State Park #2: St. Francois State Park

This post is part of an ongoing series summarizing each State Park in Missouri that our family has attended. We hope to visit each of 54 State Parks before the kids graduate from high school.

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A brisk morning…

We visited St. Francois State Park way back in April of 2013.  Meg had recently turned 3-years-old and this was among her first camping trips (though not her first, because we went to Minnesota about 7 months before this), and probably our second time using our massive “new” Coleman tent.

We took this trip with the Montgomerys, from church, and another couple they knew from work.  It’s been awhile, so I’m thinking back on this particular camping trip and I remember it being quite cold!  Meg, Brooke and I were there alone for Friday night and it dropped to near freezing.  I remember reaching into the second room to make sure Meg was breathing and warm multiple times during the night, so we didn’t sleep all that well.  The second night was markedly warmer, though the other folks who joined us for the trip complained about being cold.  We’d already seen the worst of it, so Saturday night was relatively balmy for us!

With regards to the park itself, they had a healthy number of nice hiking trails that suited our abilities well.  We had Meg strapped to our backs, but thankfully, the trail we went on was mostly level, so it wasn’t all that strenuous.  It also went along a creek for a good portion, so that provided Meg with something interesting to look at while we were moving about the park.

One of my all-time favorite shots...
One of my all-time favorite shots…

The park also had a pretty good playground close to where we were camping, at least within walking distance.  Most of the facilities were close to our camping site too, and everything was clean and accessible.  Meg was potty trained by this point, but we were still having to work with her a bit on sitting on an actual toilet, rather than sitting in an outhouse.

We didn’t really take advantage of any nature talks, at least not that I remember.  I’m sure they were offered, but we were likely busy enough trying to wrangle Meg that we didn’t pay much attention to them.  Firewood was easily accessible, so we’d have to go on some field trips to either buy or find some.

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That Saturday morning was cooooooooold!

Another nice thing about this park was the open areas near the camp site.  With some other places we’ve stayed, the camp sites were deeper into the forest, leaving little “play areas” for young kids to run around without tripping over tree roots or rocks.  The location for the camp site had a nice, open, grassy area across from the tents, so it was easy for the kids to kick a ball or run around the tents.  The adults could also see the kids from a substantial distance, so they couldn’t go hiding behind a tree or anything without us noticing.

One of the other things Brooke and I remember about this park was that Meg, Latham and Ellis played in our tent for hours on Saturday afternoon.  The sun was out, the weather was nice, and the tent had a door that the kids could open on their own.  They’d run around it, move toys in and out of the screened-in area, and they’d be yelling and screaming with delight.  Sure, it got kinda annoying for us (and dirt on our sleeping bags…), but they entertained themselves for a lot of this trip, giving us a nice reprieve from our normal weekend activities.

Meg and Latham playing in the tent.
Meg and Latham playing in the tent.

Overall, we have fond memories of this park.  Compared with some others we’ve attended, this one seemed particularly well-suited to young kids, something we probably didn’t appreciate until we went to some other state parks that weren’t as well organized for such things.

Rocky Mountain Vacation: Part II

Bear Lake was looking particularly nice!
Bear Lake was looking particularly nice!

After hitting up Fort Collins on Wednesday, we began Thursday at the Alluvial Fan. We got going pretty early that day to avoid the crowds, but still had to contend with a lack of parking.  Still, Meg and I made the trip all the way up the fan and she did shockingly well.  I had to help lift her up and hold her hand as she placed her feet carefully on wet rocks.  There was definitely some slippage, but overall, I was pretty proud of her!  Calvin wanted to go too, of course, but there’s no way he could have made the trip except on one of our backs (and that wouldn’t have been the smartest choice…).  Ultimately, he hung out at the bottom of the waterfall throwing rocks in the water, while the rest of the Baumann Clan tossed rocks and enjoyed the nice weather.

Meg did a great job climbing the waterfall!
Meg did a great job climbing the waterfall!

