Valentines Made With Love

I just love thoughtful valentines, especially those made by little hands!

Our kids LOVE to paint! Two years ago, I wanted to give our son an opportunity to create something for Valentine’s that could be used and admired for years to come. So, we did a relief painting. I fastened the letters, and he practically did the rest!

Tonight, while our son and I were attending Ash Wednesday services, my husband and our daughter initiated their own art project!

It meant the world to this Mama. Truly a special Valentine! It’s a pretty large piece of art (it won’t even fit on our mantle), so it’s just a matter of finding a place to display and store it year after year. Who knows, maybe in the future, these prints will become our family’s signature Valentine cards! ▪️

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Helping Our Children Understand & Observe the Lenten Season

Today is Feb 14 – the day millions celebrate valentine’s day. Along with it, this year, many Christian denominations will celebrate Ash Wednesday – the beginning of Lent, the 40-day (46 days, to be precise) journey to Easter Sunday.

This one seems to sneak up on me every year. Just as I’m getting started on New Year’s resolutions and working to make them stick, along comes lent and my anxiety for what to either give up or add in to my life.

My Christian upbringing was well rounded – Lutheran, Baptist, Disciples of Christ. I learned so much from each denomination, but it wasn’t until my sophomore year in high school when our family settled on attending a church where we liked the pastor, which just happened to be a United Methodist Church, that I was introduced to the Ash Wednesday Lenten observance.

My earliest memories of the holiday include attending church, receiving ashes on my forehead and giving up something in my life. As a kid, I participated out of the sheer tradition and the dedication to my faith. (Also, I grew up in the Bible Belt, and participating in church is just what you did!)

I’ve continued to participate in this solemn observance over the years, and I always enjoy the reflective time an Ash Wednesday service provides. However, because it’s been a tradition in which I’ve participated for the past 25 years (and our children have been too young to really understand it), I haven’t given it much thought on how to explain it.

Our children are getting to the age where they can understand broader religious concepts. They are almost six and 3-and-a-half. As I was preparing for the beginning of Lent and Valentine’s, I spoke to the kids about the two upcoming holidays. What is Valentine’s Day? Pretty easy to explain.

As I mentioned “Lent” to them, it occurred to me how ill equipped I really was to explain something this significant. In fact, my initial answer was, “Well, it’s a time we reflect on being better people and sacrificing something that we really enjoy like candy and TV (doing my best to put it in their terms).” I’ve never claimed to use simple explanations! In fact, my oldest pondered it and said, “That doesn’t sound like fun.”

As I realized I needed some serious help, where did I turn? GOOGLE! (You thought I was going to say my Pastor, right?!)

As I “googled,” I realized I was not likely the only parent who has ever encountered this same opportunity in which to share the history and significance of the 40 Days before Easter.

What better way to help another parent out than to share my resources as well as my plans for how our family will observe Lent.

First up, I really liked what I found on the Practical Resources for Churches site, a PDF document titled “Making Lent More Meaningful to Children.” They tie together the Christian observances of Christmas and Lent, Activities during Lent, related symbols, Holy Week and the Crucification.

Within their document, it states, “You can teach children about Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins, by explaining that in the past people used to put ashes on themselves as a sign that they wanted to repent and be a better person. Lent is a season when we make an effort to live the way God wants us to by praying and acting loving to other people.”

As I looked further for preparation ideas, I considered how much we do to prepare our family for Christmas through Advent traditions. Lent is very similar, though more solemn, as we prepare to celebrate the beautiful Easter Story.

I also ran across a helpful article titled “Lent for Kids: Focusing on God’s Time,” that while speaks primarily to children’s ministers and Sunday school teachers, I like the ideas about teaching children the key symbols of Lent. The weekly format for teaching about the symbols makes it easy for parents to incorporate into their family time.

Now, if you want to be a bit more crafty and involved, I recommend checking out Feels Like Home. Her family observances and tradition-keeping aligned with our family, and I liked all the ideas she shared.

Now, I don’t have to tell you how easy it is to go down a “rabbit’s hole” when searching online, but let me say that in searching for these resources, I realized I still hadn’t run across anything I was satisfied with to help me actually explain Lent to my preschoolers. I wanted something simple. Easy to understand.

While extremely helpful, I’m almost ashamed to admit this resource…but I will because if it helped me, I know it can help you, too. I found some simple words for explaining Lent to my youngsters on WikiHow.

And then I ran across this simplified version from

After skimming some of these Web sites for more information, I let my thoughts and ideas percolate for about a week. Then, I went to Hobby Lobby!

Truthfully, I went with about three other projects on my mind. And, as I was wondering the aisles after picking up some discounted valentine candy, I walked down the Easter aisle and I saw a sheet of butterfly stickers. I know, this doesn’t seem significant, BUT, it spurred a memory from when I was in high school and we got up one early Easter Sunday to decorate a cross with butterflies. Then, it hit me! I could do something very similar with our children during Lent?!

So, how did I explain Lent to our children and what exactly are we going to do?!

