Monday, January 30, 2017

Books Read #1-5 ⎮ January 2017

January is coming to a close and my reading is off to a good start with five books finished. I started the month with an introduction to a young author who writes fiction in the fantasy-Christian genre, if there is such a thing. Her writing is stylistically similar to The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis and she has also been likened to George Macdonald (who happens to be one of my parents favorite authors, but I have never read his books). 

Rachel Starr Thomson writes in a captivating way that really held my attention and sparked my imagination, which I appreciate, and she's Canadian! I don't read a lot of fiction, so I think her books are worth reading because I kept wanting to read more. 

This month I read Exile and Hive from The Oneness Cycle series (there are 5 books in the series), an allegory titled Journey, and finally the first book in The Seventh World trilogy, Worlds Unseen.

I enjoyed The Oneness Cycle books, but there were a few times I got a little lost in the story. I do hope to complete the whole series as I have time. My favorite book so far was Worlds Unseen. The writing is beautiful and I spent an entire Saturday shirking my mom duties to finish. Journey was written in a similar style to Pilgrim's Progress. It was a quick read, really more of a short story than a novel, that uses prose to describe the christian walk.

After I exhausted my free downloads from Rachel Starr Thomson, I headed to my local library and picked up a book that has been on my to read list for a while: The Collapse of Parenting by Leonard Sax, M.D., Ph.D.

On occasion Daniel and I will discuss our parenting, and we wonder if we are doing it right. Are we teaching our kids the right things? We don't want them to grow up to feel entitled to anything. We want them to be respectful and kind to everyone. We want them to work hard and earn their own successes. Obviously there is more than that, but these are a few of the things that we discuss.

The Collapse of Parenting makes me think we are doing fine in our parenting efforts. Dr. Sax puts an emphasis on teaching children respect by being an authority in their lives, he stresses the importance of family meals as often as possible together, and reminds parents to limit technology and put down the phones. He also discusses the propensity of American parents to defer to teachers and doctors who tend to over-medicate children in an attempt to get the kids to behave. He says Americans, in particular, have adopted a pass the buck mentality – parents aren't willing to discipline, teachers are limited on how much they can discipline, and doctors are willingly prescribing strong drugs to keep the kids in line.

I thought the book was a good read, and definitely had excellent points throughout. As for our parenting, I think a lot of what we do as parents is in line with the suggestions that Dr. Sax makes in his book.

A few passages that stuck out to me:
The right kind of humility helps you to recognize your own shortcomings. To be better prepared. To understand the risks. And to take those risk courageously, when necessary.

The antidote to the culture of bloated self-esteem is the culture of humility... The culture of humility leads to gratitude, appreciation, and contentment. The key to lasting happiness is contentment.
Train up your child in the way they should go, and when they grow up and move away from home, you will have improved the odds (paraphrase of one of the Proverbs)... There are no guarantees. But the research strongly suggests that if you instill habits of good behavior and self-control in your son or daughter throughout childhood and adolescence, then you have improved the odds that your child will continue to do the right thing after leaving home.
At some level... many Americans... have accepted the idea that the primary purpose of K-12 schooling... is to get accepted into a selective college... That's a mistake. The primary purpose of education should be to prepare for life, not for more school... The skills needed to get into a top university are not the same as those needed for a successful life...

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Travel Bug

Over the last month or so, Daniel and I watched The Long Way Round on Netflix. This show follows Scottish actor Ewan McGreggor of Star Wars fame, and his friend Charley Boorman, as they spend 115 days riding BMW touring bikes 20,000-miles around the world, crossing 12 countries and 19 time zones. Starting in England, they make their way through Europe, Russia, Mongolia and Siberia through extremely harsh terrain before catching a plane to Alaska (with motor bikes in tow) and riding through Canada and the USA to New York City where they meet up with their families.

The show is their personal travel diary as they share their experiences camping on the road, meeting people in each country, and traveling over extremely difficult terrain with little support. In Siberia they were literally having to fell trees, use winches, and ride in the backs of huge lorries to make their way across crazy rivers. It was an amazing, and as I kept remarking to Daniel, "very manly," experience. Ewan McGreggor even echoed that sentiment a couple of times. We both enjoyed watching the show and seeing the world through their eyes.

