Nov 29, 2013

Inexpensive Fun for Dallas Kids

I've lived in Dallas for all my life. Now that I have kids, I am excited to explore some of the places where I made wonderful memories when I was a little girl. Some things have stayed the same, but most have changed. The Children's Aquarium at Fair park is one that has improved drastically. We took the girls today for some wonderful family time - it was quality fun on a budget!

One of the best improvements the Children's Aquarium has made is to lower their tanks so that littles AND big kids can all enjoy the view. Isabel loved being able to see the exhibits and run from tank to tank finding new fish to examine.

In the back, in a warmed area that is outside, you can pet a sting ray. All four of us really enjoyed this part of the aquarium. They are safe and playful - they want to be touched and swim right up to you when you put your hand in the warm water. It took Izzy a few minutes to get up the courage to touch a ray, but once she did, she never wanted to leave!

While Izzy was petting the rays for the hundredth time, Olivia checked out the shark tank. There was also a rescued sea turtle that she was partial to. The sea turtle was a relatively young turtle (10 years old) who was stranded in South Padre island. The turtle is, unfortunately, not able to be released back into the wild, so she is living the sweet life in Dallas now.
One of the best things for this mama is the price!

A day ticket for adults is $8 and for children ages 3-11 it is $6. Dallas Zoo members get $2 off daily admission tickets. You can also get a yearly membership. Instead of a price per family, they sell memberships for each person. Adults are $20 each for the year and each kid (ages 3-11) is $15 a year. But again, if you are a Dallas Zoo member, you get $5 off each membership! So, our family of 4 with 2 adults, a 3 year old and a 1 year old only cost $40 for an entire year! Talk about inexpensive entertainment!!

Check out their website at and go check it out for yourself soon! I can't wait to hear what you think!

Nov 19, 2013

Lego Birthday Party

Saturday was Izzy's THIRD birthday!  I can not believe that my little baby is growing up so fast.  She is such a delight to us all, and our family went above and beyond to make sure that her birthday was special.  Legos are her favorite, so we went with a Lego themed birthday party.  Here is how I did it:

Being a working mom of two toddlers does not allow for much extra time to plan a party.  Thankfully, Legos were a fun, easy thing to incorporate into many different areas of the day.  The dining room table became the building area.  We had 7 sets of Legos constructed for the kids who all joined in, sharing the pieces, building new things and having a blast. 

Here are a few of the Disney Lego Duplo sets we had at the party: 

Jake and the Neverland Pirates - Bucky the Pirate Ship
Jake and the Neverland Pirates - Neverland Hideout
Planes - Skipper's Flight School

The cake was one of my favorite parts!  Three cake mixes (modified) later, and I had a giant Lego cake!  I made 2 sheet cakes and 6 cupcakes, cut the cupcakes in half and turned the bottom part upside down and iced the entire thing.  Instead of "LEGO" on the tops, I put Izzy's name. 

Thanks to House Party, I had some awesome Lego stickers and coupons to pass out, and for our part of the party favors, I went to Central Market's bulk section and found Lego shaped candies.  How fun is this!  I built a Lego shape in my Cricut and cut them out and glued them on for the top portion which I stapled to individual baggies.

We also had a Jake and the Neverland Pirates episode playing in the den for anyone who wanted to have a seat and watch.  Since it went along with the Lego sets, it sort of fit with the theme :)

The kids had an absolutely fantastic time and I loved getting to throw a party for my very favorite 3 year old girl.  Izzy, here's hoping your year is the best.  Mommy loves you!!

Nov 10, 2013

Toddler Sleep Tips

Over the past several weeks, my oldest daughter, Isabel, who will be 3 this week, has given us a total challenge at bedtime. She learned to open her door and would sneak around the house, pull up a chair in the dining room, and come find us every 10 minutes or so until well after 9:30pm. She was so tired, but her new found freedom was far more exciting than sleep. It was affecting her days at school, her evenings at home, and everyone was noticing that we were not dealing with our normal, sweet curly headed girl.

