Category: DFW

Family Fun in DFW: Beat the Heat at the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park

We are in the seriously-too-hot-to-live phase of Texas weather, and constantly trying to find ways to keep cool and entertain our family without spending too much or staying glued to the tv.  If you follow me on Instagram, you know that recently we visited the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park in Dallas and had an absolute blast.  We received free passes in exchange for this review, but all opinions are strictly my own.  We love exploring the city we call home and enriching the lives of our wee ones on the way.  The Aquarium has been around for a long time, but was recently completely redesigned as a Children’s Aquarium.  EVERYTHING is on a child’s level, completely accessible, and perfectly placed to grab their attention.  Bear was enthralled.  He has been talking about the alligator we saw for over a week now.  
Isn’t this jelly fish amazing?
There are two sides to the main aquarium, salt water and fresh, as well as a touch pool, shark tank, and stingray touch pool.  Everything is included in the admission price except for stingray food (if you want to feed them) for and extra $2.  Bear was a little intimidated by the stingrays, so we didn’t try feeding them.  

Spike wants to bite your toes.  Thankfully thick glass protects you from this 190 pound 75 old year old titan snapping turtle.

The jelly fish were truly beautiful to watch.  They float so gracefully like aquatic ballerinas.  It almost made me hate them a little less.  I’ve been stung one too many times.  

The touch pool is surrounded by a step rock formation to make it the perfect height for every kid.  The staff guide was so patient with Bear and showed him shells and sea urchins, helping him touch them gently.

The outdoor shark and stingray tanks were fabulous.  There are several different vantage points to watch the sharks, but this was my favorite as well as Bear’s.  He waited for each shark to swim by and chased it down the glass.  I couldn’t get a non-blurry photo, but it was such a fun memory I had to share.  
If you are a fan of the tv show New Girl, you probably recognize the lion fish.  These beauties were so incredible to watch. 

In my opinion, the best thing about the Children’s Aquarium is the price.  Admission is only $8 for adults, and $6 for kids 3-11 and seniors.  If you have a membership to the Dallas Zoo you get $2 off admission.  An even better deal is the annual membership.  For $20 ($15 for zoo members) you can buy an annual membership and visit any time.  If you’ve checked out the prices on any of the other aquariums in town you know that price is unbeatable.

**Holiday Gift Idea** A season pass would make a perfect gift for the fish loving child in your life.  People (children included) remember experiences far more than material things.  Do you remember what toy you got for Christmas at age 6? Probably not.  But I bet you remember a favorite visit to the zoo, aquarium, or special museum.

I would highly recommend the Children’s Aquarium for families with kids 1 and up.  A visit takes 1-2 hours, depending on your child’s attention span.  The Children’s Aquarium also hosts groups, birthday parties, overnight guests, and summer camps for kids from pre-k through 5th grade.  
Visit the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park any day of the week from 9 am to 4:30 pm, except for Thanksgiving Day and Christmas.  Click here to visit the Children’s Aquarium website for more information.  For more information about the Dallas Zoo visit their website here.  You can also follow the Zoo and Aquarium on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.    
What is your favorite species to see at the aquarium?

The State Fair of Texas Summer Adventure at Fair Park Rocks!


 
Did you know you can get a Fletcher’s Corny Dog in the summer?  Until last week, I had no idea.  I thought the illusive fried goodness only happened during the State Fair.  This summer for the first time, The State Fair of Texas Summer Adventure opened the fairgrounds up for the public all summer long.  It’s not too late to visit, as tickets are half price and the gates are open daily until August 18th.  This is not in any way a sponsored post.  We just visited the Summer Adventure and thought it rocked, so I’m sharing it with you.   

For one price you get all the rides you can squeeze in, and there are NO LINES.  Seriously, we had the place to ourselves which was awesome.  It opens at 10 am, so you can get there before the heat really sets in.  For $14.95 you get a admission, a pass to ride everything as many times as you want, a bottle of water, AND admission to the Children’s Aquarium and the Texas Discovery Garden.  That, my friends, is a ridiculous deal.  

