2015 Road Trip Summary: June 24 — July 12, 2015

2015 Road Trip: June 24 — July  12, 2015

Road Trip 2015, Day 1: June 24 2015 (Little Rock, AR to Jackson, TN)
A good road trip always begins with a car load of kids, a 7 page packing list, 2 sets of parents that want to meet you somehwere along the trip and friends crazy enough to want to come with you.  The car load of kids we already had.  The packing list isn't new but I sure don't recall ever having one that was 7 pages long.  Despite that list, I will try to keep you posted on things that we have forgotten, have to buy or need to replace on our trip (if you will remember Robby averages losing 2 pairs of sunglasses on our road trips-he even broke one on our 4 day trip to Branson.  I should probably buy stock in a sunglasses company.)  My folks are going to meet us at the end of our journey and Robby's folks are going to meet us near the beginning.  And finally, the Wilsons called early this year wanting to plan a trip and soon they were signed up for this road trip.  They never changed their mind despite our marathon hotel booking sessions and our 4 foot map marked with pins of each and every stop that we required them to memorize. 
If you would like to follow along with us we will be traveling through Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Canada, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee.  Keaton and Whitman will be the only Dennies seeing new states on this adventure but all the kids have been so excited for days about this trip and I have answered a zillion and twelve questions about this trip. 
Also for days, I have been packing and packing and making list after list.  Packing for a road trip is quite the undertaking for any family but when you add a few more kids than average and throw a van without a back seat then it is really a challenge.  Let me briefly run down how we manage our packing....
Starting up front: I have my bag of magazines, papers and candy sitting at my feet and between Robby and I we have two ice chests.  One ice chest is full of drinks and another one has everything we need for a picnic (cheese, turkey, cheese sticks, mustard, dip, grapes, jelly).
Moving to the front seat: In front of the seat, is a large ice chest packed full of extra food.  Under the front seat is a bin with an extra change of clothes (we only pack 2 pairs of clothes, plus this extra and the clothes that we have on-that means lots of laundry).  Beside that is our bin of food needed for a picnic (bread, plates, table cloth, chips, etc.) and next to that is a snack bin that I can grab fairly easily.  Also on the floor by the door is the second small trash can (one is by Robby and another near Anderson) and our diaper bag.  Sitting on that seat is Robby's backpack, a small box of diapers and wipes and a box of food that I wasn't able to pack away in our bins. 
Now the second row (Whitman and Graham):  Beside Whitman is 7 jackets shoved in a tiny pocket and at his feet is his pack n play (hopefully it will fit in every hotel bathroom!)  Between Graham and Whitman is their bucket of toys and under then is lots of diapers and a box of kid clothes.  Also under them is a tiny bin filled with hats and glow sticks.  (Yes, glow sticks-once I hauled 3 cans of spray paint for 3000 miles so glow sticks aren't that strange.)  Finally under that row is Robby's bin of cords-cords for phones, cords for kindles, cords for computers, cords for cameras, cords for his fan-enough cords to circle the van twice!
The third row (Anderson and Campbell):  Between Anderson and Campbell is their bucket of toys.  Everyone's bins are pretty much the same-clipboard, mad libs, colored pencils, pencils, some stuffed animals, the girls have their baby dolls, matchbox cars, trains for Whitman, a book, some scavenger hunts and sunglasses.  Under that row is floatees for when we go swimming and the final box of kid clothes (I don't know what I will do when they outgrow 2 bins for clothes).  Next to that box is a small bin filled with headphones and then we have the "extra box box."  What is the "extra box box" you ask?  Well, it has our passport books, scissors, duct tape, laundry detergent, a football, mini frisbees, sharpie marker, quarters and clothes pins (to close the hotel drapes shut). 
Finally, the last row (Reagan and Keaton):  They have thie box of toys between them and Keaton has a stroller under her.  The bin of my clothes and Robby's bin of clothes goes under this row along with sleeping bags (someone always has to sleep on the floor but that is a treat for my crew!)  Between Keaton and Reagan are also their beach towels (everyone has one) for them to cover up with if they get cold. 
And that leaves the trunk space: an umbrella stroller is all that fits back there and that is with the wheels smashed into the seat!  Its all works and I do believe that we use pretty much every available inch of this car!
Now, let's get started on this day: After staying up until 2 last night, we finally decide that we didn't have time to make our rice krispy treats (a Dennie vacation staple) so we would wake up early this morning to make them.  We woke up "early" and stumbled to the kitchen to find that I had let Reagan eat all of my rice krispies.  Robby went to work disappointed about having no rice krispy treats on our trip as I started to wake up the kiddos.
My Graham was the first one up and everyone else woke up pretty easily.  They knew that today was a big day and there would be lots to do.  We had our breakfast and tried our best to finish off our yogurt that we have way too much of and if I would have known that we had a whole gallon of milk in the fridge, I would have encouraged more milk! (I ended up freezing my left over yogurt and gallon of milk-won't hurt anything and worth a try.) 
We read a bit during lunch and then started on a few chores.  The kids are so willing to help when it comes to leaving on a trip.  Everyone made their beds, helped with laundry, picked up the toy room and even pulled a few weeds before we loaded up for the day.
Half of everyone thought we were leaving on the trip right then without Robby and the others were confused that I didn't have the big van and we were just all cramming in the mini van.  Robby had taken the big van to work so we could pack last night and the kids wouldn't get into it all today. 
Our first stop this morning was at Barnes and Nobles for the summer reading program.  The big 4 had all read 8 books so they received a free book.  Our time at the bookstore was so painless and easy that I seriously looked inside of the stroller just to make sure that Whitman was siting in there (he was.)  You were supposed to be in first grade or up to receive a book but I did let Campbell participate anyway....but that left Keaton out.  She was none to pleased about this and told me "I am so mad at you for not letting me buy a book."  For a second I did feel bad but when I turned over a tiny paper back book and saw the price tag of 4 dollars (the same thing my cheese whiz cost for this trip) I no longer felt bad and knew that I would make Daven Ramsey proud...and after all, we do have an excellent local library system-all the books you want for free!
Then the gas light in Robby's car came on and I thought that I would be a good wife and get him some gas so he wouldn't have to deal with that on the Monday morning after we came back.  First pump declined my sale when I tried to punch in our rewards number.  Then it took my rewards number but didn't take my credit card.  Second pump didn't take my first credit card nor my second.  Then I went in and had the man just do 30 dollars of gas-hopefully that will be enough for him to get everyone dropped off and the entire crew to Family Farm when we come back.
When we pulled in to Beebee's place, Whitman said "candy? candy?"  And even though Beebee was in a new room the kid didn't take too long to find her candy bucket and completely empty it. (Pops, you need to bring more candy!)  Beebee was in a decent mood and our visit was relatively calm (Whitman was too busy eating candy to cause much trouble.)
Then was headed to Nonna's house.  We were Nonna's fourth visitors today (Grannymom and Grandpa, a carpenter, a blind lady-a lady who installs blineds who is in fact blindish and us).  The little girls made a menu for lunch and spent a crazy long amount of time asking us what we wanted to eat and drink.  I was asked about my drink order at least 14 times and eventually just had to pour myself a drink. 
Lunch was good and the kids and I worked on some of our National Park book before cleaning up some and heading home.  It will be a bit before we see Nonna and Pops even though they will be coming to meet us when we are back in Tennessee. 
Once at home, we had about 2 hours (Robby was home a few minutes early and was already mowing).  The kids all had showers and changed their clothes while I vacuumed and tried to load up some more.  Then I had a shower after Robby so we could start the last bit of laundry.  When we had about an hour left, we fed the kids some pizza and started working on the rice krispy treats.  What a mess-I was in a hurry and those treats were just nightmarish.  We finally finished-they aren't wrapped all cute like they have been in the past but the rice krispy treats were made and Robby could leave the state a happy man!
The little girls were looking out the window and saw the Wilsons drive up.  I had been running back and forth loading the final few things into the car while Robby played tetris on his computer.  Ha!  Actually, his work email had gone crazy so he was dealing with a crisis.  The Wilsons did run home to get a spare key for us to put in their car and we gave them one of ours.  Then we we hit the road at 4:16.  I have never left on a trip as hot and sweaty as I was-from now on I am going to let Robby do all of the heavy lifting and loading and unloading of the van.
.We were just a few miles down the road when Anderson shouted "the adventure begins!"  The adventure was pretty tame on the road to Memphis.  Campbell and Keaton snoozed some while the others watched Horton Hears a Who.  I worked some on this blog and looked at the maps for the next few days. 
We did pull out our Little House on the Prairie movies.  We started the series last year when we went to De Smet, SD to see the Ingalls Homestead and once we made it home we put the movies away until our next road trip.  I believe that we are on the 4th season and the kids were so excited when we started it. 
Our first potty stop was around Earl after 2 hours of driving.  Campbell had been asking about pottying for awhile (they have to ask us twice before we take them seriously-which will probably come back to bite us!)  Layne was happy that we stopped too and before too long we were back on the road.  I had given the kids all a filled water bottle a bit before we stopped so everyone was happy to get back into the car to finish off their water (it had some lemonade in it).  A water bottle in the hands of every Dennie child may not have been such a good idea-Whitman does just have a cup but he guzzles his cupfuls in seconds and then looks over at Graham's partially full bottle and asks for more (at least he hasn't thrown his cup at us yet.) 
About 10 minutes after our first potty stop, Keaton and Campbell were asking for another potty stop.  We held them off for as long as possible so we all pulled off again and they hurried in (even though we only had about 40 minutes left to drive until our destination).  Everyone ran into the bathroom and I stayed in the van with Whitman-that was a mistake!  Last rest stop Robby let him out and he did perfectly getting back in the van.  He was mad, mad, mad at me and told me all about it the entire next leg of the trip.  He would scream "no, no, no" or "stop it, stop it" and then throw in "mama, mama" or an "unbuckle" in the mix occasionally.  I have now learned my lesson and Whitman will be the first one out of the van every time from now on.
But when we pulled up to the Casey Jones General Store and he saw a real life train out front, Whitman forgot all about his little fit.  We looked at the train for a few minutes and then went inside.  The ice cream shop was already closed or closing (not sure which) since it was 8 already but the buffet was open.  We don't usually do buffets but we were there and we needed a little something to eat so why not.  And it was pretty good-the meatloaf and baked cinnamon apples were my favorite and Robby liked the salsbury steak.  I saw Graham eat at least 3 rolls and Campbell feasted on cantoloupe.  Even though it was good, I have now had my buffet fix for the next few years!
On the way out the kids discovered some kittens under the train so Bretty, Layne and all of our people chased the kittens for a bit.  Then we were back in the car to head to our hotel.  It was just about 5 minutes away from our supper stop.  While Robby was checking in the kids worked on cleaning their van areas and then we found our room.
Our room is a bit small (or maybe my kids are all bigger since our last road trip a year ago) but there is still plenty of room for us all and thankfully the bathroom is big enough for a pack n play.  I am sure that the Wilsons are upstairs wondering how in the world we all fit in this hotel room: here is how we do it-Robby and I have one bed, Whitman is in the pack n play in the bathroom, Reagan is sleeping under the desk (a coveted spot), Keaton is sleeping between the beds (another coveted spot), Campbell is on the floor nearest the air conditioner and Anderson and Graham are sharing a bed.  All of our shoes are piled up near the door, the ice chest are under the bathroom sink, the stroler is folded and sitting over the two bins of kids clothes, my bin of clothes is on the floor under Robby's bin, his back pack, cord box and miles of cords are sitting on the table and that is about all.  Oh, clothes for tomorrow are laid out and clothes are in the wash.  Yep, we are doing laundry on our first night of vacation-I just really don't like dirty clothes!
Once we came into the room, the kids all took off their shoes and lined them up (Graham remembered to do this-over a year since a real hotel.  That boy remembers everything)  They had a bit of time to play their kindles.  Whitman sat on the bed with them and watched a Thomas movie while holding his trains.  Then it was bedtime for him (he laid down perfectly after we looked for deers out the window as we do at home-there wasn't any deers here.)  And a few minutes after that, Robby read the Bible story and then it was bedtime!
Tomorrow we have The Hermitage, the Parthenon, hopefully the Corvette museum and who knows what else!  So much to see and too little time!

