If I Had to Raise My Kids All Over Again, I Would Definitely Do This

I’m on year twenty of being a mom. TWENTY! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t know how I got here. One crusty sock and painful lego under my foot at a time, I suppose. What a ride. What a joy. What a lot of life lessons.

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My kids always cooperated when taking pictures.

The regrets over all the mistakes I made and things I wished I could go back and do differently started washing over me during my oldest son’s senior year of high school. It was a painful time, thinking of sending him off after graduation, knowing I could have and should have done a better job. The Enemy was attacking and filling me with lies, making me forget all the good in our lives, keeping me from seeing the amazing person my son had become in spite of, and even because of me.

God’s grace has offered much healing from those days of swimming in regret as He overpowered the enemy lies and showed me His beautiful Truth. I am so thankful to be freed of that bondage!

Sure, I could have done many things differently through these twenty years. But that doesn’t mean I’m a parenting failure. It means I’m a human being. It means I need Jesus. It means my kids need Him too, since what I have to offer falls short of what our Savior offers.

Well with that, I want to reflect back on something I am so thankful we did, something God orchestrated in our family and helped us to do well – even though we had no idea at the time that it was such a thing of beauty.

If I had to raise my kids all over again, I would definitely do this

From the time our kids were little, we made opportunities for our kids to think of and serve others.

It was something we saw happening within another family we respected. They always had their kids with them as they served the community in all different ways. We saw this and we thought, “We want that for our kids.”

I am so thankful for this family’s example of serving with their kids. It would have been easier to leave the kids behind so we could “serve more efficiently.” But what would our kids have learned? That serving was for grown-ups? That helping others wasn’t their problem? That they could learn to do that serving thing later on in life? That they could stay in their own little world and think only of themselves?

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When our second son was three (he’s now heading into his senior year; I can’t even) – I started a fun “school” time with him where I taught him an alphabet letter each week. As he was learning the sound and doing activities to help him retain what he was learning, we started thinking of people we knew whose name started with that letter. Then we’d choose a fun way to show love to that person. For instance:

On Mm Week, we chose an elderly couple from church, Mabrey and Madge Miller (how handy that their first names started with M too!). We made and delivered them Mini Muffins, explaining to them what the boys were learning. Dearest Madge loved what we were doing and cleverly sent the boys a thank you note which read, “Mmmm! Many thanks for the marvelous, magnificent mini muffins you made!”

Do you know what a treasure this is? Others responded with equal joy and fun with our family as we delivered “a jar of jelly beans to John on Jj week, a tiny toy for Tina on Tt week, a flower to Felice on Ff week…and so on.

We worked our way through the alphabet this way with all of our boys when they came “of age” but what’s better is that all of our boys got to participate in the serving activities every single time.

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Here’s our youngest, back when he was four,
delivering an Apple Pie to the Amick family on Aa week!

I look back on those precious times with our family with so much happiness, I can’t put it into words. Our boys learned to think of others and consider what might bring them joy – then they had the experience of delivering a treasure to a surprised recipient. They learned to talk to the elderly, consider the shut-in, and approach kids bigger than them.

It was a parenting move I didn’t even know would turn out to be such a blessing. But Ww is for win and this is a parenting move I thank God He inspired.

A few years after the idea originated in our home, my husband urged me to compile it all and create an actual curriculum to share. It was a huge amount of effort, but I got to re-live all the memories, which made it such a joy to complete.

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Many, many families have used this with their kids since it first came out, and this week, I’m highlighting it again for two reasons:

  1. I’d like to encourage all families with young kids to start young when teaching their kids to think of and serve others (though it’s never too late to start – no matter how old your kids are!).
  2. Learn Your Letters, Learn to Serve is included in this year’s Early Learner’s Build Your Bundle, which is discounted 85%. That means that instead of getting this curriculum kit for $25.95 here on my site, you can pay a just $29.95 and get $201 worth of amazing Pre-K books all at once!

I looked through this collection and wanted to turn all my kids back into tiny kidlets again. These look so great!

Early Learning Bundle - 85%!

Check out this package and all the others over at the Build Your Bundle site. There are wonderful sets of books for students of all ages, and do this as you’re picking out your bundles:

Take advantage of the Buy 2 Get 1 Free option!

That’s where the savings really pours in, as if getting up to 96% off isn’t already incredible.

Above all:

Teach your kids to serve. Help them see people. Train them to notice other people’s needs.

I will never regret the time our family has spent caring for and serving others together. My kids have not always done this cheerfully; parts of this training have been hard; sometimes it would have been easier to do the task myself. But now I watch my kids spoon-feeding our adult handicapped friend, I see them hugging our disabled lady friend without reservation, I hear them talking sweetly to little ones – and I know this without a doubt:

Teaching my kids to serve at a young age is a parenting move I would cheerfully do all over again.

What’s something you’ve done as a parent that you feel great about?

Some of the links in this post are my affiliate links.

Six More Ways I’m Going to Try to Save on My Grocery Budget (Plus a Quick $25 Giveaway!)

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Matt and I have exactly one more year until we have two kids in college. At that point, assuming all of our kids choose to go to college after high school, we will have two in college until 2024. Thinking of the financial hit we will take because of this…

I pass out cold.

The good news is that having more than one kid in college offers additional grants for students. The other good news is that our kids have been working hard for years and saving money to help pay their own way through college. More good news is that my kids have worked hard to receive and maintain good scholarships to make their college bill lower.

