Our 24 Hour Parent Staycation in Franklin, Tennessee at the Hilton Franklin Cool Springs Hotel

Two months ago for Christmas 2018, the only gift my wife and I gave one another was the promise of an upcoming 24 hour window of existence that we would share together, in which we would have zero parenting responsibilities; including uninterrupted meals out, a stay at a nice hotel, and the ability to be lazy.

We both work full-time jobs, plus I manage 5 SEO side hustles, and we have two adventurous kids. So for us, the thought of a break from reality is the greatest gift we can receive at this point in our 37 year-old lives.

Last May when I started my new full-time job as a recruiter at a Fortune 500 Company in Franklin, Tennessee, I couldn’t help but notice that an 8 story building was being built right next to my office.

A few months later, a giant Hilton sign went up on the side of the building facing the interstate (I-65). Once the hotel opened last fall, my co-workers and I started going there for lunch, and were very pleased.

So by the time my wife and I came up with the idea of the perfect mutual Christmas gift for each other, I suggested we make our stay at the Hilton Franklin Cool Springs hotel right next to where I work; which is the halfway point between where we live in Spring Hill and where my wife works in downtown Nashville.

Sometimes in your mind, you build up an idea to the point it becomes an unattainable fantasy. But no, that was not the case for our 24 Hour Parent Staycation. In fact, everything went perfectly according to plan:

My parents drove up 2 and a half hours from my hometown in Fort Payne, Alabama, to watch the kids while we were out. As my son’s Saturday morning karate lessons began, to be followed by one of his classmate’s birthday parties our daughter would end up successfully crashing, my wife and I made our way over to H&R Block to file our income taxes and were so relieved we didn’t owe any money; despite my 5 SEO side hustles unexpectedly doing much better than I planned for last year.

We officially started out our responsibility-free adventure with lunch at Sopapilla’s New Mexican (like the state) restaurant en route to the Hilton. This was a big deal to us for more than one reason.

Not only was it the first time in… (years?)… that we have been able to enjoy a delicious meal out with no children putting a damper on the conversation or the cuisine or our peace of mind, but it was our first official meal out as a now non-vegetarian, non-vegan couple.

I would go as far as to say I am now obsessed with eating at Sopapilla’s, but I don’t know the next time we’ll be able to make it back there without kids.

As for the Hilton, it was every bit as glorious as I knew it would be. My wife and I realized this is the newest hotel we have ever stayed in; throughout our decade of marriage.

And our wish came true- we got to be lazy for our entire day. In fact, we never left the hotel until the next day when we checked out. We got to watch a few movies on TV, in between heading downstairs for dinner in the hotel restaurant, The Harth Restaurant and Lounge.

Not to mention, we got to sleep in! We naturally woke up, on our own, at 8:00 AM. That is unthinkable back at our house, thanks to our children’s internal biological alarm clocks, which are annoyingly set an a default of 5:55 AM.

Life is good. I admit, I’m enjoying the view from where I’m sitting on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid. Our 24 Hour Parent Staycation taught me that the motivational carrot in my life at this point will be getting to experience our next 24 Hour Parent Staycation. That is the rarest commodity I know right now: a break.

And when that time comes, my wife and I plan to do everything exactly the same way again. It’s a formula that works for us.

This is 37.


After 5 and a Half Years, I Stopped Being a Vegan in September 2018… Finally, I’m Ready to Talk about It (Ex-Vegan Back to Kosher, Still Cured of Dyshidrotic Eczema and Sinus Issues)

Don’t get your hopes up- I still wouldn’t be any fun at a BBQ or a hot dog eating contest. But it is true that back in September, I quietly retired my strict vegan lifestyle of 5 and a half years, and my vegetarian lifestyle of 7 years. But why?

Because I realized that for the last few years, I had been gaining weight as a vegan– to the point I basically weighed as much as I did before I stopped eating meat, eggs, and dairy. Here is proof of my vegan dad bod.

For the first year and a half of being a vegan, I slimmed down to 156 pounds, which at 5′ 9″, placed me perfectly in the middle range according to a BMI chart.

