Poor Sam has had quite the year at work.
He has been stretched to the limit and burning the candle at both ends,
and by the time November rolled around he was more than ready for a break.
So he decided to take the week of Thanksgiving off work,
and we planned a little getaway to Arkansas to visit a couple of the science museums our Pink Palace membership gets us into.
Unfortunately, my camera charger and spare battery had been missing for a few weeks, and I couldn't find them anywhere! I wasn't quite ready to take the plunge and invest in a new one though, in hopes that it would turn up, so I gave up on the idea of having my camera for our little vacation and settled for low-quality phone snapshots.
That small thing set the stage for our whole vacation, as I adopted the mantra "Don't sweat the small stuff" for our time together.
I didn't worry about trying to get the perfect pictures, I didn't worry about what my kids were wearing, I didn't worry about whether our car was a mess of road-trip snacks, I didn't worry about spending much time fixing my hair in the morning and instead threw it into a ponytail, and I didn't overreact to minor frustrations along the way.
Interestingly, we stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few things on our way out of town,
and while we were gassing up I found my camera battery and charger in the cubby in the car door!
I think it was a little blessing to only find my charger after I had already left my camera behind.
That one tiny thing shifted my mentality enough to allow me to be more relaxed and hands-on with the kids.
I LOVE documenting our family adventures with pictures,
and our whole family loves having the pictures to look back on,
but sometimes taking a break is just what we need.
So enjoy these grainy photos from my very old iPhone.
Our first day was spent in Little Rock at the Museum of Discovery.
I loved this museum!
There were SO many hands-on exhibits for us to enjoy--
from a Tesla lightning musical show to a real bed of nails to paper airplane launching machines.
This was the coolest assortment of vacuum tubes we could stick scarves in and then try to catch them as they launched out the end!
There was a separate play area for kids 6 and under, but poor Benson was starting to run a fever and we were worried about him spreading germs. So Sam took Benson and the older two boys to see some more exhibits and I took Maxwell and Lincoln into the little kids' area.
At one point our crazy busy Benson just lethargically lay down on the floor. It was definitely time to get some fever reducer in him. I left the older 4 boys with Sam and went walking around the arts district of downtown Little Rock in search of some children's medicine, but to no avail.
So we loaded everyone up, stopped at the dumpiest Kroger I've ever seen with about 1 linear foot of over the counter medicine, picked up a very outdated-looking bottle of children's Tylenol (but the expiration date assured us it was still good), and treated our boy before heading to our hotel (which was thankfully in a much better area than the Kroger was!).
We walked into our room only to be hit with the overpowering smell of cigarette smoke...
the hotel was supposed to be smoke-free, so I went down to the front desk and we got a new room which, thankfully, smelled much better.
Benson perked right up as soon as the medicine kicked in, so we went down to the pool and played together for a while before coming back up to our room for peanut butter and Nutella sandwiches and a Christmas movie.
Maxwell and Talmage are two peas in a pod and seeing them sleeping all cuddled up together was the cutest thing. Unfortunately, we woke up the next morning to find that Maxwell had gotten a bloody nose in the night and the bed kind of looked like a murder scene.
We left a note for room service and notified the front desk before we left, enjoying a marvelous breakfast spread on our way out.
Next, we headed to Hot Springs, which is quite the tourist attraction in Arkansas.
There are SO many outdoor activities to do in the area--I'm thinking we may want to return when the weather is warmer to hit some bike trails, let the boys dig for gems, and do some hikes!
The Mid-America Science Museum did not disappoint.
The outdoor section was lovely, with Christmas-y dinosaur displays set up along paths through the woods and the most awesome play area suspended up in the treetops!
This is the view of the play area from below...
...and here we are playing up above!
Benson became QUITE the Daddy's boy just in time for this trip.
Like, he would scream if I tried to pick him up.
It was a bit exhausting for Sam, but I never get tired of seeing that little face peeking over those broad shoulders.
