New Year’s Questions for your kids {2018}

This has been a favorite tradition for us with the kids – asking questions about the past year and seeing what their thoughts are for the year to come. I like to do it during the first week and try to let each child have their own time. I’m posting them here for others to use as well. Happy New Year! 

1. What was your favorite memory from this year?

2. What is something you learned this year that started out seeming very hard, but got better or easier as it went?

3. Do you have any embarrassing memories from this year?

4. Funny memories?

5. Memories or accomplishments you’re proud of? (It’s okay to say so! ; )

6. What is your favorite thing we do together as a family?

7. What would you like to do more of this year?

8. What is something you’re interested in or want to learn?

9. Are there any character qualities you would like to grow in this year?

10. How do you think you have matured this year? (This could be spiritually – knowing what you believe or desiring things that you know please God; it could be physically – growing or gaining skill; emotionally – learning how to control or express what you feel; or relationally – understanding and living with those around you)

*Also, this is a great place/time to tell your kids where you have seen them mature this year.

11. What would you say those around you think you love the most?

12. What do you think you love the most?

13. How can we pray for you this year?

The Great License Plate Game

It all started on a long car trip from North Carolina to Indiana.


Paul challenged the girls to find the license plates of all fifty states. And it became a family project that is probably one of the sweetest collective memories from the last few years.

Of course we found a ton on the trip. I was delighted by how quickly even the little girls could recognize plates that we had seen several times. (I should add that just a month or so earlier Paul had helped the girls memorize all fifty states. So it was easy to keep track of what we had already seen and still needed.)

We all were so in tune to license plates for months! Every trip to the store or anywhere the girls were pointing out states. It’s amazing how many are around all the time if you just look.

Confession: sometimes we would drive around parking lots looking for plates.

On two occasions we found new ones we needed at a mall about an hour from our house. I can’t even explain how excited we all would get when we found a new state. The rules were just that one of us had to see it with our own eyes. And it had to actually be on a car, not like on the wall at Cracker Barrel.

So around October we had narrowed it down to North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Hawaii. And pickins’ were slim. We were all sure that Hawaii would be the last one we’d find.

Owen’s due date came and went.

We even got my mom in on the excitement, but still nothing.

October 31. We had realized the night before that we needed to go buy candy. Around 11 that morning I began having contractions and by lunch around 2 or so, we were pretty sure this would be the day. (for the baby) So we stopped at our grocery store about five minutes from our house, and on the way back to the car…we saw a North Dakota!! In the parking lot! Of our grocery store! Five minutes from our house!

It was unbelievable! Such a sweet little blessing in the midst of another big blessing! (Owen)


We were over the moon excited and incredulous. Only three more to go!

Some weeks after that, I was invited to a little Christmas party at a friend’s house and left Owen home with a sitter for the first time since Paul had a late appointment. Hating to be away from him, I kept my phone close just in case I was needed. We were eating dinner at this gorgeous table when a text came through – I tried to check it discreetly but gasped out loud when I read the message: Paul had found South Dakota!!!

That was fun trying to explain why that was so exciting.

So Vermont and Hawaii remained.

I mean, we should see a Vermont. It’s not like we’re on the other side of the country from it or anything.

We totally gave up on Hawaii. I hatched this scheme to buy one online and give it to Hope for Christmas.

So in early December we were out shopping for Christmas decorations, and by a miscommunication on my part we ended up at a shopping center we are not normally at. Between taking six kids (including a newborn) up and down the aisles of Michaels, and Mommy who has trouble making her mind up, we were all fine, but borderline cranky.

After getting in the car Paul started to wind through the parking lot, you know, just in case. And I saw it.

My arm shot out and grabbed him, “I just saw Hawaii! Go back, go back!”

He was unsure, “What? No you didn’t.”

But I knew I had seen it. “I did! I did! Go back! It had a rainbow on it!”

He circled back around and sure enough we all saw it. Hawaii!!

Evening made. Month made. Holiday season made. Year made.

We had found Hawaii!!!

And we were all together when it happened!

The parking space next to it was open so Paul pulled in and we got out and stared at it and took pictures with it like crazy people.

We literally talked about it the whole way home, replaying how it all happened and how crazy it was that we were even there, and how we all felt when we saw it. And that we were all together when it happened.

I guess you’d have to understand how long we’d been looking and how sure we were that we would never actually find it. It still makes me smile just thinking about it.


