Family Traditions

2023 Easter in the Texas Hill Country

Plus 9 UNIQUE At-Home Easter Egg Hunt Themes

Easter is a BIG DEAL in our family, and we have the added bonus of two kids’ birthdays about a week after Easter this year. It’s gonna be a full month!

Easter brings so much joy to our family, and the promise of new life that the holiday represents puts it up there with Christmas on how we honor it. I highly encourage you to find a church service to go to on Easter Sunday. Most churches have multiple services available.

I also encourage you to take advantage of the many fun events in the area to celebrate. Check out this list of Easter and Spring celebrations offered in Dripping Springs and nearby areas…

Springs Family Eggstravaganza

Take part in a variety of activities, including our annual egg hunt in the pool and outdoors, balloon artist, face painting, games and more! Local non-profit, service and wellness organizations will be available to offer resources, services and information. Registration is required. March 25th afternoon.

Crawfish Boils

Yummy crawfish, BBQ, love music, and activities for kids and adults. Check the link for a list of options (multiple dates available).

Fire Department Pancake Breakfast and Egg Hunt

April 1st, 9 am – noon. FREE. 9211 Circle Dr, Austin, 78736.

Easter Celebration at Bethany Lutheran

Invite your family and friends for petting zoo, food trucks, helicopter egg drop, face painting, and more. April 1st, 10 am – 12 pm at 3701 W Slaughter Ln, Austin.

City of Lakeway EGGstravaganza

Grab your basket and come on down to Lakeway City Park to celebrate the Spring season with our yearly EGGstravaganza event! April 1st, 2-4 pm.

Eggstravaganza and Family Hayride in Dripping Springs

FREE festival at Dripping Springs Ranch Park… hayride, games, petting zoo, and more. April 8th, 2-6 pm.

Easter Party at 12 Fox Beer in Dripping Springs

Bluebonnet Festival in Burnet

Head to Burnet on Easter weekend, April 7-9th, for activities sure to please all ages. There’s something for everyone such as live music, a carnival, food, races of all kinds, and lots and lots of shopping.

Sunrise Easter Service at Pioneer Farms

April 9th, 7-9 am. Conducted by Holy Word Lutheran Church.

Easter with Baby Goats

Enjoy a farm-to-table lunch among baby goats at Vista brewing, April 9th.

Easter Festival and Egg Drop in Buda

There will be an Easter Celebration at Doc’s Drive in Theatre April 9, 11AM-4PM $5 per person. Easter Egg Drop @ 12pm & 2pm.

Pick Strawberries

Sweet Berry Farm is open for fun activities, such as barrel train rides, berry bounce, flower-picking, sand art, and picking strawberries through mid-May.

If all of the events listed above still don’t give you your Easter fill, below is a list of my favorite at-home egg hunt themes. You can make a whole weekend out of egg hunting with these options and keep those kiddos happy for hours on end.

1. Trick or Treat (or April Fools) Egg Hunt... Fill most of your eggs with goodies and trinkets, but reserve about 25% of them for tricks instead of treats. They can be filled with rocks, fake money, dried up flowers, or pieces of paper with chores and dares written on them. The only caveat to participate is that you have to agree to take the bad with the good.

2. Tickets and Prizes Egg Hunt… Instead of filling eggs with tiny toys and candy that you may not want your children to have, put 1-5 tickets in each egg instead. Then, once all the eggs have been found, let kids redeem their tickets for bigger gifts, prizes, and coveted snacks.

3. Glow in the Dark Egg Hunt… Wait until after dinner to stuff and hide eggs that each have a glow stick and a treat inside. (You’ll need the large plastic eggs to pull this off.)

4. Mission Impossible Egg Hunt… Section off your house or yard to hide eggs at varying levels of difficulty. Let hunters begin in an area where the eggs are easy to spot and collect, then move on to an area where they’re hidden a bit more inconspicuously, and finally move to an area where egg-collection requires climbing, crawling, digging, and uncovering.

5. Party-themed egg hunt… If you were to throw a birthday party for your child(ren) this month, what would the theme be? Superheroes? LOL dolls? Mickey Mouse? Sports? Whatever that theme would be, fill the eggs with party favors, balloons, tattoos, stickers, and treats related to it. Add a few confetti eggs to the mix as well.

6. Snack frenzy egg hunt… Buy up all of your kids favorite snacks in individual bags. Then print thumbnail size pictures of the logos of each type of snack (adding up to the total number of bags you have). When they collect eggs and open them, they can exchange their logo picture for the real thing.

7. Good deeds egg hunt… In the spirit of the season, we can all do a bit more for our friends, family, and community. Spread joy with an egg hunt that has ideas for random acts of kindness that can be performed on the days following Easter. Fill several eggs with candy and treats and many others with ideas, like “draw a picture and send to a grandparent”, “drop off coloring pages and crayons in the mailbox of a young family in the neighborhood”, “call a friend you haven’t seen in a long time”, “paint rocks with words of encouragement and drop them along a walking trail”, “create a list of feel-good songs and mail them to a friend, along with an invitation for a face time dance party”, “drop encouraging bits of scripture in all the neighbors’ mailboxes”, “write a thank you note to a hospital ER”, etc.

