Spend Time in the Word With Your Family: FREE Packet of Praise Scripture Memory Printables!

If I could give just one piece of advice to families raising children it would be this: Spend time in the Word together. 

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Do not limit spiritual training to Sunday morning at church. Those are a beautiful two or three hours each week, but what about the other 109 awake hours every week?

(Yes, I did the math. 24 hours a day x 7 days in a week = 168. Take away 8 hours of sleep each night = 112. Take away 3 hours of church on Sunday = 109 awake hours outside of the church walls. You are welcome. Never ask me to do math again unless it involves measurements in a recipe. It’s better this way.)

Through 20 years of parenting, we’ve learned that spiritual training as a family takes place all day long, every day of the week. Through scripture, conversation, prayer, humility, and surrender, together with our kids we learn to trust God, seek Him, listen to Him, and love Him.

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One aspect of our spiritual journey we’ve been especially focused on recently is Praising Him. This is slightly different from being thankful. Thanking and praising go together, certainly, but try this sometime:

Have family prayer time together in which you only praise God.

Don’t ask for anything. Don’t petition Him. Just praise Him.

“God, we praise you for…” “God you are…”

Fill the room with praise. Do this with your family. It is truly glorious!

As we’ve been practicing more praise in our home, I’ve been looking through scripture to find verses and passages that are exclusively in praise to the Father. There are many!

Praise Scripture Memory Printables - free for you!

Here are 10 of our favorites, put onto beautiful printables for us all to enjoy! Not only have we found that it’s important to fill our home with praise, we love hanging scripture in every room of our house.

Please help yourself to this packet of free printables. Enjoy them with your family. Memorize the scriptures together. Spend time praising together. Talk together about His wonders and goodness!

Connect to our Heavenly Homemaker’s Learning Zone! It’s completely free, and well, full of freebies! Simply enter your email address here, check your inbox for a confirmation link, then these scripture printable freebies will be yours, along with dozens of other free printables!

May we all fill our homes with praise to the Father!

P.S. If you’d like to read more about how we have established a Family Bible Reading time, I wrote about that here.

The Teenage Boy and the Toilet Paper

Sometimes I feel all alone in this big old house full of men. It’s five-on-one here, with me being the only female in a house full of males. A husband, four sons, and me, the wife and mom, speaking a language all my own. How frequent it is that I speak sentences full of words no one understands.

Or so it seems.

Family at Nebraska City

Perhaps I do provide too many details when I share fun news. “Our friends had their baby!” I say, following up my announcement with the size, weight, details, details, details, and details that we all most certainly care about very much! I finally come up for air, and they all give an appreciative nod and a “cool” or a “nice” before zoning back into whatever it was they were doing before I started my speech.

Sometimes it seems like they aren’t listening. Sometimes it seems like they don’t care.

I know better though. They hear. And they definitely care. They just aren’t as interested as I am in the color of the darling bow the baby wore on her head on the way home from the hospital (multi-colored with flowers, thanks for asking).

My boys and I shop together, but I’m alone at the rack with cute sweaters and adorable tops. We have a blast anyway, meeting back up and high-fiving over the clearance deals we’ve all found. We laugh together about the weird shorts that are still on the rack for so many obvious reasons, but wonder together if we should actually buy them for Asa because if anyone could pull off such ridiculous looking apparel and make it look cool, it would be him.

Hangers in the clothing store.

The fun I have with my household of men truly takes my breath away, even while there are times I long for any one of them to get excited with me about how great it would be if we actually put all the shoes in the closet where they belong. The fact that no one but me can see the pile of books on the steps that needs to be carried upstairs blows my mind. How do they walk over and around them twelve times but never once see them and pick them up to take them to the place they need to go? I do not understand this.

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But I’ve learned that the fact that they don’t always see doesn’t mean that they don’t care. And just because their faces don’t light up over the news of a new baby or the sight of a clean kitchen doesn’t mean they aren’t excited or appreciative.

As their mom, I will continue to share too many details, because I can’t help it and after all, someone needs to prepare them to hear all the details and words their wives will some day share with them every day, am I right? My arms will flail and my eyes will light up and my voice will show ridiculous inflection as I tell about the exciting deal I found on strawberries and a new recipe I’m excited to try as a result, even though they will only shrug after hearing my details and simply say, “Cool. Can we have some?”

