In Honor of My Oldest Son’s 20th Birthday

Every single year when Asa’s birthday rolls around, my sister-in-law Kari lovingly shoots me this message, “You don’t look old enough to have a ___ year old!” This obviously moves her SIL ranking up significantly, and I will watch for these yearly messages every June from now until forever.

She has sent me that message now four handfuls of times because friends, today I have a 20 year old. Please join Kari as together you all say in unison, “You can’t possibly be old enough to have a 20 year old.”

Aww, shucks. Do you really mean it?

This is the amazing man that gave me the name “Mom” 20 years ago today. Asa John, my firstborn.

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Twenty years. Four sons. The significance of what this 20-year journey has been and continues to be lands me in a place of wonderment. Sure, part of that awe results from the fact that my kids are all huge 6-foot something people and I’m way down here in the 5’s. But much of what I’m treasuring in my heart goes far beyond their physical growth during these two decades.

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When I realized a few months ago that Asa’s 20th birthday was approaching, I was beautifully touched with this humble realization:

Without knowing it, Asa is the one who taught me to pray.

  • Through each new phase as he and his brothers have grown up together
  • As each new season in life approached and I looked ahead toward a myriad of unknowns
  • While I so often struggled to find the right words to say while training and shaping my kids’ hearts
  • While I fully desire for my children to choose Jesus
  • As I discovered over and over that my weaknesses could only be made perfect through the power of the Cross

I learned how to pray.

It’s the kind of prayer that says, “I believe. Help me overcome my unbelief.” It’s the conversation with God that proclaims, “I can’t do this alone. But I trust that I can do it with You.” And it’s the surrendered heart’s cry ready to welcome the true love, peace, and joy that can only be provided by our perfect Father.

I continue to learn that if I want to live in the fullness of His peace, I have no choice but to completely trust God with my kids.

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I meet Him each morning in the quiet, while all of the house is still sleeping. I wake up with coffee and Jesus, choosing a different colored mug to fill each day, praying specifically for my kids, as each mug directly represents one of my four sons. I drink in the goodness, I fill up with Truth, and I learn day after day to more fully let go of self and embrace the promises of God for my family.

Dear Asa,

On this, your 20th birthday, I say thank you. Thank you for teaching me to pray. I’m honored today to dedicate my newest book to you. I wrote it because of you…because of you and your brothers.

Asa, Justus, Elias, and Malachi – thank you for teaching me to look to our Savior as I strive to fully trust His goodness for our lives.

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Dear Friends,

It is with great joy that I introduce you to The Prayer Mugs.

It is a book filled with scripture truth and parenting encouragement. Throughout its 96 pages, you’ll get to walk with me as I share precious pieces of the past 20 years of my parenting journey – the journey that is teaching me the truth about God’s faithfulness in our lives.

You can be sure that the pages of this book are lovingly stained with coffee and tears. I’m guessing you’ll find a chuckle here and there. Most importantly, my hope is that this book will land you in a place of peace as you spend time praying for your children and learn more about all God has to offer our families through His word and His promises.

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The Prayer Mugs includes 96 pages with 10 detailed “Prayer Mug Lessons.” It’s full of our stories. It’s full of scripture and study questions. It’s full of specific prayer guides. It’s full of beautifully designed scripture printables.

You’ll read. You’ll dig into the Word. You’ll journal (if that’s your thing). You’ll pray, you’ll pray, you’ll pray. You will love this glorious time with God and you can be sure that your life as a parent will be changed.

It’s the kind of change that is not to be feared, but rather embraced, as time in the Word and in prayer set us free and fill us all with hope and joy!

Snag and download your copy of The Prayer Mugs. Grab your Bible. Fill your mug. Drink in the good and perfect promises of God. Release all parenting burdens and joyfully grab hold of Truth as you perfect the art of trusting the Father with your kids’ hearts and lives.

Pray. Trust. Coffee. Repeat.

It doesn’t get any better than that.

