Want to Go on a Family Camping Trip? No Tent Required!

camping near dallas with cabins

You and your family and friends have decided to take a camping trip. Now what? So many questions to think about:

When will you go? 

Where should you go?

Where will you stay?

Who is going with you?

What supplies will you need?

What can you do while you’re there?

When you go on your camping trip will probably be the most important question you ask yourself.

We typically go in March, because it lines up with Spring Break. The weather is nice during the day but can still get cold at night. You have to be ready for that. Our first trip was to Tyler State Park. The weather was great during the day, allowing for exploring, hiking and even going on the lake. But at night, even in our screened-in shelter, we nearly froze! My husband had to go and purchase more camping blankets to keep us warm. If you plan a camping trip in the summer, you obviously won’t have that concern at night (but you might melt). October or November would also be great times to camp in Texas, with mild temperatures during the day and at night. 

Next up, where do you want to go?

We’ve stuck to areas within driving distance from DFW, but we recently got the Texas Parks and Wildlife Guide to Parks so we can venture out further. We visited Tyler State Park and Fort Richardson, which are both about 100 miles from Dallas, and Possum Kingdom State Park which was about 130 miles away. Next up for Spring Break this year is Palo Duro Canyon State Park, which is 370 miles from Dallas! 

No tent required.

Now, I am not a typical tent camper. In fact, I haven’t slept in a tent since the ’90s. We’ve stayed in a screened-in shelter and two varieties of “cabins.” The screened-in shelter was just that – four walls with screens all the way around. And it had electricity, which was nice. The space was big enough for a tent, which the boys slept in, and then two cots for us.

The first “cabin” was at Fort Richardson and it had four walls and electricity, as well. It also included two sets of bunk beds. One was two twins and the other had a full on the bottom with a twin on top. My mom went with us on this trip, so that worked out perfectly. Both of the above styles had bathrooms and showers down the street.

The last cabin was at Possum Kingdom and it had a bedroom, bathroom, and mini-kitchen. And all of the structures we stayed in had fire pits outside where we did all of our cooking. 

What to bring:

Packing is always hilarious because I feel like we bring way too much! But we are definitely covered that way. I keep a list in my phone of all our essentials and we add or take away depending on additional factors. Along with your basic cooking supplies and toiletries, you need to think about linens, sunscreen, bug spray, a first aid kit, and supplies for any activities like fishing or hiking.

On our second trip, we soon realized that me walking down to the restrooms in the middle of the night wasn’t going to work (thanks, two c-sections and big babies on my bladder). My husband fashioned us a toilet out of a bucket, a trash bag with kitty litter, and a pool noodle! My mom and I were very thankful!

Cooking is always fun on our trips. We usually do a couple big breakfasts (eggs, bacon, biscuits) but also bring muffins, donuts, and granola bars for those mornings we don’t cook. The other meals are the same; we plan on a couple big grill nights, foil pack meals, and fun desserts, but we also bring sandwich stuff for easy lunches.  

What to do depends on where you go.

All of our trips had hiking and a lake, with tons of nature to explore. Fort Richardson is actually a historical site and if you catch it on the right week, they have all kinds of demonstrations such as cooking and military displays. We always try to fish (even though we never catch anything) and bring a baseball or football and board games! If you’re worried about getting dirty, camping might not be for you. We only bring clothes and shoes that we don’t mind getting a little extra love. 

No matter where you go or what you bring, you’ll definitely get some extra family and friend time, and that’s the important part. On our last trip, our neighbors were from the same town! Hopefully you and your family will enjoy camping as much as ours. Good luck! 


From Jo to Marmee: On (Re)reading Little Women as a Mother


I can still remember the first time I read Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. I was about 9, a voracious reader, and in need of a new book. I found my mother’s well-worn copy on a shelf and soon fell into the story: “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents.”

rereading little women

Like so many before and after me, I was captivated by the March girls. I longed to be like Jo even while I knew, deep in my heart, that I was really more like Meg. I wept genuine tears when Beth died. And to this day, it enrages me that Jo and Laurie marry other people.

When my reading life is stagnant or I need a story that is both as familiar and comforting as a well-worn quilt, I return to the classics. Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, L. M. Montgomery: these writers and their works have an evergreen appeal. It’s partially the familiarity of these narratives and their characters, the consolation that is inherent in returning to a personally meaningful story time and again. Books like Little Women defined my childhood. But there is value in returning to these classics beyond the sentimental; rereading them as an adult gives me a fresh perspective on these beloved stories.

Little Women is no exception. In anticipation of seeing the new Greta Gerwig film adaptation, I spent the latter part of December once again reading Alcott’s classic work. And this time, I viewed the novel through the lens of a mother. I was struck by Marmee’s gentle morality, Meg’s struggles to balance motherhood and marriage, Jo’s desire to be a great “authoress” coupled with her eventual longing for hearth and home and children.

