Being a mom is the hardest thing I've ever done, but it has brought me so much joy! I want to encourage other moms on their journey, I'll share motherhood tricks, spotlight tips I've learned from friends, and I hope you will share your ideas. I will focus on secrets that help families stay balanced, healthy, frugal, creative, and closely knit. I will also share favorite fiction and nonfiction books that I have enjoyed. Many blessings to you on your mothering journey!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

SummerFest at Opryland
Free Fun for Couples and Families
May 26 - September 4, 2006

The Peking Acrobats
Performing amazing feats of balance, grace and flexibility, showcasing years of dedicated training and discipline.
Monday - Sunday8:30 p.m.Delta Fountain

DiVine Character Performer
Reaching an enormous height, the 'living vine' slowly animates, moving in and out of her surroundings. She gracefully moves to the next location leaving her audience fascinated as once more she melds into her environment.
Thursday - Monday11:30 a.m., 1:00 p.m., 2:30 p.m.,4:00 p.m.Delta Island

Flight - Combine water, fog and our high flying aerialist and you have an unforgettable performance that takes place over our breathtaking Cascades Waterfall.
Opening June 15Thursday - Sunday5:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 8:30 p.m.Cascades Atrium

Aqua - Our all new light and water show.
Monday - Wednesday10:00 a.m., Noon, 2:00 p.m., 4:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m., 10:00 p.m.Delta FountainThursday - Sunday10:00 a.m., Noon, 2:00 p.m., 4:00 p.m., 10:00 p.m.

Sandcastle Cove
Kids can create their own sand masterpiece in our giant-sized sandbox, as well as marvel at our impressive sand sculptures.
DailyMagnolia Pool

Live Music and Dancing at the Delta Fountain
Groove to your own beat with a country line dance, a beach bash, and a Mardi Gras party filled with plenty of music and dancing.
Thursday - Sunday5:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. Delta Fountain Area

(info taken from Opryland's website)


Friday, May 26, 2006

Free Movies!

Lots of theaters offer a day of free kids movies during the summer. In Nashville, Regal Cinemas offers movies twice a week, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10am. Each time hosts a G and a PG offering, so it's appropriate to multiple ages. I've never been, so I don't know how busy the theaters will be, but I intend to try! Some of our movies include "March of the Penguins", "Shark Tale", "Wallace & Gromit", "Lemony Snicket", and "Veggie Tales". Big cheers for free movies!

Tuesday FUN Jar

Last summer, my friend Shannon did something with her girls that they called the Tuesday
Fun Jar. At the start of summer break, they made a list of fun things they would like to do together. Each Sunday, they drew something out to do that Tuesday. The list is mostly free/frugal fun, but it also includes some splurges. There are also sunny day and rainy day activities in the jar, so if the weather looks uncertain, they pull out 2 and decide Tuesday morning. Here are some of the things in their jar this summer:

Dragon Park
Bicentennial Mall
Feed the ducks at Shelby Park
Adventure Science Center
Movie (free at several local theaters on Tues/Wed mornings)
Frist Center (great Egyptian exhibit!)
Centennial Park
Treasure Hunt
Granny White Park
Picnic at Percy Priest Lake
Cook a "Pretend Soup" Recipe

What a fun idea to with your family, or even neighborhood friends!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Thrifty Summer Eating

Planting a small vegetable or herb garden is one of the best ways to save grocery money in the summer. I'm NOT a big gardener, but I can easily maintain the small garden we have. We only plant a few starter plants of our favorite vegetables (tomatoes, zuchinni, yellow squash and green peppers), as well as cilantro and basil. For the price of one bag of store-bought veges, I can plant and grow a whole summer's worth of produce for our family. Extra perks include great educational opportunities for my kids, an extra incentive to cook with lots of fresh veges, and a little bit of exercise for me!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Tricks of the Trade
for Theme Park Vacations
My family isn't ready for the theme park extravaganza yet, but I thought other readers might enjoy reading these tips I saved from a 2005 article written by Ms. Cheap in the Tennessean.

Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom in Louisville charges $37.99 for full-price adult tickets. That is a lot of money. But you can get in for $22.99 each if you by your tickets at Kroger, or $24.99 if you bring a Coke can to the ticket office. The price for children — anyone under 4 feet tall — is $21.99 and there are not many discounts available. But get this: Anyone over 65 years old gets in free, and people 55 and older get in for $21.99. You also should know about the "twicket'' — a next-day ticket you can buy for $8 if you go to the park and decide you want to come back the following day. And if you want added value, Kentucky Kingdom's admission price includes a free water park with a brand-new big-time water ride — The Tornado. For more information see or call 1-800-Screams (727-3267).

Nashville Shores full-price tickets are $19.95 or $16.95 for ages 3-12. But there are definitely ways to enjoy this park without paying those prices. For example, every day all summer long admission is half off after 3 p.m. And if that doesn't work, you can get a super value pass — worth $3 off park admission per person — from 144 Tennessee and southern Kentucky McDonald's restaurants. And if you want to go on a Monday, using your Kroger Plus Card or mentioning 98-FM WSIX will knock $5 off regular admission. See or call 889-7050.

Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., costs $43.50 or $32.35 for ages 4-11, with those under 4 getting in free. Your best bet on park admission is to get a specially marked Coke can that is worth $5 off admission or to head for a McDonald's in East Tennessee, where you can get $5 off a child's admission with a paid adult. There also is a Wendy's promotion on its Biggie cup that will save you $5 on admission to Dollywood's Splash Country, which is usually $34.60 or $29 for ages 4-11. Or if you plan to do Dollywood and Splash Country, opt for the Splash & Play three-day ticket, which is $69.15 or $53.50 for ages 4-11. For more information, see or call 1-800 Dollywood (365-5996).

Disney World is a tough challenge, but there are a few tricks. Check out Web sites such as and Wendy Eakes of Mt. Juliet says, "If you are planning on visiting Disney, have one adult in the party buy a season pass and receive big discounts on rooms at participating hotels. (She saved $100 a night being a pass holder at Animal Kingdom.) You can also save on food and merchandise at participating places at Disney." Another deal is the new Magic Your Way Package Plus Dining offer. The package, which costs $425 per adult, includes five nights at a Disney Value Resort, admission to a Walt Disney World theme park on each of six days and the Disney dining plan, which is one counter-service meal, a select snack and one table-service meal per person, per night of the package. Guests can choose from more than 100 select Walt Disney World restaurants. Guests on this package can add up to two children in the same room for $168 per child ages 3-9 or $209 per child ages 10-17. That means a family of four could enjoy an almost-all-inclusive, five-night, six-day Walt Disney World vacation for $1,186. For more information, call 1-407-939-7713 or go to

I would love to hear your secrets about vacation $ savers too!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Digital Photo Prints

If you have a Kroger/Frys in your hometown, get your photos ready to take to the store. Next week they'll be having another special on digital prints - 9 cents for 4x6 prints! You can take your pictures to the store on a CD or a media card, but I don't think you can upload on them online. I usually print my pics at Sams Club, but I love finding deals!

The picture: Daniel reading his Elmo camera book to Brendan last summer.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Adding Pink to Our Lives!

I've never really written about our family's biggest news - we're about to add pink, ribbons & lace to our family of two boys (age 4 and 16 months). We just found out that we're having a girl, and we're thrilled! Now to think of a name before September 29...

Taking the Time Crunch Out of Volunteer Work

A lot of my work revolves and volunteerism. One of the most common things I hear from prospective volunteers is "How can I possibly fit this into my life?". This blog is in response to the many people who have trouble finding time to volunteer.

