Archives for July 2013

10 Ways to Raise Money-Smart Kids

Money-Smart Kids

John and I have never been rich (by Western standards, anyway), but we’ve always done our best to be wise users of our resources.  We’re working to teach our children wise money habits as well.  So many people these days are struggling under mountains of debt, due to college and  new vehicles and too-much-house and too-much-shopping, as well as all sorts of other expenses that can sneak up on you. John and I have fallen into some of those pitfalls ourselves.  And we know that our kids will have lessons of their own to learn out in the world.  But we are doing our best to prepare them well so that they can avoid some of the most common problems. Here’s some of what we’re doing:


  1. Teach kids to be good workers, the kind of folks who give 110%, not 90%.  This has got to be one of the first lessons kids learn, at a young age.  Folks who aren’t afraid of work get noticed out in the world these days, and they’ll have an easier time finding jobs both as teens and as adults.
  2. Provide for kids’ needs, but as they grow begin to require them to pay for their own ‘wants’.  For example, we’ll pay for $30 shoes.  But if teens decide they’d rather have the $60 ones, they get to fork over the extra $30.  Sometimes they do it;  more often they decide they don’t want the spendy shoes enough to spend their own dough.
  3. Give kids ways to earn extra money for special projects, but don’t feel like you have to make it too easy.  It’s okay that earning money feels like work.  If my 8 and 10 year old girls beg me to buy them something at the store, I’ll often say, “Sure, if you’re willing to weed for half an hour to earn it.”  Sometimes they go for my offer.  More often they reconsider that particular impulse buy.
  4. Require that kids save a portion of everything they earn.  As income grows, we increase the percentage we ask our kids to save.  The latest gadget will be out of date in a year or two, but nobody ever regretted having money in savings.
  5. Take kids shopping with you at yard sales and thrift stores, as well as in regular retail stores.  Help them check out Craigslist for bigger-ticket items. Our kids love to go thrifting, and they know first hand how much further money goes at thrift stores.  (See our $20 thrift store challenge.)
  6. Talk with teens about future expenses using real numbers.  Kids may think that minimum wage sounds like lots of money– until they sit down and look at prices of rental housing, used vehicles, electricity, gas, and car insurance.  Recently my teens and I calculated that a person would need to work 38 hours a week to afford a very basic apartment in our area, ride the bus to work, and spend only $200 a month on groceries.
  7. Let teens try shopping for groceries for a week and see how far they can stretch the money.  (Read here about our $20 grocery challenge.)
  8. Teach kids to cook.  Being unafraid in the kitchen will save them lots of money over the years. Several homeschooling mommas have told me that Family Feasts for $75 a Week makes a great home economics course.
  9. Model creative problem-solving when things break around the house.  Often you can repair broken items and save big bucks. (Here’s how we fix broken vertical blinds.)
  10. ‘Sneak’ wise money advice from other folks into kids’ ears whenever you get the chance. I listen to Dave Ramsey podcasts when I’m working in the kitchen with my kids, both to keep myself motivated, and to allow my kids to hear stories from folks struggling to overcome bad money choices.  Though it’s inevitable that kids will make (and learn from) their own mistakes, I’m hoping they will also learn from the mistakes of others, and have a jump start on wise and careful spending in adulthood.


Along with all these ideas, we also share stories with our kids of the many ways that God has provided for our family over the years, and to talk to them about joyful giving as a way of thanking God for all He’s done for us.

How do you teach your kids about money?  Please add your wisdom in comments, below, to make this post more complete.

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Healthy ways to fight the flu


For years when my kids have the flu, I’ve treated it with a few hours of rest for the tummy, then a bit of Sprite.  If that stays down, we then we try some dry toast, maybe with a little more Sprite.  If the bug seems long-lived, we’ve occasionally bought Gatorade to help restore the electrolyte balance.  Thankfully kids usually heal quickly.

But with my increased interest in healthy food, I’ve become more and more uncomfortable giving sick kids drinks laden with sugar and food coloring.  (Did you know that sugar suppresses immune function in your body?) Recently I did a little online research and discovered some healthier options to try when kids are not feeling their best. (Please use good judgement and consult with your doctor regarding any illness that lasts longer than a day or two, especially in a child younger than age 2.)


Homemade pedialyte is incredibly easy to make.


Homemade Pedialyte

Mix together:

  • 1 quart water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


Coconut water  is another easy alternative to pedialyte.  It naturally contains all sorts of good electrolytes.



