Thursday, September 29, 2011


The American Dream.
We've all heard of it. Many of us might have chased after it.
Still, some of us may have actually achieved it.
I mean, as for us, we HAVE the house.
We HAVE the 2.5 kids (although Darby is NOT to be underestimated!)
Dallas HAS the great job that affords me the opportunity to stay at home with said 2.5 kids!
But, for me...
MY...American the beach house.

Okay, so this is more of a "BAY house," but I don't care. LOOK AT IT!
LOOK at the VIEW!
Can you IMAGINE the family gatherings you could HAVE THERE?!
THIS house is a place where our children, once grown, would ACHE to come back to!

But, what I want to follow God with RECKLESS ABANDON!
RECKLESS?!... (hmm...)
...ABANDON? (Ouch. What do I need to abandon?)
Can you do that and still cling tightly to your own dreams?

Are HIS ways HIGHER than MY WAYS?
My answer?

So, I may never have my dream beach house. I may never live internationally again. I may have children who SHARE...A...ROOM (gasp!)! But, GOD'S BETTER...than MY DREAM for MYSELF!!!
"We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts." 1 Thess 2: 4

I read this crazy blog today:
"...if you're clinging too tightly to your things, to your plans, to your comfort and convenience, to your idea of what your family should look like -- God cannot move in your life."

After reading this, I had this picture of me, holding this magnificent beach house (you know, a tiny version of it that would fit in my hands), along with the beach, in my hands. The sand was slipping through my fingers like an hourglass, and I had to let the beach house go.

I do NOT want to cling to THING, no PLANS, no COMFORT, no CONVENIENCE, no DREAM, if that means I don't get to receive what GOD has for me!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Still Waiting...DTE? Bueller? Bueller?

We are still waiting for our "Dossier To Ethiopia" date (DTE).
Our agency sent it out mid September and told us it could take up to a month to get our DTE date. It is in the process of being translated into Amharic and then registered in Ethiopia. After that, we'll get our DTE date and officially be waiting.

We are getting a lot of questions about when we're bringing them home.
Answer? I don't know.
We were given a 12-18+ month wait for a referral at the beginning of the summer.
Our updated Service Contract with our agency says a 12 month wait for a referral.
However, we have also been told that it could be much sooner and that wait estimate is just estimate. Our agency has no idea when newly orphaned sibling groups in our age range will be made available for adoption. Only God knows.

What comes AFTER the referral? We will THEN wait for our court date in Ethiopia (note: the courts in Ethiopia shut down for around two months during the rainy season, which is September and October). We will have to travel to Ethiopia for our court date where we will meet our children! Then, we will leave them there and return home until our Embassy date, which could be two months or so. At this point, Dallas and I will both fly BACK to Ethiopia, pick up our newest family members, their passports, Birth Certificates etc and bring them HOME! They will officially be American citizens when they step foot on American soil!

So, we have a lot more waiting and praying to do, and we're thankful for those of you who are praying with us for:
Our children's hearts to be prepared for their new family.
Their little hearts as they have already lost so much.
That God would protect them, provide for them, and that they would feel His love in the absence of any parental love.
That they would attach and bond quickly with us when they come home!
Their health!
Their family members (if any of them are living) who are grieving their loss.
That God would give them their daily bread today.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Wednesday's Word-Would you like a drink?

I am officially changing "Wednesday's Word" to "Weekly Word."
I can't commit to a particular day when God is going to give me something to pass on.
I hope you can forgive me.

Does the title make you think of:
A) The woman by the well.
B) Living Water
or C) A drink offering.

I'm going with C today.
You comin'?

Alrighty then!

Philippians Chapter 2: 14-17 says, "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life-in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me."

First of all, if you're looking to me for information on how to do EVERYTHING without complaining and/or arguing, exit this blog. Exit quickly. Actually, if you look at all the things that MUST be done in order to keep a ministry running, not all of it is fun! Dallas and I started Young Life in our town. Young Life EQUALS fun! Yes. But, STARTING it up from scratch without any other leaders equals HARD, LONG ROAD AHEAD, CURVES, WATCH FOR FALLING ROCK, kinda "fun." Maybe you can relate. In all THIS, God is telling us not to complain or argue. We're supposed to be DIFFERENT than the "crooked and depraved" generation around us! THEY are the ones who complain and argue about everything! We're supposed to be the breath of fresh air to these people! WE are supposed to "shine like stars in the universe!" So, the quick tutorial on how to "shine like stars" is this: Don't complain or argue.