We then took a drive around Rocky Mountain National Park via Old Fall River Road.  We’d driven past its entrance a few days before.  It’s a dirt road with countless switchbacks that ultimately makes its way up to the Alpine Visitor Center.  It was a fun drive, though a dusty and somewhat slow one.  Calvin actually fell asleep halfway up, though at the top, the kids got to play in a little snow.  We also ran across a late-model Nissan Altima whose transmission belt apparently gave out, yielding no forward motion on its part (Mark tried to help to no avail).

Most of Thursday involved driving around RMNP, seeing some marmots, elk, mule deer, and chipmunks.  The kids enjoyed getting to see the variety of environments, and a few waterfalls, though we could tell that the incessant driving had worn on them a bit.  It was good to take a break from the hiking, but all the driving didn’t really help their demeanor.  Still, at least the adults had fun. 🙂

The next day, we tried keeping things a bit light, as the 5K was scheduled for that evening and, well, we wanted to keep our ankles in shape.  Obviously, the best thing to do is to get up early and go to Bear Lake, right?

Heavy lifting...
Heavy lifting…

As the picture all the way at the top shows, the weather was absolutely gorgeous.  We ended up hiking 2.5 miles or so between Bear Lake and Nymph Lake, and ended up dealing with some cranky kids who either a). didn’t want to hike, or b). wanted to climb every rock they saw.  I can’t say that Friday morning was all that “fun” for us, but at least the weather was good, and we could keep things a bit light.

The rest of the afternoon consisted of napping and watching TV.  Calvin slept for 3 hours that day, if I remember correctly, as he was catching up for not substantially napping the previous 4 days.

That evening, everyone except Mallory, Meg and Calvin ran a 5K around the lake in Estes Park.  The weather stayed pretty good, though a few rain drops fell around the time Brooke was finishing up.  The race itself went pretty well for everyone, though I had some qualms with how it started with a hill on a narrow path, where a lot of people slowed down at the beginning and forced us to try and fit around them by jogging on the side of the adjacent road.  Ultimately, I did about as well as I did in Hannibal a few weeks earlier, and Brooke did about as well as she wanted to for her first 5K.  The elevation affected everyone, to a degree, but being there for a few days (and jogging and hiking…) beforehand made a difference in our performance, I’m sure.

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The next morning, Mallory ran the Half Marathon and placed fourth in her age group, so we were all very proud of her.  After the marathon, the rest of the Baumann Brigade headed out to do some last minute hiking, while the Linsenbardt side headed to the Moraine Park Discovery Center in RMNP to go on a “discovery hike” with the kids so they could complete their Junior Ranger certifications.  This took an hour and a half and, overall, was pretty fun for the kids, as other kids were also along and they finally had someone else to interact with aside from adults.

As you can see, they were pretty pleased with themselves. 🙂

Junior Rangers!
Junior Rangers!

After that, we returned to the house so Calvin could take a nap.  Again, everyone mostly hung around the house (though Meg and I briefly headed out to see a friend of mine from high school who happened to be in Estes Park that day with his family) until dinner, our one night out around the area.  We ended up at Tavern 1929, a place just outside of town that was a part of a lodge.  I’m not sure if it was the fact that we really hadn’t eaten out much that week, or whether we had all done a lot of running recently, or whether it was our last night in Estes Park, but that food was really good.  We all left positively stuffed.  No complaints, except that the restaurant couldn’t install larger stomachs in our bodies.

That night, we packed things up and prepared to leave.  We left the next morning by 8:30 am MST or so (the Baumanns left a little earlier than we did) and made it back to Marshall by 9:00 pm CST.  The kids were both shockingly well-behaved for this portion of the trip, likely because they were watching shows on their Kindles again, and because they were tired from the week behind them.

It was a great trip!  We look forward to returning to Colorado, though next time, we’ll probably try and hit the southern area of the state.  Lots of other national parks to hit up in the coming years, though!

