A Day in the Ozarks

I know it seems like I start just about every blog post this way, but….it’s been a while, guys! I have been so busy with work, home, and mommin’ that when I get a few minutes to myself I tend to just sit there…in a vegetable state. I am mentally wore out!

So quick life update:

*Asa is going to play T-ball this summer! I cannot wait!

*Asa has had the flu this past week so our house has been on lock down and fumigated with Lysol multiple times. The rest of us so far have escaped the bug!

*We took the boys to see Avengers LIVE this weekend! They loved it…and I loved watching them! It was worth it to see the excitement on their faces! Be jealous, Uncle Tadd!

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A few weekends ago, Bray and I had a small day getaway to our home away from home…the Ozarks! We did a lot of exploring throughout the day and I was so exhausted when we finally made it home.

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We started out at Sam’s Throne. First off, this area was confusing to me. You pull in and there is a parking area and a gated road. We couldn’t figure out if we were supposed to walk or drive down the road. We ended up walking just to be safe. Turns out, you can definitely drive down but it isn’t a long walk regardless.

The road takes you through the campground. I thought that it was a neat little camping area. I wouldn’t mind a night or two stay there as long as it is on the cooler side. It was a primitive campground with no electricity or running water. Vault toilets only (which I used and cuddos to the park ranger for that area because they were exceptionally clean!).

At the end of the road is the trailhead. It winds around to a bluff overlooking the Ozarks . Bray did what Bray does best and scared me to death by creeping too close to the edges!

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Being his silly self! I took a picture of him taking a picture of me! I was not flattered to find out I was his impromptu model for the day.

Being his silly self! I took a picture of him taking a picture of me! I was not flattered to find out I was his impromptu model for the day.

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We sat here a while and just enjoyed the scenery and the quiet. It really is great to bundle up and go when there is no one else around.

We met my mom and dad back in Jasper at the Ozark Cafe. I really cannot say too many good things about this place! I had a burger…it was amazing. My mom had a salad..it looked amazing. I have been following them on social media ever since we left. I cannot wait to get back up there to eat! Their specials look amazing. Have I made my point with the word “AMAZING”!

FYI: My parents happened to be up there looking for cabins for the Elk Festival closer to Jasper. We usually stay in Boxley Valley which is the absolute best. But for this, they were looking for something more conveniently located. So, if you have a cabin in Jasper, let me know and you could be my new favorite! I might even use the word “amazing” for you!

After lunch, we headed to Twin Falls at Camp Orr. I think Bray and I have debated this over and over. (I won, of course!) These falls are also referred to as Triple Falls…but according to the signage and a map on Camp Orr’s website, they are called Twin Falls. I go above and beyond to prove my point.

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This was absolutely the easiest hike to do…not the easiest to get to though. Do not try to go down this road unless you have a four-wheeled drive vehicle.

YOU. WILL. NOT. MAKE. IT. OUT.

Definitely a kid friendly hike and we will be taking the boys there in the near future.

Since we were already down in this hole, I had Bray drive on down to the Kyle’s Landing campgrounds. I had a hankering to see the river and I was glad we went. The water was blue and clear and perfect! If it hadn’t been so cool, I would have been happy to take my shoes off and wade in!

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I thought that the campground would make a good option if we get to looking for one. This appeared to be where the park rangers stable their horses and this campground is horse friendly for those that like to bring their horses for trail rides. I, for one, would not want to drag a horse trailer down in that valley.

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We drove over to Boxley Valley because that is always a must to see the elk when we are in the area.

My awesome photography skills! Bray had jumped out of the truck to get a picture with the “real” camera.

My awesome photography skills! Bray had jumped out of the truck to get a picture with the “real” camera.

As we made our initial sweep through the valley, Bray started hollering that there was a baby elk in a barn. I thought he was yanking my chain like he is known to do. But, sure enough on our second round through there was a baby elk that had gotten itself trapped behind the fencing at the Old Barn. We drove on over to Ponca to the Elk Education Center and let them know. The lady informed us that she would call the Elk Biologist (like, for real, they have one of those and I want to know where I can sign up to be one too!).

Bray wanted to put her in the back of the truck and bring her home with us!

Bray wanted to put her in the back of the truck and bring her home with us!

We walked across the street real quick to Buffalo Outdoor Center and scored some snacks and a few new stickers.

Then, we drove up to Compton for the last hike of the day! Let me just say that we completely overestimated our abilities and underestimated the length and intensity of this trail. The initial goal was to go to Hemmed-In Hollow. That didn’t happen. We walked nearly an hour and a half before we came to the fork that took us to Hemmed-In or Goat Bluff Trail. We decided on Goat Bluff Trail since it was marked as moderate on All Trails instead of hard.

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It was the most breathtaking part of our whole day! It was a beautiful overlook of the Buffalo River! I could have sat there the rest of the day! I can’t imagine how pretty this will be come Fall!

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However, it was 4:30 pm by this point and we had a long trek (uphill) back. We were pushing it to get out of there by dark. Most of the way back wasn’t too bad until we came to a monster of a hill that was basically vertical. For some reason, Bray and I don’t remember that hill on the way down. I do remember seeing another couple and the woman was bent over breathing hard and the man was rubbing her back. That probably should have been a sign for me. That ended up being Bray and I on the way back. Exact imitations! I could barely lift my leg by this point to take another step. So, whoever you were on the trail…I feel ya!

We made it back to the truck just as the sun was set. It was pure torture to climb into Bray’s big ole truck! The good ole FitBit says that we walked nearly 9 miles that day!

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This area really is my happy place to be! We have seen so much already, but there is still so much more! If you have a suggestion on what we should see next, let me know!

Also, we are hopefully going to start kayaking the Buffalo again this summer. We’ve been out of the game since we started having kiddos. Tips on taking toddlers? Best stretch of river to get in and out at that is mostly kid friendly? Best swimming holes for little ones?

Do Go Chasing Waterfalls!

Have you ever had one of those weekends where it just refuels your soul? That was what this particular weekend was for me!

We had some good friends join us on this little outing…Trisha and Elijah. This trip was about the big boys and the little brothers had to stay home! Sorry guys!

