15 Ways To Play With Glow Sticks

15 fun and unique ways to play with glow sticks year round!  So many great ideas!

When I think about the things that remind me of summer, I can’t help but have glow sticks come to my mind.  What is it about glow sticks that make them so much fun?  Maybe it’s that they glow in the dark.  Or it could be that just wearing them makes you smile.  Whatever the case, I really don’t think you are ever too old to enjoy them with your family and friends, so today I’m sharing a round up of my favorite glow stick activities!

This post contains affiliate links which means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  Thank you for your support!

As you scroll through, you’ll find that many of these activities can be done both indoors and outdoors which makes it easy to enjoy glow in the dark glow stick fun year round!  A word of caution: If you have little ones who like to put things in their mouth, please be careful.  The packaging says that adult supervision is recommended and that glow sticks are for ages 3+.

*To visit the original source, click on the link below the picture.

15 fun and unique ways to play with glow sticks year round!  So many great ideas!
Gold in the Dark Lawn Bowling  |  Growing A Jeweled Rose

15 fun and unique ways to play with glow sticks year round!  So many great ideas!
 Glow in the Dark Wiffle Ball  |  A Few Shortcuts

15 fun and unique ways to play with glow sticks year round!  So many great ideas!
Ring Toss  |  Sugar Bee Crafts

15 fun and unique ways to play with glow sticks year round!  So many great ideas!
 Tic-Tac-Toe  |  Make and Takes

15 fun and unique ways to play with glow sticks year round!  So many great ideas!
 Glow Jars/Fairy Jars  |  The Gold Jellybean

15 fun and unique ways to play with glow sticks year round!  So many great ideas!

15 fun and unique ways to play with glow sticks year round!  So many great ideas!
 Word Art  |  Smile and Wave

15 fun and unique ways to play with glow sticks year round!  So many great ideas!
 Glow in the Dark Drinks  |  Mommy Savers

Corn Hole  Tape glow sticks around the hole and at the sides, top and bottom so you can keep playing at night!

Red Light, Green Light  Remember this game as a kid?  Just grab a red and green glow stick and let the kids play this childhood favorite after it gets dark by having your child hold up the glow stick to indicate stop and go.

Dance Party  We’ve done this with our kids in the wintertime in our basement, but how fun would this be at your next BBQ or watching fireworks!

Glow Sticks in the Pool  Keep the fun going at your pool party by throwing some glow sticks in!  This would be fun to do in a kiddie pool as well on those hot summer nights (just keep a close eye out!).

15 fun and unique ways to play with glow sticks year round!  So many great ideas!
original source: unknown

Freeze Tag  Another favorite kid game!  Have your kids wear glow sticks around their necks, wrists and ankles so they can see each other and let the fun begin.

Capture the Flag One team wears one color and the other team wears another so you know who’s who.

Bath time  Another fun activity you can do year round with your kiddos.  They’ll love playing with their glow sticks in the bath tub!  (We’ve also done glow in the dark bath paint using a black light and it’s so much fun!  You can find the post here.)

What other activities have you done with glow sticks?

3 Ways To Raise Happy Kids

Sometimes I wish my kids came with a manual on how to raise them!  But thankfully these tried and true principles for ways to raise a happy kid are there as a guideline.

Before starting college, I had some ideas about what I’d like to study, but it wasn’t until a couple years in that I found what I wanted to commit to: marriage and family studies.  I knew that what I was learning could be applied to both my current and my future relationships, especially my future family.  Growing up, I would say that I was generally a happy kid.  I got along with my parents, I had good friends, did well in school, was involved in extracurricular activities and active in church.  But if you had asked me then how I became that way–happy–I don’t know that I would have been able to nail it down.  However, through my coursework, and now through practical application (aka parenting), I’ve seen three ways parents can raise happy kids: building connections, setting limits and encouraging independence.

This post contains affiliate links which means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  Thank you for your support!

So often, I hear parents joke around that they wish their kids came with a manual.  I’ve even said the same thing myself, especially when going through a challenging period of time.  And while each child is different, I know that a combination of connecting, limits and autonomy will help my kids develop into happy, healthy kids.

