The Summertime B-word (Budget, That Is)

Summertime oozes with opportunities to make childhood memories. However, if you let them, those opportunities can break the bank. This summer, we are trying to keep the activity budget to a minimum. And, we’ve been able to do so this far by formulating a game plan, as follows:

1) Having a rotation of go-to activities. In any given week, we probably visit two of the following places: our local library, Chick-fil-a, and the local park. I can’t give enough shout-outs to our local library for scheduling so many events designed for babies and toddlers and for keeping a super clean (and fun) children’s play area.

2) Schedule in-home play dates with friends. These are simply the best, because I can have adult conversation without the need to explain why my house is a mess.

3) Splurging on one pass. Season or yearly passes can add up quickly. And, the DFW area has plenty of them to offer. This year, because of the kid’s ages and Lillian’s love of animals, we chose a yearly membership to the Fort Worth Zoo. The upside to this decision is that the Fort Worth Zoo is open 360 days a year and has lots of members-only perks.

4) Keeping a list of cheap (or free) activities in the area. I don’t mind occasionally spending a little money to see the kids have fun. However, at this age, I’m not willing to spend more than I won’t miss if an outing is cut short by a tantrum, accident, or both! Fort Worth luckily has hoards of free and cheap activities to choose from. Some of our personal favorites right now include the miniature train and local splash parks.

5) Sometimes, saying yes to (semi-planned) special treats. I can’t feed my toddler ice cream every day like she requests for health and budget reasons (ok, MOSTLY the former). But, occasionally, I like to splurge and let her enjoy some of the awesome treat places that Fort Worth has to offer. Because, who doesn’t love trying something new? Today we said “YES” to Steel City Pops. Lillian’s official review of the chocolate was “MMMMM…Yummy!” And, she thought the Strawberry (she stole mine) was “Licious.” Needless to say, it was a hit! So, we will most likely be back. But next time we might take a change of clothes.




I know that, eventually, we will want to take them on trips, enroll them in camps, and that their hobbies will become a little pricier. But, in this season of life, we are enjoying being creative in our activities. It really is SO much fun seeing them discover new things!

Creating Delicious Memories

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When I think back to spending time with either of my grandmothers, the memories usually involve food. Nena (my mother’s mother), used to make these melt-in-your-mouth cinnamon rolls that were, quite figuratively, heaven. But, even more than I remember how delicious they were, I remember getting to assist her while making them. My job was usually to spray (yes, spray) “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” on the dough. I thought it was fantastic.

This summer, I decided to combine two things I love: family photos and food. I poured through countless recipes from both sides of the family (as well as some I “created”), trying to pick out ones that evoked fond memories. I placed my favorites in two piles. In one pile were the recipes that I thought I could cook or bake ALMOST as well as the original (they will never really be as good). In the second pile I placed the recipes that I knew I couldn’t recreate. The latter pile was left out of the book. And, after whittling my list down to 19 recipes, I turned to the good people of May Designs.

I was introduced to May Designs several years ago, and I am absolutely addicted to their notebooks and agendas. They are small enough to fit in almost any purse, have enough personalization options to make yours unique (but not so many that you feel overwhelmed) and are sturdy enough to withstand living with a toddler. Plus, they are a Texas-based company, so I’m basically shopping local, right?!

Last year, they introduced photo books in two sizes, a 7.5″ square and 5.5″ square. They sport the same sleek, hand-sewn design as the notebooks and are again full of personalization options.

May Designs makes it so incredibly easy to design the cover and inside pages of your photo book. And, the layout choices are plentiful. But, at 40 pages, it is not so cumbersome that it becomes just another well-intentioned project (I have several unfinished scrapbooks).

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The outcome was fantastic! And, we even tested it out over 4th of July weekend. I can’t wait to create more of these wonderful books and to reminisce with loved ones around the dinner table.

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What are some of your favorite meal-time memories?

Purpose For Every Season

At some point during my childhood, I formulated a game plan for my life. I would go to college, graduate with honors, go directly to law school, graduate and get married that fall (September 25, 2010, to be exact). Then, and only then, I could start on accomplishing the real purpose for my life.

Amazingly enough, I finished this checklist (maybe not on time, but fairly close). And, you know what? Afterwards, I found new excuses why I wasn’t living out my purpose. I worked too much. I had an infant. I had TWO kids. And, even this week, I’ve caught myself thinking (multiple times) that, once the kids are in school, I can go back to focusing on pursuing my goals and fulfilling my purpose.

