Back To School

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If summer was a baseball game, we just slid into home with the winning run.

This summer was the first summer I wasn’t ready to send my kids back in mid July. Usually I hit the wall just after the 4th of July (which is way to early by anyones standards). But this time, I was still having fun the day before school started.

We had some vacations pretty well spaced out to mix things up, which helped. But I also think the kids were at a better age, and it was fun. We have had babies for so long, now everyone walks, talks, and potties in the potty. No more diapers, no more sippy cups. Ahhhh.

We did a lot this summer, but the day before school started the kids wanted to throw a party for the little girl across the street who was going home after spending the summer with her grandparents. And I said, yes.

So the night before school started, I had a house full of kids eating pizza and playing games.

We slid into school the next morning, house destroyed, tired and smiling.

We had shoes on our feet (even if they weren’t appropriate for gym), clothes on our bodies (even if it was what they wore the day before) and food in our lunch boxes that I scraped together since I hadn’t gone to the grocery lately.

And I realized it is JUST FINE. We had fun, went out with a bang and slid into school with our sun kissed faces beaming.

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Happy back to school!

 

The Big Board Game

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I saw this idea the other day that I thought It would be fun. It’s a life-sized board game.

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It was so easy to do!

Here is what you need:

Sidewalk chaulk
A square box
Marker or white dots

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Building the game:

I grabbed some sidewalk chalk and made a bunch of squares about 2 feet by 2 feet (give or take) in a nice path around the driveway. Then I wrote instructions in each square like: move forward 3, quack like a duck, do 10 jumping jacks, lose a turn, and included a start and finish square.

My oldest two helped build a “die” out of a fabric storage cube we use to store toys in. We used duck tape to put a top on and then cut out circles and used glue dots to affix them to the new die.

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Playing:

Each player rolls the life-sized die and moves forward the number of spaces shown on the die. Once they get to the new square they must do whatever the box tells them to do. If their space tells them to go forward or back, they do not have to do what the second space says, their turn is then over.

I really enjoyed making the game, and my kids said they had fun playing it although no one won because they all lost interest along the way. In the future I would not make it so long!

Play on!

 

Why it’s a big deal we went to camp the second time

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I LOVED camp when I was a kid. It was the highlight of my year – every year. From the time I was 9-years-old I paid my own way to Sandy Creek Bible Camp. And as soon as I was old enough I went to work there. My camp years ended only after I graduated from college.

So, let me say it again, I LOVE CAMP. And when I say that, I mean: I have a deep, deep feeling of affection for this place called camp not just a “yeah, camp is a lot of fun, woo hoo!” kind of thing. It’s much deeper than that.

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When I think back to where this deep feeling for camp came from, it is two fold. First, I loved the quiet time in nature with God. I really enjoyed the beautiful surroundings while I read my Bible and prayed. Years later when I was going through the hardest years of my life emotionally I would go to parks near where I lived and sit and journal. It mimicked the place I felt the most secure and peaceful as a child – camp. It was beautiful, serene and it felt safe.

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The second reason I have a deep affection for camp is the people. There, I was surrounded with kids that were following Jesus in the same way I was. For me it was refreshing having Jesus be a word that, when spoken, didn’t make people cringe, walk away, or ignore you for days. It was a place where I could be me and not be “persecuted” for it. I didn’t have to hide my relationship with God there. It was not only OK to believe in Jesus but it was cool. Imagine that! Having come from a home where we were not able to freely and openly discuss our belief in God, camp was a haven, a second family for me. It was a warm, welcoming, comfortable and embracing space with people who loved me for all that I was.

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I know camp isn’t that for most people. Take my husband, he respects my love for camp, but he doesn’t share the same affection for it I do. When I approached him for the first time with going to camp two years ago he agreed to go. I knew he was doing it for me and I appreciated it very much. He even got into some of the pre-camp activities like building the family boat for the wacky boat race. He was fully on board and I was really excited to share this experience with my family.

Our week at camp was very, very hot and uncomfortable, but went well for the most part until the last night.

That’s when the good times ended.

During the canoe races my husband volunteered to be in the “man of war” canoe race. All the brave men were doing it. And we don’t run from friendly competition in this family – we run TO it. It’s how we were made. There weren’t many rules for this race, just get your boat out and back with all your oars and men first. There were 4 men per team and 3 or 4 teams, I can’t remember. It was a real manly-mans race. And it got crazy.

I can’t remember if they won or not, it was all a bit of a blur. As the teams wrestled to get their boat to shore the top of my husband’s pinky finger was pinched off between an oar and a rung on their boat. It was a mad rush to find the piece of finger and get him to the hospital. A lot of blood, a lot of running.

