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Christie

Day Trips Kids Uniquely Atlanta

Free family fun at the High Museum of Art

September 19, 2017
Free Admission Day at High Museum of Art

I love Atlanta. You may have been able to tell, by my blog’s title. Some days, I love Atlanta more than others. The day Lucie and I went down to the “Second Sunday” at the High Museum was one of those days.

It was the day before hurricane Irma swept into town. Along with the rest of the city (maybe state, even), I was anxious. We needed to get out and have some fun, before it was time to hunker down for the storm.

I’d been dying to see the Andy Warhol print collection at the High, but wasn’t sure if I could justify the expense given my 6-year-old’s short attention span. Then I realized that once a month, every second Sunday, the museum offers free general admission along with free family activities. Lucie and I hopped on Marta to check it out.

What a fantastic experience! As soon as we crossed the bridge from Arts Center station (which is extremely convenient to Woodruff Arts Center), Jazz music greeted us. Woodruff’s lawn was set up with not only a band, but drink stations and food vendors (a future adult day date may be in order.)

The first thing Lucie wanted to do was take a spin on the “Merry Go Zoo,” a really cool installment just outside the High’s entrance. Art that you can touch! While many of the kids drew with sidewalk chalk or blew bubbles (all provided by the museum), we were drawn to an area where volunteers were handing out easels and oil pastels to the budding artists.

high museum of art outside installment

Their “assignment” was to draw the majestic oak tree on the lawn — and Lucie took it very seriously. It was so cool to watch this whole group of people, from all walks of life, gathering on the lawn and drawing interpreting this tree in different ways.

free family arts and crafts at woodruff arts center

When I finally dragged Lucie into the museum, the exhibits did not disappoint. It was crowded, but it took no time to get through the admissions line — the nice people at the High even gave us some free Warhol coasters! Warhol was incredible — particularly the way they juxtaposed his darker pieces (like “Electric Chair“) with more iconic work, like the Marilyns.

My favorite, though, was the folk and self-taught art exhibit. Lucie and I were both fascinated by Howard Finster. There was so much to take in, I think I’ll go another day kid-free.

howard finster sculpture high museum

I’d recommend the High’s Second Sundays to any family looking for an affordable adventure, with a little education. NOTE: while the Warhol exhibition has since ended, there’s no shortage of inspiring artwork and sights to check out at the High Museum.

Kids School

What I wish I’d known before my kid started Kindergarten

December 16, 2016
9 things to know before your child starts kindergarten

I can’t believe we are already halfway through Lucie’s kindergarten year. I wasn’t one of those moms who cried on the first day of Kindergarten. I felt more proud than sad as my independent (tiny) newly-minted Kindergartener proudly marched through the doors with her three-sizes-too-big backpack.

first day of kindergarten

She was actually excited to start Kindergarten, if you can believe it…

We did public Pre-K at the same school the year before, so I thought we already knew the ropes. Boy, was I wrong. Kindergarten isn’t the same ballgame. It isn’t the Kindergarten that most of us remember, with show & tell, plenty of playtime, and mid-day naps.

Nope. The pressure is already on for these children, barely out of their toddler years, to perform. There are more expectations on the part of the parents. And, with all of this, plenty of mom guilt.

If your school system is anything like ours, I offer you the following tips for when your kid starts Kindergarten.

