5 Simple Ways to Connect as a Family


Summer is here…we are busting down the door to sunshine and sprinklers, right??!! However, this spring has left me a bit “disconnected” even when I have been so “connected” to my family. Can you relate?

We’ve been in close quarters for weeks, and honestly, it’s been getting on my nerves!! So I decided to be a bit more creative on finding things that can break up the monotony. As with anything, changing things up is a good thing.

I hope these ideas spark some connection in your home!

Reading Out Loud

I admit, I really despise reading out loud, but I realize it is a great way to build connection. It’s also a fun way to share a story together as a family, which can then be brought into further discussion. It expands the mind, brings on creativity, and allows everyone to experience something together.

I just ordered these Oregon Trail Books that were highly recommended by a friend of mine. My son is ten, the same as her son, and he has not been able to put them down. I am looking forward to reading them as a family. I can remember in fourth grade doing a big Oregon Trail report; I even made paper look old by soaking it in coffee grounds and warming in the oven to dry. Maybe we will do a fun project like that while reading these books.

Here is a great printable that contains some other books that have been family favorites…grab yours here!


Whether you like healthy competition or not, family game time is a great way to connect. Make it afternoon or evening, it doesn’t matter, and provide a few fun snacks too. We have been especially fond of these gluten-free pretzels as of late. I have enjoyed playing enough Candyland, Go Fish, and Old Maid in my time, and now  have graduated to games that require a bit more concentration. Some of our family favorites are Sequence, BananaGrams (which we take with us when we eat out), Sorry, Uno, Yahtzee, and Exploding Kittens (which I have yet to play, the name…I just cannot get beyond the name…but my family loves it!).

Have you added a new game to your collection? We’ve had some of the best laughs over games we’ve played. They just break things up in a good way and have a way of making connection and memories.


Getting outside on a hike. It’s the best ever. When I say, HIKE, maybe that mean a walk around your neighborhood, or perhaps you live near a hiking trail or natural wooded area you can take advantage of. It doesn’t have to be a big formal activity, but getting out in nature is truly a way to connect and get some much needed exercise.

We are blessed with a ton a walking trails and opportunities to get outside where we live. We are also near some national parks, and I cannot wait until they are open again in our area. So many great opportunities to see wildlife, nature, and some great waterfalls. I just grabbed my ten-year-old a new pair of hiking shoes and he literally begs me to plan a hike and get outdoors!


What mom doesn’t need help in the kitchen? Well, if you are like me, I tend to just prefer to “get things done” rather than use opportunity for a life lesson, but I am getting better!

We have been making almond milk together. I will share my easy recipe soon, but he loves squeezing the nut bag!! How about cutting veggies and fruit? My-ten-year old is all about using the knife. Two years ago we began using  Green Chef, and it literally has changed my game in the kitchen. I am much more relaxed and, honestly, fun to be around and will often have my son in the kitchen to help, and my husband. Honestly, my husband loves to cook the Green Chef meals. The recipes are all super easy, done within 35 minutes, and here is the best…ALL the ingredients are included for the recipe, except for salt, pepper, and cooking oil, generally.

It truly does make cooking a joy. We have been using the plant-based plan lately, but alternate with the gluten-free plan as well. It really does help our evening routine, and we have fun together in the kitchen.

Mad Libs

Ever since I was a kid, and that was a long time ago, Mad Libs has been so much fun. Great for car rides, sitting waiting for an appointment, a day at the beach, or sitting around on a lazy afternoon. You will get a big belly laugh for sure!

This Best of Mad Libs version is great, with 125 fillable pages of fun. We would collect Mad Libs and toss them in a small plastic tub similar to this and keep some easy activities in our car (when we were out and about more!), and Mad Libs is perfect for adding to that bin. Try tossing in some playing cards, like these fun unicorn cards, and you are all set.

Mad Libs will help your child learn the difference of nouns, verbs, and adjectives—all while making up a hilarious story that you end up reading out loud. The reading is truly the best part.

Do you have some fun family favorites for connecting? I would love to hear them.

The Lord Is My Refuge


In the past few weeks, my heart has been aware of those of us who need to be reminded of how present God is. Yes, even in the midst of things that seem almost unreal. As we learn to navigate this season, with “unplanned homeschooling,” “social distancing,” and “families in close quarters,” it can become almost too much to bear.