Sometimes I wish my kids came with a manual on how to raise them!  But thankfully these tried and true principles for ways to raise a happy kid are there as a guideline.

Building Connections
Shortly after becoming pregnant with each of my kids, I felt a connection to them.  My husband on the other hand, didn’t feel connected to them until they were born.  But regardless of when you first feel connected to your kids, it’s important to recognize that each child has an innate need to feel connected, which causes them to feel loved.  For example, my daughter has never been much of a snuggler.  Even now, she’ll sit next to me or my husband when we are watching a show or reading a book, but she’s never wanted to really connect that way for longer than a few minutes.  But, one on one time and words of encouragement and affirmation go a long way for her.  She literally lights up. 

Sometimes I wish my kids came with a manual on how to raise them!  But thankfully these tried and true principles for ways to raise a happy kid are there as a guideline.

On the other hand, my son is a big cuddle bug.  He was more that way even as a baby and now loves to snuggle and hug and sit on our laps.  Additionally, if you can get him talking or telling a story, he loves to feel listened to.  When each child feels connected in the way that means the most to them, they feel loved.  If you’re not sure how your child feels love, I highly recommend the book The Five Love Languages for Children by Gary Chapman.

Sometimes I wish my kids came with a manual on how to raise them!  But thankfully these tried and true principles for ways to raise a happy kid are there as a guideline.

Setting Limits
A strong parent-child connection is important because it builds the foundation for lovingly correcting our kids (aka discipline).  When we set limits, or rules, for our children we are teaching them self-control and establishing socially acceptable behavior.  Right now, my daughter is struggling to remember that her first instinct when things don’t go her way should not be to hit.  We are working with her to help her understand that there are other ways she can express her frustration, but that being physical is not acceptable.  We are teaching her that she needs to think before she acts and to think about how others will feel if she hits them (the golden rule).  As parents, it’s our role to be an example, follow through and maintain a strong connection with each of our kids.  They will (hopefully) recognize that the rules are there because we love them and want them to be happy.

Sometimes I wish my kids came with a manual on how to raise them!  But thankfully these tried and true principles for ways to raise a happy kid are there as a guideline.

Encouraging Independence
Kids seem to have a built-in program for using some variation of the phrase “I want to do it by myself!”.  As they grow and learn more about their abilities, they want to test the limits we’ve put in place.  While this can be extremely frustrating as a parent, it’s helpful to recognize that their desire for autonomy (independence) is actually very useful as it will prepare them for future real-world responsibilities, as well as teaching about choice and accountability.  Obviously, we have to allow some degree of independence otherwise our children wouldn’t learn how to do anything for themselves.  My kids are still fairly young, but I try my best to allow them the ability to choose wherever possible and within reason.  For example, I will tell them what the weather will be like for the day and then allow them to choose their clothes.  I ask them what kind of fruit or vegetable they’d like with their lunch (giving them options).  Doing this helps my kids feel like I trust them to make their own decisions and gives them confidence in themselves.  In addition, I have to make sure that when there is an unwanted consequence to a choice they made, that they take responsibility for it and learn from it.

Sometimes I wish my kids came with a manual on how to raise them!  But thankfully these tried and true principles for ways to raise a happy kid are there as a guideline.

Parenting is hard work.  I was just telling my husband the other night, “It’s so hard to feel like I always have to be on top of everything all the time!  There is so much to remember and so many things I need to teach them and it can be so exhausting.”  But the moments of joy–when your child puts into practice a concept you’ve been working on or they do they right thing even when they think no one is watching or they start on their chores without being asked or a hug for no reason–really do make this whole parenting thing so rewarding. 

Sometimes I wish my kids came with a manual on how to raise them!  But thankfully these tried and true principles for ways to raise a happy kid are there as a guideline.

As anyone who has been around kids can tell you, every kid comes with their own unique personality.  I love finding fun shirts for my kids to wear and graphic tees are some of their favorites.  When I saw these shirts from Cents of Style, I knew I had to grab a couple of them.  For my daughter, I chose the “Boys are EW”, although the “I believe in Pink” would have been perfect for her too.  My son is one of those funny, sweet, charming little boys and I got him a “Word to your Mother” shirt.  (I’m sure my husband will teach him all the words to Vanilla Ice’s song one day.)  My kids love their new shirts and I’m sure they’ll be wearing them for the rest of the summer.

