Packing for Summer Adventures

We have already been to the beach twice this year, unheard of for our family. We are totally beach people, but our trips generally fall later in summer. Rarely ever before July. Fortunately we picked the hottest summer ever for a few early trips. We are that family driving down the road that you know is bound for a good time, our roof rack is full, there are beach bags pressed up against the back window, boogie boards in sight, and stuff piled on our laps ready for excited times ahead. Can you picture us?

If you aren't sure yet, I am an over packer. Don't let the picture above fool you! We bring the wagon, the scooters, the bikes, the beach toys, coloring books, cars and trucks, board games, tennis rackets and golf clubs. When we actually get to the going to the beach part, I again over pack. I haul down to the beach looking like I am ready to stay for a week. But I am slowly learning a few tricks that make our beach adventures easier. Here are my six non-negotiable items, with a seventh snuck in for fun.

1. // The perfect beach blanket (and this one looks awesome too!). I've been looking for a few years. Its thicker than a sheet, like a quilt without batting and it isn't hideous or overly florally. It is lighter and bigger that the sweatshirt blanket we have used in years past.

2. // Two towels. I have learned that with a good blanket, you need fewer towels. Rarely are both ever in use. Less towels means less to lug back and forth each day. At this point (with kids ages 2 & 4) if they are getting wet, I am not sitting in my chair anyway. I figure once they are old enough to carry their own towel across their shoulders, this number can increase.

3. // One bucket of toys (with a ball tucked inside the bucket). I've tried lots of toys and fewer toys and toys in bags, and so on. But I have realized that one bucket, which my boys can take turns carrying, is the perfect amount. And nothing else for them to play with. I have brought books and games, but really the only thing they do is dig in the sand, chase waves, or play catch.

4. // The ergo (I wish ours had this cool whale pattern). Sometimes to get the perfect beach nap, we still need the ergo for Hudson. I know this tool is fading, but it has joined us on every beach trip since Behr was born and I can't imagine not having this security blanket. The beach nap is the ultimate for any parent. The only way to actually rest on the beach is if your kids nap too!

5. // Rash guard. My boys have worn UPF rash guards since they started going to the beach or pool. But this year Mark and I have also added rash guards to our beach attire. Also, never before have I realized how much sun my boys get, even when I am being diligent with sunscreen (my favorite here). My boys love to be in the water, in the sun. And they don't have the same instinct as adults do to get under the shade of the umbrella. This summer we stocked up on rash guard from Land's End. I was shocked by how much I liked their quality last year and I almost forgot about it this year. Fortunately, their stuff is incredible affordable and well made. This is not a sponsored post, I just really, really love their rash guard (and bathing suits too).

6. // Cooler. We have a soft-side collapsible cooler, but nothing beats the old school igloo playmate cooler my parents have. Too bad we don't have room for anything else in our car... And while we are talking about coolers, what are some of your favorite beach snacks? I love tuna sandwiches, potato chips, peanut butter crackers, and apples at the beach. How about you? What do you pack in your cooler for the beach?

We are still figuring out the perfect beach umbrella, and frankly don't have room in our city apartment for beach chairs, so we always borrow them from our parents on our way. Here is a similar beach gear post I wrote in 2013 -- we did finally get the Sport-brella and are testing it out. The only down side so far, its huge, even when collapsed, so it hardly fits in our car!

Disclaimer: compensated affiliate links may be used in this post.

March 2015 Goals with Grace

Due to family obligations and the cyclical nature of my work, January is a crazy month. I take time off blogging to focus on everything else in life. It gives me the benefit of a month of reflection. This year, it seems I needed two! A surgery and several ER visits, a road trip to Boston (see that snowy beach?) and all of the sudden, I lost February. Full knowledge that it's a short month didn't help it speed to a close with too many things left undone. You too? Okay, now to get productive in March.

My goals are more precise then they have ever been before.
Wake at 6 am each morning. Getting up first is paramount for a hope of a smooth day. When I am prepared, it benefits everyone in my family.

Write three back dated blog post this month. The primary purpose of this blog is family record keeping. If I am not keeping records regularly, it leads me to worry and impacts my productivity. Instead of reliving the details of Halloween 2013 (yes that long ago) in my head so I don't forget them, I need to get the memories down and move on. That way they are ready for me to go back to whenever I want.

Read once a week. Somewhere in 2014 I got too busy to read. No more. Instead of collecting books on my nightstand, I'm going to start and finish them. I am not sure how many yet, but sitting down to read once a week, during day light hours, that's my goal.

Phew. Hello March. Let's go!

I'm linking up with Hayley for Goals with Grace.

You can also catch some of my thoughts on hospitality over on The Orange Slate with my dear friend Emily.

Merry Christmas 2014

Merry Christmas from our family to yours. 2014 has been a year that, at first response, I would call "hard." But it was also very good. We enjoyed several great family adventures, the boys have begun to play as friends, and we have developed family rhythms. These photos are from our family vacation in Florida taken by Pam Bell. I am grateful that she captures our family each year and love that she gives us even the crazy faced photos that didn't quite make it to the annual card...

