Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Books I Read in April (#9-10)

Here is a recap of the books that I read in the month of April.
First up was The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. Typically speaking, for me books always trump movies. The Wizard of Oz is an outlier in that I love the 1939 movie more than the book. Maybe it is just because I grew up watching the movie and never got around to reading the book, but the book is really different and I felt like the screen did a better job of telling the story. I have not seen the recent remake, Oz the Great and Powerful so I can't say if it did the book (or original movie) justice. But this is one case in which I loved the movie more than the book. I gave this book a 3/5 on Goodreads.

My second book in the month of April was the third in the Chronicles of the Kings Series by Lynn Austin. The Strength of His Hand continues the story of King Hezekiah from the Bible. While it is a fictional account of history (my favorite genre), it did a great job of bringing to life the story of the kings and the prophets from this period. Even though I knew what was going to happen, I kept finding myself wanting to shake King Hezekiah and tell him that he is making the wrong decisions for his kingdom! I have really enjoyed this particular series and would recommend it to anyone who wants to gain more perspective of what it might have been like during this time period. I gave this book a 5/5 on Goodreads.

Our Life Group has started reading The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler. I will write a full review when we finish it.

And the congregation we worship with continues to work its way through The Story and I continue to enjoy reading the Bible in this format. Especially in conjunction with the corresponding sermons on Sundays – which I have looked forward to hearing every week.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

High Point: Cheaha Mountain

As a part of our first camping trip with Jack, we decided to hit up the highest point in Alabama
in an effort to work toward visiting the highest points in all 50 states {No.5 on my life list}.

Cheaha State Park in the Talledega Forest is home to Cheaha Mountain, the highest point in Alabama at 2,407 ft above sea level.

We actually camped on the ridge that is home to this high point. First thing in the morning, we walked from our campsite, up the hill to the observation tower. Since we were the only people there, we let Sophie come up into the tower with us where we had 360º views of the surrounding forest. This was probably the easiest high point I have been to {to date anyways}.

After we packed up camp, we drove around to see what else was in the park.

We found a short trail to Bald Rock that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and offered more great views. Jack continues to be a trooper as we drag him on various hikes.

One of these days he is going to insist on doing the hiking himself instead of being carried.

--- Highest Points I have been to at the time of this post: Mt. Magazine, AR; 
Mt. Elbert, CO; Mt. Mitchel, NC; Mt. Rogers, VA; Clingman's Dome, TN; Mt. Washington, NH, Brasstown Bald, GA; Cheaha Mountain, AL ---

Saturday, April 27, 2013

First Camping Trip with Baby

Daniel and I just got home from our first overnight camping trip with our 1.5 year old. How did it go, you might ask. Well, here is an update that pertains specifically to camping. I will have a follow up post later about our hike.

Since becoming a parent, I have really had to learn how to adjust my expectations for any major event. Typically Daniel and I choose to continue to do things we love, but we find ways to incorporate Jack. We have also learned that the best thing for us is to have a general game plan and then just go with the flow.

In another life, Daniel and I would go on overnight backpacking trips and avoid campgrounds like the plague. On this camping trip, we decided to compromise. We went to a campground that had "semi-primitive" sites {i.e. they had water, but no electricity} but we could still drive to the site.

Additionally, we decided to make things simple by not cooking at camp. We grabbed Chick-fil-a on our way to camp and then ate breakfast at the park restaurant – a brief walk from where we camped {this was a first for us}.

We had life group on Thursday night so Jack was already worn out from being out past bedtime the night before. This worked to our advantage in that he was pretty tired for camping.

Daniel set up camp while I wrangled Jack and made sure he didn't get into anything or do something dangerous like walk off of a cliff – we were camping on top of a ridge on the highest mountain in Alabama.

Daniel tried to build a fire but it was really windy on top of the mountain and in our rush to leave our house, we forgot to bring any kind of kindling. With a toddler, it was probably best safest that we skipped on the fire.

