3 Ways to Involve Your Kids in the Kitchen This Christmas!

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Confession: I love to eat.

Many of my fondest memories involve food. This especially holds true for the holidays. Christmas makes me think of my dad’s party mix, my mom’s plates of sweet treats, and big bowls of warm soup. The holidays have always included full days of baking in the kitchen with my mom and sister – measuring, mixing, baking, and decorating to share delicious food with family and friends.

I have three boys of my own now and I am so grateful they enjoy time in the kitchen as much as I do! Their involvement in holiday baking has evolved over the years based on their age and level of interest. My aim is always to make it fun for them AND productive for me with as little stress as possible. When I get started on my holiday baking list, I know they will want to join in, so I have several go-to ways to get them involved in the kitchen!

3 Ways to Involve Your Kids in the Kitchen this Christmas

Here are my three favorites:

Kids in the Kitchen Reading Recipe

Reading the recipe

It might not seem like the most exciting job, but as soon as my boys could read, they couldn’t wait to tell me the ingredients, measurements, and directions. I think they might also enjoy it because they feel like they are in control! It is helpful to me because I can go about measuring and mixing while they tell me what to do.

When the kids are in the kitchen with me reading handwritten recipes passed down from my mom or grandma, we end up sharing lots of stories. Family history has been passed down from generation to generation in our kitchens and I want to keep that tradition going!

Kids in the Kitchen Chocolate Chips

Measuring the mix-ins

I usually measure out the messiest ingredients during our baking sessions – flour, oil, and so on. Those are also the ingredients that need to be the most precise, so maybe it’s a little about me being in control! I’m trying to hand over the measuring duties little by little and even our youngest can help measure mix-in type ingredients, such as chocolate chips, nuts, and dried fruit. These measurements don’t need to be quite as exact and I don’t mind if they sneak a few to snack on along the way!

Kids in the Kitchen Egg

Cracking eggs

I know I just talked about control issues in the kitchen and this was probably the hardest for me to let the kids try. But here’s the truth: kids love cracking eggs. And egg cracking is a skill every person should learn at some point, so why not teach them early?

When the kids crack eggs, we follow a few simple rules. Eggs are cracked one at a time into a separate bowl, then added to the mixture. This prevents accidental egg shell pieces from ruining an entire batch of cookies! Hand washing is a must as soon as all eggs are cracked to prevent any cross-contamination. I’m all about preventing food-borne illness because there is already enough sickness going around this time of year!

On this particular day, we were making my grandma’s chocolate chip cookies, but holiday baking with kids could also involve frosting, sprinkles, rolling out dough, and lots of other fun!

And when the kids lose interest in the kitchen…

This happens all the time. The boys are so excited about baking with me, but after about 30 minutes, they lose interest. It pays to have a backup plan and I often choose a holiday movie for that plan. In keeping with the Christmas baking theme, check out A Fruitcake Christmas from the Hermie & Friends series by Tommy Nelson! There is fun, adventure, mystery, and all of it points to Christ, the true reason for Christmas.

I love to bake all year round, but there is something extra special about baking this time of year and I’m so glad my kids are a part of it! What is your favorite way to get the kids involved with holiday baking?

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Just When You Think He’s Not Listening

We have that one child who seems like he never hears us the first time around. Getting his attention and holding it isn’t always easy. While he is very smart and does so well in school, sometimes I’ve wondered if anything we say is soaking in.

Do you have a child like that? Let me give you a little hope today.

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As we drove to school one morning last week, our three-year-old asked: “When do we get to be with Jesus?”

That’s a pretty deep question for 7:30 in the morning while stuck in stop-and-go traffic. I took a big breath and readied my answer, but seven-year-old Little J chimed in first.

“We get to be with Jesus when we go to heaven! And in heaven, there is no pain or sickness or sadness. It’s all happy!”

This definitely got my attention in the best way possible. Double J (our three-year-old) seemed very interested as well and his big brother wasn’t done yet.

“You get to go to heaven if you ask Jesus into your heart! Big J and I have both asked Jesus to come into our hearts so we’ll be in heaven with Him. You can ask Him, too!”

Cue the big mommy tears.