I start to pick myself up off the floor…

But the bad news is that even a “lower priced” college costs around $25,000/year. I can pretty quickly do the math on that, because four kids times four years equals $400,000. And with that…

I fall down dead.

Praise God for scholarships and hard working kids that make that total much lower, but still. Matt and I have made plans to help each son with a specific dollar amount each year. To state the obvious, when we have two in college at one time, we will be forking out twice that dollar amount every year.

Someone please throw a glass of cold water on my face.

One would think my grocery bill would go down as the kids fly the coop, but so far, that hasn’t been the case. As our personal savings account has dwindled recently because of a business investment for my husband (allow me to introduce to you our town’s newest Radon Mitigation Specialist), and then our family van died suddenly, I have felt challenged to reconsider what I wrote a few weeks ago about my huge grocery budget.

In that post I said:

  • There are no other ways I can cut our grocery bill.
  • My teenagers eat an enormous amount of food.
  • I give up.

Or something like that.

It is true that my teens eat huge portions. This isn’t because they are excessive. It is because they are hungry. (A mom of one tiny baby recently suggested I simply cut them off and don’t let them eat as much. That is only a good idea on opposite day.)

But I am challenging myself to think even more frugally about groceries as we move toward our near future with buying a new vehicle and sending boy #2 to college in a year. (I shan’t skimp on Kleenex. The tears have already started about next year’s graduation. I can’t help it.)

Ways I already save on real food

  1. I make a lot of our food from scratch.
  2. I keep our meals simple, not elaborate.
  3. I price-match to get good deals on produce in my small town.
  4. I preserve food from our garden if there happens to be any excess.
  5. We only eat out when traveling, and then often we pack our food to take with us.
  6. I avoid expensive produce that is not “in season.”
  7. I buy our meat in bulk and our eggs and milk from local farmers, all for reasonable prices.
  8. I watch for mark-downs on any of our favorites at the grocery store.
  9. I stock up on anything we use often whenever it is on sale.
  10. I stock up at Aldi on staples whenever I make a trip to the city.
  11. I stopped buying everything organic even though it makes me cringe a little bit.

6 More Ways I'm Going to Try to Save on My Real Food Grocery Budget

Ways I think I can do better as we try to rebuild our savings

  1. Go to the store about every week and a half instead of every week. (Sounds like a good experiment, huh?)
  2. Don’t buy pre-packaged snacks for the boys to eat at games, even if they are “healthier” and even if they are a good deal.
  3. Serve more eggs and meatless meals. (I might have a revolt. To be continued…)
  4. Stop buying cereal. (I rarely buy this anyway, but what if I stopped altogether?)
  5. Eat some of the “random stuff” hanging out in the back of the pantry and freezer whether it’s exciting or not.
  6. Cut back on cheese, or let cheese replace meat sometimes. (Like in this recipe.)

30 Real Food Money Saving Tips

I plan to peruse this book again to trigger more ideas (get yours here – it’s free!). Knowing my family situation (four teenage sons, big eaters, focus on eating nourishing foods instead of fillers), do you have any more suggestions to share?

I’ll share an update in a few weeks once I see how some of these experiments go!

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Did you sign up to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card and grab all your fun Summer Family Reading Party freebies? We’ve even got a printable Summer Bible Reading Guide for you!

summer reading party header
Grab them here!

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Let’s have another giveaway!

I have quite a few fun giveaways planned during the next few weeks to go along with our Summer Reading Party. Today’s is short and sweet – so enter quickly! I’ll draw a winner for this in just a few hours – on Thursday morning, May 25.

I want everyone to see how great this Build Your Bundle Digital Book Sale is – 20 different packages of books to pick from; some as much as 96% off! So I’m giving one of you $25 to spend there. $25 will go a looooong way with this sale – especially if you take advantage of the Buy-2-Get-1-Free option!

Click over to the Build your Bundle site and come back here to leave a comment letting me know which book packages look best for your family. Then enter the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win $25 in free money to spend on these digital books!

The BIGGEST Homeschool Sale of the Year - ends 5/30/17

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note that the Build Your Bundle sale ends May 30 – so take advantage of this sale while you can! The winner of this giveaway will be notified by email on Thursday, May 25.

Some of the links in this post are my affiliate links.

How I Really Feel About My Kids’ High School English Papers

I am the girl who loves to write, has chosen a career that involves hours of writing every week, and finds words to be one of the most fantastic, beautiful joys of life. But helping my kids write research papers, rhetorical analysis papers, and all such dreadful necessary assignments such as these threaten to make me want to rip out handfuls of my hair, tear pages out of innocent textbooks, and break laptops over our fireplace.

I’m not pleased to admit this about myself, but now you know the truth.

How I Really Feel About My Kids High School English Papers

Reading and writing about Hamlet back when I was in high school is what kept me from knowing that I actually love to write. I persevered and I did my time, but now here I am, experiencing this all again, over and over, with all of my high school-aged sons. I’d leave it up to their teachers, but I AM THEIR TEACHER, so here I sit with my ugly mom face where there are no nice words and there is no sunshine.

