Monthly Archives: February 2014

Kickin’ It with the Kids!


Though for most of us the weather holds no resemblance to spring, the calendar tells us that school spring breaks are just around the corner. With that in mind, I thought I would share with you all a few of the family- and finances-friendly spots my family has visited over the years.

I start by saying that my husband and I did not grow up traveling. Our parents, like many of that era, did not value travel the way people do today. They viewed trips across the country as purely luxury, and, indeed, they would have been. Neither the money nor the priority was - travel

However, when Tim and I married, we agreed that we wanted to see and experience new things. We consider travel an opportunity to learn, for us and our children. While we will often pass up the latest gadgets and brand-name clothes, we rarely surrender our annual family vacations.

Our goals have typically been to see new areas of the United States each year, and to do a variety of activities during a vacation. Everyone is familiar with the fabulous amusement parks on both coasts, as well as the wondrous national parks scattered about. But, we’ve stumbled upon a few “backdoor spots” along the way that you may not be familiar with.

Seven travel treasures in the Midwest (or thereabouts):

1) The National Mustard Museum in Middleton, Wisconsin ( The store’s owner has an interesting story, good humor abounds in the museum and store. Outside of your purchases (and, I’m sure there will be some), the museum is free. Educational, whimsical and tasty!

2) Field of Dreams Movie Site in Dyersville, Iowa ( This stop has movie trivia, a free guided tour, and an opportunity to play pitch-and-catch with the kids. Beautiful and utterly refreshing.

3) Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum in Mansfield, Missouri ( If you have a child who is a fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder, this is a fascinating stop. Laura wrote her books from Rocky Ridge Farm. There is a small fee for children over 6 ($6) and adults ($10), but younger kids are free.

4) Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site in Petersburg, Illinois ( If you find yourself in Springfield, IL to visit the Lincoln’s Presidential Library and Museum, make an additional stop at New Salem. It provides a great walk and a wonderful look back into Lincoln’s time and life. Donations are suggested.

5) Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas ( Though I am not a big science person, your kids will love the possibilities this park presents! There is a nominal fee, but lots to do!

6) Christ in the Smokies Museum and Gardens (previously Christus Gardens) in Gatlinburg, Tennessee ( You’ll find inspirational art and a break in the commercialism during an ordinary trip. Tickets range from free to $12, depending on age.

7) Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky ( If you’re not a horse lover, you may not have heard of this travel destination, but, even if you aren’t, there is much to enjoy at KHP. Tickets for a family of four will cost about $50, but this includes the next day’s admission. It is the essence of Kentucky and worth the price.

I hope this sparks a bit of excitement as you look beyond our frozen “states” and toward a fun, sunny summer. I will have more in the coming weeks, and please let me know in the comments if I can offer any advice on any of the spots mentioned. I love giving advice!

Enjoy the weekend!



Best Laid Plans of Moms and Dads


It’s date night for my husband and I this evening. Date nights have been infrequent during our 20 years of marriage. When our children were younger, we typically took them with us wherever we went. Now that they are older, we usually go somewhere with them – band performances, cheer practices or competitions, FFA events, etc. They now set the agenda for us.

Valentine’s Day (last Friday) was rather uneventful at the Franz household, at least from a romantic view. After an 11-hour day of dipping strawberries on Thursday (this to support a cheerleading fundraiser) and a 4-H meeting that evening, my son played with the pep band on the 14th, and my daughter babysat three little guys here at our home while their young parents had an overnight stay.

My perfectly-planned blog writing schedule was thrown off, and our Valentine’s celebration delayed a bit. We did attend a lovely adult-only party at our church Saturday evening, and the meal, fellowship and games were lots of fun. And, tonight Tim and I will complete our couple’s weekend by going to a movie and dinner with - strawberries

Love – often and especially married love – is like that. We sometimes set aside our own schedules and plans for those of our children. Our goals are regularly adjusted to accommodate our parenting roles. Our own entertainment is put on the back burner so we can fulfill mom and dad responsibilities. Husbands and wives understand the shared priorities within their marriage and are usually united in accomplishing the goals of the family. That is perhaps one of the most romantic things about being in a long, committed marriage.

Regarding last weekend, I wouldn’t have changed anything. I enjoyed the bonding with the other moms, all of us covered in white and milk chocolate at the day’s end. My husband liked seeing the basketball team win with the encouragement of the band, and we girls had a lively time with some precious children.

What’s on your schedule tonight? Share your plans with us, and…

Enjoy the weekend!




