The Work Trip Sleep Myth

Since our latest little one has joined the family I’ve had to go on a few work trips to different parts of the country.  Without fail, each time I tell someone I am about to leave on a trip, I hear something along the lines of, “Oh, I bet you are looking forward to getting some good sleep!”  Now that Simon is sleep trained, I can look back on this myth and laugh. (Ugh, typing that he’s sleep trained pretty much guarantees I will be up several times with him tonight.)

I want to be careful here, because without a doubt going on a work trip is easier than caring for a toddler and a newborn all by yourself-even for an awesome parent like Momlando.  But the fact of the matter is, during the trip and when I returned I was far more tired than if I had stayed home.   

Let’s do the math:

+ Traveling sucks, but if I am lucky I get some sleep on the airplane.

Going to meetings and then running to the airport is exhausting.

+ A trip to Wrigley Field as a work social event.

+ Eating at nice restaurants on the company’s dime is a perk.

Social cocktail hours turn into long nights, even if they can be fun.  Returning to the hotel room to catch up on missed emails always keeps me up later than your normal bedtime.

Sleeping in an unfamiliar room is rough.  I don’t have to get up with a crying baby but random hotel noises can prevent sleep.

In addition to going to be later than normal, jet lag really messes up sleeping when I travel to a different time zone.

 I wind up getting up earlier than normal to get to meetings on time.

But most of all, it is draining to feel the guilt of leaving my wife to take care of the kids by herself.  And it’s sad not to see my family on those days.  Finding time to FaceTime during the trip helps, but I can see how hectic things are at home and I feel guilty for even calling!  Not to mention the fact that you know your significant other is picturing you on a ‘work-vacation’ instead of a work-trip.

As any parent who has gone on a trip knows, when you come home you can see a change in your kids-they’ve grown so much in even just a few days.  So when people say that I must be looking forward to catching up on sleep on a trip I just smile and play along.  But on the inside I know.  There is no rest.

The four step journey to being #OrlandoAF


Whatever brought you to Orlando you’re 100% questioning the decision.  It’s hot as hell, the traffic is insane, and there are chain restaurants everywhere.  The people are kind of cool though.

It’s alright, for now.

You can get where you need to go without getting lost on the toll roads.  You know what time you really need to leave to get somewhere on time. You found a favorite pizza place.  You love the food trucks, the nightlife, and the pub crawls.  You still think you’ll need to move in a few years to advance in your career, go to grad school, or find your soulmate.  But you’re pretty sure that #orlandodoesntsuck.

Oh this place is my jam I’m here to stay.

You know the difference between Thornton Park, Audubon Park, and College Park.  You know the Milk District from Mills50.  You know which Farmer’s Market you like best and when to go.  You know it’s worth it to make the drive to Winter Garden every once in a while and check things out.  You’ve been to a UCF Football tailgate and even gone inside the stadium to watch a game once or twice.  You can’t be friends with people who aren’t sure they want to stay here for the long haul because you’re tired of making friends who move away.


You love Orlando and find pride in everything we do.  You have an Orlando City Soccer magnet on your car even though you don’t even like sports.  You tell people how many years you’ve been here.  Especially if it has been more than 10 years.  You cheer on every new trend that comes to town.  Poke bowls?  You love it.  Cookie dough cafe?  You’re there. You share it on Facebook.  Let your big city friends know Orlando’s right there with them (albeit six months to two years behind.) You share every ‘Best of’ list you see that highlights Orlando.  When you meet someone who just moved to Orlando you start rattling off everywhere they should eat, shop, and visit.  You get annoyed when you hear someone say there’s nothing in Orlando but theme parks and chain restaurants.  You start a blog just so you can talk about everything you love in the City Beautiful.  You’re #OrlandoAF

Beat the Heat: Keeping a toddler entertained and mommy sane in a Florida Summer.

It’s that time of year again, the long end of a Florida summer.  It’s hot, sticky, and sweaty.  Except for the portion of the day it’s torrentially downpouring.  Before kids, I could just hide out on my couch binge watching shows.  But toddlers don’t like that.  Something I’ve learned as a mom of littles is that I cannot just sit all day in the house with them.  I get stir crazy by the late afternoon.  I like a plan, an outing, an adventure.  That’s not always possible.  But we’re making it work.  Here’s what we’re up to right now to keep us entertained and out of the heat.

