Dale Hollow!

Well, we had a wonderful vacation to Dale Hollow as usual. The best part about going to Willow Grove (on Dale Hollow Lake), is it doesn’t really feel like we are going somewhere- it just feels like a second home. And it is casual, and we don’t feel pressure to see all the sights and have a schedule, because we have already seen it all before. So we truly can just relax and have fun. There were some new things this year, though. I think I am just going to be lazy and go the bullet point route for this blog post, though, followed by the massive photo dump :). 

  • Chad, Lesa, Casey, and Kyle rented a houseboat this year! That was kind of neat to have a houseboat to hang out on during the day, plus we had an island already reserved every day-no searching. Which actually turned out to be a good thing, because the water was extremely high, which meant there weren’t a lot of islands. 

-Jack mastered using his brakes on his pedal bike (after he blew out his Crocs using his feet as brakes)! 

  • Josie and Jack both knee boarded for the first time! They did great. Josie really loved it. Jack liked it while he was going, but every time we would go to stop, the front of the board would go under (because he weighs so little) , and that kind of scared him. 

-We got to take the kids to the waterfall by Sulfur creek for the first time! I remember going every year when we were little, so I was excited for them to get to see it. Josie LOVED it. Jack wasn’t super impressed. 🙂

-Daddy also showed us all a new waterfall, one someone had told him about down Mitchell Creek. It is not as big as the other one, but it is neat because you can climb to the top, and there is a cave with an underground stream. Pretty cool! Jack was really impressed by that! 

  • This was Kinley’s first trip to Dale Hollow- and she loved every minute of being in the water. 🙂

  • We all four spent the night on Grammy and Pappy’s new cruiser, which the kids thought was awesome. 🙂

  • Our friends from church came to spend the day on our last Saturday- we are so glad they did! Our kids and their kids are great buddies, and they were so excited to see each other. We took them to the Mitchell Creek waterfall, and then we went to eat at Mitchell Creek boat dock. 

It was a great trip, and none of us are ever ready to be home, even after we’ve been there for 2 whole weeks-that’s the mark of a good trip, really. 🙂 I read a ton of books, we had fun playing cards with Nana and Shshr and Josh and Justin, the kids love getting to play with their cousins (Beth, Alec, Wyatt, and Katie Ann), and it is just so nice to be outside and enjoy the beautiful lake. 

So now for the photo dump…..

Eating breakfast outside….

Having a deep conversation 🙂

Yummy dinner Jake grilled one night

Swimming with Tommy

Jack delivering Josie’s snack to Ta’s boat by float 

Getting ice cream at the dock with Grammy and Pappy

Riding in Grammy and Pappy’s new boat! 

My mom got a wild hair and bought this humongous floating island! It was a lot of fun. 🙂

Let us out of here! 

All worn out…

Riding on Chad’s boat

My handsome husband



These next pictures are all from the Sulfur Creek waterfall:

Josie was so excited to climb to the little ledge behind the waterfall. 

Kinley LOVED the water, and was not at all phased by how cold it was!

Josie was just as enthralled by the waterfall as I was when I was her age. 🙂

We all enjoyed this floating island! 

One night we all went to Sunset Marina to eat: 

The kids always want to ride this little rocking boat thing

Do you know how many pictures it takes to get a decent one with 4 kiddos, two that are under two?  A LOT!

I love this one, because Lane and Jack are ALWAYS up to something. 🙂

Alec turned 13 while we were at the lake! I cannot believe he is that old….

And we actually got our whole family in a picture, no small feat. 

One night we cooked out on the houseboat-the kids had a blast night swimming and making s’mores after dinner. They used glow sticks for diving sticks. 🙂 Jack would have done that for HOURS if we would have let him! That was the same night we all stayed on the cruiser. 

Jack learning to kneeboard!

Josie kneeboarding!

Mitchell Creek waterfall- more of a cascades, really. It was fun to climb to the top, though! 

Jack fished off the back of Josh’s boat forever. 🙂

Eating peanuts with Tommy-one of Jack’s favorite things to do while we’re camping! 

Josh and Kelsey played Memory with me and the kids- Josh was the Memory master! He skunked us all :). 

Shshr skiied! She lets her pull her at least one time every year, just to prove she can still do it. 🙂 I skiied a lot this year, too, but I have no proof. 🙂

Our kids were so excited to see their friends! 

The kiddos spent the night with Nana a couple of times-this was the last night. We said we should label this picture #technology. 🙂

We couldn’t have asked for a better trip! Can’t wait for next year…..:)

4 years, 5 months, a few days

Dear Jack,

What an exciting month you have had! It has been full of all kinds of “firsts” for you.

