summer fun

Living Summer Day by Day

Summer2 My kids got out of school last Thursday, and we left town for the Indy 500 that afternoon. We got home yesterday, which makes this the first real day of summer my kids have had. My younger daughter is currently lazing around in her pajamas, and my older one is still asleep (and probably will be for quite some time).

This whole family has been looking forward to summer for a while. The stress of the school year winding down and all the end-of-season activities have kept us on our toes. We're all looking forward to some time to just be lazy.

But summer is about more than just being lazy. It's a time for me to reconnect with my kids. It's a time to work on some things that we've glossed over during the school year. It's a time to make memories and have fun. It's a time to strengthen friendships and have new experiences.

Usually I have a pretty specific plan for the things I want us to do during the summer, but this summer, I find I'm winging it. My girls are most interested in hanging out with their friends and having some time to recoup and refresh. And that's OK. We'll find some time to have a few adventures and work on some life skills. We'll make the time to dive deeper into what God wants for their lives.

But mostly this summer, we're going to relax. We're going to take it one day at a time and do the things that fit. That probably means I'm going to have a house full of kids all summer. It probably means I'm going to be feeding kids and taking them places. It probably means some lazy days at the pool and some teenage movie nights. It does mean lots of giggles and a bunch of late nights.

But as I ponder our summer, I'm reminded that these days are fleeting. My older daughter goes to high school in August, and the moments will fly by. So this summer, I want to make as many memories as possible. I want my kids to look back on this summer with joy. I want them to have fun, dive deep with God and cement friendships that will see them through these next few years.

So, while there may not be much concrete on the calendar at the moment, I have high hopes for a summer that's lived day by day.

Where Did Summer Go?

summertime It's the middle of June, and I'm still waiting for summer to start. My kids have been out of school for a month, and we've yet to make it to the pool. We've had very few days where we can sleep in. We haven't had a lot of lazy days at home. This summer so far has been as crazy and frantic as the school year.

I was talking with a friend of mine the other day, and we were both lamenting that our summers were so busy. We were talking about how our kids' activities have somehow taken over the summer, too.

My older daughter is doing summer soccer training, and my younger daughter is playing some summer hockey. We've got vacations scheduled and a couple of camps. And in all of that, we seem to have lost summertime -- long walks, late nights and lots of fun.

And, honestly, I'm not sure how to get it back. I want my kids to look back on their childhoods and not remember it as a rat race. I want them to remember summer adventures and lazy days at the pool. I want them to remember summer as filled with fun, family and friends. I want those summer days to be moments when I intentionally poured into my kids in ways that I can't during the school year.

So, as I sit here on June 18, trying to figure out where the first month of my summer has gone, I'm looking at the rest of our summer calendar and planning to carve out that time. I'm looking to find the moments to fulfill the words of Deuteronomy 6:6-9. I'm praying for God to hand me opportunities to build my kids' character and to simply have fun with and enjoy my children.

If you're wondering where your summer has gone, if you're looking at the calendar and wondering if you're ever going to get some lazy days of summer, don't give up. Find a few days, a few moments that you can set aside to simply enjoy the moment. Take a few things out of the schedule if you need to. Leave some time for your kids to be creative, some time for your family to go get ice cream, some time to just enjoy doing nothing.

Because summer is supposed to be a break from the hurry of the school year. Summer is supposed to be filled with fun. Summer is supposed to be a time for everyone to recharge. Set aside the time to recharge, even if it means giving up some of your kids' (or your own) activities for a while.

Getting Ready for Summer

attention Today is our first official day of summer. My girls finished school on Thursday, but this is the first day we've been home since then. Usually by now, I have our whole summer mapped out. I know what behaviors and attitudes I want to focus on. I know what activities we're going to do. I have a plan.

But this summer, I don't. Just getting to the end of the school year took every ounce of energy I had. There wasn't time to think ahead. There weren't any solitary moments to come up with a grand plan. I simply didn't have enough time or energy to worry about what was coming next.

So, this week, as I try to put my house back in order from the chaos of the past couple months, I'll be doing what I normally do in early May. I'll be planning a summer that has already started.

I'm thinking that this summer might not look like a lot of our other summers. It might be a little less organized. We might be a little more spontaneous. We might spend a little more time just hanging out around the house. And that's all OK.

Because sometimes what our kids need is a little less planning and a little more love and attention. I'll have two girls in middle school next year, and what I've discovered as my girls get older is that they often need less actual instruction and more guidance. They need to be able to make their own decisions and draw their own conclusions. They need to be able to practice making good decisions.

So this summer is going to be less about some fantastic adventure and more about simply guiding my girls in the decisions that they make. We'll still have a summer adventure, but it will be more focused on letting them make decisions and less focused on me teaching them.

Because in this house, we're fast reaching the point where our kids have to choose to hear God's voice. They have to choose to follow the path we've shown them. We can no longer shove them down the path. When there's a fork in the road, they have to make the decision themselves. They have to live out the truth in Proverbs 22:6 "Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it."

So as we embark on our summer adventures, I'm praying that my girls will appreciate the guidance we offer. I'm praying for wisdom to offer that guidance. And I'm praying for a summer filled with fun and growth -- for everyone.

First Friday: When Summer Showers You With Potting Soil

Potting Soil

I remember the day the sprinkler-in-his-head giraffe came to live at our house.

Well, I sort of remember.  Okay, so maybe not the day.  But I think I can at least name the season.

Fall? Winter? Or was it Christmas?

Mercy.

Okay, so I overstated.

I actually only remember some non-summery, non-spring time of the year that Pop Pop brought him through the door in all his clearance glory.  A time that I can assuredly say I thought, “Daddy, you are strongly overestimating my ability to hold on to this thing for a time of year that it will be useful.  But I will try, dear Daddy. I will try.”

Also, perhaps, a bit of an overstatement.

Because only a few days later, Mr. Giraffe went into the storage area (aka The Black Hole of Random Junk.) As I bid him a fond adieu, I knew it would be a blessed miracle if we found him again before Sophie graduated from high school. But I also felt kind of empowered because it seemed that I was actually learning that real life is just kind of like that.

And then came summer.

Where you would find me fully bent on creating some kind of magic schedule that, in my mind, would simply erase any possible whiff of what we refer to as the “Summer Sibling Smackdown.”  I even went so far as to salivate at the very mention of a summer schedule found by my dear friend on Pinterest. I planned, I plotted and I said, “Sweet heavens, this is the key to summer perfection!”

Make it Monday. Take a Trip Tuesday.  Water Wednesday.

You get the idea.

