Categories
Motivation

I Just Can’t… again.

Pandemic Parenting

“I just CAN’T do this.” I whisper this sentence in a strained, hoarse voice to my husband after a long day. A day of watching videos from our district superintendent and texting with friends about what this school year *might* look like. A day of constantly quieting two screaming preschoolers by playing whatever it is they want. A day of breaking up sibling snack spats and wrestling a remote out of kids’ hands. A day of extricating my flip flops from a new puppy’s sharp teeth.

By the end of the day, I’m not only burned out from endless mommy-ing duties, but I’ve also had my fill of volatile debates regarding back-to-school decisions and mask-wearing. I go to bed feeling lucky and blessed that my children have a safe place to lay their heads at night and a mother who is able to stay home with them, but tomorrow, when faced with more of the same changes, I fear I just CAN’T all over again.

As much as I don’t want to admit it, this awful contraction has become such a huge part of my vocabulary and self-talk for years now. Apparently, it’s amplified during a pandemic. There just seems to be so many things I can’t do…

I can’t convince my 13 year old to give up You Tube videos as her primary source of information and entertainment.

I can’t stop multiple children from desperately needing my attention all day long.

I can’t handle one more minute of divisiveness and hatred on social media, yet I can’t put my phone down.

I can’t determine whether it’s safe to go inside the grocery store.

I can’t finish a sentence or make a decision without self-doubt immediately following…………..

Yeah, I could go on for hours.

Unfortunately, “can’t” is easier said than done. Most of the time, I have no choice but to move forward and do what I feel like I can’t.

Thankfully, just as I recognized that this phrase started entering my brain regularly again, I remembered the previous blog post I wrote with the same title. I re-read my words about the impact one of my favorite books, Love Does by Bob Goff, had on my life two years ago when I was struggling during those *easy* days of pre-pandemic parenting. Bob Goff’s positive perspective was such an awesome reminder that love does even when I feel like I can’t. In a chapter titled, Hearing Aid, Goff wrote, “…[God] doesn’t pass us messages, instead He passes us each other.”

On my most challenging days, my love for the people placed in my life is what keeps me going, and with that little change in perspective, I’ve been able to reflect on the good during these last 5 months of forced family time.

Despite the chaos, we’ve managed to discover more ways to have fun at home together. We’ve connected with friends and family in a deeper way than ever before, even if it’s just been via phone or silly videos. We’ve learned to problem solve as a family unit, recognizing the importance of each voice in the decision. And we’ve practiced talking through the anger and the disappointments of 2020 often, following that up with intentional gratitude-sharing. We’ve leaned further into our faith and recognized the power of mindset and prayer.

The bonds built between my children, as well as with those who have walked alongside us during all of this recent uncertainty, has provided a renewed hope and motivation. In scanning through the pictures, texts, and posts from the last 5 months, I rest assured that one day, when I look back on the 2020 that was, I’ll be able to say to myself:

I just CAN.

Below is a list of simple activities and outings that have made this never-ending and challenging summer one of the most memorable yet, and these represent the good I hope my family and I will take with us.

1. Walks and bike rides to our local city park and swimming pool

2. Neighborhood scavenger hunts and backyard obstacle courses

3. Exploring trails and greenbelts close to home

4. Taking day trips to small Texas towns

5. Random science and baking experiments

6. Creative date nights in, like money dates and re-living our honeymoon through cocktails and pictures

7. Themed days, such as Pancake Day, Under the Sea, and Unexpected Christmas

8. Spontaneous family visits

9. Picnics with friends

10. Random acts of kindness between siblings and for friends in need

11. Slow mornings at home with coffee and quiet porch time

I’d love to hear how you’ve made the most of this time with your family. Please share in the comments below what you have found to be the most memorable about this period of pandemic parenting.

Categories
Family Traditions Motivation

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.

Categories
Frugal Living Motivation

9 Easy Ways to Save Money in 2020

Happy New Year! Have you already made your resolutions? Planning to get skinny (errr… I mean “healthy”)? Hoping to read more? Watch less TV? Exercise daily? Go to church more often? Swear in front of the kids fewer times per day??

