2015 thisgratefulmama Winter Bucket List

The ThisGratefulMama 2015 Winter Bucket List | thisgratefulmama.com

  1. Make homemade hot chocolate with peppermint mini marshmallows
  2. Get your exercise shoveling snow instead of using the snow blower
  3. Attend church every Sunday during Advent
  4. Share the true meaning of Christmas with your kids and others
  5. Make snow angels any time, any where – the more spontaneous, the better
  6. Do your best to put up Christmas Lights without harming yourself or your spouse
  7. Build an epic snow man
  8. Put the hot chocolate in a travel mug and enjoy a hike through America’s largest walk-through light display Bentlyville Tour of Lights in Duluth, MN – now – December 27, 2015
  9. Go ice fishing
  10. Pray for loved ones to come to know the Lord in 2016
  11. Bundle up and invite friends for a snow-bonfire
  12. Rent snow shoes and explore a MN park
  13. Enjoy a peppermint or gingerbread mocha
  14. Drive through nearby neighborhoods looking for Christmas lights – be sure to mix in plenty of oohs and aahs
  15. Go ice skating
  16. Don’t miss the MN Pond Hockey Tournament January 14-17, 2016
  17. Keep a Gratitude Journal in 2016
  18. Have a neighborhood Christmas gathering
  19. Sled in a state park
  20. Give a gift to a stranger
  21. Search for the medallion during the St. Paul Winter Carnival – January 28 – February 7, 2016
  22. Cross country ski through the Three Rivers Park district (can rent equipment)
  23. Donate unused coats, clothes, shoes and boots to charity or local shelter
  24. Spend a family evening packing meals at Feed My Starving Children
  25. Take the kids to a nursing home and play games and visit with residents
  26. Host brunch for your closest friends
  27. Leave an anonymous bag of groceries or a meal for a family in need
  28. Go snowmobiling
  29. Serve a meal at a soup kitchen
  30. Spend 2016 waking up before your kids
  31. Explore a new way to serve in your church in 2016
  32. Buy and donate gifts to Children’s Hospitals of MN
  33. Create a snow fort
  34. Ring a Salvation Army Bell
  35. Watch the start of the Beargrease Dog Sled Marathon in Duluth, MN – January 31, 2016
  36. Check out the MN Snow Sculpting Competition at the MN State Fair grounds January 29 – 31, 2016
  37. Take a romantic winter outing to Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan, MN for candlelight hiking, snowshoeing and ice skating – February 13, 2016
  38. Organize a neighborhood Christmas cookie exchange
  39. Have a family Gratitude Tree
  40. Make mulled cider and make your house smell amazing
  41. Memorize scripture with your kids
  42. Read the Christmas story every day to your children
  43. Do the Polar Plunge for a worthy cause
  44. Drink Egg Nog
  45. See Canadian Pacific’s Holiday Train on one of its stops -(Hastings – December 9, St. Paul – December 11, Cottage Grove – December 12, 2015)
  46. Escape the cold and go bowling
  47. Catch Birkie Fever watching or skiing in the American Birkebeiner – February 20, 2016
  48. Set 2016 goals on New Year’s Eve and keep them
  49. Bundle up and take a winter walk or winter scavenger hunt
  50. Have a snowball fight
  51. Set up and decorate your Christmas tree
  52. Shovel your neighbor’s driveway and sidewalk
  53. Join your local BSF bible study of Revelation – now through May 2016
  54. Donate food to the local food shelf
  55. Go Christmas Carol-ing
  56. Watch your church children’s Christmas pageant or find one nearby
  57. Go snow tubing at Eko Backen in Scandia, MN or Green Acres Recreational in Lake Elmo, MN – check websites for hill conditions
  58. Drive through Lake Phalen park to see the ‘Holiday Lights in the Park’ ($10) – now through January 1, 2016
  59. Pack an Operation Christmas Child box
  60. Make the time to see at least ONE of these amazing christmas light shows synchronized to music:

The thisgratefulmama 2015 FALL Family Bucket-List

2015 Fall Family Bucket List | thisgratefulmama.com

The 2015 fall bucket list focuses on activities to enjoy with your family during the fall season, with an emphasis on gratitude and service to others.

