Fun in the Sun :: Summer Must-Haves for Mom AND Kids

I don’t know about you, but I feel like this summer is flying by! We have been spending loads of time in the sun, which makes most of our days pretty lazy, and it’s been fabulous! Our neighborhood just opened their “Ranch House” complete with a junior olympic sized pool, a splash pad, and two slides that we can’t wait to zip down. Being close to the water is a great place to be to beat the heat. Especially when we have the whole place to ourselves most days!

fun in the sun

My kids are pretty easy when it comes to what they need when we are out by the pool. Give them each a pair of “nose goggles” (the masks pictured here are some they use every day and were only $2.97 at Walmart), a few noodles, cover their little bodies with sunscreen, and let ’em loose!

Noodles as Water Guns

What kiddo doesn’t like whacking their brother with a pool noodle? Or blowing water out one end right in your face? Good times!

Josh can't wait for the slides to open!
Josh can’t wait for the slides to open!

I lucked out the other day when I popped in to my local Walmart. The Mainstays beach towels are on rollback in stores. These full size, thick and luxurious towels were only $8.50 (normally $9.97)! I am going to have to get more, for sure.

Summer Must Haves

Now, we moms – whether we like to splash around in the pool with the kiddos, or sit on the sidelines – need to be prepared for some fun in the sun. But, really, what more do we need than a plush beach towel, a great pair of sunglasses, some non-greasy sunscreen, and a good book? I’d say you’d be set for some fun in the sun, but if you need anything else I’m sure you can find it at Walmart!

As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

It’s Time for a Vacation

Ray and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary while sailing over the Caribbean. We won a pair of tickets on board the Carnival Destiny and were thrilled to experience our first cruise. We didn’t quite know what to expect. While our cruising experience left much to be desired, and we figured we wouldn’t sail on a Carnival cruise again, we thoroughly enjoyed every minute of our port stops in Jamaica and Grand Cayman. We went floating down the river and zipping through the sky in Jamaica. We went snorkeling in the deep blue waters of Grand Cayman. These experiences alone left us hungry for more cruising.

Fast forward six years – Ray and I are ready for a big vacation. With so many people to please, we wanted to be certain that everyone had plenty to do and see. We decided on a road trip to New Orleans, exploration of the historical sites along the way, plenty of fresh beignets, and maybe an airboat ride. After a few days in the French Quarter, we will be boarding the Carnival Elation!

Photo Courtesy of Carnival
Photo Courtesy of Carnival

Yes, we are eating our words and have decided to give Carnival another chance to impress.


The Price
When you are looking at cruising during the summer, fairs can be crazy high. We are vacationing during the very week before school begins, so none of our kiddos miss anything, meaning we are sailing during peak time. Now, with nine of us, we had to book two suites – one that sleeps five, and another that sleeps four – so we had to consider that, as well. But, remember – the great thing about cruises is that they are pretty all-inclusive. Sailing out of New Orleans, instead of Galveston, will also save us a bit of change. All in all, Carnival offered the best deal for our family.

The Food
In addition to the fine dining every evening, there is plenty from which to choose. Kid-friendly options were a must for our kids who love to eat. Here is what we will be enjoying on the Elation:
– Sushi Bar
– Pizzeria

– New York-Style Deli

– Mongolian Wok

– Rotisserie

– The Grill

– Taste of Nations

– Dessert Bar

The Entertainment
I am excited for my kids to enjoy Camp Carnival. The kids clubs just look like fun! And that 115 foot Twister water slide into the pool? Yes, please!

Photo Courtesy of Carnival
Photo Courtesy of Carnival

But, that’s not all. There will be plenty for all of us to do while at sea:
– Nine-hole Mini Golf

– Ping Pong 

– Basketball Court

– Volleyball Court

– Jogging Track

– Camp Carnival

The Ports and Excursions
Now, this is what excites me most – I can not wait to snorkel in Cozumel and explore the Chichen Itza ancient ruins in Yucatan. Ray did find these activities available at a much lower rate than what Carnival is offering, so we are exploring the option of booking them outside to save some money. After all, there are nine of us and the excursions add up pretty quick!

Chichen Itza Castle, Mexico  Photo via SOMATUSCANI
Chichen Itza Castle, Mexico Photo via SOMATUSCANI

I can’t wait to share our experience with y’all, but in the meantime I’d be happy to hear your tips for cruising Carnival!

Live Music, Good Eats, Delectable Libations, and Breathtaking Views – All in One Place

Ray and I went out with a friend last night to check out The House of Songs’ new concert series in downtown Austin. The House of Songs has partnered with the Westin to bring local and international artists in for a few hours every Wednesday night. Sahara Smith, from Girl Pilot, played for us last night, with a special guest appearance by Thorbjorn from Denmark.