If you are, right this very minute, saying, "Kelly, easy for Paul to say...he made friends and had help in ministry everywhere he WENT!" Consider this: Paul...was in PRISON...when he wrote this. He wasn't traveling a long day's travel by foot to the next town. He wasn't a freshman in college having a hard time making friends. He was in PRISON, folks! PRISON! And, I'm just gonna take a WILD guess and suppose that prison in THOSE days wasn't exactly like prison in THESE days! Still, Paul was sending letters of encouragement to these churches that he had established. He was shining like a star through communication AND through his circumstance.
Easy Peasy, right?!
Not so much.

Around the 2 and a half year mark of starting Young Life in our town, Dallas and I were spent. I do mean SPENT! I had come up with a topic to teach a Bible Study on EVERY Wednesday for two and a half years. I learned to play guitar since there was no hope for more leaders. I had made homemade chocolate chip cookies every single Wednesday for 2 and a half YEARS! I had been out with SO many girls...met SO many high school kids...gone to SO MANY GAMES I cannot even COUNT! That kind of spent. That was back when I only had two kids. !) That's back when I asked EVERY SINGLE PERSON I KNEW to help us in our ministry...back when I kept getting THIS excuse, "Oh, sorry. I'm too busy." (I KNOW you've heard that excuse!)
Actually, reading this, I think Paul sitting in prison, resting and writing letters sounds like it was probably a reprieve! A time of rest for him! When I think back on the stress, tears, prayers...being in prison would have been a nice break! And then we started CLUB (the crazy, FUN part of Young Life). In one semester, we went from having only our faithful Campaigners-about 15 high school kids-in our house on Wednesday nights, to having another 65 kids in our house on Tuesday nights! Then we got pregnant with Darby. We continued...alone. That fall, we started off our YL semester with 85 kids in our house! I had Darby by C-section, so we took one week off. The first week back, we had 100 kids in our basement that heard "The Cross Talk." We kept on until the Spring, at which point I called our Area Director and told him that I was praying about stepping down after camp.

Every been poured out like THAT?
I KNOW some of you HAVE!!!
I KNOW some of you are being poured out like that right NOW!
Ministry? Mommyhood? Marriage? Life?
What keeps you going?
What kept me going?

Well, I can honestly say that what kept ME going is the same thing that kept PAUL going: He saw the fruit of his labor! He SAW his "babies" shining like stars "as [they held out] the word of life..."! I saw "our Campaigners" growing like CRAZY in their faith! I saw them clinging...CLINGING to Jesus! I saw them burdened for their friends with at LEAST the same amount of burden that I had...probably MORE! And, Paul KNEW that one glorious day-"the day of Christ"-that he would be able to say, "SEE?!!! It wasn't for NOTHING!!! I didn't labor in VAIN!!!" He fully acknowledged that he was being poured out like a drink offering. He fully acknowledged that what came along with helping these people become people of strong faith, was sacrifice and service on his part, and he was glad and rejoiced along with them!

If you are spent, poured out to near empty, sacrificing and serving until you have nothing left, be encouraged by seeing people "shine like stars!" They people young in their faith NEED to drink of your wisdom. They NEED you to pour the word into them so they can drink it up! You MUST be a drink offering so THEY can shine like stars, too!

Be encouraged!!! I can tell you that the week after I called our Area Director to tell him that I was likely stepping down, I got a call from a friend. She asked me what Young Life was and said it was right up their alley. At JUST the right time, God sent us not ONE, but TWO AMAZING leaders! He didn't send us people who were just along for the ride! He sent us people with an equal amount of burden...people who love high school kids as much as we do, and who are willing to pour themselves out, too!

So, next time someone "needs a drink," don't be afraid to pour out just a little bit more! ONE DAY, ONE GLORIOUS DAY, we will be able to say with Paul, "SEE!!! I DID NOT LABOR IN VAIN!!" Amen!

Friday, September 23, 2011

DIY Fall Banner

Okay, friends! It's officially FALL!!! You know what THAT means!
Yep! You guessed it!
Time to whip out the BURLAP!
(What, you didn't guess that?)

Anyhow, I originally saw this idea on Pinterest
(If you don't know what that is-shame on you-I mean, send me your email, and I'll invite you personally!) !)
It is from a shop on Etsy, and they sell for around 30 big ones!
I made mine for $15, and I have so much hemp and burlap left over I could go to TOWN!

