Families With Grace

Helping Christian moms create homes filled with grace, love & faith

Moms on a Mission: Amy Cutler

Profiles of moms who are making a difference

I’m so excited to kick off another series that you’re going to love. I am often awestruck at the women I see around me — both in real life and online — who are doing really amazing work in the midst of motherhood. These women are difference makers in the world who have identified and are living out their mission or God-given passion.

You need to know all about them, too! The Moms on a Mission series is all about these women. Once or twice a month, I’ll feature a mom who is living out her mission both inside and outside her home. I’ve got a few other moms in mind, but I also would love suggestions. If you know a mom or are a mom who is living out her mission and God-given passion, I’d love to hear about it! Click on the “Contact” tab or send me a message through the Families with Grace Facebook page. I look forward to sharing stories that will inspire us all!

Our very first Mom on a Mission is fellow blogger, Amy Cutler, who writes about marriage on her blog, Forever Beloved. You’re going to be inspired by her passion for marriages. She is a wife, mama, writer, blogger and homesteader.

And starting tomorrow (Nov. 1, 2019), you can head over to her blog to read a different post each day as part of a Blogvember Challenge she has organized. You’ll find great content from her and links to other inspiring blogs as well (including a couple from yours truly on Nov. 12 and 21)!

FWG: What is your God-given mission or passion?

AC: Years ago my husband and I endured a rough season in our marriage that ended with the sweetest restoration. Through our love being restored by God I began feeling a gentle nudge on my heart to help other marriages in crisis. That nudge has now became my passion. Many of my blogs are geared towards those marriages.

FWG: How do you work to live out that mission right now?

AC: I have tried to not only live it out through my blog but also in person. There have been times God has asked me to stand in the gap for a marriage in crisis — which can really be uncomfortable when it’s someone you aren’t really close with. And though I drag my feet at first, God always wins in the end.

My husband and I also strive to have a marriage that others can look up to. We aren’t perfect, and we try to be vulnerable and allow others to see that. The social media world we live in allows the comparison game to flourish, which is right where Satan wants our marriages. We want others to see that marriage is never perfect, but it can be thrive when it has God at the center.

FWG: What are some of your biggest challenges in living out your mission?

AC: I think the biggest challenge has been finding the courage to answer God’s call. It’s easy to sit behind a computer and write a blog, but when He tells you to reach out to a certain couple that is struggling, that’s where He has to step in and give me courage. The fear of rejection could easily overcome me in those moments if I wasn’t leaning into Him.

FWG: What have been some of your biggest blessings in living out your mission?

AC: My biggest blessings have been in the messages I’ve gotten from wives thanking me. Perhaps it was a blog post I wrote that felt like I was talking directly to them, a wife who felt so alone in her struggles or a marriage on the brink of divorce before God rescued them.

FWG: How do you balance motherhood responsibilities with your work/mission?

AC: That was a challenge at one point. While I felt God calling me to help couples in crisis, that wasn’t necessarily my children’s calling. With lots of long heart-to-hearts they began to understand. At this point in my life, my babies are adults — one married and living with his wife and one still at home. So it’s much easier now.

FWG: What’s the best advice you have for other moms who are following their passions?

My advice would be to be open and honest with your children and have lots of open conversations. Allow them to tell you how they feel and just sit and listen. Don’t allow your passion to take the place of your parenting. I know I could easily get so wrapped up in something I’m passionate about that my children would end up feeling hurt and neglected. I had to make a conscious effort not to allow that to happen.

Read more from the series:

Moms on a Mission: Dr. Karen Dowling

Moms on a Mission: Erin Mayes

Moms on a Mission: Mari Hernandez-Tuten

Moms on a Mission: Kathleen Brooker

Moms on a Mission: Sarah R. Moore

Moms on a Mission: Stacey Pardoe

Moms on a Mission: Kristin Billerbeck

Moms on a Mission: Pastor Stefanie Hendrickson

Moms on a Mission: Crystal (aka InnieMom)

12 tips to contain sick germs

How to keep sickness from going through your whole family

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Last Thursday, I was in my home office working away when I got a call from the school nurse that my son was sick and needed to be picked up. I walked into her office right in time to find him throwing up in the bathroom.

