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It’d been a while since Jack had needed to take any work trips, but an inevitable and inescapable part of his role is that sometimes, he needs to travel. Usually, it’s a couple days away from home, then he’s back. But earlier this month, he had a back to back to back schedule that made me more than a little anxious. Single parenting seven kids during the school year? Help.

So, when Jack suggested that we join him on one of his trips down to Nashville, I entertained the idea briefly but blew it off. We had projects around the house, school to attend, a farm to run. No, we couldn’t. But, Jack can be very persuasive, and secretly, I wanted a break from the daily grind, so…
…we loaded up the animals with hay, asked a friend to watch the dog, told the schools we wouldn’t be coming in, and made the drive down to Nashville. It’s only about four hours from us, and it was fairly uneventful, other than when the GPS pooped out and we were rerouted through downtown Louisville. We rolled with the weird detour and enjoyed the drive through the historic district and got to see Churchill Downs. We met Jack a little later than originally planned, but it’s not like there’s a solid bedtime on vacation, so we made up the lost time by staying up late.
Jack had told me he was staying at the Gaylord Opryland resort and he’d sent pictures and described it, but it really can’t be done justice without seeing it. We arrived at twilight, which was just the right hour to witness the place in all its glory. The whole resort is like a giant greenhouse, full of tropical trees and flowers, and was decked out for Easter. Once we dropped off our things at the room, we took a partial tour of the hotel (did I already say it was HUGE? More than we could see in one night) to see the lights, the waterfalls, the plants, the entertainment. Then, it was off to the pool.
We could be staying in a cardboard box next to a muddy puddle and as long as the kids were allowed to swim in it, they’d think it was the best vacation ever. I can’t blame them–I was a hardcore water baby when I was little, and lived for the swimming pool, too.

Despite wishing they could, we couldn’t stay awake forever, so we wandered back to the room to crash. Adam was asleep the second I laid him in his bed, and the rest of us camped out where we could…some on beds, others under desks, the rest in the spaces in between. Even the most spacious hotel rooms don’t usually accommodate families of our particular callibre. Not that it’s a bother–there aren’t any bugs, it’s air conditioned, and dark, so compared to tent camping, it was loads better.

There’s a certain energy that threads through a vacation and it acts as a natural alarm clock. Even though we were running on a few hours of fairly crummy sleep, everyone was awake with the sun. We were able to keep the meltdowns at bay by feeding them donuts and agreeing to take them back to the swimming pool. The cherry on top? Another ride up and down the escalators  (seriously, who needs Disney World?).

Other than one lap swimmer, who we eventually scared away, we basically had the pool to ourselves because the hotel, which had been full the night before, had emptied. There’s something to be said about taking a day trip in the middle of the week when everyone else is back to the daily grind.

Adam couldn’t swim one more stroke.
We stayed in the pool until we were waterlogged with moisture in everything from our sinuses to our skin cells. Once we got changed, checked out of our room, and dropped off our luggage at the van, we went back to exploring.

At one end of the resort, there’s an arcade and a rock wall where we spent some time. It’d been a few years since we’d tested the kids’ grit on one, so we signed them up. Initially, there was a lot of smack talk and bragging. By the time they were halfway up the wall, there were some tears and pleas to come back down. A few of them navigated successfully to the top, and some had to tap out because their grip muscles couldn’t take it any more. Apparently we need to find a rock wall gym where we can work on our fear of heights.

Not to be outdone, Jack and I took our turn on the wall. I’d say we raced to the top, but Jack has like, three extra feet of reach on me, so he literally went up the wall in less than thirty seconds. It took me a while longer because the kids didn’t get their healthy fear of heights from nowhere–I, too, am somewhat of a chicken. But, I faced my fears despite some of the children jeering me, and eventually made it to the buzzer.

We used the rest of our tokens on all the gimmicky games that we’ve never really exposed the kids to. While I lived for going to Chuck E. Cheese’s when I was younger, my kids have never gone, so, it was fun to see how exciting they thought the whack-a-mole game was and how long they lasted on the Jurassic Park video game.

We also stumbled upon a fun animal app while visiting. It seemed appropriate that it was a virtual reality program, since that’s a large part of Jack’s job at the moment. Basically, when we found a token in the concrete, we’d open the app, scan it, and the kids would pretend to pose with a virtual animal–anything from an elephant to a snow leopard to a Tasmanian devil.

We spent the rest of the day wandering between the different wings, stopping for a pizza lunch, and walking until no one could take one more step. Adam fell asleep in my arms, and thank goodness we had valet parked because we may have had to drag some of the children the rest of the way to the van. Once they were loaded up, we drove past the Grand Ole Opry, talked about stopping, but decided against it since we did have to get back to real life the next day.

While everyone else slept, I drove home on a different route to avoid the possibility of being taken on a tour of downtown Louisville again. It was uneventful, other than driving through some eerie patches of Kentucky forest that had been bowled down by recent tornadoes. An hour from home, we stopped at one of our favorite Chinese buffets (’cause I don’t care what time we get home from vacation, I refuse to make dinner. REFUSE!). Peter’s fortune was hilarious, everyone was stuffed with delicious food, and we went to bed early, grateful for the chance to take a day trip (it very literally was a 24 hour trip for the kids and I), and glad for the experience of going as a family.

“Someone from your past has returned to steal your heart.” Peter’s two. 😂

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True stories of raising children, remodeling, braving the elements and plotting out life, all while living on a humble acreage in central Indiana.

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