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Setting the Stage for Family Friendships

Setting the Stage for Family Friendships


At our house, we talk a lot about our relationships.

They are important to us. And with 8 people living under our roof… there are quite a few relationships going on.

It means a lot to us when family takes time to be friends.

Because it does take time.

And energy.

And kindness.

And understanding.

And compromise.


Relationships work best when both sides are working at them.

When our kids learn to intentionally invest in their siblings and cousins, their aunts and uncles, their parents and grandparents…

they can strive to keep relationships healthy, and reap the benefit of their investments.


Life is short… days fly by… and conversations around the house include dreams of moving out, college, and jobs.

It’s a wake up call to our family that life will not always be like it is today.

With things changing around us all the time, it is important to seize the opportunities we have.

We are not guaranteed tomorrow.


If we want to make friends out of family, it can start today in our home.

As a child, it starts with your siblings and parents.

As a parent, it starts with your partner and your children.


In our house, we remind our kids often that they have choices.

Every day they choose where they will invest their time and energy.

There is no guarantee just because we are family that we will be close.

If they want to be close to their siblings, they will have to work on that just like any other relationship.


Here are 6 boundaries that have set the stage for successful friendships in our home:  


1) You don’t have to share.

Yes. You really don’t. If it is yours, you have the right to never loan it out or share half of it.

You also have an opportunity to show your love by choosing to share. But it is really up to you.

Some things we just rather not share. And that is ok.


2) You may not use your words or body to bully or mistreat your family.  

Our home will be a safe and encouraging place.

If there is one group of people you should feel accepted and protected by, it is your family.

This home has a NO BULLY tolerance.

It is NOT ok to hurt your family physically or emotionally just because they know you well, you live with them, or it’s “normal.”

Things said are hard to forget.

Even when forgiven.

So make it easy on your friendship with your family… think before you speak.


3)  You need to ask to use each other’s property.

And if they say, “No”… that is the answer.

That goes for small and big things.  Food and clothing.

Electronics and computers.

Treat each other with respect!


4) If you break or lose it ~ fix or replace it.

Have the same respect you would for any one else’s property outside of our family.

It’s amazing how many times you don’t borrow something when you know you might have to replace it if it is ruined or lost.

You also take better care of it when you do borrow it.


5) Do not expect a family member to do something for you just because you asked.

This was a difficult thing for me to learn.  I am a people pleaser.

But over the years, I’ve finally given myself permission to say, “No,” and for my family to say “no” to each other.

When “yes” isn’t expected, it changes the dynamic.

This provides opportunities in our home to serve and show love.  And it allowed for us to be honest and show sacrifice.

It makes us appreciate the yes’s more.  And keeps us constantly prioritizing our days to fit in the most important stuff.


    6) Be aware in shared space 

Shared spaces in our home exist in almost every room.

Between 8 people we share 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.

That’s a lot of opportunities to become friends or enemies.

Leave things better than you found them has become one of our house rules.

Thinking of those coming behind us is a way to show kindness.

Practically ~ that means replacing the toilet paper, washing and putting away dishes,

wiping down countertops, putting remotes back, being aware of how loud your music is,

getting your laundry out the dryer, taking out the trash when it is overflowing, etc.


These boundaries have given our kids a start at building strong relationships.

Boundaries have helped them as they’ve gotten older and their need for privacy and space has grown. 


But it is a stage.

It is up to them to act.

We’ve done years of rehearsing during those early years.

Showing the end of choices gone bad…

Encouraging choices that lead to happy endings.

We still give some cues from the sides of the stage,

and looks and whispers to remind them of the story they chose.

But, really…

It’s up to them to build their own relationships.  and so far… I am liking what I see.


I see my kids ask each other to borrow things.

I see my kids explain why they can’t do something or don’t want to lend something out.

I see them ask their siblings to not eat the snacks they just bought. And their siblings respect their wishes.

I also see them get upset at a sibling and ask for them to give them some time to cool down.

I see them spend their money to buy their siblings drinks on a trip.

I see them share their special art supplies, their earbuds, and their electronics.

I see them share their clothes with each other and thank them for letting them use them.

I see them choose to spend time with their younger siblings on their day off doing something special.

I see them spending money, time, energy, and effort to grow closer to each other.


These basic boundaries have given them space to build their relationships on love, respect, and kindness.

and as I was reminded on the netflix show Derek recently…

“It’s more important to be kind than clever.” and

“Kindness is like magic.”


We need some “magic” back in our families. I’m not talking about making life easy, all play, and catering to every whim.

I am talking about kindness and respect.

They aren’t outdated.

And not always, but often we get what we give out.

How about you? Do you have a practice or boundary in your home that helps with sibling friendships?

Is there a kindness that you have seen your child do for a family member lately, that encouraged you?

I love to hear from you!


Thank you!

Thank you!


I just wanted to send a thank you to all of you who shared our kid’s book, James and the Big Battle: A Children’s Book about Allergies, this past week with your friends and family.

It was exciting to have over 1,400 new families download the book for FREE! That is worthy of a HaPPy DaNcE!

If you happened to be one of the families that downloaded the book, we’d love for you to take a few minutes and give it a review on Amazon.

Thank you for doing that!

We are wrapping up our school week here at the Burns’ household.  Ending a 5th, 6th, 8th, 9th, and 12th grade year!!!!

Lots of testing, math workbook shredding, and cheers going on around here!

Anything exciting going on in your neck of the woods?

We’d love to hear from you!

Hope you have a GREAT week!

