Inspiring an Attitude of Gratitude

I have read Kristen Welch's blog We are THAT Family for years, and I've always appreciated her openness and honesty. So, when I discovered that she had a new book coming out, I knew I wanted to read it. Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World is an encouraging read — one that I really can't wait to read again. The book's official release is January 26 and I highly recommend it. It made me consider my own family's level of gratitude, so I thought I'd write down what I discovered in the hope of encouraging others. 

How grateful are we really?

The kids and I have an exercise we've done pretty much every day for the past six months or so. It’s not a physical exercise — it’s more like a mental one. Each person has to tell me something that they’re grateful for. The first few times we did this they went for the most obvious answers, “I’m thankful for food, clothes, or video games” but the longer we’ve done this I've started hearing well thought out answers. I’ve since heard anything from, “I’m thankful for Jesus’ sacrifice for me” to “I’m really thankful for air conditioning!” 

I’m sorry to admit that practicing gratefulness hasn’t been something we’ve done much of before this past year. It’s not that we were ungrateful, I just didn’t place any importance on speaking it out loud. I had never thought of my kids as being especially ungrateful. It wasn’t nearly as noticeable when they were smaller, but the older they get, the more noticeable it becomes. 

It started small like complaining when told to do something, but gradually grew until finally on birthdays and Christmas they’d open up their gifts and say, “Is that all? But I wanted…” I began to discover other areas where they were becoming more ungrateful. Housework fell to my shoulders and they’d complain when told to do their share; they’d say they’d rather have anything else to eat rather than what I had worked hard to prepare; they’d complain because they didn’t have the cool gadgets that all of their friends have or because we wouldn’t let them do what So-and-So’s parents let them do; etc. 

When my children start to behave a certain way it's usually a signal that I should examine myself to see if the same behaviors are evident in my own life. The last thing I want to do is tell my kids that their attitudes are wrong only to discover that they learned it from their mother. Of course I saw that I was ungrateful as well — and talk about a rude awakening. 

A Look Back...

My childhood was completely different from my children’s. I grew up in a small town in Louisiana, the oldest of three kids. My mom stayed home to homeschool my brother, sister, and I while my dad worked as the manager of a convenience store next door to our home. We lived in a single wide trailer for most of my childhood before moving to a small house nearby. My parents never owned their own home. I wasn’t allowed to date and I was extremely shy. I went to church and occasionally to a friend’s house, but most of the time I stayed at home and I preferred it that way. My parents didn’t have the money to buy me a car or even the “cool” clothes the other girls in the youth group wore so I earned my spending money by babysitting or ironing clothes for people in our church. I worked hard in school, graduated a year early, and left for college in the fall of 1997.

Ron and I met during my fourth year in school and we married a year later. We spent the first two years of our marriage living in a trailer on his parents’ property. Our oldest child, Z, was born while we lived there. We both worked at the local newspaper until Ron was offered a job in another state. We moved 450 miles away from family and friends to start a new life. 

God has blessed us richly in the 11 years we’ve lived here. I was supposed to find a job and go back to work after getting settled in, but He had other plans and provided a way for me to stay at home. Three kids later I’m still at home with them and have never regretted it. 

After I noticed hearts of ungratefulness in the kids I began to see where I showed the same ungratefulness. I complained because we couldn’t knock out a wall. I whined that our house was too small and thought we needed something bigger. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough that God had already provided me with the nicest house I had ever lived in because I wanted something bigger and better. It also wasn’t enough that we had all sorts of amenities like the fastest internet, the newest iPhones, a minivan with heated seats and a built-in entertainment system, I just wanted more, more, more. 

Once God revealed to me the depth of my own entitlement and reminded me of where I came from, my heart began to change. I realized that I needed to speak openly to my children about how blessed we are as a family. Instead of comparing ourselves with those that have more than us we needed to compare ourselves with the enormous number of people that have less than we do. When you look at what you have through the eyes of someone with less you begin to see things differently and will hopefully become a more grateful person. 

I have perspective because I can compare my life now to my life growing up. Although I know what it’s like to go without, I've also lived for years with the freedom to hop on Amazon any time I like. I can spend $50 or $75 to have something delivered to my door within two days and never give it a second thought. It doesn’t take one long to get used to a certain lifestyle, and I guess I've settled in pretty comfortably to the one I have now. My children, though, don't have anything to look back on to show them how blessed they are. It's my job to encourage activities that promote an attitude of gratitude. Practicing gratefulness is something we should all do more of. I look forward to implementing other “grateful” activities with the kids over the course of this new year. My hope is that by the end of 2016 we are a less entitled family and a more grateful one. 

How do you inspire an attitude of gratitude in your home?

Ideas to Practice Gratefulness:

I found some really great ideas for practicing gratefulness on Pinterest: 

We actually already do the Thankful Tree each November.

This lady is one of my favorite bloggers.

A gratitude journal sounds like something we should try. 

I like the idea of more responsibility for the kids.


Mastering the Entitlement Beast

Raising Unselfish Kids in the Age of Selfies

I've been reading Kristen Welch's blog, We Are THAT Family, for a few years now and I'm constantly encouraged by her posts. I was recently given the opportunity to read her newest book Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World before its release. I'm currently only halfway through the book, but it has been so thought-provoking and challenging that I thought I should blog about what I'm learning.

