Being a mom is the hardest thing I've ever done, but it has brought me so much joy! I want to encourage other moms on their journey, I'll share motherhood tricks, spotlight tips I've learned from friends, and I hope you will share your ideas. I will focus on secrets that help families stay balanced, healthy, frugal, creative, and closely knit. I will also share favorite fiction and nonfiction books that I have enjoyed. Many blessings to you on your mothering journey!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Building Positive Identity in Children and Youth

Positive Identity is one of the 8 categories of strengths (Developmental Assets) that all children need to succeed. The Search Institute defines positive identity as “young people need to believe in their own self-worth and to feel that they have control over the things that happen to them.”

The characteristics listed under positive identity are:
1. Personal power. Young person feels he or she has control over “things that happen to me.”
2. Self-esteem. Young person reports having a high self-esteem.
3. Sense of purpose. Young person reports that “my life has a purpose.”
4. Positive view of personal future. Young person is optimistic about her or his personal future.

Read the full blog post on my other blog at Or visit, where you can learn more about the research behind assets, and discover many other resources to promot your journey to nurture healthy youth.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Yummy Dinner - Baked Garlic Parmesan Chicken

I stumbled upon this recipe at allrecipes tonight. I made a few notes & changed the formatting to fit my list of recipes. You can find the original here.

It's very quick to put together, it's very healthy, and it's very yummy! It was a hit for adults and kiddos in our family tonight.

• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 clove garlic, minced (double this)
• 1 cup dry bread crumbs
• 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
• 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
• 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper (add a little more)
• 6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.
2. In a bowl, blend the olive oil and garlic.
3. In a separate bowl, mix the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, basil, and pepper. Dip each chicken breast in the oil mixture, then in the bread crumb mixture.
4. Arrange the coated chicken breasts in the prepared baking dish, and top with any remaining bread crumb mixture.
5. Sprinkle with garlic powder or garlic salt.
6. Bake 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Holiday Travel Tips

I love the opportunity to travel and stay with friends and family across the country. It's such a blessing to learn from other moms about the way they manage their homes, nurture their children, and love their husbands.

But sometimes having lots of families under the same roof means a noisy home! We usually travel with our noise machines, which are portable and incredibly practical. It is much easier to share a room with children when you don't hear all the little noises coming from everyone in the room, and you don't hear your neighbors who like to stay up through the wee morning hours. A noise machine with white noise helps us sleep more soundly, thus enjoying our visit much more!

But I've just discovered a new trick. If you have internet access, you can have an instant noisemaker. Iserenity offers many different options for background noise, including waterfalls, trains, windchimes, rainforests, birdsongs, a crackling fire, and even a typewriter!! It's fun to sort through their many options, and you never know when they might come in handy!


Monday, November 17, 2008

Clearing House Clutter - and Sending Love Packages

My friend Rhonda just told me about a really cool ministry:

Love Packages helps people in other countries get access to the Word of God just by cleaning out our bookshelves and drawers. As you are clearing out clutter, would you gather extra Bibles, Christian books and books on tape, extra commentaries, sermons on tape, etc. (see list of needs below) and ship them to this ministry?

Here are some testimonies of those who have received the materials:

FROM UGANDA: "Tears has filled my eyes because I have been pastoring in Agona Nyakrom for the past 6 years without a good reference bible. Today I have one. Now I can quickly refer to my concordance at the back of my Bible if I have to get some scripture. The name of the Lord be praise. Pastor Samson."

FROM INDIA: "Just yesterday morning I was walking in the church compound for the prayer walk, during that time God brought one person his name Mr. Chundern who is Secretary of one big temple in our area. He came inside the compound to talk to me, I felt great surprise to see him coming to talk to me. However, I invited him to the church and had conversation, while speaking to him he said please pray that I should get peace in me and to my family, I feel that I want to suicide, but I thought to meet you before I die, so therefore I came to you. I comforted him though the word of God and by prayer, I taught him who is Jesus Christ, why he came to the world, what is the salvation, etc. after talking to him 2 hours, he surrendered his life to Jesus Christ with tears of true repentance, I gave him a New Testament bible, some of the literature of gospel that I got from you. He gave me a prayer request that God should bring his whole family from the Hindu background, and also he said that God should protect him as he is going to resign his secretary post from the temple. Because he is in fear that the Hindu group may do evil to him after he comes out of the team. Please send as much as of books, bible, DVD, commentary, etc. which is greatly helping us the ministry."