While the four March sisters take center stage in Little Women, it is Marmee’s presence that pervades the narrative. Her gentle wisdom is ballast both for her daughters and for the reader. She speaks with a motherly love that transcends time, even if the delivery is old-fashioned. Contemporary mothers can echo her hopes and dreams for her children, such as when she states, “I want my daughters to be beautiful, accomplished, and good. To be admired, loved, and respected. To have a happy youth, to be well and wisely married, and to lead useful, pleasant lives, with as little care and sorrow to try them as God sees fit to send.” Her love for her daughters infuses her words and actions, her desire that they become fully-realized adults.

Marmee is a model of maternal steadfastness, keeping her family’s spirits up while Mr. March is away. Her daughters turn to her in moments of crisis and heartache. She rejoices in their victories, weeps with their sorrows. And at the novel’s conclusion, in a chapter titled “Harvest Time”, she is surrounded by her daughters, their spouses, her husband, and her grandchildren, the fruits of her quiet labor of love. While I once wished to be like Jo, these days I hope to become a little bit more like Marmee.

Little Women, a runaway success even in Alcott’s day, has maintained its popularity since Part I was published in 1868. I believe that Little Women’s staying power lies in the fact that at its heart, it’s a story about love in many forms— maternal, sisterly, romantic— and it offers a view of that virtue that is oftentimes overlooked. In Little Women, love is selfless, characterized by sacrifice, hard work, and faith. It’s the kind of love that our world needs more of and why these old stories have so much value. It’s why I keep going back to these classic childhood favorites, the ones that stand the test of time. And it’s why one day I’ll be handing over my weathered copy of the book to my daughters, my own little women.

Co-Parenting :: Through A Child’s Eyes


better co-parenting divorce complications

So many times we think we are doing the best we possibly can when working with our exes regarding our children. A lot of times we think we can’t do any better, or that we have exhausted all efforts. Both of those statements could not be any more false. I speak from personal experience when I say both parties can always do better.

To be frank, when it comes to our kiddos we can always do a thousand times better. Good is not good enough. Co-parenting is never easy. I could speak on this topic for hours because I have seen every side of it, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Something we forget to do is put ourselves in our kids’ positions and try to see what co-parenting looks like through their eyes. Walk a moment in their shoes and I guarantee you will realize you need to step up your game…

Unnecessary Stress

My oldest daughter is at an age where she picks up everything. She can sense tension, anger, stress, and just about every single emotion in the book. She can tell when her dad, stepmom, and I are on good terms or otherwise. I’ve recently realized that she seems to be carrying the concerns of an adult and how unfair that is for her.

What we think we are doing correctly and what she is seeing are two totally different things in two totally different worlds. She was used to a mom and dad who communicated clearly, laughed, and had a friendship that centered around her. Now, she has a parental group that hardly speaks, acts awkwardly around each other, and honestly seems a little cold. How is that doing our best? In her eyes and in reality, it’s not, because she doesn’t understand what has changed.

What she is seeing is Mom’s House vs. Dad’s House and the dynamic shift when she bounces from one to the other. Even though we aren’t deliberately out to get each other or hateful towards one another, the shift happens. She feels responsible over “How can I make Daddy and Mommy feel OK?”

I don’t know why she carries this worry because I always make sure she knows our burdens are not her issues. But obviously, what we are presenting is not our best and it is stressing her out. She has asked me why we don’t talk like we used to anymore. And what’s crazy is that she’ll talk to me about all of her concerns but doesn’t want her dad or stepmom to have hurt feelings.

A child doesn’t see the adult issues for what they are. They can’t see that moms and dads have to go to court (as much as it hurt us to do so). For us, it was damaging to our friendship and parental relationship. What a child sees, instead of the repercussions of a behind-the-scenes fallout, is mommy and daddy not sitting together at her school plays. In her eyes, we are simply being unfriendly.

A child also cannot put together the complications of having “too many cooks,” which sometimes happens when you have a group of parents who all love the child so much. For them, it’s just fighting they don’t understand. Why can’t we all just get along? It’s stressful, and that isn’t stress they should carry.

Our Goal Needs to Be the Same

There are so many families out there dealing with these issues, and it is so difficult because you have 2 families trying to work together. But the ideas, childcare, communication efforts, and just about everything else are usually polar opposites. That isn’t always the case, but 9 times out of 10 it is.

My point is, the kids (no matter how messy or ugly the situation may be) should never be put in the middle, because they don’t see things the way we do. They see the outer layer and not the many layers underneath. Their little hearts and minds cannot comprehend such complications.

Take care of your littles by taking care of your co-parenting techniques and remember your best can always better! There is no secret to having a perfect co-parenting relationship, but you can definitely strive for one. At the end of the day, we all just love our kiddos so very much, so our goal needs to be the same: raising a happy, healthy, loved child that has memories of adults who worked together to get them to where they need to be!