(Actually, I just hope you do because I have already forgotten what you are supposed to do Thursday and Friday. And it’s only the SECOND WEEK?!?! Lord, help me.)

Here’s a summary of the first few days into our inaugural Pinterest schedule of perfection…

Make it Monday.

Where you would have found us painting unfinished wooden trains discovered in the black hole with leftover paint from Grace’s birthday.  First 10 minutes, divine.  The rest, well, I couldn’t tell you.  All I know is if you don’t find something smaller to paint than a train, Make It Monday will turn into Make It All Week. I highly doubt a real train could have taken longer.  Couple that with the 20 paintbrushes that Sophie ate, I can most assuredly say that this was not what Pinterest had in mind.

The best part is we didn’t even “make it” Monday.  We made it Tuesday because we had already “Taken a Trip” on Memorial Day with Daddy.  I can tell you this caused a holy hoot of confusion for my rule-following first-born.  After arguing about it for 15 minutes, I finally said in sheer desperation, “Honey, we can make our own rules. It’s fine. There are no 'Make It Monday' police.”

“Well, mom, that would have been good to know.”

Proof that at times, YOU JUST MAKE IT UP, MAMA!

Because be assured, it may be the only way to get to Wednesday. Where you, in great horror, are reminded by the same eldest, “So what are we doing for Water Wednesday?”

AAAACKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wait, the giraffe???????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It’s in the black hole……

I think it might be…past the lesson plans from ten years ago…could it be?????

Oh, Daddy, I love you! I love you!!!  I love YOU!!!!!!

For a grand and glorious hour, my three played as I sat and sipped my ice water. It was heaven. Truly, it was.

Then, about the time I snapped a picture and posted something nostalgic on Facebook, I felt something trickling on my shoulder.

I looked up, too late to shout, “NOOOOOOOO!” Only to see a pot veering off the deck in my general direction.  It was a full-on potting soil shower, imparted by my darling Sophie.

And I lost it.

Not the slap-on-a-pointy-hat-and-summon-the-flying-monkeys kind of losing it. (Because FYI, I’ve done that too.) But the total-giving-it-all-up-laughing-uncontrollably kind.

That, my friends, is motherhood.

Just about the time you think you have failed, you find the giraffe.

Just about the time you think you have found Hallmark happiness, a pot nearly misses your head.

And just about the time you think you’ve lost your mind, you feel a little hand tug at you and it’s owner with dirt dripping from her mouth says, “This is fun!”

Seriously, what can you do?

Girls, I know we are staring the next few months down, holding our breath and thinking that “this is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” means that life should be lilies and roses and sunshine.

But let us instead collectively exhale and relax.

It wasn’t meant to be.

We will all have moments where we just want to throw in the towel.  Where if we face one more poopy diaper or drawing on the wall or WWF brother-sister wrestling match, we WILL get out our pointy hats and threaten to call the monkeys as long as they promise not to add to the poop problem.

We will mess up.

But it is in that imperfection, that messiness, that we can, dare I say it, rejoice over the simple things that let a mama breathe and bend and get up willing to push through all over again the next day.

So mamas, let us rejoice…

Over nap time.

Over a cup of coffee as big your head.

Over the sweet after-swimming coma that kicks in on the car ride home.

Over the picnic tables and cement floors you don’t have to clean.

Over the dollar bin at Target or the free cookies at the bakery.

Over the “lost” Dora DVD that if you had to hear it one more time, you might cry.

Over every sweet and blessed thing that brings you respite.

Let us rejoice in that as much as we delight over the music jam in the mini-van, the squeals of laughter that peal over the spray of a sprinkler or the incredible truth that no matter how pitiful a day is, we can sneak into our kids’ bedrooms at night, watch them sleep and know that we really mean it when we whisper, “I love you.”

It’s life. It’s real. It’s honest.

Even though the stakes are high.  Even though the days are long.  And even though failure seems to whisper at every turn.

Jesus gets it.

He delights in our praise, not in our perfection.

So praise Him, sweet mamas, with a chorus of a thousand hallelujahs for simply making it to the end of the day.  Where you fall into bed, shoes and glasses still on, closing your eyes just for a bit until you realize…

Wait, is tomorrow Wednesday? Crud, water day again. Hmmm...I wonder where that inflatable purple shoot-water-out-its-head Octopus is??????

Maybe if I close my eyes…I can visualize it…

(ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ…snort…)

Wait, I’m visualizing…

Eh, forget it.

Jesus, thank you that my Daddy rocks… and those inflatable sprinkler animal things… and while we’re at it, me too. I totally rock. Because you and I both know a miracle has just occurred…

I actually REMEMBERED that tomorrow is Wednesday.

And all the rocking tired mamas said, “AAAAAAAMEN!”

Sara Cormany guest posts on the first Friday of each month. Sara is mommy to six-year-old Grace, four-year-old Drew and one-year-old Sophie.  When she is not wiping noses, changing diapers or chasing her kids, she is a sometimes writer and a sometimes teacher to teenagers.  But her most cherished role is that of one who is perfectly held by Jesus. She loves watching Him take the broken, the messy and the seemingly mundane of her everyday and turn it into something beautiful.

 

 

 

What Does Summer Look Like?

summer1

We had our first official at-home day of summer break yesterday -- and it did not go well. After 10 days of being constantly entertained during our vacation, my girls had a hard time settling into a routine.

I always forget how difficult these first few days of summer are for everyone. I work from home year-round, and my girls forget that I need to get work done because during the school year, I work when they're at school. In the summer, we have to make the schedule work so that I can get some work done, and they can get some of my attention.

It usually takes us about a week to hit our stride when it comes to the schedule. While summer is a more relaxed, fun time at our house, we have to have enough structure to get everything done that needs to be done. People often ask me how I set up our summer days so that we have time for work and for play, so today, I thought I'd share with you what summer looks like in our house in the hopes that it will spur you to start thinking about what your summer schedule looks like.

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. That takes some planning on our part.

Our summer days typically have three parts -- chores, learning and fun. It's a balance that can tilt more toward fun one day and more toward learning and chores another. But all three are important.

Chores. This is the part of the day my kids like least, but learning to work is an important skill. Learning to do things correctly and with a good attitude is part of growing up. It's important that our kids learn to work at tasks they don't particularly like because not everything we do in life is fun. We want to teach our kids to live out the words of Colossians 3:23: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters."

Every morning, my girls have a to-do list that has to be done before anything else. It includes things like making their beds, doing their assigned chore for the day, and practicing their instruments. Throughout the summer, we'll have a few days where we'll work on a big project around the house together.

