30-Day Home Stretch Real Food Menu Plan

I have a 30-Day Real Food Menu Plan for you for the home stretch. Why? Well I don’t know about you, but…

I am all done. 

I don’t care how many pages of Worldly Wise or lessons of Teaching Textbooks (math) are practical to finish in one week. I want the boys to finish. Five days. All of it. Overachieve, children! You can do it. There’s ice cream in it for you when you finish. A double scoop.

All the learning moments? We’ve had ’em galore. They have been precious. We’ll have more next year. Right now we’re in a “just finish it already” mode. Finishing by Friday is entirely possible on most of our subjects. They are pretty motivated (by the ice cream) (and the freedom), so I’m pretty sure they’ll be able to pull it off.

Raise your hand if you’re with me – whether home-school, private, or public school family. Are ya ready for summer break??

Malachi school april

This kid. We wears a suit and tie more than he wears play clothes.
Actually, a suit and tie are his play clothes. #mosthandsomefifthgrader

Our oldest, Asa, finishes his second semester at college and moves home this weekend! He leaves again at the beginning of June to travel for the college, recruiting for YC at various church camps in the Midwest. This is part of my push to finish our school year at home this week. All six of us will be home during the month of May and I’d just rather not be dividing our time between family fun and Algebra.

No matter where you are in your school year, I’m sure we can all use a little help getting the family fed easily!

You may remember that I shared a 30-Day Real Food Back-to-School Menu Plan last August when we were all gearing up for this school year. Now that we’re winding down and probably trying to work harder than ever to get everything done, to make it to all the end-of-school events, and basically survive until summer – I thought it might be nice if I recreated this menu plan for you and offered it again.

The 30-Day Back-to-School Home Stretch! Real Food Menu Plan

We’ll begin with breakfast, head into lunch (for the home-schoolers among us), then land on dinner/supper. Ready to dig in?!

Raspberry Oatmeal Bars 12

30 Real Food Breakfast Ideas (always served with fruit and often served with some sort of additional protein)

  1. Fried eggs on toast
  2. Scrambled cheesy eggs
  3. Breakfast Burritos
  4. Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins
  5. Easy Breakfast Casserole
  6. Dark Chocolate Almond Granola
  7. Giant Breakfast Cookies
  8. Instant Oatmeal Packets
  9. Pancake and Sausage Muffins
  10. Whole Wheat Waffles
  11. Coconut Flour Muffins
  12. Quick Mix Pancakes
  13. Homemade Poptarts
  14. Raspberry Oatmeal Bars
  15. Peanut Butter Snack Bars
  16. Peanut Butter Breakfast Cake
  17. Coconut Fudge Bars
  18. Cream Cheese Pumpkin Muffins
  19. Quick Mix Biscuits
  20. Low Sugar Carrot Cake
  21. Lemon Bread
  22. Ham and Egg Breakfast Bowls
  23. Grape Nuts Cereal
  24. Crepes
  25. Breakfast Cake Muffins
  26. Honey Cinnamon Muffins
  27. Oatmeal Breakfast Bars
  28. Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins
  29. Strawberry Cream Muffins
  30. Peanut Butter Pancakes

Muffin Tip: Make muffin batter ahead and put it into the freezer like this so that you can easily bake them fresh as needed in the mornings!

Tuna Melts on Spinach

30 Real Food Lunch Ideas (always served with 2-4 fruits and veggies. If I’m serving salad, I usually serve some sort of bread to fill my men)