Quote from Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World

Quote from Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World

Kristen's book dispels the false notion that it's a mother's job to make her kids happy, which is definitely something I needed to read. For so long I had bought into the idea that I was supposed to ensure that every waking hour of the day was full of fun and my kids were never supposed to be bored. I struggled with keeping them constantly entertained. 

I've seen the ugly face of entitlement in my own life. I'd buy something frivolous just because I thought I deserved it not because I necessarily needed it. I'd be happy with something until another bigger and better thing came along. Suddenly, I would find myself no longer content with the things I'd been blessed with and I would begin coveting something else.

It's a vicious cycle that never leads to true happiness.

Quote from Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World

Quote from Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World

Please don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that there's anything inherently wrong with having things. If God has blessed you over and above the basic necessities of life, be grateful for it and enjoy! But I wonder if we, as Americans, have gotten the idea somewhere along the way that we should amass as much stuff as possible. If we run out of room to store stuff in our house, it's easy enough to fill up a shed or rent a building to keep all of the excess clutter. Really? Why is this a good idea?

We live in the richest country in the world – so shouldn't we use our resources to help those in need? I understand that there are plenty of people out there that actually do give of their time and resources to help those in need, but there are far more of us that don't. Most of us could afford to give quite a bit of stuff away without even noticing the loss. I think we, myself included, have a tendency to put more emphasis on possessions rather than people. Jesus didn't lay down His life for stuff, but for souls

Quote from Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World

Quote from Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World

Our family scrapes food into the garbage every day because either we're not hungry enough to finish it, or we have so much food in our house that it doesn't bother us to trash some of it. A prime example of this occurred this morning. Our 12-year-old, Z, made a large bowl of oatmeal, took one bite, and then threw the rest into the garbage because it was cold. I have no idea why it didn't cross her mind to put it into the microwave and warm it back up, but honestly I was more flabbergasted that she would trash perfectly good food even though she swore she was hungry. And all of this after she had already poured two glasses of milk down the sink because she thought someone else had taken a sip out of her cup. Of course I took this as a teachable moment. I explained to her that there are children in our own city that would be more than happy to eat cold oatmeal for breakfast because they don't have anything else to eat. 

Quote from Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World by Kristen Welch

Quote from Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World by Kristen Welch

When I first became a mom, I decided that I wanted to give my kids everything I didn't have as a kid. I'm sure most parents feel this way. My husband makes enough money for me to give my kids good things, so I guess I figured it was my job to fill their rooms with stuff. I mean, if there's something I want within reason, it's easy enough to pop on Amazon and click "place order." Because of my flawed views and because I'm a people pleaser, I began raising four incredibly selfish and lazy children. Now every time we leave the house my two youngest ask if they can have a treat if they are good, and every time I deny them I get quite a display of horrible behavior. 

Every day after school is finished, my kids do chores. At first, they did things really well and with a happy heart, but I've recently discovered that now they only do the minimal amount of work. It took them no time at all to figure out that Mom, the control freak, would always come behind them and clean up any mess that they leave behind when the job wasn't done perfectly. It always seemed easier for me to do it than to have to listen to them complain about having to go back and do it again. Bad idea. 

Today, I realized I was the only one in the kitchen prepping dinner and baking bread while they sat on their hind ends in the living room watching a movie. I almost hit the ceiling when two of them simultaneously called out to me, "Mom, make me some cheese and crackers!" Apparently their movie was more important than dinner preparations and they couldn't be bothered to do anything for themselves. 

I've been a mom for 12 years now, and I'm still trying to figure it all out! I now see that I've been wrong to shelter my kids from the knowledge that there are needy people in our own city. I would go out of my way to steer clear of poverty-stricken areas so that the kids wouldn't ask tough questions. I never allowed them to watch or listen to the news because I didn't want them to know the awfulness and depravity in the world around us. I understand that I need to protect them from some things that they aren't ready to see or hear, but at the same time they should grow up with a burden for those in need. 1 John 3:17 says "But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?” There are countless other scriptures about caring for the poor and needy I could share, but I won't. Sure, my kids know that there are people on the other side of the world that are starving, but I've never really let them see that it's also right here in our own back yard.

Quote from Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World

Quote from Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World

The first step in teaching my kids to have a heart for others and to stop thinking so much about themselves and their own wants begins with me. I have to have a heart for others and stop thinking so much about myself. I also need to confess to them that the world they live in is not as pretty and fun as they think. Not every kid has an iPod, WiiU, or more clothes that can fit in a single dresser and unfortunately not every parent has the ability to provide even the basic needs for their kids.

I think it was mid-year last year when God first convicted me (or maybe I should say when I first paid attention to His conviction) of my own selfishness and entitlement. Yes, I was a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, but I was more interested in rushing through school and chores so that I could have time to myself. I recognized that God called me to be a missionary in my own home, and how He desires for me to disciple the four beautiful souls He has entrusted to my care. When I began to see my children as God sees them, things changed. Everything I did from then on was aimed at using the opportunity to teach them a new truth about Jesus or to point them to Him. 