We contemplated getting in the car and heading north until we found one. (It’s okay at this point for you to be absolutely certain that we are nuts). But we had come this far and just had to have that last one. We had even looked it up online to be sure we knew what we were looking for. Apparently, Vermont has one style of license plate so that was good.

Christmas came and went.


On one of those awkward post-Christmas days when you’re not quite sure what to do, we decided to take all the kids for a hike. We were almost out of our neighborhood when a little red car pulled in. Paul noticed the sign on the front of the car and whipped around to check when it passed us.

It was a Vermont.

He pulled in someone’s driveway and turned around action movie- style. The poor little red car, we followed it ’til it parked in a driveway only a street over from ours. Paul parked on the road and jumped out. (I think they were a little perplexed, to say the least.)

He explained our great license plate game and how all we needed was Vermont and they were our Vermont! The man was really good-humored and let us take a picture with the plate and the girls. They had just arrived from Vermont to visit the grandkids. We wished each other well and went on our way.

“Can you believe it?” We kept asking each other. We found Vermont! In our neighborhood.

A better ending to such a hunt could not have been scripted.

We were so excited that we decided to celebrate with milkshakes after our hike.

We went to Sonic. And they were out of ice cream. Are you kidding me? You’re Sonic. #youhaveonejob

But just forget that part because it didn’t matter.

Our excitement could not be dampened. We had found all fifty states.


Yay for family. Yay for hunts. Yay for memories we will never forget.

As silly as…


Teaching kids serious lessons about God, the Bible, and theology does not always happen in serious ways. We’ve talked about this before, right?

A few weeks ago we had a fun but profitable conversation at breakfast regarding our purpose in life. I can’t really remember how it started, but we began talking about how silly it was for people to think that they could take their life (which God had made) and use it for what they wanted (instead of His glory.)

One person started and then another and here is a sampling of what we came up with – minus the giggles:

Using your life to please yourself is as silly as…

…using a plate for a washcloth

…or a rosebush for a chair

…a cup of water for a hat

…or a table for a blanket

…a shark for a ship just would not be a good idea

…nor orange juice for window cleaner (but I’m tempted to think someone on Pinterest has tried)

One child who shall remain nameless suggested a piece of wood for a bench.



It was a ton of fun, and yet I pray just one more tiny step towards solid thinking from good theology.


Kids, conversations, and convenience

Last night, I almost – almost wished we could just have a flat tire episode so the girls would learn everything they need to know about the “extra tire” and stop asking me questions!

Also on the docket for conversations last night (all of this just on the drive home from church) was Gracie’s manifesto on why cupcakes are better than muffins and cake better than cupcakes, and an in-depth discussion of prisons and jails and juvenile detention centers including but not limited to whether I had ever been to one personally; why; why someone might end up there; would it always be for something wrong or bad; and what kind of questions do those staying there ask. Don’t forget the long, long, long, long, long conversation about spare tires.

And just in case you were unaware, driving home on a Sunday night while you are thirty-seven weeks pregnant is not an optimum time for brain function, patience, or creative teaching moments.

But then again, God doesn’t usually choose to hand us important teaching moments during optimum times. “Thanks for that opportunity, Lord; I was completely prepared,” said no one ever.”

Not sure why I thought a shot of big sister trying to help little sister eat her spinach was appropriate here, but there you go.
Not sure why I thought a shot of big sister trying to help little sister eat her spinach was appropriate here, but there you go.

It’s come to my attention that “important” conversations with your kids will occur at a time that could be described by some or all of the following :





Spiritually weak

Et cetera

Before we’re parents we imagine having these heart-to-heart conversations with our kids on a neatly made bed while the smells of dinner are wafting around from the crockpot and the other kids are in the next room praying for sister to grow in grace. Or something like that.


But more than likely you will find out what they’re thinking through when you get in the car at the end of a long day or are rushing out the door to the grocery store.

I love that my girls ask things at random times and little by little I’m learning to be amused and thankful for the opportunity to talk. You never quite know what they will remember or really learn from so I pray for grace to be faithful in those opportunities.

Nothing we talked about last night was all that earth-shattering, but it did remind me of other occasions where we were able to talk about pretty important stuff at hilariously unpredictable times.

Does this happen at your house? I’m guessing we’re not the only ones. = )


The summer bucket list continues

Summer is glorious. For me it’s not about long days, fancy vacations, or a long-list of must-do activities with your kids. It’s just about watching them when they don’t know you are, looking in their eyes more attentively as they explain their ideas to you, saying yes when they ask to build a fort, and having a few minutes to post about it while they’re on the front porch eating pretzels and drinking water.

