Saturday, March 23, 2019

TEXAS SMALL TOWNS AND COLLEGE TOURING

When it comes to deciding which colleges your child will attend, it can be hard to figure out the best way to go about it. Obviously one option is just to apply everywhere you’re remotely interested in and see what comes back. But this is your journey – and you should use it as a chance to learn about yourself and what you’re looking for. Narrowing down your college list can force you to decide where you could actually see yourself living, and the best way to do this is to physically visit the school and the surrounding areas. I suggest piggy-backing on the tour with a short vacation, to explore the area, amenities, cuisine and people.

Actually going to a campus will give you a feel for what it’s like to be a student there in actuality as opposed to figuratively. Before you buy a car, you take it for a test drive, and before you commit to a college, you visit. At least, you should, and that visit should be an official one, with a guided tour. Sometimes you’ll visit a campus and know instantly that it’s not for you. Sometimes you might visit a school that you hadn’t really been considering only to fall in love with the campus, city, vibe, or all three.

In fact, my daughter and I just completed our first college visit at University of Mary Hardin Baylor in Belton, TX. The drive from Houston was approximately 2.5 hours, but if you know me, then you'll know the farm girl in me stopped numerous times to awe at the rolling hills of green pastures, sprawling oaks, and grazing furry four-legged friends.



We were received at Mary Hardin Baylor with warmth and open arms; everyone seemed so genuine and personable. I read somewhere that UMHB has been ranked one of America's top 10 prettiest campuses, and it truly is extraordinary to look at, but it's also worth mentioning their average class size is 18 students and their student body is rich in cultural diversity - both of which are important to our family. And if you're a nursing major, the privileges available are unlike anything I've ever seen - state-of-the-art facilities with a simulation center that mimics the Baylor Scott & White Hospital setting. Everything you would see in a real hospital setting, you would see in the UMHB nursing school. I was pleasantly blown away!


We always try to take a guided tour. (Most schools also offer maps for a self-guided tour, but you miss out on the wealth of information acquired on a guided one.) Student-led tours are the ideal occasion to learn about academics and student life from the students themselves. 

The atmosphere on the UMHB campus is warm and welcoming. There appear to be many different ways to get involved on campus, but still room for incoming students to put their own touch on campus life. The average classroom size is 18 students which is mind-blowing, coming from a 6A high school whose class size exceeds 25 in most instances. Lastly, I have to mention the nursing facilities, as you see in the images above - just wow! Unlike any nursing education environment I've ever seen or experienced! What a privilege it would be to have the opportunity to study here. It almost makes me want to go back to college. 

Almost.

While the town of Belton itself is filled-to-the-brim with goodness all its own, it sits between Temple and Salado -- all three pack a punch well above their weight class when it comes to dining, shopping, outdoor activities, and most importantly, charm.

Walk through a quiet downtown filled with quaint, locally owned stores, and you can smell the mom-and-pop restaurants cooking everything from burgers and fries to specialty dishes created by executive chefs. Residents walking their dogs stop to say hello and welcome you to their little slice of heaven. Even shop owners take the time to throw up a hand and issue a friendly greeting as you walk by. Many of the residents know one another, and festivals abound as an excuse to come together. And if you look hard enough, "small town" is usually a misnomer, because you'll usually find an abundance of things to do.

Eats:

In case you’re heading to central Texas in the future, I thought I’d share the restaurants where we dined, because I know when I travel I always want to know of good places to eat.  (If we didn’t like the restaurant I don't list it.)

Bird Creek Burger, Temple, TX: The Classic Burger, Avocado Toast (pictures below)

Los Mini Tacos food truck, Temple, TX: Mini Tacos, Fajita Tacos

Lively Coffee Shop, Salado, TX: Chai Latte, BLT sandwich, Chicken Salad Sandwich



 


Saturday, March 16, 2019

FAMILY ROAD TRIP TO GREAT WOLF LODGE


There are only two places where I allow my kids sit on the toilet -- one is home and the other is Buc-ee's. You may see the signs between Houston and Dallas that boast, “Rest-rooms You Have to Pee to Believe.” And while that's true and very likely the main attraction for some visitors, for me it's the wall of coffee, creamers, fudge and breakfast tacos. There are also Texas-shaped waffle irons, home decor (including Rae Dunn coffee mugs), “Have a Willie Nice Day” T-shirts, and the store’s best-seller, Beaver Nuggets. So, the next time you're in Texas, look up your nearest Buc-ee's - it's a must-see for sure.



Obviously, the enormous Great Wolf Lodge indoor water park is the final destination, with up to eleven different swim, splash, and slide zones -- where there is indeed an aquatic area for everyone age. However, we managed to arrive in Grapevine long before our check-in time, so we decided to see what Lego Discovery Center was all about.

It just so happens that it's not just a big building filled with legos -- there are actually 15 different attractions to experience – all included in the admission price. I especially loved the laserquest ride and the 4D theatre. I had no idea -- we were all pleasantly surprised!