You want to volunteer, but have way too much to do! Whether you are working ten-hour shifts, chasing children all day, or juggling work and family; it’s hard to be a woman! Because we also struggle with a desire to help every animal and human in need, we feel bogged down with guilt. There’s just not any time left to volunteer! How can I possible invest my time in anything of consequence?

The trick is to know yourself, to know how you want to make a difference, and combine tasks together. You might also need to redefine volunteering as an opportunity to invest time, money and energy to strengthen the lives of people around you. You don’t have to serve a meal at a homeless mission or tutor a child every Thursday (though both are worthy causes!) -- there are many other ways to invest in kingdom work amidst your busy schedule. Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Corporate volunteer – Many businesses support volunteering, so ask if you can have an extended break to mentor a child at lunch, if you can use professional skills to benefit a nonprofit agency, or if your team-building retreat can be a volunteer activity. You might also lead a book club, mentor a colleague, or organize meals for employees in need.
  • Social volunteer – Use outreach opportunities as an excuse to visit with people you love or network with people you would like to know better. Cook, build, design or decorate together; serve on a nonprofit board with admired colleagues; or volunteer with your community group.
  • Hobby volunteer – Build relationships with other people, while doing the things you love to do. Coach a sports team, play basketball with prisoners, lead music at a daycare, or design flower arrangements with senior citizens.
  • Family volunteer – Use volunteer activities as an opportunity to mold character and leadership in your family. Read, tutor, or help in the office at you child’s school. Bring lonely people into your house, host a Backyard Bible club, organize a playgroup, or go out into the community together.
  • Cyberspace volunteer – Build a webpage, write encouraging notes, organize an event, or layout a newsletter for your favorite ministry or missionary.

Focus your energies. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Say ‘no’ to the good opportunities, in order to say ‘YES’ to what best fits your lifestyle, talents and gifts. Use your time wisely, and God will use you (even the least of us!) to make a deep impact in the lives of people around you.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Radnor Lake

This park is one of Nashville's well-kept secrets. It's only 5 minutes from my house, so we're frequent visitors. We love the hiking and canoeing programs. You need a parking pass to park there on most days, but its free to visit on Wednesdays! Their June calendar is not online yet, but they sent it to me. You can get more information at or 377-1281.

Sunrise Canoe Float: Monday, June 5 at 6 AM. Enjoy the scenic beauty of Radnor Lake from a canoe. Meet at the dam by the bridge. Ranger: Becker. Reservations June 3

New Arrivals: Thursday, June 8 at 8 AM. We will hike the Lake Trail looking for some of Radnor’s newest inhabitants. Ranger: Salt. Reservations June 3

Beaver Hike: Thursday, June 8 at 8:15 PM. We will hike to the lake looking and listening for our nocturnal tree cutters. Meet at the Visitor Center. Ranger: Becker. Reservations June 3

Busy Beavers: Friday, June 9 at 7:30 PM. We will meet at the Visitor Center and hike to the lake to look at some of the evidence of the beaver’s presence and hopefully catch a glimpse of some of the beavers as the evening approaches and they become more active. Radnor: Salt. Reservations June 3

Snakes of Radnor: Saturday, June 10 at 10:30 AM. Observe venomous and non-venomous snakes that make Radnor their home. Meet at the Visitor Center. Ranger: Becker. NO RESERVATIONS NECESSARY

Children’s Cave Ecology: Sunday, June 11 at 2 PM. We will explore the cave found at Radnor. We will why there are some many caves in this region of the country, how they are formed and what creatures call these damp, dark places home. We will meet at the junction of Otter Creek Road and the Hall Drive. Ranger: Salt. Reservations June 3

Sunrise Canoe Float: Monday, June 12 at 6 AM. Enjoy the scenic beauty of Radnor Lake from a canoe. Meet at the dam by the bridge. Ranger: Becker.
Reservations June 10

