10 Meal-time Rules for the “Picky Eater”

To start off, I want to say that this has not been proven with different children, (let me know if it works for you!) BUT after trying many other methods, and becoming BEYOND frustrated with meal-times, this is what my husband and I now practice with our 4-year-old. We have been sticking this out for about a year now, and have seen vast improvements in the amount and variety of food our daughter eats, as well as the amount of time in which she eats her meals.

Also, to a lot of people, this “method” might seem harsh, but we decided that while we were NOT going to let our child control the food/eating situation, we DID want to do it in a way that put the power, rewards, and consequences in her hands. This took so much pressure off of us feeling like we had to FORCE her to eat something she hated. Essentially we are making her eat it, but she is the one making the decision. We don’t yell at her or discipline her because of what she doesn’t eat, she just has to accept & deal with the natural consequences of her choices. (This is preparing her for real life.)

This also includes empathy (Thank you Love & Logic!). We DO feel bad that she is hungry, and it is okay to tell her that! A simple “I’m really sad that you have to be hungry right now. I’m glad that you’ll have the opportunity to eat again at the next meal, and I hope that you decide to do that.” will go much farther than “I told you to eat, its not my fault you didn’t listen.” or “too bad for you it’s your own fault.”

Finally, this is not something that will “fix” your child’s eating habits right away. It takes time. In addition, if you have been letting your child control the situation for a long time, it will be a much more difficult transition, but I REALLY BELIEVE that if you stick with it, you will see a turn-around in attitude and behavior in regards to meal-times.

*We only really started following this strictly when she was 3 years old. You will have to decide if your child is mentally capable of understanding this process. I think that if we would’ve started out more consistently we could’ve started even earlier. For the younger kids just make sure you’re offering a variety of foods, providing lots of encouragement without becoming frustrated, and modeling healthy eating in front of them.

Without further ado, here are our rules for Joy:

1.Consistent Expectations:

Whatever we eat, she eats. There is no longer an argument or “discussion” over what we are having for dinner.

  • I try to stick to basic, healthy foods. Grilled/roasted chicken & pork, beef or ground turkey & bean chili, not-too-spicy tacos, roasted & fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, salmon with olive oil, salt & pepper, sweet potatoes, etc.
  • I try to have at least one or two meals a week that I KNOW she will eat. (spaghetti, pizza, pancakes, etc.) This way every single day is not a struggle. (The rules below still apply, just because she likes something doesn’t mean she will always eat it or will eat it in a reasonable amount of time.)
  • A lot of times lunch will be more basic, she will get either a pb&j or turkey & cheese sandwich, yogurt, applesauce or fruit, some kind of fresh veggie (Again, the rules still apply)
  • She eats one of these options for breakfast every day. This usually depends on whether or not she ate dinner the night before. Cheerios are the “treat” breakfast if she ate her dinner:
    • Cheerios & fruit
    • Scrambled eggs & fruit

Your only response to “I want _____ instead!”, “I hate ______!” “This is yucky!” “I can’t eat this!” is:  “This is what we are all eating for dinner. If you don’t want it you can wait until the next meal, but you’re going to be really hungry, so I would think about it before making your decision.” With this you did the following:

  • Stated the expectation: They will eat the food they are served.
  • Gave them the alternative: They won’t eat any food until the next meal.
  • Gave them a warning about the consequence: They will be really hungry until it is time for the next meal.
  • Put the decision in their hands: They can make the choice, they just have to accept the consequence.

2. Appropriate Portions:

She receives a small portion of everything we are eating. This keeps it from looking overwhelming to her. When we first started she would become overly upset because it was “too much” food. I found that if I just decreased the portion, she was more likely to try something new.

As the child repeats different meals, you will learn what they are really capable of finishing. You just don’t want them feeling that it is impossible, especially the first time.

At the beginning of this process, it may help to only give the child one food at a time. For example, if we are eating chili, I know she is going to complain because it doesn’t look very appetizing!

  • So I will give her about 5 spoonfuls of chili in a bowl with a sprinkle of cheese on top. Once she finishes that, she can have 3 -4 carrots. After the carrots, she can have some fruit.
  • Start with the least appetizing food, and finish with what you know they will eat.

3. Opportunity for More:

Once she finishes what she is given she can ask for more of anything. This lets her feel that she has some control over the situation because she is choosing what she wants to eat more of. It gives her something to look forward to once she finishes the “yucky” stuff.

  • Example: “Great Job finishing your food! You still have some time left to eat, is there anything else you would like that you thought was really good?” Child: “Yes! I’ll have more salmon please!” 😉 JK, she usually asks for fruit, which is fine by me!

4. Time Limit:

She gets 30-45 minutes to eat her original helping of food.