Rocky Mountain Vacation: Part I

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Up at the Alpine Visitor Center, at 11,798 ft above sea level.

Months ago, Mallory decided to run in the Rocky Mountain Half Marathon, to be held in late July in Estes Park, CO.  One thing led to another in various discussions and the Baumann clan decided we’d all go.  It had been years since some of the girls had been to Colorado and Meg and Calvin had never seen “the mountains” before, so plans were set in motion.

We left Marshall last Monday and stayed overnight in Nebraska via Airbnb.  It was an 8 hour drive that took more like 10 hours, but we’re glad we split up the trip to Colorado into two days, giving the kids a bit more “decompression time” after being in the car for so long.  Also, we could be a bit more leisurely in our plans, allowing for longer stops and possible diversions along the way.  The kids did pretty well, really, as Brooke loaded up some thin plastic bins with activities, and I grabbed a season of a TV show for each of them to load onto their Kindle Fires.  They were very ready to be done with driving once we got there, and getting to run around the front yard of a house (as opposed to around the beds in a hotel room) was great.

We drove toward Estes Park the next day, taking a trip through Big Thompson Canyon, which contains the Big Thompson River.  It’s a pretty drive and the kids enjoyed looking up as high as they could along the rocky walls of the canyon.  Again, nothing that Brooke and I hadn’t seen before, but to them, where rocks don’t normally get that tall in Missouri, it was pretty neat.  Eastern Colorado and the drive through the canyon took more than a few hours (it always takes longer than you think…), but we ultimately reached our destination early-afternoon on Tuesday, July 23rd.

The house we stayed in was pretty cool, though it was located in a more suburban neighborhood a few miles from downtown Estes Park.  It was pretty close to everywhere we wanted to be, though, and we could get to Rocky Mountain National Park within 20 min or less, depending on traffic.  The house had 3 bedrooms and a loft on the third floor, so plenty of space for people to get away from things, as well as a large living room and a “living space” on the second floor with couches.  There were two full baths, though the hot water pressure could have been better.  Overall, it was a beautiful place to stay for a few days!

The interior of and view from the house we stayed in.
The interior of and view from the house we stayed in.

That first day, we killed some time in RMNP with a picnic, letting Meg and Calvin run around a bit and get their feet wet (literally).  We also stocked up at Safeway, though being the only grocery store in town meant that everyone in town was there (also literally).  The rest of the Baumann clan had driven in overnight from St. Louis, so they were on the tired side of things and opted to take it easy for the rest of the day: fine by us!

The next day, Mark, Brooke, the kids and me traveled to Fort Collins to go hiking with Brooke’s cousin, Jared, and his daughter, Elle.  We went hiking on a dirt trail out in Larimer County, not within RMNP.  It was a pretty easy hike, really, though Elle and Calvin wanted to walk for part of the trip, slowing us down considerably.  This was our first real “hiking experience” in Colorado, and though the weather was actually pretty good, there wasn’t much shade, so the kids got tired, too.  We only went a few miles, but found a trickle of a waterfall at the end, so that made the trip worth it for the kids.

Meg, Jared, Elle, Brooke, Calvin and Mark.
Meg, Jared, Elle, Brooke, Calvin and Mark.

After the hike, we all went to Coopersmith’s Pub & Brewing for lunch (also joined by Jared’s wife, Andrea) in downtown Fort Collins.  The food was great, especially after a morning outside.  The flight of beer I got was also very good, though I wished I could have stayed longer to sample some more.  However, we had reservations for a tour at New Belgium Brewing Company and couldn’t stay long.

