Thursday, February 15, 2024

Cultivating Positivity in a World of Negativity: Gratitude with a Family Touch

Much of the constant media and professional landscape breeds and even advertises negativity. Some news outlets thrive on bad news, rather than celebrating inspirational stories and triumphs. Politics is a prime illustration of dim-witted criticism and unproductive messages of deprecation. This continual barraging of never-ending cynicism can take a toll on viewers. Therefore, a cure can prevail amidst these virulent chains of antagonistic prejudice and discourteousness. The answer for opposition to these forces incorporates a formidable antidote – the constant practice of gratitude.

The Authority of Positivity:

The idea of happiness is fleeting when one experiences strong emotions, which sometimes include both positive and negative feelings. At the peak of a mountain, one naturally feels exuberant about life. In the valley, one naturally feels deprived of joy and pleasantness. As human beings, the ups and downs of memorable experiences come to us all. Positivity is a mindset that drives the transformation of heart and will. If proactive through an intentional commendatory mindset, mental health thrives. Professional work, even if just to pay bills, seems less daunting and perhaps even less boring.

Recently, the burdens of life have felt somewhat draining for me. I realized these negative feelings emerging. So, I decided to take a break. On what could have been a busy day of tasks accomplished (being busy to feel good about being busy), I ventured to Corryton, Tennessee. This town is about thirty minutes from Knoxville, which is where my family and I currently live. I ate breakfast at a local establishment called The Backwoods Restaurant. In this small edifice, there were four tables and a window heater built into the wall. However, the meal and the price were excellent! Like the title, in the middle of the country, it was a backwoods experience.

After breakfast, I took a hike to the summit of House Mountain, a natural preserve that stands as the highest point in Knox County. I must admit the five-mile hike was rather difficult, but the views were breathtaking. More specifically, the one-mile trek up the mountain to reach the peak was very strenuous. I kept wondering when I might see flatter trails to catch my breath. The uphill climb finally plateaued into another trail that spanned about two miles on the top of the mountain. There were vistas all around from atop the plateau trail, making this part of the hike worth the rigor to reach the peak. Without my usual checklist in front of me, I felt some clarity being able to sit in the natural silence, admiring these views. On a few occasions during my trek, I took about ten minutes to sit down, be still, and rest my mind.  

Amidst a chaotic routine, it was refreshing to take this much-needed midday break without having to stare at a screen. Unlike some, binge-watching Netflix or another television program does not always feel relaxing to me. Clearing my head in nature provides a momentary release. I prayed, exercised, and summited a mountain in the half-day spent in Corryton.     

These breaks and moments of thankfulness function as anchors to a positive mentality. I would encourage you to take a break and refresh if it has been a while since you did so.

The Role of Family in Positivity:  

My wife, Lisa, and my children, Annabelle and Jace, serve as my pillars of support, especially on hard days. Plus, if I focus my attention on my family or someone else, acts of affirmation for the sake of enhancing another person’s life empower positivity. My family’s presence, love, and shared experiences fill my heart in ways the surrounding world cannot.

For instance, for a full day, Lisa and I recently took the kids to Sevierville, Tennessee, near the Smoky Mountains. For lunch, we ate pizza at the Gatlinburg Brewing Company. Of course, a couple of beers or ciders, whichever you prefer, certainly seem to mellow any rising stressors about life’s many responsibilities. The restaurant was a vibrant environment that welcomed families with young children. After our delicious lunch cuisine, we took the kids to a medium-sized flea market to shop for some inexpensive toys (something small for the kids to enjoy).

Jace acquired a white teddy bear with a Coca-Cola theme and apparel. Annabelle picked some inexpensive squishy animals and slime that lasted about a day before being thrown away. It was these simple pleasures that made the day enjoyable. After our flea market excursion, we hiked two miles at Seven Islands State Birding Park. There is a rather long bridge in the park that leads to some short trails on an island in the middle of the French Broad River. The mountains and sunset shined in the background of spectacular scenery and cool weather. I am still savoring the contentment of these hours spent together. Annabelle and Jace thoroughly enjoy running through nature parks of this kind. They seem to savor any activity that involves the outdoors.

