Thursday, April 16, 2015

10 Things I Learned While Camping

We went camping with our best friends the second weekend of Spring Break. It's funny, really, because I used to say I didn't like to camp and now I'm finding myself thinking about when we're going again. {See Facebook conversation for more thoughts on my preparations and opinions of camping.} But before next time happens, I want to document this time ... with a list, of course!

1. I don't like mice, but tent camping is okay. Yes, they're related.

The plan was for Jaclyn and I to sleep in the RV bed while our three girls slept on the sofa bed in the RV and our husbands and boys slept in tents. And then Friday evening I saw a mouse run beside the bed.

We’d seen evidence of a mouse – mice? – but I was choosing to be in denial it – they? – were still in the RV with us. But then I couldn’t un-see the mouse.

So I shared an air mattress bed with my husband. Yes, being outside trumped being inside with a mouse – even when the air mattress deflated. I spent the second night in the tent again – and this time the air mattress stayed inflated.

2. Having a massage appointment scheduled the day after arriving home from tent camping two nights is a good idea. Okay, so I didn’t plan it. But it worked out well, especially for my lower back.

Each month, I go to these massage appointments and Hannah the masseuse asks me if anything new is bothering me. I usually say, “No. Same tight neck and shoulders.”

But on this particular Monday my response was different: “Yeah, my lower back is killing me. I tent camped two nights.” She’d seen the tent camping part of the story on Facebook, so I’m guessing she wasn’t surprised. Apparently that air mattress – whether deflated or not – messed up my back and requires a follow-up appointment.

And here I was excited my sometimes nagging shoulder wasn’t bothering me after sleeping on the ground.

3. A Kindle makes for good nighttime reading – and doubles as a flashlight.

Well, yes, there was daytime reading too. 

I finished reading “Nobody's Cuter than You: A Memoir About the Beauty of Friendship” by Melanie Shankle, read “Footsteps” by Diann Mills and “Target” by Lisa Phillips, and started “Bait” also by Phillips. The two Lisa Phillips’ books are part of a fictional suspense series that had a little romance too.

4. Parenting one almost 8-year-old girl who is a people-pleasing rule-follower is a like a vacation. But I missed my 5-year-old second-born who likes to push every boundary and requires a constant, watchful eye, especially near the lake.

{Yes, this is part of how I did so much reading. See #9 for another reason.}

Ben was with Gran-Gran – aka The Best Mother-in-Law Ever – the first night of camping because he had been diagnosed with strep throat {yes, again … fifth time since Dec. 26} earlier that same day. The diagnosis came the day after we had been at the ENT scheduling his tonsillectomy for April 28. So he needed to be on an antibiotic until he hung out with other kids.

Gran-Gran and Ben had a splendid time that apparently involved flying a kite, eating ice cream, and watching a movie. Then she brought him out to our campsite by lunch time Saturday so he didn’t miss out on the camping fun.

5. I can text really long messages. And 25 years of friendship can happen across the miles.

Camping came on the heels of a Spring Break that gave me time to overanalyze and internalize too much. That led me wanting to chat and laugh and cry with Katie, whom I’d thankfully gotten to spend some time with the previous weekend when we were in Louisville. We had played phone tag and exchanged some texts, but we both apparently finally had time to converse Friday night. I didn’t have a strong or consistent-enough cell signal to talk to her, but texts were going through.

So that’s what we did. Sometimes that’s how life happens.

6. Bacon, sausage, pancakes, kabobs, burgers, and red potatoes are especially good cooked on the fire. And the husbands like to cook. Perhaps I should set up a campfire in the back yard. Enough said.

7. You can get sunburned in April. And, obviously, we didn’t think to pack sunscreen.

8. Camping requires so much preparation, but it's like a retreat once I'm out there. I used to think I didn’t like to camp. And until Friday I thought I didn’t tent camp. I’m glad I’ve accepted that I like to camp and I’m becoming better with the preparations.

9. Kids belong outdoors. Well, okay, maybe not forever and always, but when they're out there, they play and then sleep so well. This past weekend, they played tag and washers, fished, read, talked with their friends and other campers, and explored.

10. Having family friends really is the best. Yes, I got to spend the weekend with Jaclyn and most of Saturday with Sarah, but my kids and husbands got to hang out with some of their best friends too. Turns out camping is a fabulous way to make memories together.

Your turn! Tell me about your camping experiences.