  1. There will be standardized tests. This was an absolute shocker to me, as our first standardized test occurred mere weeks into school (what the heck is a Kindergartener supposed to know after 2 weeks of school?) At our school, the kids took the test on computers…using a mouse (what 5-year-old even knows what a mouse is anymore?) When I picked up my daughter the day she took the test, I could tell it had been a stressful day for her. At age 4, she could already feel the pressure.Next time, I’ll do a better job preparing her and emphasizing that the test is nothing to worry about. But can we all agree that standardized testing in Kindergarten is ridiculous?
  2. Homework begins. One of the many reasons I’m so glad I made the jump from full-time work to part-time, freelance work is that she now has homework. And at this age, they need a lot of help from their parents to complete it (obviously, since they can’t yet read the assignments.After a long day at school, it can be really difficult to get a rowdy 5-year-old to sit down and do even more work. I have found that if you review their school work with them (which is usually sent home in packets), give them lots of praise, and generally show that you’re paying attention to what they are doing and learning, they are more excited to sit down during homework time.
  3. Projects. A few weeks ago, my daughter came home with a “research project” assignment about bats. The projects have come every couple of weeks after that, while they are not difficult, it’s all hand-holding at this age.My philosophy is to let Lucie do as much of it herself as possible, and to come up with her own ideas. You can definitely tell when a crafty parent gets involved and takes over their kid’s project (thanks a lot, show-offs…). It’s easy to fall into the comparison trap when all their work is hanging on the classroom wall, but I just remind myself how much my daughter’s own unique personality shines through in her own crude (but cute) work and I feel we’re taking the right approach.
  4. Sight words. When your kid starts learning how to read, you realize just how jacked up and confusing the English language is to learn. The rules have so many exceptions. Some words can be sounded out, and some can’t. Enter sight words — these are the ones the kids are supposed to memorize (and there’s a long, long list of ‘em.) My child is seriously struggling with these.Some people use flash cards or apps. Her teacher said that repetition helps, along with using different mediums to keep it interesting (e.g, forming the sight words with Play-Doh). This hasn’t worked out so well for us. The only thing that seems to help the sight words “stick” for her are reading books that focus on a sight word in each story, repeating it several times (I recommend Bob’s Books.)
  5. There will be mean girls. Yep, this is already a thing. The other day, Lucie came home crying because one of her friends “told her secret to everyone” (I wasn’t able to extract what that secret was, BTW.) I’m still struggling with how to deal with this, as I know it will only get worse as the years go on. But to try to ensure that my kid doesn’t become one of the mean girls, we talk a lot about inclusivity in our casual on-the-way-home talks.
  6. You’ll be more privy to school district politics. Sometimes, it will make you angry, or make you feel helpless. For example, in our district, there is severe overcrowding, and it is a constant, contentious issue. To be honest, I’d never gotten involved in local politics whatsoever before Lucie started Kindergarten. Now, I email the school board on a pretty regular basis.
  7. Your calendar will fill up with birthday parties. Birthday parties are a great way to get some of your kid’s energy out on weekends and get to mingle with the other parents. It can also be a lot to juggle when you’ve already got a busy calendar. My spouse and I try to take turns, and so we don’t go broke on the gift buying, I stock up on gifts from 5 Below or look for deals on the Target Cartwheel app.
  8. Age differences can have big implications. With a birthday in late August, Lucie is one of the youngest in her class. In hindsight, I would have waited to put her in Pre-K, or kept her in Pre-K for another year. Kids in the class were turning 6 around the same time she was turning 5, and that year makes a big difference developmentally. It’s affected her confidence, and it could affect her ability to get into things like the gifted program, or, in our district, the all-important magnet program.But most importantly…
  9. You will be so proud of your kid. There’s absolutely nothing cooler than seeing your child’s creativity flourish. At this age, they can finally express themselves through art and writing. I’m pretty sure my kid’s head is full of rainbows and unicorns (which I’m going to take as a win), as most of her drawings contain lots of rainbows and hearts. But then there was the day she brought home a coloring page of a (male) “police officer,” where she gave it long hair and a pink uniform and declared it a female police officer.female police officer kids drawing

    And the day she brought home a drawing of a lion with the words “LIN” written underneath it was absolutely fascinating. This age (and grade) has its challenges, but I’m also convinced it’s one of the best.

    What is the one thing you wish you would have known when your child started Kindergarten?

 

 

Day Trips Kids Outdoors

We Heart: Serenbe – Things to Do on a Day Trip to Serenbe

June 26, 2016
things to do at serebe

If you’ve never been there, you might know Serenbe as the place where your friends had their engagement photos taken, or the place where all the rich tree-huggers live. Perhaps you met a friend there years ago for a nice dinner. Or, maybe you’ve never heard of it at all.

Located about an hour south of Atlanta, Serenbe is a little hard to describe. It’s a neighborhood. It’s a farm. It’s a vacation destination of sorts, with an inn and lots of activities. There are restaurants and shops to explore.