  1. Tuna Salad
  2. Tuna Melts on Spinach
  3. Pasta Salad Bar
  4. Meat and Cheese Burritos
  5. Easy Noodle Stir Fry
  6. Ham and Cheese Pasta Salad
  7. Pizza Boats
  8. Baked Potatoes in the Crock Pot with whatever toppings we have available
  9. Homemade pizza (crusts already made – boys build/bake their own)
  10. Spanish Rice
  11. Taco Salad
  12. Easy Cheesy Bean Dip with chips
  13. Chicken Tacos
  14. Black Bean Chicken Nachos
  15. BLT Chopped Salad
  16. BLT Wraps
  17. Bacon, Egg, and Avocado Salad
  18. Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (with turkey or ham if I have some)
  19. Scrambled Egg Sandwiches
  20. Creamy Mac and Cheese
  21. Healthier Cheese Dip with chips
  22. Real Food Meat and Velveeta Dip with chips
  23. Taco Quesadillas
  24. Tuna Casserole
  25. Chicken Burritos
  26. Plain Quesadillas
  27. Hamburger Patties
  28. Beef Summer Sausage with cheese and crackers
  29. Corn Dog Muffins
  30. Cheesy Salsa Burgers (from Eat Right Away: Beef Edition)

Grilled BBQ Chicken

Dinner/Supper (always served with 2-4 fruits and veggies)

  1. Cheesy Salsa Enchiladas
  2. Grilled Barbeque Chicken
  3. Italian Cream Cheese Chicken
  4. Mongolian Beef (from Eat Right Away: Slow Cooker Beef Edition)
  5. Quick Mix Pancakes with Scrambled Eggs and Bacon
  6. Barbecue Cranberry Chicken (from Eat Right Away: Slow Cooker Chicken Edition)
  7. Sloppy Joes
  8. Cheeseburger Macaroni
  9. Easy Apricot Chicken (from Eat Right Away: Chicken Edition)
  10. Turkey Sausage and Red Bean Stew
  11. Taco Potatoes
  12. Beefy Enchilada Bake
  13. Baked Ziti (from Eat Right Away: Beef Edition)
  14. Baked Three Cheese Chicken Pasta
  15. Garden Veggie Chicken Skillet
  16. Spaghetti
  17. Bacon Cheeseburger Casserole (from Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks)
  18. Popcorn Chicken
  19. Bacon-Wrapped Individual Meatloaves (from Eat Right Away: Beef Edition)
  20. Italian Pasta Bake
  21. Salmon Patties
  22. Teriyaki Chicken and Veggies
  23. Grilled Salmon
  24. Grilled Burgers
  25. Fiesta Chicken
  26. Sour Cream Enchiladas (from Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks)
  27. Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole
  28. Lamb Chops
  29. Hawaiian Beef and Rice (from Eat Right Away: Slow Cooker Beef Edition)
  30. Grilled Steak

30 Day Real Food Home-Stretch-School Menu Plan

Learning Resources and Freebies Made Easy

How would you like a downloadable version of this?! Learning Zone members can download this FREE 30-Day Real Food Menu Plan Resource to keep handy during this busy time of year.

Are you part of the Heavenly Homemaker’s Learning Zone? We’re frequently offering free printable learning resources you won’t want to miss! If you are a mom, an educator, or in any way spend time with children – I invite you to join the fun of the Learning Zone!

Download the 30-Day Real Food Menu Plan Resource

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.

Stir-and-Pour Chocolate Swirl Bread

Let us not miss the irony of the timing of this post. As you know, I currently have no oven. As great as this Stir-and-Pour Chocolate Swirl Bread recipe is, I cannot bake any right now. I made this last week before my oven died and I’m just now getting around to posting about it.

Chocolate Swirl BreadYou though. You probably all have ovens. On behalf of my oven-less self, won’t you please bake this bread for your family? It would make me so happy. (My request is not completely selfish. It should also make you happy. Because chocolate. And homemade bread.)

Side note: I made some measurement adjustments and tried the regular Stir-and-Pour Bread recipe in my crock pot yesterday. I figured if it works to bake quick bread in a crock pot, I could try making a yeast bread. It turned out….not great. I’m determined though. I’m gonna keep tweaking and try again. In the meantime, feel free to make fun of this way too crusty on the outside, weirdly chewy in the middle attempt at crock pot bread…

Crock Pot Bread Fail

But moving on to share how to bake this Stir-and-Pour Chocolate Swirl Bread in an actual oven. This is made in a similar way to the Stir-and-Pour Cinnamon Swirl Bread. Seeing as we don’t have to knead this bread (hallelujah!) it’s a bit hard to actually roll this out and make lovely swirls. I simply layered this bread. I put one-third of the dough into the pan, then spread on 1/2 of the chocolate layer. Then I spread in another third of the bread dough, and spread on the remaining half of the chocolate. Finish by spreading on the last of the bread dough. Bake. Slice. Eat. Appreciate the fact that you have an oven. Amen.

