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  • If you are looking for a fun and new activity to do with your kids I recommend making a jar of sauerkraut this summer! It took me 2 years and five failed batches before I finally figured out all of the nuances of this process, but it was well worth the wait.

    Today I'm sharing 6 mistakes to avoid and what to do instead so that your first batch can be successful and a fun check on your summer bucket list.

    6 Mistakes to Avoid When Making Sauerkraut

    Not shredding finely enough: Use a cheese grater or food processor with grating attachment

    Using not enough or too much salt: Add 2T for every 3 cabbages (2/3 T for one cabbage)

    Filling the jars too much: Leave 2-3 inches at the top so there is room for the weight and brine

    Not using the outside cabbage leaf to contain everything: Use the outside 2 cabbage leaves to cover the shredded cabbage and make sure all of the pieces are submerged over the brine

    Not having adequate weight/pressure to hold things down: Rocks work but the whole process was cleaner, didn't smell or attract fruit flies when I got this weight and self burping lids/

    Not waiting long enough: It takes a full two weeks even here in the south where it is hot for the sauerkraut to finish. It will switch from a light green to a light yellow/brown color throughout the entire jar.

    Tips for Making Sauerkraut with Kids

    Decide whether this is a good time to work with just one child or do everyone together.

    Let everyone know what the whole process is ahead of time.

    Prep everyone to take turns and let them know what their turn is going to be.

    Know it doesn't have to be perfect and it can be messy.

    Do it at a time when you aren't stressed or starving because it's not fun to cook with other people then.

    Turn it into a science experiment and have them track the color until it is done and see how long it takes.

  • If you've ever thought about gardening with kids my conversation with Tiana Woodbury is for you! She has gardened with her three young children for many years in many different types of gardens (container, community, and her own backyard) and is full of real, practical tips.

    One of Tiana's superpowers is making the ordinary magical and she brings that to her gardening endeavors as well, but in very simple and doable ways. I certainly had lots of take-aways and things that I want to do a little differently and I'm sure you will too.

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  • Earlier this year I shared what I did to make my smartphone less “smart” (Digital Minimalism in 2024). Since then, our family has faced some unexpected challenges that pushed us into survival mode, and naturally, our screen time increased, including mine.

    This experience made me realize the unique challenges we face at different stages of our journey from merely surviving to truly thriving, especially regarding phone usage.

    In this week’s episode, I delve into these challenges and how becoming aware can lead to positive changes.

    Challenges with Phone Usage on the 5-Step Path from Surviving to Thriving

    Survival Mode: Increased screen time, watching more movies with the kids, zoning out with shows or scrolling.

    Re-entry: This is when we feel the most overwhelmed and tired, so we use phones as an easy escape. But this only prolongs the process of re-entry.

    Normalizing: Rewarding ourselves with screen time after a good day, leading to late nights and inconsistent routines.

    Exploring: Spending excessive time on phones researching or learning, starting with good intentions, but often getting trapped in endless scrolling.

    Each stage presents its own set of challenges, slowing down our progress.

    Changes I’ve Made To My (Android) Phone:

    Niagara Launcher (free version)

    No Chrome/Internet

    Essential apps only: phone, texting, calendar, Google Maps, Notion (for work), church directory, scriptures, LibriVox, Libby, Marco Polo, Kajabi (for courses I've bought)

    Put my phone away instead of carrying it with me

    Impact:

    Increased productivity (even with insomnia)

    Solving problems caused by a lack of connection by being present with my kids

    Tackling household issues together with my kids because my phone is put away

  • We woke up on Saturday morning and my son was staring out the back window when he realized he couldn't see the zipper on the trampoline across the yard. Upon closer inspection, he realized that one of the huge limbs on our peach tree had broken and had fallen on top of the olive tree next to it and on the ground.

    We didn't have any big storms or high winds and the kids were asking if I knew what happened. Looking at the branches with peaches full of fruit it didn't take too long to realize that the weight of the peaches - still not ripe - was too much and broke the thick limb.

    This image immediately brought to my mind all of the projects, habits, and goals that I am working on right now in our home, family, garden, yard, homeschool, and business. After months of just being in survival mode, it feels so good to be making progress and gaining momentum in many areas of our lives. It is exciting to be crossing things off the list, solving some big pain points, and investing in relationships and projects that will last. But as we are charging ahead at top speed, this peach tree gave me pause about all of the "fruit" I'm trying to grow right now in my life.

    There was a crucial step that we missed in caring for this peach tree - pruning.

    If we had pruned some of the fruit off of the tree, the weight wouldn't have been too much and the tree would be fine.

    Instead of choosing to remove some of the fruit, we lost all of it (this would have been really sad, except this peach tree actually has a fungal infection so the peaches rot before they ripen and we were planning on taking it down this year anyway).

    It was a great reminder that If I don't do some pruning in my own life, it can be a fast track to burnout. Then all progress comes to a halt and we lose all of the fruit instead of just choosing a few things to let go of or simplify.

    What does this look like practically? How do we do some pruning in our own lives - especially when there are plenty of things we don't want to walk away from?

