What My 10-Year-Old Daughter is Teaching Me About Courage & Confidence

What My 10-Year-Old Is Teaching Me About Courage & Confidence

Dear Kathrynne,

You don’t often show up in pictures or stories on this blog because when I ask for your permission to post things about you, you usually ask that I don’t share them. And that is completely okay. I respect that and want to honor you in that regard.

However, I am so thankful that you gave me permission to write this post. Because it’s something I’ve wanted to share for a long time.

Thank you for how you constantly challenge me to be myself. To not worry about what other people think. To let my personality on the inside shine out on the outside.

What My 10-Year-Old is Teaching Me About Courage & Confidence

As your mom, I couldn’t be prouder of you. Maybe our tastes in clothing are completely different. Maybe there are moments when I wish that you cared just a little bit more about what you wear. But then I realize, that’s my pride — and that’s me caring more about what other people think than about letting you be who God created you to be.

I’m so glad that you care so much more about people’s hearts and about reaching out and helping people than you do about what people think about you. I’m so glad that you are confident in your own unique style and personality. I love how you rock those gym shorts, t-shirts, and tennis shoes like nobody’s business.

I am so inspired by your desire to attract friends who really care about you as a person and who want to love you for who you really are than about trying to change who you are in order to have other people like you.

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Thank you for how you continually encourage me to be true to who I am. To blog authentically. To live authentically.

Thank you for how you challenge me to stop caring what other people think and to be all that God has created me to be. Your courage and confidence as a person has motivated me to “come out of my shell” little bit by little bit.

You’ve challenged me to post more of the real-life stuff. To let people into our home and life — even when it’s messy and chaotic. To be okay that who I really am is not necessarily going to be exactly who people want me to be — but it’s going to be true and true is always better than fake.

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I’ve seen you step outside of your comfort zone in big ways this past year. You’ve joined the swim team, you’ve poured hours and hours into swim practice, you’ve worked hard to improve your strokes, and you’ve faced your fear of competing in front of large crowds.

Other people had no idea that you were sick to your stomach about having to step up on those starting blocks and dive into the water, but I knew. And my heart wanted to burst when I saw you hold your head up high, dive in, and attack the water.

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Moving away from your home and relatives and friends was very hard for you. But you bravely faced many new things — a new neighborhood, new church, new routines, new friends, and a new lifestyle.

You’ve experienced loneliness. We’ve cried together over what we left behind. And then you’ve dried your tears, punched fear in the face, and met new family after new family and went into new situation after new situation.

It hasn’t been a smooth ride for you, nor us. But you’ve trusted God through it, talked openly with us about your fears and hurts and sadness, and pressed forward — embracing the newness and choosing to live fully right where you are.

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Thank you for how you love well, care deeply, and give generously. I couldn’t be more proud to be your mom.

You are one-of-a-kind and God has some great adventures for you in your future. Keep charging ahead with brave resolve, contagious courage, and unshakeable confidence.

I love you, sweet girl. You’ve forever changed my life.


Your Grateful Mom

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5 Ways to Have a Happier Home — Guaranteed

5 Ways to Have a Happier Home -- Guaranteed!

My husband and I have been married for going on 12 and a half years and in those years we’ve made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot of lessons the hard way.

In the last few years, I feel like we’ve both become a lot more comfortable in our own skin, we’ve become a lot more settled in our personal family principles and beliefs, and we’ve become a lot less worried about trying to do what works for others and instead just doing what works for us.

As a result, we’ve experienced a lot more joy, peace, and happiness in our home. We won’t win any contests for having everything all together, having the best decorated home, having the most put-together-looking children, or always getting places on time. But we’re good with that.

We’re a work in progress. We’re in this together. And we’re seeking to fully embrace life — right where we are.

As I think back over the lessons we’ve learned along this journey of life, I wanted to share five things that have helped us have a happier home. I think I can almost guarantee that if you implement these in your home, it will result in more joy, peace, and happiness, too.
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1. Spend Less Time Doing & More Time Being

It’s so easy to get sucked into the go-go-go, do-do-do mentality that pervades our culture. But is that really what life is all about?