Those are all good ones, but so far, the single resolution I’ve been hearing the most is “to save money!” Consumerism has taken over and rendered many of us hopeless and hungover in its wake. The year 2020 is the time for change, right?!

What I’ve also been hearing is that most people aren’t sure how to save money. Where could they possibly cut back? Especially when kids are in the picture. That’s exactly where I stood several months ago when I started a deep-dive into the messes of our finances and our spending. I had previously considered myself pretty darn frugal. I only bought clothes and decor on sale. I made my kids share meals when we went out to eat. I had one fewer drink than I wanted to when out with the girls. And my husband and I took joy in repurposing or building furniture rather than buying new. So, where could I possibly cut back without leading a life of “deprivation”? I was already careful with money… so I thought.

Regardless of the doubts I had on whether it would make a difference at all, I decided to set out on a journey of budgeting and tracking our spending. It was difficult at first, and I did not take it seriously, but after listening to a few personal finance podcasts and talking to several friends, I really started to treat it like a true mission. That’s when everything changed! Just in the process of tracking what we were spending, we started saving. A lot. We started saving so much money that I looked back and didn’t understand where it had all gone before. Our lives didn’t even look different. This propelled me and motivated me in such a way that I now want to help others on the same path to changing their lives without changing their lifestyle, to start saving more money for their families and their future, and to see the benefits of frugality.

This list of 9 easy ways to save money in 2020 are just the first 9 things that came to mind when I thought about little changes that a family can make to achieve big wins. Please let me know if they’re helpful at all, and I’d also LOVE to hear your tips on frugal living and financial gains.

1. Track your spending! Pay attention to where every dollar goes. Write it down, dictate it into your phone, use an app, whatever works for you. Then, ask yourself whether that money is going toward what you consider to be most valuable in your life. (This is the hardest but the most helpful step, by the way. Skip it and come back to it if it seems too daunting.)

2. Unsubscribe to retailer emails! All those emails about upcoming sales, can’t-miss offers, and travel discounts seep into your subconscious and encourage you to spend, spend, spend because ya know, it’s a DEAL! Go a month without seeing them and determine whether you are really missing anything in your life that you HAD TO HAVE. If you are, I’m pretty sure you know how to find that retailer’s website or store location again.

3. Take on a challenge! Engage your family (or friends) in a fun money-saving challenge, such as a “spend-nothing week” or “eat everything in the pantry week” or “free-activities month” where you only partake in family fun that’s totally free. (Check out my post on the best parks in the Dripping Springs area to get started on this one.) You could also try “no eating-out month” or “book a family vacation for less than $1000”. Make saving fun, and you might see even bigger results than you expected.

Enjoying the great outdoors!

4. Ask a friend! When you’re in need of something, ask a friend or offer a swap before reaching for your wallet. You can swap clothing, jewelry, kids’ puzzles/toys, books, and so on. You can swap time also: babysitting hours, carpooling/rides, and home organization hours. Doing home projects with a friend is more fun anyway. Maybe you can help clean out your friend’s fridge this week, and the two of you can tackle your shoe collection next week.

5. Call your credit card! Find out what they’re willing to offer you as a loyal customer. Ask and you will likely receive. Do you need a lower interest rate? Do you want your annual fee waived? Are you looking for opportunities to earn more travel rewards?

I no longer wanted to pay the annual fee on the credit card that we’ve had for 10 years and had been paying off every single month, so I called Chase, and after a 6 minute call, my annual fee was credited back to me.

If your ccard company doesn’t have anything to offer you, there are MANY more out there who are happy to give you bonuses and lower rates.

6. Pay attention to your TV habits! Are you watching ALL the channels? Are you regularly taking advantage of ALL the subscriptions? If not, what can you cut? Choose one and cut the cord or call the cable company and ask for a better plan.

Kids today hardly even watch traditional TV… so what are we paying for?

7. Take inventory! Before you shop, be sure to know what you already have. Really take note of what you have in your pantry or in the back of your fridge. Go to your closet and count how many pairs of black yoga pants you have and the # of gray t-shirts and the collection of sneakers, etc. Intentionally taking stock of what you own might keep you from buying yet another.