Road Trip 2015, Day 2: June 25 2015 (Jackson, TN to Cave City, KY)
We slept incredibly well last night and managed to get about 2 more hours of sleep than the night before even with doing some laundry last night.  It was sure nice for Robby to bring just a bit of laundry back to the room which I quickly folded, put away and then promptly fell asleep.
Robby said that he woke up once in the middle of the night and I did too-I am not used to sleeping in a room with so many other people.  I couldn't fall back asleep until the air conditioner came on.  When we woke up, everyone was still happily snoozing away and they were all covered up. 
I hated to wake them up but we had to load up and head to breakfast.  Robby had already gotten the vibe that this hotel was a bit more controlled than others...as in when he checked in, they asked "you have 2 adults and 2 children right?"  Robby quickly replied "yes" which is the truth-he does have 2 adults and 2 children in his room...plus 4 more children.
Back to breakfast: So we split up with Robby taking the boys and Keaton to load the car and Campbell, Reagan and Whitman went with me to start on breakfast.  There was a man standing there to make the self serve waffles for you.  I personally think that is a bit odd since the waffle machines are meant for the guests to make but okay, I will play along.  Campbell asked for a waffle and the man wanted to make her a half but I assured him that someone would eat the rest...I was wrong, we didn't eat the rest or much of it-they weren't that great.
Keaton wanted a banana and then the man handed her a bruised one.  I was going to get another one but it was empty...until a minute later when they replaced Keaton's banana with one more.  They were bringing out the bananas one by one. 
And I am sure that we are a bit paranoid but all Robby could notice in the ceiling were cameras.  When we went to get ice carrying his bag, the lady jumped out of the office door and said "do you need an ice bucket?"  He said sure and filled it to the brim and then sent me back to get more ice.  I thought about changing my shirt so they wouldn't know that we were together (this is orange and yellow day).
We pulled out pretty much right at 8:30 and the kids started on their license plate games and drew their pictures of yesterday.  Robby turned on a song about Casey Jones and we listened to it a few times before turning on a movie.  I picked the movie this morning (Dora) so I could distract Keaton, who had already said that she needed to potty!
We did then stumble upon a rest stop and I made sure that everyone pottied.  I let Whitman out and we looked at a butterfly and then tried to touch a sign before getting back into the car.  Since we were approaching Nashville, the kids had their own songwriting competition.  We had a song about leaving the prairie, driving down the highway and about shapes (circle, circle, square, circle, square, triangle).
The first real stop of the morning was the Parthenon.  It was a good little stop for everyone-plenty of room to walk around, climb up steps and run off some energy.  This is my second time to see this site (other time was in high school) and I still don't know much about the Parthenon except that is a replica of the real thing in Greece.  It probably would help if we were to go into the museum but maybe another time. 
Just a block down the road we stopped at Elliston's Place.  It was a nifty little soda shop that is the oldest continuously operated restaurant in Nashville (I think that is right).  With the 12 of us, we pretty much filled that place up.  Some sat on stools, some at a table and others in a booth.  Whitman sucked down half of a shake before coming up for air.  Robby and I split a chocolate peanut butter shake and it was very good. 
After leaving there, we had about 20 minutes in the car before we arrived at the Hermitage, home of Andrew Jackson our 7th president.  I never learned the names of all of the presidents in school (or I have forgotten that I did) but since the kids have been in school, I can sing them all (mostly). 
Old Hickory was interesting.  It was cheaper for Robby to become a member so I guess we can stop back by this house another time-preferably in the winter.  It was hot, hot, hot there-like sweating rolling down your face and into your eyes hot.  I had just finished telling Shannon that I did not like audio tours when we walked into the next room and the lady started passing those blasted things out to all of my kids.  I guess that I might have been a bit wrong: though I never really ended up using one, the kids sure did enjoy it.  And this place did it right because they had a kid number to push so they could hear a kiddie version from the player.
There was also a house tour and usually I feel like once you have been in one old house, then you have been in them all (I sound like a fuddy duddy, don't I?)  This house tour was my favorite type-short and sweet.  I did learn that Andrew Jackson balanced the budget and left it with a surplus (I think the only President to do so), didn't like the idea of paper money though he is now on the 20 dollar bill and was the last president to have known all of the presidents before him.  Jackson's bedroom was downstairs which was unheard of at the time and at times the house would have 20 house guests a night with not nearly enough beds for them all-so glad I live in the time of air conditioning. 
After our walk around the grounds, we wrung the sweat out of our shirts and climbed into the car.  The original plan had been to have a picnic on the grounds but the tables were way too far from the cars and not shaded.  And did I mention that it was hot!  We decided to drive down the road a bit until we found something a bit better for our first picnic!
We did stumble upon a perfect picnic spot at a town hall-a pavilion (like I want in my backyard) and a few gazebos.  Also it had plenty of area for the boys to play a bit of football which greatly delighted my Graham (he has known that we had a football in the car and has been dying to get out and play since we left home)  We had our peanut butter and jelly and our turkey and cheese sandwiches along with chips and brownie while the Wilsons had their sandwiches, chips and rice krispy treats. 
After lunch was over, we ran to a nearby gas station so we could potty and buy a bag of ice.  There was just one bathroom there so that stop took a while.  I finally let the kids play on their kindles after lunch-they had been asking for a long while.  I thought about turning on Whitman's Thomas movie on the tv for him but I was afraid that he wouldn't go to sleep on this leg of the trip.
We arrived at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green around 4:20.  Their last ticket sales is at 4:30 and they close at 5.  The entrance had quite a few corvettes in it and we could have been fine without doing the entire museum.  But Tony and Robby batted their eyes to the front desks people and they managed to get us in for just a donation.  That was really great and we didn't need that long to see all of the Corvettes.  I am sure that some folks would enjoy reading all of the signs but we were able to zoom through the museum until we made it to the main event....the sinkhole. 
If you remember, the Corvette museum had a sinkhole inside of it last year and it swallowed at least 6 Corvettes.  That was the most interesting part-one car has been restored and others were sitting near the where the covered sinkhole was and those cars were completely crushed and destroyed.  That was really the most interesting part-apparently the roof of a cave had fallen through and that caused the sinkhole to form.  Sinkholes are common in this area....eeek! 
We scurried through the museum and even finished in time for the kids to play in their play area for a few minutes.  While they were doing that, I ran into the gift shop and bought our second Christmas ornament of the trip (a convertible, of course).  Then it was back into the car for a short hop to Mammoth Cave.
The visitor's center was closing soon but we still had time to stamp our passport books (all of them: my 6 kids, our book, Shannon's book, Brett and Layne's books as well)  After we came through and stamped 10 stamps they were practically out of ink.  We walked through the exhibits and then headed towards the natural entrance of the cave.  We never even thought about calling ahead a reserving a tour a week or even a day or two ago which we should have.  But even without a tour, we still saw the mammoth cave!
Robby and I were here with a little Reagan and a baby Anderson in 2007 (click here for pictures from that trip).  We did some type of tour though we can't remember what it was at all.  I do remember that Anderson was in the carrier and he started crying because of the change in temperature and Reagan fell and bumped her lip on a rail so both little babies were crying and we turned right around and headed out of the cave.  That is about all that we saw of the cave today-just a bit! 
Mammoth Cave is the largest cave system in the US (possibly world-didn't read it that well) and is over 400 miles long.  Pretty impressive-we have read that it doesn't have as many cave decorations (stalactites and stalagmites) as other caves.  We did find a pretty, shaded trail to the entrance and man was there a temperature difference in the cave.  As we approached the cave, we were immediately able to feel the cool air! 
The entrance into the cave was a steep set of stairs that we all climbed down.  Once at the bottom, Whitman decided that he wasn't too excited about the dark and windy cave but he may have gotten that idea from his sisters (Campbell and Keaton-not Reagan) because they were acting skittish too. We then climbed out and Robby and Whitman went one way to return to our stroller and we went another way and met at the top. 
Our hotel was about 20 minutes away through some neat little towns and on the way I blogged while the kids played on their kindles.  Robby has been plagued with problems today and that is what he started trying to deal with once at the hotel: 1. his phone isn't keeping a charge and one minute is fully charged and the next powers off  2. our house electricity has been off since last night (he wasn't really sure that it was off but couldn't see our alarm and thermostats)-the lights are now back on thanks to Entergys speediness  3. and to top it all off, he broke a sippy cup.
I do guess breaking a sippy cup is the least of his worries and I have a second one, along with a backup followed by 5 other backups (though they are not as good)-really, I should have been a Boy Scout (you know, always be prepared).  I know that I am jinxing Whitman and all the rest of the kids when I say that kid-wise things have gone surprisingly well.  Whitman has done great-relatively few 2 year old meltdowns.  He is almost to the point where you can reason with him, almost like he gets what we are saying.  He only had about a 5 minute nap today so when Robby asked him if he wanted to go to bed, he didn't hesitate at all.  And tonight's bathroom is wonderful-I will be able to go to the bathroom in a minute after her is sound asleep!
Today's route was pretty perfect and we were able to do everything we wanted (except the hot dog place in Nashville since it wasn't yet lunch time but we will hit it on the way back home.)  Really our timing worked out pretty good and hopefully it will tomorrow-we do have time change to deal with pretty early in the morning. 
After checking in, we unloaded and then met the Wilsons at the pool.  Tony picked up pizza and we all devoured it.  What was left, we put in our ziplock bags and will snack on another day.  The kids swam and swam and it was pretty noisy in that little room especially when they started playing Marco Polo-my Campbell and Graham have no volume control at all! Whitman was happy on the steps or sitting on the edge of the pool splashing his feet.  He did float around when Robby was in the pool but likes his feet to be planted on solid ground (like his momma!)
I came upstairs first with Graham and Keaton so they could start showers first and I could call Nonna and Pops and fill them in on the day.  Then the others came up to shower.  Right now, everyone is almost asleep and Robby is returning from moving the laundry into the dryer (it is 10:40).  I do feel like we are more settled into the hotel room today than yesterday-possibly because this room is bigger or maybe because we are getting more into the hotel staying routine. 
It has been a good day today but we are tired!  Laundry will hopefully be done within the hour and we can all sleep well again tonight.  Tomorrow is another big day-Lincoln, Baseball Bats, Cincinnati and hopefully Bologna.

Road Trip 2015, Day 3: June 26 2015 (Cave City, KY to Canton, OH)
Again we slept well last night with only some loud thunder waking us up briefly.  Robby opened the curtains and the kids started slowly waking up.  Everyone was in a good mood and quickly put on their blue clothes.  While we were getting dressed, Robby asked Anderson if he was excited about going to Louisville Slugger today.  Anderson said "well, I have been there like 4 times."  He hasn't been there 4 times-this will be his 4th.  But I do think that boy we have spoiled the boy with travel. 
I took the boys down for breakfast while the girls went with Robby to load the car. Breakfast was a little less serious this morning-there was not breakfast monitors, many bananas and we were aloud to touch the waffle machine.  After breakfast we went back up to the room where Whitman had his first fit about not pushing the elevator buttons (I told you I would jinx him).
Our primary mission this morning was to beat the Wilsons into the car.  We didn't care if we had to sit in the car for an hour, we were going to win.  Actually, by the time we had loaded and straightened everything, they were coming out. 
We had quite a bit of driving today along with a plethora of stops.  On our first trip, the kids worked on their pictures from yesterday.  Campbell took a little longer to finish hers since she was asking us how to spell words and meanwhile, Reagan and Graham were playing battleship across from each other.  So our car sounded a little bit like this "C, A12, A, B6, VE, D2"-needless to say, it was a bit confusing but we managed.
On the road to Lincoln's house, we saw an Amish horse and buggy.  After we passed it, Graham said "I don't think I need my license plate game right now."  Just a bit down the road, we arrived at Lincoln's Birthplace National Historic Park.
We arrived there just in time because Keaton was already needing to go to the bathroom-that girl, I believe that she is on a mission to stop at least every hour.  Some of my friends have potties that they keep in their cars and I always make fun of them-guess that might not be such a bad idea.
The Lincoln's stop was interesting.  We watched the short film (Whitman sat perfectly and then clapped when it was over.)  Then we walked toward Lincoln's birthplace.  They created a monument around his birthplace and when Campbell saw it she said "we were here yesterday" (She was confusing the Parthenon columns)  After the enclosed the log cabin with the monument, they discovered that it was not actually Lincoln's log cabin.  I am sure that his was very similar though!
Then we went down a little trail to see the natural spring (the reason the Lincoln's bought the land).  After we all pottied again, we climbed back in the cars.  This time Reagan is in the Wilson's car and Brett is with us.  They have finished a movie and then played on their kindles as we entered Louisville.
Our first stop in Louisville was the Dairy Kastle for some ice cream.  Anderson, Graham and Reagan had chocolate dipped cones, Campbell and Keaton had vanilla shakes and Whitman took over our chocolate peanut butter shake. It was a quaint stop-we ate our goodies sitting in front of the place.  Right down the road was the University of Louisville so we drove around to check it out.  Then it was off to Churchill Downs. 
We had thought about taking a potty stop at Churchill Downs but they must have been running the Kentucky Derby or something because parking was a bit crazy (and costly).  I am not sure what was happening there but it was a change from when we have been by before and we parked right at the front door. 
We decided to pass on the long walk and head straight to the Louisville Slugger in downtown Louisville.  When we passed the Slugger museum we saw a huge line of people standing outside.  My goodness, I don't know what is happening in Louisville this weekend but everyone and their mother is here.  Tony dropped Shannon off and I jumped out and we found out what the line was for (to buy tickets) and we jumped in line to get our tickets.
I then ran back to the car to collect this kids and by this time the line had moved a great deal.  Then I ran back out to the car to picked up my camera from my van as it rolled away.  Robby was taking himself and his phone to the store while we did the bat tour.  He didn't have much luck because the wait there was an hour and a half.  So he made an appointment for the apple store in Dearborn.  He said that if he makes his appointment then great and if not, then that is fine too.  Grannymom is bringing his old phone when they fly in tomorrow so he can switch things over and will then feel much better about like (though his work email will not work as well.)
I was shocked when I bought our tickets when they said "your tour time will be at 1:50"-that was just in 20 minutes.  We barely had time to run in to the restroom and then see the museum before they called us back for our tour.  The tour was packed out and each station that you stopped at was full of people-but they did it right, getting our large crowd in and out in not too much time.  The kids stayed in the front and I hardly saw them until the end since I was in the back with Whitman in his stroller.  The poor baby was sound asleep and missed the entire tour (oh, well, he has seen it before).
When the tour was finished we ran back through the museum part and by this time Robby was back.  We all pottied and had one last picture stop by the big bat before hitting the road again.  We hadn't really had lunch so the kids were a bit hungry and thirsty.  As we were trying to decide what to pass out, Robby asked Graham if Keaton was asleep.  A second later, we heard a voice from the back saying "I am awake.:  Whitman wanted to make sure that we knew he was not sleeping and needed his snack.
We eventually needed a gas and potty stop and pulled off at a decent rest gas station.  My Anderson said "this looks like the nicest gas station ever."  I am not really sure why he thought that since it was fine but not by any standards the nicest gas station ever.
As the kids climbed back in the car, Robby and I stood outside to discuss the winners of the clean row competition.  Anderson and Campbell's row and Reagan and Keaton's row were perfect.  Graham's row was neat but had stuff sitting on top of his box.  We had to pick a winner so Anderson's row won with a 10.0.  We said that Reagan's row had a 9.8 and Graham's a 9.5.  That still didn't sit well with my losers-Reagan immediately began lecturing Keaton about helping more to keep the row clean and Graham just keeps glaring at me!  The prize was the the winners were able to pick the box of candy that everyone would share (Sweettarts were picked) and then they received 4 more than everyone else. 
We were a bit worried about the rain messing up our walk across the Roebling suspension bridge between Covington, KY and Cincinnati but it didn't bother us at all-the skies were cloudy but the breeze was refreshing.  We climbed out of the car and walked over the bridge.  Whitman wasn't so sure about all of the noise from the cars zooming by us but once we were at the bottom of the bridge and into Cincinnati he was delighted. 
Last time we were here they were working on a playground and this time (about a year later) it was completed.  It was really, really neat-once side had a water area, some odd pig contraption that you could climb into and then it would bounce, a giant piano that you could walk on that played chimes and on the other side there were slides and rocks to climb on.  It was pretty cool and the kids could have stayed there much longer except we still had quite a ways to go before our day was over.
So we then walked back across the bridge and back into the cars.  Next up was a quick drive over the bridge we had just walked on and then drove past the building that is financing the trip for the Wilsons: Kroger headquarters.  Campbell rode in the Wilson's car on that leg of the journey and Brett rode with us.  We heard nothing from our people the entire time-possibly because they all were playing on their devices.
Supper tonight was at Blue Ash Chili in Blue Ash, Ohio.  We usually eat at Skyline Chilis when we are in this neck of the woods but the kids have started watching Diners, Drive Ins and Dives so we thought a local favorite would be a great stop.  The Wilsons, us and Whitman crammed into a booth and the kids spread out at another table. 
The kids ate hot dogs covered in cheese so mostly they just ate cheese-lots and lots of shredded cheese.  Whitman was pretty happy about his cheese too but he was also quite intrigued by the book of Thomas the Train pictures that Robby printed out.  That little book of pictures was my brainstorm in the middle of church one Sunday (yes, I listen in church but sometimes sitting still and quiet I have the best ideas and I can make the longest mental list of things to do!)
Anyway, Robby had the 4 Way-Spaghetti, Chili, Beans and Cheese.  I had the 3 way which was just like Robby's except minus the beans.  Now the Wilsons, who are thankfully in their own car, had the 6 Way-Spaghetti, Chili, Beans, Onions, Cheese and Jalapeno Poppers.  We all ate as I wrestled with Whitman.  Supper was good and I am sure that we caused a scene with Graham spilling his drink and then later falling out of his chair knocking his chair over and then stumbling to pick up his chair and falling again (like the child was drunk).  I just turned my head and tried to act like he was Shannon's kid after all she had on blue like the rest of us.
Before we left town we changed hotels and moved tonight's hotel about 2 hours past where it was originally.  We are planning on being in Canton at the Football Hall of Fame pretty early in the morning because of a special event they have (hopefully the rain doesn't cancel it) so we are getting in late tonight. 
After supper, Robby worked on his computer for a bit while I drove through the pouring rain.  Thankfully, Tony slowed down a bit so I could follow him a comfortable pace.  The weather to the left of us looked almost sunny but on all of the other sides it was nastiness.  After a much needed pit stop, Robby started to drive and then rainbows started appearing everywhere and there was no longer any rain...well, no rainbows but no rain either!  We did discover that I am out of windshield wiper fluid and we need to change my wiper blades...maybe if he does that in the next few days, we will ward off any future rain!
Right now it looked like we will pull into the hotel around 11:30 which will still 10:30 to us since we lost an hour this morning.  Today was another good day (even though it has been and will be a late night for all of us)

