Saturday, June 25, 2016

Museum Visits with Kids ... one of my favorite tips (ever)

Every summer, for 18 years, we packed up our family and traveled to Europe with Royal Servants.

The first summer that I tented around Europe with Dave and his team (35 students and 10 leaders), Christy had  just turned 5 and Jenny was 15 months. Oh my ... it was insane. (and sometimes really really cool)

While I had lots of ministry experience, I had

     *never lived in a tent

     *never been to Europe. 

I had lived in 5 countries, but nothing prepared me for this experience. 

Before we left, I bought a book called Europe with Children. I studied each of the 8 countries we would be visiting. None of it really helped ... I was a little too traumatized by tenting across Europe with two babies to remember much. 

But out of that book ... came one of my favorite ideas that I used for many many years and still love.

Of course, we visited many beautiful and amazing museums, which my kids enjoyed because of this cool idea...

Here is what you do:

          *buy your tickets and while everyone is in the long line to get into the museum, head directly with your kids to the museum store.

          *go straight to the postcard section, and have your kids pick out 2 - 10 postcards that they like. (depending on their age) Buy the postcards.

            *now, and only now, head to the museum. And take your kids on a super fun hunt to find the art pieces that are on their post cards.

            *this also allows you to skip all of the expensive touristy things in the gift shop.You have already gone and can skip it at the end of the tour.

When you get back home, your kids had a good time and also have wonderful, beautiful art for their bulletin boards, journals or a gift for grandma.

from Musee d'orsay, our favorite Paris museum


Sunday, June 5, 2016

Summer Salads are the BEST

Eight years ago, I began blogging. I have build so many amazing relationships. One of my favorite bloggers is Chris of The Cafe Sucre Farine.

Several springs ago, Chris was in Chicago and we met for coffee downtown. We shared so many things in common ~

     *a love of Jesus
     *a love of our sweet husbands

     *we both had a daughter living in England

     *blogging, food, etc. 

Chris is a serious blogger, along with her husband, Scott, who photographs everything for their cool food blog. 

I enjoy so many of her recipes, but my all time favorites are her salads. 

I added the avocado and shredded the zucchini.

I recently made her Mexican Chopped Salad. Oh my goodness. Her recipe includes a nifty way to quickly cook the corn on the cob, too.

Our family also loves Chris' Fresh Corn Salad. Did I mention mango ... bacon ... avocado?

Ever since I read Shauna Niequist spiritual memoir, Bread and Wine about the joy found in a life around the table, I make all my dressings homemade. Just so much better. I love both Shauna's and Chris' dressing recipes.

Check these two salads out ... you will love them. They are easy (just some serious chopping) and so very delicious. And, tell Chris I said hello.

Happy summer salads.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Sunday in the City (and the garden)

Last Sunday, Dave was traveling, so I went to church with Christy, which is always fun. 

After a lovely walk home, we decided to pop into the city. Christy took me to her favorite nursery in the Humboldt Park neighborhood, where she used to live.

We quickly found a parking spot (no easy task in Chicago) and this is the first thing we see ...

I love it that the artist arrived with all the paints he needed and a cup of coffee, too. (look closely) 


Just the colorful city inspiration we needed to choose some flowers. 

I love these privately farmed nurseries ... it is not racks and racks of the same flower and when you get home to plant ... not a single root bound plant.
And a wagon to take your purchases back to your car.


Years ago, when the girls first moved to Chicago, they purchased their Christmas tree here, and carried it home on one of these same wagons.

We have been enjoying some beautiful late spring / early summer days, with a few storms mixed in. Perfect weather for weeding and planting. 

I love puttering in my garden. What are you planting in yours? 

ps. When Lillian visits, the first words out of her mouth are, "back garden, Grandma, back garden." And off we go ... 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Brave Pills (we all need them)

My dad ... is ridiculously sweet, funny, charming and godly.

Last December, he fell and broke his hip. (just days before he was coming to spend Christmas with us, see our new home and meet his new great grandson)

Dad has led a full and very interesting life, facing many challenges. He has walked with God a long time.

Still, this was hard. Having lost two wives to cancer (he and my mom were married 55 years and he and Dot were married 8 years), he was facing this recovery alone. And, he knew the moment he fell, that his driving days were over.

He had surgery to place a pin in his hip and was sent to rehab, for what was supposed to be 3 weeks, but ended up being 3 months. 

I talked to him his first morning at the new rehabilitation site. In his tired and groggy post surgery voice he said, "You know what I really need, Glenny, I need brave pills. I need to grow up and be brave." (adorable, right?) 
Later that day, I was repeating this conversation to my brother, Tom. He cut right to the chase. "Well, that is no problem, dad knows how to get brave pills." 

And that is when I came up with my idea...

Dad has always relied on his relationship with Jesus, his many years of reading the Bible and his countless hours in prayer. But he was tired, in pain and afraid. He really did need someone to come along side of him and give him some brave pills.

So, I made some. I googled "top 30 encouraging verses in the Bible," grabbed my art supplies and voila ... brave pills. 

Dad loved them and read them every day. My brothers and sisters and dad's many friends did so much to help him. But brave pills was one way I could encourage him from afar. 

Who do you know that could use some brave pills? I made some for my friend who was facing her first Christmas without her dad, and another friend having knee replacement surgery.

