Summer Book Reviews

One of the goals I had at the beginning of the year, when we all have grand plans of getting stuff done in the coming year, was to read more books. My goal was two books a month – easy, right?

I made a list of books to read, wrote them down, and then quickly became consumed with daily life and the busyness that comes with raising a constantly-moving baby turned toddler and an easily-bored preschooler. Needless to say, I only finished reading maybe one book on my list. Waa-waa.

Well, with this blog, I was accepted into a few blogger review programs of various publishers and will be forced to read and write reviews.

This summer, I picked three books to review and could not have chosen any better ones for this time in my life. All of these books are wonderful and are all Field Trip Family approved!

Wow!: The Good News in Four Words

This is a picture book geared toward preschoolers and presents the gospel message in a simple, rhyming style. It breaks up the gospel into four memorable words: Wow, Uh-Oh, Yes, and Ahh. I love the colorful and inviting illustrations and the musical flow of the wording. At the end of the book, there are Bible verse references in the “For Further Study” section, where you can spend some time in the Word with your children beyond this basic book. This is a wonderful presentation of the gospel to young children and an easy, fun and age-appropriate way for parents to introduce or reinforce God’s salvation plan.

8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids

Parenting is hard. It’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life so far. This is a terrific book packed with so many practical and helpful tips and tactics to deal with childhood behaviors and issues. I like how the book is broken up into several short chapters of only a few pages, which is ideal for busy parents. I tore through this book and finished it in one weekend. At the end of each chapter, the author highlights a useful tip that you can quickly revisit if you want to refer back to the book, which I expect to be doing in the future. He also includes specific illustrations and examples, which were especially useful. The concepts in this book are not particularly novel or revolutionary, however, if applied to your own parenting, could possibly revolutionize the future for your children. This is definitely a book I recommend for any parent.

The 5 Love Languages of Children: The Secret to Loving Children Effectively

As with probably most people, I was familiar with and had read The 5 Love Languages long ago before getting married and having kids. The actual love languages were not new to me, but I was very interested in how it applied to the parent-child relationship. As I read through this book, I realized just how timely and appropriate this book was and was so thankful for the encouraging, yet challenging, words and the practical help and ideas presented. The author also includes specific examples of ways to display each of the love languages to your children, which I found to be particularly beneficial. Every parent needs to reach the hearts of their children to really make a positive impact, and this book can help parents do just that. This is a must read for all parents.

 

(Disclosure: Field Trip Family received these complimentary books from the publishers in exchange for honest reviews. We have also included affiliate links if you wish to purchase these books based on our recommendation. Please click on the links to order your book so you can help support our blog. Thank you for your support!)

A Visit to the Pioneer Woman Mercantile and Lodge

For my thirty(mumble mumble)-something birthday this year, my hubby and baby joined me on a more local adventure. We drove past endless stretches of grass and plains as far as the eye can see, with the occasional cow or two, to visit the home and store of one of the first bloggers I followed…The Pioneer Woman.

Ever since I heard about her building a restaurant in Oklahoma, I knew that I would be planning a visit sometime, and a birthday day trip sounded like a great idea. We were able to send one of the kids to the grandparents’ house but decided to bring the baby along, since she is still nursing.

From the Oklahoma City area, the drive was right around two hours to the quaint little town of Pawhuska, Oklahoma. There was quite literally nothing around but cows and windmills up until you pull up on this small two-lane road into town.

Look for the line of people outside a building and you will have found the Mercantile. Pawhuska is not a town set up for bustling tourism, however I can see it being built up in the next few years to accommodate all the tourists wanting to catch a glimpse of Ree and her gang and try her famous comfort food.

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Yes, there was a line of at least 50-60 people out the door waiting to eat at her restaurant, so we easily decided to forgo lunch there and headed straight inside the retail side. We did go on a Saturday, so the inside was equally busy with people around every corner. With so many people in there, we just briefly perused the plentiful displays of colorful floral tableware and unique and entertaining gifts and headed upstairs to the bakery and sitting area.

