Category Archives: FAMILY

Not every year, but most, I give the ladies in our family (mothers, sisters, daughters) a devotional for Christmas.  It is my way of saying “I love you and here’s some hope and encouragement during the good and inevitable not-so-good days of the upcoming year.”  (Oh, and I always get one for myself too!)

This year I found mother/daughter devotionals that have the same theme for the year and they are at great Cyber Monday prices:

1. COLORING DEVOTIONALS (the new trend)

Wholehearted: A Coloring Book Devotional

Moms, do you daydream about slowing down? Here’s a way. Picture a morning cup of coffee, an array of pencils and a few minutes to color your thoughts on the devotional you just read.  Click on the picture or the link above to see more:


Faithgirlz: 60 Days Of Discovering God’s Hope and Love

This is for girls 8-12 years old..a great present for your daughters or nieces or granddaughters! I love anything that encourages creativity and provides an alternative to screen time.

 

2. PRAYER JOURNALS

My Prayer Journal: A Three Month Guide to Praise and Thanks

I shared in a recent FB video about how writing down my prayers has really helped me focus during my prayer time.  This prayer journal might be the perfect gift for yourself or for others who want to grow their prayer lives.

My Kid’s Prayer Journal: 100 Days of Prayer and Praise

What a gift to our children to help them learn how to pray and give praise to God! And, this is something you can share together if you both have a kickstart to your year with these devotionals.

 

3. QUALITY TIME WITH JESUS

JESUS ALWAYS: Embracing Joy in His Presence

These devotionals are timeless-I read them year after year and the truth is fresh each time. Of all the devotionals out there, Sara Young’s speak to my heart the most.


JESUS ALWAYS: 365 Devotions for Kids

This is one of my FAVORITE kid’s devotionals.  It is simple but full of truth.  We used to read it at the dinner table for our family dinners.

Hopefully you found one of these types of devotionals that you would love for yourself or for a family member (or friend!).  Starting the new year on the spiritual right foot is a beautiful gift!

xoxo,

Amy

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In December on the Blog- another kitchen makeover, holiday design tips, and more Christmas spirit coming your way!

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This blog was written a few months ago and I am just publishing it now. I needed to let it percolate and seek the okay from family members, because it is real and a bit vulnerable…but hopefully encouraging to you as you know you don’t walk this parenting journey alone.

I do my best processing of life on airplanes. There is something about being confined to my own little space with no distraction except the occasional beverage cart or turbulent air pocket.  I am trapped and it is blissful. 

Out in the wide open world I have trouble containing myself. There is so much to see and do and be.  I am constantly pursuing and being pursued in wonderful friendships, pouring time into my family and my relationship with the Lord.  It too is blissful.  Yet my heart and brain are so busy and full that I don’t find much time for quiet reflection.  Which is why, right now, I am writing, almost 40,000 feet above the earth, traveling over cities and farmland and lakes, but in my own space of solitude with a blanket on my lap and a soda on the empty seat next to me.

Today I am thinking about parenting.  We are in the throws of teenage life.

My husband took me to the airport this morning, he taking his own flights, me on another route, and we will meet up in New Jersey tonight and spend the day in New York City together tomorrow, just the two of us on a little 24 hour vacation.  On the early morning car ride I brought up a sensitive topic—one of our children and how to navigate a promise we made to him and that we don’t fully agree on the appropriate reward at the end.

It is just one of the places we spend a lot of time lately-navigating our different opinions on parenting our teenager.  Me from my background, my husband from his, we circle the issues over and over, slowly, slowly coming together in the center.  It is taking time.  It hasn’t been easy. 

Up until our teenager parenting years we were always on the same page as mom and dad.  A unified front.  But what I have realized is that teenagers will peel back all the layers of ourselves, down to the tender core. The stakes feel high.  We can see the clock running out on their time with us and we care SO darn much about the people they are growing into.

Teenagers expose our messy, darker sides as we fight to control our emotions, have endless patience, and exhaust ourselves seeking the wisest way to handle each and every situation.

Growth.  It is a constant companion these days.

