21 Books in 2021

At the beginning of the year I set a goal to read 21 books in 2021. The year is not over yet, but I did reach my goal! Here is what I read.

  1. Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs ⭐⭐

This book was written by the daughter of Steve Jobs and is a memoir about what life was like for her. It was interesting for sure, but it was a very odd story. It wasn’t for me.

2.  If You Lived Here You’d Be Home By Now by Christopher Ingraham⭐⭐⭐⭐

I loved this book. It was cute, funny, and lighthearted.

3. To All the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Hahn⭐⭐⭐⭐

I didn’t ever go on to read any of the other books and I haven’t watched the show, so I’m certainly not a super fan. But if you are looking for a sweet and easy YA fiction this is a good one.

4. Alone in Plain Sight by Ben Higgins ⭐⭐

I heard Ben Higgins on a podcast and fell in love with his sincerity and transparency, but unfortunately the book didn’t stick with me.

5. Meet Mrs. Smith by Anna Smith ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I LOOOVED reading this book. It felt like I was sitting across from Anna Smith drinking some coffee together and hearing about her life. If you aren’t a Delirious fan than pass on this one, but it was so delightful for me as a mom and the wife of a worship leader.

6. I am Restored by Lacrae⭐⭐⭐

I really loved Lecrae’s book Unashamed and I would read it again. This book wasn’t bad, and there were parts that really stuck out to me, but that’s about it.

7. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis⭐⭐⭐

No review needed for this classic! This was my second time reading it (this time was with the kids). I know it deserves five stars, but if I’m honest I’m just not a fan of fantasy. Not my thing.

8. Millie Maven by Ted Dekker and Rachelle Dekker ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I said I am not a fantasy fan and this book is, but I loved reading this series with the kids (there were three books total). We all enjoyed it and it is such a good metaphor for the things we face as believers. The character in this story really resonated with me.

9. Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I know I am late to the party on this one and I haven’t ever seen the movie, I enjoyed the book though.

10. Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford ⭐⭐⭐

This is some heavy material. I did appreciate hearing about this woman’s story though.

11. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I’m a sucker for entrepreneur success stories and this was a good one.

12. The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell ⭐

This book came highly recommended with thousands of five star reviews so I know I am the odd one out here, but I hated it. I read it to the very end and it was so disturbing. I felt like I needed to find an emergency memory erasing station to wash the ickiness away after reading it.

13. The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave ⭐⭐⭐

Thriller is not my usual genre, but it was entertaining to me.

14. That Sounds Fun by Annie F. Downs⭐⭐⭐⭐

This audio book felt like listening to a long podcast which was perfect for me. I loved hearing from Annie F. Downs.

15. Raising worry Free Girls by Sissy Goff ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I have recommended this book to so many people and took a gazillion notes. I need to own a copy of it to be honest.

16. Finding God in the Waves by Mike McHargue⭐⭐⭐

This book is not written from the perspective of an evangelical Christian. It’s written by a guy (someone I heard on a podcast) that lost his faith and became an atheist, but where he is at now and why. Very interesting.

17. Never Unfriended by Lisa Jo Baker ⭐⭐

I loved Lisa-Jo Baker’s book Surprised by Motherhood. This one had little bits and pieces that I gleaned from it, but I can’t say that I loved it.

18. Believe It by Jamie Kern Lima ⭐⭐⭐

I heard Jamie Kern Lima at a leadership conference and loved her! She’s so awesome. The book started getting a little boring towards the end, but I did enjoy it.

19. It Starts at Home by Kurt Brooner and Steve Stroupe⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is a book study I did with the mom’s group I’m a part of. Great for parents who really want to raise their kids in a Christ centered home.

20. Everybody Fights by Kim and Penn Holderness ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I can’t believe how much I loved this AUDIO book. I felt like they were so playful and candid during the audio version it’s hard to say how much of that was spontaneous.

21. Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson⭐⭐⭐⭐

I read this book the same time my daughter did. It was crazy to see the similarities to the year 2020 and the Coronavirus pandemic.

 

I may read a book or two before the year ends. If you have any recommendations please send them my way!

By | November 23rd, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Ten Low Budget Frozen Party Ideas

I just realized that every tip, creation, or family activity I share on Messy Mom has the word budget in there somewhere! With four kids in a one income home we are always working within a strict budget! That doesn’t mean we don’t have fun though! I honestly was ready to go to one of those places that host parties for you, but every on I looked into was over a hundred dollars and that doesn’t include, food, drinks, and cake. Plus, Elle really wanted a Frozen party so I decided to just pick up some Frozen plates, bake a cake and call it a day. But did I keep it that simple? No, I did not.