Don’t forget the power of the BRAT diet to help settle tummies plagued with diarrhea.


R- Rice

A- Applesauce

T- Toast

For added power, season the applesauce with cinnamon– cinnamon fights all sorts of bacteria, including e. coli.  And spread the toast with a little coconut oil, because coconut oil also has antibiotic effects.


Here’s a smoothie that combines most of the above ingredients into a tummy-soothing treat.

Tummy-Healthy Smoothies


  • 3/4 cup of rice milk 
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp of raw, local honey
  • 1/2 tsp of coconut oil 

Combine everything except the coconut oil in a blender.  Then melt the coconut oil and add to the mixture slowly while blending.


Also be sure to read this great article by Healthy Jasmine.  That’s where I got several of these ideas.  Do you have other healthy ideas for dealing with kiddos who have to flu?  I’d love to hear about them. 

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beach girls
From the day you were born
And took your first breath
You opened your eyes and in came the light
He was watching you
But all of your life you couldn’t shake the lies in your head
Saying you’re a mistake
Oh but you were made
By a God who knows your name
He doesn’t make mistakes

You are wanted
To every broken heart, He stands with open arms
You are wanted
To every searching soul, look to the rising sun
If you’re lonely, hurting, gone too far
To the outcast you come as you are
For you, you are wanted, you, you are wanted
You, you are wanted, you, you are wanted

Let this be the day that joy takes the place
Of all of the years that shame tried to steal away
He is calling you
Lift your eyes to see His face
Come run into the arms of grace

You, you have been marked

You’re set apart
And He calls you His
So you don’t have to search
Don’t have to look for where you belong

You are wanted

How I almost melted, and other bits of trivia

Flowers (640x254)

Today the little girls and I went to play with Ranger and Erika.  First we accompanied them to Erika’s midwife appointment, where we chased Ranger up and down the stairs, with him giving us kisses through the railings now and then– what a charmer–  and then hearing that sweet little baby swooshing around inside Erika– only 7 more weeks!

Then we were off for an adventure thrifting where we found a sweet slip-covered rocking chair for Erika ($20) and some great wicker shades for me that turned out to be too narrow for the windows I had in mind.  (Hm…anyone have cool uses for wicker shades?  I can’t stand the thought of not using them for something!)  Later we did a bit of furniture-moving at Erika’s house, then some birthday shopping for my son who turns 19 Saturday (fun secrets) and a tiny bit of grocery shopping before heading home.

On the way home in the heat we were positively melting.  Basically we’d spent most of the day in and out of a hot vehicle running errands, punctuated by furniture-moving at Erika’s house, not exactly a cooling endeavor.  And a black van takes a LONG time to cool off in 100 degree weather, even with the A/C cranked.  I had just hit my limit of heat.  For a bit I was feeling sorry for myself, so tired and just wishing to be home lying in front of a cool vent.  Then I started listening, really listening, to my little girls, and they were chattering about friends  (how all of Emily’s are chatty and know interesting factoids) and tooth fairies (apparently ours forgot to show up last night) and what we will do in heaven someday (Emily thinks we won’t play games because in games someone always loses, and how could that be allowed in heaven??)  And pretty soon the air was blowing colder and I was enjoying my time after all.

I saw the other day a meme on  The Homemaking Cottage that looked like something I’d like to write about.  And so I picked out a few questions from it to answer, and made up another question or two of my own.   Feel free to play along in comments, or on your own blog if you wish.

Two recent meals:  Shepherd’s Pie was Tuesday evening, and this evening we had barbecued chicken (BBQ’d by my son, since I was unable to bear the task in my semi-melted state) and cabbage slaw.  Both meals were yummy.

A recipe I’d like to try: Jello Peach Pie or Easy Chickpea Curry with Coconut Rice
What I’m liking around my home:  I’m adoring a big planter that Amanda (Eldest) and her husband Ben gave me for Mother’s Day.  I put it on my back patio, in a shady location right in front of my kitchen window.  You can see it above.  It is blooming hugely and I enjoy it every single day.  ALL the other years of living here, I put my flower pots on the front porch to be enjoyed by visitors, and gradually to wither away in the heat of August.  This one I decided to place where I could see it from the kitchen sink and I am enjoying it SO much more.  It is a revelation to me.  (Also, guests, sorry about the no-flower thing on the front porch.)  But really, why not put them where the people who live here can enjoy them?