Get your copy of The Prayer Mugs here —>

The Prayer Mugs
Grab your mug. Fill it to the top. Download your Prayer Mugs eBook and enjoy the richness it offers as you surrender your kids to God.​​​​​​​ 96 pages filled with lessons I've learned through 20 years of parenting, scripture, encouragement, printables, journaling pages, and truth.
Price: $18.00

P.S. No one is required to drink coffee while reading this book. I hear some people don’t like coffee. This is curious but perfectly acceptable. :)

P.P.S. This book is for parents of kids from newborn to adult. Once a parent, always a parent. May we always and forever pray for our children in full faith that God is absolutely at work in their lives.

Question of the week:

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“Laura, where can we get cool mugs to go with this book?”

Aha! Good question. The answer is that any mugs will work – any cups that carry a special link to your child(ren).

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But if you want to copy the idea of having a different colored mug assigned to each of your kids, here are some suggestions for you. (And by the way, my cabinet also holds a mug that represents my marriage, one that represents a dear friend, and one that represents a young girl from church that I pray for. If it was practical, I’ll fill my entire kitchen with mugs to represent different people and prayer concerns, simply because I love this practice so much!)

Find mugs that fit your family and preferences. Pray, Trust, Coffee, Repeat.

Some of these links are my affiliate links.

Traveling With Kids? 65+ Free and Inexpensive Ideas to Make the Trip Easier and Fun!

Forget the parts about babies screaming in their car seats, siblings getting in each other’s space in the back seat, and ineffectively trying to get restless children to actually sleep in a hotel bed.

Traveling is fun!

Well, parts of it anyway.

65 Free and Inexpensive Road Trip Ideas

If you’re hitting the road this summer with your family, we pray you make more great memories than bad ones (though I speak from experience when I say that even most of the bad ones turn into good ones eventually). We pray for wonderful experiences and fantastic adventures. We pray that even Mom and Dad have a good time and get to relax! Is this too much to ask?

Free and Inexpensive Road Trip Ideas and Activities

To make a road trip fun for the kids and hopefully more relaxing for the parents, we’ve put together a fantastic list of ideas and activities, as well as a huge packet of free printables for you. A huge thanks to my friend, Kim, for once again helping me compile this list of ideas. Wait till you see!

First the free printable pack!

Free Summer Travel Printables

You will want this packet of printables to go along with many of the ideas listed below! Print the pages that work well for each of your kids and put together a binder for them to take along on the trip. With these printables your kids can:

  • Journal with pictures or words throughout the trip
  • Play “I Spy” with Letters, Numbers, Shapes, Colors, and State License Plates
  • Spot road signs and different kinds of vehicles – challenging themselves to see how many they can find
  • More (details to come!)

Sign up to receive this FREE Printables Pack here. Once you’ve signed up, watch for an email, confirm your subscription, and your printables packet will be in your inbox soon!

More Travel Ideas that Are Free

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Are you ready for this? We’ve got over 65 great ideas to help make traveling with kids fun and easy. Here we go with ideas that cost absolutely nothing!

  • Toy Swap! Borrow toys and books from a friend to take along on the trip. This will seem like “new toys” to your kids but will cost nothing!
  • Take along library books, audio books, and movies.
  • Coupon Fun! Use the printable coupons in the packet above to provide your kids with fun incentives and treats to look forward to. (For example: “This coupon entitles you to sit by Mom. …to choose the movie. …to have a special drink.)
  • Borrow fun music CDs from friends that will be new to your family.

Super Inexpensive Travel Activity Ideas

  • Hit garage sales and thrift stores to pick up “new” toys and books inexpensively. Pull them out one at a time on the trip!
  • If your kids are old enough, aluminum foil is great for making origami shapes or molding/scrunching into various shapes. It can be used over and over!
  • Take stickers and a spiral notebook or scratch paper: Little ones enjoy the fun of peeling off the stickers and putting them on paper at random. Bigger kids can make scenes with them, then use crayons or colored pencils to make a bigger scene. (Consider including this in a binder in put together for your kids which includes the above Travel Packet Printables!) Here’s an awesome sticker pack that is a great value.

Inexpensive Travel Activity Ideas

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Arts and Crafts on the Road

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Travel Items Worth the Investing In

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Audio Book Suggestions

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Borrow these from the library or invest in them to keep in your car for all your road trips!

