Food for a Family, Parenting, Simplifying

Dinner in a pinch

Picture this: You’re driving home with a vehicle full of hungry, irritable monsters. Today has been a long day. You have been a hundred places at once and your brain has done all the gymnastics it can handle. It might be the end of the world if you don’t get some food fast… Btw, is it illegal to leave minors on the side of the road or is it merely “encouraging” them to walk home?

Ok maybe this wasn’t very difficult for you to imagine. Sounds like a regular weeknight during any particular sports season for us! So as we enter yet another busy spring, what’s a mom to do? I bet most of us would admit that the goal is to eat budget-friendly and/or healthy meals and not just on the weekends… While these options are slightly more “processed” than I would prefer, it’s better than takeout or high-sodium frozen meals, so a partial win is good enough for this Momma!

Well I’ve been meaning to make this list for ages and now I’ve got it here in one place and I’m more than willing to share. I’ve rounded up my fave “in a pinch” dinners that please a crowd and don’t cost much. Also, I know how the pantry situation is: there is what there is, you are NOT going the store anytime soon and let’s be honest, you probably don’t have what’s required for the fancy recipe you originally planned back when you thought you had time, so these options are all customizable for what you’ve got on hand. No sweat.

#1 Turkey Cheddar Sliders: No recipe required but here’s my inspiration (and I must give credit where credit is due!) So take a pack (or three!) of Hawaiian Rolls and cut them right through the middle so every roll has a top and a bottom but they’re still in a “sheet”. Place the bottoms on a big piece of foil on a cookie sheet. Then layer the turkey, cheese, tomato, bacon (or meat &cheese of choice) on the bottoms. The thicker the better to fill up those hungry monsters! I like some extra sauciness so choose some mustard/mayo/cranberry jelly/pesto, etc. to slather on the “sheet” of tops and place it on top of the meat and cheese. A little melted butter brushed on the tops and sprinkled with parmesan makes it fancy if you have an extra minute. Wrap the foil over the tops and bake for 10 minutes at 350°. So satisfying…

#2 Sheetpan dinner: If you have any vegetables, chop them now. Start with potatoes/sweet potatoes if you have them. Toss the potatoes in oil and roast at 400 degrees until everything else is ready (they take 10-15 minutes longer to get good and crispy) Add your other veg: carrots, onion, peppers, zucchini, etc. and some protein. I like chunks of chicken if it’s on hand, chicken sausage is a great option and easy to keep on hand because of it’s longer shelf (refrigerator?) life, you can toss in chickpeas or beans for the last 5 minutes if you want a “Meatless Monday” option. Seasonings are completely customizable and honestly I’ve used only salt and set out a variety of condiments and my kids are happy to dip away. Roast the sheetpan full of goodness about 20-30 minutes until your protein is cooked through. Rice on the side is tasty, too.

#3 Quesadillas: Again, no real recipe required (although this is a fabulously simple recipe for BBQ Chicken and Peach quesadillas) Just fill tortillas with any desired protein and cheese combo, add some herbs to make it millennial-cafe-style. My faves include the above recipe for BBQ chicken and peaches OR goat cheese, mint and apple OR spicy black beans and corn with cheddar OR add a little tomato sauce to pepperoni and mozzarella and it’s pizza quesadilla night! We’ve fried them in a pan with a little butter, toasted a few at a time in the air fryer, lined them up in a row on the griddle or put them in the oven on broil to make a bunch at a time. The hardest part is choosing your fillings. You’ve got this.

#4 Dump Chili: This is a great vegetarian option since cutting out the meat saves a boatload of time. I grab a big pot and dump in 2 cans of stewed or diced tomatoes (with green chilis for some kick), a can of corn, two cans of beans and some taco seasoning or chili powder with a dash of Worcestershire. (Sorry, no measurements, I’m in a rush!) Sautéed garlic and onion are great additions, if a kid wants to help ol’ mom out by peeling/chopping. While the pot is heating up, it’s easy to slice some avocado or set out guac, sour cream and shredded cheese for toppings. If I have a few extra minutes, this is REALLY good over instant-pot baked potatoes.

