Bramell, Party of Five: 2017

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

My High-Tech Day

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by the Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit and its partners, NWA Tech Council and the Greater Bentonville area Chamber of Commerce. I was invited to attend this conference in exchange for social media promotion of the event. All opinions are my own and recollections of the event are reflective of my experience.

I recently attended the Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit, which was held at the John Q. Hammons Convention Center in Rogers. You may have noticed my Facebook and Twitter accounts blowing up with information during that time. This was my second time to attend, where I was able to learn about technology in the workplace and to share what I learned on social media.

I was not surprised to find out that the attendance for the event has grown from 400 to 1500; it was obvious looking around the main ballroom that people were excited to be there. This year, organizers even added two days to the event, to include a day targeted to women professionals in tech and another day labeled as a makers summit.

I particularly enjoyed the morning keynote presentation by Michael Troiano, who is the VP-IoT, of AT&T Business Solutions. He shared some interesting figures that really got me thinking about how technology, and specifically the internet, have such a big role in everyday life. In our personal lives, we are connected not only through our phones, TVs and cars, but now we are able to control our thermostats and view our home security systems when we aren’t home. City governments are improving efficiency by doing things like providing some workers with Wi-Fi in work vehicles and controlling street lights.

Troiano told us of a study that says by 2020, there will be more than 35 billion devices connected to the internet. Guys, that’s four times the number of people in the whole world! Can you imagine? 

As I looked through the agenda (online, of course!), I found it really hard to choose which breakout sessions I wanted to attend. Now, more than ever, I realize that it’s important for me to keep learning new things to improve my job skills and be more marketable as a potential employee.

One of the sessions I attended was a panel discussion led by three women in the tech field. They each spoke about their careers, how they came to them and how they continue to change. The women stressed the importance of getting girls interested in technology early in life. In fact, studies have shown that girls are equally as interested in technology gaming, building and designing as boys are. Girls do think math is fun and cool, despite the old stereotype we know. The problem is that at a certain age, most girls decide that they don’t want to show that enthusiasm or interest in math in front of boys. One of the panelists said this is a reason that some schools are starting to separate classrooms so that boys and girls won’t be distracted or influenced by the other. I’m not sure my opinion on this, but it’s certainly worth reading about.

I had a great experience at the Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit this year. I’m super proud that I have so many friends involved in the planning of the event, and who support the event. I’m even more proud of the girlfriends I have in the technology field. They are all doing important work and being strong role models for girls just like mine.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Summer Is...

Kansas City Fun

Grammy Camp

Moving Day for Family! 

Birthday Celebration 

Birthday Kids: Look Who Turned SEVEN!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Welcome To My House (sing it)

We are deep in the heart of summer break here at the Bramell house. In a nutshell, it looks like this: school is out, bedtime is late and the house is a wreck. And with the exception of my birthday beach trip, it sure beats the heck out of last summer (battle of the head lice).

As an adult, "summer" has always just meant hot weather to me. I've always been envious of my children, work from home folks and those professionals who get an extended summer break from work. However, this marks the second summer that I've been home with my kids and now I see the light. Sure, it's mostly great, but there is a lot of not-so-great that comes with it. You might be wondering:

  • The constant slamming of doors as the kids run in and out ALL DAY LONG. It's like Saturday, but every day.
  • The never-ending demands for food! With so many kids, someone is always hungry. I did not sign up to be a short order cook for three meals a day. Nuh-uh.
  • Hearing the cries of boredom. Why?! Why?! With a house (and yard) full of trinkets and toys, why is there never anything to do? I would LOVE to be that bored. Cry me a river, kiddo. 
  • The noise level in my home. In addition to the TV and other electronics, there are usually one or two extra neighborhood kids over throughout the day. While I appreciate the kids who keep my kids entertained, the noise level just wears me out.
  • Because I'm home, I notice the chores that need to be done. When I was working in an office, I didn't see the dirty dishes or pile of laundry all day. Now I just spend too much time doing chores when I should be doing work I'm paid to do.

Family Day at the Bramell house with a visit from some of our favorites! 

