Quote of the Week

Quote-of-the-Week pic“If our country is worth dying for in time of war, let us resolve that it is truly worth living for in time of peace.”  

                                                                       ~ Hamilton Fish

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Sparkler Safety

Do your kids enjoy using sparklers for the 4th of July?  If you have little ones who are afraid of the sparks, use a paper cup to protect their hand!

4th of July

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10 Ways To Celebrate Your Anniversary

ThinkstockPhotos-101777993Jill says: Last Thursday was our 32nd wedding anniversary. (Of course, we both thought it was #33 until we did the math!) If you’ve been hanging around here very long, you know that celebration has been hard won!

Mark says: Anniversaries can offer a bit of a “reboot” for your marriage, if you’ll make a priority to celebrate it in some way.

Jill says: It’s a time to talk about memories, share hopes and dreams for the future, play together, and take some time for just the two of you.

Mark says: Jill and I chose to do a four day getaway to Holland, Michigan for this year’s celebration. We’re not “dress up and go to an expensive restaurant” kind of people. We’re more “lay on the beach reading books side by side and finding a not-too-expensive place for dinner” kind of people.

Jill says: What are you planning for your next anniversary celebration?  Need some ideas? Here are 10 ways to celebrate your anniversary:

1) Write love notes to each other.

2) Go away for an overnight at a hotel in town. (We use Priceline.com to bid on a local room.  We can usually find one at about the $45 bid price.)

3) Go away for an overnight for a couple nights in another town. (Two of our personal favorites here in the Midwest were Lazy Cloud Inn in Lake Geneva, WI and The Barn in Dahinda, IL.)

4) Have friends or family keep the kids for a night and stay home alone in your own home. (One year the kids went to Grandmother and Granddad’s for a week and we stayed home alone for a week! Wahoo!) Just having dinner for two in the quiet house is quite refreshing!

5) Take a staycation.  One year Mark took the day off work and we spent the day sightseeing in our own town.  We ate at restaurants we’d never been in, shopped at downtown stores we had never shopped in, and enjoyed museums and art galleries we didn’t even know existed!

1042978366) Take a tour of your dating spots.  When Mark and I started dating, I was living in the Alpha Chi Omega house at Butler University in Indianapolis.  Mark was living in a mobile home across town.  We have revisited the mobile home park and my sorority house as well as favorite restaurants and parks where we used to spend time.

7) Plan a big trip for the future. If it doesn’t work out, that’s okay. Just adjust. We had planned to take a cruise for our 10th anniversary. As we approached that summer, it became obvious we still couldn’t afford it. So Mark took me to a local lake, rented a canoe, and we “cruised” the lake!  Sometimes you have to adjust!

8. Plan for a big trip in the future and actually do it. After our 10th anniversary cruise didn’t work out, we saved for many years and were able to do a cruise with our family for our 25th anniversary!

9. Do a Getaway with God retreat. One year we went to a retreat center to set aside 24 hours to read God’s word together, pray, walk, and talk.  We thanked God for years He gave us together.  We thanked Him for redeeming the broken places in each of us and in our relationship, and we sought God’s direction for the next season of our life.

10. Head out on an unplanned roadtrip for the day or the weekend. Pick a direction to head in and see where you end up.  This is hard for those of us who like to plan and know all the details, but is a gift to the spouse who’s more spontaneous!

Mark says: Doing something special for your anniversary is important. It says “we are important,” “our relationship matters,” and “we have something to celebrate.”

Jill says: Honestly, we’ve not always “felt” like celebrating. Sometimes our anniversary has fallen during hard seasons. However, even in those times, we’ve done something special to celebrate the commitment. We’ve set aside our differences or conflict for the day and done the right thing by celebrating.

What about you?  How have you celebrated your anniversary?  You can post your ideas as comments on this post here!

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10 Summer Activities to Do With Your College Student

Summer-CollegeYes, they’re big enough to be on their own. Yet, they’re still home. You know your time having them home is limited.

No matter whether they are working, home between college semesters, or just trying to figure out what to do with their life, here are 10 summer activities you can do with your young adult who is still at home.

