Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Birthday Party Fun

Night Shift. Daniel is right in the middle of working 14 nights in a row. We are all doing the best we can to muddle through. 

Last week I did my best to get our boys out of the house in the morning as much as possible so that Daniel could sleep. 

Unfortunately (for Daniel) this morning we woke up to snow. Along with the snow, school is closed for the day as are several roads on our mountain. We are attempting to be quiet while being cooped up inside. 

Only 6 more nights to go...

It worked to our advantage that this past Saturday we had two birthday parties to attend. Jack had a blast and Isaac somehow managed even though he only had one one-hour nap. 

To start things off, we met up with friends at Air Bounce in the NorthGate Mall in Hixson. That place is really a little kid heaven. The kids had a ball bouncing and playing arcade games all morning. Isaac even managed to get in on some of the action.

We finished up with lunch at Chic-Fil-A in the mall before heading home to briefly see Daniel and then going to North Shore for party #2 at a local park.

The sun was out and the kids were all given paper airplanes to throw to their heart's content. By the end of the party the kids had mostly gotten the hang of throwing the airplanes and nobody wanted to leave.

Party #2 included a chocolate dirt cake and everyone got to make dirt cups, complete with gummy worms. My little boy was in heaven. The only thing that would have made this party better (for Jack) was if I had let him play in the mud. With temps in the 40s, wet mud was out of the question!

We have been so blessed to make such good friends since moving to Chattanooga. As for today, hopefully we can get some sledding before the snow melts.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

The Camp House

When I first became a mom, four-and-a-half years ago, I had a difficult time letting go of the me before kids. I can't be certain, but perhaps it was hard to make the adjustment because I had spent my ENTIRE adult life (almost 10 years!) filling roles that did not include motherhood. 

Thankfully my life circumstances at the time allowed me to continue working part-time as a graphic designer and I have been able to spend the last 5 years wearing multiple hats.

One of the biggest blessings of continuing part-time with my career, besides keeping a foot in the door and my skills up-to-date, is that I made a friend who understands the me who works. This has been helpful in so many ways since I no longer go to an office where I would be surrounded by peers.

We actually met through Craigslist, when I was first just starting up freelancing in the Chattanooga area, and we have been colleagues and friends ever since.

Initially 98% of our interaction was through email, but in recent years we have made an effort to get together several times a year for coffee or breakfast. We talk shop. We talk motherhood. We talk about life in general. We discuss current projects, client frustrations, new software, and she doesn't mind if I bring a baby along (I'm pretty sure Jack tagged along as a newborn when she first interviewed me!).

I'm so grateful that I live in a time that I can work remotely, and that I have peers who understand why I choose to freelance as well as the frustrations (and benefits) of working from home.

Today we met at The Camp House in downtown Chattanooga for breakfast. The place was hopping. I had a latte with my scrambled eggs, bacon, and potatoes with cheese. The food was simple but incredibly delicious. You know I love breakfast, and this place hit the spot. With lots of couches and big tables, The Camp House is a great place for a meeting or to work remotely (though maybe on a quieter day, today was super loud). They also have a huge outdoor area for warmer days.

The Camp House is a unique venue in that while it serves as a cafe during the day, and music venue in the evening, it is also a church on Sunday – a part of The Mission Chattanooga Community that meets in three distinct venues throughout the city of Chattanooga. If you haven't had a chance to check out The Camp House, you really should.

Camp House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Monday, February 01, 2016

Books I Read in January, 2016 (#1-3)

Once upon a time, I regularly read 52+books a year. With little ones at home, and a part-time graphic design business, reading for has become less of a priority (last year I only made it through 10 books). 

I am hoping that 2016 will be the year I get back in the habit of reading again – I feel like a more rounded person when I am reading on a regular basis. So while I don't have a lofty goal of 52 books for this year, I do hope I can read at least two books each month.

Here goes...

At the close of 2015 I was reading

"Class Differences in Child-Rearing Are on the Rise"

Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer by Heather Lende. 

I wasn't really sure what to expect, but it was just what I needed to read. I've been stuck in a rut since the new year started, working to let go of the things that bother me, trying to be a better mother and wife, while dealing with a 4-year-old's sudden onset of separation anxiety and also preparing for my husband to work night shifts for the next two weeks. Finding the Good reminded me that there is always good around me, and I don't have to wait for life to be perfect to find things to be happy about. For a book that centers on the deaths of people, it was a surprisingly light read with bits of humor sprinkled through out. If your days are feeling a little long and depressing, this book is worth the read.

My favorite quote in this book was:
The life you imagine doesn't just happen while you are daydreaming about it on the drive across the country. It requires effort once you reach your destination.
I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads.

I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads.

Outside 365 | January 2016

A friend of mine sends her son to a Forest Kindergarten (for preschoolers) here in Chattanooga. I love this concept and that one of their governing rules is that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing choices.

Anyways, the kindergarten is located in Lookout Valley which is a little too far of a drive for me to commit to, but I found that I kept turning the concept over in my mind. We want our boys to love the outdoors and I think that so much learning and imagination happens when you are not hindered by toys – we love toys and electronics, but we also want natural landscapes to play a part in our kid's upbringing.

