adventures with kids · parenting

Enriching Your Children’s Lives with Experiences

When I was just starting out as a mom, I sought out a friend who had older children, and was the kind of mom I hoped to be one day. I asked her for advice and I will never forget it: fill your house with books and give them lots of experiences. Let these become your top priorities as a parent! What you won’t expect, what will delight you, is that by enriching your children’s lives with experiences, you will also be enriching your own.

Make it a priority as a parent that your children be cultured. Take them on annual vacations to the beach and to different parts of the country. Make sure they are knowledgable about arts, music, the theater and food – not just to know about them but to experience them! Find and follow other parents who share experiences that their families were privileged to do. This will help keep you aware and informed about the many experiences available to kids that are possible for you as well.

Dream and imagine how your children will have this kind of life! Daydream, create bucket lists and vision boards. Encourage your children to do the same. They will have all of these experiences! They will travel and explore. They will be knowledgable about foods and arts because they experienced them first-hand.

Unpopular outlook: Creating an enriched childhood for your children, does require a more open and flexible schedule. You should avoid over-scheduling them if you want to provide a rich life full of culture and variety. Consider choosing one extracurricular per season. If your children want to play sports, they can. If it turns out it’s not for them and you KNOW it, let them try something else next time. If they wanted to learn musical instruments they can, but if they decide it isn’t for them, they can move on.

The Arts

Most parents would agree that art is extremely important element in a child’s life. Expose them often and in a variety of ways. Take advantage and participate in opportunities locally, such as pottery classes and as well as painting pottery and canvases. If you live near a big city, or have a chance to travel to one, be sure to experience art museums, the symphony and the ballet. Some art museums allow you to purchase a membership which is a wonderful resource, especially if a children’s program is offered. When we travel, I try to make a point to book at least one artistic experience related to our artistic interests – this could be anything from a concert to a tie-dye experience! Investigate what is available and think outside the box.

Animals

Some of the most memorable experiences for your family involve animals. If your children are animal lovers, zoos, farms and other animal encounters should be high on your list. Whether you’re horseback riding, swimming with dolphins or volunteering at an animal shelter, these are bucket list items that your family will never forget. We are members at Nashville Zoo and love visiting the veterinary center to see what cute babies they have on a given day. Many of the books I’ve checked out for them have been related to the animals they are interested in currently.

Books

Many cities have amazing public libraries, and they are often an under-used resource. If it has a children’s library, you are especially fortunate. Often, the librarians are kind and knowledgable. Some libraries offer a program for children in the summer, with story time, fun themes, songs and dance.

If you have never been, you will need to start by signing up for a library card, typically best done in person. Every couple of weeks, get your children books that they request, or choose them based on their interests. They are never too young for the library. If you have a baby, they will love being read to. It’s such a special place!

When you are thinking about what books to check out, try to choose between 5 and 10 books per child each time you visit. When they are with me, they choose, but sometimes I pop in and choose books thinking about any one of the following criteria: chapter book series they like, characters they like, non-fiction books based on their interests or things they want to learn about, things they are learning about in school.

Food

Another way we have provided rich experiences for our children is through food. My husband is a classically trained chef, so the girls are naturally immersed in much richer food experience than I ever was. But surprisingly, one of them is an extremely picky eater!

However, that is where I feel I’m able to offer the most help. Most moms I talk to share that they also have a picky eater in the family. If you would like to know more and read about ideas for broadening your picky eaters culinary horizons, check out the blog post I wrote on this very topic.

Experiences Instead of Gifts

One of the greatest shifts I have made was deciding to gift experiences and items the children can use for these experiences, instead of toys which often end up being discarded after a week or so. When birthdays or Christmases roll around, consider your child’s interests and enroll them in a cooking class, basketball camp, or horseback riding lessons. Use the money you would have spent on unneeded gifts and use that money for a family trip or experience.

