Hey friends! How are you?? Like really, HOW ARE YOU?

It’s been a wild summer – much busier than I normally like things. #homebody And it’s been terribly hot. #whiner

This Idahoan is trying not to complain too much, but I’d love it if the 105+ temps stayed down south a bit. It felt like a good time to pop in with a Friday Thoughts post. Nothing too earth-shattering to share, just a lot of random thoughts as usual. 

Be sure to chime in down below in the comments!

{This picture pretty sums up my coping skills right now – hanging out in the pasture with the miniature donkeys whilst snarfing down Trader Joe’s mini ice cream cones and avoiding real life and my children #notsorry}

two mini ice cream cones in pasture with miniature donkeys

1) Catch Up: Many of you have been here for over a decade. Others are newer friends. But I can easily say I have never been so inundated with kind, heartfelt, thoughtful messages of support and love as I have in the last six months. I always knew I had the best blog readers on the planet, but you have solidified that this year. Thank you for your incredible compassion as I shared some feelings after losing my friend, Holli.

So many of you have reached out with your own stories about grief and loss. You’ve sent cards, flowers, resources and books – and you’ve prayed for me and for Holli’s family. We’ve felt those prayers. Things aren’t easy (especially for Holli’s sweet loved ones), but life has a way of moving forward, and I’m grateful for your patience, support, and understanding.

Other factors, personally, have also felt particularly challenging this year. I think I’m the lone wolf that would gladly take 2020 back over 2021. Ha. I feel like I’ve been stretched beyond my capacity to be stretched in the last 6-9 months. Like: ok, got it! Learning lessons! Taking notes! Making changes! Can we stop now?? K, thanks. I’M DONE.

woman standing in mud filled trench with shovel

But. In a weird way, it’s just been in the last couple of weeks that I’ve actually begun to feel grateful for these mental, emotional, and spiritual challenges. They have deepened my empathy and compassion in many areas. I feel like my soul has expanded and my viewpoint has opened up widely. And I realized recently, rather abruptly, that I’m not the same person I was a year ago.

If I could sum it up in a sentence: these intense feelings and challenges I’ve had to face head on have stripped away so many of the unnecessary thoughts and beliefs I used to have and have fine tuned who I really am, what I really believe, who I want to become, and how I want to help my kids through similar situations and trials.

Anyway. I know that’s deep, and I’ve probably lost a couple people with my ramblings already, but…that’s life right now. And I love you guys enough to want to be honest about what real life feels like. I feel weirdly renewed after these epiphanies and ready to tackle the rest of 2021! Kind of. 🙂

On to lighter things!

2) Summer, Summer, Summer: Hi, how’s summer? What’s your summer shaping up to be? A travel summer? A stay-at-home summer? A work summer? A project summer? 

Our summer, as mentioned at the top of this post, has been a bit busier than summers of the past. 

That’s a good thing, and also an anxiety-inducing thing for homebodies like me. 

Brian and my oldest, Jackson, spent 2 1/2 weeks in Belize doing humanitarian work for HEFY. It was everything we hoped it would be and more for Jackson (fun, but also hard and comfort zone pushing). My other kids are now talking about wanting to go and figuring out how to earn money to do so.

father and son in hard hats standing in rain

We took a trip to Montana to see my parents/family. 

Cam and I snuck off to San Diego with my mom for a few days where we experienced the zoo and the beach and also Bobboi gelato (wow!) and ate at La Playa Taco Shop twice because it was so yummy…

mom and daughter on plane with masks

…while the boys and Brian headed up to fish in Alaska. A bucket list item that is now checked off for them (proof of which is the 200+ pounds of fish in the freezer). Fish tacos, here we come. 

{They had a deep sea charter with Tall Tale Charters and a salmon excursion (via plane and boat) through Alaska West Air. Neither of these are sponsored, but Brian says to tell you he highly, highly recommends both. It was an amazing, once in a lifetime experience for all of them.}

men on boat with fish

Now we are home and the teenagers are furiously spending the rest of their summer working. A couple full-time and part-time jobs, some lawn mowing and cookie dough selling. Anything and everything to get money in the bank! 

