Thriving During a Pandemic

1:40:00 PM

Let's face it, life has been completely turned upside down for every single one of us. In the midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic our world has been flipped on it's head. This is why I wanted to take some time to write my thoughts on how I, a mom of three (6, 4, and 2), am getting through this time and how I am choosing to find joy even in these really hard times.

Let's be honest with ourselves for a moment, whether you are on the front lines and fighting to save hundreds of thousands of lives right now, grieving the loss of a loved one or are healthy, but just trying to do your part by staying home and quarantining yourself and your family to protect others around you, it is not easy being anyone right now. We each are suffering in our own ways. We are each facing our own trials each and every day.

Here are some tips as a mom of three that I have found helpful during this time of digital learning and staying home to help us get through the days and thrive instead of just survive the times.

One thing that I swear by is having a schedule in our house. I made a little board that hangs on the wall in our dining room for the kids to see. I tried to make it as much like a school schedule as possible and because my kids are little, I have basically every 15-30 minutes planned to change activities. That is about all they can handle.

Here is how our day (during the school week) generally looks:

WAKE UP                               7:00AM
BREAKFAST                          7:00 - 7:30 AM
DEVOTIONS                          7:30 - 7:45 AM
MAKE BEDS/CHANGE         7:45 - 8:00 AM
FREE PLAY                            8:00 - 8:30 AM (this is when I get breakfast cleaned up and everything we need for school organized)
MORNING WORK                  8:30 - 8:45 AM
MATH                                     8:45 - 9:15 AM
MUSIC                                    9:15 - 9:30 AM
SNACK                                   10:00 - 10:30 AM
WRITING                                10:30 - 11:00 AM
ART                                         11:00 - 11:30 AM
LUNCH                                    11:30 - 12:00PM
NAP/QUIET TIME                  12:00 - 2:00 PM (sometimes this goes a little longer depending on naps)
OUTSIDE PLAY/P.E.                2:00 - 3:00 PM
FREE TIME                              3:00 - 5:00 PM 

Here is a visual of our daily schedule. These are all velcroed so I can move them around and play with the schedule each day.
This schedule usually gets me to dinner time. We try very hard to get all school work done in the beginning of the day so that after nap/quiet time the kids are just free to play the rest of the day. Obviously we move subjects around to change the days up and the schedule is flexible depending on how the kids are doing each day. Some days are really good, others are a struggle, but I can tell you 100% our days would be much harder if we didn't have a schedule. My kids definitely thrive in structure and I think it helps them to know what their day is going to look like. I mean, we have calendars to help us stay organized, why would our kiddos brains work any differently? 

Whew! So now that you have a little look into our school day I hope this can help you organize your kids and your family as we continue digital learning for the remainder of this school year. I know that it is a lot and takes some planning, but I promise you, it is worth it. You will find your days will run just a little bit smoother when there is some sort of schedule.

One thing that has been really helpful during this stay at home order is to find something that helps fill me up with joy. Sometimes that is finding a few minutes to sit quietly in scripture while the kids are napping. Maybe a quick workout. Or a bike ride around the neighborhood with the family. Sometimes it is when my husband takes the kids outside to play so I can cook dinner by myself. Whatever that looks like for you, find it and work it into your schedule somehow. Even just 15 or 20 minutes can be really helpful to recenter yourself.

I know you can think of at least one thing that has happened to you during this stay at home order that has brought you fear, anxiety or frustration. What was it? (Other than your kids having a temper tantrum over something silly). If you can't eliminate it completely, is there a way for you to at least limit it?

For me it comes down to media, negative people/posts, and social media. All of these things are not all bad, I just found that too much time with any of these were bringing me down and effecting my mood and overall mental health. We do not have regular cable, which is helpful to filter the media. I do however give myself about a 10-15 minutes window a day to catch up on local and global news. That way I am not completely out of the loop, but also that I am not bombarded with it all day long. And then I can choose the sources that I want to receive my information from. Not all are created equally.

