Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Whatcha Got Wednesday: Five Ways to Set Your Family Up for Summer Success

Q:  Our family is looking forward to summer, but I'm also a little cautious. I want them to enjoy their time off from school, but I don't want to hear any whining about being bored, and I don't want them to goof off the whole summer either. How can our family find a good balance?

A:  Nothing rings sweeter in a child's ears than the coming of summer break! Even as an adult, I still view the calendar year in terms of school happenings (it's that teacher thing, I suppose). Summer is no exception. Everything "feels" different come that last day of school. We tend to be more relaxed and really savor our time as families, even in this famously hot heat!

I am such a stickler for holding our children accountable and truly leading them as they become adults--but the key word is become. While the idea of what I pray my child will "be" as a person by the age of 30 is my driving force, I also very much want my children to experience childhood along the way. We tend to rush this nowadays and totally over expose our children to things that they have an entire lifetime to be concerned with. I want the simple things in life to be exciting, and that happens only when you embrace that less is truly so much more!

So how do you find the balance when presented with a mountain of available (and hopefully non-scheduled) time like summer?

First and foremost: don't get nuts with the bedtime. Absolutely let 'em stay up later than during the school year; that is one of the biggest attributes that makes summer so appealing! Just don't go so far overboard that trying to wrangle them back into a sensible routine becomes a nightmare. Maybe go and extra hour to hour and a half, depending on your child's age. Then, at least one full week prior to the start of school, start back with your regularly scheduled programming. I've know quite a few to wait until literally the night before school begins to try and get back in a routine, and that's always ugly.

The same holds true for getting up each morning.  Be willing to go an extra hour to an hour and a half, depending on where everyone needs to be for the day. DO NOT allow your child to stay in the bed until noon or after. No, this is not typical acceptable teenage protocol (who started that garbage anyway???)  Get. Them. Up. No excuses! There are things to be done around the home, and if you have an older child at home, summer should be the one season you get a break from all household duty. The miraculous thing about it is when they hop up and hop to it, there is still plenty of daylight to do something fun! Who knew?

While a good many activities and happenings seem to take a break in the summer, your child's responsibilities at home should not be one of them. Chores still need to be completed everyday. In our house, charts and lists work beautifully. Ding and Dong love to have something to check off on a list (they must get that from their father--wink wink!) Just make sure these are still being completed; "responsibilities before pleasures" still applies when school is out.

This past summer was the first EVER I spent with just my own two children. Prior to that, they had always been with me at my childcare center, which was chock full of "things to do" during the summer. I must admit, while I miss all my families, I really don't miss putting together the activity calendars for 3-4 groups. Organizing field trips, guests, activities, and arts and crafts, silly days, fun foods . . . okay, I may have just lied! It was fun, and I did get excited when a new opportunity would surface, but it was a lot of work. Our center also had a ban on all electronic devices with the exception of one day per month. The kids knew the drill and Miss Stacey's disdain for such devices. In turn, we had things like Monopoly marathons and UNO tournaments. It was Old School at its finest, and they LOVED IT! (Don't tell me old-fashioned won't work. Hmph!) But of all the goings on, the two things that really appealed to the parents of all my children were Summer Bridge Books and the Summer Library Reading Program.  Sure, the kids grunted a bit, but truth be told, they loved this structured part of the day. They would complete one page front and back, which usually included a language and math component, and then spend an hour reading. It was a great way to complete the assigned summer reading from the schools they attended as well as earn points toward prizes from the library. Being loosy goosy certainly has its place, but not going full-on free spirit really helps children maintain those boundaries and security in knowing what to expect each day. Needless to say, I continued doing this with my own two even at home. I got the Summer Bridge Books, and we checked out or purchased all of their required summer reading books before school got out so that we were ready on day one! They spent time each day completing both of these, and as they reached goals, we'd trot off to the library to get the coveted cookie coupon and the like. The bonus last year was we got to go cash them in right away since I was home with them. I know it sounds cheesy, but THAT was a huge deal to my two who had been so accustomed to waiting for those kinds of moments with Mom. Keeping a schedule for chores, reading, and a little daily academic brush-up is HUGE. I highly recommend all three of these.

