Buckhead, Atlanta

I just read an article in the New York Times travel section (albeit a year old) about Buckhead, which is just north of Atlanta’s central downtown area—or we say “uptown” since it tends to be classier, more upscale, and a lot more expensive. According to the NYTimes article, it’s “one the of the nation’s wealthiest communities…the Beverly Hills of the South.” Now I don’t know if I’d go THAT far, but it certainly is a very nice area, with beautiful malls, great restaurants and bars (yes, I’ve created for myself a bit of a social life), museums, and stunning houses and hotels.

Here are some places in the Buckhead area that are worth checking out:

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California Outlet Malls

I’m not going to lie: I like wearing name brands. I work in an office where what you wear somewhat defines who you are, and pathetic as that sounds, if you don’t play the game, you won’t get the gain. When you’re wearing something nice, you act differently, more professional and more secure—and those things often lead to success. That’s not to say that I go to Rodeo Drive to get my suits; on the contrary, part of being a good dresser means being a good shopper, and I definitely know where to find the deals. And California, I think more than most states, is filled with fantastic outlet malls. Here’s a list, organized from North to South:

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Malls in the Atlanta area

I usually get all my back to school shopping done with well before school actually starts. And I THOUGHT I had done so this year as well, but apparently, as the kids tell me, especially my oldest, I did it all wrong. School supplies are a bit off, shoes are “so last year” and clothes are just “off”. I was getting bored of the mall near our house, so did a little research to compile a list of all the malls in the area (as far as Macon and Augusta). So if you still need to do some back to school shopping, almost one month into the action already, you can check some of these out:

Those are what I came up with, but feel free to add to the list! Happy shopping! (And wish me luck this time…)
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5 Ways to Celebrate going back to School

It’s not easy going back to school after a fun-filled summer. I remember from when I was a kid, but more, I see it every morning during these last few weeks as I try and drag my kids out of bed, into clothes, and to the bus. Here are a few ideas of how to make this transition time less miserable…maybe even fun!

  1. Remind your kids that they still have the weekends. Have them look forward to Saturdays and Sundays by having them help you plan little day trips. (Last week we went to Six Flags Over Georgia!
  2. On a particularly difficult morning, set out an ice cream sundae buffet on the kitchen table. Make it healthy with frozen yogurt, fruit toppings, and granola! (We did this on the first day of school, but it’s also great if a birthday fall out midweek.)
  3. “Forget” to pack your kids lunch and then swing by school later with fresh slices of pizza.
  4. The day doesn’t have to end at 2:30 when school is out—bring you kids (and even a few friends) to the mall for a few hours and let them roam around like they did in the summer. (Cumberland Mall and Lenox Square Mall (both in Atlanta) are great for roaming.)
  5. Help your kid’s class organize field trips, like to the local zoo or aquarium. Volunteer to chaperone if that will help the cause. (I’ve already volunteered for Zoo Atlanta and the Georgia Aquarium—must start saving up my lunch hours…no one said back to school was easy for mom!)

And for mom—take advantage of the fact that your kids are going to bed a little earlier and take a bubble bath or catch up on your reading. Or, go to sleep early yourself!
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The Parsons are in Minneapolis!

And we are having a blast! We only got here yesterday and have already explored the area around our hotel (we walked all over Downtown Minneapolis), went to the Walker Art Center, and out for a nice family dinner. Today Rick started his slew of business meetings and the girls and I spent the entire day at the Mall of America, which was just thrilling—what a world in there! The girls particularly liked the Park at Mall of America, but I was a big fan of the shopping part of the Mall of America. Not it’s after midnight and I should really be getting to bed because I know the girls are going to wake up early and make me take them down to breakfast…

In store for tomorrow is the Science Museum of Minnesota or the Water Park of America. And then also in the next week we’ll visit the Como Zoo. For our last two days, we’ll be staying near Itasca State Park, which is Minnesota’s oldest state park with over 100 lakes. and hopefully the weather will be nice because the Parsons are going to try something new and exciting—we’re going to be camping out! We borrowed a whole slew of gear that we brought with us and we’ll be renting a car, parking it, and then will hike and camp for two days. The girls are really excited—in fact is was their idea (I guess it’s obvious that it wasn’t mine or Rick’s idea…).
Wish us luck!!

