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.)


Here are some of the books currently at the top of our reading list for the year:

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?


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.


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.


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.


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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How I Plan To Keep My Kids Reading This Summer

All four of our boys enjoy reading. However, we often find that summertime lends itself to a more flexible or on-the-go schedule which sometimes makes us forget about important activities like reading books (and combing hair).

Last summer we tried offering a fun reading challenge that worked amazingly well. Why wouldn’t it? There were rewards involved.

How did it work? We kept it simple. For every five hours each child read, they received a reward. These were inexpensive and sometimes even free. But they are rare treats for our kids – so they picked up a book frequently.

This summer, our three older boys will be gone more than they are home (mission trip, church camp, church camp, and church camp). During the few weeks they are home, they will be more than welcome to take part in this. However, it is our 10 year-old that is really diving in and taking the challenge. Summer Reading Challenge

I created a fun chart for Malachi – which he promptly put on the fridge. (Again, the other boys will take part too – they just don’t have enough weeks during the summer to warrant a chart.)

Here are some of the rewards we’re offering for 5 hours of reading time:

  • Pick a movie from Redbox.
  • Get an ice cream cone from Runza (89¢ – yes, I can handle that
  • Pick something from the dollar store
  • Go to Captain Red Beard’s with Mom (this is our local coffee shop)
  • Lego surprise ($4.00 mini-figure) You wouldn’t believe how much this motivates Malachi to get to the 5th week of reading 5 hours (25 hours total).
  • Choose a meal for Mom or Dad to make
  • Choose a dessert for Mom or Dad to make
  • Choose a board game (from our stash) for a family game night

If by chance Malachi reads more than five hours in a week, he will be allowed to move on to “the next week.” This chart is flexible because our summer is flexible.

I created two “open” charts for you to download, print, and fill in with rewards that will motivate your own kids if you like.

Summer Reading Challenge Printable Download and Print Summer Reading Challenge Printable 1

Summer Reading Challenge Printable 2

Download and Print Summer Reading Challenge Printable 2

Below is a chart without the “weeks” filled in so that you can make it work to meet your needs:

Summer Reading Challenge Blank 2

Download and Print Summer Reading Challenge Blank Printable

How do your kids do with reading in the summertime? Do they need extra motivation or do they naturally pick up a book and go for it?

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6 (Dozen) Ways I’m Going to Keep My Kids Busy This Summer

We usually begin our school year the first week of August and finish the final week of April. Do you know what this means? This means our family has only one week of school left for this year! Summer break, here we come!

schools out

Raise your hand if you feel like I do: Summer break is really for mothers and teachers. The kids think it’s for them. They have no idea.  #lovehomeschooling #needabreather

Our older boys have big plans for several weeks this summer to go on a state-side mission trip and then to attend several weeks of church camp. We’ll go swimming as much as possible (hello, sunshine, I love you so much ~ xoxoxo). We have a family reunion around the 4th of July. We have friends visiting from out of state part of June/July. How is there any time free to do anything other than be on the run (and in the sun ~ xoxoxo)?

Oh trust me. There’s time. See, it’s my 10 year old and my 13 year old that have more downtime than the others. They spend time with friends and help out around the house, but I find it beneficial to…shall we say…put a little routine and creativity into their downtime. Otherwise my 13 year old who shall remain nameless would either:

  • find ways to torture his 10 year old brother which will thus torture me or
  • try to get away with sitting in a chair with his iPod playing games all the live long day.

The summer break rule is: No electronics until after 3pm and then there is a time limit (which varies depending on the day). What’s to keep the boys from getting on each other’s nerves? Oh just look at the ways…

6 Dozen Ways I Plan to Keep My Kids Busy This Summer

1. Summer Reading Challenge

We did this last summer and the boys loved it. Prizes for reading? What’s not to love? I’m working on another blog post to share all the (very inexpensive) details of this fun challenge. Stay tuned.