Visiting Sevierville and the surrounding sites was an intentional act to do something we enjoy together. Nature again provided an outlet away from computer work, tablet apps, phone calls, and watching Paw Patrol (Annabelle’s favorite show) on the television. Again, appreciation for the still moments in nature with family becomes touchpoints for experienced and expressed gratitude.  

A New Gratitude Ritual:

Lisa and I have placed a plastic jar near the kitchen table with small pieces of paper. Sporadically, we will write reminders of blessings and sources of gratitude on these slips of paper. Six months down the road, we will read and review these reminders of good moments as a family together. This simple idea reinforces the good things in our shared lives. It takes attention away from the negative to thrive in thoughts of positive things. In my internal process of thinking, thoughts of consistent positivity often lead to more thoughts of consistent positivity. Thus, my mood feels elevated in a healthy mindset with an intentional focus on evident blessings, rather than what sometimes feels like daily burdens.

Word of Caution in A Call of Action:

I would caution you to be mindful of the people you are around and the media outlets you watch. Sometimes, negative messaging only represents senseless topics for the sake of ratings and maybe even shaming people to feel bad for no necessary reason.

(This is a picture of the Backwoods Restaurant in Corryton, Tennessee.)

(This picture is inside the Backwoods Restaurant.)

(House Mountain provides some brilliant vistas of the surrounding mountains and countryside.)

(At Seven Islands State Birding Park, the kids marveled at the width of the French Broad River while crossing the bridge.) 

(During our hiking portion of the trek at Seven Islands, I carried Jace in what Annabelle calls "the elephant carrier.")

(The sunset gleamed on the French Broad River at Seven Islands.)

(Jace enjoys the ride of someone carrying him through the state park.)

(Annabelle snuggles close to Mommy in a photo op as the night air gets cooler.)

#daddydestinations #daddy #dad #blog #family # gratitude #positivity #nature #hiking #mountains #timeinnature #adventures #destinations #memories #story #inspiration #goodness #faith #legacy #travel #JamesCartee #JamesLCarteeIII

Saturday, January 6, 2024

The Anti-Villain Poem – My Own Worst Enemy…

Randy Johnson is a famed baseball player who pitched for twenty-two years in Major League Baseball. In 2001, Johnson played for the Arizona Diamondbacks who won the World Series. The champions of the World Series must win four games out of a seven-game series to claim a title. Johnson won three of the four games that year against the New York Yankees. Johnson also led the league in strikeouts for nine seasons. I have long admired Johnson for his many professional accomplishments.

Johnson once expressed the following testimonial – “When I was younger and inexperienced, I was a very animated pitcher. I pitched with a lot of adrenaline. I was my own worst enemy when things weren’t going well.”

This quote resonates with me because I often feel the same way as Johnson. The only person who typically stands in my way is the person I see in the mirror every morning. I wrote this poem recently on December 29, 2023 to express these sentiments. I am my own worst enemy, or I am my own best friend. When I think too much about everything, negative thoughts about myself and my future tend to flood my mind. This original poem, The Anti-Villain, reminds me to be kind to myself and live in the present moment. Instead of focusing on myself, I should focus on the needs of my children and spouse. I desire to take the attention off myself in living out this mentality.  

Going into 2024, this poem illustrates a purpose to accept redemption through belief in Jesus Christ. I am the anti-villain in the race of my own thoughts. I seek to step out of my own way and see today as the obvious blessing it is. In my spiritual heart, I yearn to treasure and remember moments with my children, Annabelle and Jace. The annoyances of future responsibilities can wait, so that I allow my family to absorb my full, undivided attention. Most times, the anti-villain mentality is a waste of energy anyway. I much rather concentrate on today and what is happening right now. Therefore, I will not miss the many blessings present today in front of my eyes. Read this poem carefully and seriously contemplate the wisdom of these poetic words.  