Not sure why I call this a bucket list? I’m recording the small, unexpected happy moments of summer – as they happen. You can read more here.

4. Completely unplanned, we took a bicycle-pulled “carriage” from our parking lot to a baseball game. The girls faces were priceless!

5. Painting. There’s been a lot of this going on. The messy table that doesn’t have to be cleaned up at night, the intent faces while working, and the excitement to show Daddy their “masterpieces” all make this mama’s heart happy.


6. Holding Mckayla on my lap, rocking her and talking with her for no reason at all. One word for ya, margin.

7. This morning Sophia and I stayed long after breakfast to do the puzzles and games on the back of the cereal box.

8. Searching for Fourth of July breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas on Pinterest. (also with Sophia) We actually picked a few easy ones and bought the stuff, too. And made an extra trip to Walmart for skewers, cupcake liners and special plates and napkins. These things don’t happen during the school year.

9. Watch the little girls hold up five fingers as they oh-so-excitedly tell us that our tomato plant now has four tomatoes. = )

10. Get soaking wet from a sudden rain in the middle of an afternoon Bible club. Hear the child who was scared of the rain say, instead of complaining – “I’m thankful our car has a top on it!” once we were all in the car.

11. Sit on the front porch with Paul listening to the crickets after the girls had gone to bed.


How’s your summer going? Believe it or not, this is a kind of crazy, hectic summer for us. Writing these things down helps me to find the joy and the space in the little moments instead of being overwhelmed by all that is going on. Let me know if you try it!

New Year’s Day questions for my kids

I have a lot to do today. We have not been operating at full steam around here, but the chaos caused by daily life has kept clicking right along.

On the list would be to make more of a dent in the laundry, clean the bathrooms (gag), start thinking about a menu and grocery list for the week, and check the calendar to see when we’re scheduled to resume homeschooling.

We’re going to fellowship with some friends in the afternoon, so I almost began strategizing about how to accomplish my tasks by lunch.

But I want something about this New Year’s Day to be special for the girlies. My six and four-year-old are old enough to sort of understand the concept of “out with the old in with the new.”

So my idea is to ask them questions about last year, and see what their opinions/desires, even goals might be for the New Year.

You never know with kids; sometimes they’ll really surprise you.


Here are my ideas for questions:

*What was your favorite thing about last year?

*What was the worst thing that happened last year?

*What do you think you learned last year?

*What is one thing you really hope happens this year?

*What would you like to do more of this year?

*What part of obeying Daddy and Mommy do you think you should work on this year?

*How do you think you could be more loving to your family this year?

*How do you think we should try to help other people who don’t have as much as we do this year?

*What is something you would like to learn this year?

*Where is somewhere you would like to go this year?

*If you had a choice between Mommy reading to you more or teaching you music and piano more, which would you choose?

*What is one thing you want to work on this year?

*What would you like Mommy to do more of this year?

*What would you like Mommy to do less of this year?

*What do you want to pray for about this year?


This is a very rough, in-the-moment sketch; but I really want to try it!

Maybe this could be a sweet New Year’s Day tradition?

Here’s to resolving to spend time asking and listening in the morning!

Happy New Year!

31 days of training my kids: expectations and birthdays

imageMy sweet little Mckayla is turning two tomorrow. (today for those of you reading)

And boy did she ever finish off her year with a bang. = / But we won’t go into that.

So tonight I’m thinking about birthdays. What I want them to be, and what they end up being.

I love looking at pinterest and birthday celebrations just look so fun to me. But… I know that I can’t really do them. As much as I wish I was that creative, organized mom who could pull off an amazing event for her child and be happy and cheerful and actually spend time with said child on that special day, I’m just not. Lest you think I’m despairing, at some point I will hopefully get better. Thankfully for me, my kids are at the age right now where they do not care at all and whatever we do, they love.

I have one major problem when it comes to birthdays: preparation.

There are always tons of plans in my head, but somehow, it’s always the night before and I’m thinking, “Why? Again?!”

So, I have developed a few criteria for birthdays in our house that are well within the realm of something I can do.

1. Do something fun that they will really enjoy that day. I used to try to think of something that would be really cool, like the coolest thing of the whole year; but sadly, toddlers have no clue what a year is. Happily, this makes picking something fun for them to do a whole lot easier.

2. Make a special cake or dessert that they will enjoy. Again, my definition of special is probably a lot lower than most. However, it’s about pleasing my kids, not my unrealistic expectations. And they get very excited for cake!

