The Last Cold Front and Cheesecake

The Last Cold Front and Cheesecake

Here in Texas we are having some kind of cold front, which I am loving.  I know that in a month I will be wishing for the days to be cooler so I am pretending it’s May and enjoying the crisp breeze.  I am also enjoying my last few opportunities to wear my cold weather clothing.  Long sleeves will cause me to sweat profusely in a matter of weeks and I am having a love affair with the anthropolgie shirt I bought myself in February.  We don’t want to part.  We are soul mates.

On Saturday we cleaned the house all morning like a little army.  I barked orders and handed out supplies while the kids scrubbed and swept.  I didn’t make them wear a uniform or anything, but after each task was complete I would inspect the work.  It sounds kind of  miserable, but it was actually kind of fun.  It’s nice to work hard together to take care of our home.  In the afternoon we rested, except for two of the boys who had a Lego disaster in their room and took the whole day to get it straightened out.  Legos are the bane of my existence.

This morning I am in Houston for a quick, fun, visit with my aunt.  She had a couple of spare days and I couldn’t resist driving the 4 hours to see her.  She pampers me and tells me I’m pretty and let’s face it….I’m not getting much of that at home since we are just over a week from tax season being over.

On the good side….we are just over a week from tax season being over!  See?  I can be an optimist when pressed, although it’s not my natural gift.

Tonight my aunt and I are going to eat at The Cheesecake Factory, my favorite restaurant to which I don’t have easy access back home.  I have been saving all of my calories for this meal and, while it will probably make me ill, I plan to eat a few bites of cheesecake.  This will be my first rich food in months so I don’t know how my tummy will take it.  I may have to settle for eating just a teeny bit.

This makes me wonder if we weren’t really meant to eat 1200 calories for dessert.  Food for thought.

In the meantime my kids are home eating scrambled eggs or spaghetti, which only makes me feel 1/100th guilty.  But not enough to skip the cheesecake.

I will go home tomorrow and go back to normal old grilled chicken salads and non rich foods and probably warm weather.

The word for the week is: EMBRACE

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Love Your Brother

Love Your Brother

With 9 kids we have many different personalities.  Different interests.  Lots of moods…..

Despite all of that, our children have very loving, caring relationships.  We have almost no arguing or fussing and there is never physical fighting.  Our children really enjoy each other.  This brings such delight to my mother’s heart!

That led me to decide to write a series about building godly sibling relationships.  I want you to have that same joy!  I’ll be sharing each week what is happening in our home and how we manage problems.  We will open up and answer questions as we go along.  It’s gonna be great!

So let’s not waste any time getting started……

The first thing we always do when we are figuring out how to manage anything is look to God’s Word.  It has a LOT to say about how we should treat one another.  We should be kind, merciful, put others first….I could go on and on.  So this is what we teach our children.  And we make sure they know where these ideas come from.  Knowing God said it holds a lot more weight than if it’s just Mom’s crazy idea.

You may have noticed that the Bible never says, “Be kind, unless you’re three and haven’t had a nap.”  Nope.  We must treat each other well and set ourselves aside no matter how old we are and no matter how we feel.  Of course, a three year old hasn’t learned how to be selfless and that’s why you need to teach her.  Be patient, be understanding, but do not be lenient about proper behavior.  Kids can’t be perfect… one can.  I am still trying to figure this out and I am 48 years old!  Perfection in NOT the goal.  Learning and growing to be more Christlike is the goal.  And glorifying God instead of ourselves is the BIG goal.

Begin to teach God’s principles for how we are to treat one another.  It’s a good place to start.  Write out a few verses and start memorizing them together.  We will work build on this through the series.

1 John 3:16-18 “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?  Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

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Ringing in the New Year

Ringing in the New Year

The past week is a bit of a blur.  I’d like to say it’s because Christmas was so magical that I can’t describe the joy.  But instead I must report a terrible bout of flu that has hit all 11 of us, starting on December 23 and still hanging on.