I’m not sure how I missed this at the beginning of the summer, but I’m so glad we went.  If they offer season passes next year, we are so in.  The Bear had a blast.  He rode his first ever fair ride, and loved it.

See what I mean?  No one else was there.  It was AWESOME.  The thing I don’t like about the actual State Fair is the crowds.  We rode the carousel over and over, and were the only ones on it.  I felt bad for the staff, but I’m sure it will get better next year.

The Bear was able to ride quite a few of the attractions, but most of the kiddie rides have a 36 inch height requirement and our little shorty is 35.5 inches tall.  Next year he will be the perfect age for all the kiddie rides.  There are plenty of options for big kids and adults as well.

Not only do they have all the usual fair rides, they also have splash pads set up and a stationary surf wave you can ride if you want to get wet.  They have shows going on all day as well, all included in the admission price.  Jed and Bear loved the BMX bike show.

Because of the notorious Texas heat, there are lots of indoor, air-conditioned options.  The building below is filled with gorgeous plants and a train exhibit that kept the Bear enthralled for over half an hour.  That’s years in toddler time.  It rivaled the Trains at Northpark and was seriously like a magical fairy land.  I nursed the Pearl Girl while Bear chased the trains around.  There is also a building dedicated to Lego building with tables for the kids and lots of seating for adults.  We spent some time cooling off in there as well.

If you want to win the parent of the year award and end your summer with a bang, head to Fair Park.  You can buy tickets online here and find more information.  

Trying for a VBAC: Choosing Your Hospital or Birth Center

Our second baby is due at the end of April, and we are hoping and trying for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean section).  This is one of a series of posts about Trying for a VBAC.  There are many reasons why we are heading this direction and I hope to share them with y’all over the next few months.  You can read the Bear’s full birth story here to see what our first child’s birth entailed.  If you read that story you will get a little glimpse into why we are now on this journey to VBAC and a normal birth.  This process has been all consuming for me and this blog is my space to express the way I feel about the whole situation.  Many folks have strong opinions about VBAC vs. repeat cesarean, and I hope that whatever your opinion might be you will respect mine.  VBAC is not the right decision for every c-mama, and it doesn’t always work out no matter how you prepare.  Our hope and prayer is that we can have the best birth possible for our little girl.  
Because we are trying for a VBAC and lots of people have lots of questions about what that entails, we’ll be live tweeting as much as we can during the birth.  You can follow along on Twitter or on the Bare Feet on the Dashboard Facebook page for those updates when labor begins.  You can read my other pregnancy 2.0 updates here, and read all my pregnancy posts here.

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One thing I have learned on this journey is that all hospitals are not created equal.  Did you know you can find the c-section and VBAC rates for most hospitals online?  It’s true.  I so wish that I had known before what I know now.  I would have chosen a different hospital and OB for my first birth for sure.  I really like my first OB as a person, but do not like that she did #3,4,7, and 8 of the “Top Ten Signs Your Doctor Is Planning to Perform an Unnecessary C-Section On You.”  The hospital where I gave birth to the Bear also has one of the higher c-section rates in our area at 44.8%.  That means I only had about a 55% chance of normal birth at that hospital!  Scary.  Whether you are a 1st time mama or a mama considering a VBAC, please take the time to look into your hospital’s c-section rate.  The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends no more than a 15% c-section rate for hospitals, meaning that c-sections are used only in cases where they are truly needed and interventions that can lead to c-sections are eliminated.  Unfortunately in most of the Southern U.S. (Texas included), NO hospitals have c-section rates in the healthy zone.

When we first decided to try for a VBAC, I looked into hospitals and birth centers in our area.  Jed was pretty nervous about the idea of a home birth, so we decided not to go that route.  I called several birth centers in our area, but the one I really wanted doesn’t do 1st time VBACs.  If we get our VBAC this time around, I could birth there next time.  They did recommend the OB I chose because she is a big supporter of natural birth and VBAC.  She also practices at a hospital with one of the better VBAC rates in our area.  This is HUGE.  In the whole DFW area there are only 4 OBs who are known to be pro-VBAC – Dr. Lawson (my doc), Dr. Cummings (Denton), Dr. Downey (Richardson), and Dr. Weinstein (Frisco).  The hospitals where each of them practice have significantly higher VBAC rates than all the others.