I brought a remote control car {currently Jack's favorite toy} and a little shovel and bucket for Jack to play with as well as a book for bedtime. Jack did not play with the toys AT ALL. Why would he when there were so many other things for him to explore. We did read his book at bedtime and we also gave him his paci for sleeping.

At bedtime, I changed Jack's diaper and put him in his footed, fleece pajamas. Then we read him a book and sang to him. I think the fact that we have a consistent bedtime routine helped with going to bed.

For sleeping arrangements, we set up our two inflatable Thermarest ground pads like we normally would. Then we zipped together our sleeping bags and put Jack between us. He had his own pillow and blanket. Sophie had a bed on the other side of Daniel. Night-time temps were probably in the mid 50s with a strong wind all night and Jack was plenty warm in his fleece pajamas and blanket, nestled between us.

Jack loved, loved, loved the tent. That being said, there were a lot of things inside the tent for him to look at... pulls, zippers and pockets to explore.

We have only co-slept on a few occasions {when traveling or sick} so it took Jack a little while to get used to the idea of sleeping with us. It was probably an hour {after lights out} before he settled down and fell asleep. He slept like a rock.

Saturday morning we took a walk and did a short hike. Jack was really into exploring everything and saying "hi" to all of the other campers. Taking Jack camping was a success and I think we can begin planning our next trip where we actually bring food, plan on a fire and possibly even backpack to a more remote campsite.

I did want to add that our back-up plan if Jack screamed all night {which we were not anticipating, but you never know} was to pack up and go home. Also, we used disposable diapers on this trip. We still use cloth diapers 98% of the time, but we just didn't want to deal with carter around cloth diapers.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Camping

Back in the day we used to camp and hike. A lot. When we were first married, it was an every weekend affair. After we moved to Charlotte, we still did it but the regularity diminished – thank you house renovation. In recent years (besides living in a campground for 3 months), camping has become more of a yearly thing, if that. Case in point, our last camping trip was to the Sipsey Wilderness in 2011.

So I can't tell you how excited I am that we are doing a quick overnight camping trip this Friday. It will be a first for Jack – really for all of us since we have never camped with a baby before. I cannot wait.

I thought I would share a couple of our early camping experiences with you...

One of our very first camping trips (after we were married) was to the Virgin Falls Pocket Wilderness Area located south east of Sparta, TN. On this particular trip, Daniel's sister Amy came with us. It was July, 2003 and I believe we were celebrating Independence Day. The main thing I remember from this experience was getting severely dehydrated and getting sick once we got off the trail. We have been to Virgin Falls several times and as long I stay hydrated, it is a great camping trip (or a good hard day hike – it is about 8 miles round trip and all uphill at the end).

Another camping experience that was significant to us was celebrating our first anniversary and New Year's (January 2004) by hiking part of the Appalachian Trail in the Smoky Mountains. We took the Anthony Creek trail (out of Cades Cove) up to connect with the AT. Our second night on the trail was spent in an AT shelter with a group of Eagle Scouts. Happy Anniversary! I was the only girl. The Anthony Creek trail was a tough ascent up but once we were on the AT, we had some really incredible views.

After we moved to Charlotte, we fell in love with Mt. Rogers and the Grayson Highlands in Virginia. If you didn't know, Jack's middle name is Grayson because of our love of this area. Our first trip to Mt. Rogers was in March of 2005. There was a huge storm while we were on the mountain and we were not exactly prepared for the crazy weather. We loved the area, but after spending the night huddled in a shelter, we cut our trip short.

Our longest hike/backpacking trip to date was in the Jefferson Wilderness Area in Virginia. In July of 2005, we drove to Damascus, VA where we had a shuttle drop us off 40 miles from town. Over the course of 3 days, we made our way back to our car and civilization.

I have really missed backpacking and truly hope that as Jack gets older we can make more of these kinds of trips. If you are interested in some of our trips since I started blogging regularly, you can read about them here: Linville Gorge (2007), Gabes Mountain Trail (2007), Turkey Creek (2008), Carver's Gap (2009), Bob Bald (2010), Sipsey Wilderness (2011)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

See Jack {mid March 2013}

This is an ongoing series of videos that I am sharing so that our extended family can keep up with how Jack is growing and changing in these early years.

