A New Chapter

It’s hard to believe it’s only been a year since I started this blog called Ave & Jay. I launched Ave & Jay with the mission to reach and encourage others. I didn’t realize in the process I’d find so much healing and restoration.

I’ve always loved to write. I haven’t always been great at it, but I caught the bug (from my mom) at a very young age and embraced all of the disciplines to becoming a better writer. Many times in college I even threatened to change majors from nursing to English in order to further pursue my passion for writing.

I didn’t, and I’m glad I stuck out nursing school (even though I’m on an extended sabbatical from that profession now). Regardless, writing has always been a near and dear friend.

When I decided to start Ave & Jay, blogging was already very familiar to me. I’d blogged for years on another personal blog and as a contributor for others. This was a safe and comfortable and incredibly low risk space.

Looking back I can see that I was stepping out of a dark and vulnerable place and needed to be reminded of my strengths again. Most days I felt like I was failing miserably at everything but being able to stretch those “writing muscles,” to exercise the parts of my brain that had been muddled by sleep deprivation and extended periods of high stress, brought energy back into me.

I’ve said so many times within the last several weeks, with praise to the Lord, “My brain is better now.” It’s apparent to others as well, not just myself. Is it 100% because of blogging? No. Definitely not. But blogging here has nurtured my gift enough to remind me of dreams I wanted to pursue in writing that I had put away.

These dreams I’d like to pursue will require a lot more stretching. A lot more time. But, my brain is ready to tackle a new challenge. (Again, all the praise to God!)

This blog has become a little retreat for me: an outlet that’s been incredibly therapeutic, and I’m so grateful for the support its received and to my blogging buddy Krissy for holding my hand while I started this journey. But it’s time to close this chapter and start a new one.

I’ll still be around on the gram, if you aren’t already following me there. And who knows, in the same way the Lord stirred the passion and vision for this blog in my heart one summer day last year, He may very well call me back here. But for now, the calling is elsewhere. And I can say with teary eyes that I am incredibly excited to be emotionally and mentally ready to take on the new project before me.

Thank you for following along,

❤ Lindsay

Summer Sanity: Serve

Can I get a show of hands? Who is ready for football and pumpkins and riding boots?

The strong craving for Fall hit me this week. I’d had my fill of summer and began to count the weeks for when the school year would begin. Not so I can ship my kids (my oldest is still only 3) off for the day, but just for the routine of the school year- and yes, of course for the reprieve of the triple digit heat that comes with Autumn.

By this point, most of us have done all of the typical summer stuff with the kids, right? Bubbles, pools, splash pads, popsicles, maybe even s’more roasting (although, we did ours inside). Even with all the running to and fro from summer activity to summer activity, some of us desire the routine of Fall because then there will be more people to be around. Our “regular” people. Not the strangers a few feet from you at the beach, but the people you do life with. Summer can be pretty isolating, especially if you have little ones who can’t be out in the heat for too long. So, at this point in the summer, if you haven’t done so already, it’s a good time to start shifting gears from “what am I going to do with MY kids this week,” to “what are WE going to do with (or for) others.”

Parents of older kids and parents who don’t live with easy access of amenities, I promised you ideas, and this post is where I want to park for a bit.

Like I’ve explained before, these posts are not meant to provide a checklist or even a how to list for your summer planning; they’re meant to be a springboard.

So, here we go… SERVING.

“REALLY, Lindsay? SERVING? Who am I going to serve? I’m already serving my family 24/7. How am I going to serve? Where?” Simmer down, sweetie. I promise, I’m not talking about you taking the kids out for an entire Saturday into a rough neighborhood to build a house. Just step onto the spring board with me; that’s probably not where you’re going to land…

Do you know a new mom? Does she have other kids in addition to her new baby? Serve her with your kids. All together y’all make her dinner and take it to her, or go pick up her child/ren and get them out of the house with you for a bit. Too complicated because you don’t have enough car seats for that? Ok, have her drop her kids off with you AND YOUR KIDS at your house.

Beforehand, tell your kids what you’re doing. “Kids, today we’re going to serve Ms. Stacy by watching her kids Alex and Annie while she takes Baby Andrew to the doctor.”