We were looking for kid friendly hikes that were not too much of a distance away that the car trip was cumbersome for them. Bray pretty much was our tour guide and Trisha and I were just going with the flow.

Bridal Veil Falls

The first hike was at Bridal Veil Falls in Heber Springs. Not gonna lie…the weather started out less than ideal. Thanks to Trisha for remembering to bring everything that I didn't think about…like a poncho! It eventually quit raining and allowed us to really enjoy our time here.

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Everything that Bray researched on this one said that this was a kid friendly hike. I would disagree, but that could also be my way overprotective mother hen showing. It was a narrow path with drop offs that the kids could have easily fell down if they weren’t paying attention.

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It was a great little hike though. It was very short and to the point. When you first arrive, there is a lookout deck over the falls. After we had our fill there, we winded down the hill to the base of the falls.

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The really cool part was the walkway behind the falls! It made for a really neat experience!

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We climbed the massive hill back to the top of the falls. Trisha collected ground cover as we went…only to have Elijah pitch it over the edge of the deck later! Bless her! She was loving that stuff!

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Trisha is one of those fearless souls who is up for anything! She was the only one brave enough to go out to the edge to take photos. I’m pretty sure Bray and I both held our breath until she was safely back by us!

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The boys found a little overhang and pretended they were black jaguars for a little bit!

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And, ran then ran through all of the puddles before we loaded back into the car!

Mirror Lake Falls

We next headed to Mountain View to the Mirror Lake Falls. This was when we fell straight into Narnia under the White Witch’s reign! All we were missing was Mister Tumnus to greet us!

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This small hike was so worth it in the snow! It was magical and otherworldly as the snow was falling down and we were the only ones around. There are ruins of an old mill that looked stunning with the falls in the background. I felt that this trail was very kid friendly so Bray did good on this one. It just requires a little more supervision towards the end of the trail closer to the falls.

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I’d love to bring both boys back to this one when it warms up. There are concrete pads in the water (from the old mill) that make the perfect spot for the boys to splash around in the water without technically swimming or having the fear of the current taking off with them. They would have such a blast!

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Back Home

By the time that we made it back home, everything was covered with a huge dusting of snow! We still had to skidaddle over to Jonesboro to pick up Hawk from Bray’s parents house. We didn't actually play in the snow until Sunday morning after we discovered that church was canceled. Here is basically how it went….Asa loved it, Hawkins hated it. The boys ride-on Ranger died so therefore no more fun was to be had!

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We spent the entire weekend in God’s glory outside and it made my heart full! Nothing quite restores me as being outdoors in our Heavenly Father’s Creation. Bray encourages people all the time to get out and explore. I think that he just wants people to feel the restorative joy that we get from these kinds of experiences. It may be a phase or it may be permanent, but he has really gotten the hiking bug and I am not going to complain. I am loving it as much as he is even if I’m not quite as expressive about it.

My prayer for you this week is that you find something that gives you joy like no other and get out and do it.

Glory Hole

Bray and I had the opportunity to steal away for the weekend and try out all of our new hiking goodies that we got for Christmas. We had such a good time with just the two of us! Much needed Bray-Jordan time! We ended up at the Glory Hole around the Buffalo National River.

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It has been rainy and yucky around here for what seems like forever. On our drive up, the fog was so thick that you could barely see a few feet in front of the car. The Boxley Valley area that we were in had freezing fog over night and it made the trees gorgeously covered in ice.

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We used the recent poor weather to our advantage because we pretty much had the whole trail to ourselves and the water was flowing something fierce. It made for an impressive sight with the falls!

Top side….

Top side….

…bottom side. 

…bottom side. 

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Bray is always teasing me about being a clutz and threatening to walk off if I fall. Well joke was on him because he nearly fell twice on this one! I might have gloated a little..

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I loved all of the hand prints on the cave wall! I suggested to Bray that we put our prints up too…he didn’t see the point. I suggested that it was a romantic gesture…then he really didn’t see the point! Insert EYE ROLL!

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We had fun exploring around the falls for a while. We took a quick break…ate some beef jerky…watched to make sure Big Foot didn’t take off with my Jack Links…successfully tinkled in the woods without soaking myself…all around successful morning!

Oh! And, we saw this herd of about twenty-five elk! 

Oh! And, we saw this herd of about twenty-five elk! 

Let's Play Catch Up

Y’all!!!!! I am so behind on posts that it isn’t even funny! So here is just a really quick run down on the things that I have not posted on… WARNING: This post is long and mostly pictures!

1.Pumpkin Hollow: We always do Pumpkin Hollow with the Robys! This year was no different!

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2. Halloween: It was a hot and rainy affair! My kids did not even manage to stay in their costumes for me to see them when I got home from work. But, they enjoyed playing all the games at the church fall festival.

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3. Foothills Festival: More pony rides! That is about all we did.

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4. Davidsonville State Park: We couldn’t really get away for a more extensive hike, but this is a nice and easy one that the kids could do close to home. The fall colors were just changing and it was beautiful!

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Asa loves his Camelbak from Uncle Tadd and Aunt Kenzie that he received for his birthday!

Asa loves his Camelbak from Uncle Tadd and Aunt Kenzie that he received for his birthday!

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5. Petit Jean State Park: Bray and I stole away for the day and went to Petit Jean! It was beautiful! We didn’t get to do all that we wanted to here so we will definitely be returning! Huge shout out to Rock City Outfitters for the shirts! They made the day just a bit more extra!

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We sort of walked through a wedding and didn’t realize it…oops!

We sort of walked through a wedding and didn’t realize it…oops!

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6. Tadd and Mekenzie’s visit home:

We had some great pics of the kids made with my mom and dad! Huge thanks to Sarah Orrick Photography for her help and her time!

We had some great pics of the kids made with my mom and dad! Huge thanks to Sarah Orrick Photography for her help and her time!

Missed Uncle Tadd and Aunt Kenzie’s Welcome Home Party for a visit to the ER for possible broken arm….it wasn’t broke thank goodness! After all the theatrics, I look up to see him swinging his arm around to hit the curtains separating the stations. He looked at me and said we could go home now because he was all better.

Missed Uncle Tadd and Aunt Kenzie’s Welcome Home Party for a visit to the ER for possible broken arm….it wasn’t broke thank goodness! After all the theatrics, I look up to see him swinging his arm around to hit the curtains separating the stations. He looked at me and said we could go home now because he was all better.