The party monster in me had to take things to the next level. It wasn’t that hard to pull off though and it definitely cost us less than a hundred dollars. Here are my top 10 ideas for this Frozen party along with links and details for those who are in planning mode.

1. Use the TV

My computer (that I am typing on right now) happens to be in our living room, but this idea could work with a smart tv just as easily. I loaded a screen saver to rotate photos of the birthday girl (we do this for all the kids on their birthday month. It’s so fun to look back). The music playing was the Frozen 1 & 2 soundtracks on Spotify.  I also used the monitor to show the new Frozen shorts that are on Disney+. This was a huge hit with the girls and a great way to pass the time while awaiting all the party guests.

Lastly, I used the monitor for Kareoke. SJ has a karaoke microphone and all of the Frozen karaoke songs are on Youtube!

2. A Frozen tree

Since we are so close to putting up our tree anyway we got the big and miniature artificial trees out and decorated them exclusively with “snow” and icicle ornaments! It really set the mood for a winter wonderland just like in Frozen.

3. Cake

I wanted to bake a cake myself and I have all the ideas on my Pinterest board, but in the end it was a better choice to order one from Walmart. It turned out super cute. For $23 I got a cake that served 12 and 12 cupcakes with rings and a topper that is a little keep sake. Baking cakes yourself is a great way to save money, but this was a great thing to splurge on this year for my sanity’s sake.

4. Printables*

I printed out food tents for EVERYTHING! It makes the whole theme so festive. I love this kind of thing. For the record, we don’t even have a colored printer. I just go to the library and spend a few cents per page! *Scroll to the bottom of this post to access my printables. We also had this hilarious sign on the bathroom which my older daughter made.

 

5. Frozen decor pack

Similar to the cake, this is something that I did not DIY. I just bought a pack of Frozen party supplies  on Amazon for $28.99 and it came with this awesome photo backdrop, a pennant banner, table cloth, plates, napkins, forks etc. I just used plain cups, plates, and napkins to fill in since the party pack didn’t cover it all.

6. Elsa punch

I looked up a recipe for blue lemonade and put it in this drink dispenser that I have. The problem is it has to be elevated so we sat it on top of a flour container and covered it with fake snow cloth! I eventually moved it to the kitchen counter but it served it’s purpose.

7. SNOW

I wanted to buy a kit that makes 10 gallons of a snow like substance, but my practical husband drew the line there and I’m glad he did! Ha! Instead, we just made snow flakes from paper and used a cheap can of spray snow and window clings for the windows. It was so pretty!

8. Snowflake cookies

The night before the party we made sugar cookies with a snowflake cookie cutter that I already owned.

 

 

The blue sprinkles and frosting made it the perfect Frozen party craft!

9. Elsa Costume

I actually got this costume free from IKali Costumes as part of a blogging collaboration, but she has worn it so many times that even if I had spent money on it it would have been worth it. I had the photos from when I did the ad fro Ikali and used them for the welcome sign and her evite (also free and they have a knock off Frozen invitation design!)

10. Tiara and Makeup

I don’t usually let my six year old wear make up but my mom gave her this present on her actual birthday (a couple of days before the party). It was on her Amazon registry (another birthday tip if you are looking for an easy way to get birthday lists out and make sure there are no duplicates). Anyway it’s not official Frozen, but it’s still what Elle has repeatedly described as the best present ever. So there is a gift idea of little Frozen fans.

That’s it. We ate lunch, cake, and opened presents. Elle thanked me over and over for the party and I had fun throwing it. To buy everything licensed Frozen could have been a pricey, but because it was also a snow theme it made it doable, especially this close to Christmas.

Hope these Frozen tips are helpful. I know it’s a bit of a hodge podge (I am the MESSY mom, it will not be precise), but if you happen to need some free printables, *click here for a downloadable PDF of what I threw together for the food tents. The free font that I used is called “Ice Kingdom” and some of them were free printables from other blogs.

 

By | November 16th, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Our Love Story (according to my high school diary)


Summer 1997

I was 15 when I moved to Texas. We joined a very small church south of Dallas and I was miserable.

Jeremy was a 21 year old college student at that time, and part of a singing group. He also became a part of the same very small church that I went to because they were in need of a volunteer worship leader and he was their answer to prayer.

When I met Jeremy I was initially impressed by his sense of style. He had that 1990’s American Eagle look- sweater vest, carpenter jeans, and chunky Doc martins. His hair was parted down the middle and fell right at his cheek bones.