3) Speaking Of Money + Teenagers: I feel like I might be opening up a can of worms here, but I’m always curious how other parents manage the whole “we pay for this, you pay for that” thing with kids and teenagers. Our system has ebbed and flowed over the years, but we have settled on a system that works pretty well, even though I always say it’s subject to change at any moment. 

Tell me how you make this work in your home and family!

Our super fast version is we do a measly monthly allowance (google tells me I’m super cheap) until they turn 15/16.

In the “I get an allowance” phase of life, they put half of their allowance in savings, 10% to church tithing, and use the rest for their long list of wants. They usually have some type of occasional job like mowing lawns or selling cookie dough or taking care of neighbors’ animals to boost their spending money. In these younger years, we also pay for all of their basic needs like hygiene stuff, school clothes throughout the year and as they grow, etc. 

As a side note, we don’t pay our kids for chores or jobs around the house or property. That just comes with the privilege of being part of our family (ha, said with some sarcasm). 

Around the age of 15/16 when they can get a full-time job in the summer, allowance is cut off.

In the “I don’t get an allowance any longer” phase of life, the goal is to have a full-time job in the summer. Currently one child is working with a home builder and the other is working at a local ice cream shop. They put half their work earnings in savings, pay 10% to church tithing, and use the rest as spending money + buying many of their own needs (like their favorite hair gel).

This is also when we help them set up a checking account and debit card. As parents, we pay for four main things: car insurance, gas, phone, and a school clothes stipend*.

*a chunk of money they have to budget and use wisely for the school year and resist spending it all on, say, airpods, or else they’ll be wearing shorty shorts and high waters all year – oh wait, that’s actually the style rn

mother and son

As a side note, several of you recommended the Dave Ramsey course for teens {unsponsored} last year when we were doing school from home, and my two oldest kids went through it. I haven’t read any of Dave Ramsey’s books, and I’m not making a commentary or opinion about his financial philosophies either way, but the teen course was super helpful for my kids. They learned a lot of basic personal finance principles.

Was the course interesting and breathtakingly engaging? Ha. Not really. They thought parts of it were incredibly boring, BUT, they’re still quoting from it a year later. LIVE LIKE NO ONE ELSE, SO THAT YOU CAN LIVE LIKE NO ONE ELSE. 🙂

Anyway, we’re learning as we go. My biggest thing is to make sure we are having a lot of open, honest communication with our kids about the whys and hows of what we’re doing and what our expectations are. No surprises. Just a lot of talking it through. So far everyone seems happy with the arrangement(s). Like I said above, it’s subject to change as we figure out what’s working and what’s not. 

Right now my kids have a lot of opportunities to work and a lot of time to just be kids (trust me, they’re bored and they bicker with the best of them!). 

I’d love to know how you manage teenagers + money + work in your family/home! Do tell. 

4) My Friends: I know some of you aren’t on Instagram, so I wanted to share about some dear friends of ours (I told this story on insta stories last night).

Jared and Lisa are the parents of seven kids and the grandparents of three cute kiddos. 

Four years ago, at the age of 50, Jared received the devastating diagnosis of Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. A diagnosis that shattered his life and his family’s hearts. At the time of his diagnosis, he and Lisa had two sons still in elementary school. 

large family in family portrait by river

Jared could no longer work; his wife, Lisa, had been supporting the family on a part-time salary while also going to school online to finish her degree. Recently Jared’s health has begun to decline even more rapidly, and Lisa had to quit her job – their only income – so she could be Jared’s full-time caregiver. Lisa and Jared’s families have rallied around them endlessly with time and resources, but they are all living in an unspeakably heartbreaking reality. 

Soon after Jared’s diagnosis, he told one of his sons that before he died, he wanted to go on one last family trip to make lasting memories with his wife and kids. His dream has been to take them back to Guatemala where he lived for several years; he fell in love with the country and the people and always wanted to share that with his family. 

man in bucket hat

Because of financial constraints, their family hasn’t been able to take a family vacation all together in years. Last night, I asked if we could make the unimaginable happen for this sweet family? 