2. Service Challenge

With school work set aside, there are more opportunities to look outward. The boys will be serving at church camp with us later this summer, but while we’re home I plan to have them jot ideas and be on the look-out for ways they can help others. Will there be prizes for this like in our Reading Challenge? No. But sometimes “coming up with and executing as many ideas as we can” is incentive enough for my competitive boys. Hey, whatever helps them learn to see other people’s needs.

I got the idea when looking through the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle to have my 10 year old serve by putting together some of the pre-school printable activities for a 3 year-old buddy of his. Since we won’t be using these particular bundle items for ourselves, it’s just fine for us to share them with one friend. My favorites included in the bundle for this are:

  • Preschool Alphabet Packet
  • Pocket Chart Calendar Bundle
  • Animal ABCs Bundle

You can check out the specifics of each of those here. Why not have Malachi print, cut, package, and prepare these fun games and activities for his buddy? Besides, this mama might be a little nostalgic since there are no little boys left in this house to use those great items. So this is a way I could still get my hands on them. (Look at me – making service projects all about myself.)

kids service

3. Host Friends

I love that the boys are old enough to make plans with friends and execute the plans without much help from me. They can come up with activities like Movie Nights, Cook Outs, Flag Football, Watermelon Feed, Blow Up a Bunch of Money in our Yard (otherwise known as come over after church on Wednesday night during 4th of July week and bring whatever fireworks you want to shoot off) – the ideas are endless. We love it when the boys invite their friends over. The more, the merrier. Just keep the door closed so the mosquitoes won’t come in.

4. Get Creative in the Kitchen

I have found that summer break is the perfect time to let my boys tinker around with fun recipe ideas. It’s not always food, either. Sometimes they make non-edibles like homemade modeling clay or flubber. Or they make funky popsicles. Or they do something weird with chocolate bars or cheese sticks. Whatever gets them creative and keeps them busy.

Since I got so many neat new recipe and food eBooks in this year’s Ultimate Homemaking Bundle (available for only three more days, by the way), I’m printing some out that I know they’ll really like. My top three right now are:

  • Coffee Filters to Cheese Graters
    I am in love with this book. I’m learning tons of tricks for how to creatively use my muffin tins and cookie scoops (and many other kitchen gadgets too). Talk about creative, fun, and easy. Brownie Pops with a cookie scoop? Yes, my boys are going to love this book.
  • Not Just Tacos
    The beauty of this book is that it not only includes many authentic Latin American recipes, it has beautiful pictures and wonderfully laid out and fun to read facts about Latin American countries. My 13 year old loves reading facts like this, and he likes recipes. This book is a win-win for him.
  • Supercharged Food for Kids
    This one has great recipes kids will love. And if your kids are older like mine, they can make many of the recipes on their own.

kids kitchen

5. Craft Projects

My 13 year-old is very much not into making crafts. However, my 10 year-old very much is – crafts of the boy variety, that is. He tinkers with scraps of wood or cardboard, makes gadgets with clay or pipecleaners – he just likes to build and create. This is why the free Green Kid Crafts kit we got in the homemaking bundle is so perfect for him (and for girls, too). We are considering continuing the subscription if he works through this first one and we feel it is worth it. Beyond that, I’ll keep throwing out the popsicle sticks an duct tape as needed. :)

I may consider starting my 13 year-old on the Craftsy Photography class we got free with the bundle (instead of saving it for the next school year). You should know that you can also pick a cake decorating class, a sewing class, a card making class, a knitting class, and many others you and your kids may be more interested in.

6. Board Games

Our family loves games and has shelves full of them. During the school year, it’s hard to find time to play. I cannot wait to pull out our favorites and make up for lost time.


As you can see, the ideas within each of the ideas are limitless. And if boredom still creeps in, there are always windows to wash and gardens to hoe.

(The bundle sale is over now. If you want to be sure to be informed of other sales and great deals in the future, sign up to receive our free daily newsletter~)

How are you planning to keep your kids busy and productive this summer?

This post contains affiliate links.

