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

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: Your 1st Soccer Game/Grumpy Face At School

4 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack: Your First Soccer Game/Grumpy Face At School

Dear Jack,

Last Saturday you had your first ever soccer game! It might be expected for me to tell some high energy story where you scored a goal, in which I feature a picture of you kicking the ball into the net in a very pivotal moment in the game…

However, my goal for you last Saturday was a bit different: “Jack, just finish the game.”

I promise I’ll never be that stereotypical 1990s TV dad who tries to get his son to live out his own sports career dreams.

It doesn’t matter to me if you decided after this season that you never wanted to play on a soccer team again.

I just want you to be able to know that you gave it a shot so that you could decide for yourself whether you truly like soccer or not.

Dear Jack: Your First Soccer Game/Grumpy Face At School

You have good soccer skills, as demonstrated in your practices with Mommy and me in our driveway and even at the soccer field right before the actual game began on Saturday.

The thing getting in your way is that you don’t want to be forced to play soccer in front of other people… with other people.

Therefore, my goal for you will simply be for you to join the rest of the kids on the field by choosing to at least chase the ball around.

I say that because you just stood there, looking at the ground. It was pretty hilarious, actually. I shot this video of you doing the kick-off; you kicked the ball, then just waited and watched the other kids chase the ball as to say, “Alright, my job’s done here.”

It sure beats being the couple of kids who cried their way off the field and never finished.

Your challenge isn’t physical; you are very skilled in that department. Your challenge is a social one. (Not to mention, it was only 36 degrees outside!)

Granted, you are only 4 years old, so I think it’s only natural that you’re not eager to prove your physical skills on the field before a live audience.

If your coach and I can help you overcome your “stage fright”, then I can feel you really got something out of your first soccer season.

Dear Jack: Your First Soccer Game/Grumpy Face At School

Your cousin Calla (and Aunt Dana and Uncle Andrew) drove up from Alabama to see you. We carpooled in their Toyota Highlander.

To help us find the way to the soccer field, you had painted us a map with your watercolors. You also made sure to bring along your newest stuffed animal, Spot; a $5 purchase from Kohl’s.

So we’ll see how the rest of the season goes. I just want you to have fun. I think after a few more games, you’ll start coming out of your “shell.”

Dear Jack: Your First Soccer Game/Grumpy Face At School

Get it? Because our last name is Shell?

Meanwhile, at your school this week, your teacher Ms. Aimee gave me a fun update:

Here are some photos of Jack from today! We had a blast playing outside with chalk! 

My favorite photo is the grumpy face, I couldn’t help but take it when I looked at him.

“Ms. Aimee, I can’t draw my picture!”

“Oh, why not hun?”

“Because, you’re STANDING on it!”

I about died laughing, while evilly taking his picture… hehe.

Dear Jack: Your First Soccer Game/Grumpy Face At School

Looking ahead, we’ve got Easter coming up. I’m sure it will be great family fun! I’m sure I’ll tell you all about it in my next letter to you…

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Your First Soccer Game/Grumpy Face At School

2014 Toyota Highlander: Platinum Package Including Pre-Collision System With Dynamic Radar Cruise Control

Let me clear up any confusion… Yes, I did indeed review a 2014 Toyota Highlander while on vacation in Lake Tahoe two weeks ago.

But that was a different one. It was was black. This one today is silver…

2014 Toyota Highlander: Platinum Package Including Pre-Collision System With Dynamic Radar Cruise Control

Plus, reviewing a Highlander while back at home in Nashville gave me the opportunity to appreciate some features I didn’t notice the first time around.

For example, the air was low one day in the front passenger tire, but I didn’t realize that on my own. However, I was alerted on the dashboard what was wrong.

So using the built-in GPS, I was able to find the closest gas station where I could fill up the tire. Had I not been alerted by the vehicle itself, I could have ended up driving too far on that tire; it could have went flat on me.

2014 Toyota Highlander: Platinum Package Including Pre-Collision System With Dynamic Radar Cruise Control

Another interesting feature I want to point out is the “pre-collision system with dynamic radar cruise control.”

Say you’ve got the cruise control set on 70 mph and everything is going fine… until you get behind a slower vehicle going 68 mph.

The Highlander (Limited PLT V6 FWD with Platinum Package) automatically slows down to match the vehicle in front of you. Pretty clever, actually.

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There’s also a setting called “lane departure alert” that lets you know anytime you veer over into another lane by accident.

I’m not a high-tech kind of guy, but I have to point out that for anyone is who is, this is a smart SUV.

