Behind the Scenes of Loading a Great Soccer Wagon

This is not for the faint of heart. There is skill and precision of timing that only comes from being in the trenches—a.k.a The Soccer Field. This is what the Wagon used to look like every Saturday…
We have all either seen or been the mom with an antsy sibling-child that is hungry, bored, wet, cold, hot, whining…I’ve seen a toddler drop his drawers and pee on a parent’s chair. It’s ALL out there on the field.
And yes, there is an actual game going on with your child playing. And you have come to dutifully and joyfully cheer them on. It will come to a crashing halt if you have not loaded a Great Soccer Wagon for the “others”.
The obvious items being: soccer ball, water thermos, chair for yourself, blanket and a handy umbrella for shading options.

Now let me bump up your game with another set of items that will free you to enjoy what you originally came for–the soccer.

We have a carry container with a Lego drawer and a top brick plate to create on. These are our “Soccer Legos” and they draw crowds of kids each time we bring it. Everyone can build side-by-side on a blanket. Legos have no age barriers. All 4 of my boys and their peers will sit down and tinker with Legos!
“Dirt Toys” are fabulous for the younger set. Grab a recyclable clothe bag and load up those sand box toys with a few extra hot wheels for good measure. The field inevitably has a side area that will just be dirt. And if you have boys…they are magnets to dirt! (Just throw in some wet wipes for the clean-up).
We always have a stadium-sized umbrella for the kids to set up a make-shift shade tent on the ground. This also comes in handy to block wind. I tuck a small rope in the wagon in case we need to tie it more securely to a chair.  Speaking of rope…there have been times when the kids will collect sticks and use the small rope to make “tepees”.
Band Aids, Comic Books, Gum,  Rubics Cubes and various Fidget Toys are stashed in Wagon pockets. Any Drive Through Toys are funneled to the Soccer Wagon; if they get left or taken by another child…I’m good with that!
I tuck a few quarters in for a random snow cone occasionally. And I take 1 snack for each child but put it in multiple tiny ziploc bags that won’t hold much, so that when they ask me repeatedly for more, I keep doling them out…eventually they’ve finished the 1 snack but they are none the wiser. (It keeps them busy).
We load the Wagon the night before a game day and then lift the whole thing into the back of the car. It does not collapse down until the game day is complete. You can do this too!! It takes a small amount of preparation, but once you’ve set the Wagon up, you are good for the season. Enjoy the games!

Hot Dog Roast Eggstravaganza

jelly beansLast year was our first Easter season in our new home in a city where we have multiple layers of family ties.

Each family unit already had its “Easter tradition” and our boys have long phased out of the egg hunts, so we came up with a non-traditional approach to gather the multitudes family together in a casual way:

the 1st annual Hot Dog Roast Eggstravaganza!

smores

We figured a hot dog roast was a pretty low maintenance endeavor AND gave us a great excuse to make smores! #duhboys and super smores

Easter egg dyeing prepWe boiled some eggs and brought all the dyeing supplies outside. I don’t know about you other busy mommas, but anytime I can move the mess outside is a victory for all of us!

Egg dyeing brings generations together in a fun way. The young ones crawl up on the table to reach their favorite colors while the older set tells stories of their own Easter egg hunts when they were children.

The dads get to poke the fire and eat meat. The moms get to observe all of this unfold messily before their eyes, tucking these moments in their hearts.

generations dyeing eggsIt’s not exactly “breaking bread” together in the traditional communion sense, but there’s a whole lot of fellowship as eggs are dunked, cracked, and colored in a variety of unique styles.

Granma's cool whip trick
Granma’s cool whip trick

Hands young and old come together, some getting more stained than others as eggs drop into cups with a colorful splash. Love seeps through the chaos of reaching over one another, saturating the family connections even as the hues deepen on the eggs.egg dyeing outdoors

boys' decorating style
Easter decor by boys

Sooo… you’ve got my permission (not that you need it) to go easy on yourself if you’re feeling any pressure of keeping “tradition” just for the sake of tradition that feels too stressful to maintain. Maybe this is a year to try something new? or to tweak something a bit in a new direction?

As your kids get older, let them participate in different ways to help out and free yourself from some of the “shoulds” that try to creep into our busymom brains. Let them decorate or set the table their way. Embrace the silly that naturally ensues from their eagerness and excitement. Be IN the group pic WITH them. 😊

laughter
laughter

Gathering together and showing the love of Christ with one another in a family activity can make some sweet memories. It’s not about a perfectly decorated egg,  but the sweet perfection of us all being kids together for a little while.boys galore

Enjoy the moments…whether it be smores or a nice brunch; an early sunrise service on Easter morning or a full church service packed with girls in frilly skirts that compel them to twirl.

