Reviews are great. They help us make decisions on things as small as which toothpaste will leave us the most "minty fresh" or as large as where to go and stay for one of the biggest events in our lives. We put our trust in people we don’t even know because hey, they’ve tried it (toothpaste, restaurant, resort, etc.), right, so they know best? Right? We benefit from their supposedly-seasoned knowledge and should put our faith in their review.
Or should we?
A new study conducted by the University of Baltimore’s economist Professor Roberto Cavazos claims that counterfeit content will influence an astonishing $21 billion in travel bookings worldwide this year. Cavazos defined fake online reviews as any review that isn’t a consumer’s honest and impartial opinion and does not reflect a genuine experience of a product, service, or business. Fashion, beauty, entertainment, housewares, and electronics top the list for most-faked reviews. Travel ranks sixth.
$21 billion in travel bookings based on fake, or significantly biased, reviews!
As a luxury travel advisor who takes immense pride in what I and my team do, this number is appalling! As is where the counterfeit content appears. This particular study referenced above focused on the most influential sites (that claim to contain honest and unbiased reviews), like Yelp, Trust Pilot, TripAdvisor, etc. Roughly 4% of reviews are fake, according to the study, with Yelp having an incredible 8% (this means that out of every one hundred reviews you read on Yelp, eight are not real).
But it’s not just the “user-generated” sites. It’s also bloggers and influencers. Individuals are thought of as legitimate, trustworthy sources who are making millions every year from biased content and bogus write-ups. $100 or so out the window for a lackluster high-review-based meal is one thing. $10,000 spent for a resort vacation based on bogus reviews is very serious money.
The fake reviews are even prevalent, though, within our own industry. Travel agents new to the biz (or even established ones) trying to get more clients may hype a restaurant, resort, or destination they haven’t experienced, or they’ll get their friends and families to post reviews about a vacation or their services, without having experienced either.
Or there may be a hotel that looks amazing online, but when you arrive, you discover those spectacular photos were what it may have looked like a few years ago, and it is now in far from tip-top condition.
And finally, some reviews are real and not meant to be misleading, but are. For example, someone who just went on their honeymoon may tout “the best resort ever,” and it might have been for a honeymoon, but not as great for a family trip with teenagers and toddlers.
So what does all this mean for you?
When planning a luxury trip, you need to work with an experienced team—one who has either been to the resorts and restaurants they’re recommending (or who have trusted affiliates they absolutely depend on) and can truly vouch for your experience, one who can not only help with meal reservations but also create a complete itinerary truly suited to your needs and wants, and one who can help make sure you are spending your money wisely.
In just this summer alone, The Shameless Tourist’s team of four has visited more than 45 different properties covering nine states, eight countries, and three continents, including places like Walt Disney World, St. Martin, Boston, Africa, Slovenia, Croatia, Paris and more.
This summer alone.
Our recommendations may not be the most popular choice according to the reviews. It may not even be something on your radar (either resort or destination-wise). But you can trust us that it will be the best recommendation for your particular set of circumstances based on places we have actually experienced (and those are vast, as you can see from our example above).
1. Thumbs down on a big thumbs-up-reviewed resort in Costa Rica
A particular resort in Costa Rica has great reviews everywhere online. However, their customer service is terrible. Trying to plan activities with their concierge was frustrating and time-consuming. We primarily booked the resort for surfing. When we arrived, they had forgotten to set up our surfing lessons. We also booked an expensive fishing charter; however, they ended up setting it up as a snorkeling trip. In addition to all the wasted time, we were also significantly overcharged, for which we never received a response after several attempts.
2. Zack and Kelly could have honeymooned at this New England Inn
We visited a Luxury affiliated country inn in New England that had beautiful photos on its website. When we arrived, we were greeted with a roof that needed to be redone, peeling paint, and an overall 80s feel (in that it hadn’t been refreshed or revamped since Saved by the Bell’s heydays). However, we found a hotel right next door that was much nicer but that wasn’t really on the radar. It didn’t have a pool like the original one, but it was an eminently better property.
3. Exceptional family value in Destin
Next is a family resort in Destin that again has great reviews online. I agree with those, and I would even recommend it further. It is an exceptionally good value for what it is, as you get Virtuoso amenities (hooray for room upgrades, complimentary breakfast, and more!) including a lazy river, splash pad, zero-entry pool, and more, for usually less than $500 per night. Additionally, it is steps away from one of the prettiest beaches in Florida. And while I’m not completely obsessed with Destin as a Florida destination (there are much prettier towns, in my opinion), it is a very nice family resort (with beach service!) at a great value.