My house is a major mess at the moment! We are having our dated and well-worn kitchen vinyl flooring replaced, and the project is scheduled to start within the hour. The work is to be completed by Friday, and while I am excited, I am calling upon my limited resources of “zen” right now.Under Construction- Blog Use

Picture this if you will:

  • three important appliances now sit in my garage
  • wall hangings and décor lean against the walls of the office
  • craft supplies from a 4-H meeting and a Valentine’s Day party clutter the counter
  • the dining table, chairs and benches consume the foyer
  • what visible floor surface exists outside the kitchen is spotted with evidence of melting snow

Things are in disarray, and they will be until the flooring, painting, and delivery of the new frig are finished. So, what am I to do? First, I have to just “be calm,” as they say, and try to be productive while the work is being done. Next, I must look forward to the finished product that we’ve been planning for a long time, even though things look ugly right now. And, I need to recognize that overhauls sometimes take longer or become more complicated, so I’ll have to be patient with the process.

Our lives are sometimes like that. There are times when our personal or professional lives become messy. Often those times usher in growth of one form or another. The messes we typically bring on ourselves must be endured in the process of learning and becoming better, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

In those growing and learning spaces in time, we must relax and try to do good work. We should be excited about the finished product that He has in mind for each of us. And, we need to exercise patience as God’s plan for each of us unfolds and becomes complete.

Wish me well on my home remodeling project, as well as any holy upgrades that are surely in my future. I will do the same for you!

Have a Blessed Wednesday!


Social or Psycho?


Have you been playing the games popping up on social media? One involved participants listing a specified number of interesting facts about themselves, and, in turn, each responder was given a number so that they could carry on by giving their own list. More recently, I played the door game. By selecting the door which appeals to you most—the one you would like to step through—you reveal something about your personality. That was fun. Another helped readers determine which Disney character or royal princess (or prince) they most resemble.

These are entertaining things to try and to share with others. We gain insight into the way we think and behave. I love that stuff. During my counseling classes, I took and gave lots of personality, attitude, aptitude and IQ tests. Back in the day, I enjoyed reading the personality profiles connected with each of the zodiac signs… not so much now. Many of us enjoy learning more about ourselves and others, primarily because it helps to create connections.

However, let’s keep in mind those connections made in the virtual world aren’t the same as those in the real world; they aren’t as good. I think of the conversations we have online as disposable. They aren’t retained as long nor are they as meaningful as those we have face-to-face.

Few things feel as warm as hugs shared with church family on Sundays and Wednesdays. Quickly-typed phrases don’t resonate in the ears like carefully-chosen spoken words to a friend in times of sorrow. And, spontaneous smiles cannot be replicated by any emoticon that’s available to us online.

Don’t misunderstand me, please. I think the social media tools available to us today are wonderful resources for connecting (at a certain level) with people all over the world. The applications are great, both personally and professionally, and the world is better because of these tools. But with all things, it is wise to practice moderation in our use of these.psycho - blog

So, in my most Jeff Foxworthy-like voice, let me summarize this way:

If you pee your panties, because you just can’t leave the hilarious banter on FB …

If you forget to pick up your kids, because the old-lady-dancing videos have you spellbound …

If you forget to eat…

Wait; if you forget to eat, you’re really a loon. If the other things apply, you may be slightly crazy and find a diagnosis in the DSM-5 that pertains to you.

In truth, though, if your computer time is cutting into your real-life connection time, maybe it is time to re-evaluate. For few things mean as much as a caring and unrushed phone call, a hand-written note, a pat on the shoulder, or a well-timed gesture of kindness.

Keep smiling!


Snow Days Don’t Have to be Throwaway Days!


This winter has been a blustery, cold and snowy one across most of the country. In my Missouri hometown, kids have accumulated eight snow days. That’s eight days, in addition to a lengthy Christmas vacation, to be at snowed in at home with each other and mom.snow day - blog

Sledding and building snowmen grew boring about three big storms ago, and the temperatures make any extended time outdoors hard to endure anyway. (Each time I send them out, it seems only minutes before mine are pounding on the locked door.) Therefore, most kids are returning to their default forms of entertainment—electronics and internet. If you can pry the game systems and devices from their grubby little (or bigger) paws, here are a few more old-school ways to survive, and maybe even enjoy, the quality time that snow days bring.

  • Pull out the board games. Monopoly, Yahtzee, Operation and Battleship are just a few classics available for kids of all ages. Each provides teaching opportunities and is a great way to get the conversation going. And, don’t forget about cards and charades.
  • Get creative. Anyone who has taught VBS, been a 4-H leader, or served as a room mother likely has a generous stash of craft supplies on hand. Social media provides endless ideas for DIY projects, but here’s another thought. Lay out what you have, and challenge your children to come up with something new using the items available. You may be amazed at what they “invent.” Afterward, consider making a video of their project to share with the world.
  • Take a trip down memory lane. We take pictures constantly, but do we ever take time to sit and enjoy those taken in the past? Spend time with old family photos. Label them, if you can. Discuss the styles of dress and automobiles in the pictures. Take time to preserve them in scrapbooks, and tell stories from childhood as you do.
  • Get cookin’! Busy families often eat from boxes and take-out bags. So being snowed-in provides an opportunity to spend more time in the kitchen. Prepare time-consuming recipes that you don’t normally have time to, and teach kids how to as well. Cooking and baking are skills being eroded over time; bring them back for a bit of fun in the kitchen.
  • Blankets and books. Now that’s a cozy combination. Cuddle up in front of the fire or on a soft couch with your favorite books. Read to them or with them. If your kids are older, take turns reading aloud something you’ll both enjoy. Or, just share your thoughts as you take a cocoa break in your reading.