May the spirit of Christ bless you wherever you are this Easter weekend. And hold tight to those egg-dyed hands beside you. 👭👫

dyed Easter eggs

The Story Teller

Tell Them Their Story 

 

   We all love a good story. It doesn’t matter your age. It’s even better if there are hidden gems of laughter, harrowing moments and happy endings. We just love getting lost in the detailed threads that tug at our hearts.

 

Our children love to hear “their stories”. They ask to hear them over and over. We laugh and gasp at all the same parts every time. And I realize that we add chapters to their stories with each day, each vacation, each experience, family event, tradition, hug and “I love you”. It’s in every ordinary and extraordinary day that we have.

The stories help cement it into each of our minds  when we re-tell them; it’s something  for all us.  

Pictures and albums help with that too. The time spent in conversation is a layer of warmth for the soul that is something extra special. Face-to-face conversation is becoming less and less in our society; everyone wants the short and condensed version of events.  But when you give some time to sharing, you will hear: 

“Read it again, please!” and “Can you tell it again?” and then it turns into, “Remember, Mom and Dad, when I did this,  and when that happened?”…  It’s such a rich layer to a person. 

When you have  many children, this helps in giving that individual their unique identity. In a group setting,  you can easily speak each child’s love language by reminiscing of a fond time together.  It’s so easy to add this layer to your home, but it is becoming lost in our digital agendas. Fill your child up with words that champion them; show their hearts how spectacular they are. Hand them their legacy as your family shares past generations stories too. All of these conversations  combined are a treasure, not bought. The value is priceless for our hearts. 

 

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.   -Philippians 1:3

 

Snuggle-in, hug them, laugh with them, and reminisce—again and again.

accidental turtle farmers

Recently  I uncovered a copy of the Sycamore,* a neighborhood newsletter (vol. 1, issue 1) dated June 10, 2011. This was the first of only two limited editions of this beloved paper because the young amateur publishers – ages 10, 8, & 5 – quickly moved on to other things that summer.boys' newsletter

As I reviewed this childhood treasure, I was reminded of the importance of sharing our kids’ passions, whatever they may be. Each of my boys had a designated role in publishing this 2-page newsletter and took their responsibilities very seriously. Among their memory stash was a thank-you email, a handwritten note and, surprisingly, still tucked between a reporter’s interview notes was a fresh $1 bill “to help with expenses.” Our young boys were eager to try something new and this tired/busy momma was likely pretty motivated to keep them busy during those long summer days! The bonus was our neighbors embracing the boys’ ambitious efforts, and the unity feeling stronger around our little cul-de-sac.

Within that original newsletter was my son’s story about how our family became accidental “turtle farmers.” (We never could quite agree on what term we should use for ourselves, but this one stuck.)

Our turtles are awakening now from their winter slumber and sleepily searching out food scraps like voracious teenagers. With their shells encrusted with dirt and bits of crunchy leaves, their eyes blink slowly in the bright spring sun.

Every March when they come out of hibernation, I’m impressed that they’ve survived the winter in self-made shallow dugouts and equally amazed that our family is still “hosting” them 7 years later.

3 amigosSo… here’s our story about becoming accidental turtle farmers according to our 8-year-old son:

Our Turtles: A Quick History

Our family found Zippy, Zee, and Rocky on an empty gravel road surrounded by forest in Missouri. The turtles got their names from what they did while they were trying to get away.

Zippy was so named because he was zippy in getting off the road. Zee was named Zee because we found him on Highway Z. Running headfirst into a rock was how Rocky got his name.

On the way home, we went to Texas to visit our aunt. Now the turtles had been to Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, and Missouri; where we found them. When we came back to Kansas, the turtles were living in a large tub, instead of a tackle box and two boxes. Also on the way back, our turtles were in the Bixby, Oklahoma Turtle races (they didn’t win).

We have had the turtles for about a year. After we had built a nice pen for the turtles, Zippy got away (and we never found him). We got another turtle with almost identical markings at the Harvey County State Fair Turtle Races. We named him Zippy Jr.

The turtles are still living in their area and not one of them have gotten out since, even after hibernation and a year in the same nice big pen (a turtles paradise!!!).

Turtles Favorite Foods: Bread,  Strawberries,  Blueberries,  Snails,  Ham,  Apples,  Mangoes,  Broccoli Stems, Worms

baby turtles
Turtle hatchlings

Ironically, we now live only a few miles from where our turtles competed in their first Turtle Race.  Our turtles have had babies that have grown into sturdy “adolescent” turtles. A few years ago on St. Patrick’s Day we were fortunate to discover them during their hatching process, witnessing these delicate miniature turtles crack through their shells and emerge into the world. A lucky day, indeed!