8. Game Night Egg Hunt… Buy, borrow, or dig out of a closet a few board games, lego sets, or jigsaw puzzles. Hide pieces in plastic eggs and when all are collected and opened, have a family game night. (If you have time to plan ahead, have a puzzle made with your family picture on it.)

9. Arts and Crafts Egg Hunt… Fill eggs with kids’ favorite crafts items, such as googly eyes, pipe cleaners, glue sticks, chalk, play doh or clay, string, poms, mini-paints, beads, erasers, ribbons, stickers, etc. Then, provide empty mason jars to categorize and store all of their new crafting supplies, and let them be creative the rest of the day. This variety pack on Amazon has it all!

Finally, I’d like to add that resurrection eggs are a fantastic way to incorporate worship into your secular celebrations. There are many resources online to make them yourself or you can have them shipped pre-made along with a book.

However you choose to celebrate this very special holiday, I hope it’s an Easter to remember and that it brings the promise of new life and redeeming love to your family. Happy hunting!

Family Traditions

The Benefits of Thanksgiving

I love that many families practice gratitude for the entire month leading up to Thanksgiving. The tradition of a Thankful Tree is one of my family’s favorites, and I’m pleasantly surprised that it’s something our children look forward to as well.

Thankful tree

On the first of November when the sugar rush from Halloween is starting to subside, we display the hand-sewn wall hanging my mother-in-law made, and I unevenly cut leaf shapes out of six fall shades of construction paper. Each family member gets his or her own color, and at dinner throughout the month, we write something we are thankful for on our leaves. It can be big and abstract, like love or faith, or it can be something as small and simple as pencils and paper, which was displayed on one of my preschooler’s leaves last Fall. (If you’ve been wanting to start this tradition but don’t want to make one yourself, Amazon has a great option.)

After the Thanksgiving holiday, I save those little leaves of gratitude in our family time capsules to look back on in the future. In addition to the answers that make me a proud mama, such as Jesus, family, veterans, teachers, and neighbors, so many of my kids’ and husband’s answers reveal quite a bit about their current personalities and interests. A few that my mom-brain has allowed to seep into long-term memory include:

  • “Johnny Football” – my rebellious daughter’s answer when the Aggie quarterback was blowing up the college football scene, despite her mother’s affiliation to the Texas Longhorns
  • “Hot lunches” – my husband’s not-so-discrete way to show his gratitude for mid-day *alone time* with me
  • “Paw Patrol waffles” – just one of the specific food answers given by the toddlers in our home
  • “My future dog” – yet another clever opportunity for my kids to beg for a pet

I absolutely love hearing and reading what each of my family members is thankful for, and there are no rules about what to say or write, just that you have to come up with something. But more importantly, I love that we’re taking even just a couple minutes out of our day to focus on gratitude. I cherish those moments that can quickly reverse the criticism, complaining, and chaos that often manifests during our busy afternoons.

There has been quite a bit of research done across multiple disciplines about the benefits of gratitude, from the religious sectors all the way to the personal finance industry. Gratitude simply makes life better. It has been shown to improve your mental, physical, and emotional health. It opens the door to better relationships, both personal and spiritual. It enhances empathy and leads to less aggression and more acceptance. Also, grateful people sleep better, eat healthier, and build stronger careers. Grateful people even spend less money!

So, why do so many of us intentionally practice giving thanks ONLY in the month of November? This practice needs to be a year-round aspiration! When that Thankful Tree is soon replaced by another holiday tree, then Valentine’s hearts, then Easter baskets and Spring flowers, what gratitude tradition will carry on? Here are a few (maybe less-obvious) ways to sustain the benefits of Thanksgiving throughout the year…

Praise and Prayer

Hang a poster board, butcher paper, or a chalk board up with the words, “Praise” and “Prayer”, in a high traffic area in your home, such as the back door or the mud room. Encourage family members to write what they are thankful for on the Praise side and ask for prayers for themselves and others on the opposite side.

gratitude journal

Gratitude Journal

Keep a spiral notebook open on the kitchen counter and have each person jot down something they are grateful for or something they’re looking forward to in the journal each day. Bring it to the dinner table one day per week and share your family’s good news with each other.

Random Thank You Notes

random thank you notes to instill gratitude

I am terrible at writing out thank you notes after a birthday party. I wish I was better at it, but maybe thank you notes would be even more appreciated when they’re not considered obligatory. Keep thank you notes available in your home and practice writing notes to friends after an act of kindness or a fun night out. Encourage your kids to do the same, even to their own siblings. Gasp! 

Closet and Pantry Inventory

Before going shopping for something new or for Christmas gifts, take a mental (or written) inventory of what’s in your closet or pantry. This can help you and your kids recognize how much you already own and be grateful for it. This practice will also likely prevent you from over-spending on what you don’t really need. Also, you may even find gifts for others in your home and skip the shopping trip altogether.

