There's so much I haven't blogged about lately... and I know I can't remember everything, so I'll just go with what I know!
The main thing is that on September 3, not only did my brilliant sister celebrate a birthday, but Stephen and I also celebrated five years of marriage. I know five years is just a drop in the bucket but we have had a blast these past five years! I can't wait to see what the future holds for us because every year gets better!!
This is a picture of Stephen and me in high school when we first started dating. I know, you are jealous of my tie-dye shirt and our hemp necklaces.
And this is at our wedding... smooching away!!
For our anniversary, Leila, Corky and Jennifer drove up to keep Brianna so Stephen and I could go on a retreat. It was sort of tough picking a location two hours away to visit (at this point in pregnancy I could only go roughly two hours from the hospital) but we ended up deciding on Lake Norman which is very close to Charlotte, Concord, etc. Lots to do around there. They came in Friday evening and we left Saturday morning, as soon as I could drag Stephen away from Brianna. That's not even a joke.
We got there around lunchtime and ate at a great local pizzeria, Taste of Brooklyn. After lunch we drove around town just to see if there were any places we wanted to stop at (not a thrift store in sight!!) but we finally just headed over to the hotel to see if we could check in early. We could, and by the time we made it up to the room and unpacked some of our things, to be honest, we were pretty tired! We decided to take a 30-minute nap, which turned into 1 1/2 hours. Oops. So much for 10-minute snoozing. We then trekked down to the business center so we could start Googling the places we wanted to visit. There were several places we wanted to go and we knew we'd only have time for one on this trip. After looking up about six different places we wanted to visit, we realized everything was closing at 5:00 because of it being Saturday. At this point it was already almost 4:30, so....
We decided at that point to hit a local nature preserve since they don't shut the gates until sunset. One that sounded really nice was Ribbonwalk and it was only 20 minutes or so away. So, we set off to find this park. The first clue that something was up is that our directions started taking us through this neighborhood. I mean, just houses and subdivisions. But there were other signs. The sign for the park wasn't very clearly marked. No other cars were there except one truck backed far into the woods. (I could hear Dueling Banjos almost.) No updated brochures, trail maps, trail markings, etc. But we decided to venture out and see what this park had to hold. We started down one trail, choosing it because it was furthest from the suspicious truck and the only one that wasn't overgrown. It quickly led us to a pond which was so nasty I honestly expected to see dead fish floating at the top. We turned down another trail that had poison ivy clearly marked with signs (thank goodness for that, at least) but the further we walked the more uneasy we felt. Finally Stephen said, "I really don't even want to leave the car unattended here!" Everything was overgrown and I'm not sure exactly how long this park had been out of commission, but I was ready to throw in the towel as well. I was so disappointed because I felt like everything we had an idea to do was falling apart!!
We decided to just hit the mall and stop in places on the way that we thought would be interesting, if we saw anything. I was still disappointed because who wants to spend their vacation at the mall? But there really wasn't anything else open late. Fortunately for us, we made one bad decision on which direction we were supposed to go to get to the mall! We stopped to get gas and it turned out we were supposed to be going the opposite direction. After we turned around we saw a sign for another nature preserve. I hesitated to go in because of our last experience but Stephen insisted. This was Reedy something nature preserve. Well, as soon as we drove in we could see this was what a nature preserve is supposed to be like!! It had about 8 or 10 different parking lots all leading to different trails, picnic areas, playgrounds, basketball courts, etc! It even had a huge museum (which of course was closed) with exhibits, nature sessions, and lots of other things. They had this great playground built under the trees and had this as the entrance:
The more we walked closer to the trails the more excited I got. "THIS is what a park is supposed to look like!", I exclaimed to Stephen. The parking lot we parked in went to these two trails:
which in turn forked off to lots of other trails. We first went to the Dragonfly Pond:
which was just under a mile, and then turned around and did the Umbrella Tree Trail. After one mile we turned around and headed back to the parking lot because we didn't know how much further it was and my stomach was telling me to chill out on the hiking! There was a lot of uphill climbing and the Braxton Hicks were just a-comin'! But it was so worth it to be out there. It was under 80 degrees, breeze, shaded, we could take our time, it was just beautiful. It made me so excited to get Brianna and Hunter out to Morrow Mountain to do some hiking and picnicking! Isn't it funny how when you have kids you spend half your time trying to stop them from growing up and the other half wishing they'd grow up so you can do more things with them??
By this time it was getting dark so we decided to head over to the mall and get a cookie and a pretzel (a tradition!). When we got there the AMC theater was right next to the mall so Stephen persuaded me to check out the movies that were playing and the times. You gotta understand - we hadn't been to the movies in about four years. Not only is it a joke how expensive they are, but then you gotta possibly deal with the kid sitting beside you, or the guy next to you answering his cell phone, people walking around, commentating on the movie... But Stephen looked like a little kid as we were looking up to see what was playing. Then he locked on The Expendables. The action movie of all action movies. As he checked the clock he frowned and said, "I guess we're not going to get to see anything after all." It was right at 7:30 and all the movies were starting either right then or three hours later. He looked so disappointed I convinced him we could see it - after all, they show tons of previews before movies so it wouldn't actually have started yet. He was so excited! But then we both practically gagged when we realized movie tickets were $10!!! TEN DOLLARS!?!? Is it that expensive everywhere? Holy cow! Of course we had to get a snack, so we got a "deal" which was bottomless popcorn and a bottomless drink... of course who can eat more than one of each?? That was another $12!!! Good grief. I tried to stay calm since this was a vacation and I knew Stephen was about to bust. After the movie he went on and on and on about how great the movie was, how loud it was (yes, that was one of the things I didn't like!), how BIG the screen was, etc etc. So I'm glad we went.
It was only 9:30 or so when we got out so we both assumed we could still go to the mall and walk around a bit. Wrong. Did you know most malls close at 9:00... even on Fridays? This just shows how often we get out of the house. So our options were pretty limited at this point. We decided just to grab something light to eat and head back to the hotel. After all, we had a whirlpool in our room, books, wireless Internet, and yes I brought coupons to clip.
The complimentary breakfast in the morning was delicious. If you ever have the opportunity to stay at a Country Inn & Suites, DO IT!! I am addicted to this chain of hotels. The breakfast was a huge variety of hot and cold foods - waffles, fixings for omelets, hashbrowns, eggs, bacon, cereal, yogurt, fresh fruit, granola bars, bagles, biscuits and gravy.... I can't even remember everything! I always eat way too much at a complimentary breakfast. As it should be! After breakfast I could tell Stephen was itching to get home, mainly because he told me he was ready to go home. We went back to the room and packed all of our things and we were home around lunchtime.
All in all it was nice being away. I definitely didn't miss Brianna as much as Stephen did (what?? I am just being honest!!) but nothing was really open on the weekend and there were no thrift stores to be had, so there wasn't much for us to do. I did love the park though!! And the hotel! I could have stayed another night but Stephen said he doesn't get to spend enough time with us as it is and he wanted to get home. I understand that. We are irresistible.
It has taken me almost twelve hours to write this post so I'm going to end it here and write more later about everything else I was going to write about!