Don’t know any new moms? What about someone in the elderly population or maybe someone who’s fighting a long-term illness?

If you have older kids who can help with yard work, go over and offer to pull their weeds one morning. Tell your kids what you’re doing. “Kids, today we’re going to serve Mr. Sterling by helping him with some yard work.”

Don’t like those ideas?

Do you live somewhere where your older kids could set up a lemonade or baked goods stand? Have them pick something that has meaning TO THEM and put a sign up that says “100% of proceeds going to ___________.” And put a picture up of exactly who the money is going to. And have them MAKE whatever it is you’re selling. Shoot, if they like to make yarn bracelets, they could make and sell those too. Remember, SPRING BOARD!

Do you want to launch an adult out into the world who is solely self-focused? I mean, we live in a culture that is SELF-focused. I don’t know about you, but I want to be ahead of the messages my kids are going to get from the world. I want for serving others to be a natural discipline. So, every time we serve someone, in any way, I talk to my kids in simple statements like those above. Service does not have to be a huge endeavor. Often we hear the word “service,” and all it connotes is “sacrifice.” I mean, if you’re making dinner already, make double; there you go. For you, yes there’s a little extra time and some extra financial expense there (plus whatever is required for you to deliver that meal to someone), but the blessing that pours out on the new mom who needs that meal is immensely greater than whatever you sacrificed to give it to her.

There’s a Berenstein Bears book we love reading to the kids that lays this ground work very well. Maybe check this book out from your local library (or do like me and order it off Amazon Prime), read it to your kids, and when you’re done, ask them who they could be kind to and how. Take their hand and pull them up onto the springboard with you, bounce and see where you land.

Until next time,

❤ Lindsay

Do you serve with your kids on a regular basis? I’d love to hear about it in the comments?

Summer Sanity: Grocery Adventuring

Hi friends! If you’re just now joining us, this is my third installment of the Summer Sanity series. If you want a list of ideas of things to do with your kiddos, Pinterest is full of long lists; most of which overwhelm me mostly because I can’t see how that idea would really mesh with me, my kids, our schedule, and what’s accessible to us. Hence this series!

I’m not seeking to give you a summer check list here. My goal is to give you an IDEA that you run away with. I talked about chores in my first post, which maybe inspired you to start a new daily routine with your kids of picking toys up before dinner. Or maybe you went all out with a sticker chart and end of the month pizza party when your kid filled up his chart. I didn’t say to do that- but maybe the idea of introducing chores to your kids sparked another idea in you that works for YALL. That’s the goal here: to light matches and stoke fires.

I remember once reading one of the above mentioned checklists when my first born was still an infant, and we were in the throws of nap-strikes mid-summer. I got to the suggestion of “visit a farmer’s market” and rolled my eyes.

“Yeah right. In the summer? By myself? In the heat? What if my baby blows her diaper out inside the Moby wrap while I’m out there where there is no restroom let alone a changing table? Puh-lease. No.”

And I closed that window like it was hot and opted for playing in the baby pool on our deck instead.

However, visiting a market is actually my third summer sanity suggestion, and if you live in the thick Southern heat like me, you’ll appreciate where my suggestion differs from the stereotypical outdoor farmer’s market setting.

My suggestion: visit a grocery store (ideally one with AC) that you don’t usually go to. Maybe one that you NEVER go to, but you’ve been to before, so you know where the bathrooms are (necessary if you’re going to be out and about with your toddler).

AND, have one item that you need to purchase there that is not from the produce section.

A gallon of milk.

A box of pasta noodles.

A loaf of bread.

Load your kiddos however suits you best, in a cart, in your baby wrap, on their leash (no judgement), and begin to explore. Walk through the produce section, which is normally near the entrance, first. If you remember that you could really use a head of lettuce, let your toddler help choose one. Walk up and down the aisles and talk about what you see with your kids, making your way into the neighboring section, and eventually to wherever that item is that you do actually need. But, have fun along the way. Linger where you can. If they’ve got cheese samples set out, let your kids enjoy one. If the baker is chatty, let your kids answer his questions and practice good manners / conversational skills.