The rest of the night brought the stomach bug to my mom, Mekenzie, and Asa! We stayed quarantined at the house most of the day which made for cranky boys. This is them kissing and making up.

The rest of the night brought the stomach bug to my mom, Mekenzie, and Asa! We stayed quarantined at the house most of the day which made for cranky boys. This is them kissing and making up.

The kids helped mom decorate. Hawkins licked the glitter off of the ornaments….

The kids helped mom decorate. Hawkins licked the glitter off of the ornaments….

The boys wrestled with Uncle Tadd…because that’s what all the best uncles do!

The boys wrestled with Uncle Tadd…because that’s what all the best uncles do!

And Falyn was her adorable self! Making my heart melt every second!

And Falyn was her adorable self! Making my heart melt every second!

7. We made Christmas Ornaments with our friend Rowan:

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8. Church Christmas Program:

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The most handsome shepherds!

The most handsome shepherds!

I’m convinced this is exactly what Mary and Jesus looked like! They were perfect!

I’m convinced this is exactly what Mary and Jesus looked like! They were perfect!

And, the most precious angels you ever did see!

And, the most precious angels you ever did see!

9. Silver Dollar City: We took Asa to see the the lights for just some Mom-Dad-Asa time! Little brother stayed with Grammy and Poppy.

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10. The Christmas Lights at Batesville:

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I think my New Year resolution should be to stay on top of these posts! I hope that you and yours had a very Happy Fall, a very Merry Christmas, and a very Happy New Year!

Jackson Farms and Lake Charles Fall Festival

I am so behind on updating on all our Fall shenanigans!

A few weekends ago, the boys had a fall mini session with Sarah Orrick. They turned out SO good! It’s one of those weepy moments when you don’t realize how big your kiddos have gotten until they are staring back at you from a picture!

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Sarah worked so good with them and we are going back to her for more pictures whenever Falyn comes in from Colorado! Go check her out at Sarah Orrick Photography on Facebook.

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After that…It was off to Jackson Farms Fall Festival! Seriously…WORTH.THE.MONEY!

The boys had so much fun! They had a big hay stack slide, corn pit, hay ride, tricycle races, petting zoo, corn maze, giant pumpkin sling shots, and so much more! Best part…it is like 3 miles from my house!

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I told you we go where the pony’s go!

I told you we go where the pony’s go!

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Got to be just like Poppy!

Got to be just like Poppy!

Can you tell who the favorite is? We make sure we take him with us wherever we go! He’s too good of a babysitter and watch dog!

Can you tell who the favorite is? We make sure we take him with us wherever we go! He’s too good of a babysitter and watch dog!

I love this picture!

I love this picture!

He was fascinated until he started trying to eat them!

He was fascinated until he started trying to eat them!

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I wish I would have known about it sooner so we could have spent more time here this fall! Here’s to hoping that they do it again next year!

After Jackson Farms, we went to the Lake Charles State Park Fall Festival. Pretty much saw all the same people there that were at Jackson Farms earlier…we all just migrated!

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My kids are such weirdos! Neither of them cared for the Smores…so guess who ate them? Yep! Momma! Not going to complain on that one…though my hips would probably disagree!

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Fall Weekend Madness!

This weekend was a busy one! We started trying to knock off some of the items on our Fall bucket list. But you know with me, nothing ever goes as planned!!

Friday, I left work a little early and picked up both my boys! Asa’s school was having a small fall festival at 4 o’clock on Friday night. After I picked Asa up…and fought the bus line and parents like me who were lost and didn’t know what they were doing (glad I don’t have to do that every day!)…I took the boys to the small playground at the park. I tried to coax them into eating Subway, but who wants to eat when there is a slide to play on!

 
 
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We waited at the park for a bit until Bray made it from work. Then, we let Asa loose to play games at the Fall Festival. This child is only shy when it suits him and I basically had to drag him to the different games to play! His first stop was the preschool booth where we bought cotton candy…which I am told will be to fund bouncy houses at the end of the year! How fun!

 
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The boys ended up at Pa and Nan’s for the night. Bray and I had plans the next day to try and get up super early (like 3 am early) and drive to Petit Jean for a hike. Well…we overslept! Like, by 3 hours overslept! We threw a few places closer back and forth for a while and decided to just go to Pinnacle Mountain State Park instead.

As we were driving, I was being proactive and researching the trails. Both summit trails on the park’s website say strenuous. On Alltrails.com, it said that the West Summit trail was moderate versus the East Summit Trail being difficult.

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I’m just going to put this out there for ya! If you are rocking a mom bod like me…moderate does not mean slightly winded! Moderate means on the brink of death! It was a challenge! However… I came, I conquered, and I felt better about myself once it was all over!

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This was the worst part for me. My short legs could barely lift up high enough to climb over these.

This was the worst part for me. My short legs could barely lift up high enough to climb over these.

 
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Another word of advice…wear shoes that allow you good traction. I was rocking my Reebok’s and I slid too many times to count. I fell only once (by the Grace of God)! I embarrassed Bray to death! To be honest, it was a little mortifying. I wasn’t too upset about the fall. It was all of the people that were asking me if I was okay. I would be better if you pretend you just didn’t see that! Come on! Be decent human beings and walk away! Just kidding. If I was really hurt, I would have wanted someone to help. So…I am thinking some good hiking boots are in my near future! Wink wink to anyone that wants to buy me some! I’ve got my eye on the Northface Back-to-Berkley Boots!

The view was pretty. And, it could almost be serene at moments. But, there were just too many people around if you were looking for a little bit of peace to start your day. I did not adore this hike as much as I did the ones in the Ozarks. This one was still too much into civilization for me. When I can see seven year olds playing soccer at the base of the mountain and the Little Rock skyline, I am not submersed enough.

No idea who this is…but he had the cutest little dog.

No idea who this is…but he had the cutest little dog.

 
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Our t-shirts were from Outreach Apparel. They are a company that helps to support the International Justice Mission. IJM works to eliminate modern day slavery such as sex trafficking, violence against children, and forced labor. Head over here to check them out! I am all heart eyes over this sweatshirt and coffee cup! I need it for this Fall!

