5 Strategies For Reducing Holiday Stress

The holiday season is officially here and with that comes our never-ending to-do lists leading to an increase in stress for most of us. Those who struggle with anxiety may be wondering how they are going to make it through the next month. Possibly, some of us are even feeling a sense of dread instead of the elusive holiday cheer.

If you’re someone who does feel anxious or more stressed this time of year, fear not. There is hope! There are many simple things you can do to help reduce your stress and anxiety so that you can enjoy spending the holidays with your loved ones.

5 TIPS FOR REDUCING HOLIDAY STRESS AND ANXIETY

1. Practice Mindfulness

To practice mindfulness means to increase your awareness of the present moment. It’s focusing on the here and now.

There are many ways to do this, but the simplest way is to breathe. Taking deep breaths helps you get enough oxygen into your body to help it function at its best. Without enough oxygen, stress can build up leading to physical ailments like heart problems, stomach aches, and trouble sleeping. If you can incorporate 5 minutes of deep breathing into your daily routine, you’ll more than likely notice a difference in your stress level after just a few days.

More Mindfulness Stategies:

  • yoga
  • listening to music
  • guided imagery
  • progressive relaxation
  • meditation
  • focus on your 5 senses

Check out The Mayo Clinic for more mindfulness exercises and how they can help you manage holiday stress.

2. Ask For Help

Most moms tend to struggle with this. I think it’s because society puts pressure on us to do it all and we’re afraid that we might look weak if we can’t. But that’s not true! As you’ve probably heard before,

“It takes a village to raise a child.”

That means that none of us can do it on our own. We just have to learn how to reach out for help without feeling guilty about it. In my experience, when I have asked my friends to help by grabbing something for me from the grocery store or watching my kids for an hour or two while I go to a Dr’s appointment, they have actually been more than willing to help.

Helping others actually makes people feel better about themselves and anyone who is a good friend will want to help you when they can. Plus you can return the favor and help them in the future.

3. Set Boundaries

During the holidays, it can be easy to fill up your social calendar almost every day of the week. Not only are there parties and family gatherings, but you may feel pressure to participate in every food drive or cookie exchange. There are also more community events this time of year like tree lightings and holiday programs at your church or school. Then you have to factor in the time it takes to get your holiday shopping done, write and send out cards, and decorate your home.

There just isn’t enough time to do everything! So we have to say “No” to some things. You may get pushback from family or friends if you decide not to send out holiday cards this year, but that’s ok. You can always send them out for New Years or try again next year to do them earlier when you have more time.

4. Take A Technology Break

We live in a society that expects us to be “on” 24/7. Not only do people want us to answer their texts and phone calls right away, but we’re also constantly being bombarded by new information on social media. Sometimes we just need a day or even a few hours to shut off our devices and unplug from it all.

I purposely leave my phone at home when I exercise because it’s usually the only time I can get a break. If I don’t do this occasionally I find myself getting easily overwhelmed, especially during the holidays. Another idea is to put your phone in another room and turn it on silent for a set amount of time. I know this can be really challenging, but I assure you the phone call or text can wait a few minutes.

5. Be Proactive

Building in time to your schedule for self-care is crucial this time of year, especially for those who struggle with anxiety. I suggest looking at your calendar at least once a week and finding time to exercise. Even if this means 15 minutes of yoga or going for a quick walk. I would even go as far as writing this time down in your calendar so that you are more likely to honor the commitment to yourself.

It’s also important to be aware of what you’re eating and drinking. Limiting your consumption of alcohol and sweets can be challenging with all of the parties and social gatherings this time of year. But having a plan for how you’re going to handle these situations ahead of time can be really helpful. Also, remember that it’s ok to say no even when it’s really tempting to give in. Practicing this with a friend or partner ahead of time can make these difficult situations a little easier to handle.

If you don’t have a support network to help, counseling is another great option for managing holiday stress! I’d be happy to help you figure out if it might be an appropriate time to seek counseling. I offer a free 10 minute phone consultation where we can determine if the services I provide would be a good fit.

You can contact me here to schedule your free consultation today.

Overcoming Impostor Syndrome

If you’ve heard of impostor syndrome, chances are you’ve probably felt it at least once in your life. It’s actually a term that’s somewhat new to me. I first heard it a year or so ago when I was telling my husband that I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing as a blogger.

He told me there was actually a name for that- Impostor Syndrome. It’s when people doubt their skills and accomplishments and they feel like a fraud. When I looked it up, I found out that it was pretty common for bloggers. It helped to know that I was wasn’t the only one who felt this way sometimes.

Now that I’m exploring my options for going back to work as a counselor, I’m starting to feel impostor syndrome again. I haven’t done it in so long and I’m afraid that I won’t know what to say or how to help. Plus how can I help others when I’m dealing with my own problems? Surprisingly, I’ve learned that many counselors feel the same way. The more I learn about it, the more I see that most people have felt like an impostor at some point in their careers.

Letting it stop you from trying the thing you’ve always wanted to do isn’t the only option though. I’ve been working through mine with my counselor and today I realized that for me impostor syndrome comes from being a perfectionist. I put too much pressure on myself to be perfect. So I don’t feel like I’m an expert because I’m not perfect.

But expecting perfection from myself or anyone else is unrealistic. No one is perfect! No matter how hard you try, you can’t know everything there is to know. So instead of focusing on what I don’t know, I’m working on paying more attention to what I do know.

pinterest pin Overcoming Impostor Syndrome

Fighting Impostor Syndrome

To overcome impostor syndrome, I’m working on reminding myself these things:

  • I have the skills I need to be a good counselor.
  • Not only do I have a Master’s degree, but I went through all of the steps to get licensed.
  • I care enough about helping others that I want to make it my job. That has to be a good place to start.
  • Before I had kids, I was building a successful private practice. My clients were coming back so they must have thought it was helping.
  • If I don’t try, I’ll never know if I could have been successful.