Early Morning Hike: Thursday, June 15 at 6 AM. Early in the morning is often the best time for wildlife viewing. We will meet at the Visitor Center and hike the Lake Trail and Otter Creek Road. Ranger: Salt. Reservations June 9

Astronomy Night with Dyer Observatory: Friday, June 16 at 8 PM. We’ll search the sky for celestial objects above Radnor Lake. Then we will caravan to Dyer Observatory for a closer look through their telescope. All Ages. Ranger: Rawlings.
Reservations June 10

Snakes of Radnor: Sunday, June 18 at 2 PM. Join us at the Visitor Center as we look at some of the unique reptiles that are residents of Radnor. Leader: Salt. NO RESERVATIONS NECESSARY

Bats Incredible!: Sunday, June 25 at PM. We will take a short hike to search for these misunderstood animals and discover the truth behind the most common myths. All Ages. Ranger: Rawlings. Reservations June 17

Sunrise Canoe Float: Friday, June 30 at 6 AM. Enjoy the scenic beauty of Radnor Lake from a canoe. Meet at the dam by the bridge. Ranger: Becker. Reservations June 24

I Love to Read!

With 2.5 little ones and a part-time job, I don't have a lot of time to read. When I do read, I like to know that I'm putting 'good food' into my brain, so I read books on parenting, home management, education, and Christian fiction. Okay, I also LOVE good mystery novels, like Dan Brown and Patricia Cornwell!

Francine Rivers is one of my favorite Christian novelists. Her books are historical fiction that cover a broad range of topics. She has a powerful trilogy, called "Mark of the Lion", the story of a Jewish Christian girl living in Rome during the time of Paul. It's filled with battles and romance, so it's a good read for a couple. Her words really stick with you throughout the day, and challenge your perspective.

She has a series of five novellas that feature biblical women in the genealogy of Christ: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. These are all common women that God used to make a powerful mark on history. They are short quick reads with a discussion guide at the end - great for book clubs!

She is in the middle of writing a companion series on great heroes of the faith: Aaron the priest, Caleb the warrior, Jonathan the prince, Amos the prophet, and Silas the scribe. Again, men that are often overlooked, but men that God used mightily to change the course of history.

My favorite of her stand alone novels is "Redeeming Love," a modern-day retelling of Hosea. It's very convicting, very affirming, and very challenging.

You can read more about her books at, or put one of her books on hold at your library.

Time to go play with kiddos.

Happy reading!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Baby/Toddler Indoor Fun

Make ABC lids to match containers
Do a fingerplay
Do knee-bouncing rhymes
Give a piggie back ride
Have a splash party together in the bathtub
Let child stack mixing bowls inside each other
Make a shape puzzle
Make drums with kitchen cups/bowls
Host a musical get-together--bring a rattle, shaker, noisemaker, or your favorite CD or tape.
old spice shakers with colored sugar to pour into flour
Paint child's palms with tempura paint and blot on paper. Makes a great card for loved ones!
Make an oatmeal box shape sorter
Play peek-a-Boo
Play "Horsie"
Practice putting things in and taking things out of boxes and bags
Put stickers on fingers for finger puppets
Read a book
Play the piano
Play with stickers
Glue shapes onto paper
Toss Bean bags into a Bucket
Mirror each other
Roll a ball back and forth on the floor
Roll a tennis ball into an empty trash can or bucket
Sing a song
Stack canned or boxed food on top of each other

Friday, May 12, 2006

Organizing our Homes

The Davenport Dozen has some great tips on kids helping with chores & laundry. She has empowered her 12 children to help, but she is also teaching them the important life skills of discipline, organization and responsibility. Read more at (Thanks to LikeMerchantShips for introducing me to this site!!)

The picture is from my 4-year old son surprising me by unloading the dishwasher & stacking all the clean dishes on top of the stove. It was QUITE a surprise!

