Thursday, May 21, 2020

Why Hiking with Kids is Worth the Headache

I feel the need to clear the air... hiking can be a headache.

We've always been the hiking kind of family. During the lockdown, we hiked in abundance. My pictures of such adventures were also in abundance. You know what else was in abundance? My annoyance.

Since I'm typically the one behind the iPhone, I don't have picture proof so you'll just have to take my word for it. I get snippy, frustrated, and sometimes loud when we're hiking with the kids.

"Hurry up!"
"We are not going that way."
"You're fine."
"Don't touch that!"
"Slow down!"
"I'm not finding you another walking stick."
"Stop hitting your sibling with your walking stick."
"No more walking sticks!"
"It's just a bee."
"Please don't grab the snake!"
"Stop fighting!"
"Keep moving!"
"No, we're not done yet. We're going to hike forever."

In spite of all this, we really do love hiking! And have found it more than worth the headache that sometimes ensues. I feel the need to share this because I don't want all my nature-y pics to lead you to thinking that hiking is all kicks and giggles. It's important, in my opinion, to be prepared for the potential reality of hiking with kids. Personally, I have a much easier time enjoying life with my littles when I leave my rose-colored glasses at home.

Now that we have that established, let's get on to why on earth hiking is still worth the effort. I believe everyone should be hiking, especially while the kids are young. Here's why:

Hiking gleans a love of nature.
No, this does not happen immediately. And there will be some hikes that leave you feeling like nature has been ruined for everyone. Don't give up! Because each walk through the woods really is making a difference. Point out interesting things. Listen to the sounds. Let them venture and climb and touch. 

I've noticed that not only do we as a family have a stronger appreciation for nature as we hike more, we also are less fearful. The kids were literally chasing a snake the other day. Without fail, they all come home a dirty mess. Venturing off the path or following a faint deer path is their favorite. This stuff used to add to my headache, but even mama is learning and growing. It actually fills me up now to see them explore the scary and unknown... usually.

Hiking is healthy.
Nature is so stinkin' good for your health! If you are still quarantining and you're not getting outside, you are shooting yourself in the foot. Hiking is an amazing way to take advantage of the healthy benefits of getting outside. You're breathing in the miraculous properties of fresh air, soaking up all-natural vitamin D, and getting exercise that is essential for both physical and mental health. 

Let your kids take their shoes off once in awhile. Even join them! Grounding is a thing that we should all be doing. Remember! You're not hiking to be done hiking. You're hiking for the experience and all the benefits. This means take your time and let your kids linger. It's good for everyone's health!

Hiking now means easier hiking later.
Hiking with littles is hard. Straight fact. But hiking with teenagers could be just as headache-inducing, if not more so! If you put off hiking while the kids are young, all you're doing is putting off the inevitable frustration. Teenagers whine more, complain more, mope more than 5 year olds (typically). And are much harder to distract with pretty flowers and toads. If you make hiking a priority now, when your littles think climbing a tree or wading in a creek is the greatest thing ever, your future self will thank you.

Hiking doesn't involve screens.
As wonderful as technology is, I get super frustrated with how obsessive my kids can get! It's exhausting. In fact, I get super frustrated with how obsessive I can get! Hiking is an opportunity to completely leave screens at home. If you're in the habit of handing your phone over to a complaining child, first of all, STOP. Second, leave your own phone in an inside zipped pocket of your backpack where you'd have a really annoying and inconvenient time getting to it. Emergencies only! Make screens a non-option while hiking and you'll be surprised how much fun you all have! (You could go my route and not have anything on your phone your kids care about so they never ask for it. Then you can get some great pics!)

Hiking is a family affair.

We all glean the benefits. We all enjoy ourselves! (Outside of those moments...) You can't have a kid too little or too grown up for a hike (despite what they may think). And did you know that kids are much more likely to open up to you when they don't have to sit and look you in the eye? The random conversations about theology and corona and poison ivy and remember-whens we've had on our hikes are alone enough to make hiking worth all the effort.

Sure, there's headaches. But we keep going, gleaning, growing. It's worth it. I promise.

Happy Hiking!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Benefits of Homeschooling... for Mamas!

By far the most common reasoning I personally hear for not homeschooling is something along the lines of:

I don't have enough patience to teach my kids.

This is God's sense of humor. Why? Because I am one of the most impatient people you know.

Sure sure sure. I've grown A TON over the years (and homeschooling is a major reason! More on that in a sec) but among those closest to me (husband, kids, parents, siblings) I am actually known for my lack of patience. Seriously, ask Erik.

And yet I have people tell me on a regular basis that they couldn't do what I do because they don't have the kind of patience I supposedly have.

See the irony? God chuckles every time, I just know it.

