A “Work Date”with My Wife at ENAR 2018 in Atlanta (Featuring the 2018 Mazda CX-5)

Last week during Spring Break, our family opted not to go somewhere slightly exotic, like Destin, Florida; as usual. Instead, I dropped my wife off at the Nashville International Airport for her flight to Atlanta, then I drove our kids to my parents’ house, in Fort Payne, Alabama; where I grew up.

My wife went to work immediately, as she was there to help represent Vanderbilt University’s Biostatistics Graduate Program in at the ENAR 2018 Spring Meeting. (In case you happen to be out of the loop, ENAR stands for Eastern North American Region of International Biometric Society.)

I spent the first day of Spring Break at Ruby Falls with our son (more on that in the near future, so stay tuned…). But the very next morning, I left early for Atlanta; in the 2018 Mazda CX-5.

This SUV was the perfect size for my 3 hour scenic drive down Lookout Mountain into the Rome, Georgia; and eventually Atlanta. I appreciated not only the great gas mileage it got (25 city, 31 highway), but also how well it handled all those sneaky curves on my route.

As a stay-at-home dad who works from home as a Social Media Specialist and Influencer, I haven’t commuted to an office since last October. So I do admit, it was nice being able go back and forth between The Beatles and Tom Petty for a few hours. There’s a part of me that misses that 2 hour round trip everyday to work, where I could sort of just think about my life as I listened to good music.

Thanks to the trusty GPS, I had arrived at lunch time at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta. My wife met me right away at front doors, where I introduced her to our new ride for the week, and from there we drove just about 5 miles away to our favorite vegan restaurant in Atlanta: Cafe Sunflower in Buckhead.

Our lunch every bit as magnificent as we expected; so much so, that we went back again the next day for lunch! Though my wife is an amazing plant-based chef, I love being able to take her somewhere nice where she not only doesn’t have to cook, but a place that is also as committed to our lifestyle as we are. (My wife has been a vegetarian and I have been a vegan, for well over 5 years now.)

Afterwards, we headed back to ENAR 2018, where I took photographs of Vanderbilt’s booth; as I will be writing an article for Vanderbilt’s website to promote their presence at the event. I was proud to see my video series on display on the monitor, as one of my many roles working as a freelance Social Media Specialist is to create promotional videos for companies.

Over the course the past few weeks, I had interviewed several current students and professors from Vanderbilt’s Biostastics Graduate Program, then made a series of short promo videos. Not only were these playing on a loop during the whole event, but I will eventually upload them to a YouTube channel that I will be creating and managing for the department.

I also also very proud to see my wife there in her role, as well; serving as a beautiful model and spokesperson for prospective students. More importantly though, she had helped coordinate the booth for the department, including all the logistics in getting it there, along with other Vanderbilt employees.

After a hard day’s work, we took advantage of a special attraction there at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta: They have a restaurant called Polaris, on top of the hotel. You have to take a special, exclusive, elevator there. And the over the course of an hour, the entire restaurant spins; so you get to see a 360 degree view of Atlanta. We will definitely go there again!

The next day after ENAR came to an end, we headed back to Cafe Sunflower for lunch again, then took a different route back to my parents’ house in Alabama. Our adventures were far from over, as we would be taking a family trip to Rock City the next morning.

I was very grateful to be able to have a “work date” with my wife. Sometimes, or maybe I should say usually, it requires some creativity in being able to plan fun dates when both parents work and have young children.

Perhaps at some point, our lives will be a little less crazy. As for now, we are truly making the most of what we have!

To check out the entire trilogy of blog posts about the cool trips my family took in the 2018 Mazda CX-5, just click the related link below:

A “Work Date”with My Wife at ENAR 2018 in Atlanta (Featuring the 2018 Mazda CX-5)

My Family’s Road Trip to Rock City in Chattanooga in the 2018 Mazda CX-5 (Featuring the Original New Theme Song I Wrote)

My Road Trip with My Son to Ruby Falls in Chattanooga in the 2018 Mazda CX-5 (Featuring the Original New Theme Song I Wrote)

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Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta, Georgia

5 years, 7 months.

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Jack,

As we journeyed on in our family’s first road trip as a family of four (in the 2016 Toyota Highlander) last week, we made our next stop the Delta Flight Museum.

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta, Georgia

The funny thing is, I really didn’t what know to expect beforehand: I’m not sure I had ever been to any kind of airplane museum before.

But once we got there, I realized what a great fit it was for our entire family!

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta, Georgia

I loved seeing how excited you were by everything surrounding you- there were planes hanging from the sky, planes for us to walk through, a small plane for you to get in, and a tunnel… all for you to explore.

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta, Georgia

Not only was there so much to see there, but Mommy and I loved the pace of the place.