Just this week I smiled with clenched teeth at my daughter in the orthodontist’s waiting room as she argued with me in front of a room full of parents paging through magazines.  I reached for her phone after asking her to put it away several times and she pulled it away, thinking we were playing a game.  I. Was. Not. 

The playful arguing continued, evoking raised eyes and sideways glances from the people sitting around us. Until we got into the car…and I lost it.  Unfettered emotion and frustration and embarrassment spilled all over her.  She began to cry.

I had surprised her. She thought I thought it was funny, that we were just goofing around.  By all my outward signs she was right in her interpretation—getting publicly mad at my daughter and creating a scene is about as comfortable to me as sitting on a cactus.  So in the moment I play with fake smiles and clenched teeth “Please give me your phone…”. When inside I am wrapping up more and more tightly, like a coiled spring.

The emotion and tears and raised voices continued all the way home.  It was messy.  In our driveway, my daughter and I sat and talked it out.  I said I understood how she misinterpreted the situation, and that I was very sorry for not handling it better once we were alone.  She apologized for arguing and not being respectful.  We agreed to do better, both of us.

My tender core.  Needing growth, again.  So much stretching and learning and being humbled.   

And then last night, as we celebrated Father’s Day on our back patio on a stunningly beautiful Colorado evening, my girls called, “Mom! Come hold our feet!”  They were upside down, a 19 and 15 year old, in the grass trying to imitate a paired headstand yoga pose they had found in an Athleta magazine.  Giggling uncontrollably.

I walked through the grass, stepping on the thick blades and over dog poop land mines.  Holding the magazine in the air my girls said, “Hold our feet together this way!” Laughing, I tried…to hold their feet… but they couldn’t both stay in their pose at the same time. Breathless and giggling they kept falling over. 

I could only grab one leg and then as the other child’s leg came up the first one would fall. More giggling, “Try again!” More grabbing and falling and mismatched poses. Breathless laughing.  “Once more Mom!”  We never got it.  And it didn’t matter. The point wasn’t “getting it”. The point was the moment together, the laughing and trying and falling.

That is the Parenting Teenagers Experience.  Wanting to grab all their feet and connect them in perfect synchronicity to hold the perfect yoga pose.  No falling.  No multiple tries.  Spot on the first try.  Wanting the beautiful, composed image of a happy healthy family, like the sculpted Altheta models on a beach in Tahiti or somewhere.  Peaceful. Perfect. Balanced.

But instead, grabbing one child solidly only to lose grip on the other.  Lot’s of falling over, lots of trying, never quite in sync.

I call these “almost poses.” Almost always showing grace and patience and forgiveness.   Almost responding the right way every time.  Almost completely understanding each other’s point of view.  Almost perfect.

Almost.

Sometimes this place of “almostness” feels really discouraging.   I feel like I should have mastered how to react to stressful situations with my kids at this point, know the wisest call to make at every new issue, and how to always be on the same parenting page with my incredible husband by now.

Other times, when I am in a healthy spiritual place, I see this “not yet there” as a gift of the journey.  God has work to do in me, in my husband, in our children.  He can’t grow perfect people.  He can’t use perfect families to demonstrate forgiveness and mercy and grace and hope. 

God wants to sanctify me—the process of renewal and change for His purpose and aligned with his heart.

This is done, I am realizing, in “almost poses,” clumsy and surrounded by poop land mines, and meltdowns in the car.  It is where he can do his best work.

Not on a beach in Tahiti.

Those of us who are in this phase of life know what I am talking about.  I would encourage you to find a friend who is willing to share about the hard parts, who is striving to be the best mom possible, and walk this journey together.

I have several of those friends, but one in particular, who lives a over a thousand miles away and is walking closely with me through these teenage parenting years.  We text each week, sometimes call, sharing prayer requests, asking for advice.  We are brutally honest and completely real.  She is safe for me, and I for her.

We love our families with a fierceness that gets us in trouble sometimes, but we remind each other to embrace the process God is taking us all through.   We sometimes get off the phone completely validated, and sometimes completely challenged to get back in the ring of raising great kids and showing up well for our husbands.  It is awesome. 

Find your people.

So press on fellow parent. Strive not for perfection but for sanctification. 

I’m taking a sip of my Diet Pepsi now, gazing out at the patches of land below as the plane begins it’s decent.