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What I’m Learning About Natural Home Remedies

I’m currently taking the Parent’s Guide to Natural Remedies online course. You guys. I can’t tell you how good this is. I really don’t have time right now to get wrapped up in this course (because hello graduation party, speaking engagement, end of the school year, everyday life, and many summer plans staring me right in the face). But every day or so, I pull up the course and click on another module to listen to – and I can’t stop listening. This information is incredibly helpful to me.

parent guide

I’ve been trying to take some notes as I go. This is a crack up because I can’t write and listen at the same time because I’m afraid I’m going to miss more good information. Thankfully, I can go back and listen to and read the info over and over in this course.

I love being empowered to try home remedies first – before heading straight to the doctor. As the creators of Natural Home Remedies say, we know our kids better than any doctor. BUT, I also love that these ladies share information about when we DO need to take our kids in for doctor’s help. That’s always one of my biggest question marks. How much to treat at home…when to take them in. This course answers that. I’m loving this.

Here are some of the notes I’ve been scratching down. (But I can’t share all the specifics because the information in the Online Course isn’t mine to give out freely.)

~ Fever is Your Friend

I knew some of this already, but I didn’t know how much a fever kicks those healing white blood cells into gear. We should watch our kids’ energy level more than their temperature. Caution flags should go up with babies and when kids get dehydrated. Many more details are given in the course about what to watch for and how to treat.

~ There Are Many Reasons to Avoid Tylenol

Throw out the tylenol. Throw it out, throw it out, throw it out. I knew it wasn’t good, but I had no idea how bad it was. Wow. I’m so glad to know all this information from someone so studied and knowledgeable. Tylenol keeps the body from doing what it needs to do. It’s too easy to overdose, which really hurts the liver.

~ Everything we put on our skin is absorbed into the bloodstream.

It’s just like eating food. If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin. What a great way to help determine the safety of skin products and treatments. (Although I think an exception to this is essential oils. I don’t take them orally, but they are wonderful to put on the skin so they can absorb and get to work.)

~ A Urinary Tract Infection does not automatically mean you need an antibiotic.

There are natural ways to treat these at home first like unsweetened cranberry juice and chamomile tea, plus essential oils and more.

~ Be empowered to know the right questions to ask if/when you take your children to the pediatrician. 

Yes. Thank you. The information shared in these modules helps so much with this.

~ There are many, many options for helping treat ear infections that do not involve antibiotics.

But you might begin with these two ideas before trying anything else: chiropractic care and cutting out dairy. If your child continues to have trouble, then try the many homeopathic remedies mentioned or treatments from a natural doctor.

~ Homeopathy is treatment that works with the body to help the body do what it is already trying to do to heal itself.

I guess I never heard a definition before. I know our bodies were made to heal themselves, and that sometimes when we’re sick we need a little help. I love knowing that homeopathic treatments simply give the body a boost of what it needs so that healing can occur when our bodies are weak.

What I'm Learning About Natural Home Remedies

This Course is incredibly professional, completely thorough, and wonderfully helpful for parents. I am so grateful to have all this information available. The cost for A Parent Guide to Natural Home Remedies is regularly $99, and is well worth that price because of all it includes. I can’t imagine how much money we can all save by practicing all of these home remedies and avoiding doctor bills. Plus, having all this information at our fingertips??  Priceless.

What are your favorite home remedies to use? 

This post contains affiliate links.

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Dear Parents, You Are Awesome!

curriculum story 14

The messages can play over and over in our heads like a broken record. (If you don’t know what a broken record is, just…never mind. They came before 8-Track Tapes. Which came before Cassette Tapes. Which came before CDs. I actually remember them. I played my Partidge Family record over and over until it broke.)  #childofthe70s

So, broken records. In our heads, they can sound something like this as we parent our children:

  • I’m not doing enough…doing enoughdoing enough…doing enough
  • I’m inconsistent…inconsistent…inconsistentinconsistent
  • Other parents do it so much better…better…betterbetter…
  • Why can’t I get it right…right…rightright….