#5 Eggs in a Basket: Definitely Makenna’s favorite quick meal, which means she’s always willing to help out! We grab a loaf of bread and a glass from the cupboard and start punching holes out the centers of each piece. I warm up the griddle and slather it in butter so Makenna can lay out the bread slices and centers in rows. I follow behind her cracking an egg in the center of each and let it cook a minute or two. Now comes the tricky part… I grab a flipper and lift each piece of bread (with the egg half-cooked in the middle) while Mae reaches underneath and butters the spot so I can flip. You could probably skip the extra butter but we love butter, so the more butter, the tastier! If we’ve thought ahead we might have bacon or sausage cooking in the oven while all this is happening and some fresh fruit on the side could make it feel more wholesome.

Now for the family conversation while you eat. It’s time to be friends again, not monsters. We’ve got a bowl of conversation starters from various places and the kids like to be the one to think of it first so that THEY get to ask the questions. Here’s a fun list for your school aged kiddos to get started: 29 ways to ask your kids “How was school today?”

Well there you have it. I’m sure it’s not nearly enough recipes since you could easily make all of these in one week, but the fact that it’s customizable makes it easy to put these babies on repeat. I hope it saves you a little time and sanity. I’m rooting for you, parents. Bring on the scheduling nightmares, we’ve got this!

Honesty, HOPE, Parenting, Raising Warriors, Self-Care, Simplifying

The Gift of Observation

As I look back on photos and google/social media memories from 2020, I see a theme. It helps to look back over a year and see it from a slightly distant perspective, doesn’t it? I mean, I never seem to notice my kids growing until I get away from them for a weekend and I return to notice all the little changes that take place with a few extra inches, but this past year that changed for me.

Looking at all the photo reminders, I notice how much time we spent outdoors & deep in creation over the last 12 months and I’m so thankful! It may just be viewing our own highlights without showing all of the nitty gritty in-between moments, but as I look back at 2020 in history books someday, I want to remember these times above anything else. I want to remember that we took the time to observe everything!

I see the family walks and trips to Lake Michigan and working in the garden. I see so many trees, trails, flowers and sunsets, I see smiles and goofy faces {and a few angry glares from those not wanting to be photographed}. It takes me back to all those times that our family walked and talked and made memories out of the stillness – the unforeseen lack of structure, schedule and hurriedness that we experienced. Sure, it originally came as a shock, but as we settled, we spent hours and hours watching spring arrive, then burst into summer and fade into fall. I appreciate that our lives slowed down enough to notice the little things and I don’t want that to end.

My photos seem to transform from taking in the larger view of each hiking experience to focusing in on snapshots of tiny changes. We walked the same trails almost weekly for a season and happened to notice when the moss actually bloomed {did you know it does that!?}. We saw every leaf bud on it’s branch, grow into a vibrant green canopy and eventually burst into colors with time. It takes focused, detail-oriented observation to see all of that – no cell phone scrolling or daydreaming, just being present and observing. That practice was a true gift.

*little sprouting moss before it flowers*

It was a gift for me to notice the things my kids noticed. I am not usually very focused and I tend to want to get things done, so it took some intentionality for me to slow down my walk and stop thinking about raising my hear rate. I had to practice listening when the kids chatted on and on about another brown stick but then I noticed they’re not actually all the same. I don’t mind stopping to wait for a child, but entering in with them when they observed water trickling over rocks was a bit more difficult. I’ll tell you it helped when I crouched down to their eye level to see what they were pointing at. Sometimes I asked them a question to encourage them to keep talking and they started to light up. I learned a little bit more about what makes them tick as pre-adults forming their own opinions.

It was a gift to me to notice the little things God thought of when creating this planet. I marveled at God’s creativity when I finally noticed new little nuances that make nature so unique. Did you know worms don’t have lungs or stomachs, they have a gizzard and breathe through their skin! Did you know Cow Birds lay their eggs in other bird’s nests and let them raise their young until they can fly off? I wouldn’t have known if we didn’t keep finding nests with an odd colored egg inside. Did you know there are over 20 types of Pine cones, but only 5 types can be found in Michigan? That’s all so seriously creative.

It was a gift to me to see my husband flourish in teaching us all the things about the trails and the trees and the animals that come and go. It blessed my heart to join him in his hobbies, not just our family’s. One aspect I am still working on is entering into my husband’s world and considering WITH HIM all the things he is thinking about and learning. I appreciate my husband so much, but I tend to get wrapped up in the busyness of responsibility and trading off parental duties. If we sit down, it’s to talk strategy or even dream, but seldom is it me entering into the conversation just to listen. The kids do it so well, and I’m learning.

