A Hike in the Woods

Almost daily I feel overwhelming gratitude for where we live. Not just America, not just East Tennessee. I love our little town, our corner of the county, our neighborhood, and our home. I recognize this is a huge blessing, as many people wish they lived elsewhere in the country, elsewhere in their city, elsewhere in their county.

We are doing what we’ve been told to help flatten the curve of COVID-19 transmission: We are keeping to ourselves unless it’s absolutely necessary to go out. Obviously, I’m still accompanying Dad to radiation (today begins Week 4 of 6). We have made quick trips to the store, and we’ve ordered take-out from our favorite Mexican restaurant. Otherwise, we’re laying low.

Yesterday we had a break in the rain, so we took the opportunity to surgically remove the boys from electronics and go for a hike. Jeremy drove us!

This was my first time riding with him other than a quick spin around the mall parking lot months ago. Chuck has been handling all the instruction, and I’m happy to report that I felt safe and secure in the back seat with my seatbelt on. It helped that the roads were mostly empty.

The trail we walked is a 13-mile drive from our house.

When Major was younger, we’d let him run off the leash and wear out his energy on trails like these. He’d never go too far ahead of us or stay too far behind, but with his nose to the ground, he’d enjoy the adventure. Now, at almost seven and a half, Major’s energy wanes more quickly. Yet, he’s still an explorer and always plays around in the water if he can get to it.

Thankfully, the boys didn’t resist the hike. They didn’t even complain. Perhaps they too realized the air in our house had become stale and a walk in the fresh air would do them some good.

It still looks like winter in places where we live, but spring is poking through. There were little tufts of green scattered throughout the forest. In a matter of weeks, green will replace all the brown and create a canopy of shade over the trails.

I thought this felled tree looked like a dragon’s head.

A quick song for the forest animals:

We went roughly three miles, and honestly, we could’ve stayed out longer. We have all kinds of time on the weekends since we can’t visit my dad and everything is closed (rightfully so).

Today we get back to homeschooling, working from home, and taking almost-daily trips to the UT Cancer Institute. I have no idea how long this quarantine will continue, but I have a sneaking suspicion that our spring semester will end like this – communicating online and participating in virtual classrooms. It’s not a huge adjustment for us since we’ve been homeschooling since 2012, but it’s not what we prefer.

If you’d told me 2020 was going to look like this, I never would’ve believed you. How is it only March?

A Midday Escape

Yesterday was a bad day of school. Those days happen. Sometimes it’s on account of bad moods, other times it’s that the level of exhaustion is so high that we just can’t get it together. Yesterday was a perfect mixture of poor attitude, fatigue, and being so done with the school year that the finish line is close but not close enough.

So today, after math and French, we ran off to the mountains. Everything else could wait.

The mountains were particularly tempting to visit because it’s FINALLY warm. Maybe our month of cold snaps has passed.

Days like this are valuable to me. It’s partly why I love homeschooling — the freedom to GO and DO is too hard to resist.

After our hike we visited the Townsend Wye so the boys could skip rocks and I could sit still for a while and listen to the rushing water.

I love this place, particularly when it’s not swarming with tourists. Come late-May, this river will be full of swimmers, tubers, and kayakers and we’ll have to run off to a lesser-known spot.

But today? It was all ours.

We shared our space with the butterflies.

We lingered for a while longer, until hunger set in and everything had been explored.

We have about four more weeks of school and today seemed like exactly what we needed to re-energize our efforts. It’s the same story every April, and running off to the mountains seems to do the trick.

We also visited my father in law today, both on our way in and out of the national park since his house is on the way. If you are praying for him, please continue to do so. We are grateful for the time we have left to spend with him.

A Perfect Mother’s Day

First, a disclaimer: There was a time when I hated Mother’s Day. Specifically, 2002 and 2003 were the worst. When you struggle with infertility, Mother’s Day is a cruel reminder of what you cannot have. Equally, Mother’s Day can be unbearable when you’ve lost a child, lost your mother, or are grieving for other family related issues. So, this post is not made in vain. In fact, when Mother’s Day turned into a holiday I could indeed celebrate, it was not without a solemn reminder of those who are still waiting for a child of their own.