Well, sadly, Lent is a time in which we reflect on our own mortality. That’s terribly difficult to do with children. But, our family has experienced loss within the last year. We lost my aunt nearly a year ago next month. Devastating. We lost my 17-year-old cat on Good Friday last year, extremely sad for me, devastating for our youngest. Death is hard. Period.

Yesterday, we got word that our son’s first horse passed away at the ranch. So, we had the difficult job of sharing this news with him last night. He was devastated.

Talking about death is difficult at any age. While our first instinct is to “protect” our children from dealing with the natural progression of life, we have the responsibility and obligation as parents to teach our children and help them understand. So it is with Lent. Jesus was the only perfect man, whom God sent to this earth to teach us how to live, his dying on the cross was the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. Through Him, we are forgiven of our sins and and have the freedom to have a relationship with our creator and savior.

Ya, I’m not good with keeping it simple. So, my plan is to talk with our children about how much Jesus Loves us, how we all tend do things that don’t please God, but His love for us is go great that he sent his son, Jesus, to be our savior and forgive us our sins.

We will attend our church service, and I’ll explain to them: Ash Wednesday is the beginning of our journey to Easter Sunday. We go to church and observe Ash Wednesday as part of our Christian faith. Our pastor will place ashes on our forehead as an outward symbol of how sorry we are for the bad things we’ve done and how we want to do better.

We’ll implement some of the ideas I’ve mentioned above – attending Ash Wednesday service, focusing on a different symbol each week, reading specific Bible verses as a family, and this…

Back to Hobby Lobby. I bought a wooden cross (with my 40% off coupon) and flower embellishments (50% off), and our plan is to cover the cross with brown craft paper and allow the kids to attach a flower every day leading up to Easter. They can add a flower for saying their evening prayers, being the “light” (basically for doing something kind, good, loving for someone else), giving an offering or giving things away, successfully giving up (sacrificing) something that day. This observance goes for the parents, too. The hope is that by the time we reach Eater, our cross is full of beautiful flowers, a reminder of our Lenten Journey. ▪️

Social Norms on Social Media: Some research and additional thoughts

Since sharing my opinion last week about posting on social media (read it here), it seems I’ve encouraged some healthy discussions among readers.

Last week’s blog was strictly my opinion and free thoughts. Basically, that’s the crux of many of today’s lifestyle blogs. I won’t apologize for my opinion, but I am open to healthy discourse and the continuous shaping of my world views and understandings.

As I’ve told friends lately, 90% of the reason for my blog is because I enjoy writing. It’s a part of me that hasn’t been exercised for a number of years (I’ve had two little humans that have sucked some mental energy right out of me!).

It’s through this blog I can practice my writing skills, find my voice, learn the business of blogging, and share with readers some of the things our family enjoys. The other 10% is to inspire others in some way to experience (or find) the “magic” within their own families (more on that next time).

Back to the blog topic at hand. Social media has always fascinated me ever since it emerged on the scene. I recall being a college student at the University of Oklahoma (Boomer Sooner), studying journalism, and on the cover of a Public Relations Society of America member newsletter was the word BLOG with an animated image of robots. It was a new concept. Futuristic for sure! This was late 1999/2000. That’s around the time of MySpace, LinkedIn, Photobucket and Flikr. Remember those? YouTube came around in 2005, and shortly thereafter VLOGS (video-blogging) were born. In 2006, along came Facebook and Twitter.

Check out this link for more on the history of social media.

Yes, I’m a nerd. I was an undergrad when social media came on the scene, and when today’s two mainstream social media outlets emerged, I was in the middle of my graduate studies. So, it only makes sense why this journalist/marketing/communication professional took an interest in these new communication mediums. In fact, the more I investigated them, the more questions I asked. I had such an interest that I pitched my thesis committee chair the idea of writing my thesis about authenticity and social media. His words stay with me to this day: Would you like to graduate in seven years or seven months?

Now, I’ve slept since 2006 (A LOT) and while I’m pretty sure those weren’t his exact words (which is why I didn’t put them in quotation marks), I am sure his point, at the time, was little published research was available, data collection could be quite the chore, and with ever changing technology, I’d be better off with a more concrete topic. So, I scrapped the idea and instead focused on the topic of female leadership. I conducted a case study on the first female elected as mayor to the metro area where I studied. But, I digress. Certainly, I haven’t scrapped my interest in and fascination with social media.

So, since I do enjoy healthy discourse – (emphasis on the word “healthy”) and, since I took to heart some reactions from last week’s post – I started digging and found some interesting articles I felt worthy of sharing:

Apparently “bragging on social media” was a pretty hot topic in 2012. I found a couple of interesting articles. One from Jessica Kleiman that appeared on “Bragging on Social Media: Four Ways to Avoid Oversharing.” It’s a quick scroll-through article that offers four main points to consider when posting on social media. The other dated, yet relevant, article I found was from the Wall Street Journal. Written by Elizabeth Bernstein, “Are We All Braggarts Now?” touches on how everyone on social media seems to enhance their online image, the impact of such and how the usual social norms of modesty don’t hold true for social media. For the sake of conversation, what she has to say is worth a read.

Let’s fast forward to an article from 2017 on “How Other People Judge Us Online” is a great article full of research findings that surmise its best to let our friends brag for us. So, for my fellow nerds out there, or if you’re just curious, check it out!

