Saturday, October 23, 2010

I Know Natalie

Something no one wants to go through. Stop by and give this mom some support and pray for their healing. Go, grab your kids and hug them tight and appreciate every single second.

Monday, October 18, 2010

More Chattanooga Trip Review

Our first evening in Chattanooga we chose to dine at The Choo Choo hotel. We'd chased the kids around The Creative Discovery Center all afternoon and we're interested in going far after we checked in. Our trip package included two meals at The Garden Restaurant inside the main building. Also, kids twelve and under eat free--cha ching--deals like that do not exist anymore.We strolled from our train car to the main building while attempting to keep the kids away from the train. The Garden restaurant is bright and airy with wrought iron tables and chairs. The hostess was friendly and we were seated quickly. There were about a dozen other tables full about five thirty on Thursday evening. The menu didn't have a large selection. The waitress left a lot to be desired. We ordered- Jay and I each ordered a sandwich and WC a cheeseburger and I don't recall what CJ requested. But after we ordered the waitress returned with rolls and told us that it would be a while since they had a bunch of orders. We looked around and with the place about empty were worried about the ability of the kitchen staff, if they couldn't handle this at dinnertime. The food arrived shortly after. Turned out the kitchen wasn't ill equipped to deal-it was the waitress. Jay's buffalo chicken sandwich didn't arrive with the blue cheese that it was supposed to; she said she would bring him some. He sat and waited, unable to begin eating with the rest of us. Nearly ten minutes passed before we saw her again. In the meantime CJ's cough that he'd developed that morning on the drive and now progressively worse the more tired he became. He'd also began this annoying habit of forcing himself to cough harder than necessary and sounding like he was trying to throw up; no amount of scolding would change this. And CJ's mood deteriorated throughout the meal until WC was hiding his face while at the table. I ended up taking him back to train room before WC and Jay finished eating. I needed to make sure WC enjoyed his food and was able to eat dessert on his birthday without his brother vomiting on the table. Also, I worried CJ's constant hack might ruin dinner for the dozen or so strangers surrounding us. And fittingly, after CJ and I left the restaurant, he didn't cough. We returned to the room and I ran him a bath. I've discussed the bathroom in my previous post. Our first night there was comfortable; we all slept well.
Now I've spent a little time in Eastern time zone and I've never noticed this before. The sun really comes up late...maybe it's the time of year? I'm laying there and the clock says seven a.m. and it is pitch black outside. It looks like the middle of the night. I had to remember that it was my six o'clock. It was odd, for me. And the kids were already bouncing off the walls. Can't quite comprehend why but every morning that we don't have school/work they are awake and up well before sunrise. On school/work day we can't blast them out of bed with a high pressure hose.This is the pattern without fail.
For breakfast we head back to The Garden restaurant (yes, even with the horrible service) but again we have free breakfast voucher and their breakfast is in buffet form. Oh yes, four free all-you-can-eat buffets for breakfast. Can it get much better? The same hostess from the night before sat us and she was really sweet. The buffet contained a good assortment of your standard breakfast foods and we all ate well, even the kids. My goal was to stuff them well because that day we were headed to the TN Aquarium and IMAX; so lunch would be late.
The Choo Choo hotel also has other dining options on site that we did not try:
The pizza place- we didn't want pizza.
A fine dining train car- I can't think of the name but the description in the book used the words elegant and romantic. Yep, not words used to describe places my kids belong.
And a restaurant where the staff also sings. The sign on the door stated that a 15% entertainment fee is added onto the meal and that didn't include gratuity. Personally, not my thing and I really didn't want to spend the money on that.
Would I recommend The Garden Restaurant in the Choo Choo? For the breakfast buffet, yes. For another meal? Maybe. With one experience, it is really hard to say. Maybe she was having an off night? Maybe you'd get another server. There is also a dinner buffet on Friday and Saturday nights. We didn't try it. But I think it would be worth a try.

Next entry: Aquarium, IMAX, Zoo and where else we ate.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Chattanooga: Day 1

