We Have Two Teenagers!

 Our trip inspiration was to celebrate our boys turning 13 and hit all the spots they wanted to see! They both picked California and Zach’s dream was to see the Golden Gate Bridge. They love being outdoors so we knew we’d end up in Yosemite for the longest stretch. Big Sur was on our personal bucket list and we knew they’d love the beach and that drive up the coast.
Here is our itinerary. I planned this by calling local Outfitters and talking to locals about their favorite must see spots. All of these book out 6 months in advance so you'll have to book early enough to stay at all of them.
873 mile road trip:
Day 1- Atlanta to Fresno (layover in LAX)
Drive from Fresno to Hwy One, started in San Simeon to Big Sur
Night 1- stayed in Big Sur
Big Sur to San Fransisco
Night 2- stayed in San Fransisco
San Fransisco to Yosemite
Night 3 & 4 in Yosemite
Day 5- Yosemite to Fresno Airport, layover in LAX, then Atlanta
My friend Jane told me about these and they cured car sickness on some patches of this trip:
Eyes on Board

Tuesday- we flew out of Atlanta at 7am to LAX. Layover and small aircraft to Fresno. When booking this flight, select Atlanta to Fresno and it will automatically layover to switch aircrafts in LA. We landed in Fresno at 11am and I booked a mini van with Alamo. We freaking loved our minivan and made it our mini home for the trip to keep supplies we didn’t need just yet in the back. We also purchased 3 out of 5 of our flights and the rental car with points…. FREE! Set you rental car time an hour before you land so it will be ready. The Fresno airport was small, friendly, and you are in and out. We drove straight to San Simeon to start our adventure up Highway 1, the most iconic drive in America. This was roughly a 3 hour drive from Fresno to San Simeon, we did not stop. Travel light! For this type of trip, everyone brought a carry-on and personal bag of favorite things/stuff to do, do not check bags. We packed in layers, one pair of tennis shoes and chacos, swimsuit, and small bag of mini toiletries. I carried one back pack full of protein bars and snacks and empty Nalgene bottles and we filled up at airports, gas stations, and restaurants. On the west coast, just double what you’d normally spend on food and that is what it costs. We tried to eat out at one big meal a day and do snacks and fruit for the rest.
San Simeon to Big Sur- we took about 5 hours and stopped at many of the vista points. Hearst Castle is visible from the road, but we did not stop and tour (figured our recent visit to Biltmore would trump that anyway ;) We stopped at the Elephant Seal observatory and also pulled off before the cliffs started to let the kids run into the Pacific ocean for the first time. It is COLD, but really beautiful and deep blue water. We spent about 20 minutes with the seals and that was a really good stop. Close to Big Sur, be sure to pull of the road to McCays Waterfall. It was a 30 minute stop and really gorgeous at sunset. We stayed the night at Big Sur Lodge and ate at a luxury hotels restaurant, Ventana. Its pricey to stay in Big Sur and the accommodations even at a rustic place, but worth it. Lodge is $300-$400 a night. Keep in mind there is no AC, Tv, and really no cell phone signal during most of Highway 1 and not in our lodge. Ventana would be an amazing splurge if this is a anniversary/celebratory trip, but I think rooms start at $800 and is adults only for accommodations. Dinner at Ventana was a gorgeous view and again, double what a normal place would be.

Highway One, San Simeon to Big Sur

 Big Sur Lodge in the heart of Big Sur

Big Sur Bakery, a must!!

