Category Archives: Parenting

Adoption Day Surprise

Adoption Day Surprise

Adoption Day Surprise | Money Savvy Living


My niece Ava is adopted.  So every year, her adoption day is celebrated almost like a birthday…  Well, my sister and brother-in-law actually got her on February 6, but she finally got to come on February 9, so she kind of has an adoption week celebration…

For those of you that have gone through the process of an international adoption, I’m sure you will be able to appreciate how Ava’s mom (my sister, Alison) remembers bringing her home:

“10 years ago today we flew home from Guatemala with this precious girl. The flight attendant was so kind and told us that she let the pilot know that he had a special passenger on this flight. When we entered American airspace he came on and congratulated Ava – because at that moment she became a citizen. The older she gets the more meaningful our adoption day celebrations become.”

Adoption Day Surprise | Money Savvy Living

Ryan and Alison with baby Ava and Ava’s foster mom in Guatemala when they picked her up.

This year, I thought, what better way to celebrate her special day than with a little adoption day surprise!


As soon as I saw this, I knew Ava would love it: Scratch & Sniff Scented Nail Art from SmitCo Gifts for Girls.  The perfect gift for a 10-year-old girl, right?!  Of course, I got this to help her celebrate her adoption day, but this would be perfect for a birthday, holiday, or just because…


Adoption Day Surprise | Money Savvy Living


The Review:

SmitCo Gifts for Girls

The emoji theme of this nail art was cute, even the nail polish bottle lids were emojis—fun!  And the polish actually smelled good… nice and mild and fruity.  One of the best things about this set is that it is non-toxic and the nail polish peels right off when it’s dry.  So if you make a mistake or if it’s just time for a new color, you can easily peel the polish off.  Much better than using harsh nail polish remover!  The polish dried very quickly and my niece was able to put a decorative sticker right over the polish right away… and then, on to putting candles on her cake…


Adoption Day Surprise | Money Savvy Living


It definitely wouldn’t be a party without pizza and cake!  And of course, the kids just love any reason to get together… because for us, it’s all about family.


Adoption Day Surprise | Money Savvy Living


Even Derek realized it was a special celebration day and let Ava give him a hug!  Of course, we know he loves his cousins, but trying to get a five-year-old boy to let his cousins give him a hug doesn’t happen on a regular basis… LOL.


Adoption Day Surprise | Money Savvy Living


*This post has been sponsored by SmitCo Gifts for Girls.  Product review and opinions expressed in this post are mine alone. #ad #SmitCo


Avoid the Stomach Bug This Winter by Doing One Simple Thing

Avoid the Stomach Bug This Winter

We are heading into the middle of winter—the heart of flu season.  And as any mother with school-age children, I worry about all the germs that they are around and bringing them back home and getting everyone sick.

As a teacher myself, I know what it is like in a classroom.  Kids sneezing into their hand, instead of their elbow, or worse yet, not covering their sneeze at all.  Seeing a student use a tissue to blow their nose and wondering to myself what might have missed the tissue and be left on their hands… I could go on and on with the stories… I was fortunate enough though to have a sink in the classroom and would send those little sweethearts right over to wash their hands—every time I saw one of these incidents occur.

I’m not a germaphobe or anything, but I just really, really don’t like to get sick.  I especially don’t like for my kids to be sick.  Nothing worse than having to take care of a miserable, sick child and being helpless to make them feel better.

Luckily for our family, we have not encountered the stomach bug for a few years now.  Last winter, only one of my three boys was sick when we thought he had strep throat (even that turned out to be negative), but none of us encountered the flu or stomach bug… Can I get a “hallelujah” for that?!  And so far this winter, we have been fortunate to, even though I have heard and seen that it is going around.  Yes, even though I am not teaching now, I still volunteer at the school and got to experience a child vomiting just a few feet away from me.  And on my preschool son’s field trip a little girl got sick right in the middle of all the fun.  So I know those germs are going around.

I have felt pretty fortunate that it hasn’t hit our house lately—didn’t know why we had lucked out, but hey, you never look a gift horse in the mouth right?!  So I’ve just been thankful.