The upstairs was a spacious open area, and I’m confused as to why that isn’t another restaurant portion of the Mercantile. Unless I missed it and didn’t see it all, it appeared that the main restaurant downstairs was a rather small area. However, I didn’t really get to thoroughly investigate because of the hoards of people on the restaurant side…so I could be wrong. Although, it is a nice big sitting area to eat your baked goods and hang out.

I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get to eat at the deli on this visit, but we did purchase several bakery items – all of which were delicious, decadent and definitely had a boatload of butter. My favorite was probably the brownie with the caramel middle.

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After we ate entirely too much sugar, we went back downstairs to obtain a coveted ticket to the Lodge from the cashiers (the main reason I wanted to visit the Mercantile that day). The Lodge is where the Pioneer Woman films her Food Network cooking show and is located on the Drummond land. Check the Mercantile website for dates that they offer tours at the Lodge. (Tour is probably a misnomer, as it was more like an open house)

With our super secret ticket (directions) in hand, we drove the 20 or so minutes on bumpy and dusty gravel roads (you will need a car wash afterward) past the wild horses, down a steep hill to the Lodge.

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We took a few photos and videos of all the rooms, enjoyed the beautiful views outside and basically just snooped around the entire home/building. There were (I think) four nice guest rooms, a huge prep kitchen in the back, an enviable walk-in pantry and, of course, the “set” of her cooking show.

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Our field trip to the Pioneer Woman Mercantile and Lodge was pretty neat and helped bring the Internet/TV Pioneer Woman to real life for me. I definitely recommend visiting The Lodge. Try to get to the Mercantile early in the morning and visit on a weekday to hopefully avoid the long lines at the restaurant.

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We even spotted a couple of friendly (and incredibly lazy) ranch dogs roaming the property and inviting guests. One particular dog laid right in front of the entrance without even flinching when visitors had to step over him. I think the dogs were my baby’s favorite part of the trip.

Have you been to Pioneer Woman’s Mercantile or want to visit? If you’ve been, what do you recommend ordering? 

Exploring the Dallas Children’s Aquarium

So I’m finally getting around to writing about our field trip to the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park that we visited while we were in Dallas a while back. It is right next door to the Texas Discovery Gardens, so we just took a short trek across the street over to the Children’s Aquarium after we had our fill of plants and butterflies. Read about our Texas Discovery Gardens field trip here.  Or, you can watch our YouTube video and subscribe to our channel. 

Dallas has a much larger and much more expensive aquarium downtown (the Dallas World Aquarium), but this one is more suitable for younger children and requires much less walking. Perfect for my little ones (and me carrying the baby in the carrier).

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You enter the through the main door, pay the entrance fee of $8 for adults and $6 for children (ages 3-11) at the front desk, and then you’re free to explore the exhibits. Most of the tanks are about eye level for smaller children, so they can easily engage and get a better look at the different aquatic creatures and at information about them.

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Even though this is a fairly small aquarium, taking us only a couple hours to explore the entire facility, the exhibits were well-maintained and contained quite a few interesting animals. We found the albino alligator and sea turtles to be pretty fascinating.

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The highlight of the entire trip, though, was the stingray exhibit. Don’t miss them! You have to go outside to the back outdoor tanks to see them. But you don’t just get to see them, you can touch them and feed them! The aquarium offers food for you to purchase, but these guys are super friendly and conditioned to eat from strangers, so you don’t need to buy the food unless you really want to.

We spent a large part of our time out there interacting with these interesting creatures. They would swim right up to the side of the tank with their faces out of the water like they were wanting to be petted. It took quite some time for my daughter to muster enough courage to stick her hand near those slimy things, but once she did it, she loved it!

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You also don’t want to miss the touch tank just inside the aquarium entrance, where you can pet a chocolate chip sea star, a sea urchin and other little underwater critters. Remember to wash your hands before and after petting the sea creatures in the designated wash stations.

We all had a really fun and memorable time at the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park and recommend that you bring your little ones here to explore some underwater life. My daughter still talks about how she got to touch a stingray.

Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park 

Address > 1462 1st Ave, Dallas, TX 75210
Phone469.554.7340
Hours > 9 am – 4:30 pm seven days a week (except for Thanksgiving and Christmas)
Websitechildrensaquariumfairpark.com
Admission > Adult $8 | Youth (3-11) & Senior $6 

 

Have a missional-minded family vacation

Summer is in full swing and some of you may still have some family vacations to look forward to! What do you plan to do on your trip? Relax? Have fun? Catch some rays? While fun and relaxation may be at the forefront of your vacation planning, you might also want to prepare by incorporating a missional mindset to your trip.

My church printed and distributed a Family Vacation Prayer Guide that encourages families to make time for intentional prayer while on vacation, and I wanted to share it with you all here.

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Prayer guide

Here is a list of the different prayer topics, ideas and prompts listed in the guide:

  • People groups where you’re going. You can find out which people groups live in your vacation spot by visiting joshuaproject.net or peoplegroups.info ahead of time. Begin praying over those groups before you go!
  • Pray at night. Each evening, pray Romans 1 over people who are not walking in the light and are rejecting God’s truth. | For example: Dear God, Your invisible attributes have been clearly perceived. Would you reveal to people that want to reject you that they are without excuse? (Romans 1:20)
  • Kids’ Afternoon. Encourage your kids to plan an afternoon while on vacation and let the kids choose ways to pray for the people they see.
  • Postcards. Take your kids to pick out a postcard and have them write what God showed them on vacation. You can mail them home or just keep them as a way to remember how God worked!
  • Living Water. Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” John 7:37-38 | Pray this verse at a body of water and ask God to be the living water to the people residing nearby.
  • Bread of Life. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” John 6:51 | Pray for each person who prepares or serves a meal for your family. Ask your waiter or server to share a prayer request and pray for them right there. Provide a meal for someone in need.
  • The Church Body. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25 | Pray this verse for each church you pass. Take time to go into a church, attend a service, and encourage the members.
  • The Harvest. Read the Parable of the Sower found in Matthew 13. Pray these verses when you see flowers or farms. Pray for the “soil” to be soft. Pray for believers to be spreading the seeds of the gospel faithfully. Pray for God to produce a great harvest.
  • Pray for Schools. “In the same way, let your light shine before other, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 | Pray this verse when your family passes a school. Pray for Christian kids and faculty to not hide their light under a basket, but shine Christ’s light to other kids and teachers.
  • Jesus is Life. “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” John 14:6 | Pray this verse when you pass a temple, mosque or synagogue. Pray the people worshipping would know Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life.
  • Look Around. Walk around the city with your family before dinner. Spend time quietly observing the people. Then, go to dinner and talk about what you observed. Were there homeless people? Were there police officers? Were there families that looked different? Pray for the people your family noticed.
  • Pray for those in your midst. “The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!” Psalm 97:1 | Pray over your hotel, house or condo where your family is staying. Pray the Lord will reign in the hearts of the people working and residing there. Seek to get to know the guest service people and pray with and for them.
  • The Lord Provides. “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 | Pray this verse when you see rain. Provide an umbrella for somebody who does not have one. Share this verse with them to show the ultimate need we have in Christ.
  • Ask, Seek, Knock. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and the one who knocks it will be opened.” Matthew 7:7 | Pray this verse when you see a colorful or interesting door. Pray for the people inside and that God would move their hearts to seek Him.

Share this guide with your friends and encourage them to prayer walk on their family vacations.

Strolling through Texas Discovery Gardens

Last week while we were in Dallas, I decided to take the kids to Fair Park to see the Texas Discovery Gardens and the Children’s Aquarium (our helpful tips are bolded). I would recommend going to both in one trip and making a day (or morning/afternoon) of it. The gardens are literally steps away from the aquarium, and each one only took us about an hour or two with young children (you may be able to stay longer and do more with older children).

We started off that morning with a traffic-filled 30-minute drive into the South Dallas/Fair Park area. If you have never experienced Dallas driving, expect lots of cars and crazy highway interchanges at pretty much any time of the day. Of course, I am used to Oklahoma City traffic, so it may actually be an easy drive compared to where you live.

