It happened when Chance was born too. My unflinching desire to spend quality time with my girls talking and laughing and just being together. Special dates, late night talks, we did it all. After three times I now realize this is par for the course. Wanting so badly to hold on to what you know, even though whats around the bend is something better and something stronger it's still difficult to say goodbye to the end of an era.
This spring break I desperately longed for quality family time as we cherished these last moments with a final hurrah. This is what I wanted in our vacation: time with each other, just being us. And ya'll, it turned out to be much better than I could have hoped for. Since I couldn't fly anywhere and we couldn't spare more than 5 days we settled on showing our kids the beauty of the South and headed on down to Nashville.
I kept singing the Omeletteville ditty from Saturday Night Live all week, but instead replacing it with the word Nashville and the kids begged to see the song. Sure enough, one YouTube click later and "bring it on down to Nashville" became our theme song. See....
Our plan was simple: go with the flow. Yes, we wanted to eat some good bbq and see some live music and feel the warmth of the south but really we just wanted to be together, just the 5 of us.
Our hotel was UNBELIEVABLE. The Gaylord Opryland hotel has NINE acres of indoor gardens and waterfalls and rivers and all of it's located under 7 football fields of glass panelled atriums--dude, for real, the most magnificent atrium's you could ever imagine. It's 68 degrees year round and full of the most beautiful and lush gardens I have ever seen. Trust me, it rivals Hawaii, ya know, in the man-made sense.
When we arrived Mia took one step into the atrium and screamed "this is like a fairy tale destiny" making me laugh out loud. But she was right, it was beyond anything we had imagined. We spent our first whole day discovering every nook and cranny of the hotel.
Staying at a unique hotel made all the difference in this trip. This hotel and convention center spans over 15 acres and we finally got the hang of it on our last day. It was SO easy to get lost which actually made it that much more fun. One of the atrium's had a downtown shopping area with unique stores and restaurants.
Mia proudly showed off her acting skills...
|And yes, my Coco Chanel added a belt to her terry cloth swimming cover up!|
Chance likes to shake his booty a little too much in public.
Every time we left our room, it felt special just walking around. We felt like we were in Hawaii or the tropics with all the beautiful and lush vegetation everywhere. The price difference between a hotel like this and say a Holiday Inn is WORTH EVERY PENNY and it wasn't even that much of a difference! Apparently there are three other Gaylord hotels in Florida, Texas and Maryland and I'd love to see them all!!!
We started a family vacation tradition where each day is some one's day. As the daily guest of honor that person gets to choose what to do, or sometimes what to eat or anything that comes along--it's their call. The kids love having their day, as do I actually. I gotta admit, it feels special, even for me. Eugene took one for the team and scheduled his day as the first day where we drove for 8 hours. But...we did get to eat at a cool restaurant in Louisville that he had been eyeing. On Bella's day (our first full day) she wanted to swim and explore the hotel, which was perfect by us!
|How do I get him to stop shrugging his shoulder and tilting his head for pictures? He copies what his sisters do, but it looks SO DAMN ODD coming from him.|
This is one of my favorite pictures that Eugene took. Chance and Bella hiding--waiting to surprise me, Bella sshh-ing him and me peeking around the corner.
It's just so us.
Chance is letting loose these days and would bust out his gangnam style dance everywhere!
Bella ended her day with gelato from one of the several hotel ice cream shops, which is exactly what she wanted. Who are we to argue with that! :)
On Mia's day we actually had a set schedule already in place but knew that we could frame it in a way that made her feel special. Like breakfast at a world famous spot, Loveless Cafe. Way back in 1951, a couple who lived in a small white house would serve up hot buttered biscuits for travelers who passed through Nashville on Highway 100.
Story has it that Lon and Annie Loveless had quite the party house in the 40's and 50's and would charm travelers with their undisputed Southern Hospitality. Shortly thereafter, Lon Loveless built 14 adjacent motel rooms on their land and that's how it became the Loveless Motel and Cafe.
While it's no longer a motel and the hands of ownership has changed several times throughout the years, Annie's famous biscuit recipe never has. It's a Tennessee tradition through and through.