Rest Stop Activities

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Hotel Activities

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Travel Games

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Fun Travel Snacks and Drinks

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*TIP* Purchase a gallon of water to keep in the car. Refill individual water bottles as needed. Sometimes it’s fun to surprise the kids with a new water bottle for a big trip! These choices are great for bigger kids. Here’s a great sippy cup for littlesGrown-ups and teens might like this one.

Recipes for the Road

Peanut Butter Cookie Bites - No Bake!

I am so in love with all these ideas! Thank you, Kim, for lending your expertise and creativity!

Everyone please pitch in to share your ideas too. And be sure to sign up to receive this FREE Printables Pack here. I love the fun of this packet to make traveling more enjoyable!

A Mom’s Musings on Fidget Spinners, Dabbing, and Other Fabulous Fads

If I never hear or see another bottle being flipped in an effort to “land it” or “cap it,” that will be soon enough for me, so help my frazzled nerves. The bottle flipping craze lasted for 37 long days at my house, resulting in partially full bottles being left in various corners and under beds all over our house, and a mom who constantly said, “If you’re going to do that, you need to please go far away from me so I don’t have to hear it.”

As hobbies and fads go, bottle flipping was the least expensive ever known to man, as there was no purchase necessary so long as one held onto bottles previous purchased and consumed the contents therein. Score one for bottle flipping. Free entertainment for children everywhere.

Also, bottle flipping was harmless entertainment (though not according to my friend’s son who acquired a black eye from an unfortunate bottle flipping incident). Overall, if one had to select a trend for kids to become crazy over, bottle flipping wouldn’t be the worst choice. Sure I found it loud, nerve wracking, and obnoxious. Yet, I took a few turns and landed my share of flipped bottles, because if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

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Then overnight I realized it’s been quite some time since I’ve seen a bottle poking out from under a bed or heard one being flipped as kids everywhere are spinning and fidgeting and fidgeting and spinning. The infamous fidget spinners are the latest craze, at least as of 12:57 pm, CST, May 27, 2017. Said spinners were created to help students with ADHD, but according to all moms, teachers, and child care providers – Fidget Spinners have now taken over the world.

Our youngest played with one at a friends house a few weeks ago, then talked of nothing else for 159 hours, reminding us of how hard he had been working lately to earn and save money so surely spending $4 of his hard earned dollars on this absolute necessity wasn’t too much to ask. Of course there were none to be found in our small town, so four trips to every store later, we ordered some online and had to wait impatiently for their arrival.

Even if all four of my sons is using one at the same time, the noise of these spinners is nothing compared to the jolt of a landed bottle flip – in my opinion and experience. Granted, I am not a teacher in a classroom so I have not had to deal with what some educators are facing with the spinners, God bless you one and all.

A Mom's Musings on Fabulous Fads

Regarding all things that fit into the fad category whether it’s fidget spinning, bottle flipping, dabbing, or whatever will become “the thing” five minutes after I publish this post – I have a few words to say to parents:

This too shall pass.

Therefore…

  • Pick your battles.
  • Help your children choose wisely.

I didn’t love (understatement) bottles being flipped over and over and over right under my face while I was trying to concentrate on writing articles or help a kid with an assignment. But unless I had instructed otherwise, there was no harm done by bottle flipping – so long it was done far away in another room so I didn’t have to listen to it. My kids actually made some pretty fun competitions with them, and praise be, it was active and didn’t involve a screen.

Fidget spinners? They personally make me dizzy, but all four of my kids say they actually concentrate better while fidgeting, so spin away, my children. (But put them away while you’re at church or in Bible class so you aren’t distracting others or slowly killing your teachers.)

Dabbing? We’re already looking back at that one as a thing we all did back in 2016.

And can you believe overalls and high waist jeans have made a come back, even though I undoubtedly did my part to kill off these trends back in 1988?

What have we learned from these motherhood musings over fidget spinners and the like?

We’ve learned that all parents everywhere need to remember that some things are worth fighting over and some are not. If it’s not causing harm and it’s not sinful, we can probably chill out about it – though we can ask our kids to take the “fun” to another room so we will still remember how to smile.

We’ve learned that fads come and go as quickly as purple kool-aid hair. Therefore, it’s wise to guide our children in using discernment when making a purchase of the latest thing or tatooing it forever onto their left cheek.

