Travel Diaries: San Antonio Re-cap

Pardon the water spots on the mirror.

Hey friends! So, summer showed up! (insert laughing emoji) This dress was my momiform last summer, and I wasn’t disappointed at all when I found it while pulling out all of our summer clothes last week before we took a long weekend trip to San Antonio.

We had the sweetest time there visiting with our family and celebrating my great-grandmother who turned 100 this past Sunday.

We decided to try a couple new things this trip; one being we stayed at a VRBO instead of hotel. My parents generously rented a house for them, our little crew, and my two siblings to stay in (so 6 adults total + 2 toddlers) just around the corner from my grandparents’ (where all of the festivities would be). David and I are completely sold on using VRBO or Air BNB for long weekends going forward- no more hotels. Having a fenced in back yard to stick the kids in was such a blessing (for all affected parties) after our 9 hour car ride. Plus we didn’t have to worry about kids waking up at all hours of the night or coming back to the hotel for naps right when house keeping was in the middle of changing bed sheets.

We also explored the San Antonio Aquarium, which was something none of us had ever done before. It was a great little spot for toddlers since they have so many hands-on exhibits. I would highly recommend it IF you have an hour that you need to fill, and you don’t really want to be outside. I was able to get a Groupon for our tickets, which significantly reduced the price, so check them out before you buy tickets, and don’t plan on spending a whole day there (it only takes 1-2 hours to experience everything) or go on a Friday like we did (aka field trip day aka lots of little crowds).

The kids have talked about the exhibits with the birds and alpacas since we got home as well as a fiesty little tortoise who almost crawled out of his exhibit.

But what’s been really special is all the talking they’ve done about their cousins and family members who they got to spend time with while we were at my great-grandma’s birthday party. My brother (pictured above) mentioned how special, and rare, it was to have a day where everyone (except for two family members who were down with a stomach bug) could come together and genuinely enjoy each others company for an entire day. Not to mention how rare it is to celebrate someone becoming 100 years old!

On our drive home, I kept thinking about his comment. The truth is family gatherings with toddlers are a little overwhelming for us right now. We enjoy seeing family and being with them, but we’re never able to 100% focus on a conversation or even stay the whole time. We usually have to skip out for a bit for naps and most places aren’t 100% toddler proof. (Am I the only one who is terrified someone is going to give my two year old a grape while I’m not looking?) And you’re going to have toddler meltdowns at some point on a trip, so odds are one could very well go down right smack dab in the middle of the family gathering.

So, I wanted to encourage the other mamas (and dads) who know the feeling. I know you’re out there, because many of my friends fall into our boat too. “Is it really even worth it?” is a question I hear posed a lot when it comes to bringing toddlers to social gatherings.

We’re super privileged to have family who GETS IT. Aunts and uncles and cousins who help, grandparents who say when we have to leave early, “It’s ok! Go. Take care of your family.” But that still doesn’t remove all the overwhelmingness that manages to creep in before and during the gathering.

My dad encouraged me a couple months ago to tackle social gatherings (and trips in general) with a man-to-man offensive strategy. I take one kid; David takes another. Sometimes, we have to switch, and sometimes we have to tag another family member to cover for us for a minute. But, we’re still on the same team with the same goal. We usually remind each other what the goal is too before we walk into the gathering. (e.g. We’re here to celebrate Mammaw.) It helps me stay focused and not get so overwhelmed, AND it helps limit directing our frustrations towards each other.

We’re not perfect parents. We don’t have this parenting thing down pat, but this strategy (along with respectful communication) did help a lot at my great-grandma’s birthday party, and we plan to use it from now on while we’re in this stage of life with littles who need so much of our attention.

Some social situations aren’t going to be conducive with toddlers. They’re just not, and it’s 100% ok to skip out. But other things, like great-grandma’s 100th birthday party, are non-negotiable. We’re going to be there no matter what, and I’m grateful for a new tool in the toolbox to limit my anxiety while we’re there. That way, when it’s over, my kids aren’t the only one with fond memories of the occasion.