I realized that I was going to have to give some things up in order to follow through with this calling. I had already given up Facebook because I found that I spent more time on it than actually having face-to-face conversations with my family and friends, but I also decided to give up a weekly Bible study that I attended with a group of women from my church. Please don't read this the wrong way. I am not saying that Bible studies are wrong. I am saying that God told me that right now my time was better spent at home on those evenings, caring for my husband and children. I noticed that family Bible time was sometimes put off on those nights because I would get home too late and the kids wouldn't want to go on without me. God assured me that I would have plenty of time after the kids left home to fill with women's Bible studies and get-togethers and that I just needed to get into the Word by myself. I didn't realize how much I could learn on my own – just me and God.

I really do have great kids, and they aren't snobs. For the most part, we have really great days where everyone gets along and is pretty happy; however, we also have bad days when it's been raining for ages and we've been cooped up inside the house and get on one another's nerves. We don't have a perfect life, but we do have a blessed one. I look forward to finishing the book and implementing some of the great ideas within it. I am also eager to begin living a life of gratefulness and service and teaching my kids to do the same.  

Even if I hadn't been chosen to read it ahead of time it'd have still been on my list to purchase and read. 

The book is available now for preorder and if you order it directly from Raising Grateful Kids you'll receive a free gift along with it. There's also free shipping to those within the U.S. It doesn't officially come out until January 26, but it's definitely one that I would encourage all parents to read. I've already preordered another copy for myself. 


Here is a quick rundown of the things that have been going on since our last post. 

Ron came home from his mission trip exhausted. Ok, so most people come back from mission trips exhausted. But when his exhaustion didn't get better after a week and he still felt he need to sleep 12 hours at night and would fall asleep at his desk at work, we knew something was a bit off. Then when he started having muscle twitches and couldn't string words together to form a coherent sentence, we really knew something was wrong and he went straight to the doctor, who confirmed that he had Lyme Disease. He was placed on two weeks' worth of antibiotics and we prayed that we caught it before it became chronic.

Sickness galore

Sickness galore

On the very day he finally felt normal again he came home to find that I had been feeling poorly all day. We had our coffee on the front porch, as usual, and he asked me about my day. I told him that my arms and legs had been aching all day like when you have a fever, but I was fever-free so I wasn't sure what was going on. The longer I sat there, the colder I got -- this was mid-August in the South -- so I told him I was going inside. Five minutes later he found me curled in a fetal position in the bottom of the shower with hot water raining down on me. He said my hands and feet were blue and I was shaking uncontrollably and saying that I was so very cold. 

He called a nearby friend, his parents, and an ambulance and they all came in that order. The ambulance took me to the emergency room, where I stayed for the next 6 hours being poked and prodded and watched over. Long story short, they kept me for two days and determined that I had a urinary tract infection and sepsis both caused by E. coli. I was very near death, but by the grace of God and after many prayers I was released to go home. Ron worked from home and my inlaws kept two of the four kids for us that whole next week until I felt I could return to the tasks of motherhood. Of course this isn't the full story, I'd love to talk about how God's peace was very present on us both during that, but that's for another day.  

Stitches galore

Stitches galore

In September L managed to slice her thumb open while carving a stick. I am so very thankful that Ron's cousin, an EMT, and his cousin's wife, a nurse practitioner, happened to be visiting from Mississippi. They took over since the sight of blood on my children makes me weak in the knees. She received six stitches and has a nice scar to show for it now. 

Enjoying the great outdoors

Enjoying the great outdoors

Bread baking

Bread baking

We live at the base of a mountain and once the weather started turning cooler I took the kids up to the top to hike around and play and enjoy God's creation. It was a welcome change from video games and housework. 

I've recently discovered a love of baking bread. We've been trying to eat a clean diet for years now, but when I discovered how easy it was to make my own bread, and to know exactly what goes in to it, I quit buying store-bought. We love it!

Installing an overhead light

Installing an overhead light

We're also doing some home-improvement projects. At first we thought we'd do them so that we could put the house on the market in the spring, but now we're leaning towards fixing it up and refinancing. The kids love to hike the mountain in our back yard and we have just enough room inside the house for everyone. This house is 41 years old and has never had an overhead light. We've lived here for 6 years now so we decided it was time for some light. We get great sunlight through the windows during the day, but in the evenings the room would be so dark. This fan has been one of my favorite updates to this house. It's the little things that make me happy. Light. 

School is going well. It has taken us a few months to get back on track after my illness, but I think we're finally getting into a routine. Just in time for Christmas break. But that's the beauty of homeschooling -- it's flexible. We are focusing more on discipleship and character training this year and I can't say that it's been easy or fun. There are four selfish little hearts with four distinctly different ideas in this house and they are not easy to manage. I'm so very thankful that I don't have to rely on my own wits or the "wisdom" that the world has to offer on child rearing because I serve a God that is ready to impart supernatural wisdom to me any time I come to Him -- and believe me, that happens often. My Heavenly Father is the only perfect parent so He is the only one I want to turn to for advice. 


The End of Summer and Beginning of School

So long, summer!