The negative people or posts and social media really just come down to setting boundaries. If it is a person that is bringing you down, try to limit your time with that person (if possible). If it is social media, try to unplug for parts of the day and substitute that time with one of the things that bring you joy instead. Instead of scrolling through TikTok for 3 hours, go on a bike ride and bake some bread. Or watch a movie with a loved one. If you are alone, Zoom somebody that you love and play a game of cards. I mean, we have to get super creative here, but it can be done. 

The last thing that has been so helpful to me right now is prayer. There is power in prayer. Prayer doesn't have to be this ritualistic, well thought out, thing. Literally it is simply a conversation between you and God. Pour your heart out to him. Write it in a journal. Whatever way feels right, but I promise you, this is so healing.

Your time with God can also simply be time reading and studying scripture. Letting the holy spirit work in your heart and soul. Here are some of my absolute favorite scriptures right now:

"Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
James 1:2-4

"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
Revelation 21:4

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."
Romans 12:12

"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
John 16:33b

Spend some time today in God's word and in prayer. Spend some time today appreciating every single moment you have been given with your loved ones. For every single breath in your lungs, the sun shining through the window or the rain that produces new life. Do not let these hard times destroy you or make you become bitter, because that is how Satan wins. And all I have to say to that is, "NOT TODAY SATAN! NOT TODAY!"

We are all in this together and we will come out of this stronger and more connected as a community of people if we allow this time to heal us and grow us rather than destroy us. ❤


Travel Diaries :: Banff + Lake Louise, Canada

12:52:00 PM

It's not often that my husband and I get to get away just the two of us, sans kiddos. I LOVE traveling with our kids, but there is something so nice about the freedom you experience as just adults. Not being confound by naps or schedules and getting to just let your guard down.

That being said, the hubs and I just recently took a very short, but amazing trip up to the great white north. As native Floridians it is pretty nice to experience a different climate and I don't think it could get much prettier than Banff and Lake Louise, Canada. I've wanted to travel here for some time, but honestly only thought of doing it in the Summer time (which we will also have to do some day). However, when this long weekend presented itself we just decided to make it happen. And I am SO glad we did! It was truly a dreamy winter wonderland.

We stayed at the famous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, right on the shores of the breathtaking Lake Louise inside the Banff National Park. In the summers you can rent canoes and find many people out on the waters of this pristine lake. But in the winter, you can trade those canoes for a pair of ice skates or snow shoes. As the lake freezes over in the winter time, guests can ice skate right out on the lake. What an amazing experience that was! For one, I haven't ice skated in probably 20 years. And two, never on a real lake!! If ice skating isn't your speed, you can rent snow shoes and take a peaceful hike through some of the trails found right on the hotel grounds. We didn't get around to snowshoeing this trip, but we will definitely be back for more Lake Louise adventures.

After ice skating we found our way to the ice bar to warm up with a spiked hot chocolate and cider. Now that is just what you need when temperatures are starting to dip below -10 degrees Celcius (14 degrees Fahrenheit), let me tell you, it was COLD for us native Floridians. Oh, and one of the most tasty treats, roasted apples. Not from the oven, but over an open fire!! OH. MY. GOODNESS. Talk about delicious! We will definitely be bringing this tastiness home with us. 

The next morning took us on a very fun, off the beaten path adventure. As the sun rises a little later in the mountains we hit the road around 6:30AM to try to meet the sunrise on iconic Abraham Lake, along the Icefields Parkway. This was definitely my favorite part of the trip. I always find myself feeling more at peace when I am isolated out in nature, with nothing but the sound of your breath. And if you are ever needing just that (as long as you can handle some bitterly cold winds) Abraham Lake in winter, at sunrise, is just what you need. 

What makes Abraham lake so impressive is because of it's location in the mountains, wind whips through the valley, blowing most of the snow off of the frozen lake. Leaving its pristine glass-like form for onlookers to enjoy. Also, if you look closely, methane bubbles coming up from the bottom have frozen upon their rise to the top. Definitely one of the coolest natural phenomenons I think I have seen.

