Blessing Bags

making blessing bagsSo here it is right after the holidays and I haven’t written in so long. I had all these great intentions of writing over the winter break but then it didn’t happen. Instead, life happens. I started school again last year which is a huge time commitment, not to mention the teaching gig, 3 kids of my own, coaching cheer, and a bazillion other commitments.

One of our blessing bags

Fast-foward to after the holidays and my beautiful nine-year-old. She has the most amazing heart of anyone I know. One of her projects in school is to write about a service to help someone in need. We happened to be driving down the street and see a man out in the cold, sitting under a tree, who looked like he hadn’t had a shower or hot meal in quite some time. Now I don’t know what his story was, but it really touched my daughter’s heart. She wanted to do something. We talked about how there are homeless shelters in our area (Omaha, Nebraska) that we can serve at. But she wanted to help the guy right then. I had seen someone post on Facebook or Pintrest about “blessing bags” and told Berlyn about these.

“You just give them to the person right then so that way they don’t have to wait until they can go to a shelter,” I said. She liked the idea and off to the store we went to gather supplies for our bags. We made one for each car. Then Berlyn wrote about our service project for her school along with other ways to help out in our community.  Here is what we added to our bags:

  • Gloves
  • Beef jerky
  • Lip balm
  • Deodorant
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Soap (although in hindsight, I may also add hand sanitizer)
  • A few dollars
  • Trail mix (we were trying to find something that wouldn’t spoil)
  • Juice box or water
  • A note with a blessing in it (she wrote them)
Her list of ways to help

So our bags are now ready to give out. The hard part will be waiting more than a few days to give one out. I suspect we may just be driving around Omaha until we find someone in need because Berlyn is so excited to hand them out! In the summer, we will switch out the gloves for sunscreen, bug spray, and other items.

Making a scarf

My favorite part is how many other items of service she came up with to help. This girl has the most compassionate heart, always willing to serve others. She is starting on a scarf for each bag as well that she is making from learning how to crochet.

So this is our first attempt with the blessing bags. If you have done something similar, please tell me what has worked and what hasn’t. Thanks!

Blessing Bags



The Importance Of Pretend Play in Child Develepment

Have you ever watched your child pick up a rock and pretend it is a zooming car, or hop a Lego across the table as if it were a person or a bunny? Have you ever watched a child take a towel and make a cape out of it or pretend to be a superhero? Your child is using an object to represent something else while giving it action and motion. But this pretend play is not as simple as it may seem. Pretending builds skills in many essential developmental areas.

I’m a bat!

So why is pretend play so important? Children learn about themselves and the world. Dramatic play experiences are some of the first ways children learn about their likes and dislikes, their interests, and their abilities. They experiment with role playing and work to make sense out of what they’ve observed. Just watch children playing with dolls to see examples of this. Dolls often become versions of the child herself and are a safe way for children to express new ideas and feelings. Here are some other important skills learned.

  • Social and Emotional Skills
    How we interact with others is key to our lifelong success and happiness. Knowing how to read social cues, recognize and regulate emotions, negotiate and take turns, and engage in a long-term activity that is mutually beneficial are no easy tasks. When your child engages in pretend (or dramatic) play, she is actively experimenting with the social and emotional roles of life. Through cooperative play, she learns how to take turns, share responsibility, and creatively problem-solve. When your child pretends to be different characters, she has the experience of “walking in someone else’s shoes,” which helps teach the important moral development skill of empathy
  • Life skills
    Children work out confusing, scary, or new life issues.Have you ever witnessed children pretending to visit the doctor? One child dutifully holds the mock stethoscope as the others line up for a check-up. More often than not someone gets ‘shots’. This is a child’s way of exploring an experience that is common and sometimes confusing or scary. Through these role plays, children become more comfortable and prepared for life events in a safe way.

    Pretending to be a spy.
  • Language Skills
    Have you ever listened in as your child engages in imaginary play with his toys or friends? You will probably hear some words and phrases you never thought he knew! In fact, we often hear our own words reflected in the play of children. Kids can do a perfect imitation of mom, dad, and the teacher! Pretend play helps your child understand the power of language. In addition, by pretend playing with others, he learns that words give him the means to reenact a story or organize play. This process helps your child to make the connection between spoken and written language — a skill that will later help him learn to read.
  • Thinking Skills
    Pretend play provides your child with a variety of problems to solve. Whether it’s two children wanting to play the same role (“I want to be Elsa!” “No, I do!”) or searching for the just right material to make a roof for the playhouse, your child calls upon important cognitive and creative thinking skills that he will use in every aspect of his life, now and forever. Think of children playing ‘grocery’ store. They sort by attributes as they group similar foods in sections of the store, use math concepts to tabulate amounts as they determine prices and calculate grocery bills, use writing to communicate by making signs, experiment with shapes and weights as they organize the store, work collaboratively as they assign roles and play together, and much more.

