Parenting Boys is Not for the Faint of Heart

Hiking at the Grand Tetons

Yesterday was a big day for my son Sander and Megan’s son Kimball.  They went to Colorado snowboarding with Megan’s husband Chris and our sister Kendal’s boyfriend Rob.  The boys (not the big ones) have never taken a trip without us except for camping….what will they do without their moms?  I know exactly what they’ll do:  have fun.  We won’t be there to worry over them and nag them.  I’m sure they’ll miss us, though.  That’s what I keep telling myself.

As excited as Megan and I are for our boys, we’re nervous to let them out of our sights.  To give you a little background on our boys, Sander is 16 and Kimball is 14.  But they act like they’re really 9 and 7.  They are a lot alike and get along great when they’re not fighting, that is.  They both have ADD, love sports, junk food and pop, and basically don’t like to use the good sense that God gave them!  We’ve always said that the boys’ guardian angels are amazing and overworked.  They are our button-pushers too, if you know what I mean.  It’s a good thing they’re cute because…, never mind.

A year and a half ago, our parents took all 15 of us on an RV trip out west.  Our destination was Yellowstone.  As we researched Yellowstone, we kept reading about the danger of thermal pools.  So Megan and I were nervous wrecks the entire trip!   We kept fearing the boys would go off the path, fall into a thermal pool and vaporize.  It didn’t help that in our cabins, there was a book that was called Death At Yellowstone.  What kind of dummies read that the day before exploring the park?  That would be Megan and I.  Let’s just say it didn’t put our minds at ease!  Now here’s a little background about Megan and I:  we’re worriers.  For some reason, our minds automatically go to the worst possible scenario.  Despite our strong faith in God, we have a problem fully trusting Him.

Grand Teton National Park

We know that God loves our kids even more than we possibly could.  It’s true that bad things happen, but God doesn’t want us to waste our lives worrying.  When I was pregnant with my twin boys, I was in the hospital for three weeks on bedrest.  It was a scary time and I worried that the boys would be born too early.  My Mom sent up a quote from a calendar that said, “Died a thousand deaths, but buried only once.”  Wow, that was written for me!  Worrying does not add hours to our lives, instead it robs us.    My favorite verses in the Bible are Philippians 4:6-7:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Another verse that is so helpful in remembering to trust in God, Joshua 1:9:

“Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

boys at the Grand Tetons

And one last verse…because you can’t have too many!  Matthew 6:26-27:

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or stow away in barns; and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

boys at the grand tetons

When we start to worry this week (I mean IF), we’ll cling to these verses.  I’ll try to stop worrying about the boys on the chairlift together, wrestling, getting separated from each other, attempting a 360…….Ok, I’m a slow learner!

Here’s a link to another post about anxiety.

What’s your favorite verse to combat worry?


Winter Home Tour

Winter in Michigan is awesome!  Ya just gotta love getting in a freezing car, scraping windows, driving on ice, trudging through slush, biting cold wind, and wearing five layers just to leave the house.  No?  Well, I guess those probably aren’t my favorite reasons for loving winter in Michigan, either.  But, seriously, I do love it.  And probably one of my favorite reasons is because I am a homebody, and I love to stay home.  I don’t mind staying home on a Friday night, doing nothing but sitting in front of a fire and reading a good book.

Winter Decor

winter decor, bottlebush trees

winter decor, faux evergreens

winter decor, galvanzed decor

Winter Decor, galvanized

Winter is the best time to relax and enjoy a slower pace if you live in a northern climate.  As much as I love spring flowers and gardening and summer beach days, they also come with a lot of extra work.  Work that I love, but sometimes I miss actually sitting on the couch in the summer because I hate to spend one minute of nice weather inside.  Weird, I know!  But that’s what is so great about a Michigan winter!  I don’t have all of that outdoor yard work, I don’t feel guilty about sitting inside on a nice day (because it usually isn’t nice out), and it makes me appreciate the warmth and beauty of our nice weather even more!  Plus, nothing is prettier than a fresh snowfall.

winter decor, faux evergreens

winter decor, faux evergreens

So as long as I’m going to be inside a lot, I might as well make my home cozy.  It’s easy to make it cozy before Christmas, but a little more challenging after the holidays are over.  This year I left a lot of greenery out because it’s warm and inviting, and green!  And admit it…in Michigan it seems a little silly to put up non-evergreen greenery just yet!  Just think of it as a rustic, cozy, ski-lodge look.  Or Scandinavian.  Or you can just think I’m goofy…which is fine, too, and most likely true.  Either way, I hope you find some inspiration to keep your home cozy for just a little while longer.

winter decor, faux evergreens

winter decor, faux evergreens

winter decor, faux evergreens

winter decor, faux evergreens

I left the string lighting up for a little while in my sunroom, too.  It’s just nice to enjoy white lights when it gets dark at 5:00!  And my new (old) crock looks great decked out in greens.

winter decor, faux evergreens

winter decor, faux evergreens

Everything looks less cluttered and fresh than the Christmas décor, but still homey and unbare (not a word…but bear with me!).

winter decor, faux evergreens

winter decor, faux evergreens

And lastly, you have to have a great candle!  My favorite candle this time of year is Bath and Body Works’ Winter candle.  It smells woodsy and a little smoky, and I like it a lot!