This is still a work in progress for me, but I will always have to keep learning and working on myself if I want to be good at anything.

If you’re trying something new or going back to work after some time away, maybe you’ve had the same fears I’ve had. What has helped you to work through the self-doubt?

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10 Tips For Surviving Disney With Kids

Last month we got to go on a trip to Disney with our kids. It was one of the best family vacations we’ve ever had. It also took 6 months to plan and caused me alot of anxiety! Check out Disney Bound for more about my experience planning our trip.

I was lucky enough to have some friends who gave me lots of good advice. I also joined a Facebook group where I learned about the best restaurants and which rides we had to go on.

So I wanted to share some of those tips with you in case you’re trying to plan a trip to Disney with kids.

10 TIPS FOR SURVIVING DISNEY WITH KIDS

pinterest pin 10 tips for surviving Disney with kids

1. Lower your expectations, and then lower them again.

You’ve probably heard people say that Disney is the most magical place on earth. Don’t get me wrong, it is pretty magical and my kids will tell you that this is true. But if you go to Disney with kids thinking everything is going to be unicorns and rainbows, you will be disappointed. If you go to Disney in July it will not feel magical the whole time. It will be hot and it will be crowded.

Expect long wait times and don’t expect every Disney employee to be willing to bend over backwards to make your trip the most magical vacation you’ve ever had. I’m not sure where that came from, but our experience at The Beach Club was far from it. The resort was beautiful and the pool was amazing. We enjoyed our stay, but all of the cast members working there didn’t seem to love their jobs like we expected them to.

2. Bring water and snacks.

Most moms know not to leave home without a bag full of snacks, but I didn’t realize how important this would be at Disney World. Having a snack on hand when waiting in line with bored and hungry kids can be a lifesaver! Or maybe my kids are the only ones that get hungry when they’re bored.

I also wish we would have brought our own breakfast. We ended up ordering breakfast from the store in our hotel every morning. Not only was it expensive, but it took time that we could have been spending in the parks.

Another thing I wish we had brought was water. Again, I almost always bring water with me when we go anywhere, but for some reason we didn’t bring any with us.

One night we stayed at the pool until closing, and by the time we got back to our room the hotel store was closed. My husband searched the whole resort for at least 30 minutes trying to find bottled water. He never found any. We could have easily brought our own, and I actually saw several people bringing it in by the case at check in.

As far as bringing water to the parks, you can bring 1 or 2 bottles and then fill them up at the restaurants for free.

3. Choose your bag carefully.

I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to bring a bag with me to the parks. I didn’t want to have to find a locker to put it in while we went on the rides. But of course, like usual, I ended up carrying everyone’s water bottles, ponchos, sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats. Also there was a space to put your bag on every ride so finding a locker wasn’t necessary.

I brought a medium size Kavu sling bag, but there were times I wish I had a larger bag.

Of course, the bigger the bag you bring, the more you’ll end up carrying and the heavier it will be. So I would keep that in mind when deciding which size bag to bring.

4. Make dinner reservations ahead of time.

This was something knew to me as a Disney rookie, but I’m glad that someone told me ahead of time. Right now, you can book your Disney dining reservations 60 days in advance if you’re staying in one of the Disney resorts.

I recommend setting a reminder in your phone once you know when you’re going that way you won’t forget. You can book the reservations for all of the meals during your stay 60 days in advance from the first day of your stay.

We had some really good meals on our trip, and I’m so glad that we had reservations for them. We were lucky enough to get dinner reservations at Be Our Guest, and I think this was our favorite meal.

Not only was the food really good, but the service was amazing and it was really cool when the beast made his guest appearance. I thought maybe my 9-year-old was too old to appreciate it, but the next day he asked if we could go to more restaurants with characters.

Other restaurants that we enjoyed were:

5. Use the Disney app.

We loved having the DisneyGo app. You can not only use it as a map, but you can also see wait times for the rides. We decided what to ride next based on the wait times and could avoid walking all the way across the park for a ride that had a really long wait.

The app is also helpful for ordering quick service food and finding last minute dinner reservations.

6. Build in some down time.

This was one thing that we failed to do this trip. We learned our lesson the hard way, but now we know. Next time we go to Disney, we will make sure to plan an extra day where we don’t go to any parks. If you’re staying at one of the Disney properties you can lounge at the resort pool or you can spend a whole day shopping at Disney Springs.

7. Wear comfortable shoes.

We walked over 5 miles every day that we were in the parks, so having comfortable shoes is essential. I recommend wearing tennis shoes and if you can bring an extra pair. There’s nothing worse than having to wear wet shoes and you’re bound to get caught in the rain at least once on your trip. Since we didn’t bring extra shoes we were able to dry off our shoes a little bit using the hotel hair dryer.

8. Pack sunscreen.

Comedian Jim Gaffigan said “Going to Disney in July is like walking on the surface of the sun.” Even if you don’t go in July like we did, it’s always sunny in Florida. And no one wants to be miserable after getting sunburn the first day you are there.

9. Expect it to rain.

It rains almost every day in Florida. Usually the rain showers are short and sweet, but it still stinks to walk around Disney with wet clothes.

So come prepared for the rain and bring ponchos! If you forget, most of the gift shops carry them, but you can get them much cheaper at Target or on Amazon ahead of time.