I'd like to share with you what I have learned over the past few weeks. In no way do I consider myself an expert. In fact, after 3 weeks of frustrating nights, I reached out to the experienced Mamas I know who gave me lots of good ideas. I'd like to pass along some of these ideas to you.

1. Make sure you have a time at night to relax.

Do not rush to sleep, have time with no tv, no iPad... Just wind down time. Perhaps a warm bath with a handful of Epsom salts. Maybe you read a book each night. Set aside a few minutes between wrangling kids into their pjs and putting them in their bed to have a special routine that helps your toddler know that sleep is coming soon.

2. Grandma knows best.

Certain things do, in fact, make you feel relaxed. Diffusing Lavender Oil at night can give a soothing effect. A glass of milk (warm is good) can help fill the tummy and relax you (dentists and pediatricians recommend not giving babies milk or juice in bed - save those teethies!)

3. Assess the reason why your toddler is not wanting to sleep.

For mine, it was just because she thought we were having more fun than she was, but for some of the littles I know, there was fear or discomfort involved in their sleep issues. Too hot or too cold in their room? A light shining in the window? A fear of something like monsters or robots? (Yes, that is Isabel's go to thing she is afraid of.) Give your baby a sense of courage by making monster spray (just water in a spray bottle, though you could add some lavender for added benefit). Or you could do what we do every night and pray - we thank God for his blessings and we pray that He would watch over the girls and protect them through the night. When we skip this step, Isabel always reminds me.

4. No talking.

Once the night time routine is done, the lights are off and your toddler is in bed, that is the end of communication (obviously there are exceptions to this rule). This was the game changer for us - when Isabel would get up, I could hear her door open and I would meet her at the door, pick her up, kiss her head and put her back in her bed without saying a word. She did not like this one bit. On the first night of doing this, she said, "Mommy, why are you doing this to me!?" It just about broke my heart! But I was not doing this to be mean, I was ensuring that she was getting enough rest. I was not having a discussion with her about whether Darth Vader was a good guy or a bad guy - even though that might be an important discussion (yes, we are nerds), it was not important right then. I only had to do that 2 nights before the waking and walking around then house stopped.

5. Stand your ground.

Remember, you are the parent. What you say goes. When you BELIEVE this, your children will get that. Our kids test us - not to be disrespectful, but to see how far they can go. It is so important for us to empower them, but to also set boundaries and to help them grow up to be respectful adults. Believe it. Do it.

Nov 1, 2013

Thankful, Day 1

It is so easy to get bogged down in the daily grind - the dishes, the laundry, the carpool - seems to be never ending!

I propose we take 1 month - just one (though maybe it will be contagious and sneak into the other months, too) - and just be thankful.  Look for something good in every single day.  Seek our our blessings, not our curses.  And in return, possibly see a change in ourselves, in the way our home runs, and in our attitudes.  *fingers crossed*

When we were little, my mom was a crafty genius (still is), and always had some fun ideas to get us kiddos involved.  One of the things that sticks in my mind the most is the Thankful Turkey on the pantry door.

This is ours so far this year.  Every day, make it a routine to write down one thing per person that you are thankful for.  You can do it at dinner time or maybe at night as part of the bedtime routine...

Now is the time to break out that construction paper!!  Let your inner 7 year old out and have FUN creating a memory for your kiddos.  For the center shape (the turkey body), I used butcher paper because I had it laying around.  You can also use a sheet of poster board.  I made it easy on myself and folded all my shapes in half so that they were symmetrical. 

Here are the shapes you need:

Be creative!  Use whatever colors you want.

For the beak, I folded the triangle in half, then cut a tiny slit on the side opposite the point and folded about a quarter of an inch down so that I would have a way to glue it to the body.

My girls are totally into this already.  Izzy wanted to do all of them tonight - she is already looking forward to tomorrow night's feather!  Even daddy got in on the action!