Magic at Chetola Resort

Okay so you know those cute Hallmark movies that take place in a small town, with so much cute charm you think “this just can’t be real”? Well guys…. I found one!! And if you followed my IG stories from earlier in the week, you know exactly what I’m talking about! Our family just had the best couple days at Chetola Resort in Blowing Rock, NC! If you haven’t been, let me convince you why this is one of the best places you could stay in the area! And let me start by saying that Chetola in Cherokee means Haven of Rest.

We have been fortunate enough to travel and stay in quite a few different places around the country, and this is the only one that that felt like home as soon as we drove onto the property. Sure, part of it is the Christmas magic, which let me tell you is abundantly bright and beautiful! We were in awe by all the beautiful lights strung up around the property, in the restaurant and around the lake. However, I think the real magic truly comes from being able to step back in time and enjoy the beauty of being at “grandmas” house. It felt warm, inviting, and like you belonged there. It brings a sense of home as soon as you walk in.

We stayed in the Quail building, which is toward the end of the property, which may I add backs up towards beautiful woods and just past that is the Tanger Outlets! Major win! We may or may not have done some last minute Christmas shopping there, and Davis’s favorite part.. getting to meet Elvis the dinosaur! Major marketing points for Doc’s Rocks, which of course we had to head to right after seeing this dino!

Anyhow… the Quail building.. it was situated at the edge of the property, so it was a short 1 min drive to the main building and restaurant. If it wasn’t winter, it would have been something we likely would have walked to but in the cold… no thanks! It was a beautiful retreat from the world, which truthfully we needed so badly! Service wasn’t amazing, there were spots up there that nothing would load on our phones, and the main living spots that we knew service would be solid, which allowed the recharge even more powerful for our family. It was a slice of heaven we didn’t know we needed.

The room!

The kitchen is equipped with a stove, oven, microwave, refrigerator, and dishwasher. It has all the workings to make a home cooked meal or heat up some late night snacks. The dining space is right off the kitchen, and that overlooks the family room and balcony. The entire main living space just breathes the ambiance of home. It has all the quaint rustic charm that you want in a cabin retreat, but with all the space and amenities that you need to be comfortable. There are two bathrooms, and two bedrooms, both with the cutest quilts! The kids room had two twin beds and a small closet, and the master was quite large with a king sized bed and a large walk in closet (perfect for the pack n play!). It all felt very clean, which I am VERY picky about! I am weird with smells, and even the appearance of dirty spaces, and I felt very comfortable to kick off our shoes at the end of the day and curl up on the couch to watch a movie or play games!

During the day we explored the area, went tubing, looked at lights and enjoyed the Timberlake Restaurant on the property. There is so much history and beauty up in this little corner of North Carolina, it’s rich with activities, quaint shops, the downtown area of both Blowing Rock and Boone are nearby and we do some of our favorite shopping in those areas!

The Restaurant is open, but are operating at a limited capacity, so if you are wanting to dine there (which I would highly recommend), I would suggest getting a reservation at least a day in advance. We scored a 4:30 reservation with one day notice, and it actually was perfect for our little family, but if you don’t want to eat that early, I would suggest reserving earlier. The staff and food were all wonderful! We tried entrees, appetizers, deserts and of course kids menu items, and all of it was so well done! Our cute waitress, Cait, went above and beyond for our family! They didn’t have coloring pages, so she went out and drew three snowmen on blank papers for them to color. The cutest right?? Plus, she totally indulged Davis in all his dinosaur facts and even taught him a new one, which let me tell you is tough to do! When people go out of their way to be kind, it just leaves a mark on your heart, and we felt that here! Hearts warm and tummies full!

In the main building, which is right next to the restaurant, that’s where our kids favorite part was… the heated swimming pool! Yes! Swimming in December is possible! Our kids were in heaven. I thankfully had remembered to bring swimsuits, but forgot any floaties or pool toys. But, wouldn’t you know, Chetola totally had us covered! They have noodles, a few toys, life jackets and puddle jumpers. All of which gets cleaned and sanitized everyday! It was a great way to burn off that extra energy right before bedtime!