After No-spend Week: a half-empty pantry!

8. Get the app! Do you always shop at the same grocery store? Download the app, check out the coupons, and take advantage of the featured offers. Do you often stop at your kids’ fave fast food joint? Try out the app, collect the points, and snag some freebies. Do you like getting cash back for what you already buy? Check out the Ibotta app or Rakuten.

9. Watch YouTube! I know, I know… “YouTube” is equivalent to a 4-letter word in my house due to my kids’ obsession with it, but it can truly be a useful tool when something in the house breaks and you want to save money on handyman fees. Or when you want to teach your child something new, like beginning guitar lessons. You can find a DIY video on just about anything on YouTube, so save money while simultaneously winning cool points with your kids.

Thank you for reading about the 9 easy ways to save money in 2020! I plan to blog about this journey often, and I really hope you’ll join me in the challenge to become a new FRUGAL you. I really hope we can all achieve small, and eventually big, wins together. I’m looking for a tribe who can help keep me motivated (and vice versa), who can share these wins, and who will join me for carefree vacations in my future home in the Rockies! 😉

Free family fun in the mountains: sledding!

Categories
Motivation

How Do You Take Your Coffee?

Every morning, I play hide and seek with my favorite mug, although I’m perpetually the frustrated seeker in the game. Thankfully, I have the equivalent of a toddler nearby who impatiently reveals the other player’s hiding spot. *beep, beep* It’s my microwave, reminding me that I left my coffee in there for the 5th time already this morning. And it’s only 7 am.

Most people have a definitive and memorized answer to the title question above: “How do you take your coffee?” Maybe you take your coffee black or with a little sugar. Maybe you prefer cappuccino or a latte. Maybe you’re like one of my friends who fancies just a little bit of coffee with her cream. Or like another who doesn’t drink coffee at all but savors tea.

That essential beverage becomes our lifeline to face the busyness and stress of the morning with a bit more gusto and resolve. We each have our unique way of making and taking that steaming cup, but I’d venture to guess that most of us have one thing in common: our early morning libation is rarely a part of a relaxing or motivating ritual. We’re stealing sips between diaper changes, lunch-packing, carpool line complaints, hair-brushing and makeup application, or giving countless commands to others. Our early mornings are no longer slow or sacred. The pace of our current culture has diminished the joy that morning coffee should bring.

morning-tea.jpg

What if the question, “How do you take your coffee?” had a different implication? What if you took your coffee on the back porch with a devotional and some time to journal? What if you took your coffee while playing uninterrupted on the floor with your toddler? What if you took your coffee to the bathroom while your spouse was getting ready for the day and had an early-morning chat about nothing and everything all at once? How would that change the course of your day and the mood with which you tackle it?

Recently, while on a kid-free vacation with my husband, I took the time to linger with my coffee. I actually sat down. I read. I wrote. I shared plans for the day with my favorite person. It was glorious!

Morning coffee

Then and there, I decided to take back my morning coffee. I vowed not to choke it down after reheating it a dozen times or clean up the small spills all over the house that happen as I rush from room to room with a full cup in my hand. I vowed to be intentional with that time and with that steaming cup of yummy goodness. I know this is not a new concept and that taking that extra time for yourself in the morning is preached often, but I’ve never quite figured out how to make it happen. Or maybe I’ve never been motivated enough. So, please be my accountability partners! Join me in this coffee “revolution”, allowing us to slowly savor our favorite hot drink with the intention of reflecting in gratitude yet also preparing for our busy days ahead. I would LOVE to hear from you on how you take your coffee, whether it’s amidst obligations and chaos or sitting peacefully on your porch. Spill it all on Instagram or Facebook using the hashtag #takebackmycoffee, and check out how my mornings go at https://www.instagram.com/dripping_with_kids/ or on Facebook at https://m.facebook.com/drippingwithkidsblog/.

If you’re still doubting that taking back your morning coffee is possible, I hope these suggestions will encourage you to try!

1. Listen to a fave podcast! I recommend “Happy Hour” by Jamie Ivey for inspiration, How to Money” with Joel and Matt for great financial advice, “Before Breakfast” by Laura Vanderkam for encouragement in making the most of your mornings, or “Straight Up with Stassi” for a good laugh.

