Kindergarten Newbie

We have officially made it through our first full week of half day kindergarten! JB is doing really well, making new friends, and learning classroom procedures. It’s been such a blessing to have him in such a loving environment!

All that said, there have been a few things that have caught me off guard.

1. Pencils

I don’t know why I didn’t think about this, but pencils are now very valuable at our house for handwriting practice. Thankfully, I’ve been saving them for years in preparation for school one day so we have plenty. Unfortunately, we don’t own a single damn sharpener. None. So, we do our handwriting practice with colored pencils because those come pre sharpened. 🤷🏼‍♀️

2. All the stuff.

JB is at school for 15 hours a week. How the heck did he manage to make 21 pieces of “art” in his first week?!? All those “treasures” are now piled in the mudroom eagerly anticipating their judgement day to determine if they make it into the air conditioned house or will retire/die in the blue carport bin. When asked about this mass creation of art, he explained that art center is his favorite and he goes there first every day.

So far, creations include “cook books” (ie, homemade books with yummy desserts glued on the pages cut from a magazine), “origami” (ie, construction paper with a million folds rolled up together with tape to keep it closed), a large painted cactus with toothpicks glued on it (my fav so far), goldfish glued on a giant sheet of paper to spell out his name, and a sheriff badge/name tag with a star decorated in sequins.

3. Homework.

Silly me, for some reason I thought 15 hours of weekly instruction was enough for a 6 year old. But, they want us to teach him at home too. Technically, this is homework but so far, I don’t have a problem with any of the content!

laugh, brooke

Cocktails in the Garden

We love being members at the Atlanta Botanical Garden… especially because of their evening events!  Tonight, we went to Cocktails in the Garden and it was so much fun!  Each Thursday night, the garden is open from 5:30-9:30PM from May through October for drinks and a variety of entertainment.  The garden staff does a wonderful job of planning so many activities to appeal to all ages:

We saw several of the “Imaginary World” exhibits

We listened to live music, danced to the DJ, and helped with a collaborative art project.

We watched a man do fire breathing and magic tricks!

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We played lawn games- including giant connect four, jinga and corn hole.
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We visited the tall Chihuly installation at the reflecting pond.

 

 

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And of course, all of the gardens were open for exploration.  Check out these super cool pink bananas growing near the Earth Goddess permanent exhibition!

 

 

 

Such a great night!  But… who wants to be my (21+ up) date ?  I’d love to do some reviews of the cocktails next time!  Also, looking forward to cooler weather!

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live, Brooke

How to Buy a Used Car in 20 Easy Steps

We just got to experience the joy and happiness of car shopping, so I thought I’d share what we learned in 20 easy steps:

  1. Figure out a general idea of what kind of vehicle you want (suv, minivan, sedan, truck, etc).
  2. Go to Carmax and look at every single one of those types of vehicles.  It’s the only place you can see so many year models and options in one place.  Note: salespeople just love this.
  3. While you are there, get a quote from them to buy your current car.  Try not to cry in the dealership when you find out your car’s value.
  4. Narrow down the make/models that you are interested in between 3-5 cars.  For me it was a Toyota Highlander, Lexus GX 460, Toyota 4Runner, and Toyota Land Cruiser.  
  5. Research the different options, trim levels, body styles and price points.  
  6. Go look at your short list of vehicles at the respective dealerships to see what they look like/drive like/cost if you were to buy brand new.  Try not to throw up when you see the price tags.
  7. Determine if you like the newest models or an older version.  For me, I did not like the new Highlanders and instead preferred the older body styles.
  8. Narrow down what you can buy in your price range- mainly the year, mileage and trim level.  
  9. Start searching for cars that check those boxes daily- and heck, twice a day if you want.  Search Carmax, carvana, auto trader, Craigslist*, and individual dealerships.
  10. If you see a car you like, check the Carfax (provided for free by most dealerships on their website).  This is when the fun starts. See if the car has been wrecked, where it’s been registered, and if the title is clean.  This is the most time consuming part of your searching. “Oh, that’s a good price… let me check the Carfax. Oh, it’s been wrecked three time and lived in New Jersey for 4 years.  Pass.” This step will help you weed out 85% of the cars in your search results.
  11. Send your partner/family/friends links to any car that passes step #10.  
  12. Call/text to see if the car is still available.  If so, haul your kid and husband to see it ASAP. If car shopping in June in Georgia, bring copious amounts of cold water and a well charged iPad.
  13. Climb through the car to see how many people you can fit in it, set up every possible seating arrangement you could possibly use, check all the buttons/gears, screens, windows, trunks, jacks, floor mats, DVD players, and look under the hood. If this passes, take it for a test drive.  If not, don’t waste your time.
  14. Ask the dealer what they did to the car after they bought it off trade, they should give you a list.  Double check the carfax report to be sure the VIN matches the VIN on the car.
  15. Try to negotiate on the price. Know that dealerships don’t have as much negotiation room as they used to.  Also, know that Carmax and Carvana do not negotiate so dealerships have gotten their advertised prices as low as possible to bring in buyers.  Keep in mind that many used cars only come with one key, if you need/want two, negotiate that in with the purchase.
  16. If you come up with an agreed price, take the car to your mechanic for review- along with a copy of carfax to be sure things are accurate- before buying.  
  17. If the car checks out, know that you can put up to $3,000 on a credit card at most dealerships.  If paying “cash”, they want the rest in a personal or certified check. They offer financing options but you can usually get a better rate at a credit union or bank.
  18. The dealership will do the paperwork to get the car registered before you leave but be sure to call your insurance company to have coverage on the new car before you drive it off the lot.
  19. If you car comes with any warranties, be sure to fully understand them before you leave the lot.  
  20. Drive off in your new-to-you car and try to keep your son from dumping pretzels all in it within the first hour of ownership!

*We had a scammy experience with potentially buying a car off Craigslist.  Don’t buy a car from anyone who has a POA to sign the title to you.  There is no way to be sure it’s legal.  Also, if the mileage seems to be too low- it probably is.

learn & laugh, brooke

May is a Marathon

For many, May is the slammed together book ends of school ending and summer starting.  It’s full of overlapping sports seasons, teacher appreciation gifts, dance recitals, swim team practices, graduations, Mother’s Day gifts/gatherings, Memorial Day travel prep, and end of school parties.  It’s exhausting just writing it all.

So today, I salute you parents who make it all happen…

…Those that make sure that their daughter’s bangs are glued to her head with a series of butterfly clips and level 6 hair spray.

…Those that stay up late making egg free cupcakes for the last day of school party even though the egg free kid won’t be there.

…Those that hold their two year old while also nursing their six month old so everyone is quiet and happy during the dance recital.

…Those that set an early morning alarm on a Saturday for a kid’s swim team practice meet.

…Those that drive around to 5 different stores to purchase gifts for each child’s teacher.

…Those that make grocery lists and shop so that you can pack it all up and take it with you to the beach to prevent going to a store once you arrive.

…Those who construct a homemade bamboo structure for VBS decorations.

…Those who show up for swim team practice every day with twin ten month girls in tow.

…Those who plan an end of the year party craft that the kids don’t want to make.

…Those who decide to paint their entire basement the last week of school because childcare will be limited in the coming months.

What are you doing this month that’s totally insane and deserves mad props?!

laugh,

brooke

 

How to See Portland in Six Hours

Blue Star Donuts

I was pretty stoked to try Voodoo Donuts as it’s a place many friends recommended we visit when the heard we were traveling there. But, our Seattle native traveling partner insisted that Blue Star was the best donut in Portland.

When we first walked in, I was underwhelmed. It was way too clean, modern and sparkly white to have delicious fried balls of gooey dough to enjoy. Then I say the prices. $3.50-$5/donut?! What?! That’s what a whole dozen of Krispy Keene cost when I was a kid. Hesitantly, I ordered the Lemon Poppy Seed Buttermilk donut. My husband ordered a Meyers Lemon key lime donut. It looked like a hockey puck covered in powdered sugar. I also negotiated he get a carrot fritter too. This was a good call on my part. The carrot fritter was everything I want in a fancy donut- dimension, sweet balanced with carrot, plenty of moistness with a perfectly fried/crispy exterior. It took the cake (or donut) for our trip to Blue Star.