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But then there will be the day when the basket that holds the rolls of toilet paper in the bathroom becomes empty and I will look up to see my 15-year old son get a full package out of storage, open it, and fill the basket just like I have been doing for years. He wasn’t asked to do this chore. I didn’t even know he knew my system. But there he is. Filling baskets with toilet paper.

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These are actual baskets in our actual bathroom,
filled with actual toilet paper by an actual teenage boy. 

Apparently, they do see. They do notice. They do care.

My eyes light up over this! I gush with appreciation, using many words and flailing arms to express my thanks! He responds with a wordless shrug, because after all, it’s just toilet paper.

No, Son. It’s more than that. Here, let me tell you in detail why this is means so much to me…

The Teenage Boy and the Toilet Paper

Using Scripture to Shape Your Kids’ Character

It all started when our kids were little bitty.

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I was having a bit of a grumbly day, which had been happening way too often for anyone’s liking. When I was grumpy, of course my kids became grumpy. So the combination of grumpy mom and grumpy kids turned our household into a great big grumpy mess.

Somehow (God’s leading, no doubt) I stumbled upon the following from Philippians 2:14-16:

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.

Do everything?? EVERYTHING without grumbling or arguing?? How in the world? Did God not understand about the poop and the snot and the tantrums?

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I was personally challenged by this passage, and loved the image of shining like a star in a world full of darkness. How desperately I wanted my kids to know me as a shining model of God’s character, instead of as a dark, gloomy, frustrated, grouchy, “let’s just get through the day without killing each other” kind of a mom.

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So living out this scripture became a prayer focus for me. “Do everything without grumbling or arguing…do everything without grumbling or arguing…”

As I focused on this passage, it became easy for me to gently share it with my kids every time they started to grumble or argue. Talking about it became natural, and little as they were at the time, they could understand the simple words, “Remember the Bible words? Do not grumble. Do not argue.”

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But this parenting practice became even better when I started to incorporate the remainder of the verse into my training with them. When I noticed my little boys playing nicely and getting along (hallelujah!) I would take the last part of the Philippians passage to encourage them with, “You guys sure are shining like stars right now!” and they would beam.

And THIS all led to the creation of Character Charts that I made with construction paper and star stickers. I wrote the entire passage of Philippians 2:14-16 on a chart for each of them. Then every time I “caught” them playing nicely and getting along, I would say, “I saw you shining like a star this afternoon when you were playing together without grumbling or arguing. I guess you better go put a star on your chart!”

It’s amazing how such a simple reward can mean so much to a little one. It was positive reinforcement at its best, because it involved scripture Truth! And on the flip side, having these charts on our wall made it easier for me to call out grumpy behaviors with, “Your star needs to shine brighter right now. Can you think of a nicer way to talk to each other (or to me)?”

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The “Star Charts” led our family down a fun path of selecting other Bible verses that helped shape our kids’ (and our own!) hearts toward making godly choices. Using scripture for our kids’ character training was better than any training we could have given them. We wanted them to know the “why” behind the good behavior we were asking for. Using scripture was a natural and beautiful way to do that.

If you’ve been reading here for many years, you may remember that I had created printable Kids Character Charts and included them in my Heavenly Homemakers Shop for you to purchase. They were not super professional, but they were a step above construction paper on the wall. :) Then after a few years I took them out of my shop with plans to have a professional designer re-create them into something wonderful.

That finally happened this summer!

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There are five full sets of character charts and cut-out stickers in this collection, each with a Bible lesson you can use as you introduce it to and use with your kids.

  1. Shine Like Stars – from Philippians 2:14-16
  2. Fruit of the Spirit – from Galatians 5:22-25
  3. Walk in the Light – from 1 John 1:7
  4. Be Imitators of God – from Ephesians 5:1-2
  5. Treasures in Your Heart – from Matthew 6:19-21

You can use this collection in any way that works best for your family’s character and Biblical training!

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My kids are all big and tall and turning into adults now. They look back at their beloved Character Chart days with fond memories (which is always fun for me to hear!). The charts use Biblical truth in a very simple and practical way so that God’s truth becomes your child’s truth.

Kids' Character Charts
Encourage your kids toward Godly behaviors with these five full sets of character charts and cut-out stickers in this collection. Each comes with a Bible lesson you can use as you introduce it to and use with your kids. Shine Like Stars - from Philippians 2:14-16 Fruit of the Spirit - from Galatians 5:22-25 Walk in the Light - from 1 John 1:7 Be Imitators of God - from Ephesians 5:1-2 Treasures in Your Heart - from Matthew 6:19-21 You can use this collection in any way that works best for your family's character and Biblical training!
Price: $10.00

God bless you as you raise, train, and love your kids!