I hope these 100 ideas help you fill fall with joy. 

Hello, Fall!


 Events (Twin Cities)


  • Play a board game
  • Start a Fall Family Tradition
  • Rake leaves and jump in the pile
  • Be a bell-ringer for the Salvation Army (starts in November)
  • Set your fall schedule
  • Play backyard football with the whole neighborhood
  • Visit a new playground and have a picnic lunch
  • Help your kids start a nature collection
  • Plant tulip bulbs in your yard with the kids
  • Write letters to deployed service members
  • Spend the day cleaning the garage as a family before winter
  • Stay warm on a chilly night around a bonfire while enjoying hot cocoa and S’mores
  • Start a family prayer journal – keep track of requests and answers this school year
  • Volunteer to serve meals at Loaves and Fishes
  • Take a family photo shoot in the leaves
  • Make the most of dark evenings – have a candlelight dinner date after kids go to bed
  • Set goals for the school year and encourage each family member throughout the year
  • Spend an afternoon at Feed My Starving Children
  • Clean out the closets and give warm clothes, hats, mittens and coats to those in need
  • Go to a local high school football game
  • Let your child do chores to earn money to give on Sunday at church
  • Deliver Meals on Wheels in your area
  • Help the kids write letters and mail them to grandparents and extended family
  • Spend the afternoon doing homework and reading together at the library
  • Sign up for the family oriented fall Public Programs in the MN Valley Wildlife Refuge
  • Start a Gratitude Journal
  • Get lost in Minnesota’s Largest Corn Maze in Brooklyn Park, MN (Sept 19 – Oct 25)
  • Gather all the neighbors and play an epic game of flashlight tag
  • Download and start the JOY DARE from A Holy Experience 
  • Create your own family Fall Scavenger Hunt and take a nature walk together
  • Read fall-themed books as a family
  • Spend the next large family gathering playing a huge game of Capture the Flag
  • Say Thank you to those who go out of their way to help your family
  • Collect acorns and have some fun with Acorn Races
  • Help your child take photos of fall leaves
  • Help your child find a pen-pal and help them write and send ‘snail mail’
  • Practice gratitude
  • Clean out the toy box together and take your children to donate items
  • Have a movie night with blankets, jammies and home made popcorn


Go (Minnesota)

Shell Shocked Parents…And The Face Of A Child’s Resilience

One of the exhibits at our local Children’s Museum is a life-size ant hill. The kids love the maze of tunnels. Our daughter is just 2, so my husband and I climbed in with them. We were not as fond of the humid, carpeted tunnels and the smell of sweaty socks as they were – we went in only for giggles.

This time, the fun was short-lived. Our daughter crawled in a second level tunnel and blindly moved forward. I heard my husband shouting for her to stop. Below her, I moved towards them hoping to catch her. Not fast enough.


Any parent knows that particular sound – the unmistakable sound of a head face hitting something hollow. She crawled straight over a hole and fell, face-first so her nose and mouth took the brunt of the impact. Cradling her as we crawled out into the light, we surveyed the damage.

A face full of bright red blood.

It. Was. E-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e.

First, my husband and I froze, our faces mirroring looks of horror and concern. Then suddenly, adrenaline kicked in and I shoved her into my husband’s arms and ran for something…anything…to soak up the blood. Her screams echoed as amazingly helpful and sympathetic staff began arriving to assist us.

I’m not gonna lie – the afore-mentioned adrenaline could easily be interpeted as panic. My thoughts raced down all kinds of rabbit holes…loss of teeth, broken nose, bit tongue, concussion and worse.  Grabbing paper towels and the diaper bag while replaying the thud and the blood in my mind…I wondered if we needed to go the ER. I prayed we wouldn’t.

