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

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

First Snow of 2016

Last week Storm Jonas turned into a blizzard and dumped a ton of snow in the northeast after hitting a good portion of the south. It seemed like it was snowing everywhere but east Tennessee, but on Friday night, as Daniel made his way home from work, the rain turned to big fat, wet snowflakes. Jack rushed out the door to greet the snow as it began to pile on our deck.

By bedtime several inches of snow had settled on the ground, creating a blanket of white that muffled the night sounds and reflected the full moon with a brightness of a flood light. 

I love the calm and quiet that the snow brings (though as someone who has lived in the south for the last two decades, I also like when the snow leaves after a few days). 

After a week of school closings and delays for the cold, it was nice to finally have a reward for being cooped up.

We had just enough snow to get the sled out and pull Jack around our neighborhood park, right across the street from our house. The little trail leading from our house to the park actually provided the perfect sledding hill for Jack (next year we will probably go to the golf course to do some real sledding).

This was Isaac's first snow and we were scrambling to find warm enough clothes for him. A size 2 rain jacket worked as a windbreaker over a fleece body suit. I'm sure he was annoyed by all of the layers, but he seemed fascinated by the cold white stuff.

We let him ride with Jack on the sled (until Jack complained that he was too heavy). I think Isaac would have stayed out longer, but by the time he was up from his nap and ready to join big brother, Jack was getting cold.

The weather has been fairly mild this winter and we were caught off guard – Jack's hiking boots were too small, his rain boots had holes in them, and we didn't have any wind resistant pants. We had enough layers to keep him warm for about an hour, and then we stripped him down and sat him by the fire to sip hot chocolate to warm back up (to help keep his feet dry, we put his feet in plastic grocery bags before putting on his holey rain boots).

We awoke on Sunday morning to sub freezing temps and snow had not yet melted. My weather app said the temperature would be in the 40s by noon and Jack was up early and ready for church with 30 minutes to spare, so Daniel took him sledding one last time before we headed off the mountain.

I hope it snows again this winter (previous big snows have been in February), but if it doesn't snow again this year, I'm glad Jack got one last sledding session in.

It's kind of hard to believe this is our third winter on Signal Mountain. We are looking forward to many more snow days (though if I'm being honest, I'm glad it only lasts for a few days).

A Look Back at Our Snow Days:
2013  |  2014  |  2015 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Baby 2: Our Favorite Baby Products (5-9 Months)

When it comes to baby products we love for our second child, the long and short of it is, pretty much everything we used for Jack we basically use for Isaac. 

So the good news is, if you are expecting baby #2, you already have all of the gear you need (and you have probably figured out the stuff you didn't really need in the first place). Since we have two boys, this philosophy extends to clothes too. Isaac gets mostly hand-me-downs, but really if your stuff is still in good shape, there is no reason to get something new. You can read my 0-4 month product recap here.

During the 5-9 month range, here are the products we still love, even four years later:

IKEA SUNDVIK crib – yep still using. At 4 months old, we moved Isaac from our Rock N Play in our room to Jack's old crib in the nursery upstairs. Our IKEA crib has served us well and I still love that it meets our criteria for form and function. We still haven't really decorated a nursery, but one of these days...

AngelCare Movement and Sound Monitor – check. When we moved Isaac upstairs, we started using Isaac's old baby monitor again. The biggest negative is that the battery doesn't hold a charge very well any more. So it mostly has to sit in it's cradle at this point. But it still works.

Fisher Price Space Saver High Chair – still useful. I wrote about this in my 0-4 month post but really it has become even more useful as Isaac is now eating every meal with us at the table.

Recaro ProRide Carseat – thank goodness we already had this. We had to upgrade Isaac to Jack's old convertible carseat at 5 months (he was too big for his baby carrier). With baby number two, it is much easier to move through each new stage because we have already done the research and purchased the products and we know we like them.

Graco Pack 'N Play – continues to come in handy for traveling once Isaac outgrew the Rock N Play.

Baby Einstein Musical Motion Activity Jumper – a fave. This has become a huge hit with Isaac in the last 3 months. It is about the only thing that allows me to get supper ready and on the table.

Cloth Diapers – four years later we are still using our original cloth diapers about 80% of the time. We have had to get rid of some of the originals and buy some new ones, but we continue to be fans of cloth diapers.

The best part of our current stage is that Isaac has finally discovered a love for toys, and we already have lots of them in stock.