We officially ended summer this week. Ron returned home from a week-long mission trip on Saturday evening so we spent Sunday resting and hearing how God worked in and through him while he was away. 

The kids and I really missed him while he was gone. They were super excited to find him in the church parking lot after the end of service. 

He was missed

He was missed

The school bell rings

We began our seventh year of homeschooling on Monday. I like to start slowly, so this week we are just working on Bible, math, and language arts. Next week we'll add writing, history, science, and foreign language. 

So far things are going smoothly. I think we all thrive on routine and it was definitely a much needed thing after a very fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants summer. 

My biggest goal this year is to incorporate more scripture memory and Bible reading into our days. We will be memorizing scripture weekly using Fighter Verses and the Charlotte Mason scripture memory system . We go over our verses a few times every morning during our Bible lesson in school, and also again in the evenings during family Bible time. I am excited about this new system and look forward to memorizing scripture together as a family. 

For Bible this year I am doing two different things. Three days a week I am using The Pilgrim's Progress All-in-One curriculum from Answers in Genesis. The kids enjoy listening to the story and following along with it in the book. At the end of each chapter I ask them them questions and we discuss what happened in the story. Then one of the kids looks up the scriptures included in the text and reads them aloud and we discuss how to apply them to our life. The other two days a week I use the Discovery Bible Study method (I use a slightly simplified version) with Z and E. Nothing thrills me more than to see my children read scripture and then understand and talk about what it says. This week we are going through the book of 1 John. It has amazed me to hear how much they've gleaned from the first chapter alone. 

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post we are continuing with The Mystery of History Volume 3 for history this year. We will also continue using Apologia science with Z using Exploring Creation with General Science and L and E using Exploring Creation with Botany.

For math Z is using Teaching Textbooks Math 7. I plan to keep her in TT until she graduates. I am not even sure why I ever took her out of it to return to regular workbooks because she struggles in anything other than TT. I'm so thankful this is an option for her. E and L are both using A Beka: L uses Arithmetic 2 and E uses Arithmetic 5. S is using Mathseeds.

For language arts everyone is using something different. It took a lot of trial and error, but I have finally discovered that each of my kids learns differently and I've given myself permission to find what works best for them and go with it. Z used Fix It! Grammar last year and loved it so we are continuing with that this year. She actually learned more grammar in one of those books than she ever did before. I am so thankful we found what works with her. E uses Easy Grammar and is thriving in it. Stick with what works has become my new motto. L is using something completely new to us this year. She is in Bob Jones English 2. I have never used Bob Jones with any of my kids, although I do remember using some of it when I was homeschooled ages ago. She seems to really enjoy it. It jumped right in to teaching her about subjects and verbs and different kinds of sentences and she will be learning to write a story soon. S is doing Reading Eggs on the computer. I used the same thing with E and L and they both excelled at reading by the end of it so I'm excited to see how S does with it. 

Z will be using Jump In from Apologia for her writing curriculum this year. If she does well and really enjoys it I will use it with E next year. 

I've always loved the Getty-Dubay Italic Handwriting books so the kids will be using those for their print/cursive work. 

For spelling, I will be choosing words for E and L from our Bible lessons each week and put them into Spelling City for them. This is also something new we're trying. If it doesn't work, we'll scratch it and try something different. That's the beauty of homeschooling.

Z will continue with Rosetta Stone French Level 1 this year. 

I'm pretty sure that's enough to keep us busy for a while each day. Especially since there are also chores and individual reading times to mark off the list before kids can be let loose to roam free. I would love to make Fridays a day for play-dates, nature walks, and/or field trips, but we'll have to wait and see how things go next week after we've started on all of the schoolwork. 

I am so looking forward to another year of learning with my babes. Even though we have our moments of crazy around here, more often than not this homeschooling journey is a blessing and a whole lot of fun. 


Taking Back Father's Day

Whatever happened to "honor your father and mother?" Why does it seem that society has elevated motherhood and demoted fatherhood? Why do people crack jokes at and about fathers, while at the same time making mothers out to be saints? I especially love this post by Kristen called Fathers Are Not Idiots. Maybe it has something to do with the breakdown of the family unit, but quite frankly, I'm sick of it. 

I've decided that I've had enough and I'm here to reclaim Father's Day as a day to show honor to the men in my life whether they're my biological father or not. There are so many men in my life that I'm proud to say have Godly influence over me. 

Tim P. is the man whose home I grew up in and the one that gave me away at my wedding. He isn't my biological father, but that doesn't matter because he has always been my daddy for as long as I can remember. He worked tirelessly for us when I was growing up, and he provided so that my mom could stay home and homeschool me, my brother, and my sister for many years. I wish I could see him more often -- I love my dad. 

Steve O. is the man who's family I married into. Over the past 14 years of knowing him I've become closer to him and love him very much. I have enjoyed the past few months of getting to know him better since he and my mother-in-law moved up here. I love that he loves my children so much and spends time with them. He makes me smile and is going to teach me to do all sorts of handy things like use a table saw, hang sheetrock, etc. 

