Roaming Through Rock City

If you’ve been following this blog for a bit, you know my family and I love to travel. We especially love road trips. Well, I love road trips – not so sure about my husband as he does most of the driving.

For the last several years we have covered a lot of territory in the U.S., and recently the southeastern region. We drove from Chicago to Miami. You read that correctly. We drove from Chicago to Miami. That’s a lot of ground covered and things to see. We stopped along the way to see friends in Atlanta and check out a few touristy spots. One of the spots we visited was Rock City in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Chattanooga is a beautiful place located on the rolling green foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. It’s not a place we would necessarily travel to so I am glad it was a stop on our trip. This is why I love road trips! You get to see so many sites along the way.

We had not heard of Rock City until we saw signs along the interstate. I decided to do some research and take a poll on social media if it was worth a stop. With a resounding “yes” from my poll, we added Rock City to our plans.

If you’re in the area or looking for fun road trip destinations, I highly recommend adding Rock City to your itinerary. It’s located on the Tennessee-Georgia border right outside of Chattanooga.

According to their website, Rock City’s history as a world-famous tourist attraction dates back to the days of the Great Depression, but its history as a geological marvel of nature reaches back several thousands of years before that. Each year, more than half a million people visit the attraction to enjoy the many natural splendors that abound. Over the years, several features have been added to the original attraction, including the popular Fairyland Caverns and Mother Goose Village, the Cornerstone Station, as well as a myriad of shops and restaurants. In addition, the annual events such as Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights during the holiday season bring in guests by the droves. And the gardens have also grown through the years to include more than 400 different species of native wildflowers, shrubs, and trees.

You need to plan on spending a minimum of two hours here so you can make it through the entire area. You can buy tickets online or in person.

There are several gift shops and vendor areas with food and beverage right when you walk in, then you make your way over to the entrance which is adorned with this gnome statue and a cute red door. There are red doors throughout the entire gardens.

It’s not a strenuous walk through the gardens but there are some areas the trail gets narrow and you have to walk between two large rocks. I’m not going to lie, a few times it gave me a little anxiety –– but, that’s just me. I always felt safe, just a little claustrophobic.

The trail leading to up to Lookout Mountain was filled with little gnomes, beautiful flowers, and natural waterfalls.

Before you get to the top you have to cross a suspension bridge. I would have been more comfortable with this if the people in front of us weren’t shaking it and trying to take pictures. So, my advice is to stay back and let the people in front of you go first. There may also be another trail leading to the top, but this is the one we took.

After the bridge, the trail circles around the side of the mountain to this stunning view. It makes for a perfect photo op!

Once you reach the top, the views are stunning. The mountains seem to go on forever. You can actually see seven states.

We stayed up on the point for about 15 minutes to take in the views and snag some pictures. There are also more vendors, restrooms and a gift shop at the top. As you make your way down, you think it’s over but you’re pleasantly surprised by the “lands” you enter: Fairyland and Mother Goose Land. It feels very Disneyland-esque. I won’t spoil it with too many details, but it’s so clever and the kids loved it! I didn’t get any pictures of these “lands” as you’re in the mountain and it’s darker.

We loved Rock City and are so glad we made the stop. It’s a treasure and something I would recommend to anyone. There is another attraction nearby called Ruby Falls you can also visit. It’s an underground (like WAY underground) waterfall. You take an elevator down 1,120 feet. Yes, that number is correct. Once we got to the bottom I was a little freaked out. We tried to do the tour, but the caves were way too narrow and we only made it about halfway through before my little one got scared. If I’m being honest, it was a little too much for me too. There aren’t any bathrooms during the 1-2 hour tour either so we turned back and missed the waterfall. I know it would have been worth it to see but I couldn’t wait to get back to ground level. If you visit Ruby Falls, just be prepared on what to expect and if you don’t like close quarters, I would suggest passing this one up.

Rock City was money well spent and I know the memories we made there will last a lifetime.

Take The Road Trip….It’s Worth It

I use to love road trips growing up. As an adult, it became easier to just fly because road trips take a lot of time – and who has any time these days? After becoming a parent I wanted my kids to experience the open road and the thrill of seeing all of the in-between of our destinations. There’s something relaxing and methodical about watching acres of cornfields and lush green hills for hours. If only my husband thought the same way. Because he is a go-with-the-flow kind of guy he agreed to make the 14 hour trip to Colorado last summer to see family – and we had a blast! So much so, that we decided to do it again this summer!

