Archives for February 2015

When you’re parenting teens

This weekend I am at the Refresh adoption conference in Seattle, speaking about older child adoption and about hanging onto joy in hard times.  Here’s just a taste of what I’m talking about in the older child session.


I started this post two and a half years ago, at which time I stared at the blank screen for a few minutes before deciding I wasn’t enough of an expert on teens to write a blog post about parenting teens.  These days– bad news–  I am still not remotely an expert.  The good days come only by the grace of God.  And there are definitely plenty of hard ones to go along with the good.  But here are some things that do seem to help, when I can just remember to do them!  I thought I’d write a few of them down here in case some of you might be like me– working hard to make this time of our kids’ lives as good as we can help it to be.

Get good at apologizing.

Even if you’re sure the problem is 80% your kid and only 20% you, there is huge power in humbly admitting that you had a part in an interaction that didn’t go well.  I am continually amazed at how soft my kids will get when I am willing to say, “Hey, I’m really sorry I lost my cool.  I should have been kinder.  Will you forgive me?”  Often a kid who was quite angry a while ago will at least accept my apology graciously, sometimes even adding their own apology.  This is SO hard to do, but so worth doing.


Try not to assume that your way to solve a problem is the best way.

Again, this is something that is very hard for me.  And I still don’t believe that every conversation should turn into a negotiation, but when a discussion with a teen isn’t going well, I’ll sometimes say, “How do you think we can solve this?” Or, “I want x and you want y. I’d love to hear your ideas for a compromise.”


Say yes as often as possible.

Sometimes we as parents get in the habit of a default no, just to simplify life. (This is a big problem for me as a mom of many– I can only handle so much complication, after all). But, wow, yes is a great word to be able to give a kid, even if sometimes it needs to sound like ‘yes, after you clean the bathroom’ or ‘yes, if you’re willing to be home by 10,’ or yes, let’s do that next week.’  Especially in the teen years, we should be thinking of ways to give them more freedom AND more responsibility (in finances, time management, work skills, etc) so that when they do head out into the world, instead of it being a bone-jarring thud, the leap will be as graceful and as prepared as is possible.


Ask yourself if a consequence or a decision will build relationship or hinder it.

This is a fabulous question to ask yourself when you’re wondering how to handle disobedience and rudeness. Certainly there are times when kids need consequences for their actions. But almost always there are options to choose from– and some will build relationship, and others may hurt it. You can have a teen skip an activity as a consequence for disrespect to you, or you can offer him the chance to redeem himself by redoing an interaction with you kindly and appropriately and also doing an extra task alongside you.  The former may lead to more resentment, and the latter is a chance to have a good interaction AND reinforce what should happen next time. I would much prefer connection than a young person whose heart is far from me.  Tho I don’t always succeed, I try to aim for connection, and I trust that kindness will have results later even if they’re not evident in the moment.


 Avoid assumptions and communicate clearly. 

Often hard moments come when you expect something that seems obvious to you, but turns out to be not so clear to your teen.  For example, I assume a 10PM curfew means the kid will be in the house no later than 10.  If a kid thinks 10:15 is close enough, that could make for some unhappiness. I still sometimes slip up and forget to clarify details, but just taking a minute to talk through assumptions and ask a few questions before a teen drives away makes for lots less misunderstanding.


 Ask your teen, “Who are you pleasing? Yourself or God?”

When a teen has a serious attitude problem, this question sometimes helps him see his motives more clearly.  We can all get so intent on our own desires that we forget our responsibility before God, and teens especially can be prone to selfishness.  Another question to ask when selfishness rises is, “Are you being a good friend?”


Find something you like to do together.

I have a daughter who doesn’t seek time with me, but she will offer opinions on clothing, and she enjoys looking at clothing on Pinterest with me. It’s not huge, but it is one thing we can do together and that’s a win! Speaking of individuals and interests, remember to praise your teens for any special strengths or skills that you notice.  This is especially crucial for kids whose talents are non-academic.  They need to hear they’re good at things!


