Friday, May 31, 2013

Lowe Mill Docks Concert Series and a Hike

We finally made it to a concert at the Lowe Mill in Huntsville. Unfortunately it is the last one of the season and we have to wait until September for it to start back up.

Before going to the concert, we made a pit stop at Blevin's Gap for a 1.5 mile hike in the woods. We love that there are trails so close to civilization. If we ever have a chance to move to Huntsville, we will try to buy in the Jones Valley area – it has Hays Nature Preserve for biking, trails at Blevins Gap for hiking or running and the Flint River for paddling. We LOVE this area.

After our short hike, we made our way over to Lowe Mill. We were starting to doubt the GPS, when Daniel said, "I see razor wire... we must be close." Sure enough, Lowe Mill was right around the corner. Why are art districts always in sketchy areas of town?

Anyways, we unloaded our camp chairs and blanket and settled onto a grassy spot in the back with a full view of the stage. The event was very relaxed. Most people brought their own food and drinks. We had water and snacks and Daniel went inside the Mill to score some sandwiches from Happy Tummy. They were delicious, but because of the concert, it took him 40+ minutes to secure our food.

Thankfully Jack was too busy enjoying the concert and people watching to notice.

Our boy loves music. He would bounce up and down to the music and he clapped after every set.

Can you spot Jack and Daniel in the crowd?
There was a 30 minute intermission at 7:30 and I wandered through the Mill to look at the various art galleries. It made me nostalgic for college... the smell of turpentine and linseed oil was strong from all of the oil painting studios. There were graphic design studios, painting studios, a print shop, a used book store, and even a theater for local filmmakers. I was impressed. If we ever live in a city again and I am in the mood to expand my business, I would be very tempted to rent studio space somewhere like this.

Overall it was a great family date night. Jack held up well for the evening -- we left about 8:30. He was mesmerized by the water tower that changed color after dark. He chatted the whole way home and went to bed without a hitch. I am so thankful he is easy going and we can do fun stuff like this.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

See Jack {early-mid April 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 ride his horse.
{early April}

See Jack try on his new bicycle helmet for the first time.
{early April}

See Jack tell me what a cow and a sheep say.
{mid April}

See Jack put his sunglasses on {and take them off}.
{mid April}

See Jack play with his remote control car. 
Getting it to drive off the furniture is one of his favorite pastimes.
{mid April}

Monday, May 27, 2013

Our First Bike Ride in Two Years

Two years ago Daniel and I took our last bike ride. I was 3 months pregnant and we did 10 miles on the roads close to our home. It was the last time I was on a bicycle.

Two months ago I found a baby carrier for a bicycle at a consignment sale that had all of the parts with it. For $15, I snapped it up. It had barely been used. Unfortunately we have had a lot of other things going on and Daniel needed to fix one of the shifters on his bike before we could hit the trails again.

Today he finally had the time to fix his bike and mount the baby carrier. So we took the opportunity of the gorgeous day to head to the Hays Nature Preserver in Jones Valley – about 45 minutes from our house on this side of Huntsville.

Before leaving the house, we did a practice run to make sure that Jack would tolerate being on the back of a bicycle. We stuck him in the carrier and he cried. I took a quick picture before Daniel took off down the driveway. Within moments, the tears turned to giggles. He loved it. 

They rode down the road and when they came back and dismounted, Jack cried because he was no longer sitting on the back of the bike.

Feeling confidant about a longer ride, we loaded the bikes and our gear while Jack anxiously tried to climb into the car.

We made it to the Hays Nature Preserve about 4:30pm and spent an hour and fifteen minutes exploring all of the connecting greenways (Big Cove, Hays Nature Preserve and the Flint River Greenways) as well as part of the horse/mountain biking trails that were throughout the preserve. 

We weren't planning on going off road, but the trails were too well maintained to not test the waters. 

We made it through some good mud pits and no one wrecked, so that is good :)

Jack had a blast. I think his favorite part of the experience was when Daniel went really fast. Daniel was impressed that he barely felt the bike carrier on the back of the bike. 

We were both thankful that Jack didn't balk at wearing his helmet for the entire trip and I'm pretty sure he was bummed when the ride was over.

We managed to bike a total of ~10 miles. It was a great way to end our long weekend and we can't wait to go back.

Memorial Weekend Cookout

Since we live 50+ minutes from most of our friends, we don't have a lot of opportunities for hosting parties (it is easier for us to drive to meet up with people than to expect a group of people to come out to our place).