Pittock Mansion

This historic mansion offers so much to visitors. Free access to the grounds allows you a breathtaking overlook of downtown Portland. Even with mist and low clouds, we still were blown away by the far away views from the mansion’s front yard.

For $11 each (my five year old was free), we had a self guided tour of the mansion. It is filled with history of the city- damaging storms, immigrants, fires, floods, and rebuilding issues. I also loved seeing how the wealthy lived in the early 1900’s (husband and wife had separate bedrooms, closets and entire bathrooms). The hand carved, built in storage/furniture throughout the home is phenomenal.

If we’d had a longer time, I would have loved to hike some of the trails on property.

Tasty n Sons

Y’all, this southern gal loves a high filutin brunch. This place delivered x10. We sat at community table which was a bit awkward at first but everyone was really nice. To be honest, the menu was a bit mature for JB to be in tow, but we made do. I highly recommend the salmon platter, potatoes bravas, and radicchio salad.

Aerial Tram

This was a big hit for my 5 year old traveler. It’s a transportation option from WaterFront park up to the Hospital. The majority of the folks who use it are medical staff with a few tourists sprinkled in (🙋🏼‍♀️). The city views are incredible while riding over the city. At the top, we exited to see the city from the hospital outdoor deck.

That’s how we spent our 6 hours in Portland!

Xoxo,

Brooke

#Portland

Nashville Newbie on Broadway

Somehow, I made it 33 years without a visit to Nashville. (*I did attend a high school conference at the Opryland Hotel but this does not count.)

I knew there was a lot of live music in Nashville but I didn’t know there was a LOT of live music. At 10:45am, I was walking down Broadway and heard an extremely loud band playing in Nudie’s. No other bars had live music playing and it was especially exciting to hear as the weekend was quickly approaching. I was dressed in running shorts/shoes and I hesitated to enter, but I’m so glad I did. A five piece band was blaring tunes while folks cracked cold ones at the bar, kids danced and I swayed to the rock n roll.

Wait, it’s not even 11am, and I paid zero dollars to enter a bar with great live music. This is some kind of heaven. My first thought is, “we need to move here.” Followed by, “we need to retire here.” Then, “where can I go in Atlanta for live music before lunch time with my son?!” I was hooked and couldn’t wait to come back later that day after a lunch commitment.

Here is how it works (from what I can tell):

1. Bands play for tips at most of the bars on Broadway. They split the tips evenly among themselves.

2. They play their asses off to entertain and make as much in tips as possible. They don’t take breaks and often loop songs together to prevent lulls (aka giving people an opportunity to leave).

3. Twenty bucks buys you a song of your choice. Most bands have a huge playlist and many have phones/iPads strapped to their mics for lyrics when needed.

4. If you don’t like a song or band, then move along. We managed to hit ten bars in a 3 hour period.

5. If you like a band, tip them. I was in amazement of performers musical talent AND ability to also entertain.

6. Most bars play today’s country, but a few- especially Layla’s and Robert’s- play “authentic country”- think Merle Haggard. These are the best places to see a steel guitar at work.

7. Go early. The talent was great at 11am and got better throughout the day. The bars started getting crazy crowded around 10pm- think drunks and lots of body heat.

8. Wear whatever the heck you want. Everyone else does. Cut offs, flip flops, cowboy boots, jeans and dresses are everywhere. Don’t dress to impress. Dress for dancing your butt off and being sweaty.

9. It seemed that most bands played 4 hour sets. When they are done, they try to get the next band set up as quickly as possible so the bar doesn’t empty in search of other good music.

10. We only paid cover ($5) at one place- a dueling piano bar. There, your song choice and cash tip get lined up in order of amount paid. Want to hear something quickly? Ante up $20 or more and your request usually jumps to the top of the queue.