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta, Georgia

It was so open and spread out, and served as a non-intimidating environment for a family with a small baby. They have a theater room that plays a short film about the history of Delta Airlines.

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta, Georgia

Mommy was able to feed your sister her bottle there in the theater while our family watched the big screen.

I also couldn’t help but notice how helpful and courteous all the staff was.

Of course it wouldn’t be an event if Mommy and I didn’t let you get a souvenir, so you find the gift shop and you were excited to adopt a white bear in a bomber jacket.

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta, Georgia

It was a wise decision to make the Delta Flight Museum part of our Atlanta road trip. Your attention was easily captivated the entire time we were there- and like I mentioned, it was very easily to manage a 2 month-old baby the whole time as well.

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta, Georgia

Perhaps your favorite part was the little “photo op” plane for you and your sister to sit inside. You kept going back to it, even asking me, “Daddy, does this plane really fly?”

If it would have, I’m sure you would have been ready to take flight.

 Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta

5 years, 7 months.

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Dear Jack,

As part of our family’s first road trip as a family of four (in the 2016 Toyota Highlander), we visited the Georgia Aquarium; you are particularly fascinated by whales and sharks.

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Of course, the first place we checked out was the souvenir shop, where you found a beluga whale as your companion for the visit. You took my suggestion and named her Bella. She remained by your side throughout our entire Atlanta road trip.

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

I didn’t know this at the time, but the Georgia Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the western hemisphere! This fact is downplayed by how concise the place is structured, as all branches of the aquarium are virtually connected to the main court, which is connected to the gift shop.

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

It was even convenient for Mommy to feed and change your baby sister’s diapers, without having to go to the other side of the aquarium to take care of her.

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Perhaps our favorite part of the Atlanta Aquarium was the underwater tunnel, in which we stood on a moving walkway as the ocean animals swam above us. I had always wanted to experience that. I finally was able to!

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Something else I really liked about this aquarium is how we were able to see the entire place without ever having to feel rushed. We saw it all and it wasn’t too much or too little- it was the perfect amount!

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Needless to say, you were thought it was so cool to see all the animals of the sea. I’m so glad it worked out for our family to visit the Georgia Aquarium this summer.

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

I know there are so many fun family activities to do in Atlanta, but we made the right decision in placing the Georgia Aquarium on our agenda for our family’s first road trip as a family of four.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Gluten-Free Vegan Road Trip to Atlanta, Georgia (in a 2016 Toyota Highlander)

Gluten-Free Vegan Road Trip to Atlanta, Georgia in a 2016 Toyota Highlander Limited

For the past week now, my wife and I have been experimenting with the gluten-free experience (no wheat); on top of the fact I’m already a vegan and she’s already a vegetarian, as has been the case for years now.

In theory, it was a very inconvenient time to much such a change in our diet, since we were on our first family road trip as a family of 4, to Atlanta from Nashville, in a 2016 Toyota Highlander to test out the 3rd row seat in particular.

However, we are not victims- we instead choose to be victors every day in life, so we held true to our current gluten-free principals the entire time; never once wavering in the face of inconvenience.

Gluten-Free Vegan Road Trip to Atlanta, Georgia in a 2016 Toyota Highlander Limited

In our years of road tripping as a vegan/vegetarian family (our kids are vegetarians too), we have learned the importance of basing our destination and related activities in proximity to the nearest Whole Foods Market or any similar “plant-based friendly” grocery store.

It turns out that Atlanta has 3 or 4 Whole Foods Market. But because we were staying in downtown Atlanta, the nearest one to us was the Ponce de Leon location.

With only one exception, our family ate every meal there.

(I should note our kids are not participating in the gluten-free project; especially as our daughter is only 2 months-old. Again, both of our children are vegetarians, but not currently gluten-free as well.)

Gluten-Free Vegan Road Trip to Atlanta, Georgia in a 2016 Toyota Highlander Limited

My wife and I found that sushi was a good staple for us, as it contained brown rice, seaweed, cucumbers, and avocado (which contains protein, good fat, and zero percentage of our daily cholesterol which is the case with all vegan food).

Here’s what we can eat: vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, beans, and wheat-free grains; like rice, oats, and corn).

Obviously, we ate from the hot bar a few times.

Plus, we enjoyed a couple simple meals consisting of a Core Meal bar and a Synergy Organic Kombucha drink with chia seeds.

We were very grateful for the Ponce de Leon Whole Foods, as they were just a few blocks away from our hotel in downtown Atlanta (where some of the stars of Fast and Furious 8 are staying- I know this because I accidently met one of the stars of the cast in the elevator on the way to the gym- I think it was Branislov R. Tatalovic).

