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!

Simple Waffle Omelets – perfect for any meal!

We might as well just call these “Womelets” because that’s what keeps coming out of my mouth when I try to talk about Waffle Omelets. I’m excited to share this recipe idea with you, but I’m sorry for causing all of you to be in this tricky verbal situation.

The cool thing is that these Womelets (I’ve given up on  trying to say it correctly) really are fun to make and super tasty.

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Here are some Waffle Omelet highlights:

  • You can make everyone’s Waffle Omelet to fit each person’s preferences.
  • These are super quick and simple to make.
  • You can make Waffle Omelets for a quick dinner when/if you forgot to thaw meat to prep for your meal.
  • You can prepare ingredients ahead of time and store them in the fridge to pull out and make Womelets at the spur of the moment.
  • These are inexpensive!

By the way, have I ever told you what a messy cook I am? Truly. If there are three people standing side by side putting together making food, you will be able to tell which cooking station was mine because of all the food that had been dripped, drizzled, slopped, and spilled in my area.

I am especially good at making a mess of these Womelets, as I often overestimate how much liquid to pour into the waffle iron. Out of the iron the egg mixture will spill, causing a huge mess of slime down the sides and all over the counter-top. Have I no shame?

In addition, you should see me try to take the Waffle Omelets out of the waffle iron without tearing them to bits. Notice, above, how I finally gave up and took a picture of the omelet directly in the waffle iron? It was better this way.

I finally figured out that if I use hot pads and pick the waffle iron up, then dump the omelet onto the plate, it actually comes out easily and pretty. How about that? No mess! (You’ll see below that it folded itself in half while being dumped, but it was the best I could do.)

waffle omlet

I’ve finally learned that for my waffle iron, it takes somewhere between 1/2-3/4 cup of egg mixture to make one nice waffle omelet without spilling over.

Fill your mixture with any combination of meat, cheese, and chopped veggies that you like! I suggest mixing the eggs, milk, and salt in a bowl, then you can add your “fillings” as you make each individual waffle omelet so you can make it according to taste!

Simple Waffle Omelets

Simple Omelet Waffles - perfect for any meal!
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 10 eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons milk
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt (more or less to taste)
  • Any variety of chopped meat, diced veggies, and shredded cheeses you like.
Instructions
  1. Whisk together eggs, milk, and salt.
  2. Heat and grease waffle iron.
  3. Scoop egg mixture into waffle iron to fill the bottom about ¾ full. (Mine takes ½-3/4 cup of mixture).
  4. Add in any fillings you like.
  5. Close waffle iron and cook for 3-4 minutes until eggs are cooked through.
  6. Serve right away.

Simple Waffle Omelets

More Simple Recipes

Join Simple Meals

Make life even simpler when you sign up to receive our weekly Menu Planning Packets. One tiny price, loads of weekly help. Read about this and sign up here!

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The Ultimate List of Father’s Day Ideas Starting at $0.00!

This was so much fun at Mother’s Day we put together a Father’s Day list too! Once again, my friend Kim was the genius behind this list. Brilliant, clever, and creative. Check these out!

The Ultimate List of 65 Father's Day Ideas

8 Gifts for Dad That are Free (or Almost Free)

  1. A letter to Dad (25 things I like about you, or top 10 favorite memories)
  2. A hand-drawn picture of you and Dad doing something together
  3. A photo album of pictures of you and Dad
  4. Your favorite picture of the two of you, framed
  5. Vacuum and wash his car or truck
  6. Coupons to help him organize and clean the garage, his workshop or his office
  7. Coupons for cleaning out his car, washing his car, or doing his share of the mowing
  8. Coupons for a batch of his favorite cookies or his favorite meal

Gifts for Dad That Cost $25 or Less

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4 for Camping

  1. Single Hammock ($20)
  2. Color-Coded Roasting Sticks ($20)
  3. Two Person Tent ($13 – Amazing Price!)
  4. Biolite Portable Light ($15) If you need to do things in the dark, the USB will also operate this light.  NO batteries, no electricity required.

3 for Baseball

  1. MLB Team Logo Baseball (less than $8)  You choose the team!
  2. Equipment Backpack ($25)
  3. Coffee Mug ($8)

3 for Football

  1. Light-Up Football ($10) So you can play in the dark!
  2. Parking Sign ($18) You choose the team.
  3. 3D Puzzle (like Legos) NFL team characters ($15)  You choose the character.

3 for Golf

  1. Golf Scope ($15)
  2. Tees ($5-$10)
  3. Golf Ball Pick Up Tool ($5)

2 for Fishing and hunting

  1. Portable Fish Scale with Measuring Tape ($10)
  2. Cross Body Tackle Bag ($20+)

1 for all Sports Fans

  1. Chair with its own shade ($23)

6 Great Tools

  1. 3-in-1 Laser Level, tape measure and bubble level with ruler  ($14)
  2. Leatherman Multi-Tool ($25)
  3. Telescoping Magnet ($6) Great for picking up spilled nails, screws and such!
  4. Nice Work Gloves ($14-$15)
  5. Headlamp ($8)
  6. Survival Kit ($13)

3 T-shirts

  1. For Dads with a Sense of Humor
  2. For Dads with Gas and a Sense of Humor
  3. Me and Mini-Me Set

Coffee Mugs

  1. For a Star Wars Fan ($13)
  2. Awesome Dad ($13)
  3. New Dad ($14)

Fun Outdoor Games for Dad (and the Entire Family!)

