Six Ways to Promote Positivity and Encouragement in the Hearts of Your Children

Six Ways to Promote Positivity and Encouragement in the Hearts of Your Children

I  was recently confessing to a friend how easy it is for me to find myself constantly bringing down my kids - whether in their character, studies, family relationships, cleanliness - without even realizing many of the wonderful things they did throughout the day.  While equipping and correcting are necessary parts of parenting, so is encouragement and edification.  I  have seen time and time again that building my children UP is far more valuable and life changing than being a nagging voice and continual reminder of things they could do better..  But HOW???

Below we’ve listed out six ways to promote positivity and encouragement in the hearts of your children that we’ve found useful in our own homes, as well as three FREE SCRIPTURE PRINTABLES!  

  1. Jar full of Rocks- This is a fun way to encourage family team work as everyone is on the same team trying to fill the jar to the top.  We praise and acknowledge good behavior, diligence, kindness, answering questions correctly for school, chores done early, etc. and allow the kids to drop a rock (or two!) in the jar as we notice these qualities.  The immediate reward is exciting, but also the delay in knowing they are working towards a goal seems to help with more habits forming.  Once the jar is full we do something out of the norm like a movie night, a day off of school, ice cream sundaes, extra xbox time on the weekend, etc.  Nothing expensive and no presents - all intended for a family moment and celebration. 

  2. Gold Stars - this might be Amanda Tovey’s signature parenting moment.  She offers imaginary gold stars for positive attributes she notices in her children; the children keep track of their stars in their heads and when they get to 100 they get a trip to $5 Below to pick something out.  She wins at life.  No charts, no stickers, no keeping up with who gets what. 

  3. Happy Heart Chart - This idea came to fruition when I  felt like I  was constantly reprimanding a certain 3/4 year old’s pouty attitude over every.single.decision.  Getting dressed, eating a meal, brushing teeth, taking a nap; it was a non stop battle which led to constant correction which resulted in a lot of really long, extremely frustrating days - for both of us.  I  decided to make a chart and give a sticker for each activity he was able to do with a “happy heart.”  If he could get ten stars in a day he got a very tiny treat after dinner.  I  would be lying if I said it was a quick fix, but it has undoubtedly turned our days around and given us all something to encourage instead of what feels like a constant stream of reprimands.  

  4. Speaking Life - I  feel silly even writing this, but the reality is that I  needed this reminder more than any chart or reward system.  My words can either raise my kids up to who I  know God created them to be - or they can become weapons of the accuser.  And when put like that, man do I  want to choose the former.  It is no wonder James devoted an entire chapter to the power of the tongue and Proverbs is full of wisdom regarding our speech; meditating on His word, knowing what He says about me AND my children, and spending time with Him will have a direct effect of what spews out of my mouth.

“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” Matthew 12:34

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”  Proverbs 4:23

“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,” Proverbs 10:11

I  noticed a significant different in one of my son’s behavior when I started speaking out loud the great things I  was noticing in him.  This made all the difference when it was time to correct other areas.  

5. Just Say Thank You - We often tell our children to treat others the way we want to be treated.  This means we must treat them with respect!  We will reap what we sow.  If we are sowing seeds of frustration, irritability, sharpness in our voice, we will likely reap the same.  But if our words are seasoned with grace, finishing up a request with the kind and respectful phrase, “Thank you!” - we are letting them know we see them and we appreciate them. 

6. SMILE - Sarah MacKenzie once shared this at a Q&A, that she tries to make an intentional effort to smile at each child every day.  Sounds slightly obvious, but I  am sure any mom can confess that starting off the day on the wrong foot or with a vomiting toddler or waking up to a child rawring in your face like a T Rex can make it really really hard to smile.  But smiling truly does have an affect on the attitude and emotional capacity… “A cheerful heart is good medicine but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22

In what ways can YOU choose to make a difference in your child’s life today by being their biggest encourager?  

Needing more encouragement to speak LIFE into the hearts of your children? Fill out the form below for three FREE Scripture Printables to hang up as regular reminders!

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Tacos to my left. Tacos to my right. CRISS CROSS. It’s taco time.

Y’all. TACO DAY is like every kids dream of a half birthday.

Here are two yummy recipes that go a little further than your classic taco kit, but involve the same, if not less, work.

Pork Carnitas

3-4 pounds of pork shoulder or pork loin roast (if you go with something more lean it will be far less tender and delicious)

one onion cut into large chunks


garlic powder

chili powder




Step 1: Cut pork into 4-5 large chunks.

Step 2: lay cut up onion on bottom of crockpot and place chunks of pork on top. Poor about half a cup of water into crock pot.

Step 3: generously season the pork. I’m sorry but I do not have exact measurements - 100 Days of Real Food has a great recipe that uses exact measurements for seasoning.

Step 4: Lid on top, cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4ish hours, or on high for 2 and low for 2 more if maybe you forget to thaw your meat completely.


Favorite Homemade Queso

1 lb white american cheese (from the deli, one solid chunk or very thick slices)

½ cup milk

2 tbsp butter

1 small can of green chilis

Pinch of cumin

Pinch of garlic salt


Step 1: cut cheese into small cubes

Step 2: Melt cheese in a pot with milk over medium-low heat

Step 3: Stir continuously so it doesn’t burn

Step 4: Add in green chilis and pinch of cumin and garlic salt

Serve immediately

Fall Decorating Simplified

Fall Decorating Simplified

There’s something universally captivating and enchanting as autumn ushers its way in from the busyness of summer.  The crispy dew and cooler air, animals bustling in a scurry to gather and prepare for winter; the joy of friends gathering around a fire in the earlier evening.  So many aspects of fall whisper “worship” and point to the Creator of all things bright and beautiful. It’s no wonder that there can often be this enate desire to create a beautiful and homey space -  It’s how we are wired, because He desires the gathering and intimacy beauty often brings. However, creating beautiful spaces doesn’t have to be costly nor extravagant. It doesn’t mean a large home or a perfect table-scape or eloquent mantles.  

