Tag Archives: summertime

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My daughter and I are all signed up for camp again. This will be the third year we've gone. Some may say I'm crazy for going to camp at the age of 42 (and they may be right), but when your daughter asks you to be her leader, you do it because: 1) there probably won't be many more summers when she wants me at camp, and 2) we make camp a priority for our kids (and here's why).

This is also the first year my son is able to go. I'm excited for him and for my husband who is going as his leader, even though he's never been to camp before! So, in honor of all you church camp veterans and the newbies, I'm sharing my top 10 tips for camp leaders. We need all the help we can get, because camp at the age of 42 is an entirely different experience than camp at the age of 15, or 25 (or, who are we kidding...35)!

Top 10 Tips for Camp Leaders | www.thereisgrace.com

1. Be informed. Read the information, attend the meetings, and ask questions. The more you know, the more prepared you will be, which leads me to #2...

2. Be prepared. Don't simply read the information, do what it says. Camp organizers didn't create those guidelines because they were bored one day. They have answered hundreds of questions, handled numerous issues, and lived through camp a time or two themselves. Glean from their wisdom.

3. Get sleep. Between homesick campers and sturdy-but-not-so-comfy cots, you won't get much sleep at camp. Don't start out exhausted; do your best to go into camp rested. (And make time to catch up on it after).

4. Eat well. If you're over the age of 30, you understand your body doesn't bounce back from physical strain quite like it used to. Whether you're over 30 or not, your body can use all the help it can get to endure the physical rigor that comes with camp. That means nutrition, and lots of it! Camp food isn't typically health food, but you can find good options if you try, so do the best you can.

5. Pray. Don't forget to prepare your spirit as well. God may have an opportunity just waiting for you to impact a student's life. After all, that's the whole reason you're there, right?

6. Pack light. If there is a suggested packing list, follow it. It's there for a reason. It will help you determine what types of clothing you will need. Are chapels dressy or casual? What type of athletic activities should you prepare for? Do you need bedding? Flashlights? An alarm clock? Following a list, will help you be prepared without overdoing it.

7. Check your preferences at the door. There's a good chance something will happen over the course of the week that you don't care for. See that as your opportunity to put on your big boy or big girl pants and be the adult. Campers will look to you in how to respond, so dig deep to find a good attitude and set an example.

8. Build relationships. You're there for the kids, so be there for the kids. Make an effort to search out that one kid who isn't having a great time and include him. Find that girl who is especially homesick and help her make friends.

9. Be the adult. You're not simply an oversized camper. You are the adult...so be one. Make every effort to reflect the standards, the attitude, and the heart of the camp leaders. You are an extension of their leadership.

10. Have fun! Church camp can become one of your fondest memories if you go into it prepared and have the right attitude. So when all is said and done, relax and  enjoy it!

Want to be a Rock Star Camp Leader? Find out how, here!)

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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.

rock-star-camp-leader

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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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. We've wrapped up our first homeschool year, but that doesn't mean the learning stops. Summer is the perfect time for fun, educational activities (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. Now that we are a nap-free home (at least the kids are, anyway!), 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 follow my Summer Fun board on Pinterest!

 

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Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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I'm going to let you in on a little secret that not many people know about me: I am a semi-professional camper. Not the sleep-in-a-tent-under-the-stars type camper, but the church-camp type camper.

I've been going to church camp since I was about 4 years old. My parents were district directors for our church organization and one of their responsibilities was to direct the summer youth camps. Thus began my long love affair with church camp.

Last week I had the special privilege of going to kids camp with my daughter and serving as her team leader. For the record, camp is an entirely different experience when you're 40 than it is when you are 20! Still, I would not trade the experience for all the luxury hotel rooms in the world.

I realize not everyone shares my love of "roughin' it for Jesus." But I believe every child should experience church camp at least once, and here's why.

4 Reasons to Make Camp a Priority for your Child | www.thereisgrace.com

Controlled Independence
Camp is a great opportunity to learn a little independence, but still have plenty of adult supervision. Mom isn't hovering about nagging reminding them to brush their teeth and make their bed. But it's not a free-for-all, either. Kids learn responsibility and independence by keeping their bunks tidy, keeping their clothes together, and being ready on time...all under the supervision of adult leaders.