Road Trip 2015, Day 4: June 27 2015 (Canton, OH to Dearborn, MI)
It is probably not the wisest idea to keep your kiddos up until midnight but our extra drive today was well worth it.  When we walked into the hotel, the kids did really great-everyone whispered and changed as quickly as they could.  Graham and Campbell were almost asleep when I finally put Whitman into his bed.  He was happily playing with his trains on the floor while we were trying to squeeze his pack n play into the bathroom.
Robby did have to potty this morning so he wedged Whitman out of bed and brought him to me.  Whitman laid there for a bit and then put his head up and asked "Daddy go?"  I told him that he just went to the bathroom and he said "oh" and laid back down  We didn't lay around too long because my crew was going to need quite a bit of time to all get ready for the day.
The kids did good getting up and even though they are tired, no one complained too much.  It did help that our first stop was just right down the road.  We had planned on going to the Pro Football Hall of Fame this morning but had seen that they did not open until noon today.  We had planned a different route but then Robby found out that they were having a special even today.
They were having a Day out with Dad where a dad and 4 kids could attend a football camp type thing this morning that included parking, lunch with chickfila vouchers and admission to the Hall of Fame.  So Robby bought us tickets to that along with an additional adult ticket and that saved us about 40 dollars.
The even was supposed to be outside in their stadium which would have been really neat but it had to be inside the high school gym due to the rain.  We were divided into groups and rotated around to different stations.  Each station had high school coaches and players leading drills.  Most of the drills the dads participated in-catching, back peddling (running backwards-new term for me), an obstacle course and many, many others.
The kids enjoyed it-some more than others.  The boys all took it very seriously while the girls not so much.  Keaton was sticking with us really well until some high schooler brought her back to us with tears in her eyes.  I guess she got separated from us somehow though we never really noticed.  She had followed Graham and had gotten into the wrong group along with him.  We didn't notice that either until Graham came up to us and said "I was in the wrong group."  Graham didn't seem to mind as much as Keaton since he knew that we weren't leaving him!
We did skip the last rotation and drove to the Hall of Fame so we could get in right on time.  There was already a crazy long line out front but the doors weren't open yet so we made lunches and had ourselves a picnic (if you can really call it a picnic since we ate in the cars).  When we finished, we headed towards the line and found out that we were able to bypass the  line due to our wristbands.  Skipping that line was worth at least 10 dollars since it was pretty long.
Inside of the Hall of Fame it was pretty crowded but we seemed to move fairly quickly through it and even stopped to watch the movie.  Whitman was already asleep when the movie started, I dozed during the movie and Keaton fell so sound asleep that Tony had to carry her out.  She was on the other end of the row than me and I was pretty sure that she would come and find me but she never did.  Whitman eventually woke up due to the loudness of the film!  It was only about 10 minutes long and Robby said that it told a really good story-but those chairs were really comfy!
After the gift shop, the kids played a bit on the field out front and then it was back in the car.  We went to Chick Fil A to pick up our free meals-one for everyone so we sure couldn't pass that up even though it was the other way.  Robby came back to the car with 2 bag fulls of food for just our car. 
After picking up our lunch, we raced through the Amish countryside of Ohio to make it to Troyer's Bologna before they closed.  Robby said that he felt like we were on Amazing Race.  Then we also started discussing the many, many places that we have ventured to like this that have been wonderful stops and then we discussed the stops which have been few and far between that were complete busts.
Even if this stop was a bust, it would have been worth it because of the drive.  We passed Amish buggy after buggy and so many shops that I would love to have stopped at-quilts, honey, jelly, Amish toys and baskets.  But our bologna stop was a win-ish, actually Tony gave his big hunk of bologna a so-so but we really liked our bologna like sausage that we bought.  The stop was a typical road trip stop in an old building but we didn't sample the bologna or pepper jack cheese so we don't know yet if it is really good.  But I sure am glad I brought my box of crackers and we didn't have to buy any at the gas station as we did with our spam last year.
A few miles down the road, we went to Yoder's Amish farm.  They had tours of a house and school but we opted for just the buggy ride.  It was a 10 minute ride around a field but it was good taste of the Amish lifestyle and the kids really enjoyed it.  As we walked in to buy our tickets, Graham lost a tooth on a rice krispy treat.  The kids had a few minutes to play on a playset before we boarded our buggies. 
We crammed all of our kids in our buggy and we now know that we could never be Amish-we wouldn't all fit in the buggy.  Ha!  Actually, if Robby had been the driver we would have been fine until we had 6 teenagers.  Our horse was named Charlie and Campbell asked that Charlie go fast so the driver made him trot and everyone was delighted.  Whitman could lean out a bit while sitting on my lap and was able to watch the buggy wheels go through the water-he loved that.
I really have never seen as many Amish people as we saw on this drive.  Last year we did see a few Amish people working in the fields which was interesting but this was an Amish buggy traffic jam.  We even saw some Amish children playing a game of volleyball.  It was a really beautiful drive as we headed to the Smucker's store.
I had no idea that the Smuckers was such a large cooperation.  The store was neat and full of fun stuff and all of their different brands of products.  It could have only been better if the ice cream place was still open-we believe that Shannon will be disappointed if we do not eat ice cream every single day of this trip.  We did buy a jar of jelly to hang on the tree and some ice cream topping-just to have ready in case we have to resort to store bought ice cream! 
Then we settled in for another drive.  Today the weather was pouring this morning but the afternoon has been cloudy and breezy this afternoon-as in, we will be wearing our jackets for the next few days.  I do believe that this rainy weather has cooled these areas down from the temps that they were last week.  Anything except rain is fine with me though (well, snow wouldn't be great!)
We just had a bit further to drive to Mansfield-home of the Ohio State Reformatory featured in the Shawshank Redemption movie.  The prison was closed but after a drive around it, we went to another movie stop downtown.  That took a bit longer to get to since many streets were closed-they had box car races there this morning (so much to see and so little time). 
We made so many blocks looking for the one last movie picture stop that we almost didn't have enough gas to make it to the gas station.  The Wilson's gas level stays about the same as ours so they were starting to sweat it too.  At that gas station we all pottied and then decided that a car picnic was in order for the evening.
So as we drove along a country highway with fields and farmhouses everywhere, I passed out our supper-cheese sticks, crackers, squirt cheese, pepper jack cheese (for Robby and me) and our bologna sausage.  There were brownies for dessert and a movie playing as Grannymom and Grandpa wrote to say that they had landed and were in Detroit. 
Currently, we have one and a half hours until we arrive in Dearborn and Grannymom and Grandpa will already be there thanks to the hotel shuttle.  We hope that the rain clears out and we have lots of sun tomorrow (or the next day but one of the next two days we need sun).  Tomorrow is the much anticipated day of Greenfield Village or the Henry Ford Museum. 
Our drive included butt clenching rain, miles of construction and concrete barriars, flooded roads, missed exits and even a detour which we then didn't follow correctly and added 15 minutes to our travel time.  Memories!  It was all fine and dandy when we made it to the hotel safe and sound (the Wilsons beat us because of our detour mess up) and when we got to the hotel Grannymom and Grandpa were waiting for us at the front door. 
Everyone unloaded and Grannymom took the 3 little ones upstairs then the boys went up with Grandpa.  Reagan helped us finish unloading the car and then we found our room (connecting to Grannymom and Grandpa and across the hall from the Wilsons).  The room is huge and but the bathroom is ordinary-which means that Whitman didn't fit...at first.  But with a bit of work and Robby having to climb in the bathtub, we were able to get him in his bed.  This will probably be his last road trip with a pack n play since tonight he wanted to lay on the bed and almost refused getting in his tiny bedroom!
Laryn tells me it is time to publish this blog so she can go to bed so I guess I better close-looks like the rain is ending soon and tomorrow will be cool and dry (we hope!)  I'm excited about trip day number 5 and hope the kids sleep well tonight (second night to stay up to midnight for them!)

Road Trip 2015, Day 5: June 28 2015 (Dearborn, MI)
Everyone slept well again tonight.  It did help that our room is huge and we are crazy spread out-2 kids stayed with Grannymom, 1 one the couch, 2 in the other bed and poor Whitman crammed in the bathroom.  Every morning the kids wake up a bit slower and Robby and I probably wake up a bit slower too but we still managed to get to breakfast and in the car on time.
It was just about a 20 minute ride to the Ford complex and we all piled into our van-14 folks just about fill up our little ole van.  When we arrived, Robby and Tony went to buy tickets which seemed to take forever.  We have passes from last year (we bought a membership so we could come back this year and bring Grannymom and Grandpa) but Robby still had to buy tickets for our tour on Tuesday. 
When we had stepped out of the car, the blessed sun was shining but the breeze was blowing.  We opted to not bring our coats and after waiting on Robby and Tony for so long, Grandpa said that he might want his jacket and I used that as a good excuse to get my own and a few of the kids.  To me the weather was was a bit cool and then a bit warm-it was too cool to not have a jacket and too warm to have on.  I have been watching today's weather for months (it seems) and we could not have had a better weather day. 
Today had probably been the most anticipated day by Robby and me.  Last year when we went to Greenfield Village in Dearborn we absolutely loved it.  It really could not have been more perfect and Robby and I were pretty worried about it not meeting our expectations this year.  I am so glad that this day did not disappoint! (I don't know about the others but I sure had a good day.)
When you walk into the village, you hear the puffs of the steam train.  The engine was sitting on the track waiting for us to board.  We took a train ride around the village: Henry Ford created the Village as a school which operated until 1969.  He felt that the best way to learn history was to be immersed in history.  So Ford, having plenty of money, bought historical buildings and when it was time to learn about science you went to Edison’s lab, or when if was time to learn about flight you went to the Wright Brothers home and bicycle shop.  Eventually, the school closed but is now a charter school for local children on the grounds.  But for the public, Greenfield Village has become almost like a historical Disney World.  The Henry Ford is the largest indoor-outdoor museum complex in America and the village contains nearly 100 historic buildings from the 17th century to the present.  It is just really cool and from the moment you cross the gates, you feel as if you are in the different time.
After riding the train, we walked to the Model Ts.  It took 4 car loads for our gaggle of folks.  The kids had read a book about Henry and his model Ts and this was one of the things that they remembered most from last year.  There wasn't a line for the Model Ts so it didn't take long for our ride around.  Once we were off, we walked through Ford's shop. 
From there, we headed to the train roundhouse.  We walked through the workshop and then stopped out front.  They have a huge train turntable that they let the kids turn.  You ha to be 6 and older to do this so Campbell was not too happy about it.  But Layne, Brett, Reagan, Anderson and Graham were able to push the turntable.  They were able to turn the quite heave turntable with ease. 
Next up was the Liberty Craftsworks area and we spent a few minutes there.  The first place we stopped was where they were blowing glass.  We watched them twice-the second time they broke what they were working on.  It was pretty neat-they stretched this long candy cane like piece of glass across the room and then will make a bowl out of many peices of that glass.
Then it was through the place where they make yard, the tin works, the saw mill and then we skipped a few places-there is so much to see that you can not see it all unless you hurry and that is what we had to do.
We stumbled upon Katherine Wright (remember Keaton giving her oral report about Katherine Wright a few months ago-click here for that video) and then along came Orville and Wilbur.  The kids listened intently and while Whitman and I ran across the street to pick up some custard.  I guess becuase it was in a cone, Whitman thought that it was al his-so I had to work pretty hard to sneak bites form him. 
After the Wrights were finished talking, we had our pictures made with them.  Then we told Katherine about Keaton doing a report about her.  Keaton even told Katherine a part of it ("I had 2 brothers, Wilbur and Orville and they made their first flight in 1903")  She probably doesn't have a ton of little 3 year olds doing reports about her life so she was pretty thrilled to see and hear Keaton.  They even had their pictures taken together.
When we left, Katherine everyone walked through the Wright home and then it was off to lunch.  We might have stopped in a few places on the way.  Lunch was at a place called Taste of America and we had mac and cheese, pizza, a suasage hot dog and bbq.  After our little break, we pressed on down the road.
There was the McGuffey school house, the Mary Martha church and then we took the sidewalk down to the baseball field.  They have a baseball team that plays in the summer and the team is from 1867. So it was pretty interesting to watch and it was also interesting to see the local folks that came bringing their chairs and blankets there to watch the ball game.  We just stayed for one inning of the game and then we were off to see more houses.  (Though most of us could have stretched out on the grass and taken a nap.)
We saw plenty of other things including walking over a covered bridge when we stopped to listen to Edison.  He told all about his accomplishments with the lightbulb and we toured his boarding house, his workshop and office.  After Edison, we saw a courthouse that Honest Abe practiced law in and then we moved on to see a sharecroppers house where the kids were given cornbread to feed the chickens. 
Down the road a ways, we caught the Omnibus (horse drawn carriage) and road it to the front of the place.  There we looked through the Ford family home before walking back towards the carousel.  Tony and Shannon went to ride the Model Ts again while we rode the carousel with everyone.  Afterwards, I took all the kids to the playground and then Whitman rode the carousel one more time with Grannymom. 
It seems like everything in this area has closed at 5 and Greenfield Village is no exception.  We could have stayed until at least 9 tonight-all these early closing places are causing us to have to hurry!  A big before 5, we headed towards the gate but made one last stop in the line to ride a Model T-really how many Model T rides do you get in a lifetime?!
Then it was out the gates and to the gift shop.  Grannymom was the only one to buy anything today but I love gift shops like that and I just want to buy everything.  I did write down lots of names of books that I want for the kids to read soon but didn't buy anythikng.  Maybe tomorrow!
After leaving The Henry Ford complex, we headed to IKEA for supper.  We had the chicken meatballs and they were pretty good and then we started out jog around the store.  We are contemplating buying beds for the kids from IKEA so we were happy to get to see those in real life before buying 6 beds and hauling them home. 
Campbell, Keaton and Graham were happy that Robby let them go in the play area for a few minutes.  They couldn't have been in there for 30 minutes but they loved it.  Graham even wanted to go so Robby sure let him-I bet he enjoyed taking care of his little sisters.  And as soon as we had met back up, we found what we had come for: ice cream.  We have missed one day of ice cream but hopefully there is still time to make it up  :)
The kids had ice cream but since I had already had mine for the day, I had a cinnamon roll and it was very, very good.  Robby bought a bag of mini cinnamon rolls for us to snack on.  We even had some tonight as the kids were going to bed.  Reagan saw me and asked what I was eating so I just pulled oen out of the bag and handed it to her.  She kept saying "but I have already brushed my teeth" but I assured her that this was vacation and you only once. 
When we made it home from IKEA, Robby did our laundry and the kids swam.  It seemed to take a while to get everyone showered when we came in but soon everyone was sound asleep.  Now I love our hotel room but big hotel rooms are just not always good-it is so big that we have spread everything out.  I am already getting short of breath just thinking about having to pack everything back up in the right spot and refilled correctly. 
Thankfully the kids were able to get to sleep a bit earlier than the past few nights.  They are getting more and more tired and that is eveident my their behavior (or I am getting more and more tired and that is evident in my patient's level.)  Tomorrow is the Henry Ford Museum so that should be interesting.

Road Trip 2015, Day 6: June 29 2015 (Dearborn, MI)
Another night of resting well in our huge hotel room.  Campbell and Anderson slept in Grannymom's room and had already eaten before we really started stirring this morning.  I didn't fold any of our laundry last night since we laid a few things out to dry overnight so this morning, my first task was folding lots and lots of laundry.  Basically, it was like I was having to repack all of our clothes this morning and Robby was on the other side of the room repacking all of our ice chests since the fridge was left open yesterday and then didn't work well after that.  We managed to get everything done and to have time to eat breakfast (I opted for the bagel topper and the turkey sausage links since I knew we would be close to a bathroom-I know it is too early in our day to be giving out all of that information.)
The Henry Ford Museum is huge-12 acres!  The museum began as Henry Ford's personal collection of history objects that he began collecting as far back as 1906.  We all loaded up into the van again and were there before 9:30.  Once the gates opened we walked right in and headed to the Model T area.
They have a section where you can come and help assemble a model T.  We missed this last year because a group had come through before us.  But today, we were some of the first ones in line.  Of course everyone in the group wanted to help assemble the car.  Anderson and Graham assembled part of the engine, Grannymom and Grandpa worked on the muffler, Reagan and Campbell screwed something in and even Keaton had job dropping some bolts in. 
The next stop was tons of fun too.  The kids had to work on a miniature assembly line to put together some tiny model Ts.  Keaton and Whitman laid down the base, Campbell put down the wheel shaft, Layne and Brett put the wheels on, Graham put the seats in, Reagan put the engine on, Anderson added the top and Grannymom turned the assembly line.  We completed 10 cars but it was tough-the kids had a blast and that is the part of the day that they will remember forever!
When we left the Model T area we walked past the line of presidential limos-Kennedys, Reagans, Eisenhowers and a few more.  Then we came to the model trains and this of course was Whitman's favorite part.  He could have stayed there all day long and we probably should have let him-we could have just come and picked him up at the end of the day. 
We were able to pull him away from the trains by telling him that we would be able to go into a train and we went inside the Allegheny Steam Locomotive which was so huge that Whitman probably couldn't even tell that it was a train.  Then we walked by train after train followed by car after car.  This place is impressive and my mom could spend days in here reading every sign.  How I wished that this was a thousand miles closer to my house.
We toured the area on airplanes and of course the kids loved making their own paper airplanes to see how far and how accurate they flew.  Then it was on to lunch near the Weinermobile - hot dogs no less! We took pictures with all of the kids laying on the bun covered up with relish, mustard, ketchup and mayo (who eats mayo on a hot dog anyway?)
For lunch, we all had hot dogs-Robby did have a sausage one and I had one with pineapple salsa and bbq sauce.  The toppings and all were great but the bun was a little dry.  What else was good was the package of hobo bread that Robby bought for me.  I wanted to buy some last year but never did so this year we tried some out.  It was pretty good-baked in a can and full of walnuts and raisins.  I should have pulled some out for supper tonight but forgot about it.
Of course the Model T is a big hit here so at one place we were able to take pictures inside it.  We then toured the Dymaxion house-a round house kit that was to be produced after WWII which was very modern for the time but only 2 were ever actually built.  The house was different but full of windows and maybe the simpler life style (including air conditioner and high speed internet) would be perfect for us.   
Spending the entire day in a museum is probably not the most exciting thing for the kids to do today but I do think they enjoyed it.  Some of the exhibits were just really cool to actually see in real life.  The Rosa Parks bus was found and restored and now you can sit in it.  And seeing the actual chair that Lincoln was shot in is amazing. 
During the day, Graham and Anderson would take every chance they got to go back to the Model T that was being put together by museum guests.  They wanted to go and take a look to see how far they had come.  We all went back right before we left to take a look and that thing was almost completed.  Robby took a turn and before too many more steps, they were letting you sit in the car that you made.  That is just one of those things that the kids will never forget.
Again today the weather was perfect but we didn't even need good weather because this day was spent all inside.  Well, most of it was inside.  We did venture about 30 minutes away for ice cream.   Yes, you read that right-we drove that far for a scoop of ice cream.  (First ice cream stop choice was an actual dairy farm but it was an hour there and an hour back so we had to skip it.) 
Les had suggested Ray's Ice Cream and it was worth the drive.  The kiddie scoops were huge (and expensive).  We thought about buying a half gallon or two to save a few bucks but the kids couldn't understand that so we just went with cups and cones for everyone.   The Wilsons did buy a large bucket of ice cream and we used it for Whitman's picture since I thought he was going to sleep through ice cream.  But as we were leaving, he woke up and they just let him finish their ice cream-he ate a few bites and then stumbled on a piece of cookie dough and then he was done. 
Keaton had peppermint, Campbell ate mint chocolate chip, Graham had vanilla, Anderson had rainbow sherbet and Reagan's was orange sherbet.  In protest, I ate Mackinaw Island.  (In protest because this is our second year in a row to come to Michigan (and at least my 4th visit to this state) and Robby has still not gotten me to Mackinaw Island)  And I ate Mackinaw Island because it was vanilla ice cream filled with chocolate syrup and fudge (real fudge!).  Robby had blueberry pie ice cream-he must have liked it because he ate it all (this is the first time that I ever remember him getting a fruity flavored ice cream.)
After our ride back into town, we had a few minutes of down time before supper.  You can't just have supper right after eating a gallon of ice cream.  So we all went to our room and the kids played on their kindles and colored.  Robby ran to vacuum out the car and when he returned, it was picnic time.  We had sandwiches, grapes, tortillas, pepper jack cheese, bologna sausage, crackers, fudge, chips, brownies and man, if I didn't forget the cheese dip and salsa.  Oh, well there will be a picnic tomorrow and we can dig into those things.  My salsa came with my aunt from Arizona to Arkansas and now has traveled to Michigan-it has been more places than many people!
While we cleaned up the picnic and then Robby and I reloaded the initial load of stuff into the car, Tony played football with the kids.  Then it was pool time-oh, you should have seen people rolling their eyes and hurring out of the pool area when we arrived with all of our kiddos.  The kids swam for about 30 minutes and this gave them enough pool time and still gave us enough time tonight to repack and get to bed at a decent time. 
We are on day 6 of our trip and not yet halfway finished so the kids definitely need all of the sleep that they can get.  Tomorrow is the factory tour which should be interesting, a picnic at Henry Fords house and then a drive through Canada with the final destination of Niagara Falls.  Tomorrow is a big day so I better get some extra sleep tonight! (currently we will be in bed 2 hours earlier than the previous night!)

