Week 14

Week 13 of this pandemic was our trip, so last week was officially week 14 of this craziness. Last week was a little crazy all on its own, because the week after a long trip I always feel like I’m playing catch up a bit. Monday was a laundry day, as always after a big trip. I also had a school Zoom meeting and some other school work to do. The kids and I went by Nana’s to pick up the plants she had baby sat while we were gone. I let Josie give her a thank you hug for her birthday present Nana gave her…..we’ve still been trying to maintain the 6 ft rule, but I thought birthdays deserved an exception. 🙂 Tuesday was Josie’s 12th birthday!! Quarantine birthdays are not fun, but we tried to make the best of it. I had to go early Tuesday morning and pick up our lawn mower, but when I got back I took Josie to Golly G’s (at her request) to get cinnamon rolls for her birthday breakfast. I also let her get a fancy coffee. 🙂 Then we came home and had our normal birthday breakfast tradition. We were kind of stumped on what to do for Josie’s birthday present. We normally go for “experience” gifts instead of normal gifts…but that was out of the question this year. We finally decided to send her on a virtual shopping spree. We decided we wanted to get her a new chair for her room, but we couldn’t decide if she would want a desk chair or a “comfy” chair, like a bean bag. So the night before I went and found about 30 links for her to pick from. So she had a blast going through and narrowing down her choices. She decided on the one I thought she would pick…..
Flamingos, of course! 🙂 Later on that day, MeeMaw dropped by with Abby and Matthew. The kids were so excited to see them, because it had been a long time!
Josie requested red velvet cake for her birthday dessert, so I made that so it would cool. She was SO excited that I made her a 4 layer “fancy” cake.
Josie also requested dinner from the Greek restaurant. On the way to pick up that, we made a pit stop at Casey’s to meet their new puppies! Josie also requested that we have the Roses over to hang out by the fire for her birthday night, and they were happy to fill that request! 🙂 So, quarantine birthday didn’t turn out to be so terrible, after all. 🙂 An exciting thing happened this week-Golly G’s opened in Greenbrier! It has been PACKED, so we haven’t gone yet, but we are excited it is there! Wednesday evening I had a prom photo shoot for some GHS seniors. I was so glad they were getting to finally have their prom! It was a fun shoot, and one of the moms took some pictures of me taking pictures, LOL. After my photo shoot, Nana and Shshr came by to hang out by the fire with us. Shshr brought the puppies (because she was puppy sitting). Our neighbors offered for us to use their pool some this summer, so I took the kids over on Thursday. I had an online conference for school on Thursday and Friday, but since it was online, I could do my conference and watch the kiddos swim at the same time-win/win! Poppy followed us to the pool, and stayed the whole time we were there, then followed us back home. Crazy cat! But sweet cat, too. That night I was still pretty busy with school work and photo work, etc, so I decided I would have the kids cook dinner (with my supervision/help). They made spaghetti, bread, and salads, and did a great job!
Friday we stayed home all day. I had another online conference day, so that took up most of my day. Jake actually had part of the day off work, so he went over to the farm for a bit.

Saturday was a busy, busy day. I started the day with a photo shoot at the farm, then ran home for just a bit. Saturday was also graduation day at JECA, and Jake was in charge of sound, and I was taking cap/gown pictures. We had to be there at noon to set up the sound (outside-it was a MILLION degrees). By the time we finished with that, we really didn’t have time to go home, so we hung out in my classroom and ate lunch and watched a movie. I started taking pictures (outside) at about 4:30, and graduation was (outside) at 6:45. This was the biggest event we’ve been to during quarantine by far, but we decided it was important enough to break our quarantine for just one evening. We still washed our hands frequently, kept our distance (except for a few quick hugs for our favorite grads), and of course it was outside. We got home after 9:00 that night, so we swung by China Spring to pick up some dinner. We were all ZONKED by the end of the night, and slept in big time on Sunday morning. Josie did get a surprise when we got home-her new chair had come a week early! She was SO excited. Jake and Jack got home a little before Josie and I (because we went to pick up the food), and Jake had it all unwrapped and in her room for her. So, an exciting quarantine week for us! A little more “normal” than it has been….I mean, graduation was the most dressed up any of us had been…well, for 14 weeks!

Happy Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day to my dad. The one who taught me to work hard and never do things halfway. Who taught me how to fish and camp and drive a boat. Who pulled me behind a boat for literally hours on end. Who worked hard to give me such an awesome childhood. Who taught me what a good husband looks like. Who disciplined me and gave me rules so I wouldn’t be a hoodlum. Who became a Pappy to my kiddos. Who loves me so much, and loves my kiddos even more, just like it should be. I love you! Happy Father’s Day.