1) Coffee. Take time with your young adult one-on-one when you can. Talk about things they’re thinking about. Ask questions. Resist the urge to lecture. Listen well and enjoy the budding adult sitting before you.

2) Cook Dinner Together. Make meal prep a community event. Your young adult needs to know how to cook so there’s no better way to teach them than doing it side by side. Be patient, grace-filled and lighthearted as you work together.

3) Games. When they are home suggest a game of Life, Settlers of Cataan, Yachtzee, Euchre, or whatever game your family loves. Take advantage of summer days where the sun goes down later and homework isn’t calling.

4) Porch. Sit out in the yard or on your porch after dinner and read. Invite your young adult to join you. They may not choose to read, but might instead sit down and talk. Take whatever you can get. If they choose not to join you at all, that’s ok. Remember they’re still watching you and how you use your time does influence them.

5) Dialogue. You’ve taught your kids your values for 18 years. Now they are figuring out what to do with what you’ve taught them and the values they are developing themselves. It’s time to move from monologue to dialogue. Instead of telling you what you think, ask them what they think. Instead of lecturing, listen.  You may not get large doses of conversation, but watch for opportunities for connection and capitalize on those moments.

6) Shop. Let your young adult do some grocery shopping for you. Make a list, walk them through specifics on the list, and let them experience the store on their own. They might call you ten times during their trip, but they are learning important skills as they shop on their own.

7. Plan a trip together. Whether it’s a day trip, a long weekend, or a family vacation, let your young adult be part of the planning. Let them weigh in on things they’d like to do or people they’d like to see. If your teen has a summer job, be prepared for the possibility they might choose to not participate or participate in a limited way.  This is part of letting them have wings to fly.

8. Geocaching. Kids and adults enjoy geocaching. It’s something you can do in your own hometown or as you travel somewhere.  You’ll find details on how to do it at www.geocaching.com/guide.

9. Bible. If your young adult is open to it, suggest you each read a book of the Bible on your own and then do coffee or a lunch out to discuss what you learned. Some great short books to read are James, I Peter, II Peter, Philippians, I and II Timothy.

10. Hometown tour. What is available where you live that you’ve never done before? Museums, sporting events, restaurants, stores, shops?  Take a day to pretend you’re a tourist where you live and explore some places you’ve never explored before. Invite your young adult to join you!

What about you? What would you add to this list? 

(If you’re here for the first time, you can get regular mom encouragement  in your inbox. It’s free! Sign up over on the right!)  

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10 Summer Activities to Do With Your Teen

Summer-Junior-High-SchoolerYour teens and pre-teens seem independent at times, but they still need some ideas to stay busy through the summer!

These frugal, fun activities will keep the brain cells growing, give an alternative to screens, and help change up the routine!

1) Video/Picture Scavenger Hunt.  Teens love competition. Send them out on a hunt  to find a specific list of pictures or videos. Create your own or find a list options here.

2. Meal Plan. Put your teen in charge of making dinner one night each week. Give them the requirements (meat, fruit, vegetable), let them be in charge of the meal from selecting the menu, doing the shopping, and making the food.  This is a great opportunity for them to learn a variety of skills!

3. Solitaire. Not on the computer…with real cards! Teach your kids to play solitaire. Once they get the hang of it, you can turn it into a competition of double and triple solitaire where they play with different style decks of cards and compete to build up the Ace piles. The winner is the one who has the most cards in the Ace piles.

4. Cut Out Cookies. Why reserve the fun of cut out cookies to the holidays? Summer is a great time to enjoy the process of making, cutting out, baking, and decorating cookies! Need a good recipe and practical steps. You can find that here.

5. Board game playoff. Choose a game you’ll play nightly as a family for a week.  Keep track of who wins in order to identify a grand champion!

6. Puzzle. Keep a 500 or 1000 piece puzzle out on a card table so your teens can work a little each day. If you have trouble with screens, require they put in 15 minutes on the puzzle to earn 15 minutes of screen time. (You can do the same with reading!)