2. Sing along to contemporary Christian music. I know there’s been a bit of a stigma around Christian music in the past, but I dare you to listen to “Grace Got You” by Mercy Me, then come back and tell me that you’re not totally pumped for the day ahead. Spoiler alert: it won’t happen. That song will get you moving!

pexels-photo-2180090.jpeg

3. Get to writing! You don’t have to commit yourself to deep thoughts in a lengthy journal post, but just brain-dumping can feel really good. Jotting down notes on the next vacation you want to take can motivate you to work that much harder. Penning a letter to a friend or even to your future self might put a smile on your face. Writing is therapeutic and so beneficial for the mind.

4. Call a sick friend or family member. Start your day off by brightening theirs. You can have coffee together even if you’re not in the same room.

5. Pour your brew into a travel mug, wake one of your kids or your spouse up early, and go for a short walk. Enjoy the cool morning air and a leisurely conversation.

6. Delay your morning coffee until everyone else has left the house and just be alone with your thoughts, meditate, or pray for a bit.

7. Bake or meal-prep as you sip. That feeling of accomplishment after doing something purposeful with your hands is a great way to stay motivated all day long.

8. Color. Have you tried one of those adult coloring books yet? They’re great for stress relief and leave you with a beautiful piece of self-made art.

9. Play with your kids. Maybe you’re happiest when you immerse yourself in their joy. Take that coffee to the floor, grab some puzzle pieces, and be a kid again with the ones you love most.

10. Read a good book or devotional uninterrupted. Wake up 30 minutes earlier, find a quiet corner in the house or a comfy chair outside, and immerse yourself in a story.

Whatever you choose to do, just do it! I’ll be fighting the battle against morning to-do’s along with you. 🧡

Categories
Motivation

Puberty and Potty Training

“Pee pee is not my favorite.”

My 3-year-old shared this bit of insight with me as she tried to shake off the wetness running down her pant legs. As I changed my distraught little girl, I heard my YouTube-obsessed 11-year-old daughter giggle from the next room; she had been secretly recording the emotional exchange between me and her sister. So, I had to quickly transition from wiping tears and a tushie to disciplining a pre-teen.

My girls are 8 years apart and experiencing completely different developmental rites of passage at the same time, which means that Puberty and Potty Training are currently sharing a bathroom in my home.  The former ‘P’ lends itself to long showers that drain the water heater, arguments with Mom about the best way to part hair, and the insistence of privacy. The latter ‘P’ brings us M&M thievery, arguments with Mom about the need to “go”, and the complete absence of privacy.  Both provide ample opportunities for #parentingfails.

My preschooler is so far from being potty trained that we don’t even spend the extra money on pull-ups anymore.  I’ve given up on pointing out that her 2-year-old friend is already potty trained or on showing exaggerated excitement every time we pass princess panties at Target. Although I know she’s old enough to be out of diapers, I’m enjoying the fact that I can take her to a park and not have to mentally note where the nearest (and likely disgusting) public restroom is. I appreciate that we can take a road trip without stopping every hour. And full disclosure, I secretly like that buying diapers for her makes me still think of her as my baby girl. If she were my first, I’d probably freak out about stunting her development or worry about judgment from other moms, but there’s truly a sense of freedom in being an older mom. I’ve finally learned that there’s no need to rush. I’ve yet to meet a grade-schooler still in diapers, and I have a feeling that my little girl will soon just wake up one day and decide on her own to use the potty consistently. But for now, she’s just not interested.

My 11-year-old, on the other hand, seems to be very interested in growing up. She is in the very early stages of turning into a young woman, but in her mind, she knows just as much as an adult knows. Her opinions, mood swings, and need to sleep in can be frustrating, and the realization that her teenage years are just around the corner is quite overwhelming. However, she’s at an age that allows me to truly visualize her as an adult and experience her fully developed personality. I get to guide her in a completely different way and can visualize the caring, empathetic, creative woman she will become.

