Monday, July 27, 2015

Off the Grill II, a Revisit

Last year we tried a new restaurant on Signal Mountain called Off the Grill II. We had heard good things about it, but we had a disappointing experience and had not returned.

Recently some friends told us they had tried the BBQ and it was pretty good. So last Friday, when our local standby was packed, we decided to give it another chance.

I was a little concerned when we first walked in the door. The location is a really old house and it has a distinct old house smell to it. Jack (age 3) immediately plugged his nose and kept asking, "What is that smell?" I shushed him and let him pick our table. There are four rooms with seating to choose from. Incidentally he picked the same table we sat at before.

We quickly picked our entrees as our noses adjusted to the smell. I picked the Ribs and Daniel chose the Salmon. The plates were big enough that Jack just shared with us. The food was really delicious. My fried okra and baked beans had a smoky taste to them that paired nicely with the fall-off-the-bone ribs. The ribs were definitely some of the best I have tried and Daniel's salmon had good flavor as well.

Besides the smell of the restaurant, my only complaint is that they serve the food on plastic disposable plates and utensils. At $10-$15 per entree, it feels odd to eat on plastic.

The owner came by our table while we were eating. He was very friendly, making jokes with our two little ones. The restaurant has live music on Saturday nights and tables on the front porch. You can also get take out.

Overall, we felt like the food was good and we had a much better experience than our first visit.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015


It feels like my brain has turned to mush. The last three months of waking up with Isaac during the night have definitely taken a toll. Until I get to regularly sleep through the night again, and my brain returns to normal, I will just keep doing my best to piece my thoughts together...

Last Thursday was a frightening day. The older I get, the more experiences I have that fill me with fear. Evil abounds in this world and these instances remind me that this world is not my home.

I remember how horrifying it was to watch the September 11 attacks, live on television, from my university student center. More recently I remember the shock of hearing about the Boston Marathon attack. I never expected to be so close to such an attack.

I normally listen to the radio while I am in the car, but for some reason I had turned it off on the way to my boot camp class at the Y. I believe I was having a conversation with Jack about why we obey the laws while driving. 

When I arrived at the Y, my boot camp instructor was running around asking about keys. I just assumed she needed keys to unlock the closet where the weights are stored. When she came into the gym, she informed us all that the doors were all locked and that our kids were safe. I thought that was an odd statement but I assumed she was making sure the doors were locked so the kids couldn't sneak out. I had no idea that a sinister event was playing out in Chattanooga.

There were only a handful of people at the work out. I assumed that everyone was on vacation or just skipping. At the end of class I checked my phone and saw that I had several messages from my dad. In the middle of the day... which was odd. Then my instructor started to say something about an active shooter. Wait, WHAT? It was then that things started to click in my brain.

There was an active shooter. At the Riverpark. And he had not yet been stopped.

My dad called again and I let him know that we were ok, that I was collecting the boys and we were heading home. I told Jack that we couldn't stay and play on the playground like we usually did. He wanted to know why. So I revisited our earlier conversation about obeying the laws, telling him that someone was not obeying the laws and we needed to go home to be safe.

I quickly got the boys in the car and started driving. I called Daniel to make sure he had heard the news. He works an hour north of town so I knew he was ok. We drove home and I turned on the radio to listen to the news live. The shooter had been stopped. People were on lockdown. People had died. I silently wept and prayed as I drove.

Once home Jack wanted to make cookies. He had been asking for a couple of days to make cookies and I knew that was what we needed to do. He doesn't know that the world has evil in it. He didn't know, nor could he comprehend, what had just happened. So we continued with life. Business as usual. The business of a mom and her 3-year-old making cookies. The day felt very surreal. It still does. Did that really happen in our city? 

I am so proud of the men and women who rushed to help. The first responders that worked to stop and contain the situation. I felt like everyone was calm and collected and did what needed to be done. Since the event I continue to hear stories like how two marines helped get people to safety before returning to search for others and ultimately getting shot. They are heroes. The police officer that ran toward the shooting, to help. He is a hero. Five men lost their lives in this terrorist attack in the city I call home.

The people of Chattanooga have pulled together in a way that makes me proud to live here. Proud to be an American citizen. People are choosing to continue living their lives. I know that shock still permeates our city, but by and large it seems like the people who live here are choosing to be #noogastrong and not allowing the events of last week take anything from them. 

I continue to pray for the families that lost loved ones during this tragic incident.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Isaac is Three Months Old

Isaac experienced quite a few firsts during his third month of life. 
He celebrated his first Father's Day...

He went on his first trip to the Chattanooga Aquarium...

His took first road trip to Arkansas (9 hours there, 8 hours home)...

His attended his first 4th of July celebration...

And his first trip to go swimming in the lake.

Looking back, it's kind of surreal how similar Isaac is to his big brother at this same age (though he is much bigger). 

