Wednesday, January 30, 2013

It's Official

I skipped over an important milestone this month, the swearing in of the 108th General Assembly, a group of men and women that includes my husband, Jason. 

Anyone who knows our family knows that the year 2012 was filled from beginning to end with endless campaigning and sacrifices of family time.  The challenges made us stronger and we also had the chance to expand our world by meeting new people and making lifelong friends, many of whom worked tirelessly to help Jason succeed, and our appreciation for our community has grown as a result.

Earlier this month, Jason was sworn in and Sophie and I were able to be with him on the House floor along with his mother, Mary.  My parents were able to be there as well, watching from the balcony above the House floor. 

Taking the oath of office

Sophie really was happy for her dad, I swear.
We knew it would be next to impossible for our fun-loving toddler to sit quietly for nearly two hours, so she got a special treat, a lollipop, to keep her happy.  A reporter asked Jason about it after the ceremony and that resulted in a brief mention in The Tennessean the next day. 
The sucker that grabbed the attention of The Tennessean
This week marks the official start of session for lawmakers in Tennessee.  We know we'll see less of Jason for the next several months, but there are many rewards that come side by side with the challenges.  We're looking forward to seeing where this road takes us!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mountain Getaway

After a horrendous virus last week had me down for the count, I returned to work for all of two days only to take off Thursday after work for Gatlinburg with my parents and Sophie.  Jason had a legislative retreat for new members in Knoxville, so we figured it was a great excuse to have the whole family head that way and make a weekend of it.  

We made our way to our cabin on Thursday night, arriving around midnight.  We bought a DVD player for the car last week and Sophie watched approximately 999 million episodes of Cat in the Hat on the drive there, staying up the entire time.  It snowed quite a bit (by Tennessee standards) and, when we got up Friday morning, Sophie walked outside to see snow.  

She was enthralled!  All weekend, she kept touching the snow and ice in complete wonder.  

The view from our cabin was beautiful, even if the terrain was a little treacherous. 

The last time we visited Gatlinburg, Sophie was a newborn and I tucked her into her Bjorn and dragged her with me everywhere.  This time, we knew we'd have fun doing more kid-centric activities.  

Friday, we spent a few hours at Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies.  It was really entertaining for all of us, but especially Sophie.  She especially loved the underwater tunnel (walking under sharks, stingrays, turtles and all kinds of fish) Stingray Bay, the Penguin Encounter, and petting the horseshoe crabs.  

Up close and personal in Stingray Bay
Hands-on Discovery Center with Horseshoe Crabs

We had a quick lunch at a restaurant nearby and by that time, Jason had made it to Gatlinburg from Knoxville to join us.  Mom and I snuck off to a local spa for a couple of hours, leaving the men in charge of Sophie.  Magical! 

On Saturday, we split up with Jason and me taking Sophie to an indoor water park and mom and D2 (my stepdad, Jack) exploring Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.  We chose Wild Bear Falls for its proximity to our cabin and we were thrilled with the choice.  Kids under three are free, so at $18.95 per person, we spent nearly half a day at the park and definitely got our money's worth.  I wish I had pictures to show what a ridiculously fun time we had, but we were too busy playing in the water.  Sophie must have jumped in the "big kid" pool 200 times, with the smile on her face getting bigger by the minute.  She has no fear, which scares us as parents and leaves me in awe of her.  Formal swim lessons are definitely in her immediate future.  Less than five minutes after we left the water park, we looked in the back seat to see this: 

A sign of a good time.  After a serious nap, we ventured out to Ober Gatlinburg, just a mile or so from our cabin, to take the Aerial Tramway into downtown.  We met my mom and D2 for dinner at a great restaurant, Park Grill, where Sophie happily entertained everyone while we waited for a table.  I can't say enough great things about how family-friendly every place we visited was.  After dinner, Jason and I had one last cocktail before riding the tram back up the mountain while my parents took care of bedtime duty. 