First and foremost, God describes beauty as being inward.  We are reminded often in scripture that beauty lies in the heart.  

For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Our outward expression of beauty should reflect that which the Lord has made beautiful already.  And when we take a look at our surroundings, beauty and color can be found in the every day all around us as a direct reflection of the Father’s heart: a vase full of vibrant red apples, the scent of vanilla spice filling the air, warm coffee in hand and cozy nooks offering a place to sit  - not as a means of entertaining; rather they are intended as celebrating the God of color and texture and beauty, for the purpose of inviting others into that lovely space of heart and home.  

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,

To receive glory and honor and power,

For you created all things,

And by your will they existed and were created.”

Revelation 4:11

A few ways we’ve found to enjoy the beauty of the season and all the lovely and beautiful that He created, and also invite others in to do the same is by:

  1. Keeping it simple.  It doesn’t have to be a Pinterest treasure trove.  Less can truly be more in this regard.

  2. Use things that don’t need to be stored year round - in the age of abundance, there’s something beautiful and freeing about having less.  And by having less I mean (with the exception of one or two “specials") not having to unpack and repack things from bins that require year round storage.  Use the wide variety of things such as pumpkins, baked goods, construction paper leaves, acorns and so forth, that offer loveliness without the cost of having to store it for later.  

  3. Narrowing down a few areas to invite the season in

It is really easy to take one look at your most recent magazine subscription and feel the need to decorate your home top to bottom with all things fall.  But really, a couple touch points will not only have the same effect, but also involve less stress. And mess. Both. Areas we love to focus on are

a) the front porch - offering a host of the season’s vibrant colors are a warm welcome always.  $3 pumpkins +$5 mums and you’re done. Check out a quick fall planter tutorial here that doesn’t require a green thumb.  

b) the front door - Check out a great DIY wreath for less than $20 here

c) scents - sounds obvious but did you know that your sense of smell is actually directly associated with the regions of your brain that trigger memories and emotions?  We looove the winsomeness that is brought on by a fall scented candle or wild orange diffusing in the air. It’s also a phenomenal way to distract friends from the smell of overflowing diaper pails or last night’s thai dinner ;)

d) the table - a pottery barn tablescape is always beautiful, but so is a lovely vase of orange tulips; or small jar of black eyed susans; or an apothecary jar full of zesty oranges.  

Delight in the beauty around you. Take hold of the simple things God has entrusted you to use to invite others in. Let yourself and your surroundings be a means of displaying the goodness and kindness of God. And “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23


L & A

DIY Fall Wreath


I’m really not that much of a DIY gal but paying more than $20 for a wreath is also not my favorite… so I whipped out my Hobby Lobby & Michael’s coupons and whipped this up for less than $20 and less than 20 minutes. No hot glue involved. Also a plus.


  1. 40% off coupon for local craft store

  2. 15inch+ bare wreath

  3. 3-4 different flowers, one of each

The best way to pick out flowers is similar to picking out flowers for a planter, as described here. You want a thriller (the yellow), a filler (the red/orange peonies), and a spiller (green buds). Trim down your wires so you have about 5-6 inches to weave (read: shove) into your wreath starting with the bottom left first and working your way up and to the right. There is absolutely nothing to perfect, just gently bend and arrange until you like the visual. That’s it!! You did it!!

Easy DIY Fall Flower Planter

Easy DIY Fall Flower Planter


If you’re not that in to DIY or slightly more time consuming floral arrangements - this is the flower pot for you :)  It is a perfect housewarming or fall party gift and a quaint edition to your front porch. It involves three steps, if you count going to the store to purchase plants + pot.  

Step 1 - go to your local home improvement store or nursery and pick out three separate plants, 1 medium pot to put them in, and some extra potting soil.  This arrangement includes 1) celosia purple flamingo, 2) purple cabbage and 3) mums. See below for a guide on how to decide which plants to purchase if you want something of a different variety.  

Step 2 - fill your pot with potting soil, leaving about 2 inches at the top

Step 3 - gently remove plants from their plastic pots and gently spread apart their roots before inserting into pot and packing down with potting soil.  Water well.


If you want to change it up a bit or are looking to make more than one arrangement, Amanda shares some tips:

  1. Groups of three are more pleasing to the eye

  2. Follow the trusted rule of thumb, “thriller-filler-spiller” when choosing plants.  A Thriller is usually in the back or middle of the pot, taller and eye-catching. In this case, it is the celosia purple flamingo.  Filler is generally a medium level plant but more substantial and works well in the middle and/or taking up more space. Lastly, the Spiller is a low lying plant such as the purple cabbage pictured here.  It generally creeps or crawls out the edge such as ivy.

Zucchini for breakfast, lunch and dinner, hey now

Raise your hand if your largest expense (aside from rent/mortgage) is that lovely grocery budget?  **both hands raised**  One of the most effective ways we cut down on that particular expense is breakfast.  Sounds silly, right?  But when you blow through one box of cereal a morning + all the extra milk, or a pack of frozen waffles or a full sleeve of pop tarts in one day, you'd be surprised!  Since our garden is currently exploding with zucchini I try to make this recipe in a double batch which uses about 1 regular sized zucchini.  It's the perfect almost-fall breakfast, slightly warmed/toasted in the oven with a generous slab of butter melted on top.