So pile up pillows and throws, throw in some faux evergreens and bottlebrush trees, and don’t forget a candle or two.  Light a fire, grab a book, and enjoy your comfy cozy surroundings guilt free!  And don’t worry…gardening and ball season are just around the corner, so enjoy it while it lasts!

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winter decor

Ten Must-Have Bathroom Hacks

Since it’s still January, and I’m still in cleaning and organizing mode, I thought I would share a few bathroom hacks that are semi-genius.  Okay, maybe not, but I’ll admit, some of them took some time to occur to me.  So I’ll save you the trouble, and just spell them out for you now in case you are like me and sometimes learn the hard way.

These are especially helpful if you have young children… or a husband.  Bathrooms are opportunities for disaster, in more ways than one.  So let’s just cut to the chase and get right to it, especially since I hate cleaning the bathroom and want to spend as little time as possible doing it.

One…do not buy a bar of soap.  Don’t. do. it.  Kids love to leave those slimy cakes in the bottom of the tub until they are a pile of mush, which then hardens and takes a chisel to pry away.  They also drip soapy trails down the sides of the tub or shower if they don’t end up on the bottom.  Solution?  Body wash in a pump.  One squirt on the washcloth, and bam!  Done!  No cakey soap scum everywhere.

(And if you are still helping wash up little ones, a cheap gardener’s kneeling pad does wonders for your knees.)

Two…pump-style shampoo and conditioner.  My kids always left shampoo bottles tipped on their side, which then leaks all over.  And they always squeezed way too much out, which then ends up all over the bottle.  So do yourself and them a favor and buy the big bottles with pumps.  They last longer with less waste and mess.

Three…mesh toy organizer.  Have you ever stepped on an army guy, dolphin, or Barbie?  Trust me, it hurts just as much in the tub or shower.  I always tell myself I’m gonna miss stepping on stuff and cleaning around tub toys someday, but I have yet to actually believe it.

Four…wipes.  Both kinds.  The ones for hind-ends and for cleaning surfaces.  Just don’t mix them up.  We had that situation once…I left out some sanitizing wipes and one of my kiddos used them on her bottom.  So make sure they know the difference, or put the sanitizing wipes safely out of reach.  (Definitely a parenting fail, that one, but she survived).  Anyway, wipes just make for quick, easy, clean-up in either situation.

Five…Colgate.  Can you say attached cap?  Mardi put me on to this one, and I must say I was wowed by her genius and a little embarrassed I hadn’t thought of it myself.  I always bought Crest, but the kids always lost the cap.  Colgate’s cap is attached.  Bingo!  Thank you Mardi!

Six…a stool.  (Get your mind out of the toilet for a minute)  If your kids are still little, make sure they can reach the sink easy.  That way washing hands is more apt to happen, and that just keeps everything more clean.

Seven…shower spray.  Seriously.  This stuff helps cut down on soap scum and hard water build-up big time.  When you do find the time to actually scrub your tub and shower, it makes the job much easier if you’ve been using this stuff all along.  You can also just spray vinegar and water, too.

Eight…speaking of vinegar, I use vinegar to clean pretty much everything in my bathroom.  I don’t dilute it much, and I end up smelling like an easter egg, but it’s so worth it.  It’s super cheap, kills germs, and I don’t worry about chemicals mixing in with bath water.

Nine…shelves.  Over the toilet.  Take advantage of this space and put up a couple of shelves to store stuff like this bathroom found on Pinterest. Shelves work better than those behind the toilet organizer thingies because you don’t have to clean around the legs of them.

And lastly, keep the toilet paper handy for goodness sake!

Save this article for later…Pin it!

bathroom cleaning hacks


A Place for Everything…

Well, hello 2018!  I can’t believe it’s already January!  I feel like the kids just started school a few weeks ago!  That’s how fast time flies when you’re having fun, I guess.  The months of September thru December are my absolute favorite time of year, so I am always sad when they have passed.  What’s better than football season, fall leaves, cozy candles, and family gatherings, and celebrating Jesus’s birth?  Certainly not cold, dreary January!  Okay, now I’m being an absolute downer.  Let me spin this into something positive.  January is good for something…cleaning and organizing!