He sang and played guitar, which was cool. He was also sensitive, popular, and most importantly he loved the Lord. The only mark I had against him was his disinterest in punk and ska music. Of course, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t see him as a candidate for a potential life partner. I was 15, and at the time 6 years was the equivalent of 2 decades. I always had some sort of admiration for him though. I even remember telling one of my friends “Jeremy is a really cool guy and if he wasn’t so OLD I’d marry him.”

 1997-1999

The next few years Jeremy and I got to know one another a lot more. I was able to open up to him. This meant that I would tell him endless stories about the guys I liked that came in and out of my life. One after the other I would fall head over heals for someone other than Jeremy.

I was never serious with any of them, but I might of fell into the category of “boy crazy”. One time a guy broke up with me and I felt so upset I called my mom from school to tell her I was sick and needed to come home. She was working so she called the church to see if our pastor could help out. Who would show up to rescue the pitiful, broken hearted, 16 year old? None other than her dear friend Jeremy.

I pouted all the way home. Jeremy saw through my performance and said “you’re not really sick are you?” so I broke down and told him everything. Here is an except of a journal entry from that day.

“Jeremy and I talked and it made me feel a lot better. I think that there is much more of an understanding between us now. He has made me realize a lot. We talked for a few hours. Time always flies when I am talking to Jeremy. Except, he thinks I shouldn’t date and I say maybe I won’t date anyone at this moment, but I am not totally anti-dating like Jeremy is.”

1999-2000

I may have had my little relationships throughout high school, but that is not to say that Jeremy didn’t have his own love triangle. Girls flocked to him and he didn’t exactly shy away from the attention. And for someone who had no feelings for him whatsoever, I sure did let it bother me. In fact half the time my feelings toward him were nothing short of hostile. I think you would define what we had as a love/hate relationship.

I don’t think there is any better way to tell this part of the story than to let my journal entries speak for themselves . If they don’t make sense it’s because I was a very confused 17 year old trying to deny the fact that I was jealous of Jeremy hanging out with another girl, who for the purposes of this blog we will call “Christy”. I am well aware of how ridiculous I sound in all of these confessions, but I do appreciate the honesty, passion, and intensity of my emotions back then. Unfortunately it was all overshadow by a heap of confusion. I guess sometimes that’s just the way love is.

1-03-00
“Today we saw Toy Story 2 for the second time and Jeremy came with us. Jeremy is so weird. I love him but sometimes I just wish I could figure him out. He will be really cool to me one day and ignore me the next. Right now he is fine, but he never tells me what he is doing. Not that it is any of my business, but it just seems like it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.”

1-07-00
“Today Jeremy and some other friends were over and I will admit they get on my nerves a lot. I guess because Jeremy and I used to be close but now it’s all just a joke. We make shots at each other and that is like our whole relationship.”

1-18-00
“Jeremy and Christy were over again and they are really close now. I doubt they would ever admit to it being anything more than friends, but I don’t know, either way I say take your flirtyness and get out of my house with it! Okay I understand I am being mean, but I have a good explanation if I could get into it.”

1-25-00
“Today Jeremy was fairly nice to me. He apologized for being rude and it made me want to cry. I still think he hates me though.”

1-30-00
“Jeremy and I are cool now. We went shopping together after school and talked a lot about him and Christy and why they get on my nerves sometimes.”

2-08-00
“On Friday Jeremy and Christy were as clingy as ever. Everything is cleared up between me and them, but I have to admit I still get very annoyed by them. My mom doesn’t understand why I am bitter but she doesn’t see the same side of Jeremy as I do, but don’t get me wrong I love the guy to death and I would do anything for him.”

The next journal entry changes everything! Just to fill in some of the gaps here Craig  is a guy that had been interested in me. We had gone out a few times, and he was perfect boyfriend material, but I just never felt connected with him.

2-15-00

“Yesterday was absolutely horrible. I had no valentine and was exhausted from working ALL WEEKEND. I got home from school and I just went in my room and cried. Then my mom came in and told me I had a visitor. It was Craig so I tried to pull myself together and went out there, and we talked for a long time.
You know what? I know I’ve been acting weird and emotional. I’ve just felt different lately. So I am going to leave out all of the details of my lame teenage life for just a moment. I may get to talking about it all sooner or later, but for now I am just going to write.
Jeremy is sick tonight. He just has the flu, but I feel bad for him. I know I have said a lot of mean things about him but he is the greatest guy I have ever known (or at least one of). I love him very much in a way that I cannot explain. It’s not romantic love, or brotherly love, or even friendly love, I don’t know what it is but I care about him a lot and it kills me to see him sick.”