One other fun and purposeful way to engage your children is to do a few Acts of Random Kindness.  Our Happily Parenting team has created a Pinterest board on this very topic--check it out! Some ideas require a little prep work prior to execution. Why not have your children do this a few days prior to your set delivery date or even throughout the summer? The idea is to continually keep them in a service state of mind, and summer provides more opportunity to really give these kinds of things due attention. Most acts of generosity are high during the holiday season, but there is a real need, especially at food banks, during the summer months.

Bottom line: don't try to pack every single week with a camp or big activity. Make the ones you do plan be special and something to look forward to. By incorporating all of the above, the days fill up pretty quickly. Let 'em play and be adventurous . . . not sit in front of a TV or video game. Make going to the library an outing, and encourage them to take on projects that they can complete on their own. Give them purpose! Understand that your children are capable of entertaining themselves and making their own fun. With some guidance and encouragement, I think you just may find a slower pace and traditional, old-fashioned fun will make for your family's best summer yet!

Do you have questions for Whatcha Got Wednesday? E-mail them to Stacey at or send us a message on Facebook.


Saturday, March 12, 2016

We're Just Friday Night Overachievers

Like so many of the world's most riveting stories, it all began at TJ Maxx.

I sweet-talked my brother into shopping with me--I think he needed a new set of sheets anyway--and as I was browsing through cute pajamas, my hands grazed a shirt that was so soft. I pulled it out and saw that it was a gray night shirt with the word "Love" written across the front in black scribbly writing . . . so stinkin' cute.

My little girl was the first one to notice my new soft shirt as we were folding clothes. I told her that I was going to save it for Friday night.

I had recently told my kids that Friday was my favorite day of  the week. I tell them lots of interesting tidbits about myself: I've told them about my childhood, my school experiences, and even old boyfriends. But for some reason that Friday night factoid was captivating.

"Hey, did y'all know that Mommy used to help make commercials--ones that AIRED ON TV--to help grandmas and grandpas all over the state learn about flu shots?"


But apparently preferring a day of the week over the others suddenly had me up there with the Kratt brothers.

So when I told her that I was saving the new shirt for Friday night, she immediately went to share that info with her brother, and then they compared notes on this new development in Mommy's secret life.

When Friday night rolled around, we ate pizza and made plans to watch the LATE showing of Caillou (7:40 p.m.), and then everyone took showers and changed into pajamas. I found my little girl digging through her pajama drawer for her Doc McStuffins shirt. She put it on and proclaimed, "Mommy, I've been saving this for Friday night!"

Well. It was just magical after that.

As the weeks went by, I found myself searching through the laundry each week to be sure that my gray "Love" shirt and my daughter's purple Doc shirt were both clean in time for the big night. My son was still very interested in my affinity for Friday night and mildly interested in our sleepwear. So just before Christmas, I made two satisfying purchases: I bought my daughter a much larger Doc shirt (the purple one was creeping up her middle), and I found the perfect Friday night shirt for my son: it portrayed two Minions, one with a serious face (Monday) and one with an overjoyed face (Friday). So right after Christmas, three out of four Fullers were sporting Friday night shirts.

You've probably guessed where this is going next: the kids started asking me if Daddy had a Friday night shirt. He has two drawers filled with t-shirts--proclaiming everything from USC football to ARMY to that cool restaurant he ate at in California 17 years ago. But nothing special enough for a Friday night.

Yesterday, I finally did it: I bought Daddy a brand new navy blue Captain America shirt. I washed it last night using Stacey's favorite scent boosters. All four of us are, at this moment, wearing our Friday night shirts.

When they've asked me why I celebrate Friday so royally each week, I tell them that it's because I've missed them so much that I'm thrilled to have two whole days of time together . . . and that time begins on Friday night. But my own second reason is that during this phase of life, I feel like the home base. I oversee the safe place where they all return. And when Friday rolls around and the Lord has shown me how to get my three loves through the week, I kind of feel like wearing a soft shirt with the word "Love" scrawled across the front.

PS--The kids asked me today if our dog can get a Friday night collar. Does Etsy have a shop for that?


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Whatcha Got Wednesday: "I'm TELL-ing!"

Q:  Suddenly it seems as if all I ever hear out of my children is, "I'm TELL-ING!' I'm so tired of hearing them TELL on every little thing--from, "He drank out of my cup!" to "She kicked me!" to even "The dog licked my hand!" How do I make it stop?