Makes me swoon every time.
The indoor displays were pretty enchanting, too!
My favorite was a cave display where you could enter a pitch black series of rocky tunnels and slides that you had to feel your way through, simulating the caves found in Arkansas.
The boys all loved playing with the water exhibit and launching balls up to go through the vortex.
They also had a fun little kids' play area with a slide, a puppet theater, and a giant pin art board.
After a couple of hours at the museum, we headed to Chick-fil-a for lunch.
We then headed to our hotel to spend the afternoon swimming.
The pool smelled VERY strongly of chlorine (especially the hot tub),
and after just a few minutes of swimming everyone was coughing like crazy! Our eyes were burning and we were getting headaches. Apparently the pool chemicals were way off, so we took our very disappointed boys back up to our room to try to detox.
The boys LOVE swimming, so swimming in the hotels was half the reason we planned this trip, and it was really sad to have that plan ruined.
it actually ended up leading us to the very best part of our vacation.
I had read about a beautiful chapel in the botanical gardens and I was interested in going to see it,
so after our ruined swimming experience, we loaded everyone up and headed over to the gardens, located about 25 minutes from our hotel.
On our way, we started seeing advertisements for a Christmas light display at the botanical gardens. Sam got super excited and wanted to look up the details. I was hesitant about going because it was raining a lot, the boys were already in pajamas, and it was kind of pricey.
But Sam's excitement quickly rubbed off on me, so we turned around, bought tickets online on our way back to our hotel, got everyone clothed appropriately, ate more peanut butter and Nutella sandwiches on our drive back, and embarked on one of the coolest Christmas light displays I've ever seen.
The rain stopped just in time and temperatures were in the 60s, making it perfectly ideal!
There were a total of about 5 MILLION lights on display...
to put that in perspective, the lights at Temple Square and Luminaria at Thanksgiving Point in Utah each have about 1 million lights.
These were some seriously intense light displays!
All through the botanical gardens were amazing configurations of musical instruments, Christmas trains, villages, asian gardens with the coolest lit paper cranes in the trees and panda bears frolicking below, and an LED Christmas tree with lights set to play to Christmas carols (including a mash-up of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing that was just gorgeous!).
We even got to see real reindeer!
There really was no way to capture the whole experience, but I took a few snapshots regardless.
When we were all walked out, we stopped to see the chapel that we had initially planned to see.
It is built to look like trees growing together in the woods, and it was STUNNING.
I could not get over its loveliness.
It was the perfect kick-off to the Christmas season, and we headed back to the hotel very enchanted by it all.
The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel and then started our drive back to Memphis.
On our way, we decided to stop at a small nature center in Little Rock to give the boys a chance to stretch their legs and do one more fun thing before arriving at home.
They loved doing a scavenger hunt the woman at the front desk kindly gave them!
We picked up two Little Caesar's pizzas for the boys to eat in the car for lunch and hit the road again.
The final leg of our journey was pretty miserable.
Benson decided he was DONE with his car seat and screamed for much of the 2-hour drive home from Little Rock.
Eventually we found something that calmed him somewhat...
playing every rendition of "Baby Shark" Amazon Prime has to offer (there are a lot!).
Heavy Metal Baby Shark made us laugh so. hard.
Unfortunately, his break in crying was temporary, so as a last resort we stopped at Subway and Sam loaded up on Subway cookies which bought us relative calm for the remainder of the drive.
In our family it seems it wouldn't be a road trip without a tear-stained, chocolate-smeared baby face involved!
All in all, we had a glorious time being together.
**Today's Tidbit: For some reason all the boys woke up super early this morning. Talmage got Benson, who was crying, out of his crib and brought him to Sam and I, got dressed and ready for school, and made his lunch (being careful not to make noise that might wake us up) all before 6 am, and the other boys were ready by 6:30.
It's usually quite the effort to get everyone to wake up at 6:30, so I was very pleasantly surprised!