Thursday, July 31, 2014

What's with the giant "nerd" glasses?

My leisurely browse through Pinterest for cute back-to-school photos ideas just turned sour. Giant oversized glasses are a thing now?

My daughter began wearing glasses at a young age. She endured three eye muscle surgeries and too many ophthalmology appointments (see past BalancingMama eyes posts), but she is now doing awesome and she looks gorgeous in her frames. She knew from the beginning that glasses made her a little bit different; no preschoolers had glasses and she was the only one in her kindergarten class also. Daddy and I were diligent in making sure that Amelia understood the whys and the hows of her lenses and frames - and I tossed my contacts too. Like daughter, like Mama!

Goofy photos of glasses as a prop can send a bad message to a child who is struggling to accept his or her glasses. The whole "nerd" theme that is out there now on clothes, posters, even Mickey Mouse items? It annoys me. Stop it.

Please, nix these photo ideas this year...

Really, Babble?

You can't stop laughing?

Photos from Pinterest. No, I did not link to them. If you are desperate to pin them, do a search. But seriously... please don't. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

#WW: The calm before the shots

Six-month check-up at the pediatrician yesterday!

The paper on the exam table was a huge hit! He probably pulled half a roll before we were done. I should have asked them for a to-go roll! Unfortunately, his visit ended with a couple shots which wiped that precious smile off of his face.
Baby boy is a big guy, 89th percentile for height and 54th percentile for weight. He has a big head too - 95th percentile! I'll assume that is because he needs room for all of his genius in there.
Diagnosis: healthy guy!

Monday, July 28, 2014

It's all mine: An exercise in putting yourself first #moms

Here is an experiment for the moms out there. Take a moment to answer this question:

If you were given $1,000 to spend in one day, what would you buy?

Once you have answered the question for yourself, think about your answers. How many of you first thought to buy something for someone else? For your kids, perhaps? Maybe something for the husband or friends? Or maybe you thought of a fun way for the family to enjoy something together. I really wonder how many of you thought of at least one someone who isn't you

Friday, July 25, 2014

Must-haves for a perfect kids' playroom; IKEA inspiration (August #GIVEAWAY)

By no means am I a home d├ęcor guru. In fact, I am quite intimidated by grown-up spaces. But kid rooms? Now, that is another story. I am still not a pro, but I do have a lot of fun with it.

I feel like kid spaces are so much more forgiving. You can pop all kinds of color and whimsy into a design, and mismatch only adds to the fun factor. I love the way Amelia's Cinderella bedroom and Andrew's Mickey Mouse head bedroom both turned out. Both show off that Disney charm but neither goes over the top with cartoon characters.

If you want to design a perfectly fun and functional playroom, here are a few things you should not forget. I was inspired by my recent visit to IKEA for their 2015 catalog reveal. Yes! The 2015 catalog is out now! 300+ pages of ideas, beauty, and smart solutions.

(1) Toy storage - Toys + kids + playtime? That equals a big mess in my house. Toy storage that is too difficult for a small child won't be used. Find toy storage that is simple to use, like open bins and cubbies. I believe that IKEA is one of the best sources of smart storage solutions. I'm often checking the IKEA website to find the next solution for whatever clutter I may be tackling at the time.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Preparing your child for Kindergarten from a rising 1st grader mom

Back to school time!

I know, it seems crazy early for most people around the country, but we go back at the beginning of August here in the South. Our last day of the school year was May 22nd, so we've had our fun and now we must prepare to return.

Amelia will be a first grader. She will move up the hallway in the school and she returns with excitement and confidence. She knows where the various rooms are within the school and she knows the routine. She will walk in like she owns the place. Amelia is anxiously awaiting meet and greet day so she can find out which teacher will be hers and which friends will be in her class once again.

Kindergarten was an amazing experience for us both. I cannot help but smile when I think about it - she grew up faster and learned more than I ever could have imagined. For those of you who may be facing the start of kindergarten, don't fret. I know it may be very difficult to leave your child at his/her first "big kid school", but just wait. The year will astound you. These kids learn so much more in kindergarten than we did, perhaps even in first grade!

(1) Establish a routine early. School can be a shock after a summer of lax schedules, later bedtimes, vacations, and fun events. Kindergarten is serious business. It begins on time (for us, much earlier than preschool) and the students get right to work immediately. The kindergarten day is busy; the students bounce from activity to activity rapidly throughout the day. It is good that way because at their ages, attention span only lasts so long. Establishing a morning routine will help to keep everyone in the family sane. Children thrive best on schedules. And when they have some serious schoolwork and learning ahead of them, it helps to begin their day the same way as much as possible. They know what to expect. Eventually, that routine becomes habit.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Conquering @SixFlagsOverGA with 3 kids and a baby: The VIP Way!

A day at a Six Flags theme park is quite a big event for any family. Parents get info and tickets online, plan the day, pack the backpack, and get the kids all hyped up with anticipation prior to the outing.And perhaps a few mamas obsessively check the weather forecast - as I did, since we had some pretty significant threats of rain and/or thunderstorms.

