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!

On Thursday I Killed the Chicken (so I took pictures)

 

Of course I got excited when I found antibiotic-free, hormone-free, happy-happy chicken marked down for quick sale on Wednesday. I bought a sack full and planned to throw it on the grill to have with salads at lunch the next day. It would be easy, delicious, and nourishing. It was bone-in, so I could cook the chicken slow and low while still getting little bits of work done around the house. Yep. I had it all planned out.

Around 11:45 I fired up the grill. The chicken soon started to sizzled happily. I went back into the house for a few minutes. After all, the chicken didn’t need a babysitter.

Except that apparently it did.

When I went back outside after “letting the chicken cook low and slow” for several minutes, I noticed that the outside of the grill looked slightly discolored. Weird. I also noticed that the air didn’t smell like yummy chicken. It smelled…burned. Weird.

I opened the grill. WHAT????? Noooooooo!

Check it out. I killed the chicken.

burned chicken

I don’t know what actually took place in the few minutes between placing the chicken on the grill and going back to check on it, but judging from the looks of things, I’m thinking the entire interior of the grill caught fire. (I guess the fat from the skin of the chicken was just too drippy?)

Score none for Mom. (I mean, I didn’t burn down the entire house, so I guess I’ll take a half a point for that.)

I immediately got mad at the burned chicken. I got mad at the grill. Mad at myself. Mad at the kids (because when I apologized to them and told them what happened, a couple of them came back at me with attitude about “having to eat leftovers again.” Then I got mad at myself again for raising children who would actually complain about leftovers.

It was my finest hour.

I even went so far as to decide not to take any stupid pictures or write a stupid post about it. (As you can see, I’ve chilled out since Thursday.)

Sometimes I can burn chicken and laugh about it. Thursday was not one of those days. I had too much to do, not enough time, and I needed lunch to cook itself. When it didn’t – I snapped.

I know life isn’t perfect and I’ll never arrive at perfect homemaker, perfect mom, perfect wife, perfect chicken cooker. I know this. But I guess I still want the status of practically perfect. Why is that? Why is it that I ruin lunch and get mad? Why is it that after running around for three days this weekend serving people, loving people, and being with my family – I look at my filthy kitchen and get frustrated that I can’t do it all?

I guess where I land is that I constantly need truth checks. What is truth? Am I failing or not doing enough? Most importantly:

What does God ask of me?

Truth tells me that my dirty kitchen and burned chicken are a tiny piece of my daily puzzle and that other pieces are bigger and carry more weight. Truth tells me that many of my daily puzzle pieces fit together perfectly, even without me trying. Truth tells me that I don’t have to do all and be all because Jesus already is. Truth tells me that I’m rocking this job even when I don’t – because Christ’s power is made perfect in my weaknesses.

These thoughts are brought to you today by completely blackened chicken and a sink full of crusty pots and pans with a side of crumbs and sticky counter-tops.

I had to pray over my mess, and these are the truths that rose to the top. I guess it’s a good thing I decided to take a picture of that chicken.

The Easy and Hard Parts of Raising Teenagers

I continue to be shocked at how much busier life is now that three out of four of our boys are teenagers (and our youngest is a pre-teen). I didn’t know it was possible to actually get busier. After all – life was busy enough already.

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Five minutes ago they were babies. 

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Here’s our family with my brother’s family about a month ago.
See all the tall blond boys men? Those are my babies.

There were a few years post baby stage and pre teenage stage when life was busy but not so overwhelming. Then about two years ago the just try and keep up stage hit when our third son turned teenager. (At that time our boys were senior, freshman, 7th grader, and 4th grader). 

I tried to figure out what I was doing wrong as somehow, I was no longer getting as much done as I used to. Why – with the boys being more independent than ever – do they seem to need me more than they used to? Why do I seem to have more interruptions when I’m at my desk trying to write or work on other business responsibilities? Why I am so behind on everything all the time? Why can’t my house stay clean (or actually get clean in the first place)?

I mean, I haven’t had to take anyone potty for years. The boys get themselves up in the morning, get themselves ready for bed at night, and do a good portion of their school work on their own. They can all cook, do laundry, clean the kitchen, and do a dozens of chores around the house and yard.

