We celebrated the Smith family April birthdays yesterday (there are 3) in Orlando and, of course, it included a trip to the park for a bug hunt. And a light saber fight. And the cutest cousins ever just having frolicking fun outside like kids do. Just being kids in the park. You're welcome for the first picture. It's my new favorite thing in the world.
See you back here soon!
For the past few months Ellison has participated in the 'Girls on the Run' program after school on Mondays and Wednesdays. It has been the highlight of her week and I couldn't be more excited that she likes it because the program is amazing (despite the look of complete apathy on her face above). For real, it is everything you would want your daughter be doing and talking about after school. If you haven't already heard about 'Girls on the Run', then click on over to their website to check it out. But then come back here to read about and see pictures from the celebratory 5K that Ellison and I ran this past weekend.
I first have to say that I was not particularly thrilled about the timing of this run mainly because it fell on the Saturday morning following my stint as a Prom chaperone and a late night (anything past 11 pm) means I need all the sleep I can get. But, once we got there and Ellison got her race t-shirt and met up with her friends, I got over it and was really excited to be able to run the race with her. As we waited at the starting gate (aka "makeshift Taylor Swift concert" - I guess being one of the few strong female role models meant her songs got all the airtime), I could tell Ellison was taking this run seriously. There would be no stopping to walk, no breaks - just going flat out until we crossed the finish line. And that's exactly what happened. She ran her heart out the entire race and even sprinted the last quarter mile to the end, leaving me to fend for myself about 2 minutes behind. I am so proud of her determination and am loving the fact that she was so into this whole running thing. It's something I think we can start doing more of together, if I can keep up with her. I don't know if Ellison is just really fast or I'm just really slow (absolutely), but I had to push myself to keep her pace.
All in all, it was a good time. Maybe not the fastest time, but a good time nonetheless. And I can't encourage you enough to support the 'Girls on the Run' program in your area. As a parent, high school teacher and a woman I know firsthand of the ways in which low self-esteem and a lack of physical well-being can affect your life. Programs like these can help us raise a community of strong, active girls who are secure enough in themselves to make smart life choices. Thank you to all the coaches and volunteers who made Ellison's experience such a positive one. Ellison says y'all are awesome so you must be! She also says thank you for bringing really good snacks.
See you back here soon!
So, National Park Week starts today and in celebration the National Park Service is offering free admission to any of our country's 58 amazing national parks throughout the week. Since Ellison and I have some wonderful memories of times spent exploring these places, we thought we'd share some of our favorite national park memories.
First, we took a tally of how many national parks we had been to in our home state. There are 3 parks in Florida and we haven't been any! None. Trevor and I have been to 2, but it has been years so I'm not counting it unless Ellison and I have been there together. So, we really need a trip to South Florida to check out Key Biscayne, Everglades and Dry Tortugas.
Next, we counted how many we have been to nationwide. There are 58 overall and together we have only been to 3. That's it. Only 3 of the 58 incredible and iconic natural areas. But, those 3 are unforgettable. So diverse and unique, but so representative of our country as a whole. I have written previously about our trips to each of these three here on 'Girls in the Park' - Great Smoky Mountains, Hawaii Volcanoes and Grand Canyon.
Then we tried to decide what our favorite memory was from each of the parks, and from there we tried to decide which of the three parks was our favorite. We laughed while reliving some of the hikes we took and the misadventures involving bad weather and poor navigational skills, and it was fun to look through the pictures from these trips and try to remember the day when they were taken. It seems like it was just yesterday that we were driving through Hawaii and Arizona and making plans for our annual trip to Tennessee. I guess Gretchen Rubin was right when she said "the days are long, but the years are short."
So as far as favorites go Ellison said hers was Great Smoky Mountains because "it's her favorite place in the entire world. You know that." and I said mine was Hawaii Volcanoes because it has a little bit of everything - mountains, deserts, tropical rain forest. But, there are 55 parks left to visit so who knows. What I do know is that it is important to do all we can to preserve these areas and protect them for future generations. Our history is deeply connected to the physical landscape of our nation and our future is dependent on its preservation!