4. Bloggers don’t necessarily know St. Barth
This next example is a really good one in terms of relevance to this article. This St. Barth’s resort has tons of bloggers and influencers repping and promoting it, but the reviews and info about it aren’t entirely truthful. While it does have cute rooms, it has issues that should be considered before booking. The onsite restaurant was awful and the service was terrible. The beach restaurant was also not good. Additionally, the hotel itself is not beachfront. In our opinion, there are other, better choices in St. Barths.
And we can say that because we have been there and experienced all aspects of that property, as well as countless others, all over the world.
At The Shameless Tourist, we believe your hard-earned money is important. We believe that if you are spending thousands on a vacation, then it should be well worth it. As for our credentials, The Shameless Tourist is an Independent Affiliate of Avenue Two Travel, one of the most well-respected travel agencies in the luxury travel sphere, and we are a top producer and preferred partner with most of the world’s best hotels and resorts, tour operators, and cruise lines. We have personal contacts around the travel world, many of whom we call friends. In addition to our contacts, we also collectively spend hundreds of days each year attending webinars, reading news, listening to podcasts, and personally touring or experiencing dozens and dozens of the properties we most often recommend. Our clients are VIPs at our preferred partner hotels and receive all of the “in the know” knowledge of practically any destination they choose.
You can rest assured, there are no bogus recommendations from our team, as our own reviews will attest (see what we did there ).
I hope you enjoy it!
Kaleigh Kirkpatrick, CTA, is the Founder and owner of The Shameless Tourist. For as long as she can remember, Travel has always been an integral part of her life. Kaleigh truly loves helping individuals, couples, groups, and families plan their travel. Sharing her tips, tricks, money saving tactics, and reviews of destinations around the world, she is confident that she can plan a superb vacation for YOU! For more information, or to book your upcoming trip please contact her at 817.929.0446 or visit her at www.theshamelesstourist.com
So many families I've worked with recently are trying to figure this parenting thing out all while balancing their full-time jobs with both spouses now working from home. I know first-hand how difficult it can be to navigate keeping up a household while dad is unexpectedly working out of his closet to find some quiet to take a call. For many of us, trying to stay afloat financially has been a struggle too because in some way or another, Covid has taken a toll on all of us. All of these situations are so, so hard. Working, managing finances, worrying about health, and raising children is already difficult, but add being isolated to the home with the same few people for a big portion of the last 18 months is more like pull-your-hair-out hard!
Now that things are starting to open back up, we’re facing all the challenges of reintegrating back into society, and unfortunately, we likely won’t see all the long-term effects for quite some time. I’m seeing it daily - both with my clients and with the students in the classroom where I teach.
Many born over the last 18 months have never really left the house to go on simple errands like the grocery store, let around being able to freely play around with other children! Separation anxiety for infants and toddlers seems to be at an all-time high, as little ones have really never known anyone other than mom or dad as caregivers. In toddlers, challenging behaviors have been a hot topic, and I’m seeing a lot more fear and anxiety in a lot of my adolescent clients in the aftermath of this pandemic. The inconsistency in everyone’s routines due to the disruptions that occur with illnesses, exposures, subsequent quarantines, closures, and you name it clearly affect our day-to-day lives.
It's inarguable that the COVID-19 crisis has taken a lot out of us, but it doesn’t have to take your kiddos' sleep too! Whether your children are babies, toddlers, school-aged, or adolescents, here are my top tips for maintaining great sleep (even in, or after a pandemic)!
Although many of us wish parenting had an explicit manual, our children don’t come with step-by-step directions, which is why it’s SO important to find your village! Finding your village these days can be an exhausting task, but it is worth the effort. I’m so thankful for the FWMOM community because even virtually, they have always shown up! We can truly encourage one another and live life together. And it's okay to state the obvious too: multiples are HARD, y’all! Find your village, support them, love them well, and let them love on you too!
Melina Moses is a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant with Sleep Wise Consulting. She currently lives in Oklahoma City with her husband Wes, twins McKenzie and Jaxon, and her daughter Madelyn. To schedule a consulation with Melina, please visit https://www.sleepwiseconsulting.com/consultants/melina-moses/ or email her at email@example.com
#findingjoy #motherhoodjourney #motherhood #ittakesavillage
With seasons changing from summer to fall we get a break from the heat, pumpkin spice everything and the dreaded time change. For many of us “Fall Forward” means one more blissful hour of sleep. However, for children the time change can lead to a stressful change in sleep quality. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be! With a few tips, you can fall forward like a champ and avoid any unnecessary stress.
As tempting as it may be to keep your kiddos up an extra hour the night before daylight savings, don’t do it. Unfortunately, the extra hour awake will not equate to an extra hour of sleep in the morning. Put your child to bed on time the night before the change. Let them sleep till their scheduled wake up time- they may be up before due to the time change, but let them stay in their crib/bed as close to their wake time as possible. This applies to feeding too, keeping your baby on schedule is the best way to deal with daylight savings.