Hey, Mom. Hey, Dad. What you are right about is this:  You will never be a perfect parent. You are human. You have weaknesses. <— Welcome to the Land of Normal. I’ve been living here a long time. At first, I though it was the Land of Crazy. Then, God reminded me that He is my strength, and that in my weakness, I am never alone. It’s the Land of Normal – also known as the land of I Desperately Need Jesus.

Why you are a beautiful parent is because of this:  You work hard. You pray. You ask God to help you raise your children. You strive to be better. You love your kids so much you can’t see straight. You are intentional. You seek wisdom. You recognize your need to let others help. You are a wonderful, beautiful parent.

Truly, you are awesome. Every one of you.

Allow your mind to see some snap-shots of your day. Not the ones where you didn’t measure up to your perfect parenting standards. Ain’t nobody got time to focus on regrets.  See the snap-shots of your beautiful moments. The moments you poured a glass of milk and she slurped it up.  The moments you read him a favorite book for the 56th time. The moments you did something mundane like shake out the rug and put it back on the floor. The moments you kissed a cheek, wiped snot off a nose, and enjoyed listening to a belly laugh. The moments you listened to a song with your teenager. The moments you got the laundry to the dryer before it got sour. The moments you said, “Good job.”

Your days are full of beautiful moments. How do I know this? Because I know that is how God works. Because He is in our lives, there is goodness. He is all things goodness. He works and lives through you. This is how I know you’re awesome. This is how I know of the beauty that pours out of your home.

I applaud you, Parents. I give you a high five and a fist bump. I cheer you on, knowing that you are cheering me on, too. We parent confidently, because the secret is out: We have Superpowers. We’re strongest when we’re on our knees.

Praise God for the way He works through you as you raise your kids! He is good, He brings all things good, He works all things together for good.


I’m excited to share with you some snap-shots sent in from beautiful parents like you:

Renee emailed to say, “Thank you for the wonderful Learn your Letters, Learn to Serve curriculum! Today we had so much fun making church, cross, and our own creativity cutout cookies! Can you guess the letter? Your time, effort, and ideas are wonderful! 

curriculum story 12

We are truly loving the flow and approach to this curriculum. It’s been fun to use it as a foundation and then adapt to our family. We ended up giving a handful of cookies to the church workers then as our service. The little learner is Liliana, our oldest of two, and she is three. On to D….”

curriculum story 11

Natasha shared, “I did ‘A’ with my little two year old and decided it was way too much work for ME at this point for his retention level, so I’ll have a go at it next year. BUT we had already been memorizing verses, so for MY retention we are doing the alphabet sequence [from Learn Your Letters, Learn to Serve].

curriculum story 13

He’s got down through “C” already plus the ones we had already done. It’s so precious to hear his little voice try to say, “anxiety” (1 peter 5:7) and then “Because he cares for YOU!” And then he ALWAYS adds, “cares for ME. Me and you.” 

curriculum story 15

I love hearing testimonies about how Learn Your Letters, Learn to Serve is blessing your family. I love hearing that you’re getting your kids in the kitchen to teach them how to cook. I love, love, love hearing how you’re teaching them Jesus and teaching them to serve others!!!

We want to bless all of you with this super low price on our parenting resources! Regularly $78, we are excited to offer this package for just $49.00:

~ Learn Your Letters, Learn to Serve 183 page complete downloadable curriculum kit for early learners, $45.00 value
~ Teaching Your Kids to Cook 111 page downloadable guide and cookbook, $12.00 value
~ What to Do With the Kids in Your Kitchen recipe eBook, $5.95 value
~ Heavenly Homemakers Guide to Holiday Hospitality for Kids eBook, $6.95 value
~ Fill ‘em Up Bible Lessons and eCookbook, $5.95 value
~ “Be Imitators” Kid Character Chart, $2.95 value

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Bless Your Parenting Packet 2


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Be blessed! Be empowered! Be encouraged! You are an awesome parent. Continue to let God do His work through you for your children!

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Raising Thoughtful, Hardworking, Servant-Hearted Kids

You know those kids who don’t think about others, who pout when they don’t get their way, and who sometimes are not even a little bit aware that the world does not revolve around them?

