Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Embracing Weekly Hikes in January

Green Gorge on Signal Mountain

My word for the year is Embrace and I am working to embrace this period of my life, as well as the things that make me me. Right after Christmas we took our kids camping in Gatlinburg (camping equals embracing being us, Gatlinburg crowds is borderline us). Anyway, Dollywood was offering free season passes to pre-k kids for this year. I thought that might be fun. Can I just say going to Dollywood was a complete bust, as far as our family was concerned, and definitely NOT embracing who we are. We hope to go back later this year and redeem our experience, but I'm also letting myself be okay with not always loving what everyone else loves.

Middle Creek on Signal Mountain

Another thing I'm embracing this year is my love of hiking. I've been hiking for a really long time. I will turn 40 later this year and I fell in love with hiking when I was twelve. Thankfully I married a guy who loves the outdoors as much as I do. And we are working to transfer that love to our kids.

New Year's Day Hike with friends, Middle Creek on Signal Mountain

A few years ago I made it my goal to get outside with Jack EVERY SINGLE DAY. And we did. We #optedoutside365 and it was totally doable. When Jack was in kindergarten I made it my goal to hike with him every week. And we basically did. But last year, I let the pressure of making sure our homeschool was legit enough sway me to do less hiking with my boy (plus it was a hard year weather wise). But no more! I just finished reading Call of the Wild + Free and I committing to going back to doing the things that our family loves. Embracing the things that make us us.

We kicked off the year with our annual New Year's Day Hike with friends. It was a short and sweet hike next to Middle Creek, here on our mountain. It was with friends we love. And it was so good.

Then instead of doing a one-on-one hike with Jack, I waited for a time I could let Isaac tag along. We visited one of our favorite haunts: Green Gorge (which is practically in our back yard) and I knew we had to keep it up. Nature does something to us. It calms us. It brings peace. It prompts wonder and curiosity. We need a healthy dose of it at least once a week.

Green Gorge on Signal Mountain

After posting about our hike, I had two friends ask if they could tag along. Um yes! Please join us in the things we love most. It makes it even better!

Since then we have completed three hikes with a group of friends. There has been some variation in who shows up, but it has always been a great experience.

Greenway Farms in Hixson, TN

Our second weekly hike was to Greenway Farms. I wanted to keep it simple so I could gauge what the group was capable of. We did a lap through the woods. We walked past a wetland area where we saw ducks and heard bull frogs.

Then we came to a huge swampy area. Instead of turning around, the kids figured out how to navigate past it (I think everyone made it across mostly dry).

Everyone was in good spirits so I suggested we walk up and over the quarry to the bottom. I thought the kids would want to throw rocks and sticks in the water. It was a cold day but we had all warmed up for the hike. It turned out the kids were more interested in climbing the cliffs and taking an alternate (more dangerous) route back to the car. We completed almost four miles and everyone was so excited about their accomplishments.

Blood Mountain, North Georgia Mountains

The following weekend, Daniel and I snuck away for a quick trip, just the two of us, to Blue Ridge, Georgia. Choosing to do the things we know we love, including driving down a rutted out dirt road in the dark on our way to dinner. We embraced the fact that we felt better being within two hours of home for our FIRST WEEKEND away from our kids (EVER!). We rented a beautiful cabin in the mountains and ended up doing an almost 5-mile hike to the top of Blood Mountain. Temps dropped from 38 to 29 while we hiked. But it was perfect. It felt like getting back to the us, before we had kids.

Glen Falls on side of Lookout Mountain

For our third weekly hike, I had our friends meet us at the Glen Falls Trailhead on the side of Lookout Mountain.

The two-mile hike involved large boulders to climb on, a passage through a rock that led us on top of a waterfall.

It was cold and there were icicles hanging in the creek, but the kids had such a good time exploring the creek, pushing their limits, putting up with the moms telling them not to fall in the icy waters!

