Tuesday, August 25, 2015

It's Not Easy Being Green - A Color Run From The Other Side Of The Powder!

Linking up this week for Tuesdays on the Run with Patty, April and Erika!  Head to one of their pages to link up and find some great running reads!

A couple of years ago, my oldest and I did The Color Run in Atlanta and had a blast!  

He's just joined our local high school's jr. cross country team and is really enjoying it.  They partnered with the high school to host their own color run and needed parents to help throw color.  I signed up immediately.  Or, rather, my friend who was in charge signed me up (don't be friends with people who are in charge of things) and I showed up when I was supposed to.

We were the first color station, so it was fun to soil everyone's clean, white clothes!!!

And soil we did.  We had some seriously enthusiastic throwers - the above picture of my son shows that.  Which reminds me of my #1 tip for a color run, especially a smaller one.  CLOSE YOUR MOUTH.  For realz.

I'm told that the other color stations were a bit more... contained.  We had green powder far and wide.  A friend driving by told me she could see our huge green cloud from the road.  That's some color-throwin' done right, now.

We had a blast!  Yes, that dog was green as a frog by the end of this.  Her fault for continually wandering into the cloud.  It was even more fun that this was a smaller community event and we knew a lot of the people coming through - most of them our own children!

If you don't have a community color run to join, you can always sign up for THE Color Run - the one that started all this craziness!  It's a great thing to do with families since it's only 3 miles and it's untimed.  No pressure and walker friendly!  Even my surly teenager told me he had a great time doing that with me.  That was worth every second!

The link below will take you to The Color Run Shine page where you can use the $5 off code.  This is an affiliate link, so if you encourage friends to sign up with you, I would love for you to share this link!

And now The Color Run is introducing a new twist - The Color Run Night!  Get your glow on in a whole new way! (Also an affiliate link)  The Atlanta Color Run Night is September 19th - hurry and register!

*Not valid until August 16th

Whichever Color Run you choose, you'll have a great time!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Get Your Memories OFF The Camera!

Disclosure:  This post includes affiliate links.  If you click on these links and make purchases, I'll get a little something for the Disney fund.  Thanks!

Remember photo albums?  Remember back in the day, when you could sit and look through them for hours?  I LOVED them.  I still sneak peeks when I go to my mom's house.

My kids love looking through the few scrapbooks I have.  Like most kids, they are a bit self-absorbed and delight in seeing themselves as babies and toddlers.  In my house, though, that means that I have to get down the photo boxes with thousands of prints all put in order.  To hand that over to my 3 children for their perusal makes my OCD flare and I get a little squirrely.

For more recent pictures, we all gather 'round the computer.  Sounds cozy, doesn't it?  Nope.  Not at all.  

One of my bucket list items is to scan all my loose photos and put them into printed photo books.  Then I'll get all those other photos off my computer and put those in books that the kids can flip through at their leisure.  

Okay,  I'll still come behind them and put them all back in order on the shelf, but I can live with that if they want to spend some non-screen time remembering all the fun we have as a family.  

How do you make photo books?  Do you make one giant one for each year?  Do you just make them for special trips and occasions?  

Shutterfly wants you to save more - and get more!  

Shutterfly 376x150

This promo code expires TUESDAY, Aug. 25th, so be sure to catch this deal!  Save 30% off orders under $50, 40% off orders over $50 and 50% off orders over $100!  

Get those fun summer vacation pics off the computer and into your family's hands.  Went to a wedding this summer and took tons of pictures?  What an amazing gift to give the new bride and groom!  Grandparents far away (and not on Facebook) would love to see what your kids were up to all summer.  But be quick - the deal ends Tuesday!  

Friday, August 21, 2015

Dear New Preschool Moms - I Speak The Language

If you've got a 1 or a 2 going off to preschool, don't you worry.

I'm a preschool teacher, and I'll be there.

I know that you may be sending your little pumpkin off for the first time.  You don't know me.  You're torn.  You are so freaking excited at the prospect of those 6-10 hours per week with one less child.  You can do crazy and exotic things like make it through the entire grocery store in less than an hour.

But you are concerned for your baby.  Nobody knows that kid better than you.  Your child may not speak a lot yet.  They may be shy or fearful in new situations.  What if they need something and they can't let their teacher know?!?!?!

Mama, we'll know.  Kids have their own language, their own methods of communication.  I see the expressions on their faces.  Their reactions.  Those little grins and shy steps toward something they want.

The potty dances.  The look that hits when they realize they HAVE TO GO.

I learn what their favorite snack is.  The toys they love.  The song they want me to sing over and over, even if they're not quite capable of joining in yet.

