How to Prepare for Spring Gardening

You have probably begun to see the daffodils in full bloom and life beginning to beautifully grow around your home and community… which means it is officially Spring! As much as I love Winter, I do get excited to see fresh color and life around me when Spring arrives. My yard is full of purple clover, violets, dandelions, and fast growing grass. Yes, most of those plants people will not want, but I know the value of making wild violet jelly, tinctures and teas from the dandelion and also the benefits of clover. In this blog, I hope to share my preparation techniques for Spring gardening with you in hopes that you will learn some tricks to use yourself. 

Many of you may already be tending to your Winter gardens and even have planted brussel sprouts, kale, spinach, or other hardy plants. That is great! Keep up the great work. Others may have started seeds or plant starts in their greenhouses that are growing to be ready for transplant.  You may even be like me, where life just has been full of challenges this season and been pulling you in all directions and you have no garden started at all. That’s ok! Let’s get going together.

Here are my favorite essentials to gather and prepare for Springtime planting. 

Jiffy Organic Seed Starter Mix

Diatomaceous Earth (aka DE)

Compostable seedling pots, inside plastic ones

Popsicle sticks or plant stakes

Hand tools: garden trowel, gloves

Planning steps that may take more time up front are important because they will save time in the long run and help you have the most productive harvests. Here are some of the steps that I make sure to do every spring season.

Soil Testing: Our local agricultural center offers soil testing. You gather soil samples from several sections of the garden where you want to plant and then take these to them. They test them and tell you if you need to add any minerals or are high on things and need to balance the soil out. Check your local co-op or ag extension for this service because it can be very helpful. 

Garden layout plan: It is very helpful to draw out your garden layout before planting. This helps you strategically plan for companion plants or those that do not do well together. It also helps with spacing and ensuring your plants have plenty of room and that you maximize what you want to plant in your garden. There are several great books that help with this, as well as, many methods people use for planting. Some methods include square foot gardening, row planting, raised beds, planting in pots, hydroponics, tower planting, and more! There are options to fit most anyone’s lifestyle or space available to them. 

Gather your seeds and plants: There are many ways that you can obtain seeds. Many people save seeds from years before and use those. If you have not saved seeds, you can order them online from many reputable companies such as:

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange   

Johnny’s Seeds  

My favorite way to obtain seeds besides seed saving from previous years, is to go to our library seed exchange. As a Master Gardener, I am familiar with this program because volunteers of this group will pack up seed, label them, make a catalog, and then offer them to the community through the library check out process for free! That’s right, free. I know that I am getting great quality seeds also because they are grown and then returned by Master Gardeners or people in the community that have learned to garden and want to give back. Such a fantastic idea, as we all know when we plant seeds, there are always some left over. So, why not share? You can also ask friends if they have seeds to share or swap and trade with you. I love gathering seeds this way, as my friends then know what seeds worked great for them and which did not. You can also buy starts/small plants from garden shops and farmer’s markets if you do not want to wait for seeds to grow. Keep an eye out for some future posts or blogs where I will share about how to tell if your seeds are going to germinate.  

Clear out beds: If you did not clear your garden beds out during the Winter, then it is time now to get that all cleared and ready for seeds and plants. Be sure to pull any weeds, make sure your structures/beds/rows are ready. You can go ahead and rake, hoe, till, or ready your land in the method you prefer. This will make it easier to begin planting soon. 

Get irrigation, rain barrels, watering systems in place: Just as you prep your land, you need to begin to prepare your water systems. You may choose to install a rain barrel now to begin collecting water so you are ready to water plants soon. We have used water pumps from our creek to bring water to our garden, rain barrels, and last year DIY irrigation lines on timers. I will go into more detail on the pros and cons of those in a future blog. For now, choose how you may want to water and establish that setup so you are ahead of the growing season. 

Establish trellises or climbing structures: After your ground is prepped and ready and you have your water systems planned, it is time to establish any trellising or climbing structures for your future beans, peas, cucumbers, and other climbing plants. These are so much easier when done ahead of time than after the plants shoot off climbing all over other plants, your cute garden decorations, and are growing out of control.  

Prepare for weed, bug, and other control: Bugs and predators for your garden are going to come. Bugs can be staved off with homemade sprays and DE. Snails can be prevented with beer traps and weeds with vinegar and water mixes. It is best to choose ahead of time and make an area/small shed in your garden to hold your organic tools to protect your plants. 

Vegetables that are hardy for Spring planting include: bok choy, kale, chard, spinach, lettuce, radishes, peas, chives, asparagus, beets, and brussel sprouts so go ahead and get going on planting these now so that you can have food sooner and are able to succession plant throughout the Summer.    

All in all, as you see, planning is key when it comes to a productive spring gardening season. Taking time to prepare your garden properly on the front end, allows for an easy and plentiful harvest. I hope you learned something from this and wish you the best with your spring garden this season! 

3 Tips for Helping Children Adjust to Transitions

As adults, some of us like to have plans so we know what to expect and others like to fly by the seat of our pants and go with the flow hour by the hour. Either way, research has shown that all humans need some level of routine in their life. This may be waking up to music, drinking coffee, working out, going to work, winding down doing yoga or reading a book.  Most people have a sequence of events that they do daily that helps them feel regulated, safe, and in control of their day.  

As a Certified Child Life Specialist, I spent many of my years learning about how developing children cope with stressors so that I could properly assist and support children experiencing challenging or life-threatening events to adapt. For children, routine and consistency are super important. When they are admitted to a hospital or have an unexpected illness or injury, that consistency and routine is changed instantly.  Studies have shown and I have seen that routine and consistency with minimal transitions help children to have a sense of normalcy because they can predict what is to come. Life happens though and we know that transitions will inevitably happen.  Small transitions for a child may be some of the following: moving from screen time to bath time, finishing homework before playing with friends, or shifting from eating on the couch to eating together at a table with family. Larger transitions may be going from in-person school to virtual school, having family all working together in one home when they used to be in separate spaces, or going from one home to the other during a divorce process. No matter the size of the transitions, these 3 tips with tangible examples are all potentially beneficial ways to help young children adjust.  

1. Verbal preparation comes first, then language cues:

Example: Dad walks over and takes the Ipad away from the 3 year-old son in order to get out of the car to eat lunch. The son has a complete meltdown with tears, screaming, and crying. How could this have been modified?

Dad: Son, we are about 5 minutes away from the restaurant where we are going to have lunch. When we get there, we will turn your show off the Ipad before we go in to eat? (Then, when stopped at the restaurant before getting the son out of the car)

Dad: Ok, son, first we are going to turn the ipad off, then we are going to eat lunch. When we get back after lunch, you can finish watching your show. 

It is helpful for children to have time to think about and process transitions so giving verbal preparation with a tangible amount of time helpful. Using “first, then” language helps children understand sequence and what is coming now and later. 

2. Time to prepare for transition

As mentioned above, giving children time to transition with verbal preparation is helpful. Combining that with a visible time reminder can be even better. 

Mother: In 3 minutes, it will be time to clean up the blocks and get undressed for bath time. 

Be sure to have a visible timer that children can either hear clicking or see the numbers on the front panel. A timer with an audible ring or beep can help children understand it is time to transition. 

Child: I do not want to take a bath (as he sees the timer begin to count down the time).

Mother: The timer has not beeped yet so you still have 2 minutes to clean up before time to get in the bath. (timer rings)

Mother: What did I hear?  Did you hear that?  Your timer went off, reminding you to get undressed and get in the bath.  Let’s go!  Can you help me squirt some bubble bath into the water to make you some bubbles?

Creating a visible schedule can also help children see what is first and what is coming next in their day. This does not have to be an exact time schedule but can be more of a block of time so that the child sees: first they eat breakfast, then they have free play, next they go to the park, and then they take a nap, etc. 

3. Acknowledge feelings and allow space for children to safely problem solve

Children may not like transitions and will express themselves in a variety of ways. Some children will pout, throw things, yell, scream, cry, throw tantrums, hide, or even push or hit. It is important to maintain consistent and safe boundaries for children with their bodies and those of the adults around them. It is appropriate to tell a child that it is ok if they have feelings and want to express them but it is not ok to hurt themselves or other people around them while doing so. Wording for this may appear as:

Parent:  I see that you have tears coming down your face and you seem very angry as you are swinging your fists at me. I cannot allow you to hurt me.  Your hands are to be kept to yourself.  What do you think will help you to be less mad right now?

