First Day of School Playlist

Note: Sense of humor STRONGLY recommended. If this does not describe you, I recommend bypassing this particular post. I won’t judge.


So. It’s the first day of school for my three girls, and like most things in life (weddings, vacations, trips to the grocery store), I have found that things are much more fun when you have a soundtrack to get you through the day. If I was in a movie, (or let’s face it, a tv show because I don’t have time for movies these days), I would have the absolute coolest soundtrack. The first day of school is such a big day it needed a playlist all its own.

7:00am: Packing lunches, fixing hair, eating breakfast, assuring each child that it’s going to be a great day where they will get the chance to see old friends and maybe even make some new ones.

We are Going to Be Friends – The White Stripes

first day of school playlist

7:30am: Hugging my new kindergartner one last time and watching as my babies climb on the bus.

I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor

first day of school playlist

8:00am: Wow. It sure is quiet in this house. It’s only me and ONE other kid, who is still asleep. I kind of miss summer.

Here I Go Again – Whitesnake

first day of school playlist

8:04am: It’s almost like I’m ALONE here. I don’t think I’ve been alone in about ten years.

I Stand Alone – Godsmack

first day of school playlist

8:10am: Wait wait wait. I can do whatever I want!

I’m Free – The Rolling Stones

first day of school playlist

9:30am: The toddler wakes up. I give him milk and breakfast and decide it’s a good day to dance. Son! Did you know we can play ANYTHING we want ALL DAY??

Day One (of the rest of our lives) – Matthew West

first day of school playlist

12:00pm: Still having fun, and partying with the toddler. Check it out, it’s almost nap time!

House Party – Sam Hunt

first day of school playlist

3:45pm: Watching out the window for the bus to pull up and drop off my three girls. The party is almost over – oh look, there’s the bus.

Without Me (Guess Who’s Back) – Eminem

first day of school playlist

3:50pm: How was your day? Did you like your teacher? Yes, you can have a snack. Did you make new friends? Yes, I can cut up an apple for you. Did you use your new school supplies? It’s ok, I can pick up the spilled milk, don’t worry about it.

Here It Goes Again – OK Go

first day of school playlist

6:00pm: Everyone is home, everyone is safe, and we’re all together again. They had a wonderful day of school, they loved seeing old friends and are looking forward to tomorrow. The noise is back, but it’s a good noise – a happy one.

Beautiful Day – U2

first day of school playlist

New School Year Resolutions

I have THREE of my kids starting school this coming Monday, so I thought I would pull this out from last year, dust it off and see what I need to do to prepare for this new chapter. It will be weird for me since this is the first year since 2009 that I will have only one kid with me for the majority of each day. I’m not sure what the baby and I will do with ourselves for all of that time!


School is about to start for our crew, and since our whole schedule is about to get rebooted, I decided to create some family goals for the upcoming school year. Here are some new school year resolutions important to our family…anything you would add for yours?

1. Ask the kids each day if they have homework.  If they say yes, make sure they do it.  If they say no, check their back packs.

2. Pack a nutritious lunch each day.  Ok, every other day.  Ok, ok, at least twice a week.

3. Develop a relationship with the childrens’ teachers.  Email relationships count.

4. Avoid PTO flyers. Give them my husband’s cell number and email address if they ask for contact info. (Some people are super awesome PTO parents.  They’re gifted and involved and efficient. I am not one of these people, and it’s really best for all concerned if I stay out of their way.)

5. If the teacher has a treasure box, make donations to it throughout the year.  Those treats are paid for out of the teacher’s pocket.

6. Hide all clothes I don’t want the kids to wear to school. Those are the ones they always choose to dress themselves in.

7. Institute a daily chore list and enforce it.

8. Be consistent with bedtime so the kids get enough sleep.

9. Wake up before the children each day and drink a cup of coffee so I can speak to them intelligibly, and so I can see well enough to catch them before they walk out the door in the clothes that were supposed to be hidden.

10. Encourage the kids to make new friends in addition to their old ones.

11. Have healthy after school snacks on-hand and easy to find.

12. Find the school year calendar and record it on the family calendar so we can avoid those awkward mornings at the bus stop when we’re waiting forever, only to find out it’s actually teacher in-service.