    All dressed up to marry daddy.

    Nurturing the Imagination
    So how do we as parents or teachers nurture more time for pretend play. I came up with some fun ways to create different scenarios for children’s play as well as links to 32 fun resources and printables for pretend play.

  • Use a box. One of the easiest ways to pretend is an empty box. With a little imagination, this plain box can become a racecar, spaceship, boat, TV, home, table, or more.
  • Consider creating a prop box or corner filled with objects to spark your preschooler’s fantasy world. You might include:
    • Old clothes, shoes, backpacks, hats, old work clothes
    • Old telephones, phone books, magazines
    • Cooking utensils, dishes, plastic food containers, table napkins, silk flowers
    • Stuffed animals and dolls of all sizes
    • Fabric pieces, blankets, or old sheets for making costumes or a fort
    • Theme-appropriate materials such as postcards, used plane tickets, foreign coins, and photos for a pretend vacation trip
  • Use stories. Invite your children to recreate a favorite story or take it further and add their own twist. During your pretending game, prompt their ideas by asking questions like: “What do you think happened next?” and “What if the dog didn’t find his bone?”
  • Build a fort. We do this a lot in the winter time by our fireplace. The girls pretend they are camping and we will make s’mores or hotdogs on the fire.
    fort 1
    Her fort is taking up my entire kitchen.

    fort 2
    I love the hammock for her baby.
  • Provide dolls and puppets. Make sure your child has ample and regular access to things like dolls, stuffed animals, or puppets. These don’t have to be expensive or store-bought; they can be cut out of paper or made from socks. Through imaginative play, children easily ascribe feelings and ideas to these ‘people’ and ‘animals’ and often use them to express, explore and work out their own ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
    pets 2
    Pretend vet play.

    pets 5
    Pretend doctor play. Listening to sister’s heart.
  • Have a weekly theme. Use a center in your school or a small area in your home and turn it into an area just for pretend play. Some weekly theme ideas are:
    • Doctor’s office – We built our own stethoscopes out of milk and soda caps.

      pets 1
      Stethoscope made out of a milk cap and soda cap glued together with pipe cleaner.
    • Restaurant – Have a menu order form and take turns ordering food items.
    • Business office – My kids have pens and a notepad to write important documents. We also have an old computer and keyboard that they use to type on.
    • Library – We make pretend library cards and have the kids “stamp” a book at checkout. (Use this sheet instead of marking in your book.
    • School – what kid doesn’t want to be the teacher? I print out extra work sheets and have a pointer to use for the “teacher”.
    • Post-office – This is a great way to practice writing letters. Decorate your mailbox and put by each child’s desk or bedroom door. Then take turns writing different types of letters, postcards, etc and mailing them.
    • DMV – this may not sound like fun but my preschoolers love making their own license plates for their (box) car and a driver’s license to go with it.
    • Veterinarian’s office or Zoo – You can reuse the stethoscopes from the doctors for this one and have each child take turns bringing in their pet and getting it checked. Or use blocks to make “cages” and put animals in each cage. Then walk through your zoo and admire the animals.
    • Sports team or gym – This is fun if you have old uniforms to use. We have tons of cheerleading items (I coach cheerleading) so the kids create a cheer and use the trampoline for practice. They also will have races from one end of the kitchen to the other. You could even use old pillow cases and have a potato sack race.
    • Play or Movie – Use these tickets to allow entrance into your child’s play or save for a movie night and give one for entrance to the movie and one for popcorn.
    • Grocery store – I use a grocery list (I try to add something from each of the four food groups) and have them pretend to shop with play food. I will also clean out old containers (macaroni or cereal boxes, or any trial size item) to use in their grocery store.
  • Make time. No material, environment, or story can take the place of uninterrupted time to play and explore ideas. Pretend play doesn’t fit nicely into twenty-minute segments. Be ok with leaving a post office or fort in the living room for a few days to allow your children to fully explore and enhance their creative explorations.

