Wednesday, May 25, 2016

5 Ways to Make the Most of This Summer

The countdown is on!!

We are wholeheartedly looking forward to the end of the school year.  Just six more days to go!

While I have created a summer learning program and written out reading lists for my girls, I know that within the first week, things can take a turn for the worse!  Settling into a different routine and figuring out the best way to spend our less-regulated days can take a little getting used to.

However, I'm hoping to remind myself often of these five ways I can make the most of these few months.  When school starts again in late August, I want us to look back over a summer in which we'll have created new memories and just enjoyed being together.


1.  Realize that my children will never be this age again.  This is the only summer ever that I'll have a 13-year-old daughter and a 15-year-old daughter living in our house.  We'll be spending a lot more hours of our day together than we have over the past nine months, so I want to enjoy what they're enjoying in this season.  I also want to seize opportunities to teach them things they need to learn at these ages, while appreciating their individuality as I see how God has made them and work to develop the strengths He's given them. 

2.  Understand that our days will not all unfold exactly as I planned.  We all know I'm a planner; I like to have a schedule to follow.  But summer has a way of throwing a wrench in my well-thought-out plans, whether it's the weather or someone getting sick or friends canceling a get-together.  I'm hoping that I'll see these disruptions as God's hand at work and move on to plan B without too many issues!

3.  Consciously choose my attitude each day. This especially comes into play when #2 happens! I can be grumpy about having to drive the girls somewhere on days I want to stay home.  I can go off like a firecracker when they start arguing.  I can wish that we'd made different plans for the summer.  Or, I can choose joy and gratitude, and try to pass those feelings on to them.

4.  Include what works for our family, not anyone else's.  Maybe friends are doing crafts every day or going to really cool camps or doing family campouts out in the backyard.  (I'm allergic to tents ;) Those are all good, fun things, but they may not be what our family enjoys or what fits into our lifestyle.  We like backyard badminton and cornhole; homemade ice cream in our simple Cuisinart ice cream maker; a family game night; an after-supper trip to Dairy Queen; or watching reruns of old TV shows on MeTV.  You do what works for your family without comparing it to what others are doing..

5.  Know that God has something He wants to teach me each and every day.  Whether it's patience or forgiveness or grace, I want to be more like Him when this summer is over.  Sometimes I struggle with being faithful in my Bible study and prayer when our regular schedule is disrupted.  I don't want that to be the case this summer.  In fact, I'm hoping that doing a devotional with our daughters will keep us accountable to each other!

Whenever you begin your summer break, I hope that this season will be a wonderful time for you and your family!

What other ideas do you have to help us make the most of this summer?

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Saturday Salutes


Kari reminds us that Character is More Important Than Winning.

All moms - and especially those with young children - should check out 13 Danger Signs Your Child is Your Idol. 

Rebekah shares 8 Secrets to Keeping Tweens and Teens in the Family.

Lisa-Jo tells us How I Get My Big Kids to Open Up to Me.

I've tried a couple of new recipes recently that turned out really well.  We were given a cooler-full of frozen garden vegetables by a sweet older couple in our church.   I used some of the corn in this Cream Corn Like No Other and it was delicious!!

I also ended up with a random block of cream cheese and decided we needed a dessert in the house last weekend.  I found this recipe for Cream Cheese Brownies; they were easy to make and very yummy!

Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Summer Reading: 16 Books for My Teenage Girls

In what is becoming an annual tradition, I've spent the last several weeks compiling a list of books for our girls to read this summer.

While our daughters normally read a lot of fiction - just as I did when I was their age! - we like to steer them toward quality, non-fiction books that will help them grow spiritually and mentally when they have extra reading time in the summer.

We've adopted an idea from Dave Ramsey to pay our kids to read these books and write a report on them.  Since we start this process when they're 13, it will be the first summer for our younger daughter and the third for our older daughter.

Both girls are going to do the same devotional book, then have individual lists for their other reading.

(This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, I’ll receive a small percentage from any sales.  This does not affect your price in any way.)


Devotional:  Just Us Girls:  A Bible Study on Being God's Girl in Middle School by Hannah Duggan.  (Just to put this out there - the title of the first chapter includes a slang word that we wouldn't allow our girls to say, but they're old enough to handle reading it without going around repeating it!)  This book is written in a style that I think my girls will really relate to.  The author deals directly with so many of the things they're facing at these ages.  The chapters on "The Love of Your Life" and "Beauty and the Best" are especially excellent! 

Due to the layout of the book, I"m going to have them read a chapter each Sunday afternoon.  At the end of each chapter is a five-day devotional section, so on Monday through Friday, they'll read that day's verse and answer the questions in a journal I'll give them.  Each Friday, we'll sit down and talk about what they've learned that week.

Here's what on the reading list for my 13-year-old.