So I did a little search in the Bible for the word OBSERVE and I love how it’s paired with other actions:

  • Observe and have reverence {Leviticus 19:30/26:2}
  • Observe and obey {Deuteronomy 5:12, 8:6}
  • Consider and observe {Psalm 37:37}
  • Observe and you will see {Psalm 91:8}
  • Observe and celebrate {Exodus 31:16, Deuteronomy 16:1}

Seems like a mixture of instruction and promise, am I right?

I love Deuteronomy 26 which describes the Old Testament laws of being a good neighbor and putting others before ourselves. Then verse 16 says: “The Lord your God commands you this day to follow these decrees and laws; CAREFULLY OBSERVE THEM WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL.” Can you imagine what it takes to observe ANYthing with ALL of your heart and soul? That’s a lot of intentionality, a lot of slowing down and getting on the right eye-level to truly see what’s before you. And then a few verses later is one of my all-time favorite promises which I read over my children again and again: “And the Lord has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised…” When we pay attention to God’s instruction, we are promised He will treasure us, His children. I don’t know how that makes you feel, but that’s a beautiful gift!

You are treasured.

As the good Dad that he is, he sets this amazing example for us:

“Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.”
Ephesians 5:1‭-‬2 {MSG}

I don’t know about you, but I want to love like that. Love is what this life is about. We are here to love God and love others and I want to love extravagantly, not in order to get something but to GIVE. I’m spending time each day with my Father so I can observe and practice receiving his love… it’s so much better than my own!

There are so many valuable things to notice in this world, it’s worth every possible repercussion to slow down and practice observing it all. I promise, it’s absolutely worth the later bedtime to walk the neighborhood after dinner. It’s worth losing sleep to get up while it’s quiet and sit in God’s company. It’s worth the drive to find a good trail. It’s worth pursuing the ones you love even if they’re difficult to be with. It’s worth the sacrifice of the first few family walks full of poking and prodding and arguing to get to the fun ones of connecting, noticing and playing TOGETHER.

So is there something you wish you had time to observe? How can you slow down? What needs to be cleared off the schedule so there’s room to take a drive or walk? What can we do to change our perspective and see from someone else point of view? Perhaps from God’s point of view? How do you already take time for observation? What’s the best thing you’ve noticed lately?

50 States Before Graduation, Parenting, Traveling the US

A Last Minute Escape to Kentucky

It happened – ‘Rona made us more than a little stir-crazy. 7 weeks into Michigan’s original lockdown, we wanted out. We needed adventure. With 3 kids schooling from home and the hubs and I working on laptops, we realized there was nothing holding us back from taking off in our camper. So take off is what we did! One loooooong look on the world wide web told us there were only a few states with campgrounds open. Kentucky was a draw since it’s only a few hours away and it was still south (also read: WARM). We made a reservation for Memorial Day weekend and decided to take it one day at a time from there… And here’s where the adventure led us:

First Stop: Louisville… and she did NOT disappoint! It was a perfect launching point. We loved the walk along the Ohio River (especially on the Indiana side at the Falls of the Ohio State Park). Downtown was simply gorgeous – even the trash receptacles were pretty! The historic buildings and cheeky marketing of local businesses lured us in and it was a blast to “own” the town since many businesses were closed and people were scarce. Since we’re weird about strange monuments, a photo with the world’s largest baseball bat was a must. Another fun highlight (that we REALLY wish was open!!) was Churchill Downs. It’s magnificent from the outside of course, but a tour of the inside would have been fun since we have more than one horse-lover in the family! Don’t worry, we watched Secretariat to get us in the spirit for Kentucky Horse Racing.

Next we headed east toward Lexington and on the way, swung by the birthplace and childhood homes of Abraham Lincoln. The springs were nice and cool and walking the two properties did not take long. Unfortunately the visitor centers were closed for us, but there were still Park Rangers walking about answering questions and offering bits of trivia, they were worth every minute of eves-dropping and question-asking…these rangers know their stuff!

