Making goals

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I’m a goal-making junkie.

Always have been.

As I send my first child off to all-day school and my second child to preschool, this fall feels like a season of change. I want to take advantage of our new day-to-day schedules and build in some new habits and ways of doing things.

I started my goal-making process like this.

First, I thought about the changes I’d like to see in myself and the way my family functions. Some of the things that came to mind were being less distracted by technology, putting more effort into making my marriage more fun and fulfilling, deepening my bonds with my children, growing closer to God, and more actively practicing gratitude and mindfulness.

Then, I thought about three specific things that would bring those changes about. Here’s what I ended up with:


  1. Phones off by 9:30 p.m. My husband and I made this a ground rule awhile ago, but ever since I started this little website of mine a few months ago, I’ve loosened up on it. When we do stick to it, I notice a big difference. That hands-free time opens the door to more communication with my spouse, less anxious thoughts at night (which is when I’m most susceptible to them) and an easier time winding down for sleep. Also, it frees up time for our favorite Netflix shows. Hey-o! Cuddling on the couch and watching something together is way more connecting than zeroing in on our own little worlds in the palms of our hands.
  2. Instagram regulation. Hi. I’m Kim, and I’m addicted to Instagram. I feel better already. Now that I’m more active on social media, I feel the need for more discipline too. Without it, I’m on and off Instagram countless times a day. Even if it’s only a few minutes here and there, it adds up more quickly than I realize. It makes me a little sick to think of how many hours I’ve wasted scrolling through pictures with nothing substantial to show. So, I’m limiting myself to three intentional Instagram time slots a day: One in the morning before the day starts, one in the afternoon when the kids are sleeping/having quiet time, and one more after the kids have gone to bed.  The day-checks are shorter (10-15 minutes) and night is longer (30-40 minutes). I may have to break out a timer to keep me on track with these ones.
  3. Social Media mini-fasts. Although a year-long sabbatical sounds nice, that isn’t realistic for me right now. Instead, I take one day a week where I log out of social media for the entire day and evening. We take a lot of little trips as a family, so I also pick a couple of those trips where I’m totally Instagram-free. (I delete the app off my phone. It might sound crazy, but that’s how I’ve gotta do it!)


  1. Use my words. I’m always telling my kids to use their words to express themselves instead of yelling or whining. Words have a huge impact on the way we act and feel. They also have so much power over the way we make our children feel and how they view themselves. I’ve felt a strong impression lately that I need to focus more on the words I speak and the way I say them. It’s fitting, because I launched my “Talk Wordy to Me” brand and my tagline “using words to uplift and inspire.” I need to live up to that.
  2. Practice reacting in love, not anger. Being a mom has unveiled a little anger problem in me. I was all sorts of patient before I became a mom. It’s a slow process, but I’m learning that I can control my reactions. Not without a lot of discipline and effort, though. Thinking of patience as a skill I need to practice and not master instantly, just like learning a new language or instrument, helps me be gentler on myself and keep working at it instead of just accepting it as a permanent weakness. I’m not expecting to be the picture of patience, here. Just to react in love more times than I react “Trunchbowl-style,” as I’ve said before.
  3. Monday Mommy Adventures. When I dedicate uninterrupted time to my kids every day where I’m fully focused on them and making them happy, it dissolves a lot of mom-guilt. Also, I notice better behavior in my kids when they have that quality time with me. So every Monday, after my oldest gets home from early-day at school, I’m going to have something planned that the kids can look forward to. It will not be anything fancy. Sometimes we’ll go to the park. Sometimes I’ll read them a new book or play a new game with them. The important thing here is that I am making a concerted effort to have fun with them.


Even if you aren’t part of a religion, I think it’s important to actively do things to keep in touch with your own spirituality and to bring you closer to your source of inspiration and guidance. I’m a Christian, (a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), and I’ve noticed that my relationship with God is like anything else—it gets stale and regresses if I don’t make an effort to deepen it.

