Family

Spring Break at Inks Lake State Park

You know what Saida and I fought about just before heading out with the camper? She didn’t want to go and and kept telling me we should just stay home. Homegirl junior. Not that she cares, but I had to pull the “well mommy and daddy don’t spend too much money a month on this camper to not go anywhere so do you think we should go camping or do you want to sell the camper?”

Obviously we went camping. I won’t say she didn’t cry about it for an hour and half on the way there though because she totally did.

Where’d we go?

Inks Lake State Park (and Longhorn Cavern State Park for a couple hours)

Site number?

West Loop, Site 43. I’d highly recommend this site especially if you like being right on the water and you like having the park store nearby with boat rentals and such. It is very close to the park store though and when they did fishing with a park ranger, there was a lot of foot traffic on the trail between 42 and 43. We didn’t mind, but if you do, consider a different site. And also fair warning, someone did mention to me on the Texas RV Camping Facebook page that they had seen a rattlesnake and some water moccasins in this particular area. We kept and eye out, but never saw anything.

What we did while we were there

Camped, hiked, paddle boated, made memories with family, made s’mores and hamburgers, watched movies in the camper (we’re real people), fished, hit up the park store for ice cream, made a quick trip to Longhorn Cavern State Park to take a cave tour.

Other Things you can do there

They have at least 2 playgrounds, a Kona Ice truck, kayaks, canoes, more hiking trails, swimming in the lake & events depending on the day. Also I had my eye on a winery up Park Road 4 called Perissos Vinyard and Winery, but we didn’t actually go there.


Around the campsite

Campsite 43. You can see the canoes from the park store behind the camper.

Campsite 43. You can see the canoes from the park store behind the camper.

Golden hour behind our campsite looking towards the park store.

Golden hour behind our campsite looking towards the park store.

From our campsite (43) looking out over the cove.

From our campsite (43) looking out over the cove.

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Hiking

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My kids aren’t exactly experienced hikers so when picking out a hike, we went for something that appeared manageable. We chose Lower and Upper Fisherman’s Trail and essentially made a loop. We ended up on the dark green trail for a few minutes so we walked a little further than originally anticipated, but overall this was a great trail for them. They got to climb a little, see the lake, and it wasn’t too long or challenging for them (ages 3 and 5). Corbin fell a few times, but that’s mainly because he’s a little more clumsy than your average 3 year old.

Upper Fisherman’s Trail

Upper Fisherman’s Trail

Lower Fisherman’s Trail and they were only climbing because the wanted to. This is actually just above the trail.

Lower Fisherman’s Trail and they were only climbing because the wanted to. This is actually just above the trail.


Paddle Boats

Anyone curious what happens when I ask my kids to stand next to each other for a picture? THIS! This is what happens. This is why I don’t ask them to do it. Also the only reason I have this sad image is because we were about to buy ice cream and they weren’t taking a chance of not getting it. Also this was after getting off the paddle boats which ended up being a disaster because everyone was tired and both kids (who couldn’t even really reach the peddles) wanted to be able to peddle at the same time. We didn’t even use our full hour and then when I asked Saida what her favorite part of camping was after we’d been home a few days, she said the paddle boats. Blew my mind. I’m like you mean that thing we did where everyone whined the whole time. They really did have a great camping trip overall though.

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Longhorn Cavern State Park

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Longhorn Cavern State Park really wasn’t on our list of things to do on this trip, but when we realized it was literally down the street from Inks Lake State Park, we decided why not. To be honest I really wasn’t sure what we were getting into. I thought we could explore a cave on our own for like 20 minute and then go hit some trails (because from what I can tell they have some super easy and kid friendly trails), but turns out this cavern is much more expansive than I originally thought and it’s only accessible by a 90 minute guided tour. Obviously we took the tour and decided against any hiking trails since we were well into nap time by the time we finished. The kids absolutely loved it. Corbin was a litte over it about an hour in (because it was nap time) but overall he did really well (thank goodness).


We’re only three camping trips in, but so far we’ve really enjoyed each one. I think the kids are anxious to come back here again sometime soon. My final thought is that it’s a fantastic park for families and next time we look forward to bringing bikes for the kids as well. Maybe I’ll even hit up that winery and report back.

-Monica

Parabo Press For The Win + Free Square Prints + $10 Off

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I don’t have quite as much control over things when it comes to Saida anymore. She has her own style, her own likes, wants to decorate her room according to her own taste, and all that good business. I’m hanging on to as much control as I can, but I’m also kind of a believer in letting her explore and letting her take charge of some of those things within reason.