Stir-and-Pour Chocolate Swirl BreadYum

Stir-and-Pour Chocolate Swirl Bread
  • 4 cups whole wheat flour (I use freshly ground hard white wheat)
  • 2 teaspoons active rise yeast
  • 2 Tablespoons sucanat or sugar or honey
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 3 Tablespoons honey
  • 2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 Tablespoons milk or water
  1. Stir together flour, yeast, sucanat, salt, and water.
  2. Cover and allow it to sit for 30 minutes.
  3. In a small saucepan, cook and stir together the honey, cocoa, and water until smooth.
  4. Remove from heat.
  5. Pour ? of the mixture into a well-buttered loaf pan.
  6. Spread ½ of the chocolate mixture over the dough.
  7. Spread another ? of the dough over the chocolate layer.
  8. Sprinkle remaining ½ of the chocolate mixture over the dough.
  9. Spread remaining dough over the top.
  10. Bake in a 350° for 50-60 minutes or until evenly browned.
  11. Allow it to sit in the pan for 15 minutes.
  12. Remove the loaf to let it cool completely before slicing.

Stir and Pour Chocolate Swirl Bread

Other Stir-and-Pour Bread variations include:

Raise your hand if you love this Stir-and-Pour Bread and all the greatness it offers!!

How to Feed Your Family When Your Oven is Broken

How is it that I feed my family all summer without turning on the oven, but right now I’m like, “Oh no! My oven is broken! What will we eat? How will I cook?”

I’d grill but it’s been rainy and drizzly for several days. This rain makes me want to bake. Of course. Poor me. I’m stuck with only my stove-top, electric skillet, fryer, blender, food processor, and crock pot. As you can see, I’m practically without any options.

Heavenly Homemaker's Messy Kitchen

The good news:

I think I’m getting my dream stove/oven out of this!!!

When the oven went out on Sunday, producing banana bread that was crispy on top but more like tepid, stringy banana pudding in the middle (so yum), Matt spent some time (once again) trying to fix it. Could he fix it? Yes. But after a while, he was over it. He surprised me with an offer. “How would you like to go shopping for a new oven?”

I thought he was kidding. We always just make do. If it breaks, we fix it. If it’s barely hanging on, we hang on with it. Therefore I kidded back with, “Yes! I want it to be a double oven! Also, I want to get rid of the electric hook up and instead hook up gas! Let’s go shopping for a gas range with a double oven!”

And Matt was like, “Hmm. Sounds good.” {Laura passes out.}

I’d never shared these dreams with him before. But knowing how much I cook and bake (which of course benefits him greatly), and how lame our stove/oven have been for so many years, I think Matt decided it was time to fork it out for a quality appliance.

I might have started acting like a five year old who was getting a double oven for Christmas. Sure, it was hard for me to think about paying extra for my dream range. But we were going to have to drop some money on a new range anyway. Might as well get the one that benefits our family and guests the most.

More good news:

You guys, not only am I going to have a double oven – I’m gonna have gas. I’m also going to say it like that to everyone I meet because it catches people off guard and makes us all giggle. I’ll say, “I haven’t had gas for years, but Matt is awesome and surprised me. So now I have gas. Finally!!” And then my friends will say, “Laura has gas! We are so happy for her.”

Won’t that just be so much fun? 

In the meantime, I still don’t have an oven.

One doesn’t drop that much money without first doing research to decide which is the best option for purchase. (We’re looking at one like this. It’s one of the least expensive, if you can believe it. Cha-ching!) While I’m waiting for the range to come in and be installed, I decided to make a list of non-oven great food options. There are hundreds. I’ll just make a list based on what I have on hand and what is on sale this week.

