Oprah made me do it! Chronically Organized by Valerie Thompson.

Post by Valerie Thompson:

How did I become a professional organizer? Oprah made me do it!

Well, there’s a little more to the story than that. I’ve been organizing since I was a little girl. My first memory of organizing is rearranging my grandmother’s pantry at night after she was asleep with my cousin. Now that I think about it we may have driven her a little crazy. After seeing organizing shows on TV, I realized that helping other people get organized was an actual career.

Ever since that discovery, I’ve dreamed of becoming a professional organizer. I couldn’t believe you could actually get paid for something I loved so much I would do for free! But, I had a great job as a corporate interior designer, and it seemed crazy to leave that and start my own business, so I ignored my dream for a long time.

Then, in the fall of 2014, I was at Oprah’s Life You Want event here in Houston, and for the first time ever, I wrote down my dream to be a professional organizer. Here’s some advice, if you don’t want to follow your dreams don’t write them down, because after that I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. I blame the inspirational atmosphere surrounding Oprah.

In January of 2016, I’d finally had enough of dreaming and starting taking steps to follow this dream, in May I quit my corporate job, and June 1st 2016 I officially launched my company, Chronically Organized. I love that with Chronically Organized, I can combine my design and organizing skills to help people.

I really love helping busy moms tackle their clutter and create more peaceful homes. Kid clutter is a special kind of clutter because it’s relentless. They’re constantly growing out of clothes, getting new toys, and bringing new masterpieces home. So many moms are drowning in clutter, and it’s robbing them of peace and calm in their homes.

I like to think of myself as a personal trainer for my client’s home. There are some people, who have the motivation, time, and skills to follow through with an exercise program. I’m not one of those people, the only time I’ve ever exercised was when I hired a personal trainer.

The same thing applies to organizing, some people have the motivation and skills to do it alone, and some people need a little help. That’s where I come in, I coach my clients through the process, teaching new techniques, setting goals, and encouraging them along the way.

valerie-thompson-family
My husband and I grew up and went to college in Louisiana, but have been in Houston over 10 years, so now its home. We love exploring the city with our daughters, Leah (6) and Hailey (2). Some of our favorite places are the Arboretum, The Natural Science Museum, and The Museum of Fine Arts.

I love that my new career gives me the flexibility to pick my girls up from school every day and volunteer at their school. It also gives me the permission to tackle all the organizing projects in my own home (now it’s called research!)

With Christmas just past, I thought I’d share my favorite strategies for organizing toys.

1. Limit the Space
The first and most important thing you can do to control toy clutter is decide how much space you’re willing to allocate to toys and stick with it. There will always be more toys than space you have to store them, so by first deciding on the amount of space you’ll dedicate to toy storage, it can make purging a little easier. When new toys come into the house, some older toys need to leave to stay in the space you have to store them.

2. Permission to Simplify
To keep the kid clutter down we have to believe that our kids don’t need every toy under the sun to be happy. We have to give ourselves permission to simplify their environment, because there’s always some nagging guilt about getting rid of your kid’s toys. There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence to support the notion that the less toys children have, the more they will play with them. If you need some additional encouragement, there’s a book called affiliate Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne, that talks a lot about kids need for less of everything, including toys.

3. Centers/Rotate
I got this idea after noticing how uncluttered my daughter’s preschool classroom was. I realized that every week or so they’d rotate what was at each center, so they never had too many toys, but the kids also didn’t get tired of the same toys. In our home, I put some toys in the attic and closet, out of reach of the kids, and every few weeks switch those toys out with current ones. My kids love this, it feels like Christmas all over again. They seem to stop seeing the toys they have, and this reignites their joy in them again.

4. Almost Gone
For kids who are a little older, and you’re not sure you can just get rid of something without them wanting it later, I use this strategy. Put the toys in the attic or garage, and if they don’t ask for them for a few weeks they go to charity. A word to the wise, make sure you have picked up every little piece that goes with a toy, because they’ll find that one thing you left behind and it will remind them of it.

5. Gift Control
Stop the excess toys before the come into your home. Encourage birthday party guests to not bring gifts. Give experiences, not toys. That’s one of the things I love most about Big Kid Small City, it’s all about experiencing Houston with your kids. Encourage family members to give experiences and quality time instead of so much stuff!


Meet Maricela Wilson & Jessika Rosales of ABBA Color Photography… Specializing in maternity, newborn & family photography in Houston!

At BigKidSmallCity, we believe the more we know about the people of Houston, the smaller our city feels. And who better to meet than moms that run a photography business in Houston, specializing in maternity, newborns and families?!  And friends, you need to see their work!

Maricela Wilson and Jessika Rosales of ABBA Color Photography1
Meet Maricela Wilson and Jessika Rosales of ABBA Color Photography. In their own words, they tell us about their families, their photography business and what they love about Houston!

ABBA Photography Maternity Photos

Maricela Wilson and Jessika Rosales, the girls behind ABBA Color Photography have been friends since before either one of them knew that the photography business was going to unite and help forge the wonderful friendship and business relationship they now have. In each respective role have become each other’s propellers. In the almost 10 years of friendship, each have complemented, learned and pushed each other to mold who they are in the business world.

ABBA Color Phogotraphy’s main goal is to capture the milestones that make life a great adventure. Maricela along with her father, started ABBA Color Photography years ago. With her creativity, spunk and desire to be a step ahead of the norm Maricela organically grown the studio to what it now is by striving to go above and beyond for her new and many returning clients by providing innovative images for the various milestones.