I know, I know.  That doesn’t sound very fun, but man, does it ever feel good once the job is done.  As much as I love all of the Christmas decorations, it always feels good to remove some of the clutter.  And since my kids always do rather well in the present department, it is necessary to go through closets to purge the old and make room for the new.  Have you done that lately?  It is quite therapeutic, actually.  Every time I drop a load of donated items off, it’s like a weight has been lifted and I breathe a sigh of relief.

Piles stress me out.  Piles of mail, laundry, toys, dishes, etc.  And I bet they stress you out, too, unless you are a hoarder.  So my self-help tip of the day is to remove piles from your life.  Sounds pretty simple, but sometimes it is hard to part with things (well, not dirty dishes).  I don’t know if you have noticed, though, that it is so hard to put piles away and keep things neat when there is an excess of stuff.  For example, every time I put away clothes, I have to hunt for a hanger and stuff drawers closed.  By removing some clothes that are rarely worn, putting clothes away becomes so much easier.  Same with emptying the dishwasher.  My cupboards were overflowing with mugs and cups, and it took me twice as long to put dishes away because I had to cram them in.

I’ve noticed that my kids are also more apt to pick up after themselves if their toys and belongings all have a place and their closets are neat.  Now I’m not saying my kids don’t have a lot of stuff, but I try to have a place for everything so there are no excuses.  That makes day to day clean up pretty easy, and as a result, their bedrooms and closets are pretty neat all the time.  Disclaimer:  I am a serial nagger, so that helps, too.

Sometimes you have to get creative to find storage solutions, though.  Here are some of the ways I have created some order out of the chaos of “stuff”.

Plastic bins that slide under the bed.  These are great for seasonal clothing or miscellaneous toys.

Crates!  These crates in my son’s room look neat and industrial with the caster’s added to the bottom, and they also create affordable storage for books, video games, etc.

diy crate storage

diy crate storage

If you have a common hallway or landing outside of the bedrooms, these cube shelves are great!  Hallways and stairway landings are great places to utilize for extra space.  We have some that sit right outside the bedrooms at the top of the stairs, and whatever books and toys don’t fit neatly in our rooms go in them.  They are accessible, but neat.  And if you don’t like looking at the “stuff” as you walk by, you can always use cubes or cover them with a cute curtain.

landing storage solutions

Keeping it real here…don’t mind the empty picture frames, sideways photos, and Christmas décor.  Trust me, it looked a lot worse a few days ago!

Art supply organizer.  I did a post about this last year, and you can read it here.  This definitely keeps the art supply clutter as organized as possible.

Carts are also great for bedrooms, too.  They keep things easily accessible, but look cute at the same time.  This one from Michaels is my favorite, and it comes in a bunch of colors.


So go through those drawers and closets and cupboards.  Get rid of stuff that is collecting dust.  Find places to neatly store the things you keep.  Nag your kids daily (if you are me).  Enjoy a clean and organized house!  Now that is good for the soul!  And it’s cheaper than therapy!

What are some of your best organizing tips?  I would love to hear them!


Making Merry

As Andy Williams says (or sings, rather), “It’s the Most Wonder-ful Time of the Year!”  Yes, others have sang that song, but in my book, Andy Williams sings it the best.  It really is “the hap- happiest season of all.”  The music, the movies, the lights…..I just can’t get enough.  As believers, we celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus, our savior.  All of the other festivities and frivolities are just a bonus.  My early Christmas gift to you is to help you get into the Christmas spirit!  Here are a list of my favorite Christmas songs and movies and that will surely deliver.

My Dad always said I was born in the wrong era because I love old music and movies (not to mention the glamorous clothes!).  My favorite Christmas music is the music that my parents grew up with.  It’s not Christmas without Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra.  They’re a must!  Nat King Cole is a favorite as well.  Listening to Nat sing “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” definitely puts you in the Christmas mood, as does Frank Sinatra’s “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Perry Como’s “There’s No Place Like Home For the Holidays,” is one of the first Christmas songs I listen to during the holidays.  Burl Ives (Sam the snowman from Rudolph) reminds me of my childhood Christmases.  Last year Megan bought a Percy Faith CD and it was amazing, so our Mom and I bought one.  The song “We Three Kings” is our favorite… will give you chills.  Our Mom used to listen to Kenny and Dolly’s Christmas album, which makes me nostalgic too.   I could go on and on about my favorite Christmas songs, but I think you get the picture.  On my phone I have the app for iheart radio and I listen to the Christmas Classics station.  That way I can listen to Christmas music at the barn or anywhere.