It is a time to be drawing near to the Lord, instead of drawing near to the news media. All they do is share some info and then rehash it over and over initiating fear that is thrown at us multiple times a day.

I listened to a sermon a few weeks ago where the pastor told us to read Psalm 91 each morning and each evening. The promise and protection God has for us in that Psalm is what you will want to resonate on. That and only that. If you watch the news and listen to all the opinions, you want to be sure to look at it through God’s eyes. Every SINGLE day!

We want to dwell on God’s word.

As I was reading this piece of scripture with my ten-year-old, a friend shared with me a version she had where she was actually able to fill in her own name, or the name of her family. It was brilliant. I took that as a jumping off point to create a free printable that you can use in your home, now—and fill in your name, your children’s names, or your family last name. There could be nothing better than a personalized reading of Psalm 91 to marinate and dwell on.

I encourage you to grab this free download.

Spend some time during dinner tonight and fill in the blanks. Perhaps you even make more than one copy and have your kids write their name in all the blanks and keep a personal copy for them to read before bed.

Taking time to read this truth…GOD’S words which are full of power will help ease your spirit.

God is not a God of fear. He wants you to be in His word, walking closely with him. It’s time to share that with our kids in a dramatic way.

Do you have a favorite portion of Psalm 91?

For this current season, my favorite is Psalm 91:5-6

You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.

Go now to download your FREE personalized Psalm 91 printable and have it handy.  You can either download and save to your desktop, then open Adobe and use your computer to type the fillable blanks or you can just print and handwrite in the blanks.  Either way, it will empower you with truth.

Remember, the Lord is my Refuge. He is here to protect you and give you peace.

Ways to Help a Child Grieve the Loss of a Pet


Oh, friends…it’s been a rough few days. Let me share…

We were getting ready for small group night (more on that soon!) when our ten-year-old came downstairs in a panicked, anxious state. His hamster “Bean” wasn’t moving and didn’t look good. Obviously not the best time with 20 people arriving at our house, but sure enough, Bean had died in the last hour.

I was shocked. This sweet hamster had only been in our family for about seven weeks. How on earth could this be? That was my thought, but nevertheless, we had to carry on. Lots of hugs from me and thank goodness my husband could take the tiniest member of the family to the garage till after small group.

I have never been so grateful to have a house full of young friends for our son, because they were so helpful in creating a distraction for a few hours. After everyone left later that evening, the real work began.


Our family has lost a few pets over the years and it’s never easy. But this was the first loss for our son, Super J, so it was a big deal. If we’re lucky, everyone in the family gets a chance to say goodbye. The amount of emotions that can come to the surface with the death of a pet utterly astounds me. For example…

  • Guilt. Did I cause this? Could I have done more?
  • Sadness and loss. Was this a best friend? Just a pet? If I’m being real, maybe it was a blessing that they’re not with us?
  • Grief. Why does it hurt so much? Does it bring back memories from other loss, maybe a parent?

Include Your Child in All Stages

Sitting with our son as he was in tears later that night, he had lost his best friend; something I didn’t even realize but can completely understand. These furry, lovable friends work their way into our hearts. Their absence can create a giant sucking hole. I wanted to analyze why “Bean” had died, but I knew that wasn’t going to help right now. It was time to be a mom and love on my boy who was hurting intensely.

Teaching Moments

Even though this process stinks, God can create some awesome teaching moments for us to try and be prepared for.

Will we see our pets in heaven? I’m certainly not a bible scholar, but God created animals and talks about them being in his future kingdom. For me personally, I prefer to be honest and say I am not entirely sure.

Can we pray for our pets? Absolutely. We can pray to our Heavenly Father about anything, at any time. We can also pray for our broken heart, for that sadness we feel.

Will I ever stop feeling like this? Yes you will, honey. You are going to have ups and downs in life. I think covering grief by just blatantly saying you will “get over it” is not conducive to the experience. You need to just sit with them in the process, and they will naturally discover that with time, your heart heals.

What’s going to happen to my pet’s body? Always dread that question. In my opinion, just be honest. It’s just a body. Depending on your child’s age and questions, you may need to explain more.

Will that happen to you Mommy? Always the hardest question. Everyone is going to die, but again, another chance to talk God and Jesus and where are we going after our earthly bodies give out.


