Category Archives: Quality Time

Let Them Be Kids {part two} : Our Sweet Puppy

PTS | Our sweet Puppy


Everyone knows I love our sweet doggie.  My photos are proof:


©janetphillips_april20_2016_web-50©janetphillips_april6_2016_web-31©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-252But we have another little puppy…her name is Bethany…or Beppy…or Puppy…Skye…or Marshall




Yep, my daughter thinks she is a dog. She eats out of dog bowls (clean and unused my real canines), she insists on “wet food” (refried beans) in her bowl, she laps water from her bowl on the floor, she wears a puppy costume most days, and she is known to pant, bark, lick, and scratch.

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Naturally, back in March on her birthday, she had all-things-puppy:

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She’s also been known to eat some dog bones (aka Scooby Snacks)




It’s weird…I know. I have had to ask her not to lick guests. I have had to remind her she must use words when I ask her a question (as opposed to just panting and wagging her little tail bottom.)


And course with a puppy in the house, a kitty can’t be far behind:

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But you know what…I love it.

It’s just so her. She’s our sweet Beppy girl and I adore watching her just be who she is.

PTS | Let Them Be Kids3


Why do we try so hard to force our children to be what we think they should be?  I’m not talking about being a kid with character. We should do all we can to ensure our children are growing in traits such a kindness, gentleness, and respect.

No, what I mean is the all-too-often push for children to fit into some shape they believe children should be. I’ve written about this before.

Other parents seem to get it as well.

And yet, others have so much trouble just letting kids…be kids. They want them to do this or do that. To look this way or to act that way.

Why not just let kids be kids?

Why not just let them be little? Let them play and swing and jump and get messy and be loud and pretend they are a dog?

Having a 13 year old and having a three year old (and 12, 10, 8, and 5!), I know more than ever how fast this time goes.

They don’t stay little long.

  • Their sweet baby teeth give way to crooked ones that are far too big for their mouths.
  • Those cuddles we were too busy for are much harder to come by as they get older.
  • The funny little things they say will be long forgotten.
  • The way the pronounce ‘sketty will finally work itself into spaghetti.
  • They will stop calling their siblings Enny, Ca-bub, Wi-Wi, and Tatie.
  • They will stop asking you to draw a butterfly and snake at church every.single.week.
  • They will stop calling your family “our people.”
  • They will stop dressing up as knights and princesses…and even dogs.


Oh, can’t we just let them be little. Let them be dogs. Let them dress up, go barefoot, make a mess in the kitchen as they help you cook. Let them beg you to read the same book over and over. Say yes when they want their fifth bath of the day (and look the other way when they have chosen to use a new towel for every dip in the pool and the subsequent baths…if you are counting, that is no less than TEN towels used by ONE child in ONE day.)


It’s funny. I blog so rarely these day and I hardly remember what I have written about in the past. Apparently this subject isn’t new to me. I was looking for something else and came across all of these:

A Time to Say Yes
Saying Yes to Our Kids (audio post)
Whatever It Takes

And a number of other posts on my old blog (which I need to resurrect!)

And of course, there are times to say no.

But this is what I have told many mamas:

There will be so many times we as parents have to say no. So why don’t we say yes to absolutely anything we can?



Because you know what? I love our sweet puppy…actually, I love both the furry one and the one who comes to cuddle with me each morning during my Bible time. (Oh wait, both puppies do that…I see where Beppy gets it from…)

And so—yes. When the little white costume with black spots was so small it was cutting off her circulation, we bought Skye Marshall Rover Fetch Puppy Bethany new puppy costume. And since it is summer in North Carolina and the temps usually hover around 95°, I am glad I talked her out of this one.

So…can’t we just let them be little?

And if you need to release some pent-up emotions, how about this song. I hadn’t heard it before…guess I need to get back to my country-music-loving high school days.





Jordan Lake



(If you are just here for pictures, feel free to scroll through this post to see a few. And then—if you have seven minutes of your life to spare—you can see a lot more in the video below. I am learning that with the number of photos I take and with my desire to be better at capturing video, putting together quick slideshows like this is a great way to remember our trips).

It’s just how we are wired, I guess.

I’ve talked about it before — this need to get away, recharge, refocus, and be refreshed. I worded it this way:

When the beauty of routine starts feeling confining, I know it’s time. It’s time to find another place to lay our heads and new scenery to fix our eyes upon.

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And it is still true. When we get away for a few days, letting the worries of work, housecleaning, and life decisions slip away, we are free to focus on what matters most: relationships.

