A Few Of My Favorite Things (September 2021)

picnic on the patio

It’s been a LONG time since I shared much about our family — I’ll try to catch you up a bit today.

Nora is in 4th grade this year and has a teacher who loves reading… which is great since she does too! Nora read over 150 books this summer (including many of the 186+ Boxcar Children books). She thoroughly enjoyed attending 2 different art camps, doing lots of craft projects at home, and facilitating fun games and activities for her younger siblings and neighbor friends (as long as she could be in charge!)

nora's art camp

Simon is in 2nd grade and has lots of friends in his class. He spent his summer swimming, bird watching, rock collecting, insect hunting, and helping me in the garden… with a handful of sports camps thrown in on the side. He loves being outside and he loves being with people. Oh, and he’s still growing out the top of his hair. 🙂

simon's turkeys

James is in Kindergarten 4 days per week – I’m so glad to still have him home one day. He became a very good swimmer over the summer and learned how to rollerblade. He also lost his first 2 teeth. James loves building with LEGOs and Dominos, playing with K’nex, coloring, doing puzzles, and Perler Beads.

james domino tower

Clara starts preschool 2 mornings each week and she is beyond excited! She just recently learned how to swim without floaties and how to “pump” on the swing. Clara loves to read, sing, play with gak, play “house” and “dog” with her siblings, and make new friends. She is, by far, the most outgoing of our children.

clara jo

Dave is in his 17th year teaching high school math and has a slightly less demanding schedule this year. Our hope is that he will have fewer late nights and long weekends working on school stuff at home.

Dave spent the summer swimming as much as possible, helping with yard work, re-reading many of his favorite Tom Clancy novels, practicing the guitar, and finally solving the Rubix cube!

rubix cube

Over the summer, I “celebrated” my 11-year blogaversary, 14 years of running my own business, 15 years of marriage, and finally finishing our years-long laundry room project (I’ll post before/after pictures soon!)

I spent the vast majority of my summer making/serving food and hosting impromptu pool parties for the kids and their friends (and my friends) and reading while watching kids in the pool. I did a lot of yard work, not nearly as much housework as I should have, and the bare minimum amount of online work. Honestly, it was a nice balance for a change!

mom and the chicken

FAVORITE MOMENT = First Day of School

We LOVE the summer, but we also love routine, and last week’s start of the school year gave me (and the kids) a little taste of routine again.

It was glorious.

I truly do like being all together at home, but I forget how much we have to talk about when we’re not with each other ALL day, every day.

Dave and the kids had so many school stories to share, and Clara and I got to share what we did all day too.

summer break fun


Last Spring, before I switched to reading only fiction for the summer (it was so fun to reread The Chronicles of Narnia again!) I read John Eldredge’s book, “Get Your Life Back”.

The title sounds somewhat desperate (I’m not at all feeling desperate) but I like his practical writing style, and this book was on the shortlist of books I could get for free through Hoopla… so I tried it!

get your life back

After the very first chapter, I was hooked. I knew I would eventually share a tiny part of John’s daily routine with you, as it has now become a regular practice for me too…

The 1-Minute Pause

Yup, it really is as simple as it sounds!

John notes that our lives run at such an alarming pace, without ample time to rest or recharge (you likely agree with this). One of his many suggestions is to integrate a 1-minute pause into our day whenever we go through a transition or whenever we feel like we just need to step back and breathe.

Some Examples of these times:

  • When you wake up and go to bed.
  • When you pull into the parking lot for work or back into the garage at home.
  • After you drop kids off at school or after they get on the bus.
  • Before each meal.
  • While you’re waiting for a meeting or appointment (instead of mindlessly scrolling social media).
  • Anytime you feel anxious or stressed or frazzled.

Set your timer for 1 minute and repeat: “Jesus, I give you everything and everyone.”

Repeat it to yourself several times until you begin to feel the pressures of your day lifting… and then start naming specific things, people, and situations you want to give over to God.

  • A loved one with a chronic illness
  • Aging parents
  • Kids going off to school/college/careers
  • A nosy neighbor who requires every ounce of patience you have
  • Politics
  • Issues at work, school, church, etc
  • Relationship struggles
  • House projects
  • Financial stresses
  • A teething toddler, an anxious tween, a rebellious teen
  • National crises and natural disasters
  • An upcoming assignment (work or school)
  • ANYTHING you’re anxious or worried about (even if it seems small).

After you go through your list, repeat again: “Jesus, I give you everything and everyone.”

And then you’re done (for now).

Take a deep breath and go on with your day, knowing that you’ve given God your burdens (at least for a little while).

NOTE: This is such a brief overview of the 1-minute pause. I’d highly encourage you to check out John’s book (here’s the link) from your local library… or find it free on Hoopla!

PAST FAVORITE = Owala Water Bottles

We’ve had the Owala water bottles for just over a year now… and we still LOVE them.

They come in a bunch of fun colors, they are extremely easy to clean, they are leak-proof (not spill-proof), and they keep our water cold for hours and hours.

owala water bottles

RELATED READING: How I drink 100 ounces of water per day.

We are constantly asked by friends and relatives where we found our cool water bottles… and almost all my siblings and parents use this water bottle too (I suppose we either all have good taste or bad taste!)