The New Belgium tour was great and, shockingly, the kids also were very well-behaved!  Maybe they were just worn out from the morning (heavy sun can do that to you…), but they actually listened pretty well when we told them what to do, and also stayed pretty quiet while the tour guide was speaking to us.  The tour itself was also good, though not necessarily informative (once you’ve been on a beer tour, you’ve seen most of what you can possibly see…).  We didn’t learn all that much over the course of the 1.5 hour tour, but we did get to taste four 6 oz volumes of different brews, including Fat Tire, Sunshine, Heavy Melon and La Folie (which is a sour beer that apparently starts out as Brooke’s favorite, 1554, but is instead aged in red wine barrels).  We filled up a growler with De Konink from their bar after the tour and took it back to the house with us.  If you’re ever visiting Fort Collins, take that growler along because they’ll fill it with their regular, all-season beers for $6.  A steal!

After that, we stopped for ice cream on the way home because the kids were so good and headed back to the house.  I think Brooke and I agree that this was probably our favorite day of the trip.  Not that the other days weren’t good, but everyone seemed to be in a good mood, it was great to see Jared, Andrea and Elle, and it was our first real day of “vacation,” so everyone was excited to see some cool new stuff.

And beer.  There’s nothing wrong with beer. 🙂

The next day, we spent a lot of time in RMNP…but that’s best saved for another post!

Traveling the Bourbon Trail

Me, Ryan (right) and Mike (front)
Me, Ryan (right) and Mike (front)

I met Ryan 8 years ago at a wedding and we soon started getting together “virtually” for playing video games. At the wedding, we found that we had some similar interests in various kinds of games and have been playing together ever since. In many ways, it’s odd that one of my best friends is one that I’d only physically met a single time, but there are even more people that I’d met through Ryan that, until recently, I also knew very well yet had never actually met.

Last year, our little gaming group (which consists of around 8-10 people) had discussed trying to meet up somewhere.  We’ve got some people up in Minnesota, one in Alabama, one in Ohio, three closer to the East coast, and me here in Missouri.  At the time, the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky seemed like the logical place to try and meet up, though some other options had been tossed around.  We couldn’t pull it off for last year, but we made a bigger push to get something together this time.  We couldn’t get all of those people together, but 5 of us met up in Frankfort, KY last weekend to visit some distilleries.

Woodford Reserve
Woodford Reserve

I’ve been brewing beer for quite awhile, so I had a handle on what the basic process of distilling entails.  There were some interesting differences between the different distilleries we visited however, including their history, architecture, barrel placement, and so on.

One thing they’ll tell you at these distilleries is that “bourbon” is distinct from “whiskey” in that it must only be aged in new, charred oak barrels (there are a few other requirements, but it’s one of the things that sets “bourbon” apart from “Tennessee Whiskey” like Jack Daniels).

We stayed at an airbnb apartment in Frankfort very close to Buffalo Trace Distillery, which is one of the oldest continuously operating distilleries in the country.  Unlike many others, they still produced bourbon during Prohibition because they had a Federal license to produce spirits for “medicinal purposes.”  We took the regular tour and then a “ghost tour” that evening, learning a bit about various potential “spirits” that live amongst the other “spirits.”

The sour mash at Woodford Reserve
The sour mash at Woodford Reserve

Unfortunately, while we got to see all the barrel houses at Buffalo Trace, they shut down their distilling operation in July and August due to the heat.  We got to see a working distillery at Woodford Reserve, our next destination.  This place was quite a bit more “corporate” in feel, and though distilleries have been present on the property for quite awhile, the current product, Woodford Reserve, has only existed since the 1990s.  Still, bourbon is made in the traditional way and it’s a large operation that you can see in action.  This distillery was one of two locations where we saw the sour mash bubbling about, where yeast began the fermentation process.  This part of bourbon-making only takes a few days, after which it’s distilled down (read: boiled to the point where the water is separated from the alcohol) and then loaded into barrels.

So many barrels...
So many barrels…

Those barrels will hang out for a period of years.  At Buffalo Trace, some barrels are kept up in the top of their barrel houses, but they can only be kept there for up to 6 years because the heat ages the bourbon faster.  The 10-12 year (or older) product is kept within the first few floors, where aging takes longer and the flavor profile changes over that period.  Ultimately, this means that some bourbons are aged at the top, some are aged in the middle, and some are aged at the bottom.  Woodford Reserve, on the other hand, rotates their barrels from the top to the bottom so the flavor remains consistent between each bottle they make.

