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!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Book Review: The Mighty Quinn by Robyn Parnell and Katie & Aaron DeYoe

Overview:  Fifth graders Quinn and Neally have to find the right way to stop a bully without making themselves bullies too.
My favorite part was the style of writing because they used unusual words like infinity often.
My favorite character was Kelsey King, because of her favorite tone of voice, yelling.
This is a great book for boys and girls who are getting bullied and want a way out of it.
Can't wait for the next book in the series to come out!
By Daniel, age 11
(Mom was excited to hear about this book that tackles such an important issue in a light-hearted way.  Bullies are a big issue for kids, and they can use all the help they can get to deal with bullying behavior AND avoid being the bully.  Positive role models for kids are always a good thing!  I'm excited to see more books from this publisher!)
Disclosure:  We received this book as a gift from Scarletta Press in exchange for our honest review.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Giving Kids the Edge they Need to Succeed

The Search Institute found that there are 40 key factors – developmental assets – that have a powerful influence on the lives of children and youth. Developmental assets are the relationships, competencies, values and experiences for growth and development that young people need to grow up to be caring, competent adults. These assets protect youth from getting involved in risky behaviors and promote within them thriving behaviors.

Search’s research with over 1 million young people reveals that the more assets a child has, the better! More assets increases the likelihood that youth will succeed in school and make healthy, wise choices. More assets also decrease the likelihood that youth will get into trouble or harm themselves. The asset difference is a big one – they add up to producing healthy, caring and competent adults in the making! Assets are something that every child deserves and needs . . . it’s not just for those deemed “at-risk.

WHAT CAN I DO?Assets are built through caring relationships, a variety of experiences in schools, youth programs, churches, sports, the arts and by building skills, competencies and values.
The assets provide a powerful framework and lens for how everyone in the community can engage children and youth in day to day activities and increase their potential for success. The assets also clearly show that there are important roles for all of us to play in shaping young people's lives.

That’s where YOU come in. You can be an asset builder, starting right now! YOU can be that important someone who is always fondly remembered in the life of a child. Starting now. The ideas shared on this website are simple things you can do every day to have a powerful impact. It’s simply a matter of Taking Action.

The developmental assets are the foundation of all the writing and consulting that I do through the Center for Asset Development. You can read more at In future blogs, I'll give more practical ideas for building assets in the lives of children and youth.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Book Review - Her Restless Heart by Barbara Cameron

I'm currently reading "Her Restless Heart: A Woman's Longing for Love and Acceptance" by Barbara Cameron.  It is a very unique combination of a novel and a Bible study.  It is NOT written in book club format - where an author adds questions to the end of the chapter or the back of the book to kick off personal reflection and group discussion.  It's different than anything I've seen and it's part of Abingdon Press' new "Faith and Fiction Bible Study series".

Cameron uses excerpts from her book, "Her Restless Heart" to set the stage for studying scripture.  She includes enough of the excerpts that a reader won't at all feel lost without reading the novel (I haven't read the novel yet), but enough of the excerpts that readers will understand the setting and identify with the character struggles.

Each of the 6 studies are designed to last one week.  There are 5 personal studies within each section.  The studies are a very nice balance of novel excerpts, scriptures, challenging questions, exhortations, prayers, and Bible study.  The daily work is simple, thought-provoking, and inspiring.  It's NOT overwhelming and exhausting.  At the end of each week, Cameron talks about Amish living in relation to the study - it's a fascinating piece of cultural history.

The topics include:  longing, wounds, insecurity, reluctance, romanticism, and having a satisfied heart - issues that almost every woman struggles with during their lives.

I would recommend this book to any woman age 18-88.  It can be done alone or with a small group of women.  I hope Cameron will write more studies like this!

I received this book from Abingdon Press in exchange for my honest review.

Family Card Games

Erica reminded me about the classic card game "Go Fish". She uses it as a fun way to teach colors, counting, taking turns... We like to play this game when we travel, because it's one of a million games to play with a normal deck of cards.

Other favorite card games include Crazy Eights, Old Maid, Rummy, SlapJack, and Speed. The adults in our family also love Spades, Nertz and Hearts.

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Famous Lemon Pie

My husband's family LOVES pies, but I grew up in a cake family. I'm trying to learn the art of baking pies. Here's the family recipe for the lemon pie he loves so much.

1 Stick (1/2 Cup) Butter or Margarine, Melted
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Diced Pecans

Mix in a 13 x 9 inch Pyrex baking dish. Bake above mixture at 350 degrees, stirring occasionally, (mixture will be crumbly) for at least 15 minutes (possibly longer depending on how hot your oven is). Press this crust into the bottom and up the sides of a 9 inch pie plate.

3 Tablespoons Cream Corn Starch
1 1/4 Cups Sugar
1 Tablespoon Grated Lemon Rind
3 Eggs, Separated
1 1/2 Cups boiling water
6 Tablespoons Lemon Juice

Combine corn starch, sugar, lemon juice and lemond rind. Beat eff yolks, add to corn starch mixture. Gradually add boiling water. Heat to boiling over direct heat. Boil gently 4 minutes, stirring constantly. (Egg whites can be used for meringue - Daniel didn't like meringue so I never made it). Refrigerate.


Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Summertime Projects to Promote Family Learning and Bonding - Part 3

Homemade Healthy and Natural Ice Cream

When you are sweating under the hot sun, few things are better than a cold bowl of ice cream.  Here is what you need to make your own home made, healthy and delicious snack.

