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.

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!


  • 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.


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.



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!


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.


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!


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!!!



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!

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.

Meet Christi Megow of Christi’s Creations – Houston Mom, Photographer & Creator

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 not only takes beautiful pictures, but creates custom photo albums (so your memories are not just electronic!)… and who has also created a Houston summer bucket list for you and your family!

Meet Christi Megow of Christi’s Creations! In her own words, she tells us about her family, her business and what she likes about Houston.

Hey Houston friends! My name is Christi. My husband, Jeff, and I are both Houston natives and met in the summer of 2000 at a downtown happy hour that he and a few friends organized to “meet chics” and it worked! We’ve been inseparable ever since! He is the most thoughtful, generous, kind, fun and handsome (bonus) man I’ve ever met!

Thankfully, he likes accompanying me on whatever adventures I dream up and isn’t annoyed by my taking a million pictures (one of the advantages/disadvantages of being married to a photographer). Our family grew in 2010 with the adoption of our daughter, Grace (5) and then again in 2011 with our surprise biological baby, Matthew (3). I feel very fortunate to have experienced both humbling and miraculous ways of becoming a mother.

As I mentioned, I’m a photographer and have a business called Christi’s Creations. One of the advantages of being a mom is that you have the best subjects in the world to take pictures of…your children! My two kids will probably have the best documented childhoods ever. This is because I not only am a photographer, but I also design photo albums.

I have loved photography ever since my mom gave me her hand-me-down 35mm Nikon with a zoom lens in high school. In addition to introducing me to photography, my mom also taught me to live in the present which is an essential trait to have as a photographer.

Initially the subjects of my photography were focused on nature, travel and architecture. However, when I became a mom, I found myself drawn to family photography. I love photographing children and families using natural light in relaxed situations, whether candid or posed. I also take professional portraits for corporate use, again using natural light.

The Giles Family Photo by Christis Creations
The Giles Family
My first photo album was designed for the adoption agency to tell prospective birth mothers about our family. When they first saw my album, they said they had never seen such a fantastic album and that I should consider making them for other families waiting to adopt. And thus my custom photo album service was born.

In addition to doing adoption albums, I make vacation, wedding, baby, birthday, anniversary and any other type of album you can think of. This is truly a joint effort with my clients and the end result is so much fun to share. My album portfolio can be seen at www.christiscreations.com. My kiddos especially love pouring through their baby albums and our annual family albums.

Grace and Matthew Looking at Album by Christis Creations
Grace and Matthew looking at our family albums
I love the people in Houston. They are some of the nicest, most down-to-earth folks you’ll ever meet. They are also hard-working folks that make a point to give back to the city. As a result, there are lots of amazing things to do in Houston that are free or very inexpensive.

With this in mind, I’ve decided to make a point this summer to instill a sense of appreciation in my kids for the people behind all of the fun places we visit. We will be sending out thank you notes to each organization we visit with a picture they’ve drawn or a photo of them enjoying the activity and sharing what they liked about their visit. Already, we’ve gotten amazing feedback from the recipients of our thank you notes. Nothing feels better than being recognized for a job well done!

As you all know, children add many new dimensions to life, both fun and challenging. One of those challenges came last summer when I faced entertaining a 2 and 4 year old for the entire summer in Houston with no vacations! Thus was born my Houston Summer Bucket List which served as my one-stop resource for finding something fun to do with the kids all summer long.

I found a lot of great bucket lists online, but none that was easy to use. I’m a bit of a nerd and love spreadsheets, so I created my own list where I categorized attractions by inside/outside/wet and have a separate section for day trips. Then I added web links and addresses, and finally I put the hours opened for each day and the cost.

What took a lot of time up-front paid off big each day when I could figure out in minutes what adventures were available given the circumstances of that day. We managed to check off almost 40 items on our list and had a very memorable summer! The kids are already looking forward to doing it again this summer!