Memorize the Word Together!

Our family spends maybe 5 minutes at breakfast on school mornings reading a section of memory work and usually within a month or two, everyone knows it pretty well. This spring we are memorizing a couple chunks in 2 Corinthians 4.

2 Corinthians 4: 7-9, 16-18  But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

My hope is that these words will stay in their hearts forever, and (like the words of praise I also try to speak), I know God can call them to remembrance in hard moments throughout their life.   I may fail daily in parenting.  But God never does.  I’m so glad this is not all up to me!


I’d love to hear ideas that you have for making life easier while parenting teens.


Winning family movies

One thing that’s almost inevitable when you’ve been a mom for a few years, is that you’re going to watch and re-watch a lot of kid-movies. This week we happened to watch a couple movies that are a few years old but that I still enjoy after multiple watchings. It got me thinking about the rarity of a decent family movie that’s still fun for both kids and parents even after you’ve seen it half a dozen times. Here’s my short list. Have any to add? I’d love to see your additions in comments.

Winning Family Movies



Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella

Ramona and Beezus


Follow Me, Boys!

The Karate Kid


We Bought a Zoo



The Incredibles

Eight Below



National Treasure


Mary Poppins


The Adventures of Tintin


Fly Away Home


Jump In!



Aladdin (with Robin Williams)


Akeelah and the Bee



Treasure Planet




Several of my kids have assured me that Big Hero 6 belongs on this list too.  I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m adding it because it went on sale yesterday!


Have any to add?  Add them in comments below.  Do you find lists like this helpful?  If so, I’d love a pin on Pinterest!


(This post contains affiliate links)

More clothing fun: Popbasic

Ebraceletver heard about Popbasic? It is an interesting clothing service that puts together micro collections of wardrobe essentials, a new one each month, which you can buy as a set. The owner of the company is a nice young gal named Madeline Veenstra. She contacted me recently and asked if I’d like to try one of her micro collections. Who can refuse free clothes? I said a happy yes. The collection she sent me was the Felicity collection which consisted of a lovely grey long sleeve knit dress, a long mixed metals necklace and a really cute bracelet.


The dress is possibly THE softest dress I’ve ever felt in my life.  It ended up being a little clingy in the bust for me.  It made me feel conspicuous, and those of us with less-than-perfect figures would definitely need quality undergarments.  But lo and behold,  the dress is absolutely LOVELY on my 12 year old daughter– she was completely thrilled to get it.  She wore it to church the next day with a denim jacket and looked completely adorable.

My 9 year old daughter wanted to commandeer the jewelry– she loves everything bling. But since I also adored the jewelry, she’s going to have to content herself with just borrowing the bracelet now and then.  I especially loved that the necklace combined silver and gold.  I love silver and wear it almost exclusively, but there are times when something I’m wearing has a gold accent  (like the buttons on a jeans jacket) and this necklace helps things tie together beautifully.

necklaceBrowsing through the other collections, it looked like some of the clothing might be most flattering to smaller gals.  But other collections were awesome and looked like they’d work great for a variety of figures.  (They offer sizes up to ladies extra-large.)

I’m not 100% certain I’ll order from Popbasic in the future, but I’m definitely going to keep my eye out for a collection that tickles my fancy.  If you would like to try  PopBasic, click here for a $15 discount on your first collection.


(I reviewed this service in exchange for this clothing collection.  The opinions expressed here are my own.)


Frugal, not so frugal

How did your frugality endeavors go this week? I think we did okay around here. Since I did a big shopping trip last week, I didn’t need lots of groceries this week. These days with 6 kids home full time (mostly teens), we’re averaging about $650-$700/month. Could be better, could be worse.

Feeding the cow Frugal:  As usual we ate leftovers for several lunches this week.  I also made several vegetarian or almost-vegetarian meals, including beans and rice, and chap chae, a Korean veggie noodle dish made.  I did add a little ground beef to the pasta for more protein.

