Summer can be a season of unpredictability when you have kids. You never know how each day will turn out, but that summertime spontaneity may be exactly what we all need right now.
It’s summer and time for wandering.
As free, fun, and fabulous each long summer day can be, nothing kills that joy like being unprepared for what these hot mid-year months can throw at us. Parents have to be ready for anything, including what a change in season can bring. I recommend starting with this Mom’s Survival Guide to Summer before you launch into June.
1. Get your mind and your heart in the right place each morning.
If ever there is a time to get into the routine of spending the early part of your morning in God’s Word, in peaceful meditation, in a yoga squat, or in reflective journaling, summer IS IT! These long days require mental, emotional, and physical endurance. The best way to prepare is to ground yourself before tackling it all. My favorite place to do this is on my back porch with a cup of coffee.
Keep a plastic bin, large bag, or sturdy basket full of essential summer items in the back of your car so that you can be ready for anything summer’s spontaneity throws at you.
3. Create a Favorite Places List.
Have a list readily available of at least 5 free/cheap familiar places that you and your kids already love. When you all need to get out of the house or you’re looking for a quick stop between errands, just refer to the list. Ideas include favorite playgrounds, hiking trails, river access point, patio restaurant, splash pad, or library. (And if you’ve already packed your car with your summer essentials kit, you should be prepared for any of the options.)
4. Create a Summer Bucket List.
Your bucket list is a separate list of new-to-you places worth exploring when you have an open day and an adventurous spirit. You can access the 2020 Hill Country Summer Bucket list for ideas. Or maybe you’d like to schedule a hike each week for the summer. If so, let us know if your new favorite spot should be featured in This Week’s Hike.
5. Squeeze in adult time.
Set specific date nights for you and your spouse on the calendar as you plan summer. Schedule a few mom’s nights out for mid-week escapes. Hold those dates sacred, and don’t let lack of a babysitter cause you to cancel. Keep a few family-friendly hot spots in your back pocket where you can enjoy time with other adults while the kids are occupied on a playground or in a sandbox nearby.
5. Have indoor play kits ready.
Use toys or craft items you already have to create themed kits for indoor play time. Tuck them away in your closet or garage until a rainy or super hot day. A few kit ideas include:
– Dress up play with costumes and accessories
– Puppet theater with an old sheet, socks or paper sacks, random crafts, and markers
– Bring a board game to life
– Indoor scavenger hunts with prizes (use picture flashcards for littles)
– Car racing kit with some painters’ tape – and hot wheels
– Kids’ scrapbooking kit
6. Plan a trip.
Not comfortable with flying right now? That’s ok. Road trips are all the rage this summer. Book a house on the beach or explore an historic town nearby. Be sure to choose a location that has plenty of outdoor activities.
But if you want all the fun of a vacation yet don’t want to spend extra cash on staying overnight, day trips are still a fantastic option and will feel like a great escape.
6. Put those kids in camp.
Our favorite type of camp is Vacation Bible School. They’re usually free or really cheap and offer a couple hours of good clean fun. They fill up quickly, though, so get your kids registered ASAP.
Wherever this summer may take you, I hope you feel empowered and prepared for anything with this Mom’s Guide to Summer! Don’t miss out on future posts about family fun in Texas this summer, travel tips, and the best road trip destinations… subscribe below!
In our mission to spend 1000 hours outside this year, we’ve decided to revisit some of our favorite hiking spots and seek out new ones as well. We’ll be sharing one with you every week in our series titled “This Week’s Hike”.
✅ Trails for Children
✅ Reservations needed
❌ Stroller-friendly Trails
❌ Free admission
Just north of San Antonio, east of Boerne, and about an hour from Dripping Springs sits one of our favorite state parks and the location of This Week’s Hike! We’re excited to share everything we love about Guadalupe River State Park:
In the summer, it’s the perfect swimming hole. In the winter, it’s fun for skipping rocks and trying to traverse temporary rock bridges without falling in. During any season, this spot on the Guadalupe River is the start of a 5-mile paddling trail for kayakers, tubers, and paddle-boarders. (Check water levels before dropping in though.)