So we headed straight home. I got him into PJs and settled into the living room couch with his pillow and a blanket. Our house was officially in sick kid mode.

Through the years, I’ve learned a few things about how to best contain germs when sickness comes to our house. Whether it’s a common cold, stomach bug or strep throat (as was the case last week), a few tricks I’ve learned along the way can usually stop the spread of germs from going through our entire family. Last spring I was the one who started off with a stomach bug, and it went through our entire family. I think it was in part since I was sick first, I wasn’t able to enact sick protocol because I was barely able to function!

1. Give the sick person their own towel.

My mom is the one who did this first. I have to admit, I thought it was kind of crazy initially. I’m talking about the towel you use in the bathroom after you wash your hands. Since it’s the towel you use AFTER you’ve washed your hands, I didn’t think it could even spread germs.

But, it seems to, especially when kids are sick. When our kids are sick, they’re washing their hands as quickly as possible because they don’t feel well. Honestly, I’m probably not as thorough as I should be in washing my hands when I don’t feel well and just want to lie back down.

So I designate a sick person towel for hand-drying in each bathroom that person uses. I always do it in our downstairs half bath, which we all use all the time and then either the master bathroom or kids’ bathroom upstairs, depending on who is sick. I use two different colors so it’s easy to remember.

Last week, for example, my son was using a blue towel both downstairs and upstairs, which was easy for everyone to remember since blue is his favorite color.

My kids will also wipe their mouths on their hand-drying towel in the bathroom after brushing their teeth, which is also a huge way to spread germs. Giving the sick person a separate towel really does help.

2. Use plastic bags and trash cans.

Aside from just being miserable, throwing up is also a great way to share germs. Yuck! It can be hard for kids to always make it into the bathroom before throwing up. We learned really quickly when our kids were little to have a stand-by container for throwing up that traveled with them wherever they went while they were in that stage of sickness.

We use a small trashcan from the bathroom or kids’ bedrooms. I line it with a plastic grocery bag and change it out whenever they use it. I tie it off and throw it — and the germs — away.

This also works well for colds and using lots of tissues. The trash can being near the sick person lets them throw their tissues right into the trash and it’s easy to bag up and toss out frequently to get the germs out of the house.

And then when the person is all better, I wipe the entire thing down with bleach wipes to get rick of any residual germs.

3. Consider using baby wipes.

My youngest kiddo is 6. It’s been a few years since anyone in our house has worn diapers, but I still keep unscented baby wipes on hand. They help for cleaning up messes when kids are sick. They can help with wiping bottoms or with wiping mouths after someone gets sick. (Do NOT flush them!)

The best part is that they can be thrown away and not have a worry of spreading germs. I have used wet washcloths in the past, but quickly learned that baby wipes can be more sanitary. I often throw them into that plastic bag I mentioned above and toss it all out together. The more I can get germs out of our house, the better!

4. Keep your kitchen sink area clean.

The kitchen sink is the biggest area that is affected and overlooked when you have a sick family member. It’s where drinks get poured out and dishes get rinsed or washed. So it’s fair to assume that germs are hanging out in the kitchen sink.

During times I have a sick person, I wipe down my sink and all around it with bleach wipes often. Any time I’m ready to wash dishes in the sink, I wipe it down first. It takes just a few minutes and helps contain germs. (I love bleach wipes for their convenience, but you can use whatever you prefer that kills germs.)

I am also careful with my dishcloth. I have some things that need to be washed by hand that we use when the kids are sick — mostly their drink Thermoses for keeping cold water easily on hand in a container that is spill proof when closed. I either change my dish cloth out after hand-washing items the sick person has used or use a paper towel instead of a dishcloth for washing.

5. Manage bedding.

When my sick family member is better and no longer contagious, I change their bedding. Depending on the sickness, I may just change their sheets (like for a common cold). For other things, though, I also make sure to wash all their blankets as well. I wash them in hot water to get all the germs.

I also have a white blanket I use for my kids when they are sick and want a blanket in the living room. I got it for my daughter’s first twin-sized bed and we stopped using it a couple of years after. I have since designated it the sick blanket for a couple of reasons. First, the blanket is large and keeps them covered well even as they move around on the couch. Secondly, since the blanket is solid white, I can bleach it as well as wash it in hot water to get rid of germs.

