Photo Friday: Family Cruise Vacation 2018 Highlights


This gallery contains 13 photos.

As I write this today, I’m recovering (and doing loads and loads of laundry) from our family vacation.  It was fantastic and exhausting.  We started out last Friday roadtripping down to Galveston with the littles (stay tuned for a post … Continue reading

Photo Friday: Fossil Rim

Garen took the bigs to Fossil Rim a few weeks back on his way back from Hamilton. Despite Will almost losing a thumb while feeding a very greedy Oestrich, they had a fantastic time. If you’ve never been to Fossil Rim in Glen Rose, it’s absolutely a Texas bucket list item!

It was a great opportunity for Garen to pull out his camera and capture these moments spent with our two oldest wild things and the rest of the wildlife.

Here’s a few of our favorite photos from their adventure:

Photo Friday: Colorado- Where the Wild Things Live- Part 1

Garen and I had the MCAA Midyear Meeting in Steamboat, CO in August and we decided to take a few days off before it to go to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.

Of course, we had a great time and, of course, Garen took some awesome photos. These are only a few because my phone is having technical difficulties (I’m sure it’s not user error).

We got to see a TON of animals in the wild. It was amazing.

Photo Friday: New England Favs

Here are a few from our girls’ trip to New England- Newport, Boston, and Salem. 

There’s MUCH more content to come, including our itinerary, but these are some of my favorites, not just because of the quality but because of the memories. 

House of Seven Gables…can I be honest and say I don’t remember the book???

We went to Peabody, Massachusetts to the house that my dad, Aunt Karen, and Aunt Lynn lived in for a few years of their childhood. Believe it or not, this was only after a drink or two…we just had that much fun celebrating my cousin, Sarah’s birthday. These four photos above were at Marble House in Newport. You can see that Mom is telling us all about everything!Isn’t my Mom gorgeous? She was the mastermind behind this whole trip. This kitchen was at The Breakers. Who wouldn’t love to have a kitchen like this?!?Or a bathtub like this???Or a living room like this??? Ok, so maybe I wouldn’t like to have to clean this. As the daughter of a mason contractor, I’m in love with this entryway!This is the servants’ stairway. Nice, right?This is how full our little minivan was with all of our stuff. Who needs sand in your toes when you can be on the rocks?What a great way to end the day……picking up seashells……and enjoying time with my Momma!This is one of my favorites…my Aunt Karen and Cousin Sarah. This was obviously before we climbed the 297 steps to the top of the monument. You can tell by the smiles. These three ladies made the trip a blast!The Holocaust monument was amazing and very touching. 

It was a great trip, spent with great ladies!

Ozark Mountains/Branson Trip Itinerary

You may remember last year we survived the road trip with the entire family to Branson. We had a great time and loved how beautiful the Ozarks are so we wanted to come back for another trip to enjoy more of the mountains. Garen would’ve loved to just stay in a tent on a state park but I loved the idea of a nice, comfortable resort for vacation. Staying at the Wilderness Club at Big Cedar Lodge, where there are plenty of outdoor activities and the comfort of a nice resort, was perfect for us. 

We had a great time. Here is our 5 day, 4 night itinerary:

Saturday, Day 1:

8:00 AM:  Left Arlington. We elected to go the slightly longer but prettier route through Little Rock. 

Noonish: Stopped at Lake Catherine State Park. 1200 Catherine Park Road, Hot Springs, AR 71913. It was off the beaten path and took us about 20 minutes to get there from I-30. It was worth it for the kids to get out and get a taste of the outdoors. We enjoyed a picnic lunch and skipping rocks. 

Arrived at Big Cedar Lodge. Went to Big Cedar Lodge instead of Wilderness Club at Big Cedar Lodge so be sure to know which you’re going to. But if you don’t, everyone is very friendly to help you out. We checked in and immediately the kids saw the lazy river and indoor heated pool with a little slide. They were sold. We quickly got unpacked and checked out the activities available. 

7:00ish: Caught the shuttle to Fun Mountain since it was lightning and the pools were shut on and off throughout the afternoon. We ate dinner at Uncle Bucks and enjoyed activities. We bought two of the two hour unlimited passes that came with $20 of game credits too, which cost us $60 each. Activities included laser tag, an interactive climbing wall, Spin Zone (spinning bumper cars), and Flip Zone (upside down spinning bumper cars). They’ve also got an AWESOME set of slides that are completely free and built for adults to go down as well. 

Caught shuttle back and crashed. 

Sunday, Day 2:

Slept in and enjoyed light breakfast and coffee on the balcony

We took the kids fishing, which was one of the free kids’ activities at the resort. They gave us poles and worms and we had an hour to catch as many fish in the fishing pond as we could. We didn’t catch anything but we had a great time. 

11:00: Drove to Top of Rock. We took the shuttle to the Top of Rock and ate brunch at Osage Restaurant. If you can plan this trip on a Sunday, DO IT. Their brunch buffet is absolutely fantastic, complete with mimosas! We also enjoyed the beautiful views and exploring everything. I would love to play golf there someday. 