Road Trip 2015, Day 7: June 30 2015 (Dearborn, MI to Niagara Falls, Ontario)
Reagan slept in Grannymom's room last night and the rest of us spread out in our room.  It was nice to have one last night of being spread out since I am sure that will be our largest hotel room.  Everyone wanted to go to breakfast with Grannymom and Grandpa and Reagan was not too pleased with this. We had already told the others that they could go when Reagan came in our room in tears saying that it was her turn.  I told her that she could come with Whitman and us to eat breakfast after she went with Grannymom and that made her some happier.
This morning when I pulled Whitman out of his bed, he was sound asleep and laid pretty still and quiet on my bed for a while before Robby put today's clothes on him.  Then it was our breakfast time.  Robby saw that the elevators might be a problem (one broken) so he skipped breakfast with us go get a cart and take our bags to the van.  Whitman devoured a banana and cup after cup of juice while I feasted on the scones.  Reagan was going to get some toast as her second breakfast but we let it burn and she decided that she didn't really want anything else after all.
We went back to the Henry Ford complex for one more day.  Today's outing included the Ford Rogue Factory Tour.  I thought that the Rogue was the actual name of a Ford car (that I just how much I know my cars) instead it is the name of the factory.  When we had planned for the trip, the factory was in production but since then things changed and they were not producing F150s today. 
That was fine though and this meant there was a lot fewer people on the tour (almost like none other than us!)  We caught the first but to the factory (Whitman's favorite part of the day) and then watched a short film about Henry Ford and the factory through time-union, WWII, depression and recession.   
After the first movie, there was a second-it had plenty of special effects-enough so that Keaton decided that she needed to go to the bathroom so she could leave the movie (we waited until it was over though).  Then we went to the observatory so we could see the factory.  They had a green roof (a roof with a grass type substance) which lowered the temperature in the factory by 10 degree and helped prevent water leaks in the roof. 
Then we walked along a catwalk above the factory floor.  It was pretty interesting.  The workers were on a break for a week or two and the factory floor was left just like in was when the whistle blew at quitting time.   We were able to see varying degrees of trucks on the line and could almost imagine what it would be like-but I would still love to see it all during production time.  I have a feeling we will get back to the Henry Ford some time or another and I can do it again.
At the gift shop, they had a kiddie ride on F150.  Whitman and Keaton were inside of it in a flash-it didn't move but the steering wheel did turn and they loved this.  Keaton pointed to the logo on the streering and said "Whitman, this says Kroger."  I guess the blue and white Ford logo looked somialar to the blue and white kroger logo. 
Our next stop was Ford's Estate.  The grounds were so nice that we decided to have a picnic.  We all spread out on a brick retaining wall and had a big feast.  After our picnic was over, the kids played frisbee and football.  Then we walked across the field to see a tiny little farmhouse.  While we were over there, we noticed the trees-where they cherries or plums.  No one was sure so we picked sme to see and that is when we saw the security gaurd walking towards Tony-we all got into trouble.
Of course the lady was really nice and asked us to not play on the field or pick the fruit.  We laughed about this and made a big deal out of getting into trouble.  But my Campbell thought none of this was funny at all.  She just burst into tears and told me that she was ready to go home.  We had scared that baby to death.  Since we couldn't play anymore we took a walk near Henry's house and his power plant but Campbell was so upset all she could do was hang on to me.  No matter how much I explained that we were teasing and the security lady was nice (she answered questions for us as we were looking at Ford's power plant), Campbell was just plain upset!
The grounds were pretty but at some point had been given to the University but have recently given it back to the Ford foundation.  Apparently, the university did not take the best of care of the house and grounds and even opened a restaurant in the house.  Currently, they are restoring the house to the original condition.  As we were walking back to the car, we did see a rat scurry across the side walk and that pretty much sums up how Campbell feels about this stop on our trip.  Once we climbed into the car and pulled out of the parking lot, she let out a huge sigh of relief and that child will probably never buy a Ford car because of her bad memories from this place. 
After this, it was time to drop Grannmom and grandpa off at the airport.  Right before we stopped there, we ran and bought gas and ice.  Then we said bye to Grannymom and Granpda-well, those of us who were awake told them bye (Witman and Keaton were sleeping)  They have a few hours to wait in the airport before their plane takes off but will still probably beat us to tonight's hotel.
Next up was drive through detroit and a pass by a stadium and the GM building.  By this time we had already started pulling out the snacks.  And then the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel was upon us and we were in Canada.  It took us a bit to cross the border becuase the man had to enter all of the kids birth certificates and then he came to the door to see the kids.
By the time that we had left the border, the Wilsons were ahead of us and Keaton had to potty.  We pulled off at McDonalds and tried to reach them.  Robby didn't pay for an international plan on his phone so getting a hold of them was a bit difficult.  At McDonalds he was able to get on their for a few minutes. 
The drive into Canada had lots of windmills and it is always pretty amazing to think that you are in a new country yet you aren't that far away from home.  After awhile Robby got a bit tired, so I took over at the wheel.  I kept myself entertained by the signs on the road-most were writting in English and then Frence.  One sign that I found particularly interesting was the one that said "retards possibles"-apparently that means delays possible. 
I tried to go the speed limit-80 kmh but that is crawling but the police were everywhere.  So I tried to compromise and drive slower than the other cars but faster than the trucks.  After quite a long stretch we finally caught up with the Wilsons at McDonalds.  We all pottied and then were back on the road with our hamburgers in hand.
We then took a detour off the main road and drove down some beautiful Canadian countryside-even saw some skydivers.  The goal was to see the Eerie Canal with this little diversion but we did not.  So we continued down the road and arrived at our hotel.  We are back in a Comfort Inn and tonight it is a motel!  Whoop, whoop!  No cart-just walk out the door and into the car!  It doesn't even matter that our room is 1/4th the size of last nights room.
We all unpacked and then the Wilsons hopped into our car and we headed out again.  This time we made it to the Eerie Canal and saw a boat in the lock.  Then the boat left just as we did and we hurried to make it across the canal before the draw bridge had to be raised-we missed that but we did get to see the bridge being raised so that was neat.  Unfortunately, the boat was going to slowly for us to wait and see it go under the bridge. 
Then we were off to see Niagara Falls.  We found parking and then walked towards the falls.  Whitman was buckled in his stroller for this leg of the journey and he did not like that but I did not care!  That little wall that separates you and the zillions of gallons of rushing water is about waist high to me so he could be over that thing in an instant!  The falls are impressive-even at night.  But it is still hard to see them at night despite the huge spotlights on them. 
We saw horseshoe falls and the American falls.  We even walked through some mist from the falls as we walked down the sidewalk.  The kids had a great time tonight and Tony even suggested skipping tomorrow and just heading on to DC.  He was only kidding and I know that my crew can not wait to get on that boat tomorrow. 
It is 11:48 right now and we put laundry in the washer about 10 minutes ago so it is going to be a pretty late night.  And since Walmart was closed tonight (everywhere so far on this trip has closed early) Robby will run over there before time to load up in the morning.  And our leave time is 8:15 in the morning-our earliest yet!  Eeek, I better take a nap while the laundry is in the dryer or I won't be able to make it!

Road Trip 2015, Day 8: July 1, 2015 (Niagara Falls, Ontario and Niagara Falls, NY)
Robby was up at the crack of dawn this morning in search of breakfast, windshield wiper fluid and a few other things on our list.  Graham woke up and saw Robby stirring and immediately asked to go with him so by the time that he put on his clothes, Anderson noticed a boys trip about to happen and he was up and putting on his clothes too.
So Robby and the boys left and Whitman tossed in bed with me for a few minutes before I started to wake everyone else up.  I turned on the tv and soon all of my people were dressed and ready to go.  Robby and the boys came back with doughnuts-including a nutella doughnut and we all sat and had our breakfast.  They had hoped to go to the Walmart right across the street from our hotel but since today is Canada Day they were closed (a Walmart closed? That is just unheard of at home)  At 8:15, we pulled out and met the Wilsons as they were pulling out to come and meet us. 
Our first mission today was the Maid of the Mist.  This meant that we had to cross the border at the rainbow bridge and the crossing was relatively easy.  I vividly remember when we would cross on our mission trips to Mexico and all of the grown ups with us would scare the mess out of us telling us to look ahead, hats off, sunglasses off.  So now that fear is still in me and I am the one telling the kids to be still and be quiet.  Campbell, though, is terrified of any police (remember the Ford home incident yesterday) that she is the quietest and stillest the entire time..wish that would continue during the rest of our drives.
We drove right to the Niagara Falls State Park and parked at the front of the parking lot and then Robby and Tony were at the ticket window before it even opened.  They bought our tickets for the morning and then we headed off on a 10 minute walk to ride the Maid of the Mist boat. 
Since Campbell had talked about Annie Edson Taylor for her oral report (click here for that video (36 seconds into video), I believe that Graham somehow believed that we were going over the falls too.  He had already told me that he didn't want to go on the boat ride and was a bit nervous.  Keaton had asked a zillion times about going over the falls so I knew that she didn't understand that this boat ride wasn't like the roaring rapid ride at Silver Dollar City.
Most of the morning I have wondered what Keaton and Whitman were thinking and how much they understood about what was happening-especially Whitman.  Usually we try to stay out of the water but today we were shoving those babies towards water.  They have had ponchos over them, on a rocking boat with Campbell and Reagan squealing, water pouring over their feet and have been shouted at while we are yelling over the roar of Niagara Falls.  (And tonight up close to the loud and bright fireworks.)  Thankfully, Whitman has handled everything very well and didn't have any meltdowns today!...well, I probably should say that he hasn't had many meltdowns today-he is 2 after all.
Back to the Maid of the Mist: The crowds were not too bad and after going down the elevator to the boat dock, we shuffled right on and found our spot on the top deck.  Everyone put on their ponchos and soon the boat was moving.  This was my 3rd time on the Maid of the Mist but my first time to ride on the top.  I now understand why we have never gone to the top before.
The mist starts out gently falling as we snapped our pictures nearing the American and Bridal Veil Falls.  Then it gradually gets heavier as we approach Horseshoe Falls.  And then the next thing you know you are in the middle of a wind storm on a rocking boat and it is pouring on your head.  Whitman was shouting "rain, rain" and Robby and I were doing the best we could to have a hand on Whitman or Keaton at all time and take pictures of everything else that was happening.  Pure craziness-and it was awesome.
After the boat docked and we took off our ponchos, we took the elevator up to the overlook and over looked. Then we walked back to where we had started the morning and got in line for Cave of the Winds.  Robby and I have done this forever ago but this time, they provided you with these snazzy shoes to wear (velcro sandals).  If you are wondering what they look like, then you will just have to wait until Christmas to see because one will be hanging on my Christmas tree.  Even Whitman had on the little shoes and they matched his little poncho perfectly!
Robby and I had told everyone how wet we would get on the Cave of the Winds walk but when we walked off the elevator, I began to doubt if we would get wet and doubt how exciting this walk really was.  There was no need to doubt!  Basically this walk is a walk on multi level decks right beside the falls.  At the beginning it is misting but at the last deck (the Hurricane Deck) the water is pouring over your feet, splashing on your head and the road of the falls is deafening.  My people loved, loved it (and if you look at the pictures, notice that Reagan saved her poncho from the boat just so she could be different.)
When we finished the walk, everyone was pretty soaked but thankfully the ponchos did their job and no one had to change their clothes.  We walked to the back of the parking lot to have our picnic.  On the way, Tony and Robby moved the cars and as we were about half way to the picnic spot, Shannon asked "where's Campbell?"  Well, I had no idea becuase all I knew that I heard was Robby telling someone that everyone was going with me.
I told Shannon to go on and I booked it back up the sidewalk trying to remember when I had even seen Campbell last.  I mean really, I do have 6 kids!  Ha!  I kept thinking that maybe she was with Robby and he saw me flail my arms trying to get his attention and knew something was wrong.  It was too far to shout so I just held up a letter C and he started pointing that to himself.  He then turned closer and shouted that she was with him and my heart was able to start beating again.  Robby said that he had told me she was with him but I sure never heard and now my life is shortened by a few years!
Lunch was perfect-we at the state park in the New York side of the falls.  We made our lunches while the kids all played football and frisbee.  Then everyone ate and played some more.  It was a nice leisurely lunch.  The New York side of the falls is mainly a state park but the Canadian side is more developed and touristy (Vegas-esque)...and I like them both!
After lunch, we ran to the grocery store to pick up our necessities.  Les had sent us some ice cream suggestions to hit while on our trip and since we have only been to 2 so far, I was feeling bad that he had done all that work and we hadn't taken full advantage of it so today, we went to two more ice cream spots (bringing our total ice cream stops to 6).
This ice cream place overlooked the Niagara River in Lewiston.  The Man vs. Food man had been here and eaten a haystack sandwich so Tony and Robby split some of that (even though we had just come from our picnic).  Then onto the ice cream-they had a Silo Sand Dock Sundae Challenge which decided to try.  It was 9 scoops of ice cream, oreos, hot fudge and gummy warms.  You were able to pick your types of ice cream so soon our bucket full of almost a gallon of ice cream was served.
It was really good and of course, we finished it off rather quickly.  I asked the workers if they would wash the bucket out for me so I wouldn't mess up their bathroom sink and they said sure.  Then she asked what size tshirt I would like.  I had seen a sign about finishing the ice cream and getting a tshirt but told that we all ate the ice cream and not just one person.  She said that was fine and we could still have one tshirt.  The kids were so excited that they started picking which day they will wear the tshirt. 
During all of this, Robby and I were a bit stressed because the good camera had stopped working.  It did this last year when we were in Dearborn but this year we were afraid that the excessive moisture (Niagara Falls falling onto the camera)  might have done something.  Thankfully it was just the battery and the foggy lens soon corrected itself but it did make for a stressful few minutes being on a trip without an adequate camera (we do have a spare and our phones but they just aren't the same.)
The ice cream stop was picture perfect (had we had a working camera) and we hung out there watching the river and speed boats below before loading up.  Before we crossed back into Canada, we thought we might shoudl stop at one more of Les' ice cream stops.  This one was called Twist of the MIst and was built in the shape of an ice cream cone.  Robby decided that he did not get to eat adequate amounts of our ice cream in a sand bucket that we had just eaten so he ordered a flavor he wanted to try called "fireball."  He liked the flavor but it just melted so fast that he had ice cream running down his arm by the time he finished. 
We then crossed back over to Cananda and drove along the water front for a few miles.  We stopped at the Spanish Aero Car to watch it and then we stopped at a gift shop just so we could take some pictures.  Then it was on to the hotel-we are staying at a Holiday Inn right near the falls.  The rooms are fine and we unloaded for a bit before leaving again. 
Our evening adventures included a walk through the Clifton HIll area.  The Wilsons ate at Hard Rock Cafe and we opted for Tim Hortons.  The place was crazy-like line out the door crazy.  All of the kids had grilled cheese paninis except Reagan who had a chicken and cheese panini like me.  Everyone must have been hungry because they ate all of their food and after it was over, we walked back down the main street.
This place was happening tonight-maybe it always is, maybe it was because of the fireworks, maye it was because today is Canada day but the street and crowds were crazy-if I said "hold on to the stroller" once, then I said it a hundred times.  We had told the Wilsons to meet us at 9:45 before the fireworks if they were finished eating and sure enough they showed up.  Shannon said that she was glad we all had on the same color (today is yellow and orange day) because it made it a lot easier to spot us. 
We just stayted where we were for the fireworks and they were pretty impressive.  They were not Osbourne quality fireworks but they were good.  The best viewing point would have been from the Rainbow bridge and I don't even know if they would have been possible.  But our spot was pretty good and everyone could see them plenty.  Campbell were cold and pretty quiet during the fireworks.  Keaton wanted to be by me and had her hands over her ears most of the time.  She was very glad when Robby put the camera down and was able to hold her.  And Whitman is not a huge fireworks fan-when they started I put my hand on his chest and he held it there.  At one point, I tried to get him out of the stroller but he refused.  Then I put my hands on his ears and he held them there for the rest of the time.  During the fireworks I would ask him if he liked them and he would shake his head "no" but afterwards I would ask and he would say "loud, boom, boom:
The walk back to the hotel was like leaving Riverfest after fireworks or walking in Race for the Cure.  We shuffled back up the steep hill to our hotel-when we arrived Keaton was sound asleep, the others started changing and laying down and Whitman played his trains until bedtime.  He even fit in the bathroom-miracles never cease.