10. Don’t forget to have fun!

It’s easy to get caught up in trying to ride as many rides and see as many shows as possible. But unless you’re willing to wake up at the crack of dawn and drag your kids through the parks until closing for at least a week, there is no way you can physically do it all.

My husband and I decided before we even left that the most important thing about our trip was for our kids to have fun. We knew that it was going to be hot and if everyone was miserable we could go back to the pool at our resort.

So on the 2nd day when our boys wanted to do just that, my husband had to remind me that we were there for them. Who cares if you don’t get to close the park down? Maybe you miss the fireworks show, but if your kids are happy that’s what should be most important.

What tips would you add for surviving Disney with kids? Tell us in the comments and be sure to share this post with your friends!

Disney Bound

When you plan a trip for six months, the pressure to get it right can feel overwhelming.

Add in a trip with kids where you’re spending thousands of dollars to what’s supposed to be the happiest place on earth and the fact that you tend to over think everything. And it can start to feel like you’re planning your wedding all over again.

A friend asked me if I felt like my families’ happiness was on my shoulders and it was like she was reading my thoughts. Except she isn’t a fortune teller. She’s just a mom who has planned a Disney trip or two.

I spent the week or two prior to our trip feeling almost frozen. All of the pressure had gotten to me.

The pressure that I had put on myself. My kids have only been to Disney once and they were only four and one. So really they had nothing to compare this trip to. They didn’t know how many or what kind of rides to expect.

The Spiral

Even still I had overwhelming anxiety about our trip. I started having anxiety about my anxiety. This wasn’t really something new to me, but this time it felt like it was never going to pass.

My anxiety had me fooled into thinking that I’d be too anxious to enjoy Disney World.

What has the world come to that moms are spending their time worrying about whether or not their family will have fun on vacation? It’s not that I didn’t have anything else to do. I just couldn’t get these bad thoughts out of my mind.

Thankfully once we set out to drive to Florida, all of that did fade away. It was like Disney was somehow already working it’s magic on me.

Am I the only one who has experienced this roller coaster of emotions? Please tell me I’m not alone.

Stay tuned next week for tips on surviving Disney World with kids.

Understanding Your Child’s Personality

There are many types of personality tests out there. You may have heard the word Enneagram buzzing around, but I think it’s more than just a new trend. Knowing your child’s personality can be the key to helping you parent and to having a happier family.

If you can understand why someone is doing what they’re doing or not doing it can help you respond in a way that is more likely to make that person feel heard and understood. What parent doesn’t want to have that kind of connection with their child?

I’m not saying that you don’t know your child if you haven’t done a personality test on them. In fact you probably can predict how they will respond to any given scenario nine times out of ten. But do you know why they would respond that way? I’m talking more than understanding if your child is stubborn or easy going. More than if they are outgoing or shy.

Which Animal Are You?

A few months ago, my son came home from school excited to tell me about his day. This is kind of a big deal. Usually when I ask how his day was his response is minimal. I’m lucky to get more than something like, “it was good,” so I was eager to hear more. But as someone who studied psychology, he really started speaking my language when he told me that he took a personality test at school.

He wanted me to take the test too and had extra so that everyone in our family could take it. That night he kept bugging me to take it until I finally did.

Then when I told him my results he just said, “Ok” and walked away. Apparently he wasn’t asking us to take the test because it was for an assignment or homework. He was genuinely curious to know. This was the point that I realized my nine year old is starting to grow up. Maybe he wanted to know what our personality type was because he wanted to understand us better.

The test that we took was The Five Minute Personality Test. It tells you which animal you are most like. When my son told me which animal he was, it made so much sense to me. It has given me more awareness of why he is the way he is. Now when I start to feel frustrated, I remember that he isn’t trying to be difficult, he’s just responding because of the way he thinks about the world. It’s who God made him to be.

Knowing your child’s personality type doesn’t mean you have to change the way you parent completely. Of course if we could all wave a magic wand and know the right way to respond to our children in any situation that would be ideal. But that’s not really realistic. I think just being aware of what your child’s personality type is and noticing when it starts to come out is key.

When people can really stop to think about where others are coming from and truly empathize that is when relationships can thrive. It takes emotional maturity and effort to do, but just reading this post is a start.

4 Types of Personality Tests

I encourage you to take one of the tests listed below and see if you can better understand who your child or even your spouse is.

Maybe next time you have an interaction with them you will remember reading this and simply pause for a brief moment to consider their point of view. Not only how they think about the situation, but how God made them to think about the situation and that he purposely made that to be different than he made you to think about it.

1. Enneagram

The official RHETI can be purchased at The Enneagram Institute for $12. You’ll get a thorough print out of your results including what you’re like at your best and your worst as well as why you get into relationship conflicts and who you are most compatible with. You can also take a free version here, but the results will not include as much detail. There is a ton of information online and social media about the different enneagram types. My favorite accounts to follow on Instagram are @enneagramashton and @enneagramexplained.

2. Myers Briggs

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator explains how people perceive the world and make decisions. It assigns people into four categories: introversion or extraversion, sensing or intuition, thinking or feeling, judging or perceiving. Your result will take one letter from each category such as INJF or ENFP. This test can be really helpful in personal growth and improving relationships, but in my opinion it’s a little more complicated than some of the other personality tests I’ve taken.

3. The Color Code

The Color Code will tell you which color your personality is most like. This test is widely used in Europe by psychologists, government agencies, and universities to screen their candidates. Before you take the test, see if you can guess which color you will be: red, blue, white, or yellow.

4. The 5 Minute Personality Test

This test will tell you which animal you’re most like. I think it’s super easy to take this one to see what your child’s personality type is, because all you do is choose which adjectives are most like them on a scale of 1-4.