See Jack sit backwards on his tricycle.
{mid March}

See Jack play peek-a-boo in the car.
{mid March}

See Jack practice (or not practice) following instructions.
{mid March}

See Jack play in a box. 
{mid March}

See Jack play with his soccer ball. Ball is one of the newer words he currently says.
{mid March}   

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The "Three Year" Theory

I have this theory that it takes about 2-3 years to feel like you belong somewhere, like you are a part of the community, that you have a place. Being someone who has moved about 12 times in my life, I think I have a pretty good grasp of what it means to try to fit in somewhere new. I even wrote about this back in 2008.

It is hard to believe, but we have been in our current home for 2.5 years and Daniel has been at his current job for a little over 3 years. Looking back, the 3-year time frame has once again held true. 

At first I felt lost and alone. It has been hard to make new friends while living in a small (very small) rural town. But it was also hard to make friends in a huge city like Charlotte, NC. This time around has been different in that we have a baby in our mix, but it still has taken almost 3 years to begin to feel plugged in.

In the past couple of years, we have been blessed to make friends in not one, but two cities: Huntsville, AL and Chattanooga, TN. I am so thankful to be getting to the three year mark and feeling more and more like I am supposed to be here.

Through it all, I am incredibly grateful to have Daniel by my side, because even when I feel alone he has always been there. Our friendship has carried us through the lonelier times.

If my math is correct and it takes me (on average) 2.5 years to feel comfortable in a new place, there have only been a handful of years in my lifetime that I have felt like I actually belong somewhere – which, sadly, rings true for me.

I think it's time that we stay somewhere for a little longer!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

See Jack {early March 2013}

This is an ongoing series of videos that I am sharing so that our extended family can keep up with how Jack is growing and changing in these early years.

See Jack stack blocks.
{early March}

See Jack dip fries at Five Guys.
The first few times he did this, he would dip the and then put the undipped end in his mouth. He has since figured out how to dip and then eat the ketchup off of the dipped end.
{early March}

See Jack zone out while watching YouTube videos with his daddy.
This is one of his favorite things to do.
{early March}

See Jack say "book" and "wow" – he is becoming quite the little imitator these days and learning new words all of the time.
{early March}

See Jack practice his music skills.
{early March}

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

When I am afraid...

The world is a scary place. There is so much that is out of our control – for someone like me who likes to be in control, this is tough. It would be so easy to stay home and not engage with this crazy, scary world. But if we chose to hide, we would miss out on experiences and relationships and opportunities. Even with all of the evil around us, I believe that the good outweighs the bad. 

I can't imagine the terror felt by those who were at the Boston Marathon yesterday. Having run a half marathon, I can only try to imagine the chaos and confusion that ensued, especially for the runners who were already physically and mentally exhausted as they came to the end of their race.

This quote from Mr. Rogers encourages me at a time like this.

It reminds me that good people exist and they are willing to help others, even in the face of difficult situations. Even those who were exhausted from having run 26.2 miles were willing to rally to help those who were hurt.

I am also encouraged by God's word. It reminds me that I don't have to be in control. I don't have to understand the things that happen in this world, I just have to trust that God is in control.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. – Psalm 46:1-3

Trusting God is the only thing that allows me to truly engage with the world. It lets me put my fears aside. It gives me peace and comforts me when I am afraid.
I continue to pray for those who were affected directly by this terrible tragedy.

Monday, April 15, 2013

While We Were Away...

While we were away, Jack was having a great time with his Nana (Daniel's mom), his Aunt and his Great Grandmother. We had a couple of texts back and forth, but it was nice to know that he was in good hands and that we didn't have to check in. We could just enjoy our retreat.

The funniest text correspondence was between me and Daniel's sister, Amy:
We laid Jack down about 15 minutes ago. No crying. He just laid his little head down and hugged pooh. Sweet boy.

My response:
Great. We thought it would be pretty easy :) Hoping "pooh" was a stuffed animal.

