Saturday, June 21, 2014

Prayer Journals

I woke up this morning to discover on Instagram that Val Marie Paper is offering a pre-order for her new children's and men's prayer journals.

A friend of mine introduced her prayer journals to me at the beginning of the year. They are super cute and are a simple tool to organize your prayer life. 

I am so excited to order the kids each one. They are too wonderful not to share! I hope you will go check them out. 

They are dated in 6 month increments so if you order now you'll get them in time to start in July.

You can order at her Etsy shop HERE!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Summer Reading

It took a bit longer here in Texas to arrive but summer is FINALLY here!
It's only been one week and I think I have already heard "I'm bored!" 50 times.

One way we are trying to bore-proof our summer is READING!

If you search reading incentives or reading charts there are a billion around and I was having a hard time choosing what would be the easiest way to keep up with our reading and encourage the girls to want to read. I went to my sister's house (Jessica's) and saw what she made for her kids. I immediately said I need one for my girls and that we needed to share it with our friends.

At the beginning of the school year, I (Jessica) put together a reading notebook for all my kids.  In the end, it proved to just be too much work.  I may post it one day for those super ambitious.  This summer I knew I wanted to keep it simple but put a little more responsibility on the kids.  They love to read but they don't like to do anything else with the books.  My kids also read ALOT.  We decided that a good solution would be to start a book blog where they report on each book they read.  We came up with a simple rating system to use.  Some books they will do a short book report on and other books they will do a longer book report on.  It really is up to them.  My goal was for them to read a chapter book a week.  Julianna-Marie usually reads a chapter book a day, though! Johnna Katherine is a new reader so her books are much shorter and she only completes the short book reports on some of the books.  I put together a book binder for each of them.  Again, keeping it pretty simple.  If they complete the whole reading packet by the end of the summer, they get a BIG prize!  (not sure what yet)  In the meantime, we signed up for several summer book reading programs to help award them along the way.  Below I will post some of the best ones we found.  So far, this method is working! We will see how it goes as the summer progresses.  

Here are the files I threw together. Click on the hyperlink to get to the file.  (nothing fancy)

Cover Page - I just went with a blank cover so they could draw their own pictures.
Log - (older kids) 
Log - (younger kids) I wish I had included a space so that if she reads the same book over she could mark it.  I like for her to read the same book atleast 3 times.  We may use stickers to help indicate the times she reads them.
Longer Book Report - I included 10 in the booklet. One for each week.  The kids helped me design this file.  It usually only takes them about 10 minutes to complete. I am using this info to add to our new book blog.
Short Book Report - This is for all the extra books they complete.  Johnna Katherine (who just finished K) uses this form for all her books. 

We have packets printed and bound at Office Max for a low cost. Each child has their own Reading Packet. Here is the combined reading packet. 
Other than this packet, I have the kids look up the book on Book Adventure  This is a great site that has AR like test for certain books.  We use this site more during the school year but the kids like it so I am encouraging them to keep it up.

Below are a few of the summer reading programs we are participating in: 

Pizza Hut 

Half Priced Books 

Barnes and Noble Summer Reading 

Happy Reading! We would love to hear about any other great reading summer programs or ways you are encouraging your kids to read this summer!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Chore Beads

Needless to say, when you have a large family, chores are a must! They not only teach kids responsibility and a sense of belonging, they make your job as a mom more manageable.  It is easy to get overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done. Even when the kids help me out a small amount, it helps me greatly.  In our family, I expect everyone to chip in and help. (Ok, so Jane Maddy gets a pass – most of the time!) Over the years, I have tried many different chore charts and chore routines for my family.  While some of them were great, none seemed to fit our needs very well.  They seemed too complicated or time consuming or rigid for us to really stick with them.  I needed something simple that I could mold to my family’s needs.  I think we have finally found a system that works for us so I thought I would share it!

But first, a few more thoughts on chores to consider: 

1.     Should kids be paid for their chores?  I personally think all kids should have chores.  Some in which they are expected to do just because they are part of the family. Yep, that’s right. Chores with no money, no rewards, no nothing!  Since our chores vary each day, so does this list.  For us, the first 2 chores my kids do each day usually fall into this category. 