Which is exactly why there was a mother grubbing 1 hour and 45 minute wait for a table! I almost choked when I was told but was too distracted by Chance pulling at my arm and Mia jumping up and down at the smell of bacon. There was NO WAY IN HELL my kids would have lasted that long. So we did what every normal parent would have done.
Ordered our food to go!
Setting up a makeshift car picnic--we indulged on some good ol' fashion southern comfort food, biscuits and bacon, eggs and hash browns.
And even though we were car bound, we tasted the love and tradition that Loveless is know for.
With a full tummy we headed out to the Cheekwood Botanical Gardens for their
annual Spring Art Hop.
Basically, the Spring Art Hop is a community Easter event with egg hunts and vendors and crafts for the kiddos. But what really drew me there was the musical petting zoo. I've heard of these before and have always wanted to take my kids to one, so it ended up being a win-win all around!
There were several different instruments to chose from and my kiddos tried every single one of them.
Mia kept throwing it in Bella and Chance's face that she got to play a violin on her special day.
But her snarkiness didn't bother them a bit because they were having too much fun to even notice.
The grounds were magnificent and I know that three weeks from now all 55,000 of their tulips will be in bloom and will be quite the sight!
Then, in what can only be described as a cosmic explosion, Chance spotted the COOLEST
train set ever!
I'm not sure I've ever seen him quite this happy!
On to the egg hunts. We put all three kids in the 7 year and older group because I didn't want to wait for three separate times and it turned out to be so adorable.
When the announcer yelled go, every single kid bolted at top speed, yet there was Mia taking her sweet little time, SKIPPING.
See her right above there? I kid you not, the girl is always skipping! At least little Chance was able to find a couple eggs without getting pummeled to the ground by the older kids.
Hungry yet? Perhaps one of the gourmet popsicles from the uber popular Las Paletas might wet your whistle.
We've seen this place featured on several different cooking channel shows, so it was a must for us!
Since it was Mia's day, she got to choose the flavors for all of us.
Make this meal #2 in the car for the day. My OCD was in full force as I cringed watching Chance suck down one of these, but it was too cold outside to eat and it's on a really busy street, so there.
After our tasty little sidebar we headed downtown to see the real thrill of Nashville.
Music was barreling through the air--coming in from all around us!
This is the Nashville I've heard so much about, the live music, the dancing--no wonder why they call it Music Town USA!
And while I don't consider myself a huge country music fan, I can certainly appreciate it. Country music, from it's very roots is the art of musical story telling. I've always admired this genres ability to transform lyrics as profoundly as it does.
We took it all in as we gathered our herd and headed to the world famous Wildhorse Saloon.
Upon entering, they're motto is clear. And while none of us were wearing our "kickers" we were welcomed there just the same.
On June 1, 1994, their notoriety was sealed when Reba McEntire herded a stampede of live cattle through the streets right past the the front doors of the newly opened club. Yeah, I'm sure that gathered some attention. This 66,00 square foot, 3 story saloon offers the best of Nashville with good food, great music and a dance floor that my kids tore up.
Their award winning menu was just the beginning. Apparently, they go through 2 million slices of pickles every year for their world famous fried pickles---and let me tell you, they were AWESOME!
They also go through about 3000 gallons of homemade BBQ sauce every year, which comes to no surprise since it's so damn good. I ordered a salad but then slowly found myself grubbing all of Eugene's pulled pork and BBQ ribs---it was fantastic! Some of the best that I've ever had.
Every half hour the dance floor fills up with people ready to boot, scoot and boogie as they learn a new country line dance. Bella and I were all over it.
However, there came a point when all I could think about was how good that BBQ was and hauled my ass back to the table to continue shoving my face. But Bella wouldn't budge, she was a line dancing queen. Here she is complaining about how hot she is.....that's how hard she shook her tail feather!
It was the quintessential Nashville experience and I'm so happy we went there.
As if the day couldn't get any longer, Mia requested that we do some night swimming when we returned to the hotel.
With our floaties and our goggles and our swim diapers and our pool toys we headed to the pool only to find it closed for the night because of maintenance issues. I really hoped no one had pooped in the pool because I knew this meant that we'd be swimming as soon as it opened the next day.