Putting up these super cute (AND FREE because we got the smaller ones which are always free) square prints from Parabo Press is a fun way for me to let her make her own decisions while winning the battle over her room decor. She got to pick each photo she wanted to display. Nevermind that we’re still wearing Christmas pajamas with unbrushed hair (and it’s the afternoon). Scroll down for a coupon code at the bottom of this post for $10 off your first order from Parabo Press. Or if you’d rather, just order the free prints and just pay shipping. Such a fun way to have your kids interact with photographs.

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Code for $10 off your first order from Parabo Press: MNEHAE

Galveston Island Camping Trip: More of My Happy

If you’ve known me for more than 5 minutes, you probably know that the beach/bay is the place my soul craves. Our latest camping trip to Galveston Island State Park was gloomy, windy, and cold. I didn’t care. It rained all weekend at home so gloomy, windy, and cold with a bay view seemed just fine to me. The sun came out on our last morning just as it was about time to start packing up. We decided to spend just 30 more minutes exploring before we had to leave and the dunes on the beach side of the island is where we ended up. They called it their mountain. They were in thier own kind of heaven and I can’t even explain to you how overwhelmingly happy and at peace I was in this moment. It’s the kind of happy and peaceful you forget exists until it sneaks up on you. There isn’t a worry or a care in the world because in that moment nothing else matters except being present and completely soaking it in and storing it in a place to keep you content until that feeling sneaks up on you again.

Beachside at Galveston Island State Park

Beachside at Galveston Island State Park

Leaving was the hardest thing. Nobody wanted to go.

More of my favorites from our trip below.

Galveston Island State Park Hiking Trail

Galveston Island State Park Hiking Trail

Lensbaby detail in the camper

Lensbaby detail in the camper

Saki Monkeys inside the Rainforest Pyramid at Moody Gardens

Saki Monkeys inside the Rainforest Pyramid at Moody Gardens

Outside Moody Gardens Rainforest Pryramid

Outside Moody Gardens Rainforest Pryramid

Inside Moody Gardens Rainforest Pyramid

Inside Moody Gardens Rainforest Pyramid

Walkways over the intercoastal at Galveston Island State Park

Walkways over the intercoastal at Galveston Island State Park

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Hiking at Galveston Island State Park

Hiking at Galveston Island State Park

Camper window light with a lensbaby

Camper window light with a lensbaby

We stayed with our RV at Galveston Island State Park on the bayside in site 55. I feel like sites 58-64 would be ideal in terms of a killer view of the bay. That’s my goal for next time. I think I acutally prefer the bayside to the beachside. The bay has a sense of calm that is totally my jam so I think I’d do that again.

We try to keep things simple. This was a quick trip so Moody Gardens Rainforest Pyramid is the only attraction we spent money on. We did things like drive by port on Saturday while two ships were in and the kids thought that was cool. We didn’t take the ferry this time, but kids also love that and it’s free. Just do it when it’s not crowded. In the past we’ve done the offshore oil rig museum which is pretty cool and affordable and just right there by the cruise ships, just with the wind we skipped it this time. I think Corbin would love it though so I want to take him to do that someday. What I really wanted to do was the oil rig museum at 4pm when the ships left so we could wave to the cruisers on deck as it passed by. That would have been cool, but our go with the flow attitude meant we weren’t around for that. Exploring the park and connecting with nature was priority for me even though we made time for fun in town too.

The Picture That Sums up Why we Bought a Camper / Our Trip to McKinney Falls State Park

I promised myself I’d start blogging about our camping trips once we actually started taking them. I wasn’t sure what these blog posts would be exactly. I’m pretty sure I was thinking at some point I would become some sort of camping expert and people would flock to my blog to hear about our trips and what cool things I did/cooked that they too need to be doing, but I’m not sure this is where that is going. Big dreams, huh? I feel inspired for like 5 minutes and then it’s gone so…. Also, like, I’m never going to be that person. EVER. I don’t have my shit nearly enough together for that.

This morning I edited a picture from our trip that basically sums up our reason for buying a camper and trying to take a camping trip every month. Do you want to see it? Not that your answer matters because I’m going to show it to you whether you want to or not.

Here it is…

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You: But Monica, that’s just a blurry photo of your child swinging on her hammock. How could that possibly sum up your reasons for buying a camper?