Okay, so supplies used are:
Iron on t-shirt transfers (I used the kind for light fabric)
I bought 1 yard of burlap, and I have about 1/2+ yards left over
I bought medium grade hemp string-5 bucks for a LOT!
Glue gun and a stick.
You'll also need your computer, which if you're looking at this blog, I'm guessing you have one.
A printer with enough black ink.
Microsoft Word (mine is 2007, and I'll give you instructions based off of that version)
Now, don't freak out on me since I mentioned Microsoft Word and instructions.
I am LACKING when it comes to computer skills!!!
This will be the "For Dummies" version!
(not that y'all are dummies!)

First things first. You'll want to open up Microsoft Word and choose your favorite font.
I used "Elephant" here.
Click "Insert" and then "Word Art."
I choose the straightest and flattest word I could find.
When you click on your choice, a box will come up.
Type your first letter in this box and choose your font (don't worry about font size at this point)
Next you'll want to click on "Shadow Effects" and click "No Shadow Effect."
Under "Word Art Styles," You'll click "Shape Fill" and choose black.
Next, under the "Size" box, you'll make the vertical size 2" and the horizontal size 2.3".
Final step: In the "Arrange" box, scroll over the items until you see the "ROTATE" one!
Click on the "Rotate" button and click "Flip Horizontal."
(You have to print these off backwards because you're doing an iron on! And, NO, you do NOT have to do this for letters like "T," but it's just easier to do it for the first letter and then you just have to change the letter each time by clicking "Edit Text."
Print off one letter at a time (or more if you're a computer expert).
Do a little cheer because you made it through the computer part! !)
Feel completely competent print off an extra "S" and iron it on a cape for yourself.

NEXT! Onto the BURLAP!
First, you have to make yourself a template.
I folded an 81/2x11" paper, measured 2.5" from the "seam" and 7" down the seam.
Draw a straight line and cut your triangle out.

See? Easy Breezy!

Okay, so burlap, um, MOVES a lot?
So, I sort of tried to find a line to line my stencil up with, and leaving a 1" border at the top, I just did a little zigzag with the pattern. (See? I have 6 triangles here)

Cut those suckers out, leaving the straight, 1" border at the top.
Position your iron ons after you have cut them CLOSE to the ink!
And, iron it, girl!
(follow directions on the t-shirt transfer box)

Next, fold that 1" border over and iron and steam the livin' daylights out of it!
(but don't get that letter under that heat or steam!)

You'll need to trip up the back so it doesn't show.

You can start giving thanks, because you're almost finished!

Heat that hot glue gun up, girls!
Take your hemp string, and place it in that fold you just ironed.
Put a thin strip of hot glue all the way along that bottom part where my thumb is.
All the way along.
Fold the top back over and press!

Hang that banner with pride!

Happy Fall, Y'all!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lazy Blogger...yeah, that'd be ME!

So, I've missed a couple Wednesday's Words, and I've only posted once in the last week. I promise better things are in store on this blog! For instance, I just made this FAB tutu for Naomi's Halloween costume! (yes, it's early, but around here, if you're not're late-ie. it's not going to happen) After I make Darby's matching tutu, I promise to dress the girls up and post the pics! Trust me, you'll have plenty of time to go out and make your own tutu before Halloween comes! :) And, I've been reading through Philippians, and will have some words for you tomorrow!

Now excuse me...I think some young 'un just got ahold of the flyswatter and is going to town. Wait...wait...that's definitely the sound of a stapler...

Friday, September 16, 2011

Wednesday's Word-(on Friday) Pray for the Ephesians

Okay, so Paul traveled a lot. In his travels, he wrote back to the churches that he loved and visited. Obviously Paul just LOVED his Ephesians! You know those friends who you. just. LOVE. I have a couple of those...people who, when I think of losing them, I just get sick! I pray for them and their safety, as they're in a country right now that rests delicately in this area of non-hostile tension, but where carrying around machine guns is "the norm." I love them like they were my own brother and sister. They are our children's godparents, our very best friends, and you can check out their hilarious blog here. I imagine Paul's love for the Ephesians was sort of like my love for this family that is so very precious to me. I would also think that the feeling was likely mutual since Paul seemed to have a very deep connection to, and love for, the people of Ephesus.

We can also learn about his love for the people of this city in reading Paul's prayers for them!