Throughout the day keep up with the new time. Take advantage of the cool weather, play outside, go on walks or to the park. Your child may start to feel the time change before their nap, but hold out as best you can. Being consistent is important, keep up with regular routines and utilize tools such as black out curtains and sound machines. After about three to five days of adjusting to these changes, you and your little one will be back on track.
Melissa O'Neill is a registered nurse who specialized in NICU and Labor & Delivery for over twelve years. With three kids of her own, she is a wonderful resource for all new parents. After the birth of her first child, she became increasingly interested in studies on the sleep habits of newborns, and saw a need for quality in-home newborn nursing care and education for new parents in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Melissa founded Newborn Nightingales in 2012 and is committed to helping parents establish a nurturing, caring and calm environment. Melissa was recently elected to the board for the Mother’s Milk Bank of North Texas. In addition, she was a featured speaker for the Bump, Baby & Beyond event in Dallas in 2014 and The Dallas Mom’s Blog Bloom event in 2016.
If you are interested in getting some help with night-time sleep care, please reach out to Newborn Nightingales through https://newbornnightingales.com/contact-us/
Before I had my children, I was a very career driven person. I worked in Minor League Baseball right out college for seven years and now work in college athletics. Working in sports requires a huge time commitment, including 12-14 hour work days multiple days a week. I absolutely loved my career and it’s who I was; it was my whole identity.
After I had my girls, my whole world changed. I know it sounds so cliché, but I really felt like I gained SO much but also lost so much of myself when I had them. It doesn’t help that I had them a month after the world shutdown due to the pandemic, so we were forced to stay home and away from anyone/anything that could have given me a sense of normalcy.
I was even worried to have my family come help (they live in Georgia) because of the unknown of COVID at the time and what it could do to my newborn daughters. After three weeks of paternity leave, my husband returned to work and I was home alone with the girls. Just the thought of that terrified me. I remember being so jealous that he got to leave the house and go to work and socialize with other people.
I caved and called in backup and my Mom came to help for a month or so. I currently work in college athletics, so with the pandemic and all sports being cancelled, I was able to work from home starting just 6 weeks after giving birth. I was so excited to get back to working and feeling like myself, but I quickly realized that I’m not who I used to be. I started to feel so lost and overwhelmed.
While I was ready to get back to work, I also had two newborns to take care of at the same time. I had to be a Mom and an employee, and I had no clue how to balance the two. Of course, I did what all of us MoM’s do and I made it work. I have learned that my career now takes a backseat to my family because I am a Mom first and an employee second. It sounds crazy, but it has taken me a while to come to terms with the fact that my job isn’t the most important thing in my life anymore. Before I became a Mom, I was ALWAYS working. I would feel guilty if there was a game going on and I wasn’t there with my coworkers; now I feel guilty when I’m at work and not at home with my children and husband.
In the last 16 months since having my girls, I have found a good balance of the “old me” and the “new me.” I leave for work in the morning before they get up, get to work early, and leave work early so I can have more of the afternoon to spend with them. I still work a couple nights a week when we are having games, but my husband brings the girls to my work to see me for a couple of hours if it’s on the weekends. I know it’s not perfect and it probably won’t work forever, but for now, it allows me to continue to do both things that I love; be a Mom and continue to have my career that I am so passionate about.
I know it’s hard to be a Mom, whether you work or stay home, and we lose ourselves because we care so much about our family that we forget what used to make us happy and make us who we are. I encourage you to try to find the balance and continue to do what makes you, YOU!
Courtnie Ortiz works as an Athletic Marketing Coordinator at The University of Texas at Dallas. She lives in Hurst, Texas with her husband Nathan and twin daughters, Faith and Gracie (1.5)
FWMOM 2021 Welcome!
Uncertain World Requires Unparalleled Wisdom
As we launch our new year as an organization, I wanted to introduce the direction that our club and conversations within are headed.
Welcome to the year of FWMOM Wisdom!
That’s right. We have our own special language of wisdom that only moms with multiples truly understand. We learn how to take the timeless advice of our mothers and grandmothers and apply it to our life amid multiples.
We also begin to realize that not all that hand-me-down advice fits our family, situation, or season in life. We often sit perplexed between “never wake a sleeping baby” and “the schedule is the only way I survive”. Alas we wake the sleeping baby for the sake of our sanity. Learning how to work that out takes a special kind of mother- it takes you!
I want to look at wisdom from all points of view this year, sources of wisdom, and applying that to our life as MOM’s.
There is practical wisdom like- wash your hands before you eat, buy the adult meal, and split it with the twins, everyone eats and naps at the same time.