Me: Um no, it’s not. That photo right there is a feeling.

But for real, the out of focus element of this image is giving me this out of body experience where time has slowed significantly and I’m just exactly where I’m supposed to be. It’s that thing I was reaching for when we bought our camper. It’s that thing I’ve wasted the past 6 months or so of my life anxiously awaiting. It’s that thing we’ve been missing in this life that doesn’t ever seem to slow down. It just goes faster and faster and faster and we were afraid that before we knew it we’d wake up and our kids would be grown and we would have let the opportunity for these kinds of experiences pass us up.

It’s easy to skip these things over. It’s easy to say, “Well, life is just to damn busy to stop right now.” We live in a world where we have to intentionally schedule time to slow down and so that’s what we’re doing.

Me: You wanna see more of my favorites from this trip to McKinney Falls State Park?

You: Yes, Monica. I can’t think of anything I’d love more.

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Where we stayed: McKinney Falls State Park in Austin, Texas

Campsite: 18, (1 of 12 50 amp sites with water and electric). Very large pull through campsite with one site very close by (worked out fine because they never came out of their camper) and next to the bathrooms which turned out to not be a big deal at all. In fact when Corbin pooped in his pull up we were just thankful there was a dumpster nearby.

Just a Little Personal Work

So what do I do when I’m not photographing lifestyle family and newborn sessions for all of these amazing Central Texas and Austin area families?

I have impromptu mini sessions with my kids in sweet light and then swoon over them for a bit and oh my goodness does it make my heart happy.

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The Bazan Family: Austin Texas Lifestyle Family Photographer

A Central Texas Emotive Lifestyle Photo Session

The Bazan Family could have booked a session with anyone to document how they looked at this very time in their lives. There are countless photographers in the Austin area that could have done that for them and probably they would even do it for less money. The thing is the Bazan Family wasn’t interested in documenting how they look right now. The had something else entirely in mind.

The Bazan Family booked a session because they wanted to document the love and commitment their family had for one another with photographs.

These people are my people.

Not that traditional portraits don’t have their place because they do, but it’s not what I do. My single hope is that when my clients look at their photos years from now, they know that they were loved. I want them to feel how beautiful all the small moments were with just a single image. If they have half the response I did while editing these photos, I’ve done my job. This is the standard I have set for myself. This is why I’m picky about the kinds of sessions I’ll do.

These moments and being able to photography them and share what I do with others is a huge part of what fills me up.

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ATX Natural Baby GIVEAWAY

A Baby Goodness Giveaway for expecting mothers in Austin/Central Texas

***THIS GIVEAWAY IS FOR AUSTIN, TX AND SURROUNDING AREA EXPECTING MOTHERS***

Enter to win this entire collection of baby accessories hand picked by me for their organic and sustainable qualities as well as for being just plain adorable and a Lifestyle Newborn Photo Session. The gorgeous Honeycomb Baby Goods teether and Plan Toys Sustainable Play Piggy Bank found at my favorite shop in Buda, Thatcher, were the inspiration for the collection of baby items in this giveaway.

The final day to enter the giveaway is November 19, 2018, with a winner being announced on November 21, 2018 via Facebook Live. Good Luck!!

If you’re interested in visiting my friends at Thatcher in Buda, Texas, you can find them online at www.thatcherbuda.com or by visiting their expertly styled storefront at 218 Main Street, Buda, TX 78610.

Think of Someplace Warm

So I love yoga partly because I sometimes get to have these day dreamy moments at the instruction of my yoga teacher and nobody gets to ruin them by asking for fruit snacks or milk. It’s not every time I go, but I hadn’t actually been in over two weeks and my body and mind were screaming for some me time on the mat.

It was 90 degrees yesterday. It’s 45 degrees today so during a pre-class child’s pose Maria (my yoga instructor) asked us to think of someplace warm. 10 times out of 10 when you ask me to think of someplace warm, I’m going to think of my toes in the sand, the sun on my face, and gentle waves slowly lulling me to sleep. It’s my go to. I tried to go there today and you know what? I didn’t want to be there.

Who am I? Why do I not want to be at the beach? What other warm place could I possibly want to go?