I take no pride in this. My head is hung in shame. Alas, I have been showing my kids how to respond to assignments we don’t like but have to do anyway with a gross attitude, using words like “stupid, ridiculous, and whodecidedthispoemshouldbeinatextbook.” Lord, deliver me from MLA formatting, documenting resources, and analyzing, comparing, and contrasting poetic themes.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe there is incredible value in teaching these skills to our students. Our kids need to know how to write well, do research, identify literary themes, format a paper properly – and for the love of my ability to inhale oxygen, everyone should know the correct way to write your, you’re, their, there, and they’re.

I’m simply not a fan of teaching all of this. I signed up for this homeschool gig, I’m in it for the long haul, and 99 out of a 100 times a day I love this life. But sometimes I long to go back to the simpler days of bright math manipulatives, Bob Books, and alphabet matching games.

(Clearly, I’ve erased the poop-snot-distracted-tantrum-defiant moments from my memories and am drawing only from oh they were so little and precious and snuggly and remember all the wonderful books we cuddled up and read together memories. Still, we didn’t have to analyze the deeper meaning of Little Bear after we read it together or compare and contrast it with the underlying theme of Frog and Toad, am I right?)

four boys pilgrim

Moms of little ones? Don’t listen to one negative thing I’m saying right now. I’m using hyperbole (that’s a high school English term that means “exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally”). If you choose to homeschool your kids, even all the way through high school, you can absolutely do it and do it well.

I’ve been happily homeschooling for 15 years, and while I’m always thankful when the challenging writing assignments are transferred to the “finished” file, I don’t regret one minute of the time I’ve had with each of my sons, bonding over Dickenson, cringing over Oedipus, and laughing about embarrassing spelling edits that need to be made (thank you, auto-correct, for these teachable moments). There’s incredible beauty in the relationships created with our sons while we work hard together to end each assignment knowing his finished product is one he can be proud of.

Just like everything – teaching our kids to use the potty, sound out words, sit still during church, obey the first time, multiply fractions, tie shoes, cook a meal, drive a car – there are times we parents simply have to lean in, buckle down, pray for strength, and get it done. We’ll like some of it better than others. We’ll be glad when some of it is over.

But that doesn’t mean that the effort and challenge isn’t worth the reward. Yea, though I walk through the valley of 4-6 page research papers covering subjects I care nothing about, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Thy coffee and chocolate they comfort me.

Parents: we’ve got this. We can do this. We can even find a smile and some nice words.

Together we praise God for creating summer break, the glorious months we can look back at all the finished research papers, the 137 completed Algebra II lessons, and the fact that Shakespeare actually made sense to us a time or two.

By and by, somewhere between a cold slice of watermelon and a run through the sprinkler, we’ll remember the glorious light bulb moments of the past school year, the accomplishments, and the great discussions – and we’ll realize with joy how much we love learning with our kids. (Truly. These days are invaluable and I wouldn’t trade a minute.)

We’ll find refreshment this summer. We’ll read all the books just for fun! Then we’ll start looking ahead to next year, and not just looking ahead, but looking forward – as in actually looking forward to it all starting up again in the fall! (Clean notebooks! New crayons! Amazing books and adventures to be had!)

Dearest Parents: Wherever you are in your school journey with your kids – whether home, public, private, or charter – I salute you. You care enough to work hard to help your children get the best education possible. You do easy things. You do hard things. You do things you wish you could do over and over again, and you do things you can’t wait to be finished with (I’m looking at you diaper blow-outs and ACT prep).

It’s all part of parenting and educating, training and growing.

May your parenting days be rich, your summer break restful, and your attitude about diagramming sentences better than mine.

What’s your very favorite (and your least favorite) school subject you get to help your kids learn?

P.S. I realized one day recently that I have forgotten how to move decimals whilst dividing numbers that include them. It took everything in me to keep from saying to my 6th grader, “Well, I guess this proves that you’ll never in your life need or use this skill so why don’t you just go build with your Legos instead?” Instead, I said, “We’ll get this figured out!” Then I called my 9th grader in to show us how it’s done because life’s too short to think hard about a skill I haven’t used since I was 12. Pat me on the back for this parenting win.

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Hey! The big curriculum sale I told you about is finally here!

These are books that make learning fun. You should know that I’ve never once felt like throwing one of these into the fireplace or ripping one of them in two. Aren’t you proud of me?

The BIGGEST Homeschool Sale of the Year - ends 5/30/17

Go check out all the books that are being offered at such a high discount, and fill your cart with the ones you can use! Here’s a huge bonus for you —->

Over $500 in FREE BONUSES and BIG Savings with ANY Purchase!

Everyone who purchases even one set of the books offered in this sale gets this awesome freebie pack! You will love this!

Go take advantage of this great sale during this great one-week event…

The BIGGEST Homeschool Sale of the Year!
These are my referral links. I heart 99 out of 100 school related things. Hyperbole is my favorite literary device.

More Book Fun to Look Forward to! (And a Great Way to Save Money!)

Yesterday I invited you to join our big Summer Family Reading Party! If you missed it, be sure to learn more and join us!

Today I’ve got more fun booky news to share with you!

The BIGGEST Homeschool Sale of the Year - ends 5/30/17

The biggest learning resources eBook sale of the year is here. I always look forward to this because it offers my family some really great digital books to help fill in some educational gaps, and some of them are up to 96% off! Plus, these are the books that can make our learning more fun! (Lord, deliver me from wordy textbooks. Amen.)

Is this just for homeschoolers?