All in all, I would rate this place a 10/10, 5 stars, A+… it checks all of my boxes. It is charming, clean, family friendly, delicious food, wonderful service, and allows one of a kind memories to be made and cherished forever. Chetola… we will be back! Thank you for having us and giving us a “Haven of Rest”!

Can you do Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens with little kids?!

We recently made the trip to the Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA with the kids, and honestly it was so much fun! We had never been before, so we were all pretty excited and anxious about the whole experience. I had done some reading about the park and what to expect for the kids beforehand, but it’s hard to know how everything flows till you get there.

We drove up from North Carolina, and it took about 2.5 hours. The parking situation was pretty organized. You pay $20 just like you do at Disney, and they direct you to one of their several parking lots. They do a great job directing people so that the lots fill up evenly, and there’s not a lot of traffic in one spot. They then have shuttles that take you from the parking lot to the park. Now, this was one of my most favorite things of the whole trip….. I DIDN’T have to break down the stroller! Do you hear me?? I DID NOT have to unload the entire stroller, and even take out the kids! That is always the most stressful part, and we got to avoid that entirely. *happy dance!!*

You also want to know another little secret??

People that had strollers have a separate line than everyone else, and there are sections of the shuttle dedicated just to stroller families. We got to the park around 1:00, and there was quite a wait in the normal line for the shuttle, but the line for strollers was completely empty, so we got right on. If I were you, and you have kids… I would for SURE bring a stroller, even just for that part. It was very helpful!

When we got in, we already had two tickets, but we still had to go purchase the kids tickets. They have ticket booths with people in them to accept payment, but they also have automated machines to the left. I found those had no wait time, where the actual ticket booths had a little line. You can also purchase tickets online and most of the time get a discount and avoid this step all together!

After you get your tickets, you head to the security line where they check your bags, which is all pretty standard. But again, they were quick, efficient and organized, and we didn’t have to unload the kids which I really appreciated!

When you get in, immediately you can feel all the fun Halloween vibes. The kids were so excited! As you go in, they have height check stations for kids where they have someone measure you and give you a card with an assigned color on it, and a list of rides that you are eligible to ride because of your color. It’s a super easy way to know quickly what rides your kids can go on, and which ones are a no go.

They have an app you can download too, along with paper maps that help you get around the park. On the app, it also gives other information like wait times, tips, restaurants, show times, things to do for kids, and more! Both the paper map and app show kid friendly areas so you know where to stay if you have kiddos.

Did you know that they also have a super responsive first aid team? We got to experience this first hand!

As we were running from one exhibit to the next, our oldest fell down and scratched his knee. He was obviously super sad about it, and a staff member saw us pretty quickly and asked if she could call over first aid. I didn’t want to be waiting all day for a scraped knee, so I was hesitant to say yes but I did, and they were SO fast. She radioed it in, and someone was there in a matter of a couple minutes. Everyone was so sweet to my boy trying to help him feel comfortable. It was such a sweet thing to see. The EMT even gave us some extra knee band aids, which came in handy when our second son fell down too. We clearly have very coordinated kids.

We played for a bit, and then found ourselves with a massive appetite! We brought in some snacks, but needed actual food! We went to Marco Polo’s Marketplace, which is a fun Italian, Mediterranean and Asian place with tons of seating. They have each genre line for each type of food. Each style has kids meals too, which was nice to have so much for the kids to choose from. They also had fresh fruit and desserts! If you’re going to be there all day long, and like to eat, it might be worth getting their all day meal deal. We spent $60 for our family to get 2 adult meals, 3 kids meals, a dessert and drinks, which was plenty of food for our family of 5 and not terrible pricing for park food.

The quality of food was pretty surprising. In a VERY good way!! I got the orange chicken with noodles, my husband got the half chicken with potatoes, and the kids got mac n cheese. Both my husband and I commented on how good this food was! I didn’t expect that. With theme park food, you go in with pretty low expectations, but these far outweighed it we both thought!