-You had swimming lessons with Mrs. Pam again, and you did absolutely wonderful! You were not afraid to jump off the side or the diving board, and you went under all the time with no problem at all. I was so proud of you!

-Since you had just learned to ride your pedal bike, I took you and Josie to the greenway to ride on the bike trail, and you of course had your first MAJOR crash. You scraped up your whole face really bad (thank goodness for helmets), but you were really brave and got back on your bike and finished riding the trail.

-Josie celebrated her birthday, and she chose to go ice skating for her birthday date. This was the first time either of you had been ice skating, and you both did really well. You were skating all by yourself by the time we left. 🙂

-Grandaddy passed away, and this was your first time to go to a funeral-you did really good, and asked a lot of really good and grown up questions. You are a really deep thinker.

-We surprised you kiddos with a road trip to the beach! Lots of first for you-first time to stay in a tent (we stayed in a tent the whole week), first time to go to a water park, first time to see the beach and the ocean, first time to go to an aquarium (the Georgia Aquarium). It was an awesome trip-some of your favorite parts were watching people crabbing, seeing the dolphin show at the aquarium, riding your bike on the beach, and playing in the waves.

-We celebrated 4th of July-we went to the parade with Ta and Tommy, and spent the evening at the Johnson’s fish fry. You got to play on a slip and slide, and we watched fireworks.

-Mommy and Daddy went to NY for a few days, and you go to stay with Nana and Grammy and Pappy. You had a blast, of course, and I think you would have just stayed with them forever if we would let you. 🙂

-Some of your favorites: overalls and “workout boy” shirts (sleeveless shirts), listening to audio books, riding your pedal bike, playing Sorry and checkers, being outside, swinging, playing with Josie, and goofing off with your Daddy.

-You are an old man when it comes to your food choices- you still prefer breakfast food to any other thing, and you love oatmeal, bananas, cereal (special K and Honey Bunches of Oats are your favorite), and sausage and biscuits. You would drink chocolate almond milk 24/7 if I let you.

-You crack us up, all the time. We never know what is going to come out of your mouth! You ask really good questions, and you are a big thinker- you are so much like your Daddy. You love maps, and are doing really good learning your letters, too. You are a smart little boy!

Little one, we love you so much, and it is so much fun to watch you grow and learn new things.  I also love that I can still catch glimpses of how you are the baby of the family- you love to cuddle, and you can’t sleep without your blankies and sleeping buddies, you still love footie pajamas, and you always want me to pat pat you to sleep. You still love milk, and you love to snuggle up as close as you can get to us. You will always be our baby. 🙂

Love you to the moon and back!


New York!

This spring, the company Jake works for in New York contacted him and wanted him to come to their office in July for a few days. He has been to New York before, in high school, but I have never been, and it has always been on my bucket list. So he agreed, and we went ahead and bought me a plane ticket, too. 🙂

So last week was the week. The kids spent the night with Nana on Tuesday night, and Mama Judy took us to the airport early on Wednesday morning. (The kiddos stayed with Grammy and Pappy all the other nights). We flew out, and got to New York around lunch time. Then we had the scariest car ride I have ever been on in my life. New York traffic + crazy cab driver = scary.

We got checked into our hotel- the Best Western on Bowery Street in China Town. One of the people Jake works with in NY had told us to eat lunch at The Egg Drop Cafe- the food was great, but it was SO tiny inside. (Which is common for NY restaurants, as I would come to find out!)

Then we went to Jake’s office, and we met all the people he works with-they are all really nice. This was his first time to meet them in person. I hung out and read while he worked. When we left, they gave us lots of suggestions for dinner, so we tried one out- Tacombi. It was truly authentic Mexican food, and the restaurant was basically just an alley way with a roof-they even had a food truck inside. Really cool, and really good food.

Thursday morning, Jake left for work, and I hung out at the hotel for a bit, and then I decided to venture out and explore. I had decided I would go to the MET, which meant I also had to figure out the subway system. After a little confusion, I figured out which train I would need to ride, and then found the station (that was the hardest part of the subway for me-finding the correct station on the streets- they are not always well marked). So I had my first subway ride up to the Upper East Side, and then walked by Central Park to the MET.

The MET was really neat. It was HUGE. There was no way I could have seen everything in just a day. So I wandered through it all and stopped and read about things that interested me. I paid special attention to the ancient Egypt section, because that is something that I teach at school. They also had a special exhibit on China, and they had all kinds of beautiful Chinese dresses-it was really interesting to look at and read about.