3. Decorate in a way that the girlies will feel like something is special. We usually don’t do parties, but I still want the day itself to feel festive.

4. Take pictures to remember the day. This is a recent one. It is out of my comfort zone; so see, there’s improvement. = ) See Gracie’s pictures here.

Now with all that said, here are my desires/plans for Mickey J’s special day tomorrow.

1. Go play at the park. Take buckets and shovels and play in the sand. (we don’t normally do this) Be okay with getting all dirty and sandy.

2. Eat a Monkey Cake! (lovingly made by her sisters and Nana) There is no better choice than a monkey for Mckayla this year. = )

3. Decorations have been foregone, but homeschooling has been postponed. No school on birthdays! It’s a new rule. = )

4. Take pictures. I already have her outfit picked out. It’s her red fuzzy hoodie with a pink Minnie Mouse.  I want to remember when I look back at the pictures how much she loved that “Ginnie Mouse!”

And yes, that’s about it. More than anything, I want to look at her, and listen to her, and tickle her, and enjoy seeing how much she is loved by every person in this family.

Do I hope I do better next year? Absolutely. I’m already thinking about sweet Hopey’s birthday. Considering my preparation problem, I should probably start gift shopping for her day after tomorrow. = )

But this is Mckayla’s day and I don’t want to waste it wishing for things that aren’t.

So tell me (and this isn’t just one of those questions your supposed to ask at the end) how do you get ready for birthdays? It escapes me!

{Israel recap} Day 1: to turn out that last light

Remains from Herod the Great's palace at Caesarea Maritima
Remains from Herod the Great’s palace at Caesarea Maritima
Original floor from Herod the Great's palace at Caesarea Maritima
Original floor from Herod the Great’s palace at Caesarea Maritima

Today was a happy day. Honestly, just the prospect of having the car and being able to go out and buy Christmas decorations temporarily erased the thought that my husband was gone. I had this funny mental image of myself holding a cardboard sign that said in sloppy black marker, “Will trade husband for car.” (I’ll never understand my mind) Apparently I chose flippancy as my way of dealing with Paul’s departure on day one.

I did realize how important it would be to not lose my car key. Going to try very hard to give extra attention to putting it where it belongs.

While the little girls slept, Hope and Sophia and I cut little triangles of scrapbook paper to make Christmas banners. Then we made banana bread, which is always a hoot.

At bedtime the girls went to sleep fine. We’d been able to maintain a happy, upbeat tone all day.

I wanted to go to sleep and probably could have except that I had to prepare a craft for the next night at AWANA. When that was complete, I began trying to go to bed.

It’s hard to turn out that last light. After everything was ready and I couldn’t bring myself to do anymore, I realized…this is going to be hard. Thirteen nights like this. And this is only the first.

Thanks for reading my first series: Taking care of four little girls alone (while my husband is on an amazing study trip to Israel). Here are links to the other related posts. 

Series coming soon

It’s official: the Israel trip is on

Official introduction

Apple sauce? Apple rock!

the unfortunates
the unfortunates

So today I’m going to tell you about how I made this totally disgusting, inedible attempt at applesauce. It was so easy! Literally, it took less than ten minutes and we had awful aromas and puzzled children. All the ingredients were right on hand, just waiting to be sacrificed. Here’s the recipe: you’re going to love it!

First, randomly decide to make it (in the middle of lunch) and don’t bother to look at the recipe; I’m sure your memory is as reliable as mine.

1 chopped apple

a few tablespoons of water

squirt of honey

spoonful of brown sugar

cinnamon (optional) because I couldn’t find mine

Dump all ingredients in a small microwave safe bowl. Don’t bother to stir or cover; everything will be just fine.

Microwave on high for five minutes. (Small note: I did remember exactly that the original recipe said ten minutes, but I knew I was doing a smaller amount so I cut the time in half. Didn’t want it to burn or anything.)

Remove from microwave; groan; fill with dish detergent and let soak until washable; continue groaning.

(Yeah, I was feeding Mckayla these little chopped apples. She had enough teeth to do it, but I thought, “This is going to take a while, why don’t I just make them into applesauce real quick?”) Think again, genius.

you know you want to try it
you know you want to try it

The smoky, steamy, apple-y, s’mores-y gas that covered me when I opened the microwave was wretched. NOT what I was looking for! The apples? Completely burnt and black – like a rock! To further my lapse in judgment, I tasted them. Moron! …gag… basically charcoal.

Will my aptitude for disaster in the kitchen ever come to an end?