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Here are a few common etiquette issues that I want to mention. I feel like these are common sense but maybe I am wrong…

  1. Do not be blaring your music on your bluetooth speaker for everyone within a 5 mile radius. I did not come hike a mountain to listen to your Jamaican Reggae music!

  2. Clean up after your pets. Don’t get me wrong…I love dogs! I bet that I loved on just about every dog that was on that hike. But, what I do not love is dodging droppings the whole way down. If you are going to bring a pet, be prepared to clean up after it.

On our way off of the mountain, my in-laws text me to let me know that the little one was sick with vomiting and fever. Here we go again! I was never sick as a child and the capacity for illness with my two is overwhelming! I am beyond dreading this winter!

We were planning on taking to the Ghost of Davidsonville at Davidsonville State Park on Saturday night with another couple and their kiddo. That ended up not happening…obviously. I was so bummed that I missed it again this year. Oh well! Maybe we can catch the one at Powhatan next weekend.

Instead, we did another activity on my fall bucket list and we had a movie night. We only made it about 1/3 of the way through CoCo before both of my kids were disinterested. Asa also had a meltdown because Bray put the M&Ms in the popcorn! I don’t know why when I envision these things in my head they are picture perfect and everyone has a good time! I should be used to reality by now.

On Sunday, I stayed home with Hawk in case he was contagious. By Sunday afternoon, he had been fever and puke free all day so we decided to take the boys out for some fresh air at Lake Charles. We had a relaxing time just letting Asa and Hawk run and do their thing.

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On the way home from there, we stopped at Carey’s in Black Rock and picked up a few pumpkins to carve. We were almost home when Hawk got sick again! All in his car seat! I had to take that thing’s thousands of pieces apart so I could throw it in the washing machine with some Lysol!

So while the big boys carved pumpkins, mom cleaned up puke and gave Hawkins a bath. Bray decided to see if he could make something with the seeds. He found a recipe online and he basically candied them! So good!

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I was so thankful I had this throw away tablecloth at home. Made clean up much easier!

I was so thankful I had this throw away tablecloth at home. Made clean up much easier!

Bray couldn’t find just plain white candles at the store. So these have Brown Sugar Cinnamon candles in them that are in glass jars! We are classing it up a bit!

Bray couldn’t find just plain white candles at the store. So these have Brown Sugar Cinnamon candles in them that are in glass jars! We are classing it up a bit!

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We are busy-busy doing all sorts of fall things over the next couple of weeks! I can’t wait!

Asa turns 3!

How is this precious child already three years old?!

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It just seems like yesterday Bray and I were looking at a gummy bear version of him on our first ultrasound. We went through so much to have him that his birthday every year seems like a momentous occasion filled with so much deep meaning. I look at him and celebrate his life, but also mourn for the loss of his sweet baby features. I want to shield him from this world. I want to make every day full of sunshine and rainbows for him now while I can before he is old enough to determine the reality of this world. Nothing warms my heart more to hear him eating breakfast at the kitchen bar singing “The rainbow is a promise! The rainbow is a promise! Oh, yes it is! Oh, yes it is! The rainbow is a promise!”


He started his birthday morning by eating Pop Tarts in his jammies and dinosaur costume! This was seriously the best $5 I have ever spent! Both of my kids (or maybe me) have gotten endless entertainment out of this headband and clip-on tail!

We did not do much party wise for his birthday this year. We just had a very small get together of our family and closest friends. I basically just threw it together Friday night and we had his party Saturday morning.

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I did manage to order the cake ahead of time though. Score one for mom!

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He asked for a “zombie” cake which is his terminology for The Munsters! Elizabeth Goad at Goad Ala Moad delivered as usual! This child is such an old soul! He loves The Munsters and old Westerns! He will rarely watch an animated movie. He wants to see real people in his cinema.

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Since his birthday is in October and he wanted The Munsters on his cake, a Halloween theme was obvious. Like I said, I didn’t go crazy with it. Just enough that he felt like I really done it up.

All three of my boys snoozed the afternoon away once everyone left…Mom started laundry! (Story of my life!)

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After his party Saturday, we took him to the mall to get new tennis shoes for school….Grammy’s treat!

Side note: I have never taken either of my children to the mall.

As soon as we walked in, Asa yells “WHAT is this place?!” Of course we had to ride all of the cars!

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It took careful maneuvering on mine and mom’s part to keep him out of the germ infested play ground! I could practically see the flu, hep A, and strep germs all over the equipment!

We did let him play in the Halloween section against my better judgement. I was internally cringing the whole time convinced we would be bringing home a family of lice! So far…the coast is clear!

Afterwards, we stopped into Panera for dinner. My picky boy ate his whole bowl of Mac-n-Cheese and his yogurt!

His actual birthday was Tuesday and it was busy-busy-busy for him. He got to go to “Big Boy” school and he loved it! He adamantly reminded me to get his backpack!

His daddy is so proud of his joggers!

His daddy is so proud of his joggers!

My mom took cookies to his class. They gave him a crown and sang happy birthday to him! Mrs. Rita sent me a message that he already had an accident report on his first day (he fell on the play ground)! Welcome to Pre-k! We are so thankful to have Mrs. Rita as a teacher! Asa seems to love school so far and tells me every morning “I go there!”.

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When he got home, he rode his new ranger around the yard for a while. He spent time with Bray at the park and Bray let him run wild for a while.

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Then, he snuggled with his momma to cap the night off! I just sat there melancholy because he has lost that baby smell. I just stared and savored that sweet boy as much as I could and reminded myself to not ever take him for granted.

Photo by Brittany Foster.

Photo by Brittany Foster.

We love you, Asa Oliver!

Buffalo River National Park

We spent a few weekends ago with family and friends in the Buffalo National River Park. We rented a really neat cabin that was dead center to all of the elk action and easy accessible to some hiking trails.

We drove down on Friday afternoon and spent the evening relaxing. Around dusk, we went out to watch the elk grazing in the valley of the mountains.

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Saturday, the grandparents watch the kiddos and us “adults” went on a couple of hiking trails. The first one was the Whitaker Point/ Hawksbill Crag trail. This is not a trail for small children…just a heads up. It is on the edge of a cliff. The boys (and Sara!) were scaring us enough as it was by getting too close to the edge.