If they do answer with some solutions, a parent can guide them to help make that solution happen if appropriate. If they do not have a solution, a parent can offer them ‘would you like to give yourself a big hug with your arms and take a deep breath while blowing out to the count of three’?  If that does not work, then you may ask the child if they need a hug to help them feel safe or redirect their angry feelings to an inanimate object such as a pillow to push on or punch when angry. Then, when de-escalated, teach them how to take deep breaths and reduce their anger without using any physical actions towards things or others. 

Another example would be a child who is throwing their belongings or begins to act out in various ways before it is their weekend to go to their other parents house. Children living in separate homes who transition spaces every other weekend, or however it is written in the parenting plan, can have challenging behaviors prior to those transitions. Acknowledging their feelings and allowing them to problem solve may look like this:

Parent: I see that you are rolling your eyes and not packing your clothes to go to your (dad’s/mom’s house). What do you find is difficult about that or what would you like to share about how that makes you feel to go to (dad’s/mom’s) house every other weekend? The child may state that they do not like to take clothes or their own toys each time. They may explain how they do not have their own space or have to share when at the other home with step-siblings. Some solutions to transitioning to and from two homes may be brainstorming how some clothes and toys can stay at the other parents home so they are there consistently and do not have to be carried back and forth. It may also be creating standard expectations that apply to both homes so that the child knows what their rules are at each place and boundaries are the same.  

The concept behind these three tips can be applied to many transitions in a child’s life. The goal is not for children to be guarded from all of life’s challenges but instead to be able to experience them and come up with healthy ways to cope with them, process their own feelings, and brainstorm solutions. This will create resiliency in them and prepare them for hardships they may encounter later in life. Thanks for giving these tips a try and feel free to comment below on any helpful tips you have to share that have worked for you and your child when adjusting to transitions. 

5 Things to Do or See in the Smokies

Since I was a child, I have been visiting the Smoky Mountains near Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. This area was close enough for my family to make a day trip and enjoy time together. I remember they took me to Silver Dollar City as a child, which is now called Dollywood and Hillbilly Golf. Now that I am grown I still visit the area, often. Before I owned my cabin properties, I would come with friends once a year if able and rent a cabin to watch or participate in Rod Runs. This car fest draws tons of people each year and I loved to see all the unique fancy cars and trucks. Now that I own my own cabins, I am in the Smoky Mountain area once a month to maintain those properties. In my time there, I like to create balance and ensure we have a little fun, in addition to the work. I thought I would share some of our favorite “tourtisty” and local things to do while in the area. 

  1. Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, TN

Let’s start with the places I visited as a child, Dollywood and Hillbilly Golf. Dollywood is an amusement park created by Dolly Parton. It is an all day type of place to visit and unlike other theme parks is more shaded with the natural setting so you do not get as hot while waiting for rides or walking around. I love that each season there are new and unique themes to see such as Barbecue and Bluegrass, Harvest Festival, and the spectacular Smoky Mountain Christmas. I also like that it is a wholesome, Christian park where Gospel, bluegrass, or Dolly’s music is playing throughout. In the past, we have saved money by getting the Gold Season pass so that parking is included and we receive 20% off purchases once in the theme park. This is good for us if we plan to visit multiple times a year but if you plan to go just once there are less expensive options. I have so many things to share about Dollywood that it could be a blog in itself. For now, my favorite things to do while there are to ride the many awesome rollercoasters, watch their amazing shows with talented cast members, and to ride the steam train to enjoy the scenery. 


  1. Hillbilly Golf, Gatlinburg, TN

Hillbilly Golf has been around for nearly 50 years now and even survived the wildfires in 2010. It has two Appalachian themed, 18 hole miniature golf courses on the side of a mountain. I love that you get to ride a tram about 300 feet up the mountain and then golf down. This obstacle golf course features things that are typical Appalachian mountain items such as tractor equipment, moonshine making setups, and old forest logs. These things make for challenging yet fun holes that create a unique atmosphere for great putt putt. There is even one hole where you turn your putter around and use it as a pool cue to tap the ball down a Plinko-like game table before it lands near or in the hole at the bottom. It has many fun aspects like great history, beautiful landscaping, and entertaining family fun!

You can find them on FaceBook @Hillbilly Golf

  1. Sugarlands Shine, Gatlinburg, TN:

I took my first big swig of homemade moonshine when I was five or six years old. This was not intentional, but my daddy carried around a jug that was clear and had a thumb handle on it. We were visiting Grandfather Mountain on a day trip and I saw that jug and was thirsty. I took a big swig of ‘water’ not knowing that it would burn all the way down. That was an interesting time which made for a good laugh, for sure! Ole Smoky Moonshine opened up in 2010 and up until then I had only ever had homemade ‘shine. I was not even sure it was real ‘shine since it was legal to distill and distribute then. So, I tried it and no offense to all ya’ll that like it but it was nasty to me! I did not like the flavor, the consistency, or the after taste. After that I just stuck to my local mountain water and didn’t give it another thought. Then, in 2014, Sugarlands Distilling Company opened in Gatlinburg and began offering samples of Sugarlands Shine. So, I went to give it a taste and now I highly recommend visiting their location when you are in the area as their ‘shine is mighty tasty. When you arrive you pay $5 to sample 12 different ‘shines. They have multiple tasting stations where a local person helps tell about the ‘shines and pours samples. Tips are recommended afterwards if they do a great job. What I like about this is that you can try 12 different types or flavors of ‘shine and then use the $5 you paid for the tasting to go towards a bottle of ‘shine to take home. This is a great daytime activity, evening date night, or group activity. I took my Momma there for a daytime fun visit and needless to say we were good to go for the rest of the day and had lots of laughs together. Personally, I do not care for all the frou frou flavors. My favorite may not be one most folks like because it is stout at 100 proof. Again, I think I like it because it is what I was raised up on. The traditional, unaged corn whiskey is closest to the kind that used to be bootlegged throughout the Appalachian mountains and has a crisp, sweet tone. Others that are similar to what I had back home are the Blackberry, Peach, and Apple Pie kinds. Definitely worth a taste to see what you think and they are less proof around 40 or 50 so you may not feel the ‘impact’ as much as the traditional ‘shine.

  1. River Fun, Waterfall Body Slides & Tubing, Gatlinburg/Townsend, TN

Having grown up in Damascus, Virginia I have always been appreciative of and drawn to beautiful rivers. My grandparents house was on the Laurel River and when I would spend the night with them I remember the window being cracked and the sound of that mountain water flowing. My swimming pool growing up was at Backbone Rock, a natural waterfall that I would bodyslide down into an ice cold pool of fresh mountain water. So naturally, when I am in the Smokies, I have to find watering holes to play in. We have two spots that we normally go to that are in very different locations. So, depending on where you are staying or visiting you can choose one or the other. The first one is on a less popular entrance into the Smoky Mountain National Park. A general pin to the location is 194-272 Greenbrier Road, Gatlinburg TN 37738. There is a dirt road that leads to several pull off areas with the beautiful Little Pigeon River on the other side. In the middle of the river area there is a waterfall that you can bodyslide down, as well. As with most mountain water, it is brisk so going in midday with peak sun is ideal. Also, wear water shoes and stay on the small rocks as the larger ones can be super slippery. On down this road 5 miles or so is a moderate to strenuous hike to a large waterfall known as Ramsey Cascades. The other river we like to go to is more of a float river located in Townsend, the quiet side of the Smokies. This is called the Little River and runs along several campgrounds including a KOA and the Little Arrow. You can take your own tubes or rent some at one of the various outfitters. This is a great way to rest and relax in nature on a hot day!

Smoky Mountain River Rat Outpost  

Smoky Mountain Outdoor Center

Cowboy Tubin’ 

  1. Hiking/Scenic Views, Clingman’s Dome, Bryson City, NC

There are umpteen options for folks as far as scenic drives and hikes go in the Smoky Mountains and several guides and reviews of hikes that can be found online. So, for this section I am just going to chat with you about the 45 minute scenic drive from Gatlinburg, TN to Clingman’s Dome in Bryson City, NC. This drive is absolutely breathtaking and there are several areas to pull off and admire the scenery or take a hike, including the Appalachian Trail. So, for now I will focus on Clingman’s Dome and you can do your research and find the hikes you want to try along the drive up there. My tips to you are to leave early to arrive early as the parking lot gets full quickly and the half mile walk/hike from the parking lot to the top of Clingman’s Dome takes about 35-45 minutes and is somewhat strenuous. Not because of the path as the majority is paved but because of the steep incline of the path. I have been winded just taking my time and walking up the path because of that. It is definitely well worth it at the top of the observation tower at 6,643 feet, the highest peak in the Smokies. Be sure to take proper outdoor gear (comfortable walking or hiking shoes, a rain/windproof jacket, sunscreen, water, snacks, binoculars, and layers of clothes) as the weather at the higher elevation can change quickly and is typically 10-20 degrees cooler than where you start. Take a camera and be prepared to see nearly 100 miles if the weather is clear!