Our rides to school in the morning have been a highlight of my day. We always start with prayer and then the kids take turns picking music to listen to and sing. It feels like some calm in the middle of a chaotic morning.

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But that morning last week. That morning topped them all. The child who doesn’t always listen, who seems to often be in his own little world…he has most certainly been listening. He has soaked up the true meaning of the Gospel over the years, and he was fully ready to share it with his little brother, without being asked.

His younger brother has been listening as well, because in the midst of hiding tears of joy behind my sunglasses and trying to keep my blurry eyes on the road, I heard his little three-year-old voice say:

“And Jesus is in heaven because He died on the cross and rose from the tomb!”

All those days of reading Bible stories over and over again, of memorizing verses and singing worship songs, of answering the same questions over and over again…they are 100% worth it, moms and dads. Our kids coming to know the love and saving power of Jesus is all His grace, but you are doing His good work when you share the Good News with your children day after day.

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In the days following, three-year-old Double J has talked a lot about heaven and death and what he will get to take with Him. So much of this is a mystery even to us as mature Christians, so I don’t have all the answers for him. He’s pretty sad that his Duplos won’t go with him to heaven. But I love the conversation that is happening in our home, all because our seven-year-old was bold in sharing the message of salvation he has been hearing all through his young life.

All this discussion led to a few little words with big weight from our youngest earlier this week:

“Mommy, I can’t wait to be with Jesus in heaven.”

Me neither, buddy.

May we all live with the boldness, the faith, and the joy of our children, soaking up every little bit of God’s goodness.

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Backyard Football Therapy

Saturday wasn’t the best day for our beloved Nebraska Cornhusker football team. We were crushed by the way it all went down, losing on a last second Hail Mary touchdown and all.

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The Hubby gets all the dad points, though, because instead of sulking, as we both wanted to do, he gathered the boys and headed to the backyard for a game of football. And I took my camera out there to capture the fun.

I think it was good therapy for all of us.

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Recovering from football with more football. That’s how we do it in this Nebraska house of boys.

How did your team do this weekend?

 

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Back to School with OshKosh B’Gosh!

I participated in a Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for OshKosh B’Gosh. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

You may recall how my boys fell in love with OshKosh B’Gosh clothes this summer. They seriously love shopping at OshKosh B’Gosh and wear their OshKosh clothes all the time. The active clothes and graphic tees have been their favorite!

We headed back to our local OshKosh B’Gosh outlet store to do some back-to-school shopping and we were not disappointed!

OshKosh Back to School

Back-to-school season is completely different this year as we are sending our boys to school for the first time. They are going to school in style with the great shirts they picked out from OshKosh’s new Black, White, and Indigo collection!

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Little J is in second grade and is a big fan of this glow-in-the-dark baseball tee. It is a great piece to transition to fall – long-sleeved but lightweight and super fun – just like my Little J!

OshKosh Big J #1 OshKosh Big J #2

Big J just started fourth grade and he likes to look sharp. I think he looks very handsome in this dark denim shirt that pulls from the OshKosh jeans tradition but with a modern twist. OshKosh B’Gosh jeans are well loved and always in style. I think we can say the same about this shirt!

OshKosh Double J #1 OshKosh Double J #2

Double J is home with Mommy and loving the one-on-one time, but he didn’t want to miss out on the back-to-school styles! He went with glow-in-the-dark like his big brother. This another great fall piece with a little more warmth than the baseball tee and lots of fun details!

OshKosh Crazy Boys

All three of these fabulous shirts are from the Black, White, and Indigo line which also includes jeans and comfy pants. You’ll want to head to your local OshKosh B’Gosh store to check out this line as well as the B’Gosh Blue Jeans and the World’s Best Overalls! And you can save while you shop with this 25% off coupon that is good through the end of September!

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OshKosh B’Gosh is going beyond great clothes for kids in their stores this fall. The B’gosh Jeanius Campaign is all about providing kids in need with all the back-to-school essentials – everything from clothes to books to school supplies!

OshKosh B’Gosh, alongside K.I.D.S./Fashion Delivers, Inc., and DonorsChoose.org, gives you as the customer the opportunity to donate a new pair of jeans or make a cash donation to a students in need this school year. All jeans donated through September 16, 2015, will be delivered to local children in need through K.I.D.S./Fashion Delivers, and all cash donations will be dsitricbuted to local DonorsChoose.org.