Yeah, those are my kids.

But kids nothin’. That’s me too (all 41 years of me) when I forget what I know to be true. Indeed, God made us in His image, then Satan swooped in and works to destroy all that is good. We are, our kids are, all of us are in a battle. Jesus already won the victory (shout hallelujah!) but Satan works all the harder to win anyway (ever heard the definition of crazy?).


You know those kids who speak politely when spoken to, who aren’t afraid to visit with the older folks at church, who run up ahead to get the door for the lady carrying a box, who happily join the leave-raking crew with the youth group, who sit by the one no one else seems to notice, who remember that their mama likes purple wild flowers and grabs a handful for her whenever possible?

Yeah, those are my kids.

Our boys don’t always get along (see first paragraph). They are not always excited to clean out the dishwasher (see first paragraph). They sometimes do things that make me wonder who in the world raised them and what in the world they could possibly be thinking when they did such a thing (Lord, help us).

crazy family

But after lunch today, as Asa left for his college class he hollered back, “Thanks for lunch, Mom! It was really good.”  After church last week, Malachi ran up and hugged one of our ministers and told him he loved him. While we picked apples recently, Justus grabbed the ladder and climbed up so his brothers and I could have the easier job. When the compost bucket overflowed this morning, spilling tomato guts all over the floor, Matt asked Elias to please clean it up before starting school – and he did it…without a complaint, even though he hates tomatoes and their guts.

Oh my dear fellow parents. Our jobs are not easy. In fact, let us, in unison, throw ourselves down onto the carpet as we sprawl out in full surrender. Raising kids is hard – harder than I ever thought, imagined, or read about in books. But we are not alone.  We have each other, and more importantly, we serve a God who loves our children like none other. God wants our kids’ hearts, and we can be sure that He is fighting for them. Isn’t that the best parenting news you’ve heard…ever? (Remember this truth the next time your child disobeys you for the 82nd time in one hour. Keep on it, Mama. God’s on your side.)

be still 2

I have something for you.

See, my kids are mostly big now. Two out of four of them have man voices, and the third is working on his with an occasional crack. Our car insurance rate is growing in scary ways as more drivers of the teen boy variety are being added to our policy. This is where we are now. Car insurance rates aside, I love this place.

It’s easy for me to reflect back on when our boys were little and have regrets about what I wish I would have done differently and better.  This is a wonderful way to waste time and be miserable, but do feel free to join me in this activity if you enjoy unproductive awfulness.

Take Every Thought Captive 2

I have not parented perfectly, mostly because I’m clueless most of the time and because of that Satan swooping in thing I mentioned above. Welcome to being human, Laura (and everyone else). God is ever gracious and my kids are very forgiving. Here’s how I know this about my kids. While I’ve been busy crying over all my parenting imperfections, here are some recent conversations my boys have started around our dinner table:

  • “Remember those charts we used to have on the fridge? The ones with the stars or fruit? That was a good idea, Mom. I used to love those.”
  • “Oh I remember the girl you’re talking about. We took a toy to her on ‘Tt Week‘ when I was little. That was really fun.”
  • “I used to love it when we made Monkey Bread. I always wanted to be the one to punch the dough.”
  • “My favorite Blue’s Clues episode was the one where they made the banana bread, and I don’t even like bananas. I just like food. Good thing you like cooking with us, Mom.”


True story.  And here I thought they’d surely be offering statements like:

  • “Mom, remember those times you yelled at me and it wasn’t even my fault?”
  • “Mom, remember how busy you were those times I wanted you to sit down and play a game with me?”
  • “Mom, remember how many times you’ve failed me and why I’m going to need counseling and be bitter toward you forever??!!?”

God is so much bigger than you and I!!! Not only that…our kids are amazing! Remember these truths as you parent your babes. You focus on loving them and being Christ-like. The rest will all fall into place. I wish I would have understood this earlier.

So here’s what I have for you. Most of these resources have been available on my site for a very long time. They’ve blessed our family so much – more than I ever realized based on our boys’ teenage hearts looking back at their little boy days. (Thank you, God, for making those convos happen over the past few weeks. You knew my heart needed to hear it.)