I thought life would be much easier once we hit this stage. I remember looking at moms of teenagers back when my kids were all little and I would think, “Oh that will be so nice when the kids are older and can do things for themselves. She must have so much freedom now!”

And that very mom would look at me with all my littles and say, “Oh it was so nice when they were all little. I miss those calm days.”

What was she – crazy??? Yes, moms of teenagers must be crazy, I decided. They’ve forgotten what it’s like to have little ones and I will never, ever say that to a young mom when I grow older.

Now here I am. Older. 

I understand what the older mom meant now. I still vow to never tell a young mom that “she has it easy” as she runs and chases and wipes and hugs and kisses and corrects and runs and chases and wipes…” What a young mom does all day is hard. It’s great and it’s amazing and it’s precious – but it’s hard. So there, young mom. You amaze me. You go, girl! You love those babies!! You are fantastic and if I could, I would take over all the wiping and holding for a few hours so you could all take a nap and go to the store by yourself.

But alas. I’m so busy with my big, independent children that I can’t possibly follow through with this offer. I know it sounds weird. Life got easier as the kids got older, but then it got harder again as I started raising teenagers. Let me break it all down.

The Easy and Hard Parts of Raising Teenagers

The Easy Parts of Raising Teenagers

Loving them

If you think you love your kids when they are little, just wait until you see God at work in them when they are older. They get bigger and so does your love for them. This is for real. It is nothing short of amazing to watch their talents develop, to listen to them share their experiences, and to be a part of their victories. You know how you look at your child and feel such intense love that your breath catches mid-inhale? That happens more and more when they’re older. For some reason, my eyes tear up more often too. It’s a love thing and I can’t help it.

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Our third son Elias, teen #3 at our house, playing soccer last fall

Enjoying their help

I rarely clean a toilet or run the vacuum. My kids are the full-time dishwasher loaders and unloaders. I haven’t folded or put away one clothing item for any of my sons for five years. To think – I used to do most of the household tasks by myself while I was nursing a baby and potty training a toddler and everything else. It’s exhausting to think about (so again I salute you young moms). I love that the boys are so capable of helping so much.

Going places without them

I can run to the store by myself and nobody even blinks. I get home from the store and don’t have to unload a single bag because I holler at the boys and they come do it. I can say, “I’m heading out for XYZ – have your Math and English finished by the time I get back and also load the dishwasher” – and they do (usually).

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Our fourth son, Malachi (second from the right),
hanging out with buddies at a recent church event

Going places with them

My kids dress themselves, tie their own shoes, gather all their belongings, fill their own water bottles, climb into the car by themselves, and buckle their own seat-belts. Whatever needs to be loaded into the van: they load it. After more than a decade of diaper bags, diaper blow outs, car seats, and sippy cups – I don’t take for granted that we can all be out the door and in the van in one minute flat.

Hanging out with them.

My kids are FUN!!!!! We enjoy grown up conversation, grown up humor, grown up prayer time, grown up Bible discussions, grown up music, and grown up teamwork (serving together). My kids make me laugh all the time. Teenagers are incredibly fun.

The Hard Parts of Raising Teenagers

Keeping up with them

Our teens have chosen (with our blessing) to be very involved in many activities. They are leaders in our church youth group and therefore highly involved with activities several times each week. They participate in sports. They referee soccer (for pay). They attend several weeks of church camp during the summer either as a counselor or as a camper. They take part in home-school activities. Two of our kids take piano lessons and one of them takes guitar lessons.

There’s the ACT to prepare for, spending 50 hours with them behind the wheel so they can earn their driver’s license, and filling out high school transcripts. Their school work is intense and takes much longer than it used to. Our high-schoolers take college classes.

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Justus, our second son, just before the Homeschool Prom 2016

Our kids have so many great opportunities they have to pick and choose and say “no” to some. In the meantime we are their biggest support, cheerleaders, taxi service, and consultants. They need a lot of consulting, “Mom, what do you think I should…” “Will it work if J and F come over and we…” “Can you come listen to my…” “I’m not sure how to word this email…”

They don’t need me to wipe their noses anymore. Instead they need me to help them fill out applications, meet deadlines, decide when to say “yes” and when to say “no,” proofread a paper, order something online, make major decisions. Their needs are weightier, their questions are bigger, and I’ve found that if one boy doesn’t need me another one does – all day long. I consider this a great honor, you can be sure. I love that they need me. I love being a part of all that they are a part of. But keeping up? Just whatever about that pile of clothes on my bedroom chair that never gets hung up. Maybe I’ll get to it after Malachi graduates.

