Some nine years ago, Houston mom Jill Jarvis vowed to fix a very particular problem plaguing her at the time: her home’s perpetually messy family room. Vowing to keep it clean once and for all, she set out to get her kiddos out of the house. Jarvis and her family began hitting up the town, traversing the city’s many great family friendly attractions. Soon into this new phase of exploration, Jarvis launched her now popular blog JillBJarvis.com. There, she documents her outings, offering parents tips on how best to navigate the city’s many kid-friendly offerings, both the wildly popular and the underrated.
Jarvis took the time to share the story behind her blog.
Q: When did you move to Houston?
A: I got to Houston about 15 years ago. I moved around the United States a lot. I went from the Midwest to the Northeast, out to California and finally made it to Houston.
Q: What do you like about Houston?
A: What I like about Houston is that I could be walking down the street and it could be raining and someone will just hand me their umbrella. I’ve lived in a lot of friendly places but Houston definitely has some very good people and very genuine people. Some places put on a good show but in Houston, they’ll give you an umbrella when it’s raining and you’re walking down the street.
For one thing, Houston is a big city so there’s always a lot going on. As a kid, I lived in a smaller town and to go to museums or shopping or even to play soccer games, we had to drive several hours just to get to a big city to do it. In Houston, we can pretty much do whatever it is we want to do within the city.
Q: What are your favorite places in Houston?
A: There are so many activities. Right now, since we’re mostly trying to stay at home or social distance, we’ve been to a lot of beaches, hikes, and touring around to the different murals. When the world returns to normal, go-tos are generally going to the museum district, to Hermann Park, to the Museum of Natural Science or the Houston Zoo.
As far as normal things, the rodeo is one of our favorite things to do every year. We were at the rodeo when things started shutting down. When they shut down the rodeo we knew that things were getting serious in Houston. We look forward to going back to the rodeo whenever things return to normal. We knew the virus was all over but who knew the rodeo would be open one hour and the next hour it would be time to go home and stay home for the rest of the school year.
Q: What sparked your interest in blogging and what led you to start your blog?
A: At the time, I was a working mom of three kids and I was really sick and tired of cleaning up the mess in the family room everyday and I thought you really had to do a lot of planning, spend days making a plan for your outing but another mom at preschool actually showed me that actually you could just jump in the car, make it happen and have a fun few hours with your kids and then come back home with everyone happy. Once she showed me that it was not a hard thing to do to go out and explore Houston, we started getting out everyday and it inspired the blog.
Q: Did you ever expect you’d run a blog this long and that it would gain as much popularity as it has?
A: No. Sometimes even now I look at it and think “Is this really my website?” I’m an electrical engineer, which is what I was doing until a few years ago, blogging and engineering. I’m very much an introvert. The blog is very much a passion project of mine and I’m so happy it’s taken off but sometimes I have to pinch myself to see if it’s real.
Q: What do your children think about the blog?
A: They don’t think anything of it. Sometimes I’ll ask the big kids for permission if I’m going to include a picture of them or something but they just think it’s pretty normal. In fact, if we don’t go do several fun things a week, they complain about how boring things are so I guess they’ve gotten a bit spoiled by it as well. In the normal world, before we all got quarantined, we usually tried to atleast get out of the house if at least just to go to a park, but go somewhere so we had some activity for the day.
Q: How have other parents responded to your blog?
A: You know, you do get some people who are just angry in general and want to tell you that it didn’t look exactly like the picture when they went but on the flipside, I will say that that completely gets erased when a parents comes up to you in the museum district just saying “Thank you so much. You made it so easy for me to plan out my weekend with my kids.” One person at a baseball game, again, when the world was normal, saw me and told me “You changed the way I parented with my kids because now I just look at it and can go pick one thing to do on a Saturday.” That’s very touching and keeps me want to write it each day.
Q: What Houston area places do you recommend to out-of-town families visiting Houston?
A: If this were normal times, I would say go to Hermann Park, and if you want to, pick a museum while you’re there. You can jump on the Metro rail and go to downtown Houston and walk over to Discovery Green and you’d get a pretty good tour of Houston that way. I’d day if you came in March, make sure to go to the rodeo, and not just a concert, but take the kids to the livestock show and rodeo early in the day before there are big crowds and you can get that special flavor of Houston. If it was summertime and you’re looking for a waterpark, I would go out to Splashway. It’s a bit of a drive. It’s west of Houston but it’s a big waterpark, but not too big and you can stay in a cabin and glamp or an RV or tent and spend several days just hanging out with the family.
Q: How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted what your family does and what you’re blogging about?
A: It’s changed a lot because no one is looking for things to do in Houston with kids, especially in March and May. They’re looking for things to do at home with kids and I’m not a crafter, I don’t pretend to write about cooking or crafting so I pivoted over to resources around Houston to help with food distribution and that kind of information. Also, a lot of places have virtual events.
Rather than profilingrestaurants each week, now we’re doing interesting murals each week. We’re just sort of adapting to socially distanced activities and even with that, there are plenty of things for us to find to do around Houston.
Q: Do you feel Houston is a good place to raise a family?
A: I think it’s great. For a long time, when I still had a corporate job, there was good reason for me to move back to California but we opted to stay in Houston because we wanted to raise our family here.
Q: What Houston attractions do your kids love to go to again and again?
A: Every year, all of the kids want to go to Magical Winter Lights, which is just south of Houston in La Marque. Everyone always looks forward to going down there to spend time together as a family. Also, going to Splashway for the summer for several days, staying in the cabins and doing all the camping activities and then going to the waterpark is something everyone talks about and looks forward to.
Q: How has blogging about Houston influenced how you see Houston?
A: When I was just raising kids and working, I didn’t realize all of the things there were to do. I knew there were things to do but I didn’t realize how many opportunities there were around Houston and now I do have a greater appreciation for just how big the city is. You could drive across four hours and everywhere you go there’d be something there to do with the kids. I really have a greater appreciation for just how much there is to around Houston with kids and even when I think that I’ve written about everything, there’s always something new popping up, something new opening or a new special event. I’m never going to cover it all.