“Just the two of us, building our castles in the sky…” (try not to picture the Austin Powers version)

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For the record, I am NOT against large families. CareerMom comes from a large family (7 kids), my pets come from large families…heck, even most of my parents (yes, you read that right) come from large families.

I, did not. And this is most likely what skews my views.

Despite being mostly an only child growing up, to say I was spoiled would be like saying Richard Simmons is a heterosexual. It just ain’t so.

But I did have my own room, and my own bathroom and generally speaking, I had my space. This is something relatively new here in America I think. If you listen to our parents talk about life growing up, they all slept one on top of the other in a one-room farmhouse and they shared a half-bath and fought over who got to be the first to take a “Shower” using the sun-warmed water in the outside hose. Our kids, on the other hand, are spoiled brats. They have their own rooms, and in many cases, their own bathrooms. They do this and that and they want for nothing.

Not true! (somewhat)

But one child or um…five children, it’s your prerogative right? Heck, if you want to move to Utah and live like the Duggers, that’s fine by me as long as you can afford them and can give them the attention each of them deserve.

This past weekend, I was able to see just how important that “give them the attention each of them deserves” is. I took MLI up to my mom’s house in Tennessee…just we fellers. My mom has a house on the banks of Little River. Where her place is, the river is about 30 yards across and for the most part you can wade out in it and jump from rocks, throw rocks, fish, swim, and get in a kayak without flipping. It’s just about perfect.

I picked him up after Summer Camp on Friday and deposited him in his booster seat in the back of my truck and his eyes lit up when he saw that Daddy has magically installed his Wii. Seeing it, he looked at me and said, “I can play it the whole way to Grammy’s?” Proudly, I said, “Yes you can.”

And he did. The whole 3.5 hours. It was magical. He played the Wii and I drove, enjoying the feel of that big V8 engine under my fingertips. I passed bumpkins, I pointed out cows and I listened to endlessly blissful music on my satellite radio. And there was no whining.

When we got to Grammy’s, we played in the river until it was too cool to stand it and then went in and had dinner. On Saturday we kayak’ed, caught more small-mouth Bass than I’ve ever caught in my whole life, and we generally had a good time…just the two of us.

And I learned something this weekend: Kids are different away from their siblings. There is no competition for toys, time or affection. They “converse” instead of whining and screaming. In short, they are a pleasure to be with and only during these “alone” times, do you really get to see what kind of person your little ones are becoming.

I am cornholio!And this is where my preference for a smaller family comes into play. Already, I’m wondering where I’m going to find the time to do this “x 3” when we have a little girl. I guess it’s just something you have to MAKE time for. CareerMom has a brother who has eight kids and is working on number nine and though he is the consummate family man, I’m sure there are times he wishes he could just grab one and take off like I did for the weekend.

Babies and toddlers are great, but let’s be honest, once the shine wears off, it’s just a lot of work. MLI is five now and I can honestly say that I really enjoy being with him now – with or without the Wii!

What child is this

rock city “Daddy, how much more minutes will it be until we get to grammy’s?”

“A long time honey.”

“But, how many minutes?”

“It’ll be about 124 minutes.”

“But that’s a really long time. I wished we lived right here.”

Here, being the middle of nowhere, somewhere between a little town in Georgia and another little town in Tennessee, up Hwy 411. If you’ve ever watched HGTV’s 100-Mile Yard sale show, then you can pretty much picture what this 2-hour stretch of lonely road is like. In fact, they have their own yard sale Web site, aptly named the “Hwy 411 Yard Sale.” Check out the link. (I find it interesting that all of the Points of Interest mentioned, have nothing to do with sales, or yards).

We did finally make it to grammy’s luckily, and after retrieving a bottle of clorox and a scrubby thingy and scouring her in-law suite downstairs until all of the spiders and various fungi had disappeared, we had a great weekend! Honestly, I can’t even begin to relax until my surroundings are clean!

We swam in the river and played with critters–catching four turtles and three crawdads (crayfish for your northerners).  We explored Tuckaleechee caverns (which I HIGHLY recommend!) and I only had to carry MLI for 1/2 a mile…500 feet underground (I think the closer you are to the center of the earth, the heavier you are because of gravity or something). We rode bikes and watched DVD’s. We ate junk food and took very unflattering pictures of daddy’s belly in his swimsuit. All in all it was a really good weekend.

As I drove back, I reflected on how different MLI is away from his brother. At home he’s constantly competing for attention; however, away from MLE, he’s actually a pretty calm, well-spoken, fun person to be around. It was good spending time away from home where I could actually see what his personality is becoming, rather than the hollering, near-incoherent whirling dirvish he is around his brother and his friends. It’s amazing really, the difference.

I’m going to have to make it a point, as the boys both grow, to spend time alone with each of them, in addition to all the things we’ll do together. Because I honestly enjoyed this weekend alone with him, which is more than I can say for any “Family” adventure we’ve all done together.

