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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Brainstorming Christmas Ideas for My Children

A couple years ago, I posted a cute little graphic I had found on Pinterest and wrote about how my husband and I had streamlined our gift-giving for our children.

For a few years now, we have given each child only four gifts ~ something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.

{We’re seriously thinking of reducing even that, considering minimalism and the fact that we have six children and how we want to increase generosity and gratitude. But that’s for another blog post.}

Well, the Christmas season is in full swing, and I’ve done a bit of shopping. But I could use some help with ideas, as I’m sure you could.

I’ve listed below some suggestions for each category. Why don’t you list your suggestions in the comments, and we’ll help each other out? The possibilities are limited only by your children’s interests, your desire to shop, and your budget. J

Something they want ~
{It’s difficult to list here because it depends so much on the individual child, but this is where we usually give a toy.}
A puppy.
Gel pens.
A bicycle.
Building blocks.
That giant stuffed teddy bear for sale at Sam’s Club and Costco. J

Something they need ~
Cute stationary for thank-you’s or writing to friends.
My Little Pony undies.
Snow boots.
Snazzy pencils for their schoolwork.
A princess toothbrush.
A new notebook with a super hero or a cute puppy on the cover.
An organizer for all the gel pens and snazzy pencils.
A flannel sheet set with a design of skiing penguins.
A pocket knife.
Luggage for travel.

Something to wear ~
A purse or bag.
Fashion boots.
A sparkly wristwatch.
Lilla Rose hair accessory ~ a flexi clip or a set of bobbies.
A letterman’s jacket.
A scarf.
A backpack.
A robe.
An apron with ruffles.
A sweater with horses on it.

Something to read ~
A coloring book with a story.
A Bible.
A dictionary.
The latest book from their favorite author.
A title from the backlist of their favorite author.
A magazine subscription.
A cookbook.
A kindle.
A concordance or set of Bible commentaries.
A library card.
A blank notebook and a good set of pens {to write their own stories}.
A devotional.
Smash book or scrapbook.

As you can see, the categories can carry over into each other.

What are your suggestions?

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Need a Suggestion for Christmas Giving?

{One little affiliate link appears in this post.}

One of my favorite gifts to give is a book. Our children receive books from us for both birthday and Christmas, and I always give my husband books. Okay, I'll admit they are usually books I'm interested in as well!

Do you need a book suggestion for the reader you're shopping for? Or do you need something new to read this Christmas?

May I suggest Under Duress (Love Inspired Suspense)? Even though it's not in stores any longer, it's available in both print and ebook version on Amazon.

But how do you wrap an ebook? I asked that very question a couple of years ago when we gave our oldest child a kindle for Christmas. What we do is give a "certificate" for the book. I'll often wrap it in a shirt box. Then, after the gift is opened, I'll log onto Amazon and actually purchase the book. The gift is still a surprise, but the recipient has something to open.

I've created a "certificate" for Under Duress {below}. If you decide to give an e-copy as a gift, feel free to print this certificate, personalizing it as needed.

Do you need another suggestion? A bargain?

Let me add on to this quick post to let you know about the Lilla Rose Black Friday sale. I don't post often about these hair accessories, but every female in my family wears them. I've given my daughters Lilla Rose clips for both birthdays and Christmas, and they fit easily in a stocking.

{Please forgive my difficult writing. J I'm really not much of a salesperson, but I love Lilla Rose, and I love writing. I just wanted to share my passions with you.}

Beautiful, aren't they?
And here's the December flexi-of-the-month ~

Here are the details on the sale ~

It's a pretty fantastic deal!

To make sure you shop with me, go to

Thank you, and have a wonderful weekend! We'll be putting up our tree, listening to Christmas music, and drinking copious amounts of hot chocolate. J

Merry Christmas!

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Be Thankful for These Seven G’s This Thanksgiving

For those of us in the United States, on Thursday we’ll be gorging ourselves on roasted turkey with sage dressing, green bean casserole, buttery mashed potatoes, cranberry salad, and any number of other delectable dishes.