The first time I stopped at Serenbe, it felt eerily quiet and perfect — almost like that town Spectre from the movie Big Fish. While some have called Serenbe pretentious and creepy, I think that’s because it’s such a change of pace. You can park your car for free, without worrying about getting towed or booted for crying out loud. It’s the only place I’d want to move, that’s OTP.

You could easily drop a bunch of money on dinner, with wine and even a bed & breakfast stay (which is probably where you’ll find us on our anniversary in a couple of months.) But Serenbe is also an affordable day-trip for Atlanta families! There’s something about it that makes you feel so far away from the city, even though you’re really not.

Wandering around Serenbe in itself, with its many walking trails, shops, restaurants, open houses, and things to see, is enough to fill a day. But, here are some more of our favorite things to do.

Things to do at Serenbe

Petting zoo (free)

Stop by the visitor’s center (near the Farmhouse restaurant) for a free bucket of animal feed, and take a stroll over to the farm. You’ll find friendly goats, pigs, chickens, sheep, bunnies, donkeys, llamas that are eager to say “hello.” The animals are mostly enclosed (some inside a low-voltage electric fence), but you can easily pet and feed them.

petting zoo at serenbe

Ken’s new friends at the Serenbe petting zoo.

In-ground trampoline and rope swings (free)

Just outside the Farmhouse restaurant, there’s a grassy knoll with several free activities for passers-by. Our daughter loves to bounce on the trampoline. There are some quaint, wooden rope swings to lounge on, and a little spot to shoot some hoops.

Serenbe Playhouse ($$)

We just saw our first Serenbe Playhouse performance — Charlotte’s Web. The small acting troupe puts on several performances per year, and while there is a permanent playhouse venue at Serenbe, they actually move the location around based on what the play is. For Charlotte’s Web, they actually had the performance inside the petting zoo/farm, so the backdrop was the animals and animal noises. How cool is that?

serenbe playhouse charlottes web

Meeting the stars of “Charlotte’s Web” at Serenbe

We loved Charlotte’s Web and found it to be the perfect venue for Lucie’s first play. It was interactive, informal, and they had special spots set out in front so the children could be closer to the action. They also sell refreshments and souvenirs at these. Highly recommended!

Open Houses/Dreaming (free)

It’s not just us who likes to pretend to be rich and go to open houses that are way too expensive for us…right? There are always open houses and model homes to walk through, for daydreaming and inspiration. You can search Serenbe properties and open houses here.

Farmers & Artisans Market (free)

Saturday mornings from May-October, local farmers, artists and other vendors gather at Serenbe. They often feature chef demos and other activities. They also offer farm tours for $8 per person.

As the community continues to grow, I’m sure there will be more family activities to explore. We love visiting Serenbe, and say it’s definitely worth a day trip — especially for in-town folks looking for an inexpensive escape.

What are your favorite day trips from Atlanta?

Summertime

2016: My Summer of Love

May 26, 2016

Last day of work last day of pre-k

 

I’ve heard that once you write down a goal, you’re much more likely to follow through. The closest thing I keep to my own journal (besides this blog) is the one I have been writing in for my daughter, Lucie, since before she was born.

So, a month ago, I opened up her journal and I wrote this.

I can’t work full-time anymore. Well, with your dad and I both working full-time, with demanding careers, it just isn’t working. Something has to give. And we certainly don’t want it to be you who falls to the wayside. So in a few weeks, I will put in my notice at work. I will take the whole summer off with you. We’ll do so many fun things together. Then when you start Kindergarten, I will try to find work freelancing or working from home.

It’s scary stuff, making that leap…but I’ve talked it over (and over and over) with your dad and close friends and family, and everyone seems to agree that it’s the right move. So we are just going to trust God on this one, and in the meantime, enjoy our awesome summer together!

Love, Mom

Somehow, there was no turning back after that moment. Today was my last day of work, and Lucie’s last day of Pre-K. I am the crazy person who left their job with nothing else lined up. But, something tells me I won’t regret it.

I’ll use my newly found freedom to blog more regularly (hey, I wrote that down, so now I have to do it!)