Zucchini Bread for Breakfast:

-Make one or two batches of zucchini bread (recipe for one loaf below)

-Line baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper

-Heat oven to 250 degrees

-Slice loaf into 1 inch thick pieces, and place in a single layer on baking sheet

-Place sliced butter (to preference; as Jen Hatmaker says, "more is more.") on top of sliced bread

-Place in oven for about 5 minutes until butter is melted and bread is warmed through



Zucchini Bread:

*adapted from Better Homes and Garden Cookbook

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking powder

1 egg

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup of finely shredded, unpeeled zucchini

1/4 cup of cooking oil or butter

1. Grease bottom and sides of loaf pan; set aside..  In a large bowl combine flour, cinnamon baking soda, salt, and baking powder.  Set aside.

2. In another bowl (medium) mix together egg, sugar, zucchini and oil.  Add this mixture to your dry ingredients and stir together until moistened.  It will be lumpy, but try to make sure you mix in clumps of flour that hide at the bottom of bowl.  

3. Bake in 350 degree oven for 55 minutes or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely.  You can store bread in pans (with foil over top) or remove loaves completely and store in an airtight container.  

Notes from the Nightstand, September Edition

"What if we don't presume to know the answers?  What if we're always asking questions?  What if we don't settle for the world we feel comfortable with, but push ourselves to seek more?  It would mean that we would find true relationship with other women at a soul-deep level instead of a skin-deep perception." -Rachel Hollis, Girl, Wash Your Face

Check out our September Reads!  Also - Hoopla Audio.  Check. It. Out.

Of Mess and Moxie, Jen Hatmaker

Becoming Myself, Staci Eldredge

Girl, Wash Your Face, Rachel Hollis

You and Me, Forever, Francis Chan & Lisa Chan

Eight Great Smarts, Dr. Kathy Koch

He Loves Me!, Wayne Jacobsen


What's on your nightstand?



How to Effectively Sunscreen 1, 2, 3 or 9 Children.  At the Beach.



Step 1: Pre-Beach preparations: Head on over to Walmart to gather up beach supplies.  [Which is the only reason you head to walmart because their carts - never go straight and always have a wonky wheel.  Am I right?]. On your way to sand toys you see cute display on isle 9 reminding you of your sunscreen need.

Step 2: Realize that the display at the end of isle 9 doesn’t include the “safe” sunscreens so you proceed to pharmacy/toiletry section next.  Which is at the OPPOSITE end of Walmart and you have to use every last bit of upper body strength to steer the cart with the wonky wheel without taking out any humans.

Step 3: Arrive to the pharmacy/toiletry section and spend approximately 32 minutes reading the labels on all the sunscreen options to make sure you choose well.  Because, ingredients matter, you tell yourself. They will thank me, you whisper. Three extra large bottles ought to do it! And maybe one extra can of the “no-no” spray just for touch ups.  

Step 4: Check out and wonder how on God’s green earth you just spent $72.00 on 3 bottles of sunscreen.  At WALMART. But again, it. Is. worth. It. Hardly any unsafe chemicals on these precious babies.

Step 5:  Day one of the beach and you are READY for the blazing sun.  Line children up and begin the half hour long process of getting every last inch of their bodies covered in sunscreen.  And since it is on the mineral side of sunscreens, everyone is coated a cute/slightly awkward shade of white. You are reminded of just how out of shape you are because the slather action has left you sweaty and winded.  Everyone is ecstatic that you survived what seemed like a full blown iron man. Sunscreening children is not for the faint of heart. But you did it and the sun has NO chance harming an-y-bod-y.

Step 6: Gather up all your necessary supplies, cooler, tent, sand toys, sunscreen for reapplication, and head on your merry way.  

Step 7: Get set up on beach.  Lay out towels. Position chairs.  Send children to play. Find your tasty beverage and sit your hiney down because you made it!  To the beach! Hallelujah it is glorious and peace filled and all is right with the world.

Step 8: Look at watch and realize you are a measly 34 minutes away from having to do it all over again.

Step 9: This is where you begin to say a prayer to ready your heart for what is about to take place.  You are close to calling all of your children out of the waves, who will inevitably need a snack right this very minute, tell them to sit on a towel and not touch the sand.  Sunscreen is coming! The struggle is real and so is Jesus. Holy Spirit please make me kind and patient.

Step 10: You are reminded once again how out of shape you are just by trying to get up out of your chair.  It is borderline concerning.

Step 11: Line up the kids and start with the faces - you work your way down and realize you are now bracing yourself against the resistance of a nice thick layer of sand which makes slathering that much harder.  Winded is an understatement.

Step 12: One look at those 12 legs standing in front of you, compleeetely coated in sand has you whipping that “no-no” spray right out of your beach bag and going to town trusting your great intentions at the beginning of the day will surely outweigh what you’re spraying all over their precious bodies.

Step 13: don’t forget to sunscreen their lips cause the reflection off the water is killer on calm water days and prevention is way better than post-burn-care.  Trust. Us.

Step 14: Start the timer for your next reapplication deadline, and remind yourself of all the calories you’ve surely burned while double fisting twizzlers into your mouth before the kids can see you.   

Step 15: On day 2, send husband to the store to buy more expensive sunscreen because three extra large bottles + one back up is not enough for even half your adorable family, so you’ve learned.

Raspberry Pies and Tarts

For days and days and days!

I hate blogs where you have to read a whole stinking story just to get to the recipe - so here are the recipes :)  Notes below recipes.  