    The secret is a quarterly review. I first learned about this concept years ago from Greg McKeown's book, Essentialism, where he recommends a quarterly offsite review. This means you leave and go somewhere away from your home and work to think about your life.

    As a mom with a baby and toddler, this sounded like a fairyland ideal. However, that didn't stop me from doing an onsite review right in the walls of my own home.

    This entire process is in the Thriving in Motherhood Planner every quarter so you don't even have to remember how many months have gone by - when you see it, it's time to sit down and go through the process.

    You can do this in one sitting or over a week or two as you evaluate your life and figure out what matters most going forward.

    I walk through the entire process step by step in episode 102.

    You can also learn about quarterly reviews fit in with the entire planning system process with the Plan a Week You Can Win training

    If we don't life can start to be like a snowball that you keep rolling around and acquiring more snow - getting bigger and bigger until you can't move it at all. Or like the peach tree whose limb snaps.

  • What do you do with all the stuff your kids create? This is something I have struggled with for years with my four very creative children.

    In this week’s episode, I’m sharing what has been working for us, our current problems and what we are doing about it, and a brand new framework my children and I came up with that is changing how we think about the things they (and I) make.

    Here are some of the things that have been working for us for a while:

    Paper management: Each child has a small drawer where we can dump anything they made that is flat. Once the bin is full we go through it and take pictures of things they don’t want to forget and put things they really care about into their paper box (file folder with files from 0-18 years). Everything else gets thrown away.

    3-Dimensional projects: Each child has a Maker Box where they can put the things they’ve made that they don’t want to get rid of because they still want to play with it or it’s particularly cool.

    They are keeping the majority of the projects in their bedrooms while I focus on decluttering the rest of the house and creating spaces that are super easy to reset and modeling getting rid of things. The kids desire to have their rooms match the rest of the house.

    While these things have been working there are still some problems. The Maker Boxes do not contain the amount of stuff that they create and a one-in, one-out rule is pretty painful when they are things they love to play with.

    It’s also painful to have messy bedrooms that are hard to navigate and find things in.

    While discussing these problems over breakfast, the kids and I created The Creation Cycle:

    You have an idea.

    You gather supplies.

    You make it.

    You take a picture of it (optional but sometimes they like to do this with their important creations)

    You put the supplies away.

    You enjoy it – either playing with it or displaying it.

    You find a home for it and put it away or throw it away.

    As we discussed what this looks like in our home, the kids identified that we have two main points where we are having problems with the cycle.

    There is nearly zero friction between having an idea and getting supplies to start making something. While in some ways this is fantastic, it also means there are usually LOTS of things in the first few steps of the creating cycle and rarely are those things making it all around the loop.

    Our biggest drop-off spot is after step 3, which is why bedroom surfaces have piles and piles of things on them.

    Right now, having a language to identify where the problems are happening and where every item in the room is in the Creation Cycle has been life-changing!

    It changes the questions we are asking and empowers the kids to make decisions about what we do with things next. And we’re getting very close to having even the bedroom easy to reset (one down, one to go).

    As you think about creativity in your home, I’d love to know if this cycle fits into what is happening with your family as well. What’s working well? Where are the breakdowns happening?

  • We have four very creative kids who spend HOURS each day creating things (the most recent was an elaborate tin can phone system complete with bells and wall mounts for the cans to go between the top and bottom bunk).

    In this week's episode, I'm sharing the things we've done that have made the biggest impact on raising creative children.

    8 Tips For Raising Creative Kids

    Encourage their interests.

    For example, from the time our son was 18 months old, he used our couches to build vehicles. To support this, we built wooden boxes he could combine with stools, chairs, and a nugget couch. This has sparked endless imaginative constructions.

    Expose your kids to new experiences

    Anytime our kids get in a funk and don’t know what to do, we try to take them somewhere and let them experience something new. These experiences provide fresh inspiration to fuel their creative ideas.

    Have supplies on hand

    We like to have scissors, glue, cardboard, and paint on hand at our house. Think about the things your kids like to create and make those supplies accessible, easy to use, and easy to put away.

    Teach kids basic skills

    We’ve taught our kids how to knit, crochet, carve, use the sewing machine, hand sew, and weave. Giving them these basic skills has allowed them to create even more things. While we don’t force these skills on them, we support their interests by teaching them what they need to bring their ideas to life.

    Get books from the library on a variety of topics

    Borrow books from the library on various subjects. Exposing your kids to a wide range of topics is crucial for sparking their creativity and broadening their horizons.

    Help your kids create the things they want

    If our kids say they want something we help them make it. We’ve made shoe and coat racks, bows and arrows, chisels, hammers, swords, and shields. When they were little we were much more involved. As they’ve gotten older and more experienced, we’ve allowed them more independence as they create and build.

    Allow them to listen to audiobooks while they create

    Audiobooks are a fantastic way to keep kids engaged while they create We’ve found a good audiobook can extend their creative projects.

    Model creativity

    Creativity starts with us as parents. By modeling creativity, involving our kids in our projects, and providing inspiration, we set the stage for them to be more creative. We actively support their ideas and encourage them to explore and experiment.