Pick a “No-Negativity Day”

Life is tough! Venting helps.

But maybe, just one day per week can become a sacred “No-Negativity” day. On this day, focus entirely on being positive. This would be a HUGE challenge for me and therefore, this is one tradition I’m going to strive for throughout the year! Someone please hold me accountable.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:21

In this season of thankfulness, I am truly grateful that I have the freedom to try something fun and to venture out of my comfort zone by writing and sharing my random thoughts in this blog, but I am even more thankful for those of you who take the time to read it.

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Family Traditions

DIY Halloween Costumes for under $10

If your kids are like mine, they’ve probably been talking about their Halloween costumes for the last 6 months. They’ve changed their minds at least that many times as well. When my older two were little, I used to let them have 3 costumes each for the month of October because I knew it was too hard to decide on just one character to dress up as. It worked out well because we attended several fall and Halloween events, allowing them to wear each costume more than once.

But WOAH, costumes have really become expensive … and elaborate … and poorly made. Buying three costumes for each of my four kids might equate to two weeks’ worth of groceries, only to be consumed and disposed of faster than those groceries might last.

Because of this wastefulness of both money and material, I announced to my kids a couple years ago that I will no longer purchase Halloween costumes. I’ve made a few exceptions by purchasing high-quality used items, but they have to be re-used for dress-up year round or be versatile and nice enough to hand down to family in the future.

This non-purchase declaration has led to some creativity in our family’s costume designs. Sometimes they’re a hit, but a few times, they’ve been straight-up Pinterest fails. Below I share some of the good, the bad, and the disastrous with you, as well as additional costumes that are so easy to pull off that you, too, may decide to never purchase a pre-made costume again!

From our Family’s DIY Costume Album:

Shared by Frugal with Four blog…

The Boxer –

Easy DIY Costume - Boxer
An old zombie robe with some duct tape accents, boxing gloves from the garage, and a little makeup make this Boxer costume one of the easiest yet!

Lilo (from Lilo and Stitch) –

Easy Lilo  or Moana Costume
Lilo (or Moana) is easy to pull together with a red bikini top, a green skirt from a thrift store, and plastic leaf bracelets/anklets from Amazon.

The Skiier –

Lazy last-minute costume - Skiier
This Skiier costume is about as lazy and last-minute as it gets. I just grabbed the ski gear out from under the bed. In the past, I’ve added make up, leaves, and branches to be a Skiier who Collided with a Tree. 😆

Football Fans –

Easy last minute family costume idea - All About Football
This family costume idea is easy-peezy! We just found our team tees and accessories to become obnoxious fans. And the kids used items from their closets as well, adding a baseball helmet from the garage and free pom- poms from a recent game. The baby’s football onesie and high socks were purchased used for a couple dollars.

Easy but Adorable Pirate –

Zombie Baseball Player –

Last minute costume idea - zombie baseball player
We took an old baseball uniform, added lots of fake blood, and cut a baseball in half to glue it to his cap. Voila – zombie baseball player! The zombie makeup attempt definitely leaves room for improvement, but this costume could be really great with a better make up artist.

Party Animals –

Last minute costume idea - Party Animals
I’m pretty sure you won’t find this last-minute costume idea on the beautiful Pinterest boards. 😆 My husband and I raided the kids’ rooms for animal masks and accessories. Then we added birthday party details from a stash of leftover junk to make ourselves party animals. (Insert jokes here.)

Mime –

Easy DIY Costume -  Mime
These mime costumes were for a themed day at school, but they work for Halloween as well. To pull it off, we found striped sweaters and black pants in the closet, red suspenders from Amazon, red bandanas from past costumes, white gloves from our winter gear, and a bit of makeup. Don’t put these cuties in a box!

Firefighters and Their Trusted Pets –

Easy Family Costume Idea - Firemen and Dalmatians
This family costume idea was pulled together with lots of freebies, hand-me-downs, and easy crafting. Firefighters: used fireman’s coat, free hats from Firehouse subs and a previous birthday party, black pants, red suspenders (from mime costume), and neon duct tape from Home Depot. Dalmatians: hand-me-down Marshall (Paw Patrol) costume, white tank from the closet colored with black spots (sharpie), and a black headband with white felt ears glued on.

Pregnant Mummy –

Last Minute Costume - Pregnant Mummy
Well, this is one way to make a pregnancy announcement. 😂 Throw on a white t-shirt, print a pic of a baby or a baby’s face, wrap yourself up in wide medical tape, and wait several seconds for people to “get it”. 😉

There you have it! The best and worst of our last-minute DIY costumes from the last few years may not have won us any costume contests, but we had so much fun putting them together and showing them off. Plus, we saved a ton of money.