Frugal: As the days are getting longer, our chickens are increasing production again, which is nice.  However we only have 7 hens now, which isn’t quite enough.  Usually once a month or so I have to buy a few eggs from the store.

Frugal:  I found some cute shoes for one of my daughters who wears an unusual size on clearance at Fred Meyers.  Their winter clearances are really good right now, and the shoes that were usually $40 were marked down to $11.  And she loved them!

Feeding the chickensNot so frugal: Once again, I didn’t buy enough notebooks on back to school sales to last the whole school year. Bah humbug.  Or maybe the kids should be blamed for that– I honestly don’t know how they go through so many notebooks so fast.  So I bought 8 or so more at 79 cents each.  Not terrible, but it just aggravates me since I can buy them for a quarter in August.

Frugal:  Last week I mentioned getting ground beef for $2/lb.  This week I turned some of that ground beef into 3 pans of hamburger enchiladas, a meal of spaghetti sauce,  and three meals of seasoned taco meat. That’s 6 meals that will be that much easier to get to the table because I spent a morning in the kitchen.

StoriesFrugal: This week I sold 5 dozen canning jars, as I had way too many and they were taking way to much space in the shelves in our garage.  After  Refresh next weekend  (so much fun!) I am looking forward to doing more cleaning and sorting, in the garage and in my closet.  The clutter in both places is getting to me.

Frugal/Not so frugal:  We had Dominoes pizza last night for dinner, but there’s a $5.99 sale right now so it wasn’t as spendy as it could have been.

Frugal: I stayed home a lot this week, which means I didn’t use much gas.  Hooray!


PS– Just had to include a few gratuitous baby pictures.  We have so much fun when they come to play!


Recipe: Hearty Crab Chowder

Weather around here has been lovely and spring-like, but I see that all over the U.S. much of the weather has been awful. If you’re looking for a warm winter chowder, you might be interested in trying this recipe. I always use imitation crab, but of course it would work with real crab as well. Just be sure to add the crab near the end of the cooking time so it stays together. CrabChowder I like to add fresh chopped spinach to my chowder, but if your family looks cross-eyed at greens, feel free to skip them.  The chowder is wonderful either way.  This recipe should serve 5-6 fairly generously.  

Hearty Crab Chowder

Hearty Crab Chowder


  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, minced
  • 1 stick butter
  • 6 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • Fresh spinach, a couple handfuls (optional)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 T. chicken (or seafood) bouillon
  • 4 cups milk
  • 2 T. cornstarch
  • 1 lb crabmeat (imitation is fine)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup green onion, thinly sliced
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Finely chop onion. Melt the butter on medium-high heat in a large heavy pot. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent.
  2. While onion is cooking, peel and chop potatoes into 1/2 inch dice. Turn heat to high. Add potatoes, water and chicken bouillon to the pot, and bring to a boil.
  3. After it comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium and continue to cook until potato is soft, about 15 minutes.
  4. Chop spinach, if using, and add to the pot. Whisk cornstarch with milk, and add to pot.
  5. Cook on medium low it begins to thicken, about 5-10 minutes. Once milk has been added to the pot, you'll need to watch carefully so the chowder doesn't scald.
  6. During this time, you can mince cilantro and green onion. When chowder is thick, gently stir in cilantro, green onion, and roughly chopped crab.
  7. Season to taste, and enjoy!
  Crab Chowder ~~~~ Interested in other recipes using imitation crab?  Try Mexican Crab Cakes and Spicy Crab Dip. And for more affordable and easy recipes of every type, check out my cookbook Family Feasts for $75 a Week

Monday news

I only have a minute to check in today, because I’m hard at work getting ready for the two talks I’ll be presenting at the Refresh adoption conference in Seattle at the end of the month.  So excited to be going for my second year.  I have no idea how to pick which breakout sessions to attend– there are so MANY good ones!  Overlake Church does an amazing job at orphan ministry, and I’m so honored to be a part of their plans this year.  Are you going?  I’d love to hear from you.