ABBA Photography Baby Photos
Her passion for newborn, maternity and cake smashes sessions, has permitted an opportunity for more hands in the studio. Jessika, a Junior Photographer has recently transitioned from the Administrative Coordinator, a position she has held for a few years, into an exciting journey in the photography world. The vast knowledge acquired by her mentor, Maricela, her passion for creativity, along with her extensive customer service experience, will for sure make for ABBA Color Photography image standard is met as expected by our clients.

ABBA Photography Kids Photo
Neither one of them is a native Houstonian, both were born in same city, the industrial capital of Mexico, Monterrey, Nuevo Leon. Both of their parents decided to provide them with a better opportunity and selected Houston as their choice. A choice that both of them have learned to love. It was hard being uprooted from their original home, but within a short time and because of their wonderful outlook in life, they have made Houston their home for good. Houston has many wonderful family happenings and it is just a wonderful playground for their growing family.

Houston has so many things to do around town and spending time visiting them with friends make is just that much more special. A nice day at toddler Tuesday at Discovery Green, a visit to the Zoo, play time at The Children’s Museum, a nice dinner after a photo shoot in Galveston at The Spot are just some of the many places we both enjoy doing as families with younger kiddos.

There are several annual events that are always so much fun! The Houston Live Stock Show and Rodeo kicks out the year for us. We enjoy the entire experience and it is one that we all enjoy as a family. Next would be the Fourth of July festivities. We have been lucky enough to visit various celebrations thru years, from Freedom Over Texas, The Kemah Boardwalk and even El Franco Lee Park’s firework show, each has given use many memories to hold on to. In the fall we really look forward to the Renaissance Festival, and even when it is not officially in Houston, it is still one of our favorites as it is worth the drive. The member’s parties at The Children’s Museum are not to be missed at the end of the year. Houston offers so many options to celebrate through the entire year.


Meet Dr. Alana Kennedy-Nasser of purePEDIATRICS, Offering On-Time Appointments, Direct Access to the Doctor & House Calls!

At BigKidSmallCity, we believe the more we know about the people of Houston, the smaller our city feels. And who better to meet than a Houston mom and pediatrician that offers on-time appointments, access to the doctor via telephone, text, e-mail, and house calls?!

Dr. Alana Kennedy-Nasser Feature
Meet Dr. Alana Kennedy-Nasser of purePEDIATRICS!  In her own words, she tells us about her family, her medical practice and what she loves about Houston!

Born in Baton Rouge, I quickly made my way to Dallas, Texas as a young girl and as the saying goes, Once a Texan, Always a Texan! I am married and have four amazing kids, two of
which are college-age, one in high school and the youngest in elementary school.

We live in Bellaire and love spending time outdoors and enjoying the local art scene. Our weekends are filled with soccer tournaments, exercising, lunch outings with friends and being with
our family.

In the midst of parenting and working, I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcast Journalism at Southern Methodist University, Go Mustangs! Then, I completed medical school at the
University of Texas in San Antonio, Pediatrics Residency at Tulane University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, and Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Fellowship at Texas
Children’s Hospital (Baylor). After fellowship, I remained as faculty at Texas Children’s Hospital for five years as a Bone Marrow Transplant physician, primarily focusing on
patients with high-risk leukemia and lymphoma.

During my time there, I became a passionate patient advocate and was very well acquainted with the families I cared for; everyone has my cell phone on speed dial! The hours were long
and many weekends were spent at the hospital, and soon I realized that I was spending less time taking care of my own family.

In 2013, I ventured out into private practice – aiming to expand my practice to include comprehensive and preventive general pediatrics with the hope to have a much better family-work-life balance. I wanted to be able to volunteer at my children’s schools and be a room parent – guilt free! Thanks to a very supportive husband and family, I was able to fulfill this vision and now love what I do.

Tell us about purePEDIATRICS:
I had an epiphany in late 2012; I took my children to their pediatrician, whom I really like, for their well child visits. An astonishing 2 hours later, after being trapped in a small exam
room waiting to see the doctor, seeing her for approximately 7 minutes, waiting to get shots and then waiting to be observed, I realized that I had real questions and concerns that didn’t
have time to be addressed by the doctor. I wanted to talk about nutrition and the latest on prevention. I thought to myself: “I am an oncologist! Let’s discuss cancer prevention! The
average pediatrician spends less than 10-15 minutes on an annual well-child visit and much shorter times on a sick child visit. I wondered, what if we spent an hour with each patient?

Studies have already been done; the results are clear. Patients are more satisfied, more developmental assessments are done, more time is spent discussing prevention, nutrition
and wellness if we just spent more time with each patient.

What started as a chance encounter at the pediatrician’s office resulted in the birth of purePEDIATRICS, a personalized, membership-based pediatric practice in Houston. I started purePEDIATRICS in 2013 and we have grown from a small office in River Oaks to our new office in Bellaire allowing me to walk to work!

I am very grateful to have the opportunity to continue my passion of being a patient advocate for my families here at purePEDIATRICS. Our families love the convenience of scheduling on-time appointments, even the same day, and having access to the doctor via telephone, text, e-mail, or in the convenience of the family’s home. Yes, we provide house calls!

The purePEDIATRICS team is committed and dedicated to ensuring every family has the best experience in and out of the office. The average time spent per family is 30 minutes for sick child visits and an hour for well child visits. We also specialize in minimizing pain and fear from procedures, such as shots and blood draws.

In order to provide this high level of service, we are an insurancefree membership-based practice. However, we provide our families the necessary documentation required to submit their insurance claim for reimbursement of procedures and services rendered.

