Teaching Good Things

Practical Skills for Real Life

Teaching Good Things - Practical Skills for Real Life

That Year Our 10 Year Old Asked for a CROCKPOT!

A young girl having fun in the kitchen making a mess....I mean making cookies.

When our now 24 year old daughter was 10, all she wanted for Christmas was a Crock-Pot.  Ever since she was little she loved being in the kitchen and at 10 she felt like she was ready to take over more the family meals… and she thought a Crock-Pot was going to be the key to her success. :)

A couple of people made comments about how foolish it was for a “child” to get something like a Crock-Pot for Christmas and how we should give her “age-appropriate” gifts, that we should let her enjoy her childhood.

Years after that she has asked for and received a food processor, a set of good knives and other gadgets.

All I have to say is that the girl got her Crock-Pot and was thrilled! This same girl is now a chef and works at two restaurants and if the Lord wills it, will one day own a cooking school for young people aging out of foster care.

Whether it be Christmas, a birthday or whatever, let us be careful to be in-tune to what will foster our children’s talents and gifts.

This year I have a 9 year old boy who is all about hunting and fishing, and also struggles with reading so he is getting this book. I believe he will be very motivated to read it!

Set the fads and fillers aside and encourage the good things of life!





Gift Giving – Think Practical

practical gift giving

I think all of us can agree that gift giving, especially during the Christmas season is way overrated. Don’t we all long for a simpler way of giving that is meaningful and lasting?  Don’t we all hate buying gifts that just end up in the bottom of the over-flowing toy box or in the thrift store bag within in a year or two? Most of us want to be generous givers, but still be wise in our choices.

As I consider gift giving I want to give gifts that:

Last the Test of Time -Gifts that can be handed down  to the next generation or at least gifts that will be used for more than a year or two.

Equip Practical, Life-Enriching Skills - Equip and encourage as I invest hard earned money! Think lessons, DVDs, tools, supplies, instruments, etc…

Ignite Creativity – Gifts that spark music, art or thinking skills.

Encourage Relationships – Gifts that force people to spend time together and communicating such as board games, weekend trips, zoo memberships or resources to encourage healthy marriages.

Keep it Local – I prefer if at all possible to buy locally to keep the money in the local community, especially if I can buy from family and friends!

Hand Make as Much as Possible  – All I need is a couple hours on Pinterest and I am inspired with all kind of good ideas for things that I can make and give. Never underestimate handmade gifts.

10 Practical Presents for Your Princess

10 Practical Presents for Boys

Practical Gifts for Families


How to Get Your Children Excited About Practical Presents

Don’t Let Your Ideal Ruin Christmas

What Not to Do During the Holidays

Why Play Chess


Our kids are learning to play chess with this set. I love it because it shows you which way each piece can move. (aff link)

It’s a LOT better than watching TV on these long winter nights and Mom and Dad don’t have to sit there to referee each.and.every.move!


Chess improves a child’s:

learning skills

analytical skills

It improves a family’s:



Advent Resources – Mary and Martha Getting Their Act Together

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Advent Resources

Advent is the period beginning four Sundays before Christmas and observed by some Christians as a season of prayer and fasting.  The word Advent is derived from the Medieval Latin, adventus  from the Latin word meaning arrival.

We observe Advent because it is a time to reflect on Jesus’ first coming and to look toward his second coming.  This is also a time of preparation.

The Christian lives in a perceptual state of Advent, preparing and waiting for His second coming.

Advent should not be something else to add to the hustle and bustle of the season, but rather it should be a time to retreat and rest, and draw closer to God.

For me, this is a time for my inner Mary and Martha to get their act together. My Martha usually dominates most of the time, but during Advent they need to find harmony.  ;)

There is no right or wrong way to celebrate Advent, don’t turn this time of spiritual growth into a legalistic list of do’s and don’ts.

This is not only good for us, but it also helps us pull our children’s attention away from the materialism of the season.

There are many resources for Advent online and in book stores,  listed below are just a few.

Our Advent routine looks like this:

I have the Advent candles set up. I didn’t do the different colors, it’s not that big of a deal. We light one each night while we do our Advent singing and reading. Then each week adding the next candle (so week 3, 3 candles will be lit.)

  • Week 1 – The Hope Candle
  • Week 2 – The Peace Candle
  • Week 3 – The Love Candle
  • Week 4 – The Joy Candle
  • Christmas Day – The Christ Child Candle

After the candle is lit, we sing a song from the playlist below.  Then Jeff reads from this list each night.  There are other Advent readings, you can search for what fits your family.

Then we pray.

Starting December 1, we use the Advent calendar just for fun! I made this from an old Coke box. I made the paper boxes from card-stock and wrapped them in twine (so there would be no peeking ;) ).

Each box has a little something for each child (quarter, stick of gum, mini candy-bar, M&M…). I painted a scrap 2×4 piece for the Oh Come Emmanuel  (Emmanuel meaning, “God with us”).