Landing in Lexington for a few days, we decided on the [free] walking tour of Mary Todd Lincoln’s early life. It was much less walking than we expected (which was welcome in the extreme heat!) but included lots of great info on the diversity of Kentucky’s stance during the Civil War. Did you know two of Mary Todd Lincoln’s brothers fought for the confederacy!? We landed in the center of town by the water fountains where we had a snack in the shade at some lovely tables while watching the locals rush about. Side note for learning about Mary Todd Lincoln: this website offered quite a bit of interesting info for us to read as we walked. I think it helped keep the kiddos engaged since once again, businesses and “official” tours were closed due to the virus. We also walked around the Kentucky Horse Park (oh my beautiful) and wished desperately that the barns & museums were open… Next time!

If you’re considering your own trip, I have to add here that before you leave the Lexington area you’ve GOT to stop at Sun Valley Farms which was about 20 minutes southwest in Versailles. Anyone who’s been to Kentucky knows it’s all about the horses and Sun Valley is a family owned thoroughbred horse nursery. They gave a very hands on (yay for petting baby race horses!) tour of the foal barn (masks required) and educated us on the process of raising and auctioning thoroughbreds for racing. The tour also included a walk around their 300 year old property and home as well as some race horse & auction videos in the nice cool garage. Just a drive through their pastures was enough to set our hearts ablaze for horses. If nothing else, follow them on Facebook and Brett will let you in on evening grazes by the creek and walks through the pasture to get to know the horses!

Visit their website : Sun Valley Farms

We continued east to Daniel Boone National Park. The road trip views changed from green grassy pastures and black wooden fence-rows to ambling limestone mountains and endless creeks. Here we had unlimited options as all the state and national parks were open! Grey Arch Rock hike was a perfect 4 mile length for this family of 5 (plus dogs). The views at the arch were incredible and the creeks and waterfall along the way were great photo opportunities. Red River Gorge had lots of swimming and splashing opportunities. Carter’s Caves held seriously a LOT of caves in every single hike. We loved comparing the different openings and how the water continued to carve the rocks away. (We did not get to tour the caves, much to Carter’s disappointment, but they do offer lots of regular tours which are open now.) Lastly, the tunnel drive was truly serene. It was a nice break amidst all the hiking we did. It took about an hour, but there were many photo-worthy stopping points. (PSA: we would NOT have enjoyed this drive in the least with the camper hooked up!) Narrow and winding roads are not our favorite driving conditions and Kentucky offered plenty of it, haha! If you want a good story, ask Collin about his favorite Kentucky road driving experience.

So here’s your bonus: (you know I always share more than you bargained for!) We headed for Kentucky but ended up in West Virginia! Of course we didn’t plan on going further, but after a week, we weren’t ready to head home just yet. I’m sure you understand. So we went just a little further into Charleston, West Virginia! None of us have ever even driven through West Virginia before… but let me tell you, it’s a “wild and wonderful” surprise! The state slogan is more than accurate. We could easily have spent a whole week in this mountainous state full of battlefields and artisans of every kind. Charleston has a whole website with maps of sculptures and murals galore! And if you drive through the city to the river, we found a fun park called Sun Carriage Trail with a hidden waterfall and gloriously shady hike up the mountain to a scenic overlook and historic mansion.

Our last minute finding of things to do around Charleston included several civil war battlefields, a salt mine tour, and Capitol Market – an old train station turned farmer’s market which was FULL of glorious begonias and the beginnings of any summer garden you would wish to plant. Now we were ready to go home. And doesn’t it always feel good to be home again!?

Have you toured Kentucky? Did you focus on horse racing or history? Or both!? I’d love to hear if anyone else has ventured into West Virginia (perhaps the northeast side of the state?). There were so many fun things I found, we’re itching to get back!

Parenting

Silly Crazy Science Fun For When You’re Staying Home

Welp, we’re “quarantined” to slow the spread of this virus and I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited about a season of turning inward and reconnecting as a family. I love winter for the fact that we get more reading, more fireside chats, more “just us” family dinners and a little more cozy all around. This, however, is even better because we get all that connection AND sunshine! The kids and I were dreaming of some fun activities to do as a family and of course camping came up, as did planting some indoor seeds for next summer’s garden… and so did making volcanoes!