I was scared, and I was crushed. After I got over the fear that he was never going to have the tip of his finger again I resolved myself to a life without camp. Right there in the emergency room I was devastated that I was never going to go to family camp again. How selfish of me.

I just assumed he was NEVER going to go back there. And who could blame him.

After the two surgeries that it took to re-build his finger we were finely able to joke about it between ourselves and good friends. But every time we joked there was a part of me that was so very sad that we weren’t going to go back.

I waited a year and a half and then mustered the nerve to just ask if he would be willing to go to camp again by chance.

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He said yes! Without much reservation he said YES.

Before he had the chance to really think about what he had just agreed to I ran to the computer and registered us.

I know he did it for me. And I love him for it. What a gift. My husband is very thoughtful in general. He buys little things for me that he knows I like. He brings chocolate chip cookies home for me when there are some left over from a meeting he attended, he runs across airports to get my favorite Chicago popcorn on his layover, he reminds me to take my vitamins, he brings desert home for me when he has a work dinner at a nice restaurant and I sat home eating mac and cheese with the kids, he turns my shower on for me so it can heat up, he puts the toothpaste on my side when he is done with it and I haven’t used it yet, he starts the teapot for me to make tea. He is always doing thoughtful things.

Me, I sit in hospital sulking that I won’t be going back to camp while he lays there with his finger ripped off wondering if he will ever have a fingertip again.

And only a year and a half later he quickly agrees to go back again, for me.

Thank you, dear, I love you! Thank you for doing this for me because you know I love it. You are very good to me.

So we went again this summer. It was a blast, and thankfully, we returned with all our fingers and toes intact!

We went to camp and we…

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dressed up in costume, dug for treasure,

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made crafts, played, sang, danced,

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swam, built a boat, lost the boat, enjoyed treats at the snack shack,

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worshiped, learned, tried new things, saw old friends, made new friends,

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played games, rock climbed, paddle boated, swung,

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competed, won, lost, laughed, ate s’mores,

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went on a treasure hunt, watched a magic show,

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got dirty, canoed, zip lined, played tag on the beach, smiled,

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went on a hay ride, HAD A BLAST.

5 Tips for Traveling in the Car with Kids

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Summer is in full swing and most likely we all have at least one trip planned. When you are traveling with small children it doesn’t matter if you are going for a short weekend or a full week – there’s a lot of stuff to take. In no time you will have the entire back of the car filled and things stashed under each kids feet too.

That’s just the way it is.
Over the years we have tried this traveling thing every which way. Flying/driving, eating in the car/eating in restaurants, leaving before the sun get up/leaving after a nice big breakfast. You have to find what works best for your family. But here are five things I’ve learned over the years are must do’s when traveling long distances in the car with our kids:
1. Leave Early. We get up really early, grab the kids from a full slumber, plop them on the potty and then in their car seats with jammies on and take off. If we time this right we can get about 2 hours down the road before we hear from them. I pack a bag of clothes and shoes for the day and have it in the front of the car with us. They usually don’t get dressed, or need a potty stop until lunch!
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2. Pack Fresh Snacks. It is amazing what a little snack for the kids will do when the whining begins. It’s like magic. We pack a cooler in the back of the car with fresh food in it for the kids to eat from all day long. They can get whatever they want out of there any time they want. This is a huge departure from our normal snack routine at home so its a real treat. But if I packed junk food for car snacks we would all be so sick by the time we arrived at our destination we would need a day to recover. So to avoid that traveling all day crummy feeling take the extra time to prepare healthy snacks that won’t mess up your car. Some of our favorite in the car snacks are cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, carrots, grapes, apples, celery, broccoli, and energy bites.
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3. Bring Breakfast and Lunch. This is such a time saver, plus it breaks up the day and gives the kids something to do. Instead of stopping for breakfast or lunch we eat in the car. We only stop for gas and potty. We pack bagels with peanut butter for breakfast and some fruit. I usually make up little plates or paper bowls for each kid from the front seat and pass them back. The process takes a while and the anticipation of your meal coming to you is really fun for some reason. Beginning the prep for a meal will end any bickering you have going on. For lunch I make pb&j, turkey and cheese, or energy bits with pretzels, goldfish and veggies and fruit. Then for dinner we will stop and eat a good dinner out. Hopefully by is time we have reached our destination, for the day at least. Then we run around a bit.
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4. Maximize the Potty Stop. I detest using public restrooms with little kids, or without really. If you have ever been in a public restroom and heard someone saying over and over “don’t touch anything, don’t touch anything, don’t touch anything, I said, don’t touch anything,” it was me, hello! So all I have to say about this is that you have to stop when you have to stop, right? But make it worthwhile. Now is the time for everyone to get out of the car and stretch, for everyone to at least try to use the potty, top off the tank, and refill the coffee cup. And when you have really little ones, they may have to go to the potty one time, then walk around and try again. I find they don’t know how to do all of their business in one sit. I don’t know why this is but it is a joy killer to get down the road and hear “I need to go again” from the back carseat. So take your time and make sure you take care of all your business in one stop.
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5. Take Along the Movies (and game machines). I’m not one to let my kids watch TV or play games all day, but in the car it’s a must. So many family cars have DVD players built in now, but before we got all fancy with one of those we used to strap a laptop to the seat back for their viewing pleasure. Or now you can watch your own personal movie on an iPad. I try to keep the other toys to a minimum because there just isn’t room, but we do bring every hand held device we have to share!
My Must Bring List
– Bandaids
– Wipes
– Hand Sanitizer
– Potty Toppers
– Table Toppers
– Ziplock Baggies -I serve snacks in these for less mess
– Paper Towels
What have you found to be your saving grace on the road?