In the meantime, please give me ALL of your ideas for entertaining a rambunctious 4-year-old.

And, um, if you’re ever looking for a freelance writer, let me know?

Kids Outdoors

Best Hiking in Atlanta With Dogs And Kids

March 23, 2016
best hiking in atlanta with kids and dogs

Can you FEEL it? Spring, y’all!

We love being outdoors when the weather’s nice. Luckily, so does our little diva. When I ask her, “What should we do this weekend,” she’ll usually say “Go on an adventure!” That’s what we call going on a hike.

The past few years, we have been trying to check out as many new hiking trails in Atlanta as possible. It’s hard to believe there are so many cool trails to explore, so close to home. Here are our picks for hiking trails around Atlanta that are great for both dogs and kids.

East Palisades Trail

east palisades trail hiking in atlanta

The dogs’ favorite spot to hang out at East Palisades

This network of trails just Northeast of Atlanta runs alongside beautiful Whitewater Creek. The views are pretty spectacular and there are lots of critters for the kiddos to spot, like beavers, turtles, and ducks.

There is plenty of shallow water for wading, which both humans and dogs are sure to love (just bring your water shoes.) The boat launch area is a popular place for folks to gather with their water-loving pups and picnic.

There are 2 entrance points here, both with ample parking. The Indian Trail trailhead is at the top of a hill, if you’re looking for a more challenging hike (especially on the way back up.)

The Whitewater Creek entrance it at the bottom of the hill, near the “boat launch,” and closer to the more leisurely trails that run alongside the river.

Note: both entrances require a $3 parking fee, and neither of them have restrooms.

Cochran Shoals Trail

Try to spot the infamous “Chattahoochee Alligator” at Cochran Shoals! Located off 285 just outside the perimeter, it feels like a world away. The scenic (and relatively level) trails offer beautiful views of the Chattahoochee — and sometimes, playful river otters (though we’ve never managed to catch a glimpse of the gator.) Along the way, you can learn all about the Chattahoochee (via educational stations) and the ongoing clean-up efforts.

There is a wide, paved trail that is great for biking or trail running, and a series of smaller trails close to the water.

Conveniently, the parking lot (which requires a $3 fee) also has restrooms. It connects to Sope Creek trail (below.)

Sope Creek Trail

sope creek trail hiking in atlanta

This isn’t too far from Cochran Shoals (also off New Northside), but tends to be less crowded. The trails are also more hilly and challenging, but you can choose your own adventure. Take a more leisurely stroll around a large pond, or venture through the woods and down to the creek (where our dog loves to hop across the boulders.) You can also spot ruins from an old paper mill.

We also love the drive to Sope Creek, winding up Paper Mill road and past some gorgeous and HUGE houses (one can dream.) On the way back, we like to also hit up the Abernathy Greenway and “art” playground. See our post about other best playgrounds in Atlanta here.

Parking at Sope Creek is $3, and there are no restrooms.

Murphey Candler Trail

murphey candler park ducklings hiking in atlanta

New ducklings at Murphey Candler

This is our go-to, close-to-home hiking spot. We affectionately call it the “duck pond.” I can’t wait until it gets a little warmer out – this is when we love to visit, and see all the little fluffy baby ducks and geese.

The trail is a moderate, 2-mile loop encircling a pond — great for trail running. Along the way, you can spot ducks, geese, turtles, herons, and more. Just don’t feed the ducks, or approach the geese (mean little things!) There’s also a small playground (with equipment for different age ranges), and plenty of picnic areas.

There is no charge for parking here, though the parking lot is pretty small. There is lots of street parking available in the neighborhoods. It’s also very close to a public pool (Murphey Candler pool), for those hot summer days where you need to cool off.

Arabia Mountain Trail

arabia mountain hiking in atlanta

Top of Arabia Mountain, during winter

You don’t have to venture far from Atlanta to feel like you’re far away. Arabia Mountain trail is one of our newer discoveries, and it’s breathtaking. We visited in winter, but during warmer months the “mountain” (actually a monadnock, similar in geology to Stone Mountain) is covered in gorgeous red diamorpha blooms.