We love getting messy and trying out all kinds of sensory/discovery/science experiments so I thought I’d pass along the list of fun ideas we have for the next few weeks and maybe you could join us and try a few yourselves! Let’s get messy and crazy and learn a little bit hands-on style!

So my goal was to use everyday kitchen ingredients and to appeal to my at-home kiddo’s age range of 6-13 years old. I will admit, many of these are a little basic for the oldest but he likes to play along and learn the technical side of the science behind it all!

**Disclaimer: These are not my ideas or my experiments. I found them all on my beloved Pinterest and I can’t wait to try them! HUGE shout out to the peeps who succeeded at these ideas, photographed them, and then blogged them so we could be inspired.**

This DIY Puffy Paint is the BEST!
DIY Puffy Paint
(We did this one last summer and while the kids had a BLAST, it didn’t stay put on our library bags like I hoped)

What are you looking forward to the most about your next few weeks!?

Honesty, Parenting, Raising Warriors, Self-Care, Simplifying

The Single Greatest Parenting Question to Ask Yourself

Ok, I’ve got some kids… {You know how I hate to count them since our definition of family is far from normal!} But either way, parent guilt is for real. For every great decision we parents make, there are 10 other ways you could have done it and 100 other people who did it better and posted it on Instagram for you to see. Then there are 1,000 ways your kids will ruin the momentary celebration you considered for your own greatness and give you reason for yet another difficult decision.

I had the genius idea to have my kids compliment each other as a “consequence” for offending each other. Seems innocent enough (and difficult enough for some!) but of course after a day or so I had to start adding rules: #1. No repeat compliments #2. Compliment CHARACTER not just appearances (for the love!) #3. Say it like you mean it (with eye contact) You know how it goes… Now there are days where I bribe them to compliment each other before the arguing even starts! (Do a facebook search for “compliment cookies.” Yep, my name comes up. I. Am. Unashamed.)

These two get to give lots of compliments!

As for mom-guilt, Moms know there is always someone looking for our attention. Or even worse… hiding from it! {You KNOW when someone tries to stay off your mom-radar, it’s no good.} We have lists upon lists of things that we keep meaning to get to and goals we’ve set for ourselves or our family. We fiercely love the people around us and have all sorts of good intentions to live life with them well and show them the love we all know is there but lies dormant due to “schedules.” Ug… SO much to feel guilty about!

Confession: This may be TMI, but I also have a problem closing bathroom doors. {Hold on, I promise this will all tie together in a minute!} When I take the 5 seconds I need to run in and run out, there will inevitably be blood or tears or a scream from the farthest corner of the house that the dogs got out and are headed for the road. It just can’t wait 3 more seconds for me to turn the knob, amIright!? Plus, there is nothing worse than thinking you have a moment of alone time and being jolted back to reality with a vengeance and a door bursting open, so why even try? I resign myself from the start and leave that door wide open.

Well, this is a problem, my friends. When the mom-guilt precedes everyday necessities, it’s an all-time low. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say HERE’S YOUR SIGN! {Any Jeff Foxworthy fans in the room?} Time to say “Uncle” and change the way I’m thinking. Time to prioritize. No more needlessly sacrificing my own self-care. I say “No!” to the comparison-trap. No more second-guessing my gifts. Enough of the emotional overload of all the nothingness I allow into my brain space that will NEVER make a difference for eternity or the Kingdom of God. Ain’t nobody got time for all that!

It is at these moments that I catch myself and ask the greatest question I’ve ever asked myself as a parent:

What do I want my kids to think is true when they grow up?

What will be their “normal” view of adulting/parenting? Do I want them to give up their own incredible selves to care for others until they have nothing left to give? Do I want them to be enslaved to my grandkids? Do I want them to have UTI’s because they can’t take a minute to pee?🤣 Do I want my kids to think “normal” parents don’t read because they don’t have time or to never take a moment (or a weekend!) for peace and rest? Do I want my kids to think it’s ok to sacrifice themselves at every turn because that’s what their Mom did? NO!

Now I don’t know my grandkids yet… And I’m pretty sure I will be the one wrapped around their sticky fingers and swayed by their chubby-cheeked smiles. But I am certain I will always love MY kids more. Perhaps because I will always have known them longer, perhaps because I was the one praying them into the Schuiteboer family. Whatever the reason, I will want my children to put on their own oxygen mask before helping with anyone else’s!

