Vacation 2011!! (Disclaimer: long post ahead. If you don’t like long posts, suffice to say: We had fun.)

Dinosaurs, mummies, sharks, and bison.  We crammed them all into a busy week in Cincinnati/Northern KY last week for our annual jaunt.  Abigail has been studying the first few books of the Bible in school this year, as well as Ancient Egypt, so the Creation Museum combined with some cool exhibits at some other museums seemed like the perfect destination to tie in with what she was learning.  Our home base was the Homewood Suites in Florence, recommended by www.sixsuitcasetravel.com, which is one of my new favorite sites, by the way.  We arrived on Sunday night at our awesome two-bedroom suite–two queen beds in one room, a king bed in the other, and fold-out couch and chair in the living room, with hot breakfast and supper included every night, all for the amazing price of $139 a night!!  Ok, that’s my little commercial for Homewood Suites, who has won a new customer for life.

Anyway…

Monday morning we headed to the Creation Museum!  We hadn’t been but had wanted to since they opened, and we had been studying the souvenir guide loaned to us by a couple at church, so we were pumped and ready to go.  We actually got in free (!!!) thanks to a voucher for a family of four that I got through a homeschool family in Paducah who was giving them out, and since three of our family was under five and therefore free anyway, that took care of all of us!!  A wonderful way to start the week.  We just paid $31 for our planetarium tickets, and skipped what would have been $80 for us all to get into the museum!  We watched the Men in White movie first, which the kids enjoyed except for the storm part which scared all of them and completely freaked Samuel out.  The first part of the tour we kind of skipped through–it was setting up the basis for accepting the Creationist reasoning which we obviously already accept, plus it was kind of over our kids’ heads, so we just pushed on by until we got to the Walk Through History part.  The Garden of Eden was my favorite part–it was just really cool to see the exhibit and imagine what it must have looked like.  I thought the best part, in a sad and morbid kind of way, was the scene where Adam and Eve are in the lake by the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil with the forbidden fruit hanging down in reach and the snake making its descent down to Eve.  Almost gave me chills.  We enjoyed most all of the museum, but that part was my favorite.  We watched most of the movies, or at least some of us did.  I missed some due to a fussy baby.  The planetarium was really cool, especially Samuel and Elisabeth both sitting in my lap parroting almost everything the narrator said.  I thought we were going to get kicked out.  I think my main complaint–for lack of a better term–would be that once you start the tour, it’s a pathway that you really can’t get out of until you get to the end.  We were hungry and ready for lunch, especially Silas, but had to just keep going all the way through because there was no way out.  I wish it had been set up where you could enter and exit the walk-through at your own pace, but other than that, we really enjoyed it.  It was storming when we finished inside, so we had to postpone the outside stuff for another day.

Monday night was our first night of swimming at the hotel.  We were all excited to relax in the pool and the kids even hopped back and forth from the pool to the whirlpool.  Clay and I finally managed to take turns in the whirlpool on the last night–a rare treat for me to actually be somewhere that has one and not be pregnant!!  Everyone loved the pool except Silas whose hatred for it matched all of our enjoyment put together.  He didn’t exactly cry ever like he screams in the bathtub, but as soon as he hit the water the first night, and then as soon as we opened the door to the pool on the other nights, he immediately turned into a little velcro baby and plastered himself to our chests.  At one point Clay was holding him in the water and even let go and Silas didn’t budge, he was clinging to Clay so tightly.  The first night he was tired and stressed out enough that he even fell asleep on Clay’s chest in the water.  So one of us would hold Velcro-boy while the other would play with the normal kids, then we would switch out until we finally decided we’d tortured him enough and I got out with him.  This was repeated each night until the last night, when he finally loosened up enough to raise his head up and even smile once or twice.  But the other kids are little water-bugs, and they all had a blast.  As an added bonus, it wore them out each night and they slept like logs.

Tuesday:  Newport Aquarium, another place we had been wanting to go since it opened and hadn’t had the opportunity.  We got there right as it opened, just in time for the penguin parade.  As we were standing with the crowd ready to watch the penguins, a worker tapped me on the shoulder and asked if our family would like to be the grand marshals! We got to go back into the hallway, meet the penguins, take some pictures, and then lead the parade through the lobby!  Sounds a tad more exciting than it actually was, but the kids had fun.  It was super crowded that day, and unfortunately the aquarium had the same issue as the Creation Museum–once you started through, there was no way to stop for lunch or anything else until you got to the end.  Again, we had to push our way through to go eat, then go back the wrong way down a very crowded one way path to get back to where we had stopped.  Annoying, but we made it.  I think all the kids that wanted to got to touch a shark, we got to sit and watch the penguins awhile, which I love, and they really enjoyed Frog Bog halfway through because it had a playground which helped let out some of the pent up energy!  We finished up our aquarium day with ice cream at Johnny Rockets at Newport on the Levee right outside the aquarium doors.  Nice way to end the day, eh?