Running back, I found my poor (amazing) husband sitting, trying to console her and keep the blood off of the museum bench. As we soaked it up from our writhing and screaming child, we made eye contact.

No words required.

Fear. Love. Concern. Prayers. Hope…all at once.

It took maybe 10 minutes to slow the bleeding down to a trickle. It felt like HOURS. We assessed the damage and were amazed there was no external cut. A tongue bite that hardly bled, and a record-setting bloody nose.

As we tried to apply an ice pack provided by the staff, she struggled to get up, screaming to get down. Why? Not because it was cold. Not because it hurt. No, she was ready to play.


My husband and I were ready to go home.

We moved to the hallway and and gave the kids a snack while we continued to try to get her nose to stop bleeding. By now, our main concern was whether she had broken her nose.

Her main concern was what she could play with next.

When the bleeding finally stopped, we changed her clothes, washed up, and decided to try one of the quieter exhibits. My husband and I spent the rest of the time trying to make sure our over-ambitious two-year old didn’t fall on her face again. Or…rather we succumbed to overprotective instincts and annoyed her. Helicopter parenting at it’s finest worst.

To our surprise, we finished the rest of the museum and left with two tired, happy kids. The only evidence of what is now known as the ‘childrens museum incident’ was a bruise on the bridge of her nose. How so much could come out of someone so little and leave only a tiny bruise…I still cannot understand but am grateful for it.

I was amazed by how quickly she moved on from injury. As parents, injuries seem to linger in our minds long after our children move on. Our wandering minds remind us of what ‘could have happened’. But she refused to let even the most epic of bloody noses to stop her fun. We feared she would reinjure her nose, but she had no fear AT ALL.

She chose not to dwell on it – a lesson many adults could benefit from learning. The urge to play was stronger than the urge to wallow. So, she got back up, and got back to the business of having fun.

We left shell-shocked. She acted like nothing happened – with a smiling little face of resilience.

Carry on, Sunshine girl.

Still with a bruise - a smiling face of resilience. Our little tough girl. | thisgratefulmama.com

Still with a bruise – a smiling face of resilience. Our little tough girl. | thisgratefulmama.com

101 Rainy Day Boredom-Busters For Preschoolers and Toddlers

101 Rainy Day Boredom-Busters For Preschoolers and Toddlers | www.thisgratefulmama.com


  • Bubble wrap – Pop!
  • Dominoes – set up and watch them fall
  • Indoor camping – why not roast marshmallows over the stove?
  • Closet fort – a very private, very dark fort
  • Go on a trip – pack ‘bags’ and take a trip on a couch-airplane
  • Build a toy city – block  homes and businesses, masking tape roads
  • Blanket fort – a pile of books and flashlights. Be sure to climb in and read to them in the ‘dark’
  • Play Doh – change it up with cookie cutters, silverware, Lego men, matchbox cars or simply explore color mixing
  • Animal pretend –  act out different animals and guess what they are (our son calls this playing ‘Wild Krats”)
  • Opposites – learn what opposites ARE, then get silly practicing doing the opposite
  • Obstacle course – send them through, around, over and under
  • Tongs pick up – give tongs to pick up toys
  • Marshmallow and toothpicks – build bridges, buildings and more
  • Puddles – make good use of those rain coats and rain boots and splash like you won’t get wet!
  • Foam letter tiles – call out different letters to find and stand on, put them in alphabetical order, or create words
  • Float or sink bath party – put on swim suits and guess which toys will float or sink, then test it out
  • Expanding foam capsules – found a pack for $1 at Target. Just as fun as when we were kids
  • Balloon rockets – tape a straw to a balloon and send it down a string. Set up a few ‘tracks’ and race them
  • Giant Tic-Tac-Toe – use masking tape for a giant Tic-Tac-Toe board
  • Indoor bowling – set up an indoor bowling lane with empty plastic bottle ‘pins’
  • Store, restaurant, or library – practice counting money, writing orders and following directions
  • Act out a story – help them act out a favorite book or bible story – record to watch on another rainy day
  • String spider web – grab a ball of string or twine and crate a web – ‘cut it out’ when it gets too tangled
  • Dance or jump party – find some peppy music and let loose
  • Indoor sand – fake sand is so fun!
  • Paper airplane games – throw through hoops, see how far it can go, throw from top of stairs
  • Shadow puppets – a great activity for that closet fort. Silly voices and a silly story make them tons of fun
  • Dress up – it never gets old
  • Board games
  • Hide and seek – focus not only on hiding but on counting!
  • Simon Says – we always play outside but it’s a great activity for a rainy day
  • Puzzles – do as many as they can OR find a puzzle a little (or a lot) out of their skill level and work on it together

