Love Sign Philadelphia

With Valentines Day just around the corner and red hearts adorning my home, love is in the air. No matter our age or stature in life, we all share a common thread in our need to feel loved to best succeed in life. But, how good are we at demonstrating our love to those who mean the most to us?

The 5 Love Languages is an amazing tool that I use in my daily life. It’s truly life changing to figure out the love languages of your children and spouse/partner. Different people express love in different ways. This Valentines Day your loved one may buy you flowers when what you really want is a romantic dinner out on the town. Perhaps you’ll cook him a home made meal when he really would just love to hear how much you adore him. Or maybe you both want to go to one of the most romantic places in the world, New York City. Where there is plenty of things to do for both of you to enjoy your Valentine’s day. The only problem is that you haven’t told each other. And the miscommunicated love goes on and on… unless we learn one another’s love language. I think quotes are a great way to show how you’re feeling to one another and an easy way to start learning each other’s language of love. There are loads of quotes at lifehacks on this topic which you can use to express yourself.

I think it’s even more important to learn the love languages of our children. Go figure that each of my four kids receive love in four different ways. I knew their personalities differed but who knew that the way they feel loved is uniquely their own as well. Definitely keeps me on my toes!

According to Gary Chapman, the author of the 5 Love Languages Series, there are five specific languages of love:

1. Words of AffirmationThis language uses words to affirm other people. These are the people who are always complimenting you and showing you love through their words. This is definitely not my love language, but it seems that it’s a very popular one with many of my friends and one of my sons. It’s very important to tell these individuals how wonderful they are any chance you get!


2. Acts of Service- For these people, actions speak louder than words. Dad’s love language is Acts of Service. We all know this and love serving him coffee as this makes him feel loved. Going out of your way to do things for individuals with this love language is important!


3. Receiving Gifts – For some people, what makes them feel most loved is to receive a gift. Do you know that person who is always giving you thoughtful gifts? This son shows his love through buying his little Sis a surprise gift in New York City.


4. Quality Time – This language is all about giving the other person your undivided attention. Yep, this is me. Make a plan to spend one on one time with me and my tank is full! I’m even willing to take silly selfies if that’s what spending time with my eleven year old daughter entails.


5. Physical Touch – To this person, nothing speaks more deeply than appropriate touch. Do you have a child who loves to cuddle? The one who is always pushing around his siblings and giving high fives to his friends. Physical touch is the way to their heart.



Start thinking about what might be your personal love language and then those of your family members. What resonates with you when you look at our moments above?

Observe how you most often express love to others. Is your first instinct to hug someone or express to them how wonderful they look?

What do you complain about most often? That is good insight into what your love language may be as well. Your complaints reveal your inner desires. What do you request of your spouse most often?

According to Chapman, sometimes there are certain life situations that make the other love languages extremely attractive. For example, your primary love language may be Words of Affirmation, but if you are the mother of three preschool children, then Acts of Service by your husband may become extremely attractive to you. If he gives you only Words of Affirmation and does not offer to help you with household responsibilities, you may begin to feel “I’m tired of hearing you say, ‘I love you’ when you never lift a hand to help me.” For those years, it may appear that Acts of Service has become your primary love language. However, if Words of Affirmation cease, you will quickly know that this continues to be your primary love language.

This Valentines Day have each member of your family take the brief online quiz to see what your love languages are. It’s fun and free! Then grab one of the books to learn more and start spreading the love. Only this time you will be equipped to show it in the way someone might need it the most! Happy Valentines Day to you!!



When I think of our FAMILY and the word PLAY, I think perhaps that ship has sailed. Our kids are all in middle school, so there isn’t a lot of interest in playtime anymore, is there? There’s a lot of playing around perhaps. And the term “playdate” has long been replaced with “hangout.” But, is there a need for regular family playtime?

While listening to Brene Brown’s The Gift of Imperfect Parenting audio CD in my car today, the importance of play in families really hit home. It made me realize that our lack of family play is exactly why we pulled out of our normal existence to take a 6-month hiatus around the USA. It was a way to regain playtime in our family. I never looked at it like that. Times of play had been hijacked by long days at school, homework, competitive sports, and other extracurricular obligations. Our family had no time for regular play. Play is what our family was missing.


I think it’s why so many of us love to travel and plan family vacations nowadays. It’s the only time we carve out for downtime to be together. I believe that today’s culture deprives us of the regular opportunity for family play and we need to wake up to that fact and intentionally incorporate it back in. Stuart Brown is a leading expert on play who believes that the importance of play is essential throughout our lifetime. He even wrote a book on the science of play and its essential role in fueling our happiness and intelligence throughout our lives. We cannot let go of relaxed, silly fun at any age. It is the piece of family life that keeps us joyful and connected.