This year, Mother’s Day was exactly what I wanted and needed. After sleeping in and spending several hours in bed sipping coffee and watching reruns of The Golden Girls, I emerged from the bedroom and said, “Let’s go hiking!”

So we did.

Hiking on Mothers Day

Then we came home for lunch, dropped off the dog, and grabbed the canoe.

Canoeing on Mothers Day

I so dearly love East Tennessee.

Tennessee is beautiful

Chuck and Jeremy threw a few lines in the water. The fish were biting, but barely.

For dinner we grilled out and then I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies. I deflected all questions from the boys by referring them to their dad. I wanted to enjoy the company of my children but not be entirely responsible for them. They did their best not to argue with one another in my presence. I was impressed.

Their homemade Mother’s Day cards could not have been more accurate and in line with their personalities and relationship with me. Jeremy’s best line: “Also, always know when I’m in a bad mood it’s most likely that I’m just hungry and I don’t mean it.” 

Jeremy's Mothers Day card

Jackson’s best line: “I love you as much as God.” 

Jackson's Mothers Day card

Truly, Mother’s Day was a blessing. My cup overflows.

Nature Love

We’ve settled into a summer routine of sorts. Math drills in the morning, then chores, then sporadic times of electronics and playing outside. Meals whenever. I’m saying yes more than I’m saying no, which seems like a fair deal for summer break.

I woke up yesterday morning itching to go outside, so we loaded up and drove to a nearby nature center for hiking and exploring.

nature hike

Bertha Elizabeth

cemetery from the 1800s

paddle boarding

Whenever we reached an overlook, even Major was curious.

over the edge

taking his dog for a walk

quarry reflection

Cooling off

The hike was longer than the boys expected, but reaching the quarry at the end was worth it. Major especially enjoyed the water break.


We knew the break in the rain was brief, so we took the short opportunity on Saturday to get outside and enjoy the unseasonable 70-degree weather. It was perfect, though a touch humid. (Humidity in January?) We found a very short paved trail that took us atop a beautiful overlook. Even though the hike was quite short, a certain six-year-old somebody barely made it. For as muscular as he is, the boy has the speed and endurance of a sloth.Path at Look Rock

Look Rock

Mossy moss

Hairy moss

the view



Jeremy's Close Up

Boy and a stick

My Backyard

Cumberland Mountain/by Adam Brimer

Okay, it’s not officially my backyard, but you get the gist. I spent way too long online last night rummaging through the Knoxville News Sentinel and other local publications looking for all the usual things – locally owned boutiques, farmer’s markets, and where to find the best sushi. I stumbled upon a Hike of the Month series through the newspaper and got all giddy thinking about playing outside. (The above photo was from the October 2010 Hike of the Month along the Cumberland Trail. Click on the photo to see the entire gallery.)  Jeremy’s asked me every day since Sunday if we can “go to the mountains.” I’ve explained to him all the reasons why we can’t yet (rainy weather, still unpacking, don’t want to get lost right after moving here), but that hasn’t kept him from asking. He’s a little outdoorsman, which means we’re raising him right.

Jackson, as always, goes along for the ride. He’s just happy to see his toys again.

SIDEBAR on Jack: Thanks to Agnes from Despicable Me, he’s started using her “I accidently closed my eyes” excuse.  (That line comes in around the 3:13-minute mark on this video montage all about Agnes. Gosh darn cute, if you ask me.)


Anyway, Lil’ Jack doesn’t say it quite right but any time he drops something, breaks something, says a naughty word, copies his brother, spills his cup, runs into the wall (yes, really) or anything else you can think of, he immediately covers it with, “It was ask-a-dently, Mom! Ask-a-dently!” I need to get video of this.

The good news is that I’m almost entirely unpacked. There are fewer than 10 boxes left in this house and I intend to finish today. Since this house has 400 more square feet than our previous one, the formal living room as no furniture in it. No, strike that. It has an ottoman and a step stool. But other than that, it’s empty. Corey and Alex are coming for a visit this weekend (yay for our first company!) so she and I plan to hit up the local thrift and consignment shops for modest pieces to make the room cozy.

Don’t worry. Pictures are coming.