Wednesday-  We woke up to the most amazing woods smell in Big Sur and went across the street to Big Sur Bakery. It was incredible. The bakery, smell of the woods, and coastline are so imprinted in my mind forever. The most beautiful parts of the drive are from San Simeon to Monterey. We stopped at the Monastery Beach right when you get into Monterey. Its advised to not get in the water because of the rip currents and temps, but it is beautiful to sit on the beach at the most perfect temperature. After an hour or two at the beach, we went to the downtown Monterey Wharf and ate some amazing seafood. We would have stopped at Carmel By the Sea and also included the 17 mile sight seeing loop, but we needed to make it to the Golden Gate bridge for sunset for Zach. We drove through downtown San Francisco, saw the cute townhomes and hilly city streets, and went straight to the bridge. There are vista points everywhere and we did them all. We stayed that night on an Airbnb boat in Oakland, which San Fran is not not a super safe place in general, but inside the marina we were in was great. We were full from seafood in Monterey so we ordered milkshakes and went to bed in the boat from the restaurant in the marina! The owner has several boats and it was a heck of a deal staying somewhere so cool for $100-$200. A splurge would be the Kimpton Sir Francis Drake hotel in downtown San Fran, but we were up for a night on the boat since it was so different.
Monastery Beach in Monterey, Ca

Thursday- We slept great on the boat, woke up pretty early because of time change, and drove straight to Yosemite, about 3 hours. We stopped and got hot sandwiches at Panera. The drive to Yosemite was really great, rolling fields of gold, low growing trees, farmland, a few wineries, and the grand drive entering Yosemite. Enjoy the drive in, Brideveil falls is on the right, El Capitan will be on the left, and you will get a pass where you can go in and out of the park if you leave, which we didn’t. We checked into Housekeeping camp, around $150-$200. Book a tent/yurt by the river and get there early to get a good one. You can check in and set up, go take a shower at the bath house, ect. There is electricity, bunk beds, double bed, and they have a store, groceries, bedding packs you rent for $10, ect. Glampy camping, really. A lot of people flip out about bears, but the park is on the ball. There is a bear patrol, there are bear canisters everywhere, and we never saw one. The biggest rule is to keep food and anything scented in the bear canister and not in your car or most certainly not in your tent. After we checked in, we had the latest time for a lunch reservation at Ahwahnee Hotel. It is the nicest place in Yosemite and apparently Obama stayed there last year, ha! The dining hall is beautiful so you could even eat a late dinner and go back and crash at your tent. You need reservations to eat!! If you are on a splurge, you can book a night there, I didn’t even look at the prices. We explored the valley and Yosemite village, you can walk, shuttle for free, or rent bikes for $30 a day to see the valley. There are lots of supplies in the valley in you need something. Housekeeping camp for us was just a place to sleep for us, don’t think of it like weekend car camping. The bridge within the camp is one of the most beautiful sights of Yosemite Falls and you are just surrounded by the granite rocks, you can’t beat the location and price. The falls are only running a few times a year, we did not see them, but we also had the advantage of less people here.  Most people crash and you don’t even see many who come in late and leave the next morning. A few bring Christmas lights, set it up like a house, ect. Make sure to walk around early and go take a look on the bridge for a perfect mirrored reflection of the mountains.

        Housekeeping Camp             

Friday – We loaded it all in the minivan and ate protein bars and I bought some fruit and the camp store. We drove straight to Mariposa Grove which was well worth the 1 hour drive within Yosemite. It is the largest sequoia grove in Yosemite and hosts some of the largest sequoias in the world. It is a scenic drive through Yosemite to the grove and you take a shuttle at the top to the entrance of the 2 mile loop through the grove. It’s a easy loop. There’s another store in Mariposa grove for restrooms, water, and park rangers to help. After Mariposa, there is a golf course pro shop at the Wawona hotel and we stopped and grabbed a sandwich and sat out in the beautiful lawn of the hotel. We went straight to Glacier Point / Sentinel Dome trailhead and parked there. A great 2-3 mile loop takes you to a breathtaking view of Yosemite. All ages can do this loop. After, we drove another mile or two to the top of Glacier Point. Another store, lookout, and restrooms. We stayed for the sun starting to set, ate ice cream, and left Yosemite for the hostel for the night, about a 2 hour drive from Glacier Point, which put us closer to the airport for the following day. I’m not sure what I thought a hostel would be like, but this place was brilliant. Its actually called Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort. It houses private cabins, a group dormitory, full restaurant that is incredible, and a spa and hot tub for $12 a person. I think our private cabin was $200 and we had 2 queens and a small rollaway for Mackenzie. This place was just fantastic. You drive by on the way in to Yosemite so you could even stop and eat lunch here. I think staying and driving back and forth would eat your time, but I sure wish it was in the valley. We went to the spa before bed and they have a private mineral soak I would do next time and grab a glass of wine upstairs.