In this busy stage of my life, I’ll admit I’ve been feeling a bit indifferent and unmotivated to make that effort. But when I’m being lazy in that area of my life, I notice a stark drop in the peace and happiness I feel. I notice less perspective and clarity, less personal guidance. For me, these are the three things I need to recommit to:

  1. Daily gospel study. 
  2. Temple attendance. 
  3. Prayer. (Personal prayers morning and night, family prayer and couples prayer before bed.)


  1. Kiss more. It’s like the prayer of marriage. Keeps you close and the channels of communication open. Hallelujah.
  2. Plan a reconnection retreat. This one was Clay’s idea, and I’m giddy about it. Our little babe is still going strong with nursing, but come Spring, I wont be a milk factory anymore. We’re going to escape (kid-free!) to somewhere remote, and our phones are not invited. Our only goal will be to have deep conversations and quality time together to strengthen our bond and reconnect with what our relationship was like pre-kids. Two weeks after I had my first baby, I interviewed a couple who won the happiest couple award in the magazine I wrote for. The couple shared a piece of advice I’ve never forgotten since: “As you have children, don’t put your marriage on the back-burner. Because when they’re gone, your relationship will be too.” I don’t want to be the couple that has nothing in common or doesn’t enjoy each others company anymore once the kids are out of the house. Now, where should we go on our retreat?
  3. Again with the words. I feel like I can tell my husband anything. But that doesn’t mean I should. I mean things like, “You’re washing that laundry wrong.” or “You put the wrong outfit on the baby.” You get the idea. Nitpick this, nitpick that. I’m going to focus on all the things he does for our family (hello, he did the laundry!) and get over the minor details that the control freak referee in me likes to blow her whistle at. Instead, I want to offer more words of affirmation and gratitude. I feel like that will go a long way to create deeper feelings of love and companionship.

Mental wellness

  1. Cultivate gratitude. I love the practical tips to cultivating gratitude I got when I interviewed a psychologist for this article. I’m going to put one of them to use and at our family dinners every night. We are each going to share 3 “Gs” from our day: Something good, something not good, and something we’re grateful for. I hope that by starting this habit now, we will help keep the lines of communication open as our kids get older and harder to squeeze information out of.
  2. Meditate. One of the most helpful things I’ve learned about managing that little anger problem I mentioned before (and this also works wonders for anxiety) is to take time to meditate. It doesn’t have to be anything hippy-dippy or abnormal. For me, it’s just carving out even three minutes of uninterrupted alone-time when I am not doing anything but relaxing. Not worrying, not doing something “productive.” Just laying or sitting somewhere peaceful and pondering. We spend so much time plugged in to something. I think it’s important to make room for silence.

I have other goals that fall under the friendship, fall cleaning, and health categories, and I’d be happy to share those with you upon request. But for now, I think I’ll leave it at this.

I would really love to hear some of the goals you’re working on and I welcome any suggestions for improvement in the areas I mentioned here.


Have kids, will date: 7 creative date ideas to keep your post-kids marriage alive

While our children have brought so much joy and fulfillment into our lives, getting out on dates takes a lot more effort and planning than it used to. (Taylor Ann Photography)
While our children have brought so much joy and fulfillment into our lives, getting out on dates takes a lot more effort and planning than it used to. (Taylor Ann Photography)


My husband and I were married for three and a half years before kids came into the picture. While our children have brought so much joy and fulfillment into our lives, getting out on dates takes a lot more effort and planning than it used to.

But getting out on those dates has also become crucial to the health of our relationship. Without quality one-on-one time together, my husband and I start to feel like we’re merely roommates or referees instead of partners in a romantic relationship.

So, we’ve learned to get more creative with our definition of a date. Here are some ways to protect your one-on-one time:

1. Opt for a day-date.

Getting out on a Saturday morning can be a refreshing change from the go-to dinner and movie date night. Once in awhile, my husband and I hire a sitter or drop the kids off with a family member then go on a hike, try a new brunch spot and run some kid-free errands.

2. Rent a hotel room for the day.

If an overnight trip away from the kids isn’t realistic right now, consider renting a room for the day. Get into your comfy clothes, rent movies, stock up on treats and reminisce about what life was like before kids. You’ll feel like newlyweds again!