  • This is dependent on the amount of effort that she is showing. This is another reason to give appropriate portions.
    • If she is purposely making a mess, shoving food around, etc. she gets less time.
    • If she is making a decent effort to finish the food, but it just takes a little longer to eat (for example salad, or anything with rice, which always seems harder for her to get off the plate), she gets a little bit more time.
  • She always gets time warnings.
    • You do NOT want to let the child sit there until there are only 5 minutes left and say well, too bad! Again, this creates an overwhelming situation for them.
    • Setting an actual timer, that the child can see, helps. If they can’t read timers, just tell them every time 5 minutes go by. “You have 30 minutes to eat the food.”, “You have 20 minutes left.” “You have 15 minutes left.” etc.
    • If your child doesn’t have an issue with eating on time, this may not be something you need to focus on as much.

5. Finality:

No second chances! Again, this was their decision, you set the limits, they didn’t follow through. In any of these situations, the food is removed from the table:

  • Time is Up
  • The child continues to act out after receiving a warning. Examples (these are real-life people!):
    • The child throws food from the table.
    • The child sneaks food to the dog.
    • The child asks to throw something away and sneakily spits food out into trash can.
    • The child gets up and throws self onto the floor.
    • The child hits the table, plate, parents, etc.
    • The child screams until everyone’s eardrums are broken.
    • The child “spills” water all over their food on purpose and says it’s inedible now.

Ask the child to get down from the table also, but they may sit there a bit and cry/fuss. Just ignore it unless it breaks any of your other general household rules.

Remember: This is the child’s decision. This is NO LONGER YOUR PROBLEM. You should not be yelling or crying, regardless of the child’s decision.

6. Natural Consequences:

If the above expectations were not met, and the food was removed from the table before she finished her original helping, she does not receive any food or drink (besides water) until the next meal. Once the food is taken away, it stays away until the next meal.

  • This WILL result in tantrums, crying, whining, and a deep sense of guilt on your part. Again, this was the child’s decision. You gave them food, they did not eat it. I promise this will lessen over time once your child realizes that it does no good.
  • Remember to practice empathy, but stick to the rules and consequences.
  • IF YOU GIVE IN, the tantrums will not stop, the child will not eat what they’re given, and this is all for nothing.

7. Leftovers:

This really only applies for lunch to dinner, I don’t make her eat her leftover dinner for breakfast, but if you feel like that would help you could try it?

  • Cover & refrigerate her untouched food from the meal she refused to eat
  • Serve the child the same meal that they did not eat before
    • This lets the child know that they cannot just skip meals until they get what they want
  • In special situations, for example, the leftovers are not re-heatable, you’re going somewhere else for dinner etc. it is okay to give them a different meal, as long as you’re following the same procedures as before
    • MAKE SURE that you’re not giving them something they love just because you feel bad that they didn’t eat the last meal, kids are smart, they will pick up on this.

8. Endurance:

In the event that the child still refuses, follow the same rules as before!

  • No food or drink (besides water) until the next meal.
  • Again, empathy, but sticking to the consequences.
  • This is where you will REALLY be tested! My daughter has never gone an entire day without giving in and eating! If they are that hungry, they will shove food in their mouth. Remember, you are not poisoning them, this is their decision, it is their will against yours.

9. Praise & Rewards:

This is the fun part! When she does eat all the food she gets lots of praise and gets to have a treat!

  • Go to the store with your child before you start this process and have them pick out something as a treat for the week. That way they know they will receive something they want if they follow through and finish their food. Examples:
    • Goldfish
    • Fruit Snacks
    • Go-gurts or the Dannon Yogurt Smoothies (Joy loves these)
    • A piece of Candy
    • ANYTHING that motivates your child

Remember to offer them more food as well! Ask if there was anything they liked that they want more of.

10. Extra Rewards & Reminders:

When she has eaten a meal I make a point to offer her additional snacks BETWEEN meal times.

  • I always suggest healthy snacks (apples, raisins, pears, carrots, etc.)
  • If she says “how about a piece of candy” I will usually give her a couple of Pez pieces, or something small, and say, “okay, but only since you finished your food so well earlier!” Sometimes I will have her eat a healthy snack first before she has candy.

I always remind her that she is getting a snack because she did a GREAT JOB eating her food earlier!

  • This can feel like a discouraging process, so when they eat their meal you want to overdo the praise so that they have positive feelings about eating instead of dreading meals!

Again, This can seem/feel harsh and is super hard at first on you as parents, but if you can push through, your kids won’t let themselves starve even though it might seem like it. It just takes determination on your part because once you give in its back to square one!

Encouragement for YOU: At this point, I don’t think there is anything that Joy has absolutely not eaten! The complaining and whining are really difficult to put up with, but it is better than dealing with a child who won’t eat their food for the next 18 years…I know that my child has a varied and healthy diet, she is open to trying new things, she knows how to respond and behave when boundaries are set for her, and she doesn’t think that she can control every situation!