Snoopers Rock in Prentice Cooper on Suck Mountain

Then today we had our fourth hike of the month. Five other families braved driving down gravel roads to an out-of-the-way spot in Prentice Cooper State Forest. The hike was a quick 0.5 mile walk out to the spectacular view from Snooper's Rock. With an oxbow of the Tennessee River spread below us. This is such a gorgeous spot (a favorite of Daniel's to ride dirt bikes to, let him know if this is your jam! Jack and I have done it on dirt bikes and it's a lot of fun).

Mamas were pushed up against their comfort zones as we were on an exposed rock with big drops down into the river gorge. After some quick pictures, we headed back into the woods where the kids delighted in finding creeks to rock hop across and small waterfalls to climb up. It is the end of January, but with temps in the 50s it was a perfect day to explore like this.

We are looking forward to more hikes with various friends in the weeks and months to come. I joked with my boys that we could go somewhere new every week for the rest of the semester and never hit the same trail twice. I'm pretty sure that could be done. We will probably circle back to some favorites. I am just thankful to be back on the trail, with my boys, and I am loving that our friends are wanting to join us every week.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

In the Picture

Before I had kids I read all kinds of blog posts and articles about the importance of moms being in the pictures with their own kids. Too often we are just behind the camera lens. Since I waited so long to have my kids, it gave me a lot of time to consider this and I have worked diligently over the last eight years to get into photos.

So this year, when Facebook released their little year-end video –– the one I normally look forward to seeing; the one where whatever digital algorithm determines what gets in the mix –– I was more than a little sad that I was not in a single one of the photos (besides the leading profile pic). While it was a nice reminder of good memories (mostly with my kids), it didn't actually include me. What the heck, Facebook?

This got me to thinking that I want to be better about taking pictures with my friends. While I am pretty good at taking photos with my boys, and mostly good about snap pictures with Daniel, photos with my best friends are a little more elusive.

So to everyone who humored me for a big group pic this year, or took a minute to pose just the two of us, a big heartfelt THANK YOU. It means a lot to me to have a photo of us. I have moved a lot over the course of my life and I am grateful for the photos that document friendships I've had over the years.

A good friend of mine moved away last year and I only have a couple of photos of the two of us. I have tons of our kids together, but not so much of us. For several years, she was my person. She was there to celebrate the good stuff and offered a listening ear and wise counsel on the not-so-good stuff. I wish I had more pics of the two of us.

If I ask you some time in the future, I hope you will pause and take a pic with me!

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Word for the Year: Embrace

It's been eleven years now since I began the practice of starting the new year with a word to set the tone for the 365 days to come. If I'm being honest, this past year I have been wrestling with the attitude that King Solomon expresses in the Bible: that there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

Another year of coming up with a word for the year: check
Another holiday tradition completed: check
Another book read: check (60 last year).  
Dishes and laundry to do: check
Food to shop for and cook: check (never-ending checks)

So many things that make me feel like I'm just spinning along on a hamster wheel of life.

Here's the thing though, even with the mundane-ness of everyday life, those checks also give comfort and stability. The traditions I'm busy trying to check off my list are things that draw my family closer together. They are the things that anchor us and connect us to each other. Weekly things like church provide stability when life feels a bit off kilter. Routine? Yes. But they are also comforting. 

In recent years I stopped doing some of the things I loved in the past because they felt more like chores. I stopped blogging –– it felt like I was just writing about the same thing all of time. I stopped experimenting with recipes, even though I love to cook –– too much complaining from the peanut gallery. Jack and I quit doing our weekly hikes –– there were lots of excuses like the weather and effort to pull it off each week. (To be clear, our family still had a lot of amazing adventures, but my attitude felt off).

One of the definitions for embrace is to accept or support a belief / theory / or change willingly and enthusiastically. 

This year I hope to work on embracing life as it is now. In the doldrums. In the day-to-day as well as in the moments that are more exciting. I want to embrace life where I am at. Motherhood is a beautiful place. I want to focus more on:  "Finding the extraordinary in my ordinary."  Even in the days that are ordinary, there is beauty to be found in each moment. I hope to embrace those things and find a greater degree of contentment in the every day parts of life this coming year.  

As a secondary thought, I am taking a cue from Disney's Queen Elsa and working on letting some stuff go this year. Every year there are things that need to be let go of. Pride. Expectations. Sometimes relationships. If it was meant to be in my life, it will come back. I'm working to embrace the harder parts of growing up and also parenting.

