It’s always nice to get away! We usually take our big vacation during the summer, but this summer, Christopher is going on a mission trip, so we decided to take our vacation during our Easter/Spring Break.

I have certain things that I do before we leave on any road trip. One of those weird little things is that I take pictures of the things that I know I will worry about halfway to our destination. I take pictures of both thermostats, showing that we turned them off. I take pictures of our doors to show that they are locked. I take pictures of the stove and oven showing they are off. I take a picture of the garage door, showing that it is shut. Weird, I know. But there’s nothing worse than getting four hours down the road and asking, “Hey, did anybody check to make sure the front door is locked?” I have pictures to ease my mind.

I also make our traditional Pate Family Road Trip Snack Mix. In a big, covered bowl, I add peanut, plain, and peanut butter M&Ms. nuts, banana chips, and Raisinets. That’s how the snack mix starts, but we never know how it will end up. That’s because every time we make a pit stop, family members buy something to add to the bowl. Malted milk balls, wasabi peas, caramel corn, pretzels – you never know what’s going to get added! It’s a fun tradition that we all love.

While we were packing, Christopher realized that he couldn’t find the case for his glasses. Luckily, I have some very creative kids and he came up with a great alternative. He used an empty Crystal Light container! It was the perfect size for his glasses and, once the lid was snapped on, it made a perfect glasses case!

So we loaded up the car and headed out!

We absolutely love going to Tennessee. Our preferred place is the Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville area. We have been going to Tennessee for family vacations since 2008! We love the mountains. The climate. The cooler temps. It’s just a great place to relax.

We always rent a cabin rather than a hotel room because it makes it easier to relax. I can cook if I want. We have a washer/dryer. There’s plenty of room. It just works better for us. We usually rent a 3-story cabin – which isn’t as humongous as it sounds. There’s usually only one bedroom per floor. Christopher usually has the bottom floor and it ordinarily contains a game room or a home theater. We have the middle floor – which usually has the main living area and kitchen. Elizabeth has the top floor – which usually has a sitting area.

This year, we chose a different kind of cabin. It was ROUND! Seriously. Not only did it look cool on the outside, the ceiling inside was INCREDIBLE!

It was a little closer than we’re used to, so the kids didn’t get their own spaces. And poor Christopher’s room was in the loft, so he had NO privacy! There was a game room up there, and his late-night attempts to beat his daddy’s high score on Galaga were loud and obnoxious! The cabin was a little tight, but in some ways, we enjoyed that because it kind of forced us to be together a little more than usual. The only real downside to our trip was the 12-hour drive each way. On the way there, we stopped in Alabama and spent the night. That was nice. We slept well and then drove the rest of the trip (4 hours) the next day. But on the way home, we were ready to see Alexandria, so we drove all the way.

Ordinarily, I make and freeze several dinners that we take along with us in a big ice chest. We save a lot of money by having dinner already made and ready to heat while we’re there. This year, we didn’t do that. We just decided to go and do a grocery pickup for breakfast and lunch stuff and drinks and then we ate out or picked up dinner.

But I did make breakfast every morning. That’s a vacation no-brainer! I always make sausage biscuits. Super easy! A great time-saver that I always use is to cook everything on one sheet pan.

I usually purchase precooked, frozen sausage, but they weren’t available at the store we went to. Instead, I had to buy raw sausages. It really wasn’t a problem. I cooked the biscuits and the sausages for 20-23 minutes (because I put them into an oven that wasn’t fully preheated). After that, I removed the biscuits, added the vegan sausages, and cooked all the sausages for another 10 minutes.

Because we’ve been there so many times, we have done most of the touristy things already. We didn’t really have an agenda this year. And I’m really glad we didn’t because I really didn’t feel my best while we were there. I have been diagnosed with a pinched nerve in my back that causes my left leg to be numb. The long drive there apparently aggravated my back and caused the other leg to be numb, too! It was pretty miserable. I really didn’t feel like doing a whole lot. One thing we really enjoyed was Cade’s Cove. It is a beautiful drive through the mountains that takes a couple of hours. In the past, we’ve seen bears, deer, coyotes, and foxes. This year, we didn’t see a single thing, but we didn’t mind. It was a really nice drive and the scenery was beautiful.

We did do a good bit of shopping. There are several outlet stores there as well as a really big outlet mall. I was sad that my favorite kitchen store wasn’t there anymore, but I did find a few things for the kids and a pair of shoes for me. Michael is writing a devotional book and he got a lot of work done on that.

I got to make a few videos of the LumiSpa while washing my face. Filming myself is WAYYYY out of my comfort zone, but I have just had to do it to show how to use it and to show my results. I’m so happy with what it’s done for my skin! It has seriously taken at least a decade off the appearance of my skin. You should really get one if you value your skin and want to take care of it!

Mostly we just relaxed and enjoyed each other’s company. My kids are getting older and I know that we won’t really have many more trips like that. We watched t.v. We laughed. We enjoyed the scenery.

Oh, yeah! Easter Sunday happened while we were there. I had brought some stuff for the kids’ Easter baskets – but didn’t bring the baskets! They each got an Easter pile instead. They didn’t mind. I actually forgot the little gifts I’d meant to include, but they got those when we got home.

For the most part, the kids actually got along during the trip. That was a good thing.

It was a really good trip. We had a lot of great family time. The kids are getting older and these trips are not going to keep happening for much longer. Sometimes, however, I forget how old they really are. Christopher is 20 and Elizabeth will be 17 next month! But old habits die hard. Just before I took this picture, I actually pointed into the distance and said, “Look! Look at that really long choo-choo train!” Elizabeth burst out laughing and said, “Mama, did you really just say that?”

Yes. Yes, I did.

Family time really is the best time. Savor every moment!