Do you have a strategy you implement in large social gatherings with your little kids? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Until next time,

❤ Lindsay


Kristina: Saturday’s are for Thrifting!

Anyone who knows me is well aware (and probably sick-to-death of the fact) that I LOVE spending my Saturdays visiting thrift stores. My memory doesn’t even reach back far enough to tell you when the thrill of buying secondhand items transitioned into an obsession. All I know is that as a kid, I would absolutely live for Saturday’s in the “junk” stores with Mema and Papa. Now I drag my poor husband, my mother, my friends…basically anyone with free time…all over town to different thrift stores.

Now that our society is shifting to a more environmentally friendly way of living, people from all walks of life are learning to enjoy browsing for second-hand finds. This old pro has definitely learned some tips and tricks over the years and I suppose I should share a few of them after hearing so many people say, “I never find anything!”

 

1. Plan ahead or make it part of your routine

The thing with thrift stores—it’s literally luck of the draw. There’s no way of knowing what they will have. This might seem a little obvious but the more often you go, the more you will go home with! I have been known to go to stores DAILY because they put new

IMG_20181006_185318661

My latest Saturday thrift haul! We visited four stores, all within a 10 mile radius and I spent less than $30.

things on the floor every single day. Yes, there are totally some clerks out there who know me by name. My husband also stops by thrift stores on his way in from work. I understand this might not be reasonable for some folks, but if you live in a larger area, your thrift stores will have better hours so take advantage of your free evenings and weekends!

2. Make your expectations reasonable

Y’all, it’s truly a miracle if I walk in a thrift store and find the exact thing I was looking for. It happens…but it still surprises me when it does. It’s simple: lower your expectations. Instead of walking through the doors with a list of specific items in your head, get used to browsing the shelves looking for items that catch your eye. Keep your

Processed with VSCO with  preset

This crystal bowl amongst all this clutter spoke to me. It’s super heavy, real crystal, and was half price! Perfect for serving salads at dinner parties.

interests broad and flexible. For example, I like crystal and milk glass for serving food to guests. I went to the stores remembering that I will soon be hosting a dinner party. I didn’t “know” that I needed a crystal bowl for salads…until I saw the crystal bowl that would be perfect for salads! It goes great with the items I already have.

3. Check for defects

I should probably say “expect” defects. Don’t forget that thrift store items are previously used. Even if something sat in someone’s house unused, it likely got bumped around during the donation-to-floor process. I am a firm believer that small dings or scratches gives an item character. Even so, it’s best to always give your item a quick look just in case it’s a flaw you can’t live with or at least do a small repair. I feel a stain removal post brewing… I have all but mastered the art of stain removal. Defected items are also PERFECT for an upcycle or re-do project! Don’t be afraid to think outside the box on how to use an item, and definitely don’t let imperfections make you shy away from a

Processed with VSCO with  preset

Shout-out to ARC Thrift Stores for having the best Halloween section ever!

great deal. Think of it this way: Would you rather pay $2 for an item that needs a minute’s worth of mending? Or would you rather pay roughly $30 retail?

4. Browse all sections

I’m not going to lie. My favorite section right now is the Halloween costume section. At my favorite thrift chain, they don’t just put the cheap polyester costumes out… They put out anything with a bit of flair, color, or character. Vintage, new… everything! Another thing to watch for— people who put things out on the floor at thrift stores will occasionally make mistakes, or might not even know what something is supposed to be. At

Processed with VSCO with  preset

C.S. Lewis is known for his works on Christianity, but his books might also be found in Classic, Vintage, or even the Children’s sections!

one store I used to visit in my old neighborhood, someone thought that “PS” on a size tag stood for “Plus Size” so I often found petite smalls in that section. Now, my size medium/large body was not able to take advantage of this particular mistake, but I know there’s a petite small out there who will be excited about this little hint. It’s not just clothing that will be in random places. Last week, I even found a cool vintage camera bag in the pet supplies section, nestled in with the collars, bowls, and carriers. Also, after browsing the entire Christian section of books for anything by C.S. Lewis, I discovered this book in the vintage section. I wouldn’t have originally thought to look there!