Learning. While most kids view summer as a break from learning, I think it's the perfect time to get them focused on learning some things that they don't learn in school. Whether it's character qualities, history or reading, summer gives us unfettered access to our kids' minds and hearts without the distraction of all they're trying to learn from school. We can choose to take advantage of that time or we can let it slip by. Proverbs 1:8-9 says "Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck." Summer is the perfect time for a father's instruction and a mother's teaching to really sink in.

My girls are required to read for 30 minutes every day. Their screen time (TV, computers, etc.) is directly tied to how many minutes a day they read. We also take trips to local places that have some educational value. This summer, I'm planning excursions to the Negro League Baseball Museum and the World War I Museum. We're addressing the character quality of kindness through our summer adventure, The Button Project.

Fun. Summer should be a time for lots and lots of fun. After a year of school, our kids deserve some time to just be kids. So much of school stifles the imagination, so summer is the time to let imaginations run wild around here. Proverbs 17:22 says "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." We want our kids to have joyful spirits, so leaving plenty of time for fun in our summers, allows them to experience the joy of friends and family.

I usually plan some fun things for the summer, but a lot of the time, I let my girls decide what they want to do. My older daughter wants to learn to decorate cakes this summer, so we'll be baking together and making a mess in the kitchen. My younger daughter is interested in hieroglyphics, so we're learning about the different hieroglyphic symbols. We'll have water balloon fights and silly string wars. Some days, we'll simply hang out at the pool.

Summertime is precious time with our kids. We can make the most of it or we can let it slip by. When we're intentional with that time that our kids aren't focused on school, we can strengthen our kids' work ethics, their love of learning and their sense of fun. All it takes is a little creativity and planning on our part.

Jello Fight

 

I'm taking some time off this week to attend our annual family reunion. This is one of my all-time favorite summertime ideas. It's messy. It's fun, and it teaches a great lesson. Enjoy this post and I'll be back on Monday.

We were on vacation with my extended family. For the first time, all the kids slept together in one room. We had six kids ranging in age from nine to two. Of course, lots of talking and giggling ensued after everyone got in bed. One night, we went in and told them to be quiet. We had to go back several times to persuade the kids to be quiet. The next morning, my youngest daughter explained to me that it wasn’t her fault that the kids were talking and got in trouble because the other kids in the room made her talk. We had a long discussion about being responsible for your own actions, but that reminded me so much of the way all of us look at sin. We all want to blame someone else for making us sin.

The truth is everyone sins, and that’s an important concept for our kids to understand. If we didn’t need someone to wipe away our sins, then Jesus didn’t need to die on the cross, and we wouldn’t need God. If we could just pass the blame and the consequences off on someone or something else, there would be no need for grace. These are big concepts that might be tough for your kids to wrap their brains around. One great way to point out how sin can dirty up our lives and only God can wipe it away is to have a Jello fight.

I’m sure some of you are thinking “Is she crazy?” Well, probably, but I guarantee they won’t forget the fight or the lesson behind it, so let go of your reservations, find some old clothes and let the kids have a great time and learn something in the process.

Dress your kids in old clothes and make up a big batch of Jello. Give each child a different color of Jello to throw. Take them out in the yard and let them throw Jello at each other until they run out. They will be covered in it when they are done. The thing about Jello is that it’s sticky and hard to get off of you and your clothes.

Explain to your kids that sin is kind of like Jello. It sticks to us and covers us up. It separates us from God, just like the Jello separates them from other people, because who is going to let a Jello-covered kid into their house? No one would probably take a hug from a kid who’s just been in a Jello fight. God can’t get close to us when we’re covered in sin.

Now, turn on the hose and hose your kids down until all the Jello is off their skin and hair. Explain to them that Jesus’s death and resurrection allow God to wipe away our sin, just like the water from the hose wipes away the Jello. God offers to wipe away our sin for free, just like you didn’t charge your kids for the water to clean up. All we have to do is recognize that we are sinners and ask for forgiveness, and God separates our sin from us.

Here are some great verses to use while talking to your kids:

  • Psalm 51:7 — Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
  • John 3:16 — For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[a] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
  • Romans 6:23 — For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • Romans 3:23 — For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

When you’ve finished your Jello fight, take your clean kids inside for a Jello snack. I promise, they’ll love it.

The Button Project: How One Button is Changing the World

Button Today is the last day of school and the first day of our summer adventure. Every year, I do a themed program with my girls and four of their friends. You can read about some of our past adventures here. This year, our summer adventure is called The Button Project, and we'd love to have you join us.

To understand The Button Project, I have to tell you a story -- a story about a button. Way back when I was a very green, 21-year-old copy editor, just a few months into my first job, I became friends with a new reporter we hired at the trade publication we worked at. This guy was (and is) an amazing writer. I learned a lot of what I know about writing from him. He was older than me and had seen and done some amazing things. And he was an incredible reporter, far too good for our little trade newspaper.

He was living in Kansas because his wife was going to school nearby. Not long after he came, though, his marriage fell apart. It was clearly a difficult time. Even in my 21-year-old, newlywed self-centeredness, I knew that it was horrible for him. One day, a button fell off his suit coat. When he went to lunch, I sewed it back on with a sewing kit I kept in my desk. I never thought anything about that moment again.

Fast-forward 15 years or so to the moment my first story published in a major book compilation arrived on my doorstep. As I was looking at the cover of the book, I realized that I would never have written the story in that book if my friend from so many years ago hadn't given me the best advice I ever received about writing: "If you have something to write about, write it." If not for those words, this blog wouldn't exist. I would never have written any of the Bible studies for our moms' group at my church or even the Everyday Christmas devotional. So, I sent him a Facebook message, thanking him.

The message I got back changed my outlook on life, and it led to The Button Project. He reminded me that all those years ago, I had sewed on that button for him. I truly don't remember that day. He said it was a moment of kindness in a horrible time that he had never forgotten. Fifteen years later, he told me, "It was one of the most touching and kind things anyone has ever done for me." He also said that he had shared that moment with a friend who was going through her own tough time. All this from a moment of kindness I didn't even remember.

You see, kindness changes things. It's one of the reasons that God tells us to be kind to each other. Kindness makes a difference in a dark day. It tells someone that they have value. Kindness counteracts the darkness in this world.

Which brings us to The Button Project. This summer, my girls and their friends are on an adventure to change the world one act of kindness at a time. When the girls meet around my table today, we'll be learning about someone who changed the world with kindness, and we'll be brainstorming ways that we can be kind to others. When they leave my house today, they'll take with them Button Project business cards to leave behind when they do a random act of kindness for someone. All summer long, they'll be doing random acts of kindness and leaving behind cards. When we meet together, we'll be learning about some people who changed the world with their kindness and doing some bigger acts of kindness together.