There is also spiritual wisdom, less touchable with our hands, but so very powerful. Those are the nuggets of wisdom that shift perspectives on the inside, help us navigate difficult decisions, and are refreshing to our soul. One of my favorites is: “you are the best mother for your children, nobody will replace that place in their life.” Anyone ever heard that one? If not, read it again and know how true it is!
This year, I want to combine the practical with the powerful in our conversations.
We are facing a world right now that is on shifting sand. The normal we knew in 2019 will never be back. Honestly, that makes me uncomfortable…
Like baking a cake, once the ingredients are mixed and in the oven… there is no going back to flour, milk, and eggs. The cake is baked for 2021 ladies, and we didn’t have much of a say in the process! Moving forward is going to take diving a bit deeper, shifting our perspectives on schooling, work, discipline, and social media. We are going to look at how we as a group of mothers can support, encourage, and stand with each other especially when we MAY be making different decisions on the same matter.
My heart is to be a voice of wisdom to the MOM’s of our club. To you!
One thing I most love about all of you, is the diversity of our membership. There is only one ticket into our club, and we all have the honor of being mothers of multiples. Best gift ever, am I right?! Beyond that we have a wide range of professions, demographics, ages, and cultures represented. It is a beautiful thing.
For those who are meeting me for the first time, I come with my own unique perspectives. I am an ICU nurse. I am a minister. I am a boy mom. I am married to the hottest man alive (TMI-but true). I am not from the south. I do love fried pickles and hate okra. I am a Jesus follower. I love a good movie but don’t watch much TV. I am an enneagram 2 with balanced wings. You may relate to some of these, none of these, or all of these, and THAT IS FANTASTIC. We can all benefit from the life experiences of one another.
Know that when I speak, when I blog, or when I post, that this is my perspective, and I will present wisdom as I see it today. I most certainly do not have it all figured out, which is why a conversation is two ways. Please share, bring your insight, disagree (yes I said it!), and be willing to sit in the place to receive. Again, with the refreshing beauty of our group, there is no judgy mom culture here. Let’s keep it that way! Always keep your comments kind, humble, and respectful friends.
There is power in wisdom. Wisdom is a safe place, and so should our conversations. There is safety in wisdom that is unattainable in any other way. One word or one conversation can bring such peace to our hearts. That is what this year for FWMOM will be about.
One of my favorite reminders of this is in the book of Proverbs in the Bible. Proverbs are like little bits of golden wisdom, which I will pull from routinely. Proverbs 3:21-22 says:
“My child, never drift off course from these two goals in your life: to walk in wisdom and to discover discernment. Don’t ever forget how they empower you. For they are strength to you inside and out and inspire you to do what’s right; you will be energized and refreshed by the healing they bring.”
FWMOM Wisdom will empower us.
FWMOM Wisdom will strengthen us from the inside out.
FWMOM Wisdom helps us know what is right.
FWMOM Wisdom energizes and refreshes us.
FWMOM Wisdom brings healing.
This year, let’s major on these things. Not our differences. But on building up a pile of wisdom that brings us all safety and clarity for the days ahead.
Much love, Tonya
Tonya Flowers is a mother to Lucas, and twins Wyatt and Timothy. She is a wife, nurse, minister and currently serves FWMOM as our Chaplain.
Well, I tumble outta bed and stumble to the kitchen
Pour myself a cup of ambition
Yawn and stretch and try to come to life
Jump in the shower and the blood starts pumping
Out on the street, the traffic starts jumping
PUMP THE BRAKES…
…we actually have no clue about traffic…
We’re a homeschool family…in Texas.
2020 was the year that changed it for us. With everything shut down from the Pandemic and my husband, an essential public utility city worker - who was working around the clock – a lackluster summer came and went. I did my absolute best to keep the ball rolling and keep some kind of learning and activities going on after Spring Break and into the summer. I decided to try and “catch my kids up”. Lots of “read to me” books were assigned in Epic. I bought every workbook Dollar Tree and Target carried. I subscribed to every learning app on the roku. I was doing trials on every online learning curricula I could find (most are not very good). We did a ton of live classes with Outschool. I setup my tiny little classroom using an old plant stand as a book shelf. I had two 15 year old laptops I upgraded with memory and installed Zorin operating system. My old school inner geek was kicked in full force.
But, what was my “real” plan come August 2020 when public school started?
Our girls were absolutely terrified to go back to public school. Their last year of in person school (2019-2020) was first grade. There was a lot of bullying and very little transparency in the classroom. We had no clue how badly they struggled. We weren’t able to observe them in class to see where they thrived and where they needed support. There were no volunteer opportunities. A lot of trust was lost.
