Encouraging Thankfulness
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This month as we set aside a day to gather together and offer our thanks to the Lord for all He has done in our lives, let’s renew the habit of making thankfulness an everyday part our lives.  When we choose to deliberately focus on what we are thankful for, it changes our outlook in life. There is something to be glad about in every situation, but we need to be looking for it. That’s what thankful people do – they count their blessings rather than wasting time grumbling and complaining. Let’s be intentional about gratitude every single day and usher in the holidays with a joy-filled heart.


Here are 10 ideas to spark and inspire a grateful heart for both you and your family. These are simply suggestions, not another burdensome list. Keep it simple and just apply a couple of these in order to start a new Thanksgiving tradition.


  1. Write down 5 things you are thankful for every morning.
  2. Send a thank you note, text or email to a friend or family member, telling them what you appreciate about them.
  3. Forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against and thank the Lord for His forgiveness of your sins through Jesus.
  4. Give a thank you gift or flowers to brighten the day of someone who has been a blessing to you..
  5. Thank a member of the armed forces with a card or gift.
  6. Make a list of the things you can be thankful for in a challenge you are currently facing.
  7. Call your spouse during the day, just to say thank you.
  8. Create a space somewhere in the kitchen for everyone to write their list of blessings.
  9. Play and sing praise and worship music throughout your day.
  10. Pray together as a family at night, thanking the Lord for His blessings.


Finally, here are a few verses you may want to post around your house or memorize:


 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. I Thessalonians 5:16-18


And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17


Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.  Psalm 106:1

Who do you believe?
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It has been a sad week in our nation as we all ask the question, “Who do we really believe?” This scenario is nothing new in life. As parents, we may find ourselves trying to piece together the truth when our two darling children tell two very different tales. In other cases, spouses may dispute over, “He said; She said.” Or a co-worker may make a claim about another co-worker, leaving doubts in everyone’s mind.

How do we discern the truth? Is it possible to know which story to believe? As I look at what is happening in Washington, I want to draw a few principles we can apply to our lives  as moms in general, as well as the situation at hand.

  • Make decisions based on the facts, not feelings or what we want the outcome to be.
  • Listen carefully to both sides. We must learn to be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to become angry.
  • Pray for discernment and wisdom. Pray for the truth to come to light. Pray for conviction in the hearts of those who are telling lies.
  • Don’t be afraid of the truth.
  • Don’t scream and shout, especially when you don’t know the whole truth.
  • Don’t ignore a person’s pain. Listen, comfort and help.
  • Never ruin another person’s honor or reputation based on gossip, hearsay or half-truths.
  • If you are a victim, seek help and talk to someone. Walk through the grief with the help of another. You are never alone. God sees your pain and heartache, and there are people who can help you heal.
  • Be careful to never falsely accuse another person. Fabricated accusations not only damage the accused, but harm those people who are true victims. Crying wolf with deceitful allegations does a disservice to women in general, as people will tend to distrust future sexual assault victims.

Finally, trust God’s justice. Even if we think truth did not win out – God knows the truth. His justice is better than man’s faulty decisions. Don’t let anger take over your attitude. Listen to David’s words in Psalm 37 and allow them to calm our heart no matter what life brings.

Don’t worry about the wicked
or envy those who do wrong.
For like grass, they soon fade away.
Like spring flowers, they soon wither.

Trust in the Lord and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you your heart’s desires.

Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you.
 He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.

 Be still in the presence of the Lord,
and wait patiently for him to act.
Don’t worry about evil people who prosper
or fret about their wicked schemes.

 Stop being angry!
Turn from your rage!
Do not lose your temper—
it only leads to harm.
For the wicked will be destroyed,
but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land.

Photo from Unsplash

Simple Joys
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This past week, we were blessed to have my 2 ½ year old grand-daughter staying at our house. We visited parks, played at the pool, colored pictures and discovered that life is filled with countless simple pleasures. As adults, we often allow our worries, cares, hurts and disappointments to muddy the waters, and we easily lose sight of the fact that there are many reasons to smile. So let’s revisit some of our childhood cheerfulness and take a few cues from these little ones.