The Anti-Villain

I play the worst enemy

When I look in my mirror.

I stir the struggle.

All agree looking inside

Outside out playing in.

Depression works third shift.

The frenzy frantically

Plays the lunacy of fruitlessly

Starting a new mutiny

Rooting for the anti-villain.


I play the anti-villain

In my own psyche

When I cheer for forces

Within my control.

The hero fails to capture

The good in fantasy

When I know the culprit.

It’s me so tragically.


The fable prevents amnesty

So apathetically

Without keen strategy.

Tired of the scheming

I see the rearview mirror

Tranquilly and gallantly

Yet still thankfully.

I grow older and wiser

To grab the baptistry

Without increasing atrophy.


I play the anti-villain

In my own psyche

When I cheer for forces

Within my control.

The hero fails to capture

The good in fantasy

When I know the culprit.

It’s me so tragically.


The past is not me.

The present is me.

The future becomes me.

I stare directly

Into the magnifying

Glass of this mystery

To realize grace exist

So patiently and kindly.

Why have I not realized

It’s me?


I play the anti-villain

In my own psyche

When I cheer for forces

Within my control.

The hero fails to capture

The good in fantasy

When I know the culprit.

It’s me so tragically.


I no longer pull

For the anti-villain.

I drink my Papst

In this Blue Ribbon

To let go a long sigh.

This marks the last time

Life loses meaning

I’m weaning

Off that voice demeaning

To embrace my redeeming.


I was the problem.

It’s no longer me

Because it’s me

I appreciate and see.


- 12/29/23 –

*Please enjoy the following pictures of my family in recent good times we experienced and shared, including some holiday scenes.

(We sometimes have a little trouble getting Annabelle to smile for a family picture.)

(On the other hand, Jace smiles in several pictures. He is a happy baby!)

(Lisa and I attended a Christmas party in Knoxville, where we proudly represented holiday lyrics from the Taylor Swift song, Lover.)

(Jace enjoys interactions with our wooden Christmas moose and tree.)

(Jace often hugs the moose during these interactions.)

(Jace sat on Santa’s lap at our favorite local Chick-Fil-A restaurant.)

(CeeCee, also known as my mother, blessed all of us with Santa bags filled with thoughtful gifts.)

(JayJay, also known as my father, fully decorates his house like a Hallmark commercial. It is quite extravagant!)

(CeeCee and my family posed for this Christmas tree photo at the FrankTown Festival of Lights, located at the Ag Center in Franklin, Tennessee. Annabelle stood outside the group. At least, she looked at the camera this time.) 

(Our friend, Michaela, hugged Jace during a cordial visit. We thankfully see Michaela fairly often.) 

(JayJay has a toy train set around the Christmas tree that Annabelle and Jace love to watch in wonder.) 

#daddydestinations #daddy #dad #blog #family #poetry #TheAnti-Villain #Villain #RandyJohnson #Baseball #Pitcher #ArizonaDiamondbacks #adventures #blessings #FamilyLife #HappyNewYears #NewYears2024 #memories #story #inspiration #JamesCartee #lessons #InspirationalQuotes #Christmas #NewYears #Resolution

Monday, December 11, 2023

The Shepherds’ Christmas Story


(Smoky Mountain Christmas lights at Dollywood)

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

-Luke 2:8-20 (NIV)
One of my favorite Christmas stories occurs in the book of Luke when an angel appears to a group of shepherds in the field on Jesus’s birthday. Terrified, the angel proclaims, “Do not be afraid.”

I feel slightly more tired than usual at the end of a calendar year. However, I seek to stop and treasure these precious moments to remember the most important holiday in a Christian’s life – the birth of Jesus! With Christmas, hope in the form of a baby miraculously arrives through Mary with a virgin birth. 

For the shepherds, heaven opens. A host of angels display their majesty in praise for the celebration of this majestic occasion. Some days, I wish I could view this glimpse of heaven for the hope instilled into the souls of these chosen shepherds. Like these chosen few, I would shout and spread the Good News to close relationships and strangers alike. 