Want more insights? "Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family" is available on Amazon. Like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, peek into my life on Instagram, follow 152 Insights at Bloglovin', or subscribe to receive "Insights in Your Inbox."

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Three Word Wednesday :: Life is real

Life has continued to feel full. Coming off Spring Break and specially camping this past weekend, real life has been, um, real. So real I couldn't even find time to get my Three Word Wednesday post written as early as usual. Like it’s screaming, “Welcome back from your relaxing weekend with friends!”

Let’s start with some mom confessions from the first part of this week. More to come on camping soon.

Monday afternoon I dropped off something at my friend's house and ended up chatting. Both kids ended up coming inside to use the bathroom. Yes, I think that was a unified excuse to get around my “Stay in the car, I’ll be right back.” So my friend and I chatted more.

We ended up staying an hour and a half. The kids even had a snack. And I left my van running with the windshield wipers on the entire time. Obviously Jenn and I need to get together more often.

That evening I was doing more laundry. Honestly, I was hoping when I washed Ben's filthy light-up tennis shoes they wouldn't light up anymore. Apparently those lights are durable; they still light up? At least his shoes are relatively clean again.

Surely I’m not the only mom who doesn’t understand the point of light-up shoes?

Meanwhile, I remembered Monday night at 6:48 p.m. that Cate left her tennis shoes – which do not light up, thankfully – in Louisville on Easter weekend. I knew this but had since forgotten because my mom was out of town and couldn't mail them to me yet. This is why I should have written down: “Get C new shoes.”

The timing of my remembering is important because Cate had gym class Tuesday morning so we made a quick evening trip to Walmart in the rain just as the kids were getting ready for bed and Greg was at one of his two meetings of the night. Less than five minutes in the store and $12.87 solved the problem. And we were back home at 7:07.

And then I was at Walmart again at 7:28 a.m. Tuesday to get a few things to aide in our moving furniture and stuff from our lake house that’s we’re supposed to be selling on Friday, officially. I don't even like Walmart.

Twelve hours after I arrived at our lake house we finally finished moving furniture and stuff around. We moved out my girl's too-small bunks and in a full-size bed; traded one recliner for another in our living room; stored a king bed, two sets of extra-long bunks, kitchen utensils and accessories in extra space at my husband's new office; donated stuff to sell in our Guatemalan mission team fundraiser and sheets and blankets to give Guatemala families; donated a few items to the local thrift store.

And, yes, we stopped to eat – twice.

I am grateful for our real-life friend Daniel who gave up his morning to help Greg take apart and load heavy furniture. He’s worth more than the lunch to which we treated him.

Y’all, it was exhausting and I was getting irritable, but all worth it when my daughter rejoiced about her new-to-her bed. It was bittersweet to move stuff from a lake house we loved but had to sell for circumstances related to our neighbors, over which I obviously have no control. {Ah, cue life lesson …}

All through the moving process I wore the same shirt I had started the day before wearing and then also slept in. Honestly, I had no idea moving and storing and organizing and purging and donating would take all day, literally. I had visions of taking a shower after lunch.

But, hey, that's one less shirt to add to the never-ending laundry.

Life is real.

Sometimes the car sits running in a friend’s driveway while conversation happens. Sometimes tasks take way longer than anticipated and shirts are well overdue for their turn in the washing machine. But whatever the season, it’s safe to say, it won’t be like this for long.

I'm also linking with Anna Rendell's Girl With Blog, where real life is embraced beautifully and mom confessions are encouraged. 

Want more insights? "Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family" is available on Amazon. Like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, peek into my life on Instagram, follow 152 Insights at Bloglovin', or subscribe to receive "Insights in Your Inbox."

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Three Word Wednesday :: Fullness versus busyness

My friend Kayse and I were chatting about our ordinary lives recently and she commented that it sounded like a full week in a good way.

She nailed it.

My life feels full right now.

But I'm learning full is different and healthier than busy.

We have some boundaries on our lives. The kids are allowed one extracurricular activity at a time. We make every effort to eat dinner together, even if that's at Subway after soccer practice.

We just got back from a fun visit to Louisville, where we hung out with my mom, my brother and his family, and my dear friend of almost 25 years Katie and her boys. We had an impromptu visit with a high school friend and his wife who were in town and joined us just in time for Kentucky’s Final Four game. We’re going camping with our best friends this weekend.