Easy to Moderate Trails
On the south side of the River, all the trails are easy to moderate, which is perfect for a family with young children. I would not recommend strollers for these trails. We tried that once, and there was more stroller-carrying than stroller-pushing. Our younger kids could easily handle the Turkey Sink Trail, the Bald Cypress Trail, and the Scenic Overlook Trail. The trails vary in length throughout the park from .2 miles to 2.8 miles.
There are multiple cliffs and a scenic overlook to get great views of the River below and the surrounding Hill Country.
A Story Walk
Currently, there is a story walk on the Discovery Center Loop trail. Getting to the next page in the book was a great motivator for my 3-year-old to keep hiking.
The Discovery Center
Unfortunately, the Discovery Center is currently closed, but it’s definitely worth visiting when it re-opens! (Pics taken in 2019.)
More Challenging Trail Options
The Bauer Unit on the north side of the river, which requires a drive from the state park entrance to another entrance about 6 miles away, offers 8 miles of more challenging/remote trails, as well as a visit to the historic Bauer House.
On Saturday mornings only, guided walks through the Honey Creek State Natural Area are available, and they start inside the park at the Rust House.
A Small Playground
Near the bathrooms by the River, there is a small playground with a couple swings, two fireman’s poles, and an old metal slide. It was enough to keep my 5-year-old from wanting to leave the park.
Clean Bathrooms and Changing Areas
The park has recently remodeled the bathrooms and changing areas in the river -access parking lot.
Visit the bird blind to check out the many flying Texas species that frequent the area, including the Barred Owl. There are also equestrian trails for horse-lovers and free fishing equipment you can check out from the ranger station. On our recent trip here, an armadillo scurried right in front of us searching for his next dig site.
Great Towns Nearby
After a visit to the park, you can take the short drive into San Antonio to stroll the Riverwalk or enjoy dinner at the Pearl District. An even closer option is the cute small town of Boerne where you can do more hiking along a river or enjoy a beautiful evening on one of their local restaurant patios.
If you haven’t already, we encourage you to visit Guadalupe River State Park the next time the sun is shining! Also, if you’re into camping, it appeared that the park has several beautiful spots to pitch your tent.
Follow @dripping_with_kids on Instagram or this blog so you don’t miss out on the best places to go in the Texas Hill Country! We’d love to hear about your favorite spots too.
Christmas doesn’t have a cancel button, so don’t give up on your favorite holiday events just yet. The 2020 Holiday Bucket List is just as full as the lists in previous years. Make the most of this season with these amazing events in our beloved Texas Hill Country.
This year, it seems that most families want to go BIG with their holidays … BIG on giving, BIG on decorating, BIG on family time, and BIG on celebrating the reason for the season. 2020 is the perfect year to start some new holiday traditions or to revive a few that got lost in Christmases past.
One of our favorite traditions is our Family Advent Calendar:
Starting on December 1st, I write down one holiday experience to do for each of the days leading up to Christmas. These daily activities can be must-do tasks, like addressing and sending Christmas cards, or fun nights out, like meandering through a trail of lights after dinner. I love this tradition because we get to participate in all of our favorite events, activities, tasks, and traditions while waiting in joyful anticipation of celebrating the birth of Jesus. In addition to the daily activity, I also include a slip of paper with scripture that tells part of the Christmas story so that each day, a little more of the story is being recited. (Luke 1:26-35; Luke 2:1-20)
Below I’ve included a list of some of the activities I’ve hidden in our advent calendar pockets in years past, followed by the 2020 Holiday Bucket List.