We are almost there.

Xoxo

Amy

I don’t post blogs every week, but every week I do post content on my Facebook page–on parenting, faith, and design, so “like” my page and join in!  http://www.facebook.com/amyhayesblog/

 

 

 

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This week our family practiced saying sorry to each other, a lot. Always so much fun.  We had some words and attitudes and tones flying around that stung and caused mis-understandings.  Between my husband and me, between our children and us.  Between siblings.  Chalk it up to hormones (not just teenage ones) and stress and a lot of time together over spring break.

Words can be full of life and beauty and yet can cause deep pain.  We can talk so sweetly to a little child in a stroller passing by and then bark at our own children two minutes later. We want to be good, but our words and tone often betray what is in our heart…impatience, annoyance, selfishness, control, pride. God knows this and speaks in his word of how our tongue often plays two roles:

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.  James 3: 9-12

Why is this?  Because we are human and life often wears down our ability to respond kindly and with self-control in every situation.

So how do we tame this rouge tongue of ours? Especially when we use it in negative ways towards those we love the most?

BE AWARE 

Awareness.  We often have feelings and stress and fatigue and hurt from the outside world that we carry around like an overstuffed trash bag.  When someone close to us pushes on us or responds in a way that prickles our nerves we tend to dump the trash, all over them.

We are trying to learn as a family the ability of being in tune to how we are feeling.  When we are in touch with our stress or fatigue or sadness, it can help us and others to understand where our reactions are coming from.  Often our words tumble out before we even realize we are stressed or tired, but if we can take a minute to reflect on where the intense emotion came from, then we can communicate with others and seek reconciliation.

This one example of how it played out in our family this week:

One of our children over-reacted in anger towards me over a situation with our puppy. Our child’s emotion caught us off guard and the situation escalated.  When we were able to discuss and resolve it later, we found our our child had had a very difficult day of rejection from friends.  Upon hearing this we immediately moved from frustration to compassion towards them.

We coached our child on learning to be aware of when they are feeling sad or hurt and how that might come out sideways towards others.  And if it does, to apologize and communicate the deeper issue going on at that time.  This child took the coaching to heart and two other times last week apologized for a negative tone with an explanation of, “I’m sorry I spoke that way, I was really tired,” or, “I was stressed because I was running late.”   If a teenager can learn awareness, I can too.

 

BE PREPARED

In an ideal world, we become so self-aware that we are continually in tune to our feelings and have the ability to control every reaction and word no matter what comes our way….I’m chuckling as I write that.  Pretty impossible.

But not completely.

I have found something that helps me again and again to control my tongue (most of the time) no matter how stressed or tired or weary I am feeling:

I prepare my heart and mind before the day starts with spending time with God.

I have learned that spending time with God in the morning and asking him for wisdom and self- control with my tongue that day can help so much. When I invite God into my day, he takes the wheel.  He gives me strength and peace and perspective in each situation.

I especially need to ask for help when I know my tongue might get me into trouble because of life’s stresses.  Times for me that need extra preparation:

~When I have a very busy day with a lot on my to-do list

~ When there has already been conflict and my heart feels wounded

~I have a presentation or am leading something that day (needing to be “on”)

~ When I am weary of life, going through a tough or busy season

All of these situations can cause me to be sharp with others. When I am aware of these triggers, I can be all the more prepared for the day by spending crucial time with God in the morning.  I can ask Him for peace, self-control in my responses, and a gentle tone in my words no matter what comes my way that day.

It’s one of those miracles that seems to always provide when I ask.

It is inevitable that we will mess up, and when we do a heartfelt sorry is often an instant and healing salve on the wounds we have created.  We must use sorry without hesitation and with reckless abandon in our relationships.

To think about:

What situations/circumstances trigger your emotions? How can you be more aware of what is behind the angry feelings or words?  How can you prepare your heart and mind for your day?

I am thinking a lot about words and how I use them because our bible study group is reading the book Keep It Shut by Karen Ehman.  It is full of wisdom on this subject.  I will be creating a video on what we are learning each week and will post it on my Blog Facebook Community page.  Here is my video from last week:

FACEBOOK VIDEO ON USING OUR WORDS WISELY

If you haven’t joined our group on Facebook and want to hear more on this subject, CLICK THIS LINK and “like” the page to see posts.  I will be posting a new video this Tuesday on why sometimes it feels so good to lash out, and the one perspective check we all could use.

