Fair Food Fun

Girls Ice Cream

Imagine Fun Fair Food had zero calories and only benefited your health in every way. Which would you choose?

Elephant ears, funnel cakes, strawberry shortcakes. Dairy barn ice cream, blueberry ice cream, cotton candy piled to the sky on a twirly cardboard cone. Fried zucchini, fried snickers bars, fried cheesecake. French fries, deep fried curled potatoes, broasted potatoes. Barbecue turkey legs, corn dogs, pork tenderloin. Lemon Shake ups, on-tap root beer, or a diet soda if you really feel bad about all the other calories.

Fair Food. Fair food is so, so fun. Expensive, yes. Unhealthy, yes; but so, so good.

Our family loves to eat. Yes, with the health food revolution , we stand firmly by our cause. Fair junk food. Fair junk food heaven–Junk food paradise. Mind you, only once or twice a year. If we ate Fun Fair Food more than that, we’d be both broke and bloated, so we choose our Fun Fair Food binges carefully.

Before you speed dial Jamie Oliver or Michele Obama to tell on me, put the iPhone down and look me in the eyes when I talk junk food. Hear my heart. This is important. I’ll eat a carrot and a flax seed too, (whatever that is), when I am done writing this article. I promise.

Whether it’s the warm air mixed with the fair grime smell or some sort of fair magic, It draws you in…when you are at a summer fair, the smells, sights, blinking neon signs with promises of fun, happiness and elephant ears. The crowds, the people, the noise…and the food–it’s all a part of the fun.

Our family is mesmerized by the fair magic and we are drawn to the neon lights like hungry little caterpillars to that Hungry Little Caterpillar book. We love fair food. Over the years, we have grown in our love of fair food and our strategies to consume it in the most efficient way possible. I thought I’d share our strategies with you, in case you plan on being drawn in as well:

Divide and conquer

We go four ways. The older two girls get in line for their Walking Tacos and Corndogs with explicit instructions not to look at or engage any boy, man, or stranger in any conversation whatsoever between the time they leave us and return to us, this saves time and a lot of confusion with teenage girls.

Rob, my husband is in charge of buying 5 super duper extra large lemonades with all the gritty, sugary stuff at the bottom…He is also in charge a few more the main dinner item(s). A Philly cheesesteak sandwich, a barbecue turkey leg, and about 50 napkins to stuff into his cargo short pockets. Me and Belle, our youngest daughter-we are the fried food girls. We get the deep fried veggies with about five vats of ranch dipping sauce. And also about 50 more napkins.

Seriously Indulge

We text and call each other to find a designated meeting spot at picnic table or if it’s too crowded, we just plop down on the grass and dump all the food in front of us. And we seriously indulge. We take a few bites of whatever is in front of us, pass it on for the next person…unless you’re like me and you’re not really into sharing. We eat it all. Every bite. Some of the food ends up on clothes or spilled on the ground for the more than five second rule. We don’t fuss. It’s no big deal. It’s the fair!

After licking our fingers clean and wiping faces for fair presentability, we head to the rides.

Spin and Repeat

Velocity burns calories, right? Absolutely it does. So we figure if we ride the really fast, spinning rides, most of the calories will disappear. At least that’s what we’d like to believe.

For those of us with milder spinning ride dispositions, we wait by the exit and try to manage holding the 5 refillable lemonade super extra large plastic up things with the really cool long bendy straws, the hats, the purses, and all the random accumulated fair items.

After we’ve ridden the rides, we split up and hit the lines for dessert. The same process as dinner, split up, text, call, meet back up, share or not share, depending on your degree of dessert hoarding (my level would be really high again here).

But really, if I were to let you in on a secret, and I am sure you already know this. The Fair isn’t just about the food. It’s about the fun and the friends you see with their kids, doing the same thing as your family is doing. Enjoying the rides, being silly, eating mounds of cotton candy, laughing and having a great time.

The Fun Fair Food is a great bonding experience for our family, something we laugh about and strategize about together through the year. We keep our lemon shake up cups with the bendy straws and occasionally someone will say, “Remember when…” and that’s the whole point right there. Remembering, making memories and being together.

So next time you are at the fair, take our family’s word for it. Divide and conquer, Seriously indulge, Spin and repeat. Worry about what’s healthy the day after the fair. Eat all your veggies un-fried that day, eat a flax seed, whatever that is, and scrub the fair grime out of your kids’ clothes. Most importantly, have fun remembering all the joy your family experienced along the way.


