Let's Connect: A Conversation Chain

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We are back in the swing of things here—getting a bit of our school groove back after a laid-back, unstructured summer. I love the casual days of summer, but I also really enjoy bringing back a little more structure and intentionality into our days. I’ve been enjoying all the back-to-school photos popping up on my social media feeds, and it feels like everyone is excited to return to more steady rhythms :)

At the same time, suddenly the calendar can look a little busier and new commitments seem to rob the calendar of any white space. Somehow, those lazy summer days that were just last week seem like ages ago.

So, let’s all take a deep breath.

I wanted to create a little something for you (and for me!) to use with your kids during this season of new starts and busier schedules. It’s an easy resource to use to connect as a family—and hopefully have a little fun too!

Life does get a little more complicated with a busy baby ;)

Life does get a little more complicated with a busy baby ;)

It’s simply a chain of questions. Pull one off during breakfast, morning time, supper, on the way to school…(whenever your family is together), and have everyone answer the question or do the activity. It takes two minutes—but it’s two minutes to connect :)

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Plus, it’s super easy to download, print, and put together (and free to boot!)

Happy September, friends!

Nicole



Last Day of School Printable

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Last week, Luke had his last day of kindergarten and we finished up our first year of homeschooling. As I thought about how to wrap up the year, I wanted to make sure it was special. So, we had a week of finishing up the last bits of curriculum as well as special outings and treats (like donuts on the last day of school!).

I was a little bit nervous when we began this school year—would I actually be able to teach him the basics of reading? Would the kids drive me batty? Would I be able to make learning interesting and enjoyable? Would I know how to choose the best resources? Would it work for our family? I was pleasantly surprised at how much I truly enjoying homeschooling; it was SO good for our family during this season. I loved creating little routines and experiences that gave our home and learning warmth—like morning time with my coffee in hand and the kiddos snuggled up with me on the couch and Fika for reading aloud together and nibbling on treats (and enjoying a sparkling candle). Don’t get me wrong—it wasn’t all candlelit reading time and relaxing math lessons. Often, there were squabbles and jabbing and frustration. But, the overarching feeling I have when looking back is simply gratitude and appreciation for this season of connecting, learning together (I learned so much too!), and slower days.

On the flip side, I didn’t get any of those fun parent perks like a class book, portfolio of art work, or end-of-the-year interview from your child like you may in traditional school. But! I was terribly curious about what Luke enjoyed from this past year, so I made a simple “Last Day of School” questionnaire.

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I would like to tell you that he had fun answering all these questions for me while we ate apples and peanut butter on a gorgeous spring day. But the reality is that he complained about the snack choice and answered “I don’t know” for 90% of them (until I pretty much told him in a you-will-listen-to-me-and-have-fun-because-I-said-so voice that he would answer them or else) and he reluctantly gave me some basic answers. Anyone else been there? Ha!

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Hopefully, you’ll have a little better luck (and perhaps a more patient spirit) than I did and enjoy wrapping up the school year with this interview—whether your kids are in traditional school or homeschooled.

Just click down there at the bottom of this post to download it and print it for free :)

Have a good one, friends!

Nicole

A Nature Walk Through Psalms

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Friends, we are finally unthawing up here in Minnesota. The temperatures are steadily rising, the snow has melted back into the earth, and the sunshine is breathing in fresh life. Our boots are are muddy and our eyes a little watery from the crisp air, but we are loving being outdoors a little more each day.

As we explore and spend more time outside, I thought it would fun to add a little nature doodling and observation to our routine. I love how much the Psalms talk about nature—both in how God is the Creator and also how nature encourages us to look up and worship the Creator. So, during the last few weeks, I’ve chipped away a little design project—a very simple nature journal that you and your child can use to observe nature through the lens of Psalms.

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I imagine kiddos sitting outside and doodling clouds while you chat about how God’s love and faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Maybe your kiddo isn’t into drawing stuff, then maybe ask them to describe it to you and you write it down (or if they are older, they can write it down). Of course, don’t just stick with a pencil—let them use watercolors, colored pencils, paper, photography (how fun would it be to let them take pictures and then get them printed!?), paint, or markers.

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I wanted to keep the design super simple so that you can adapt it however you’d like. Maybe you print it and make staple it into a little book. Maybe you do each page individually, laminate them, and then make into a book. Or maybe you hang or tape each page up the wall and create a display. I can’t wait to see what you do!

However you use it, I hope it blesses your family and gives you yet another opportunity to share about our Creator with your kids in an everyday way.

Have a good one, friends!

Nicole




Let's Get Sentimental + Mushy (A Cheesy Free Valentine's Resource for Couples)

When Josh and I started dating in 2007, it was during the dark ages before smart phones and easy texting were a thing. Facebook was still an internet baby and Instagram didn’t exist. And since I was living in Minnesota and he was in Texas, we communicated via lengthy, late night chats and long, sappy love letters. When we had the chance to hang out in person (which wasn’t often during our long-distance dating relationship), we smooched at red lights (and told ourselves we always would) and danced to Michael Buble in the candlelight after a fancy dinner.