Saturday morning we received a cute photo of Jack at breakfast time from his Nana.

I know that Jack enjoyed all of the extra attention and it was great to be able to go spend some time on our own. Jack even convinced his Aunt Amy to practice high fives with him – he's getting pretty good at it. 

Saturday evening Jack was happy to get to eat cake as we celebrated Grandmother and Amy's birthdays. Our boy loves cake – he has spent the last couple of days polishing off what was left of the Buckwheat Bundt Cake that Amy made!

A few more antics from Jack...

 Playing peek-a-boo.

He recently started plugging his ears. 
I think he has discovered that it dampens sound when he does it. 
He thinks it is hilarious.

 Playing in the fridge.

We certainly missed Jack, but it was nice to get away. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Spring Retreat

It has been several years since Daniel and I had the opportunity to attend a retreat. I think our time in Cookeville, TN (8 years ago?!?) may have been the last time we got to have some time to reflect and grow in a retreat-type of setting.

We are so thankful for the opportunity to go and spend some time getting closer to our class from church by studying God's word together and sharing a time of fellowship.

{this was the picture texted to us at breakfast on Saturday morning}

This was the first time Daniel and I have left Jack for more than a few hours. Jack was able to spend some quality time with his Nana, Aunts and Great Grandmother while Daniel and I did our quick overnight trip down to the Hargis YMCA camp in Birmingham, AL. 

The general focus of the retreat was building community with a specific look at how prayer, our calling and the need to encourage one another play into the community that we are a part of. Daniel and I felt blessed by this time with this group of friends and we look forward to continuing to grow closer as we get to know each of them better.

When we arrived home yesterday, we grilled out and spent a little time with Daniel's family celebrating his Grandmother and sister's birthdays. Jack had a blast and I think we can consider a longer getaway for me and Daniel in the near future!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

See Jack {late February/early March 2013}

This is an ongoing series of videos that I am sharing so that our extended family can keep up with how Jack is growing and changing in these early years.

See Jack discover how to open and close the straw on his sippy cup.
{late February}

See Jack attempt to put on his sweater.
{late February}

See Jack eat with a spoon. He gets better at this skill with each passing day.
{late February}

See Jack climb into a chair for the first time.
{late February}

See Jack play peek-a-boo with his daddy's hat.
{early March}

See Jack discover the joy of playing with a tape measure.
I love his sweet giggles.
{early March}

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Jack in the Garage

Jack is definitely his father's son. He LOVES the garage. We have been spending more of our time outside (he loves the outdoors too), but if the garage is accessible, watch out! He will be in the garage in a heartbeat.

He loves to explore and look at all of the (many) tools and touch as many things as we will let him. Daniel encourages this, even letting him turn the handle on the vice that is attached to the work table.

He really enjoys it if we set him on Daniel's little mechanic stool and spin him in circles. If we don't sit him on the stool, he will stand beside it and spin the seat himself. He also likes to look under the stool – so inquisitive.

Daniel has been spending a lot of time in the garage lately. He is in the process of upgrading(?) the sound system in his car. This involved taking apart every door panel, removing the back seats and disassembling the dashboard. Recently Jack has been hanging out in the car with Daniel, observing as he puts everything back together. 

The other day Daniel was putting a door panel back on the inside of the driver's side door and he used the palm of his hand to bang it into place. After a minute Jack proceeded to bang on the car with his hand. He is very observant and funny! We had a good laugh at his desire to do what his daddy does.

As for the outdoors... our house sits on 3 acres and Jack has explored almost every inch of our property that is not wooded. This past weekend we introduced him to dandelions. He thought it was great fun to watch us blow the seeds into the wind. He now marches around the yard and picks the heads off of any dandelion that he finds and giggles. His Great Grandpa Lock would be proud!

We are really enjoying these warmer days. I think Jack would spend every waking moment outside (or in the garage) if we let him!

Family Hike at Fiery Gizzard

On Saturday we had originally planned to go on a group hike on the Fiery Gizzard Trail , but it was cancelled at the last minutes. So...