Family – Frugal Novice
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Keep Your Family Connected With This Simple {&Free!} Tool!


Each year I choose a word that’s a theme, if you will, for my year. And after the insanely busy end of 2015, it was crystal clear that my word for 2016 would be connect. My kids are growing up way too quickly, and it’s crucial to me that we connect as a family. We do this at family dinners most nights of the week, focusing on each other and each sharing the best and worst parts of our day (if you haven’t tried this, I highly recommend it – it’s a great way to learn about the highs and lows of your child’s – or spouse’s – day, and our kids typically can’t wait for their turn to share).

We get a lot of time together as our group of five, and I love it. Game nights, movie nights, bike rides around the neighborhood – or even just all doing separate things in the same room – we spend a lot of quality time as a family.

One-on-one time, however, can be harder to come by. I first thought about this as each of my children ended up grocery shopping with me on various weekends. It was a rare chance to have extended time with just one of our three kids, and I loved the opportunity for conversation with each of them (and oh my, how topics differ from child to child!).

An idea was born from these shopping trips, and I decided I’d implement it in 2016 as a resolution of sorts – a way to have intentional time with each child. I created a chart that allows for purposeful time for my husband and I with each of our children throughout the year. In January, I get a date night with our oldest; my husband gets one with our middle son, and our daughter gets to choose a family activity for us to enjoy together. In February, the names rotate. I get a date night with our daughter, my oldest son is paired with my husband, and our middle son gets to pick the family activity. Each child has a special role for the month, and each parent gets one-on-one time with a child.

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Road Trip Survival Guide


If you’re like millions of other people in the United States, you’re probably gearing up for a road trip in the coming weeks. Although we’ll celebrate Christmas at home, we traveled for Thanksgiving with our three kids. Our trip was relatively short – about three hours – but still, we went into it with a game plan. We’ve learned from experience (a very long trip from Texas to Florida to Georgia and back) that it’s crucial to be prepared in order to make your time in the car as pleasant as possible.

Everyone has a different approach as to what’s important to bring – some people want to be minimalists, and some people pack so much that the car is practically stuffed! I like to think we fall somewhere in between, and we’ve figured out what works well for us to bring. I’ll share one of my must-haves below, and then I hope you’ll go check out my guest post over on the Ames Ford Lincoln blog to see the rest of my tips for road trip survival.

Have plenty of supplies. Snacks and drinks are key. I can’t even begin to tell you the power of a snack to calm a whiny child! We bring practical things like pretzels and applesauce pouches, but also have some heavy hitters like fruit snacks and candy as a special treat. Also be sure and have a stockpile of inexpensive, wrapped toys that kids can pick from at random points along the trip (if they have good behavior – it’s a great motivator to have a good attitude!). Be sure and bring plenty of blankets and pillows so the kids can get comfy (and hopefully take a nap or two as you travel down the road). See more here.

Boys & Girls Clubs of America Triple Play


I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Boys & Girls Club of America. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

Our kids are young – 8, 6, & 3 – and Brian and I think all the time about how this is a time in their lives in which we’re helping them establish habits that might last an entire lifetime. We hope to teach them polite habits, thoughtful habits, and healthy habits. Being healthy, of course, can encompass so much – mind, body, and soul. From a young age, activities such as taking part in school sports, making friends at after school clubs, and maintaining a balanced diet contribute to the health in all three of these areas. The skills and routines practiced as children influence habits well into adulthood, and establishing healthy lifestyle patterns with our children helps them carry these skills forward for the rest of their lives. Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Triple Play program encourages us to continue shaping our children’s future and get out and about with our family.

Triple Play launched in 2005 and has made close to 10 million connections with kids, sharing how important it is to have physical activity and proper nutrition.

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Family Fun at the Thinkery in Austin, Texas


We received passes to the Thinkery to facilitate our review. All opinions are honest and our own! 

We’ve been looking forward to a family getaway ever since school got out. We went on a big vacation last year so we decided to keep it simple with a long weekend road trip this year; the first part of our trip took us to Austin.