3. Have a night in.

Put the kids to bed early and soak in some one-on-one time at home. Put your phones and computers away, skip the dishes and straightening-up, and plop down on the couch with your favorite snacks. Have some uninterrupted talking time, then end with a movie or TV show you both love. We won’t judge if you’re still in bed by 10.

4. Do a mini-date.

On Saturdays or after my husband gets home from work on a weekday, we like to drop our kids off with a neighbor or have one come over to our place while the two of us escape for an hour. We run, walk, ride bikes or rollerblade through our neighborhood. Then we return the favor for our neighbor. We all get our exercise-endorphins going and have some quality conversation with our spouses. It’s a win-win!

5. Set up a standing date night

Whether it’s every week or once a month, set up a date night with a babysitter or family member you can count on. For my husband and I, knowing we have that one-on-one time to look forward to helps us get through the rough patches of parenthood.

6. Try new things together.

Studies show increased enjoyment and happiness when couples try new things together. Check our our calendar of local activities and pick something you and your spouse have never done. You just might find your new favorite tradition.

7. Work in a work-day date.

Once in awhile I have to do some work near my husband’s office, so we meet at our favorite smoothie shop to talk for half an hour or so. Our mid-day date might be brief, but those little snippets of quality time add up and help us remember to make our marriage top priority.

What are some of your favorite dates to go on with your spouse? 

I wrote this article for Utah Valley 360. See the original article here.

Giving up on mom-perfection

Can we all agree that being a good mom doesn’t have a specific look? Like the thrift store jeans in “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” motherhood looks a little different on all of us.
Can we all agree that being a good mom doesn’t have a specific look? Like the thrift store jeans in “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” motherhood looks a little different on all of us.


I wanted to be that mom. You know the one. She makes homemade fruit snacks. Her kids are always sporting the trendiest clothes and the cutest hairstyles. She sews skirts and headbands. She’s heavily involved in her kids’ classrooms. She throws extravagant, themed birthday parties. She bakes fresh bread for everyone who moves into the neighborhood. She’s the “Yes girl!” You can always count on her to take on any and every project she’s asked to do. She spends blissful hours of one-on-one time with her children every day doing crafts, laughing and bonding. Her kids are never glued to a TV or an iPad. Drive-throughs and sugar? Not for her kids! Bribery and yelling? Not on her watch!

I was ready to ace the motherhood test.

Then I had kids. Reality set in. I made those homemade fruit snacks once, and they were disgusting. Not to mention time-consuming. I threw an extravagant, themed party for my oldest daughter’s first birthday, complete with custom invitations. Now, I’m lucky if I send out more than a last-minute text invite to a birthday get-together at the playground. I once sewed a couple of very imperfect skirts and headbands for my daughter, then ditched my sewing machine (and the swearing it induced).

Now that a second and third child have joined our family, my motherhood looks less like Martha-Stewart-perfection and more like sheer, messy survival.

Our dinners are basic, and my husband cooks them as often as I do. The kids dress themselves, and its not always pretty. I’ve been on time to church maybe twice since my baby was born a year ago. I’ve had to say no to a lot of things, and I’ve had to put myself in a lot of time-outs. I’m certainly not above bribery and I don’t have a heart attack when grandma gives the kids a bag of candy or we grab a drive-through cheeseburger.

Why do we moms sometimes feel like imperfect is synonymous with failure? Imperfect is not failure. Imperfect is real.

But I often still feel that mom-perfection pressure. I feel it when I see moms on social media who seem to have it all together. I feel it when I’m wearing my unwashed hair in a bun and run into the mom at Target who’s all done up (and so are her kids). I feel it when instead of being with my kids all day, I have to hire a babysitter and leave the house to get some work done (or just take a break for everyone’s safety and sanity).

I feel it when I compare myself to the mom who shows up to church on time with her well-mannered, bathed and beautified children as I perpetually show up twenty minutes late, my kids looking a little rough around the edges as we do the walk of shame to the metal chairs at the back of the congregation. I feel it when I have to throw our healthy dinner menu and my mom-perfection pride out the window and let my husband cook waffles for dinner.

Wanting to cook great family dinners, delivering treats to neighbors and doing crafts with kids are not the problem. The problem is feeling like I have to do all of those things all the time, and feeling inferior to the mom who does.

