Us and the folks over at VH1 had “the best week ever” in Arkansas last week. Really, the many memories we made defy description. There was one night, Wednesday I think, when we were all scarfing down some Italian gelato and Scott looks over at me and says, “Has this just been the best day or what?” Oh man, I wanted to bottle that moment.
Every year, around our wedding anniversary, Scott and I have made the trek to a different state to celebrate the big day. This year, we decided to go to Arkansas with kiddos in tow. Yes, I know. Most people were like, “Oh, Arkansas? That sounds…fun.” It was within the one-day drive requirement (you tell me, do you want to be in a car longer than 9 hours with 4 kids under 7??? I didn’t think so.) And, neither of us had been there together. So, AR it was.
DISCLAIMER: Settle in folks, this might just be my longest post. Grab a Dr. Pepper, get a comfy seat and enjoy.
TOP TEN BEST MEMORIES FROM ARKANSAS! (in chronological order because deciding the best was just too hard)
1. Garvan Woodland Gardens. Even though we were already missing the AC once we stepped outside, we braved this 210-acre botanical garden with gusto. The kids HAD A BLAST. We HAD A BLAST. The scenery was pretty unbelievable, considering the garden is only in its eighth growing season. The kids ran and ran and ran, and Scott and I pushed that double stroller up and up and up. We got our workout for the week.
The gardens had a miniature train (broken when we were there, but still cool to see), tons of bridges, lots of rocks, fish, WATER, a great outdoor pavilion and the most stunning outdoor/indoor chapel and carillon tower I have EVER seen.
We even did a little Aggie engineering and figured out how to prop up the camera to take this family photo.
2. Fishing. The boys started talking about this adventure two days before we even left on vacation. They must’ve asked Scott about 53 times (no lie) when they were going. So, Tuesday morning, they headed out on their “big adventure” ready to catch the evening’s dinner. They had high hopes of an 8-pound bass, but I made sure we brought along some hot dogs for dinner, just in case. Even though there was no catch of the day on the menu that night, they had a really good time. Scott says they skipped more rocks than anything. Sounds like fun to me.
3. Painting Toesies. So, while the boys were off skipping and fishing, Anna-Laura and I busted out the toenail polish. Pure glee. I hope that gives you a visual of her excitement. If not, see picture.
4. Camp Ozark! This place is truly amazing. Back in college, Scott was a yell leader with another Scott. I took this picture for ‘ol Army’s sake. Don’t they still look the part?
Anyhoo, Scott T.’s family owns and operates the most amazing Christian sports camp. We always knew it was top notch, but until we laid eyes on the place, we had no idea that it puts other camps to shame…and in a good way. I mean, where else can you: waterski, fish, canoe, putt-putt, fish, skateboard, ride horses, shoot skeet, swim, design stuff on Macs, do archery, shoot rifles, slide on one of 4 water slides, play soccer/tennis/lacrosse/football/basketball, run a zip line, jump on one of 6 blobs, do a ropes challenge course, or make something over in arts and crafts (stained glass, pottery making, pottery painting, t-shirts, mosiacs, paint wood crafts)? Seriously? Seriously. And, the best part was the camp was only a quick 15-minute drive from our condo.
5. Horseback Riding. Anna-Laura is a big fan of horses (please tell me what little girl isn’t?) So, when we saw some stables I knew we’d found our “girl time.” She didn’t say much (except to ask 7 times – yes I counted – the horse’s name) and never once got scared. She’s been talking about her ride for a good week now. Oh, and in case you’re wondering. Bonanza.
6. Bathhouse Row. Located in Hot Springs, this was THE place to be in Al Capone’s day. At the height of the season, more than a million folks flooded to Bathhouse Row to…well, take a bath. This water is hot, and I’m not lying. After dipping our hands in for a millisecond, we were left wondering just how people actually bathed in this hot stuff. Nevermind the fact that you were bathing with a tubload (HAHA) of other people. It was cool, though. A good reminder that life hasn’t always been as fast-paced as it is now. At one time, it was cool to drive to Arkansas and sit in hot water. Who knew?
All over the city, there are fountains and water fountains that you can fill up a jug or a bottle of water, all for free. Step back, because some of these people were professionals. Most of the fountains were the hot water, but one on the edge of town was a cool spring-fed fountain. We all took a sample – tasted just like chicken 🙂 Actually it tasted pretty good.
This was taken at the top of the mountain overlook, just before dusk. I love this photo of the kids.
7. Pottery Painting. The entire trip we were on the lookout for something that would commemorate the trek. A shotglass or a “I went to Arkansas and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” just didn’t cut it. When we happened upon a pottery studio, we knew we’d found our winner. We walked in 30 minutes before closing and the store owner told us they closed at 6 that day. I think he had his doubts we could knock out a winner in 30, but he obviously doesn’t know the Whitakers. We walked out at 6:03, thankyouverymuch, with one stellar piece. We can’t wait to see it!!!
8. Putt-Putt. Let me just say this. Pirate’s Cove putt-putt is not your father’s putt-putt. This place rocked. But, I had my doubts. We passed up a couple of places on the way to this one and I kept bugging Scott to just stop off. I mean, the kids would love it no matter where we went, right? But, Scott was right. HE WAS RIGHT (did you get that honey?) This was the finale to our great Wednesday that the kids are still talking about. It was something his family did on every vacation and I think we’ve just added it to our tradition repertoire. Oh, I beat him by 4 strokes. Nevermind that he had a one-arm handicap shooting one-handed while holding Clare 🙂 Sadly, there are none of these in Texas. Shoot.
9. Diamond Crater State Park. There’s a long story to this one, but let’s just suffice it to say it almost didn’t make the top ten. We got “directionally challenged” on the way and only after a screaming fit from the backseat, did we decide to turn around and find this place come h*#! or high water. Too bad that same attitude didn’t help us find a diamond. This place is totally legit. You can actually dig for diamonds and keep what you find. A week before we went some 11-year-old kid found a quarter-carat diamond in just 7 minutes. No lie. The kids had fun digging…for about 5 minutes. The girls didn’t want to get dirty (me included), so poor Scott stayed out there another 15 minutes digging and digging and came up with nothing except a calcite!
10. Seeing Friends & Family. On the way back, we split the trip into two days. Can I hear an AMEN? We took a quick pit-stop in Texarkana to meet with the Mayor. Promise. A friend of ours from college, Steve, was just elected Mayor and his family owns one fabulous furniture company. We got to tour the factory and the kids ran off some steam in the design room. At least they didn’t break anything. Steve, Alison, Adyson – great, great to see you three. Let’s not make it 12 years again, okay?
We spent the night in Dallas and spent some good times with the fam. Uncle Cory, Aunt Jennifer, nephew Alex and Granny all met us for dinner and then lunch the next day. As usual, alotta noise and not much chatting. But, we’re so glad we got to see y’all!
Give yourself a pat on the back, you made it through the marathon post. Sorry to be so chatty. It was just one of those weeks 🙂