Getting to bed at a decent time

These kids. They stay up late. Often their evening activities find us stumbling in the door at way past my brain dead time. Most nights I’m zonked and they’re still going strong. Gone are the days we’d put the boys to bed then have a little time to ourselves. Which leads me to…

Carving out time with Matt

It has become hard for Matt and me to find alone time together. We have to make this a priority or we will go for way too long without having an actual conversation. (“Can you drive him to guitar lessons or do you need me to?” doesn’t count.) This blindsided me as again, I assumed I’d have more time with Matt as the kids got older.

So we’re prayerful and intentional about making time for each other, asking God to provide since logistically we can’t seem to figure it out.

Helping them navigate relationships

Since all my kids are of the male variety, they tend to be a little quieter with the details of their relationships. Still, there’s no doubt that what our boys work through with their friends and with those of the female variety are by far different and in many ways much more difficult than the “Bobby won’t let me play with him” issues of their little boy years.

Our job as parents is challenged by questions like how much do we say? and should we step in and offer advice or let them work it out? Prayer plays a huge role here as we seek the Spirit’s leading on when to talk, when to keep quiet – and if we are to speak, what we are to say. As the Spirit leads, we offer guidance, share our own experiences, and continually pray for our boys to be open to God’s work and protection in their relationships.

Seeing them struggle

Not every experience our boys has is a ray of sunshine. There have been times where confidence was shattered, tests were failed, they do or say things that is more selfish than godly, the list goes on.

As delightful as it is to watch God grow them into talented, strong, incredibly amazing young men – we also see their weak spots. It was hard to deal with their weaknesses when they were little – but they only showed up in little ways then (not that I call a tantrum at the grocery store little – oy!). Now that they are big – so are their struggles – personally, spiritually, and emotionally. I always thought I could help them “grow out of” their weaknesses. (Yes, my plan was to raise perfect children.)

Indeed, they have grown and conquered in many areas. But just like I still struggle with sin and always will – our grown up boys struggle with sin and always will. We continue striving toward godliness in every area. But we’re not going to launch perfect robotic offspring who are completely prepared to conquer the world and who will never face trials or mess up. We’re raising children who need a Savior and must seek Him constantly.

It’s been important for me to remember God’s truths: He is victorious, He is protector, He is provider, He has plans prepared in advance for all of us, He is Lord.

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Our oldest, Asa, back row, right side, 6’4″ blond – singing in the York College Concert Choir

Letting them go

While this is a challenge, this one is actually beautiful and rewarding. Our oldest son has almost completed his first year away from home and we are watching him thrive and struggle and love life and limp along and be amazing all at the same time. He is teenager turning adult and he’s showing us that letting go is not so sad but rather triumphant.

No Matter What Stage

Our strength comes from the Lord. Our wisdom comes from the Lord. Our words, our actions, our decisions – everything we do must be couched in prayer and offered in humility. God leads and provides everything we need for every stage of parenting.

Perhaps this is the best truth I’ve learned after being a mom for almost 19 years: I can’t do this without Jesus and I don’t have to. From baby to adult – He is Lord of our home.

What stage are you in currently? What do you find to be the easiest parts and hardest parts of parenting your kids right now?

 

Kid Cooking Skills and Character Training – At the Same Time! (A Fun Freebie for You!)

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I’m so excited to give you all this freebie today! I mean, you get a book, not the cute kid making muffins up there. He’s mine. All mine.

I’ve been getting Malachi into the kitchen with me more and more since we started working our way through Katie’s Kids Cook Real Food eCourse a few weeks ago. (The class isn’t open to join right now, but I love it so much that I’m sweet talking Katie into offering you a special promo here in a couple of weeks.) I’ve been amazed to watch Malachi’s skills improve and his confidence grow in just a short time.