So long as social media is alive and well, the topic of sharing our lives online and social norms will continue to be up for public discourse. In fact, I ran across a very recent blog published just this week on titled “How to Brag Without Annoying All Your Friends.”

This post shares highlights from a 2015 Study in Psychological Science that researches what we may feel to be a positive share on social media others may consider bragging. We tend to underestimate how what we share will be received by those with whom we share. The author of the study, Irene Scopelliti, touched on the psychology of bragging in a recent TedX Talk. This blog post doesn’t condemn bragging on social media (neither do I, in case you were wondering), rather if offers some advice worth taking about “how to be a good bragger,” “how to be a better bragger,” and “how to be the best bragger,” concluding that you should always be nice on the Internet, definitely a rarity in today’s online social culture.

Finally, because let’s face it, if you’re still with me, you too are fascinated by social media to some extent. Like me, you’re also guilty of bragging online. So, since I dislike even numbers, and I figured by this point in my post we needed a good chuckle, here’s a very opinionated post titled “Your Facebook Life Doesn’t Food Me” by Keenan McGrath on

Good luck out there in the social media world! Let’s keep it nice, keep it real, and be the best braggarts we can be! ▪️

Think before you share

I just want to drop some truth today. I’m guilty of this. You likely are, too. Facebook. Instagram. Snapchat. Social media!

Oh, don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about. Posting photos with your friends after a fun evening. Posting selfies at this location, at that thing, and the list goes on.

Like I said, I too, am guilty.

Have you ever stopped to think about what you’re really doing with some of your posts? Or, maybe you are genuinely sharing with your cadre of socially networked friends.

Here’s the truth: It’s bragging.

It’s okay. Take a gasp of air. Be a little appalled at that statement. I was, too.

My husband and I often discuss social media. I want to quit it on a regular basis, but I can’t. I’m sucked in – just like you!

One night, recently, I was talking with him about something I saw on my feed, and for some reason, it bothered me. I can’t even remember now what it was, but to a man who isn’t on Facebook, nor cares what other people think, he helped me realize what I was stewing about did not matter one little bit! He also told me he believes the majority of posts on social media were, for the most part, braggadocios.

At first, I defended my Facebook affliction. But, the more I thought about what he said, the more it resonated with me.

I don’t consider myself to be braggadocios. I try to be quite humble, mostly. But then I jump on Facebook and jump on the bandwagon posing selfies with my friends.

I see photos with groups of people and think, “I need to post my stuff!” Or, “I did this cool thing with this person. I should post to Facebook (or Instagram).”

Why do we do this to ourselves? I think the people that can scroll through Facebook without having any kind of emotional reaction – positive or negative – are most definitely robots.

We’re human. We’re flawed. We’re jealous. Curious. Proud.

Social media feeds on our weaknesses.

I think it’s time we quit fueling it.

Don’t worry, I don’t mean you need to log off forever. (You’re glad I gave you permission to stay connected, right?) And, I’m not campaigning for a social media fast.

What I am asking you to do – that is if you’re still with me and haven’t switched over to post something right now – is this: consider the ins/outs and ramifications of what you wish to post. Believe me, taking time to think about it could potentially save you some headaches and heartache.

WHO will be seeing this post?

When you tag friends in your post, you open yourself – and all the individuals within that tagged photo – up to multiple audiences, many of whom you don’t know. Do you want these friends of friends and who-knows-who seeing photos of you, your family? What if you post a photo of your child on a sports team to your “friends-only” list but tag two other moms?! Now, their friends can see that particular photo of your child. Would you like your friends to open up their friends list to view photos of your children?

What about other friends who may be part of your regular circle, but they aren’t in the photo for whatever reason (likely not purposeful and definitely not malicious)? I’ve been on both sides of this coin, you bet. I’ve seen a micro-circle of friends together and felt sad because I wasn’t part of whatever festivities were happening, and I’ve had friends pull me aside and ask, “WTH woman?! Why wasn’t I included in that ‘thing’?”

I’m sure, at this point, you’re thinking, “Seriously lady? I don’t give a hoot and if I have friends on my list who feel that way, well, that’s their problem.” Weeeellll…it’s kinda your problem. Keep reading.

WHAT am I posting?

You have a personal brand. Seriously! Everything you post online reflects the person you are, or at least the person you are perceived as. And, believe it or not, perception is reality, and the online reality you present it continuously up for interpretation by those with whom you’re connected.

I was raised in the emergent technology era (you know, the time of the Commodore 64, Macintosh Plus, floppy disc, etc), and at that time, we were taught that reputation was everything. When you went on a field trip, by gosh, you represent yourself and the school you attend. In other words, don’t screw it up, kid!

In today’s society, your reputation isn’t just about who you are when you leave your home, it’s also about who you are IN your home, ON the Internet! Nowadays, it’s even more important to ensure you represent yourself to the highest degree. Do you want a future employer, a potential client, potential friend, parents of your children’s friends, etc., not just seeing but PERCEIVING you in a manner that’s potentially harmful to your reputation? Of course not!

WHEN are you making the post?