For more awesome DIY costumes, check out these links:

Family Traditions

Easy, Frugal Crafts for Kids (with a Purpose)

This morning, my floor was covered in multi-colored pom poms, cotton balls, pipe cleaners, crayons, glue sticks, googly eyes, straws, and empty plastic baggies. Our sweet preschool teachers have been sending home adorable art project ideas and random crafts items. The kids and I have a blast making frog masks, hungry caterpillars, watercolored paper chickens, and sunny scenes with stickers…. but, what am I supposed to do with all of these beloved projects when they’re done? My children are home all the time as we continue to shelter in place, and they are very aware of every single art project they’ve created and where it last hung or which window it was sitting in.

That means there are no opportunities to discretely sneak them into the recycling bin. This issue has led me to start thinking up and researching simple crafts that serve a purpose beyond a fun few minutes with the kids and walls full of half-colored creations. As we enter into our last month of homeschooling for this year, I am feeling a sense of re-motivation and decided to write out my brain-dumped list of purposeful, easy crafts for kids right here. Please share your kids’ creations in the comments below or tag me on Instagram @dripping_with_kids

1. Simple Homemade Bird Feeder

Pull out those dusty popsicle sticks, a few markers, some twine, and glue. Have kids color the sticks as they choose and then assemble a base by placing two sticks a few inches apart and then building a floor on top of that. From there, create sides by gluing each layer in an alternating pattern. Tie the twine on to all four corners, leaving enough length to tie the top around a tree branch. Then, fill with bird seed and watch the sparrows flock your tree. Don’t keep birdseed around? Your local grocery store likely carries it for pretty cheap. We bought some to make ornaments last Christmas and paid less than $2 for a 4 lb bag at HEB.

2. DIY Costumes

Making costumes for small children to play dress up doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds. With your children’s help, you can quickly and easily create simple costumes, such as pirate, superhero, Peter Pan, cowboy, Cookie Monster, and book characters to keep them entertained for hours at home. There are countless no-sew links online or you can pull up a picture of your child’s favorite character, look around the house for a t-shirt color that matches, some construction paper, and other random objects to pull together a costume that reasonably resembles the real deal. For example, if you have a Captain America fan in your house, take a white t-shirt, color it with a marker to look like the character’s shirt, then use red duct tape or markers for accents. You can make a shield by coloring the backside of a paper plate, cutting holes in the sides, and attaching string. Then, check links online for no-sew superhero masks that can be made with construction paper or felt.

3. Cereal Box Mini-Storage

I love this frugal way to repurpose what would normally become trash into little storage containers for craft bits and pieces, pens, office supplies, snacks, and any other small items that need to find their own place in your home. To create these mini-storage containers, cut an emptied cereal box all the way around approximately 2 inches from the bottom. Then, strengthen and decorate the cardboard with duct tape you have lying around. Kids can decorate the tape using markers or label it with what will be stored inside. Voila… you crafted something useful that can fit in your junk drawer and keep you organized.

4. Painted Jars for Organizing Colored Pencils or Small Toys

Do you have dozens of acrylic paint bottles set aside for no specific use? How about a few jars tucked away in your cabinets? If so, you and your kids can paint the jars and then set them up on desks or bookshelves as a way to sort and organize colored pencils, pens, toys, erasers, legos, etc.

5. S’more Love for Neighbors and Friends

Looking for a way to spread love during these unique times? This campfire art project allows your kids to make something beautiful and gives you all an opportunity to share s’more love with others. Materials needed: small twigs from the yard, red and yellow paint, thick paper or cardboard, cotton balls, and a small amount of clay or play-doh (colored paper, cardboard, or just about any craft material can be substituted here). To make your campfire, glue the twigs at the bottom of the paper to look like fire starters. Then pour the red and yellow paint onto paper plates. (Mix some red and yellow to make orange as well.) Let kids paint or dip their palms into the paint and make handprints to resemble flames above the twigs on the paper. Make as many or as few prints as you want until you have your desired campfire image. Then, create a s’more above the fire with a rectangular strip or brown paper or cardboard to represent the graham cracker, a bit of brown or black clay to represent chocolate, and a few cotton balls to make your marshmallows. Write a sweet note at the top of the paper, and deliver the beautiful creation along with a baggie of s’mores ingredients to a friend’s front porch.

6. Easy Art Wall

There are many ways to make an art wall in your home for all of those beautiful creations mentioned in the first paragraph. The easiest way I know how to do this is simply to hang a wire and use clothes pins to hold up those treasured pieces and continually replace the old with the new. To include the kids in this activity, have them decorate the clothespins. They can make tiny faces and glue on felt or paper clothing. They can make butterflies and dragonflies. They can glue on poms to make cute, colorful insects. The options are endless, and your art wall will be even cuter than you imagined.

7. Birthday-in-a-Box

Bless someone on their quarantined birthday by filling a box full of special decorations and surprises. Think of a theme, create games or activities (pull pages from a themed coloring book, pass down a puzzle, or just include sidewalk chalk and some instructions for a driveway obstacle course), scavenge the house for party supplies or decorations, draw faces on inflated balloons, and make a card. This box will be chock full of love and fun, plus your kids will have a blast doing a crafty and kind act for another person.

