7 Tricks To Curb Car-Ride Complaining

7 tricks

We’ve all experienced frustration as we hop in the car after a day of fun in the sun when a tired child opens their mouth and complaining spills out.

We know the feeling of exasperation that EVEN after we spent the entire day engaged in making them happy, they respond with complaining instead of contentment.

About true things.

About silly things.

About nothing.

While frustrating, it is understandable that children are prone to complaining. Adults complain too – when they’re tired, or hot, or hungry, or thirsty, or bored, or when there is no good reason for it at all.

Of course our children are going to struggle with it too.

I do. More than I’d like to admit.

The problem is, complaining is infectious. It can create a vicious cycle that goes something like this:

Our family has a fun day. Everyone is tired. It takes just one complaint to send our family down the complaining rabbit hole. We request the complaining stop. They complain some more. We become frustrated. Scolding a tired child to stop complaining generates more complaining, and potentially tears. We find ourselves complaining about THEIR complaining and maybe even asking if we need to ‘pull this car over’.

It takes awareness and effort to stop the complaining cycle and to redirect. As parents, we need to recognize and prepare for the very real chance that our child WILL be a stick-in-the-mud at some point this summer.

Or…gasp…that it might be US who allow that first complaint to escape our lips.

Complaining happens.

Tired people, enclosed spaces and boredom make the car a place with high potential for complaining. We need a game-plan to curb the complaining, without threatening to pull the car over to the curb!

Whether the complaining is ours or theirs, we need to stop it in its tracks so we have the chance to finish fun days well.

7 Tricks To Curb Car-Ride Complaining | thisgratefulmama.com

7 Tricks To Curb Car-Ride Complaining


Yes, you! Children emulate their parents. A complaining parent will have a complaining child. If we want our children to stop complaining, we need to lead by example. Listen to your own words during the day. What are you complaining about? The weather? Your relationships? Your clothes? Your child’s complaining? Whatever it is – STOP IT. It is better to be silent than to demonstrate complaining to your children.

2. Apologize

No one is perfect. Even the most purposeful and grateful mama is going to complain. Pay attention! When you catch yourself complaining, stop AND THEN talk to your children about it. Tell them you’re sorry for having a bad attitude. CHOOSE to stop and demonstrate moving on with a positive attitude. Give them a real-life example to emulate.

3. Demonstrate Gratitude

Actively try to replace complaining words and thoughts with gratitude. Let your children hear you giving thanks and praise to God and others MORE than they hear anything else. Be sure to thank your spouse, children and others generously. Encourage children to thank each other. Try focusing on gratitude while walking to the car and during those first moments IN the car. It can set the tone for the whole ride home!

4. Reminisce

Stop car-ride complaining by sharing your favorite moments of the day. As you talk about the fun you had, children can begin to think about the fun they had. Be engaged and listen attentively as they share their favorite moments. If you can, extend their story by asking leading questions (What about when…? How did you feel when…? Wasn’t it fun when…?). The longer they spend recalling the best of the day, the longer their mind is off of anything that leads to complaining.

5. Praise Them

Instead of demanding that a child stop complaining, redirect them with praise. Tell them how they made you proud that day. What did they do today that was kind, helpful, gentle, loving or patient? What did they do that was new, challenging, or out of their comfort zone today? While a child may have trouble shifting from complaining to joy simply by being instructed to do so, praising what they do well can help them see their circumstances from a different perspective. Help them make the leap by lifting them up. Extend the praise by going around, addressing each child in the car and encourage each child to lift their siblings up as well.

6. Planned Distractions

An over-tired child has trouble with transitions. When getting ready for a long, fun day, think about what will help your child transition at the end of the day. If you are pushing nap time back or skipping nap time altogether, consider bringing your child’s comfort blanket or toy. If an activity involves changing the normal meal schedule, bring extra snacks and drinks. If a long drive is required, throw in a few toys, kids CDs or books to keep them busy and focused on something other than complaining. If you haven’t planned ahead, engage your family in a game of I-Spy, sing a song, or start counting SOMETHING (trucks, red cars, blue cars, planes, birds, cows).