Road Trip 2015, Day 9: July 2, 2015 (Niagara Falls, Ontario to Hershey, PA)
Well, I am writing this blog with a bit of sadness today because we are now at the half way point on our trip-day 9.  This makes me incredibly sad but all that means is that it is now time to start planning next years road trip.  We were able to sleep in a bit this morning and didn’t pull out until 9:30.  Yesterday, Robby had bought some doughnuts at the grocery store and the kids choked them down (they were pretty dry.)  Then we loaded up and were on the road to Buffalo.
 We drove down Clifton Hill one last time and then across the Rainbow Bridge and were able to see the falls again.  As we were going across Anderson said “look at the falls because we won’t be back here.”  We quickly corrected him and reminded him that we would be back to ride the jet boat. 
 Then we crossed the border again.  This border patrol lady was pretty serious and after she entered our paperwork, she walked around to the side of the car and asked the kids their names.  I am so thankful that Anderson didn’t say “Ricardo” or my Whitman didn’t shout out his other name “Bobby!”  We sat there for about 10 minutes and I swear they just waved the Wilsons on through without even looking at their paperwork-we just look suspicious in this big old white van.
 We had been on the road for about a mile and Robby asked for the rice krispy treats.  I reminded him that he had eaten the last of them the other day and he was pretty disappointed.  He did opt for the day old Tim Horton doughnuts which were still tons better than the grocery store doughnuts we fed the kids. 
 The ride this morning to our first stop was fairly short but the kids were a little rambunctious.  For some reason, Whitman caused Campbell to say “Stop it, Whitman.”  And Whitman shouted right back at her “Stop it, Campbell.”  The whole car heard this and we all laughed at our little talker. 
 When we made the original itinerary, we had not really planned on stopping in Buffalo because of time but stop we did-a total of 5 stops!  Our first stop was at the Herschel Carousel museum.  They are the ones that made the carousel in Little Rock at the zoo and that carousel is one of only 2 surviving carousel that go up and down. 
 The museum was neat and they had a player piano that a man was playing and singing.  This was really interesting to the kids and they stood around him for the longest time.  Then we rode the first carousel made at the factory followed by ride on a kiddie carousel that only my people were tall enough for. 
 Finally, out back they had 4 more rides for the kids to ride on.  Robby let the kids pick one ride and he bought tokens for them to ride.  But Anderson looked less than thrilled with his choice so Robby, the softie that he is, bought the kids one more token to ride a ride.  The favorite ride was the helicopter and after it was over, we loaded up for our next stop.
 We had been told about Paula’s Doughnuts and it did not disappoint.  Shannon and I ran in to pick out a few things and came out with a dozen and a half.  Actually, I didn’t have enough money to buy just 8 doughnuts-it was much more economical to buy a dozen.  It was like I was saving money. 
 The doughnuts were delicious and we could have eaten more than the peanut log that we ate before our next stop.  The peanut log had won a prize at the Taste of Buffalo and everyone seemed very pleased with it. After lunch, I passed out the rest of the doughnuts to everyone and they all agreed they were much better than the doughnuts we had eaten for breakfast.
 As we were driving to lunch with my dozen doughnuts sitting on my lap, Robby and I were talking about how long we could stay on a trip before coming home.  We agreed that 2 months would be an adequate time but then Robby added that we couldn’t eat like we are eating on this trip on a 2 month long trip.  I personally don’t see anything wrong with how we are eating on this trip-doughnuts and wings within 30 minutes after all we did pass up on the custard stop that we saw.
 Lunch in Buffalo had to be wings so we stopped at Anchor Bar for Buffalo wings.  Since we had just eaten a snack, the Wilsons and us split a 50 wings along with some celery (actually the Wilsons ate more of the celery than us-like we didn’t eat any) and 4 orders of fries.  My kiddos haven’t eaten wings ever nor do we really ever eat chicken with a bone-I don’t really like to have to work for my food.  So this was a real learning experience for everyone.  My big 3 all tried the wings and they liked them or maybe I should say loved them. 
 Our tummies were full from our lunch so we needed a little walk before the car ride.  We walked right to Teddy Roosevelt’s inauguration site.  McKinley was assassinated and Roosevelt was inaugurated at that very home.  We opted not to do house tour so we just spent a minute in their gift shop and of course a few minutes in their potties.  My Keaton continues to want to potty at every single potty that she sees.  She has not passed up a single potty on this entire trip. 
 Before leaving Buffalo, we walked by the USS Little Rock. We hadn’t planned to stop there but thought it fitting to check out the ship since it is named after our hometown.  There was no need to tour the ship because once you have seen one ship, then you have seen them all!
 We drove for about an hour when we stopped again to take a brief picture at the birthplace of Francis Bellamy.  Do you know who he is?  Nope, I didn’t either but he is the one who wrote the words to the Pledge of Allegiance.  The home is a private residence and I guess they are used to people pulling up in their front yard and taking pictures of their home.  Personally, I would open a gift shop and offer a few tours-if you could have one group stop a day, you would do pretty good.
 Since we had spent the day stopping all around Buffalo, that made us have quite a bit of driving this afternoon and this evening.  It was a beautiful drive through New York and Pennsylvania.  We stopped at a rest stop to potty and to pull out our picnic stuff so we could eat in the car.  I fixed the kids the last of our sausage bologna along with some squirt cheese and crackers.  I threw in a few other things but when the kids have squirt cheese it is the same as stopping at an ice cream stop!  Unfortunately, I did learn one lesson while making supper in the car-you can cut yourself with a plastic knife. 
 My thumb bled half way through Pennsylvania and that wasn’t our only problem on our drive: our front tv started to act up.  A few times when we put the disc in, the thing just said “no disc.”  Nothing causes more panic in the Dennie van more than the DVD player messing up.  At this very moment, it is working and we are having a Little House on the Prairie marathon. 
 I will tell you something that we did right on this trip: maps for the kids.  Robby made each row of kids a map that has our route highlighted and an arrow for each hotel.  A few minutes ago, Campbell said “tonight is our 9th night”-my girl sure knows where we are!  When the kids clean up their rows, the one thing that they leave out is their maps and first thing in the morning, someone usually has their map and is asking questions about the day.  Next year, they probably need multi-page maps so they can see all of our proposed stops as well.
 The Wilsons were a bit behind us when we stopped at Burger King for a potty stop.  Not that Robby has been timing our stops or anything but we did in fact stop and our stop was 7 minutes long!  Whoop, whoop!
 We knew that we would be arriving at Chocolate World pretty late, so we had the choice of going tonight or in the morning.  We opted for the Amazing Race version of Chocolate World tonight.  I say the Amazing Race version because we walked in the doors at 9:40 and the place closed at 11.
 I should be afraid that someone is going to report us for keeping our babies out so late...but that didn’t stop us!  We bought tickets for the 4D movie and Whitman loved putting on his glasses.  Keaton and Whitman both liked some parts of the movie-smelling the smells, the bubbles and confetti but other parts-the loud noises, the scary man and the things hitting your feet-they did not like. 
 The movie started at 10 and lasted for 20 minutes so that left us some time to hurry to the chocolate world ride which explains how they make chocolate.  As we sat down on the ride, I looked down at Whitman and he was covered in chocolate.  When we left the movie, they handed everyone a piece of chocolate and Whitman got some in his mouth but most of it on his hands and face.  I cleaned him up and we were able to enjoy the ride.  Personally, a tour of the real chocolate factory would have been really neat though but this tour/ride ended with another piece of candy so that won me over!
 For buying tickets to the 4D movie, you received a coupon for a slushie so after the ride, Robby ran the kids over there to order their slushies.  Then we had a few minutes for shopping (Campbell and Keaton bought their trip souvenir-a shirt) and everyone picked out a candy bar!
 After our shopping, we ran around in the store taking pictures and then to the car.  On the way to the car, it was decided that we were going to Philadelphia tomorrow instead of Gettysburg.  It doesn’t change our hotel tomorrow night or our tomorrow night plans (see D.C. at night) but it does mean another Amazing Race-ish type day and we can’t wait!
 The kids laid down at about 12:10 and that was after helping unload the car, hurrying in the hotel and taking some speed showers.  They are plum exhausted so maybe some people will find time to nap in the car tomorrow!

Road Trip 2015, Day 10: July 3, 2015 (Hershey, PA to Washington, D.C.)
We all slept well again last night and early this morning, I knew that some child was laying behind me but they were being still so I didn't even roll over to see who it was.  When I heard Robby stirring, I did roll over and see that Whitman was the one laying by me.  Robby had moved him when we had a shower.
Minutes later, Robby and Graham were out the door to take a load to the car and to go and get gas.  Tony needed some too but this little van takes a bit longer to fill up.  I didn't think that I was going to be able to have everyone dressed and ready by the time that they returned but we were almost all ready.  Reagan is my slow poke in the mornings (and pretty much all the time) so once she is ready, everyone else is usually ready.
Robby loaded the car while we started on breakfast.  During breakfast I did take a quick peek at the pool and it had a Burger King type slide that ended up in the pool.  The kids saw it last night but of course there was no time to swim...we probably should have just let them take one slide down in their undies before putting them into bed last night.  We also didn't have time to make another batch of rice krispy treats since we have depleted our supply.  Hopefully, Robby can survive without them!
Back to breakfast-they had a make your own pancake machine which I think is really cool.  But the pancakes must not have been too big of a hit because most of them were left on the kids plates.  Once we had finished with breakfast, we loaded up and headed to Philly.
The first stop was Valley Forge.  We walked in the steps of George Washington and his men as they camped during the Revolutionary War.  We walked through the visitor's center and then back to the car for our drive around the park.  Robby did let everyone pile out so we ran to George Washington's headquarters.  After a walk around the house, we went to check out a bunk house cabin and then back to the car.
We had a bit of a drive to get into Philadelphia and Robby drove us right to our Delassandros-our Philly cheese steak sandwich place.  Robby and Shannon just beat the line and as they waited, we went in search of a bathroom with no luck.  So as we ate our sandwiches (which most of the Dennie kids loved) we drove to the nearest gas station.  Everyone pottied and then we drove right down to the Rocky stairs.
We stood in line to take our pictures by Rocky and then I let the kids loose to run up the stairs.  Of course everyone did the famous Rocky pose at the top of the stairs-I probably should watch the movie so I could know what the whole Rocky thing is all about.  (I have seen the clips of him running up the stairs though so I am not completely clueless.)
Everyone then jumped back into our car and we hightailed it down the road to the Liberty Bell area.  Robby dropped us all off and we walked to the visitor's center first.  We stamped our books-they had 10 different stamps there and I have 7 books that needed stamping-you do the math.  No, we didn't get stamps from everyone place but we did get 3 and all of that stamping gave Robby time to catch up with us after parking the car.
We took some pictures in front of Independence Hall and then peeked in the windows so we could see the Liberty Bell.  The line was crazy long so we weren't able to go inside and see it.  The crowds everywhere were thick in Philadelphia-all preparing for America's 239th birthday. 
Next up was Christ Church and where Benjamin Franklin was buried.  It is considered good luck to throw a penny on Ben's grave so that we did.  Shannon had quite a few pennies but we had to borrow a few from a stranger.  Then it was just a few blocks to Betsy Ross' house.  We saw where she was buried and imagined old George coming to ask Betsy to sew the flag.  It is said that Washington wanted another type of star, but Betsy folded a piece of paper to show him how easy the 5 point start was the cut and make for others sewing the flag.  Washington agreed and the stars on the flag became what we know them today. 
After we left Betsy's place, we walked down Elfreth's Alley-the oldest street continuously lived in residential street in America.  You can almost imagine people long ago living in those houses-we even noticed one that was for sale-wonder how much that would set you back?  And from there, we hiked back to the car.
When I say "hiked" I really mean "raced."  Robby was on a mission to get back to the car and get back quickly.  This was quite the haul back to the car-Whitman's stroller is about to be thrown into the trash so it doesn't navigate the bumpy and rocky sidewalk easily and then Keaton walked right into a pole.  That little baby was walking just as fast as she could and did her best to keep up-she was so tired by the journey's end that she even let Tony carry her for a minute. 
When we left Philly, we had about 2 hours in the car and we had to hurry to arrive at our next stop.  The traffic didn't really cooperate the entire time but we did the best that we could and arrived at Fort McHenry in time to watch the short film before walking to the fort.
At the end of the film, the curtain usually goes up and as the Star Spangled Banner is being played, you see Old Glory flapping in the wind above Fort McHenry but today the movie was broken so they just showed a picture of the flag at the end.  That was a little less dramatic but I still really enjoy Fort McHenry.
We walked out to the flag and today the Garrison flag was flying-it was something like 42 feet by 24 feet.  I am not really sure about those dimensions but it was crazy big.  The kids all helped pull up the flag that would fly over the fort tonight and then they helped everyone else catch the large flag as it was lowered to the ground.  We had stumbled into this the last time that we were here and we tried really hard today to make it in time to help lower the flag tonight.
I am so glad that we made it because I know that the kids really enjoyed it.  The park closed right after we lowered the flag so we had just a few minutes to take a few pictures before leaving and stamping our passport books.  I did learn that Francis did his writing during the War of 1812-I still need to brush up on my history. 
After leaving the fort, we stopped at the grocery store for a second and then to 7-11 for gas and supper.  Robby had to put in a special order for all of the hot dogs that we bought so we were there a few minutes before our food was ready to go!  But a cheap meal was worth the wait!
The drive to D.C didn't take too long and soon we were parking and walking towards the Lincoln monument.  We walked all around Mr. Lincoln (if you will remember Anderson was good old Abe for his report not too long ago-click here to watch that video and go to minute 3) 
Next stop was the Vietnam Memorial followed by the WWII Memorial.  Once I had seen this memorial and wasn't too impressed with it but this time, I really feel like it is one of the best.  We walked up a ways to see a glimpse of the White House and then walk around the Washington Monument.  Such incredible history in this city-always makes me want to know more. 
I think that the kids enjoy D.C. but they do not yet appreciate it like they should.  We did quite a bit of walking tonight and for the last half, it was misting on us.  The rain was a welcome treat since the weather could have been a bit warm without the rain-maybe it will mist a bit on us tomorrow too!  My kiddos are troopers walking so far all day today.  I do forget that my Campbell is just 5 and Graham is just 6!  Whitman and Keaton rode in their strollers for the most part tonight.  Whitman has taken to dragging his feet while in the stroller so after a few good reminders on his leg this morning, all I had to  do was pat his leg and say "pick up your feet" and he did so and did so quickly. 
On the walk back to the car, we passed by the WWI Memorial.  Robby said that they want to redo it or add on to it to make it fancier.  It is currently just a simple rotunda (I think that is what it is called) and I really like it.  Then we walked through the Korean Memorial before trekking back to the car. 
Our hotel was a bit farther away than we had planned but that was fine.  It was only 20 minutes after all though it ended up being a bit longer because Robby missed a turn (or 4) and we ended up in the middle of Kennedy Center traffic. 
Once we made it, we were thankful that the van fit in the parking garage and were all surprised with the biggest hotel room yet.  We have a huge hallway leading to our bathroom and then room.  We have 2 air conditioner units, 4 windows, 2 double beds and a sectional sleeper sofa-this room is huge....meanwhile, the Wilsons are in a room that is so small their sleeper sofa doesn't even pull out!
The laundry is started and things have been repacked so we will have a few minutes before bedtime but that will give us plenty of time to plan tomorrow's day or catch up on pinterest!