Here’s to taming our tongue, being aware, prepared and ready to say sorry.

~Amy

 

 

 

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I have been a parent now for nineteen years.  Some days I feel like I have learned and grown so much as a parent that I could sit with a new mom and pour wonderful nuggets of wisdom into her cup.  Other days I feel completely unequipped and literally exhale doubt and confusion about how to walk this parenting journey well.

Over the years I have garnered advice from various sources and tried numerous “systems” in our home to to be an intentional, character developing mom.  Many of the new things I have tried have totally flopped, and some have been a great success.  Today I want to share with you three of my most successful parenting “hacks.”    These are resources that are not only extremely helpful to me as a mom, but continue to help me again and again as my mothering seasons change:

MOTHER AND SON by Eggerich

Product Details

This book is a must read for any mother of a son.  Eggerich writes about speaking a different language with our sons–a language of respect.  We are natural speakers of love and affection as moms, but he teaches us how to reach our son’s hearts by speaking words of respect and honor to them.  I began to see changes in my relationship with my son as soon as I started implementing the wisdom in the book.  It’s well worth having in your parenting library– you can click here to find it on Amazon:
Mother and Son: The Respect Effect

CIRCLE by Disney  

So……this is not my children’s favorite but it is one of mine.  I have struggled with managing the technology beast in our house that was threatening some core values we had as a family–protecting what our children watched on screens (what we are putting in to our minds), time spent on screens (how we manage our time), and sleep (…pretty sure sleep can be a core value).

With Circle, you order a small modem that you get for a one time $99.00 fee.  When it arrives at your house you plug it in and the modem basically re-routes all the Wi-Fi in your home through the Circle network.  You then download an app and from your phone can manage all the users of any device in your house.

For example, my daughter has a computer and a phone.  Both of these devices are recognized by Circle which means I can see all the apps on her phone and subsequently manage all of them (Snapchat, Instagram, Netflix, etc.), specifically how long she can be on each app (like one hour on YouTube/day).  I can also see what websites she is visiting.

I can also set filters for all the devices (ours are all set to Teen) and set a wake up and sleep time which shuts down the devices at night.

For our family, Circle became necessary when our kids grew old enough to stay up later than my husband and me (actually we are just getting old an needing to go to bed earlier) and we were concerned how long into the night they were on their devices with no supervision.  However, I wish I would have been able to start Circle earlier when our kids first started having phones and computers.

As our teens get older, I will graduate them out of Circle since they will need to learn to manage their time on devices on their own, but for now it is helping them set good habits and learn reasonable time limits for their phone and video use (and I don’t think we can protect our sons enough from access to pornography).

You can order CIRCLE HERE if you want to give it a try…it has given me great peace of mind.

 

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY PODCAST  

I started listening to this a couple of years ago and boy do I wish I would have had this resource earlier in my parenting years.  This podcast is one of THE MOST helpful and encouraging (and challenging) tools I have had as a mom.  The podcast is every day, and it ranges from marriage to parenting to discipline to faith building topics.  They are all amazing. But the parenting ones have been priceless for me.  Here is the link.  I have downloaded the app on my phone and listen while I am driving or doing chores around the house.

http://www.focusonthefamily.com/media/daily-broadcast

So, those are my three favs.  I hope maybe one of these is helpful to you in your parenting journey. We need to link arms as moms and encourage and help each other out as we raise our kiddos.

Blessings to you!

~Amy

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My husband read a quote on Facebook today:

“I was going to quit all my bad habits in 2017, but then I remembered nobody likes a quitter.”

Ha ha!  That quote speaks to what many of us are thinking about as the calendar changes to a new year.  We want renewal and change but our good intentions often aren’t fulfilled.

As I mentioned in my last post, I am kind of a New Year’s Resolution geek.  And my family gets to entertain my obsession with goal setting just because they love me and don’t really have a choice.  I only subject them to this once a year–when we do our family New Year’s Resolution/Goal-Setting night.

