Summer Thriving with Toddlers Series: Creating Your Outing List!

I have always had the largest love for summer vacation. Being a teacher there are few things that hit quite as right for me as knowing that I have the entire summer off with our kids to experience all of the best things in our local area. Stay at Home Moms–you have all of my wonder and amazement. I do the job for three full time months a year and am constantly reminded how badass you are on the daily.

Before I had kids of my own I was friends with some coworkers who loaded up their kids and went on an adventure I immediately decided that when we had kids, that would be me. I’ve taken their get-up-and-get-gone mentality and added in some Leonard family specific parameters and it’s completely changed my summer parenting game.

I attribute this to the fact we aren’t EVER wallowing around the house or the backyard “bored”. There’s always something exciting to do, and we have set some very clear outing expectations that our kids have to follow. You can check out that blog post on behavior expectations that work for our family here. (Coming next week!) My kids have spent the morning exploring and having a great time, which means they normally take AMAZING afternoon naps that allow me to recharge my batteries, prep afternoon activities and meals, get caught up on housework or lesson planning for the fall, and then we are all ready to have a great afternoon.

Do you have a friend who has kids close in age with yours? We normally spend at least three of our days with my best friend and her daughter who is two years older than Virginia and it makes our adventures even more fun! We’ve also ended up noticing lots of the same moms and kiddos at some of our favorite spots, so we are hoping to be able to link up with those Mamas and their kiddos this summer for some play groups! You’ll actually see our BFFs in most of our pictures and posts this summer. Everything’s more fun with a pal!

My rules for an amazing summer outing schedule? So simple!

  1. We go and do something outside of the house every single day.
  2. We only skip a nap when it’s absolutely unavoidable, and only a few times MAX per summer. (We’ve gone two whole summers without missing naps, it’s totally possible!)
  3. We only do ONE outing weekly that cost money. I’m a frugal fun QUEEN, and I’ll take you with me.
  4. We prepare the night before to make the day of smooth sailing.

Often enough I hear from fellow moms who feel overwhelmed or don’t know where to start, and I have BEEN THERE. Literally getting started and committed to taking your kids out of the house is the hardest part. Pre-Rona we had a lot more local happenings that were completely free and so fun. FINALLY we are starting to see some restrictions being lifted thanks to vaccination rates in our area, which is opening up so many great kid friendly resources!

How to Make Your Summer Outing List

I always start with the free program offerings in our local area.

Call your local public libraries.

Call your local movie theater–ours always offers already released cartoon films for free in the summer!

Ask your local Board of Education what programs are available to the public.

Check out local government organizations to see if they are sponsoring events for kids in your area.

Ask local mom groups on Facebook for their favorite summer activities!

From magicians in the town square to bug hunts in the park, I’m sure that you have something similar where you are, or within a reasonable driving distance.

Once you’ve checked all of the scheduled events/programming that are free to the public, I suggest making a list of the best playgrounds. Sometimes a small change in scenery like new equipment makes a fun and easy morning trip! I like to sprinkle playground days into our schedule about once a week.

What local hikes, bike paths, or manageable water locations are near you? If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times that we have so many cool places locally available to us in the panhandle of West Virginia, but what’s close to you? New hiking trails, stroller friendly bike paths, public stream access–these are some of my kids FAVORITE summer outing days.

Once I’m finished with absolutely all of the free outings I can wring from my May-teacher-tired-brain I like to start listing all of the “pay to play” locations and activities near us. I’ve found that most of those types of locations are indoor activities, which is really great for rainy days or instances where the heat index is just too hot for our youngest to cope and we need to be inside. Some of these locations that you likely have regardless of your location are: indoor playgrounds, pottery painting, trampoline parks, science museums, aquariums, petting zoos, movies at the cinema, children’s museums, tea service at a tea room, art classes, nature centers…the list could go on forever!

I like to make two “master lists” with all of my findings. One for free fun, and one for pay-to-play. I then sit down on Sunday night, look at the weather forecast for the week and my calendar and plug away. Having a plan of what we are going to do and when we plan to head there makes everything so much easier and stress free.