13. Take advantage of online grade books and cafeteria records.

14. Don’t lose any more library books.  Those suckers get expensive.

15. Be in constant communication with the children about how everything is going. Make sure they know that I’m interested in what they do away from home, and that I care about what they are experiencing each day.

New School Year Resolutions (1)

How to Talk to Your Children About Their Purpose

My children are constantly surprising me. Sometimes it is with some bit of cleverness they have come up with, or a particularly funny joke. Other times they do something I didn’t realize they knew how to do, or they will make a connection between two things that I didn’t think they really understood. Recently I was surprised by a conversation with one of my daughters that made me see that our children are struggling with ideas and worries that are much more advanced than the things I bothered with at their age.


My elementary-aged daughter asked to speak to me privately, which happens a lot in this family of six. There is precious little alone time to be had, so private conversations often have to be arranged – they rarely happen spontaneously since there is almost always someone else around. This particular conversation had to do with purpose, or more specifically, what her purpose was and what made her special.

She asked me if I thought my life would be any different if she had never been born. She wanted to know what her place was in this family, and if I thought that the things she does are things that only she can do. Essentially, she wanted to know why, or even if, she was needed.

She wanted to know why, or even if, she was needed.

My parents may have different memories of that time in my life, but when I was in elementary school I don’t remember worrying about whether or not I had a purpose. I don’t remember wondering what people would be doing if I had never been born. I was more concerned with playing with my sister, riding my bike and going next door to see if the neighbor kids were able to come outside.


I’m not sure why my daughter has started thinking about these things at such a young age. Maybe she’s mature for her age (or maybe I was shallow when I was that age!) or maybe she heard something or saw something that made her think of it. There are probably countless experts that could give me countless reasons and statistics for why my daughter is contemplating her purpose so young. All I know is that when she asked me, I had to answer her right then. I couldn’t tell her to wait a few minutes while I did some research on what to say and what it means that she asked.

She was created for this family

Instead I told her that I believe she was created to be in this family. When God made me he gave me a heart with a section reserved just for her. No matter who else is in it, or who will eventually join this family, that part of my heart with her name on it belongs only to her. No one can ever take that spot. Even if she had never been born, there would still be a piece of me that God designed just for her.

I told her that she had been made uniquely for us, and we had been made uniquely for her, so that we could all be a unit working together and building each other up.

What she does is infinitely less important than who she is

I told her that I care much more about who she is than about what she does. I don’t want her to base her identity and purpose on what she can do to help out, on how she behaves or on what her skills and talents are. I don’t want her to compare what she can produce with what her siblings can produce. I don’t want her to think that the love we have for her and the joy we take in her is conditional, based on what she does. No, the love we have and the joy she brings us is unconditional, based solely on her presence.

It’s not necessary to know everything you are supposed to do all the time

I told her that sometimes we don’t need to know what our job is supposed to be. That sometimes our job is simply to be. I told her that sometimes we have things to do, roles to fill and tasks to perform, but sometimes the thing that is most needed is for us to be available. To be an ear that hears, or an arm that hugs. Sometimes the best job we can do for those we love doesn’t involve any skill other than a compassionate heart.

And on those days when you’re struggling to figure out where you’re supposed to be and what you’re supposed to do, I told her something that a friend of mine once shared with me. Do the next good thing. Don’t worry that you can’t see the big picture, don’t worry that you don’t know what will happen next. Just do the next good thing.


So what’s the point? What’s the take away from this?

That conversation made me realize that our children grow up a lot faster than I had realized. They struggle with things at very young ages that would make adults pause and worry. They need someone in their life who they can trust to listen to their concerns and give them some sort of answer. They need space to have that private conversation, to talk about those fears, and to be heard. I certainly don’t think I have all of the answers, in fact I would love for people to share what they would say to those questions, but I do think we need to have some kind of answer. Because the questions are there. If we don’t answer them, someone or something else will.


#DadLife #MyLittlePony

Let me tell you a little story about the best dad ever.