7. Pray Together

Pray when you get in the car, BEFORE anyone has had the chance to complain. Thank God for the fun day, for memories made, for each family member, and ask Him to help your family finish the day with grateful hearts. Prayer can effectively and powerfully set the tone for every one in the car. 

How do you curb car-ride complaining?

If you’re hopping in the car after a public meltdown, check out these tips as well! 7 DO’s and DON’Ts after your Child’s Public Meltdown


Master Bedroom Update: A Promised Picture

A friend reminded me that I still owe a photo of our newly painted bedroom.

And she’s right.

The Great Paint and Curtain {In}Decision came with a promise for a photo the following week.

Here we are over a week later. Still, no photo.

My bad.

It is time to make good on that promise. However, it makes sense to me that you should first see a ‘before’ photo. Our old bedroom was best described by my husband when we were preparing to paint – “Now we finally won’t look like renters”.

Bedroom BEFORE

White, bare walls, worn out 7-year-old bedding and mismatched furniture DID make us look like renters.

But renters we are not. God willing, we plan to live here for a very long time.

Fresh paint, new curtains and a Groupon-bought comforter – now our bedroom finally feels like it’s ‘ours’. And it’s always great when it doesn’t break the bank.

As promised, here’s a photo of the painted room and an up-close photo of the curtains we kept after all that indecision (thank you, Target).Bedroom Update


Yes, our new blue walls are still mostly bare, and we still have mismatched furniture. I’m OK with it for now.

Like our Dining Room update last year, we do our decorating with budget-in-mind. We have a low-cost plan to finish this bedroom that includes a DIY headboard, possibly a DIY overhead light, painting our dresser, and creating or using artwork we already have.

I’m looking forward to completing and sharing these projects sometime later on this summer.

Happy Decorating!


Never Say “Never”

Ever have those moments in life where you literally eat your words? I’ve had several such moments as I’ve learned the lesson – never say ‘never’.

Once upon a time, I had these plans.

They were my plans, and I thought they were pretty darn good.

Entering college, I planned to go to pharmacy school after undergrad. I even joked with my family that I was not going to be a just a pharmacist, I was going to be a famous pharmacist. Yes, I seriously said that. They tease me still today.

So, with my plans, I was adamant that I was never, let me repeat, never, going to get married and skip pharmacy school. In fact, I remember telling a friend that God would have to send me a burning bush to make me change may plans. Ugh. The stupidity.

I am SO glad God did not send me a burning bush as I’d all but demanded (seriously, consider what it would be like to encounter the living God’s presence in a bush that does not burn up and to hear HIS VOICE. And in that moment, to be fully, and I mean fully aware of your own ungodliness, unholiness, and sin – terrifying!).

I am grateful that instead of doing things my way, God was gracious, merciful and gentle with me. No, He didn’t send a burning bush, although He would have been right to put me in my place for uttering such ignorant nonsense.

Instead, he sent me an amazing man who became my best friend for life and who swept me off my feet. I was all but jumping up and down as I said yes over and over when he asked me to marry him. Our wedding day was the best day of my life.

And get this – months BEFORE my best friend asked me to marry him, I did apply for pharmacy school and take the PCAT, but when it came time to decide where to go, I just wasn’t interested in pharmacy school anymore. I pulled my applications and decided not to go.

God had other plans.

And they were better than mine.

Newly married and hunting for places to live, I said I was never going to live in the city where I grew up. Apparently, I hadn’t learned the never say ‘never’ lesson yet.

9 years later in the winter of 2013, we bought a new house. In that very city where I grew up. Close in proximity to family. Close in proximity to my husbands’ job. Smack dab in the middle of fantastic neighbors who have quickly become close friends to us and our children.