I’ve heard from many of you that our Learn Your Letters, Learn to Serve curriculum has been a blessing as you’re teaching your kids academic basics and more importantly, the heart of service. I’ve heard how much you’ve enjoyed our Character Charts. I’ve heard how much you’ve loved time in the kitchen with your kids as you teach them cooking skills.

I also know that for some of you, money is holding you back from enjoying these ready-made resources. This week, we’re putting together a package we pray will be a great big blessing to your family – financially, spiritually, and parentingly (don’t forget, I make up words). Check it out…

Bless Your Parenting Packet 2


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The “Bless Your Parenting” Packet includes:

~ Learn Your Letters, Learn to Serve 183 page complete downloadable curriculum kit for early learners, $45.00 value
~ Teaching Your Kids to Cook 111 page downloadable guide and cookbook, $12.00 value
~ What to Do With the Kids in Your Kitchen recipe eBook, $5.95 value
~ Heavenly Homemakers Guide to Holiday Hospitality for Kids eBook, $6.95 value
~ Fill ’em Up Bible Lessons and eCookbook, $5.95 value
~ “Be Imitators” Kid Character Chart, $2.95 value

Total value of this package:  $78.80
“Bless Your Parenting” Package Price:  $49.00
Time teaching and enjoying your kids:  priceless  :)

Here’s what we’ve done:  We took the price of our Learn Your Letters, Learn to Serve down to just $49, then we threw in five other products for just $5 more.

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May God bless each of us as we teach, train, and love these children He gave us!

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I Give Up. I’m Just Going to Sit Here and Cry.

I love my kids so fiercely, sometimes I can’t inhale air.

Parenting our four boys is the most difficult, gut-wrenching, frustrating, exhausting, awesome, joyful, incredible, amazing gift. Watching our boys create music and movies together, play pick-up games of soccer or basketball together, laugh at inside jokes together, work outside with their dad together – really. I fear that I might explode with love and happiness right here in my chair.

There’s all the other stuff too, so don’t think that I don’t hate every minute of puke and sibling arguments and disobedience. Daily I have to get on my knees, giving my boys’ future over to God, knowing that as a human parent, I alone do not have what it takes – not even a little bit – to create in their hearts an attitude of Christ. I hang onto the promise that God has a plan for our kids, and He will work out in them His perfect plan. In spite of me, with me, without me, on behalf of me – God is working in our kids’ hearts.

I’ll take every bit of the “did I not just tell you three times to put your shoes in the closet?” and endure all the rounds of “mom he keeps touching me but he touched me first please make him stop touching me” and persevere through the “he said this to me I was just kidding no you weren’t” stuff. If only they would always be magically perfect and work outside with their dad so that watching their precious actions would steal away my breath and overtake my heart with joy. There’s all that and then there’s all the mud smeared into the rug that nobody claims. But I’ll take it. I’ll take it all, and I’ll even appreciate being right here, right now, doing this thing with its grass stains and question marks.

Because here’s the deal. The six of us? Matt and me and our four boys in this house? We’ve spent so many years of our lives together working and schooling and living and laughing and arguing and learning and problem solving and crying and traveling and reading and tripping over shoes that still didn’t get put into the closet. Our oldest turns 17 in one week. In the fall? He will be a senior in high school.

I am full of joy, excitement, and hope for what God has for Asa and all of our family after next year. I realize life doesn’t end when our oldest graduates. But the truth is that life as the six of us – the way it is now – changes. It’ll never be the same, because it’s not supposed to be. This is all part of the journey.

Today, that makes me cry. The recent graduation parties we’ve attended for friends has put into perspective that this will be us next year. Then this morning, I got up at 3:30 to see Asa and 14 others off at the airport as they head to Ecuador to do 10 days of mission work. Watching his grown up self smile and wave as he went through that gate pretty much did me in.