If you’re looking for more information on this subject, you can get tips and details here!

Most of Your Stuff Is Worthless :: 3 Things You Should Be Doing NOW to Reduce What You Own

My husband and I have walked into my late mother-in-law’s house for the last time.

We are in the process of settling her estate, including the sale of her house and disposition of everything in it.

From a hutch filled with china and crystal goblets to overflowing jewelry boxes and coin collections. And everything in between.

A lot in between.

Her clothes. The Notre Dame sweaters my late father-in-law was so fond of wearing. Her furniture. Furniture inherited from her mother-in-law, still in the same place in the garage where it was originally placed 30 some-odd years ago. My husband’s Cub Scout uniform. Christmas decorations. Lots and lots of Christmas decorations.

Every room, every closet, every shelf, every drawer. Full of stuff. A lifetime of stuff. Two lifetimes, if you count my father-in-law, who passed away 11 years ago.

What to Do With a Lifetime of Stuff

My mother-in-law was a neat and tidy housekeeper. But like many of us (myself included), she lived in a good-sized house with plenty of room to accommodate stuff. Things inherited from her parents and her in-laws. The broken vacuum cleaner waiting for repair in the back of the closet. Hundreds of books read once. You get the picture.

And the cost of disposing of all of that stuff? Having the estate sale company we hired go through every room, every closet, every drawer, separating the trash from the treasures, may cost more than will be generated at the eventual estate sale.

Her house has been transformed into a store, the estate sale company having cleverly arranged and displayed my mother-in-law’s possessions on tables in every room.

All of her possessions with any value, save the very few we kept, each with a tiny white price tag.

Losing your last surviving parent is hard enough. But being the arbiter of which of your parents’ and grandparents’ treasures get saved and which end up sold, donated, or in a landfill? gut-wrenching.        

The lesson we have learned from this experience?

Most of the stuff in your house is worthless. And eventually, someone, either you or your kids, will be tasked with the overWHELMing JOB of getting rid of it.

Most of Your Stuff Is Worthless

Most of the stuff in your house is worthless.

Yes, even the stuff you worry the most about, the stuff you think is so good you don’t use it for fear of breaking it, has little to no resale value. 

From china, china cabinets, crystal goblets, silver tea sets, pianos, and collectible figurines like Hummels, to grandfather clocks and real pieces of craftsmanship furniture.

Why? Baby boomers have glutted the market with their castoffs, and millennials, the next generation of buyers, don’t want it.

Millennials hate both formal in-home entertaining and use of second-hand goods. With looming student loans, they tend to rent and move often. Who wants to be constantly moving a piano and a grandfather clock from apartment to apartment? 

And furniture? There’s no market for so-called “brown furniture,” meaning any furniture (regardless of quality) other than the “mid-century casual” furniture (think clean, lightweight) favored by millennials. Brown furniture is basically firewood.

If it’s not in great condition, it’s also not fit for donation because it can’t be resold.

All of my mother-in-law’s furniture (including the pieces inherited from her mother-in-law and kept for decades)? Straight to the landfill.

Well, Almost Everything…

What do guns, LPs (records), and precious metals/gems have in common?

They are 3 things you might have in your house with a robust resale value.

Silverware also has value, but only if it is real silver and can be melted down.

3 Things You Should Be Doing NOW to Reduce the Amount of Stuff You Have

1. Be viciously thoughtful about holding onto sentimental items.

Here was our goal with sorting through my mother-in-law’s things. Keep just enough to remind us of her, but not so much stuff that our daughters are going to be dealing with it 40 some-odd years from now.

Here’s what we kept:

  • A painting to be displayed in our dining room
  • My mother-in-law’s treasured Swarovski crystal animal collection (all of which were given to her by her children and grandchildren over the years)
  • Jewelry to be divided among the granddaughters
  • Each of our daughters got to select 1 item

And that was it.

Well, almost. We did set aside photos to be digitized (with the originals then destroyed).

Was it hard leaving everything else? You bet it was. But we don’t want to be dealing with a lot of stuff years from now (or worse, leaving it to our daughters to deal with).

I try to be viciously thoughtful with my own sentimental items. For example, I don’t save any school papers or art projects from my kids (though I do take photos of my favorites).

2. Buy fewer books.

While used book resellers like Half Price Books do an important service in keeping books in circulation, a surprising number of books end up in landfills because many paper recycling facilities can’t process the the glue that binds book spines.

My resolution last year was to cut down on my book consumption by only reading books that I borrow from the library or purchase on my Kindle e-reader. If you haven’t used a library in years, now is the time to go back. My local library has an app where you can “order” books online, and pick them up the next day on a special “hold” shelf strategically placed next to the check-out kiosk. 

How successful was I on my resolution? I read 1 to 2 books a week in 2019, only 1 of which was a hard copy purchased from Amazon.