These are the faces that hold me most accountable!

I want the people I’m responsible for to know it’s ok to take a break from the needs of their families so they can come back refreshed and refilled. I want my kids to invest in their marriages and pursue their spouses instead of the whims of childhood accomplishment for their tiny protege’s. I want my kids to know the wonder of God and all that they can conquer because making time with Jesus is priority #1. And I want them to know these things because they see it in me! I want it to be their “normal”.

Two of my little Schuiteboers are morning people. As soon as my breathing shifts in the am, they will hear me rise no matter the hour of dawn and come to find me. No matter what room I’m in, whether I’m using a lamp or flashlight, whether I dared to make tea or painstakingly skipped every creaky floorboard in an attempt to fool them, SOMEHOW they know I’m up and they want to start the day with chatter. Honestly, as frustrated as I get with my early risers interrupting my “quiet time” in the morning, that not-so-quiet time is a valuable lesson that they are not more important to me than God. They get sent back to bed or set up with books and crayons {while constantly being shushed} and they learn what’s “normal” in our family. They see for themselves that 1. Time with God is a priority and 2. Mommas need a few minutes of quiet so they can be sweet the rest of the day.

These are my “Grace” earrings from Trades of Hope. When the little muffin in the back seat is talking and talking {or let’s be honest: screaming and shouting} and I struggle to give her my full attention, they remind me to give myself grace. I’m growing and learning just like my little lady. I {usually} have grace for her when she’s wrong, why don’t I have that grace for myself? My own self-talk will become the voice in her head someday. It’s a proven fact. I want my girlie to have grace for herself and her Momma! I want her to speak positively to others and herself and so I do the same.

I love being practical and I love lists so here is a list I made of things I value and I want my life to show it! I want my kids to have no doubts about what is important in life and so I am practicing SHOWING them how much I value these things:

  1. God is important {so having quality time in His word and prayer is the FIRST thing I do each day.}
  2. Reading causes growth for everyone {I actually try to read when my kiddos are around so they visibly see me read. I also joined the library summer program with them!}
  3. Our marriage is the most important relationship in the house {He gets first dibs on my time & attention}
  4. Exercise and fresh air are vital to our physical/emotional/spiritual health {we spend time outside DAILY together}
  5. God says to love others and be aware of those in need {We pray together for people in our city and across oceans and we volunteer together to show others love}

I’m curious. What would your list look like? What are your priorities? Do your kids know what they are? Have you sat down with pen and paper (and spouse) to decide whats most important in your heart/life/family? Our church offers this amazing experience called a “Marriage Vision Retreat” where you get away with your spouse for a weekend at a B&B on Lake Michigan to discuss all of these foundational questions. It’s really not difficult to do on your own. Get out a calendar and get away for 48 hours to talk, dig deep and set your values. When the kids were younger and I lost my identity between diapers, sleepless nights and playdates, I intentionally got out of town with friends to create my own personal vision too! It was so life-giving. Once you have values & vision in place all other decisions become easier: Does ________ line up with #1-5? Does it compromise any of the other values? Then you know it’s right/wrong for this season of your life.

Guys, these are the things our kids will value. We need to be intentional! They will think these priorities are “normal” and here’s to praying that their grown-up lives will reflect the same values some day. ❤

Parenting, Raising Warriors

Speaking My Kids ACTUAL Love Languages (Not Quite As Lovely As Gary Chapman’s!)

I don’t know about you folks, but my kids don’t quite fit the categories often given by authors of well-meaning books for parenting. Now I love to read parenting books because there is ALWAYS something I can take away. Quite often it’s a train of thought that began with their writing, but many times it’s a tool or story that they shared that gets rolling inside of my brain and won’t get out.

The 5 Love Languages is definitely one of those books. I’ve read the original, the marriage version, the parenting version and the kid version. They have certainly shaped the relationships in my life to be more others-focused and SO much more understanding of how people give and receive love. If you haven’t read anything by Gary Chapman, his idea is that people have a universal 5 “languages” that they give and receive love with. Often times we get our wires crossed and express love to others in our own language and therefore are often misunderstood or left feeling unappreciated. The five languages he explains in great detail but the quick list is: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Giving/Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch.