5. Get the most for your money

A thrift store’s sole purpose is usually to raise money for charity. They want to move items, and they want to move them fast. Most thrift stores, particularly chains, will have some sort of color coded tagging system to keep up with which items were brought onto the floor during which week. They will rotate the sale color depending on which items have been there the longest. If they don’t have a color coded system, they’ll probably have certain sections with a discount. Most thrift stores also offer price

Processed with VSCO with  preset

Similar item, different costs! I imagine different workers priced these items, but I went home with the cheaper of the two!

reductions for senior citizens and service members. Also, my best tip for saving money while thrifting… if the item you’re looking for is fairly common, make sure to compare prices on multiples or being willing to come back at another time.

6. Learn to enjoy the hunt

Fair warning for those of you who aren’t accustomed to the ways of thrifting… It can be crazy, especially on the best discount days. People will be rude. You can leave empty-handed. You’ll probably leave the store feeling like you need a shower. Thrift stores will

be dirty and disorganized after people have rifled through them. Pack some hand-sanitizer, lower you expectations, and learned to block out the people around you (but don’t become one of the mean ones). Once you get in the zone and focused, you’ll likely enjoy browsing through the unique, one-of-a-kind items you’ll come across. Just relax and pretend you’re on a scavenger hunt—even if you don’t know what you’re looking for!

7. Dig

I won’t lie to you—people often hide the good stuff in the back in hopes to return on a discount day. Don’t be afraid too look behind things, or at every single item in a section.

IMG_20181006_155237490

It looks chaotic in there… But I would be there are some treasures!

This is also another great reason to shop other sections. I have learned to never leave a thrift store without an item I wanted because it probably won’t be there when you go

back. I found this awesome vintage Tolkien set hidden in the middle of the furniture section, pretty far from the book aisle.

8. Make friends with the workers

As I mentioned earlier, there are some workers out there who know me by name. This is easier to do in small shops where the workers are volunteers who work often. They are there because they want to be and they’ll likely be your best ally when it comes to finding good deals. And the best part, it’s just nice to see a friendly, familiar face when you walk into a store. It will help you learn to enjoy thrifting when you look forward to seeing the people who work there. There have been numerous times when I have had people call or message me on social

Processed with VSCO with  preset

That’s me—Sporting a 65 cent dress I got at a thrift store called Wata-Deal in my hometown. I bought a couple dozen items BEFORE they even hit the floor because they called me to let me know some vintage came in!

media, just to show me fun new items that came in to the shop. It’s nice to know when people are looking out for you. Now that I’ve moved to a larger city, I totally miss these people and can’t wait until I have made some new friends in the shops!

9: Wash IMMEDIATELY if possible.

People will donate anything. And I do mean an-y-thing. Even though your item looks and smells clean, there’s a pretty decent probability it touched something that would make you cringe. Don’t let your littles have their toys until they have been properly sanitized, and if it’s an item that can’t be washed, you can place it outside in the sun to kill germs.

10: Shop local

Not a lot of people think about this but when you buy from most chain thrift stores, there’s no guarantee that your money is staying in your community, or even your state. It

takes a pretty hefty price to run large corporations and most of them will not be based out of your community. I recommend first searching for local programs you would be ok with supporting and see if they have a thrift store. For example, I particularly search for Humane Society thrift stores when I go to a new town because I

IMG_20180612_145009787

This is my girl, Lou! She got a new harness and some treats from a local human society thrift store! What better way to help out other pups?

love animals! My hometown has several small charity thrift shops (zero chains), and I absolutely loved going to them because not only did I know exactly who my money was helping, I knew the workers and the items were even more reasonably priced than I would have found in the larger stores. I’m also a huge fan of thrift stores that at least stay within your state and tell you the exact purpose of their charity. My favorite in my area is ARC Thrift Stores, which is based in my state of Colorado and they help people with developmental disabilities (I have no affiliation with them, by the way. Just another shameless love plug for the second time in this post!).