Sometimes I wish my kids came with a manual on how to raise them!  But thankfully these tried and true principles for ways to raise a happy kid are there as a guideline.

Do your kids love wearing graphic tees?  If so, this weekend is the perfect time to snag some for Cents of Style’s Fashion Friday deal.  All their kids graphic tees are 50% off their lowest marked price, with clearance styles starting at less than $5!  Sizes range from 6 months all the way up to Youth XL (14/16) so there is something fun for all ages.  So go to Cents of Style, check out their kids shirts and then use the code KIDSTORY at checkout to take advantage of this deal, plus you’ll get free shipping!  This deal runs from 6/16-6/18

Have you seen these principles help you raise happy kids?

Hiking In Pioneer Park In St. George, UT

Pioneer Park in St. George, UT is the perfect family friendly hiking spot for all ages.

Last summer, my family and I did a big family vacation with my husband’s parents and all his siblings and their kids to St. George, Utah.  With kids ranging in age from 17 to 2, finding an activity that everyone would enjoy was a bit of a challenge, but ultimately we decided on hiking.  St. George and the surrounding area is famous for its beautiful and unique red rock formations.  I’ve visited St. George more times than I can count, but hadn’t spent much time hiking the trails found all around the city.  However, we did find an awesome little place called Pioneer Park.  We had so much fun that we visited two days in a row and it was a real hit with everyone in the family.

Pioneer Park is located next to the Red Hills Desert Garden (also a great place for kids to get out and stretch their legs).  There are a bunch of smaller trails you can take and most are easy enough for smaller children to navigate by themselves or with some help.  (Mine were 2 and 4 at the time of our visit.)  The park isn’t too far off the freeway so its easy access makes it a great place to visit whether you are going to St. George to vacation or simply passing through and need to let the kids run around outside and get their wiggles out.

Pioneer Park in St. George, UT is the perfect family friendly hiking spot for all ages.

The portion of the park that we explored most with our kids is also referred to as a “mini narrows”, or small slot canyon, similar to those found in areas of Southern Utah.  A slot canyon is basically a crack in the canyon wall that is extremely narrow.  The entrance to this slot canyon in Pioneer Park is located near a parking lot and looks like a wide canyon with tall, sloping walls on either side.  There are nooks and crannies for the kids to climb into and take pictures.  If you walk farther in, you’ll be able to climb up some rocks to the beginning of the most narrow part of the hike. 

Pioneer Park in St. George, UT is the perfect family friendly hiking spot for all ages.

Pioneer Park in St. George, UT is the perfect family friendly hiking spot for all ages.

We had to help our kids as we climbed up this portion of the trail because they weren’t tall enough.  Either my husband or I went up first and then the other helped one kid up and then the other joined us.  I wouldn’t say it was dangerous, but red rock can be slippery so be sure to wear proper shoes (aka tennis shoes or hiking shoes).

Pioneer Park in St. George, UT is the perfect family friendly hiking spot for all ages.

Depending on your size, this may be as far as you go.  Some parts of the slot canyon are only 6 inches wide, so if you are claustrophobic, this probably isn’t for you either.  My daughter and I were able to make it through all the way to the top.  Once you make it to the top, you can climb back down on either side of the canyon to the base.  We hiked down both ways and found that the left trail took a bit longer, but was easier to hike for everyone, while the right trail was steeper and required a little more climbing and may not be suitable for younger kids.

Pioneer Park in St. George, UT is the perfect family friendly hiking spot for all ages.

All in all, I highly recommend Pioneer Park for people of all ages!  There is actually more to explore in the park than the “mini narrows”, such as some old buildings and other trails, but our kids had so much fun here that we didn’t venture around much.  I really like that this park is near the Red Hills Desert Garden because they have drinking fountains and nice, clean bathrooms to use.

Pioneer Park in St. George, UT is the perfect family friendly hiking spot for all ages.

