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Dollywood, Dale Hollow Lake, and eleven houseguests

Yep, that title is a wrap-up of my weekend!!!  Absolutely "my" kind of time. . .what a way to spend a summer weekend. . .especially when I am the hostess and don't have to pack anyone up or take any meals on the run!

First off, no pictures.  I had TONS (of course) but my camera fell to the bottom of the lake last night.  Memories are going to have to be enough this time.  It was terribly upsetting to me. . .one of my friends was handing it from the dock to my husband who was on the boat and it slipped.  It was gone that fast.  That was an extremely hard loss for me.  In rank of importance, God is first and foremost, than my family, my photos, etc.  I think the only thing that is more important to me than my camera/pictures would be my computer.  Sigh.  Accidents happen.  At the time my youngest had his life jacket off for some reason and I was helping him zip it back up and truthfully, that was the Holy Spirit's way of saying to me "a person did not just fall to the bottom of the lake.  Get over it."  W-a-y easier said than done (it's a brand-new camera!!!) but guess what?  The sun still set last night and rose this morning. . .life marches on whether you want to move forward or not.  Sigh.

Yes, we've done everything listed in the title of this post beginning at 6 a.m. Friday and ending at 7:30 this (Sunday) morning.  Whew!  What a whirlwind.  Better be good at my journaling since I don't have the pictures to remind me of this adventure.

The four kids and I left the house at 6:10 a.m. Friday morning to make the 2.5 hour drive to Dollywood to meet up with my sister, her two children, our friend Jenn and her two children.  They had stayed in Pigeon Forge the night before and had asked us to come over then but it was just too much so we made the drive Friday morning.  All the kids are the same ages, which makes it perfect for us!  First off, we got all 8 kids together at the entrance for a picture (sad face here) and I think it turned out great. . .and I was glad we did it then because there was never another moment they were all 8 together and in a good mood.  . .you know how it is.  We let the two older boys (both 11) go off together with my watch and asked them to meet us again at 12. . .thought we'd re-assess if we could let them go off on their own again after that.  My sister took my youngest and her youngest (Frederick and Susan) to do their rides and Jenn and I ended up with four girls.  Turns out two of the girls like the big roller coasters and two do not so we split that group up too.  Time just flew!  We met back up at noon, boys were fine on their own, all groups were good to go, so we got a snack and split back up with a 4 p.m. meeting time.  My sister and Jenn eventually went to see a show so the other 6 and I did a few things together. . .met back up, my sister took 5 kids home because they were tired and "done" and Jenn and I closed the park down with the other three.  Knowing we were heading out on the boat the next day I had already done grocery shopping on Thursday but had forgotten the hamburgers and hotdogs (?!?!?) so we made 10:30 p.m. stop at Wallyworld to pick that stuff up rather than heading out before the lake Saturday morning.

When we got home at 11 p.m. my sister had met up with two of her friends and three of their children and they were all already bedded down for the night.  Weird, huh?  I only knew the one friend and none of the kids. . .there were people sleeping all over my house I didn't even know!  Ha!  I LOVED it!!!  We had enough beds/sofas for the adults but almost all kids ended up on floors or outside in the tent.  Jenn and I ended up staying up until 2 a.m. visiting. . .

6:30 a.m. Saturday morning everyone was up and at 'em!!!  Wow, that night was QUICK :)  I had already put all the breakfast food out the night before so luckily everyone in the house were able to eat and all before I rolled out of bed - ha!  Yep, 6:24 a.m. is apparently over-sleeping with this crowd.  To be fair, it was really 7:30 "their" time.  Two nights in a row with less than 5 hours of sleep for me -- that hasn't happened in AGES.

We left the house about 8 a.m. with three vehicles full of people :)  My father-in-law leaves his boat down here near us so we can use it and my sis & co. rented a pontoon boat for the day.  Eventually we all made it to the lake with supplies for an entire day on the lake!  No kids lost or people unaccounted for {smile}.  6 adults, a 17-yr old, 10 children ages 5-11.  Whew!  Life jackets were put on appropriate boats and we were off for the day.  Tom's friend and his two little boys (4 & 7) met up with us on the lake too so Tom had a little man company. . .I can't thank Scott enough for spending his day with us!  I think he thought maybe we were a little crazy, but I already know we are...

