Category: family

Summers are Our Jam

Summers Are Our JamWe’re starting to dream about warm summer days, long stretches of afternoon with nothing we HAVE to do. When school is out, we’re all like–  FREEDOM!!!!!

Well, except me. I’ll be working. 🙂

But because half of my heart is still at home all day, and because Jake is so awesome as to let me speak into the summer schedule, here are some of the fun (and helpful) things we’ll be doing this summer:

We will play outside. Explore. Ride bikes. Dig in dirt. Play basketball. Swing. Chalk. Picnic. Maybe work a little on our Park Challenge (visiting every park in our city). Anything that involves being outside of our cute and cozy apartment and basking in the warm summer sunshine. The kids are doing local camps this summer, which will give them a little bit of freedom and structure outside as well. (more…)

Parenting as an Art (and sometimes art gets messy)

Make your own-3

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared an update on our Year of Positive Parenting.

To be honest, it’s been really hard.

There’s nothing more I want in life than to get this parenting thing “right”. And of course, the reality of parenting is that there is no “right”. Math problems have right answers. Jeopardy questions have right answers. Parenting does not have right answers. (more…)

The Perfect Chore Checklist (for us)

perfect chore checklist

We finally found a chore checklist that works for us.

Historically, Jake and I haven’t been into charts and checklists and chores for our kids. We have the view that our kids are a part of our family and families work best when everyone is lending a hand. Chores aren’t done for money. They’re simply done because that’s what families gotta do.

While we’re still maintaining that general viewpoint, I knew that with going back to work soon we needed something to help us communicate effectively to them about what they needed to get done. I also needed something that would remind them even when I wasn’t here.


Making a Yearly Family Soundtrack

Make your own family soundtrack

Music is powerful, especially when it comes to memories and emotions.

Prime Examples:

Whenever I hear Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road” I think about couple skating with Kyle in 4th grade. I was SO HAPPY that he finally asked me to skate with him, but equally as disappointed because in just a few short weeks I was moving to a new town.

Or Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” — roller skating in 6th grade. I was very much in the middle of a teenage angst and this song sang right into my poor adolescent heart.  Middle school is hard, y’all.

Truly Madly Deeply by Savage Garden brings me back to high school– I listened to this song on repeat for an entire school year as I was going to sleep.  I’ll spare you the details of my emotions about this one ;).

So there’s that :). (more…)

The Hard Days Shape Us Too

#write31days: hard days

To be honest, it’s really hard to write about spiritual formation on a day like today.

I woke up happy, but quickly found myself entirely out of patience for a particular behavior in one specific child and I totally lost it. At 7:15a. This behavior is an issue that has been building and building and we’ve struggled through it again and again and again. We’ve talked. We’ve taken away beloved things, We’ve reasoned. We’ve taken away more beloved things. NOTHING HAS WORKED. And today I came to the end of my proverbial rope.  (more…)

A Day in the Life {June 17th}

This summer schedule is wee bit more than I bargained for.

The first day was a bit hectic, but by day 3, we’re grooving.


Today was my day to sleep in (yay!) so I (slowly) rolled out of bed around 7:30. I was up WAAAAY too late finishing up the last book of the Harry Potter series, and even at 7:30, it was still absolutely worth it.

Jake went out to work around the building, and I ate breakfast and got all of us dressed and backpacks packed for the various camps.

Ada was the first one to drop off at camp, and we spent a few minutes at the park before I met a woman at 10:00a to sell her some of our cloth diapers (we’re done, we’re done!). Asante and I played a couple games of tetherball, which was awesome and brought me back to my elementary playground days (expect in those days I was awful at tetherball, mostly because I was so short, but do you know who was REALLY good? A guy named Marcus Barringer. Tetherball champion).

After the diaper exchange (where we laughed together about “meeting up in the grocery store parking lot, making sales”, ha!), we headed to a different park where we played and hung out for an hour or so, and then swung by the library on our way home. I intended to just pick up a few books on hold, but the kids wanted to go in so we came out with WAY too many books (I didnt even bring a canvas bag to carry them all in! doh!), but with very happy kids.