Amidst being blinded by worry and angst in an exhausted state, I try to remember three evident truths observed in the shepherds’ Christmas story.

1.) Since the Messiah was born this evening, this angel brings Good News and Great Joy in the darkness of night.

While watching over respective herds at nighttime, I imagined these shepherds could only see what fires, stars, and small lamps shined upon. Heavenly hosts decided to brighten the evening with an orchestra of praise. If we praise God in the bleakest moments, we shall experience the joy of His presence through these tribulations. 

2.) In a moment of fear, God provided peace with the hopeful words – “Do not be afraid.”

Fear can transcend joy if anxious thoughts take over. Negative thoughts in the form of fear resemble a disease. One negative thought manifests another negative thought. The same is true for positive thinking. Positive thoughts lead to more positive thoughts, including when bravery overcomes fear. Christians must heed the words of angels. God provides courage to face life and move forward with the Holy Spirit as our advocate, even when tragedy strikes. While some walk around the storm, Christians can walk through the eye of the storm without angst, for we are protected by the praises of angels.  

3.) Treasure the best moments of your life in your heart and memory.

Mary stopped on many occasions to reflect upon these precious happenings. If we stop in the madness of a busy routine, stillness sparks the treasured blessings observed in simple things. The smile of a child, the ability to dance to your favorite tunes, or watch your favorite Christmas movie with family warrant giving thanks. Gratitude does not begin and end with Thanksgiving Day. To see the goodness instead of overarching worries, the noted treasures of life remain evident today and every day thereafter.

These three observed truths stir the Christmas Spirit in my soul. Instead of the focus on me, these recent Christmas holidays are about serving Lisa, my wife, and my two children, Annabelle and Jace. If my family remains safe and healthy, I must admit the angels are singing as guardians on this year's celebration of Jesus's birthday. Like Mary, I am confident the shepherds treasured these memories in their hearts as they glorified and praised God for all the marvelous events they witnessed. 

(This is my beautiful family on Thanksgiving Day. It was the first time we hosted a guest for a holiday in our Knoxville home.)

(Lisa and I visited the Festival of Trees on two occasions in Knoxville, Tennessee. It is a yearly fundraiser for East Tennessee Children's Hospital.)

(Annabelle really enjoys playing on the nature playgrounds at Ijams Nature Center, including the kid cabins.)

(Lisa and I enjoyed a full date day at Smoky Mountain Christmas, an event with millions of lights and decorations at Dollywood.)

(Carolers sang multiple Christmas hymns in front of this church at Dollywood.)

(This grist mill at Dollywood provides a picturesque Christmas scene. The mill is famous for making cinnamon bread daily.)

(This is one of the most festive decorated houses in Knoxville, located in the Gray Eagle Springs neighborhood.)

(Lisa loves grocery stores, and Jace savors cart rides through Krogers just like his mama.)

#daddydestinations #daddy #dad #blog #family #memories #story #narrative #inspiration #JamesCartee #Christmas #MerryChristmas #lifelessons #Shepherds #DrummerBoy #Angel #GuardianAngel #Heaven #LightOverDarkness #Jesus 

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Fall Bound Vacations – Ark Encounters and Cincinnati Parks

(Overlooking Cincinnati, the family and I posed for a picture atop the roof of Rhinegeist Brewery.) 

Typically, Lisa and I take Jace and Annabelle to a football game in South Carolina on a short vacation over a long weekend in the fall. Over my fall break this season, we desired to take a family trip centered on time together, some fun activities outside, and going to museums. Like many sports enthusiasts, I enjoy attending a good Saturday college football game. However, on some weekends, I try to focus on events where I can spend more time with my family instead of watching sports. For instance, taking Jace (a 1-year-old) and Annabelle (a 3-year-old) to a college football game is not necessarily a wise choice. When each child was a baby, we could take them to any type of event, including sports and concerts. When Jace and Annabelle grew up into active walkers, their mobility became a whole new ballgame!  