    Making a “drink” with mud and water.

As you can see, my own five year old is quite active in pretend play. But even my nine year old will still play teacher or office with her occasionally. And my 15 year old helps her make extravagant forts all over the house. This is the year I will be using even more pretend play than I usually do in my preschool teaching as well, just because of the importance. Happy playing!

Grading Parents – A Child’s Assessment of Parenting

d-plus-school-letter-grade-600x400So I asked my kids to give me a grade as a parent. I am not crazy and this served a good purpose. It also wasn’t my idea. Read here why I decided to use this approach to parenting this week.

First, a little background. I knew my kids had been frustrated lately. My normally very sweet 9-year-old was having quite a time of it and waking up in a grumpy mood (and taking it out on everyone) for the last week. Since she didn’t want to talk with me about what was bugging her, I decided another approach was necessary. Since I had just read about this technique from a favorite blogger of mine – We Are That Family, I decided to put it into practice.

Normally we sit as a family and do a “Key Jar” from another favorite blogger – Momastery. This jar key-jar-670asks questions and we take turn answering. It is pretty popular in the house. But I knew if I asked them to grade me, I would need to do it on an individual basis.

I first sat down with my middle child and asked her, “If you could give me a parenting grade, what would it be?” I knew she was not in a good mood and that would affect my “marks” she gave me. She immediately said, “I’d give you a D.” Wow. I was expecting it to be bad, but it is still a punch in the throat when said aloud.

I told her she had to tell me why. Finally, (after a week of not getting her to talk) she says, “because Kirsten (my 5-year-old) gets into all my stuff and you don’t do anything.” I think she was expecting me to retaliate, but instead I agreed with her and told her I was working on some new approaches since everything we tried up to this point hadn’t worked. I validated her feelings that I understood how upset she was.

I also told her, “When you are sad, I am sad. Let’s work on this together.”

After a week of her feeling like I didn’t understand and not wanting to talk about it, we had a much-needed conversation. After the conversation she says, “I really feel better after talking with you.” I had to hold my tongue and not give the dreaded “I told you so or something similar.” This was something she had to come to terms with herself.


I also asked my teen daughter and got a C- from her. Her reasons were that we are in that stage where everything is a confrontation. She felt I only listened about 20% of the time to her side of things. I asked her how we could change that (I also specified I am not going to agree 100% of the time). She acknowledged her feelings can be a bit strong since she is a teen. Again, great conversation from a simple grade.

I did ask my 5-year-old the same question but she really hasn’t dealt with grades yet, so she couldn’t really comprehend the question.

Here is what is funny. I asked them to grade their father as well. He got better marks: a C and B- from the girls. But I am not bitter.

The best thing about this entire day was that when I got home from class tonight (I am studying psychology – how am I doing?), Berlyn and Kirsten together had painted a “Feel Better Box”. They had put some flowers, a stuffed animal, and pictures with the word sisters to be able to look at if they got to the point of feeling that frustrated again. Seriously, my heart, people, cannot handle the cuteness of their endeavor to make each other feel better. This is my sweet girl I know and love who shows compassion to others. I had missed her this week.

So what do you think? Would you ask the grade question to your children? Is your grade fair? How can this insight better help you as a parent? And is this courageous or insane? Please comment below so I can see how this has worked in other houses. Thanks!

TS Awareness – What It Is Like To Live With Tourette’s

2fe20fdd30cdd94d1c41282072f42bc5Since it is Tourette’s Awareness month, I thought I would share my story with all of you so you can glimpse what it is like to live with TS each day. Even though I want to raise awareness for Tourette’s as a whole, please note that this is my story. Every person you meet with Tourette’s is going to have a different story because tics and other comorbids (other disorders a person may have such as OCD or ADHD) that go with it are different in each individual TS person.

What is Tourette’s?
Tourette’s Syndrome (or TS) is a neurological disorder that causes physical movement and vocal sounds that are uncontrollable by the person experiencing them; also called tics. To have a diagnosis of TS, a person must have both physical and vocal tics for over a year.

Tics take on various forms. I have about 14 different types of tics on any given day. However, I don’t do all the tics at once, but I will do several at the same time. Some are less severe than others or less often. My main physical tics are a shoulder shrug, a twist motion, and tugging at clothes. I tic everyday, some days less often, some days so much it will physically hurt or keep me up for hours after trying to sleep.

