3 Ways to Serve with Your Preschooler

I don’t want my kids to just have a “good childhood.” I don’t want them to think that the world is all about them.

I want to shape their hearts to love and serve.

God convicted me with this word of wisdom:

Stop living for the kids and start showing them how to live for Christ.

I want to show my kids the urgency of living this life.

It’s not about being entertained and our own happiness. It’s about showing Christ’s love and keeping our focus on eternity.

I will show you my faith by my works. James 2:18

Here are 3 simple ways to serve with your kids.

1. Volunteer at Church

How do you serve at church with your kids? Sign up to help with something your kids are involved in.

Are they in nursery or a preschool class? Volunteer to teach or help the teacher.

Volunteer at camps or kids’ events. Help when you can, however you can.

Clean up after an event and get your kids involved. A 2-year-old can throw away cups. A 3-year-old can wipe tables.


2. Fundraise or Donate

Let them clean through their toys or clothes that they don’t use any more. Donate them to a local charity, or crisis shelter. Take your kids to that place, and let them carry the items inside.

Go to fundraisers with them. There are a lot of 5k’s out there raising money for a good cause, or let them save their money to buy something they can donate.

We went as a family to a “Walk for Life” that raised money for our local pregnancy support center.

You can also donate books to a “little library.” We have a few in our town. One at an elementary school and a some at a couple parks.

Encourage your kids to pick out their books from home, and drive to go put them in the little library.


3. Visit a Nursing Home

My grandma lives in an assisted living center 2 hours away, so we don’t see her as often as we would like.

My sister-in-law works at the state capitol and passes around candy to spread joy to everyone, especially to stressed or grumpy people.

What a simple act of love. Passing out candy.

I thought that would be pretty sweet to take my kids to a local nursing home and pass out candy.

I remembered the time my son insisted on wearing his Spider-Man costume to Lowe’s and every person we passed either smiled, chuckled, or stopped to say hi to Spider-Man.

So we combined ideas. We put on our Spider-Man costume and princess dress, bought a bunch of butterscotch, caramels, and Hershey kisses, and walked down every hall at the nursing home.

We didn’t know anybody, and we had never been there.

Still, my kids had fun handing out candy.

They got comfortable enough that they just started walking into people’s rooms.

The workers even were thanking me for visiting, saying a lot of them needed this.

I loved watching my kids bring joy to other people. We still have kid-fun, but we are going to look for ways 1-3 hours a week or a weekend to serve others.

What can you do to serve with your children?

How can you show them how to love?

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11 Meals Under $11 from Aldi

1. Personal Sheet Pan Nachos 

This meal is great for a picky family.  Everyone can build their own nachos on a sheet of aluminum foil.  Once it cooled, we just slid the foil on the table and we didn’t need silverware or plates!  Easy clean-up.  All ingredients were from Aldi, except for the beef, we buy from our farmer friends.

Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes, or until cheese melts.

Ingredients: Tortilla chips, shredded cheddar cheese, 1 lb beef, 1 packet taco seasoning, jar jalapenos, 1 tub sour cream, 1 jar salsa, tomato- diced, head lettuce- finely chopped



2. Pasta + Meat + Sauce

I usually keep stocked up on spaghetti noodles, marinara sauce, and frozen meatballs, but this night I was out so we improvised with macaroni noodles.  I have made bow-tie chicken alfredo, spaghetti with meatballs, and box shells macaroni and cheese with beef.  Their hamburger helper boxes are pretty good too.

Ingredients: box pasta, sauce (my favorite is the one with the purple lid “Tomato, Basil, and Garlic”), and a meat- frozen meatballs, or fresh cooked beef, or slow cooked chicken

I’m not a big fan of their jar alfredo sauces, but they are ok if you doctor them up by melting in shredded mozzarella or fresh parmesan.


3. Chicken Bacon Ranch Sandwiches

These frozen breaded chicken breast patties are so good!  I usually get the thinner cut bacon since I like crispier bacon, but I tried out the thick cut for this one.  Layer it up with your favorite toppings.