That first day, we also hit up Wild Turkey, but we couldn’t catch a tour in the time we had.  We did participate in a tasting, however.  I can’t say the portions were great, and it was probably my least favorite of the locations, but I’m still glad we stopped by.

From left to right: Paul, Ryan and Mike.

The next day, we went to Maker’s Mark and found them to be pretty similar to Woodford Reserve in terms of their history vs corporate balance.  They’re also a large operation and the tour was pretty cool, especially the part where they explain their trademark wax topping that they pull off for each bottle.  Apparently, a worker can dip something like 100 of those bottles a minute before they pass through a cooling box that solidifies the wax prior to packaging.

Maker’s Mark was a really nice facility, though their buildings are all mostly black and sheet metal instead of brick.  You can tell it’s a newer facility, and they’ve got a more “corporate” feel.  Incidentally, they only had one or two barrel aging buildings on that portion of the property and, as we left, a few miles away, we saw 10s of more buildings where they were aging bourbon.

From left to right: Ryan, Josh, Mike and Paul.
From left to right: Ryan, Josh, Mike and Paul.

The last place we went was Heaven Hill, a company I wasn’t really familiar with, but apparently they own Evan Williams (a bourbon I am familiar with).  By the time we got there, they weren’t holding tours, but they were having a Bourbon Connoisseur’s Tasting of sorts.  It was the most expensive of the tastings ($20…), but you got 4 healthy doses of different bourbons and you got more information about the barrels, the aging, the differences in how bourbons are produced (like, what grains you add to them), and so on.  For example, we tasted a “25-year-whiskey” that, normally, I’d assume would taste really good…but this was apparently an accidental batch that was forgotten for 10 years in the wrong part of the barrel aging house.  The distiller aged it a bit longer in a different barrel (one that wasn’t oak, so it didn’t count as “bourbon” anymore), but it was salvageable as a teaching tool.  It didn’t taste nearly as good as it should after that much aging, which just goes to show that “25 years” isn’t necessarily great.

Heaven Hill Distillery
Heaven Hill Distillery

Of the places we went, I think we were universal in our love for Buffalo Trace and for the tasting we had at Heaven Hill.  It isn’t that the other places were bad, but the corporate feel of Maker’s Mark and Woodford Reserve really showed.  As I told the guys, it reminded me of the Anheuser-Busch tour in St. Louis: the beer isn’t that great, but the tour is still fascinating just to see it all at scale.  It’s still valuable information, but perhaps didn’t have the “character” we were looking for.

We also heard great things about Jim Beam Distillery and their tour options, but unfortunately, we just couldn’t fit it in.  Next year!

Ultimately, we had a great time.  We fit some video games in at night and hit up some of the restaurants in the Frankfort area (Bourbon on Main was pretty good…great bourbon list, too…  Buddy’s Pizza was also quite good.)  Hopefully we can get together like this next year or the following year and get more folks to join us.

Hannibal Cannibal

See? I run!
See? I run!

A few weeks ago, I ran my first 5K! My first “official” one, at least (I ran more than 5 km per day for 5 days in a row before actually running this race…).  Brooke’s family has run in the Hannibal Cannibal for the past few years, a fundraiser for the local hospital that always takes place on the Saturday morning of Tom Sawyer Days, which is held around July 4th.  This particular 5K is notable because of it’s “Lover’s Leap” climb, which is a steep 100 ft elevation that kinda sneaks up on you.  I’d never tried this course before (obviously), so though I knew how difficult the HW-79 portion would be (another hill, but a bit slower in grade), yet I wasn’t sure how Lover’s Leap would go.  I didn’t quite make it up to the top without stopping, but I made it further than I would have had I not been training.  Jogging around our neighborhood here gave me a little practice with hills, but for next year, I’ll have a better idea of what to prep for.