Avoid the Stomach Bug This Winter by Doing One Simple Thing | Money Savvy Living


Then, I read an article that talked about how grape juice can actually stop the stomach bug.  Weird but true, I guess.  I’m no scientist, so I can’t really back that up one way or the other.  However, it got me thinking…

Just over a year ago, my family had started taking whole food supplements—just because I wanted to do something “heathy” for my family.  I try to make nutritious and healthy meals, but I know we fall short, so this was just a way for us to bridge that gap in our diets.  There are three varieties that we take—Garden, Orchard, and a Vineyard Blend—my husband and I take the capsules and the kids take the chewable gummies—which actually taste good!  Now, they are all packed with goodness because these are whole foods that have just been dehydrated, so we are getting all the vitamins and minerals directly from the source.  But it is the vineyard ones that came to mind for me after finding out about the goodness of grape juice.  I knew it had lots of good antioxidants and immune boosters in it, but I went back and read the ingredients and confirmed that it had concord grape in it.  So for over a year now, we have been flooding our bodies every day with that extra boost of goodness—one that seems to have had an impact on our immune systems and fighting off the stomach bug!


Avoid the Stomach Bug This Winter by Doing One Simple Thing | Money Savvy Living


After reading that article, I am definitely going to make sure we get our vineyard goodness in everyday… plus there are so many other good vitamins from plants that we wouldn’t get otherwise… I mean, when was the last time you ate black currant, elderberry, pomegranate, or artichoke??  Confirmation for me that the steps that we have taken toward a healthy lifestyle have been worth it!


Avoid the Stomach Bug This Winter by Doing One Simple Thing | Money Savvy Living


*You may notice that some of the links are to my own virtual franchise.  If you’d like more information on how get your family on the path to health and start your own virtual franchise and earn income from home, check out my post on Side Hustles That Will Actually Give You a Full Time Income.

Raising a Confident Child


Raising a Confident Child | Money Savvy Living


Do you ever wonder how you will ever possibly be able to teach your child everything that they need to know in order to successfully make it through life?  I can’t be the only one, overwhelmed at times, by this thought, can I? No… I’m sure you’ve thought this. I know that you have. Because, like me, you want the very best for your child.


So, how do we raise kids in a way that will enable them to make good decisions in life; to find their own path to success; to believe in themselves and their abilities; to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that they are special and wonderful and loved by God and by their family; to be kind and loving to others without being taken advantage of? Confidence. Instilling your child with confidence will help them to not only stand up for themselves to a bully on the playground at school now, but also enable them to make decisions with certainty and self-assurance throughout their lives. Here are a few ways to help build confidence in your children that any parent can do:


Offer praise more than punishment

While it may seem obvious that, as parents, we should positively reinforce the behaviors that we want to encourage, it is so easy to fall into the negative reinforcement trap. Some days, it feels like all I do is tell my kids “no.”

“Can I have ice cream?” It’s before dinner… “NO.”

“Can I dive into the pool?” It’s 4-feet deep… “NO.”

“Can I do flips on the trampoline?” You could fall and break your arm (or neck)… “NO.”

No, no, no… much more prevalent in my vocabulary than it should be. I really do try to focus on the good, but I feel that it only sometimes barely equals that amount of times they are hearing “no…. stop that….don’t do that…” So to counterbalance all of the no’s or negative reinforcements that they hear, it is important to intentionally set out to look for ways to offer praise:

“Thank you for hanging up your laundry.”

“Good job cleaning up your toys.”

“You are a good big brother, thank you for helping your little brother with ________________.”

“Awesome job sharing the Wii.”

Each time we offer a word of praise to our children, their self-worth is built up. They hear and understand that we value them—they know they are important to us. When a child hears their parent praising them for something, confidence is reinforced within them.


Allow your child to learn from mistakes

There is a fine line here between a hands-off parenting style and an actively-involved parenting style that allows children to gain independence through experience and choice. The hands-off parent simply allows their child to do anything and offers very little guidance before, during, or after a mistake is made. The actively involved parent offers advice and encourages the child to make proper decisions, without enforcing what the child should do.