And this year, you can join us. You see, each card will take the recipient to The Button Project Facebook page, where they can leave us a comment about the act of kindness they received. You can go there, too. Like the page, let us know you're joining us and print off your own set of Button Project cards. By the end of the day, I'll have the lesson plan for the first week posted there, too.

Let The Button Project turn your summer into a summer of kindness as you teach your kids to live out the words of Ephesians 4:32: "Be kind and compassionate to one another..."

Getting Ready for Summer

summer

Is it Friday yet? It's been a long week around here, and it's only Wednesday. I'm not just ready for Friday, I'm ready for the school year to be over. I'm ready for the lazy days of summer. I'm ready to get my kids home so I can work on building them up and regaining some of the joy this school year has sucked out of them.

It's May 1, so that means it's time to start planning for summer in our house. Many of you know that we usually do a big summer adventure in our house each year. I choose a theme, we invite a couple of the girls' friends to join us, and we have a lot of fun learning about how God wants us to act in certain situations. You can find the plans for one of our past summer adventures for free here.

I'm super excited about this summer's adventure because it's something that you can join us in doing. I'll have more details for you later in the month, so keep an eye out. We'd love to have you join us.

But today's post is about choosing to use the summer months as a time to be intentional in teaching your kids and having fun with them. Whether you send your kids to school or you homeschool, summer is a time that you can use to jump outside your routine and teach your kids in a new way. With the academic stuff out of the way, you can truly focus on character and family.

Too many times, summer can fly by without us ever being truly intentional with our kids. Proverbs 21:5 says "The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty." While that verse is talking about money, it also applies to our time. If we have a plan going into the summer, we're more likely to follow it and our families will profit from it.

You may not have the time or the energy to create your own themed summer adventure, and that's OK. You can be intentional with your kids in other ways. You can simply commit to grabbing the teachable moments that God provides. You can decide on a character quality you want to work on and make intentional strides toward teaching that character quality to your kids. You can turn a trip to the zoo into a discussion about God's creation.

All it takes is a little planning. Last May, I wrote a series on planning your summer called The Best Summer Ever. I'm not going to repeat it here, but I encourage you to check it out. You'll find all the advice and free printables you need to get started planning your summer. Just click on The Best Summer Ever icon in the sidebar.

I want to encourage you to start thinking and planning your summer now. That way when the final school bell rings, you'll have a plan in place. This summer won't slip by without you taking advantage of the extra moments with your kids.

Friday Introduction: Making Each Day a Celebration (Celebrate Every Day With Me)

Celebrations are part of life. Yet we tend to limit them to special occasions. I recently ran across Kristen Summers blog, Celebrate Every Day With Me, where she encourages us to celebrate all the time. She was gracious enough to agree to guest post for us today. I know you'll enjoy her post and her blog as much as I do.

Think it is an ordinary day?  Try again. 

Sure, the day may feel ordinary.  But it doesn’t need to be.  There are things all around us to celebrate!  There are fun adventures to be had and silly “holidays” to be observed.  But more than that, there are precious moments with our children to be enjoyed and savored. 

I am a mom to two young kids and keep a fairly busy schedule.  Even if it’s only a brief moment with my children, I want to do something fun TODAY. 

Here is why I’m choosing to make each day a celebration: 

Celebrations are plain fun!  When was the last time you set aside your “To Do” list and did something just for the fun of it or celebrated the moment?  Whether you are celebrating the birthday of your child’s stuffed animal or making a party out of painting enormous boxes, you and your kids can have fun.   

Celebrations are memorable.  I want my kids to have great memories of the fun things we did.  I want them to remember the time mom dropped everything we had to do and took a road trip in search of the best ice cream in the county.  (Ooh, this would mean ice cream all day long!). 

Some of my best childhood memories were the crazy, fun things we did . . . the times where we laughed until our bellies hurt.  Those are the kinds of memories I want to create for my kids.

Celebrations are relationship-building.  Whether you are celebrating something big or just the everyday things of life, you have the opportunity to bond and make your child feel valued.  Things may go wrong on your mini-adventure, but that’s ok!  You are together. 

Celebrations require a joyful attitude.  Being able to enjoy the daily encounters of special and silly celebrations can’t begin with a grumpy disposition.   One has to approach the day with excitement and anticipation.  An added bonus of a joyful outlook is that it is a great de-stresser for our busy lives. 

Celebrating is a way to remind us of the blessings of God.  The Bible is filled with celebrations and festivals to remind God’s people of His love, deliverance, provision and care.  When we stop to celebrate the ways God has blessed us, we not only deliberately acknowledge and enjoy the blessing, but we give Him glory.

My kids are such a blessing to me.  When I pause the busyness of my life and focus on intentional fun moments, even the little celebrations, I am reminded of the joy those two little kids have given me and I thank God for them.  Kids will only be young for a brief time.  As much as I want the years to slow down, they don’t.  The answer?  Make the most of the precious moments you have with your kids.  Celebrate each day!

Quick Ideas:

  • Put aside your list and do something impromptu today.  The only requirement:  it must be fun!
  • Check out a silly holiday list.  What can you celebrate this week?
  • Select a night of the week to be your Mission Fun Night.  Make it family game night, let the kids cook or go off on a “Let’s See Where We End Up” adventure.   
  • When you’re on the go and you drive by something that would thrill your kids, stop.
  • Take an interest of your children and create a whole party around it (even if your kids are the only guests). 

Remember, celebrating every day need not be a lot of work.  We’re after the joy, the relationships, the fun and the memories. 

Happy Celebrating!

Kristen is a stay at home mom to two kids (ages 2 and 4) who keep her busy and laughing.  As a former wedding and event planner, she now celebrates the everyday things of life and works to make each day special.  She has long lists, loves diet soda and playing jokes on her husband.  On her blog you’ll find fun ideas for children’s activities, creating memorable moments and of course, party planning and other wacky events.  You can find her at Celebrate Every Day With Me (www.CelebrateEveryDayWithMe.com).

How to Cure the Mid-Summer Blues

It's the middle of summer. My kids are getting tired of each other and tired of me. They are finding it more and more difficult to entertain themselves. This is the time of the summer when I often start looking longingly at the calendar, wondering when school starts. Everyone's patience is thin and growing thinner by the day.

But we've got nearly half the summer left. And as those days stretch out before us, I know that I want to use them well. I want to enjoy the time with my daughters. I want them to enjoy the time with me. So we need to find a way to kick these mid-summer blues.