If they are hanging out in the living room, I also let them use their bed pillow as well. Not only do they find it more comfortable, but it also keeps the germs from spreading to toss pillows they lie on. It’s much easier to wash a pillow case than a toss pillow.

6. Minimize physical contact with other family members.

This rule applies mostly to my kids interacting with each other and sometimes with us. At bedtime, we usually have hugs and cheek kisses all around. When someone is sick, we squash that. Of course we don’t keep our kids from snuggling into us or being with us when they are sick. But we do encourage them to avoid kissing each other and such.

7. Don’t share dishes or utensils.

This one isn’t so surprising, but not sharing cups or plates with someone who is sick is a great idea. We are not a family who shares dishes at all. I am probably a bit of a germaphobe, but you never know when someone is on the brink of getting sick and is contagious with something without even having symptoms. It really happens and has actually affected us in the past a couple of times when we did decide to share.

8. Clean the bathrooms.

Once the contagious stage is over, I clean the bathrooms. (Sometimes with stomach bugs, it may be necessary to clean throughout the sickness as well.) It doesn’t have to be hard core cleaning, but wiping down the counter, sink (especially where they’ve been spitting out their toothpaste!) and toilet is a great plan. In just a couple of minutes, you can get rid of any germs hanging around. Bleach wipes come in handy for this, too!

9. Clean other areas of the home.

Depending on what the sick person is using, I also clean other things in the house, too. For example, the remote control for the television tends to get used by the sick person. So I often wipe it down with bleach wipes just like I do everything else. I have sprayed Lysol on doorknobs and even on the couch. I figure anywhere I can think of that could have a germ is a great place to tackle, especially when dealing with a stomach bug. Those are always so contagious — and so miserable!

10. Maintain good hygiene.

Kids aren’t always great at thinking of hygiene when they’re sick and I don’t blame them! So, I usually help mine remember to at least change PJs and underwear daily. (And I promise I’m not mean. I bring the clean PJs and undies to them wherever they are settled and even help them with changing.)

As soon as the kiddo is better, we also do a bath or shower. First of all, I know how much better I feel whenever I have a shower after being sick. But secondly, it also works to get rid of any extra germs hanging around.

11. Keep yourself clean.

I realized early on in having two kids that even if I keep them relatively separated while one of them is sick, I can carry germs between them. Keeping my hands clean is the biggest tool to help with this. (And it helps keep me well, too!) I clean my hands after helping someone who threw up. I clean my hands after giving them medicine or after picking up their dish and putting it in the dishwasher. Basically, after I am finished interacting with the sick family member or their belongings, I wash my hands or use hand sanitizer to get rid of germs on me.

Many times, I move a bottle of hand sanitizer to my end table when someone is actively sick and I need to clean my hands often but also be near to whoever is sick.

And just like hygiene with my kids, I often pull out comfy clothes for when they are sick because we are home and they need to snuggle and I want to be comfy. While sometimes wearing the same yoga pants a couple of days in a row is fine, I’m aware of it more when the kids are sick. Did someone wipe their nose on me? Did I encounter other bodily fluids or germs on my clothes? I don’t mind doing some extra laundry and switching out my clothes if it helps avoid the spread of germs!

12. Keep your sick person medicated if need be.

The final tip for containing germs is keeping the sick person on their medicine schedule to take all of their medicine they’re prescribed. Not all sickness requires a prescription, but some do. I am a HUGE fan of medicine charts. They help me remember to give medicine.

This was especially important when my son was a toddler and went through some tricky years of croup that we had to manage antibiotics, breathing treatments and steroids at different times throughout the day. But even if it’s just an antibiotic twice a day, keeping a chart still helps me remember to give the medicine, long often they start feeling better.

I made a chart in Microsoft Excel that I update each time I need it, print out and put on my fridge. (You can download it below!) It takes one or two minutes and makes my life easier. The medicine chart also helps my husband and me keep track if the other one has given a dose of medication so we don’t end up double-dosing. That’s not as big of an issue now that our kids are older and can tell us, but it definitely was in younger years.