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Life has a way of robbing us of what we were created for. Life tells us to hurry up, accomplish this, prepare for that. Life rarely tells us to slow our pace, to look and speak and read deeply , to focus not on the breath of what we accomplish, but rather, the depth. Life fools us into thinking our frenzied pace is evidence we are truly living, when in fact most of our “living” exists solely in the fictional day of tomorrow — the day all the things will get done, the memories will be made, and our good intentions will come to fruition.

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The more we in the west try to do, do, do, the less we believe the truth: we have the time.

And so for our family?

We get away.

We camp.

We hike.

We enjoy creation and the wonders of what God has given us. We slow down, enjoying long talks around the campfire, slow morning snuggles, and kids piled on the bed for a sweet movie. 


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It’s been a busy spring. Between work, finishing school, doctors and dentists, meetings, and more, we haven’t had a chance to sneak away. And yet, we know how important it is. During another busy week, we looked at the calendar to see what we could say no to, and we carved out a few days to just be us. Jason still had to work, so we chose a state park close enough that he could drive back and forth. It wasn’t ideal, but I know deeply that this is true:

If we’re always waiting for the ideal, we will always be waiting.

And oh how we needed these days! They filled my soul, reminded me of what is important, and offered the rest our weary souls were crying out for.

Here is a seven-minute video of our time away (a mixture of photos and videos from both my phone and my regular camera).




The natives were getting restless.

We’ve been taking an early summer break to give us all a rest before we start our summer school schedule (reading and math). After a few weeks of endless trampoline and slack line time, I started to notice a few mopey glances and a lot of “what are we going to do today?” questions.

I’m not the camp and cruise director type of mom. I believe it is good for kids to be bored and un-entertained. First, it teaches them that I don’t exist merely to provide daily entertainment. Second, when children are bored, they naturally move into creative ideas to pass the time. Third, because our family does a lot of hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities, the down days are good for them.©janetphillips_may20_2016_web-41

That said, I do at times provide the kids with some activity ideas if they seem to be twiddling their fingers as they figure out what the afternoon is going to look like.

Last week, after a few hours of us drawing pictures, playing games, and having fun, they still wanted to do more. I had some work to do, so I told them I would give them an activity if they committed to doing it. I wouldn’t tell them what it was, but I explained they would have to be creative and work together.©janetphillips_may20_2016_web-12

After being assured I didn’t intend for them to clean the house (but what a great idea!), they accepted my challenge and I told them their mission:

Create a coffee shop for the family

“It must include coffee (of course) as well as fresh-baked treats. Each of you must have a role/part to play and you will all need to work together to figure out a plan and how to get it done. And no one individual kid (**cough**cough**Alaina**cough**first-born**) should take over the plans. “

With smiles on their faces and creative ideas churning in their minds, they kicked me out and I gladly obeyed orders to not return until I was called. A few hours later, we were requested to enter through the front door. And this is what greeted us:




















They did an amazing job. I love seeing their creativity! We used to do this kind of thing on a regular basis (like this hotel night a few years ago). But life has been busy and stressful and sometimes creative activities like this fall through the cracks.

I am so glad that even though the kid are older now, they still became really involved in the activity. It’s good for the older kids to think through all the details and it is good for the younger ones to experience it in order to see how they can come up with activities on their own.

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I loved all the little details…the decorate your own cupcakes, the “employees only” sign, the Happy Camper mug, the menu, the picture frame, the kiddie play area, games set out, and more!

Jason ordering his food

Jason ordering his food

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Zach enjoying the play area

Zach enjoying the play area

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Katie helping Beppy with the decorate-your-own cupcake area

Katie helping Beppy with the decorate-your-own cupcake area


Zach waiting for his turn

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Top notch service from the staff

Top notch service from the staff


Roasting marshmallows over a candle was such a cool idea!

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After roasting marshmallows and playing games, it was time to clean up. That’s when the older kids gave Bethany her role: being the janitor. Never has there been a cuter or more enthusiastic Cinderella.


…and yes, that is a green potty on the floor. Zach feels the need to bring it with him to whatever room we are all in.

So, what do you have planned this summer?

Life Around Here

Life Around Here |

I’ve broken the first rule of blogging: post consistently.

Thankfully, I’ve never much worried about the rules of blogging.

However, just because I have been quiet in this little space, it doesn’t mean life has been quiet. In fact, it’s been the opposite. Life has been full (often too full for my liking). However, we have been told that this is the day the Lord has made and we should rejoice in it. Although there have been many days when I haven’t felt like rejoicing, I pray for the strength each day to offer up my sacrifice of praise.

