Whether you refer to it as a fall festival or a pumpkin patch, the month of October isn’t complete without a visit to one… or many!
Is it even Fall if you haven’t taken super cute photos surrounded by pumpkins and funny signs; dirtied your shoes with dust, hay, and dried corn in a big pit; gotten lost in a winding maze; fed some farm animals; sipped sweet tea; and watched your kids bounce, ride, and run to their hearts’ content?
This list includes the festivals we always try to squeeze in, as well as a few pumpkin patches we haven’t seen … yet.
Visit the homestead of the founding family of Dripping Springs, and enjoy lawn games, a pumpkin patch, food trucks, live music, animal visits, photo opps, and beautiful picnic spots under the oaks. Also, the Founder’s Park playground is right next door. Admission price is a flat $15 per person (65+ and 0-3 are free).
Located in Georgetown, TX, this farm is loaded with the typical fall festival activities, such as a corn maze, pumpkin patch, and petting zoo, but it also has a few unique options. We can’t wait to take another spin on a pedal cart; shoot an apple from a slingshot; climb up a tire hill, then slide down; watch pig-racing; wade in the San Gabriel River; play corn hole, gaga ball, kickball, or tug o’ war; and challenge ourselves on the obstacle course. $25/person if purchased online in advance.
You can find this farm and pumpkin patch near Austin in Manchaca, TX. Fall festival activities include a Pumpkin patch, fall-themed photo-ops, exotic animals, authentic Native American tipi, kids’ swings and playground, kids’ Spider Web, face painting (only open Saturday & Sunday), jumping pillow (only open Saturday & Sunday), and food vendors. Go on a Thursday or Friday for half-price admission. Sat and Sun visits cost $16/person.
The short drive to Marble Falls is worth it to spend the day on this cute farm with hayrides, two mazes, a huge pumpkin patch with adorable photo opps, face painting, goat-feeding, barrel train rides, scarecrow-stuffing, a funny hayride, and horseback riding (on weekends only). Admission is free, but activities are charged individually. We usually spend about $15/person.
In the beautiful and fun city of Fredericksburg, $14 admission cost gets you Corn Maze, Jump pass, Wagon Ride, Flower Field, Barnyard Basketball, Barnyard Rollers, Barnyard Bubbles, Corn Pit, Tile Maze, Tug-O-War, Roping, Tetherball-m, Peach Mountain and Tunnel, and more. We’ve never been, but we’re excited to check out Jenshke this year.
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…
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.
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.
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!
Whether hiking with tiny tots or solo with climbing gear in your bag, this is the place for you! The trail options are many, from a meandering flat surface that takes you to the (usually dry) creek bed to the rocky paths and large boulders that lead to the popular rock climbing spots.
Easy Parking and Access
Google Maps will take you directly to the entrance. You can park for free on the street nearby and walk along the sidewalk directly to the trailhead. There’s a sign at the entrance.
Hours of Nature Exploration
While there are no benches or bathrooms, there are many spots along the trails that allow for nature exploration… bouldering, climbing trees, crawling through natural tunnels, collecting rocks, and traversing rocky terrain. The creek bed is easy to get to, so once there, even little ones can explore while their parents take a rest.
After burning calories hiking, climbing, and exploring, treat yourself to burgers, beer, and ice cream, as well as more play time on the playground, at Phil’s Ice House or enjoy delicious pizza at Pinthouse Pizza | Craft Brewpub | Austin Texas. There are dozens of additional options within 5-10 minutes of Gus Fruh as well.
Gus Fruh is perfect for a quick hike or a full screen-free afternoon with your family. For other family hike recommendations in the Texas Hill Country, check out This Week’s Hike!
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 favorites as well.
As of this school year, I’ve ventured into homeschooling my two younger children. People ask me daily how it’s going, and depending on the day (or even the time of day), they’ll likely get a different answer than I previously gave.
The highs are very high, and the lows can be quite low. I can go from feeling pure joy and bliss to doubting every parenting decision I’ve ever made. However, I’ve come to realize that these feelings occur no matter what schooling decision parents make for their children. We’re so hard on ourselves and tend to let the emotion du jour lead the way.
To counter this whiplash of emotions, I try to engage in meaningful activities with my kids that will fill their cups but also fill mine. I usually find a bit of free time for myself after fully participating in one of the options below because everybody walks away fulfilled.
Most of these incorporate time in nature and/or sensory experiences, which tend to be antidotes to boredom, crankiness, frustration, sibling rivalry, and screen daze for all of us.
I hope that these ideas might allow other parents to break away from the norm and reset those flip-flopping emotions. These 11 easy, free, and meaningful activities have worked well for us. Let me know if any stand out to you!