Now, after a few days of lounging and luxuriating in one another’s company, you may look up and find your home is a complete disaster. With board games, craft stuff, photos, a cluttered kitchen, and blankets scattered about. Here’s where you go really old-school, and suggest (nay, dictate) a work day. We all know it’s hard work to get kids to work. But, the only way to instill a work ethic is to make them learn to do it. And, that can start pretty young.

Though inconvenient, we should consider snow days a blessing. They force a slow-down to the busy lives that we all have. Savor them, and try to make the most of them!

How have you spent your snow days with your children?

Enjoy the weekend!


50 By 50


I enjoyed several Facebook movies today in celebration of the social media company’s 10-year anniversary. Ten years is a nice milestone to reach, but let’s talk about an even bigger one – the 50th birthday.

There are a lot of folks turning 50 this year! Let’s see… Courtney Love and Courteney Cox, Michelle Obama, Laura Ingraham and Glenn Beck, Sandra Bullock and Melissa Gilbert, Russell Crowe, Nicolas Cage, Keanu Reeves and Rob Lowe. Jeopardy!, Mary Kay Cosmetics, and the musical “Fiddler on the Roof” also turn 50 in 2014. It seems every time I turn around I hear of someone turning 50. It may be I am just tuned into those particular messages, but 1964 was a big year. In addition to being a pivotal time in history, the year marks the official end of the Baby Boom Generation, the years 1946-1964.

Along with these high-profile individuals above, I and many of my friends will see 50 during the course of this year. I admit I have some anxiety about the whole thing, but what is one to do?

So, as I began this year, I again made the resolution to lose weight and get into shape. This is not a new effort for me. If I am to be totally honest, this is perhaps the area in which I have felt most defeated and frustrated throughout my life. Many face the same weight challenges.

I decided I should make it my goal to lose 50 pounds by my 50th birthday. Thankfully, my birthday falls in September, so this is a doable, if not lofty goal. I have been dieting for about one month now, and I am down seven pounds. This is certainly not as fast as I would like, but remember… I am almost 50!

Whether your motivator is a big birthday, a big event, or a challenge gone unmet for too long, may you have success in your 2014 resolutions and goals. I will keep you posted on mine. My hope is that with lots of effort and prayer, I can do this thing. Plus, it would be really fun to say “I lost 50 pounds the year I turned 50!”

Let me know what motivates you in 2014.

Have a Blessed Wednesday!


Throwin’ It


Born in Guatemala, my daughter is blessed with a compact, strong, limber body. And, her personality is lively and girlie. So she naturally demonstrates potential and interest in cheerleading, which she began competitively last summer. I, with an entirely different set of genetics, lack any athletic ability at all. Therefore, when she ventured into the sport of cheerleading, I found there is a lot to learn.

For example, thecheerleading - blogre are the bases and the flyers. My daughter does some of both. There are the insanely huge and ornate cheer bows that perch satellite-dish style atop the competitors’ heads. I had to develop a taste for those, but I am now fully on board with cheer bow fashion. The competitions include a wide range of categories related to age, skill levels, and team size. And, I’ve only begun to scratch the surface when it comes to understanding the intricacies of scoring performances. Most recently I learned what is meant when coaches and team members say “throw it.”

In cheerleading “throw it” is synonymous with the expression “chuck it,” but the culture of our gym and coaches (and, in-the-know parents) is to use “throw it” when referring to an athlete’s attempt to make a back handspring. It is typically used when a cheerleader is just beginning to learn the skill. They may be nervous or scared, but they are encouraged to “throw it,” which simply means to give it a try. Hands are used in this skill, so that’s why the words “throw” or “chuck” come into play. Once I figured this out, I started using the proper language and urging, and, yes, my girl has indeed “thrown it.”

My son, a fan of classic TV and the Old Farmer’s Almanac, shares Granny Moses (of the Beverly Hills Clampetts) quotes and weather tips regularly.

When our children are small, we are in constant teaching mode – warning them about stranger danger, practicing shapes and colors, reading Bible stories, modeling proper social skills, and writing numbers and counting. But, as they become older, we get to a place where we can begin to really learn from them.

So, love and teach them every day, but learn from them along the way!

What have your children taught you? Share with us how they have broadened your horizons.

Happy Monday!