What I’d like to improve:  I need to help Em and Julianna sort out their room.  It’s a clutter-bomb again.  They just have too many things, and we need to do some weeding out so they can breathe in there.  I read a post on Living Well, Spending Less about a mom who took away almost all of her kids’ toys.  I don’t want to go quite to that extreme, but I can completely see her point about having space to breathe and think.  I am toying with the idea of helping ALL the kids declutter during the next few weeks.  We’ll see how far we get.

Cover, with snaps

What I created this week:  a new style of diaper cover that a friend says works well for her babies.  Hoping it will work well for Erika’s new little one too.  Isn’t it cute?  It has double elastic at the leg, and the absorbency is provided by lay-in diaper liners, which means the cover itself (supposedly) does not get especially wet, and thus rarely leaks.  We’ll see what Erika thinks.

Diaper cover (closeup of leg edge)

Favorite job around the house:  probably cooking dinner if it’s not too hot– I really do like cooking.  (I know, I’m strange.)

What I’m reading: Raising Respectful Children in a Disrespectful World.  I’m going to blog more about it next week, but for now I’ll just say it is excellent and a great reminder to keep working on this task in a warm and nurturing way.  Kids really need to learn this skill.

Quote of the week:  “Our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.”Augustine.    So often as a human I can get caught up in doing, or in feeling like this or that project is the solution to problems that bother me.  I am so comforted by the reminder of the source of all rest: Jesus.

I hope you have a blessed weekend.  And if you’d like to answer some of the above questions in comments, below, I’d love to hear a bit about your week.  I really do appreciate everyone who takes the time to read here.



Tomato Vinaigrette Dressing

Tomato Vinaigrette Dressing


I adapted this recipe from an excellent cookbook called Salads for Every Season by Myra Goodman.  The recipe makes a little more than a cup, and takes only 5 minutes to whip together.  With recipes this easy and good, why not try making your own dressing?


Tomato Vinaigrette Dressing

Tomato Vinaigrette Dressing


  • 3 large Roma tomatoes, chopped (¾ cup)
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
  • 1½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil (or vegetable oil)


  1. Chop tomatoes into quarters. Peel garlic.
  2. Place the tomatoes, vinegar, oregano, garlic, salt, and pepper in a food processor or blender, and puree until smooth.
  3. With the machine running, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Puree for another minute or so.
  4. Chill and enjoy over your favorite salad!




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This morning my little Julianna came to me all excited, telling me that now she could shuffle cards two different ways.  ‘Watch me,’ she said.  And she demonstrated the normal way, as you see above, both hands equidistant from her body.

“Now look at this new way I can do it.”  She started to demonstrate, then looked at where I was sitting, and said, ‘No, wait, I need to turn around sideways so you can see how I’m doing it.”

And then she did it this way, with one hand close to her body, and one further away.

From a different angle

I praised the skill that she was obviously so proud of gaining, and realized she’d demonstrated another skill along with card-shuffling.  Her moving to accommodate what I could see in my line of sight demonstrated that she’s now old enough to envision something from another human’s point of view.

I think we all wax and wane in showing that ability sometimes.  There are times when I get so bound up in frustration over my child not doing something that I think he should do, that I forget to make that mental switch, to envision how things might look from inside his head.  When people have conflicts with friends, it is often for the same reason:  we forget to try to imagine life from their point of view.  Of course none of us can do this all the time perfectly.  Sometimes when understanding is hard to find, it’s because we need to take the time to ask a few more questions.  (And offer more forgiveness and grace, always.)

But I’m going to remember this picture of my daughter’s graceful little hands moving her cards so that I could see them better, and try to give folks around me the grace of taking a moment to imagine life from their viewpoint.

Because I love you


We’ve been having a busy summer, doing lots of interesting things.  I think for years with many little ones, I deliberately chose to limit outings and spent a lot of time at home, both to save my energy while parenting tiny ones, and to allow plenty of time to do home things with kids.  But now with our youngest being 8, I’ve come to realize that it’s becoming more important to make our focus a little more outward, and to really work on saying yes to our teens as much as possible.  Even if it sometimes is tiring to their homebody-momma, it is important for them to be able to go and do things. My desire for this summer is to really work on heart-connections, and to make it obvious that we are on our teens’ side, that we’re not always trying to thwart their wishes.  Of course that doesn’t always involve saying yes– sometimes it’s impossible.  But we want them to know we do things for them and with them because we love them.   