1. Nature Hike and Journaling
We kept our nature journals really simple and just made them out of cardstock and twine. Anytime we go on an adventure, I carry crayons and pencils. The kids either draw something they see and find interesting, then we research it on my phone to add notes … OR they’ve already drawn and researched something that we then go and try to find, such as certain types of trees.
2. Act Out a Favorite Storybook
We choose a favorite or recently-read story book and act it out in real life. We create costumes, find props, and make up character voices. The kids love this activity and often want to act out the same book more than once. We’re hoping to go all out after finishing the Little House on the Prairie series and throw a themed party.
3. Lego Challenge
There are a million and one ways to create Lego challenges for kids. You can just type the words and google for a plethora of ideas. I even found some printables for head-to-head Lego challenges. What I love the most about starting one of these challenges is the fact that the kids usually want to continue playing with legos independently for hours or days on end!
4. Create a Wall of Weird
Kids love to find the weirdest things! Whether out on a hike or rummaging through a thrift store, they find something so unique, but often too odd, to want to include it with the rest of the home decor. As a compromise, my kids and I agreed upon a Wall of Weird, which was an idea borrowed from someone much more clever than myself. So, when a little one wants to collect a fallen bird’s nest, an odd-shaped stick, or a dead bug, there has to be room on the Wall of Weird for it to come home with us. (Sometimes, interesting crafts make it on to the wall as well.)
5. Guided Drawing
If you haven’t tried the Art for Kids Hub videos on You Tube yet, you’re in for a fun afternoon! These easy-to-follow guided draw videos are our favorite way to spend a rainy day… and sometimes a sunny one. Some videos are easy enough for a pre-schooler, but many are challenging even for me. This activity may not fit the bill for reducing screen time, but it’s definitely worth the extra minutes (or hours) in our house.
6. Make Shaped Crayons
Any chance you have a few broken crayons in your home? Maybe a few hundred? If so, this activity can keep your kids busy for an entire day. Not kidding. All you needs are lots of crayons and a silicon candy mold. First, have the kids find all the crayons that are too broken to use or are nubby duplicates of newer ones. Have them sort by color. Then they peel off the paper of each one. After that, place the crayon bits into the candy mold shapes. Mix colors if desired. Bake in the oven at 300 degrees until they start to harden. Voila – “new” shaped crayons for the kids to use during guided drawing! They also make great gifts. We’ve printed coloring pages and attached several fun-shaped crayons to create gifts for friends.
With older kids or young kids, indoor or outdoor, soft and cozy or challenging and maze-like, forts are always a family favorite! To change things up a bit, we sometimes set up a huge tent in the house (along with other accessories) for indoor camping.
8. Sensory Obstacle Course
When I hear “obstacle course”, my brain tends to immediately picture a ninja gym or gymnastics floor. However, an obstacle course can be set up anywhere! Sometimes, it might look like my kids shooting water guns at a target (or each other), stepping into buckets full of goo, crawling from one end of the yard to another, and ending with a little shaving cream play. Sometimes, the kids just leap over toys, roll under a table, and hop around on different surfaces. Sometimes, they do somersaults, a certain number of jumps on the trampoline, and then dig in the sand to find toys. No matter the location or the props used, obstacle courses always seem to satisfy my kids‘ sensory cravings! They also tend to be prompts for initiating independent play, which allows me a chance to sit down and catch up on a book.
9. Simple Science Experiments
What kid doesn’t love science experiments?! Thankfully, there are hundreds options to copy from Pinterest or Google. The library is also a great resource to check out a book with dozens of ideas. I always look for experiments using ingredients we already have on hand and that can be done in under 15 minutes. What I‘be found is that my kids continue doing the experiment or a similar activity afterward. More independent play time for the win (and usually a bit of a mess to clean up afterward).
11. Surprise a Neighbor
It can be any type of gift, any time year, and for any reason whatsoever… my kids love to be secret elves. We just come up with something simple, like a baked good or a funny theme or sometimes an envelope of cash for a friend in need. The kids then work hard on the gift and get to be super sneaky when they deliver it. This usually leads to an over-exaggeration of spy or ninja behavior, but they love leaving a gift somewhere on the porch or in an interesting spot in the yard without that friend seeing them. Occasionally, I will have to send a text to let our friends know to look out for something because it was hidden so well.
Thank you for reading! I would love to hear which activities work best in your home to reset your kids’ emotions. Please share in the comments! Also, if you try any of the 11 listed above, please post on Instagram and tag @DrippingWithKids.
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 our hiking experiences and recommendations with you in our series titled “This Week’s Hike”.