8. Homemade Clean-Up Labels

Has your kid ever used the excuse of not knowing where something goes to escape a clean-up chore? This easy craft serves the purpose of giving your child an opportunity to be creative and keep their little hands busy, while also making labels for shelves, bins, and drawers for easy clean up. Print blank pictures of toys or toy categories, such as legos, dolls, trains and cars, costumes, doll clothes, play-doh, or any other favorite toy in your home. Then, let children paint, color, or recreate the printed picture using their own supplies and creative ideas. Glue or tape the new labels in their appropriate location and encourage kids to “sort” their toys to match the labels.

9. Recycled Materials Art

Search the house (or better yet, the garage) for unused, unique items that can be repurposed to make beautiful art. Buttons can be eyes, twine can be a smile, a nail can be a nose, and yarn can be hair. Find an old frame for the artwork, and you have a personal and meaningful piece of art for your wall.

10. Disposable Table Cloth

Cover your table with easel, butcher, or the back side of holiday wrapping paper. Tape it down and let the kids decorate it. This is such an easy and fun way to keep kids busy for a long time! Plus, you can use your disposable table cloth to teach kids how to set the table by drawing plates, silverware, and napkins at one setting or you can practice math skills by measuring the table and using division to separate the table into equal art “squares” for each family member (and then calculate area and perimeter) or kids can simply use the tablecloth as their scratch/note paper while completing their online schoolwork.

11. Painted Rocks as Reward Tokens

Most kids love to paint rocks, but you can use these painted rocks as more than just sidewalk or trail decorations. Think of behaviors you want your children to work on. Then, collect rocks and separate them into piles for each behavior. Maybe you have an “inside voice” pile, a “close the back door without reminders” pile, and a “flush the toilet” pile. For each desired behavior, assign a color. Have your child paint all the rocks in that pile with one specific color. (They can add designs too.) When the rocks have dried, bring them in the house and set them next to bowls or jars labeled with the desired behavior. Each time your child achieves that goal, have him or her place a colored rock in the jar or bowl. When it’s filled, give a reward.

Happy Crafting! Please share your creations below or on Instagram with the tag @dripping_with_kids or #drippingwithkids. I’d love to see your crafts with a purpose!!

Family Traditions

Your Socially-Distanced Staycation: 11 FUN Ways to Make the Best of It

Aren’t kids so great? I’m currently riding in a packed car for 10+ hours with 4 of them. In between dishing out massive quantities of unhealthy snacks, changing shows on kid kindles every 67 seconds, breaking up sibling disputes with my futile mom-voice, and attempting to make conversation with my husband who somehow has the superpower ability to block out any and all activity occurring behind his seat, I am on and off my phone often. And each time I pick my phone back up, I am greeted by this lovely photo:

This is me, attempting dance poses at a free class, obviously for the sole purpose of embarrassing my first-born child.

My sly pre-teen changed my phone’s lock screen from an adorable pic of her two youngest siblings sweetly staring up at me from their double stroller to this reminder of how uncoordinated and embarrassing her mother is. She laughs so hard every time I pick up my phone and sigh.

What she doesn’t realize is that I will gladly embarrass myself over and over again if it brings a smile to her face and helps us forge this developing mother/(almost-teen)daughter bond that’s new to both of us… a bond based on her discovery that she is now becoming way more cool than her mother has ever been, a bond that requires difficult, awkward conversations that are easier to get through when humor is sprinkled in, a bond in which we are both silently recognizing that she is eager yet not quite ready to be an independent teenager.

Navigating changing relationships with my “big” kids has been challenging for this mama, especially because I feel like my day consists of bouncing between cleaning up potty accidents, rescuing a toddler from death-defying stunts, re-teaching algebra lessons, and shouting out chore expectations. With kids ranging in age from 2 to 12, it can be overwhelming to satisfy each child’s need for attention and manage age-appropriate discipline, activities, and topics of conversation.

With the unfortunate spread of novel COVID-19, kids will be at home quite a bit this month and will require a lot more attention from their already-stretched parents. I’ve seen many articles and ads about activities to do with kids while we’re stuck at home with them. I empathize with the fear many parents are expressing about having children home all day every day and finding ways to entertain them without allowing countless hours of screen time. However, when I reflect on when my family is happiest, it’s definitely when we don’t have to adhere to a schedule and when we’re able to let our creativity lead us to spontaneous or new ways to have fun together. When we return home from our trip, I know my kids will not be ready to launch into full days of educational activities. To them, it will still feel like vacation if they are not in school. Therefore, I thought I’d get ahead of the game and make a list of fun “stay-cation” ideas to get through the longest spring break we’re likely to ever experience and hopefully build even closer bonds with each one of my kids, no matter what stage of coolness, sassiness, or independence they’re in.