We’ve learned that Laura landed a bottle flip a time or two, which makes us all impressed and proud.

And we’ve learned that dabbing mostly is out and overalls are actually back, at least for today.

Share with me your love/hate relationship with whatever is the latest trend at your house…

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. It’s filled with hundreds of ideas of activities to help your child learn letter sounds while learning to serve!

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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 this reason:

 

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.

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?)

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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.


I heart 99 out of 100 school related things. Hyperbole is my favorite literary device.

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.

 

What Happens When a Mom Takes a Step Back

Well, honestly, sometimes when this mama takes a step back (literally), I fall over (actually). I’m just not as spry or coordinated as I used to be, and also sometimes the reason I’m falling is because I have tripped over the groceries my kids didn’t put away after I asked them twice.

Which leads me to a big point of this post.

It is rare that my kids will do exactly as I ask, immediately after I ask. I often have to say things twice or twelve times. They hardly ever come right when I call. Sometimes I say, “Put all your shoes away before you head up for the night” but then I find all the shoes exactly where they shouldn’t be in the morning. We can be sure that if I didn’t tell them to pick up their sweatshirts, all of the hoodies in the world would stay on the floor forever.

One of my kids always forgets to rinse his dishes even though that’s been our practice after every single meal for every single day of his entire life. Getting my kids out of bed in the mornings requires much more than a cute wake-up song, and I often hear about all the parts of life that aren’t fair.

This is what I do all day. I am Mom. I am blessed to be with my kids all day, but the thing is that I AM WITH MY KIDS ALL DAY.

It is my responsibility to educate and train them in everything ranging from geography to kindness to algebra to selflessness. I’m intentional about preparing them to be godly husbands, leaders, servants, employees, people. So every time one of their weaknesses flares or their response to an assignment, chore, brother, friend, or parent is less than ideal – I am on it! I instruct, reprimand, encourage, cry, offer suggestions, pray, and yep, sometimes even yell.

I see their weaknesses; no doubt they see mine.

What I sometimes fail to see is their strengths. Their gifts, talents, leadership abilities, Christ-like hearts, tenderness, humor, care, compassion – those are all there in my kids too, in abundance. But I all too often forget to notice the greatness through all the crusty socks that never made it upstairs to the basket.

It’s when I take a step back that I see the good that’s been there all along. It’s there in spite of me and even a little bit because of me. Mostly it’s there because God is at work in my kids and He wants their good even more than I.

When I step back I see…

  • My oldest, almost 20 now, being loved by so many on the college campus, taking a lead he doesn’t even know he’s taking, just because people are drawn to him. He rocks at videography, already utilizing his skills professionally. When he talks about his special girl, his voice is gentle and sweet. He loves the Lord and continues to learn what it means to live for Him.

asa2sm

Photo cred goes to the man himself

When I step back I see…

  • My 17-year old being a leader on the basketball court, encouraging his younger teammates, motivating his youth group peers to join him in a service project, teaching younger kids how to play soccer, talking sweetly to an elderly lady. I hear the music he creates and I am blown away that my kid has ability like this. I hear his poetry, the words of which tell me of his talent and of his heart for God.

justus31

When I step back I see…

  • My 15-year old coming out of his shell, making people laugh, talking to me about the sweet girl he likes, getting the door for people coming in behind him, and spoon feeding our disabled friend. I see him cheerfully making trips back and forth from apartment to truck as he helps another disabled friend load heavy furniture. I hear him confidently singing a solo on stage for the first time, fulfilling roles we never could have dreamed he’d be willing to step into. I hear him pray at night, amazed at his growing relationship with God.

elias2sm

When I step back I see…

  • My 12-year old being the “big kid” that the little kids at church flock to. I see him confidently teasing adults and making them laugh. I see him hugging the man whose wife is dying, making the gentleman smile through his tears. I watch him on stage, acting as if he was born to be in character. I see him excited to finally have a chance to go on a mission trip this summer with his older brothers, and I see him with tears in his eyes as he says, “Mom and Dad, I am ready to be baptized.”

malachi3sm

When I take a step back, I see all of this, and I don’t even have to look hard. This is all there because at their very core, this is who my children are.

