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.

Apple Chicken Sausage and Turkey Hot Dog Sheet Pan Dinner

Ever since the dawn of Pinterest I have wanted to master a sheet pan dinner. It was the greatest idea… mostly because in theory there’d only be one dish to clean afterwards. Alas, I never found a sheet pan recipe that cooked everything right. Or I was just too weirded out by the idea of putting raw chicken next to raw broccoli to give it a try.

Many years have passed, and I’ve gotten pretty good at roasting lots of vegetables on one pan for dinner. So, recently I thought I’d give the sheet pan dinner another shot. I started out with fully cooked cajun andouille sausage, but while I was cutting it up I realized it would be way too spicy for my toddlers’ palettes. Not wanting to make them something completely different for dinner, I grabbed some hot dogs (regular all beef) out of the fridge and cut them up.

It was ok. But, the kids weren’t crazy about it, and I didn’t want to eat all that sausage again the next day for left overs. However, I wasn’t willing to give up on the sheet pan dinner, and I felt like I was onto something with the hot dogs for the kids and a “grown up” sausage for the hubs and myself.

Cue round two, which yielded a dinner that both children (ages 2 and 3) asked for second servings of after they gobbled up their first. And I am already looking forward to having the left overs tomorrow. So here it is:

Apple Chicken Sausage & Turkey Hot Dog Sheet Pan Dinner

Ingredients:

  • Apple Chicken Sausage Links (4 pack)
  • Turkey Hot Dogs (4 pack)
  • Sweet Potatoes (2 small / medium)
  • Broccoli Crowns (2 medium / large)
  • Olive Oil
  • Chili Powder (1-2 tsp)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Peel sweet potatoes and cut into 1 inch wedges. Then toss in olive oil and sprinkle with chili powder. (This is a good spot to let your kids help you! Even my two year old can shake the chili powder on top of the sweet potatoes.) Arrange sweet potatoes on sheet pan in single layer and pop into oven. Set timer for 15 minutes.
  • Cut sausage links and turkey hot dogs into bite size pieces (about 6-7 pieces per link/hot dog). Once cut, remove sheet pan from oven. (Don’t worry, your timer probably hasn’t gone off yet. That’s okay.) Flip sweet potatoes and move them into center of the pan to make room on each side of them to add your sausage/hot dogs. Add sausage and hot dogs on single layer on either side of your sweet potatoes. Pop into oven.
  • Rinse your broccoli and cut into florets.
  • Once the timer goes off (you’re still in that first 15 minute window), remove sheet pan and flip everything. Put into oven for another 15 minutes.
  • At 15 minutes, remove and flip again. This time, add in broccoli. I nestled the broccoli florets in wherever I could find room for them to lay directly on the pan. This way they’ll end up being mixed in evenly throughout the pan, but most likely they’ll be mostly near the sausage and hot dog pieces.
  • Put in oven for 10 minutes.
  • At 10 minutes, remove pan. Flip everything again and serve.

I served this with biscuits and honey. And y’all, it was soooo good. The kids were even gobbling up the broccoli.

This will probably be our new Monday night dinner. It was so good, and it didn’t feel heavy. Plus knowing my kiddos were going to bed with full tummies of good food was a huge plus.

I hope you enjoy this as much as we did!

Until next time,

❤ Lindsay

Travel Diaries: San Antonio Re-cap

Pardon the water spots on the mirror.

Hey friends! So, summer showed up! (insert laughing emoji) This dress was my momiform last summer, and I wasn’t disappointed at all when I found it while pulling out all of our summer clothes last week before we took a long weekend trip to San Antonio.

We had the sweetest time there visiting with our family and celebrating my great-grandmother who turned 100 this past Sunday.

We decided to try a couple new things this trip; one being we stayed at a VRBO instead of hotel. My parents generously rented a house for them, our little crew, and my two siblings to stay in (so 6 adults total + 2 toddlers) just around the corner from my grandparents’ (where all of the festivities would be). David and I are completely sold on using VRBO or Air BNB for long weekends going forward- no more hotels. Having a fenced in back yard to stick the kids in was such a blessing (for all affected parties) after our 9 hour car ride. Plus we didn’t have to worry about kids waking up at all hours of the night or coming back to the hotel for naps right when house keeping was in the middle of changing bed sheets.

We also explored the San Antonio Aquarium, which was something none of us had ever done before. It was a great little spot for toddlers since they have so many hands-on exhibits. I would highly recommend it IF you have an hour that you need to fill, and you don’t really want to be outside. I was able to get a Groupon for our tickets, which significantly reduced the price, so check them out before you buy tickets, and don’t plan on spending a whole day there (it only takes 1-2 hours to experience everything) or go on a Friday like we did (aka field trip day aka lots of little crowds).