When we moved to another state, the turtle contingent came with us. They got a new habitat and change of scenery out of the deal.turtle parade

My hubby and I never had big dreams of growing up to be turtle farmers some day, but here we are. Our boys have observed the life cycle of one of God’s “lowly” creatures and have learned some responsibility along the way. We have enjoyed watching the process unfold.

As pets go, turtles are extremely quiet and low maintenance. We even get a caretaking break during the winter. 😊

turtle inspectionLast year a wandering turtle actually crawled through our fence and joined our little turtle family, so I guess we’re officially kid-tested and turtle-approved!

turtle artworkThese little turtles have interwoven themselves into the fabric of our family. They have been featured in our children’s artwork and have served as a great ice-breaker at backyard parties because of their novelty. Smiles appear as our visitors connect with their own memories of encountering turtles in unlikely places.

turtle at 4th of July swim partyTurtle farming and boys…all in all a pretty good combination.

And to think this began simply by me stopping the car on a gravel road and letting one of the boys rescue a box turtle from getting run over. We had no idea how that one small gesture would blossom into a long-term family adventure.

little guyFollowing a child’s passion can lead to a wonderfully unexpected family storyline.

 — What might your family adventure be?

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

 

Hello!  Every day we use things that make our lives easier or bring a smile to our face.  I encourage you to take a look at your daily routines and see what those things are.  It was fun for me to dig a bit and see a few of my “favorites”  all together! Check out Loved One’s Favorites too… you’ll get great gift ideas. Here we go!!
KITCHEN TONGS:   I am seriously addicted to these little gems. I have a bunch of them because they only cost a couple dollars. They are so handy to pick up anything and everything! I even have some spares in our chip containers so that I don’t get “cheeto fingers.”.
MINI CROCKPOT : My favorite scent is ANYTHING Christmas. I used to put a pot on the stove with simmering spices and fruit so that the whole house smelled yummy…but then I found mini crockpots! They are fabulous!!  This is a wonderful gift during the holiday season to give with a recipe and ingredients for simmering. Lemons, cinnamon sticks, clove,and oranges are a good place to begin.
FELT TIP PENS:  These beauties are a little pricey, but there are sales and coupons out there to get them a bit lower. I love how bold the ink is.  I love that it doesn’t smear and drys quickly. I love to use these on to-do lists to perk up the mundane chores, and I love to journal and write pretty much everything with them. 

 

 

RAINBOW INSULATED CUPS WITH STRAWS:  Oh happiness! It’s simple I know, but I get more water drank in my day with a different colored cup each morning! I have the whole rainbow at my fingertips, and since they come with lids…they travel from home to car easily.

 

 

FLAMELESS CANDLES: With a house full of boys, it is in our Homes best interest to not light many actual candles with real flames.  This set is lovely and it comes with a remote and timers! I have some in our kitchen, and I have some programmed in the living and bedrooms. As bedtime routines begin, it is nice to enter those dark spaces with the glow of a flickering candle. I love my flameless candles! 
POM POM COASTERS: Are these not the cutest little splashes of fuzzy color?!  
The kids made these with cork and glue and pom poms one Christmas for family gifts, and I snagged a set for our Drink Station. Each morning this cheerfulness greets me at the coffee maker. (I had just as much fun making these as the kids.)

 

NERF WALL: This saved my sanity with all the Nerf wars that happen daily in our home.  
If you have darts and kids in your life, I recommend that you review our Nerf Wars post on how to make one of these stations. The kids helped design and paint the walls; and hanging it all up in the garage was fun for all of us!  Now the tag has been moved outside. When it’s over, I have yet to ask a boy to put their Nerf stuff away. They rush to the Nerf Wall to get the best hangers!! (Such a Win for us all.)

 

 TAILGATE TABLES: These medium-sized rectangle, collapsible tables will rock your world! I have never actually used them for their intended purpose…but I have used them for pretty much everything else. They fold and are lightweight.  I have these tucked all over the house. The make a quick puzzle, Lego, you-name-it project off the floor. They wipe down and have two adjustable heights. And the bonus feature is that if you find them during football season, then you have local color options depending on nearby teams! If you want a certain color, look at the teams. 
CANDY CATCHERS: When you are between 2 candy-laced holidays, the thought occurs of what to do with the abundance of sweets (?)…  Since there are multiple boys in our home, and boys are a tad competitive in everything, we had to find a solution to storing any excess of overflow.  The number of kids you have, is the number of compartments needed for the Candy Catcher. Personalize it so there is no confusion. No Sharing is an unspoken for this little kitchen tool. This container usually stays out of reach, so that a parent monitors consumption. I pull from its resources for school lunches and snacks mixed with healthier choices. This has gone with us on road trips with each persons snacks divided so they can eat them at differing paces. This is a fun Favorite for me!
PORTABLE HAMMOCKS: My most recent Favorite! I love these soooooooo much.  Each child received one for a gift. We learned how to “stack” them in trees from college students. It looked as if there were a herd of nomads in my back yard the first 3 days!! The kids stayed outside for hours trying out different trees. They took books, water bottles, snacks, journals, DS’s, and even a Ukulele!!  I confess that I also enjoy gently swinging and cloud-gazing; especially snuggled with one of my Cuties’.