Check out the first prayer he included in his letter (Eph. 1: 16-19):
"I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe."

I could go on and on, and just might...but this prayer is SO rich! First, is there ANYONE you pray for that you just can't stop thanking God for?! In verse 15, Paul explained that RUMORS (the good kind) had spread about the Ephesians' faith and about how WELL THEY LOVED! Do YOU know a church like that? THAT is why he was thanking God! Secondly, Paul prays that the Lord would help them to know Him EVEN BETTER through a spirit of wisdom and revelation! They had faith, but he wanted them to KNOW HIM! Thirdly, Paul wanted them to be ENLIGHTENED so they would KNOW what they have been called to: their inheritance, as children of God, and that there is His "incomparably GREAT POWER for us who believe." WHEW!

Okay, onto Paul's second prayer in this book: (Eph 3: 14-19)
"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."

Oh dear...notice how Paul keeps mentioning these "RICHES!" Do your eyes glaze over when you read stuff like this? Yep...mine, too. But there's SOMETHING to these riches from which the power of God is exerted! From these riches, He will strengthen us in our inner being! Phew! I NEED SOME RICHES! He mentions that the church is already rooted and established in love...but they needed something more. They needed to truly grasp CHRIST'S love! THEY were loving well, but it's MORE than just's BEING LOVED they needed to work on! They weren't grasping how WIDE...LONG...HIGH...DEEP...Jesus' love for them was! That this same LOVE would FILL THEM TO THE MEASURE! You know those deep holes that no one or thing can fill? Those empty places so far in the depths of your soul that NOTHING can be done or said to fill them? Paul was telling them: HIS love is wider! HIS love is LONGER! HIS love is WIDER! HIS love is DEEPER, and will fill those places to the measure (THE TIP TOP)!

Paul also told his Ephesians to "pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests." (Eph 6: 18) We can petition and pray for anything and anyone!

Finally, Paul asks THEM to pray for HIM. If I ask someone to pray for me, it's all this "gimme" stuff. You know, I need patience...I want know, gimme this and that...selfish stuff. And then, at the end, I throw in a "Your will be done." Yeah...I just asked for ALL THIS STUFF. Do I REALLY want His will to be done, or do I want it MY way. Let me tell you...God "ain't" Burger King. You can't always "have it your way!" So, I believe whole heartedly that God wants us to pray with HIS will in mind. What is His will? As I live and breath, it is that the WHOLE WORLD would know about His Son! Check out Paul's prayer request:

"Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chins. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should." (Eph 6: 19,20)

Ouch. That sounds nothing like my prayer requests. And, if you look back through these prayers that Paul prayed, they are all praying that this church would GROW in their faith, their love, their knowledge and understanding, that they'd rest in the riches of Christ! Not a single part of his prayers was asking for healing or material things-only growth! I don't know if you need to re-evaluate your prayer life, but I feel like I do!

Father, fill us to the measure!!!

Monday, September 12, 2011


Got this idea from a friend, who used her infant as one of the letters. I tried to get Darby to be the "Y," but she would have nothing of it! (She's almost 2, ya know!)

If this little girl wasn't so stinkin' cute, I would be a horrible mess right now!
I'm often found saying, "This girl will be the end of me."

She tests me.
She digs in the trash.
She takes her shoes and her glasses off constantly.
She tears her hairbows out.
She demands "nacks" all the time.
She demands (period) all the time.
She shrieks.
She collapses on the ground when you try to hold her hand, say, in the parking lot.
She loves to run upstairs and play in the sink with the water on full blast.
She wants it her way or no way.

But that smile and her huge personality make up for it!
...big time!

What's in YOUR Purse-Episode 2

Some of Y'all might remember my post entitled "What's in YOUR purse?"
Since my purse was officially trashed again, I decided to revisit this post:

I realize you can't make out all the stuff in this picture.
Let me explain:
1-A James Avery catalog
2-My wallet and the little thing that holds my inhaler, eyedrops and chapstick
3-keys (so far, so good, right?)
4-Glasses case (still doin' alright!)
5-A pair of Tate's socks
6-A pair of Darby's shoes (I have no idea, people...WHY...I carry her shoes around in my purse)
7-My Bible (always be prepared)
8-Two bottles of hand sanitizer (we're comin' up on cold and FLU season, y'all!)
9-My full-sized perfume bottle sans lid (you can never smell too good). Okay, okay, so you CAN-remember those middle school days when the boys figured out we thought they smelled "SOOOO" good when we could smell them all the way down the hallway?
10-A tube of Aquaphor
11-sunscreen (remember, I have redheads!)
13-Two tubes of Cortizone (ointment and cream-I'm allergic to's soccer season...I have skin issues.)
15-A bib
16-A very large rubber band
17-Gorrilla glue (I don't know...)
18-An empty water bottle.
19-A one pill pack of Claritin
20-An orange bow
and drumroll, please...
21-A half chewn up spoon.