So that was it, that was the moment that everything changed. There I was just scribbling away as usual and suddenly, I just couldn’t do it anymore. Jeremy felt bad and I felt bad for him, deeply.
I would have never remembered any of that or even known that it had happened if I hadn’t written it down. Eventually things came out in the open between Jeremy and I. He proposed to me in the summer and we married in the fall. I know it’s crazy, but that’s our real life story. Four kids and 21 years later, I make no apologies.

By | November 4th, 2021|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Vacation Photos Behind the Scenes

I know not everything you see on social media represents the reality of peoples lives and I’m okay with that. I talked about this social media facade in a blog post I wrote back in 2018 and I feel like it bears repeating.

“As a small time blogger, or even just a girl on Facebook, I am selective about what I post online. I think it’s okay to show a curated life to a broad audience! On the one hand, I want to keep it real with a blog name like MESSY mom and blog posts like the one where I had a nervous breakdown, but on the other hand I don’t need to air out all my dirty laundry. I save that for the people I love most. I know that sounds funny but it’s true. I have intimacy with those that I am actually connected with.

The more intimacy we have with someone the more vulnerable and transparent we are, to the point that in sexual intimacy we actually take off ALL the layers and are completely exposed.  Intimacy doesn’t have to be sexual though. Intimacy can be sharing tears, or scars, or memories. Intimacy is a closeness and a connection that is always mutual. If it’s not mutual then it’s not intimacy.”

The reason I bring this up is because I posted all of my favorite photos and videos from our fall break family retreat on both Facebook and Instagram and some on Messy Mom.Those photos were the highlights. Was it an awesome trip? YES! Do I feel like God truly gave us favor with everything from the lodging to our health? YES! Our family agrees that we made treasured memories that will last a lifetime.

Now I am going to get real here on Messy Mom. Did my teenage son suggest we should not go on a trip and just stay home before we left? Yes he did. Did I almost cry when my all of my family got frustrated and complained when I did a family photo session? Yep, that happened. There was boredom in the car and sibling rivalry splattered throughout our whole trip. In fact at one point around the camp fire J thought it would be a good idea for us all to take turns saying something nice about each other.

One of the nice things one of the kids said was “She is good at being a terrible sibling”. Those weren’t the exact words, but there was definitely a backhanded compliment or two. I lost my cool eventually and shouted something to the effect of “Can’t you all just be nice for once!? Your dad and I are trying. We are desperately trying to the point that we brought you all the way out to the middle of Amish country hoping you would change!” It got ugly, but then I calmed down and J and I began to speak truth and God given destiny over each one of them. There were happy tears (even from the kids) and hugs that really broke through all of the junk we had been dealing with. It was good. We know that all the bickering and car sickness that it took to get there was worth it. It’s not a Hallmark movie that has a picture perfect conclusion, but it was a wonderful retreat with people that I really love.

I was sharing some of my behind the scenes vacation struggles with a  friend who is a a grandma now and she thanked me for my openness. She said when she sees the vacation photos on social media she sometimes wonders what they did wrong! I assured her she did nothing wrong and my guess is everyone has melt downs in Disney World at some point. In fact I have the privilege as a photographer to get a front row seat to some of the family realness. I love the cheery photos of everyone in sweaters grinning from ear to ear, but there is almost always a disgruntled teenager, bored husband, or cranky toddler. The ring leader is usually a mom who is begging them to just cooperate for one stinking minute to get a decent photo. Then she slips me extra cash to make her look skinny in the photos. Just kidding. I get that request more often than I can count, but no one has ever offered me money to do it.

The moral of the story is keep sharing those beautiful happy moments and realize that you are not the only one who has some pretty rough outtakes.

By | October 27th, 2021|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Traveling With a Big Family on a Budget

Traveling with more than four people can be expensive and complicated! At least that’s what I’ve found. Usually we go camping or stay at friends’ houses and that helps with lodging costs. Then most recently I wrote about scoring a deal on a room at Great Wolf Lodge, but now I have another option to add to the list of frugal getaways and that’s Airbnb!

I have stayed in Airbnbs in the past but this was the first time we did it as a family and I really can’t say enough good things about how it turned out.

First of all we were a little flexible with our dates so that helped bring the costs down. We were also flexible about where we wanted to go. I didn’t want to drive more than four hours, but living in Cincinnati we had multiple states to choose from. In the end J found an amazing little cottage on some farmland in Fremont Indiana.