Next on the list… more play time and rides!

Our favorite kids areas were Sesame Street and Land of the Dragons.

Sesame Street had so many cute and fun fall activities for kids including a hay maze and trick or treating, which gave some candy, and some fruit leathers and healthier options. It was a great mix I thought! They also had a craft corner for the kids to create some cute Halloween art! Besides that, they also had several rides for the kids to enjoy!

Land of the Dragons was super cool. They have a super cool Huck Finn sort of treehouse for the kids to climb and explore through the area. There are also several rides, and even a little cushy area for the littles (ie our 17 month old). She loved walking around on it and exploring the different textures and colors!

Both of these areas sadly closed at 5:00 so the staff could prepare for Howl-O-Scream.

So many of the reviews said that it wasn’t suitable for kids to stay past 5:00, and so initially we went thinking that we would have to leave at 5:00 after all the kids rides and areas closed. But when 5:00 hit, none of us was ready to leave. So we just kept walking around, checked out the gift shops and before we knew it we were starting to see fog, and hear creepy sounds (screams, creeky doors, spooky music, etc).

We kept looking to the kids to gauge how they were doing, but they were loving it! We were playing in the fog, and really getting into the suspenseful Halloween spirit. It was fun! We even got to see Jack and take pictures with him!! We didn’t go see Jack is Back (the show) without knowing how it would be with the kids, but it was fun taking pictures with him, and he was really sweet with the kids!

He really was so nice, Davis just wouldn’t give him a chance lol

The staff does get into costume and make up to create spooky characters, but they’re not gorey, just spooky. They would go around and scare people as they were walking through the park, but I was actually super impressed because *most* of them were very cautious of the kids. There was one girl that scared my son, I think by accident, but I wanted to run her over with the stroller. I didn’t, but I wanted to. But other than that, everyone else was very curtious of the kids. I would have my kids say “hi” to help them feel like these “creatures” were friendly, and I think that helped the staff know that they needed to be gentle. And they all were. They were giving high fives, and fist bumps. It was very sweet.

Our last item of business was to ride the train back to Scotland where we parked. The line again was super fast to get through and very easy to navigate. Here you do need to break down the stroller, but it wasn’t too bad, especially since it was the end of the day and we were all wearing our jackets anyhow.

All in all it was a very positive experience and we loved taking our kids here! They had a blast and all fell asleep in the car on the way to the hotel, which never happens!! Thank you Busch Gardens for a very fun filled weekend! We will be back!

How We’ve Overcome Bullying

When I was in middle school, I was bullied. None of it was physical, thank goodness, but the emotional damage was pretty extensive.

I grew up in a pretty religious community, and went to the same church with a lot of my neighbors and school mates. There was a day I went to my locker that a few of us shared, and as I walked up they asked if I wanted me to pop some pills with them. I instinctively said no because honestly I thought it was a joke. I didn’t think anyone would really be so stupid to 1) pop a handful of pills that you didn’t know how they would mix and react in your body, and 2) to do that during school! But that one word “no”, and in those 2 seconds, I sealed my fate for the rest of middle school and high school before I even really knew what was going on.

At the next break, I went back to my locker to find all my stuff thrown out of the locker and on the ground. Nobody was around, so I honestly had no clue what was going on. I gathered my things and went out to the bus. My “friends” were already out there and let me know I couldn’t sit with them because I was too “goodie goodie” to be around them. Then it all went down hill from there.

They spread the news like wildfire not to be friends with me. They would yell at me, call me names and curse at me in the hallways. I ate lunch alone in the cafeteria if I was brave, or in the bathroom on the toilet seat if I was scared or couldn’t stop myself from crying. This went on for 2 very long lonely years. And what was worse, is I saw these girls at church. I heard them preaching Christlike love and charity, but the next day at school it was the same drama as the week before.