If your household is stuck in the throes of the mid-summer blues, as well, try some of these ideas to shake them loose and make the most of the time you have left.

Shake up the schedule. Sometimes we get stuck in a rut. We go to the pool every Wednesday afternoon. We do chores and reading time every morning. We go to the library every Friday. Because everyone knows exactly what to expect, the excitement of the summer is gone. Regain some of that excitement by switching up the schedule. Have breakfast for dinner. Skip doing chores for the day. Let the kids stay up late and chase fireflies.

Do something silly. Get everyone laughing. Declare a wig day where everyone wears funny wigs. Have a dance-off in the kitchen. Eat ice cream for lunch. Enjoy the time you have with your kids. Laughter is a great way to shake off the mid-summer boredom and remind everyone of why they love spending time together. Proverbs 17:22 says "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." Create joyful hearts in your home with some silliness.

Plan something special. Have a party for no reason. Go on a day trip to see something you've never seen before. Have a cookout with some friends. For a quick, fun idea, check out this Teddy Bear Picnic from Kristen at Celebrate Every Day With Me. With a little planning and not much money, you can plan something special that will have your kids counting the days until the event. Having something to look forward to always makes the time go faster and gives kids something to anticipate.

Have a theme day. Make a favorite book or movie come alive or choose a favorite account from the Bible and make it your theme for the day. Fix food that comes from that time period. Dress like people would have dressed in the book, movie or Bible account. Act out your favorite scenes. Read the book or watch the movie together. Make up games to go along with your theme.

Have an opposite day. Wear your clothes backwards. Start the day with dinner and end with breakfast. Make yes mean no and no mean yes for the day. Lots of laughter and hilarity will ensue when people get confused. Make the kids walk backwards in the house.

Just because it's the middle of the summer, it doesn't mean you have to get stuck in the mid-summer blues. Shake things up at your house and get back to enjoying your time with your kids.

Linking up today with Women Living Well , A Wise Woman Builds Her Home and Word Filled Wednesday.

Making the Most of History

I grew up in the suburbs of Boston. History surrounded us. The American Revolution started on the greens of Concord and Lexington, just a few miles from my house. Sam Adams, John Hancock and John Adams walked the streets of Boston. Paul Revere's house is still there. The events surrounding the founding of our country came alive because we could see and touch it.

Here in Kansas, there's a different kind of history. Settlers going west in covered wagons in search of a better life, stepped off on their trip in nearby Independence, Missouri. Bloody battles were fought between slave state Missouri and free state Kansas. Just down the road is the only original stagecoach stop still in existence.

Understanding historical events is not just an important part of our kids' education. It's an opportunity to help them separate fact from fiction. When we take our kids to visit historical sites and learn about the men and women who came before us, we teach our kids to appreciate the past. We teach them to appreciate the comforts they now have. And we can use it to teach them that faith is enduring and the events of the Bible are as real as the American Revolution or the Westward Migration.

When you visit a historical site with your kids, do so with an eye toward teaching them not just history but how to distinguish reality from fiction.

Do your homework. Before going to visit a historical site near you, find out what you can about it beforehand. Be prepared to answer questions. See if you can find an account of a person of faith who lived nearby or did something amazing either at the site or during the historical time period.

Prepare your kids. Before you go, read about the place you're going to visit with your kids or read a fiction book set in the time period of the historical site. Talk about the difference between historical fact and historical fiction. Ask them what they think the Bible is. Talk about how the Bible is not just a story like a fiction book but is a factual account of things that actually happened.

Ask your kids questions. As you view the historical site, ask your kids questions about the event that happened there. Ask them how we know that those things happened. Talk about the evidence that lets us know what happened. It may be letters from someone who was there or other first-person accounts. It may be that archaeologists found the evidence. Talk with your kids about how the same evidence exists for the events in the Bible.

Have an ABC scavenger hunt. Give each child one of the ABC scavenger hunt printables. Ask them to write down facts about the historical site that start with each letter. You'll have your kids hunting for signs to read and learning without even trying. On your way home, have everyone share their facts. Ask your kids why we should care about those facts. Talk about how understanding what happened in the past can encourage us through hardships now and help us to understand how to avoid mistakes in the future. Talk about how the events of the Bible help us to do the same thing.

Visiting an historical site with your kids can be a fun learning experience and part of The Best Summer Ever. We want to remember the past so that we can learn from it. Over and over again in the Bible, God tells us to not forget what happened before. Psalm 77:11 says "I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago." We can use a fun trip to a historical site to help our kids understand the importance of remembering what God did in the past.

Linking up today with Raising Mighty Arrows and Denise in Bloom.

The Best Summer Ever: A Trip to the Pool

One of our favorite things to do in the summer is to spend lazy afternoons at the pool. It's cool and refreshing in the middle of a hot and humid Kansas summer. Because we have pool passes, it's also cheap. The perfect combination.

We go to the pool so often that the trip often becomes ordinary. It's not an adventure. It's not a learning experience. It's often just a way to kill time and cool off.

But it doesn't have to be. Trips to the pool can be a great opportunity to focus our kids' attention on Jesus. Throughout the Bible, water plays a role in several miracles. God parted the Red Sea. Jesus turned water into wine. Jesus even compared himself to water drawn from a well.

We can turn a simple trip to the pool into an extraordinary opportunity for our kids to learn about God:

Get in the pool with your kids and ask them to make a path through the water. Explain that you want them to pile up the water on either side of you so that you are standing on dry ground. No matter how hard your kids try, the water will just fill back in. Talk about how amazing it must have been for the Israelites to see, not a pool full of water, but the entire Red Sea pushed back on either side. Talk with your kids about how God has power over His creation. He can do anything.

When you get to the pool, tell your kids you want them to walk across the top of the water, without getting anything wet but the bottoms of their feet. After they sink a few times, talk about how Jesus walked on the water. Talk about how Peter jumped out of the boat and walked on the water, too. Explain that He only sank when He became more worried about the wind and the waves than He was about keeping His eyes on Jesus. Explain that when God asks us to do difficult things as long as we keep our eyes on Jesus, we can do it. When we take our eyes off Jesus is when things get difficult.

On the way home, ask your kids if they swallowed any pool water. Talk about the fact that drinking pool water isn't good for you because of the chemicals. Explain that our bodies need clean drinking water to survive. We can go without food longer than we can go without water. Talk about how Jesus compared himself to drinking water. He said that He is "living water" that offers eternal life. When we follow Jesus, it's like drinking good water. It fills us up and lets us do the things God wants us to do.