My back history.
My tics started at 8 years old. I remember sitting in computer typing class working on the home row typing when I felt the urge to jerk my body to the side. At first I thought it was the way my clothes fit so I also started tugging on them. I felt this movement again and then again. Over and over it happened for the rest of class.  I realized 2 things right then and there: this was something I couldn’t control and this was different than other kids. At 8 years old I knew I was different. I learned very quickly to suppress or hide my tics. But if you’ve ever tried to suppress an itch, you know eventually you have to scratch it. This is the same with TS. I could suppress for a while but eventually I had to tic. For me, different tics have different sensations. Some feel like I’m being yanked from the inside, others are more like a pressure building up that needs to be released, like a sneeze. I got good at hiding my tics and making it seem as if I was doing other things like cracking my neck, stretching, or had silent hiccups. Luckily, I really do silent hiccup so this one was easy to pull off.

I got so good at hiding or suppressing my tics, no one – not even close family – knew I had it. I was not even diagnosed until I was in my 30’s. During my pregnancies, my tics subsided but after they would get worse. After my 3rd daughter, they are the worst they have ever been. Luckily, after much trial and error, my doctor and I found a medicine that works enough to help but not enough to get rid of them. The only side effect is sleepiness so I do have to be careful when I take it, but it is much better than most of the other med’s side effects I experienced. Most people still don’t know I have it unless I say something. However, my husband and kids are aware. My husband especially can tell when I am ticking (he still gets a bit nervous if I am driving the car).

Here are a few facts about Tourette’s:

Tourette’s is painful.
I have a headache. Every. Single. Day. I have to take something for my headache every single day. Yes, I amtourette's well aware that this is ruining my kidneys or liver. But in the moment, I just want a bit of relief from the constant pounding. Most days I can still function, but there are days where I am grateful for my husband. He lets me rest and takes on all responsibilities while I do rest.

I also get muscle spasms in my back and shoulders. This takes extra time to heal just because I am constantly ticking so I make it worse each time. It’s like if I bruised my arm and continued to hit where the bruise was.

Not everyone with TS cusses.
No, I am not going to yell obscenities at you. That is only 10% of people with Tourette’s. That is called Coprolalia and Copropraxia.Coprolalia means using obscene or unacceptable language. Copropraxia means making obscene or otherwise unacceptable movements or gestures. Though I can’t imagine the embarrassment and judgement those with Coprolalia go through, I can relate. My vocals are quite annoying. I will cough, sniff, or clear my throat constantly. My 9 year old started this tic about a year ago, so I now understand how annoyed my mom and sisters were with me, however, I also empathise with her because I know she can not control it.

Tourette’s can be hereditary.
It is important for families to understand that genetic predisposition may not necessarily result in full-blown TS; instead, it may express itself as a milder tic disorder or as obsessive-compulsive behaviors. It is also possible that the gene-carrying offspring will not develop any TS symptoms. Because it is neurological, it is closely associated with other neurological conditions such as autism, epilepsy, and others. I have a daughter who has epilepsy. I also have a daughter showing some vocal tics but no physical. She may outgrow this or she may not.

b7bb26c7b2514e330d2838603063b08aTourette’s has many comorbids.
Many individuals with TS experience additional neurobehavioral problems that often cause more impairment than the tics themselves.  These include inattention, ADHD,  academic problems, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), or autism. For example I have some OCD tendencies; If I touch one side of my arm or leg, I must touch the other. Or all volumes need to be on an even number – every time. I can joke that I did not inherit the OCD cleaning gene. I am not a germ phone nor is my house spotless.

TS affects my sleep pattern.
Tourettes can have a big impact on how well somebody sleeps. Tics make it hard for me to stay still and quiet enough to get to sleep. Most of my vocals really act up before bed along with a lot of physical as well. It sometimes takes 2 or 3 hours to get to bed. So if I go to bed at 10, I may not actually fall asleep until midnight.

I can do anything anyone else can.
I am lucky that I am able to do all things. Tourette’s has not slowed me down. I am also lucky to not have many co-morbids with my Tourette’s. A lot of people do and that can be extremely hard to deal with. Sometimes comorbids are worse than the tics themselves. I also have friends in support groups who question whether a certain behavior is a tic or from a co-morbid. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish.