Funny, by the way, that since I know I can’t bake, all I can think of are foods I want to bake. That’s the main reason I’m making this list. I have to get my mind off of cake.

Meals You Can Make Without an Oven

Food I Can Make While My Oven is Broken

I had decided that breakfast is the trickiest, but as I look through this page of Breakfast Recipe Ideas, I’m finding quite a bit to work with. I have no idea why I’m making this hard. I’m just spoiled, that’s all.

Links to My Favorite Non-Oven Appliances

In case you’re interested, this is what I have in my kitchen. These will all be used double time this week, you can be sure!

  • My Crock Pot
  • My Electric Skillet (This is 60% off right now!)
  • My Cast Iron Griddle (Also being offered a huge discount right now if you need one. Only $22!)
  • My Blender (Pricey but worth it)
  • My Waffle Iron (It’s a cheapo)
  • My Fryer (Mine is actually a little different than that, but they don’t seem to make mine anymore.)
  • My Toaster Oven (I do NOT recommend this one. It’s cheap and burns toast. I had one like this before but when we broke the door I was too stingy to pay that much again. I regret the “money savings” – something I’m trying to keep in mind while shopping for a double oven.)

As you can see, I’ll still be able to make huge messes in my kitchen and my children won’t even starve while I am without an oven. There are loads of options.

As soon as I have gas, I’ll let you know. If that isn’t something to look forward to, I don’t know what is.

Do you have any non-oven recipe ideas to share? How about double-oven purchasing advice? Gas related thoughts? Really. I’m open to just about anything you’d like to share. 

Lodge Cast Iron Griddle – Only $22.00!

Just a quick post to share that one of my favorite kitchen tools is 52% off right now!!!

Amazon has the Lodge LDP3 Reversible Double Play Grill & Griddle back on sale again for only $22.00.  I grabbed one of these a few months ago and am loving it!

lodge griddle

How to use your cast iron griddle

It’s great for pancakes, great for grilled cheese sandwiches, and great for my Cheesy Cauliflower Cakes recipe. I love that I can crank out a lot of food at one time because of this large cooking space. The griddle covers two stove-top burners. Once I get the heat regulated, this griddle works awesome!

My fav pancake recipes for your dining pleasure:

Grab your griddle before the price goes up. This price is amazing!!

This post contains affiliate links.

Low Sugar Butterscotch Bars

It’s a happy day. Gather ’round, my friends. I’ll share the secret of how we can remake a Heavenly Homemaker’s classic recipe, Butterscotch Bars, into Low Sugar Butterscotch Bars.

butterscotch bars 1

We have Colleen to thank for this. She’s the one who emailed me after I shared my Low Sugar Chocolate Fudge Cookie recipe, asking how I thought my Butterscotch Bars would turn out if we cut the sugar.

I wasn’t confident. While I’ve found that many recipes work amazingly well when we cut the sugar, the two I felt might have to stay sugar-full were the Butterscotch Bars and Chocolate Fudge Brownies.

But you never know until you try, right? Last week I shared that indeed, we can make Low Sugar Chocolate Brownies – proving myself wrong that it just wasn’t possible. Today I’m sharing that sugar in the Butterscotch Bars can be cut too! Boom!

Low Sugar Butterscotch BarsYum

Low Sugar Butterscotch Bars
Serves: 15 bars
  • 1 cup melted butter
  • ½ cup sucanat or brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1¼ cups whole wheat pastry flour (regular white whole wheat flour works too)
  1. Cream melted butter and sucanat together.
  2. Add eggs and vanilla.
  3. Stir in flour and mix well.
  4. Spread mixture into a 9x13 inch baking dish.
  5. Bake in a 350° oven for 20 minutes.

Low Sugar Butterscotch Bars

Confession: I love these low sugar bars. I actually find that they are still almost too sweet for me so I can only have a tiny sliver. My family thinks they’re good. But when I made a pan of Butterscotch Bars for a houseful of college kids last week, I made the full sugar version.