We are currently finishing up watching their second trip, The Long Way Down, where they ride from the northern tip of Ireland to Capetown, South Africa. The trip is fascinating and everything you would expect of Africa. I especially liked it because it gave me a glimpse of what my dad probably did in his younger years – as a young missionary in Zambia traveling around on a motorcycle. Also I really liked that Ewan's wife, Eve, joined Ewan and Charley for a portion of their trip from Malawi into Zambia, ending at Victoria Falls.

Daniel loves riding his motorcycle and over the years has hinted (more than once) that he would like to do some motorcycle touring together at some point. The Long Way Down was the first time I really felt like that might be a reality some day. Not that I want to travel across Africa on motorbike, but that seeing Ewan's wife try something new, and then get up repeatedly as she fell on the difficult terrain, was inspiring. Also, there is no way I would want Daniel to do a trip of this magnitude without me! Both Ewan and Charley's wives were very supportive of both endeavors – though Ewan's wife would have liked to participate for a bigger portion of the 3-month trip that covered 15,000 miles and 18 countries.

We would recommend both The Long Way Round and The Long Way Down, but be aware that Ewan and Charley use pretty strong language. In The Long Way Down I joked that the guys seemed to have cleaned up their language, and shortly after Ewan actually alludes to his effort not to say the "F" word as much.

Another travel-related thing that Daniel and I have been following is the round-the-world trip of some friends of ours from when we lived in Cookeville, TN when we were first married. Chris and Allison Hicks have been an inspiration to us for more than a decade as we watched them become new parents and transfer their love of the outdoors and traveling to their now teenage children. We knew them when their kids were infants so it is amazing, through Facebook, to see how they continue to raise their kids. They recently embarked on a round-the-world trip and we are enjoying living vicariously through them as we follow their adventures on their blog The Well Worn Backpack. It gives me hope that we can will do a similar trip one day. So far they have traveled through Thailand and Cambodia, and we can't wait to see the rest of their trip unfold!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thursday Things: Fear vs. Confidence in Motherhood and Myself

Before I had kids, I was pretty fearless. I was always up for trying new things. When Daniel purchased his first motorcycle when we were still dating, I didn't bat an eye. But once I had kids, fear wormed its way into my head and made itself comfortable.

In those early years when Jack was a newborn, I was afraid a lot. Would this little baby that I had been entrusted with survive? There seemed to be things lurking at every turn and I found myself awake during many nights just worrying.

When Jack was around the age of one, Daniel and I started biking pretty regularly again, taking Jack with us. One of our favorite places to explore was the Hays Nature Preserve in Huntsville. It has great paved trails and you can also explore some dirt tracks that aren't too difficult.

Jack loved his time on the back of Daniel's bike, and Daniel and I enjoyed getting to do one of our hobbies again. On one of those rides with Jack, Daniel found a trail that had a rocky descent. I don't think that it was particularly steep or long, but as I stood at the top I experienced a serious mental block.

When I first started biking as an adult it was mostly on mountain bike trails. I had great confidence speeding through the woods in an effort to keep up with Daniel, riding over roots, knolls and around tight turns. I had no fear then. But that day in the woods with our toddler, I could not, for the life of me, muster the courage to ride down. In shame, I got off my bike and walked...

About a year ago Daniel and I had the opportunity to sneak off and ride our mountain bikes, just the two of us. It was the first time I had been on my bike since being pregnant with Isaac. It had been raining and the trails were muddy, but we were undeterred in our effort to find the right trail out to Edward's Point. We didn't find Edward's Point that day (we ran out of daylight), but I did tackle some really difficult terrain. Over big rocks and logs and down some pretty steep sections. We were both covered in mud when we finished, but I don't think that either of us fell off our bikes!

I'm not sure what happened between that day in Huntsville 3+ years ago and the day last year, but fear is no longer controlling me. At least not when it comes to mountain biking!

I have been more willing to try other things as well. Maybe it is confidence in being in better shape but this ability to be confident instead of afraid of hurting myself has manifested in other ways as well. I have been going to yoga once a week over the last couple of months and when we have the opportunity to try harder moves, I always try the harder variation.

I have surprised myself by feeling comfortable flipping my dog (or wild thing) and also being able to do a wheel. I would have been too afraid that I was going to hurt myself in the past. Today in bootcamp I was jumping rope and it crossed my mind that I could do some pretty cool moves with a jump rope when I was about ten years old. So during my 60-second interval with the rope, I tried crossing my arms. The first time I hit myself with the rope, but I tried again. And my body remembered! It felt good to try to do something I used to be able to do. And I did it again, and again.