I don’t want to brag (much), but it takes a special guy to be an awesome dad to three girls. I’ve known for years now that my husband was pretty great when it came to being a good father to our daughters – that one year when he requested pink camo pants for his birthday gave it away – but this past Friday he leveled up.

It started Thursday night when he told our kids that he would be going to an Astros game with a friend right after work, so he may not see them before bed the next night. Mostly he was warning them since one or two of our kids are late sleepers. He didn’t want them to freak out when they woke up after he left for work and realized they wouldn’t see him all day.

Gwendolyn, our five year old, is going through a little bit of a clingy stage right now. As Aaron was getting ready to leave Friday morning, she gave him a big hug.

Gwendolyn: I’m really going to miss you.

Aaron: I know, I’ll miss you too, but I’ll see you tomorrow morning.

Gwendolyn: Hold on, I have something for you. (Runs up stairs)

Aaron looks at me with raised eyebrows. I shrug.

Gwendolyn: (Walks to Aaron with her hands cupped protectively around something) Here. You can take this so you have something to remember me by.

He looks down to see a small, blue My Little Pony in his hand.

Aaron: Uh…thanks…But, you know, it’s not like I’m going to Canada, right? I’ll be back late tonight.

Gwendolyn: I want you to take her.

Aaron: Oooookkaaaay. What’s her name?

Gwendolyn: Rah Rah Heartstrings.

So my husband left for the day with a hug from a little blonde five-year-old in a pink princess nightgown, his laptop, Astros hat, and Rah Rah Heartstrings.


Throughout the rest of the day, in the middle of all his normal busyness, he texted pictures to let Gwen know that he was keeping Rah Rah Heartstrings with him.

Rah Rah had a busy day. She got to visit the shop floor and see the big trucks. She also got to help Gwen’s dad work on the computer for a while.

She even got to hang out with Rick, the Production Manager. You can tell he was really excited to meet her.


When Gwen’s dad went to meet with some of his customers, Rah Rah got to ride along in his pocket.

7_pocketWhen she got bored of the pocket, he let her sit on the dashboard.


Gwen’s dad’s customer had some big trucks Rah Rah got to look at.


While waiting for a driver to come pick them up, Rah Rah hung out for a little while outside, but August in Houston is no joke, so they went inside for some air conditioning.

Luckily, Darrin came soon and they were back on the road.

14_driverThe went back to the shop, where Gwen’s dad let Rah Rah sit on his desk and pick out some candy for the kids.

At the end of the day they left work and headed for the Astros game.

By then Rah Rah had worked up quite an appetite, so Gwen’s dad shared his nachos with her.


She also got to hang out with Gwen’s dad’s friend, Scott.


The end of the game was exciting since the Astros won (Go ‘Stros!), and there were lots of fireworks.

Gwen’s dad finally got home, long after Gwen had gone to sleep. He was really nice and brought Rah Rah Heartstrings back to her friend.

22sleepingI’m not sure who liked all of these pictures more, Gwendolyn or her mother. I do know that I’ve already been asked multiple times a day to look through them again. (Not always by Gwen, so heads up, Aaron – next time you may get something to carry that’s bigger than a mini pony).

[Guest Post by Layla Samoska] My Trip to Yellowstone

This is a guest post written by my daughter, Layla. She went on a special trip this summer with her grandparents. Below are some things she wanted to share about her trip, as well as pictures she took.


The reason that I chose to go to Wyoming is because my Mimi showed me a list of really cool places to go to. We have a new tradition in our family that, whenever a child turns 10, our grandparents will take us to wherever we want to go in the United States. I looked up the places on the list and liked the pictures of the mountains in the Tetons and Old Faithful in Yellowstone.

Day 1

We took a plane and we had to change planes in the middle. It was the first plane ride that I can remember. I thought it was really cool being able to be in such a high place. Even though I’m scared of heights, I liked it a lot.


When we got to Wyoming, we went into town to get groceries, then we headed to Single Mountain Lodge. On our way we saw a pronghorn.