The Big Idea

The memories that you create from giving your child rich life experiences are priceless. Things come and go, but what children really want is your time: presence instead of presents. In this modern day and age where we are led to believe we need a certain gadget or brand of clothing to make us happy, what hasn’t changed over time is that those items lose value the moment we finally possess them, but the family adventures we experience together are treasured for a lifetime.

personal development · wisdom

You are who God says you are.

Life is challenging during a regular year, but especially during this past year; so many are struggling. Struggling with being the person they want to be, finding the friends they long to have, getting out and doing the things they wish they could do.

I’m reminded of the scene in Disney’s Moana where Moana approaches Te Kā the lava monster. Te Kā had her heart stolen and is blinded by rage and anger. Maybe we have lost heart and have become taken over with bitterness. Maybe we’ve shut others out and like Te Kā, we are blinded by our emotions. A turning point in the film happens when Moana reminds Te Kā, “They have stolen the heart from inside you. But this does not define you. This is not who you are. You know who you are.” We may need someone to remind us that we are off course and that we are not defined by what has happened to us or what has been done to us.

Maybe you’ve been hurt or isolated or unworthy. Perhaps you have felt betrayed, excluded, or written off. Maybe you have been misjudged, gossiped about or rejected. Or it could be that you have made legitimate mistakes and experienced guilt and condemnation. Whatever the case may be, you can let circumstances and misperceptions cloud your vision of the person you were put here to be. When this happens, more than any other time, we need God. We need to remember who he says we are and who he put us here to be:

God says you (yes you) are beautiful, unique, loved, special. You are created with a purpose. You are cared for, lovely, and precious. You are strong, important and forgiven. You are a new creation. You are protected and empowered. You are chosen. You are family and you are his.

God is God for all of us, no one is excluded. No one is written off or rejected by him.

If you struggle with seeing yourself irrationally through your own eyes, or make the common error of trying to see yourself through someone else’s eyes. Take a step back, and remember who you are in God’s eyes. That is the only perception that is 100% true and real.

kids · parenting

15 Fun Indoor Ideas for Kids in the Winter: Screen-Free!

In the past year, just like most families, we find ourselves home more, especially in the winter months. We watch movies, learn virtually, and spend lots of time on zooms. My youngest daughter loves her tablet, and my oldest loves her phone. But it is so important to time aside each week and even daily where they need to find something to do, off screen.

I have tried to become intentional about setting time aside and asking them to put all devices away so that they are giving their eyes and minds a break. In the spring, summer and fall we spend lots of time outdoors and we go on lots of adventures outside the house. It has been more challenging as the weather has turned much colder and the wind can make it downright unbearable to go outside. Despite the weather, it is important to me as a parent that our children don’t grow up addicted to screens and that their hearts find delight in the simple pleasures in life. I thought I would share a list of indoor activities we have enjoyed that bring joy with no screen involved. I hope these help and inspire your family and I would love to know if you have suggestions to add in the comments. We are always looking for new ideas.

  1. Reading: We are regulars at our local library! We check out new books every few weeks so they are always options around that are new and enticing.
  2. Blocks: Wooden blocks (we have these), legos, Magformers, Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs.
  3. Art: Coloring, painting, cutting and pasting, jewelry making, knitting
  4. Writing: journaling, making lists, goal setting, bucket lists, making cards, writing letters, crossword puzzles, word searches
  5. Board games: Scrabble, Pictionary, Sorry, Connect Four, Guess Who, Checkers, and Yahtzee are some of our favorites.
  6. Music: Play piano (or take up another instrument), play records on the record player, read and learn song lyrics, create a music center (we have harmonicas, kazoos, tambourine, drum, recorder, xylophone and more)
  7. Puzzles: large floor puzzles or consider investing in a puzzle board or table for more complex puzzles.
  8. Build a fort: include blankets, pillows, sheets and flashlights.
  9. Cooking: our kiddos especially enjoy baking and making pizzas.
  10. Chores: there are some they actually like. Both like folding laundry and bringing in and putting away groceries.
  11. Indoor trampoline. One of the best investments we’ve made. It lets them get out energy even when the temp outside is freezing.
  12. Decluttering: Both of my children will take on decluttering willingly. They love the free feeling of getting rid of unwanted things and making space. They also like knowing some other families in need may receive the items they are letting go of.
  13. Make-believe games: Playing house, school or doctor
  14. Tactile fun: kinetic sand, play dough and modeling clay are always a hit.
  15. Bring on the classic toys: Lite Brite, dolls, cars, rubix cube