I've been realizing lately how beneficial homeschooling has been for me personally. I homeschool for my kids and for our family and ultimately in obedience to God. But, true to the way God works, I experience beautiful benefits as the mama. Bonus benefits of homeschooling, if you will. And I am going to share them miscellaneously here:

Benefit for Mama #1

I am a more patient person.

I did not become patient and then start homeschooling. Oh no. I started out as impatient as ever. Trust me there have been some u-u-u-ugly moments... er... days. But I can truly and honestly look back at those early days of pushing academics on my poor 3 year old and see how far God has brought me over the last 8 years. 

It's certainly been through growing in the Lord on a daily basis that I've grown over the years. But God has also used homeschooling in a huge way to mold me more into what He desires me to be. More into the Mom my babes need, the wife my husband deserves, the sister and daughter and friend He created me to be. Homeschooling played a key role.

So next time you want to say to me, "I'm not patient enough to teach my kids," don't be surprised when my answer is, "well, then, that's exactly what you should be doing!"

Benefit for Mama #2

I enjoy my kids.

They can certainly annoy me. I'm an impatient person, remember? It is not entirely uncommon for me to hide. But when I come out of my hiding place, usually after some serious conversations with God, I can see my kids for the joy that they are.

Their hilarity. Their uniqueness. Their constant growing and changing and becoming. Homeschooling gives me abundant opportunity to truly know my babies. What tickles their funny bone. What motivates them. Where their passions lie and what stokes those passions. I get the zoomed in view of God working in their hearts. It is the most beautiful view and I can't get enough of it.

Benefit for Mama #3

I'm a less selfish person.

Derek and I got a weekend away for my birthday. We hiked for hours and miles and miles and hours. We watched too many movies and ate whatever we wanted. We were unhindered by all things small child. It was glorious! In my mind, I was going to return home refreshed and with a heart full of patient compassion for my brood of littles.

Wow was I wrong.

The first day back from our little vaca was reminiscent of a nightmare, and my very own selfishness fueled the disaster. Being with my kids day in and day out has been exactly what I've needed to keep that selfishness in check. Now, I'm not saying don't get away! Absolutely do!! But learn from my foolishness and remember that life almost never goes exactly how you imagined it. I thought we'd come home to kids who were thrilled to have us home and at the ready to serve in any way I desired out of pure love for me. At the time I wouldn't have realized that was my expectation, but after our nightmare day, that became disgustingly clear. I can't even imagine what kind of self-absorbed human I would be if I didn't have a handful of miniatures reminding me on the daily that life isn't all about me.

Benefit for Mama #4

I'm constantly learning.

Who knew I loved learning?! Certainly not me! Sometimes I am convinced that education is wasted on the young. I spent my entire growing up years in school and yet I'm certain I've learned more homeschooling my own kids than I ever did in school and college. Seriously, I look forward to reading our history curriculum every single day. And long division... is actually fun!

I'm also always learning more about how to teach my kids. I've become a little obsessive about reading about reading. The more I learn, the more I crave to learn. Would I have so much opportunity to learn if I didn't have the motivation of teaching my kids? Would I have the desire? Maybe you would but I wouldn't. I know myself and I know that I would be caught up in all the other things that go along with mom life. Learning would take a back seat to doing every time in my world. I'm grateful that learning is a major part of my life, and I thoroughly enjoy doing it right alongside my babes.

Benefit for Mama #5

I'm a more disciplined person.

I'm resisting the urge to laugh out loud at this. I'm entirely too undisciplined. But I am more disciplined than I would be if we weren't living the homeschool life. Having to set the schedule myself for our family is quite the disciplined way of life. I'm the type who would like someone else to tell me what to do and when to do it so I can fight against the system and do my own thing. When I'm the one having to tell myself what to do and when to do it, I'm fighting myself. This is hard. Frustrating. Stretching. And beneficial for this undisciplined human.

With days almost always wide open before us, I'm faced with the constant decision to tackle it with vigor or throw it out the window. And then there's all the options in between. I fail. A lot. And then I learn and grow and become a more disciplined person.

Benefit for Mama #6

The homeschooling community!

I love love love talking curriculum with fellow homeschool mamas. Gleaning tricks and tips for teaching my various littles from women far wiser than me is a favorite. In just about any path of life you can find community. I'm just partial to the homeschool one. We aren't better than the next community. We're just us. And I love us. Spending time with God-fearing, like-minded mamas fills me up to overflowing every single time. Humans were made for community. For fellowship. For connection. If you don't have that, my little homeschooling community always has open arms!

Sometimes the idea of homeschooling feels a little like dying to self for the sake of the children. And, well, it is. But God, in His infinite awesomeness, pours out abundant blessings when we die to self in obedience to Him. And then the dying feels a whole lot more like living than living ever felt before.