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

sidewalk chalk

Hotel Activities

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Travel Games

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Fun Travel Snacks and Drinks

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

Recipes for the Road

Peanut Butter Cookie Bites - No Bake!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Mom's Musings on Fabulous Fads

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

This too shall pass.

Therefore…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If I Had to Raise My Kids All Over Again, I Would Definitely Do This

I’m on year twenty of being a mom. TWENTY! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t know how I got here. One crusty sock and painful lego under my foot at a time, I suppose. What a ride. What a joy. What a lot of life lessons.

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My kids always cooperated when taking pictures.

The regrets over all the mistakes I made and things I wished I could go back and do differently started washing over me during my oldest son’s senior year of high school. It was a painful time, thinking of sending him off after graduation, knowing I could have and should have done a better job. The Enemy was attacking and filling me with lies, making me forget all the good in our lives, keeping me from seeing the amazing person my son had become in spite of, and even because of me.

God’s grace has offered much healing from those days of swimming in regret as He overpowered the enemy lies and showed me His beautiful Truth. I am so thankful to be freed of that bondage!

Sure, I could have done many things differently through these twenty years. But that doesn’t mean I’m a parenting failure. It means I’m a human being. It means I need Jesus. It means my kids need Him too, since what I have to offer falls short of what our Savior offers.

Well with that, I want to reflect back on something I am so thankful we did, something God orchestrated in our family and helped us to do well – even though we had no idea at the time that it was such a thing of beauty.

If I had to raise my kids all over again, I would definitely do this

From the time our kids were little, we made opportunities for our kids to think of and serve others.

It was something we saw happening within another family we respected. They always had their kids with them as they served the community in all different ways. We saw this and we thought, “We want that for our kids.”

I am so thankful for this family’s example of serving with their kids. It would have been easier to leave the kids behind so we could “serve more efficiently.” But what would our kids have learned? That serving was for grown-ups? That helping others wasn’t their problem? That they could learn to do that serving thing later on in life? That they could stay in their own little world and think only of themselves?

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When our second son was three (he’s now heading into his senior year; I can’t even) – I started a fun “school” time with him where I taught him an alphabet letter each week. As he was learning the sound and doing activities to help him retain what he was learning, we started thinking of people we knew whose name started with that letter. Then we’d choose a fun way to show love to that person. For instance:

On Mm Week, we chose an elderly couple from church, Mabrey and Madge Miller (how handy that their first names started with M too!). We made and delivered them Mini Muffins, explaining to them what the boys were learning. Dearest Madge loved what we were doing and cleverly sent the boys a thank you note which read, “Mmmm! Many thanks for the marvelous, magnificent mini muffins you made!”

Do you know what a treasure this is? Others responded with equal joy and fun with our family as we delivered “a jar of jelly beans to John on Jj week, a tiny toy for Tina on Tt week, a flower to Felice on Ff week…and so on.

We worked our way through the alphabet this way with all of our boys when they came “of age” but what’s better is that all of our boys got to participate in the serving activities every single time.

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Here’s our youngest, back when he was four,
delivering an Apple Pie to the Amick family on Aa week!

I look back on those precious times with our family with so much happiness, I can’t put it into words. Our boys learned to think of others and consider what might bring them joy – then they had the experience of delivering a treasure to a surprised recipient. They learned to talk to the elderly, consider the shut-in, and approach kids bigger than them.

It was a parenting move I didn’t even know would turn out to be such a blessing. But Ww is for win and this is a parenting move I thank God He inspired.

A few years after the idea originated in our home, my husband urged me to compile it all and create an actual curriculum to share. It was a huge amount of effort, but I got to re-live all the memories, which made it such a joy to complete. It’s filled with hundreds of ideas of activities to help your child learn letter sounds while learning to serve!

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Many, many families have used this with their kids since it first came out, and this week, I’m highlighting it again for this reason:

 

Teach your kids to serve. Help them see people. Train them to notice other people’s needs.

I will never regret the time our family has spent caring for and serving others together. My kids have not always done this cheerfully; parts of this training have been hard; sometimes it would have been easier to do the task myself. But now I watch my kids spoon-feeding our adult handicapped friend, I see them hugging our disabled lady friend without reservation, I hear them talking sweetly to little ones – and I know this without a doubt:

Teaching my kids to serve at a young age is a parenting move I would cheerfully do all over again.