One thing I’ve learned since becoming a parent is to take advantage of time. My kids will grow up in a blink of an eye and I want them to have stories to tell and make memories that will last a lifetime.

Even though the 14 hours seemed extremely daunting, I knew it would be easier than flying with a toddler. We also would save a ton of money on flights and renting a car. I’d much rather spend that money on experiences there.

We decided to break the trip up in two days and stop in Omaha, Nebraska – the half way point between Chicago and Denver. Because Omaha is a smaller city we had just enough points for a hotel stay at my alma mater company, Starwood. Win! Nothing better than free!

After the car was packed to the brim – we were off!

Travel mom tips:

  • To save time and prevent upset tummies – pack your own food. We took a cooler lined bag and I made the kids favorite sandwiches and packed healthy snacks for the whole family. This helped my family and I stay on our clean eating path also. Stopping to eat wastes a lot of time and the only places to eat along the way are usually fast food joints.
  • We filled their iPads with movies and fun games to pass the time and also stopped at rest areas to let them run around in the grass for 10 minutes.
  • We took their favorite blankets and a pillow which provided the perfect nap environment in the car while still secured in their seat belts.

We barely heard any whining or “are we there yet” comments the entire trip. I know, miracles do happen I tell ya!

The second leg of the trip is always better because you’re closer to your destination. We planned to head to the mountains for several days so I made sure to drink a lot of water and take aspirin to curb my altitude sickness.

If you haven’t visited Colorado, I highly recommend it! For us, being Chicagoans, the endless outdoor activities in Colorado are a nice change – and the kids love all the nature.

Some must do’s – perfect for kids or adults:

  • Visit Red Rocks Amphitheater – even if there isn’t a concert going on, it’s a beautiful site to see. Bring LOTS of water.

  • Casa Bonita – Yes, I said it. The food is no bueno – but the experience is worth it.
  • Estes Park – Such a beautiful site to see. Lots of cute shops and restaurants, but the views are what you go for. 
  • Downtown Denver – has a great splash pad near the train station, a zoo close by and a phenomenal aquarium. You can even go on a tour of Coors Field if you’re a baseball fan!
  • Colorado Springs – A short drive but features the majestic Pike’s Peak and the Garden of the Gods. Both are a must see.
  • If you head west into the mountains for some hiking:  Booth Falls Trail is a great family friendly trail that features a waterfall. The trail does have a parking lot but there’s only about 15 spots, so my advice is to get there early. The trail is right off of the highway before you get to Vail so very easy to find.
  • Georgetown – an old mining town featuring the Georgetown Loop Railroad. We took the boys on a train ride through the mountains and learned about the mining days. A total hit with the boys!
  • Keystone, Breckenridge and Vail: All equally fun and quaint. Vail reminds me of an old European town stuck in time. The scenic views are breathtaking. All have great restaurants lots of outdoor activities to offer. My boys preferred to stand by the Snake River and skip rocks for hours – I think I loved it, too.


By the time the trip was over – we felt accomplished and were ready to come home. That’s how you know it was a good trip and we made memories.


9 Ways Welcoming Mindfulness Helps You Flourish At Life

You love your kids and wouldn’t be without them, but it’s an undeniable fact – being a mother can be incredibly stressful. Dealing with tantrums, trying to keep on top of all of the everyday chores and running around after the family can take a heavy toll on your state of mind, and every mother out there will recognise the feeling of sometimes struggling to keep your head above water. Luckily, research from Oxford University has shown that practising mindfulness could be the answer you’ve been looking for. Their studies showed that mindfulness is not only a powerful stress reliever, but it also helps to improve resilience to future stress, building up an inner strength that boosts physical well being and inner happiness.

So, What Is Mindfulness?

If you’ve never heard of mindfulness, don’t worry, you aren’t alone! Put in basic terms, mindfulness means that you focus on staying firmly grounded in the moment, aware of what you are doing and feeling, without being overwhelmingly influenced by events that are taking place around you. Now you’re probably thinking “Easier said than done” as your toddler howls for your attention, your teenager needs help with their homework and you have dinner to get started, and you’d be right – mindfulness takes practice. However, it’s well worth putting in the effort to achieve the many benefits that mindfulness brings.

How Can Mindfulness Help Me?

1. Better Decision Making

When you practice mindfulness, you have a much greater awareness of what’s going on inside your head. We all have a tendency to experience a gut reaction as soon as a thought pops into your brain, and your response might not always be the right one. When you are aware of your thoughts, you are much more able to take a step back and to analyse them fully without reacting to that immediate stress response. In short, you’ll become a better decision maker.