Hawaii Volcanoes (June 2015)
Grand Canyon (August 2015) * We don't really have any decent pictures of the two of us actually at the Grand Canyon. It was kind of a crazy trip. So you'll just have to imagine we're in the picture:) It went from super sunny amazing weather (see the first picture) to what you see below in like 20 minutes.
Great Smoky Mountains (November 2015)
Here are some more links if you want some more details on National Park Week - head over to the National Park Foundation's website or go to the National Park Service site to find a park near you. It is also the 100 anniversary of the national park service so there are all sorts of cool things coming up to help celebrate the centennial. And remember, all week you get in free!
Oh, and here is an organized checklist of the 58 national parks that is kind of cool to use if you're a list maker like me:)
See you back here soon!
As you know, the tagline of this website is 'take a hike'. So that's what we're going to do. At least 52 hikes in 2016? Challenge accepted.
Ellison and I were looking for ways to ensure that, despite all the things we have going on during the week, we get out and hike together on a regular basis. There are so many great trails we want to check out, but lately it has been difficult to find the time. Well, thanks to Instagram, we stumbled upon the 52 Hike Challenge. It offers exactly what we need - a goal. Always up for a challenge, we decided that this was a great way to get us to seek out those new trails while at the same time giving us something to work toward. In the spirit of new year's resolutions (remember last week when we said we wanted to 'explore more'?), we signed right up and decided that this would be a weekly feature on the blog. We've already taken our first hike and will post about it this week. It's exciting to start this not knowing what the year will bring or where it will take us. Who knows? - we might even be hiking in Brazil or Australia. It's a definitely possibility this year so keep your fingers crossed for us!
I encourage you to read the bio on the founders of the 52 Hike Challenge. It's an inspiring story that transcends the actual act of hiking. It's about embracing optimism and determination, and about having the courage to change your life for the better. Ellison and I loved the idea behind it and we think you will, too. How could you not? There's really nothing to agreeing to participate other than saying that you're going to do it and agreeing to tag a few pictures of your hikes on social media with #52hikechallenge. Plus, they offer trail info and ready-made hiking logs to help you stay organized. There is also an adventure series if you want to step up your game. So sign up so we can all talk about our progress together! I'm pretty sure this is a win-win.
Oh, and Ellison and I are trying to stick to our other resolutions, as well. We did get many of our groceries for the week (including meat and eggs) at the farmer's market yesterday. Though we got there late and most of the good produce was gone. Lesson learned. We also donated tons of clothes and household goods to charity as we settled in to the new house and decided what we really needed to keep (which isn't much), so we're trying to give back. At least as much as we can right now. It's more than I thought we would be able to do this week, so I am happy. Ellison is happy. Remember, we all just have to focus on what we can do, not what we can't, right? Baby steps, y'all. Baby steps.
See you back here soon!
While I have never been super into making firm New Year's resolutions, I do like reflecting on, and setting goals for, the upcoming year. The introspection, optimism and list-making involved in this process are totally my things. So, naturally, Ellison and I sat down to reflect on the growth of 'Girls in the Park' in 2015 and discuss the direction we would like to take this blog over the next year. We have some great things in store for in 2016!
I'll be the first to admit that in our house we are not as diligent about living as "natural" or "green" a lifestyle as we could, or should, be given the fact that every Saturday morning there is a beautiful farmer's market held literally steps from our house where we could buy all the produce, eggs, and dairy we would ever need, or the fact that Trevor hunts and packs our freezer full of fresh vension, hog and turkey so we shouldn't have to buy meat at the grocery, or the fact that we are completely aware of the negatives associated with a generally wasteful lifestyle. But for some reason (laziness? disorganization?) we don't get all our produce at the farmer's market, we still end up buying some of our meat at the grocery and we are absolutely wasteful in ways to numerous to count.