Through my many years visiting the Smoky Mountains, I have enjoyed tons of fun activities. These listed above have come to be my favorites. So, try these out next time you find yourself in East Tennessee and tag me in your pictures!

Tips for Choosing Gratitude & Mindfulness

I find it really easy in the hustle and bustle of our modern world to feel overwhelmed and become frustrated. Especially when there are messages of discontent, suffering, disagreement, and pain all around us. When my mind feels bombarded with those things, it can produce negative thoughts and my  perspective of situations around me can nosedive to a dark place! The great news is that I have the power to soar above that darkness using practices of gratitude and mindfulness techniques that I have used as a Certified Child Life Specialist. These help to redirect my focus from negative thoughts to uplifting my spirit and allowing me to more easily choose an attitude of gratitude. I hope to help you understand gratitude and mindfulness and reduce your own stress in this article. I aim for you to increase your ability to choose gratitude through the tips about mindfulness practices below. First, let’s take a look at what gratitude is. 

Gratitude has a variety of definitions but basically the Oxford and Merriam Webster dictionaries conclude that it is a feeling of thankfulness towards others and the world. It contains a readiness to show appreciation to yourself and others and to return kindness. What does the Bible have to say about gratitude? I have learned it is important for me to take what the world says about something and compare it to what the Word says. The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” and in Psalm 118:24, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Taking these insights, I put together 5 sets of tips to help you choose gratitude and become more present with mindfulness practices.

Renew your mind with the Word of God

  • I find that when I take a few minutes each morning as I wake to renew my mind with God’s truth that it changes me. In the morning, it helps my mind start out with a clear, positive focus to read that God wants what is best for me and that He has plans for my life. You can use a devotional to help you or simply open the Bible to any page and begin to read. 
  • In the evening, closing out the day with God’s Word helps take my worries away so I can rest peacefully. If I am not up for reading myself, then I let the Bible app speak to me and typically fall asleep to it. That is completely acceptable and I know that the Word of God has power even if spoken over me while I rest. If your burdens are heavy or you are stressed about the day to come and feel restless, try keeping a small notebook by the bed to write down the items you are thinking of. When a thought pops up, acknowledge it. Does it need to be written down to get it out of your head? If so, write it down then leave it there until morning. Sometimes reading your thoughts back to yourself help you to realize that they are thoughts coming from the enemy.

Renew yourself with the power of presence

This means to take at least 5 or more minutes a day to give to yourself. You may be wondering how that is actually possible. You might say, she has no clue how busy I am. Well, I used to be a work-a-holic, I changed. I used to be stressed so often that I got ulcers, I changed. I now am a mom of a toddler who is super active, I find balance. The point is, that you can choose to find a few minutes a day, at least, for yourself.

  • Find what works best for your personal self. If you are used to being in motion all the time, you may need to choose to be still. If you are more comfortable being still, you may want to try to move your body. It may seem awkward and challenging at first to do the opposite of what you may be comfortable doing, but your brain will create new patterns and feel refreshed. 
  • If your body needs rest, find a comfortable space where you can be present to yourself, still, and aware of how your body feels in the moment. You can then meditate (thinking on things that bring you joy) and practice deep breathing with inhales through your nose for a count of three and out through your mouth for a count of three. Repeating this several times.
  • If your body needs motion, you may benefit from taking a walk in nature with no connection to technology. Observe the sounds and views around you without distraction. While heightening your senses, begin to silently say thank you to everything around you that you are grateful for.

Renew yourself with creativity

  • Write down vertically each letter of the alphabet and write something beside each letter that you are grateful for. 
  • Take a photo of something that inspires gratitude for you and look at it often thinking of why the image makes you thankful. What about the picture makes you warm and fuzzy inside?
  • Color, journal, or draw. You may use any of these creative methods of self-expression to slow down and see what comes from your inner self. 

Renew yourself with mindfulness

  • Imagine your favorite place, take yourself there in your mind and spend some time feeling, seeing, smelling what is around you that brings you comfort and peace. For me, if not around my family, I often think about the times we have been together and what I love most about them. 
  • Notice your body and the parts of it that support you. Your hard working hands or feet. The back that holds you up. You may notice ailments or injuries. Notice them briefly, then shift your focus to thanking the healthy, supportive parts of your body for what they do. 

Renew yourself and others by sharing gratitude

  • Share what you are thankful for with others over lunch or at the supper table. You may use a premade tool to spark up the conversation or simply just share what comes to mind. 
  • Reach out to someone by text, email, phone call, or letter and let them know why you are grateful for them. Giving gratitude often brings about feelings of thankfulness for the one giving it. 
  • Remember to affirm yourself with statements that build you up. I love to use the Word of God but I also just write a few things down that I need to remember. Simple words such as “Self-Compassion” have been my focus this year. I give a lot more of that to others than myself and so keeping the words in front of me helps me remember that I too deserve to have compassion. 

I hope you use these many ideas of choosing gratitude and mindfulness practices to create a sense of peace, calm, and joy in your life this season. Feel free to share other ideas or how it goes when you try the above ideas out. Many blessings to each of you, I am very thankful to have you on this journey of life with me. 

Nashville Pumpkin Patches to Visit This Fall

Fall is my favorite season for many reasons. I love Fall because my birthday is the first day of Fall, the weather gets cooler and crisp, and pumpkin patches open up! Fall is our time to rest after the Summer for my family and I. The harvesting in the garden is finishing up, the chores seem to get a little lighter, and Fall for me is the transition into the Winter season of more rest. I also love Fall because because of less mosquitos, better weather, and bonfires beginning! Visiting pumpkin patches are a family favorite of ours, so I wanted to highlight my 5 favorite pumpkin patches to visit this Fall in hopes that you will be able to go explore them with your friends and family. Of course, the past two years have been different due to COVID so I will share the in’s and out’s of how you can best prepare to go to these patches and not be disappointed. All of these are located in the greater Nashville area. 

Gentry’s Farm

This family farm is located at 1974 New Hwy 96W in Franklin, Tennessee across the road from the well known Westhaven community. Per their website, they are a seventh generation working farm celebrating 165 years on this land and 30 years of providing Fall family fun activities! They offer pumpkins, hay, and beef cattle for sale, as well as, rent land to other farmers who farm row crops such as soybeans, corn, and winter wheat. Normally, you can just drive up and go on in to enjoy the Fall festivities. However, with COVID, pre-purchased reservations are required for the activity areas. These sell out in advance and quickly so be sure to plan ahead if you can. I know this is hard because we cannot predict the weather or show up when we want. On the bright side, if you need pumpkins, you can pick those up anytime. They ask that masks be worn when social distancing is not possible. 

Their hours are Saturdays 9am-5pm, Sundays 1pm-5pm, and Mondays 9am-1pm, beginning October 2nd and ending October 31st. As far as farms go, the entry into this one is more affordable than the others with tickets at $8.25 plus tax for ages 2-65. Under age 2 and over 65 are free and you do not have to pre-register them to enter. 

Some of our favorite things at this farm are closed this year. These include the wagon rides, play farmer’s market and ice cream shop, grain/corn troughs, and the pick-your-own pumpkin patch. My son loved the grain troughs and playing with the toys in the corn as well as the farmer’s market play areas last year. I love hay or wagon rides so I was sad to hear about that being closed this year. The good news is that there are several other options that are open such as the outside and inside corn mazes, river walk trail, tractor playground, sorghum labyrinth, tire swings, life size large and small spider webs, animal viewing area, and photo opportunity areas. This gives plenty of options to enjoy a wonderful Fall day together. 

This farm is beautiful in scenery and spacious enough to maintain distance yet visit all they have to offer without being completely exhausted. I love the heritage of this farm and the way their family has taken care of what God has given them. 