Tells us what you love about Houston:
When we moved to Houston in 2004, we fell in love with the city. To us, Houston is a large city that feels cozy, with a wonderful blend of cultures, art, entertainment, sports and parks
for families and athletes. As an avid runner and triathlete, I spend my “alone” time running or cycling with friends all over Houston and at our extraordinary green spaces. Memorial
Park is my favorite place in Houston because people from all ages and abilities come together for a common goal – to be outside, exercise and enjoy life. Vitamin D is sooooo good
for you!

Tell us your favorite thing to do with kids:
We find green space and use it. We love visiting Memorial Park and the Bayou. We also participate in local activities like Bellaire’s Trolley Run, the popular Art Care parade,
Discovery Green and the famous Houston Zoo. With two avid young soccer players in the family, we also spend a tremendous amount of time at either one of their soccer games or
cheering on our favorite professional team, the Dynamo.

Tell us your favorite annual event in Houston:
Houston Marathon! While I have run many marathons, I am definitely a cheerleader at this race. It is great to see so many people come out, make silly signs, drink hot cocoa and stay
warm while cheering on thousands of runners through the streets of Houston. It is nice to see hard work pay off for them.


Meet Katerina Manoff of HoustonNewMoms.com!

At BigKidSmallCity, we believe the more we know about the people of Houston, the smaller our city feels. And who better to meet than someone who has compiled a directory of everything baby for all Houston parents?

Katerina New Houston Moms
Meet Katerina of HoustonNewMoms.com!  In her own words, she tells us about her resource for new Houston moms!

Once upon a time (or, to be more precise, September 2014), my husband and I moved from New York City to Houston. I was newly pregnant and totally clueless. I’d heard from friends that Houston was a city of very large houses and even larger traffic jams – and that was the extent of my knowledge about our new hometown.

As soon as our boxes had been unloaded, I started exploring. I was ecstatic to learn that Houston was about 1000x more fun than East-Coasters might lead you to believe. We discovered unique restaurants, excellent local theater, and plenty of thoughtfully-developed green space. Eventually, I also found my pregnancy groove – a great OB-GYN, prenatal yoga classes, and the nearest place to fill my frequent Oreo cravings.

Just as I was getting comfortable, though, my daughter Lana arrived, and I was back to square one. Where to find a scale to check if my 2nd-percentile newborn was gaining weight? How could I meet other moms with babies the same age? What kind of support was out there to help with my sputtering attempts to breastfeed? When I was up to venturing out into the world, where could Lana and I go?

Motherhood was like moving to a new city all over again…but with three times as many questions. And now, I was doing my research in between cluster feedings and diaper changes. I found some great sites for Houston families, but most didn’t quite apply to babies. So instead, I gathered resources one by one, relying on Googling, phone calls, and interrogating all the new moms I met.

As Lana took pity on me and started sleeping for longer than three hours at a time, I came out of my sleep-deprived haze and had an idea. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if new moms in Houston had a directory of everything they might need in one place? An up-to-date list of social groups, baby-friendly places and activities, health/safety information, and more. A free site that didn’t listed all helpful resources, not just businesses that had paid to be included. And thus Houston New Moms was born.

…or, at least, the concept of Houston New Moms. It took a few more months for me to organize all my notes, fact-check the details, and wrestle with HTML to actually build the site. What really kept me motivated is consistently witnessing the need for a resource like this. By this point, I had largely figured out the new mom landscape for myself. But every week, I’d meet someone who had no idea what Hike It Baby was…or where she could take her 6-month-old for swim classes…or how to buy and sell secondhand baby gear locally. Every time I answered a question or shared an idea, I got excited about my project all over again.

In January 2016, I officially launched Houston New Moms, as well as an accompanying Facebook page where I share updates about new additions to the site.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve heard so much great feedback about Houston New Moms from my friends, acquaintances, and even total strangers. I am so excited to be able to make life a little easier for other Houston parents, and am continuing to add more pages, listings and features to the site whenever I have a minute.

If you’re a mom of a baby or toddler, hop on over to Houston New Moms and take a look at the places, groups, and other resources I’ve put together. And after you check it out, let me know what you think! I love getting feedback from other moms – suggestions, questions, even complaints all help me make the site better!


Meet Gina Marrinucci, Ava Anderson Consultant!

At BigKidSmallCity, we believe the more we know about the people of Houston, the smaller our city feels. And who better to meet than someone determined to keep you and your family healthy and safe from hidden toxins?!

Meet Gina Marrinucci with Ava Anderson
Meet Gina Marrinucci with Ava Anderson! In her own words, she tells us about her family, her business and what she loves about Houston!

I moved to the Houston area approximately 6 years ago. We live in Rosenberg TX… myself and my 3 furry babies. My purpose in life is to contribute in some way to make a difference in the world and those who surround my life.

I am an Ava Anderson Consultant. As an AANT Consultant I show you how to become an ingredient detective and make safer choices for you and your family. I also introduce you to a solution with quality skin care, cosmetic, bath and body, and home care products without harmful chemicals.

AANT is a revolutionary line that contains NO parabens or PEG’s, NO synthetic “fragrance” or dyes, NO hidden ingredients or contaminants, such as phthalates, nitrosamines or formaldehyde, NO Glycol, NO Sodium Laureth Sulfate, and NO Petroleum Byproducts and NO animal testing. All products are Gluten free. Most of avaSkiN and avaBody lines are Vegan. All USA made. Recyclable packaging too!