Once you determine which animal you are (Lion, Otter, Golden Retriever, or Beaver) then you can see what your natural strengths and weaknesses are. I found it helpful to know that my son who is a beaver, has the desire to be right. It’s also good to know as a parent that he needs security, gradual change, and time to adjust. As a beaver, he is likely to want stability, low risk situations, and tasks that require precision and planning.

When guessing how my husband would answer this test, I found out that his personality is most like the lion. The lions communication style is great at initiation communication and not good at listening. While I’m not sure that this is true 100% of the time, it does help when I feel like he never remembers things I tell him. He also needs to solve problems and wants direct answers. Knowing this about him can help me understand why he gets frustrated with me, the golden retriever, who tends to be indecisive and sacrifice results for the sake of humanity.

It may seem like our personality types are bound to clash, but you know what they say- opposites attract! At least now we can be aware that the other person isn’t trying to push our buttons. They are simply being who they are supposed to be.

Have you taken any of these personality tests before? Were you surprised to find out the results? Stay tuned for more about personality tests for kids.

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Redefining The Summer Slump

I started out this summer on top of my game. I was feeling really good and ready to conquer spending 24/7 with my kids for the next ten weeks. They would have to earn screen time every day and it would be limited to two hours a day. I had ideas for activities to keep us busy and active every day. But even the best laid plans go out the window sometimes. 

Instead of setting screen time limits, I consider it a parenting win when there is an hour in the day that my kids are not watching tv or playing video games. Didn’t I say I’d never use tv as a babysitter? Never say never. 

Instead of spending time blogging every day, I’ve had a pretty consistent daily afternoon nap. But it’s ok, because this summer I’ve decided to totally embrace the “whatever goes motto.” I’m keeping my kids alive and fed and that means I’m doing my job. 

Instead of feeling guilty about how much screen time my kids are getting, I’m reminding myself that sometimes we’re meant to slow down. Instead of calling this season the Summer Slump, I’m renaming it the Summer Slow Down.

I’m considering the fact that maybe I need to catch up on my sleep. And I’m giving myself a little grace for not having activities planned every single day of the summer.

We’re actually getting ready to go on vacation tomorrow and then have another trip planned at the end of the month. So we’ll probably need a vacation from our vacations soon.

How is your summer going so far? Please tell me I’m not alone and share your story in the comments.

Five Ways To Encourage Your Child To Love Reading

This post is sponsored by Storytime. We will always give our honest opinions on these products and the opinions expressed on this blog are purely our own.

My kids have always loved to read. I’m not sure if it’s because they have two parents who enjoy it or if it’s because of the things below that we do to encourage them to love reading. But I know how important it is for every child’s education and development. So I’m going to share some of the things we do in our house in case you need ideas to help your kids develop a love of reading. Here they are!

Five Ways To Encourage Your Child To Love Reading

pinterest 5 ways to encourage your child to love reading

1. Don’t Interfere With Their Choice Of Books

My boys love to read books like Captain Underpants, Super Diaper Baby, and Fart Quest. Basically if it has anything to do with bodily functions they are interested. They also are only really interested in reading graphic novels. My oldest is fully capable of reading books without pictures, but any time I try to encourage him to read more challenging books he loses interest in reading altogether. So I try really hard not to interfere.

As much as I’d like for him to read the classics, it’s important that I allow him the option to choose what he reads. I don’t want reading to be one more thing that he has to do and I want him to enjoy it so it’s important for me to give him control over what he reads.

That being said I do still gently encourage other books by suggesting the ones I think he may be interested in. There have been times when he looked at a book that my youngest picked out and said it was dumb. But then when I started reading it to him, my oldest would stop reading his book and listen.

This leads me to my next suggestion.

2. Model Reading

Children learn by watching others. So if you want your kids to love reading show them that you do too. My husband and I both love to read so this is easy for us. If you don’t love reading or don’t feel like you have time I encourage you to give it a try. Maybe you just haven’t found the right book.

Goodreads is a website where you can enter in the names of books that you’ve enjoyed and they will make suggestions based on your interest. You can keep track of books you want to read and books that you’ve read too! I’ve found some books that I ended up loving this way.

A few of my recent favorite books are:

3. Never Say No To Books

Ok I never say never so instead I should say we hardly ever say no to books. If my kids bring home a flier for the book fair from school, I almost always send in money to let them buy at least 1 book. We also like to take trips to Barnes and Noble and let our kids pick out a book when we need something fun to do.

We almost never say no when they ask for a new book or when one of their favorite series comes out with a new book. The downside is that our house is overflowing with books, but I know that eventually they will outgrow some of them and we’ll pass them on to someone else.

4. Make Books Accessible

We have books all over our house. Both of my kids have bookshelves in their room that are full of books. We also have books in their playroom and there’s usually a book or two in the car. Having books throughout the house makes them more accessible and they are more likely to pick one up if they’re bored when there’s one nearby.

Many times when we go run errands or pretty much anywhere, my kids are reading in the car. Even though having books in the car makes it seem more cluttered, I allow it because it encourages them to pick one up to read every time we’re in it.

We recently discovered a book subscription service called Storytime. Storytime delivers hand-selected books to your door through the USPS that are tailored to your child’s development. These books are focused on topics that encourage social-emotional learning and help your child process major life events.

Even though my boys are into reading chapter books, they both really enjoyed reading the books that we received from Storytime and chose them to read several nights in a row. I was surprised by how much they enjoyed Those Shoes as well as the other books that were in our bag.

In fact, my 6-year-old didn’t want to send them back! The cool thing about Storytime is if you want to purchase the books, you can! And Storytime’s prices are cheaper than what you would pay anywhere else.

