My love affair with fall flavors is no secret. Each year when the leaves begin to turn and there's a hint of crispness in the air, I get an uncontrollable urge to bake. I don't just stick with tried-and-true recipes, either. I scour Pinterest for the latest concoction of fall delicacies. In fact, I've got an entire Pinterest Board dedicated to it!

I'm not picky, either...if it's got apples, pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, or any combination of them, I'll try it. That usually makes my family nervous...especially my husband whose mantra is, "If it's not broke, don't fix it" (meaning, don't mess with what already works). But I like to branch out and try new things. Most of the time it turns out well. Sometimes it doesn't.

Then there are those moments when you find...perfection. One recipe that becomes a staple each season. One that you look forward to making...and sharing...and eating every year. Like this decadent Apple Spice Cake that has served my family well for more than 10 years.

Sure, you could make this cake anytime with your average, store-bought apples. And it will be good. But it won't be the same as making it in the fall with fresh, locally-grown apples...yum!

A nut-free recipe for Apple Spice Cake with options for egg-free/dairy-free. Perfect for Fall!

That's why I'm sharing the recipe for Foodie Friday over at Missouri Women Bloggers. Hop on over to check it out; you won't be disappointed! (Yes, it's got sugar, and for those who know me...no, I didn't eat any this year!) ;)

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It's officially Fall...my FAVORITE time of year. Here in the Midwest, that means cooler weather, warm beverages, pumpkin yumminess, and of course, the seasonal clothing switch-out.

Unless you have closets the size of my garage, you know what I mean: twice a year (in the spring and in the fall) you pack away all your off-season clothes and unpack appropriate wear for the upcoming season (good-bye flip flops; hello hoodies and boots!).

If you have children who are still growing, you know this is also a great opportunity to take inventory of what still fits and what needs to be purchased before the temperature drops too far. And, if you have kids in that age range, you're familiar with the concept of a children's consignment sale--an event where mothers can bring clothing, toys, books, DVDs, electronics, etc. their children have outgrown and offer them up for a reasonable price (usually). For a mom, it's a great way to clean out those closets, make a little cash, and stock your child's entire wardrobe for the upcoming season.

And that is exactly what I do.

There's just one problem: once I'm in this giant sale, with so many cute outfits and adorable shoes, my eyes glaze over and I go garage-sale crazy. You know the condition...it's usually preceded by such statements as: "I'm not sure this will fit her, but it's only $3!" And "I doubt he'll ever wear this, but how can I pass it up? It's such a great deal!"

Yes, my friends: Garage Sale Crazy.

That is how we end up with 247  shirts (195 of which are black with a cute character on the front), but only 3 pair of pants for each child.

After years of this struggle, I've determined I need a plan going into such situations. I can no longer rely on my memory alone to guide me. I need a list (oh, how I do love lists!).

So, I created one. (Actually, I created two...one for boys, one for girls.)

Ever wished you had a list of the clothes your child needs for the upcoming season. Well, here you go! Free printable of Fall clothing for boys and girls | www.thereisgrace.com

Ever wished you had a list of the clothes your child needs for the upcoming season. Well, here you go! Free printable of Fall clothing for boys and girls | www.thereisgrace.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then I thought, Hey. I bet other moms could use the same thing.

So I decided to share it with you.

Whether you use it for a consignment sale, garage/yard sale shopping, or just tuck it in your purse in case you hit a sale at the mall, I hope you find it helpful.

You can track of the basics your children still need (undies, socks, PJs, shirts, pants), plus how many and what colors. (Anyone else ever end up with 15 pair of white leggings, when you really need brown?)

There's also a place for seasonal items like holiday outfits and snow suit/boots so you won't be the mom at Target the night before the big snow storm, fighting over the last pair of size 2 snow boots. ;)

Happy Fall, Y'all!

Click to download: Fall Clothes Printable-BOYS, Fall-Clothes-Printable-GIRLS

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Don't let the title fool you...I have never been Miss American anything! Today, I am honored to welcome my good friend Casey Gibbons of Realife Casey.

I first met Casey more than 15 years ago when she began attending the youth ministry where I volunteered. As I got to know Casey over the next few years, a great friendship blossomed and grew. We have spent hours talking about ministry and writing, sharing motherhood woes and triumphs,  and walking through personal and physical challenges together. Now, we have the privilege of watching our children grow in friendship (a blessing to this Mama, for sure!).