7. Grandparents. Have your teen call their grandparents once a week to find out how they are doing and to ask them about one memory from their teen years. The first time they call, have your teen tell them they’ll be calling once a week to check in and hear a story from their teen years. That way grandma and grandpa can be thinking about stories to share. (If your teen’s grandparents aren’t living, an aunt or uncle could do the same!)

8. Maps. Teach your teen to read a map and to navigate by a map. Get a city map for day to day trips. If you’re taking a road trip, an atlas will provide the maps needed.  This will help them identify North, South, East, and West as well as the location context for places they go. (With the invention of GPS, too many kids have no spatial, location context. This is a skill they still need to know!)

9. Geocaching. Everyone loves a treasure hunt! Geocaching is the way to search for treasure! You can find all about geocaching at www.geocaching.com/guide.

10. Plan a trip. Have your teen plan a trip for your family. It could be a day, weekend, or week-long trip. You give the guidelines of dates, cost, number of days, and distance limitations, and then let them make the plan! As long as they’ve stayed within their guidelines, resist the urge to change up their plan.  This will give them an incredible sense of accomplishment!

What about you? What activities would you add to the list? 

(If you’re here for the first time, you can get regular mom encouragement  in your inbox. It’s free! Sign up over on the right!) 

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10 Summer Activities to Do With Your Gradeschooler

Summer-GradeschoolersWe’re a month into summer and you’ve already heard some “I’m bored!” comments.

We’ve got you covered!

Here are some fresh ideas for frugal, fun activities to do with your gradeschooler!

1. Plant. If you don’t have a garden, get a small pot and plant something they can care for and watch grow. Flowers like zinneas are easy to grow from seeds. You can also buy inexpensive seeds like spinach or lettuce that they can plant, tend, harvest, and eat!

2. Geocaching. Kids love to treasure hunt! This is a great activity you can do as a family or just one-on-one with your child. You can find all the details at www.geocaching.com/guide!

3. Food. Try a unique fruit or vegetable each week.  Make sure you include some different ones like Ugli Fruit (a mix between a grapefruit, orange, and tangerine) or Kohlrabi (a tasty member of the cabbage family). Have the kids keep a list or a journal of their tasting experiences.

4. Bingo Nature Walk.  Taking a walk is always a good idea, but adding in the game of Bingo and paying attention to the nature around gives it a different twist! You can find free downloadable Bingo cards for every season here.

5. Good Grade Freebies. If you haven’t already, cash in at all the places that give out free stuff for good grades! Although you may need to call your local business to verify participation, most allow you to cash in on grades through June. You can find a lists here and here.

6. Scrapbook. Have your kids make a scrapbook from their best school work this past year. They can also make a photo album with their own captions and memories from photos you took since last summer.  You can make your own scrapbooks using the unused portions of school notebooks (they only used about half of each of those one subject notebooks you bought them last year!)

7. Write letters. Do you have some family members who live far from you? Grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins? Have the kids write letters to them letting them know how their school year went and what they are doing this summer. They can also include a picture they drew or colored, if they’d like. Make sure you have them address and stamp the envelopes themselves!

8. Interview. Have your child interview an older relative about what they did in the summer when they were the same age as the child. What did they do with friends? What chores did they have to do? What memories do they have?  Have your child give a report after dinner one evening.

9. Recipe. Give your child a recipe book with pictures (if you don’t have any, you can find them at the library.) Ask them to find one recipe that looks good to them. Take them to the store to buy the ingredients and then help them to make the recipe at home.

10. Scavenger Hunt. Do an A-Z scavenger hunt where they have to find something that starts with every letter. They can do the hunt around the house or in the neighborhood, whichever you prefer.

What about you? What fun, frugal ideas would you add to the list? 

(If you’re here for the first time, you can get regular mom encouragement  in your inbox. It’s free! Sign up over on the right!) 

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10 Summer Activities To Do With Your Preschooler

Summer-PreschoolersIt’s the lazy days of summer, but there’s nothing lazy about summer when you have a preschooler!

Need some ideas to change up the routine? Here are 10 frugal, fun summer activities to do with your preschooler:

1) Egg Hunt. Still have those plastic Easter eggs hanging around the house?  Gather them up and hide them either inside or outside. Give your preschooler a basket and let them search!