Road Trip 2015, Day 11: July 4, 2015 (Washington, D.C.)
The night seemed to pass fairly quickly but I guess that happens when you stay up until 2.  Robby was still up moving quite early.  He even said today that he is a morning person and I would agree-he is definitely a morning person when we are on vacation.  On days that we are not on a vacation, then he is definitely not a morning person.  Graham must take after his Daddy because Graham was ready to go as soon as he saw Robby was leaving.
Anderson tagged along on this trip and they were back fairly quickly with some ice.  Then Campbell and Graham went out again with Robby and they were gone long enough for me to get Whitman, Keaton, Reagan and myself completely ready.  I felt like this might have been a bit excessive and briefly thought about calling him but I figured he would show up eventually.  And he did bearing pasties from downstairs for us to eat for breakfast.
The kids all lined up in front of the tv eating their cinnamon rolls and drinking milk.  Then we went downstairs to load up for the day.  The Wilsons met us in the car and I had no idea that it was raining until we pulled out of the parking garage.
The rain looked like it had set in for a long, long time.  So Robby found a Walmart and Tony and he rain in to find some "cheap" ponchos.  Apparently, they don't make those any more!  All they had were ponchos that were not "cheap."  I was flabbergasted when I heard how much money Robby had to pay for those ponchos. 
We then drove right to the capitol building and Robby dropped us off while he went to find a parking spot of the car.  We spent most of our time trying to put ponchos on everyone...but before we could make our way to the building, the sun was starting to come out.  When he found us, we walked right into the capitol and then Tony asked about tickets and we were in line for our tour before we knew what was happening.  They had a short film before the tour.  Then you were divided into groups and handed headsets and your tour began.
Our tour guide was great and knowledgeable (though I know they have just had to memorize all of that.)  My big kids stayed interested in what she had to say and my little ones were just enamored by the head set and radio that we used to hear the guide. 
Interesting facts: the capitol building is in the middle of the city and has 4 different zip codes, each state has 2 statues on display there (one of ours is Mr. Rose from the Rose Law Firm) and when our guide was pointing out George Washington at the top of the rotunda, she said "he is the one that looks like Betty White wearing a snuggy!"
If you will notice on our pictures, the capitol is having work on the dome done.  They have scaffolding all around the outside and even some work is being done inside.  Robby and I have seen at least 10 capitol buildings that have scaffolding all around them-we might should start keeping count of those things!
During the tour, a police officer came and asked her to ask us if anyone had left a bag outside and wouldn't you know, when our tour was over the front entrances were closed and we were escorted out a side door.  We could have headed back to the gift shop area but it was much  more interesting to go out a door that we would normally not get to see. 
After the tour, we all hiked back up to Union Station to eat lunch and potty.  The walk was pretty long but eating inside in a semi-relaxed place was nice.  We all had Bojangles and even though it is a chain, I do like trying something new. 
Once we had finisihed eating, the Wilsons headed off to a Smithsonian or two and we walked back towards the capitol for pictures and then on to the Supreme Court and Library of Congress for more pictures.  I do hope you notice one of my pictures of Whitman on the steps of the Supreme Court having himself a good old 2 year old fit! 
By this time, we were hot and the kids were dragging.  So Robby picked us up in the van.  The plan had been to go to the White House and then we changed it to going to Roosevelt's place.  But then we ended up at Ray's Ice cream.  Les had helped us find some ice cream stops and while we were eating, Anderson said "Tell Les he is a master"-it is good to have an ice cream master in the family.
When we finished with our ice cream, we came out of the tiny restaurant and it was raining.  Robby said that we would just drive around for a few minutes to let it clear off and we drove and drove and there was no clearing.  Finally, he headed towards Roosevelts Memorial.
We were not expecting every single road to be blocked off down that way because of the fireworks.  Like it was crazy and before we knew it, we were being detoured over the bridge because of the fireworks.  And then it started pouring so hard that we just knew they were going to cancel the fireworks.  The National Park Service site even said that government buidlings were going to open to shelter people from the upcoming storm.  The roads were full of water-some places up to the bottom of the door on other cars (not ours though!) and when Robby would drive over water, it would just spew up beside the car and the kids would go nuts.
Robby and I started to worry that we were not going to be able to get back over to the other side to see the fireworks or even get the Wilsons.  The were changing museum during the downpour and even had to buy more ponchos (we should have never thrown those away from Niagara Falls).  While we were fighting the rain just in the car, Robby said "I don't care how much I paid for those things, this rain makes it worth it."
It probably took us an hour to get back to the other side of DC.  We found a great parking spot and even a quaint garden path to walk through.  This time the rain had slacked off but we still needed those ponchos for about 3 minutes.  Then we decided that maybe the kids needed to go and potty so we ran into a Smithsonian.  I batted my eyes and asked and they said sure but they were so ready to close that we had an escort to the potty-that was fine with me because the potty inside the perimeter of the secure fireworks zone were muddy, muddy.
The plan was to meet the Wilsons in front of the White House and we were about 20 feet from being in front of it when the police started shouting "the street is closed," and  "clear the park."  When you hear this from men wearing bullet proof vests and carrying guns, you do listen.  We were able to snap one quick picture as we walked away as we were told.
The Wilsons didn't even get that close to the White House when they were turned away but we all met right before we entered the Mall area.  The security lines were fairly short but the grounds were crazy muddy.  We found a spot and the kids took off playing.  I feel like there were less people tonight than usual and that was probably due to the rain.
We waited and waited for the show to start.  The boys played frisbee with a kid from Wisconsin and then Reagan, Robby and Anderson walked all the way back to our car so they could bring back a football to play with.  They also picked supper up on the way back to us.
I guess we did get our money's worth out of those ponchos-we even sat on them tonight as we ate our supper (hot dogs, pizza and pretzels).  Before too long, it was time for the fireworks to start and man, they were good.  They put Osborne's fireworks to shame and at the grand finale, it was just boom after boom for about 5 minutes.  Whitman wasn't afraid at all this go around and Campbell, well, she danced the entire time with her glow sticks.  Most of the time she wasn't even facing the fireworks but she was having the best time ever!
Once the fireworks were over, we and about 30 thousand other people started heading back to their car.  Robby, the boy scout that he is, had a flash light and he hung it around his neck backwards so all we had to do was look up and follow the light.  We all made it back to the car and it probably helped following Robby's light. 
It took us about 15 minutes to get back to the hotel today because Robby missed the turn but that just provided us all with some extra quality time....especially since I do think my dvd player is finally broken (that makes me so sad since we are still a 1000 miles away from home). 
It was a pretty great 4th of July celebrating our country's 239th birthday in Washington D.C.  Hope we all rest well tonight and I definitely hope that it is not raining tomorrow.  (Currently, I have our ponchos laid out to dry in this room and plan to fold them back up so neat and tight tomorrow that they will go on us on each and every trip from here on out!)

Road Trip 2015, Day 12: July 5, 2015 (Washington, D.C. to Charles Town, WV)
I woke up this morning with Robby dumping clean laundry on me.  He said that he woke up at 6 and thought about the kids soaking wet socks in the dirty clothes bag and thought he would just go and see if the washers were empty. 
I busied myself folding laundry and Robby busied himself folding up the ponchos.  And all of this folding made us have to hurry.  The Wilsons beat us to the car and we shoved our stuff in the car and soon we were ready to go as well. 
Our first stop this morning was the Iwo Jima Monument.  It was just a quick stop and we jumped out and took a picture.  Then we took a quick accidental tour around the Pentagon before meeting the Wilsons again at Arlington.  Once we parked, we high tailed it up to the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Campbell pretty much cried the entire way-she was hot, she was tired, she was just not happy and she let me and everyone else around her know about it.  Finally we made it to the top of the hill and she was content again. 
We made it just in time for the changing of the gaurd.  Robby and the kids were on the steps and able to see fairly well though they were in the sun.  Whitman and I were able to see until the other soldier came up and then the crowds rushed us and we could no longer see.  I put Whitman on my shoulders and he could see enough to start saying "two mans, two mans hats."  He said this over and over again until I had to get him out of there.
From the top of the Unknown Soldier hill, we easily walked down to Kennedy's grave and then on back to our cars.  Then we headed on to the FDR Memorial-it was Sunday afternoon the day after a holiday so surely there wouldn't be anyone around and parking for our bus would be a piece of cake!  Ha!  After circling for awhile, Robby just dropped the kids and me off at FDRs for us to go on through it. 
We stopped at the gift shop to stamp our books which takes forever.  Then I received an urgent SOS call from Robby.  He was having a Robby attack (bathroom!) so I gathered the kids and told them to stay right there and ran to the street to jump in the car so Robby could run to the restroom near the kids. 
Robby had told me how to make the circle and I only circled twice when he called to say they had finished the memorial (and Robby was feeling much better) and were heading back to the car.  So while they waited on me to pick them up, they ran to see the MLK Jr. Memorial. 
I pulled onto the curb and they all hopped in and we were off to Jefferson's Memorial.  This time Robby dropped us off and we met the Wilsons.  They went to our car as Robby was told to drive off so we had to wait a few minutes as he circled trying to come and pick us up. 
Then we drove into the city and Robby dropped the Wilsons off near the White House and we parked and went to the White House visitor's center.  It took me a bit longer to get inside because they wouldn't let you bring food or drink so I had to take my bag outside and dump my food.  I didn't have much food and it was secured in a ziplock bag along with a coke bottle so I jus sat them neatly on the wall beside the trash can (and happily retrieved them when we left)
We were at the visitor's center for a minute and then walked outside to head to the Smithsonians.  Police were everywhere and my skittish child, Campbell, said "who called 911?"  They had stopped the traffic and wouldn't let anyone walk across the street so we were stuck which was fine because we were waiting anyway to see who was coming. 
A few minutes later, suv after suv zoomed by.  We couldn't see a whole lot but knew it must have been someone important.  Robby quickly found that Obama had been out playing golf at Andrew's Air Force Base and was returning to the White House.  The boys seemed to appreciate the importance of what and who we just saw. 
Speaking of boys: since the dvd player is broken in the car, that leaves Graham a lot of time to think.  My Graham is the thinker and of course these thinking time leads to question after question after question.  He is the closest kiddo to us and he takes advantage of us being so close.  Questions are a good thing but you can only answer so many questions until you feel like you are about to loose your mind though!  Robby said that when he came to DC as a little boy, he asked so many questions when he was visiting Senator Bumper's office, that they sent him a pile of books to read when he got home.  I guess, like father like son!
We then headed to the American History Smithsonian.  Just being inside any Smithsonian for even a few minutes, reminded us that you could spend a week in DC so easily.  We hit the highlights there but the main attraction was the flag that flew atop Fort McHenry (earlier in the trip, we helped change the flags at Fort McHenry)
It was at this point in the trip, that we had to say goodbye to the Wilsons.  We have been with them for 12 days and now they must head home.  My kids were pretty much devastated and Campbell said that she didn't want to go to the pool becuase there would be no one to play with.  As we kept telling everyone bye, Whitman started saying "I go bye too."  And he was right, we just had a bit more time in DC before we left the city.  The Wilsons are taking a more direct route home and will beat us home by 4 or 5 days.
We left that Smithsonian and traveled to the next one on our visit-Air and Space.  Nothing seems to be close in DC.  Everything looks close-"oh, there is the capitol" and "look, I can see the Washington Monument."  It may look close together but it is not.  Robby cheered on the kids as much as he could saying that we were just crossing the street and going to the next building.
That was true-we were just crossing the street and going to the next building but that walk took us at least 15 minutes.  The kids pressed on but were rewarded with cokes to share and ice cream sandwiches.  This made them happy, happy-especially since it was nearing 5 and we had not had lunch nor supper-our only snack had been trail mix while walking the streets of D.C. 
Our goal was to be on the road by 6 so we didn't spend too much time in that museum.  We did stop at the Wright brothers plane.  There they had a replica of the Wright brothers house and we were quick to point out that we had been in the real Wright brothers house in Dearborn earlier on this trip. 
The kids had time to walk through an airplane and then they played in a hand on room while Robby went to get the car for us.  When he made it to the car, he text me and we headed to our meeting spot which was where we had parked last night for the fireworks.  I had written down the address and Robby and I had gone over how to get there-out these doors, cross the street, right, then left then right....but I had a slight moment of panic right when we were getting ready to leave the building-I had to ask the boys which door we had come in so I could know which one to go out!  They knew and once we were outside I remembered just where to go. 
Robby was there to pick us up in no time at all and we were on the road to our hotel tonight in West Virginia.  We had only one stop on the way-Robby and the kids all piled out of the car and stormed into 7-11.  For our last walk in D.C. Robby promised the kids that if they pressed on then we would get a special drink when we were back in the car.  So that is exactly what we did. 
The drive to our 7-11 stop was full of huge brand new houses crammed on little bitty lots.  The whole town was so quaint.  I had plenty of time to look around my surroundings because they were in theat 7-11 for at least 20 minutes.  I straightened the car, threw trash away, tried to calm Whitman (he was not happy about being left in the car) and played on my phone some and then finally they came out.
Everyone had their own icee and Robby had bought supper for everyone-hot dogs and pizza.  This is in fact our 3rd day in a row to eat hot dogs but no one complained and a hot dog even sounded good to all of us.
When they were all back in the car and the food was passed out, Anderson delightly sighed "a coke in one hand and a hot dog in the other."  I guess he was pleased with his meal! 
The drive into West Virginia was beautiful-I guess that we were in wine country but we were also in rich country.  The houses were huge and I could hardly work on my blog because I was so distracted wtih looking at everyone's houses. It didn't take long at all for us to arrive at our hotel. 
Robby told the kids that if they went inside quitely he would have a surprise for them and he did-cookies from the front desk.  Then the evening got even better for them-swimming.  This pool was outside and the water was warm. I didn't get in because of the cool breeze and mainly because I knew the room was going to be freezing when we came back inside. 
We played out in the pool for a long time and then came inside for baths and bed.  This was possibly the earliest night that we have been in our rooms and the kids are all almost asleep (10:30).  Tomorrow is a big day: Harpers Ferry.