In the thick of parenting, instructing, teaching, planning, dreaming, longing, and probably not sleeping quite enough – too often parents are only able see to the tip of the arguments and to the end of the unmade bed. Stepping back, we see the entire picture – the one that is beautifully painted with caring children, strengths that shine through the weaknesses, and a God who is at work to bring out His purposes for these darlings who are dearest to us.

To all who are in very middle of this parenting adventure: Take a step back. What are your children doing well? Where do they shine? In what ways have they grown? Bring it all to mind. Sit there for a while, and bask in the sweetness. It’s peaceful there and it is very real.

It is in this place, the place of stepping back, that we can remember our purpose and joy as parents. We remember that good shines brighter than bad, and that God is powerfully at work in both our children and in us.

Then hopefully, next time we trip over the backpack that got dropped right in the middle of the floor, we can recall to mind the heart of the child that left it there, even as we holler once again for said child to come put the backpack where it goes before we throw it into the fireplace.

What Happens When a Mom Takes a Step Back

Please take a turn! I got to share about each of my sons. Will you please take a minute, step back to see the good in each of your kids, and leave a comment to share that good with us?

Dear Teenage Girls (From the Mom of Four Teenage Boys)

Dear Teenage Girls,

I think you all know how much I love spending time with you. I’m the only one of “our kind” at my house, so any time I’m with one or more of you and we can talk about sparkly things like toenail polish, cute dresses, and all of our feeeeeelings, I find it so refreshing and fun. You girl people are so neat. I can’t wait until the day four of you are my daughters-in-law. Truly, we will have so much fun together.

I wouldn’t trade my life with a houseful of men for anything in the entire world, and I cherish my life for exactly what it is. This leads me to share my mom-thoughts with you, from a “mother of boys” perspective.

family1sm

I want to assure you of what we do intentionally at our house.

First and foremost, we are teaching our boys about their need for Jesus and inviting them to seek Him alongside us. Because of that, we are working to train our boys to respect you, to treat you with care, and to show you every kindness. There aren’t any other females in our house, so whether they know it or not, our boys get to practice all these skills on me, their mom.

It melts my heart every time my boys open a door for me. (Having four sons and a husband, it is a fact that I have not had to open a door for myself in so many years that I don’t even remember how to do this task.)

My sons have learned to allow me to walk in ahead of them, to tell me “thank you” when I’ve done something for them (all day long, thank you very much), and to listen to me when I’m going into far greater detail and using many more words than they might prefer. They’ve learned to hug me when I’m teary-eyed, to let me talk when I want to share something God put on my heart, and to carry all the heavy stuff. (I have zero to prove about how “I can do everything a man can do.” I absolutely can’t, plus I’m often too busy doing so many of the less-heavy-but-equally-needed jobs around here. So can the gentlemen get the luggage and carry the boxes and open the jars? Yes, they most certainly can.)

Also, my men clear and rinse their own dishes after every meal and always, always put the toilet seat down. Unfortunately, they still do not see all their stuff laying around on the living room table and floor and think to carry it to their room at the end of the day. I’ve done everything I can – their wives must take it from here.

This might all seem like physical training (dishes, luggage, doors), but I believe what our sons are learning is that you, darling girl, deserve to be cared for, honored, respected, and loved.

Do my boys sometimes say or do something inappropriate, crude, or disrespectful? Of course. So do I. I guess it runs in the family, or maybe it just shows that no matter how noble our efforts, each of us is human and needs a Savior.

So, assuming that you, as a teenage girl, are also seeking Jesus, I want to encourage you to never compromise your Godly desires. That respect you want from others? Show that very same level of respect to yourself and to everyone around you – guys and gals alike. When respect meets respect, a relationship becomes un-pressured, fun, and all around great.

I know what you’re thinking. But, not to worry. This isn’t the part of the letter where I say, “Therefore, this is how I think you should dress and how you should carry yourself and how you should sit and…”

No. Because I’m absolutely sure that if you desire God’s greatness in your life and in your relationships, you’ve already set a high standard for yourself in all these areas. You and I know that being a Godly person isn’t about following all the rules. Words like “dress modestly” and “act appropriately” land precariously all over a wide spectrum depending on each person’s perspective and experiences. Yes (for the love of my teenage, Jesus-seeking sons) do both. But do them with a pure heart motive because you are choosing God’s best, not because the purity rules dictate such behavior.

