The Most Complete College Packing Checklist!


It was 15 years ago that I packed up my first kid for college. This month will be my last time I’ll do that job.

I’m definitely feeling all the feels with that!

One day I’m excited for the new season ahead. After all, the last kid will be off the Savage payroll! Wahoo!  We can make love in any room of the house at any time of the day! Wahoo! My husband and I can take off and go somewhere on the weekend without worrying about anyone else! Wahoo! I can pursue some of the things I’ve set aside for years because there was a family to raise. Wahoo!

Then other days I have a sadness about me. I’ve enjoyed raising my family. I loved tucking my littles into bed and listening to their heart. I loved those first few minutes after school or sitting at the dinner table hearing about their day. I’ve loved watching my kids grow into beautiful young adults finding their way in this world. I’ve loved nurturing their faith. Oh it’s not been easy, and there were many days I wanted to figure out how I could resign, but still it’s been fulfilling!

If you’re sending one off to college, I’m betting you’re experiencing all the feels, too!


Because I’ve done this for a million years (it feels like it!) I have a few tools to help you along the way!

1) Download my brand new FREE College Dorm Packing List! This is an incredibly complete packing list that will help you and your student think through all he/she needs to take to school!

2) Get Amazon Prime or Amazon Prime for Students. This can be a big help when ordering books and dorm items online.

3. Check out some of my previous blog posts about sending kids off to college:

4) Take my online class They All Flew Out Of the Cuckoo’s Nest on Tuesday, September 12, 7:30-9 pm CST! If you’re getting close or embarking on the empty nest, you will definitely want to sign up for this powerful class that I first taught at the April 2017 Hearts at Home conference and received five-star feedback. I’m so glad technology offers a way to bring this to you without leaving your home! Early bird pricing is available until September 1! Register today and invite your empty nest friends to join you!

If you still have littles at home, share this post with a friend or family member who needs it.

And then hold your kiddos a little closer today. Smile when they talk to you. Take a deep breath when they frustrate you. Apologize when you lose it. Say yes when you can and say no when they need it. As my friend Charlene Baumbich put it: Don’t miss your kids…they’ll be gone before you know it!

What Weeding Taught Me About Parenting

I love to weed. 

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

There’s just something about weeding that I find satisfying. Maybe it’s the sense of accomplishment. Maybe it’s playing in the dirt. Maybe it’s being in the midst of God’s creation. Maybe it’s the beautiful flowers, landscaping, and garden produce I get to enjoy when I keep things weeded.

Weeding provides me an incredible quiet time with the Lord. Talking. Listening. Thinking. Praying.

Last week God really spoke to me during my weeding on three different topics. He used my weeding to help me better understand parenting, taking care of my health, and the condition of my heart. Three diverse topics, but all illustrated well in weeding. So over the next few weeks I’m going to share my discoveries! I’ll start today with parenting.

One of my favorite spots for me to enjoy our flowers and garden plants is sitting on the porch swing on our wrap-around porch. From a distance, the lush green plants seem to be healthy and thriving.

Last week, however, I spent some time fertilizing and trimming up some of the garden plants and I discovered some of my plants weren’t as healthy as a quick glance from a distance made them appear. The heat and humidity had brought powdery mildew to the leaves of my yellow squash and cucumber plants. A closer look revealed that my peony plants had it too! I had to begin to give these plants some individual attention to nurse them back to health.

I chose to simply prune the peony plants down to stubs in the ground as they were covered in the mildew.  I remember my Papaw telling me to just mow over the peony plants every year after they were done blooming and they always came up beautifully the next Spring. The squash and cucumber, however, needed some TLC. I mixed 1 tbsp of baking soda with one gallon of water, poured it into a spray bottle and then treated them daily for 3-4 days and every other day after that until it cleared up.

So what’s that have to do with parenting? 

In our book, No More Perfect Kids, Dr. Kathy Koch and I talk about perfection infection parenting. When the perfection infection invades our parenting we have unrealistic expectations of our kids and we unfairly compare our kids to others. This puts pressure on our kids to perform, breeds disappointment and discontentment, and robs the parent/child relationship of joy.

But there’s good news! There are four antidotes that kick the perfection infection right out of our parenting. One of those is PERCEPTION.

As parents, it’s important to be in tune with our kids. What do they like? What do they dislike? Do they need alone time? Are they creative? Athletic? Musical? What is important to them?

I’ll admit that, with five children, there were times when I simply parented “the herd.” I saw them as a group rather than the individuals that they are. It was like looking at the plants from the porch. They looked okay from a distance, you might say.

The more perceptive I became, the more I was able to see them as unique human beings who have different personalities, temperaments, and skills. When I gave them individual attention, I was better able to see where their “leaves” were wilting, where they were struggling, and where they needed a little TLC.

(PHOTO: What I saw from a distance and then what I saw up close.)

Perception increases when life slows down. It expands when we spend one-on-one time with our kids.

Perception not only helps us see how a child is wired, but it also helps us connect with how he or she is doing emotionally. Kids don’t usually walk up to you and say, “I’m sad today.” Instead, they will lash out at a sibling with words or they will withdraw and be unusually quiet. Perception reads the cues a child is sending.

So my weeding last week reminded me to slow down and look closely at how my loved ones are really doing.  In the same way that I couldn’t see the condition of my plant’s leaves until I looked closely, I can’t see the condition of my kids’ hearts until I give them the individual attention they need and deserve…even as the young adults they are today.

What about you? Where do you need to increase your perception? What are you looking at from a distance that you need to be looking at more closely? 

The Two Most Powerful Words in Your Child’s Vocabulary

“I’m bored.”

My two grandkids had been at my house yesterday for less than 18 hours when I first heard those words.

Their parents are on a 10 day mission trip to the Dominican Republic, so we are having “Cousin’s Camp” this week, adding their cousin Marie who lives close by into most of our daily activities.

We have a toy room full of toys, 2.5 acres to explore, and a playhouse their Papaw built them.

Yet still the “I’m bored,” message left their lips sooner rather than later. And they quickly followed it with a request to turn on the television.

In 32 years of parenting and grandparenting, I’ve finally learned the secret of what to do when they utter those two words…

Wanna know what it is?


Do absolutely nothing.

It’s not your job to entertain them.

Yes…respond to their communication with a mix of compassion and inspiration. Yesterday I said no to the request for television and I told them they had so many things to do, suggesting just a few options.

Within ten minutes of uttering I’m bored one was coloring a birthday card for Papaw and the other was playing house in the toyroom. They eventually moved outside to play in the sprinkler for hours and then played, imagined, and pretended the rest of the day. When we suggested they come in and watch a movie before bedtime, they resisted because they wanted to watch the beautiful sunset.

If you have kids at home, don’t be afraid of the “I’m bored” statement. Don’t get pulled into their frustration. Resist the urge to “fix it.” Say no to screens whenever you can. (Of course, there are some days when you’re at the end of your capacity and screens are your friend and that’s okay!)

Let. Them. Be. Bored. Depending on how you respond, those two words can be the most powerful two words a child can say. Allowed to simmer in boredom for a little while will nearly always spark their creativity and launch their imagination. Sure they’ll make your life difficult while you’re holding out for what you know is best for them. But you’re the parent (or the grandparent) and it’s your job to lead them, not allow them to lead you with their emotions.

This is my pep talk for the week that I simply wanted to share with you because I’m guessing I’m not the only one who needs it!

Stand firm. Be the adult. Lead well.

We got this!

Why Routines Are Important For Our Kids

Every afternoon for about 26 years, my kids and I took a break in the afternoon. It started out as naptime, and then became “rest time” when they outgrew naps. As they all got older we just called it “room time.” Everyone to their corners for an hour. They could read, play quietly, listen to music…just as long as they took time for themselves for an hour.

I needed it. They needed it. We all needed the rhythm of routine.

Spontaneity has it’s place. It’s what allows us to be a yes mom. It’s what beckons us to have some unplanned fun. It allows us to take advantage of an impromptu invite to spend the afternoon at the pool.

Routine has it’s place, too. It provides security. It gives healthy boundaries. It can even help regulate emotions.

Our kids need rhythms in their life like bedtime, mealtime, and rest time. They need screen time and no screen time. If they’re school age, during the school year, they need homework time. If they take piano lessons, they need practice time.

Why are routines important? Here are six reasons they need to be valued:

Routines Establish Authority--Our kids need to know who is in charge…and it’s not them. They’re not ready for the responsibility of self-regulating. They don’t have the life experience, knowledge, and emotional maturity. Not only that, they’ll be under authority for the rest of their lives. It’s what keeps our culture civil and makes this country a safe place to be (when things become unsafe, it’s when authority is not respected).  We don’t do our kids any favors by putting them in charge. Sure, there are little things they can choose, and they can take on more responsibility as they get older. However, even when they’re 16 or 17-years-old and yard work needs to happen every Saturday, they’re not likely to step up and offer. They need your accountability and authority to establish and maintain the routines of life that keep your family’s world spinning.

Routines Offer Security–Much of life is unknown. Things change all the time–even a child’s growing body! Then you add in teachers at school, new skills learned in sports or music, and even world events. Children actually handle change better when it’s in the context of a familiar routine.

Routines Offer One-On-One Time With A Child–Whether it’s snuggling and reading a book together before bed every night or having a once a month “date with daddy,” routines give us an opportunity to be make together time happen on a regular basis.

Routines Provide Boundaries–Every child wants to know where the lines are drawn. Of course, they’ll try to cross those lines when given a chance. However, those boundaries can actually eliminate power struggles. When your child knows that the nighttime routine is clean up toys, take a bath, brush teeth, and read a book, they are more likely to operate within those boundaries. They’ll even look forward to doing them and if you have a structured kiddo, they’ll make sure they’re done in the right order every night!

Routine’s Regulate Breaks For Parents–Every parent needs to practice the art of self-care. We can’t take care of others without taking care of ourselves first.  When my kids and I had “room time” it helped them have some personal space in the middle of a summer day. It also gave me–an introvert–some much needed alone time to emotionally refuel and make it through the rest of the day.  Our 8pm bedtime for the kids was important for them to physically get enough shut eye, but it was even more important for Mark and I to have some “we” time for our marriage.

Routines Reduce Stress–When we know what’s coming up we can make the emotional transition needed to move from one thing to the next. This keeps anxiety dialed down for most of us.

Certainly routines need balance with sensitivity. We have to be perceptive to unique situations where routines need to be adjusted like deciding to watch a summer movie in the park which would require a later bedtime for sure.

Yet children thrive on routine. They need the security it provides. And you, as the parent, need it as much as they do.

What about you? What routines have you found helpful? 

10 Summer Activities To Do With All Your Kids!

Summer’s upon us and I’m guessing you’ve already heard at least one “I’m bored” already. If so, I’ve got you covered!  No matter the age of your kids–babies all the way through college age–I’ve got some rock solid ideas to keep things fun this summer!

Just click on the graphic that applies to you!

Got more ideas to add to the mix? Share them in the comments so we can learn from each other!

Be a hero or Follow The Hero?

Today’s post is from my friend Patty Maier who was one of four writers who wrote the Hearts at Home Pantagraph newspaper column for many years. She and her family live in Forrest, Illinois where many different organizations benefit from her time and talents.

By the way….it’s not too late to get in on the Hearts at Home Illinois Conference! You can get your tickets–or pick up a Conference To Go–here!


Do you ever feel like you hear the same message over and over? 

A couple weeks ago, my husband gave a talk to a group of parents during halftime at an Upwards basketball game.  He spoke about Jesus being our ultimate hero and how we should strive to be heroes for our children.

The word hero came up again in a movie I saw with my daughter.  I had given her the choice in what movie we would see together, and she chose “After I Fall.”  She told me the movie was like the movie “Groundhog Day.”  She was right,nalthough Groundhog Day’s comedy was replaced by worldly teen-girl drama.  Thankfully, the movie had some redeeming qualities.

In both movies, the lead actor re-lived a day over and over.  When the lead character thought that what they did didn’t matter, they made poor choices and treated people (including themselves) poorly.  When they realized that their actions made a difference, their choices totally changed.  How they treated people improved drastically.  Both movies showed the characters growing into less selfish, sensitive, caring people.

One line in this recent movie was, “What you do matters in the moment and maybe into infinity.”  I’m sure that wasn’t the first time my daughter heard that message (not the second either!) but I’m hoping she heard it more clearly through the movie.

How we see ourselves in this world matters.  When we realize the impact we can make even on a daily basis, it affects our attitudes.  Our perspective and choices and little things we do along the way do make a difference.  As the characters in these movies learned, we need to be intentional and deliberate each and every day.  We may not get the same kind of do-over in real life as in these movies nor do we get everything all figured out as the movie characters seem to, but we do get a new beginning every day and have access to endless grace.

Sometimes we all need to hear the same message over and over.

The past few weeks, I’ve been feeling less than.  Like I’m not enough.  Things in my life are changing, and I’m struggling.  Decisions made concerning the organizations I volunteer with are changing the opportunities I have to serve.  There goes some of my purpose.  My teens who are days away from turning 17 are both struggling to mature which makes me question my parenting.  And my worth.  I’m definitely not feeling like anyone’s hero.

Sometimes the reason we hear a message over and over again is because we’re not getting it.

I think I got hung up on thinking I had to be some sort of hero.  I certainly don’t fit the dictionary’s definition of hero–a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.  I surely haven’t done anything grand.  But if I go back to the Bible verse my husband shared, his definition of hero is much more obtainable.  John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  When I think of laying down one’s life, I think about sacrifices and about putting myself (my feelings, my wants, my time, my to do list, …) aside and putting the needs of others first.  I can do that!

I finally got the message.  I’m done beating myself up for not being a hero.  Instead, I’m going to keep making a difference by loving those around me and following my ultimate Hero.  If I can do that, I’m giving my kids someone they can look up to. 

What about you? What message are you hearing over and over that you need to get? Where are you chasing an impossible goal that needs a change in perspective?

There’s Another Woman In My Son’s Life

“Mom, will you run up to the mall with me Sunday after church? I’ve narrowed my wedding attire down to two different suits and I’d like to have your thoughts.”

I indicated that I’d be happy to do that, fully aware that he has taken the stand that if he can’t see Larisa’s wedding dress until the wedding, then she can’t see his suit until the day of the wedding either.

This youngest of mine is a senior in college. He attends Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, two hours north of our home in Central Illinois. Mark and I teased him from day one in college that when he came home on the weekends, it wasn’t to see us. His then girlfriend, Larisa, was attending college in our community and, of course, he wanted to see her…a lot! Ahhhhh….young love.

On this particular Sunday, however, I thought that it was logical that my boy and I could catch some lunch either before or after we hit the mall.  I didn’t mention lunch ahead of time…I just assumed it would work. As we pulled out of the church parking lot, I said to him, “So do you want to grab some lunch, too?”

“No, Larisa’s making lunch for me. She likes to do that,” he responded.

That’s when it hit me. There’s another woman in my son’s life now and she’s moving up the priority list the closer they get to their wedding date in December.

It’s what should be happening, but that doesn’t make it any easier on a mama’s heart. Letting go is never easy.

I found myself at a crossroads. I internally considered what I perceived as my three choices in this moment:

  1. Incite guilt with a slightly snarky response that “his mother also likes to have lunch with him” or that he “had already seen her 10 times more than he’d seen his dad and I that weekend.”
  2. Stuff it and say nothing, allowing the pain to sear my heart and a few wall-building bricks to be laid in my heart between my son and I.
  3. Release and accept it, asking God to help me adjust my expectations, accept the reality of letting go, and be grateful for the one-on-one time we would still have for the next hour or so at the mall.

While my head wanted to react almost immediately with option #1, thankfully I held my tongue. In the timespan of just a minute or so, I mulled my options over in my head. He was oblivious to the battle going on inside of me. Landing on Option #3 allowed me to make a quick internal adjustment, focus on gratitude, and enjoy the time we still had together.

Letting go is never easy. It doesn’t matter if you’re leaving a little one for an overnight getaway with your husband, or sending your five-year-old off to school, or driving your pre-teen to their first slumber party, or letting your 16-year-old take their first drive alone, or sending your young adult off to college, or watching your child prepare for marriage.

We can look at each of those situations through the eyes of loss or gain. Sometimes we can process that choice over the weeks and months of a season of time and other times, like my recent Sunday, we have to make a split second decision on how we’re going to let go gracefully.

It’s true that there’s another woman in Austin’s life. I’m naturally moving down the priority list. That’s the reality of them living out Genesis 2:24 calling a couple to “leave and cleave” when they get married.

Yes, there’s some grief in the journey, but today and each day forward I’m choosing to look through the eyes of gain rather than loss.

I’m not losing a son, but gaining a daughter.

What about you? How are you handling the changes in life? What is God teaching you in your journey of parenting?