5. Make Reading A Part Of Your Bedtime Routine

We’ve been reading to our kids every night at bedtime since they were born. If your kids are older and this isn’t a part of your routine at night already, that’s ok. You can start small by reading 1 book or 10 pages of a book if it’s longer every night. The goal is to read 20 minutes every day, but even if your child reads for 10 minutes a few times a week that is better than nothing.

These are a few things we do in our house that encourage our kids to love reading. Do your kids love to read? If so, what else would you add to this list? Share in the comments below.

Make sure to follow us on facebook if you enjoyed reading this so that you don’t miss our next post!

10 Kid Friendly Hiking Trails in North Georgia

The weather is perfect for hiking in North Georgia this time of year and there are so many trails that are within driving distance of where we live in Atlanta. As an outdoor lover, I have taken my family to a lot of them over the past year. Hiking is really therapeutic to me. It was also one of the few things that we could do safely when we were on lockdown last year. We discovered some beautiful trails that you may not know are within driving distance if you live in the Atlanta area. In my opinion, these are ten of the best kid friendly hiking trails in North Georgia.

pinterest 10 kid friendly hiking trails in north Georgia

1. Vickery Creek

If you live in the Atlanta area, the Vickery Creek Trail at Roswell Mill is right in your backyard. It’s not only a great place to catch the sunset, but you can also see this amazing waterfall from multiple viewing spots.

Vickery Creek Falls

Did you know that the reason waterfalls are so relaxing is that the splashing of the water creates negative ions that balance out all of the toxins we take in? Once the negative ions we inhale at waterfalls reach our bloodstream, they release serotonin- the feel good chemical that reduces stress and depression.

There are a few different places to start this hike, but the one I prefer is behind the Old Roswell Mill near the Roswell Square. If you park at this location you can walk to the old historic mill and learn about it’s role in Southern history. You can also catch a bite to eat after your hike at one of the nearby restaurants such as Souper Jenny or Moxie Burger.

The total distance of this trail system is 5 miles, but it’s easily broken down into shorter hikes depending on how much time you have.

Mom Tip:

This trail doesn’t go all the way around like it looks on the map. So make sure to factor in your walk back to wherever you started when you’re planning your hike.

2. Sawnee Mountain Indian Seats Trail

At the rock formation on top of the Indian Seats trail

We hiked Indian Seats right after a thunderstorm had knocked down trees blocking the road to get to the shorter trail. I was pleasantly surprised that my six and nine year old both made it the whole four miles without much complaining. There’s a beautiful view at the top of the natural rock formation that makes it worth the steep hike.

The entire Sawnee Mountain Park is 821 acres with 11 miles of trails. There are many different routes you can take and the park rangers at the visitor center are super helpful with tips about which one will be best for your family.

Mom Tip:

The shorter hike which starts at the parking lot on Bettis Tribble Gap Road is ideal for families with younger children. You can even see a treehouse and fairy houses on this trail.

If you do the longer trail that starts on Spot Road, there are picnic tables about halfway up where you can stop for a snack or water break.

3. Amicalola Falls

Amicalola Falls is part of the Georgia State park system. It’s located between Ellijay and Dahlonega. There are several cabins, campsites, and even a lodge if you want to stay over night.

This is one of the prettiest waterfalls I’ve seen! It’s 729 feet high and the hike is 604 steps up to the top. So if you have really small children, you may want to drive up to the top where you can still get a great view of the falls without the strenuous hike. My boys are 6 and 9 and they hiked it without any problem.

Mom Tips:

I recommend parking at the bottom and walking up the stairs, stopping for a snack at the top, and then walking down the Westridge Falls Trail and Spring Trail. This way you can see something different from when you hiked up and it’s less scary to me than walking straight down all the stairs.

Amicalola Falls

4. Eagles Rest

Eagle’s Rest is a little known secret on the top of Mt Oglethorpe just outside of Jasper, Georgia. It has some really breathtaking views, an observation deck, and a carved wooden eagle statue that took me by surprise.

scenic view at Eagle's Rest hiking trail in Jasper, Georgia
Scenic view from Eagle’s Rest

Mom Tip:

The Eagle’s Rest Trail is a short .5 mile hike where you might even see some fairy houses if you look hard enough.

5. Falls Branch Falls

Falls Branch Falls is another hidden gem just outside Blue Ridge, Georgia. This is a short hike to a waterfall and it’s perfect if you have younger kids who can’t walk too far.

Falls Branch Falls

If you’re looking for something else to do after your hike, there’s plenty to do in the area. Blue Ridge has tons of other hiking trails including the Toccoa River Bridge. After our hike, we went gem mining at Lilly Pad Village which also has fishing, mini-golf, and hot cocoa in the winter.

6. Chattahoochee River Environmental Education Center

I recently found this trail that runs along the Chattahoochee River and it’s right down the street from my house. If you’re looking for a good kid friendly hike in North Fulton County, I highly recommend checking this one out.

There are several different routes you can take to make this hike as short or as long as you want. You can also make it more difficult by choosing one of the steeper sections. And if you want your kids to have space to run around freely, there are several clearings where they can do just that!

view of Chatahoochee River from kid friendly hike at Chatahoochee Environmental Education Center

Mom Tip:

If you park at the Environmental Education Center, there is no restroom so make sure to go before you leave the house. But if you hike a few miles in there is another parking lot with a public restroom. You could park here if needed, but this section is often more crowded. Also there is a $3 parking fee to park in the lot with a bathroom, which you can pay using your phone.

