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Summer Fishing

Summer Fishing

Summer is over. Camp is just a memory. School starts today. To celebrate summer, we spent time on the lake. My best day fishing! Did I ever tell you fishing saved my marriage? It’s a great story. More on that later. For those who know where I fish – one of these beauties was caught under the bridge, the bigger bass (18 inches!) was dowstream on the second S curve, using a Rapala drift bait. For those who don’t have any idea what I’m talking about – it only matters if you want it to. For everyone – Happy end of summer! Here’s to a great school year!

A Stranger’s Prayer, a Waterpark, and Miracles!

Our summer plans involved lots of frugal activities. By frugal, I mean FREE. When I found out my nieces and nephews were coming into town, I wanted to do something very memorable. My first thought was to splurge and get tickets to the waterpark near us. Then I priced the tickets. At first I thought, we can do that! We haven’t spent much this summer on fun stuff, it’s about time we treat our kids to something fun! I talked to my sister and the kids and everyone was on board. Then reality hit. There is NO WAY we could pull off $350 for all the tickets. Plus parking. Plus snacks. My sister and parents offered to help. Then, I told them how much. After the large gulp, they said they would still help. It just didn’t feel like a good decision.  I couldn’t fathom spending that much for a day of activity – even if my parents and sister pitched in to help. I cancelled the plans and we decided to hang out at a pool. (Insert a sarcastic “yay” right here.)

The week before the cousins came in town, our church had a family VBS. On the second night we walked in to see a door prize containing tickets to a local water park. THE waterpark. I looked at it longingly, but didn’t count on winning. I’ve been known to be at an event where they have doorprizes for all but a few people… and I’m one of the few… that don’t win.

During VBS that night, a stranger asked to pray with our family. She was one of the prayer partners for the event and prayed a special prayer with us. She specifically prayed financial blessings on us. It felt strange having her pray that – and I immediately felt a tingle in my Spirit, like God was saying “Just Watch.”

After the prayer, the very next event in VBS was the announcement of the door prize. As they were walking the basket to the stage, I felt a nudge to pray. I said no. I mean, I NEVER win those things. I felt the nudge again, so I prayed something like “God, that sure would be cool, but I get it that I don’t usually win. I just hope someone who will really appreciate it wins.” And then – Our name was called!  I count it a true miracle. God sure showed me!

The day for the waterpark comes! I have eight excited kids. We packed lunches and water. My dad gave us some money for everyone to get a treat. That added another level to the excitement! (Remember, Happy Kid Day and Seven Tips for Saying NO? I don’t splurge on special treats much.) After paying for parking and a miscalculation on how much the tickets were, we were not going to have enough for each kid to have their own treat. I caught the miscalculation in enough time to run by the bank, but also prayed that God would continue to provide.

Let me insert a cool fact about the tickets – Usually when you win a family prize, there’s a standard package of four tickets. That’s great, unless you have a family of  six. The number of people I was responsible for getting tickets for – five. Guess how many tickets we won? Five. Coincidence? I think not.

As we’re standing in line to purchase tickets for my nieces and nephews, another small miracle occurs. The lady next to us gave us a coupon. One of those really really good coupons. The money we saved using the coupon, plus the money from my dad provided EVERYONE with a special treat. When it came time for the kids to spend their treat money, I was pleasantly surprised. Actually, I was SHOCKED. They didn’t spend all of it. They came back with change. A few of the kids decided to share their snacks. Did you catch that, they shared. Without prompting. It was a definite proud mom/aunt moment for me.

All day, I watched the joy on the kid’s faces. They didn’t complain, argue, or fuss. They took care of each other. My joy was complete. I felt my cup overflow. Floating down the lazy river, I prayed prayers of thanksgiving. I prayed for the stranger that prayed for us that night, for the people who gave the tickets, for the lady in line who gave us the coupons, and for my dad and sister who provided the rest of the tickets.

I’ve yet to tell you of the most meaningful miracles I experienced that day – My nieces and nephews. I love being with ALL of my nieces and nephews (I’ve been an aunt since I was ten and grew up with the older ones.) This visit, I saw significant life changes – miracles of the heart! I saw things in all four of them, but want to tell you about two of them. The oldest niece with me that day is almost 17. Her love for the Lord has been blooming this year. This summer she has already been on a mission trip and worked as a camp counselor. I knew she would be on fire for the Lord, but I didn’t expect to see her heart shine so much. I’ve seen kids on fire for the Lord, aglow with love and service for Him – usually with a glow that is lit brightly at camp then fades in reality. She had a different shine. It was real and deep. She went out of her way to help me or others. She gave up something she really wanted to do when she realized I needed help with the younger kids – and with a smile. I felt like I was seeing her come out of her cocoon into a lovely young lady with a servant heart. My nephew had a similar growth experience. He recently returned from church camp where he began his relationship with the Lord. I noticed a change in his life. The chains of frustration and anger that had bound him were gone. I saw a young man free of his past.