On Wednesday we headed into Cincy to the Cincinnati Museum Center for the Children’s Museum and the Omnimax theater which happened to be showing Mummies:  Secrets of the Pharoahs!  Another awesome school integration for the week.  We knew they had a special exhibit there called Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt, but hadn’t planned on paying the extra cost until we got there and Clay decided to go for it anyway.  So we toured that exhibit first which was actually really cool.  We had little audio things that let us hear Cleopatra telling us about her life.  It was truly amazing to look at pots and jewelry and statues that had been made thousands of years ago.  Abigail kept asking if that’s what they really looked like and I’m not sure I ever did convince her that they were the real authentic deal.  The children made me really nervous because not everything was behind glass and we had been sternly warned that alarms would go off if anything was touched, but we made it through without getting arrested or causing an international crisis.  After lunch we headed into the Children’s Museum which of course they loved because all you do there is play.  We all played in the water tables for a little while, then split up into the age-segregated areas–Daddy took the two older girls into The Woods, and I took the three little ones into The Farm.  We built a huge arch out of vinyl covered blocks–you had to stack them just so and then place the capstone while holding the two stacks up and hold your breath and let them lean into the capstone and stand on its own.  We succeeded, but not without some little punk kid coming up and knocking it over when we were almost up the first time.  We were already stressed out because Silas was screaming and we were trying to finish really fast so we could get him and when that kid knocked it down I thought I was about to watch my normally  patient hubby lose it and spank someone else’s kid.  Clay told him not to do it again and he said, “Yeah, I’m a stinker.”  Growl.  We threatened that kid the whole time we were rebuilding and then taking a picture.  Where were his parents?  Never saw them.  Anyway, when we got done there we had time to browse in the shop and get more ice cream before the movie.  Three kiddos fell asleep during the movie, but the rest of us loved it.  The screen, of course, was massive and the movie was fascinating.  We had studied mummies in school, and Abigail and I both really enjoyed seeing the pyramids and tombs and hearing the story of searching for the mummies of the Pharoahs.  It was a very full day at the Museum Center, but I think it may possibly have been my favorite day of the trip.

Wednesday evening we had a little time before bed but not really enough time to swim so we found a playground to finish the day.  It was fun to just chill and relax in the awesome weather.

Thursday found us heading back to the Creation Museum to see the outside exhibits: the botanical gardens and the petting zoo.  It was too early in the year, I guess, for the gardens to be much to speak of, but the kids really enjoyed the petting zoo.  The alpacas and sheep and goats especially wanted attention, and we got to see the zonkey and zorse (?) as well.  Abigail especially loved this part because she’s animal crazy these days.  They got to feed them and pet them and they had a blast.  Then we headed back into Cincy to eat lunch at The Root Beer Stand, scouted out for us by–guess who.  It was packed out but thankfully they had a playground and picnic tables behind the tiny restaurant and it was a beautiful day, so we played and ate outside.  Clay said their root beer was good, but not the best he’d ever had.  🙂  After lunch we were on our way to the Cincinnati Art Museum.  I approached this one with some nervousness about my energetic little brood, but Abigail really really wanted to go to an art museum and it was free so I figured even if we had to leave after fifteen minutes, at least we weren’t out any money.  We didn’t even come close to going through the whole thing, but we did better than I feared.  They did have an Ancient Egyptian wing, and they actually had a real mummy on display which thrilled my little Egyptian scholar.  We did the scavenger hunt for kids and called it a day when we finished that.

Friday was our last day.  We left Northern KY and headed to Frankfort to the KY Fish and Wildlife Headquarters to visit the Salato Wildlife Education Center.  Again, Abigail was the one really excited about this one because she loves nature and animals so much.  It was really crowded and noisy inside, but once we headed outside we just kind of took our time and enjoyed the sunshine and the animals.  Clay particularly enjoyed this stop since he’s learned so much lately about conservation and hunting and wildlife and such.  We stood in the overlook over the whitetail deer and wild turkey for some time, and I could feel a “Soon I’ll get one!” vibe radiating from him as he spotted the turkey hiding in the farthest corner.  We ended our trip by driving on to Louisville and meeting up with good friends from our Louisville days for dinner at Ms. Linda’s house.  We hadn’t seen any of them for about a year and a half and we were overdue for a good visit.  Any of them who may be reading this need to be looking on their calendars and picking a few days to head down and visit us!!  It was a great way to end a great trip.  Clay has the awesome responsibility of picking next year’s destination, so stay tuned for what I’m confident will be another fabulous Hall vacation!

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