There was a deal going for $88 a night and they didn’t even have a cleaning fee (which most Airbnbs do). With taxes and fees it was $110 a night. I know that’s still a lot of money and there is no way we could have done long trip at that rate, but you have to admit it’s a steal. We would have paid that much for a decent hotel, but with the cottage we got so much more! This was our room.

This was the girls room.

The boys slept on an air mattress in the living room.

On top of that we saved so much money because I brought food that I prepared ahead of time at home. I did a similar concept at Great Wolf, but this time I had a full kitchen to work with. Not only that, but it was my dream kitchen!

I was even able to pack meals for when we left the cottage. Our next camping gear investment is going to be one of those coolers that keep food cold for days, but since we had a full size refrigerator I didn’t have to worry about that too much this time.

Another thing that camping, and GWL have in common with this Airbnb is that the entertainment is included on site. We definitely left the cottage to go to some local farms and orchards,

but we ended up doing far less excursions than we planned. We were content to play games, chill out, and hang out by the fire.

When we did go out there were plenty of activities on the road trip there and back that were free!

I would describe this fall break as a once in a lifetime trip, but hopefully this type of trip will happen more than once.

By | October 21st, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Ring Fit Adventure

We are Officially in the final quarter of 2021! Did that seem to fly by to anyone else? Whoa.

One of the goals I set for myself was to “Continue on Our health journey“. My specific S.M.A.R.T. goal was to “Exercise for 20 minutes, 4 times a week.” I knew it was a tad bit below the recommended amount and I was setting the bar low. But I wanted to make it realistic for someone who has never constantly worked out in her life.

So at the beginning of the year I finally got the Ring Fit Adventure, which is a game for the Nintendo Switch.

It’s a lot like Wii Fit if you are familiar with that. I’ll admit that the Ring Fit is probably not the most challenging or rigorous regimen. Fitness experts would more than likely critique my form, but I say it’s better than nothing and it’s been working great for me! I have been known to strike a tree pose randomly at anytime anywhere!

When I claim that’s it’s working, I don’t mean I have noticed a difference in my tone, stamina, and I was never trying to loose weight. I do feel like am more aware of my posture and most importantly I have come to actually want to work out and that’s saying a lot. I bought myself some knock off Beats and I have my fitness playlist on Spotify and that time that I have in front of the TV doing ridiculous moves and defeating monsters is my alone time.

As you can see I am WAY ahead of my family with over 31 hours, 6,075 calories burned, and over 58 miles in distance running. Those stats are conservative too, because it only counts what you do in “adventure mode” there are stretches and work outs that are not included in this log.

I official “conquered” the game back in June, but since then I have been going through all of the levels again to try to complete each challenge in full, which I didn’t do the first time. I’ve done the game 145 times in 277 days so it’s not quite 4 times a week, but there are rare occasions that I work out in other ways and there were weeks that I was away from the Switch. So when you look at it that way it’s mission accomplished so far! I don’t have any photos of me doing Ring Fit (thank goodness) but this photo shows what it is what it’s like. You have to complete the moves that the avatar demonstrates and as you do you get further in the game. If you can’t beat the monsters you are defeated and have to try again.

I am really glad I invested in the Ring Fit. It was worth it. I like that it logs your information as you go. I don’t have a fitbit or smartwatch (and I don’t really want one) so this is a nice feature. 

Even with this 5 positive review of the adventure game I’m ready for something new. I feel like I am not as motivated since I “conquered” the game. I really want to stay healthy though and continue to strive toward a new fitness goal. I know a lot of people that love the Pelotonin, but that’s not in the budget, and it’s really not my thing. I don’t want to take the time to leave the house and go to the gym. I love dance fitness so that’s an option. For now I’ll just stick with Ring Fit, but if anyone has some suggestions I’d love to heart them!

By | October 4th, 2021|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Our 2012 Vaccine Choice

First of all, I am an enneagram 9. For those that aren’t familiar with the enneagram, nines hate conflict. I get so uncomfortable with confrontation of any kind. So this is not something I want to jump on the wagon and discuss publicly, but I’m going to brave because when I stumbled upon an old blog post coincidentally (I wasn’t looking for it and I don’t remember writing it) my husband said I should share it again. Here is some of what I wrote in March 2012 on MessyMom.com, in a blog post titled “Our Vaccine Choice“.