12:30ish: Rode the shuttle back down and boarded our 4-seater golf cart to do our Top of the Rock Lost Canyon Cave and Natue Trail™. We really enjoyed this experience. Garen and I enjoy hiking but Anna is still a little young to do too long of a hike so the golf cart was perfect. It’s got some great photo opportunities too. More details on all Top of the Rock activities coming soon. 

3:00ish: The pool and lazy river were closed because of lightening so we checked out a couple of movies from the clubhouse and went back to take it easy for a couple of hours. 

5:30ish: Took the shuttle down to Bent Hook Marina and went for a paddle boat ride on Table Rock Lake. Paddle boats, kayaks, and canoes are free if you’re staying on the resort. They also have life jackets available at no cost. More about this to come in my post about Big Cedar Lodge. It was beautiful out on the lake and the kids had a good time, even if they did argue about who was going to steer. We were the only people out there so the water was very peaceful. 


6:30ish: After we finished our paddle boat excursion, we headed over to enjoy the lazy river, rock slide, hot tub, and indoor pool. 

9:00ish: Called to order room service, which never came, so we had sandwiches. That was one of the reasons having a full kitchen was great. 

Monday, Day 3:

Slept in again. 

9:30ish: Drove out to Billy Gail’s for breakfast. We did this last time and this is a must if you like big pancakes. Our wait was only about 20 minutes- even getting there that late. Don’t forget cash like we did since they don’t take cards. Thankfully there’s an ATM down the road and they were super nice about it. 

11:00: Drove to Table Rock State Park and Dewey Short Visitor Center. The visitor center is beautiful and has a great people working there to tell you about the damn and guide you to the activities you want to do. The Table Rock Lakeshore Trail is a paved trail we knew would work best for us with the Will biking and Anna in the trailer. We wanted to make sure it was open since they’d experienced some recent flooding. The lake was still up but it was open except for the last 1/4 mile probably. We stopped a few times on the ride, once even letting the kids soak their feet for a bit. It was the perfect distance for us to enjoy the ride with the kids. 

12:30ish: Enjoyed a light picnic lunch on the lake. 

2:00ish: Swam in the Falls pool by our lodge (there are a lot of options for pools). It’s beautiful but the two levels do complicate things if you’re trying to keep a close eye on kids swimming. 

We went to dinner at Black Oak Grill at Branson Landing. It was ok but nothing spectacular, except for the frozen Jack and Coke that Garen had, which was pretty darn tasty

6:45ish: After dinner we quickly walked down to watch the fountains at Branson Landing that was scheduled for 7:00.  They were down for maintenance so that was unfortunate. We walked on down to Bass Pro Shops and got a few souvenirs. As a side note, this is probably one of the smaller stores so it doesn’t have the full collection. We also stopped for ice cream at Marble Slab creamery, which is always a treat. The kids also really enjoyed taking a photo with the giant ape on the way in and out. 

Tuesday, Day 4:

Breakfast was a little earlier this morning. 

8:45: Went to the preview for the Bluegreen Vacations timeshares, which is how we ended up staying there. This lasted longer than expected but the kids were entertained at the kids club. More on that experience on another post. 

12:30ish: We ate lunch at Devil’s Pool and it was great. Garen swears they had the best tator tots he’s ever had. We enjoyed our balcony table overlooking the fishing hole and the Devil’s Hole pool. If you visit here be sure to check out Devil’s Hole (waterfall) and the beautiful bridge. 

We went to play putt putt, which was included in our resort stay. Garen beat us all but Anna and I were gracious losers…and Will is getting better about that. It’s a really fun little 9-hole course. 

Checking out the store at the resort was a must. They had great stuff that was priced pretty similar to what you’ll find at Bass Pro Shops but maybe fancier. They had gorgeous jewelry that was reasonably priced. We even found the perfect souvenir for Will- a pocket knife with his name on it. 

3:30ish: After changing into our swimsuits, we headed to the lazy river and pool with the slide since it was a nice, warm day. 

5:00ish: We headed back to the rooms to get ready and called for a last minute reservation for 7:30 at the Osage restaurant because we wanted to have dinner at the Top of the Rock to be there for the sunset celebration. 

6:30ish: Checked out the End of the Trail All-American Wine Bar. It is really a neat place that looks like a dungeon kind of. There’s a great wine selection (as if I have any idea of what’s really good or not) and plenty of whiskey and cigar options if that’s your thing. You can walk out the door to see this beautiful view while enjoying your drinks. Garen got some pretty great shots, as you can see. 

We called an audible after realizing we could enjoy dinner on the patio bar rather than in the Osage restaurant. It was open seating and there were plenty of tables open for even larger parties. I’m sure it’s more crowded on the weekends though. You have the option to order from the bar or Osage restaurant menu (or a combination, which is what we did). The service is outstanding. 

The sunset ceremony started at sunset.  It included a few songs/hymns on the bagpipes and was followed by the shooting of a civil war cannon. It’s a really neat experience. 