Definitely not! :) This event is touted as a Homeschool Sale, so if you are a homeschool family, you definitely want to look into this! But I absolutely feel that every family – public school, private school, charter school, and home school – teaches their kids at home in many ways. Everyone will find some treasures in this sale, so check it out and take advantage while it’s available!

Build Your Own Bundle

What I especially love about this sale is that while there are over 234 digital books being offered, you can pick and choose which ones you want. Add what you need to the cart, skip the ones you don’t, and only pay a tiny percentage of the regular cost of these books you know you’ll use. It is so cool!

The BIGGEST Homeschool Sale of the Year!

Oh yeah, and if you buy two of the pre-packaged bundles, you get to pick a third one for free. (That offer stacks, so if you choose 6 pre-packaged sets, you can pic 3 more for free!) And on top of all of this…

 

There are books for all ages – from pre-K all the way up through high school. There are even books for parents of children with special needs. There are books for character building, books for family unit studies, and on and on I could go.

Okay, go check it out!

Sale ends May 30.

These links are my referral links.

Join our Family Summer Reading Party (for a chance to win prizes like a $50 Amazon Gift Card!)

Is it just me, or does a library have a certain smell? This statement is not to be compared with how I describe my front closet during soccer season, which also has a certain smell. We won’t discuss it.

But the library smells pleasant. Very…I don’t know…bookish? And in the summer, it smells ten times better like…what? Like air-conditioned books. Yes. I love this smell. Someone should make a candle with this scent. You know I’m right (and also a bit strange).

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At our house, we’ve just hung up, put away, and close the door on all of our “assigned reading” for the school year. Who cares that we actually loved almost every book we read this year? Summer is coming and that means we can read…

Just For Fun.

Why does it feel different to read in the summer compared to reading during the school year? I have no idea. There’s just something about the freedom of it all, with its “I can read whatever I want and walk leisurely down all the library aisles while inhaling all the air-conditioned book smells…”

We always check out huge stacks. We can sit in the sun and read. Or we can sit in the air conditioning and read. We might lay on the trampoline and read. I will definitely sip iced coffee and read. The kids can drink sweet tea and read. Ahhhh, summer reading, how I love you.

Reading as a Family

A few summers ago, after our oldest boys headed to counsel at church camp, I picked All of a Kind Family off our shelf and read through it with Malachi during the hottest parts of the day. We finished that one and ran to the library to get the next in the series. We loved the books so much we read every book in the series and cried at the end because the series had ended. (To be fair, Malachi didn’t actually cry. I did though, because I always cry at the end of a good book. You already know this about me.)

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I definitely cried at the end of this one.
Then we plowed through the entire series.

Who wants to smell the library with me this summer?

What I mean is, let’s all read together all summer long. Want to? Whether it’s library books or books you already have on your shelf, or books you might order to add to your collection, let’s read. Whether it’s Mom taking some glorious time to read for relaxation on her own (do this) or families taking time to read a book or series together in front of an air conditioner or under a shade tree (do this too), or everyone in the family sitting and reading silently to themselves while simply enjoying the comfort of togetherness (most definitely do this)…

Join our Summer Reading Party!

We want to encourage the beauty of family reading this summer!

Malachi and I look back on the summer of reading All of a Kind Family series as if it was the summer of perfection. All my boys and I can look back with joy on summers of reading together back in the days they were littler (and actually home). On the days they are home this summer, we will definitely spend time reading. I just got a few books delivered a few days ago that the boys had requested. Perfect timing!

Let’s all do this together and make great memories with our families!

Tell me about this Summer Reading Party!

Well, you can make this whatever you want for your family, but to get you motivated…

First we have a huge packet of free printables for every family who signs up for our Summer Reading Party. Use these however you wish – for incentives for your kids, for activities for your kids, for a challenge for everyone in your family – however you want. They are free for you and you can use them in whatever ways you like!

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Sign up here to join our Summer Reading Party and to get the free packet of printables!

My Favorite Party Favor

Included in this printables packet is a suggested Bible reading check-list for you to use with your family. Read these passages with your family during breakfast. Or read them at night before bed. Or read them at whatever time of the day works best for you. Because reading the Bible with your family is more important than any other reading you can do.

summer bible reading

This Summer Bible Reading Guide is included in the Summer Reading Printables Packet. Get yours here.

Prizes!!

Can’t have a party without prizes, right?

We’re getting our party started with a fun giveaway! Then watch for more great giveaways as the summer goes on. Today’s giveaway? A $50 gift certificate to Amazon.com so you can grab great new books to fill your shelves!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

We’ll be offering more prizes all summer long. So join the Summer Reading Party, get your free printables packet, and start reading! Watch for more great giveaways and reading incentives throughout the summer!

I’ll draw a random winner for the Amazon Gift Card giveaway on Friday, May 26.

Join the Summer Reading Party!

My Big List of Great Book Suggestions (For All Ages!)

A few weeks ago during a soccer game, my friend asked, “What books do you suggest as good family read-alouds?”

Bless my friend, for she did not know what she was getting into when she asked this question so innocently. See, sometimes I answer questions with much animation, with many flailing hands, as if I’m hopped up on caffeine and cannot find my way to the ground. Talking about books produces such a reaction in me, even while huddled under a blanket at a soccer game.