One day, an angel of a person came into my life. I was sitting by myself in the cafeteria, and this sweet sweet girl walked up and sat by me and just started talking to me like we already knew each other. Jenny quickly became my best friend until my family moved a year later. My goodness am I so grateful for this sweet soul who came into my life at a time that I SO needed it! She showed me the love and charity that I so longed for. Her example is something I have shared with dozens of teenage girls, and will share with my own kids someday!

Me and Jenny still keep in touch!

16 years later, and I’ve got 3 babes of my own, one of which is in Kindergarten. Honestly, I am terrified that he will be bullied. He’s one of the sweetest kids, and has one of the biggest hearts. But here’s the thing. I don’t feel the need to protect and hover and hope he doesn’t get bullied. I mean I do hope he doesn’t have to feel that, but the odds are that he will. So instead, I feel this need to prep my kids for the inevitable of when it happens.

Kids are just mean sometimes. They don’t know how to regulate their emotions, they all have bad days, they have home situations that nobody realizes, they may have not slept well the night before, or had much of a breakfast… all of these things and more totally play a huge role in kids behaviors. I’m by no means making excuses for bad behavior, but I’m trying to look at this from the perspective of how to help our kids understand bullies and to teach them how to react to bad behavior. I mean they’re all experiencing this growing up thing at the same time, learning about themselves and their environment, and they’re feeling pretty vulnerable. When I feel those things, even as a grown adult, I don’t always react the best. So why are we so surprised when our kids end up making bad choices when they’re feeling out of control? Honestly, we shouldn’t.

Do I wish I wasn’t bullied? Well duh… of course! But am I grateful for the experience and growth that I’ve had from it? Without a doubt! I have been able to help so many different people because of my experiences. And I want to prepare my kids the same way.

I try to prep my kids and say “if there’s a kid that isn’t nice to you, that’s okay, that’s his choice. But that doesn’t mean that you get to make those bad choices and be mean back.” I try to remind them that we all have sad or grumpy days where we just don’t make the best choices, and maybe these kids are just having a sad or grumpy day. I remind them that they have a choice, and they don’t have to play with someone if they’re being mean to them, but to try to communicate their feelings first and then go do something else.

This parenting thing is so hard, so lets band together! We all want the best for our babies, and want them to grow up to be rockstar adults that contribute to society in a positive way, and I just know that it starts here. It starts with kind words, and a generous heart! Let’s help our babies spread more love!

xoxo my friends, trista

Traveling with our kids

Why would we do it??

We are a family of 5 that LOVE to travel and have adventure. We live in North Carolina, and it is perfect for our lifestyle. We live 2 hours from the mountains, and 2 hours from the beach. We love traveling to places we haven’t been, and trying things we haven’t done. I’ve heard this notion that is floating around that you can’t have a “life” once you have kids, and we’re here to prove that not only can you have a life, but you can live your best life!

We have found so much joy in traveling, and showing our kids little pieces of the world. I pray it opens their curiosity about the world, other cultures, ways of living, and especially in themselves. Help them see that we are incredible and can do hard things.

I love you babies. Get out and live!

Family Seeking Adventure

Wanting more from our daily life. Living intentionally to seek opportunities for an adventurous life, whatever that may look like!

When my husband and I got married back in August 2011, there were so many times that I heard “enjoy this while it lasts because when you have kids, you won’t be able to live like this”. We were poor college students, just like many of our friends, but we loved finding free adventure, where ever we could! There was even a time when we didn’t have the cash for a $5 camping fee, so we paid $3 and a IOU note (embarrassing, I know!).

Why do we want to live like this?

  • Because it changes your perspective on life.
  • Because it will help you stretch yourself and try new things that you didn’t know were possible.
  • Because it helps us feel joy, and teach our kids to be grateful for these experiences.

Adventuring doesn’t have to mean traveling.

In 2017 we decided to start our own business and started making custom home decor. We lived in a townhouse at the time, and it was HIGHLY unusual, but we started it, and we are still doing it and have expanded our knowledge and growth because of it!

My point? You can find adventure in anything! Just find something new you’re excited about and DO IT!