I hope you and your kids are inspired by this list. Once you are armed with fun ideas, you may find hours go by without anyone wanting to look at a screen. Raising kids who aren’t addicted to screens is really important, and it starts when they are young. The habits you instill in them now will stick with them for years to come.

Uncategorized

6 Healthy Ways to Process Emotions as an Introvert

Processing emotions in a healthy way looks very different when you’re an introvert. Where extroverts may vent and confide in others or go to therapy, introverts can be more at risk of keeping things in. So we have to have strategies and coping skills to allow us to process our feelings too. Here are 6 techniques that any introvert can use to process and move through emotions, and can even help you move to more positive emotions.

1. Quiet time. While someone outgoing can feel replenished by talking with others, it’s draining to an introvert. Quiet time, and especially meditation can help you to recharge your battery and feel refreshed, especially if you have a job or other situations on a daily basis that require you to be social.

Meditation isn’t nearly as complicated or hard as you might think. Just sitting in a quiet place and clearing your mind of thoughts is a form of meditation – no need to chant or repeat a mantra necessary. If you are experiencing negative emotions, clearing your mind and shifting to no emotion will provide you great relief. And if you find sitting and meditating challenging, take a nap!

2. Journaling. It’s so important to have an outlet to express how we feel. Journaling is a great and safe way to release and process our thoughts and feelings. Not only is journaling amazing for releasing and sharing the things that have happened to us, it is a good way to help us create and plan for what’s ahead.

When you’re journaling, a great technique is to make a list of positive aspects. Whatever you’re having negative feelings about, try shifting to thinking of positive qualities about that topic or individual and it will provide you with relief. There aren’t many concepts that don’t have positive aspects.

If that seems too difficult, or you’re too upset to write on that topic, consider making a general list of positive aspects – things that are going really well in your life or things that you are grateful for. Sometimes you’ll find you need to completely change the subject to feel some relief.

3. Get outdoors. When emotions are getting the better of you, there is no better distractor than Mother Nature. Taking a short walk or just standing outside and watching the clouds move across the sky or the trees blow in the breeze will soothe you and calm you. Grounding is effective too. If the weather is nicer, try taking a barefoot stroll: this is grounding. It shifts your energy and can be very relaxing.

4. Tap into your five senses. By tapping into one or more of your five senses you can calm yourself pretty quickly. Take a deep breath, and if you’re at home, feel the texture of a nearby blanket or fabric. If you’re at work, feel the smooth surface of your desktop or workspace. If you’re driving, just feel the texture of your steering wheel with your fingertips. Have a healthy snack or a drink of water. Turn on one of your favorite songs, or sometimes it’s helpful to turn the music off and listen to the air conditioning or heating unit which may sound like white noise. Look around you and notice your surroundings. Tapping into your five senses may sound simple, but it forces you to be present and stops the momentum of your worry or concern.

5. Self-care. Indulge in a form of self-care. For you, maybe that’s a relaxing bath, getting your nails done, or making yourself a cup of tea. Do whatever you know brings you peace and calms you.

6. Get crafty and be creative. Creativity is one of the best outlets we have available to us. Whether it’s creating art, music, writing, or maybe a craft like knitting or baking, it gives us a way to express ourselves and in the act of creation we feel a sense of renewal. You may or may not consider yourself to be artistic, but regardless of that, you will find that expressing yourself and making something new will force you to be present and be in the here and now.