TRADITIONS/FUN AT HOME –
Bake sugar cookies
Make cards/gifts for teachers
Holiday movie night
Read the story of St. Nicholas and put shoes outside your door for a little surprise (Dec 6th)
Deliver treats to neighbors
Caroling at home and holiday charades
Trim/Decorate the tree(s)
Make homemade paper snowflakes and tape them in the windows
Tell stories of our family’s holidays past, as well as dreams for the future (reminisce over photos, plan vacations, etc)
Make a reservation for a socially-distanced photo with Santa and a stroll through the store’s holiday decorations. Your kids can also mail a letter to Santa and take home a holiday craft kit. Plus, no visit to Cabela’s is complete without a visit to the dead zoo.
Walkway of Lights with a variety of themes, weekend events including breakfast with Santa, ice skating, shopping, and “No Room at the Inn” gallery exhibit… With this many holiday-inspired activities, you could spend every weekend in Marble Falls!
Take a short drive to Bastrop for some spectacular holiday events, including a wassail fest, river of lights, a drive-in movie and virtual tree lighting, holiday sidewalk stroll and scavenger hunt, and Elf the Musical.
The courthouse and downtown area are aglow with thousands of lights. Local vendors set up tables inside and outside the courthouse. The town of Johnson City is still deciding which events will occur this year. Check website for details.
Show up on any day of the week for a spectacular holiday light show and events-a-plenty. Fredericksburg is so full of holiday cheer that you may need a few days to take it all in. Check the website for specific activities and lodging options.
This fun hometown festival isn’t giving up on 2020. Enjoy shopping with local vendors, a trackless train, pony rides, a festive atmosphere, and an opportunity to write a letter to Santa and mail it on-site.
Photos with Cowboy Kringle (appointment required), free afternoon shows at historic Gruene Hall, gorgeous Christmas lights and decorations throughout the town, and unique shops to complete your Christmas lists. Traditional events, such as the town lighting and the gospel brunch, are postponed until 2021. Check website for events still taking place.
Take a kit home so your kids can to create their own Treat Tray for Santa. Kids develop hands-on skills with sanding, nailing and applying stickers. All kids get to keep their craft, receive a FREE certificate of achievement, a Workshop Apron and a commemorative pin while supplies last.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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! 😉
A few years ago, I was invited to write an article for the Houston Zoo website and newsletter as the Member of the Month. I’ve never been more excited to work for free. Maybe this could be considered my first blog post! Here is an excerpt from it:
My family has had a membership at the zoo for about 7 years. In the first couple years, I pushed a single stroller with my eager and curious daughter, planning each visit around her favorite animals: the elephants, sea lions, and big cats. Soon enough, I was cruising around the zoo with a double jogger, making sure that each visit included a carousel ride, a trip to the playground, many animal sightings, a crawl (or two or three or thirty) through the tunnel in the Natural Encounters house, and a stroll past the monkeeeeeys for my son. Now, we go as a family of five with two big kids leading the way and another eager and curious daughter in the single stroller. We never miss the African Forest, which houses my favorite animals, the majestic giraffes, and my husband insists on going through the bug house, despite the terrifying cockroaches, because he was one of the engineers for that exhibit. We all challenge ourselves to see if we can make it to every corner of the zoo. We don’t want to miss anything!
After submitting this article, it hit me that the zoo truly was one of our family’s happy places, and we vowed to visit zoos all over the country whenever we travel together. However, zoo admissions continue to increase, and many of them have added pricey experiences you can feel tempted to take advantage of when you book online. This is where a zoo membership can make a huge difference!
I am still a proud card-carrying member of the Houston Zoo despite moving away 3 years ago, and I’ll tell you why.
Paying for one zoo membership not only gets you in for free at that zoo for an entire year, but it also gets you in free or 50% off admission to dozens of other zoos and aquariums across the country. Check out this site to see which zoos and aquariums are included. https://www.aza.org/reciprocity
In the last two years, my family has visited the Cameron Park Zoo three times, the Fort Worth Zoo, the Houston Zoo at least three times, the Oakland Zoo, the Dallas Zoo, and the San Antonio Zoo. Because of the membership benefits, we’ve saved over $400 on zoo visits while traveling, and that amount does not include the savings we’ve been able to pass along to friends through free day passes and inviting them as our guests. I also saved precious summer cash when I used to enroll my kids in camps at the zoo.