✅ Trails for Children
✅ Swimming (seasonal)
✅ Playground and Sports Fields
✅ Free Admission for Park and Trails
✅ Stroller-friendly Trails and Bike Trails
❌ Reservations needed
Just an hour or so west of Austin, and down the road from the best wineries in the Texas Hill Country, sits one of our favorite state parks! It checks every box for adults and children alike. We’re excited to share everything we love about the LBJ State and National Park in Stonewall, TX.
The Museum and Visitor Center
Upon arrival, check in at the Visitor Center for a free parking pass. While inside, peruse the gift shop full of locally-made soaps, confectionaries, home decor, jams and butters, as well as educational toys and books. Also, ask for Junior Ranger workbooks for the kids to guide them along both the state park and the national park areas. Just past the visitor center is a small museum and a pioneer house to explore. Then, make your way on to…
Easy and Interesting Trails
The trails from the visitor center are mostly shaded and easy for all skill/age levels. Amazing trees border the flat trail, and there are plaques with interesting info on local flaura and fauna. Plus, they lead to the best parts of the park….
After a short walk, you’ll be greeted by huge, gorgeous Texas longhorns, as well as white tail deer, if they’re feeling friendly. You can also follow the trail to see a herd of bison or take an alternate route to the …
Working Farm with More Animal Encounters
One of the highlights of this park is that the trail leads you to the Sauer-Beckman Homestead and Farm, where your kids can collect the multi-colored eggs from the chicken coop on a slow day; where the wild turkeys stage a Thanksgiving Day revenge by sneaking up behind you, yelping at the top of their lungs, and then laughing at your expense as they dart up onto the branches of the huge live oaks; where the sheep meander along the walkways; where the hens peck at your feet; and where the hogs put on a muddy show if your olfactory glands can withstand the potent stench of their pen.
You can also tour the original farmhouse and homestead, often while munching on farm-fresh delicacies prepared in the century-old kitchen that day. After you’ve worked up an appetite, complete your meal at one of the…
Picnic Areas and Playground
There are multiple picnic areas with bathrooms nearby and plenty of green space to run around after eating. In one area, there’s an old-school playground with a metal swingset, slide, and see-saw. If you or your kids have more energy to burn, add in additional playtime at the…
Swimming Pool, Tennis Courts, and Baseball Field
The swimming pool is open during the summer months for a nominal fee, and the tennis courts and baseball field are open year-round. You may want to call ahead to make sure they’re not reserved on the day of your visit. Also, these areas will require you to take a much longer hike or to hop in your car to drive to them. But while in your car, you can add on a driving tour of …
LBJ’s Working Ranch
Take a self-guided tour of the president’s family homestead, the working cattle ranch, the small schoolhouse LBJ attended, the cemetery where he’s buried, the Texas White House, and the president’s jet. It’s about a 20 minute drive to see the whole ranch, with opportunities to get out and explore the exhibits mentioned. Bonus: There’s a beautiful winery along the driving trail! To finish up your visit, find a peaceful spot and…
Go Fishing in the Pedernales
The beautiful river separates the state park and the national historic site of LBJ’s Ranch. Even if you forget your fishing gear, it’s a peaceful spot to view wildlife like the blue heron and to try to spot large fish in the clear water. Check here for fishing rules.
Whether you visit LBJ State Park and National Historic Site for an escape to nature, for a little exercise, to see the farm, to view the animals, or to learn the history, you won’t be disappointed. We’ve visited this state park at least five times in the last few years, and each experience has been different from the last. We hope you fall in love just as we have.
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, and I’d be happy to add them to This Week’s Hike!
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 our experiences often in our series titled “This Week’s Hike”.
✅ Trails for Children
❌ Swimming (seasonal)
✅ Playground nearby
✅ Free Admission for Science Exhibits, Play Area, and Trails
✅ Stroller-friendly Trails and Bike Trails
❌ Reservations needed
In the heart of Austin, among the many Zilker Park attractions and trails, lies a unique center with multiple attractions drawing adults and children alike to explore and discover the best parts of nature and the science behind it. We’re excited to share everything we love about Austin Nature and Science Center! (2389 Stratford Drive, Austin, TX)
Unique Museum and Science Center
As you walk through the doors of the Nature Center, you’ll first be pleased to discover that there’s no admission fee. It’s FREE!
But then you’ll soon be mesmerized even more by the opportunities to explore bug and animal skeletons, 3D maps, furs, fossils, and other fascinating artifacts. It might be tempting to stay inside for your whole visit, experiencing the hands-on science exhibits, but make sure you leave time to explore the great outdoors as well.
There are multiple indoor and outdoor exhibits of animals native to Texas, including snakes, fish, amphibians, raccoons, bobcats, and birds of prey.
If you’re with little ones, this hike will be very slow-moving because there are many stops for kids along the paths. The most popular attraction for my kids is the Dino Pit, where they can dig through a huge sand pit for fossils and random left-behind toys. (If you have a dinosaur lover, add a short trip to Bastrop to your itinerary.)