As a wife, mom to 6, writer, ministry leader, and blogger, Casey is one of those "how does she do it all?" women. But she's the first to tell you she relies heavily on grace (and admit sometimes it doesn't all get done!) She remains as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside, and she has graciously allowed me to share this post (from June 2013) about her experience as Miss American Teen. Please welcome, my  friend Casey Gibbons:

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As a former pageant girl, you can imagine my excitement when I turned on the TV last night to check the weather only to find that the Miss USA competition was just begininng! It was perfect timing. My husband was already in bed so I didn't have to turn it off due to immodesty and my five little girls were in bed so I didn't have to have a two hour training session on finding confidence aside from how a person looks. It was just me and the tv.

Although pageants are much different than when I participated, a flash of memory lane rushed through my body. It was 15 years ago that I was crowned Miss American Teen 1998 in Orlando, FL. It was a dream come true for my 18 yr old world. After months of hard work preparation and competition, God allowed me to win the national title. Yes, I cried. My family cheered. My hometown celebrated. My school friends went fan crazy. And I spent the next year going all over the country speaking, helping causes, serving communities, and living it up best I could.

Without boring most of you, all I can say about my pageant experiences was that I had the time of my life. My whole family participated with all the excitement. For us, it was making memories and doing something together. And I learned how to handle myself in public speaking and formal settings. I was challenged in my ability to lead in the community and in my school with grades and participation. My body was held accountable and my mind was sharpened during those days. In addition, I made a ton of friends and was able to share Christ to hundreds of girls.

Fast forward to now. As my eyes are glazed over thinking about my time "conquering the world" with a young in-shape body, glamorous clothes, fancy food, high-rise hotels, personal makeup and hair artists, talent shows and fame, I am keenly aware of my current state of being.

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My body has given birth to five children, my clothes are worn out Pj's, my food tonight is animal crackers and yogurt served in a Veggie Tales bowl, my housing arrangement is a low-rise that smells like rotten eggs from the soaking pan days old, my hair hasn't been washed in four days, I haven't worn an ounce of makeup for over two weeks, my talent consists of rocking my coughing toddler back to sleep, and I am now famous among needy EGR (extra grace required) teenage girls who are texting me even though we just got home from being together for a week.

Yes, life is different now. But I am writing today with good news! There is a verse Paul wrote in Philippians 4 that challenges me.

I don't have a sense of needing anything personally. I have learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I am just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I have found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. (Philippians 4:11-13, The Message)

There is such a strength in being content in all circumstances. Although I had wonderful memories from my pageant days, I can be content in the current stage of life! My joy and satisfaction comes from the Lord, not in how outward things are going for me. As I sit here looking and feeling completely different than 15 years ago, I am still full of joy at the place God has me. This doesn't make sense in natural thinking but it's true! As long as you are where God wants you to be doing what He wants you to do then you will be okay!

Don't fret friends! Don't look to your past accomplishments and wishful thinking for the "old days". God has a plan for you TODAY in the workplace, the home, the school, the church, the store, on vacation, and anywhere else you find yourself! You may be have different circumstances but God is with you! Because of the joy that can only come by God's grace, I am loving my life and you can too! There is no need to wait for things to "be like they used to be" so we can be happy again. Life changes. Things happen. We have a promise from the Lord that He is with us and will give us all we need to face life as it is, today!

So, I don't know about you but I am embracing my place in the world I now live in. I am not 18 and I am not a pageant girl. But what I am is a woman who is content is all cirmcumstances at all times as the Lord gives me strength.

I praise Him for the past, lean on Him in the present and look with anticipation for the future! And my prayer is that you will too.

caseyCasey is author of A Girl's Life with God and well-known speaker to girls of all ages. She has been married to her best friend, Scotty, for 14 years. They have five daughters, ages 12, 10, 9, 7, and 4, and they welcomed their first son this summer!  Casey blogs about motherhood, ministry, home education, and life in general at Realife Casey!

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This summer, my family and I visited the beach. That's a pretty big deal for this Midwestern girl. I can probably count on two hands the times I've seen the ocean up close and personal.

As every girl knows, a trip to the beach requires a new swimsuit...which, of course, means the dreaded trip to find a new swimsuit. Such a trip would have been traumatic enough in my 20s as I would have lamented over my not-so-supermodel physique. (Oh, the things we worry about in our 20s!) It would have been slightly more troubling in my 30s as I attempted to camouflage the effects of birthing two babies and the toll those babies had taken on my body. But in my 40s...

