Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Camping take #3. Our first attempt at two consecutive nights.


We had a long weekend in April, not in honor of the resurrection, but in honor of the Boston Marathon. Either way we wanted to take advantage of a long weekend to go camping and try our hand at two nights. 

We considered a few options before deciding on staying near Chattanooga. Shockingly, we've not been to Chattanooga yet, even though everyone recommends it and it gets great reviews as a kid-friendly destination. 

So we loaded the car Friday night to make way for a Saturday morning departure. At 6:30 a.m., Hamish was by my bed. "Mom! I need you to come help me pack for camping!" (she was already packed, really)

We sent her back to bed for 30 minutes, but that was the enthusiasm that started our day. We made it out early, too early for our 2:00 campground check in, so we headed first to Rock City on Lookout Mountain. Rock City used to be a private home's extensive gardens. Now it's a long, winding walking garden through rock formations, seasonal displays, and plants. It's not a hike. There's piped music and one portion is Mother Goose's Village of black-lit nursery rhyme dioramas.  And the kids loved it.


After seeing seven states (or so we were told) 
we headed to our campsite, a KOA in the valley west of Chattanooga, and set up camp. The Manimal dozed on the way to the site. Hamish was thrilled to help set up the tent, especially after I hit myself in the face with the car door. 
But it had been a long day, so we headed into Chattanooga for dinner. Jodi had recommended Public House, and we had a fantastic dinner on their patio. The weather was amazing. The kids' menu was superb. And our food and drink were wonderful. 

We headed back to the campsite full and tired and very happy with our first day. 
And that's where it all went wrong. Because no one had a real nap (and they were both fading at dinner) we tried for a normal bedtime. That meant putting them to bed in a tent! Together! In sleeping bags! When it was still light outside. Nope.

There is no energizer on earth to rival that combination of circumstances. 

They were beyond manic. Calling to each other across the air mattress. Giggling uncontrollably. Singing. Tossing Meowie and Pooh (who miraculously showed up again in a sleeping bag) and Nowie into the air trying to hit the ceiling. Maximizing the tent site's slight incline and slippery sleeping bags for rolling races. 

Kyle and I took turns, but there is no parenting manic. They neither heard nor felt anything we brought to bear on the situation. We finally gave up and laid down ourselves in hopes that our presence would rain on the parade. I really think I woke up in the middle of the night and the Manimal was wandering around the tent singing quietly. 

At one point, I thought, it'll be sad to leave in the morning. 

Day 2

Resurrection Day dawned with a cacophony of birdsong. The Manimal woke up. Mama! Are the rocks singing?! 

They were not. 

We fixed breakfast over our campfire--breakfast burritos I'd made and frozen a few weeks ago-- along with fruit. Kyle used the tiny camp stove I bought him for Christmas to make coffee and tea. We read the resurrection story together. 
We decided to keep the children and not immediately pack up our plans. 

But we needed some real exercise. We started at the KOA playground. There was a jumping pillow--a huge air mattress. Hamish loved it. The Manimal, in keeping with his recent fear of inflatables, couldn't quite work up the courage. Frustrating because 1) he would love it, and 2) jumping on our actual air mattress had caused him no hesitation about 11 p.m. the night before. Oh well. 

We went for a small nature hike around the KOA.
found some good rocks for climbing:
We then drove to Cloudland Canyon State Park in Georgia. It's a great park! We saw the rental cabins, and they looked beautiful. And you can rent yurts! But anyway, next trip. This time we drove in and hiked to Cherokee Falls. Kyle and Hamish counted 224 steps. (Hemlock Falls is apparently further, 600!)
The falls were beautiful, and the rocks gave Hamish plenty of time to practice her mountain goating. The Manimal decided he was a baby mountain lion, and he did great, climbing up and down every step! 

Kyle had another opportunity to use a Christmas gift: a water filter. He and I drank filtered waterfall water to no ill effect. Hooray. 

After making our way to the top, we broke out the tiny camp stove again and heated up BBQ pork from our cooler for sandwiches. It worked wonderfully. 