One thing I want to get better at doing with Isaac is reading more regularly, one on one (we already have a ton of books). We always read to our boys at bedtime, but I find that I don't read as often to Isaac as I did Jack. Isaac loves our bedtime story routine, but he is also in a phase where he mostly wants to chew on the books.

One item that we now own that we didn't when Jack was a baby is our Thule Chariot Chariot 1 bike trailer. We have taken Isaac on several bike rides in it and he loves it! 

Kelty Messenger Diaper Bag – has been retired (it's in the closet as a back up). This time around I decided to use a striped bag from Target that I love. I get so many compliments on it and I like that I don't look like I'm hauling around a diaper bag (plus I love stripes!).

Things we are not really using this time: 
Pacifiers – Isaac has no interest.
Bibs – Isaac somehow stays much cleaner than Jack ever did.
Baby Bjorn carrier – we went with an Ergo carrier this time (though Isaac is now too big to be carried on my chest, he can still ride on my back).
Neat Solutions disposable placemats – we have talked about getting these again, but really aren't super paranoid this go round).
Safety 1st Fever Light Ear Thermometer – we ended up purchasing a Braun Thermoscan Ear Thermometer (now discontinued) instead.

That wraps it up for the edition of products we like (and are still using).

A Look Back at products we used the most when Jack was a baby:
0-3 months  |  3-6 months  |  6-9 months  |  9-12 months

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Isaac is Nine Months Old

A couple of days late... sorry kid, you're the second!

Currently Isaac is scooting backwards, but still not crawling forward. This gets him in trouble as he scoots himself under the couch and then gets frustrated. He easily moves from a seated position to all fours, but hasn't mastered pushing forward yet. Really, he just wants to stand...

It seems that he is determined to stand and cruise before crawling forward. Every time we hold him, he turns around and slides off of our laps onto the floor and holds the side of the couch. He really wants to start cruising, but hasn't figured out how to move his feet.

On the sleep front, I thought that we had finally turned a corner when he slept 9 hours straight at night, two nights in a row. But now that he is moving, he is in a regression stage. The problem is that he wakes up, scoots himself into a corner of his crib and then can't figure out how to move forward again. I know this is just a phase, but it is so hard to be losing sleep.

This past month he suddenly figured out how to eat solid foods. We do baby lead weaning and have introduced really soft solids all along, but during the last month he just seemed to get it. And he LOVES food. We just give him small bites of everything we eat and he devours it.

I briefly tried baby food (just to see if the convenience might help when we are away from home) but he makes the most hilarious faces and seems to hate it (who wouldn't when you have had real food) and his diapers are basically blow outs every time I try pureed baby food. If we weren't sure before, we are now, solids are the way to go for our family.

Isaac is at a stage where he loves to make spitting noise with his mouth. His Grandma Esther says the Spanish phrase for this is "trompeta" or to trumpet. I don't think there is an English equivalent, but it is a perfect phrase. Also, like his big brother at this age, his tongue is almost always sticking out.

In addition to spitting sounds, Isaac is babbling up a storm. He seems very determined to talk. His main sound continues to be "dada." But one day Daniel came home from work and Isaac was in his high chair and he said as clear as day, "Hi." We're not sure if he meant to say that, but it was pretty clear to both of us and a vast majority of the sounds he makes are of the "da" variety.

According to Daniel, Isaac's individual development plan (IDP in work language) is to walk, talk and eat us out of house and home.

Like most little ones Isaac loves cords, cell phones and remotes. He seems to be moving past the phase of just putting them in his mouth to an actual curiosity of how they function. When I try to hide said items, he no longer accepts that they have "disappeared" instead he hunts until he finds them.

In the past month, his list of firsts include: first trip to the mountains, first Christmas, first New Year, and first bath in the big tub with his older brother.

End of month stats:  
Weight: As of today and he is 25 lbs.
Clothes: He has been in size 12 month clothes for awhile and size 5 diapers whenever we use disposable.
Foods: We are continuing to introduce lots of different foods, daily. 
Words/Sounds: So many different sounds at this phase. 
Movement: Scooting backwards and trying to stand. Baby proofing is a priority.
Hair: A decent amount and right now it is blond.
Teeth: Two on top and two on bottom, possibly teething.

 *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 | Isaac at Three Months | Isaac at Four Months | Isaac at Five Months | Isaac at Six Months | Isaac at Seven Months | Isaac at Eight Months

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

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...