Your child is, without a doubt, a unique masterpiece.

There's a magic, though, when you get a group of kids together.  They open up.  They share.  And they communicate in the most common of ways.

Sure, there will always be something I don't catch.  But it won't be anything traumatic or defining.

Don't you worry, Mama.  Once those little squishies enter our room, we are all speaking a common language that overcomes the Tower of Babel - LOVE.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Runners Who Have My Respect (Psst - It's Not the Fastest or the Fittest)

This week's Tuesdays On The Run topic is "Runners I Admire".  

I almost blew off this topic because individual names weren't springing to mind immediately.  And what if I offend someone or hurt their feelings because I named someone else instead of them?  I don't need that business.

I realized, though, that there are runners I admire as a group.

Runners Who Are Happy For Others

The people who are encouraging.  The people who throw kudos or encouragement your way and don't tag any passive-aggressive remarks to the end of them.

When I started out, you wanna know who my two biggest encouragers were?  Two high school friends who had both competed in Iron Man competitions.  I look back and laugh - I distinctly remember posting how excited I was that I ran for FIVE MINUTES STRAIGHT without stopping!!!!!  Those two girls were the first to comment about how excited they were for me and that I was doing great.  I really appreciate that kind of sincerity coming from women who were SO far beyond me.

Likewise, I appreciate the runners who may be slower than me but are still happy for me.  They are secure enough in themselves to not rain on my PR parade with comments designed to make me feel bad about.... doing my best?

The speedy runners who do not, as my friend Shannon says, "humble brag".  You know - "Oh, my run today was HORRIBLE.  I couldn't get any faster than a 9 minute mile. I was like a turtle."  Okay, everyone has days where they feel bad because they are off track.  But your "slow" pace may be the pace that someone else is aspiring to reach.  You can express regret for a sub-par performance without making someone else feel like their efforts are crap.

The runners who stick around for the back of the pack and cheer them in are God's special people.  I'm almost ashamed to admit that last January was the first time I had ever done this.  My friends Bonnie, Shannon, Wendy and I stationed ourselves near the end of the WDW Half Marathon to cheer for Kristen and Suzanne.  After they passed, we were having so much fun we stuck around to the end.  It was amazing to see the runners that were trying their absolute hardest just to finish - and to see their faces when they came around the corner to people cheering for them, knowing that they were past the sweeping point and that they were going to DO THIS.

These are the runners I admire.  The ones who know that offering encouragement and support to others takes absolutely nothing away from themselves.  It makes our sport a good sport, a thriving sport.

Be sure to check out the hosts of Tuesdays on the Run:  Patty, April and Erika!  Hit them up to see other great posts or to link up your own!

Monday, August 17, 2015

A Birthday Quest - Urban Adventure Quest, Atlanta

So, I had the opportunity to take my family to do a pretty cool thing, comped.  I wrote a post about the Urban Adventure Quest.  It's a scavenger hunt you complete using your smart phone and the city of your choice - they have 40 from which to choose.  We finally completed our own quest a couple of weeks ago and I wanted to share our experience with you - highs and lows.

How much?  It's $49 for a 2-5 person team.  Military personnel get a 25% discount.  
How long?  Expect to take 2-3 hours not including stops for food or sightseeing.

My middle son was turning 12 and wanted to do something unique. We took the five of us to downtown Atlanta via MARTA (our rapid transit), which was about $25 round trip for our family.  If we had parked in a lot downtown, it would have been maybe about $10 less.  Thing 2 has a MARTA fetish, so we humored him.  

Feeling majestic at the Peachtree Center Station

Our starting point was Centennial Olympic Park.  As we approached, we saw a line of people snaking around the outside of the park.  Guess what?  Huge gospel music festival going on.  Oops.

So, my first tip would be to see if there is anything going on in the city in which you are questing.  

We pulled up the quest on our phone and got started.  Our first few questions had us looking for various pieces of information within Centennial Park.  Once the information was found, we entered it into the web site to receive the next question.

Looking for a brick in Centennial Olympic Park
One snafu - a couple of the things we needed to find were blocked off because of the special event in the park.  In that case, you can elect to skip the questions and go on to the next.  

It would be a good idea to take a map of the city with you.  The site gives you some direction, but it would have been much harder if the city were unfamiliar to me.  

Up next?  World of Coke.  This question stumped us.  I don't want to spoil anything for y'all, but suffice it to say that what we came up with in our heads to look for was very different from what the landmark actually looked like.  At this point, this is when I realized that this might not be a fun thing for younger children.  Our 7 year old is actually more easy-going than our 13 year old, but it was hot and he started to check out when he just couldn't wrap his head around this clue.  