2. Slowing It Down

We’ve all been there – flying off the handle because of a stressful situation. But those immediate reactions are rarely the most sensible response and all too often we regret the way we’ve handled things. Mindfulness helps to slow down your reactions, giving you time to think sensibly and to come up with a more appropriate solution.

3. Relaxation

When you practice mindfulness, you are learning to focus on the here and now – in other words the “being” state of mind rather than the “doing”. While the “doing” mindset is associated with stress, the “being” mode is linked to relaxation – and which mother doesn’t need a bit more of that in their life?

4. Awareness Of Bodily Needs

Every mother’s been there – pushing themselves to the limit to get things done for their kids, pushing themselves to hard in the gym, collapsing under the pressures of work. It’s all too easy to ignore the signs that you need to take care of yourself and treat your body with more respect. As much as exercise can assist in reducing stress and anxiety, mindfulness makes you more sensitive to your bodily needs, and when you notice pain earlier, you can take steps to treat the problem so that it doesn’t get out of hand.

5. Less Conflict

It’s no secret that most families are full of conflict, and it can be very easy to snap at each other when emotions are running high. Mindfulness makes you more sensitive to the emotions of those around you, and this boosts your empathy. When you understand the way your kids feel, you’re much less likely to get into conflict with them.

6. Greater Compassion

There’s a distinct lack of empathy and compassion in modern society, so it’s no wonder that often we aren’t as caring or considerate as we should be. Practising mindfulness is very soothing and lowers your gut response to stress, making you more compassionate and more able to help others.

7. Less Background Stress

We’ve become so used to an ongoing backdrop of stress in our lives that we just don’t notice it any more. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t taking its toll on your physical and mental health. When you practice mindfulness, the activity in your amygdala (the part of your brain that switches on your stress response) is reduced, cutting back on all that background stress and making your life simpler and happier.

8. Better Focus

As a busy parent you’ve always got so much going on that it can feel impossible to focus on anything. How many times have you stood in the kitchen, realising you’re in the middle of three different jobs and haven’t got anything done? Mindfulness boosts your focus and concentration so you can get tasks accomplished more efficiently.

9. Change Of Attitude

One of the best things about mindfulness is that it can change your attitude to stress in your life. Whereas before you struggled to see beyond the negative consequences of stress, being mindful gives you more space and helps you to think in a different way about it. By recognising that added pressure gives you more energy to get more done, your mind and body can enjoy the positive benefits.

All things considered, mindfulness really is one of the best tools to add to your knowledge box to make you, not only flourish at parenting, but flourish at life and all the stresses it throws at you.



Baby’s First Flight: How to Get Through Air Travel With Your Sanity


The night before our flight to visit relatives in Michigan – I couldn’t sleep. My baby was up all night as per usual, but more so because of teething and a growth spurt. My insomnia, however, was caused by trouble shooting and running through a mental checklist of what to do if my son has a full blown melt down in the middle of our first flight together. That’s right – me flying alone, with a baby. I was scared sh*tless. Thankfully we had a nonstop flight, which cut down the amount of time Baby B would have to turn into Oscar the Grouch. The next morning I took a deep breath, loaded up all our things, and said a prayer. Off we went.

Related post: Traveling With a Toddler: Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Luckily I made it through the flight and lived to tell about it. My son was so intrigued by everything, which held his attention. I will add that he also wanted to play with our seat mates and hug them a lot. They didn’t mind. Thank goodness. Overall it was a lot easier than I thought.

Here are some survival tips when traveling with infants that worked for me. Adjust as necessary for your little one:

Fill Them Up. Start them on a full stomach before you leave for the airport. Especially if you have a hike to get there.  By the time you get through ticketing and security, your LO is going to be hungry and antsy. Try to mitigate that and get them through until you can stop for a snack or lunch.

Bring Snacks, Sippy Cups/Bottles.  Even if you’re nursing like I am, bring them.  You can have them already full of milk, formula or juice. Security will do a quick dip (if at all) to test and make sure you aren’t bringing anything dangerous through. I highly considered eating a ton of poppy seeds to see if the drug compound would show up in my milk, just to mess with them. Maybe next time. Or not.