Weird Things People Say To Allergy Parents


Humans say the weirdest stuff sometimes.

Especially about parenting.

Add health issues into it, and boy, the advice and comments go to a new level of weird.

People you don’t know  are quick to give you home remedies, potions and lotions, and the latest medical advice they read off the internet.

Having two kids with life threatening allergies to nuts has given us 17 years of hearing people say some weird things.

Here are a few examples:


1) Shaking their head they say,  “I just couldn’t do it.”


Of course you could. That’s what parents do!

Now, I understand what you meant to say.

It was probably something like:

“Man, I’ve never had to deal with food allergies, so I don’t really understand all that goes into it.

That must take a lot of extra work. 

My parent heart goes out to you as you deal with this. What can I do to be a help?”

I am sure this is closer to what you meant.


2)”Oh, I couldn’t live without peanut butter!”


Our choice was a no-brainer – “They can’t live WITH it!”

It’s actually quite easy to stop eating peanut butter when you’ve seen anaphylaxis happen to your precious kiddo.

It really isn’t a hard choice. At all.

Let me guess, what you probably meant was something along the lines of…


Is there something he CAN have instead?

Has he tried sunbutter made from sunflower seeds? It is so delicious!”

By the way, THANK YOU, Sunbutter!

You have found your way into our kitchen and our hearts!



3) “Here comes Bubble Boy.” or “Here comes Peanut Boy.”


Do you remember what it felt like to be called “metal mouth” or “four eyes?”

These are words that can stick with you forever.

Why label a child based on his physical difference?

Words can hurt deeply. A person can feel like a bother or unlikeable.

But I understand.

I know you meant to point out is that you see how serious the issue is.

And it must be hard emotionally when there are events they can’t participate in because there ISN’T a safe option.

And how much you care.

That’s what you meant, right? You weren’t really calling him names.

You were just a bit awkward about the whole allergy thing, and said something before you thought.

I get it.


4) “You should have fed him nuts when he was little.”


Um… that’s what we did… and they had very BAD reactions. That is how we knew they are allergic.

Maybe you are referring to all the new information that is going around about exposing our children to nut products at an early age.

And I know you mean well… probably wishing that by exposing our child to nuts we could have avoided 17 years of now having to avoid nuts. 

You were just trying to be helpful. 

But in our case, it actually DIDN’T work out that way. We had peanut butter and other nut products as a staple in our home.

And even if it does work for some kids, it sounds like it is too late for mine.

Thanks for trying though.


5) “Back when I was a kid, we all ate peanut butter.

I never even heard of anybody being allergic. I don’t know what the big deal is.  

I think parents nowadays are just being over protective.”


I have not had someone say this to me, thankfully.

I HAVE read complaints like this on social media and listened to people talk about it unknowingly in front of me.

My response is: I am truly sorry my child’s anaphylaxis is a bother to you.

It kind of bothers him too. In fact, if I could, I would make it all go away.

But at this time, there isn’t that option.

I am sure if you took a moment to put yourself in the shoes of any parent out there that deals with the fear of anaphylaxis,

you wouldn’t mind being bothered.

In fact, you would understand that just eating your peanut butter away from that child is an opportunity for you to show that you do care.

Oh, and washing your hands afterwards will show it even more!

Thank you for taking the time to do that random act of kindness.

For all the little kids out there that can’t thank you yet…



6) With eyes opened wide, “What DOES he eat?”


I know you didn’t mean to sound so depressing.

And until you have a diet limitation you really CAN’T understand it totally.

It takes an abundance of creativity, lots of planning, and reading, and re-reading of labels.

We find a new line of allergen free foods and do happy dances in the grocery aisle. :)

We find 20 different ways to combine the ingredients we CAN eat.

And we explore and learn to substitute ingredients, becoming scientists in the kitchen.

Yes, it’s hard, sometimes overwhelming work. But it can be done.


So I do understand. You were just showing compassion and empathy. 

 And compassion and empathy are GOOD things! 


So you see, sometimes people say some weird things. I know I have!


To be honest, I would rather have someone ask me about living with allergies, 

even if it seems nosey or insensitive,

because awareness of the issue is a piece of the solution.


The more we share our stories, the more people are aware and can help prevent anaphylaxis from happening.


The more we show compassion and understanding towards food allergies, we lessen the social stigma of having them.


So… Thank you for your weird comments. (most of them, anyways.)

You were trying to show you noticed.

And for that, I thank you.


This month is National Allergy and Asthma Awareness month in the USA, sponsored by AAFA (Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America).

To join in spreading awareness, I have a book for kids about allergies and would love to share a kindle copy with you FREE this week, May 12-16!!!

James and the Big Battle : A Children’s Book about Allergies is written for all ages, but especially for pre-school through 5th grade. It is an illustrated fiction adventure story inspired by the real life struggles of living with allergies that our 10 year old son, Christopher, has dealt with since he was just a baby.

It’s a great way to start the conversation about allergies, asthma, inhalers, and epi-pens in homes, classrooms, and daycares. It includes a link to free color pages and other printable worksheets to continue the topic.

Let me know what you think! On Amazon you will have an opportunity to write a review. Thank you for doing that! Christopher and I do a happy dance when we hear of another family or class reading our book.

GET YOUR FREE ebook copy this week at,

facebook JBB free days May 12-16-2

7 Ways to Convince Your Kids That You Care

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(*Guest post by Mike Burns who blogs at The Other Side of Complexity about living well and focusing on what’s most important.)