June Road Trip-Part 3

We made it back to Willow Grove in the afternoon, and set back up one last time-we are masters at this now, though, and totally have a system to make it quick! Ta and Tommy were camping this weekend as well (they were just starting their normal longer June vacation). We enjoyed the nice weather and rode our bikes for awhile. We had a movie night that night and stayed up way too late. Saturday Jake ran to the storage and got our boat and we enjoyed another day on the lake. It was incredibly busy again, but by some random chance Ta and Tommy were able to snag an island, so we hung out there with them all day. It was another beautiful day-we were blessed with really, really nice weather for this trip! Sunday morning we got up early (for us anyways) and headed straight to the boat, breakfast in hand. Saturday had been too busy again for the kiddos to kneeboard, and Jack really, really wanted to. So we made it happen Sunday morning. Mornings are always the best time for water sports anyways. He got a good run in, but Josie’s ride was much choppier because a stiff wind picked up. She got a little run, in too, and then we hung out in a cove to let the wind die down a bit and Jack kneeboarded some more. We got our boat out and left it with the dock for the week for some repairs…and then the rain started it. Really our first rain of the trip (except for just a little on top of the mountain). So, we had to pack up in the rain, but it wasn’t too bad at all. We are always happy to be home after a long trip, and this one was no exception. The kids were eager to see Poppy! (and she was eager to see us, too.) The sun was shining when we got home, and we were able to get everything unpacked and put away, which is always a good feeling. Mama Judy came over and brought us dinner (bless her!). We all got showers. It was good to sleep in our own beds again (although we love our camper beds, too). It was so good to take this trip-we all needed it badly. We were able to relax and forget about some of the stressful things in life. And we were almost able to forget that we are still in the midst of a pandemic…camping felt pretty normal. We needed that, too. I’m so thankful we both have jobs that allow us the time and money to take trips as a family-that is not something we take for granted.

June Road Trip-Part 2

We’ve been to Roan Mountain twice, but always in the fall. Roan is known for the beautiful rhododendrons that bloom in June, so we’ve always wanted to go back in June to see them. So, we decided to make it happen. Monday morning we packed up and hit the road for the second part of our adventure. We headed to Watauga Dam Campground in Elizabethton, TN. This campground was one of the most beautiful ones we’ve ever been at. It was really small, only 27 sites, and our site was right on the river (as were most of the sites). The weather was cool and nice. It is a quiet campground. After we got unpacked and relaxed a bit, we decided to look around and get used to our surroundings. We went up to the overlook of the dam. Jack was SO FULL OF ENERGY, so we had him do his running for XC while were there, LOL. The river (well, technically it is called Wilbur Lake…there are two dams in this system, so even though we were below Watauga Lake, there was another dam below the campground) was SO cold, which made the campground such a nice place to be, especially after the scorching heat of our weekend at Dale Hollow. Jake dared Josie to keep her feet in for 45 seconds. *
I decided to kayak a bit that evening. The river was RIGHT there, so that was super easy to do. Josie came with me, and then Jack jumped in my kayak and after I got done. One of the best parts about Roan is that the AT (Appalachian Trail) runs right through it, and you can access the AT in a lot of different places. The kiddos got backpacking gear for Christmas- hiking bags, hiking sleeping bags, and hiking poles. We had planned to go on a back packing trip in the spring so they could try them all out…but the pandemic changed those plans. So, we decided we should try it out this week. I have always wanted to overnight on the AT. 🙂 Plus, there was a route we have done twice before on just day hikes that we thought would be a good starter overnight hike for the kids. Tuesday was the day. After lunch we got all packed up and headed to Carver’s Gap. It was SO beautiful. We stopped on the drive up for Jack to use the bathroom, and I couldn’t help getting some pictures. The hike up was great. We couldn’t have asked for more beautiful weather or views. The kids were pumped, and they did a great job. We hiked the Roan Highlands to Grassy Ridge, which is 2.5 miles from the parking lot at Carver’s Gap. 2.5 miles may not seem like much…but we all had heavy packs..and the elevation change was 1,000 feet! When we got to the top of Grassy Ridge (after hiking over Round Bald and Jane Bald, we pitched our tents. It was GORGEOUS up there. Jack, of course, couldn’t resist doing some bouldering on the huge rocks up there.
After we’d pitched our tents and explored a bit, a cloud started rolling in and the wind got up (which is common on top of the mountains). That changed the temperature in a hurry, so Jake got the fire going so I could boil the water for our Ramen, and he kept it going for awhile. We walked around a bit in the cloud, and Jake and the kids even played hide and seek. We had the mountain top to ourselves- there were no other campers (but we could tell that it was probably busy on the weekends!). We crawled into our tents at sunset and settled in for a looooonnnnggg night. The wind was crazy loud on top of the mountain, and Josie, Jake and I did not really sleep much at all. Jack slept like a rock, LOL. I’ve never slept well on a backpacking trip, so I wasn’t really expecting a wonderful nights’ sleep. But if we do this trip again, we will know to choose a more sheltered area to pitch the tents-hindsight is 20/20. The perk of not sleeping well, though, means you are up to see the sunset! The sunset on Grassy Ridge was not very spectacular, because we were still in a thick cloud. So we woke Jack up, LOL, and packed up pretty quickly to start our trip down the mountain. Everything was soaking wet! (Our tents kept us dry, but everything still had a damp feeling-and the outside of the tents were soaked). After we got off Grassy Ridge, though, we got out of the cloud-and the views were once again gorgeous. It was a great hike down-still 2.5 miles, of course, with a few climbs, but it was definitely as easier hike down than it was up (and our bags were lighter). After we got off the mountain, we headed back to the campground. We all took showers and had an extremely lazy day of napping and lounging and reading. (Well, all of us but Jack-he didn’t need a nap, LOL). That night we went into Elizabethton to run an errand (we went in Walmart-the first store any of us has been in since March-we were only there for about 20 minutes, and none of us enjoyed the experience-won’t be doing that again for awhile probably) and pick up pizza for dinner. While were were waiting for pizza, we walked around some of the historic parts of Elizabethton. They are known for their historic covered bridge. We also stopped on the way back and got some pictures of the cliffs near Lake Wilbur-so beautiful-they reminded me of Glacier. Thursday was our last full day at this campground. We enjoyed the nice cool weather outside. Jack fished (we could watch him from the comfort of our chairs under our awning!). I read, Jake played, and Josie tie dyed a shirt. Later that afternoon we decided to hike a little more of the AT-the part that goes across Watauga Dam. The dam is an earth dam, so it was a lot different than dams we’ve seen before. The lake was on one side, but the other side was just earth-no water! The water goes through a tunnel in the mountain. We hiked about 2.5 miles altogether- although Jack ran a good portion of it instead of walking! After we hiked, we walked down to the lake for a bit. We saw the cutest baby ducks, and the kids swam in their clothes for just a bit (even though it was SO cold). In the evening, we all got in our kayaks to explore Lake Wilbur. It was one of the best places to kayak we’ve ever been. The fog off the water was cool, and it is a very calm and clear lake. We even found a secret waterfall, which the kids thought was the coolest thing ever!
Friday was our day to pack up and leave. We did so pretty quickly after breakfast…although Jack found sometime to sneak in one last fishing session. We had a pretty uneventful trip, although we did see a bear on the interstate right outside of Cookeville! That was pretty exciting. The best part about leaving day, though, was that our trip was not over. Instead of going home, we headed back to Willow Grove for one last weekend.