At Home


I have found that I can keep little V at the table painting for up to an hour.  Here’s how I make it work:

  • I purchased a few colors of washable tempera paints as well as a cheap set of watercolors.  She likes both but you have a better shot at ‘pretty’ with the tempera paints.  The watercolors are a more difficult medium.
  • I have a giant roll of Kraft Paper  in my guest room.  I cut off a big piece and cover the table.  I could give my Kraft Paper roll its own blog post – the uses are endless. Buy one for $20 and elevate your life.  And I always have a pack of baby wipes on hand to catch messes that can’t wait until the end.  
  • I’ve learned along the way that you can waste a lot of paper during paint time.  I bought a multi-media paper sketchbook and explained that we have to stay on the same page until it dries.  This has helped to cut down on her needing a new paper after painting just three lines.  
  • If you want to make art projects that you can hang up, you’ll need to be ready to guide your kiddo through it.  Here are a few ideas from Pinterest that I like:
  • Now before you get started, repeat these words in your head:  This will be messy.  My child is not Van Gogh.  We are going to have lots of fun.

Making necklaces

This is another fun one that’s relatively cheap.  Here’s how I make it work:

  • I bought a few bags of big pony beads and put them in a giant ziploc bag.  You can buy whatever kinds of beads you want.  But the younger your child is the bigger you want the hole to be in the beads.  
  • For string I brought bright neon elastic cord. Obviously the string needs to be thinner than the width of the holes in the beads.  But stick to big string and big beads for little hands.  
  • Pour the beads into a big plastic chip and dip.  I had a bunch on hand from a previous craft workshop.  You probably have one in your kitchen!  I also think a big gladware that you can reseal at the end would be good.  Anything that allows them to search and pick through the beads without things spilling out and over is what you’re going for.
  • Have at it, make necklaces.  And bracelets! And anklets!  
  • After we make the necklaces if my daughter isn’t in love and wearing it around the house for days, I’ll unstring what we made and put back with the supplies.  Keeps us from running through things too quickly.


I give all credit to Dadlando on this one.  But they’ve spent tons of time this summer turning the playroom trampoline and slide into a fort.  Grab some extra sheets and blankets and you’re all set!


I found this very easy banana bread recipe that we’ve been making all summer.  It doesn’t require electric mixing so we mash it all by hand.  Baking with kiddos requires extra patience that things will be messier but it’s so worth it.  She is so excited to help and to eat the things she made.


Out and About

Here’s where we’ve been venturing out that keeps us entertained and in the cool a/c.

  • Crayola Experience Orlando:  Built in the Florida Mall, we’ve had a great time there.  It can be very busy but there is always enough room for everyone.  There are lots of activities for toddlers and young kids.  It’s also right next to Buca di Beppo which has great lunch specials.  If you get to Crayola in the morning and then head to Buca for lunch you’ve really made a day of it!
  • Orlando Science Center:  Located in Loch Haven Park, the Science Center has activities and exhibits for all ages.  They’ve recently expanded their KidsTown (geared towards kids seven and under) and it has been a huge upgrade!  My kiddos love playing in the orange grove and digging for dinosaurs.  
  • Mall Indoor Playgrounds: A few of the malls have indoor playgrounds and that has been a godsend for our toddler to run around and get her energy out.  That said, depending on when you go they will be incredibly crowded.  So venture at your own risk.  A few we’ve been to:
    • Altamonte Mall Playground (451 E Altamonte Dr, Altamonte Springs, FL 32701 by Shoe Carnival & Sears)
      • Be careful this is right next to those ride-on animals.  So your kid will probably beg to do that too.
    • Oviedo Marketplace Playground (1700 Oviedo Mall Boulevard, Oviedo, FL 32765 in the food court)
      • This is for really little ones, like 2 and under. Don’t bother if you only have bigger kids.
    • Florida Mall at Crayola Experience (8001 S Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL 32809)
      • Another stop  in the Crayola adventure, they’ve got an indoor play space in the mall.  It’s just outside the Crayola Store.

Tell me what you’re doing to keep things fun and cool this summer!

Fashion Weak: Letting go of my ideas for my daughter’s style

Photo Header (3)As a self proclaimed fashionista I was sure there was one upside to having a daughter that I didn’t picture with a son, the clothes.  I envisioned matching outfits, playing dress up, and a little girl who loved style just as much as me.   Cut to real life.  The moment she could voice them, my daughter started having very strong opinions about her clothes.  In fact, she spent a year of her life in only Minnie Mouse t-shirts.  Up until very recently, she’s been all about dresses and ‘princess’ skirts.  

On the day to day it can be a little frustrating.  More often than not it’s humorous.  The things she favors get repeatedly worn and stained while others sit in drawers crisp and clean.  I started noticing a rhythm in what she liked and bought new items to fit the bill.  Minnie t-shirts would always get a thumbs up as would shorts with pockets.  Pockets would hold the rocks and acorns she picked up at the park so this move was purely functional.  

When it came time for holidays and important photo opps, I was stubborn.  And it wound up teaching me a huge lesson.  Early November last year I went to Carter’s and picked out two perfect outfits for Violet.  One for Thanksgiving, a long sleeve floral top and cream sparkle skirt and another other to wear for family holiday card photos, a gingham long sleeve top and magenta sparkle leggings.  I also found adorable magenta fringed boots that would match both outfits.  I thought I had worked within the guidelines of what she liked enough to appease her.  Pink, good.  Sparkle, good. ‘Princess’ skirt, good.  No.  Nope.  Nope.  Noppity.  Nope.