Wait! Stop. Seriously! I don’t care what the unwritten rules are about social media, no one says you have to post anything immediately! I mean, there is such thing as #latergram. But, for real, just because something is happening NOW, doesn’t mean you need to post in real time. Consider all the Ws and H I’m offering in this post. Take some time, trust the process, and thank me later.

From WHERE are you doing the posting?

I’m sure you’ve either read or heard this before, but it bears repeating. Be mindful of your location and wait to post those vacation photos until you get home. Do you completely trust all 500+ friends on your social media network? Really? Like, you explicitly trust ALL of these people with a key to your house? Because, that’s basically what you’re doing when you post photos from a location while you’re away from your home. And finally, does the location from where you are making the post and “checking in” reflect the reputation – personal brand – you’re working to maintain?

HOW do you decide what to share?

“Okay lady, so how do we decide what exactly TO share?” Yes, yes. I know this may sound crazy, but remember what I said about your personal brand? How you present what you post impacts your reputation. Your personal brand. Are you a health advocate offering information about your own journey for encouragement and inspiration? Then go ahead, post that selfie at the gym! Let me see your healthy food. Are you a jet setter with loads of experience? Cool! I wanna see your adventures. An outdoor enthusiast? Yes! Show me your gear and dazzle me with some landscapes! Get the idea? Always keeping in mind your personal brand and goals you’ve set for yourself and your family is the difference between an authentic post and one that is braggadocios.

On social media, it’s easy to think you’re sharing an update with five of your best friends (likely because these people are the ones who regularly interact with your posts). The reality is you are actually sharing your life with a large array of acquaintances. This bring us to our final point.

WHY do I need to share?

Before you answer, I have to say this: Right here, is where we struggle, and why social media advertising is so lucrative. We’re suckers for the human element. We’re nosy. Curious. Proud. Flawed. Just as I mentioned earlier, were wrapped up in our own worlds.

The “why” behind what it is we want to post is often difficult to decipher, but if properly considered, it can save some heartache and headache. Are you posting for attention? Are you giddy with each thumbs-up you receive? Do you live for new followers? What are you missing in your present life that drives these desires. For the time being, those questions must be left for a much deeper post (and likely a list of non-fiction books and helpful podcasts on the subject).

The truth I want to leave you with is this: your self worth is NOT derived from attention on social media. It’s not! I can promise you won’t feel long-term happiness or experience life satisfaction through reactions on social media. It’s okay to admit. We shouldn’t allow our worlds to revolve around it, yet we do day in and day out.

As I was pondering what to leave you with on this post, I paused my thoughts and took some time to look through my son’s schoolwork that had been left on the kitchen counter. I shuffled through a few papers and discovered a worksheet he’s completed a couple weeks ago during his time in Awana. And there it was, starring me in the face. A simplistic summary of all that had been circling in my head that I offered to you through this post.

It’s a word and acronym all in one that you and I both can carry with us and put to use in our daily lives, but especially useful when sharing on social media.


T – Is it true?

H – Is it helpful?

I – Is it inspiring?

N – Is it necessary?

K – Is it kind?

My guess is that nine out of 10 parents would agree they want their child to learn and practice these behaviors in their day-to-day life. Doesn’t it make sense that if we expect these behaviors from our children, we need to set that example, even in the computerized version of ourselves? I think so. Here’s to all the luck we will both need to keep it real and THINK before we share.▪️

Developmental milestones, even at 40

When my son was two, I had an impromptu conversation with a fellow mom as I was lamenting about the “terrible two” stage. “Watch out,” she said, “the ‘threenage’ stage is worse.”

That was the first time I’d heard that word, but she was right. Three is a rough age. As our son rounded out four-and-a-half, I hoped that turning four meant we would turn a big developmental corner.

When our son was just two months shy of his fourth birthday, I began to see that, indeed, we were nearing the end of a tough couple of years and about to enter a new phase in his development. As he turned four, communication and listening skills markedly improved.

~Milestone Excitement~

So it is the same with adults. It’s just not as apparent as it is in the early developmental stages. Plus, being older, we aren’t as likely to celebrate our milestones as we are with our infants, toddlers or preschoolers.

My son is so excited for his upcoming birthday. Already, he’s gearing up for the age he’ll be turning. He will soon be able to use two hands to show us his age.

If we stop to think about it, isn’t that the way it is our whole life? When we are nine we can’t wait to turn that double digit age. When we are 10, we can’t wait to be a teenager. When we turn 13, we look ahead to getting our learner’s driving permit. Turning 16 means getting a drivers license; turning 18 means graduating from high school, getting out of the house, going to college, being able to vote, and finally being an adult (so we think)!

I hit a major milestone this week. I turned the big four-zero! Naturally, I can’t help but reflect on the past two decades of my life, and I wanted to share with you who have yet to reach this age, and those who have, well, you can back me up!

~Treacherous 20s~

My 20s were all over the board.

I sacrificed a near-full-ride scholarship to a Division I university and moved out of state to attend a different Division I university where my boyfriend, at the time, attended. Yes, I moved for a BOY. There! I’ve said it publicly.