Ready for part 2? Click here to see how I prep for summer outings with my kiddos as well as how we structure our summer days otherwise.

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Reading the Romances

Why is it that when I tell people I’m reading a romance novel I get one of two responses? The first, and my personal favorite, is that of the person asking how it rates compared to a current “mainstream” romance like Fifty Shades, Bridgerton, or Outlander. The other is a scoff with an insulting comment. It has always seemed to me that people either adore reading romances, or think they’re totally worthless and insulting to consider in a TBR pile.

But guess what? Romance is easily the bestselling genre in the fiction umbrella by a WIDE margin. However, the level of ridiculous and insulting opinion pieces in the book-i-verse astound me. Many avid readers seem to completely discredit this predominantly female lead (in both reading and writing) genre.

I remember the first time that I read what would be considered a “New Adult Romance” novel. I was in college, and Fifty Shades of Grey had just taken over every housewife and college girl’s reading list that year. I was home from college and spending an afternoon with my husband’s family. “You HAVE to read Fifty Shades.” proclaimed my husband’s Aunt. “You remind me so much of the main character. She loves to read, she is assertive…I just think you would love it.” I distinctly recall thinking about what I had heard of the series to that point and being absolutely smacked with embarrassment thinking of what my future family must have thought I was “into”. In my mind a book like that would have no plot line, little character development, and be a flat out sex-fest. I wasn’t remotely interested in reading the series but after a bit more research and review scouring I thought I’d give it a try. Please recall, that at the time the YouTube video of Gilbert Gottfried reading the cult classic was taking over the internet. So…my interest was peaked and she lent me her finished copy of Fifty Shades. Somewhat reluctantly I started the series, and was surprised that I finished the trilogy within the weekend. I blame this partly on the fact I was a MASSIVE Twilight fan, and immediately I was making connections to the cross referenced fan-fiction element. Combining that with my love of suspense and book-thrill-seeking it was a banger. Once an English major, always an English major…right?

The following semester when I returned to university a course was offered titled, “Reading the Romances” and *immediately* I signed up to join. Reflecting on the last decade or so of my reading life, I can attest that this course really set the trajectory for my lifelong love of reading romance novels. We read historical romance (like the Bridgerton series), Fifty Shades, Austen, and just about everything in between. It was easily the most fun I had in college in terms of elective lit classes. Lead by a female badass professor and filled with my girlfriends who were the MOST fun to discuss the mechanics of writing romance and commonalities amongst the genre together it was just so perfect. I’ve continued to read contemporary novels, thrillers, best sellers, and just about everything in between because I genuinely love to read just about every single genre/sub genre that exists. The one thing that I read the most, though? Romances. As I’ve gotten older I’ve ventured into the different tropes of romances and built up quite the “collection” of virtual favorites and recently began sharing my recommendations with friends.

So why is it, that if I read a romance novel 10/1 for reading other styles of literature are they the least recommended type of novels I share? Ugh! It’s because I’ve always thought that there was a stigma attached to reading something raunchy or “trashy romance”. That feeling often becomes even more cemented when the most common style of commentary I get on my most read and enjoyed genre is “How, as someone who is such a feminist, and someone who loves actual literature, can you stand to read that trash?” To which I love to sassily respond that by assuming a romantic story can’t empower women or feature strong female characters is dismissive and the larger issue. But what changed in my hesitancy to share the genre? Freaking Bridgerton popping onto Netflix. All of a sudden I had friends asking to borrow my Bridgerton series, begging me to review for them which novels were the best to continue on with after they finished the A-H sibling series. Netflix really did us all a favor by cracking open the genre to readers that wouldn’t have considered it valid otherwise.

So buckle up, because over the next few months I’m bringing you alllll the reviews (and maybe even a book Facebook group dedicated to book talks!) for my favorites. Everything from mafia, historical, contemporary, thriller, paranormal, erotic, regency, suspense, reverse harem, western, gang, inspirational….all the book boyfriends are coming your way. I’ve.Got.You.Girl.

The Ultimate Flat: Rothy’s Review


If I had to describe myself in a few sentences, here’s what I’d write.