But then, I also think they should also have a chance to earn an allowance. My kids get a quarter for anything extra they do.  Typically, these extras are not optional.  They have to do the chore because they are a part of the family. However if they keep a good attitude while completing the chore, they can earn some money.  It’s a win-win for both of us!  (Jennaleigh is so young she doesn’t care about money so for her she earns candy.)

2.     Don’t expect perfection  - This was a hard one for me at first. I wanted them to do chore but I also wanted the chores to be completed exactly as I would have done them.  Let me save you some heartache…. IT IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN! I try to teach the kids how to do their chores. You can’t expect them to automatically know how to do what you expect unless you take the time to teach them. Even then, it won’t be the same. For me, it was learning that it was better to teach them responsibility than perfection.  I sometimes make them do a chore over and I sometimes say a big “THANK YOU” and then do it again myself.  But in the end, I have some help and they are learning!

3.     Don’t wait until your kids are “Old Enough” – Start early.  Young kids love to do chores. They even think they are fun!  There are some great charts online that help you know what is age appropriate.  However, I have learned kids can do most anything that you teach them to do!

4.     Be consistent but don’t worry about being fair. So this may not sound that good, but really is life all that fair? I refuse to get in a debate with my 9 year old on why he has more chores and responsibilities than his 3-year-old sister.  It’s just life.  In the long run, he also gets greater rewards.  I try to stay as consistent as possible with each child.  If I ask them to do a chore, I expect them to do it like they are on a mission and to report back to me when they are done so I can check their work.  From my 3 yr old to my 9 yr old, the expectations are the same. 

5.     Praise, Praise, Praise – Praise even if the chore isn’t done exactly as you would have done it.  Praise during the effort. Praise for good attitudes. Praise for helping others.  Praise, goes a long way!  If I had someone praising me every time I did my chores, I might not need others helping me! LOL!

6.     Have fun and work in teams as much as possible!  Let’s face it chores are not always fun.  But some can be turned into fun with a little effort.  We sing songs while we fold laundry. We have races to get toys picked up.  We take breaks to dance to song.  A little fun can go a long way!  I also have my kids work as a team as often as possible.  This helps them learn to share responsibility and to encourage each other! And let’s face it; chores are more fun when you have help!

SO…. Now, our system!  It may not work for every family but it has been a lifesaver for me!
First, I went to Hobby Lobby and bought a big bucket of craft beads.  Originally, I also bought each kid a different colored chain necklace.  (I had to modify this step.)  My kids had a blast sorting all the beads out by color into a craft box. (I don’t think that you have to do this but….) 

Next, we assigned different chores to the different color beads. Now, I went broad here. Remember, I have already tried a million chore chart ideas.  I found that our chores change daily and we have too many chores to make a pink bead mean “pick up our toys”.  Here is the list we came up with:

Yellow Bead = Regular Chore This is the one they do just because they are part of the family.

Green Bead = Extra Chore This one comes with a reward…. In our house, it’s a $.25

Orange Bead = Good Attitude A bad one and you don’t get a bead…. But an extra good attitude can get you extra rewards… a chore worth $.50 What can I say money talks at my house?

Pink Bead = Act of Kindness Did they help someone else with a bead?  Did I just catch them being kind?  Ok, I realize I am getting away from chores but it works for us!

Purple Bead = Miscellaneous I keep this one open.  It could be they ran an errand for me, made a phone call, babysat Jane Maddy (with me real close)…. Regardless, they did something to help contribute to the well-being of their mom!

Recently, I purchased some new beads to add a few more activities. 

Heart Bead = Act of Love  My kids struggle as all kids with being nice especially when it comes to their siblings.  So this way, I can catch them showing love and they get rewarded.  Not all acts of love, get a bead AND they can’t come and ask for one. “Mom, I was nice to John Mark can I have a bead?” NOOOOOOO!

Star Bead = Good Job I use this one with our school stuff.  Did they get started on their own?  Did they finish their schoolwork early?  Did they not complain when doing school? 

Silver and Gold Bead = Bonus Beads I haven’t really figured these ones out but I’ll have it when someone earns them.  I made the silver worth  $.50 and the gold $1. 