Day 2

In the morning, for breakfast, we had a little bit of raisin bread and then we went to the Lodge to get ready for rafting. When the bus came they took us to Snake River. I was the only kid. Everyone else were old people. It was cloudy and about maybe 40 degrees. In the middle of the rafting trip it was so cold because we were going so fast. The man that was doing the rafting had blankets. I cuddled up with Mimi. For a few minutes I also got to row the raft. The raft was VERY heavy.

family by river


After we went back to our room and drank hot chocolate we drove to the chapel. It was a church that people who used to live there went to a long time ago. I really liked it. I thought it was really pretty, with beautiful stained glass. It was a lot smaller than churches now.


There was also a general store with cool stuff in it. I got a free cookie from one of the ladies, but I didn’t like it much because it was cinnamon sugar. I also got to try a sarsaparilla. We also got to see other old stuff they used way back when. There was a ferry, carriages, old saddles and a big well.


Day 3

On this day we went to Yellowstone National Park. On our way I saw my first actual snow and I got to throw a snowball at Mimi.


When we got to our room, it was so small. I got the bed in the corner.

small room

For the first time in my life I got to see Old Faithful erupt. There were a lot of people.


After the eruption we went on a walk. We got to see mud pots, water pools and lots of other geysers. I also found out that someone died in a water pool because they went after their phone that fell in the water pool. He couldn’t get out so he died because of the heat.


After dinner we went to the lodge and got ice cream. Then we went to sleep.

Day 4

At around maybe 11:00am we went out of the cabin and we went to a beautiful site. Usually I’m afraid of heights, but when we saw the waterfall I leaned over the edge to see. We drove around looking at stuff. We saw these two bison on the road. They were HUGE. When we drove past, one of them was pooping.


bison poop

Day 5

When we went on a boardwalk we saw a town nearby. When we went into the town, there was an elk sitting in the middle of a yard. We found out that mama elk are really protective of their babies. We also found out the baby would not be far from the mom. Whenever a person gets too close to the baby, the mom will charge them. It will HURT.



Day 6

This day was fun because I got to see my first actual bear. It was a black bear. There were two of them. There were so many people crowding around them.


After seeing the bears we went on a wildlife tour. We saw a bison herd full of only mommas and babies. There were no males. They were moving pretty fast.

bison herd


Day 7

In the morning we went horseback riding. It was very fun because that was the first time I ever rode a horse without someone watching everything I did. I was just riding by myself. There was a coyote that kept coming up to us. The horses weren’t even bothered by it because they were so used to it.

horse back

A little later we had dinner. I had a bison burger.

bison buger

After dinner we went on a hike. I sat on a rock next to a cliff. I wasn’t scared a bit! It was fun. There was a waterfall and a very fast moving river. Everything was very pretty.



Day 8

On this day we drove back to Jackson Lake. I had a meatball sub for lunch and it was delicious! Afterward we went to the lake. I rolled my jeans up and put my feet in the water. It was so cold. I was in the water for around five minutes.

lake jackson

Day 9

The morning started off early. And I mean EARLY. I had to wake up at 4:30 in the morning. In Houston it would have been 5:30 in the morning since Wyoming is an hour behind. We had to be at the airport really early. I slept on the plane.




How Parenting is Like a Merry-Go-Round

parenting is like a merry go round

Round and round it goes…

Have you ever been on one of those merry-go-rounds you find on a child’s playground? It’s usually a large round platform with rails or handles that you can stand on while one of your friends grabs ahold and runs around and around, spinning the platform ever faster. You hold onto the handle for dear life, laughing (or cringing) as the world whirs by in a massive blur. Once the spinning stops you step off, staggering around as your body adjusts to the much slower movements of the earth below you.

Parenting is a little like that merry go round. Before you step on the platform for the first time you’re not quite sure what to expect, although you have a few ideas. There’s that excitement of a new ride, with the thrill of knowing that you’re doing something new and big and important, that has the potential to be filled with moments of extreme joy. Or, you may get thrown to the ground in a bone rattling heap in the middle of it, but that’s part of the adventure, right?