The morning we headed out on our trip, CJ developed a cough. The only thing we heard for the entire 111 miles was him in the back impersonating the hack of a 70 year old smoker. Not the way we wanted this thing to start. Also, I get horribly car sick-it only takes an hour of riding to flip my stomach upside down. I'm best friends with anti-nausea medicine. Only that morning I'd forgotten about it until it was time to leave. Guess who got to drive first? As much as I dislike driving Monteagle Mountain, I dislike vomiting more.
We arrive at The Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel and the kids get their first look at the row of train cars that have been renovated into hotel rooms and they freak. We get to sleep in one of those? The reservations person had told me that even though we couldn't check in until 3pm, we could pick up our package tickets at the desk as early as 10am and get started on our day. I think it was around noon when we made it there. I took the computer print out of the tickets that were promised with our package-just in case. But I found everything in perfect order. We hit the streets in search of lunch. At first Jay tried to drive but we didn't know where to park and the price of parking...I finally convinced him to return to the hotel and go for the option the desk clerk told me: park at the hotel and take the free electric bus, they run every ten minutes and go everywhere a tourist needs. We boarded the electric bus and rode. A group of college girls boarded at the next stop and one of them began talking to CJ about his Thomas the Train shirt and she knew names of the trains from the show. Then in conversation with WC, they discovered it was his birthday. Then the entire group sang 'Happy Birthday' to him. Not being one to like the attention of strangers, he was somewhere between delighted and mortified. 
Our first lunch there we hit Sticky Fingers BBQ. A guy Jay knows from the area recommended it. The food and service was good. A nice laid back place with a decent kids menu- they ate their meals well. And from there it was walking distance to the Creative Discover Museum. If you have kids that are three years or older this is a must-do place. They have an area for smaller kids and I may be wrong but I think you get more of your money's worth with them a little older than toddler. CJ enjoyed himself but I worried about him trying to keep up with WC on some of the things. This is a huge building filled with hands-on exploration, observation and play. At $6.95 for kids 2-12 & $8.95 ages 13 and older it is a steal of an activity because they can stay all day and not get bored.The giant dinosaur skeleton standing prominently through two rooms amazed them as did the big sand pit archaeological dig. Which was a slightly a concern for me with the potential for sand to be thrown into eyes or placed into the hats provided and dumped on a head. There are rooms devoted to different types of musical instruments. The percussion room was a giant hit with my boys. They played everything that they could beat in that room. As was the room with a projector that displayed whoever stood in front of the camera on the screen either in outline or color and it would change what it would do. The boys would start the player piano outside the room to play what sounded like a looney tunes song and dance in front of the camera to see themselves on screen- they had to have that musical accompaniment. The place closed at five and we about shut it down. Mama was tired and the kids wired.
Now I'd heard both good and bad things about the train car rooms at the Choo Choo hotel. But as much as the kids love trains we decided to take the gamble. I think, like most things in life, it's all about expectations. And lets face it, these are metal train cars and they were built as such. There's only a limited amount of space to begin with. I thought they made an excellent use of the space they had. Our room had a queen sized bed and a daybed with a trundle pull out. Everything was comfortable, the sheets were pristine white and even the trundle came complete with a thick twin size mattress, it would have supported Jay for a comfortable nights sleep. The only thing was when the trundle was pulled out there was no way to get from the queen bed to the bathroom. To remedy that we moved a chair over next to the door to provide a path. The bathroom, had this not been a train car, wouldn't have cut it in any other hotel. It wasn't nasty but the tub wasn't in great condition and the shower head moved around and was very low- and I'm short 5'2" and I had to bend down a tad to wash my hair. The heater in the bathroom didnt work- not that big a deal. I did like the little one cup coffee maker next to the sink-the only water source in the room. I started brewing a cup when I got in the shower and had a nice cup waiting for me when I finished. The towels were scratchy as hell, nice for a over-all exfoliation. But not generally what I want in a bath towel. The hotel staff were friendly and helpful. We received a phone call our first evening to see how we were settling in and if there was anything he could do.
I noticed a sign in the room that said something to the tune of as much as we've tried to sound proof there isn't anyway to completely sound proof a metal train car (makes sense when you think about it). Noises from your neighbors can be expected. Oh and the hot water heater only holds 30 gallons. That last one ended up not being a problem-just space out the baths. The first night I heard nothing. So I thought the sign was probably in response to some overly sensitive types being big babies. Then the second night I awoke to sounds of adults talking and kids playing. I assumed maybe people were right outside and rolled over- I'd taken some night-time cold medication and fell back asleep without problem. Then some time in the wee hours of the morning, well before the sun even considered rising, I woke again, to a strange sound...growling? What is that? Where is it coming from? I sat up. Jay tapped me. What is that?
"The people in the next room snoring," he replied. I started laughing. Oh my God, it sounded like a bear. He said that he woke and thought it was me until he realized that I was quiet. So, my tip on this is do not stay in the train car on your honeymoon or romantic get away. My final thought on the train cars- it was fine for two nights. I wouldn't want it for longer because the close quarters start to close in with two very active boys and a man. Bring ear plugs or sleeping pills.