Road Trip 2015, Day 13: July 6, 2015 (Charles Town, WV to Harrisonburg, VA)
We needed to catch up on some rest and we certainly did it this morning.  We didn't leave the hotel until after 10 and were in no hurry at all during breakfast.  Robby took Graham, Campbell and Anderson to breakfast.  Then he came back for Keaton and finally came back for Reagan.  It helped that we had an awesome first floor room right by the breakfast area. 
I started on my shower while Whitman hung out in his pack n play turning the lights on and off.  Then Robby brought back those who were still eating and I had my breakfast with them.  You cannot beat a Holiday Inn Express breakfast since it has those delicious cinnamon rolls.  I would buy them at the store if they sold them.
Everyone seemed to be in a really good mood this morning so I guess the extra bit of sleep helped with that.  The first stop of the morning was the grocery store for Robby.  He ran in to pick us up some drinks and then we were on our way.
The drive continued to be really pretty today as we headed to Antietam National Battlefield.  We were last here in 2005 and not much had changed!  Actually, I don't remember going there then!  We walked through the exhibits and then the gift shop.  We all caught the last bit of the movie-well, Robby and all of the kids except Whitman saw the last of the movie.  I had to take Whitman out because he wanted to talk to loudly about the "same flag"-he was seeing a flag on the screen and then noticed that it was the same as the flag standing beside the screen.  After he had said "same flag" and "two flags" over and over again, I decided that it would be best if I just took him out!
After the movie was over, we walked around outside and experienced some camera problems.  While Robby and I were working on the camera, I looked up to see Anderson and Graham shooting pretend guns at each other as they crawled up an embankment of rocks.  Those crazy boys...last night they had on their bathing suit bottoms on only and started chest bumping each other.  They would slam their chests into each other and then just laugh and laugh.  I asked what in the world they were doing and Anderson shouted "we are doing the changing off the guard."
Then we started our drive around the battlefield.  The movie was really good (though a bit deep and long) but we were able to imagine the men battling in those very fields.  We walked down to a bridge and were swarmed by gnats.  Seriously, there were hundreds-they were in Campbell's eyes, Whitman was spitting them out of his mouth. 
Robby had gone to get the car during the heaviest part of the gnat attack.  While we were waiting on the van, I had everyone walk back and forth trying to loose the gnats.  When Robby did pull up, we all started swatting at the gnats and piling into the car as fast as we could.  Anderson hopped out of the line getting into the van and said "I will be the bait while y'all get in."  Thankfully, out bait (Anderson) worked and we didn't even end up with too many gnats in the car. 
From their we headed on to Harper's Ferry National Historic Park.  The plan had been to have a picnic there but we climbed out of the car and the boys started playing with the football.  Before we could even get out of the car, we could see them swatting, slapping and flailing their arms trying to get away from the gnats.  So instead of a lovely picnic, I just slapped some peanut butter on tortillas and threw them to everyone in the car. 
Robby drove us down to the bottom of the Harper's Ferry area and then he dropped me and everyone but Whitman off.  The kids and I headed to the visitor's center and stopped a bit to work on their Jr. Park Ranger books.  Keaton became very upset that I did not have her a book so she had herself a fit-which was observed by a park ranger who went inside the building and came out with a sticker for that girl.  (And I was about to give her something else.) 
Robby found a parking spot and him and Whitman joined us just as the kids were being sworn in as Jr. Park Rangers.  They were all pleased with their accomplishments and happy to move on to our next park of the day.  We weren't in Harper's Ferry very long but it is just a quaint small town and Whitman left a happy man-the train rolled through while we were there.
On the next drive, we started smelling something in the car. I checked my shoes but nope, it wasn't my shoes.  We drove some more and then thought about Whitman-yep, it was him!  He was sound asleep and didn't wake up-as we changed him, changed his shorts, cleaned his legs and feet (yep, that messy) and then even had to clean the car seat that we laid him down on.  Then we put that sleeping baby back in his car seat and headed on down the road.
It is just pretty land around here and there has been plenty to see all day....but most of the day I was the only one looking around since I was driving.  The kids were playing their kindles and Robby was working on the dvd player (it is working this second-we have debated not turning the car off for the rest of the trip and we have also debated why it is working-because we bought a disc cleaner or because Robby in frustration slammed his fist into the roof of the van), or he was working on his camera (currently working better-one part was stuck like some water or something made it stick-hmm, possibly Niagara Falls?) or he was working on his phone (works one second and doesn't the other-this frustration has shortened Robby's life span by a good two years!)
This a National Park kind of day.  We went on to Shenandoah National Park and drove some of Skyline Drive.  As we were driving, we saw overlook after overlook and when I pointed one out of the kids, Reagan said "can Dad drive now?"  I think I might be a bit offended!
The drive was pretty and I was enjoying it very much-so much so that when Robby suggested taking a little hike, I agreed.  It was a nice trail at the beginning...then it started sloping down a hill, then it became even steeper.  It was fine except I know that what goes up must come down...and I was a bit worried about bears.  I had already sprayed "bear repellent" on the kids (bug spray) and my little people were sure we didn't have to worry about bears because of that.  We didn't see any bears but we did finally make it to the waterfall that we were trying to find.  The kids walked around it for a bit-probably soaking their shoes and then we started up the hill.
Surprisingly everyone did well walking up the hill-even Whitman and Campbell.  We had to carry Whitman a bit and Campbell only complained a few times (much better than our walk to the Unknown Soldier yesterday).  Graham started shouting "victory" when we were finally able to see the car and I was certainly relieved that we were not stranded and mauled by a bear in the middle of the woods!
Speaking of bears-while we were on our walk, I felt a bit silly thinking about bears.  But as we were leaving the park, we saw another car pulled over and looked the same way they were...a momma bear and 3 baby bears.  We watched them until they crawled back into the woods and then drove on.  Everyone unbuckled and we all saw them.  After watching those bears can you imagine how hard it was to get Campbell and Keaton out of the car to go to the bathroom on the next stop.  
At one point, we were driving through a cloud and Campbell kept asking, is this my first time to be in a cloud.  I said that she probably had in a plane before but then she asked "is this my first time to be in a cloud in the car?"  We were about to turn off and head to our hotel but we were just a bit from the tunnel so we had to keep going and take a few pictures there. 
It didn't take too long for us to realize that all of our gallivanting around has caused us to be out a bit later than we would like and we haven't even had supper yet.  Reagan said she wanted "real food" and then saw a Burger King and decided that was "real food."  I tried to explain that was not "real food" but she didn't care and neither did Campbell and Keaton because Burger King had a playground.  Speaking of "real food"-we can only think of 2 times on this trip that we have sat down and had "real food" which was at the buffet the first night and then at the wing place in Buffalo.  The only other place close to real food was the cheese steak but it doesn't count since we ate it in the car.  All that to say, I really can not wait to eat at the Apple place in Gatlinburg.
Conveniently right across the parking lot was a place called Flotzies-an ice cream stand.  It was all lit up like what we see at the fair (must be common around here because there was another one down the road).  It is not a Dennie trip without ice cream daily (or at least every few days) so we just had to stop.  Everyone had their ice cream and then happily climbed back in the car for our last bit of the ride to the hotel. 
Campbell has been our hotel spotter for the last few nights-quickly spotting our hotel.  Tonight she had already told us that she was tired so we urged her to start looking for our hotel and again, she was the first one to see it.  The plan was to not do laundry tonight but go to bed early (midnight) but since laundry was right next door to ours, how could we not do it? 
You could probably guess that someone with a 6 page packing list would make notes about what else I need to bring and what I do not need to bring on our next trip.  But I would just like to mention that we seem to have the getting into and out of hotel thing down.  Here is how it works: Robby runs in to check in while the kids straighten their rows, I clean up our area and start collecting trash.  Then Robby returns with the cart and starts loading it.  The boys help loading as well-2 large bins with clear lids, 2 large bins with blue lids, 2 bags with sleeping bags, 2 ice chests, diaper bag, Robby's backpack, a cord box, an extra bag, a dirty clothes bag and the pack n play.  All that goes in every single night. 
Then as soon as we get in the room I start putting things on the bed.  The kids know to take their shoes off as soon as we walk into the room and Whitman immediately begins asking about his trains.Robby starts showering the kids and as soon as he gets all of the dirty laundry off of them (even if they have to sit in a towel until their shower turn) Robby starts the laundry.  As I go through the boxes pulling out what we need for the night and next day, straightening and reloading, I take them off of the bed and put them where they belong in the room. 
This craziness continues as we get everyone in and out of the shower and then have everyone brush their teeth.  All the kids except Whitman lay down and he and I look out the window while  Robby unfolds his bed.  Then he goes to bed and then everyone else does.  All of this is done is super fast mode-the sooner we can get laundry started, the sooner we can go to bed and the sooner the kids can be out of the shower, the sooner they can go to bed.  This traveling stuff is not for sissys!

Road Trip 2015, Day 14: July 7, 2015 (Harrisonburg, VA to Mt. Airy, NC)
Another good nights rest and another great breakfast.  Whitman was being a bit difficult at breakfast this morning...enough so that I should have taken Grannymom up on her offer.  Days ago when Grannymom and Grandpa were with us, she offered to take anything home I wanted her to-I should have sent Whitman home! (kidding-kind of!)
I had already finished the blog last night when I started to find the humor in our bathroom incident that happened at bedtime.  Graham was happily taking a shower, Anderson was sitting on the toilet and I was right by the bathroom doing something.  Anderson shouted "turn it off! turn it off! it is overflowing!"  I burst in to find water pouring out of the bathtub and was 2 inches deep beside the tub.  Anderson continued screaming and finally Graham who was still happily taking a shower realized something was happening.  By this time, Robby came in thinking the potty was overflowing just as Graham turned off the shower still not knowing what was happening.  The shower curtain wasn't pulled back all of the way and the shower head was aimed toward the curtain so all of Graham's shower water was just pouring on the floor.  Quite the excitement for us!
And back to this morning, after breakfast we loaded up and then Robby passed out the kids headphones-the first time to use them on the trip.  The headphones worked well for a quite a while-except they were watching a Little House on the Prairie and we like to listen to those.  So we still had the sound on so we could hear. 
The very first stop of the day was a jump out so we could snap a few pictures of Woodrow Wilson's home.  Robby says that we have only taken pictures of that house before but I do believe that we have been on a tour inside. 
The home of Thomas Jefferson was the next stop of the day.  After Robby bought the tickets at Monticello, we rode the bus to the house.  We walked along the slave quarters area and then started our tour.  We had tried to book a family friendly tour but with 12 kids on our tour, we must have had a family friendly tour.  The guide was excellent and spent more time talking to the kids than the grown ups.  My favorite parts were his clock that showed not only the time but also the days of the week-when the clock shows Saturday, it had to be in the basement! 
After the tour, we walked under the house to see the "dependencies"-the area down stairs that the family was "dependent" on.  That was probably the kids favorite part since they had a dumb waiter to play with along with some lock and keys.  Then back at the ticket area, they had a huge children's area.  My kiddos could have stayed there for the longest time-blocks, pretend food, a bed like Thomas Jefferson and many other areas.  Monticello definitely has made their tour and grounds very family friendly. 
Robby and I can vividly remember walking up to Monticello from the parking lot many years ago-when I was pregnant with Reagan.  Today, we did wise up and rode the bus there but we did opt to walk back down the hill on the trail.  The trail was shady and pleasant and best of all-there were no bears! 
To continue our presidential home tour, we drove a few miles down the road to Ash Lawn Highland, the home of James Monroe.  (Presidential Homes seen on this trip: Jefferson, Wilson, Monroe, Lincoln, Jackson, Obama)  We didn't go through Monroe's home but we did stop to eat lunch on his picnic tables under his apple trees.  It was a nice little stop and the kids did need to run around a bit before our 2 hour drive to Booker T's house.  We had to hurry, hurry to make it there in time.
We barely made it to the Booker T. Washington's National Monument before they closed.  We pulled in at 4:42 and rushed inside.  I quickly stamped our books and then we walked around the exhibits.  Then we went into the field out back to see the animals.  Reagan had said that she didn't think she had ever seen a pig which I am not sure is very accurate.  I might just get her a pig for Christmas now.  But I guess I had never seen a pig as large as the ones that were there.
Then we walked to the stable and saw the turkeys and chickens  Finally, we had just a few minutes to walk and see the outline of the cabin that Booker T. was born in.  Then it was a dash to the bathrooms so we could stop there before they locked the doors and shut the gate.  Then it was back in the car and on our way to North Carolina (a new state for Keaton and Whitman).
After leaving Booker's place, we headed towards Mt. Airy, NC.  I guess that there isn't really a direct route between those two places.  At one point the GPS said 35 miles left to drive which would take an hour.  Eeek!  We twisted and we turned and we drove through tobacco fields.  There was no cell phone signal and I am glad that we made it!  I probably shouldn't have been that worried-I even saw a gas station that had gas for 7.53!
We drove right into Mt. Airy and the town was pretty much closed up even though it was just about 7. We did find a local dive (Speedy Chef) to eat at-burgers, hot dogs, bbq, blt, french fries, steak burger and hush puppies.  Then we followed our supper with desserts-apple pie, ice cream, strawberry shortcake, hot fudge cake and chocolate dipped ice cream.  I was getting napkins when Robby was ordering dessert and I even got tickled at his items that he was ordering-it just went on and on and on.
I guess that some of the locals could tell that we weren't from there so they started talking to us.  One nice old couple told us that we needed to drive down and see the granite quarry so when we left, we drove down to see it.  The quarry was really old and the world's largest open face granite quarry. There wasn't a whole lot to see there but it did kill a bit of time before getting into our hotel.
The was probably one of our earliest evenings but we squandered our time by watching a a clip of Rocky and then an episode of The Andy Griffith show.  The kids have seen Andy once so they needed a refresher before we walk down Main St. tomorrow.

Road Trip 2015, Day 15: July 8, 2015 (Mt. Airy, NC to Kodak, TN)
We are moving slower and slower every morning but when the boys said that breakfast was over at 9, we started moving pretty quickly.  They had gone in the hotel with Robby when he checked in and were sure the delicious Holiday Inn Express breakfasts ended at 9.  Robby took all of the kids after they were all ready and then I showered and Whitman and I came down to breakfast.  We ended up having plenty of time since breakfast wasn't over until 9:30!
We then loaded up and headed back downtown for a walk along Main Street.  Our first stop was Opie's Candy Store and every picked out 3 peices of candy and Robby and I picked out some fudge!  Then we walked into Floyd's barber shop.  An old man that used to cut Andy Griffith's hair was there so we took our picture with him.  Back down the road a little more and we stopped at Wally's service station for an ornament and some bottles of coke to enjoy in front of the jail.
The town was so incredibly quaint-Robby and I even talked of moving there and running Wally's service station when we retire.  I will run the gift shop and he can give the tours in Andy's squad car.  The tour was taking guests to the largest open face granite quarry just like we saw last night. 
After the kids were all sugared up on their bottes of RC, root beer and everything else (Robby just bought one of each so everyone could try every drink) we hoped back in the car and headed down the road to Blowing Rock. 
We stopped in Boone for a bit to find the house Grannymom and her friends are renting this fall.  First we drove down a street and saw the number but couldn't see the house.  So we drove up the steep narrow driveway to find the house but we still couldn't see the house.  It took a bit to manuever backing up down the driveway and when we had made it, Robby realized that we had found the wrong address.  It wasn't too far to find the real house that Grannymom would be staying out but as we were trying to get out of the neighborhood, we almost traversed up a golf path!  Thankfully, we made it back to the main roads without falling down a cliff or running over any golfers!
 From there, we headed to Grandfather Mountain off of the Blueridge Parkway.  The admission fee was pretty hefty but the first stop we made was a picnic stop and it was the best picnic stop we have had all trip.  The kids played football and climbed on rocks while we ate.  They loved it and after a bit of climbing and playing they were ready to get back into the car.
Up the hill a little way were two huge rocks that everyone but Whitman climbed on.  Keaton was going to have to stay down with me and Whitman but a man offered to lift her up to Robby.  Whitman stayed down with me and if I would have let him, he would have been to the top of that rock in a second.  At one point, I put him on a rock to take a picture and the next thing I knew he was climbing up the rock and I had to quickly put my camera down and climb up a step to grab him by the shirt before he climbed out of my reach.
The others climbed to the top of the rock and were happy for me to take their pictures.  When everyone finally climbed down, we headed down the road to see a bear, otter and an eagle.  Then it was try out the ice cream and fudge store.  We all had ice cream overlooking the mountains.
Next up was the drive to the top of the mountain.  There is a seen in Forest Gump where Gump ran on the hair pin curves of Grandfather Mountain and we drove up that to reach the swinging bridge.  The bridge is a mile high (a mile above sea level) and you can definitely feel the swing of the wind.  The highest recorded temperature from the top of the mountain was 83 and the wind gust have reached 120 miles per hour up there. 
After we crossed the bridge, Robby ran down to the walking trail under the bridge to take some pictures.  Then Whitman and I went to the gift shop as Robby and everyone else walked down the .4 mile trail down to another parking lot.  That meant that I had to drive down some of those hair pin curves in a lower gear (I had never driven using a lower gear before). 
Our stop at the gift shop had taken a bit and when we made it to the bottom, I expected to the kids and Robby to be there.  They were not so Whitman and I started up the trail.  We walked for a bit and then we started hearing them.  Robby was making them take turns being the leader on the trail and then 2 skinned knees slowed them down a bit. 
Eventually the kids saw Whitman climbing up to meet them and we all climbed down the trail together.  It took no time at all to come down the mountain and we again traveled the back roads to our next destination, Blowing Rock.  This GPS has it out for us-she wanted us to turn down a gravel road once.  We declined and it took her forever to calm down and find a more traveled path to Blowing Rock.
We drove up and down the main street at Blowing Rock.  I could just imagine the characters of the Mitford series walking up and down the streets.  We found the Episcapalian church-maybe Robby and I should move here and do some Mitford series and Father Tim tours. 
Robby did run into the Mast General store for a bit to check it out and then we were back on the road headed to see Nonna and Pops.  At this point in our drive, I thought that the dangerous roads were over but I was wrong-crazy driving up here in the mountains.  I just don't understand how people end up living on the side of a mountain. 
 We thought that we would never get out of the mountains.  Robby didn't seem too concerned withi his gas level even though the gas light was on.  He actually seemed more concerned with getting my crew supper.  I eventually passed out crackers in hopes that I could keep everyone happy until we found a food place.
Back to the GPS, not only does she have it out for us but she must have it out for our children.  I guess she was trying to make sure that at least one of them became car sick.  Robby was flying up and down the mountain taking some curves on 2 wheels (or so it seemed) so he wasn't helping any. So I did all that I could to prevent car sickness-turning the air up on full blast.  By the time we finally did stop, Campbell was wearing her jacket and kids were covered up in towels and shivering.  But we were successful and everyone survived the trip up and down the mountain!
When we finally found a found stop (Dairy Queen) we all went inside to potty and then I took all the kids except Anderson back to the car, while he and Robby waited on our order.  Since we went on the Ford F 150 factory tour, Graham is quick to notice Ford trucks.  He saw one F 150 in front of us and another one beside us.  Graham was eager to tell everyone about what he spotted "There's two "F"ers." 
Um, excuse me? I said "Let's don't say it that way" staying calm.  Then Campbell shouted "F"ers? What's "F"ers?"  I then was quick to say "Oh, look here is Daddy with our food." By the time Robby made it to the car, I was trying not to laugh so much that I was almost in tears.  I certainly hope that whole conversation doesn't come up again!   
From our supper stop, we just had a little over an hour before we arrived at our hotel for the evening.  Nonna and Pops had been waiting on us for hours and hours-well, maybe they weren't just waiting on us since they had been out shopping and eating.  All the kids were so excited to see them but Whitman could not get out of the car fast enough to get to Pops.
The kids went to Nonna and Pops' room while Robby and I unloaded-of course, Whitman's trains went with him (if he has his trains then he is usually quiet)  Then we visited for a few minutes before we put the boys to bed in Nonna's room and the girls to bed in our room.
Tomorrow will be a busy day even though we just don't know what all we will do yet!