Have the Umbrella Stroller and Carrier Handy.  I brought both my sling and the folding stroller. Not only did I use the sling at our destination, but it made it much easier to get through ticketing and security. I had both my hands free to maneuver and take things in and out of bags for the screen. This also freed up the stroller to place bags in and give my shoulders a break. Word of advice: Do not take a carrier that has a metal ring on it like I did. You WILL have to take it off, however lame and obvious it is – or the detector will go off.

Play Around the Waiting Area.  Seriously. People were extremely understanding. And if they’re on your flight they’ll be grateful you’re trying to expend any extra energy out of your kid prior to takeoff.

Nurse on Takeoff/Landing. The whole “putting cotton in their ears” thing doesn’t work. I checked – with an actual medical professional. However, nursing has the same motion for baby as chewing gum, or yawning repeatedly does for us. Baby B, as hyper as he was, hunkered down for some cuddles and nursing as soon as we gathered speed, and woke up with just enough time to latch on as we started our descend. If you’re not nursing, bring a bottle with milk or formula, or a pacifier.

Let Them Down on The Floor.  Ok, maybe not if you’re on the aisle seat, but having a window seat meant I could let B down off my lap to explore, get a little distance from mom, and pull things out of his diaper bag.  Sure I had to stop him from crawling under the seat to the next row a couple times, but all in all it was a great way to keep him entertained. It also allowed me a few seconds to breathe and shake my arms out before the next round of him spinning in circles on my lap.

Related post: Seven Survival Tips When Traveling With Small Kids

Sit Near The Loo.  Each area on the plane has it’s advantages and disadvantages, but I made the mistake of sitting over the wing. Great for minimizing noise, but not so great when he had a blow out on our return to Texas! I had to lug the diaper bag through half the plane. Do yourself a favor and sit either up front or in back.

Benadryl.  Yup, I did it. It helped. Check with your pediatrician first, of course.

Trust In Your Baby.  I kept telling myself to have faith in B to be calm on the plane and not cause a ruckus. If you think they will scream the whole way, they probably will. Usually your LO picks up their parents’ vibes, so try to remain calm.

Most importantly don’t forget to bring toys, snacks, more toys, more snacks, and lots of diapers. You’ll make it through – and so will they.

Happy Travels!

Need more tips for traveling with little people? Check out the FLYING WITH KIDS App. Clever, easy to use, and everything in one place to prepare you for flying with kids. You’re welcome.

Seven Survival Tips When Traveling With Small Kids

If you’re a parent you’ve probably learned by now that vacationing with kids is really not a vacation at all. As someone who loves to travel, I was blindsided once having kids with all the do’s and don’ts of vacationing as a family. Traveling is not always easy, and some trips you may find are more trouble than they’re worth. I admit in past excursions I’ve made serious rookie mistakes that cost my family’s temporary sanity, but each trip down has been another lesson learned. I’m not an expert yet, but there have been less tears and more fun infused in our recent vacations.

In lieu of summer break when families tend to go on their great adventures, I’ve compiled a list of survival tips when traveling with kids. You can thank me later.


It’s not about you – it’s about them. Once you realize this, you’ll enjoy yourself a lot more. Kids do not understand the concept of relaxation, nor do they care about white-sand beaches and exquisite food and wine. Choose a destination that welcomes and caters to kids. I love the Apps MiniTime and Trekaroo; they give you lists of kid friendly hotels, attractions, restaurants and shopping in any destination!

Lower Your Expectations. Expect the worst, hope for the best. Many of us build up these grand illusions of our vacations, only to be disappointed when real life gets in the way. There will be delays, fights, and snags in your plans. Accept it and prepare, that’s all you can do. When you set your expectations low, everything else will seem like a bonus!

Plan Travel Times During Nap Times. If you have a three-hour flight, try to plan it when your little ones usually nap. At first the excitement will take over, but once they feel the vibration of the plane – it’s lights out. Once your kids are asleep, that’s when your vacation really starts! Go ahead and have that glass of wine or dive into your book because this peace will not last.

Stay Away From Sugar. Don’t, I repeat, don’t give your kids any candy, juice, chocolate, etc., during travel times. You might think this is a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised. Once on a flight with my toddler, the flight attendant gave my son a piece of chocolate candy to try and deter him from yelling, “Wakey, Wakey” to all the sleeping passengers around us. In theory it may have been a good idea, but I still had two hours to tame the wild beast in him before we landed. I cried on that flight and luckily I had veteran parents around me consoling me. I vowed never to fly with him alone again – and I haven’t.