I took the kids in for their first well-child check up since we’ve moved. I wanted to make sure that we had a primary caregiver lined up before we actually NEEDED one. Besides that, SJ is two now, and for us that means it’s time to start immunizations. With Z this was a very positive experience and I even saved the band aid and put it in his baby book. Unfortunately this time was not as happy go lucky.
We were very open with the Doctor about our choice to delay vaccines, but that we were ready to get started with SJ and continue on with Z, and were interested in doing that at this visit. So the Doctor said that she was fine with that and that we would make up a schedule, but that it would take some time because they won’t be able to get all caught up in one day. Of course not, I said, the last thing I want is to give them a bunch of shots at once. And while I thought she was going to come back with a chart for us to discuss a schedule like I did with our previous pediatrician instead a nurse came in with a bunch of papers with information on all the different shots (7 to be exact) they were going to get.
I said “no, no, no, no, no… who are these for?” and she said “your children, they are way behind and these are the immunizations that the doctor has ordered up for me to give to them.” I tried to stay calm and explain that I was not interested in bombarding my children with a ton of shots all at once. We went back and forth for a bit, but I ended with, “I understand what you are trying to do, and I know that they are behind and it will take a long time for them to be caught up, but I am in no hurry and I feel comfortable starting with one for SJ and seeing how she handles it.”
I’ve watched a couple different Vaccine documentaries. One called Vaccines: what the CDC documents and science reveal and The Vaccine War that was featured on PBS. I read, and own, the book on Vaccines by Dr. Caves, along with countless articles from unbiased magazines. I’ve also read online articles by Dr. Miller and Dr. Sears. We’ve had several health care providers (from Texas, thank you very much) be involved in our delayed vaccine choices. I am grateful for vaccines and what they have done for society, but it also seems to be that too much of a good thing can be dangerous. I am not an expert, but J and I do try to stay current on the information that is available to us and reevaluate our decision periodically, but what the nurse I dealt with yesterday may not realize, is that it is not a choice that we have made blindly. I am grateful to live in a free country where we have the right to choose and make informed decision. This is something I will continue to fight for so that my children and grandchildren will also have these rights no matter what!
So you can see why this post from 2012 might be correlate with the situation we are in now in 2021. I know more people who are vaccinated than those who are not. I support everyone’s right to choose. My husband and I, along with our teenage son are not vaccinated. We all got Covid about a year ago.
 I would estimate at least 80% of the people I know personally, excluding young children, have had Covid at this point and no one in my close circle was hospitalized, but I do know of three people who were.  I’m just sharing a snapshot of what covid has looked like for me, it’s not a scientific study. I have a distant friend who lost her dad to Covid in April of 2020. It was heart breaking. Someone else I know in my community lost her husband to Covid recently. That was also heartbreaking. He was vaccinated by the way. No doubt we could sit and talk for hours about all the different sides of things. I still stand by what I said in 2012 though, “I am grateful to live in a free country where we have the right to choose [whether or not to vaccinate] and make informed decision. This is something I will continue to fight for so that my children and grandchildren will also have these rights no matter what!”
By | September 17th, 2021|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Great Wolf Lodge Homeschool Days!

Last year we took our family to Great Wolf Lodge in Mason Ohio for $100 and it was such a cool experience. The six of us can’t even go to a water park for a hundred bucks let alone get all the extras that come with a Great Wolf Lodge Resort getaway. The way we scored this deal was through online coupon codes from a homeschool group on Facebook. I’m sure any hotel or resort is willing to slash their standard rates for those that are traveling off season though.

The first time we went was in November and then again in May. There is a deal going on next week for the Mason (Cincinnati) location for Homeschool Spirit week!

 

It really is $99 no strings attached! The resort fees are waved and while you can always upgrade or do add-ons you don ‘t have to! I know this low-cost vacation planning isn’t for everybody, but if you are like me and you have a large family and a small budget you may want to check out some of my tips. This is how we had a great time on a dime.

First of all, the day of check-in you can arrive as early at 1:00 pm to start your water park fun. Check-in isn’t until 4:00, but you can get your water park passes and leave your stuff in the car until it’s time to go to your room.

There are lots of “dry” activities like mini golf, arcades, and more but it all costs extra. Our kids knew ahead of time we were going to be spending most of our time at the water park, which wasn’t a problem because it’s hours of fun for all ages.

On top of the water park everyone gets free wolf ears all you have to do is ask for them at the gift shop. You can also get a free button if it’s your birthday.

There are also activities like puppet shows and pajama parties.

When we went we had to sign up for these things ahead of time. Your receptionist will probably offer the schedule, but if they don’t you can ask what free shows and activities there are. There are usually several throughout the day.

Another way we cut cost was bringing our own food. You certainly can eat there. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from, but they have the amusement park prices too. We packed our own food in a cooler and it was perfect because even the smallest family suites are a decent size with a table, microwave, some counter space, and mini fridge.