This can be very hard to do. We want everything to be perfect for our kids. We want them to not have to make the mistakes that we made. However, if our children grow up never having to make a decision and then realize the consequences that go along with that decision, we really aren’t doing them any favors. Allowing children the freedom to make decisions still requires an actively involved parent.

When we allow our children to make mistakes and learn from failures, we teach them that they aren’t perfect—and that is okay. Some things require hard work and practice. Life still goes on. You learn what you can from your mistakes and move forward, armed with the knowledge gained from the experience. Taking the time to talk about the situation and how your child could make a different choice in the future will build their confidence for future decision making, knowing you are there to support them.


Don’t Overschedule Your Child  

While your child may want to be involved in every sport, club, workshop, or after-school activity that is offered, you will do your child a favor to limit the amount of extra-curricular activities in which they participate. Or maybe your child doesn’t want to do any of these things, but would rather come home and play video games, so you, as the parent, have set a strict agenda of activities for your child of the things that you want them to do, including music lessons (for example) that you find yourself having to fight with your child about and feel like you drag your child to… lest your child end up a couch potato. Either way, having your child involved in activities is great, but overscheduling your child is not.

Things can be hectic—at times, too hectic. Sometimes, we just need to take a step back and slow down. If we are too busy to eat meals together, something needs to change. In the attempt to give our children exposure to different experiences, opportunities, and activities, we still want to maintain a healthy balance and make sure that we are spending time together. When we allow our children, or ourselves, to be overscheduled, relationships can suffer, academic achievement can suffer, even health and well-being can suffer.

As children grow up, allow them to try new sports and activities, but limit the amount of activities in which they participate at any given time. Help to lead and guide them based on interest and ability. But most importantly, take the time to get to know your child as they grow up, don’t just simply take on the role of chauffer.

Leading and guiding our children in a way in which they can succeed will build up confidence. Allowing them to over-extend themselves and not be able to commit the proper amount of time to school or activities can end up hurting self-esteem.


Parenting is hard. There is no guide to tell you what to do in every situation. Or how best to handle each child’s unique personality. Or what the long-term effects will be of a particular decision. There is no, one right way to raise a child.  Being there for your child, and simply offering a loving environment, will go a long way in giving your child the foundation which they will need to succeed in life.

“…do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”—Ephesians 6:4


10 Reasons Why the Toddler Years are the Best (& Worst) Years of Your Life as a Parent

10 Reasons the Toddlers Years are the Best | Money Savvy Living


As a new parent, things seem overwhelming. You have to change the way that you do everything. EVERYTHING. You can no longer just roll out of bed and be ready to leave the house within 20 minutes. You no longer can go where you want, when you want. You no longer leave the house without a huge bag of stuff for the baby that will include anything that you could possibly ever need while not at home.


You probably don’t even recognize your life anymore—but in a good way.


Just wait a couple of years. Things change again. Your child hits their toddler years.


Yes, the toddler years come with some frustration and challenges. However, now that my third child is almost done with his toddler years and starting preschool, I find myself longing for the days when my kids were younger and all I had to worry about was the toddler stuff.


As a parent, those are the best—(and worst)—years of your life. Here’s why:


You get special snuggle and cuddle time with your toddler at bedtime. (Your child will not fall asleep unless you are right. there. by. them. Don’t move because they will wake up and you will have to start the process all over again.)


Your child wants to be with you all the time. (Going to the bathroom by yourself is not even possible anymore.)


Your toddler loves to learn and explore. (Your house is a constant mess for a few years—don’t even bother trying to keep it clean. It. Won’t. Happen.)


Reading books with your toddler is a daily occurrence. (It is inevitable that your child will decide that he or she likes ONE specific book and you will have to read it over, and over, and over, and over… again. You will probably memorize this book and will be able to recite it word for word without even looking at it.)