And then I had my most favorite day dream of someplace warm to date. It was cold outside in this day dream (much like today), but I was snuggled in close on the couch in our new to us camper in front of the TV and space heater fireplace with the three people who mean the most to me in all the world. Wrapped in blankets we’re happy and warm and just soaking in all the goodness that is family confined to a small space. We’re drinking hot chocolate, the kids are laughing (I can actually hear Corbin laughing in my head and it makes me smile), Tyler and I are beaming with pride for the family we created, and I literally can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be.

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I can’t wait to start sharing our camping adventures with you. I love that we’re calling them adventures. I was showing Saida all the places we’d go and instead of asking where we’d camp next, she asked me to tell her what the next adventure would be. It was painful actually signing the paperwork for the second most expensive thing we currently own, but hearing her put it that way makes me realize I would have gladly paid even more to make these adventures her reality. These are the moments we were absolutely meant to live together and I’m glad we get to start sooner rather than later.

Stay tuned.

- Monica

The Myers Family: Buda Family Photography

Monica Brown - Central Texas Lifestyle Family Photographer

I love a good ole Lifestyle Family session that actually takes place on the family’s property. It just adds that extra touch of personalization that makes their photos even more uniquely them and my storytelling photographer heart leaves the session so very happy. This was one of those family photo sessions. The trees were absolutely perfect and the light was everything I could ever ask for. We had to dodge a cow pattie or two, but I’m totally cool with worse if it means this is the result. And of course that’s all just bonus to working with one of the sweetest families in all of Buda, Texas. Secretly I’ve been wanting to photography their two beautiful and kind girls for years.

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I love working with families in the Buda/Austin/Central Texas area that are looking for something a little different from the typical “say cheese” photos. If you’d love to hear more about what I do or if you’re ready to book a session, please contact me. I can’t wait to hear from you.

101 Uses for Monat's Rejuveniqe Oil (Including Mosquito Bites)

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If you’ve spent any time in Texas lately, you’ve probably been bit by a mosquito or two or twelve. Like everything else, they’re bigger in Texas and I have an ankle that’s sporting about 4 mosquito bites currently. It’s agonizing. I couldn’t sleep because nothing and I mean NOTHING stops the itching.

I’d finally had enough the other day and decided to give my Rejuveniqe Oil by Monat a try. Worst case scenario it doesn’t work and my ankle is at least thoroughly moisturized. I put a few drops in my hand, spent about 30 seconds rubbing it into my ankle and…… INSTANT ITCH RELIEF!!!!! Hallelujah!!! And it lasted. It wasn’t just relief for a couple minutes. I literally didn’t itch my ankle the entire rest of the day. Is there anything this stuff doesn’t do? It’s liquid gold.

Most often I use the Rejuveniqe Oil in my hair and on my face as a moisturizer when I don’t need to use my stuff with SPF. Turns out you can use it for far more than that though. After figuring out the mosquito bite itch relief thing, I knew I needed to share it and also start figuring out what other magic this stuff works. Monat actually has a three pager with 101 uses for Rejuveniqe Oil I’d like to share with you.

Maybe I also need to try number 27. New moms go check out number 54. Definitely keeping this in mind for the inevitable number 91.

Why We Invested In Memories Over Real Estate

There was this brief moment a few weeks ago where Tyler and I seriously considered buying a house. As seriously as we’ve done anything we were planning renovations for each room and really trying to understand the layout and falling in love with the sweet lot the house sat on. We’d only seen it in pictures and it just hit the market and literally every single room was going to need renovations. I’m down for renovations, don’t get me wrong, but there wasn’t going to be any money left for renovations.

That morning we’d been camper shopping so we were thrown for a loop when we saw this property pop up. Our options were camper or house, but not both. We already have a house so it’s not like we don’t have a place to be, but real estate is always a good investment, right? Campers just depreciate over time and all that.

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Sooooo, we passed up a super awesome real estate opportunity and decided to buy a camper. It wasn’t quite that simple, but it’s what we did. Here is what it came down to for me.

Real Estate vs. Memories

We got stuck in one of those time share presentations back in April in Sedona. We had no intention of buying, but there we were trying to collect the $100 promised to us for sitting through it. Side note: Don’t ever sit through one of these things for only $100. Ask them for the world before you show up and negotiate something much better than $100. Anyway, they ask you all these questions trying to guilt you into buying a timeshare because if you don’t, you obvioulsy don’t love your kids or your mother-in-law. Legit this is what the dude working for Diamond Resorts more or less told me. I wish I was kidding. The thing that made sense from that presentation was investing in memories. We’re not timeshare people, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to start making the kinds of memories I cherish from my childhood with my own children. So we bought a camper and invested in moments and memories for our family. We can buy an new house with more land later after we handle some more things financially, but I’d prefer to start making the memories now. Each day is a gift and it would sure be a shame if we let these years pass us by with regret. Something tells me we’ll never regret a single day spent with our kiddos exploring nature and making s’mores.

