Monday, December 8, 2014

7 Gifts That Have Stood the Test of Time {With Usborne Books Giveaway}

With nine children I have had 19 years to experience different levels of Christmas toy failure. I like to think that I have acquired an eye for gifts that will last. At least a leetle bit.  As in, which ones will hold up and hold attention beyond December 27th.

These are all simple gift suggestions that held up or held attention for at least one year, probably because they are so simple.  The prices range from a few bucks to hundreds and they include a variety of ages.  (Read to the end for a great giveaway!)


We received our Blokus game as a gift several years ago from a family member, and it has proven to be a winner for several reasons.  It is suitable for a variety of ages because you don't have to know how to read to play it.  It does, however, require strategy and thinking skills. It is challenging for teens or adults, even if they play a much younger child. My only caveat--be careful not to lose all the small pieces or you're sunk.


None of us have ever broken a bone or had any other injury on a trampoline.  I guess I would feel differently about this being a successful gift if we had.  But we have loved owning a trampoline.  It is great for exercise and family fun.

The Hop Ball

I bought hop balls last year and Shiloh and Serenity have bounced and bounced and bounced. It was hard to get this photo because sitting a 2 and 4 year old on a bouncy ball and telling them not to bounce is next to impossible.

The balls cost us less than 5 dollars.  When guests come over they are what the kids fight over the toy of choice. Not a day goes by that the two of them don't bounce through the house. I have threatened to buy more hop balls this year for my bigger kids and even for Kevin and I because yes, they come in different sizes.  Can't you just see the 11 of us bouncing down the street together?  It's okay, our neighbors already think we're crazy. And everyone needs to feel validated once in awhile.

Building Toys

You just can't go wrong with building toys.  And you can buy them on eBay for really cheap.  Tinkertoys get played with a lot least a couple of times a week.  Legos and Lincoln Logs are tied for second place. Train and train tracks are good too. The marble racer set is another builder-winner...we'll give it an honorable mention. 

But the grand prize building toy goes to....that's right...Mr. Potato Head.

Our huge Mr. Potato Head collection is actually sort of famous.  Who can't like some Mr. P. with accessories like a pan of fried bacon to stick in his hand? And again, you can find lots of Potato Heads and accessories on eBay.

Musical Instruments

The years that we have been able to buy musical instruments have been investments that we have never regretted.  Over the years we have bought a keyboard, a violin, a viola, an acoustic guitar and last year, an electric guitar.  I will always, always, always be thankful for the gifts of music. Bonus points if you include music lessons.

Pretend Food

The Melissa and Doug collection of food has been around our house a few years.  When one kid outgrows it there it is just waiting on someone else to use it. The cookies and pizza maker are such fun.

Rubber Band Guns

Our rubber band guns have been around for years too. You can get them cheap or probably even make your own if you're creative.  What I love about them is  1.) there is always a ready and cheap supply of ammo  2.) there is no cheesy internal mechanism that is going to get worn out  3.) they are moderately quiet as compared to other toy guns.

Lastly...books.  Books make such great gifts.  Often, I think, we go for the gift with the  "wow factor" that we think will surprise the kid, but it doesn't take long for that to wear off. But books last.  And can be passed down.  And send a message to our children of what we value.

Now for the giveaway from Usborne Books!

While I can't give two thumbs up for their science books or fictional series for teens, 95% of the books are fantastic.  Last year I had an online Usborne party and earned enough free books to just about bury my kids in books for Christmas.  Don't worry, they didn't mind. And just today, they had their Usborne books out again!

Some of our favorites for ages 6-12 were

I did remove a sticker or two from some art that was disturbing in this one ^^.  Judge for yourself.

My boys fell in love with these:


The touch and feel baby books are precious, their history books for older kids are great and the coloring books for the really young or more challenging for older kids, are terrific.  You could spend all day on the website looking around!


My daughter Shelbi is an Usborne Consultant and she's giving away three Usborne books, valued at over $40.

These three books are great examples of the wide range of types and topics of books that Usborne has to offer.  I especially love the "See Inside Your Body" book. It's full of lift up flaps.  Great visual aid!