But we, as a family, are tough and decided to give it another shot. We started the 2020-2021 with public school remote learning like everyone else. We absolutely loved their core and elective teachers - but several weeks passed and we knew something was very wrong. The girls weren’t getting equally fair support and the workload just wasn’t realistic. We had to cancel their counterproductive dyslexia class to allow time for core subjects and teachers they loved. I spoke up and was given a harsh reaction from their school administration…I found out later this happened to several other parents and their children.
When the schools IT department decided to change everything at 7 weeks – completely wiping out all the hard work between myself and teachers to get structured education in place for our children - we decided it was best for us to leave public education.
All of our haphazard “rookie homeschool” work had been placed on hold during these past 7 weeks. We took a break for a few days and then picked up where we left off. It wasn’t easy. While our girls are identical –their brains are not. It took several months for me to find a complete curriculum that worked for us – something that I could customize for each child – something that was structured, sleek and had reporting – something better than the obsolete homeschool programs out there and something better than the apps public schools used as a crutch. We found it, along with some supplemental apps and a workbook we absolutely love. My kids do a combination of independent learning with several teachers through their master curriculum and I work with them during workbook time. It’s a great method that’s really working for us. Everyone and everything is accountable. Texas has been behind the times with regard to private homeschool – but there’s a new breed of us that are wanting bigger and better - and we’re making that happen rather quickly.
Even through the Texas winter blast in February 2021 – we toughed it out for a week with no electricity and no running water. We burned a lot of wood to keep it above 50 in our home. We had to scoop water out the pool to flush our toilets. My husband was working insane hours and that left me and our girls to figure it out. We did a lot of learning, gaming, and “preparing for the zombie apocalypse”. A friend and her family in Southlake opened their home to us so we could recoup. We spent another week in a hotel – thankfully with a kitchenette and pull out sofa bed. Another friend - all the way in Turkey - sent help. We are so very thankful for these amazing strong women in our lives.
Despite everything - our kids are insanely happy and thriving – so are me and Daddy. We haven’t missed a beat in quality family time and our girls have had the busiest summer ever with kids of all ages through multiple VBS, summer camps, homeschool programs, volunteering, community service, and play dates.
We’ve kept in touch with their most loved previous teachers and I know they really enjoy seeing all the fun and exciting things we do! Even our awesome family physician gets all the updates. We’ve got an amazing cheering squad in our corner that love our “go get em” attitude towards life. On top of that - over the summer – during the insane lumber inflation - my husband built me beautiful wood sofa style cabinets that hold all of our classroom supplies. I couldn’t be happier with our little school setup!
We homeschool year round and will wrap up second grade the end of August. I’m going to take a week to set the curriculum for the next year – which will be grade 2.5 beginning first of September. We’ve decided to ditch traditional education standards taught in the US and learn from other areas of the world. Standardized testing, Common Core, and Stem focus are things of the past at Hoffman Academy. We do maintain our legal obligation in Texas to teach Math, Reading, Spelling, Grammar, and Good Citizenship. Adding to that, we are teaching Music, Art, Foreign Languages, Life Skills, Science, and History. And we do record attendance. Recently, our master curriculum received accreditation from ACS WASC (The Accrediting Commission for Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges.)
For me, the choice to homeschool was empowering. It made me realize I didn’t have to do things the way everyone else did. Homeschooling was a choice, not a sacrifice and it’s an amazing feeling for your beautifully interdependent family to hug you…and thank you.
Melanie Hoffman is a full time homemaker and private homeschool teacher residing in Grapevine, Texas with her husband Dustin and their identical twin daughters.
Have you ever seen an adult throwing a temper tantrum and behaving childishly? I get second-hand embarrassment when I witness that. Those incidents spur me to raise my children with the end goal in mind: competent, kind and respectful adults.
I was a high school exchange student in Germany when I was 16. One of the things that stuck with me was that, due to a comprehensive public transportation system, teens and even children were allowed much more freedom to travel without an adult. In general, teens were trusted with “adult” things, and far from being delinquents, they handled themselves responsibly. It was definitely a paradigm shift that stuck with me. Children handle responsibility remarkably well, especially when they are given opportunities to practice it.
Our natural tendency is to overprotect—protect our kids from the world and protect the world from our kids. But kids have to take risks in order to learn how to manage risk. This is especially hard with multiples and the health concerns that often come with them; risk is the exact opposite of our goal after what we went through. When my kids started to climb, I would spot them the first few times, pointing out where their foot should go if they got stuck. Once they showed proficiency, I could take my seat. They probably have my mantra, “Don’t climb higher than you can get down yourself” embedded in their brain. As a result, I rarely have to rescue them, and they are all physically adept. The same concept can be applied to all areas of parenting: teach them up close, help them if they get stuck but do not rescue, and they will learn that they can do it themselves.