So, I decided that since we are moving into a new house, it made sense to start fresh and really make a committment to live as naturally, sustainably and as environmentally responsible as possible. We don't really know what we're doing, but the whole family is on board! Ellison is not only interested in, but also appreciative of, the fact that we are making this type of effort. It's great to see her enthusiasm for something so important! These changes will not only help keep the planet healthy , but help us stay healthy, too. And that's where 'Girls in the Park' comes in - we want to share our journey to a healthier, more natural lifestyle with you in hopes that it will help us stay focused and mindful, but also serve as inspiration for you to incorporate some of these changes in to your own routine. Small changes can bring big results!
“Whatever change you desire for the world, create that change in your own life. You are here for a purpose. Seek it out. Hunt it down. The greatest misery is to be purposeless. The great depression of our age is not economic, but spiritual. Our spiritual poverty is rooted in our purposelessness.”
When Ellison and I started this blog in August, we wanted a place to share our outdoor experiences. A way to chronicle our time together and the fun we had traveling, hiking and exploring. 'Girls in the Park' was born out of our desire to get outside as much as possible. However, over the past few months, we realized that while we love hiking - seeking out new trails, physically challenging ourselves - what we love the most is simply establishing our connection with nature. And that this connection can be made in many different ways. This is what we want to share on 'Girls in the Park' - ways to connect to the natural world. Ways to ensure that as kids grow up in a modern world, they don't lose sight of the fact that the earth can provide physical, emotional and spiritual nourishment. The basic foundations of playing in the woods, learning about where your food comes from and simply observing the natural world around you are integral parts of childhood. Or at least we think they should be! We'll still share our hiking trips and outdoor adventures, but we'll also feature things such as easy gardening for kids, seasonal and local recipes and ways to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.
'"Teaching kids about the natural world should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives. What could be more important than understanding the world we live in?"
In the spirit of New Year's resolutions and the pursuit of greener living, here are a few things that Ellison and I would like to do more of in 2016.
1. Give back
There are so many ways that we can help others, and the environment, within our community and we want to make sure we show our love for both by giving back. Giving is not just a random act of kindness. It is an investment in humanity. In return we become more than ourselves, we transcend. This transcendence is the key to peace. And y'all, Ellison and I are nothing if not promoters of world peace.
2. eat local
As we mentioned, there is a farmer's market in our neighborhood every Saturday - and numerous others held throughout the city - so it seems a shame not to take full advantage of the oppportunity to buy local ingredients. Plus, Ellison loves to cook and try new recipes so buying and eating local is a win for the planet, for local farmers, for our health and for Ellison's culinary education. There is even a local-ingredient meal weekly delivery service available to help make sure we stay on track (it's www.eatthe80.com for those of you in the Gainesville area). I'm sure we'll be using it often given my track record with actual cooking (I can cook, but I usually don't. Again, laziness.)
Since we have a lot of house renovation ahead, there aren't as many big family vacations planned for this year. This means more weekend road trips to places we have been meaning to check out. We got a great book about local area hikes (here) and are looking forward to trying a lot of new trails, we need to work on our paddleboarding and kayaking, and there are numerous gardens we want to visit throughout the state (like Naples Botanical Gardens and Florida Botanical Gardens).
4. protect the environment
So we aren't the "greenest' house on the block. But we want to be! We're going to try to establish habits that make conserving resources as easy as possible. Once we create new, healthier patterns of behavior, we're hoping that going green will become second nature in our house (this website has great green info for Gainesville residents). But honestly, if we manage to get our stuff in the recycle bin and conserve more water then that will be a pretty good start.
These are our goals for the new year and we're pretty optmistic about accomplishing them, mainly because whatever we manage to achieve is still a step forward. Our focus is going to remain on what we can do, not what we can't. While 2015 was a wonderful year, there is a lot to look forward to in 2016. We are excited to share new experiences with you on 'Girls in the Park' and hope that together we can continue to create a fun space that is encouraging, supportive and inspirational. A huge thank you to all of you who regularly read our blog and a warm welcome to those of you checking us out for the first time. This site is a love letter to nature, to family and to the power a single act has to change the world.
Happy New Year!
My family and I love to get outside and explore every chance we get. My daughter and I started this blog as a way to chronicle not only the places we have visited, but also as a way to preserve our time together. We hope you enjoy it and will make a little time for a hike with friends!