Friday, March 31, 2017

Review: Talk Yourself Happy

I don't often agree to review "self help" books. Honestly, I don't like them very much. I find they mostly say the same things, I can't remember the advice later, and they don't keep my attention for very long. 

However, Talk Yourself Happy by former 700 Club host Kristi Watts got my attention, and I truly appreciated her advice. 

Here's what I liked about it. Kristi faced some incredible disappointments. And she doesn't get her life all wrapped up in a bow by the end of the book. 

I have quite a few friends right now who are going through some very challenging events in their life. And they don't need to hear about a magic formula that you can follow to find happiness again. What they all need to hear is: you can find happiness in the midst of a challenging situation. And I felt that Kristi really gave some concrete ways to help foster this in your life.

How can a person bounce back after being beaten down personally, professionally, and emotionally? Kristi was there, and came face to face with what happens when life doesn't go the way you had planned. 

This is a powerful book for those of you who have found your life completely off-track. It doesn't tell you how to get it back on-track. What it tells you is how to embrace and find God in the midst of your derailment. 

Greeneville TN: Activities for Elementary Aged Children

I am starting to compile a list of fun things to do with your elementary aged children in an around Greeneville, TN ('m trying to stay within one hour of Greeneville). If you have something you'd like me to visit and consider adding, please leave a comment! All places listed are places I have personally visited. And check back often as I will be updating this page regularly!

My friend Karen invited us to Darrell's Dream Playground at Warrior State Park in Kingsport, TN. This park is one of the best parks we have ever been to in any city or state or country. It is absolutely fabulous. It is a unique one-of-a-kind play area that provides fun and learning opportunities for children of all ages and all abilities. Special features include:
  • a universally accessible playground equipment and surfaces
  • a walking trail and an environmental maze with interactive play stations
  • an amphitheater
  • a picnic pavilion
  • specially designed restroom facilities
  • pedestrian bridge
  • tots play area specifically designed for ages 2-5
  • adventure island specifically designed for ages 5-12
  • sand island which is designed to allow wheelchairs to roll right up to the table
  • The Lions Narnia Braille Trail which features eight sensory stations along a quarter-mile wheelchair accessible Braille trail. You can read the words visually, through Braille, or press a button to listen
  • a tree house
  • and much more!
My four kiddos (ages 2, 4, 6, and 7 at the time of this writing) played for 2.5 hours without stopping! There was something for all of them, and they were not ready to go home. We will definitely be visiting this park again. 

In addition, the park is nestled within a State Park which has camping, a golf course, Frisbee golf, hiking, birding, fishing, horseback riding and much more.

Address: 390 Hemlock Park / Kingsport, TN
Contact Email: 
Phone: 423-956-4330
The front entrance to the park. One of the first things you do is enter through a "wardrobe." The entire park is set up to imitate the books: The Chronicles of Narnia and they even had a wardrobe with coats!

A look at about half of the park. It is very large. That is probably the only "negative" to the park. There is no perimeter fence so you have to be keeping your eyes open -- especially if you have more than one child.

Check it out! That's the Beaver's home from Narnia!

A little playhouse for kids to perform and watch. No details was spared.

This is a Christian "retreat center" where you can do more things than you can possibly imagine. They have Summer camps or you can just come with your family and get away. There are cabins to stay in and just fun to be had all around. I cannot recommend this place strong enough. SUCH FUN! And SUCH BEAUTY. Click here to read my post on this outstanding place. 

Without a doubt, one of our very favorite things to do within an hour of our home is Dollywood! Located at 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd, this is a full amusement park with a cozy and small-town feel. We got season passes, and here are some of the things we learned during our first year as season pass holders:
  • Go to the park on a weekday when school is in session.
  • Get to the park at 9:15. This allows you to get into the park and be ready to go when it opens. We have never seen crowds between 9-12 -- even on very busy days.
  • One ride that seems to get a line no matter how crowded the park is that day is the Rockin' Roadway. Do that ride first. (Do it a couple of times since it is very popular with young children.)
  • One challenging part of the park is that the area with the roller coasters is mostly just that and there aren't a lot of things for little kids to do in that area. Take advantage of two little playground parks (one by Firechaser and one over by Thunderhead and Riverchaser (water ride) so that your little kids have something to do while the big kids are riding the coasters. 
  • If it is hot, Daredevil Falls and River Rampage are great fun as is the Riverchaser ride.
  • The new roller coaster: Lightning Rod is TERRIFYING. Honestly the scariest ride I have ever been on.
  • The roller coasters at this park are INTENSE. The little kids one in The County Fair is great and the next easiest is Firechaser. But even that one is a bit scary!
  • The County Fair is our favorite place. This has tons of ride for the whole family with very few height restrictions.
  • The BBQ up by the bird show is our favorite place to eat.
  • The bird show is great! We've done it many, many times.
  • You have to see the Bald Eagles. (This is the largest display of the birds in their natural habitat in the world!)
  • Bring in your own water bottles and fill them up at drinking fountains to save money on drinks. I also pack kid snacks. They check my bag before I go in and no one has told me I can't do this.
  • You HAVE to try to the cinnamon bread at The Grist Mill
Here are some past posts I wrote featuring pictures of our time at the park