Our first stop was the Texas Discovery Gardens. I was especially interested in seeing the butterfly house and thought it would be a neat experience to explore a two-story, glass-encased butterfly habitat.

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We went on a Tuesday, which we found out was pay what you want Tuesday for admission. Regular admission is $8 for adults and $4 for children.

As you enter the main lobby and entrance, several small aquariums with critters (insects/snakes/fish) line the walls and open area. So we, of course, had to peer inside and examine the contents of each one before making our way to the gardens and butterfly house.

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I will say that the insects were pretty neat, so I would suggest that you make a stop to investigate that area. My older daughter enjoyed looking at the insects, as I tried to read all the signs to her and tell her about each one.

After that, we made our way through the hallway (again lined with more insects/frogs/etc) and out into the gardens.

I fully expected to stay much longer out there, but the weather was rather warm and muggy already that morning, which therefore resulted in a hot and sweaty (aka whiny) child (who is also very frightened of bees and other flying insects).

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We made a quick pass through the main lawn, pond, the outdoor butterfly gardens, and the large fountain and quickly returned to the safety of the indoors.

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We did actually get several bug bites while we were there, so I would recommend putting on bug spray before heading into the gardens and butterfly house. 

After returning inside, we headed up the stairs to the entrance of the butterfly house. You enter through some carefully-timed sliding glass doors into a beautiful, lush garden with butterflies flitting around freely. They keep it fairly warm and humid in there for the plants and butterflies, so be prepared and pack some water. 

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I found it to be a pretty surreal experience and loved watching these delicate insects flying all around me, finding the birds, and seeing inside an active beehive. My daughter, the one who is afraid of flying insects, thought it was cool for about two minutes and then wanted to bolt out of there as fast as she could.

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The baby, who was in the carrier, loved watching the butterflies and squealed in excitement (very loudly, might I add) as they would fly past us. I’m not sure if strollers are allowed in there, but I would advise against bringing one in there if at all possible. 

As you exit the butterfly house, there was an educational cart, where you could touch butterfly wings, see butterflies emerging from chrysalises, and other interesting things probably. We didn’t stay in there long enough to do those things because apparently, butterflies are dangerous and could probably kill small children (according to my daughter).

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I, unfortunately, didn’t get very many photos during the whole visit but did enjoy our brief tour of the Texas Discovery Gardens, especially the Butterfly House. We also learned a few interesting facts about butterflies and other insects.

I was going to write about the aquarium in this post but will save it for the next one since this one is getting so long.

Texas Discovery Gardens Fast Facts

Address > 3601 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. | Dallas, TX
Phone214.428.7476
Hours > Open daily from 10 am – 5 pm. Final admission is sold at 4:15 pm. Closed New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Eve and Day.
Websitewww.txdg.org
Admission > $8 Adults | $6 Seniors (60+) | $4 Children (3-11) | FREE for children 2 and under

Free Indoor Kid Activities in Dallas

This last week we headed down south of the border, the Oklahoma border that is, to Dallas again. But this time we just tagged along as part of Daddy’s work trip. He travels fairly often these days, but we can only go if it’s within driving distance since last minute airplane tickets can get pretty pricey.

We were going to be in Dallas for about three days, but I didn’t have too many activities planned because getting around with a young child and baby without Daddy can be exhausting. The weather was the typical hot and muggy Texas summer heat, except for the last day we were there, so we tried to stay indoors as much as possible.

The first day we headed to the Galleria to kill some time before we could check into the hotel. There is one of those carpeted play areas with the plastic structures on the third floor by Nordstrom. My little ones had quite a time crawling, climbing, and basically just running amok through the jungle-themed kids area. I was happy to let them explore and get some energy out by crawling through the tunnels, climbing up the steps, pretending to drive the jeep, riding in a canoe and jumping off the tops of various jungle creatures.