I am the cheapest–I love a bargain. I love the environment. I love classic styles. I love luxury products. I love things that make my life as a Mama and a wife easier.

As someone who lives in what I would consider a world of neutrals and “smart” wardrobe choices–the things that I really branch out into a fun pattern or statement are my jewelry and my shoes. I can buy a great quality J.Crew sweater and mix it up with some statement jewels, or with a fun pair of flats for a night out. That makes that sweater a good investment, right?

When I was a Freshman in college I found the absolute cutest pair of leopard print ballet flats from Forever 21. They were my size, they had the perfect pattern, they were a soft material, and they met my two major requirements. They were 6.99, and they folded up into my clutch to take to the bar on my friend’s 21st birthday.

They were amazing companions–and I wore them for the better part of 8 years…until they started dying on me. Thus the hunt for the perfect leopard replacement began.

As what I consider to be an ultimate consumer–I had very high expectations. I was ready to invest in a great pair of shoes–so they had to work for me, right?

The Ultimate Leopard Flats:

  • Will not feel like they’re made of “fur”
  • Will not rub my ankles
  • Will be gorgeous, the perfect neutral shades that will go with all blacks, browns, camels, and tans.
  • Will not make my foot sweat.
  • Will be easily cleaned.
  • Will not leave my feet aching after a long day of teaching.

I tried so many different brands. I purchased 3 pairs thinking they were the ones, just to send them back to where they came from each time. I loved my original flats so much that I needed something AMAZING to replace them.

I had previously had a couple of pairs of Tieks, but I didn’t find them to be worth the money. They weren’t washable, they gave my heels blisters during the wearing in process, and I never felt like I got more than a solid year of wear out of them before they began looking less than gorgeous.

Which leads me to where I found my holy grail Cinderella (ballet flat) slippers.

Social Marketing is such a thing ya’ll. No sooner had I started my search for the ultimate replacement I began seeing adds for Rothy’s. After reading some promising reviews and doing my research on the company–I ordered a pair.


Aren’t they absolutely gorgeous?

So here’s the skinny on Rothys

They’re good for the environment.

As someone who tries to be very conscientious about what I purchase and from which company’s I support–this was an easy choice for me. They are made from recycled water bottles. For some reason I thought that this would make them hard or rigid, but according to Rothy’s .

“The bottles are sterilized, washed, and chipped into flakes that are spun into a soft fiber. That fiber then goes into a 3-D knitting machine specially programmed to minimize waste. The upper is knit to shape inside the machine and comes out fully formed… It’s then attached to the sole made from recyclable carbon-free rubber…”

The shoes feel like a very soft knit material. I personally LOVE them. They are very breathable.

The sizing can be tricky. 

In Rothy’s I (along with the rest of the consumers online) suggest you go up 1/2 a size in their traditional styles and a whole size in the pointed flat.

They’re machine washable.

When your flats get a bit erhm…scented…by the weekend you can just take out your soles, toss them in the wash on a gentle cold cycle with some great detergent and they’ll dry overnight.

Not going to lie-the first time I washed mine I expected them to take forever to air dry. However, they were dry as a bone when I went to grab them in the morning!

They keep you comfy and dry.

My feet sweat. So do yours, I gather. These seem to wick the sweat away from my feet. I love them! They also hug my narrow feet very nicely, but I also have plenty of friends with wide feet who say their Rothy’s accommodate  them so well, too!

They are so easy to style.

I’ve found myself planning my outfits around my Rothy’s, and not wanting to wear any of my other shoes. Seriously.

I have so many other pairs on my wishlist. They’re amazing.  I’m never taking these off.

Ready to give Rothy’s a try? Use my referral link to get $20 off your new pair of the best shoes you’ll ever have. Full disclosure: I get $20 off a pair for myself, too, when you use this link. 


Top Sleep Tips From Our Sleep Consultant: Mama Likes


I wasn’t always a Sleep Specialist, but for much of my life I’ve been a poor sleeper. Sleep is hard work for me, the stress of sleeplessness wears me down emotionally and physically, so I am overjoyed that it’s NOT something my girls will struggle with. Fierce independence and willfulness… yes. Sleep, no.

