Monday, August 29, 2016

Cheers to Seven Years

Seven years ago today we became husband and wife. It somehow both feels like it was yesterday, and also a lifetime ago. 

Seven years ago today...
I still had a California Drivers License. Max and I had just moved into a rental house in Scottsdale where Max had landed his first post-Ph.D. job. I had known my husband for less than two years - this is the funniest part because I really can't imagine life without him now. 

Seven years ago today, we had no idea we'd one day be living in a sixty-year-old house in Alabama. That we would have a son who is the light of our lives. That Max would be driving a salvaged Porsche Carrera that he rebuilt entirely himself. That the blog I recently started would still be going seven years later

But we did know we wanted to be together forever and ever. That we wanted to face life's joys and challenges as a team. I picked this handsome genius of a groom, and I'd pick him a million times over. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Botanical Garden Monday

Today's weather was finally a change from the hot and steamy we've been experiencing lately. We woke up to temps in the low seventies, so Parker and I jumped at the chance and spent the morning at the Huntsville Botanical Garden. We have a family season pass, but really it gets the most use in the spring and the fall. Today's weather, however, has me jonesing for chilly fall mornings and power walks along the property...

As a last-minute thought, I grabbed our SLR (the Canon 5D Mark II, the same make and model Duchess Kate shoots with as well!) fitted with the awesome lens Max gifted me for my birthday last year. 

I had fun snapping the butterflies in the butterfly house...

While Parker's favorites include the Children's Garden...

The pond...

And the many fountains...

Mornings with my little man are the best. 

We ended our outing with some soccer...

And said good-bye to the garden's model train.

We'll be seeing more of you come fall, Botanical Garden!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Friday Five - Solo Travel Edition

The first week of August, I found myself on a plane out to California to be with my sweet Mama, who was scheduled for heart surgery at Stanford. I snagged a Pinkberry on my layover, extra happy sprinkles... because happy sprinkles make everything better.

I wore my tried and true summer airplane combo for the flights: crochet Toms and black Zella live-in leggings

The shoes are super comfortable and up to the task of high-tailing it through a crowded airport. At the same time, they're breathable for when it's warm, yet keep my feet covered if the airplane gets too chilly. Perfection. Paired with the leggings (and add a tank and a cardigan) it's the perfect marriage. (On a side note, I've owned the shoes for over three years and they still look as good as new, though my other types of Toms have not held up nearly as well.)

I tested a new travel bag for my trip - and I'm in love. It's actually a backpack, so it lets me be hands free (or, you know, hands holding coffee and croissant since I was traveling solo). I somehow scored it during the #nsale despite the fact that it kept selling out... as of last week it was sold out again, but was just restocked! Even at full price, it's such a steal. It's faux leather but you'd never know it. It's well made, and was perfect for flying - it even fit my laptop!
My aunt loved it so much when she saw it that she wanted one of her own. It wasn't available when we looked for her, but we did find this one, very similar and currently on sale!

And what to stow in the backpack? My new favorite find - Evian mist!
These 1.7 oz. sizes are under the 3 oz. TSA limit, so they are airplane friendly. A nice face spray goes a long way on hour seven of an eleven hour travel day. 

Finally, Max sent me with his external battery pack. When my phone battery was low during my second flight, it was so nice to be able to charge it right at my seat. I realize some seats do have outlets underneath, and airports have charging stations as well, but it's so comforting to have the battery pack for back-up (especially on long travel days flying cross-country). 

And while Max's was functional, the Kate Spade one above is way cuter. 

All these items actually came in super handy for the week spent at the hospital, as well. As for my sweet Mama, her heart surgery (mitral valve repair) was a success! It was a big deal surgery, and she was a rockstar patient - even being discharged ahead of schedule! We're so thankful for the prayers, happy thoughts and positive vibes.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Harry Potter and The Cursed Child - A Book Review

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - I've been waiting months and months for this book. The HP fans were told that Book Seven (released in July 2007) was the last book in the series, and everyone sadly accepted this... so the idea of another HP book was just magical. We couldn't be picky when this new "book" was explained.

 HP and the Cursed Child is actually a play? No problem. It's in script format? Alrighty. It was only partially written by J.K. Rowling? Bring it on. 

Expectations were set accordingly low. I knew this book wouldn't compare to the others - and it didn't. It was more like one of those tiny chocolate truffles that comes with the bill at the end of a meal - unexpected, but at sweet treat nonetheless. (On a side note, is there a name for those little bites? They're like the opposite of an amuse bouche.)

Okay, actually, I was a bit hung up on the fact that the book was in script format... and I was considering boycotting. And then the book actually came out. And all I wanted to do was get my hands on it. I told myself I could wait until my hold came up at the library... that lasted all of one day, and then Harry Potter and the Cursed Child found its way into my red cart at Target.