My brother-in-law, who is the epitome of high tech, set it up to where I could use my “dumb phone” (which has no Internet) over the speakers of the car.

That was the first time I’ve ever got to sync my phone up to a car. I felt special.

I will close on this note. I want to remind you that just because a car company is “foreign owned,” it doesn’t mean the cars it makes aren’t made in America.

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Take a look at these pictures in which I circled in blue the phrase “Made in U.S.A.”

Meanwhile, there are “American car companies” that have the majority of their parts made and assembled overseas. I quickly recognize the double standard.

I am now inspired to start promoting where the cars are actually made. As you can see, this 2014 Toyota Highlander was made here in America. In Princeton, Indiana, to be exact.

https://familyfriendlydaddyblog.com/2014/06/25/2014-toyota-highlander-limited-plt-family-friendly-car-review/

Thanks for reading this week’s Family Friendly Daddy Blog car review. I’ll finish off with some stats:

Fuel Economy: 21 MPG combined/19 city/25 highway

Annual fuel cost: $2,500

Manufacturer’s suggested retail price with optional equipment: $42,945.00.

https://familyfriendlydaddyblog.com/2014/06/25/2014-toyota-highlander-limited-plt-family-friendly-car-review/

 

2014 Toyota Highlander- Limited PLT: Family Friendly Car Review

2014 Toyota Highlander Family Friendly Car Review by Nick Shell

I’ve been having several people asking me when I’ll finally review a Toyota Highlander. This time has come!

The timing was perfect because it was the vehicle I was able to test drive during my family’s annual vacation to California. This time around was special, though, because we took a special road trip from Sacramento to Lake Tahoe (Squaw Valley) in it.

2014 Toyota Highlander Family Friendly Car Review by Nick Shell

Before I say anything else, even if a Highlander isn’t the kind of vehicle you’re in the market to own, it’s at least the perfect one to rent while on vacation.

2014 Toyota Highlander- Limited PLT: Family Friendly Car Review

Even though there are just three of us in my family, we hauled around a lot of luggage, being that we flew in from Nashville. Not to mention, our road trip was also a “travelling family reunion.” In other words, we were part of a caravan in which extended family members were rotating in and out of the car.

2014 Toyota Highlander Family Friendly Car Review by Nick Shell

The Highlander was the perfect size; seating 7 plus cargo space. With an average MPG of 20, I could have made it all the way from Sacramento to Lake Tahoe and back on the same tank, had it not been for some extra trips to neighboring towns like Truckee. Doing so much driving in an unfamiliar part of the country, the special backup camera was especially helpful.

2014 Toyota Highlander Family Friendly Car Review by Nick Shell

In what turned about to be a perfect coincidence, Toyota happens to be the official sponsor of Squaw Valley, where we stayed. I had no idea going into this.

2014 Toyota Highlander- Limited PLT: Family Friendly Car Review

So on display there at The Village At Squaw Valley, they featured several other Toyotas, all of which I have previously reviewed: the Rav4, the Tacoma, the Prius, and today, the Highlander.

2014 Toyota Highlander Family Friendly Car Review by Nick Shell

Just a couple of months ago, my sister and her husband traded in their Mazda Tribute for a Highlander, and I’ve heard nothing but positives the whole time. They love theirs.

So in addition to me saying the Highlander made the perfect complimentary vehicle for an all-American rugged road trip, my sister is very satisfied with it as her main car.

2014 Toyota Highlander Family Friendly Car Review by Nick Shell

And she did a lot of research before buying it. She admitted to me that all my many Toyota reviews helped convince her. (We were raised in a very pro-Ford home.)

Similarly, my wife loved the Highlander, saying that she loved how “roomy” it is and that “it’s high enough off the ground that it makes me feel like I’d be safe in a crash.”

2014 Toyota Highlander Family Friendly Car Review by Nick Shell

Lastly, my son said his favorite part about riding in the Highlander was that he could see out all the windows. And on a mountainous road trip to Lake Tahoe, that matters!

2014 Toyota Highlander Family Friendly Car Review by Nick Shell

Here are the stats:

3.5 DOHC V6 Engine with Dual WT-i

6 Spd Auto Trans; 5,000 lb Tow Capacity

7 passenger

2014 Toyota Highlander Family Friendly Car Review by Nick Shell

Annual Fuel Cost: $2,600

20 MPG combined: 18 city/24 highway

Cost As Shown: $44,450.00

2014 Toyota Highlander- Limited PLT: Family Friendly Car Review

Thanks for checking out my very anticipated review of the 2014 Toyota Highlander. I hope you enjoyed it!