And if hiking with your kids seems a little intimidating, or you’re just not sure where to start, you can check out this post I shared about 7 tips for hiking with kids!  (Plus, check out the giveaway from Nuby on this post running from today (6/8) to next Wednesday (6/15) at 11:59pm.)

Hiking with kids doesn't have to be a hard thing if you follow these 7 simple tips!

Where are your favorite places to hike with your family?

May In Numbers

May in Numbers | A fun monthly review using only numbers!

Whoosh!  Did you hear that?  It was the sound of May rushing past! *wink*  But seriously, I feel like I just wrote last months summary.  A lot of fun things happened in May, but most of them happened in single digits.

This post contains affiliate links which means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  Thank you for your support!

1 – Dance recital.  We celebrated the end of my daughter’s second year of dance with her studio’s spring recital.  She performed in two dances: jazz (Dynamite – Kid Bop version) and ballet (See the Light from Rapunzel).  I am absolutely amazed at the growth she’s experienced this year and her teacher said that she can move up a level to be with the bigger girls next year!  I was also able to pick up her dance pictures I posted about last month and they turned out absolutely darling!  Although I’m dying a little at how much she’s grown and changed in a year.

May in Numbers | A fun monthly review using only numbers!

May in Numbers | A fun monthly review using only numbers!

4 – Books read.  Last month I shared my summer 2017 reading list and one of the books I wanted to read is called Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier.  It’s the first of a trilogy and I picked the first and second one up at the library.  My neighbor casually mentioned that she had the third book and that I was welcome to borrow it because she knew how quickly the series moves.  Let’s just say I texted her the next day and told her I was going to need that third book, haha.  So I finished the trilogy in about a week.  Just prior to picking up this series, I read the assigned reading for my neighborhood book club called The Knight of Redmond by Jennifer K. Clark.  I’ll be picking up more books from the library soon!

9 – Years since we got married (aka Our 9 Year Anniversary).  My husband and I had so much fun for our anniversary this year.  We didn’t do anything really big because we are hoping to go somewhere really cool for our 10 year anniversary next year.  My mom came out and watched our kids for us.  First, we went to dinner at P.F. Chang’s and ordered their lettuce wraps to share, then the crispy honey shrimp and Mongolian beef.  Afterwards, we went to a little place called Provo Beach Resort.  It’s one of those places that has a bunch of activities all in the same place.  We got a pass and did the obstacle course, bowling (my husband won both games), mini croquet and some arcade games.  Our favorite arcade game was a Pac Man air hockey where it would drop about 20 pucks onto the table at the same time and you had to try and block them and make points (I won!).

May in Numbers | A fun monthly review using only numbers!

May in Numbers | A fun monthly review using only numbers!

1 – Amazing Mother’s Day.  While I’ve enjoyed all of the Mother’s Days I’ve celebrated being a mother myself, this year was probably my favorite.  My husband got up with the kids so I could sleep in as long as I wanted.  Then he made breakfast for all of us.  Afterwards, the kids gave me the cards they’d made and my present: a new DSLR camera!  I’d had my old one for about four years, but it didn’t quite have all the capabilities I wanted so my husband had been on the lookout for a new one at a great price and he found one!  I was really surprised and so happy.  (Be on the lookout for some videos!)  After church, we had family over for a big dinner.  It was a wonderful day.

May in Numbers | A fun monthly review using only numbers!

168 – Amount spent on new tires.  Seriously, who likes buying new tires?  They are so dang expensive!  But I had to buy them in order to get our car registered so it was a necessary purchase.

11 – Types of plants growing in my garden.  We decided to upgrade our garden boxes this year from the two smaller beds to one big U-shaped raised bed.  My husband did a great job building it and I’m so glad we did it.  Our garden seems to be growing the best it has since we started it four years ago.  We planted peas, pole beans, tomatoes (two types), carrots, radishes, raspberries, strawberries, green onions, pumpkin, rosemary and cilantro.

May in Numbers | A fun monthly review using only numbers!

