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!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Caring for Friends in Need - From Across the Country

One of my dear friends just had a baby and she lives halfway across the country from me. Having a baby is challenging enough, but this is baby #3 in just over 3 years. Her oldest son turned 3 in September, her 2nd son (diagnosed with Down's Syndrome and many related health issues) turned 1 in January, and her 3rd son was born 2 weeks ago. Due to medical complications baby #3 just came home from the NICU a few days ago.

I've been working really hard to find ways to support her family, and I've finally found some avenues that feel helpful. I'm sure some of you are in (or have recently been in) the same boat - looking for ways to care for loved ones far away. So I thought I'd share what we're doing for my friend - not to brag, but to help you find creative ways to love others.

We're coordinating care efforts through a really cool website called Lotsa Helping Hands. It's a free service that allows you to post needs on a calendar that's accessible to a group of invited friends. We're using this website to coordinate meals, light house-cleaning, childcare during doctor's appointments, sending encouraging notes, and playdates for the oldest child. It's very easy to use, and a great way to involve people that want to help.

I sent an email to her out-of-town friends with opportunities for them to help.
  • Provide them a gourmet meal through Dinner Helpers, Dinner A'Fare or Super Suppers. You can give a gift certificate to cover a meal or a week's worth of meals. Ask the companies if they have special deals for new mothers.
  • Send a gift card for restaurants or prepared foods (I listed my friend's favorite local restaurants and grocery stores)
  • Send diapers. You can send a Walmart gift card for diapers or order them from
  • And of course send thoughtful notes, care packages and encouraging emails.

Let me know if you have more ideas to support their family!

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Radiant - No Matter What the Circumstances

I've been reading through some of my journals today, looking for some words of encouragement for friends that are hurting. I just stumbled on a devotional calendar I put together almost 10 years ago. The entries are excerpts of a book I was writing in my journals titled, "Glimpses of a Sanctuary: A heart of serenity & prayer in a world of chaos". It's actually what I thought would become my first book, but the publishing opportunity hasn't come yet. God's timing for planting and fulfilling (or not fulfilling) dreams is such a funny thing sometimes.

Radiant - No Matter What the Circumstances

“Early on, Amy Carmichael seems to have learned a spiritual secret that caused her spirit to blaze even brighter in spite of the many difficult circumstances she faced” as a missionary in the darkest parts of China. (David Hazard, You Are My Hiding Place) I think she must have read God’s promise, “Those who look to him are radiant.” (Psalms 34:5) That’s the kind of woman I want to be. One who glows with a certain grace amidst chaos, calm amidst crisis and peace amidst despair. One who is radiant because she has spent so much quality time looking deep into the eyes of Her Father…the True Light.

That leaves me with “only one desire, and that is the desire for solitude--to disappear into God, to be submerged into His peace, to be lost in the secret of His face.” (Thomas Merton) Why? Because that’s the only way we can truly know God. To linger in His presence, to relish in His sweetness, to cling to Him in our pain.

Kay Arthur asks, “How important is it that you be alone with your heavenly Father? The difference between life and abundant life (John 10:10).” I choose abundant life - now Lord, show me what that means to find you in the middle of a busy house and a world that runs at break-neck speed!

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Motivating Kids to Do Their Best - from MVParents

I like this post on Motivating Kids to Do Their Best from MVParents

Here is Lynette's intro, "You want your kids to do their best. But what is their best? How do you know if your kids are living up to their full potential? Consider these ideas."

And here is a sampling of her ideas - there are many more in her full article:

Notice how much your child is self-motivated. Some kids seem to know what they want and go after it. Others seem to dillydally a lot. Every child has a different amount of self-motivation.

Be aware of the difference between extrinsic motivation (being motivated by others with rewards and bribes) and intrinsic motivation (being motivated internally to do something). Although it’s okay to try to motivate kids from time to time with rewards, try to get in touch with what makes your child motivated from the inside and focus on that motivation.

Look for fun ways to spice up activities that your child doesn’t enjoy, such as certain chores or doing homework for least-favorite subjects. For example, play music and dance while you dust. Or let your child sit with a favorite stuffed animal while doing homework.

For parents with children ages birth to 5
A key point for this age group is to give kids stimulating activities that encourage their curiosity—rather than kills it. Kindergarten teachers say they can always tell which kids have had their curiosity nurtured when they arrive at school the first day. These are the kids who have had parents who take them to interesting places (zoos, children’s museums, the library, the playground, the grocery store) and also have provided interesting, stimulating activities, such as reading aloud, going for walks and identifying colors, and building towers out of blocks.

For parents with children ages 6 - 9
Young children are still highly relational. They tend to be motivated to do well when they adore the adults they’re with. Connect them with trusted, competent adults who care about them.