Here’s our 4:45 am picture, right before he went inside to check on his luggage. Yes, he does keep getting taller. No, I did not brush my hair this morning.

asa leaving for ecuador

I’m so proud of that kid, I could cry. Oh wait.  I am crying. I decided to give up on holding it in, and just sit here and feel it for a while. Feel the pride, love, wonder, amazement, excitement, joy…and sadness. At the same time.

Tears. They are good. God.  He is very good. Because of that, I truly can feel peace about the future of my kids and our family, however it looks.

But when I need to cry, I’m going to cry. Praise God for tears. And Kleenex.

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Art Supplies, Science Experiment Books – So Many Ideas to Keep the Kid’s Summer Fun and Productive

Preparing For a Great Summer With Your FamilyIf I let them, my younger boys would whittle away the hours and have little to show for it. They’d dink around, goof off, waste time, and then get bored and pick on each other. My boys are fun and creative, but they still need some sort of structure during their summer days.

This week is our first official week of summer break. June and July will be quite full with church camps, family reunions, swimming, and time with cousins. The month of May is typically our time to play catch up and do some creative learning that we don’t always have time for during our August-April school year. So right now? We’re filling our boys’ days with fun productivity.

You might remember the list I posted a few weeks ago, sharing some fun ideas we plan to use to keep our boys busy:

  • Play card and board games
  • Create more music and videos
  • Play games outside
  • Learn more card tricks
  • Learn more cooking/kitchen skills
  • Get together with friends and cousins
  • Help Dad with home improvement projects
  • Read books (maybe offer a summer reading challenge?)
  • Clean out bedroom, boxing up toys they no longer play with
  • Work through a science experiment book
  • Clean out the basement (who knows what treasures will be discovered!)
  • Learn to make homemade ice cream
  • Swim often and improve water skills (while getting Vitamin D – woot!)

In addition, here are some practical lessons we’re teaching the boys this month:

  • Household chores they haven’t learned yet. Summer break is a great time to focus on teaching cleaning skills like mopping, washing windows, or anything we haven’t taken the time to show them how to do. The boys are, of course, thrilled to learn these skills. :)
  • Outdoor games. The boys received a badminton set for Christmas and can now finally set it up and use it.
  • Music lessons. A couple of my boys have shown interest in learning to play the guitar. I’m going to look into this more seriously this summer.
  • Art. I just found this $40 Darice 80-Piece Deluxe Art Set for just $18.21, and I snatched it up. My boys really do enjoy learning to create art – I just need to take time to sit down with them and work on it.

darice art set

Regarding the science experiment books in the list above, when I mentioned this idea to my boys, they got pretty excited. Now to just find a book that will teach them and be fun. I found the TIME For Kids Big Book of Science Experiments: A step-by-step guide and thought it looked great. Anyone else have good suggestions for this?

time science

What other great ideas do you have for keeping kids learning and productive in the summer?

This post contains affiliate links.

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Preparing For a Great Summer With Your Family

During all the seasons of the year…homemaking is fun. I love hot chocolate, snow, snuggling up by the fire, and all the fun foods that come with wintertime. But I’m ready for a break from all of that because I LOVE sunshine!!!!!

Summertime is my very favorite.  I love the time off from schooling, the fun projects, the camps, the garden, the family reunions, the swimming, the cook-outs…and the sunshine!! (Someone certainly likes her Vitamin D, doesn’t she?)

Preparing For a Great Summer With Your Family

Our family is wrapping up our school year – as in, we’re down to just a few remaining unfinished subjects, and I’m starting to have boys wander around the house looking for something to do to fill the time. I love this time of year (because the sun is shining!) as we find ourselves with extra time to do the fun projects we’ve not had time to do with a full school schedule.

It is so much fun to see our boys being creative in their downtime. I’m seeing fun Lego projects appear and new videos created. I’m hearing new songs on the piano, our synthesizer, and our music software. I’m seeing games being played that haven’t been pulled off the shelves in months. I’m watching activity outside, loving that the boys can finally run around in the yard again (and mess up the grass that is trying to grow).