Wilson Family Farm

Established in 1893, this designated Century farm has been passed down through the generations. They are located at 4809 Byrd Lane in College Grove about 35 minutes South of Nashville. This farm also asks that you purchase tickets in advance but also offers them at the gate with cash or Venmo. They will be taking temperatures at the gate and anyone with a temperature may not enter. Masks are not mandatory but they recommend when in closer proximity to others on the hayride that you sit with your own family group. 

Their hours are Saturdays and Sundays from 10am-4pm, starting October 3rd until October 31st. Admission is $10 and free for children under 2. To order tickets in advance you can go here

We have enjoyed this farm for it’s down home, family oriented, friendly feel. They used to offer pick-your-own pumpkins but due to COVID they are pre-picked with a large selection to choose from. They have an 8 acre corn maze and stunning flowers. There is a tent area that offers wares for sale such as baked goods, jams, salsa, and more. Their sweet farm dog, Camo, always greets us when we arrive which is good since outside pets are not permitted. Thompson had great fun with their hayride, cow train, and pumpkin cannons!

This farm is also excellent at Christmas time. There were many photo opportunity areas that were lovely and thoughtfully decorated. We actually used one of them for our Christmas card last year. I highly recommend visiting them during the Christmas season for hot cocoa, Santa train ride, picture with Santa, and plenty of photo ops. 

Lucky Ladd Farms

The Ladd’s purchased this farm in Eagleville in 2008, located 45 minutes South of Nashville at 4374 Rocky Glade Road. It is a 60 acre homestead that offers educational agricultural experiences for visitors. They opened Lucky Ladd Farms a year later, naming it for all of life’s blessings that have been showered upon them. They have been featured by Travel Channel as one of the Top 15 Best Pumpkin Patches in the US and I can see why. For children and adults alike, there are a ton of things to do on this farm. Masks are not required and they ask that you social distance responsibly. When we went, that was not the case at all as the majority of people were around one another and not wearing masks. Wide open areas abound so it is not difficult to find your own space. 

Their hours until October 3rd are Thursday- Saturday 10am-4pm and 12pm-5pm on Sundays with admission ending an hour before closing. From October 4th-October 30th, Thursday-Sunday hours are 10am-6pm, and Sunday hours are 12pm-5pm. There are many offerings at the farm seasonally and dates vary by each season so be sure to check out their website for more details. For Fall, they close October 31st. Timed ticketing is in effect and you may not get in if you do not order your tickets in advance. Even with the advanced tickets, we had to wait in line about 15 minutes just to get to the ticketing area to show them our tickets on our phones. Tickets vary in price by date from $15.99-17.99 plus tax, making this one of the more expensive patches to visit. The Pumpkin Pass ranges from $20.99-22.99, and the Fall Frenzy package ranges from $35.99-37.99. The magnitude of activities offered and all day things to do make the cost worth it as you get your bang for your buck. They also offer season passes at other times during the year so that the farm fun can continue. 

This farm has so many things to do it is hard to mention them all. Some of our favorite things are the animal petting zoo which has pigs, goats, sheep, and more. You can feed, pet, and in pre-COVID times you could brush them. We also enjoy the hayride which is long and has wood cutouts of various animals along the ride. There is a toddler town that is separated by a fence area and allows the little ones to play safely without getting run over by the larger children. Thompson loves the slide, play structures, pots and pans musical section, and adult/child swing. For children of all ages there are large slides, a very large inflated jump area, tire mountain, corn maze, cow train ride, spider web crawl, individual game area with puzzle style games, and of course pumpkins!

We normally only visit this farm once due to the size of it and how much energy and time it takes to see everything. Plan a larger chunk of time for this farm if you want to see everything it has to offer. 

Walden Pumpkin Farm

This 265 acre farm is located at 8653 Rocky Fork Road in Smyrna and began selling pumpkins in 1999 after they planted a few plants for themselves. When they wound up with over 500 pumpkins, they put them out by the barn and people came to get them. The pumpkin farm began after that and they open from late September to October 31st annually. Due to COVID, they are open for pumpkin and fall item sales only. Unfortunately, there are no activities available this year. 

Their hours are Thursdays and Fridays from 2pm-6pm, Saturdays 9am-6pm, and Sundays 12p-4pm, starting September 25th and ending October 31st. Parking and admission to shop for goodies is free. 

Normally, my family enjoys the pumpkin train, hay mountain to climb on, 40 foot tunnel slide, corn and wheat bins, face painting, sand art, corn crib, duck races, farm animals, and hayride. We are sad to see that all these are closed this year, but if you need a place to get a pumpkin with very low risk of COVID, this is the place to go!

Honeysuckle Hill Farm

In 1995, a hobby farm of 12 acres began at 1765 Martins Chapel Church Road in Springfield, Tennessee about 40 minutes North of Nashville. It started out with a crop of corn and pumpkins. Eight years later, the first Fall festival for church friends and family was held. It was then that Honeysuckle Hill Farm began and now covers over 200 acres. In the Fall, it is known as Middle Tennessee’s largest outdoor Halloween attraction, Nashville’s Music City Corn Maze, and features Zipline Adventure Park. They advise that masks are recommended and have several handwashing stations throughout the farm. 

Their hours and days vary so be sure to see when you may want to go here.

General admission varies from $15.95-19.95 depending on when you go. They do recommend buying tickets online in advance but they are also offered at the gate for more cost. Season passes range from $44.95-49.95.

This farm is expansive and has so much for everyone to do. Upon entering, there is a farm store with goodies to purchase, a huge pumpkin patch, large rocking chairs and other Fall decor for awesome Fall pictures. The farm is hilly so be sure you come with lots of energy and give yourself plenty of time to explore. There is a cow train, playground area, sand and construction play zone, farm animal area with faux cow milking stations, singing chicken show, piglet racing, and gem mining on one side of the farm. On the other there are jump areas, apple shooters, large and fast slides, a corn maze, hayride, and swings. Since the farm is over 45 minutes away from us, we normally go one time and make the most of it by spending all morning and leaving at lunch when we are worn out. You could definitely spend even more time if you like and also enjoy the weekend evening bonfires and fireworks. 

My Tips & Tricks

As for all of these Fall farm visits, I recommend the following 5 tips to make your outing successful and frustration free:

  • Check their websites and social media pages for day to day updates. Sometimes they close due to weather or if they are at capacity. Since many of these are a little ways away, checking these pages before you go may save you the hassle if you arrive and they have closed for some reason. 
  • Wear comfy clothes and shoes that you do not mind getting a little messy or bring a back up outfit. I know we all want to look super cute in our Fall attire but keep in mind that you will get a little dirty and will be walking a lot. Being weary about getting a little dirty or having uncomfortable shoes may hinder you from truly enjoying all the activities these farms have to offer such as slides, swings, rides, and animals. You may even want to dress everyone super cute and festive when you first arrive and get some great photos at the photo opportunity areas and then have a change of clothes for after so that everyone can be wild and free to play and enjoy. 
  • If taking children, bring a wagon or something they can ride in. The farms are large and they will get tired. Plus, a wagon has great space to store your meals, belongings, and maybe even a pumpkin to take home. Seating places at these patches may be limited and so a wagon with a side that comes off and makes a bench seat is super helpful when I go with Thompson. 
  • A blanket, snacks/lunch, water bottle, and umbrella. Since our family does not eat dairy or gluten, it is hard to find foods that we can enjoy when at the pumpkin patches. I ensure that I pack plenty of healthy snacks and then a lunch for each of us. That is where the blanket comes in handy because we use it to have picnics. Having water on hand is super important as you are walking and playing a lot and will get thirsty. The umbrella provides shade for Thompson when riding in the wagon or having a picnic and is also helpful in case it rains since pre-registering to go to these can come with unpredictable weather days. 
  • Camera or phone for pictures. There are so many amazing photo opportunity areas that some truly awesome pictures can be taken at these locations. If you have a selfie stick that may be helpful as well as you may not want to wait and ask someone to take a picture or share your phone due to social distancing. 

I hope the information about these farms is helpful in providing a wonderful time of making memories for you with those you love. I would love to see your pictures from any of these or other patches that you visit! You can tag me in your pumpkin patch posts @glorybethatsme. Happy Fall Ya’ll and may the Lord reap a bountiful harvest in your life this season.