This article appears in the June 2013 issue of Michiana Family magazine.


How Magic Happens

 Maddie and I share a common passion in photography. She gets this little glimmer in her eye when we see some rode side barn or the sun shining a certain way…

 And then we pull over and take pictures.  Lots and lots of pictures.  Her little 13 year old brain is spinning, creating while we stand there, thinking of what will be the perfect shot.  It’s funny, because that’s what I do too, but I could never explain it to someone. I think because she’s seen me do it ten thousand times, she understands the process.

But her creativity is different than mine.  What a joy to watch her come into her own gifts, her own talents, her own time…it’s been one of the most fun parts of being her Mommy.

We both sucked air as we drove past this barn near our house Saturday night, the sunlight shining through the beams, vines climbing over old woodwork.  It was a golden moment that I will treasure in my memory always.

I’m so glad I took that drive with Maddie.  It took 30 minutes of my day. In those 30 unplanned, unexpected moments, magic happened.  I’m grateful.  So, so grateful.

Do I Need To Pull This Car Over?


I have a question to ask.  How many of you had parents that said to you, while you were riding in the back seat of their station wagon, “Do I need to pull this car over?  Because you do not want me to pull this car over.”  My parents did!  I have used this same technique, much to my own horror, but found it extremely effective about twice.

Well, imagine you are all in the back seat of a station wagon right now, and I am in the drivers seat.  I see most of you behaving so nicely, sitting on your hands even, trying your very best to be good and do right.  But…there are SOME of you, who are doing other things. We’re pulling over, and I’m calling a time-out.

For starters, I know I have a lot of opinions about stuff.  I am always hesitant to share them in a public way for fear of imposing on other people’s opinions, angering them, making them uncomfortable, etc.  My biggest fear in expressing my rather strong opinions is that I would come across as high and mighty, or leave the impression that I have arrived at a place of perfection that I can only look down from.  The truth is that I struggle daily with a sense of self-worth, hoping that I am doing a good job as a wife, mom, and a friend.  I make mistakes all the time, usually pretty selfish ones, putting my own needs and wants above others.

But for today, I cautiously step out and share a few opinions about faith and family that might help someone somewhere.  If not, I know it will help me just to get the words on a page so I don’t explode with exclamation points and italics print all over the next person I see…

My Opinion on Parenting Young Children:

You are in charge.  Your baby isn’t.  Your toddler isn’t.  You are.  You are the parent for a reason.  You have a lifetime of experience behind you that helps you make wise decisions for your family and your precious children.  Your feelings are important.  Listen to your gut.  Your baby and/or toddler will cry and scream to get out of bed, eat waffles with maple syrup for every meal, and hit and bite you and others to get their way.  All of these things are primal and instinctual.  Your child wants to get their way.  It’s natural and it’s normal.  Sometimes when they’re little, it’s really cute; However, if you coddle them and tell them they CAN eat waffles and maple syrup for every meal, get out of bed whenever they want, hit and bite whomever they please, they will become exactly what their instinct tells them they need to become–self serving, self-centered, tyranical little people.

When these babies and toddlers get just a little older, some will become bus bullies, shoving smaller kids out of their way to get their own seat.  Others will become playground tyrants, bossing their minions around.  Some will become cleverly disguised little passive-aggresive girls or boys who look plesant on the outside while secretly plotting to do whatever it takes to keep the world spinning around them.  They plot ways to keep you, their parent, catering to their every whim. They say what will please you so they can keep calculating their next move to keep you distracted from their self-centered and increasingly destructive behavior.

Bottom line: “Kids these days” (and yes, I am horrified by my own use of that phrase) get a trophy for just showing up at a sport.  They are given a black belt for karate on their second lesson.  No one loses, no one is disciplined or corrected.  If a child  has never earned a “win”, they lose sight of what goals and dreams are like, and everything begins to revolve around them.  If a child has rarely been redirected  when their sweet little wills began to wander, don’t be surprised when you wake up one morning to find an eye-rolling, door-slamming teenager in your house.

I humbly, and I really mean humbly–advise you to take control now.  I’m not talking about spanking or not spanking, grounding or punishing…I’m talking about daily involvement in the little choices your precious child is making.  It’s the little things we turn away from because they are too hard to deal with in the moment that slowly progress to real problem issues that quickly get way past our own ability to control.