Tampa and Tampax

Uh-oh. That’s all I was thinking when Katie pulled a tampon from my purse yesterday and asked if it was a souvenir from our recent trip. I immediately saw the confusion and got all flustered myself in trying to answer. She already “kinda” knew what it was, so the explanation wasn’t too painful. And first I made her run and get Alison, just to save me from going through the same thing twice. And now, I think forever Katie and Ali will associate Tampa, Florida with menstruation.

Wow, it’s amazing how time flies here on this blog. I felt like I just updated our travel plans the other day, and before I know it, weeks have passed! We’ve already gone to and returned from Tampa and St. Petersburg and did everything that we had planned on our itinerary (plus more).

A few highlights: The Lowry Park Zoological Society of Tampa was fantastic. We took a jeep ride and saw animals I’ve never seen before—kookaburra, manatees, and komodo dragons. The girls had a blast in “The Billabong” water area. This hadn’t even been on our itinerary, but we stumbled upon and were thrilled.

Another surprisingly good afternoon was spent at the University Mall in Tampa. In a way it’s a typical mall with anchor stores and other popular stores; and in a way it’s like a big flea market. We spent hours rummaging through locally owned shops, stopped for some snacks in the food court, and then saw a movie. We had spent the morning at St. Pete Beach and wanted to do something low key on our way back to the hotel, and University Mall hit the spot.

I wonder where we’ll be off to next….

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Flashback to my Dolly Parton days…

I was never SO into Dolly, but a few years back I went through a little Dolly phase that brought me around Tennessee to all the famous Dolly hotspots.

So first on the list is Dollywood, one of the cheesiest and happiest places on earth. I don’t know why I’ve been thinking about Dollywood so much lately. I think it’s because part of my wanted to spend part of my precious time in Tennessee (during recent visit) at Dollywood, but I didn’t give in to myself, and now I sort of regret it. I’ve been to the National Gospel Convention there every year for the past few years, and will be sad to miss it this time ‘round. And we’re going to miss KidsFest this year, which bums me out (much more than it bothers my kids). And the kids loved Dolly’s Splash Country.

I was never a tourist in Nashville, but whenever we had friends coming for a visit or passing through, we always sent them (and sometimes accompanied them) on one of Nashville’s music history tours that took visitors to the estates of Dolly Parton, Kix Brooks, and others.

Atlanta’s got great shopping (better than Nashville’s as a whole) but I do miss Broadway Avenue which I grew up with as the best “big city” shopping in the area. I used to love going into old record stores and browsing through piles and piles of old music. And if you go to Manuel Exclusive Clothier, they make a big deal about being responsible for dressing Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash, so that’s fun.

Nashville’s public transportation system is called the Music City Star—I’ve even feeling nostalgic for that, and barely ever rode it!

Dolly Parton was born in Sevierville, Tennessee (near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which is a beautiful place to visit, if you’ve never been) and at an early age was making TV appearances and performing at the Grand Ole Opry. In Tennessee, that’s a huge accomplishment for a child. In Dollywood there’s a replica of the house where Dolly and her 10 brothers and sisters lived, it’s tiny and inspiring, how someone who grew up with so little of what we now consider necessities made it so big in the world and now provides so much for others who grew up like she did.

Dolly is not just a sex icon and a country singer, though. I’m most impressed with her Imagination Library project which sends one book a week to children from the time they are born until Kindergarten.

My heart breaks when I hear the song Just Because I’m a Woman, one of Dolly’s first hits and one of my favorite songs to listen to when I’m feeling down. Here are the lyrics (from http://www.dollyon-line.com/); I’m sure every woman can relate:

I can see you’re disappointed
By the way you look at me
And I’m sorry that I’m not
The woman you thought I’d be

Yes, I’ve made my mistakes
But listen and understand
My mistakes are no worse than yours
Just because I’m a woman

So when you look at me
Don’t feel sorry for yourself
Just think of all the shame
You might have brought somebody else

Just let me tell you this
Then we’ll both know where we stand
My mistakes are no worse than yours
Just because I’m a woman

Now a man will take a good girl
And he’ll ruin her reputation
But when he wants to marry
Well, that’s a different situation

He’ll just walk off and leave her
To do the best she can
While he looks for an angel
To wear his wedding band

Now I know that I’m no angel
If that’s what you thought you’d found
I was just the victum of
A man that let me down

Yes, I’ve made my mistakes
But listen and understand
My mistakes are no worse than yours
Just because I’m a woman

No, my mistakes are no worse than yours
Just because I’m a woman

So just a little reminiscing…we all need that sometimes. By the way, I came across a fun blog post that has great pictures of Dolly’s model house in Dollywood and some fun facts about Dolly Parton. Julia (the author of the blog, a self proclaimed real-estate junkie) also gives a list of other famous houses, in fact that’s the theme of her blog—fun!