Additional “Guidelines”:

If we are with other people, and this creates an inconvenience for them or makes them feel awkward or if we’re at a party or get together then we will adjust as needed but as far as eating at home and when it doesn’t interfere with other people, we stick to the rules. You want this to be your norm, not picky-ness. Examples:

  • Family Christmas, other holidays – I don’t really want food to be a huge focus of the holidays for my kids, so this is something I try to be more relaxed about
  • Birthday parties – let the kid have fun 🙂

Again, this is NOT an “easy fix”, people might think you’re crazy, but it works.

It only takes a few times for the child to realize you’re serious and then the choice is for the child to eat or not and not on you to cater to their demands.

If there are certain dipping sauces that your child loves (ketchup, ranch dressing, barbecue, etc.) go ahead and let them dip their food in that! For example, I will put sprinkle cheese on things sometimes just because Joy likes it and it encourages her to try the food. You still need to stick to the rules though! If they douse their food with dipping sauce and say they can’t eat it now, that was their decision, they can now decide to eat it or to be hungry. They will learn not to do that again.

We also make a big deal out of telling her the following:

  • “This food is so good for you!”
  • “Wow, this food is delicious!”
  • “You are such a big girl to eat your food like that!”
  • “This food makes you big and strong!”
  • “This food will make you smarter!”

Happy Campers eating Salmon, veggies, & rice:

GOOD LUCK! IF you have additional questions or comments let me know! Before you comment “I tried this, it doesn’t work.” Think back over the rules and if you REALLY followed them or if you gave in, or were a little too lenient on some things! If other things worked for you, let me know!

With Joy,


6 Steps to Plan a Galentine’s Day Celebration

I love the show Parks & Recreation. Amy Poehler & Rashida Jones are two of my favorite female leads in a TV show together, and the first time I watched the series I was SUPER inspired by the Galentine’s Day episodes! (Not just because I am a crazy planner & control freak & love food just like Amy Poehler’s character Leslie Knope) I really just think that it is so important for women to be intentional about showing love to their friends! This creates opportunities for women to build one another up, and be encouraged. We get to relax, have fun, and find joy in our friendships!

So, after watching the Galentine’s Day episodes, for probably the third time, I decided I wanted to try and host my own. This was at the beginning of 2016, and at that point I had not actually heard of anyone else hosting a Parks & Rec-based Galentine’s Day event (even though now they’re super popular!) When I brought it up to some friends, most of them were like what? what is that? 🙂 But NOW, I am in the process of planning my 3rd Galentine’s Day Event with that same group of women, and it is one of my favorite times of the year!

Here are some pictures from our first two Galentine’s Day Celebrations:

Year 1!

Year 2!

As you can see, we were able to include several more friends the second year, which made it even more fun!

*This post contains affiliate links.

So, as promised, here are 5 Steps to planning a Galentine’s Day Event for you & your friends!

1. Pick a Place & Date

These are in the same step because they each depend on the other. Traditionally, a Galentine’s Day (Parks & Rec style) Event is held on February 13th, the day before Valentine’s Day, and it is held at a breakfast joint that serves waffles & mimosas. (Brunch is so popular these days that this should be easy to stick to!) So if you decide to stick with a breakfast theme, you’ll probably need to do a morning or afternoon. If you’re in a bigger city, maybe you can find a nicer all-day breakfast place with mimosas but that isn’t really an option by us.

My friend Donna & I have opted to host our events in the evening because some of our friends are young moms, and that’s when it is easiest to have their husband watch their kids! (See ya honey, have fun!) 🤗 Since we stick to evenings, we also have kicked our event to either about a week before or a week after Valentines Day so it doesn’t interfere with any romantic dinner plans 😍.

Ok, so since the date/time is evening, our place has ended up being a nice dinner spot. There aren’t really any places in our town that have killer breakfast for dinner menus, otherwise we would go there. Our first year we picked a steak restaurant for the fun romance factor, last year we decided to be more cost effective and chose an Italian Restaurant with a $12 all you can eat DELICIOUS Wednesday night buffet!

2. Choose Friends to Invite

Now you need to think about what kind of a get-together this will be: family (do you have that many sisters?), close friends from one group, friends of yours from different friend groups, people from work, people NOT from work, 🙂 etc. Do you want everyone to already know each other or not? My first year I chose a group of friends that was somewhat new to me, but everyone knew each other. I thought this would be a great way to get to know a newer group of friends better!

The other aspect of this to take into consideration is your head count. Don’t pick a group of friends that includes 20 women if you can only fit 10 at a table in the restaurant you picked. However, you probably want to pick a group of at least 4-6 women to make it a “celebration/party” feel. This provides more people for some of the activities (to come).