My kids have loved our special grocery adventures. We usually use online grocery pick up, so they rarely go into the grocery store, and when they do, it’s always the same one that’s closest to our home. So, on those special occasions when we “pop into” a new grocery store, everything is really different to them. It’s like you can see the synapses forming between the neurons as their eyes take in new sights and their noses new smells. Meanwhile, the motions of going through a grocery market are still familiar and safe.

I remember when I was a little girl the rare occasions when my mom would take us to this GIANT grocery store that was a bit of a drive from our house. It was sort of the Whole Foods of our area, only twice as big as any Whole Foods I’ve ever been in. I never did anything different than what I normally did when we would go there, just walk next to my mom while she pushed the cart and did the shopping, but the experience was far from usual: the huge fish laid out on piles of ice, the lobsters swimming in tanks, the rows and rows of fresh fruits, including tropical fruits that I didn’t recognize, every single kind of nut, each in a giant see through container that seemed to reach the ceiling, ALL of the cheeses…

In every way it was a productive field trip: mom got whatever groceries she needed, and our five senses were engaged.

In essence, that is exactly what my suggestion to you is: take a productive field trip to a grocery store you rarely frequent.

As you know if you follow me on Insta, we’ve been out of town for awhile, and yesterday my kids were in a funk from being out of their routine and home and schedule, so we went to Trader Joe’s in the morning (their very first visit since we don’t have one in Arkansas). They had the best time just seeing things that were packaged and displayed differently, walking around, and getting little samples of lemonade. I had a couple things I knew I wanted to get, which honestly I probably could have gotten at the Publix just down the street. Even though the Trader Joe’s was much further away, I knew the experience would be different than what my kids are used to, so we opted for the little adventure over convenience. And everyone was glad we did.

I’ve got more summer sanity suggestions coming your way, so stay tuned.

Until next time,

❤ Lindsay

Bare Basics Beach Packing List

We just had the sweetest little family vacay on St. Simons Island. My in-laws rented a house within walking distance of the beach for themselves, our little crew, + my sis-in-love and her husband to stay in all together. SSI holds a special place in our family’s hearts, something I was very grateful to catch myself early in my relationship with David. This trip was extra special because it was the kids’ first visit to the island. 

Auntie E, Little Miss, Pops, J-Boy, Grammy B, & David

Last year we sort of “met in the middle” on Orange Beach, AL., and I completely over-packed! It was our first beach trip with kids, and we thought we needed it all plus some. This year, I said, “Less is best.” I just couldn’t bring myself to spend the fortune we had last year on a hundred things we didn’t need. Nor did I want to figure out how to pack it all again…

So, this is what this year’s Bare Basics Beach Packing List looked like… 

  • 4 beach towels
  • 2-3 swim suits per person (+ 2 cover ups for me)
  • 1 laundry ball + 1 tube of oxy-clean stain remover
  • 2 life-jacket-floaties (which we realized an hour into our drive that we had forgotten to pack, so we ordered them via Amazon Prime to be delivered to the beach house)
  • 4 bottles of sunscreen (various SPFs and formulas) + 1 bottle of after-sun care gel
  • 1 bike stroller-trailer (my in-laws already had our bikes, so they brought them for us)
  • 1 pair of clothes per person for each day we were there (4 full days + 2 half days)
  • 1 dress-up outfit per person for family pictures
  • 3 pairs of shoes per person (included at least one pair of water shoes)
  • 3 pairs of pajamas per person
  • 4 sippy cups
  • 1 noise maker
  • 1 iPad
  • 1 travel bed bumper
  • Basic toiletries + meds
  • 1 12-roll pack of toilet paper (for the beach house, because you never want to get to the VRBO and find yourself lacking toilet paper before the first grocery run!)
  • 2 beach bags
  • 2 chilly pads
  • 1 bag of toys (indoor toys like play-doh and color wonder and outdoor like bubbles and de-flated pool floats)
  • 1 cooler (with ice packs)
  • 1 booster seat for Little Miss (the house came with a high chair for J-boy)
  • 1 box of day diapers + ½ pack of nighttime diapers + 1 pack of swim diapers
  • 3 packs of diaper wipes
  • 1 baby monitor
  • 1 extension cord

And that is basically it! (We did have a few other things that were packed just for the car ride, like snacks, hand sanitizer, and books for the kids.)