I started giving suggestions of books our family has loved through the years. My friend started jotting notes. I got more and more excited. I kept thinking of more books. She kept jotting. I couldn’t stop, and the list grew longer and longer.

I guess this is the part where I confess that when we got home from this soccer game and Malachi asked, “Did you see me score that goal?!” I suddenly came down off my Farmer-BoyBox-Car-Children high and had to say, “Oohh sorry, Buddy. I was talking again. But remember when we read the Little Britches series?!”

#momoftheyear

Well, he’ll score other goals and I’m likely to see them. In my defense, I have four soccer-playing sons, so no one can expect me to re-live every goal scoring moment with them, can they? And besides, I’ve read a lot of great books to them all through the years, so I haven’t failed entirely.

My Big List of Great Book Suggestions for all ages

Books, Books, Books

Today, with the help of a friend, we have put together a most amazing list of book suggestions for you and your family. Whether your kids are babies or teenagers, we’ve got book ideas for you. Beyond that, we’ve got book suggestions for grown-ups because sometimes we all need to grab some iced tea and have some down time in the form of a delicious read.

So peruse this list. Look into these books that my friend and I love. Leave comments on this post to tell us which books YOU recommend so we can all check those out too!

While we love checking books out from the library, sometimes it’s great to own a wonderful shelf (or eight) full of books! So we’ve included the Amazon links to each of these for your convenience. Some of these are listed at great prices!

Infant/Toddler Book Suggestions

that's not my book

I Spy Board Books

Goodnight Moon

Runaway Bunny

The Very Hungry Caterpillar (and other books by Eric Carle)

That’s Not My…series from UsBorne (some of which are available on Amazon)

Sandra Boynton’s Greatest Hits

DK Touch and Feel Series

Pre-School Book Suggestions

lift a flap book

Mouse Paint

Bittle

Little Pink Pup

Richard Scarry Collection

Elephant & Piggie Collection

Knuffle Bunny Series

Lego City Book Set

Lift the Flap Bible Story Books from Reader’s Digest

Little Golden Book Collection

Early Elementary Book Suggestions

mr putney's quacking dog

There is overlap in the Pre-K and the Early Elementary list, so be sure to check both if you have kids in either of these age groups!

Kiss the Cow

The “I’m” Book Series by Kate and Jim McMullan

Mr. Putney’s Quacking Dog

Bad Case of Stripes

Uff Da!

Pinkalicious Storybook Series

Gigi Book Series

Little Bear Series

Frog and Toad Book Collection

Dr. Seuss Book Collection

Make Way for Ducklings

Madeline Book Collection

Curious George Book Collection

Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel

Click, Clack Moo Book Series

Henry and Mudge Book Series

Skippyjon Jones Book Collection

Amelia Bedelia Book Series

Fly Guy Book Series

Diary of a Worm Book Series

I Spy Books

Where’s Waldo Book Collection

Otis the Tractor Book Series

Daddy, Could I Have an Elephant

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Lego Beginning Readers

Later Elementary

boxcar children

Bill Peet Books

Magic Tree House Book Series

Magic School Bus Book Series

Box Car Children Book Series

Encyclopedia Brown Book Series

American Girl Book Series

Tales of Young Americans Book Series

“I Survived” Book Series

Sarah Plain and Tall Book Series

Chicken Squad Book Series

Mr. Popper’s Penguins

Clyde Robert Bulla Books

Books by Andrew Clements

Middle School/High School

39 clues

Books by Cynthia Voigt

Mysterious Benedict Society Book Series

Penderwicks Book Series

Storm Runners Book Series

39 Clues Book Series

Secret Cipher Book Series

LOST (involves magic and wizardry)

Anne of Green Gables Book Series

Cooper Kids Book Series

Mandie Book Series

Grandma’s Attic Book Series

Great Family Read Aloud Book Suggestions

ralph moody

Any of the above books are great for reading aloud as well. In addition, I’ve found that if my kids have a hard time getting into a book or a series, I start out reading it to them and they take it from there!

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle

Charlotte’s Web

All of a Kind Family Book Series

Little House of the Prairie Book Series

Little Britches (Ralph Moody) Book Series

Swiss Family Robinson

Chronicles of Narnia Book Series

Adult Fiction

sherlock holmes

Sherlock Holmes and the Needle’s Eye: The World’s Greatest Detective Tackles the Bible’s Ultimate Mysteries

My friend Kim’s review: What if Sherlock Holmes was called in to solve some of the mysteries of the Bible?  IN this book, he answers ten different questions from the Bible.  Even if I did not agree with his answers, I found the writing well done and, more importantly, I found myself searching the Scriptures to find evidence that supported or conflicted with his answers.

Forevermore by Cathy Marie Hake

Kim’s review: Even though this book is part of a series, you can jump right into this one without reading the others.  The main character in this book, Hope, will have you laughing and rolling your eyes at the nonsensical truisms she dispenses.  Heartwarming and kind, this book is a feel-good book.  (PS- The rest of the series is good, too, but this one is my favorite.)

The Cat Who Book Series by Lillian Jackson Braun

Amelia Peabody Book Series by Elizabeth Peters

Mrs. Pollifax Book Series by Dorothy Gilman

This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness by Frank Peretti

Kim’s review: This series challenged my thinking on the power of prayer and the unseen world of angels and demons.