Why I Don't Do Mini Sessions | Monica Brown Lifestyle Photographer

Central Texas Lifestyle Photographer | Monica Brown

Okay so I've done this blog post before, but I switched websites and it's gone now so I thought I do it again.  It was literally the most visited thing on my old website.

But first let's just get something super clear before we get this started...

Mini sessions aren't bad.  I'm not saying you should never sign up for mini sessions.  I actually envy the photographers that do them and do them well and there is absolutely a place for them in the market.

This blog post is about me, what I want out of each photo session, and how wanting that means I can't get to the part of the session that I consider my art in under 20 minutes (the typical length of a mini session).

So on to why I don't do mini sessions...

My goal 100% of the time when I'm photographing a family session is to get to the meat of the session.  That part where you can really start to see a clear picture of the family dynamics and genuine connections between family members.  

My most favorite compliment I get is when someone tells me I've captured their child's soul or when a family tells me the images we created together really tell the story of their family.  I can't tell the story of your family in 20 minutes.  I can't do the thing I consider my art in 20 minutes.  I've tried.  I'm just not capable.  I did mini sessions once and there was absolutely nothing mini about it and we didn't get to the part that makes my heart really sing until at least 20 minutes in.  Were the pictures from the first 20 minutes bad?  No.  We're they the stuff my dreams are made of?  Not really.

In the first 20 minutes were trying to settle in, I'm figuring out the family dynamic and the best way to incorporate it into the images I'm creating.  Everyone is getting used to the camera attached to my head and figuring out that they don't need to look at it.

And then once we get through all of that, the magic happens

So to really illustrate my point, I want to share with you some of my favorite images that were taken AFTER THE FIRST 20 MINUTES.  The images that would never be, the moments we'd never have created together, if I shut it down at 20 minutes.

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So let's just leave those family photography pinterest pins right where you left those pins for organizing your home closets..... on pinterest.  We don't need them because we're going to slow down, take our time, and create moments everyone else is going to wish they had, but they'll be yours.

Lifestyle Family Photo Session: The Zeiglers

Monica Brown | Central Texas Lifestyle Family Photographer

Sometimes the best part of my job is just getting out there and meeting some of the awesome people who live near me.  This is the most rewarding part about the work I've done with our local neighborhood magazine, Neighbors of West Buda.  The September issue showed up in my mailbox last week and I'm just can't not share this Family Lifestyle Session with the Zeiglers with you.  

My one word to describe this family is AWESOME.  Also if you love a good romantic suspense novel, Amey (mom of this family) wrote one worth reading called Baker's Dozen, which can be found on My Amazon Favorites page.  I've personally read it and can definitely recommend it to you.  Click the button below to buy it.

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First Day of Kindergarten

I only have to survive 40 more minutes before I get the oldest child back from her very first day of Kindergarten!!!

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Y'all I made it a whole day with her in the care of someone she isn't related to and I didn't even cry once.  I got close like two times, but it was because I was so proud of her and because her teacher added photos to the class Facebook page.  

I talked about this on Facebook and Instagram this morning.  I love watching my kids reach these milestones. I try not to rush things, but I genuinely love watching them them grow and learn and do the things kids are supposed to do.  I don't want my babies to be babies forever.  There are definitely some ages and stages I miss, but I also wouldn't trade them for the stages we're in now.  We've been there, we've done that and now we're going to do this other thing and it too is going to be awesome (and maybe awful all at the same time, idk).  

We tried to do the obligatory first day of school sign photos this morning.  I'm not sure we're cut out for this.  I could have spent more time forcing them into standing still and things, but somehow this one seems to fit the day and the attitudes of the day perfectly.  Plus also of course my kid is the one that managed to bust up her face two days before the first day of school.  I feel like we're being judged already.

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I'm so anxious to see if she's as excited this afternoon as she was this morning and I pretty sure I need a hug.  Time to go find my shoes and walk the couple blocks to school.