The kids have talked about the exhibits with the birds and alpacas since we got home as well as a fiesty little tortoise who almost crawled out of his exhibit.

But what’s been really special is all the talking they’ve done about their cousins and family members who they got to spend time with while we were at my great-grandma’s birthday party. My brother (pictured above) mentioned how special, and rare, it was to have a day where everyone (except for two family members who were down with a stomach bug) could come together and genuinely enjoy each others company for an entire day. Not to mention how rare it is to celebrate someone becoming 100 years old!

On our drive home, I kept thinking about his comment. The truth is family gatherings with toddlers are a little overwhelming for us right now. We enjoy seeing family and being with them, but we’re never able to 100% focus on a conversation or even stay the whole time. We usually have to skip out for a bit for naps and most places aren’t 100% toddler proof. (Am I the only one who is terrified someone is going to give my two year old a grape while I’m not looking?) And you’re going to have toddler meltdowns at some point on a trip, so odds are one could very well go down right smack dab in the middle of the family gathering.

So, I wanted to encourage the other mamas (and dads) who know the feeling. I know you’re out there, because many of my friends fall into our boat too. “Is it really even worth it?” is a question I hear posed a lot when it comes to bringing toddlers to social gatherings.

We’re super privileged to have family who GETS IT. Aunts and uncles and cousins who help, grandparents who say when we have to leave early, “It’s ok! Go. Take care of your family.” But that still doesn’t remove all the overwhelmingness that manages to creep in before and during the gathering.

My dad encouraged me a couple months ago to tackle social gatherings (and trips in general) with a man-to-man offensive strategy. I take one kid; David takes another. Sometimes, we have to switch, and sometimes we have to tag another family member to cover for us for a minute. But, we’re still on the same team with the same goal. We usually remind each other what the goal is too before we walk into the gathering. (e.g. We’re here to celebrate Mammaw.) It helps me stay focused and not get so overwhelmed, AND it helps limit directing our frustrations towards each other.

We’re not perfect parents. We don’t have this parenting thing down pat, but this strategy (along with respectful communication) did help a lot at my great-grandma’s birthday party, and we plan to use it from now on while we’re in this stage of life with littles who need so much of our attention.

Some social situations aren’t going to be conducive with toddlers. They’re just not, and it’s 100% ok to skip out. But other things, like great-grandma’s 100th birthday party, are non-negotiable. We’re going to be there no matter what, and I’m grateful for a new tool in the toolbox to limit my anxiety while we’re there. That way, when it’s over, my kids aren’t the only one with fond memories of the occasion.

Do you have a strategy you implement in large social gatherings with your little kids? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Until next time,

❤ Lindsay


ThirdLove Review

This is kind of weird writing a post like this, on a blog like this, but here’s the thing… my heart for this place when I started out on this Ave&Jay journey was to encourage and reach women in whatever stage of life they’re in. And no matter how old or young, a woman’s body image almost always needs some encouragement.

The other day my husband snapped a pic of me making a green tea latte, and when I looked at the pictures, I realized how bad off my body image situation was. I looked at the pictures he’d taken and immediately deleted all of them. There’s more than a dozen extra pounds on me right now, my abs are no where near as flat as they should be, and my thighs are making the thought of white pants after Easter unappealing. But, when I looked at that picture what actually stood out first to me was the situation I had my girls in: another sports bra. A cheap one. It was offering some support, yes, but that was the only positive thing going for it, and it didn’t make up for all the bad it was doing for my appearance.

I made a comment to my mom shortly thereafter about how I only had one “real bra,” which I had been measured for and purchased in my first trimester of pregnancy with my now 3.5 year old. So since then I’d carried to full-term and nursed, for at least a 1yr each, two babies. My body was a yo-yo: pregnant (gain 50lbs), nurse for a year (loose 50 lbs), pregnant (gain 50 lbs), nurse for a year (loose 30 lbs), and here we are almost a year after THAT.

My mother, learning of my situation, insisted, as only a mother can, that I go and buy myself a new bra.

But how? But when? But where would I go with two toddlers in toe??? To be measured by someone who probably doesn’t even know what they’re doing? To spend MORE MONEY on something??? … No. Not going to happen.

Cue ThirdLove. I’d filled out their questionnaire 9 months ago, but since I rarely ever wore the one real bra I had, I didn’t really know how to answer the questions. So I just guessed and assumed the best answer. I knew when the results came that I definitely wasn’t the size they suggested. So, I closed my laptop and made do.

This time around I was prepared with that old bra in hand and answered honestly. No guessing. No, “well, if I answer this way then…” Nope. Just straight up answers. When the results came in, I knew they were right.