My next entry I'll discuss the Garden Restaurant there at the hotel and some of the other things we did.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Celebrating Seven

This year for WC's birthday we decided to do something that we've never done. We decided that we were not going to throw a birthday party. Every year its nothing but a hassle from relatives asking us to work around their soccer schedule, out of town wiccan ceremony, to people who simply don't understand the term RSVP...a call, email or a text to say yay, nay or even maybe would be better than nothing. So I end up purchasing food and cake to serve an army because, lets face it, you don't want to be the host who runs out and risk being left with an ass load of cake. This past summer Jay wanted to go on a family weekend together before school started-one problem- he has to give a 30 day notice to use his vacation time. WC started school in two weeks. That idea shot but then I set my sights on fall break, which just happened to fall the same week of WC's birthday. So the idea of taking a trip for his birthday was born. But where? It couldn't be too far and had to be something he'd really enjoy.
A day or two later Jay emailed me a link to The Chattanooga Choo Choo website and a weekend package for two adults and two kids which included a two night stay in a Victorian Train Car that had been turned into a hotel room and tickets to the major attractions: Creative Discovery Museum, Aquarium, IMAX, Zoo and Model Railway Museum. Perfect. I made reservations the next day. For us it couldn't be more simple. Chattanooga is about a two hour drive for us. We'd drive up Thursday morning (his birthday) and stay the night and Friday night before checking out Saturday morning and hitting our last attraction before heading home. We told WC about our plans and made sure he was cool with foregoing his traditional party for a trip. He was all for it.
Wednesday before the big day I was taking WC to his yearly checkup with the pediatrician. Two minutes from the office my cell phone rang. CJ was sick at the daycare and I had to go pick him up. He wasn't running a fever but he'd had three bouts of a diarrhea and per policy, must be picked up in an hour. Luckily they gave me a reprieve to take WC to his appointment. But the future of a carefully planned trip hung in the balance of this child's digestive system and whatever was wrong.
WC passed through his checkup without hitch. She was very happy (as am I) with the sucess of the inhaled steriod at keeping his asthma symptoms in check better than ever. In his entire life he's never experienced such a long stretch of healthiness (Praise God!).
We arrived at the daycare as CJ's class was coming inside from morning outdoor play. He spotted us at the end of the hall and screamed 'Mommy' and flew down the hall as fast as his little legs could carry him, beaming smile he jumped into my waiting arms. He seemed perfectly fine to me. They confirmed he hadn't had another bowel movement since they called me. It didn't matter. I had the day off work anyway. So we went home, I still worried about the trip. The decided to prepare like we were going and pray that CJ didn't take a turn for the worse.

Stay tuned for Wednesdays entry on our trip. Tomorrow I'll be leading my first den meeting for the scouts!!!!!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Stuff People Say

At the scout camp I ran into a girl (woman) who I used to go to school with. I haven't seen/heard of her in a number of years. She wasn't anyone that I hung around but I'd known her since Junior High. Her kids are older than mine, I recall she said her youngest is eight. We stood before dinner Saturday evening and had that little I know we weren't friends but since I didn't hate you we'll politely catch up chat. When she discovered that WC is my oldest child she said, 'Wow, you certainly waited a long time.' I just kind of giggled and moved on, all the while thinking- really, I was 27 when I had him...that's waiting a long time? The more I thought of the comment, the more it pissed me off. One of my best friends in the world has had a long struggle with fertility and lost three babies to preterm birth. Because of that I'm very cognizant to these types of comments. I personally don't consider myself to have waited a long time. It took a year to get pregnant. I don't consider that any where near a struggle to have a child. Not that I think she meant anything by it. It goes into the slot of perception and experience. She's never had personal experience. But what if she said it to someone who really struggled with fertility, who didn't make the choice to stay childless? The hurt that sort of thoughtless remark could make. I cringe every time someone at work makes a remark to a guy there who has never had children with his wife. He says this is by choice-they don't want them. My thought is to leave him be. If the don't want them, fine. No harm. But what if this is just what they are telling people after years of trying or perhaps one of them simply cannot biologically. What business is it of anyone? We really don't know. I've gone off on a tangent now.
I'll close with one of my favorite quotes, "Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." Plato

Thursday, October 7, 2010

WC Turns Seven

It's so hard to believe that WC is turning seven. It doesn't seem like seven years ago today he came into our lives turning us from a couple into a family.
This year instead of a party we are going on a family trip. I can't wait to post stories of our new adventure when we return.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Spoiled Chick Goes Camping Part 3