Gluten-Free Vegan Road Trip to Atlanta, Georgia in a 2016 Toyota Highlander Limited

So speaking of the exception, we finally got a chance to go to the much acclaimed Sunflower Café; which is gluten-free friendly and vegan friendly.

Gluten-Free Vegan Road Trip to Atlanta, Georgia in a 2016 Toyota Highlander Limited

Our family loved this place so much, we ended up buying the restaurant’s cookbook, in an effort for my wife to broaden her skills from a vegan chef to a gluten-free vegan chef.

Gluten-Free Vegan Road Trip to Atlanta, Georgia in a 2016 Toyota Highlander Limited

I know Atlanta is full of plenty of other gluten-free vegan restaurants, but we never made it past the Ponce de Leon location, as well as Sunflower Café.

That’s how good both places were.

Gluten-Free Vegan Road Trip to Atlanta, Georgia in a 2016 Toyota Highlander Limited

Thanks for reading my blog post today on our family’s recent gluten-free road trip to Atlanta. I hope you found this helpful in making decisions for your own family.

Gluten-Free Vegan Road Trip to Atlanta, Georgia in a 2016 Toyota Highlander Limited

2016 Toyota Highlander Limited: 3rd Row Seat Space and Child Car Seat Placement

2016 Toyota Highlander Limited: 3rd Row Seat Space & Child Car Seat Placement

This past weekend, our family had the privilege of being able to drive a 2016 Toyota Highlander Limited from Spring Hill, Tennessee (a bedroom community of Nashville) to Atlanta, Georgia. One of the specific reasons we chose this particular vehicle was to test out its 3rd row seat.

Now that we are a family of 4 (our daughter was born 2 months ago), we are considering buying an SUV for our next family vehicle. In particular, we are currently considering the ones that have a 3rd row seat.

It’s not that 4 people require 3 rows of seats. Instead, we would like the option of having my wife being able to sit in the back with the kids, while I drive up front.

Plus, it would be nice to have extra seats when my parents are in town so we can all fit in the same vehicle.

In the 2016 Toyota Highlander Limited that we drove for the weekend, the seat layout consisted of 2 captain’s chairs up front, 2 more in the middle row, and then a 3-seat 3rd row (which quickly and easily folds up or down with the pull of a tether).

The 3rd row’s child seat anchor is in the middle seat; meaning that an adult or older child would sit on the ends of the 3rd row while and the younger child’s or baby’s car seat would be in between them.

Obviously, child car seats can be put in either of the middle row captain’s chair as well; making a total of 3 different places that children’s seats can be anchored.

As far as how much space is in the 3rd row seat for an adult, I shot this video for your convenience.

In it, I demonstrated how an average-sized American adult (which I am, at 5’9” and 162 pounds) can easily fit in the 3rd row seat, given that you A) sit on either end of the row, but not the middle; B) lay the seat back further than a 90 degree angle; and C) move the middle row up a few inches so your knees don’t hit it.

Another thing I do in the video is the show how much cargo space remains when the 3rd row is up: I am able to lay down in that space, as you will see…

I also invite you to watch my other video which shows everything we packed in the back, with the 3rd row seat down. I explain how it was great having that space for our stroller and luggage.

Thanks for reading my blog post today and watching my videos. I hope you found this helpful in making decisions for your own family.

And if you’re looking for a child booster car seat similar to the one my son is using in the pictures above, here’s a link in case you’re looking to purchase one.

2016 Toyota Highlander Limited: 3rd Row Seat Space & Child Car Seat Placement

Dear Jack: Playing Catch With Your Kid, Literally

3 years, 10 months.

Joe Hendricks Photography throwing son in the air

Dear Jack,

One of the classic dad things to do is to throw your kid (especially if it’s a boy) up to the air and catch them, repeatedly.

The child laughs, the dad laughs. It’s a classic American scene.

Yeah… I’ve never done that with you.

I officially realized this a few weeks back when I saw an Instragram photo (featured above) from my friend and professional photographer Joe Hendricks.

Seriously, look at that height! It’s about 5 feet up.

I think his ability to throw his 3 year-old son Austin that high into the air is amazing. Not only that Joe can physically do that, but that his son Austin obviously fully trusts his Daddy that much.

Somehow I just never got around to doing that to you; not even a few inches into the air. And at this rate, I can’t imagine being able to physically do it.

You aren’t that little anymore. In fact, everyone keeps saying you’re going to outgrow me by the time you’re 18. By now, you’re actually pretty tall and pretty heavy.

So I guess I won’t be able to check off “throwing my son up in the air and catching him repeatedly” from my list of things to do as a dad. At nearly 4 years old now, I think you’re too big to throw even a fraction of how high Joe can throw his son Austin.

But I’m sure you wish I could do what Joe is able to do to Austin!