    One of the most impactful things you can do as a parent is to develop a high tolerance for stepping back and letting your kids create. This might mean occasional disruptions, like missing kitchen chairs or dealing with creative messes. We’re currently teaching our kids to clean up after their projects, balancing creativity with responsibility.

    The more we embrace their creativity, the more it flourishes. Every mess, project, and mistake all add up to a fulfilling and creative life.

  • Whether you are exhausted, depressed, sick, burned out, or just want a break, in today's episode I'll be sharing my #1 tip that I've used for the last 10.5 years of motherhood to get me through the day when I need some space we still have the day to spend together.

    The solution has two parts: Go outside and do something creative.

    When my kids were little and we lived in an apartment, this looked like bringing things I could do with my hands to the playground: whittle spoons or animals out of sticks or scrap wood, crochet blankets, make shoes out of leather, or peel apples to make applesauce.

    As my kids got older and we now live in a home, this often looks like doing house projects. Recently we've done major updates in our garden, built a retaining wall, made a bed frame, cut out wood animals for the kids to carve with friends, and we are currently building a rock climbing wall in the garage.

    Always I've played instruments, often outside, for a low-energy creative option. A ukulele, guitar, or fiddle is a convenient option to grab and go to the great outdoors.

    No matter what season of motherhood I'm in, the result has been the same.

    Everyone was happier once we stepped outside. Fighting decreases. The kids get engaged in good play. I get some space and a break from having people touch me. And creativity brings some joy and satisfaction into my day, no matter how tired or crummy I feel.

    The thing I wasn't expecting was just how creative my kids would become from watching me over the years. There is never a dull moment at our house. Someone is always making something, or playing an instrument, and they are usually outside.

  • It is so easy to fall into the "all I do is.." trap.

    You fill in the blank - change diapers, drive kids to school and activities, feed people, nurse the baby, chase after the toddler. No matter the season of motherhood you are in, there are things that we do over and over again. And when we start to think that it is all we do, we can start to feel miserable and resentful of the people we love the most.

    The antidote is simple but incredibly powerful: do a monthly review.

    Even after 7 years of this 10-minute exercise, I am still surprised at how it changes my perspective and how I feel about my life.

    In this week's episode, I'm sharing my findings from my most recent review in April and show you how you can do it yourself too.

    5 Questions To Ask In a Monthly Review:

    What have I discovered or learned this month?

    What have I accomplished?

    Where have we gone?

    What significant things happened in our family?

    What books have I read or listened to (or podcasts or shows if that is the season you are in)?

    When you ask these questions you can see how rich your life actually is. And you can begin to build momentum and keep the progress going.

    When you see you read a book - you are a reader! What else can you read? When you see you've made progress on projects or goals you can feel motivated to take the next baby steps. When you discover or learn something you realize just how interesting this life is and wonder what else there is to learn. When you see all the places you've gone it is easier to get out of the house again.

    And when you record the significant things in your family you realize why your house is in the state it's in...or maybe more accurately, how great you are really doing as you invest in these people and relationships.

    And if you discover that you don't have much to write about, you will have a clearer picture of WHY which brings much more compassion, grace, and understanding as well as gives you clues on how to move forward.

    You can do this in the Thriving in Motherhood Planner on the monthly review page so you don't even have to remember that a month has gone by - you just do it when the page shows up - or in a notebook or journal you already use.

    If you want to do it with someone to celebrate your progress and plan what you are going to focus on for the next 30 days with some accountability, come join us in Soaring Mother's Society where we share our monthly reviews in small groups.

  • With summer quickly approaching, I needed to refocus on what we are going to make our learning priorities for the next few months. We go year-round in our homeschooling so that we can have the ultimate flexibility to take breaks or just enjoy the nice days outside. And, hot weather here in the South has us indoors more than in the winter months.

    In this week’s episode, I’m sharing the question I asked to give me the clarity I needed to decide what we are going to focus on in our schooling and home so that we can have confidence in how we are using our time and energy.

    The question I asked myself is: “What do each of my kids need to be prepared for next fall?”

    With this question, I was able to narrow down the few things that matter a lot and let go of the rest.

    For us, we are making a family project of working through Story of the World 4 this summer so we can enjoy modern history when we start Alveary in the fall.

    We are also focusing on some specific skills tailored to what each child needs, instead of keeping up with all of the subjects and curriculum. Everyone is continuing with math and a few of my kids are starting All About Spelling. We started a writing club by buying our own notebooks and writing on our own time, sharing what we write when we are ready.

    We are also working on organizing bedrooms and our school space in May to have our environments set up to make it easy to do what we want to do. I’m prepping the Alveary curriculum in June while getting ready for our annual cross-country road trip.

    Resources We Are Using This Summer:

    Story of the World 4

    Alveary (use code JJACKSON for a $25 discount)

    All About Spelling

  • For the last 30 days, I've been using the Thriving in Motherhood Journal. Before this personal challenge, I would use it about once a week when things were hard and noticed a nice lift to my week. But as this year has continued to surprise us I started to flounder and wanted to see what impact the journal would have in my life.