The Secrets of the Apple Tree book is really unique.  If you shine a flashlight behind the pages, you can see "secret" and hidden pictures.  Very cool!  And the math book, well, makes math much more palatable ;)

Friday, December 5, 2014

How to Make Candy Cane Popcorn

We watched a Christmas movie and went to town on this Candy Cane Popcorn tonight.  And you know you want to know how to do it.  It's so easy I'm almost ashamed of myself.  I said almost.  Obviously I'm not ashamed enough to share it with ya'll.

Gather these ingredients. Don't even bother to turn them right side up.  The popcorn can't read blog posts.

Start popping popcorn like there's no tomorrow.  I popped five bags.

While you're popping, start unwrapping candy canes.  Put them in a big Ziploc bag and hand a rolling pin to any person who can be reasonably trusted with it.

Beat the daylights out of those candy canes.  Go on, they deserve it.  Watch out for the fingers of little people just dying to get their turn.

Melt your candy coating and line two cookie sheets with foil.

Pour your candy coating over the top of the popcorn.

Stir it with a wooden spoon a little and then pour out your crushed candy canes on top.  Mix it with your hands but wait until it cools some. It's not awesome to leave melted flesh in your Christmas treats.

Now you're done.  Have fun getting hyper. This makes so much Candy Cane Popcorn you will have pa-lenty to save for later or put in treat bags for the neighbors.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

31 Reasons He Came {With Free Download}

This season is glorious isn't it?  What great opportunities for family discipleship come our way this time of year.  Whether it is a Jesse Tree or other family devotion tool that helps you teach your children about the birth of Christ, or simple family traditions that tie heart strings, this time of year is overflowing with good gifts from the Lord :)

This year we are taking a break from our regular scripture memory and catechism, and will focus on these 31 reasons Jesus came, putting them to memory.  There are more than 31 reasons, but these are the ones that come from Joel Beeke's book Why Christ Came. In the book he expounds on each one.  It is a great family devotional book.

"Sadly, many who vehemently argue the need to "keep Christ in Christmas" can probably say very little about the reality and practical significance of the incarnation.  Learning the reason for Christ's advent will help us more deeply celebrate His birth, allow us to see more clearly how it is connected with the rest of His ministry, and help us understand it's importance for our lives. Understanding why Jesus came to earth also has apologetic value.  Suppose someone asked you, 'Why did Jesus come to earth?'  You could probably come up with one or two reasons.  As true as those reasons might be, they would only begin to communicate the richness of Christ's incarnation"
--Joel Beeke, Why Christ Came


Children can put this list to memory.  Older children could memorize the scripture proofs as well.

Download a printable copy for free right here!

1.) To do the will of the Father (John 6:38).
2.) To save sinners (1 Tim. 1:15).
3.) To bring light to a dark world (John 12:46).
4.) To be made like his people (Hebrews 2:14, 16-17)
5.) To bear witness to the truth (John 18:37).
6.) To destroy the devil and his works ( 1 John 3:8).
7.) To give eternal life (John 6:51).
8.) To receive worship (Matthew 2: 1-2, 11).
9.) To bring great joy (Luke 2:10).
10.) To demonstrate true humility (Phil. 2:5-8)
11.) To preach the gospel (Luke 4: 18, 43. Isaiah 61:1-2)
12.) To bring judgment (John 9: 39-41).
13.) To give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
14.) To fulfill the law and the prophets (Matt. 5: 17).
15.) To reveal God’s love for sinners (John 3:16).
16.) To call sinners to repentance (Mark 2:17).
17.) To die (John 12:24-25, 27).
18.) To seek and save the lost (Luke 19:5, 9-10).
19.) To serve (Mark 10:45).
20.) To bring peace (Eph. 2:14-18).
21.) To bring a sword (Matt. 10:34).
22.) To bind up broken hearts (Isa. 61:1-3).
23.) To give us the spirit of adoption (Gal. 4:6).
24.) To make us partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
25.) To reign as king (Isa. 9:6-7).
26.) To restore human nature to holiness (Luke 1:35).
27.) To be a merciful and faithful high priest (Hebrews 2: 17-18).
28.) To be the second and greater Adam (Romans 5: 14-15).
29.) To satisfy our deepest thirst (John 4:13-14).
30.) To be loved by God’s children (John 8:42).
31.) To reveal God’s glory (John 1:14).