Thanksgiving rolled around and it was time to get dressed for lunch.  Lunch was planned for smack in the middle of nap time so she hadn’t slept.  That should have been reason enough for me to take a step back.  But it wasn’t.  Violet said she did not want to wear the outfit I picked out.  I said she had to.  She cried.  I yelled.  I put her in time out.  She wouldn’t budge.  I told her no treats at Thanksgiving.  I yelled more.  And she cried.  And she stood her ground.  Oh did she stand her ground.  I cancelled Thanksgiving and yelled some more. Eventually my husband stepped in.  I left the room to cool down and gain an ounce of composure.  Violet picked a different dress and asked to wear her new pink boots.  We were late to lunch and I was rattled the whole time.  In a more rational head space, I quickly realized how off the rails I’d gone.  

I was embarrassed that I had treated my daughter so poorly over something so trivial.  I now look back on that day and think of it as the day I learned the biggest lesson of my mama life.  I hate how I acted and that for even a moment my daughter was scared of me.  I don’t remember anything from that day except yelling at her.  Those are not the memories I want to keep in my heart.  And certainly not ones I want her to keep in hers.

It also dawned on me that I actually have raised a little fashionista. And with that comes her own opinions of what she wants to wear.  I resolved not to fight her on clothing anymore.  My daughter is fiercely assertive and that is something I should nurture every day because there will be 10,000 times in her life that other people quiet her.  I preach to her that her body is her own.  And that has to mean that I let her choose what she puts on to cover her body.      

Later that weekend, I shared my embarrassment and failure with my closest mom friend.  She reminded me that it’s okay for our kids to see us lose it every once in awhile but that it’s important to apologize afterwards.  It shows them even mommies aren’t perfect and that what matters is how we respond when we do something we regret.  (Thank you mom bff who is working on her psych Ph.D.!)  This helped ease my guilt and reassured me that I didn’t ruin my kid’s life.  At least not yet.  I’m sure I’ll have lots more opportunities for that down the road.

I’m no expert.  But here’s what I’ve learned in dealing with a tiny fashionista:

  1. Include them when you can in buying their own clothes.  Violet was very happy to find a very pretty Minnie Mouse party dress that she wore for Easter and now wears at least once a week to preschool.
  2. If you really want them to wear something, you gotta sell it.  Recently, Violet’s grandma bought her an adorable dress and sandals for a family party.  When I showed them to her I remarked how much they looked like something Moana would wear (sort of, kind of, maybe?)  She loved it and asked if it was time to wear the Moana dress every day leading up to the party.
  3. Understand there is a rationale to their thinking.  V did love the Moana dress and sandals but also thought she might get cold at the party so she wanted to wear tribal print leggings underneath.  Who was I to disagree with that logic?  
  4. Be like Elsa and Let it Go.  It does not matter which dress my daughter wears to Thanksgiving.  She’s adorable in anything and I’d much rather look back on happy memories of time spent together than think of tears shed in my quest for a perfect photo. Let. It. Go. 
  5. Remember that crazy outfits will make the best photos.  I look forward to showing teenage Violet photos that we can laugh at together.

The other day as I got Violet dressed for school, she pointed to her ‘princess’ dress and to my work dress and said, “We match!”  I guess there’s still hope after all.

Orlando Moms who Rock: Bonnie Lewis

Moms who Rock highlights Orlando moms doing their thing. This week’s spotlight is on Bonnie Lewis an Orlando mom, talented sewer, and healthy living guru.


“My entire vision for owning my own business was that single mom or not, this kid deserves a soccer mom.  I want to be at every school function.  I want to pick him up when school ends. I want to be at soccer.  Money was not my motivating factor.  My motivating factor was time.”

When you meet Bonnie Lewis, she looks impossibly chic in the most effortless way.  And then when you compliment her outfit, she tells you she made it.  When you talk to her about sewing she’ll casually slide in that she traveled the world working for Ralph Lauren’s advertising campaigns and fashion shoots for ten years.  And in the less than five minutes it takes to tell you all that, you want to know everything about her.

Bonnie calls herself a ‘gig’ tailor and tells about her adventures traveling on photo shoots all over.  She’s unfazed when she says it and not bragging one bit.  She had been traveling non-stop for ten years when she was blessed with the news that she was pregnant.  At the time she lived in NYC and her boyfriend, and son’s father, lived on an island off the coast of Georgia.  Knowing her professional life would not suit her life as a mom, she made the move to Georgia and little Nicholas made his debut into the world.  When Nicholas was just a year old, Bonnie and Nicholas’ dad decided they were better as friends than partners.  So as a newly single mom, she moved to Orlando to be close to family.  In a new city with limited opportunities to match her professional life, she had big decisions to make.  