Tom (and Scott) would take groups of kids out on the lake to ski and tube while we hung back with the rest of the kids, jumping off the top of the pontoon or going down the slide.  We had sandwiches for lunch, snacks all day, and then grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, and sausage for dinner.  $225 + $60 in gas and oil (for the pontoon rental) was WELL WORTH IT for all that entertainment for the kiddos.

We had one incident where my niece got her leg caught in the tube while they were playing with it near shore and it flipped over on top of her.  The life jacket that we were insisiting the kids wear at all times really kept that situation from becoming more traumatic. . .it literally helped her to keep her head above the water while the tube was caught on her leg, pushing her down.  Eventually we had to cut the handle off the tube that was stuck on her leg.  We had NO issues with getting the kiddos to wear their jackets after that. . .I pointed out how quickly accidents happen.  Our kids are used to it, but many times other families who don't spend a lot of time on the lake don't realize the importance of life jackets and aren't strict about wearing them.  Our state law says that if you are under the age of 12 and the vessel is moving, you MUST be wearing a life vest. . ..we just leave out the phrase "and the vessel is moving" when we discuss this law with our children.  We always have the Lord to thank for our physical safety and protection all day every day.

The boat rental was due in at 6 p.m. and that time came upon us so quickly.  It did not feel like we had been on the lake for 8+ hours at all!  Tom decided to keep our boat out for a little longer so one car went home with the tired kids and I took a group to the beach and Tom and Jenn took three of the girls out for one more round of skiing and tubing.  They got back about 7  and the four that had been with me (we have a max of 9 people on our vessel) went out for another run and I brought those three girls home.  The first group was already showered and changed with laundry started!  Snacks and cocktails were out and the adult women stayed up again until about 11 p.m. enjoying our time together.  The second night of a full house was a little more difficult since the kids were soooo tired and not so excited about sleeping on floors or outside on the ground.  But again, they were so tired that once they did pass out, they were out!

This morning Tom had to leave for work at 5:30 a.m. (big project due Tuesday) and everyone else needed to get back home by early afternoon.  They live 300 miles away so breakfast was prepared and on the table by 7 a.m. (yea!  I had a egg casserole, biscuits, and fruit all out and ready by then -- I was very proud of myself for that!) and they were on their way back home by 7:30.  Margaret didn't even get up until 8:30. . .she didn't get to say good-bye to anyone but obviously needed some beauty rest if she slept through a dozen people leaving the house within two hours' time!

The kids and I went to church (and the message was letting things go - ha!) and then Thomas had a Sunday School lunch to attend at a local Mexican restaurant since next week is promotion Sunday.  Tom ended up meeting us there so the five of us just sat at a different table so he could have time with his group.  I thought that was so nice of his teachers to do that!  They also made a cross out of craft sticks and glued beads all over the front and put magnets on the back in class today.  When Thomas showed it to me he said "I can hang this in my locker at school".  Wow.  I'm so impressed with him.  I was thinking "great, another magnet for the fridge" and he's thinking about how proud he is of his Savior and the craft he made that he wants to hang it in his locker at school!  How cool.  Yea God!

Well, I have a law class to finish up this week and at least one final that I know of next week -- maybe two.  The county we live one mile from starts school tomorrow -- my kids still have two weeks of summer break left.  I have really enjoyed this year -- nice and HOT and lots of time spent with family and friends.  I love the routine of school, but this time is special too.  Memories in the making.  A new camera will have to wait -- it's been an expensive summer and I didn't get a teaching job like I was hoping either so I will continue to wait on the Lord in this area of my life -- I'm positive that His plans are much bigger and more unexpected than I can currently imagine.  And now I have this weekend journaled in more detail than I probably would have done with my 100 or so pictures. . .


  1. Great post Jenni! I love pictures, but there is just something about using you mental pictures that makes it special...kind of like a book is always better than the movie! I know it would be very hard for me if I lost my new camera too, great perspective though, it's hard to think positive in that ype of situation.


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