Anyways, we were pleasantly surprised when 16 of our friends (and 4 toddlers) were able to make it out to a cookout at our place on Saturday.

We have decided that having company is great in motivating us to finish up projects – we finished the railing on our rear steps and even unpacked a few boxes that were still waiting. We've been in our current house for almost 3 years and still have a handful of boxes that need to be unpacked.

Our yard was a big hit with all of the toddlers and our back porch seemed to be a favorite with the adults (it's our favorite part of our house too). 

Friends with kids headed out after dinner, while everyone else stayed and enjoyed visiting together on the porch until almost 9pm.

We are so blessed to have gotten plugged in with our life group and class at church. We will definitely have to do this again! *If you know our dog, you might be shocked to know she was not bothered that there were 5 toddlers running around trying to touch her!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

See Jack {early April 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 play with a dandelion. He hasn't quite mastered blowing the seeds yet.
{early April}

See Jack play ball with Sophie. He thinks this game is hilarious.
{early April}

See Jack play peekaboo with a box.
{early April}

See Jack play with his shopping cart... and consider attempting to stand on it.
{early April}

See Jack laugh at {with} Mama. He also says a few of his animal sounds for me.
{early April} 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Words Vol. II

I love listening to Jack try out new words. As a first-time mama, each new word makes me want to cheer out loud. At the very least I am grinning ear to ear and sometimes laughing at each attempt. I think I will have many favorite stages about motherhood {along with some not-so-favorite}, but this toddler-learning stage is pretty cool.

To add to my last list of 35 words, Jack has added the following words in the last couple of weeks:

36. tractor
37. cracker
38. key
39. bi-per (diaper) – he will say this when he needs to have his diaper changed
40. side (outside) – also #30 for inside
41. turkey
42. pickle
43. two – we count numbers and as soon as we say "one" he follows with "two"
44. FoFo (Sophie) – we're working on this one
45. slide
46. shorts 47. shirt 48. pants – all words he uses when getting dressed
49. hair
50. men (Amen) – he says this at the end of every prayer, or when he thinks the prayer should be over

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Family Date Night(s)

When you become a parent, one of the main pieces of advice that you will read (or be told) over and over is that you need to continue to date your spouse. As a gal who was blessed with 10 years of dating my spouse (pre-baby), I totally understand the importance of working to stay connected. As a parent of a toddler (who lives in a rural area and whose closest family member is almost 2 hours away) reality is that (for us, right now) this task is equivalent to trying to climb Mt. Everest.

Don't misunderstand me and think that we don't spend time together. Typically (at least once a week) we end up grabbing a RedBox and collapsing on the sofa... where one or both of us may fall asleep. Not exactly romantic. 

Alternatively, when we visit family, we always have good intentions of leaving Jack with whoever we are staying with and sneaking off for a date, but we are typically exhausted from traveling and dates rarely happen. Once we snuck out to grab a late dinner and we both struggled to stay awake while waiting for our food. A late move? Forget about it. We have managed a handful of dates in the last year and a half (including canoeing and a trip to a coffee house), but this is nowhere near the "weekly" dates we had before Jack came along.

Recently I was feeling kind of getting depressed about the fact that we can't seem to achieve this "weekly date thing." It just isn't happening. Besides, there aren't that many places locally that we would even want to go to for a date. So weekend nights can seem lame.

This passed weekend and something changed – my attitude, perhaps. 

We have been trying to go to a series of free concerts at the Lowe Mill Docks in Huntsville for the last 2 months. Something always seems to come up to prevent us from going. This past Friday, we were determined to go. We didn't care that it was forecast to rain all evening. We packed up Jack, our camp chairs, the BOB stroller and rain jackets and headed to the city.

On the way there a friend texted me to say the concert had been cancelled. Bummer. We were already on our way, so we kept driving. We ended up at Bridge Street where we tried Tommy's Pizza for the first time. We were served up a 21" New York style pizza while it poured outside. After eating, we hurried through the rain (it's an outdoor mall) to Barnes & Noble where Jack enjoyed the train table and we enjoyed sitting in one of our favorite bookstores, browsing through the latest magazines. After B&N, we headed over to Toys R Us to see if Jack would be interested in a mini powerwheels four wheeler (he was). We also ran into one of Daniel's roommates from TTU (unexpectedly). We have a baby now, they have a baby now. Life marches on. On the way home, Jack was asleep and we stopped at DQ to split a Blizzard. 