I know I am not too far off base and I look at Eli, a temple priest in the Bible.  He was given the enormous responsibility of raising Samuel, God’s chosen instrument to bring his grace to His people at the time.  He poured his life into his ministry and into raising Samuel.  BUT, he turned away from what was closest to his home and to his heart–the sin of his own children.  The Bible literally says,

” And the Lord said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle. At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end. For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain them. 2 Samuel 3:11-13

It’s time to pull the station wagon over friends.  Eli kept driving, eyes averted from the rearview mirror.  The cost of this was tragic.  We don’t know exactly when his sons began to disobey and act shamefully.  My guess is that they didn’t start robbing the church or sleeping with prostitutes when they were 3 or 4.  It probably started with minor issues, like Eli caving in every time they asked for waffles and maple syrup, or ignoring the fact that they got out of bed for the thousandth time at night when they should have been sleeping…It’s these little things that turn into big things.  He didn’t pull the station wagon over. Not once, not ever.

If you cannot control your child’s behavior with simple redirection and discussion, ask for help! Rob and I have spent countless hours with friends just a few steps ahead of us, begging for ideas and tools that would help motivate our children toward better behavior.  When it comes to our parenting, my hope and prayer is that we will never be too proud to ask for help.


Teaching your Tween to Wait


I bought some expensive jeans this month. Really expensive. I still feel slightly guilty about it, but I waited a long time until I was able to get them on sale. I had a little extra spending money, and I was in desperate need of a new pair – especially a pair with sparkly roses – so I caved in to my inner diva and bought them.

One of my children, who shall remain nameless, saw my jeans and declared them “unfair.” This daughter insisted that she needed the same brand of expensive jeans with sparkly roses on the pockets, too – since every single pair of hers were suddenly too small and outdated.

My answer: No. I waited until I was almost 38 years old to get these jeans. You can wait awhile longer, too.

Both our older girls have been begging us for an iPhone. I tell them repeatedly that I was the last person in the Western hemisphere to get a cell phone. I was 33 years old before I even got one, and 37 before I got an iPhone. The combined ages of all three of my girls don’t even total up to my current age, so again, my answer to their pleas? Wait. A long time.

With all that said, guess what? Our 8-year-old has an iPhone. Not one that works to make phone calls, but it functions as an iPod Touch. I’ll take a step back while you throw rocks and garbage and mock my hypocrisy. Allow me to explain.

Our girls have always enjoyed learning games on various handheld electronic devices. We’ve had all the Leap Frog toys, Nintendo DS’s, DSI’s, V-tech toys, you name it. With each game, we have spent close to $100 per device (or more). These toys always serve an educational purpose, and even more important to my sanity, a distraction device from hitting, biting and punching each other on long car rides to Grandma’s or vacation.

Quickly we found that these toys add up to some serious cash spent. Along with the cash spent, we found the girls outgrowing and outsmarting the games in a few short months. (Being the smart parents that we are, it took us about 10 years to figure that out).

So, this past Christmas, we found an old 3G iPhone on Craigslist for cheaper than an iTouch, and way cheaper than a smart educational toy that we had first considered for Belle. On her new device, she has endless educational games, the ability to take photos like her big sisters, and she can use it to listen to stories before bed. (You can keep throwing rocks and garbage at me; I don’t mind).

When she opened her gift on Christmas morning, she was completely shocked. She kept repeating over and over, “I never thought I would have an iTouch!” Her joy made us all giggle and really made us proud as parents. It was a worthwhile investment for us and has served its purpose well.

Occasionally when we have the money and the situation is right, we might do something crazy and buy an iTouch for an 8-year-old. We say yes because we love our kids.

Wanting nice things is not bad. Wanting to give your kids nice things stems out of our love for them and desire to make them happy. Of course that’s not bad!

Unfortunately, with our best intentions being what they are, the constant act of giving a child what he or she does not have the capacity to appreciate leads to an aloof attitude from the child and almost an attitude of “I deserve this.”

If there is a special item our girls long for, and we know either we cannot afford it or the timing just isn’t right, these are suggestions we offer them:


Work for it

Our front door is a revolving door of children, both our own and random extras, always wanting food and messing up my house. One way I tell my girls they can make some extra money toward their goal is by cleaning up after these blessed friends.