2) Hideout. Make a tent or a hideout with a blanket and some chairs. Let them have their lunch and their dinner in their hideout.

3) Bubbles. Carry bubbles everywhere you go. They are the great distraction. If you’re taking a road trip, they are also your secret weapon. Turn the air conditioner on high, hold the bubble wand up to the vent, and the car fills with bubbles!

4) Walk. Preschoolers are so inquisitive. Take a walk to discover colors, sounds, textures, and insects.  Anytime you can get out of the house and enjoy the outdoors, it bombards their senses.

5) Puppets. Make paper bag puppets for their favorite book. Small lunchbag paper bags make great puppets. Help them make the puppets. You can go simple with just crayons or more elaborate with yarn for hair and googly eyes.  Then read their book using the puppets to act it out.

6) Water. Preschoolers don’t need a pool. Just give them a bucket of water and a couple of plastic measuring cups. Don the swimsuit and the sunscreen and you’re set up for fun! (Remember, never leave a preschooler near water unattended!)

7) Shapes. Go on a shape hunt around the neighborhood.  Take a walk and look for shapes that your preschooler knows or is learning about.

8) Shaving Cream. Preschoolers love to create. If they are in a high chair, take the high chair outside, spray shaving cream on the tray and let them have at it!  You can also use a card table, plastic picnic table, or kitchen tray and do the same thing.  This is a great way to work with older preschoolers on identifying and tracing letters.

9) Tea Party. Kids love special things that you don’t get to do everyday. Pulling out special cups, plates, and a tea pot.

10) Make cut out cookies. We tend to think of this activity primarily around the holidays. Doing it in the summer changes things up. Need some strategies for doing this without too much stress? You’ll find practical ideas here.

What about you? What activities would you add for summer fun with toddlers? 

(If you’re here for the first time, you can get regular mom encouragement  in your inbox. It’s free! Sign up over on the right!) 

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10 Summer Activities To Do With Your Baby

Summer-BabiesGot a little one?  Life with a baby is usually one of routine. However, you can change it up to benefit both you and your little one!

Need some ideas?

Here are 10 summer activities to do with your baby:

1. Enjoy the grass.  Use the grass as a texture experience by putting her feet in the grass.

2. Enjoy the clouds. Find some shade, spread a blanket out on the grass and let him look up at the trees and clouds.

3. Build blocks.  Build towers of blocks and let her knock them down. If she’s not yet old enough to do it herself, you can help her do it. The action, sound, and experience are valuable stimulation.

4. Scarf time. Take a light fabric scarf and hold it above your baby’s head to look at the colors. Then you can use it to play a game of peek-a-boo. You can also gently pull it across his face or body so he can experience a different texture on his skin.

5. Water fun. Use a small bowl outside to let your baby splash in or put his feet in. Let your little one feel the sensation of water pouring over their hand or feet.  (Remember the sunscreen and to never leave a child around water alone!)

6. Music. Look for free outdoor concerts that you can take your baby to. The music provides auditory stimulation for her.  At home, sing as much as you can. Sing rhyming sons, and sing the same songs with different voices like a growly low voice and then a lighter high voice. Don’t worry about whether you can sing or not…your little doesn’t know the difference!

7. Mirror play. Babies love their reflection.  Take a rattle or a bright colored block to the mirror and let him look at it both in your hand and in the mirror.

8. Walk. Load up the stroller and take a daily walk with your little one. It’s good for you and it’s good for them.

9. Picnic. Invite another mom to join you in a picnic. The change of scenery is good for you and your baby.  Your baby will benefit when you’ve recharged your mom batteries by being with another mom!

10. Browse the farmers market. Introduce your little one to different sights, sounds, and smells that are only found in the summer!

What about you? What frugal, fun summer activities would you add to do with a baby?

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Quote of the Week

Quote-of-the-Week pic“A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.”

                                                                 ~Billy Graham

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Unleash Your Power To Lighten Up

Go ahead.

You have the power in you.

Third-Thursday-ThoughtsIf you’re like me, you might need to tap into that power more often than you do.