Saturday- Had a great overnight at the hostel. Just a cool vibe there. Clean and we really enjoyed the food. We ate breakfast and toured around and headed to the Fresno airport for a noon flight.  Landed back in Atlanta at 11pm.
Highlights for us were for sure Big Sur and that amazing drive. Yosemite is like nature on steroids and truly incredible to see giant granite rock walls surrounding you and some of the largest trees in the world. If you’ve been skiing, that’s what it feels like out in the wilderness. A blanket of quiet, stars so bright, and your kids in awe of what’s around them. I liked our pace because we were constantly moving and seeing something new. It leaves little room for teen/tween fighting because everyone is entertained and eager to see the next thing. Snacks, water, and then the kids kindle fires with game apps or bag full of items kept them occupied while we were making our next move or crashing for the night. Get off the grid with your family and see the sights together. There is something so calming about just what God has made on this Earth and letting that be the entertainment. This trip was about sight seeing and not spending time in a hotel room. Part of the fun was staying in really different places and showing the kids all different types of experiences. My kids aren’t getting cell phones until right before high school, so this year David got a drone. I love it channels an electronic into something creative and he has become quite the photographer. Zach is one of those kids who wants to draw so I don’t have that battle, and Mackenzie might be a fairy from nature with her desire to create. It’s a battle to keep their eyes open to the world and not let them be molded by what’s “normal”. I want to get them outside, drive their creativity, and experience God.


5th, 6th, and 7th grade

"A goal without a plan is just a dream"
Having a quiet moment this morning on the last day of school. I woke up this morning to our company, Summit Heating and Air, being the top post on our 12k people Marietta City Facebook page. It somehow even beat out the town article about the beloved mailman of 35 years. We were lucky to have him during some of our years on Hope Street! I will catch up on our most recent move, but first I wanted to take about the last day of school.
How you treat people will determine your success in life. It starts internally with your business and goes out into all the homes you go in. All of that brings it back to my home for me. We love being entrepreneurs, business, and pushing our kids outside the box. It is challenging running a seasonal business that peaks at summer when school comes to a screeching hault. I love our kids get to experience running a company. David will be washing summit vans, Zach cutting the grass at the office, and Mackenzie cleaning inside the office. Our kids will become 5th, 6th, and 7th graders today. I raise 3 very different children from a special education student with epilepsy and developmental delays, to your average all american wild boy, to my little lady high flyer thats a little aggressive and wants to be a world changer. Our expectations in our family are unique. School is secondary. It's secondary because no one asks where I went to college, what my gpa was, or gives a flip if I was sorority president. Tim and I were both raised to find our passions and to love the Lord and pursue both above all else. We were both average kids, not perfect students, and possibly a little bit edgy. We were both called crazy for most of the unpopular choices that we have made, I've definitely never been called sweet a day in my life, but we know who we are and are ok with not being everyones cup of tea. And thats all I want for my kids.
Despite Zach's disability, he took home the 5th Grade Artist Award and it makes me teary. He loves art and it brings him joy and confidence and he is excellent at it. David finished 6th grade with A/B grades, but had to work his tail off from them wavering throughout the year. He also got a Reading award. Mackenzie finished her 1st year at the STEM school in Marietta and I had no idea the potential that was waiting to be unlocked in her. She also had A/B grades and was voted Miss Congeniality because she has the gift of getting along with anyone. Tims mother growing up said, "God has big plans for you" and Tim grew up knowing in his heart he could do anyting that he wanted. Tonight, we will take our kids to dinner. We will sit across the table, not talk about any awards, and tell them this:
Find what you love. Be a good student. Do the best you are able to do, but don't let it get in the way of people or finding what your passions are. Be kind, but don't get pushed over. When you see something not right, speak up. Don't be afraid of conflict. Ask questions. Be different. Do hard things and work hard. Being out of the box and going against the grain is not just ok, it may be just how God made you and prepare you for what's ahead. You are loved, brilliant, and we have your backs no matter what. 
Celebrate the person they are, not the awards they will get or not get. Godspeed to all the working parents and kids home for summer, we got this.
*Also, how our family regulates electronics. No kid has a phone. The wifi modem stays unplugged until everyone has finished what I asked them to do. Cheers!