    In this week's episode, I'll share some of the logistics and tips for using the journal, the impact it had on my life, and my invitation for you to give it a try for yourself.

    You may be wondering what it actually took for me to stick to my 30-day challenge. Here are some things that I found helpful:

    Have a pen ready

    Have multiple windows of when you will use the journal and put it in the next likely spot (next to your bed, office, kitchen, etc.)

    Be flexible with morning or night (or both).

    Pick it back up when you miss a day.

    Don’t pressure yourself to answer every question. Pick the relevant ones for that day and leave the rest.

    Don’t worry about keeping the daily and weekly pages perfectly ordered.

    When I started this challenge, I was floundering. We’ve had a hard year on lots of levels - health, jobs, lots of things going on, kids struggling with different things (including surgery), and the unexpected keeps popping up. I have felt exhausted.

    Here are some of the positive impacts I noticed during my 30-day challenge:

    Using the journal has empowered me through this season. I’ve been surprised at how much joy I have felt in the last 30 days.

    I’ve been able to parent better, more consistently, and more confidently instead of pulling into myself and surviving through the hard days.

    I’ve processed some hard emotions/situations so I could truly find peace and let go.

    I did a lot more service outside of my home in 30 days than I did all year. Small ways, like helping return a grocery cart and carry food out to the car, and bigger things too.

    I captured many magic moments during the last 30 days and now my days are full of them.

    My health wasn’t great during this window but when I did my monthly review I discovered a miraculous amount of things got accomplished. I attribute this to the power of having the vision in my Thriving in Motherhood Planner and asking the daily questions in the journal about the next three steps for my priorities that week.

    I got rid of mom guilt which normally rears its ugly head during hard survival times with the question, “What would help me feel successful today?” This question allowed me to pivot to what mattered most each day.

    I have struggled with anxiety about facing the next day in the past and fret at night about what is to come, especially when I’m sleep-deprived. But this journaling process helped me live more in the moment each day and ending the day with magic moments, gratitude, big wins, and God’s involvement in my life made a big difference.

    This process led me to naturally have a better routine before bed and get rid of tech when I was journaling.

    I’d like to extend an invitation to you to pull out your Thriving in Motherhood Journal (or get yours today) and commit to 30 days of journaling. Watch and see the difference it makes in your life.

    If you've already been using the journal, I would really appreciate it if you left a review on Amazon to help other moms find it and see if it would be a good fit for them. And as a special bonus, if you leave a review on Amazon, you’ll be entered to win a 2024 coil-bound Thriving in Motherhood Planner!

    There are some amazing bonuses you can claim when you purchase the journal to help you get the most out of it so don’t wait to get yours!

  • I got a fantastic question from a mother who is using the 2024 Thriving in Motherhood Planner this year: "I get confused sometimes about the distinction between things like goals (quarterly vs. yearly) vs. projects vs. habits vs. Big 3 vs. focus vs. tracking. Should these things all be related or not necessarily?

    For example, on page 31, I'm not sure what goals vs projects are. Do I choose a big goal and then break that down into projects, or are goals and projects different? Should my daily, weekly, and quarterly goals all go back to my 10-12 goals for the year? I guess I'm just not clear on how these things are different or if they should all be connected!"

    In this week's episode are going to do a deep dive on the difference between Projects, Goals, and Habits and how you can practically organize your ideas to make things happen with the Thriving in Motherhood Planner.

    First, use this how it works best for you! There are no grades or right or wrong answers. But, if you’re curious, here’s how I use my Thriving in Motherhood Planner in these different areas.

    Projects: Projects are things with multiple steps that need or want to happen. For example, on my list are creating a family meal binder, updating our family yearbooks, planting raspberries, planting a medicinal and culinary herb garden, and cleaning out garden pathways.

    Goals: Goals are a little more personal and stretching—definitely outside of my comfort zone. This year, I put three goals down: write a book, do community service as a family, and do a cooking camp with the kids. These are also multistep goals, but they are also about shaping who we are as people and doing things that are intentionally hard.

    Habits: Habits are also about becoming—but on a daily level. For me, I wrote about prepping for the next day and knowing what's going to happen so we get a head start, tracking finances, daily exercise, and reading with a commonplace notebook.

    Could some of these be mixed in different places - absolutely.

    Another way to think about it is that Goals are things I want to HAVE, projects are things I want to DO, and Habits are things I want to BECOME.

    Also, I don't fill out page 33 (Goals, Habits, Projects page) for the whole year all at once. I do it quarter by quarter. Sometimes, it is in planning, and sometimes it is in review to just see an overview of what happened.

    Will goals or habits have projects involved? Very possibly! Do I use the goal planning pages for a project? Sometimes! Do I not use a goal planning page for a goal? Yes!

    I like to have my daily, weekly, and quarterly goals funnel down from my vision. Some years, my vision is clearly defined on page 33, and sometimes, it is NOT. But I am picking what I focus on each quarter based on my vision and my month based on the quarter. My big three for the week have at least one thing from my vision on it most weeks (and sometimes it's taken up with homeschooling, celebrating a birthday, or getting the car fixed).