But you know what? The deeper I get into this parenting thing, the more I realize that behind every mom who seems to have it together, there’s a mom who is tired, just like I am. A mom who loses it with her kids from time-to-time. A mom who orders pizza instead of cooking on a busy night. A mom who is perfectly imperfect, just like me.

Why do we moms sometimes feel like imperfect is synonymous with failure?

Imperfect is not failure. Imperfect is real.

Let’s face it. When it comes to this motherhood thing, we’re all just winging it.

We’re all just trying to raise happy, kind kids the best way we know how. And we’re doing what we need to do to keep ourselves sane while we’re at it. If that means you need to hire a babysitter from time to time to work or even just to have a break from mom life? Go for it, sister. If you’re not into making from-scratch dinners for your family every night and opt for takeout instead? Nothing wrong with that. If you love throwing all-out birthday parties for your kids, power to you. Send me an invite.

But can we all agree that being a good mom doesn’t have a specific look? Like the thrift store jeans in “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” motherhood looks a little different on all of us.

So let’s make a truce in this weird war of mom-perfection. Instead of playing the comparison game, let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt and do what we can to help and encourage each other.

I wrote this for Click here to see the original article.



My fave home workouts



My home workouts started with this Jane Fonda aerobics video (the singing at 25 minutes is the best) and this Kathy Ireland abs video. Gems, I tell you.

Although I miss the sweatbands and super high-cut leotards with legwarmers, there are so many amazing workout DVDs and YouTube videos that can help you get a workout that rivals your gym class.

Here are my top picks. Let me know if I’m missing any of your faves!

Yoga + Pilates:

Tara Stiles

Yoga with Adriene (she is hilarious and makes yoga so fun and accessible)

Sarah Beth Yoga (also great for pre- and postnatal)

Rodney Yee (super chill yoga)

Baron Baptiste (for power yoga)

Cosmic Kids Yoga (kids yoga)

The Balanced Life (Pilates)

Beach Body PiYo (I teach PiYo, and the at-home version is just as good as the classes! PiYo is so good for core strength, flexibility and total body toning)

Abs + Glutes: 


Cosmo Body

Cardio + Strength: 

Popsugar Fitness

Jillian Michaels Killer Buns + Thighs, 6 week six-pack, 30 Day Shred



My workout playlists

Good music = good workout.
Good music = a good workout.


I think having great music is SO important when you’re working out.

Because of that, I spend a lot of time curating my playlists for the classes I teach.

I often get compliments on the music I use for class, so I thought I’d share it with you!

Here are the Spotify playlists I’ve created for my classes:

Abs and Glutes


I’m always looking for more great music for my classes, so please share some songs you like sweating (or yoga-ing) to right now.

To see more of my playlists (non-annoying kid music included), find me on Spotify. I’m klauren29. But I’m not 29 anymore. Just in case you were wondering. Happy sweating!



Bend over backwards: 7 yoga tips for beginners

I wrote this for The Daily Herald. Read the original article here.

Instead of missing out on the many benefits yoga can offer to the mind and body, the Daily Herald got some tips from Brittany Andrews, owner of The Yoga Underground alternative yoga studio in Provo. Andrews discovered yoga when she was 15 years old and recovering from knee surgery. She continued practicing yoga for its physical benefits while she pursued cycling and triathlons, but she has stuck with yoga because of its mental, emotional and spiritual benefits.

“Yoga is the most organic, integrated practice that uses mind, body and spirit that I have yet to discover,” Andrews said. “I wanted to share my philosophy and love of yoga with the community, so I opened a studio about a year and a half ago. I like finding teachers who share my philosophy of yoga — that it should be sweaty, lighthearted, fun, upbeat, and a journey of strength-building and self-discovery.”

Here are seven tips to get you started on the right foot in yoga:

1. Be open-minded: When it comes to yoga, Andrews says first impressions aren’t everything. “Don’t judge yoga after one class,” Andrews said. “Give your body and mind several classes to adjust to the movements, feelings and poses, and I promise you’ll love it!”