Overton Window and Agenda 21 by Glenn Beck

The Illuminati by Larry Burkett

Restoration Book Series by Terri Blackstock

Kim’s review: What if something happened and suddenly there was no electricity, no running water, no cars, no cell phones (or landlines), no computers, no electronics of any kind?  What if banks shut down, the post office did not work and there was no more McDonalds or WalMart?  Big life changes for many…  Where would God be in all this?

Adult Non-Fiction

dave ramsey

Bringing Up Boys by James Dobson

Bringing Up Girls by James Dobson

Dare to Discipline by James Dobson

Parenting by the Book by John Rosemond

Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas

Lies Women Believe by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover (or take Financial Peace University)

Your Turn!

Leave comments letting us know what books you love and recommend!

Some of these links are my affiliate links.

 

Simplify the Simple (Free Booklet and Printables through Thursday only!)

We just finished putting together a brand new FREEBIE for Simple Meals Members, and it’s my favorite one yet!

Here’s a sneak peek at some of its pages (though this image definitely doesn’t do it justice!):

Simplify the Simple Sample pages

I think you all know I’m doing everything I can to make all of our kitchen-lives as simple as possible without compromising on food quality and nutrition. Simple Meals members can attest to how great it is every week that they can:

  1. Discover the Simple Meals email I send them on Thursday mornings.
  2. Download (or just open) the 5-page Simple Meals Planning Packet I’ve prepared for all of us.
  3. Glance over the meals plan and decide which days of the week each fits best for the family.
  4. Print the grocery list and add to it or scratch from it as needed.
  5. Shop and prepare the simple recipes as guided.
  6. Enjoy all the bonus recipes and time-saving tips included each week.
  7. Love all the extra family time we all have because all the hard work of meal planning has been done for us and the meals are ridiculously easy to make!

All for $1.00 per week.

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Right now (but not for much longer) there is a $10.00 off coupon that will allow you to get an entire year of Simple Meals plans for only $42.00. Do you realize how inexpensive this is for an entire year’s worth of menu planning packets?! That coupon has been hanging out there for a while now, but take note that it will be going away in June. Take advantage while you can!

And a new perk this week only!

All Simple Meals Members receive $70 worth of free eBooks at the time of purchase. On top of that, whenever I have something new, I throw additional freebies at members! This week, all Simple Meals Members will be sent this awesome new FREEBIE resource!

Tips to Simplify the Simple

This terrific little eBooklet packs a punch! I filled it with simple kitchen hacks to teach oodles of great ways to simplify your time in the kitchen. You will love this! It truly does live up to its name to Simplify the Simple.

On top of all the time-saving tips and ways to simplify, this includes ten fun printable recipe cards to utilize in your simple kitchen.

This FREEBIE will be sent out to all  Simple Meals Members this Thursday morning, May 18 when I send the regular weekly menu planning packet. In order to get yours, join Simple Meals now. Having you on board will be awesome in many ways!

Use the code SIMPLE10 to get $10 off. Coupon expires in June. But more importantly, this new freebie expires Thursday!

Simple Meals
Your yearly subscription equips you with a 52 week's worth of meal plans, grocery guide, recipes, and bonus tips, plus you get over $60 worth of bonus eBooks! Your Simple Meals plan will arrive in your inbox each Thursday morning.
Price: $52.00

Enjoy your freebie as we continue to Simplify the Simple!

Honey Sweetened Peanut Butter Cups You Can Feed Your Family for Breakfast

This is how I begin every day:

fat-bombs-easy-and-delicious

And also this…

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They all go together for me now. I begin each day (if at all possible) with time in my chair with my Bible, my coffee, and a Chocolate Peanut Butter Fat Bomb.

Can you think of a better way to start the day? I think not.

I think the coffee and Bible are obvious, but you might be wondering – a Fat Bomb? For breakfast?

Absolutely, yes. I’ve gone from avoiding fat at all costs (in my teen and young adult years) to eating as much good fat as possible. In fact, I’ve discovered that the more good fat I eat, the better I feel. When I start my day with a Fat Bomb, I start my day with energy and a clear brain that actually functions.

I usually eat another Fat Bomb mid-afternoon, and sometimes at night before bed. I need the fat. You probably do too. Healthy fat is so very good for our bodies and minds.

Well, that’s my Fat Bomb story (thank you for asking), but what about everyone else in my family?

My husband eats a Fat Bomb here and there, loving them as much as I do (though he can eat most anything he wants without feeling crummy, so he doesn’t seem to crave these or need them like his fat-seeking wife). And our boys? Well, they just don’t like stevia-sweetened food. It’s okay. I probably wouldn’t have either when I was their age.

But here’s the thing: These sons of mine are growing to be enormous man-sized people. If I don’t have eggs and/or some kind of meat on the table every morning for breakfast, they pleasantly ask, “Is there something we can eat with protein?”

Yep, gone are the days they would eat a muffin and fruit and be fine for a few hours. These men need their meat. {mmm…bacon}

Thus, I have been playing with my Fat Bomb recipe to see if I can make them more palatable for my kids, which offers them protein and fat in the morning but keeps us from eating too many pigs (there’s no other way to say this).

Now, my youngest won’t touch these Fat Bombs because they have peanut butter in them. (He’s slightly allergic, but mostly, he can’t stand the taste.) But my other boys love these and as my 17-year old said, “Why would I ever need a regular peanut butter cup with all the sugar? These are phenomenal!”