"The birth of Jesus is the grandest light of history, the sun in the heavens of all time.  It is the pole star of human destiny, the hinge of chronology, the meeting place of the waters of the past and the future."   Charles Spurgeon

Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday Deals of Interest

Lilla Rose is having the biggest sale of the year! Don't wait or your selection could be limited.  The flexi is a unique, affordable and durable gift (comes with a one year warranty!). Shop here.  And during the month of December, this beauty, "Crimson Joy" is available while supplies last.  Hurry ya'll.

New, U.S. customers can still get the Buy 3 Get 1 Free deal.  Free item will not appear in cart.  Email me at for your free item valued at $16 or less.  Free item comes separately and may not be delivered in time for Christmas.

My daughter Shelbi is an Usborne Books Consultant.  More gushing about this later.  But for now, we want to direct your attention to some awesome books for kids, especially since the Black Friday sale is so great. (Don't miss the educational sticker books!!!  My personal fave :)) Go here and browse the catalog.

Do you remember the book Queen of the Home, edited by Jen McBride?  I reviewed it right here.

Jen has done some more work on this book and has added some different authors, including myself.  Such an honor and I thank her!  Right now the new updated Queen of the Home book is only available as a download (hard cover coming soon).  Jen is offering it only for today for just $1. 

Have a great weekend friends!  I leave you with this beautiful quote some friends pointed me to recently:

"Let us take the pure gold of thankfulness, and the jewels of praise and make them into another crown for the head of Jesus."
--C.H. Spurgeon

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

William Bradford's First Thanksgiving {Video}

For fun we just finished watching this animated movie of The First Thanksgiving and I thought you all might enjoy it too :)

And what Thanksgiving would be complete without A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving?  We watch this one every year.  Enjoy!

email subscribers will have to click through to watch the movies.

Or how about these cute printable coloring sheets with Thanksgiving themes?

Thanksgiving Coloring

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Weekend Links

Happy Weekend friends and also Happy November! I have some links to share with you today.  I have wanted to do Weekend Links for awhile but being the procrastinator that I am, I never get around to it until the actual weekend.  And then it always falls through the cracks.  So today you're getting an extra dose of link love. These are posts I have shared on Facebook the last few weeks and some I wanted to share and never got around to.

  • I LOVED this post about hospitality.  It's not the same 'ol, same 'ol.  Jen Wilkin hits the nail on the head with why we don't offer hospitality more and it will encourage you.  Read: Choose Hospitality Over Entertaining.

  • When I saw this post in my feed my first thought was, "Oh no!  What did they do?" But the Harris brothers are still walking the talk they talked several years ago.  If you or your kids read the book Do Hard Things or enjoy The Rebelution blog, you will want to read about what these men are doing now.

  • If your home is like mine and it is rarely quiet, you will be encouraged by this short post: A Peaceful Home.

  • I am really excited about this.  Are You Mom Enough? is a new book written by Rachel Jankovic, Gloria Furman, Rachel Pieh Jones, Christine Hoover, Carolyn McCulley, Trillia Newbell, and Christina fox. You can download a digital copy for free right here.

Lastly, another Lilla Rose party.  Ya'll, everybody wants a flexi clip in November.  You just do.  If you want an awesome deal, just order here.  New customers can get Buy 3 Get 1 Free, free shipping refunded after a $40 order and the first five people to order also get a free set of Lilla Rose bobby pins.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, November 21, 2014

21st Century Women Versus Pilgrim Foremothers

(Originally published in November 2011. Each year at this time I enjoy working on this post a little more, sometimes removing portions or adding to others, or even changing the title. So if it seems familiar...only not...that is why :))

The inscription on the Monument to the Pilgrim Mothers in Plymouth, Massachusetts reads: “They brought up their families in sturdy virtue and a living faith in God without which nations perish.”

Years later, America's foe, British general Lord Cornwallis said:

“We may destroy all the men in America, and we shall still have all we can do to defeat the women.”

Finally, French journalist Alexis de Tocqueville concluded his great work Democracy in America:

"If I were asked, now that I am drawing to the close of this work, in which I have spoken of so many important things done by the Americans, to what the singular prosperity and growing strength of that people ought mainly to be attributed, I should reply:
To the superiority of their women."