1 pie crust -  store-bought or homemade

6ish cups of raspberries

GLAZE:  1 cup sugar, 3 tbsp corn syrup, 3 tbsp corn starch, pinch of salt, 1 cup water, 2 tablespoons raspberry jello powder

1. Cook crust according to directions 

2. While crust is cooking, prepare glaze by mixing all glaze ingredients except jello mix in a saucepan over low heat on stove; bring to a slight boil and then reduce until clear.  Mix in jello powder.  Let cool.

3. Put rinsed, air-dried raspberries in pie crust, and pour glaze over berries into pie.  

4. Chill for at least an hour.  Serve with a dollop of whipped cream on top!




-graham cracker crust, homemade or store-bought

-2 small packs or one large pack of vanilla pudding mix

-3 cups of milk

-1 cup whipped cream (either homemade OR cool whip) 

-blueberries and raspberries, rinsed and dried


-1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water


1. Prepare pudding mix with 3 cups of water and child in refrigerator for 5 minutes or until set

2. Once pudding is set gently fold in one cup of whipped cream or cool whip

3. Spread pudding into pie crust (you might have a little extra leftover - enjoy!) and top gently with fresh berries

4. Prepare glaze in a saucepan over low heat until sugar is dissolved; let cool

5. Brush glaze gently over fruit on top of tart

6. Refrigerate until ready to enjoy!


**I would never make a raspberry pie if I had to actually buy raspberries.  But our raspberry plants are like my husband's 5th child so...we have an abundance.

**I actually made two pudding pies; one of them according to the pudding package directions and one without 2 cups of milk (because I wasn't paying attention and totally forgot the extra two cups of milk); the one with lesser milk set up much nicer and was far easier to cut.

**To wash raspberries, place gently into a colander and lower colander into a bowl or sink-full of water.  If you spray them with your faucet they will fall apart.

Rhubarb Does Not Taste Like Celery

Good news!  If you find yourself with a rhubarb plant, it does not actually taste like celery, which is definitely the way it looks.  We'd say it lands more on the side of tasting liked baked apples.   

Check out this delicious Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Recipe that Amanda and the fam have eaten and devoured three times in the past two weeks.  It's just that good!

Happy almost summer!




Anyone else finding themselves in the throws of kids' summer schedules and spending almost every evening out of the house for practices and games?  

In an effort to not spend all our monies and feed our kids junk for the entirety of the season we've  rounded up a few tips, tricks and recipes to make game nights easier and make sure family time is still happening!  

Note: this post is basically brought to you by pinterest and all the moms out there killing it in the food department blessing us with all their ideas and recipes.  



*plan ahead!  Carve out some time over the weekend to assess the week, find nights requiring easy meals, pick a night or two for leftovers/eating out, and work on that grocery list.

*Hold it loosely - do your best to stick to your menu but have some items on hand (think frozen lasagna, mac n cheese, hot dogs, steamer vegetables, rotisserie chicken, etc - don't worry, those all come in organic versions) for those times when things don't go according to plan.  Your budget and tummies will thank you!

*give yourself some options that are going to be easy!  And space them on nights you KNOW you'll need it.  Leftovers and out to eat night - that's 2/7 days right there!

*see if there is at least one to two times within the week that you can make sure everyone comes to the table together for a family meal.  Extracurriculars are fun and all, but not on the altar of family.  Carving out at least one (or more if possible) meals together is better for everyone and keeps some stability in the midst of so much activity.


*use that crock pot like it's your BFF

*spring and summer always make me think of salads - which can be easily prepped and prepared ahead of time.  Pasta salad, potato salad, green salad, greek salad, fruit salad... 

*if you're going to go to the trouble of making a casserole or something hearty/substantial, go ahead and double it.  Eat one now, freeze one for an easy meal later.  

*find options that can be easily taken to the practice or game (think homemade subs & fruit)

*use meals that are minimal prep once you make it home; we've found it works well to have everyone come in to shower & get ready for bed while I finish dinner prep.  

*paper products are a must.  the end.  



crockpot meatball subs

lemon shrimp + pasta (shrimp takes 10 minutes to cook, make any sort of pasta and salad ahead of time)

chicken pot pie (go easy and buy frozen crust and/or double to freeze!  Cook completely ahead of time and reheat later)

chicken tetrazzini (easy one to double)

homemade subway/jersey mikes type subs (take them with you)

quesadillas (make ahead/take with)

chicken enchiladas (make ahead, heat up when you get home)

rice bowls (steak, chicken - cook ahead and assemble later)

pork carnitas (crock pot, prep sides/toppings ahead)

broccoli salad (make ahead and/or take with!)

tandori chicken + greek salad + rice (make most ahead, assemble + heat up later)

strawberry bacon salad (make most ahead, top with bacon just before eating - or pack it up and take with to pair with a sandwich)


Intentionally Celebrating Easter

Anyone else struggle with slowing down to enjoy and embrace certain aspects of holidays?    Easter is one that I long to celebrate really well and with great intentionality but it takes a lot of effort for me to pause and look past all the spring-cleaning, de-winterizing the house, preparing for end of year testing and so on.  

As we head into Holy Week, here are some simple, intentional and discussion provoking ideas you can easily do at home with your family.  Make the most of this Easter by celebrating the King together!

-Read and discuss the Resurrection story together throughout the week.  We love the Resurrection Eggs. There are also some great resources online that follow along with The Jesus Storybook Bible, She Reads Truth app, or a more hands-on sensory approach with littles such as

-Make a Resurrection Garden - all you need is one clay planter plate, one small clay pot, potting soil, rocks, fast growing grass seed and a few sticks.  If you make these on Monday or Tuesday your grass should be growing by Easter Sunday!