There is so much to discover as a family here, that we didn’t even scratch the surface. There is a geocaching program, tons of free educational events, and a wild animal rehabilitation center that offers free tours on Saturdays and Sundays.

But the hikes alone are worth the drive – especially the unique plant growth and views of the city. Conveniently, there are restrooms at many points along the trail (we parked at the nature center, and there was a public restroom there.)

Dunwoody Nature Center

Ok, this isn’t so much a hardcore hiking spot as it is a fun place to explore. I think it would be perfect if you had really little ones, and didn’t feel like doing a ton of difficult hiking, but wanted to give the older kids hours of outdoor entertainment.

Among the things to explore on the outdoor trails:

  • Wildcat creek & boardwalk
  • A bird-watching treehouse
  • A teepee
  • Gardens
  • One of the coolest playgrounds EVER
  • A really chill spot with a bunch of hammocks
  • Bee hives (from a distance, of course)

There are even more things to explore inside the nature center. We actually signed our daughter up for a week of summer camp there, starting in a few months. More on that later!

So, those are our favorite family hiking spots close to Atlanta…for now. Tell us: what are your favorites?

Holidays

Elf on the Shelf Ideas for Lazy Parents (That Make it Look Like You Sorta Tried)

January 7, 2016

Our Elf on the Shelf is affectionately named “Buttons.” To us, it can easily feel like yet another responsibility to add to our list, during the busiest season of the year. But to our 4-year-old daughter Lucie, he’s the reason she jumps out of bed in the morning for 24 magical days out of the year. So we continue to bust our “Buttons” each year on this Elf on the Shelf exercise, usually scrambling to find a good hiding spot in the 5 minutes before she wakes up.

I’ll admit – some Elf on the Shelf ideas that I see circulating Pinterest make me cringe. Pulling out all of the shoes from the closet and scattering them around the house? Give me a elfin’ break. Pouring powdered sugar all over the floor? No. Just no.

We like to keep it real with Elf on the Shelf, but also occasionally use some creativity to keep the magic alive. Here are some of the things that Buttons did to delight our 4-year-old this past Christmas.

Freezing Cookie Monster Out. You’ve got a Cookie Monster doll lying around, right? Give your elf a plate of cookies on a windowsill, and have Cookie monster looking in eagerly. Best part? You get to eat cookies!

cookie monster elf on the shelf idea

Less-Mess Snow Angel. Pour flour onto a large platter, so you can just dump it when you’re done. Don’t worry – the elf wipes clean fairly easily.

elf on the shelf snow angel

Bows Everywhere! Buy a big bag of bows (for wrapping gifts) – I got mine at Walgreens for less than $5. Stick them all over the walls or cabinets. We decided on her bathroom, since it’s the first place she visits in the morning. Here, buttons is holding wipeable bathtub crayon and wrote “Buttonz Wuz Here” on the wall.

bows on wall elf on the shelf

My elf in a [cereal] box. Step 1: cut a hole in the box. Step 2: put yo’ elf in that box. 

elf on the shelf cereal box

All tangled-up. I’m not really sure how Buttons the Elf managed to get tangled up while wrapping some presents, but hey. Your preschooler probably won’t ask that many questions. Elves can get tangled up in just about anything you have lying around the house.

elf on the shelf tangled wrapping paper

Using the elf to your advantage. Does your kid hate brushing her hair? Bathing? Wearing pants? Or, in our case, brushing her teeth? Behold the power of the elf. Because for some reason, kids are more likely to obey a creepy felt doll than their well-meaning parents.

elf on the shelf toothbrush

Fruity Elf. Got some clementines, lemons, or limes lying around? Draw faces on them with a Sharpie. Put them next to the elf. Boom.

elf on the shelf minion idea

Fancy Elf. Barbie clothes on a BOY elf? Funniest. Dang. Thing. Ever. *to a 4-year-old

elf on the shelf barbie clothes

Reverent Elf. My mom came up with this one. It’s a good way to start a conversation about the meaning of Christmas.elf on the shelf in nativity

Elf donuts. Another great one, courtesy of “Mimi.” These are Cheerio’s decorated to look like little Elf donuts. Time involvement is on the higher end.

elf on the shelf cheerio donuts

When all else fails…just move him around and have your kids hunt for him. Some of our spots were swinging from the light fixture, hanging on to the Christmas tree, inside of the lantern, and, of course, on the shelf 🙂

elf on the shelf light fixture

What were some of your best, “lazy” Elf on the Shelf ideas from this past Christmas? Let us know in the comments!