As parents, we care deeply about our children, and we want them to know it! But sometimes they don’t seem to be convinced.

Years ago, I heard a statement that has been validated over and over again in my own personal experience:

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

It’s true in most every relationship.

As parents, we have the responsibility of guiding our children into healthy adulthood. If we want them to trust us and hear what we have to say, they have to know that we really do care.

If you told me I could only use one word to summarize how you can show your kids that you care, I’d choose the word TIME.

But time alone won’t do it. You can spend lots of time saying and doing the wrong things. That’s not helpful. So it’s not JUST time.

But the things I recommend below do require a significant investment of your time. But it’s worth it! What’s more important than loving our kids and making sure they’re convinced of our love?

Here are seven recommendations for convincing your kids that you care:

1- Listen to them.

We have to make sure we slow down and listen to what’s going on in their lives. Some kids are more talkative than others. But everyone wants to be heard. Everyone wants to be known. Even if they seem closed at first, they still want someone to understand them.

You can’t do that if you don’t take time to let them talk. Even when you think you know what they’re gonna say. Let them say it. You won’t always be able to choose when it happens, so you have to have some margin in your schedule to allow for those opportune moments. Take them when you can get them!

At times, I get frustrated when my kids want to talk during times when I had other plans. I have to remind myself that those conversations are precious, and I have to cherish them. I have to reschedule other things and accommodate these talks whenever possible. They will talk to someone. Make sure you’re on that list.

2- Learn about what they love.

If they have a hobby, learn something about it. If they like a certain style of music, learn to appreciate it. If they like to watch action movies, learn the names of the actors they love. If they’re into My Little Pony, ask about which one is which.

You don’t have to share their same preferences, but we will miss out on tremendous opportunities if we don’t learn something about the things that they love. This will give you common ground for communication. It also shows them that you care about the things they care about.

3- Play with them.

This probably seems obvious, but it’s so easy to neglect. The time goes by so quickly! When was the last time you read them a book? When was the last time you played basketball, or a video game or freeze tag? Play is so important. It’s important for your kids to see you play with them. It’s important for you to play for your own health. Go have fun with them! Do something crazy! They will love it!

4- Help them pursue their passions.

One of the things that stands out as much as anything else in my childhood is the fact that my parents always supported my passions. I was into skateboarding for about 5 years. I lived for it. I loved it. My parents did all that they could to make sure I had time, resources and opportunities to do what I loved. They took me to skateparks, camped out, held a camera, and whatever else they could do to help me pursue my passion. For that, I am incredibly grateful.

There is no question in my mind that my parents care about me and love me. I want the same for my kids. I want to help them find out what they love and then pursue it. My resources are limited, but I want them to know I’ll do what I can to join them on the journey.

5- Help them connect with their friends.

Many parents seem to try to keep their kids from their friends. We can’t ignore the influence that our kids’ friends have on their lives. It’s huge! That’s why they need friends! Help them find friends and then work to make sure they have time to spend with them.

Is it inconvenient? Yes. But they need to learn how to choose and maintain relationships. Kids love their friends. Let’s get to know their friends and show our kids that we also care about the people that they care about.

6- Give up something you care about so they can have something they care about.

If we want to show that we care, we have to give up some things. Sometimes it can be as small as allowing them to have control of the remote when were going to watch something else. Other times, we may have to make considerably large sacrifices to allow them to do something they need to do. When we give up something, it’s putting our actions behind our words.

7- Make it clear that you have their best interests in mind.

I want my kids to know that I make my decisions with their best interests in mind. I’m not just doing what’s convenient for me. I’m trying to help them have the best life they can. If they know that your rules, guidelines, conversations, choices are all made for the best outcomes in their lives, they will know that you care about them.

This is just a short list to get us thinking.

What things would you recommend for convincing our kids that we care?


*Photo: Tim Samoff (CC)

Does Your Home Stink?

Does your home stink?

Do you have the problem of getting your kids to take a shower?


Am I the only mom on the planet that has had to deal with this issue?

Almost everyone of my kids have had seasons where they actually had to be told:


You would think they would smell themselves… the rest of the family can! :)

I love it when they look at me with those big eyes and sincerely ask, “Why?”

How often they can’t smell their own stink… because they are just “used to it.”


Sometimes our HOME has a stench.

And sometimes we can’t smell it… cause we are just “used to it.”

Have you ever left for a few hours, and when you walked back in the door noticed a bad smell?

Sometimes being with the same people for long periods of time, hinders us to smell the stench coming from our interactions with each other.

We find ourselves treating those we love the very most… the very worst. 


The sweet smell of friendship between family is often exchanged for criticism, negativity, and competitiveness. 


Tension, anger, bickering, selfishness … can turn an otherwise pleasant smelling home into a stinkin’ mess.

This “stink” can come from looks full of resentment and disdain,

or maybe it’s a HUGE stinky problem in the room that has been piling up for awhile!

Sometimes it only takes one person to set this stinky tone.

If I only have so many more trips around the sun than I want to spend a lot of them in a home that smells good. One where people love each other, show respect, and work on their relationships. 


Fact: There are 8 people that live in my home.  All between the ages of 10-40.

That is a lot of potential stink!!!

As a parent I make it my job to search out the problems that are causing the house to stink, and look for solutions to that problem.