At first things move fairly smoothly. You twirl around on your platform, gathering momentum slowly but still able to pick out the things you can see as you turn. You have the baby showers, you decorate the nursery, you get all the clothes and the toys and the baby stuff. You can still see the smiling faces of your friends watching you ride, and you wave and smile as you move past them again and again.  The baby is born and you feel that joy that you rarely experience at any other time in your life.

Parenting is like a merry go round

Photo Credit: Bebe Luxe Photography

As your accomplice pushes the rails harder and harder, that platform spins faster and faster. Suddenly you’re confronted with sleepless nights, smelly diapers, mommy wars over breast feeding and dirty laundry that goes on for days. But it’s still peppered with those moments of beauty – the first smile, the first belly laugh, the first word. The faces of your friends fly past, no longer clear and distinct, but still there for you.

Faster the merry-go-round turns, taking you with it. You’re no longer quite sure this was a good idea, but you’re in it for the long haul, so you take a firm grip of the rail and refuse to let go. You get through tantrums, broken things and poop on the floor, at this point sitting on the base of that platform with your whole body wrapped around that rail. You’re not quite sure if you would rather throw up or pass out, but every now and then the euphoria hits and you laugh out loud from that strange fun that can only be found when you’re completely out of control.

parenting is like a merry go round

More cake please


Finally you’re there. You’re at the point of no return. Let go and fly off the madly spinning ride, taking your chances on the rocky ground, or hold on tighter to see where this crazy adventure takes you. You hold on, wading through insane schedules, mystery viruses, family dance nights, numerous knock-knock jokes and curtains pulled off the walls. You make it through first days of school, toilet water tea parties and a sink that always has dirty dishes in it.

Eventually, things begin slowing down a little. You can start to see your friends’ faces again, and even manage a shaky wave or two as the ride begins to lose speed. You’re able to get shakily to your knees, then your feet, as you look around and realize you made it through the gauntlet. Your kid is semi-independent. You can look away for two minutes and reasonably expect him to still be there when you look back. You defeated the crazy, spinning wheel of disfigurement, and you are almost on the other side.

When the ride finally stops you step off, staggering around a little and trying not to look too hard at the nauseating movement of the world around you that seems to have kept going even though you didn’t. You sit down for a little bit, resting your mind and your body, enjoying the fruit of your labors, and remembering the laughter and the fun of some of those moments.

Do you know what you do then?

Your accomplice smiles and calls you over, and you jump right back on that dang merry-go-round for another turn. Because you’re just a little crazy.


Sometimes We Need the Old to Comfort Us During the New

I have this Bible. It was the first one I ever received as an adult, and it was the first one that I ever read consistently. I carried it with me for years, and it would come with me to every church service, Sunday school class and bible study.


The cover is scraped and cracked, and the pages are full of marks, notes and highlights. Sections are falling out or dog-eared, and I completely lost the last half of the map appendix when my young daughter ripped them out and tore them up. But I know where everything is. I can open it to the book I want without looking, and when I try to remember a particular verse I can visualize the side of the page and the color of the pen I used to underline it.


Last year my husband gave me a brand new Bible to replace my falling-apart one. It has a pretty leather cover, crisp white pages and colorful pictures. It has tabs with the book names on it so it’s easy to search. All the pages are securely glued in, and the maps are all there.

I love my new Bible, but there are days when I really need the comfort of my old one.  Sometimes I need the comfort of my friend that I know and that knows me. The one I’m familiar with, the one where I can easily find the wisdom and counsel that I need without having to search.

There are times in my life when God has given me new things to work on, new paths to take and new people to walk with. It’s great to forge new relationships and break new trails. It’s exciting to start a new journey full of different experiences and expectations. Like that new Bible, I get to learn the truth about life in a different way, with different ways to look at things and different ways to understand the things God wants me to learn.

But sometimes I need to touch base with those tried and true people that have been with me from the beginning, who know my heart almost as well as God does. Sometimes I need to pour out my worries to someone who doesn’t need a back story since they lived that story with me.

ripped pages

I think God does that on purpose. He gives us these people in our lives that walk the path alongside us, that help us through situations or that we help through their own stuff. Then He gives us the opportunity to forge new relationships, to get to know new people or do new things that are unfamiliar – but we always have those old, comforting friends that we can contact for help. We can always turn to that mentor, that family member or that friend.