 

Ok guys and gals, I could totally write all day long on this subject, so I’d better stop for now. I’m sure you’ll be seeing more thrift-help posts in the future so stay tuned! Happy thrifting!

xoxo,

Kristina

 

 

A Toddler Mom’s Review of the Memphis Zoo

My husband and I love to travel, but traveling has taken on a whole knew meaning (and energy level requirement) since we became parents. Thankfully, we’re getting a lot better at it, the proof being we up and took a day trip recently to the Memphis Zoo.

If you’ve been following me on Insta for awhile, you know we go to our local zoo a lot. But on this particular day, what we needed was to get out of town. Ok, to be honest, what I needed was to get out of the house and out of town for as long as feasibly possible. So, we drove to Memphis and set our GPS for the Memphis Zoo.

This is the 3rd zoo we’ve taken our kids to. They’ve been to the Little Rock Zoo and the San Antonio Zoo… and technically “A” has also been to the Georgia Aquarium. So, we couldn’t help but take a bunch of mental notes while we were in Memphis about how the Memphis Zoo fares for families with toddlers.

Here are our take-aways…

1. Get there as early as possible. Like most zoos, the animals tend to be most active first thing in the morning. So, if you want to see animals actually moving around, or just see them at all, you’re going to want to get there as soon as you can. This also helps you beat the crowds that will build up in front of the most interesting exhibits near the front of the zoo. This is important with the littles, because they’re going to have a harder time finding some of the animals in their exhibits, especially if they’re sleeping behind something. Being there when the animals are active and when there are less people will definitely make it more enjoyable for your tot, and therefore you.

IMG_2809

We pretty much skipped all of the exhibits towards the front of the park since we got there an hour after it opened. 

2. Bring your stroller. The Memphis Zoo is a pretty decent size and contains hills. If you have even just one toddler, we’d recommend bringing your good stroller (and I’m not talking about your standard umbrella stroller). I’m talking about your super sturdy stroller that has storage and cup holders and a spot for your mom hook. If you have more than one toddler (or a toddler and an infant), bring your double stroller for sure. We love our double stroller and consider it one of the very best investments we made in baby gear before our 2nd child was born. I do wish, however, that I’d also brought my baby carrier. We ended up carrying each kid quite a bit because of takeaway #3…

IMG_2816

Holding “J” so he could see the elephants.

3. Many of the exhibits are not stroller-rider friendly. And by that I mean the child who is sitting in a stroller can’t see into the exhibit. Not all of the exhibits were this way, but many were. Which meant, we were picking the kids up a lot. So, if you’re prepared for this, mentally and you have the right gear, it’s more than doable.

4. Lots of amenities. We loved that there were so many snack spots, bathrooms, and misters throughout the park. There were also a variety of rides and a fountain / splash pad (which had we packed swimsuits I would have absolutely let my kids play in because it was HOT that day). We also liked that there were several animal encounters you could participate in for an extra fee.

IMG_2822

Splash pad! It’s in front of the lodge if you’re looking at the Memphis Zoo map.

5. Watch for the tram and golf carts. We were surprised at how much vehicular traffic there was on the paths throughout the zoo. At one point we were even three wide – us, a golf cart, and the tram, all side by side. We didn’t feel like we could just let our kids walk freely in many areas of the park because the trams and golf carts would come up on us pretty suddenly. We’re sure the drivers are very vigilant, but we would have preferred for the tram to have it’s own rail and the pedestrians to have their own path.

IMG_2817

We may have stopped at every mister.

6. We’d go again. For a day trip with toddlers, it was perfect. In fact, we didn’t even get through the whole zoo before the kids were done and ready to enjoy some Memphis BBQ. And in my book, that’s the perfect scenario for our family. I’d rather tap out early without seeing everything than get through the whole thing in 30 minutes and be wishing we’d spent our money on something else.