This is our YouTube playlist for Advent songs. I love that each song has lyrics which helps the kids learn the songs. I will be adding to the list as time goes on.

We don’t do a lot of book work for school during December, but this year we are doing this:

We are reading Bartholomew’s Passage together.



Each child is making this Jesse’s Tree as part of an Advent lapbook we are putting together. I’ll post more about this later.


Jesse Tree- free download unit study and printable ornament cutouts to have the kids color daily!

Download the Jesse Tree Advent Study

Other Resources

Advent Coloring Pages

More Advent Coloring Pages

Our Church’s Advent Readings

Holy Experience - Advent Video Devotions

God Rest Ye Merry 

Advent Candle Readings

Why We Must Celebrate


Here are some other Advent ideas people use:


I love this idea because it is filled with things to do rather than gifts.


Paper trees Advent Calendar

An embroidery hoop holds the greenery and the advent gifts tied on with red and white baker's  twine.

mitten advent garland

The Tiny Matchbox Calendar | 33 Clever And Adorable DIY Advent Calendars

The Stacked-Can Calendar

The Chalkboard Advent Calendar

advent calendar

christmas book countdown

Christmas Book Countdown – Book suggestions here.

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Why the Tears at Our Thanksgiving Table

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tears thanksgiving table

We had a very peaceful and low-key Thanksgiving Day, mainly because we celebrated last week and the week before!  Josh and Emma were out of town, and my other Josh and family were with my daughter-in-law’s family, so it was just the 6 of us.

Everyone did their part making something. Peach was proud of her fruit salad.

Aaron made his first apple pie.

I even enlisted this bundle of energy to peel the potatoes, reminding him, ‘you don’t work you don’t eat’. ;)

Everyone was in a good mood and full of laughter. It truly was one of the most enjoyable meals we’ve ever had. As much as I love a table overflowing with people, sometimes it is more peaceful when it’s just us.

Peach brought our family table to utter silence Thanksgiving Day as she shared what she was thankful for. She rattled off all the usual, “I’m thankful for mom and dad, and Cherish, and….” Then she got real serious and said with all sincerity and an almost tearful expression, “I am thankful for my good life.” It was so raw, so real, almost surreal, and a hush fell across the table. As time goes on she is forgetting just how different her life is now compared to her first 2.5 years -by God’s grace.

Adoption is hard, not just for the kids, but for all of us, but it is so worth it. How many children are getting through the day with no food, or love or protection? How many children are sitting at tables filled with hatred or materialism?

Lord, may I never forget Your mercy towards me, You have given all of us a good life.

Then Jeff ended our time of sharing with grateful tears and words of love for his family and Savior, he has the most tender heart. It was just one of those very special moments, moments that Hallmark movies are made for. ;)

The Good Life – with Christ we do have the good life! He has rescued us from sin and for that we are grateful!

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Thanksgiving Tablescapes

Realistic tablescapes

I love a beautiful table. It says to your guest, “I have been preparing for YOU, YOU are important, YOU are wanted.”

I think about how Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us, we will also sit and dine at His feast. Can you imagine???

I love Pinterest and magazines that show decorating ideas, but especially tablescape ideas.  As much as I love them, I know most of them are unrealistic for ordinary people like me.  A limited budget, limited time and limited space in our little house really restricts what I can do with my table.

The important thing to remember is that we can all do something no matter what our budget is.  It is the little touches that make people feel special, make then know they were planned for.

  • Try to add one or two little things to your table during your next feast. It can be as simple as a tablecloth and cloth napkins to some beautiful glasses, all of which can be bought at thrift stores or found in grandma’s cabinets.
  • A few candles, some fresh greens or wild flowers, and/or fruit goes a long way.
  • Keep your eye out for things at thrift stores, yard sales or even things you already have that can be spray painted to match your setting.

So here are a few ideas I have used in the past and a few others I have found online.

This year I made a pumpkin shaped cookie for each person’s place-setting at the Thanksgiving table. I piped their names on… pretty simple. Under the fork were the words to Oh God Beyond All Praising, which was glued to a brown paper. We sang this before we ate.

Although our house is small I was able to push the furniture back and set up two 6 foot tables.  It was a tight fit but it worked for this year!

Build a long wood box, stain and add spanish moss, pumpkins, pinecones, candles, etc.. This is beautiful from Far Above Rubies: Thanksgiving preview...

Love the simple sparkle of gems on the mason jar! -- Wedding Ideas -- Reception Table Decor with #DavidTuteraDIY ~ * THE COUNTRY CHIC COTTAGE (DIY, Home Decor, Crafts, Farmhouse)

Thanksgiving place setting

velvet ribbon table setting

Sweet Sienna: Rich, Elegant and Oh-So Dreamy

Christmas by Jules1278

Our Christmas dinner table last year. I loved how natural, inexpensive, and pretty it was. #Christmas

Make these simple place cards for your next table setting using brown paper lunch bags - perfect for a fall table setting.  Keep them plain or accent with leaves.  Photo tutorial shows you how easy it is to do.

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