2. Dress for the occasion: Yoga clothing is synonymous with comfortable clothing. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be so many people walking around in their yoga pants long after they’ve said their namastes. Andrews says the only dress code for yoga is comfortable, breathable exercise clothes.

3. Don’t be shy: Andrews encourages yoga students to give everything in class a try, but don’t be afraid to sit back and watch after you’ve given it a shot. “Look at the amazing things others can do as motivation rather than discouragement,” Andrews said.

4. Listen to your body: “Be careful and know your body and its limitations, but at the same time trust your own strength,” Andrews said. There is a simpler version of many things in yoga, so you can ask your instructor for the modified version or simply do what feels good to you.

5. Food for thought: Don’t go to yoga on a full stomach. Drink water only if needed throughout the class, and your body will need lots of water, protein and vegetables afterward, Andrews said.

6. Strike a pose: You’re enjoying Child’s Pose during yoga class and suddenly everyone around you is in a position you thought was only for contortionists. Not to worry. They got there with a lot of practice, and you can, too. “The key to challenging poses is practice, practice, practice,” Andrews says. She says to believe in the quote, “Practice and all is coming,” by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, the father of Ashtanga Yoga. There are also plenty of how-to yoga videos on YouTube and other websites to help you perfect those poses.

7. Don’t sweat it: If you aren’t keeping up in class, just relax and remember yoga is all about progressing in your own way and in your own time. You won’t find a more laid back group of people than those who practice yoga. “I believe that yoga should make you smile,” Andrews said. “It should make you stronger inside and out, and it should make you sweat and breathe and stretch, all while listening to really fantastic music.”

If you’re ready to hit the mat, there are plenty of yoga studios and gyms that offer yoga classes around the valley. The Yoga Underground, for example, is at 78 W. Center St. in Provo. It often has free classes (usually the first Monday of every month), which are posted on The Yoga Underground Facebook page.

Why I don’t give my kids 100 percent

Jack and Lola Photography
Jack and Lola Photography

This article was first published on and

Being a mom requires a lot. By the end of the day, I feel like I’ve been tugged on, sucked from and sneezed on so many times that I just want to scream “give me some space!” Sometimes I do.

The days of working on something without interruption or even finishing a sentence during an attempted conversation with another adult are few and far between. I’m constantly at the mercy of the needs and demands of the tiny humans who are wholly dependent on me.

Don’t get me wrong — I love being a mom. Making my kids happy brings me inexpressible joy and fulfillment. But sometime after I had my third child, I realized I was giving 100 percent of myself to my kids 100 percent of the time, and there was nothing left for me.

I was running on a constantly empty tank. And that meant I was impatient with my kids. I felt a touch of resentment when my husband went to work and left me to navigate through eight hours of my kids’ meltdowns, boredom and bickering. Every day felt like an impossible feat.

I wasn’t enjoying life as much as I used to. I felt like my only identity was mom, and I was failing at the one thing I was supposed to be.

But then I realized something.

Mom is a beautiful identity. It’s the one I treasure most. But it’s not my only one. It was never meant to be. I’m a person. A whole person with unique talents, strengths and dreams. A person who needs to take time to exercise, to eat well and to sleep enough in order to be happy. And if I’m not happy, my family sure isn’t.

I also realized that I need time, without my kids, to connect with friends. I need that time to feel validated and to remember I’m not alone in the ups and downs of motherhood.

I need to step away from my role as “Mom” every now and then to remember that I’m not a mombot. Because although the routine parts of motherhood are important and necessary, it’s doing the things that bring me happiness, progression, validation and fulfillment as a person that make me a good mom.

I realized that taking care of myself is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. And I don’t need to feel guilty about doing it.

Oh, the mom-guilt monster is still ever-present. If I get some babysitting help so I can do the work I love and escape mom life from time to time? Hello, mom-guilt monster. I make my child skip a nap so I can hit a yoga class? Mom-guilt monster is all up in my Namaste. I decide to break up a stressful week by getting out with my girlfriends? You better believe mom-guilt monster is clicking along behind us in her hot pink high heels.

Sometimes she even sneaks into the car when I’m headed out on a date with my husband. She sits in the backseat with a smug look on her face, reminding me that no one can put my baby down to bed like I can, and she’s probably crying right now, and I probably shouldn’t have left her.