2 – Blogger events attended.  When I started blogging back in October 2015, I honestly never expected to find so many new friends.  Some I’ve met in person, others through email or social media.  It’s kind of like having a pen pal who you feel like you know because you’ve interacted with them so much, but sometimes you never meet them.  Well, I am lucky enough to live in an area where there are quite a number of bloggers so blogger events come up pretty regularly.  The first one I went to was a blogger conference the second week of the month.  The second one was just last week where we got to visit a newly opened events area at a unique little place called Gardner Village.  I rode up with Julia from The Quiet Grove and found out she knows my sister in law!  Honestly, meeting other bloggers has become one of my favorite parts of blogging.

May in Numbers | A fun monthly review using only numbers!

1 – Preschool graduation.  My daughter completed her second year of preschool last week and she starts kindergarten this fall!  I am kind of in denial about it.  But I know she will love it.  She is a very sweet and social girl who makes friends with everyone, but also loves learning.

May in Numbers | A fun monthly review using only numbers!

May in Numbers | A fun monthly review using only numbers!

40 – Pounds of chicken ordered.  Yes, you read that right.  I ordered 40lbs of chicken and it’s set to be picked up in a couple of weeks.  We have a deep freezer so we have the space for it, but holy moly!  I’m pretty sure we’ll be set with chicken for the next few months.  I ordered it through a company called Zaycon Fresh and they are a meat co-op.  I’ll be sharing a post about them later this month but if you’re interested in checking them out before then, you can use my link here.

5 – (more) Pairs of underwear destroyed.  We are still dealing with potty training issues over here.  Please send prayers.  And chocolate.

2 – Items crossed off our summer bucket list.  The kids and I made a summer bucket list a couple of weeks ago and I put it all on a big poster board that is now hanging in our front room/kitchen area.  We were able to cross off a hike to Battle Creek Falls on Memorial Day.  Afterwards, we made a visit to a local pet store called The Puppy Barn where they sell just puppies.  You can go in there and hold them and play with them and it is my favorite way to get my puppy fix since I don’t see us getting a dog any time soon.

My kids love this fun summer bucket list!  Just some stickers, scrap paper and a marker are all you need!

You can check out my other month in numbers posts below:

February Month In Numbers
March Month In Number: Orlando Edition 
April Month In Numbers

Also, I’m linking up with Deena from Shoes to Shiraz who hosts the month in numbers link party.  You can go see who else is linking up and see what their May in numbers looks like.

My kids are just getting over a cold, but I’m looking forward to a fun June coming up!

7 Tips for Hiking with Kids

Hiking with kids doesn't have to be a hard thing if you follow these 7 simple tips!

This last week we went hiking as part of our Memorial Day activities.  We live close to the mountains and there are a lot of canyons and hiking trails to choose from, so we are always finding fun new places to explore.  My kids especially love hiking and it is one of mine and my husband’s favorite activities as well so we do a lot of it.  With this being the case, I’ve learned a few tips along the way that have helped make hiking a more enjoyable experience for everyone.

This post is sponsored by Nuby.  All opinions are 100% my own.  This post contains affiliate links which means if you click on one and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  Thank you for your support!

It’s Not A Race
As we were walking along the trail with our kids this last week, they inevitably got side-tracked by different things: climbing on rocks, a flower, a stick.  My initial reaction was along the lines of: “C’mon, let’s go!” but then I realized that the point of the hike wasn’t about making it to our destination as much as it was about spending time together doing something we enjoy.  So if you go into your hike expecting that it will take longer, you can cut down on frustration at the so-called interruptions that are going to happen.

Hiking with kids doesn't have to be a hard thing if you follow these 7 simple tips!

Bring Backpacks
This one has been a lifesaver for us when we go hiking.  I bought each of my kids a small backpack that we pack whenever we go on a hike.  Included in their packs is water and a couple of snacks to eat along the way.  They love having their own backpacks and I think it also helps them feel big and gives them a little bit more autonomy.  Even if your child says they will just carry their water or snacks in their hands or pockets, have them bring the pack because almost without fail they will want you to carry it for them or it will be put down and forgotten.  Here are a few good backpack options I found: HERE, HERE and HERE.

Hiking with kids doesn't have to be a hard thing if you follow these 7 simple tips!