"The bibles and books I have given to the people of Burma who came to collect Christian reading materials and bibles. They walked for 4 days since there is no vehicle able road. We need more to share with Christians in Nepal as I had very few left to give them."

FROM MOZAMBIQUE: "In my churches where I minister there is a lack of spiritual food, Bibles, tracts, tapes, and so on, and there is great poverty. Some women are unable to attend day services, but only night because they lack the clothing. Concerning Bibles, people are using tract verses to make a Bible. Please help us if you can."

What kinds of materials does Love Packages mail?
Bibles (new or used): All Bibles, New Testaments, Bible portions, Individual Gospel booklets
Tracts: All tracts
Reference Books & Commentaries: dictionaries, bible dictionaries, concordances, commentaries, etc.
Books & Paperbacks: All Christian books - adult or children, fiction or nonfiction
Magazines: Any magazine from a Christian publisher.
Sunday School Supplies: We accept adult quarterlies and all teacher manuals in any amount from all publishers. We accept children's quarterlies if you have the teacher's manual and at least 8 student manuals. Please DO NOT SEND any handiwork, craft, or busy work papers.
Daily Devotionals: Upper Room, Daily Bread, In Touch, etc.
Tapes (cassette & VCR), CD's, DVD's, Records: music, movies, teaching
Puppets, Noah's Ark, Bible games, Nativity sets, biblical puzzles: most anything that helps to present the gospel
Hymnals & musicals: hymnals that are in fairly good condition

Handiwork or busy papers from Sunday School materials
Positive Thinking materials
"Hyper-Faith" messages
Secular books (other than dictionaries)

How can I get my literature to Love Packages?
Please use sturdy boxes and pack to ensure materials will not shift. Also, please do not ship overly heavy packages. Break your shipments up into smaller boxes, preferably under 35 pounds. Since we are a non-profit organization, and since we establish libraries, you may send it 4th class library rate. This library rate should save you some money. The requirements are as follows:

"Library Rate" must be written on the same side as the address
The box must show the address of a non-profit religious organization and your return address
Boxes must contain books of more than 32 pages, sheet music, or sound recordings, and be marked accordingly.
I've found some post offices won't do the Library Rate for this but will do the Media Mail rate which is only a fraction more.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Helping Kids Give Thanks - A Thanksgiving Project Idea

As part of my work at the Center for Asset Development, I'm going to help the children in the Good News Club at Pleasant View Elementary School use Thanksgiving as an opportunity to Give Thanks to their teachers next week.

This simple service project has a dual purpose, as it will help the children "think of others above themselves" and it will help shine Christ's love throughout the school. It also builds the positive peer influence asset - helping children be forces for good and show caring and support (2 more assets) to others . . . with thanks.

Here are the directions for our project, in case you want to duplicate it. Ours has a Christian emphasis, but you can easily leave out the Scripture for a nonfaith-based project.

  • Fold your paper in half. On the front part of the card write in big letters, "I am thankful".
    On the righthand side of the inside of the card, paste a 4inch square of aluminum foil. Under the mirror, write "for YOU".
  • Choose a verse from the list of 'thankful verses' on your table to write on your card.
  • Sign the card with ___ (your name) and my friends at Good News Club. If kids have extra time, they can embellish their cards.
  • If everyone finishes, you can play the "I'm thankful" game. You start the circle by saying, "I'm thankful for __ (something that starts with A). The next person continues by giving thanks for something that starts with B. See how far you can get in the alphabet.
  • Say a prayer of thanksgiving to God, giving thanks for the many blessings he has given each of us - food, shelter, friends, great teachers, the Bible, salvation...)

You can find more practical ideas for building developmental assets (a.k.a. raising healthy kids!) in schools and community organizations on our website/blog at

Happy Thanksgiving!!

