Tag Archives: parenting

Travel Tips for Families: Austin and Chicago

(This article was co-authored with Kendra Thornton and was originally posted on Rose is A Rose. Reposted with permission.)


Traveling with families can be a joy that creates a lifetime of memories. Travel expert, Kendra Thornton and I have created these guides to each of our respective home towns. You will find this article full of tips for anyone traveling to Austin or Chicago with their families!


Part 1: Local’s Guide to Austin, TX

By Stacy Dyer

Austin is famous for its music, food, and sports; yet it’s the distinctively “weird” Texan culture that reverberates through visitors, young and old. Families visiting Austin can visit these top spots to get a taste of the quiet beauty and unique culture locals enjoy year-round.


Walk in the Park: Zilker

Zilker Park is one of Austin’s best-loved parks. While swimming in Barton springs can be refreshing, there are plenty of other attractions at Zilker. Don’t miss the long-running Zilker Zephyr miniature train ride and for a little touch of local Austin musical history, visit the statue of Stevie Ray Vaughn next to Lady Bird Lake. There are plenty of sports including weekly soccer tournaments during season and an 18-hole disc golf course. Depending on when you visit, Zilker Park plays host to a variety of special events and performances, some of which are free. In the spring, you can find free Shakespeare in the Park at The Sheffield Hillside Theater and in the summer, Blues on the Green provides regular musical performances. Austin City Limits music festival, hosted at Zilker every fall, provides an intense, immersive experience for every musical taste. During the holidays, a magical Trail of Lights culminates in the towering Zilker Holiday Tree.


6th and Lamar: A “Whole” lot of Weird

Not just a grocery store, Whole Food’s world headquarters is an experience! Even if you aren’t doing your weekly shopping, there is plenty to enjoy at Whole Foods flagship store. Beer lovers can walk through the refrigerated beer aisle. And those with a sweet tooth will enjoy the chocolate fountain in the bakery. Park in the below-ground garage and have your groceries delivered to your car with a special elevator! Top off your shopping expedition by grabbing a quick sandwich or salad bar to enjoy on the outdoor patio. Wash down your lunch with a locally-brewed Sweet Leaf Tea. Stroll across the street to shop at Austin institutions such as Bookpeople or Waterloo Records and buy a “Keep Austin Weird” t-shirt to commemorate your trip.

Where to Stay: Driskill Hotel

The historic Driskill Hotel is a luxurious downtown hotel that provides everything travelers need with distinct Austin style. Young guests are “deputized” upon check-in with an official Driskill Deputy sheriff’s Badge and presented with a certificate signed by Colonel Jesse Driskill, the hotel’s founder. Kids also get a coloring book and crayons, and free cookies! No historic hotel would be complete without a haunting or two; ghost hunters should ask for the official list of ghost stories at check-in.

Where to Eat: Food Trucks

Who wouldn’t want to be served gourmet-quality dishes from a restaurant on wheels? Austin food trailers are unique and delicious. Sample different menus in a kid-friendly lot at the Midway Food Park on S Capital of Texas Hwy, which even boasts a playground! For more, try the food trailer parking lots on South First Street, East Sixth, West Campus, or in the Mueller district. Wherever you go, don’t be afraid to sample something that sounds bizarre! (East Side King serves deep-fried beets so delicious, even the pickiest eaters will love them!)

Check out this map for more spots to bring your kids in Austin, TX!

View Austin kiddo spots in a larger map


Part 2: The Local’s Fun Guide to Chi Town

by Kendra Thornton

There’s a lot to love about Chi Town. It’s one of the birthplaces for American history, and it’s a vital mecca for food, arts, culture and music. Travelers from all over the world find the history and sports magnetism of Chicago to be an incredible adventure. From a local’s perspective, there are a few things that people can miss on the big tours that run the tourism show in Chi Town. Whether you are just stopping in for your first trip or this is your second trip, there are some amazing places to check out next time you’re wandering the Windy City.

Check Out Those Dinosaurs

The Field Museum in Chicago is located right off South Lake Shore Drive, and it’s one of the best places to see some art, culture and history for an afternoon. It’s also a good place for fun recreation if you’re traveling with kids. The Field Museum is most well known for its dinosaur fossils exhibitions, but there are all kinds of seasonal, yearly and one-of-a-kind exhibits that you’ll love to explore. If you’ve visited the museum in the past, you’re guaranteed to find something new the next time you go.

