Category Archives: Life

What I Learned/Favorite Things This Summer

Oh ya’ll. I think I say it every year, but I feel like THIS summer was maybe my favorite? I’m pretty sure the age of my kids has everything to do with it. Everyone can function fairly well AND everyone still wants to spend time together. Their world is getting bigger AND they still want us in it. These years are incredibly sweet.
what i learned things this summer

Another element that made this summer special was that Joel and I celebrated our 10th anniversary and it was so meaningful to reflect on how God has provided for and grown us over the years. We both decided this marriage gig gets better over time.

Throw in the privilege of taking a team of students overseas on a missions trip for 5 weeks, getting good recovery time at home and then spending rich time visiting friends and family, this summer gets my stamp of approval.what I learned this summer

Here’s my “What I Learned This Summer” but it’s also sort of a “Favorite Things” post…so I double titled the post. Yep. This blogger has officially let her cyber-hair down. What did you learn this Summer? What were your favorite things? Here are mine:

  1. Being in nature is extremely restorative to my soul.

The city recently put a quarter mile paved greenway in right by my house and from my front door, around the loop and back is a perfect 1.5 miles. Me and ole Duke have been getting up and OWNING the loop lately and it’s been so energizing. Duke goes nuts when he hears we are going for a run and I realized that it’s the GREEN that is so nourishing to my spirit! I need more nature in my life but dang, it’s hot and sticky in Mississippi, so I don’t really enjoy being outside in the summer unless there’s  a pool nearby, these morning jaunts around the loop with my favorite 4-legged friend have really been a game changer. (See also: endorphins)What I learned summer

2. Paying a babysitter so you can have time with the Lord is totally worth it.

About mid-July every summer I kinda hit a wall and I realize that my introvert hurts. Days at the pool are awesome. Traveling is great. The flexible schedule of summer is wonderful. But I begin to feel like I can’t hear myself think and I start to feel disconnected from my own soul.

The kids had a Science, Nature, Art Camp at the museum a few weeks ago, Joel was out of town, and I was needing some soul care. On a whim, I paid a college student to pick my kids up from camp, take them to lunch at McDonald’s (Lizzie, you’re a saint) drop by the library for a while and then hit up the pool. Basically, I paid her to not bring my children home. I went and worked out, had a meal by myself and then crawled into my bed to spend time with the Lord. Hours went by and it was sooooo good. There was time for prayer, journaling, an online course, some reading, a counseling/spiritual direction session, solitude and silence. It was absolutely glorious and I can’t believe I haven’t made that type of investment before! It’s totally worth spending some of the babysitter budget to take extended time with the Lord! (It’s also worth it to have a monthly session with a counselor/spiritual director in the budget!)What I learned summer

3. “Included In Christ” is an fantastic Bible study, especially for writers. 

I think what made my time with God so meaningful was this Bible study. Heather has a very caring and encouraging voice and she  walks through Ephesians in a way that really speaks to the writer within. I highly recommend it!

4. Having a “usual” and even a “uniform” is mentally freeing for me.

You know when your phone flashes you that annoying “storage full” message? So you go to dump your phone onto your computer but then your computer sends you a similar message that you’ve used all the space on your hard drive? And then you get that eery feeling that your devices are a reflection of your brain and your life that both feel completely out of space… The struggle is real.

Any time I can automate even the smallest thing in my life it takes away “storage” and mental fatigue.

Anytime I can not have to think about what’s next or pause to figure out what to do it’s just so nice. For example, I am no longer trying to think of when I’m going to work out or if I am gonna walk the dog. It’s just two birds I am killing with one stone first thing in the morning.

Enter the usual and the uniform per one of my favorite podcaster’s suggestion–The Lazy Genius.

Usual–I always struggle with what to feed my kids for lunch. I don’t even like lunch! So this year since we are home most days I decided instead of having to rack my brain for ideas I’d just have the kids eat the same thing each weekday.

We are on a rotation of:
Monday-Mac and cheese with sugar snap peas and carrots
Tuesday-Soup and baked potatoes
Wednesday-Turkey and cheese roll-ups and whatever fruit that’s in season
Thursday-Frozen pizza with fruit and vegetable
Friday-Peanut butter and banana with granola and yogurt

Uniform–Same song second verse to the tune of what-the-heck-is-a 35-year-old-homeschooling-mom-who-has-to-still-look-somewhat-relatable-to-college-students-who-are-now-born-in-the-year-2000-which-is-the-same-year-I-graduated-from-college.

My new uniform includes 4 dresses, jean shorts with a flowy top and workout clothes. That’s what I am wearing basically on rotation M-F. These swing dresses make me feel put together but even more comfortable than slouchy workout clothes. Can’t recommend them enough!

