Day Camp Diaries, Day One: 13 Things Wrong With the Shuttle Bus

My son is attending a summer day camp in a faraway place.

I drive him  to catch a shuttle worn-out-refurbished-schoolbus, which then takes him thirty or so minutes out of town, and across the state line.

Do you remember your kid’s first camp? I’ll see him again at the end of every day, but it’s hard on a mommy. ‘Cause when I sent him off his first day, I took a good look at that monster they call a “shuttle.”

And I wondered how come no one but me was noticing these things:

rhonda franz, camp shuttle bus, coffee house mom

1. The bus is old.

2. It’s not like the school buses where the engine sticks out front as a protective barrier. Instead, it’s flat right up against the front of the bus: not much cushioning if there’s a head-on accident is what I’m saying.

3. I’m certain one of the tires was slightly flat.

4. It’s painted bright green and has lots of images on it of children having fun at camp. That is distracting to other drivers, who could then swerve and hit the bus.

5. Something was dripping from the bus.

6. The bus looked rusty. It could certainly fall apart at any moment, like when it’s going down the highway on the way to camp.

7.Also, there was chipped paint on it. If they’re not gonna take care of the outside, what could be wrong on inside?

8. There were a bunch of kids on the bus.

9. The bus has out-of-state license plates. Yes, the day camp is in another state. Whatever.

10. The windows on the bus can be opened.

11. The windows could also get stuck shut. What if there’s a roll-over accident and the kids need to get out?

12. The driver looks to be at least 42. He could have a heart attack at any moment.

13. The bus drove away with my son.

What’s wrong with your camp shuttle bus?

Review: Frigo Cheese Heads Light String Cheese

I have never been a buyer, or eater, of string cheese for me or my kids. If I want a strip of dairy yumminess, I’ll grab a sharp knife, cut cheese into cubes, and toss it in a zipper storage bag as we head to the park.

(I’m only kidding. I never cut up cheese in cubes to take to the park.)

So, sometimes it’s a real treat to have prepared snacks; I am responsible for feeding three boys, and I like choosing healthy snacks. Having ready-made string cheese on hand has allowed me to save time and preserve my sanity the last couple of weeks.

My standards for a good snack include something 1) relatively healthy, and 2) a snack that will not leave crumbs trailing up and down the aisle of our minivan (because it’s spotless).

Frigo Cheese Heads Light String Cheese fits the bill

Rhonda Franz, string cheese review

A few calories, a little fat, a lot of satisfaction for my two youngest children: always hungry, and usually distractible in a long waiting room visit or the school’s car ride line by a well-timed nibble of something scrumptious.


Just the Facts, Mom


50 calories

7 grams of protein

2.5 grams of fat

0 sugar


Not bad. Compared to your standard granola/snack/nut bar, that’s actually quite good. And it just so happens that string cheese is a perfect companion when mixed with low-mess, whole foods like:

  • apple slices
  • raisins
  • dried cranberries
  • grapes
  • carrot sticks
  • celery

Now that’s something we will pack for the park. You might want to try it, too. You can also drop a few in a purse when you’re headed out the door, and since each piece is individually wrapped air-tight and easy to open, the Frigo Cheese Heads are perfect to pull out when your kids need them. And those little suckers can stave off hunger for a Mommy, too. with just the right amount of protein to satiate an empty stomach.

‘Cause Moms get hungry to, you know. We just don’t always get to eat because we’re always feeding the kids.


In the interest of full disclosure: Saputo Cheese USA, Inc. provided me with some free string cheese so I could give it to my kids, eat it myself, and share our thoughts with the whole world. What you’ve read above is my honest opinion of Frigo String Cheese. If my kids could type, they would tell you they like it, too.

(We also tried the regular, not light, Frigo String Cheese, and liked it, too. Unlike some “light” products, there are no added ingredients).

The Monday After Mother’s Day

Four empty spaces from the boxes where my boys keep their matchbox cars.

Rhonda Franz, Monday after Mother's Day

Cars that zip and zoom and cars they fight over and collect and cars we find under the couch and under our feet and cars I stash in my purse for long waiting room visits. Cars they race and crash and skid down the hallway in our house. Toys that never get old, no matter how old the boys get.

A couple of weeks ago, through friends with Arkansas Women Bloggers, we found out about a family with a young boy in Vilonia, Arkansas who had lost his home, and everything in it, in the April 2014 tornado.

We had the opportunity to gather up and give some clothes and other specific items the family needed away. I had shown my boys the footage of the tornado damage that morning, and we had prayed for the victims. And a few hours later, here was our chance to help. I mentioned that the boy had lost his toys, and that it might be cool for him to have a few things replaced.

Like matchbox cars.

My two oldest immediately and generously pulled some cars out of their boxes to give away to this boy. And they picked nice cars: cars they liked that weren’t scratched up or worn down.

I told my children how they acted like the good Samaritan, a story they know well. It’s a reminder that generosity to others doesn’t have to be part of a 501 (c) organization. It doesn’t have to be highly planned or organized; it should be part of our lifestyle as we reflect the love of Christ.

Others’ needs are often immediate, and the Lord gives us the opportunity to help as an everyday kindness. Right away. Which, with our kind of family schedule, is sometimes the best way we can help. We loaded up our goods and drove it to someone who was doing pick ups all over the area from others and delivering the donations for us.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. 

(Matthew 25:35-40 NIV)


I can’t lie. for Mother’s Day, I loved all three boys jumping into my bed Sunday morning, presenting me with earrings,  homemade cards, and bath salts. I loved the morning we spent together the day before at our local farmer’s market and out to eat and outside to play.

But my sons giving away precious toys to a child they haven’t met, whose name they didn’t know, whose picture they hadn’t even seen – best early Mother’s Day gift.



When It’s Difficult to Build Rhythm & Routine in Your Day

With an on-call, traveling spouse, our schedule is often up in the air, just like his. We don’t usually know his schedule from one moment to the next, and so our days are different: Daddy’s here, Daddy’s gone. (Where is Daddy, anyway? And when is he coming home?)

rhonda franz, rhythm and routine, let's play house

I certainly live best when I follow along a general routine or rhythm from the morning on, but it doesn’t always work out that way. The lifestyle we live brings its own brand of insanity to home and family management, but there are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

Use interim, or unexpected time. Maybe you have a list of phone calls to make, emails to send, or other quick jobs you can accomplish in 10-15 minutes here and there.

After coming home with kids from a recent gymnastics lesson, I found my husband making lunch for us. He was preparing to head out for a multi-day trip, but didn’t leave until mid-day. You bet I used my normal lunch-making time to get some quick jobs done, something I’ve been bad about in the past (you know, the old if-I-don’t-have-lots-of-time-I-won’t-even-get-started trap).

I’ve learned to use that time. Sometimes I make a phone call, other times I sneak in a quick clean-up in the home office or fold a load of laundry. It’s unexpected extra time (in other words, a gift!) and I try and take advantage of it.

Use a flexible meal plan. I admit that I sometimes cook a little differently when I know my husband will be home for supper. He’s low-maintenance with meals, but I like something that will help keep us at the dining room table for a bit longer than normal. Also, I tend to fix things I know he especially likes when he’s going to be home.

But there are times I’ve made a plan on Sunday, and changed Monday’s plan three times due to his changing schedule. This may be why I’ve never kept a consistent habit of meal-planning. (If I’m going to fancy up a meal, I kinda like it to be appreciated, and I just don’t get that from the kids. You know what I mean, right? It’s not them, or him. It’s me).

rhonda franz rhythm and routine in your day

Decide what needs to stay the same, and what you might want to change up. Whether my husband is home or not, the boys have quiet time (and you better believe so do I). We keep the same general meal time, chore responsibilities, and bedtime. And it isn’t like we sit around and wait for him to come home. We go to ball practice, and church, and birthday parties.

(I don’t get out much, but that is a different blog post entirely).

If Daddy’s been gone several days, and tensions are high, and I’m worn out, we might stray from the schedule a bit: go out for a treat after school, watch a movie with some popcorn in our laps – anything to take the edge of off all of us. Which apparently involves feeding our bellies.

If you live with this kind of uncertainty in your family routine I want to hear from you. It’s a hard home management problem to understand unless you’re living it. Are you?


Flickr photo, “Doug’s Daily Planner” courtesy of Doug Belshaw. I’m impressed with everything he has crossed off his very cool-looking list at the end of the day. And all those Paris clocks? Flickr photo #2, folks, courtesy of  Nick.

Friday Favorites: New Stuff I’ve Loved (and maybe you will, too)

Post-it-notice: I have neither been paid by, nor approached by any of the following companies, publishers, or people, about the services, reading material, resources, or products listed here. I’m sharing things that I have recently discovered and found helpful and cool for me and mine. That’s all. No sponsorship, no free stuff, no pats on the back. Though I sure wouldn’t mind if someone wanted to provide me a cup of coffee and a jacuzzi tub.


Call it link love, or go all a-la Julie Andrews and belt out a resounding chorus of “My Favorite Things.” Here are my Friday Favorites: things that have been helpful to my life and work and family.

1. This book: 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done by Peter Bregman.

I am a sucker for organization and productivity advice, but I’m picky on what I read because all that reading time just sucks from my um, productivity. This book, available at our fabulous local library, is a quick and easy read. I’ve never been much of a goal-setter, but this might turn me around. Just maybe.

rhonda franz, friday favorites, productivity

Also, the things Bregman says about how we manage ourselves during our day just make some good sense. He uses some GTD principles, which work for me, and other tips, like taking breaks, and setting a timer to go off once an hour during the day – to check ourselves on how well we’re staying focused.

Of course there are lots of little distractions kids around here, so around-the-house productivity has to be managed in the context of parenthood. It’s not like the kids are on board with this. Whenever you’re feeling like you haven’t accomplished much, try this.

2. Poem-mobiles by J. Patrick Lewis, Douglas Florian, and Jeremy Holmes

It’s an especially brilliant creation when a children’s book is as fun for parents to read as it is for children to hear. This picture book, also found at the library, has the kind of illustrations you can look at again and again to find new details, and from back to bumper it’s a real treat to read aloud.

rhonda franz, friday favorites, parenting

Go Jurassic Park(ing) with a car that runs on fossil fuel.

Read all about the fierce, fiery Dragonwagon. Over and over and over again.

I mean, it’s like the authors and illustrator knew precisely how to sell a book to a book-loving mom in a house full of book-loving, car-crashing boys: fun poems, fabulous artwork, and all about vehicles. Really, we could ask for nothing more.

3. My Simpler Life site

This blog by Beth Dargis is all about creating a saner, simpler life. Sometimes, advice to make things simpler ends up being quite complicated. Not so with advice and resources from Ms. Dargis. I most appreciate:

* Her weekly newsletter that contains short, sweet, and helpful ideas to make home (and life in general) a bit easier.

* Her Declutter Calendar, available for downloading. It is the perfect tool to view on a computer desktop, or print out each month for a place on the fridge. Each day contains one task to work through that help me clean out stray bits from all the parts of my home. There are days when I don’t get to it, but I just jump right back in when I do. Simple, just as it should be.

Do you have some Friday Favorites? What things have you found recently, that you just love?