This weekend we went camping in the mountains– had a good time fishing and playing games and visiting with family.  The biggest ‘yes’ of the weekend involved letting our teenage sons drive motorcycles off-road for the first time, a fact that completely thrilled them.   (And for those of you fearing for my kids’ heads, after the initial few minutes on the bike, the boys did wear helmets the whole rest of the day.)

Another example:  after seeing signs of good literary discernment in the kids, and getting feedback from our adult kids, John and I finally felt OK with the teens reading the Harry Potter books.  Ben (15) is devouring and loving them.  Lidya (17) is uninterested– she’d rather read non-fiction.  And both our other 15yo’s are reading them, but declare they’ve read better stuff.  Kinda interesting to hear the varying reactions.

We’ve also been taking the kids to the dollar movies and the library every other week, usually with friends in tow.  We saw Epic last week, and really enjoyed it– I felt like it was an excellent family choice.  It was fun to walk into the movie theater with 12 kids.  I sat down front with the little ones, with a gaggle of teens a few rows behind us.  Good fun.

Over years of parenting older-adopted kids, I’ve come to understand that some kids from hard places struggle to believe that their parents’ desire for them is good.  Even when I feel like I’m being very overt, very obvious, in showing my love, they sometimes miss it.

I’ve begun sometimes lately to deliberately tell them my motivation: “I’m feeding you ice cream/ buying you a shirt/ letting you have a sleepover because I love you.”

It sounds (and feels) a little ham-handed, like it should be obvious without me having to state it.  But over and over again, when talking with some of the kids, I realize they’ve totally misread my motives. And yeah — some of my offerings are fails, like when my daughter hates and feels persecuted by the shirt I thought she’d love.  But even then- actually, maybe especially then — I think it helps to remind her that my heart’s intent was love, that I was actually trying to please her.

I think when kids come to you at older ages, the love sometimes isn’t as well understood or received as when you’ve parented a child from babyhood.   And if they don’t recognize you’re trying to love them well, there’s a huge disconnect between their perception of the relationship and your feeling that your efforts are being appreciated.  It can be complicated.  But stating what should be obvious  (oddly enough) is leading to better understanding, around here at least.  It’s been a good lesson for me this summer.

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Cause love has come to rescue me
Your love has come to set me free
Your love, love is all I need
Your love

Beat the heat: family game ideas

Dutch Blitz

Is the heat getting to you this summer?  Now that the weather around here has cooled down into the 90’s, our swamp cooler is keeping things reasonably cool.  The little girls have been doing some swimming to stay cool. Another hot-weather thing we’ve been doing, though, is to play games indoors.  I really love to play games with my kids.  Besides being a fun way to spend time together, games teach kids reasoning and strategy, and (I think) stretch their brains in a good way. This summer we’ve had games out at least every couple days. But not just any game will do. Our favorites are ones that allow lots of players while being truly interesting to all players, including mom. (Sorry, this rules out Candyland and Monopoly in my book.)

 Currently we’re on a Rummikub kick.  This was a fairly recent addition to our game collection, and it is a lot of fun.  It contains numbered tiles that you arrange in sets and runs. For additional fun, you can rearrange any set or run to form different sets and runs.  This hugely increases your playing options on any given turn, and it really lets you think creatively.  Sometimes the girls and I try to rearrange so much that we get stuck, forget how we began, and then can’t put things back the way they were before a turn.  Good fun.  This game is suggested for up to 4 players age 8 and up, but I would suspect that most 6 year old children could play with a bit of coaching.  A whole game takes half an hour or so.


Another game that has been a favorite of ours for quite a few years is Ticket To Ride.  This game is played on a US map, with the goal of building train lines from city to city.  Up to five players can play together, and the more people on the map, the more crowded things become.  Part of the fun of the game is blocking other players from reaching their goals, sometimes causing opponents ridiculously long detours to go short distances.  This game often takes an hour or more to play, and is done when one person uses up all their trains.

I’ve told you before about Dutch Blitz,  Unlike the previous two games I mentioned, there’s no turn-taking in this game.  It is a wild card-stacking free-for-all.  A standard deck allows four players to play at once.  If that’s not crazy enough for you, mark a second deck, and play with up to 8 players for utter craziness.  I have to be in the right mood to do well at this game.  It is truly lightning-fast with a big group, and if you’re a little sleepy while playing a bunch of teens, you will be left in the dust wondering what just happened.  This game can easily be learned by any child who recognizes numbers, but younger siblings sometimes get frustrated trying to complete with speedy older siblings.  We occasionally handicap speedy older kids (by giving them more cards on their Blitz pile) to give younger ones a fighting chance.  But mostly we let the cards fall how they may, and gradually the younger ones get quicker.  A game can often take 5 minutes or less, so this is a great choice for some fun when you have just a bit of game time. 