We knew we wanted to try something different, and we wanted to look for something that would be a lot of fun for the whole family. We began researching kid-friendly Austin attractions, and when we visited the Thinkery’s website, we read this and knew it was a place we wanted to go:

The Thinkery is Austin’s home for “why” and “how.” A place where science and families play side by side. Where people connect with ideas by doing, making and experiencing. It’s a foundry for a new generation of innovators and creative problem solvers. And it’s a heck of a good time.

When you walk in the doors, you instantly get a vibe for how your experience will be. It’s not a quiet, sterile place. It’s vibrant, colorful, and full of happy noise. This chalkboard in the front part of the museum gave us an idea of all that was going on that day:


We decided to start out upstairs and work our way back down; the water room was our first stop. First of all, loved that they provide aprons and Crocs for kids and parents to wear, so you’re not wet the rest of the day! The water room was so fun for all three kids.


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Discover Boating for Family Summer Fun!

Kids having a blast on a boat!


Summer is here, and in Texas we’ve been getting record rainfall. That means lakes are at a great level and people are just itching to get out on the water with their families for some fun summer memories!

I have great memories associated with boating; I can vividly remember going up to visit family and going out on Lake Michigan. Everything seemed so serene, and the cool water breeze on our faces was perfect. I also remember going out to Lake Granbury in Granbury, Texas (go figure, right?) with friends and trying tubing for the first time. SO much fun! Brian has great boating memories, too – many of his include fishing, which is something I’ve actually not tried yet!

As our kids get older and we think about things we want to do with them, I know boating will be a part of our activities. There are just so many ways to have fun out on the water, and we want them to get to experience that! I think it would be a lot of fun to take a picnic out with us, do some fishing and just relax. I know some lakes have fireworks for the Fourth of July – how fun would that be, to watch fireworks from a boat?

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Seven Strategy Games Perfect for Family Game Night


We love game night in our house. Like, love it.

Brian and I started collecting games when we were dating back in college. Rather than going out to dinner and a movie, we’d cook and use the money we would have spent on a board game.

As a result, we have a whole closet in our house dedicated to our collection, and we have a ton of games we really enjoy playing. Here are 7 strategy-based games we enjoy playing as a family that you should try for your next family game night:

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New Huggies Snug & Dry Ultra Diapers: Great Protection at a Great Value

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Huggies® for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

I’m sure most of you have experienced this: you’re out with your child, and you set her in your lap. Suddenly, your leg is wet and you realize that your child’s diaper has leaked. This has happened to us when we were out, which meant she also leaked in her car seat. And every parent knows washing a car seat cover is no easy task.


Huggies® Snug & Dry Ultra Diapers (available only at Walmart) are a lifesaver when it comes to preventing leaks. There’s a snug fit around the waist, along the hips, and around each leg, adding up to a strong barrier against leaks.

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Car Seat Safety: Five Tips


There are a million things to figure out when you become a parent, and picking the right baby gear is just one. Car seats make it even more potentially complicated, because not only do you want to select the right car seat, you want to make sure you’re installing it and using it correctly, too. I’ve got five tips to help you navigate the car seat world and keep your little one a little safer. Here’s the first: 

1. Select a car seat based on your child’s age and size. Not every 5-year-old is built the same, so look at weight and height requirements to see which one seems like the best fit. If your child is growing rapidly, you’ll want to select a seat that has a higher limit so you can safely get more use out of it for a longer period of time.

For the rest of these tips, please visit my guest post over at the Holt Alfa Romeo Fiat dealership blog.

Road Trip Readiness


With the holidays rapidly approaching, more and more people will be loading up their cars and traveling off to grandma’s house. Many of these travelers have children, and everyone knows long road trips with kids can have the potential for disaster. I’ve got five tips, from experience, to help you make it down the road with your sanity intact. Here’s the first:

1. Travel well-stocked. This means having plenty of snacks and drinks available (there’s nothing worse than a “starving” child out in the middle of nowhere – whininess WILL ensue), but also have a stockpile of inexpensive wrapped toys that kids can pick from at random points if they have good behavior. We also like to bring plenty of blankets and pillows so the kids can get comfy and hopefully take a nap or two as we travel down the road.

For the rest of these tips, please visit my guest post over at the Lawton Chrysler Dodge dealership blog.

World of Coca-Cola


Note: We received complimentary tickets to World of Coca-Cola to facilitate our review. We were not compensated monetarily and all opinions are honest and our own.


