Failing, and it’s kind of fun!

Parenting is tough. The job is around the clock. It brings unexpected twists and turns. It tries your every last nerves, and challenges you to put others first while being a role model who stays on your toes. We want to be tough and have boundaries, while also being fair….but not too nice because we don’t want to be their best friend either. Like Goldilocks, it’s gotta be just right. That can be hard and definitely tiring……

….Which is why I’m ‘failing’ a little bit. Typically, I reflect on good practices, good choices, and ‘winning’ at life. However, this summer has been filled with a little more wiggle room, a lot more sleep, even more laziness, and some bending of good choices! Yesterday while leaving Starbucks, I realized this when Anna was slurping down a decaf- caramel Frappuccino for the first time.

Image result for caramel frappuccino

We go to Starbucks periodically, and we have a for years starting this bad habit early. Often, she opts for a chai tea (yes, she has always loved unusual 40-year-old women things)! Yesterday, however, I opened a whole new door when I explained that she could indeed get the sugar-laden, but insanely delicious Frappuccino made with decaf. She loves coffee flavored things and she absolutely freaked over this drink, finishing it before we even arrived at home for me to take a picture.

When we were leaving Starbucks, Anna and I with our overpriced, super unhealthy drinks in hand, she grabbed my hand and said, “You’re the best mom ever.” Bad choices= happy kids.

It made me think about other bad choices I’ve made as a parent, bad habits we accept. Take for example that Anna got her first pedicure before she even entered kindergarten. Now, I know this is ridiculous. I was in high school or maybe even college before I got my first pedicure yet here I was taking cute, little girly Anna to pick out her polish when she was a tiny squirt. She loved it then and now I basically don’t go without her!……another parenting fail.

Then, there’s Brody and food. (And, Bo is just as responsible for this fail as much or maybe more). The kid is picky, like super-duper picky. Yes, we know that you should not feed your children different foods than the adults. Yes, we have read that they’ll eat when they’re hungry. Yes, we know that white pasta isn’t a healthy carb yet we have been failing at this habit for years. The kid simply never has and never will just eat because he gets hungry enough. He’s skinny and food just isn’t important to him ( don’t understand how he’s our child!). So what have we done? Catered to him.

King Brody gets something different to eat about 75% of the time, which is progress because it used to be 100% of the time. And while my rational brain knows this is simply not the best habit, we have made this choice because he eats. Much like when he was a baby and we cuddled him every night, in our bed or laps never putting him down because he would scream. We kept him happy. And what does he still do now? He’s a cuddler! (not a fail)

Then, there’s the Fortnite obsession that even this mama gave into this spring after much deliberation. Now this full-on addiction has infiltrated our house and my 45-year-old husband plays daily too! He verifies that it’s addictive (duh) but also very strategic. And while I worried most about the violence at first, it’s really the amount of time that concerns me most. There’s always another loooong round. But, wow do boys love this social game!

Image result for fortnite obsession

Now this fail has actually provided some really good leverage and motivation at our house. I’ve conditioned Brody to have to do his 2 chores and reading before he can start Fortnite. So, he’s read a lot this summer! I’d still be waiting at bedtime if it weren’t for Fortnite. In fact, he loves those new skins so much that for the first time in his life, he has asked to do poop-duty when it’s not his week to earn money. So maybe these fails aren’t really so bad.

When thinking about our parenting fails, it makes me realize that we all fail sometimes. Sometimes, it’s a parenting fail. Sometimes, it’s a personal fail. But, it makes us realize that we are human. It also makes me think that ‘failing’ is kind of fun too, and we do all need some fun in our life! I want to be healthy as much as the next person, but maybe some of these unhealthy, ‘bad’ choices aren’t so bad either. Or, maybe like me, you need to loosen up a little! Like parenting, life is a balancing act. Allow yourself to ‘fail’ a little in order to win.

Let them drink the Frappuccino, play some Fortnite, sneak a little Coke, and stay up a little past bedtime because before we know it, they’ll be grown and making their own choices! Have fun within reason. Allow for imperfection. And, maybe even enjoy ‘failing’ or simply making some poor choices every now and then!







20 Easy Summer Outings for Family-Fun!

The saying, ‘time flies when you’re having fun’, certainly seems to pertain to summer. Before you know it, it will be August. Days will become more rushed, while schedules will quickly fill up. The wonderful thing about summer break is that we have more freedom to choose what to do. So while we have this precious free time, let’s fill it up with memories, friends, and exploration.