Well, in my 40s one would hope it would have been different.

I've heard it said, and I believe it to be true, that after 40 you really don't care what others think. Sure, I'd like to look like Cindy Crawford, but that ain't gonna happen. I've stopped holding on to the dream. I have finally found comfort in my own skin and come to grips with my own physique...cue the victory parade!

But now I faced a new obstacle: scars.

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My first surgery in 2010 left me with a 6-inch scar running down the back of my left thigh. Of course I know it's there, but since it's on the back of my leg and it's faded over the last few years, it's easy to forget about. This time, however, there was a new scar, and this one wasn't so easy to hide...my port.

For those who don't know, a port is a small device implanted just under the skin for the purpose of delivering chemotherapy drugs. While I am thankful to have had it during chemo, I wasn't looking forward to toting it along on my vacation. It's implanted right under my right collar bone, so it was easy to cover up with clothing through the long, cold winter. But now it was swim suit season. That was a whole new ball game.

Unlike the one on the back of my leg, this was one scar I could not ignore. When someone looked at my face, there it was...a few inches below my chin, looking like it was about to burst out from under my skin. It was unmistakable. It was unavoidable.

That is when I decided...it would just have to be seen, and I (and everyone at Ft. Walton Beach) would just have to live with it!

Strangely enough, it didn't bother me once my feet hit the sand. :) I figured those who didn't know what it was could probably care less. And those who did know what it was...well, they would understand.

They would know that it's more than an ugly protrusion under my skin.

More than a disfigurement.

It's a physical marker of the battle I am waging. A weapon in my arsenal.

That's the thing about scars...those of us who have them understand what they represent. We don't see the ugly or the imperfection. We see the struggle. The fight. The victory.

As I type this, I am recovering from yet another surgery, and I have yet another scar. Before all is said and done, I'll likely have two more.

I don't like scars. Not because they're ugly, but because they represent pain. Deep pain. Pain no one should have to endure.

They remind us of a time when we were weak, vulnerable.

And for that reason, I'm learning to appreciate my scars. I don't know that I'll ever grow to love them. But I pray I will always remember what they represent...

"My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10)

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While I am recovering from surgery this week, my lovely friend, Kristianne, is stopping by to grace us with her beautiful words. I first met Kristianne in January when I received one of her Compassion Bags. We spoke on the phone a few weeks later and I knew it was a friendship born in heaven. Over the last few months, we have spoken often--sharing our hearts, baring our souls, and covering one another in prayer.

Kristianne is the founder of Compassion That Compels, an amazing ministry to women who are battling cancer. You really need to go check out her web site and hear her heart for women!

But first...I'd like you to meet my friend, Kristianne...

love-smells

Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)

love-smell-1Grace’s ringlet curls wrapped around her spangly bracelets as she leaned across our bubble gum tea party. She wiggled her index finger in the space between our faces. “C’mere, mommy…real close and breathe big with me,” and we did as if together, we could breathe in tiny moments like solid molecules.

“Mmmm…I love you. You stink really good today, mommy.” Of course, I completely understood that it was the scent of my perfume but what Grace really smelled was my love.

Everybodys love smells different.

love-smells-2My Italian grandma was never a gushing geyser of sentiments but I do remember the endless flow of Little Debbies that grew within the pockets of her flowered, polyester housecoat and sent me on cream filling waves across her kitchen linoleum to the gold, shag-carpeted guest room. I never knew what treasures waited behind the real imitation wood closet doors with their shiny brass knobs. There were always stacks of toys, games, and primary-colored, striped clothes that, if they were too big for me, I could pass to my older sister and too small, given to a younger cousin.

My grandmas love smelled like a mix of garlic and mothballs.

In the Old Testament, around the time of the battles between the ites and the ambivalent Israelites, animal sacrifices were pleasing aromas to God. I’ve read the New Testament starting with the red letters enough to know what Jesus saw, heard, tasted, touched but what did Jesus smell?

But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.  (2 Corinthians 2:16)

Lazarus was dead for four days

A woman with an issue of blood for 12 years

Legion and his tomb dwelling demons

And how about that mid-dinner pedi Jesus did for all of his disciples? 