Here are a few guidelines with the beads.
1.     You can’t ask for them (but you can remind me that I have beads)
2.     Mom is the keeper of the beads. You don’t always get what you think you should. 
3.     You must get the beads when the chore is done.  You can’t tell me you did a chore 3 days ago.
4.     You can cash beads most anytime we are home but you can’t wait till we are checking out at a store and say you have beads.

The only thing I have changed so far is the necklace.  The kids were constantly dropping al their beads.  Right now, we are using Ziploc bags.  However, I may get mason jars and put their names on them. 

I had planned to have them cash in their beads each week but they like to build up how many they have.  To make it easier, I have gone to the bank and gotten a roll of quarters and dollar bills so that I can easily give them their rewards.  Typically, my kids use their money to buy icees or candy.  John Mark likes to save it up for bigger items. 

I think that’s it!  Its simple! Its fun! It is working for us! And it’s another blessing!  Please leave me a comment and let me know what you think?  How do you do chores?  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Amon's Adventure - A Book for Easter

Amon's Adventure - A Book for Easter

A few years ago, the kids and I discovered a book called Jotham's Journey by Arnold Ytreeide.  It is a story designed to be read during the advent.  Mr. Ytreeide gives several ways to schedule the readings, but basically you read a story each night leading up to Christmas. Each lesson ends with a scripture to consider and a short thought related to the day's reading, making it perfect for family devotions.

The story is about a ten-year-old boy, Jotham, who crosses Israel as he searches for his family that he was separated from. Though he faces thieves, robbers, and kidnappers, Jotham also encounters the wise men, shepherds, and innkeepers until at last he finds his way to the Savior born in Bethlehem. 

I really didn't know what to expect when we started the book.  However, my kids loved it.  Each night they begged me to read more.  They didn't like to have to wait till the next night!  I have to admit I was tempted to read ahead more than once. It was a powerful story! This year, we are reading a book by the same author called Amon's Adventure. It is the story of Amon who happens to be the son of some main characters from Jotham Journey.  In this story designed to be read during Lent, we follow Amon's life and intrigue around the temple in Jerusalem during the time when Jesus was approaching His passion.

It is again a page turner.  The kids can't wait to read the next part of the story.  I love that it is a unique way to present the gospel to the kids.

I will say that Jotham's Journey did have a few intense parts.  However, my kids were fine with it.  It kept my 2 oldest attention the best.  (They were 5 and 7 at the time we read it).

I highly recommend these books as a family tradition!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

You've Been EGGED! - Easter Traditions

Easter is quickly approaching and we want to 
share a few of our favorite family Easter 
traditions in the next few weeks. 

We had so much fun 
"Egging" our friends and 
neighbors last year! 

It's a super fun activity that involves 
the entire family. 
It's also a great way to remind 
everyone why we celebrate Easter! 

All you need is:
12 Eggs per House
Candy to fill Eggs
1 Sign per House (Download one here) 
Several Excited Kids

We chose to stuff the eggs 
the night before.

Even the little ones enjoyed 
stuffing eggs!

Once you have a bag full of eggs 
(don't forget to have a bag
of empty eggs!)
it's time to go EGGING! 

Head on over to a neighbor's house!

Hide 11 filled eggs and
1 empty egg!

Hang a sign explaining to your neighbors
and friends why there are eggs all over their yard! 

This is so much fun for everyone!

Don't worry if you get caught in action!

We can't wait to go EGGING again this
year! I think it's safe to say that 
the kids enjoyed this more than 
the traditional Easter Egg Hunt!

I did make a new prettier 
sign for us to hang this year. 

Feel free to download it and go spread the true
meaning of Easter to your friends and neighbors! 

Watch out TX friends, your
house might be getting EGGED soon! 

Download Here

Sunday, January 12, 2014

John 3:16 Valentine's Day Printable

I made this to put in an
 8x10 frame in the kitchen
as Valentine's Day decor. 
Reminding us all of 
the greatest love this
Valentine's season. 

Download Here

Happy Sunday! 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Hi Ho! Hi Ho! It's off to Isla's Party We Go!