A lot of people with TS have sensory issues.
I do have sensitivity to loud noises or background noises. I can handle a kid crying or throwing a tantrum, but if you throw in a loud TV in the background, that will set me over the edge. Unfortunately, my husband is partially deaf in one ear so you can imagine how many issues come up about the TV or stereo volume. Plus, it must be on an even number. I also may not hear what someone says because the background noise is too great to focus on the person I am conversing with.

I never “make up” a tic.
If I tic, it is real. However, sometimes I really do have a cold so I will just be coughing or sniffing because of sinuses or chest congestion. I do tend to downplay my tics using the excuse that it is related to allergies, a cold, or sinuses though.

All this was to say, that I understand the struggles TS brings. I have a husband, three kids, two jobs, and am going back to school. There is just no time to wallow in any self pity for my Tourette’s. There is no time to worry about whether someone is looking at me funny. I pray now for God to give me peace and I can face the day knowing that even when my ticking is really bad, God has my back and I can get through it. It is not easy some days and I know there are so many worse things out there so I choose to be happy with all that I am blessed with and keep going strong each day, mostly as an example to my children. I want to show them that everyday is beautiful no matter what happens in life because I love God and He loves me. Thanks for listening to my story.

How To Make Homemade Pop Tarts with Real Jam

homemade pop tarts
All wrapped up and ready for fridge or freezer.

Sometimes I am a great mom and bake festive treats with my kids and we have fun licking frosting and creating fun memories. We laugh and have fun and the kids swipe their fingers in cookie dough or cake mix before I say it’s time to lick the spoon. We decorate and frost things and make tornado-like messes all around the kitchen and it’s quite comical (hours later after I’ve cleaned up the mess).

However, this is not one of those times.

We had spring break last week and so I was off from one job but had to go to the other. My sister, who is amazing with making her own food, took my middle child for the day and made some pop tarts with real pic crust and real jam. This is not a recipe for the faint of heart (unless you cheat and buy store bought items). But, since it was my sister and not me making a box cake mix, they turned out great! Also, since my sister reads (or at least knows about) my blog, she photographed their time together so I could share with all of you this cute (and very first) recipe for my blog. Enjoy.

mashing berries
Berlyn mashing berries

What you’ll need:


12 ounces or 1 1/2 cups berries
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon pectin (I honestly have no idea what this is, I’ve heard of the term but my baking abilities keep me from knowing this much. I had to look it up).
1 tablespoon lemon juice

What To Do:

1. Mix sugar and pectin in medium bowl.

mix sugar and pectin
Mix sugar and pectin together.

2. Place berries into medium sauce pan and mash with potato masher to extract as much juice from berries as possible.
3. Mix sugar in with berries.

pop tarts 2
Mashing berries.

4. On medium heat, slowly bring berry mixture to a rapid boil. Once there, let boil 5 minutes and 30 seconds.
5. Remove from heat and skim off any foam.
6. Add lemon juice and stir to incorporate.
7. Pour into a sanitized mason jar and place lid loosely on top. You may also strain berries if too seedy.
8. Store in fridge.

mason jar of homemade jam
Mason jar of homemade (very hot) jam. Lid is on loosely to cool on counter.


1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon of arrowroot powder (cornstarch will work as well)

What To Do:

1. Mix sugar and arrowroot (I had to look up what this was also).
2. Blend in blender or food processor until sugar forms a powder.

pop tarts 4
Blend in blender.


2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4-5 tablespoons milk

What To Do:

1. Mix all together!

pop tarts 11
More mixing.

(Courtesy of

3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup shortening
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

pop tarts 12
Even more mixing.

1. In large bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening until it resembles course crumbs.
2. Mix egg, water, and vinegar together. Pour into flour mixture all at once and blend with fork until dough forms a ball.

pop tarts 9
Adding egg and water.

3. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator.

pop tarts 7
Playing with flour while pop tarts are baking because that’s what little girls do 🙂

Now comes the good part. The actual pop tart. (This seems like a lot of work to me already, but that is why my sister did this).


-Homemade pie crust dough (yes, store bought works just as well if you’d rather not do all the work)
-1/4 cup homemade Berry Jam (yes, store bought works well here too)
-basic sugar frosting
-Sprinkles or decorating sugar

pop tarts 14
Putting jam in center of dough rectangles.

