traditions: memorial day

It’s funny how we’ve tried so hard to create traditions for Advent, Christmas, Easter, birthdays etc in our family, but have done next to nothing for days like today. Today is Memorial Day and both sides of our families have a rich history of serving in the armed forces. I think because it never really effected our lives growing up or our lives right now, we tend to forget how many of our family members fought for our country; some of them even giving their lives.


This Memorial Day we decided to change that. We woke up early and drove the drive out to my father-in-laws grave and had the kids plant flags at his graveside. We met up with an uncle that we never see and realized how precious time is and how much we take it for granted. We were reminded how there is family out there that we don’t pursue and family out there that we don’t share with our children for all sorts of reasons.


My father-in-law never knew his son and obviously will never know me or our children, but his service to our country and his giving of his life is an important lesson that we need to celebrate and teach our children to respect and honor.

So for him, for all our uncles and for my dad I say “we celebrate you” and the service you gave.

Happy Memorial Day!

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school’s out for the summer…almost

Now that I have the roaring head banging song in your head, I present to you our summer plans. I do a great job of making it look like I have it all together and this summer is no different. This is the last week of school and so I’m hurriedly trying to paste all my last minute ideas together so that next Tuesday (because Monday is a holiday) we are ready and going.

One thing we will do this week is have a “yes” day. I implemented this day as the first and last day of any vacation that we have. It’s a no holds bar kind of day where you can cram your head with as much technology and anything else (within reason) because after that we are on a schedule.

Last year we had this crazy magnet thing that I had come up with. While we kind of held it together in the beginning,  it pretty much all fell apart after a few weeks. It was a little bit too lax and the follow through wasn’t happening.

After spending Christmas vacation with one child who seriously needs some sort of schedule and me realizing that I am going to have to still work on the shop this summer, I knew we would have to have some sort of framework.

summer 2013

So this is what I came up with. A loose schedule filled with assigned days for things and different themed hours in our house. One thing I know that could easily overtake us is technology, so we are going to be very rigorous on this one. Both of my kids are getting to the age where if they are bored they want a screen. Not gonna happen this summer. We also have this Apologia science book that we’ve been talking about doing for at least 2 years and I swear we are going to do some of it this summer. So this is the lay of the land.

1. We have a family calendar hanging up that we will mark off the days as we go. This gives everyone a heads up for what is coming up that is planned for.
2. We have assigned days for things: Monday mornings we will have a chore time. They will be assigned one weekly chore that they will do on Monday mornings. Wednesdays is movie afternoon. Hopefully this helps with the “I want to watch a movie” whines. Friday mornings we will hit the library.
3. We will be unplugged between 8:30 and 1:00. No questions asked. I’m also trying to get rid of the t.v. as soon as you wake up habit. If they do wake up before 8:30, then PBS is totally fine, but if you wake up later than that….too bad.
4. We will have a loose structure to our day: breakfast, school time, work time for me with play time for them, lunch and then the tech hour. During this hour they are free to have whatever screen they desire: Ipod, Ipad, computer, Leapster, Wii…whatever. And then quiet hour. My hope is to have 30 minutes of reading time for all of us and then 30 minutes of quiet time in their rooms. This is more for my sanity than theirs! Then we will hit the pool 🙂
5. Obviously there are days where this won’t happen and to be honest we only have 4 weeks this summer that are totally open (we go to school year round so we have a pretty short summer). But these weeks we are “down” I hope will be pretty routine.

summer 2013

The second thing I did was our bucket list. I have a bunch of things I’ve pinned on my Summer2013 board and many of these ideas came from there. The idea for the mock chemistry board came from here.

summer 2013

I did ours a little differently and color coded the post it notes for free activities (pink), those that involve money (yellow), those that involve planning (blue) and a couple of open spots (green).

I have a tendency to be too structured and then never follow through, so I tried really hard to make this whole thing be a system of guidelines for us. Giving us all space for summer life to happen, but also a little roadmap for those of us that crave that sort of thing.

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thredUp beware


A few years ago I saw a review of a company called ThredUp. The concept was simple. Fill up a box of gently used clothing and then list those items and other parents were able to review all the different boxes and chose one. I did this at least 3-4 times and never had a complaint about the clothing that I had sent in. And while I had a few duds in some of my boxes, for the most part it was all represented accurately.

Recently their company decided to do away with the swapping boxes idea and become somewhat of an online consignment store. The idea is you send in a bag of clothes to them, they go through them and then chose the ones that meet their criteria and give you credit for them. You can go to their website, use their iPad app and shop for clothes online. Simple right?

I thought I would give it a try. I have a local consignment store that I love, but it’s 30 minutes from my house. The idea that I could just fill up a bag, leave it on my step for the postal worker was rather appealing. I ordered my little green dotted bag, filled it up with clothes that I would have normally taken to my local shop and waited.
And waited. And waited.

Finally I heard back from the company that I had received a whopping 80 cents for the one shirt out of 20+ items that they decided met their criteria. I was told the rest of the items were stained or ripped. Totally untrue.

After doing a little nosing around on the internet, I found blog after blog where people had written great reviews about the items they had received from ThredUp (for free to review), but comment after comment about situations like mine. They even have a multitude of complaints to the Better Business Bureau for the same thing.

So, while ThredUp may be a great place to buy clothing…DO NOT send in your clothes there. Support your local consignment store, do a clothing swap with friends, heck give that bag of clothes to someone in your community that needs them. But stay clear of that little green polka dotted bag.

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my daily diet

I came across a new blog a few weeks ago called Gospel Grace. She had written a few posts that really sparked my heart and honestly gave words to the frustrations that I often feel. One post was called You Do Not Belong to Your Children – You Belong to Christ and the other was A Definition of Christ-Centered Motherhood. They are well written and worth a read or two or three!