Kids thrive when they have a sense of purpose and when they feel needed and a part of something. I was challenged –I mean, blessed!—with an oldest son with an insatiable curiosity and lightning fingers. He stretched my patience to the limit, and then I saw an episode of the Duggar show, where a toddler was kept happily busy bringing Daddy all the trash cans in the house. Jim Bob stayed calm and thanked her for every one, even though he clearly did not want them at that moment. Something clicked; kids want to help. They will do a terrible job at first, but instead of stopping them, we should thank them for their efforts and provide an example for them to follow. As they grow, they will get better. Once I adopted the “give them a job” style of parenting, my son never slowed down, but more of his energy was spent on activities of which I approved. Soon he was a two-year-old carrying the diaper bag, folding washcloths, and cracking eggs for breakfast.
Parenting for the long term means enforcing discipline consistently from a young age, so that kids can trust our rules and not test them constantly. It takes a canny parent to always say what you mean and mean what you say, so the simpler, the better. I have just a few rules that I repeat like a broken record, so we can all remember them. How many of us have, in a moment of frustration, said, “If you don’t behave, I’m going to leave you here!”, and then we have to make the walk of shame with a kid under each arm, because of course we cannot really leave our kids there? Children will take full advantage of idle threats, so we have to carefully make enforceable statements. Instead, I would say, “Would you like to leave on your feet or in my arms?” Either way, I get the desired outcome—my child in the car. Now that my kids know that I am willing to inconvenience myself to enforce compliance and I will keep the rules every time, the battle of wills happens much less. Just remember, children cannot yet consistently apply the same rule to new situations, so they need to be reminded.
In order to make enforceable statements, parents also have to let go of that which they cannot control. I cannot make my child sleep, but I can make them lay in bed quietly and make them wake up at the same time, whether they have slept or not. I cannot make them eat all their food, but I can make them sit at the table during meal time. I have too many kids (don’t we all!) to force each one to finish their chores in an hour, but I can make their beloved screen time dwindle, the longer they take. By controlling only what I can control, kids learn to trust my discipline and learn to control themselves.
Children love to feel big, and childhood is a gradual handover of power from parent to child. I take every opportunity I can to have the kids do a task that stretches them. With my four year old, that is making oatmeal in the microwave. With my ten year old, that is ordering pizza online or making a short shopping trip on his own. My goal is that they have most of the life skills they need by the time they are adults and that, if they do not know it, they know how to find out. And the best part of handing out tasks like this is that children love them! They love to feel like a grown-up and challenge themselves.
What a wonderful sacred task we have been given, to raise these tiny humans into adults. We get to guide them as they discover, learn, and grow. I cannot wait until my children are adults, not because I dislike their childhood, but because I look forward to seeing the people they will become.
Aubrey True is a mother of five kids under 11, including 4 year old twins. She has lived in Azle and Weatherford for most of her life. Her interests include coffee, reading, minimalism, and cognitive behavioral therapy.
It was the Saturday of Mother's Day weekend, and I woke up with every intention of spending the day outside. The weather was absolutely perfect, and for once, the chores were all finished the night before. I woke up, packed the snack bag, the medicine bag, and the sunscreen, dressed myself and my kids in matching tye-dyed shirts I made for the entire family last summer, and headed out the door for Dream Park in Fort Worth.
If you’ve ever been to Dream Park you know that it is a massive play space with multiple playgrounds and very quickly you can lose track of multiples who tend to run in opposite directions. So instead of sitting still and watching a single child, I walked the park and kept track of which child was at each playground. I didn’t stop to swing a child, or play with a child like I normally would at smaller parks, but I (almost) always knew where each of my 3 children were located.
About 1 hour into our visit, I rallied the troops and sat everyone down for snacks. We talked about how much fun they were having on the playground, while re-hydrating and filling their little tummies. After just a few minutes, they were refueled and ready to play.
This time though, they all took off running in the same direction. All 3, unlike before, ran not only to the same play space, but to the same exact location. It was at this moment that I was able to stop and play with the kids.
As I helped my youngest (singleton) cross the obstacle that seemed so effortless to his older brothers, one of the twins yelled, “Momma, watch this!” I was feet away and looked up just in time to watch him miss the step and land face first on the stairs in front of him. As he stood up, I knew something was majorly wrong. I grabbed him, cradled his little body, looked at the man next to me and calmly said, “Call 9-11.”
The events that followed were incredible and are certainly worth writing about, but as we go through the summer, I want to leave you with a bit of wisdom and encouragement.