Sometimes that person is me! Often a physical shower is what I need to “wash my meanness off.” Showers are magic! ;)

And I have 7 other people in my house that aren’t scared to point it out. :)

Here are a few of the STINKIN’ ATTITUDE culprits:

  • Bullying
  • Bickering
  • Complaining about food
  • Complaining about work
  • Name calling to be mean (I clarify, cause in our house name calling is more of endearment than being mean.)
  • Not willing to talk through a problem
  • Not letting someone explain what they meant
  • Getting upset when someone won’t let you use their things
  • Sharing private information
  • Laziness
  • Pride
  • Rudeness
  • Temper tantrum when things don’t go your way

These stinking culprits tend to sneak in and need to be exposed on a regular basis.

The stink tends to be contagious and spreads so easily from person to person.

By getting rid of them BEFORE they spill all over the house, spreading their stench… we keep the damage contained.  

By catching it in the early stages, the clean up is so much easier and quicker.

What to do when you notice a stinky attitude: 

  1. Kindly point out the stinky attitude. (or bluntly- sometimes our kids just don’t get the subtle hint!)
  2. Listen to why the child is feeling or acting this way. (Sometimes it takes a little bit of patience to get to the REAL problem festering under the surface.)
  3. Show compassion and understanding. Relate to them if you can. (Are you a hugger? Maybe your child is… it’s good to figure that out!)
  4. Give them time and tools to deal with their attitude. (Different problems require different solutions)
  5. Offer to help them if they want it. (Sometimes they just want to work it out alone!)

A bottle of forgiveness and a bar of love are wonderful attitude cleaners.

So are compassion, understanding, patience, and laughter. 

They can get out the toughest stinks.

With hard work and love, your home can have some sweet smelling days…

And boy, is it worth it!

How about you?  Have you ever had a problem with your kids wanting to take a physical shower? 

What is something YOU do for YOU to get rid of a “stinky attitude?”  Do you need alone time?  Do you exercise? Do you shower? Do you hide in the closet? :) 

Share in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!


Check out our book page HERE: 

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4 Ways to Save



Do you feel like it is always grocery shopping day?

Do you daily get a news flash that “10” doesn’t doesn’t have any socks to wear, or “16” just ran out of hairspray?

“Mom, next time you are out, can you get me a new toothbrush?” or “Dad, on your way home from work will you stop and get the rabbit some food?”

I feel you!

I am always looking for ways to make our money stretch to cover all the needs and wants of our growing family of 8.

I have noticed there are 4 things I do on a regular basis that increase my ability to make our supplies last longer and our money stretch farther.

Do you do these things too?


I ration food when I serve meals. I teasingly tell the kids I am the “food police.” By letting my kids know what their portion size is when I serve “countable items” like nuggets or tots, I help them make serving choices based on the food available and the amount of people eating the meal. I often serve the food to make sure everyone gets some. If it is buffet style I just tell them. It’s more about teaching the kids to “be kind to those who come behind,” and to be aware of how many people are eating and how much there is to eat. These are both life skills that will be helpful to them in the future.

I ration snacks.  When I make cookies I let the kids know how many they can have. When I buy yogurts or popsicles or mandarine oranges… there is a daily limit.  I’m sure you get the idea. Basically if the food is countable and something the kids won’t naturally self-limit (cause of their deliciousness)  I do it for them. This allows our groceries to last from one shopping day to the next. It also helps with eating a healthy mix of foods and not filling up with just one thing.

I ration extra food that I buy because of a great sale I found. ( Right now I have about 12 bags of chocolate chips tucked away.) Out of sight, out of mind.  If I put all of them in the spot I normally keep chocolate chips, they would be used up quickly just because they are there.

I ration extra toiletries like lotion, air fresheners, soap, toothpaste, etc. If I leave them all out in the open, they are used up faster. I’ve learned that our family will use things sparingly when they are not as accessible. Paper towels are one of the worst items for this. If there is a roll out on the counter, it is gone before the day is over. Anyone else have this problem?

I ration extra socks.  My kids will use and lose their socks as fast as I give them to them. When I buy a new pack, I keep half of the new pack up in a baggie in my closet.  (My closet is my safest, off limits place from the kids!:)

2) WRITE (or type)

I write grocery lists.  Shopping from a grocery list keeps me on track and on budget.  Anytime I forget my list, my end result is ALWAYS forgetting something.  I spend less money too when I stick to my list.

I write clothing need lists. Keeping a list of current needs and sizes helps me so much when I get out and shop at yard sales and thrift stores. I often keep it on my phone and update it as I purchase things.

I write party needs lists.  By making a shopping list a few weeks ahead, I can shop sales and a few different stores to find affordable and unique decor. If I don’t have a list, I tend to buy more than I need or forget really important things.

Most things I can put on my phone. Having it with me everywhere I go, I am able to quickly add or delete items we need without having to dig a list out of my purse (which might not even be with me at the moment.).


I read the sale ads. From the comfort of my home I can visit all the stores and get a grasp of where to find the best deals. With the convenience of online, I don’t even have to get the sale ads delivered. I can go to each of their websites and even upload coupons to my loyalty card for their store. So convenient.

I read a few money saving blogs. Some of my favorites are  and By using the hard work done by these  fantastic bloggers, you can also find out the best deals for each store. Guest blog posts written by families with money saving tips in areas you are struggling in, are available for no cost to you. Take advantage of this wealth of knowledge! Knowledge can be POWER!

I read my receipts. I find coupons and rewards on and with my receipts each month. I’ve earned money off of gasoline just for doing my normal shopping filling my tank for just $1 a gallon. I also get coupons for dollars off my next shopping order.  I also catch when things don’t ring up properly. I try to ask at the beginning of the order if I have an item that is a questionable item.  By reading my receipt, I am able to save a little more.