-Participate as a family in different aspects of the resurrection story, such as washing each others’ feet, recreating a seder meal together as you discuss the last supper, etc.

-Observe & celebrate Good Friday; we really enjoy these resurrection rolls as a cute visual and tasty treat during our devotional

Keep it simple and sweet - nothing takes the joy right out of the home more than too many good intentions but not enough time and energy.  


When Sharing Isn't Caring

We’ve all been there.  Found ourselves either on the receiving side of sickness or been the terrible jerk that spreads the germs.  Unintentionally, of course.  We have done it all, as parents of a combined 8 (plus one on the way) children.  We, as families, have been through seasons of terrible sickness including but not limited to; countless colds and stomach bugs, ear infections, strep., the flu, lice (although technically not a sickness, but an important infectious issue to note particularly in regards to an upcoming illustration), norovirus, MRSA, pneumonia, RSV, hand foot and mouth, whooping cough, croup, and probably several more that we have put out of our weary heads.  Our children have been hospitalized, dehydrated, required surgeries in light of some of these illnesses (hernia repair, tubes), and dozens of prescriptions for antibiotics and other medicines over the years.  So we can confidently say we have been there!  So, as we keep trodding our way through flu season and runny noses abound, can we take a moment to talk about illness, germs and other such topics necessary during this season?  

It probably goes without saying, but just as a refresher for all of us, let’s be wise with where and when we take our kids after they have been sick or been exposed to illness in the family.  If you or your children have been vomiting, had diarrhea, a fever (even a mild one), or are oozing snot from a nose, a mouth or anywhere else.  Just stay home.  Call in sick, order your food, wash your hands and keep the germs to yourselves as much as you are able.    We knowwww how long they’ve been practicing for that Easter musical.  Or all the effort that was put into their family history project.  Or maybe the sweetest birthday party there ever was.  But don’t do it.  If you need a complete and detailed list about how and when not to spread the stomach virus, please read the following:


  1. If someone has had the stomach virus, they need to be symptom free (even the runs) for 48 hours before they can be considered well.  This does not mean 48 hours after first onset of symptoms.  This is 48 hours after last sign of symptoms.  Relapses are for real and everything looks fine and dandy until you find yourself in aisle 12 of Target because you “just had to get out of the house” with a situation on your hands.  

  2. Diarrhea counts as a stomach virus.  See point number 1.

  3. If you have been caring for all the precious people in your life that have been infected with the stomach virus and you’re in need of going to the store: either go out in a hazmat suit that has remained in an area unaffected or phone a friend to drop off what you need because let’s agree, you are covered head to toe in all the germs.

  4. The stomach virus can live on surfaces for up to two weeks.  Two whole weeks.  So get you some gloves, and get to cleaning.  Everything.  Ev-er-y-thing.  The sheets.  Blankets.  Grab that bottle of Norwex mattress cleaner and go to town on your pillows and furniture.  Bleach.  Lemon oil.  Just clean it all.  Nothing is off limits.  Bathe your dog for crying out loud.

  5. New toothbrushes.  Just go ahead and throw them all away or soak them in vinegar.  

  6. Wash.  Your.  Hands.  Before and after everything.  


And now with all that being said, PLEASE BE FREE of the guilt of spreading germs and illness unintentionally.  We all know as people...we are doing our best.  Sometimes we unintentionally put someone else at risk and we have to have grace for each other.  We can always blame Walmart or the kids school, or church nursery but let’s not blame each other and let’s not hold onto false guilt.  

Finally, in an effort to help you feel better about yourself and to shed some of that aforementioned guilt, we have compiled a list of our top “Sharing is not Caring” experiences, where we have been responsible for endangering others or inadvertently spreading illness.  If you’ve been on the receiving end of our generosity, thanks for the grace.  

#5 Our family seems to get one nasty cold and one awful stomach bug about once a year.  Just before Christmas it hit, but everyone had been better for about a week by the time Christmas Eve rolled around.  We cleaned and scrubbed and laundered.  We had 40 people over that night.  More than half ended up sick on Christmas Day.  Maybe coincidence.  Maybe the food.  Either way, Merry Christmas, everyone!   Terr-I-ble.  

#4 One time I hosted a play date during spring break with about 20 kids and several moms in attendance.  One of mine woke up that morning with what looked like a terrible rash from his pacifier.  I let the moms know but wasn’t concerned at all.  2 hours after everyone left he woke up from his nap with all that rash times 10, which actually happened to be a horrific case of hand foot and mouth.  

#3 I can trace it back to a trip to Goodwill when I specifically told the children not to put anything on their heads...only to turn around to find them trying on a wig they found in a bin.  “Are you serious?”, did you hear the words come out of my mouth, “Don’t put anything on your head!”.  I was “disturbed” (to say the least) but didn’t think to continue to check their heads weeks later.  But, it was weeks later, when on an early Saturday morning, we discovered that two of the children had lice.  (the incessant itching should have been a clue, but lice was a first for us) But, that wasn’t the worst of the discovery.  The sad truth was that just days before one of the children, whom was discovered to have lice, attended a birthday party.  Not just any birthday party.  A birthday party for a long-haired girl, who invited a bunch of other adorable long-haired girls who all gleefully participated in the party and joined together to celebrate this friend and make, no other than, hair accessories!  Now, to my knowledge, none of the other girls got lice (OR their mamas were just too kind to tell me that they had).  However, I did have to call up those mamas and tell them of our invaders and they each had to treat their girls’ hair as if they did have lice.