    Focus is usually more about who I want to be, a scripture that I want to remember, a thriving thought that is helping me navigate day-to-day life or something that is challenging me and I want to navigate it better. It is nice to have it as a reminder on my weekly page spread.

    Tracking is for the daily habits I want to keep a record of accomplishing. In some seasons, it is really motivating to check them off, and other times, I think just doing the things is enough and could care less if there is a check in the checkbox.

    If you have any more questions about how I use the Thriving in Motherhood Planner or whether it’s right for you, email me at [email protected], and I’ll get back to you!

  • Cleaning my home with my children has always been my number one priority. When they were babies this looked like using cleaning supplies that would be safe while they were in a baby carrier on me. As they were toddlers, it meant they could clean with me, and I wasn't worried about what they were touching. As they get older it means having materials I'm confident they can use safely by themselves.

    But knowing that this is what I wanted and executing it were two different things. In this week's episode, I'm sharing all the things I've tried and what worked, what didn't work, and what we are doing now that has been the right fit for us.

    I tried many things over the years. The first was to walk through the cleaning aisle at the store to find the products we needed. But due to overwhelm (the number of options, not knowing which products were actually safe, and calculating the expense of it all), I always walked out of there with nothing. This also meant that for years, the actual cleaning in our home was minimal because I was so worried about picking the wrong thing.

    My friend Hannah (we were neighbors in grad student housing - true friendship is formed in not ideal living conditions) created a course called Simple Green Cleaning (not available right now) that taught me how to clean the majority of my house with a few basic ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, and dish soap. I thoroughly enjoyed feeling confident cleaning my house and mixing up what I needed when I needed it. But when I started teaching my kids how to do it, they were so inspired by the process that they created their own cleaning supplies by mixing soaps, shampoo, conditioner, and lotions, and it made a pretty big mess. This didn't quite work with my purpose of cleaning with my kids.

    A few years ago, we decided to try Force of Nature, which is completely safe for skin, disinfects, and can be used on all surfaces. It has been a game-changer. We have ONE cleaning product we use on EVERYTHING.

    It makes it simple to teach our children how to use it (plus they LOVE the process of making it and never complain when I ask them to clean) and I never have to worry about what they are breathing in or is touching their skin.

    While I haven't done a petri dish test to confirm how well it disinfects surfaces, but it cleans well enough to remove all smells and clean surfaces, so that is good for me! When it comes to my main priority of cleaning with my kids, this one checks all of the boxes.

    If you want to try Force of Nature yourself, you can get a discount with this link:

    Force of Nature

    Get 40% off bundles in April with code: PLANET40

    Get 60% off Cleaning and Laundry Duo Bundles with PLANET60

  • When I had three kids, four and under, I learned about Charlotte Mason and her principle of spreading a wide feast of ideas. Practically, this looks like 20 different subjects in a Charlotte Mason classroom that get covered during the week.

    Before we were in the formal school years, I got into the habit of discovering where all the different sections of books were at the library so I could just walk the shelves and grab some that covered a wide range of ideas without any preplanning. For years, we have had this system in place that has provided an educational cushion through all the ups and downs in our lives and given our kids a lot of learning in a very natural way.

    For years, we have had this system in place that has provided an educational cushion through all the ups and downs in our lives and given our kids a lot of learning in a very natural way. I also supplement by putting books on hold at the library that deep-dive into what my kids want to learn more about so that I’m not hunting for specific books once we get there.

    In this week’s episode, I’m sharing practical tips for not losing the library books and keeping free books free, bringing some great books into your home, and some of our recent favorites.

    How we avoid fines and the library to keep our books free:

    We moved all our personal books upstairs to a home library and have a separate bookshelf downstairs for the library books to create separation.

    We have ONE library card, so we don’t lose track of the books we have checked out, what’s on hold, and what we have to return.

    We try to get to the library on the same day every week so that we don’t have many different due dates to keep track of.

    I try and go to our library account after we get home from the library to renew any books that we might have missed returning.

    We have a library book bag that holds between 20-30 books, which creates some margin.

    Recent Library Book Favorites That Were So Good We Would By Them

    Professor Wooford McPaw’s History of Astronomy

    Papa is A Poet A Story about Robert Frost

    The Planet Hunter: The Story Behind What Happened to Pluto

    Nothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain

    Hawk Rising

    Send a Girl!: The True Story of How Women Joined the FDNY

    Find Me! Adventures in the Forest

    The Apartment: A Century of Russian History

    Under Your Feet... Soil, Sand and Everything Underground

    Charles Dickens (Little People, Big Dreams)

    A Walk in London

    Cooking Class Global Feast!: 44 Recipes That Celebrate the World’s Cultures

  • Synthia Simenson is a mother of five (almost six) children ages 10 and under. She went through the struggles that I think we can all relate to when we first become moms—overwhelm, unsure of where to focus her time and energy, and not even sure what she wanted life to look like. I hope you are as inspired by her journey as I am, from those survival years to making intentional changes that created space for her to dream.