Your child is gaining independence and can get dressed by themselves. (Your child will end up wearing her favorite pajamas to the grocery store, or insist on wearing clothes that don’t match, but you will allow it because you don’t want to deal with the inevitable meltdown that would ensue otherwise.)


Toddlers LOVE to “help out” around the house. (It will now take you twice as long to do laundry and cook a meal because you have a “helper” who really doesn’t help, but actually makes more messes along the way for you to clean up.)


Toddlers are carefree, happy, and inquisitive. (You must watch your child like a hawk because if you don’t, they will be running out into traffic, playing with sharp objects, or trying to stick something into electrical outlets before you know it. You do not get to rest until you fall asleep at night—maybe not even then.)


Your child receives ample toys from everyone for their birthday and Christmas. (Your house has been taken over with kid stuff—it is pretty much unrecognizable to the way your house used to look before you had kids.)


Grocery shopping and dining out are an adventure with a toddler. (You will learn how to complete your grocery shopping within 15 minutes of entering the store because, after that, it all falls apart. Eating out…well, let’s just say that you had better bring something to entertain your little one and hope that the restaurant is not busy.)


Your little one puts his arms around your neck and says, “I wuv you, Mommy”—multiple times a day. (Sometimes you come to find out that he has made a huge mess and is just trying to charm you, but most of the time, he does it just because…)


And you realize that your life is just about perfect with these sweet little people, that God has entrusted you to raise, in it.


Even through the frustrating and challenging days, take the time to slow down and enjoy what you will surely look back on as some of the best days of your life.


10 Reasons Why the Toddler Years are the Best (and Worst) Years of Your Life as a Parent // Money Savvy Living


My three-year-old still likes his bottle, and I’m ok with that

Toddlers and bottles | Money Savvy Living


“Every child is different.”

“We need to allow our children to be themselves.”

“Everyone parents a little bit differently and that’s ok.”

“You have to do what’s best for your family.”


These are some of the expressions that you will hear parents say. Everything in the parenting world is flowers and butterflies until you try to apply these expressions to certain aspects of parenting. By certain aspects of parenting, I mean: potty-training, giving your kid a pacifier, or how long you let them have a bottle.


By age one, you are supposed to put your kids on whole milk and take away a bottle. If you allow your kid to have a pacifier at age two you clearly don’t care about your child’s dental health. And if your kid isn’t fully potty-trained before they turn three, then you are just a lazy parent. Well, that’s what a lot of parental bystanders will say.


Why, all of a sudden, do we go from tolerant, loving people, encouraging parenting each child differently and doing what is best for the family, to a judging, accusatory society that attacks any parenting style that doesn’t align with the arbitrary standards of what we are supposed to do?


There are examples of this everywhere. But this one hits home for me:


Recently, Melissa Joan Hart posted a photo on Instagram of her napping toddler.  She captioned the picture: “Sometimes I have flashes where I can see my boys 20 years in the future. Especially when they do these grown men things like hands down the pants. PS someone needs a hair cut on his giant head”.  So what is wrong with this?  Well, the napping boy happened to have a pacifier in his mouth—and social media went crazy criticizing her parenting style for allowing her son to still have a pacifier.


Really, people don’t have anything better to do than criticize that??


Photo via Instagram: @melissajoanhart

Photo via Instagram: @melissajoanhart


And they probably won’t have anything better to do than criticize me either.


My son is 3½ years old. For the most part, he is potty trained (although, that just recently became the case, but that is a different story), but he still likes to drink his milk from a bottle. He is fine drinking water or juice from a sippy cup, a cup with a straw, or even an open cup (with a little help so he doesn’t spill). But when he comes home from preschool and says in that cute little voice, “Mom, I want a ba (his term for bottle) and snuggle.” I mean, seriously, who can say no to that? I don’t even want to say no. I actually sort of bask in the fact that my three-year-old wants to sit still for a few minutes and snuggle with me—because Heaven knows he is moving at the speed of lightning the rest of the day.