If you have other helpful resources on kids & chores, I'd love to hear about them!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Toddler/Preschool Indoor Fun

Sometimes I just need a list of fun activities to do with my kids when they start to drive me crazy. I keep several lists of activities based on age/weather/indoor/outdoor... This is my list of favorite indoor activities for toddlers and preschoolers. During all of Nashville's rain this month, I should refer to this list more often! I'd love to hear your favorite ideas!

Act out a story from a book
Make a pine cone bird feeder
Create a matchbox highway with masking tape and paper towel tunnels
Dance to music
Decorate a playhouse or car out of a big box
Do the Hokey Pokey
Draw on a mirror with dry-erase markers
Frost Cookies
Go fishing with a yard stick and yarn
Make a "Mummy Mommy" with toilet paper
Make a domino chain
Make a reading hide-away
Make a shoebox train for stuffed animals
Make a tin cup telephone and talk to each other in it
Make an easy puzzle with felt and velcro
Make and try on paper hats
Make binoculars and go "Bird Watching" or "Stuffed Animal Watching"
Make forts with blankets and pillows
Make puppets
Play "Red Light, Green Light"
Play dress up in Mommy or Daddy's clothes
Play hide and seek together- trying to find a stuffed animal or other object
Play basketball with paper wads or socks
Play the matching game or learn numbers with a deck of cards
Put a leash on a stuffed animal and walk around the house
Put lipstick on child and kiss a mirror
Put on a puppet show
Record each other on a tape recorder (great for scrapbooks or journals!)
Make jewelry out of fruit loops or jingle bells

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Free Family Activities

Nashville Parent Magazine keeps a great calendar of middle Tennessee activities. I checked it for social outings, even before I had children! They've started a new service online and in their magazine - they highlight all the free activities in the calendar, so it's easy to scan! Here's a sampling of this week's activities:

Art Making in the Grand Lobby All ages can drop in and create your their own Impressionist-inspired landscapes by using oil pastels on matboard at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, 919 Broadway, Nashville; Wednesday 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.; free; 244-3340 or
Cinco de Mayo Party Kids can enjoy games, crafts and festive snacks at the Edmondson Pike Branch Library, 5501 Edmondson Pike, Nashville; Friday 4:30 p.m.; free; 880-3957.

TACA Spring Craft Fair This 35th annual event offers shoppers the opportunity to meet and talk with exhibiting artists, enjoy live entertainment, visit special exhibits and demonstrations, purchase a wide variety of handcrafted works and more at Centennial Park, 2500 West End Ave., Nashville; Fri and Sat 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., Sun 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.; free; 385-1904 or

American Girl Activity Hour Enjoy stories and activities featuring the American Girls at Borders, 545 Cool Springs Blvd., Franklin; Saturday 11 a.m.; free; 771-2870 or

Saddle Up! Super Show Enjoy this horse show for riders from therapeutic riding programs at Saddle Up!, 1549 Old Hillsboro Road, Franklin; Saturday 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.; free; 794-1150, ext. 3.

Monday, May 01, 2006

One of Nashville's Best Kept Secrets

One of Nashville's best kept secrets is Ellington Agricultural Center! It's convenient (5 minutes from I-65 and Harding Place), clean, safe and quiet.

We often take neighborhood walks to the barns, where the Metro Police horses are stabled. As long as you don't feed the horses, they welcome visitors to come and visit with the animals. They also have random chickens and roosters that wander around the barn.

They have an agricultural museum (free) that's open 9am-4pm weekdays. They have Summer Saturdays filled with hands-on activities about farm and animal life (again, free!). They have a beautiful Iris Garden that's great for family pictures. And they have festivals throughout the year.

We just recently discovered their forest trail, that runs around the perimeter of the property. I took the jogging stroller & let my 4-year old walk beside me. The path ranges from wood chips to grass to small gravel, so it's very friendly to a jogging stroller. The trail takes you through wooded areas, open fields and along creekbanks. It's an absolute treasure in the middle of Nashville!

Happy exploring!