Create Teaching Moments
At one point in our hike, we stopped for a little snack break and the thought occurred to me to talk to my kids about littering.  I asked my daughter what we should do if we are out somewhere and there isn’t a garbage can for us to put the wrappers or plastic bottles in.  She replied that we should put it back in our backpacks and then throw it away later.  Then we talked about why that was important (keep trails clean, showing respect, etc).  It was a really simple lesson and one of those things that makes a bigger impact when we are actually out in nature rather than trying to explain it at some other time.  A few other teaching moments you could incorporate into your hike could be talking about plants and animals in the area, how rivers/streams are made, bring a nature journal and collecting leaves/flowers.

Hiking with kids doesn't have to be a hard thing if you follow these 7 simple tips!

Research the Hike
Anytime we go on a hike, I make sure to find some basic information about it: Does it have bathrooms at the trailhead or along the way?  How long is the hike?  Difficulty level?  Directions or landmarks for finding the trail?  Best time of year for hiking?  Stroller or wagon friendly?  The list goes on and what you want to know will obviously depend on your own family.  I recently found a really helpful website called AllTrails.com, where you can search by state and it will come up with a list of hikes and a helpful description of what you’ll find.

Hiking with kids doesn't have to be a hard thing if you follow these 7 simple tips!

Sunscreen, Wipes, Hand Sanitizer
Even if you put sunscreen on before you start the hike, odds are that you’ll need it again at some point before you get back to your car.  There are plenty of travel size containers of sunscreen that there really isn’t an excuse not to bring some.  Also, nature is dirty and kids seem to gravitate towards dirt so having something to wipe their hands off with is a good idea.  Just grab a travel size package of baby wipes and throw them in your bag.  And lastly, grab a small bottle of hand sanitizer to disinfect everyone’s hands with before eating or after playing in the water (if your hiking to a waterfall or by a stream).

Hiking with kids doesn't have to be a hard thing if you follow these 7 simple tips!

Flip-Flops/Water Shoes/Extra Socks
I don’t know about you, but after a long hike, all I want to do is take my shoes and socks off and let my feet breathe.  A lot of times, we will go out and get some food or stop by a store after our hike and it’s nice to have the extra pair of shoes to change into.  Depending on the hike, we will bring water shoes so we can wade around in the water and cool off, plus they protect our feet from sharp rocks and give us traction.  Along with this, consider bringing an extra pair of socks.  The shoes I use when we go hiking double as water shoes, but I hate wearing them without socks, so I like to bring an extra pair that I can change into before we start back.  Same goes for your kids.  Throw the flip flops or water shoes or socks into their backpack and let them carry it.

Hiking with kids doesn't have to be a hard thing if you follow these 7 simple tips!

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
And last, but not least, bring lots and lots of WATER.  This is one of those things that you absolutely do not want to skimp on.  Who cares if you have to stop along the trail 10 times so your child can relieve themselves?  It’s much better than the alternative.  Whether you’re hiking when it’s cloudy and cooler or hot and sunny, you need to keep yourself and your family hydrated and cool.  Little kids can overheat pretty easily so stopping and reminding everyone to get a good drink is essential.  Throw some ice cubes into everyone’s bottle or cup or even freeze the whole water bottle for a refreshing and cool drink for your entire (or at least most) of your hike.

Hiking with kids doesn't have to be a hard thing if you follow these 7 simple tips!

Hiking with kids doesn't have to be a hard thing if you follow these 7 simple tips!

We brought our kids’ Nuby Thirsty Kids Reflex water canteens with us on our hike and they were perfect.  The plastic is made of durable tritan from Eastman and the push top could be pushed down and covered by a plastic latch so it stayed clean.  The 12-oz size was perfect for our kids and how much they normally drink.  You can find these cups in store at Target and Babies R’ Us.  (Shop the water canteens online HERE.

(For my local Utah friends, the hike in these pictures is Battle Creek Falls in Pleasant Grove.)

What tips and tricks have you found helpful when you go hiking with your family?

And now, I’ve got a fun giveaway that you can enter to win four (4) of these Nuby Thirsty Kids Reflex water canteens for your kids!  See below to find out how to enter!

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Recognizing Joy in the Small Moments

Would you believe that a journal and a phone app have helped bring so much joy to my life?  It's the small things that make the biggest difference.