I read the fine print.  One of the things I’ve learned the hard way is to read the fine print on coupons, deals, advertisements, etc. I don’t like planning a night out and finding out the “deal” I thought I had, isn’t being accepted by that restaurant. Reading the fine print has helped out when we were challenged by an employee on using a certain freebie or coupon. When I could show them their deal in writing, and treat them respectfully, they have responded with acceptance.  I’ve learned the fine print will save me money, time, frustration, and from feeling pretty dumb! :)

4) ASK 

I ask if there are any coupons or specials. There have been times I forgot to bring a coupon to a restaurant.  Just by asking, they have given me the discount. Restaurants often have coupons on their website.  Check out sites like,, and when you are looking to buy something.

I ask if there is any discount available as loyal customers.  We’ve received information with our phone and insurance bills a few times that suggested that we might save by calling and asking for a discount. Weirdly enough… we did and got it! :)

I ask if I don’t understand my insurance coverage on my monthly statement. Recently I got a statement that showed about $700 that wouldn’t be covered. I didn’t understand why it wasn’t covered and called my insurance company.  As soon as I read the part in question, the agent caught the mistake and took care of it right then.  Another statement had another $80 not covered that should have been. I called again, and again the agent caught the mistake. It was a clerical error from the doctor’s office. In just 30 min I had saved our family about $780.  I think that is pretty good pay for those 30 min.

I ask questions at the doctor’s office. Often the people there that deal with insurance on a regular basis will be happy to help you understand what options you have. I always ask my doctor to check on generics for our medicine before she calls in a medication.

I ask my friends if they are getting rid of or selling an item I am looking for.  Looking for a slightly used couch, or a piece of exercise equipment? Ask. You can help out a friend looking to make a little cash while cleaning out a basement. My in-loves bought us a beautiful bed and side table from a family member as they were trying to get rid of a cabin full of furniture.

I ask my friends if they are looking to buy something I am selling. Do you have an item you are trying to sell? Throw it out there to your friends.  I always find joy in meeting a friend’s need with something I am trying to find a new home for. It’s a win/win.

Do you do any of these things? Do you find yourself hiding certain things away when you get a good deal? :) 

What other things do YOU do to save?

Please share! I’d love to hear from YOU!


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One Essential Money Saving Habit

1 Essential Money Saving Habit-2

It is hard to talk about parenting without sometimes talking about money.

It takes a lot of money to be a parent.  Though it’s worth every cent…

Let’s be honest. It DOES cost.

There are diapers, and bottles, and clothes.  Burp clothes, socks, and blankets.

Then there are pull-ups, more clothes, shoes, socks, coats, toys, and books.

And then comes the celebration when they are potty trained!!!!!!!! One less thing to buy!

When you think you’ve purchased all the shoes you need for awhile, your kid grows 3 shoe sizes seemingly overnight.

Or they put on their pants from last month, and they are now “floods” skimming the tops of their high tops. (Just happened yesterday!)

We need money for health care, education, hobbies, sports, clothing, food… oh, the food bill.

We all know that it never really stops… just slows down every once in a while! :) 


When we got married 19 years ago, I knew the basics of running a household. I had grown up in a frugal household (thank you, Mom!), so I had that in my favor.

But by the time we hit our 9 year anniversary, we had 6 kids.  That required a lot of buying and growing and adjusting.

I had a lot to learn about making our budget stretch to take care of 8 people.

One of the essential money saving habits that I HAD to learn was PLANNING AHEAD.  

Planning ahead seemed overwhelming, and was not my strong skill. 

I quickly learned that when I didn’t plan ahead, I had  bigger bills.  I had less food to work with. I ran out of diapers. I ran out of everything!

As our needs grew, I knew my money saving skills had to also.

Here are a few of the areas in which I HAD to learn to PLAN AHEAD to meet the growing needs in my family.  

Birthdays.   Decorations, gifts, and even food can be bought ahead at good sales. I am always on the lookout for gifts that I can use for upcoming birthdays.

Holidays.   I shop at yard sales for Halloween costumes and Christmas decor. This past year I found a $1 Mad Hatter costume for my 11 year old, and it turned our Halloween into one of the best ones ever. For only $30 I found a gorgeous pre-lit 7 ft Christmas tree, a porch sized Christmas tree, and a little table top one. I start shopping for Christmas in the summer.

Shoes, especially seasonal boots or athletic wear. As the kids feet are growing so quickly, sometimes 3 sizes in a season… I am a bit pickier how many pairs I buy ahead. But when I do find a size match of slightly used or brand new sandals, boots, or sneakers for a $1 or $2 at a yard sale or Goodwill dollar days, I am thrilled. It has helped us save hundreds of dollars over the years on shoes.

Clothing. Recently I spent $25 on a pair of shorts for my youngest, because I waited till he needed them. In fact he needed them that day (always a bad combo) and his dad was heading out the door to shop for something else. We had to buy them at a sports store… full price. YUCK! Not good planning on my part.   We shop on a regular basis at 2nd hand stores on their clearance days, and hit clearance sales and yard sales and are able to get most clothing items for $1.

Meals. Meal planning helps me cut down on waste, using our food wisely.  A quick decision to eat out can cost our family $40 easily. Feeding 4 teens and 2 tweens that eat like adults, plus the two adults that also do… well, it can cost us a lot.    By using my crock pot on busy days, and bringing packed lunches and snacks if we go out,  we’ve saved hundreds of dollars each month on our food budget.