If you’re going for a treat that’s rich and gooey – you’ll want to make the regular 2-cups of sugar (gag me) Butterscotch Bars. But if you want a treat that is lightly sweetened and deliciously tasty (just not ooey gooey super sweet) – this Low Sugar Butterscotch Bar recipe is what you want!

Find more Low Sugar Treats here. You guys – the list is getting long!! I’m loving this!

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.

four boys pilgrim

Five minutes ago they were babies. 

bball tourney 2016

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.

elias soccer 2015

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).

malachi at LTC 2016

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.

prom 2016 3

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.

asa in choir 2016

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?


Rich Dark Chocolate Fudge Brownies (Low Sugar!)

These Dark Chocolate Fudge Brownies are low in sugar. Can you believe it?

Low Sugar Fudge Brownie

Sugar became my enemy about the time I turned 39. I feel absolutely awful – for hours or even days – if I eat sugary treats. Therefore I haven’t been able to eat a regular brownie for about three years.

Avoiding desserts hasn’t been hard for me because a cookie is not even worth a migraine. Sometimes just the smell of sweets turns my stomach, thinking of how terrible I’ll feel if I eat them. So will power? That has nothing to do with my “I’ll pass on the dessert, thanks.” Sweets literally make me sick. I really do not want them.

You know this is saying something since I’m the one who used to eat sugar with my sugar and wash it down with a fizzy glass full of sugar (and then have seconds).

Perhaps I consumed a lifetime quota of sugar by the time I was 39. More likely I think this is a result of some major cleansing and heavy metal detox I’ve been doing with my natural doctor during the past few years. My body is at a point of only wanting the good stuff. Okay then. This is probably the best side effect ever.

Having said all that, I do really appreciate a treat that is lightly sweetened. My body can handle these in moderation, and experimenting with recipes to drastically cut the sugar has been really fun. As you know from reading any of my recent low-sugar recipes – I’m learning that treats and dessert really do taste wonderful even when the sugar content has been cut in a huge way.

This, of course, has been greatly beneficial for our entire family (and now for yours!). I’ve wanted for so long to cut down on our sugar intake. It’s just hard since sugar tastes so doggone good.

Thorough research has taught me that high quality fats like coconut oil, butter, and palm oil are not our enemy when it comes to good health. SUGAR IS THE ENEMY. I should probably write an entire post about this. (Oh wait. I just did.) But go read it later because, my friends, I have a Low Sugar Brownie Recipe and I’m not afraid to eat it. This is my most exciting discovery in all my low-sugar recipe experimentation. We can cut the sugar in brownies!!!!

Someone hold me back. Not from eating too many. Just from SCREAMING TOO LOUDLY. This is just exciting. You’ll be screaming too. I support your decision to scream. (Outside. While we’re inside we use our inside voices.)

Rich Dark Chocolate Fudge BrowniesYum

5.0 from 1 reviews
Rich Dark Chocolate Fudge Brownies (Low Sugar!)
Serves: 12-15
  • 1 cup melted butter
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ cup sucanat or brown sugar (I use just under ½ cup, actually)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1¼ cups whole wheat pastry flour
  1. Mix together melted butter, cocoa, and sugar.
  2. Add eggs and vanilla, stirring well.
  3. Mix in flour until well combined.
  4. Spread into a 9x9 inch baking dish or a 9 inch pie dish.
  5. Bake in a 350° oven for 20 minutes.
  6. Allow brownies to cool before cutting them (good luck).

Dark Chocolate Fudge Brownies {Low Sugar}

These bake up a little different from “full sugar” brownies. You may notice that the butter sizzles on the top of these while they’re baking. Don’t worry a bit. Take them out of the oven after 20 minutes of baking and let them sit for a few minutes. The butter settles in and turns your brownies fudgy and moist.

Because the sugar is cut down in this recipe, you’ll find that these taste more like dark chocolate. All of my kids ate them without complaint because these are still plenty sweet. (But not so sweet that I can’t have a small piece, so yay!)