Warehouse and 35 Years.

Today, we went under contract to buy a warehouse in Marietta for our growing small business. We have outgrown working out of our house. We are excited (and honestly I'm a little terrified), but its our first commercial real estate to own! Please pray for our due diligence period and we would close by the end of the year. More importantly, we are celebrating Tim turning 35 this weekend! That's a pretty good present, buying him a warehouse, right?!  Let me start back a minute....
Below is a picture of us the night we were engaged at 21. Tim is the middle of three boys. He had a pretty perfect childhood with an enormous family that I married into and love so much. So many people told us it was a bad idea to date at 18. We were so young. People told us there is no way we would last through college and several times people said to break up and just date other people to just make sure. I've officially known Tim almost half of our lives. We have grown up, changed, and figured out who we were, but thankfully we did it together. When I see the grace of God, I see it in our marriage. We hit the hard stuff after we got married. Pregnant at 23 we became parents. After that, the next 7 years that would test everything we had. We were directly hit by the economy bubble bursting and Tim's awesome construction sales job filed bankruptcy. Tim would go on to cycle through 7 jobs that he increasingly became more miserable at as the economy was at its lowest,. We would have another baby, but also have 5 miscarriages during these years. Then, we would sell everything we had and start over. We would buy a $40k house to renovate and Tim would go back to college to get his HVAC degree. I would clean houses, he would make chainsaw bears, and we would buy and sell anything we could to make it work. I remember being at my lowest and just wanting out of my marriage and to just run away. Through a lot of prayers, literally Jesus as our savior, and a HUGE network of support with family and friends, we held on to Hope that things could only get better. And that meant every day waking up and believing that. And that meant months and years of putting in the work and I truly believe Jesus gave us the strength to be steadfast. Tim is the hardest working guy I know. He is the most honest guy I know. ( He is honest to a fault sometimes which gets him in trouble with me ;). I got to see Tim turn into the man God made him to be. I prayed all these years I could be the wife and woman God wanted me to be. We made it to the other side. Tim not only got his HVAC degree and started the industry almost 7 years ago making $10 an hour ripping out ductwork in attics, but has become a business owner. He worked so hard and passed his state license exam and launched his own HVAC company, Summit Heating and Air, 2 years ago. Tim is high energy, crazy, not afraid of anything, and all his personality tests say he is high risk (with little discernment added in there ;). I told a friend this morning that our life song should be, "Life in the Fast Lane." and I feel as his wife I am either closing my eyes, holding on, or begging him to slow down! It has no doubt been the craziest ride of our life, but I am lucky to be standing by my man. I pray our kids will see Jesus is our rock when we are not and that marriage will truly test the best, worst, sickest, healthiest, highs, lows, and everything in between. Tim, I love you so much and I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to do life with you. You truly are my best friend, other half, and there is nothing I won't do for you. Cheers to our roller coaster of growing up, having babies, renovating houses, adopting a special needs child, starting a company, adding onto our house, and now buying a warehouse. My prayer when we got married was that we would be different and life wouldn't be boring. Never doubt God's power and sense of humor!!!! Happy 35th Birthday Timmy!!!