My day to day life is pretty ordinary and often consists of fixing food, cleaning up the house, running errands, playing with my kids and other household tasks.  At a glance, it doesn’t feel very glamorous and there are days when I can’t wait for my husband to get home from work so I can turn the kids over to him while I escape to the bathroom by myself or go for a short walk around the block.  A break from everything I have to manage and be responsible for.  Does anyone else hear themselves in my words?

Even though they lack a lot of excitement, most days are good.  The laundry, the dishes, the chauffeuring kids back and forth to school and other activities, homework, chores, fixing meals, buying the second pair of shoes in as many months because kids grow so fast.

But if I stop and take a look at the moments in between, what do I see?  My kids pretending to be a baby animal, laughter at made up knock-knock jokes, my daughter getting me a yogurt out of the fridge for breakfast before getting her own bowl out for cereal, a hug from my son for no reason other than he just wanted to.

I think there is a difference between the real life that is essential to every day living and the real life that is in the small moments in between.  The ones that we just might miss if we’re not looking for them.

I will be the first to admit that I lean more towards being a realist.  But I don’t think being a realist excludes me from being optimistic about what’s around me and seeing the good in people and situations.  Over the last few months, I’ve implemented two small practices into my daily life that help me recognize the small moments: a joy journal and a phone app.

Would you believe that a journal and a phone app have helped bring so much joy to my life?  It's the small things that make the biggest difference.

A little over a month ago, I started a joy journal with the sole purpose being to write down at least three things every day that brought me joy.  It might be something to do with my kids, my husband, something I saw that made me laugh, a personal success and so on.  One of the benefits of this journal in my life is being able to take a step back and see what’s happening in the in between moments of life.  I have started looking for things to write down in my joy journal each night that my kids or husband do or say.  I look for the positive aspect of a negative situation and focus on that.  I work to create joy in my life, my family’s lives and those I associate with, rather than just expecting it to be there.  Overall, I am becoming a happier person.

Would you believe that a journal and a phone app have helped bring so much joy to my life?  It's the small things that make the biggest difference.

In February of this year, I saw a post on a friend’s Facebook where she had compiled a short video of one second clips of each day of her life for the previous month.  Many of them were similar, some were out of the ordinary, but all of them together brought a smile to my face.  Right then, I downloaded the app she used to create her video called 1 Second Everyday. (It’s free!  Download from the Google Play Store or iTunes.)  Since I have my phone with me most of the time, all I have to do is pull it out and take a video.  Then I open the app, select the day and choose which part of the clip I want to represent that day.  And at the end of the month, I had a short video of clips from my family’s lives.  (If you’re interested, you can watch a TED Talk from the creator of this app on why he created it.) 

Having these two things–a joy journal and the 1 Second Everyday app–have become wonderful tools for me because they capture the little moments of joy in every day life and reminds me that my life, ordinary as it may seem, is pretty darn good.

How do you find joy in the small moments of your life?  Do you write them down?  Take a picture or video?  I’d love to hear what benefits you’ve experienced from focusing on joy.

A Letter To My College Self

If you could go back and give your college self advice, what would you say?  See what I would say and tell me if you agree!

With the end of another school year, I keep seeing high school and college graduation pictures popping up all over my social media and can’t help but think about my own time in college.  I graduated in 2010 with a BS in Marriage and Family Studies after changing my major a few times.  It took me six years to graduate rather than four but then again, if it had only taken four, then I wouldn’t have met my husband.  Funny how things work out, huh?  So in remembrance of my college years (pre-marriage), I’m sharing with you a letter to my college self.

Hey Shani,

It’s me.  Well, future you.  How’s it going?  School’s kind of crazy right now huh?  Trust me, you will miss the studying and classes and walking to campus multiple times a day.  So anyway, I wanted to just pop by and reminisce and give you a few bits of advice.  You know, things I wish I’d known when I was actually going through college.  