5. Cook once. Eat twice. 

We all know how obsessed I am with freezer meal cooking…it just makes long days so much easier! I stocked my freezer pretty well this summer, but then I would get really bummed as I saw it dwindling down just as the school year was about to start. SO, I started being more intentional about cooking once and eating twice. For example, I am in love with this Honey Garlic Dijon Pork Tenderloin recipe I found on Pinterest and it’s so simple to make one for the freezer and one for dinner all at once! Just double your recipe, eat one and freeze one!

What I Learned This Summer

(Image and recipe via The Well Seasoned Mom)

You just dump all this in a bag and toss it in the freezer!

  • Pork Tenderloin
  • 1/2 cup Honey
  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbs Soy sauce
  • 1 Tbs Minced garlic
  • pinch of rosemary
  • pinch of thyme
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste

On cooking day set aside the remaining ½ of the marinade in a separate bowl, cover, and refrigerate for later.

Remove pork from the marinade and place in a baking dish that has been coated with cooking spray. Discard bag with the marinade. Allow pork to come to room temperature while you preheat the oven.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes.

Remove cover, brush with reserved marinade, and place under the broiler for about 5 minutes (or until a crispy crust forms on top), and pork reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees F.

Remove from oven and allow pork to rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.

Another winner this Summer has been Crock Pot Salsa Ranch Chicken Pasta from The Country Cook.

what i learned this summer

Again, dump, freeze and then cook the day of! Easy peasy!

  • 5-6 chicken breasts
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup Hidden Valley Ranch Cilantro Lime dressing
  • 1 lb box rotini pasta

Dump all ingredients except pasta, dressing and sour cream into freezer bag.

On cooking day defrost, pour into crock pot, cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

About 30 minutes or so before this is finished cooking, begin preparing the rotini pasta according to package directions.

Once chicken is cooked, remove chicken breasts and shred them or cut into chunks.

Whisk in sour cream and Hidden Valley® Ranch dressing into cream of chicken/salsa mixture in the slow cooker.

Add chicken back into the slow cooker and stir in prepared rotini pasta.

Stir well.

**Bonus Favorite Thing/Something I Learned This Summer: Awareness of and a Whole-hearted Embracing of My Gaps

While it was 100% my favorite summer, I have never before felt my gaps so severely. No, I am not talking about thigh gaps. Ain’t none of that over here after all the Salsa Ranch Chicken Pasta. What I mean is that my awareness of all the ways I lack was painfully obvious this Summer.

In Rome, there was no way to meet all the needs of students and family. There was no way to not be dead dog tired and see that there was no way I could push or pick myself up and keep going. And actually I became okay with it. It was unbelievably freeing being okay with the gaps between my ideals and my reality.

When we got home there was no way to reign in our transition and make it more neat and tidy. Also, no matter how much you try it’s nearly impossible to work off 5 weeks of chocolate croissants and nutella pizza. GAP.

As we started school it was impossible to manage outcomes of learning and development.

My lack of self-control.

My lack of ability to maintain depth of relationship with friends I love dearly.

Even down to my daily Bible reading app reminding me JUST how far behind I am on my read-thru-the-Bible plan…gaps.gaps.129 days of gaps.

But my gaps were met with God’s love. Raise the roof. The space between my ideals and my reality were met with irresistible kindness, patience and grace. They are the cherished places I am growing in my awareness of my need for my Savior. what I learned this summer

My favorite thing all Summer was being reminded that I am a beloved daughter of the King regardless of my performance, production or outcomes and I am deeply and loved because I am deeply loved. Irresistible, I tell you!

I hope you’ve had the best Summer. I’d love to hear more about it! Comment below or let’s chat on social media! 

 

Traveling With Kids Without Losing Your Mind

traveling with kidsTraveling With Kids Without Losing Your Mind

You know that moment when you’re minutes away from clocking out of work, throwing your bags in the car and hitting the road?

The adventure of heading for the hills or the mountains or the beach or the destination anywhere other than your own zip code?

The exhilarating feel of the open road, the wild blue yonder, the white sands the lake, the reunion with faraway friends! Getaway vibes are some of my favorite feelings in the world. I love to travel. But when you toss in little people with low blood sugar, small bladders and a few “are we there yets”, traveling can all of the sudden make you lose your ever-loving mind.

While our family has been busy wrapping up another year of ministry, we’ve also been practicing language skills, preparing little feet for miles of walking and doing boatloads of administrative work to prepare our team of 19 to go on a summer mission trip!