I did want to tell  you who won the free samples of the Drain Wig— I had no idea so many people would be interested in this gadget!  According to the winner is commenter #47, Alea.  Alea, email me your address and I will get your Drain Wigs to you.

And for those of you who buy (or who have bought) Practical Homeschooling for Real-World Families (my just-released e-book!), remember to email me to request the 5 free bonus pages of transcript-writing info.  I’d love to send it your way.

I’ll check back in with you Wednesday– hopefully I’ll be all prepped for Refresh by then and have a bit longer to write!  Thanks, as always, for reading here!




Frugal Friday

How did your week go? I have a few things to report in the frugality department, but nothing hugely earth-shattering.

  • I went grocery shopping on Tuesday with a list and a menu plan, so my shopping was fairly thorough.
  • I found 10-lb ‘chubs’ of ground beef at Walmart marked down to $20 each, so I bought two. Then I came home and made hamburger patties and meatloaf.
  • I made chili for dinner one evening, enough to serve for another meal also.  We had enough from a couple other meals for several lunches during the week, and as usual I tucked some leftovers away in plastic containers in the freezer to be used as my husband’s work lunches.
  • I found apples for 88 cents a pound, so I bought quite a few.  Also in the produce section I resisted the urge to buy strawberries (sigh) and stuck with the fruit that’s most affordable now, my typical stand-bys:  apples, oranges, bananas.  I just last week overheard a produce lady in Fred Meyers tell a customer that most grocery stores take a loss on bananas, milk, and eggs, because they know customers will go elsewhere if their prices aren’t competitive.
  • I bought quite a few things in bulk on my big shopping trip, including beans and oats.  I store that type of thing in large 2-quart canning jars in the pantry, and when I empty out the sacks from the bulk department, I always shake out the crumbs and save the bags to be used again.
  • As usual, we washed clothing with our homemade laundry soap.  Emily made another batch this week.  Also as usual, we dried
    Soap making

    Making soap

    large and heavy items (jeans, towels, blankets) on the long bars that we have in our laundry room.  This decreases the wear on the dryer and allows smaller things get done in the dryer more quickly.

  • Whenever the power bill comes, I compare this month this year to this month last year, and was pleased that this year we used quite a bit less power than last year, probably because January was such a warm month.  We mostly heat with wood, but in the middle of the night on very cold nights, the furnace goes on for awhile. But this January was so warm that I don’t think that happened often.  John reports that the wood pile is much bigger than he expected for this time of year.
  • I decided to go with just the jacket and jeans from yesterday’s Stitch Fix.  That’s what I had enough credits to buy, and those were the only two pieces I truly loved anyway.  And since I did like the grey tee, I’ll keep an eye out for something similar at a lower price.
  • I found some nice duffel bags with wheels at for $14 each.  They are HUGE, and should be really great for packing lots of clothing.


Related to the duffels, but on a decidedly NOT frugal note, we just bought 5 plane tickets for Ethiopia for this summer.  I’ll be taking our 4 Ethiopian daughters for a homeland visit.  We’re meeting my sister Sophie there, and will be gone for two weeks. So very exciting! It seems like most of our not-frugal things are related to travel–I guess you could look at that either as our Achilles heel or as the reason we do all the frugal things.  We’ll need to update passports soon too.  Three are expired and two of the kids have never had them.  So that will be a pretty penny.  At least we know far enough ahead to avoid rush shipping.

That’s all I can think of for today.  I’d love to hear what you did this week that helped your budget!

PS– If you buy Practical Homeschooling (my latest e-book) and would like the 5-page bonus pack that contains additional info and transcript writing samples, just email me, and I will head it your way.  I’d also LOVE it if you’d share on facebook and tell your friends about the book– proceeds from this book are going to our Ethiopia travel fund.  🙂  And remember, if you’re not quite sure this book is for you, zip over to amazon and read the first few pages for free.  It ended up being an 85 page book and is loaded with info, a fair bit of which could easily translate to enrichment ideas and homework helps for kids in traditional school.