I ended up finishing the book in just a couple days - which is pretty unheard of with a three-year-old. I was just enjoying it that much. It was all about the opportunity to be back in "the wizarding world" and to continue the life events of the characters I loved and read about for so many years - and to see where they were nineteen years later!

The book largely centered on the sons of Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy, who were just kids in the HP series. There's a fair bit of guessing who's motives are pure throughout the book, but it keeps its cast of charters pretty small as it's an actual play, being performed in London right now. 

The script format was not my favorite. I commented to husby that it made the reading a bit choppy, but I did get used to it. The plot was clever, and I enjoyed getting a glimpse into the life of grown-up Harry Potter and family, though the original cast of characters, now grown-ups, were kept at arm's length the whole book. This kind of served to remind the reader that the book was not in fact part of the series, but something totally different. 

And now, I really want to see the play. You know, which is only showing in the West End of London. Hint, hint husby ;) Just for funsies, this picture is of me and husby in London's West End in 2010:

We had just seen Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre- though trips like that were much easier P.P. (pre-Parker), ha!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Parker Starts Preschool!

Yep, today was the day! My sweet baby boy started preschool!

As I wrote a couple weeks ago, it was time. He's three-and-a-half, and had never been to any sort of activity or program without me present. Our choice to start him in preschool was more to expose him to the social benefits, rather than the academic component which he seems to pick up all on his own, being the curious little guy that he his. However, preschool would be his first introduction to the idea of an academic setting, and I so wanted the introduction to be a positive one. Max and I both highly value education, and we've both even spent time on the teaching side (Max holding a position as a lecturer at Stanford and me in my almost ten years as an elementary classroom teacher). What we hope, of course, is that Parker starts a lifelong love of school this year (he's already in love with learning, sweet guy). 

After all our talking and prepping, little man was pumped about the idea of school. The night before when putting him down to bed, he requested that I say: “Sweet dreams. See you in the morning. See you when it’s your school day.” Then he did a happy laugh, as in I'm so excited to go to school.

What are you excited about?
I’m excited about the food section with the microwave (the role-play section of the classroom).

What's your favorite thing to learn about?

What are you good at?
I’m good at bowling.

What's your favorite book?
Little Blue Truck Halloween (also his newest... and yes, I have no shame, we are reading fall books in August). 

Where do you want to go to college? 

What do you want to be when you grow up? 
A dentist (his answer of the past year)... no, a doctor (this was new). 

Up until this point, we have been in almost complete control of what Parker was exposed to... ideas, words, emotions... so the fact that we won't be at preschool to edit the content of what he's presented with, it's scary. And it's just three hours, three days a week. Baby steps. 

Parker woke up happy and excited this morning, and my heart was so happy for him. His sweet school had a first-day photo-op set up outside. Darling, right? We entered and Parker's teacher was waiting for us in the lobby where we had been instructed to do our quick and happy good-byes. He chatted while he put away his lunch box, and informed his teacher that his Mama would be back to pick him up at eleven thirty. Then it was good-bye time, and as soon as we embraced, he held on and started to cry. Oh, my heart! I stuck to my quick and happy good-bye as his teacher took him by the hand and led him into the classroom, promising me that he'd be fine. 

As for this Mama, no tears on my side! I took advantage of the free morning and attended a Pure Barre class, followed by a smoothie bowl and solo grocery shopping... but I was still back in the parking lot twenty minutes early, so excited to hear about Little Man's day. 

Sweet Guy ran up to me when it was time and gave me the biggest hug ever. His teacher said he was so smart, and was a star at calendar and did really well with numbers. She also said he needed some prompting to join the group each time they changed activities (hoping this gets easier as time goes on and he gets more practice). 

We celebrated at Bridge Street with popsicles and he told me all about his day. His favorites included the sandbox, playing with marbles, the Good Morning song, Morning Meeting, and the bell that the teachers used for transitions. He also informed me that the boy next to him at lunch had marshmallows in his lunchbox - as in: excuse me, where were my marshmallows? Pretty funny. Overall, a success! Let's do it all over again tomorrow :)

The Adventure Starts Here

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Summer Corn & Chicken Chili

I know crockpots are perfect for cooking warm and hearty winter meals like stews... but, crockpots make even more sense in the summer. No one wants to turn on the oven or stove on a 100 degree day, am I right? This meal is a fantastic summer-type chili that's a breeze to prep, and it's delicious to boot. The chicken ends up all shredded and wonderful from the slowcooker,  and it's light but filling at the same time. It's also very easily doubled for a crowd (perfect for when you have a bunch of guests to feed but don't want to be chained to the kitchen).