If I had to choose my top three things to do with kids in Houston it would be these: Hermann Park, Smither’s Park and Discovery Green.

Hermann Park is a perennial favorite and is impossible to cover in one day since it boasts a zoo, science museum, outdoor theater, playgrounds, splash pads, fishing, paddle boats, a new Centennial Park and more!

Our favorite “off the beaten-path” attraction is Smither Park, next to the Orange Show. It’s so cool to watch a park grow and change with each visit as artists slowly work to design and build it.

Another favorite destination in the heart of downtown is Discovery Green which comprises several water attractions, a playground, restaurants, grounds for picnicking, great sculptures and an amazing calendar of events.

By the way, all of these fun Houston attractions offer excellent photo opportunities! Happy exploring!

Kristi Ison of Float Baby – The Houston Mom that New Moms Need to Know

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 a truly one-of-a-kind business that is a haven for new parents.

Kristi Ison of Float Baby
Meet Kristi Ison of Float Baby, a community of mothers that can share stories, sympathize and laugh at the trails of motherhood, all while stimulating their newborn’s brain and encouraging development, good eating and long periods of sleep.  In her own words, she tells us about her family, her business and what she likes about Houston!

I have been married to my husband, Stuart for almost 19 years, We have two children, Olivia Stuart (14) and Ben (12). We like to spend our free time together participating in sports, socializing, or having “Big Movie Night” (“Big” being the size of the television as perceived by a smaller version of my son at a much younger age). We are so lucky to have family living nearby in the Houston area.

I love Float Baby. It’s hard to call it a business when the days are spent soaking up the sweet smiles and curiosity of infants and their new parents. It’s an incredible honor to spend time with these friends during this very special time in their lives. I say “friends” because truly, they are all people that I would honestly spend time with socially.

I want people to know that Float Baby is an amazing start to the experience of parenthood. Whether you are seeking an outing with your baby, or you are frazzled and desperate for something to help your baby sleep, or maybe you are bored at home (it’s okay to be bored! no one admits it, but seriously, we all need to get out of the house in the first six weeks before we go crazy staring at our adorable bundle of joy… no judgement and no shaved legs necessary for entry).

Houston is such a small town and I think that is what I love most about it. The longer I’m here, the harder it is for me to meet someone who doesn’t share a common acquaintance. I find it comforting to raise a family here knowing that it takes a village and my village gets smaller every day.

Sports. Sports. Sports. This is a favorite for me to do with kids for a few reasons. Sports build such character in a child and whether we are playing or attending, there is always a learning opportunity.

Sports lead to lunches with friends afterwards, they lead to playdates and sleepovers for the kids. We talk a lot at Float Baby about which schools are the best to apply to (and when.. NOW!!) or the benefits of public schools, which neighborhoods are best socially for young families looking for their first home, what’s important for your child socially, and what can wait… and we always talk about never letting friends convince us that their baby has been sleeping through the night since day one, nurses like a champ, and that they have enough time in the day to apply make-up while preparing a gourmet meal…(please). But we also talk about the importance of sports and I encourage all my clients to consider starting early for all the wonderful life lessons that sports can provide.

Favorite annual event in Houston is anything Christmas. My favorite movie is Elf. I love the feel of our city during December. People seem happier, stores seem shinier, and I love shopping for the perfect gift for those on my list. Getting Christmas cards in the mail are at the top of my favorites.

This past Christmas was extra special~ I received cards from some of my Float Baby families. It’s so fun to see how much they have grown.. and don’t even get me started on the joy of receiving a 1 year birthday party invite!!!!

Truly, it is so hard to say goodbye when one of my little friends graduates from Float Baby. I love this photo of Graham and he was quite possibly one of my biggest babies. I loved having him come each week and his mom was hysterical, adored her. We are starting a graduation board at the store so that we can post all of our adorable clients when they move on to bigger and more challenging waters. This will be one of the first ones we put up!!