In The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews’s character Maria sings “My Favorite Things,” where she recounts the things that bring her joy, and help her cope when she is down, and to her list I would add all of the above. I hope this list inspires you and brings you hope, calming and peace.

health · quarantine

Supplements to take during Pandemic

Vitamin B, C and D.

Do you have these? I’ve noticed lately that these are recommended for those who test positive. I also know well before this these same vitamins were recommended to stay healthy and be taken preventatively. I take all three daily and will continue to do so.

Do you know why each of these are needed?

Vitamin C probably goes without saying, during the winter months especially.

Vitamin B is great for energy! Super B contains all the B vitamins you need.

Vitamin D is what you take in from the sun and is lacking in winter months. I read recently that 80% of those who tested positive had low vitamin D levels. Take a look at the graphs below of this correlation. Low vitamin D is also linked to depression.

I encourage you to add these to your daily supplements.

essential oils · health · natural lifestyle · Uncategorized

Natural Ways to Protect, Support and Improve Memory

Several years ago, my mom was becoming more and more forgetful. I worried about her and at times I was even afraid for her. Later, she was diagnosed with dementia and the beginning stages of Alzheimers. I researched foods, essential oils and natural regimens to help my mom. Now, years after she has passed, I still use these protocols to support memory for my family, since memory-related illnesses are genetic. I hope sharing these here can help others as well.

Foods

First, I want to share some foods that you will want to make a part of your weekly and perhaps even daily diet. I began my research by reading about the benefits of coconut oil. You can find tons of research and articles on coconut oil and ways to use it. Have a tablespoon a day to boost memory.

There are so many memory boosting foods you can enjoy at breakfast time. Eat plenty of bananas and almond or peanut butter which are good for the brain, and I love these together! Greek yogurt is also excellent. I love the Chobani coconut with either ground chia or flax seeds mixed in. Flax seed and chia seed are among the top foods for brain health, and they have very little flavor, but add a nice crunch. They are excellent for smoothies as well.  Avocado toast with a sunny side up egg on top would be amazing, since avocado and eggs are both good for the brain. Add blueberries to your list (or any berry for that matter). Berries help with memory since they are high in antioxidants, and caffeine improves focus so go ahead and have that second cup of coffee.

Essential Oils

Several essential oils boost memory and brain health. Some single oils include: rosemary, frankincense, vetiver, basil, and cedarwood. Powerful essential oil blends include: Brain Power, Clarity, Common Sense and Grounding. I use Young Living Essential Oils, and they also have several other products for memory that I use regularly.

Other Products to Support Memory

Young Living offers several products to support memory. Mindwise (a tablespoon a day), Ningxia Red (a shotglass a day of this antioxidant Powerhouse), and Omegagize (an Omega 3 fish oil supplement). If you would like to learn more about Mindwise, I wrote a post on this product specifically. You can purchase Young Living Products here.

In addition to Young Living Products, I also take a turmeric supplement daily. Be sure to take one that includes black pepper, otherwise, the body cannot effectively absorb the turmeric and it just passes right through you.

Foods and Products to Avoid

It’s important to know what you can do to help with memory, but just as important to know what to avoid. Avoid exposure to aluminum. Aluminum has been linked to Alzheimer’s and other memory related illnesses. Avoid drinking from aluminum cans, and avoid deodorants containing aluminum. You would be surprised how many brands do!

Cut out artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, Splenda, Sweet and Low, and Equal. You can read so much research-based literature out there on the link between artificial sweeteners and decreased memory! It is linked to Alzheimers. This was very upsetting to me and I became very passionate about educating others on this.

Finally, avoid sugar, gluten and processed foods to stay clear-headed. This would be good advice for anyone, but especially anyone seeking clarity and a sound mind.

kids · parenting · wisdom

You are good.