This is what we’ve done nearly every summer for a decade, so you’d think we’d have it down by now, but ends up, it’s just always a big step of faith to pause normal life and get on the road/on the plane.

This year is no exception because while our kids are getting excited, they are now old enough to be really sad about leaving their friends and not getting to finish the school year, (I, however, am smiling and waving buh-bye to all.the.end.of.the.year.things) but they aren’t quite perceptive enough to grasp what a privilege it is to travel and take Jesus to the world.

Amidst passports, packing, training our team and navigating the emotional worlds of 7 and 10-year-olds, it hit me just how much we schlep our family around. Most of our travels are for our work with Cru, but as I write, we are on the road for Joel’s sister graduate from Vet school and then a soccer tournament…10 hours in the car just under 3 days.

I know many of you are like us and will be traveling over the next few months so I thought I’d share a few tips, ideas and resources that have been helpful as we’ve traveled with our kids.

traveling with kids

Preparing and Practicing

As soon as we get our summer assignment or make travel plans, we check to see if passports are current and that travel details are squared away. (Calling credit card company, adjusting cell phone plans, setting up house-sitter/dog-sitter, stopping the mail, etc.)

We start preparing the kids by looking up our destinations on GoogleEarth and watching Youtube videos of the local areas we will see. Even helping them see where the nearest grocery store, park or library will be can be helpful for transition woes.

We talk through our travel expectations from start to finish…why they will keep their seatbelt on during the duration of the flight and why they will NOT play with the tray tables or kick the seat in front of them…you’re welcome traveler who cringes when you see my child sit down behind you. Just talking them through what will happen and what we expect does wonders.

Practicing helps too. Most nights after dinner for the last few months, we have tried to walk a mile or so to get ready for long days of walking. We’ve labeled our house with Italian words and have practiced eating random food and *trying* to be okay with it.

When we are traveling primarily by car, I try to print out a map and give them a highlighter to track where we are traveling. I load up “State Bags” which is just a grocery bag with a small toy or two I’ve scavenged from their rooms that they haven’t played with in a while or something I’ve picked up from the Dollar Tree, several books and easy snacks to keep them occupied during each state we travel through. When they were younger I kept a chip clip on the visor and if they fussed or fought and their clip came down they didn’t get a bag. But, then I realized I was just punishing myself, so now STATE BAGS FOR ALL! They LOVE State Bags! State Bags keep them quiet and keep me from Stage 4 of Road Trip Rage.

traveling with kids

We don’t do screens in the car (mostly just because we don’t have them) but we do love audiobooks! My kids will quietly stare out the window working their imaginations as they listen to FREE classics like Where the Red Fern Grows, Heidi, The Secret Garden, YWAM Missionary Biographies, Story of the World–not free but amazing, etc. you can’t beat that! (When we aren’t in the car, we use our phones with these headphone splitters so they can listen together but seperately on the trains and buses.)

Last summer, our assignment was seminary so I looked up any and all free things to do with kids in Orlando and was AMAZED by all the activities we enjoyed. The public library events were our favorites. We read to therapy dogs, did lots of crafts, heard from wonderful authors, ate fun snacks and enjoyed great prizes for reading.

Packing

Have you ever counted the number of items it takes to get you and your people up and out the door? I tried this morning but lost count at the toaster.

The older I get the more attached I am to my things, my systems and my rituals…plus, I am a recovering over-packer. I was the girl who went to the one week church camp and had her parents send her another box of clothes mid-week because she needed more options…but I’m recovering. In fact, I *think* I am becoming more of a minimalist. Especially on the clothing side of things. Traveling helps me embrace simplicity and pushes the reset button on my attachments to the trappings of this world…but I’ve already packed my ninja bullet blender so don’t let me fool you.

Whether we are on the road for 5 days or 5 weeks I’ve found it helpful to use packing cubes to divide out each person’s belongings. It’s like traveling with dresser drawers!

IMG_7801

For longer summer missions I pack everyone 10 outfits so that if we are without laundry facilities for a week, we can make it. My kids wear their clothes hard so they usually can’t re-wear without being gross.