Aside from the obvious humor (or horror) of me thinking I had to be married in order to start living purposefully, there are two things that make me hugely sad about my line of thinking. First, if I keep going like this, I could be 85 before I’m ready to start living out my “purpose.” Second, I have effectively marginalized each season of my life. Instead of continuing down this path, I want to take a few steps back, look at the bigger picture, and give myself the advice that I wish I’d had as a teen:

Reminisce (even miss), but don’t dwell on, the past. Know your purpose. Live the present to its fullest. Think and prepare for the future. 

Reminisce (even miss), but don’t dwell on, the past. One of the most annoying pieces of advice that I have repeatedly received since becoming a mother (which always seems to come when I am lamenting about lack of sleep, my toddler melting down in public, or my house generally looking like FEMA should be sent in to clean up) is this: “Just remember, you’re going to miss this.” And, I get why people say it. I may have even repeated it to another. But, it’s generally a terrible saying. It makes me feel guilty for missing another past–a past that held more sleep and less unidentifiable food (hopefully) stains, more abs and less grey hair, more free time and less mess. And, in a time where I already feel guilty about 98.5% of the time, it’s just not helpful.

So, I would like to officially change that not-so-helpful phrase to the following: “This stage in life is difficult. The last stage in life had its own challenges. And, the future is likely to have its own challenges, too. But, just like you miss sleep, alone time, and the use of your given name, you will also miss the chubby cheeks, the funny pronunciations, the snuggles and the rush of pride your toddler emits when she pees near (but not necessarily in) the potty. It’s okay to miss the past. But, make sure it isn’t impeding your ability to build sweet memories that can help you get through the challenges of your next season of life.”

I know, I know. It’s a mouthful, but I really do think it gets more to the point. If we can’t reminisce on the past, then what real purpose was there of having it?

Know your purpose. First, I would like to quickly debunk some recent theories that I’ve heard about my calling and purpose recently. My greatest calling is not raising my children. It’s just not. It is a great calling (an amazing one, in fact), and I do not take it lightly! Just looking at the surface of this statement immediately calls into question the first 27 years of my life. My purpose is not to be a good wife. It’s just not. Again, it is such an important, important part of my life, and I do not take the commitment lightly. But, again, it is not the sole reason I am here.

And after exhaustive thought, the only purpose for my life that I can come up with is this:

  1. To love God with all my heart, soul and mind; and,
  2. To love others.

It is the only overarching purpose that was applicable when I was 2, 10, 18, 22, is still applicable now, and will be applicable in every season after this. This is the only purpose that I can put a career on hold and still accomplish. And, if I can accomplish this purpose, then everything else should fall into place.

Live the present to its fullest. Please note that I said “Live the present to its fullest,” and not “Live for the present.” I think that we have a tendency to get these confused. I am resolving to take each season of life (whichever season it currently may be) as extremely important. And, I plan to act accordingly! No more waiting for “x, y, or z” to happen!

Think and prepare for the future. I don’t think that I was incorrect in having goals and a plan for my life when I was a child. And, believe it or not, some of the goals I had then, I still have now, even though I’ve nixed a few (I’m probably NOT going to be the First Lady or an ambassador to China). And, I have added plenty new goals (like retirement). In fact, I think it is extremely important and necessary to sit down and draw out a plan for the future. Just as long as the checklist doesn’t become everything.

So, now that I’ve psyched myself up, I have some living to do!

How are you accomplishing your goals and living out your purpose during this season?

Trienta: It’s More Fun Than Thirty

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This past weekend, I made the big plunge in to my 30’s. Besides walking around the house shouting “It’s my birthday week!” (sorry, babe), I really didn’t know how to handle the whole thing. Frankly, having children cemented adulthood into my brain far more than the number 30 ever could. But, it’s still a big milestone, so you’re supposed to go wheels off celebrating, right?

Randal did a wonderful job planning an overnight date in downtown Fort Worth, where we actually were able to talk and laugh. I even let him beat me in a round of pool. But, on Sunday he gave me the chance to have another awesome date: a mommy-daughter date. Actually, a better description would be a Rachel-Lillian date, because I did everything in my power to throw my mom caution to the wind and embrace some fun. And, if there’s one thing that Lillian is excellent at, it is having fun.

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We shopped (for spices), rode a miniature train, ate popcorn, ate ice cream, had “coffee,” and played at a log cabin village. But, more than that, we shared laughs. Lots and lots of laughs. I already knew that my child was pretty funny, as I spend most of my waking hours with her. But, for this sweet afternoon, I was able trade the rule-enforcing-mommy hat for the friendship hat and really was able enjoy her sweet, not-so-little personality. And she shined the entire time.

I got so much out of these precious five hours together, but my biggest takeaway was this: sometimes you need a break from motherhood, but not from your children. I love my Lillian dates, and I hope I get to have many more. She is seriously the best, y’all.

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