9:45: We retuned to Fun Mountain for one more round of game playing. They closed at 10:00. Yes, we are suckers. Twenty dollars of games in 15 minutes. The conditions were that any tickets they win they had to give to another kid. This allowed us to not have to go through the lengthy process of choosing cheap toys that get lost and/or broken within a few days. 

Wednesday, Day 5:

Garen got up and went out in a canoe to get some early morning shots while I enjoyed my last quiet morning cup of coffee on the balcony before the kids woke up. 

Kids woke up and had breakfast on the balcony one last time too. 

9:00ish: We got showered and packed up. 

10:00: Checked out and drove home. 

In case you wondered, the good photos are courtesy of Garen. The others are taken by yours truly. Check out a few more of the great photos Garen got on our trip. As I said earlier in the post, there will probably be more detailed posts to come. 

In the meantime, if you’re looking for a nice place to go on a family friendly vacation from DFW that is within driving distance, I would recommend a version of our trip. It had something for everyone and was a great balance between satisfying the adults’ outdoor cravings and keeping kids entertained. 

Disclaimer: I am not receiving ANY compensation for this review or writing this itinerary. These are 100% my own opinions and experiences. I hope they’re helpful if you’re considering a family vacation!

Adventures with Four: How we survived an 8-Hour Roadtrip

We just survived an 8-Hour round-trip road trip with twin 9 month old babies, plus a 5 and almost 8 year old. 

Here’s my travel tips for a successful trip with that many kids in one vehicle:

  • Consider leaving at night or early in the morning so you can get as much of the drive done while all of the kids sleep. We left the house at 4 AM and that bought us a few hours of peaceful drive time. 
  • Dress everyone comfortably. The big kids slept in their athletic shorts and shirts so we didn’t have to worry in the morning. The babies were in their footie pjs for the first leg of the trip. 
  • Bring a blanket for each kid. Someone is bound to get cold. 
  • Be sure everyone has pottied before you leave anywhere. 
  • Try to arrange seating so that someone can sit between the babies so you can feed or play with them, as necessary. 
  • Bring a bag of toys that you can rotate out. 
  • Bring extra pacifiers and keep them handy. We tend to always be missing one. 
  • Have wipes within reach. You never know when you’re going to need to clean something up- whether big or small. 
  • We knew the girls were going to go through 3 bottles each on the trip, so we packed a bottle bag with that many bottles and three shakers, a gallon of water, plus the formula. Some people suggested packing the pre-measured formula but it seemed just as easy to pack the big tub of it when you’re making this many bottles at a time. Oh, and we don’t warm the bottles- they just drank them room temperature, which made it way easier. 
  • Build in plenty of time for stops. 
  • We changed diapers in the vehicle because it was easier and cleaner than many of the restrooms. 
  • Have a general idea of where you can stop and eat that is kid friendly. Our favorite road trip stop is Cracker Barrell. 
  • Pack plenty of things for the big kids to do. We let Will take his DS and Anna got to watch a movie in my iPad. I also stocked a bag of goodies from the Target dollar section including sticker books, coloring books, card games, etc.  
  • Bring some healthy snack choices. We brought grapes, crackers, squeezy fruit. It kept them from wanting the junk from the convenience stores. 
  • Have a change of clothes handy for the kids- big and little. You never know when you might need it and you don’t want to have to pull out suitcases to find something. 
  • Bring help, if possible. We were fortunate to have Garen’s mom and his 17-year-old cousin along. It made it much easier and more fun for everyone. 
  • Use a van, if possible. We are fortunate enough to have been loaned a 12-passenger Ford Transit to take. We would’ve had to take two cars otherwise. This gave us plenty of room for everyone AND our stuff. 

We not only survived, we had a great time. It was a fast and furious trip but we all had a blast in Branson with the family!

What road trip tips do you have for traveling with kids? I’d love to hear them!

Road Tripping with a Real Map

We will soon be embarking on a road trip to Branson. Google maps tells us it will take 7 hours and 51 minutes. We will have a few stops with the kiddos, so we are estimating 10 hours. 

Ten hours in the car with a 7 and 5 year old, plus 9 month old twins. Sounds like we’re nuts. And, as nuts as it is, I’m actually really excited about it. 

As a child I remember many road trips with the whole family all loaded up in the family truckster (ours was a red suburban). One of the things I remember loving was looking at the road map and calculating how far we had come, how far it was to our next Dairy Queen, or how far it was to our final destination. As I thought about this, I realized that my kids probably haven’t even seen a real road map before. By real, I mean paper. Heck, I honestly can’t remember the last time I looked at a paper map. It has to have been during college, in the age of Google maps that you could print out (I realize you still can but I don’t). 

Amazing. I think using my iPhone’s navigation is wonderful. How great is it to know what traffic is going to be like and your ETA adjust accordingly?!? And no need for paper!

But…I also think there is some benefit to the kids learning to use a real map. Soooo, I’ll be getting a real paper roadmap for them to use on the trip for a fun learning opportunity. Maybe we will make a game out if it somehow…

Family road trip ideas welcome!