Eventually, as time passes, our new friends and places become comfortable and lived-in. They become places we can go for comfort or counsel. They merge into our lives, becoming more and more entangled with us.

Even though my new Bible is pretty and clean, it makes me happy every time I make a note in the margins, and I was positively thrilled when my one year old drew on the cover with a ballpoint pen.

My new friend is becoming part of my story.

An Open Letter to Vacation Bible School Volunteers

Dear VBS Volunteer (or Servant, or Worker, or Helper),

Thank you.

Thank you from the bottom of this momma’s heart.

Thank you for the days and weeks and months of preparation. Thank you for thinking about this week long before summer even started. Thank you for praying over just the right program with just the right message for my child to learn.

Thank you for the scheduling headaches, the hundereds of color-coded spreadsheet changes and the hours of word-crafting to make every invitation, form and announcement clear and concise. Thank you for arranging and rearranging everything so those last minute arrivals could have a place in your circle. 

Thank you for your creativity, ingenuity and hours of labor to turn a simple building into a cave of wonders, a fun factory, a medieval castle or an underwater seascape. Thank you for the joy and delight that lit up my child’s face when she walked in and saw a desert or a space station. Thank you for the styrofoam rocket that looks like (but isn’t!) A jungle gym, and the cardboard doors that only need one more zip tie.

Thank you for the time you spent learning songs and stories, and having those simple words revolve in your head at all hours of the day or night. Thank you for practicing the hand movements so often that the last time you sang “God is For Us” you accidentally took your hands off the steering wheel and almost hit a curb.

Thank you for buying supplies, organizing supplies, buying more supplies and distributing supplies.

Thank you for putting aside your adult dignity and wearing silly hair, funny costumes and dancing around with your hands in the air like you just don’t care. Thank you for wearing the same shirt five days in a row even though lime green, neon orange or bright purple aren’t your colors. And thank you for spraying that shirt with fabric refresher when you forgot to wash it.

Thank you for adjusting your schedule, taking vacation time and putting off those chores that will be waiting for you when you get home.

Thank you for the smile on your face when you see my child walk in the door. Thank you for remembering her name and asking for a high five. Thank you for your tired cheek muscles and sore back at the end of each day.

Thank you for pouring into the life of my child when you sometimes feel like you don’t have enough in you to pour into the life of your own.

Thank you for keeping her safe while she’s in your care. Thank you for guarding the doors and keeping the peace. Thank you for the hugs when she’s homesick, the encouragement when she is unsure of the answer, and the patience you show when she talks during the story.

Thank you for donating food, craft supplies and that most precious commodity – your time.


Most of all, thank you for reflecting the light of God in the life of my child. Thank you for showing her what it looks like to walk the walk and talk the talk. Thank you for giving her a tangible example of the love of Jesus that has come down for us all.

With love,

A Mom


Thanks Jay

Tiptoeing Into a Healthier Lifestyle

Our family has been inching down the path of a cleaner, greener home and a healthier lifestyle. I say inching because it’s taken a couple of years to get to the point we are now, and we still have years to go before we could be a poster child for Awesome Green Healthy Wholesome People magazine. (Yes, I realize that’s not a real magazine – but it should be).

Some people farther along on this journey may ask why it’s taken so long. Don’t we care about our health and the environment?! Well, there are a lot of reasons this has been such a slow process for us.

It’s a complete mindset change

I don’t know about you, but in our house growing up something wasn’t really clean unless you bleached it and scrubbed it with steel wool. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but we used all kinds of chemically based cleaners around the house.  Also, as a person who lives in Houston and whose income (and the income of most of my family) comes from the oil and gas industry, I’m pretty slow to boycott things that are produced within that industry.

It’s expensive



photo credit:


Buying organic, free range, green anything is more expensive. Yes, some products are concentrated and so last longer in the long run, but the initial cash outlay can be significant – especially if you’re replacing everything at one time. I had a good friend who decided to use cloth diapers instead of disposable. While it was great to not spend $30/month on diapers, the initial cost of the cloth diapers and waterproof shorts, etc. was rough on the pocketbook.