3. Buy fewer, but better quality, clothes

The world is overflowing with used clothing.

We buy substantially more clothing over our lifetimes than our grandparents did. 

Clothing made today is meant to last no more than a few years. In fact, a lot of clothing isn’t even made to withstand more than a few washes.

Think you are “paying it forward” but dropping off a load of unwanted clothes at Goodwill? Think again. Most clothing donations never make it to the racks at Goodwill and only about a third of what does eventually sells.

To really pay it forward, cut down on the amount of clothing you have by buying better quality clothes that last longer.

Keeping What Really Matters

My 5-year-old chose to keep a Christmas music box from her Grandma’s house. It plays “White Christmas” and has tiny ice skaters going around a rink inside. Each Christmas, my mother-in-law would bring out this music box and let each of her granddaughter’s play with it. It’s value in preserving a precious memory of Grandma? Priceless.

Celebrating The Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King MLK Day Dallas
Photo is from https://www.history.com/news/mlk-photo

Whenever I read a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. it always fills my heart with more love, compassion, and appreciation for every individual. It reminds me of the sacrifice he made to change the culture of our society into one that recognizes the value in each person.

His legacy is one that transcends race or politics. It is one grounded in the power of love and the power of the human spirit when focused on and committed to being an agent of change. I’ve recently been feeling that pull even more. To follow in his footsteps of wanting to make positive change in our communities. And any one of us can take part in that. Think of a part of our world in which you want to see positive change, and figure out what you will do to help make it happen.

Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream that, at its core, is really the right of every human: equality. That no matter what skin complexion you have, what your family background is, or your economic status… you are treated fairly and given equal rights from the very beginning.

As an African American woman, I am not blind to the journey before us. We have long way to go in the area of equality, but I am celebrating how far we have come.

One of things I love about MLK is that he empowers us not to be silent. To find our voice in the world even in the midst of noise and confusion. Our voice, once found, can be used as a positive and empowering commitment to growth and unity.

His legacy embraces compassion over violence. His nonviolent movement was an example of how to lead and be that voice in the face of adversity. His life and voice lives on, and the journey to see this country changed lives on.

** If you are looking for ways to teach your children about his legacy or want to take part in celebrating the life and legacy of this great man, see some local activities and events below:

Event: MLK Fest

Date: January 18, 2020 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Location: The Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center, 2922 MLK Boulevard, Dallas, Texas 75215

Description: The Walls Project will lead a mural project and Matthews Southwest will lead a community clean-up at the MLKJCC and in and around the MLK corridor.

Event: 38th Annual MLK Scholarship & Awards Gala Title: Linking Many Cultures Together for One Dream

Date: January 18, 2020 at 6:30 p.m.

Location: Hilton Anatole, 2201 N Stemmons Freeway, Dallas, Texas 75207

Description: The 38th Annual MLK Scholarship & Awards Gala will feature keynote speaker Mr. Andrew Gillum, scholarships and awards presentations, and performances.

Event: MLK March/Parade

Date: Monday, January 20, 2020 at 10 a.m.

Location: Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd & Holmes St. to Fair Park

Description: Floats, marching bands, dance troops and vehicles participate in a march/parade on MLK Blvd.

Event: Youth Summit

Date: January 25, 2020, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm

Location: Dallas Holocaust Museum, 300 N Houston St, Dallas, TX 75202

Description: Designed to spark dialogue, awareness, and engagement to equip students and young professionals to advocate for racial justice in their schools, workplaces, communities, and beyond.

Editor’s note: Many Dallas libraries also have special MLK exhibits or children’s activities scheduled for this weekend. Check your nearest branch website or their program brochure to see.

Better Than Daycare :: Our Redeemer Offers Preschool For Ages 1 & Up

This post has been sponsored by Our Redeemer Lutheran School. All opinions are 100% our own.
our redeemer lutheran school private schools in dallasGather ’round, my dears, and let us begin with a story:

Once upon a time, a family visited Our Redeemer Lutheran School and found that all that they needed was right there all along. They joined the Wildcat family and found joyful, skilled educators who had the ability to teach their child just the way they’d always hoped: with loving care, strong academics with a language-rich focus, fine arts, STEM, socio-emotional and physical learning, and so much more. All on a beautiful, 10-acre campus across from NorthPark Mall, with beauty to feed their senses as well as their minds.
Does that pique your interest? Allow me to tell you a little bit more about Our Reedemer (or ORLS as the locals call it). I always like to start with the basics. Let’s hit it:

Our Redeemer Lutheran School

  • Preschool (from age 1) to 6th grade (after which many students continue on to their sister school, Dallas Lutheran School)
  • Student-teacher ratio in preschool is either 6:1 or 8:1
  • Student-teacher ratio in elementary is 16:1
  • Co-ed, with uniforms required beginning in Kindergarten
  • Faith-based education
  • Great location – Park Lane across from NorthPark
  • Established in 1960
  • Kids’ Club before/after care program
I’m very into the age range for their early childhood education. Seems like a nice option to consider vs. straight-up daycare for your toddler. I also like what they have to say in terms of their approach to faith-based teaching:

We counter the man-made models of success that we see in the media by celebrating the qualities beyond fame and fortune. The fruits of the Spirit – love, peace, joy, self-control, kindness, faith, goodness, and gentleness – enrich the learning of our students.

our redeemer lutheran school dallas private schoolsHere’s a link to some of their Frequently Asked Questions, with a section dedicated to preschool-specific issues such as diapers, snacks, and naps. It’s also cool to know that preschoolers get a chance to interact with some of the older kids, as well:

Each preschool class is paired with an elementary grade as a “buddy” class. The “buddies” do special projects with the preschoolers, sit with them in chapel, and assist them in other all-school functions.

I love that.

As for the older kids, academic excellence is a big part of the story at Our Redeemer Lutheran School. Part of that means your child will be assessed for both math and reading, and instructed based on their aptitude. No languishing in class from lack of challenges. And check out these other academic highlights and extracurricular enrichment strands ORLS offers in order to help your child learn about the importance of teamwork, healthy competition, and personal achievement.

If this is starting to sound pretty good, that means it’s time to make contact. Open enrollment begins this January for Fall 2020. Click here to schedule a tour, apply online, and more!


2020 Goal: Getting The Right Insurance For My Family

This post has been sponsored by Apparent Insurance. All opinions are 100% our own!

apparent insurance texas car insuranceMy goal-planning actually begins in December. Every year, I take the whole month to think about where we are as a family. My husband and I do this together. We allow ourselves to plan, dream, set goals, and reflect on our current status in all areas of life. The New Year is one of my favorite times of the year because it always feels like a reset button.

This year we decided to place financial planning higher on our list of priorities, given that the past six and a half years of marriage have brought on so much change and time has flown faster than we ever imagined.

From getting married to building our home, getting pregnant back-to-back with our two children, then making a decision for me to be a stay-at-home mom, it was time to think long and hard about where we are now and what we need.

During our financial discussion we realized that we need better insurance. If I had to guess, with all the moving pieces of our day-to-day lives we just lost sight of it. Isn’t that how things happen? We get caught up in the whirlwind of family life and some things just slip through the cracks. For us, insurance was something we needed to take a closer look at.

Insurance can be so confusing (which is one of the reasons I think we put it on the back burner), but then I heard about Apparent.

Finding Apparent Insurance is like finding the perfect top for a date night in YOUR size. It’s made for you. And it takes all the confusion out of things for busy moms and dads. The part about them being an insurance company made by parents for parents, is what really sealed the deal for me. I also love that while they are primarily for car insurance, they offer all type of insurances that your family may need. So here are my suggestions for finding the right insurance:

  1. Check out the Apparent Insurance website.
  2. Read their FAQs.
  3. Request a Quote.
  4. Add this figure to your budget!

If you’re anything like me, this is the year to tie up those loose ends and make a decision on the right insurance for your family. And now that things are starting to calm down a little and we’re hitting our stride, we need to make sure that we are secured in all areas. Apparent Insurance is your one-stop shop. From home insurance to life insurance, I know we’ll find everything we need in one place.

Do you have experience with all this? Share your insurance process in the comments!


Why You Should Have a Costco Membership NOW!

This post has been sponsored by Costco. All opinions are 100% our own!

This year my husband and I are celebrating our 10-year {Costco} anniversary and I have to admit it’s been a journey!

If you’re not a Costco member, you may be asking how a “grocery store” can possibly have impacted a family’s life? But for my family, it has. Costco has woven its way into every aspect of our life.

In addition to satisfying many food urges, we’ve lowered our interest rate on our mortgage, brought amazing warranties on name-brand tires, and have the option of going on incredibly discounted vacations to some amazing destinations. Not to mention a go-to weekend escape when our kids just need out of the house.

Did you catch that? Costco doesn’t just have high-quality food but has a variety of ancillary businesses, such as Pharmacy, Optical, Hearing Aid, and Photo Center. Then there’s also Costco Travel, gas stations and well as a variety of service providers for things such as auto and home insurance, the auto program, water delivery, and check and business printing.

As a Costco Gold Star Executive Member, it isn’t hard for our family to take full advantage of the annual 2% Reward (up to $1,000)* we earn each year on all of our eligible Costco and Costco.com purchases — which we use a portion of our cashback to just renew our membership. It really does pay for itself!


If you’re on the fence about a Costco membership, NOW is the time to act. Right now, Costco is partnering with Dallas Moms to bring you an exclusive online-only promotion.

Purchase a Costco Membership Activation Certificate to join as a new Gold or Executive Member with auto renewal between January 10-28, 2020 and receive a $30 Costco Shop Card that can be used at any Costco location, gas stations, and online at Costco.com.