I don’t want to reach the end of my life and have the only thing people know to say about me be something like: “She was always busy. She got a lot done.”

No, I want to live life to the fullest. I want to be available for people. I want to listen. I want to take time to care. I want to invest my life in the people closest to me. I want to have time for what really matters.

I encourage you to cut down on schedule clutter and unnecessary commitments so that you have breathing room in your life to take time for what really matters. Set up good systems so that you don’t have to spend extra time looking for things, moving piles, or doing busy work.

Teach your kids to work together with you so that the house runs more smoothly and you all have more time to be together. Stress less about having things perfect and be okay with imperfect.

Clear out the excess from your life so that you can focus on the few things that really matter. Doing this will guarantee you not only enjoy life more, but that you have a happier, calmer home.

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This picture makes me laugh every time I see it! I posted it on Instagram awhile back and said: “Could not figure out why the ‘cream’ I was pouring in my coffee this morning looked so watered down. And then I actually read the box. Yikes… Clearly, not all brain cells are firing this morning. Or, maybe I just discovered a new kind on Bulletproof Coffee. Or not. Yuck.”

2. Always Look for Something to Laugh About

Life is full of hard things. Life is full of potentially frustrating things. And that’s why it’s so important that we learn to laugh quickly, easily, and often.

Find the funny in every situation. Laugh at yourself. Share funny stories with your friends. Don’t take life too seriously.

If you need some upbeat encouragement or things to laugh about, be sure to follow the Money Saving Mom® Facebook Page. I try to post at least a few things on there every day that made me laugh. Here was one from this morning. :)

You’ll discover — if you spend any time around me — that I pretty much always have a good story to share. I go through life looking for the humor that others might not see — because we all need to laugh more than we do, myself included.

So I try to notice those funny things and share them with others, instead of focusing on the hard and stressful things of life. I don’t always succeed at this, but this is what I aim for.

My husband and our kids join me in this much of the time, too. And it’s amazing how much happier we all feel when we pepper our daily life with large doses of laughter.

5 Ways to Have a Happier Home

3. Find the Good & Praise It

I read this phrase in a book years and years ago and it has stuck with me and influenced me in so many situations when I wanted to get bogged down and discouraged by the hard and heavy things, when I wanted to feel irritated by others, or when I wanted to be upset that someone had done something all wrong or dropped the ball completely.

Instead, I’ve made it a point to look for the good. Because there is almost always, always something good to be found — whether that’s in your spouse, your kids, your co-worker, your relative, or an acquaintance.

Choose to dwell on what’s good instead of being bothered and irritated by what’s not so good. Praise the good. Show gratitude for the hard work someone is doing or how your spouse helped you in some way or a positive attitude your child exemplified or for how your co-worker took initiative on something… find the good and praise it.

Gratitude can transform your entire outlook on life. In addition, when you verbally express it to others, it can motivate and inspire them to work harder, rise to the top, develop character, and be the best version of themselves they can be.

A home built upon praise, rather than criticism, is always going to be a happier home.

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4. Be Generous With the Hugs & Kisses

In our home, we are highly affectionate. I believe that human touch is a powerful force — providing comfort, healing, and nurturing, and communicating love, care, and compassion.

Not all kids are probably this way, but my kids need a lot of snuggles and hugs. It makes them feel secure, loved, and appreciated.

So we do our best to dole out the physical affection — even in those moments when it might not be what we’d want to do. (I’m an introvert and not a complete touch-y, feel-y person, so sometimes I’d really rather have space than snuggles!)

Not only does it promote closeness in our relationships, but we’ve found that our kids are so much more cheerful when their love tanks are filled up. And this results in an all around happier home.

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5. Stop Worrying About What Other People Think

Of all the things I’ve shared in this post, this one has been the hardest for me, by far. I’m a perfectionist and people-pleaser by nature. I want people to accept me. But more than that, I want them to like me.

But I can’t live my life and we can’t run our home to please others. Why? Because there are just plain too many different people to please. So if we try to please everyone, we’ll run ourselves ragged and still fall short.