Rocking her Little Hobby Homestead hat. And, scaring the pudding out of me by getting too close to the edge!

Rocking her Little Hobby Homestead hat. And, scaring the pudding out of me by getting too close to the edge!

The view was breathtaking though! It was overcast and was misting a little. I could have sat there all day and enjoyed the quiet.

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I may be the biggest cliche ever. Sitting all zen like on the edge of a giant over hang with my Camelback and trail mix like I do this all the time!

I may be the biggest cliche ever. Sitting all zen like on the edge of a giant over hang with my Camelback and trail mix like I do this all the time!

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As we were leaving, an older couple…and obvious hikers extroidionaire…suggested that we try either the Magnolia Falls or Lost Valley trails next.

We headed back to the cabin after the Hawksbill Crag hike to eat some lunch. We rested around for a while and then we drove into Ponca to visit the Elk Center. It has a small little museum attached to it with a Kiddie Corner that Asa loved. He had such a good time checking everything out.

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I love this picture of A and my dad.

I love this picture of A and my dad.

The grandparent’s took the babes back to the cabin while we decided to try the Lost Valley trail. We were not disappointed! It was almost as awe inspiring as Hawksbill Crag, but in a completely different way.

At the Natural Bridge, Tyler and Bray scaled the waterfall and crawled through the cave. Sara, ever the adventurist, followed right behind them. My mom and dad said that this was an easy trail so I just had on a pair of Chacos and sweats. Not exactly conducive to splunking!

We ran into another adventurous older couple while we were at this point. They hung back with me and thought the boys were crazy for going into that cave. I walked with them for a ways until we ran into Sara and the guys on the other side.

After moving on from the Natural Bridge, we came to Eden Falls. It was mostly dried up while we were there. Just thin rivulets of water were running down the rock. I can’t wait to see it when it is going full blast!

I love that you can relate to the height of these falls through this image. Bray is a little taller than 6 ft and he looks so tiny standing there.

I love that you can relate to the height of these falls through this image. Bray is a little taller than 6 ft and he looks so tiny standing there.

We continued on the try and get to the “big” cave that the couple from Hawksbill Crag was telling us about. When we finally made it up the nearly vertical incline, we came upon it and a handful of people at the entrance. Everyone had been too nervous to go in and find the opening that was supposed to lead to a room inside the caves. Of course, the boys take off…armed with an iPhone flashlight to explore. One of the attendees was armed with an actual flashlight so that helped a little.

I caught Bray mid jump so he looks like something out of a horror film here and ruined a perfectly neat picture.

I caught Bray mid jump so he looks like something out of a horror film here and ruined a perfectly neat picture.

I overheard the older gentleman from before telling the others sitting there that if they waited a minute that there were a few guys behind him (Tyler and Bray) that they could use for guinea pigs. Apparently, his feelings were justified.

I will give him this though…he was right in the middle of it and followed them in.

Sara and I hung back on this one. We visited with a lady from Florida while they did their exploring. The guys finally found the opening that they were looking for and had to climb on their hands and knees before it opened up into the bigger room. Bray said that it was probably 20 foot wide with a 40 foot ceiling which housed a waterfall. He said it was spectacular!

We are planning to go back and I am going to dress appropriately. I am kicking myself for not being able to go in as it is!

Sunday, we fixed a big breakfast, packed up, cleaned the cabin, and took off home to get ready for the work week.

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I think my husband said it best:

One of the best parts of trips back home from weekend getaways is getting to talk about the time spent with your family. I cherish those moments. Laugh and have fun guys. God wants us to enjoy life and enjoy each other. Get out, enjoy your life with the people you love.
— Bray Brooks


COLORADO: Fresh Air and Fond Memories Served Daily

We finally were able to make some time to go see Tadd, Mekenzie, and Falyn in Colorado. To say we had an interesting time would be putting it mildly! We are essentially the Griswold's when we attempt any sort of family getaway.

Basically us...

Basically us...

The trip basically started out a disaster before we even left the house. Bray walked in from work on the phone with the car rental company. They overbooked the car rentals so they were informing us that they would not have one available to us when we arrived in Denver. They said that they would have one the next day and quadruple the price! So, the whole way to the Little Rock airport to fly out we were researching alternative methods to get to my brother's house.

They loved the airport!

They loved the airport!

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The winner: Greyhound bus!

Oh! But, the good times didn't stop there! When we landed in Denver, I tried to book an Uber or Lyft to get us to the hotel for the night... It said for me to wait 45 minutes...no driver ever accepted my request or showed up... It could be user error though since I am not entirely sure how it works. So, we ended up having to get a taxi and pay more than double the price of the Lyft.

Still not the best part... it is now 11:00 pm or so...and we get to the hotel, unload the luggage and car seats, wag two crying babies into the lobby...and our hotel reservation was cancelled. Who knows why? The only thing I can figure is when they were trying to get the car rental thing corrected that they also canceled our hotel along with the car reservation.

Now it is late at night...none of us have had any dinner...I have not bought any milk for Hawkins. We had the sweetest little taxi cab driver and he loaded us all back up and drove us to another hotel that we booked as we were driving down the road. He didn't charge us a dime! When we reached the Comfort Suites, the people were so good to us. They helped with the babies and got us some milk from the continental breakfast!

We got up super early the next morning to get a taxi to the bus station. Y'all! When we were in the station, I am pretty sure that we were in the bowels of Denver. It was absolutely disgusting. And, guess where my children kept trying to play?! In the FLOOR!!! I was so dreading what the bus was going to look like and the people that were going to be on it. Lo and behold! It was actually very clean and the people on the bus were not near as sketch as the people in the station.

We had a wonderful trip after that though...mostly!

We made it to Tadd and Mekenzie's and we had a great time visiting.

REUNITED! Sweet cousins!

REUNITED! Sweet cousins!

Tadd wanted to take Asa to the Dinosaur Museum in Fruita so that was the first thing on the agenda. Asa loved it! I think we were all hoping it was more like the Smithsonian of dinosaur museums...it wasn't. But, it was entertaining none the less. They had a sand table that you could make dinosaur prints in, an earthquake simulator, a pit that you could scavenge for fossils, a water feature that taught about building dams, and several animatronic dinosaurs.

