This is why I do what I do

Openness: Wild Wonder, Natural Curi...

This is why I do what I do. I will only be with them for this very brief window in the history of planet earth. I want to leave them with open eyes, o...

Invasive Species to Capture on Your Next Walk

Invasive Species to Capture on Your...

Hiking, biking and paddling in our favorite parks and along our favorite trails is a great way to connect with nature. But, if you frequent these natu...

Camping in the Rain

What do campers get with Stone Moun...

For our July camp, we spent 24 hours at Stone Mountain Park! We left our tent at home and arrived to find a brand new tent ready for us at our reserv...

Cloudland Canyon State Park with Kids

Cloudland Canyon State Park with Ki...

[section_title title=Cloudland Canyon with the Kids] Cloudland Canyon State Park, in northwest Georgia, proves a fantastic adventure for our hike h...

Southern Summer Bucket List

This is why I do what I do

Openness: Wild Wonder, Natural Curiosity, True Appreciation

This is why I do what I do. I will only be with them for this very brief window in the history of planet earth. I want to leave them with op...

Travel & Adventure

This is why I do what I do

Openness: Wild Wonder, Natural Curiosity, True Appreciation

This is why I do what I do. I will only be with them for this very brief window in the history of pl...

Camping

Camping in the Rain

What do campers get with Stone Mountain’s Ready, Set, Camp package?

For our July camp, we spent 24 hours at Stone Mountain Park! We left our tent at home and arrived to find a brand new tent ready for us at ...

Thrills

Exploring St Augustine with Tweens

Exploring St. Augustine with Tweens

As you can imagine, my two tween sons keep me in search of buzzing action to satisfy their indomitable spirits while balancing quality famil...

Science

24 Hours at Stone Mountain Park

24 hours, with kids, at Georgia’s Stone Mountain Park

I look back at my childhood, growing up near Atlanta, and one place towers over everything else: Stone Mountain. I had the pleasure of ...

Do you want to learn? – Camp Cook Chronicles

J Bear on Pine MountainDo you want to learn? It won’t always be pretty. It may resemble destruction, from time to time. Learning often comes as challenges that we face while attempting to continue in our, “orderly fashion.” Overcoming and moving through these unexpected obstacles, we learn how to live life.

We recently packed 4 bikes on a car rack designed only to fit 3 of them, pitched a tent with two broken poles, saved a phone dropped in the Atlantic Ocean, and had a son overcome his fear of heights to join in several family activities – all on the same trip to St Augustine, FL.

These difficulties are a drop in the bucket of representing the learning process. We’re faced with a problem and devise a solution. We make attempts to apply the solution to a real-life scenario. If it doesn’t work, it’s back to the drawing board with new found knowledge from that experiment. We have all these pieces in front of us and click them together, like a puzzle, often forced to tear them apart and rebuild time and again.

Learning is this constant process of gathering puzzle pieces, fitting them together, pulling them apart and starting over until we have the big picture…. and, even then, when we discover a better piece - we’ll pull out the old one and replace it. It’s an ever-changing picture that never looks the same from one moment to the next.

So, do you want to learn? Be prepared to welcome the challenges and obstacles that pop up along the way – That’s where the magic happens.

Openness: Wild Wonder, Natural Curiosity, True Appreciation

This is why I do what I doThis is why I do what I do. I will only be with them for this very brief window in the history of planet earth. I want to leave them with open eyes, open arms, open minds and open hearts.  -Candy Cook

I’ve been posting a lot of fantastic things to do over the summer and giving away many family fun items. But, as fall breezes in, I need to get back to my roots as a human being on this planet and start writing more about my life experience on planet earth. After all, that is the reason I have a blog in the first place. It’s my attempt to share, with others, the life experiences that shape and impact us as humans.

I never began anything with the intention of running around town like a chicken with my head cut off trying to attend events or do every thing. This is my LIFE. I don’t have time for that. What I do have time for are high quality experiences that have a true impact on my outlook, my children’s worldview and leave us with a rich awareness & lasting memory. 

The truth is… There are many awesome benefits to living so close to Atlanta. There’s never a shortage of things to do.. The many attractions, museums, learning centers and sights to see are never ending. Most of them are quite fun & interesting. There are so many competing for our attention and they can be enjoyable, entertaining and even educational. But, there’s something that matters a whole lot more than those things.