DID YOU KNOW:

  • Europe bans 1,371 toxic chemicals from their personal care products and the US bans only 11
  • The FDA does not regulate the personal care products industry and hopes that cosmetic companies will do their due diligence and issue safe products?
  • “Safe”, “organic” and “natural” does not mean your products do not contain any toxic chemicals as well?
  • 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will get cancer in their lifetime, 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys are identified with autism spectrum disorder in the US, and that Alzheimers is up 500% in the past 20 years?
  • According to the President’s Cancer Panel only 10% of cancer is genetic and 90% is caused by environmental factors?
  • Your personal and home care products (from shampoo to antibacterial wipes to makeup) contain carcinogenic ingredients, neurotoxins, endocrine disruptors and allergens that could be downright hazardous to your health?

If you would like to learn more, please contact me at 214-850-1179 and gmarrinucci @yahoo.com!

What do I live best about Houston? Southern hospitality, diversity, lots of great restaurants, the weather (beats winter), and the every positive growth for the future……

I love to visit the Children’s Museum….lots to do…. Every changing attractions and visit all the fun kid friendly restaurants, especially Little Matt’s (which caters to adults too!).

By far, my favorite annual event is Zoo Lights!  It helps put the Christmas spirit into play with beautiful colorful creations but I love all activities that Discovery Green puts on their calendar including being able to kayak on Kinder Lake and let us not forget the Houston Rodeo. It truly amazes me that Houston has thousands of people who actually volunteer for this spectacular event in order for this organization to give back to the community.


Meet Yan Zhang of Youishare.com!

At BigKidSmallCity, we believe the more we know about the people of Houston, the smaller our city feels. And who better to meet than a Houston mom, who has created a website for all the moms and other travelers to share the genuine travel experiences and lessons learned?!

Yan of Youishare
Meet Yan Zhang of Youishare.com!  In her own words, she tells us about her family, her business and what she likes about Houston!

I am a mother, a software engineer, a passionate person and love nature beauty. I grew up in China.  In 2000, My husband and I moved to Houston. My son and daughter were born here.  We love Houston because of the diversity, the rich culture.

In Houston I had worked in two Fortune 500 companies as a software engineer for 8 years. I loved what I did in my previous jobs. In December, 2013, I quit my job to pursue a dream: Creating a platform, a website for all the moms and other travelers to share the genuine travel experiences and lessons learned, from the whole trip and audiences’ point view that can help others to plan and prepare the trip.

With 2 kids, a full time job, a house, I know how hard it is to get time to plan and prepare the family vacation or any other trip. In my previous family vacations, I really did not have time to read many individual hotel, restaurant reviews and travel blogs to decide where to stay, where to eat, where to book the flight to get a good deal. Often we ended up going on a vacation in a rush without doing enough research.

I wish I could ask friends or other people who had been there before and give me suggestions that could be helpful e.g. how and where did you get a good deal for the flight tickets, hotel, how long you stayed, how much money you spent, how did you arrange the transportation, what things you wish you had known before, or any other suggestions such as if you go to Hawaii, bring or buy water shoes before you go to a lava pond (pond with lava rock floor), but very often we do not have such a friend to ask.

I know the peer’s genuine experiences and suggestions on how to save time, money and avoid the frustration is really valuable! That is why I founded the website Youishare.com.

I cordially invite you to register in youishare.com and share your travel experience or local visiting experience that can help other moms or individual travelers to plan and prepare the trips. Your contribution will help our local communities and other moms, families or other individual travelers who may live in different city, different country or even different continents.

Youishare has users from USA, Russia, Brazil, China, Canada, Japan, Germany, UK, Italy, Indonesia, Portugal, etc. In the future, the posts from other contributors may help your family and your friends’ families. Your contribution could make a huge impact on our global user community and go far beyond our personal friends’ circle.

What do you like best about Houston?

What I like Houston the best is the diversity, the rich culture. We moved to Katy area in 2009 and I really like the multiple cultures atmosphere in our community. In  our neighborhood, I know many friends who come from China, India, Great Britain, Canada, Russia, Ukraine, Algeria, Pakistan, Mexico, Spain, Nepal, Colombia,  Bangladesh, etc.

What is your favorite thing to do with kids in Houston?

My favorite thing to do with my kids is: take them to parks, museums and Galveston’s  beaches.  We love Hermann Park the most because it has so many things to do for the kids and it’s so beautiful: boating, picnic, fantastic playgrounds, watch pigeons, ducks, ride choo-choo train, visit Japanese Garden, watching the shows in Miller Outdoor Theater, playing in the water fountains in the summer. George W. Bush Park is also a great place to go: it has picnic pavilions, playground, dog park, bike trails.  you can also watch different kinds of birds there .

What is your favorite annual event in Houston?

Rodeo is our favorite annual event. Since my son and daughter were born,

almost every year our family go to this event. My son and daughter loves the kids carnival the most and we also see the live stock show.


Meet Meghan Peterson & Katrina Ansell of Just Between Friends Central Houston

At BigKidSmallCity, we believe the more we know about the people of Houston, the smaller our city feels. And who better to meet than Houston Moms that are both bringing 50-90% discounts to Houston parents AND giving them the opportunity to earn extra income?!

Katrina and Meghan of Just Between Friends Central Houston
Meet Meghan Peterson and Katrina Ansell of Just Between Friends, Central Houston!  In their own words, they tell us about their families, their business and what they like about Houston!

Meghan: I am originally from Nederland, TX, which is between Beaumont and Port Arthur. I graduated from Texas A&M in 2002 with a BBA in Marketing and from Houston Baptist University in 2006, with a Master of Arts in Psychology.

I love to travel, and went to Kenya on a mission trip in 2008 with my church. I met my husband David in 2008, and we were married in 2009. Our twins, Flynn and Elissa were born in 2012, and will be three in October.