Just driving along the Icefields Parkway is almost too much beauty to take in. Around every corner the majesty of the glaciers tucked into the Candian Rockies points to the beauty and glory of our Creator.

As our time was short we jam packed this day in with another hike down to Johnston Canyon. In the Summer the waterfalls here are flowing majestically and you can find tons of wildlife all around. But winter, brings a new beauty in that the waterfalls literally have been frozen mid-flow and other beautiful ice formations have been pushed straight out of the canyon. Definitely a sight to see if you ever make it up this way.

And if you are super adventurous and have a little climbing experience, you can even climb these gorgeous ice structures...see if you can spot the climber towards the top there...mad props!! Maybe next time...

Last night of our trip we made our way up to the top of the Banff gondola to take in the sunset and just the vastness of where we had been exploring the past few days. Surrounded on all sides by snow-covered peaks while the pink and purple clouds danced in the sky is a sight I don't think I can easily forget.

As there is a restaurant on the top of the gondola we were able to get seats in the bar area last minute (definitely would recommend making a reservation if you can, especially if you have a larger group. We just took a chance and they were able to squeeze us in) and enjoy the view a little longer while we ate dinner. And if I knew how to photograph stars (on my list of things I would like to learn) I would have shown you just how beautiful the night sky was from this lookout point once it was completely dark. I have never seen so many stars in my entire life.

As a girl who has always lived in a city, we don't typically get to see too many stars because of the city lights. It was beyond humbling to witness the vastness of the universe from the top of a mountain. I can't even put into words the emotions that flooded me as I stood there looking up at the night sky witnessing too many stars to count. What a beautiful God we serve who would give us such a glimpse into who He is as the creator of those stars.

"Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing."
Isaiah 40:26

Needless to say, this was another check off of the bucket list for us. A short, but very sweet trip. I have come home filled up with MUCH needed alone time with my husband and our time spent out in the quiet of nature, just drinking in this beautiful planet we are so honored to call home.

If you don't already have this on your list of places to visit, I would highly recommend adding it. You will not be disappointed.


Travel Diaries :: Israel (Part 3)

9:54:00 AM

We have made it to part three and the final part of our Israel journey. If you haven't seen my first two posts you can find part ONE HERE and part TWO HERE.

Last post included some of my absolute favorite places we went in Israel, but I think I saved the best for last. Honestly, everything we did while in Isreal was amazing. So where are we going in this post?? We are headed WAY South to the Dead Sea and Masada in the desert and then ending our journey in Jerusalem.

I can't even describe in words well enough to tell you how gorgeous the dead sea is. It is such a mysterious place filled with awe and beauty. I could get lost in these views forever.

If you don't already know, the Dead Sea gets its name because it does not empty out into anything. The salinity is extremely high that no life can live in this body of water and is currently Earth's lowest elevation on land. Cool right? Not even to the coolest part. Because the salinity is so high, no matter your size or weight, you become extremely buoyant and float. The kids didn't really get in the water as it irritated their skin. Definitely make sure you are near a shower if you go to the dead sea! We were traveling with locals so they knew where we should go. 

Make sure to purchase some dead sea mud if you make it to the Dead Sea...your skin will thank me later! Unlike the ocean, where the salt water makes your skin feel tight and dry, the water and minerals from the dead sea almost makes your skin feel oily. It is said to have healing qualities for skin disorders as well as aid in keeping your skin feeling moisturized and soft. I can attest, my skin felt so nice for days after a good 30 minute float.

We stayed up in a camp grounds overlooking the Dead Sea. Just for one night, but oh my word, the sunrise we saw the next morning was the most amazing sunrise I have ever seen in my entire life. As the sun came up over the mountains of Jordan you could overlook the glass-like waters of the Dead Sea. Still and lifeless reflecting an array of colors. Breathtaking!

Sunrise view from where we stayed above the Dead Sea. Metzoke Dragot, Dead Sea.