Mia, on the other hand, was devastated and let this simple little hiccup RUIN her special day. I couldn't handle the complaining a moment longer so we decided to order dessert room service and you would have thought we bought her a pony the way she rebounded.
Apparently, hot chocolate from a carafe and fancy glass tea cups is the KEY TO A HAPPY CHILDHOOD. And popcorn, I should also mention that the popcorn was an added bonus too!
This was a perfect way to end Mia's night and side note, it was also her favorite memory of the trip.
On Easter morning the kids woke to find hidden eggs all over the hotel room. Gotta keep up the spirit on the road, don't ya know.
Dressed in our Easter best we snapped some pictures and headed to mass in downtown Nashville.
|I could just eat him he looks so cute here.|
|She wouldn't part with the leg tattoo. Classy.|
And since it just so happened to be my special day, I decided that we'd all step aboard a Mississippi style Flatboat and take a guided tour through our hotel's very own indoor river, the Delta. We learned a lot about the hotel, like the fact that it's the largest non casino hotel and convention center in the country. Also, water from every state was gathered and added to this river to fill it up, which I thought was pretty neat.
They loved this surprise! A 15 minute musical and light fountain show wowed the heck out of all of us.
Chance and his Lion King moment.
After the show we enjoyed some pizza and I let the kids in on my little secret---we were going to roam the empty halls and gardens of the hotel until our tired feet took us home. See it was Sunday night and it felt like ALL the guests had left. Muuhhhhaahh, the hotel was ours.
And while the rest of the hotel guests quietly slept in their beds, we ran around like we owned the place.
Made wishes in wells,
let our imaginations run wild,
and explored every quiet corner
pretending this magical place was our home.
Okay, perhaps a little too much exploration buddy.
Probably, one of the best Easters we've ever had! We woke on Monday to a bittersweet energy in the air--we all knew it was our last day. But it was also Chance's day and so we were hell bent on showing this dude a fantastic time!
At the advice of my good friend Tiffany, who spent several years in Nashville, we weren't allowed to leave without eating at the award winning, Pancake Pantry.
The kids got to draw their own picture and the awesome staff put their drawings front and center on their gallery wall.
With over 23 different types of pancakes to chose from, I opted for their award winning Sweet Potato Pancakes with cinnamon cream syrup. Photo courtesy of pancakepantry.com
HOLY MOTHER OF PEARL!!!!!!! You guys, these were HANDS DOWN the best pancake I've ever had. And their cinnamon syrup was unbelievable. I licked my plate clean and even pondered ordering more for the road--that's how good they were. Btw, I didn't order more--let's be clear on that, though I wanted to. However, I am determined to recreate these. And when I do, be sure to know that I'll share the wealth with you too.
My mouth is watering just thinking about them. Pretty sure that makes me a diabetic.
Anyhoo, Chance's day was off to a great start. Right down the street from the Pancake Pantry was the famous Centennial Park just west of downtown Nashville. Here we surprised our little superhero with a famous F-86L Sabre Jet!
Then to really blow his limited little mind, we walked across the path and showed him the Nashville Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway steam locomotive!
Which really popped his pistons.
Built in 1897, this FULL SCALE REPLICA of the original Parthenon in Athens stands tall and mighty in the middle of the park.
What was once a home for elaborate events and pageants in 1913 and 1914, the Parthenon is now an art museum that houses paintings from 19th and 20th century artists, all of which we did not see, mind you. As you can tell from the pictures all my little monkeys wanted to do was run around.
We returned to the hotel and walked around one more time, taking it all in. This time though, I didn't see the gardens and the flowers and the waterfalls like I did 5 days before. This time I noticed the 5 of us together, hand in hand and I remember feeling this overwhelming sense of contentment.
What I wouldn't do for this family of mine. Sometimes it takes little breaks like these to see the power and the beauty of what we've created. And for that, I'm so very grateful. Soon, we'll have another little monkey added to the bunch and with it I'm sure will come some anxiety and maybe even some defiance from the kids, but as long as we continue to love, love, love each other the way that we do so well, I know we'll be just fine.
Eugene, Bella, Mia and Chance, thank you for such a memorable vacation. I'll always cherish these moments and remember this as the time the 5 of us took over the South!
All my love, Mommy.