Bluegrass Grill: Bright Spot #4

One of our family favorite’s is Bluegrass Grill, just a block off the Downtown Mall.  We seem to all get the craving at the same time.  Our five year old will wander into the bedroom and ask to head over there for breakfast.  Most of the time, we agree and probably find ourselves there once every couple weeks.  

We all love the kids’ play area and try to sit as close as possible.  My two year old makes phone calls and dumps out toys from the little red toy box.  My older son searches for dino toys and draws pictures.  Together, they cook up all sorts of delights in the little wooden kitchen, complete with stainless pots and pans, pancakes, and even pats of butter!  My husband and I REALLY appreciate that there are plenty of things for the littles to get into without being too disruptive.  

Although there is not a separate kids’ menu, there are lots of menu items suitable for your sweet wee ones.  For under $5, you could piece together a picky-eater breakfast from the a la carte menu or set them up with pancakes, granola, or oatmeal.  UNLESS, your too-smart-for-your-own-good five year old wises up to the fact that the Hungry Norman IS the most delicious breakfast possible and starts requesting the $12 parent pleaser in place of his usual short stack of honey-wheat pancakes.  Of course, adults can enjoy a solid variety of menu options, including vegan, vegetarian, and GF-friendly picks.  Currently, I’m totally stuck on P3-a mouth-watering mess of home fries, chorizo, peppers, and cheddar cheese...so, so good!  

We have found the BGG (our family name for our beloved fave breakfast spot) to be easy to get into most weekdays.  Weekends are a totally different story.  If you get there past the initial opening time   (and sometimes even then) plan to wait a while before a table becomes available.  There seems to be a bit of confusion around how waiting works.  I must say, we don’t do the waiting thing.  If there is a wait, we go straight to plan B.  However, I BELIEVE the wait list is on the wall and folks add their own names to the list and seat themselves when space becomes available.  

The BGG only takes cash or check, so be sure to prepare ahead of time, or you’ll be walking over to the mall to find an ATM to pay for your meal!

It isn’t always clear to me whether the staff is as happy to have us around as we are to be there.  I’ve decided to chalk it up to them being busy and the actual fact that kids in restaurants can be potentially disastrous for everyone involved.  Generally, the service is good enough, even if no one is smiling at us or gushing about how cute my kid’s drawings are.  

unnamed.jpg

My biggest complaint is the ginormous pile of seasonings, condiments, and decor in the middle of each table, no matter how tiny.  There is the small vase with a single flower, the libations menu (good to know in case your trip really goes down hill!), salt & pepper, a variety of sweeteners, three types of jellies, a dish of single-serve margarine cups, two types of hot sauces, and I don’t even know what else!  This is like a gold mine of mischief for my children and ends up getting scooted to every corner of the table multiple times before we leave.  Exhausting.  

I can’t recall if there is a changing table in the bathroom because i never actually go in there.  I don’t know why my husband and I haven’t actually started to plan for this phenomenon, but EVERY time we go pretty much, my two year old has a massive bowel movement AND we leave the diaper bag in the car.  So….the kid gets changed in the back of the car and I cannot report on the presence or absence of a changing table.  Maybe if you take your diaper bag in with you, you can find out and let us know!  

Overall, the BGG feels fun and easy for our crew!  We love the food, our kids are entertained, and we feel like the prices are reasonable.  It is a bright spot that we look forward to pretty often and love to share with visiting friends and family.  And they have chocolate covered bacon.  Bloody Mary’s, a play kitchen, and chocolate covered bacon.  Winning!

Splendora's: Bright Spot #3

My daughter was largely built of gelato. While I was pregnant and for her first few months out of the womb we were living on the downtown mall and during that time Splendora's became my favorite local business. It was where I went to celebrate by myself the day I legally changed my name. It was where Matilde received one of her first nicknames (thanks to GM Kelly), and when Splendy's owner PK announced their amazing Pint Club - an awesome, exclusive flavor creation every month - I was all about it. Next time she's enrolling you should definitely sign up. Each month we receive an email detailing the inspiration and process of flavor creation and when we pick up our pint there's a free scoop of any flavor or a coffee included.