In that relationship, I walked down the path most girls in their 20s dream about, but I ultimately made a decision that would terrify most girls in their 20s. I broke off our engagement six weeks before the wedding.

I started my career. I learned not to leave my resume on the fax machine of my current employer. Better yet, don’t be applying for a job at your current employer’s work place!

I learned it’s not only about who you know, but also what you know and your desire and ability to work hard.

I was active in my church yet I dated an alcoholic.

I traveled across the globe, witnessed and experienced things that typically are only reserved for missionaries.

I moved back home for a season and earned my masters degree.

I made mostly good but sometimes not so good decisions. All combined, the decade of my 20s shaped me into the person I needed to be to enter my fourth decade of life.

~Thriving 30s~

I kicked off my 30s in a new town, new state, new climate, new career. Though I was schooled in the art of journalism, experienced in public relations, marketing and communication, my new job in newspaper ad sales seemed exciting – and something I could do – but all these changes, simultaneously, were overwhelming. I threw myself into my job.

I met so many people across my new community, attended multiple events month after month, grew relationships with clients, made new friends through my network of fellow business professionals. Clients became friends, and through my work, I met the man I would marry at age 32.

Since then, it’s been an exciting adventure at a hyper-speed pace. Seventeen months after our wedding, we welcomed a new baby boy into this world. Our lives changed. MY life was turned upside down – literally. I’m not kidding!

The first time I met my son, the doctor finished my emergency C-section, and they brought our son over to me and positioned him in a way that our faces were just opposite one another. I vividly recall asking the nurses to turn him around so I could see his face!

Looking back, I wouldn’t want it any other way! I’m blessed every day by an active little boy who keeps me on my toes, who loves like Jesus loves, is thoughtful and compassionate.

Through his first couple of years I suffered from undiagnosed postpartum depression, I waffled on my decision to stay home and ultimately returned to work for just shy of a year. I needed that time to regroup and reprioritize my goals as a mom.

During that time, things became clearer, and I confidently quit my professional career and found my place as a wife and mother working for our family inside the home.

Our daughter came on the scene 27 months after our son was born. For those who don’t like doing the math, that’s two years and three months – three-and-a-half months, precisely – later.

When our son was born, my mom told me, “your heart will just burst with love!” And, she was right! I could honestly feel it GROW with a love I never felt before. I worried I wouldn’t have that same feeling the second time around, but right on cue, as I sat in the backseat on the car-ride home with this new little human dressed all in pink, it hit me. LOVE. Greater than I knew from even when our son was born. Indescribable. My heart GREW! It was incredible!

At least the second time around I knew what to expect, and I was determined not to let hormones get the best of me! I was a different woman this time around. Fierce. Ready!

I wasn’t ready, however, for our son to instantly GROW into this big kid upon the birth of our daughter!

With a toddler and a new baby, things got a little tricky. We all had to learn to share. We all needed a big ol’ dose of patience. And we had to learn how to adjust to having a new family member.

It took a couple of years. It also took a couple of years for me to work up to the idea of turning 40!

Just like my son’s developmental milestones between age two and three, and a big one from three to four, I reflect on my own journey the last few years and realize that at any age we can develop – mentally and emotionally.

When I was 38, I lamented needing a mammogram in two years, the new grey hairs I was discovering, what new wrinkles might appear, and the ongoing struggle with my weight, especially since “they” say it’s harder to lose weight after 40. I continued attending periodic Jazzercise classes and found I really enjoyed it. I even dug in to learning more about proper nutrition and improved portion control.

When I turned 39, I embraced being “in” my 40th year of life. I went on a deeper health journey participating in some challenge groups, taking an even bigger step toward a more healthier me by adding more real, whole and clean foods into my diet, amping up my Jazzercise by increasing the number of days I would attend classes and increasing the weights I used. I took a bit of a health hiatus mid-fall, but six weeks before my birthday, I upped the number of Jazzercise classes I attend per week from 2-3 to a solid four! Plus, I challenged myself regularly to use heavy weights, and two weeks ago I graduated to consistently using 10 pounders! On my birthday, I went with my husband to workout at his gym, which I joined, and my goal for 2018 is to add in at least one day of solid, focused weight training.

~40 & Feeling Fine~

Who says 40 is a drag?! Shoot! I made the best of it and partied like a rockstar! Nearly one week into my birthday I feel amazingly strong physically, mentally and emotionally.

It’s like something “clicked,” just like the corner our son turned from three to four and we can see, even now, from five to six! I feel more secure in who I am as a woman, a wife and a mom! I’m confident my 40s are gonna be he best decade yet, full of love and lasting memories!

Why we choose primitive campsites

Camping in the summertime gets us out of the southwest desert heat (we left our driveway at 9:30 am with a 90* temperature, and two hours later, at an altitude of 9,000′, it was 57* and rainy), it allows our children to experience new things, gives them an opportunity to test their developing skills, abilities and limits, and camping provides great family bonding time.

Our preferred campsite location is one that is primitive, but the purpose of our recent overnight excursion was to “practice” camping in an established campsite in close proximity to other people. We stayed in a private, 200-acre pay-to-fish and camp location offering areas for RVs and tents. 