Slowly ever so slowly, I’ve been breaking free from the bondage of people-pleasing. I’ve been focusing on seeking the Lord with my husband for what God wants for our own family. We’ve been making decisions for our family based upon what we believe is best for us — not based upon what we think other people would want us to do or what others would think we should do.

Has everyone been supportive of our decisions? By no means! We’ve gotten plenty of criticism and questioning for choices we’ve made.

But more and more, I’m okay with that. I realize that not everyone will understand why we do what we do. Not everyone is called to have the lifestyle we do or parent the way we do or follow the path that we are on.

We’re all different in different situations with different families and different needs. What is right for one family won’t necessarily be right for another family. And sometimes, those choices won’t make a lot of sense to everyone else, but that’s okay.

What’s most important is that our family is carefully seeking God’s will, carefully and prayerfully making decisions based upon the needs of our family and children, and regularly re-evaluating to make sure those choices and decisions are still the best for our family.

When we let go of worrying about what other people think and instead focus on doing what’s best for our own family, we’re all much happier for it.


photo credit

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My Monday Morning Plan + Today’s Cleaning Project

My Monday Morning Project

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a great start!

Jesse was gone on a business trip Thursday through Saturday morning and I got sick with what my kids had last week (congestion/fevers, etc.) right after he left. So, needless to say, I was very ready for him to walk in the door on Saturday morning!

I spent the weekend recuperating — mostly just resting, reading, writing, and watching a few movies. After many weeks of busyness, it was wonderful, despite the fact that I didn’t feel well.

I’m feeling quite a bit better today, but I’m planning to still take it pretty easy so that I’m fully recovered for Silas’s birthday and speaking at the Arlington Homeschool Conference later this week.

I only ended up getting to go through Kaitlynn’s clothes a few weeks ago, so today I’m tackling Silas and Kathrynne’s clothes — getting rid of things that no longer fit, organizing, and making sure they have plenty of clothes for Spring/Summer.

Here’s my plan for this morning:

  • Bible reading/journaling
  • Blogging/business work
  • Run/shower/dressed for the day I want to have
  • Pick up my room/make my bed
  • Start a load of laundry
  • Breakfast
  • Morning Time
  • School with Silas
  • Get kids started on chores/independent work/Daily Lists
  • Quick pick up of the house/kitchen cleaned up
  • Go through the Kathrynne and Silas’ clothes
  • Write thank you note/notes to kids/Mother’s Day card
  • Fold & put away all laundry

This evening (hopefully!), I’ll share a post about how our day went and give you an update (with pictures) on my progress on our house and the kid’s clothes.

Need some motivation? Check out my post on 10 Ways to Make Cleaning More Fun.

Want to join me? Leave a comment to let us know you’re participating! If you have time, tell us what your morning plan is, too.

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5 Reasons I’m Glad We’ve Chosen to Not Have Many Toys


I was doing a phone interview for a magazine yesterday and the interviewer asked me how to save money kid’s toys. I get that question a lot and it’s hard to know how to answer.

Because the truth is: we don’t really have many toys at our house.

When our first daughter, Kathrynne, was a baby and a toddler, we lived in a little basement apartment, so there wasn’t room for many toys. We had a little basket of toys she’d been given from grandparents and friends and that was it.

After our second daughter, Kaitlynn, was born, we continued to just stick with the small basket of toys. It was somewhat due to my minimalist nature, somewhat due to the fact that we didn’t have money to buy toys, and somewhat due to the fact that our girls seemed to find plenty to do without many toys.

I thought that might change as they got older, but even with adding our third child to the mix, it never changed. And so, our kids are now 10, almost 8, and almost 6, and we have very few toys at our house.


I never really realize we don’t have many toys at our house except for when we have guests over who have little children. They’ll ask where the toy room is or where the toys are and I’m not sure how to answer. Because it’s not that we are anti-toys; it’s just not been something my kids have been all that interested in.

Yes, we do have a few toys: we have outdoor toys (like balls, bats, rollerblades, rip sticks, and bikes), we have board games and card games, we have LEGOs, we have a few stuffed animals that are special to our kids, and we have lots of arts and craft supplies. But other than maybe a few odds and ends here and there in the kids’ room, we don’t really have many other toys.