Let’s face it, what Jesus had to smell would leave us gagging. Nowhere do we read about Jesus priming his hand sanitizer bottle or getting into a Febreze spraying frenzy after each encounter.

Not a mention of what He smelled, because maybe what Jesus smelled was love.

Live a life filled with love following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.     (Ephesians 5:2)

Retracing the steps across and around the decades of my life, I see first my 20’s “if God loved me.” Then, 30’s “when he loves me”. Now in my 40’s and no longer an “unsecure person”,  but firmly rooted in faith and realizing that grace isn’t acquired like a scouting merit badge, it’s because He is love.

He loves me because God is love, and to Jesus, I hopefully stink really good.

kristianneKristianne is a writer, speaker and founder of Compassion That Compels. Her life of love is filled to overflowing for her husband Royal, and their daughters Grace and Annelise. Collecting people and gardening are among her passions. Painting lives in brilliant hues of God’s love and compassion is her purpose. Join Kristianne on Facebook Compassion That Compels. Follow her on Twitter Kristiannefaith and Instagram.

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Last weekend someone mentioned to me that they hadn't seen anything from my blog in their inbox lately. They were starting to worry and asked if they might have inadvertently unsubscribed from my blog.  I assured them that, no, they had not unsubscribed; the lack of correspondence was entirely my fault.

In case you, too, have noticed the crickets around here over the last several weeks, I thought I'd share what I have been up to. Plus, two exciting announcements at the end...don't miss them!:

Last month my daughter and I went to camp . It was awesome, as you can see:

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We barely had time to do laundry and catch up on sleep before we piled into our van for a two-day road trip so we could do this...

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And this...

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Ah....those were the days.

We arrived home just in time for a quick visit from family before we began the mad dash to the first day of school. Every year, I forget how crazy the days can be leading up to the start of school: shopping for supplies, shopping for clothes, organizing supplies, and preparing for 180 days of packed lunches. (Are you in the midst of the craziness and in need of inspiration? Check out my Back to School board on Pinterest!)

It's a wonder we made it to the first day, but we did--successfully sending them off to 4th and 1st grades!

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Of course, in the midst of it all, there were the ongoing doctor's visits, scans, and check-ups that come with battling cancer, plus the changes in our diet and lifestyle to support our ongoing battle.

Whew! Just writing it all down wears me out! So, now that we're all caught up let's get on to the announcements (insert drumroll here)...

The first BIG announcement: I will be having surgery next Tuesday, August 26 to remove the first of the three tumors! While surgery is never fun and always a little scary, we are excited about this for a couple of reasons: 1) We were told last year we wouldn't get to this point...but, of course, we know that GOD IS BIGGER than cancer!! 2. This is the first time in a year that ALL my doctors are on the same page...a miracle in its own right! :)

While I will be posting on occasion, my main focus will be on recovery in the next few weeks. So I've asked a few friends to stop in from time to time and grace us with a guest post. I'm excited about hearing from them...you won't want to miss it!

As I go into surgery next week, I would greatly appreciate your prayers, especially for the following: Logistics--we have a fantastic support system, but there is still a lot of juggling involved to accommodate everyone's schedules and specific needs;  Peace--we know God is going before us, but there are moments of anxiety when one is facing surgery of any kind; Healing--We are praying for an easier-than-expected procedure--free from any complications--and for a quick recovery. Thank you!

Now, for the second BIG announcement....

Unshakable-coming-soon 500

It's coming...MY GOD'S STORY!! There are still some details to work out, and of course the timeline will have to accommodate surgery and recovery, but I couldn't stand to keep it a secret any longer!

If you want to be among the first to know when it's available (and receive special discounts), subscribe by entering your e-mail in the sidebar!

So, what have you been up to this summer?
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My daughter and I head to church camp next week. Am I crazy to voluntarily spend four days with a group of 4th and 5th grade girls at age 41? Maybe. But I know how important a camp experience is for kids (if you want to know how important, read this post.) I also realize in a few short years my girl won't want me tagging along to camp. So when she said she wanted me be a leader again this year, I signed us both up! (And who are we kidding...I love camp!)

Sitting in the leadership training last weekend, I realized that in my many years of camp experience, I've encountered several "rock star" leaders. These are the leaders who made camp memorable and successful for the campers, the other leaders, and even the camp staff.

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I've also seen some who, well...didn't. If you've been to camp, there's a good chance you've seen them, too...