Even amidst the struggles of this life, there is much joy to be found. This is the reason I love photography: it forces me to see the little moments that make up a big life. Without my camera to capture the fleeting ages and stages of our children and our family, as well as the short-lived beauty of God’s creation in nature, I would struggle with gratitude. My images remind me I have much to thank God for, much to rejoice in.

The last few months have been filled with birthdays and celebrations, a few weeks of three extra kids in the house, lots of hiking and enjoying the beauty of the North Carolina Spring, doctor’s appointments ad nauseam, and lots of little moments unbridled joy. Here are some of our moments of joy.

Some of these have been shared on Facebook, others have not. And because it is quick, easy, and it makes me happy, I have recently been sharing more of my nature photos on Instagram.

You can follow me on either Facebook or Instagram.

Also, I have updated my photography site a number of times recently. I am seriously considering just combining the two sites. I tried to separate my “photography stuff” from my “life stuff” and I have realized I can’t. This is why I end up not posting anywhere: I don’t know if a post should go here or there. So one site makes more sense. On the to-do list…

Life Around Here |

She told me, “This is what princesses do!”

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Who knew when I was pregnant with her five years ago, I would give birth to a dog?

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Our other doggie…

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Sometimes the not-taking-naps thing backfires

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Little moments of real life

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Just one of the many puppies that are in Beppy’s “puppy pound.”

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Finally found a way to organize my Bible study and Bible journaling materials

Life Around Here |

A trip to the zoo for Levi’s birthday

Life Around Here |

The kids built their own little camping site in the woods, complete with shelters and a fire pit.

Life Around Here |

One of Zach’s “callipitters.”

Life Around Here |

We haven’t had a chance to go camping this spring, but we make up for it by enjoying our big yard. A fire pit, marshmallows, watermelon, and lawn games…what else does summer need?

Life Around Here |

A little picnic spot Katie made me for Mother’s Day. She said, “I know you like the beach, so I made the water and the sand for you. But we’ll have to eat in the water or you might hurt yourself by sitting on one of the shells in the sand.” 🙂

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Zachy’s obsession with bubbles still goes strong!

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Do you think he likes licking the batter?

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Yummy, yummy food. This is one of my favorites…almond and parmesan crusted chicken tenderloins.

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Lots of batches of these…

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Real life around here

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A treat for the last day of homeschool co-op

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More “callipitters.” He often asks, “Where is my favorite bug?” And then he goes to find whichever one he has captured last and gives it a kiss.

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I found them like this

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A morning of missing Malaysia…Chinese pancakes and kopi peng (iced coffee)

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The $50 “baby pool for big kids” was worth every penny.

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His obsession….milk and creamer. Every day. And yes, I know it isn’t healthy. Luckily, we make up for it in other ways.

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Alaina’s birthday

Life Around Here |

Alaina had a CLUE murder mystery party for her birthday

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When I asked Katie what she wanted for her birthday decorations, she just said “cowgirl.” I think I accomplished it. How much “cow” and “girl” can you get?

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Moms get birthdays too!

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For Caleb’s special 12-year-old trip, we surprised him with a trip to Pittsburgh to see a Pirates game. And of course, he wore his Pirates t-shirt with “Phillips” and the number 12 to commemorate his special day.

Life Around Here |

Watching pitching practice

Life Around Here |

Easter morning

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Love Letters to My Children {no. 4}: Why We Celebrate (part 2)

Love Letters | Celebrate2


In Part One of this letter to my children, I explain the first three reasons we make a big deal out of celebrations. I encourage you to read the post, as it also talks about the things that aren’t the reason we celebrate (no matter how good they are.)



We choose to celebrate (especially birthdays) because:





And now for the rest of the letter…



For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
PSALM 139:13-16 (emphasis mine)

Before the world was created, God knew you. He loved you, imagined you, and took great delight in you. Before you were conceived, God wrote in His book every day that you will live on the earth. Not one day too short, not one day too long. Each and every day of your life will serve a purpose, and when you fulfill your purpose in this generation (Acts 13:36), you will then pass away.©janetphillips_may2_2015_web-14

Until then, however, we choose to celebrate. Although it is my hope and prayer that you feel loved and celebrated every day of your life, we take one day each year to especially celebrate you. We celebrate because the day was ordained by God. By His will and His will alone, you reach another milestone in another year. You have had breath and life for another 365 days. We must celebrate God’s goodness—His goodness to you (in giving you life) and His goodness to us (in letting us have another year with you!)