I’d say I’m working myself out of a job, except that I’m finding that more than turning over the kitchen to my kids – I much prefer working side by side with them there. Some of our best conversations, our most fun inside jokes, and our most relaxed opportunities for teachable moments have come when we’re working in the kitchen together.

Parents – pull your kids into the kitchen with you! For so many reasons – from cooking skills to conversation opportunities – I feel this is important.

This leads me to the freebie I want all of you to have today.

FIll Em Up Coversm

Fill ‘Em Up! is one of the very first eBooks I wrote – based on fun and meaningful experiences I have had with my own kids or with teenagers from church. It is written for parents or teachers of children ages 4-18 (give or take). And actually, some of the ideas work for adult Bible lessons too. I’ll be using the “Homemade Butter in a Jar” idea this weekend with a group of ladies I study with.

Fill ‘Em Up! contains seven recipes, and each recipe is accompanied by two Bible lessons (one suggested for use with children ages 4-10, the other suggested for use with children 11-18).

The recipes and character lessons included are:

  • Pizza Casserole (A Lesson on Building Our Faith)
  • Honey Wheat Muffins (A Lesson on Using Our God Given Gifts)
  • Peanut Butter Fudgies (A Lesson About Following a Godly Leader)
  • Homemade Butter in a Jar (A Lesson About Being Transformed)
  • Fruitie Smoothies (A Lesson About Filling Ourselves with Goodness)
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies vs. Sugar Cookies (A Lesson About Not Comparing Ourselves with Others)

While you spend special time cooking and baking with your kids and filling their tummies…you also experience the joy of discussing God’s word together, which will fill their hearts with His wisdom. Thus the name…Fill ‘Em Up! What a fun way to study God’s word together!

This eBook is for sale in our shop here.

But wouldn’t you rather get it for FREE?

Well, of course.

For one week only, we’re giving this eBook away for free to anyone who wants it! Click here to access this freebie.

I’m super excited to share that signing up for these freebies will connect you to our new Heavenly Homemaker’s Learning Zone. It’s free, of course. You can unsubscribe at any time, your info will never be shared or sold, and being on this list means that you’ll be the first to know of the other fun (yes, FUN!) educational tools we’re putting together! 

P.S. 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: A Free Kids Recipes and Character Training Book For You!

Fun With Grammar ~ Valentine’s Day Free Printable Packet (And My Grammar Confession)

Valentine's Day Fun with Grammar
I write for a living. I homeschool my kids. I love and appreciate correct grammar usage and fantastically written sentences. (The frequent misuse of the words bring and take drives me batty. Take it there. Bring it here. This is not difficult.)

But for all my love of a good sentence, I cannot stand most typical Grammar Lessons (or sentences that begin with but).

I get a headache when reading information like this:

A Complex Sentence has one or more Dependent clauses (also called Subordinate clauses).

Does it? Does it really? How nice that I have not one, but two options for which to label the clauses that make up my (what was it again?)…my Complex Sentence. Now let’s talk about what modifies what, identify all the gerunds, and take the time to break it down into a diagram.

Woe is me. I just want to write sentences. Please do not make me pinpoint the predicate nominatives. I am 42. I have learned the definition of predicate nominative at least 24 times, and I still have to look it up every single time one of my kids asks me a question about it when he comes across it in his grammar lesson. This is because I DO NOT CARE. Oh, but a predicate nominative is a word that renames the subject of a sentence. Great. I just learned it for a 25th time. I will forget that information once again in five, four, three…

Well, now you know the truth.

I’m glad some people love all of the specifics of grammar because someone has to write the grammar lesson books and teach it in our schools. Some of you think grammar is fun and I still like you alot (<— even if I did just write that non-word on purpose out of spite).

While those are my feelings – I still teach my kids grammar because I have to. (This book series is the one I dislike the least and currently use with my older kids.) I don’t, however, make them re-write all 17 sentences if they have mastered the concept after 3 sentences; I don’t insist that they take time to memorize all the correct terminology (see predicate nominative predicament above); and if the lesson in their book is truly not relevant, I modify it to make it meaningful.

However, my kids are all still learning and able to write nice sentences. I know this doesn’t make sense without their mother’s solid knowledge of participles, but our oldest really has been getting A’s in his college English courses and has been successfully cranking out countless essays and term papers for professors.