When you have such a big day planned, you want it all to be perfect. Unfortunately for us, the weather disagreed yesterday. But the theme park adventure was totally salvaged, not to mention extremely comfortable, thanks to our private cabana at the new Six Flags Over Georgia Hurricane Harbor waterpark.

Hurricane Harbor opened in late May 2014, a brand-new free adventure within the Six Flags Over Georgia theme park (See prior post "Yes, it's fun! More facts about Hurricane Harbor" or the Six Flags Over Georgia website for more info).

The private cabanas at Six Flags Over Georgia are beach-themed, right next to the awesome wave pool at Hurricane Harbor, and loaded with extras like a fridge stocked with six bottles of water, comfortable chairs, tables, a huge storage locker to keep your belongings safe and sound, a concierge, and food service. Cabana visitors do not have to lift a finger, except to have fun! No gratuities are accepted so except for the price of food, the cost of the cabana includes all the extras: the friendly service, lock box, water, breeze, your own shoreline, two tube rentals, and privacy.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Why everyone should travel with kids #familytravel

I often receive comments about our family travels - how we always seem to be on vacation, how we are always in unique or amazing places. Trust me, it is not close to "always". We travel to visit family, we may take a road trip for a long weekend, we are hosted by my parents at the beach once each year, and we generally take one "big" vacation of our own once per year. I am extremely lucky that we are able to do so much - I would do it even more if we could. Travel allows us to get away from the repetitiveness of daily life. Travel allows us to push work aside (for the most part) so we can focus on each other and spend quality time as a family.

I have also been asked how we can justify spending money on travel that lasts just a few days or a week, when we could buy furniture or other useful items that last a decade. I have to disagree there - our travel memories and photos will last us a lifetime. My daughter has experienced many places that are nothing like home. She has met people from all walks of life. She has seen amazing man-made wonders and some of the most beautiful natural landscapes. Watching a child's expression as she investigates something she learned about in school or read in a book? Now that is a proud parenting moment indeed.

We look back at our photos over the years and we remember the laughs, the wonder, and the excitement of exploration. We remember the times that were difficult, like a busted tire in the middle of Yellowstone with a two-year old and absolutely no cell phone coverage or auto repair shop. We now laugh at some of the most epic toddler meltdown moments, when we probably pushed Amelia a bit too far with an activity (or five). Those moments of difficulty that were frustrating then are actually funny now. We take each moment of our travel with us - for life. And even the "bad" becomes the "good" because we can look back and laugh.

I cannot wait to share Turks and Caicos with Amelia for #BeachesMoms in the Fall. I anxiously await the day when we can show Andrew the magic within Walt Disney World. We have cruises and national parks and San Diego and Washington DC (Amelia's request!) ahead of us one day. Maybe we'll make it back to Europe too.

Travel lives far more than just a few days or a week. We remember with photos and stories. Travel is eternal, because we are forever enriched by the experiences. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Fun and fresh: u-pick produce

I grew up in a small city in Tennessee. Part city, part factory, and part country. Summer months were spent outdoors riding bikes, batting around the tennis ball, or swimming. Just over the hill, there was u-pick strawberry field. We always looked forward to meandering up and down the rows of small leafy plants, hoping to spot the reddest most beautiful berry. We filled little baskets with juicy fresh strawberries and enjoyed gobbling them up when we got home. Mom would put some in a pie; we'd slice them up over Cheerios. The eating part seemed even better because we hunted for and picked them ourselves.

For the past couple years, we have taken Amelia to pick apples in late summer or early Fall. We are lucky in the Atlanta suburbs - while we have a lot of excitement at our fingertips from all that a city can offer, we are also within a one-hour drive to beautiful countryside with rolling hills and working farms.

U-pick produce is plentiful if you are willing to drive just out of Atlanta metro to find it (or if you do a little research, if you live elsewhere).

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sweltering summer sunshine; a tip for remembering your sunscreen

I participated in an Ambassador Activation on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Banana Boat® Sun Care. I received product samples to facilitate my review and a promotional item to thank me for participating.

Many metro Atlantans dislike the term HOTlanta. I actually think it's rather fitting. In the summer months, we go about our daily lives on a lot of pavement and concrete with temperatures usually in the 90s and humidity measuring at least 50%. We do not have sea breezes or frequent cooling rain. When it does rain? It doesn't seem to cool; we just receive more humidity when most of us were already melting. It's hot and it's Atlanta... so why not? HOTlanta is as good a term as any.

For most of June, July, and August, we tend to stay indoors. If the humidity gives us a bit of a break, we often venture out for some playground or neighborhood fun once the sun dips behind the houses and/or trees. But year-round, when we are outside (often at the water park or pool),  I ensure that my family is protected from the bright southern sunshine. I keep my family protected with sunscreen, like one of the many varieties of Banana Boat, as often as I can.