Not only I had a lost and kept off nearly 20 pounds, but I also was finally free of my “medically incurable” dyshidrotic eczema and my constant sinus congestion.

I was convinced I would never forsake my vegan identity.

But after spending all of 2017 and 2018 trying to still fit into my size 31 pants, and eventually my size 32 pants, I realized that even with my routine of running on the weekends, my vegan diet wasn’t enough to combat the fact that since turning age 35, my metabolism had undeniably changed.

I was open-minded by the time I accidentally (?) met Mark Glesne at a Starbucks one Sunday morning after church in September 2018. With his experience as a personal trainer, he explained to me that my body had ultimately found a way to rewire itself so that despite consuming 0% cholesterol as part of my vegan diet, I had begun storing fat for lack of complete proteins that are found in meat, eggs, and cheese.

So since September, I have bid farewell to my vegan lifestyle and switched back to simply being kosher; which I have been since Thanksgiving 2008.

I have remained committed to abiding my Jewish kosher law for over a decade now; not eating pork or shellfish, or any other bottom feeder animals.

And even though tuna and tilapia are technically kosher, my eczema did briefly return when I ate those types of fish recently; as well as salmon that was farm-raised instead of wild caught. So I have to stick with fish that are cleaner; like cod, mahi mahi, and wild caught salmon.

As far as my sinus issues, they haven’t returned since I started eating cheese again. However, I refuse to drink cow’s milk, as I believe it was causing my severe sinus and allergy issues; not to mention, it contains a lot of unnecessary sugar.

To help counteract my metabolism noticeably slowing down since I turned 35 nearly 3 years ago, my great friend Mohamad Alaw (who took the photo of me above) helped me get started on a daily work-out regimen, which I have been faithfully doing, based on a website called Darebee.com.

I went from a consistent 176 pounds as a vegan, now to a new consistent 171 pounds by remaining kosher and working out daily; as well as mostly eliminating wheat flour, added sugar, and hydrogenated oils.

Granted, I’m still not comfortably fitting in my size 32 pants, but I believe I eventually will.

I definitely do not regret the 5 and a half years I spent as a vegan, and 7 as a vegetarian. Honestly, had I not begun gaining weight to the point I had a dad bod, I would have stayed a strict vegan the rest of my life.

(Click here to find the best deal on this funny dad bod t-shirt on Amazon.)

But the fact that being a vegan wasn’t enough to prevent a dad bod, I took it as a warning from my body that I needed to change what I was eating.

I still undeniably have a very strict diet, but there’s much more grace. I feel a little bit more human in social environments now.

It’s all about doing what works for me personally. Let vegans be vegans. Let bacon lovers be bacon lovers. Let them not be in a cultural war by demonizing each other like Democrats and Republicans.

Let emotional intelligence rule and let each person find their own way to happiness and health.

(Click here to find the best deal on this cute women’s t-shirt on Amazon.)

As for me, I’ll be a kosher guy who works out in his living room every day when he gets home from work- as he pursues a goal of fitting comfortably in size 32 pants again, and continuing to remain cured of dyshidrotic ezcema and constant sinus congestion.

Dear Holly: Mommy Painted Your Nails for the 1st Time

2 years, 9 months.

Dear Holly,

All last week, you kept asking Mommy: “We paint my fingers and my toes this weekend?”

There was much anticipation for this event.

So Sunday afternoon, before you and your brother watched a movie with Mommy, she took you to the bathroom floor where she carefully painted each of your fingernails and toenails.

Needless to say, you were so proud to have Mommy do this for you.

I wasn’t surprised at all when I dropped you off at school on Monday and the first thing you did when you saw your teacher, Mrs. Kim, was to display your fingers and proclaim:

“Look! Mommy painted my nails!”

Yeah, you are such a little girl.



Dear Jack: It’s Better to Watch One of Mommy’s Movies Than No Movie at All

8 years, 2 months.

Dear Jack,

You are allotted one hour of screen time on Saturday and another for Sunday. Other than, you don’t get the option to use a tablet, laptop, phone, or Netflix.

Well, there is an exception, actually:

If Mommy or I feel like taking a break and watching a movie, then that obviously doesn’t count against your hour for that weekend day.