Taking all medication as prescribed gets the sick person totally better and squashes a chance for a relapse and more germs!

The tediousness of motherhood

Doing the same tasks over and over can be grating, but is it worth it?

I first wrote this post back in November of 2014 when my daughter was 5 and my son was 1-1/2. When I recently reread it, I was struck anew by it. I am sharing it here with very minor editing. Enjoy!

Sometimes life is tedious. Sometimes motherhood is tedious. I can’t tell you how many times I wash the same dishes, fold the same clothes, put away the same toys, do the same bedtime rituals, prepare the same snacks and read the same books.  

I can’t tell you how many times I vacuum the same carpet, clean off the same countertop, change the same sheets and drive the same route to and from preschool. It’s a lot.  

Being home with two small children is predictably unpredictable. Every day some things are the same. Every day some things are different. It’s tedious. It’s exhausting. It’s consuming. It’s draining. But, is it worth it?

Recognizing the tediousness

I was reheating homemade potato soup for the kids’ dinner last week before we left for the evening to do some work with family. The kids were in the living room playing contently with my husband — a fact for which I was grateful. My toddler is very impatient when it comes to food and likes to orbit around me wailing while I prepare most meals. It’s delightful.  

I had on my favorite Christian station. I’m more a fan of music and less a fan of talk on the radio, but in between songs when my hands were too busy to change the station, the DJ came on. He read a story from “Guideposts” about a man who had worked on Mt. Rushmore who shared how tedious the job was and how he learned that even tedious tasks are important to the big picture.  

The woman interviewing him then related that to her own life and the tedious tasks of raising her sons and all that entailed. However, her sons are now grown and the tediousness is gone; she sits and looks at the grown men she has raised and is proud. The tedious tasks she did for them helped create a wonderful finished product.

The story hit my heart. Tears filled my eyes immediately as I realized I am most definitely in the tedious phase of motherhood. I finished cutting some grapes and buttering some bread and called the kids to the table. As we ate our dinner and chatted, my toddler son had a rough evening. He’s cutting a tooth and he can be quite grumpy about it. He’s also obsessed with raisins and wants them all the time for every meal and really only raisins would be just fine by him. I don’t agree that he can survive solely on raisins, so mealtimes are often a battlefield right now.  

During a very short respite in our dinnertime battles, I sent up a fervent prayer while the message from the radio lingered in my heart, “Lord, please let this all be worth it. Let my children grow up to be awesome people.”

Looking ahead

It’s tedious. It’s hard. It’s all-consuming. I know. I’ve said these things already, but I feel the need to say them again because they are so very true. I’d like to think that it will all be worth it. I don’t think I’d mind a small peek at the future to see my children living their lives as thriving, intelligent, caring and loving adults who I somehow didn’t manage to completely mess up.  

That look at the future isn’t possible, though. So I will just have to keep trusting that every day, every small task I do repeatedly and in the midst of chaos is worth it. I have to remind myself that the more goodness from me and from God that I pour into my children, the more goodness they’ll pour back out into the world. And this world can always use more goodness.

I see glimpses of what the future might look like for my children as they grow up. I’m not sure what their occupations will be. Right now my daughter wants to be a doctor, a paleontologist or an art teacher. Right now what I see in her is a sweet spirit full of encouragement for others. I see in her a great compassion and willingness to love with a big heart. That will serve her well in the future. She will excel at making friends and making people feel valued. She already does.

My son is younger, so I’ve not had as much time to get to know him and he can’t yet communicate to me what he wants to be when he grows up, but I see a tenacity in him. He is determined and won’t give up on something he wants. While that’s frustrating to me while he’s a toddler and what he wants is something that isn’t safe for him, this character trait will serve him well in the future as he pursues his dreams and goals. I see in him an ease to laugh and love. He laughs more easily than any child I’ve been around. I adore it. I hope he always retains that inner joy.

Reminding moms of their importance

Where are you today? Are you with me stuck in the tedious tasks of motherhood that sometimes seem to drain your very life force? Are you wondering if all the hard work will be worth it in the end? Will we one day forget this tedious phase just like we have (mostly) forgotten the pain of childbirth? I think so.  

