It’s been a few weeks since the family returned from our summer vacation and as is the norm ‘round these parts, things have been busy, y’all.
I’ve been meaning to get this post written much sooner, but as my jewelry business continues to expand, I have found that I have less and less time for writing. Everything is a balance, right? I have made the decision to no longer refer to myself as a writer, because writers, well…they write, right? I’m more of a random storyteller these days, and right now I’m ok with that.
Back to vacation…
We switched it up a bit this year and decided not to go camping, the simple reason being that camping is a lot of flippin’ work. If you have ever torn down camp in the middle of the night during a monsoon and subsequently slept in a minivan with 4 kids for the remainder of the evening, you understand my point.
No, friends…this year we wanted to explore the idea of something that more closely resembled relaxation. That’s what a vacation is supposed to be like, right?
Kevin Bacon and I tossed around a few ideas, one of which included renting an Oceanside place in Maine. All at once I could see myself donning a floppy straw hat, meandering down to the pier every morning, eco-friendly reusable tote in hand, ready to score each day’s fresh-from-the-ocean catch. I like to fantasize like that. Normally my fantasies involve some incredibly bucolic scene of me running through fields of wildflowers or traipsing about in the forest with a bunch of critters, twirling and singing…oh wait, that’s a Disney movie. Never mind.
Truth be told I actually do this [the fantasizing, not the running and traipsing bits], and one might think it absurd as A] I am not an animated princess and B] reality will never match my fantasies. You’d think I’d find all of this upsetting, but I don’t. I like to refer to it as my “coping mechanism.” Ahem.
Other locations were suggested, but they included places I definitely do not fantasize about. Mostly this is due to the fact that swim suits would be required. As you may recall from an earlier post regarding my detectable lack of a thigh gap and corduroy, combined with the fact that I am basically a see-through albino who has gotten a sunburn through a car window, none of these places seemed like a super keen idea. Eat lobster, good. Look like a lobster, bad.
So we settled on a cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. It had everything we were looking for. You know…peace, quiet and shade. Lots and lots of shade.
Remember, we were trying to jump on the relaxation train this year. But life is a balance and there is almost always a trade off. We wouldn’t be putting in all of the work of camping, but we would have a longer car ride. A much, much longer car ride.
Reminiscing about last year’s vacation, I remember the “epic battle of the headphones” from the trip. All of the sudden I was starting to dread the impending car ride.
Naturally it occurred to me that I needed to come up with a solution to a problem that I had completely created in my head that hadn’t actually happened…yet.
I started dreaming up all kinds of excellent parenting ways of keeping 4 kids occupied on an 8 hour plus car ride. The optimist in me said “fun road games!! Healthy snacks!!” and all other sorts of nonsense like secret goodie bags filled with word search tablets. Please don’t roll your eyes, we have an over abundance of that here on the homestead.
Sisters and brothers, puh-leeze. Our kids range in age from 5-13. Do you know how impossible it is to find an activity everyone can agree on when they are in the same age bracket? Now try that with our merry band of misfits, confined to a small space, barreling down the highway for hours on end. Groan.
Electronics. Clearly electronics would be the answer to our prayers. They all have their own device [and headphones!!!] so they can all watch and play whatever their little hearts’ desire. And they can do it for hours on end at home [don’t judge] so how would it be any different on a long car ride?
Now I need to tell you that noise cancelling headphones are awesome, by the way. You don’t have to listen to 4 different videos / songs / games being played simultaneously. And yet…
The problem with the noise cancelling headphones is that the kids talk – and sing – really loudly with them on, oblivious to the fact that they are screeching at decibel levels guaranteed to make your eardrums bleed. They also do not have the added benefit of background music or vocals to assist in their vocal stylings. If you’ve ever wondered if any of your kids are tone deaf or can’t carry a tune, try this out and you’ll know right away. Science, people!
I decided that what someone really needs to come up with are noise cancelling microphones. Now that would be awesome. Think of it…you, 4 silent zombies and hours upon hours of interruption-free NPR.
I realize that there are some potential issues with this invention. Namely, the microphone itself would need to be picked up every time one spoke, in order to benefit from the noise cancelling and such. Kid’s fingers are already way overburdened, what with the heavy demand put upon them from texting and gaming. It seems really cruel and unusual to put one more thing on their plate. Hands-free was the only way to guarantee I didn’t tax their existing burden whilst maintaining a level of silence one might associate with a library.
So a headset was the next thought in the natural progression of things, but I nixed the idea because I don’t want them to be embarrassed by looking like Britney Spears in concert or an operator at Time-Life Books. I don’t want them to be embarrassed in public. I’d much rather hide behind this keyboard to accomplish that.
What I finally decided upon was an all-in-one motorcycle helmet type gadget, pictured below:
There are some technical and safety issues that still need to be hashed out…like, if you can’t hear them talk, how do you know if there’s an emergency…like what if they have to pee or they aren’t able to breathe?
A panic button would be an obvious solution to the problem, and I thought about modifying the design to incorporate a spinny, flashy thingy on the top that would go off if someone pressed a panic button. I don’t care how immersed you are in “Fresh Air with Terry Gross,” if you see flashing lights in your rear view mirror, they simultaneously get your attention while making your heart sink to the pit of your stomach.
I’ve been trying to pitch this idea to the fine folks at Apple, but they are not returning my phone calls and for the love of gravy I simply cannot understand why. I mean, this is WAY better than the bologna lint roller idea I had.