Summer Survival

Our summer has been off to a crazy start!!! Are you bipolar with your summertime mindset like me?? You love no schedule, but you hate no schedule. You love your kids home, but then you feel like you aren't going to make it. You don't want them in camps, but then you do need them in camps. You dream about family vacations, but then wonder what going alone looks like?! You have more time in your day, but where did all our time go? You tell the children all day they will have an earlier bedtime tonight, but then you realize its 9pm and still sunny outside. You went swimming in the pool so that cancels out bathtime. Your kids bathing suits just stay on. Summer is like an eat fest and you have now decided to order all groceries through Shipt because you are not taking your wet and dirty children into the store. Yall. Kids and summertime is magical, but terrifying and exhausting. It's so hard to balance and also find time for yourself to catch a break. I, like you, am keeping mine close but praying desperately for the energy to do it!!

 It is our busiest season of the year for our heating and air company! Summit has been all hands on deck and we are constantly amazed at the success and growth we've had. Tim has hired 2 people and has 2 trucks and a trailer and we cannot wait to watch it grow more. It has been fun to dream and watch God use his company in ways we didn't expect. If you've followed our blog for a while you know that my heart is bursting with gratitude and also joy for Tim that he is doing his deal. I couldn't be more supportive and on board and helping in all the ways I can!!

I was asked to share our story of my sweet friend, Sarah Bragg's "Surviving Sarah" Podcast. Sarah will be your new best friend, she has such a great way of connecting with people and is a really inspiring person to know. Please check out her show and you can tune in here to hear my episode!

We surprised the kids on Memorial Day weekend with a trip to Captiva Island. It was honestly the best kick off to the summer! We woke them up at 4am and told them they were about to get on an airplane.... they have never flown before!!! (Well, David with me at 9 months old but he has no memory of it :) They lost their minds. So excited. They did incredible. I will never forget their faces when the plane took off......

Arriving in Captiva, we stayed in the South Seas Resort!
Sea life everywhere, Mackenzie rescued this starfish! We saw dolphins, manatees, and they brought home 50 sand dollars!

Our room overlooked the marina and the kids loved to watch the boats come and go!

We rented a boat one day and literally went island hopping. We were right next to Cabbage Key and went to check out where Jimmy Buffett allegedly wrote, "Cheeseburger in Paradise"

South Seas has nature checkpoints all over the island. The kids completed the whole course and got 15 bands for all 15 checkpoints and went on the Wall of Fame!!! Their favorite stop was the Key Lime trees.

We are surviving summer! Kids just picked 2 camps and we are home a good bit. I found myself having some staples this summer, so here's what's in my summer bag:
First, my H&M waterproof magnetic closure bag. I'm obsessed and its my bag the whole summer.
I always have a magazine. I will rip out a recipe or read about ways to try and organize my house.
Wet Brush- If you have a daughter, enough said.
Skin So Soft Sunscreen and Bugspray all in one, and it actually works. Amazon link
Zinc Oxide for faces, works better than suncreen. Amazon link
Palmers Cocoa Butter spf lip balm, it smells amazing and stays on Amazon link
I have a mix of Young Living oils I keep on hand and this combo is cedarwood and vetiver
At the pool I keep a sun hat so I don't get raccoon eyes from my sunglasses and when I've had too much sun I just put on a super thin long sleeve cover up and I can stay out a little longer!

That is what I'm loving this summer!!!


Cannonballs and Chihuahuas

Leave it to my three children to dig up a cannonball in the backyard and cause a viral interest and news crews stalking us down! Actually, Mackenzie was the finder. She is the queen of mud pies in the backyard and I had no idea she had even found it until she brought it inside and put it in the bathtub to start washing it. When it hit the tub and about cracked it in half, I came rushing in and called Tim!! He came home and we confirmed with a friend that it was indeed a piece of history! I posted my fun picture of the cannonball, below, on our city facebook page thinking a few neighbors might think it was interesting, and low and behold everyone lost their mind. We had people sending us messages, local diggers wanting to come excavate my yard, and then our local news station calling, emailing, texting, and hunting us down. We decided to let them come and Mackenzie got to share her news story on camera, ha!! It was a really special find. We live about 1 mile from Sherman's Headquarters in Downtown Marietta and it was a great opportunity to talk to our kids about the Civil War. Here is a link to the news story: http://www.fox5atlanta.com/news/109018922-story