-          1 cup of organic milk or half and half
-          12 tablespoons of salt (rock salt works best)
-          Ice cubes
-          1 pint sized ziplock bag
-          1 large freezer ziplock bag
-          ½ cup organic fruit or berries
-          Crushed nuts (optional)

First, fill the small bag with milk, fruit puree, and crushed nuts, then seal it.  Next, add the salt and ice cubes to the larger bag until it is nearly full.  All you need to do now is put the smaller bag into the larger bag, and shake it for about ten minutes.  When you are done, you will have a bag of ice cream! 
Because there is no added sugar and all ingredients are natural, this homemade ice cream will be much healthier, not to mention fresher, than the kinds you would buy at a store.  By changing the fruits and adding spices you can make a variety of different flavors.  A few to consider are apple cinnamon, strawberry-banana, something fun like pear-lime-mint, or anything else you would like. 
A fun game can be for you to make a batch of ice cream without letting your kids know, and then they will need to guess what flavor it is.  This ice cream is perfect for a weekend treat, as a way to celebrate completing their found art project, or just because it is so hot out.

The nice weather and extra family time are what make summer summer.   With crafts and projects like these, your family can bond and have a great time while they learn, protect their favorite memories, and eat delicious snacks.

This post was written by Ryan, who enjoys picking out the perfect kids footed pajamas for his nieces and nephews cooking, and helping families find new travel destinations.


Monday, May 06, 2013

Simple Ways Families Can Help Children Become Readers

Read to and with your children for 30 minutes every day.
Have a wide variety of books available to children.
Encourage children to look at books on their own and spend time reading together everyday.
Let your children see you read and write.
Use cooking as a reading tool – ingredient labels, recipes…
Sing and play rhyming games with your child.
Keep books and books-on-tapes in the car.
Carry a ‘book bag’ when you run errands.
Encourage your child to draw and write on her own.
Provide lots of writing materials-chalk, markers, crayons, and pencils.
Visit the library to peruse books and attend story time.
Talk with your children as you do daily activities together.
Restrict the amount and type of television your children watch.
Talk together about things that interest your child.
Introduce new vocabulary words when you talk with your child.
Read any time - on the bus, at the doctor’s office, or waiting in line at the store.
Read throughout the day – morning, afternoon and evening.
Make reading a special time of snuggling and attention.
Shelve books in an easily accessible place that is inviting to children.
Visit your local library story hour to build even more enthusiasm for reading.
Keep books in the car for portable and educational entertainment.
Find special reading places: under a shady tree, on a porch, in the park, or in a hammock.
Make a tent with blankets for a reading corner.

This is part of a handbook I wrote for parents called Reading for Life.  I'll gladly send you a free copy, if you'd like.  Just email me at

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Thursday, May 02, 2013

Book Review: What's Your Mark? by Jeremy Cowart

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Cowart's new book, "What's Your Mark?  Every Moment Counts".  The book has stories and photographs of everyday people who are making their mark on the world.  Each story also asks a thought-provoking question, such as:

How are you using social media to make your mark on the world?
How can you use what you know to inspire others to make a mark?
What is a simple way that you can make a mark today?

Between the stories, you'll find the book of Mark (from the Bible), and notes on how Mark and Jesus made their marks on the world.

Finally, you'll be drawn to turn back to the cover of the book, which is a framed mirror reflecting your image.  It will beckon you to answer the question, "How does God want to use you to make a mark on the world this week and for the rest of your life?"

This would be great for a teacher's gift, a graduation gift, or an 'I admire you' gift.  I would recommend it for men and women ages 12 and older.  It would also be a great staff devotional to read before starting a workday.

It will inspire you to live out your faith in a bold and loving way.

I received this book as a gift from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Summertime Projects to Promote Family Learning and Bonding - Part 2

Project #2 - All Natural Birdfeeders

By helping your kids build a series of all natural birdfeeders, your family can enjoy a hands-on activity together.  The best part about this is that it will also give your kids the opportunity to study the habits of different bird species and learn how they interact.  To make the bird feeders, first help your child securely tie 4 feet of twine to the top of 5 different pinecones (if you don’t have pinecones in your area, you can use the rind from grapefruit cut in half, just attach the twine on either side so it will hang like a bowl).  Then, for each pinecone mix peanut butter, and a different food that birds will like in separate bowls.  For example, you can cover the different cones with cheerios, oatmeal, granola, and different types of bird seed.  After you have mixed each recipe, roll the pine cone around in it until it is totally covered (or fill up the grapefruit rinds with the mixes), note which feeder contains which food, and hang all of your feeders next to each other.

By keeping an eye on the different feeders, you and your children can observe which foods attract which types of birds.  If you need help identifying the birds, a local bird guide from your library or online can be a great help.  As your children continue to observe them, they may notice that certain birds come at certain times of the day, or even prefer cheerios for breakfast and birdseed for dessert!  Another exciting thing to watch out for is what happens when multiple birds are at the same feeder.  Some will probably share the space, others will fly away, and some may even squawk, squabble and skirmish to take control.  After a few weeks of observing all of these hungry visitors, your children may get great at identifying the different species that visit your yard, and even learn all about the different birds’ habits.

This post was written by Ryan, who loves reviewing Broadway shows for kids, camping, and observing animals in nature.