20 Questions with ACM Team Member Dawn Robinette

The Alamo City Moms team is made up of all kinds of women, with all kinds of experiences and knowledge and life lived. Get to know them through our “20 Questions” series.

Meet Dawn, an Army brat turned Army wife whose family moved to San Antonio and refuses to leave. An award-winning communications and marketing pro who works with clients through her agency, Tale to Tell Communications, she has a hard time saying no to any activity that gives back to the community. Dawn and her family enjoy exploring their adopted hometown and you’ll find them at local museums, hiking state parks, and checking out the River Walk from the Museum Reach through the Mission Reach and everything in between. She enjoys telling other families where to go and what to do to make memories and have fun around town and became a Certified Tourism Ambassador so she could officially spread her love of San Antonio to others. A member of the Alamo City Moms team since 2015, Dawn’s son has grown up with ACM and does his best to hide his grimace when she inevitably asks him to pose for pictures.

How do you like to start and end your day?

I’m a morning person, so I start my day early. I like the quiet of the house, when I can focus on whatever. Sometimes that’s writing, sometimes that’s catching up before the day gets crazy. It grounds me and makes me feel like I’ve already accomplished something before the rest of the world wakes up.

By the end of the day, I’m exhausted and just want to unplug from connections. No phone or computer, nothing that I have to think about. Mindless TV and old movies, preferably something that is uplifting or funny. But not for long—early mornings mean early to bed.

What part of parenting drains you? What part of parenting energizes you?

woman in sunglasses next to a smiling boyI think it’s easy to be caught up in whatever phase/age your children are going through. Each of them is exciting and draining at the same time, but the constant? The emotions! Navigating the emotions of a strong-willed child, or any child, where you can go from high to low in a snap, is exhausting. At the same time, seeing those highs—and seeing your child push forward into a new stage, new growth, and new maturity—is amazing. We get so caught up in the day-to-day that sometimes we don’t realize how much they’ve grown and what awesome little people they are.

What’s one thing you’re learning now or learned recently?

During the pandemic shutdown, I decided to start learning Spanish. I first studied German, then took French in school and was fairly fluent years ago. When we lived in Germany, my German kicked back in. But living in San Antonio, I want to know Spanish. It’s such a big part of our culture and our city, I feel like I’m missing out by not understanding the language better. I’m not sure I’ll ever be fluent, and of course, I didn’t stick with it long enough, but I’m determined to get back to it.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

The Hallmark Channel and old movies have become a guilty pleasure. Anything that doesn’t require me to think! Sure, the plots are all the same, but everyone ends up smiling and all is right with the world. I never used to spend time watching anything like that, but through the pandemic, I found myself watching old sitcoms (hello, Friends) and anything that just felt comforting. Now it’s a habit that I’m OK keeping. I don’t want to get into a crime drama or anything that makes me think. I just want to unplug my brain and have a happy feeling.

What’s your favorite place to eat around here?

You can’t really claim San Antonio as home if you only have one favorite place to eat! People underestimate our food culture. I can’t keep up with all of the new options and often return to the same places again and again, but to help break that habit—and support our local restaurants—my family made a resolution to visit at least one “new to us” spot every month last year. We’ve done everything from high-end spots to neighborhood places and it’s made us search out new options or visit places we hadn’t been before.

A family favorite that never disappoints is La Panaderia. We’ve never had anything that wasn’t fantastic and always take a box of goodies home. For date night, run to Clementine. Everything is amazing and I love that it’s owned by two chefs who balance the business with their family. I even profiled Chef Elyse (She’s now a mother of three!) and she shared a crumble recipe I love. When you go to Clementine, don’t miss the “Feed Me” option. I promise you won’t regret it.

That said, the fastest way to my heart is good chips and queso. I admit that I can walk away from a taco, but chips and queso? That’s my kryptonite. So I will try it anywhere/any time and really want someone to do a “queso crawl” so I can try it at various spots with no guilt whatsoever.

What’s your favorite tradition (holiday or otherwise)?

We don’t have any family here locally, but we also don’t travel for Christmas. We spend Christmas Eve at home, just us, celebrating with our favorite hors d’oeuvres and decadent foods, then snuggling and watching a Christmas movie. I treasure that time when it feels like the outside world is miles away and it’s just us making memories together. Things could be bigger, they could include more people, but just our little family celebrating the way we like to celebrate is one of my favorite things.

What’s one thing you’re currently trying to make a habit?

I am trying to make getting outside and walking every day something that is non-negotiable. It’s about exercise, but it’s really about clearing my mind and resetting myself at the end of the day. I like to walk in the evening. It helps me destress and gives me an opportunity to let go of whatever I might still have running through my mind from the day.

What advice would you give to your teenage self?

Wear the sunscreen, jerks will always be jerks, and don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do.