With these thoughts in mind, we ventured from our hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee to Cincinnati, Ohio, during the first weekend in October. I recently heard positive feedback from a friend about northern Kentucky and the city of Cincinnati, including the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum. The Ohio River serves as the state line that separates these regional areas in Ohio and Kentucky. So, we rented a house in Covington, Kentucky, a town located just across the bridge from downtown Cincinnati. In past years, Lisa and I usually took a short trip to celebrate our wedding anniversary in October. While this trip was meant to serve mainly as a family vacation, we set aside moments to commemorate and remember our marriage. Anniversaries remind us to be grateful for one another in the adventures that we share together.  

In northern Kentucky near Cincinnati, the towns of Ludlow, Covington, and Newport have their own places of interest and tourist sites. If we had only stayed on this side of the Ohio River (across the skyline of Cincinnati), we would have been plenty busy with the hidden treasures that northern Kentucky bestows upon its many visitors.

We arrived in Covington from Knoxville at approximately 7:30 p.m. ET. After a long day of traveling, at the recommendation of our Airbnb host, we ate at the Fort Mitchell Public House. The building that Fort Mitchell Public House resides in possesses a long local history. It was initially built in the early 1900s as a private residence. In the 1940s, it was converted into a restaurant called The Hearthstone. The Hearthstone was a popular spot for many years, but it eventually closed in the 1980s.

The building sat vacant for approximately two decades until Mike Hang purchased it. To restore the building as an original public house from the early 1900s, he renovated the building and opened Fort Mitchell in November 2015. A large outdoor patio with comfortable seating surrounded a courtyard, especially for families with energetic children after a four-and-a-half-hour car ride. As an appetizer, we ordered the loaded Saratoga chips, a wholesome dish of handmade potato chips with made-from-scratch BBQ sauce, queso, tomatoes, and green onions. I honestly thought Annabelle would eat the chips with whole mouthfuls. Instead, she was captivated by the outdoor environment of streetlamps and other patrons in their best Sunday dress clothes. I ordered the fish tacos made with blackened whitefish, flour tortillas, corn salsa, lettuce, cheddar cheese, and sour cream. Lisa ordered the spicy black bean burger on a gluten-free bun with fries. The burgers were made daily by the head chef with black beans, corn, brown rice, chili, fresh corn salsa, and pickles. We ate food at some unique, established landmarks; however, Lisa and I agreed that this restaurant was our favorite place to eat during our five-day vacation.

After a quick trip to the grocery store, we finally reached our Airbnb rental house. The neighborhood where the historic home resided was quaint, with quiet streets and one-family homes surrounded by large oak trees. The home had three bedrooms, a spacious kitchen, and a large den for the kids to play with their toys. Jace is obsessed with dirt, hence why he is often filthy from playing outside these days. This house had several soiled plants with pots inside the house. So, I baby-proofed the house to keep Jace from playing in the dirt of each pot and throwing it across rooms like marbles. It can definitely make a huge mess when playing with the soil inside. For reasons unknown to young parents, the dream of a one-year-old boy is to make messes for Mom and Dad to constantly clean up.

On Saturday, we got an early start to visit the Ark Encounter, the modern-day museum that displays Noah's ark in a life-size replica of the boat. Before going inside the ship, the kids rode a carousel. The landscape of the grounds surrounding the ark was amazing. It reminded me of the picturesque blossoms and flowers at Disney World or Dollywood. While the ark itself was the main attraction, the Ark Encounter resembled a theme park with a zoo. The ark paralleled a long, enormous barge at sea. It was huge!   

