Safety City

Want a fun summer activity for both big and little kids? Check out Safety City in Knoxville! This miniature version of Knoxville allows kids to ride bikes and scooters around, cruising through stop lights and past smaller versions of local landmarks.

If you visit, make sure to bring a helmet, check their Facebook page for any updates, and pack some water. And this gem is only open to the public on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 9-2 during summer months. The last day for 2021 is July 29th.

24 hours in atlanta with kids

We recently did a 24-hour getaway to Atlanta with our whole crew, and we had the absolute best time!

We started our adventure at Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, which is running in Atlanta through September but can also be found in other cities. This was just incredible! The way they brought these famous paintings to life was stunning, and even our kids were enthralled. If you’re interested in going, make sure to get tickets ahead of time.

Next we explored Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Park. Although the visitor center is still closed, we were able to see the Peace Garden, Dr. King’s tomb, and the home where Dr. King was born. This was a moving experience, and I’d love to go back when the full park is open. We also met the kindest park rangers we have ever encountered, and Reed’s new favorite game is playing park ranger!

We stayed near Centennial Olympic Park so that we could walk around in the evening, and after grabbing giant milkshakes at The Yard Milkshake Bar, we took a spin on the SkyView Ferris Wheel. I’m not a huge fan of heights, but the kids loved it, and the price compared to other large ferris wheels was rather reasonable.

The next morning we went to the Georgia Aquarium, which was just as impressive as I had heard. We had reserved the first entry time of the day, and we arrived 15 minutes early and were able to go ahead and enter the aquarium. As soon as you enter, it’s important to scan the QR codes posted and grab showtimes for the 4D movie, dolphin show, and sea lion show if you are interested in those experiences. We did all three and really loved them all–in fact, I think we saw every fish in the aquarium! One note on the dolphin show- the first 10 rows are considered the splash zone, and they say several times that you will get wet. We highly underestimated how wet we would get and ended up soaked! We were very glad it was almost time for us to leave!

Atlanta has so many great family entertainment options, and we only scratched the surface in our quick trip. Our trip was short but incredibly fun, and we look forward to returning to Atlanta soon!

Loco drive-in

There’s a new drive-in movie theater in Loudon, Tennessee, and it’s definitely worth checking out! LoCo Drive-In is perfect for a night of family fun. The high quality screen means that they can start movies before dark, and there’s even a playground for kids that need to burn some energy or can’t quite sit still during a full movie.

When we were there, the food truck offerings were superb, and the portable potties were super clean. They typically have shows Thursday through Sunday, but you can check their website or Instagram account for current information on times and movies. Grab your popcorn and your picnic blanket and enjoy!

Spruce Flats Falls

For a challenging but do-able waterfall hike with kids, Spruce Flats Falls is a great choice. This hike in the Tremont area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a roughly 2 mile out-and-back to a gorgeous waterfall with some beautiful views along the way. There is a steep climb each way, but our 6-year-old managed with very little difficulty. The trail is well marked, but there are portions with natural terrain (stepping over rocks, crossing shallow creeks), so you need to wear sturdy shoes and be aware of your footing.

The falls has some areas that are safe to play in, so consider bringing water shoes or a change of clothes if your kids want to get wet. And don’t forget to pack water and snacks! With 4 kids hiking and one in a backpack, it took us about 45 minutes each way to complete this hike.

To get to Spruce Flats Falls, go towards Cades Cove at the Y just past Townsend, then turn left in .2 miles toward the Institute at Tremont. Drive 2 miles then turn left into the Institute. You’ll cross a narrow bridge then find parking and a portable potty. Park and head up the gravel road towards trails (you should see signs).

Blueberry season in east tennessee

We love picking all types of produce, and June through early July brings out some delicious blueberries! Of all the you-pick farms I’ve visited, our recent visit to Honey’s Blueberry Farm in Loundon, Tennessee had to be one of the easiest. The farm has no set hours (though they do update their Facebook page with ripeness reports). You can go whenever is convenient for your family, pick your berries (bring a bucket), weigh them yourself, then either leave cash in the cashbox or venmo the account posted at the pay station. So fun, so easy, and so delicious!

We’re also hoping to check out Blueberries and Blackberries on Bluegrass this year, which is right in West Knoxville and has an up-to-date Facebook page.

Happy blueberry season!

Knoxville Parent

Hi, friends! After 7 sweet years in Nashville, we made our home in Knoxville, Tennessee in July 2020. Our twins were born here and it has always felt like home. In our first year back, we’ve had countless adventures and are so excited about all East Tennessee has to offer.