3. Invite Everyone & Give Them Instructions

Your Invite can look something like this:

  • Hello Ladies! You are cordially invited to our 2nd Annual Galentine’s Day Celebration! Donna & I will be graciously “hostessing” and organizing the event, and we have especially chosen each of you to be our “gal friends”! We will meet for dinner at ______ in ______ for their Wednesday night dinner buffet which is $12 per person (plus any drink costs and tip). There are usually 4 pasta dishes, several salad options, breadsticks, 4-5 different pizzas, and a dessert on the buffet.During dinner, we will exchange gifts through a “pass left/right” style game, so in addition to $ for dinner, you will need to bring along one wrapped “Galentine’s Day Gift” with a price limit of $10 that any of the ladies who attend would enjoy! Please let us know by January 31st if you can or cannot attend as we will make reservations, and set up a couple of activities/games for the night! One last thing, we ask that you wear something red, pink, or purple (even if it is just accents like a scarf or something!) just to make it more galentiney and fun! ♥We hope you can make it!

That is an example from last year. A couple of things to point out that I like to include:

-Tell them the average cost of meal or how much money to bring (Unless you are covering the cost, but you don’t want guests to assume this if you’re not!)

-Ask them to bring a wrapped gift (set a price limit) Past examples include cute coffee mugs, potted flowers, lotion, scarves, fun socks, nail polish, candy, etc. Anything that is fun and a little bit “galentiney” and would be enjoyed by the general public of women. 🙂

-Ask them to RSVP! (For restaurant reservations, planning activities/games)

-Ask them to wear something that fits your theme. We do red, pink, and purple to fit a Valentine’s theme, but if you have a different color scheme in mind go for it! This is just an extra fun touch to give a party feel.

4. Collect Notes & Write Galentine’s Day Cards for each of your Guests

This is actually my favorite part of Galentine’s Day! So, in Parks & Recreation, Leslie Knope tells each of her friends (constantly) why she loves them and how much they rock. I believe that we all need a little bit more of that in our lives, so once I have my RSVP’s, I send a message to each of my guests with a list of other women that will attend, and ask them to write me back a few things they “love” about each of the other people in the group. Here are some examples (these are made-up):

  • Maria – She is full of life and always brings light to everyone around her. She is a constant encouragement to me, and helps me through tough times.
  • Zoey – She is an awesome mom to her own kids and is so caring and kind to my children as well. She inspires me to be loving and patient with those around me.
  • Dana – She is always making me laugh and bringing joy to every conversation. I am thankful for her openness and honesty.

So, once everyone responds with their short notes about the other women attending, Donna & I get together and put them together into one note. So if someone said the above about “Dana” and then someone else said this:

  • Dana – She knows how to brighten my day. She is vulnerable and real with her friends, and encourages me to be my real self too!

I would put the two together to write something like this in “Dana’s” card:

  • Dana, Happy Galentine’s Day! You always brighten our day, and you bring joy to our conversations! We love laughing with you! Thank you for being a warm and inviting friend. Your openness, honesty, and vulnerability inspire us to be genuine with others and to develop deeper friendships! You are beautiful & real, and we are so thankful for you!

Now how would you feel if you read those things about yourself? Pretty great, huh?

The first year I handmade all of the cards which was fun, (there is a picture of one in the bottom right-hand corner of the first photo I posted) but the second year I was 39 weeks pregnant with Baby #2 so Donna and I opted to buy cute Valentine’s Day cards from the Dollar Store or Target (don’t remember sorry) and we wrote the notes in those. The nice part about this is you can use the cards as place settings so when the guests arrive they have an official “place at the table”. I always think that this makes people feel more included and wanted! (Just my opinion maybe)

If you don’t feel like leaving the house, here is a cute & simple set of of cards you could order on Amazon (You could write each guest’s name in the heart on the front <3 (affiliate link): Handmade Cards with Heart Designs

5. Schedule & Plan your Activities

So, once you get everyone to the event, you’re going to want to have some idea of what you’ll be doing! If you’re in a home, you can plan activities where people can move around a bit, but if you’re in a restaurant, everything needs to be done from your seats. Here is an example “Schedule of Events”:

5:40 – You, & co-host if you have one, arrive to make sure that the restaurant has a table for you, once it is set up, decorate the table (I’ll go over ideas for that in the next step) Do make sure there is an area nearby where guests can set their presents during dinner.

6:00 – everyone arrives, finds seats, orders food & drink, normal conversation,

6:15 – Welcome everyone officially, make sure guests have everything they need, etc., normal conversation

6:30-7:00 – If you’re waiting for food to be brought out, you can start at 6:30, if you’re doing a buffet like we do, its great to allow time for everyone to eat before starting the activities. This first activity is your Question Game. (see below)

7:15 – Once you’re done with the Question Game, make sure everyone has time to get dessert! Two years ago I ordered a specialty dessert for everyone to share, but last year dessert was included with the buffet.

7:30 – Once plates are cleared out of the way, and everyone is ready, you can start the Present Game. (see below)

7:45 – everyone opens their presents, you can also tell everyone to go ahead and open their cards as well, but some people feel weird reading those in front of others, so it is up to them obviously, they can just take the cards home and open them. We usually open presents one at a time also and everyone shows what they got which is fun.