That’s not all! The Carters Charitable Foundation will match all cash donations up to $50,000 and all denim donations with a new item of clothing. Isn’t that amazing?! Give kids a leg up and donate a new pair of blue jeans or make a cash donation at the register when you head there to shop for your own kids! You can read all the details about the B’gosh Jeanius Campaign here.

OshKosh Huddle OshKosh All Three Running

OshKosh B’Gosh made back-to-school shopping a breeze for my boys and I know you’ll love everything they have in the store for your kiddos, too! Grab that 25% off coupon and run to your nearest OshKosh store!

Have you been to OshKosh B’Gosh recently? What OshKosh clothes do you love for your own kids?

 

 

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First Day of School 2015!

We did it! We made it through the first day of school outside of our home!

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If you ask the boys how it went, you will hear the same thing from both of them: AWESOME.

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Getting ready in the morning went pretty well. Actually getting to school was a little hairy since I had no idea what traffic would be like! They were at school on time (barely), but we left earlier and took a different route this morning and that will be our go-to plan.

The boys talked pretty much nonstop from the time I picked them up and these were a few of my favorite quotes:

First Day of School 2015 Little J

Little J (very first thing he said to me): “My first day of school was AWESOME!”

First Day of School 2015 Big J

Big J: “I played kickball at recess for the first time!”

Me: “Did you eat your lunch?” Little J: “I could only finish my cheese and half my sandwich.” (That eating lunch quickly thing is going to take some practice!)

Big J: “My favorite part of the day was interviewing my teacher!”

First Day of School 2015 Double J

Double J: “Let’s go on a date to the children’s museum!”

I only cried once, right after we dropped them off. I blame The Hubby for making me emotional. But he made up for it by taking the little guy and I to Caribou Coffee to celebrate!

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It was a day of new things for all of us and I’m incredibly thankful it went so well. I thought I would be annoyed by the driving time there and back, but we’re making the best of it by praying, singing, and sharing our days. I kind of love it already. And I got some pretty big hugs when the day was over. I cherished every second.

I’m sure I will have many more thoughts on this whole going-to-school adventure, but today I just want to celebrate surviving and thriving on the first day!

How is back-to-school going for all of you? Any good stories to share?

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Changes at Home + School

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Change has abounded for us this year. Big change and little change, making life more complicated, but also better in so many ways. I’m reading a fabulous book by my friend Kristen right now called Girl Meets Change and it could not be more timely. I’ll be sharing a full review when I finish it up, but I remember this quote from her from a blog post a while back that goes perfectly with the book as well as my life circumstances:

“The old thing may be familiar, but the new thing may be fantastic.” – Kristen Strong

That’s what I’m holding on to this week because this is happening:

School Change 1

After four years of homeschool, our older boys are going to school for the first time (other than preschool). It is a big time of transition, but I am so thankful to say God has our whole family on the same page and we’re very excited for this new season! How big and handsome do they look in this pic?! This was taken at the school open house when they met their teachers and brought in all of their school supplies and I got a million papers to deal with!

There was a time when The Hubby and I knew God wanted us to move in this direction and the kids were less than excited about the idea. But God… He led us to a school we all fell in love with and we are so grateful. I know every school decision comes with its own challenges, but it also comes with new opportunities for adventure. Shopping for school supplies and planning lunches both count as adventures for Mom, right?!

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As we get ready for the first day on Wednesday of this week, I’m focusing on the joy of a God doing a new thing in our family! And it could not be more perfect that I have a post up today over on the Tommy Nelson blog about embracing the joy of back-to-school. It’s for anyone and everyone starting up the school year – homeschool, public school, private school. I hope it will be a blessing to you and your family! I know I will be praying these verses with and for my kids throughout the year.

The little guy, Double J, is only three and will still be home with me. He says we’re going to go on dates to the children’s museum when the boys are at school. He also says he is going to marry me. Cue the heart melting. I haven’t been home with just one kid since the summers when I was a teacher and Big J was super little, so this will be very interesting! I know we will have tons of fun.

And now I’m diving back in to figuring out schedules and lunches and all the things…pray for me.