One year after our return to this city, I launched @knoxvilleparent, an instagram account aimed at helping local families find fun family outings and experiences. My goal is to make getting out and making a memory with your child as easy as possible–by giving you details about things we try, we take some of the guess work out for you. Please feel free to follow along on instagram and/or on this site. I look forward to helping you create your own family fun!

The Road to Our Twins

Note: This post was originally written in March 2011 as we were expecting our first two babies, boy/girl twins. Since that time, we have been lucky to welcome three more sons. I have re-posted the text as it was originally written because it captures how we were feeling at that time so well.

We could not be more excited to be welcoming our twins this fall, but the journey to these two little ones was bumpy at best. It all started in the fall of 2007. I began having intense pain and knew that something was not right. My doctor recommended physical therapy, which provided no relief after two months. I convinced myself that maybe the pains I felt were normal and tried to ignore it for the next several months. The following fall, however, the pain refused to be ignored any longer. The next doctor I saw informed us that she believed I had endometriosis, a condition in which tissue that normally grows only inside your uterus begins growing elsewhere. The only way to diagnose this disease is through surgery, so we moved forward. During my surgery the diagnosis was confirmed, and the endometriosis that could be seen was removed.

Being diagnosed with endometriosis was terrifying…Andrew and I had always wanted kids, and one-third to one-half of all women with endometriosis have difficulty getting pregnant. Endometriosis often damages a woman’s fallopian tubes, and without working tubes pregnancy is basically impossible. We were hopeful, though, that the surgery would cure the pain issues and give us a good chance of conceiving down the road.

Unfortunately, the pain did not subside. For the next two years, we consulted multiple doctors and tried everything from muscle relaxers to bladder medications and special diets. Nothing worked, most likely because there was additional endometriosis that was not treated in the initial surgery. After more than three years of attempting to cure the pain issues, we decided to toss in the towel and try to have a baby. After all, being pregnant is one of the best treatments for endometriosis.

Having watched friends and family get pregnant instantaneously, I was sure that we would be expecting in a few months. Instead, within just a few months, we learned that I would definitely need medication to help me ovulate in a way that could produce a pregnancy. Basically, after you have a “quality ovulation,” your body should produce progesterone. Without enough progesterone, a pregnancy cannot begin or be sustained. So, we began using Clomid in the hopes that it would help my body create the correct hormones.

During our second month of Clomid, we saw the holy grail for all couples trying to conceive…a little plastic stick with two lines! We were pregnant! Initial testing, however, revealed that something was not right. My hormone levels were extremely low, and though we prayed and prayed that this would be our baby, things only got worse. After having my blood drawn every other day for about two weeks, an ultrasound showed that this pregnancy was most likely in one of my fallopian tubes. The same day, bloodwork revealed that the embryo had stopped developing. On what I will always remember as one of the worst days of my life, we saw three different doctors, had two ultrasounds, and ended up in a chemotherapy ward to get a shot that would increase our chances of not losing one of my tubes.

The drug I had was very strong, so we took a month off from doctors and drugs. Somehow, at the end of that month, we saw two lines again…our second pregnancy. The initial testing was again troubling, and within a few days the little one had stopped developing. My doctor recommended a rather unpleasant test to see if my tubes were open. They appeared to be open, but he still had concerns that they weren’t working. If we had one more loss, we needed to move on to more aggressive options.

The following month we upped our Clomid dosage and crossed our fingers…and again got pregnant. This baby was due the week after our fifth anniversary–this had to be it. A week later, we were facing the same nightmare. The baby had stopped growing. Based on our history, my doctor was fairly convinced that my fallopian tubes did not function properly and that it would be virtually impossible to get pregnant without more aggressive assistance. After much prayer, consideration, and two “second opinion” appointments, we decided to go for it. We officially signed up for IVF. On New Year’s Eve 2010, I gave myself my first set of injections. After 36 shots, a little anesthesia, and a lot of hope, we found out we were expecting our two little miracles!

As I said before, it’s been a bumpy road, full of the deepest heartbreak we have ever known. But this terrible road led us to the most wonderful gift…a double gift more precious than we could have imagined. God’s plan is always good, even when it doesn’t seem that way.