We stay busy with them, renovating our house, and being involved in the community. We live in the Oak Forest area.

Katrina:  I met my wonderful husband while visiting San Antonio. Soon after he moved to Houston and we married!

We have our precious 15 month old son who is our heart. This is how I came to know and love JBF! I was a new mommy wanting to find bargains for him since I found him outgrowing his things so quickly.

My family and I with our two dogs live in Timbergrove and we are so excited that we are able to bring JBF to the Heights community!

Meghan & Katrina: We purchased JBF-Central Houston in July 2015.

Just Between Friends, a twice annual consignment sale, is North America’s leading children’s and maternity consignment event. We are bring this sale to Central Houston November 4-7 at Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church on West 11th in the Heights.

At JBF consignment events, local families sell new and gently used items at deeply discounted prices. Shoppers save 50-90% on thousands of items, including children’s and maternity clothing, baby equipment, furniture, toys and much more.

We are also the only consignment sale with specially trained recall expert. Every item is inspected to the most up to date records for recalls.

This event helps families save money on high quality clothing and other items twice a year while providing consignors an opportunity to create extra income selling their new and gently used items.

Sign up HERE and like us on Facebook for updates and contests.

Meghan:

My favorite thing about Houston would have to be the people!! I have lived here for thirteen years and feel like Houston is the biggest small town! I love the warmth and friendliness of everyone. I love that we have so much diversity and so many different cultural opportunities in the city.

Katrina:  

 

Being that I am an Houston implant, originally from Ohio, the first thing about Houston that stuck out to me was the people. I love how kind everyone is and how open to helping and offering information everyone is. I’ve meet amazing people how are more like family!

Meghan:

We are always on the lookout for things to do! During the summer we love splash pads, especially the one at Jaycee Park!! We love the Colonial Park Pool in West U. I think we spent a day there almost every weekend this summer.

We love to attend events at Discovery Green, story hour at the library, and the Children’s Museum. We are also always up for a trip to the Zoo and Herman Park.

Katrina:  

We love our neighborhood. Right now in this heat, we love taking our son to the Jaycee Park splash pad. My son loves chasing after the water! There are wonderful families that go there so it’s a lot of fun and great conversation!

Meghan:

Or favorite annual event? That is easy!! I love rodeo time!! I get so excited to get my boots on and go for a great night of music, food, and hanging out with my husband or our friends. I love seeing the excitement on my kids faces as they look at the animals, see the rides, and eat all the crazy combinations of food. I love rodeo time in Houston!!!

Katrina:  

 

We are huge fans of Lights in the Heights. This year will be extra special since our son will be old enough to enjoy it with us! So looking forward to this event!


Houston Kids (Ages 6-9) Interview Houston Candidates for November 2015 City Election

Kidtropolus City Hall Voting Today
When it comes to politics, I generally have no interest in the politics.    However, when it comes to the political process and exercising the right to vote, I want my kids to understand the system, the people and their objectives.

So once again, we are going out to get involved in the process.

Our goal is to remind our busy community that there is an election and to help educate kids on the political process, by asking all City of Houston candidates some very non-partisan, non-political questions.

This is not for political purposes or endorsement.  This is however, for kids.  Aylen (9), Joe (8), Senia (7) and Brooke (6) created the questions and I edited for clarity.

1.    What does a mayor/controller/city council member do?
2.    What do you do to get elected?
3.    What do you like to do in Houston?
4.    What is your favorite thing about Houston?
5.    What is your favorite Houston annual event?

Over the next month, we will feature answers from candidates for all positions and districts.  And we have some great ones!  (If you are looking for a kid friendly overview of the City of Houston elections, go HERE!)

Click the links below to learn more about the candidates!

Mayor:
Chris Bell
Steve Costello
Joe Ferreira
Adrian Garcia
Ben Hall
Bill King
Victoria Lane
Marty McVey
Rafael Muñoz, Jr.
Nguyen Thai Hoc
Demetria Smith
Dale Steffes
Sylvester Turner

Controller:
Jew Don Boney
Chris B. Brown
Bill Frazer
Dwight Jefferson
M.J. Khan
Carroll Robinson

City Council District A:
Iesheia Ayers-Wilson
Brenda Stardig*

City Council District B:
Jerry Davis*
Vince Duncan
Isaac Mayhorn
Kenneth Perkins
Ben White, Jr.

City Council District C:
Ellen Cohen*
Carl Jarvis
Michael McDonald

City Council District D:
Dwight Boykins*

City Council District E:
Dave Martin*

City Council District F:
Kendall Baker
Steve Le
Richard Nguyen*

City Council District G:
Sandie Mullins Moger
Greg Travis

City Council District H:
Roland Chavez
Karla Cisneros
Jason Cisneroz
Abel Davila

City Council District I:
Robert Gallegos*
Herlinda Garcia

City Council District J:
Manny Barrera
Jim Bigham
Mike Laster*
Le, Dung

City Council District K:
Larry Green*

City Council At Large Position 1:
M. “Griff” Griffin
Mike Knox
Lane Lewis
Tom McCasland
Chris Oliver
James Partsch-Galván
Jenifer Rene Pool
Georgia Provost

City Council At Large Position 2:
Andrew Burks, Jr.
Willie R. Davis
Eric Dick
Moe Rivera
David W. Robinson*

City Council At Large Position 3:
Michael Kubosh*
John Christian Bullitt LaRue
Joseph McElligott
Doug Peterson

City Council At Large Position 4:
Larry Blackmon
Amanda Edwards
Jonathan Hansen
Roy Morales
Matt Murphy
Laurie Robinson
Evelyn Husband Thompson

City Council At Large Position 5:
J. Brad Batteau
Jack Christie*
Sharon Moses
Philippe Nassif

“*” indicates incumbent candidate

All candidates listed on the City of Houston website were contacted.  If you are running for office and did not turn in your questionnaire or set up an interview, just contact me at Jill @ BigKidSmallCity . com.