Jack at 6 months, Isaac at 2.5 months.
He has discovered that he can put his fist in his mouth, he is going through some excessive drooling (and chewing – maybe he has a tooth coming?), spitting up, and constant babbling – just like Jack at this same age.

Though I think Isaac actually talks more to us that Jack ever did. Especially in the evenings when he gets really chatty. I believe we have a little night owl.

On Father's Day, we had an interesting experience: Daniel was holding Isaac at the dinner table and he started getting fussy. All of a sudden it sounded like he said, "I want my mama." He said it twice. Everyone at the table was incredulous. Daniel handed Isaac to me and he immediately settled down. I don't know that he was actually saying anything, but it kind of shocked all of us.

Isaac is also getting more and more interactive. If we grin at him, he will mimic us and grin back. It is the same for talking. We like to make goofy faces at him and have little conversations. 

In addition to grinning and laughing at us, he also likes for his cheeks to be touched. For some reason this elicits really big smiles.

Isaac is still sleeping a ton. He is such a chill baby. He even sleeps in the pool whenever I take the boys swimming. Nothing like relaxing on a baby floaty, legs dangling in the water, and sleeping.

He loves to be held and doesn't seem to mind who does the holding.

At night he will sleep for 5-6 hour stretches. For me this seems to work best if I can do a midnight feeding and then sleep until 5am. For some reason waking up at 3 or 4 is exhausting (even if I do get 5 hours straight of sleep).

Isaac is one chubby boy. I know I have said it before, but he really is. I was nursing him a couple of weeks ago and his onesie popped open. I immediately retired all of his 3 month clothes.  

He is also on the verge of outgrowing the Rock-N-Play that he currently sleeps in and his car seat. We will be moving him upstairs to his crib soon and may have to consider going ahead and moving him to the next size car seat.

Isaac is currently on a two-hour cycle for eating (except at night). He seems to think he will starve to death if he doesn't eat every two hours on the dot... Obviously he is in no danger of that happening.

We are still predominantly using cloth diapers, but for disposable I am about ready to upgrade him to size 4 as the size 3 barely close and he ends up having blow outs! I'm pretty sure he is close to 20 pounds.

This little guy is still not a fan of tummy time, but can hold up his head really well while sitting. If I have him propped up on my knees he will try to pull his whole body to a sitting position. Those little abs are getting a workout!

We are loving our youngest little boy and look forward to the weeks, months and years to come.

*As with Jack, I will be posting monthly updates of Isaac on a quilt (inherited from my Grandma), next to a yellow Tonka truck (a toy from Daniel's childhood). 
Isaac at One Month  | Isaac at Two Months

A Look Back: Jack at One Month  |  Jack at Two Months  |  Jack at Three Months (We used a quilt from Daniel's family for the Jack photos, along wit the Tonka truck from Daniel's childhood).

Monday, July 13, 2015

July Traditions, 2015

Traditions are important to me, and over the years our family has developed some pretty good ones for various holidays. However, it hasn't been until the last couple of years that I have felt like we have settled into a good 4th of July tradition.

When we were first married, I really thought our 4th of July tradition would be an annual backpacking trip. But we have only been able to manage that a few times, and with little ones it will probably be some time before that is our reality again.

Moving to Signal Mountain has provided some new small-town traditions that I have fallen in love with. These traditions feel quintessentially American. On the morning of July 4th we start things of by attending the annual Signal Mountain Bike Parade. Local firetrucks and police cars kick things off with their sirens. They are followed by boy scout and girl scout troops, baseball teams, animal shelters and various other local organizations. Anyone can join in. 

Lots of families participate with their children riding decorated bikes, scooters or Powerwheels. As a bonus, we always come home with a bag full of candy. Our kids are small enough that we enjoy watching the festivities, but maybe next year we will join in on the fun of biking in the parade. Rain or shine, it is a fun family event.

Later that evening we joined friends for a cookout. We feel incredibly blessed to be able to share these moments with friends. Our town's annual fireworks show was cancelled this year due to rain, but we were still able to let the kids have fun with sparklers. 

While the adults visited late into the evening, the kids played and we all listened to the booming sounds of fireworks being shot off by neighbors. It was probably just as well for Isaac that we weren't outside.

Finally, our church held their annual bike parade and ice cream social in the back parking lot. Jack pedaled his little heart out for over an hour. He was one of the very last to still be riding his bike... After the loud speakers had been taken down, after most of the other families had packed up and left, he was still out there making the rounds. 

At the start, the experience makes me nervous – big kids and little kids are all riding in circles together. The chaos of it all makes my heart jump into my throat as careening children on bikes somehow avoid crashing into each other. Thankfully, for the most part, the kids do a great job. It fills me with pride to see my little one out there, so full of confidance. 

All of these events seem to be becoming our Independence Day traditions. Maybe in the future we will take our boys backpacking to celebrate the birth of our country, maybe we will stick with the fireworks, cookouts and bike parades. Either way, I am proud to be an American and live in the little community where we live.

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...