Talk to me about your kids and school! When did/do they start? What grades? How can I pray for them and you this school year?

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These Kids Are Runners!

I’ve been a runner for just over three years now. The Hubby started running a few months before me. Running has changed so many things about our lives for the better and our boys have taken notice.

This spring, our nine-year-old, Big J, mentioned he would like to do a 5K. We looked at the calendar and picked out a race in our area for the end of July. Big J and I sat down with the Couch to 5K plan and made a training plan for him to check off for eight weeks.

He amazed us during those eight weeks. If you don’t know about the Couch to 5K plan, it starts with long intervals of walking and short intervals of running. As the weeks progress, you walk less and run more. Big J did some runs with The Hubby or I outside, but many of them were on the treadmill. He was so dedicated and got through every single training run, even during the week he went to camp.

Along the way, Little J, our seven-year-old, decided he wanted to try the one-mile race on the same morning. He did some treadmill walking and a few spontaneous runs during his big brother’s baseball practice, but no formal training.

On race day, the one-mile race was first and Little J had Daddy by his side. We really had no idea what to expect from him, but when they took off, I thought it might be a while before they made their way back.

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Imagine my surprise when we saw Little J headed towards the finish line less than ten minutes later!

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The Hubby was surprised as well because Little J ran the whole time and finished with a time of 9:50! He came in second!

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Little J says he can’t wait to do his next race to get better and get another medal. I love it.

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Big J’s 5K race started a half hour later and I had the privilege of running with him. We said a little prayer before we started – for strength, endurance, and a fun experience!

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Summer races in Nebraska are not my favorite. Even with an early start, the humidity was no fun and the sun was shining down pretty bright. All of this just makes it even more impressive that Big J only walked for a few seconds a couple times the whole race. And he’s just like his mama – talking most of the time.

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I peeled off at the end of the race to let him finish on his own, sprinting those last few minutes with cheers and pictures and an announcer calling his name, telling everyone a nine-year-old was coming in at 34:53!

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Yes, I cried. When both kids crossed the finish line. The perseverance and determination they showed through training and the race left us incredibly proud. We saw a new side of them. Running means so much to us and we could see how much our boys enjoyed this running experience. These kids are runners and are already thinking about what races they want to do next, maybe when it is a little cooler!

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Our boys also know the best way to celebrate after a great race. We teach them well.

Are your kids interested in running? Have they ever run a race?

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The Baseball Experiment

Our boys tried out several different sports and many of them have been through our local YMCA. They have an excellent fundamental program for many sports that allows kids to learn the basics of a particular sport before trying it in a team and game setting.

Big J has tried out soccer and basketball in this fundamental format and went on to play on a rec basketball team this year. We love the low-pressure opportunity to try out a sport before they commit a lot of time to it  – and it keeps them active!

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This summer, Big J decided to give baseball a try. For eight weeks, he has gone to clinic-style practices every Saturday morning, practicing the proper form for throwing and hitting and learning all about the fundamentals of America’s pastime.

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This past Saturday, they wrapped up the program with a scrimmage game that was both great for practice and hilarious to watch. When you have about twenty boys ranging from first grade to sixth grade who are just learning the game of baseball, the first time they play a real game is full of chaos and excitement. I loved it.

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This scrimmage game was also the first time the boys tried to hit a thrown pitch from the coach. Big J got a single on the second pitch and ran the bases hard each time a teammate got a hit! He also had some good fielding plays in the outfield.

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He really enjoyed his time playing baseball, so this experiment was a success! I think he makes a pretty handsome baseball player, don’t you?!

What sports do your kids play in the summer? Did they try any new ones this year?

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Your Ears Will Love These Headphones!

I received these items to review. I was not compensated in any other way for this post and all opinions are 100% my own!

I’ve had my fair share of bad experiences with headphones and running. This pair hurt my ears, that pair wouldn’t stay in my ears, the other pair started shorting out and shocking me while I tried to run…yeah, not so good luck with headphones and running.

Whenever someone tells me I should try a certain pair of headphones because they love them, I usually pass. I just don’t believe there is one magical pair that works for every runner…but maybe I’m wrong. Panasonic recently sent me two new pairs of headphones for our active family to try out and we’re loving both of them!