1. Celebrate a favorite holiday out of season! Have Christmas in March with caroling, sugar cookies, re-gifting, and favorite holiday movies. Or celebrate Easter a little early with a themed egg hunt, bunny crafts, and bible stories. (Don’t have anything to fill the eggs with? Put coins or tickets inside and let the kids “buy” prizes, such as coveted snacks, forgotten stuffed animals, or a ticket for one on one time with Dad.) Or if 4th of July is a fave, decorate bikes and trikes and parade through the neighborhood, watch Independence Day, and make red, white, and blue treats.

2. Make the backyard a water park! Turn on the sprinklers, fill the baby pool, roll out the slip in slide, load up the water guns and balloons, and let the kids wash your car too.

3. Have a carnival! Set up easy carnival games like bowling, tossing a ping pong ball in buckets, pinning the nose on the clown, ring toss with cones or bottled drinks, and duck pond with rubber duckies from the bathtub.

4. Host a kids’ baking championship! They bake, you all eat, and the second/third place contestant cleans.

5. Take a hike! Follow up your hike with an indoor picnic and camp out, complete with a tent in the living room and s’mores in the fireplace! You can practice social distancing while exploring nature. Venture into another neighborhood and check out their trails. Or pull up google maps and look for any green space nearby that you’ve never explored before. Click on that green area, and you’ll be able to determine whether there are trails or an open park space there. You can also just type in “hiking” or “trails” in the search bar to find a new-to-you spot to explore.

6. Have a character day! Make costumes or get them out of your Halloween storage and dress up as favorite characters from movies or books and try to stay in character all day. Or switch characters each hour.

7. Learn about a new culture! One of the best parts of travel is learning about different cultures, and with a google of information at your fingertips, you can have your own culture fair at home. Let each person research a recipe (and cook it), a tradition, some historic facts, and additional information about a foreign culture. Then, he/she can share with everyone else in the family.

8. Explore a museum (at home)! And then create your own! A dozen famous museums, such as the Guggenheim and the Rijksmuseum, are offering virtual tours of their exhibits online for free. Explore these amazing institutions and then create your own museum at home with dinosaur toys, homemade art to mimic famous pieces from history, and/or natural specimens from a nature walk in your neighborhood. (Have older kids research their own museum contributions and write a summary of their exhibits.)

9. Create a repurposed art gallery! Search the house (or better yet, the garage) for unused, unique items that can be repurposed to make beautiful art.

Found this beauty in our dentist office, smiles of dripping springs.

10. Set up a ninja or obstacle course! And then follow that up with indoor and outdoor scavenger hunts! Challenge the kids to beat mom or dad in a course of climbing, crawling, jumping, and parkouring. Then, keep them busy and out of your hair searching for obscure items throughout the house and backyard.

And then, when you’ve had all the fun you could possibly muster…

11. Tackle spring cleaning! Bribe those kids with treats, money, screen time, an opportunity to redecorate their rooms, or a you tube dance party in the living room in exchange for decluttering, scrubbing floors, wiping baseboards, dusting shelves, and finally tossing that old 1st grade project.

In all seriousness, I pray that you and your families remain safe and healthy in the midst of this uncertain time with an uncertain pandemic. I also hope that something good can come of it as we take full advantage of this time at home with our loved ones.

Family Traditions

What Silent Night? (Holiday Fun_2018)

“Rib cage, eyeball, nipple, throat,” I croak to Wes upon first waking up.

He sighs and grumbles, “nose, gut, mouth, testicle.”


This is the verbal exchange my sweet husband and I often have when we first wake up on the mornings that our 19-month-old ended up in bed with us, listing off body parts
that were mauled by tiny yet freakishly-strong toddler limbs and digits. It. Really. Hurts. However, what often pains me even more is when my swollen eyes make out the time on the clock across the room. Is that a 5?!  Is he really up for the day?!

On the plus side, these late-night attacks have trained us in more ways than we ever could have imagined.  We’ve learned the art of returning to REM after experiencing excruciating pinches and twists. We’ve developed body contortionist skills that make cirque-du-soleil performers look like beginning gymnasts just to avoid kicks to our groins and intestine. We can wake from a deep sleep to catch a determined toddler in mid-air as he tries to launch himself from the bed. And the greatest skill of all, which every parent I know has mastered, is being able to tackle the challenges of daily life with mini-humans on only a few hours of sleep.

In the past, I have referred to myself as a Mama Bear. It’s a title many of us relate to because of how fiercely we’ll protect our children. But I am now realizing that my Mama spirit animal is a completely different one: the giraffe. Giraffes usually sleep only about 5 minutes at a time for a total of 30 minutes per day. Plus, they are on their feet all day long! Sound familiar? Skip that Mama Bear nonsense; she gets to hibernate all winter. You, my friend, do not.


It is now officially the insanely busy holiday season. With so many parties, events, family traditions, in-law visits, shopping trips, and days without kids in school, we have to accept that a good night’s sleep isn’t happening until the new year. So, I’m going to toss out that cute Mama Bear shirt and matching red plaid pajama pants. Instead, it’s about time to find myself some animal-print sweatpants and ask my friend with that killer cricut machine to make me a “Mama Giraffe” shirt. My family has a holiday bucket list to attend to!