I am constantly reminding my kids to get back up, shake it off and try again. Whether walking or riding a bike. I want them to keep trying. And I want that for myself too. I hope I never stand at the top of a hill and let my fear take away the joy I might get from accomplishing something. I hope I have the courage to remind myself that it is ok to fall sometimes (or hit myself with the rope) and that I just need to get back up and try again.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Isaac is 21 Months

In three short months our littlest guy will be TWO! While I stayed on top of blogging about his milestones for the first year, I have dropped the ball over the last 9 months. Better late than never, right?

They say you aren't supposed to compare your kids, but it is kind of impossible not to. Jack is the only kid I have to go by, so by default there is some comparing going on. But Daniel and I also acknowledge that while our boys have some similarities, we can also see big differences in them. I think (hope) their differences will serve them well as brothers.

It is kind of shocking to think back to Jack at this age. We were in a really different place (literally). From the time Jack was about 1.5 until shortly after his 2nd birthday, we were living out of suitcases four days a week and then home in Alabama for the weekend.

We were in a different hotel or vacation house every week until we finally settled in our current home. Jack slept in a pack-in-play for 6 months, and we learned to navigate eating out for almost every meal as well as a breakfast buffet every morning in a hotel. I honestly cannot imagine doing the same with Isaac – he would be into everything and trying to explore/run away at every opportunity!

Life has changed considerably in the last three years, mostly in the best possible of ways, and I am grateful that those 6 months of transitioning to a new place are over and that we feel settled and call our current house home.

I kind of like looking back and seeing what Jack was doing at this age. Per my blog post, he was loving bicycles (Isaac loves bikes), starting to color (Isaac loves to scribble when given the cance), sitting at the table in a booster (Isaac would if we let him), and a great traveler (both our kids are great travelers).

At this age, Isaac has proven himself to be a great communicator. But he rarely uses words. While Jack was stringing together short sentences at 21 months, Isaac is content to shout and grunt and point, and physically direct you to what he wants if necessary.

And we acquiesce, which hasn't helped him to grow his vocabulary. We are all working on this – encouraging him to use words to identify what he wants. I think he currently says around 30 words, but he seems to know that shouting can be more effective.

Speaking of shouting, Isaac has also discovered how to throw a tantrum. Where Jack would carefully lay down before throwing a fit, Isaac will just throw his whole body backwards. He doesn't seem to care that he might hurt himself. If he really doesn't want to do something, he will arch his back and lay down on the floor. It is comical but also quite trying at times – like when I am trying to strap him into his car seat when he has no desire to be put in said car seat.

While Jack has always been cautious, Isaac seems to throw caution to the wind. If we would let him, he would walk off the edge of high playground equipment without batting an eye.

Around 1.5 years he figured out how to climb to the upper slide on our local playground and slide down the big tube slide.

He also mastered walking up the curved slide at McDonalds. He is bent on being an independent explorer, regardless of what danger may exist.

Isaac is our little ham. In a family of pragmatic thinkers, he has a way of making us all laugh, all the time. He is also mischievous and inherently knows how to push his big brother's buttons. We had no idea that a child so small would programmed to annoy from such a young age. At times it is hard not to laugh at his antics and Jack's distress.

Isaac is our champion eater – we call him the garbage disposal. If he doesn't like something, there is a good chance that nobody actually likes it! We have had instances recently of more pickiness, but we always joke that we don't have to worry because he isn't exactly wasting away!

In the last year Isaac has had several firsts including: first time paddling, first camping trip, his first haircut, a first time experiencing fireworks, and a first trip to Canada.

According to the BabyCenter updates I get every month, 21 months is an age for obstinacy. And Isaac has this in spades. He likes things a certain way – whether how his sippy cups is placed on his tray or what container holds his cheerios.

I love seeing his little quirks appear as his personality develops. He wants so desperately to be a big boy and gets very sad when Daniel and Jack go do something without him (typically because he needs to go to bed or take a nap). Life is hard being the younger brother when you are a toddler!

Like his brother, Isaac is very mellow and easy going. He has a smile for everyone and never meets a stranger. Our two little guys have been a tremendous blessing to us and we treasure every moment we are given with them.