Of course I don’t have all the answers. My journey is far from complete with my children. We have a long way to go, but I am going to keep pressing forward, putting one foot in front of the other, completing one tedious task after the next because that’s what a long line of moms has done before me and it worked out for them.  

I will also keep moving forward and doing everything I can for my children simply because they need me and I love them in an all-consuming way that keeps me moving even when I’d much rather lie down and sleep for two weeks. Tedious? Yes. Worth it? Definitely!

8 questions to ask yourself before posting about your kids on social media

Being intentional in what we post on social media about our kids is important

From before they were even born, my kids have had a presence on social media. I shared on Facebook about being pregnant, their gender ahead of time and photos of ultrasounds. I didn’t share their names until they were born, because my husband and I didn’t share names ahead of time with anyone else.

And I’m not alone. Most modern parents share about pregnancy, childbirth and their children on social media. Having a baby and being a parent is a huge part of our lives, so it makes sense that it would come up on social media, which is designed around people sharing what’s going on in their lives.

It doesn’t take long, however, for social media sharing about our kids to get a bit murky. For some moms it can start even before the baby is born when people weigh in on your pregnancy decisions. And then it can creep up when moms post about how they’re feeding the baby or share a photo of the baby in his or her carseat. Someone else has different opinions and feels welcome to share them on social media in a way they probably wouldn’t in real life.

While I’ve learned to filter some of what I post about my kids to avoid dealing with controversy, I’ve also become more and more aware about how what I share about my kids affects them. Some things are OK to share. Other things aren’t.

Asking ourselves a few questions before firing off a post about our kids, even our new babies, is important more than ever as social media continues to grow and expand.

1. How will the post make your child feel if he or she reads it in the future?

I have to start here, because I think this is the most important question to ask before posting something about your child. It may be easy when kids are babies to not even think about them one day reading or being on social media. But the fact is one day they will be. If your kids one day scroll through your old posts, how will they feel about what you’re saying about them and about your feelings as a parent?

The baby days are hard. In fact, I’d say my children’s newborn days were some of the most challenging times of my life, because it’s all encompassing and utterly exhausting. Babies challenge you to the core of yourself and then some. The first baby brings a whole new normal that takes some adjustment.

Posting on Facebook about how awful it is, how irritating your baby or toddler is or even wondering if you should have had kids is not something that your child is going to feel great about reading.

I have a friend who remembers her mother saying that she was so tired after giving birth that she didn’t even want to hold her new baby (my friend). While my friend understood her mom’s feelings, that also smarted.

Parents have a need to vent and need to find support. Doing so openly on social media isn’t the place for it. One of the biggest reasons that’s true is so one day your kids won’t read through posts and think, “Did my mom want me?” “Did she enjoy any of my childhood?” Those are not questions we want our children to ask.

2. Would you share the information with a random stranger?

Of course you have your social media accounts locked down. And you aren’t friending everyone and their brother, but you are still talking to a lot of people who you aren’t close to when you are posting on social media. If you are sharing information that you wouldn’t share with a random stranger, then it might not be social media appropriate.

As a parent, especially during the early years, you deal with all of your child and his or her parts. If you wouldn’t share with a random stranger about what’s going on in your child’s diaper in detail, then don’t share it on social media either.

3. Are you OK with your child knowing this information?

I’m not advocating having secrets from your children, but the fact is there are some things my kids don’t need to know. Right now that’s mostly because of their ages, but there are also other things they don’t need to be reminded of or know about in general.

If I want to share something in any way related to my children or our family then that I don’t want them to know now, then I shouldn’t be posting it on social media — even for the fact that someone might bring up the topic with my kiddos.

4. If your child’s teen peers found the post, how would/could they use it?

Kids can be cruel. And social media has upped that game immensely. I’ve got a whole other blog post coming about our kids using social media, but we have to think about these things as well. A Pew Research Center study shows that 59% of teen boys and 60% of teen girls say they have been cyber-bullied.

While a photo of your toddler sitting on a potty chair might be cute and mark a milestone for them, their peers might use such photo in a cruel way. Take the photo, but don’t post it on social media.

I know there are girls I went to school with who would have jumped on embarrassing photos of me to do things with if they had had access. Fortunately back then those photos only existed in photo albums or my baby book and weren’t readily available online. (My parents also did well at keeping all private areas well covered in photos.)

