When Our Big Summer Plans Amount to Something Small


My children long to know what we’re doing each summer. A grand adventure seems to be called for. All of their friends will be announcing their fantastic escapades: vacations to exotic locations, camping with other friends, road trips, and more. These all sound wonderful. But with a work schedule which doesn’t let up and a budget which cannot afford such luxuries, our big summer plans usually amount to something small.

Truthfully, this breaks my heart. I’d be lying if I said I don’t want these things for our children or myself. Like most parents, I would love to give these experiences to my family and explore the world with them. Unfortunately, that’s just not where we’re at. So what can I do? Begin with prayer, and ask the Lord to lead.

Start with a Heart of Gratitude Unfulfilled desire can easily lead to a heart filled with bitterness and anger over what we don’t have. Instead, we need to choose look around us and be thankful for all we’ve been given. We have a lovely home, good food to eat, too much clothing, and plenty to keep us occupied right where we are. It’s good to have goals, but we must remember to be content with what God has given us already and be thankful for all He continually provides.

Plan for the Future If there is something important we wish to aim for, then we should also be willing to do the work needed to make it happen. Vacation trips don’t just fall in our laps. So, we’re researching, planning, and minimizing to make these happen in the future. Some of our goals are more easily attained while others might take years to accomplish. With a visual guide and plan in place, everyone becomes excited to see progress and help with cutting back.

Turn Off and Tune Out the Buzz If Instagram squares start causing discontent and Facebook posts bring us down, it might be time to remove ourselves from the action for a little while. These feeds can be lovely sources for ideas, but when inspiration becomes frustration we need a break.

Make the Most of Right Now Traveling to Europe isn’t in the cards right now, but there is plenty of opportunity for adventure all around us. Even when budgets are on a budget, there are still many ways to take advantage of the season. With a little creativity, planning, and a Google search or two, we could be having all kinds of fun.

Remember, Sometimes Small Amounts to Something Big While we’d all love grand adventures, it also helps to remember the little things in life which add up to big memories. Roasting marshmallows over a fire pit we built ourselves, sleeping in tents in the living room, homemade ice cream, free concerts, library events, kitten cuddles, and so much more. These aren’t far away adventures, to be sure, but grand none-the-less. I can’t provide exotic locations every summer – okay, not even every third summer – but I can take each day and make it memorable in its own way.

The desire for adventure remains. Through prayer, planning, and the Lord’s leading, we’re making it happen. In the mean time, I’ll continue to keep my eyes focused on what the Lord has already provided and be grateful for each new day. Because the truth is, a grand adventure awaits the moment I open my eyes. I just have to be open to the possibilities and live each day with thankfulness.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
~ I Thessalonians 5:18

We’d love to know… If you could plan one grand adventure before the summer ends, what would it be?

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How Pinteresting: Shrinky Dinky Doo

One ‘pin’ a week; that is the goal. Nothing too fancy, nothing too far-fetched; just a good opportunity to finally test out a few of those Pinterest ideas and see which ones really work! Join along and chime in; let us know which projects you’ve been working on and how they’ve turned out!


Summer_PinterestTo be honest, we’ve done this before. It wasn’t a success, but we’ve done it. How could we have gone wrong, you ask? Simple; we didn’t follow the directions!

This week’s project was to re-tackle Shrinky Dink. We tried this experiment last summer and had no success. The ink we used to color our images kept coming off and the projects ended up breaking on us, due to our mishandling of the material. This year, we were determined to conquer this challenge and figure out how to create a masterpiece with Shrinky Dink.

Shrinky Dink

Click on the picture to follow the Pinterest link! (Original image not mine.)

This project is fairly simple and straightforward; if you follow the directions, that is. Here is what you’ll need:

Shrinky Dink
Alcohol Based Inks
Stamps (optional)
StayzOn Stamp Pad (optional)
An Oven (either toaster or traditional)
Corner Punch (optional)

Creating these beauties is fairly easy. Draw your image onto the Shrinky Dink paper; color the image using alcohol based inks; cut out the image; then bake it in your oven until the image shrinks down in size and flattens out. Carefully remove your projects from the oven and allow them to cool for a moment. Once they are finished; have fun!