Both kids slept hard on the drive back and even transferred--to tent and hammock--for real naps back at the campsite. Kyle and I got some nice camp downtime Sunday afternoon. 
(there's a Hamish in this tent, cocooned with the help of our grill light's clasping mechanism)
We started prepping dinner as soon as Hamish woke up. She was great help finding sticks for the campfire. Kyle made grilled pizza with goat cheese and smoked trout over the campfire. Another win. (He did a great job of menu prep, which was impressive because he bought the pulled pork and the pizza makings without consideration for camping plans.) 
Then we loaded back up in the car and drove to Sunset Rock on Lookout Mountain. The parking there is awful, and Kyle dropped us off. But the first person I met on the path was leaving and agreed to wait for a white Ford. I was able to text Kyle and he turned around, parked legally, and met us not halfway down the path. 

Sunset Rock is an outcropping where supposedly Confederate Generals Bragg and Longstreet watched the movement of Union troops on October 28, 1863, prior to launching the Battle of Wauhatchie.

There are no guardrails. Just sheer drop offs and beautiful views. The kids explored while we hovered. Hamish found some metallic confetti in the sand and searched for "swirlies". The Manimal yelled and probably ruined several young couples' romantic evenings with reality. Ha. 
But once the sun was setting in earnest they sat with us and watched the miracle. 

The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands! Psalm 19:1-2

We headed back and no one fell asleep, energized by promises of s'mores. Kyle was able to revive the fire quickly, so we roasted marshmallows and ate chocolate by the light of our mini lanterns. We put the Manimal down alone in the tent while Hamish and I cuddled in the hammock. We gave him about 20 minutes to settle down alone before bringing her in. It was a late night, but we heard not a peep. Kyle and I got to have our cozy night together swinging in the hammock by the campfire, finally. 

Day 3

I woke up to rain on the tent roof, but just enough to enjoy listening to. 
Once we were all awake we heated up the last breakfast burritos, coffee and tea, and finished the fruit.
Kids played together, doing some "exercises":
We packed up bags and sleeping bags, then the kids and I went back to the playground while Kyle finished taking down the tent and packing the car. (Still no jumping for the Manimal.) 

We were loaded and out by 10 and on our way to the Tennessee Aquarium. We only visited the Ocean half of the aquarium, which was plenty. We loved the giant ocean tanks with sharks and huge turtles. We liked the butterfly garden. Hamish held a few butterflies. 
The Manimal was happy to have one on his shoe only. 
We saw sharks and many fish,
turtles, giant crab,
We really enjoyed the jellyfish, particularly the walnut jellyfish that looks electric. 
So cool. 

When we were done, we strolled across the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge. 
Amazingly Hamish found a few swirlies on the bridge! 
She was thrilled. We had burgers and sausage at BrewHaus then walked down the street for ice cream at Clumpies. The Manimal chose chocolate; Hamish enjoyed cotton candy bubblegum with watermelon pop rocks (!); and I had whiskey caramel corn flakes. 
Kyle got his lemon ice box in a cone and walked back to the aquarium to get the car. 

Then we headed home. Hooray. We won. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Spring Break! Yay, no school! we can do whatever we want, right?
Unfortunately, Alli does not also get spring break, so really this just means a full week with no breaks from children. I decided this year I needed a plan. Play dates, a schedule.. the zoo, the science center, swimming at the Y? What were my best options? And then I had an idea that might knock out a couple of days. Basically I thought about what a tourist in Nashville would do-- what would I do with the kids if we were visiting Nashville from somewhere else. And I decided to book us a tour on the trolley. Monday I think I had plans to do something like a zoo or science center visit, but the kids started off the day playing well together on their own, and the effort to make them dress and go somewhere was just too much. Oh, we did make a run to the hardware store and picked up some bed edging material, and we started to stake out our garden area.