When you think about your family, what are those activities you enjoy doing where you just lose track of time having fun together?

6 Ways to Play Together as a Family



The beauty of hiking Bryce Canyon, Utah



Biking the Sites in Washington DC with Bike and Roll

3. GEOCACHING- the kids introduced us to this fun treasure hunt-type phenomenon. We always were on the lookout for different Geocaches wherever we went.


Geocaching near the headquarters in Seattle, Washington!


Our adventurous kids get us out doing things that we wouldn’t normally do.  We did several adventure courses during our travels, but this was one of our favorites.


Enjoying our day at Whitefish Mountain Aerial Adventure Park in Montana!



This is a family tradition passed down from my parents. We love to see who can find the biggest piece or the most unique color! We spend hours doing this at the beach.


Enjoying St. Martin’s Grand Case beach!

The family that plays together stays together!

Make a list of the unique things you enjoy doing together as a family. How will you incorporate PLAYTIME back into your FAMILY if you too find it’s missing?

Please excuse today’s blog entry as it’s not my normal post with pretty pictures and happy travel reviews but it’s today’s truth. This post would’ve remained in my personal journal before this trip. But, since you are along with me on this ride and have asked for the truth, here you go….


Today I am feeling trapped by this RV. Suffocated by our cross country campground tour. My best friend Mary’s Mom died and I’m feeling overwhelmed not being there. In upstate New York, I am much closer in distance to their home in Maryland than normal, but yet I am hours away from an airport and honestly just can’t figure out how to get there before her Mom’s service, which is 24 hours from now.

Who cares about touring Lake Placid at a time like this? Who cares about any of it? My friend’s Mom passed away and I need to be there. I need to get there to hug her and cry with her and tell her it’s so not fair in person. She tells me that it’s ok and that she understands if I can’t make it. She’s giving me an “out” as she usually does, but something in me isn’t buying it.

Our family has missed numerous celebrations to do this trip. Celebrations we would’ve really liked to have been at. We’ve missed Bar Mitzvahs, Graduations, parties and weddings. All the fun celebrations that a normal summertime brings. I even turned down a keynote speaking opportunity for a blog conference that I really wanted to do. Just stay focused. We committed to this trip and everyone understands. But, today I just want to be back in my normal existence where I could’ve just jumped on a plane from Phoenix to Baltimore without thinking twice. Instead my head has been spinning trying to figure out how to get to Mary from here. So close yet so far. After researching my options for hours last night, I decided to sleep on it and knew that God would lead me in the morning.

When I woke up today, I decided that I wasn’t going to leave my family to drive to Lake Placid without me. I decided that it all felt too much to figure out so I called Mary in tears to tell her that I just couldn’t make it. I knew deep in my soul that I should be there and that I want to be there, but I didn’t know how to make it happen. I’m not in my element. I am in the middle of a campground, in an RV, in the pouring rain, in the middle of our epic trip. I just can’t make it. She’ll understand.

With tears streaming down my face, I made the phone call to tell her I wouldn’t be there. She picked up the phone without a hello and sobbing said, I am not ok Amy. I am just not ok. I keep telling everyone I’m ok, but I’m just not. Then, there was nothing but tears between us. God had spoken and I would find my way to her. My family would understand and would be capable to continue on a few hours and set up home in Lake Placid without me. They would have to.


My dear family dropping me off at the Albany train station! On to Lake Placid they go without me.

Mary and I have been pals since we met in 4th grade. Her family moved to Maryland our junior year of high school and we vowed to remain the best of friends. We have lived on different coasts for 20 plus years now but have remained close despite the distance. We have seen each other through first crushes, first and second marriages, first babies and now a first death of a parent. I will be there. I will see you through this as well my friend.

I walked back into the RV and said to my husband. I have to go. Please help me make it happen and just book the closest train station to get me there. And he did. The stress of getting on an airplane just made the relaxation of my friend Amtrak more appealing for my travel today down to Baltimore. The price was the exact same for a one way ticket as the flight on Southwest and I could’ve been there in an hour and a half instead of 6 hours, but I needed this time to decompress. I also thought that dropping me off at the Albany train station would be easier with the big rig than an airport! Plus, I didn’t bring a suitcase or any travel sized toiletries along in the RV so it felt nice to just throw stuff in a bag without thinking about how many ounces it was or how sharp it may be. Another Amtrak plus.

Then I realized I didn’t even bring along an outfit for such an occasion. When I skimmed my closet, I came to a dress I picked up in an Omaha boutique. I had pictured wearing it out one night on a dinner date with my husband, most likely when we returned to Arizona. It’s the only piece of clothing I’ve bought along the journey so far. Who knew it’s what I would now be wearing to my best friend’s Mom’s funeral.