Maybe it goes without saying that our family values creativity and practicality over fact-spitting. We try to keep education relevant if at all possible. Some parts of school a kid just has to get through because it’s required (so do not ask our current sophomore how he feels about Geometry theorems). But when it can be fun – for the love of the accurate use of then and than – let’s make it fun.

Fun with Grammar

Now that you’ve read my feelings on grammar you will know that when I labeled my newest creation Fun with Grammar, this means something. Our 5th grade son recently completed one of his (boring) Grammar textbooks for the year. (He’s still working through Wordly Wise 5.) As a way to fill in some gaps, I began creating some Valentine related grammar activities for him. One page turned into another, and before I knew it I had 12 pages prepared.

Nice kid though he is, Malachi was not excited or supportive of my new project. “You’re making me grammar pages? Why???” However, as soon as I printed them out and handed them over, he worked his way through the first four pages without a complaint. He might have even looked like he was enjoying himself. I believe his exact words tonight were, “Actually, that grammar thing is pretty fun.” Boom. Mission accomplished.

Bonus: I made said 5th grader proof-read this packet for me before I shared it with you. I’m a sly one.

Fun With Grammar - Valentine's Day Free Printable Packet

None of these activities are tedious. They simply ask your child to be creative and have fun with some basic English and Grammar skills.

Does it get any better than this? I typed out a Brownie Recipe, purposely made some mistakes, and asked your child to find the errors and misspelled words. It’ll take your child just a few fun minutes, then he/she can go bake brownies. Friends, there are no predicate nominatives in a pan of brownies!! (At least I don’t think there are. I obviously already forgot the definition.)

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Even more fun is that this packet is free for everyone. Use it in your home. Use it in your school. Enjoy the activities. Be creative. Actually have fun with grammar. And if your kid still hates it, well at least it was free and you got some brownies out of the deal.

Enter your email address below to download your free Fun With Grammar ~ Valentine’s Day Edition Printable Packet.

I’m super excited to share that signing up for this freebie will connect you to our new Heavenly Homemaker’s Learning Zone. It’s free, of course. You can unsubscribe at any time, your info will never be shared or sold, and being on this list means that you’ll be the first to know of the other fun (yes, FUN!) educational tools we’re putting together! Emails will not be frequent. I’m too busy trying to relearn what a subordinating conjunction is.

Provide and Protect ~ a Prayer For My Children

Provide and Protect - a Prayer For My Children

It used to be me. Or so I thought.

When they were little, I was the one who provided everything they needed and protected them from anything that might hurt them. I set up their routines and walked them away from situations that were too much for their young hearts to handle. I set the boundaries, set the stage, set out the activities. I said yes, said no, said too much, said too little, said things wrong, said things right, and said it will all be okay. I was in charge. I was in control. I was the one.

Or so I thought.

They’re big now. They are amazing and skilled and smart and fun, and one by one, they are launching. Their steps are becoming their own; their thoughts and behaviors are less and less a result of my commands and instruction and more and more a brave leap of their own long-legged independence.

My prayer is no longer crafted out of the ideas on my own heart. Recognition of truth has left me with very few words. I know little about tomorrow. You are the One who knows your Kingdom plans for my kids. I’m simply the one whose heart longs for their good and for their walk to be on the path you’ve carved for them.

I’m not who I once thought I was.

I’m not their provider. I’m not their protector. I’m a huge part of their life on this earth, but I’m only their mother. I’m the one God gave them to show them love and guidance. But you, God. You are the One who knows what they need and how to provide.

This is what I ask of you:

Protect

Protect them, Lord. Protect them from people who do not have their best interests in mind, from people who are self-seeking and heartless, from people who will hurt them.

Protect them from apathy. Protect them from becoming self-centered, self-seeking, self-deprecating, and self-motivated. Provide them the heart to lay aside self in order to seek You.

Provide

Provide for them, Lord. Provide people to encourage and hold them accountable, to build them up and make them stronger, to inspire and challenge them to be more like Christ. It takes a village. Build it strong and high and full.

Provide my children with confidence and skill, tools and words to get themselves out of any situation that would be harmful to them in any way. Provide them with the confidence to do right and strength to flee from wrong.