7. Autrey Mill

We spent many summer days here last summer during the pandemic. It’s a great place to meet up with friends and hike a short walk down to the river. Then you can let your kids play in the water and cool off while you relax.

Autrey Mill also has a small indoor exhibit with a few animals including Pebbles the African Spurred Tortoise, fish, snakes, and frogs. And there are rabbits, goats, ducks, and chicken that you can feed outside.

Mom Tip:

Make sure to check out the teepee and the monkey statues that are on the Forest Trail.

8. Brasstown Bald

family photo at observation deck on top of Brasstown Bald hiking trail in North Georgia
Family photo at top of observation deck on Brasstown Bald.

Brasstown Bald is about 2 hours North of Atlanta just outside Blairsville, Georgia. Let me warn you now, the road is mostly curvy. If you get car sick easily, this may not be the best hike for you. But if you can stick it out, the view at the top of this short but steep trail is well worth the drive! There are several longer trails surrounding the .6 mile paved foot trail to the observation deck, but so far we haven’t tried them.

There is a really neat museum at the top with more friendly park rangers who can tell you all about the surrounding trails and waterfalls nearby. One told us that if you can make this hike in October, you can even see the skyline of Atlanta from the top.

Mom Tips:

There’s a shuttle service that will take you to the top if you and your little ones choose not to walk up the steep trail. It only runs 10-4:30 with a break from 12:30-1:10. Also, the park is closed seasonally during the winter months. You can still hike the trails and pay with cash using the honor system, but the bathrooms and trail are not maintained during that time.

9. Stone Mountain

If you live in Georgia, you’re probably aware of Stone Mountain. It’s kind of hard to miss actually if you live anywhere east of 285. But for those who have never made the trek to this giant quartz monzonite landmark, I highly recommend checking it out. There is enough to do at the park to make it a full day trip, including restaurants and a laser show at night. Certain times of year there are super fun family friendly festivals such as The Yellow Daisy Festival.

Fun Facts: Stone Mountain is 1,683 feet tall with a base circumference of 3.8 miles. It was created by a pocket of magma trapped underground 300 million years ago and came to the surface15 million years ago through uplift and erosion. In the1800s, it was excavated for granite used in cities across the country.

Mom Tips:

There is 5 mile trail around the mountain that you can run, walk, bike, or drive. The hike up the mountain is only 1 mile long, but some parts are very steep. There’s also a cable car that will take you to the top if you’d rather skip the hike.

10. Arabia Mountain

Arabia Mountain is in Lithonia, Georgia just east of Atlanta. There are over 30 miles of trails here, but I recommend parking at the Atlanta Wildlife Animal Rescue Effort (AWARE) at 4158 Klondike Road. The trail from this spot will take you to a short hike over a monadnock rock formation formed by erosion with giant flower filled craters. It kind of has an illusion of walking on the moon.

diamorpha in solution pit on Arabia Mountain hiking trail
Beautiful diamorpha in solution pit on Arabia Mountain.

We hiked this trail with some friends and brought a picnic lunch. The kids had a blast making wooden forts and running around together. We even saw some tadpoles in a pool of water.

child sitting on tree limb on Arabia Mountain hiking trail
Using wood to build a fort on Arabia Mountain.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this list of ten of the best kid friendly hiking trails in North Georgia. Do you have any more to add to the list?

10 Tips For Surviving Road Trips With Kids

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From Surviving To Thriving

Being a mom during the pandemic has brought its challenges for all of us. But if we can stop to take a minute to think about what we have learned before we go back to the busyness of life we may realize that it hasn’t all been for nothing.

When looking back over the past year about what I’ve learned, I can see that I’ve grown so much. The pandemic has been a life-changing experience for me. If it weren’t for us being on lockdown last year I may have never gotten to the point of depression where I finally admitted that I needed to take medication. I don’t know if it was the potential for losing someone or if it was the anxiety about whether or not we would get Covid every time we left the house. But I do know that the pandemic triggered something in me that made me feel helpless and hopeless at times.

As hard as it is for me to share this I think people need to know. if you’re in a dark depression, more than likely you may not be aware of it. You may not be aware of the potential for happiness. You may not be aware of what you’ve been missing.

That’s why I think my story is worth sharing.

It’s worth the risk of people looking at me differently. It’s worth the risk of hearing people say “Why were you depressed? But you’re beautiful and you have two beautiful children!”

Because somewhere out there may be someone that isn’t aware of the life they could be living if they accept that they need help. I recently discovered that when you’re in survival mode your brain cannot scientifically process emotion in a healthy way. When you’re responding with a fight or flight response you’re not thinking the way you would if you were calm and balanced. That’s what medication can do for you. It can give you the strength and mental clarity that you need to get back on the right track. So that you can then work through your problems or the traumas that you’ve experienced in your past.

You could spend hundreds of dollars going to see a therapist learning all kinds of coping skills, but if your brain isn’t able to process that information it won’t do you that much good. If the part of your brain that controls your behavior can’t connect with the part that controls your thoughts then you’ll never be able to take the steps that you need to actually live a happier life. Luckily for me I’ve found a good combination of medication and therapy that has enabled me to do the work that I need to do. Now I can focus on learning the coping skills that I need to move through and enjoy life happily.

I asked a few of my mom blogger friends what they learned about themselves over the past year and this is what they had to say.

6 Mom Bloggers Share What They Learned During The Pandemic

Jasmyn of Just Jass

What 2020 taught me was that we shouldn’t keep waiting to pursue something that we have been wanting to do! So many people had told me to start a blog and it took me 6 months and a pandemic to finally hit the launch button!