So, I came up with this idea that there was no reason we couldn't try to spend a little bit of every day (regardless of the weather) outside. We live on an acre of wooded land that features rocky outcroppings; the playground across the street has woods with trails; we live one street over from a natural area with two additional miles of trails; and Signal Mountain and the greater Chattanooga area boasts tons of things to do outside. We can do this!

I mentioned my plan to Daniel and then we set out to make it happen.

The month of January was a tricky one. Temperatures ranged from the teens (in the south, that is cold!) to days in the 60s. There was rain and fog and sleet and snow. But there were also days with plenty of sunshine.

Did we succeed? Truth be told we did not get outside every day, but 22 days out of 31 we managed to spend at least an hour outside. 

We went on hikes as a family to Sunset Rock and Mushroom Rock. We played in the snow. We discovered secret forts. We played on playgrounds with friends. We went on neighborhood walks and bike rides. And Jack spent a lot of time with his daddy playing on our property.

Isaac did not spent quite as many days outside, but at least half of the month we had him outdoors with us. 

Both of our boys developed eczema on their hands from the cold, so we are trying to balance healing their hands with our desire for outdoor play. This goal of mine is a fluid one, but I hope that we will continue to get outside as much as we can this year. 

And on the days we can't get out, we will look out our windows and dream of warmer days.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hiking with Kids: Mushroom Rock

One of our favorite things about where we currently live is that an 8-minute drive takes us to Prentice Cooper State Park where we have a network of trails (totaling 35 miles) at our disposal.

Back in October we attempted the hike to Mushroom Rock. But instead found ourselves wandering in the woods for a couple of hours, missing the turn that would have lead us to the giant shaped mushroom in the forest.

Yesterday, thanks to a better map, GPS coordinates and a new series of signs that someone has placed on the trail, we redeemed ourselves.

With 35 miles of trails, it is easy to make a wrong turn before finding your destination. I counted the intersection of 5 trails when we finally arrived at the well-known rock.

I think this is the longest hike that Jack has completed to date. At 2.6 miles round trip we can tell he is getting stronger and building endurance, while hopefully also learning to love the outdoors as much as we do. For now, Isaac continues to just be along for the ride.

I'm so glad we took the opportunity to spend time together, outside, as a family. Last weekend we enjoyed sledding at our neighborhood park, this weekend it was 60º and we had fun exploring the forest.

A couple of funny things Jack said while we hiked:
"It [the map] says there is mud ahead."

"I'm a good trail runner."
We saw quite a few people running on the trail while we were out and Jack was totally fascinated (his daddy is very proud). 

He would vacillate between saying he was exhausted (and sitting down in the middle of the trail) and taking off running saying that he was a good trail runner or that the trail runner (him) was going to win the race back to the car.

At the very end of our hike, I was pretending to race him back to the car, and he took my hand and said that we could walk and finish together and both win. Then as soon as we were within 30 feet of the car, the little rascal took off at a dead sprint and beat me. He totally played me!

This was Isaac's first time riding in the Deuter Kid Comfort Carrier II and he did great, even taking a brief nap.

Trail Stats:
Trailhead: Shackleford Ridge to Mushroom Rock
Mileage: 1.3 miles each way
Time on the Trail (with kids): 1 hour 45 min
Max Speed: 3.6 mph (Jack may have gone faster since he jogged part of the time)

Looking forward to more days in the woods with our boys.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Aretha Frankenstein's

With a name like Aretha Frankenstein's you know you are in for an offbeat experience, and such is the case when you eat at this quirky little restaurant in the North Shore of Chattanooga.

We discovered Aretha Frankenstein's several years ago when we were staying in a VRBO rental just down the street. We attempted a visit at the time, but the incredibly LONG lines deterred us.

On several different occasions we have driven by in hopes of a shorter wait, but to no avail.

More recently we ate at Crocket's Breakfast Camp in Gatlinburg where we tried the Aretha Frankenstein pancakes that were featured on the menu. The pancakes were amazing, so I decided we needed to make another attempt to try the local restaurant.

Daniel and I recently had the opportunity when Daniel was home on a weekday. After dropping Jack at preschool, we bundled Isaac up and headed down to North Shore.

Luckily for us, a cold Thursday morning is a perfect time to visit this popular joint. The decor matched the name of the diner with skeletons hanging from chandeliers and posters of cult classics plastered on the walls. 

I had the eggs and bacon with a pancake on the side while Daniel had a chocolate chip waffle. The food was all delicious. The restaurant also boasts an espresso bar, which I should have tried because the plain coffee I had was awful. I could smell how bad it was when they brought it to the table but tried to choke it down anyways. Moral of the story: Food = Fantastic, Coffee = Terrible.

The morning we were there, the speakers were blasting heavy metal music (the kind where the band just screams, and you are pretty sure obscenities are assaulting your ears). For ten in the morning it was a jolt to our senses, but mostly it made us feel old.

I don't know if we will be back. At this point in our life, Crocket's Breakfast Camp is more our speed (plus Aretha Frankenstein's really isn't that kid friendly, though they did have one booster chair for little ones).

On a side note, I recently picked up some Aretha Frankenstein's Pancake Mix from a local grocer and it tastes about as good as the real deal (though I have no idea how they make their pancakes 1-inch think... even with their mix, mine only were about 0.25-inches thick).

Aretha Frankensteins Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


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