We ended our service project, piled into the trucks and headed back to camp. WC's group was responsible for helping put out lunch- a laughable endeavor with 6 & 7 year old boys.  Luckily, lunch was sandwiches that people could construct themselves- we just had to organize the stuff on the table-while our teen aged Boy Scout helper circled like a vulture waiting on the animal to go on and die already. The boys had the afternoon free to play as they wish. We had a decision to make whether to sleep in the tent another night or pack it up and go home. WC & CJ both picked to camp out again. After CJ's over-tired meltdown of the night before I wasn't eager to repeat. But I did after all take a day off work and spent the entire day getting ready and the amount of time spent on set didn't seem worth all the effort for one night. Jay was okay to stay another night. So, we were staying. I made plans to avoid the boys becoming overstimulated. Before we went to dinner I set out the boys sleeping bags and put the sheets back on the air bed. I'd put it away that morning in order to avoid it getting dirty. The floor of tent was dirty. I'm anal and wished I'd brought a broom. After a survey of the others, I discovered no one brought a broom and I'm the only one who cared about a dirt on the tent floor. Okay, so I pretend to not notice the dirt. I get the sleeping quarters arranged and off we go to assemble our hobo packs. I'd never heard of a hobo pack before but it was the best dinner. A couple of the older groups had spent the time chopping the veggies and the chicken. Basically you take a piece of aluminium foil and spread butter on foil and top with your chicken or beef and peppers, onions, mushrooms, potatoes etc. throw some seasoning in and wrap up and place on an open pit of ready charcoal (some of the seasoned scouts opted to put theirs on their own wood campfire) for a half an hour. Even my picky sons devoured theirs.
After dinner they played some more and CJ went toe to toe with a ten year old over a nerf football. CJ picked up a football from the ground and walked around with it. The older boy came over and traded CJ a smaller foam ball for the larger, blue nerf ball. It was a fair trade and I didn't say anything- the child wasn't attempting to take advantage of CJ. The green ball was more CJ's size. But CJ didn't realize that the boy wasn't just looking at the ball but taking it to play. He angrily protested the trade. I attempted to convince CJ that the green ball was perfectly fine for him to play with. He protested on the grounds that blue was his favorite color. He then proceeded to stalk the boy with the blue nerf football. I told a group of laughing parents that somehow, some way, CJ would end up with the ball. I don't think they believed me, at first.And sure enough not fifteen minutes later here come CJ down the path, blue nerf football tucked under his arm.
Saturday night they were supposed to hold a bonfire with marshmallows roasting. But once the boys arrived back at the tent and discovered their beds ready, they wanted to go in and sit on their sleeping bags. Jay went to shower and the boys and myself sat in the tent with our lights and they played around. Until the cub master arrived bearing glow sticks. They selected green (WC) & blue (CJ) and then we turned out the lanterns and sat in the complete darkness, except those glow sticks. They whirled them around creating patterns. Jay arrived back and we all sat around with a flashlight on and talked. Then the shadow puppet show on the tent wall began. The favorite characters for WC were all "old, old." A rabbit, dog and bear. What makes them all old, old? I asked. A beard. He stuck a finger poking out from his puppets chin to signify a beard...and a beard meant old. I'm not sure where that association came from. From shadow puppets began story telling. WC asked Jay to tell him a scary story. "It was a night much like this," he began. "And a family much like us were sleeping out in a tent that kinda looked like this when they heard..." He scratched the side of the tent. I glared at him with the If you scare these kids I'm going to beat you til you can't move anymore look. "Then they heard it again..." He scratched the side of the tent. Both boys leaned forward in anticipation. Then Jay belched. And they dissolved into laughter and story disintegrated into the story of the "gassy ghost" haunting a camp ground. In the end someone gave the gassy ghost an antacid and all was well. We ended up having to tell several more stories all off the top of our heads. Jay asked WC to come up with a title and he'd make up the story. WC's choice was Thomas the Train and the Big Smelly armpit (what else can one expect from a 6 yr old boy). And Jay delivered another story that left them in stitches. At some point during the stories that followed, CJ climbed into his sleeping bag, covered himself with his security blanket and dozed off.
We fell asleep Saturday night to a much cooler evening. I'd held off purchasing sleeping bags for us simply because if WC didn't like it then I didn't want to be out more money than I'd already dropped. I wish that I'd brought more blankets. I froze my butt off. I also overinflated the air mattress. In an attempt not to feel like I was about to be thrown overboard every time Jay moved, I added more air. Now I didn't feel him move but now there was no give in the mattress what so ever. Might as well have slept on the ground.
The sun rose to a beautiful crisp Sunday morning. I walked back to the tent from the restroom just after dawn; someone had a campfire roaring. The smell hit my nose and it smelled like comfort. I climbed back into the bed and snuggled close to Jay, cause he's warm. And WC sits up in his sleeping bag and throws up. And thus ends our camping experience. The boys wait in my car while Jay and I pack up camp. Both boys threw up in the backseat while waiting. Just great...