Rules get us nowhere, but a heart’s conviction and desire to put others before ourselves and to seek God’s Truth in all things – well, that will change everything about how you and I see life as we strive for Kingdom living.

So, Girls. I’ll continue to do my part in raising (hopeful) future husbands, fathers, men of God. You do your part in seeking His goodness in every area of your life as a (hopeful) future wife, mother, woman of God.

At all times, keep the Truth in mind about who you are. Hold tight to your “list.” (I know you’ve got one. It’s the list of everything you want in a guy. I had one too. About the time I thought my list was too unrealistic – like there wasn’t a guy on the planet that would meet all my expectations – I finally met him. Then he exceeded my expectations and he even wanted to marry me. God is faithful – to me and to you. Never forget this.)

Above all, seek Jesus and trust His promises. Treat others as you want to be treated – from the cute guy in Bible class to the elderly lady at the grocery store.

Teenage girls, you are dear to me. I am on your team, in your corner, and cheering you on with more love and longing in my heart than you might be able to imagine.

Seek Jesus, choose goodness, and keep on being adorable. You are cherished.

With love ,

Laura, mother of teenage boys

Dear Teenage Girls

Free New Summer Reading Challenge Printables For Your Family

When my kids were little, we went to the library every week during the summer for the special Summer Reading Program they offered. This kept our boys excited about books and they loved the opportunity they had to win small prizes and meet challenges.

As most of our boys hit the upper grades and outgrew the library program, I saw that our younger two boys needed a little extra motivation to read during the weeks of summer they were home. (Our older two are welcome to participate also, but they tend to be gone more than they are home during June and July.) So we started creating our own Summer Reading Challenge here at home. I set up a simple reward system – tailor made to what I knew would motivate them! I wrote about this last year and offered some free printables. This year, I made more to share with you!

For you, Summer Reading Challenge Printables

Create Your Own Summer Reading Challenge

I’ll share how our family sets this up, then of course you can adapt it to meet your needs if the Summer Reading Challenge idea works for you!

1. Set up a system.

Decide how many minutes or hours your child needs to read before he/she earns a reward. Do the minutes/hours count if the child is being read to, or do they need to read on their own? How will you keep track of time spent reading? (I recommend using these charts!)

2. Talk to your child(ren) about what rewards would be fun motivation for them.

Our kids earn a prize after they have read for five hours. Typically our family’s prizes get a little bigger as they read more and more hours. Here are a few our kids came up with that they would enjoy:

  • Redbox movie rental
  • $1 ice cream cone from Runza
  • Choose something from the Dollar Store
  • Invite a friend for a sleep-over
  • $2 Happy Hour Big Pizza Slice at Pizza Hut
  • Drink from Captain Red Beard’s (our local coffee shop)
  • Still brainstorming :)

3. Put it all into a chart.

My oldest boys don’t care about a cutesy chart to log their hours, but Malachi (age 11) still enjoys one. (However, even the older boys need to at least log their hours in a notebook so they don’t lose track.) The rewards are usually listed on our fridge.

This year, Malachi will use the Pirate Chart I made. (For some reason he didn’t choose the Flowers and Butterflies Chart?!?)

Free Summer Reading Challenge Printable Charts

I’ve made these charts as generic as possible so that you can use them in whatever way your family prefers. The Pirate Chart and the Flowers and Butterflies Chart can be used a little differently than the others that are for writing lists and checking off goals. Consider writing prizes on each cut-out piece for your child to glue onto the chart once they’ve earned that particular prize.

Grab your free printables!

These are free for everyone and will connect you to our fun Heavenly Homemaker’s Learning Zone. It’s free, of course.

Enter your email address here, then check your inbox for download instructions. Print one, print them all, use them in whatever ways work best for your family to enjoy reading this summer!

If you are already subscribed to Heavenly Homemaker’s Learning Zone, you should have received an email yesterday giving you instant access to this freebie. Look in your inbox for the subject: FREE Summer Reading Challenge Charts!