After I had wondered through there for several hours, I left and walked through a little bit of Central Park (just the edge, really) and did some window shopping on 5th Avenue before catching the subway back down to where Jake was working in Soho. (And again, some confusion on the subway, but I finally figured it all out. :P) 

I got some lunch at a yummy pizza place, and then went to see Jake for a little bit. I left his work, and caught the subway to Battery Park. I had intended to ride a ferry over to Ellis Island, but I got there just a little too late to catch the last ferry for that day. So I looked around the park a bit, then I decided to go see the Empire State Building, because Jake was going to be at his work really late (they were having a dinner after work hours) I caught the subway, got a snack and drink, then found the building.

I opted for the audio tour of the building, and I am so glad I did. It was  really interesting and intriguing. They build the whole building in only 11 months! I eventually made it to the top-the view was amazing, even if it was foggy. There were a ton of people on the top, but I was still able to see everything well, and get a few pictures.

After I left the Empire State building, I caught the subway back to SoHo, and went to Jake’s work. I had started raining when I got off the train, so I got a little wet, but not too bad. We hung out together at his work and played a card game with some of his work people while we waited for the rain to stop. It was fun. 🙂 Then we walked back to our hotel together. We stopped at Little Italy on the way and got some cannoli and hot chocolate to take back to the hotel. I was TIRED. Being a tourist is no joke- it is like a job! 🙂

Friday morning Jake’s work group was doing a community service project, painting a fence at a local park. I went with them and painted for a bit, and then I left to go to the Aladdin box office to buy us tickets for that night’s show. (This was really the top item on my NY bucket list-see a show on Broadway!) This was the day I REALLY figured out the subway system, and it actually all made sense. (Of course, the day before we left). I made it up to Times Square. There were SO many people up there!

I got our tickets, got some lunch, then took the train to Battery Park to go see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. This took the rest of the day, pretty much. The lines were really long to get through security and to get on the ferry, but it was very worth it. The ferry rides were wonderful- I could ride a ferry every day. We went first to Liberty Island, where the Statue of Liberty is.

I stayed for just a little while on this island, long enough to walk around the perimeter and get some pictures, and then I caught a ferry over to Ellis Island.

I stayed longer on Ellis Island, because it was really interesting to read about all the history and stories. I stayed until I was just tired-seriously, being a tourist is hard work. By the end of Friday, my legs were more sore than when I ran my half marathon-not joking, at all.

I caught the ferry back over to Battery Park, then took the subway back to Soho and walked back over to the hotel to get ready for the show. Jake got back from work, then we both took the subway back to Times Square to see Aladdin! This was the first/only time we really got to hang out in New York together. And I was glad he was with me to ride the subway at night-I never felt uncomfortable on the subway by myself, because there were always a TON of people, but the show was going to be over late, so I know I would have been nervous then if he wasn’t with me.

The show was great! There were  a couple of understudies playing, but the cast was still really good, and there were some neat special effects.

I really enjoyed my first show on Broadway-and the theater was beautiful.

After the show we caught the train back down to SoHo and went to a Cuban restaurant Jake’s work friends had recommended-it was really good. Then we went back to our hotel, packed up (because we had to leave our hotel at 6 the next morning), and went to sleep-it had been a loong day for both of us.

The next morning we got up, had a much less scary cab ride to the airport, and caught our plane back to Nashville.

Mama Judy picked us up, and we went to get the kiddos before heading back home to pick corn. 🙂 It was so good to see the kids. They were happy to see us, too, but I think they would have been just as content to stay with Grammy and Pappy. 🙂

Only bad part of the trip-Sunday morning, I realized that I left my glasses on the airplane. 🙁 Typical Brandy move!!

So my overall thoughts on New York:

-SO busy and fast paced, just like I’d heard

-Once I finally figured out the subway, I really liked it.

-Everything is so small in NY! I mean, the city itself is huge, but all the stores and restaurants and hotel rooms are tiny, small, and a bit claustrophobic. I missed the space of all the places in TN!

-NY is also, overall, a very dirty city.

-Comfortable shoes are a must- but I enjoyed being able to walk everywhere, or just catch a train. 

-It was an awesome place to visit and see, but I would not want to live there-and it is definitely not a place I would want to raise kids. (Now, we were just in Manhattan, so I don’t know about the other burros-they may be better for living and kiddos and such).

I’m so glad I got the opportunity to go, though! I had fun. I would have had more fun if Jake could have done the tourist thing with me, but now we can check NY off our bucket list since we have both seen it. 🙂


I had a productive morning in the kitchen! I made a sausage rice casserole, a Rotel chicken casserole, a meatloaf, and browned a pound of ground beef for stuffed bell peppers. I also put on a pot of chili for tonight, made Rice Krispy treats, and a batch of peanut butter balls. Then I peeled and cut 4 lbs of carrots (which will only last about a week around our house). Then I cleaned up the kitchen, and now I have 6 meals (which will actually stretch to about 10 with leftovers). Why don’t I do this more often?? I always think that after I have a marathon cooking session. 😛