What’s something you’ve done as a parent that you feel great about?

Some of the links in this post are my affiliate links.

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

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

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

How I Really Feel About My Kids High School English Papers

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

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

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

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

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

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.

What Happens When a Mom Takes a Step Back

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

Which leads me to a big point of this post.

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

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

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

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

I see their weaknesses; no doubt they see mine.

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

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

When I step back I see…

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

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Photo cred goes to the man himself

When I step back I see…

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

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When I step back I see…

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

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When I step back I see…

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Happens When a Mom Takes a Step Back

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

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Sometimes I Sit Around While My Kids Cook for Me

Last week, my three younger kids (17, 15, 12) arrived home from events of the day at 7:45 pm and a weird thing happened. We realized that we were all home and that the rest of the evening was free.

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This happens so rarely these days that we all just stared at each other for a moment, trying to remember what we were supposed to do at a time like this. I thought going to bed early sounded like a good idea. But for some reason, no one agreed with me. Spoil sports.

We chose a movie to watch together but then everyone realized how hungry they were (as in, popcorn just wouldn’t cut it). As is the norm, they all looked at me. Unfortunately for them, I had clocked out of the kitchen, and most definitely forgotten which way was upright. From my comfortable position in my recliner, I offered hearty snack suggestions and said, “Go for it!”

Typically, my kids (who are awesome, but also normal) will choose the easiest options (like opening a bag of chips and a jar of salsa). But somehow, all three of them kicked it into high gear and decided to go all out and make a big snack buffet. Within fifteen minutes:

Matt and I made them get out the baby carrots and eat at least six each (because we care about them enough to be cruel like this). Malachi went all out and set up a table with juices and individual bowls of dipping sauce.

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While all this was happening, I just sat in my chair and watched. After all, I’d put in my time that day. It was my turn to eat their food.

We fixed our plates, then the movie night began WHICH I STAYED AWAKE FOR – please be amazed and proud.

The next morning, we decided to make Super Mama Waffles (which means instead of just waffles and syrup, we have waffles with sliced berries and whipped cream). I loved the idea, but said, “If that’s what you want, I’ll make the waffles while you guys do everything else.”

Man, having kids that can cook is awesome.

  • Justus washed and sliced berries.
  • Elias made whipped cream, then scrambled cheesy eggs.
  • Malachi warmed up his Homemade Fudge Sauce from the night before, deciding that would taste awesome with strawberries and whipped cream on a waffle. No one argued with this plan.

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I promised if I took a picture of our team-made breakfast, I would not include their bed-heads.

Well, I say all this to once again encourage you to teach your kids to cook. Nothing they made here was difficult, but for me, the best part is that they are all at a point now that I didn’t have to walk them through how to make any of it.

Oh the years of taking them through all the cooking steps, reminding them to crack the eggs carefully over the bowl (instead of down the front of their brother’s shirt), and helping them understand the difference between a teaspoon and a tablespoon. I no longer cringe when they use a knife or the stovetop.

Young moms, you too can enjoy this some day. Eventually, they won’t just make messes. They’ll make dinner. (And messes, but let’s just focus on the dinner.)

For everyone with kids, no matter their age, I encourage that you work with your kids to help them get around confidently in the kitchen. The extra work it takes has a huge pay off in the end (so says the mom who sat in her chair while her kids made her favorite dips).

Pull your kids into the kitchen with you, as much as possible.

Help them learn. Help them appreciate the work you do to get food on the table for them every day.

If you’re intimidated about the whole idea, have no idea where to start, or just need a kick start – I highly recommend the Kids Cook Real Food course. We used it for Malachi, our youngest, because I really did need a kick start by the time this task came around to the baby of the family. He knew some basics, but he definitely needed to know more. However, I was in the middle of graduating our oldest and I was dealing with some personal health issues, so the KCRF course was just what I needed to help Malachi finally become confident in the kitchen and actually like cooking.

You can check it out here. It is incredibly well done.

Here’s some extra good news: I got my hands on a free All-Access Membership to Kids Cook Real Food that I’m giving away to one of you this week. Who wants to win? Sign up in the Rafflecopter below. I’ll draw a random winner on Tuesday, April 11. Watch for an email telling who the winner is!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Pssst! I just found out about this!

The creator of Kids Cook Real Food just came out with a brand new free download: 10 Snacks Your Kids Can Make! I just downloaded it for my boys. Go get yours!

Some of the links in this post are my affiliate links.

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.