    Things like minimum baselines for taking care of herself and her home, weekly out-of-the-house dates with her husband (a minimum of 3 hours!), and creating a schedule so she wasn't reinventing the wheel every single day (notice the 3 pillars of thriving there?!).

    She also began asking this life-changing question: "What is something you want more of?"

    As she and her husband discussed this on their weekly dates, their answer was travel. They both love being in new places, connecting with people, and spending time together as a family while having new experiences and discovering things. Leaning into that dream has turned into years of trips all around the world.

    Synthia's Hacks For Traveling Internationally With Kids

    Plan trips that you are excited about because it is overwhelming and stressful, and you need something to really motivate you to do it because there are so many benefits

    Each kid has a day bag and night bag (toothbrush, pajamas, night diaper, etc.)

    Pack a swim bag with everything needed for swimming or a beach day

    Church bag with everything for church - bows, snacks, activities, etc.

    Make a customized packing list on the computer, print it out, and modify it according to the trip. Then, hand the list to the older children and have them pack by a deadline. This keeps you organized and lets the kids step up.

    Bring everything into a dining room or guest bedroom so it is consolidated into one space

    If going on a two-week international trip, start packing two weeks before because there are going to be that many details and things that go into it.

    Have a babysitter come over to help with packing

    Everyone gets their own snack bag that lasts for the entire trip. They get to pack 10 healthy snacks and some candies. She never regrets packing lots of food options to help with hungry moments.

    Have a restaurant bag with diapers, wipes, and black t-shirts for little kids instead of bibs to cover their clothes, and use it all week to keep them clean

    Listen to podcasts or YouTube videos about the place you are going to (start 6 months before) to get lots of ideas about what you can do without sitting in front of the computer all the time (though there is plenty of that, too).

    When I plan trips with kids, I skip over any blog that talks about travel without kids. I only read from sources that include "...with kids."

    Have a toiletries bag that is 90% ready to go for travel with duplicates of everything

    Have bags with long handles that go over the headrest in the car to help keep the kids' things organized so things are up off of the ground

    Always have 10 empty grocery sacks with you - there is always a kid who throws up, or has an accident, or there is garbage - and it helps you feel really prepared

    Traveling with your family might not be your dream, but I hope that this week's episode inspires you to ask the question, "What is something I want more of?" and see where it leads.

  • Have you done those exercises where you write out your priorities or values? It is easy for me to put on paper what I care about, but where are my time and energy really going?

    In this season of survival mode for our family, we have really stripped away a lot of what we usually do, and it is easy for me to say that we aren't very consistent in things that I wish we were better at.

    But as I sat pondering this one morning during my scripture study, I realized that I actually AM consistent at some things, even in survival mode, and those things are my true priorities. I wrote three different lists to help me get a more realistic picture of what I care about with not just my words but my actions, and then I evaluated and made changes from there.

    In this week's episode, I walk you through the entire process, using my answers as an example to get you started. Once again, I just used a Think and Process page in my Thriving in Motherhood Planner for this exercise.

    3 Questions to Determine Your True Priorities:

    What am I consistent at?

    What am I almost consistent at but drop the ball quickly when things are hard?

    What is done occasionally that you wish was more consistent?

    Once you've written your lists, ask these follow-up questions to help you evaluate and make changes:

    Is there anything obvious you would like to change?

    Is there an easy swap from something that is more consistent that doesn't matter as much to something that is less consistent and matters more?

    What needs more accountability?

    What could you create a system around so that it doesn't require as much from you?

    I realized that a lot of the things that I drop in a hard season, I am pretty good at picking up again once I have available energy. But there are some things that are done more occasionally that I realized I need to create systems around to give my kids more responsibility to be consistent in certain areas.

    After going through this process, it clarified to me where I need to devote more time, energy, and resources to make the biggest impact on consistently living out our priorities.

  • When you’ve lost momentum in every area of your life, and it feels overwhelming because there is so much to do, what do you do? Often, the answer is to do a brain dump—write everything you can possibly think of on a piece of paper to clear your head.

    The problem is, what do you do after that? How do you actually gain the clarity you need to move forward?

    This last week, I sat down and prayerfully asked that question, and a new process unfolded that made it very clear where to put my time and energy to start making progress on the things that really mattered most to me, even though we were still sliding between survival mode and re-entry.

    I thought about making it fancy, but in the end, I just used a Think and Process page in the Thriving in Motherhood planner to complete this entire process.

    Steps For Clarity When There is Too Much to Do:

    Brain Dump

    Cross anything off the list that isn’t actually really important right now

    What on your list has a next action step that is 5 minutes or less?

    What on your list is urgent?

    What progress have you made on each item (one box for started, two boxes for progress has been made, and three boxes for nearly done)?

    Transfer the 5-minute or less next action steps, urgent items, and nearly done items from your list onto your weekly plan.

    For me, there were two next action steps, two urgent items, and two things I was nearly done with. This allowed me to get some quick wins and start to build momentum and bring excitement and joy back into everyday life.

    Watch this week's episode of the podcast for an in-depth walkthrough of this process and what made my list.