She took big uncertainties and turned them into big opportunities, launching one successful business after another.  Along the way she met the man of her dreams and has launched the company she always dreamed of, Common Sewing, which turns beginners into efficient makers. Bonnie is truly the answer to every one of us out there that have ever said, “I wish I knew how to sew.”  Now eight years old, Nichols is still the driving force behind every decision Bonnie makes.

On fitting clothes to the Ralph Lauren Models:

“I fitted the samples or built special samples for the images.  I’m the person that makes you think clothing actually fits models and that something is wrong with you.  Really, there’s not that much difference between them and us except for the team (photoshop, makeup, lighting, etc).”

Bonnie’s brother is a mechanical engineer that builds props for Disney.  She began her Orlando career by building out the soft goods department of his company.  

On what she learned working for her brother:

“It was a lot of hard work but it was a blessing.  It let me see that I could hire people to take a lot of the labor off my hands.  I learned I could serve a client well.  And I could have freedom.”

Eventually she was ready to start her own company, Bonnie B. Tailor.  She had Disney contracts and set up a textile design and fabrication workroom in her church. She went from hiring contract sewers to taking on a full-time team.  Things were growing steadily until in March 2016, she took on an order that was more than she bargained for.  Everything that could go wrong did.  The order was huge and they wouldn’t get paid until they delivered.  With money flowing out to pay for supplies and staff, things began to look bleak.  A look at the books made her realize she needed to do something.  

On Bonnie B. Tailor almost tanking:

“Best thing that ever happened to me.”

Common Sewing had been bubbling in her mind for ten years.  She cites that rough patch for Bonnie B. as the boot kick to her butt that she needed to get it off the ground.  

On what held her back:

“I had the materials, the 12 sewing machines. I had the studio ready.  I was just so scared of the weight of my passion to teach people to sew. I didn’t go in there. I didn’t plan lessons.”

Threatened with losing her business she got moving.  She was quick to action and not about to fail. The first Common Sewing lesson was held in July 2016.  She started by teaching a four class series.  Just one year later, Bonnie is now running Common Sewing full-time.   As for Bonnie B. Tailor?  They did complete that disastrous order and got the business back afloat. Bonnie is now in process of turning over that business to her staff.  

On empowering her staff to become business owners:

“That’s been really fun to watch.  Tailors are not compensated well.  And these are two incredibly talented, focused, hardworking women.  And they’re great people.  They have a hope for a much better quality of life not being my employee.”  

On how Common Sewing works:

“I have many layers of purpose in Common Sewing.  My mission statement is I want to bring sewing back into our lifestyle in a way that’s relevant, sustainable, and easy.  That’s all I do.  I teach very very basic lessons.  The six lessons will teach you all the skills to be a maker or a mender, upcycler, or designer and you get six cute projects.  But I walk you through the lessons with little rhyme schemes and memorization tools about what to do.”  

On why she’s passionate about teaching others to sew:

“We live in textiles.  We are all creative beings.  We all have unique bodies that do not fit into size categories.  And we all want to express ourselves authentically as ourselves.  I want people to know how to change things to fit their bodies or make things to fit their lifestyles.  I have a lot of passion for people and how they live in their textiles.”

On taking responsibility for our consumption:

“Textiles are the most underused of the most reusable resource we have.  Textiles do not need to be thrown away.  They can be reused into millions of things.  We put 15 million tons of textiles in the landfill every single year.  And that doesn’t include what we ship overseas, that’s American landfills.  That’s coming because we are over consuming and treating our clothes as disposable.  We don’t know how to fix our clothes.  We don’t want to take them to the dry cleaner to fix because it would cost more than what we paid for them.”

When Bonnie talks about preserving our planet, she’s looking out for her son.  And for my children.  And for future generations after that.  She wants to gift people with the ability to steward what we create.  And to be good stewards to our Earth.  

On what’s next for Common Sewing:

“It’s designed to reach the nation. I’m building out a program that equips and enables teachers to start their own businesses.  I want it to be available and bless more people.  Help a single mother learn how to sew and start a business out of her home.  I’m teaching them to be a teacher.  Training up teachers to bless the people in their community.”

In addition, she’s developing the program and documentation so it’s accessible nationwide.  She’s experimenting with webinars and working on a subscription nationwide for the Common Box.  Each box has one lesson that you can do at your kitchen table.  It has a variety of methods to reach each type of learner: PDFs, videos, and tutorials running live you can log in to do with a teacher via web.

Now a family of three, Nicholas, Brian, and Bonnie are very involved in their church and Nicholas’ school activities.  Nicholas loves playing sports, especially soccer.  Every night they have dinner as a family.  And on the weekends they head outdoors for bike riding, paddle boarding, and camping.  They love spending time with family and keep an eye out for local events to enjoy together.