June Road Trip-Part 1

This isn’t the trip we had planned for this June….but that’s another story for another day. Suffice it to say, the pandemic changed our plans a bit for this summer. But, Jake still had this week off, and we were extremely grateful we could plan this trip on such short notice. We started this trip at our home away from home, Willow Grove. Friday night we pulled in late, got set up, and ate our traditional first night of camping chili. Then we settled in and watched the first part of our final Harry Potter movies, since we had just finished the final book this week! Saturday we slept late and had a pretty lazy, slow day at the campground. In the afternoon, we went to get our boat out of the storage. We had to run to Livingston to get a new battery for it (which didn’t surprise us, because it was an old battery). After that we took it to the lake for a bit. What did surprise us, however, was HOW BUSY THE LAKE WAS. Busier than I have ever seen it ever in my whole life. Apparently, people are taking advantage of the natural “social distancing” the lake affords…and the fact that the lake isn’t shut down. Plus, this was the first weekend the campgrounds on the lake were open. But, we enjoyed a little bit of swimming and got in a nice sunset ride. We even got to see Andy and Christie and the kiddos, who were staying at their lake house for the weekend-that was a nice surprise. 🙂 Sunday we had another lazy and slow morning, and then headed to the lake. Again, busier than I’ve ever ever seen it-too busy even for the kids to kneeboard, even though we waited until we thought it had cleared out some. But we were able to find a cove to ourselves, and spent the day swimming and hanging out in the boat. The kids swam like fish, Josie worked on her dive, and Jack mastered a back flip (after some mishaps, LOL).
I had a little bit of school work to before we headed out on Monday, so Sunday night we went down to the dock and hung out on a blanket so we could use the wifi. 🙂
It was a great way to start our road trip.