Celebrating Miracles – tickets to a waterpark and tickets to new life. Whatever your miracle – celebrate it! I am thankful for each miracle I saw that day. Building Bridges – Connecting Families – through miracles.

The night the lights went out.

Summer Storms. Sometimes they come out of nowhere. Just like the storm I talked about last week.

The storm surprised me. (I think it surprised it most of our area too.) I hadn’t paid a bit of attention to the sky or the weather. In fact, I was pretty oblivious to anything outside the walls of our house. Well… except for Facebookland and the neighborhood pool schedule.

The kids and I worked as a team and secured the needed items for a powerless night. Little did I know the powerless night would end up being powerful. But for now, back to our list of supplies: candles, matches, flashlight, more candles, board games, camping stove, candles, and – you guessed it – MORE candles! We had plenty of light, all over the house, complete with dripping wax.

We started the night without lights playing board games we haven’t seen in years. Dad walked into house full of candlelight and laughter. Normally, when the power goes out and there’s a storm, the kids are not-too-happy and usually a bit scared or whining about the enormous level of boredom. I must admit, mom at times also joins in on the not-too-happy attitude mixed with worry about no AC. On this night, when the power went out, the first question was “what are we going to do?” (translated – What we will do since the TV is off?) The second question was “What are we going to eat?” (no translation needed).  Instead of complaining, someone answered with “GAMES!” and “I’ll get the camping stove!” As soon as the camping stove flared on, the meal became 4 star quality! I had planned on a simple dinner of breakfast tacos. There was such a rustic feel, it gave a completely different vibe to our meal. Who knew cooking indoors with a simple camping stove could elevate the meal? I am so thankful we didn’t hop into the car for some take out or fast food. We would’ve missed the opportunity to share this experience together.

After dinner, we sat down for a family game of Apples to Apples. Laughter prevailed. Dad went outside to do some yard work while it was cool. The rest of us stayed indoors to keep our game going. Three hours later, we finally called it a night. Who knew Apples to Apples could last that long?! Usually, when we play a game, it’s for the older kids and the younger ones are left out, or it’s for the younger ones and the older kids beg their way or out of it. Not this time with this game. We all played. We all laughed. We all got along.

The windows stayed open for some air flow. I was sitting on the couch with my back to the window. My husband was outside cleaning up debris. He tried to get my attention through the open window.  Can you picture what’s going to happen? All he did was say my name. I jumped a mile high. Actually, I didn’t just jump. I screamed. When I screamed, EVERYONE screamed. The screams melted into laughter. The kids are still talking about how much we laughed that night.

After the kids went to bed, my husband and I stayed up talking. It was refreshing to just sit and talk. There is such a calmness without the noises of a working house. I felt closer to nature hearing the sounds of the night. I took time to reflect on the evening. That’s when the power came. Not the electricity, the power. It hit me that when the power went out, no one complained. Everyone worked together. We laughed and played and got along. It was so different from the other storms that blow into our lives. What made the difference?

  • Plans. Before the storm hit, someone asked if we could play a game. I had a TV show I wanted to watch, so I was going to fit the game in before my show came on. Our plans were changed with the power outage. Instead of being upset, we adjusted.
  • Attitudes. When the wind started blowing and the clouds rolled in, we marvelled at the beautiful sight. There wasn’t an attitude of fear, but of peace and the majesty of God. Our attitudes were focused on God.
  • Peace. As the mom, I didn’t complain and gripe, but maintained an attitude of calm and thankfulness. I normally stress in stormy situations. This time I didn’t. Because I didn’t, the kids didn’t. There was peace.
  • Bridge building. The conversations earlier that day added stones of safety to our bridge. We built our bridge with uplifting words and actions. When the storm hit we didn’t sway or fall. We stayed strong.

In the midst of a storm, we built bridges. Above all, we laughed and loved. A powerless night became a powerful lesson.

Seven Sanity Savers for Summer

Summertime, Summertime, Sum-Sum-Summertime! It’s here! Although we LOVE summertime, there are a few parts about summer we dread. Here in Texas it’s the heat. For mom’s everywhere, we dread the blahs, the bickering, and the “I’m bored!!!” whining. This post is for all moms, with a shout-out to those moms clinging to their sanity and counting the days until school starts again.