Openness.

Cumberland Island

 

Openness to life, to adventure, to exploration & learning… Open eyes to the miracles we experience every single day on planet earth. Miracles like breathing, drinking water, growing live plants out of dirt. It’s a miracle. But, with all of the fancy gizmos and blaring diversions, everywhere we turn, we don’t often pause long enough to truly experience these simple, natural things as the miracles they are.

Family on BikesWhat I wish most for my children is a sense of openness… the kind of openness I felt exploring the Everglades or kayking in the GTM National Estuarine Research Reserve. The kind of openness that I experienced standing completely alone on Cumberland Island National Seashore, peering into a vast scroll of clouds over an endless ocean. Whatever that feeling is when I’m pedaling my bike alongside my son through the quiet forest, or  watching the cypress trees as we glide along the waters of the Okefenokee. What is that when we spend an hour examining some micro-habitat on the banks of a creek? Wild Wonder, Natural Curiosity, True Appreciation for our lives together, connected by this miracle planet, earth. 

That is what I want to bring to my sons, to my readers & friends, to the people I interact with everyday. Open arms to embrace the best and the worst we get to experience on planet earth. Open mind to think freely and navigate the questions of life & open heart to take it all in and return it as a great appreciation for our lives.  I want to explore life and be rich with experiencing planet earth while I’m here – not chasing after some fleeting moment of merriment. That’s just not me.. never was and never will be.

Cumberland in Black and White

Moms — How do YOU do it??

Me & My Crazy HorseFellow mom and blogger, Maria Smith, poses this question after offering an intimate view of her life as mom, “How do YOU do it?” She explains that she sees moms making forts, getting dirty with the kids, gardening and cooking amazing treats — and explains that she just can’t understand how other moms manage to do it all! I commented on her blog that, I am sure somebody looks at her and feels the same way and shared the post for other moms. I recommend reading the post as I am sure many moms will relate to this feeling — although, I’m not one of them.

I have always been too busy, as a mom, to really consider what other moms are doing might be better than what I’m doing. Before my oldest son was born, I had never touched a baby.. much less held or cared for one. At 22, I married my husband, creating a blended family. By 23, I was running a household with 2 teenage girls, a teenage boy and my irish twins born within 18 months of each other. I didn’t have time to wonder what other moms were doing — I followed my instincts, it’s all I had.

The honest truth is, life has changed so much over the past decade that it’s almost unrecognizable to what it once was. In many ways, my life as a mother has become increasingly easier as my boys age whereas other moms will face never-before-seen struggles as their children enter new life stages — I’ve been here before. I recognize these places, as I have experienced them in younger years with pre-teen and teenage stepchildren. Those children are all grown adults and have left the nest years ago, one by one taking with them a little more of the responsibility I once carried.

I have been through the struggles of a one-income family — moving once a year for the first five years of my marriage, juggling and overdrafting to pay bills, driving an old car that’s only kept alive because my husband was a master mechanic, struggling to feed 7 family members on a tight budget. I’ve been there done that.. it’s over, for now.

In the process, I became a master at turning things around to benefit me in some way. When we couldn’t afford to pay the natural gas bill we simply went without it for the entire summer… opting instead to cook dinners on a 2-burner camp stove, line-drying clothes and taking showers with the backyard hose. Serious fun, right? To my mastermind, that’s how I saw it — a fun experiment. It’s a practiced habit of self-preservation: What can I learn from this? 

When my husband died, 3 years ago, I was completely devastated — in many ways, I still very much am. But, I learn from it and I so appreciate what the experience has taught me about life and what’s important and what I really want to offer to my sons while we are still together on planet earth.

I’m running a very customized version of motherhood, here at my house and I’m well aware of that fact. I was shocked, actually, when I learned that someone was looking at the portions of my publicly-shared life and asking, “How does she do it??” Maria told me that she had our adventures in mind while writing the piece, as she probably had several other moms and their strengths in mind.