Kitchen Fun

  • Make their own recipe – help them choose and measure ingredients. Write down their very own ‘recipe’ (yogurt parfait, french toast and toppings, trail mix). Decorate their own recipe box
  • Tea Party – boys and girls will enjoy this, especially with water in the tea-pot and snacks – make it extra fun by dressing up and talking in silly voices
  • Homemade popsicles – juice, fruit, blend and freeze
  • Jello juice jigglers – cut out shapes with cookie cutters
  • Bake – practice following directions, measuring, mixing, and making observations (smell, color, texture)
  • Make healthy trail mix – practice counting and picking healthy snacks – raisins, crasins, roasted soy beans or chickpeas (or nuts), sunflower or pumpkin seeds, and maybe surprise them with a few mini marshmallows


  • Paper plate frisbees – decorate and toss for some indoor fun
  • Create ‘rain’ with shaving cream
  • Pipe cleaner fun – make shapes, decorate a colander, sort them, make flowers
  • Build a box car and enjoy a ‘drive in’ movie – what to do with old boxes and paper plates? Make cars. Add popcorn and a PBS show…
  • Make photo prayer cards – print and cut out pictures of friends and family and glue onto index cards. Grab a few per night to pray for loved ones
  • Activity jars – a fun idea to make together!
  • Glue paper scraps – one of our son’s favorite activities is to take all his paper scraps and glue them into something (they turn out amazing – birds, houses, you name it!)
  • Make a Mural – stretch out a long roll of paper and create a long story or one long picture
  • Diorama – remember making these in elementary school? Provide a shoe box and help them make a scene from their favorite book, or a city of landscape for Lego people or mini dinosaurs
  • Record a video – record a video message or photo sign message and send it to a loved one or friend
  • Rainy day art – water colors make great rainy day pictures, or just open the box of art supplies and let them create
  • Decorate and celebrate – let them decorate with leftover streamers and party supplies and throw a birthday party for their favorite bear or toy
  • Write and mail letters – create cards, practice writing, and mail a special note or card to a loved one
  • Explore color mixing – grab paints and explore mixing different colors together
  • Indoor snow storm – cut paper snow flakes and string them up all over
  • Create a blog post – I’d love to post something the kids wrote if they are interested in doing so!
  • Paper chain – make enough loops to count down to the next big activity, birthday or holiday
  • Make up a song – encourage them to sing a silly song or make up their own words to a familiar tune
  • Crazy crayons – you kept those broken crayons for a reason!
  • Jewelry – practice fine motor skills with beads and string
  • Life size portrait – trace their body (use the backside of wrapping paper if you don’t have a big roll paper) and let them decorate it
  • Write and illustrate a story book – fold paper to create a book to illustrate and help them write their own story
  • Make photo pendants – yes, even a child can do this with help
  • Cut straws – cut straws into ‘beads’ then string together or glue onto paper
  • Large connect the dots – on the biggest roll of paper you have – as high as they can count (and higher with your help!)