Don't miss the aquarium next door -- it's equally as enjoyable and very interactive -- but seeing how this post is predominantly about Great Wolf Lodge, it seems I should hurry and get to the point.

Well...well...my friends, Great Wolf Lodge, with several locations across the United States, is an amazing place for a family-friendly vacation. My family has now been to Great Wolf Lodge’s mid-Texas location twice; my kids ask to go back all the time and it remains one of their absolute favorite places to go on family getaway.

GWL is actually pretty reasonable, especially considering families receive two days of water park access for a single night’s hotel rate. There is a variety of room options to choose from, for up to 8 people, but we are rather partial to the Wolf Den themed room which we have found to be perfect for 2 parents and 2 young children.


If taking your reluctant swimm
ers to a very busy water park gives you cause for concern, you are not alone. Rest assured, GWL goes above and beyond to help keep everyone safe. Even before you walk through the doors of the water park, staff members conduct height checks and administer colored wristbands indicating which areas of the water park are height appropriate.

GWL also has several racks of life jackets available for kids of all sizes to use. And at every corner, there are lifeguards keeping watch over their designated area.


Fun fact #1: Even though check-in isn’t until 4 p.m. you can start enjoying the water park as early as 1 p.m.! 
Fun fact #2: After checking in to our room, I received a text message from a staff member who was my “personal assistant” for the weekend. I could text her with any questions, and she sent me reminders of fun stuff was happening and check-out instructions!
Fun fact #3: My husband lost his wristband/room key on the first day. They replaced it without so much as a blink of the eye.
Fun fact #4: There was a freak power outage during our breakfast at Campfire Kitchen. Yes, not ideal but the food was still delicious (best french toast!) and the staff was accommodating despite the extenuating circumstances. Don’t let power outages get you down!
Fun fact #5: You can reuse your MagiQuest wand when you visit Great Wolf Lodge again in the future!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

OUR KIDS HEALTH AND JUICE PLUS+


Having kids in school can bring out the emotions in our homes, as well as, a lot of illnesses. I'm hopping on the blog after much absence (sorry!) to tell you two things: 1) we have not solved the emotional problem but 2) we have definitely found a way to curb sickness in our family.

Lets be honest, even as a mama of 4 kiddos - sending them off to school each year still has me on pins and needles about illness! School, especially the start of school, can be a source of some serious germs. Bleh!

Keeping our family well is something that I think moms think about the most!! We all want to be proactive with our kiddos so that we can stay ahead of the game.

Well, moms, Juice Plus+ is something I have had in my tool kit for roughly 3 years and I believe (with every ounce of my being) that it's what has kept us well! Check out my other posts here and here

Honestly, before Juice Plus+, we visited the doctor several times every year, and now the only time we ever see a medical expert is for routine vaccinations. It's not that we're never ill, because there brief minor cases here and there, but they are just that -- mild and a much shorter duration than before.

The secret? Healing through nutrition!

Juice Plus+ not just a vitamin. Rather, it is whole food based nutrition. There are 20 fruits and vegetables in their convenient and tasty gummies (adults consume 4 gummies daily; children consume 2 gummies daily). That's right....REAL, ACTUAL FRUITS AND VEGETABLES, ya'll! 


Juice Plus+ is the approved by the NSF and is the most thoroughly researched brand-name nutritional product on the market today.

There have been over 30 published clinic studies done to confirm the amazing benefits of Juice Plus+. Even the famous Dr Sears recommends children to take Juice Plus+. I was blown away by how many medical professionals are standing behind Juice Plus+, internal medicine, sports medicine, cardiology, biochemists, glaucoma specialists, pediatrics, dentistry, infectious diseases…the list goes on! To hear some of these medical professionals talk about Juice Plus+ click here.

I did not decide to become a distributor overnight. Quite frankly, I signed up with the intention of receiving discounts on my own orders, but I found myself raving about Juice Plus to people all the time. I genuinely want to help people be healthier, properly educated on nutrition and encourage healthier living. I want to hear similar health transformation stories of people in my community.

What an absolute honor to walk families to freedom in their health and some even in their finances.  I'm humbled to be a part of something so so much bigger than myself. 

Visit my website to learn more and hear videos from experts and see the studies done on Juice Plus+.

Feel free to contact me if you want to learn more!

* For every adult order, your children receive the chewable gummies (up to 18 years of age) for free! 



Tuesday, October 23, 2018

WHEN YOUR CHILD WALKS INTO THE ROOM


A while back, I read a parenting article and was challenged by this question: ‘Do your eyes light up when your child walks into the room?’


Gah, I wanted to say "yes!" But honestly, like most busy moms, there have been seasons in our lives that my kids couldn't even see my eyes when they walked in the room because I was doing something like dishes, dinner, talking on the phone or working on my computer. 