This place I never wanted to live in fits our family just right. We have no doubt – this is where we are supposed to live.

God had other plans.

And they were better than mine.

Now this may seem silly, but when we had kids, I said I was never going to be a mini-van driving soccer mom. And who was I to act like a soccer mom is something to be repelled?

Can you guess what happened last week?

We bought a mini van.

And our son started soccer.


God had other plans. And a sense of humor.

And they are better than mine.

I’m done with saying ‘never’. From what I’ve experienced, my view of life is much to narrow to utter such strong, ignorant words. Only God knows the future and I should stop presuming that saying never could eliminate choices He may lead me to.

Instead, I have started to say – God willing.

I am so grateful God had other plans!

My pharmacy-working-unmarried-living-somewhere-else-without-2-kids-and-a-van life would have been lackluster and possibly even horrible. That was my plan, and it was short-sighted and sad.

God has many plans for us that we cannot fathom today. He longs to give us life abundant in Him, and He loves to bless us.

I could never have even dreamed what I’d be missing. And trust me, His plans ARE good. I can’t wait to see what He has planned for today, tomorrow, and forever.

This mini-van driving mama is proud to be where He’s brought me.

God is SO good!



Pink, Sequins, LIGHT UP Shoes

I’m not much of a girlie-girl. Frills and pink just aren’t my thing.

While I like to get dressed up once in a while, my taste is simple. I own a few pink items, but blue, gray and black dominate my wardrobe. I’m not much for jewelry so when I have it on – people notice – not because its amazing but because it is so uncommon for me to wear it.

It’s not surprising, then, that when our daughter was born her room was decorated in brown, green and cream. Still sweet. Still feminine. But not pink. And her clothes? She has pink hand-me-downs and gifts, but I had personally never bought her pink clothing – until recently.

While I may not choose pink for her, I have no intention of forcing my taste on her. 

I want her to be who SHE is – not who am.

And trust me, this child has her own taste.

All PINK. All the time.

And sparkles? Jewelry? O yes. She gravitates towards the pink-est, sparkly-est things.

She delights in them.

I delight in her joy.

Joy looks good on her. And I’m all about fostering more joy.

Scouring garage sales for clothes and shoes in May, I came across a pair of shoes that broke my former no-pink shopping code.

They are all-girl. Pink. Covered in sequins.

Pink Light Up Sequins Shoes

They meet the only criteria I require – the right size, and velcro.

And they were in great, almost new condition. For fifty cents.


I sighed and smiled as I bought them, thinking about how she was going to laugh and squeal when she saw them. Oh yes, she giggles and laughs over clothing and shoes every single day. She puts on and takes off clothing all day. For fun. A pile of clothes is a perfect activity for her.

It’s just IN her – she didn’t learn it from me!

As I tossed the shoes in the car, I could only laugh when they LIT UP. And when I say laugh, I mean, an all-out, uncontrollable cracking-up-by-myself-on-theside-of-the-road laugh.


They are pink, sequins, LIGHT UP shoes.

Perfect for one joy-filled, 2-year-old, sunshine girl.

As expected, she squealed and giggled when she saw them. She put them on and refused to take them off.

When she finally stomped and noticed the lights – there was an all-out belly laugh and a silly happy dance.

SHE lit up. And still does. Every. Single. Time.

They may not be my taste but since they’re hers – they’re growing on me.

They’re the gift that keeps on giving, generating smiles, giggles and happy dances with every step.

sunshine girl

A little light-up joy never hurt anyone.

Maybe I need a pair.

Do you?

Master Bedroom Update: The Great Paint and Curtain {In}Decision

A few weeks ago I casually mentioned to my husband that I was thinking about painting one of our bedroom walls dark blue.

Surprisingly, he liked the idea. In fact, he liked it so much, he was ready to go pick out paint (in the store without bringing any swatches home) and paint our bedroom and bathroom – immediately.