Our next stop was the Georgia Aquarium.  We pulled out some snacks and did some research.  Full disclosure - a couple of the questions had us going back to Centennial Park and the area that was blocked off.  Our kids balked at walking back over there anyway, so we called upon our friend Google to try to answer the question.  

Everyone was in dire need of some lunch, so we ducked into the Chick-fil-A attached to the new College Football Hall of Fame.  

Here's the part where we cheated like Lance Armstrong.  The majority of the next questions required us to head over to Oakland Cemetery.  I LOVE me some Oakland and so do the kids - it's gorgeous.  It's one of the last well-maintained Victorian park cemeteries and it's full of beautiful architectural artwork.

It would require, however, another round trip on MARTA for all of us since it was not within reasonable walking distance from Centennial Park.  People balked at this.  Another 25 dollars and getting to and from stations and back....  It was just hot enough and people were just tired enough to where a trip to Oakland didn't happen.

We valiantly tried our best to harness the power of the internet from our table at Chick-fil-a to answer the questions about Oakland.  We got some, we tanked on some.  We did the best we could.

Our final question took us to a downtown hotel the likes of which my children never frequent, so they were pretty perked up at that.  

I know this review may not sound like it, but I really, really, REALLY like this quest.  Just not with my children.  I think it's a good thing for families, sure, but the kids need to be a little older.  The children need to understand that you don't go IN the attractions - the clues you are looking for can be found outside in the areas in front of the attractions.

I think it would be a really fun thing for a group of friends or coworkers to do.  That way, the additional fee of MARTA wouldn't be such a big deal since it would be only $5 per person.  You could add in extra excitement by getting 2 teams together and competing to see who finishes first!

Let's hear from you - is this something you think would be fun?  Who would you recruit for your team?  

Friday, August 14, 2015

Hidden Mountain Resort in Sevierville, TN - Review & Giveaway!

My family and I had the pleasure of staying in a cabin at Hidden Mountain Resort in Sevierville, TN last month.  You can read about our entire trip as part of my Three Hour Tour Series - fun places for the family within a 3-4 hour drive from Atlanta!

The nice folks at Hidden Mountain Resort want YOU to experience how great they are!  They are graciously partnering with me in giving away a two night stay in a two bedroom cabin! Nestled in the Smoky Mountains, there is plenty for your family to do in Sevierville as well as in nearby Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge!

Photo Courtesy of Hidden Mountain Resort

Our cabin was a two bedroom and fit the five of us comfortably - there were 2 king size beds and a fold out sofa in the living room.  My 2 older kids traded off sleeping on the fold out.

The cabin was bright and had everything we could have wanted - modern tech but a cozy feel.

The kitchen provided everything - full size appliances and a dishwasher plus a complete set of dishes, glasses and plenty of utensils.  

Photo Courtesy of Hidden Mountain Resort
We spent plenty of time at the pool in the evenings!  It's a great place to wind down and let the kids wear them selves out.  While the boys splashed around, the hubs and I enjoyed one of the several cushy couches that are scattered around the pool deck!  After that?  The boys came back and wanted to hit the hot tub that was on the huge back deck of our cabin!

Here's the view from an overlook near the pool - welcome to the Smoky Mountains!  

Our stay in Sevierville was made so much better by our cabin home away from home.  Having a cabin guaranteed that we were not all on top of each other and it gave us the convenience of not having to eat out for every meal.  If you do want to avoid the kitchen on vacation, Hidden Mountain Resort is only minutes from all kinds of restaurants and attractions while still being tucked away in a quiet mountain setting!

Eager to see for yourself?

Enter to win a two night stay in a two bedroom cabin!  Pesky details - US residents only; visit cannot be in July, October, holidays or holiday weekends.  You can work with that, right?  

Even if you don't get picked as the winner, be sure to check out Hidden Mountain Resort - Sevierville is gorgeous in the fall!  

Good luck! 
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Monday, August 10, 2015

First Time in Preschool? Take It From The Teacher - What You Need To Know For A Great Start

I'm about to start my 5th year of teaching preschool.  I'm not any kind of educational expert, just someone in the trenches with 1's and 2's - the group most likely to be having their first school experience.

I've sent three of my own 2's off and each child has a very different temperament.  I can see both sides and I want to let you know things that your child's teacher may or may not be able to say to you in an official capacity.

I know there are Dads, grandparents, nannies and all manner of caregivers.  For my purposes here, I will routinely use the word "Mommy" to refer to the responsible party.  Don't get all offended, y'all.