#2 One year my husband came down with a bad cough that became increasingly worse and more persistent.  It was so bad that he would wake up in the middle of the night with terrible coughing fits, unable to catch his breath.  Soon enough, we realized he had pertussis (whooping cough) but not before we had exposed another family and their young infant, who was diagnosed with whooping cough soon after.  Thankfully, both of them made a full recovery.  (there really is no way to make this one light-hearted or funny, it was awful and we felt terrible for the baby who also got it)

#1 The year we ruined our friend’s family reunion.  It was the week before our always anticipated visit from our dear college friends and their children.  We came down with a stomach bug that made its way through the house just in time for me to clean and prepare for their visit.  In all fairness, we notified them that we had been sick but we all agreed that enough time had passed and we should carry on with our plans.  So, they came, they visited and then they went on to their designated yearly reunion at the Outer Banks, where their family of 7 quickly all fell victim to the illness, and then spread it to their entire extended family.  A whole family of nearly 30 people were sick on their special family reunion trip to the beach.     

The conclusion is two-fold; let’s be wise and try to stay well, and if we are NOT well, let’s try to keep it to ourselves.  However; We Get It!, even with our best intentions and our wisest actions, sometimes we make other people sick or lots of other people sick, or give them parasitic bugs to invade their homes.  We can give ourselves and each other grace for that.  Now, go stock up on some Norwex cloths, some Thieves from Young Living, and some hand-sanitizer from Bath and Body works.  Oh and vitamin C+D, elderberry syrup, clementines, fresh squeezed orange juice, and all the sugar free foods from Whole Foods.  Cinnamon and honey don’t hurt either, and make a great combination to add to your daily dose of oatmeal.  And broth!  Homemade broth.  Go get you some.  



Live long and prosper.  



Simple Ways to Avoid Crashing and Burning by 8am Monday Morning

It's easy to sit back and savor every second of the weekend, all the way up until it's time to hit the hay Sunday night.  But we've found taking just an hour or two out of your weekend to plan/prep for the week ahead can make all the difference.  Here are a few things we've found to keep our weeks a little less intimidating.  

1.  Meal Prep - doesn't have to be fancy!  (Mon: Pizza, Tues: Hot dogs, Wed: Spaghetti, etc...) But take note of what you have, make a list of what you need and make sure you have some easy dinner options on hand.   Having a list of lunch options is also helpful, in case you have hidden cans of tuna or bags of carrots hiding in the back of the fridge.  See where there might be a weeknight that's unusually more difficult than others and head to the nearest kids eat free.  If you're the freezer-meal kind, share some of your favorites!  

2.  Do a quick clean - This might mean having all the kids put away their laundry, quick bleach of the toilets and trying to tidy up every room so you start fresh first thing Monday.  We keep a couple of bins in various areas to put toys throughout the week that seem to wander off; at the end of the week we grab a bucket and put it all away.  

3. Scan the calendar - make sure you know who has appointments when, any "special" school days and any evenings that hold dinner plans.  Having a mental note of what lies ahead keeps surprises minimal.  

4. For those with kids in school/hybrid school/coop, scan the folders and make sure you're not missing any field trip forms and report cards or other important things like early release!  For those that homeschool - plan out a few goals for the week, make sure supplies and materials are ready and expectations are clear.  I once read a great quote, "kids cannot respond accurately for things you haven't prepped them for."  Prepare them well for the week ahead!  


Comment below with how you make the most of your planning - any other tips and tricks you have to share with us?  Easy lunch ideas?  

Crock-Pot Yogurt

Because some days we make yogurt and others we eat at Costco.  Or both.  Often, both.

I love feeding my family wholesome and nutritious meals, along with saving money.  Which naturally means more cooking for me, which I do love (when there aren’t tiny fingers and toes following me about).  And after 7 1/2 years of parenting I’ve learned that you really cannot do it all.  There will be sacrifice somewhere - and for me, sacrificing a peaceful home for a personal preference is never the best option.  So when I find something that’s healthy, saves money and doesn’t cause me to neglect an area of the heart I feel like I have legitimately won the lottery.  All praise-hand emojis and hi-fives to myself.  

So without much further ado, I give you my very easy batch of crock-pot yogurt that is minimally processed (as in, not processed at all), can be flavored to your preferences and makes 10 adorably cute jars for your babies to take out all by themselves if you’re not feeling very breakfasty at the bright and early hours of their choosing.  


Lily's Very Easy-It's ok if you forget it in the oven overnight-Whole Milk-Yogurt


-1/2 cup of yogurt - WITH live cultures.  Live cultures are important, they’re what make the yogurt turn into more yogurt.

-1/2 gallon of whole milk

-box of dried milk

-flavors and mix-ins of your choosing (including but not limited to: jams, honey, granola)

^so easy, right?!


Step 1: Pour 1/2 gallon of milk into your crockpot and turn your crockpot on low for 2 1/2 hours

Step 2: Turn off your crockpot and let the warm milk sit for another 3 hours without removing the lid.

Step 3: Take 2 cups of the milk out and mix it with the yogurt +1-2 cups of dried milk.  

Step 4: Combine the yogurt/milk mixture with the milk in the crockpot.

Step 5: Turn on the light in your oven; Put your crockpot in the oven with the lid on.  DO NOT turn on your oven.  Leave in the oven for 8-12 hours.  

Step 6:  Pour into your containers and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.  Top with granola, jam, honey, vanilla, etc.  