There are many more accounts that include water in the Bible. Jesus turned water into wine. Abraham's servant met Rachel at the well. The Israelites crossed the Jordan River. God used water to flood the world. You can find a printable list of many of these accounts along with their references here. You can use a trip to the pool to focus on each of these.

Turn your summertime trips to the pool into extraordinary opportunities to teach your kids about God. It will make your pool trips a time of refreshment for both your bodies and your souls.

 

Linking up today with Raising Mighty Arrows and Denise in Bloom.

Resetting Summer

Today is the official first day of summer. Around here, it's been hot since mid-May, and we've already been on a trip, been to camp, had Vacation Bible School and hosted our annual family reunion. This month has been crazy. We have one more trip to go at the end of the month. I'm really looking forward to July.

I knew that this month would be ridiculously crazy. Our company left yesterday, and we had the first lazy day of the summer. Other than doing a little cleaning and a couple loads of laundry, we didn't really do much. The kids played with some of the neighbors, and I mostly just hung out.

Even with the lazy day, my kids were cooked by the end of the day. Three weeks of constant activity had caught up with them. My oldest was in bed asleep by 8 p.m., and my youngest cried herself to sleep last night, a combination of being overtired and missing her cousins.

As I look at our month so far (which has been so busy that I haven't even managed to flip the calendar page), I remember all the good intentions I had for the summer. The chore system that was going to work, the educational stuff we were going to do, the books we were going to read together, the exercise I was going to get, and I realize that this month has been a loss for most of those things.

We have two months of summer left. My kids go back to school on August 15. As I look at the months before us on this day the calendar tells me is the first official day of summer, I'm hitting the reset button on our summer. Today, I'm pulling out my The Best Summer Ever calendar and putting some intentional things on it. But I'm also scheduling some days to do nothing. If anything, this past month has shown us that not having a break results in tired, cranky children and a really stressed-out mommy.

If your summer hasn't started out the way you wanted, take a minute today and hit the reset button. Pray over what remains of your summer and ask God how He wants you to spend it. God is big on second chances. Lamentations 3:22-23 tells us that His mercies are new every morning. He is always ready to offer us a second chance, so if you feel like you've missed the boat on being intentional with your kids this summer, declare a do-over. And get started making the rest of this summer The Best Summer Ever.

Celebrate the first day of summer with free ice cream. Maggie Moo's and Marble Slab Creamery are giving away 1,000 free ice cream cones. Check out their Facebook page at 10 a.m. EST today to grab your coupon. And the winner of our 101 Days to Knowing God devotional card drawing is Andrea Cartwright.

Linking up today with Women Living Well , A Wise Woman Builds Her Home and Word Filled Wednesday.

Jello Fight Redux

 

It's been a crazy, busy week around here. We're in the end stage of a basement remodel. We've had daily soccer camp and evening soccer tryouts. And I've been working on some freelance projects. Did I mention we have company coming at the end of next week and Vacation Bible School starting on Monday? All that to say that I'm taking the day off from blogging today, so I'm digging into the archives to share one of my favorite summertime activity ideas with you. Break out the Jello and have a Jello fight. Your kids will have a blast and learn something about sin and redemption at the same time.

We were on vacation with my extended family. For the first time, all the kids slept together in one room. We had six kids ranging in age from nine to two. Of course, lots of talking and giggling ensued after everyone got in bed. One night, we went in and told them to be quiet. We had to go back several times to persuade the kids to be quiet. The next morning, my youngest daughter explained to me that it wasn’t her fault that the kids were talking and got in trouble because the other kids in the room made her talk. We had a long discussion about being responsible for your own actions, but that reminded me so much of the way all of us look at sin. We all want to blame someone else for making us sin.

The truth is everyone sins, and that’s an important concept for our kids to understand. If we didn’t need someone to wipe away our sins, then Jesus didn’t need to die on the cross, and we wouldn’t need God. If we could just pass the blame and the consequences off on someone or something else, there would be no need for grace. These are big concepts that might be tough for your kids to wrap their brains around. One great way to point out how sin can dirty up our lives and only God can wipe it away is to have a Jello fight.

I’m sure some of you are thinking “Is she crazy?” Well, probably, but I guarantee they won’t forget the fight or the lesson behind it, so let go of your reservations, find some old clothes and let the kids have a great time and learn something in the process.

Dress your kids in old clothes and make up a big batch of Jello. Give each child a different color of Jello to throw. Take them out in the yard and let them throw Jello at each other until they run out. They will be covered in it when they are done. The thing about Jello is that it’s sticky and hard to get off of you and your clothes.

Explain to your kids that sin is kind of like Jello. It sticks to us and covers us up. It separates us from God, just like the Jello separates them from other people, because who is going to let a Jello-covered kid into their house? No one would probably take a hug from a kid who’s just been in a Jello fight. God can’t get close to us when we’re covered in sin.

Now, turn on the hose and hose your kids down until all the Jello is off their skin and hair. Explain to them that Jesus’s death and resurrection allow God to wipe away our sin, just like the water from the hose wipes away the Jello. God offers to wipe away our sin for free, just like you didn’t charge your kids for the water to clean up. All we have to do is recognize that we are sinners and ask for forgiveness, and God separates our sin from us.

Here are some great verses to use while talking to your kids:

  • Psalm 51:7 — Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
  • John 3:16 — For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[a] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
  • Romans 6:23 — For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • Romans 3:23 — For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

When you’ve finished your Jello fight, take your clean kids inside for a Jello snack. I promise, they’ll love it.

The Best Summer Ever: A Trip to the Zoo

My younger daughter and I are off to the zoo today. Even though I often feel as though I already live in a zoo, I love to go to the zoo.

A trip to the zoo is always a fun summertime activity, but we can take that trip to the zoo and turn it into an amazing lesson about God's creation. Each animal can become an example of the variety and creativity inherent in God's creation.

 So, take a little time to get ready for your next zoo trip and make it a day of fun and laughter that includes opportunities to thank God for His creation.