Grant C. is the man I call my local dad. We lived here for 10 years before ever having family here to help out. Grant and his wife took us under their wing and treated us like their own children. I know that I  can go to Grant and ask for prayer or advice or just to talk and he will drop whatever to pay attention to me. I am so thankful to have him in my life. He is a friend and is family to me even though we aren't biologically related. 

Ron is the man I call my husband. He is also the most fantastic father to our kids. After we got married he wasn't even sure he even wanted kids. He'd never been around many kids growing up, especially not babies, and the idea kind of freaked him out. But our wonderful, all-knowing, loving God had plans for Ron to be the father of many. He has four sweet babies here on earth and two babies in Heaven. 

I love to watch Ron interact with our kids. He is silly and fun and introduced them to video games and art, takes them on hikes and also to day-long concerts in the blazing sun. He is a fantastic spiritual leader and sits down every evening to read the Bible to our family and pray over our children.

Just the other day I was able to watch as Ron sat with Z for a couple of hours and spoke gently and lovingly to her as she confessed something that had been bothering her for so long. He showed the grace of God to her in that moment and their relationship became stronger for it. 

Ron has sacrificed so much for our family and I am grateful that God blessed me with him. He strives to be a better husband, father, and friend every day and he does that by staying in the Word and in prayer. He seeks Godly counsel and wants to be filled with wisdom, and is an inspiration to me and our kids. God is doing a fabulous thing in Ron's life and I am excited to watch it unfold. 

There are so many other men that I could talk about and praise, but these are four of the most important to me right now. Not a one of them is a bumbling fool who knows nothing about raising a family or being a good man. They all deserve respect and honor. Sure, they can be goofy, but that is not what defines them. 

So today, on Father's Day, I say to the men out there, "The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace." Numbers 6:24-26

Make a Year's Worth of DIY Laundry Detergent for Less Than $4!

Homemade laundry detergent? It works. And it's amazing. And it's really, really inexpensive. This is an easy DIY project. Read on:

I've been on a mission the past few years to rid our home of nasty chemicals. I believe that there are ways to get things clean by using safe and natural things instead of products with mysterious ingredients with names I can not even pronounce. 

I've been making my own laundry detergent for two to three years now and have saved loads (see what I did there?) of money. And it works great! All you need are a few, easy-to-find ingredients. This recipe makes a 5-gallon bucket of concentrate (10 gallons once mixed with water) and lasts our family four to five months. 

Stuff you'll need.

Stuff you'll need.


Looks like cheese, but you don't want to eat it.

Looks like cheese, but you don't want to eat it.

  • 1 bar of Fels Naptha soap (found on laundry aisle at WalMart)
  • 1 cup washing soda (NOT baking soda)
  • 1/2 cup borax (This is not boric acid and it is completely natural. Our family has never had issues with it, but it you want you can leave it out.)
  • essential oil (optional)
  • 5 gallon bucket with lid 
Stirring it up with help from Z. I use a tool made for mixing drywall compound and chuck it in Ron's drill. Works like a charm!

Stirring it up with help from Z. I use a tool made for mixing drywall compound and chuck it in Ron's drill. Works like a charm!


Grate the soap bar into a small saucepan and cover with hot water. I use a food processor, but a cheese grater would work fine. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring continually, until the soap completely dissolves. 

Put washing soda and borax into a 5-gallon bucket and pour the hot, melted soap mixture over it. Stir until the powders are dissolved. Fill the bucket to the top with more hot tap water. Stir, cover securely, and let sit overnight. 

This smells amazing.

This smells amazing.

The next morning you can add essential oil(s), I added 20 drops of Young Living's Purification to mine because it's good at neutralizing odors and we enjoy the smell. Whether you add essential oils or not, the next step is to stir well. Mix equal amounts of soap concentrate and water to smaller, easier-to-handle containers and shake well before each use. 

For top-loading machines: Use 1 cup of soap per load

For front-loading machines: Use 1/2 cup per load

Breakdown of cost: 



Fels Naptha bar - $.98

Washing Soda - $3.49 for a 55 ounce box

Borax - $4.99 for a 76 ounce box 

If my math is correct, this comes out to approximately $1.11 for 10 gallons of laundry detergent (or $0.11 per gallon) that lasts me 1/3 of the year. That's a whole year's worth of laundry detergent for a family of six for under $4!

Like this post? Share it! We're all in this thing together.

Making Our Space Work for Us

We have lived in a 2,100 square foot house for almost six years now. Our home is a split level with three bedrooms, two baths, a living room, and the dining room and kitchen all on the upper floor. On the bottom floor is a laundry room with a half bath, a den, and a two-car garage. We've done a good bit of work to bring our house out of the 1970s and into the 21st century.

Kitchen? Meet Dining.

One of the first things we did (and probably one of my favorite) was to knock out a wall between the kitchen and old-school formal dining room. We aren’t the formal dining room types anyway. This created one unified, good-sized room where we can all be together without being cramped. It also afforded us the room for a square, 8-person dining table and a kitchen island. 

Got to Get Away

Not long after our fourth child was born, Ron and I decided that we’d like to have our own, larger space away from the children’s rooms. We wanted a relaxing retreat that we could escape to at the end of each day. At the time, our downstairs den was a large, unused (and hideously ugly) room at the opposite end of the house from the bedrooms. This was to become our new bedroom.