Baumann Brigade!
Baumann Brigade!

Again, the Baumanns (Baumenn?) run this 5K frequently and Mallory and Diana both placed in their divisions (yay!).  We’re all running a 5K in Colorado (Mallory’s doing a half marathon), so in some ways, this was a good trial run for us, or at least for those of us that have never actually run a 5K before…

S Health's display.
S Health’s display.

Also, a brief  aside, but I got a new fitness tracker in late June.  The Samsung Gear Fit 2 has a built-in GPS function and barometer that I find particularly useful, as it’s able to keep track changes in elevation, as well as running times.  For that race, my official time was 26:51 with an average pace of 8:39/mi.  My Gear Fit 2 recorded 8:39/mi as well, though the distance was off because I started it before actually crossing the starting line.  For the most part, I’ve been pleased with the performance of the tracker, though its battery life leaves something to be desired.

Overall, I placed 7th out of 18 in my age group, so I felt pretty good about that.  A 27 min 5K is respectable, though I’d have to work quite a bit to beat the 19:48 winning time in my group…  To get to the top 3 and win a medal, I need to shoot for 23:27, though, I’ll move up in age bracket next year where they actually ran a bit faster than those numbers this time around (ranging from 20:13 to 22:02 for the top 3).  There probably won’t be a medal in my future for awhile, but I suppose that isn’t the point of running a 5K, eh?

Lastly, I should note that Brooke’s also planning on doing the 5K in Colorado, though she thinks she may have hurt her ankle and may not be able to actually run for it.  The ankle’s on the mend, but while it’s been swollen, she hasn’t been able to go jogging all that much.  Perhaps we’ll get her in the Cannibal in time for next year!

State Park #1: Katy Trail State Park

This post is part of an ongoing series summarizing each State Park in Missouri that our family has attended. We hope to visit each of 54 State Parks before the kids graduate from high school.

Biking on the Katy Trail
Biking on the Katy Trail last summer

Katy Trail State Park is a 240 mile shared-use trail converted from the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad.  Growing up in Columbia, it’s a site I visited multiple times with my family (at the Rocheport section), but Brooke and I made multiple visits to the St. Charles section of the trail shortly after moving to St. Louis.  Now that we live in Marshall, we live about 30 minutes away from the Sedalia portion of the trail, ironically making it closer than it has ever been to the two of us.

As Brooke and I are the only two in the house capable of riding a bicycle (sans training wheels…), we picked up a trailer for my bike last year that we can put the kids in.  It folds up in the back of our Forester pretty easily, though by the time you put our bikes on the roof rack of the car and the front tires of said bikes in the back with the folded-up trailer, we’re mostly out of room (i.e. we can go to Sedalia, Boonville or Rocheport pretty easily, but not much further, as we don’t have room for overnight bags).

For now, the kids like riding in the trailer and we use it on trips to the local playground here in Marshall.  Meg is 6, but is still relatively small, so she fit in the trailer easily last year and this year – next summer may be a different story.  Hopefully, we can get Meg riding her bike over the next year, but Calvin will still be able to use the trailer for years to come.

Honestly, there isn’t much to write about here.  The trail picture above is what it looks like for 240 miles.  It goes through/near some small towns, sometimes there are bathroom facilities available (though usually not), some sections are shaded while others aren’t.  It’s a great State Park to visit, but personally, we like biking on it more than anything else.  It’s a “mixed use” trail, so we see walkers and joggers frequently, though closer to cities – the further you get from the cities, the more likely you’ll find bikers.  Some sections, especially near the State Fairgrounds in Sedalia, also allow for horses, but we don’t often see them on the trail.