 

Well there you go! Hope you got an idea or two to add to your Favorites. Take a mental break from this week’s mundane and enjoy mulling over some of your own Favorites; you have more than you realize! 
You, Lord God, have done many wonderful things, and You have planned marvelous things for us.  Psalm 40:5

ONE letter matters

When I was in 6th grade, I competed in the district spelling bee and lost because I added one  letter to a word. My 6th-grade son recently competed in his school’s spelling bee and missed a word by forgetting one letter.spelling bee word list

One letter matters.

In the world of spelling, one letter means the difference of staying “in” the competition or being “out.”

For enthusiastic writers who are vulnerably casting out their manuscripts only to be met with a flood of rejection letters, ONE letter of acceptance matters. One letter shifts the novice writer from being an amateur to being “in” as a published author. This inclusion is savored.

encouragement cardsFor the widow that spends many hours and even days alone, receiving a single handwritten note makes a meaningful difference. One letter can change her perspective from feeling lonely to loved. She feels remembered.

When a spouse is deployed overseas and is feeling the weight of isolation and homesickness, one letter from a loved one back home draws him a little closer to family. A familiar scrawl or silly doodle on the envelope tugs those hearts together a little tighter. He feels connected.

In a world of digital pictures and casual greetings available through Facebook and texts, even one handwritten letter delivered by snail mail on your birthday can transform all those virtual well wishes into a tangible token of love. There’s something special about holding a letter in your own hand that was in your friend’s hand just a few days ago. One letter can ground you, reminding you of a precious friendship. You feel known.

So last week when I was fighting a head cold and clutching my kleenex box, I hunkered down and wrote some letters:

  • to my son traveling on an exchange trip to China, hiding one in his suitcase under a box of Thin Mints and giving another letter to a friend to deliver to him midway through their trip (the potential embarrassment, I think, is worth a little sneakiness!)
  • to a Chinese couple whom I may never meet, but I’m entrusting the care of my 16-year-old son to them for 3 weeks while they generously host him in their home (sigh)
  • to a nephew, apologizing for belated birthday wishes
  • to an aunt undergoing radiation and chemotherapy, offering hope and encouragement while also recognizing her strengthBaylor pillows
  • a “thank you” to a loved one who sewed some pillows for me that I’ve been “planning” for years. Confession: I cheated on this one. I took a picture of the pillows tucked into their new nook and a sent her a text of gratitude. (Go Bears!)
  • to a college friend, wishing her the joys of another birthday

Throughout the week as I wrote to each person, I focused on the recipient. I considered their particular situation, reflecting on the connection between us and conjuring up some words to send their way. Before long, I was no longer aware of my stuffy head and my pesky cough. My mood improved as I redirected my attention to a loved one or reminisced about a dear friend.

Aligning letters on paper to transform them into a message to someone else is a magical thing, something we often taken for granted.vocab

Words are used a lot of different ways in our home. We are seekers of knowlLatin conjugationsedge and explorers of the written word. Our bookshelves are weighed down with words.

The boys are always working on a vocabulary list or conjugating verbs in a language I don’t understand.

Words surround us.

Letters weave in and out of our home daily, an endless merry-go-round of giving and receiving. Some of them we glance over; some of them stop us in our tracks. One letter can shift the atmosphere around us, crackling with anticipation or casting a somber chill.

Which letter do you cling to most?
Bible - I Cor 13
The letter that I’m drawn back to again and again is the Word of God. Each time I read it, I gain a new perspective and gain a deeper understanding of something bigger than me. It stirs my soul.
I’m grateful for this ultimate gift. The holy Word is God’s letter to us.
It’s full of wisdom and adventure, heartbreak and triumph, joy and strength, loss and redemption, strife and struggle…but most of all,  its message is love. It offers us hope.

——->>>>>  THIS one letter makes all the difference to me

Phlox

“Every word of God is flawless.” Proverbs 30:5a

 

 

 

daily life transformed by God into extraordinary tapestries

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