Onward we go, testing out more low sugar recipes! How fun is this?!

Homemade Whole Wheat Graham Crackers

This Whole Wheat Graham Crackers recipe was originally posted in 2008. My current big 11-year old was a tiny 3-year old back then and I can’t stop looking at the pictures in this post.

I updated this post to have an easy-to-print recipe option for you. These crackers are crunchy-crispy…and taste SO GOOD.  Oh, I hope you love them like we do.

If you like the Honey Graham Cracker recipe, you’ll love the fact that you can also make CHOCOLATE Graham CrackersJust add 1/3 cup cocoa to the recipe.

Whole Wheat Graham Crackers Yum

Healthy Treat for Today: Homemade Whole Wheat Graham Crackers!
  • 2 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup sucanat (dehydrated cane sugar juice)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 Tablespoons honey
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Melt stick of butter in a pan on the stove. Set aside.
  3. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sucanat, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
  4. Add the liquids: honey, water, vanilla and melted butter.
  5. Stir well until a nice ball of dough is formed.
  6. Cut two pieces of Parchment paper the size of the cookie sheet.
  7. Lay one piece of parchment paper on the cookie sheet.
  8. Place the ball of dough on the parchment paper.
  9. Lay the other piece of parchment paper on top of the ball of dough. Squish dough down a little with your fist.
  10. Use the rolling pin to roll the dough between the pieces of parchment paper. Roll until the dough covers the whole cookie sheet.
  11. Remove the top piece of parchment paper. Cut rolled dough into 2 inch squares, or cut shapes with cookie cutters, being sure to separate the shapes from the surrounding dough a little.
  12. Bake in oven for 18 minutes.
  13. Turn oven off, but leave crackers in the oven to get crisp.
  14. Remove from oven after 30 minutes to one hour. Break graham crackers apart.
  15. Store in a air tight container.

Malachi is finishing up the rolling for Mama!

Here’s a shot of the chocolate graham crackers
cut into squares and ready to bake.

Malachi is using little cookie cutters to make “animal crackers”!

Here’s a plate of the Chocolate Graham Crackers.
(Got milk?)

My kids get so excited when I make these.  They are a great snack to have on hand.  Try them and see what you think! :)

Homemade Graham Crackers

Arbor Day ~ Learning About Trees FREE Activity Packets

Nebraska is famous for….corn? Wind? Weird weather? Husker football? All of the above. You’ll find that many of us wear red in support of our Huskers’ teams. What can we say? We just don’t have much else in this state to brag about.

Just yesterday I found Husker shirts on clearance at the store and grabbed one for myself. I’m wearing it today, so since we’re talking about my fabulous state I will bless you with this awkward and distorted selfie so you can see my new Nebraska shirt.

nebraska shirt

Here’s what you may not know about Nebraska: It is the home of Arbor Day

Yep – take that all you states and countries with beaches, mountains, oceans, and huge cities. We have trees.

(This might be why we get so excited about our Husker shirts.)

It’s actually kind of neat that a guy moved here when Nebraska was barely a state, saw that it was mostly prairie, and decided to plant thousands of trees. He spend much of his life working to educate people about the importance of trees and here we are over a hundred years later celebrating a day that honors this wonderful resource.

Just in case trees and Arbor Day were somehow slipping your mind this year – I am happy to inform you that Arbor Day 2016 is April 29. (Only 16 days to get ready!! I’m here to help.)

Arbor Day April 29, 2016

For years we’ve been intending to take our family on a field trip to Nebraska City, the home of Arbor Day. This year we’re making it happen. In preparation, I created some activities for Malachi to work through so that he would be more aware of the importance of trees, the variety of trees, and the beauty of trees.

Arbor Day Study About Trees K-5 Free Activity Packet2

I’m making this activity packet available to all of you, too. Plus I made one for your Pre-K kids to enjoy!

Arbor Day Tree Study Free Activity Packet PreK2

Click here to sign up and grab the “Learning About Trees” freebies!

 I’m 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: FREE Arbor Day “Learning About Trees” Activity Packets!