Yes, we spent Christmas with 4 of the kids lying on the couch opening presents like it was about the last thing they wanted to do.  One was so sick she could barely lift her head and Levi pulled things out of his stocking and without even looking at them would drop them on the floor and close his eyes….tortured by the whole, terrible gift opening requirement.  The 5 kids that were well enough to enjoy it were falling down sick by the evening.

No decking the halls around here.

I, myself, made it through Christmas and didn’t get sick until the weekend.  I don’t seem to be as bad as the rest of the bunch, which is a blessing since someone has to be making soup and washing sheets.

I am pretty sure I have washed more sheets than your average person washes over the holiday week, including hotel maids and hospital janitors.

But you know what?  It still been a sweet time and we are all together and I think it will go down in all of our memories as a very special Christmas.  It’s oddly relaxing.  To me it will always be known as the “Great Flu of 2013″.

While it will probably dampen our usual New Year’s Eve festivities of drinking sparkling cider and falling asleep by 10:00 even though we want to stay awake until midnight, we will carry on.  We may not see the ball drop, but the celebratory coughing will ring in the new year with gusto!

Who needs fireworks anyway?

Our Christmas Traditions

Our Christmas Traditions

I have gotten several questions about how we celebrate Christmas.  It’s pretty simple around here.  Just the 11 of us on Christmas morning (+ some years my parents join us).

We get up early and I set out treats on the coffee table.  Cookies and sausage balls and punch.  This year, since I’m off sugar, we will also have tea and fruit.  I got some nuts and gluten free treats too….we will graze on it all morning while we open gifts.

James will read the Christmas story from the Bible and we will talk about Christ being the focus of our time together.  That usually turns into a spontaneous conversation about gratitude or something sweet.

We don’t do Santa here.  Never have.  James and I always felt it was not best for the children’s character to have the focus be so much on their gifts or some mysterious stranger.  Our goal in parenting is to teach them to focus on others and love the Lord.  Christmas is no exception to that.  So we buy each child one gift and they each get a stocking with small things in it.  I go a little overboard on the stockings some tears, but I am working on it.  It’s getting to be too expensive now that I can’t just pour goldfish crackers and Target dollar spot toys in there.

Also, the kids draw names each year and keep it a secret.  We call it “Secret Buddies” and they spend $20-25 of their own money to buy this one gift.  Once I have all of the secret buddy gifts I wrap them and place them under the tree all at the same time so they won’t be able to guess who their buddy is (they know who has been shopping already so if I put them out as they were purchased they would be able to guess).

That means on Christmas morning each child has 2 gifts, one from Mom & Dad and the other from their secret buddy.  That is plenty for our family considering we don’t need a thing and we have so much already that it’s shameful.  James and I also give each other a gift and the kids usually chip in to get us something.  I know a lot of people skip Mom and Dad, but we believe that sends the wrong message to the kids.  Mom and Dad are just as special as the kids in God’s eyes and the gifts communicate that.  It doesn’t have to be something huge, but there needs to be something for everyone under the tree.

We unwrap gifts one at a time.  No chaotic, wild time of everyone ripping into their own presents.  We like to enjoy seeing what everyone else gets and it teaches us to all be interested in each other and not just ourselves.  Also, we expect all of the kids to pay attention to the others while they open.  It can be hard for the little ones since they’re so excited, so we may let them play a little with something new while they watch, but they can’t be distracting or completely self-focused.

Once the gifts under the tree are opened we take a little break.  I usually get lunch started and we clean up all of the trash then we gather together again and start emptying the stockings.  One at a time while we all watch and enjoy.

Once we finish, we eat and settle into playing with new toys and checking out our presents.  I love just mulling around watching the kids and being with them while they enjoy their things.  We eat a late lunch (this year I’m making roast) then just hang out together.

It’s a simple, love filled day.

How about you?  What’s your favorite family Christmas tradition?

Sweet Christmas Book Giveaway!

Sweet Christmas Book Giveaway!

This post contains affiliate links.