Ingredients: Burger buns, frozen breaded chicken patties, thin bacon, tomato, lettuce, ranch dressing


4. Walking Tacos

I love tacos, but I also love Doritos with a passion. This is the best.  Do everything you would normally do for tacos, but skip the shells and go with nacho Doritos.  While the meat is cooking, prepare all the “fixings.”

Ingredients: “Doritos” whatever Aldi’s brand is, beef, taco seasoning packet, tomato, lettuce, shredded cheese, sour cream, avacado

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leftovers!


5. English Muffin Pizzas

Another easy one to personalize to everyone’s taste.  I had half of an italian loaf left over, so I used it to make cheese bread.  I’ve also cut up peppers and onions to make supreme pizzas.

Ingredients: English muffins (cut in half), red pasta sauce, shredded mozzarella, pepperoni


6. Chicken Squares

I learned this one from a roommate in college.  Just look up “chicken square recipe” and you’ll find a good one.  I honestly don’t follow recipes on things I make a lot since I season to taste anyways.

Ingredients: 2 cans crescent rolls, 1 (12.5oz) canned chicken, 2-3 Tbsp butter, 1/2 block (4oz) softened cream cheese

Serves great with steamed broccoli.

Put butter and cream cheese in a med bowl.  Put in microwave for 15 seconds or less.  Mix together when soft.  Drain and mix in the chicken.  Lay out the crescent rolls, put two triangles together to make squares.  Put two spoonfuls of the mixture in the center of each square.  Pinch up the corners however you like and pinch the pocket closed.  Smush it down a little.  Sprinkle the top with garlic salt.  Bake in oven according to the crescent roll package, but it’ll be more like 20 minutes until they turn golden brown.


7. Pulled Pork and Potatoes

Aldi has these amazing boxes that have microwave pulled pork and microwave pulled bbq chicken.  I get at least one of them each week.  I think they taste better than when I try to slow cook a pork loin myself!  You’ll find them over by the cinnamon rolls.

Ingredients: Microwave pulled pork, yellow potatoes, olive oil, kosher salt

I just dice the potatoes and cook on medium on the stove top in olive oil until golden brown, about 20 minutes, and sprinkle with kosher salt.


8. Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

This is what we eat when dad won’t be home for dinner. The kids love it and I love it.   I will admit that their tomato soup isn’t as good as Campbell’s, but it’ll do on my budget.

Ingredients: whole wheat bread, american cheese slices, butter, 1 can tomato soup, milk


9. BBQ Chicken and Corn (Appetizer: Pita Chips with Havarti Dill Cheese and Hummus)

Again, did you know they sell microwave pulled pork and bbq chicken?  Ahh, it’s so amazing.  It takes 3 minutes to make. Same with the corn.  Dump it in a microwavable dish, sprinkle with salt and pepper, add a tiny bit of butter, and dinner is ready in 5 minutes.  If you have leftover burger buns, you can make bbq chicken sandwiches.

Ingredients: microwavable bbq chicken, 1 can corn, burger buns

Appetizer: 1 bag pita chips, 1 block Havarti with Dill cheese, 1 container hummus


10. Bagel Sausage Egg and Cheese Sandwiches

These make a quick dinner, or wrap in aluminum foil for dinner on the go.

Ingredients: toasted “everything” bagels, fried eggs (I poke the yoke with a fork so it cooks too), frozen sausage patties, american cheese slice


11. Tilapia with Wild Rice and Green Beans

Aldi sells prepackaged and marinated fish.  We love the garlic herb tilapia and it serves great with wild rice.  I pan fry the fish in olive oil on the stove top until golden brown on both sides.

Ingredients: Garlic Herb Tilapia (pan fried), box wild rice (cooked in microwave)

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My kids don’t always eat the fish, so I have bagel bites on hand for those nights. 

These are just the meals I remembered to take a picture afterwards.  The rising crust frozen pizza is another budget-friendly favorite.

I have been shopping at Aldi for over a year now, and we are still “eating our way” through the store, trying new products.  We don’t love it all, but we definitely have some favorites *canned cinnamon rolls.*

I typically can feed my family of 4 on $45-$80 a week, sometimes more if I have to buy diapers and toiletry/paper products.