In one of these posts she used the phrase “our daily diet,” asking the question what or who are we feasting on daily? I had to stop at that point. When I started to ask myself, “what am I feasting on daily?” and “where do I go to feast when I need a ‘snack break’?” I was snapped  awake. I don’t go to Jesus. I don’t go to His word and center myself back on Him. I often go to Facebook, to Pinterest, to my blog to check stats or to etsy to see if anyone has favorited anything. I take all these things in and try to measure myself against them. I am measuring myself against the world and it’s standards. I am filling my mind and thoughts up with things that I can’t even begin to measure up against.

I can do all sorts of things to try and make myself think I am a godly wife and mother. I can sit and ignore my housekeeping so that I am playing with my children (because that is what “good” mothers do) , I can make a great chore chart for my kids to instill responsibilities in them and make them better children (ha!), I can pull my kids out of public school and homeschool again because that will save them and show others that I am truly godly (as if), but all of that is false. None of these things are going to make me a better mother. They are going to stress me out and cause me to shift my focus onto myself, my family, my children and give me a false sense of faith.

In her posts, Luma Simms reminds us that my “view of mothering needs to comes as a consequence of a heart sold out to Jesus, where I am centering my priorities, my schedule, my desires and the totality of my life around my Savior. Not around my children, not around doing the works of a godly woman, nor, dare I say, around my husband.” I would add that my view of mothering, my daily diet, need not revolve around checking the status of others, checking the responses to my writing or measuring myself up against all these other families that I feel like have it all together.

I long to make a change. A change in which my children see their mother feasting more on God’s word than on the computer screen. I long for my husband to see a wife that is centered in Christ and that her responses are a reflection of time spent with Him instead of a wife weary and wiped out from trying to measure herself up against everyone else.

But in all that, there is the reminder that I am fallen. While I won’t cling to my sinfulness as an excuse for my mistakes, I am no joyful Julie who thinks that if I just take my eyes off the screen and on onto my Bible that I won’t scream at my children in five minutes or get angry with my husband for leaving his socks out in the middle of the family room floor. But I do know that every minute I spend with Him, is one more step closer to losing myself and gaining more of Him. And honestly, the less of me the better.

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responsibilities, contributions & expectations


Post Updated June 12, 2018

I decided to update this post a little bit based on constant feedback I keep getting from this post all these years later. This little girl is now about to enter 6th grade and the boy is about to be a freshman. I can tell you that my philosophy on raising children, making charts and all that has changed – but not super radically. I can look back at these posts and see plenty of things I would have changed, but plenty of things that I probably might do the same. This if/then chart is one of them. I might revamp my consequences (but knowing my kids for 6 more years obviously helps in knowing now what might have worked better for them – hindsight is always clearer, right?) At the request of many, I have updated the chart below and made it pdf where the consequences are blank – you can either type or write them in and it’s finally available in my Etsy shop here.


I was a special education teacher for nearly 10 years. One thing that was constantly remarked to me was that I never gave up trying something for something better. If something wasn’t working, I modified it or scrapped it and tried something else. That tenaciousness has carried over into my parenting and home life. I’m constantly drafting and changing all sorts of things in our house. (which drives my husband crazy) Sometimes it’s because it’s not working, sometimes it’s boredom and sometimes it’s because I saw something that might work better.

I came up with this if/then chart a while ago and I’ve tweaked it many times since. Lately some things have happened in our home that have made us realize that this chart really wasn’t working for us and we were going to need to radically change some of the consequences. We’ve really figured out what consequences were working with our children, what were exacerbating the situation and not helping and what areas we really needed to focus on. The primary consequence that works with both our children is a removal from the situation. They both just need that time to collect themselves before they can listen and enter back into family life. My husband and I also just needed help with being on the same page. I came up with some key phrases (maybe like our family mottos?) and verses that would match. (these verses come from Desiring God’s children’s memory verse system we’ve been working through). So here is our updated version:

updated if/then expectations chart

The next big thing I worked on was our new responsibility/contribution system. It will be a few weeks before we get it hung up and all the kinks worked out, but here is a broad picture of it:

new contributions/responsibility charts

Like I mentioned before, I used the idea from here and tweaked it for our family. We basically divided home stuff into two categories: responsibilities (you do these because you are a member of this family with no “reward”) and contributions (these are things you can earn money for).

Every day they see their chart:

individual responsibility/contributions charts

There might be extra responsibility things that I add daily and for the contributions there might be specific things they need to do that day (mow the yard) or it might say “pick 2” and they get to choose.

When they choose, they are choosing from this list of contributions:

contribution magnets

As they finish a contribution, they put it on their cookie sheet. At the end of the day, they add up how much money they earned and put it on their time sheet. On Sundays, they are paid their commission for the week.

daily/weekly time sheet and tech boards

Hopefully by next Sunday (their first payday) I will have 3 change purses for each. One for saving, one for giving and one for spending. For my son, who is almost 9, he will be working towards his first savings account deposit. When he saves enough to open his account, he will start putting all his save money in the bank towards a car when he turns 16. For my daughter, who is 5, we are going to decide on one large item that she is saving for. She desperately needs to learn that in order to get something big, you have to wait for it. (patience is not her strong suit!)

The other thing on their cookie sheets are their technology cards. Each Sunday they get a new card with 10 punches equally 45 minutes of plugged in time. When the card is punched out, they are done for the week. No new card until Sunday.

Like I said, we just unveiled the system today, so this week is going to be a trial and error. They’ve known about the tech cards for a while so they thought it was kind of fun. They probably won’t be laughing come Thursday when they are punched out! 🙂 But I won’t be either!

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