His response was so overwhelmingly supportive, it left me reeling. So there I stood, glad he was on board, but feeling rushed. Flustered, I managed to stammer…wait…but…we…need…SAMPLES!

Let’s just say he and I do things a little differently. Knowing me well, he graciously agreed to slow down and let me take a little time to be as certain as he was.

I’m all about taking action – but I do need to perseverate on things like paint colors for a while.

For me, selecting paint calls for a period of indecision. It doesn’t help that the last time we bought paint at the store without bringing samples home, our bathroom paid the price and was painted a dreadful sea-foam green that made YOU look sea-foam green when you looked in the mirror. Not flattering, and not our best choice – the 70s decor was not quite what we were going for.

One week and three trips worth of paint swatches later, we finally agreed upon and purchased paint.


See that pile of paint swatches? That is the evidence of one very indecisive wife. Nothing like a pile of 100 or more choices to promote a quick decision, right? Home Depot may prefer I choose my paint elsewhere – I’m fairly certain those paint swatches don’t grow on trees…

Two late nights of painting after the kids went to bed, and we finished our bedroom and bathroom.


We love it.

What a relief.

Then, our attention (or rather, my attention) turned to curtains. We went to one store, found curtains we both liked and brought them home.

Easy -peasy.

They hung for one day before I decided I hated them and could not live with them.

Now, I claim to like curtains. Or rather, I think I like curtains – until I go to the store and look at actual curtains.

I realize people have widely different tastes and that my taste may be strange. BUT, has anyone noticed just how many UGLY curtains are for sale? And when I say ugly, I mean hideous. Have some of these curtains been in the store since 1980?


Can someone tell me WHO pays actual money to hang these curtains in their house?

Defeated after scouring the web, I decided I needed to see them in person. To touch them.

So, being the certifiably crazy person that I am,  I dragged our 2 and 4-year-old children to a curtain hunting, snack-eating-for-entertainment marathon – Kohls, Home Depot, JC Penny, Lowes, Gordmans, Marshalls, Home Goods, Target, Walmart, Macys…and a few more.

As it turns out – despite saying I like curtains…I don’t really like curtains, in-the-fleshfabric.

Picky, picky.

The marathon produced 8 options. Being the indecisive girl that I am…I bought one of each. Thankfully, 4 choices were eliminated easily. Cute in the store – but not here.

The Great Curtain InDecision

That left 4 curtains to hang up and stare at. For days. And days.

Finally, we agreed. And, when my parents came over, they picked the same one without any coaching.



Now I need to return them all before I have second thoughts.

Maybe I’ll show the room next week 🙂

Come On, Mama! Tell THAT Voice To Take A Hike And Wear Your Swimsuit!

thisgratefulmama.com | It is a privilegee to squeeze into a swimsuit and wear it to play in a pool with our kids (even if it take a while to find one that stays where it is supposed to stay). #mom #bodyimage #perspective #summer #swimming #swim #swimsuit #momlife #live #fun #justdoit #kids #children #momproblems

Summer has finally hit Minnesota and we’ve already enjoyed our first 90 degree day. That day, a generous friend invited the kids and I to join them for a little pool party.

We were excited to spend the day with fun friends, and I knew the kids would love it. And yet in the back of my mind, a shrill, insecure voice squeaked – Wait, do I have to wear a swimsuit!?

This question plagues many mamas during summer months (and possibly year-round). Too many of us allow that once small voice to grow to a loud, dominating decision-maker.

You know which voice I mean – the one that threatens to steal our smiles when we have family photos because we can’t find clothes that fit. It is the one that whispers lies, so what we see in the mirror isn’t what God sees. That voice generates insecurity and fosters self-loathing. It tells us that even though we’re adults, we should have the immature body of a teenager who hasn’t had one, two, three, or more babies. Instead of motivating us to take good care of our body and be content with where we’re at – it paralyzes us.

The result? That voice steals precious, priceless moments with our husbands and kids. And, in doing so, it robs us of fun experiences, memories, and joy.