I've been to Splendora's dozens of times for a caffeine fix, to use their changing table, to buy bananas, to speak to another adult... so many reasons. Now that my daughter is in love with gelato it is a pleasure to share tiny spoonfuls together as we people-watch. They have comic books, coloring books, crayons and colored pencils! I am constantly entertained by the social media presence they keep (follow them both on Instagram and Facebook for serious farmers' market love, PK's adorable dog Gypsy and the shop's resident grabber-dino!), I admire and appreciate how they support other local businesses, I resonate with their politics, I have fun with their holiday decorations and PK's creativity, I am always impressed by the staff and I have never met a flavor of their gelato I didn't dig... even the weird ones.  

Pro-tip: Members of the Virginia Discovery Museum get a free bambino cone with any purchase (i.e. latte for you).

Indoors at Ix: Bright Spot(s) #2

The Ix Art Park is basically my favorite place in Charlottesville. The fundraising for the art park coincided with my first year here and I remember looking at the plans and feeling so grateful that a community space like that could arise in this small town. Over the past five years I have only fallen deeper in love with the murals, sculptures, events and businesses that have blossomed there. My kiddo adores the free ranging she can do in the outdoor portion of Ix and our family made it to nearly all of the Free Fall concert series Saturday evenings this year, but this post is really about three excellent indoor spots to enjoy Ix during the cold months ahead.

Brazos Tacos recently celebrated the first anniversary of the changing table in one of their Either/Or bathrooms, deserving of kudos on several fronts. Other than the changing table, there’s a stack of kids’ books for borrowing, and wee toddler-sized table with chairs in primary colors. Their guac and creamy black beans were some of my daughter’s first solid foods and it just so happens - since we used to live within walking distance - that Brazos was the first place I nursed in public. Their kids’ menu is sweet, simple and to the point, but there are also endless delicious possibilities for adults including margaritas. Coming from California, “queso,” was not part of my Mexican food experience before this setting, but I can hardly go there without ordering it now, I love it that much. I’ve come around on Tex Mex. Pro tip: order ahead via their website or by calling the Taco Phone to avoid the lunch rush line!

Sweethaus is a bit controversial as its sugary goodness may not be everyone’s idea of a healthy snack, but they always have gluten-free options and I swear I order carrot cake there just because there’s a vegetable. For many months I got away with going there to play and have a coffee without even purchasing a cupcake, but my wee one is now in love with them and I can hardly blame her. A mini cupcake for around $1 and a decaf Americano for mama is totally worth it for their adorable play area, whether your kiddo is crawling or running around. We don’t have stairs in our apartment and Matilde enjoys practicing climbing up and down to the cute lofted sitting area, where I’ve also attended a lovely gathering of mamas who all peered down on our kiddos happily playing below. Head’s up: a dozen or two mixed mini cupcakes will impress folks at any gathering.

Three Notch’d is a recent addition to the Ix space and the build-out is remarkable. The night we were there for dinner there were several parties including balloons and lots of revelry - while the noise level was above my comfort zone, my kiddo had so much fun playing in their kids’ area where there were crayons, books, toys galore and lots of playmates. The children’s menu hummus platter served us as an appetizer (since Matilde was mainly into playing rather than eating) and they could stand to have smaller spoons if they’re going to serve apple sauce to toddlers, but we would happily go back...if friends invited us!

Alamo Drafthouse: Bright Spot #1

This morning, my family went to a showing of the PBS Kids’ series, Wild Kratts, at Alamo Drafthouse.  I was so excited about our experience there that I feel inspired to dedicate our first BRIGHT SPOTS blog post to Alamo.  