Science & Learning

  • Non standard measurement – see how many body-lengths a room is, then measure with their feet, their favorite blanket or toy. Measure with a measuring tape to tell them how big it really is
  • How Crayons were Made – old school Mr. Rogers Neighborhood video of how crayons are made – and then do some drawing
  • Homemade balance – explore weights
  • Sensory guessing box – have them feel inside and guess what the items are
  • Play I Spy
  • Clean pennies – using vinegar and salt. Vary times and make observations
  • Extract DNA from a banana – did you know you can extract DNA that you can SEE right at your kitchen table with supplies you have in your house? It is so cool! A preschooler can than do this (and yes, even YOU who may not know much about science)
  • Explore capillary action – use food coloring and celery or some fresh-cut flowers
  • Plant beans in a jar – you know that bag of beans you bought for soup but didn’t use? Plant some beans and learn about the plant life cycle
  • Watch a documentary – find a kids animal or nature documentary on Netflix (watch for G ratings and be prepared to fast forward through animal hunting scenes as needed for your child)
  • Make your own rainstorm – by exploring steam and condensation
  • Tornado in a bottle – with two 2-liter bottles, water and duct tape
  • Baking soda and colored vinegar – pour baking soda on a baking sheet + drops of food-colored vinegar = foamy colored bubbles
  • Oil and water – explore both mixing and freezing
  • Measure rain fall – put a container outside (bucket, cup, anything will do) and measure the rainfall as it comes down
  • Learn about rainbows – and why God made them
  • Explore speed and distance – set up a ramp and see which car goes the furthest and which is the fastest

Just BE together

  • Watch the storm – count the time between lighting and thunder. Explain what thunder and lightning are
  • Read – start a chapter book or read as many picture books as they want
  • Encourage – make a game out of telling each child what you like about them, what makes you proud of them, and what they are good at


  • Sort change – dump change on a baking sheet and sort by size, color, or cleanliness
  • Flash cards – numbers, letters, sight words
  • Tape hopscotch – use masking tape – practice motor skills and counting
  • Somersaults
  • Learn and recite scripture memory verses
  • Write the alphabet – big and small letters

Develop New Skills

  • Gratitude list – help them write their own or start a gratitude journal
  • Quiet time – set them up in a comfy space with their bible and those prayer cards – model what to do by doing your quiet time too
  • Learning while cleaning – sort the toy box by color or shape as you clean it out and put things where they belong together
  • Chores – at this age, it’s still fun to ‘help’. Put them to work matching socks, folding their own laundry and putting it away
  • Photography – let them pick what to photograph and explore what different camera settings do
  • Make music – find musical instruments (or make some). Record it
  • Listen to classical music – explain what instruments are being played
  • Tape balance beam – create a long straight or zig zag ‘balance beam’ out of masking tape
  • Indoor scavenger hunt – make a list and send them hunting
  • Yoga – kids can do yoga and they think it is pretty fun, especially with their own mat
  • Hammer time – let them hammer golf tees into dense styrofoam, or for the more skilled child – nails into a board
  • 10 Minute Challenges – so great!

Sprinkler System. Yep, That’s Me.


What really wakes me up at 630 AM? Was it the run I just finished? Nope. A freezing blast to the face from the sprinkler as the wind catches the spray, forcing it in the opposite direction from which it was purposefully aimed.


Last year, as new homes finally got sod, just one other poor soul was out there, throwing up a simple wave each morning. A sign of solidarity as we wrangled hoses and sprinklers. I must say, I’m glad it wasn’t just me, even if they mastered not getting sprayed in the face and I did not.

Windy morning after yet another windy morning, trying to force the water into submission, my sole purpose was to not let the new sod die. Struggling to master what some might find easy, I’d hear the surging spray erupt from well-oiled machines in (almost) everyone else’s yard – one by one, a ticking clock of sprinkler heads.