A few weeks later, we went down to Savannah for Spring Break! We are really into kayaking as a family and we decided to camp on Skidaway Island for 5 days (now that I'm typing it I sit in the gravity of how simple it sounded in my head versus in writing). And actually, I made it 4 days, not 5. After the 4th day, I called it done and we drove home that night :) It was definitely a memorable trip, our kids had a blast. *I will add my parents came along and were next door with a huge 50ft. RV. So, don't feel like I was roughing it too bad!! Although my children are older now, traveling is still so much work. We push through, but the amount of planning, packing, and patience is really unbelievable. I don't know why we just don't stay home. But we don't. So, following our Civil War lesson, Sherman's March to the Sea ended in Savannah. I love kayaking with our kids because it's exercise, everyone is contained to their own boat, and we are all moving in the same direction (physically and quite often with our attitudes ;) We researched a historical river that boasts some of the most amazing scenery.  We kayaked down the Ebenezer River, known for The Betrayal at Ebenezer Creek, a sad story to tell our kids also from the Civil War. 

Under the order of General Davis, the Union army reached the Ebenezer River with hundreds of freed slaves that had joined in the quest for freedom. They were allowed to come along, but had to help along the way. When troops reached the river they built a bridge to cross, but plotting how they were planning on leaving the slaves behind.  After troops were crossed, the bridge was severed. Hundreds of freed slaves were drowned, killed, and those that lived and stayed behind went back into slavery.

I hate that story exists and is apart of our history. How I hope and pray there were survivors. There were people that fought and made it and victory was won. It was a dark and heavy feeling, but also one of awe, knowing that both sides of these groups were now buried. I would much rather be a slave in this story than a soldier, to die fighting instead of the one that chose myself.
 The water down this river is full of the most beautiful cypress trees, swamp life, and has black waters.  It is the most beautiful, peaceful, humbling, and holy water I have ever been down. It was sobering to go through these waters and think about history and the actions of others that came before us. Mackenzie was so moved when we put our boats in and asked a lot of questions. She said, "Im so mad at those people. That's so mean, it's just not fair." I told her those slaves were in a far better place and I asked her how she thought it would feel to live if you were one of those people who made that decision to cut the bridge. And that every day they had to live with the choices they made and ultimately be held accountable to their actions. It is better to live a holy life and it be ended quick than to better yourself and live into an old age.
 If you ever get the chance, take your family down this river. It is a truly amazing experience. They have guided tours and times of the year that are best because trust me...... swamp life is real and we had a few close calls!! Mom's boat hit what we thought was a tree, but actually a black snake that my kids now swear was the Loch Ness. Wrong story, kiddos!!

This was a good verse to follow up with my kids, "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God" Micah 6:8

To end on a light note, I'll share a happy pet story.
The last exciting thing that happened this month was my parent's 16 year old Chihuahua "Paco" went on a little Milo and Otis adventure. Okay, not really, but that is what my mom keeps telling herself.  Paco was taken out of their yard in Kennesaw and then found 48 hours later completely across town at a Target in Alpharetta (roughly an hour away).
We turned to social media. We blew up the internet with pictures of Paco and everyone was on the hunt. We stayed up until wee hours with flashlights in the woods and became the psycho pet owners. About 48 hours in, a animal rescue volunteer matched up our photo with an animal shelters photo across town!!! Would you believe 5 other black chihuahuas had been found and texted to me over the course of 2 days?? How many black chihuahuas were lost exactly?! As soon as this photo was sent below, I was losing hope, but zoomed in, and we were 100% sure it was him!! The caption above the photo says, "HarleyStray.jpg" and our little Paco wears a Harely Davidson collar.

Yay for lost dogs being found, yay for social media being useful sometimes, and shame on whoever picked him up out of my parents yard.  No one likes a pet snatcher, I will hunt you down :)

More excitement to come...

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