So I now present to you a slightly altered Fat Bomb, sweetened perfectly with honey, and a fantastic choice for breakfast or a filling snack. What a great way to start the day! (For the record, I’m sticking with the stevia-sweetened Fat Bombs.)

Honey Sweetened Peanut Butter Cups

5.0 from 1 reviews
Peanut Butter Cups You Can Feed Your Family for Breakfast
 
Author:
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • ½ cup coconut oil (I use expeller pressed so the coconut flavor didn't overpower.)
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup natural peanut butter
  • 2-3 Tablespoons honey
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan, heat and stir together coconut oil, cocoa powder, butter, honey, and peanut butter.
  2. Pour into 12 muffin lined muffin tins. (I prefer silicone liners for these.)
  3. Freeze for 20 minutes or refrigerate for 2 hours.
  4. Store in fridge and eat as needed.

These Silicone Muffin Liners are a rock star for this recipe.

Have you tried the Fat Bombs? Are you a stevia lover or a stevia hater? Think you might prefer these sweetened with honey?

Real Food Recipes That Are Easy AND Save You Money

I used to make everything from scratch. Everything. Ketchup, graham crackers, and even mozzarella cheese. It’s great to have the skills and knowledge to do this. But at a certain point I had to ask:

Am I getting enough bang for my buck, here? As in, is the time I’m taking and the energy I’m extending to make all of this food really saving me money and therefore, is it worth it?

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For the record, homemade mozzarella costs more than store-bought.

Now, sometimes it’s worth putting forth the effort or spending more to make food from scratch because of the health benefit and great flavor. I mean, I don’t even care how much it saves or doesn’t save to make Homemade Ranch Dressing because this recipe tastes thousands of times better than the bottled stuff and it only includes healthy ingredients. I don’t want high fructose corn syrup on my salad.

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But as my schedule has gotten busier and as the quantity of food we plow through every day has increased, I’ve had to be more choosy about what I make, what I buy pre-made, and what I skip altogether.

For instance, I used to make all of our Whole Wheat Tortillas, without fail. These taste amazing and we miss them, but it takes triple the amount of tortillas to get us through a meal now, compared to the days my kids were little. It’s a rare occasion that I “go to the trouble” to make tortillas now, because it takes over an hour to get the job done. (Though when I do, there is much rejoicing.) We either skip tortillas now (often subbing corn chips), or I’ll buy a case from Azure Standard to keep in the freezer.

Having said all of that, today I thought I’d share some recipes I’ve stuck with for all these years, even with a busier schedule and a higher volume of food consumption. These recipes are worth my time, because the time investment is tiny. And they are cheaper than store-bought so they are a win-win! Also, homemade always tastes better, so score one more for that!

Real Food Recipes that are Easy and Save Money

Seasoning Mixes

I make all of our Ranch Dressing Mix, Italian Dressing Mix, Onion Soup Mix, and Taco Seasoning Mix. These cost pennies to make, saving a significant amount. And since I make big batches, the time saved on these is great!

condiments

Vanilla Extract

The price of beans has gone up, but it still saves money to make Homemade Vanilla Extract. It’s ridiculously easy to make, and well worth the effort because homemade vanilla is amazing!

vanilla_four

Stir-and-Pour Whole Wheat Bread

We don’t eat as much bread as we used to at our house. I think it’s wholesome and filling and my family loves it, but I prefer to fill everyone with more nutrient-packed sides like fruits and veggies. So bread has taken a back seat at our house.

I do sometimes buy a loaf of 100% whole wheat sandwich bread for sandwiches when we need to pack them for a road trip. But for bread at home, when as do eat it with a meal, I make this Stir-and-Pour Whole Wheat Bread. It takes hardly any time or effort, and it doesn’t cost very much. And it tastes awesome!

stir and pour bread loaf 5

Homemade Granola

I discovered this 5-Minute Granola Method and haven’t looked back. I add in whatever we have (dried fruit or chocolate chips) and we’ve got ourselves a great cereal for much less than store bought!

Stove-Top Granola

All of these Simple Meal Recipes

Check out this Spanish Rice Bowl and the long list of other Simple Real Food Recipes it includes. I keep coming up with more of these recipes and am amazed at how much time and money they are saving! I’ve cut down my kitchen time with these Simple Recipes so much that I feel like a cheater. Almost. ;)

spanish rice bowl11

Cool Pineapple Cream Dessert

This is ridiculously easy and so super yummy! Throw three ingredients in the blender and you’re set!

pineapple dessert 3

Special Coffee Drinks

It’s a rare thing for us to spend $$ at a coffee shop since we can make fun coffee drinks at home for much less! This Chocolate Frappe is awesome. Sometimes we put this Chocolate Whipped Cream in our coffee. We freeze coffee into ice cubes like this to make easy Iced Coffees. This Coffee Milkshake is awesome in the summertime. Sometimes I make a big batch of Chocolate Iced Coffee to offer several people at once. While all of these take a little time, it doesn’t feel like a lot of effort because it’s FUN to make drinks like this!

What are some of the foods you make from scratch that are easy and save money?

Did you get your Money-Saving Freebies yet?

Remember that anyone who signs up to join our FREE Heavenly Homemaker’s Savings Club gets both of these freebies sent to them. Fun!!

Top 10 Money Saving Recipes

30 Real Food Money Saving Tips

Sign up here, confirm your subscription, and both booklets will be in your inbox very quickly! Then we can keep you informed of any other money saving tips and deals we come across!

