An Unstuffed Holiday: The Follow Up.

If you’ll recall, we decided to forgo the usual amount of presents this year in favor of an experience over more stuff…here’s what happened.

(Spoiler alert…no horses ate our food.)

The kids had a few carefully selected (i.e. BUSWORTHY!) gifts to open, and then there was this giant box hanging out next to the tree. No one said a damn thing about the giant box, and I ordered DNA tests for all of them because a young me would have DEFINITELY ASKED ABOUT THE MASSIVE BOX.

“WHAT’S IN THAT BOX?!?!” would have been the very first thing out of Young Dana’s mouth on Christmas morning.

But not my (alleged) children, oh no, they were all too busy being excited over LEGO wheels, Harry Potter pajamas, slime making supplies, and all the new books to even notice the giant box. I literally had to point it out (both the box and how lame and weird they all were for not instantly noticing said box) before anyone noticed.

Lame.

There were 3 more boxes inside, each containing a sign. (Sorry, Quill…Mama predicted right that you would be anti-holding something for the obligatory “we’re excited about this” photo.)

The signs say, “We’re going to Atlanta to see horses and knights at Medieval Times and dolphins and sea lions at the aquarium! Merry Christmas, kiddos!”

Everyone was truly excited and that excitement grew when they realized we were going in just a couple of sleeps, instead of this trip being months away. We took advantage of the wait and in typical homeschool fashion…we made this educational. You’ll learn something, damnit!

All that castle knowledge ended up paying off as everyone could correctly name the weapons used, and could mostly follow the storyline at our first stop…Medieval Times!

Now, I was expecting Medieval Times to be rather on the cheesy side, and it so totally was, but in a fun kind of a way. The storyline was a little arduous and convoluted at times, but Eli correctly identified the bad guy from “the North” as likely being a Viking. (There was some self-congratulating on that one as I looked around to see if anyone else’s 6-year-old was musing about where the longship could have been parked.) (There wasn’t. *pats self on back for teaching prowess*)

The kids all loved the show. From my too cool for everything 10-year-old waving her napkin in the air and screaming like a Blue Knight groupie to my 21 month old pointing and squealing, “NEIGH!” every time a horse cantered past; we all had a good time.

(Brace yourself for vacation photos featuring terrible lighting and children you only know about because of the Internet.)

The food was good, although the boys were mostly too distracted to eat much of it. We got a laugh when our page told Amelia to enjoy her “baby dragon” and she had to lean over and double-check with me that it really was just chicken. Silas managed to eat 3 of our desserts and was absolutely delighted when his mug was accidentally filled with sweet tea instead of water.

Our knight lost, but the experience overall was a definite win. If you go, be prepared for sticker shock…drinks, trinkets, and even the tour of the dungeon are all going to require you to consult with the Master of Coin. If you’re military, there is a small ticket discount. Also, it was very loud and the lighting effects were a little overwhelming at times. If you’ve got a sensory kid, headphones are a must.

Next, we went to our Airbnb, and cheese on crackers, we’ve got sheltered children because they all lost their minds over this place and proclaimed it to be the fanciest spot ever. (Apparently I need to class the bus up, because I’ve got a bunch of high brows on board.) Now, granted the place *was* nice and if you need a place to stay that’s close to Atlanta without actually being *in* Atlanta, I highly recommend Sam and Theresa’s.  It was spacious and clean and comfortable.

I’ll spare you all the video of my unworldly children rolling on the floor because the carpet was “SO SOFT! MAMA! You’ve got to FEEL THIS CARPET! Did you see the TV?!? IT’S LIKE A MOVIE THEATER IN HERE! They have COASTERS. FOR YOUR DRINK. MAMA! COASTERS!!!!!”

(Skipping both gifts and experiences next year, because they are all getting coasters for Christmas.)

But yes, it was cozy and wonderfully quiet. Everyone slept (some still in their crowns) and woke up mostly ready to go again. All of us had some degree of the same hacking cough and congestion, so there was slightly less enthusiasm than the day before, but we were ready to hit the Georgia Aquarium.

The aquarium was fun-ish.

Maybe I’m an aquarium snob and didn’t realize it until this point in my life, but having been raised with the National Aquarium in Baltimore, I think my expectations were really high and possibly based on some nostalgia tinged memories that may or may not be rooted in fact because the Georgia Aquarium was kind of (sorry, not sorry) underwhelming. And now that I’m learning that it’s the largest aquarium in the world, I’m thinking that it *was* probably me (and not the aquarium) with the unrealistic issues.  (But listen, all I know is that there was *no* rainforest and therefore *no* two-toed sloth and I don’t know how I’m expected to enjoy an aquarium visit without these two things.)

Well, the kids and Jake, never having experienced the wonder that is the National Aquarium, had fun.

And they kept having fun until they were just done and that switch flipped and it was a clear warning that we needed to go. Like right now. We all were done. (And possibly feeling a little disgruntled about the lack of a sloth, but whatever.)

Here’s where we learned our big lesson. We are a “one exciting thing at a time” family. Back to back excitement is just too much for us. Pass the unseasoned chicken and the mild salsa, please because we can’t handle the excitement. I think if our timeline had been a little looser, we would have been ok and done better at the aquarium. The kids were all into it, but they were all tired and needed real food and some time to zone out more than they wanted to hang out with the fishes. They needed some familiar and boring before being ready to plunge back in to something new. We all did.

I think this is where the bus is going to come in to save the day over and over again. We’ll get to take our familiar with us. Our own beds will be available every night. This mama will be cooking in her kitchen and not trying to convince everyone that chicken fingers shouldn’t even be a thing. We’ll each have our own little corner to retreat to for some much needed space and time to process. As a family, we need the comfort of the known in order to enjoy all the new.

We’ve been back home for over a week now and everyone is STILL talking about two things…the knights and when are we going to get some coasters.

So next year, will we be forgoing the physical gifts and going for another experience?

Absolutely.

I’ll be over here looking up National Aquarium tickets.

Dana was once described (to her great delight) as a "rock and roll Martha Stewart". Since then, despite being rather awful at hosting dinner parties, she's tried her best to live up to such a distinction. Armed with the ability to laugh endlessly at her own mildly funny jokes, Dana juggles marriage, motherhood, and minimalism with an equal measure of sarcasm and incessant worrying. She is wife to one, mother to many, and friend to anyone who brings her baked goods.

2 comments On An Unstuffed Holiday: The Follow Up.

  • I did an experience too! We are doing just me and mini me in NYC in a couple months. Mostly because (fingers crossed) I will be there all summer at grad school and this will allow me a chance to show her around and where mommy is going to be when she isn’t at home. She is super excited!

    • That will be awesome! There is so much to see in NYC! Maybe it can become a tradition for just the two of you to go every couple of years.

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