Provide everything they need, because You are the One who knows precisely what that means.

Do what I cannot do. I trust you with my children.

Thank you for the blessing and honor of being Mom to my sons. How cool of you to give me my four favorites. How wise of you to grow me along with them. How gentle of you to hold us so gracefully. How perfect of you to love us so consistently.

To my boys:

“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19

 

That One Time I Handed Out Knives to All My Kids

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It is a real thing that once your kids know how to cook, you can holler at them at meal prep time and say, “Hey, I need you to go cook dinner for us tonight please.” Then you can go about your business of running other household tasks while your children efficiently cook a meal.

It’s one of the coolest things ever, and I’m not just talking about handing them boxes of mac-and-cheese.

As the mom of four sons currently ages 11, almost 14, almost 16, and 18 – all of whom can cook at various skill levels – I can’t say enough about the importance of teaching your kids to cook. Is it easier to just go into the kitchen and do it yourself? When the kids are younger, absolutely. There were many times I banned all my little boys from the room so I could just get it done. But allow me to remind you about sentence number one up there. Our kids need to know how to cook! It is worth taking the effort to teach them to cook when they are young so that when they are older they can wait on you hand and foot (and also feed themselves well and all that).

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Boy #2 always walked around on the counter-top (close to the stove) while cooking.
He has grown out of this habit. We are grateful.

It’s been fun to revisit some pictures of my little cooking angels from back in the day. For some teenage reason, they don’t like me to take pictures of them cooking now. I mean, I think they’re still cute when they’re slicing and scrambling, but they usually say something about “hair not fixed” and “really, Mom?” so I put the camera away and let them go about their boiling and chopping. But cooking with these little guys has led to being cooked for by big guys, so I’ll just treasure it in my heart and leave my camera in my office.

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My children with knives…

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Walking on the counter-top by the stove aside, let’s talk about kitchen safety. Knives are almost always involved in cooking. There are so many questions about this! At what age is it safe to give kids a knife? What is the best way to teach them to cut safely? What should they be allowed to cut?

At this point in the mind of a parent, we get too scared to risk it and banish the kids from the kitchen (to play in the street). It seems safer.

Don’t give way to fear, and don’t hide the knives! You simply need to teach your kids how to use a knife safely. Just released today, here’s a fantastic free tool for us!

kids cook real food 1

Katie from Kitchen Stewardship put together a FREE Knife Skills Training for Kids Video Series. In fact, she has put together an entire, incredible eCourse on teaching kids to cook because she is nothing short of amazing. Through January 18, Katie is kicking off her eCourse by offering this Knife Skills Training course for FREE!

Malachi (my 11-year old) and I just signed up and watched Video #1 from start to finish. It is super! I love how Katie put catchy names to the different knife safety rules and methods to help kids remember the safe way to hold and use knives. (My favs are Top Chop and Up and Over Soldier – you have to watch the video to know what these are and to see how her methods make so much sense!) She created free downloadable flashcards to use along with the lesson too.

Sign up for the FREE Knife Skills Training for Kids Video Series here. It is so good!

This is how we work ourselves out of a job, help our kids appreciate the hard work it takes to prepare a meal, and keep all their fingers intact. Join me?

What have been your experiences with your kids in the kitchen?

This post contains affiliate links.

Cute Clothes and Encouragement. Hey, Moms! This is For You!!

You know those days when you’ve been up-and-at-em for hours – but you still haven’t made it back to your room to actually get dressed? And then how on that very day someone drops by and gets to see you in your jammies? And then later that same morning someone else stops by and you’re still in your jammies, but by then you’re like, Whatever. At least I brushed my teeth.

Yeah, that happened to me this morning. It actually happens often around here. I know the whole “get dressed down to the shoes when you first get up in the morning” advice works well for many and would help me avoid meeting people at the door in my fleece polka-dot pants – but that method simply doesn’t work for me. I roll out of bed early and seek quiet time in my chair with God right away (necessary so that I won’t commit murder later in the day or otherwise think that the success of my day is up to me alone). Then I make breakfast. Then we start school. Then I work out. I really don’t want to get dressed for the day until after I’ve had my workout.