On co-parenting in a blended family:

“Our family life is pretty wonderful for a blended family.  I married the man of my dreams.  His dad and I are great friends.  We have so much love and respect for each other.  He married the woman of his dreams.  I love his wife.  He loves my husband.  And Nicholas calls all of us his parents.  And we support and celebrate that.  So we have a really unique family life.  I won’t say it got there without effort.  We were blessed with four people who function more on goodwill.  And we love Nicholas like crazy.  But it did take work.”

P.S.  Nicholas spends the summer with his dad in Georgia. When Bonnie and I met for the interview he was heading up to Martha’s Vineyard (can I be Nicholas, please?)

On dating as a single mom:

“Internet. Advanced search. I don’t have time to ‘date date’. No time for meetups. I did not flirt in the grocery store.  I am not going to cruise my church.  It’s just not who I am.  I had a vision that I didn’t want my son to grow up in a single parent home and I was willing to do the work.  I didn’t go into internet dating blind, I read every book on the market.  Even ones I laughed at in college. My purpose was to find the man of my dreams, fall in love organically, and use the technology at hand that would let me date while Nicholas was in bed.”

On meeting her husband for their first date:

“He walked around the corner and I recognized him from his picture and it was like to me, the quality of light on the street changed.  It was like there was a shift in the atmosphere and all of the sudden where it was sunset there was a strange glow over the street.  And I was just a puddle.  All of my cool was gone.  I was just a droopy puddle waiting to have a drink with my future husband.”

On the biggest thing she does different than she thought she would:

“I thought my son would eat all organic.  I really did.  Because I love holistic nutrition and I’m very nutrition conscious.  Heck no, it’s like chicken fingers and french fries every day.  We cook dinner at home.  But he’s not going to eat [the healthy stuff.] I’m sure there are moms out there that would say otherwise and that it’s a cop out.  But he eats very differently than I thought when pregnant.”  

On how she builds in time for herself:

“I run every day.  And it’s just 30 minutes, I don’t run far or fast.  It is absolutely a stress release and it’s absolutely a meditation.  My husband and I work with each other to give each other alone time.”

On how she sets boundaries for her work schedule:

“I don’t work past 4pm.  Work one workshop at night when Brian and Nicholas are at Trail Life (like Boy Scouts).  I hire other teachers to teach the workshops because I’m very convicted that it’s not worth it.  Common Sewing is not worth more than my family.  I work in the daytime because I’ve got a purpose.  I am pushing into it.”  

On how her family is evolving:

“We became a family two years ago.  And we really enjoy doing everything together.  Now we’re giving each other grace, like my husband is an avid reader and since becoming a dad he hasn’t read a book.  Brian needs to check every now and again to just read.  So I’ll make a plan with Nicholas.  It’s new for our family to give each other alone time.  But we’re finding a lot of pleasure in that too.”

What have you always wanted to do that you’ve been too scared to act on?  What big risk have you taken that paid off in spades.  Tell us in the comments!

Bonnie’s list of must-do’s:
Food: The Sanctum Cafe, Downtown Credo, Bulla Gastrobar, Rusteak, The Dinner Party Project  
Entertainment: Timucua White House, Paddleboarding on Lake Ivanhoe and Wekiva, Blizzard Beach
Camping: Westgate River Ranch, Amelia Island
Newest out of town getaway: Boca Grande, she calls it an outdoor wonderland that’s a tiny island, half fancy resort and half nature preserve.  
Know a ‘Mom Who Rocks’ who should be featured?  Let us know!

Dadlando: A playlist for our life.

Do you have a box of memories from your childhood just taking up space in your storage?  Maybe you are lucky enough to have some VHS tapes of childhood memories or family vacations. Even better, maybe you’ve converted them to a DVD or a memory stick. These are great to have, but do you ever actually dig them out to watch them?  And if you do, can you stand to sit through the entire thing?  Last summer on  vacation, my mother-in-law tried to convince me to watch my wife’s entire high school homecoming parade.  No thanks.

As a dad, I have always tried my best to find some way to keep memories alive for my children – but what’s the best way?  I realized the solution was in my hand.

By the time Violet turned one, I had taken countless pictures and videos with my phone of times I thought were special.  I decided to string those together in a simple video app on my phone to share all these memories with family.  After playing around with the video a bit, I realized that by adding music, I was making a music video of a certain chapter of our lives.  I soon understood I wasn’t just making videos of the kids for my family to see, but for my kids themselves.

This gave me a whole new perspective on what I was doing.  Now, I spend more time deciding on a song to use in the video than actually creating the video itself.  I mean, I want the kids to like good music!

Every few months I catalog our adventures on the latest family music video.  Looking at pictures and watching videos of herself is already one of my daughter’s favorite activities.  I know when he gets older, my son will love it too.  I want to create a long playlist for us to enjoy and as a gift I can give them through the years.