In addition to the ground level, the ark encompassed three floors. There were spaces where Noah’s family lived, and the animals were stored in baskets, cages, and other containers. The boat was built to the exact specifications of the Bible, and the nautical operations of the boat were also thoroughly explained. It seemed like there were millions of available details and information tidbits in the museum. So, one day alone does not suffice to fully appreciate the craftsmanship and history of the ark, even if exploring the ship for five to six hours. Annabelle and Jace lasted about four hours, which I was pleasantly surprised to see. Annabelle wanted to stop and stare at every scene, statue, and fake animal in the museum. The exhibits included information about Noah’s life, a blacksmith shop, animal care, the animal species carried in the boat, dinosaurs, and educational films in multiple theaters. The ark's size and the volume of included knowledge about this historical event were overwhelming, to say the least.

While skipping our usual lunch time, our ark museum adventure made us hungry. We ventured to a southwestern-themed outdoor restaurant. It was a cooler day without extreme heat because of the fall weather. I had chicken tacos, despite just having fish tacos the previous evening at the Fort Mitchell Public House. Lisa ordered a burrito bowl with rice, black beans, cheese, vegetables, and chicken. Annabelle and Jace also ate tacos. There were plenty of places to get food in the park, especially since our visit turned into a full-day excursion. Annabelle loves animals. So, we visited the zoo before leaving the grounds. The zoo had several types of animals, including birds, lemurs, reptiles, kangaroos, a petting zoo, and several other creatures.

For a simple yet tasty dinner, we ate at Chick-fil-A before returning to the Airbnb. While we do not eat at Chick-fil-A often, our kids really like their food. We quickly gave the kids baths and put them to bed after the long day of festivities.

On Sunday, I really wanted to venture into downtown Cincinnati, so we could take in some of the local sites on the other side of the state line between northern Kentucky and Ohio. We rested in the early morning and left our Airbnb around lunchtime to eat at The Findley Market, which resembled The Quincy Market in Boston, Massachusetts. Like the structure of an open-air narrow warehouse, Findley contained a food marketplace with cuisine vendors from all over the world. Chefs made these meals fresh on the spot for those looking for an affordable meal with a delectable taste. Like a food court, the advantage is that anyone can find an interesting delicacy one might savor. The market is filled with businesses and chefs taking orders from hundreds of people, all there for the same purpose to enjoy the local flavors. There were a few open tables to sit down and eat. I got the impression many people arrived to order food on the go. There was live music outside, and there were several local shops to buy souvenirs. There were also some artists with outdoor tents. Lisa and I finally found a table for all four of us to sit down outside. I ate an Italian sub. The kids had deluxe grilled cheese sandwiches. Lisa ate some grilled lemon pepper chicken with fried rice and vegetables. All the food choices were excellent!  

After spoiling our taste buds at the Findlay Market, we walked over to the Rhinegeist Brewery to drink some local brews (gluten-free cider for Lisa) and socialize with more Cincy locals. Rhinegeist inhabited an entire city block in a building that was over one hundred years old. Similar to the interior of an old factory, the brewery's interior was larger than a football field with a rooftop bar. Of course, there were cornhole boards, indoor swings, and other family festive activities. We stayed at the brewery for a couple of hours, and the kids loved playing indoors, like an outdoor playground. It was lightly sprinkling rain outside. So, Lisa and I ventured into Deeper Roots Coffee Shop until we could walk back to the parking garage. I did not drink any coffee. Lisa drank the barista’s seasonal version of a Pumpkin Spice Latte. The coffee shop provided a chill place to relax until the sprinkles subsided to go back to the car.   

To visit the Findlay Market and the Rhinegeist Brewery, Lisa and I parked at Washington Park in central downtown Cincinnati. We brisked quickly through the park. It was another spacious outdoor green space with unique visuals and walkways that added to the memorable d├ęcor and scenery of the city.

We ventured next to Smale Riverfront Park, which had unique playground features. Annabelle loves slides, and several slides were etched into small hills within the park, rather than having a traditional playground that includes handmade structures with slides. Smale Park bordered the Ohio River with an impressive view of the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge. Paycor Stadium, home of the Cincinnati Bengals, and the Great American Ball Park, home of the Cincinnati Reds, were within close walking distance of the popular green space. There was a rope bridge, several metal musical instruments, a walk-on keyboard, an Oinkithopter (a flying pig that kids climb on and into), and several streams and water play areas for kids.  