When I shopped at Walmart it ALWAYS came out to be over $100.  I would recommend looking into a local discount grocery store in your area!

Teaching Toddlers About Mail

My toddlers often walk up our gravel driveway with me to help get the mail.

I’ve recently been teaching my 3-year-old our address and showed him the numbers on the house and mailbox.

We’ve made birthday cards for family before, and they’ve come along with me to the post office.

This was our first time playing mail man.

First, we finger-painted cards.

We practiced writing the full address and put a stamp (sticker) in the right corner.

Then, we drove to their house and put the envelopes in their mailbox.

It was a fun, easy activity. All we used were (things we already had) blanks cards, envelopes, stickers, sharpie, and finger paints. Perfect activity for a Saturday morning!

The Sweetest Gift to Name a Legal Guardian

My kids are at the age now where we leave them to go out of town from time-to-time.

The first time we traveled over an hour away from them, I thought about it.

What if something happened to us? What would happen to our kids?

We talked about how awesome our immediate family was and that it wasn’t an issue who had them.

But still, I wanted us to decide. So our family wouldn’t be left with the burden of wondering “what they would have wanted.”

When I was thinking of who to appoint as legal guardians if both of us died, I considered these things:

Who would be physically able and in good health 15 years from now?

Who would have time to invest in our kids’ sports and activities?

Who has a home and finances able to take on two kids?

Who would raise up my kids to love Jesus and love them as their own?

Fortunately for us, we have a huge, amazing family and the hardest part was just deciding on one household.

We settled on a choice, but before we started the process of writing a living will- I wanted to ask them if they would accept being the legal guardians.

I came up with this idea. Although it’s not the actual legal document, it’s a sweet way to ask them, and tell them our wishes.

One of the most meaningful gifts I’ll ever give.

Picture frame: $4 at Walmart. I love it because it has the clip, so when I gave the gift they could turn it over to read the statement.

10 Survival Tips for New Moms

1. Change your clothes.

Every day. Even if you don’t go anywhere.

Bring a cute cozy outfit to the hospital and as soon as you are able, get yourself cleaned up and out of that hospital gown.

If you only have one pair of favorite yoga pants, go get at least 2 other favorite pairs.


2. Take a shower.

At least every other day.

Even though you aren’t sure if the sun is coming up or going down you need to take care of yourself too.

Baby is crying? That’s okay. Bring the bassinet in the bathroom so they can get some humid air.


3. Brush your teeth.

Every morning. Every night. Even if 11 o’clock at night means the party is just getting started.

The lines between day and night may be blurry, so set an alarm if you need to.


4. Eat on paper plates for at least 3 months.

It’s okay to eliminate chores, so you can spend more time resting and cuddling.


5. Don’t put pressure on yourself to cook.

You need to rest and recover. Don’t eat crap though. Get fresh fruits & veggies.

Drink plenty of water.

Get food that is ready to eat or stick in the oven/microwave – fruit, veggie trays, humus, frozen pizzas, frozen lasagnas, cereal, instant oatmeal, bagel/cream cheese, at least until baby (and you) sleep for a long stretch at night.

If your husband cooks, hooray! If he doesn’t, he surely can put a pizza in the oven.


6. Go outside once a day.

You don’t have to take baby, I mean like check the mail or make sure the sun is still there.

Just to breathe some fresh air.

If the weather is nice, put baby in the stroller and go for a walk.


7. If someone offers to help, take it.

I would love to take a nap in my room with my baby while you sweep, mop, and vacuum my house! Seriously!

People that offer help, want to help.

So let them. Even if it’s picking up dinner for you and dropping it off.


8. A messy bun is beautiful.

Did I mention enough to take care of yourself? Do you need a haircut? Have you shaved your legs?

You don’t have to put on make up, but you are not being selfish if you do something for yourself.


9. It’s okay to not go out in public.

It’s okay to not go to church, the store, or social gatherings. My babies were born small.

Which also means tiny immune systems.

A common cold for an adult is more serious to a newborn.

You don’t know who has a cold sore, who didn’t wash their hands, and who will pinch your baby’s cheek before you can stop them.