You know what I told that voice?

Yes. Yes I have to wear a swimsuit – in fact, I get to.

It is a privilegee to squeeze into a swimsuit and wear it to play in a pool with our kids (even if it take a while to find one that stays where it is supposed to stay).

It is my pleasure to help them learn about water, see their anticipation, and to hear their nervous shrieks and giggles as they splash and explore the pool.

It is my job to wear a swimsuit and demonstrate contentment with my body for my daughter (and son) – a healthy body image will be learned by what our kids hear us say about our body, and what we allow that voice to stop us from doing.

It is my JOY to experience water with them, and to know they experienced it with me. Their mama.

Sure, I could have listened to that voice and allowed it to reign over our summer. I could have declined the invitation and thought of a way to stay fully clothed. The kids could have just played in the blow-up pool in our yard, run through the sprinkler, or we could have gone to the splash pad.  I could have paid for swimming lessons while a swim instructor experienced all those things with my kids while I watched from the pool deck. But learning to swim in a class isn’t the same as playing with your sister, your friends and your mama in a pool. My kids won’t ever wish I look differently in my swimsuit – they don’t care how I look. They just love that I’m in the pool playing with them, and they would miss me if I wasn’t.

No. Sweating it out in a shorts and T-shirt on the sidelines isn’t good enough for me – I want more for my kids, and for me.

If that means I have to wear a swimsuit and tell that voice to take a hike – SO. BE. IT!

Is watching from afar enough for you?

I didn’t think so.

Tell that voice to shut up. Recognize the purpose of a swim suit is to cover what needs to be covered, and to stay where it is supposed to. If you don’t have one that does these two things – spend the time and money to buy one that stays-put so you can focus on your kids instead of on wrestling the suit into submission.

Just DO IT. Put it on and forget the rest. Bravely wear that swimsuit and prepare to reap all the benefits. 

Your and your kids’ summer depends on it.

Wear That Swimsuit 

thisgratefulmama.com | It is a privilegee to squeeze into a swimsuit and wear it to play in a pool with our kids (even if it take a while to find one that stays where it is supposed to stay). #mom #bodyimage #perspective #summer #swimming #swim #swimsuit #momlife #live #fun #justdoit #kids #children #momproblems

11 Ways For Mamas & Kids To Express Gratitude On Father’s Day (And Every Day)

11 Ways For Mamas & Kids To Express Gratitude On Father’s Day (And Every Day) | thisgratefulmama.com

Can you believe that Father’s Day is already just over one week away? Father’s day is one of my favorites to prepare for – it’s a dedicated day to show my husband how much I appreciate him, and a day to help our children express how grateful they are for their daddy.

I often struggle with how to best express this intense appreciation and gratitude. We just want it to be a special day honoring the one who is so special to us.

Last year, we gave my husband a photo desk calendar, celebrated with a family meal, and our 3-year-old son gave a framed set of interview questions and answers. This year we want to shake it up a bit. Here’s a few ideas we’ve used in the past or are considering for this and future years.

(Now…if you are my husband reading this….this might be a good place to stop or you may feel rather unsurprised this year)

11 Ways For Mamas & Kids To Express Gratitude On Father’s Day (And Every Day)

11 Ways For Mamas & Kids To Express Gratitude On Father’s Day (And Every Day) | thisgratefulmama.com

1.Photo Calendar – Many photo services offer a calendar in both full size and desk varieties (I prefer Shutterfly calendars – 50% off thru June 16! Order for all the dads in your life and get free shipping with orders over $39)


11 Ways For Mamas & Kids To Express Gratitude On Father’s Day (And Every Day) | thisgratefulmama.com

2. My Daddy Is – Ask your child questions and prepare to be amazed by their answers. We made our own but one of these free printables will work nicely: My Dad’s Superpowers, Father’s Day Printable Book, Father’s Day Interview Poster.



