Solar Eclipse Road Trip – Day 1

We were lucky enough to be less than 8 hours from viewing a total solar eclipse. I managed to get a couple days off work and the big girls were able to take a day off school. Michael was unable to get a day off so we ended up making it a girls trip. I looked into our options and we decided to view the eclipse from Sweetwater, TN. The only issue was that I only got the day off on a last minute trade and finding a hotel in the vicinity was not going to happen. It was too far to drive the day of the eclipse so I had to find a place closer than where we are. I finally found a place outside of Chattanooga, TN and booked it online.

We packed our overnight bag the night before. We got up early to have a quick, healthy breakfast at home before hitting the road. The goal was to make it as far as possible before having to stop. The little girls did amazing and we didn’t have to stop until lunch time. We found a McDonald’s with a play center. The girls had a chance to get out of the car to play and eat for 45 minutes. After lunch, we stopped at a Walmart and picked up some snacks to get us through the rest of the trip to Chattanooga. I filled up the gas tank before getting back on the road.

One of our snacks for the road!

We made decent time and got to our hotel just before dinner time. We checked in, picked up our key, and found our room before heading to dinner. Remember me saying that hotels were in high demand and I took what I could find. This was not a nice place to stay. It was questionable. It was a non-smoking room but there were burns on the blankets and furniture. There was black hair in the bottom of the bathtub. It did seem safe enough and there were no bugs. Every trip can’t be fancy. I’m not complaining. I’m just stating the truth. Sometimes it’s enough to not have to sleep in the car.

 

 

We drove into downtown Chattanooga and ate at City Café Diner. This is our favorite diner and we were so excited to be able to eat here! This is the cutest little place with amazing food and great service! I would eat there again and again. We stop there every time we drive through Chattanooga or near enough that we can easily detour.

Ivy and I got gyros and fries. The little girls got mac and cheese. We have never had a bad meal here. The dessert really is the star of the show at this place. They have huge cases of cakes, cheesecakes, and other desserts at the front. They all looked amazing! It was hard to decide. We each picked something different.

So many choices! Their dessert menu is really something!

I had the cheesecake in the bottom right photo. It was truly delicious. Their desserts are huge and incredibly well priced. Isabella couldn’t finish her chocolate cake and decided to take it with her. We left the restaurant and went back to our hotel to sleep for the night.

 

It’s Fun to be One!

It is so hard to believe that Octavia is a year old! That year really flew by. I feel like the time goes faster with each kid or maybe it just seems to go faster as I get older. We have had some great times this year! She is a wonderful little girl. She is curious, fun, and loves to eat. Her favorite thing to play is peek-a-boo. Her favorite food is avocado.

We decided on a “1st Birthday” in pink theme. Her sisters helped me decide. It is summer so we chose to serve a grilled lunch and put blankets out so the kids could picnic in the backyard. We blew up a few pink and white beach balls for the kids to enjoy. I was lucky enough to find these at the dollar store!

She was the final piece to our family puzzle. I finally feel like my family is complete. It’s a hard feeling to explain but it’s like we are finally all here. I felt like we were missing somebody before her. I began feeling like this as soon as we got home from the hospital and it has not changed over this first year.

Tips for Packing for Kids

Packing for children can be quite tedious and leave you questioning every choice. You don’t want to be bogged down by heavy luggage but you also do not want to be stuck without a spare outfit when you need it most. The first step to deciding how many outfits your child needs is to figure out what their normal daily needs are at home. Do they get dirty a lot? Are they toilet trained? Then consider where you are going and what your activities will be. Will you be outside? Any special outings that require a nicer option? What will the weather be like? Do you need to layer to accommodate changes throughout the day?

My oldest child is 15 so her needs are similar to an adult. I tell her if there is weight/space limitations. She typically brings an outfit for each day of a short trip plus a couple extra options. She may wear jeans or shorts more than once if it’s a city or mostly indoor trip. She will bring one nicer outfit to change into before a nicer dinner or outing. She will bring an extra swimsuit and sundress. Teens are capable of packing their own bags with little to no guidance. Travel is a learning experience. Packing and planning ahead is part of that learning. Make sure to give your teen ample time. When a teen makes poor choices, fails to plan, or waits until the last-minute, you must decide if you are going to bail them out or use it as a learning experience.

Children between 5 and 12 need more guidance. They can and should help with planning and packing for their personal needs. I tell my 6-year-old where we will be going and what type of outfit that requires for each day. She lays out her choices and I check to see if they are appropriate. I pack the good choices. I explain why inappropriate choices will not work and give her a chance to try again. Set very clear limits on toys. This may include the number of items, the size/weight of the toy, if it’s an electronic toy, if it needs to be quiet, and the space within the bag that can be allocated to toys. You may need to offer guidance and supervision depending on your child’s personality, age, and level of experience with these sort of tasks.