It takes more research and work

It’s super easy to go to the grocery store and buy a box of goldfish, some fruit snacks, a bottle of floor cleaner and some acetaminophen. It’s much more time consuming to make your own, healthier fruit snacks, research the chemicals in the floor cleaner to decide if it’s really something you want your one year old crawling on and eating those fruit snacks off of, and double checking the amount of acetaminophen you’re allowed to take when your headache just won’t go away.

So, for better or for worse, this has been a pretty time consuming process for us. However, there are some things we have done that I would recommend to people who are trying to start this process as well and feel a bit overwhelmed by it all.

Start with one product at a time

For us this was dryer sheets. I loved using dryer sheets to get all of the static out of our clothes, plus I liked having my clothes smell clean and fresh when they came out of the dryer. After reading about some of the stuff that went into those things, we switched to wool dryer balls (I got mine at Amazon, but you can find them other places also). These are great because they help with the static, cut off some of the dry time, and I can add scents to them to still have my clothes smell good. If you’re more concerned with food than cleaners, I would suggest choosing one food type at a time to switch. We did this with milk since my children drink so much of it. Organic milk is much more expensive, but it was a change that was important to us and that we could fit in our budget without having to do without something really important, like chocolate.

Look into DIY things

I like making things, so finding recipes online for homemade bug sprays, floor cleaners and tile scrub was interesting to me. It turns out lots of things can be cleaned with vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice. If you’re not into the DIY thing, there are a number of companies out there that sell concentrated cleaners with lots less chemicals than you find in many brands.

Shop at farmer’s markets


We like shopping at farmer’s markets when we can for a number of reasons – the produce is fresh, you can ask the farmers directly what sorts of pesticides or growth hormones they use, and it supports the local economy. A lot of times you can also find things like homemade soaps, local honey and other things that are harder to find at a chain grocery store.

Basically, making the change to a more “natural” home is a process for us. We’re moving one step at a time, juggling what is best for our family and our finances. Sometimes I spring for the organic and sometimes I can only afford the generic store brand, but I think being aware of what you’re eating, what you’re using to clean your home and what you’re breathing can only be a good thing.

10 Things My Children Taught Me About Playing Charades

We recently took a family vacation with my husband’s parents, sisters and their families. All together, we had nine children in one house between the ages of eight months and 10 years. I would have to say it was one of the most chaotic and hilarious trips we’ve taken in some time. On one of the evenings we thought it would be fun to have a family game night. Since the number of games you can play with that many people over such a broad age range (and let all of them participate) isn’t that large, we decided on charades.

I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard in a long time than I did during that game. I mean, I thought I knew all there was to know about charades, but those kids taught me A LOT.

1.       If a four year old lies on the ground in a straight line with no movement, she is a crayon. Not a stick. Not a snake. Not a fish or a worm or a piece of chalk. She is a crayon. Duh.

2.       If you can’t guess what someone is, they may cry. If you guess what someone is too fast, they may cry. If you guess the same thing that someone else says but you say it just a little quicker…they may cry. Charades is an emotional minefield.

3.       If your child is trying to act out a candy cane and starts by pretending to lick a stick, look away and keep your mouth shut.

4.       If your other child shouts out, “getting drunk!” and your brother-in-law looks at you in shock, shrug your shoulders and point at your husband.

5.       Guessing the charade correctly does NOT automatically make it your turn. You must go IN ORDER at ALL TIMES so EVERYONE gets a turn. (Or they may cry)

6.       If a child gets down on all fours, they are an animal. Even if they do nothing else, you must shout out every single animal you know until you figure out they are a unicorn.

7.       If you don’t want to play, too bad, you don’t get a choice. Unless you’re the grandpa.

8.       If the same four year old lays on the ground in a straight line but moves her hips a little, she is NOT a crayon. Duh.

9.       If you see someone holding their cell phone when you start your turn, don’t be naïve – family is not above blackmail.

10.     If you don’t enjoy the sound of people shouting, laughing, screaming and jumping up and down in a small space, charades is not your game.