Here’s what we are packing to go overseas this summer:

Kids’ Carry On Backpacks:

  • Eye Mask
  • Ear Plugs
  • Headphones
  • Snuggly Blankets
  • Snacks (for the first leg I try to do fresh foods like carrots, snow peas, apples, etc. after that it’s granola bars, nuts, goldfish, turkey jerky, wheat things, peanut butter crackers, Skinny Pop, Grab the Gold bars–have you had these??)
  • Colored Pencils
  • Activity Book
  • Stickers
  • Math Dice
  • Card Games/Memory
  • Travel Journal
  • Gum
  • Light Jacket
  • Water Bottle
  • Change of Clothes
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Toothbrush + Paste

Adults’ Carry On Roller Bags:

  • Wet Wipes
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Eye Mask
  • Ear Plugs
  • Headphones + Headphone Splitters
  • Computer + Charger
  • Camera + Charger + Dump Cord
  • Fitbit + Charger
  • Cell Phone + Charger + Extra battery stick
  • Passports
  • Journal
  • Bible
  • Neck Roll
  • RX Medicine, Anti-Jet Lag Supplements, Melatonin, Vitamins, Probiotics, Motion Sickness
  • First Aid Supplies
  • Hairbrush
  • Toothbrush + Paste + Floss
  • Change of Clothes
  • Light Jacket
  • Water Bottle
  • Book/Magazine
  • Sunglasses
  • Snacks
  • Challenge Packet + Prizes (see explanation below)

**I also carry on this cross body bag as my personal item and D won’t leave home without his pillow so he lugs it and I try to not think about how many germs are on the airport floors that he drags it around.

Checked Luggage:

  • 10 outfits/30 pieces that coordinate with each other (For myself I packed 8 shirts, 2 shorts, jeans, black pants, green pants, grey jeans, 2 dresses, 4 tshirts, pajamas, slippers, sandals, tennis shoes, Chacos, rain jacket, 2 cardigans, bathing suit, cover up, 2 hats, 10 underwear, 10 socks, 3 work out outfits)
  • Toiletries (I’m attempting to use essential oils and these 3 products for most everything…I am on day 4, I’ll keep you posted.)
  • Make-up + Remover
  • Wash Cloths
  • Sunscreen
  • Clippers, Tweezers
  • Hair dryer, straightener, converter
  • American Snacks (We try to eat the local food, but there are moments when ya just need some Skinny Pop and chocolate covered almonds, I also bring small oatmeal packets so we can just add hot water and have a meal if we get in a bind. Each week we are hosting a themed outreach, (Mexican Fiesta, American Breakfast and Home-cooking) so we also are packing a few ingredients we can’t get there. Nothing says packing light like cans of Bush’s baked beans, I tell you.)
  • Homeschool Materials (We will school most mornings of summer project. I am bringing Story of the World cds, Life of Fred Math books, Draw and Write Through History books, jump rope, math dice, flash cards, handwriting workbooks, catechism devotional book, attributes of God devotional book, 2 family read-alouds, paint, paint brushes, paper, OT brush and activities)
  • Challenge Prizes—see below (Legos, Shopkins, WHO REMEMBERS FLARP??, silly puddy, play dough, Melissa and Doug water pads, glow sticks, anything and everything the Dollar Store offers!)

Perspective

It’s a lot of work to get your family on the road. It’s even more work to get a team on board. But, the experiences are absolutely life-changing. Whether it’s a road trip to Grandma’s or setting up water filtration systems in Haiti, it’s worth the effort.

The primary goal for our family travel is to make the kids about the trip not the trip about the kids. There’s something good for the soul when life doesn’t revolve around you and your entertainment or comfort. This is an invaluable lesson I am still learning every time I travel. I feel like, unless it’s Disney (all is fair in love and Disney, folks), kids should be encouraged to be observers, learners, adventurers, outwardly oriented versus inwardly consumed. Of course reality is still reality.

traveling with kids

This year I created a Kids’ Summer Missions Challenge Packet we are using to help our kids get to know and engage with the team of college students we are taking with us. There are 50 activities they can do and for every 5 challenges they complete they earn a prize. Things like, “List every student on our trip and write down their hometown.” Or, “Buy fruit and veggies from a stand by yourself. What did you buy? How’d it go? How did that make you feel? How much money did you spend?” If you’re headed anywhere in the near future, you can click Kids’ Summer Mission Challenge Packet to print it off or use as a template to make one for your travels. Another great resource that has helped my perspective is the Art of Simple podcast when they highlight travel.

I’m excited to see how all this helps the kids really invest in the team, culture and the mission we are there to accomplish! The university we are working at this summer is home to 150,000 college students. Our prayer is to reach these students for Christ and see the Gospel spread across the entire country and prayerfully into all areas of Europe.

We are anticipating the relationships that will form with students and faculty. We are always amazed at the divine appointments God prepares in advance for us. Please pray for our team of Ole Miss, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi State and West Chester University students. Pray they will understand the depth of God’s love for them. Perhaps one day these students will serve in full-time ministry or be powerful influences for Christ in corporate America.

We would love for you to follow along and pray for our Summer Mission and let us know how we can pray for you and any of your travels!