Just as we secured our spot (first come, first serve), an afternoon mountain thunderstorm hit, complete with pea-size hail. So, we waited it out, and fed everyone lunch in the truck. Thankfully, I’d prepared everyone PB&Js in advance, so lunch was easy to grab quickly from our ice chest in the back of the tuck. 

After lunch, the rain began to clear, and with the kids still strapped in their seats, Will and I braved the diminishing sprinkles to set up our new tent. 

After our last outdoor adventure, we decided we feel more comfortable tent camping with our preschoolers, at least for the next four to five years. That decision prompted us to sell our pop-up and purchase a family-size tent. We went with a nine-person, 10’x14′ Coleman instant tent. It boasts a 60-second set up.  

For our first time, and considering set-up took place while it was still sprinkling, it took approximately three minutes. I’m sure with practice, we’ll master the 60-second set-up!  

From the moment we arrived and I realized the camping situation, to the rain and PB&Js in the truck, I was sure I’d be sharing some sort of humorous camping story. But, after we got settled into our camp, I quickly realized why we chose primitive campsites. 

So, the following are our top five reasons for primitive camping!

1. “Business” is better in the woods

The particular campground in which we stayed had one facility to accommodate, well, who knows how many people. The women’s restroom had three showers, two toilets and three sinks with running water. Elsewhere, scattered about the 200 acres, were banks of port-a-potties. At least they came well equipped with toilet paper (double-ply, too). Nonetheless, I prefer selecting a tree over sharing the same spot with multiple two-legged animals. Plus, the stench of the port-a-potties seems to linger for some time after exiting the facility. Yuck! Which, brings me to the next point…

2. Less pollution 

It had been years since we camped in an established campground, so I was a bit overwhelmed by all the people and all the pollution! 

Noise pollution. Multiple campsites had music blaring continuously and, in the background, we heard the steady whirs from generators. Quiet hours in the park were from 10 pm to 8 am, which meant we could only enjoy the true sounds of nature during these hours. But, we were awakened by obnoxious laughing and music 2am, as opposed to being awaken by the bugle of a bull elk or the gobble of a nearby turkey at a primitive location. 

Visual pollution. The view from our campsite was actually quite serene, but it was hard to focus on nature with so many visual distractions. The campsite below us brought a flatscreen TV, the campsite above us enjoyed their music, to the front was a camping trailer – the ones that woke us up at 2am – and to the rear (about 100 yards) were the port-a-potties. My two kiddos and I even took a large perimeter hike up a steep hill and around the boundary of the grounds to explore, and not once did we feel alone with nature. 

I’ve already mentioned the disgusting port-a-potties, which are definitely pollutants to the eyes and nose – ugh. So, I’ll wrap-up this section by mentioning the guidelines we follow when camping – whether at an established or primitive site. 

“If you pack it in, pack it out.” This means that whatever you bring to camp, make sure it leaves with you. We typically do a final “sweep” of our campsite before departure to ensure nothing is left behind. This includes trash, especially the pesky little pieces of trash such a cola can tabs or bottle tops. And, another important rule of thumb is “always leave the campsite in better condition than which you found it.” While we are “sweeping” our site, we always pick up any trash that others have left behind. Occasionally, we even stop to look around abandoned campsites and pick up trash, and we sometimes find lost treasures! My son has found Hot Wheels, and my husband always seems to find knives and tools!

3. Solitude is wonderful

We get away and escape to nature to be alone as a family. We love our little family unit, and being “alone” in the forest strengthens our family bond. We’re able to unplug and focus on one another without the distractions of work, household chores and all the responsibilities that come with being an adult. We can play, laugh, explore and learn together. 

4. More freedom

When we primitive camp, there’s typically no one around. Additionally, we camp a distance from any major road. This means, we have the freedom to hike around our camp, and we can let our children roam and explore – within reason. On this particular campout, we had to set boundaries closer to our camp. There were strangers in close proximity, unfamiliar animals and frequent traffic within the park. Primitive camping allows our family to more freely enjoy the outdoors. 

5. Self reliance 

Finally, being in the outdoors causes you to strengthen your inner being. It’s a real sense of pride knowing you and your family have the tools, knowledge and abilities to endure Mother Nature. Primitive camping means bringing enough water for your family as opposed to relying on available facilities. It means hunting for kindling and chopping your own firewood as opposed to buying it from the front office. And, of course, it means being smart about your surroundings and being comfortable on your own without the safety net of strangers. 

The adage “dilution is the solution to pollution” is the perfect summary for why we choose primitive campsites! What do you think – campground or primitive campsite?! Why do you prefer one over the other? We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

Family Ouch Kit plus Free Printable

I’m a sucker for plastic boxes, especially when they help organize anything in my life. I have boxes for my children’s keepsakes, boxes for craft-this and scrapbook-that, busy boxes for my son (future blog post, so stay tuned), a diaper/potty box I keep handy in the car stocked full of diapers and wipes, and when we were potty training our son, it even contained Clorox wipes and small trash bags.