Stitch Fix time again

I have another batch of Stitch Fix goodies to show you today! This batch was really fun. Since people sometimes ask me the exact name of the items I’ve gotten, I thought I’d begin with a shot of the cards that come with each item.

Stitch Fix


It’s kind of neat because each card shows two ways to style each piece that they send.  (I laid the cards over top of each other, so you can’t see all the looks here).  When I decide to keep a piece, I tape the card inside a cupboard door in my bathroom.  That way I can look for ideas for accessories/outfits when I pull something out of my closet to wear.

Then here’s a shot of the note that comes with each fix.  My stylist visited both my blog and my Pinterest style board, and this time she selected items to coordinate with my latest thrift store find (shown here).  How fun is that?  Not every note is QUITE that personalized, but I love that she was thinking of what might work with things I already own.



So here’s the first item– the grey hi-lo t-shirt.  You’ll have to see the bottom edge on the card as my daughter didn’t quite get the whole shirt in this photo.  I wish it was a tad more flowy and loose.  And it is pretty plain without some jazzing up.  But still, I could see myself wearing it often as it is super comfy and very versatile.  However, at $44, I am tempted to look for a similar style elsewhere.


Sam Hi-Lo Tee

Sam Hi-Lo Tee



Next up is the Mark Lace Detail Blouse.  The shoulders are actually a lace insert, which is very pretty, and it doesn’t go so low as to feel bare.   Not completely sure about the style — I like it but wish it was just a little longer.  Another down side is that this top came with a tiny tear down near the hem.  They are offering a replacement to be sent to me, or a 15% off the cost if I keep this one. It’s $34 and I think I could easily fix it.  But like I said, I’m not 100% sure how flattering the style is on me.


Mark Lace Detail Blouse

Mark Lace Detail Blouse

Next up is this navy Kahlo knit top.  It has the same lace detail as a tank top that I got last summer.  I love the turquoise, and the length of the top.  It feels flattering and comfy.  But I am not sure how I feel about it when I see it in the photo. And I am puzzling as to what would be best on the bottom. My daughter said the olive skinnies in the picture are fine with it, but I feel like the bright clear turquoise makes the olive green look boring and muddy.  Blue jeans would be boring with all the blue in the top.  Not sure about black and blue together either. Turquoise skinnies would probably be adorable, but I’m not sure how versatile pants like that would be as a wardrobe piece.  What do you think would be good with the top?


Kahlo knit top


Finally we get to what I feel like are the clear winners– the  Callie Denim Jacket and the Denna Skinny jeans.  The jeans actually are the ones I wore in the last photo too, but I’m happier with the way they look with the grey tee and the denim jacket.  And as for the denim jacket– I do already have one, but this one is very light– almost shirt-weight denim, and has nice trim sleeves that I think is more flattering and better for warmer weather than my old denim jacket.  You can also see in this photo that the grey hi-lo is a good underneath piece.

Callie Denim/ Denna Colored Skinny

Callie Denim Jacket/ Denna Colored Skinnies

In the end, I’m definitely keeping the jacket and the skinny jeans, but I am waffling about all three of the other tops.  Help a girl out– what do you think?



 If you’d like to try Stitch Fix for yourself, click here to  fill out a style/preference profile  And be sure to share your pinterest style boards with your stylist as well, since that will really help her choose things that feel like you. All the links in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you sign up and get a fix,  I will earn credit toward my next fix.  And remember– if you try the service and like it, you can earn credits by referring your friends too.

Wednesday freebie

I have an odd but useful giveaway for you today.  When a representative of the Drain Wig  contacted me, explained her product and asked me if I wanted to give it a try, I was instantly interested. I currently have four girls with a LOT of hair all sharing one bathroom, and when you’ve got that many girls with that much hair sharing one shower, it can be hard on the drains.