If you’d like, you could use stamps and a StayzOn ink pad to create your images as well. Simply ink your stamp; stamp the image; and color it. The rest of the steps are the same.

What did we do differently this year? Well, here are a few tips on what we did wrong last year and how we did things this year:

  • Draw and color on the correct side of the Shrinky Dink. Last year, a few of our kiddos got a little confused.
  • Use the correct colored pens. Last year, we thought we could get away with using Crayola markers. It didn’t work out so well. This year, we used colored Sharpies and Pantone markers.
  • Use the right ink pad; no water based stamp pads will work. Definitely stick with StayzOn!
  • Place the projects face down in the correct manner and not too close to one another, when putting them in the oven. Ours tended to stick to each other, if placed too near. Plus, if put the wrong side up, they will curl in upon themselves and turn into a sticky mess which will break if you try to fix them.
  • Use a corner punch for square objects, especially if you are making jewelry (as shown in the above picture). Once shrunk, this material will get very sharp on the edges and cut little fingers, if you aren’t careful.

With these tips in mind, we proceeded with caution. We are very happy to say this year’s projects turned out wonderfully! Our girls even decided to be especially creative and use the Shrinky Dink to make Father’s Day cards for the men in our lives. They turned out beautifully!

Given that we payed attention to instructions, we had a blast and were successful in our endeavors. Let this be a lesson for all our future projects. Yet another successful ‘pin’. (Well, this time around!)

Time To Chime In: Have you ever made jewelry out of Shrinky Dink? Share your creativity!

Care to participate in next week’s Pinteresting project? Take a look at THIS link to get a head start on next week’s ‘pin’!


Art Attack: Now and Then

In a world of busy-ness and responsibility, it’s just as important to take few moments exploring the creative side of life. Join us as we share ideas on how to get those imaginative juices flowing and explore a world of art!


Summer_ArtMy kids are growing up. Aren’t they all? There’s nothing quite like looking back through the years of pictures and remembering when they were just little things, content to sit on our laps.

One of our summer projects is to look back over the years of collected images and make an attempt at recreating them!

Each of our girls were tasked with looking back through the thousands of pictures taken, finding one or two creative shots, and then reshooting that person in the same setting. The difficulty lies not in the taking of the picture, but rather in making the new picture resemble the old one as closely as possible.

Now and Then

A sample given for the competition.

Here were a few key elements they were looking for:

  • Is there similar clothing they can wear?
  • Is the environment the same?
  • Is the pose being replicated?
  • Are props used in the original photo available for use in the new?

We found that choosing an appropriate picture could be quite challenging. Our children are still young, choosing a picture which could be recreated would be difficult. Pictures of newborns just didn’t seem to work and we couldn’t use pictures taken in the last few years, as those would have been too similar to how they look now. A bit of a trial!

Photos have been chosen; ones they feel are able to be reproduced with a minimum amount of difficulty. Now, they will be spending the greater part of the week setting up their shots and finally taking them.

This is a fun art project for anyone! Consider taking your own photos and doing the same. Looking back on the memories and ‘remembering when’ is so much fun, especially for the kids. Seeing the then and now, side by side, is truly precious. These will definitely need to be framed.

Time to Chime In: Have you ever recreated a picture taken of your children? Have you done this for yourself?

Geography Quest: Western United States

All aboard the HSM Express! Join us as we take a quick tour of the United States. Expect to learn a little geography, history, social studies, and more. Definitely plan on having tons of fun. 


Summer_GeographyLet us continue on with our trip around the United States. This week, we find ourselves in the Western United States: Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico.

Whew! We have a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get started!

As before, we are going to start off our adventure with some handy-dandy coloring pages for each state. This will give the littles something to work on while we learn about each state’s topography. You can find coloring pages HERE:

Nevada Coloring Page

Now that we have learned a little about what each state looks like, let’s take a few minutes to discover a tad more. (Please note: This is meant to be short, sweet, and as fun as possible; not long and arduous. Choose which areas to cover with care, noting which events can be accompanied by activities.)