Now, don’t get me wrong, we have tried to get him to give up his bottles. For two days, all I offered him was milk in a sippy cup. He ate meals normally, refused to drink milk at all, and cried so much he worked himself into several naps both days—and that is highly unusual. We have offered prizes and sticker charts. We even went so far as to have Santa ask him to give up his bottles. Now you would think that most children would be mesmerized by Santa and be willing to do anything that he would ask. Not my little boy. He very adamantly told Santa “NO!”



While our tactic didn’t work, it was kind of funny to watch the scenario play out.


Should he still have a bottle? Probably not… but really, how is this harming him? Will it somehow cause physical or psychological damage to him that I have allowed him to drink milk from a bottle for this long? No. Does he need a bottle in public or does it restrict his everyday activity? No. Does he only want to drink milk from his bottles and neglect his other food, which he needs in order to get a well-balanced diet? No.


My three-year-old still likes his bottle and I'm ok with that | Money Savvy Living


So when I ask myself these questions and find that the answer is “No” to each one, I relax a little bit and have decided that it’s ok. Eventually, when he is ready—as we keep encouraging him to drink milk from a sippy (yes, I am one of those parents that thinks that learning is a process)—he will give up his bottles.


10 Ways for New Parents to Save Money

piggy bank

Finding out that you are expecting a baby is one of the most exciting and happy events in life! And even when you find out how much this little bundle of joy is going to cost you—the average cost of raising a child is about $245,000—it is still worth it because nothing compares to holding that sweet little baby in your arms. There are some things that you can do though, to save a bit of money:

1. Don’t buy a diaper bag. You won’t need to buy a diaper bag. Seriously, you won’t. Diaper bags can be very expensive, usually starting at about $30 and ranging up to several hundred dollars! And trust me, if you buy one, you are going to be sorry that you wasted your money. There are several places that will actually give you a diaper bag for FREE:

  • your obstetrician’s office often has free diaper bags (with formula samples inside!)
  • vendors at baby fairs hand out diaper bags, among other samples
  • the hospital also gives out free diaper bags and other samples

I learned about all of these free diaper bags after I had already purchases a diaper bag, which I ended up not liking as much as the free ones! If the doctor’s office or hospital are busy or forget to offer these to you, make sure you ask for samples, coupons, or a diaper bag.

2. Don’t stock up on diapers. Ok, if you are a planner, like me, this one is going to be tough. Yes, you will need some diapers to get you started the first few weeks, but don’t buy a bunch of size 1 and 2 diapers until you see what works best for you and your baby. Some brands of diapers that my friends said worked so well for them—never had a leaky diaper—just didn’t prove to be the same experience for me and my baby. You will probably want to test out a few brands until you see what works for you the best, and trust me, it isn’t always the name brand, sometimes store brands are just as good (maybe even better!).

3. Don’t stock up on formula either. Start out using just one type of formula, don’t test these out initially. But you should not buy several bulk cases of it until you know that your baby will be ok with it. You don’t want to find out that you’ve spent hundreds of dollars on a formula that your baby won’t be able to use because of lactose intolerance or acid reflux.

4. Sign up for baby food, formula, and diaper coupons. You can sign up for these easily online. Some of the main ones to check out: Pampers, Huggies, Similac, Gerber

5. Sign up for store rewards programs. Many stores offer rewards programs, such as Babies’ R Us. You earn points for each dollar spent that will earn you coupons for future use in the store, so you can save money on future purchases for your little one! You may also notice codes on products that you buy, such as Huggies and Pampers. Those points can be entered online to earn items, such as a free photobook from Shutterfly!

6. Use cloth diapers. If you really want to save money on diapers, you may want to opt for cloth diapers. Of course, there are some up-front costs for this, but considering that in one month’s time, a newborn will go through about 300 diaper changes (a bigger baby will probably use about 150 diapers a month), you will probably end up spending about $35-75 per month on disposable diapers!

7. Choose breast milk over formula. If you choose to nurse your baby, you will be taking advantage of a free source of food! Besides the antibodies and health benefits to your child, the money savings are a very nice benefit.