Sail the Waters

If you have the time on your next trip to Chicago, you should definitely take a trip out to see on the Tall Ship Wendy, a pirate boat tour on Lake Michigan. This adventurous ride is made for any sea lover who loves some adventure and lots of good humor. While educational, it’s also quite fun to explore with the entertainers on board, and you’ll get to learn about the area while taking in some incredible sights. There are tons of photo opportunities along the way as well.

Where to Stay in Chi Town

Whether you love the old historic hotels like The Drake or you want something more modern like The Peninsula, there are a variety of different hotels in downtown Chicago that offer incredible views and quick trips to wherever you want to go. To compare all of their rates and get the best ratings on hotels in Chicago, I’ve found Gogobot to be one of the best sites to find information. You can check out all of the four-star and five-star luxury hotels as well as cheap bed and breakfasts and highly rated three-star hotels that may interest you.

Eating Rich for Cheap in Chi Town

Chefs love Chicago. Whether it’s the sports, beer or just that deep-dish pizza, there are a ton of different world-renowned chefs who have started restaurants here. You’ll find some of the best restaurants while exploring the streets of Chicago, but one of the ultimate places to go any time of day is the South Water Kitchen in the Loop. A native Chicagoan makes food here, and the menu reflects that kind of flair and pizzazz. It’s also got all types of classic dishes, which is perfect for those picky eaters in your party.


Special thanks to Kendra for her contribution to this article!

Merry Xmas: 2013 Calendar download

In addition to spending some well-deserved quality time with my family at home this holiday season, I have finally had enough free time create a new 2013 calendar to share with my friends and family. A tradition of mine since 2005, I have been too busy in recent years to compile my favorite photographs and design the custom calendar layout. I’m so pleased to resurrect this one of my favorite holiday traditions this year!

My 2013 edition shamelessly features my daughter, Helena Rose throughout, so it is sure to bring a smile to your (or at least mine) face everyday.

Lena Rose 2013 Calendar (pdf – 44 MB)

(All images are the sole property of me. Do not sell or reproduce without permission. Printing for personal use is permitted.)

My Five Reasons For Being A Girl Scout

Stacy Dyer, Brownie

Stacy Dyer in full Brownie uniform, marching in the downtown Stuart holiday parade

Many years ago, I was shorter, cuter and I could eat a lot more cookies than I can today!

Before the days of Daisies, I joined Girl Scouts as a Brownie.  Yes that’s me to the right, check out my smile.  I loved being a Girl Scout.  Looking back there are many reasons why I enjoyed the experience and why I recommend Girl Scouts today.

Girl Scouts is fun!  I joined Troop #305, in Palm City, Florida initially because my mom’s friends’ daughters were all in the troop and I wanted to hang out with them.  We had a blast camping out, volunteering in local beach clean ups and dressing up in our uniforms to walk in the town’s annual holiday parade (complete with orange flag sock garters!)  Who doesn’t want to be in a parade?

Girl Scouts gets you outside.  A big reason for joining Scouts was the outdoor activities. I enjoyed horseback riding, camping, and wildlife rehabilitation. Scouting encouraged a great love of the natural world and it’s a value that has stayed with me to this day.

Girl Scouts gives you “prizes” and a sense of accomplishment.  Earning badges was one of my favorite parts of being a Girl Scout. Every meeting, our troop leader would organize a fun activity which would get us closer to our target. I have a competitive spirit and I relished the opportunity to have a good time and achieve something purposeful. I had so many badges, I had to get vest instead of a sash. My poor mom couldn’t keep up with sewing them on! I still crave accomplishments and rarely rest on my laurels for long.

Girl Scouts teaches you how to be an entrepreneur.  Call it Cookie Capitalism.  I learned “cold call” selling to strangers outside the grocery store and how to soft sell to my dad’s golfing buddies between the third green and the fourth tee. Back then, the only way to refuse me was to claim you had no cash. Of course, with today’s mobile payment options, and ATMs on every corner, you probably can’t get away with that excuse anymore. Selling cookies is a cornerstone of Girl Scout fundraising that instills an entrepreneurial spirit in young people—another Girl Scout trait I still carry today. I have supported myself as a freelancer and I am currently helping my husband Charles to build his coffee business on the side.  I have many an office colleague hooked on custom roasted coffee.