WE LOVE YOUR UNIQUE PERSONALITY©janetphillips_april17_2015-98 copy

With all eight of our birthdays in a three month stretch (seven of those being in just an eight week stretch!), it would be easy to just combine some of the celebrations. Why go through all the trouble of decorating eight times, shopping for and wrapping gifts eight times, making 24 separate birthday meals (three for each birthday)? Why not just throw it all together and have one big celebration?


You are not a group, you are special and separate individuals. We do many things as a family, but we choose not to combine birthdays because we want to celebrate you and your unique personality. Each of you adds something incredibly special to our family. You are all so different and yet all so amazing. By giving you your own day, we are free to focus on and truly celebrate who YOU are. We don’t just do what is easy or convenient for us (because I can promise you, doing eight birthdays, all with special food and decorations, is anything but easy or convenient!) Instead, we do what we believe will make you feel loved and delighted in.


We let you choose colors and gifts and food and activities (and pay little attention as to whether the food is healthy or not!) We choose decorations and presents that represent you during a particular year (even if it means buying dog bowls for our “puppy” girl). We want you to know how amazing YOU are and how thrilled we are and that your special personality, with all its blessings, quirks, and flaws, is worth a celebration all its own.



Perhaps this reason sounds strange, but it is a big part of why we do what we do. We made a choice long ago that we would not spoil you, we would not give into your every whim and want, and we would not buy you toys and treats whenever the urge (yours or ours!) struck. Partly out of conviction, and partly out of finances, we choose to not buy you gifts throughout the year. Of course we do special activities and I will buy you small treats like ice cream or a new shirt, but for the most part, you have to wait. I don’t come home from the store with new toys and I don’t let you ask me to buy you things when we go out.


When kids learn that they can ask, whine, and demand their way to everything their little heart desires, the result is rude, demanding, and entitled children. We’ve seen it too many times. If we purchased gifts every time you saw something you wanted, either at a friend’s house or in a commercial (the few you see), you would be amassing your toy collection all year round. Instead, we choose to teach you the art of contentment and patience.


Twice a year you receive gifts. Only two times in a year do you have the chance to write a list, sharing the things you would love to have. Now that you are getting older and have a bit of allowance, you are able to purchase a few things yourself, but for the most part you still just have to wait in order to receive the toys, clothes, and other special items you have been hoping for.

Because this only happens twice a year (Christmas and your birthday), we choose to go big. We don’t spend much money on your throughout the year, enabling us to save more for these special occasions. We try to purchase most of the things on your lists (it helps that you all are always within reason!) Gifts are an act of love and we choose to shower you with that love on the days we celebrate you. Your patience and lack of entitlement deserve to be recognized and rewarded!

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This last point goes along with the point of above. On your birthday (and Christmas), we purchase and gift you with your wants. During the year, we purchase your needs.

Learning the difference between wants and needs is one of the greatest gifts we, as parents, can give you. Most children—and most adults—have never learned to discriminate between these two vastly different things.

Needs are items and opportunities necessary for your physical, emotional, educational, and spiritual growth. These are the things you need in order for you to healthfully grow and be good stewards of your body and appearance, your feelings and emotions, your mind and education, and your growth in your relationship with the Lord.

In case these categories confuse you, a few examples of needs:

Physical needs: Clothes, shoes, toiletries, haircuts, and other items needed to care for your appearance, always striving to be modest (a concept that means far more than most people understand…a topic for another day.) A not about clothes and shoes: We purchase these when and if you lack a necessary item and/or have grown out of things. These are not clothes you want in order to stay fashionable. However, if you do need an item of clothing, we try to purchase something you really like and will enjoy. Amy Carmichael, missionary to India and “mother” to hundreds of children, wrote her supporters and friends in England and said something along the lines of, “Don’t bother with sending ugly colors [of clothes]; there are too many beautiful colors in the world to bother with the ugly ones.” I agree wholeheartedly. We are frugal, but that doesn’t mean we have to buy clothes we hate. It is a joy to teach you, especially the girls, that you can be wise stewards of your money and purchase clothing that makes you feel good about yourself.