No one in our house seems to miss the lack of toys. Our kids are constantly on the go: creating art, engineering new LEGO puzzle boxes, helping cook in the kitchen, reading, playing games, listening to audiobooks, teasing each other, playing with the neighbors, making up contests and competitions, challenging each other to learn new tricks on the rip stick or trampoline, practicing their sports techniques, exercising… they rarely lack for ideas and inspiration.

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After I got off the phone with the interviewer yesterday, I started thinking about how glad I am that we chose to keep things simple from the get-go, because it’s really benefited our whole family to not have many toys.

Here are 5 reasons why not having many toys has benefited our family:

1. It Has Encouraged Our Kids to Be Creative

Not having a lot of toys has encouraged our children to become more creative.

Kaitlynn is constantly working on new arts and crafts projects — whether that’s painting or a DIY recipe for lip gloss or practicing her sewing skills or writing notes to other people. Almost every day, it’s a new idea and she’ll often spend a few hours creating and tweaking and experimenting. I love to see what she comes up with — and how she never lacks for ideas using what we already have on hand.

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Kathrynne is continually working on building and dreaming up new LEGO Puzzle Box designs. She loves to watch videos on YouTube of Puzzle Boxes that others create and then she takes their ideas and tweaks them to be her own. She’s also currently working on some long-term business ideas and is studying, experimenting, learning from other people, and developing skills to help her with these business ideas.

Silas loves to help me in the kitchen and work on math skills (he will do lessons and lessons of math in a day — just for fun!) He also loves to make simple LEGO creations.

2. It Has Simplified Our Life

Not having many toys not only means we don’t have to mess with figuring out toy storage solutions, but we also don’t have to spend as much time cleaning up — since there really aren’t any toys to clean up.In addition, we have more room since we don’t have to have a closet or area devoted to housing toys. Plus, we don’t have to worry about missing pieces, broken parts, and battery replacement.

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3. It Has Inspired Our Kids to Use What They Already Have

One thing we’ve noticed is that when there aren’t many toy options, our kids will play with the same item over and over again — using it in many different ways.

For instance, a simple box could serve as a counter for their “store”. The next day, it’s a car. The next day, they’ll cut windows in it and decorate it and make it into a house for their stuffed animals.

I’ve also noticed that, because there aren’t a lot of toys to choose from, it seems to help them focus on a project or idea for a long time without being distracted.

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4. It Has Cut Down on Discontentment

Now, let me be clear, we still have discontentment issues going on at our house. But I feel like fewer toys seems to lend itself to fewer requests from kids to upgrade to something new or have something that their friends or the neighbor kids have.

It also helps that we encourage our kids to earn money by doing Paid Chores and then they are able to spend that money on fun things — usually more LEGOs, arts and craft supplies, or something similar.


5. It Has Encouraged Our Kids to Develop New Skills & Be Entrepreneurial

Because there are few toys and a lot of room for creativity, our kids are constantly learning new things — new craft skills, reading new books, learning how to play new games, studying subjects that interest them… every week, they are trying new things and learning new things.

All three kids also love to discuss and scheme entrepreneurial ideas — and then to have us poke holes in their business plans (kind of Shark Tank style). Yes, we may be weird, but we all LOVE this kind of stuff. Writing business plans, calculating profits and losses, and analyzing how to make an idea more profitable are all part of our regular conversations.

One of my greatest hopes as a parent is that I’ll raise lifelong learners. Kids who are curious about life, constantly want to challenge their minds, and see all of life as their classroom. I think having fewer toys has really helped encourage this in them so far. And I’m so grateful!

Why Not Having Many Toys Has Benefited Our Family

Note: Please know that I’m not advocating that every family needs to do what we’ve done. Maybe having lots of toys has been a great thing for your family. I can’t say what will work for you, I’m only sharing what we’ve done, why we’ve chosen to do it, and why I’m glad we have. As always, do what works for you!


Is your house overflowing with toys? Do you spend a lot of your time picking up and organizing toys? If so, you need to read this post from one mom on why they've chosen to limit toys at their house. You might not agree with all of it, but it will definitely make you think and re-examine how many toys you have at your house. #5 is my favorite!

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