I am so loving that they are near enough in size now that they can wear matching outfits! My husband thinks it is detrimental to their psychological health…

I am so loving that they are near enough in size now that they can wear matching outfits! My husband thinks it is detrimental to their psychological health…

That dinosaur behind him is completely disgusting…

That dinosaur behind him is completely disgusting…

He was terrified of this dinosaur….who knows why! He loved the one that looked like it was ripping anther one’s head off!

He was terrified of this dinosaur….who knows why! He loved the one that looked like it was ripping anther one’s head off!

How did we get such a cool aunt?!

How did we get such a cool aunt?!

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We stopped in at Bestslope Coffee Company. It was such a unique little coffee shop! It was in the cutest little house with the coolest concrete countertop bar that opened up to the outside. The gentleman introduced Mekenzie and I to a coffee called "Rosemary's Baby'. It is now my obsession! It is an iced coffee with almond and rosemary syrup finished off with some heavy cream! Mmm! I obviously cannot get one on a regular basis unless I can manage to travel 1200 miles to Fruita, CO every morning before 8 o'clock. I have made my own little substitute with Rosemary essential oil that will just have to work until I can get back.

All the Mmmms!!

All the Mmmms!!

This guy was seriously the coolest!

This guy was seriously the coolest!

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Hey! I’m actually in a photo!

Hey! I’m actually in a photo!

I love this image that Bray caught of Tadd and Hawk.

I love this image that Bray caught of Tadd and Hawk.

On the way back, we went to the Colorado National Monument. It was beautiful! We drove along some steep cliffs that made my stomach feel like it was in my throat!

Ignore the side mirror!

Ignore the side mirror!

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That night we went to a really cool restaurant called TacoParty in downtown Grand Junction. When they told me the place was called TacoParty, I was picturing something akin to a corny TexMex restaurant. This place was pretty fancy, or at least the food was. I almost felt bad for bringing my children. Most of the other folks in there looked like they had just gotten off work or were headed for a night out. And, here I am sitting in the corner with my hellion children that keep trying to pull down their wall decorations.

I’m not going to feel too bad about it though because the food was AMAZING and the waiter was very gracious with our children. I had a Pork Belly Taco and Bray had a Duck Confit Taco. The guac was pretty amazing too with radishes, puffed amaranth, and diced peaches mixed in.

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Afterwards, we went for gelato and ice cream at a really cute and quirky little parlor.

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My sweet niece with her oh so cute bottom teeth!

My sweet niece with her oh so cute bottom teeth!

Colorado seriously has the best parks that I have ever seen. We passed by several that had amazing playground equipment. That may seem like an odd thing to notice, but when you have a two year old screaming out the window that he NEEDS to play on that equipment (in a tone that suggests he might die if you don’t let him)…you notice!

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The big boys played Frisbee while moms and babes sat by and watched.

The big boys played Frisbee while moms and babes sat by and watched.

This is where the "mostly" part of our trip came in...Asa started running a fever sometime Friday night/ Saturday morning early. We gave him some Motrin and it seemed to do the trick and he was back to his normal self. Since he was better, we loaded up and went to Palisade to the Peach Festival. Those of you that know me know I am not a fruit person (unless you dice it up small and hide it in my guacamole like they did at TacoParty!). So...the peach festival wasn't really my cup of tea...but it was definitely Bray's glass of lemonade! Literally!

Peaches are Bray's favorite fruit! The man has been eating one or two nearly every day since they have been in season! He was beside himself at the festival. He got a huge glass of peach lemonade and peach pie with peach ice cream. He was in peach heaven!

By the time that we made it back to Tadd's house, Asa had started feeling bad again. His temp was up to 104 degrees! Mekenzie called a nurse friend and her pediatrician. They were sweet to try and help. But the final conclusion was to take him to an urgent care clinic in Grand Junction. They determined it was just a virus. Bet you can't guess where he picked that up at...bus station floor, anybody?!

Aunt Kenzie is a trooper though and she is the best play mate!

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By Sunday afternoon, Asa was feeling a tad bit better and we went to a really cool play place called Bananas. They had an arcade, putt-putt, go karts, bumper boats, and a water park. We played putt-putt golf and enjoyed our last night together.

Look at that back drop!

Look at that back drop!

This was as good as it was going to get as far as getting one with all three of them together. Sorry Grammy!

This was as good as it was going to get as far as getting one with all three of them together. Sorry Grammy!

 We already miss them like crazy and cannot wait to see them again! I miss that little girl so much that I can’t hardly even stand it! Fingers crossed that they will be in for Thanksgiving!

Thank you Tadd, Mekenze, and Falyn for such a good time! Love y’all bunches!

An Accidental Child-Free Weekend

This weekend was one of those weekends that reminds me that I am not a teenager anymore! It was fun filled...don't get me wrong...but this momma needs to be in bed by 8:30 at night!

Friday night, I dropped the babes off at my in-law's and met up with Bray at the Crowder concert in Jonesboro. I cannot even remember the last concert that I attended. For those of you who do not know, Bray is involved with By His Grace Entertainment which is a company that works to bring in Christian artists to local churches for concert and corporate worship. He attends these concerts on a regular basis to do his work for By His Grace. I typically am at home playing with monster trucks and snuggling babies in bed which is fine with me. (Side note: Just a tidbit on myself, I do not like my kids to be away from home at night. This was going to require them to stay over night. Major momma freak out! This time though, Bray acted like it was a very big deal that I attend and since it was so important to him, I did.)

John Tibbs (Photo courtesy of Evan Pierce)

John Tibbs (Photo courtesy of Evan Pierce)

JJ Weeks Band (Photo courtesy of Evan Pierce)

JJ Weeks Band (Photo courtesy of Evan Pierce)

I was not disappointed! The concert was fantastic! John Tibbs opened, followed by The JJ Weeks Band, and then Crowder. I don't know if it is scatter-brained mind (aka Mom Brain) or if it is because you do not see many Christian artists in the mainstream media, but I never know who sings what songs. I tend to know the songs by heart, but I couldn't match them up for ya! I came in to the concert with no idea what I was going to be hearing. Would you believe it if I told you I knew just about every song?! And the few that I didn't know, I loved... and are currently playing in my ear buds as a write this.