8:00 – Guests may start to head home at this point, but feel free to continue conversation & drinks for awhile! Thank everyone for coming, say any last words to let them know how much you love them, make sure everyone takes a flower (see beow), and have a great night!

Game details:

Question Game – This is basically a list of questions I’ve compiled over the past two years from searching the internet for good (clean) “Ladies’ Night Out” conversation starters.  One thing to take into consideration is the marital status/parent status of your friends. You want questions that anyone can answer, not just people in specific stages of life. (unless you’re all at exactly the same stage, but that’s not super common). You don’t want anyone to feel awkward. You want all of your guests to feel loved, valued, and heard! I have included a couple of questions that might only work for specific groups, so I wrote (Not appropriate for all groups) after those ones.

Here is my list, but feel free to take out/add whatever suits your friend group.

  • What is the best advice you received but didn’t follow?
  • What is the best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
  • Where is your dream location to live?
  • Where is your dream location to travel?
  • How do you relax and unwind after a long (tough) day?
  • What went wrong at your wedding? (Not appropriate for all groups)
  • What was/is your dream job?
  • What is your most embarrassing moment?
  • What is your silliest or craziest fear?
  • What is your favorite romantic comedy & why?
  • What is your one life essential item?
  • If you opened a business, what kind of business would it be?
  • Who was your (first) celebrity crush?
  • If you were a superhero, what would your super power be?
  • What have you done that you are most proud of?
  • What is your hidden secret talent?
  • If you had to change your name, what would it be?
  • What is the most exciting or adventurous thing you’ve ever done?
  • If you were your husband for a day, what is the first thing you would do? (Not appropriate for all groups)
  • What is one thing on your bucket list?
  • What is the first thing you notice about the opposite sex?

In order to “play” this game, I take a piece of cardstock, cut it into 6-8 pieces, and write 1 question on each side of each card. Then at dinner, I hand them out randomly. This way everyone has two questions that they can pick from to answer. If you feel like you want the game to go on longer, I let my guests pick one question to answer themselves, and the other question they get to ask of the person sitting across from them! We then take turns going around the table and everyone reads their question & answers it for us. This is fun because we find out things we probably wouldn’t bring up in normal conversation, and we get to laugh about our answers together.

Present Game – This is where we get to exchange presents! Woohoo! Since everyone will have brought a $10.00 or under wrapped present (or whatever your limit is), you can now exchange them. I came up with a “passing” game that is simple to follow. I just read the statements, and at the end you open up the present that you’re holding. If you end up with your own, you just trade with someone at random until you have a new present.  Here are the statements for the passing game:

  • Trade presents with someone that has the same color eyes as you
  • Trade with someone that has the same number of children as you (not appropriate for all groups)
  • Trade with someone whose child is closest in age to one of yours (not appropriate for all groups)
  • Trade with someone that has a birthday in the same month as you
  • Trade with someone that has the same lucky number as you
  • Trade with someone who is closest in age to you (may not be appropriate for all groups – depends on familiarity)
  • Trade with someone that has the same favorite color as you
  • Trade with someone that has the same number of siblings as you
  • Trade with someone wearing the same color as you
  • Trade with someone who has the same type of pet as you
  • Trade with the person who has the job/occupation most similar to yours
  • Trade with someone who shares your favorite type of cuisine
  • Now Trade if you ended up with your own present!

6. Decorate the Table

Like I said above, you want to arrive early so that you can decorate the table and make the environment festive. Always check that this is okay with the restaurant ahead of time, and don’t plan to use any type of confetti or glitter because you don’t want to be crawling around picking it up. Here are the things that I bring with me to decorate:

  • Pink/purple/white/red streamers
  • Tape.

I twist the streamers along the center of the table and tape them down.

  • Glass vase(s)
  • Flowers (I would recommend either pink/purple/red/white roses or pink/purple/white/red gerbera daisies)
  • Pink/purple/white/red ribbon

The day before or the day of the event I stop by a local flower store and buy one flower for each guest. Then I take two pieces of different colored ribbon & tie them in a bow around the stem. Then I cut the bow parts and curl the ribbon. Do this ahead of time because it will take too long at the restaurant. The ribbons are extra to add festive-ness, but not really necessary if you want to just pick up flowers on your way to the event. You could just tie ribbon around the glass vase(s) as well.

When you arrive at the restaurant, put the flowers in the glass vase(s) in the middle of the table. Before each guest leaves, make sure they take a flower with them! This is a simple and sweet take-home gift, and everyone deserves flowers for Galentine’s Day! <3

Here is an affiliate link for a cute Galentine’s Banner if you want to add something extra! Be My Galentine Banner


Okay! That is it! I hope this helps you to plan a festive & special Galentine’s Day with your friends! If you have questions leave them in the comments. <3 And have a Happy Galentine’s Day. <3

I’ll leave you with some classic Galentine’s Day quotes from Leslie Knope…

“What’s Galentine’s Day? Oh, it’s only the best day of the year!”