Ms. Hollywood and Me at Park Grill

None of us were ready for the weekend to come to an end, so we made one last stop at Flapjack's on our way out of town on Sunday morning.  Poor Sophie had to share the backseat with a large suitcase.  One day soon, we'll say goodbye to my tiny little hybrid and welcome a larger (but slightly less gas-guzzling vehicle than Jason's very large SUV) second car to our family.  Until then, this is how we roll. 

P.S. We did fasten her safety belts before driving away!

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Thank goodness for people in this world who are truly organized and are willing to share their ideas and expertise with people like me who become overwhelmed or lose momentum mid-project and end up even less organized than I started.

My latest organization obsession is Sophie's playroom.  Over the course of 26 months, we accumulated hundreds of toys and they're becoming increasingly heavy on small parts or just generally huge in size.  We bought gigantic storage tubs initially, and most of her toys fit in them for a long time although she couldn't access them without having one of us take them out for her.  As her toys started coming with more and more parts, they got lost in the deep black hole of the big bins. 

I searched online for solutions and came up with many pricey alternatives to the big tubs until, finally, I discovered a blogger who came up with this brilliant and low-cost (relative to the alternatives!) solutions that I'm using as my inspiration:

I ordered two of the bookshelves from Ikea for $59 each.  Because Nashville doesn't have an Ikea store, I ordered them through ModerNash, a company that picks up Ikea orders in Atlanta and delivers them to their Nashville warehouse.  I paid a total of $40 for ModerNash's service.  You can opt to pay additional fees for assembly and home delivery, but I'm hedging my bets that Jason and I can put these shelves together. 

Now I'm on the lookout for cute storage bins at Target and beyond and fabric for "bench" seating on top of the shelves when they're laid horizontally.

Maybe a combination of economical but colorful bin like these:
ClosetMaid Cubeicals® Fabric Drawer Fuschia
With a couple of fun bins like this one thrown into the mix:

Skip Hop Zoo Storage Bin - Owl

Thank you to Jen at iheart Organizing for the great idea!  Follow her at

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Walden Farms, October 2012

*Originally posted November 1, 2012

I've been thinking a lot lately about happiness.  More specifically, I've been thinking about how I have felt happy so often lately.  That may seem odd, but it turns out I don't think I have felt truly happy in a long time until recently.  

Last night we took Sophie trick-or-treating for the first time, along with her older cousins.  She was a little unsure at first, but her cousins helped show her the ropes and soon she was all smiles.  I found myself smiling almost constantly, watching Sophie have so much fun and even eating a piece of candy.  

Last weekend, Sophie and I had a ridiculously fun Saturday.  I pushed her in the jogger for a run after breakfast, stopping at the horse barn at Ellington Ag Center to pet and "hut" (hug) the horses.  Then we headed to Monkey Joe's in Cool Springs, where Sophie had the time of her life jumping and running through obstacle courses and going down the big slides - all things she's too young to do, but has no fear.  I bargained with her that, if she took a nap, we could go see "amals" (animals) in the afternoon.  She agreed, and when she woke, we headed to Pumpkinfest in Franklin to meet several friends and their children where, thank goodness, I was able to live up to my promise as they had ponies to ride, a petting zoo and more.  

 Pumpkinfest, October 2012

Again, I smiled so much, my face hurt.  It was so fun watching her go down the big kid slide (20 feet tall!) over and over, then asking me if she could complete an obstacle course that the operator informed me was much too difficult for a little girl like Sophie.  I told him if she felt like she could do it, I would give her the opportunity to try.  And she did it!

Pajama Day, Halloween 2012

The thing is, I have battled anxiety for a while, although I didn't have a name for what it was I was feeling until recently.  It held me back from truly feeling joy, made me scared of things that I shouldn't have been and kept me from enjoying so many things about being the parent of an amazingly fun and smart and crazy toddler.  By addressing it and working on tackling it, I have rediscovered what it feels like to be happy.  And I don't want to miss out on another minute of that.