Today I took a detour from our family’s planned trip to tend to a friend. To say goodbye to a sweet, loving woman who’s house I grew up in and to help bring comfort to her daughter. I think my kids can learn from this just as they have been learning about our countries history and landmarks along the way. Close friendships and loving relationships are life’s most precious gifts. May we always remember to take the time to invest in those who have brought joy, love and happiness to our lives. I’m on my way friend.


The hustle and bustle of a Friday night layover in Penn Station in NYC!

I love this time of year. Our Arizona weather is just perfect; the kids competitive sports are over (or should be, ahem… soccer…. that’s for another post) and my husband’s hockey job is coming to an end after yet another season. Our evenings and weekends tend to be more relaxed making time for bike rides around the neighborhood, board games and the occasional little league baseball game and practice. We all welcome this simpler pace.

Simplifying is one of the main reasons we are pushing pause on our normal existence. People either think we’re out of our minds for wanting to do this cross country RV trip as a family or others say they are envious and would love to do it. Many tell me stories of how they traveled around the US every summer hitting different spots with their families growing up. Family travel builds connections. It says to each member you are important and worth investing in.

I’m aware that what we’re about to do is not feasible for most people financially or time wise. I am fully aware of the blessings we have been bestowed in order to pull this off. I don’t take any of that for granted. I thank the Lord every single day.

But, if we’re being honest… how many people would really do this trip if they could? One friend called it very courageous and that’s stuck with me. I think she’s right. What we’re about to do definitely takes courage on many levels.

Right now, I relish my Mondays because after hectic weekends alone with the kids, my house and time is quiet once everyone is off to school. I can actually think straight. I know a lot of us, whether we stay home with the kids or not, relish that time when the kids go off to school and we’re alone with ourselves. There’s not going to be a lot of quiet time in 43 feet of living space with 6 people up in it for close to a year. Whoa. There will be a lot of prayers going up for patience I’m sure.

Let’s look at it this way. What if you found out you only had a week left to live, or a month or even a year? Would you be so worried about sending the kids off to school every day? Would you still race around to all the sports practices, games and lessons? Or would you drop it all and do what you’ve always wanted to do with them, whatever that may be for you?

See this is how I look at this trip. Do I really want to be home (road) schooling per say? Not exactly. Like I said, selfishly I enjoy those quiet hours of each day that are mine and that the kids are actually being taught by licensed individuals. But, I will have many quiet hours ahead of me. With four kids born within 18 months, our home is going to get quiet fast.

Parenting in the day to day can feel monotonous. Take time to think about the heart of your family and what you want your kids to take away when they grow up and move to the next phase of life. Think about simplifying your family routine. I say stop the madness even just for a little while. Push pause. I don’t think you will regret it.


Recycling picIt’s tradition. Recycling bottles and cans in California for cash. It’s what we do. It’s what we’ve done ever since the kids have been old enough to understand about making money and helping the environment at the same time. Kids of this generation need ways to make a little hard earned cash themselves. It’s important to find opportunities like this for them to earn their own vacation money. It’s not easy at their ages to find ways to do this.

It pays to recycle

Whenever we know we have an upcoming trip over to our Dana Point house, we start saving our bottles in Arizona. We load up the car top carrier and whatever we can fit around our luggage in the back of the Suburban and off we go to Cali. Life lessons take a little crazy effort people…


car top carrierunloading bottles

Yes, the kids get a little dirty doing this and the older they get, the less they are into it. They used to go down Laguna Beach picking up bottles all day long because every nickel counted to them. Now they take what we’ve saved in Arizona and are happy with that! This RePlanet is really close to us behind our Ralphs Grocery Store, so it’s nice and convenient.

There are a couple ways to get your money. You can feed each container through one by one and make the amounts shown or you can fill the trash cans with bottles and you get paid by weight. It usually depends on how much we have and how busy it is. Today we did a little of both. You definitely make more by feeding them through, but it also takes a lot more time.

k and a feeding bottle CRV amounts

barrels of bottlesweigh in

Once you’re done, you will get receipts like this that you can turn into the grocery for your hard earned cash. Split between the four kids, it came to about $8 a kid. Not bad for a little time and effort. I know they will be happy spending that in the Laguna Beach candy shop later and we will be happy that we don’t have to hand over any money at the same time!

receiptscash money

Our 13-year-old triplets are living without cell phones. What kind of parents are we?

Let’s pause and take a close look at our kids.

  • Our oldest is all about the social and would be unable to focus on anything but that device, so he’s out. He is not mature enough. 
  • The middle man would probably rarely look at the thing, but he would most likely lose it in the first week anyway. He is not focused enough.
  • Our third born is responsible enough for a phone, but is the one to say, why do I need one anyway? Not interested enough. 
  • And baby girl just turned 11 and, in our book, is way too young for such a device. Not old enough.