Drain Wig_Product Shot

If you’ve every spent time fishing hair out of a bath tub drain– or paid a plumber your hard-earned bucks to do so, you might like to know about this thing too.  The gadget is called a Drain Wig, and when it is threaded into a drain pipe, it will catch any hair going down.  You leave it in the drain all the time — with the cute little plastic thing keeping it from being lost.  Then a few times a year you just pull out the drain wig, throw it away and replace it with a new one.

I just put one in the girls bathroom, so I can’t tell you how it works yet.  But I have one to give away to a reader, so you can try it yourself. To enter the giveaway, just go to the Drain Wig website, check it out, then comment below and tell me you did.  And if you interested in purchasing this gadget right away, I have a special promo code good for $5 off.  When you order, just enter the code FIZZ5 in the promo code box at check out.

I’ll pick a winner early next week!

a story of Saturday

After a long sleep-in and a quiet morning and a walk in the afternoon with my girls, mid-afternoon came with a scurry of pizza-making.  We were having the whole clan over for dinner, so we made three big pizzas, and then while waiting for everyone to arrive, we set the tables.  Not quite everyone would be there – two teens had to work– so that brought our total to 17.

They all seemed to come in a flurry–Daniel alongside Erika and Israel with their two toddlers in tow. Then came Jared and his fiance Erika bearing a huge salad to go with the pizza.  Into the oven went the pizzas to cook hot and fast.  By the time pizzas were done, Amanda and Ben had arrived with their two (going on three– they’re expecting a new little one in April!)   I alternated sitting on the floor with little ones all over me, and hopping up to check pizza, usually with a little one on my hip.

Then it was time to cut pizza and  fill plates for little ones, cutting food bite size and putting on bibs and finding sippy cups.  And eat.  And visit.  And fill plates again.  And let little ones down to run and play.  But all evening, wherever I went, wherever I sat, there were toddlers holding arms up to be picked up by me, coming to sit on my lap, bringing me their stories to read and their Hot Wheels to admire and their sweet cheeks to kiss.  When they’re here I’m a celebrity surrounded by affable beaming cherubs. Who occasionally swipe toys from each other and fight over my lap.

a story of Saturday

We bejeweled little ones with hair clips and necklaces and bracelets.  We played Ring around the Rosie until I had to sit down and let my stomach recover.  And in the middle of it all, we looked at Jared and Erika’s just-done wedding invitation, and heard about Daniel’s homework, and told funny electricity stories  (horses and people zapped by hot wire fences and parents zapped by kids coming down plastic slides and a computer tech with so much static electricity in him that he shut down a computer screen.)

Near the end of the evening, John gave flashlights to the little guys and we tromped out in the dark  with the four little ones to feed the cow whose dinner had been forgotten in the flurry of people-feeding.  The little boys (both almost 3) took great delight in shining their light toward the cow so grandad could see while doing the feeding, and the little girls were big-eyed in the dark, sitting in the arms of Emily and me.  Then we came back inside bright-eyed and pink-cheeked, with the feeling of having had an adventure.

Soon bedtimes were approaching and little ones were tucked back into shoes and jackets and goodbyes were said, with hugs and kiss-blowing and waves from the front step.  The few who remained came back into the house, living room littered with Hot Wheels and baby toys, and spent a few minutes putting the house back together before sitting down with a sigh. This I want to remember always.


PS– Today is your last chance to get Practical Homeschooling at the super-low price of  $3.49.  Anyone who shares about it on facebook and then sends me their email address will get a 5-page bonus supplement with extra information about creating a homeschooling high school transcript.  Thanks to all of you who’ve already spread the word.  I really appreciate it!   I’d also hugely appreciate a review of it on amazon once you’ve read it. (Crossing my fingers for 5 stars!)

Have a great week!