Twelve years ago, Jack and I were married on a blustery winter day in Nebraska. It was the start of our family and is an event I think about often.
|If Jack looks freakishly thin, that’s because he was, heehee.|
After being sealed for this life and the life to come (meaning we’re married forever…sorry Jack. You’re stuck with me), we had a small reception at night, which challenged even the best Nebraska driver to arrive without sliding off the road. We celebrated with friends and family and started our life together.
Twelve years later, we still make it back to the Winter Quarters temple in Nebraska at least once a year, again offering us a chance to reflect on the happiness our marriage has brought. Four states, five apartments, three fixer-upper houses, innumerable animals, and five and a half kids later, and we’re only getting started!
Though we once and a while celebrate our anniversary with just the two of us, we really do enjoy making it a family event. This year, we took a quick trip down to The Great Smokey Mountains in Gatlinburg, Tennessee to mark the special day. Jack joked that since we’d decided not to get each other gifts (the 12th year theme is silk, pearls, and linen…what on earth is a woman supposed to get her husband?!), the cabin was our shared gift since the beds had linens on them. Good enough for me!
|Our cabin was right on the Roaring Fork River. It was absolutely dreamy.|
We left after church on Sunday and arrived just in time for dinner that night. We stayed at an adorable Airbnb cabin that was practically brand new, was so cozy, and fit all of us just right.
Even though we escaped the snow of Indiana, it was still quite brisk down in Gatlinburg. That didn’t stop everyone from piling into the hot tub to practically boil alive. I seriously think we’re going to have to get one of those for our deck.
The next morning was equally chilly, foggy, and damp as we headed out in search of adventure. Before we got far, Jack spotted boiled peanuts and as one who always embraces his Southern roots, he bought a few cupfuls to share. Everyone tried one, but only Kate and Zoey took a real liking to them.
|Goober peas, anyone?|
We decided to check out the national park nearby first, seeing as we love spending time outside as a family. Though we didn’t see any elk or black bear (bummer!) there were plenty of Pip, Goldie, and Rosie’s relatives out wandering around.
We knew we wanted to take a family hike, so we settled on a 2.6 mile hike up to Laurel Falls. We got a chance to try out some of our new hiking gear Santa brought us. Although Zoey was happy to sit in the hiking backpack, she was pretty insistent that I carry her. Um, no. I’m already carrying one kid, and I wasn’t in the mood to carry another.
The hike itself was relatively easy. The trail was paved (mostly/sort of) and wasn’t on a terribly steep incline. We watched for mushrooms, noted the different flora than Indiana, and enjoyed the view.
|Teaching Henry to forage for Oyster mushrooms.|
The area really is a hauntingly beautiful place, especially when draped with a thick covering of fog.
There came a point in the trail when I made Henry hold my hand and everyone hug the wall of the rock face because we were getting that high up on the mountain peak. We could hear some of the water rolling below but I wasn’t about to let the kids lean over the edge to look. Jack solved that problem by hoisting them up to see.
After persevering, we made it to the end of the trail and were rewarded with the beautiful waterfall in all its glory.
One thing Jack immediately noticed about Tennesee were the enormous clusters of Oyster mushrooms hanging on every other tree. More than once, he had us stop on the winding, steep, scary-close-to-the-edge-of-the-road so he could go harvest mushrooms.
Stuffed full of seafood and brimful of mushrooms, we went to the local aquarium after the kids begged and begged to go. It literally cost us an arm and a leg to get in (boo!) but we spent several hours there to get our money’s worth.
|A pretty cool sawtooth shark.|
The plus side of being there in the middle of winter was that it was nearly empty, which meant we got the clownfish all to ourselves…
Once we finished gawking at all the fish, we decided to go to dinner but not before we said hello to every snowman in Gatlinburg.
We stuffed ourselves again, headed back to the cabin, soaked in the hot tub, and hit the hay early. It was a long day!
The morning we were to head home, we couldn’t resist stopping by a petting zoo in the foothills. Jack spoils me way too much…so much of our vacation was spent looking at animals, which is not exactly his idea of fun.
|They were so docile and curious!|
Basically, it was like the kind of farm I dream of having someday. So many animals to play with! First, I think we need some goats…
It’s always hard to get back into the routine of things. I had to prod the girls to wake up for school, groceries needed to be acquired, and bills needed to be paid, but Jack spoiled me with one last surprise before he goes back to work: dinner. A heart-shaped, Oyster mushroom feast while I took a nap and the kids helped him. I could get used to that kind of service!
|Happy one dozen to us!|