I ordered the style of bra ThirdLove suggested for me in the size they suggested, and when the box came in the mail, I looked like a school girl on Christmas morning getting her first pair of pierced earrings.

When I put that bra on, I didn’t want to take it off! It fit better than any other bra I’d ever put on in my entire life. I put a t-shirt on over it and smiled BIG. I looked MUCH better than I had in that picture my hubby had taken. I immediately went to my t-shirt drawer that houses all the old bras in it, dug around for them, and threw them out. Then I ordered another style on the “you might like” list in a different color.

It came in, but after a day of trying to break it in, it still didn’t feel right. I couldn’t believe it when that evening a ThirdLove stylist texted me to see how I was liking my purchases. A few texts back and forth, she had a free exchange all set up for me and a pre-paid return label in my email’s inbox. Y’all, that’s service!!

I’m in the skincare/glamour business, and I’ve seen the power a positive body image gives a woman when she finally finds a foundation that matches or a skincare line that clears up her acne. Well, the same is true for a well-fitting, form-flattering bra!

As I started gushing to a few of my girlfriends about my new discovery with ThirdLove, I found out I wasn’t alone. Almost every other woman I talked to was living in one or two “regular,” ill-fitting bras or mostly poorly supportive sports bras.

So, that’s why I’m sharing my discovery here on a blog that’s about transparent, faith-filled living in every season.

Transparent: Uh, if you don’t know me that well, I was appropriately given a the gag award of “The Nun” during my sorority days. I am the epitome of modest. Showing you pictures of bras I purchased is nearly making me hyperventilate.

Faith-filled: No. But, I will use this section to say, our identity should not be placed in our body image. Our joy should not come from what we look like. Those two things are in and from Jesus. Identity and joy are different than finding yourself being frustrated with not being able to find a comfortable bra that does what your boobs need it to do. So, don’t read this post the wrong way. If you have a great-fitting comfortable bra that you can wear under whatever outfit it is you’d like to wear to church on Sunday, out to dinner Saturday night, all day at work during the week, and while you walk the dog, congratulations! Most of us don’t.

Every Season: Absolutely. No matter what season of life a woman is in, she’s balancing it all: every relationship from marriage to motherhood to best friends to coworkers to family members to her Maker, jobs (she’s most likely got multiple sources of income), finances and budgets (do you know how much time it takes to coupon?), some semblance of self-care, physical fitness (heart disease is real y’all; get your cardio in), etc. Every woman can use every bit of encouragement to take the few minutes it took me with ThirdLove to not only get myself into a comfortable bra, but one that does what it should, and helps me feel better about my appearance on top of that.

So, if you’re in the “I need a new bra” camp, Hi, you’re not alone. Go check these people out. I’m fairly confident they’ll help you find the best one for you.

PS They donate bras to homeless women so they can have this basic necessity met too. Seriously, check ’em out. They’re pretty cool.

Until next time,

❤ Lindsay

Matcha Latte Recipe

Any other matcha lovers out there? If you’ve been with me for a while, you know I’m such a matcha fan I even have a green tea muffin recipe that calls for it. For the past couple weeks, I’ve been steadily working on decreasing my daily coffee intake. But, I still have days where I need and want that coffee-pick-me-up. Cue matcha! But how? I make a great muffin with it, but could I make a better-than-a-coffee-shop latte out of it?

I’m happy to report I did!

And it’s easier than you may think.

I like my matcha lattes hot and cold, so here’s how I make it both ways.

HOT Matcha Latte

Ingredients:

  • 1 T hot water
  • 1-1.5 t matcha powder (based on how strong of a matcha flavor you want, I use 1 t)
  • 3/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 pump Monin organic vanilla syrup

Directions:

  • Mix hot water and matcha powder in cup you will drink from
  • Steam almond milk (I microwaved mine for 1.5 min)
  • Use frother if desired to whip almond milk.
  • Pour milk over matcha mixture.
  • Add vanilla syrup.
  • Stir.
  • Enjoy! 

ICED Matcha Latte

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 t matcha powder (but if you want a stronger matcha flavor, use 1.5 t of powder)
  • 1 pump Monin organic vanilla syrup
  • desired amount of ice

Directions:

  • Mix almond milk, matcha powder, and syrup in cup you will drink from with whisk or frother.
  • Once mixed well, use frother to foam up the top of your milk.
  • Add desired amount of ice.
  • Enjoy!

Not sure where to get matcha from? Back in the day it was nearly IMPOSSIBLE to find. Now thanks to Amazon, it’s literally at your finger tips.

The little can I get from Kroger. The packet I get from Amazon.

So, now I make green tea muffins and green tea lattes, and I’m considering working on a cookie recipe. Unless you already have one, then I’d love to see it!

Until next time,

❤ Lindsay