This was an incredible event that is in Pigeon Forge, TN. I strongly suggest that you put this on your "to do" list. It isn't cheap so it has to be a very special occasion, but it was great fun for the WHOLE family. I really think the adults enjoyed it as much as the kiddos! Click here to read about our experience at Dixie Stampede.

We have had a blast at our church's annual community Fall picnic at Fender's Farm. I wrote a post and shared some pictures and videos here. This is a GREAT Fall activity for your family. It is especially great if you have children ages 3-12 as they have all kinds of cool things for your kiddos to do!

Fit4Life farm is a family owned and operated farm in Limestone, TN that offers all sorts of indoor and outdoor activities encouraging people to get fit and stay healthy. They specialize in CrossFit and youth soccer but can host group events. This is a great place, and I wrote a post you can read about them here.

My kids love the Hands on! Regional Museum in Johnson City. We actually decided to become members of this museum. This is a fantastic places for kids ages 2 and up. I did an entire post featuring pictures from one of our trips to the Museum which you can check out by clicking here. 

Located at 2304 Silverdale Drive #600 in Kingsport, TN, this is an incredibly fun place to go. It is a bit pricey, and is therefore a splurge for us, but something we will probably splurge on every few months. We paid for two hours, and all four of my kids had a BLAST and got such incredible exercise. What a great time!

I love that while the town we live in is VERY small, we can get culture within a 30 minute drive. The Niswonger Performing Arts Center offers a wide variety of educational and artistic performances for our whole family. I have taken the children many times to different performances including a historical retelling of Pocahontas and a ballet and performance by Flamenco dancers. 

Ruth Kross was my middle school history teacher. Well she was JB's too. In fact, our families go back even farther than that as she went to school with my Dad in Illinois. But all that to say, she moved to Greeneville quite a few years before I did. She actually wrote a book about a church here in rural Tennessee which you can find on Amazon: The Tree in the Churchyard. When Ruth and her husband relocated to Greeneville, she started tours of the downtown area and some of the history behind this small community. Ruth took the children and I on a downtown tour to show us some of the highlights. This tour is one you can do yourself, and I encourage you to try it! You can read more about what we did by clicking here.

My kids LOVE this place. Wallabies is in Johnson City, TN. Kids 12 and under can play for an unlimited amount of time. It is not cheap, but they do offer the ability to buy a card with ten visits that drops the cost. I do suggest calling ahead to make sure that there is not a school group or field trip there, but otherwise, it has never been too crowded for us. Very fun times!

Friday Funnies

Abigail: "Hannah fell off the chair."
Hannah: "No I didn't. I was getting down and I just fell." 


Hannah: "Can I have some more ice cream Mommy?"

Me: "No it is all gone."
Hannah: "Well than can I just one bite of your's?"
Me: "Absolutely not."

We are Never Alone

To my friends going through things bigger than anyone should have to face. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Review: My Toddlers App, LLC

I recently stumbled upon an incredibly fun app opportunity for parents of toddlers and was so excited when they agreed to allow me to review one of their programs in exchange for my honest review. There are actually four different available all from My Toddlers App, LLC. I used these with my three-year-old daughter Hannah. I think you could easily use the app with children ages 2-5. 

The four different programs include:

This is a USA family owned and operated company. It was actually inspired by the creator's granddaughter. He watched her operating an ipad so easily and wanted to make the "teacher" for these programs the child's family instead of some random cartoon character. 