At our table, before we eat a single bite, we count our blessings. Normally, those blessings include a roof over our heads, food on our table, and the love we have both from God and in our family. But this year, thanks to our pastor’s message last Sunday and Psalm 145, we’ll also be contemplating our thankfulness for these seven G’s.

God’s Greatness. “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable.” (v. 3)

God’s Goodness. “They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness, and shall sing of Your righteousness.” (v. 7)

God’s Grace. “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy.” (v. 8) 

God’s Guidance. “The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.” (v. 9)

God’s Gospel. “They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom, and talk of Your power, to make known to the sons of men His mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of His kingdom.” (v. 11-12)

God’s Government. “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Your dominion endures throughout all generations.” (v. 13)

God’s Gifts. “The eyes of all look expectantly to You, and You give them their food in due season. You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.” (v. 15-16)

Prayers for a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving! J

{This post first appeared on this blog on November 27, 2013.}

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Questions I Ask as I Decide on Decluttering + A Winner!

Have you been curious about my book, Under Duress (Love Inspired Suspense), but haven’t taken the plunge to buy it? Well, now’s a great time if you have a kindle. It’s on sale for only $1.99! {Affiliate link}

On to the blog post!

Sometimes decluttering is tough. How do you decide what to keep and what should go?

I always dread that moment of agony...those minutes when I hold something in my hand or see it in the closet and wonder. What if I need it later? What if I find a need for it next month but it's gone? What if I look for that sentimental item a year from now to show my children but I've discarded it?

Ack! The what-if's can be overwhelming.

My mother and her new husband have recently decided that an independent living apartment in a retirement village might be a better option for them than owning a home. You know exactly what that means, and why I’ve included it here, don’t you? It means she has a houseful of stuff that simply cannot go with her. Add to that the fact that she’s never really discarded anything except in a few unsuccessful rummage sales over the past several decades plus a voracious spending habit as well as inheriting antique items from her mother and aunt in the past several years…and it’s overwhelming just to think about what lies ahead!

I am beyond grateful that this decluttering passion hit our household now. It’s hasn’t been fast or easy, but I pray that I’m saving my children time and trouble later.

So, as I've worked through our possessions off-and-on for the past year, I've developed some questions I ask myself or my husband or my children when we're trying to decide.

Is this something I want to keep forever and ever? In other words, will I take it out again in a year, in five years, in twenty-five years, and look at it/read it/love it/need it?

Do I need to keep all of it or should I discard some? For example, a child's coloring book or old vacation brochures or twenty zillion mismatched drinking glasses.

In what format do I want to keep it? Physical? Digital? Would it be best scanned and then the physical copy thrown away?

Is this something my children will want to deal with when I'm too old to take care of myself? Sometimes, I just ask them. Sometimes, I ask myself if I would want to deal with it if it was my mother’s or father’s. Only you can decide, and there is no right or wrong.

Does this meet a need elsewhere? Could this piece of furniture be used for another purpose or this article of clothing given to someone else in the household? Or is it best if I discard it?

Is it worth dusting/organizing/maintaining? Or will I dread that one more thing to do?

Can I find it online? {Information, photos, etc.} Do I really need to keep that book of photos of Mount St. Helen’s I bought on vacation? Unless it has sentimental value, probably not. The internet is a vast land of beautiful photos from all over the world.

Does it bring me joy? You'll recognize that one from Marie Kondo's book. It's a valid and helpful question.

Is it useful? Obviously, some things you just need. But do you need that much? As I examined my Tupperware cabinet, I saw several things that we hadn’t used since we moved or even for a couple of years before. Honestly, what does it say that I even have a “Tupperware cabinet”?

Even with these helpful questions, there have been some things I just can't decide on, like those couple of nice shirts that don't fit anymore but might again.

Only you can decide.


And now, the winner of last week's giveaway, A Beau for Katie -->

~~ Amy and Mark ~~

Congratulations! Just send me your address via my contact page, and I'll get your book in the mail. Thanks for helping to clear my shelves!