I believe it’s important to memorialize the major events in our life, a big exclamation point or a period, to help us move forward. If you know your pet is getting close to the end, NOW is the time to have a party for them. Remember the good times and treat that pet like a king or queen for a day. We did this for our dog Riley before he was rehomed. He didn’t die, but he was going to be gone from our lives, so we needed to grieve that as well.

Some of our pets have been cremated. Some buried. But we always have a ceremony to remember their lives and the good times we shared with them. Maybe a poem or special words are appropriate. Maybe a note or picture inside a box. Maybe a walk to spread their ashes. Whatever it is, try to have your child be as involved as they want to be as this won’t be their only loss. We’re modeling behavior for them.

Some families get some type of memorial figure to place where the pet is buried or where you can remember a cremated pet. Our spot will soon have a bench that we will fondly remember “Bean” as we sit and have a wonderful view of the ocean.

Some have an ornament made or mark dedicated to their pet, so each Christmas they can be reminded of that special pet. Whatever you decide, I do believe it’s important to choose something.

Be Open With Feelings

Providing space for our children to talk is important. I have found that out of nowhere conversations have drifted over to talk about “Bean” and how much he is missed. I discovered this handy book and wanted to share it with you as a resource when you need it.

“I Miss My Pet: A workbook for children about pet loss” by Katie Nurmi. This workbook lets children work through the loss of a pet by teaching the child that their feelings are important and respected. They will also learn that respect for all living creatures is an important aspect of growing up.

An Acrobat Reader is needed to view and print this book. Your browser probably already is set up to accommodate this PDF file, but if not, you can download it by clicking here.

Will we get another hamster?

I suspect so. Maybe a different rodent this time. For now though, we’ll allow some time to feel and some time to heal. No reason to be in a rush. Sometimes that is the problem, we are in too much of a hurry to allow our grief to go full circle. Not this time. No, not this time.

My Books of 2019


Ahhhh, a new year. I really love this time of year…I love the fresh start, planning, goal setting, the possibilities. I dream a little bigger, work a little smarter, and focus a little sharper. It’s a time of renewal for me in so many aspects of my life.

I tend to draw a lot of inspiration from books.

What can be better than a few moments of quiet time curled up with a book, taking in some positivity and encouragement to fuel your soul?

If you are looking for some worthwhile books to boost your motivation and inspire you, here are some titles that spoke deeply to me in 2019.

Personal Growth

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

I read this book each year as a refresher to be in tune with life around me.

A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman

As an avid Podcast listener, this book helped to reconnect all the pieces of who I am, and how God wants me to be.

It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way by Lysa TerKeurst

Such a powerful read.  When life is unfolding in different ways than you planned, this is the book to read!

Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World by Emily P. Freeman

Slowing down, appreciating the moments and giving practical ways to do so.  I loved this book and may be circling around again to read it.

Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P. Freeman

As a recovering perfectionist, I am in a season of re-learning a lot of habits that had me trying and trying and trying to earn friendship, belonging and acceptance.  It’s done.  Such a refreshing read.

Wait and See by Wendy Pope

Waiting… being in the middle of a season and not knowing when it will end.  This book gave me new perspective and shifted my altered thinking.  It drew me closer to God.

The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman

Again, her podcast friends…..  just go listen if you have not.  Getting stuck is no place to be.  I love her approach to helping each of us grab hold of the Next Right Thing.  Pure perfection.

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

I had procrastinated reading this book because honestly, I had heard all the hype.  I enjoyed parts of the book, but there were some portions that just did not resonate with my heart and that is okay.  At least I read it for myself, rather than assuming from what others had shared.

The Empath’s Survival Guide by Judith Orloff

As an Empath, this was really eye-opening and gave me some food for thought on how I am wired.  Totally recommend it.

Love Does by Bob Goff

GAME CHANGER!!  So good for truly learning to live your life as Christ would desire.  This life is not about us… just not about us.

Everybody, Always by Bob Goff

Again, this second book of Bob Goff’s was just a joy to read.  He is the example of someone living it all out for God. I want to be like that and have a new drive to do so.

Healthy Living

Delay, Don’t Deny: Living an Intermittent Fasting Lifestyle by Gin Stephens

The fasting lifestyle became part of my routine back in July and am so happy I did.  It’s been so freeing, helped me feel the best I have felt in a long time and been empowering.