All of this bellyaching to come to this's summer. If you come to our house, know that it will be messy and loud. But the good news is that you will have plenty to eat and lots of kids to play with. And, if you get too bored, you can help me with chores. It may not be the perfect summer around here, but it's pretty darn close.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Wonder(ful) Woman Indeed

We took the family out to see the new Wonder Woman movie this week. As I sat  there in the theater next to my kiddos, we were all wiggly with excitement. Within the first half hour, I knew I was going to deal with some major feelings this movie was stirring around in me. And I sure didn't expect that. Now that I've had a couple of days to process my thoughts, I'm ready to share. 
First, I promise no spoilers. I watched enough episodes of Wonder Woman as a kid to know her history, but I wasn't sure how the filmmakers could make it updated and realistic. Done. Also, Gal Gadot was a perfect choice for the role. Of course, one cannot deny her beauty, but also cannot deny her healthy, strong and muscly body appearance. She's no frail waif of a princess. Right on.
I never wanted to stand up and cheer in a theater as much as I did during her first real fight scene. Without giving too much away, she was being escorted through the front lines of a war zone. She saw women and children crying for help in the midst of explosions and dead bodies. The men with her seemed cold and blind to the sight, content to press on toward their business at hand. She, however, called them out on their BS. She said, "This is wrong and I will fight for them." And she did, while the men watched, and I was teary  the entire 10 minutes. I couldn't help but think of the symbolism, while intended or not, that she represents so many women who keep fighting through BS every day to get their job done. It might be at home, in a workplace or in fighting for the rights of others. Instead of walking away, she fought because she believed. She stood her ground, and that is what I sat there and hoped my kids were understanding.
If you don't know, this movie is about a princess. But she definitely doesn't need a man to rescue her. The men clearly followed her lead, even though they didn't understand her motivation or her thought process. I haven't seen a movie like this in a long time, maybe ever. This is the kind of role model I want for my girls. The entire movie, she said (and showed) in many ways: YES I CAN, YES I WILL and I'M IN CHARGE.  She was strong, determined and confident. My response to this? More, please!! We need to see more movies just like this. Women can save the world, too!
After the movie ended, I questioned my girls a little bit to see if they picked up on some of the themes. I told them how rare it is to have a strong, female hero in a movie. And on top of that, this movie has a female director, which I told them was also rare in Hollywood. I don't think the importance of it really clicked with them, but they are young. One day I hope there won't be a need to have that discussion with them, that it will be a non-issue in the world.
I've been asked a few times if the movie is appropriate for kids, since it has a PG-13 rating. I will say that we probably let our kids slide on PG-13 more than we should, but this one is totally fine. There is no foul language at all, and the rating is likely for the war/fighting/battle scenes. This movie gets a big 10 thumbs up from my family.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Double Digit Diva

Big Sis is celebrating a big day today. She's TEN!!
Actually, we celebrated all weekend with her. We started with bowling with friends on Friday night and ended with a Kidz Bop concert on Sunday evening. And tonight she will get to play ball on her birthday. Sounds like a pretty perfect 10 to me.
This kid is wrapping up 4th grade, where she managed to surprise me around every turn. I can vividly remember that 4th grade was my most difficult and worst year of my younger years; I was hoping to avoid a repeat with my own child. Thankfully, we did. She had a great teacher and super friends by her side this year. She makes us proud every day.
I want her to know that she's (mostly) a good big sister, she's an above-average student and more than anything, she has a stubborn determination that I hope never quits. This year she improved in gymnastics, she ran TWO 5K races and she finally tried softball, which she is enjoying. Quite a year for this one!
We are ready for a fun summer before her last year of elementary school. She's come a long way from that shy, tearful baby I left in kindergarten not too long ago. I can't wait to see what she does next year.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Future is Now for Springdale Students