Pack Heavy. This mostly pertains to toys and entertainment. Young kids have the attention span of a dog. Any shinny thing in their line of sight will send them running. Take a whole suitcase of toys, extra batteries, chargers, and coloring books, really anything that fits. Don’t be the idiot who forgets to charge the iPad before you get on a plane too – like me. Download a lot of kid friendly Apps that don’t require the Internet in case your flight or car doesn’t have Wi-Fi. Some of my favorites are: MoonfryeKidsDoodlePBS Kids, and Puzzingo.

Make An Itinerary. Create a schedule of events and stick to it. Kids are creatures of habit; they like to follow schedules and direction. Fill their days up with activities so at night they welcome sleep. More sleep for them, more peace for you. Trust me on this – a bored kid equals a disaster.

Bring help. If possible bring guests on your trip. Parents, in-laws, friends and nannies make for great babysitters when you need a break. As much money as you spend on these vacations you deserve at least one kid-free dinner with your significant other.

Overall, the most important thing you need to remember is to let your kids be kids on vacation. Once you allow this, it might just bring out the inner-kid in you.


Traveling With A Toddler: Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Traveling with a toddler is brutal, especially alone. You would have thought I learned my lesson after this debacle, but apparently not.  That’s the thing with kids; you always give them second chances because you are blinded by love.


The last time I flew alone with my son, I swore I would never do it again.  That was nine months ago.  So he’s changed, right? He would listen to his momma and be a good boy this time, right? Not. So. Much.  Monster Diva is officially his new name. Being pregnant doesn’t help either.  I am tired and the last thing I want to do is chase after a toddler in an airport.

I took some key mistakes on my part from last time and prepared a grand plan.  Almost as if I was writing a strategic sales plan, I carefully mapped out activities and pitches for the three-hour flight.  I listed all my collateral: Goldfish, DVD’s, Fruit Snacks, and my ultimate bribery tool: Chocolate. I also tried to pack light (which is almost impossible with kids) to prevent carrying too much luggage.  I checked the bags to free up my hands, in case I had to chase the little monster. Checking bags is very difficult for me.  I HATE checking bags.  I like to have my bag in my possession and not have to wait when I deplane.  Me, a woman, once took a carry-on to Paris for a five day trip to avoid the baggage claim. I took a stroller this time too. Why?  To lock his a** in and prevent him from chasing shinny things.

We made it to the gate relatively drama free.  I got this! Right when that thought crossed my mind… here we go. He takes his shoes off and starts trying to ‘Hulk’ his way out of the stroller. All the while he is shouting, “I wanna go on air pwanne!”  I tried to stay calm and convinced him they wouldn’t let him on if he is a bad boy.  Then, I found a TV with cartoons.  Thank you Jesus. Tip: try to not have more than an hour waiting time once you get to the gate. This is known as the witching hour.  I took notes for next time, literally.

"Only good boys allowed on plane!"
“Only good boys allowed on plane!”

Once we got on the plane, I cornered him in the window seat and apologized to all those around me in advance.  Taking off was exciting for him, he liked to count to ten and yell, “Blast Off!!”  Luckily all the people around me thought it was cute. He also bursted out in song a few times, serenading his audience with favorites such as: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Old McDonald. Just like the last flight we had together, he doesn’t like people sleeping around him and would yell, “Wakey-Wakey!”

The remaining time was challenging, but at that point I just didn’t care. After two airplane bathroom trips holding him in mid-air trying to aim in the toilet, I gave up. He opened and closed the window shade at least three dozen times, and we were the last to get off the plane because he took his shoes off and refused to put them back on. I had to use my secret weapon, the chocolate, to get the shoes back on.


Luckily my husband met us and flew home with me.  I pawned the kid off immediately and told my husband I was now invisible. He was a trooper and kept Monster Diva in check for me. I have to fly again with the kid in two weeks….alone. Isn’t there a better way?  Should I just give in to the embarrassment?  Should I just let him be a toddler and tell all the other passengers to go screw themselves? Are there day nannies that will fly with me?

I don’t know, but I need a new plan.  If I wasn’t pregnant I would down a few glasses of wine. Either way, God help me. Prayers are appreciated.

Tips from this flight that were helpful:

  • More snacks
  • Charge computer longer
  • Put shoes on that are difficult to take off quickly
  • Sit in the back of the plane so not as many people around
  • Fly at night so he sleeps
  • Drink (if you can)
  • Don’t take any carry-on’s, it is too stressful
  • Pack light
  • Buy kid headphones (mine didn’t fit him well)
  • Remember this is temporary