Beautiful Garden and Splashable Stream
While you might think the trail that goes around the stream is meant to prevent you from venturing into the water, you’d be wrong. I have seen many children with nets in the stream catching tadpoles and water bugs. It’s a great opportunity to enjoy the beautiful flora and fauna surrounding the water, as well as the little swimmers in it.
About that Hike We Promised…
After taking it slow and exploring everything the Nature and Science Center has to offer, extend your day with a stroll or a run along the hike and bike trail around Lady Bird Lake. You could make the hike as short or as long as you want. There are maps everywhere, guiding you to a path that suits your individual staying power.
There is so much more to do in this lovely pocket of Austin than just what’s listed above. As you wander around, you can’t miss the many opportunities to learn a little history, rent a boat, roll down a hill, or just linger on the lawn. We definitely recommend packing a lot of snacks and a meal or two. Once you get there, you won’t want to leave!
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.
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 2023 Hill Country Summer Bucket listfor 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!
Have you ever gone into your drawer and had to search through multiple pairs of black yoga pants to find that ONE pair you really love? I counted recently, and I have 11 pairs of them. ELEVEN! Despite having so many of one type of clothing in my wardrobe, I used to search for deals on black yoga pants every time I went shopping. Until I took a true inventory of what I owned, I just fell back into my regular shopping habits and searched for a deal on what was familiar. I have a feeling you do this too. What items in your closet do you have multiples of? Do you have a dozen pairs of jeans? Several pairs of the same type of running shorts? Twenty t-shirts of the same style?
How about in your pantry or refrigerator? How many bottles of ranch or Italian dressing do you have? How many jars of peanut butter or bags of flour or types of half-eaten cereal? These are items found in most households, and because they’re the “common” items, we often buy more and more of them when we mindlessly shop and fall into routine habits.
Taking inventory is your first line of defense against unintentional spending. Awareness helps you spend less and therefore, save more. After all, even if you find black yoga pants for 50% off or buy another bottle of ranch because there was a $1 off coupon, you’re still spending money on something you don’t currently need.
So, the next time you’re making your grocery list, peek into your pantry and your fridge and take count or better yet, take a picture. Not only will this keep you from adding something to the list that you don’t need, it will prevent you from mindlessly or impulsively buying yet another bottle of ketchup or frozen bag of peas.
Before your best friend and you embark on your next shopping day together, take a count, make a mental note, or snap a picture of your drawer full of jeans, your shelves full of shoes, your rack of dresses and skirts, and your pile of soft graphic tees. Being aware of what you already have will give you that resolve to say “no” when your friend is telling you how stinking cute you look in that #MomLife t-shirt.
A few other categories to take inventory of prior to launching into your weekly errands include:
– Beauty items, such as makeup or hair accessories and products
– Personal care items, including soap, body wash, razors, lotions, and toothpaste
– Towels … oh my gosh, the towels! I cannot even tell you how many times I’ve found amazing deals on soft, luscious, colorful towels at Target and convinced myself that we just did not have enough nice towels in our house. Now that I’m taking inventory, I’m blown away by how many drawers, cabinets, and closets in my house are packed full of every type of towel imaginable.
– Laundry and dishwasher detergents … there are almost always coupons available at the grocery store for these items, convincing you that you should buy more, but remember what I just said. There are ALMOST ALWAYS coupons available when you do actually need to replenish those products.
– Toys! Take a picture of your playroom or your child’s bedroom at its worst and have it handy for when you’re tempted to buy that “must-have” toy that was just marked down.
With all of this being said, I don’t want to discourage you from taking advantage of a great sale or huge discount. As a self-proclaimed frugal shopper, I understand that there are some deals that just cannot be passed up. I completely agree that occasionally, it makes perfect sense to stock up on something if you find an incredible deal and know you’ll be using that item often or that it will get eaten within the next month or two. For example, recently my grocery store was running a 20% discount on organic food items. This included the 24 pack of organic applesauce that my kids love. I already had a stash in my pantry, but because my younger kids each go through 2-3 applesauce pouches per day, I bought all the boxes left on the grocery store shelf. Those boxes full of addictive pouches of puréed fruit are taking up a lot of space on my pantry floor, but when I’m ready to go to the grocery store again, I’ll have a mental image of them being in stock at my house, saving me $12 of mindless grab-and-go shopping next time around.
I hope taking inventory of what’s on your shelves keeps you on the right path of your savings journey. You will likely recognize that you have far more than you truly need, and this awareness will prevent you not only from throwing away extra cash but also save you from being nominated for the next episode of “Hoarders”. Happy Saving!
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. 🧡