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Ambivalent in Atlanta…?

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? Time is really flying, which I guess is good—no hurdles slowing down time is always appreciated. We’ve already been to Antioch and back, which was both fun and relaxing, but also difficult—Alex cried so hard when she had to say goodbye to her friends again, and it just broke my heart. But kids are so resilient, aren’t they? Only one week back and already she’s involved in intense middle school drama with an entirely different group of kids.

So the kids hung out with friends and I got some free time to meet up with some of my girlfriends at Hickory Hollow Mall and even spent an afternoon BY MYSELF at Cheekwood (a mansion/museum in the area), where even I got a little emotional (or a lot). My parents took us all to a High Kings concert at the Ryman Auditorium & Museum, in Nashville, which was great, and Justin fell asleep in the isle like he always does.

I’m getting a little sad now as I write this – maybe taking this job in Atlanta wasn’t the best idea. I’m starting to regret the fact that my kids aren’t going to grow up with their grandparents down the street from their house like I was able to do. I really felt like I needed to go, though. The job promotion was a big part of it, but also, everywhere I looked I saw a past that I could not escape from. I was born, raised, educated, married, mothered, and divorced all within a 50 mile radius of Antioch, Tennessee. And I just started to feel…trapped.

A few days ago I took Alexandra to the High Museum of Art, and just – Wow – even compared to Cheekwood which I love so dearly, this place…it’s incomparable, really. And that’s how I feel every time I get in the car and drive to work or to the kids’ schools, or to the mall – and it’s a great feeling. And I’ve been reading a lot about the rich history of the area and geography (can’t wait to go to the Golden Isles).

And these are reasons why we moved here. I guess it’s normal to go back and forth for a while.

Maybe a word about where we actually live…

…“Back to the grind” of our everyday life is not nearly as depressing as it sounds. We travel a lot, but we also happen to have a house and a hometown and a bit of stability believe it or not! We live in Bethesda, Maryland, but we used to live in Annapolis until recently when Rick’s job required him to be in the D.C. office everyday rather than once a week. I found this blog a few weeks ago and for some reason I feel the need now to share the wealth, so to speak of my knowledge of my traveled regions, near and far.

If you’ve been to Bethesda, you’ve been to Westfield Montgomery, a cozy neighborhood mall with everything we need. But when we really want to go all out for some serious shopping, I take the girls to Arundel Mills Mall in Hanover or to Potomac Mills Outlet Mall in Prince William, Virginia which is not too far a drive.

I bring the girls to Baltimore three times a week for a homeschool “team meeting” and then, either with the group, or alone, we go to the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. We’ve got a family membership, so sometimes we go in just for brief visits or to participate in whatever programs they may have going on. I don’t know if you’ve read my other posts, but my girls are a little obsessed with zoos—we’re really been to zoos all over the country and they don’t ever tire of it. The National Aquarium in Baltimore also offers great programs throughout the year and is often one of our destinations during our Baltimore trips.

Adjusting in Atlanta

We’re been in Atlanta now for a few months, and thank God, everyone is adjusting quite well. I think it’s hardest for Alexandra. Being 12 and in middle school is hard enough, but having also to make new friends and try and “fit in” just makes it harder. But she’s such a sport. I always make an effort to spend one-on-one time with each of my kids once a week. Usually when the other two are at an after school activity, the third one and I will go to Southlake Mall, go get ice cream, see a movie, or just hang out at home—I’ve become a mastermind at planning schedules so that this can work out each week.

Anyways, Alexandra and I have really been talking a lot. Sometimes I want to cry (and sometimes I do) when it hits me how mature she’s getting. The other day we were at The Mall at Stonecrest, and she asked if we could check out some makeup—she got a little sheepish about it and it was so sweet. We picked out a lipstick together (something VERY CLOSE to lip color) and then got manicures together.

I’m actually really excited about their spring break coming up. We’ll be going back to Antioch (or nearby) to visit friends and family. I’m trying hard not to say “back home” because I want the kids to accept Atlanta as our new home. But I really do feel that way, that Tennessee is home. Besides seeing their friends and grandparents (my parents!) I know all three of them will love going to Hickory Hollow Mall, The Chattanooga Zoo at Warner Park and the Tennessee Aquarium. I’m just worried about leaving…I hope it’s not too soon to go back for a visit….