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  1. Kubb ($34)
  2. Lawn Bowling ($21)
  3. Yard Dice  ($38)
  4. Ladder Ball  ($33)
  5. Molkky ($24)
  6. Washer Toss ($20)
  7. Ring Toss ($23)
  8. Frisbee Golf (Disc Golf) Set ($32)
  9. Floating Pong ($16)

Gift for Dad That is On the Pricey Side, But Awesome

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Biolite Stove

Note from Kim: This camp stove requires just a little bit of fuel.  (It will burn anything that will burn and can be made small enough to fit inside the stove.)  It is great for roasting hot dogs or marshmallows.  Plus, while it is working, it will charge your device via USB.  With the right pan or pot, you can boil water and cook.  Or, set it beside you to keep warm.

Recipes to Make for Dad

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For Breakfast

For Carnivores

For His Sweet Tooth

What ideas do you have for ways to make Father’s Day great?

Some of these links are my affiliate links.

Simple Tex-Mex Creamy Chicken

I have made a decision. It is a big one and I appreciate your support. Thank you in advance.

As of now, until further notice, I shall not soak and cook my beans.

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Canned beans for the Simple Meals win.

I know. This news is big. But my beans and I have valid reasons for such a drastic change in our relationship.

Indeed I used to be a faithful bean soaker and cooker, but the demands of working full time while homeschooling teens, chauffeuring teens, feeding teens, supporting teens, and finding a tiny moment in my day to say hello to my husband have led me to kick bean-prep off my priority list. It’s either buy canned beans or become a beanless family. Long live the bean.

I am well aware that bean-cooking is not difficult. A child could do it. But I found that I almost never remember to soak beans ahead of time because I’m too often in my car running my kids to all of their social/church/work/sports/ministry outings. (And by the way, if one more person says something to me about homeschoolers not getting enough socialization I shall happily throw my van keys and event calendar at them and make them take my kids to all their social events so they can see the truth and laugh as they realize they most definitely never had a need to worry. Said person shall need a nap after this feat, but there’s no time for one – and this is why I don’t soak my beans.)

I can hear what some of you are saying. “Get an Instant Pot!” But we’ve been through all of this so I’ll have to ask that you cheerfully support my decision and let me open my cans of beans in peace.

This post has a point (thank goodness). And also a recipe. It will come as no surprise to you when you see that said recipe includes a can of black beans.

Substitute canned beans with those you have soaked/cooked yourself if you like. Best news of the day: I did the math and learned that when I buy canned black beans by the case it does not cost me anymore than if I were to buy dried beans and make them myself. I had no idea! You might also like learning that this dish I am about to share with you costs around $2.00/serving for my family. Not too shabby for a real food meal that sufficiently fills teenage boys.

Bet you’re hoping I’ll just go ahead and share the recipe already.

Simple Tex-Mex Creamy Chicken

Simple Tex-Mex Creamy Chicken
 
Author:
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds boneless chicken thighs or breasts
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 16-ounces salsa
  • 15-ounces black beans
  • 2 cups corn
  • 2 cups sour cream
Instructions
  1. In a skillet, brown chicken pieces in olive oil, seasoning them with chili powder and salt.
  2. Once chicken is cooked through and through (about five minutes on each side) add salsa, black beans, and corn.
  3. Simmer for about two minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream.
  5. Serve over brown rice, pasta, or tortilla chips

Simple Tex-Mex Creamy Chicken

Note that adding sour cream to this makes the chicken mixture thick and creamy without any effort to make a cream sauce. That’s what makes this recipe so simple!

A huge time and money saver for our family (and many others!) has been our great Simple Meals program. Join us and be amazed at how this simplifies your life – plus you’ll love the easy, healthy, real food you’ll be putting on the table so quickly each day. We’ll welcome all who soak their beans and all who don’t, because we’re all friends and no one shall be beanless. Check it out and join here!

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More Simple Recipes

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?

elias_and_daddy

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.

malachi_apple_pie_344

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.

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

groceries2271

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

I pass out cold.

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

I start to pick myself up off the floor…

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

I fall down dead.

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

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

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

In that post I said:

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

Or something like that.

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

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

Ways I already save on real food

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

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

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

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

30 Real Food Money Saving Tips

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

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

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

summer reading party header
Grab them here!

 

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

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

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

How I Really Feel About My Kids High School English Papers

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

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

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

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

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

four boys pilgrim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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).

books

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.)

ralph moody
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!