The most despised job across the board at our house is folding socks. With three young girls, myself and my husband, the volume of socks that need to be matched and folded every week is truly astonishing. This is a high-paying job that I’d quickly pay anyone else to do since I despise it so much. There are always extra jobs like these that will pay cold hard cash at our house.


Save for it

From the time our girls could understand the concept of money, we have taught them to save. Each child has a piggy bank with a section for Savings, Spending, and Church. They save 10%, give 10% to church and have 80% of their allowance left to spend as they wish. We emphasize the “Savings” category is to be used for big ticket items such as a designer pair of jeans Mom is never going to buy them.


Wait For It

Your kids should know how awesome you are by now. Haven’t you always surprised them with amazing gifts in the past? I know we have. We’ve purposely hung on to a gift we could give them until the time and the place were right. By making them wait, hopefully our kids have learned to trust us a little with their wishes and dreams.

Waiting also has the positive benefit of finding something at just the right price. We have taught our girls to shop the sales after Christmas or holidays to show them how sometimes by waiting they can make their money go twice as far.


Go For It

There are times that necessitate gifts for no good reason at all. Giving is part of the joy of life, and surprising your kids with extraordinary love wrapped in a gift can be an amazing thing. Go for it. Surprise them from time to time – as long as they don’t learn to expect it. In giving to them, they are learning both the gift of giving and receiving, two very important life lessons.

And finally…


Table It

You are the one in charge. You can do it. Say no when you have to. Your kids might be angry, hurt or upset for a while, but you are older than them and obviously have more life experience. You’ve known them longer than anyone, and you know what’s best for them. Sometimes the best thing is just to say no and leave it at that. You are the adult, and you don’t even need to explain yourself!

My biggest piece of advice after everything I’ve said is this: If you buy yourself an expensive pair of jeans, hide the receipts and do not by any means disclose the price you paid to your children.

This article appears in the June 2012 issue of The Family Magazine of Michiana

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Joy comes in all shapes and sizes. I am constantly reminded of this as each girl in our family contributes joy and happiness in their own unique way.  I am so very grateful for their specialness and the way they shine the love and light of God by just being who they are.  I’m so blessed.  So very thankful.


Missional Family


“Missional” is a fairly new term that has been thrown around in Christian circles for the past few years.  If you understand what Missional is, you’ll know what I’m talking about, but if you have no clue what Missional means, here goes: Missional living” is a Christian term that describes a missionary lifestyle; adopting the posture, thinking, behaviors, and practices of a missionary in order to engage others with thegospel message. That definition is from Wikipedia.  Here’s how we’re living it out around our house:

We love Jesus.  We know He has enormous love for us and the people He sends our way every day.  We are intentional about being God’s representitives of His love wherever we are.  At this phase of my life, I’m not travelling a lot to places like Africa, India, Mexico, etc. to spread God’s love.  But I am travelling to my kitchen, and my living room, and my back yard.  Here’s why:

We’ve made our home a Missional Outpost.  We pray that every person that comes through our doors will know and understand the love of Jesus because of the love we have for one another and the love we share with them.  The other day we had a new little friend over who was not following the rules and called one child a bad name.  I gently pulled her aside, looked into her precious round blue eyes and said, “Sweetheart, this is a house of love. We don’t call eachother bad names here.”  Another little guy that is always over here piped in and said, “She’s right! We love people here!” It made me so happy to hear him say that.

Here are some of the very easy and practical things we do to make our home “Missional”:

  •  We have an open door policy.  Any kid can come over to our house.  Good kids.  Bad kids.  We take them all.
  • Everyone follows the rules.  We are a house of love, so no name calling, fighting, stealing, or back talking.
  • Everyone helps each other.  If a kid eats over for dinner, they help out.  They are usually the ones more eager to help than my own children.
  • We talk. We swap stories at the dinner table about our day. Each kid shares at least one “high” and one “low” from their day.  Once everyone has shared one story, the talkers can have their turn to share more.
  • We pray. We pray before we eat dinner, or before the kids go to bed at a sleep over.  Not once has a guest been freaked out by this.  They love it. The past few nights one of our regular “guests” could not wait to ask if he could pray.

Our little buddy found his way to Jesus at our dinner table.  Missional living is not difficult. We love and serve Jesus as a family, and we just ask others to join in along the way.

I’d love to hear your Missional Living stories!  I bet you are already doing it and don’t even know it.  🙂