Sprinkler systems – admittedly a source of irrigation envy on many-a-morning.

As with many neighborhoods, there’s a lot of small talk as we meet and greet new neighbors. In spring, the small talk is often about sod…and sprinkler systems. It is almost assumed that you have one.

When asked, my husband and I sometimes joke that we do.


Sprinkler system in the flesh.

Only, lets not get too hasty in calling me a ‘system‘ or I might get a big head. It’s kind of like when I worked for a certain genetics company and someone started referring to me as the ‘equipment department’ to customers. Ha! Tech service calls and repairs definitely taught me a thing or two, but I was no department…but I digress…back to the sprinklers! I have found a method that seems to work but ‘system‘ suggests that I’m not still getting sprayed in the face on a regular basis.

Believe it or not, once the watering twice a day because it refused to rain last July, and our sod watering permit expired, it actually wasn’t so bad.

In fact, having to water my own lawn may actually have a few minor perks.

I appreciate what I once did not. The every-other-day watering restriction used to seem like a bummer. A limitation. Nope. It is freedom! No matter how hot, I just cannot water on odd-numbered days. At the end of certain months…I get TWO days off. In a ROW. And no more disappointment when the sun isn’t shining – rain is a gift, washing away sprinkling duties.

I have to get up for it. I cannot water my lawn with two small children without watering them. It’s further motivation to keep getting up early, run, and start sprinklers when I return. Then I my bible and have plenty of time to read, study and pray…albeit with a couple of trips to move sprinklers and perhaps some towelling off. Then, hot coffee and a shower, and I’m ready just in time to greet those sweet little faces as they wake.

It saves money. We obviously saved by skipping the initial purchase of a sprinkler system, but last year, we also saved big on our water bills. When several neighbors told us the cost of their sprinkler-system driven water bills, we were shocked. Ours wasn’t just a little less, it was a lot less. Trust me, when you are moving it around, you are keenly aware of how much water is going on your lawn, and elsewhere. Our ‘method’ takes into account wind so we only place sprinklers where water actually hits our grass – Not the neighbor’s yard (sorry), the street, or the weeds behind us.

We are so blessed. By now, you know me, I’m always looking for a way to be grateful and joyful regardless of my circumstance. It’s here – even in a cold spray to the face. I am grateful we have a lawn instead of a dirt and weed pit like we did at the beginning of last summer. We have two hoses and two new sprinklers that work (last year 2 marginally worked and one simply did not).

We have clean, drinkable water that we use to water our grass. Just consider that. We should all be very careful in complaining about having such excess of a resource that many in the world die without.

Watering the lawn without a sprinkler system is a true first-world problem.


Sure, maybe someday we’ll install a sprinkler system. It would be a true luxury. But for now…hoses and sprinklers are good enough. A little self-discipline never hurt anyone. And, since my neighbors can see my inept attempt at escaping the spray, it can be seen as a humbling experience.

While I know I’ll probably still be excited to quit sprinkling by mid-summer, for now, I’m committed to enjoy it. Our lawn may not be as plush as some of the others, but it sure will have deep roots.

As new sod is laid out like carpet in our new neighbors yards, some of you will see me out there in the morning. My smile and wave hopefully will communicate an appreciation and understanding for your watering struggles.

Be encouraged; if I haven’t killed my sod yet, you won’t kill yours. That would take some serious skill.

Solidarity, my friends.

The thisgratefulmama 2015 Twin Cities Summer Bucket-List (70+ Toddler & Preschooler-Friendly Places To Visit)


The thisgratefulmama 2015 Twin Cities Summer Bucket List (70+ Toddler & Preschooler-Friendly Places To Visit) | thisgratefulmama.com

In preparation for summer, I’ve been compiling a summer bucket-list so we’ll be ready with an activity when we are hankering to get out and DO something. The list contains places and activities in and around the Twin Cities (MN), appropriate for families with little ones.