So this past Sunday afternoon while I was working on a big blog post I’ve been putting off, I insisted that Mommy relax and watch a movie.

Both you and your sister were doing a great job of convincing me that neither of you were tired enough to need a nap. That meant you got to hang out with Mommy instead of going to sleep.

You didn’t complain at all that Mommy was watching one of her straight-to-Netflix, Southern-themed romantic comedies.

Hey- it’s better to watch one of Mommy’s movies than no movie at all.



Questions to Ask to Find the Perfect Private Tutor for Your Child 

Private tutoring is one of the best ways of accelerating learning – however, it’s crucial that you find the right person for the task. Here are some of the questions you should consider asking viable private tutors before hiring anyone and cover issues like qualifications, teaching methods, progress tracking, and how they can help your child/children prepare for the future.

What qualifications does the professional have? 

When you begin your search to find a tutor take the time to find out more about the tutor’s education – what university and school they went to, what did they study – as well as finding out if they’ve attained QTS or Qualified Teacher Status. Keep in mind that “experts” do not always make for the best tutors; while core knowledge is crucial, it can be just as important to know if they took the same exams/tests your child will be sitting.

Do they have any tutoring experience? 

It is vital to remember that for specific subjects like UCAS applications or degree-level assistance, tutors who’ve recently been through the process and were successful can be very helpful, even if they have minimal tutoring experience.

Can the tutor provide testimonials from his or her past clients?

Hearing what other parents and students have to say about the tutor you are considering is one of the best ways of finding out what they are like. Think of it as booking a table at a new restaurant online – it can be useful to go through some reviews first.

Which examination board is the tutor familiar with?

Ask the tutor about the exam board(s) they use to ensure that both your child and tutor are aligned. Each board’s syllabus is available online, and often practice or past exam papers are available for download, free of charge.

Tutors with experience as examiners can also be quite valuable, and that is something that most tutors don’t publicize. It is, therefore, worth asking this question.

Does the teacher have any specialty?

Some tutors specialize in exam practice, while others are great at making learning fun or building confidence in students. There are others who’ve has success with students taking specific exams and tests; such tutors should be able to tell your child what to expect and to help them prepare for the test. Remember to ask the tutor about their approach on specific issues and areas.

Is their documentation up-to-date?

For some people, this is a critical factor while for others, testimonials are sufficient evidence that a tutor is competent. Experienced tutors, basically anyone who’s a teacher, should have all the required documentation at hand. Ask the tutor to carry one or two academic certificates and their DBS (the new name for the Criminal Record Check) along to the first lesson.

Where will tutoring sessions take place?

Traveling to a tutor’s home works well for some students. Then, there are those who are comfortable talking or working with their tutor online – this is one of the best ways to keep sessions useful and relaxed.

How does the tutor make lessons engaging? 

It can be helpful to find out how the tutor structures their lessons; does he or she engage through mutual interests or use fun learning materials? Great tutors will quickly pick up the best approach to engaging your child and tend to ask for your advice on the approach.

How long are the lessons? 

Can your child concentrate fully for one whole hour? This is one of the questions you should ask yourself when deciding on lesson length. The decision on whether to take half-hour sessions or not will depend on your child’s age and what you and the tutor you hire think is sensible. It is a good idea to ask your tutor how long they’d recommend. Either way, a break is important, so do not forget to incorporate several breaks in there too.

If possible, what’s their attitude to liaising with your child’s school teacher?

A tutor liaising with a school teacher isn’t common; however, it can be beneficial for both the tutor and teacher to do so to help ensure that teaching goals and methods are aligned. Keep in mind, however, that this is not necessary, and tutors who don’t liaise with your child’s school aren’t worse than those who do.

Who arranges all the required books and paper, worksheets, and resources for lessons? 

This is one important thing to remember to ask. In most cases, parents are the ones who provide these materials so make sure you consider this when thinking about costs. Nevertheless, some tutors do provide their own print-outs or resources.

How does the tutor track your child’s progress? Does he or she set homework?