We are fundraising for a Guatemala trip, planning birthday parties because three of the four of us have birthdays within two weeks from late April to early May, engaging with local ministry opportunities, and making time to be with family and help friends.

These things fill our calendars but I’m not letting any of them go right now. I believe in everything we’re doing right now. And I believe we’re supposed to be doing it.

Seasons come and go in life. Not every one will feel this full. {Tweet that.}

Trips are temporary but worth the journey. Our birthday celebrations will be over before school is out for the summer, but these are part of the memories of our lives. We come home from Guatemala on July 11, but I know we’ll have a new perspective.

With the fullness comes unique opportunities to see God working – especially in my recovering perfectionist self.

Within the fullness, I've been able to find some stillness. Recently I told my friend Jen sometimes rest comes in chunks of time following a packed day. Right now, Mondays and Wednesdays tend to be fuller than Thursdays. The summer is bound to look different. And then in August both my kids will be in school full time.

I know I need the time to take deep breathes, do laundry, and regroup my soul, so I clear out time for that. Some evenings I need to clean off the kitchen table before I sit down on the couch because it keeps me from being stressed out. But sometimes the dishes sit next to the sink for a day or two.

I don't say yes to every good thing. And not every good thing in our lives is forever. {Tweet that.}

That's the beauty of seasons. Remembering that helps me embrace my full life right now.

I'm also linking up with the weekly Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood Gathering

Want more insights? "Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family" is available on Amazon. Like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, peek into my life on Instagram, follow 152 Insights at Bloglovin', or subscribe to receive "Insights in Your Inbox."

Friday, April 3, 2015

Mom Confessions :: A Peek into Real Life

Social media can be intimidating and frustrating because everyone puts a false fa├žade on their lives. NOBODY has it all together so I like when people post real-life photos and tell stories of imperfection and grace. There’s nothing as encouraging as someone coming along side and saying, “Me too.”

That’s why I’ve loved Anna Rendell’s “Mom Confessions” on Facebook and now her blog. I’ve used #reallife some on Instagram myself. Mommas, let’s be in this life together and not competing for who can look like we have it all together.

In no particular, some recent mom confessions ::

1. Ben cheered – literally – when I tossed a package of bologna in the grocery cart at his request. Best $1 I’ve spent in a long time. That evening my kids ate bologna sandwiches for dinner at 4:30 today because they were "starving."
2. I assumed my kids could wear their soccer cleats from last year. Um, no way. Their feet have grown exponentially. So the day of the first practice, I bought them new cleats while they were at school. All was good – except I bought Cate baseball cleats. I knew they didn’t look right, but they were her size so I just scooped them up. And then returned them and bought the right ones the next day.
3. Ben doesn’t nap much anymore, but recently I needed him to nap for my own well-being and because we had plans that would keep us out later than usual that night. Hello, March Madness. So I bribed Ben with the promise of ice cream if he napped. He did. He got ice cream. And I might do it again.
4. With the bus service that exists now, I only pick up Cate at school on Fridays. But two Fridays in a row I had trouble remembering this. One week I didn’t remember until it was time to be there. It’s 15 minutes away. So I called a friend to ask her to tell the teacher at the door that I was coming, eventually. My friend Julie volunteered to bring Cate toward me because she had some errands to run. So I picked up my daughter in the Walmart parking lot. 
The next week, Ben was sick so I made him a doctor’s appointment. I made it with my favorite nurse practitioner, but then I realized I wouldn’t have time to get Cate from school on time. So I called Julie. She rescued me again – although she had more warning this time. I now have timers set on my phone to remind me when and where to pick up Cate.
Of course, I haven't forgotten where to be since I set up the timers, but, you know, better safe than sorry!
5. Hello, Spring! I used baby wipes to wash off my 5-year-old son, who is allergic to trees, grass and weeds. He'd been outside for hours playing that day and we let him stay up late while we watched basketball. No time for a shower.
6. I pulled into my kids' school that is 12 miles away recently and realized my gas light was on. Their school is in a tiny neighboring town with no gas station. I had no idea if I would make it back without running out of gas. I did, thankfully. 
7. Each Christmas I get out the bin with the GeoTrax Santa Train and Little People Nativity. They kids are always excited for these toys to come back out. Since December, my 5-year-old Ben and his friends who are often at our house have loved building and playing with it so much that these seasonal toys are still in my living room. Perhaps they’ve found a semi-permanent home there. The Christmas train is now connected with the Cars GeoTrax.