Groceries.  Spending as little as an hour online looking at sale ads and making a list, can save me a hundred dollars. Because of food allergies, I usually need to visit several stores to get the best deals on the brands I need. By planning ahead, I am able to see it all at a glance and make my attack plan.

Entertainment.  By using redbox codes, reserving things through the library, and asking friends to let us borrow them, we can spend almost nothing on movies and books. We can download free ebooks  to read on our computers, iPods, and Kindles. Knowing that a trip is coming up, my kids will download free apps to play and new ebooks to read on the trip. Thinking ahead to a family night, date night, or school needs, we can save hundreds of dollars by planning ahead.

Traveling. and other price comparison websites have helped me save on plane fare, hotels, and car rentals. By purchasing my tickets ahead, watching low fare calendars,  and being flexible in travel time, I have saved hundreds of dollars.


The work it takes to plan ahead in these areas is worth it. I am saving money AND meeting the needs of my family.

When I took the time to learn how to plan ahead in these areas, I saw a change in our incoming/outgoing ratio.  

I know that I still need weekly reminders about money saving tips. That is why I currently read a few blogs that keep me growing in ways I can continue to stretch our hard earned dollars.  Some of my favorites have been,,  and  

By reading money saving blogs, I am able to catch great sales, freebies, and learn about apps and other sites that help me make wise shopping choices.

These websites post lists of FREE ebooks, restaurant freebies, free days at museums and other special events.


 To wrap up this post,  I’d love to share a FREEBIE with you… A FREE download for one of my ebooks.

This Wednesday-Friday, Feb. 11-13, my children’s ebook~ Bored No More: A Children’s Book about Creativity~ will be FREE!

Written with pre-school to 5th graders in mind, this illustrated rhyming story follows Brother and Sis through their discovery of using things they have available at their fingertips to create their own fun.

Included with the download is also some free printables to be used to build their very own Recycle~Bin~Town.

I hope you get your copy of the ebook, and let me know what your kids think!


Also, I would love to hear from you!

Does planning ahead come natural to you? Is there a time you had to spend more than you wanted because you didn’t plan ahead?

What is one of YOUR favorite money saving blogs? Please share!

It’s all about learning from our mistakes… and getting back up when we fall! And sometimes learning from the mistakes of others.  :)


Bored No More Free days_ Twitter





Jen’s homeschool day with a 10, 11, 12, 14, 16 and 17 year old (ambulance included)

Jen's homeschool day

So I don’t write very often about homeschooling.

I never want to come across as the homeschool mom trying to convince everyone that homeschooling is for them.

I know it isn’t!

But I do LOVE talking to people about homeschooling.  It has been a huge part of my life for the past 12 years.

I love to get ideas how people manage the different grades, and how they shape their studies to help their kids follow their passions.

I love to hear how they make science and math fun, and how they get their kids to write and read and create.

I would say the majority of my homeschool days go mostly according to plan (now that my kids are older! ).

We normally have time everyday for math, science, history, and ELA.

But I would like to share with you a day recently that did NOT go according to my plans.


At the beginning of December, we had an invitation to read our kids’ book James and the Big Battle: A Children’s Book about Allergies to a pre-school group at our public library.

We planned to do a lesson of math and make a library day out of the morning, with projects in the afternoon.

But this is what really happened. :)

5:15 Alarm goes off.  Hubby and I groan and see who is going get up first to make the coffee. I think I made it that day.

5:50 Exercise time

6:30 Our oldest two are in the showers getting ready for work. 17 finished school last year, and is now working full time as a content creator for a youtube channel, Cinemasins. 16 has a light enough senior year to work part time, saving for her future.  She is finishing up her high school credits with Korean, English Lit, and math. She will be done this May. She is one of those students to whom you can hand a stack of books, and she asks, “When do you want me to be done with them?” For real.

7:00 Time to wake the rest of our troops. Everyone hustles around making beds, getting dressed, letting Jaxx the rabbit out of his cage to run, and telling each other their dreams. A pretty normal morning.

7:30 Chauffeur time: dropping Hubby and 16 off at work for the day so I can have the car for the library trip.

8:00 Time for school! We need to get our math done before we leave for the library. But hey, let’s make orange smoothies. Naval oranges were on sale this week… and 16 won a new blender at the work Christmas party.  A few minutes of peeling oranges and putting them together with ice in the blender.  Perfectly delicious orange smoothies to go along with a new lesson of math.

8:15  10 is starting to itch. Hives breaking out all over his chin and neck.  I give him Benadryl and take away his orange smoothie glass that is now empty.

8:17  The coughing starts. I get out the inhaler.  10 breathes out and in, trying to get relief.  11, 12, and 14 are a bit distracted from their math lessons.

8:18 Now the nose is running. 10 is complaining his chest is hurting, and I am noticing distress in his eyes.  I get the EPI pen from his backpack he carries for all the nut allergies he has.

8:20 So 10 is now lying on the couch, crying a bit, and trying to breath.  I try to get him to stop crying so he can focus on breathing. I call 9-1-1 and explain that I think 10 is having an anaphylactic reaction. The 9-1-1 operator calls for emergency help as I administer the EPI with 11, 12, and 14 gathered around.  So much for math.  Well, except we all count to 10 as the needle is in his thigh, making sure the epinephrine is administered correctly.