Could we pull together and raise enough funds to help make Jared’s last wish come true? 

You guys. I posted that on insta stories less than 12 hours ago, and your response has brought me to tears – more than once!!

So many of you commented to say you wished you could give more, but all you could manage right now is $1 or $5. But you gave it, willingly.

I am witnessing a miracle as I see how many small donations are adding up to be something absolutely remarkable. Powerful, really. Don’t ever say that what you have to give isn’t enough. Whether that’s in money or time or energy or whatever. You are enough. And actually, what you have to offer is making the world a better place – it’s changing the world. 

You make me want to be a better person. I honestly feel like I’m surrounded by greatness as I witness what you are doing to help this family. 

I’ll be doing an update later to share the total of what has been raised for Jared and Lisa!

{If you wish to donate, you can do so on Venmo @MelAndFriendsGive or PayPal mykitchencafe@gmail.com}

THANK YOU. Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

5) Gardening: after begging these amazing Armenian cucumbers off my friends last year, I finally planted them in my garden, and I’ve never been so happy to have a vegetable garden (if you’ve been around a long time, you know that my thoughts about gardening don’t always trend toward the positive – I love the harvest, I hate the actual gardening part, I hope we can still be friends). 

Technically Armenian cucumbers are in the muskmelon family not the cucumber family, but you would never know that. The best part is they don’t get bitter. They are so good!

two armenian cucumbers

6) Oreo Cake: I just thought I should tell you that I’ve made this show stopping cookies and cream cake from Cake by Courtney four times in the last three months, and it ranks as one of the most delicious cakes in the history of ever.

And I’m not really that much of a cake person. I’d much rather have brownies or some other decadent treat. But this cake has changed all that. It’s incredible. (Two of the times, I’ve used Courtney’s chocolate cake recipe, two of the times I’ve used my favorite recipe – both fantastically delicious.)

That Oreo mousse filling is next level delicious.

oreo cake

7) I Recommend: it wouldn’t be a Friday Thoughts post if I didn’t recommend a game, right? Seriously, we have a game problem. We love them so much.

A reader recommended this brand, new game Finding Sasquatch {aff. link} to us, I promptly bought it from Amazon, and we are loving it. We’ve played it daily since getting it last week. It’s a bit like Clue – just Sasquatch related with a few little twists and turns. So fun! It’s great with two players (but even more fun with a few more). 

finding sasquatch game

I also just finished listening to a couple audibooks that I really, really liked {aff. links for books}:

As You Wish by Cary Elwes (the story of the making of The Princess Bride movie – so entertaining!)
Lovely War by Julie Berry (an interesting narrative viewpoint – this is a historical romance set during WWI)
The Songbook of Benny Lament by Amy Harmon (loved this story – audiobook was so well done)
The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate (Brian listened to this after I did; we both thoroughly enjoyed it)
Anxious People by Fredrik Backman (I found this to be so well written and highly entertaining – the circling story kept me guessing!)

Lastly, my friend gave me this prebiotic lotion (I actually have no idea what that means), and it’s the best stuff ever. The smell. The feel. The ingredients. It’s a little spendy so I’m hoarding it a bit, but it’s worth recommending because I think I need it in my life and on my hands forever. 

8) Fill in the Blank: my favorite movie right now is __________. 

I need some good recommendations, what can I say. We never know what to watch when we *finally* sit down for movie night (either as a family or just me, myself, and I). 


Ok! That’s a wrap. 

It’s a long one today. Thanks for being here. Thanks for being my people. Thanks for loving me and supporting me and strengthening me.

It’s weird, I know. I don’t know most of you in real life, but you honestly make my life better. I love your guts. 

I have more to share but I’ll wait til next time. Don’t let me forget! (Kitchen table, living room remodel, nail polish, skin cancer update, another update on my unsponsored Hatch alarm clock, and getting your advice on a couple important things). K, byeeee!