I’m so glad that I did because my blog has already presented me with so many opportunities and I’m getting to do something I love which is writing! As a SAHM, it has given me something to do other than being a mom. This has ultimately made me a much happier person to be around!

Check out Jasmyn’s blog Just Jass for more about her journey as a stay at home mom as well as tips and tricks on pregnancy and newborns.

Kelly at Mini Mischief Managed

After lock down, I was just as disappointed as my kids that the summer would not include the events, play dates, and scheduled activities we had grown used to. I was ready for a break from being the main entertainment for a three year old and twin one year olds. I was ready to have some of my activities back where I would recharge from the time with them all day. 

When it was clear summer would look nothing like what we hoped, I did two things: 

First, I let go of having a schedule and planning to do certain things each day. We went with the flow of how we were feeling, what the weather was like, and what sounded like fun. It was hard not to have the social interaction I was used to, but also nice to take each hour and day at the pace we wanted, without always considering timelines.

Second, I knew I needed something that wasn’t 100% kid focused to spend time on. Many of my hobbies before kids did not translate well to having kids around due to materials involved, set up, and time required. I needed to find something new that could be done at home. As an avid reader, an unofficial bucket list item has always been to write a book someday. Writing a book fit all my above criteria.

In November 2020 I published my book, “15 Ways For New Moms To Manage Stress & Stay Sane”. This book became a way to document and remember many of the things I did every day as I parented three kids under age three for over a year. It was also a way to connect new moms navigating the parenting world with the help and social support we were used to getting at a time they didn’t have access to it.

The journey wasn’t easy, but I loved having a finished project to show for the time frame when the pandemic affected so much in our lives. As humans, we are resilient; and as moms, we are some of the best at adapting. The best way to start is mentally re-framing your situation to what you can accomplish, and go from there!

Thanks Kelly for sharing your insight. You can follow her and join her online community over at Mini Mischief Managed.

Natasha from Mamahood Mindset

My little boy was just 10 months old when the pandemic hit and we were thrown into our first lockdown. Little did we know it would be a year of repetitive lockdowns and restrictions. As a stay at home mum whose partner continued to go to work, it has been a tough time with lots of challenges.

But amongst the challenges of having nowhere to go, I have learnt so much about mindset and how it can have a huge impact on our day.

I have come to understand how an affirmation can change your beliefs on a subconscious level and therefore change how you feel about a situation. Affirmations have helped me deal with:

  • Dealing with feeling as though I never achieve anything in the day.
  • Helping with anxious thoughts.
  • Feeling as though I always need to be doing something
  • Fighting against mum guilt.

Gratitude has helped me to see the good that is in my life. To be thankful for where I am and what I have. It has helped to lift my mood and has left me feeling happy with where I am in life.

Lockdown has shown me so much about myself and has set me off on a mindset journey that I am still learning from and enjoying. It has changed the way I think and has made me stronger. It has also changed the direction of my blog, and following a re-brand all about mindset and self care.

Check out Natasha’s blog over at Mamahood Mindset to learn more!

Yasmin from Lovely_MommaLife

The pandemic has taught me that life shouldn’t have to revolve around work. I have come out of the past year as a stay at home mom. It gave me a lot of time to reflect on what I want from life. When I look back on my life, what will I be glad to have done?

For me, I don’t want to miss out on my daughter’s milestones and stages before she starts school. I feel like I would miss out on this by returning to work, because I was finishing as late as 6pm. By the time I would get back that would mean missing a whole day with my child. I’d have to settle her to bed and then do it all over again the next day.

I had a lot of time while furloughed and then on maternity leave to see how life would be. It helped me to come to the best decision for me. There is no right or wrong to whether anyone becomes a stay at home mom. I just know that there is the best decision for everyone. Only we can decide what that is. So many jobs require a lot of hours, then add the commute and it feels like your life has to revolve around work.

The pandemic allowed companies to have people working in a different way. To work from home and here in the UK, jobs are still having people work from home mostly. It shows that things could change. We don’t need to spend a lot of time working in a set place and having to commute each work day. Depending on the role, we can work from home. It is so nice that many people have been at home more with their families. I feel like this would be so beneficial if it could happen more, no matter how little the steps.

Being at home every step of the way so far with my daughter has been incredible. My daughter Birdie is 7 months old now and she loves getting plenty of interaction with those close to her. Nothing makes her happier more than just having me there, smiling and playing with her. The lockdown did impact her ability to adjust to others. Now that things have eased, it is valuable to bring Birdie to baby groups. To enjoy play dates with other babies and people. It’s such a special time.

Yasmin’s blog is Lovely_MommaLife. Make sure to head over there to read more about her life as a stay at home mom and for some tips on self love.

Robyn at A Dime Saved

I learned that so much of parenting is in the attitude. If you make it fun, then it is fun. Your kids don’t need camp or fun vacations- if you make something exciting, they will think it’s exciting.

Kids don’t care how stupid or silly an activity is. They care that you are trying to have fun with them. When our kids look back at this period, they will remember all the fun family activities we did with them. They will not forget that we were positive and focused on our family, even when there was so much that we couldn’t do. 

Creating positive memories for my kids- no matter the circumstances – is the most important thing to me. Not only is it fun, but it gives them a sense of security. No matter how crazy the world is- we can still have a good time as a family. 

Our kids can do without a lot of things if they need to. We think they need a lot of stuff and a lot of stimulation. But the fact is that if kids have a loving environment, then that is enough. 

Check out Robyns blog A Dime Saved for tons of fun activities that you can do with your family.

Subarna at The Mommys Corner

Indeed this pandemic has taught us a lot. Our lives have been changed. We all went through a tough situation but it has taught us many life lessons that we kept on ignoring earlier. By God’s grace, we are doing well and I am thankful for that.