Nashville Food Truck Festival Nick Shell

Instead, I’ve been throwing you onto your bed every night as Mommy prepares your bath. It’s sort of like WWE Wrestling for us.

You and I have another new tradition now too. Most mornings you wake up about 45 minutes too early. So I come to your bedroom as his Mommy is getting ready for work, then I ask you to “go camping” with me.

What that means is that I lay down on the floor with a blanket, next to your bed. You then jump down, with your own blanket and lay down either in between me and the wall, or on top of me.

We sort of both half-way fall asleep until Mommy enters into the room to get you dressed. That’s a near daily occurrence these days.

I’m always curious about the subtle ways that fathers and sons show physical affection. As for you and me, we now “go camping” next to your bed. Or like this morning, we just sleep together on your bed instead of beside it.

But as for my friend and professional photographer Joe Hendricks, he shares an amazing bonding ritual with his son that I’ve never attempted.

Meanwhile you have to settle for getting tossed onto your bed, AKA Wrestlemania.

Love,

Daddy

P.S. Here is some of Joe Hendricks’ work:

Joe Hendricks Photography

Joe Hendricks Photography

Joe Hendricks Photography

6 Things to Do in Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game (Includes Secret Giveway For World Of Coca-Cola Tickets)

I assume that because I am from Alabama, a decent amount my readers are from there was well, and maybe more specifically, are also Crimson Tide fans. Therefore, I also assume there may be some readers who will be making the trip to Atlanta to watch the Crimson Tide take on the Mountaineers in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game on August 30.

World of Coca-Cola to readers traveling to Atlanta

So, courtesy of the World of Coca-Cola, I am able to giveaway 4 tickets to World of Coca-Cola to readers traveling to Atlanta for the game. The tickets are good for a visit the attraction, so one lucky reader can take 3 friends or family members along. (Also, they are valid through the end of this year.)

World of Coca-Cola to readers traveling to Atlanta Nick Shell Family Friendly Daddy Blog

Here’s what to do to try to win:

Be the first person to go to the Facebook page for Family Friendly Daddy Blog and ask, “Did I just win the World of Coca-Cola tickets for this weekend?”

If you truly are the 1st, I will personally respond to confirm that you are the sole winner of all 4 tickets. (Then I’ll follow up privately to confirm your mailng address to give to World of Coca-Cola to send the tickets.)

Update: It took 48 minutes… then this happened:

Did I just win the World of Coca Cola tickets for this weekend?
Like ·

World of Coca-Cola to readers traveling to Atlanta Nick Shell Family Friendly Daddy Blog

So it’s official, Charles Van Dyke is the winner! Thanks for reading and for playing, Charles.

Also, there are a lot of big events going on in Atlanta that weekend – specifically for the Kickoff Game, and otherwise – and you might be interested in checking out this list of the family-friendly things going on if you’re in town for the game. Included below is World of Coca-Cola‘s list of the top 6 things to do in Atlanta the weekend of August 30th, 2014.

World of Coca-Cola to readers traveling to Atlanta Nick Shell Family Friendly Daddy Blog

6 Things to Do in Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, Presented By World Of Coca-Cola

1)      Fan Days at the World of Coca-Cola are August 26 through September 2. Buy your tickets here and receive $3 off general admission to get a glimpse inside the world’s #1 brand and see what the fizz is all about.

2)      As a football fan, how could you not visit the new College Football Hall of Fame? The attraction is going all out for its Grand Opening on August 23. Celebrate the rich history of the game and make memories of your own with historic and contemporary artifacts, interactive multimedia displays, children’s activities and more.

3)      For some free fun, grab your fellow fans and hit up Tailgate Town on the West Plaza. How can you resist food sampling, games, giveaways and a BBQ cook-off?

4)      If you want to take your tailgating up a notch, purchase tickets for the Bama Bash Team Tailgate at the Georgia World Congress Center. Yes, that’s an air-conditioned tailgate featuring pregame entertainment and a delicious buffet.

5)      Refresh yourself with an ice-cold drink and cheer on your favorite team at its Pep Rally when you visit the FanZone presented by Coca-Cola Zero. Don’t miss out on the dozens of interactive games and sponsor attractions.

6)      While walking down the Atlanta streets, it’s likely that you’ll find yourself in the middle of a science-fiction scene. That’s because Dragon Con is returning to Atlanta this Labor Day weekend. For some fantastical fun – and lots of Storm Troopers – check out the annual parade.

World of Coca-Cola to readers traveling to Atlanta Nick Shell Family Friendly Daddy Blog

World of Coca-Cola to readers traveling to Atlanta Nick Shell Family Friendly Daddy Blog

World of Coca-Cola to readers traveling to Atlanta Nick Shell Family Friendly Daddy Blog