A look back at Jack as a toddler:
19 months20 months21 months23 months24 months

A look back at Isaac:
One MonthTwo MonthsThree MonthsFour MonthsFive MonthsSix MonthsSeven MonthsEight MonthsNine MonthsTen MonthsEleven MonthsTwelve Months

Monday, January 16, 2017

Mabbit Springs Hike

A video posted by Cheree Moore (@mo_haus) on

We had unseasonably warm weather this weekend with high of 70 on Saturday, so we knew we couldn't stay indoors. After breakfast, and a little fun with nerf guns, we headed to our neighborhood park so that Jack could test out his new siren/bull horn that he recently helped Daniel mount to his Gator. This mama is thankful that the siren is an outdoor toy because Jack testing it indoors was a bit much for me!

A video posted by Cheree Moore (@mo_haus) on

After an hour in the sunshine with friends, we headed back inside for lunch before making the quick drive across town to hike the Mabbit Springs trailhead.

One of the many reasons that we decided to live where we live has to due with easy access to trails – both kid-friendly and challenging. We have lived here for three years now and we are still visiting new places!

We have looked over the Mabbit Springs trail in the past because the Hiking Chattanooga website describes it as a short trail with a 2/5 for scenic value. I like great scenery, so I hadn't really given it a second thought.

However, we have done most of the kid-friendly hikes close to us and while I love scenery, I also love trying new places out. So I revisited the website and decided that we should try it out.

Isaac needed an afternoon nap and we had a smaller window than usual to hike, so a relatively flat trail in the woods was a good fit for our circumstances for the day.

The trail is actually 2.3 miles (one way) and ends close to the Falling Water waterfall overlook. It is supposedly a 15-foot scramble up to the Falling Water trail, but we didn't get that far. The trail follows the creek with several waterfalls as it winds its way down. It was actually a really pretty trail.

Once we reached the official spring, the trail leveled out and Daniel and I agreed that it would be a perfect place for trail running. Shortly after the spring we ran into some friends that we hadn't seen in awhile. We love to live in a community where we can so easily bump into people we know, even on the trails!

While the adults chatted, Jack and his friend tried to start a fire by rubbing sticks together (everything was way to damp to even be close to starting a fire), and Isaac tried desperately to climb up the hill to where the 5-year-olds were playing.

After saying our goodbyes, we continued down the trail as our friends headed back to their car. About this time, Isaac officially lost it and instead of it being an enjoyable hike, I had a screaming toddler inches away from my ear.

We came across a sign that explained why the trail existed before deciding to turn around. Shortly after crossing the waterfall Isaac fell asleep. At least our walk back to the car was a quiet one!

I am looking forward to coming back and exploring this trail some more. The creek and waterfall was tranquil and even though we saw several people on the trail (and the parking area was at capacity), it didn't feel crowded.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Thursday Things: Identity

Thursdays used to be a day where I used my blog to share what was in my head, or random things that were happening in life. Well it's Thursday, so here goes...

I've been thinking a lot about identity lately and how mine has changed over the years. For 36 years I have been a daughter. For the past 23 years I have been a Christian. I was a student for 16 years, and have been a wife and also a graphic designer for almost 15 years now. I have worked part-time, from home, for the last 6 years. And most recently, I have been a mom for a little over five years.

These identities are all very different but also intertwined with each other, making me me. There are other pieces too... world traveler (36 years), outdoor enthusiast (maybe 23 years), YMCA member (12-ish years, spanning 15 years). All of it, it's all me. The hardest identity for me, thus far, has been motherhood. It was an identity I chose, but it has not been what I expected, and not really something that I actively prepared for. It has been both more and less that what I thought it might be.

I have the privilege of choosing to be home with my kids, and I can't imagine it any other way, but there is a difficulty in that too. When I have ongoing freelance design work, I seem to function better. It's like the more balls I have in the air, the more I can accomplish – both professionally and personally. But when my work dries up, as it has been in recent months, I struggle. I don't know what to do with myself, so I let things slide. I drop the balls. I love being with our kids and raising them, but I struggle with the mundane parts. I struggle with the loads of laundry and cleaning, the endless dishes and lunches to make, the bathrooms that don't clean themselves. All of it really.

Jack recently started a conversation that was along the lines of telling me that I didn't have a real job. When we pressed him on what he meant, he said, I didn't do important things like help people. He went on with an example of my sister (a nurse) having an important job which helped people all the time. And he is right. I don't have that same kind of job. His words didn't bother me, they were more an echo chamber of something I sometimes feel. Motherhood is important and stay-at-home moms (parents) provide many services but it isn't work in the sense of how our culture views work, and that can be frustrating and confusing. I spent years preparing for a career in graphic design, but almost zero time preparing myself to change diapers, manage a household, or teach children how to be good human beings.