With hungry tummies, we headed home, I made a quick picnic lunch and then we all walked to the pool to pick up Ada, and then had our picnic lunch. I accidentally started an awesome routine of reading them Bible stories on our picnic, and today was The Persistent Widow. The kids were surprised that they could “pester” God with their prayers. Ada commented that if they did that to me and Jake, we would not be very happy. “You guys don’t let us have something if we pester you.” True story. Parents, think about that one 🙂




After the picnic, we walked to Asante’s camp, dropped him off, and then headed back home. I put Anaya down for a nap while Jake took a break from reading and set the girls up with listening to stories with their new headphones (seriously love these- my house is QUIETER). I  was able to finish up a blog post and answer some emails before Anaya woke up after a short hour nap. This could have been because the girls decided to make a laboratory in the bathroom and kept on shutting and opening the door to get more “ingredients”. 🙂

So, Anaya and I played a bit and then walked to pick up Asante from camp, leaving the girls in their upstairs laboratory. When we got home, Jake took the kids over and I was able to spend some time doing internet errands, as I like to call them, as well as a little bit of reading.


Around 4:45, I packed a quick picnic dinner and we headed to Asante’s flag football camp. The school where it’s located has an AWESOME playground, so we decided to take the whole family. Everyone had a great time!


Finally, when we got home, we showered the kiddos and got them to bed. It was Jake’s turn to put Anaya to bed, so I showered and came down to my desk to do some more blogging, answer more emails, and request some books from the library (Aly is getting into bird and wanted me to find some field guides for kids).

Whew! After a bit more time online, I’ll read before bed. I started Siblings Without Rivalry today and its really good so far. I think exactly what I need right now with the summer stretching indefinitely in front of us :).

What’d you do today?!

What We’re Up to This Summer {Kids Edition}

While summer hasn’t actually yet started for us, I’m ready. The kids have 7 more days of school, which means I have 7 more days to finish getting things ready.


While I hear the recommendations of having a “70’s summer”, filled with Kool-Aid, playing outside all day, and a general lack of parental involvement (what will you mommas do with your time?! I am a bit jealous….), we live squarely in 2015 up here.

Day and Sports Camps

For June and July, Asante and Ada will each be doing a couple hours of camp each day right here in the neighborhood. Lots of kids, running around outside, playing games, a little swimming, maybe a field trip here and there. Aly decided to forego the camp (she highly dislikes activities that include competition and if she suspects any amount of competition, she is so out of there) and instead will be doing a couple summer school enrichment classes in subjects she LOVES: art and science. A couple evenings a week, Asante will be doing a basketball camp and a flag football camp. We aren’t able to manage a busy sports schedule during the school year (he only does soccer in both the fall and spring), so we’re using this summer to let him try out some other sports.


The schedules are all different, but everyone is within walking distance, so Anaya and I will spend a lot of time walking to and fro, eating picnic lunches, and playing on playgrounds.


When the older kids aren’t in their camps/classes, we’ll have a general schedule that we create together each weekend. I asked the kids if they wanted me to schedule blocks of time to do various things, or if they just wanted to fill their days how they wanted, and everyone, hands-down, wanted the schedule.


So, everyday we’ll have a devotional time in the mornings, and then when the kids aren’t in their daily camp, they will have some reading time, some artsy/crafty time for the girls (I think Asante will probably do chess during this time), a patch of screen time, a chunk of free time, and, a few times a week, some type of special project. The kids each have some things they’ve been wanting to learn or work on, so hopefully I can manage to learn some of those things along with them or at least get them the resources they need to teach themselves.


Summer Reading Programs

We’re doing a ton of different reading programs this summer. The kids are huge readers, and are typically finished with one reading program after a couple weeks :). So, this year we’ll be doing 3 different library’s reading programs, the Barnes and Nobles summer reading program, and also the one at Half Price Books. Two we’ll be doing simultaneously, but most will just be back to back. Really, the kids will read no matter what; they need no incentive, but they think it’s super fun to earn free books and tickets to baseball games, butterfly gardens, local farms and stuff like that. Of course Jake and I like them to do that too– because going anywhere with a family of 6 gets expensive fast!

Family Field Trips

Each week I have a family field trip planned. They are all places that we’ve wanted to go, but just don’t have the margin to do during the school year (do you see a theme? basically we’re really lame during the school year. The zoo is about as crazy as we get). Hopefully we’ll be headed to a small kid-oriented amusement park, a local cave, the butterfly gardens, a few splash pads, a pool, some beaches, the movies and a few outdoor hiking areas. Because the kids will be passing each other during the day, it’ll be fun to have some family time too.



August will feel more like summer vacation for us. We’ll go see the grandparents, have a week of vacation Bible school (3 of the 4 get to go this year!), a trip to the Dells, and a week to get our self organized for everyone to start the school year!

IMG_4344 IMG_4392

This summer really is going to fly by. I think we’re all looking forward to these 3 months off, and while we still have things going on, it’ll be so nice to have the kids around more often. Sure, they fight a lot more and that’s stressful to me, but really, I know these summers are numbered. When the kids are all in school (which will be in just a few short years), I’ll probably be going back to work outside the home and won’t have summers like this with them. I’m excited to spend it having fun and making memories!