8:40 We are in the back of an ambulance, heading to the ER. Oxygen is giving relief to 10 who is thankfully sucking it down.  The EMT is making jokes about 10 trying to get out of math class. But then he quizzes 10 about doses of Benadryl (and he gets the answers right!)  and mentions that we seemed really prepared for this kind of reaction.  We talk about our history of food and environmental allergies, and 10 gets to share about the book we wrote about allergies this past year.  The same book we were supposed to be reading at the library story time today. The EMT teasingly asks me to homeschool his kids.  I half smile and say, “no thank you.”  I have the shakes by now.

9:00 Hubby shows up in a borrowed company vehicle to be with us at the ER.  The ER doctor gives us reassurance that we did the right thing, and we breathe a sigh of relief as we watch 10 stop coughing and wheezing.

10:00 Still waiting on the steroids,  10 is entertaining himself with flipping through tv. stations saying, “There is nothing good to watch!”

10:15 I call the library and tell them we won’t make it to story time. Of course.

11:00 Dr. gives us the ok to leave after they administer the steroids. Still waiting.

12:00 After 10 swallows a dose of the nastiest tasting medicine on the planet, we are out the door of the ER.  On the way to Walgreens to pick up a refill of EPI pens, we make an ice cream stop.  Poor 10 is starving, and we figured he deserves some comfort food.  We wave to 16 who is working the drive through, and she looks at us confused, wondering why we are in the store mid-day.  She’ll have to hear the story tonight when she is off work.

12:45 We walk in the house and see the math books still opened to the lessons from the morning.  Dad kisses us goodbye, and heads back to work.  I decide to take the first official sick day of the year.  Not bad for being almost 90 days into the school year! We put away the math books and decide a short nap is in order.

2:00 10, 11, and 12 work on a video they are making for their youtube channel, JaxxRabbitOfficial.

3:00 11 and 12 clean out their rabbit’s cage. 10 is still feeling a little vulnerable and decides to read.

4:00 Time for supper prep.  I am so thankful for salads. I chop veggies, and wonder why 10 broke out from oranges after eating them the past 10 years. We already deal with allergies to soy, peanuts, tree nuts, and coconut. Sounds like time to schedule an allergist visit.

4:30 Chauffeur time again.  We leave to pick up 16 and Hubby.  10 tells 16 all about his adventures that morning.  And how ironic it was that we supposed to be reading our allergy book at the library this morning… and ended up in the ER instead.

5:15 17 comes in the door, and 10 tells his story again.  We all eat supper with a bit of soberness and thankfulness. We talk a lot in our house about having only so many days in this life. In fact, Hubby and I both have that phrase as tattoos.  We are a goofy fun-loving family with a bit of frank reality mixed in.   We all express words of relief that things turned out as well as it did.  Extra hugs passed around tonight.

6:00 After supper I feel the stress of the day kick in. I can barely keep my eyes open. I tell the family I need some time alone.  I kiss everyone goodnight, and curl up with a book. I send a few texts to friends about what happened, and find strength in their concern.

8:00 Lights out for everyone. Hubby gets all the kids settled for the night and crawls in bed with me. We cuddle and talk about how thankful we are that we are in a place to be able to homeschool our kids.  We started homeschooling 12 years ago because we moved in the middle of a school year.  I was a teacher, and wanted to try it. Every year since then we have looked at our situation and decided according to what we thought is best. Each year is new and fresh with new needs and goals.  At this time of our life, homeschooling is working really well. Even on the worst of days.

So I end with this…  Please don’t take from this post that I think everyone should homeschool.

I am just expressing how thankful I am that I live at a time and in a place where I have the freedom to do so.

and how in the end… no matter how we choose to educate our children… 

We only have so many days with each one of them. 

Let’s spend them well.  Loving them. Cherishing them. Preparing them for life.

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A Letter to my Boss

A letter to my Boss-2



Hey, SELF, just in case you don’t remember: I work for you. 

Yes, you.

And as my boss I need you to give me a few things.


I need you to give me permission to say “NO.” Even if it messes with everyone’s expectations.

I need you to give me some time off.  Time to get away from the kids and the house and the day-to-day normal.

I need you to give me some time to sleep.  Stop demanding that I stay up late to have that perfectly clean house or do those projects you overcommitted me to.

I need you to give me some time to exercise. I know, it seems too much to ask. But I need it! It relieve stress. It gives me energy. It give me confidence.

I need you to give me some time to eat a healthy meal. Stop expecting me to live on goldfish, coffee, and pop tarts. Give me something to nourish my body.

I need you to give me sick days. When is the last time you let me really be sick. In bed. Hiding under the covers all day long?

I need you to give me days where I don’t accomplish anything other than love my kids. Isn’t that what this time of life is all about anyways?

I need you to give me control of my schedule. Let me set my priorities. Stop letting everyone else do it for me.

I need you to give me time to go to bed early or take a nap if I need it. Who said naps or early bed times are for wimps?

I need you to give me the same grace you give everyone else. You dish out grace freely, understanding why others aren’t perfect. HELLO! I am human too!

I need you to give me permission to take compliments.  Stop pushing away the compliments! If my hair looks nice, just smile and say, “Thank you!”

I need you to give me credit where credit is due. If I did a good job, well… stop focusing on the little mess-ups and look at the success!

I need you to give me time to recharge. Even robots need recharging!

I need you to give me permission to have a hobby. Stop putting guilt on me for spending time doing something I love.

I need you to let me dream big.  Stop telling me it will never happen.

I need you to let me love deeply.  Real love comes with risk.

I need you to let me open my heart and trust. Stop reminding me of the last time I got burned.