So, why is it such a big deal to find a VBAC friendly hospital?  I want a hospital where the nursing staff is familiar with VBAC, and knows that it is safe and what protocols apply.  A staff that is not familiar with VBAC can sabotage your birth without meaning to, because they don’t know how a VBAC works.  I’ve read so many stories through the International Cesarean Awareness Network about women who have had no choice but to show up at the hospital as late in labor as possible so they won’t be forced into a repeat c-section.  I did not want to end up in that situation.  At Medical City (my former hospital), only 15-16 VBACs are performed every YEAR.  That means about 1 VBAC happens every month, sometimes 2 per month.  With those numbers, it is highly likely that some nursing staff have never seen a successful VBAC.  At Baylor (my new hospital) over 60 successful VBACs happen every year, which means they are seeing 1 per week, sometimes more.  That greatly increases the chances that the nursing staff will be familiar and comfortable with the VBAC process.

Here are the stats for my former hospital and my new hospital:
Former Hospital:
Medical City’s Cesarean Rate: 44.8%
Medical City’s VBAC Rate: 2.82%  They do about 15-16 VBACs per YEAR at Medical City.  That’s about 1 per month, 2 a few months.
New Hospital:
Baylor Medical Center’s Cesarean Rate: 38.6% Sadly, this is one of the lower rates in our area that is covered by our insurance.
Baylor Medical Center’s VBAC Rate: 10.74% They do 60+ VBAC births every year, averaging out to one per week, with 2 a few weeks.

VBAC Rates for Texas Hospitals
Cesarean Rates for Texas Hospitals

VBAC Rates by State – Find your hospital.
Cesarean Rates by State – Find your hospital.

How does your hospital rank with c-sections and VBACs?

You can read all of my posts about Trying for a VBAC here.

Frugal Friday: Shopping Big Consignment Sales

 Have you ever shopped a BIG consignment sale?  We are thrift store regulars, but have fallen in love with the world of big consignment sales.  This time around I’m consigning at the upcoming Rhea Lana sale in Frisco and hoping to make money.  I’m also planning to shop.  When you consign you get to shop early, and let me tell you that these sales get competitive.  I’m hoping to find a birthday present for Bear, as well as summer clothes for both kiddos.  To see details about the Rhea Lana Frisco sale or find a RL sale near you check out the website here.

 So, you might be thinking that the big sale atmosphere is a little intimidating.  The first time around is, but you get the hang of it.  Everything is marked down to at least 70% off retail, so the prices are fantastic. I also feel good about helping other families to clear out their stash and make money, all while saving money myself.  We all win.   These sales are especially great for pregnant mamas because you can find maternity clothes AND tons of newborn to 6 months clothes because they wear them for such a brief period of time.  I’ll give you a few tips to succeed at a big sale like Rhea Lana.
1) Arrive early.  Do your research and find out if you can get an early shopping pass.  Most sales have these available online for pregnant or expectant adopting mamas.  You can also volunteer or consign at the sale and get to shop REALLY early.  Whatever your time slot is, get there before it starts because there will be a line.
2) Bring a collapsible laundry hamper.  Trust me on this.  You want a lightweight carrier for all your finds.  That way you can toss everything you like into the basket and sort through it while you are in line.
3) Bring a list of everything you are looking for so you don’t get confused or forget something important.  I would break it down like this: big items to look for first (strollers, ride on toys, playhouses,etc); small toys; clothes by age/gender/season.  For instance, I’ll be looking for a tricycle, board books, summer shoes in size 6 & 7, 0-6 and 6-12 month soft leather girl shoes, and 3T summer clothes for Bear.  I will have a list of everything detailed and in my purse, so my pregnant brain doesn’t have to concentrate too hard.
4) Come back for the Half Price Sale.  Most big sales have several half price time slots at the end of the sale, so again check online and find the time slot for you.  Everything will drop from 30% of the retail price (70% off) down to 15% of the retail price.  Heck yes.

Have you ever shopped a BIG consignment sale like Rhea Lana?
What is your favorite big consignment sale?