  • Last week, we spent a week in Memphis, Tennessee, as a family while Andrew attended a conference. It was a great trip with lots of amazing moments and some really hard ones, too. In this week’s episode, I’m sharing the reflection process that I did after this trip so that we can take in all the data, evaluate the wins, what we loved, and what we would do to make things a little bit better next time.

    Some of the specific tips might be applicable to your family and travel situation, and some of them won’t, but either way, I hope that you will use this process after you have an adventure—big or small—with your family.

    It takes a lot of effort to pull off family adventures, and reflection is the essential step that allows us to do it again as we figure out what worked and what didn’t.

    Here are some things we reflected on that went well, didn’t go well, and what we would do differently next time:

    Mindset: This is a grand experiment, and I’m just here to collect data about what is going well and what’s not going well so we can make changes. If I go in with expectations other than these, my hopes will usually be dashed.

    Food: We stuck to our usual road trip staples on the way out (bagel sandwiches, fruits, veggies, something special - goldfish and veggie straws - and stopped for dinner at Chipotle). The rest of the trip was a little bit rocky. Hotel breakfast takes an hour, which means it is both an activity and a lot to manage, but that is just the new expectation. We packed lunches (sandwiches, fruits, and veggies) and grabbed dinner at a restaurant, but we were all just a little bit hungry. Next time we are going to be in a hotel for a long period of time, we think we’ll bring an Instapot so we can have more food that we are used to that is more filling.

    Quiet Time: I got some activities at the dollar store (coloring book, sticker book, playdough, standup) as an experiment to see if having a little novelty could get me a short nap in the middle of the day. It worked about 50% of the time, but the activities were a big hit and did get me about 20 minutes of rest. It also gave the kids something to do while we were waiting around in the morning for everyone to get ready with one bathroom. This was something that went well, and I would add more intentional effort into it next time because it was a budding success.

    Activities: I started by looking at the weather to get a general idea of what we were facing and saw some rainy days and clear days with generally cooler weather. My conclusion was we needed a mix of indoor and outdoor activities, leaning heavily on indoor options. We went to a few paid museums (National Civil Rights Museum, Cotton Museum, Flight Museum, and Children's Museum), and a few of those had groupons with huge discounts. We took advantage of local parks and found some awesome gems, and it also gave us outside time in spaces where the kids could just run and play and not be corrected by us. We also found things we would do things in our town anyway, like going to the public library.

    Took me off guard: I had zero moments without the kids. In the past, when the kids were little I would be awake an hour or two before them and work in the bathroom in the morning, but this trip, we went to bed together, woke up together, and spent every waking moment together (except for my 20 minutes of quiet time when they were one bed away). On the last night, Andrew took the kids after he finished working so I could go on a walk by myself (and then I found something fun and invited them to join me because it was too good not to share), but even that 15 minutes really rejuvenated me and is something we will be more strategic about next time we join Andrew on a work trip.

    Public Transportation was a huge hit: It saved a lot of hassle with parking. It was a fun activity that the kids enjoyed, and it helped them build some confidence in navigating a new place. We got a day pass for a few dollars each, so it was very economical.

    Include your kids in the entire process. Instead of adventures being all on mom's shoulders, use trips to build family unity and help the kids learn from and own the effort and the joy of adventures. My oldest created the packing list a few days before the trip. Everyone helped clean out the car, gather activities, shop and prepare food, and pack clothes. We might have gone a little slower, but it kept everyone doing the same thing, and there were fewer messes in other spaces around the house. When I started to get a little frazzled at the end of the trip packing things up to go home and everyone running around, I remembered I could ask the kids for help, and they did - with joy. Involving the children in the process of family adventures is something I want to get better at with future trips.

    Keep Similar Rhythms to What We Do At Home: Friday night was still pizza and movie night (with Papa Johns Pizza). At night, we had the same bedtime routine and morning routine. Every day, we came back to the hotel in the middle of the day for quiet time. We kept the basic anchors in our day and week so everyone knew what to expect and didn't start from scratch. We could have brought in a few more daily habits

  • When I shared 3 Thriving Thoughts for Hard Days a few weeks ago, we were not at the end of the unexpected and hard around here. The reality is that my capacity and desire for doing things and running the household are shrinking as my energy is being diverted toward the emotional and physical realities and reactions to our circumstances.

    I’ve also realized that my physical energy and health vary greatly every month, and I have some ongoing health challenges. I want to have a more realistic handle on what I’m committing to. When I created my vision at the beginning of the year, I had no clue what the first few months would throw at us, and I very excitedly jumped into lots of things, but now I’m finding myself stressed by these self-imposed expectations.

    As I was pondering this situation earlier this week, I had the inspiration (in my usual place, the shower) to write a Yes List. What is a Yes List, you ask?

    A yes list is a list of everything you’ve said yes to. Because I really don’t like not finishing things and seeing them through to the end, it was very helpful for me to put things on paper and look at them objectively. Then, I could sift through everything and simplify those “yeses” to the absolute essential. I used a Think and Process page in my Thriving in Motherhood Planner and carried it around with me during the day so I could add to it.