Most zoos have special events for Halloween (Zoo Boo), the holidays (Zoo lights), and in the spring or summer (Zoobilee) to which members get free or reduced admission. Many zoos also have free yoga classes, education events for children, opportunities for overnight campouts, and toddler/infant socialization times. Additionally, most zoos offer a member morning each month that allows you to get in one hour earlier than the normal opening time and feature specific animal talks. Members also get discounts on carousel or train rides and gift shop purchases.
Animal Conservation and Taxes
100% of your zoo membership is considered a tax-deductible charitable donation going toward animal and habitat conservation. Saving money on family experiences and taxes too… win-win!
Children and holidays are a lot alike. They can both drive us insane, but oh, how we love them so! I’m a huge fan of the holiday season, but I have to admit that every year, I feel a bit like the stressed, impatient, beloved main character in the children’s book, Llama Llama Holiday Drama.
“Is the big day coming soon? Llama Llama starts to swoon… All this waiting for one day? Time for presents right away! Too much music, too much fluff! Too much making, too much stuff! Too much EVERYTHING for Llama… Llama, Llama, HOLIDRAMA!” ¹
Not only do we have to find gifts for every human we’ve ever come in contact with, but we also have to make sure we make it to each white elephant party, see ALL the lights, and prepare for the perfect pic with Santa. Oh, and don’t forget the family traditions of holiday movie-thons, tree-decorating, caroling, searching for that dreaded elusive elf, and sending dozens of cards, all while wearing matching PJ’s! How do we squeeze everything in?
With so much going on, having a plan and finding a good balance is the only way to avoid ending up on the floor in a holidrama trance like little Llama Llama. In our house, we use the Advent calendar to maintain a game plan and limit the holiday commotion. Starting on December 1st, I write down one holiday experience to do for each of the days leading up to Christmas. These daily activities can be must-do tasks, like addressing and sending Christmas cards, or fun nights out, like meandering through a trail of lights after dinner. I love this tradition because we get to participate in all of our favorite events, activities, tasks, and traditions while waiting in joyful anticipation of celebrating the birth of Jesus. In addition to the daily activity, I also include a slip of paper with scripture that tells part of the Christmas story so that each day, a little more of the story is being recited. (Luke 1:26-35; Luke 2:1-20)
Below I’ve included a list of some of the activities I’ve hidden in our advent calendar pockets, along with our annual Holiday Bucket List, so you can find that perfect balance to fill you up with the joyful holiday spirit yet keep you sane!
TRADITIONS/FUN AT HOME –
Bake sugar cookies
Make cards/gifts for teachers
Holiday movie night
Read the story of St. Nicholas and put shoes outside your door for a little surprise (Dec 6th)
Deliver treats to neighbors
Caroling and holiday charades
Trim/Decorate the tree(s)
Make homemade paper snowflakes and tape them in the windows
Tell stories of your family’s holidays past, as well as dreams for the future (reminisce over photos, plan vacations, etc)
Make gingerbread houses
HILL COUNTRY HOLIDAY BUCKET LIST –
Reindeer Visit at the Hill Country Galleria (Bee Cave): Santa’s reindeer will be in the Central Plaza from noon – 4 pm one day only (Nov 30th)! Stay for shopping and a movie at the Hill Country Holiday Village. Santa’s arrival and the tree lighting will occur at the same location one week earlier on Nov 23rd at 6 pm. (https://www.hillcountrygalleria.com/)
Luminations at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (Austin): Dec 5th – 8th and Dec 12th – 15th, 6 – 10 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. $18 for non-members, free for members and children under 5. (https://www.wildflower.org/event/luminations/all)
Emily Ann Theater Trail of Lights (Wimberley): Nov 30th – Dec 28th, 6 – 9 pm… Stroll through over 100
lighted exhibits, roast marshmallows, listen to live music, and visit with Santa on select nights. FREE, donations appreciated. (http://emilyann.org/trailoflights.html)
Donuts and Photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus (S. Austin): Join and support AOC MOPS while enjoying quality time with Santa and the Mrs. There will be photos with Santa, a doughnut breakfast, festive crafts, and story time with Mrs. Claus! Plus raffle items from Kendra Scott, Rodan and Fields, a complete car detail, personal chef services and much more. Reservations just $10 per family. Follow the link to make yours. Spots are limited, and it is expected to sell out.