The mom-guilt monster is always going to be there, tagging along like an unwanted third-wheel. But I get to choose whether I listen to her or not. And that includes when the she takes the form of a neighbor, friend or family member.

So whatever it is that makes you happy, that helps you relax, that reminds you that you are a whole person and not only a mom — set aside time to do it. Protect that time like crazy. And put some duct tape over that pesky mom-guilt monster’s mouth.

Because when you do things for you, guess what? Your tank gets filled. And you’ll have a whole lot more to give to those precious children.

Now, my kids know they don’t get 100 percent of my time and attention. They know that sometimes I pursue things that don’t involve them. They know I need to take breaks and take care of myself. They know I’m not a mombot whose sole purpose is to give 100 percent of my time and attention to them. But they also know that I love them, 100 percent. And that’s what matters.

Redefining “swimsuit-ready”


I love my body.

Be honest. Did that declaration make you feel a little uncomfortable? Does it strike you as sort of a stuck-up thing to say? Me too. And that’s sad. Somehow it’s ingrained in us to push against positive statements about our bodies. I often find myself responding to a compliment about my appearance by rolling my eyes, saying something like, “You’re too nice,” or by pointing out an imperfection.

But as I get older, I’m slowly realizing how trivial appearance is compared to the weightier things in life. I want to stop asking myself, do I like how I look? What are others going to think about how I look? And instead ask, do I like myself? How do I make other people feel when they’re around me? The answer to that question is far more important than if my look is on point.

Don’t get me wrong—exercising, eating well and trying to look your best are all important. They contribute to your self-esteem and help out big time in the self-love department. It gets unhealthy when we use how we’re doing in those areas to define our worth and determine the extent to which we’re going to love and accept our bodies.

I love this analogy of how you can’t truly connect with or help other people if you’re always looking through a mirror, so to speak, as you interact with someone—always worrying about how you’ll be seen, or how what you say (or post, in this social media world) will be received. I’m trying to toss that mirror to the ground and let it shatter. I’ll take my chances with seven years of bad luck in favor of trying to focus on the people in front of me and their needs, their desires, and their struggles instead of getting caught up in my own.

The real motivation for me in this body-image-makeover is that I have two little girls. Two innocent children who don’t even know body shaming is a thing. I dread the day when they realize it is. And although the “I love my body” statement seems like a rare one in our society, I want them to love theirs. So, I have to start loving mine. I have to start celebrating my body for what it is, not what it isn’t. Yeah, I’d love to switch my bum for a less flat one. I wouldn’t mind having my sister’s perfect nose instead of the one I think is a little too out there. I’d love to smooth out the cellulite, the freckles and the moles and not dread the hollow-boob you post-breastfeeding women know all about.

But the fact that I have a healthy body outweighs all of that. I can walk. Run. Dance. Exercise. Grow humans inside of me, then take care of them and play with them. And that is beautiful.

“Who taught you to hate being what God made you?” My prayer is that we can re-learn how to love our bodies and teach the rising generation of girls to do the same.


These thoughts led to my “Redefine swimsuit-ready” project. Some really amazing friends of mine and a few local companies who believe in a positive body image got together for a photo shoot. Our purpose is to help spread the word on social media that you don’t have to look a certain way to be “swimsuit ready” and to enjoy your summer to the max. Thank you to Center Style Studio for being the perfect backdrop for our simple photos and Roxana Baker for taking them!

Want to help the movement catch fire? Post a photo of yourself in a swimsuit on social media and share your thoughts on body image. Make sure you tag #redefineswimsuitready! 



Tara Brooke in Kortni Jeane
Michelle Petersen in Kortni Jeane
Erika Peterson in Lime Ricki
Emily Smith in Pink Desert
Roxana Baker (our amazing photographer) in Lime Ricki
Me in Nanette Lepore from Called to Surf



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When someone said, “jump!” I was thinking awkward bunny, she was thinking sexy rockstar.
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You don’t know how excited we were to eat our ice cream from Rockwell Old Fashioned Ice Cream Co. Michelle recommended the lemon balsamic and it was amazing.