I used my camping tricks and pre made croissant sandwiches to heat in the microwave for breakfast.

My kids loved them and one said “No offense mom, but these are even better than yours!” They thought it was take out because we were eating in the hotel! That’s how good it was. I also had preportioned fruit salad and Hawaiian roll sandwiches.

No coolers are allowed in the water park, but you can bring insulated bags and that worked great for us.

You could rent a cabana and honestly that would not be a bad idea! Early in the day the tables and chairs are extremely hard to come by. One time we just stacked our bags against a wall and played in the water until something became available. The point is you don’t HAVE to spend the extra money. We did four days of Great Wolf Lodge just fine with the basic package. Even towels and life vest are included!

While researching how to spend less at Great Wolf Lodge I saw a tip online about bringing a stuffed wolf so that your kids don’t beg to buy one. First of all, just say no, ha ha or don’t. The wolf stuffed animals are cute and kind of like build-a-bear if that’s the route you want to take. I decided for our birthday girl that I would do the tip that I saw online and got a wolf from Walmart for way less and she still loves that toy she affectionately calls Little Howler.

We don’t ever go to hotels as a family so my standards probably aren’t high, but I was very impressed with the rooms. My oldest slept on the couch and was also able to do his school work while we were there.

You could easily spend $1,000 on a two day/one night trip like this for a family of 6. We were able to do for 10% of that!


If you are homeschooling and can swing an off season trip like this I highly recommend you take advantage of it. I have several friends who have and everyone said the same thing. This Homeschool deal is a steal!

By | September 10th, 2021|Uncategorized|3 Comments

CAMPING

It’s almost fall!!! 23 days away to be exact. I have a countdown on my phone, that’s how much I geek out about the fall season. We like camping year round, but autumn is by far our favorite. I know there are plenty of families that camp more than we do and probably have better setups, but we have come a long way my friends. So I decided to piece together some  hacks/tips/equipment that have worked well for us.

We even did a cheesy little video to show how we roll when we go camping. This was a precovid trip with my oldest son manning the camera.

And here are some of our must-haves

  1. Tent

So a tent is an obvious must have unless you are in a camper or want to sleep under the stars. This tent is amazing, and I am not an affiliate (for any item on this list by the way). It is the Coleman Weathermaster and it technically sleeps 10, but I wouldn’t count on that unless you are lined up in a row with nothing but sleeping bags.

2. Fully Stocked Camping Bins

If you have some storage room, or even if you don’t but you pile stuff up Jenga style in your garage like we do then I recommend having camping totes full of everything you need. Rather than take your dish soap, spatulas, or anything else from your kitchen just have a stash of everything you need and keep it in the bin. It takes time to get the collection complete. We are still working on ours. A great place to look for those extra kitchen items though is yard sales and thrift stores. We got all of our knifes, pots, kettle, mugs etc used. You are going to be roughing it anyway so no need to purchase anything fru-fru.

 

3. Air mattress

 

We are partially glampers. I’ll admit it. You do whatever works best for your family, but if you are looking for a sturdy self inflating (while plugged in) mattress, this is the one we use. J and I got a good laugh about the photoshopped girls. Insert eye roll here.

4. french press, kettle, and bean grinder

I already addressed the glamping stigma so now it’s safe to admit that we have fresh roasted coffee over the campfire every morning. Ahhh. It will take up space so you have to be a hard core coffee drinker to make this a priority, but we have an extra french press that stays in the camping bin, a hand crank bean grinder, and kettle with no plastic parts. If it’s cold don’t forget the little ones who may want some hot chocolate while you’re at it.

 

5. Roof Rack and Cargo carrier

We get comments on our cargo rack all the time. It helps me identify our van in a parking lot. Quick side story: one time I pulled into a parking next to van just like ours with a roof rack just like ours!

This bad boy works for toting coolers with a bungie cord or a giant luggage bag to keep all your suitcases inside or often a combination of both.

6. Lots of light!

Every camper needs light, and don’t forget batteries too. Here are just a few of the ones we own.

7. Camp Fire Grill

We’ve done a variety of setups for cooking over the fire, but this grill we got from Walmart has been pretty handy.

8. Sheets

It never hurts to have an extra sheet in your camp stash. You may end up needing it for bedding, or a faux wall if someone needs to change or go potty in the woods. It can also be used for a beach blanket or table cloth. I can think of more uses, but I’ll leave it at that.