I hope you will follow along with this very non-partisan, non-political view of Houston politics and the people involved.   And if you are looking for the politics of politics, head over to Off the Kuff or Big Jolly.


Meet Sarah Gish of Gish Creative and Gish Picks

At BigKidSmallCity, we believe the more we know about the people of Houston, the smaller our city feels. And who better to meet than a Houston Mom that lives life as an adventure?!

Sarah Gish GoFindFun Credit Danny Clark
Sarah Gish is a Renaissance woman who calls herself an “artist.mama.connector.igniter” and has a gazillion projects she’s working on and things she is doing. She is the owner of Gish Creative which is a personal, family, and business enrichment company that champions culture, creates connections, and ignites lives.

Here’s what she told me about herself and her commitment to Houston, to family fun, and to igniting lives:

I am pretty much a native Houstonian, having moved here when I was six months old, but my parents were born-and-raised Californians who met at UC Berkeley so I grew up with kind of a hippie vibe in the household. And with two parents who loved education and the arts, there was also an emphasis on art and culture.

Sarah Gish of Gish Picks with Geoff at Houston Museum of Natural Science
My childhood was spent going to museums such as the Museum of Fine Arts, the Houston Museum of Natural Science (see the picture of me with my brother Geoff), and the Contemporary Arts Museum; attending live music performances at places like Miller Outdoor Theatre and Jones Hall; and exploring Houston and Europe with my German professor dad and my psychologist mom.

I later lived in Paris and near Sendai and Tokyo (Japan) and spent time traveling in Thailand and Europe and going on many road trips around the United States, especially to California where my grandparents lived. All of those enriching experiences led me to raise my children with a sense of curiosity. From an early age, they learned to fill in the phrase that’d I’d start: (me) “Life is what?” (kids) “An adventure!” We definitely get out there and see the world!

I’ve traveled many places and lived here and there but I always love Houston the best because it’s the most diverse city in the United States (90 languages are spoken here daily!) and because it’s easy to navigate and easy to enjoy without spending big bucks. And I love exploring Houston with my kids.

 
We used to do weekly field trips in the summer and on the weekends but now that they’re older, it’s harder – but we still explore whenever we can. I always have a pad of paper and colored pencils in the car as well as entertaining books for any stops and I bring a cooler of water and snacks on the days we might be running around longer. That way, we are always ready for an adventure! I also always have bottled water and peanut butter crackers in my glove compartment – we dig into those if I forgot to bring snacks and we share them with the street people we see while driving around – it’s a great way to connect with those in our community at every level.

Sarah Gish of Gish Picks Houston with Matthew and Alexander
I have two boys – Alexander and Matthew Buchanan — and I am married to Stuart Buchanan, someone I have known since I was five years old. He’s the fun dad in the neighborhood! When my older son Alexander was born, I took him to work with me at the River Oaks movie theatre (I was the City Manager, overseeing the River Oaks and Greenway theatres). It was wonderful wearing him on my back in a backpack and nursing him whenever he needed it.

I was a member of La Leche League and nursed both my boys until they were three years old so it was important to me to stay close to them – at work or at play. When I became pregnant with Matthew, I couldn’t work out a happy agreement about working at the theatre and keeping him nearby, so I quit my job to be home with my kids and thus my third “child” was born in 2000 – my company, Gish Creative.

From the beginning, I worked with arts and educational organizations to market their programs and then my business evolved as I began gathering information about cultural activities of all kinds and I became more of an “info-preneur.” I created my e-newsletter/blog, GISH PICKS: A GUIDE TO CULTURAL ACTIVITIES FOR FAMILIES in 2003 to help my family and other families find fun. It’s unique because I sort through the hundreds of events out there and pick only three events for the weekend.

It’s been a blast recommending cool events to parents and the feedback that I’ve gotten is that I find the events that “hip” parents are looking for and that are unique and special and they wouldn’t have found without my help. I branched out 2 years ago and created an e-newsletter/blog for adults, SPIRIT PICKS: A GUIDE TO INSPIRING EVENTS IN HOUSTON, in which I also curate a list of arts, cultural, and spiritual events. I pick six activities to recommend each month and I also highlight one “Spirit Spotlight” (a bricks-and-mortar inspiring place) and I include information on interesting workshops and other happenings around town. And for both publications, I feature a VIDEO PICK.

I struggled to find good summer day camps for my older son the first summer after kindergarten when daycare was no longer enough, so I began voraciously researching places for him to go. I realized I had a goldmine of information for all Houston parents so I gathered my research about camps and compiled it into a guide called THE SUMMER BOOK®: A GUIDE TO HOUSTON DAY CAMPS AND CLASSES FOR KIDS AND TEENS, which was sold at Barnes and Noble, Borders, and 20 other indie bookstores in Houston since its creation in 2003.

Last year, just after its 10th anniversary, I took all the information online as THE SUMMER BOOK® ONLINE: A GUIDE TO HOUSTON DAY CAMPS AND CLASSES FOR KIDS AND TEENS, a free searchable database for the community. I’m proud to say it’s the biggest (over 200 camps!) and most accurate database of summer day camps in Houston! Summertime is a great time for kids to explore their passion and I am happy to help kids find theirs through my guide, which is searchable by several subject categories (arts, sports, cooking, etc.), dates, ages, area of town, and much more. It’s my passion to encourage kids and adults to ignite their lives – as seen in my art project, IGNITE YOUR LIFE! – so THE SUMMER BOOK® ONLINE is a perfect extension of that.