Gold Rush
Pompey’s Pillar

Ghost Towns
Gold Rush

Women’s Right to Vote
Buffalo Bill Cody

The First Transcontinental Railroad
The Comstock Lode
Area 51/State Route 375

The Mormons

Pike’s Peak
Ancient Pueblo Peoples
“America the Beautiful”
Royal Gorge Bridge

The Seven Cities of Cibola
Original London Bridge

New Mexico
The Palace of the Governors
International Hot Air Balloon Festival
First Atomic Bomb

What do all of these states have in common? Gold! Each of these states saw their own ‘gold rush’, experiencing a huge influx of people and the resulting ghost towns. It seems only right that our journey begin with gold. This is the perfect time to discus the seven cities of Cibola.

The west was one wild place and often it was filled with violence. This is a great opportunity to discuss 3-7-77! Do you think what these men did was right? How big is 3-7-77? When next visiting the beach, consider digging a hole this large to see how long it would take.

A lot history concerning the west centers on travel. There are several famous trails to the west, explorers who helped map out the west, and indians who attempted to defend their territories. Map out each of these journeys and the indian territories; discuss the affect the westward move had on the indian peoples. Build your own Transcontinental Railroad using model trains or Legos; then have some fun.

Not all adventures take place on the ground. Learn a little about architecture and discuss the Royal Gorge Bridge; try building a suspension bridge of your own! Learn about the science of hot air balloons and then attend an air balloon festival. If you’re feeling really adventurous, discuss Area 51. (This might be a good opportunity for theological conversations with older children about what these ‘visions’ are that people are seeing. Is it possible for aliens to actually exist? If not aliens, what could these possible unknown creatures be?)

Looking for more activity ideas? Build adobe bricks and discuss the pueblo peoples. Building adobe bricks is easy and simple to do!

I don’t know about you, but, after all this fun, I need a snack! I know just the thing… Chile Verde Enchiladas. Recreate the “Whole Enchilada Festival” held annually in New Mexico by having a festival of your own. Make different types of enchiladas and sample them. Which do you like best? Not sure how to make enchiladas? Here are few recipes to try:

All Recipes.com

Enjoying a snack is the perfect way to end the lesson. It leaves a sweet (or in this case, savory) taste in your mouth! Don’t forget to stamp your passport book with this week’s states.

Time to Chime In: Do you make enchiladas? Which are your favorite? Share the recipe with us, so we can make some, too!

Help us Out: For added fun, we are trying to collect a postcard from each of the fifty states! If you, or someone you know, lives in one of these five states; would you consider mailing us a quick postcard? Email us for the address and, as an added bonus, we’ll mail one back to you!

We Made It!

A sigh of relief is being breathed by all four kiddos; we’ve finally made it! (laughing) It is officially summer time in our house; our traditional learning year is done and now it is time for some summer fun!

Pinterest Idea: SuncatchersWe can all relax for approximately one week and then… summer school starts. Yup; we don’t take much of a break. Why? Well; we like it this way!

Learning is a way of life for us. Given too much free time, our kids get bored and cranky. We thrive on routine and activity, even if it’s only in our home. So, we keep to a lightened routine during the summer months and explore facets to our learning we might not have gotten to during the traditional year.

What will you find us doing this summer? Lots of science experiments, field trips, geography quests, and more! Care to join in? We’ll be posting about our “Summer of Fun” all next week; sharing ideas on how to make the most out of summer months. Then, join us all summer long as we share ideas on how we’re having fun, with plenty of opportunities for you to ‘chime in’ and share your thoughts!

Geography Fun

Be on the lookout for “Pinteresting” posts, where we’ll share our takes on favorite ‘pins’ and ask you to share your experiences with the same project.

Happy summer, everyone! I know we’re excited; are you?

Work Hard, Play Harder: Break Time

MiceToday we did something absolutely remarkable… nothing! Well, sort of. I planned absolutely nothing. That kinda’ counts, doesn’t it? After weeks of running around like crazy and doing some fun summer activities, the kids and I decided to take a day to not plan anything and just to relax.

I did something I haven’t done in ages, I stayed in bed until eleven o’clock; yup, that’s right. The man and I decided to have a lazy morning and just cuddle. It was so nice to not feel the need to rush around. I absolutely adored it (and wish we could do it more).

We hit the showers, got some food in us, and then decided to watch a flick with the kiddos on the couch.