Holidays Kids Outdoors

A New Atlanta Christmas Tradition – Christmas Tree Farm!

December 17, 2015
christmas tree farm atlanta

After a whirlwind year and spending nearly the entire month of October being sick with flu and pneumonia, I was happy we decided to keep it low-key over Thanksgiving break: almost no traveling, and lots of time to just have fun together! The day after Thanksgiving, we decided to “opt outside” – but with a little holiday twist. For the first time as a family, we ventured out to an Atlanta Christmas tree farm to choose and cut down our own tree.

We were looking for somewhere toward the south side, so that Ken’s family could join the fun. We found Sugarland Farms (in Stockbridge) online, and I’m so glad we did. This place was a total gem, and just the thing to get us all in the holiday spirit.

First, can we talk about how amazing this place smelled? I mean c’mon, what is better than the smell of hundreds of Christmas trees out in the fresh country air? It wasn’t crowded at all, which made for awesome photo ops (even though it was unseasonably warm – in the high 70s).

photo at atlanta christmas tree farm

Santa himself was there! And since it wasn’t crowded at all, we got lots of 1-1 time with him (though it took Lucie quite a while to warm up). He was such a great Santa, too – definitely better than any mall Santa I’ve seen (except for my late Grandad, of course).

After hanging out for a little while with Santa and perusing the gift shop (which included snacks like popcorn and boiled peanuts for purchase), we began hunting for the perfect Christmas tree.

santa at sugarland farms

Each tree available for sale had a color-coded tag attached, with each color representing a different price. They start at around $25. We picked out a 6’ Cedar, which ran us about $55. They give you a cart and a saw for cutting down your own tree, but there are also plenty of guys on staff who can do it for you. Ken wanted to cut it down himself, but he did admit it was quite the workout 🙂

cutting down christmas tree at sugarland

After your tree is cut down, the staff will help you trim it, prepare the base, wrap it up, and tie it to your car. Then all that’s left to do it put it up in your living room and decorate 🙂 Our tree always tends to look a little gaudy, with big, colorful bulbs and mismatched/handmade ornaments. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

What’s your family’s favorite outdoor holiday tradition?

Kids

Tips for New Georgia Pre-K Parents

October 6, 2015
georgia pre-k enrollment tips for new parents: georgia pre-k week

Happy Georgia Pre-K Week! If you’re new to Pre-K (like us), the idea behind Pre-K Week is to draw attention to Georgia’s early education programs by inviting state leaders to visit classrooms.

While the state seems to be doing a nice job getting the word out about Pre-K Week and the benefits of early childhood education, I feel the powers-that-be could do a better job of explaining this:

How do parents go about getting their child into a Pre-K program in the first place?

Our four-year-old daughter, Lucie, started Pre-K in early August. The thrill of seeing her start her first day of elementary school was preceded by months of confusion, as I searched online and asked around for direction on how to apply for programs (and when). Seasoned elementary school parents know where to search and whom to ask, but for parents who are new to the process, clear (and relevant) information is hard to come by.

In the meantime, now that we’re two months in, I thought I’d help point new parents in the right direction, when it comes time to enroll for Pre-K. Note that this is based on our personal experience, so procedures could vary. Contact Bright From The Start with any questions.

  1. How does Georgia Pre-K work?
    Georgia Pre-K is a lottery-funded educational program for four-year-olds. Georgia Bright From the Start oversees accredited Pre-K programs (both private and public), but the free/state-funded programs are only available in select locations

    According to the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL), there is at least one program in each of Georgia’s 159 counties. They operate in many local school systems, daycare centers, military bases, and colleges/universities.
  2. Where is Pre-K offered?
    According to the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL), there is at least one program in each of Georgia’s 159 counties. They operate in many local school systems, daycare centers, military bases, and colleges/universities.