11. Bachelorette parties are everywhere. And they all have matching t-shirts or tank tops. Keep your distance.

12. The people watching is amazing. I’ll leave it at that.

That’s what I learned as a Nashville Newbie on Broadway. Can’t wait to go back!

Successful Self Care

I recently watched Ann Lamott’s Ted Talk: 12 truths I learned from life and writing.  She had many good lessons to share but one that stuck out was the importance of self care.  Yes, we know we should care for ourselves for lots of reasons- physical, emotional and mental reasons- but her point was that it helps others.  In fact, she calls self care “a huge gift to the world”.

Many times we may feel selfish about our self care.  That sentence makes me laugh a bit… that’s kind of the point, right?  But, when we stop and think about how our lack of self care can be a drain on those around us, it makes me realize that it’s more than just caring for ourselves but also caring for others.  I am reminded of what I hear everytime I am on a plane… secure your oxygen mask first before helping others. I have wanted to scream, but what about my baby boy? He needs oxygen just as badly and fast as I do!?  But then I remember, I can’t do any good for him if I’m suffocating.

Like most things, I had some preconceived notions about what self car looks like.  So, I did some research among my friends to find out what they find successful in feeling rejuvenated throughout life.  It’s important to remember that self care doesn’t have to be financially expensive.

1. Exercise.  This was a very popular response for many of my friends.  One said that “its a huge stress reliever to physically exhaust myself while building strength.”  Others preferred a more low key workout like yoga which also involves meditation too. Ideas:

  • Tennis
  • Running
  • Yoga
  • Fitness Classes

2. Solitude.  This is a big one for many moms.  We often share most of our life with others- even if we don’t want to (ie: a toddler busting in the bathroom while showering).  So, taking a break from those we love to be able to focus on ourselves and doing things that we love is a great thing to recharge.  Some examples from others:

  • Solo walk
  • A nap
  • Taking a bath
  • Driving in silence
  • Being still

3.  Personal appearance.  This was one I had never really considered before as I am super low maintenance in my appearance.  But, I can definitely understand how it can help with your confidence and mood. If you feel blah about your appearance, than spending some time and energy on it can improve your outlook and interactions with others.  

  • Facial
  • Manicure
  • Botox
  • Plastic Surgery
  • Make Up

4.  Protecting your commitments.  One of my friends said she has to say no to opportunities as a form of self care.  At first hearing, it didn’t make sense to me, but as she went on I realized that protecting her calendar/schedule was a major form of self care as it prevents over-scheduling and extra stress.  For every yes we say, it’s a no to something else.  Feeling guilty?  I’ll be your No Cheerleader 🙂

5.  Do something fun.  This may look different for many t people because we all find fun in a variety of ways.  A girl’s night out, going on a guy’s camping trip, or exploring a new part of your city could all be fun. The key is to do something fun with other people is make sure they are fun and that you enjoy being with them. Doing something out of the norm gives us something to look forward and gets us out of the normal daily rut.

  • Reconnect with an old friend
  • Visit a brewery with  neighbors
  • Picnic at a new park

I’d love to hear how you practice self care!

xoxo, brooke

Air Travel with Littles

My air travel posse usually consists of my husband, me and our five year old son.  We have taken him on several domestic flights in his short life and one international trip (so far) to Ireland.  I have learned a few things from our travels that I want to share with you in hopes of making your future trips a bit easier too.

Most people who know me, know that I am a planner.  This is very true when it comes to taking trips. I start prepping several days before the trip with to do lists and packing lists.  Then, I start laying out clothes and items to pack at least 3 days beforehand. Whenever I pack in a rush, I forget important things and end up at the beach with only sports bras to wear with my strapless sun dress.

Carseats

My husband and I are pretty risk adverse when it comes to carseats.  Yes, they can be a pain to travel with and having them beat up by baggage carriers is a risk.  However, the idea of getting into a car accident at your destination and not having your child in a secure seat is very scary.  