I was unable to join my girls at the lake one afternoon at camp. One of the leaders asked my daughter, "Do you miss your mom?" "No!" she replied (a little too enthusiastically!). "I feel like a teenager just hanging out with my friends!" This mama is happy to give my daughter a little "independence" at the lake when I know there are 18 other team leaders and 3 lifeguards keeping an eye on things! 😉church-camp-2

Positive Role Models
The camp worship leader was a young woman who my Little Miss adores. This young lady is like a rock star. She could not walk across the campground without being swarmed by 7- and 8-year-old girls. And she stopped to hug. every. single. one. (Taylor Swift has nothin' on her!)

On stage and off, this young lady is someone I am happy to allow influence my daughter. From the rec staff to the leadership staff to fellow campers, I am thankful my daughter was surrounded by godly role models who encouraged her in her relationship with God.

Unfortunately, we have all heard news stories of terrible things than have occurred because of camp staffers. But if you do your homework and find a church or organization you trust that performs strict background checks, you can find a safe and trustworthy camp experience for your child.

If you're still nervous, you can offer to volunteer as a leader. I'm sure they'd appreciate the extra help! (Check out these tips for being a Rock-Star Camp Leader.)

church-camp-4

It's Fun!
I am not a get-down-in-the-mud kind of girl. I'm not super athletic or competitive and I don't really care to be dirty. My daughter is the same way. So, when I heard about Mud Day at our camp, I was a little concerned.

Mud Day is exactly what it sounds like...a bunch of games entirely in the mud. I had no choice but to put on my big girl pants and take one for the team. So I did. And so did my daughter. As a matter of fact, she loved it! (And so did many of the other girls who started out a little hesitant about the mud.)

There were a few who did not enjoy getting muddy (or leaving their shoes behind in the mud pit), but even those girls vowed to return to camp next year, because (in their words) "Camp is so much fun!"

church-camp-3

They Will Encounter God
Camp played a significant role in my spiritual life as I grew up. I accepted Christ at camp. I learned to have a quiet time at camp. I learned to recognize God's Spirit speaking to my heart at camp. I learned to work out my faith at camp.

At some point, your child will choose to either make your faith their own or reject it entirely. You can't make that choice for them, but you can give them opportunities along the way.

A Bible-believing camp is the perfect opportunity for your kids to step into their own relationship with God. For a few days they are not distracted by home life, sibling squabbles, or pressure from school. It's just them and God.

We often think nothing of plunking down hundreds of dollars for soccer camp, gymnastics camp, band camp, or (fill in the blank with any other activity) camp. We will even schedule family vacations and other commitments around them, because we recognize the benefit of concentrated efforts in those areas.

Imagine what could happen if we put as much effort and financial investment into our children's spiritual development!

Think about the impact it will have when, years down the road, they look back on their camp experience and say, "I know God is real, because I met Him at camp."

What experiences have you or your kids had at church camp?

Also, check out these 10 Things to Ask Your Kids When They Get Home from Camp.

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We have reached that time of year when it's not fun to be outside after 10:00 a.m. unless water activities are involved. Since we don't have a pool, that leaves Mom looking for indoor activities to keep little hands busy. And, contrary to what some little people in my home may think, one can only play so many hours of Xbox.

Thankfully, a box from Kiwi Crate showed up just in time! We received the Caring for Earth Crate, and my kids were so excited to dig in!

kiwicrate-1

Note: I received a complimentary Kiwi Crate box for my unbiased review of the product. All opinions expressed are 100% mine.

The box came with two, ready-to-do craft activities. Little Man chose to make his own paper (which turned out so cool!), and Little Miss created her own, stamped leaf bag. Of course then she had to make paper, too, because it looked like so much fun! There were also three "recipe cards" for additional crafts we could do using everyday things around the house.

indoorsummerfunThe kids loved the hands-on activities, and I loved the fact that everything was provided and there were simple, fool-proof instructions (a must for this non-crafty mama!).

If you have little crafters in your home and are looking for some indoor fun to pass the long, hot days of summer, Kiwi Crate has plenty of options! You can purchase individual crates as well as a variety of art supplies, party favors, and even T-shirts! Or, purchase a subscription and they'll send a new crate to your door every month! Who wouldn't love that! What a great gift idea for the tiny crafter in your life!