We worked for over a year to turn it into something pleasant and welcoming. We pulled up bright orange linoleum, painted the dark wood paneling a beautiful blue-green (one of my favorite bloggers/HGTV hosts, Joanna Gaines, says that paneling adds wonderful texture to a room so you don’t have to remove it), added crown molding and baseboards, painted the ugly brick fireplace and added a mantel made from a huge piece of cherry wood from Ron's old home place, and replaced the two gigantic wagon wheel lights (shudders) with brass chandeliers that we spray-painted a dark red. We lived with a bare concrete floor until deciding on an easy-to-install laminate flooring resembling reclaimed wood. That room is now one of our favorite rooms in the house, and we love retreating to it every night. So peaceful.

Mastering the Master Bedroom

Back upstairs, the former master bedroom became Z’s room for a couple of years. She then decided that she wanted Ron to build bunkbeds so that she could share a bedroom with L. So for a while the boys shared a room, the girls shared another room, and we had a guest room. The problem with this was that the guest room was very rarely used, and had become something of a catch-all for various objects. We came to realize that it was a waste of valuable square footage to have four growing children share two smallish bedrooms while the biggest of the three rooms was rarely used. 

We decided that if we were going to be living in this house until after the kids were grown we needed to make the available space work for us. Ron got to work swapping beds and furniture, etc. from one room to the next. After the girls got situated into the former master/ Z room/ guest room, we looked at the tiny room they moved out of to try to figure out how to make a queen bed and two other pieces of furniture fit. That’s when Ron looked at me and said, “We don’t need a guest room. We need room for our children, the people that live here 24/7. Why don’t we give each of the boys their own rooms? S can have this smaller room for himself, it’ll be plenty of room for what he needs, and E can stay in their current bedroom.” I have to admit, I was sorry I didn’t think of this myself. 

The girls are finally settled in their new space, and we put our boys in their own bedrooms today. 

Putting it All Together

It takes us quite a while to figure out exactly what I want in a space. Just because a room is labeled a certain way doesn’t mean you necessarily have to use it that way. We made the “den” a master bedroom and the “master” a kids’ room. We don’t have a “dining room” and our living room is also used as a music room, computer room, play room, etc. We want what works for our family because we are the ones that spend the most time here. So if you plan to be a guest in our home anytime soon, be forewarned that you will be either sleeping on a twin bed or an air mattress in a room decorated for a kid. 

The Very Best Devil's Food Cake

Our family loves chocolate cake. With six birthdays over the course of the year, and three of those in March, we make a lot of cakes. I admit, I used to just pick up a box of pre-packaged cake mix and whip up a mediocre cake that everyone was pleased to eat, but that never made me feel good. And really, it didn't taste spectacular, either. 

There's just something that makes me feel like a 1950s mom when I mix up a cake from scratch for my special people. Picture me in a dress, heels, pearls around my neck, hair done, and a huge smile on my lipstick covered mouth. Because that is exactly what I look like every time I make this cake (wink wink). Seriously, this recipe is the bomb, and I am sharing it with you today. (Scroll past the pics for the full recipe)

Gather your ingredients and put them close to each other so they can get acquainted.

Mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. 

Cream the butter first, then add sugar, 1/4 cup at a time

Cream the butter first, then add sugar, 1/4 cup at a time

Add eggs one at a time.

Add eggs one at a time.

Have a cute little helper add the vanilla.

Alternate between adding the dry ingredients and the milk until fully combined.

Mix a little more until it is as beautiful as mine.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes.

Cool, decorate, and enjoy!

Better Homes and Gardens Devil's Food Cake

  • 3/4 cup of butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups milk

Step 1: Allow butter and eggs to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Grease and lightly flour bottom of pan(s). (I also lined mine with parchment paper) Set pan(s) aside. In a medium bowl stir together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. 

Step 2: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, beating on medium speed until well combined. Scrape sides of bowl; beat 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Alternately add flour mixture and milk to butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Beat on medium to high speed for 20 seconds more. Spread into prepared pan(s). 

Step 3: Bake for 30-40 minutes for 8" pans and 13" x 9" pan, 30-35 minutes for 9" pans, or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool cake layers in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove layers from pans. Cool thoroughly on racks. Frost with desired frosting. 

A Last-Minute Valentine Party

I'm really not the type of woman that plans and executes fantastic parties. To be quite honest, I don't even throw huge birthday bashes for my children. I wish I could be that mom crafty enough to come up with Pinterest-worthy themes, decor, and food and invite myriads of children to come into my home and enjoy it all. But I'm not. I'm a last-minute, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of mom who copies ideas from the ones that others have already spent the time and creative energy to produce. And I'm so last-minute that I also tend to run into the store the night before a party and grab the pre-decorated, pre-baked, sugary treats that the store bakery sets out on a table specifically for all of those moms like me. And I'm totally cool with that.

The past few years, I've made it a tradition to prepare a cute Valentine's breakfast for my children complete with balloons, flowers, and red and white dishes. I should clarify that this is really a big deal since my capable kids are in charge of making their own breakfasts most days.