It was quickly getting dark outside. So, we spent less time in Smale Park than we had initially hoped for. I promised Annabelle we would come back first thing the next morning. We were surprisingly hungry again, quicker than usual. We wandered into a restaurant called The Yard House. It was an upscale sports bar that just so happened to welcome families with young children. I ate chicken nachos, and Lisa ate ahi tuna with asparagus on the side. We ordered Annabelle some chicken fingers. Typically, Jace eats off our plates, and we share with him, even though he has a considerable appetite to consume his own food now. The food and the service at The Yard House were exceptional! We stumbled upon this restaurant by accident mainly because it was close to Smale Park and within walking distance.

As promised, we took Annabelle back to Smale Park the next morning, walking approximately three miles on the sidewalk along the river. Annabelle played for another hour in the park, mainly on the slides. It was nice enjoying the park without being in a rush.

For budgetary reasons, we ate lunch at Taco Bell and then proceeded to the Creation Museum. The Creation Museum was part of a three-day combo ticket with The Ark Encounter. There were several exhibits at the museum, including information about how Intelligent Design compares and contrasts with evolution. I remember enjoying some of the displays and statues of dinosaurs and the development of babies in a mother's womb. Much of the tour involved more information about Noah's Ark, dragon legends, an insectarium, the history of the Bible, and other creative exhibits. Like the Ark Encounter, there was a smaller zoo and botanical gardens on the museum grounds. Again, I enjoyed both the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter. It was evident that the responsible engineers and designers invested many resources in these tourist destinations. If you visit these sites, the three-day pass is a logical choice, given that it takes hours to tour these museums and truly enjoy them. Set aside at least one day for the Ark Encounter and at least one additional day for the Creation Museum.  

We ate dinner after the Creation Museum at The Hebron Grill, another locally owned restaurant. Surprisingly, our kids were terrific in all the restaurants we attended. I was proud of their well-behaved demeanor in these public places. I ordered the southern fried chicken parm, and Lisa ordered a salad with salmon. Annabelle had pasta with marinara sauce, and Jace shared all of our dishes once again. I was impressed with the restaurant selections in northern Kentucky and Cincinnati. We ate very well and enjoyed our many meals together as a family. 

We returned to our Airbnb in the early evening, where we watched the movie, Kung Fu Panda, with the kids. Our sweet and short time away was coming to a close since we had to head back home the following day, Tuesday. Even one month after taking this trip, Lisa and I are still talking about how much fun we had with the kids on this trip, spending time together as a family. As parents, we have decided to intentionally stop and savor every precious moment with our children. As life moves forward in time, each passing moment is a fleeting gift that warrants appreciation to the fullest extent.

Browse our favorite photo moments from our memorable trip below. 

(You can imagine the vast size of the Rhinegeist Brewery with this picture.)

(Rhinegeist Brewery resembled a playground for the kids. They played there for a good while.)

(After several hours exploring Cincinnati, the kids were worn out from the day’s many adventures.) 

(Annabelle championed the slides at Smale Park.)

(Near Smale Park, these Cincinnati fountains brighten the evening for a picturesque scene.)

(The family poses in front of the ark at the Ark Encounter.)

(Annabelle and Jace enjoy watching the animals in the zoo at the Ark Encounter.)

(Jace smiles while petting goats in the zoo at the Ark Encounter.)

(Annabelle slides down the hills at Smale Park several times.)

(John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge sets the scene over the Ohio River, viewing from the Cincinnati side.)

#daddydestinations #daddy #dad #blog #family # Cincinnati # CincinnatiOH #Ohio #NorthernKentucky #Kentucky #ArkEncounter #CreationMueseum #SmalePark #adventures #destinations #memories #story #inspiration #JamesCartee #goodness #faith #vacation #legacy #travel #JamesCartee #JamesLCarteeIII