  1. Luminations at the Lady Byrd Johnson Wildflower Center (Austin): Dec 6th-9th, 6 – 9 pm… Gardens will be lit with thousands of luminarias and filled with music and festive fun. Plus, there will be performances by the aerial dance group, Blue Lapis Light. $15 for non-members, free for children 4 and under. (
  2. Emily Ann Theater Trail of Lights (Wimberley): Nov
    24th – Dec 28th, 6 – 9 pm… Stroll through over 100
    lighted exhibits, roast marshmellows, listen to live music, and visit with Santa on select nights. FREE, donations appreciated. (
  3. Johnson City Lights Spectacular: Nightly in
    December – Jan 6th… The courthouse and downtown area are aglow with thousands of lights. Local vendors set up tables inside and outside the courthouse. Carriage and hay rides are available for a fee. (–calendar.html
  4. Holidays in Gruene: Weekends in December… photos with
    Cowboy Kringle, free afternoon shows at historic Gruene Hall, gorgeous Christmas lights and decorations throughout the town, and unique shops to complete your Christmas lists. (

5. Make-and-Take Crafts (Dripping Springs Library): Dec 4th, 2:30 – 4:30 pm… Create your own holiday gifts, all supplies provided for free. While at the library, try to spot the Shelf Elf, guess the number of sweets in the jar to try to win a Kindle Fire, and don’t forget to bring hats, shawls, and throws as donations for the elderly. (

6. Holidays at the Oaks (Lakeway): Dec 6th, 5 – 8 pm … In the children’s courtyard, enjoy family fun with Santa & Ms. Claus, a s’mores bar with H-E-B, coloring contest and catering from Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, hot chocolate bar from Vivel Crepes & Coffee, ornament making, gourmet popcorn and holiday card making, and horse-drawn carriage rides! FREE but bring an unwrapped toy to donate. (

7. Christmas Movie Night at Austin Ridge Bible Church (Dripping Springs Campus): Dec 7th, 6 pm… Bring your chairs or blanket to watch The Star on an outdoor movie screen. Cocoa, popcorn, smores, and coffee will be provided. Suggested donation is $10 per family. ( ALSO, check this link for parents’ night out options through Austin Ridge:

8. Lost Pines Christmas Snow Day (Bastrop – Fisherman’s Park): Dec 8th, 12 pm – 5 pm, followed by fireworks and parade through downtown at 6 pm … Snow Day will have snow slides, snow play area, face painting, balloon animals, games, and food vendors. (


9. Holiday Cookie Festival at the Springs Family YMCA (Dripping Springs): Dec 8th, 9:30 am – 1:30 pm… Cookies, pics with Santa, moonbounce, games, face painting, and crafts. Free event but cookies are sold as a fundraiser for the Y. (

10. A Pioneer Christmas at the Pound House (Dripping Springs): Dec 8th, 9 am – 3 pm… Food, Wagon Rides, Photos with Santa, Make-and-Take Ornament Crafts, Story Readings, Live Holiday Bluegrass Music, Demonstrators, Shopping with Local Artisans, Re-Enactments, and Tours of the House decked out for the Holidays! $5 admission for ages 5+ (

11. Movie on the Lawn at Hill Country Galleria (Bee Cave): Dec 14th, 6 pm… Bring a blanket or chairs and watch The Polar Express. Free popcorn will be provided by Cinemark, and there are several restaurants nearby to grab an adult beverage or coffee before and after the movie. (

12. Frosty Fun at Founder’s Pool (Dripping Springs): Dec 15th, 12 – 3 pm … Swim in the heated pool, enjoy cocoa and cookies, listen to holiday music, and play in the snow. ($2/person)


13. Save the Date: Snow Day at the Science Mill (Johnson City): Jan 19th, 10 am – 4 pm… 20 tons of snow will fill the museum’s backyard. Tickets are $11 for adults and $9.50 for children 3-12. (

Family Traditions

Summer Slide (Family Fun_2018)

“Mom, which way does the number ‘9’ go? I haven’t written it in so long that I forgot.” These words from my emerging 3rd grader made me realize that I actually allowed it to happen. The Summer Slide.

My kids are definitely experiencing it. They’ve forgotten facts and formulas; they’ve let their grammar and handwriting skills slip; they’ve become slower at reading and worse at spelling; and they’ve definitely eased right out of a daily routine and schedule.

The educator in me is pretty disappointed, mostly in myself.  Today, two days before school starts, I could be drilling them on multiplication facts. I could be forcing hour-long reading sessions. I could be sitting them down in front of workbooks. But I’m not… because the mom side of me isn’t worried at all.

At this exact moment, my two oldest children are playing in the backyard at dusk with their 2-year-old sister, sliding quickly and landing hard on their bums, jumping high and perfecting somersaults on the trampoline, swinging to their hearts’ content, and passing partially deflated beach balls to each other. No one is stressed out by homework or gone at baseball practice, and they are actually getting along. My children are happily playing and enjoying their family time, begging me to join in. This is summer as it should be, and although the teacher side of me is feeling pretty guilty, the mom side of me is feeling pretty proud. I know these kids are going to be just fine.