I had to train myself to remember sunscreen. And frankly, I did not focus on it as much on it before kids. But with Amelia's young skin and now Andrew's, I try to ensure their "safety coating" as much as possible. We often do not know the sun damage we face until decades later, so protection now is very important to me.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Moms don't get bonuses

An oldie but a goodie (posted 2 years ago) Now I have two kids, a job, a consulting gig, and more!
Still waiting for my giant golden trophy. --- I work outside the home a few hours per week and squeeze in the rest whenever I can, usually from the couch downstairs. So yes, I have a "job"; I am a working mama.

I also have this mothering job. The job that takes precedence in my life no matter what. The job that is physically and mentally demanding. The job that allows for no personal privacy whatsoever, but has the uncanny ability to create a most dreadful sense of isolation at the very same time. The job where my "boss" lives with me, eats with me, and goes on vacation with me. The job where I have absolutely no option to walk away or search the listings on I know I am in this career for the long haul.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Dress-up night at the theater! The Little Mermaid, Broadway in Atlanta #Disney

I received complimentary tickets to the show for my family. However, as always, all opinions are 100% mine.

The Little Mermaid via Broadway in Atlanta is a colorful and delightful experience for all ages -- and limited seats are still available for THIS weekend (July 10-13)! Get Little Mermaid Atlanta tickets here.

My husband and I took Amelia out on a special big kid date last night. We dressed up, left baby boy with a sitter, and made the 25-minute drive to the city for a traveling Broadway show! Amelia always enjoys going into the heart of the city. We point out the big buildings and show her where Daddy attended Georgia Tech for a couple years and where Mommy used to work on the 30th floor of the fancy Four Seasons hotel building. We parked in a lot next to the Fabulous Fox Theatre, a gorgeous step back in time that is listed on the National Historic Register. Amelia loved the brilliant lights on the Fox sign, the detailed ceilings and "castle-like" appearance, inside and out.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Mommy and Me Monday: Legoland Discovery Center #Atlanta

Summertime as an Atlanta parenting blogger is a lot of fun. I mean, I have to take the kiddo(s) to a bunch of fun attractions so I can tell everyone all about the new exhibits, attractions, ride, etc. It is my duty, of course!

Shortly after school ended for the year, we had an amazing day at Hurricane Harbor, the new waterpark inside Six Flags Over Georgia. We also visited the World of Coca-Cola. And we played on a Friday evening at the LEGOLAND Discovery Center. LEGOLAND is a blast with four 4D movies, two rides, lots of Legos (of course!), a playground area, and the new Ninjago laser maze.

I did not take a ton of photos at LEGOLAND that evening, but I did manage to have Steve snap a few of me with my favorite girly playmate. Perfect for a Mommy and Me Monday!

And, by the way? This girl has some speed!

Link up your photos with Mommy and Me Monday on Really, Are You Serious - every Monday!

Friday, July 4, 2014

So, she got a new passport photo...

Amelia isn't going to find out for a while, but she will be joining us at Beaches Turks and Caicos in the fall for an amazing #BeachesMoms long weekend! Her passport is expired; the photo on it was taken when she was nine months old for our extended family trip to Europe. I guess it's a good thing that children's passports only last five years - how silly would it be to have a baby photo for a now walking, talking, reading little girl?

Last weekend, we took the kids to Walgreens for passport photos. We want to renew both kids on the same year moving forward, so we got Andrew a passport pic as well (this calls cruising in our future, I think!). Amelia was not very interested in this process. She was tired from a busy summer day, hungry, and totally disheveled. She wanted to go home to play. Her hair was a bit crazy, she had a black pen mark on her face a' la fake Cindy Crawford (I failed at removing it), and she flat out refused to smile.

So now the child has a new passport photo. For the next five years, this is the one she will live with. And if the cops ever need a good mug shot of my kid? Well, here you go.


On the bright side? This is going to make me laugh for the next five years.

I love this kid.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Encouraging her to step out of her comfort zone: #parenting #confidence

My daughter, a precocious age six (which seems more like sixteen), has a special gift.  She is compassionate beyond her years. Her kindergarten teacher remarked to me that she hasn't often seen a child of that age with such a tender heart for others. Six-year olds are naturally live-for-the-moment beings; they just want to have fun and please themselves. Amelia's gentle soul is a blessing to me, as my heart fills with joy when I see her share her love. But her tender heart also causes excess worry. She worries more than many kids her age. I have to push her to try new things, talk her through new (i.e., scary for her) social moments, and hold her up when she is angry with herself for occasionally being "bad".

Last week, Amelia participated in British Soccer Camp (via Challenger Sports, here in the Atlanta suburbs). She has enjoyed rec soccer  for two years, and she has done well accepting the new coaches and teammates as each season ends and begins again.  But Mom and/or Dad are always there.

British Soccer Camp was more serious. The coaches traveled from England and Wales to work on technique and hone the kids' soccer (futbol) savvy. I dropped her off at 9 am and picked her up at 1 pm every day, Monday through Friday. She barely slept the Sunday night prior. She was worried about not being good enough. She feared not making any friends. She was extremely nervous that I planned to drop her off.

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