So the difference in dates, was that instead of feeling like, "woe is me, I don't have a baby sitter, I'm stuck in Hollywood," we just went to town and dragged Jack along with us. I have no idea why we have put off weekend family dates like this. We take Jack everywhere else with us, why not do something fun as a family date? So, we may not see a movie in a real live theater for another decade, but there is still fun stuff that we can do.

I think we were both feeling good about our Friday night outing (even though it rained), so when we needed to run an errand to Chattanooga on Saturday, we decided to stop at Taco Mamacitas for dinner and then run over to Coolidge Park to let Jack play.

We ended up stumbling on the Beer over Dirt fundraiser at Renaissance Park – which happened to have live music. So we missed our live music on Friday, but we still ended up catching some live music on Saturday. 

Jack had his first experience with a water fountain. He was a little intimidated by it. We enjoyed walking through the park. It rained a bit, but we still had our rain jackets from Friday and it was a great weekend.

I guess I am saying all of this because it has taken me 18+months to realize that I can have fun with my family and I don't have to feel bad for myself or my relationship with Daniel just because we can't seem to go out on a real date. Real dates will happen again, but for now I can choose to be content and know that even if Jack is along, we can have a pretty fun family date!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Conversations with Izzy

Before Jack or Levi came along, my niece Izzy stole all of our hearts. And while we are enjoying the antics of two little toddler boys running around {creating chaos}, having Izzy around to speak her mind can be quite amusing.

Here are a couple of interactions I had with her while driving this past week...

Saturday night, Daniel and I picked up Izzy and took her to my Aunt Becky's to celebrate my cousin's graduation from college.

Once everyone was buckled in, we had the following conversation:
Izzy: Do you have Tarzan?
Me: No, honey.
Izzy: Well, what are we supposed to do in the car? (we had a 45 minute drive ahead of us)
Me: You can either talk to us, or take a nap.
Izzy: I don't want to take a nap.
Me: Then you better talk to us.
She actually did great and entertained Jack {or he entertained her?} all the way to my aunt's house. #firstworldproblems 

Tuesday Izzy rode with me again. We were having a picnic at Centennial Park in downtown Nashville before everyone went their separate ways. Centennial Park is pretty big and I wasn't completely sure where the playground was.

I turned into the park off of 25th and at the first stop sign Izzy told me to turn right. So I did. Then we came to another stop sign and she said to turn left. So I did. Shortly after that we found the playground. 

I am so impressed that my almost-four-year-old niece knew how to find the playground in downtown Nashville!

It will be fun to see what type of things Jack and his cousins tell us as they continue to develop their language skills!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

See Jack {Mother's Day Weekend 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. I have been trying to stay in chronological order, but this set of videos is from this past Mother's Day weekend.

See Jack work on his climbing skills... by the end of the weekend, he was doing some serious playground climbing. WITHOUT SUPERVISION.

See Jack ride a big slide with Daddy.

See Jack and his cousins do some "mechanical" work on the the Tonka Truck.

See Jack and Izzy ride the Uncle Mark Wagon Roller Coaster. The kids all love this game. 
I think it must be exhausting for Uncle Mark!

See Jack and Izzy bounce on the trampoline. 

See Grammy share her Mother's Day dessert with Jack.

Just for kicks, this was the lawnmower we watched at Centennial Park in Nashville. Jack pointed it out to us while swinging by saying, "Tractor" which is currently one of his favorite words.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Jack is 18 Months (1.5 years old!!!)

Things I would like to remember from the last three months...
(I made need to go back to monthly updates for the rest of the year since he is growing and changing so much each day. Be warned that this is a super long post!)

If you have ever wondered about nature vs. nurture, having a child to watch grow is the ultimate way to see how much influence you have. I believe both nature and nurture play a part, but it is evident with Jack that many of his traits are inherent in who he is. These traits often are eerily similar to Daniel. As Daniel likes to say, Jack has the "knack." If you don't know what the "knack" is, check out this video.

Every day when Daniel gets home from work, Daniel takes Jack out to the mailbox to "get the mail." This involves Jack meticulously removing each piece of mail, one at a time, and handing them to Daniel. Then he puts the mail back in the mailbox and starts the process again.

Jack also loves to move things from different drawers and place them where he believes they should go. Case-in-point: in his bathroom he likes to move all of the baby towels and washcloths from the middle drawer to the bottom drawer. 

He also likes to put toys in his shopping cart or dump truck bed and push said items around. Some items are also placed in the bottom two drawers of his dresser

Jack will often observe us doing tasks and then repeat said tasks until he figures it out. I recently watched him try to plug his sound machine into my cellphone charger. He knows the sound machine has a cord... he just had the wrong one.