Emotional Needs: This one can be tricky, and I pray for wisdom and discernment regularly. I know that sometimes one of you needs just a little extra  something special. A trip out for coffee, a new shirt that you love (but don’t need), a new football. I choose to purchase these, though not very often, when I sense that one of you needs an extra display of love from me. It’s clear you don’t the items. Instead, I want you to see that I am giving them to you because of love, to show you how special you are to me. These are never things you ask for, rather things I choose to give. You’ve all known since you were little, if you go to the store and ask for things, it is guaranteed I won’t buy it.

Educational Needs: All items needed for your education, including notebooks, pens and bags, are purchased for you. We also occasionally purchase books or other things intended for learning. And as I said with clothing needs, as long as we are buying it, it might as well be something you love.

Spiritual Growth Needs: If there are items or experiences we see as valuable for your spiritual growth, we will purchase them. This includes Bibles, notebooks for church, activities with church or with our homeschool co-op. We will also occasionally purchase music on iTunes. We take you events, including concerts.

In short, we choose to celebrate because God delights in you and so do we. May you always feel loved, valued, and celebrated.

Pause, Reset, Play…

Maybe it comes from our camping ministry background. Maybe it comes from the awesome car trips all over America that my parents took me on. Maybe it comes from the fact that I love routine and I love breaking routine. Who knows? What I do know is that getting away as a family is a very good thing.

We try to do it every few months. When the beauty of routine starts feeling confining, I know it’s time. It’s time to find another place to lay our heads and new scenery to fix our eyes upon. With just over two months back in Indonesia, the little box of life and routine was starting to suffocate. Add in a sweet boy oh-so-sick with typhoid and there was no way getting around it — we had to get away.

A friend mentioned a hotel in a nearby hill resort town and I was able to get a great deal on it as a last minute booking. It was perfect. A two bedroom apartment with a kitchenette, bathtub, dining table, glass walls, and endless views of tea fields. And all for $80.

Deep breaths of beauty, gratitude, and hope filled my weary soul.

When we get away as a family, whether it is for a night or a week, we are able to do some things that we can’t seem to do at home.

First, we pause. The schedule and the to-do list are set aside and we catch ourselves with nothing to do but embrace the stillness and the  silence (well, mental silence anyway…with six little ones, actual silence doesn’t ever happen). When we pause, we remember why we love each other the way we do and we are intentional about enjoying that love.

Second, we reset. Armed with a remembered and focused love, we are able to remind ourselves of the big things in life. When most of our days revolve around history and math review, making meals, and keeping a two-year-old from destroying the house, the truly important things often get lost along with the shoes and pacifiers. When we get away, however, and remember who we are as a family, what we stand for, and what we want out of life, we are able to reset and make sure our compass is pointed in the right direction.

And third, we return home and push play again, letting our days follow a familiar pattern infused with a renewed commitment to who we are and where we are heading.

I love getting away.

Busy Week!

Can I just say that all of you mama’s (especially those in large families) who manage to get up every morning, get your kids fed, dressed, homework collected, and lunches made have some kind  of  magical powers that I just do not possess?

This week is SPIRITUAL EMPHASIS WEEK at the school where Jason teaches. It is also our annual WEEK WITHOUT WALLS.  I am doing all of the speaking for the elementary students and we wanted our kids to go on the service projects, so, they have all been in school all day. It’s been quite  shift from our normal, slow-to-get-started routine. Getting all of the kids up and ready to leave by 7:40 is wearing me out! I usually get up early but I finally had to set an alarm (the first in years!) so that I would be able to get in all my regular morning stuff (Bible time, walk, shower, etc) AND get everyone else ready. The kids are exhausted too—which is why it is 6:20 pm and they are all in bed! It’s been a great week and I am glad we are doing it but I will be VERY happy after Spring Break when life gets back to normal (which includes school often done in jammies!)

I have some posts in the works —things that have been mulling around in my head — but I need to get back to planning my final talks for the week. I have been speaking about our theme for the week: RESTORE, RENEW, REACT and I have been talking with these precious kids about RESTORING OUR JOY through forgiveness and gratefulness, RENEWING OUR MIND by watching over our heart with diligence, and REACTING in obedience. It’s been good for me to be reminded of these things in my own life  and to be challenged to strive for more.

So, since I can’t finish my other posts right now, I’ll just leave you with photos from Saturday’s walk.  Jason and I had had an unexpected surprise of a morning out together, so we went to the Dago caves, where you can see an ammunition store carved in the stone by the Japanese during WWII and also caves dug by the Dutch. It’s  a great walk and we had a good time talking, exploring, and even doing a little geocaching. The best part was finding a cache and then learning the next day that it was actually planted by friends of ours!

Hope your week is going great!


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