After teaching Social Studies and Dance/Yoga in the public schools for 10 years I moved to New York City where I began teaching Yoga to kids and adults. Soon, I was drawn to teach prenatal and postnatal yoga and became certified as a Birth Doula. I loved that I could support families in so many areas of their journey: pregnancy, birth, healing your post-baby body, and then teaching children themselves. Mindfulness, relaxation and support was a key part of all these benchmarks.

Then, I became a parent myself. And it was HARD. I found pregnancy limiting, uncomfortable, and anxiety provoking. I had an empowering home-birth and then I spent five months in a state of crisis as I attempted to function on very little sleep with none of the coping skills I had before. I was eager to get back to my work supporting families, but I was too tired to do it.  As my child became more independent, her sleep became increasingly dependent, interrupted and off balance. We were ALL exhausted, confused, and desperate. No matter where I looked for advice and information I was ineffective at successfully implementing it. Finally, at 11 months someone pointed me to a sleep consultant who turned our lives around in a matter of days.Kristine2

As it turns out, my first born is an expert sleeper – she went from sleeping 9 random hours a day to a solid routine of sleeping 16 hours a day. By the third night on our new routine she was sleeping all night long!! Life with kids isn’t always unicorns and rainbows, but the day to day chaos of parenting is much easier to problem solve when the whole family is getting the sleep they need. After a few months I felt like a whole new person, and I was so grateful each morning I woke up well rested. It was really fun to parent my patient and cooperative child who was no longer throwing baby tantrums and hurting other kids in her exhaustion. In fact, life was so dreamy that I began to scheme about two things: having a second child and becoming a sleep consultant myself.  

Now, I have a thriving business and two well-rested daughters. It’s really an honor for me to nurture families in this new capacity: to empower them with education, reassurance and support as they walk their own path to healthy sleep.

These Are My Top 5 Sleep Tips:

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Why the Mia Mily Hipster Plus Carrier Changed our Game: Mama Likes

When I was pregnant I spent so much time researching what baby carrier we were going to purchase. My sister in law (read sister in love) is a Physical Therapist who works predominantly with pediatrics. I have so many memories from before either one of us were pregnant about how she was seeing hip problems become rampant, and a cause of the problem is incorrect body positioning in a standard baby carrier. Whenever I would find a baby carrier that I liked I would immediately ask her if it met the “M” position that the best carriers have.

As someone who has a great deal of anxiety in public places before having a baby, that became amplified times one hundred when I needed to tote the baby, the idea of baby wearing was really appealing to me. When you hear so many crazy stories about people having their babies abducted or the baby walking away and that panicked feeling–I just thought baby wearing would make us all feel a little safer. It does, by the way…when we are in public make me feel less anxious about what is going to happen as we shop.

We ended up purchasing (or were gifted!) three carriers for baby VC. We have two Moby (stretch) carriers, a Tula, and the Mia Mily.

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Today I Miss You More: Mama Musing


Did you know that every morning your Dad rushes to be the first face you see when you wake? It has become one of my most favorite parts of my day. I finish getting dressed while listening to him whisper sweet tidings of morning love into your ear as he gets you out of bed through the baby monitor.

Seeing the smile (and spastic for the boob juice) look on your face every morning always starts my day off in the best way possible.

This morning after putting your outfit and, of course, your coordinating hair bow and moccasins on we went downstairs to get packed for our big days. Mine teaching, your Dad’s at his office, and yours at daycare with the ladies who love you almost as much as we do.

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Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate: Review



“In my multifold years of life, I have learned that most people get along as best they can. They don’t intend to hurt anyone. It is merely a terrible by-product of surviving.” 

I wrote that quote into three seperate places after I read it. If you loved that, you’re going to love this. I’m pretty sure that we all know by now that my favorite genre falls between romance and psycho thrillers. What you may not know is that I read a vast amount of books from different genres…I just never really feel like they are much to write home about. Well my friend, I have finally read something that is not absolutely twisted or sick over the moon love-struck. When Amazon suggested that I pick up a copy of Lisa Wingate’s novel Before We Were Yours I immediately imagined the story was about adoption. Which honestly is something my heart has always really felt connected to. Truth be told, we would love to foster or adopt in the future.