Aside from photos, sometimes just information can be hurtful and used against your kids. Posts about how they are still wetting the bed at an older age or are scared of the dark as a 12-year-old are just asking for the wrong kid to use that information in a hurtful way. We certainly don’t want to make cyber-bullying easier!

5. Could this post hurt your child’s chance at a scholarship or job?

While you should have your social media accounts well locked down (there is a whole other post about safety on the way), we also need to be aware that the information could somehow get out because breeches happen. And, along with that, 57% employers currently are checking social media accounts of their potential employees. That number will only grow. Posts and photos that you’ve tagged of your children could show up on their accounts.

So a post about how awful your teen is at cleaning their room, being on time or doing homework is probably not in their best interest in the long run. Not only could it hurt their feelings, it could also hurt their chances for success, which isn’t something any parent wants.

6. Could a child predator use this in an unsavory way?

Nobody wants to think about that. In fact, I debated about whether to even include this question, but it’s incredibly important. Unfortunately these things need to be taken into consideration before sharing photos.

And, again, even with having your account locked down, there are still some things that aren’t appropriate to share. Information dealing with a child’s bathing suit area is not OK to share in photographic or verbal form.

Another consideration is oversharing personal information that makes it easy for a child predator to find or engage with your child. While you might have your personal social media account locked down, consider what you are posting on public social media accounts as well. It can be very easy sometimes to piece together information and track down people just by what they post on other pages and accounts.

7. Will the post add pressure to your child to be perfect or brag worthy?

Social media brings the desire for perfection and showing your best face to a whole new level. (Check out my post on how social media impacts moms.) While that’s true for parents, it’s also true for kids. My kids have each told me at different times to take a photo of something they’re doing and share it on Facebook. I usually take the photo, but I don’t always share it. It just depends on what they’re doing.

I try to be real in my social media accounts. I don’t want to show a version of myself that is perfect and certainly doesn’t exist. I don’t want to do the same with my children either. However, that doesn’t mean I have to post all the negative things or all the positive things. I am so proud of my children for so very many things. I brag on them in front of them when I can. I tell them what I’m proud of them for. I encourage them when they are struggling.

But, I never want to put pressure on them to be perfect, because I know they aren’t. That means I don’t want to be posting only big things on social media. I can tell you things about my kids that would impress you, but that’s not what is most important about them. What’s most important is the people they are and how much I love being their mom, even on the hard days. I don’t want them to ever feel I have created a social media image or any image of them that they have to be perfect to live up to.

8. Does the post betray your child’s privacy or trust?

Our kids deserve a right to privacy with us. We should be their safe place they can count on and that means not always sharing everything about them. They have fears, shortcomings and stresses that may seem cute or funny to us at the time, but they are very real to our kiddos whether they are 5 or 15.

We shouldn’t ever share something on social media that our kids wouldn’t want us to. Once they are older, ask them before sharing things that seem even remotely private or personal. Even as babies, be careful to not overshare private information.

We also don’t want to betray their trust by taking to social media to make fun of our kids for something they are doing or struggling with. We have to be careful of poking fun at our children and inadvertently becoming a cyber bully!

This post is part of Families with Grace’s Social Media Savvy series that covers a commonsense approach to handling social media as a parent. Check out these other posts from the series:

4-ingredient whipped pudding pie recipe

So many options for such an easy-to-make pie!

A few years ago, a friend shared an easy pudding pie recipe with me and ever since then, it’s been in my rotation of recipes. It works great for a carry-in dinner or even just an easy weeknight dessert.

You can whip up this pudding pie recipe in five minutes and even make it sugar free and low fat and it still tastes good! I actually do make it sugar free and low fat and my whole family loves it.

I used lemon pudding mix most recently, but you can use literally any flavor of pudding mix you want. I’ve made it with butterscotch and cookies-and-cream in the past as well. So many options!