My Way or the Highway Ray
Ray has certain preferences and doesn't mind telling you about them. He doesn't like potatoes, so he gripes about the food. He's not a morning person, so he grumbles about the 7:00 am staff meetings. He's not big on getting wet, so he thinks the water games are lame...and he lets everyone know. Don't be this guy: Check your preferences at the door. Be a team player, and remember it's not about you! Don't like the top bunk? Determine you will love it for this week. (And dream about your own, comfy bed waiting for you at home!)

Clueless Carissa
Carissa's group is always late and never where they're supposed to be. It's not because she's new; it's because she's unaware and uninformed. She's always one step behind her group so the more seasoned campers discover they can walk right over her, which they do mercilessly. Don't be this girl: Be informed; read the rules and attend leadership training and meetings. Talk to other leaders and discover the no-nos and the must-dos. Most of all, remember you are the leader and follow the advice of my high school youth pastor: "When in doubt, take charge!"

Party Marty
Marty is all fun all the time. The campers love him, and he's a big hit from the cafeteria to the activity field. So what's the problem? He doesn't know when to stop. His group is rowdy and out of control. They quickly learn to not take anything (including safety and rules) seriously. Camp leadership can't trust him and end up spending valuable time and resources keeping on eye on him. Don't be this guy: Be the adult. Have fun, but be responsible. When it's time to be serious, lead by example. When it's time to sleep, bring the energy level down and get some sleep yourself. Then when it's time for fun, lead the way and party on!

Militant Marsha
Marsha is all business, no play. Her girls know the sound of her whistle (or shriek), and fall in accordingly. They march from event to event and eat in silence. They win the Cleanest Bunk award every year (you can bounce a quarter off those bunks!) They are the first to each activity and set out to win every event (and if they don't, their leader is a poor loser.) Don't be this girl: Relax, and have fun. This isn't the army; it's not even the Girl Scouts. There's nothing wrong with winning events or having a clean bunk, but that's not really the end-goal of camp. Remember, it's OK to cut loose and have a little fun, too!

Rock Star Rick and Rebecca
Rick and Rebecca used vacation time to come to camp, but they realize this week is anything but a vacation; it's not about them...it's about the campers. They came ready to build relationships and invest in others. You'd never know they "aren't the outdoorsy type" because they put on their big-boy and big-girl pants when they got on the bus. They are encouraging of others and cheer on the campers whether they are winning or losing. The campers love them...especially those who started out shy and withdrawn (because Rick and Rebecca made a point to draw them in.) They came ready to work hard and serve others. They eagerly jump in wherever they're needed. That's why they're heroes, not only to the campers, but to the staff as well. Rick and Rebecca make every camp experience a success!

Do you have any rock-star camp experiences (either as a leader or a camper)?

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This post contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase The Veggie Book from the link below, I receive a small compensation at no additional charge to you.

Until recently, my veggie repertoire consisted of canned green beans and frozen corn. If I was feeling especially fancy, I'd throw some corn cobs on the grill, or chop up a salad. (Yes, be jealous of my culinary skills.) I knew veggies are good for me and my family, but I didn't know how to select or prepare them so that they were anything but tolerable. Now, I'm happy to say, I've introduced my family to new foods, including veggies, and to my surprise, even my one anti-veggie child has started eating them...he actually asked for salad the other night. I'd say that's a victory!

I didn't do it alone, however. Our recent journey into healthier eating has not only opened my eyes to new foods (and ways to prepare them), it's also led me to many new resources. One of those resources is The Veggie Book. This is more than just a cookbook. It's like having your own personal Veggie Coach (who doesn't need one of those, right?).

the-veggie-book

Here's what I love about this book:

It's simple. I'm still adjusting to this new way of shopping and eating, and it can honestly become overwhelming at times. The Veggie Book is chocked full of veggies I am familiar with...whether it's new ways to prepare old favorites or highlighting veggies I've heard of, but never been brave enough to buy or prepare. No dandelion greens or gai lan here. Chances are you've heard of every single vegetable in this book. You've probably seen them time and again in the produce section of your grocery store. And, if you're like me, you've thought Hmmm, I should get that, but I have no idea what to do with it! That excuse will no longer fly, my friend!