First Things First: Tips For Starting The Day Right

They may cry.  And they'll be fine.
For real.  A lot of it is a show for you.  Please.  PLEASE.  Do not drag out the goodbyes.  Kids will clue in on your reluctance to separate and think, "Hmmm.... Mom is nervous and upset.  That must mean this is bad.  So, HEY, I need to be nervous and upset."  Don't get out of the car in the carpool line.  If you walk your child in, don't linger in the classroom.  Let the teacher peel them off if you need to.  Hug, Kiss, I love you, I'll see you later!  Then GO.

I promise you - the majority of them will stop crying within MINUTES.  The rest?  It may take a little longer, but they'll get it.  In 4 years, I have never had a child who remained so inconsolable that they had to be removed from school.

It's hard to watch, but you are teaching your child that they can be with someone else and be just fine.  You are fostering in them a self-confidence that will serve them well in the future.

Avoid Toys, Loveys, Pacifiers and the like.
I am begging you.  Kids bring these things in.  At some point, they will set them down.  Another child will pick them up, or in the chaos of clean up the items will get mixed in with the classroom toys.  If it's a pacifier, another child will pick it up and put it in their mouth.  When it's time to go and that item can't be found, it's a royal pain in the ass.

We Do Not Employ The Fashion Police

Practicality rules here.
Lose the sandals.  They are precious, but your child will be stopping every five minutes on the playground to ask a teacher to get mulch out of their shoe and then put the shoe back on.  Do you really think it's fair that the teacher isn't watching the other kids because she's constantly dealing with your child's inappropriate footwear?  You know what else sucks?  Ant hills.  They happen overnight and if your child finds one before we do, that's big trouble.
Size Matters.  If your child's shoes are too big, they are a hazard - it's as simple as that.  I know you want to give them some room to grow, but your teacher has to keep kids safe and she can't do that if they are face planting due to their big shoes.  Likewise to those cute boots that will NOT stay on the child's feet.
Say Yes To The Mess.
I teach 2's.  They love to get messy.  I love to let them.  Be happy that I am willing to do all the things you don't want to. Paint, water play, squishy slime, tables covered in shaving cream - all are common in my class.  Your child loves it and I'm willing to deal with the mess.  Please dress them in something that can get messy without you giving me the stink eye.
We Hate Layers
And onesies.  And tights. And belts.  If we are changing your child's diaper or supporting you in your potty-training efforts, please dress them in simple clothes that will not make us feel like we are breaking into Fort Knox.  If the child is potty-training you should make it as easy as possible for the child to pull their own clothes up and down.  We've got lots of kids to get through diaper changes or bathroom breaks - help the sisters out and make this as easy as possible.
If You Liked It You Should Have Put A Label On It
Write your child's name in their jackets, hats and whatever outerwear you send in.  There are tons of great labels you can order in bulk.  When the kids come in from the playground, many of them take the jackets off and drop them on the floor before I can stop them.  I teach the little guys - they can't always tell me which one is theirs.  HELP ME.  Lunch bunch is a mix of kids from different classes.  I know the children, but I don't always know the lunchboxes of a child from another class.  If you want your things back, your kid's name needs to be on there.

And In The End...

You Don't Have To Go Home But You Can't Stay Here
Please be on time.  Lord, have mercy, please be on time.  Aside from the obvious fact that the teacher would like to go home, your child is going to watch every single other child be picked up before them.  Every once in a while is totes acceptable.  I've been there and I get it.  If you have a situation, call us so we can tell your little pumpkin that Mommy called and she's coming.  And someone has got to be last in line.  But if there is consistently a gap between when everyone else has been picked up and when you come blasting in the parking lot on two wheels, your kid is going to get upset. It breaks my heart.  Don't do that to us.

Heeere's Mommy!
If you pick up your child at the classroom and there is a window in your child's class door, please keep your face out of it before dismissal.  I know that you believe you have skills like the Ninja and you can peek without anyone seeing you.  That is a lie.  Even if your kid is happy go lucky and will not be upset by seeing you, there are other kids who are on the edge from this new experience.  The face of a mommy in the door - anyone's mommy - can be the event that causes all hell to break loose.

I know - this is a scary, exciting thing, for both you and your child.  Trust your child's teacher! Feel free to express your concerns, but trust our expertise and love for these kids.  Any teacher worth her salt knows that it is a great privilege to be chosen as the first person you will be leaving your child with on a regular basis.  We understand the importance of our job and we don't take it lightly.  Here's hoping that you, your child and your teacher(s) will have a happy, successful year!

Do you have any other advice, experienced teachers or moms?  First timers - any questions?