Johnson City Lights Spectacular: Nightly November 29th – Jan 5th… The courthouse and downtown area are aglow with thousands of lights. Local vendors set up tables inside and outside the courthouse. Parade rolls through town at 6:30 pm on November 30th, and food court will be available that night. On Dec 7th and 14th, there will be lamplight tours through LBJ’s boyhood home, crafts for children, and live music. Carriage and hay rides are available for a fee. (https://www.johnsoncitytexas.info/local-events–calendar.html
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. (www.gruenetexas.com)
Crafts, Music, and Stories at your local library: Check your local library’s newsletter for FREE holiday events, including making holiday gifts, hunting for Elf on the Shelf, donating items to local shelters and senior centers, live music, and much more.
Home Depot December Kids’ DIY Workshop: On Dec 7th between 9 am and noon, create your own countdown to the holidays, and have a blast with your child while doing it. Kids develop hands-on skills with sanding, nailing and applying stickers. With help from parents and store associates, your child will make a merry memory this holiday season. All kids get to keep their craft, receive a FREE certificate of achievement, a Workshop Apron and a commemorative pin while supplies last. (https://www.homedepot.com/workshops/#store/8995)
Christmas on Mercer (Dripping Springs): This fun hometown festival on Dec 7th from 10 am to 5 pm draws a crowd to see Santa cruise in on a fire engine, to sip hot cocoa while perusing local vendor tables, and to watch local groups perform dance routines and sing Christmas carols. Come dressed to impress so you can snag a FREE picture with Santa. There will also be pony rides, a petting zoo, and a trackless train ride for the kids. (https://www.destinationdrippingsprings.com/events/2019/christmas-on-mercer-street)
Community First Village of Lights (Austin): Dec 6th & 7th and Dec 13th & 14th, 5:30 – 9 pm… With more than 200,000 lights choreographed to holiday music, the Community First! Village of Lights is one of the biggest Christmas light displays in Central Texas. Be sure to include a stop at the Advent Market to shop for unique, handcrafted gifts made by formerly homeless craftsmen and artisans who live at the Village. Your purchase of gifts and concessions during the event will help our Community First! Village neighbors earn a dignified income. (https://give.mlf.org/event/village-of-lights-2019/e255043)
Lost Pines Christmas Snow Day (Bastrop – Fisherman’s Park): Dec 14th, 12 pm – 5 pm, followed by a lighted parade through downtown at 6 pm! (www.visitbastrop.com)
A Pioneer Christmas at the Pound House (Dripping Springs): Dec 14th, 12 – 2 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! FREE admission. (http://www.drpoundhistoricalfarmstead.org/pioneer-christmas.html)
Holidays in Fredericksburg: There are several events throughout the season that will fill even the scroogiest attendee with the holiday spirit. Check out the town lighting on Nov 29th or the Light the Night Christmas parade on Dec 6th. There are also markets, ice skating, lights tours, live music, crafting, art walks, and many more activities happening in this cute little German town throughout the month of December. (https://www.visitfredericksburgtx.com/plan/events)
Maywald Lights Display (W. Austin): Over 120,000 lights are on display at a family’s home in Austin for a good cause: the Make-a-Wish foundation! Check out their “Believe” theme this year and leave a donation. (https://maywaldchristmasdisplay.weebly.com/)
Save the Date: Snow Day at the Science Mill (Johnson City): Jan 18th, 2020, 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. (https://www.sciencemill.org/upcoming-events-1/)
Children today may be obsessed with screens and have incredibly busy extracurricular schedules, but unstructured play time at a park really can’t be beat. Sometimes, we’ll spend summer days just hopping from one playground to the next. Often, my kids don’t even need a playground, just an open field to let their imaginations and their bodies soar. While we’re outside, worries and responsibilities drift away, which is why on the playground is where I’d like to spend most of my days. My kids often feel this way too.