#Ad Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, for which I have been compensated.
There’s something special going on in the Springdale School District, and as my children get older, I’ve started to pay a little more attention to it. I’d watched the recent construction of the new Don Tyson School of Innovation in east Springdale as we’ve traveled to soccer games, but didn’t know much about the school itself until recently. As it turns out, I have a friend whose children, Breana and Tanner, both attend classes there. I caught up with them last week to find out more about the campus and what it offers for their family.
The Don Tyson School of Innovation welcomed its first class in 2014, but opened a brand new campus this past fall. By 2018, it will house a full enrollment of 8th-12th graders. The school offers classes and programs that are project-based and focused on the STEM curriculum (science, technology, engineering and math). Curriculum was developed by teachers and business leaders in order to have the students both college and career ready upon graduation, with students having the opportunity to earn concurrent college credit.
Our friends are a busy family with three active children. When the school announced its initial enrollment in 2014, Breana immediately signed herself up for classes. Her mom laughs because she never even saw the forms that were sent home! When younger brother Tanner had the chance, he decided to join his sister at DTSOI.
Here are some questions I had for the family.
What is your favorite thing about your school?
Breana: I like that we have a little more flexibility than traditional school. We have open classroom environments. We also get to travel to the junior high and high school for activities like sports, choir or band.
How does your experience compare with the more traditional school setting?
Breana:  The work is more self-paced here. We have more time when we need it.
What are some of the classes that you take?
Breana: Chemistry, History, English, Geometry and Entrepreneurship
Tanner: Physical Science, English, Math, Health, Careers and East
The Don Tyson School of Innovation is open to any 8th-12th grade student living in Arkansas. They offer on-site and online classes, or a combination of both.  The school is currently enrolling for next fall.
I know that I will be keeping my eye on the Don Tyson School of Innovation as an option for my kids in the future. I especially like that it offers the STEM focus, with fun areas of study like robotics and drone piloting. To find out more about the school, visit their website.
* Photos provided by Don Tyson School of Innovation

Monday, February 27, 2017

Can We Talk About...

...spring pictures at school?
  • Seriously, this has got to be one of the most stressful times for a mama. Tomorrow is our picture day and none of my children have pants that cover their ankles! Fall pictures aren't that bad because the clothes are new and still fit. Fast forward to late in the school year and growth spurts have kicked in. It wouldn't matter so much if they were only doing yearbook photos, but they are also taking class photos. I'm heading to the store this afternoon to buy Boy Twin some jeans because Lord knows if I don't, then he'll be sitting in the front row with his pants up to his shins for all the world to see. The girls will be wearing dresses because I don't have the time, energy or cash for a shopping spree right now. Anyone feel my pain? And don't even get me started on why they even take school pictures twice a year! Why?

...packing lunch boxes?
  • Totally over it. I'm tired of packing them and they're tired of eating them. They don't want anything we have in the cabinet, except for chips.

...everyone's favorite little Boston Terrier, Fergie?
  • You know how they say old dogs can't learn new tricks? Well, ours can! Lee has taught her what "kitty-cat" means. She will now run to the front window and prop her paws on the windowsill to look for the neighborhood cat. Our usually non-barker will also bark her head off when looking for the "kitty-cat." It's really funny. that are growing up too fast?
  • In light of the above mentioned growth spurt, Big Sis has asked that I take her shopping at Aeropostale. I blame You Tube. No more Children's Place for that girl, I guess. Sigh.

...Girl Scout cookies?
  • I was so excited that my girls wanted to join a troop this year! Yay! However, now I'm on the hook for delivering over 260 boxes of cookies next week. I suddenly realize how my mama felt all those years with mountains of cookie boxes stacked in our dining room. Oops.

I'm sure there are more things I'd like to rant about, but that's all the time I have now. Let me know what's on your mind, maybe we can do a collaborative list.  In the meantime, you can look at these cute, growing kids of mine.



Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Twin Tuesday: A Tale of Two Breakfasts

Even though these two shared a tight living space for nearly nine months, that's where most of the similarity ends. From the beginning, they have had their own quirks and habits that make them special.
For example, Girl Twin has always been the boss--and that hasn't changed. She could tell her brother what to do (and he'd do it), even before she could talk! Boy Twin has always been the more expressive one--fussing, crying or needing attention--where she reeks of quiet mischief. Remember, she's the one who has always been a hoarder of food and hider of things in the house. To this day, if something is missing, we all ask sister where she put it.
There is something else about them that made me chuckle the other day--their breakfast habits! I know, such an odd thing to notice. Girl Twin likes her breakfast. When the kids wake up, I usually go through the list of breakfast options for them: cereal, waffles, toast, fruit or Pop Tarts. Girl Twin likes her breakfast so much that she can't choose just one! She will often ask for cereal AND toast, or cereal AND a waffle. This may be one reason why I can't keep her in clothes that fit!
Boy Twin, on the other hand, can take it or leave it when it comes to breakfast. Where the girls want to eat as soon as they wake up, he will often wait until the last minute before school. On the weekends, he sometimes won't eat breakfast at all. You know, those days when you wake up late and it's past breakfast time but not yet lunch time....those are the hardest for Boy Twin. This happened one recent Saturday, where he didn't want breakfast when he got up. However, when it was time for me to make lunch, he freaked out. "But I didn't have breakfast yet," he cried. I told him that it was OK to skip breakfast and just go straight to lunch food. NO! He wasn't having any of that! So, at 11:30am, he had to eat a bowl of cereal before he would eat the lunch I made. Isn't that quirky?  Truth be told, he gets that from his daddy. :)
Do you know anyone with breakfast quirks, or is it just a Bramell thing? You should know that as I write this, Lee is eating a bowl of cereal at 11:05am. See? I told you he gets it from his dad.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Twin Tuesday: Feel The Love

These two. I swear, sometimes I want to strangle them. Other times I want to put them in my pocket and keep them there forever. Just like any siblings, they fight and bicker a lot. They also love as fiercely as they fight; I suppose that's a good thing. One day they will realize just how lucky they are.

The other night, Boy Twin must have been doing some deep thinking during bath time. He came out into the living room and this happened:

Him: Mom, can twins be married?

Me: (confused) Do you mean to each other?

Him: Yes. Can me and Girl Twin get married?

Me:  No, baby. You cannot marry each other; you will grow up and find different people to marry.

Him:  (Deflated) Awwww, man!

I love his innocence. I love his heart. And I love that I have to repeatedly tell him that he can't marry his sister.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Recap and Reset: Hello 2017!

Happy New Year! As usual, I get refreshed after the holiday rush and feel like blogging again. The cobwebs are gone and I'm ready to face 2017; I mean, it's got to be better than 2016, right?
Since October, I've been participating in a (mostly) daily exercise in practicing gratitude with one of my friends from Arkansas Women Bloggers. How does that work? We exchange a daily email with a list of three items that we are thankful for that day. I tell you, I think it's really helped me keep things in perspective. Where I used to get down and angry about things, I'm now trying to stay focused on even the small, happy moments in every day. They are there, I promise. Sometimes you just have to look deep for them. I highly recommend having a gratitude partner and giving this exercise a try.
In December, I set a physical challenge for myself. I set a goal to walk at least 25 miles for the month--and I DID IT--thanks to inspiration from my friend Alicia at Simple Words By A, who has been smashing her own mileage goals. Because of the mild weather, I was able to do a lot of outside walking. On the cold days, I walked inside to my Leslie Sansone DVD.
The kiddos enjoyed their long break from school, no doubt. We spent a lot of time cooking, watching Christmas movies and crafting. Lots and lots of crafting. It's funny, actually. Big Sis is at that age where she wants to try ALL THE CRAFTS. We dabbled in coloring, painting, making rubber band bracelets, bead bracelets, latch hook, finger knitting scarves and cross-stitching over the break. Add to that list some very basic acoustic guitar lessons from You Tube. Mercy, that girl keeps me busy!
I've also mentally prepared myself for broken bones in 2017 for a Bramell or two. Due to Christmas, my children are now the proud owners of a trampoline, three pair of Heelys (shoes with wheels), a pogo stick and a Ripstik. That is surely asking for trouble, and I'm not sure what Santa was thinking!
All this to say that we survived a pretty rocky 2016 here in the Bramell house and we're ready to move on. Let's do this.

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