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

November Newsletter - Healthy Youth = Healthy Readers

The Center for Asset Development's November newsletter is out!
This month's topic is "Healthy Youth = Healthy Readers".

If you would like a free copy of the November Asset Messenger, leave your email address in the comment box below or email me at ann(at)theassetedge(dot)net.

(We promise not to spam you, and we'll never share your email address with anyone else!)

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Sharing Family Strengths Activity Booklet - Free!

This is described as a "16-page booklet is designed to help parents and children identify and nurture their family's strengths through fun activities and helpful ideas. Using this booklet, families will learn together how to keep their family strong for years to come." (from their website)

It outlines characteristics of strong families, including:



Time together





Cultural traditions

Extended sense of family

But it doesn't stop with the list. For each characteristic, it includes family discussion questions and activities to strengthen your family.

This would be a great handbook to give to families in your youth programs -either via printed handouts or a link in your newsletter.

CLICK HERE to order or download a free PDF booklet.

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Internet Search Engines and Philanthropy

I've heard about Goodsearch before, but I didn't know anything about it. It's a really cool way to designate funds to a nonprofit of your choice, simply by searching the internet. There's no fee to participate; you just need to sign up and use the search engine. You can read more about it at Above All, Love Each Other Deeply.

So which nonprofit organization or ministry would you like to give money to?
Why not start today?

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Healthy Communities Healthy Youth Conference - Igniting Sparks

We just returned from the Healthy Communities Healthy Youth Conference in Minneapolis, MN. We had a great time presenting workshops, meeting really cool people from around the world, swapping stories, previewing new books, and hearing great speakers.

One of our favorite presentations was given by Peter Benson, the president of the Search Institute. He spoke about SPARKS - the passions that bubble up out our hearts and give our lives meaning and purpose; the flames that ignite our lives.

He mentioned 32 primary categories of sparks, ranging from artistic to musical to service to leadership to writing to learning about special interests. I could immediately identify one of my sparks - helping people grow to be strong in mind, body & spirit. Susan's spark is giving - giving information, giving stories, and giving gifts. My sister's spark is hospitality - blessing people by welcoming them into her home. My friend Mary's spark is creativity - through decorating, gardening, and creative activiites.

Every single person has at least one spark, but not everyone can name their spark. And far too few people have a 'spark champion', or someone who nurtures and encourages their spark.

You recognize a person's spark by watching what makes them sparkle & shine; by asking them what they love, what makes them feel alive. By looking for patterns in what makes people feel happiest and where they feel like they are making a difference.

It's important to know and utilize our sparks, because they make life fun and give life meaning. And they are part of the unique imprint that we have been given to make a mark on the world. These unique sparks might simply be a hobby, or they might lead to opportunities to serve others, or they might even lead to a career.

I'm fascinated by the concept of sparks - it's so simple to understand and apply, yet completely grounded in research about healthy youth development.

Peter Benson has just published a new book, SPARKS: How Parents Can Help Ignite the Hidden Strengths of Teenagers. Find out more about his book, and free downloads that can help you identify the sparks of your children and teens at his website,

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

CollegeWeekLive - Finding the Right Fit for You

If you know folks that are 'shopping' for colleges, please share this opportunity with them:

CollegeWeekLive – an interactive, virtual college fair – is fast approaching. Join thousands of your peers online on November 12 and 13, and visit hundreds of colleges across the country without ever leaving home. Best of all, attendance is free! So sign up here. Below are some tips for getting the most out of your CollegeWeekLive experience:

One Week Before the Fair
Check out the list of colleges and universities and decide which ones you want to visit
View the agenda and select presentations to watch live

During the Fair
Exchange Instant Messages with admissions reps
Check out virtual booths for colleges
Watch videos of real college students talking about their experiences
View live presentations by admissions reps from top colleges

**copied from a listserve**

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Alternative Gift ideas

If you're looking for Alternative Gift ideas for this Christmas, here are some great programs that are participating in the Hope for Nashville Holiday Gift Catalog. If you buy a gift, you will receive a lovely card to give to the recipient of your choice. I have known and respected all of these organizations for a long time - they are very worthy and responsible groups! Click on the links to learn more about the organizations.

