Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Hiking with Kids: Blue Hole

Daniel has been assigned to work Saturdays for the month of June so our weekends have been shifted to Sunday-Monday. We are still finding our groove and the month is almost over!

For Father's Day, we thought we would go hiking but Jack wanted to cut branches with Daniel. Daniel was a good sport and did yard work with Jack in lieu of a more enjoyable activity (like taking a nap on the hammock or hiking).

We figured it would be for the best to hike on Monday because our desired location was the Blue Hole in Soddy Daisy and we had heard that it could be quite crowded during the summer. We hoped that a Monday would be a quieter experience.

Blue Hole is a series of swimming holes found in the North Chickamauga Creek Gorge on Mowbray Mountain. We actually visited this area several years ago with Jack, but he was much smaller and it was too cold to swim during that visit.

This time we headed to the mountain next to ours in search of a kid-friendly swimming hole. As we drove up Mowbray Mountain we noticed that the gorge looked bone dry (as seen from Dayton Pike). We didn't know if there would be enough water to swim, but we knew climbing in the gorge over rocks would be fine too.

Upon arrival we found a jam-packed parking lot. You pretty much had to make a space for yourself. Since we were in our big SUV, we were able to find a spot that was in a bit of a hole.

With all of the cars we knew it might be difficult to find a quiet spot. The place is known for raucous crowds on hot weekends. We picked a route over boulders away from a group of young adults blasting a radio.

If the gorge is crowded, you can just continue to head upstream as there are plenty of pools to cool off in. I'm guessing we went a little under a half mile before deciding to stop. There was another family swimming in the hole and it was partially shaded.

Jack was disappointed that we hadn't brought his goggles or puddle jumper, but he had fun splashing in the shallower water and throwing rocks.

Isaac ended up skinny dipping. I wasn't sure if he would want to get in, but he was pretty adamant about getting his whole body in. He collected a whole pile of rocks off the bottom of the creek for me.

Even though the parking lot was full, we enjoyed a quiet afternoon with our boys. Since we don't have swimmers yet, the lower water levels were perfect for our crew. 

We had read reviews that the area tends to have a lot of garbage – people like to come and drink and leave their beer bottles strewn about. We saw plenty of empty bottles tucked in between rocks, but not nearly as many as I expected. It was a fun afternoon to spend as a family and I look forward to going back and exploring further.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Throwback Thursday: The Water is Just Fine

This Throwback Thursday is brought to you from the summer of 2011 and a trip to the beach in Port Aransas, TX. I was pregnant with Jack at the time. The photos and captions recently showed up on my Facebook "on this day" posts. Ever since this moment at the beach, I have been making an effort to get in the water, regardless of how I feel about swimsuits. I'm getting in the water and enjoying time with my kiddos. No more sitting on the sidelines.

I wasn't going to get in...

but then I kept thinking about how my brother 
always gives me a hard time for never swimming any more.

And I noticed that very few women over the age of 25 were actually in the water...

and I decided that I didn't want to be one of those people that never 
get in the water just because they are "grown up."

Daniel ALWAYS gets in the water...

...and I am glad I did too.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


You could say that I know a thing or two about leaving – we have moved three times in the last five-ish years, including a three-month stint in a camper and a six-month period living in a different hotel or vacation home on a weekly basis. And let's not even get started on the fact that I have moved a total of 18 times in my life, not including my college years. So leaving, I'm good at that.

Staying. Staying is much harder for me. I'm trying to make peace with it. I want my boys to grow up in a place where they will hopefully have friends that last a lifetime. But I may always feel the tug to move on.

This transient side of me has learned to make friends almost anywhere, but more often than not, the people I connect with are also the moving type. I guess we gravitate toward each other because we understand what it is like, this impermanence. This year I have already said goodbye to a new friend who moved to Idaho, and last week I dropped by to see a friend who is headed to Montana soon.