Orlando Moms who Rock: Kristen Manieri

Kristen Manieri, photo by Roberto Gonzalez
Moms who Rock highlights Orlando moms doing their thing. This week’s spotlight is on Kristen Manieri an Orlando mom, date night expert, and overall life wisdom giver.

“There’s a lot to be said about how we can bring a level of intention and creation on how we’re being, how we’re showing up and how we’re consciously generating relationships in our life.”

Have you ever googled date night ideas to avoid the monotonous dinner and a movie?  If you did that in Orlando you probably stumbled upon Orlando Date Night Guide, a tremendous resource of ideas and suggestions.  Kristen Manieri, the site’s founder, sat down with me to chat about all things date night, mom life, and local Orlando.  I walked away inspired by the amount of intention and thoughtfulness Kristen puts into every facet of her life.  After you read this, I guarantee you will also be thinking of ways to add purpose to everything you do.

After her move to Orlando from Toronto in 2006, she was waiting on resident status and unable to work.  Kristen had a PR/event planning background and thrived while busy so she began freelance writing (unpaid) to fill her days.  Around the same time, she wrote Great Dates Orlando which became a newsletter and then blog.  Admittedly a little backwards from the norm!  

Along the way Kristen gained her residency status and began a paid freelance writing career.  All the while she kept up with Orlando Date Night Guide and noticed her following was growing.  In 2014 she took a leap to make it her full time job and has never looked back.  In 2016 she launched the Date Night Discovery Club, a monthly subscription service that delivers date ideas to your door.  And in 2017, she announced that Date Night Guide will expand on a national scale.  She’s committed to creating a community of bloggers that lift each other up.  

She and her husband Marc have been together for 15 years.  They have two daughters, Elizabeth (turning 9) and Aly (7).  She runs down the list of non-negotiables in their house: weekly date nights, quarterly getaways, and family time including date nights with their kids.  They don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk.

On why she started Great Dates Orlando:

“We were new to the city, I love exploring and new adventures.  We didn’t have kids yet and were looking for fun things to do.  And especially fun things to do on a budget since that was 2007 and things were starting to go down the sewer.  We needed to get creative on how we spent our money.”

On women supporting other women:

“Figuring out a way to do what I love and on a schedule I love is really the holy grail for any mom. I don’t think most moms want to give up working.  I love working. But I don’t want to work 60 hours a week I want to pick them up at school every day.  I’ve found an almost near balance of work, home, kids, and my husband.  I’m very inspired to teach people that wherever they live, here’s how I did it and you can too.”  

On the biggest lesson she’s learned running her business:

“I’m great at starting new things.  When it gets hard I start thinking I shouldn’t have done it, it isn’t meant to be.  Forcing myself to stick with it past that uncomfortable stage, that’s been incredibly eye opening to me.”

On what’s next:

“I have a lot to say about the value of tending to your relationship (friends, spouse, family).  The intentionality that you can bring to upgrading any relationship through quality time, daily doses of affection.  Those haven’t been talked about on Date Night Guide and is the next genesis of where to head.”

On favorite Orlando dates right now:

“I love all the main streets that have popped up Audobon Park, Thorton Park, College Park, and Downtown South.  It used to just be Park Avenue but now there’s all these little pockets.  You really can just park the car and explore.”

On their most recent date night:

“We spent the night downtown at Lake Eola this past weekend.  Went for dinner at the Stubborn Mule and then walking around the lake.  We love the Farmer’s Market on Sunday and like to do yoga.  But not when it’s this hot.”

On being a proud Orlandoan:

“We are just getting Orlando people to fall in love with the city themselves.  Never had to sell Orlando as a destination to people who don’t live here.  But now there’s a sense of I want to live here, I’m choosing to live here. We have a lot and a lot of people who are creating really amazing things.”

The longer we talk the more I admire what she’s doing.  She’s authentic to her mission.  She just wants everyone (including herself) to have the best relationship possible with their spouse.  In ten years of blogging that concept has only become clearer to her.  She’s spreading a gospel of connecting with your loved one and committing to coming back to one another.  And she does it without sounding remotely preachy.

Kristen believes in rituals and little moments to add depth and sweetness. She tells a beautiful story of a ritual she has with her girls, squeezing their hands three times for I love you.  And she glows when she tells me about the other day when her daughter squeezed her hand ten times and said, “I just said I love you so much I can’t even stand it.”  

On her favorite things to do as a family:

“The girls are great at restaurants. We love going out to eat with them.  We also love hiking at Lake Lotus park.  It’s all boardwalks through the park and great to go exploring.”

Kristen’s tips for a successful restaurant visit include bringing a workbook to keep the kids occupied and drawing a hard line against phones or tablets to distract them. As a mom with a toddler and infant I was both stunned and instantly hopeful hearing this that one day I’d be able to look forward to taking my kids out to eat!  