Words from previous years: 
Fortitude {2010}Adaptation {2011}Patience {2012} Deliberate {2013} Joy {2014} Peace {2015} Release {2016}Savor {2017}Healing {2018}Be {2019}

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Books I Read in 2019

I finished 60 books in 2019 (not including all of the non-chapter books I read with my kids, which I’m sure numbered well over 100 in their own right).

I also joined a book club this year which had me reading more fiction than in previous years. I listened to several audio books but I think I will always prefer paper books to digital and audio. Books I read in 2019:

1. When Children Love to Learn by Elaine Cooper
2. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
3. The Assassins Blade (Throne of Glass) by Sarah J. Maas
4. Throne of Glass, Book 1 (Throne of Glass) by Sarah J. Maas
5. Crown of Midnight, Book 2 (Throne of Glass) by Sarah J. Maas
6. Heir of Fire, Book 3 (Throne of Glass) by Sarah J. Maas
7. The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
8. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
9. Queen of Shadows, Book 4 (Throne of Glass) by Sarah J. Maas
10. Empire of Storms, Book 5 (Throne of Glass) by Sarah J. Maas
11. Peter Pan by JM Barrie
12. The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser

13. Brave Learner by Julie Bogart
14. Tower of Dawn, Book 6 (Throne of Glass) by Sarah J. Maas
15. Kingdom of Ash, Book 7 (Throne of Glass) by Sarah J. Maas
16. The Wild Robot, Book 1 by Peter Brown
17. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
18. Mary Poppins by PL Travers
19. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillio
20. Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie
21. Know and Tell, the Art of Narration by Karen Glass
22. Mary Poppins Comes Back by PL Travers
23. Wonder Woman, Warbringer by Sarah J. Maas
24. The Hidden Gallery, Book 2 (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place) by Mary Rosewood
25. Peak, Book 1 (Peak) by Roland Smith
26. The Edge, Book 2 (Peak) by Roland Smith
27. The Trials of Morrigan Crow, Book 1 (Nevermoor) by Jessica Townsend
28. The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller
29. Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes
30. Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham
31. A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz
32. The Read Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie
33. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
34. Unplanned by Abby Johnson
35. Starting Out in the Afternoon by Jill Frayne

36. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
37. When Books Went War by Molly Guptil Manning
38. Unoffendable by Brant Hansen
39. The Core by Leigh A. Bortins
40. The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller
41. The Wild Robot Escapes, Book 2 by Peter Brown
42. The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni
43. The Door in the Wall by Margeurite de Angeli
44. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
45. The Sacred Enneagram by Christopher L. Heuertz

46. Oryx and Crake, Book 1 (MaddAddam) by Margaret Atwood
47. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
48. The Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren
49. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
50. The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare
51. The Lost History of Dreams by Kris Waldherr
52. The Year of the Flood, Book 2 (MaddAddam) by Margaret Atwood
53. MaddAddam, Book 3 (MaddAddam) by Margaret Atwood
54. The Grimm Legacy, Book 1 by Polly Shulman
55. The World According to Narnia by Jonathan Rogers
56. The Green Ember, Book 1 by SD Smith
57. Recursion by Blake Crouch
58. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
59. At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreidse
60. The Wondering Years by Knox McCoy

If I had to narrow down my faves, I enjoyed the Throne of Glass series (but each book is almost 1000 pages!), so if you start it it’s a big commitment.

Overall I really enjoyed: The Liturgy of an Ordinary Day, Teaching from Rest, Brave Learner, At Home in the World, The Prodigal God, What Alice Forgot, and The Wondering Years

On the kids front, I really enjoyed these series with my kids: The Green Ember (we are listening to book 2 now), The Wild Robot (both books), and the Nevermoor series (we are currently on book 2) were my favorites to read with my kids.

Books I've read over the years: 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018

Embracing Weekly Hikes in January

Green Gorge on Signal Mountain My word for the year is Embrace and I am working to embrace this period of my life, as well as the thin...