The House of Songs

Sahara is a native Texan who has always had a passion for singing and songwriting with a delightful sound. Each of her songs were written from her own experiences and she plays from the soul. She is mesmerizing and her bluesy voice is calming and relaxing.

This was definitely a great way to spend an evening. What can be better than enjoying a glass of wine and some of the best biscuits and brussel sprouts around from Stella San Jac, all the while listening to some amazing artists!

Stella San Jac's Flaky Biscuits photo Stella San Jac's Flaky Bicuits

Brussel Sprouts with Candied Jalapenos photo Stella San Jacs Brussel Sprouts with Candied Jalepenos

There is a fabulous lineup of artists set to appear over the next couple of months. I am most excited about the concert on August 19th – Phoebe Hunt and One Village music project. I got the inside secret scoop on this particular concert and, trust me, you don’t want to miss it!

Now, I want to share a bit about this brand new hotel where these concerts are being held — First of all, the Westin Downtown is gorgeous! It has only been open for five days, but the staff is friendly, helpful, and more than willing to give you a grand tour.

We discovered on our tour that the rooftop pool and bar is open to the public on the weekdays. All are welcome to cool off and enjoy a drink made by one of the talented mix masters at this “highest rooftop bar in Austin.”

The views from this rooftop are incredible! You can see 6th Street, Zilker Park, Ladybird Lake, and more. Watching the sun set over the buildings of downtown Austin was just breathtaking.

6th St View from Rooftop Bar at Westin Downtown Austin

View of Downtown Austin from the Rooftop Bar at the Westin

Let me know if you’d like to join us next week for a good time!

Back to School in Style

Timmy missed the cut off to begin kindergarten this year by 12 days. TWELVE days. I should be happy that he won’t be going off to school all day – the youngest of all of my children to do so – but he is SO ready. He would benefit greatly by being able to start kindergarten and I know he would succeed, in spite of being twelve days too young. Most of all, I believe he is ready socially. All of his siblings are gone all day and he is so sad not to have any of his siblings around.

In spite of all this, there is nothing we can do this year, so Ray and I have decided to homeschool Timmy for kindergarten. To ensure he gets to be around kids his age, Timmy will attend preschool three days a week and I will work with him the other two. We have discovered that by doing this, we will be able register Timmy for first grade next year and he still gets a bit of socialization this year.

You would not believe how thrilled Timmy is to begin his kindergarten year at preschool! He is counting down the days, has picked out his first day of school outfit, has packed his backpack, and even made his lunch for his first day. (I had to gently convince him that his peanut butter sandwich will not last 54 days!)

Ready for Kindergarten in Style

super hero backpacks

Tennis Shoes

We found all of Timmy’s Spiderman-themed first day of school goodies at Walmart. They have a great selection of backpacks, lunchbags, and apparel that fit Timmy’s style and my budget. That backpack/lunchbag combo was only $12.88, and you can’t beat $less than $15 for a pair of sneakers!

But, we didn’t stop there. Julia found a great backpack for only $9.88 and some school supplies that she was excited to begin making her own. Her favorite find was this school planner – a must-have for a middle schooler.

Spark their Style

Backpacks for teens

Walmart really is a great place to pick up all of your back to school items, whether your kiddos are beginning kindergarten (or preschool!), high school, or going off to college. You will be surprised at what you can find to help spark their style!

As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Fruity Dessert Pizza

There is nothing quite like enjoying fresh fruit in the heat of summer. Biting in to ice-cold watermelon. Enjoying popsicles made with fresh, juicy strawberries. Tossing raspberries in to a crisp green salad. I could go on and on.

My most favorite fruity dessert to make with my kiddos, though, is Dessert Pizza. It’s super easy, pretty quick to make, and tastes yummy. It satisfies any sugar craving on a hot evening. For all of us.

Fruity Dessert Pizza

What you need:

  • 1 package refrigerated Crescent Rolls
  • 1 small tub of Marshmallow Creme
  • 1 8oz package of Cream Cheese
  • Fresh Fruit, sliced
  • Coconut Flakes (optional)

Fruity Dessert Pizza - what you need

sliced fruit makes great toppings

What to do:

  1. Roll out the crescent rolls and cut in to circle. Bake as directed. Cool completely.
  2. In a bowl, blend together the marshmallow creme and cream cheese. Set aside.
  3. Spread mixture over crescent crust.
  4. Top with fresh sliced fruit. sprinkle with coconut flakes (not shown). I make a special pizza pie for Timmy with just bananas and strawberries… The possibilities are endless!
  5. Slice and serve.

Enjoy your dessert pizza this summer!

Where do you purchase your fresh fruit? I prefer to buy our produce, especially fruit, at Walmart because of their 100% money back guarantee. They purchase their fruits and vegetables directly from growers and leverage their produce experts, distribution centers and trucking systems. They also check their produce weekly in all of their stores, making sure WE purchase the freshest and bestest.

As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.