commentary this suggested for western culture.  It is a society very much obsessed with vicarious experience (sports), superficial self-improvement (beauty aids) and rampant commercialism (shopping).

I suppose it should be no surprise then that even with the “holy grail” of television media at my disposal that I would find anything other than a reflection of my society, albeit a not very flattering one.  Still, it’s difficult to know if people are simply accepting whatever is being offered or if people are being offered exactly what they’re asking for.

Either way, I for one am I’m glad my kids don’t have to contend with television media telling them what to think and what they need to do or be to find happiness in life.  Spending this uninterrupted time away with them has made one thing very apparent – they’re figuring out what it takes just fine without it.

A Vacation To Remember (Day 2)

Tuesday morning started nicely with hot baths then a tasty breakfast of biscuits and microwave scrambled eggs!  (No skillet, remember?) However, we decided after this meal to abandon eating at the dining table.  While it was a beautiful piece of handmade furniture, it was clearly built for Half-Giants!  Instead of the table top being rib-high, the average height for most dining room tables, this one was chest-high.  My 6YO had to sit on her knees and my 4YO actually needed two pillows under her just to reach her plate.  Even my wife and I felt like little kids again!

Breakfast was followed by a lovely walking tour of some of the property’s 20 acres with our geriatric poodle in tow.  The kids enjoyed watching the grey squirrels all around and the countless frogs in the ponds out front.

frog1 frog2 frog3

We also spent some time checking out a nearly dried out creek bed where the kids were able to stand in the middle of the deep gorge where deep water flowed once upon a time.  We even met this fearless fellow up close among the exposed roots of an old tree.

chipmunk

Next, we made our way across the meadow-like front yard and made of a game of looking for snake holes.  When we reached the lake and the dock it was clear the photo on the website had been taken some time ago.  It was in disrepair and there was no paddle boat.  Nevertheless, we enjoyed watching the minnows swim along the lake’s edge and tried to spot fish swimming further out.

On our way back to the house I suggested we let Casper off leash.  There were no woods around and I couldn’t see him getting into anything he shouldn’t in the open meadow.  Not even a minute after he’d been let loose one of the few cars we’d seen came rumbling down the road pulling a U-Haul trailer.  At that moment our very old, very lazy lap poodle decided to act like a young dog.  He’s nearly deaf and so must have seen the car, even at that distance at the edge of the property because he immediately began barking and chasing it.  Well, there was no way he was going to catch up to it, but he’d barely gone a few yards when I realized he wouldn’t be able to hear me calling him back.  And perhaps it was the clean country air making him frisky, but he can apparently be fast when he wants to. Yikes!

Thankfully, his old age kicked in before he’d gotten very far and he gave up the chase.  He made his way slowly, but proudly, back to us panting as if he’d never catch his breath.  In fact, I don’t think he stopped panting for the rest of the trip. 😉

After our walking tour we had a simple lunch followed by a few hands of Nacho Loco (one of the few engaging games we’ve found for our 12YO through our 4YO) and the longest round of UNO I’d wager Moonstraka has ever seen!

Games was followed by a fun felt and glue Halloween craft my wife had planned.  Here is the result!

craft

Dinner that night was frozen pizzas which, thanks again to Moonstraka’s “fully equipped kitchen”, I was forced to snap in half over the handle of a wooden spoon so they would fit into the only air-bake cookie sheet we felt safe using.

Between pizza swaps in the oven we played sardines hide-and-seek.  For anyone who’s never played sardines the basic rules (at least the ones we use) are as follows:

  • Turn out as many lights as possible depending on the age of the players (and their boogieman barometer).
  • One person goes to hide while the rest count loudly with their eyes closed.
  • When the counting is done, the seekers seek.
  • Whoever finds the hider (they get to be the hider next time), silently hides alongside them until all the seekers are packed into the hiding place like sardines.

We had a BLAST using every nook and cranny on all three levels!

After sardines was pajama-time then popcorn and ‘The Whipping Boy’ (movie), which was great fun.  NOTE: it was surprisingly irritating to watch movies without a working VHS/DVD remote (I may have actually been surprised given what we’d experienced so far if it actually had worked) as we had to get up to pause the movie for every potty break or similar interruption.  Still, everyone thoroughly enjoyed the movie and the youngest three played ‘Whipping Boy’ while hunting for rats (imaginary of course!) till bed and on into the rest of the trip.

All in all, we found day 2 to be much more relaxing than day 1.

Day 3 post coming soon . . .

A Vacation To Remember (Day 1)

My family and I were very excited about our recent family vacation trip to Nashville, Indiana in Brown County. We were one 4YO, one 6YO and one geriatric poodle lighter the last time we’d been on a family vacation. For that trip we stayed at Songbird Cottage – a trip my 10YO and 12YO still talk about, so needless to say, the idea of another family cabin was quite appealing to everyone.