It’s easy! All you have to do is follow these 3 simple steps:

1. Purchase your Costco Membership Activation Certificate HERE.

2. Receive your Costco Membership Activation Certificate by email. (Don’t forget to check your SPAM!)

3. Bring your Costco Membership Activation Certificate to any U.S. or Puerto Rico Costco location to join as a new member.

Remember, it’s online only! So you have to CLICK HERE!


You’re not getting left out! Sign up for Costco auto-renewal at the membership counter between January 16-19, 2020 and receive a complimentary gift. I mean, you were going to renew anyway, right? Why not get something out of it!

To learn more about Costco or to find a Costco location near you, visit their website. You can also stay connected on social media to check out new products, services, and brand arrival each week to local warehouses.


I Am ::FINALLY:: Done Complaining About Myself in Front of My Kids


complaining about myself body image self esteem

Friend: Also, your baby is looking like a ‘big baby’ and not a ‘baby baby’ and I’m sad about it.

Me: She’s a chunky monkey! Which makes me think she’ll have my tubby body type after all.

Friend: Shut it. You’re fabulous and beautiful and strong. I know you’re only joking but I vividly remember being around 11 years old and my mom saying she was fat. I was saddened to my core because she was perfect in my eyes and I wished she could see herself the way I saw her.

And just like that, my wonderful friend put my whole world as a Mom in perspective.

No. More. Complaining.

I have nearly always struggled with weight and food issues. BUT I’m funny, so I make quick little jabs here and there to lighten how I feel inside. The morning I had this conversation with my dear friend, I was just doing my usual bit. Until she reminded me that I am someone’s hero.

My kids deserve better from me. They deserve for me to live up to the simple expectations they have set for me. They deserve to see a strong, healthy Momma who can face the day with confidence. They deserve to have me lead them by example. They deserve to see a Momma who cares about herself as much as she asks her kids to do the same. My kids deserve to see a Momma who is not afraid to ask for forgiveness and take steps towards righting wrongs.

So instead of complaining about myself in front of my kids, I am going to try these instead:

  • …let my kids watch me do my hair in the morning. If I don’t like the way it looks, then they can watch me throw it in a ponytail and move it right along.
  • …let my kids help me cook dinner and join in on snacking along the way.
  • …let my kids in on my good days and bad days and then talk through those together.
  • …ask my kids for forgiveness when I need it and talk through how I am going to try harder next time.
  • …show my kids how hard I work and that I don’t stop working when I get home.
  • …take my kids on my runs if they ask to go. They deserve to see a Momma who cares about her body and achieving goals she has set for herself.
  • …indulge in treats with my kids and say yes to celebrating special occasions.
  • …tell my kids when I feel great about myself or let them know that I love the way I felt that day.
  • …remind my kids that my love for them is strong and that they give me strength to love myself too!

Have you Appreciated a Dragon Lately? Dragon-Themed Recs for All Ages


appreciate a dragon day dragon booksDragons are having a moment. Move over unicorns, because dragons have taken the top spot for most popular mythological creature. You can thank J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books and the How to Train your Dragon movies for pushing dragons to the forefront of kid culture, while Game of Thrones captured parents’ attention.

Dragons even have their own day. January 16 has been designated as “Appreciate a Dragon Day.” This celebration was the creation of author Donita K. Paul. She came up with the idea in 2004 to celebrate the release of her Dragon Keepers Chronicles fantasy novel series. “Appreciate a Dragon Day” was originally a literary celebration and hasn’t strayed far from its roots. A quick search online pulls up dozens of activities and books for families to commemorate the day, including art projects, crafts, and stories.

If you have someone in your house who is as obsessed with dragons as my kids, here’s how you can spend an entire day (or longer) in appreciation of these majestic mythical creatures.

Dragon-Themed Books

In keeping with the literary roots, here are a few dragon-themed books that your child will love to read. 

FOR AGES 3 – 8

King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bently
The perfect bedtime story about a young king and his friends fighting fearsome beasts.

There’s a Dragon in Your Book by Tom Fletcher and Greg Abbott
This book will get your kids using their imaginations as they act out the pages while you read.

Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin 
It’s a book about tacos. And dragons. What else is there to say?


Rise of the Dragon by Angie Sage
Dragons are alive and well in the modern age. A young heroine befriends a dragon after they return from centuries-long exile.

A Dragon’s Guide by Laurence Yep
This series is about a dragon named Miss Drake and her pet human, Winnie, who happens to think that she has a pet dragon.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
Minli is a a young girl who sets out on a journey to change her family’s fortunes. Along the way, she meets a dragon who joins her on her quest.


Dragon Keepers Chronicles by Donita K. Paul
The books that started it all. A girl must recover a stolen dragon egg. There are three books in this series.

The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill
A graphic novel about the care and keeping of tea dragons, small creatures that grow out of tea leaves.