“You know my code: hoes before bros. Uteruses before duderuses…Ovaries before brovaries.”

“I am big enough to admit that I am often inspired by myself.”

“We need to remember what’s important in life: friends, waffles, work. Or waffles, friends, work. Doesn’t matter, but work is third.”

Some motivational quotes to Leslie’s best friend, Ann, to use as an example for your best friend:

“Ann, you poetic and noble land-mermaid.”

“Ann, you beautiful tropical fish.”

“Ann, you beautiful spinster, I will find you love.”

-Leslie Knope (Fictional character from the show Parks & Recreation)

With Joy,



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5 Highlights – West Palm Beach Getaway

Going into this past winter, Brandon & I realized that we had not taken a vacation since our honeymoon in 2011! Yikes. SO, we decided to spend some much needed time away (from kids, work, Indiana weather) together!

Here are five highlights from the trip!

1. Clematis Street

I did a LOT of research before we went on this trip because…why not get the most for your money? The one place/area that people recommended was Clematis street, especially at night. So our first night we went! Even for a Monday night, there were quite a few people around. There was a (very) large sandcastle in the area furthest West that included some fun fountains as well. The best part of Clematis Street is the variety of restaurants & bars. Some of the most recommended ones (that we didn’t have time to visit) based on reviews from Tripadvisor include Rocco’s Tacos, Lynora’s, The Blind Monk Wine Bar, The Alchemist, The Roxy’s Pub, Hullabaloo & Avocado Grill. West Palm Beach Restaurants Tripadvisor

Clematis Street also has events called Clematis by Night, but we weren’t there on a night/time that anything was really happening. We ended up back at Clematis Street on our way to the airport so we could grab some lunch at the highly recommended Pizza Girls joint. It was super small inside, with a few tables outside, it was an order at the counter type of place, but the pizza was SO GOOD. It was my first experience with New York Style Pizza – thin and crispy but light and FLUFFY on the inside! How is that even possible?!?  Here are some pics from that first night & a daytime pic of the sandcastle!

Looking East from the West end of Clematis.

The giant sandcastle & fountains are lit up behind us!

Back at Clematis taking a picture with the Sandcastle (Pizza Girls faces this plaza area)

2. Grease Burger Bar

One restaurant we DID have the chance to visit on Clematis Street that first night was Grease Burger Bar. Brandon is a HUGE burger fan, and they’re probably one of my favorite foods as long as they’re gourmet because I’m picky and high maintenance when it comes to food….so anyways, this was one of my top pics. The burgers were giant, not too big to finish of course, but that depends on whether you can put down food like Brandon and I do! We had the Southern Fried Pickles which were really delicious and came with a creamy dipping sauce, yum. This is a high compliment because I don’t actually like pickles…I had the Mr. Bigg which was a -12 oz- burger with pecan bacon, frizzled onions, pepper jack cheese, & garlic aioli. The flavors blended together perfectly. As you can see it was also presented beautifully! Brandon had the Mac Daddy Burger topped with mac & cheese and pecan bacon – cheezy & satisfying – he ate it too fast for me to take a picture sorry! The fries were also amazing, and they give you a TON of them. I would recommend just sharing a small because a large could probably feed 3-4 people! Loved it!

My Grease Burger – Mr. Bigg (garlic aioli is my FAVE)

3. CityPlace

This is actually the very first place we visited after arriving! This is basically an area of town with lots of great shops, restaurants, and even a Publix (grocery store) where Brandon and I did some grocery shopping before heading to our resort. This helped us save a LOT of money because we just ate fruit & granola bars for breakfast, and made picnic lunches with fresh-baked bread, cheese & turkey, chips, etc. Anyways, CityPlace had some really nice open areas for sitting and hanging out, pretty fountains & ~Palm Trees~ which just make any mall experience more fun. 🙂 Just a fun place to shop & hang out for a bit!

Giant mural. 🙂

Center of CityPlace by fountain & plaza.

4. Marriott Ocean Pointe Resort

Fortunately for us, my parents offered to use their Marriott rewards points to book us a room at the Marriott Ocean Pointe Resort on Singer Island, which is about a 20-minute drive from the Palm Beach International Airport. It was a 10 minute Uber from the Clematis Street/CityPlace area. It was SO nice because it is a little island and the only people there are the locals and the people staying at the resorts on Riviera Beach. It felt pretty secluded, the beach was never crowded, and our resort had a LOT of space. There were 3 different pools, 3 hot tubs, a pool area bar & events area with daily & nightly activities. They also had an activities center that would help you plan anything you wanted to do during your stay!