There are so many stages of childhood  that make us question what the heck we’re doing with these little people invading our space, while also sadly recognizing that the passage through each of these stages means that our children are getting older and will be adults before we know it.  Sometimes, they stall out in these chapters of their lives, but sometimes they fly right through them, leaving us breathlessly wondering where the time went. It’s typical to look ahead for when a difficult phase will end instead of embracing all the life that happens during the waiting. Puberty and potty training are not my favorites, but the life that we’re living in the meantime truly is.

Categories
Motivation Things to Do Dripping Springs

I just can’t….

“I just CAN’T with you right now,” I say in my strained, hoarse voice. My son is still awake and doing his best to avoid getting into bed. He’s been mastering bedtime-avoidance since he was a baby, and nearly 8 years later, the excuses are better, but the behavior is essentially the same. My reaction is positive for only so long; once 9 pm hits, Mama Bear disappears, and Mama Beast unleashes. My hulk-like transformation is not something I’m proud of, yet no matter how much guilt I feel after he finally dozes off, that Beast returns every night and I CAN’T all over again.

As much as I don’t want to admit it, this awful contraction has become such a huge part of my vocabulary and self-talk lately. There just seems to be so many things I can’t do…

I can’t finish a single load of laundry within a 24 hour period.

I can’t get both of my toddlers on the same nap schedule.

I can’t handle one more minute of this threenager tantrum.

I can’t keep the backseat of my car even remotely clean.

       I can’t figure out what I want to do with this blog.

I can’t finish a sentence or a thought or a………………………

Yeah, I could go on for hours. Unfortunately, “can’t” is easier said than done. Most of the time, I have no choice but to do what I feel like I can’t.

Thankfully, just as this negative talk started to completely take over my life, I found myself asking the librarian where I could find the book, Love Does by Bob Goff. I have no idea where I first heard of this book or why I thought of it randomly while at the circulation desk asking whether Peppa Pig books are all written by the same author. All I know is that this particular book with its spectacular title was placed in my path on purpose. Bob Goff’s unbelievable stories and honest perspective have been such awesome reminders that love does even when I feel like I can’t. In a chapter titled, Hearing Aid, Goff writes, “…it seems that what God does most of the time when He has something to say is this… He doesn’t pass us messages, instead He passes us each other.” On my most challenging days, my love for the people placed in my life is what keeps me going.

In an effort to recognize what love does and to finalize my summer bucket list, I took a tally of what my family and I actually accomplished from our list. We completed 20 out of 39 bucket list items, some of which were squeezed in after school officially started. That’s a score of just over 50%; it’s not necessarily a grade I’d strive for, but I’ve decided to look at this as a win and recognize that sometimes love does. And sometimes, I just CAN.

Checking it off…

Johnson City Science Mill-IMG_1028

Highlights: explore at your own pace; outdoor and indoor exhibits; not crowded on weekdays; an affordable café; and interactive experiments

Tips:

– This museum is really geared toward school age children (probably 2nd grade+).IMG_1032

– Allow plenty of time for outside play and exploration.

– Prepare to get involved, build, and experiment along with your children. Many of the interactive exhibits will require adult assistance.

Stubbs Graceland-

Highlights: yummy barbecue, multiple shaded playgrounds for all ages, casual spot for families to meet up, occasional live music

IMG_1145Tips:

– Wear bug spray, drink plenty of water, and watch for ants. All of the seating is outdoors … on picnic tables … in central Texas.  Enough said.

– The three meat plate can feed a family of four (if you’re not famished upon arrival), and the coffee porter on tap is simply divine.

Austin Nature and Science Center-

Highlights: FREE!; two indoor discovery rooms; a huge outdoor sandpit to dig for dinosaur fossils; hiking trails; located in the heart of Zilker park; mostly stroller-friendly

Tips:IMG_1130

– Wear bug spray, drink plenty of water, and watch for ants, bees, wasps, hornets, etc. Most of it is outdoors … in a naturally wooded area … in central Texas.  Enough said. =)

– The info desk has a lot of great information and can help guide your visit.

– Pack a lunch and picnic next to the frog pond.

Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum-

Highlights: Free admission on the first Sunday of each month; three levels packed with unique Texas history; explore at your own pace; located near the Capitol and downtown so you can plan a whole day around it.