You start with making the instant pudding mix according to the directions on the package, which means whisking the mix with two cups of milk for two minutes. I used sugar-free instant lemon pudding mix and 1% milk for this one. The mixture should start to thicken a bit like so:

Next you pour half of the pudding mixture into a graham cracker crust. You can make your own or buy one. I always use a store bought one, because they are cheaper than if I bought the ingredients myself and they are way easier. (And you could totally swap out for a chocolate graham cracker crust if you think it would be good with your pudding flavor!) I just measure with my eyes to look like it’s half. Basically, it should cover the bottom of the crust and maybe be about an inch thick.

Set the crust aside and gently fold half of the whipped topping into the remaining pudding mix. I used Sugar Free Cool Whip for this time around, but regular works fine as well. Again, I just estimate it so that I use about half of the 8-ounce container for this pudding pie recipe. (Be sure to fold in the whipped topping instead of whisk to keep the mixture light and airy.)

I just plop half the container of whipped topping on top of the pudding mix that is left in the bowl.
The Sugar Free Cool Whip all folded into the pudding mix. I used lemon pudding mix for this one, so the color isn’t dramatically different.

Spread the whipped topping and pudding mixture evenly over the top of the first pudding layer in the crust. It should cover well and come almost to the top of the crust.

Stick the whole pie into the refrigerator for at least an hour to set. It can stay in there longer. Be sure to refrigerate your remaining whipped topping as well, because just before you serve it, you’ll spread it on for a final layer.

It’s so good! The layers aren’t dramatic visually, but they’re there. It is definitely a soft pie, so I usually serve it up in small bowls, but it works on plates as well. Should you end up with any left, be sure to refrigerate it. I know it lasts well for three days, but I’ve never had any left longer than that!


4-ingredient whipped pudding pie


  • 1 box instant pudding any flavor and sugar-free works perfectly fine!
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 graham cracker pie crust
  • 1 8- ounce tub of whipped topping sugar-free works perfectly fine!


  • Whisk the pudding with the milk, according to the directions on the package.
  • Pour half of the pudding mix into the prepared pie crust.
  • Fold half of the whipped topping into the remaining pudding mix. Pour that mixture over top of the pudding mix in the crust.
  • Refrigerate for an hour.
  • Top with the remaining whipped topping and serve.
  • Refrigerate any leftovers.

Find other easy, no-bake dessert recipes:

Edible chocolate chip cookie dough

Easy mint chocolate chip mousse

The best puppy chow recipe

4-Ingredient Oreo ice cream cake

No-bake butterscotch haystacks recipe

Easy microwave fudge made 5 ways

How to organize your kids’ school work

Learn what school work to keep and how to easily organize it — no crafting skills required!

Affiliate links are used in this post. If you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

When my daughter started nursery school way back in the fall of 2013, I had to figure out what to do with all the school work she brought home. I had to work through mama guilt for tossing out things she had made, but the reality was that I just couldn’t keep everything.

Until then I had either kept things by shoving them into her baby book or file folder in my filing cabinet. Sometimes I took photographs of art projects from story time or church or home and then tossed them. Deciding what to keep and what to toss was a challenge.

It didn’t take long for me to figure out that I needed both a policy and a system for school work. While I wanted to say I’d just toss everything for the sake of being organized, I also knew that one day I’d regret it because she was going to grow up faster than I wanted and it would be fun to look back one of these days.

But, I was also a busy mom with a new baby and a preschooler and don’t have a bit of craftiness in me. Scrapbooks weren’t going to be my solution. I already did family photo albums for each year and that was as crafty as I got (still is!). Then I stumbled upon a school work file idea I fell in love with.

I was on Pinterest when I first saw something similar and knew that it would work well for our family and help with all of the paper clutter and artwork that I wanted to keep for posterity. I made a trip to the office supply store for a few supplies and thus we began our memory files for each child.

What you need

You’ll need one hanging file folder box per child, hanging file folders and their labels. I planned one folder per grade. For my kids, who each went through two years of nursery school, I have 14 file folders each. Depending on how you do it, you may also need one additional file folder per child.

To put our kids’ names on their file boxes for school work, we used white Gorilla tape and a black Sharpie. (I love they make ones that are retractable so you don’t have to keep track of the lid!)

And that’s it as far as supplies go. See? Easy-peasy! You don’t need tools, hot glue guns or crafty skills!