Hopes dashed for the i-helmet, vacation preparation went in to full swing.
As I have spent way too much time extolling [selling] you on the virtues [money to be made] of the i-helmet [potential investors, I’m talking to you!!] I will give you a quick synopsis of our actual vacation.
Oh who the heck am I kidding?
I woke up at 5:30 the morning of our departure to discover that the coffee pot had basically exploded, and with it had created both a sludgy swamp of coffee grounds on the countertop and a river of coffee across the kitchen floor leading all the way to the trash can. Had I not been so sleepy and had possibly been in better spirits, I might have realized what a great adult version of Candy Land this might have become. The humor was, however, completely lost upon me. And so I mopped the floor and cleaned the countertops. Adding to my frustration was the fact that I had left some important papers on the countertop for my mom to drop off at the school while we were away, and they were completely saturated in coffee. This wasn’t one of those “coffee ring on the paper” situations, this was a full blown “I tried to make this look like a historical document from 1751” situation. Nothing screams responsible parenting like turning in coffee soaked papers, but at least my mom had to drop them off, so she got to look like the crazy person, not me. Sorry, mom.
With the coffee mopped up and the kids and luggage packed up in the mini-v, we were on our way.
The craziest thing happened on the ride. Even without the assistance of the trusty i-helmet, the kids were awesome on the ride down. No bickering, no fighting over who sat where and no need for the drawing of the imaginary line down the middle of the seats so everyone keeps their hands to themselves. Not even one threat of pulling the car to the side of the road with promises of turning around and going home.
Tired but happy, we reached our destination. The cabin and its location were beautiful, but I immediately spotted a problem. They had the exact same coffee pot we had at home. I began thinking the coffee gods were laughing at me, punishing me for some past life java-related transgression and that I would be paying penance for some type of cosmic coffee karma. So be it. With a view like this, I could get over it.
We went on to spend a day and a half at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Let me stop here and say, if you think you know who Dolly Parton is, what with her big bleached-blonde hair, stiletto heels and her boobs, looking like a Backwoods Barbie, well you’d be partially correct. But there is so much more to this amazing human being than what you see on the outside. Spend an hour at the Chasing Rainbows Museum inside the park and try not to be inspired by this talented woman who has accomplished so much and comes from the most humble of roots. She gave back to where she came from and basically created an entire industry for her community. She has also created a children’s literacy program called the Imagination Library which has sent out over 40,000,000 free books to children in the US, Canada, the UK and Australia since 1996.
I won’t even begin to go in to her long list of professional awards and achievements, those alone could take up an entire blog post, but I will share this with you. She has received 46 Grammy nominations, tying with Beyonce for the most Grammy nominations for a female artist…ever. If that’s not impressive, your name must be Kanye.
Aside from the theme park, we rode an Alpine Coaster called “Goats on the Roof” [what is my deal with goats and vacation?], Kevin Bacon had his brand new Deering spiked by none other than Jack Hatfield himself, the kids caught crawdaddies in the creek and we cooked them up [sorry to my vegan and vegetarian friends, we all eat meat] and did a lot of pickin’ and grinnin’ on the back porch rocking chairs.
We drove down the main drag in Pigeon Forge and saw lots of things to do, the most intriguing of which was Biblical Dinner Theater. I think it could be both super impressive and really efficient if they could season your food with Lot’s wife and have the actor playing Jesus turn water in to wine. That, I would go see. Unfortunately the person who answered the phone when I called to ask if these things were included with dinner and the show sort of sat there in stunned silence. Oh well, maybe next time.
They say all good things come to an end [hopefully at some point this blog post will] and when it was time to pack up I did so grudgingly. Aside from some pesky raccoons getting in to our trash every night, the trip was everything a vacation should be and more.
But what of the ride home?
Well, I need to tell y’all, West Virginia is incredibly close to my heart, and we drove through it on our way back home to Ohio. It is where my people come from [via Virginia, Ireland and Scotland]. I spent a lot of summers there as a child on my great-grandparent’s farm. But that turnpike. Good gravy, West Virginia. Get it together, already. I should not have to pay $2 every couple of miles for the privilege of driving 35mph on a one lane highway, traffic backed up as far as the eye can see.
This did make the kids a bit irritable [that and having to fight over one charger], but also gave them the opportunity to really pay attention to the outdoor advertising. “Totally Nude, Full Bar!!” billboards were met in wide-eyed disbelief. Scrambling to explain this to an 11 year old boy, a sign from the heavens literally appeared before us. “Appalachian Bible College, this exit.” “See,” I said. “It all evens out, kiddo. You’ve got porn and you’ve got Jesus.” “Life is a balance.”
“But April, what about the hoecakes?” Friend, I am glad you asked…
Inspired by southern cuisine and racy billboard ads for truck stop tittie bars, I feel it is high time I capitalize on the objectification and sexualization of women…I don’t want to open a truck stop strip club though.
I want to open a bakery and call it “Hoecakes.”
I really feel that a bakery is the missing component in the scantily-clad food service industry. After all, anyone can schlep wings in short shorts, but when’s the last time you had pastries sold to you by a chick in pasties? If it is good enough for Hooters, Twin Peaks and The Tilted Kilt, then it’s good enough for me.
And if you believe anything you’ve just read in the last few paragraphs, y’all are just plumb crazy…it did give me amusing things to think about while stuck on the WV turnpike, though.
Family vacation, “I Will Always Love You.”
Peace, Love and Blessings to All,