We are rounding the corner to Christmas around here!  The tree is up, but not decorated.  The porch pumpkins have been replaced by poinsettias.  And the Christmas story books have made their way to the coffee table.

I like to add a new book every year.  This year it’s a sweet little story of Itsy and Bitsy, two mice trying to find their way to see the King in Bethlehem. This book, Itsy Bitsy Christmas: You’re Never Too Little for His Love, by Max Lucado is a darling story and we have already read it to the boys about 10 times.

A sweet Christmas book to add to your collection

There’s nothing more precious to this mother’s heart than to hear her older children reading to her younger ones.

And here’s the best part…..I get to give this darling book away to one of you to add to your own collection!  Just enter below.

A darling Christmas book giveaway!

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10 Random Topics in One Post (or Something for Everyone)

10 Random Topics in One Post (or Something for Everyone)

Our weekend was a smattering of activity.  I did everything from going to an open house at my friend Sara’s to sleeping for 2.5 hours in the middle of the day.  That’s a long nap, even for me, the nap princess.

Saturday we did our usual cleaning jobs in the morning.  While the girls did the bathrooms, the boys straightened the game cabinet and I worked on a new verse for the chalkboard in the living room.  I like to change it every month or so, but it takes me about an hour so I try to have the boys doing something in the same room.  That way I can keep them moving.  They would otherwise tend to forget they are supposed to be organizing and start actually playing the games.

Here’s a look at my chalkboard now.  I’m not great at it, but I do like doing it.  It will probably stay this way until the end of the summer since I have a few other projects up my sleeve that I want to get started.

After that was done we worked on the pool, which has been getting increasingly green and we can’t figure out why.  I had no idea when we got this pool that maintaining it would require a master’s degree in chemistry.  We test the water and take notes and study the calculations.  We spend hundreds of dollars on chemicals to try to keep it all pretty and clear, but to no avail.  We may have to call in an expert. I’m not sure what that would involve, but I am tired of feeling like I’m in the swamp.

But don’t worry about us, my boys couldn’t care less how green the water is as long as they can have epic water battles and splash each other like their life depends on it.  The girls and I don’t care to swim with them because it is impossible not to end up, at some point, in the middle of their water war.  I’m more of a casual floater, minding my own business on my side of the pool.  But once I get squirted in the ear with a water pistol it’s hard to relax.

Saturday afternoon I worked on my book edits and ate Sonic ice, which I have now been keeping in my freezer for my crunching pleasure.  It’s been my snack substitute and a surprisingly good one.  It’s soft and cold and lasts a good long time.  I’m not saying it’s better than ice cream, but at zero calories I am happy with it.

On Sunday I decided to do the unthinkable and not turn on my computer for the whole day.  I may do it every week.  It could be my Gilligan’s Island day…no phones, no lights, no Facebook.  If that happened now, do you think the Professor would be able to email someone on a submarine using 2 coconuts and a bicycle powered battery?  I wonder things.

Yesterday, after church (where my son Jacob sang a beee-utiful song that made me cry) and before my extreme nap, we went out for Mexican food with my parents.  It’s a adventure, going out to eat with us.  First we have to get a table for 12 or more, which no restaurant hostess is ever thrilled about.  Then you have look at the poor waiter’s face as he goes around getting orders and we ask things like, “Is there gluten in that?” and, “Can we get that without tomatoes?”  I am pretty sure at least half of us made a special request.  I will be sending him a letter of apology.

And let’s not even start on how many times the bus boy had to refill our chips.  My boys alone ate about 4 baskets full.  I’m surprised they didn’t just haul the chip truck up to our table and dump them in the middle.

And forget talking.  It was so loud and we were so far apart that we had to yell across the table to one another.  My dad finally suggested we all just text each other instead.  Great idea.  Next time we could just stay home with 5 bags of Tostitos and have pretty much the same experience.

Now, looking back I count at least 10 topics in this one post.  If you’re still here, hanging onto the hope that I will find a way to sum it all up, this isn’t your lucky day.  I will add you to my list of people to send letters of apology to.  After the waiter, my parents and the guy at the pool chemical store.