Week 12

I am behind on my blogging, but it is because we went on a trip last week! So now I am going to play catch up. Week 12 feels like ages ago, even though it was only 2 weeks. 🙂 It was a busy week, because we were getting ready for a trip. So Jake had a ton of work to get done before we left, and I was busy with lots of photo shoots, editing photos, cleaning the house, doing yard work, laundry, and packing. So this will just be a quick recap for memory’s sake. 🙂 Sunday I had a photo shoot that Josie went with me to, and I couldn’t help snapping just a few quick pics of my girl, too. Monday Jack started swimming lessons at a neighbor’s house with her niece that was in from Washington for a few weeks. The water was freezing, but he was super excited and did a great job. They also broke ground on Mama Judy’s new house! Yay! We went to the Roses’ on Monday night for a fire hang out night. 🙂 Tuesday Pappy came to our farm to plow up the ground for the dove field (because our tractor has been in the shop for weeks and weeks now-bleh.) The kids and I went over while he was there. Jack and I ran while we were there, too. Tuesday night I took Jackie’s maternity pics. 🙂 Wednesday Jake got all the seeds planted in the newly plowed up ground. I mowed our yard (and our neighbors’ ….they have been sick with Covid) and did some other yard work. Thursday Jack had his last swim lesson for the week, and then it was a grocery and cleaning day to get ready for the trip. We picked up a big grocery order from Walmart and got it all loaded in the camper. Our new Solo stove came for our fire pit! We had a quick fire in it before it started raining on Thursday night, and Shshr and Asher came by to hang out for a little bit. Friday was a busy packing day, and then we left for our trip after Jake got off work. We headed to Willow Grove in the light of a beautiful moon- pictures never do a pretty moon justice!

12 Years Old

Dear Josie,

Whew. It has been a year. Especially this second part of your twelfth year. You will never forget 2020, I’m sure- the year that words like “corona virus,” “quarantine,” “social distancing,” and “distance learning” became a part of our vocabulary. The year that your school was literally shut down and you got to experience homeschooling for the first time ever.

But…those aren’t the things I want to remember. Here are the things I want to remember about your twelfth year of life:

-You are so very creative. You love art and art projects. You love to tie dye and paint and make origami everything and draw and make things with fabric and pick flowers to make beautiful bouquets. And you are so good at all of it!

-Your smile is the best. It fills a room up. You are polite and helpful and kind to others. You do not ever get in trouble at school or church. You do not lack for personality….or energy, most of the time.

-You love to write. You are a wonderful writer. You did so good writing all of your essays in 6th grade this year, and you learned a lot! You write stories on your own all the time, and are currently writing your own chapter book. (Note: learning to type and use voice dictation on the computer have been life changing for you!)

-You love to read. You’ve always loved books, but you have taken to reading in a new way this year. You almost always have about 3 books going, and I find you curled up with a book all the time. 

-You are so sweet to your brother. Y’all play so very well together. You say your best friends are Hannah, or Josie B., or Claire. But I know the truth. Jack is your best friend. And that makes my heart so very happy. 

-You still love to PLAY. And I love that you do, so very much. You play Legos with Jack, and you love to design rooms for your Calico Critters and you play with your American Girl dolls. I know this won’t last too terribly much longer….so I’m cherishing it now. 

-Other things you love: Full House, Harry Potter, ballet, Hamilton, listening to music and making playlists, playing your guitar (and writing your own songs!), taking pictures and editing them, roller blading, playing with Poppy, being a hostess, talking to your friends, laughing loud when you think things are funny, your Daddy’s jokes, your family, swimming and diving, any excuse to dress up, eating out and shopping. 

-Some of your favorite foods: hamburgers, spaghetti, Greek food, tacos, baked potatoes, Zuppa Tuscana soup, desserts (especially caramel flavored things), ice cream floats, fancy coffee, Dr. Pepper and cream soda

-You started youth group this year at church and really, really loved it. Hannah with went you a lot. 

-6th grade was another challenging year. Your hormones were raging, school was difficult for a few different reasons, and we were learning together how to let you be a little bit more independent. But…we discovered something very important this year. You haven’t been “officially” diagnosed (we are working on that), but we are almost certain you are dyslexic. Which explains so many of your struggles throughout your school years. And knowing this helps us and your teachers know how to help you. We were already making some changes for the better when school was shut down, and will continue to make changes as you go to seventh grade.

-As weird as “distance learning” was…it was good for you. It helped us and you to discover some ways you learn best, that I think will benefit you greatly next school year. And, even when we were sad that we were missing events and friends and family….we all appreciated more down time and a less hectic schedule and more time to just be at home.

-Other randomness from this year: you learned to water ski; you got a new cousin, Emery; you went to church camp; you went on your first backpacking trip; you slept all night in a hammock while we were camping; you cliff jumped-much to mine and your daddy’s astonishment; you loved and grieved Midnight the cat; we watched ALL the Marvel movies; we also finished the last two Harry Potter books (and the movies that went with them); you had strep throat 4 or 5 times, and major poison ivy breakouts 3 times.

Little girl…sometimes I wish I could bottle you up right now. Sometimes I want to pull my hair out because of you. But at the moment the sweet times are outweighing the crazy…and you are growing up too fast. I love you so much. Happy Birthday my Jo girl!