How do I do it? I go with the flow. I have never had a plan for this and that’s a good thing because my life has been like the wild river flowing free – constant changing, destructive flooding, drying up in drought, and carving deep into my being. That’s not me walking on the water across a stagnant pool… It’s me drenched in mud, sweat and the river of dreams.

 

Official Partner with Type-A Parent Conference 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia

I have been selected to be an official partner with the Type-A Parent Conference 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. I have very little idea of what this actually means. LOL But, I’m totally cool with that and appreciate the opportunity immensely. I’m learning!

Let me explain…. I really got serious about my blog early this year. I had heard of several conferences, many of which were being held far from my Atlanta, Georgia home base. I really wanted to go to a conference and have the chance to connect with other bloggers, learn some things and improve my skills. When spring rolled around, I caught word of a couple conferences being held in Atlanta during the fall. I jumped on Type-A Parent Conference. Three days of connecting with bloggers, brands and learning new things… even though I’m the furthest thing from, “Type A,” as one of my blogger friends pointed out to me.

This will be my first conference and I’m super excited to be chosen as an official partner and have the opportunity to offer other bloggers an opportunity to join me while we explore the ins and outs of blogging, business, social media and more.

If you’d like to join me, Sept 19-21 for the Type-A Conference in Atlanta… I’m happy to offer the opportunity with a 25% discount!  Just click this link to grab your ticket, use the code BLOGPARTNER and meet me there. 

Invasive Species to Capture on Your Next Walk

Invasive Species to Capture on  Your Next WalkHiking, biking and paddling in our favorite parks and along our favorite trails is a great way to connect with nature. But, if you frequent these natural areas you will begin to notice the troubling trend of certain types of invasive species.

The good news is, the ones I am about to list are easy to capture. In fact, most parks and other public lands encourage visitors to capture them and store them in strategically located canisters where they are collected by professionals.

The bad news is that these common invasive species pose a great threat to the native animals, and to the environment as a whole, if left in the wild. The majority of these invasive species pose little threat to hikers collecting them and are easily contained in bags until secured in a suitable drop-off canister.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common invasive species you will run across during your hikes, nature walks, biking and paddling.

Most common invasive species on the trail In this photo you will find Botticula Plasticus Spritus (top, bottom right) and Cupica Plasticus Aquatica (bottom left). You will often find Botticula Plasticus, of any variety, conveniently located right along the trail you’re walking. Cupica Plasticus Aquatica has poor swimming ability and is usually found in shallow water where it finds shelter among river rocks or natural debris that has also floated down stream.

Like all the invasive species I am presenting today, all varieties of Botticula Plasticus and Cupica Plasticus pose no immediate threat to humans and will peacefully allow themselves to be handled, contained in a bag and relocated to the nearest containment canister.. In fact, they are often found within arm’s length of containment canisters. This is troubling, as they may be attempting to free their mates from containment canisters. Please ensure that these individuals are safely locked inside the canisters.

 

wpid-picture1407606026.jpgIn this photo you find one of the most common variety of invasive species. Scientists do not know how these creatures mate in the wild to produce so many offspring. One theory is that humans continuously release them into the wild after they no longer prove useful.

Botticula Plasticus Aquatica
Not only are they often found in or around water, they also have the ability to store water inside their bodies. Humans have frequently used them to carry water on long journeys. The practice is still in use, today, even though there are better and more convenient alternatives.

The bottom photo shows the common behavior of Botticula Plasticus Aquatica, which likes to collect in groups near the banks of streams and rivers.

 

 

wpid-picture1407606193.jpgHere we see the common Botticula Plasticus along with a lesser seen Styrofoamen Boxica. This scene is particularly troubling because Styrofoamen Boxica has infiltrated a completely fenced-off, preserved and protected area of historical significance. Styrofoamen Boxica has no way to enter the fenced area on its own. So, it is likely entering the area via help from other species. This particular specimen was found in a group of 5-6 other Styrofoamen Boxica and several Botticula Plasticus.

 

 

 

 

 

trashcansMy theory is that human intervention aided the Styrofoamen Boxica in infiltrating the fenced area. Perhaps, the humans thought it was a containment facility.  Here, I am providing a photo of some containment canisters specifically designed to trap these common invasive species. You can do your part to contain these invasive species by carrying along a bag to collect them and dropping them off at containment canisters.