And somewhere between 2007 and 2019, much that romance got buried under years of finishing school, three babies, late-night feedings, mounds of diapers, the daily grind, yoga pants, and paying bills.

Maybe you can relate?

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So, a few years ago, I created this little resource to help spark some of those sappy, gushy feelings and reconnect with your spouse.

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These worksheets really are fun, gloriously cheesy, and definitely an easy way to reconnect. When Josh and I did them, I can honestly say that it rekindled all that lovey-dovey mushiness that often gets missed during every day life. We laughed (a lot!), stared at each other just a little more lovingly, and there may have been some kissing too ;)

And even though I am completely aware that relationships aren't always filled with heart doodles, oogly eyes, and chocolate, I do believe that every relationship can benefit from a little sappiness now and then. Right? I mean, you never know what a little cheesiness can lead too (wink wink)...

Plus, there’s this cute 8x10 print included too—I currently have it framed on my mantel :)

1 Corinthians 13

If you want to dig a little deeper, you can purchase a set of these conversation starters for couples to spark some deeper conversations. We’ve loved using them when we needed a little extra push to share our heart, dreams, challenges, and joys with one another :)

Have a good one, friends!

Nicole

On the Bookshelf: Books that Made the Cut

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Uff. Let me first brush off the blog a bit—it’s a little dusty around here. The housekeeper was busy keeping a tiny human fed and happy, snuggling with her boys, and enjoying the holiday season ;)

Probably like many of you, the post-Christmas season felt like I was constantly navigating the maze of Amazon boxes, finding bits of ripped wrapping paper in strange places, and trying to find places for all the new stuff we received. Especially after months of feeling constantly behind in housework, having visitors, trying to find new rhythms with three kids, I was feeling one word: overwhelmed. Well, two words: overwhelmed and stressed.

One of my number one stressors is clutter. When I feel like I can’t keep up with the stuff and the house always feels messy, it often leaves me feeling like I just want to sit and say “whatevs”—I’ll just live like this forever because it’s easier than managing it. Have you been there?

Thankfully, I know that a little time, intentionality, and encouragement can help me get up and get going. The closets have been cleaned up a bit, the broken and unused toys purged, the art supplies organized and cleaned out (anyone else wonder how so many markers lose their caps?), and random kitchen dishes donated. But, the other day I had to face one of the most challenging areas for me to declutter: kid’s books. I don’t love the books scattered all over the floor, but I do love books for the kids. So what’s a girl to do?

Well, thanks to Tidying Up on Netflix, I figured that could start with a big pile on the floor and go from there. We collected all the books from the house, threw away the books that were beyond repair, chose our favorites, and then decided which ones to donate. We ended up keeping probably about 75% of them (mostly because I did a book purge about 6 months ago and have been better about not buying a whole bunch of random books at thrift stores), but it still feels good to weed out the 25% that were never read or simply worn out. My hope is to have a smaller library filled with books we really love to read together instead of a haul of random books that are tossed around but hardly read. Especially with the public library so accessible, I don’t need to own all the books we’d like the read :)

I wanted to share some of top “keeps” that will probably always make the cut—these are books that I would gladly gift or recommend. You can see some other books that we’ve loved purchasing or picking up at the library here.

We’ll start with books that we still love looking through and are lovely reference books. Even after owning them for a while, we always spot new things and learn something interesting every time we read them.

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The Big Book of Bugs

The Big Book of Beasts

We also plan on adding the Big Book of Blue in the near future :)

Next up, are the oldies but goodies. I love vintage/tried and true books, but these are the ones the boys still love to read (and I love them too). In fact, Duck is a book I remember reading as a little child!

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Gregory the Terrible Eater (I just adore the tongue-and-cheek humor of this book!)

Rosie’s Walk (It’s just plain adorable)

Goodnight Moon (We also have Goodnight Loon like a good Minnesotan family. Ha!)

Duck (cute and simple—perfect for baby)

Home for a Bunny (Just a sweet story. I love anything by Margaret Wise Brown)

Finally, we have the books that I love to read just as much as the kiddos. They are fun, have adorable illustrations, and never fail to entertain :)

Books you want to read

Trucks Galore (the illustrations on this are quirky and cute!)

Go! Go! Go! Stop (This is hands-down Sam’s favorite book and both boys love to interact with it!)

Never Ask a Dinosaur to Dinner (fun rhyming and well-illustrated)

Bugs Galore (We also have Cars Galore—we love all of them!)

Giraffes Can’t Dance (A sweet story and fun to read)

These are a just a few of our favorites that I thought I’d share just in case you want to add a new book to your library list or your own home library. Tell me: what are your family’s favorite books?

Have a good one!

Nicole

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