Great Books when Traveling with Young Kids

Our family loves to get lost in books, but sometimes its hard to decide what to do with the non-independent readers of the group when we want to read on our own. We could always read to them, which we do a lot, or they could listen to a story on the iPod, which is also great, but only if you can manage to tune out the noise so that you can enjoy your own.

There are also those times when your readers don’t really FEEL like reading, but you’re all stuck in the car and they just need something to do to distract themselves while having fun.

Interactive books are a great way for kids to read in a different kind of way.

Interactive Books

Flap Books

For the youngest, flap books are the best. Kids have to find the flaps, of course look under each one a million times, and then turn the page again only to find a gazillion more flaps. In my opinion, the more flaps, the merrier.

Our favorites over the years have included Dragons (Usborne), The Seven Continents of the World, Little Pear Tree, Elmo’s Big Lift-And-look Book, Dora’s Lift and Look Book, and the whole set of Little People Life the Flap books.

Look & Find

A wide variety of these Look and Find books exist: easy, hard, and everywhere in-between. Some tell you what to find specifically, and others allow you to look and find things that are interesting to you! We even use the Mamoko one (below) to tell our own stories.

Our favorites include Littleland and Littleland Around the World, Where’s Waldo?, and The World of Mamoko in the Year 3000.


Magnetic books have hard pages that magnets can stick to. Many books have magnets that kids can use to “fill-in” missing pictures in the book.

Mostly we’ve used the Magnetic Learn and Play Counting book on road trips with all four kids! Their 2 year old selves have gotten the most fun out of it.

Doodle Books

Who says you can’t write in books?! Doodle books come in all kinds of themes. Some books are actually stories where kids can just fill in missing parts of the pictures. Other times, the pages are independent of one another and challenge the reader to use their imagination to make different animals, scenes, foods, etc.

We really like the The Bible Doodle Book, Charlie and Lola’s I Absolutely Must Do Coloring Now or Painting or Drawing , Mega Mash-Ups, Magical Mix-Ups,

You can find most of these in local libraries!

What are your kids’ favorite interactive books?  

20+ Great Audiobooks for Kids

Many people are surprised when they hear how early our kids go to bed. While Asante just got a promotion to 7:30, Aly and Ada are generally in bed no later than 7:00– and sometimes they are even asking to go to bed at 6:45.

While some of you may be a little jealous…. it’s not really what you think. One, our kids get up EARLY (no matter what time they go to bed), so by 7:00p, if they’ve had a nice active day, they are exhausted and are dragging themselves into bed. But, it’s also because they LOVE to listen to stories before falling asleep. While Jake and I used to tell them stories (Adventures of Asante, Aly, and Ada), we mostly rely on audiobooks loaded on our iPod, connected to our iHome so that the kids can all hear it well.

We also listen to audiobooks while in the car, whether it be on the way to our church gathering on Sundays (it is a bit of drive), or on a road trip to grandmas. If the kids are cranky and fighting with each other in the backseat, we’ll sometimes ask them if they’d like to listen to a story and PEACE falls over the car. Thank you Jesus for audiobooks. 🙂

In case you’re interested, here are some of our favorites!


Short Books (Under 15 minutes)

Skippyjon Jones: A funny short story of a Siamese cat who pretends to be a Chihuahua. He goes on some great adventures! 🙂 Every hardback book that we have checked out from the library has a audio cd inside of it, so that’s a great way to listen!

Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! Hungry bunnies are trying to get into Mr. McGreely’s yard, and he goes to great lengths to keep them out.

The Uglified Ducky and Rapunzel and the Seven Dwarfs by Willy Claflin: Super silly retellings of common tales. It takes awhile for me, as an adult, to get used to his voice, but the kids think it’s great. 🙂

medium audiobooks

Middle-sized Books (15-60 minutes)

The Bippolo Seed and other Lost Stories: These are a set of Dr. Suess stories that are read by some really famous people- Neil Patrick Harris, Anjelica Houston, and Joan Cusack, to name a few. Neil Patrick Harris HITS IT OUT OF THE PARK. It’s a really fun group of stories to listen to.

Mercy Watson: Mercy Watson is a pig who knows how to get into trouble. Each story is about 20 minutes long. These books in general are REALLY good starter chapter books for young readers because they include a lot of colored pictures to go along with the text. As of right now, I think there are 6 books in the series.

Leroy Nicker Saddles Up: This is also by Katie DiCamillo, and it’s a spin-off of the Mercy Watson series. The kids like it less than Mercy Watson, but they still enjoy it every now and then.