All kidding aside, I do think there are some great benefits for taking the time to work through goal-setting as a family; specifically two:

  1. Our kids learn the habit of self-reflection and the practice of change.   It is actually quite easy to move through life without looking back to analyze what we has worked for us and what we can improve upon.  Successful businesses do this annually (or even quarterly). They review the numbers or the growth they are trying to measure and make changes accordingly.  Why not do this with ourselves and our families?  In seeing what did or didn’t work last year we can then work on changing ourselves going forward.  I want our kids to learn the gift of self-reflection.
  2.  Our kids learn how to set concrete goals and steps for achieving  them. We have all heard how the road to bleep is paved with good intentions.  Well, I would love our children to learn the art of actual change and be able to look back on the year and see how their steps toward improvement made a positive impact on their lives. I want them to feel empowered in their lives with the ability to get “unstuck” if needed.

So in early January Jon, the kids and I sat down and worked through some questions and then talked about them as a family.  We gave the kids a chance to identify some areas of their lives that they were happy with and some areas where change might be needed or wanted, and we did the same for ourselves.  It was great and I would encourage you to give it a try!

If you would like to have a Family Goal-Setting Night, here are some questions for everyone participating to ask themselves:

  1. WHAT are some areas you would like to work on this year?  For kids some examples may be in academics or sports or cutting back on social media.  For adults some examples may be finding more time to connect with your spouse or goals with your work life or homemaking.
  2. What are the SPECIFIC goals you want to work on in the areas you picked?
  3. WHY do you want this to be a goal? This is one of the most important questions to ask–if we don’t have our strong “why,” the chances of change are pretty slim.
  4. What are the specific STEPS you can take this year to achieve your goals?

If you are like me and want a more structured plan than open ended questions, I created the FAMILY NEW YEAR GOAL-SETTING PRINTABLE

In the printable each family member can draw circles around areas where they want to set some new goals (spirituality, friendships, healthy eating, social media, screen-time, and family relationships to name a few) and then they can work through how to accomplish those goals.

EXAMPLE

Here is an example from my own life that I gave our kids as they worked through the printable:

One of my resolutions for 2017 is with meal planning.  Last year I put as one of my new year’s goals “to increase the variety and consistency of making meals for my family.”  Well, I totally flopped in achieving that goal, and it was a source of frustration for me all year.

But instead of feeling like a total failure as a kitchen maven,  I took some time to really look at why my goal didn’t work. In 2016, two of our children had their license, all were in sports or working, involved in youth group activities, and my husband traveled about twenty nights out of the month.  We had a revolving front door, with busy teenagers and constantly moving parts.

Even when I thought everyone would be home for a meal, I was constantly disappointed that I had made the effort to cook (something I don’t particularly enjoy) when plans would change and no one was there to eat it.  And when the kids did trickle in they were not hungry since they had eaten a snack at work or church.

So this year, I am still going to make it a goal, but tweak it a little. (In the printable I created, each family member can work through these four questions):

AREA: Homemaking

GOAL: Planning meals that work for my family’s busy schedule

WHY: This is still an important need for my family and it makes me feel good when our kids are served a nutritious meal at home.

SPECIFIC STEPS:

  1. To prepare a variety crock pot meals that the kids can eat whenever they arrive home.  This is far more flexible and appealing than a meal on a plate in the fridge that needs to be reheated.
  2. To make sure that in our family meeting on Sunday nights I am aware of everyone’s schedule and they are aware of what nights I am making the effort to cook so they come home hungry and expecting a meal.

This was a great exercise for me to work through personally, and I hope you and your loved ones can find some time to do the same.

Click HERE if you would like to try this with your family!

~Amy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hello! Today on the blog I am sharing a story I have been wanting to tell for months…but it just hasn’t seemed like the right timing.  And then the Christmas season arrived and I began thinking about waiting– waiting for the celebration, anticipating the excitement of the season, and the waiting that happened for the generations of Israelites in anticipation of the birth of their King.

It reminded me of my story from the last year–one of anticipation but of much waiting.  A true time of testing for me.  You may want to snuggle in for the video which is a bit longer than I wanted–it is, after all, a story of waiting.  But it is a message of hope and encouragement for those of us who are expectant of life to somehow work itself out differently than it seems, that there is One who knows us and sees us while we wait.