“One of the best things a father can do for his daughter is let her know that she has met his expectations. My father did that for me, and no amount of effort on my part can fully repay the debt.” 

I absolutely adored every single word of this beautiful portrayal of life. I felt like from the first three pages my heart was in the thick of it with both narrators. I’m going to tread lightly, because I genuinely don’t want to ruin any single aspect of this book for you. The most apparent connection I can draw for you is that if you liked Orphan Train you will most definitely like this even better. Seriously.

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Why Teaching Middle School Is Actually The Most Extra: Musing


“Oh you’re a teacher, what grade do you teach?”

“I teach middle school–English Language Arts and Reading.”

The “look” that usually follows this polite exchange resembles something quite Scarlet O’Hara in the “bless your heart” style.

Well in my fifth year of teaching the odd, really confusing wildebeest we call “preteens” I have come to learn eight (online appropriate) things that are 100% true to this career path.

1. We have smelled things that you can only imagine in your wildest dreams.

 mean girls mean girls movie smell lizzy caplan janis ian GIF

Bet you didn’t wake up before leaving for work this morning thinking, “I really hope Johnny in the office next door put on his deodorant.” Teachers have, though. We also get really stoked when we get the smelliest of the kids right after PE. Before my kids ever hit their smelly peak I plan to buy stock in deodorant and body sprays. What’s even worse than the odoriferous smell of preteen is when it is covered in the hottest scent of Victoria’s Secret Love Spell mixed with some lingering Axe and unchanged sanitary pad.

Yep. That’s a thing.

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Self Lovin’ Back to You: Musing

As a type “A” planner, I am currently sitting and looking at my calendar for the past four months thinking, “Where.Did.That.Time.Go.” My blogging agenda notebook is wide open on my desk, with each Tuesday and Thursday topic highlighted in perfectly coordinating washi tape. Here’s what:


At Least Someone was able to relax in the ocean this summer.

The blog posts range from book reviews, to baby product must haves, to a chocolate chip cookie recipe that took me three weeks to perfect. So many things I wanted to already have shared with you. But guess what? There have been so many nights in the past seven months that I lie awake at night thinking about when I would get back into the swing of things, and it just didn’t happen. “Tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll take an hour when she naps and I will write.” But I didn’t. I took a shower instead. I read another book on how to get your baby to stop being awake every 45 minutes at night. I researched ways to boost my breast milk production. I googled “sleep disorders in six month old babies” no less than fifty times. I lesson planned. I folded laundry so my husband would have clean work shirts. I picked up her toys…again. I learned tricks to get baby poop out of a white bed sheet.

I have been learning how to be this new version of myself that I wasn’t really prepared to meet.

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My Summer 2017 Reading List

1571 Werninger St.,Houston, TX

One of the questions I get most often from my friends, family, and you online pals is, “What should I be reading?”

Well…nobody told me that when I had Virginia I’d never be able to sit and binge read through a summer thriller like the days of my youth.

Just kidding, everyone told me this and I foolishly decided they were nonsensical and w-r-o-n-g.

Oh my sweet momma friends, how right you were.

On the rare and sweet occasion that my littlest decides to bless her mother with a precious nap here is what I’m reaching for this summer–or what I snagged into my hands over maternity leave!

IntoTheWater.jpgInto the Water  by Paula Hawkins

If you were every book-loving human being in the last two years you likely read The Girl On The Train. While I can’t speak to the film adaptation, I can tell you that TGOTT is a book that will be in my husband’s beach read bag as we prepare to vacate for a week! I am always cautious to pick up any second novel by an author that I love so much, but after a lot of back and forth I finally picked up Into the Water and read it on my Kindle a few weeks ago. I.Loved.It. I think that while Hawkins’ first book left me wanting more, this one really stuck with me. You meet Nel, who is a single mom to a little girl and found dead. Her daughter goes to live with her sister–who becomes obsessed with figuring out the death of Nel and finds out there is way, way, way more (think more bodies–more) in the entire story than she originally believed.

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