There’s actually a lot of fun to be had in and around Knoxville. Swim teams and camps are already in full swing at this point. Vacations have been planned. Lessons have been scheduled. Teams have been formed. And while all these structured opportunities are wonderful, often preferred by some, there are also a lot of amazing, free opportunities for fun and exploration right in our back yard.

We should seize this season and schedule quality time with our children. Knoxville actually offers a lot in terms of family outings but most of us have had our share of the Zoo or Jump Jam. So, here is a list of inexpensive, free, or just simple things to do with your kids before life gets crazy again. Skip the chaos and keep things simple with:

·        Mead’s Quarry at Ijams Nature Center: You can rent paddleboards, canoes, take your own, or just go for a dip.

·        Ijams Nature Center: There’s some learning to do inside, special educational opportunities on their calendar, and lots of simple hikes, as well as movie nights. But, the sunflowers along the Forks of the River are out of this world!

·        Navitat at Ijams: This adventure ropes course does cost money but it’s a pretty setting to face your fear of heights. $

·        Frozen Head State park (Morgan county): Home of the Barkley Marathon, this is a great trail for hiking with dogs and kids while also getting a little wet by the series of small waterfalls.

·        Bald River Falls (Tellico): Take a day trip to Tellico Plains to eat in the adorable bakery and snap some amazing photos by the large falls. You can hike as little as you like because you basically drive right up and park at the falls (if you can get a parking spot!).

·        Big South Fork (Oneida): If you don’t mind a little drive (plan on 1.5 hours), there are wonderful camping and hiking options in this less crowded park. Check out the natural arches on the Twin Arches trail or a great view on Angel Falls overlook.

·        House Mountain: This is such great option if you don’t want to drive far and want a nice vista without investing a lot of time. The parking area gets full on the weekends, though.

·        Big Ridge State Park (Maynardville): This quiet park not too far away offers swimming and fishing in Norris Lake. There are 15 miles of peaceful hiking trails.

·        The downtown Farmer’s Market (Saturdays): It’s grown in popularity but it’s an easy Saturday morning to stroll with a fresh cup of coffee or homemade pastry.

·        WDVX Blue Plate Special: Monday-Fridays at 12, there are free concerts at the Knoxville Visitor’s Center on Gay Street. It’s a fun way to surprised by some free music!

·        Trolley ride: It’s free and fun just to ride the trolley around our growing downtown. When the kids are little, any moving vehicle is fun so jump on board!

·        Baker Creek Preserve: Grab your mountain bikes and helmets and check out this mountain biking course close by. Although some trails are not for beginners, there is a small loop for kids. And, you can always grab a bite at SoKno Taco afterwards!

·        Rainforest Adventure (Pigeon Forge) : If you are willing to brave the roads and want a day filled with animals but have used out your zoo pass, kids love this place. $

·        Sunsphere: It is free to tour the Sunsphere and kids think it’s pretty cool! While you’re there, make sure they have their bathing suits because the fountains on the lawn are a blast too.

·        Maple Lane Hall and the Phoenix Pharmacy: If you are willing to spend some money, an afternoon bowling downtown and authentic (delicious and expensive) ice cream treats are appreciated by all! $

·        Central Filling Station: This food park off Central Ave. is pretty hip. With a variety of food trucks and even adult beverages, it’s a pretty fun place to grab some grub if it’s not too hot. You can even bring your dogs! $

·        School of Rock concerts: School of Rock is a music studio in West Knoxville for kid rockers. Throughout the year, and especially during the summer, they offer lots of concerts that showcase their stars. It’s cute, cool, and impressive all at the same time!

·        Painting with a Twist: Sure, this is nothing new but did you know that you can make your own class? If you have a small group of family or friends, they will make a class for you. You choose the theme and people, and they’ll provide the paint. It’s a creative way to bond. I like the one downtown. $

·        Humane Society of Tennessee Valley (Bearden Hill): Until recently, I had no idea that you could get your fix of cuddling puppies even if you’re not adopting….just be prepared that you might fall in love.

·        River Rats (Townsend): When it gets just sweltering hot, floating down the creek on a tube is not the worst idea. With a group of friends, you can make a day of it! $

This summer, think outside the box! Grab a friend. And, try something new with your family. Vacations are great but ‘staycations’ can be too! Experiencing something new together makes for great memories, inside and outside of East Tennessee. And, we all get in a rut sometimes so I’m sharing some of my family’s favorites. Hope you venture out and experience something new this summer too.




It’s a weird way to start summer by having a brain surgery. The end of the school year wasn’t like most. But, you all know that by now. No cute photos by the school sign. No 5th grade graduation walk. No swim party. When friends asked Brody to go to summer camp months ago, I couldn’t tell them the real reason why not. When planning for summer, camps and organized activities were just weren’t the priority like other families we know. No, looking at summer camp guides. No, coordinating schedules with friends. No joining the pool. Nope, it was pretty simple goal: Recover.