When with your children, put your phone down and be present. So often, we get caught up in what’s going on outside of our immediate reality, and we miss things that could be life changing, or even life threatening. I am also guilty of not being fully present 100% of the time and am thankful that at the moment of the most traumatic event in my son’s life, I was right by his side. I was there to watch whatever silly stunt he was about to pull. I was there to watch him conquer the obstacle and to see his confidence rise just a little when he made it to the other side. But most importantly I was with him on what has been the most traumatizing day of his life, and although I fully give God full credit for the prompting, it is only because on that day, I left my phone in the car.
Put away the technology this summer, and live in the present. Make memories, even if they land you in the ER.
Sara is a mom to four year old twins, a two year old, and a bonus mom to a twelve and thirteen year old. She is a Christian social media influencer, and serves on the praise and worship team at Birdville Baptist Church.
Chances are you and the kiddos spent a lot more time together during lockdowns. Despite all the angst and havoc inflicted by the pandemic, there was one silver lining—families had time to grow closer. There was time for unhurried conversations and family meals, playing games and watching movies together. You probably even found yourself suddenly thrust into your child’s daily school work like never before—keeping a close eye on Zoom classes and online assignments.
Sure, all that forced togetherness wasn’t always ideal. There may have even been times when you thought your kids were driving you a little bit crazy. Still, it was a rare opportunity to really see and appreciate the amazing, individual people your kids really are.
As our lives begin to return to normal, you may be struck by just how complete your family is—just the way it is right now. Whether you have a matching set or can field an entire swim team, you may realize you have everything you want in the way of a tight-knit family. So how do you hold onto this perfection?
Birth control: the imperfect control of perfection.
It’s no secret that women have traditionally carried the greatest responsibility for birth control. Today, modern medicine gives women lots of options. Spermicide foams and jellies, non-hormonal gels, diaphragms, the cervical cap, sponges, pills, patches, vaginal rings, shots, implants, IUDs—even surgery (tubal ligation). They all reduce the risk for pregnancy and can help couples plan their families. Still, they can be complicated, expensive, inconvenient or come with health risks and side effects. Although many of them do a good job of preventing pregnancy, none of them are 100 percent effective.
There’s another option, though.
Let your man man up.
When it comes to male birth control, there are two options: condoms and the “v” word—vasectomy. Many men don’t like using condoms. And just as many will wince when they think about a surgical knife coming anywhere near their manhood. They are very protective of the family jewels.
While the thought of a little snip-snip in that area makes some guys cringe, nearly 500,000 men in the United States have a vasectomy every year because it’s a simple procedure. With just one or two small incisions, the vas deferens (the two tubes that move sperm) are cut or sealed off so sperm can’t reach the semen ejaculated from the penis. Because sperm is cut off, vasectomies are 99 percent effective against pregnancy.
Here’s the bonus good news!
Along with being so effective in preventing pregnancy, vasectomy doesn't affect a man's libido, sexual function or semen production. Men still experience normal orgasms! A vasectomy simply prevents sperm from mixing with other seminal fluids. After a vasectomy, a man still ejaculates normally, but sperm will no longer be present in his ejaculatory fluid.
Let our “V” team help.
With more than 20 experienced and compassionate urologists—including skilled micro surgeons who specialize in vasectomy—Urology Partners of North Texas (UPNT) is honored to help couples with their family planning.
"Not only is vasectomy a quick and inexpensive procedure, but other than abstinence it is the most effective form of birth control,” says Dr. Adam Hollander.
Routinely performed since the end of World War II, studies show that only one or two women out of 1,000 get pregnant every year after their partners have a vasectomy. The minor procedure usually takes about 20 minutes and is often performed right in our urology clinic under local anesthesia. Given its efficacy and relative simplicity, men have good reasons to feel very comfortable with their decision to have a vasectomy.
Many men consider vasectomy a loving gift.
After years of watching the mother of their children cope with months of pregnancy and the pain of childbirth, they view it as a chance to do their part. “I’ve had many men tell me, ‘It’s only fair that I do this for my wife. She’s been through a lot.’” says Dr. Jason Poteet.
Following the procedure, some men have a small risk for bleeding, bruising and infection. Strenuous activity is restricted for five to seven days during recovery. Many men schedule their vasectomy for a Thursday or Friday so they can rest on Saturday and Sunday (a terrific excuse to binge watch sports all weekend).
It is also extremely important for men to check with their UPNT physician before having unprotected sex following their vasectomy. A semen analysis a few months post-vasectomy can confirm that sperm is no longer present in semen.
What if you change your mind?
“Most vasectomies can be reversed—even if several years have passed since the procedure,” Dr. Weber Chuang explains. “Although a reversal doesn’t guarantee success in conceiving a child, studies show that men have a 40 to 90 percent success rate of sperm returning to the semen. “We want to make sure men know about all their options so they can make informed decisions about vasectomy and vasectomy reversal.”
So, is your family ready to take the plunge?