Road Trip 2015, Day 17: July 10, 2015 (Pigeon Forge, TN)
I guess that Santa really enjoyed talking to the kids last night because he delivered presents to our room this morning.  Can you imagine Graham's delight when he looked under our Christmas tree in the room and saw that it was filled with presents?  Presents for Nonna, Pops, Robby, me and all the kids. 
Graham climbed on top of Anderson and said "Santa came, Santa came!"  Anderson just rolled over and Graham shouted "I'm not kidding!"  It didn't take much for them to put on their clothes so they could go and get the girls. 
In a flash, I could hear them all running back down our hallway (thank goodness we on on the first floor and this is our next to last hotel).  Everyone burst into our room including Nonna and Pops and we opened our presents:
Whitman went first and he opened to new trains, Bill and somebody else were their names.  Then Keaton opened a baby doll and Campbell opened another baby doll.  Graham received an over the door basketball goal and Anderson had Minecraft Legos in his box.  Reagan opened a new pair of goggles.  Then it was my turn and I had an album just like I put my Christmas pictures in and Robby had a new pair of work gloves in his package.  Then Pops opened a book and Nonna opened up a new make up bag.  Everyone was pleased since Santa really did pretty good.  (The kids are hoping that there will be presents under the tree when we wake up in the morning but since we didn't see Santa today, I do not think that will happen.)
After all of our present opening, we all headed to breakfast.  Pops had been raving about breakfast here for months and it did not disappoint.  Omelets, sausages, eggs, potatoes, cheeses, pecan pie, pastries, cereals and a plethora of other things including moon pies.  Of course, my people ate their weight in pastries and moon pies....and I let them!  (Vacation is almost coming to a close!)
When everyone had eaten their fill in breakfast goodies, we headed out to the lobby to meet Mrs. Claus.  This Mrs. Claus must have been real because she looked just like she should and was just so sweet.  While we were getting everything ready, Graham hung out with Pops and they talked some more to Mrs. Claus.  Graham told her everywhere that we had been on our trip and suggested that maybe Santa bring more presents in the morning.  Mrs. Claus laughed and said "well, maybe that is too short of notice." 
We soon joined everyone else in Gatlinburg and all of the surrounding towns and headed to the Smokey Mountain National Park.  It is the most visited National Park in the US and I certainly believe it.  We stopped at the visitor's center and watched a bit of the movie and just when Whitman crawled into my lap and snuggled up with me for us (yes, I said us) both to take a nap, the movie was over!  We could have had a good little cat nap if that movie would have been 10 minutes longer.
Then we headed towards Cade's Cove.  The drive was really beautiful and even though I am not really a fan of streams/snakes/dirt I really, really wanted to join all of the people swimming, floating and playing in the beautiful streams.  The rocks and flowing water just looked so inviting but I controlled myself and did not bolt from the moving car.  Anderson said that he really wanted to float that stream and Robby told him to put it on his list for the next time that we come here.  (Though the next time we travel anywhere, I certainly hope that it is in the fall!)
We drove around Cade's Cove and looked for animals but we did not find any.  When we stopped at the Visitor's Center, we bought the girls compass/thermometer key chains to match the boys.  This was probably the highlight of the trip-everyone getting 2 dollar key chains...and just yesterday I had said that we really didn't do souvenirs.  You can tell it is the end of the vacation, the budget is already blown so Robby will buy just about anything for anyone! (I am planning on stopping at the Lodge store tomorrow to buy some cast iron for no real reason except that I might use it some day!)
The stop at Cade's Cove that was the most interesting to my crew was the mill.  They had corn and cornmeal and wheat and flour for the kids to touch.  They were also able to see the mill spinning the grinder and then outside, the big trough of water leading up to the wheel was super exciting to my boys-especially Whitman. 
Then we walked on to the stream and happily stuck our hands in the water (and threatened the children with no swimming if they got their shoes wet)  Robby was able to take some pictures of the kids and when you are in a beautiful place like where we were today, I could us imagine us all sitting down for a perfect family photo.  In my mind, I can see all of the kids looking directly at the camera with their hands placed lovingly on their siblings shoulders or holding hands, Robby and I looking 10 years younger and 20 pounds lighter, our hair blowing not in our faces but out behind us and a beautiful rainbow or eagle appearing just as the picture was taken.  But instead if we were to take a picture sitting near the stream today Keaton would have had her hands on her face and a crazy smile, Graham would have been sticking his chest out, Reagan would have been shouting at Whitman who would have been possibly laying on the ground crying, Anderson would have been sneezing and goodness knows what Campbell would have been doing, Robby and I would look like we really do look and someone would have probably fallen in the water....so we didn't take a family picture today.  Robby is just going to combine all of our pictures from the trip and make it look like we really took a picture together.
It took us forever to get back to civilization-forever.  Robby stayed on the main drag and the GPS was made at him the entire time and constantly kept making our time to destination go higher.  Finally we made it to the Applewood Restaurant.  I had been waiting to eat here for a long time and it was almost as good as I remembered it.
I probably have always liked this restaurant so much because when you it down they give you apple juice and apple fritters.  And goodness knows, that was a big hit at our table.  Anderson was not going to try the apple fritters but we convinced him and he was so glad that he did.  I wish that the food had more apple stuff in it but overall it was good enough that we were too stuffed to buy ice cream there!  (and that is really saying a lot!)  We did have the energy to walk around the gift shop for a few minutes before heading back to the hotel.
We arrived back at the hotel just in time for craft time and craft we did!  We were probably crafting for an hour-long enough that Robby almost came looking for us.  First, we made candy leis and then we decoupaged a reindeer.  We taped, we twisted, we tied, we tore, we glued, we worked hard and made some pretty awesome craft.  Of course my Reagan took the most time and could have stayed for another hour working on her.  Graham was the fastest finished and the child most likely to fall completely apart if he didn't think his was up to par.  They all turned out great and Campbell told the lady that she wanted to stay at this hotel for 60 nights.  I said that there would be no way we could get all of their crafts home (I spent 15 minutes tonight trying to repack and pack up 5 tiny reindeer and 5 candy leis so I can get them all home in one piece.)
Next up was swimming-lots of swimming.  Whitman even went down the slide a few times and then he has started "swimming" by himself (and the help of his life jacket).  He will kick his feet and say "I swimming, I swimming."  Of course this "swimming" is usually followed by a brief period of swallowing some water.  We swam and swam until it was almost past our ice cream time so we had to hurry out of the pool and get our clothes on quickly to make it across the street for ice cream.
Back to the pool today: there was a bully there.  It was quite interesting to watch too and really, it was good for the kids to deal with a bully since that is life!  The kid would cut every time in front of Graham when they were in line for the slide.  Graham would get so made and holler at the kid "why you gotta cut?" I tried to explain to Graham to be nice and to not let that boy ruin his day.  One time it happened, Campbell was nearby and she just shoved the kid on down the slide.  When the kids mom came to pick him up from the pool, I real show unfolded and I quickly pointed out to Graham to notice how the boy talks to his mom, how the mom talks to the boy and that is the reason that he acts like he does. 
Back to ice cream-we walked to a Marble Slab across the street and all split a few different flavors before rushing back to the hotel to roast marshmallows.  This hotel is a little like staying at a Disney World hotel-roasting marshmallows, themed rooms and hallways, characters, crafts.  The marshmallows were fun but of course we needed to top them off with some cookies and lemonade from the lobby.
Then it was back to our rooms for a quick change into our pajamas and then bed for everyone.  The big boys stayed with Nonna and Pops and everyone else slept in our room.  It was another great day and Robby and I are getting a bit depressed that this trip is almost over.  Maine to North Carolina is next year-anyone want to come?
And one last story: tonight when we were roasting marshmallows, the worker asked Campbell where she was from and then how long it took her to drive here.  I answered for Campbell and said that we had been gone for about 17 days and then the lady asked where all Campbell had been.  She could only think of "Pennsylvania" to say and then the lady asked "what was your favorite place?"  My Campbell could have answered "Washington D.C., Hershey, Niagara Falls, Henry Ford, Corvette Museum, Grandfather Mountain" and the list could go on.  But Campbell quickly and confidently answered "Krispy Kreme"-we haven't even been to Krispy Kreme on this trip!!

Road Trip 2015, Day 18: July 11, 2015 (Pigeon Forge, TN to Cordova, TN)
You can always tell when a Dennie vacation is coming to a close by a lack of pictures.  Robby and I are so depressed that we just don't even have the heart to carry around our camera any! Now, we did miss one good picture stop when they had huge ice cream cone banks and my kids would have been so cute pretending to lick those but oh, well there is already another trip.
Speaking of other trips, last night I mentioned we were going to Maine.  Our route has now been determined though with over a year until that trip (we plan to go in the fall next year) things could still change quite a bit.  Here is a run down of that route: Little Rock, Knoxville TN, D.C., Dover DE, Strasburg PA, Cooperstown NY, Burlington VT, Bar Harbor ME, Kennybunkport ME, Boston MA, New York City NY, Atlantic City NJ, Virginia Beach VA, Winston Salem NC, Charlotte NC and then on home.  If we have some more time on the road tomorrow we will plan our 2017 trip!
Everyone slept well this morning and the boys were quick to ask if Santa had come to our room this morning and he had not.  If Santa brings anything else this year, it needs to be a new stroller for Whitman.  The handles are broken, the wheels are wobbley and the seat has come unsewn.  We had debated buying new one and having it sent to a hotel on the trip but opted to just completely wear this one out before trashing it.
Breakfast was good again and the lady next to Pops said that she had never seen kids eat like mine.  I am pretty sure she was talking about my boys who each had about 4 doughnuts and then a honey bun (or maybe more) and a moon pie (or two).  She happened to be a dietitian and felt that this allowed her to say what she thought.  Pops assured her that we eat better at home and it is a buffet after all (that is why he was eating cheesecake and I was eating pecan pie at 9 in the morning)  I have no problem at all letting this kids eat doughnuts and moon pies for breakfast when at a buffet which we have paid very well for. 
After loading up and saying goodbye to our Christmas hotel, we stopped at Applewood again to pick up a few goodies and then on to the Coleman store.  Robby bought a few things-including a stash of ponchos that cost only a dollar.  We will now have those babies with us at all times!  Then we walked across the street to the Lodge Cast Iron store.  It was interesting and I found a gizmo that I want-like a spatula but was an x at the bottom.  The thing chopped up hamburger meat so incredibly easily. 
And our final stop in the Smokey Mountain area was the Russell Stover store and we left with candy for everyone!  Before we stopped once to go to the bathroom half of the kids candy was devoured.  We stopped once to potty and then pressed on to our hot dog stop.
Outside of Nashville was Cori's Doghouse which was on Les' recommendations.  He had actually noted it as a "must try" and it was worth the stop.  I chose the Hawaii dog which had pineapple and mango salsa and Robby had the Georgia minus the cole slaw so it had only pimento cheese.  He also sampled the Pennsylvania Italian which had marina sauce and mozerella cheese. 
Campbell enjoyed the restaurant the most because she left with a shirt.  She had already bought her souvenir shirt from the trip but a 6 dollar shirt that has her initials on the front (Cori's Doghouse) made it irresistible.  The restaurant was a bit on the warm side but the dogs were still very good. Reagan did say "these are okay but that other place was stopped had better ones."  The other place that she was speaking of was 7-11!  My girl has some good taste!
On the road through Nashville, Robby joked about taking us back to the Hermitage.  I had forgotten but we had to buy a family pass for the best price for our family so I could have taken Nonna and Pops for free today.  But since it is a zillion degrees outside I think that we will pass.  Again, that is why the next Dennie trip will not be in the summer time-maybe September or maybe May-hey, if we did May next year then we could swing back by the Hermitage for another tour.
Whenever we are in the car and I turn around holding my bucket I use to pass things back, Whitman starts clapping his hands knowing that a snack is coming soon.  And if someone says any word that has to do with a drink like drinking, cup, juice or coke he goes nutzo until a drink is provided to him!  I think my child has become a bit demanding.
We swung by and filled up Pops' car with gas before stopping off at Casey Jones for ice cream.  When we arrived at Casey's place at the very first of our trip, it was late and the ice cream place was closed. We were hungry and needed something so by default we went to the buffet.  They told us that we had 41 minutes to eat-isn't that great customer service? Ha!  Today the ice cream was open and we had it-not the best of the trip and even tasted like it had been refroze.  But we needed a potty stop and a bit of a snack before out hotel so it was still all good.
That was the first touristy stop on our trip and will probably also be out last.  My kids still remember the Casey Jones song that Robby played for them after leaving Casey Jones' 18 days ago.  The hotel was just about an hour past that stop and we made it there in no time.
It is a fine older hotel but after coming from the fancy dancy Christmas hotel, it is kind of sad!  The rooms are big though so that makes up for it.  After unloading we headed to the pool-Whitman didn't start off at the pool, he spent most of his time playing with his trains in Nonna's room.  The carpet has swiggly stripes all over it and he is pretending that they are tracks for his trains. 
After swimming, we came back to the room for showers.  Graham actually came back with Robby way before anyone else-my boy is tired!  The girls went to Nonna's room for bed and my boys watched a few episodes of Full House before bed.  Another good day of vacation.

Road Trip 2015, Day 19: July 12, 2015 (Cordova, TN to Little Rock, AR)
Everyone slept well last night though this was the first night on the trip that I considered pulling out my carbon monoxide detector.  Kidding (but not really!)  Before 8:30, we were all at breakfast and eating our last good breakfast for a while (I say good because breakfast at home never includes sausage, biscuits and gravy.) 
It didn't take too long for us to cross over the river back into Arkansas.  Graham moved the Dennie van picture back to Arkansas as we rolled along the road.  Robby and I spent the ride home trying to figure out how we will survive the week with 3 kids at the same day camp but leaving and arriving 15 miles apart along with getting resettled at home, unpacking (which will be done today) and then starting school in 2 weeks!  And then my aunt brought me 5 bins of clothes when she passed through town right before we left so I plan to go through those as well.  Busy week ahead but we do love a challenge!
Before we could actually come home, we had to run by the grocery store to pick up a few things needed for the week.  I just walked by the freezer section all sad like thinking about my freezer food at home....while we were gone, an outlet messed up and our freezers thawed out!  Poor Grannymom and Grandpa had to deal with all of that mess-my fridge and deep freeze were completely full of things.  They had to work and work to clean everything out-what a mess!  I will have to work now to fill that freezer back up!
We picked up a pizza on the way home and ate it at Nonna's house before heading home. When we made it home, we first unloaded the car and moved everything to the mudroom.  Then we worked on the van-Robby took all of the seats out and that is a huge job.  He then started vacuuming the floor and I had kids cleaning the windows, scrubbing the seats, cleaning the doors, vacuuming and on and on. 
Once the car was clean the kids tried to help us unpack some.  They were decent help but after I gave them a break, they never returned.  We finished in time for Robby to give the boys a hair cut (which ended up in mohawks for camp week) and then the Wilsons came over.
They had missed us so much and missed our daily ice cream that they came over with ice cream!  My kids were so excited to see their kids that they could hardly stand it.  We watched some trip pictures while eating our ice cream.  We even discussed the next trip plans before we kicked them out so our kids could go to bed! (Family Farm starts tomorrow)

Here are a few of our favorites from our 2015 Road Trip:
Playground: Cincinnati
Meal: Blue Ash Chili
Ice Cream: The Silo Restaurant (Niagara)
Car Movie: Little House on the Prairie
D.C. Monument: Lincoln
Hotel: Inn at Christmas Place (Gatlinburg)
Attraction: Cave of the Winds (Niagara)
Henry Ford Attraction: Model T Assembly Line
Snack Food: Rice Krispy Treats
Ride: Model T/Alpine Slide
Presidential Home: Monticello
Snack Food: Troy's Bologna
National Park: Shenandoah
Drive: Blue Ridge Parkway
Fireworks Show: D.C.
Sandwich: Delassandro's
Robby's Favorite: Planning for the trip/Cave of the Winds
Tara's Favorite: Cave of the Winds
Reagan's Favorite: Hershey
Anderson's Favorite: Grandfather Mountain
Graham's Favorite: Alpine Slide
Campbell's Favorite: Alpine Slide
Keaton's Favorite: Swimming Pool Slide (Gatlinburg)
Whitman's Favorite: Playing with his trains in the hotel room

Our Trip by the numbers:
Episodes of Little House on the Prairie: 21
Firework Shows: 2 (Niagara Falls for Canada Day and D.C. for our Independence Day)
Gas Station Fill Ups: 13
Left/Lost a Kid: 3
Pages on Packing List: 7
Christmas Ornaments Bought: 10
Hotels: 14
Breakfast: Paula's Donuts in Buffalo, NY
U-Turns: 13
Total Number of National Park Passport Stamps Received: 245 (35 each book)
Free Ponchos Thrown Away: 16
Money Spent on Ponchos A Few Days Later: $70
Amish Buggies Passed: 12
Times Robby's Phone Messed Up: 63
Drug Deals Seen: 1
Gallons of Gas: 290 (still cheaper than flying!)
Missing Items: 2 (t-shirt and cord)
Ice Cream Stops: 13
7-11 Stops: 3
New States for Keaton and Whitman: 7
Loads of Laundry Washed on Trip: 16
Presidential Homes: 6
Pictures Taken: 2,837
Miles Driven: 4,007 (third longest Dennie road trip)

Days until Next Trip: 80 (or possibly sooner)

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