A:  Ah yes, the tattle phase . . . hang in there because they will grow out of it, and there are some ways that you can speed that process up. Of course, you do want to be sure that you've established that you do need to know if there's any kind of danger; in other words, "Tell me if someone is bleeding, hurt, or scared, but other than that, I don't need to know." Especially with siblings, sometimes tattling can be a way to compete; I'm better-behaved than my sibling. But honestly, sometimes it just becomes a favorite past-time. So give them the choice: Do you want to work this out on your own or do you want me to get involved? Then demonstrate what it means for you to get involved in a big way: make each child go to a separate room and have no contact with each other for the afternoon. If they realize that they're in danger of being isolated from the other, they may decide that they don't want your help after all (and you can get some peace)!

Do you have questions for Whatcha Got Wednesday? E-mail them to Stacey at or send us a message on Facebook.


Friday, March 4, 2016

Friday Favorites: March 4, 2016 Edition

So is it me or was the Oscar buzz this year a little quieter than usual? Oh sure, I heard all about the diversity drama . . . but I'm talking about the DRESSES. I didn't see any that made me briefly regret my common sense college major in lieu of the Hollywood life. Unlike Stacey, I'm not a big movie lover, so my yearly tradition is to ignore the awards and the movies and buy the magazine the following week so that I can check out the dresses. But that ritual was a big yawn this year.

I do have a few movie favorites, though, and I agree with a couple of Stacey's choices (namely, The Princess Bride; for us, it's almost part of the culture of the church we attend. "Welcome, new members! If you have not seen The Princess Bride, we will have a special showing just for you later this week. After the viewing, you'll receive a copy of our photo directory and a coffee mug.") Not really. But close.

So here are a handful of my favorites--beginning with my all-time favorite:

Make fun all you want--I won't even get offended. Every blessed time the Captain says, "You've brought music back into the house. I'd forgotten." I swoon. I'm getting a lump in my throat right this very minute, and I am not even kidding. I adore the whole thing. (And yes, I realize it's very long . . . I will admit that I was 19 years old before I even saw what comes after the wedding scene because I couldn't stay up that late.)

While we're on the subject of my more serious movie choices, I'll go ahead and tackle this one:

Don't watch this movie when you're even remotely singing the blues because you WILL cry, but it is one of the most beautiful movies (and a true story) that you'll ever see. And here's the advantage to being a picky movie-watcher: I have never seen Anthony Hopkins as a villain. Never. So in my heart, he's CS Lewis--or Jack--and he's charming and delightful and not at all scary. I saw this in the mid-90s, and I still adore the soundtrack.

And speaking of love, I do love a good romantic comedy; here are my favorites:

I like this photo better than the movie poster.
While You Were Sleeping . . . it's everything you want in a Friday night movie: warm, romantic, hilarious, quirky, and all about family and happy endings.

I was pleased to see that the romantic hero in this movie is a PASTOR! And Hollywood portrayed him as smart, fun, interesting, and normal . . . not a weird cult-like caricature. (One point for Hollywood . . . Christians CAN be normal.) I also love the subtle but clear pro-life stance (some abstinence messages also).

And because I have little ones, I'd be remiss if I didn't choose one favorite animated movie. While I love the princess ones, I find that this one speaks to me the most:

I saw this when, right after my second wedding anniversary, my husband was sent overseas for a year. God spoke to me through a little blue cartoon fish who told me to "just keep swimming." I love everything about this movie (and I can't wait 'til the sequel comes out this summer). I MAY have already bought several packs of Nemo paper plates for our beach trip this summer.

Other honorable mentions: Two Weeks Notice ("I don't know how you can sleep at night!" "Well, I have a machine that simulates the sound of the ocean."), Mr. Holland's Opus, You've Got Mail, French Kiss (another great soundtrack), and I would be lying if I say that I don't watch at least five minutes of Hitch every time it's on TV.

Forget the Oscar winners . . . let's enjoy the cheese!


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Happy March!

Well, hello, March!

Stacey and I have been busy for the past few days. First, there was this:

Yes, we got to spend about four hours with John Rosemond, our favorite mentor, last Sunday. Such a brilliant man! Have you read his books? Go get one TODAY!

Then there was this:

This interview with Tammy Moye Johson is scheduled to air on April 3; check our Facebook page for details!

Now we're celebrating the first day of March with another one of these Bible reading guides that we love (thanks to Christy Jordan for sharing these each  month)!

We're also celebrating this girl's birthday. (It's going to be a great year!)

Happy March, everyone. May this month be filled with doing God's work with the ones you love!