1.  Heaven for Kids by Randy Alcorn.
2.  So You're About to Be a Teenager by Dennis Rainey.  (Full disclosure - I bought this book inexpensively and ended up tearing out a couple of chapters as I felt they dealt with certain subjects in more detail than I was ready to allow.)
3.  Kisses from Katie by Katie J. Davis
4.  A Young Woman's Call to Prayer by Elizabeth George
5.  Do Hard Things by Alex Harris
6.  The Making of a Young Entrepreneur by Gabrielle Jordan
7.  Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss

And here's what my 15-year-old will be reading.

1.  The Power of a Praying Teen by Stormie O'Martian
2.  It's Not About Me:  Live Like You Mean It (Teen Edition) by Max Lucado
3.  Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose
4.  A Young Woman's Walk with God by Elizabeth George
5.  The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly
6.  I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris
7.  Graceful by Emily Freeman

Bonus Book Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy.  If the girls want an extra book to read, this is an easy read with a valuable lesson.

I need to add more titles to my Pinterest board of Books for My Teen Girls to Read, so if you have any suggestions, please let me know!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Summer Learning Program for 2016

Two and a half weeks.

That's how long we have left before my girls get out of school for the summer.

Which means that my summer planning gene has kicked into high gear.

Each year I write about the summer learning program I put together for our daughters.  While I thought it was important when they were younger, I think it's just as important now that they're teenagers!  I need to have a plan to keep them occupied (unless they're working) - for at least a little part of the day with activities and projects that are profitable.

If you'd like to read more about this idea, check out How to Plan a Summer Learning Program for Your Kids.  That post includes links to my learning programs from 2009-2012.  Links to the following years can be found by clicking 2013, 2014, and 2015.

As a reminder, we're not rigid about this.  We have plenty of days that start with a swim in the neighborhood pool and are followed by pulling out a movie to watch together in the afternoon.  However, I like to have stay-at-home days at least a couple of times a week, and on those days, we set a time to begin in the morning and work our way through the plan.

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Here's what I'll have my girls doing.

Daily: 
  • Devotional - 10 minutes (I'll share more on what we're using in Friday's post.)
  • Piano practice - 30 minutes
  • Khan Academy (math review) - 20 minutes
  • Typing Instructor (for my 13-year-old), Word/Excel tutorials (for my 15-year-old) - 15 minutes
  • Cleaning project (drawers/closet/under bed/blinds/, etc.) - 15 minutes

Weekly:
  • Read book for book report*
  • Prepare one supper for the family
  • Laundry (they'll each be doing their own laundry for the summer)

*Once our girls become teenagers, we give them a list of books that are their "required reading" for the summer.  They have to write a simple, one-page report on what they learn from each book - and they get paid when they hand me the report at the end of the week.  (Just a little incentive to make it not seem quite so "school-like!")  I'll be sharing this year's reading lists on Friday.

So that's the initial plan.  Right now, it looks like we have seven weeks where we're not traveling and/or the girls aren't at camps.  I'm getting excited about having our kids at home and seeing what they'll learn this summer!

How about you?  Do you plan activities or set a routine for the summer or just take each day as it comes?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Does My Prayer Request Pass These Tests?

"It's imperative to distinguish between your will and God's will.  Every prayer, including your prayers for your children, must pass a twofold litmus test:  Your prayers must be in the will of God and for the glory of God." ~Mark Batterson in Praying Circles Around Your Children

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I've written a lot on this blog about praying for our children.  I've shared how I like to make monthly prayer lists for current needs in my girls' lives and I've shared prayers that I've written in different seasons. And just last week I talked about prayer being the most important thing we can do for them.

The quote above reminds me that, as I pray, it's good to filter my requests through these two tests.

1.  Is my prayer in God's will?  Here's where knowing the Bible ties in to our prayer life.  For example, I know from His Word that it's God's will for my children to be saved.  I know that He wants them to show the fruit of the spirit in their lives, to be kind to others (including their siblings ;), to share their faith, to obey their parents and other authorities.  The list could go on and on! 

Maybe, however, I'm burdened to pray for a need, but I'm not sure exactly how to pray.  I can be thankful that, first of all, the Holy Spirit intercedes for me when I don't know what to pray!  (Romans 8:26-27) 

Then I can ask myself, am I praying for what I want for my children, or am I truly asking for His will to be done?  Whether it's praying for the right teacher, the right friend, the right classmates, the right spouse, the right career, I want what God wants for my child as I know that He loves her more than I do and will always do what's best for her.

2.  Is my prayer for God's glory?  Sometimes I might want a request answered so that I can bring attention to myself - or even to my daughters.  I do seem to fight that battle with pride in every area of my life!  Hoping that I'll get some personal advantage or just an easier life for myself or my children is not a good reason to pray a certain way.