It's thorough. The Veggie Book is a collaboration of three author-moms who tested the 52+ recipes on their own husbands and kids. In addition to the tried-and-true recipes, The Veggie Book gives you information on each vegetable's nutrition (because how many of us really know why we should eat more asparagus?!), how to select good produce (can I hear an "amen"?!) plus tips for washing, storing, and preparing it. They also include tips for making stock, seasoning your dishes, and which veggies are important to purchase organic.

It's affordable. A new adventure in eating healthy is expensive enough...with all the new foods, testing new recipes, and initial moves to whole, healthier foods. I know the payoff is worth it, but I think anyone would agree the first steps can seem overwhelming mentally and financially. Moms, at only $9.95, it's a great deal for a priceless weapon in your culinary arsenal. (Seriously, I made the Buttered Cabbage for dinner last night, and my husband had seconds...seconds on cabbage!)

In case you're still not convinced, the authors of The Veggie Book have offered to give one of you, my dear readers, a copy of their book! See details below to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received a  free copy of  The Veggie Book for my honest review.
As always, opinions  stated are 100% mine.

Happy Eating!
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Yes, that's a pretty tall order; one I probably can't deliver on. But I believe you can have a happy and productive summer while maintaining a level of sanity.

happy-summer

Summer lends itself to lazy days and a carefree spirit, but I've learned that too much laziness sends everyone spiraling into a meltdown by about 3:00 p.m.  And while summertime means more free time and fun, it also means an opportunity to do things we can't during the busyness of the school year.

Here's how I plan to tackle such a tall order:

1. Routine
It will be much more relaxed and move at a slower pace, but there will be a routine. We won't wake up at the same time everyday, or be forced to rush out the door (except for the week of VBS). And there will be days we stay in our PJs until dinnertime (mom included!). But those days will be the exception, not the rule. We'll enjoy plenty of movies (especially during those pop-up summer thunderstorms), but screen time will have its limits. Our days will have a rhythm, but it will be more like a "smooth jazz" groove with a lot of improvisation, not the driving "marching band" beat that drives us through the school year.

2. Responsibilities
Yes, summer is a great time to kick back and relax, but unfortunately, the laundry, cleaning, shopping, and cooking don't take a summer break! Now that everyone is home all day, every day, there are more hands to pitch in and help. That way, Mom can enjoy some summertime fun, too! So in addition to their regular responsibilities (taking care of themselves and their space) each child will choose 1 job to do each day. (These are jobs they get paid for in addition to their regular chores. I explain our job/chore system in more detail here.)

3. Resources
The phrase, "I'm bored" is not allowed in our house, because we believe that a creative person should never be bored. And since kids have endless imaginations, they are some of the most creative people in the world! Still, even they need a little inspiration from time to time.

If you've been on Pinterest more than 5 minutes, I'm sure you've seen ideas for this Bored Board or these Boredom Jars. Ours have been used every day so far this week!

3. Research
My kids LOVE to learn, and I want to keep that going through the summer. Since my kids attend school outside the home, summer is the perfect time for us to do some fun, educational things together (and they'll never know they're learning!). Here are some ways we do that:

  • Library reading program
  • Special arts & crafts projects
  • Trips to museums, zoos, and nature parks
  • Keep a "science" journal about our garden (what they observe, how it grows, etc.)
  • Focus on character traits we want to develop
  • Reading books as a family
  • Taking swimming lessons (that counts as education and exercise!)
  • Cooking projects (reading recipes, life skills, and math!)
  • We'll also continue music lessons and a few sports activities through the summer

4. Rest
Summer is a time to relax and refresh, and we'll do that with lazy mornings and long afternoons at the pool. But we'll also take some time every day to intentionally "power down" and recharge. This is the first year that we are a nap-free home (at least the kids are, anyway!), so the days can get long and the house can grow small when everyone is home all day. So, I'm borrowing an idea from our church camp and instituting a "feet off the floor" time every afternoon. Everyone will spends an hour (or so, depending on what's going on that day) in his or her own room doing something calm and quiet (reading a book, playing legos, doing puzzles, listening to an audiobook, etc.). No screens allowed.

This is how we plan to find a balance between fun and slothfulness this summer. There will still be plenty of lazy mornings where we sleep in (which we've already done a couple times this week!) and lots of time playing with friends, eating ice cream, and swimming! But when August rolls around, I want to look back at these weeks with a sense of satisfaction, knowing we made the most of every opportunity.

What does your summer routine look like?