MTA FAMILY allows the parent to add a family member's photo and voice to teach a toddler to associate a person's name and how it is spelled with that person. The family member's voice will tell their toddler how to spell their name while it displays across the screen one letter at a time. There is also no limit to how many people you enter in the family section of the program. This means that you can add tons of friends and family to this program on behalf of the child.

Each of the apps provides a great video which goes through step by step instructions for setting the program up. I was confused about a few parts but was so impressed with the video and customer service in helping me figure out how to fix what I was doing wrong. Here is a video for the MTA FAMILY app.

MTA ANIMALS allows the family to choose from over 40 animals to present to their toddler. I recorded my voice telling Hannah how to spell the animal name while it displayed across the screen one letter at a time. After I am done reading it, Hannah can click on the name of the animal and listen to what sound the animal makes.

MTA READER is so cool! I can read a book and record it into the program. Then Hannah just touches the book cover on their main screen to listen to me reading the book. I especially want to have my far away relatives read books that Hannah can listen to in the future.

MTA MATCH is the traditional match game all kids play with individualized pictures. I can put pictures of animals on our farm or family members, and Hannah then matches them!
You can visit My Toddlers App, LLC on Facebook and on YouTube. I love that this company is just a family like us, and really encourage EVERYONE to help support what they are doing. It is a simple idea that will leave a huge smile plastered across your child's face!

Made up Spring

March 20th was the first day of Spring. However, there is still snow on the ground and my coat still feels like a second skin.

After being cooped up for 4 months, I can't wait to be able to go outside to enjoy the fresh air and the pretty flowers. I'm beyond ready for Spring, but it seems Spring is not ready for me. I certainly can't do a thing about the weather but I can bring Spring into my home.

So, I bought some flowers, made a colorful and springy pillow cover for my living room, and invited some girlfriends over to make Spring wreaths. Not only did I have a wonderful time, but also, I feel a lot less frustrated about the long winter and super excited about the Spring! If you feel like me, I encourage you to made up your own Spring until the real one decides to show up! :)

                            Happy Spring!



*Please note that content in guest blogs is not necessarily shared by the station manager (i.e. Wendi!)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Doe River Gorge

Doe River Gorge is ... AMAZING! Situated about one hour from us in the Tennessee Smoky Mountains, this privately owned Christian camp includes rugged mountains, scenic meadows, whitewater rapids, and steep mountain walls surrounded by the Cherokee National Forest. They run summer camps for ages 8-18 and all kinds of family vacations and retreats.

Our Homeschool group organizes field trips that we can opt in or out of. I just absolutely LOVE this part of what our homeschool group does. I went with my four kids and Grama (who isn't in ANY pictures.) 

First up was a scenic rail trip into the Doe River Gorge. Unfortunately, it was raining during this part of the trip so we couldn't embrace it fully, but it was amazing, and I definitely want to go back.

This is Lisa who organizes all the field trips. She has three children including Grace who is on her lap. That's her husband too. Lisa does an AMAZING job. I would not want her job. I'm so blessed she does want it!

After we were done on the train, we dried off in a big tent and the kids played some games with camp leaders. I mostly tried to get all of my kids warm after the cold and rainy train ride:

From there, we headed out to ride and paint horses. I was a bit confused about the horse painting, but have since come to understand that this is used in therapy when working with horses and that it provides an opportunity for kids to get close to these majestic animals in a kind way. 

That's Isaac, our friend Eliza, and Abigail

Isaac painting

Sidge loved this!

Sidge is absolutely mesmerized by animals. He becomes so focused on them and treating them kindly and meeting them properly. He truly has an amazing love and fascination.

Most kids put their fingers in the paint. No big surprise that Hannah put her entire hand in!

After that each child got a turn to ride the horse. We were 4 for 4. All my kids wanted to do it. This was Hannah's first time on a horse (I think?)

Next up, time to groom them. Sidge takes his job so seriously:

After that we took a UNIMOG ride. This was very fun!

Kristin has become such a dear friend to me. I LOVE HER!

Her daughter Eliza may be Abigail's age, but she is a perfect fit for Hannah!

At the end, we played an awesome game of OCTABALL. I LOVED THIS GAME and hope we can build it on our farm. It is so much fun for kids and adults and people of all ability levels:

This is only a small sampling of everything you can do at Doe River Gorge. Click here to see more. Such an amazing place!!