What To Do:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Divide pie crust in half. Roll out one half at a time onto floured surface. Cut each half into 6-8 equal rectangles.
3. Place 2 tsp. of jam in the middle of half the squares and spread leaving 1/4 in. around edges. Place other half of rectangles on top.
4. Use a fork to crimp and press down edges. Place prepared pastries onto baking sheets.

pop tarts 17
Use a fork to press edges together.

5. Cool until edges are lightly brown, about 7-9 minutes. Coll on baking sheets or cooling rack. While cooling, prepare frosting.
7. Spread cool pop-tarts with frosting and sprinkles.

pop tarts 18
Berlyn putting on finishing touches – frosting and sprinkles (sorry Christmas was all we had).

Eat cold, or warm in toaster oven or microwave.

homemade pop tarts
All wrapped up and ready for fridge or freezer.

One other thing, this is a tricky recipe because there are so many steps and ingredients for it. Do your best and let me know below how it goes. Again, you can always buy store bought brands to save time (and sanity). But, they sure are tasty when they’re done!

Berlyn’s favorite part was getting to wear the apron and feel like a real baker. 🙂

How To Make DIY Clothespin Pattern Sticks For Preschool Fine Motor Skills

I needed a cheap, fun, hands-on way to work on fine motor skills for my preschool class and found this Montessori website with some pattern sticks. I liked the pattern idea and I had a plethora of craft sticks just waiting to be used, so I started painting (please note this was pretty messy, especially if you let the children help, but cleans up easy). After I was done painting, I realized I could have just used paint card samples from a home improvement store. But I had already purchased the craft sticks and needed another tutorial, sooo…

pattern sticks for preschool fine motor skillsI am also doing letter pattern sticks for name and site word recognition and you could also do another fun color recognition version here. For this project you will need:

  • Popsicle craft sticks
  • Clothespins
  • Tempura paint (in various colors)
  • Black marker

First I decided on what colors I wanted (or had on hand) and painted the top portion of each clothes pin. Once dry, I did the other side in a different color. This gives you more options when your little ones are looking for the color they need for a pattern and saves on having to buy a ton clothespins. A tip to make this go a bit quicker is to clip them all to a piece of cardboard, paint them all the various colors you want, and then pop a hair dryer over them for a few minutes.

pattern clothes pins for fine motor skills

Next, I decided what kinds of patterns I would want for my sticks and started painting. I learned the hard way that you want to make the sizes a bit bigger than mine as my daughter has little hands and it was difficult to get all the clothes pins on when she did it. But she DID do it herself, so kudos to her. Also, I added regular ABAB patterns (red, yellow, red, yellow) and did add a few AABAAB patterns (green, green, black, green, green, black). Then I had fun with some ABCD patterns as well.

pattern sticks for preschoolers

After they were dry, I took a black marker and added the lines to separate the patterns a bit better – especially if you do an AAB pattern. They dry pretty quickly (especially if you use the hair dryer trick) so I was able to let my own preschooler have at it and showed her how to pinch the clothespins. It was difficult for her at first and I noticed she used her whole hand to pinch them apart until she got the hang of it.

prek pattern sticks pattern sticks 8

As you can see, she is really happy she was able to do it all by herself. These clothespin pattern activities will get added to Kirsten’s at home activities for her to play with and practice whenever she likes. Or whenever this mama needs a few minutes of quiet time without actually wondering what she is getting into. I also made a set for my preschool class.

*Sidenote – please excuse my 8 year old in the background CLIMBING my pantry to get something. You can tell our photos are very real and not very pintresty this time around. 


A Forever Thing (God’s Love)

I will always sing about the Lord’s love.  –  Psalm 89:1 NCV

Do you love your children? Of course you do! But some days, especially when the terrible twos (or threes or fours) or frustrating fourteen hits, your love may be (just a teeny weeny bit) stretched to the limits. Even then you still fiercely, absolutely love these little ones. But still, COULD YOU JUST LET MOMMY HAVE 3.2 MINUTES OF QUIET TIME???

a mother's love

We all want to give our kids everything that is good and protect them from sickness, accidents, or any disappointments in their lives. We find joy in their successes, telling everyone (or posting ALL THE PICS to Instagram) about first words, steps, or potty training. Our hearts break when they are sad and our anger (okay mostly mine) flares when someone mistreats them. Even if our children grow up, leave home, disappoint us, and follow a path that’s contrary to our lifestyles and beliefs, there will always be a soft spot of love in our hearts for our kids.


a mother's love

Yet, there is someone who loves our children more than we ever could. Wait, what?! How could you possibly say that! That someone is God. While a mother’s love is one of the most amazing loves our children will ever feel, it is limited, imperfect, and will eventually come to an end on this earth.