In my life, there is a sunny side to this darkness. I launched my blog last summer and it is going to be 1 year old very soon. I was a web developer before being a stay-at-home mom and I always wished to have my little corner on this internet. So I fulfilled my dream and started my blog TheMommysCorner. We often give excuses that we don’t have much time to pursue our dreams but it’s not true. We have enough time, but we lack enough desire to pursue our dreams.

What did you learn about yourself during the pandemic? Have you stopped to think about it? If so, we’d love for you to share your experience in the comments.

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Surviving Summer As A Stay At Home Mom

This post is sponsored by Basic Invite. We will always give our honest opinions on these products and the opinions expressed on this blog are purely our own.

With the end of the school year right around the corner, I’m having mixed emotions. I’m looking forward to sleeping in a little, eating lots of watermelon, going on summer vacation, and hopefully getting to spend our days at the pool.

I’m also dreading it a little bit. Is that bad?

As a stay at home mom, I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to survive this summer. My kids being out of school also means that I will have less time to myself. It also means less time to write, get errands done, and that I basically become their event planner for the summer. 

I’ve been feeling kind of stressed out too. May is always a stressful month to me.

There are so many extra things going on in May such as:

  • Teacher appreciation week
  • Swim team practice
  • Soccer games on Saturdays
  • Taekwondo twice a week
  • Planning summer vacations

Someone pointed out to me the other day that the stress is also because May is a time of transition. We’re transitioning from the school year to the summer. Even though this is mostly a good thing, it still means a change in our routine.

I was thinking about what makes me feel less stressed and I thought other moms might want to hear what I’m doing to help myself survive this summer as a stay at home mom.

5 Tips for Surviving Summer as a “Stay at Home Mom”

1. Lower your expectations. Then lower them again.

I’ve always said that the best way to survive anything as a mom is to lower your expectations. Recently I heard someone add on to that advice by saying to lower your expectations and then make them even lower. It’s such good advice in my opinion. Not because you should strive for being a bad mom this summer. But because we as moms tend to strive for perfection. We think we have to do it all for our kids. In reality what our kids enjoy most are the little things like making memories together and getting our undivided attention.

2. Allow your kids to earn screen time.

One thing I’m planning to do to make this summer easier is to make my kids earn screen time every day. I’m going to do this by using a reward system.

For example: They can read a book, do chores, or play with each other without fighting for 1 hr. Then they’ll earn 1 hour of screen time. My boys are 6 and 9 so an hour is feasable for them. But if you have younger kids, you might want to try 30 minutes.

This will help give my kids something sense of routine and then while they are having screen time I will be able to get things done. I don’t know about you, but the only time I can really get anything done when my kids are home is when they are either watching tv or playing video games. Otherwise, I have to get them a snack, drink, or play referee every 5 minutes. 

3. Plan a vacation or staycation.

Having something to look forward to always helps me get through days that are harder as a mom. This year we’re planning a trip to Disney and to the mountains with family. We’re all looking forward to both trips of course!

4. Schedule self-care.

Find a way to get regular breaks. I blog about the importance of taking care of yourself as a mom pretty often. You can check out my previous posts What Self Care Means To Moms or Self Care For Busy Moms to learn more about why self-care is important.

During the summer when kids will be home 24/7 scheduling self-care into your week or even every day if you can is going to be essential to surviving! Hire a high schooler to help a few hours a week if you can. If you can’t find a way to get a break, then wake up early and take 10 minutes to do something that’s just for you. 

Sometimes I think we make self-care out to be harder than it is. It can become another thing we have to do that we don’t have time for. But even taking 5-10 minutes a day or a few times a week to do something for yourself can help you fill your cup. Then you’ll be able to be a better mom for your kids.

5. Celebrate summer with a party.

Since we have been counting down the days until summer break, I obviously know how excited my kids are for the last day of school. Instead of focusing on the challenges summer will bring, celebrating this transition will be more fun.

We’re going to invite some of our neighbors and school friends over for a water balloon fight on the last day of school. I’ll blow up our kiddie pool and get the water slide out.

I might even ask the ice cream truck to drive by that day. Because what kid doesn’t love ice cream? Nothing says summer more than getting to pick out your favorite treat while listening to the catchy ice cream truck tune.

Planning Your Party

Basic Invite has FREE websites that you can use for your party as well as beautiful stationery to help you get the word out to your guests. Since I just decided at the last minute to throw a Celebrate Summer Party, I’m using the free website tool. Then I can just send the link to our friends and even share it on social media if I want to!

If you have a High School Senior, Basic Invite also has graduation announcements, personalized graduation invites, and graduation open house invitations. They’re great quality and completely customizable.

Basic Invite graduation announcements and party invitations
Basic Invite Graduation Announcements

A few other reasons I like Basic Invite are:

  • Almost Unlimited Color Options- Over 180 different colors to choose from.
  • Custom Samples- So you can see the paper quality and how your invitation will print.
  • Over 40 Different Colors of Envelopes- They’re all peel and seal to make it easier to send them out quickly!
  • Address Capturing Service- Basic Invite offers an address capturing service that allows you to share a link on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media to request friends and family’s addresses.
  • Foil- Foil cards are available in gold, silver, and rose gold. You can choose flat or raised foil on all of Basic Invite’s foil designs.

Right now Basic Invite is offering 15% off with coupon code: 15FF51. So it’s a great time to give them a try!

Basic Invite Birthday Invitations

I hope these tips help you survive your summer as a stay at home mom. If you’re a mom, what would you add to the list? We’d love for you to share in the comments!

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