Recovering from brain surgery is the first priority that changes everything. No swimming allowed until August. No sports or activities that could involve contact. No being out in the hot sun all day. None of the above are on our list. And, that’s really more than ok.

In fact, I am NOT complaining. What we get to do is recover. We get to see if naps are needed. We get to read a new book. We get to lay down in dark rooms in the middle of the afternoon. We get to forget what day of the week it is. We get to eat treats whenever we want. We get to forget the alarm. We get to laze in Eno’s and watch the garden grow. So, don’t for a second feel sorry for us. It’s actually quite nice.

Actually, maybe it’s the way our lives should look more like. Wouldn’t it be nice if there wasn’t a schedule to dominate our lives? Wouldn’t it be great if we woke up and then decided what we feel like doing? Wouldn’t it be pretty awesome saying no to things that don’t serve us? You know, it’s not all that bad. I think a lot of teachers, children, moms and dads could also use a recovery time.

What our summer will be filled with is:

  • (Not Fortnite…..ok, now you know I’m lying) Ok, so not Fortnite all of the time!!
  • New hikes
  • Bike rides to spot wildlife
  • Art projects gone wrong
  • Pinterest cooking fails
  • Experimenting in our little garden
  • Helping new people (my kids will (NOT) love me for this)
  • Reading new books
  • Chores 🙂
  • Chillin’
  • Exploring some new spots in and outside of Tennessee
  • Spending time with friends

All of the above will lead to healing.  All of the above will allow us to recover, physically and emotionally. There’s no pressure to preform. There’s no rush to start or end. There’s room for creativity. And, there is quiet time to still the mind. Will it look like most of my friend’s summers? Nope, and that’s ok for us. In fact, I realize that’s what’s needed and even preferred!

R– rest

E– exercise

C– create

O– outdoor fun

V– vacation

E– experience

R– revive





First, listen to ‘Simple’ by our local Emily Ann Roberts!


Awaking again at my leisure, not too early and not too late, I get to sip at my fresh cup of French Roast and browse the internet. Again, we have no plans for the day. We’re in no rush to get out of our pj’s or even eat breakfast. And, the biggest decision will be what to eat for dinner.

Summer is wonderful….simple. It’s exciting, and slow. It’s hot, humid air and cool, fresh water. It’s friends, and silence. It’s fresh veggies, and treats. It’s books, and Netflix. Yes, and we love it all!

In less than a week, Brody has another MRI. This one will around 8 months instead of the scheduled 6 months. When we called to make the appointment months ago, she was that booked up. And when the receptionist put me on hold to ask Dr. Savage if it was ok to wait this long, she came back on the line to ask if he’s having any symptoms. No (knock on wood), I replied, so we are some of the lucky ones who can wait. Of course we want her dedicating her time to those who cannot wait; Brody was that emergency patient once.

It’s nerve-wracking every time, indeed. It seems like an eternity and only yesterday we were in that waiting room at Children’s. So, there is anxiety again. This has been the longest break so we are out of practice. It’s sneaking up, but Brody doesn’t even realize it. He’s living his simple day-to-day life….blessings.

Yesterday, we did a quick day-trip to Frozen Head, sticking to my plan of a good ole’ Tennessee summer, a simple summer. Brody’s best friends are 13, almost 14, and 11. They spent the afternoon wading through the shallow creek, flipping rocks and searching for crawdads. The sound of the creek and woods was all you could hear; no one was there. It was quiet, slow, and most definitely simple. What’s great is that they are that easily entertained. Kids are quite simple too, even 13 year olds!

It takes less junk (entertainment systems, devices, toys, gadgets, bells and whistles) than parents realize to keep our kids happy. They ended the day by all chasing and catching fireflies and jumping on the trampoline in the dark.

Brody’s diagnosis 2 years ago changed me in many, many ways. One of those is that I realize we don’t have to stay busy-busy to not be bored. So, our summers will be different than most. No camps. No schedule. We won’t have an outing every day. We will do whatever we feel like that day. We’ll be spontaneous, a little bored, lazy, and just see what happens. Because so far, it’s working out for us.

Just like I believe this Monday will work out for us too. Simple.




Summer camp


Sunny days are just around the corner. Freedom and fun await. With trips to plan and bags to pack, what are you going to do with your kids this summer? What will your summer hold?