Girl Scouts empowers you to be the best you can be and to help others in turn. Service to others is a key part of the Girl Scouts experience.  You learn to be your better self by helping others and giving back to your community.  You also learn you are unstoppable and that really all you need in life are your friends, a pocket knife, flashlight and a box of cookies

For over a 100 years Girl Scouts has been developing girls and helping them grow into women.  Not too many organizations in this world have lasted as long.  I am so happy that I am getting to attend the 2011 National Girl Scout Council in Houston, Texas this week.  It is a chance to reconnect with fellow alumni, engage in Girl Scout leadership activities, and check out the captivating speakers.  I’m looking forward to being a part of this unforgettable event.  I will also be live tweeting from the event, follow the festivities on Twitter @stacydyer or the hash tag #GirlScouts100


What being a mother has taught me about being a (nonprofit) manager

As a new mother of a beautiful baby girl, I have learned a lot in these past few months about myself and my management style. Maybe it sounds callous that I think in terms of “managing” my baby – and some parents would probably disagree and say my baby is managing me – but it’s true!

Here is what I have learned.

Perfection is not necessary – Instead, strive for continuous improvement.

I may not know everything about mothering, but neither does my baby!Both of us have started with a blank slate, and we both have to learn as we go. You can’t be a victim of decision paralysis. Accept that you will make mistakes and choose to fail informatively, so you can improve the process next time.

Your audience (be it a baby, an employee, or a donor) doesn’t necessarily know things didn’t go the way you planned, so just pretend you planned that way! And then plan on doing better next time.

Poop Happens – …on the outfit, the blanket, the wall…. (yes, the wall.)Don’t panic! Clean it up.

In business and in babies, sometimes circumstances beyond your control interfere with your ideal state (like clean walls.) Freaking out only adds to the stress level. And trust me, a stressed out baby is much more difficult to handle than a calm baby. Instead, deal with the situation one step at time.Change the diaper, change the outfit, and then hand baby to Poppa so you can go scrub the wall.

Anticipate needs – Babies don’t always know what they want; you have to know for them!

Be ready with what you think they’ll need, before they even ask for it. A happy baby is easier to feed than a fussy baby. Instead of waiting for hunger to arrive, proactively have the milk ready.You won’t have to scramble and baby won’t have to wait.

A nonprofit’s patrons are the same. If you know your patrons are going to wait until December 31st to think about their annual gift, have an online donation form ready for them to make that 11th hour donation painlessly.

Go with the flow – The best laid plans [of mice and men] don’t always work out the way you want.

Be agile enough to change directions when necessary. You may have planned a walk at 2pm, but if baby is napping, you may decide to wait and walk later.If it’s raining later, when baby wakes up from her nap, rather than being disappointed that the walk must be cancelled, consider it a chance to teach baby about what rain smells like!

In the professional world, new opportunities often present themselves with little introduction. Don’t rigorously follow your planned strategy with no consideration.Wise managers will even be flexible enough to turn a possible threat into a new opportunity.

Prioritize – Deal with the most urgent need first.

Sometimes it seems all your problems come to a head at the same time.Baby is hungry, baby is wet, baby is fussy!You may be super-mom (or super-dad), but can’t do everything at once.It’s important to prioritize needs and deal with the most pressing issues first, before proceeding to the next.

Feed first, then diaper. Don’t forget the cuddles!

Face time is crucial – Non-verbal communication is key, especially when you haven’t learned to talk yet. And sometimes just knowing that you are there is enough to head off a major incident. Be present and engaged. If you are working from home while the sitter watches the “lil bits,” poke your head in the play pen to get a good smile.

At work, tour the cubicles every once in a while, just to say hey to your employees and colleagues.

The bottom line – Similar to babies, customers, colleagues, and patrons don’t always know what they need.They may know they need something, but without a clear understanding of the solutions available, they don’t know exactly what that “something” is. By being present, listening, and anticipating needs, you can make happy babies and happy customers!