Galveston 2018

Just sitting here pushing refresh from time to time of the parent portal for your school district.  In just under 20 minutes we find out who Saida's Kindergarten teacher is.  Back to school night is tonight and I'm just hoping I'm not a hot mess of tears for the whole thing.  So to distract me from constantly checking the damn thing for the next 20 minutes or so, I thought I'd share some of my favorite photos from our Galveston beach trip because I still haven't done that.  

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Monat Monday: What I Ordered During The Latest Flash Sale

You know it's going to be a good week when your Monat Flash Sale order shows up on a Monday.  Plus I'm having a good hair day thanks to Monat, my coffee was just like I like it this morning and nobody has peed on the floor yet today (that I know of) soooooo... life is good.  

So what was the last flash sale and what did I order?  The flash sale was buy a system (including the Junior line) and create your own travel size system for $10.  In addition to that you also got a sample of the color enhance duo FOR FREE.  

Oh and did I mention FREE SHIPPING?  Amazon Prime has made me a sucker for free shipping.

This came just in time because it's been 10 months ish since our first order of the Monat Junior line and we're just about out.  This means one of two things.  I either don't wash my kids' hair enough or this stuff lasts forever.  Maybe it's a combo of both.  

No matter what, I always get a little excited when one of these boxes shows up on my doorstep.



So everything you see below cost me $51 + tax with my Market Partner discount.  That discount is a huge part of why I signed up to be a Market Partner.  The Junior Line is regularly $59, VIP Price is $50, and as a Market Partner I pay $41.  

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What We Love About the Monat Junior Line

  • It's tear-free, sulfate-free, and paragon-free
  • a child's hair is more fragile and fine and the Junior Line was formulated with that in mind
  • It comes with conditioner!!!  My daughter has long hair that she almost never wants to wear up and she certainly doesn't want to cut it.  Trying to brush that out after shampooing with children's shampoo that was not Monat was total agony.  Having a children's conditioner is saving time, hair from being damaged, and maybe our relationship as mother and daughter.  Okay that's maybe a little dramatic, but you get the point.  The experience brushing her hair after a bath with Monat is night and day from what it used to be.

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This Stuff only Cost me $10

What is it about travel size stuff that gets me excited?  I don't even travel that much and when I do it's typically not on a plane.  Have you ever seen a dry shampoo so cute in all your life?  

I'm thinking that dry shampoo might just go in my purse.  I feel like you never know when you might need some dry shampoo.

I'm also just excited to try the Colour Enhance duo.  I'm a brunette, but I ordered the Brilliant Blonde because I have blonde-ish highlights.  I've heard other say it really makes them stand out and I wanted to give it a try.



Monat is really expanding their selection of hair products.  It can be a little overwhelming if you don't know where to start.  Take the Hair Quiz to find out which products are right for your hair needs.  Visit my website to make your purchase or learn more about the products.

I Really Wanted to Be a Soccer Mom (Not a Dance Mom)

It's true, I didn't want to be a dance mom.  The only reason I went to dance as a kid was goof off with another friend of mine (as evidenced by the dance recital home video my parents have when that friend and I were both one step behind every other girl in our dance class).  Friend, you know who you are.

My husband and I both played soccer so last fall we put Saida in soccer.  The only way I could get her on the field was holding the coach's hand with a promise of the biggest handful of pom balls she could grab for her pom ball jar (our good behavior reinforcement system).  I wish I could say I had pictures of this, but at the time I was not amused.  She's done one other thing that was more frustrating and that was swim lessons last summer.  I still prefer not to talk about it.

If the girl could do one thing all day, it's dance.  She loves it.  I love watching her, but I didn't want to be a dance mom.  There was a whole show dedicated to those moms and if I remember correctly, it painted them crazy and we're like the least competitive people in the world.  

But what it comes down to for me is letting my kid follow her own path.  I could force her in to soccer all day, but who is that really for?  As long as the decisions she's making are healthy, I'm more inclined to just let her choose the things that make her happy.  I don't have to fight her to go to class and she actually cares enough about it to try.

So here's to being a dance mom.  If you're looking for me I'll be the one in the corner at dance class reading Rachel Hollis and feeling thankful for an hour of nobody asking me to do anything.

By the way, the last day of summer dance was yesterday.  Cutest thing ever.

Post Vacation Monday

I have a few choice words for post vacation Monday.  Usually I'm all like Yay Monday! Lets make this week awesome, but today I'd like to take Monday out to the parking lot.