I hope you can look back on the year, even it it was difficult, and also remember the good.

Disclaimer: compensated affiliate links may be used in this post.

Sharing Christmas 2014

When Christmas appears in shops, and carols begin to play on the radio, giddy excitement rises within me. I love Christmastime. The light displays, the concerts, the gifts (yes, the gifts, totally my number one love language), delicious food, gatherings, hugging the people you love dearly but never see enough. You name it, I love it.

And then I begin the frenzy. I jam-pack our schedule until you feel like you can't breath because you have eaten too many hors d'oeuvres. I want all the activities, events, places, and things. I squeeze each hour to its fullest, inevitably exhausting myself and those around me. When slowing down, in an effort to do less, it feels like missing out. When attempting to hibernate for a weekend, I get hives. My tendency is to want to go, go, go. And on top of the constant activity, I am overwhelmed by the desire for things to be just so, perfectly times and positioned. I've once heard it called, "forced family fun." There are plenty of other unflattering labels, but ultimately it stems from a fear of falling short.

I've shared about advent calendars before. This year we are adding in Mom Diggity Design's advent calendar (#mddadvent on instagram) and I am reading both She Reads Truth Advent Study and We Will Wait by Heather Boersma. These resources are wonderful contributions to preparing my heart for Christmas, but they can also be a downfall when the schedule or activity begins to rule too greatly. The "I must make it perfect" mentality begins to rear its ugly head. The thought to scream, "Stop interrupting me, I am reading my bible," begins to bubble up inside me. (Don't get me wrong, I highly recommend these resources as well as the ones I included in my previous advent post.) The problem isn't with the things I am doing or the what I use, the problem is in my heart. Reaching too far out, stretching too thin instead of focusing that all we really need is Jesus. He is the perfect gift. I will never fall short, because he has bridged the gap. He is the perfect gift. Abiding in Him is never missing out.

So what does that actually look like?
It means opening an advent activity card that says, "make Christmas cookies" and telling the boys, we have no flour in the house, but if we were to make cookies, what flavors would they be? And colors? What shapes, if we had any cookie cutter in the world? Instead of frantically fighting rush hour and rain to get to the store to force an activity, we played pretend and my kids had just as much fun! Hopefully there was also some life lessons in there about not being perfect.

Or when the boxes of Christmas ornaments sat out for days, taking up the last of the available space in our teeny tiny apartment, I waited patiently for the night we would decorate the tree and we did so one ornament at a time instead of the hurried rush that would have been the day we initially "scheduled" the decorating to be done.

Not hanging the 27 feet of pre-lit garland you just bought last year. Because some years you don't need it all.

Slowing down enough to answer questions like, "Why do we put lights up for Christmas?" and "Can we give candy canes to everyone in the city and tell them its a J for Jesus?" I have a feeling I am still bustling about too much and missing gems, but taking hold of the ones I catch and having good chats.

It means reading a few days worth of She Reads Truth at once because you are falling behind on the study, but in honesty have given yourself through January to finish reflecting on the birth of our Savior. Because why rush that?

Its switching around the days in the advent calendar (that you also wrote in your calendar so you wouldn't miss them!) because the weather looks nice and it is a good day to go see lights instead of whatever was supposed to happen.

It means letting all the ornaments live on the same branch.

After eight years of marriage and Christmases, we bought stockings and a tree topper this year for the first time. The years without weren't bad. And they weren't necessary this year. But I finding building a collection of Christmas decorations symbolic of our growth -- building year over year. I try to remember this when scrolling through pinterest...

We've begun singing O Holy Night without the music in the background. It would most definitely hurt your ears. But there is something about singing "fall on your knees, O hear the angels singing" that keeps Christ in the center of our hearts and conversations. I am not standing on a mountain proclaiming my successes, I am falling on my knees, awed by the miracle in a manger.

Perhaps these aren't your particular struggles. Maybe letting these seemingly small things go would still amount to greater stress in your life. Or maybe holding things loosely looks different for you. Hear me when I say that these are all still a learning process for me. Whatever your struggle may be, remember it is a journey of growth, not a race towards perfection.

And lest you think our decorating one ornament at a time was happy jolly family fun, imagine this scene: Hudson pulling ornaments off the branches, separating the top foil from the ball and then stomping the foil under his feet, flattening it like a pancake. An activity that brought him great joy, laughter from his brother and increasing heartburn for me. In fact, while writing this post, I had to take one of those foil tops and ornament hangers out of his mouth. The ornaments are high! Our of his reach! He just pushes a chair up to the tree to grab them. Heartburn. There is always a bit of "forced family fun" during the holidays, but even that leads to learning, right?

And now, will you join us in Sharing Christmas?

I am honored to host with this group of fabulous ladies.
Check them out and share your own post below!


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