9. Fire Mitts

We used a cheap oven mitt before realizing we needed something more substantial when cooking over a fire. These were a worthwhile investment.

10. Cat Iron Skillets

Nothing beats bacon and eggs in a cast iron skillet over an open flame. Definitely a camping must!

 

So there ya go, an inside look at how we do fall camping. If you are more a beach camper check out this post

By | September 1st, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Moms Group

In February I read a book called “Never Unfriended” by Lisa Jo Baker. The subtitle is “The Secret to Finding and Keeping Lasting Friendships”. Most of my life I have been blessed with a great community and group of girls supporting me from a young age. Listening to this audio book got me looking back on significant friendships throughout my life.

My very first best friend, and eventually the maid of honor in my wedding, was my next door neighbor when I was a kid.

We moved away from Kentucky to Georgia when I was 11.  I struggled with fitting in there because I was  small town girl going from a private christian school to a public school in the Atlanta suburbs. I was innocent, niave and I didn’t care about boys or makeup like a lot of the other girls. I got plugged in at church though and eventually saw a girl from my church at school. I said “Hey, were you at RCG on Sunday?” and she said “Yeah that was me”. I told her “I could tell, because I recognize your shoes.” How awkward is that?

Anyway, we became very close friends and eventually she would also be a bridesmaid in my wedding. Then we moved AGAIN. This time from Atlanta to Dallas my freshman year. I hated it. I didn’t want to be there and I was going into that angsty punk teenage stage. I didn’t dress gothic or anything but I did listen to punk music. A Christian punk band that I liked was coming to town and because I couldn’t drive and had no friends I went with my dad. First of all, LAME. Second, I realize now how awesome my dad is that he would take the time to go to a punk rock show with his daughter. He hated the music and everything about that scene but he knew how hard this move was for me. The next day at school a girl named Heather said “Hey, did I see you at the Value Pac concert last night?” I was like “YES! You were there? Wasn’t it awesome?” and a friendship was born. 

Fast forward many many years later to when I was a mother of three once again living in a new state feeling very alone. This time it was Ohio. This time it wasn’t so easy to get connected. Women my age seemed to already have their circle established and I was busy tending to the needs of three young children 24/7. It was one the loneliest, most challenging seasons of my life. I had no one close to turn to. It wasn’t until I started going to a moms’ group at my church that I really started to form friendships and feel like I had a community. As I was reminiscing all of these milestones of relationships in my life God really started to tug on my heart and it was undeniable. I was feeling called to start up a moms’ group.

Our pastor sent out emails about life groups and although I had the opportunity to be a leader, I never signed up. I was homeschooling and I had no money to do anything fun or special with the group. I couldn’t shake this feeling though. All of the groups and rooms were assigned and the meeting for the group leaders was already scheduled. I went ahead and asked my pastor if it was possible for me to come to this informational life group meeting even though I wasn’t signed up to be a leader. Of course he said yes. 

At the meeting he shared what life groups were about the Lord began to tug on my heart even more. I knew that there would be women in what I call “the trenches of motherhood” just like I was at that point in my life that need a community, a prayer partner, or a friend. Motherhood is beautiful but it can also be overwhelming.  Moms are NEVER alone, not even to pee, and yet it can be an extremely isolating season. I couldn’t ignore the call anymore and I did a late sign up to start a group. 

Hebrews 10:24-25 says “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (NIV)

That was my vision for the group. In my dream world there would be decorations, child care, cutesy snacks, and COFFEE. I didn’t have any of that though. I was totally winging it, but I believed that God could use this little group to reach out to moms who needed encouragement.

We met up weekly that spring and I am happy to report that God showed up! It was so great that we are going to start again this fall!

Most of the time we met up in the preschool room with all of the kiddos running around and playing while we talked, did a Bible study, and prayed for specific needs.

We had a few “excursions” and those were a lot of fun too.

One cool opportunity that we had was to get carseats for some local teens that were pregnant and aging out of foster care. I got to go to the shower for these teen moms and we all prayed for them and wrote words of encouragement from one mom to another.

Maybe someday we will have more resources for our group to have childcare or even more elaborate gatherings, but I am so glad I didn’t wait for the perfect timing or circumstances to actually take that step of faith. I hope that my story is a reminder that sometimes you have to just go for it! It’s not too late! I also pray that if you are a mom looking to connect you
don’t give up. There are MOPS groups, churches, and playdates available almost everywhere. God doesn’t want you to be alone. For those moms who have a great group already (like I felt) be on the look out for those who don’t. Be the one who invites others in! Friendliness goes a long way.

By | August 25th, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments