How To Share Life Together Even When You Aren’t Together

Back when Alyssa and I decided to get married, we determined that we were going to share as much of life together as possible. After all, we looked at marriage as a new adventure that we were going to embark on together, not separately.

But there are times when we must necessarily be apart. For example, during the first few years of marriage, Alyssa worked 30 hours a week at a day job, which meant that every day we were apart while we worked our separate jobs. As far as our ministries are concerned, though, we are committed to doing those together and have found great joy in doing so.

Sometimes we have ministry, family, and other life commitments that require us to be apart for a few days, and this week is one of those times. Nevertheless, we make sure we can still see each other and talk face-to-face on a daily basis.

5-Year Anniversary PoseOne week ago we celebrated our 5-year anniversary, and, more than ever, we want to see each other every day.

We are blessed to live in a time when technology makes it possible for us to see each other live with the touch of a button. Even 15 years ago when we were in high school, it was not this easy to see somebody from a distance.

But this was how we planned our wedding and did our marriage counseling while Alyssa taught on Guam and I lived in Minnesota, and it continues to be the way that we converse every day during those times when we cannot be together in person.

Now that we have children, this is even more important to us because our children only stay young for such a short time, and we want to be able to see them every single day as they grow and develop.

We also want our children to know that we love them and want to spend time with them every single day. Someday when they are adults, we will not have this same expectation of them, especially as they get involved in ministries, jobs, and perhaps even their own families.

Alyssa and Baby Jadon on a Video CallBut right now while they are just little guys, we want to spend every day with them, and we want to spend every day with each other as well.

If you are married, we challenge you to find a way to see your spouse face-to-face every single day, even when you are far apart. We know that a lot of people are resistant to today’s technology, but give some consideration to the benefits that it offers as well.

It is one thing to talk to someone on the phone, and it is another thing to see them while you talk to them. You can use Facetime or Facebook Messenger or Zoom (or perhaps even Skype, haha); we personally use WhatsApp because it’s the best option 😉 But with the accessibility of video calling these days, there are not many reasons not to take advantage of it when talking to your spouse.

We still don’t like to be apart from each other if we can help it, but having the ability to see each other virtually makes it much easier to do the things that we need to do and still go on this adventure of life together every single day.

If you are married, do you make it a priority to see your spouse every day on the days when they are far away?

Majoring on the Minors: Why I Took My Son to The Mall on Wednesday

As Alyssa walked along the sidewalk, pushing Baby Jocelyn in the stroller, she could hear the screams of her oldest child behind her, but there was nothing she could do about it. She entered the doors of Terminal 1 at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport and made sure not to turn around and look.

I sat there in the car with my distraught child behind me, wishing that we too were entering that terminal and preparing to board a flight. Baby Jadon loves to fly, and it crushed his little heart to see his mom and sister walk into the airport while we stayed in the car.

Of course, it didn’t make sense to him. Every time we go to the airport, he gets to get out with his car seat and go inside to get his boarding pass. He had flown on over 50 flights before his second birthday, and he already knows the whole process from the time we check our bags until we pick them up on the carousel at our destination.

But this was not one of those times, and there was nothing I could do to stop the tears from pouring down his cheeks as we drove away.

Thankfully, it was only a minute later when he stopped crying to point at the airplanes on the tarmac as we entered the highway once again. He gets excited to see airplanes on the ground and in the air even if he does not get to be a passenger on them.

But I decided that this would be a good time to have some father-son time together and to do something special for him while his mom and sister got the privilege of flying.

So we drove to Mall of America which is just on the opposite side of the interstate from the airport. We drove up to Level 5 in the parking garage, the level where we always park when we go to the mall.

Most of the stores in the mall were not open yet, and the little foot traffic that we found inside was mostly people who were there for the exercise. So we joined them and walked around a couple levels.

We walked around Nickelodeon Universe and stopped for a moment so he could watch the rides that went through their motions with nobody in them. We passed the thousands of Christmas lights that hang from the ceiling on the west side, always a favourite sight for Baby Jadon. We walked around the outside of the Lego store and looked at the many Lego sets on display.

We made sure to go up and down several escalators and one of the elevators because he always likes to do those.

At 10:00am, the stores finally opened, and we went straight to the Lindt store. Our family loves to go there because we like to look around at the many chocolates that they sell, and they often give free samples as well. Sure enough, they offered truffles to us, so we each took one as we continued to look around the store.

Baby Jadon at PaneraWhen we were finished there, we went up to the third level to Panera, and I got my free drink as a Sip Club member. While we waited for them to prepare my drink, we sat down at a table, and Baby Jadon proceeded to open his milk chocolate truffle. He took a bite and exclaimed, “Mmmmm!”

A smile spread across his face, the tears of one hour ago long gone. A moment later he popped the remainder of the candy in his mouth and pushed his wrapper across the table to me.

After he had finished his chocolate, he took mine and started to unwrap it. I did not mind because this little trip was about him, not about me, and I have had plenty of chocolate in my life. Once again he took a small bite out of it to start, but it was not long before the rest of the truffle was in his mouth while I sipped my hibiscus iced tea.

A few minutes later we got up and left the mall. We had a lot of things to do at home, and we both had a nice start to the day.


As our family grows and our kids grow up, we want them to learn that they can find joy and have fun in the little things. Yes, sometimes we also do the big things like going on weekend trips to see friends and family or to see things like the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter. But most of the time, we major on the minors, like stopping at Mall of America to walk around and get a free chocolate sample.

We don’t have to go and buy ice cream or a Lego set or a die-cast car. We don’t have to ride any of the rides at Nickelodeon Universe. We can do small, simple things that cost us a little time but almost no money, and we can make memories that last a lifetime.

Baby Jadon probably won’t remember this trip, but we are laying a foundation for the rest of life. Together we will have a good time while saving money for more important things.

He didn’t get to fly on the airplane this time, but he still got to do something special.

What special things do you do with others that cost nothing or almost nothing?

The 3 Things We Use to Help Our Toddler Sleep Almost Anywhere

There are three things that we never leave home without when we are traveling because they help our little guy sleep almost anywhere we go.

These items have saved us more stress than we know because we all know that kids need their sleep (just like us adults).

But what do you do when you are in a place that doesn’t have a bed for your kid?

What do you do when you can’t find a quiet spot or a dark spot for them to sleep?

How do you create ideal sleeping conditions without hauling along a collapsible playpen everywhere you go?

Thanks to Alyssa’s keen research and savvy money habits, we found our solution, and we love it.

These are the 3 items that we have used to help Baby Jadon sleep at home, at the homes of other people, in our church building, in hotel rooms, in airport lounges, and in airport hallways.

KidCo Peapod Travel Tent

The KidCo Peapod is a popular travel bed and play tent designed specifically for children, offering a safe and comfortable sleeping environment while on the go. Here’s why we consider the Peapod a must-have for parents traveling with kids:

  1. Baby Jadon Sleeping in KidCo PeapodCompact and Lightweight Design: The KidCo Peapod features a compact and lightweight design, making it easy to transport and set up wherever your travels take you. It folds down into a small, portable carrying case, making it convenient to pack in a suitcase, car trunk, or carry-on bag. When we fly, one of us packs this in our carry-on roller bag so that we can use it in the airport. It’s SO small when it’s folded and stowed!
  2. Versatile Use: The Peapod serves multiple purposes, functioning as both a travel bed and a play tent. Whether your child needs a cozy spot to sleep or a safe place to play, the Peapod has you covered. It’s perfect for hotel stays, camping trips, beach outings, picnics, and visits to friends and family. When Baby Jadon was smaller, he would play in it, but now that he’s older and more active, we only use it for sleeping.
  3. Built-in Mattress and Sleeping Pad: Unlike traditional travel cribs or playpens that require separate bedding, the KidCo Peapod comes with a built-in, removable sleeping pad. This provides a comfortable and supportive sleeping surface for your child, ensuring a restful sleep wherever you are. As you can see in the picture above, we don’t need to add any additional padding even when using the Peapod on a hard surface.
  4. Mesh Panels for Ventilation: The Peapod features mesh panels on all sides, allowing for optimal airflow and ventilation. This helps regulate temperature and prevents your child from feeling hot or stuffy while inside the tent.
  5. UV Protection and Bug Shield: Some models of the KidCo Peapod come with UV protection and a bug shield, making it suitable for outdoor use. The UV protection helps shield your child from the sun’s harmful rays, while the bug shield keeps insects and bugs at bay, providing added peace of mind during outdoor adventures. We keep our Peapod for indoor use, so these specific features are not as important for us, but they might be for you!
  6. Easy Setup and Takedown: Setting up the KidCo Peapod is quick and straightforward, requiring no assembly or tools. Simply unzip the carrying case and allow the pop-up tent to unfold itself. Takedown can be tricky at first, but once you know how to do it, it collapses just as easily. Put it back into the carrying case, and you’re ready to go to the next place!
  7. Safety Features: KidCo prioritizes safety in their products, and the Peapod is no exception. It is designed with sturdy construction, reinforced seams, and flame-retardant fabric to ensure durability and compliance with safety standards.

The price for the KidCo Peapod Travel Tent is somewhat steep at around $80, but Alyssa was able to buy it used from someone on Facebook Marketplace at a discounted price. Having now used it all over the world and in so many different environments, I can say that it’s definitely worth its full retail price. If you like the concept and want to go with a similar product, Amazon also sells some options for about a third of the price like this one and this one.

Crib Blackout Cover

Crib blackout covers for playpens are specialized accessories designed to create a dark and cozy sleeping environment for infants and toddlers, similar to blackout curtains used in bedrooms. We use one in conjunction with our KidCo Peapod Travel Tent, and we also use it at home on our playpen.

  1. Material and Design: Our crib blackout cover is made from a lightweight and breathable fabric that attaches securely to a playpen or can be draped over our Peapod. The cover has ties to ensure a snug and secure fit, effectively covering the entire playpen to block out light from all sides. When we use it with our Peapod, we just tuck the excess underneath the tent.
  2. Benefits: Using a blackout cover can offer several benefits for our little guy. It creates a dark sleeping environment that helps him fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer. The cover is lightweight and easy to transport; in fact, we stuff it into the Peapod carrying bag when traveling! When used at home, it can be quickly installed and removed as needed on our playpen.

This is a much better option than just a regular blanket because it is breathable and lightweight. It also insulates the bed moderately well, holding in the body heat that is emitted by our child. So he often sleeps just fine without a blanket when we use this!

You can get a crib blackout cover for about $20 or less on Amazon. Once again, Alyssa got it at a discounted price from someone else on Facebook Marketplace, but, once again, we have found it to be worth the full retail price if that’s what you have to pay to get it.

Amazon Alexa Sleep Sounds

The third thing that we use to help our little guy sleep almost anywhere is Sleep Sounds on Amazon’s Alexa. If you have an Amazon Echo device or the Alexa app on your phone, you probably already have a general idea of what this is and how to use it.

If that last sentence was a foreign language to you, let me summarize.

Alexa is Amazon’s personal voice assistant, and you can enable her to perform various functions and skills. We have her do half of the work at our house, but you can have her do something as simple as play ambient noise for you when you are sleeping.

But Alexa is better than the noise machines that you might buy online or at the store because she’s free and can reside on your personal digital device that you already bring with you when you travel.

Furthermore, if you enable the free Sleep Sounds skill by Voice Apps, LLC, in your Alexa account, you can access over 125 different sounds like Heartbeat, Fireplace, Airplane, Frogs, Wind Chimes, Washing Machine, Box Fan, and our personal favourite, Thunderstorm.

You can download the Alexa app on your phone and have it play the sounds without having to bring along an additional device. Of course, if you prefer to have your phone accessible, you could always just purchase an Amazon Fire Tablet that already has Alexa built-in and bring it along with you. It would even fit in the Peapod carrying bag along with the blackout cover!

KidCo Peapod at the AirportSummary

When we combine these three things together, we can assemble an unstoppable sleeping environment in less than 2 minutes.

That’s not an exaggeration either since the Peapod opens itself as soon as we remove it from its bag.

The first picture in this post is from one of the concourses at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, and the second picture here is from one of the concourses at Nashville International Airport. The KidCo Peapod Travel Tent takes up so little space, the crib blackout cover blocks out the light, and the Sleep Sounds by Alexa drown out the extraneous noise.

We have found that the closets in many hotels are even large enough to fit the Peapod, giving Baby Jadon his own little room.

(Of course, as much as possible, we stay inexpensively in nicer hotels and then get free upgrades to suites with an extra bedroom for our kids.)

I owe many hours of sleep and relaxation and happiness to Alyssa for finding these items and insisting that we needed to buy them.

Have you ever heard of these things or used any of them?