We knew we weren’t going to camp out on the beach for hours, so we intentionally didn’t bring our beach tent or beach chairs or even beach toys. (I did wish we’d brought a beach umbrella, however. Thankfully, our in-laws had one that J-boy retreated to.)Our kids are just too little- they can’t hang that long in the heat whether there’s an umbrella or not. Since the beach is so close to our house, they’ve been getting their beach fix early in the morning before lunch and then again after dinner. All the time in between has been spent at the house either in the pool or napping. 

For years I packed with a mission-trip mentality…

 “If I am going to be spending the night in the middle of the jungle, I’ll want to be sure I’ve packed xyz because there’s not going to be anywhere to buy it!

This has come in handy many times, I will say, and it was also really good for when we were traveling with infants. You really do just need a lot of stuff when you’re traveling with babies that you don’t want to have to buy when you get there purely because of how expensive baby stuff is.

This bike stroller-trailer was an investment and 100% worth it!

I am grateful to be able to shift my mindset into more of a minimalist packing approach now that our kids are getting a little older. Or maybe I’m mellowing? Who knows! But either way, I hope this list helps those of you who are preparing for a beach trip this summer with littles too. 

Until next time,

❤ Lindsay

Summer Sanity: Invest in a Membership

If you’re just now joining us, this is the 2nd post in my Summer Sanity Series. Last week I encouraged you to explore the idea of getting your kids into the habit of helping out with household chores. For those of you with older kids (and teens), stay tuned, a post with specific chores targeted for that age group is coming.

The topic of today’s post has full potential to majorly stress some of you out since memberships = MONEY. But, in our experience, we’ve found that purchasing the right memberships save us money AND save our sanity.

I see you crinkling your brow not sure about where this is going… hang with me.

What is the “right” membership? Let’s start by answering that question first.

The right membership is to a place.

STOP!!

That’s important… to a PLACE. A PLACE being a physical establishment of some kind that is not in your home. You leave your house to get to it. I am not referring to a subscription e.g. Netflix, Hulu, YouTube TV, all kinds of the “boxes” that can be delivered to your home. That’s not what I’m talking about.

What I’m talking about is when you pay money, either annually or monthly, and it gets you unlimited access to a PLACE that you GO to.

Examples: zoos, aquariums, museums (bonus if it’s cool museum that curates with children in mind), indoor playgrounds, gyms that offer awesome childcare (yes, that counts!), the neighborhood aquatic center, etc.

Our zoo has a farm section. Here A & J are practicing their milking skills!

As I am writing this we have three such memberships… Our local zoo, an indoor sensory playground, and our neighborhood pool. The zoo is an annual membership, the playground is for 6 months, and the pool is just for the summer.

What this means for me is that during the day, no matter what the weather is like, I have a place I can go that I know my kids enjoy. I know where the bathrooms are. I know what the rules are. Basically, I already have my bearings there. And it’s already paid for! All I have to do is load the kids in the car and go there.

It takes loads of stress of me AND my husband. He has so much peace knowing I’m taking the kids places by myself that are safe. Because 99% of the time, I am going to these places by myself.

Our Kids Club offers fun family events throughout the year! This was a cookie party we got to take my parents to with us one weekend when they came to visit. Little Miss had a blast!

Picking the right membership for your family is going to be based on your family’s needs. My kids are too young for our town’s children’s museum, but in a few years, they may prefer it to the zoo.

Not going to lie, our neighborhood pool is THE BEST.

When choosing the right membership you should also consider cost and accessibility. Are you really going to make it there enough times to get your money’s worth? Are you going to leave feeling spent, in all the bad ways, or are you going to leave feeling empowered, like you just had a successful outing with your kids?