Your mind will present such a lovely picture as you read through Gary’s wise words and stories of success. It really is a great theory, and I do use this information in my every day life… it’s just that things get a little warped in our family… slightly left of the pretty pictures I hear others live. I’m sure it’s just us. There’s no way other people are this wierd, right!?

Ok, so in reality here is what I have discovered with my kiddos: Carter’s love language is physical touch. I could scratch his back allllllll day and when I say goodnight, he needs a full body dog-pile from myself , Collin, AND a dog to feel at rest. Well, somehow I don’t get back scratches when he’s feeling love toward me. And his sisters sure do not get loving hugs with a pat on the back. No way! They get poked and prodded and chased around the kitchen with shoes he stole right off their feet. When I experience love from my boy, it means I get absolutely ZERO personal space and our best conversations happen when we are nose to nose and he is grabbing my hand or stealing MY shoe. Now that’s real love.

Makenna is full of powerful words and powerful thoughts, so words of affirmation would be her love language. One time we made a name acrostic at a mother/daughter bible study. Well she has had it posted on her door for YEARS and loves to read it to me while I’m cooking dinner. (I don’t need to think about measuring, I’ve got brainspace to spare, right!?) Well when she’s got *feelings* for me, more signs appear on her door – and not always happy feelings… Please notice below that I was allowed in her room ONLY for my craft bin (at least I had that!) but after another few hours of stewing, even my name got crossed out. Ouch!

Well my girlie with the words also has unspoken words of affirmation and these hold so much value for her. It took me a while to realize the importance of them, and then even longer to figure them out! Just the other day I had a mind-blowing moment: I looked around for my fave water cup. When I finally found it, it was empty…AGAIN. This {obviously} isn’t a big issue but I knew why it was moved and empty: Makenna. She will choose my water glass over hers any day of the week. If both cups are placed equally *within reach* for her, she will grab mine when she’s thirsty. It irks me. But then I had this thought: Maybe it’s a little way they she feels connected to me. Maybe it’s a way that she feels we have a little something between the two of us that we share even when ALL my attention is going elsewhere. Makenna is not the kid who will ever ask for attention or time or help, she is the one always giving as much or MORE than I am to everyone else! So my water is a connection that she treasures. It’s her own secret love language. And she’s even become to bold as to ask me not to ever put coffee in my new water glass because it “ruins it for the rest of us!”

I love becoming a student of the people I love. Ya’ll know my new year’s resolution to LISTEN. By listening to my family, I get to understand them in such deep, lovely ways that no one else does! The things I hear become a gift that I treasure often – knowing my people and being known by them! It really works both ways.

This practice almost our own family language that only we understand about each other and the meaning of these occurrences becomes so precious. We can communicate in ways others won’t understand unless they live in our house. {Genesis 10 actually says that as Noah’s sons dispersed after the flood, they “developed each in it’s own place by family, each with its own language”. So it’s biblical. How cool!?}

So I just got away for a weekend of refreshing at the Woven Conference (Foster/Adoptive momma’s you have GOT TO KNOW about this! Find Woven By Love on IG or Facebook and FOLLOW❤). Well before I took off, I left notes around the house for my people to find. I laughed a lot as I wrote jokes and movie quotes and love notes and stuck them in strange spots hoping someone would discover them soon. Unbeknownst to me, it became a treasure hunt that the whole family got in on! They LoVeD it! And when I returned home, the house was decorated like a birthday party (which is my FAVORITE thing). My stash of streamers had been ransacked and pretty colors were everywhere. Fresh flowers were in all of my water pitchers and the girls had even made me some homemade “Christmas lights” (seriously, Christmas lights are a love language all their own!). I have never felt so welcomed or missed.

Very Christmassy indeed! Wouldn’t you say!?

Now I could go on and on because I’ve got a variety of kids with quirks. (Not me, just them…I’m so normal.) I bet your families have quirks too. But I also know we’ve got limited time here together, so I want to hear from you! What things happen in your house that seem strange or meaningless- even annoying!? And what could they really mean? Do you havce a family love language? What ways do you show love to your family/kiddos that might encourage others to try something new?

Seriously, who else has to share their water glass and overcome a little germ-phobia!?