For some reason I thought maybe you needed to know all of this.

Anyway, the two people who stopped by today both happen to be dear friends who think I’m adorable in my pj’s, and by that I mean that they love me no matter how silly I look. So now let’s talk about clothes and how hard moms work (because this segue it just makes sense).

Fun and Encouragement For You!

I feel no guilt about jammie pants at 10:30am, and if I wanted, most days could be yoga pant days or the like because we school from home and I work from home. Clothing is optional (well not that kind of optional – oh, you know what I mean). But I’ve noticed a big difference in yoga pants days vs. cute jeans days – in my mood, in my productivity, in how I interact with my husband – everything. I like dressing in actual clothes (after my morning routine, workout, blah blah blah). Cute clothes are fun. 

Ladies – I’m not going to go completely “do this because you’re worth it” on you. But I am going to suggest that there is a lot to be said about taking care of ourselves in all kinds of ways. Eat well, drink water, exercise, spend time with Jesus, and most days – try to put on a cute outfit.

Cute is relative. Your cute is your cute – so you rock that cute outfit, girlfriend! Be comfy (oh my goodness, be comfy), but go for the cuteness. It can be a game changer in your day!

Agree? Disagree? What have you noticed about your day depending on what you’ve chosen to wear?

Free Clothes For You!

Guess what? I just learned of a way you can get something cute and fun and just for you – for free (plus shipping, which is a flat $5.99 no matter how much you order).

thredup

I’ve been shopping at ThredUp for two or three years now for gently used kids clothes. A year or so ago, they added women’s clothes!! You guys, I’ve gotten two pairs of my very favorite jeans (which would normally be about $80 – are you kidding me?) for a huge discount!!

Finding jeans that fit well is hard (can I get an amen?) so I actually tried on a pair of the pricey ones at the store, and wouldn’t you know it? They fit amazingly well. I waited until they went on sale before I got them, plus I had a coupon, but I still paid more than I wanted. But did I mention that they fit??

Well anyway, after I knew what brand I liked, I started scoping out ThredUp for that brand in my size. Not only have I found two pairs at an enormous discount – they were brand new with tags!!! Oh yeah, by the way – not everything is used at ThredUp. You can search through all the brand new items and score big-time!

Now that you’ve all suffered through hearing about my polka-dot pj’s and my discounted jeans, would you like to hear about what you can get for free? (Thank you for your patience.)

ThredUp is offering new referrals $10 off your first and second purchases!! (That’s a total of $20 worth of free clothing for you, just in case you’re still in your pj’s and can’t do math yet.) You can absolutely use this credit for your kids, but just know that there is a lovely selection of women’s clothing, maternity, and even accessories for you to pick from for yourself.

So here’s my referral link – go get your free credit! Come back here and tell me what you picked out – even if it’s yoga pants. :)

The Only Thing I Know About Parenting

The only thing I know about parenting….

The Only Thing I Know About Parenting

What do you do when your kids disobey? When they are picky eaters? When they aren’t sleeping well? When they are defiant? When they aren’t getting along with one another? When their attitudes are ugly? When they make poor decisions? When they talk back? When they don’t talk enough? When they ask hard questions?

You know what I thought when I was a kid? I thought my parents knew all the answers. They were the grown-ups. Grown-ups knew all of everything.

Now that I have been a parent for 18 years and have had to answer too many hard questions while raising four uniquely amazing individuals, I know the truth. I won’t speak for every parent, but here’s what I know about myself: I’m winging it here. I mostly don’t know what I’m doing. There are too many decisions and too many difficult questions. My answer all too often is a solid I…don’t…know.

I felt this when each of my kids were babies, when they were toddlers, when they were preschoolers, when they were elementary age, in middle school, turning teenager, becoming more independent, and now I’m excited to begin learning what it means to be a mom of a kid adult in college. Throw into the mix that what works for one does not necessarily work for the others because of that blessed thing we call individuality. This leads me to share what I do know about parenting – the only thing I know.

God has to do this for me. Not with me. For me. Thinking that God is merely by my side on my parenting journey leads me to believe the lie that I must be more than I was created to be. Instead, I can confidently embrace the fullness of who He is as sovereign Lord of my children. God, be for my sons all that I cannot. Protect them, lead them, teach them. They are yours. I trust you.