For parents with children ages 10 - 15
Notice the new interests that get your kids excited. Sometimes it’s giggling about the opposite sex, reading comic books, or fashion. Kids at this age are highly aware of which social groups they fit into and don’t fit into, and so many are motivated to look—and act—a certain way.

For parents with children ages 16 - 18
Keep tabs on how competition is affecting your teenager’s motivation. For some teenagers, competition motivates them more. For others, competition paralyzes them. Give suggestions on how to handle competition well.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Teaching Children to Wash their Hands Carefully

I just read about a great way to teach children how to wash their hands carefully. See pictures of this tip from LarkSongKnits.
(Thanks to Crafty Crow for sending me to this blog!)

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Supporting Military Moms during Deployment

I live really close to a military base, so I have several friends with spouses that are deployed overseas. I've never known very much about military life, so I asked my friend Elizabeth (military wife and mother) to coach me through how to support women whose husbands are deployed. She gave me some great advice, and said that I could share it with you.
  • First, I would recommend that she get a free video that Sesame Street produced for her kids if she doesn't already have it; the first link should take you to a site where you can order it.
  • Make sure that she knows that she can call you whenever for whatever. We have a neighbor whose husband is in Korea for a year; she knows that she can come ask for whatever help she might need, even if it's getting a bird out of her house or watching her kids while she unloads groceries. You might offer to watch her kids sometimes so that she can have a little time for herself.
  • Don't take it personally if she doesn't want to talk at times or totally breaks down for no apparent reason; deployment is hard and it's hard to predict what emotions may be there at any given time. For example, if someone knocks on her door when she isn't expecting it, it may really throw her off for the rest of the day. There were a few times that someone knocked on my door while Kevin was deployed; it causes a horrible knot to form in your stomach. A knock on the door is how the military notifies you if your soldier has been killed. On that same note, always call before you stop by!
  • If she's expecting to hear from her husband and he doesn't contact her, it will ruin her day. It's probably just because there is a communication blackout and he's probably fine, but you don't feel better until you hear for sure that everything is ok. When Kevin was deployed, a communication blackout would go into effect if a soldier in his brigade was hurt or killed; it gives the military time to properly notify the soldier's family instead of them hearing the news through rumors. There's no set length of time; it lasts until the family has been notified.
  • I would recommend that she get involved with the Family Readiness Group (FRG) for her husband's unit; it's a great resource and good place to find friends who are going through the same thing you are.
  • Basically, just be there for her, listen if she wants to talk, and keep reaching out even if she's not reaching back. Do whatever you can to take her mind off things, which may or may not be possible depending on the day.
  • Call her and call often just to check in.

Websites that families with deployed soldiers might appreciate:
My Army Life Too
Deployment Kids
Military Spouse Resource Center
Military Avenue

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Share the Love - Building Assets through Valentine Traditions

Holidays offer a great opportunity to be intentional about building assets, building memories, and having fun together. Valentine’s Day, in particular, is a great time to show others that you care, leading to a more caring school climate, a more supportive home environment, stronger intergenerational relationships and healthier friendships. Here are some ideas you can use in the weeks surrounding Valentine’s Day.

Loving Words
• Hide conversation hearts around the room for children to find. Let children hunt and hide them again and again.
• Get sneaky – put mini love notes in each other’s pockets, lunchboxes or on their pillows during the week. On each note, share a specific trait you admire about that person such as, “Your hugs every night make my day,” “I love your ready smile,” or “Thank you for your helpful spirit.”
• Send cards to people you care about. Draw pictures or write poems to tell them why they are important to you.

Loving Hands
• Make Valentines on the computer. Create labels using your own photo, add a Valentine message, and then stick the label to treats.
• Remember old fashioned paper weaving with paper strips? Weave pink, white, and red placemats.
• Get creative – make valentine t-shirts with paints or draw hearts and fill in with words and pictures that represent things that each is proud of themselves and each other.
• Make ‘stained glass’ hearts using recycled crayons and waxed paper.

Kitchen Celebrations
• Incorporate red, pink, and white foods into your Valentine’s Day meals
o Red: strawberries, apples, dried cranberries, red peppers, raspberries, red hots, spaghetti, lasagna
o White: bananas, cauliflower, yogurt covered raisins, marshmallows, vanilla yogurt, alfredo pasta
o Pink: strawberry ice cream, strawberry milk, strawberry yogurt
• Hide a Valentine message and candy treat as a surprise.
• Write ‘love notes’ with a sharpie marker on the peel of a banana or a sandwich bag
• Cut out hearts - sandwiches, pizza, pancakes, cookies, rice crispy treats, napkins, placemats....
• Have friends over for a pancake breakfast. Make heart-shaped pancakes using a metal cookie cutter. Serve with raspberry or strawberry preserves and a dollop of whipped cream.

Show Some Love to Others
• Volunteer together to help someone in need. (Need inspiration? For young children, read Berenstain Bears’ Think of Those in Need by Stan and Jan Berenstain. For pre-teens and teens consider reading our book, Ready to Go Service Projects: 140 Ways for Youth Groups to Lend a Hand.)