Dave and I use the 24-ounce stainless steel free-sip bottles and the kids use the 19-ounce stainless steel free-sip bottles (which are now only available on the Owala website — not Amazon.)

My favorite feature is that you can either suck from a straw opening OR pour from the main spout (see image below).

owala water bottles

FAVORITE PURCHASE = Canway Sleeping Bags

I first started looking for sleeping bags last summer when our kids wanted to sleep over at their Grandparents’ house, but we just used Dave’s parents’ instead.

I looked for sleeping bags again around Christmas time, thinking they’d be a fun and practical gift for the kids.

However, I didn’t buy anything because I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for… until this summer when I stumbled upon the Canway Sleeping bags on Amazon!

sleeping bags

The Canway sleeping bag met all my “must-haves”:

  • Waterproof on the outside for easy cleanup.
  • Flannel on the inside (I don’t like the slipery fabric on the inside).
  • Warm… but not too warm.
  • Machine washable.
  • Comes with a storage bag.
  • Doesn’t take up a huge amount of storage space.
  • Comes in multiple different colors so each kid can have their own.
  • Not crazy expensive.

Apparently, finding everything on my list was somewhat of a challenge because it took me a full year to find what I wanted… just in time for us to go camping in the backyard this summer!

camping in the backyard

We purchased 4 Canway sleeping bags with compression sacks (4 different colors with flannel insides) and one Canway double sleeping bag (also with flannel inside) and we’ve been really happy with them so far.

The double sleeping bag works perfectly for Dave and me because the “bottom” bag is extra-long and the top bag is regular length — so if we want to separate them, Dave could have the extra-long bag.

canway sleeping bags

The bags are very lightweight, they hardly take up any space (they can compress down for travel) and they are extremely soft and comfortable.

I’m not sure camping will ever be a passion of ours, but at least we have fun sleeping bags for backyard camping, sleepovers with grandparents, visiting out-of-town relatives, or when people visit us.

Also… machine washable sleeping bags for the win!

new sleeping bags


If you haven’t watched the first 2 seasons of The Chosen yet… DO IT!

The Chosen is a multi-season series about the life of Christ, and it’s REALLY well done. Also, it’s completely free!

The first 2 seasons are live (8 episodes each) and can be viewed on your computer (or any device) or streamed to a TV. Dave and I watched them this summer and were impressed.

Funding for Season 3 is in progress — it will hopefully be released in early 2022. The entire series will be 7 seasons, which seems fitting for something Biblical.

the chosen tv show

FAVORITE HOBBY = Decluttering!

September is always a big decluttering month for me… I already have several decluttering projects crossed off my list!!

  • The mudroom
  • The laundry room
  • The storage closet
  • The garage
  • The shed
  • The pantry

Now that the older 3 are in school and we’re not hosting pool parties every day, Clara and I have tackled one space per day — cleaning, organizing, decluttering, touching up paint, washing windows, dusting baseboards, etc.

Parts of our home look and feel like new again!

I know my pace will slow eventually, but I’m rolling with my excitement and momentum while it’s high (and while Clara still thinks organizing with mom is great fun!)

Whatever I accomplish by the end of the month will be better than if I did nothing!

If you’d like to declutter along with me, you might consider the slightly slower 16-week method I shared a few years ago — basically tackling one space in your home each week from now until the New Year (you’ll essentially be DONE decluttering before the New Year!)

I even have a super simple free printable you can use to stay on track.

16-week purge


Whether you have fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes like we do or you use canned tomatoes, my simple recipe for 30-Minute Tomato Soup is a winner!

It’s one of our family’s favorite fall comfort foods — especially when I serve it with grilled cheese sandwiches!

RELATED READING: Get the Full Recipe.

grilled cheese and tomato soup


“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can”

There’s a lot going on in the world right now — it’s easy to feel helpless as a stay-at-home mom.

However, I continually remind myself of this quote from Arthur Ashe and simply focus on doing whatever I can, with whatever I have, wherever I am.

Some days, this doesn’t look like all that much — but it IS something!

arthur ashe quote

Similarly, I was recently reading in Acts about the first group of Christians to spread the gospel to surrounding areas — many of whom were just normal everyday people. The footnotes for this passage caught my attention… they said, “Instead of sitting around wishing for talents or abilities you don’t have, spend your time serving God and others RIGHT NOW with the gifts you DO possess.”

What gifts and talents do you have that could make a positive difference in your world today? (And remember, your “world” could be inside the 4 walls of your home.)


This is the time of year when we’re often asked to be on so many different groups and committees — either for work, church, or our kid’s schools.

And, like it or not, holiday festivities are just around the corner — meaning even more obligations will be added to your plate.

When I’m confronted with opportunities (fun and not-so-fun) I try to remember to ask myself these 3 questions BEFORE I give my answer.

Although I love saying “yes” (and I do say yes quite often) there are many requests for my time that I must turn down for one reason or another. Vetting these requests with my 3 questions has been a life-saver for me over the years!

Read the full posts here.

That’s it for September…

If you’re interested, you can scroll through ALL my Favorite Things posts HERE!

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