On raising little foodies:

“We’ve slowly eliminated the kids menu from their lives.  They want an elevated meal too.  That’s what we’re eating.  We tend to buy whole entrees and share. Eating out with them is a real joy since they like real food.”

On the most surprising thing about being a mom:

“How much self care is critical.  Honestly when you’re doing the birthing classes that’s what they should be teaching.  Someone should take you aside and tell you how important it is to nap or spend a day by yourself once a month.  If you’re not taking care of yourself you’re not taking care of anybody.  A resentful overwhelmed teetering on the brink of insanity mother isn’t great.  We’re already going to beat ourselves up.  Those moments are less and less when we practice self care.”

On how she makes time for self-care:

“I’m up at 5 am (yes she goes to bed early – by 9:30pm) and have two hours to meditate, journal, and exercise.  Once I have those two hours to myself, I can give myself away the whole rest of the day.  I’ve done my part.  That’s mandatory.”

On simple steps to starting your self-care routine:

“Make a list of 10 things you can do to nourish yourself when you have a break or kids are sleeping.  I could do five sun salutations, write ten things in my gratitude journal, meditate, drink a glass of water, or just take a few deep breaths.  And then keep that list handy to avoid mindlessly checking Facebook and missing your window.”

On when you stray the course from your routine:

“I’m only ever 80% on course on how to nourish myself.  Checking in, being able to do a body scan, see how you’re doing and take a break ensures you come back to your habits.  You have to stay the course long enough to relish the benefits of it so when you go off course you don’t want to be there.  On course shouldn’t feel like work.  On course is so in alignment, your best version of yourself that it’s off course that is uncomfortable.”

On how she handles mom guilt:

“I’ve gotten really good at taking stock in the quality of our time as a family.  We are not wired for happiness, our brains are built for survival.  A happy memory doesn’t serve us.  You have to wire your children for happiness.  When you’re having a happy day saying ‘I’m having such a happy day.  Aren’t you having a happy day?’ and even giving them the words, joy, euphoria, wistful.  So many ways to describe a happy day. When [mom guilt] happens I take stock and know we’ve had these quality moments.  I can quickly access that in my mind.  If it’s not there then we need to add more quality time.”

What can you do to take care of yourself today?  How can you add depth to your relationships?  Tell us in the comments how you’re elevating the quality of your life.


Throughout our talk Kristen mentioned several podcast and book suggestions.  I’ve listed below as resources:
On following your creative passion: Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons Podcast
On creativity and the realization that obstacles abound for us all: Linda Siversten’s Beautiful Writers Podcast
On when to quit and when to stick:  The Dip a book by Seth Godin
On raising children wired for happiness: Raising Happiness a book by Christine Carter Ph.D
Know a ‘Mom Who Rocks’ who should be featured?  Let us know in the comments below!

Orlando is everyone’s favorite punchline. And I love it.

I think I’ve mentioned that I love Orlando?  And even though there’s a zillion cool reasons to love this town we’re always sort of a joke in the cultural zeitgeist.  And I don’t mean just because we’re in Florida.  I started noticing how often we’re the punchline in my favorite shows and movies.  I could be offended but really I love a good ol’ shoutout to my city.  So here are my top favorite pop culture Orlando references. 

Pretty Woman  

I watch Pretty Woman every time I see it on TV.  Every. Single. Time.  But as with most movies I catch on on cable, I never actually watch it start to finish.  A couple years back I met up with a few girlfriends at the Enzian for their Cult Classics night when they were playing Pretty Woman.  And would you believe that right in the intro there’s an Orlando shout out?  As the movie opens cops are on scene at the homicide of a dead hooker.  Two tacky tourists look on to take pictures.  Can you guess where they’re from?  Orlando!  (You’ll hear it at 5:50 in) The audience roared with laughter and applause. 

The Book of Mormon

I really hadn’t researched much into The Book of Mormon before we went to Bob Carr to see it.  It was one of those shows I thought we had to go see because there was so much hype.  Also I have very fond memories of watching Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Baseketball when I was a kid (South Park too lest I be outcasted!)

In The Book of Mormon, LDS missionaries prepare to be sent on their missions across the globe.  I am so glad I had no idea what was coming because the full effect of the punchline for Elder Price revealing he hopes he’s placed in Orlando with an epic Orlando banner unfurling on stage was everything.  I couldn’t find video of it, but here’s the song!

The Minions Movie

This is a mommy blog after all so I had to include my favorite yellow blobs, the minions.  I didn’t get their appeal before I saw this movie but after close to one hundred viewings, I’m sold.  In The Minions Movie, Bob, Stewart, and Kevin in search of a supervillian leader head to Villiancon, the largest gathering of criminals anywhere.  And where else would it be but Orlando?  It’s set before Disney so they arrive to a one-road swamp town.  And don’t worry they do find a supervillain to follow, Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock).  The lady-power supervillian with a sidekick husband (John Hamm, yes please!) really set my love into overdrive.