I have been pleasantly surprised by the variety of activities we could do this summer. While I don’t think we’ll make it through this list in just one summer, we will have a lot of options.

Of this I am certain – this much fun is meant to be shared!

Below is the current bucket-list, or if you prefer, you can find the summer bucket list (and me) on Pinterest (oh yes, I recognize the blatant self-Pinterest-promotion – I’m not ashamed).  I plan to keep adding new ideas to the Pinterest board throughout the summer and have just started fall and winter lists.

Without further ado…

The thisgratefulmama 2015 Twin Cities Summer Bucket-List

Family Friendly Events

A selection of the best family friendly summer events the Twin Cities has to offer.

  • June 5 – June 7 – Edina Art Fair
  • June 6 (and Saturdays this summer at 10 am)- Free Family Sensory Flicks – Free, first-come-first-serve until the theater reaches capacity with special arrangements for those affected by autism or other sensory disorders, with lower sound, additional staff and other accommodations
  • June 7, 2015, 1 pm – Parade of Boats, Centennial Lakes Park, Edina. The Edina Model Yacht Club members sail their radio-controlled boats – free
  • July 7 – August 25, 2015 – Summer Tuesdays in Stillwater are a family event with a movie in the park at dusk
  • June 6, 2015 – Explore Your Parks Day in Washington County Parks – Free admission. No Vehicle Permit required
  • Jun 18 – July 4, 2015 –  Manitou Days in White Bear Lake has over 70 events on their schedule, starting with a parade on June 19 (at 6:30 pm) and ending with 4th of July Fireworks (at 10 pm)
  • July 4, 2015 – Afton’s Parade and 4th of July Celebration. Small town feel, great fun!
  • July 17-19, 2015 – Stillwater Log Jam Parade at 1pm on Sunday the 19th
  • July 22 – 25, 2015 – Minneapolis Aquintennial. So much to choose from with a few main events listed below.
    • July 22, 5:30 – Family Fun Night in Loring Park
    • July 22, 8:30 pm – Torchlight Parade
    • July 23, 6 & 8 pm – Twin Cities River Rats water show
    • July 25, 10 pm – Fireworks
  • July 29 – August 2, 2015 – Washington County Fair
  • August 28-30, 2015 – Woodbury Days festival – Kids 5 and under are free
  • August 27 – September 7, 2015 – MN State Fair. No words needed – Kids under 5 are free


The Great Outdoors

Soak up the sun and fresh air with these outdoor parks and activities.


Indoor Fun

Escape the heat or rain and fend off boredom with some indoor fun.


Day Trips

You don’t have to travel far to enjoy a fantastic day-trip.

Practice Gratitude: enJOY fall through the eyes of a 4 year old

psalm 11824

Isn’t it funny as you listen to people chat idly about the weather, or read their facebook posts – People either LOVE or HATE fall. 

There’s no middle ground.

Either you enjoy the change of seasons, crisp air, and gorgeous trees, OR you dread fall and its daily reminder that WINTER is looming.

I have spent many years loathing fall and the coming winter.

I won’t mince words here. Winter is not my favorite time of year, it’s my LEAST favorite. I don’t relish the coats, boots, mittens, hats, shovels, salt, sand, wind and traffic jams. After the rough (no let’s be honest – BRUTAL) weather last year, it requires very little searching to find others who are like-minded.

But this year, I was stopped in my tracks by the way my 4 year old son SEES fall.  He views the changing weather and tree leaves as new and exciting, and is filled with JOY.

Having trouble seeing fall as a JOYFUL experience? You may want to try looking at it through the eyes of a child.

This MN fall season has produced more beauty, and has lasted longer than any I recall. In past years, it seems like the trees changed color quickly, and then dropped their leaves overnight in freezing rain, or snow, as winter simply plopped into our laps and was here to stay.