Do I remind you of

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Do I light a candle?

Ten years ago today I was working as a teacher's aide in a Special Education classroom on an Air Force Base in New Jersey. My newly minted pilot of a husband was on his last mission ready trip. It was a normal day. The sun was shining. I can't think of a more perfectly beautiful September day...but the day was already tainted. Because, before school had even started, a plane had taken off out of Boston...

A teacher poked her head into our classroom and beckoned the teacher to come into her room. This was not out of the ordinary in any way, but when the teacher re-entered our classroom, she said, "Kelly, I think there's something you need to see..."

CNN was on the television during the teacher next door's planning period. A p
lane had just hit the Trade Center. I didn't catch on... The ticker at the bottom then said that there was a fire at the Pentagon. I didn't catch on... Then, the reporter gave us the news that would change our nation forever, "There has been an apparent terrorist attack on the Pentagon..."

As the day progressed, parents picked their children up from school early, and our principal finally decided to have an assembly to explain to these precious military "brats" whose parents and very lives would be affected forever, that their parents were too busy defending our nations perimeters to come pick them up from school today. How do you explain that to 5th and 6th graders?

The phone lines going out of New Jersey were busy all day long. I couldn't e
ven get a line to call my parents to see if my dad, who is a pilot for United, was still alive. The news kept saying that it was a United 767 or 777. They could not confirm it, and my dad flew 777s. Dallas's squadron was immediately called to the skies above New York City in support of the fighter planes guarding the skyline, and the Americans below...

My husband was left in Alaska as the plane he was being qualified on headed straight over to what we now simply call "the desert." And his squadron was gone... His final mission ready flight was a flight over to that desert. I sat alone on the couch as our President addressed his nation that week. He declared war on terror. I sat stone-faced, fearful, terrorized as
I realized our nation was at war, and my husband had just left for it...

I watched the news. I bought the Time Magazine, and although I framed it, I have never opened its pages. I just didn't want to forget. I wanted to be able to accurately explain this day to my children, who weren't even born. But pictures and stories can't describe that day...

We traveled to Ground Zero several weeks later...ashes still smoking. Windows from surrounding buildings still blown out. Ashes, ashes, everywhere. Everywhere. Even a block away, two weeks later...ashes. It was a mass grave...Hallowed American tragedy the likes of which this country has never seen...

Dallas spent the next two years deploying-six weeks out, six weeks back, replay. There were only 2 or 3 of his planes on base out of nearly 40, and these two or three planes were to train more pilots on so they could go to "the desert." The other 37 were drilling holes in the sky 24/7 over the skies on the other side of the world. Even on Thanksgiving...even on Christmas...even on our anniversary... No one was home. It looked like a ghost town on base.
As husbands deployed, wives with young children would go home to live with their parents...

It has been ten years. We have had three kids. Dallas is no longer in the Air Force.

Tate and Naomi's school requested that all the children wear red, white and blue on Friday in honor of September 11th. Naomi asked why. How do I explain to a girl of not quite six WHY?! How do I tell a child who has no comprehension of 4,000+ people that "bad men who hate our country" killed that many Americans in one day? How do I explain that the t
owers fell that day...that people jumped out of them to escape the heat? That the Pentagon fell that day? That more would have fallen had the passengers not taken that other plane down in Pennsylvania? How do you explain that to your children who weren't even born ten years ago? Words cannot explain...

Do I dig out the framed Time Magazine to look at the pictures I could not look at ten years ago? Do I even want to open that magazine? Do I really want to remember anymore? Do I really want to tell my children what happened? It was so long ago...a lifetime ago...

Still, I know that as hard as this day is for me to remember, thousands and thou
sands of families have been directly impacted by the events that took place on that day. I grieve with them and for them "...mourn with those who mourn." Romans 12:15.

For the military families with men and women who are deployed and have deployed for these past 10 years in defense of our country, I pray,

"You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day...a thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked." Psalm 91: 5-8

I will not forget September 11th.