God’s love, however, is a forever thing.

Neither death nor life, nor angels nor ruling spirits nothing now, nothing in the future, no powers,nothing above us, nothing below us, nor anything else in the whole world will ever be able to separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:38-39 NCV). Did you get that? NOTHING. EVER. All God does for us is rooted in His incredible love for us. Even if our kids rebel against Him and go their own way,God still loves them. Prodigal son, anyone?

His love never fails. EVER.


Sometimes we feel God’s love is too good to be true. Today’s TV, media ads, social media, and even other moms pressure us into thinking that we need to look or act a certain way to be loved and accepted. Alot of times, we have trouble accepting our own imperfections and therefore have trouble believing that anyone could love us unconditionally, with limitless love.

Sometimes we feel that God could never love our children more than we do. It is hard to let go of that lie that He is greater than we. But we can take comfort in knowing that God loves our children so much (and us too!) that He purposed each and every one of us!

The better news is that God doesn’t love us for our personality, talents, or designer jeans. He doesn’t love our child more because they made the cheer squad, or basketball team, or aced that science test last week. He doesn’t love us less when we don’t have the right clothes, fail the science test, don’[t make the team, or fail as a mom.

God loves us because He made us and we are His.

Let’s start opening our hearts to God’s love, my fellow moms, and teach our children to ignore the message of the media and believe instead the message of the Sunday school song, “Jesus loves me this I know. For the Bible tells me so…” God’s love is a forever thing no matter where you find yourself or what your child has done to test you this week. We know in our hearts this is true. Let’s open our hearts and let this message shine through.

John 3:16

John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

The 5 Basics of Mommy Blogging SEO

mommy bloggersI am a mom and a blogger so I guess I fall into the mommy blogger category. I would add that for great SEO, bloggers need to be consistent and that is something I struggle with as a VERY BUSY mom! Working two jobs, 3 girls and practices for all the things make it hard to write everything I would like.

Also, just want to give a shout out to my three fave bloggers out there. Jen Hatmaker and Glennon Doyle Melton are so so great. I feel like they would be my best friend if I knew them personally. They have a great voice and huge following. Also, my sister’s blog Simply Necessary is a great resource for homeschooling ideas and tips as well as super awesome photography shots.

mommy blogger and SEO

The average blogger is a married woman in her 30’s with at least one child. She’s most likely environmentally-conscious and may even have more influence than your average radio station. Some 14 percent of all moms contribute to or read blogs and 89 percent of those have children between the ages of 2 and 11. Around 4,500 of these women are so serious about their blog, they attend conferences annually. But just because a Mommy blogger represents certain demographics, her readers are often a great deal more diverse. Forward-thinking corporations worldwide know that “Mommy blogs” are more than just a platform for sharing photos of cute kids, they’re among the top driving forces behind most purchase decisions in the US.

Some Mommy blogs can get real national reach. In fact, some Mommy blogs are read more extensively and frequently than the daily newspaper. While the term Mommy Blogger may sound…

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Fun DIY Secret Paintbrush Valentine’s Cards

Ok, this is my first tutorial so here goes. My sister, Amy Payson, found this website with these cute paintbrush Valentine’s cards and so I thought, why not try these? I was bored with the usual store-bought cards and my creative juices were flowing, plus, we were snowed in for the day so…

DIY Secret Message Valentines

This doesn’t need to be any more expensive than regular cards. I bought the paintbrushes 12 for $1.50 at Michaels. I had most of the other stuff at home since I am always doing projects with my kids.

paintbrushes by Michael's

You will need:

Finger paint
X-acto Knife
White crayon
Print instructions (click on words to take you to site)

First, print out the Valentine’s on card-stock. I used white semi-heavy card-stock. I printed enough for my girls’ classes plus a few extra just in case I messed up. (credit to Small + Friendly for the print instructions).

vday 1

Then, fill each heart with some finger paint. (Note, the original website calls for liquid watercolor but I had finger paint on hand, and it works just as well.) Let dry. This is the most time consuming part of the entire process. Give yourself a day or so extra just to make sure it is completely dry.

v-day 3 vday 4

Next, use the white crayon to write your secret message. I made hearts, “Be mine”, U R great”, etc. Berlyn helped with this part. I had to remind her to press hard with the crayon so that it would show when friends painted them.

vday 6

Next, use a craft knife to cut vertical slits in both sides of each heart big enough for your paintbrush to slip through.

vday 11

Then cut the card-stock into the 4 cards it makes. Add the paintbrushes to each card and put in bags for school. “Easy peasy lemon squeezy” as one of my pre-schoolers says. Give with love!

Kirsten had fun “testing” a few just to make sure they worked. 🙂

vday 8 vday 9


Your turn. Let me know what type of Valentine’s Cards you are doing this year and if you choose to do these, let me know how they turned out!

Are You Listening??? 4 Tips For Better Listeners

“Did you hear me?” “Have you been listening to anything I’ve said?” I’ve probably asked these and many other similar questions to my children more times than I care to count (or just today). I also may or may not have asked it with a raised voice as well. It seems my children are hearing deficient when it comes to my voice. As a parent we spend so much time talking to our kids and then wonder why they don’t seem to hear us.

listening 2


However, my children also sometimes have to work at gaining my attention as well. Many times they have resorted to draping themselves over my body, hanging from every appendage, and endlessly repeating, “Mom. Mom. Mamma. Mommy!” My teenager just goes straight for the first name because she’s learned, in many instances, it is the fastest way to get my attention.

Parenting is all about communicating with your child. Positive two-way communication is essential to building those caring relationships. Listening is tough work for both parent and child. It takes time, concentration, and interest in the other person. Listening involves centering your focus on an individual and opening your mind and ears to what is actually being said. Quality listening affirms the value of each person and makes our relationships stronger. So how do I do this as a multitasking mom? How do I get my kids to do this too?

If I want my  child to be a good listener, I need to be a good role model. I guess I am going to have to purge some of my bad habits to be an example of what I want my kids to be. Here are my top 4 resolutions for listening more to my children in 2015.

Listen first and talk last. It’s funny how I will remind my preschool class to “put on their listening ears and a bubble in their mouth” before we start each day. But how much am a really listening to each child when I have an entire classful?

When I get my own daughters after school, seldom do I listen first to their day but instead start in on what needs to be done when we get home. Listening first takes a lot of practice. I am trying to wait to put my two cents in until my child has told me what it is they need to say. This requires patience too (another area I lack).


Focusing. Yes, I am usually typing on the computer for my at home marketing job, folding the laundry, making dinner, or a plethora of other chores and hassles around the house. When I am busy and distracted I tend to tune my child out. So when my child approaches with something, I have a hard time switching that focus from what I am doing to them. I need to just stop. Taking that time each day to listen to my child without any distractions and paying attention when she speaks will let her know she is valued to me.

Active Listening Skills. This means I need to face my child when she is speaking to me. I should be asking those questions to entice more response from her such as, “How do you feel about that?” I need to rephrase what she has already told me to give her assurance I am hearing what she is saying.  This positive two-way communication is essential to making her feel valued and loved and worthy of my time.

Also, even though it is difficult for me, I love that my teenager is still coming to me with those tough issues. It’s sometimes hard for me to not interrupt so that she can discuss issues without the fear of over-reaction on my part. It’s hard not to step in and lecture or criticise. But if I am actively listening when she children speaks, she will (hopefully) learn to be a better listener as well.

Actions speak louder than words. It’s sometimes hard to remember that the way I listen also includes my body language. Maintaining eye contact with my children may mean squatting down to the same level as my child instead of towering over them. However, with my teen, I find our best chats happen while driving because I have to keep my eyes on the road which allows her to feel more comfortable telling me things that she may not if I were looking right at her. Using a gentle tone of voice will allow better conversation flow. Yelling only encourages more anger. This is much easier to write than to put into practice though. The other thing that is hard for me is my patience level when the girls are taking a while to tell me what they need to say. I have to really try my best to not roll my eyes, tap my foot, or sigh out loud. I want them to talk to me, not discourage them!

Hopefully someone (mostly me) will find this information helpful as I go into the new year with new resolve to be a better listener for my children. I know my schedule is busy with the many demands of parenting, teaching, and driving 3 girls to endless activities, but I am vowing to allocate some time every day to simply sit and listen to my children. Children thrive with words of encouragement and praise.