Sometimes we’re just too serious. Too frustrated. Too angry. Too tired.  And we just need to let go of the control, lighten up, smile, and laugh when things don’t go as planned.

Today’s our Third Thursday Blog Hop where other Hearts at Home bloggers are sharing their thoughts and stories about learning to lighten up. Need some encouragement in that area? Hop around and find some kindred spirits who are learning to tap into their often underused superpower of humor and fun. (If you get my blog posts by email, you can find the blog hop links here.)

And here’s a minute and a half video about a date night Mark and I had that didn’t go the way we planned. It was a perfect opportunity to laugh and see the humorous side of things!  I hope it brings a smile to your face!

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You’re Capable, But Are You Called?

Susie Larson is a favorite workshop speaker at Hearts at Home conferences. She’s also the author of the wonderful Hearts at Home book, Balance That Works When Life Doesn’t: Simple Steps to a Woman’s Physical and Spiritual Health.

I’m currently reading Susie’s newest book download (1)Your Sacred Yes: Trading Life-Draining Obligation for Freedom, Passion, and Joy. I’m loving it and I asked her if she’d write a guest post to encourage you!

For years I’ve been encouraging moms to ask the question “I’m capable but am I called?” when considering commitments. Susie’s book confirms that and even more!

Too often we’re stressed out because we have said yes to too much. May you find Susie’s words just what you need today.

(Adapted from Your Sacred Yes, Bethany House Publishers, 2015)

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download (2)Being a mom is a noble, profound, and sacred calling. And, it can be demanding, relentless, and downright exhausting. My sons are grown and married now. And you know? I marvel at how quickly the days that seemed to blur together back then have come and they’ve gone.

Looking back, I’m so glad I enjoyed lemonade stands, water fights, and bedtime prayers with my boys. I’m glad that amidst my endless pile of laundry, I took time to pray, read my Bible, and rest in God’s presence.

But I also have a few regrets. I regret certain seasons where I rushed and raced through life simply because I committed to more than God asked of me. I regret losing sleep over what others thought of me because I disappointed them. I so wish I would have understood back then what I know now about soul freedom, the preciousness of our days, and how quickly our kids grow up.

If you’re worn out by all of life’s ought-to’s and should-do’s; if you long to feel energized, inspired, and expectant in your faith once again, I have great news for you. God has more for you! First, allow me to ask a few thought-provoking questions.

Are you so bogged down with life-draining commitments that you’ve forgotten how good a belly laugh feels or how rich a time of quiet prayer can be? Do you relegate praise and worship to an hour on Sunday and thereby miss out on singing at the top of your lungs every other day of the week? Has it occurred to you that God longs for you to take more life-giving path than the one you’re on?

Sometimes we over commit for all the wrong reasons (pride, insecurity, fear, hastiness). Other times we have the best of intentions for giving away our time (a good cause, a great need, there’s nobody else). Either way, we need to ask ourselves some probing questions:

  • Do the vast majority of your yeses increase your faith and fill you with a greater expectancy of how God is moving in your midst? Or, do they drain you to the point that you find yourself weary, simply rushing from one thing to the next?
  • Are you captive to your commitments, or free to respond to God’s invitation to do life with Him?
  • Is your current path a catalyst to increasing joy and faith or does all of your rushing make you more prone to worry and fear?
  • When you assess honestly the time you give away to your various commitments, do you find behind it all, a divinely inspired soul growing in grace and strength? Or are you a spent and weary soul, losing steam by the day?

Nothing drains us more than signing up for things God never asked us to do. Yet, all too often that’s exactly where we lose our way. When we live shackled to others’ opinions, expectations, and requirements, we give away our yes because of a lie. We commit to things in order to save face, and as a result, we miss out on God’s invitation to fully entrust ourselves to Him.

Days will fly by and sacred moments will continue to elude us until we decide to hit the brakes and take inventory of what’s driving us.

Consider this an invitation to break free from the bondage of others’ opinions, over commitment, and the un-appointed obligations that drain us dry and steal our joy. It’s time to reclaim our days so that our moments matter in the greater scheme of things. Both our nos and our yeses matter to God because He loves us best and He’s the One who can make the most of our days and our moments.