So why are we sharing this? First, pregnancy loss is a taboo subject. After losing our first, I longed for a community of women my age who understood my experience. Unfortunately, this is a part of life that many women experience but few talk about. If sharing our story can make just one couple feel less alone, then it’s worth it. Second, infertility, recurrent pregnancy loss and IVF are so misunderstood. IVF is often portrayed as a way for couples to get pregnant when it’s convenient for them. In reality, IVF is a final option for couples who have been through incredible loss and excruciating pain, both physcially and emotionally. It is a last resort when nothing else has worked, when your quest for a biological child has nearly reached its end. It is not glamorous or fun…it is a sacrifice made by men and women who long to be parents, who long to know the love of a parent for a child. Our hope is that as more people open up about their struggles to conceive, the stigma often attached to infertility will change, and people experiencing infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss will feel able to leave the shadows and receive the support they so desperately need.

How to support a small business while taking a trip to Disney World!

Even though the Disney parks are currently closed due to corona virus, I wanted to share a little Disney-related information. I know there are LOTS of families who have had to cancel Disney vacations, and I first want to say how sad that makes me. I know that Disney vacations (like any trips) are things you save for and look forward to for a really long time. Even though these sacrifices are totally necessary and worth it for the health of our world, that doesn’t mean cancelled plans aren’t a little devastating. ⁣

Today’s tip is to use a Disney Vacation Planner if you are staying on property. If you are staying at a Walt Disney World hotel, using a Disney Planner costs you NO additional money. In fact, they’ll often find you a savings that you wouldn’t have known about. Many of these Disney Planners are moms making money to support their families, and all of them are small businesses. One thing this crisis is teaching us is the importance of supporting small businesses whenever we can! Using a Disney planner is a way to support a person without spending any extra money! Talk about a win win!⁣

We’ve had great luck using Audra Owens – Travel Agent, A Time to Treasure Travel as our Disney planner. Planners can help you decide which resort is right for you and well as securing your dining reservations and fast passes. Planners can be as involved or as removed as you want in your trip plans, but I can attest to the fact that a good one can snag reservations that you likely wouldn’t get otherwise! ⁣

Plus, not only does using a planner support them, but if something goes awry with your trip, your planner will be there to work through the issues. Phone waits times with Disney can be super long, and your planner can make those calls for you. ⁣

If you’re going on a Disney Vacation anytime soon, consider supporting a small business and using the services of a Disney planner to make your trip extra magical!

On control and quarantine.

This strange chapter we’re living through is one our kids will remember. When they’re grown, they’ll recall the time their schools and sports and lives were shut down. And while there is so much we can’t control right now, there’s also much we can.⁣

We can control the tone in our home. While we’re all going to get tired and cranky, we can lead our family with positivity and fun.⁣

We can control how much news and information our kids are exposed to. I’m a firm believer in telling kids the truth, but bombarding them with details is unnecessary.⁣

We can control how we frame our quarantine. Instead of approaching this virus only from a place of our own safety, we can use this moment to teach our kids about their responsibility to the greater good. We can explain how our own sacrifices are helping the whole country.⁣

We can focus on the good. We can express gratitude for extra time together, sunny days, music that’s perfect for dance parties, and family members to be quarantined with.⁣

When our kids look back on this chapter, they probably won’t remember how well we kept a schedule or how much screen time they had, but they likely will remember how they felt. Let’s make sure that their memories are ones of security, love, and family fun.

Lulu & Rocky in Nashville

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Do you have kids and love Nashville? If so, you NEED this book! “Lulu & Rocky in Nashville” follows two fox cousins as they explore some of the exciting things our city has to offer.

Written by Barbara Joosse and illustrated by Renee Graef, this book is a treat for locals and visitors alike. The main characters of course stop by places like Broadway and the Ryman Auditorium, but they also make their way to some lesser known attractions that we locals love. From biscuits at Loveless Cafe to bowling at Pinewood Social to treats at GooGoo Cluster downtown, these little friends see some of my kids’ favorite spots! I was particularly excited to see that the author included Dragon Park and the puppet show at the Nashville Public Library in the book.

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This book is beautifully illustrated and portrays the places it mentions so well! We loved flipping through the pages and finding places we know and love depicted so accurately. My bigger kids enjoyed looking at the illustrated map at the beginning of the book and finding our favorite hangouts. We truly love this book, and it’s already moved into our favorite bedtime stories rotation.

Whether you live in Nashville, have visited Nashville, or just have it on your travel wish list, this book is so fun! I think it would be a perfect baby shower gift, birthday gift, or the sweetest token to give a family visiting our town.

“Lulu & Rocky in Nashville” can be purchased starting Sunday, March 15th on Amazon. For those who enjoy supporting small businesses, it will also be available at Parnassus Books in Nashville.

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Note: this book was gifted to our family by Sleeping Bear Press.