I'm excited for them, but it's hard to be the one on the saying goodbye side of things. I'm sad to see them go, and also a teeny bit jealous perhaps. Jealous of their new adventure? I don't know. I guess I'm just in an antsy phase. We have been in our current town for three years now which is enough time to feel settled, but also historically this is about the time that life uproots me...


Like the rest of the country, I am in shock and deeply saddened by the mass shooting that happened in Orlando early Sunday morning. When there were attacks in Paris last November, it was shocking but it felt far away. When Belgium was bombed in March, it felt a bit closer to home because I had a cousin spending a semester there. Orlando brings terror a little too close to home for me. Much like the shootings in Chattanooga did last summer. 

So, I am doing the only thing I know to do. I am praying for peace and comfort for the families who lost loved ones. I am praying for those who were spared, and those who feel the guilt of "why not me?" I am praying for our divided nation, and I am going to show love and respect to everyone I meet. I am also going to go on living my life because living trapped in fear is not really living.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Grocery Pickup

Yesterday I tried out Walmart's new Grocery Pickup service and I was pleasantly surprised. I am not being paid for this post, but I wanted to share my experience because as a mother of little ones it really made my day easier.

The most time consuming part of the process was making my list, but since I already make a weekly list (I'm a huge fan of weekly meal planning), making a list on the Walmart site wasn't that big of a deal.

I made my list, chose a pickup time (I ordered late on a Monday afternoon so had to wait until Tuesday to get my groceries), and then hit order. To be honest, I had a brief moment of panic as I wondered if they would pick out decent produce. Also the app automatically chose "substitute items approved" without me noticing and I wondered if I would get a cart full of brands I didn't want.

I had until 2am to change my order and I actually did try to alter it (we had an Amazon order come in with some items I was out of), but when I went to change my Walmart order it wouldn't knowledge my earlier coupon code for $10 off and I was also worried that I was somehow going to place my order for my entire grocery list twice, so I cancelled the change and hoped for the best.

How It Works
The time slot I chose was 2pm-3pm. This was a time I would be out with my boys anyway. I was curious how this whole hour pick up time would work and whether my cold items would really be cold when I arrived.

Fifteen minutes before my time slot, Walmart called me saying my order was ready and I let them know that I was on my way. They told me to park in the designated area and to call when I arrived to let them know what parking space I was in. 
I arrived shortly after 2pm and made my call. Within 5 minutes, they were carting my groceries to my car. They loaded my car for me and the woman who was working on my order when over every spec of produce with me (something I didn't ask for). She made sure all of the items were there, checked my eggs and told me she didn't get my zucchini because none of it looked good (and I would not be charged for it). She was incredibly friendly, choose better produce than I probably would have choose for myself, and answered all of my questions.

I signed off on receiving my goods and was told my receipt was accessible online. The entire pick up took 15 minutes. On arrival home, my food was all nice and cold – much colder than if I had shopped myself and waited in a check out line. We all know check out lines can take forever!

My only two negatives, if you can call them that, were that bananas were listed by the pound. I wasn't sure how many pounds I normally get – we typically eat a lot of bananas, so I guessed 3 pounds. Upon receiving my groceries, I discovered the shopper had picked out 3 large bunches of bananas for me. I was only charged for 3 pounds though, so I guess I will be making a lot of banana bread! Secondly, I wish there was a way I could use cloth bags instead of plastic, but logistically I can see how that would be challenging.

In regards to my receipt, the online receipt has a TC code that allows me to use still use my Savings Catcher app (review to come). However, I am still trying to figure out how to use it with the iBotta app (review to come). The online receipt is good for returns, and if there is a problem with anything in the order you call the phone number and deal directly with the pick up service (no painful customer service to contend with!). You can also purchase things that are not groceries.

Right now, first time Grocery Pickup customers received *$10 off their order at Walmart, use coupon code REALEASY. I was also given a gift bag for trying the service.

My shopping list is saved so future orders should be much quicker. I was impressed with this experience. As a mom of little ones, this made my day much easier.

If you are needing to free up some time in your life, I would recommend giving grocery pick up a try. If you aren't a Walmart fan, Publix offers a similar service.