Feeling a little peckish, we got busy in the kitchen and made some snacks (which we’ll share with you tomorrow).

Now, the bambinos are still passed out on the couch reading and relaxing. I’m getting a little fun research and minor stuff done on my computer, while my husband has nobly gone to work in his office. Perhaps I’ll grab one of my summer reads and keep him company.

Ah! While I enjoy being productive and doing things with the kids, every once in a while it’s fun to plan absolutely nothing. A day to simply relax and enjoy life, to appreciate rest.

When was the last time you were able to have a break?

Work Hard, Play Harder: Outdoor Water Bed

I firmly believe in doing everything to the best of my ability. If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right! I also believe this line of thought should extend outside the realm of work. Playtime should be just meaningful as industry.

Water Blob Tutorial

Bobbie Bird’s Tutorial on how to make your own “water blob” or “bed”, as I call it.

To this end, the kiddos and I have decided to plan several fun activities which we can work on together and enjoy some play time. Today’s fun event… an outdoor water-bed!

While I would love to take credit for this truly awesome idea, I must give credit where credit is due. Bobbie Bird over at The Clumsy Crafter came up with this clever notion of using everyday materials to have loads of fun.

This idea is so simple and cute, anyone can do it. Simply take plastic tarp (definitely get the heavy-duty thickness, no flimsy stuff will do) and duct tape. Fold the tarp in half and tape the three open sides firmly together, leaving a small opening on one corner to fill your “bed” with water before fully closing it up. Then… have some fun!

There are a few things I would do differently next time, because we will be doing this again!

I believe instead of using food coloring, which can get very expensive, I might like to try blue Kool-aid or even water-color paint. I think this would have the same effect, but last longer and be more cost-effective.

I would also make sure to stop at a discount store and purchase plastic fish (or something along those lines) to put in the “bed” as well. This would give the kiddos something to play with while bouncing around. Bobbie mentioned she might try it with confetti next time herself, which would also be amazing!

This was the perfect ending to an already fun afternoon. With our newly rented library books, we got busy on our reading challenge for the week and did some outdoor resting at the same time.

Ah! There’s nothing like some good, hard play time!

I Said It Then, I Say It Again

Summer FunLast week wrapped up our official “school year”! The kids are ready to have a week of down time and then… our summer of fun!

To this end, I am going to spend this coming week finishing up paperwork and prepping for some of the awesome activities we have scheduled. In order to fully focus on meeting the needs of my gang and getting caught up on life, I thought I would repost some of the previous thoughts I had on our summer activities.

Summer time isn’t “vacation” in our book, but a time for more hands-on learning with lots of experiments and cooking.

Perhaps you’d care to join us on our exciting adventure and join in our “Summer of Fun”?

First we trust….

Today, we had the opportunity to spend the afternoon swimming at a friend’s house. We packed up our stuff, grabbed some watermelon, and headed out for some fun.

When the kids were ready to jump in the pool, I noticed that my son was very hesitant to get in. My friend assured him that the pool was only deep enough to cover the lower half of his body, but still he insisted on taking his time. After a few minutes, he asked if he could use his floaties. I assured him they weren’t needed but when it appeared he wasn’t going to get in the water without them, on they went. Once he got in the water (accidentally slipping in), he realized that what we had said was indeed true! I asked if he wanted to take off the floaties now that he realized he was safe, but on they stayed. My son is still learning a hard lesson, to trust and then to try.

On the way home, it got me thinking… aren’t we like that sometimes? The Lord will guide in a particular direction, even one we might very much enjoy, and we hesitate. We test the waters to see if we really want to get in. We look for outside help to keep us safe, even when we are told there is no danger. We put our faith in temporal things, when our Father is there and has protected us from harm. When we finally step in, we realize that there was never any real danger; we were safe from the beginning. Yet, even though we are safe, we still want to cling to that little thing that makes us feel secure. 

I wonder if God ever sighs, wondering when we will trust. Does it hurt when we question our safety and His ability to protect us? Does He calmly, gently, and perhaps sadly, shake his head; hoping we will learn to believe all He says?

Today was indeed a fun day, but it also taught me a lesson. I must learn to trust God and act on what I am being told. I must trust and then try.