If you’re looking for a great playground where your kids (and you) can safely climb, wander, jump, slide, and swing, the list below is for you. If you’re looking for tips on how to convince your child to leave these playgrounds when it’s time to go without resorting to bribery, I got nothing for ya.
Top 10 Playgrounds in and around Dripping Springs, TX
1. Founders Memorial Park: This large park is nestled between our town’s historic pioneer farmstead and the local pool. It includes the coolest swings, three playscapes, a covered pavilion with picnic tables, bathrooms, plenty of parking, a walking trail, and a football/soccer field. (480 Founders Park Road, Dripping Springs, TX 78620)
2. Dripping Springs Sports and Rec Park: Our local 40 acre sports park has a large play structure, shaded picnic areas, indoor restrooms, basketball courts, sand volleyball, walking trails, and soccer and baseball fields. (27148 Ranch Road 12, Dripping Springs, TX 78620)
3. 12 Fox Brewery: With a castle theme, including a long drawbridge and wooden ladder, this playground is very popular with my kids and their friends. There’s also a separate play area with outdoor equipment meant for younger children. Bonus: enjoy a beer, live music, and a taco or pizza while they play.
4. Saddle Tree Ranch Neighborhood Park: An old-school swingset, unique metal climbing structure, modern playscape with multiple slides, tennis courts, and a large field to run wild makes this park the perfect spot to burn off some kid energy. (401 Lariat Cir, Dripping Springs, TX 78620)
5. Caliterra Community Playscape: This fun neighborhood amenity includes a large play structure, trails along a beautiful creek, and an adorable coffee shop open to the public. (Hwy 12 @ Caliterra Parkway)
6. City of Bee Cave Central Park: While not in the city of Dripping Springs, this huge city park is worth the short drive! It sprawls 50 acres and includes two separate playgrounds with different experiences and equipment, covered pavilions with picnic tables, large hills for your inner child and your actual child to roll down until you’re too dizzy to stand up, concrete walking trails, restrooms, a dog park, multiple basketball courts, and open field space for ball play. (13676 Bee Cave Parkway, Bee Cave, TX 78738)
7. Windmill Run Park: This hidden park is tucked back in an established neighborhood, so when you arrive, you’ll be surprised by how large it is. With two large playscapes, a climbing structure, and a swingset, your family can spend hours here. There’s also a nature trail and shaded picnic tables. There are no bathrooms on site, though, so plan ahead. (8100 Kirkham Dr, Austin, TX 78736)
8. Graceland: Technically, this is an outdoor restaurant, but it makes our list because the shaded play areas can’t be beat. So, grab a beer and watch your kids run with glee between the three large structures and playhouses. You can even use the playground when the restaurant isn’t open. (8600 290 West, Austin, TX 78736)
9. Belterra Trinity Hills Park: If you’re looking for a safe neighborhood park with room to run, a playscape to scale, and nature trails to traverse, this is a great spot to spend an hour after school or before an outdoor picnic lunch. (240 Torrington Dr, Austin, TX 78737)
10. Headwaters Play Area: Instead of the typical playscape, this play area feels a bit more natural with a sand pit, grassy hills, cargo nets, hillside slide, and large rocks for bouldering. There’s also a cafe in the amenity center that’s open to the public. (708 Headwaters Blvd, Dripping Springs, TX 78620)
Whether you’re new to the area and looking for a few spots to meet other families, visiting from out of town and exploring our beautiful hill country, or a long-time resident in need of reminders on where to let your kids wander, I hope these suggestions are helpful. Get outdoors and play on!
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.
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!
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!
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. 🧡