  • Look up some facts about your kids’ favorite animals. Use these facts to point out the differences between the animals and the diversity of God’s creation. For example, somewhere in my life I learned that elephants actually walk on their tiptoes. When we go to the zoo, I remind my children of this fact, and we always spend a moment in awe of how God made such a huge creature, and yet it balances itself on the toe bones of its foot.
  • Create a scavenger hunt for your kids or use the free printable here. Give them different challenges as you go through the zoo. Have them find three animals with wings or three animals with long noses. Have them look for the animal with the longest neck or the smallest animal at the zoo. Use the scavenger hunt to direct your kids’ attention to how each animal is different and God made them that way so they could best feed themselves or protect themselves. Talk about how God made different animals to eat different things, so that there would be enough food for everyone.
  • The zoo is a great time to talk about the story of Noah’s ark. Ask your kids what they think life on Noah’s ark was like. Remind them that the story of Noah reminds us that God always keeps His promises. You can also remind them that Noah and his family were saved from the flood because they obeyed God even when it seemed like it was a crazy thing to do. Imagine how many of Noah’s neighbors and friends thought he was crazy.
  • Use these verses to talk to your kids while you’re at the zoo.
    • Genesis 1:21 — So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
    • Psalm 104:24-25 — How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number— living things both large and small.
  • Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the day with plenty of laughter and joy.

 

First Friday: Passion and a Paper Towel

And Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your passion…”  Matthew 22:37a ~ The Message

It is only three glorious days into summer break.  And what I had firmly intended to be the best summer ever is quickly manifesting into the most random summer of all time.  And when I say random, I mean random.

Take, for example, a few snapshots of one of our more unfortunate hours…

Snapshot #1:  Where you would find me horribly confused by a board game created by a six-year-old and intended for ages 3 and up.  Apparently, they needed some kind of cap on the “up.”  Suffice it to say, I have hidden the game in a very surreptitious spot to avoid any further embarrassment.

Snapshot #2:  Where you would find my youngest shouting, “One, two, free!!”   And then launching puzzle pieces from approximately 15 different puzzles that I had painstakingly organized the week before.  Sadly, I have no idea how long this went on before I discovered the mishap.

Snapshot #3:  Where you would find my son creatively using an electric toothbrush in lieu of toilet paper.  I realize this needs no further explanation.  And I will choose to refrain from disclosing whose toothbrush was used just to protect the innocent.

Not one of our finer strings of moments, to say the least.

So, it should be of little surprise that the inspiration for this diatribe was itself, completely random.

Just a few hours after the board games, puzzle pieces and toilet paper substitution, a question emerged from my eldest.  I couldn’t really tell you why.  Or the events that preceded it.

But I do remember the question, “Mom, what is passion?”

Quickly, I answered, “Passion is all-consuming emotion, like love.”

My young audience looked a wee bit confused.

So, I did what any normal mom would do, I grabbed a paper towel and lit it on fire.  Yes, you read that correctly.   I set a paper towel on fire. 

Upon seeing the flame, my son let out a bloodcurdling scream which was soon followed by the piercing sound of the smoke alarm.  It was in that moment I realized that I had, perhaps, not thought through the potential hazards of the object lesson.  I was firmly convinced, however, that the point would have been made if things had gotten out of control. 

I could just hear Drew saying in the years to come, “Hey Grace, remember that time mom was teaching us about passion and burned down the house?”

In God’s good mercy, however, I happened to light it right over the sink.  The house was spared.  And the lesson, still somewhat learned.

As the towel finished burning, my daughter looked up from the sink and said, “Hey, mom, I think I know what your passion is…”

I braced myself.  Even cringed a bit.  Truth be told, if you’d looked at what I’d spent my time on over the past few days, her answer could have been anything from our community garage sale to catching up on Season 2 of The Mentalist. 

But she instead graciously answered, “Your kids.”

I smiled and dug a little further, “Anything else?”

“Jesus, your passion is also Jesus.”

“Why?”

“Because just like the fire, He touches every part of you.”

Now, the lump that began to form in my throat was not from pride.  It was from what some would refer to as God’s sorrow.  You see, I knew what really consumed me every day.

Busyness.  Perfection.  Control.

And yet, even in my weakness, Jesus used a seemingly random moment to clearly bring me back to what really makes a day, a month or a season its very best…

Him.

So, if like me, your summer has begun with a little bit more lack than luster, take heart that the One who makes your days great is waiting for you to say,

 “Lord, consume me.  Touch every moment, every plan and every part of my life.  Be it this summer, next summer or for all the summers to come. ”

From puzzle piece mayhem to perfectly crafted activities to flame-engulfed paper towels, He can use every moment.  He can use every weakness.  He can use you.

All you have to do is be willing to let Him light the flame.  

Sara Cormany guest posts on the first Friday of each month. Sara is mommy to six-year-old Grace, four-year-old Drew and one-year-old Sophie. When she is not wiping noses, changing diapers or chasing her kids, she is a sometimes writer and a sometimes teacher to teenagers. But her most cherished role is that of one who is perfectly held by Jesus. She loves watching Him take the broken, the messy and the seemingly mundane of her everyday and turn it into something beautiful.

 

Day 14: Don't Forget to Rest (and a giveaway)

Today is the last day of The Best Summer Ever Series. Hopefully, you have a binder full of great ideas for your summer. You've planned places to go, things to teach, character qualities to emphasize and projects to do. All of those things are important, but don't forget something that's equally important this summer -- rest.

Our kids have been busy all year -- whether you have toddlers or teenagers. Their minds and their bodies need time to rest. Rest is biblical. Even God rested: "By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work" (Genesis 2:2).

Our children need time to simply be kids. They need time to play outside with nothing more than a stick and their imaginations. They need time to sleep in. They need time to just hang out with their friends.

Summer is a time for cold glasses of lemonade, camping out in the backyard, sleeping past the sunrise and staying up late. It's a time for going to the pool and making forts under the tree in the backyard. It's a time for long walks and long talks.

Don't fill your summer so full of activities that you forget to give your kids some time to rest. Leave room in your schedule for unscheduled fun -- pick-up basketball games on the driveway, read-alouds before bedtime, s'mores over the fire pit. These are the moments your kids will remember.

They'll remember the day you got up and took them for donuts. They'll remember the lazy afternoons at the pool where you got in and played with them. They'll remember lemonade stands and homemade ice cream. They'll remember water balloon fights and evening bike rides.

Make time to rest. Leave unstructured time in your summer days. It will help make this The Best Summer Ever.

Don't miss our giveaway to wrap up The Best Summer Ever Series. We're giving away a $15 gift card to Cold Stone Creamery so our lucky winner can make a memory with her family this summer. Enter to win below. I'll announce the winner on Tuesday.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Linking up today with Beholding Glory and Your Thriving Family.

Day 13: Keep Learning

Today marks the first day of summer break here. Bedtime went out the window last night. There's no need for my girls to get up this morning. Let the lazy days of summer begin.

While summer offers freedom from the structure of the school day, it doesn't mean my girls stop learning. An entire summer without polishing their math and reading skills means a tough month when school starts back up in the fall. That's why it's so important to keep the learning going.