Of course though, all good things come to an end and it wasn’t 15 minutes after getting home on Sunday that I remembered WHY we went away in the first place.

Ah well, it was good while it lasted…yeah, it was REALLY good!

Well, there is the water, and caves and horses to ride…

Roadtrip I ‘m in a bit of a quandry. Help me out here.

My mom (one of them anyway) lives in Tennessee, in a tiny little town called Walland. It’s just on the other side of the mountains from Pigeon Forge and Dollywood and all of that tourist greatness.

She also lives right on Little River. In fact, I can wade right into the river from her back yard.

All of this adds up to a whole lotta reasons why I should go see her…more often. Except that it’s a 3.5 hour drive from Roswell and the drive isn’t especially kid-friendly. We’ve only been up there once this year, and that was in the spring, so we’re really due to go back up.

CareerMom is in New York this week on Thursday and coming back Friday afternoon and we’ve discussed my taking MLI and heading up to see my mom, leaving CareerMom and MLE at home. What really shouldn’t be that tough of a decision, is laden with choices:

Pros:

  • Getting a break from the constant attention needs of MLE (who is a HUGE daddy’s boy!)
  • Getting to spend some quality time with MLI playing in the river and drinking too much soda pop (what an “old” phrase) on the road trip
  • Seeing my mom
  • CareerMom suspects she left her glasses there last time and without them at night after she takes her contacts off, she can’t see much of anything. I could verify whether or not this is true and potentiall retrieve said glasses, thus potentially saving CareerMom loads on a new pair!

Cons:

  • The price of gas
  • The 7 hours of drive-time
  • My mom really wanting to see MLE since he’s “the baby” and arguably, quite the draw from a personality standpoint

Frankly, the price of gas isn’t THAT big a deal, but I felt I should throw it in regardless. And admittedly, a huge thing for me is that I feel guilty leaving CareerMom at home to deal with MLE by herself all weekend. At least when I’m home too, we can switch off for a few moments of sanity.

Whaddya think? Suck it up and take a road trip, or stay home and keep CareerMom sane?

The non-southerner’s guide to the south

dollywoodThough I was born in Monterey, CA, thanks to my father being in the Army, I’ve lived almost my entire life in the deep south–mostly Alabama–the place Leonard Skynard immortalized back in 1974, the year after I was born. My best friends growing up listened to country music, though I probably hunted and fished more than most of them, and I’ve driven a pickup truck pretty much since I purchased my first house and realized that you can’t tote sheetrock in a sports car (I had a 240SX).

Despite all that, I’ve never really fit the redneck profile that so many non-southerners hold so dear, thanks in no small part, to the media. And truth be told, most of the people I know from the south, aren’t like that either (that includes you DN!)

But those people do exist, as I found out on my recent trip to Dollywood.

Dollywood is located in Pigeon Forge TN, which is touted as the most visited tourist attraction in the country. Pigeon Forge is also right smack dab in the middle of the Great Smokey Mountains, in the middle of Tennessee, in the middle of the south…

Do you see where I’m going here?

My mom and her husband moved to a town just outside Knoxville, TN about 14 years ago. This year, for whatever reason, they purchased season tickets to Dollywood and with those tickets came some 1/2 off tickets for guests. When we went up this past weekend, they  suggested we all head on over to Dollywood for an afternoon of fun and frivolity.

Now, anyone who knows anything about me, knows that I abhor crowds. I’m that really good looking guy standing just outside the crowd (holding a beer) at parties. I don’t do large concerts. I don’t like to sit next to people I don’t know at church. Heck, I don’t even like answering the door at home if it’s someone I don’t know. People just make me uncomfortable! Despite all this, I’ll do just about anything for my kids, and so we all drove over the mountain (literally) and went to Dollywood on Saturday.

I can now report, with great certainty, that the people that Jeff Foxworthy jokes about, do actually exist, in a-plenty and they apparently love them some Dolly Parton!

When I wasn’t squirming in shame for the aged Wal-mart rejects working the kiddie rides and saying things like, “We’d like to thank you for riding the “Lucky Ducky” and please enjoy your visit to Dollywood,” I was dodging sweaty, plus-sized, halter-top models and doing my best to stare down Bubbas determined not to deviate from their path while walking five across and taking up the whole avenue!

Don’t get me wrong, on the whole, these people are the salt of the earth. When aliens finally figure out we’re more tasty than we are smart, I’m robbing the closest gun store and heading for the hills, where I’ll slip into my best southern drawl and where me and my family will hunker down until it’s all over. But I gotta admit, the stereotype isn’t completely without merit!

So if you’re planning a trip to Dollywood anytime soon, gimme a holler. I’ll be happy to give you the lowdown on the 1/32% of the park that we saw before the kids got too hot and tired, forcing us to beat an early retreat back to our oasis on the Little River.

Oh, and for all you Tennessee fans out there: ROLL TIDE!