When we flew to Ireland, we had planned to let our son ride in his carseat on the plane. BUT, the flight company said it was against company policy to let children OVER the age of 4 use a car seat.  Our son turned four TEN days before the trip. Thankfully, we had a carseat bag with us so we were able to gate check the carseat. As he has gotten older, we have switched to the Safe Rider vest. We are big fans of it.  It keeps him safe, is easy to attach to a carry on and is easy to install in cars.

Packing Tips

In general, I like to keep like things together.  Huh?  I’ll say it another way… similar items should be packed together.  

Checked Bags

For me, everyone having their own checked bag is the best practice.  I pack clothes, shoes, toiletries, hair supplies, hats, swim suits, blankets/pillows, and jewelry* in this suitcase.  I have tried to pack all of us in one large suitcase but found it unsuccessful. It was hard to keep organized and to find what was needed.  Plus, if we all sleep in different places than where the bag is, I inevitably end up creeping into a sleeping room armed with my iphone as a flashlight to dig out clean pajamas.  I also think traveling with three smaller bags is easier than one large bag.

*I do not pack my rubies, diamonds, and large sapphires in checked bag- I carry those on.

Carry On Bags

My favorite type is a good, ole fashioned book bag.  It’s easy to wear, keeps your hands free and easy to organize.  I do not like tote bags as they tend to get too heavy and hurt my shoulder from extended use.  

Everyone’s carry on bag needs a set of underwear, t-shirt and athletic shorts/pants. This is for your worst case scenario: your luggage doesn’t arrive.  If we are headed somewhere tropical, then I toss in a bathing suit too. If we are headed somewhere wet (like Seattle or Ireland), then I make sure our light weight rain jackets are inside the carry on bags.  All of the “emergency” items get packed first (ie: at the bottom) of the bag.

Entertainment items are packed next- books, tablets, headphones, games, stickers, etc.  Finally, I pack snacks, eye masks, neck pillows and electronics’ chargers so they are easily accessible on top.  

Bring Your Own Water Bottle

I am a big fan of everyone having a reusable water bottle.  Keep it empty until after you go through security at the airport.  Then, I fill them up at a water fountain before the flight.  This is helpful as full glasses of water can easily spill during turbulence on a flight and it’s also to have a lot of water in case of delays.  Yes, you can also buy bottled water but I’d rather save my money for beer.

Also, be sure one of your carry on bags has medicine packed in it (more on this below).  If you don’t feel well during the flight, your medicine being packed under the plane doesn’t help much.

Day Packs

I love using a back pack (aka our carry on) as our day pack.  You can easily wear it around or stick it in the trunk of your rental car when not needed.

Be Prepared

Even though my son is five, he still gets dirty or wet and needs a change of clothing when we are out and about.  I keep a change of clothes (pants, top, undies, socks) in a grocery bag tucked into the bag.  Many times, this is the same bag from his carry on.  When we are out exploring and he decides to run in the ocean or start jumping into rain puddles, I don’t freak out nearly as much.  No biggie. Just change the clothes and restock the bag as soon as we get back to the hotel.  The grocery bag also doubles as a great place to store wet, nasty clothes before they make it back to the laundry room.

Medicine

We have a bag of meds that we carry with us on trips.  Advil, immodium, cough drops, cough syrup, and basic child meds.  I also keep sunscreen and a first kit in this bag. You never know when you may need something, so keep it with you.  

Snacks

We keep 6-8 snacks in a gallon sized ziplock. It makes seeing the options easy and prevents Hangry meltdowns- for both kids and adults.  Depending on the length of the trip, I add snacks to it over the trip- a few freebies from the flight, an orange from a hotel, etc. If I need to buy some, I can easily do that at a convenient store.  We also fill our water bottles each morning before we head out.  Much easier/cheaper than buying bottled water.

Summary

Keep lots of snacks around, a charged tablet, and clean clothes and you will keep most folks happy on your trip 🙂

What tips do you have to share when traveling with a kiddo?

learn,  brooke

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