**Don’t go cheap on your starter.  There was a time when I tried a whole milk version from the beloved Aldi and it failed miserably**

**My favorite yogurt starter is Brown Cow whole milk yogurt, plain or vanilla**


Pumpkin Muffins

The start of fall ushers in the seasons of all things cozy.  Food, people, blankets, bonfires... crisp mornings and frost on the grass.  It’s all just so happy, isn’t it?  With it comes later mornings, earlier evenings and family coming in and out of town.  I’ve never been one to jump on the pumpkin band-wagon but I do love the smell of it when the mornings start to bring a chill in the house.  My kids know mama means all things fall when they wake up to these delicious, with or without nuts, pumpkin muffins!

Pumpkin Muffins:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 tablespoons coconut oil (if you don’t have on hand you can up the butter to 6 tablespoons instead of 4)

1 ⅓ cups sugar

½ cup of pureed pumpkin (see below for a great way to use up the whole can instead!)

2 large eggs

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ¾ cups flour, white, unbleached or whole wheat

¼ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves** optional, we opt out of the cloves

⅓ cup milk - whole milk and buttermilk take it up a notch

½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans ** optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place cupcake liners in muffin tin or oil with cooking spray/butter.  In a large bowl, beat together butter, coconut oil, and sugar on medium speed for about 2 minutes.  Add the pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla; beat on slow.

In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cloves (optional).  While mixing on low, add half the dry ingredients to your wet mixture until fully combined.  Then add half the milk and blend completely.  Repeat until all ingredients are mixed together - do not overmix.  With a spatula, gently mix in the pecans (optional).  Spoon batter (it will be thick)  into muffin tin about ¾ full.  Bake for 24-25 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.  Be careful not to overcook!  

*** PS: Did you know you can freeze muffins before you bake them?  As in, raw?  Why would you do this silly thing, you might ask.  Frozen muffins are no good.  But they are indeed THE best idea ever if you want to make ahead and have fresh muffins another morning, or double a batch to have a fresh one now and one for later.  Which is one of my favorite things to have on hand when we have family and friends over.  It’s an easy way to serve up something warm and fresh...inviting and yummy.  A great breakfast or a nice afternoon treat with a cup of coffee.  Just pour the batter into the muffin tins, throw the whole muffin tray into the freezer for a couple of hours.  Then dump the frozen muffins into a ziploc bag until you’re ready to use!  Supa easy right?!  When it’s time to bake put frozen muffins back in the muffin tin.  I usually put the tray of frozen muffins in the oven while it is preheating and tack on an extra 6-8 minutes.  This also works wonders for say, mornings you forgot you didn’t have enough milk to go around the cereal bowls.  Or maybe you’re just not that interested in hauling your little herd to the grocery store for school snacks.  Or hey, you’ve got company and want to serve at least one homemade option.  And maybe worst case scenario, you're just trying to find a quick fix to cover up the smell of dirty diapers and stinky dog.  Whatever the case, go freeze some muffins and thank yourself later!




Crock Pot Liners and Boxed Mashed Potatoes


Every “now and then” I get halfway through our day and realize I forgot to 1. prep the meat for the crock-pot and 2. It's 2 p.m. and there's no time for the crock-pot.  Which is just so frustrating after laboring over menu planning and grocery shopping for the week.  But one time, in the history of all the times I’ve forgotten such a thing, I thought...what could possibly go wrong with putting this chicken in the oven with a little salt and a lot of butter?  

And the answer is nothing.  Nothing can go wrong between you, a chicken and a stick of butter.

From that fateful [read: awesome] night, that deliciously simple chicken has been introduced into our trusty cycle of family meals.  And if you’re looking for a little menu inspiration after all the fluff and frill from Thanksgiving, look no further.  Here is a simple, reusable, and shiftable menu for the week (if you’re like me and make it to Thursday and think “I cannot possibly wash another dish in this house someone order takeout puh-lease”).


Monday: Crock-Pot Chicken* (or Dutch Oven Chicken), mashed potatoes, roasted broccoli and cauliflower

Tuesday: Tacos/Fajitas/quesadillas with the world’s best homemade queso* Tacos/Fajitas/quesadillas are pretty self explanatory, right?

Wednesday: lemon & herb fish*, green salad*, boxed risotto because it’s 2017.  

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: Eat out

Saturday: pizza + salad - the four pack of frozen pizzas from Costco saves my week on the regular.

Sunday: homemade chicken noodle soup (with that leftover whole chicken and broth you so stealthily and accidentally made on Monday), loaded grilled cheese (avocado and bacon, anyone?), side salad

*recipes listed below



1 whole chicken

1 stick of butter


If you’re feeling really crazy, add a few slices of lemon on top.  

**If you happen to forget to get that crock pot going, don't worry!  There's still time!  

Step 1: rinse Chicken, take out innards and place in crock pot.  

*I avoided Crock-Pot Liners for the longest time because it seemed so silly and frivolous.  But I am here to tell you I’ve converted and I’m never looking back.  

Step 2: Salt and pepper your chicken generously

Step 3: Thinly slice the stick of butter and use slices to cover the chicken.  

*1 stick tends to add a lot of fat to the broth that needs to be skimmed at a later, so it is ok if you go with a little less butter.

Step 4: Cover and turn crock-pot to low for 5ish hours.  If you're going the "It's 2 p.m. and I forgot to turn the crock-pot on" route, just throw that sucker in a Dutch Oven with a lid on, put it in the oven at 400 degrees for about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.  

Step 5: Drain broth into separate container and remove thighs, breasts and wings on to plate for serving.  Chicken will be tender and may fall apart.  