Our room was on the second floor facing another building, but there is enough space between buildings that you can still see the ocean from your balcony. Here was what we could see from our balcony if we looked to the left:

So it was definitely a restricted view, but between this and paying $80 more per night to have a room facing the ocean, I’d pick this all over again! The pool area in this picture was the one that we used. It was nice because they kind of split the pools up; there was a pool at one end of the resort where it seemed like a lot of older couples were staying, our pool was where the majority of young to middle age couples/adults hung out, the pool on the other side of the bar/main event area was where families with kids hung out. (This was not enforced, it was just an observation) This area included a splash pad, a very basic miniature golf course, a shuffleboard, and a bags/cornhole game area. (Don’t bring this up to my husband but I MIGHT have beat him at all three of those games…) 🙂

During the day the pool & activity areas were well-populated but not crowded. There were three beach access bridges that went directly from our enclosed resort area out to the beach. There were nice padded chairs that you could rent for the day on the beach, but we just took some beach towels out and sat on those. The beach was beautiful!

Beach access bridge.

Looking South from our resort’s beach.

Looking North from our resort’s beach.

View from the pool.

Soaking up the sun by the pool!

My favorite “activity” that we participated in (others included cooking s’mores over the fire pits, a BBQ dinner buffet, ping-pong) was a Sangria-making class! The employees teaching the class were fun & welcoming, we became better acquainted with several other resort guests, and came away with two delicious glasses of Sangria each & recipe cards to take home!


Red Sangria Recipe & Utensils.

This resort was a place where many of the guests were timeshare owners and they really made it a home away from home! We also were never asked to “buy in” but were treated just like guests at any resort that doesn’t offer timeshares.

Here is the link to their website for more pics & info: Marriott Ocean Pointe Website

5. Manatee Lagoon

We spent most of our time away together relaxing by the pool, drinking wine at night in the hot tub, or walking along the beach, which was amazing, but it was fun to go to a “tourist” place too, and this one was free! The Manatee Lagoon is an eco-discovery center next to a factory that releases warm, clean water into the lagoon which makes it a perfect place for the wild manatees to gather during the cold season. There were tons of manatees there, and several pairs of mommas and babies swimming right by the balcony/observation area! This was a really neat stop, and something I would definitely recommend if you’re there between November and April! There was an entire discovery center inside of the observation area with a lot of great information about manatees and other local wildlife. This was just a quick stop for us but a fun one!

Mommy & Baby!

Group of Manatees in the lagoon.

Hanging out with the manatees. 🙂

6. Bonus Highlight! (My Man)

Okay, so my absolute favorite part of this trip was really just spending time with my man! We had an opportunity to get away from the norm, forget the daily stresses, the chores, taking care of the kids, etc. and taking time to only think about yourself and your favorite person for a couple days is SO good for the soul. We went out to a live-music restaurant and danced, we watched a meteor shower on the beach, relaxed in the hot tub with wine, and more! We talked about our dreams for the upcoming years, for our marriage, our careers, for our family, and our lives!

My Man. <3

Matching Sunglasses <3

Through our discussions on life, one of the things I realized that I really wanted to do for MYSELF was to start taking more chances and finding JOY in the adventures of life.

Now, this may not seem like a big deal to a lot of people, but I have always had a major fear of the ocean. Mostly just sharks…and really anything under the water that you can’t necessarily see until it is eating you. For example, sharks. Did I mention them? It didn’t help that the time we were in Singer Island was supposedly a time when sharks would migrate right along Riviera Beach, where our resort was located.

So, because of the above, I have always avoided going into the ocean. When Brandon and I were living on the west coast of Baja California working for a missions organization, we spent a lot of time on the ocean, and Brandon even spent a lot of time surfing, but the ONE TIME I tried to go in the ocean (after a couple of months of watching from the beach), I literally hyper-ventilated, laid on my surfboard, refusing to put my arms and legs in the water, and let the waves carry my surfboard to the beach until it was hitting the sand. Brandon said, “I think you’re safe now, the sharks can’t swim this close to the land…”

Anyways, we’re walking along the ocean, and I’m like, “I’m going in.” Brandon just laughed. I said, “I want to take a video of this since it may be the only time it happens.” So we set up my phone in the sand and took off towards the waves. It was so freeing and fulfilling for me! Crazy how important those little things can be, especially when you share them with the one you love. <3 (Also I did not get attacked by a shark – Thank you, God!)

Enjoy the video! I hope it inspires you to do something crazy that brings you joy!



With Joy,



5 Re-calibrations in the New Year – This More Than That

Welcome! I decided that my first post in 2018 (and ever) should be something to motivate myself to have a better year. SO here we go…Instead of coming up with some new (or old) resolutions that I will ditch pretty quickly, I decided to choose 5 things that I wanted to do “more than” others. So basically this allows me to “re-calibrate” my habits and work more of the positive elements into my life without just expecting myself to completely cut out things that are probably not realistic, based on my free time & energy levels with a four year old & a 10 month old! “Bringing Up” Joy is not always simple, but maybe these things can help!