Feast Without Fear: Food and the Delay, Don’t Deny Lifestyle by Gin Stephens

An other extended book on the topic of fasting — so worth your time.  If you are struggling with weight, health issues or exhaustion, do yourself a favor for sure!!!

Medical Medium Life-Changing Foods by Anthony William

Fascinating – simply fascinating and how you can use certain foods to help certain conditions.   I am grabbing a hard copy to keep in my library to quickly look things up.  It’s a must have book.

Medical Medium Thyroid Healing by Anthony William

Another one that was so interesting.  Do you struggle with thyroid issues, Auto-immune issues, brain fog, weight gain or unexplained symptoms.  Get this book and read it.  You can then determine for yourself how you want to proceed.

Community Building

The Seed by Jon Gordon

I just love Jon Gordon’s story telling ability – bringing a real “teaching” book into a format that is engaging and empowering.  Finding happiness in both your business, community and personal life can be done.

The No Complaining Rule by Jon Gordon

Everyone needs to read this.  The power of our words and how we, especially as moms can initiate complaining in our home (or not initiate it) is so eye-opening.  I know I know this stuff. but to be reminded is so needed.

We Will Feast: Rethinking Dinner, Worship, and the Community of God by Kendall Vanderslice

Breathtaking…. such a treasured view of the local church redefining itself in the homes and space all over the country.  As one who is looking to do more hospitable worship in this next season, I loved everything about this book.

Fun Fiction

All great books to take to the beach, read while cozied up by the fire and take a mind break for a bit!

Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey

The Secret to Southern Charm by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Lies and Other Acts of Love by Kristy Woodson Harvey

The Antelope in the Living Room by Melanie Shankle

Nobody’s Cuter Than You by Melanie Shankle

Curious, did you read any books in 2019 that will stick with you for awhile?  I’d sure love to hear.

An Evening for Freedom


Freedom Dinners

Last Friday evening I attended an event that was simply, magical.

A group of about twenty five food lovers, purchased tickets for $75 to have dinner in the middle of an orchard with strangers.  As an introvert, and one who often struggles with small talk conversations, this was truly stepping outside my comfort zone.

I had begun following CiderPress Lane on Instagram, shortly after attending a women’s conference outside Seattle in May.  The organization, Rescue Freedom International was highlighted during that conference and I learned about how Kelly Welk, of CiderPress Lane, began hosting #freedomdinners in order to raise money for Rescue Freedom International.

I had it on my wishlist to attend one of these dinners, to see what it was all about and that wish came true last Friday!  A few last minute tickets were released and I grabbed one!

freedom dinners
One Dinner at a Time

As I sat next to Kelly that evening, she shared the story of how she was deeply touched to learn about the human trafficking industry over five years ago.  She had a desire to do something, and she had this ‘crazy‘ idea to host guests at her home ‘potluck style’, where those in her community would donate their services and food items, charge a ticket price for those dining and donate 100% of the proceeds to Rescue Freedom International.

Since that first dinner 5 years ago she has hosted over 500 people and donated over $35,000.

That my friends, is the power of making one small change and stepping out to do what you can.

My mind was blown away by her heart, her desire, her vision and how she has overcome obstacles to see lives changed.  This is the power of people giving what they can, and using their God given gifts for good.

It’s About Community

Here is the key piece to her vision that I want to make sure you pick up here. These dinners are not about one person doing it all, they are about everyone doing what they do best.   Everyone using their gifts and talents in a way to collaborate to create the most beautiful piece of art.

“When we invite people to help in a way that they love creating, we give them a place to connect their heart to purpose.”  Kelly Welk

The evening was simply relaxing, invigorating, full of wonderful conversation and inspiring.   I have been given a vision of how I could start these #freedom dinners in my own area – to use what I have to make a difference!

Kelly has step-by-step instructions on how you can host your own dinner.  And she has a beautiful cookbook, Dinner Changes Everything with wonderful set menus, recipes and instructions as well, I picked up my own copy and had it signed by Kelly!!

I am currently making a list of friends to invite over so I can practice making some of the recipes in Kelly’s book, as well as sharing this vision.  How incredible to create community alongside an urgent need to make a difference in the lives of others?

So how can you make a difference?  If it’s not dinner, perhaps it’s another fun gathering where you can invite people together.  A dessert buffet?  An appetizer evening?  A Saturday brunch?

The possibilities are endless my friend, just say yes!