Hotwives of Orlando

A general rule my friends know when conversing with me is that 9 out of 10 times I will relate everything back to the Real Housewives.  Imagine my delight when a parody premiered called The Hotwives of Orlando!  The show happens to hit on every amazing Housewives cliche and reminds you that telling people to ‘calm down’ can lead to a full-scale catfight that lasts a whole season.

Fresh off the Boat

Based off Eddie Huang’s memoir, Fresh off the Boat is a family comedy on ABC that documents his Taiwanese family’s move from Chinatown in D.C. to Orlando.  It’s set in the mid-90’s and such a great show about family and culture-clash.  As I went down the Wikipedia rabbit-hole reading up on Huang for this blog post I became obsessed.  I’m now sure I need to read his books, follow him on twitter, and set up a google alert with his name so I can keep tabs on his many controversies.

Orange is the New Black

I fully jumped on the OITNB bandwagon the second it premiered.  My book club read the novel.  And back in the pre-kiddo days I’m sure we even binge watched the season in a day.  On the show the guards often play just as integral parts of the stories as the inmates.  One guard, CO Bennett gets very involved with an inmate and we learn that he has a fake leg.  Flashbacks show us that CO Bennett is an army vet, so it’s easy to connect the dots that he lost his leg in Afghanistan in combat.  Not so, good friends.  It’s later revealed that he lost it because of an infection that he got in a hot tub.  In Orlando.

Identity Thief

Melissa McCarthy steals Jason Bateman’s identity and he goes to find her and get it back.  The movie turns into a road trip buddy comedy after he finds her, in Winter Park.   It’s painfully obvious the movie wasn’t filmed in Winter Park.  But did they even google it?  There’s a scene with a salon that is borderline offensive because the Florida cliche tacky salon is incredibly anti-Winter Park.  #howdareyou


I thought Amy Poehler and Tina Fey’s Sisters movie was adorable and funny.  The two polar opposite sisters head back to Orlando to help sell their family home.  They decide to have one epic party before it sells. Just like every other Orlando moment on this list, I do not think one second of this was filmed in Central Florida.  They do hit up a Big Lots at one point and that made it easy to pretend they were here.  Once again, my research for this list led me fully down an internet rabbit hole.  This movie is based on real Orlandoan sisters Paula Pell and Patty DeLaCruz.  Pell is a writer for SNL and wrote the screenplay.  So cool right?  

I know there are so many more Orlando moments in pop culture that I’m missing.  What should I add to the next round-up for this list?  


My bestie reports on our Vegas trip!

This weekend my bestie (Hanny) and I traveled to Vegas.  The much needed girls weekend was planned so we could see the Backstreet Boys residency at Planet Hollywood.  In our 15 year friendship we have seen them every time they tour so this was a no-brainer and a great excuse to get away.  Before leaving I wrote about my nerves  and thought a post-trip interview with Hanny would be fun!

Did you read my letter to you blog post?

Duh! It made me tear up and I’m so happy I’m the first person I went on your trip with after babies.

Were you nervous to travel with me as a mom?

Honestly no. I knew it would be hard for you the first day and then you’d ease into it.  But I knew you were really excited and needed the break so it would be great.

How’d I do?


Did I sleep too much or talk about the babies too much?

Definitely didn’t sleep too much I slept more than you (Note from momlando – this is true. I was usually up at least an hour before her which gave me amazing alone time and I even took a bath one morning in our giant tub!)  Didn’t talk about the babies too much at all.  I welcomed it when you did.  I love talking about them with you.

What’s your best memory from the weekend?

So many!   The show was amazing.  I love seeing the Backstreet Boys with you but this was next level.  The after party was great, I loved dancing the night away with you.  I’ll never forget sneaking our way into their VIP section to the point where we were sitting on a couch with Nick Carter! 

Would you travel with me again?  Where should we go next?

Charleston?  Anywhere we go is amazing and we have the best time.

What’s changed about our friendship since I had kids?

I don’t see you as much but I don’t think our actual relationship has changed.  If anything our friendship is even better now because I love your kids. I get to see you in a different light seeing how they love you. Violet has warmed up to me so much recently.  She loves me and that’s an amazing feeling.  Last week when you told me she thought she looked like me, even though she’s obviously your clone, it made my whole day!  

What do you miss of pre-mommy Dana?

We don’t get to spontaneously do things that often.  We have to plan in advance now.

What surprised you most about me as a mom?

This is a hard one.  I don’t think anything has really surprised me.  I always knew you’d be a really good mom.  You were born to be a mom. 

How amazing is my bff?  We had a great trip and she was a huge support to me the whole weekend.  My mind is already buzzing ready to plan our next adventure.  Stay tuned for more on our Vegas trip and a wrap-up of all the fun things we did!