I waited 3 weeks, but I would have waited more if it weren’t for social pressure.

But when you do get out it’s okay to say no to your baby getting passed around (aka tell people she’s fussy, getting ready to eat, etc).

The first time you do show up, if you want to prevent an awkward interaction, wear a baby wrap.

I had some crazy anxiety about my babies catching germs. There is a polite way to keep them from being touched.

Put mittens and socks on them, so if anyone does wiggle their toes, it is not skin to skin contact.

People do want to see baby, but not everyone is thinking of germs.

I would rather people think I’m a little too overprotective than risk my newly born baby to get an infection.

(My son still gets fever blisters from a cold sore he got…around Christmas time…at 3 months old).

You also can’t put your baby in a bubble. Get out of the house when you feel ready.

Remember you are recovering too. If by 3-4 weeks you are still healing, just stay home.


10. Don’t isolate yourself.

Get out of the house. Don’t get stuck in the daze of diapers and feedings. Get out even if it’s just to get a drink in the drive thru.

If you are having challenges with your own recovery, call your doctor or another momma who’s been there and can help you out.

You don’t have to invite everyone to your house, but don’t close yourself off if you are feeling overwhelmed.

It’s okay to cry if you are tired. It’s okay to need a 5 minute break.

Talk to your husband about how you are feeling. You are not crazy, it’s just a crazy season.

The first 3 months go by so slow, but when they’re over it’s hard to remember.

If you are going back to work, it’s okay to be sad, but it’s not healthy to be depressed.

Talk to your doctor about how you are feeling. Connect with other moms at work who have been there.

You will figure it out and you will be an amazing momma!

Your baby needs you, so do what you need to do to take care of yourself too.

Parents: 28 Reasons to Put your Phone Down

I spent 17 hours and 6 minutes on my phone last week.  9 hours and 5 minutes on social networking.

An average of 2 hours and 25 minutes looking at my phone per day.

7 hours of the 17 on Facebook.  3 and a half on YouTube.  51 minutes texting.  30 minutes using the camera.  16 minutes talking on the phone. 15 minutes on email. 7 minutes on the calculator.

Most of the other time was just spent “checking” apps.

My phone sends me “screen time” alerts and keeps track of my usage.

Looking at the total is embarrassing.  In my defense, I try to use it when the kids go to bed.

But that’s not always true.

I’m showing you all this before I show you what my students had to say.  So you wouldn’t think I’m pointing fingers at other parents.

If anything, I’m pointing the finger at myself.  So much so, that I put a limit on my social networking to 10 minutes a day.

Read on to see why.


I start the new semester in my English class with a poetry unit.

To capture their interest, I show some “spoken word” poetry videos and the students answer questions about the messages of the poems.

This is the third year in a row I’ve done this unit.  This year, the answers seemed different.  Sad.  I don’t know why this year.

The poem called “Look Up” by Gary Turk shows how we spend so much time on social media or on devices in general that we let special moments in our life slip by.  [Sorry for the one potty word, but I think it was for the sake of rhyming.]

Sometimes we pass up opportunities all together.

I play the video, then display the journal prompt:

Make a connection: Do you experience this [people looking down at devices] when you are with your friends and family? How does this affect you?

Here are 28 responses from my 13-year-old students:

  1. It doesn’t feel good when people ignore me from there phone.
  2. My family and I are on our phones all the time and it makes me feel that I missed every moment with them.
  3. It makes me a little mad because you can’t do anything with your friends.
  4. It makes me feel like we are hardly know each other.
  5. My experience with my family is that my parents are always on their phones and they argue a lot and they always argue about stuff on Facebook and I spend time on my phone all the time because I have nothing to do.
  6. I get to watch 30 minutes of Netflix a day.  When they [my parents] get to have their technology themselves all day. It kind of makes me feel worthless.
  7. It makes me feel unwelcome to where we are.
  8. My mom is on her phone most of the time and doesn’t really pay attention to anything else.
  9. Yes it makes me feel sad because they don’t pay attention.
  10. Yes because when I want to talk they ignore me.
  11. Yes I feel like I’m left out and nobody listens to me.
  12. Yes I feel this with my mom it makes me feel like I’m worthless.
  13. Yes mad because they never talk to me.
  14. Yes because it makes me feel left out.
  15. Yes, I feel kinda sad while my dad and lots of my friends play on their phones.
  16. Yes my grandma’s always on her phone and my grandpa’s always on his iPad.
  17. Yes my parents are always on their phones around which makes me quite sad.
  18. Kinda because sometimes my grandma just plays on her phone like going on facebook and not paying attention to me.
  19. Sometimes I wish I could speak to my sister more but we are both on our phones. It makes me feel a bit sad.
  20. Yes I experience this with family members who don’t look up and pay attention and it makes me feel like they just don’t care about what I have to say.
  21. My family and friends can tend to do this sometimes. It makes me feel like we are not as connected when they are on their phones. They don’t want to listen to anyone.
  22. It makes me feel left out and that they don’t want to talk.
  23. I do experience it with my family quite often and honestly it makes me feel terrible and makes me feel like they don’t have enough time to ask how my day was or how everything is going.
  24. Yes my family is definitely on our phones and computers and TV a lot and it makes me feel sad because we never do stuff as a family.
  25. Sometimes. It doesn’t make me feel too great because if I’m talking and they’re on their phone it doesn’t seem like they’re listening to me.
  26. It’s the same with my family.
  27. It makes me sad that family does this too, due to their screen time being more important to them.
  28. My mom is always on her phone and whenever I try to talk to her she never listens, or it takes her like 5 minutes for her to even notice that I was talking to her. It makes me feel upset.

I saw similar responses from all types of students.

Shy and outgoing.  Unstable family and well-established family.  Well-off and well-fare.

Just to show there’s not one factor that influenced their answer.

There were a lot of kids who said it wasn’t a big deal at home because they played outside as a family.

Some kids said it didn’t bother them because they enjoyed being on their phone too.

Whether we are guilty of staring at a screen or not, I think we all [being a family member or friend] could do better at just being present with the people around us.

I want to start planning activities (I’m talking about like 30 minutes because life still requires me to cook, clean, and get my kids ready for bed) to make sure we don’t get stuck in the routine of staring at a screen all evening.

  • Park Monday- play at a different park in our town, there’s at least half a dozen in our small town.
  • Trampoline Tuesday- play on our trampoline.
  • Walk Wednesday- walk out to our pond.
  • Trampoline Thursday- play on the trampoline again or ride bikes in the garage.
  • Fun Friday- some kind of fun family outing or just go get a slushy or treat, then go home and play a game.
  • Messy Saturday- get messy, were I let them paint, play in the sand, or bake with me. Invite family or friends over.
  • Soda Sunday- a day already known as “soda” Sunday, but also family movie night with popcorn or candy.

Spending quality time with family may look different as the kids get older.

I’m going to post this, put my phone down, and go play with my kids.

 

5 Signs That It’s Time to Change

1. Stressed.

I used to be stressed. All. The. Time. Over every. Little. Thing. I lived in a state of stress. I think I could attribute it to being overly tired and exhausted from being a teacher, wife, and mom, but I reflected on just what I was getting frustrated over.

A lot of it was having too much to do and either too little time or energy to get it done.

Some people would tell me the dishes can wait, the kids are only little once. Things like that.

But really, if I have a sink stacked full of dishes, 5 baskets of laundry mocking me on the couch, and clutter piled high on the counters I don’t enjoy digging for a black sock on the morning of the day I have breakfast duty at school.

I don’t enjoy spending an hour emptying the dishwasher, loading it up, and washing the rest of the dishes because they wouldn’t fit in one load.

So I changed that.

Instead of coming home and plopping on the couch, I rush to get all the “chores” out of the way while my kids watch a show or eat a snack.

Then I can focus on relaxing or playing with my kids without having the nagging feeling of needing to get something done.

I try my best to “keep up” with the chores before they turn into mountains.

I stay weeks, even months ahead on lesson plans so that when “something comes up” during my plan time I’m not stressed about my lesson for the next day.

I keep a list of things that are running low, or better yet stock up, so I don’t have to run to the store at 9 o’clock at night because we ran out of toilet paper, diapers, or deodorant.