11 Ways For Mamas & Kids To Express Gratitude On Father’s Day (And Every Day) | thisgratefulmama.com

3. Coupons – They may be generic, but coupons are a worthy gift if your children (or you) actually plan to fulfill the promises on them. If you give a coupon book, encourage your husband to use them! Make your own, or use these free printables – Father’s Day Coupon Card.


11 Ways For Mamas & Kids To Express Gratitude On Father’s Day (And Every Day) | thisgratefulmama.com

4. My Daddy and Me Book – We made a board book filled with activities our son loves to do with his daddy using the printer, full sheet labels and a plain book.  Not into struggling with full-page labels? Make one online.

11 Ways For Mamas & Kids To Express Gratitude On Father’s Day (And Every Day) | thisgratefulmama.com

5. Father’s Day Photo or Collage – Use signs and the camera to express your feelings in a card – or even better, frame it and wrap it as a gift. We have used this for birthdays and many holidays. Check out other online examples: Father’s Day Photo, Scrabble photo, We love you daddy feet, Father’s day photo collage, D-A-D framed photos.




11 Ways For Mamas & Kids To Express Gratitude On Father’s Day (And Every Day) | thisgratefulmama.com

6. Kids Art Work – Let children paint on canvas like our son did for Mother’s day. Or, try one of these other dad-crafts: Following in Dad’s shoes, Daddy art, Daddy mug (make your own with an industrial sharpie)

11 Ways For Mamas & Kids To Express Gratitude On Father’s Day (And Every Day) | thisgratefulmama.com

7. A special touch – Regardless of your gift plan, small touches can make any day special. My husband bought me a growler of cold press coffee before Mother’s day. It might not seem like much, but he knows me well and it was a small gesture that went a long way. What does your husband like?





11 Ways For Mamas & Kids To Express Gratitude On Father’s Day (And Every Day) | thisgratefulmama.com

8. A child-daddy date – think of an activity your child can do with daddy, perhaps something they’ve never done before. What do your children like to do with their dad?

  • Baseball: snag tickets to a minor or major league baseball game
  • Golf: send them to hit a bucket of balls at the driving range or  them to play putt-putt
  • Art: send them to a painting class or to the children’s theater
  • Cook: father-child cooking class
  • Camping: rent a campsite or for the less-adventurous (or young ones), set up a backyard camping experience, marshmallows and all
  • Music: tickets to a children’s concert or pack them a picnic and send them to an outdoor free concert
  • Fishing: prep the fishing gear and send them to fish on a dock or rent a boat and pack the car with gear and life jackets
  • Family fun: do the dirty business of filling all the water balloons and have a family game of balloon toss (or just have a water balloon fight), family picnic in the park,  camping trip, hiking

11 Ways For Mamas & Kids To Express Gratitude On Father’s Day (And Every Day) | thisgratefulmama.com

9. Help the kids cook a meal – help your children pick and prepare a meal or special dessert for daddy. Try to let them do as much as possible!




11 Ways For Mamas & Kids To Express Gratitude On Father’s Day (And Every Day) | thisgratefulmama.com

10. Plan a no-kids date – just from you. Because you appreciate all he does and you love spending time with him.




11 Ways For Mamas & Kids To Express Gratitude On Father’s Day (And Every Day) | thisgratefulmama.com

11. The Father’s day week – Ambitious, I know. Why a full week? Because dads are dads EVERY DAY. One day just isn’t enough. So why not make it seven? We should express gratitude every day. Start a week before and end on Father’s Day, or start on Father’s day and go for seven more. Flood them with love and gratitude for a 7 full days – handwritten notes, artwork from the kids, maybe a coffee growler, special meals and extra hugs. Make this year’s Father’s Day week one to remember!

P.S. To my husband…if you’ve read this far…don’t be expecting every single thing listed here 🙂 Love you.

11 Ways For Mamas & Kids To Express Gratitude On Father's Day (And Every Day) | thisgratefulmama.com