How do we know if we’re driving too hard in a way that God never sanctioned? We pay attention to how our efforts impact us and those we love. Take a look at these life-draining motivations and see if any resonate with you:

  • External pressure without internal conviction
  • To impress
  • To save face (to manage others’ opinions of you)
  • To gain acceptance
  • Fear of rejection
  • To fill a gap or role that God didn’t ask you to fill
  • To postpone conflict
  • To compensate for shortcoming in another area of life

It’s time to stop our rushing and racing through life so we can better know how for us God is. And the only way to do that is to start today by truly, deeply, profoundly knowing and believing that He is God (and we are not), and that more rests on His shoulders than on ours. May this, for you, be the start of a new and sacred pace, one that’s sustainable and life-giving.

God’s will for you is your best-case-scenario.

What about you? Do you need to take an inventory of your commitments? 

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Push It My Way

ThinkstockPhotos-465922325Mark says: Jill and I were helping some friends sort through a marriage challenge the other day.  He admittedly can be a bit spacey when driving. He’ll be driving he and his wife to the store, but because his mind is on other things, he’ll end up missing turns and be absentmindedly heading to their church instead. At some point she will pipe up and ask where he’s going.

Jill says: Sometimes he’s just driving a different way than he usually does and sometimes his mind is on other things and they are not going to end up in the right place if she doesn’t say something.

Mark says: The problem is, she never knows which situation she’s dealing with: an in-tune husband making a strategic decision to drive a certain way to their destination or a distracted husband with a lot on his mind who is not paying attention to where he is going.

Jill says: If she speaks up and he’s in-tune with where he’s going, she’s accused of being a “back seat driver.” If she doesn’t speak up and he’s not paying attention, who knows where they’ll end up.  She’s stuck trying to figure out when to say something or pulling information from him. Honestly, she can’t win either way.

Mark says: I wish I could say that we don’t understand this situation, but unfortunately, we can. Sometimes I’m the spacey guy and sometimes I’m the strategic guy. Jill just never knows which one she’s with.

Jill says: Mark, however, started doing something a couple of months ago that was a complete game-changer. Instead of me pulling information from him, he started pushing information to me.  When we would get in the car and to drive somewhere, he started telling me his plan, “I’m going to take GE road up to Main Street to try and miss some of the Veteran’s Parkway traffic.”

Mark says: Letting Jill in on my thought process did several things:

1) It helped her to trust me.
2) It provided natural accountability when I stated what I planned to do.
3) It kept frustration from happening.
4) It communicated value to Jill.

Jill says: CAN I JUST TELL YOU WHAT A GIFT THIS IS TO ME?

Mark says: I’ve started to notice Jill doing the same thing in other parts of our life. For instance, instead of getting to the end of the day and wondering when she’ll be home, what’s for dinner, and when it will be ready, I’ve noticed that she’s pushing information my way. I might get a text that says, “Hey, I’ve got chili in the crock pot and I’m planning on being home by 5. Eat at 5:30?”

Jill says: I tend to be an internal processor which required Mark to pull information from me. I’m starting to pay attention to what’s going on inside my head and push information his way more intentionally like, “This Saturday, I’m thinking about taking a couple of hours to organize the attic and identify things up there that need to go in our garage sale next month. Do you think you could help me?”

Mark says: CAN I JUST TELL YOU WHAT A GIFT THIS IS TO ME?

Jill says: When I push information to Mark,

1) It communicates value to him.
2) It helps him to plan his time.
3) It let’s him in on what I’m thinking.
4) It keeps conflict at bay.

Mark says: When you push information, the sentences tend to start in certain ways, such as:

I’ve been thinking about…
Just so you know…
I want to let you know…
I’m planning…
I already…
FYI…

What about you? Where could you head off conflict in your marriage by pushing information to your spouse?  

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Quote of the Week

Quote-of-the-Week pic“Our goal as parents:  we must not transfer power too early, even if our children take us daily to the battlefield.”

                                                            ~Dr. James Dobson

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