Visits to the park are becoming more of a frequent thing for us. Jack loves to slide down the slide, though he is still not a fan of the swings.

Communication with Jack has been exploding these past couple of months. He emphatically shakes his head "No" if he doesn't want something. He signs "more" and reaches both hands up if he wants to be picked up. If he needs assurance on the playground, he reaches one hand up so that he can hold hands with one of us as we walk around. He also waves –backwards, mind you– when he says "bye." At home, this can also indicate that he is tired. He understands the concept of going "bye bye" and will say this over and over again when we are getting ready to leave. If Sophie is not going with us, Jack marches up to pet her "bye bye" just like his mommy and daddy do. He has picked up that I frequently tell Sophie, "shhhhhhhh" when she is barking excessively. Jack now tells Sophie (and sometimes people), "shhhhhhhh." I love observing him as he continues to learn about the world around him.

A week before turning 18 months, Jack said his name. He looked at me, patted his chest and said what sounded like, "Jack Jack." I was ecstatic. I tried to get him to do it again and he looked me right in the eye, patted his chest and said in a very serious voice, "mama." I died. We keep working with him and he says his name about 70% of the time when asked. The other times he says, "dada" or "mama." We love it and find it hilarious.

Jack loves to stand on things. I continue to get a kick out of all of the objects I have found him standing on.

I took Jack to the zoo for the first time (16 months). He wasn't terribly interested in the animals, but he did have a blast running around and playing on the enormous playground at the Nashville Zoo. We bought an annual pass, so we will be sure to visit again when Daniel can come with us.

We also took Jack on his first visit to a little farm at Burritt on the Mountain (17 months). He had a blast. The most notable thing was that he connected the real life farm animals with the animals in books we have been reading to him.  
Jack, what does a cow say? Meh.
What does a sheep say? Bah (in a whisper). 
What does a monkey say? Oooo. Oooo. So the monkey wasn't at the farm, but that his his favorite animal sound to make!
We took Jack on his first camping trip at the end of April (almost 18 months). He did amazing. He loved the tent and he loved exploring the campground and saying "hi" to everyone.

Jack has figured out how to climb into his Lego wagon. I am wondering how long it will be before he realizes he can use said wagon as a step to reach much higher things.

Around 17 months, the days finally got warm enough for us to venture outside more. Jack adores the back yard. Lucky for him, we have 3 acres that he can explore. Well, not quite, since he's not really big enough to explore the woods yet! Jack also loves the garage and hanging out with his daddy in said garage. He cannot get enough of pulling and pushing buttons and gadgets and touching everything that we will let him touch. I have a feeling that he will be working on many projects in the garage with his dad in years to come.

Jack's favorite toy is his remote control car. He loves to put it on the furniture and then work the controls so that it tumbles off the furniture onto the floor. He thinks this is hysterical. Sophie is not a fan of this game.

Daniel and I always pray before meals. We hold hands, but have not insisted that Jack holds hands with us. Right before he turned 18 months, he started holding out his hands before meals to pray. He was very insistent on this. Soon he was holding hands to praying before, during and after meal time. It is really sweet when he does it. His power of observation continues to amaze us.

Jack continues to love for us to read to him. Though he also likes to look through books and read to himself as well. "The Bear Snores On" is one of his favorites. He knows that at the end of the book the bear wakes up and sneeze, "Ahhhh-chhhhooooooo!" Through the entire reading, Jack giggles and says, "Ah Ah Ah" in anticipation of the sneeze. He also enjoys reading "Hippos Go Bezerk." The reading of this book elicits a crazy tongue-rolling noise that we all make when the hippos go bezerk. Again, Jack will do this in anticipation of this part of the book. At the end of "Llama Llama Nighty Night" Jack will say "nye nye or "bye bye" to signal he knows that the llama {and Jack} are going to bed. We are loving this stage of toddler life. Jack amazes us everyday with what he is continually learning.

Quarterly Stats:
Height and Weight: At his 16 month check up, Jack was in the 95 percentile for height and weight coming in at 33" tall and 25lbs.
Teeth: He now has six teeth on top and two on the bottom. Our PED says this just means that he will keep his baby teeth longer, which isn't a bad thing.

Food: Jack eats just about anything we give him. While visiting my sister, I gave him the option of a casserole or plain noodles – he preferred the casserole.
Vocabulary: Around 35 words and sounds. See this post for complete list.

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...