IMG_2819

Seal watching! I think this was one of my favorite exhibits.

Traveling with toddlers is a lot of work. But thankfully there are places out there that make it a little easier for your family to travel to, and we agree, the Memphis Zoo was one of them.

Until next time,

❤ Lindsay

P.S. This post does contain affiliate links, but all opinions are always my own. Thank you for clicking through! 

 

 

Roots & Jaguars

We took the kids to the zoo earlier this week. It is one of our favorite places to go spend a few hours together as a family. It’s just the right size for our small children and has a fairly wide range of animal species for being a smaller zoo. David and I agreed that day was by far the most active we’d seen the animals out of all our visits. David suggested it could have been due to the slightly cooler temps we had that day. Whatever the reason, it made for a livelier walk through the zoo than normal. (I’ll share my story about the bird who was trying to attack me through the fence for another time.)

 

Not only were the animals more active, but some of the animals who usually keep themselves hidden away were out for us to see. We saw the grizzly bear, another bear that I didn’t catch the name of, these dogs from South America, some really cool monkeys with long white hair, and the most beautiful cat I’ve ever seen… a jaguar.

IMG_2675-1

It was the most beautiful creature I think I’ve ever seen. I even walked back to his exhibit after we left, so I could take a picture. While I was doing so, David walked up behind me with the kids and said, “You know, that right there is what you were probably running around with that one time.”

My eyes got big, and I cringed. I knew exactly what he was referring to.

“You could have had one of those up in the trees while you were running and you never would have known it.”

And now it’s time for a story to put his statements into context…

Several years ago I served as a team nurse on a short term mission trip to Ecuador. It was my second time to go there and serve with this particular ministry. I’d gone several years prior as a teenager with my youth group, so I thought I knew what I was signing up for.

I had no clue.

This trip was unlike any I’d been on before. (And that’s saying something if you know much about my history.) I could tell you story after story about the things we experienced- it’s almost mind boggling that we were only down there for 10 days.

But, one experience that stands out, which David was referring to, was the trip we took via one engine aircraft to a remote jungle village. I honestly don’t remember the name of the village. I wish I did. But, it was located just a short walk from the Curaray River and 15 minutes upstream from Palms Beach, where Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Flemming, and Roger Youderian were killed by natives in 1956.

Our plan for the day was to fly in, hold an open air meeting at the village, and then if time permitted, travel by boat to see the beach where this tragedy occurred, sail back, hop on our planes, and fly back to the city.

Upon landing we were greeted by a swarm of warm smiles including that of an old wrinkly gentleman holding the skull of a jaguar, whom he’d killed a few days prior after it tried to get inside his hut. Then someone mentioned something about a small child being snatched out of a canoe by an anaconda the previous week.

I considered climbing back into the plane and staying there all day. But, the planes were leaving. Although we had chartered them for this trip, these weren’t private jets. They were Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) planes that delivered medical and food supplies to remote villages. These pilots had a full schedule to get to, and I had a team of teenagers to help look after, so I swallowed hard and just focused on keeping an eye on our surroundings.

I heard a pilot mention to our host missionary that we had to be back at the airfield (which was just a giant clearing in the jungle forest) by 2:30pm, and if we weren’t there, they’d have to come back for us the next day, because they had a schedule and couldn’t wait. Our host missionary told me as the pilots were getting ready to leave that if it rained and the field was too wet, the planes wouldn’t be able to land, so again, they’d come back for us the next day.

And so I started praying against the rain while the little old man walked by with that jaguar skull and burned 2:30pm into my memory bank. We would not be sleeping in the jungle that night.

A couple hours later I found myself looking at a very skinny wooden canoe with a motor on the end of it. This, we were told, would be the vessel that would take us to Palms Beach. There was just one little problem… It only fit half our team! The captain apparently had it all worked out, so half of us climbed in, and motored off.