Where the Wild Things Are and other stories: We have a set of stories that include Where the Wild Things, In the Night Kitchen, Alligators All Around, Chicken Soup with Rice, etc. He’s a strange fella, but the kids love his lyrical books.

Magic School Bus: Normally between 20 and 30 minutes, these audio books are great for kids who already love the books and/or cartoons.

A to Z Mysteries– Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose come across a lot of mysteries in their small little town of Green Lawn! The characters are 9 years old, making it a pretty perfect book for a Kindergarten-2nd grader. These mysteries are fun, interesting, and the characters are really good kids. Each book comes in at right under an hour.

Calendar Mysteries– These mysteries star the younger siblings of Dink, Josh and Ruth Rose and are just as fun as the Calendar Mysteries.

Nate the Great: Short detective stories. I TOTALLY DISLIKE these stories. I refuse to listen to them with the kids, but again, the kids love them. 🙂 They are each about 15-20 minutes long, so perfect for a going to bed listen!


Long Books (60+ minutes)

Charlotte’s Web: This childhood classic comes in at about 3.5 hours, so definitely one that will have to be broken up into pieces!

The Tale of Desperaux: Asante read this one last year in school, and he was eager to listen to it afterwards. The tale of a young mouse who is rejected by his family and falls in love with a Princess. This brings up some heavy topics, but it’s a beautifully told story. Asante didn’t have any trouble emotionally with this book, but there are some kids who may have a harder time dealing with some of the scenes.

Fudge series: These Judy Blume classics will be different than you remember them. I loved Judy Blume growing up, and it’s really funny to hear them again as an adult. It’s fun to pick up on the things that you wouldn’t pick up on as a child. Jake doesn’t enjoy these as much as I do, but these are fun ones for the car.

Then Underland Chronicles: This series, written by Suzanne Collins, shares how one boy who falls through a hole in his apt’s laundry room ends up trying to save a whole world underground. This tale is incredible. The whole series is about 37 hours long. We listened to this one last summer: in the evenings after dinner, on lazy rainy afternoons, and in the car traveling to and from the grandparents’ houses. Our kids really enjoyed this series, but it does certainly have some violence. You may want to look it up on commonsense media before deciding to listen to this one if you have young kids.

Magic Tree House: The well-loved books can not only be read, but listened to as well. We originally listened to each book after the kids finished reading it as a celebration, but now it’s fun to just listen anytime. Jack and Annie are fun characters who go on many magical, historically-themed adventures together! Each of these books are really close to being about an hour long.

James and the Giant Peach: Robert Dahl is fantastic, and his books have been capturing kids’ attention for years. This one is around 3 hours long and I found that my kids enjoyed this one more after watching the movie, perhaps because the movie helped them visually create a framework for what’s going on?

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: Another good one by Ronald Dahl. You’ll have fun listening to this childhood classic with your kids!






The Ideal Sunday Morning Experience for my Children

Moving comes with a set of new challenges. Finding new friends, figuring out where to grocery shop (it took me 2 whole months to realize that the giant store down the street from us is a GROCERY STORE), discovering the best library (it’s honestly one of the first things we do when moving to a new city), and … finding a church community to become a part of.

Insert spreadsheets, questions, frustrations, rants, tears, pro/con sheets, and lots and lots of prayer here. 

While lots of things go into finding a church community to be a part of, what our kids think is a huge factor in deciding what church community to join. It’s certainly not the final say for us, but their voice absolutely matters in this decision. I want them to LOVE going to the church gathering on Sunday mornings. I want them to associate the church gathering with warmth, love, and fun as they are engaging with the Scriptures in developmentally-appropriate ways.


This month the Mom Mentors at Graham Blanchard are sharing our ideal Sunday morning experiences for our kids. The one I shared combines the best of the best of all the church experiences we’ve had:

What an interesting question! I think it would be a combination of all of “the best” parts of various church experiences we’ve been a part of:

Relationships: It’s super important to me that my children know the people who are teaching them on Sunday mornings. It’s powerful to have other men and women integrated into the life of a child—these adults don’t just teach them for one or two hours on a Sunday morning, but these are men and women who show up around their dinner table or in their yard to play a family game of flag football.

Developmentally-appropriate experience: I want the Sunday church experience to be a really fun time of learning about the Bible with other kids their age in ways that make sense to them. I want my kids to LOVE gathering with the church, and I want it to be nurturing to their soul.

Community-based: Ideally the church building would be in our neighborhood, and the other kids in my children’s classes would be kids they go to school with. I would love for my kids’ spiritual formation to be so integrated that “church” isn’t something totally removed from their everyday life.

To see what other moms shared, head on over to the blog!