But what if I got intentional about less doing and more looking? What if I made sure I was off the computer and waiting for them to get home? What if I blocked out 30 mins to be fully present in those parts of the day. The article said kids perceive how important they are to us by the way we pay attention to them, and that eye contact is key, because it makes our kids feel secure and confident.

So, ever since, I’ve been trying to make eye contact when my kids get home from school or work. When they ask me a question, I'm trying really hard to stop what I’m doing, look ‘em in the eyes and answer. And I don't mean one-word answers so I can get back to what I was doing. I'm talking about open-ended conversations with no end in sight. Sometimes laughter ensues. Other times, a hug is warranted. And I'm realizing it matters. Some days, my 16-yr old, Bailey, comes home from school and we process things for a whole hour. The teen years are hard, sure, but sometimes they just need us to 'see' them.


Lord,
Help me not miss this truth. Unrush me. Remind me that my people - big and small- perceive how important they are to me by the way I pay attention to them.Amen




Friday, October 19, 2018

CLEAN UP ON AISLE 2

Image result for grocery store aisle


Have you ever said something to someone and it was unkind? Or snarky? And you knew it. You wished you could take it back, but it was out there in the universe and there was nothing you could do about it.


Did you pretend it didn’t happen, silently commanding everyone else to pretend as well?
Did you point out the things that they did wrong, instead of owning your own actions?
Did you ask them to give you grace, without apologizing or even acknowledging that it hurt them?
I know you, friend. I know many of you by name, and I know how much you love the Lord. I know that you want nothing more than to show who Jesus is through your words and your walk.
And yet I also know me, and over the years I have done all of these. While none of them are reflective of who I really am, it’s reflective of the battle going on inside all of us.
Paul describes it like this:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.
For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Romans 7:15-24 (NIV)
The battle is real. Our sinful nature is persistently wrestling with the part of us that loves Jesus.
When we avoid the hard work of cleaning up our mess, we leave shrapnel of hurts everywhere. When we avoid it, or try to make someone else responsible for it, we remain stunted in our spiritual growth.
When we do the hard work of cleaning up our messes, it may take time…a long time. We may even need help as we do it. Yet, every time we do the hard work, we step into who we really are. We learn what parts of us need to die so that the rest of us can blossom into abundant life.



Friday, October 12, 2018

THIS IS FORTH WORTH YA'LL


This is Fort Worth, also known as “Cowtown” ...the city of cowboys, cattle and culture. A rather small, big city, brimming with personality and charm.

Families curious about the Old West, should mosey over to the Stockyards National Historic District outside of downtown. There’s something for all ages: barbeque, petting zoo, trail rides, barbeque, snow cones, a maze, chuck wagon rides, barbeque, shopping, selfies with longhorns, gun fights, and oh! and did I mention barbeque?! There’s so much more than what I’ve listed here, but the most significant are the twice daily cattle drives, with well-preserved old buildings serving as the backdrop. Yep, Texas longhorns literally saunter down the street every day to reenact the cattle drives when this was the last stop before going on to Indian Territory in Oklahoma. 


After lunch, we took a short drive over to the Fort Worth Zoo, rated one of the top five zoos in the US. There’s so much going on here, that you could almost call it an amusement park (making it an excellent value destination). In addition to a rock climbing tower and a mini train, little wranglers can romp around an old-fashioned western town, complete with play barn and shooting gallery. As for the animals, they are well taken care of, and it shows in their elevated level of interaction. Be sure to visit the awesome African Savannah exhibit released this year – wow - This 10-acre exhibit is home to a variety of African wildlife and has ample opportunities for interaction, including giraffe feeding and the chance to see the graceful underwater movements of hippos firsthand. Kids will also enjoy peeking at the cool Gharial crocodile species from India and petting cuddlier creatures at the petting zoo. 



If you're a donut lover, don't forget to book-end your day with a visit to Funkytown Donuts, dubbed "the BEST DONUT SHOP IN AMERICA," at least according to the visitors pictured here, who, are experts on donuts. There's definitely a "funky" array of flavors, including vegan and gluten-free options. You’ll go nuts (!) for the slightly earthy flavor of the airy glazed doughnut alone.



I’ve always liked Fort Worth.  There’s just a rustic quality to the whole city that really appeals to me. Even though it’s only a (Texas-sized) stone’s throw from Dallas, it couldn’t be more different.


***

Tips on Staying Comfortable on Your Next Road Trip


As the holidays are ramping up, many of us will be on the road visiting family. Traveling on the road during the holiday season can be stressful and tiring, so you want to make sure you stay energized, alert and comfortable.

There are many important components to staying comfortable on a long road trip. Hydrating, having good posture and stretching frequently can improve the quality of your trip immeasurably. There are also specific things you can do like wearing compression socks, using a tennis ball as a back massager and using peppermint oil to keep you alert.

Take a look at this great guide on tips for staying comfortable on a long road trip from The Zebra. The guide goes into detail on all the ways you can stay comfortable and alert. Also, be sure to check out the infographic below!





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