My favorite things in Houston to do with kids are so many! For outdoor fun, I love Miller Outdoor Theatre because it reminds me of my childhood and kids can run all over the place. I love Discovery Green, too – and both places offer excellent free entertainment.

A great spot to visit for calm times is Glenwood Cemetery – it’s one of the most peaceful hidden gems in Houston. And I love the Menil Collection park — although my kids are bummed they can’t climb the trees — and “Pumpkin” Park (River Oaks Park) has one of the best trees to sit under.

Speaking of trees, I love the ancient one at Beck’s Prime on Augusta – we go there sometimes to grab a snack and just hang out, communing with nature. That tree was the inspiration of the cd “Our Roots are Strong” that I co-produced with fab musician Leah White. I told her which Houston landmarks to feature and she wrote songs for each one – in fact, I’ll list those here since they are some of my favorites spots to visit!

  • Julia Ideson Library – 500 McKinney Street – Original copies of Alice in Wonderland and Moby Dick are among their 7,000 rare children’s books. Go see them! The library opened in 1904 and was named after the city’s first librarian.
  • Live Oak Trees – Spindly live oaks can be found all over Houston. Great examples are at Rice University (6100 Main Street); the Menil Park (1515 Sul Ross); and Beck’s Prime restaurant (2615 Augusta Drive).  Live oaks are the Southern symbol of strength and a perfect representation of Houston’s hardiness. In 1912, Rice University opened and hardly any trees existed until they decided to plant live oaks in 1913. Their trees are almost 100 years old!
  • Vaquero Statue in Mood Park – 3725 Fulton Street – This statue is by Luis Jimenez and was part of the City’s efforts to recognize the culture of the growing Latino population in Houston. Vaqueros are the first cowboys of the open range in Texas and they herded cattle from Mexico across Texas before the American cowboy we know today even existed.
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Johnson Space Center – 1601 Nasa Parkway – 450 million listeners, out of a then estimated world population of 3.6 billion people, were all tuned into Houston’s Mission Control in 1969 when Neil Armstrong took the first steps onto the surface of the moon and said “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Sadly, the shuttle program ended with the launch of Atlantis on July 8, 2011.
  • The Heritage Society and Sam Houston Park – 1100 Bagby Street – The Heritage Society is a museum and grounds that house ten historic structures dating from 1823 to 1905. The historic buildings are in Sam Houston Park, which is next to the Heritage Society and was the first park in Houston. Take a tour here the modern way: text the number that you find in front of each structure and you’ll receive a text back with valuable historic information.
  • Christ Church Cathedral – 1117 Texas Avenue – Founded on March 16, 1839, Christ Church Cathedral was Houston’s first religious congregation and is the only one still worshiping on its original site from the days when Houston was the capital of the Republic of Texas. From the start, the Church welcomed all faiths and animals could be seen roaming the streets surrounding it.
  • The Rice Hotel – 909 Texas Avenue – In the 1920s and 1930s, the Rice Hotel’s legendary “Rice Roof Dance Pavilion” became the spot where many jazz and swing performers played, including Tommy Dorsey. President John F. Kennedy, Jr. spent his last night alive at the Rice Hotel before driving to Dallas where he was assassinated. It is rumored that ghosts dance on the rooftop.
  • NRG Astrodome in NRG Park – 8400 Kirby Drive – The Astrodome opened in 1965 and baseball players immediately complained that the glare from the roof panels caused them to miss balls. They painted it to decrease the glare which killed the grass! “ChemGrass” was then put down as a solution which quickly became known as “AstroTurf.” The Astrodome was the first covered, air conditioned sports stadium. Its future is uncertain – currently, three different options are being considered for the historic building, which are found in the “Reliant Park Master Plan.”
  • Landmark River Oaks Theatre – 2009 West Gray – The River Oaks Theatre was opened in 1939 during the Golden Age of theatres when people would dress in their finest to see a show. In 2007, the River Oaks Shopping Center was declared a city landmark when the theatre was threatened with demolition. However, because of Houston’s weak preservation ordinance, neither the shopping center nor the theatre is safe from the wrecking ball (the landlord must apply for a “protected landmark” status to make that happen). The River Oaks is Houston’s oldest running theatre and serves as a great example of 1930s Art Deco architecture.
  • The Downtown Aquarium – 410 Bagby Street – The Shark Tunnel you pass through on the train ride is part of what used to be Houston’s first Central Waterworks Building, an official State Archaeological Landmark. Historic Fire Station No. 1 houses the restaurant as well as an amazing variety of aquatic life.
  • Buffalo Bayou and Allen’s Landing – 1001 Commerce Street – Known as our “Plymouth Rock,” Allen’s Landing on Buffalo Bayou was long considered the site where the Allen Brothers founded Houston in 1836 but recent research indicates they actually founded Houston a little ways upstream. There are many graveyards along Buffalo Bayou because of the 1839 Yellow Fever epidemic.
  • Freedmen’s Town in Fourth Ward – Between Taft Street and I-45 and south of Memorial Drive and north of Tuam Street – After the Civil War, freed slaves were able to buy land cheaply near the Buffalo Bayou in an area later known as Freedmen’s Town. The Rev. Jack Yates lived in this community and was instrumental in motivating black youth to strive for education. His home is in now in Sam Houston Park. There’s now a labyrinth in Freedman’s town!
  • The Orange Show Monument – 2401 Munger Street – The Orange Show is a monument created 25 years ago (in 2012) by retired postal worker Jeff McKissack who got a permit to build a beauty parlor on an abandoned East End lot but instead made his now-famous whimsical structure. Comprised mainly of found objects, the site was inspired by his favorite fruit, the orange. He was certain it would become one of the “Wonders of the World”! The Orange Show is open to the public for touring and its Foundation oversees not only that site, but also the Beer Can House, the famous Art Car Parade, and the newly built Smither Park.