Life lessons from a two year old:

  • Take time to see (and I mean really see) God’s creation – the magnificence of a flower, the wonder of a bug, the fun designs in fluffy clouds.
  • Smile often. Smile big. Allow yourself to be happy. Bring joy to others, by giving them the gift of your smile.
  • Cry when you are sad. We all need to release our tears and grieve at times.
  • Do a happy dance now and then.
  • Forgive quickly and completely and move on.
  • Make new friends where ever you go.
  • Be truly happy to see others and hug them like you mean it.
  • Use your imagination. Allow yourself to be creative. Dream big dreams. Keep hope alive in your heart.
  • Play. Find something you enjoy (a sport, a hobby, an activity) and do it with gusto.
  • Remember, the best activities are the simple ones. Collecting leaves on a walk, making pretend pancakes at the park, reading Green Eggs and Ham (again), playing “House” under the kitchen table, making a fort out of a large box, all remind us that we don’t need a lot of elaborate or expensive things to experience joy in life.
  • Love well and laugh often – the best lesson of all!


End of Summer Kitchen Fun
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How did summer zoom by so quickly? You may be ready for summer to be over, or you may be sad that the school year is about to start. Either way, try to make the best of the last few days of freedom before the routine begins. Here are a few fun ideas you can do with your kids in the kitchen:

Flower Face Sandwiches


Favorite sandwich ingredients

Flower shaped cookie cutters

Celery or Zucchini strips

Spanish olives (stuffed with pimento)

Small tomatoes or carrots

Make several of your favorite sandwiches then cut them into floral shapes using your cookie cutter.  Add veggie strips to be the stalks of the flowers.   Create a face on the sandwich using sliced olives, tomatoes and/or carrots.


Ice Cream flower pots

            4 – 6 Small Clay flower pots (thoroughly washed)

1 gallon Vanilla or Chocolate Ice Cream

2 cups Chocolate cookie crumbs

Gummy Worms (optional)

4 – 6 Plastic flowers

Soften ice cream.   Line bottom of pots with wax paper or foil.  Pour softened ice cream into pots (adding gummy worms if desired).  Cover top of ice cream with cookie crumbs.  Stick one plastic flower in the top of each pot.   Place ice cream flower pots in freezer for several hours.


Breakfast Pizza

            2 cans crescent rolls

1 – 2 lbs sausage

6 – 8 eggs

Shredded cheese (your family’s favorite)

Pre-heat oven to temperature on the crescent rolls can.  Smooth out crescent rolls over an entire cookie sheet, making sure all seams are smoothed together.  Brown sausage, then crumble into small pieces and sprinkle over crust.  Scramble eggs and distribute over crust.  Sprinkle cheese over pizza.  Bake for 16 – 18 minutes or until browned.  Serve with salsa or ketchup.


Happy Face Ice Cream Sundaes

            Favorite flavors of ice cream

Variety of Candies and marshmallows

Chocolate or Carmel syrup

Place a large scoop of ice cream in a bowl.  Squirt or drizzle syrup at the top of the scoop to resemble hair.  Place candy or marshmallows to create eyes, nose and mouth.  Allow each family member to create their own.  Vote on the most creative work of art before eating them.

Click Here For Karol’s Back to School Tips


Spoon Photo by hue12 photography on Unsplash

Terrific Travel Tips
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open road

When someone asks me to describe my fondest childhood memories, I always respond with the vacations we took as a family.  Some of you share similar fond memories, while some of you have only horror stories as you recollect those times of family togetherness.  Yes, family travels can be terrific or they can be terrifying.   Although often the unforeseen can arise on a vacation, we still have the ability to take any vacation and make it a great vacation.

What makes a terrific vacation?  There are three main ingredients to success. It begins with wise planning.  I know that the best laid plans can (or will) go awry, so the next ingredient for terrific vacations is to remain flexible.  The third ingredient for success is a good attitude.  Honestly, it doesn’t really matter where you go, what you do or what happens along the way, if you have these three ingredients you will most likely have a successful trip.