My Summer Reading List

I thought I would share my summer reading list with you – in case you cared. As you will see from my list, I’m a slow reader, since I haven’t read some of the popular books out there, YET.  Right now I’m trying to come up with ways to explain to you why I haven’t gotten around to them, but I don’t think I really have to, so I won’t. I will keep them to myself because they make me feel better.

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One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

by Ann Voskamp

Just like you, Ann Voskamp hungers to live her one life well. Forget the bucket lists that have us escaping our everyday lives for exotic experiences. ‘How,’ Ann wondered, ‘do we find joy in the midst of deadlines, debt, drama, and daily duties? What does the Christ-life really look like when your days are gritty, long–and sometimes even dark? How is God even here?’ In One Thousand Gifts, Ann invites you to embrace everyday blessings and embark on the transformative spiritual discipline of chronicling God’s gifts. It’s only in this expressing of gratitude for the life we already have, we discover the life we’ve always wanted…a life we can take, give thanks for, and break for others. We come to feel and know the impossible right down in our bones: we are wildly loved–by God. Let Ann’s beautiful, heart-aching stories of the everyday give you a way of seeing that opens your eyes to ordinary amazing grace, a way of being present to God that makes you deeply happy, and a way of living that is finally fully alive. Come live the best dare of all!

Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend offer biblically-based answers to these and other tough questions, showing us how to set healthy boundaries with our parents, spouses, children, friends, co-workers, and even ourselves.

Peter’s unique approach helped people everywhere learn to let go of the emotional and psychological clutter that was literally and figuratively choking the life out of their homes.

With his good humor and reassuring advice, Peter shows you how to face the really big question: What is the vision for the life you want to live? He then offers simple techniques and a step-by-step plan to assess the state of your home, prioritize your possessions, and let go of the clutter you have been holding on to that has kept you from living the life you imagine. The result is freed-up space, less stress, and more energy for living a happier, richer life every day.

Also in workbook form!

Add Zest to Your Family with God’s Rest

Seriously, your schedule is hurried, your expectations are extraordinary, and you and your family’s commitments are too many to count. Your relationships with your friends, your family, and your God are suffering.

Ready for a change of pace? Here’s help. Little House on the Freeway takes a look at the breakneck speed at which we live and reveals how to not only put on the brakes, but how to get off the freeway altogether. With a special section, “101 Ways to Give Rest to Your Family” and a new chapter that addresses the perils of the Internet, this timeless classic about the importance of quality family time has been updated to rescue a whole new generation from hurry.

Don’t let busyness, productivity, or the tempation to “keep up with the Joneses” keep you from the peace and incredible quality of relationships God created for you.

“Hurry and busyness are everyday parts of modern life. True priorities of things that matter most may be lost. Little House on the Freeway offers biblical insights and principles to our hurried existence–help from the Word of God for the life being lived in the fast lane.” -Billy Graham

 

I’m starting with these, I’ll see how far I get! I also want to throw in a novel by Karen Kingsbury during a vacation. I read one in March and couldn’t put it down.

 

Finally, a few devotionals that I like to go to. I rotate these around to keep it fresh.

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Girlfriends in God

Three women of different ages who write devotionals. They share from their lives and stories both the good, bad and difficult. I always get something from their stuff. You can get the app too!

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Jesus Calling
by Sarah Young

There is an app for this one too, and a Jesus Calling for Kids (also in app form). Plus I just found a Jesus Calling Bible Storybook that I really like for the kids. If you haven’t ever read any of these, they are super short and really good! When you need a good hug from God – read this! It usually comes in an orange-y cover, but I like this one.