*To use this service at Walmart, there is a $35 order minimum and no service fee. To use the discount code, you have to spend a minimum of $50. Happy shopping!

Friday, June 03, 2016

Things I Read in May (#6)

Last month Daniel had the opportunity to attend Leadercast in Atlanta. As part of the swag, he came home with several books written by speakers at the event. One of the books was The Power of the Other by Dr. Henry Cloud (co-author of the Boundaries books).

This book outlines the healthy relationships one must have in order to be a good leader, and how the people around you have an impact on how well you do life. I am currently not in a leadership position (not within a business anyway), but I found the concepts to be applicable to marriage and also to parenting.

Dr. Cloud's book outlines the four corners of relationships – the first three being toxic with the goal to get to Corner Four. As a parent, I felt myself nodding along with the feeling that I have definitely gotten stuck in Corner One before.

In Corner One you are disconnected from those around you and making poor decisions because you are isolated. In Corner Two you have a bad connection – for example someone is making you feel bad about yourself or you get yourself in a situation where something you are doing makes you feel guilty. And finally, Corner Three relationships offer a "False Good Connection" where your ego is being stroked but no one is telling you the truth. 

The goal should be to Corner Four where you can have a real connection to the people around you; where you can give and receive honest feedback without getting your feelings hurt.

This book was a fairly easy read and I thought it had some great points. It made me reevaluate some of the ways I have been making decisions lately. This book also took me back to the days I was working in an office setting and reminded me of the differences in good and bad leadership. I actually quit a job at one point because of poor leadership. Whether working under good or bad leadership, I always walk away with a desire to learn from, and then do better in my own life.

I gave The Power of the Other 4 stars on Goodreads.

A sampling of what I've been reading online lately:
Guilt's a Punk via Marriage Confessions
This Study Could Have Reshaped the American Diet via The Washington Post
Lessons from Backdoor Friends via Under the Sycamore
Are Today's Parents Getting a Raw Deal? via The Huffington Post
To the Discourraged Mothers via We are THAT Family
How I Negotiated $15,000 More... via The Muse
Be the Boss, Not the #GirlBoss via The Broadcast
Life Lessons by the Decade via The Pioneer Woman
Dear Chewbacca Momma via Thistle and Toad
Venezuela is Falling Apart via Business Insider
How I Slowed My Family Down via The Huffington Post
15 Words Every Outdoor Lover Should Know via Outside Online

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Outside 365 | May 2016

Summer break is officially here and we are going strong in our efforts to be outside. A friend recently asked if I planned to keep it up through the hot months of the summer, and the answer is: I hope so.

We were outside every day in the month of May. We picked strawberries, introduced Isaac to paddling, saw the end of T-Ball season, went camping, swam at the lake with friends, hiked, and enjoyed plain, old-fashioned fun at the park. 

Jack has made new friends, participated in pick-up baseball games in our neighborhood, helped Daniel wash our cars and do yard work, and had a fun Memorial Day weekend. The possibilities are endless.

At one of my very first jobs, I worked in the marketing department of an office supply vendor for the office supply box stores (Staples, OfficeMax, etc.) and the Vice President of the department was always wanting me to make the products (staplers, stamps, etc.) look "sexy." I would just roll my eyes, because really, office supplies are not inherently sexy. 

I have a point here – spending time outside doesn't have to be about epic activities. Sometimes we just need to embrace where we are at. Sometimes a stapler is just a stapler... Sure I would love to visit National Parks out west and check more high points off my list, but really I am just happy that my family is spending time in nature without a lot of distractions.

I recently read an article saying that people who spent time in nature are nicer than indoorsy people. I believe it. If I get stuck inside for too long, I find myself getting cranky. I need to feel the sunshine and breathe in some fresh air while getting my heart pumping. I also enjoy getting to chat with a friend on the playground while my kid plays. It definitely makes me a nicer person.

A Look Back at Project Outside 365: 
January 2016 ⎮ February 2016 ⎮ March 2016 ⎮ April 2016


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