Why is there a chasm separating our Pilgrim foremothers and 21st century women? If Tocqueville were around today would he attribute America's now weak condition, to the women as well? Is it merely that the years bring changes in clothing, hair-dos and modern conveniences? Surely it's more than that which separates us from these hard-working, resilient, reverent and faithful women.
It is the state of our souls.

Our text-messaging, dinner is pre-made, God-is-my-cosmic-genie-generation has come so far in less than 400 years. Pilgrim women served the God of the universe: Sovereign and just, all-sufficient, even in death; the source and passion of their existence.

An Acceptance of Hardship and Trials

How many of us would travel across an ocean in a cramped, disease infested vessel in desperate conditions, in order to begin again in a location that might prove even more hazardous? Today we avoid any hardships we can. In 2014 our hardships include dilemmas such as

our husbands don't make us happy,

our church doesn't meet our needs, or

we can't find anyone who understands us.

These woes stand in contrast to women such as Mary Fish and Elizabeth Prentiss who endured the grief of widowhood, death of children, financial destruction, poor health, war. Yet their journal entries show that their approach was so different to these trials, than I fear mine would be.

We have lost our theological anchor.  Puritan women were strong because they believed Puritan theology. Virtues that were rooted in sound doctrine began fading throughout the 19th century until, during the 20th century, womanhood was ripe for the self-centered feminist ideas that were trickling down the pike.  In 1620, difficulties were a way of life, and the pilgrims looked forward to Heaven when their toiling would be over. Today we are not so Heavenly minded. We love the world and the comforts it offers us.

When the Lord sends a trial into my life, my first reaction is to rid myself of it. Somehow, someway! I must instead recognize God's hand of providence and learn through what the Lord is teaching me, letting my rule for faith and practice be God's Word

Generational Vision

Many of us live for today, always struggling to be self-fulfilled.  However, the women of 1628 were going to the New World knowing that they themselves might never benefit from it. In William Bradford's history of the Plymouth Settlement he writes:

"...they cherished a great hope and inward zeal of laying good foundations...for the propagation and advance of the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in the remote parts of the world, even though they should be but stepping stones to others in the performance of so great a work."

Willingness to Sacrifice for Their Posterity

Our pilgrim mothers were willing to sacrifice--unto death--for the sake of their children. After living in Holland for eleven years there were many causes (war with Spain on the horizon, poor living conditions) for their decision to go to the New World, not the least of which was the spiritual rescue of their children. Most history books do not include the fact that the small group of Separatists left Holland because they were losing their children to the corrupt ways of the Dutch.  Bradford writes:

"But still more lamentable, and of all sorrows most heavy to be borne, was that many of the children, influenced by these conditions, and the great licentiousness of the young people of the country, and the many temptations of the city, were led by evil example into dangerous courses...leaving their parents. So they saw their posterity would be in danger to degenerate and become corrupt." --William Bradford

How many of us would go to this extreme to remove our children from evil influence? Sadly, I can think of many times I have not even been willing to stand against parental peer pressure or social awkwardness for the sake of my children and the influences they come under. Lord, help us!

Just Passing Through

Finally, these women were "other worldly." Most of us live for the moment, concerned with what's before our eyes, clinging tightly to the possessions we own, the children we have, the futures we think we control. We begin to hold those gifts as idols in our hearts, forgetting the One from whose hand they were given.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth Col. 3:2

I want to strive to live as they did; as if I have no attachment to this world. We shouldn't feel comfortable here if we are citizens elsewhere. And the sooner we realize that our identity is in Christ, and not in our earthly riches, education, social status, the good opinion of others, or anything else, the sooner we will get serious about bearing His image, accomplishing His will and being about our Father's business, as they were. As soon as we stop thinking with temporal minds, we will begin to do great and courageous acts such as the women of 1620 did.

It was replied that all great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and must be both met and overcome with answerable courage. --William Bradford
J.I. Packer said that Puritan women were great do-ers, great hopers and great sufferers. He was right.  They were great souls serving a great God and we serve the same One. Women have changed but God is the same yesterday, today and forever.  Our ease and luxury doesn't naturally bring us maturity such as they had. Those women faced the wilds of the wilderness but our generation faces the wilds of moral collapse.  May our great-great-great-granddaughters be as encouraged by our example as we are by our Pilgrim foremothers.