Last school year, when my youngest daughter was in kindergarten, she had homework to write three “I am” sentences. Three sentences that began with “I am” that were true about herself. As I was going through some of her old papers this week, I came across this homework paper again.

Her first sentence brought tears to my eyes:

I AM A GOOD PERSON.

I echoed back to her, “You sure are a good person.”

Don’t we all need to hear that? And to know that is powerful.

But the truth is we all have times in our life when we question our goodness. We feel less than. We allow the words or perspectives of others taint our self-image, or we let our disappointment in our own thoughts, words or actions affect how we view ourselves. The Eleanor Roosevelt quote comes to mind, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

But why did her words cause me to tear up? I think it was for two reasons:

1. I questioned if I ever made her feel she is not good somehow? As a parent, am I affirming her enough? Does she really know she is good? What can I do to make sure this precious child never questions that statement and maintains her self-worth?

2. Am I good? I want to be good – a good person, a good mom, a good friend, a good teacher. I want to be seen as good, perhaps more than anything.

A few of years ago, I picked “good” as my word for that year and thought I would share some words that brought me comfort then and even still as I reflect on them now.

In a world where we see evil at every turn, I want a constant reminder to combat it with GOOD.

When I hear complaining and gossip around me and feel tempted to join in, instead I need to remember to look for the GOOD.

When I have a conversation, interaction, Facebook post, or decision to make, I want to make sure I’m adding GOOD to the world with my words and choices.

When I feel envious, angry, hurt or resentful, I can choose to act on my emotions or I can choose to see it as an opportunity to do rise above and model what is right and good.

When those around me feel less than or unworthy, I will make sure they know that they are good, that there is much more right about them than wrong.

You are good.

 

adventures with kids · quarantine · Tennessee · travel with kids

Visiting Machine Falls with Kids

If you’ve been wanting to chase waterfalls, but wanting to social distance and choose one that’s not so crowded, Machine Falls is a great choice!

We took our daughters, ages 6 and 11, and ran into maybe 10 other families the entire time we were there, including our hike to the falls and back.

Machine Falls was about an hour hike down for us, but I will admit we intentionally took our time so that our youngest would feel safe and comfortable, especially on the slippery rocks toward the end.

Things to know before you go: (I was so glad I did research before visiting!)

  • Wear sneakers or shoes with good traction, and consider bringing water shoes or sandals for the tail end of the hike. You will be hiking down the creek to get to the falls. And the water is COLD.
  • Parking lot is by the big white water tower. Put this address in your GPS: 1861 Short Springs Rd. Tullahoma, TN. Machine Falls is located in Short Springs Natural Area.
  • The trailhead is across the street from the lot.
  • When you begin the trail, you will notice the sign for Machine Falls points in BOTH directions! The path on the right is much easier! We took the path on the left going to the falls and the right path coming back so we know from experience! If you take the more strenuous path on the left, watch out for tree roots and rocks sticking up out of the pathway at the start of your hike. Regardless of which path you choose, as you get closer to the falls, the climb becomes steeper, and some of the steps are loose.
  • When you come upon the little bridge, this is good time to change your footwear.

Uncategorized

Narrows of the Harpeth: Historic Tunnel

If you happen to be in the Middle Tennessee area, Montgomery Bell Tunnel, the historic tunnel at Narrows of the Harpeth in Kingston Springs, belongs on your to do list.

Why go? The hike is short, and the view is beautiful. This was honestly what drew me to this particular park. My youngest is six and doesn’t have a lot of stamina to do a longer hike and my oldest is recovering from an injury. They have been wanting to go to a waterfall since that is kind of the “cool thing” to do this summer, and this hike was very doable for them and rewarding.

Part of the reason I felt led to write this post, is that after we arrived at the parking lot, we, along with several other carloads of visitors, were not clear on how to get to the tunnel. It is not very well marked! We failed twice before finding the correct path.