Summer Corn Slowcooker Chili
Active Time: 10 minutes
Total: 5-6 hours on high or 8-9 on low

1 jar (16 oz.) salsa verde (I always, always use the Herdez brand)
2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast (I usually cut them in fourths or use tenders)
1 can (15 oz.) white beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 Tbs. minced garlic
2 1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
2-4 ears of fresh corn, cut off the cob
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
lime wedges
sour cream

Mix salsa, chicken, beans, onion, garlic, cumin and salt an a large crockpot. Cover and cook on high 5-6 hours or low 8-9 hours. A half hour to one hour before serving, add corn to pot. When ready to serve, shred chicken with a fork and stir in cilantro. Plate with sour cream and lime. Serve over rice or baked potato, or with cornbread. Enjoy!

*I like to wait until the end of cooking to put the fresh corn in so it stays a bit crisp, but you can really add it anytime. Also, in non-summer months (or to save a step), frozen corn could easily be swapped in. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

5 Way to Prepare a Sensitive Child for Preschool

Some kids are adventurous little souls, and have no issues bounding from place to place and activity to activity. They can begin a new life event like pre-school and never give it a second thought. Our sweet Parker Campbell is not one of these children. He's a classic first-born. He can be extremely cautious, very timid and quite sensitive (though he is also super curious, observant, and intelligent like his Ph.D. Daddy).

Parker will be starting preschool this month. At almost three-and-a-half years-old, it's time. This will be his first time in any sort of activity or program without me present. He needs it, I need it, yet I know it's pretty much the biggest change we'll be introducing to his life yet (including the cross-country move when he was one and-a-half). Because of his hesitancy to try new things, I knew we would have to step up our game in preparing him for preschool. 

Here are my top five tips for prepping an anxious little one for school...

Front Load
Front Loading is just teacher talk for discussing something ahead of time. This is a technique we use every day with Parker, for anything from going out to dinner to attending the symphony. When we took him to Cirque du Soleil last week, we discussed how we'd be sitting quietly in the audience, how the auditorium would be dark, how the performers would be wearing colorful costumes - we tried to introduce as many elements of the unknown situation beforehand so he would know what to expect and how to behave. For preschool, we have honestly been front loading since spring. Parker knows he'll be starting preschool in the fall, he knows that he's going there to learn, that he'll be a student and he'll have teachers, and so much more.

Read About It
Books are a phenomenal way to continue the conversation about a new topic, and to visually introduce new concepts via illustrations. I'm a big believer in positive thinking and visualization. Unfortunately, many of the back-to-school books I came across did not share this same sentiment. Most of them feature a child who is shy/nervous/scared, and while the child learns to like school by the end of the story, these weren't emotions I wanted to introduce to my impressionable and already anxious little man. I didn't want to bring up the idea of of being sad, missing mom, or being nervous - I wanted to only convey the happy, positive motions of going through a school day. Luckily, I did find a few books that fit the bill. We've been reading these two on repeat - they describe successful, fun days at school - exactly what I want Parker to think about!

Act it Out
Role play is a great way for children to bring up questions or concerns they might have, and to also prepare them for what's to come. I started with pretending to be one of Parker's teachers, but he quickly caught on and began being "teacher" to me and Max, bringing over the World Map, U.S. Map, Periodic Table, and even "teaching" us our colors in Spanish. Preschool will be Parker's first time eating lunch out without us, so we also practiced using his new lunchbox at home. I packed it just like I'll do for school days, and we pretended that he was in his school lunchroom. I'm confident now that lunch on the first day will go more smoothly because we've done a run-through. Having his new items out, trying on his backpack and wearing it around, and filling up his lunchbox over and over allowed him to get comfortable with these new items as well.

Lay Out the First Outfit (way, way in advance)
I don't know about your child, my my three-year-old can get totally fixated on a random outfit of his choice (usually mismatched) and insist he wear it. To avoid this, I've already pointed out his first-day outfit, and I'll reference it every so often. We've done this with other events as well where I know I want him to wear something specific - it just helps to set expectations. (I do feel that allowing kids to make their own decisions fosters independence and autonomy, so I do incorporate other choices throughout the day. He of course selected his own backpack and lunchbox, opting for the construction pattern. For clothing, I usually let him select between a couple different options of my choosing, and I'll even let him wear his crazy totally self-selected outfits from time to time when I'm not about to photograph his every move.)

Plan to Commemorate the First Day
Speaking of photographing every move... plan a way to mark and remember the first day! Pictures are the obvious choice, and I'm a big fan of having the child hold a sign that indicates the school grade. I'll be making a chalkboard sign, but one of these printouts would work perfectly as well...

Commemorating the day sends the message to your little one that it's the beginning of something new and important (and of course gives you the "before" picture to compare on the last day of school).

That's all from here! And while I have almost ten years experience on the teacher side of things, I'm brand new at having a student of my own and have zero experience in this area. So, if you have any great Back-to-School traditions or ideas, please share!

The Adventure Starts Here

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