Friday, September 09, 2011

First Day! Twenty-Eleven!

First day of school Twenty-Eleven!

We have the Hills family veteran, Tate...the big brother and third grader!

We have our excited Kindergartener, Naomi!

Tate took great pride in preparing his little sister for her first bus ride!
(Probably because I failed to prepare HIM for HIS first bus ride when I sent him off to Kindergarten the first day, and because of nerves, he threw up on his bus partner)
We can stamp that mom failure with a momentous-"F"!

After explaining to Naomi a couple of times that the bus would take her to school, and Tate would walk her to her classroom, the bus pulled up. Naomi edged a little closer to my side, and I prayed, "Lord, God! Please don't let her puke on the bus!"

But, it was a great first day! Naomi came through with flying colors, thanks to her caring big brother, Tate!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Mississippi SURPRISE!!!

Since we were already halfway (or so we thought) to Mississippi when we were in Gatlinburg, we decided to swing down to visit Dallas's side of the family in a covert trip! We surprised them all!

It was Dallas's sister's birthday!! Christy, who is battling ovarian cancer, was totally shocked! It was great to see her and her husband, Mitch, alongside all the cousins!

Here's Naomi and Dallas-Paige being silly at Christy's birthday party!

Here's the whole fam! This restaurant was good, but incredibly DARK inside!

We had a great time with family that we rarely see!

Grandma and Grandpa Hills with all the cousins!
Thanks for your Southern Hospitality, Hills family!
We hope to see y'all soon!!!

Monday, September 05, 2011


My mom and dad took us to their timeshare in Gatlinburg, TN for our final hoorah of the summer! It was a great getaway! We ate bar-be-que, looked for the black bears that Gatlinburg boasts of, hiked to a waterfall, ate more bar-be-que, enjoyed some live bluegrass music at the pottery place, watched pots being thrown, and the list goes on and on...and we ate more bar-be-que.

Here's a sample of Alewein Pottery's gorgeous pottery! My mom secretly purchased a gorgeous water pitcher for me, and my dad bought me these matching "salsa" bowls.

We loved this "live music" sign!

...but we loved the live music even more! They even let us join their band!

Tate played the..."dancing man?"

...then Naomi played while Darby danced.

These are the only black bears we saw aside from the stuffed bears Grammy bought for the kids. After spending a week there, I was sorely disappointed that we did not see any live bears, but only sort of. One doesn't want to REALLY have an "encounter" with a bear, after all! However, I'm not entirely convinced that all this "black bear hype" is not one big marketing ploy!

We drove up a mountain to a ski resort and went down the Alpine slide! That was a lot of fun, and the view from the top was amazing!

Here is our big, happy family (excepting Darby...she was "hot" and wanted "water")

Still, there MUST actually BE black bears in those Great Smoky Mountains, because when we went on our hike (where I was SURE we were to see some bears), we first walked past this sign.

My dad and mom. Isn't this spot just gorgeous?!!

Tate and Naomi jumped around for a minute before we continued on.

The scenery was fantastic!

We finally made it to the waterfall and were not disappointed! It was beyond gorgeous!

...and Tate swam underneath the waterfall for the first time with only a small amount of convincing!

Naomi, however, could not be convinced.

If you've ever been to the South, you know Krispy Kreme is famous for it's "HOT, FRESH, NOW" sign! I swerved through traffic to make sure we made it there before the sign went off! Our kids experienced their first ever "Hot, Fresh, Now" Krispy Kreme donuts!!

Tate peeked through the windows at the hundreds of donuts!

Darby wanted "more."

"Happy all around." Isn't THAT the truth!

Tate was one happy camper, and Naomi was too busy eating to notice anything else!

Dallas took Tate and Naomi to "Hillbilly Golf" while Darby took a much needed nap. They took this little tram thing up the side of the mountain and golfed back down.

Then they went to Parrot Mountain.

This reminded me of the time Naomi was bit by an ostrich...yes, an ostrich. But, I'm not going there...I don't need any nightmares tonight!

This bird had some strange affinity for Tate's neck. Dallas said it sat there licking his neck for several minutes.

You can call him "birdman."

Our last night, we went to Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede, where Tate and Naomi posed with the Southern Belle out front.

This guy was from Pennsylvania! Go figure.

Darby loved all the horsies!

Thanks for a great vacation, Gramps and Grammy! We love you!