Non-Traditional Games for Toddlers to Teens

Many children and adults live In a very technology driven, video game playing, and screen filled world. Our societal norms have shifted in the past decades from spending time together as families to participating in more individualized activities. As a Certified Child Life Specialist, I have seen children whose social skills are underdeveloped, aggression levels are heightened, and awareness of the environment around them is foggy. Researchers agree that children and families need more time together to connect, grow their relationships with one another, and communicate together more regularly. These are all reasons that I wanted to share ideas of unique games that families can play together from toddlers to teens. My goal in this blog is to encourage families to spend more time together through games that do not involve screens. I hope this helps your family to connect, have fun, and enjoy each other’s presence in a positive way. 

Growing up, my family always played games. I remember many evenings and weekends spent playing Candyland, Go Fish, Yahtzee, UNO, Monopoly, and more. As a matter of fact, my brother who is 4 years older than me, said that the whole reason I was born was so that I could be his game buddy. In other words, his test dummy for all the weird, as I would call them, unique, as he would call them, games. We still gather together to play games as a family and with friends. I am never lacking in game options as my brother is great at finding ones that we have never even heard of. Although there are many traditional and non-traditional games out there, I only recommended one game per age group. I hope you enjoy these recommendations and let me know how it goes when you play them as a family. 


Melissa & Doug’s “Monster Bowling” is geared towards ages 2 and up. My brother gave this to our son Thompson for Christmas as his very first game. He loved it and still plays with it all the time and is nearly 3 years old. It comes with a neat carry case that all the monsters and monster ball fit snugly inside. The monsters are fun looking, have designs that make them very tactile for sensory interest, and the concept of the game is easily understood. The child takes the monster ball and throws or rolls it at the monster bowling pins. This game can be played solo or with multiple players and can be played for as long as the child or family are interested. This game promotes movement and exercise, hand eye coordination, and fine motor development. 


“Farm Rescue” is best suited for children ages 4 and up, lasts about 15 minutes and is for 1-5 players. This cooperative game for younger children is similar to Memory in that the cards are initially face up and gradually are placed face down. Children and families are to remember the locations of different animals as they roll dice and flip corresponding tiles accordingly. The goal of the game is to save the animals from the wolf by helping the farmer rescue the animals. This game teaches children teamwork, memory, and matching. Adults will enjoy this one as they play together with their children. Brain Games created this game and it has won both theImagination Gaming Young Einstein and Player’s Choice Awards in 2019.


The game “No Thank You, Evil!” sounds funky at first. However, when you dig deeper into the game, it has some great qualities to help children harness their creativity. This game is for children ages 5 and up, lasts about 30 minutes, and is for 2-5 players. What I love most about this game is that it is suitable for younger children as well as older children. This provides a bridge for siblings of different ages to play a game together without getting bored because the game is too easy and not at their level or frustrated because it is too hard and over their head. The game comes with rules that are easily adapted to the abilities of the players. To play, an adult or older child is “The Guide.” They start the story using an adventure provided in the game or one they make up themself. The other children playing the game then create a character based on descriptive, imaginative traits and then they take an action. The Guide decides how hard the action is on a scale of 0 to 8 and these are called “The Goal.” Actions succeed or fail based on a roll of the dice. What drew me to this game was that it is unique and does not tell children what to do and how to think. It actually allows them to envision the story, use their creativity to design characters and how the story unfolds, and encourages their imagination, which is what it has won awards for. It also helps them to learn about overcoming obstacles and working together which are essential life skills. 


“Wingspan” is a fun, educational game for ages 10 and up, lasts between 40-70 minutes and is for 1-5 players. It is currently BoardGameGeek’s #1 Family Game. It has won multiple awards and I can see why. When my brother introduced me to this game, as usual, I was like…what is this mess?!?! Haha. The beautifully illustrated bird cards, colorful, wooden eggs I could touch, and 3-D bird feeder where dice are rolled, all drew my attention. The game is simple in that you are bird enthusiasts and are seeking to discover and attract a diverse array of birds to your wildlife reserve. By taking different actions and having strategy, you gain victory points and the player with the most victory points at the end of the game wins. This game is educational in that it has over 170 bird cards with interesting facts, nest types, wingspan, and geographic habitats. Another benefit of Wingspan is that it is a game that is able to be played many times with various outcomes and has expansion packs for those who want to dig even deeper into the world of birds.

To dive deeper into any of these games, click the links provided to find them on Amazon. I hope these games can serve as a bridge for your family to have some much needed screenless fun! So, gather up your crew, grab some snacks, and enjoy!

Checkin’ Out Cheekwood

Cheekwood is a 55-acre botanical garden and art museum located in Nashville atop a hillside with a scenic view of downtown in the distance. I originally visited Cheekwood with my husband Aaron during one of their Christmas evening events where I was drawn in by the visiting reindeer, lights, caroling, hot cocoa and s’more stations. It was absolutely lovely with all of the lights, natural decor, and romantic vibe. Once there, I realized there was more than I thought there was and that a daytime visit was in store. Per their website, Cheekwood describes this historic location as the original home of Leslie and Mabel Cheek in 1929 that was converted into a museum of art and botanical garden in 1960. I fell in love with the cultivated gardens, expansive vistas, and seasonal events.They often have outdoor contemporary sculptures interspersed amongst the wooden trailers and gardens. 

Cheekwood is a place that suits the needs of many who may choose to visit.  From couples, to families, to friends groups, and even to individuals. There is truly something for everyone. Aaron and I have enjoyed visiting on the evening music nights. We went for a date night and once we arrived realized that Thompson would have loved to have joined us. They had a live bluegrass band playing, an open field area with picnicking, dancing, and food trucks. They also had a live mum wall which provided a great photo spot. They have art, photography, yoga classes and much more. You can check out their happenings and updated events here.

Before they built the childrens’ garden, Aaron and I would just go occasionally to special events. Once the children’s garden was confirmed to be finished, we decided to invest in the Individual + 1 Annual Membership. Daily tickets are $19 each and children 2 and under are free so we felt this was a great savings for us if we all went together or if I took Thompson several times a year. Membership benefits also include parking, invitations to member-only events and days, discounts for the classes, workshops, and special events, and 10% off at the gift shop and cafe. We have never used the last perk because we bring our own food but the parking for sure saves a lot of money with a membership. So far this year, even with COVID halting visits to the venue, I have taken Thompson 4 times with 2 of those visits having grandparents come along without paying. That is already around $110 not including parking, so the membership definitely was worth it for our family. 

Here are some tips and the best areas of the botanical gardens for young children. I always pack lunch for both myself and Thompson, or whoever is going with us. I ensure that I have the wagon ready and loaded up with a picnic blanket, umbrella, and our water bottles. Thompson is sprayed with sunscreen and bug spray before leaving the house and we aim to leave the house by 9:00am or 9:30am to arrive by 10:00am as that time frame works best for Thompson, plus we beat the heat and potential crowd. With COVID restrictions, you have to go online and reserve a timed-entry ticket. Even if you have a membership. This is challenging at times because if you do not plan enough in advance, the early times are already booked up. I have been able to arrive slightly before my reserved time and still enter which is nice. Masks are required for adults even in the outside garden areas. We have been able to park up top closest to the entry which is nice because there is a path nearby that takes you through the gardens to our first stop…TRAINS! As you get closer to this interactive display, there is a storybook trail that you can read to your children.  

The TRAINS area is by far one of Thompson’s favorites. I like it too! There are miniature outdoor train tracks and 3 or 4 trains that ride around throughout. The wooded feel and way they designed the structures that the trains are on is very earthy, nature-inclusive, and appealing to the eye. There are a few tunnels to walk under and through with interactive buttons to push. Thompson loves running back and forth after the trains saying “Look! Here it comes!” Train sounds play from hidden areas of the landscaping and there is now a new play area right next to the train display. This has several small binoculars to look through, a seating area, and a spiral slide. The slide goes to a lower level area so parents or guardians probably need to go down and await children to slide down. It was muddy at the bottom last time we went so beware of that depending on the weather. Once we are done hanging out with the trains, Thompson hops back in the wagon and on we go to the Children’s Garden area. As we travel between areas, Thompson enjoys using his umbrella to spin around and block the sun. I always wear my sun hat as it is beautiful to me and it is essential in blocking the rays for my sensitive light blue eyes. 