Have a great week!

Kids’s Summer Reading Project and a Giveaway!

Kids’s Summer Reading Project and a Giveaway!

We read so many school books during the year that it is a fun change for the kids to be able to do more pleasure reading over the summer.  I like to encourage reading as much as I can and one way is to keep good books around.  I’m a sucker for a book.  I scour sale racks and garage sales and thrift stores, anywhere I might find a hidden treasure.  We have shelves full of them!

So I told 2 of my boys, the 10 & 12 year old, to go find 5 books each from our shelves that they would like to read over the summer.  Then I will go buy them one more making six books that they will have a goal to read by the end of August.  They can read other books too, of course!  But these 6 will be something they set as a goal.

They gathered their books while I prepared a little project for them.  I used a stack of vinyl I got from Expressions Vinyl. I love their vinyl and I have tried a lot of different brands.  It is my favorite!

We cut brown book covers using the big roll from the hardware store that is for protecting your floors while you paint.  It’s inexpensive and a roll lasts us forever.

Then we got to work decorating their book covers.  They used scissors to cut vinyl shapes while my older daughter Faith cut out some die cut shapes the boys chose our on die cut machine.

Several of their books were about mice, so they wanted to use the little mouse on their book covers.

We used the transfer paper from Expressions Vinyl to make a star bookmark.  We used the non sticky side of the transfer paper and peeled off the back of the stars (their red glitter vinyl makes perfect stars) and stuck them to the paper.  Now, when the boys finish a book they can peel off the star and stick it to the book cover to mark it as “read.”

The boys are excited about reading these books and I am hoping it will lead to more reading later in the summer.  If they finish these early I am always glad to get out the vinyl again and make some more covers together.

And guess what!  Expressions Vinyl is giving one of you a $25 gift certificate.  You can use it to make summer reading book covers or try something new!  They have so many gorgeous products you will have a hard time choosing.

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AND that’s not all!  This Thursday night I will be hosting a Twitter party for Tommy Nelson.  We’ll be giving away books and talking about ideas for getting your kids to read over the summer!  It’s going to be great!  Come on and party with us at 8:00 PM CMT following the hashtag #TNSummerReading

Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Linking to: Teachers of Good Things

Love Your Brother

Love Your Brother

With 9 kids we have a houseful of different personalities, different interests, and yes….moods.

But despite all of that we have managed to build strong, loving relationships between our children and they are genuinely best friends and very kind to one another.  We rarely have arguing or fussing.  I am telling you, their bond is a joy to my mother’s heart.

So I’ve decided to do my series this year on siblings.  My goal for this new series is to help you have that same joy with your family!  Each week I will share tips and ideas for encouraging your kids to love each other, prefer one another, enjoy each other’s company.  I’ll be telling you stories of what is happening in our home between our children, problems and solutions, to help you catch the vision for how to build these beautiful, God given relationships.

So let’s not waste any time getting started……

Week 1: What does the Bible say?

It has a LOT to say about brothers and sisters!  It is clear we are to love one another, be kind and merciful, motivate one another toward good and so much more.  There is no lack of understanding about how we should treat each other.

If you notice, there is no place in Scripture where it says, “Do this unless you’re three years old and really tired.”  No, we are to follow God’s Word no matter how we feel.  Of course a child isn’t capable of being perfect…..none of us are!  Perfection is not the goal AT ALL.  Let’s say that together, shall we?  Perfection is not the goal.  The goal is to continue to grow and learn and become more like Christ.

We must treat each other with kindness.  Even when we’re grumpy.  Even when we are having a bad day.  Even when we don’t want to.

As parents we get to teach that to our children.  How to treat others and set ourselves aside.

And it is not easy.  It’s not easy for me and I’m 48 years old!  How can I expect my 6 year old to get it?

We are going to work on it together this year.

And we’ll start here.  With understanding what God has to say about it…..

Romans 12:10 “Be devoted to one another in love.  Honor one another above yourselves.”