What questions do you ask yourself when you're decluttering?

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

40 More Items I've Discarded in The Great Purge + A Giveaway

Once we get started decluttering and take a long, hard look at our possessions, isn't it mind-boggling what we've accumulated?

Our family has really pared down, but I'm still digging through nooks and crannies and storage containers. So here's another list of fifty things we've discarded, whether it be thrown in the trash, donated, or sold.

  1. Two super-large pads from the hospital left over from the birth of my youngest, now almost six-years-old.
  2. Unidentifiable round white pills in a travel container. {Probably some form of pain reliever, but I'm not risking it.}
  3. A sturdy but tacky side table made of sawdust glued together and painted at least three times.
  4. The little patriotic-styled paper hat that was on my supper tray when I was in the hospital with the now-15yo. {I took a picture before I threw it away.}
  5. My husband's tax return from four years before we met.
  6. A Home Depot receipt I found in a keepsake box.
  7. Last winter's clothes my youngest son has grown out of.
  8. Some nonfiction books that are so outdated by now that I know I'll never read them.
  9. A supplemental third-grade history reader that we hadn't used for the first four children and so, most likely, won't use for the youngest two.
  10. Old, used-up coloring books. {I did scan and save a few of the best pages.}
  11. Refillable water bottles with the pop-top that you're supposed to suck on but it felt more like and sounded like kissing to get the water out. {Try handing one of those to a 12yo boy.}
  12. Blurry photos of nothing saved from our 35mm camera days.
  13. Old, frayed, stained rags.
  14. Christmas window clings that lost their cling.
  15. Old dolls with their hair worn off.
  16. A watch that exasperated me with the constant need for battery replacement.
  17. Excess pencils and pens. 
  18. Too-stretched-out ponytail holders.
  19. An extra box of staples. {Going paperless, right?}
  20. Excess fabric scraps.
  21. Paper organizing trays.
  22. Birthday cards received ten years ago that don't have a date or a personalized note. {I scanned them.}
  23. A membership kit from the American Bar Association from when I joined in 1998.
  24. A Popsicle stick box the children made for me a few years ago that didn't survive the storage box it was in for moving.
  25. A 3.5 inch floppy disc.
  26. Three outgrown hooded towels my husband was supposed to have carried downstairs to the giveaway bag but I found stuffed in a cabinet in the laundry room. {I'm not crabbing about him. He probably forgot on the way down the stairs.}
  27. A duplicate can of starch. {Seriously, if you know my husband, I don't even need one can of starch, let alone two.}
  28. Christmas cards received twenty years ago. {I scanned the personalized ones.}
  29. A twenty-year-old {I think} card from someone promising she'll always be my best friend but I can't read the signature and don't remember the card.
  30. A fleece blanket my 10yo didn't want anymore.
  31. Two round aluminum cake pans with the bottom sluffing off.
  32. Tourist brochures from a trip I took in high school.
  33. A bottle of lotion with an aroma that made me sneeze.
  34. Cordless phones.
  35. Bicycles too small for anyone to ride.
  36. A couple more shirts I hadn't worn since we moved nearly two years ago. I thought I might wear them this past summer, but I didn't.
  37. An Americana wall quilt.
  38. A side table made of particle board that had been painted so many times the drawer didn't open well anymore.
  39. The final few black napkins left over from the open house we hosted when my husband completed his master's degree in 2006. We used them and threw them away.
  40. This book -->

Who wants to take this off my shelf?

It’s a GIVEAWAY of an Amish Love Inspired book! Leave a comment or send me an email through my contact page. Or, if you're reading this in email, you can respond with the button at the bottom that says Email the Author. The giveaway will be open through Monday, October 17, at 5:00 p.m., and I’ll announce the winner on Tuesday.

Have a great week!

What items have you discarded in your Great Purge?

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So many beautiful flexi clips to choose for Fall!