According to these four, they are the only 13-year-olds left on the earth without a cell phone. They don’t realize this, but this is precisely the point! Don’t you want your family to be different?

Here are 10 Reasons We are Not Getting Our 13-Year-Olds a Smartphone

1. Smartphones are a privilege

When did our parents allow us the same privileges and material items that they had when we were growing up? That would be… never.

This isn’t the case anymore. What do young kids need with a cell phone, and why are we, as parents, so concerned about being able to communicate with our kids constantly? Our boys are away at church camp this weekend, and it is strange not to be able to reach each other. But it’s okay, and I think it is healthy for all of us to learn to do so.

2. Smartphones hinder delayed gratification

I want my kids to learn to wait for something. Delayed gratification is a good thing. Just because you turn 13 and because it’s what everyone has and is doing isn’t a good enough reason. Every child who jumps in the car with us to go anywhere whips out their phone, and mine lean over to assist in playing their game of choice or checking out social media post updates.

It saddens me that kids no longer know how to ” be.” I know we are happy when they have these gadgets in hand because it honestly means more quiet time for us, but I also know it can be detrimental. Can you imagine a road trip without a gadget in our child’s hand? We don’t even want to consider it.

3. Smartphones can be a crutch

The other night, our daughter’s best friend texted her Mom (who was out to a nice adult dinner) at 10:00 p.m., saying that she couldn’t sleep and wanted to go home. Boy, do I remember feeling like that a time or two growing up at sleepovers? The difference is that I had no cell phone to call my Mom, so I pushed through.

And you know what? I made it through and learned that it wasn’t so bad after all, or I realized I didn’t want to do that again. I learned a lesson either way. I love this girl and love her parents even more, so this isn’t a judgment, just an observation of what we are creating, and I notice it regularly.

4. Smartphones distract students at school

I was in one of my son’s 6th-grade classes, and the teacher had to tell students that they could use their phones to research the project, but she would be walking around to make sure no one was texting or using the phone in any other way.

Do teachers today really need one more thing to worry about?

I had to sign a waiver for a different teacher asking if the students could use their phones in class. I signed it and checked the no box, considering they don’t even own phones. A few weeks later, the teacher called to tell me that I was the only one who said no and that I may want to rethink my answer. So she returned the form so I could say, Yes, my sons can use someone else’s phone in class. 

5. Smartphones hinder social relationships

Where we live, ‘dating’ is rampant in middle school. It is easy to fall into a ‘relationship’ behind texts and social posts today. I remember having an eye for boys at this age, so I get it. But, I certainly wasn’t telling ANYONE about it besides my very best friend, who was telling me her deepest secrets at the same time.

We are losing all innocence by giving kids too much too soon. My kids need to mature, figure out who they are, and become somewhat secure before they can navigate a relationship over texts and Snapchat.

6. Smartphones should be for working people

Why are we willing to fork out our hard-earned money each month so our youngsters can have a phone and data plan? We’re not kidding when we ask our kids how they plan to pay for this privilege. We as parents need to make sure we are creating a desire in our kids to work toward something so that they can buy the things they want one day.

7. Smartphones prohibit independence

Our kids don’t need phones because everyone around them has one that they can use. However, when they try to use a friend’s phone from the bus or school to try and plan a hangout, I have to remind them that this is why they don’t have their own phone. We can talk in person when they get home. Our musical son has to go into the school office once in a while to let us know that his lesson got done early or was canceled so we can pick him up.

Yes, a child can still use the school’s landline. Otherwise, our son must sit outside and wait for you….old-school style.

8. Just because we can afford a smartphone, doesn’t mean we need to buy it

Yes, we can afford phones and family data plans. But I think this is another powerful message to our kids—just because we can afford something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to spend our money on. Our kids have become very aware of people (from friends to the working poor who receive free meals at St. Vincent de Paul, where we serve) who don’t have “money” yet have iPhones. They would never be able to observe and question this with a phone in hand.

9. Smartphone ownership can cause entitlement

Kids should not feel entitled to own any material item. When they are 15, we will also discuss not buying them cars. Before you feel too bad for my tweens, they are still a part of their iGeneration, as they each own an IPAD and have Instagram accounts. It is good for our children to begin learning to tread the technological waters but in moderation.

10. Why do they need a smartphone again?

I know people have absolute reasons for their children to own phones—having an only child, older siblings who have them, or kids who are going back and forth between homes due to divorce. To each his own, and only you know your family dynamic. Our family doesn’t have a good enough reason right now.

What age do you think is appropriate for buying a child a smartphone?