8. Use store apps or price matching. It can take a bit of planning to search for sale items ahead of time, but many stores will give you discounts on baby items. Target has created the “Cartwheel” application for smartphones, which offers different discount on items each week. You can typically save 5-10% on store brand baby items, including diapers, wipes, and baby food. Another great way to save is to price match; stores such as Walmart will accept competitor ads on any item in there store, including name brand baby products.

9. Utilize a flex spending account for medical bills or childcare. If your employer offers a Flex Spending account, take advantage of it for medical expenses or childcare for your baby. Money comes out of your paycheck, pre-tax—so you will reduce the amount of taxes withheld from each check, which will increase your spendable cash each month!  You should be able to find several free income tax calculators online that can take the guesswork out of the entire process.

10. Buy gender neutral items. As tempting as it is to run out and buy everything blue that you see as soon as you find out that you’re having a boy, try to restrain yourself if you plan on having more than one child. It can be very expensive to purchase everything that you will need for a baby when you are expecting your first child… and it doesn’t get any cheaper if you need to replace all of these items when your second child is a girl. Items such as strollers, receiving blankets, sleepers, even nursery decorations, can be gender neutral so that they could work whether you have a boy or girl. A little thinking ahead can save you big bucks!

10 Tips to Help Your Baby Sleep Better at Night

sweet, sleeping angel...

sweet, sleeping angel…

If you are the parent of a newborn, or even a toddler, you are probably a bit sleep deprived. While there may not be a magical wand to wave and make your little one sleep twelve hours in a row, there are some things that you can do to help your baby—and you—get a more restful night of sleep.


Bedtime routine

Newborn babies learn from their experiences what is going on in the world around them. Of course, it takes a while, but if you are diligent to put a routine in place that leads up to bedtime, such as bath time, then they will grow to expect that bedtime is coming after bath.



It may be an old wives tale that warm milk before bed helps you sleep better, but it certainly does seem to have some benefits, if for no other reason than making sure your little one’s tummy is full. It is hard to go to sleep—and stay asleep—when you’re hungry. Even as kids get a little older, they may still like to drink a cup of milk (or have a serving of yogurt or cottage cheese) before bed.


Quiet activities

Babies or toddlers can remain engaged for quite a while when something is going on around them that they find interesting. Just before bedtime is probably not the best time for a loud toy with lots of moving parts. So put the loud toys with lots of moving parts away and do quieter activities, such as coloring or reading.  Even a baby can sit on your lap and enjoy listening to a bedtime story.


Turn down the lights

Yes, your baby probably can fall asleep any time of day no matter what is going on around them when they are really tired, but turning the lights down low is another indicator that bedtime is near.


Sing or play soft lullaby music

Hearing a certain song can also indicate that it is bedtime. Not to mention the soft, soothing sounds of lullabies actually encourage relaxation and sleep.  Check out these wonderful lullaby CDs, or just softy sing your child to sleep, such as: Baby Mine, Classics Songs for Bedtime, Bedtime Prayers: Lullabies and Peaceful Worship, Bedtime Mozart: Classical Lullabies for babies, or Piano Lullabies: Babies’ Bedtime Favorites.


Ambient noise is a good thing

Have you ever tried to fall asleep in a quiet room that you are able to hear every crack and creak of your house? It’s not easy to do. Running a humidifier or a small fan can give enough background noise to drown out those bumps in the night and enable a better night of sleep.  Or you can try something like the Sleep Easy Sound Conditioner, white noise machine to see if that will help soothe your little one.


Keep the daytime sounds going at naptime

Make naptime drastically different than bedtime. Encourage naps during the day in a light-filled room that has typical daytime sounds. Don’t bother pulling the drapes or turning down the television; this extreme difference can help your baby differentiate between daytime and nighttime.


Don’t nap in the bedroom

Put your baby down for a nap in a bassinet or pack-n-play in a location other than your child’s bedroom. This is just another cue for your little one that indicates the difference between when they are expected to sleep a short time at naptime or for a longer period of time at night.


Don’t hold your baby while they nap

If you get in the habit of holding your baby the entire time that they nap during the day, they may get used to being held while they sleep—and that may carry over to nighttime as well. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can’t hold your baby while they snooze at all. Snuggle your little one as much as you want, but putting them down to sleep, without being in your arms, should be a part of each naptime too.