I try to stay ahead. Keep up. So I don’t feel the stress of being behind.

I feel like I have more time to actually relax than “relaxing” (procrastinating) myself into a state of stress.

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2. Late.

While semi-potty training two toddlers, you can imagine why it takes us 20 minutes from the time I say “put your shoes on” until we are actually pulling out of the driveway.

This one was really bad. It was so bad, and we would be so late, that sometimes it would make me want to just give up and stay home (mainly getting to church).

I would set my alarm to have just enough time to get ready, in a frenzy, yank the kids out of bed, get them dressed, and run out the door holding them under my arms like footballs.

I would be late because of “red lights” or “slow drivers.”

I since figured out a genius idea.

Wake up earlier.

Earlier and earlier until I find a time that I don’t have to rush and have accounted for time if I do hit every red light.

I can kiss my kids good bye, follow a slow driver to work and still walk in 5 minutes before I have to be there.

I lay out our outfits for the whole week and pack everything the night before.

We get ready for church as soon as we wake up. We leave “30 minutes early” because remember it takes 20 minutes for them to put their shoes on, go to the bathroom, get in their car sets, and drive away.

Late still happens in our house occasionally, but it’s not a habit we put ourselves in anymore.

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3. Dread.

Dreading Sunday nights. Monday mornings. Waiting for Friday to feel relief. Not looking forward to a majority of the days in the week.

That’s a sad way to live.

Maybe it’s time for a change in what you do during the day. Start something new. Shift around or change within where you are.

Step away from former responsibilities or commitments that take away energy from what matters most.

Pick up a passion or hobby that you once enjoyed or dream to do.  I started painting again, a couple times a month when the kids go to bed.

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I taught English for 7-12th grade (yes every grade in between, each hour of the day) in Alaska for a couple years, then back in Missouri at a high school, and then finally landed at a middle school.

I gained something from every experience, but I feel like I’ve finally settled in the right place, where I feel like I’m making the biggest impact with my talents and personality.

I don’t look forward to every aspect of my job, but I do feel an overall sense that I’m where I’m called to be at this time.

I find joy knowing what I do during the day, and at home matters.

If you don’t, reflect on what you dread and what you might be able to do to change that.


4. Cranky.

You probably have one, two, or a handful of people who truly know the real you. Not the polished, jeans wearing, casual conversation you.

I’m talking about the I-had-a-rough-day, I’m at the end of my patience, and I just changed into my comfy-not-for-public sweat pants you.

The you that is ugly and doesn’t think before you speak. The you that pouted, and rolled your eyes, and said mean things to your husband.

What is the root of your crankiness?

Is it because you stayed up too late too many nights in a row?

Is it because you are stressed because you are late because you are dreading going to wherever you are headed?

Figure out why you are cranky and knock it off. Quit complaining about how things are and do something about. Don’t blame other people for your lack of happiness. (This is me talking to myself).


5. Exhausted.

Not just tired. But like running on empty, chugging coffee, and too too too busy.

You give everything to everyone else, and you have nothing left at the end of each day.

You lost touch with what you once enjoyed. You aren’t using your talents. You don’t feel like you have enough energy.

This one seems like common sense, but it takes some self-discipline and maybe a shift in your family’s schedule.

Get more sleep.

Can’t sleep in? Go to bed earlier.

Got kids? Put them to bed earlier.

I need at least an hour or two after the kids go to bed to myself or for my husband and I to hang out. So that means I need the kids to go to bed earlier. We set alarms just like in the morning.

My son helped pick out the sounds.

The ducks quack at bath time. The dogs bark at book and snack time.

The motorcycle rumbles when it’s time to brush teeth. A song plays when it’s time to go potty and say bedtime prayers.

Our whole house is a lot happier when we go to bed at a decent time and stick to our routine to keep things normal.

We made a lot of changes this year and I’m still learning as I go. Take some time to think about it.  Are you sick and tired of how things are going? With your health? Job? Mood? Parenting?

Then make some changes.

Don’t waste your best days being tired and wishing for the weekend.

Go for it. Change it now.

lucas