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Make Yourself a Magnetic Art Board

Make Yourself a Magnetic Art Board

I don’t know if it’s different for non-homeschoolers, but here we have an unbelievable amount of artwork that the kids want to display.  I’m all for cheering them on and giving encouragement, but I’ve worked hard to make the house relaxing and lovely and I’m just going to be honest: I don’t want torn out coloring book pages of super heroes hanging on my walls.

So I found some less obvious, but still special, ways to display their artwork.  I’m showing you 5 ideas over today at Life Your Way.

One of the ideas I posted there is a magnetic art board.  It was so easy to make and fits well with our style.

I went to the automotive section at Walmart and bought a drip pan.  It’s huge and only cost $11.  I love the size of it…..and it’s lightweight.  Perfect for this project.

The only problem with it is that one end has the words “oil drip pan” or something like that embedded into the pan.  Bummer.  I needed to think of a way to cover that up!

So I decided to do something so simple that it was hard to believe it would look good.  I took newspaper and cut out huge letters, glued them to the pan and in 10 minutes it was done.  I didn’t worry about centering the letters.  I like that they are a little bit offset.  I’m not a matchy-matchy, everything-centered kind of girl.  And you’d never guess that there’s anything behind that big T!

magnetic art board

Then I took it out to the workshop and drilled 2 small holes in the corners.  Nothing to it.  Magnetic Art Board – ready to hang.

magnetic art board

It is perfect tucked under this little window in an out of the way spot.  Elijah and Levi have already been hanging things on it.

For the magnets I took some of those button magnets (again, Walmart) and stuck old, rusty washers to them.

I think it would be so cute to put 3 or 4 drip pans together and make it a whole wall.  In a kid’s room?  Oh yeah….my mind is turning with ideas.

magnetic art board

I hope you’ll go on over to Life Your Way and check out the other ideas for displaying kids’ artwork!

Follow me on Facebook for more ideas and on Pinterest to see all of the greatness there!

Linking to The Shabby Creek Cottage

The Beauty of Straight Teeth & an Amazing Giveaway

I had pretty crooked teeth as a young girl, not any real issues, but mostly just cosmetic.  I was bothered by it as a young girl.  I have always been grateful that my parents got braces for me.  I do think it helped me in my life.

Our kids ALL have had orthodontic issues.  So far we’ve had 5 of them in braces.  Yes, in case you’re wondering, it costs a LOT of money.  In fact James always says, “We never really thought kids were all that expensive, until we had to get them braces.”

Our oldest daughter Grace, like me, only had small crowding issues with her teeth.  So we looked into alternative options and we found Invisalign.  They were less expensive and perfect for her needs.  We took her in to our dentist and he agreed.  Invisalign was the way to go.  She wore her Invisalign aligners for about a year and we were very happy with the results.  We will definitely consider using it again for any of the other kids that qualify for the treatment.

When I got the opportunity to work with Invisalign I was thrilled.  Since we have already used it and really liked the outcome, I knew it would be a good match for me.  If I wasn’t currently paying for orthodontics for 4 kids I would even consider using it myself since my teeth have shifted significantly since those long ago braces.

If you’re wondering about the difference between Invisalign and traditional braces, you should check out their How Invisalign Works page for all of the information. And you can look at their self-assessment page to see if Invisalign is right for you or your teen.

And here’s something REALLY exciting.  They are giving away a….drum roll please….$1500 that you can put towards an Invisalign treatment.  Yes, you heard me right.  Do you need some smelling salts before I go on?

Go to this page where they have partnered with Mom It Forward to bless someone with a good start on using Invisalign for themselves or their teen.



If you’re in the San Antonio area and would like to learn more in person, email me and I will send you an invite to a really amazing luncheon this Thursday.  Not only will you get to meet the Invivalign team, but also they are bringing in some hot and hip photographers to teach us how to get the best photos of our amazing smiles!

Have you ever wondered about Invisalign and if it’s right for you?

This is a compensated post, but my experiences are genuine and opinions are my own.