Brian and I both love Coke products – I like Coca-Cola Classic and he’s a big Cherry Coke fan – so we thought it would be fun to visit the World of Coca-Cola while we were in Atlanta. And our kids very rarely get to drink soda, so the idea of getting to taste a lot of sodas in the “Taste It!” room was pretty thrilling to them!



We enjoyed getting to see all sorts of behind-the-scenes things about the history of Coke and how it was made (and even got to see the vault where the top-secret recipe is stored), along with all sorts of Coca-Cola merchandise that’s been marketed over the years. We got to meet the Coca-Cola polar bear, too!




We even went to the gallery where we saw all sorts of Coca-Cola inspired art:


But of course the boys’ favorite part was getting to try Coca-Cola products from all around the world! We had planned to try every single flavor but ended up not quite making that goal. It was still a lot of fun, and we survived the ensuing sugar rush after the fact, too. :)



We spent about two hours here and that was plenty of time to see everything and spend some time in the gift shop, too. We all had a lot of fun! This is a great place to tack on to your Atlanta itinerary, and you can find all sorts of fun gift items for the Coke-lovers in your life. Visit their website for more information and to plan your visit!

Georgia Aquarium is Fun for the Whole Family

Note: We received tickets to the aquarium to facilitate our review. All opinions are honest and are those of myself and my family.



We’ve been to aquariums before, but I had no idea what to expect before we walked into the Georgia Aquarium. This place, in a word, is awesome. 


You walk into a central lobby of sorts, and everything branches off, making it easy to navigate. The lighting sets the mood and gives the whole place an aquatic, other-world feel.

We arrived just in time to attend the dolphin show, which we weren’t allowed to film at – but trust me, it was a blast! There is a theatrical element to it that I wasn’t expecting, but the kids really enjoyed it. We couldn’t get over how talented the dolphins and their trainers were.

After the dolphin show we went to one of the several areas allowing visitors to touch some of the sea life. We spent a lot of time here – the kids LOVED touching the manta rays and wanted to keep trying to touch one of the sharks in the tank, too (they weren’t ever quick enough, but Brian and I both managed)!



The interactivity of the aquarium is really what sets it apart and makes it a stellar experience. If you’re not able to touch things, you’re able to get right up close and personal, or in some cases you’re even able to feel like you’re a part of the exhibit:





The kids loved the 4D movie, complete with water spraying! And who doesn’t love the chance to wear some 3D glasses?


There are so many larger-than-life tanks, and we couldn’t get over all the many fish we were able to see up close. The tunnel was one of the boys’ favorite parts, and I can see why – we were practically surrounded by fish!






I’d highly recommend you plan a visit to the Georgia Aquarium next time you’re in Atlanta.  And now, I’ll leave you with my very favorite photo from our time there:


Fall is Fabulous with Starbucks® Fall Blend

Note: The following post is sponsored by Starbucks, but all opinions are honest and are my own.

I adore the fall. Summer here in Texas is SO hot, so when fall arrives I am ready. Ready for jackets and flannel sheets and hot cocoa and coffee. Ready for cool days and warm treats. Ready for sitting out on our covered back porch and watching the kids run around playing in the cool air, and for sitting on the couch with the windows open.

We had our first glimpse of fall this past weekend while family was in town for our daughter’s birthday. Temps were in the 60’s and it felt fabulous. After the party finished, we sat out on the back porch and relaxed while the kids played a little more. Brian and his mom decided to enjoy some limited-edition Starbucks Fall Blend, which was perfect! This blend has Sumatran beans to provide the warmth of fresh spice notes, coffees from Kenya to add citrusy brightness as well as beans from Peru that offer balance and a subtle nuttiness – it’s the perfect segue into the brisk days of fall. I can just imagine it with cinnamon coffee cake or a slice of pumpkin pie! 




I love Christmas and that whole time of year, but I think fall is almost better – there are all sorts of traditions we love like hay rides and pumpkin patches and trick-or-treating with the kids, and we make so many great memories.

This year the boys are both in school, and we all know back-t0-school time can be busy for families. As we adjust to our new routine, our weekend time with the kids is precious; I can’t wait to have many more Saturdays snuggled up with the kids, and I’m glad we’ve got Starbucks Fall Blend to help us enjoy these moments!