Isla talked about having a 
Snow White party for an entire year! 

I spent the entire 3 months before this
party in a wheel chair. 
(that's a whole other post)

Being immobile gave me tons of
time to plan, sit, and make things! :) 

The Invitations

I read once that an invitation
should set the stage for the party.
I think that is why I personally do
not like sending Evites. 

For this party I found cheap tin boxes
at Michaels. I think they were meant to hold 
gift cards. I spray painted them red. 
(sorry for the lack of pictures)  

I made a card using Photoshop 
for the front and inside. 

I glued the invitation
to the front.

And I glued the directions to the inside. 

I also filled the tin can with beads and dry beans.
Each guest was to "mine for jewels". 
I added a string so that each guest could make a necklace. 


Before parties I like to have a little photo-shoot 
with the Birthday kid!

I was extremely blessed to have 
the most amazing neighbor 
that actually knows how to use her camera!

I always use the pictures for decor
at the party!

Party Favors

I found wooden mirrors at Michaels
and spray painted them gold. 

"Mirror Mirror on the wall, 
Thanks for making my birthday a ball!"
Love, Isla

I had dwarf hats for the boys!

I 'm pretty sure all the 
parents wanted to kill me as I 
sent their child home with a whistle! 

I made Snow White bags to put all their 
goodies in!

There were a few baby guests so we 
made princess burp clothes for their
party favors.

 My children do not think a 
party is complete without 
a few games!

My favorite is the 7 Dwarf's  Bowling!

I saved up 2 liter bottles and used felt and googly 
eyes to transform them into 
the 7 Dwarfs. 

Using a ball the children
had a blast bowling!

The kids 
"Mined for Jewels". 
Excuse my poor photography skills
but it was a hit with the little ones!

I covered a kiddy pool with burlap,
filled it with sand and beads,
 and gave kids a shovel!

The Queen hid the poisonous 
apple around the courtyard and the
girls had to find it! 

We also played "Pass the Poison Apple".
The kids stood in a circle passing the apple.
When the music stopped whoever was
holding the apple had to go into a deep sleep! 
I then would go give them a kiss
(A Hershey chocolate kiss) to wake them up! 

"Bashful Bubbles" let the 
little kids blow bubbles.

I am almost embarrassed
 to share this next picture. 
I did not make 
the wishing well and 
it got forgotten. 

My husband quickly made 
one before the party!
It's not as pretty as I would have it but the kids
loved throwing pennies in the 
wishing well and making wishes!

We were at a wonderful church that had a courtyard
perfect for birthday parties!

There was a Little Tikes cottage
 that made a great Dwarf's Cabin!

 Tables were placed in the 
middle of the courtyard.

I made tulle puffs for centerpieces.

And I served the "Queen's Poison Punch"
in mason jars with coordinating cupcake toppers.


This is absolutely my favorite cake ever!
It was made by Lulu from 
Lulu's Sweet Expectations 

She also made these delicious cookies. 
(I know, poor photography skills) 

We made 
"Not-So Poisonous Apples"

They were caramel apples with twigs stuck in them. 

We had princess crown shaped 
ham and cheese sandwiches. 

"Prince's Pizza"
Bagel Bites

We made more 
"Not-So Poisonous Apples"
out of red rice krispey treats. We 
used tootsie rolls as the stems and 
halved green jelly beans as the leaves. 

There was the 
"Queen's Poison Punch"

We served
 "Wishing Well Water"

Having a birthday party in April is tricky. 
We never know if it's going to be cold or hot. 
Well, it was VERY hot! 
I learned a very valuable lesson-
jello and heat do not mix!

I made jello gems but 
within minutes in the sun 
they were liquid! 

Lastly, we served Snow White's
favorite fruit!

Instead of a photo-booth
I made a magic mirror for each guest to 
have his/her picture taken in! 

A few extra pictures. 

I hope we gave you some 
fun ideas if your little 
princess is begging for 
a Snow White party! 

It was such a fun party
and Isla still talks about it! 

"The Best Thing About Memories,
is Making Them." 

*All tags and signs were made by me using photoshop