  3. How do I enroll my child?
    Many (state-funded) Georgia Pre-K programs are on a lottery system; since the programs are voluntary for public and private schools, the demand tends to exceed the number of available slots. When we applied to the our local elementary school’s Pre-K program, Lucie’s chances of being selected were about 1 in 5 (talk about lucky!). DECAL states that overall, only about 58% of Georgia’s four-year-olds are served in the program.Lottery dates vary from school to school, and they aren’t posted consistently (that I have been able to find), so the best thing to do is reach out to a handful of schools at the beginning of the year and ask for the lottery registration dates and times. There is only one day, and you must be present in person to enter, so it’s important that you clear your schedule ahead of time. It took me about an hour to get through the line, and I arrived early.If you are applying for a program at a public school, keep in mind that you can only apply at the public school you are zoned for, and you’ll need to provide proof of residence to enter the lottery.
  4. When do I found out the results of the lottery?
    Our school posted the lottery results on the same day. The drawing itself is open to the public, should you want to attend. Otherwise, they’ll likely post a list of names on the school’s front door. You’ll need to go check the list, or have a friend check for you.
  5. What if I don’t get in?
    Those who aren’t selected can ask to be placed on a waiting list. Georgia Bright From The Start also has a hotline that you can call (1-888-4GA-PREK), where they can help walk you through your options. If private (paid) Pre-K is an option for you, it can be easier to find a slot at these centers.

  6. What if I do get in?
    You’ll need to go back to the school again over the summer to “officially” register your child for Pre-K. They will need your proof of residency again (actually, just keep this in a safe place – I feel like we had to show this 50 times before school actually started!) You’ll also need to fill out a bunch of paperwork, you know, stating that your Pre-K child has never committed a felony and so forth. Contact the school to see when registration dates are, since the school will only be open part-time during the summer.You’ll also need to note the date of Open House. Many schools require you to be present at open house to get your child registered (and, you guessed it – provide proof of residency), and to sign up for the After School program.The school will likely send you a packet of information letting you know anything else you need to know to get squared away.

  7. Can my Pre-K child participate in After School?
    Definitely a key question to ask, if both parents work. Here is how this worked at our elementary school. Pre-K children cannot attend outside after school programs, unless they have their own transportation, because they are too young to ride the bus. However, they are eligible to attend After School at the school. At our school, after school is also a lottery that you have to enter, but Pre-K kids automatically get a spot (because this is their only after school option). The cost averages around $300/month.

I will post a follow-up with some tips for preparing your child for pre-k and adjusting as a family, once Lucie has a couple more months under her belt. Stay tuned!

Home Improvement

Our Modern Farmhouse Kitchen: The Reveal!

September 24, 2015

You can look at the “before” picture and see why I didn’t want to buy our house.

While there were many reasons, including an overgrown yard, pastel 1950s tile in every bathroom, and some of the worst wallpaper you’ve ever seen, the kitchen was the main reason. I even thought about entering it in the “America’s Ugliest Kitchen” contest on the DIY network, on many occasions.

It still has a long way to go, but now, more than 5 years after we purchased the house, I’m finally feeling proud of our house and how far it has come. We have always envisioned a “modern farmhouse” style kitchen in this relatively small space. Something both classic and on-trend.

Our budget was $20,000 (which we exceeded by a small amount – not too surprising, since we ended up going a bit over-the-top on certain fixtures and appliances).

The renovation project took about 3 weeks, and was a complete gut job. Here were the steps our contractor completed, in a nutshell:

  • A complete re-wiring of all the electricity in the kitchen
  • New lighting installation including recessed lighting, ceiling fan, under-cabinet lights, and a pendant above the sink
  • Relocating the sink to another wall (so it could be next to the window), and installing a gas line so we could switch to an electric range
  • Installing all new cabinetry, including a full-length pantry (one of the things I’m most excited about!)
  • Installing new granite countertops
  • Installing new ceramic tile flooring and subway tile backsplash and an accent tile “stripe”

We are still unpacking and getting settled back in after living out of boxes for 3 weeks (thank goodness for microwaves). But we are still so giddy about this major upgrade, which feels like we’ve waited forever for.