Proverbs 1:5 says "let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance." We want our lives and the lives of our kids to be ones of continual learning. But learning doesn't have to be diagramming sentences, writing papers and doing math worksheets. With a little creativity, summer learning can be something your kids look forward to. Try out some of these ideas to keep learning fresh and fun at your home this summer.

Reading

Start your own reading club. Check out today's free printable for reading tokens you can give out to your kids every time they finish a book. Come up with a rewards system that allows your kids to spend their tokens. The rewards can be anything from an extra helping of dessert to a movie outing to a Silly String war (a favorite in our house).

Read together. Set aside some time every day for read aloud. When your kids get tired or it's too hot to play outside, spend half an hour reading. It gives everyone a break and stretches imaginations.

Be intentional with the books you choose. Summer is a time when our kids don't have to read books dictated by school. Find books that fit with your summer theme and encourage your kids to read those or use them as read alouds.

Math

Play math games. Check out Cool Math, which offers tons of great math games on the computer. Grab a deck of cards and give everyone cards numbered from 2 to 10. Take turns rolling a pair of dice. Add, subtract, multiply or divide to make the numbers on your cards. When you get a number, flip the card over. First person to flip over all their cards wins.

Create active math problems. Send your kids into the backyard to count trees or flowers or even weeds. Count the number of stairs in your house, then ask your kids how many stairs you would have if you had 12 houses. Get your kids moving while they do math.

Cook with your kids. A great way to review fractions is to break out the cookbook. Kids get practical application, and you end up with something yummy to eat.

History

Take field trips. Every area has some local history. Take your kids to visit some of the sites in your area. Learn about the people who lived in your town before you. Take a trip to a living history site where your kids can step back in time and learn about history in a way that makes it come alive.

Science

Do some simple experiments. Make a baking soda volcano. Drop Mentos in a 2-liter bottle of Diet Coke. Play with magnets. Mix corn starch and water and make goop. Get dirty and have fun learning about the world around you.

Summer learning doesn't have to be a chore. It can be something your kids look forward to. Keep it fun and interesting, and your kids won't even know they're learning. With a little creativity, this can be The Best (and most educational) Summer Ever.

Don't miss the conclusion of The Best Summer Ever Series tomorrow. We'll have another giveaway and a few more suggestions for making this The Best Summer Ever.

Linking up today with Raising Mighty Arrows and Denise in Bloom.

Day 12: Start Summer with a Celebration

I looked up and there she was on a 8-foot screen. My firstborn baby girl -- no hair and a few teeth, dressed in her Christmas best. Almost before I could blink, she was replaced by a picture of a young woman, one I barely recognize as my baby.

My daughter's fifth grade celebration was last night. Today, is her last day of elementary school. As last night's slide show projected photo after photo of every kid in her grade as a baby, then as they are now, we remembered the big moments and the small ones that have gotten us to this point. It seems like only yesterday we sent them off to kindergarten, and here they are on their way to middle school.

Last night, we celebrated their accomplishments. We celebrated their growth. And we celebrated even the tough moments. There's a blank spot on the wall where the kids leave their handprints at our school for the classmate who died last year. There were awards to celebrate the kids social studies accomplishments. And there were notes from a teacher at the school celebrating every child in the grade.

Summer starts tomorrow, but last night we celebrated what the kids accomplished in the past six school years. Whether your child is finishing preschool or high school, end your school year with a celebration. Remember the high points and the low points of the year. Celebrate the fun and the silly and the sad and the amazing. Mark this moment in time because it won't come again.

Today, I'll walk home with six little (and not so little anymore) girls. We'll hang out at our house, eat some pizza and celebrate the important moments of the year. We'll spend a little time reflecting on the big moments and the little ones. And we'll spend some time thanking God for another year, our friends and our accomplishments.

God wants us to celebrate the moments. All through the Old Testament, the Israelites made altars to remind them of the things that God had done. They piled up some stones that said, "In this place, God did something good." In Psalm 145:7, we're told "They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness." Use the start of summer to create some altars of your own. Celebrate God's goodness.

Plan a celebration. It doesn't have to be big -- a special lunch or an ice cream sundae will do. Simply make time to celebrate what has happened this year. Don't forget to keep a record of what you're celebrating. Start a tradition. Use the Celebration worksheet to record what your kids consider to be their biggest accomplishments, their toughest moments and the moments where they saw God at work. Take a moment to reflect on the year just past before you jump into summer.

Before you start The Best Summer Ever, celebrate the year that got you here.

Want to get Everyday Truth in your inbox? Subscribe to the blog. Enter your email in the box on the right, and Everyday Truth will come to you every morning.

Linking up today with Women Living Well , A Wise Woman Builds Her Home and Word Filled Wednesday.

Day 11: Dealing with Words

Every summer, my girls and I spend a lot of time together. During the school year, the girls are gone most of the day. Our afternoons and evenings are often filled with activities and sports. The time we spend at home during the school year is pretty small compared with the time we spend at home together during the summer.

Inevitably, my girls have trouble adjusting to spending so much time with each other. They squabble and fight until they get it figured out. But the biggest trouble we have adjusting to our summer schedule comes in controlling our words.

And I don't know about you, but I get tired of listening to them bicker. I cringe when I hear the words they sling at each other without a thought. This summer, we're placing a focus on choosing our words wisely. I've already informed my girls that talk that tears each other down isn't allowed in our house. If I catch them slinging hurtful words at each other, then they will have to go sit outside because those words aren't allowed in the house. Besides the fact that we live in Kansas where summer days are hot and humid, this lets them know that hurtful words are not OK.

I'm also placing visible reminders of what our words should look like around our house. Check out today's free printable poster for your own visible reminder. These reminders help my girls think about their words before they say them. It forces them to ask these questions: Is it kind? Is it helpful? Is it encouraging? Does it build up rather than tear down? Is it appropriate? Will it make the situation better or worse? Does it benefit those who listen?

Our words need to measure up to the standard of Ephesians 4:29, which says "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." A visible reminder helps your kids measure their words before they say them.

When your kids' words don't meet the standards of Ephesians 4:29 either sit down with them and talk about which of the criteria their words didn't meet or let them fill out a What's Wrong with My Words sheet. While they're sitting outside, they can identify what was wrong with their words and how they can change their behavior next time.

Don't spend the summer listening to your kids bicker. Get a handle on those tongues and make this The Best (and most peaceful) Summer Ever.

Just getting started on planning your summer, check out the start of our The Best Summer Ever series. Have friends who want in on the fun? Don't forget to share the series with them.

Linking up today with Time-Warp Wife, Growing Home, and A Pause on the Path.