David Crowder (Photo courtesy of Evan Pierce)

David Crowder (Photo courtesy of Evan Pierce)

David Crowder (Photo courtesy of Evan Pierce)

David Crowder (Photo courtesy of Evan Pierce)

David Crowder (Photo courtesy of Evan Pierce)

David Crowder (Photo courtesy of Evan Pierce)

Photo courtesy of Evan Pierce

Photo courtesy of Evan Pierce

I also enjoyed getting to meet some of Bray's co-workers. I hear their names a lot in reference to a phone call or text, but Friday night was my first opportunity to meet them! They are a great group of people. If you feel like your church might be interested in having an artist perform a concert, then you need to get in touch with By His Grace Entertainment and let them help you out. You can get in touch with them on Facebook...or on their new website that will be completed shortly (www.ByHisGraceEntertainment.com).

Not an Evan Pierce photo! Just my husband acting like a wierdo with Crowder. Check out his Mario pin! Just noticed it when I was uploading this picture!

Not an Evan Pierce photo! Just my husband acting like a wierdo with Crowder. Check out his Mario pin! Just noticed it when I was uploading this picture!

Also, Bray was super excited to have a professional photographer at this concert! Evan Pierce took some stunning shots throughout the concert and he was nice enough to let me borrow them for this post! My pictures looked awful and Bray was not shy in letting me know so (amateur in the back with the iPhone!). You can check out Evan's work at www.evanpierceproductions.com or on Instagram.

I would like to encourage everyone to look into these artists! I am sure that you will not be disappointed!

On Saturday, we met up with some friends from church at the Memphis Redbirds game. We made a day of it and went shopping (mainly at IKEA). The Redbirds were having a Harry Potter theme night so obviously we had to have butter beer (basically a cream soda with whipped cream that they require you pay for with your first born son) and wands! The weather was a perfect 84 degrees! And, the night was finished up with fireworks shot off to music from the Harry Potter movies.

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This is where the accidental child-free weekend comes in because the plan was to pick them up after the game. When I looked at the clock and saw that it was 9:30 pm, I knew that they were more than likely asleep. After a quick text to the MIL, it was confirmed that they indeed were so we just left them there and I made a trip back to Jonesboro the next morning to pick them up. I think that they had an equally fun weekend. Made obvious by Asa as I walked in and his first words to me were "I don't want you to take me home!"

I wish I could upload a picture that my father-in-law sent me. Asa, not being well acquainted with suburbia, was peeing outside in the front yard! I told myself when I had children that I would refrain from posting their derrieres all over social media in order to remain tasteful. I don't care anything about seeing other people's children's backsides, so I can assume that other people do not want to see my children's. But lets just say, his little cute bootie was just a shining and there was perfectly cut grass, paved roads, and a multitude of houses in the background!

Y'all keep me in your prayers this week! Hawkins is turning the big O-N-E! My goodness where has the time gone! We will be having his party at our house this weekend and I have absolutely nothing done! The only thing that I managed to do is order his smash cake...which I need to call and double check on now that I am thinking about it!

I am a big promoter of trying to make everything fair (just ask my mom). Asa had a big first birthday party..and I feel that Hawkins deserves to have a nice partyl. I try to steer clear of the "second child" syndrome...but it is a very real, very unintentional habit that I try to not get sucked in to and fail miserably! I just do not seem to have the time or energy with two babes that I seemed to have had when I just had the one little boy. That's understandable...right? Is that a good enough excuse...probably not!

So keep me in mind as I try to throw this together as this week goes along!

God Bless!!!

 

A Little Time To Get Away

Now that the remodel is over and we are starting to settle in, my next hurdle is getting the "homestead" up and running. I'm obviously not made of money so we can't just throw everything together at once. Fences cost money. Shelters cost money. Animals cost money. Feed cost money.

Our first project is going to be to start on our raised garden bed. I am a garden novice so I have no idea when the best time to plant is or even what to plant. We are winging it! I do have a feeling though that starting to plant at the beginning of June is kind of on the late side. So, instead of starting out seeds, I am mostly going to go with started plants and see how that goes. Hopefully, we will have plenty of harvest! And, hopefully we will have something to can...which I have also never done!

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So far so good. Everything seems to be growing in. Now... if I can keep Asa from pulling up my corn because he thinks it is grass!

I am trying to come up with some relevant content to keep the blog as up-to-date as possible and not go 6 months without posting. I am sorry if it seems like a giant mismatch of house, mom-life, church, etc.

As I mentioned in the last post, we are trying to spend a lot of family time together. Time I feel like we neglected while we were working on the house. We have spent the last few weekends solely focusing on our two year old. The first mini trip that we took was to the Memphis Zoo. This child loves animals! I figured, he would love the zoo! Boy was I disappointed! The only time that he really lit up excited was to see the Hippos and the farm animals. I paid $40 for this child to look at animals he gets to see all of the time.

He kept saying that he wanted to see the Zebras over and over as we were looking through exhibits. I was having serious proud mom thoughts (Hello! Black Rock Zebra over here!). But, when we got to the zebras, that babe just shrugged his shoulders and was ready to see something else. Balloon deflated!

Last weekend, we took that sweet boy of ours to Branson, MO. If anyone knows us very well, my children do not ride well in the car! We limit our trips to less than a 20 minute radius from our house. They will scream and cry from the time we get in the car until we make it to our destination. He actually did well until we were about 2 1/2 hours into the trip.

Asa starts telling me that he was getting sick on a curvy part of our journey. We pulled over on a gravel road so that he could stretch his legs and get some fresh air. Him and his daddy were walking up and down the road, and then Asa came running to me to show me something in his hands (never a good thing from toddler)! They had been catching rollie pollies! I swear it was one of the sweetest and most memorable moments for me. And, we hadn't even made it our actual vacation yet. So, after a handful of rollie pollies and a few dozen "flowers" (ahem..weeds) later, we were back on our way.

Shopping at the Landing. He got a new "fishing" hat.

Shopping at the Landing. He got a new "fishing" hat.