Dragon Cartoons & Movies

Based on the popular How to Train Your Dragon movies, Riders of Berk follows the adventures of Hiccup, Astrid, and their friends. This cartoon series is on Netflix and can also be purchased on other platforms.

There are countless family-friendly movies that feature dragons. From Harry Potter, How to Train Your Dragon, Pete’s Dragon, The NeverEnding Story, Mulan, Sleeping Beauty, Shrek, and Maleficent. You could have a weekend-long marathon of dragon-themed movies, and still not watch everything.

Dragon Crafts

dragon books dragon-themed books

Dragon Puppets can easily be made using empty paper towel rolls, with just paint and scissors. Plastic cup dragons are also an easy craft for kids. Dragon Origami may be a little more labor intensive, but the final product is definitely worth it.

If you prefer to take your Dragon Appreciation out of the house, stop by the Balch Springs Library. The library staff has planned a Dragon Scavenger hunt along with other dragon-themed activities and crafts starting on January 16. Check out the Balch Springs Library site for more information.

To truly immerse yourself in Dragon Appreciation, plan a visit to Dragon Park Gardens in Dallas. Dragon Park is a small, secluded garden filled with dragon sculptures. Technically, the park is private property, but visitors are welcome to search it out. Dragon Park is in Oak Lawn between Cedar Springs and Hood Street. So pack a snack of dragonfruit (yes it’s an actual food) and head to Dallas to dine in the park with dragons.

To learn more about Appreciate a Dragon Day, visit the official website for Donita K. Paul.

Mom-Friendly Workouts for Getting Back in the Groove

mom-friendly workouts

I started running in college. My exercise-induced asthma made me slow and my stride was not natural or graceful, but I loved it. When my husband and I were dating, I talked him into training for a half marathon with me. When I was pregnant with my first, I started swimming and taking Barre classes. After his birth, I was smaller and in better shape than I ever had been. Taking him for stroller jogs or the gym was a breeze and part of our routine. Fast-forward a few years and a few more babies and my workout time is sadly scarce.

With our last babies, twins, having crossed the one-year mark not long ago, I am resolving to make exercise a habit again in this new year! Whether you work, stay at home, have one child or five… I know it’s not easy. I’ve taken from my own experiences and polled some fit mom friends for inspiration – so, who’s with me?!


mom-friendly workouts
…and you can even walk your dog at the same time too!

My favorite way to get my heart rate up is in the fresh air. This is also one of the best ways to squeeze some exercise in with my kids right next to me! If you enjoy walking or jogging, a good jogging stroller may be just what you need to kick up your exercise consistency. My husband and I both love jogging with the BOB stroller and our kids actually enjoy it too. We pack them special snack packs for the ride and let them play DJ!

If you want a little alone time to go on a solo run (or have too many kids to all fit into one stroller, like me), here’s another idea:

Plan to run/walk right out the door when your husband gets home at night. A few times a week, I will text me husband that this is my plan. He literally walks in, gives me a kiss, and then I go run. It helps because then I get an instant break (during witching hour!) and he gets to really enjoy seeing the kids after a long day of work.

– Kacy M.

Inside at Home

Whether it’s during nap time or your child’s screen time, or you have the patience to press pause a million times every time your kids need something, there are so many great exercising resources online! One of my favorites is Jessica Smith TV. She has all different kinds of work-outs, from pre- and postnatal to yoga to power walking to Barre for FREE on YouTube.

Though I haven’t tried it myself, I have heard amazing things from many other moms about subscription workout services such as Beachbody on Demand, specifically the 21 Day Fix, that also includes meal plans!

Here’s a fun idea to try:

My fave to do with my kids is Cosmic Kids Yoga on YouTube. It’s great when the kids are going wild in the house – it chills us all out. It’s free!

-Shannon S.

Inside at the Gym

Many gyms offer childcare options so that you can bring your kids with you and workout alone using their equipment or taking a class! Our family has a YMCA membership and it is truly fabulous! We use both the Semones Family (formerly Town North) and Lake Highlands locations. They both offer some great classes at a variety of different times, and the caregivers have always been super sweet and loving toward my children! The only downside is that the child care hours at the Y are somewhat limited and vary by location. Fun fact: the Semones Family Y childwatch area is getting remodeled around the beginning of 2020!

Join a Group

If you need some more accountability or just enjoy exercising with other people, you may want to consider joining a group fitness program such as Camp Gladiator. I just learned from an amazingly fit mom friend that you can bring your children with you to CG workouts:

I typically do an early morning one so I don’t have to worry about interfering with anyone else’s schedules, but so far (post-baby #4) I go to a mid-morning location on the days my bigs are in school (T/Th) and just bring the baby. I’ve also gone a few days with 3 kids and one day with all 4 – they exercised with me or played with chalk, ran around, ate snacks…

-Marni W.