Our group at the top of Masada

Another stop at one of King Herod's hide outs (for lack of a better term), Masada is a structural phenomenon. Masada is an ancient city built into the mountainside thousands of feet above the Dead Sea. The Masada National Park is a must on your time in Israel, not only because structurally it is just amazing to behold, but also, because of it's location. You can do a 2 hour hike up the old road/path to the city or pay and take a 5 minute cable car ride to the top. We did the cable car.

The views from the top of Masada are definitely a must in my book! There is nothing quite like it.

High above the shores of the Dead Sea and completely surrounded by dessert, Masada would have been an oasis within the dessert. Which ultimately became it's downfall during a Roman siege in the early first century. Surrounded on all sides by Roman soldiers who then figured out how to reach the city, all the citizens (excluding 2 women and 5 children) took their own lives, as they would have rather died than become slaves to the Romans. It is heartbreaking to learn bits of history that end so tragically and a little more than morbid walking the ground in which thousands of years ago approximately 960 people (including women and children) took their own lives on the very ground we were walking. You can read some more on the history of Masada HERE.


Saving quite possibly the best for last we are now making our final stop in the Holy city of Jerusalem. As the capital of Israel and the main hub for all religious activities during the first century this would have been the place all Jews would come annually and where Jesus would have done a lot of his teachings along with the place where He was crucified, buried and resurrected. Although this city is again well developed around the old city walls, there is just something about walking these streets and being in the places where many momentous scenes from the Bible took place that not only solidifies my faith but humbles me completely. Who am I to be worthy to even walk in the footsteps of my Savior?

We started our Jerusalem tour up on the Mount of Olives. Overlooking the city as Jesus would have looked over her and wept for the people (Luke 19:41). As we made our way down into the city we stopped at the Garden of Gethsemane.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus would have been praying the night he was betrayed by Judas and arrested before his crucifixion.

We entered the city through the Jaffa Gate. As we made our way down the roads, we came across a seemingly hidden, off the main strip, doorway into Bethesda. It felt like a little neighborhood tucked aside within the city, Bethesda would have been the place where Jesus healed the paralytic. It also would have been the pools used for all the temple ceremonial cleanings and possibly the location where after the Resurrection the disciples baptized roughly 3000 men/women who became believers (Acts 2:41).

The most solemn and overwhelming experience was walking the Via Dolorosa. The path believed Jesus would have walked carrying the cross the day of His crucifixion. You are really able to put yourself in that time period, imagining Jesus struggling to carry the cross down the narrow streets lined with people. The market is also right along the path, which was quite surprising to me, but it gave me a new perspective on what it may have been like even centuries ago. It made me feel a little sad that this holy place had been taken over by people buying and selling things, but I guess that is just our human nature.

entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The church of the Holy Sepulchre as well as Golgotha and the garden tomb are both presumably the locations of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. It felt more right at the garden tomb for me, outside the city walls, more peaceful and less crowded.

We traveled a little bit outside the old city walls to the Garden Tomb at Galgotha.

Last stop was the Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall. What a feeling to be in the presence and touch the last remaining standing wall of the original tabernacle from over 2000 years ago. Unbelievable! We were supposed to do a tour of the tunnels below the wall, but as the stomach bug continued its way through our family, hitting my husband this day, we decided to call it a day early and give him some time to rest. Next time!

The men and women have separate sides where they can enter to see the wall. It is a very holy place where you can sit and pray. Many actually write prayers and place them inside the cracks of the wall.

Our last night in Jerusalem we meandered Jaffa street. We spent the evening eating great food and picking a few souvenirs for the kiddos. I guess I didn't take many pictures this night because we were just having too much fun exploring!

It still feels a bit like a dream that we went on this trip and even looking at all the photos and videos we took are unbelievable. What a humbling experience to travel and see different parts of the world. In my opinion, there is nothing better, especially when you get to experience it all with the people you love. Until the next adventure....

my 3 tiny international travelers

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