We’ve yet to regret purchasing the three memberships we currently have. I use one of them at least once a week, and honestly, during the summer, it’s been more like 2-3x a week. For us, each has been a worthwhile investment, not so much for the kids’ entertainment, but for my mental load. Plus, it’s GOOD for me to get out of the house. I need places where I can go with them that are positive outings for all three of us.

Do a little research and see what’s accessible and affordable for you. Live somewhere in the middle of nowhere without any of the above mentioned places within a reasonable distance? Stay tuned. I’ve got more ideas coming your way.

Until next time,

❤ Lindsay

Summer Sanity: Kids and “Chores”

Welcome to the first post in my Summer Sanity Series. My hope is that these posts help you get out of ruts with your kids this summer. I know sometimes all I need is an idea, not necessarily a plan, to work with. What works for one family, or what even worked for the families my husband and I grew up in, isn’t going to necessarily work for mine, but that doesn’t mean the whole idea has to be dismissed. So, take my ideas in this series as just that, ideas.

Question: What is the one thing most kids have during the summer that they don’t have during the school year? Answer: More time on their hands. Many a parent is faced with the question, “How do I fill all this time????” Hence, the reason for this series, and I have startling news… We don’t have to fill all the time with outings and activities and vacations and playdates. Summer is a great opportunity to take advantage of that extra time by instilling some good habits into our kids. Cue, chores.

Now I’ve heard many, many a parent say, “Let kids be kids!” That’s cute, and has merit, when it comes to imagining they’re riding a flying unicorn across the ocean wearing a tutu and a superhero mask, but that doesn’t mean all they should do is play. Play is important, do not misread this. But so is responsibility. I believe if you want to launch responsible adults into society one day, you need to first raise responsible kids. Chores are a fantastic way to get started.

“But, Lindz, my kid is literally two years old. Aren’t chores extreme at this point?”

A chore chart with stickers is definitely a bit much for a two year old. And chores should always be developmentally appropriate.

So, let’s get practical. What can a toddler do? And how should you frame it?

Again, you’re going to need to determine what’s appropriate for YOUR kid, but mine have started helping out around the house with these chores at age 2…

  1. Picking up toys and putting them away (invest in bins, chests, and baskets for toys that your kid can easily access).
  2. Putting their dirty clothes into the laundry hamper.
  3. Cleaning up small spills with a towel or picking up food that’s thrown during meal/snack time.
  4. Walking around with a hand vacuum to help vacuum while you use the big vacuum.
  5. Putting sorted laundry away, like towels. (We have a drawer for washcloths in the kids’ bathroom that they can easily reach, and we have a drawer for kitchen towels in our kitchen. It’s accessible so even our two year old can get a towel whenever he needs one, AND he can put clean towels away when it’s laundry sorting time.)
  6. Bringing you used cups / plates / bowls from the table when meals are over. (I also have my kids carry their sippy cups and shoes out of the car when we get home.)
  7. Pushing the start button on the washer / dryer / and dishwasher. (Side note to parents of older kids… If your child can operate a smartphone, they can operate a dishwasher. If your child is tall enough to load/unload the washing machine, your child is old enough to be doing their own laundry.)

My three year old does these chores in addition to what the two year old does…

  1. Unloading safe items from the dishwasher. (She doesn’t unload anything that has to be put into an upper cabinet, is very heavy like my glass mixing bowl, or is sharp, like a vegetable peeler.)
  2. Sorting socks.
  3. Putting her laundry away. (We have all of her clothes, aside from dresses and jackets which are hung, in drawers that she can open and close on her own. So, she usually puts all of those clothes away by herself when we’re folding laundry.)
  4. Wiping the table down after meals. (My three year old LOVES this job. She loves using my H2O at Home chiffonettes to clean, so this is play for her.)
  5. Drying pots / pans with a dish towel.

We also don’t call any of the above listed activities “chores.” It’s just stuff we do and helping out with it is just being a part of the family team. Everyone pitches in.

My husband does a great job of leading by example on this “team approach” as well, so when dinner is over, EVERYONE clears the table together. When it’s time to pick up toys before bath time, EVERYONE picks up toys. We also frequently call ourselves a team. In fact, we’re TEAM WARFORD. And we give each other high fives when we finish something together.