we also picked up a garden weasel so we could loosen the soil in preparation for our garden, and a bunch of grass seed to put all over the yard. The kids enjoyed weaseling:
(we put grass seed in this bed area we're trying to get rid of, so loosening the soil here).
and being generally cute
but yes, Tuesday, we bought 2-day passes on Nashville's Old Town Trolley. I actually thought this might be kinda useful to me too, because I don't actually spend a ton of time in downtown Nashville, and you don't always get the freedom to kind of see how things go together when you're driving as when you can passively take things in like on a tour. Of course, the children were ecstatic about a trolley ride.
We drove to the parthenon where we could park for free, hopped on, and followed the tour past Vanderbilt, up and down music row (where I learned that Johnny Cash's a Boy Named Sue was written by Shel Silverstein), through the Gulch, and over to Broadway. 
We hopped off the bus here and made as brisk a walk as is possible with two less-than-entirely-cooperative toddlers enchanted by imitation ice cream and Elvis statues to the downtown library for the 11:30 story time.
Story time was great, as always. Manimal even boldly raised his hand and got called on to ask a question: "why is the box of crayons on top of that castle?" a fitting question.. the answer is that they just store it there until it's time for their "let's make a rainbow" song.
We proceeded to a bit of arts and crafts and a little play area:
And then! after a brief exchange where I was irritated that the clerk needed proof of address for my children who would only be add-ons to my account, when I was already demonstrated to be eligible, we managed to get them library cards!
(Manimal is suspicious).
The cat herding continued for the 6 blocks or so back down to Broadway. At least we got a photo with this boot:
And suddenly everyone was going to eat their arm starving. I promised them we would find a hot dog stand and just be able to grab a bite outside, but we didn't see anyone. So we popped into Rock Bottom brewery and had a bite to eat.
That actually worked out quite well- they were entertained with their coloring options, happy with their food, and I even had a half pint of beer.
Finally, back on the trolley we got. For added fun, this one was the double-decker size bus, so we could sit way up high.
Strangers may or may not have tried to catch Manimal for fear he would jump right out of this window later in the trip...
It was definitely not my intention first thing in the morning that we go out and be gone all day long and skip naps, but that's how it is sometimes. You don't get away as soon as you plan, kids walk slow, and you end up with the sit down lunch instead of something speedy. I think it was 3:30 by the time we were getting back to the parthenon and our car (having started the tour at 10 in the morning). One manimal was asleep when we got home:
And one Hamish just rested her eyes for a minute on the couch:
We ended up cutting these naps a little short and having an early bedtime. 

Wednesday I wasn't really sure if I wanted to go make it worth our money or just consider it a one-day thing. But.. I let the kids vote, so back to the trolley we went. Unfortunately, it was really a one day thing. Kids were just so much more disruptive and aggravating. Hamish wanted to sit on my lap for the bus ride, but by no means to be still. Manimal wanted to keep a stream-of-consciousness song going for the full ride while I tried to remind him that others might actually want to hear the tour details. We repeated the same parthenon starting point, but I planned to switch it up a little, ride back downtown first but after hanging out some, maybe a pedestrian bridge walk or something? - take a regular bus back across town to the parthenon.

We got off near the Ryman this time because the kids started complaining about arm-eating disease again. I don't even remember what my original goal had turned into, but I know it was a pretty cold day and any of the outdoor activities got nixed. I hustled them into a Panera and assuaged their hunger with bagels-- ultimately unsuccessful, I think there was crying because no cookies. I decided it was time to get home and call the trip done. As we walked out the door, the free downtown line bus was sitting outside, so we hopped on and rode around. This was one of about 2 pictures I took this day:

I didn't exactly know the best plan though, and I ended up getting off the bus and deciding I needed to walk 6 or 7 blocks back, so we could go in the bus terminal, so we could wait 15-20 mins, ride another bus back to the parthenon, and then walk across centennial park because that bus doesn't actually let out at the parthenon. Herding cats the entire way. *Having* public transit is great. Relying on it would not be so great.
I asked Alli to have some PB&J sandwiches waiting on us when we get home. I hustled them through eating and took them to their rooms and wouldn't read nap time stories because I was done. More crying. 

So, if you have toddlers, stick with one day on the trolley. The first day, though full, was fun. The second day, not.

My enthusiasm for filling the week with activities fell through the floor. We did the gym and Y play Thursday. We spent more time preparing our garden area:
I took the kids to get hair cuts, which led to this picture before church Sunday:
And while we had some fun, and I'm glad we got to ride the trolley, I was happy when the next week was back to the routine. So happy I was willing to take them to the zoo after school on Wednesday (bonus pictures!)
(this is what they look like when they are tired of walking).