Tips:

– This museum is meant for older children and adults. There are few interactive exhibits but a lot of interesting artifacts and information.

– A new exhibit is being built that will be more interactive and will include a huge trading boat that patrons can board. IMG_2541

– If you’re going on the free Sunday, there are children’s activities in the lobby for the first few hours. This will be a busier time to go but allows your children to do arts and crafts. If you go later in the afternoon, you forgo the crafts, but the museum is much less crowded.

 

Categories
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

Tips:

Dino

– 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.

Tips:

– 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.

Tips:

– 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

Categories
Motivation

What Do You Do?

(Written in Fall, 2016)

As I check over homework while still in my PJ’s at 11:45 am on a Thursday doing what could only be described as a ‘fair’ job of caring for two sick daughters, I come across the final sentence of a math worksheet, “Describe the relationship between the value of a dollar and the value of a dime.”
On the answer line below, I read, “They’re both money.” I hide my smirk, then call over my 4th grader to tell her she has to fix her answer. She doesn’t understand why her vague response is not acceptable, and it becomes a 15 minute lesson on fractions and word problems. I carefully control the volume and pace of my voice to simulate patience as she answers, “I don’t know” before I even finish asking her a question. We get through it, though. We eek out an acceptable answer, and she runs off to play with my old iPod. My reaction after taking a huge swig of my lukewarm coffee is, “Hey, I’ve still got it! I’m still good at this teaching thing.”
Yes, I used to teach. High school. It was wonderful and horrible at the same time. I counted down the hours to lunch and then counted down the hours to daily happy hour, but I felt like I was making a difference. Some kids actually learned, and I caught myself smiling quite a bit while I was in front of that classroom full of hormones and untucked shirts. But aside from teaching a subject I was passionate about, making other teacher friends, and helping to shape young minds, I also really liked having an answer to the question, “What do you do?” I always had an easy and quick answer. “I am a teacher.” And after a couple years, I was able to say, “I’m an assistant principal.” I had a title. I had a position. I went to one place five days per week and stayed there almost all day. I had a career.
Now, when people ask me what I do, I pause. About thirteen job titles run through my mind as the inquirer stares at me wondering if I understood the question. Hmmm, what do I say? Mom? Business manager (my trumped up title for working in our family business)? Soccer coach? Volunteer? Maid? Cook? Tutor? None of them seems to be The One, though. There is no quick, easy answer anymore. So, I’ve thought long and hard about what my answer will be next time. I want to be prepared. When someone asks me, “What do you do?”, I’m going to have an answer. One answer.
“I am a starter.”
Yep, this is what hours of contemplation has brought me to. It seems to be the only thing I do consistently. I’ve heard of people referring to themselves as “closers”. I think even I used to be a closer, but I’m not one of those anymore. The only thing I’ve closed lately is the book I gave up on after reading about 40 pages. At this rate, I can’t even close on a load of laundry. Actually, I just loaded the washing machine, walked away to help my oldest with something, and discovered that my 10 month old UNloaded it. It’s yet another job unfinished. But I did start it.
So, why can’t there be Starters? I start a lot of things. I’m quite good at starting. This morning, I started a cup of coffee. Unfinished. Yesterday I started filling out mountains of school paperwork. Unfinished. A couple days ago, I started planning a kid-free getaway with my husband. Unfinished. Last week, I started working on a business plan and website with a friend. Unfinished. I could go on for years. Literally. You get the point.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I understand the value of completing something and getting the job done. I love that sense of accomplishment. I’m even ashamed to admit that I’m the type that will write something I’ve already done on a ‘to do’ list just so that I can cross it off my list. I’m a planner. I’m a doer. But life throws you curve balls. Life changes. Life gives you three kids and a house sitting on the market for months with no potential buyers. Sometimes life gives you doubt… doubt in your plans, doubt in your choices, doubt in your abilities. And sometimes that doubt turns closers into starters.
Today, I started this blog. And for the first time, I feel ok about something being unfinished. I have no plan for it. I have no future titles, and I have no idea where it will take me, but I started.