What?  We don’t need lots of money, first class tickets and a luxury hotel?  No, in fact I know many people that can attest to the fact that extravagance won’t guarantee a good vacation.  The material stuff is not essential.  Even the destination is not all that important.  It’s the preparation, the flexibility and the attitude that make it an enjoyable experience.  Let’s explore how to make it happen.

Wise Planning

Plan, but don’t over schedule. There is a healthy balance.  Do the research ahead of time to find out what is worth doing, seeing and visiting at your destination.  As much as humanly possible, keep the activities age appropriate (Don’t drag a three year old to ancient artifacts museum and avoid taking a teenager to a children’s playground).  Do your homework via books, magazines, friends and internet.  More importantly as your kids get older, assign the research to them.  This will build their excitement about the trip and help them take ownership of the experience.

Using your research, create a list of opportunities, activities and interests that you can do on the trip.  Have each family member circle one or two activities on the list that they especially want to do.  Instead of scheduling every moment of each day, consider going over your list each morning during breakfast and choose one or two activities to do that day.  This system helps you plan around the weather for that day and takes into account how family members are feeling physically (tired, energetic, sickly).

Plan your destination carefully.  I’ve interviewed many families and have heard the good, the bad and the ugly about family vacations.  Two suggestions (or perhaps I should call them warnings) surfaced in my discussions.  One was “Don’t take five kids, stuff them in a car with nothing to do and drive non-stop for six hours.”  This is a prescription for misery for both parents and children whether you are traveling via car or plane.  The other suggestion was, “If you have a wide variance of ages in the family, try to go to a place that has a little something for everyone.”  Let’s tackle both of these warnings with a positive plan.

  1. Make travel time enjoyable. Perhaps the most effective way to make travel time a success (whether you are on the road or in the air) is to prepare a Travel Goody Bag for each child.  This can be a simple bag of goodies which you hand the kids right before you begin the journey.  Customize the bags to your child’s interests and age.  You will want to include a snack and a small drink, a simple game or book, colored pencils or markers, a journal or coloring book or puzzle book, and perhaps a small toy.  For older kids you may want to give them a favorite CD for their player with earphones!

Plan to stop along the way.  Do a little research to find out a good restaurant or park or place of interest along the route.  When it comes to kids, your trip will be much more enjoyable if you offer a few bathroom breaks as well as a chance to stretch their legs.  Certain auto clubs like AAA (www.aaa.com) will help you plan out a trip.

Add some entertainment.  Bring along your DVDs  or ipad to watch movies or listen to music or an audio book. I do think movies or books help the trip go much faster and make the traveling much more enjoyable, but I wouldn’t recommend watching them for the entire journey.  Leave room for interaction or to play games or to talk about the trip itself.  For younger kids you can have a story hour or even bring a puppet for entertainment.

Play a few travel games.  Stimulate the brain and add some family interaction with timeless travel games.  Here are a few to consider

  • ABC Adventure – One family member begins by saying something like, “I’m Anne. I’m driving in an Automobile, and I’m going to Alabama.”  The next person says a name that starts with a B (like Brittany), traveling in something that starts with a B (like a boat) and going to a destination that starts with a B (Bermuda).  On so on throughout the alphabet.
  • I Spy (Magazine Version) – Before the trip tear out pictures from magazines of objects you could possibly see out of the window as you travel (barns, houses, cows, people, planes).  Find 3 or 4 per family member.  Place the pictures face down and allow each person to take several.  When the driver says go, everyone looks at their pictures.  The first person to spy objects that match each of their pictures wins.  You can then scramble the pictures and play again.
  • 20 Questions – You start off saying, “I’m thinking of a place.” A family member responds, “Is it in America?”  Each question demands only a yes or no response.  If you make it through twenty questions and no one had guessed what you are thinking of then you win.  If someone guesses wrong, they are out.  If someone guesses correctly before twenty questions are asked, they become the winner and start a new round.  You can begin with a person, place or thing.
  • Car Trip Sing Along – You may want to bring a sing along tape, or if you are musically talented then you can do it yourself. Start with some of the kids favorites.  Add in familiar songs from church, camp and patriotic songs.  My favorites are:  “Do your Ears Hang Low,”  “This Little Light of Mine,” and “I’ve Got that Joy, Joy, Joy down in my Heart” Of course “99 Bottles of Anything” is not allowed to be sung in our car because we want to maintain our sanity!
  1. Plan destinations where there is something for everyone. In my family, we have two girls, one year apart in age.  It’s easy to entertain both with the same type of agenda and activities.  Not so with a family of three kids ranging in age from 14 to 5.  In the case of wide span of ages and different genders you can find some happy compromises.  Here are a few suggestions from families that found a happy haven for all.
    • The Beach
    • Dude Ranch
    • Family Camp
    • The Mountains