When your baby cries, go to him

This topic is somewhat controversial. Some people tell you not to run to your child when they cry at night; however, as a parent, I cannot leave my baby in a dark room by themselves, crying in the middle of the night. Your baby needs to know that when they cry, for whatever reason, that you are there for them. If they don’t need a bottle or a diaper change, they may just need a little comfort in order to go back to sleep.  But keep in mind, going to see what is wrong or changing a diaper does not mean that you should have to stay up all night…


While those first months are a bit disrupting to your regular night of sleep, it does get better.  Know that you are going to be tired—and make an effort to just be tired, not grouchy with it!  Yes, this can be a struggle, but my husband and I decided that it would be better to simply be tired, not tired and grumpy with each other or the baby.

Honestly, looking back, some of those middle-of-the-night snuggles in the rocking chair, in which I had to struggle to stay awake, were pretty wonderful times.

Priceless memories.


*Links provided within this post do generate income for my blog.  The overall price is not any different to you as the consumer, but if you choose to purchase, I earn a commission and I appreciate your support! 

Making S’More Memories


It never ceases to amaze me that some of the things that my kids get the most excited about in life are so simple. I mean, if my husband and I say that we are going to get a little fire going in the fire pit, the kids jump up and down likes it’s Christmas… well almost just like that. None the less, they excitedly jump around and start yelling for s’mores. Now why is this so exciting? We make s’mores all the time using the microwave to slightly melt the chocolate and puff up the marshmallows.

But that just doesn’t compare to the experience of making s’mores over the open fire.


Besides the fact that they get to have extremely sharp roasting sticks, which is a novelty in and of itself for them, they get to “play with fire.” As you can imagine, having three boys, I try to avoid sharp objects… and fire… and sugar, the other major component of this. Maybe that is why it is so exciting. This combines sugar, sharp objects, and fire– all of the forbidden elements of my little boys’ lives.

Of course, it wouldn’t be as exciting if someone didn’t catch a marshmallow on fire either. In fact, I think that we may lose as many marshmallows to being consumed by fire as what actually end up edible. My middle son always says that he didn’t mean for the marshmallow catch on fire, but really, when he holds the marshmallow a bit too close to the flame, and it actually does catch on fire, I think he is secretly satisfied with himself.

smore braylon

Even though we did this several times this summer, and now into fall, there is something special about the family gathering together around the fire pit, talking, laughing, and just enjoying a little family time. It’s not a big event, but it’s fun. It’s not expensive, bit it’s memorable.

I hope that when my boys grow up and have families of their own, and when they roast marshmallows over a fire to make s’mores, they can’t help but be drawn back in time to the memories made this year.

smore chase derek2

Even though this ends up to be a sticky, face-and-clothes-covered-in-chocolate-kind-of-mess for my trio, I can’t help but be a bit amused by it all.

Spending time together as a family is what it is all about– making memories together by just being together and actually enjoying being around each other.  There are so many ways to spend quality family time together, and it doesn’t cost anything:

  • Movie night– my kids love to pick a movie that we watch together as a family– of course, enjoyed with some popcorn and M&M’s!
  • Game night– I don’t know why, but it is something special for the kids when my husband and I play the Wii or xbox with them.  They play all the time by themselves or even with each other, but they get so excited for us to play with them.
  • Picnic in the park– go to a local park.  Let the kids play, then take lunch, a snack, or just popsicles to enjoy.
  • Ice cream sundae bar– letting the kids have ice cream is one thing, but let them top it with hot fudge, caramel, sprinkles, whipped cream, etc… it is all of a sudden an exciting event.
  • Camp out at home– yes, this one is going to probably have your back hurting for a couple of days (at least it did for me!).  We set up a tent in the basement in the winter and put sleeping bags in it and the kids loved it!  I loved that they had fun, but I also loved sleeping in my bed the next night.  It makes it worth it though that a year later, they are still talking about the camp out in the basement and wondering when we can do another.
  • Outdoor fun– take a hike, go bike riding, play basketball, soccer… you get the idea.