Panasonic Headphones

All of the headphones I’ve tried for running in the past have been in-ear headphones. Most of them either hurt or fell out. I was pleasantly surprised to find this wasn’t the case with the Panasonic Sport Clip Headphones!

Sport Clip Headphones

They are very lightweight and fit perfectly over and in my ears, holding snuggling but not with too much pressure. The sound quality is exceptional and they also work with your smartphone so you can answer calls while running! I don’t do that very often, but it is a nice feature to have!

Bone Conduction Headphones

While I loved the sport clip style, it was another pair of headphones that really blew all of us away. Panasonic Open Ear Bone Conduction Headphones are like nothing else I have ever tried. They don’t go IN your ears, they sit on the bone right in front of your ear. You hear the music through vibrations in your skull. It sounds crazy, but it totally works and everyone in the family had to try them!

Big J Headphones

The nice thing about using these headphones for running is they don’t plug up your ears completely, so you would be able to hear a car coming or a biker passing you on the trail AND hear your music with great clarity. This is a really valuable safety feature for outdoor runners. And that makes these water-resistant headphones the perfect choice as you’re training for your summer and fall races!

Speaking of races, we’re adding another race runner to the family this weekend as our oldest (nine years old) has been training for his first 5K! We have been so impressed by his dedication to sticking to a training plan, doing three runs a week, some outside and some on the treadmill. He followed the Couch to 5K program for eight weeks and the big race is this Saturday!

Headphones Warm Weather Pack

It’s going to be a warm morning, so we’re packing a great water bottle and cooling towel for after the race. Not a big fan of the heat and humidity, but it comes with living in Nebraska!

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I’ll be running with Big J for the 5K and probably crying when he finishes. Yes, I’m that mom. Our seven-year-old will also be doing his first one-mile race with The Hubby that morning! This running lifestyle has become quite the adventure, but I wouldn’t have it any other way and I LOVE sharing it with our whole family!

What’s your experience with headphones for exercise? Do you have a pair you love?

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Books for Kids: Jack Staples

I was given this book to review, but was not compensated in any other way for this post. All opinions are 100% my own or my son’s! This post contains affiliate links.

My kids are voracious readers. They devour chapter books, asking for more reading time, carrying books they’re engrossed in with them wherever we go. I absolutely love it.

I’m always on the lookout for quality chapter books to throw their way next, so I was thrilled to learn of a new young adult series from author Mark Batterson, best known for writing The Circle Maker. When I read the plot summary, I knew our nine-year-old, Big J, would be all about the Jack Staples series and I was right!

Jack Staples Book 1

I interviewed Big J after he finished the first book in the series, Jack Staples and the Ring of Time, and here were a few of his answers:

What is the story about?
“It’s about Jack and his adventures as one of the Awakened who sees life with different eyes than the rest of the world.”

What did you like about this book?
“I really liked the sword-fighting! It was like our world, but there were no guns, only swords and other primary weapons. The story was exciting, scary, and intense!”

Who were your favorite characters?
“Jack Staples and Alexia Dreager are the main characters and I liked them best. Alexia was really cool because she has the gift of climbing. I also like that God is called the Author and Satan is called the Assassin.”

What were your favorite parts of the story?
“I like when Jack defeated the enemy and the lion helped save him!”

What lessons did you learn from this book?
“Mrs. Dumphry (a character in the book) said something I really liked: ‘A true leader does not need to be asked to do the right thing; he does it.’ I think that’s the most important lesson I learned.”

I loved his answers, but more than that, I loved his enthusiasm about this book and the series as a whole. Immediately after finishing the first Jack Staples book, he asked when we could order the second and third!

Jack Staples Reading

The first piece of good news is the second book in the series, Jack Staples and the City of Shadows, as well as the third, Jack Staples and the Poet’s Storm, are both available now. My bookworm is thrilled he doesn’t have to wait for them to be released. I totally know how he feels!

The second piece of good news is that I’m giving away a copy of Jack Staples and the Ring of Time for your child today, along with a copy of Mark Batterson’s book, Praying Circles Around the Lives of Your Children, just for you!

To enter, just leave a comment telling me who in your life would love to read the Jack Staples series! I will pick one random winner Wednesday night, July 15th at 9PM CST!

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