August 11, 2016

Ideas for Hot Summer Days - No Screens!

As my children have grown and I've developed into a more mature parent myself, I've noticed a few things. The most glaring observation is that my kids behavior depends on their access to the outdoors. When we spend our days outside exploring and playing, all of us do better through the day. There's only one problem ... We live in Texas where July, August and September are brutally hot.

Change Your Routine

We homeschool yearround now, so I have the blessing of changing our routines to fit the weather - or our mood in general. For hot days, our basic routine is to head out early and play. We usually just go in our jammies on bike rides or in the back yard, but we also wake up early for hikes with friends. I know it sounds like a lot to set an alarm to allow your kids to be outside, but I promise the reward is worth it. My kids have the ability to focus and concentrate much more diligently when they have been allowed to run the wiggles out.

In the hot afternoons I institute some form of rest time, especially on the days that we are up early. My children are a bit old for naps, but they will sit and read or generally lounge in the quiet in their rooms. This gives them a time to rest, and gives me a time to regroup - both of which are amazing for our attitudes and the general peace of our home.

When the sun starts to go down, we often head back out. I remember when the kids were little I told a friend that my goal was always to wear them out before a nap and then double wear them out before bed. That goal still stands.

Changing our routine has allowed us much more than the ability to be outside. When my kids have some rest time thrown in, they are able to hang out with daddy more after work, and we can also enjoy much more leisurely dinners. Overall, this small switch has been a really big win for our entire family.

Change Your Location

We live out in the country, but it isn't a far drive into several bigger cities that offer great amenities. Splash pads are typically free, and city pools charge very little. Many also allow you to bring your own food in, which really shaves costs. We love exploring lakes and rivers, and that water gives us the ability to play outside and move our bodies without overheating.

Summer is so hot in Texas that we start preparing in the winter. For Christmas, we ask the grandparents to focus on experiences for the kids, as opposed to toys. This suits our family lifestyle much better AND gives us the ability to have ready access to many opportunities to help us beat the heat. 

Our Christmas list always includes memberships to local museums. I'm not a huge fan of indoor play areas in general, but museums offer amazing opportunities to stretch your legs and explore in the air conditioning. We pay close attention to the special events and try to hit during off hours to keep from lines and overcrowding. 

Our local libraries also have wonderful programs throughout the summer. We attend many and search out different books for themed discussions throughout the summer months. Additionally, my children rack up prizes from reading and are able to cash these rewards in throughout the hot summer months. 

Really Get Away

We have focused our budget around travel and put a good bit of our income toward meeting this goal. We travel a lot in August and September, mostly to escape the intense heat. If you have the ability to get away, I highly suggest it.                                                                                                                                  A lot of our travel isn't anything fancy. We typically take the RV and head somewhere with ready access to water, or escape to a cooler climate. One of our favorites was a trip to Manitou Springs, Colorado in the RV. We stayed more than a week and did not engage in a lot of planned activities or touristy things. In fact, our kids really just wanted to play on the playgrounds in town all day because doing that at home in August is impossible. Sometimes just listening to what the kids need allows you to plan best and achieve the best behavior. I'm typically a planner, so this can be harder for me, but I've learned to go with the flow a bit more for decreased stress all around!

 Let Them Run in the House

Now, this one might be a bit controversial, but I encourage you to hear me out. My children are not typically allowed to run amuck indoors, but we do let them play games and run and jump during those times. They have to move, and we have tried to set up some outlets to do this. I frequently move furniture out of the way to give them space, and we have some tumbling mats that give them the ability to roll and cartwheel safely.

We have never had a big problem with the kids translating these game times to an all out, all the time, indoor free for all, but I've also tried to design my home more around their needs than my own. So far, so good!

June 23, 2015

A Little Space of Their Own

I think every kid LOVES little spaces. As parents, we focus on making sure we have a bedroom for each kid, wide spaces to roam... but then the kids seem to find their favorite space in a closet. 

When I was little, we always begged to sleep in a large linen closet using the shelves like bunk beds. Some of my best memories happened in that closet! 

We've been focusing on the outside spaces of our house lately. We've done porches, and I'm creating some adult sitting spaces. I felt guilty that I was focusing my attention there and still hadn't gotten around to the treehouse. 

So, today we fixed that! 

I bought very little for this space. I mostly pulled things from the attic and just hodge podged it all together. But the result is amazing! 

Here's the little landing area when you walk up. The tree house is obscured from the house by a big (obviously) tree. To the kids, it feels very hidden, but I can actually see them very well from the kitchen window! 

It's a smallish area, so I tried to create two distinct pockets of space - one for reading/relaxing and another for crafts. 

I used some vertical space to hang art supplies. They are still within easy reach, but up off the floor.

The kids are loving it! 

June 20, 2015

Father's Day

If it weren't for Heath being the man he is, three of my four children would have grown up without ever knowing and understanding the love of a father. That may seem like a drastic claim, but it is all truth. 

I met with a great friend from high school this week. As the kids were playing, she and I were talking, catching up a bit. 

And, in the midst of it all, she said, "What you and Heath are doing with these kids is amazing... Loving someone else's child is a huge calling."

I forget sometimes that these kiddos weren't born to me. The memories mesh. Holden's birth story blurs into my other childrens'. Each of them are a specific love story that I cherish, but I also don't dwell on the details. 

In the details, however, it's easy to forget how much Heath has given up for us. He is the definition of selfless. And, to say he has loved all of us through some ugly moments is the biggest understatement I can make. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 25 million children, or one in every three in America, are growing up without a father. There are no statistics that recount the amount of children who have a father physically there, but not emotionally present. 

I bet that is a scary statistic that none of us want to grapple with. 

"In a study examining father involvement with 134 children of adolescent mothers over the first 10 years of life, researchers found that father-child contact was associated with better socio-emotional and academic functioning. The results indicated that children with more involved fathers experienced fewer behavioral problems and scored higher on reading achievement. This study showed the significance of the role of fathers in the lives of at-risk children, even in case of nonresident fathers." (source:

I have seen this. With my children. With my own eyes. 

This year on Father's Day, think of ways you can help change a child's life. Be a mentor, share you time... There are children in your community, neighborhood, and church who need to see the love of your family - even if it is just for a dinner. 

If you are the financial giving type, I highly suggest you visit and join their #dontbuythetie movement. 

I am blessed to have a husband who is breaking a cycle. I pray you do too! What a blessing it is to see a child blossom through the love and support of their father!