Problem #1:  We're out of milk.  I've let us run out of milk one other time since Saida became a milk monster and last night was the second time.  The problem is her milk was already poured and in her cup for this morning and she completely drained it before I made my coffee.  I'm not a fan of black coffee.

Problem #2:  Before I could even take one drink of my freshly brewed black coffee, Corbin informs me that the dog just peed on the carpet in my bedroom.  Seriously?  He had been outside for at least a couple hours before I let him in less than 5 minutes before this happened.  

So I'm currently surviving Monday morning on black coffee and Young Living's Stress Away Essential Oil Blend while looking at our freshly painted walls because for some reason we thought it would be fun to spend all of yesterday painting our main living space with kids in attendance.  

Problem #3: I'm tired as hell and my body is like No.

So here's to hoping Tuesday starts out with properly prepared coffee and dry carpet.

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The McKenna Children's Museum

So if you keep up with my blog you know that we were supposed to be in Galveston until today, but family issues resulted in us coming home early. This means we're home, Tyler has time off, and with Saida getting ready to start Kindergarten, we want make the most of this little bit of "vacation" time we have/had left.

We really didn't know what we wanted to do with this time though.  We just knew that we wanted to do it together.  After putting out an SOS to a local moms group on Facebook, we had a few suggestions to fill our time.  We chose to head down to New Braunfels (about 35 minutes away) to the McKenna Children's Museum.  We actually have a children's museum in Austin too that's technically closer, but we like to avoid the Austin traffic whenever possible.  


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Why we chose The McKenna Children's Museum for our Day Trip

  • 35 minutes is a cinch.  I hear the children's museum in San Antonio is great, but we left later than I would have liked and adding on an extra 30 minutes each way to the trip is just something we didn't have time for today.
  • It was cost effective.  We paid $7.50/person to get in.  The Thinkery in Austin would have been $12/person and The Doseum in San Antonio would have been $14/person.  I'm feeling like we definitely got our money's worth.
  • It's inside (mostly).  I thought about going to the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch, but it's hot.  Texas is sitting at a whopping 100 degress today and wasn't about to go spend nearly $60 to hang out in the sun.  Yes you get to drive your car around, but I still have to wonder if the animals would even be out moving.  We'll save that idea for cooler weather.
  • Our kids really just seem like the ideal ages for a children's museum.  Saida just turned 5 and Corbin is 2 and a half.  Children's museums are a safe place for them to run and play without limits and we love just watching them do it.
  • It gets rave reviews from just about every mom who has ever taken their kids there.

What we found at the McKenna Children's Museum

The Grocery Store Exhibit

I'm going to be honest, I haven't been to a children's museum since I was a kid and I don't really remember much about it.  Actually the only thing I sort of remember from that experience was the grocery store exhibit.  I remember thinking this is what it feels like to be a grown up when in that exhibit.  Oh to be that naive again.  But anyway, the grocery store exhibit didn't disappoint.  I especially loved seeing the things they picked out on their own shopping experience.  Corbin basically filled his cart with cheese.  If there was ever any doubt he was his mother's child, I think that doubt is gone now.  

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The Wonder Shop Exhibit

The Wonder Shop was something Saida was looking forward to.  I showed her Instagram photos of the museum before we went and she's just always down for a good painting session.  I imagined this exhibit a little more out in the open.  I was happy to find it in a room separate from the chaos of the main space of the children's museum.  

I'm not always that mom that's going to hand Corbin some paints and let him go at it.  He's a two and half year old boy which means things almost never go according to plan and I'm typically not in the mood to clean up after what went wrong.  I love that he got to paint next to his sister.  His sister is still upset that he added green to her paper where she didn't want it, but this moment made me happy.  

Helpful Tip: Do this early enough in your visit to allow more time for your paintings to dry.  We did it about half way through and as liberal as my kids are with paint, they were still wet when we put them in the car.  Fortunatley my cargo space was pretty clear and we had room to set them down flat on the way home.  

 


The Great Outdoors Exhibit

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The main attraction outside is the water.  It's basically the ultimate water table full of fishing (for toy fish), waterslide racing (for toys), and a bunch of other educational ways to interact with the water.  My kids loved this area and we sat there and watched them while silently thanking the McKenna folks for having this space under cover.  August in Texas is hot.  

Helpful Tip:  Bring a change of clothes just in case.  My kids can be pretty timid so they really didn't get wet, but I could see how it would be easy to leave this area a bit covered in water.  Chances are you know if your kid is one of those fun loving kids who may walk away wet.