As far as movies, let me just say that I love them and Christmas movies are the best.  Most of us watched Christmas specials on TV as children.  We looked forward to them every year and got so excited that we didn’t think we could make it to Christmas.  As a kid, I remember hearing adults say that “time flies by.”  I thought they were lying.  The month of December dragged by!  Watching those specials transports me back to those magical Christmases of my youth.  At 43, I watch them every year and love them!  I love any holiday special by Rankin Bass:  “Rudolph” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” for example.  “The Cricket on the Hearth” is great too.  One of my favorites as a kid was “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” which always followed “The Grinch” on TV.  But who could forget “A Charlie Brown Christmas?”  Another great cartoon is “A Flintstones Christmas Carol.”  Now that I’ve totally admitted how juvenile I really am, let me suggest a few more:  “Little House on the Prairie: A Merry Ingalls Christmas,” and the first Brady Bunch episode entitled “The Voice of Christmas,’ which first aired on December 19, 1969.  Manon and I have to watch that every year!

There are several classic Christmas movies that make my “season bright.”  The original “Miracle on 34th Street” and “White Christmas” are so heartwarming.  I also love the 1951 version of “A Christmas Carol” starring Alastair Sim as Scrooge.   My favorite Christmas movie of all is “It’s a Wonderful Life .”  It’s so entertaining and has many good lessons in it.  I love the part where Clarence (the angel) tells George, “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives, and when he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”  But my favorite part of the movie is at the end when Harry says, “A toast….to my big brother.  The richest man in town!”   That makes me cry every time.  Harry wasn’t speaking monetarily of course, but rich with the love of family and friends.

If you’re stressed and need some comic relief, watch “Christmas With the Kranks” and “Christmas Vacation.”  “Christmas Vacation” is full of quotes that our sister Kendal and I like to interject into conversations.  I think we’re the only ones who think it’s clever and funny.  For more adult humor, watch “Love Actually” and “Four Christmases.”   I just watched “A Madea Christmas” for the first time and I laughed my head off.  Ah… many movies, so little time.

Christmas is such a magical, special time and it passes too quickly.  Despite the stresses that the holiday brings (decorating, cooking, shopping, wrapping, entertaining, cleaning….), it is the perfect time to reflect upon our blessings.  Being a Christmas-crazy person, I’m always a little sad on December 26th.  But the true gift of Christmas, Jesus, is forever.  He isn’t limited to one day or season.  He will be with us forever, if only we let Him into our hearts.  Whatever your traditions, how ever you celebrate, may you and yours have a blessed Christmas season.

“Hark! the herald angels sing/ Glory to the newborn King

Peace on earth and mercy mild/ God and sinners reconciled!”

God Bless,





Christmas at the Barn

Well, friends, Christmas has officially arrived at our barn!  Last week, Mardi and I were busy laying peel and stick vinyl flooring in our barn’s “hangout” room.  Probably not the best time of year to begin a DIY project, but we really wanted to put a tree up at the barn this year, so it was good motivation to get the job done.  And the flooring goes in so quick and easy…even Mardi and I can do it on our own.  It made such a difference in the room, too.  Now it is so much more warm and cozy feeling, which is awesome when you are doing chores in the winter!

Once we got the flooring done, we headed out to pick out a tree…at Wal-Mart.  Ugh, I know, I know.  A real one would have been so much more appropriate for a barn, but then it wouldn’t have had the beautiful fake snow on it!  We also grabbed a couple of super cheap ornaments that fit the barn theme perfectly.  Now we just needed to decorate!

Mardi made those yummy sugar cookie bars that we all love, and I brought some other (store-bought) goodies over, and we had ourselves a little tree-trimming cocoa party!  We even let the kids help decorate the tree!  Wasn’t that nice?  I thought so.  Okay, so I did move a few ornaments when they weren’t looking, but shh…don’t tell.

Christmas at the Barn

hot cocoa bar in the barn

We had a great time decorating and eating and sipping our cocoa.  And it was fun watching the horses and barn cats watching us through the window.  I said I kind of felt like we were the animals behind glass at the zoo and the animals were looking in at us humans.  All that was missing was a sleigh ride…but we are working on that, so maybe next year!

Christmas at the Barn

I hope you enjoyed this little tour of our barn decked out for Christmas.   And if you have your own little cocoa party, don’t forget to make these sugar cookie bars!  They are the perfect way to send your kids into a sugar induced frenzy! Trust me, I know from experience. That room got a little small with six of our seven kids plus our parents inside.  I’m thinking of one kid in particular that almost made this mama lose her cool.  Hey, who am I fooling?  I did lose my cool…but only once or twice!

Anybody else’s kid get super hyper (with or without sugar cookie bars) from about Thanksgiving til Christmas?  Let me know so I know I’m not alone…please…anyone…??