After reviewing size, pricing, amenities and optimally one where we could bring our dog, we settled on Moonstraka managed by Hills O’ Brown Real Estate. We made our lists, determined what few groceries to take, packed our many bags, double-checked the carsickness kit (a barf bowl, a box of Queasy Pops, a spray bottle of Fabreeze, etc.), borrowed a luggage carrier and we were off! We made it all the way to Nashville with no carsickness and so our hopes for a trouble-free vacation were very high!

Unfortunately, that was all about to change.

First stop, the local IGA (the only grocery store in Nashville) to pick up food for the simple, stress-free meals we’d planned.

IGA

My wife dashed in to shop the list. 35 minutes later she came out with several shopping bags containing very little of what we’d “planned”. Turns out the local IGA is much smaller on the inside than it looks. Most of the items we could simply grab at any three grocery stores within five minutes of our house they didn’t have. My wife, using one of her brilliant gifts, quickly improvised three days and nights worth of meal based on what we had, what the IGA had and what would still leave us lots of relaxing time NOT cooking even if we were now another $64 lighter. Plan “A” to improvised Plan “B”. Problem solved!

(NOTE: How do people in Nashville afford to buy groceries when the ONLY store where people can shop overcharges for EVERTHING??? Come on! $1.13 for a can of tuna?!? $5.49 for a 2c bag of shredded cheese?!?)

Next stop, Moonstraka!

Moonstraka

First up the steps, my 6YO proceeded to sit down on a deck chair with a large puddle in the seat. At the same moment, my 4YO had a similar wetting on the deck, only not from a deck chair.

casper While we quickly unpacked the van my 12YO took our dog, Casper, for a walk before wrapping him to keep him from marking the furniture. Once wrapped, however, he proceeded to poop on the floor. Another minor inconvenience, but all was still well.

I went to run a bath for the two youngest while my wife prepared some dinner magic. It only took a few minutes for me to learn there was no hot water. I found the water heater in the basement and confirmed . . . it was cold. The pilot was out and I had nothing to light it with. I went upstairs to inform my wife whereupon she informed me the “fully equipped kitchen” lacked a few essential pieces of equipment . . . such as a usable skillet. (Actually, there were two; both were deeply scratched and even a bit rusty, neither of which we felt good about eating from.)

By now it was 8:00pm and the natives were getting restless (and hungry). While I dialed the after-hours emergency paging service to get the water heater running, my wife began to formulate Plan “C” since a portion of the afore mentioned $64 in groceries was now unusable.

Plan “C” was simple, convert the skillet recipe into an oven recipe. Almost anything could be made into a casserole! The only problem was we couldn’t open the door! The programmable oven apparently thought it was in self-clean mode so the latch wouldn’t release to open the door. After fifteen minutes of trying in vain to release it we saw our options for the remaining $64 in food dwindling.

Plan “D” break out the cold cuts!

While my wife prepared sub sandwiches I gave the 4YO and 6YO a quick (rather cold) sponge bath from the bathroom sink, all the while waiting for a call back from maintenance. The paging service said to expect a return call in 20 minutes. After 30 minutes I called the number for the property manager whose son said she wasn’t home but that he would pass along the message. Fifteen minutes later the phone rang and a very friendly man named John said he’d be right out to help.

Finally, some good news! Although, I’m still not sure if he called me back from my initial call or from my follow up call.

Twenty minutes later he arrived and set to work on the furnace while we finished a very late dinner. I told him about the oven and he couldn’t open it either. I suggested we trip the breaker to try and reset the program, but John couldn’t locate the breaker box. Eventually, he was able to coax the oven from self-clean mode, without the need for a total blackout, and the door opened with the helpful suggestion that we not lock it again and apologizing for the “5” strangely displayed on the LCD. We were perfectly content to overlook this minor detail in exchange for being able to cook over the next few days.

Rather than detailing the rest of the surprises we had that first night I’ll just provide a quick rundown:

Here’s a picture of the billiard table. The ball tray is torn off so the billiard balls would come shooting out onto the floor (and our toes!)

billiards

Here’s a picture of the hot tub (different than the site photo).
Six pairs of swim suits and no place to soak. 🙁

hottub

These, ahem . . . lovely ladies, greeted us in the downstairs bedroom we’d selected for the 10YO and 12YO, but were promptly taken down for the week. (Ack!)

cheer2

cheer1

Despite all these amenity failures, we kept reminding ourselves (and each other) we didn’t chose to get away to be pampered, but to reconnect as a family and spend time enjoying each other in an intentional way. From that perspective, we could laugh at the imponderables of vacationing and look forward to what the next few days would bring.

I’ll be posting more on those soon!