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Also outside was a music area.  Honestly I felt like the music area could have been a little cooler, but my kids still thought it was pretty cool and I guess that is what matters most.  The xylophone was definitely thier favorite instrument to play.

There are also opportunities to climb and build outside so basically this area has a little bit of something for everyone (including benches for mom and dad).  

I knew this would be one of our favorite spots and I purposely saved it for last in our visit because... water.... and kids.  

 

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Hill Country Campground Exhibit

This was a suuuuuper cute area.  I'm kind of a sucker for a vintage inspired play camper and tent.  The photographer in me also loved it because it was close to a wall of windows and natural light is kind of like my very best friend.  Also we went and looked at campers after this so this is just where I am in life right now anyway.  This area also included a little cave with bat wings to put on the kiddos.  My kids probably would have taken those bat wings home.  I smell a diy project sometime in the future maybe.  

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Destination Space Exhibit

I hope my kids explore this one a little more next time.  Saida actually really loved walking through the outter space room which is basically a pitch black room with stars.  I couldn't even see the walkway it was so dark.  For a kid who insists on a night light, I was super shocked she loved it so much.  Corbin hated it.  There was so much more in that area though that they never touched so maybe next time.

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Other exhibits not mentioned that they also really enjoyed are the Amazing Airways Exhibit, The Town Square, and The Kids Clinic.

I mean really this whole place is super adorable and so inviting for play.  A steal for $7.50 per person.  The bottom line is that if we lived even 15 minutes closer, we'd have a family membership.  A family of 4 can buy a membership for only $125 a year.  It would pay for itself in about 5 visits.


So my recommendation is YES, DEFINITELY GO!!!  And if you live close, DEFINITELY PAY FOR A MEMBERSHIP!!!

For more information on the McKenna Children's Museum in New Braunfels, click the button below.


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This is just to add another level of cuteness to the post.  Also yes, he is wearing Tito's Vodka Sunglasses.  They're his favorite.

A Repeat of 7 Years Ago

What I had planned for this morning:

Waking up at the beach and watching the sun come up while drinking coffee.

What actually happned this morning:  

Woke up by my child at regular time in our home after vacation abruptly ended last night and we pulled into our driveway at 2 am this morning.  Still drinking coffee.  Getting ready to go grab my second cup because this day isn't going to happen without it.

Why it's the way it is:

We have a family tradition of taking this trip to the beach each year.  It started when I was young with a trip to South Padre Island and since then we've been all up and down the Texas coast from South Padre Island to Galveston Island.  Of course as our family grew, so did the number of people going.  I can think of two years where I didn't go.  One was when I was 8 months pregnant with Saida and the other was the year after the big family fight from seven years ago.  

I won't go into the details, but basically the result of what happened was that I had minimal contact with my mom for about a year and basically zero positive contact with my dad.  I survived off Tyler, Eli Young band's Life At Best album, and the stronger bond forming with my brother and his family.  I cried a lot of tears in this year and it taught me to remain calm (or appear calm) in the face of irrational anger.  I got really good at it actually.  

Very similar circumstances led to Tyler and I choosing to remove our family from this year's family vacation only mid way through.  The fight was not my fight, but my children as witnesses to hateful language is something I have control over.  As their mom my single option was to load them into the car at 10pm and remove them from the home we all stay in together.  

I'm not sure what our foreseeable furture looks like in terms of family relationships, but I'm sadened that my kids lose in this situation.  I can handle myself and I've done it before, but they're just kids caught in the crossfire.  

What's funny is the night before we left to go on this trip I came across all the photos I took from my parent's house after that fight 7 years ago.  I wanted at least a few photographs from my childhood because I didn't know if I would ever enter my parent's house again and I wanted them for my future children.  I wanted to remember that even though things were bad at that moment, we had good memories and moments worth hanging on to.  

I didn't have a bad childhood.  I dealt with things I don't want my children to deal with, but I was always safe and fed and not needing for anything material.  I can't change people.  I can't change what's happened in my life up until now.  All I can really do is keep doing my best and encouraging my kids to be good and kind people.   That's not always easy.  I'm not always the perfect example, but when things don't go exactly how I would like, I'm not throwing in the towel.  We're going to wake up tomorrow, put our big girl pants on, and try again.

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The plan for now is to just take it day by day.  That's all I've got.  Also I'm wondering what the soundtrack of this drama is going to be. Maybe more on that later.

-Monica