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Saturday, October 1, 2016

Five Things I Learned in September ~ 2016

It's good to go out with just my husband. For various reasons through the years, my husband and I have not had a regular time to go anywhere without the children. We adore being with our children, so we didn't think we were sacrificing much. But when our 24th anniversary came around this month, we decided to go out to a new-to-us restaurant that the children didn't want to try. My word! We need to do this more often! I felt a bit of mommy-guilt, but as we talked about our goals for the future, about how things might be changing and how to handle it, that guilt rolled off. There are conversations that parents need to have without the children present, and sometimes those conversations happen best when we're not even in the same location.

The best time to try a new restaurant is on a Monday night. The restaurant we tried has live music and a party atmosphere on the weekends. That is not our type of thing! But on a Monday, it was quiet and we got personalized attention from a lovely server who had a beautiful three-month-old baby at home. {She had no problem with my request for half-unsweet half-sweet tea with lemon and kept my glass full the entire evening!} I could have done without the TVs spread throughout, but the volume was turned way down, so they didn't distract. Apart from the TVs, the ambiance was amazing and the food was excellent.

Each year, my yearning for cooler temperatures comes stronger and sooner. This month, we've still had daytime temperatures in the 80's and even some 90's. By mid-September, I'm dreaming of sweaters and quilts. Apple cider and pumpkin bread just don't taste the same when it's hot outside. All who live in the South have my sympathies. Don't tell anyone, but I'm praying for lots of snow and cold this winter.

Decluttering still brings sweet relief and peace. When we began The Great Purge of 2015 {which has now extended into 2016}, I had no idea how much we had accumulated that other {sometimes well-meaning} people had foisted on us. My time spent decluttering has dropped significantly, and sometimes I only have a few minutes each day. But I'm seeing that each area needs a second sweep. What blessing to get rid of excess!

I still really like print books. I blogged about this debate a little while ago, e-book versus print book, and when I do buy a book, I mostly buy for kindle now because of the whole decluttering thing. But a couple of days ago, I picked up a print book I’d had on my shelf for a year {a Christmas book from last year}. It felt SO GOOD in my hands. By the way, it’s a Christmas book. Is it possible to start reading Christmas stories too early?

What have you learned in September?

Lilla Rose has two great specials right now!

Free shipping on retail orders over $40 -- October 1 - October 2 at midnight!

Shop my Lilla Rose website HERE

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Our Homeschool School Room in the New House

We have never had a *proper* school room. Quite frankly, I never had the desire for one. We were homeschooling. Although I can see the benefit of organizing everything in one place, I've never wanted to even resemble the public school classroom. 

But then we designed and built a home, and some asked me if I was going to have a school room. 

The short answer is no.

The long answer is that school happens everywhere for us, and I don't want learning to be confined to a particular area. I don't want the children to think that learning happens only at a particular desk or table or space and when they leave that space they don't have to learn anymore. We love our flexibility, so our school is constantly flowing throughout the house.

I know what you're thinking. 

Homeschooling + flexible location X big family = MESS.

Yes, that is sometimes true. However, in our quest to declutter and downsize our possessions, I scanned all of our curriculum...everything except textbooks. I don't know why I didn't think of it sooner! Now, all of our paper materials fit in one short bookcase. 

Okay, sometimes there's a mess.

We don't do a lot of crafts, but we do keep our tubs of crayons, colored pencils, and markers in a hall closet with our games and puzzles. We also keep rulers, scissors, glue sticks, etc. in a drawer.

So where DO we do school?

Anywhere. Everywhere.

At the dining room table.

On the floor. On the sofa.

School on the top bunk. {But only books, not electronic devices.}

We have two laptops for the children to access lesson plans, quizzes, and tests. They're set up fairly close to each other in high traffic areas in our house. {Yes, we have strong parental controls on the laptops, plus I can see them from where I typically sit.}

Sometimes, when necessary, we school in the van or in a common area at the college where the 16yo is taking her dual enrollment class.

We LOVE this aspect of homeschooling...roaming about, changing our scenery to change our perspective or perk up our mood.

Do you have a homeschool room? Where do you homeschool?

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