So, naturally, when I was combing Pinterest one day for ideas on keeping our two preschoolers entertained during our summer road trip, I ran across a why-didn’t-I-think-of-that idea! An “Ouch Kit.” Woah! I immediately clicked on the pin from, and I knew this was something my family needed – for our road trip and even for everyday adventures this summer. 

The Ouch Kit mentioned on the blog offered some great ideas, and I soon took to customizing a box to fit our family’s needs. I hope this post can do the same for your family!

I used a plastic wipes box, which the blog suggested, and it’s the perfect size! I dug through my sticker collection and found some letters to create a label for the front of the box. 

Typically, I carry travel size sunscreen, and in the summer, travel bug repellant. I also usually carry adult pain relief medicine, so the list below contains items helpful to keep handy in an Ouch Kit.

▫️ Antiseptic wash

▫️Antibiotic ointment, such a Neosporin

▫️ Non-stick compression pads

▫️ Gauze wrap

▫️ Assorted bandages (I included fun Band-Aid designs for our son and daughter, and plain ones for adults, in case someone wasn’t comfortable sporting a Paw Patrol or Disney Princess Band-Aid.)

▫️Pair non-latex gloves

▫️Package travel tissues 

▫️Itch relief stick, such as After-Bite, or cream, such as Benedryl


▫️Fever reducing “kool” pads

▫️A pair of nail clippers

▫️A pair of tweezers

I carry a small pocket knife, so I didn’t include a pair of scissors in our box. Unless you or someone in your family carries a pocket knife, a pair of scissors would be wise to include in your own box.

One last thing I included in our family’s kit was something to help bring a smile to a little one in pain – some hard candy! 

Coincidentally, the day I completed the kit, my son fell and scraped his knee pretty badly. While I was doctoring his knee, he was crying, and all I wanted to do was to help him calm down so I could finish my task, so I handed him a piece of hard candy – and bam! – it worked like a charm! He was still in a little pain, but it definitely made the pain a little more bearable!

For more information about a family first-aid kit, here’s a checklist from the Red Cross.

PRINT our Ouch Kit Checklist below to have at the ready for your next shopping trip and to help you organize your own list of needs. I also made the header into a BONUS LABEL you can clip and attach to the box using clear packing tape. (You’re welcome!) Easy peasy!

We would love to hear any about special customizations you’ve made to your own kit, and we invite you to also share photos along the way! Once you have your own Ouch Kit compiled, get out there and enjoy the outdoors! 

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Adventure always abounds

Anytime we set out as a family, there’s always an adventure in store. From finding a remote, primitive camping spot, testing some retro gear to exploring an Old West Ghost Town, all while making accommodations for one furry family member along for the ride, this particular trip possessed the spirit of yesteryear.

Initially, we planned to spend two nights in the forest, but when three-fourths of the family contract a cold, adjustments must be made. So, our trip quickly became an overnighter, sans pop-up camper.

Retro Gear

We’ve been waffling back and forth between keeping our pop-up camper and selling it to invest in a new family tent. (That’s another blog post for another day, however.) For this overnighter, we decided step back to a simpler time and used a circa 1970 six-man, canvas tent. It was the perfect size for the four of us and Chase, our yellow lab. The tent perfectly accommodated two single camping pads – one each for the kids – and a double-sized pad for mama and daddy. 

Sunshine & Ranger helping daddy set up the tent.

six-man, canvas tent, ca 1970

Sunshine used a 35-year-old, 0* rated, rectangular down sleeping bag, and Ranger used a newer model, 32* rated Kelty down sleeping bag. Our sleeping situation was definitely old school, though, as we didn’t even use sleeping bags. We covered the sleeping pad with a flat sheet and stayed warm with a wool blanket and a hand-made denim quilt. The low was around 45*, and surprisingly, we all slept sound and stayed warm. 

Checkikg out the “digs.”

Camp Four Pines”

After driving scouting the forest for the perfect, child-friendly spot in which to camp, we settled on a meadow, as opposed to prior locations surrounded by pine trees. The site offered great exploring options, as you could see camp from any direction. We set up camp under four isolated pine trees in the middle of the meadow. 

Chase quickly took to exploring the lay of the land, as dogs will do, and found a puddle big enough to waller in, so it didn’t take long for him to become like Harry, the main character in the children’s book “Harry the Dirty Dog.” Was he a yellow dog with brown spots, or a brown dog with yellow spots?! Thankfully, with his short hair, he didn’t stay dirty for long, and he had an absolutely blast! Of course, there’s also something about camping with a dog that adds to one’s perceived level of safety in the great outdoors!

Storm’s a Brewin’

As we set up camp, we noticed storm clouds forming. We could see rain in the distance, and with dark clouds around us, we knew rain was immanent. About three hours after setting up camp, while the boys collected firewood and prepared our fire, the wind shifted and it started raining. 

Primitive camping, as we do, means using the campfire as our primary cooking source. However, we’ve learned from experience to always be prepared with a backup cooking method. (TIP: always be prepared with an alternate cooking source that can be easily used in a vehicle). For this trip, a rainstorm meant no campfire, and no campfire meant no roasted hot dogs. So, our “plan b” was to boil the hot dogs in our Jet Boil. Thankfully, the weather cleared after about an hour, and we enjoyed roasted hot dogs! 