Most tutors opt not to add more workload to their students. Though, small amounts of work or past papers for revision during the exam period is beneficial. Make sure that the tutor you get understands your child’s homework schedule so that he or she doesn’t become overwhelmed with all the extra work.

How does he or she conduct assessments?

The assessment methods tutors use will vary since different methods work for different people. As such, remember to follow up on the tutor’s approach.

What feedback can you expect from your tutor and when?

Some tutors prefer communicating through written reports, others by scheduling time for a face to face meeting once a term or month while others prefer giving feedback at the end of lessons. Consider what works best for you.

Can you, as a parent, contact the tutor in between lessons?

Most tutors don’t mind being in touch between lessons; however, there are some who have other jobs apart from tutoring and might not be in a position to be contacted or to reply within certain hours.

How can parents assist with the child’s progress when their tutor is not available?

Some parents will have tutors help with all of the child’s homework while for others 10-hours of one-to-one tuition is a huge investment. It is crucial to remember that you could benefit from the tutoring experience without spending much. Simply ask your tutor for advice on skill or strategies you can work on with your son or daughter when tutoring ends?

How long are their tutoring relationships?

It is a good idea to think about whether you would like the tutoring to be long-term, or if you simply want a few lessons before an interview or exam – and remember to communicate this to the tutor so he or she can plan accordingly.

What is their view of independent learning?

Understanding their view on this is a good step towards making sure that your child and the tutor work well together and make progress. The best tutors often aim to get their students to that point where they no longer require them!

Affording a New Home: How Much of Your Monthly Income Should Go Towards Your Mortgage? 28%? 25%? Less Than 20%?

If your family is currently considering buying a new home, one of the biggest questions should be this:

“What percentage of our household monthly take-home income should go towards our mortgage payment?”

If you depend on the unanimous results of a Google search, the answer is 28%.

If you put your faith in the results of a lender or a mortgage calculator found on the website of a new home development, you may be pleasantly surprised to see how big and nice of a home you can “afford” based on your household monthly income.

However, Dave Ramsey teaches no more than 25% of your household take-home income; in an effort to prevent becoming “house poor”; where you could afford to pay your monthly mortgage but could not live a comfortable lifestyle.

After meeting a 2nd time with our Associate Financial Consultant, Christina Tumbleson at Charles Schwab, where my wife and I recently starting investing our money, we learned that we are spending around 13% of our monthly take-home income on our monthly mortgage.

However, that number was based on the total of both of our full-time salary positions. That does not account for the monthly income I make from my 5 side hustles; for example, I made $531 last month from my two YouTube channels alone.

When we consider all my side hustle income, we can easily yet conservatively count on another 1%.

Therefore, at around 12%, we are fortunately spending a little less than half of the conservative 25% of take-home income Dave Ramsey suggests.

While it is undeniable that at age 37, my wife and I are at solid places in our careers and are being paid accordingly, we also have no other debts other than our home. I have been driving the same 2004 Honda Element for over 13 years now. Not to mention, I spend literally all my free time on my 5 side hustles; which provides passive streams income for our family.

But perhaps most important is the fact our 1900 square feet, 4 bedroom, 2 car garage home is still much more humble than it needs to be, according to popular American dream standards.

The main take-away is this: We choose to live way below our means.

If we wanted to sell our current home, we could pocket an easy $50,000 and then “upgrade” to a half a million dollar home. I could even trade in my old Honda Element for a new Toyota Tacoma.

We could “afford” to do that.

But if I am going to impress anyone by my finances, it’s not going to by how much I spend, but instead, how amazingly little.

Dear Holly: What You Learned at Your Brother’s Karate Lesson

2 years, 9 months.

Dear Holly,

You had curiously yet quietly observed your brother’s karate lesson last Saturday morning.

So on Sunday afternoon, when I began trying to wrestle with you on the living room carpet, you shouted:

“Get your hands off me!”

You made it clear that you had listened well to the karate instructor when he explained how important it was to not only tell the person to stop hurting you, but also to announce it so everyone could hear.

A few days later, when I dropped you off at school, I even asked your teacher if you had shouted to any of your friends:

“Get your hands off me!”

To my surprise, you hadn’t.

But I think it’s only a matter on time.