Need more ideas for an intentionally fun summer? Check out How to Survive Summer with Your Kids! , or The Best Summer Ever, or follow my Summer Fun board on Pinterest!

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3 Comments

I remember how it felt, standing in the grocery aisle reading label after label on the boxes of crackers. Then putting each one back because it contained a potential threat to my son...a food allergy. I exhausted every brand of cracker in that store. That's when it hit me: I have no idea what to feed my child.

This week is Food Allergy Awareness Week, and all the articles and discussions online have reminded me what it was like in the beginning...when we first learned of my son's allergies. The information was overwhelming. At only 2 years old, my son relied completely on me to provide him with food. And I suddenly had no idea what he could eat. That first trip to the grocery store was, in a word, traumatic.

If that's you, overwhelmed mom whose child has just been diagnosed with a food allergy (or additional food allergies), here are a few tips that helped me get through those early days, and continue to help me today:

food-allergies-child

1. Learn to read labels. At first, this can be a daunting task....You want me to read every single label of every single food my child puts in his mouth?! Yes. Always. Even (and especially!) the "allergen statement" listed after the ingredients. This is the "May contain" line after the ingredients that will tell you if there's a potential for cross-contamination. You'll soon learn what brands are safe and which ones contain allergens, but always read labels as ingredients and manufacturing practices can change.

2. Learn to ask questions. Of everyone...restaurant servers, daycare workers, teachers, church nursery volunteers, and other parents. If they will be serving food your child will eat, it is your responsibility to know what is in it. If you're not satisfied with the answer, keep asking. I've actually had young, inexperienced wait staff respond to my allergy questions with, "Oh, he should be fine." Yeah, that's not gonna fly with this mama. I'm going to need to talk to someone who knows something (and maybe has a driver's license). Be kind, but firm...and tenacious if you need to. Your child's health (and possibly her life) depends on it.

3. Start with what you know and go slow. You don't have to chuck everything out of your kitchen and start from scratch. (If it's a serious allergy, you may want to get the allergen completely out of the house, at least for a while.) Start with what you know is safe. Can your child have fruit? Stock up on fresh fruit, frozen fruit, and fruit cups. No dairy allergy? Load the fridge with cheese sticks and yogurt cups. Don't make it too complicated at first. Find a few meal options and snacks you know are safe and stick with those for a while. You'll soon find other options you can add to your rotation.

4. Join a community. Believe it or not, when my son was first diagnosed, it was difficult to find much practical information online. Everything I found was from a medical journal. Oh, how far we've come in four years! If you know another mom who navigates food allergies, pick her brain. I'm sure she's a wealth of information and would love to share what she's learned. There's great value in online community as well. Need some recipe inspiration? Debra at Worth Cooking has some great allergy-friendly recipes, and I've heard Food Allergy Mama's cookbook is very helpful. (I've not read it, but I've heard good things.) And you can find some great, allergy-friendly recipes every Wednesday at The Domestic Diva's Allergy-Free link-up. You can also find some of my favorite recipes here, follow my Food Allergy board on Pinterest, or join the Food Allergy 411 Facebook page.

5. Always, always carry your Epi-pen. Just last week, my son had a reaction to some muffins I made with garbanzo flour....garbanzo flour?!? He has eaten hummus too many times to count, so it never dawned on me that he would react to garbanzo flour (even though he is allergic to peanuts and soy...both legumes). Fortunately, I did not have to use the Epi, but I was glad I had it with me...just in case. The thing about allergic reactions is that each one can be more severe than the last. So, even though we've never had to use our Epi, that doesn't mean we won't. And I'd rather be safe than sorry.

So, take a breath, Mama. It's going to be OK. You can get up off the grocery store aisle floor where you've been in the fetal position for the last 30 minutes. You don't have to answer all your questions today. You don't have to know what you'll serve at your child's graduation party or wedding. You just have to get through today. Tomorrow you'll know more than you do today, and the next day you'll know even more.

And someday, even sooner than you think, when you see another mom in the grocery aisle with 14 boxes of crackers in her arms and that deer-in-the-headlights look, you'll be the one to walk up to her and say, "It's going to be OK. I did this, and you can, too!"

What advice would you give a mom who is just starting the food allergy journey?

If you're looking for more helpful tips on food allergies...
A Crash Course in Food Allergies
Making the Most of Food Allergies
What's the Difference Between a Food Allergy and Food Sensitivity?
Navigating Parties with Food Allergies

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