There are so many good options in and around Knoxville now. There’s Tate’s, Webb camp, Ijams, and School of Rock to name a few. VBS, swim team, dance camps, cheer, baseball, soccer, football, and any sport….. You name it and I bet you can find it. Whether it be the arts or sports, there are so many fun options.

When I was growing up, my summer days did not include camps. I never went to sleep-away camp. And, my family didn’t have the extra cash to pay for entertainment camps. Most days were spent hanging at the pool with my best friends. That’s it. That simple. Slumber parties, a trip to the beach, a boat ride on the lake, and playing. I was not deprived but it would seem so when I look at the norm today.

In this culture, we are conditioned to be led by schedules, structure, and deadlines. (I’m not immune!) The busier, the better! (or is it?) With all the craziness that the school year brings, especially the insane month of May, we welcome slow starts and easy ends to the day. And, I just don’t believe there’s some big benefit to filling the short summer months with schedules. Yet, I know this is not the norm.


What I’m thinking is truly beneficial for our children and families is actually spending time together. Instead to signing up for a different camp every week and cramming the days, what about creating some creative time and  quieter outings for your family? Maybe we should even just take it easy and see what happens. Not having a schedule is not so bad. I know not every family has this option because many working parents don’t have a choice. But, many who do don’t take this route.

It’s not that parents don’t want to spend time with their kids, right?! One reason is because it’s just become the norm. What camps are you signing up for? It’s just what we do. And, then there are parents who don’t know what to do with their children or feel more comfortable having someone else plan every day of the week. Some parents just want to wear the kids out! Some kids really do want to play with their friends at camp and ask to go. And, many want to make sure to keep up with the Jones’.

Now, it could be worse. Kids are getting socially stimulated, while also staying active. And, I’d bet they’re having a little fun too! Camps sound fun to me too! Children who have the privilege of attending a camp are better off than having an electronic device babysit them all summer and sitting inside. There are certainly more wasteful ways to spend the summer!

But if we take a moment to reflect, we’d realize that kids grow up too fast. We want and need to spend time with them because they’ll be gone before we know it. And, we want to continue to steal time imprinting our values on them. With the influence of social media and the abundance of external factors that influence our children, it’s now more than ever that we need time with our children, not time away.

It will be nice to spend the mornings at a slower pace and see what the day brings. Maybe we don’t every week but don’t be afraid to slow it down a bit and explore together. What if our summer camp includes:

  • Reading in pj’s
  • Cooking 3 real meals a day
  • Doing a book study together
  • Exploring a new hiking trail
  • Playing in a creek
  • Going on a long bike ride downtown
  • Hearing some free WDVX music
  • Visiting a new park
  • Mountain biking at Baker’s Preserve
  • Wandering around at Ijams
  • Making a day at the Zoo, the KMA, the Muse, or the Oak Ridge Children’s museum
  • Volunteering
  • Lounging at the pool
  • Hanging in the hammock
  • Planning a lemonade stand for a charity
  • Planting a garden
  • Climbing a tree
  • Getting to know our neighbors better
  • Getting to know each other better

There’s no shortage of family-friendly activities in and around Knoxville, or even in our own backyards! There’s the saying, the family that prays together stays together. But, I also believe:

A family that plays together, stays together.


Bring on summer!

And, the best new toy goes to……

With these cooler than average temps, along with my exhaustion, it doesn’t quite feel like summer yet.  The kids are still a little hung over from the school year too. The pools are open but the water must be freezing. And, as always, I anticipate taking the first week or so to work out the kinks as the sweet siblings adjust to being around each other every day! They’ll eventually get over the desire to pick at each other every second of the day too. But, we’ll get there….

I must say, though, that one new ‘toy’ has seriously impressed me so far this summer and got me in the mood:

*the ENO hammock*

This end-of-the-year gift has kept Brody and the boys next door outside most of the weekend. These simple, colorful hammocks are easy to put up and take down so the kids do it all themselves. What’s better is that they’ve lazed in those bad boys all weekend. If only I could hear their conversations…what in the world do they chat about all that time?

They found a perfect spot in our small backyard in between the shaded Hemlock trees. The spot looked so inviting that I actually had to give it a try today. Staring up at the leaves, curled out with a cool breeze helped me understand the allure. Simple and peaceful. Cozy and restful. I would definitely recommend.

In fact, these suckers went back to REI for the second time this weekend to purchase a second one because who wants to hear siblings whine more than necessary about not sharing!? Now, we have 2 to travel to the mountains, the dessert, or even just the backyard in this summer. Swinging back and forth, staring up at the blue sky, and slowing down is just what we need to get us in the mood. Bring on summer!

*still 25% off this weekend at REI!


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