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Another highlight for my older daughter was the American Girl store by the Galleria. It’s not actually connected inside the mall, but we just walked from Nordstrom a few steps outside to get there. We didn’t go to the second level, which appeared to just be the salon and bistro. The first level were all the displays of dolls and accessories that she could touch and play with. Her favorite area was the Wellie Wishers section that had a playhouse, some interactive nature activities, and of course little baby dolls, strollers, high chairs and cribs.

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We also paid a visit to IKEA while we were in Dallas to pick up a few things (namely a cheap high chair without fabric to clean). I was more than willing and excited to drop off my older child in their supervised play area (which looked super fun through the windows – let me know if they are if your kids have been), but she refused to be left there and wanted to shop with me. She really enjoyed just playing in the upstairs kids furniture area, trying out the little beds, sitting in the kid-sized chairs and just touching and looking at all the things. We even ended the IKEA trip with a one dollar soft serve ice cream cone.

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On the last day, we again had a few hours to spend waiting for Daddy to get off work and set off to the local Barnes and NobleWe love books and bookstores, and B&N has a pretty neat kids area complete with a stage, mini tables and benches, and even a Thomas train set. In addition to a decent selection of books, there are also toys, games, stuffed animals and vintage Strawberry Shortcake and Barbie dolls. We read some books, looked at the toys and games, played with all the My Little Ponies stuffed plushes, and left the store with a few books from the 75% off clearance shelves.

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We were able to beat the summer heat indoors, while keeping the kids entertained and occupied. Some moments of our trip were super challenging with little ones, but these little field trips can present teachable moments. 

I had the opportunity to talk about jungles and what ancient ruins are at the mall play area, teach my daughter about doing laundry and ironing at the American Girl store, mention information about Sweden and Swedish food at IKEA, and read books about different characters and topics at Barnes & Noble. 

Stay tuned for the next post about the garden and aquarium we also visited on this Dallas trip. 

Five Reasons to Send Your Kids to VBS

Summer is just starting, and hopefully you haven’t already been hit with the “I’m bored, what can I do” chorus. If you are looking for meaningful and fun summer activities, my best recommendation is to sign your kids up for Vacation Bible School (aka VBS).

Almost every single church has one, so you could potentially take your kids to ones all over your local community throughout the summer months, if you were so inclined. I have such fond memories of my childhood summers going to VBS and want my children to experience the same thing.

My church just finished its week of VBS, and my daughter had an absolute blast learning new songs and memorizing a Bible verse. She also attended another local church’s VBS last week and will be going to her final one this summer in a couple weeks.

Here are my top 5 reasons to take your kids to VBS.

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1> They will have fun.
I have been around VBS practically my whole life and have helped at my church for the past few years, and I am still amazed at how those VBS organizers bring the Bible to life for these kids in such a fun and engaging way. With elaborate decorations, themed crafts and activities, and exciting games and songs, almost every moment of a VBS day is filled with purposeful entertainment. Your child will not likely be bored.

2 > They will learn God’s word.
Of course, this is the most important aspect of VBS. Most churches will have a key Bible verse that the children will memorize for the week, so you can rest assured that they are being exposed to Biblical truth. Children are the most responsive to the gospel message during the preschool and elementary school years. Use these early years in their lives to reinforce what you’ve been teaching them and draw them closer to Christ.

3 > It’s an easy witnessing opportunity.
VBS is a very non-threatening way to invite families to church. You can ask your children to invite a few of their friends, which will also make the week more fun for them too. Your invitation may also prompt questions from the parents that lead to spiritual discussions.

4 > It’s FREE!
Churches and VBS volunteers and donors recognize the value and importance of the ministry and are willing to offer basically a week of summer camp to their communities for free. We parents know that summer camps, child care and practically all kid activities are expensive, so free opportunities like these are amazing.

5 > You get a few hours to yourself.
If nothing else, VBS gives you a few hours during the day to run errands, do grocery shopping, grab coffee or meet with friends BY YOURSELF! In this stage of my life, my littlest one is too young to attend VBS. But for those of you with kids all VBS-age, live it up (for those three hours or so) before you have to pick those kids up.

So, there you have it…my top five reasons to take your kids to VBS. Find out when your church or other local churches are offering theirs and sign up your kids!

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