1. Schedule and Non-schedule

Some kids thrive on a schedule and feel safe when they know what to expect. These are also the kids who tend to freak out a little if a schedule changes and they don’t have enough warning to mentally prepare. If you have one of these, keep a schedule, or have them make one. It can be as simple as

  • sleep late
  • wake up
  • brush teeth
  • eat breakfast
  • watch tv and swim…

Or laid back:

  • Mondays – library
  • Tuesdays – swim lessons
  • Wednesdays – Church night…

Other kids feel oppressed by a schedule. They have one all day at school and their minds need a break. A non-schedule works for them. Don’t keep one. If  you are the one that thrives on a schedule, keep it, but have room for flexibility and don’t post it if they don’t ask for it.

2. Success Chores and Serving

While kids are in school, they have lots of opportunities to complete assignments and feel good about accomplishments. During summer, they still need to feel accomplished. Chores and serving others are great ways to foster that responsibility and to avoid the mentality of summer laziness. (I’m ALL for having lazy summer days, but when the days stretch into weeks, it’s that much harder to snap the kids out of.) I’m a huge proponent of kids having chores – weekly and daily, so summer chores is a must at our house! Does anyone else notice that the more kids are at home, the more of a mess the house is? Summer is the BEST time to teach and enforce chores. Remember – praise, praise, praise, and thank your kids for a job well done! (or even an A for effort!)

3. School 

Yes. I said school. We have always done “summer school” with our kids, even before we homeschooled. The best part is that you don’t even have to tell them you are doing schoolwork! (Here is where I spare you the lecture of how easily children forget facts or slip back a reading level or two when they don’t practice skills…)

  • Pick a book to read together, out loud as a family.
  • Practice math facts.
  • Grow a garden.
  • Do crazy, messy science experiments!
  • Make a family scrapbook about your summer adventures. Have them write it as a story!
  • What did your child struggle with during the year? Find on-line sites to help you know how to reinforce those concepts.
  • And don’t forget about computer games! There are tons of free educational sites that will keep their minds sharp and they won’t even realize it’s school!

4. Safety

There’s nothing like trying to go through a summer with a cast… Remember the safety rules! Brush up on water safety tips and please make sure your kids wear helmets!

5. Saturate and Sleep

Saturate your senses with water. On the outside and the inside! Have fun at the pool – stay saturated with the cool pool water and stay saturated with sunscreen!

Saturate your soul with water. Find a special Bible study to do with the kids during the summer. If you can’t find one, just pick a book of the Bible to read.

Saturate – don’t dehydrate! It is so easy to forget to drink water when the kids are outside playing. I am learning more and more about how important it is to stay hydrated. If your child complains of headaches or dizziness, have them slowly drink a glass of water and follow-up with water during the day. Tip: Children should drink 1/2 their body weight in ounces of water. My 50 pound child should drink 25 ounces of water a day. I add extra water when they are outside sweating.

Saturate with sleep! Kids need 10 – 12 hours of sleep and teens need 8 – 10.  If you do not adhere to an early bedtime during the summer, allow them to sleep in! Many kids have growth spurts during the summer because they don’t have the pressure of school and usually get extra sleep. One time an eye doctor told me when we had eye exams the first week of summer, to check their eyes at the end of the summer because when children go through growth spurts, their eyes can change prescriptions.

6. Save TV Time

It’s easy to let the kids turn the TV on and stare at it for hours on end. I’m guilty of it myself. If you limit TV time, they are more likely to do chores, schoolwork, or play outside. Here, in Texas, we have many days that are just too hot to stay out for very long. On those days, we save TV for the hot hours of the day. If we don’t turn the TV on in the morning, chores and schoolwork are done quickly leaving time to play outside before it gets too hot. Other days, we read inside together during the hot hours, then follow book time with a TV show.

7. Slip Away

When you’ve enjoyed your kids for hours longer than you are accustomed to having them around and feel like you are going to explode if you hear “She’s bothering me” or “I’m bored!” one more time… slip away. Find a friend to switch kids with (I often find my kids stay out of each other’s hair when there is another child in the mix) or find a sitter and give yourself some “me” time!

Speaking of slipping… I am going to slip one more sanity saver in here. Seriously not serious. The only thing you should take seriously this summer is not being too serious and having fun!

What are YOUR summer sanity savers?

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