I need you to let me have friends. Real ones.  Stop telling me it is easier to just be by myself. Less drama. Yes. But a whole lot less love too.

I need you to let me ask for help if I need it.  Even if it embarrasses you. Even if it is inconvenient.

And I need you to love me.  

The kind of love that protects, cherishes, and takes care of me.

The kind of love that doesn’t accept abuse or neglect of me.

 I am demanding that you give me the same care and concern you give everyone around you.


Cause I will be able to do so much more over a longer time period for those I love dearly,

when I am taking care of my own health, my own emotions, and my own spirit.

I hope you understand what I am saying, and will take me seriously.

Cause I believe I am worth it.




So hey. 

You… the person reading this.

You are your own boss. 

Be nice to yourself.

You’re all you’ve got.

Stop complaining about your looks.

Stop talking badly about your weight.

Stop complaining about your shortcomings.

Stop comparing yourself.

Stop living with guilt.

Stop focusing on your failures.

And start focusing on all the things… little and big… that you do well!

Notice your strengths. Are you a good organizer? A good hostess? A good performer?

Appreciate your personality. Are you great at meeting people? Do you make kids feel comfortable? 

Acknowledge your skills. What are you good at? What do you love? 

Admire your beauty. It might be your hair, your smile, or your eyes. What is something that people compliment?

You’ll be amazed that if you start liking yourself… what a difference it can make in your life.

You might even be a little nicer to those around you.

And have a little more love to spread around.

Love always,



I’d love to hear from you!

What is something that you are GOOD at? What is one of your strengths?

What is something you need to give yourself? Share in the comment section!

Hope you have a GREAT week!  Hopefully your BOSS will be good to you this week! :)




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10 Practical Ways to Fight Prejudice



10 Practical Ways to Fight Prejudice

“Mom, It’s weird to think that at one time Adolf Hitler was actually a little boy. Do you think his parents taught him to hate the Jews and others the way he did? He must have had people influencing his beliefs.”

“Did Hitler think he was doing a good thing during WWII?”

“Was Winston Churchill good or bad, mom? The way he talked about Asian people doesn’t sound very nice.”

Such big questions from my 10 and 11 year olds. But it is the kind of conversation that happens often around our house!

These are the same kids that ask “Ewww, who just farted?” They are just kids, but they can be encouraged to think past farts and boogers.

At least some of the time. :)

In our home, we often talk about the importance of being open-minded and the negative impact of prejudice.

Prejudice can be towards anything. We can pre-determine our thoughts on a style of clothing, a kind of food, or a certain genre of music without giving each individual piece a chance to speak for itself.

I remember when one of my kids fell in love with the music of Johnny Cash. It made me smile because he had been so vocal about his distain for country music. But once he allowed Johnny to speak for himself and took off his “prejudice lenses” for country music, he was surprised to find he actually liked it.

In the United States prejudice is linked often with “race.” I put the word race in quotes because, to me, there is really only one race… human.

I was talking to a mom at dance class a few months ago. Her 7 year old daughter told her that a girl in her school wasn’t going to be friends with another little girl anymore –just because she had darker skin.

When she heard this news on the playground, her daughter held her own arm up to the unfriended little girl’s arm to compare.

My skin is dark, too.” her daughter told the prejudice young girl.

“Well, it’s not as dark as hers,” the girl replied. “Yours is ok. I can still play with you.”

I asked the mom how her daughter responded to this prejudice.

Her daughter warned her friend, “If you won’t play with her, then I am not going to be able to play with you anymore. Cause I am going to play with her.”

This mom is teaching her daughter to accept people no matter what their color or cultural differences.  And to be their true friend.

What a beautiful job she is doing with such a young girl!


This is still going on. In our country. In our schools.

What can we do about it?

I am not encouraging color blindness. I am not trying to ignore the differences in our world.

Without those differences what a boring world this would be!

I am actually encouraging you to celebrate them!

We can start in our own home making sure we are providing information and motivation to encourage our children to live with tolerance and acceptance of difference.


Here are a few practical ways we can influence our children to fight prejudice:

    1. Celebrate people in our world who have made a positive difference in civil rights.
    2. Because words are powerful,  don’t use or allow use of derogatory nicknames in your home.
    3. No bullying allowed – even between siblings. Siblings are people too! “Nip it in the bud!” as Barney Fife would say. ;)
    4. Find opportunities to serve people.  When we meet the needs of others it is hard to be selfish and prejudice against them.
    5. Encourage your child to try new things, and be willing to get out of their comfort zone. Fear of the unknown magnifies prejudice.
    6. Watch videos about kids growing up in other countries. Youtube is full of vloggers who talk about what it’s like living their country. Talk about the differences from where and how you live.
    7. Make a supper with another family with a different cultural heritage. Learn to appreciate variety in taste and style of cooking.
    8. Teach your kids how to ask questions to the new kid they just met. It’s hard to be prejudiced when you are taking time to get to know that person.
    9. When your child tells you a piece of news about something that happened, help them find the primary source to find out if it is true. Being a truth seeker is a great way to prevent prejudice.
    10. Provide books and movies for your kids to see open mindedness at work. Read stories that tell of kids their age that made a stand against injustices.  Stories of people who were willing to put themselves in danger to help someone else. People who found ways to protest against wrongs in their world.  These stories inspire and help rid our heart of prejudices. It is hard to be prejudiced against someone you just helped!

 How about you?  How do you encourage your kids to fight prejudice? I’d love to hear about it!

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