AFA_Logo_Onscreen_Slide_1050_591_81_s_c1.jpg

It turns out that every month, PBS KIDS AT THE ALAMO, “Your PBS Kids favorites on the big screen” is offered for a donation of $3 per ticket.  All ticket sales benefit local PBS stations.  The website is very clear that these screenings serve as an opportunity for young folks to have their first movie theatre experiences and “squirming is allowed”!  Thank goodness, since I went with a 5 year old and a 2 year old.  

It turns out that every Tuesday, Alamo also offers the “ALAMO for All” program.  Every showing before 2:00 pm features lights turned up and sound turned down.  Infants are welcome and adaptive technology is invited.  They even allow chatter and will let you into the theatre if you’re running late.  If you’re like me, you can count on running late!

Here’s what I loved about our trip to Alamo:

  • Mega kid/parent/family friendly-It was noisy, kids were running up and down the aisles, popcorn was everywhere.  I enjoyed not feeling like the only circus act at the theatre.  It was really fun to be there with other families!

  • The kids’ menu featured affordable and healthy options-$1 french fries, $2 yogurt with fruit, $1 house made apple sauce

  • Running into TONS of sweet people I know

  • A family restroom

  • Very easy to order food and drinks from your seats

  • They have good coffee

  • Did you KNOW it is a DRAFTHOUSE (wink wink!).  I mean, if a bloody mary helps your children’s movie morning go down easily, I’m all for it!

Screenshot_20171104-220512.jpg

Of course there’s room for improvement.  I did not find a changing table in the women’s room.  I didn’t ask about the men’s (assuming there was not one there as well).  Also, the service wasn’t stellar.  We had to order the same water refill with a few different servers before it actually arrived.  Same with popcorn (but refills are a plus).  They did discount our bill, though, in recognition of the not-so-great service.  I really feel like they did what they could to help us feel good about our experience.  

I must admit, I feel sad that my first Bright Spot is featuring a chain kinda place instead of a locally owned operation.  But hey!  I’m just going with what inspired me today!  There are plenty more Bright Spots to come!  What are your Bright Spots in town?!

Bright Spots

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I’m constantly amazed at the many, many great opportunities for family fun in C’ville.  It seems like every family I meet has favorite activities, often for free or on the cheap, that I’ve never even heard of.  And I feel like I know what’s going on!  

bright-spot.jpg

We want to dedicate blog time to some of the spaces and faces that delight Charlottesville parents because of their family friendliness.  Thus, the conception of BRIGHT SPOTS!  These places, people, and activities truly brighten the days of many weary, loving parents, grandparents, sitters and kiddos!  And let’s face it, sometimes it doesn’t take much.  A little effort to make an outing easier can go a LONG way!  So, maybe it’s a restaurant with a great kids play space, and unexpected changing table in a retail establishment….something that helps put a caregiver at ease when out and about with wee ones.  

Every now and then, we’ll feature Bright Spots on our blog!  We’re super excited to help folks identify kid-friendly options around town.  We’d love to hear about your Bright Spots as well!  Please give a shout out to your favorite B.  They might Bright Spots even end up on the blog!

Keep an eye out for Bright Spots in the weeks and months to come!  

Thank You, Laura Salvatierra!

Laura Salvatierra, RN, BSN, CCE

Laura Salvatierra, RN, BSN, CCE

I often reflect on and gush to others about how much I love our sweet little town.  C’ville is a great place to become a parent and to raise children.  As a doula, one thing I have learned about Charlottesville is that there are supportive, caring opportunities for prenatal care, labor & delivery, and postpartum support.  There are doctors, midwives, hospitals, and birth centers.  Yoga classes, meetups, facebook groups, childbirth education, and community gatherings.  Wonderful options abound!  However, I believe that for more parents-to-be to feel that they are having wonderful birth experiences, these many providers and services need to be working together and communicating amongst themselves about how to better serve birthing people!  

This is exactly why I am so very thankful for Laura Salvatierra, Team Coordinator of Maternity Education at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital.  She gets it!  Recently, she created a Labor Support Collaborative to: “encourage all areas of birth support to come together with the common goal of supporting women who choose to have hospital births in the absolute best ways possible”.  YES, Laura!  That’s exactly what we want too!  