Babies through preschool age children require more thought into what to pack. How much to take will really be child dependent. A baby with reflux or frequent diaper blowouts will take extra planning. Can extra bibs help offset some of the need? Do not forget to take this into consideration when packing for yourself. I carry an old shirt for myself in the diaper bag at all times since I had the pleasure of driving home in a sports bra after a diaper blowout in a baby carrier at a park. Assume that a toddler and preschooler will get dirty or wet if the opportunity presents itself. You can let toddlers and preschoolers help by choosing between two items or by handing you things. You can also give preschoolers the ability to pick out favorite clothing pieces to build an outfit around. The more involved they are at this age the more independently they can pack later.

We aim for a couple extra outfits per week/trip for school age children and 1-2 extra outfits per day for babies through preschoolers. There are ways to work these extra items in without feeling like you have majorly over-packed. I typically pack 1-2 extra sundresses for my girls when going someplace warm because they are lightweight options. A swimsuit top can be worn in a pinch. I pack comfortable clothing to use as pajamas that can double as regular clothing in case of emergency. This is my go to for short trips and camping. Do you need your kids to be clean for dinner but don’t want to pack a ton of extra clothing? Consider having them wear the next days clothing to dinner. This has worked for us for normal dining options many times. Casual dresses and button downs with khakis can work on a child at nicer restaurants and still be comfortably worn for sightseeing. A clean onesie is all that’s needed for a baby in warm areas and a sleeper is acceptable in cooler ones. Babies are cute no matter what they are wearing so no need to stress over the perfect outfit for everything.

Beware of buying new clothing for little kids for a trip. It’s a lot of extra pressure. They may not like the way it feels. It may get dirty or even ruined. It may get lost. Remember that this is supposed to be enjoyable. Relax your standards a little. A stained shirt is not the end of the world. Let the kids be kids. Let things go so that you can enjoy yourself.

The Classic Grilled Cheese Donut at Tom & Chee


Looking for a fun dinner option that the kids will be talking about for days? Perhaps Tom & Chee is the place for you!

We had a family day trip to Newport on the Levee in Newport, KY this weekend.  We had the pleasure of eating dinner at Tom & Chee.  We each got “The Classic” grilled cheese donut.  It is cheddar on a glazed donut.  It sounds odd and I was skeptical at first.  They were amazing!  The combination of the saltiness in the cheddar and the sweetness of the donut was a perfect combination.  The kids loved it!  Obviously this is not good for you but it was a great treat dinner.

It’s very kid friendly.  They had an outdoor seating area so we could eat, chat, and people watch in the beautiful weather.  There is a television tuned to cartoons inside if that’s your thing.  It’s a casual laid-back place.

The menu includes many grilled sandwich options, soups, and salads.  They will add potato chips to your sandwiches as well.  The prices are reasonable. Around $20 for our family of 4.  The classic grilled cheese donut is $4.

Spending a Day in Madison, Indiana

The girls and I spent yesterday in Madison, Indiana. It is a beautiful small town on the banks of the Ohio river. We were able to find parking near this gorgeous fountain. We took some time to make a wish before strolling around town. We browsed a few shops including one that sells natural soaps called All Good Things Soaps & Such. That place smelled amazing!

We were getting hungry and were lucky enough to stop for lunch at the Historic Broadway Hotel & Tavern. It’s a small place and had an old time atmosphere. We started off with beer battered fried mushrooms. They were amazing! We all had burgers and chips. I had a mushroom Swiss burger. It was a decent burger. I would eat here again just for those fried mushrooms.

We walked down Main Street and browsed shops after lunch. This is a cute little town. It is clean and the people were friendly. We never know what we may find while on the road and small towns are no different. Many small towns have quirky things that you will not see elsewhere. We visited a shop called The Birdhouse Wild Bird and Nature Shop (Update: named changed to Cultivate). This was an odd shop. It is an all natural gift shop. The girls enjoyed looking at all the odds and ends this place had to offer. The basement of this place is where things got a little weird. They set up a fake forest in the basement with ribbons with wishes written on them hanging in the trees. It was very dark and a little creepy down there. The kids were not sure what to think. It is one of those places that you are going to bring up on the list of odd things you have found on the road. It’s worth stopping by if only for the oddity factor. Somebody put a ton of work into this! I have to respect their dedication.

 

 

Village Lights Bookstore was one of our favorite stops. It is hard not to be impressed by the shelves of books covering this place. The girls loved that there was a cat to pet. It was so nice to be back in a small town bookstore. There are little nooks everywhere and it feels amazing.

We browsed through many shops. We looked at funky vintage clothing, antiques, furniture, and loads of pretties. This town is pretty cool. It’s a great place to spend a day with kids. I bet it would be a fun place to do some holiday shopping. Maybe we will venture back sometime to see how it looks around Christmas. We finished our day with a trip to a candy shop on the walk back to our car. We stopped at Cocoa Safari Chocolates. We each picked out a small treat. This place is amazing! I love the pig statue out front! I had a dark chocolate covered caramel with sea salt. Yum! Ivy got the same thing and Isabella got a chocolate with an M&M on top.

I really enjoyed our Girl’s day in Madison, Indiana! I would come back here again.

Happy Travels!