Malcolm Gladwell has a theory that one needs to spend 10,000 hours doing something to become really great at it. In the working world, that probably translates to about 5 years (of 40-hour weeks) to excel at what you do. I remember my early days as a graphic designer, they weren't pretty. I needed time, years really, to hone my skills. I think parenting may require more than 10,000 hours – it is always changing, and you do a lot of it in the early years with less sleep than you might hope for. As soon as you think you have a handle on it, things shift again.

Intellectually I know that this current phase will not be like this forever. My identity will probably change many times in my lifetime. My kids will need me less, and help around the house more. Perhaps I will rejoin the workforce, maybe my career path will change. Who knows? For now I am floundering along, trying to fit myself into this current identity of motherhood – both the good and hard parts.

Evidently I was in a similar funk four years ago when I wrote this blob post: More Than Just a Mom

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Books I Read in 2016

Since I was young reading has been important to me – it was a companion through lonely middle school and junior high years. It has been with me through many moves. It helped give me direction as I learned my trade, especially in my post-college years. And books have guided me through motherhood – both as an escape from the mundane moments and also as a reference for the times when I have been unsure of myself.

Parenting brings with it a degree of tiredness that I didn't know could exist, and in recent years I have succumbed to binge watching Netflix in lieu of diving into the pages of a book. And in some ways I feel like I have lost something – I don't feel as sharp and it is harder to concentrate these days. I blame it on Netflix, or more likely my *smart*phone and the snippets of information I glean from the internet in bite-size pieces. In this coming year I hope to make a more valiant effort to read. I've already finished two books, so I'm already on the right track.

Here's a quick look back to the books I read in 2016 and a personal resolution to try to read 25 books in the coming year (maybe someday I'll get back to 52 like I used to!).

1) How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiousity and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough
2) Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer by Heather Lende
3) Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans

4) The Fringe Hours, Making Time for You by Jessica N. Turner

5) Every Bitter Thing is Sweet by Sara Hagerty 

6) The Power of the Other by Dr. Henry Cloud

Kerning Family trilogy by Michael McGarrity
7) Hard Country
8) Backlands
9) The Last Ranch

10) When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
11) Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv

12) A Series of Catastrophes and Miracles by Mary Elizabeth Williams
13)  by

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

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Outdoor Adventures | 2016 edition

In terms of spending time outdoors together, 2016 was a good year for our family. We were more intentional about spending time outside with our kids and made more of an effort to adventure. Our adventures are different from what we would do pre-kids, but I think it is the effort that counts. We are getting to a point where we can see the future activities with our kids getting bigger and that is encouraging! Also, Daniel changed jobs last year and his more normal work week has made a big difference in our efforts to do the things we love as a family. We are looking forward to all of the adventures in store for us in 2017.

Hike to Mushroom Rock | Signal Mountain, TN


Hiking at Rock Island Gorge | Rock Island, TN
Hiking at Fall Creek Falls | Fall Creek Falls, TN

Day Hike in Prentice Cooper | Signal Mountain, TN
Mother's Day Paddling Excursion (a first for Isaac) | Lookout Creek at base of Lookout Mountain, TN 
McCoy Farm Memorial Day Picnic | Signal Mountain, TN

Blue Hole | Soddy Daisy, TN

Cousins Trip to the Beach | St. George Island, FL

Biking the Oro-Medonte Rail Trail | Orillia, Ontario
Paddling on Lake Simcoe | Orillia, Ontario
Cliff Jumping (Muskoka River) | Gravenhurst, Ontario 
Niagara Falls | Niagara Falls, Ontario
Day Hike at Point Park | Lookout Mountain, TN

Day Hike to Glen Falls | Lookout Mountain, TN  

Ocoee White Water Center | Cherokee National Forest, TN 
Old McDonald's Farm | Sale Creek, TN 

ATVs to Edwards Point | Signal Mountain, TN 
Touring the Nina and Pinta | Chattanooga, TN


Also this year Daniel went on quite a few undocumented (by me) trail runs and dirt bike rides. He enjoys running on various trails in Prentice Cooper State Forest here on Signal Mountain including Edwards Point, Mushroom Rock, down the mountain to Suck Creek and also around Rainbow Lake. Other places he runs include Stringers Ridge and in Green Gorge behind our house. For riding, he prefers the off road trails around Edwards Point.

Family Hike at Fiery Gizzard

On Saturday we had originally planned to go on a group hike on the Fiery Gizzard Trail , but it was cancelled at the last minutes. So...