I’m also already starting to hear the words, “Mom, I don’t have anything to do.”  Yep, the dreaded sentence.

I never like to follow that sentence up with, “Well, you can go fold laundry” because somehow I feel that my children would then forever and always run far from me when they’re looking for something to do, thus resulting in much wasted time in the long run. My goal is to come up with ideas for fun projects and activities that will keep them busy and productive. The laundry? Oh yes, they can definitely fold that in their spare time – you know, after they’ve cleaned out the dishwasher and gone outside to bury the compost. ;)

Our boys are ages 9-16 right now, so gone are the days of blowing bubbles and splashing around in a kiddie pool. Your list of ways to keep your kids busy might differ from mine, based on the ages and interests of your kids. But here are a few ideas I have for my kids to keep them busy during the next few months:

  • Play card and board games
  • Create more music and videos
  • Play games outside
  • Learn more card tricks
  • Learn more cooking/kitchen skills
  • Get together with friends and cousins
  • Help Dad with home improvement projects
  • Read books (maybe offer a summer reading challenge?)
  • Clean out bedroom, boxing up toys they no longer play with
  • Work through a science experiment book
  • Clean out the basement (who knows what treasures will be discovered!)
  • Learn to make homemade ice cream
  • Swim often and improve water skills (while getting Vitamin D – woot!)

I’d love to hear what ideas you have for making it a great summer with your family. What do your kids like to do, or what would you like them to learn this summer?

And be sure to check out the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle as a fantastic resource. (Only 5 more days!)

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Homeschoolers Always Never

Homeschoolers are brilliant, hard working, and mature. They always do well on standardized tests. They each play at least one musical instrument, beginning at the age of three. They can each speak at least two languages fluently. They always graduate early and become neurosurgeons at the age of 22. They always come from huge families.

Homeschoolers never get enough social interaction. They never have opportunities to participate in group projects or have class parties.  They never eat Doritos.

Homeschoolers Always Never

I always cringe inside and I never feel like conversations like this build anyone up or glorify God. So can we stop with stereotypes and generalities already? Statements about what homeschooled kids always or never do is painful, ignorant, and downright silly. I’m not just talking about what those who “don’t get homeschooling” say. I’ve heard some of these statements from homeschooling families too.

Is it true that public schoolers always get into trouble, do drugs, disrespect their teachers, and slough off during high school? Of course not.  Just like there are all varieties of students in the public school – ranging from scholarly to bully to godly to needy to athletic to healthy to highly intelligent to drama queen – so it is with homeschoolers.

Can I tell you a homeschooling truth? Some students are only “average” (which, for the record, is defined as normal, typical, and common – and therefore nothing to be ashamed of). Some of them struggle to read and write. Some knock the socks off the ACT and other standardized tests, but some do not. Some are musically inclined, while some are completely tone deaf. Some love learning foreign languages and some barely master speaking the English language using complete sentences. (Like, yeah. I know right? Totally.)

Homeschooling does not ensure that kids will grow up to follow the Lord. Public schooling does not turn out robots. Homeschooling does not make kids anti-social. Public schooling does not provide more opportunities. Raising kids, no matter how you choose to do it, takes work, patience, and an immense trust and reliance on God – the One who created all of us uniquely for His glory. I am raising four boys in the same house, feeding them the same food, passing down jeans from one boy to the next, reading them the same books, teaching them the same math, and talking the same talk daily to all of them at the same time. Would you believe that all four of them are all very different in their talents, interests, learning styles, and personalities? I’m fairly certain that none of them have any interest in becoming a French speaking, cello playing, neurosurgeon. Thankfully, I realize that this doesn’t mean I have failed as a homeschool mom. I see their God-given talents shining in other ways.

Homeschoolers, public schoolers, private schoolers, adults, children, men, and women are individuals with unique talents, abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Each one of us is always never anything less than God created us to be. Let us never make a generalized statement that might belittle that truth.

P.S. I thought it may be of interest to note that last night, our family ate a meal with a group of homeschoolers. We all shared a bag of Doritos.


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