This list is by no means exhaustive. I didn't even mention the part about kids doing the chores around the house! But, if you are an impatient, selfish, undisciplined mama like me who is experiencing the tug of the Holy Spirit to pursue this homeschooling thing, I'm here for you! I'm cheering you on toward these benefits and many, many more. And I can't wait to welcome you into the homeschool life with open arms!

Friday, January 24, 2020

How We Survived Washington D.C. with Kids

We have officially reached a new chapter in our lives. Our babiest is 3 and she gets to remain the babiest forever. This means that the actual baby stage of raising kids is behind us. And that Amber will forever be treated like the perfect little princess that she is.

 And this also means that we have just a tiny bit more freedom to travel!

This past Christmas we went out to PA to spend time with family. And since we were already going to be all the way out East, we couldn't resist a trip into Washington DC, which served as the kids' Christmas present.

This was not our first traveling experience with all five babes so we had a pretty good idea of what we were getting ourselves into. But Derek and I both walked away having gleaned wisdom on what to expect on such adventures in the future. It only seems like the friendly things to do to pass along some of that wisdom:

Plan, plan, plan

I am not a planner. In a perfect world of my own making, we would fly by the seat of our pants all day every day. Thankfully, my other half is significantly wiser and is a thorough planner. While my pants may work just fine as a guide if we had all the time in the world and no weary, little feet, a plan is truly your survival guide with kids.

So Derek planned out our time, where we would visit, where we would park, and how to get to each of these places. He scheduled a tour of the Capitol building (the White House is "closed" over Christmas and New Years, FYI) and knew ahead of time what to expect while there (no food or drink!). He had all the places we wanted to hit the most mapped out, with bonus things ready in case we were up for it.

Here's the thing about planning: it has to be flexible! More on that in a sec.

AirBnB will save you

Here's why: 
You'll actually get sleep because you won't all be shoved into the same tiny room.
You'll pay way less for way more.

We really hate sleeping in a hotel. As nice as a pool is (and sometimes we are willing to suffer the hotel thing just for that), sleeping 7 in one room is a nightmare. And to pay for a suite... well an AirBnB is much more economical. 

Ours was fantastic! We had an entire house to ourselves and plenty of space for all! Kitchen. Laundry. Disney+. And it cost the same as a hotel room. So you're welcome for that advice.

So will Uber

We hadn't intended to use Uber but have you ever been to DC? So.Much.Walking! By the end of the day, the littles (and the grownups) just didn't have it in them to walk all the way back to the van. We spent roughly the amount on Uber that we would have on the metro. But we got picked up where ever we wanted and brought directly to our van in record time. 

We ended up calling an Uber 3 times and every time they were super nice and professional. So much safer and less stressful than dragging the kids through the metro system in the dark of night! Which, by the way, begins around 4 in the middle of the winter.

A stroller is a MUST

You probably are aware that DC involves a lot of walking. But let me just tell you, it's more than a lot. It's more than you think. It's always more. Praise the Lord, my MIL had a double stroller that we could plop our littlest two into. And our coats and snacks and water bottles. And bags for throw-up because we happened to need those...

Throw out your expectations

We have learned this over and over since becoming parents. Things will never go as planned with kids. So we went into our trip to DC having already thrown out most of our expectations. Derek had his plan but we knew it was simply a guideline to keep our sanity. Otherwise, it was completely throw-out-able. Flexible enough to be totally different when all was said and done.

Our trip actually went mostly as planned, except...

Get rid of the rest of your expectations

We did a fraction of what we had hoped to do. In spite of PERFECT weather the entire time, there simply wasn't any way to fit everything in. And by everything, I mean the very few things we were determined to get to. 

DC cannot be done in two days. 5 kids or no kids. Can't be done.

So we were very selective about where we went, and still didn't manage all the places. I realized that I had been viewing this as a once-in-a-lifetime trip, but when I let go of that, I could let go of the rest of my expectations. Even if it was the only time we'll ever go as a whole family, I had to recognize that we weren't missing out. Quite the contrary. The entire adventure was purely gift, unmet expectations and all. And that's the perfect segue into...

Treasure your people more than the places

It would have been so easy to lose it on my kids on multiple occasions while we walked (and walked) around DC. I could have ruined the fun for us all by dwelling on the handful of things I had really wanted to do but we simply couldn't make happen. If Derek or I had started grouching about sore feet or gave in to any sort of complaining, the whole trip could have been an utter disaster. But, by the grace of God and the help of each other, we were able to (for the most part!) savor the moments with our littles. Invest in their hearts and souls more than their academic knowledge of all things DC. 

Our kids won't likely remember all the things we saw, did, and learned (I already forget half of it!), but we believe they'll be able to look back on this trip with better memories than the statues and paintings in the Capitol or the pretty First Ladies dresses or the details of the flag of Fort Henry. They'll remember being loved and treasured while learning what it means to honor and respect our great country and those who made it worthy of those things.