This year, though, after having been invited to numerous homeschool Valentine parties that we've had to politely decline, I decided that we would throw one for ourselves and a few of my children's best friends on the Thursday before Valentine's Day. I made this decision Tuesday morning, mind you.

Tuesday afternoon I called up two of my friends and told them what I was thinking. They happily accepted my invitation and asked what they could bring. Yay!

Decorative fluff balls that Ron strung up for me.

Wednesday night, after putting the children to bed, I ran out to the store with a list in my hand. I grabbed cookies, Rice Krispie Treats, hot dogs, and various decorations, paid for them and zipped back home. Ron was gracious enough to sit with me and string up almost 100 red and pink fluffy balls and hang them from the ceiling. 

The kids created Valentine's cards for their friends.

Thursday morning the kids and I were up and ready for partying. While I did a quick clean of the main living areas and finished blowing up the balloons, the kids worked hard at making a mess creating Valentine cards for their friends. We finished cleaning and decorating, set out the treats, and made hot dogs for lunch. 

Some of the yummy treats I procured.

As the friends arrived and the kids exchanged Valentines and hugs I looked around at the chaos and smiled. The actual "party" only lasted long enough for the kids to wolf down a couple of hot dogs and more than a couple sugary treats before running off to play. These are the good old days – the days where my kids and my friends' kids are running around and laughing and playing together. The days that I will miss when my little house is one day quiet and there is only the memory of laughter, chaos and the pitter patter of not-so-little feet.

It may not have been a Pinterest-worthy party or have been fit for the Queen of England, but for my babes and their friends, as well as we three moms, it was loads of fun, and a memory-making experience. After all, it's not the party decorations or food that they'll recall when they're grown, it's the fun time we allowed them to have with friends. 

The No Time, No Money Milk Paint Desk

The old desk.

The old desk.

"I told mom not to throw it away," our good friend said as I helped her husband unload an old desk she'd rescued. "I just knew that you two could fix it up and make it beautiful again!"

Alison was optimistic, but I have to confess that I was a bit skeptical. It was an old plywood and veneer-clad piece with steel medallion drawer pulls – not likely an expensive piece even when it was new. And it was pretty beat up in places. "It's great!" Alison said. "We'll see what we can do," I said.

Not wanting to spend a lot of time or money on this project, we decided that we'd do this as fast and as cheaply as possible. Alison decided to go with Miss Mustard Seed's Artissimo milk paint for this furniture project (we happen to have some on hand), but first I'd need to fix a few things.

I repaired a spot where an old plywood piece had broken off and left a few exposed nails which I removed with pliers. I made a new piece with a strip of plywood reclaimed from a gift basket (of all things), and glued it in place using a few clamps to ensure that the glue made firm contact with all sides.

Putting the new piece in place.

Putting the new piece in place.

Some of the veneer on the sides was in extremely bad shape. I covered these spots with more gift basket plywood, knowing the difference in the materials would not be visible under a few coats of milk paint. More glue and clamps kept the plywood right where I wanted it.

Gift basket plywood – the recycled gift packaging that keeps on giving.

Gift basket plywood – the recycled gift packaging that keeps on giving.

I lightly sanded it down with 150 grit sandpaper and tamed some high spots where water rings had raised the surface. I blew the dust away with the air compressor.

Alison gave it a few coats of Miss Mustard Seed Artissimo milk paint.

This Miss Mustard Seed Artissimo furniture project is starting to look nice.

This Miss Mustard Seed Artissimo furniture project is starting to look nice.

While the paint dried, Alison cleaned the drawer pulls with Barkeeper's Friend and an old toothbrush to get the gunk off of them.

After the paint was dry, Alison scraped off the bits of milk paint that didn't adhere to the surface, giving the piece an aged appearance. Then she sealed it by brushing it with hemp oil and wiping away the excess after half an hour. Last, she put the hardware back on.





The finished product, done just in time to finish this post.

The finished product, done just in time to finish this post.

I've got to say, I'm pretty impressed that it turned out this well. It's amazing what a little vision and some milk paint can do.

The Purple Book

There is always something going on in our house. 

Parenting four children under the age of 12 leaves no room for boredom or quiet. Our oldest daughter Z. is 11, our son E. is 8, our daughter L. is 6, and our son S. is 4.

Something amazing or just plain hilarious happens almost every day. When telling family and friends these little stories, they would all say the same thing, "you should write a book!" 

The Purple Book cover bears the words "We do not remember days, we remember moments."

The Purple Book cover bears the words "We do not remember days, we remember moments."

While we currently don't have the time necessary to write a book, we realized we do have time to make note of the things that they say or do that makes us smile. "These are the Good Old Days," after all. So, I picked up a little blank book to collect these moments which we we've come to affectionately call "The Purple Book." It's just a small journal that we keep on a shelf in the kitchen and pull down every time something happens that we want to be sure to remember. In it, we write all of the funny or serious things our kids say and do. We've only been doing this for three years, but I really wish we had started it back when our oldest was small. 

The kids love to pull it out and read all of the entries and laugh hysterically. Ron and I even sit and read through it on days when we really need a laugh.