Ultimately, it’s a really awesome resource that’s unique in that quite a few Missourians have been on it, likely without knowing it’s a State Park.  It isn’t a “single destination” like the other State Parks because it spans the entire state (as in, you can live in Kansas City or you can live in St. Louis, and you can visit the same park while only driving for 20 or 30 minutes to get there).  I suspect the kids will both have fond memories of this one.

Grand Tour of Missouri State Parks

Look at those happy campers!
Look at those happy campers!

We like to think of ourselves as “outdoorsy” types and, thankfully, we’ve got a really good Department of Natural Resources in Missouri to provide us with some great opportunities around the state.  When we traveled the Oregon Trail last year, Brooke and I found that many other states out that direction had some very unimpressive parks to visit, especially with regards to how much they charge to camp there relative to the quality of the facilities provided.  Thankfully, Missouri has cheap rates (even for non-residents), and some really nice places to visit.

Therefore, we decided it would be cool to hit every state park in Missouri before both kids graduate from high school.  There are 54 state parks and another 33 historic sites, many of which are also associated with the parks.  We’ve already visited a few of them as a family of four, so if we visit a few each year, we should be able to pull it off rather easily.  We’ll probably camp at most of them, but some of them like Rock Bridge State Park and Van Meter State Park, we may just visit.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be making a few posts about previous visits that both kids have been present for, so you may see some old pictures showing up.  Apparently, I didn’t post about many of those trips, so I guess I need to catch up.  Still, this will be a lengthy series of posts, so enjoy!

And Then There Were Two…

Brooke's New Baby! ...but is it her favorite baby? You'd have to ask her...
Brooke’s New Baby! …but is it her favorite baby? You’d have to ask her…

Back in early November, 2014, I wrote

When we bought Brooke’s 2006 Scion xA new, the plan was (and is) to “drive it into the ground,” or at least as close as we can. We’ve got about 97,000 mi on it now and had almost zero issues with it. The one issue we did have was with the blower motor resistor, and I was able to fix that myself. We’ll probably end up replacing it eventually, but likely not until we’re done making payments on the Subaru.

Weeeeeeelllllll, we made it to 140,000 mi and Brooke’s 2006 Scion xA was starting to squeal a bit more.  Was it just a loose belt?  Probably.  But we’ve been talking about it for quite awhile and Brooke’s been getting a little more cognizant of the fact that she’s the director of an agency and is driving consumers around with a car that has seen some better days.

The original plan was to keep that car for 10 years and then start looking, and that’s what we did.  Brooke and I had been investigating some other options, like the Volkswagen Golf or the Ford Focus hatchback, but more and more, the Subaru Impreza seemed like the mix she was looking for.  Part of this was the fact that we already have a Subaru and love it.  The Forester is based on the same platform as the current model of the Impreza, so driving one is very similar to the other (though the Forester sits a few inches higher).

Back when I got the Forester in 2013, the main thing I wanted was a moonroof.  This time around, Brooke wanted leather seats.  When comparing the leather options on the Impreza versus the Golf or Focus, the Impreza just made more sense as, for the same amount of money, you got the bonus of all-wheel drive on the Impreza where you didn’t on the Golf or Focus.  Also, the resale value on the Impreza is second-to-none compared with the Golf and Focus, especially at the Limited trim level we ended up getting.

The big reason we went ahead and pulled the trigger is because we figured we could get a decent deal on one now, while waiting a few months would force us into the brand new 2017 model.  Don’t get me wrong, that new model looks pretty nice, but there hasn’t been a price announced, and with all the new features they are advertising, it would likely be more expensive than the current version is.  On a related note, because the new model is coming, you can’t easily choose options on a 2016 model anymore, so if we waited until July, we probably wouldn’t be able to find this specific car anymore, at least not without having it transported across the country.

So yeah, Brooke was in Columbia last Friday morning, went by Subaru to ask them some questions and ask a few questions.  She went on a test-drive of this car (that she already checked out online before going) and fell in love.  The process ended up taking 3 hours, but the dealership bought her some Fazoli’s to keep her in her seat so they could close the deal.  It’s the little things.