Here are the five I came up with in no particular order of importance:

1. Encourage more than Criticize

I spend a lot of time criticizing others and myself. A lot of times it is in my head only, if I can keep my mouth shut. I tend to be kind of pessimistic sometimes (Thank you God for an idealist/optimist husband) and I often will see the negatives in a situation, or a person, yikes, before I recognize the positives. However, when I take the time to encourage the people in my life, I feel more relaxed, and more encouraged myself! The people in my life (husband, children, friends) also feel better about themselves. Creating an environment in our home where my husband & kids have a positive self-image builds up their confidence & willingness to try new things, and to be the best version of themselves. They also encourage me back! For example, the more of an effort I make to compliment my daughter on the little things, the more she compliments me.

2. Cook more than Eat Out

Okay, so this one might sound SUPER easy, but the real idea behind this in my head is that if I could make a meal in the same amount of time(or less) than it would take me to drive out and buy something, then I need to suck it up and just cook. It is frustrating to me that this is even difficult because I actually really enjoy cooking, but when I want junk food, I WANT it. Now. This is kind of a way for me to justify NOT going to get the food because I can slowly begin to see how simple it is to just cook something at home. This “more than” also encourages me to meal plan because then I don’t allow for the opportunity to get sucked into those cravings. One extra tip – I’ve been working one “take-out” meal into my meal plan each week so that in my head I can say okay, just wait until Wednesday, then you can get that food you want, but tonight, cook what you ALREADY paid for that is sitting in your fridge.

3. Exercise more than Watch TV

Exercise was becoming really difficult for me to accomplish because I either had to go workout really early in the morning before my husband left for work, or really late at night after the kids were in bed. Option A: Too tired, Option B: Too tired. Fail. SO I broke down and joined the YMCA even though it costs more than a normal gym membership. BUT when you have kids it is SO WORTH IT because you get TWO HOURS of FREE childcare every day! What?! I’m not going to lie, after my friend Sarah told me about this brilliant system, I took her advice, and a couple of times, I just dropped off my kids, went and sat in the sauna, hot tub, sauna, etc. and then went and took a shower and blow-dried my hair. No exercise. Oops. Anyways, the point of this one should be obvious. Exercise is better for you than binge-watching TV. However – again the reason this says “more than” and not “instead of” – I’m TIRED at night and sometimes I just need to relax my brain and watch something funny. Or emotional, like This Is Us, and then I cry my eyes out and get a good night’s sleep and feel less tired! Win-win. Probably. But when I watch TV I think okay, I really need to keep this under an hour so I don’t have to exercise for MORE than an hour tomorrow. Make sense?

4. Pray more than Worry

My #momlife is actually my #worrylife. Anyone else? Ugh. There are so many things to worry about! This is pretty much a daily struggle. I over-think, over-analyze, and over-criticize every decision I make. I also imagine every possible negative outcome of anything I do. I envy my husband on the daily as he walks through life seeing all the good in everyone and everything. Anything can be scary if you think about it too much. On the flip-side (do people still say that?) you can also pray about anything, and God will give you peace about it! I used to not really believe that and just start worrying about why I didn’t pray about it and worry that if I tried it might not help ETC… but if you are willing to really give over your anxieties to Him there is so much peace and confidence in knowing that you are going to be ok. (This could be a long aside – summary – obviously bad and terrible things can and will happen, but I can be confident in my relationship with Christ and eternally I will be with Him, and that is what matters.) I have a really amazing friend named Holly, and every time I tell her about a situation that brings me anxiety she says “did you pray about it?” and I’m like NO, LEAVE ME ALONE, I’m trying to complain here! …but then I do pray and I’m like what was my fear again? (Side note – I have suffered from post-partum anxiety in the past, this section is NOT talking about that intense level of anxiety, please seek the help of a medical professional in that situation! Yes, obviously pray also, but chemical imbalances are real and can be treated in different ways as well!)

5. Cuddle more than Nag

My husband is a cuddler. I am not. So honestly this is not the easiest for me, but I have found that I can bring up my “to-do list” as many times as I want, write it on the wall, etc. and it just causes frustration. However, in those moments when I want to remind my husband of all the things he is NOT doing, if I go cuddle with him (connect, talk, check in with him etc.-find what works for you), I remember all of the things he IS doing, and HAS done, and CONSISTENTLY does for me and our family that make our lives wonderful. Again, I’m not saying don’t ever remind your guy what needs to be done, I’m just saying that maybe meeting him where he’s at sometimes and appreciating him will go a lot further in your own heart and mind and lead to more understanding (and maybe more getting done on your list) than nagging would.


Okay that’s it! Hopefully some part of this was helpful to you! The point here is doing the one thing MORE THAN the other and it will slowly (hopefully) become an integral part of your life.

What things do you think might be good to do more than others this year! Please share in the comments!

With Joy,