It wasn't a minute after that thought when I got a phone call from Brian. He said "Why don't we take the girls up to Tennessee?" I said "perfect!" Chattanooga is only about 1 1/2 hours from our house - the perfect little "getaway." I almost told the girls, but then thought of how much fun it would be for them to be surprised. As they slept Friday night, I packed our bags and secretly loaded them into our van. We got up the next morning, got everyone dressed and rushed them out the door. The girls were under the impression we were going to buy Meagan's birthday gift....and also run a bunch of boring 'mommy and daddy' errands. They were troopers though and kept trying to behave based on the promise of a visit to the playground. As we drove, the girls started to ask where we were going. I told them we were going up North to a big warehouse so Brian and I could look at stuff for our house. In their childlike innocence, they simply said "ok."
In about an hour and a half, we arrived at the base of Lookout Mountain. They have a big incline railroad there that you can ride straight up the mountain - quite literally. As we pulled in the girls squealed with excitement. I said "Well, I thought errands would be boring, so why don't we go ride the train?" Everyone was SO excited. We parked and piled out of our van. We got our tickets, and off we went straight up the mountain!
At the top, there is the little station where you can see the machine room, and 4 levels of an observation deck. There is also a little cafe, so first thing, we fed the kids. It was lunchtime, and they made no mystery they were hungry!
After enjoying the outdoors, we went into the National Park Service museum and gift shop. The kids had fun trying on different civil war hats. Meagan tried one on too!
After visiting the shop, we rode back down the mountain on the train - it is quite a strange feeling being literally at a 90 degree angle, and going about a snails' pace straight down. Logic and gravity just make you feel you should be moving a lot faster at that angle going down... The train was laced with windows everywhere, and we all really enjoyed looking out over the views as we descended back to the valley.
We then decided to make our way to the hotel and let the girls swim. Well, this was surprise #2. The girls thought we were just heading back home and on the way we'd stop for ice cream. We piled in the van, and started to drive. We were only about 7 minutes from the hotel. As we pulled in, I said "Well, instead of ice cream, how about we just stay the night and go swimming in the hotel?" The girls' eyes got huge... "our hotel??" they excitedly asked. "Yep!" we said. Again, the squealing (this happens when you have a lot of girls). Even Meagan started to join in and was cooing extremely loud.
We got checked in, and everyone changed into their suits. Even Meagan. We went into the pool.. no one was there at first. The girls jumped, swam, twirled, splashed, and yes, squealed. Everyone was having a great time. About 20 minutes into our swimming time, another mom and her two young daughters came into he pool. She was very nice and we chatted a bit. After swimming, we rounded up the girls, got everyone showered and dressed and went to dinner.
The next morning, we woke up and got ready to head home. We ate breakfast and got in the car. The girls' last Lacrosse game was in the afternoon and we didn't want to miss it. They all got dressed in their Lacrosse clothes, and we hit the road. We got home just in time for the girls' games. They had a blast! Meagan enjoyed being out in her stroller and taking in the sights, sounds, and fresh air.
After Lacrosse, we headed home... got showered again, and everyone changed for Mass. We went to evening Mass and then met up with friends for dinner... of course at an Irish pub. We had a yummy dinner. When I went to get the check, the waitress told me someone had paid for it. I have no clue who that was, but, whomever paid for our birthday dinner, thank you so much. It was an unexpected surprise and a nice treat for the end of our evening.
Before we left the pub, we of course had cake. Meagan isn't eating foods yet, but we still wanted her to have a 1st Birthday cake on her actual birthday. We sang to her and cut cake for everyone. I let Meagan sit on my lap and try a little of the frosting...she didn't like it (go figure). I tried to let her "play" in the frosting, but she didn't like that either! Silly girl. We were so blessed to be able to share a wonderful weekend as a family, and a wonderful dinner with close friends.