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What to do in Newport

Jack & Lola Photography
Jack & Lola Photography


I have major vacation FOMO, so I research all of my options when it comes to food and activities before I take a trip.

I got some great recommendations from friends who live in the Newport area or have visited there, so we had enough food and activity choices to keep us busy for a year.

Here are our favorite beaches and food spots:


Thousand Steps Beach

Treasure Island Beach

Crystal Cove: The little beach village at Crystal Cove beach is so quaint. We ate at Beachcomber, which is a cute little cafe right on the beach.

Corona del Mar

El Moro Beach: A little slice of beach that’s perfect to watch the sunset from.


Bear Flag Fish Co: This was my favorite. The fish is fresh, flavorful, and surprisingly inexpensive. Their clam chowder is some of the best I’ve ever had, and their fish tacos were amazing too.

Slapfish: Casual, yummy seafood. The chowder fries were surprisingly good.

Lumberyard:  Yummy American food with a unique atmosphere.

Gelato Paradiso: We went there two nights in a row, because YUM. The salted caramel was crazy-good, but you can get up to four flavors in your cup, so don’t worry if you can’t pick just one.

La Rue du Chocolate: We were sold at homemade chocolate. The peanut butter cups are a must.

Go Greek Authentic Yogurteria: I get serious about my frozen yogurt. I hate the synthetic stuff. If I’m eating strawberry yogurt, I want it to taste like an actual strawberry. Not something that was concocted in a laboratory and tastes akin to children’s cherry Tylenol. Go Greek knocked my socks off. The yogurt is a heavenly, creamy consistency and the flavors are real. Even my husband, who doesn’t care what his yogurt is made of, was going on about how amazing it tasted. I can’t believe we only went twice.  I could eat there for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Other stuff:

Fashion Island: A big, beautiful shopping center with tons of great stores and restaurants.

Knott’s Berry Farm: I know Disney is a must for most people, and don’t hate me, but I just cant face the crowds, the long lines and the price tag with kids as young as mine. I went to Knott’s Berry Farm when I was little, so it was fun to take our kids there. We never had to wait in line, and tickets were a measly $40. There’s a huge section of rides that were perfect for our kids and they had the time of their lives. And I didn’t have a panic attack from claustrophobic crowds. Win-win.

Balboa Island: Driving through the picture-perfect beach houses in Balboa Village then taking the $1 ferry to the island is a must-do. Our kids loved riding the ferris wheel, playing on the playground by the beach, and walking to the end of the pier. The food at Ruby’s at the end of the pier is definitely nothing to write home about unless you’re really into mediocre greasy diner food, but it was still fun to get a shake and be on the ocean.

Marriott Newport Coast Villas: We booked this resort with some Marriott rewards points we had, but it’s hard to imagine ever going back again and not staying there. The villas are beautiful and overlook the ocean, which is just five minutes away. There’s a kid’s center with daily activities, a movie theater, arcade, volleyball court, tennis courts, basketball court, tether ball court, putting green, fire pit, grills, koi pond, and fitness center.

The pools are big and beautiful, and my kids loved getting the free saltwater taffies from a local candy shop that were in little bowls throughout the resort.


If you have more recommendations for the area let me know. I’m sure we’ll be back soon! My kids are still talking about it and I have a feeling they will be for a long time.

Getting back up

Ali Middleton Photo


I had a conversation with a seasoned mom today about how having three kids has tested my patience more than anything. I told her that I never had temper or anger issues . . . until I had kids. I told her how frustrating it is to try to keep my cool all day—to stay positive and react calmly to all of the interruptions, demands, fights, and temper tantrums day in and day out. I told her how I am trying to stop, breathe, and think when my kids do something that upsets me or stresses me out instead of reacting like Miss Trunchbull.

But I fail. Even on my best of days, when I’m in a good mood, when I’ve gotten adequate sleep (that one makes or breaks me), and even when I have the best intentions in the world, I still consistently have moments of weakness. Moments when my reactions are far from what I want them to be. And those moments of failure make me feel like I’m in a vicious cycle of bad momness.

This mom listened patiently, with nods of empathetic understanding, before she told me something that will stay with me for a long time.

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