Fellow mommas, let’s share the ordinary in a real way. Let’s encourage one another. Let’s laugh together. And let’s remind one another we are not alone. {Tweet that.}

{And, yes, feel free to share your own mom confessions in the comments.}

I'm linking up with Anna Rendell at Girl With Blog, who encourages real-life mom confessions, and Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood's weekly gathering, where women are encouraged to come as they are. 

Want more insights? "Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family" is available on Amazon. Like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, peek into my life on Instagram, follow 152 Insights at Bloglovin', or subscribe to receive "Insights in Your Inbox."

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Buried Secrets :: A Review

When a favorite fiction author has a new book, I just dive in. With “Buried Secrets,” Irene Hannon dives right into the story. And I like it that way.

The first in a new series, I enjoyed getting to know new characters. Lisa Grant is a former Chicago homicide detective now working as a small-town police chief. Her call for assistance brings in Mac McGregor, an ex-Navy SEAL who works for another local department. They work together to solve the mystery – one that begins with the discovery of some human remains and continues with a suspect who wants that secret to remain buried.

Personally, I love St. Louis and like a favorite city of mine as the setting of this novel. Plus, the story briefly goes to Paducah, Kentucky – which is just about 45 minutes from my home in Murray. I like the local references, even if it’s implied the character settled for less by living in small-town Kentucky because of how the buried secret affected him.

McGregor’s brothers – also special forces operatives – make appearances when they’re stateside and I’m looking forward to getting to know them in Hannon’s future installments of the Men of Valor series.

“Buried Secrets” is a quick read because Hannon’s story is engaging and leaves readers wanting to know the outcome – for both the case and personal lives of the detectives. And now it has me eager for the second book of the series. Well done, Irene Hannon.

ABOUT THE BOOK :: The first in the Men of Valor series, “Buried Secrets” is published by Revell and officially releases next week. 384 pages.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR :: Irene Hannon is the bestselling author of more than 45 novels, including “That Certain Summer,” “One Perfect Spring,” and the Heroes of Quantico, Guardians of Justice, and Private Justice series. Hannon and her books have been honored with numerous awards. She lives in Missouri. Learn more about her at

Thanks to Revell Reads for an advanced copy of this book to review. The opinions here are my own.

I'm linking up with Jessica Turner's Fringe Friday because reading is how I like to spend my fringe hours, which are pockets of time carved out for self-care. 

Want more insights? "Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family" is available on Amazon. Like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, peek into my life on Instagram, follow 152 Insights at Bloglovin', or subscribe to receive "Insights in Your Inbox."

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Three Word Wednesday :: Friends for Life

Cate was making her 8th birthday party plans, including a list of who she wanted to invite. This was after I talked her out of having a second consecutive Frozen-themed party. Really, I like Anna and Elsa as much as the next momma who knows the whole soundtrack by heart, but, been there, done that. Let’s let it go …

Anyway, I was reading the list of her school friends and our church friends and the friends she’s known her whole little life because their mommas and I are friends and then paused. “Who's Alex?" I asked, genuinely having no idea how this little girl made it on my daughter’s party list.

“You know, my friend from preschool?" She said, seemingly baffled why I didn’t know that.

Um, yeah, the one we have seen once in the past three years. “Oh, I think we better stick with the friends we see regularly.”

And then I realized she’s just like me when it comes to friendships.

When I make a friend, I want to be friends for life. {Tweet that.}

I’ve learned the hard way that’s not always true. People move and change and get busy. We celebrate our birthdays with co-workers and then move onto different jobs. We have playdates with friends from preschool and then each family enrolls in different schools for kindergarten.

We date and break up and go to college and play sports and get married and start careers and plant churches and move again and have babies and take care of our homes and go on vacations and start businesses and mother our kids and help our closest friends through hard days and pursue dreams.

Sometimes friendships change simply because of circumstances.

Some friendships have surprise endings that break our hearts.

Some friendships weather the seasons of life and change with us.

Of course, there are times friendships are unhealthy and people need to part ways.

Some friendships can pick up where they left off – even with many days, months or even years between visits.

Sometimes friendships change because of logistics but we still miss what used to be.

My daughter, who is nearing the end of second grade, wanted to invite her preschool friends with whom we haven’t stayed in contact to her birthday party. I get that. I want to gather all my people from different times in my life together in one place.

