Typically, Trevor and I would spend our anniversary with a quiet dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, the Holly Hill Inn. This year, we decided to go a different route. Actually, we didn't have a babysitter for the weekend, so we were stuck with the children. (I kid! I kid. I mean, we didn't have a sitter, but we didn't feel stuck with our offspring. Not entirely...) We wanted to do a short weekend getaway, so we decided to head to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Why, you may ask? Chattanooga actually has a lot of kid-friendly activities, and it's a fairly short drive from Lexington. Where better to celebrate our love than the Noog?
Trevor took Friday off work, and we left around 8:30 AM. The drive wasn't terrible; the kids listened to music for a while, and we eventually let them turn on their portable DVD players. T and I were thrilled that they were wearing headphones because that meant we got to listen to our own music and actually talk to each other without cartoon voices blaring in our ears.
We stopped for lunch at a McDonald’s with a play place; our kids managed to get sweaty in mere seconds. That was great, though, because it allowed them to burn some energy before getting back into the car. Sadly, the battery in Dallas’s DVD player went kaput, so he and Lottie shared a player for the rest of the trip. I was proud of them for sharing so nicely, but I was pretty bummed to have to listen to Toy Story 2 in the front seat. Ah, technology is a cruel mistress.
As soon as we arrived in the Noog, we headed straight for the zoo. I’m used to the Lincoln Park Zoo and the Brookfield Zoo, and that’s definitely not what we got. I wondered if we had made a mistake by making it our first stop. The Chattanooga Zoo is small, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was really well put-together and organized. There weren’t any big animals like tigers and lions, but there were neat things like red pandas and a capybara, the world’s largest rodent. (I found myself fascinated with the capybara, by the way, which is odd because I really hate rodents. Hate them. I would sleep in a bed full of spiders and snakes before I would look twice at a rodent. Or birds. Birds are rodents with wings.) The kids enjoyed the zoo, and it was small enough that we didn’t need to bother with strollers. As I watched the kids navigate around, I realized that although they liked the animals a lot, they seemed to really enjoy exploring all of the pathways that lead from exhibit to exhibit. For them, it wasn’t about the destination at all: it was all about the journey. Wow. It’s humbling to realize that my kids tend to be smarter than I am.
After the zoo, we checked in at our hotel, the Chattanoogan, and took a walk to find dinner. Downtown Chattanooga is nice, but it didn’t seem to be hoppin’ on a Friday night. We seemed to be in more of a business district, though, so maybe we didn’t see all of the action. We had ourselves some delicious barbeque and strolled back to the hotel. Lottie and I bunked together the first night, and Dallas bunked with his daddy. As Lottie would say, “Girl partners! Yay!” I showed Lottie how to really live the high life by watching TV in bed. We don’t have a TV in our bedroom at home, and we never will, so lying in bed and watching TV – at night to boot! - was quite the treat for her. When it was time for sleep around 8:30 PM, I turned out the light, which should be the general clue for “go to sleep”, but Lottie didn’t get the hint. She rolled around on her bed, talked to herself, talked to me, and even repeatedly asked me questions: “Mommy, why do you wear a sleep mask?” (Because you insist on sleeping with a light on.) “Mommy, why did you just move your arm?” (Because I’m more comfortable this way.) “Mommy, what day is today?” (It’s Friday, babe.) “No, Mommy. Is today the day we go to Chattanooga?” (Yes, honey. We’re in Chattanooga.) “Hey, Momma, why did you just move your pillow over?” (I don’t know. It just feels comfortable to me.) “Momma, should we sleep in the same bed?” (No way, sister.) At this point, I finally told Lottie that I was going to sleep and I suggested she do the same. Shockingly, she did.
The next morning, we had breakfast at the hotel before heading to the Creative Discovery Museum. If you have children and are within driving distance to Chattanooga, you need to immediately get in your vehicle and get thee to this haven of children’s fun. Seriously, this place is AH-MAY-ZINGGGG. I really think we could have spent two days here. Every single thing at the museum is hands-on and just begging to be touched. Anything your kid is into will be here: dinosaurs, bugs, art, music, water-play, climbing, and pretend-play. While we were there, my kids climbed towers, slid down slides, sailed little boats, dug for dinosaur fossils, did art projects, and looked at a beehive. That was all within an hour or so. The kids were having a ball there, but we decided to head out to the aquarium after lunch. That was probably a mistake. The kids were exhausted and cranky because we had ripped them away from their nirvana, and they weren’t too thrilled about the fish. (Lottie did get to pet a stingray; it only took her about thirty minutes to muster up the courage to do it.) Don’t get me wrong: the Tennessee Aquarium is HUGE. There are two separate buildings that house exhibits and a third building with an IMAX theater. It’s a pretty stunning set-up. When we realized that the kids didn’t want to see any more jellyfish or coral, we took them to a short movie at the IMAX. It was a 3D movie about saving orangutans and elephants from poachers and deforestation. The message was great, but I’m not sure how much the kids actually saw. Neither of them wore the 3D glasses. Sigh. At the end, though, Dallas told me that he had a lot of fun at the movie and could we PLEASE do it again sometime. So weird. We ended up going back to the children’s museum for another hour or so before having dinner and calling it a night.
The second night, we swapped kids. I don’t mean we picked new kids out from a selection in the lobby, though that might be interesting. Dallas bunked with me, and Lottie got some time with her daddy. Dallas was a much better roommate, in my opinion. He didn’t talk as much as Lottie, and he contentedly played his Leapster until I told him it was time for lights-out. He did try to work his magic, though, to sleep in the bed with me. First he told me he thought he would just sleep in the bed with me. When that was denied, he invited me to sleep in his bed. I gently declined that lovely invitation as well and convinced him that we would both sleep better in our own beds. There was one request I couldn’t overlook, though. “Mommy, would you put a light on in the room so I can see you whenever I want to?” C’mon. Who’s going to say no to that? That’s a boy who loves his momma.
We left Sunday morning after breakfast. We had to get home in time to drop the kids off with the grandparents so T and I could really celebrate our anniversary by seeing the new and final Harry Potter flick. The trip home was not as magical as the rest of the Noog had been. Dallas threw a fit at Arby’s in Jellico, TN, because he couldn’t eat the French fries, Lottie cried because Dallas was crying, and I cried because they were both crying. Trevor didn’t cry, but that’s because he bolted down his lunch and left his weepy family in a booth while he got gas. We also realized that we had left our backpack/diaper bag in the Noog. Damn you, Jellico. Our life was peachy until we met the likes of you!
All in all, it was a really fun weekend. I love watching my kids see new sights and explore new places. They’re smart and funny and curious about everything. What more could I ask for? Sometimes I wonder if it's worth all the drama and the hell of traveling with two little kids, especially when I invariably end up in tears. It tends to be a lot less fun for me, but I suppose that will change and get easier. And just about the time I start to worry and stress less will be when neither kid wants to vacation with us at all.