Spot It consists of 55 cards that create a free-for-all matching game. (Is it only kid-at-heart me who adores games where you don’t have to wait for your turn??)  There are four ways to play, and you can play with 2-8 players.  This is definitely a game most interesting to younger kids. The instructions put the minimum age at 7, but I’d say it is more like 4, especially once kids learn the names of the various shapes and pictures used for matching.  There are multiple pictures in varying sizes on each card, and I’ve found that my kids are often better at this game than I am– something they enjoy greatly. Each game is done quickly– usually in 5 minutes or less– perfect for young ones with short attention spans.

  No game list  would be complete in my book without a mention of Phase 10.  This game consists of ten different ‘phases’ with a different goal in each phase. It takes about an hour to run through completely, though if we have limited time we sometimes just play to phase 3 or phase 5. It works well for kids who are age 8 or older.
What games do you like to play with your kids? I’d love some more suggestions.

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Racism, Trayvon & my kids


I was dismayed by the Trayvon Martin verdict on Saturday. I’m quick to admit that I don’t know everything that happened that night. The only two who really do are Zimmerman and Trayvon.  Maybe if I’d been the juror, I’d not have found the evidence convincing enough to convict Zimmerman either. I don’t know.

But here’s something I do know, and it’s the reason I’m writing. Racism is alive and well in America.  There are a lot of people who think it is practically extinct, or that it’s a small issue that ‘some’ folks are trying to whip into something big.

Those folks are just plain wrong.

I have adoptive-momma friends who tell me how often their black sons are pulled over driving to the grocery store. And how their white sons aren’t.  I’ve watched videos like this with my mouth hanging open.  I’ve read how African American families routinely teach their kids how to respond to police in non-inflammatory ways.  Because it’s necessary.

I’ve given my own kids some of that same training.  When I send 2 or 3 of my (minority) teens together into the dollar store, I always remind them to be on best behavior, be polite, don’t even look like you’re trying to pocket anything, and never give a store clerk the tiniest reason to be suspicious. I’ve told my kids that most people are kind, but that some see a lot more in skin color than is fair or true.  It’s best to behave carefully.  Sometimes that means not wearing hoodies or walking outside after dark.  And yeah, that reality stinks.

But what can we do?

I do believe that most folks want to treat people fairly, that they’d like to be a part of the solution instead of part of the problem. If that’s you, then here’s a great place to start:  Not Guilty: Now What?

No matter whether we agree with the ruling of the court or not, we cannot sweep a whole lot of people’s experiences under the rug.  We need to be wary of making that mistake especially if we’ve never experienced racism personally. (3 Things Privileged Christians Can Learn From Trayvon)

We need to work harder to make friends with folks of every color, even if sometimes that mean stepping out of our little comfortable bubbles.  Living life around folks who don’t ‘match’ us colorwise helps us see folks as individuals, hear their stories—for example:Race, Trayvon Martin, and Our National Wakeup Call— even if the truth is hard to hear, even if it doesn’t jive with what we’ve experienced. (Reflections on Being a Black Man in America).

We’ve got to be aware of what’s really happening in the world  (the real one, not the one we WISH for)  because our kids are absorbing what we teach, learning from the experiences we give them.  While they’re young, they are living lives crafted by us.  They’re spending time with folks we choose, and they’re learning to be comfortable around the children we place them with.  This is certainly true in the tiny years, but to a degree (based on where we choose to live, and who our family associates with, and where we go to church and school) we as parents still affect the lives even of older children. Why not give them diverse experiences?

Four of our six kids still at home are Ethiopian.  Two are Korean.  (We’ve also got four white kids who are grown.) They were all homeschooled, all taught and raised and fiercely loved by the same white parents.  But they each go out into the world wearing the skin they were born in.  And that skin DOES affect how they are seen by some.  So I will continue to tell them that most folks are kind, that they have a world of opportunity before them, that they can trust God and work hard and enjoy life.  But I’m also preparing them for the fact that a few folks may judge them based solely on the color of their skin.

Because –even as we work hard to try to change it, even as we wish it were not so–that IS the kind of world we live in.

And the sooner we can face facts, the sooner we can get serious about working to make it better.

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