I assumed another canoe was going to pick up the other half of the team, but when we got to Palms Beach, our captain told us to hop out, so he could go back and get the rest of the team. We scratched our heads, as there was just one more little problem…

There was NO BEACH.

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100

The beach had eroded away. So, there we stood, IN THE RIVER praying an anaconda wasn’t swimming nearby. It was at that moment that I remembered the faces of the parents when they dropped their teenagers off with me and the other leaders before we left on this trip and their asking me to take care of them and my promising to bring them home. (Cue internal sobbing.)

After the rest of our team made it to the “beach” we spent about 20 minutes hearing the martyrs’ story (and praying the anacondas would stay away). And then we, as respectfully as we could, scrambled back into the canoe- well half of us at least.

But, there was just one more little problem….

The canoe pulled over to the side of the river about halfway to where we had initially boarded. The canoe was out of gas. So there we stood without our translators (who we’d left with the other half of our team in the middle of the river) by a little hut with a few chickens running around on the banks of the Curaray River… where anacondas apparently reside. It never even occurred to me from where or how the captain would acquire gasoline in the middle of the jungle. There was a woman and a few children outside the hut, but they didn’t appear to have that kind of resource.

Our team leader, Michael, and I were starting to get very nervous as we knew 2pm was approaching, and he didn’t want to sleep in the jungle any less than I did. I noticed there was a trail leading upstream that appeared to be parallel to the river. So, I asked, in very broken Spanish, if one of the little boys by the hut knew how to get to the airfield. He nodded and then started walking up the trail.

I grabbed two of the girls on our team. We followed the kid in hopes of making it to the airfield before the planes landed, so we could stall the pilots until the canoe got gassed up and the rest of our team transported up the river.

That kid walked as fast as the speed walkers do in the Olympics! We had to run to keep up with him. But we were desperate to get to the airfield by 2:30pm, so we ran as fast as we could, jumping over thick, twisty roots along the trail.

Eventually, dripping with sweat, we emerged from the jungle into a clearing, which just so happened to be the airfield. And no sooner had we run across the “runway” did we hear the little boy shout, “Avion! Avion!” and point to the sky.

The MAF planes were preparing to land.

Praise the Lord, by the time all the planes had landed, our entire team had made it back to the village, and therefore, none of us had to sleep in the jungle that night.

Fast forward to this morning, where I stood looking at that jaguar while I chewed on David’s words.

He was right. There very well could have been a jaguar up in one of those trees as I ran through the jungle towards the airfield- and I would have never known it.

Sure, a jaguar would be hard to spot even if you were looking for it. But, if you’re focused on something else, like not tripping on twisty roots on the trail, you’re definitely not going to notice the large cat perched over head.

How much is this like many of us , focusing on all these things that make our day harder, like hitting all the red lights on our way to work, the baby spitting up all over your new shirt RIGHT before you have to leave the house, the toddler needing to go to the pediatrician AGAIN for a suspect ear infection, the co-worker’s passive aggressive comments, the spouse forgetting to do that one thing you ask them to every day, the slow internet speed (or worse, slow computer) that makes you late turning in that report to your boss…

At some point all you want is a coffee and for someone to bring it to you while you cry out to God, “Can’t you cut me a break?!”

Meanwhile He’s keeping a jaguar from jumping on your head, which in the non-jungle-parts-of-the-world means any zillion number of things.

The twisty roots really hurt when you trip over them. They do. Especially when you don’t see them coming and you land on your face and scratch up your hands and your knees. I’m not belittling them. They beat me up some days.

But man oh man, am I sure grateful I’m not having to keep that jaguar off my back too.

So, I took a picture of the jaguar at our zoo, and he’s my new wallpaper on my phone. When my days are extra rooty, I hope the picture will remind me that while I run this race where God is calling me to run and try not to get tripped up on the roots along the way, He’ll be keeping a sovereign eye (and hand) on all the things I can’t see.

And in case you were wondering how much Spanish I speak, I speak enough to get to an airport.

Until next time,

❤ Lindsay