Preston Taylor Ministries:
$20 – healthy snacks for 60 students
$50 – a day of reading instruction for 15 students

Barefoot Republic Camp:
$20 – Programming supplies for monthly Youth Advisory Board Meetings
$50 – Gift to the scholarship fund to send a student to camp

The Next Door:
$20 – Gift cards for women in program to help provide a Christmas dinner for her family
$50 – A special just for you bag for a woman in the Next Door program

InterFACE Ministries:
$20 – Buy a soccer jersey for International Soccer Outreach
$50 – To purchase a digital camera for the ministry

Young Life:
$20 – Campership for a YL student to go to camp
$50 - Campership for a YL student to go to camp

Daystar Counseling Ministries:
$20 – To help a child on a sliding scale go to group counseling
$50 - To help a family on sliding scale go to individual counseling

Siloam Family Health Center:
$20 – Buys a Bible in another language for their diverse patient population
$50 - Buys one month’s worth of diabetic supplies, including a glucometer and 50 glucose test strips

Men of Valor Prison Ministry:
$20 – Gift cards for men in their program just out of prison
$50 – Gift cards for men in their program just out of prison

Hope Clinic for Women:
$20 – Provides diapers and wipes for a new mom earning points through education in our BRIDGE program. BRIDGE stands for: Building Relationships with Individuals & Directing them towards Gaining Education
$50 – Gift cards for residents at their homes for moms and babies.

Charis Ministries:
$20 – Provides 10 Bibles (OT/NT) for each box of food.
$50 – Provides food for 1 large box of food for a family, including a Bible.

For more information about the gift catalog, email Mikkee at

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

Great Decorations for Trunk or Treat

I've been to a dozen or so Trunk or Treat events over the last 6 years, but I've never been really impressed. It just seems like a big candy fest set up to foster greediness, but I guess that could be said of the whole Halloween experience. But I digress.

At our church's Trunk or Treat, individuals, families and community groups sign up to decorate vehicles. The cars all park in a row, and the children trick-or-treat from car-to-car. Prizes are awarded for the best car decorations.

Ours was very simple - a big Thomas the Train blanket hanging over the back seat of the minivan, a Thomas the Train car carrier and a blue box of candy.

But I was wow-ed by everyone else's creativity and the way they made their booths so interactive.
  • There was a car with a big spider web and a ring toss to get rings over the spider's head.
  • There was a North Pole van with the whole interior covered in white. Penguins were hidden throughout the car, and the Penguin host gave out candy to children who correctly counted the number of penguins at the North Pole.
  • There was a pirate car with a treasure chest and 5-6 costumed pirates.
  • There was a FIDO car where children tossed bones into a stand-up doghouse. Children stood on various markers based on their age, but the markers were labeled in dog years. Very clever!
  • There was a nascar racing vehicle that let the children race cozy coupes around their mini track.
  • There was a fairytale car with a "pass the tiara" game. Children stood in a circle and passed a tiara from person to person while the music played. When the music stopped, the child holding the tiara got a special prize.
  • There was a car with a tunnel for kids to crawl through.
  • And there were so many more great ideas!!

The event is made even stronger with extra touches of hot dogs, cotton candy, hot chocolate, bounce-arounds and a hayride. Our activities coordinators do a great job!!

So next time we host a Trunk or Treat vehicle, I'll be armed with LOTS of great ideas. HATS OFF to all the creative folks who planned car decorations this year!!

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Discovering Your Child's Talents

The more time we spend playing with our children and observing the way that the play, the more knowledge we will have for nurturing their development. As we watch the way they stand apart from their peers and notice what makes them shine, we will start to understand the way they were uniquely designed. From that knowledge, we can challenge them to grow in their skills, talents and passions - and become the men and women that God designed them to be.

You can learn more in a great article, titled "Seven steps for discovering your child’s talents". Their blog has several articles that help caregivers discover their child's potential. You can also learn more on their company's website at