I know they are learning so much from free play and creative afternoons and traveling near and far. I know their social skills are improving with long summer playdates and eventful days away at church camp. I know that their problem-solving skills are rapidly developing each time I ban electronics or refuse to intervene when they have sibling spats. I also know that when they return to school, they will soon become re-acclimated to routines and schedules, and their brains will be totally ready to absorb new skills and facts, while recalling the old.

As long as my children are still technically children, my wish is that when they hear the words, “summer slide”, they continue to think it’s the big 22-foot inflatable waterslide they cruised down about 99 times yesterday, joyfully shrieking and doing tricks with slidesome of their closest friends. It was one of the most fun days they’ve had all month, and I watched them learn so much on that summer slide.


We’ve still been checking off our summer bucket list but at a much slower pace these days. Staying home to watch movies, do scavenger hunts, and finish the big kids’ hang out space became much more appealing as the temperatures rose and our energy levels waned.

Cabela’s –

Highlights: aquarium, “dead zoo”, shooting games, cool products to try out, A/C, cafe


– Bring quarters for the shooting game.

5584966E-5E4B-4BAC-8D1B-91866F0EEF9F– The second level with several tents is a lot of fun for kids to pretend like they’re camping.

– It might be a good idea to have an item in mind that you need to buy, such as bait for an upcoming fishing trip. (It’s a little awkward to spend a lot of time in a store and not buy anything.)

– Check out the website ahead of time for classes, demonstrations, and additional entertainment.

YMCA-Hopping –

Highlights: different pool features at different Y locations, child watch for children up to age 12, free drop-in camps at some locations, playgrounds and open gym time


– Check website for individual locations’ pool and child watch hours.

– If you’re not a member, you can join a friend as a guest up to three times. Otherwise, consider getting just a summer membership. At the beginning of the summer, the Y often waives the registration fee.




Family Traditions Motivation

Oh Crap! (Warning: Poo Talk)

“POOOOOOOP! The baby is eating poo!”

Yep, I actually shouted these words this morning across the house. Somehow the two bathroom rules we actually enforce are the ones that often get forgotten: flush the toilet and shut the door.

With four kids, two still in diapers, I am no stranger to poo. I’ve touched other people’s waste with my bare hands more times than I’d like to admit, but even 11 years of parenting did not prepare me for the scene in my son’s bathroom this morning.  That little toddler of mine did not spare the floor, the rug, the toilet seat, his shirt, his toes, his hair, or his mouth… everything got a little taste of human waste.

This, my friends, is just one of the reasons why I go through all of the painstaking efforts required to get the kids out of the house as much as possible. If it’s not a bathroom disaster, it’s a sibling fight or a 2-year-old demanding the one sippy cup that’s in the running dishwasher or a toddler climbing to unsafe heights that gets the ideas going in my head. What can we do? Where can we go? How do I entertain them all?

Sometimes I can think on my feet and create a quick backyard scavenger hunt. Sometimes I can corral them all into participating in a chore with me. Sometimes we launch into a family dance party. But many times, we just have to go…

And that’s when I refer back to the bucket list. Checking it off…

San Antonio Zoo –

Highlights: large zoo; indoor exhibits to cool off in; life-size dinosaur statues throughout the zoo (included with admission); stroller-friendly walking paths; shaded play area with stream for kids to splash around in



– Hippos and monkeys were kid-faves … be sure to make time for those exhibits.

– Outside food and drinks are not allowed, so eat beforehand (or be inconspicuous with your snacks).

– If you are a member of another major zoo, you get 50% off admission. The price of S.A. Zoo admission is a little steep, so look for coupons if you’re not a zoo member.


Home Depot Kids’ Workshops –

Highlights: FREE, indoor fun! The project is easy enough for older kids and fun to do with littles. Kids get a free Home Depot apron, a certificate and pin upon cHD3ompletion, and they get to keep the final product. Plus, you can always find ways to entertain kids in a home improvement store. We check out the kitchens and paint colors and dream of what changes we would make to our house, then we visit the gardening area to enjoy the flowers. Plus, my kids love to sneak a ride on the carts.


– The workshop is available from 9 am – noon. It gets packed in the first hour. If you want plenty of space to work or if your kids shut down in a crowd, go after 10 am.

– Keep your apron in an easy-to-find spot at home so you can bring it back each month.


Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center –

Highlights: Groupon discount (half off) and kids under 5 are free! Small water feature for kids to fill buckets and get a little wet; a few short, shaded trails; indoor classroom with books, puzzles, and toys; shaded sandbox; plenty of photo ops; and the Sprouts program with story time and activities on Wed and Fri mornings.


– It’s super hot in summer! You need lots of water, lots of sunscreen, and plan to keep your visit short.

– Bring bug spray! The mosquitos swarm in some areas.

Wildflower Ctr 2Wildflower Ctr