I think at times this can be hard to determine in our flesh, so we can begin a prayer by asking the Holy Spirit to reveal to us our true motives.  Then, as we see answers to prayers, we can bring glory to God by sharing how He has worked in those situations.  When He's protected our child, or given her a great friend, or helped her overcome a particular temptation, or healed her in some way, we can give Him the glory and also encourage others in their faith and in their prayer life!

I'm so thankful that we have a God who wants to hear our prayers for our children - and not only hear, but answer!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Saturday Salutes

From our Mother's Day Eve walk on the beach

Teacher Appreciation Week is over, but this gift idea would work well as an end-of-the-year present, too.

There's a really great video series on your child and the internet/cell phones/apps at Analog Parents Raising Digital Children.  You do have to sign up with your e-mail address, but it's free, and I haven't received any "spam" from them.  It's a time investment as each video is 45-50 minutes, but I found some very helpful information there.

Crystal has 80 Fun Summer Activities for Kids.

Morgan lists 10 Things I've Learned from Parenting.

Melissa shows Inspiring Ideas for Small and Budget-Friendly Kitchens.

Best podcast of the week:  Eliminating Competition by Dr. Meg Meeker on Family Life Today.  Lesson to be learned - my success as a parent is not dependent on my child's achievements.

And finally, one of my favorite pins from the past week, courtesy of 3 Bees and Me....

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Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, May 13, 2016

10 Ways You Can Tell She's a Mom

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If you just saw her walking down the street, she might look like any other woman. But if you studied her more closely, if you followed her around for a few hours, you might see that...

Her shirt has a stain....baby spit up or a jelly smear or craft paint, or maybe a combination of all three.

Her purse holds a stray happy meal toy.

Her van has a few goldfish crackers stuck between the seats - and a few smashed into the floorboard for good measure.

Her laundry room is piled high with dirty clothes...and clean ones that need to be folded.

Dr. Seuss books are her latest reads.

She's buckled someone into something at least 82 times in the last week.

Pushing a grocery cart through Walmart involves tactical maneuvers and counts as her physical exercise for the day.

She knows the location of every restroom in every store for when that potty-training child needs one in a flash.

The last time she slept straight through the night was....well, she can't remember.

She treasures every "I love you, mommy," every baby smile, every handpicked weed bouquet, every bedtime cuddle.

And while the thought of a quiet drive in the car all alone or a long shower with no one banging on the bathroom door or a morning to sleep in past sunrise sounds amazing, she wouldn't trade what she has for anything else in the world.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

3 Parenting Truths for Those Tough Days

My daughters occasionally tease me about all of the podcasts I listen to during the day.  I'll tell them about something new I'm trying or a story I've heard or a fact I've learned, and they'll ask, "Did you get that from a podcast?"  Often, the answer is "yes!"

I got the idea for today's post that way.  Mark Gregston of Heartlight Ministries shared Romans 12:12 as a "A Parent's Job Description" in his daily, one-minute podcast yesterday.



Though that verse fits any aspect of the Christian life, I like how its lessons apply to parenting and wanted to delve into this idea a little further.

1.  Rejoicing in hope.  Our children's lives are full of potential.  God has wired each one of them with a unique personality, created them with diverse talents, and blessed them with spiritual gifts.  One of the most amazing parts of parenting is seeing our children develop their abilities as they mature, and then watching the ways in which God is able to use them.  However, most of us will encounter at least one tough season when parenting isn't that fun, and not particularly rewarding, at least in the moment.  But even when we can't see it, God is always at work in the heart of our child.  And what a blessing it is when we see the results of His guidance in their lives!

2.  Patient in tribulation.  When those tough seasons of parenting come, we need more than ever the Holy Spirit to strengthen us in the fruit of patience.  It doesn't come naturally for most of us, but as we submit to His leading, we can find the self-control we need.  I've certainly learned more about patience since I've been a mom than I ever thought possible!  Losing our temper, flying off the handle, saying harsh words, or showing irritation with our child will not improve our relationship with her. We can fall back on James 1:5, asking for wisdom for these situations and realize that these times grow all of us into more of what we ought to be.

3.  Continuing instant in prayer.  It's back to the basics, returning to what I believe is the most important thing we can do for our child.  Pray.  I like the word "instant" - it makes me think of being ready to pray at any moment.  Always, throughout the day, praying for our children, surrounding myself with reminders to take their needs to God.  Praying for success in a test they studied for, praying for that friendship that's having difficulties, for physical safety and protection, for their mind to be guarded from evil influences.  It's asking for and trusting God to do what we cannot.

I'm thankful for the encouragement I found in this verse and for the reminders that parenting is an ongoing job for which I can find many Bible truths that will help and encourage me....even if the process starts with a podcast!
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