In the Classroom
• Children and youth alike will enjoy these classic picture books: Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, Nate the Great and the Mushy Valentine by Marjorie Sharmat, Queen of Hearts by Mary Engelbreit or Olive, My Love by J. Otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh.
• Do a health study on sugar, a gift commonly given during Valentine’s Day.
• Study the heart in science class.
• Language arts: write poems or stories about love and friendship.
• History: interview older adults about their Valentine’s traditions, or study the history of Valentine’s Day.

On the Big Screen
Spread out sleeping bags and enjoy a box of popcorn as you enjoy classic movies about love and friendship. Some of our favorites include: Ever After, Beauty and the Beast, The Sound of Music, Shrek, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Lady and the Tramp, Cars, The Lion King, or The Princess Bride.

Assets Built through These Valentine’s Traditions: * Family support * Positive family communication * Other adult relationships * Caring neighborhood * Caring school climate * Service to others * Positive peer influence * Creative activities * Youth programs * Time at home * Reading for pleasure * Caring * Equality and social justice * Planning and decision making * Interpersonal competence * Self-esteem *

To learn more about positive youth development and the Developmental Assets, visit or

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Clifford Big Ideas - a Philanthropic Valentine

I received this email today, so I thought I'd share it with you. It's a great opportunity for Clifford-loving kids to consider their values and actions, while having a little fun. And everytime you play, you can know you've helped give money to a good cause - without spending a dime!

HandsOn Network and Scholastic have joined forces to launch a cause campaign with Clifford The Big Red Dog® to raise awareness for how CLIFFORD'S BIG IDEAS can make the world a better place.

Throughout the year, Clifford's BE BIG! campaign will create unique opportunities to promote CLIFFORD'S BIG IDEAS (Share, Play Fair, Have Respect, Work Together, Be Responsible, Be Truthful, Be Kind, Believe in Yourself, Be a Good Friend, Help Others). Clifford's BIG Ideas inspire children and adults to think BIG and act BIG in their communities.

Starting Feb. 2 you can create and send a virtual Valentine's Day Card to Clifford; for every card delivered through Feb. 28, Scholastic will donate $1.00 to The BE BIG! Fund at HandsOn Network (up to $20,000).

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tape and Glue - Home Essentials!

Every home needs a good supply of tape & glue. In the last 24 hours, we have taped a broken Lightning McQueen suitcase handle together with electrical tape (you can't even see the broken part!), repaired a book and a magic painting page with scotch tape, super glued broken pieces on 2 Precious Moments figurines that my daughter broke (see result below), sutured two hand cuts with super glue (one for me & one for my daughter), reinforced my daughter's bandaid with tape (it would not stay on her hand!), and this doesn't even include art projects, office uses and home projects! I can't imagine life without tape & glue!!

Off to Bible study...


Friday, February 06, 2009

Free valentine's newsletter about healthy children and youth

I just published the February Asset Messenger, the Center for Asset Development's free e-newsletter that talks about practical ways to nurture children and youth. This month's issue highlights ways to build developmental assets during the Valentine season. You can get your free e-copy by emailing me at ann(at)theassetedge(dot)net.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Valentine GIft - super cute non-skid socks

I just read a post at Scribbit - Valentine's Crafts: Non-Skid, Full-of-Love Socks. She mentions making some with hearts on the bottom - I think that's a perfect Valentine's gift for grammas and little girls!
I tried to buy non-skid socks for my mom last year, but they are a seasonal item at Walmart. So I can't wait to make these! I already have puffy paint, but I need to go buy some socks for my mom. So fun!


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Research Says: Eat Dinner Together as a Family!

I just posted an article titled, "Ten Benefits of Frequent Family Dinners" at It contains really powerful statistics that prove the more often children and teens eat dinner with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink and use drugs. It will remind you about the importance of sitting down to eat together - even in the busyness of life!

Speaking of eating tonight, I haven't planned what we're having for dinner! I need to get myself into action!!

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Oreo Balls

Kelly, one of my DH's high school friends just sent this recipe our way. I can't wait to make these sweet treats!!

* 8 ounces softened cream cheese or whipped cream cheese
* 18 ounces package of Oreo cookies, crushed
* 2 cups semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips
* 1 tablespoon shortening

Mix cream cheese with electric mixer until fluffy. Add the crushed Oreos and beat on high until well mixed. Chill for at least 2 hours in the freezer. Then roll Oreo cookie mix into one inch Oreo Balls.

Next, melt the chocolate chips and shortening with a double boiler or in the microwave.

Dip the Oreo balls completely into the melted chocolate using tongs or a toothpick.

Put on wax paper. After the Oreo balls harden, keep them in the refrigerator.

Makes about 3 or 4 dozen Oreo Balls, depending on the size"