So many of the stories are absolutely over the top. For example, there's the time we discovered that our animal-loving oldest daughter Z., having gotten her very own kitten as a Christmas gift, had been brushing its teeth with Ron's toothbrush. For weeks. You should have seen the look on his face! To his credit, he calmly explained that cat teeth are not typically cared for with human toothbrushes and toothpaste. And especially not his. And then he immediately went to the drug store and bought a new one.

And then there was the time our oldest son E. inexplicably declared that thunder and lightning were the "God symbols." What does it mean? Who knows? But it's totally something E. would say.

One of my favorites is when our otherwise very girly youngest daughter L. got mad at her big brother E. and shouted in a very gruff and intimidating voice "I am a lady!" and then proceeded to smack him forcefully against the head.

We also write down important dates to remember like when Ron had the privilege of baptizing our two oldest this past summer, or when they ran their first 5k with me, or even trips to the emergency room to have stitches. Again. 

I'm sure as the years march on we will continue to fill up The Purple Book with all kinds of memories so that one day, when the kids are grown, we can look back and laugh at what life was like with a house full of babes. 

I'm so very glad that our friends and family told us to write a book.

Refreshing an Old Wooden Desk with Milk Paint

Our Very First Milk Paint Project

This simple desk showed promise.

This simple desk showed promise.

About six months ago we acquired a small wooden desk to use for the computer in our living room. I knew immediately that I wanted to paint it and I was desperate to try out some milk paint that I had recently discovered. It took several days to choose what color I wanted to go with, but after some input from Ron and a close friend I decided on a green color reminiscent of 1950s kitchen appliances.

After receiving the paint and reading (and rereading) the directions I began the process of transforming the desk. Milk paint comes in powder form and you just mix the desired amount with water. It only lasts a few days after being mixed up so you can’t mix the entire package if you are only planning to use a bit. It takes a bit of trial and error to know how much you’ll need for a project, but it is super fun to work with and goes a long way. I only used about a quarter cup of paint for this project.

I knew that I wanted some chipping and flaking to happen on the piece so I didn’t do anything to it to prepare it beforehand. At first, I wasn’t sure what to think about it — the paint had clumps in it and I could see areas where the various pigments would streak with each brush stroke. It’s definitely nothing like latex paint and it took some time to figure it out. Ron reminded me to relax and let it do what it was going to do because, after all, I wanted an antiqued look and not a perfectly painted piece. I think that’s the beauty of milk paint  it’s really supposed to look old and worn and vintage. You can buy a bonding agent to apply to a piece before painting if you don’t want any distressing to happen, but I prefer to let it look like it has a story to tell and has been around for a while. 

In between coats (computer time doesn't end just because Mom is using the desk)

In between coats (computer time doesn't end just because Mom is using the desk)

The flaking and chipping it did naturally

The flaking and chipping it did naturally

I applied three coats of paint to the body of the desk, allowing approximately 30 minutes of drying time between each coat. After it was completely dry I took a small putty knife and lightly rubbed it across the surface to remove any pieces of paint that didn’t want to stick. All of the areas that had the little clumps of paint on it flaked off, as well as the paint on the edges and corners of the piece. 

When I was satisfied with the amount of distressing I finished the entire thing off with a coat of hemp oil. Hemp oil is good for reviving and restoring tired, old wood and for use as a sealer after painting. We prefer it to furniture wax because it’s natural, easy to use, and provides a matte finish. 

I’m really excited with how well this piece turned out and how well it’s held up considering the kids have used it daily for almost six months now. And with the distressing already done to it I don’t have to worry about nicks or scratches it just adds to the character!

The finished product with Ron's favorite old chair.

The finished product with Ron's favorite old chair.

These are the Good Old Days

Date night selfie!

Date night selfie!

Hi, we're Ron and Alison – a husband and wife that love to make things together (as evidenced by our four fantastic kids). We have a passion for old stuff, and enjoy breathing new life into otherwise neglected things by crafting new and sometimes unexpected things from them. We've created this site to document and share with you what we're up to.

Our name, Happy Turtle Life, comes from something that our youngest daughter said when she was a year old. We were teaching her John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life," when she mistook the last three words as "happy turtle life." Thankfully, we had the camera rolling as hilarity ensued.

That was six years ago, but the idea of using that phrase as a blog name stuck with us all that time – during which, our children were growing and life was becoming packed with distractions. So many older people would tell us that we would miss these days when the children are grown and gone, and that we should slow down and maintain a sense of appreciation. "These are the good old days," they would say. 

Our first sign.

This idea resonated with us, and we recognized the need to enjoy this season we have with our children without wishing away the time. As a result, we made some purposeful changes in our life for the better. So, several months ago when Alison asked me to design an old-style wooden sign bearing that phrase, I jumped at the chance.

I'm a hands-on creative type, so I whipped up a design and a process, and we worked together to realize it. It was so much fun that when friends (and friends of friends) asked us for signs of their own, we both voiced an enthusiastic "sure!" 

Since last September, we've made quite a few wooden signs and taken on a number of other projects, too. 

These truly are the good old days! We hope that you'll join us on our journey.

Sincerely, Ron