Make a Plan

After you decide what location or type of exercise you want to start with, make a plan so that it will actually happen! Personally, I need a mix of both variety and consistency, so I have chosen a different workout for each day that I will repeat every week. I love coloring and making fun charts, so here is mine for the new year 🙂

Monday: Early AM run alone or with two kids in the BOB before hubby leaves for work.

Tuesday: 8:15am Barre class at Lake Highlands Y with twins while husband drops big boys off at school

Wednesday: Early AM run alone or with two kids in the BOB before hubby leaves for work

Thursday: AM swim laps at Semones Y and take shower while twins are in childwatch and big boys are at school

Friday: Yoga at home during nap/screen time or together with my kids

Saturday: Afternoon solo run or family walk/run

Sunday: Off

If any of you are in Preston Hollow and looking for a running buddy or want to come try a class at the Y with me, please give me a shout – I would LOVE for you to join me! After you’ve written down your plan, hang it up and ask your husband or a friend to encourage you to help make it a reality. Mama, we’ve totally got this!

Puzzles for Toddlers & Preschoolers {And an Organization Station}


If I could give only one piece of advice to soon-to-be parents it would be this: “Cultivate your child’s interest in quiet activities.” Believe me, your future self will thank you!

Although our kiddo is extremely high-energy, we’ve stumbled across a parenting hack: he will happily entertain himself with a good puzzle. We get a few moments of silence, and he gets the benefit of expanding his attention span and focus! Puzzles were among the first sit-down activities we did when our dude was little. We started with the big knob, wooden variety and then moved on to larger wooden shapes without handles.

It’s recommended to start as early as 18-months with basic puzzle-type learning games like shape sorters.

best puzzles for toddlersI love that there is a never-ending variety when it comes to learning through puzzles. We’ve been known to grab character-themed puzzles from a dollar store as bribe prizes. And as kid’s interests change, it’s easy to acquire new puzzles at a fraction of the cost of most toys. The good news and bad news of said easy acquisition? Where to keep them?!

wooden peg toddler puzzle

Puzzle Organization Station

We have so many that we decided to create a dedicated puzzle station. This three-tier rolling cart came from At Home, but I’ve also seen them at Michaels and Hobby Lobby. We like that our toddler can easily see his choices and (in theory) put them back after he’s done. 


Types of Puzzles for Toddlers & Preschoolers

Standard Jigsaw Puzzles by Interest

The current obsessions in our house consist of Frozen, Cars (specifically Lightning McQueen), Thomas & Friends, Toy Story, and Finding Nemo. Consequently, we have books, characters, coloring books, stickers, and puzzles in all of those respective themes. Some of them I have purchased full retail (gasp). Others I’ve found at Divine Consign, Once Upon a Child, or even thrift stores.

Standard Jigsaw Puzzles by Interest - pictured: Chuggington puzzle

Word to the wise – if you’re planning on purchasing a pre-owned puzzle, open the box and count the pieces!

Large Format/Floor Puzzles

I stumbled across large-format puzzles once at a resale shop and they soon became a family favorite. If you’re looking for these online, they’re usually called a “floor puzzle.”

puzzles for toddlers

Shapes & Patterns

We learned from our kiddo’s Montessori teacher that shape and pattern block puzzles are considered an intro to math learning for preschoolers. The ability to see that several shapes together can create a train, for example, helps teach spatial awareness and problem-solving. This Melissa & Doug Beginner Wooden Pattern Blocks set is recommended for ages 3-5, although I think we introduced it around 2. 

Mellisa & Doug Shapes & Patterns puzzle

Cube Puzzles

Recommended for ages 3-6, cube puzzles offer a compact way to have several puzzles in one set. Ours has 6 different vehicle-themed puzzles to solve.

Mr. Potato Head

Similar to the shapes and pattern puzzles, Mr. Potato Head isn’t a traditional puzzle, but it helps foster creativity, hand-eye coordination, and laughs. As a child of the ’80s, I’m impressed with how many versions of Mr. & Mrs. Potato head there are these days. Have you seen Spider-Spud?

Mr. Potato Head

LEGO + Gears

While not technically a “puzzle,” activities like LEGOs and gears foster a more open style of creativity with a technical twist. A child gets to imagine what the end result should look like before they build it, or better yet, allow the idea to evolve and expand with the building process. 

LEGO table

Printable/Learning Puzzles

If you’re feeling crafty, or you’re stuck inside during another Icemageddon, Pinterest is FULL of printable puzzles for all ages and categories. A quick search for “winter printable puzzles” resulted in several fun and cute options. 

Fun Fact:

January 29th is National Puzzle Day! I’m guessing it’s not a coincidence that someone added that random holiday to a calendar in January. Puzzles are the perfect post-holiday, hide-from-the-weather, indoor activity. We got a few new 48-piece puzzles for Christmas we will be working on this month. 

Any puzzle fans in your house? 




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