Even 4-year-old Lucie is so excited!

Home Improvement

Surviving a Kitchen Renovation

September 3, 2015
how to survive a kitchen renovation

As I type, I am on my living room couch surrounded on all fronts by snack boxes, plastic dinnerware sets, and takeout menus. Everything that used to be in our kitchen, including our refrigerator and a large china cabinet, are also in the living room. Along with boxes full of everything else we unpacked before our kitchen renovation. 

How to Survive a Kitchen Renovation

Exhibit A: Living Room

And then there are the boxes of tile, new appliances, light fixtures, tools, extension cords, and all of the other things our contractor needs to work his magic. Those are currently occupying the dining room.

How to survive a kitchen renovation

Exhibit B: Dining Room

We don’t live in the sort of house where we can just hang out in another wing. It’s tight quarters in here, even without a major renovation going on. And since we’re spending all of our money on the kitchen, we can’t afford to jet and hang out in a hotel for 2 weeks. We are currently squatters in our own home.

First world problems, I know

The hardest part, honestly, is waiting for our dream kitchen to happen! But I thought I would offer a few tips for surviving a kitchen renovation — and being a squatter in your own house.

1. Put the following on your grocery list. You’ll have no kitchen sink, so while you’re renovating your kitchen, life’s going to be a “picnic.” When you’re not eating out, you’ll want to make clean-ups as easy as possible, without that handy kitchen sink and dishwasher. Luckily, we were able to keep our fridge plugged in in our living room. If you can’t do the same, consider borrowing (or buying) a “pony fridge.”

  • Bottled water
  • Ice or ice trays (that ice in the freezer is going to run out quickly)Dish cleaning wipes (like the kind you may have used in your college dorm)
  • Dish cleaning wipes (like the kind you may have used in your college dorm)
  • Ice or ice trays (that ice in the freezer is going to run out quickly)Ice or ice trays (that ice in the freezer is going to run out quickly)
  • Propane for the grill
  • Disposable cutlery
  • Paper towels
  • Disposable plates and bowls
  • Disposable cups (don’t forget the coffee cups!)

Now, I am sure there are more eco-friendly ways to get through a renovation, without creating this much trash. While we are recycling everything we can (like the paper plates and plastic water bottles), we’d love to hear your ideas for cutting back on trash.

2. Fire up the grill, and go for the pre-marinated meat and basically anything where the “prep” work is done. There’s no reason not to eat healthy…actually, being limited to the grill might make you eat even healthier. Fill that baby up with fluid so it’s one less thing to worry about during your reno.

Dinner ideas (when you’re limited to picnic-ware for cooking) include: 

  • Grilled, pre-marinated pork tenderloin w/ a salad kit (you can mix up the salad in the bag, so you don’t have to wash a bowl)
  • Grilled, pre-marinated chicken breasts w/ frozen veggies (prepared in microwave)
  • Salads with pre-cooked chicken strips and pre-cut veggies
  • Sandwiches

Since you won’t have all of your knives or a cutting board handy, pre-cut fruit (like bagged, sliced apples and baby carrots) are the way to go for healthy snacks.

3. Save money eating out. We’re eating out a few times a week, at least, especially on those weeknights where we have to make a last-minute run to Lowes (which is often). Try making your dollar go further.

Cash in your credit card rewards points. We cashed them all in on restaurant gift cards right before we started, and were able to get around $200 total. We did a combination of chain restaurants and fast food/pizza.

  • Clip coupons and search online for restaurant deals. Every little bit of savings adds up!
  • If you have kids, see which nights of the week kids eat free at your local chain restaurants. There’s a handy list of Atlanta-area “kids eat free” restaurants here.
  • Hit up the restaurants that are having “spirit night” benefitting your kids’ schools. If your school is like ours, they’ll be sure to remind you by sending your kid home with a sticker on her shirt.

4. Don’t forget to leave the wine opener unpacked, and in a place you’ll remember where it is. Because priorities.

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We’re less than a week away from the final reveal, and couldn’t be more excited! I’ll be sure to update when it’s finished.

Have you been through a kitchen renovation? What are your tips for living out of your living room?