Plus, Kiwi Crate is offering an exclusive 25% off your first month subscription for There Is Grace readers. (Does not apply to sibling add-on.)

Simply enter the code: GRACE25 when you check out. But hurry, it ends July 19, 2013. So, pop on over and check out the adorable crates they have available right now.

 photo theintentionalblogger_300_zps7d165c87.pngAnd in other news...I'm sharing a little bit of my blogging story over at The Intentional Blogger today. Why don't you drop by over there and say "hi?"

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Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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Ah, summer is finally here. Well, technically, summer is still a few days away, but  summer break is here. That means sleeping late, lazy days playing in the sprinkler, and all kinds of relaxin'!

7 Tips for surviving summer with elementary-age kids | www.thereisgrace.com

Sounds dreamy, doesn't it? For a few days? YES! For a few months? Maybe not.

If you're a Type-A personality (ahem, like me) you're ready to climb the walls after a couple days of all that doin' nothin'! Throw in a couple of kids whose vocabulary have been reduced to "I'm bored" AND the summertime we-can't-get-along-but-can't-stand-to-be-apart sibling phenomenon, and this mama is ready to run screaming for the nearest Starbucks!

So how does one combat the summertime boredom blues?

1. Be intentional.

I love this post by my friend Lori at Everyday Truth about making the most of summertime. She says, "Summer should have plenty of time for making memories and having fun, but it should also be a time when our kids learn the value of work and learn some new things." I couldn't agree more.

I want to enjoy our summers, but I also want to be intentional about our time. We make a list (oh, how I love my lists!) of things we want to do while school is out. It includes things like vacations we are planning, activities we want to do close to home, projects we want to accomplish, and things we want to learn...sort of a "Summer Bucket List."

This gives the kids things to look forward to and keeps us from looking back in August wondering why we didn't do anything. The Summer Survival Calendar is a great way to keep all you ideas and activities organized. Plus, it's chocked full of ideas and resources!

2. Embrace a routine.

While summer's relaxed schedule is nice, I've found that too much "relaxation" (or laziness) sets us all on edge. So, while we don't adhere to a rigid schedule like we do during the school year, we do follow a routine...an order in which we do things, but at a more relaxed pace. I love Lori's idea of three categories in the day: Chores (because they still have to be done, right?), Learning (who says it can't be fun?), and Fun (after all, that's what summer is for).

Chores Cards and Media Minutes

Speaking of chores...there are some great ideas for summertime chores (with free printables!) over at Organizing Made Fun. I can't wait to try her Media Time Cards, which take all the pressure off mom saying "yes" or "no" and teaches the kids to budget their time. Love it!

3. Have fun!

Summer is the perfect time for purposeful fun, which is why I love these 67 Ideas for Fun and Learning (for younger kids) from I Can Teach My Child and these Summer Learning Activities (for ages 6-10) from Imagination Soup. I'm sure there are more activities than we could ever do in one summer!

And I can't wait to start Around the World in 60 Days (from Focus on the Family) where we can learn about different countries and cultures and even print our own passports!

4. Curl up with a good book.

One of our favorite summertime activities is reading. When mid-summer hits and we're all tired of the heat and sun, there's nothing like curling up with a book in the good ol' air conditioning! We usually do the summer reading program at our local library, but I love how my friend Lora at My Blessed Life created a custom plan for her family. She shares how she did it and includes links to great resources! You should definitely heck it out!

5. Enjoy the great outdoors!

What is summer without a camping trip? So, if you're planning on packing up the tent and heading out to great unknown, be sure to check out this Memorial Day post my friend Sarah at Desserted Planet did of the most amazing campfire treats on the Internet! It almost makes me want to load up the cookware and find the nearest campfire.

6. Get creative.

Still, no matter how well you plan, there will be moments when you here the inevitable, "Mom, I'm bored!" Thankfully, Frugalissa Finds has got you covered. Check out their We Will Survive Summer Activity Jars!!

7. Bonus: Build character.

This may be my favorite idea of all...While I want my kids to stay busy and active this summer, I don't want them to be too busy to show a little kindness. The Button Project is a great summer-long activity for elementary-age kids to discover how they can make a difference. There are even printable lessons on their Facebook page.

What summertime activities does your family enjoy?

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.