The Children’s Garden is a new addition that  just opened in 2020. We arrive at the upper area of these gardens and visit the sculptured ducks. This has a duck display that doubles as a splash pad. We did not know this the first time, but fortunately Thompson had spare clothes and an umbrella so was able to take off playing in the water feature. He had a great time! He could run through the sprays back and forth with his umbrella, climb on the ducks themselves and put his hands in the water, and giggle and interact with other children. He really likes the covered playhouse with a large bell outside. He is sure to ring the bell loudly which hurts mommy’s ears so we are working on having gentle hands with that. Once done with the spraying ducks, Thompson and I walk on the cut log rounds that make a path of varying level heights to the connected log boards that make planks to balance on. After this, he normally peeks into a tiny fairy house structure and moves on to the art area. This area has several bowls of water with fountains in the center and rock easels next to them. Children take their fingers and hands and dip them in the water then make art creations on the slate stones. Super neat! Right across from this station there is a staircase that has a tunnel system underneath. Thompson enjoys running through this area with other children. We continue on the path and there is a meditation garden to walk which Thompson skips that is adjacent to more log rounds and log boards you traverse to the rope bridge. This is a safe, tightly knit rope bridge that leads to more log rounds and the path through more children’s areas. Once through that section, there is a large fountain children can touch and watch as it sprays. Moving along, there is a turtle sanctuary which rescued turtles and a neat turtle sculpture water feature. 

At this point in our day, about an hour or so into the visit, we are ready for a rest and picnic lunch. We find a grassy patch, which is easy to do, and lay our blanket out. Sometimes, we go under a garden arbor and use that for a picnic spot. Thompson loves picnics and we enjoy eating outside amongst the beautiful scenery. I like that if Thompson finished eating first, he can run around and play in the open areas and I can still eat my meal and watch him play. Once finished picnicking, Thompson gets in the wagon and we decide if he is ready to go home or visit the other pond areas and Japanese garden. Most times, we head on home because Cheekwood is about 25 or 30 minutes from our house. A few times we continued on to the pond areas and Japanese Garden and it seemed that Thompson became overtired and fussy before we were home. So, I recommend the path described above for younger children and then coming another time to do the ponds and various other gardens. The Japanese Garden was impressive visually and the path is pleasant to stroll along. Once through this area, the path leads you back up to the Cheekwood entrance and main building. Here I will go use the restroom and change Thompson or let him go potty. I have not taken Thompson into the mansion estate yet as he has enjoyed the outdoor activities most so far and verbalizes that is what he wants to see. Even though we go the same route and see the same things, Thompson enjoys it over and over again. 

Overall, I say that Cheekwood is definitely worth a membership for the variety it offers all age groups of people. I hope this blog helps you plan ahead to take your family to enjoy time connected to nature. It truly helps calm the mind, body, and spirit and helps provide an outdoor option for quality family time together or even some personal alone time. I know if I get the opportunity, that I would love to visit by myself and explore and relax there and see all that I have not seen yet. It is also a good space to go to get you out of the house and keep you socially distant if that is important to you. I am thankful to have such a beautiful venue nearby that I can visit many times and yet never feel like I have seen all it has to offer. I enjoy seeing new things each time and hope to continue to explore new gardens and features this year. 

For more photos and video content, check out my youtube video about our day at Cheekwood here.

Building A Montessori Home

When I was studying at Appalachian State University pursuing my undergraduate degree in Child Development, I was introduced to the Reggio Emilia approach as I observed and spent many hours in the Child Development Center on campus. This is a child-centered approach focused on preschool and primary age groups that utilizes self-guided projects, experiential learning, and focuses on relationships. I was in awe of what I saw with the children during this time. They were so invested in one another, navigating and caring for each other’s feelings, and the sense of working together in community was amazing. This sparked my interest in other methods of education such as Montessori. This approach was developed in Italy by a physician named Maria Montessori. Much like the Reggio Emilia approach, Montessori method  is also child directed, offers freedom within limits, and includes a thoughtfully prepared environment.  

There is an amazing Montessori school down the road from us where we have been on the waitlist since Thompson was an infant. I am thankful that we have not been selected yet, honestly, because I love being able to observe Thompson exploring the environment I have set up for him. I have seen first hand how Thompson is eager to know more, initiates his own learning, and expresses his free choice from the options provided. In this blog, I will share about how to Gift your Child a Montessori Home. Meaning, a home that is able to be explored, touched, and master common objects that are used in everyday life. I will share how taking a step back and looking at your home through the eyes of a child will empower and benefit you and your child both. Continue reading to see how I took one section of my home at a time and made it more Montessori-like. I will share how  it has helped Thompson thrive, become more independent, and created less stress for us both.

At first, Thompson had 4 main areas where his toys were and play would happen. The living room where I had a large wicker basket with plastic toys, stuffed animals, and books. Basically, it was the catch all for whatever came out of his bedroom or playroom. The playroom is a mixed use space in our home as our house is only 960 square feet. It housed a clothes rack for daddy, daddy’s closet, and had several toy shelves with all sorts of toys in them. Thompson’s bedroom had a small basket with toys thrown in it also. Lastly, the kitchen area was a space that Thompson often attempted to reach snacks in the tall hutch or cook with a chair nearby while I cooked. Being a toddler, my son eats, ALL THE TIME! Seriously, there is breakfast, the meal between breakfast and lunch I call snunch, lunch, the snack between lunch and supper I call snupper, supper, then snack before bed. This is why our dear friend Lola bought him a shirt that says, “Here I am standing in front of my mom asking for a snack”. Truth! One day, I thought to myself, why do I spend my whole day feeding this child? I have a background in Child Development, I have training in Montessori and Reggio Emilia, think Marinda, think! I did and it came to me so easily. I had not created an environment that helped Thompson to guide himself, access what he needed, and explore eagerly. His environment was cluttered and overcrowded with plastic things instead of natural materials. Children, just like adults, are drawn to natural materials from the Earth. The more that we can add natural materials to a child’s space, the better. I realized I had a lot of work to do and nearly stressed out for a second. Then, I gave myself permission to take one area at a time and focus on that instead of doing the whole house at once. This became the biggest blessing because I was able to see the fruits of my labor with each space I modified which encouraged me to keep going. It affirmed that I was on to something and was going in the right direction. Let me explain more.

I started with the area that I wanted Thompson to have more independence first. The mudroom. Living on a mini farm, we have a “no shoes in the house past the mudroom” rule. Nobody needs what is out on the farm all up in the house, trust me. So, I cleared out one side of the mudroom shelf system and hung hooks within Thompson’s reach. I placed his bookbag, umbrella, and a few hats. Then, I moved the super sweet stool from my husband Aaron’s childhood that was not being used in front of that mudroom cubby. I cleared out all of everyone’s shoes except the ones Thompson wears regularly and placed them in the very bottom of the cubby. As I was doing this, Thompson literally walked over and said “I put shoes on mommy?” He was ready to put his shoes on himself, sat down, and began to work on doing so. Within a week of changing these simple things in the mudroom, Thompson began putting his slide on shoes and boots on himself. This was a direct observation for me of the Montessori concept that children learn concepts from working with materials rather than direct instruction. They discover and construct on their own when the environment is properly established. I was so excited, I moved on that same day during his nap and redid the kitchen area. 

Thompson already had a play kitchen located next to the stove where he could cook and pretend at his leisure. The challenge I saw with his kitchen was that it was overcrowded, had little work space, and was full of plastic items. I cleared out the shelves of the kitchen and left only some wooden, more realistic play foods, utensils, and appliances. In the bottom shelves, I added the bowls, plates, cups, and utensils that Thompson eats with daily. I also placed a small tray inside with self serve snacks that I was fine with him grabbing anytime. I had an apple, banana, cucumber, and a baggie of nuts/seeds. I realized that Thompson did not have many metal utensils or cleaning supplies his own size. I ordered some from Ikea, along with a chef hat and apron. I searched for the wooden ‘Melissa and Doug Cleaning Set’ on Facebook marketplace and found one there. I also installed a light bar that we had sitting around doing nothing under the kitchen so that it would be bright and welcoming. Ya’ll, with the exception of the Ikea items, all of this was done during one naptime. I added a hook to the end of the kitchen. When Thompson woke up from nap and was ready for snack, I showed him where his plates, bowls, cups, and utensils were. I also showed him his self serve snack bin. His face beamed as he thoughtfully selected his own plate and proceeded to place the apple, then the banana, then the cucumber, then the nuts/seeds. LOL. I realized that he had all of the snack options which was very smart on his part but not what I had planned. I did explain that he could choose 1 or 2 snack options at a time and if hungry could come back for more. He looked at the options on his plate and placed back the nuts/seeds, and the apple. He kept the cucumber and the banana and walked to the table, got up in his chair, and said “I got my snack momma!” I celebrated that moment with him and have kicked myself a little since because I should have done this a long time ago. Now,  I was not having to hear him say “Snack, Momma, Snack, Momma” 100 times a day. Instead, he could serve himself. I utilize this area for all of his meals. When time for breakfast, he gets his own bowl of choice, his spoon, and his oatmeal packet. I have a small metal creamer pitcher that I put hot water or milk in for him and then he pours it himself and makes his own breakfast. It is fantastic that he can set his own table and we can eat family style together. He also noticed the light bar and pressed it on and off. He uses it each time he plays with his kitchen. When the metal utensils, apron, chef hat, and cleaning station were incorporated, he dressed up and played for long periods of time. Sometimes 20 or more minutes, which is a lot for a toddler. 