Side-view
Side-view

Regardless, it’s a sharp little car! It definitely feels smaller to me relative to the forester, but the back seats are just as roomy, so the kids can actually grow into this car, whereas in the Scion, they were just about as big as any person could be and still sit comfortably for long periods.  She also finally has cruise control again, so with all the traveling she’s been doing recently, she won’t be quite as insane.  This model also comes with the 7″ touchscreen option and some better Bluetooth connectivity than our Forester does, though we didn’t spring for their EyeSight adaptive cruise control option.

She loves it!  Hopefully Calvin ends up liking this car when he gets it in 12 years… 🙂

The Boy Who Never Sleeps

Two cute kids. Not sleeping.
Two cute kids. Not sleeping.

I’ve been writing this post in my head for weeks now, but things never seemed to settle down perfectly, so I kept putting it off.

Basically, Brooke and I split time sleeping on Calvin’s floor for, like, 8 months this year.  He simply did not want to sleep alone, and while you could get him to sleep, the minute he’d wake up, he wouldn’t go back down (willingly) unless someone was with him.  This also made it nearly impossible to leave his room (or we’d fall asleep waiting for him to finally pass out).  We tried a few things, including removing his crib because he was getting too large to lay in there without waking him up.  He fell asleep on the floor one night, so we went with it and made a little “nest,” of sorts, in the corner for him to sleep on.

Ultimately, we relented and began just sleeping on the floor with him.  I moved a backpacking-style air mattress in there, Brooke laid down multiple comforters, and one of us would just take turns going in sometime between 1:00 am and 4:00 am and staying with him until it was time to get up.

Finally, finally, we got sick of it.  On Calvin’s birthday, we gave him a small toddler bed.  We figured this would be the opportunity to start fresh in a “new situation,” where we rearrange his room a bit, put him in the bed, and make him sleep in it.

Shockingly, the process of getting him to sleep in it didn’t go as terribly as we’d expected.  That first night was somewhat challenging, but even within the first few days, he was sleeping in the bed by himself for 6 hours at a time.  It took us a bit to get into a routine of one of us sitting with him with books or YouTube videos before he’d let us leave his room without crying.  There were some times when he’d try to follow us out and we’d have to sit there, holding his door shut, so he couldn’t escape.  Early on, this didn’t happen all that often though, and he’d actually stay in his bed for awhile.

“Awhile” is a critical point, though, as 4:00 am would roll around and he’d decide “I’m awake!” and he’d leave his room.  We had a door knob protector on, but those old door knobs are useless and the protector would stick in such a way that Calvin could get right past it.

Occasionally, he’d go into Meg’s room and wake her up, wanting to play.

More recently, we picked up a special alarm clock that changes colors depending on whether it’s time to get up or not.  He mostly ignores whether it’s “yellow” (stay in bed) or “green” (time to get up), even though he’ll tell you what those colors mean.  We think the clock has helped, to some degree, as we know what time it is so, if he’s crying at 5:00 am and wants to leave his room, we can use the walkie-talkie function on the baby monitor and tell him to stay in bed “until the light turns ‘green’.”

Overall, we’re doing much better.  Both of us are getting far more sleep than we were at this time last year, and we’re getting to stay in our beds for longer on successive nights than we have since Calvin was born.  Occasionally, we still need to go in there and help him find his lost stuffed animal in the middle of the night, but for the most part, he’s sleeping quite a bit better than he has in awhile!

As a brief aside, over Thanksgiving this year, Meg and Calvin slept in the same rooms for 4 nights and actually did remarkably well!  We tried it once at our house a few weeks ago and it was a literal nightmare, but on the road, Meg was actually pretty good at keeping him in his room and knowing whether it was okay to get up and play or not.  Since she can actually tell time, she knew whether it was okay to get up and play with toys in their room but not actually leave the room, and other policies like that.  Perhaps we’ll be able to move to bunk beds sometime in 2016!