I see for myself, and any parent will tell you, that the time that you have with your children flies by all too quickly.  Make the most of each day.  Take the time to make s’more memories.

5 Ways to Invest In Your Children’s Future

Family Time ~ Have fun together!

Family Time ~ Have fun together!

Investing. Typically, when we talk about investing, we are thinking about putting money into stocks, bonds, or mutual funds in a retirement account or a savings account. There is usually a tangible goal in mind: being able to retire comfortably or paying for a child’s college education. That type of investing is definitely something that should be a part of every person’s financial plan. But that is not the only type of investing that is important.

We need to be investing in the lives of our children in a way that is far more critical: emotionally and relationally. Being a parent is so much more than just providing food, clothes, and shelter for a child. Raising a child involves teaching them values, morals, and ethics. Whether you are actually an involved participant in teaching your children this or not, they will acquire a set of values, morals, and ethics, or a lack thereof, depending on the upbringing they receive. So how do you actually invest in your children? How do you know you are achieving your goal when there are no quantitative measures? Here are 5 ways that you can concretely participate in your children lives:

1.  Eye contact—from the time a baby is born, they start to gain an understanding of the world around them and how much they are loved based on the eye contact they receive. Even as an infant, a worldview is starting to form. Take the time every day to look your child in the eye and tell him you love him—it doesn’t matter if your child is 6 months old or 16 years old.

Investment: Self-Worth—by looking in his eyes, you are telling your child, “You have value.”

2.  Say “I love you.”—this one may seem self-evident, but, trust me, you need to actually say it. Clearly communicating this simple message with your child often is critical. Through the trials that they will surely face in life—a mean kid at school, breaking up with a boyfriend, peer pressure—if your daughter knows that you, her parent, loves her, getting through these situations will be easier for her.

 Investment: Security—by actually uttering the words “I love you,” you are letting your child know, unequivocally, that no matter what the world brings their way, you are there for them.

3.  Give compliments—as parents, we are so used to telling our kids what they can’t do and what they did wrong, that is it essential to make a concerted effort to tell them when they’ve done something right. Just to get through the day without someone getting hurt, I feel like I am telling my kids every couple of minutes what not to do—a negative directive: “don’t throw the ball in the house,” “no wrestling by the fireplace,” “pick up your toys before someone trips over something and gets hurt…” Yes, this is a parent’s job, however, it makes it just that much more important to catch them doing something good. It can be anything, even something little: “you did a great job cleaning your room,” “thank you for mowing the lawn,” “I’m proud of you…”

Investment: Self-Esteem—each time you tell your child they did something good, you are building up their confidence.

4.  Spend quality time together—in order to invest in the lives of your children, you need to actually be there. Yes, face-time matters. Maybe you are busy traveling with your job, maybe you are putting in hours around the clock trying to get your new business off-the-ground, but you can figure out a way to carve out quality time for your family. In the grand scheme of life, will your children be able to remember that you went to their baseball games, cheerleading competitions, or awards ceremony at school? Will they remember sitting down and eating dinner together as a family? Will they remember you teaching them to drive? Will they remember being able to talk to you about major life decisions, such as college, a career path, or renting their first apartment? Perhaps, you time is limited due to circumstances in life that you can’t control, but that is not an excuse for not making the time you do have with your kids count. After all, it is entirely possible for a parent to see their children every day, but not really be there.

Investment: Yourself—investing time into your children creates memories for them. Someday when you are gone, the memories will still live on. Don’t live a life that will cause you to look back with the regret of “I wish I had spent more time with my kids.”

5.  Eternity—for me, this is the most important. You may have heard the saying, “the family that prays together, stays together.” I think there is a lot of truth to this. Honoring God as a family helps to keep other priorities in order as well.

Investment: Purpose—understanding that God has a plan for each of us, gives life meaning. Teaching my children about God is investing in their eternity.

Investing isn’t always dollars and cents, sometimes it’s just common sense.