What’s one of your favorite memories from the past year?

a woman and a boy in front of mountainsWe ventured to Rocky Mountain National Park as part of our vacation last year. We hiked to the highest peak in the park when it started to sprinkle. Then it started to hail. It sounds crazy but running down the trail to get to cover—and being pelted with pea-sized hail as we did it—is really one of the best memories of the year. We laughed and made the best of it. We did it together, we survived, we laughed, and we have a fantastic story that will always be part of our family history.

What’s your favorite story to tell about your past?

a man and woman with the sun setting behind themEveryone always asks about how my husband and I met. We were sophomores in high school, but as an Army brat, it was my third school in four years and we moved at the end of the year. Flash forward to me in my 30s, getting an email that started with, “Are you the Dawn Duplantier that went to Leavenworth High School?” He found me on Classmates.com. When a co-worker heard me laughing (because I knew exactly who he was—we had been friends, but in the days before the Internet, you lost track of people), she said, “Don’t laugh, he could be ‘the one’!”

He was in the U.K. and I was in Dallas. We emailed a couple of times to catch up, but that was it. A year later, he moved back to the U.S. and sent out a note to everyone in his address book. I was going to be there on business and offered him tickets to the event I was working. We started dating long-distance after that trip. Two years later, we got married at the courthouse because we had to be married for me to be on his military orders, then we planned a wedding that he almost didn’t make because he’d had to report to Germany for his next assignment. To this day he tells everyone that he cyberstalked me before it was even a thing.

Is there any experience you think everyone should be required to have? What is it?

I think everyone should have to work in high school and college. It’s wonderful to have a college fund or family support but earning money yourself makes you understand the value of it and how hard it is to save for something you want. It also makes you understand the role that everyone plays in making something happen. You need to understand the responsibility that comes with a job and not assume that someone else will handle it or that you can just get money from Mom and Dad. I started working at 16 and haven’t stopped. I worked my way through college and remember when I had to wait on the next paycheck before I could buy something. When something is handed to you, you don’t value it as much.

Working also teaches you to respect everyone. I don’t care if it’s hotel housekeeping or someone taking your fast food order: No one is less than or better than anyone else. Everyone deserves to be treated with manners, respect, and kindness. Our world would be a lot better if everyone remembered the golden rule more. Treat others how you want to be treated, period.

What’s one item you can’t leave home without or is always in your bag?

I can’t leave home without lip balm or lipstick of some kind. It’s a habit I can’t break, so much so that when we started wearing masks, I didn’t think about it. I put on my lipstick and when I took off my mask, I looked like a clown! It’s not a vanity thing. No matter how much water I drink, my lips feel dry. If I don’t have something to put on them, it drives me crazy.

That said, I’m known to be the mom that is always ready. I have band-aids, etc., in my bag, no matter what. I have a little bag I started using back when I was switching from my purse to a diaper bag all the time. It has three pockets and it has everything I need in it. I swear, I could be marooned on an island and that little bag would cover me. And yes, it has lip balm in it!

What’s one thing you wish you’d known when becoming a mom or what advice would you give to a new mom?

I tell every new mom to cut themselves some slack. We are presented all of these perfect ideals: the beautiful nursery, bouncing back in no time to the same size you were before you were pregnant, always looking “just so” and having the baby in just the right outfit, etc. It’s all a truckload of BS. No matter who you are, bringing a baby into this world is hard. It’s a huge adjustment for you and the entire family. You have no standards to meet other than keeping the baby alive. You will not ruin their future if you didn’t buy the $500 stroller or if you had restaurant take-out for dinner or if you don’t do the perfect baby book. Don’t judge yourself against other moms. Do you and make it work for you.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? How’d that work out? What do you do now that fills your days with ‘work’?

I remember playing school, where I was the teacher, but I also remember playing office. I would play with my grandmother’s address file and act like I was taking calls. Then I pictured myself as the White House press secretary. Now I don’t have the patience or the talent to be a teacher, my office days are far behind me, and I cannot imagine a life in politics! I’ve had my own communications agency for years. It started as a consultancy and blossomed from there. I love what I do, telling stories, putting people in the spotlight, and getting businesses and clients the attention they deserve. Whether it’s a news story or just the right social media post, I love making things happen for my clients and feel very lucky to do what I do.

What one ‘life hack’ changed how you do something?

I can’t say it’s a life hack, but I dedicate time at night to prep for the next day. That means setting out plates, cups, etc., for breakfast, getting lunch ready, and making sure that everything that can be prepped in advance is ready to go. If we can start our day smoothly, with no panic or rush, it sets the tone for everything else.

What’s your ideal way to spend your weekends?

I like weekends to be one day in and one day out. We are exhausted by the time Friday gets here, so we don’t make plans for Friday nights. That’s always a night we stay in unless we have an event we have to go to for school, etc. Then one day where we do something as a family: hiking, exploring, seeing friends, visiting something, or enjoying a meal out. And one day that we label our “stay-at-home day.” It’s a day where we don’t leave the house, we catch up from the week behind us or prep for the week ahead. It lets us recharge our batteries. I got over FOMO long before COVID was keeping us all at home. We don’t need to go non-stop. We’re better when we get some downtime that lets us reset and recharge.