 

You may be in a time of waiting, and it may not be wrapped up neatly in a bow like ours was in the end.  It may take a long, long time for the story to play out.

But please hear this–it is not how the story ends that is important…it is how God changes us in the midst of our waiting.

THIS is when he pulls up a chair to talk, because we are often ready to listen. Hear what he is whispering, lean in to his voice of love and grace and trust.

He’s got this.

Merry Christmas to you!

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rent-your-house-while-you-travel

If you just got hives reading this post title, you may want to find something else to read.

But if you raised a curious eyebrow, read on–this is something I am really excited about.

About two years ago, I heard about AirBnB and started researching the company, wondering if renting out our house while we went on vacation might be feasible.  AirBnb is a owner rental company that has exploded in popularity over the last few years (it’s similar to VRBO, but is more “European” in style–you can rent out rooms in your house or your whole house where you currently live).

We love to travel and the idea of someone paying us to stay at our house (and for our vacation!) while we were not there sounded quite interesting.  After discussing this with the family, we decided to give it a try.  I was skeptical that anyone would want to rent a house in our Colorado suburb (after all, we don’t live in the mountains or in infamous Boulder), but took the pictures and created a profile.

img_2945

Within a few weeks people started contacting me.  We ended up renting out our house three times that year, once in the spring, summer and over Christmas–all times we were taking family vacations.  The experience has been nothing but positive for us.

And…my neighbor caught wind of what we were doing and she started renting their home too.  This summer her family traveled all over Europe because they were able to rent their house the whole time.

So you can really know how to do this well, I have included an AIRBNB RENTAL GUIDE PDF at the bottom.

If this is something you might want to try, here are the pro’s and con’s:

PROS

ONE:    Money!  (Of course).  We usually make between $1500 and $2500 for our rentals, depending on how many days people want to be in our house.  We put this money towards whatever vacation our family is taking–we have found that it allows us have more “yes’s” when we travel, doing the extra fun things that in the past have been outside our budget. For me it takes away the financial stress of traveling.  I feel like I have done my work (see CONS) and now we get to benefit by creating great family memories.

TWO:    Getting to exercise my “hostess” muscles.  I love hosting people in our home–even when we are not here. I enjoy creating a welcome notebook, having soft towels available, and a basket of goodies for our guests upon arrival.  It makes me happy knowing that we are providing a comfortable place for other people to make their own memories.

CONS

ONE:    Prepare to WORK.  At least for a few days before your guests arrive.  Everyone does their rental differently, but I have found the formula that gives me the most peace of mind (See Rental Guide PDF below).  This includes emptying out our bathroom drawers so that people aren’t seeing our personal items, stocking separate towels that are just for our AirBnB guests, and of course having clean sheets on all the beds.

It means putting away ALL the little piles we accumulate throughout the house, along with any personal items (such as banking, mail, dirty laundry, etc). There is also the cleaning out of the fridge and making room in the freezer, packing up the pantry (I’ll explain in rental guide) and of course getting the house cleaned (also explained in guide).

It can definitely get stressful, but I repeat the mantra, “I’m getting paid $2000 for two days of work, I’m getting paid $2000 for two days of work.” Pretty good return right? AND, after a couple of hours on a plane, especially if we are landing on a sunny beach somewhere, I take a deep breath and relax.

TWO:   The second con is not having peace of mind.  This isn’t a big one for me as I tend not to worry about what’s going on back home.  But if this is going to stress you out, you might want to consider if this is the best program for you.  We have only had positive experiences and everyone has left our home in excellent condition.

If you think you might want to try this for your next vacation, just download my free Airbnb Rental Guide laying out step by step directions for listing and preparing your house!  It has a CALENDAR COUNTDOWN and CHECKLIST for every detail, plus all the tips I have learned along the way!  Trust me, it will save you a lot of grief 🙂

Just click here:

AIRBNB RENTAL GUIDE

Hope you have a wonderful experience!

~Amy

I am always grateful if you would share on Facebook or forward this post to someone you know might benefit!

 

 

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