Some family togetherness activities for a range of ages include:

  • Hiking
  • Cooking a Meal Together if you have a kitchen
  • Swimming
  • Walking on the beach
  • Horseback Riding or Biking
  • Puzzles and board games
  • Sea World, Aquariums, Zoos
  • Picnics
  • Some museums and monuments
  • Amusement parks that offer something for everyone
  • Water parks
  • Boat Rides


Every spring break we went to Destin, Florida.  Now our kid’s spring break came earlier than most, so we typically had a few days of sunshine on the beach, and several days of cold and rain.  Needless to say we needed to be fairly flexible in what we do.  We tried to prepare for both possibilities, but it is impossible to know exactly how the week would play out weather-wise.  Instead of moping and complaining that our vacation is no fun, we created fun.

The only thing we can depend on is change.  A change in plan is bound to happen, so we must help our family understand the importance of adjusting.  It helps to take a short moment to acknowledge the disappointment, (“Oh I’m so sorry this didn’t work out.  I know you are disappointed.”) Then begin forming a new plan together.  This is a good opportunity to hone everyone’s ingenuity and problem solving skills.  Here are a few ideas to consider.

In case of bad weather:

  • Check out local indoor amusements, museums and shopping
  • Visit a book store, give everyone a certain amount of money and have them find their own treasure to read
  • Go to a craft store and pick out one craft to do together or individual crafts for everyone
  • Go get ice cream or milk shakes
  • Have a Family Uplift Meeting.  Write down or tell all the qualities you admire about each family member.  You may want to choose one family member each day that you will bless with encouraging words.
  • Complete a puzzle together
  • Go to a movie or rent a movie
  • If you have a kitchen, bake something together like cookies or a pizza
  • Purchase a new board game and play as a family

In case of being stuck at an airport (layover, flight cancellation, etc):

  • Play Card games
  • Play I Spy or some of the travel games listed above
  • Observe People, guess the occupation and destination
  • Watch a movie on your laptop
  • Give each other back rubs
  • Draw pictures with your fingers on the kid’s backs.  See if they can guess what you drew
  • Read a book to the kids
  • Buy a magazine for each child and have a scavenger hunt (find the comics, a high school sports score, a political editorial, a picture of a star and an advice column)

Good Attitude

It may sound trite to say, but the best thing you can pack to bring along for your family vacation is a good attitude.  Before your trip begins it is important to talk about the importance of everyone choosing to be pleasant during the trip.  Whining will not be tolerated.  If the kids have a request or complaint they can share it respectfully, but they may not whine and complain.  You may even want to demonstrate the difference between the two.

One friend gives her kids spending money for each trip, but if they whine or complain they have to give her back a dollar.  I love that idea!  You can imagine it only takes one whining episode for the kids to see that mom means business, and they don’t like having their spending money diminished.  You may find it fun to have a silly symbol that you will do if someone is whining.  My husband used to act like he was playing a mini-violin when I complained about anything.  He said it was the world’s smallest violin playing “My Heart Bleeds for You.”  It always made me laugh and certainly curbed the whining.

Encourage your kids, if they don’t like an activity or situation, to try to think of something they can be thankful for or glad about. Make it into a game – who can find the one thing to be thankful for in this situation?  You may even want to have a reward system for every time your kids smile or say something with a grateful spirit.  We can teach our kids (as well as ourselves) to look for the good, ignore the bad, and work through the challenges.

Happy Travels!


This blog is an excerpt from Karol’s book, A Positive Plan for More Fun, Less Whining.  Click Here for more details.


Photo by Diego Jimenez on Unsplash

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