So on Monday evening, we gathered with Laura, local doulas, and MJH hospital staff to connect with each other with the purpose of better serving the birthing folks of C’ville.  My favorite thing about this gathering was the clear intention to work together to make hospital birth better!  Birth workers of all sorts from all corners were welcome, INCLUDING other hospitals.  We reviewed some of the hospital’s new policies, which I found to be super helpful.  Then, Laura and other nurses from L&D answered some questions from the group.  The tone was so supportive and uplifting.  It truly felt like we were all there working toward that common goal of making birth experiences better.  

A huge and heartfelt THANK YOU to Laura!  I deeply appreciate you taking initiative and providing space for these conversations to take place.  It is so exciting to know that we will continue to work together in support of beautiful births!

Making the Most of Prenatal Appointments

IMG_3082.jpg

Oftentimes prenatal visits feel like a whirlwind. Pee in a cup. Blood pressure check. Fetal heart tones. Measure your belly. “Any questions? No? Great! See you next time.” Often after such visits, we leave the appointment feeling flustered, unheard and vaguely disoriented. I am completely certain that healthcare providers  (who worked incredibly hard to obtain their education in obstetrics and midwifery) intending to support people and couples in pregnancy and birth do not intend to leave them feeling unsure and unsettled! And yet many excellent and very caring doctors and midwives get caught up in the system. It’s not the fault of these amazing humans! The system is set up this way. They are forced to see so many patients and do so much in an incredibly limited amount of time. Because, over time, it becomes so routine for them, healthcare providers may forget that this pregnancy is certainly among the most special experiences the expectant couple may ever have.

Here’s the thing: I believe that these professionals truly want to connect with their patients. I’ve seen them in the birthing rooms. They are present. They care. They slow down and talk to their patients. So how can we ask them to bring this presence of being into their prenatal appointments? There are a few ways we can let them know how important it is to us, as their patients that they slow down and connect – and, I believe, it’s important to them as well.

It’s fine to simply say, “I’m feeling like we need to connect. Will you take a moment to talk with me?” So, that’s a great approach if you’re a person who is comfortable with that. Now, for those of us (me included!) who aren’t comfortable with being quite so direct, just ask questions. All the questions. It doesn’t actually matter if you care what the answers are. You may find, though, that once you start asking questions you do in fact care an awful lot! Less Google, more conversation with these incredibly experienced, wise, caring professionals!

The more you chat with your healthcare providers, the more comfortable you will be seeking the information through them. Sit down before each appointment and take a moment to write down a couple of open-ended questions. Your doula can help guide you in which discussions can be most helpful throughout your pregnancy. As birth support professionals, we have found that, when given an opportunity to connect, most of our wonderful local doctors and midwives really jump on it! Charlottesville is so fortunate to have so many amazing doctors and midwives and we make our choice because we believe them to be the best fit for us. Shall we give them ample opportunity to live up to our (and perhaps their own) expectations?!  

Nearby Grandparents

For the first several years I was a practicing doula in San Francsico, I lived across the country from my mom. As I attended a couple dozen births, my own intention to become a parent solidified, but my partner and I knew we wanted to be closer to family before having our own children.

We moved to Virginia at the end of 2012, about an hour and a half from where my mom lived at the time. I re-established my doula practice here and became part of the sweetest community - including the other doulas of Bright Birthing. We welcomed Baby Bright in 2016 and as her first birthday approached, my mom found a home even nearer to us.

Our home is a cozy apartment, so it's especially pleasant to have Yaya's farm within an easy driving distance. She has dogs, chickens, quail, doves, a vegetable garden and plans for an orchard. There's a playhouse and a sandbox, a wrap-around porch for shade and fields for romping. 

Wednesday October 18 we're excited to share the love of having a nearby grandparent with folks who are able to join us at the Farm Picnic! 

IMG_20171001_155425.jpg