Zeolites and a Ghost Town

After we struck camp, we headed back to civilization, but not without one last adventure – driving though the old west ghost town of Chloride, NM. The hour-long drive back from camp was interesting and beautiful. The scenery was different from our initial drive into the forest. We passed – what appeared to be – a secluded bed and breakfast (which will need to be explored and shared in a future post!), as well as the St. Cloud zeolite operation.

St. Cloud Zeolite Operation

According to the St. Cloud zeolite Web site, “Zeolites belong to a family of naturally occurring volcanic minerals with unique physical and chemical characteristics.” St. Cloud Zeolite is the largest producer of natural zeolite in the Unites States, and a quick Google for this mineral’s uses quickly result in listings such water purification, agriculture, construction and more.

Ranger exploring an old mining train.

We ended our adventure with a picnic in the village center of the ghost town known as Chloride, NM, a “silver” town which got it start in the late 1870s. According to a brochure I picked up in the museum, “By late 1881, Chloride had eight saloons, three mercantile stores, two butcher shops, a item, boarding houses, an assay office, livery stables, a candy store, drug store, law office, Chinese laundry and a millinery store.” In its heyday, the town boasted a population of 3,000 people. About 10 years after the town was founded, the price of silver dropped when the US adopted gold as the standard, thus, the town was abandoned. 

Items one might have found in the Chloride mercantile are on display in the museum.

Today, Chloride, NM, is an extremely small community, but offers a wonderful stop for consuming a picnic lunch and some history. We learned this small town even has a cafe, which we plan to visit in the future.

Camping/exploring the great outdoors with little ones in tow is something we’ve been doing for more than four years. We are by far experts, but sometimes we have a helpful tip or two to share! We’d love to hear from you on what questions you might have on giving children memorable experiences in the outdoors, and we’ll feature some of your questions in a future post!

Enchanted by Clothing

I recently joined – well, I don’t even know how I’d describe it – a clothing Netflix, of sorts. It’s called Le Tote, and for $59 a month, you receive an unlimited number of “totes,” which include three pieces of clothing, two accessories and priority shipping both ways. 

As a busy stay-at-home mom raising two preschoolers, I really don’t get out much to shop for fashionable items. When I came across a sponsored ad on Facebook (naturally), I checked it out, and it sounded interesting enough for me to give it a spin, for at least a month.

When I created an account, I was asked about my style preferences, sizes and measurements. Then, I was presented with my first items Le Tote selected for me. Frankly, I wasn’t impressed, as we live where there are warmer spring temperatures. Most of the suggestions were better suited for cooler climates. 

One of the great things about Le Tote is that when presented with your items, if there’s something you don’t particularly like, you can swap it for something else. So, that’s what I did with most of the items they chose for me. 

Check out my unboxing video!

(Fair warning, my kiddos were running wild in the background and caused some interference midway through – so this video offers some “real life” stuff!)

I wasn’t excited about my first tote, but gave it a try. I’ll admit, however, I was looking forward to my trendy accessories! 

Not really “digging” this top.

Since I didn’t care for the other pieces – a lightweight navy sweater that was too small and a long-sleeve, v-neck tee with ruching on the sides – I sent back the entire tote three days after it arrived.

Loving this royal blue, 3/4 sleeve, rayon v-neck and the trendy necklace and earrings.

After you have a chance to wear your items, you can use the Le Tote app (which is super handy for managing your subscription and letting Le Tote know about styles you love) to rate your tote. This helps Le Tote better select items for your next tote. I gave my first tote three stars. 

I’m definitely looking forward to my second shipment. Stay tuned along with me!

A Message from the Master Gardener

Mid-morning, the kids were running wild around the house. Must be spring fever, or the fact their daddy had a day off, so we all had time together at home. Whatever the case, as you can imagine with a four-year-old and a 22-month old, their behavior warranted some time outside. So, I put my “inside chores” aside, and we all went outside. That’s when I was reminded of something very important: John 15:1-17, specifically the first eight verses.
I continue to be amazed with God’s subtle messages for my life. Even when I am not faithful in my quiet time, He is the faithful and loving parent always caring for me and speaking to my heart. This morning, I listened. 

I knew my spring flowers needed some attention. Did I water them too much? Not enough? Too much sun? I needed to investigate. By going outside as a family, and because I don’t have the propensity to sit still for very long, I took to pruning. 

As I removed the dead flowers, I was reminded of how God is our divine gardener. He opened my eyes as to how he continually prunes aspects of my life to make way for more areas to bloom. It’s a continual process, and it takes work. But pruning is worth it. I thought my flowers were on their last leg, but after I’d pruned them, they looked brighter and even more lovely than before. Then, I realized, this must be the same for our lives as well, if only we put all our trust and faith in our Master Gardner. 

John 15:1-8 was God’s message for me this morning!

I’m so thankful my heart was open this morning to hear God’s message for me, and it’s one I wanted to share with you! Plus, it’s always a joy to watch our “little helpers” enjoy being outside as much as we do!

Ranger hard at work.

“Sweeping” the sidewalk.

Little Miss “in charge” of the weed bucket.