For weeks, I’ve been hearing my son exclaim from the backseat of the car that ‘those trees are changing’. He tells me which color leaf is his favorite, over and over. I’d love to tell you which color IS his favorite, but it changes day by day, and sometimes minute by minute.

He has questions about WHY the leaves are changing, how the change, why the green is gone, why the leaves fall off. While I LOVE any chance to give a scientific explanation, it has been my pleasure to also explain that GOD MADE THE TREES THAT WAY – for HIS and OUR pleasure.

We’ve been driving different routes, to see what wonders lie on different streets, and parking in random neighborhoods to walk a new trail. A few times I’ve brought my camera. We stop and look at all kinds of things, and we take photos of things from my son’s eye-level.

Most of the time we’re looking straight UP.

I’ll tell you what – from his point of view, fall changes are mighty wonderful, awe-inspiring, and make ME want to join in his exclamations of the glory of it all.

It is my JOY to listen to his observations of wonder. I’ve found MYSELF noticing the intricate details, the variation in colors and types of trees, and the glory of the Lord God who created EACH one. AND how he made them and put them here for US to see, enjoy and marvel at.

It is refreshing to remind myself that these fall changes are not only eye-catching, but changes that allow the tree to survive the winter and be ready to sprout green leaves in the spring.

Could ALL of this in all its complexity be CHANCE?

I just don’t think so.

In fact, by faith, I know so. 

Are YOU marveling at the trees? Or are you concerned that with every falling leaf, the season is fleeting?

Why spend time worrying and perseverating on the coming winter when fall is here NOW to enjoy?

The Bible is clear that we can’t stop the seasons:

“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” – Genesis 8:22

Today I drop down to eye-level with a 4 year old to look anew at things that haven’t been perceived with WONDER like this for a very LONG time.

Instead of dreading the winter months to come, I CHOOSE to be PRESENT, in THIS day, surrounded by God’s amazing creation, undergoing intentional change.

There is no denying it, the Lord has outdone Himself with fall this year. Winter can come when it will, but I will be grateful for what we have today; a sunny, 60 degree day, with crisp air, brilliantly blue sky and an array of colors, as far as my eyes can see.

This FALL, I am grateful for the season, and find myself getting caught up in the JOY and WONDER of it all.

“This is the day which the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” – Psalms 118:24

Thank you, Lord.

Here’s a few of the photos my son and I took to give you a FRESH view of fall from a 4 year old’s eyes (along with his comments, verbatim).

Red berries where leaves have dropped, in a backdrop of yellow

“Mom, look at those red things that didn’t fall off! Where did the leaves go and why is that tree YELLOW? I think I like those red things the best. Are those cherries? I like cherries”

Not everything is ready to change color quite yet

” Ooh, flowers! Those flowers aren’t changing yet. They might change someday too, won’t they?”

Even the fading colors are pretty

“Leaves! No green left. They look brown. I think they’re dead”

My son was amazed that while some leaves were turning brown, new flowers were still blooming

“Look at those brown leaves and how some of them are brown. Why are some of them green and some of them brown and some yellow? How come those flowers are still green and not dying? “

Brilliant reds

“I LOVE those red leaves, they’re my favorite”

Some trees are bare, stark against the sky

“That tree is dead mom, like the one in our yard, but God will give it leave next year, wont HE? I think God loves it”

Fall Yellows

“Look, MOM! Those yellow leaves are pretty! THOSE are my favorite!” (yes, these too, are his favorite)

Sun streaming through the clouds yesterday

“Look at the sun hiding behind those black clouds. I think it might rain. The sun is peeking out, I think”

Even the weeds are changing!

“Even the weeds are changing!”

Hardly any change yet...the fall is lasting a LONG time

“How come the trees are green over here?”

Red-orange leaves in the sun

“Those leaves are BRIGHT! Maybe from the sun”

Multi-colored leaves

“Look, those leaves are red but have yellow on them! They have 2 colors!”

Happy Fall.