We also always enjoy museums – when my kids were younger, we spent many hours and had birthday parties at the Children’s Museum but now we go to the Museum of Fine Arts, which has a TON of programs and will soon have a huge new, multi-million dollar campus with a second movie theatre complete with concessions as well as a huge space for the Glassell School of Art! We’ll drop into the MFAH just about any time as there is always something going on. I recommend starting your visit at the Kinder Foundation Education Center and before you go, you can prepare in advance with activities and ideas they have online here.

And Houston is hot, hot, HOT in the summertime so we have found some great water spots: Discovery Green and Hermann Park have fun fountain play areas and “Noah’s Ark” pool at the Quillian Recreation Center is a blast and perfect for all ages since there is a water play area for young ones and a pool for older ones. We love our neighborhood YMCA pools – there is such a huge variety! I would never move where I wasn’t close to a Y because not only do they have great pools but they also have great summer programs, specialty sports programs, after school care, and exercise classes. And the one at the Trotter Y has a yummy, healthy café that I take my kids to if I didn’t have time to make dinner (it’s close to us, thankfully).

I have an art car – the PHOENIX RISING ART CAR – so my favorite annual event in Houston is, of course, the Art Car Parade, presented by the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art. Thankfully they moved it to the second Saturday in April so it’s much cooler. I’m now offering tours in my art car to see quirky Houston: we’ll meet up at the River Oaks Theatre and then head to the Orange Show, Smither Park, the Art Car Museum, the Beer Can House, and back to the River Oaks Theatre. Along the way, riders will get refreshments and a tour – it’s part of my IGNITE YOUR LIFE! art project and it’s one more way I am able to introduce people to the many sides of Houston!


Meet Laura Gettman of No Excuse Mom Workout Group

At BigKidSmallCity, we believe the more we know about the people of Houston, the smaller our city feels. And who better to meet than a Houston Mom with No Excuses?!

Laura Gettman of No Excuses Mom 1
Meet Laura Gettman of No Excuse Mom!  In her own words, she tells us about her family, her No Excuse Mom group and what she loves about Houston.

My husband and I have been married almost 10 years and have four children, two girls and two boys. We moved to Houston from Oregon 2 1/2 years ago. As a young family, I have been a stay-at-home mom while my children have been home.

My husband has been a full time student and the past 3 years a high school science teacher. I am also looking to begin my own teaching career next year as my youngest has reached school age.

We love to travel and go on adventures, whether that means driving back to Oregon to visit family over the summer, driving to Florida to visit Grandma for Christmas break, or roaming around Houston and surrounding areas.

Spontaneity is a natural part of life for us, and we can often be found packing up for an impromptu day out, especially on the weekends.

I began a No Excuse Mom group back in August of 2014. I had been following the No Excuse Mom movement for just over a year and was inspired to start a local chapter of No Excuse Mom groups after reading posts on the No Excuse Mom Facebook page from all over the United States.

In Houston, when I looked into beginning, there were already two groups established. One was up in Cypress and the other over in SE Houston. Because of the long drive to meet with either of the groups, I began the SW Houston group.

My main reason to begin such a group is because I was already working out on my own at home and felt that I would love to have the chance to work out with other people. If I could help encourage and motivate other people to create a healthy lifestyle, I could also learn a lot from those that joined.

Our SW Houston No Excuse Mom group meets Monday-Friday at various times. Our weekly schedule and locations are posted in our No Excuse Mom SW Houston Facebook page. At our workouts we do a total body workout, HIIT style, or Zumba. We meet at places where anyone can bring their children along and the group is free. While sweating together, we also get to chat about life, laughing and connecting over stories and tips shared.

Laura Gettman of No Excuses Mom
We have found that Houston has so much to offer. Before moving here I read as much as I could from articles and blogs about what it was like to live in Houston. I was happy to find that the negative comments such as “Houston is just a large block of cement,” “Houston is not pretty to look at,” and “There is no fresh air in Houston,” are not true. We have found quite the contrary as we have explored the city. My favorite thing about Houston is the large variety of food to try, expanding our palates and introducing us to many more cuisines to bring home to try in our own kitchen.

Our favorite thing to do with the kids is to be outside. We spend a lot of time in our front yard but love it more when we can get in the car and go explore. We have been to many different water spots to stay cool in the hot months, invested in a Zoo membership and constantly referred to BigKidLittleCity.com for more ideas.

The two spots we have loved the most so far was hiking down at Brazos Bend State Park and going to the Showboat Drive-in up in Hockley. The scenery in Houston is very different than Oregon, but has so much of its own characteristics to marvel at.

Being still somewhat new to Houston, we have been looking for an annual event to make tradition. We love Zoobilee time at the Houston Zoo, Mardi Gras out in Galveston and the Houston Rodeo but our favorite annual event so far is the AIA Sandcastle building competition in Galveston held at the end of May.


A "Houston Parents Magazine" Resource --- For Spring Break & Rodeo Houston Events, Tips and Tricks, go HERE
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