1 lb white american cheese (from the deli, one solid chunk or very thick slices)

½ cup milk

2 tbsp butter

1 small can of green chilis

Pinch of cumin

Pinch of garlic salt


Step 1: cut cheese into small cubes

Step 2: Melt cheese in a pot with milk over medium-low heat

Step 3: Stir continuously so it doesn’t burn

Step 4: Add in green chilis and pinch of cumin and garlic salt

Serve immediately



Fish of your choice, rinsed and patted dry

Salt, Pepper, oregano & basil

Olive Oil


Step 1: Line that pan with foil

Step 2: Generously season fish with salt and cracked pepper, drizzle a little olive oil on each piece and then sprinkle with basil & oregano.  

Step 3: Broil for about 8-10 minutes per inch of thickness or until fork-flaky

Serve immediately



Salad - baby romaine leaves (or other leafy green lettuce) & cherry tomatoes cut in half


Combine 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of dijon mustard, ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper, ¼ cup olive oil.  Pour over salad and serve!


And just for fun...the loaded grilled cheese sandwich.  




Last Minute Life

It's the week before Christmas!  My cookie baking and treat making day got botched last week by a terrible stomach virus that took place while approximately elbow deep in raw ingredients.  So here we are, treats to be made and goodies to be shared and well, I got nothing.  Except I do indeed have everything so long as peanuts and chocolate continue to be a staple in my house!  Check out the easiest, under-30-minute-treat that is super delicious and doesn't scream "I just made these 30 minutes ago when you said you were stopping by to drop off Christmas goodies for my family."  



Peanut Clusters

On staying clean...

This post sounds so ridiculous and silly.  And/or basic.  But any quick look on facebook groups or mom blogs and a few quick pinterest searches will have your feed filled with questions and tips on how to keep up with all the cleaning around the house and staying organized.   Charts and systems galore.  I will freely admit one of my biggest downfalls throughout my day is getting fixated on the messes.  I absolutely think better, read more clearly and rest easier when things are tidy and clean and smells decent. However I am a mom of 3 Boys. So basically my life is an oxymoron ;)

But the GREAT news about being a mom of 3 little people is that they have able hands and bodies that are teachable and can help keep this ship moving. There was a season when I would save up screen time for when I knew I needed to clean- I’d flip on a movie and hope no one got off the couch before I finished mopping the floors.  But somewhere along the way a light bulb went off (maybe when I overheard a mom talking about how her kid cleans the bathrooms every day): if a kid can figure out a video game in less than 10 minutes, it is entirely possible for them to wash windows. Can they climb a tree? They can certainly make a bed. No problem following 341 steps to LEGO directions, clearly they can wash a bathroom.  So over time we’ve kind of figured out a way to wiggle the cleaning into a part of our every day. Everyone pitches in a little a day, and one hour on Sundays and it works. These might be the most simple tips you’ve ever come across, but honestly y’all - I need all the simple I can get. Can I get a witness?

Maybe you’ll find a few of these tips manageable and not so stressful, or maybe they’ll be an encouragement to you to find a fit that works for your family!

-Every night when I’m working through the kids’ next days’ schoolwork checklist (Sarah Mackenzie anyone?), there is a spot I dedicate to morning chores. I take a look around the house, see what needs keeping and give them each 1 or 2 tasks (separate from responsibilities such as making their bed, putting pajamas away, etc). Tasks might include wiping down a bathroom, take out recycling, sweeping after breakfast or emptying the dishwasher.

-Throughout the day we are big on putting school materials away right away after using them. It is my greatest temptation to just do it for them instead of interrupting them from playing or reading but.....trying to train up productive and aware humans, right?

-Every evening before or after dinner we have “end of day tidy up” where we all take ten minutes to do a quick pick up and put straggling items back where they belong.  Turn on some music, set a timer, make it fun and quick.

-Each Sunday we all work together to clean for about an hour, everyone with their list of tasks written out. When the house is clean we get to relax the rest of the day/evening, have a special dinner or game night. And the home seems just a little more peaceful heading into that crazy busy Monday morning feel.

-I give myself grace. I do what I can, as I’m able. And try to do the same for them- giving them grace, keeping in mind their limits and frustrations.  My job is not to be a nagging nilly following them around all day long.  Nor should my goal in life be a clean house.  It should never evoke anger or loud talking if they forget or don’t do just right - the day is full of teachable, imperfect moments of training and contributing together because hey, we are all on the same team. And life is better when we are not tripping over one another’s shoes or losing a limb on a metal airplane.

What are some ways you've kept up with the mess?  


***As for cleaning products - I switched to Norwex about 2 years ago which has made life all the more simple. No chemicals (except for bleach. Everyone needs bleach. Toilets. They need bleach.); kid friendly and impossible to mess up.  They're also more effective at cleaning up germs and bacteria.  My top three favorites are below along with what we use it for. And the only thing you need is water.  Woo!  The rest are others I acquired over time and they’re just as fantastic and mess free.

Dust Mitt  - we use this for any and all dusting.  Easy for kids to slip on and go to town on baseboards and bookshelves.  

Envirocloth - This is the go to cloth for any and all cleaning you will do in your house.  From floors to windows to bathrooms to toilets, this is it!  This is the cloth my kids grab on their day to wipe down the bathrooms and the one I grab to wipe up well, everything else that needs wiping up.  

Window Cloth - this is the magic cloth.  Wipe with a wet rag before, dry with the window cloth and there are truly no streaks whatsoever.  Windows, mirrors, stainless steal...magic I tell ya!  *When I first learned about this cloth I took butter and smeared it on my window to see if it would work.  It worked better than 15 paper towels and a bottle of windex.  True story!

***my other go-to's:

Bathroom Scrub Mitt


Scrub Paste

Kitchen Cloth Trio