summer journaling

School Is Out = Summer Is Here = Fighting the Mushy Brain

Mom, can I play the Wii?” Oh if I had just a dime for every time I know I will hear that this summer. School got out for our kiddos last week. I have to say, I was on the countdown just as much as they were. At one point I tapped the tips of my fingers together like Monsieur D’Arque does, who is the head of the insane asylum in Disney’s animated version of Beauty and the Beast. I tapped the tips of my fingers together and said, “In just a few more days I will have them back to myself to begin the cultural detoxing process!” I considered adding in a maniacle laugh for effect, as if my children are a crazy science experiment. Sounds creepy, but that makes it all the more amusing!

However, in all seriousness, I do feel like I get them back from everything that pulls against the unit of our family throughout the year. To clarify, I’m not saying they’re facing only negative things through the year. Some of what we get them back from is the crazy schedule. Jaron asked me what I was looking forward to most for summer and I said, “Not having to keep a schedule and getting to have time, time with you all and time with friends.” Again, it’s not that we don’t do anything, but we just don’t have to have everyone up at a certain time and out the door. We have some evening activities here and there, but it’s not every single night of the week. We have time to be together. We have time to chill. We have time to reconnect and simply enjoy our family.

And that brings us back to the question I know I’ll hear over and over and over again— “Mom, can I play the Wii?

Part of this relaxed schedule is the threat of what I call, THE MUSHY BRAIN!

TV. Movies. Video Games. The Computer. Galaxy of Heroes for Jaron and The Dad.

Can I get a witness? Are any of your kids zoned out to electronics?

Last summer I informed the kids of what I thought was an incredibly bright idea.

Guys! This summer each of us are going to read one chapter a day and you and I are going to journal to each other each day!

In my head everyone was jumping around with enthusiasm seeing the great potential in this idea.

But that wasn’t the response. There was moaning and blahness. (Yes. I just made up that word, but it’s fitting so go with me on it—it’s a word that summer journals are made of).

Well, those little stinkers really made a stink about it. One child even wrote a whole journal page about how stinky journaling was. Creative writing. It’s a beautiful thing. (insert sarcasm)

But guess what?!

Despite the negativity at times, they liked it! No, they’re not begging to start again, and they weren’t super expressive, but here and there they’ve let the cat out of the bag different things they liked about journaling.

So this is how it looked for us. I pick a topic and write to them in their journal and then they write back to me. Like pen pals so to speak.

I wish we could do this throughout the school year, but it was very timely for last summer when Brandon was unexpectedly laid off. I wrote to each of the kids about what had happened. Jaron wrote back ministering to our hearts. He shared how he was kind of worried but then he remembered Psalm 23. He looked it up and wrote each verse out by hand for us to read:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.     He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.     He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness     for His name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,     I will fear no evil, for You are with me;     Your rod and your staff,     they comfort me. You prepare a table before me     in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil;     my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me     all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord     forever.

You can imagine what Brandon and I were doing reading that journal entry! Can we say, “tears?!” And lots of them. We were hoping to give reassurance to our children and here one of our children was giving it to us.

Then, as balanced as life should be, we got a good chuckle when we opened Caden’s. He wanted to know the specifics of how everything would pan out, asking if we were going to sell our house and buy a tiny house. Which by the way, wasn’t such a bad idea to him.

I asked for at least one full page, but sometimes because of the subject matter I got more. Here were a few of things I shared with the kids about our summer writing—

  • Please write back to me in a three-step process:
    • FIRST-- start out writing your thoughts about what I've written to you in the beginning of the journal entry and
    • THEN-- share you're thoughts about the middle part of what I wrote to you
    • and LAST, answer any questions.  Follow this pattern every time you write back.
      • For Gavin who was turning 7 last summer I asked him to write to me and draw a picture of what he wrote.
  • Please... Make the most of this.  You'll love what you get from it.  One day it'll mean the world to you to have this glimpse back.  Today, it'll be like a magic mirror revealing what you never knew was there.
  • Please fill in the following pages using your thoughts, feelings, engaging your mind and utilizing your vocabulary and most importantly exploring your heart.
  • Let your mind wander, your creative side to explore, let your imagination paint a picture with your words.  Journaling connects you to what you didn't even know was there.  Now....start your adventure.
  • Thank you for opening this door of writing, allowing me to not only peek in your heart, but to be welcomed in-- as if stepping through a door, coming in and staying for a cup of tea.

So how did I get them to oblige? It was simple—all the answers to what they wanted to do were a “no” until they did their journal and read their chapter. I know. Mean Mom, right? But I’ve got these treasures of their lives, penned from their own hand, on topics that are meaningful and valuable. Those are my summer treasures and it helps them fight the manifestation of the summer mushy brain!

I pray this post spoke to you. Did you know I’m writing a book?! Crazy, right?! Would you join me in supporting these endeavors by subscribing to our blog and sharing with your friends and family? We can’t grow with out you.

**If you would like some ideas and focus points to write to your kids this summer, I invite you to download Journal Writing Topics - Fighting the Mushy Brain for free.  We just got regular ol' journals at Walmart and wrote to each other like pen pals.  The document shares some of our topics. Don't feel pressured to write every single day, but just a consistent flow of communication with them through the project. Also, visit my friend, Shawna Fisher at Water Walker Events Design Planning for a fun free-to-download journal that includes a Summer Bucket List and Nature Scavenger Hunt.**



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