Friday night we did Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede! My little cowboy loved it! I dropped $30 on the souvenir photo...because what crazed mom doesn't! And, one of the pretty cowgirls tossed Asa a flower from one of her victories over the North.

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He talked all day about seeing these horses! Every stop we made he asked if this is where they were.

He talked all day about seeing these horses! Every stop we made he asked if this is where they were.

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The initial plan for Saturday was Dogwood Canyon in the morning and Silver Dollar City in the afternoon. I'm not sure what was going on with Asa, but Saturday was not his day! The first, and last, time that we had been to Dogwood Canyon, I was very pregnant with Asa.

We quickly found out that Dogwood Canyon was going to be special to Bray and I, and we could not wait to bring our future children here and share it with them.

The new mill at Dogwood Canyon.

The new mill at Dogwood Canyon.

For those of you that do not know, Dogwood Canyon is a nature park owned by Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops. The place is absolutely stunning! There are a multitude of activities to do from hiking, horseback riding, fishing, and guided tram tours. On our first trip there, the mill was under construction so we didn't get to completely experience everything the last time. I was completely blown away by its finished state. Just like everything else that Johnny Morris puts his hands on, it turned out beyond expectation. All of his properties are so family oriented and can easily be described as works of art for outdoors men.

This tree house was built by Treehouse Masters on Animal Planet.

This tree house was built by Treehouse Masters on Animal Planet.

We took a tram again this time because this is the only way that you get to see some of the animals (again...I thought Asa would love it...he didn't). On the tram tour, the guide takes you back into a conservation area where they keep White Tail Deer, Elk, Bison, and Texas Longhorns. I will say this about the trams, it is a 2 hour tour chalked full of facts and information. Great entertainment... if you are not 2 years old! I would not recommend taking a small one that cannot sit still for very long. You would be better off to take a stroller and just do the walking trails.

Those calves were the cutest!

Those calves were the cutest!

Riding the Buffalo Rock.

Riding the Buffalo Rock.

We ate at the Canyon Grill. Asa had a melt down over his macaroni...I'm assuming because it wasn't Kraft macaroni. Our server was very gracious and she tried so hard to appease him. In the end, he just ate fries off of Bray's plate.

We ate at the Canyon Grill. Asa had a melt down over his macaroni...I'm assuming because it wasn't Kraft macaroni. Our server was very gracious and she tried so hard to appease him. In the end, he just ate fries off of Bray's plate.

After some of Asa's escapades at Dogwood Canyon, we decided that our best bet for him was to go back to the hotel and let him nap. This did wonders for his attitude! But, by this time, Silver Dollar City was near closing time and it looked like it was about to storm. We loaded up and headed to Springfield, MO for an impromptu Bass Pro Shop trip. We had originally talked about going to their new aquarium when we were in the planning phase of our trip, but when we found out it was $30, we said absolutely not! But, as we pulled in, my overzealous husband got the Bass Pro fever that every man tends to be infected with so we forked out $30/piece to see the fish.

It was worth every dime and more! It is amazing! And, one of Asa's favorite parts of the trip! He was completely entranced!

Sunday was all about getting home...after Hurt's Donuts, of course!

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This past weekend we went to a family friend's wedding that was a few hours from our house. Sweet Hawkins loved the hotel! He got to eat McDonald's french fries with daddy at midnight and jump around on the big, comfy bed! This was our first experience with a Home 2 by Hilton. We loved it! It was great because we had plenty of space to roam with the little ones and a refrigerator for the kids' milk and snacks. We will definitely be looking for one of those again when we go on vacation.

My brother was in the wedding so I got to spend some much needed time with him, Mekenzie, and sweet Falyn. I miss them dearly and my heart just soars when I get to love on that baby girl!

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Poppy getting ready to take the grands swimming! Falyn was a little fish, Asa wanted to stay in even though he was shaking all over and his lips were blue, and Hawkins screamed bloody murder as soon as his feet hit the water.

Poppy getting ready to take the grands swimming! Falyn was a little fish, Asa wanted to stay in even though he was shaking all over and his lips were blue, and Hawkins screamed bloody murder as soon as his feet hit the water.

Brunch Bridal Shower

 
My brother, Tadd, and his fiance', MeKenzie doing what they do best....fishing!

My brother, Tadd, and his fiance', MeKenzie doing what they do best....fishing!

Ya'll!!! I cannot express how sweet and precious that this girl is to me! She is so compassionate and caring that I felt she needed a bridal shower to compliment her spirit! I wanted the shower to be beautiful and elegant and everything that she ever dreamed of! I decided to make it a Tea Party/Brunch theme!

My first concern was a venue! We live in a small town of about 75 on the outskirts of a few bigger towns. Not many options to host an elegant bridal shower. We have a beautiful historic courthouse just down the road and it was perfect!!!!...until the custodian of the property told me absolutely no food! What?!?! No food! At a wedding shower!!!

Historic Powhatan Courthouse

Historic Powhatan Courthouse

I eventually settled for an equally beautiful renovated historic building in a town about 15 minutes away...and it was aptly named "The Venue"...ooh la la! It worked better for her guests anyway because the majority of them were coming from the college that is located in the same town.

The Venue

The Venue

My next main concern was the flowers! You just can't beat REAL flowers! Those can also be expensive! My main tip on flowers is to get the biggest bang for your buck. I have done several showers where I just buy what is on sale at the grocery store and rock them! They are just as pretty as what you can get at the florist and no one knows where you bought them..especially after you trim and doctor them up. For this shower though, I had a certain look in mind and I didn't want to chance the grocer not having what I needed.

HYDRANGEAS!!

These flowers are huge and I can make a simple, beautiful centerpiece using just a few of them! I contacted a florist friend of mine and she sold them to me straight from the grower at her price. I had to do the manual labor myself....soak, clean, and trim those bad boys. Fun fact: Did you know that you are supposed to soak their head in water for 20-30 minutes after you get them? Me neither! I had 50+ hydrangeas in my bathtub! How romantic?!?!

My final major feat was the food! This is where Dear Ole Pinterest came in! See below for the menu and links to the recipes that I used/modified from fellow bloggers! And...some things I cheated on and went with store bought. A girl can only do so much!

 

Menu:

Look at how gorgeous this bar is!

Look at how gorgeous this bar is!