The living room was the next area of focus. I knew that Thompson was jumping on and off furniture, running and grabbing things and throwing them, and acting out because he was bored and unstructured. Children can have structure and still be free to explore a space and self-regulate more effectively with a thoughtfully planned area. We do not have a traditional TV stand. We have two old ladders that belonged to Aaron’s grandfather. We took pallet and other wood and made shelves to size. This had knickknacks, photo frames, baskets of stuff, remotes, essential oils in a box, and other clutter. I looked around the house and rounded up any containers that I had that were wooden and natural. I found several baskets, some wood boxes that toys or other gifts had come in, and began the transition. I quickly realized I needed more storage options so I got some wicker baskets and placed various items in them. I thought about what I wanted Thompson to learn and what he already enjoys exploring. At Target, I had found some felt goodies that I had given Thompson in his Easter basket. One was about the weather, so I placed it on an open bamboo plate. I used two wooden boxes and placed 2 piece puzzles in one and magnet shapes in the other. I wanted to incorporate musical toys as we do music class together, so one larger box held a variety of instruments. Wood letters with string, shape sorting cube, ice tray with lids from snack pouches were also included in his play area. When Thompson saw the area, I allowed him an uninterrupted block of time to explore. As he went through each box, basket, and plate of new, interesting items, I observed.  This is a key focus of many Montessori teachers. They look for the child’s innate abilities, talents, tendencies, preferences, and unique characteristics. I loved to see Thompson delight in so many of these new items. As the days went on, I watched for mastery of the elements in each box or basket as he played independently or with me. When I saw Thompson lose interest in a certain activity, it was for one of two reasons. One, he was frustrated that he could not complete the task or two, he had mastered the task and was ready to move on. I would offer to show him and play together with him to help with the tasks that were more difficult and then I would swap out the ones he had mastered with new, fresh items. Being mindful to exchange items each week or two weeks as I observe his interest has been key to the success of this living room setup. Some items I find he wants left out even after he has mastered it because he just likes it. Others it appears he is happy to see swapped for something else. This has also eliminated the need for a catch all, bottomless toy pit in the living room. 

The playroom area I transformed in a similar manner as the living room. I added permanent shelving and then placed all items that Thompson could manipulate within his reach. Here I created areas within the room as far as an art area, reading/quiet area, music station, and then various baskets and boxes with play items. Some items are still plastic but I wanted to be sure that the raw, natural materials were increased. Before, Thompson would come and paint at his easel most. He would not really play very long with his other toys probably because the room was overcrowded and overstimulating. Once I changed out the items and made them simple, spacious, and not crowded, I saw Thompson’s interest level increase. He has rope laced eggs for counting, flashcards for letters, animals, and counting, a box of natural items he collects when playing outside and can bring in to display.  He also has a life skills area with a baby doll, clothes, feeding items, and buggy. Now that the floor is not cluttered with so many toys and the shelves have more purposeful play items, Thompson utilizes this space much more. 

The bedroom was an area that had another random box for collecting toys.  I know, not ideal. I removed that and used a shelf system from the playroom to add clothing items that he can use to dress himself. Some are dress up, dramatic play items like construction or police vests while others are practical items such as socks, hats, and pajamas. This has allowed Thompson the ability to choose what he wants if he wants to dress himself some days. 

One area that is not a play area but was critical for me to adjust was our bathroom. Thompson has shown interest in the potty for a while so we have a small toilet for him to use. I added a basket of his cloth underwear, a self care shelf that has a comb and ear swabs, as well as his own tooth brushing station on the counter by the sink. I also got a folding step stool that we can store when not in use but pull out when Thompson is ready to brush his teeth. His teeth brushing station has a small square I cut out of shelf liner. It has a repurposed OUI yogurt glass container, a small shot glass in the shape of a mason jar with handle, a floss stick, his toothbrush and toothpaste. Thompson loves to floss, put toothpaste on his toothbrush, brush, drink water and spit after. It amazes me how independently he combs his hair, cleans his ears, and flosses and brushes his teeth being 2 years old! 

Not only have these changes helped Thompson grow and thrive leaps and bounds, they have also created a sense of pride and accomplishment as he is encouraged to do more for himself. They have also taken some of the strain and tedious work away from me as he does more on his own and enjoys it. I know it is hard to see our babies grow up. I often remind my husband to let Thompson put on his own shoes or pull up his own pants. We want them to stay little for a long time, but the empowerment I see in Thompson is so special that I want to continue to encourage that. Giving children a Montessori home will benefit them throughout their lives in more ways than one.  Thanks for joining me for this blog and be sure to check out the complimentary video for this blog on my YouTube Channel. 


The Montessori Toddler Book


Rope Baskets

Wooden Eggs

Wooden Puzzle

Wooden Lacing

Animal Finger Puppets

Magnetic Building Tiles

My Property Management Journey

My degrees are in Child Development, so when I became a host with Airbnb I did not expect to grow into a property manager. I had rented my home in Jonesborough, TN long term when my husband and I got married and bought a home in Nashville. However, using a property management company was not a great experience for me. I did not like giving so much of the rent coming in to that company. Even for the work they did, I still felt like the home was not cared for like I would have hoped. So, I began to manage it myself. What a hassle! I believe that this was because it was a long term rental, I was not in the area to monitor the renters, and people straight up lie sometimes. We had a huge water bill come in one time and wondered why in the world it was so high. Well, even though we stated no pools, the tenants bought a large pool and obviously filled it. We also had a septic issue for the first time ever and could not figure out why when there were only four people living there. Turns out that extended family moved in and we were not informed. Seven people living there almost cost me a new septic system. Anyhow, I wound up selling the home and was relieved when that happened. No more managing long term properties for me! So, how did I get into short term property managing?  

Be sure to check out my previous blog ‘Why I became an AirBNB host” for more back story on how I got started. Being a host was much easier in my opinion because the guests’ stays were short term, I was able to see guests and know the property was cared for, and did not have to worry about what was going on far away. That was when we were renting our campers out on our own property through Airbnb. When I began managing my tiny cabin ‘Unbearably Cute’ in the Smokies, I knew that I had to step up my property management role. I hired trustworthy cleaners, blocked off one time a month to go visit and deep clean or fix any maintenance issues, and set up my auto responses on the app to streamline my work. The cabin was grossing around 15k when I bought it. The first year I managed it we grossed around 44k. I believe this is because of the loving touches, better marketing through the Airbnb app and on social media, and the great reviews and ‘Superhost’ status. These factors helped guests learn about our cabin and feel more comfortable visiting.  