Our first attempt, we walked down the wooden set of steps right behind the lot. This will take you to the back of the tunnel and it is actually blocked off.

The second attempt, we continued further down the road past the parking lot, following some of our fellow visitors. This too was a dead end and ultimately led to private property. So don’t do that.

We decided to set out by car and my oldest was in charge of looking for a possible trailhead. On our third loop around she saw it! There are steps before you get to the parking lot that lead to the trailheads. We had passed it.

All of this to say, when you arrive at the lot, you will need to backtrack about 1/8 mile to the steps and then you will see the three trails. Be sure to take the one marked Historic Tunnel. From there it is an easy hike. If this post has helped you or if you ever struggled finding this tunnel, let me know in the comments!

If you are traveling with kids, or even if you’re not with kids, you might like knowing there is a charming sweet shop 20 miles away, called Sweet Charlotte. You might enjoy visiting – you could grab a hot dog, old fashioned soda, candy, shaved ice, or fudge. Check out my post on Sweet Charlotte if you would like to know more.

History Lesson: It is interesting to know that the tunnel is believed to be the first full-sized tunnel in America and was formed with gunpowder and slave labor. It was to divert water for industrial purposes.

 

The Narrows of the Harpeth is located at 1254 Narrows of the Harpeth Rd Kingston Springs, TN 37082.

adventures with kids · kids · Tennessee · Uncategorized

Sweet Charlotte: Adorable Popcorn, Candy, and Soda Shop in Middle Tennessee

Approximately 30 miles south of Clarksville, and 54 miles west of Nashville, this charming sweet shop will surprise and delight you!

Our family stumbled on it coming back from a trip to the beach at Montgomery Bell State Park. That day, it wasn’t in the cards for us. It was a Monday and Sweet Charlotte is closed on Monday. But we could tell from the exterior alone (so cute!!!) that it just had to go on our bucket list and made a point to come back at a later date.

Sweet Charlotte delivers smiles in several ways! You can grab lunch, sweets, and cute photo ops all in one stop.

Their hot dogs, known there as “sloppy dogs” are a must. They are huge and delicious. Be sure to try one of their unique topping combinations. We ordered these for lunch and the  loved their hot dog/shaved ice combo that also came with a bag of chips. My husband and I got our dogs with our choice of one of what must have been 100 different old-fashioned sodas to choose from.

 

Their soda offering is unreal. We found quite a few blasts from the pasts and rare finds including Ale 8, Peach Nehi, Big Red, Double Cola and so may more. These are all in glass bottles.

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My oldest daughter has braces, so we did not go in this direction, but they make so many different flavored popcorns, in-house. It is one of the things Sweet Charlotte is best known for. They do tastings of popcorn so you can try before you buy. Our girl has already asked us to bring her back her when gets her braces off!

Sweet Charlotte also offers so many old-fashioned candies as well as some of the most fun modern candies: sour balls, taffy, chick-o-stick, peanut butter bars, bit o honey, butterscotch and more. My children loved that they had the original Pop Rocks, Fruit Stripe gum, and cinnamon toothpicks caught my eye – remember those?

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We came on a very mild day, temps in the 70s. We enjoyed eating at their outdoor picnic tables. It is a covered area so you could enjoy it rain or shine.

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There are two murals which are fun for taking photos, but they also offer old-fashioned photographs where you dress up in old fashioned clothes and are taken in black and white. The entire store and grounds is a feast for the eyes.

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Oh, and I almost forgot, they have a working water well. Both of our girls enjoyed trying out the well and had never seen one, much less try one for themselves. Just one more reason to visit this adorable place.

 

If you are planning a trip here, consider visiting the beach at Montgomery Bell State Park (20 minutes away), take a hike to the tunnel at Narrows of the Harpeth (30 minutes a day), or visit the Country View Amish store (4 minutes away) on the same day, to really enjoy your visit to this area to the fullest.