Summer is a great time to get your kids in the habit of helping out around the house. Make it fun. Turn on music and sing together while you sort and put away clothes (there was music playing when Little Miss was picking up those playing card in the above picture, hence the silly, happy face). If your kids are older, they may really enjoy a chore chart and incentives for completing it. (Suggestion: No video games today until you finish your chores.) You may want to include daily chores and weekly chores depending on how old they are. Or shoot, you may even have one big summer chore or project that you want completed before they go back to school, like tackling a closet or the garage or painting something. ; )

Remember what I said at the beginning of this post, take these ideas as IDEAS. This is your little spring board. Spring off of it and do what works for you and your family. But, when it comes to “chores” and helping out around the house, let me leave you with this…

Do not deprive your children of the opportunity to contribute to your family by helping out around the house. The sense of accomplishment and responsibility that comes with tackling simple, and not so simple, chores positively develops your child’s self-esteem. Begin empowering them as soon as you can. Why not start this summer?

Until next time,

❤ Lindsay

The Peach Sweater

Originally published October 2013 on another blog I authored.

This morning I carefully folded our laundry, like I do almost every morning. When I came to my white and blue stripped cardigan, the one I’d worn on my wedding day, I smiled. I was grateful the butternut squash soup from yesterday hadn’t left a stain. I hung it over a hanger and hung it up next to my most beautiful sweater of all: the peach one I’d bought this summer.

The one with delicate fabric. The one I’d paid more for than I had planned on when going on my shopping endeavor to find something warm to wear to a wedding in Colorado. It was so beautiful, and I knew it would go with everything. I adore that sweater, and I’m glad I bought it. It is beautiful and soft and really does go with everything.

However, this morning, in horror, I noticed it’s shoulders had been stretched out by the hanger it was hanging off of. And as I looked closer, I saw a hole right there in the shoulder.

I quickly grabbed my sewing kit from the closet and found a light gold spool of thread… I didn’t have peach, so gold would have to do. Carefully, I examined the seems and determined the best way to pull them back together.

Carefully, I tended to my beautiful sweater. I’m not proficient enough to do it quickly. So, I took my time. I carefully folded the fabric over to check my line; to make sure it’s straight.

I finished mending the hole in the shoulder and noticed the tag was pulling at the delicate fabric. I wished I hadn’t accidentally put it in the dryer that one day. I knew the damage I was fixing was a consequence of my negligence in the past.

When the knots were tied and the thread cut, and I held up the sweater to assess it’s condition, I happily realized my work would suffice. My sewing skills were satisfactory. No one will notice anything had ever been wrong with the sweater.

But, I can’t help but wonder, how would the designer of this sweater have fixed it? Of course, she never would have accidentally put the sweater in the dryer, so she wouldn’t have had this problem to begin with. But, if I knew her, and could ask her to repair my damaged sweater, what would she had done differently?

She would have used the right color thread. And her lines would have been perfect, because she knew exactly how they were supposed to be to begin with. She would have considered more than I did. How would her repair hold up during future wear? Would her repair affect the purpose of the sweater? Would it still be beautiful?

I was just trying to fix a hole so no one would know it had ever been there.

She would have considered more. She would have considered the whole picture.

A realm I do not understand, because I know so little about sewing and fashion design.

But she would know everything. And my sweater would be in better hands if they were her’s and not mine.

Isn’t this our life? We have so many holes as a result of our negligence, or shortcomings, or weaknesses, and we try to patch them and fill them, all by ourselves, so no one will know we ever had anything wrong with us.

Some of us might do okay, for a while. We might even be able to convince others that the holes are fashionable. But, inside, we know that wasn’t how it was designed to be. And we know we don’t have the skills, or knowledge, or strength to keep fixing and filling anymore.

So let’s stop trying to do something we’re not equipped to do.

Let’s give it back to the Designer.

He’ll repair the holes. He knows the best way how. The method of stitching might hurt a little. But, when He’s finished, we’ll be whole again.