That was our ultimate goal, anyway, and I pray it was accomplished!

Go ahead and use this wisdom for your next trip to Washington D.C. or anywhere for that matter. Where have you traveled with kids lately?


Sunday, February 10, 2019

Verbuary Challenge: Day6&7

Guys, I don't have time for this! I have commissioned work that has to be done and I'm sitting here writing flash fiction.

I'm claiming it as a warm up to the multiple articles I need to finish tooonight. I have to be done after these two for today. Got it? I know you're all disappointed.

These two shorts are both using characters from my WIP (work in progress). Enjoy a glimpse into the world of Marie and Nastia.


As she watched the dancers, each so poised, fluid, perfect, something was forming in the pit of her stomach.

She focused on her dearest friend who had a gift for ballet that exceeded everyone's in the room. Her love of dance made her face shine even after a long and arduous practice. Even after a hard and painful life. She admired her in all the ways.

But as she sat on the sidelines of the ballet life, jealousy began to take hold. And mixed with how much she loved her best friend was flecks of hate borne of envy. And in this moment, she let that feeling boil up from deep within and fester for a little too long.


"A lift?" Her heart fluttered. "Am I ready for that?"

"I think so. But there's really only one way to know for sure." Marie took a step toward the door and called, "Hey Jake, we need your help in here!"

Nastia's anxiety at the thought of practicing a lift was thrust into full on panic when she realized Jake would be doing the lifting. "Marie, really, I just don't..."

"How may I be of service?" Jake asked with a goofy grin and some crumbs tumbling off his chin onto his shirt. He took another bite of his turkey sandwich.

Marie turned to Nastia without responding to her brother. "Jake helps me all the time with lifts. I know he doesn't really look like it, but he's actually really strong."

"Hey!" Jake feigned offense.

Marie rolled her eyes and Nastia felt her cheeks flush.

Taking Jake's sandwich out of his hand, Marie pulled him further into the room and began to explain to both of them what they were going to do. Nastia's palms were clammy and her heart was racing. She was going to be lifted. She was going to be lifted by Jake.

When everyone was situated according to Marie's specifications, Jake looked at Nastia and smiled. "Marie is right," he said. "I really am strong. And I've lifted her a million times."

At Marie's impatient urging, Jake stood behind Nastia and placed his hands on her hips. Her breath caught but she willed herself to let it out slowly and focus. She followed Marie's direction, lifting into second position on pointe, then feeling herself leave the ground. For the first time she really was floating, free of the chains of earth. But she wasn't alone as she soared above reality. Jake was there. Jake was keeping her safe.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Verbuary Challenge: Day5

The word prompt was "fountain" and since I was struggling with coming up with something, I sought the help of my Bigs. The following stories were inspired by their creative minds:

Fountain (inspired by Jack)

He kept drinking and drinking and wouldn't stop. He'd drink so much that he'd have to run to the bathroom and go pee. Then he'd book it right back to the fountain and drink some more.

I was thirsty. All I needed was a sip. But he was so fast about doing his business that before I could even finish my step forward, he'd be shoving me back so he could get some more.

Finally, I asked him what his deal was. His answer was simple: "It's just so good."

Then he transformed into a fish before my eyes. I took him home and kept him as a pet.

After I got a drink, of course.

Fountain (inspired by Marie)

The most beautiful fountain any eyes have ever beheld was handcrafted by God Himself. Adam and Eve and all the animals of the Garden would gather around it every morning at dawn and worship the God who created them.

The water was crystal clear. It even sparkled in the morning sun. When Eve held her hand under the flow that cascaded down three full tiers, the water was so soft and so perfectly temperatured that it was like she was running her hand along the lion's mane (which she often did).

Yahweh would meet them there and they'd sing and chat and laugh together before heading out for their morning walk.

In the evenings, the moon would light up the fountain, giving it a fantastic glow like no earthly light could give it. Adam, Eve, and Yahweh would sit along the rock edge and recap the day, taking sips from the delectable water. Various animals would join them, lapping up some water then nuxxling or curling up in Yahweh's lap.

It was all perfect. Until it wasn't.

The evening after Eve gave in to the serpent's temptation, she and Adam didn't join Yahweh at the fountain. From a nearby thicket, they watched Yahweh greet each of his animal creations. His face was downcast as he snuggled a koala bear in his arms. Did He know somehow? It scared the couple while breaking their hearts. They ached to join Him at the fountain but they no longer belonged.

When they were cast out of the beautiful garden, just before the angel guards held up their flaming swords, Adam and Eve saw Yahweh running his hand under the fountain water, tears flowing freely. He looked at them and in that moment the fountain dried up and the garden vanished from view, waiting silently for the Savior to return.

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