One of the Hardest Grocery Budget Questions I’m Ever Asked

A few months ago I shared about my family’s current grocery budget. Some of you felt a mighty relief that you weren’t the only one spending so much each month to feed your family . But others of you fell over with shock. (Sorry ’bout that.)

Before I get too far in to today’s post, allow me to catch you up on some grocery budget posts that will help you understand where I’m coming from here:

Long story short, we are a family of 6. We have four sons ages 19, 17, 15, and 12. Our oldest lives in the college dorm, but comes over from time to time (sometimes with friends). We almost never eat out, we don’t have cable, and we drive old vehicles. Our health care/insurance costs are amazingly low (praise the Lord!). But…we spend a boat load of money every month on groceries. Eeeeek!

groceries Lincoln

Almost every month, we fork out somewhere between $800-$1,100 dollars for food to feed our family. Yep, sounds a little scary to some of you. We used to get away with much less back when all four of our boys could share one apple for a snack and be fine until they ate their tiny little dinner.

Now it’s just not possible. Our four boys are teenagers now. They are tall. They are extremely active. We care about wholesome nutrition. Our grocery bill reflects all of this.

groceries725

One of the most difficult questions I’m asked by people is this one:

If you had to cut back on your grocery budget, what would you cut?

I open my mouth in an effort to answer, and nothing comes out. Of all our groceries, what would I not buy? What do I buy that’s a splurge that I could give up? How could I cut back?

Honestly, I’m not sure I have a good answer. I buy food. My family eats it. We waste almost nothing.

Okay, here’s one. Sometimes I splurge and buy juice. This is fun, but not a necessity. We could give that up, which would save, what? About $8 a month? I buy La Croix sparkling water, and this is a total splurge. It’s a fun drink that I could give up. Again, this offers a savings of just a few dollars every month.

Could I (tearfully) give up on buying a grass fed cow every year? Maybe. But even with that, would I really be saving money? Buying our meat in bulk like this really cuts the cost down.

And speaking of cows, I really can’t skimp on the meat at our house, as far as quantity. I feed my boys plenty of rice, potatoes, and pasta to help fill them. But they never feel satisfied without substantial protein.

groceries 411

How about produce? The thought of cutting back on fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables makes me feel sick inside. Our bodies need nourishment from these, and I would hate to cut back. Fruits and veggies are a big part of our meals, and I believe the variety of nutrients they provide helps to keep my boys feeling satisfied, especially when compared to cheap crackers or whatever else I’d offer to fill in the gaps.

Also? I’ve already stopped buying “only organic.” I gave that up several years ago when I realized the cost was keeping us from eating enough fruits and vegetables. I buy organic when the price is reasonable, but otherwise, I trust that God is bigger and we just wash and eat the nourishing conventional produce. (I save a lot of money price-matching our produce, so I’m so thankful our Wal-mart still offers this!)

We already skip the milk. We buy one gallon each week (to use for cooking) from a local farmer, so it is organic and grass fed. But one gallon. For $5.00. It’s more expensive than store-bought, but the $20 I spend on milk each month doesn’t make or break my budget.

So I guess that brings me back to:

My family eats a lot of food.

That, and we feed extra people quite frequently.

Our grocery budget allows for including extras around our table regularly, and for that, I’m extremely thankful. I wouldn’t want to ever give that up, and God continues to provide so I don’t have to.

But truly, if I had to cut back on my grocery budget, I think my kids would be hungry.

Either that or I think they might get sick more frequently. There’s no way to know that for sure, I guess, but after so many years of filling them with nourishing foods, including a lot of fruits and vegetables, I really think their bodies are thriving on the nutrients. To cut back and substitute them with “filler foods” could potentially hurt them and make our doctor bills increase. Worth it? Absolutely not.

This is where I land for my family right now. If our income decreased and we would need to cut budget in order to make it, food would be one of the last things I would/could adjust. And I know, without a doubt, that God would provide for my family’s needs. He is God and we never need to doubt him.

If I had to cut back on my grocery budget

What are your thoughts on this topic? If you had to cut back on grocery spending, what would you/could you cut out?

A Freebie for you!

Here’s something exciting!

Want a recipe eBooklet full of my Top 10 Money Saving Recipes? Join our Heavenly Homemakers Savings Club, and we’ll send it to you for FREE! (Joining means we’ll also keep you informed of all the latest money saving groceries and homemaking items we come across. A win-win!)

Top 10 Money Saving Recipes

Sign up to join our Heavenly Homemakers Savings Club here.

Also for Savings Club Members, we just finished a project we started a couple years ago (no time like the present, right?).

Another NEW Freebie for you!

30 Real Food Money Saving Tips
If you’ve been reading here for a while, you might remember that about two years ago (I’m embarrassed that it’s been that long!) I asked all of you to submit your best ways of saving money on real food. I FINALLY compiled these into a fun downloadable resource for you!

This eBooklet is full of 30 Real Food Money Saving Tips. This resource is super practical and easy to read through. I bet you’ll find some ideas you hadn’t thought of before, some that you can work toward now, and some that might benefit you in a different season.

It’s free for all and it’s loaded with tips! Get it here —->

Sign up to join our Heavenly Homemakers Savings Club here.

What are your best ways of saving money on real food?