    Here are five areas from my Yes List that I’m currently simplifying:

    Books: I revisited my reading list and wrote down all the books I wanted to come back to in the future. For now, I’m focusing on reading this that builds my character and less on books that require me to take action.

    Gardening: Instead of an all-or-nothing approach, I’m simplifying our gardening activities and making progress without making it too complicated.

    Rooms: We are continuing our journey to simplify our living spaces, focusing on reducing clutter without getting too overwhelmed with perfection.

    Programs/Commitments: I evaluated all the programs I’m a part of and sorted through what is time-sensitive and what can wait. I’ve also re-evaluated my commitments, saying no to some things I had previously said yes to.

    Homeschooling: We are embracing our current homeschool and focusing on relationships over perfection. This approach fosters a deeper and more meaningful learning experience.

    In a nutshell, I’m on a quest to get really clear on what really matters RIGHT NOW and redirecting my energy and focus where it counts the most. Writing in my Thriving in Motherhood Journal every day is really helping me find the guidance I’m seeking.

  • If you’ve been stuck on Exploring on the 5 Step Path from Surviving to Thriving, this week’s episode is for you! Monica Packer shares how a Do Something List can be a powerful tool for exploring and discovering who you are and what you love. It’s a practical push to find fulfillment in your everyday life. It is separate from a goals or resolutions list. It’s more about exploration than competition.

    Monica is also no stranger to struggles and survival seasons and you will hear how she has learned to navigate those seasons a little more gracefully and find peace with things looking differently when life gets hard.

    For Monica, the biggest lesson from the Do Something List is that the transformation lies in the process, not the outcome. It’s not completing the list that brings fulfillment. It’s in the trying that you rediscover who you are, be more of yourself, and experience the trickle-down effect that comes from that.

    Monica’s Tips for a Do Something List

    Pick a timeframe that this list applies to (for example, the whole year or a season).

    Start with a lot of reflection on different parts of yourself that you want to bring back and things you want to try or are curious about.

    Finalize the list based on the things that are right for the season - not paying prices that are too high for the season you are in.

    It is a push to find time, but not to break you.

    Start small and in doable ways so you can gently stretch this part of yourself.

    You can take things off or add things to the list.

    Start with the funnest thing on your list that also seems doable or something that fits into what you are already doing (like trying new recipes).

    You don’t need to complete your list! Monica never has in the last 8 years.

    You can get a step-by-step through and more ideas in this week’s episode and dive deeper with Monica at: https://www.workinprogressacademy.co/dsl

  • We’ve had an intense few months over at our house, and it has taken its toll. But the wonderful thing is that with breakdowns come breakthroughs. Today, I’m sharing three new Thriving Thoughts (what I call the new way of thinking I like to hold onto) I’ve had that are helping me in this season.

    Whether these thoughts resonate with you or not, I hope that when you are struggling, you will follow this pattern that allows you to find more empowering and helpful thoughts.

    Pattern for Creating Thriving Thoughts:

    Notice when you are feeling negative emotions and uncover the thoughts you are thinking. This takes practice and may take some pondering.

    Write down the unhelpful thought

    Pray for a paradigm shift - how can you look at this situation differently? What is another way to think about it? For me, prayer is essential because only God truly understands my brain and how it would be helpful for me to approach my own struggles

    Ponder better ways of thinking. Write down the new thriving thoughts.

    Here are three new Thriving Thoughts that have come from this season:

    Focus on who God is and what He can do instead of my circumstances.

    I was caught in a loop of repeating our challenging circumstances. I noticed when reading scriptures that there are two groups of people: those who focus on the circumstances and those who focus on who God is and what God can do. (Moses and the Israelites are a great example of this). I’m now working on repeating who God is and what God can do - looking up instead of getting caught in the struggle.

    I don’t have to feel good too…

    One of the struggles I have about not feeling good physically or mentally is that it’s hard to be the mom I want to be. To be lighthearted, gentle, and patient is such a challenge when carrying stress, pain, and exhaustion (can you relate?) Then I feel guilty for not being those things and kind of mad that I’m dealing with pain, stress, and exhaustion (brains are fun). No, I’m even grumpier. But one day during this cycle, I had a wonderful Thriving Thought pop into my mind (inspiration, I’m sure): “I don’t have to feel good to smile.” And then I realized that applied to pretty much anything. I don’t have to feel good to be patient, lighthearted, make dinner, play a game - add your own. This was incredibly empowering. It would be easier if I felt good, but I don’t have to feel good to make the choice to behave the way I want to behave.

    I can do one small thing that will make a difference today.

    I find it incredibly easy to get overwhelmed when we are in hard seasons. Energy and time allotment for regular tasks get taken up by different things. The house gets out of hand, and I don’t have loads of capacity to deal with it. Multiply this by a few days or weeks, and running away can seem like a good idea. But you know what? One small thing makes a HUGE difference. I sat down with my daughter and sorted through a pile of papers and cleared a shelf and we both felt on top of the world. And it gets some momentum going in the right direction. And then I can do it again tomorrow. A five-minute effort multiples over days, and you can absolutely see progress.

    What Thriving Thoughts carry you through hard seasons?