What is something you’re doing as a mom/parent you never anticipated doing?

a woman and boy under a treeI think most of parenting is unexpected. If we knew what the reality was, our species might die out—HA. Seriously, though, I never expected how much worry you’d always have. There’s nothing that you don’t think about: the right diapers, the right school, the right time to let them do something on their own, etc. Sometimes the options/choices feel overwhelming. My mother swears it was easier “back then” (the stone ages when she was raising me) because there were fewer choices. And I think there were fewer people judging whatever choices you made. We now have so many options, and so much information behind those options, and so many opinions about what you should do, that the noise of it all makes it hard to know what to do. And even after you make a decision, it’s so easy to keep questioning it. Being a mom is navigating that and trusting that you made the right choice at the right time.

If you grew up in San Antonio, what’s one thing that you loved about your childhood here? One thing you love that your children are getting to know? If you didn’t, tell me where you grew up, how you got to SAT, and one thing you love that your children get to do/see/experience here.

I’m a New Orleans native and an Army brat who married into the Army, but I went to the University of Texas and lived in Austin for a long time, then moved to Dallas. San Antonio was always the place you went to visit. I never thought about living here until the Army made it our next destination. We were happy because it got me back to Texas, my adopted home state, and gave my husband access to BBQ and Tex-Mex, so it checked all of the boxes.

a child, a woman and a man feeding sting raysWhat we didn’t expect was how quickly it would become home. We expected we’d be here for maybe three years, then move again, but my husband decided to retire here and 14 years later, we can’t imagine being anywhere else. My son was born here and I love that he knows the city the way he does. We hit the museums, we go to events, we do things that help make San Antonio ours. He knows downtown and can give any tourist a list of “musts.” No matter where you live, you have to get out and enjoy it. San Antonio makes it easy to fall in love with the city—I’ve even written about that for Alamo City Moms. We may not have been born here, but we love it.

What is your favorite place in San Antonio?

I absolutely love the River Walk. That means all of the nooks and crannies beyond what’s known as the horseshoe bend, the downtown portion that loops through the most popular part with tourists. I love the Museum Reach, the quieter section that connects the Pearl to downtown, and the walk south, going through King William, into Southtown, is lovely. But if you really want to see the San Antonio River at its best, keep venturing down through the Missions. The entire trail is more than 15 miles one-way and it truly connects San Antonio. There’s so much to see and take in. I wish more people would explore it.

What is your favorite restaurant?

How can you ask me to pick just one favorite restaurant?? That’s like asking someone to choose their favorite child. For one of the most amazing meals in the city, Clementine. For date nights with carnivores, Bohanan’s. For family nights out, we love Pasha. For a spot that never disappoints, La Panaderia.

Another thing I love about San Antonio is…

I love how well-blended this city is. We mix our cultural heritage to make something unique to San Antonio. We mix our relationships so that no one is ever a stranger: Everyone you meet knows someone else you know (which is why it pays to be nice to everyone or people will hear about it!). Every neighborhood is distinct, yet it all flows together. And we mix high-end with laid-back to give everything a more relaxed feel. There’s no pretentiousness to this city: We are what we are and we don’t care what you think. I love that.

What is something near San Antonio, but technically out of the city limits, that you love being close to or enjoy going to or WANT to go explore?

I love that we are so close to so much—and yet people don’t know. Want to spend some time with the largest gathering of mammals in the world? Go to Bracken Bat Cave. Want to explore wineries that rival Napa Valley? Hit Fredericksburg. Want to get away from people and get into nature? There are state parks and natural areas all within two hours that make you feel like you’re far from the city. We’re still working on hitting all of those, but it’s amazing how convenient it is to explore.

What is something you want everyone to know about?

What makes San Antonio great is our local culture and local businesses, so get out and explore. Go beyond your neighborhood/part of town and really learn San Antonio. Visit our museums, and hit the River Walk even when you don’t have visitors in town. Visit local, shop local, buy local. We are all what makes San Antonio thrive.

a woman in front of a stream

An Army brat who came to Texas for college and ultimately managed to make the Lone Star State her permanent home, Dawn became a mom “AMA” (advanced maternal age), giving her the opportunity to use a stroller vs. a walker as she navigates the world of motherhood. Her growing up way too fast native Texan loves all things Star Wars, Legos, dinosaurs and keeping his parents on their toes. When she’s not busy parenting the original strong-willed child, Dawn runs Tale to Tell Communications, a San Antonio-based PR and marketing agency. An award-winning writer, Dawn also contributes to San Antonio Woman, Rio Magazine and Texas Lifestyle Magazine. She and her family enjoy exploring all that San Antonio has to offer, going on adventures and playing tourist together as much as possible. Favorite Restaurant: Clementine Favorite Landmark: The beauty of the River Walk, especially La Villita Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Celebrating anything and everything with color, music and food