Urology Partners of North Texas is a Diamond Level Sponsor for FWMoM. They have a compassionate group of doctors offering many services including assistance with infertility, male and female incontinence, and the ultimate long-term birth control—precision vasectomy. They are conveniently located throughout the metroplex with locations in Fort Worth, Grapevine, Arlington, Mansfield, Grapevine, Irving and Weatherford.
Follow them on Facebook!
To learn more about their doctors, services or to schedule a consultation, please visit their website at www.upnt.com or call 866-367-8768.
On February 13, 2013, I announced on Facebook that my husband David and I were debt free, and we had paid off $51,000 in 3.5 years. We have been debt free, except for a mortgage, for 8 years now. There was no inheritance, no lottery winnings, not even an income above $40,000 per year. There was only steady progress and deliberate decisions.
Forbes places the average net worth of an under-35-year-old at just $14,000. In 2020 in a Federal Reserve Survey, 38% of respondents said they would not be able to afford $400 for an emergency with the money currently in their bank account. The average American is saddled with consumer debt that seriously hinders their risk tolerance, prevents them from leaving bad jobs (or bad bosses!), and promotes a poverty mindset. Living beyond your means is a prison.
Here is our $51,000 breakdown:
So how do you do it? Get on the same plan! We used Dave Ramsey. He advocates “gazelle intensity”, or taking drastic measures to save money so we could dump it all into debt repayment. We moved in with my parents, drove 10 year old cars, and cooked from scratch. We sold anything that wasn’t essential and took on extra jobs. Subscriptions and memberships got the axe. The budget was king, and the thrift store was my kingdom.
We communicated about everything to make it work. That’s the second step. If you combine finances like we did, each has to know what the other is spending on. We did have small allowances each month, which we could spend freely. Any time one category went over, we worked together to figure out another category to get the money from.
People thought that we were a little crazy. Okay, I was a little crazy. I took this as a challenge to see how low I could go, and yes, there is a line—washing cloth diapers by hand is my line! But it’s hard to adequately describe the benefits of paying off debt. Our money goes much further because the only thing we pay interest on is a mortgage. We were able to avoid government assistance except for children’s health insurance, and we avoided the dependence mindset. Part of the Dave Ramsey plan includes building an emergency fund, and having that security means we have the freedom to leave a horrible job if needed. We have the confidence, after paying off so much, that we can handle almost any financial challenge thrown our way.
Since then, we no longer follow Dave Ramsey to the letter. Buying a home with no credit was difficult, so I highly recommend that, if you have even an ounce of discipline, you keep one credit card, use it only for regular expenses, and pay it off in full each month. That will not incur debt, but it will keep your credit high, making any big purchase like a home or car much easier. I started with a secured credit card, and I have moved up to cards with rewards. I haven’t paid them a cent in interest. We also don’t keep a budget anymore, but the frugal habits that we developed have persisted. It’s like weighing your food when you start a diet—after a while, you can just see what the right portion is, and you no longer need to weigh.
Some things have stayed the same. I have never financed a car, and I have no intention of ever doing so. We recently bought David a new car, and the salesman was salivating at our high credit scores, so it was almost sad to dash his dreams by paying cash. Not paying interest more than made up for it. I scrounged and rode the bus and train two hours each way in my early 20s to save $3000 for my first car. By paying myself a car payment and driving each car as long as possible, I have been able to pay cash for each car we have.
Dave’s plan is all about being very intentional and intense about money, watching it like a hawk. I like to take a lazy approach now; it reduces decision fatigue. I have automated as many bills as I can, as well as automatically sending money to savings and investments. My investing style is “set it and forget it”; as long as I choose a market-matching index fund and keep adding to it year after year, I will be recession-proof.
Being debt free is just part of living within our means. We qualified for a much larger mortgage than we chose to take on, and because our mortgage was low, we did not lose our house when David lost his job and then had to take a job with much lower pay. I knew from challenging myself earlier how to cook from scratch and make do. We still live comfortably because we have already practiced this lifestyle. What would you do if your car was totaled? Can you pay your insurance deductible if you have a hospital stay? Not having an emergency fund big enough to cover these expenses is an emergency! Even very low income families can start saving. I’m not talking about the “skip a latte a day” garbage—I don’t even buy Starbucks at all. Everyone can do something, and by starting even at just $5 a paycheck, it creates a placeholder that you can increase as your frugal kung fu becomes stronger. Becoming debt free takes intention and consistency, but the benefits far outweigh the sacrifices.
Financial Peace University, Dave Ramsey
America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money, Steve and Annette Economides
I Will Teach You To Be Rich, Ramit Sethi
Fort Worth Mothers of Multiples
P.O. Box 123874
Fort Worth, Texas 76121
Fort Worth Mothers of Multiples is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.