That’s why my wedding reception will always be one of my favorite places. Of course, I’ve made friends since Greg and I tied the knot more than 12 years ago. So, I like Facebook because most everyone I’ve ever known is right there, sharing their dinner choices and their days. Like a virtual reception. My high school friends reminisce about how we’re old. My kids’ friends’ parents and I make connections. My church friends share needs. My college friends talk about how we wish we saw more of each other. My writing friends and I can brainstorm together and encourage one another regardless of where we live.

Just recently an old friend who was instrumental in me knowing Jesus sent me a Facebook message out of the blue. We haven’t spoken in years – probably more like a decade – but it was good to hear a brief update from him. “Just reflecting on my wonderful childhood and high school years. So glad to have formed a friendship with you! … Christ is still my center, even in the industry I work in. Funny how God puts us in unique environments to serve His purpose.”

That speaks so much to friendship, which exists in the present but encompasses so much of the past. And like my friend’s perspective on his job, God puts friends in our lives to serve his purpose. Sometimes that means the timing isn’t what we would prefer, but we can reminisce knowing good was done. Friends are part of the stories of our lives. {Tweet that.}

I recently read a couple posts by writing friends that prompted me to think about friendships in my lives. Read what Holley Gerth had to say about three different kinds of friends and how Mary Carver reflects on how not all friends are forever.

Want more insights? "Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family" is available on Amazon. Like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, peek into my life on Instagram, follow 152 Insights at Bloglovin', or subscribe to receive "Insights in Your Inbox."

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Seven Things I Learned in March

I love this time of the year! March was full of basketball and transition from winter to spring, mostly. Dirt has been tracked in the house because the kids have been spending more time outside. That also means more showers are required! The days are longer, which I love for the evenings. Although we've all struggled to get up in the dark mornings since the time change at the beginning of the month.

Without further ado, here are some snapshots of my month, at least the parts that didn't involve watching basketball ... 

1. NEEDTOBREATHE is releasing a live album from the show I was at in September 2014! It was such a fun night and I'm so excited to have it to listen to over and over again. You'll want it too!

2. Third Day worship music is my favorite. I love the new stuff.

3. I'm not a fan of mopey, rebellious Rory Gilmore. Like the one at the beginning of season six. Thankfully, I'm past that now.

4. In the middle of wintry temps, just before a snow storm, a 65-degree day is possible. Like a reminder that spring is coming. We involved ice cream. In Murray, we have an old-fashioned, walk-up Dairy Queen that really does make ice cream taste better.

Then later in the month, I had the air conditioning on one day and the heat on the next. We've worn flip flops and down vests in one week. Ah, Kentucky weather ... 

5. Pizza quesadillas are delicious. "Dashing Dish" inspired me. You'll just need tortillas, pizza sauce, cheese, and any other toppings. So far we've used bacon and pepperoni, but the possibilities are endless.

6. We (almost) sold our lake house. I don't like that circumstances beyond our control dictated that we needed to, but I'm glad we have the sale under contract and we can move on. Maybe to another place on the lake one day. I still manage another vacation rental property at Kentucky Lake that someone else owns.

7. Choosing joy is always good for my soul. Yeah, not new, I know. But here we are, three months into the new year, and God is still using my counting joys for the good.

167. Ben working on learning to ride his bike. 168. America Adopts Daniel party and celebrating with friends. 169. Jaclyn's birthday lunch & trivia night in the same day - more celebrations! 170. Long lunch at Tumbleweed between church & business meeting while UK wins 34th game. ... 173. Being able to help Sarah with kids while Susannah was born. ... 175. Getting hair colored, highlighted, and cut. 176. Walking outside, finally. ... 181. Purging/organizing kids' clothes. 182. Cate and Ben playing with neighbor kids. 183. Ben meeting Murray State's Cam Payne.

How was your March? Learn anything fun or interesting?

I'm linking up with Emily Freeman at Chatting at the Sky. Read previous Things I Learned posts: {From 2013} June. July. August. September. October. November. {From 2014} January. February. March. April. May. June. July. August. September. October. November. December. {From 2015} January. February.

Want more insights? "Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family" is available on Amazon. Like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, peek into my life on Instagram, follow 152 Insights at Bloglovin', or subscribe to receive "Insights in Your Inbox.

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