Here goes: 

First off, you are totally going to regret not doing a study abroad program.  Sure, it’s kind of pricey and yeah, you might have to find a different job when you get back, but hello?  Getting to travel to a foreign country like France or Italy has kind of been on your bucket list since you took French in 7th grade.  Trust me, anything you might miss during the time you’re gone won’t seem like that big of a deal compared to what you’ll be able to do during your study abroad.  Your family will be fine and you’ll figure out the whole job thing when you get back.  You always find a way to make things work.

Secondly, you did the right thing by moving to a new apartment complex the fall of your junior year.  Although, if you had to do it again, it might have been a good idea to double check who your roommates were going to be or at least move in with one person you knew.  Remember the girl who used to cook fish heads and then leave them in the fridge half eaten and stunk up the apartment for three days?  Thank goodness she was only there for a semester!  But besides the roommate situation the first couple of semesters, things turned out really well.  You met some of your best friends, dated some great guys and got more comfortable with yourself as a person.  

If you could go back and give your college self advice, what would you say?  See what I would say and tell me if you agree!

You probably already know this, but the major you chose is absolutely perfect for you.  While some of the challenges you faced growing up were rough, ultimately, they led you to this major and it will help other people along the way.  A few words of advice though: go to the labs for your Statistics class.  Seriously, you know math is not your strong suit and not going to the classes because the are “optional” doesn’t mean they are optional for you.  That D grade is going to bug you for years.  (Especially when you meet your future husband and he gets and A in it.  Lame.)

I want to congratulate you on working so hard to stay out of debt during college.  The fact that you didn’t have to ask anyone for a loan during school is commendable.  But for heaven’s sake girl, you really should have learned about pell grants sooner!  It would have given you a little more cushion some of those months when money was tight.  Thank goodness you had family nearby and could do laundry at home and have a decent meal on Sunday nights to save a little money.  And that beat up little car you had?  Cammie Rue?  She’s gonna be a good car so it’s a good thing you didn’t sell her and get an SUV and a car payment.  (Although the 4 wheel drive would have been nice in the winter…)

If you could go back and give your college self advice, what would you say?  See what I would say and tell me if you agree!


Something else you should be proud of is all the work you put into your schoolwork and end of semester projects.  Those are the ones that you’ll remember and have a lot of satisfaction in.  Especially the one where you stayed up all night to finish and only got 3 hours of sleep and ended up with an A and a personal congratulations on a job well done from one of the hardest professors in the school of Communications.  Taking that class was a good way to rule out going into Public Relations, haha.  But getting a perfect score on a 10 essay exam in one of the classes for your major was pretty amazing too.  You definitely deserved to go out for ice cream that night.

Hmm…what else… Oh!  Your friends!  They are the best, aren’t they?  Try your best to keep up with them even though they’re going to move far away at times.  Social media is great and all but don’t forget to give them a call every once in a while too.  And rooming with you sister in college is a whole heck of a lot easier than it was growing up.  You keep each other real and in check and call each other out when you do dumb things or date dumb boys or break up with dumb boys.  She will be there and your friends will be there when you fail exams, have a bad day or need to borrow some sugar.  

California…Idaho…Arizona…bonfires up the canyon…eating raw cookie dough out of a shared container…playing Mario Cart and Guitar Hero…mingles…dances…football games…BBQs…double dates…study dates…midnight grocery store runs…random dance parties.  You’ll remember all of these things because they made you happy (and also because you spent $300 on a nice digital camera and took pictures of e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.)  

If you could go back and give your college self advice, what would you say?  See what I would say and tell me if you agree!

And lastly, not to spoil the surprise, but you’ll meet your future husband in college.  The timing will be perfect and you’ll think it’s impossible that everything has fallen into place like it has.  You’ll plan a wedding, be a full time student, part time employee and balance it all with a smile on your face because, gosh darn it, that’s what you do and who you are.  You’re a hard worker, an optimist, a good and loyal friend, determined, persistent and a pretty good planner.  

If you could go back and give your college self advice, what would you say?  See what I would say and tell me if you agree!

If you could go back and give your college self advice, what would you say?  See what I would say and tell me if you agree!

College is awesome and you will never, ever regret going.  It will shape who you are and impact your future in ways you never expected.

You got this girl.

Love,

Me

What do you wish you’d known in college?  What would you go back and tell yourself?