I am very willing to be God’s tool in this process because these babes are my very heart beat. My love for them is fierce, which matches my insatiable desire to see them grow humbly into Christlike servants, leaders, spouses, and parents.

As with everything else I do in life, as I walk this parenting road, my confidence cannot be in my self. When I find myself at a loss with how to wisely and consistently parent my sons, wondering where I am and how in the world I got here, this is when I know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

It is this place that I recognize that God has a plan for each of my children and He will carry it out. This is where I remember that my job is to love them, care for them, and train them – but not save them or attempt to be God to them. This is when I realize that I am to point my children to the One who saves – to the God who has good works prepared in advance for them – to the Savior who already won the victory for them.

I parent best when I’m on my knees. I say the right words when I’m letting the Spirit speak. I love my children fully when I embrace the Truth of the One who loved us first.

When we ask for wisdom, He provides. When we surrender, He reigns. When we let God, He is.

That is what I know.

Some Of Our Favorite Books

This post was originally posted in October, 2013. Our kids are older now but this list of books is still our favorite!

Books, books, the magical fruit. The more you read, the more you…

Oh wait. Wrong poem.  Sometimes I get confused. Although I’m sure if I threw that poem starter out to my boys, they’d be sure to finish it with something creative. And by creative, I mean gross.

I am excited to share that all four of our boys are now all independent readers. It was a little slow in coming for our youngest, who is now a 3rd grader. But late this summer, it all clicked for him. He now loves reading! Last week he said, “I can’t believe math used to be my favorite. Now reading is so much fun!”  Awesome – just what I love to hear. (Although you still have to do your math, Buddy.)

malachi_reading

Our Family’s Favorite Books

Boxcar Children Books
These books were some of my favorites when I was little. (You know I had my very own boxcar, right? Okay, it wasn’t my very own.  I shared it with my cousins.)  All of our boys have loved the Boxcar Children books, and now I am reading them to Malachi (age 8). Elias (age 11) has already read most of these books, but sits in to listen when he can, because who can resist?

boxcar_children

Ralph Moody Books

We read through most of the books in this series (as a family) a year ago, and now I’m having my two older boys read the last few on their own. What I love most about these books is that they show how important it is to be a hard worker, how much fun it can be to work together as a family, and how if you put your mind to it – you can always find a way to provide. I am so inspired by these books, and my boys love the adventure aspect they include.

Books by Clyde Robert Bulla

These are the first chapter books our boys have read. We have about eight of them on Malachi’s shelf this year – and he’s made his way through two of them already. I love that Clyde Robert Bulla keeps his vocabulary simple and easy to read – all while teaching history and making his books fun and intriguing.  When I pulled these books out for Malachi, all three of his brothers said, “Oh, he gets to read those this year? Malachi, you will love them.”  I love hearing the boys talk together about books they’ve all read.

clyde_robert_bulla

Ramona the Pest Series

Malachi pulled his first Ramona book off the shelf this year, too. So far he’s loving it, just like his brothers did. I read this series several times when I was younger. It’s so much fun re-reading these books with my kids.

ramona_2

Christian Heroes Books

I can’t say enough good about all of the Christian Heroes: Then and Now books by Janet and Geoff Benge. We’ve actually decided to use about 15 of these books this year to go along with our History/Geography studies with Justus, Elias, and Malachi. What better way to study the culture and history of a country than to learn about missionaries who worked there? These books are so well written and inspiring!

I also have to share that as we reach the end of each book, Justus (age 13) likes to point out, “You know Mom, this is the chapter when the missionary dies and you cry.”  Pshaw.  Okay, fine. So I cry at the end of all of these (and the Ralph Moody Books, and just about every other book I read aloud to the boys). I can’t help it.

benge

In addition to these sets of books, our three older boys are all reading lots of books from the Sonlight reading lists for their grade level. Asa (a junior in high school) is reading some Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis, The Hiding Place (you MUST read this!), and quite a few others Sonlight recommends.

What books are you and your kids reading these days?  I know I’m not the only mom who cries at the end of a good book. Help me out here – do you get choked up when you’re reading books to your kids?

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