One day, a friend from my church was asking about my cabin rental and how I manage it. That sparked interest and eventually filled a need for both of us. She owned a property in Nashville and needed to change property management companies and I had prayed for more income to be able to support my family, yet not take too much time away from my son. We ventured together and I began to manage her property and listing. It is called the ‘Timeless Tudor’ and is located in the West End area of Nashville. This new opportunity was challenging at first because I wanted to get the kitchen updated with a new coat of paint, a few additional Nashville touches, and needed to make a whole new listing. All has worked out great and so far the listing has done well. Even with the challenges of COVID and many cancelations of short term stays, we were blessed to have a long term rental from a family. As my friend was thinking about selling a rental property she had in Franklin, TN and was asking about where to get another possible Airbnb, I definitely recommended the Smokies. She and her husband went and stayed at ‘Unbearably Cute’ and liked the area so the hunt was on for a property there. This was such a divine intervention, as well, because my husband Aaron and I wanted to grow our investment properties, but did not have the funds to do it alone. The four of us were prayerful and in agreement about this joint venture. I was the scout and they trusted my choice when I found the cabin we just purchased together as our partnership we call ‘On Holy Ground.’ This new to us cabin is about 1800 square feet, 5 minutes from ‘Unbearably Cute’, and has an amazing view. We all decided that I would manage the property for us and so my property management portfolio grew. Again, I told God, “why did I get a Master’s Degree in Child Development to become a property manager?” Haha. He knew it would allow me to still be able to spend time with my family without working in a hospital setting like I have before with long, unpredictable hours and lots of time away from my husband and son. I am thankful that I did not let fear creep up and tell me I did not know what I was doing because I did not have a degree in it. I am loving, kind, care for people, am a queen of hospitality, and that one interior design class in college has also come in handy! Hehe. I told myself that with those qualities and God directing my path, that I could do anything. So, now I manage three properties and that is how the work-from-home property manager hat got its rightful place on my head. This reminds me not to pigeon hole myself into the things that I think I can do because my degree says so or I think that is only what I am good at. It also helps me not to shy away from things I think I may not be able to do because they are unfamiliar or I tell myself I do not have the talent to do. If God calls you to it, he will equip you to do it. Then, we get to give the glory back to Him. 

Getting an AirBNB Space Ready

One of the things I love most about being an Airbnb Superhost is helping others feel loved, welcome, and comfortable when traveling away from home. If you have no idea what Airbnb is, check out my previous blog post called ‘Why I Became an Airbnb Host.’

There are a few touches that I feel really make a special impact on a listing and the reviews from guests prove it! Some items that cost a chunk of change up front are super important to me because they save a lot of time, energy, and hassle in the future. The link to those are below. I do recommend that you find local places to shop for items to support small or local businesses if you can. However, since I know what I need and have it saved in a list on Amazon I normally order the electronics from there.  

The first thing I do when I walk into a new space that is to potentially become an Airbnb short term rental is feel the space. I know that may sound funky but I believe in feeling a space and taking it from just furniture and decor to a warm, welcoming, and personalized atmosphere. Sort of similar to principles of feng shui but with a Southern touch. These items are standard for me for each listing that I have or manage. 

  1. A Welcome Station that includes a Guidebook created on the Airbnb platform, cute notepad, pens, container of candy, and a customized welcome letter board. The letter board has the name of the property and the season on it and then the names of guests are placed on it before each stay. Many guests are happily surprised by this personal touch and it creates a personalized feel so that they know they matter. It is just not another hotel, in and out stay, or as I have heard folks say “heads in beds”. Ugh! I would not feel special or welcomed like that and want better for our guests. The idea of a Welcome Sign came from a beach visit my family took to Tybee Island. During our conversation with the host I wondered why they kept asking for each of our individual names. Well, when we arrived, I realized why. There was a sign that had Tybee Island and our names on it. We felt it was so special that we took a picture with the sign. I knew that this was a great touch and have incorporated it for our guests ever since.  
  2. An equipped kitchen that includes pots, pans, cooking utensils, kitchen helper utensils (can opener, wine opener, and apple slicer/corer), flatware, dishware, children’s eating set (cups, plates, bowls, utensils), salt, pepper, basic spices, dish cloths, hand towels, scrub brush, sponge, dish soap, and hand soap. I also ensure that there is a Coffee Station which includes a coffee container, sugar canister, creamer, tea bags, and spoon rest. Having ice available in the freezer and basic condiments in the refrigerator is also helpful. Starter items in the kitchen include 2 extra trash bags, 2 dishwasher tabs, and 2 total rolls of paper towels. If these are used by guests, they are responsible to provide their own. Under the sink, I also ensure there is a fire extinguisher, dish drainer/drying mat, and a few basic cleaning supplies. In one of the drawers, I also include a small toolbox with basic tools and screws, and another drawer that has flashlights, chip clips, a small sewing kit, and a catch all spot for little things guests leave behind to contribute.  
  3. Stocked bathrooms that include a bottle of Trader Joe’s 3-in-1 Soap in the shower or tub, hand soap, air freshener spray, potty spray (poo-pourri), scale, bathtub no-slip mat, bathmat, toilet paper and 2 extra rolls. 1 bath towel, hand towel, and wash cloth per guest is my standard. I also love to leave a guest convenience basket or container in the vanity drawers or in an obvious location that includes a few razors, toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss, tampons, pads/liners, cotton balls, q-tips,makeup wipes, and a manicure set. A few of each item is provided initially and then if used, the cleaners will replenish after a guest stay with my supply stock from the owner’s closet. This amenity has been mentioned in several reviews because guests do not want to go shopping once they arrive because they realize they forgot a basic need.  
  4. All of my listings have access to a washer and dryer. Therefore, I include basic laundry amenities such as a small bottle of detergent, box of dryer sheets, fabric refresher, wrinkle release, an iron and ironing board, and a laundry basket. I do not leave huge portions of supplies out but enough that a guest has what they need to get a few loads of laundry done and then if they need to do more they can go get what they need from the store. My cleaners refill the small bottle of detergent before each stay. 
  5. Clearly written and obvious House Rules and Check Out Instructions as well as little notes with tidbits of information on them are essential. I never know if guests truly read all of the instructions I send them through the Airbnb app and so to cover myself and prevent issues in the homes, I ensure the House Rules and Check Out Instructions are laminated and posted on the walls where they cannot be missed. By the hot tubs, I also place a Hot Tub Rules and Instructions Sheet. Guests have commented that they like to know what is expected, how to use things, and where to find what they need when they stay at Airbnb’s. These signs really help guide guests as does the little notes I leave them. I use table setting cards from Hobby Lobby and a Sharpie to write notes that stay in various areas of each home. These include ones for makeup removal, hot tub towels, not rearranging the letters of the welcome sign, fireplace usage, Firestick remote details, and please sign the guestbook. Guest reviews have mentioned that they love the personal touches and cute notes. This shows me that they feel loved, prepared for, and guided when they are staying in one of our listings.  

As mentioned above, the last thing I want to do when I arrive somewhere on vacation or for a work trip is to have nothing there prepared for me. It makes traveling and life so much easier when the above items are offered and a stop to the grocery store is not needed right away. The amounts of items provided size wise are small or medium to prevent guests from wiping them completely out.  Most times, guests are respectful and use what they need but once in a while you will get folks that just use everything. Therefore, the smaller amounts of items and starter sets are important for cost savings.  

Safety and security items are very important. I ensure the following items are utilized at each listing:  

  1. Blink cameras: I use at least 1 camera to monitor each entrance to every listing. If the listing has 2 entrances, I put a camera at each entrance. I ensure that this is disclosed clearly in my listing descriptions as well as in the check in details that a guest receives. I find this is necessary because it allows me to see when guests check in and out. I also had a big ole bear footstool taken one time before I had the camera. Since then, nothing has been removed from my listings. Praise God!  Blink Cameras Amazon Link
  2. Keyless Entry Door Lock: These have been very helpful because I can change the code for each guest if I choose and have a personalized code for my cleaners or anyone else that enters the cabin frequently. This keeps guests and the cabin safe. Keyless Entry Door Lock Amazon Link
  3. Lock Box for Emergency Entry: I have a lockbox hidden near the entry to each listing with a physical key in it just in case something goes wrong with the keyless door system. Lock Box Amazon Link
  1. Smart TV’s: These are necessary for me as I do not choose to purchase cable TV services. I purchase internet service and then use these Smart TV’s so I can Amazon Fire Sticks. Overall, this saves money on a monthly basis. Smart TV Amazon Link
  1. 4K Firestick: For the Smart TVs I use Amazon Fire Sticks so guests can login and stream their own programs. When setting these up I use our personal Amazon Prime account and guests get access to Prime Video. I change the security setting so that purchases cannot be made. Before doing that I download several apps such as YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and others so they can login to their own accounts and watch, I have signs reminding guests to log out of their accounts before they leave. 4K Firestick Amazon Link 

I hope this blog has helped you see all of the startup suggestions I have for ‘Getting a Space Ready’ for Airbnb. Be sure to browse all of the listings I own or manage for pictures and details of those spaces or better yet book a stay and come see for yourself in person! Also, keep an eye out for my future article and video on ‘How to Become and Stay Airbnb Superhost’. Thanks for reading, be sure to check out my Facebook page and like and subscribe to my Youtube Channel. Thanks a bunch!