Get out some paper and art supplies. Then, pop some brave pills in the mail and you will be a wonderful encouragement.

Dad is doing great, by the way.

He is in a beautiful assisted living place, surrounded by his favorite things, close to family and gets tons of visitors. He is one blessed guy and we are one grateful family.

ps. The great picture of dad was taken by my young nephew, George. 


Thursday, May 12, 2016

COLORING ... Have You Joined the Craze? (and why you should)

Have you joined the recent coloring craze?

I have always enjoyed coloring ... as a first grade teacher, with my own kids and even now, I enjoy pulling out the crayons, colored pencils and markers.

When the girls were young, we had periodic coloring contests. After dinner, we would all (Dave, too) choose a picture and chat and laugh around our dining room table while we all colored. Then we voted on our favorite. (no one really cared who won)

As a young wife, I enjoyed Alexandra Stoddard's books on decorating, puttering, routines etc. I remember coloring the pictures in her book, while I recovered from getting my wisdom teeth pulled.

Psychologist are recommending coloring as a relaxation technique. And coloring books for adults are popping up in Europe and the U.S.

Are you in? (I am)

I have been enjoying the books designed by Paige Tate. I recently colored this page for my friend who is having knee surgery. I sent it off with a few pages for her to color while she recovers. 


So, join in the fun. It is relaxing and you can send some encouraging mail off to friends that need it. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Note to Young Moms

Several weeks ago, I was asked to record a video message for our church on Mother's Day. The average age of our church is 31, so I wrote a message for young moms

I was a young mom once ... with huge glasses. (oh, the 80's)

This is what I shared ...

"Happy Mother's Day to all you moms, whose adorable children we see running around these 
buildings, we call Park Community Church.

I suspect that these are not easy days to be a mother.

First, you are in the city, away from your own moms, sisters, aunts and grandmas. It can get very lonely.

Second, you have the always present internet, telling you so many opinionated messages about how you should parent.

Should you breast feed or bottle feed? Sleep train or co-sleep? Do you have the right pre-school, the right stroller, the right diaper, the right baby food?

We have hot topics like immunizations and working moms and lighter topics like ... should I really spend $25 on a giraffe teething toy, named Sophie?

Even your child's first birthday party must include expensive ideas you found on pinterest and be instagram worthy. And the plot just thickens as your kids get older.

My heart goes out to you sweet young moms. That is a lot of pressure and stress. It is easy to forget God's grace.

My favorite quote on parenting came from an airline magazine, I found in the seat pocket when I was flying, years ago. As a young mom, I copied it into my journal.

          'There is no way to be a perfect mom,
          but there are a hundred ways to be a
          good one.'

This is so opposite of what our culture tells us ... there is NOT only one correct way to parent and we do not all have to look and act alike.

Today, I want to take my 34 years of experience as a mom to give you permission, with Jesus help', to just be yourself. It takes time to discover and learn what works for you and your family. Try different things until you find what you like. Do not compare yourself to others and do have lots of fun along the way.

God deeply cares about you as a mom, and as James reminds us, God will give us wisdom when we ask for it. Can I encourage you to ask often?

It is my prayer today that God brings you great joy and freedom as you daily raise the children He has given you.

From all of us at Park, we appreciate you, we salute you, we hope you get a nap this afternoon and we wish you a very Happy Mother's Day."

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Try to Marry Someone Fun

Marriage is not for wimps. Even 38 years in ... Dave and I still have to work hard, especially at staying connected in this season of busy ministry.

One thing that really helps is that I married someone fun. By nature, I am a hesitant homebody. I have done lots of crazy things:

     *grew up in Viet Nam during the war

     *went away with my brothers and sisters to
       boarding school

     *went to college out of State (Biola) while my 
       family was still overseas

     *married Dave (Mr. Adventure) 
     *lived in a tent with our kids for 4 1/2 years (we took high school students to Europe on mission trips for 18 years with Reign Ministires)  


But, really, my first response to adventure is always to say no. So it is good that I married Dave. Again, try to marry someone fun.

A few weeks ago, Dave came in from a long day of ministry and said, "Hey babe, save Friday. I want to go exploring food in the southside of Chicago." This means that he has been researching great places to eat.

Our first stop was Vito & Nick's. This was like a little trip to the 70's and we were the youngest people in the room. (downtown Chicago, we are always the oldest people in the room) 

Their thin crust pizza was amazing. (green peppers, sausage, onions and green olives) 

Our second stop was to a 90 year old Chicago tradition, Rainbow Cone

Five layers of delicious ice cream. (orange sherbet, pistachio, vanilla with cherries and walnuts, strawberry and chocolate)

Then we popped in to visit one of our new campuses that I had not seen yet.

Try to marry someone fun.

Yesterday, Dave got back from a staff retreat. Again, he popped in the door and said, "Hey babe, are you around on Friday?" 

"Why?" I ask cautiously. 

"I want to take you to one of our favorite coffee shops."

"Sure. Where do you want to go?" 

Dave ... "Wisconsin." Yup, we are driving to Wisconsin on Friday for a cup of coffee.

colectivo coffee
Try to marry someone fun. Dave is also funny and can always make me laugh.

What is something you love about your spouse?   

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