How to set it up

Label a hanging file folder box for each child with their name on the outside. Then label file folders for whatever grade level you are covering. You can do them all at once or one at a time. I do one at a time, mostly because that’s how my brain works! I put the kiddo’s name, grade and school year.

And then simply fill the folder throughout the school year with the papers you want to keep.

Starting this year, I have a file folder for each kiddo in my filing cabinet that I put school work in for the year and will then transfer them into their file box. I’ve found it’s easier for me to stick them in the filing cabinet I am always using rather than pulling out the file boxes and adding the papers in there as we go. You can definitely do it however works best for you!

The file boxes include things from preschool (and before) through their grades of kindergarten and third grade last school year. Based on my daughter’s box on the right, we may need to do two boxes per kiddo.
My daughter’s box is most full because she is oldest.

What to keep

Deciding what to keep is a challenge for sure. Here are some of the things I’ve put in the folders. Each year on the first day of school, I make a mock magazine cover for my kids that includes things like their shoe size, grade, teacher’s name, favorite things and what they want to be when they grow up. I print that out and stick it in the file.

I also use the file folder to put in leftover school photo prints and class photos. My kids go to a K-12 school, so they have a good chance of having many of their classmates in their graduating class that they did in their kindergarten class. I like the idea that one day we can look back at all the years together with these same friends.

Special art projects are something else that I keep. I like things that have handprints or fingerprints or that the kids have spent a good amount of time on. If they are large, then I do fold them down to fit into the file folder.

I keep teacher evaluations and sometimes test scores as well. Usually whatever paperwork comes home with us from parent/teacher conferences I put into the folder for them. It is neat to look back and see how they have progressed and learned through the years.

Writing projects are something else that I hang onto. From kindergarten on, my kids have had a journal they kept at school. They can include both fiction and nonfiction writing. I really enjoy these most, probably because I am a writer! But, they are definitely something I want to hang onto.

I usually keep school work or projects my kids do about themselves or things they like. The first of the school year tends to be a time they do these things and it’s always so neat to see what they have to say about what they like and who they are.

If there is anything not school related that I want to keep, I put those in the folder as well. This has included Sunday School papers or projects and programs from special events (like when they are in a school play).

The extras

And then there are some things that are too big for file folders. I could probably get a separate container for them and may do so one day, but for now, I stick them down inside the hanging file folder box. This includes their baby books, which have many of their doctor papers in them from their baby days as well as their immunization records.

I also kept journals throughout my pregnancy with each of them and put those in the file boxes as well. You can definitely include whatever keepsakes you want to hang onto and will fit in the file box.

5 simple kids’ birthday traditions to make your kiddos feel special

Kids’ birthday traditions make for some great memories!

Affiliate links are used in this post. If you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

I am not a crafty type mom. I’m not an over-the-top kind of mom. I don’t throw birthday bashes for hundreds of people that cost thousands of dollars. (I’m not sure that actually happens outside of television shows!) But, I do like having kids’ birthday traditions to make my kiddos feel special on their big day. 

I remember back to my own childhood and how much I loved celebrating my birthday. There is something special about the people around you all stopping to celebrate you — and I say that as an introverted shy person! I also think of my current birthdays. Somewhere along the way, though, birthdays lose some of their magic. 

As an adult, I’ve found birthdays to be bittersweet less because I’m aging but more because there are folks missing from my celebration and because life can be challenging, even on your birthday!

I know that birthdays will change for my children as they age, so before that happens, I want to celebrate and embrace their birthdays — and them. 

In the 10 years since my husband and I became parents, we’ve developed some kids’ birthday traditions make our kids feel special. My goal with traditions is to keep them simple so they are doable from one year to the next, even if life gets super crazy.

1. Hang birthday balloons from their bedroom doorway.

On the night before the kiddo’s birthday, we hang balloons from their doorway with crepe paper after they go to bed. This is a super easy tradition that my kids love and look forward to each year. They run back and forth through the balloons and crepe paper and usually leave them up for a week or so.

Hanging balloons from the kiddos’ doorways is one of our favorite kids’ birthday traditions.

2. Wake them with a song.

On the morning of their birthday, we wake them up by going into their room singing, “Happy Birthday.” I always video record this, and it’s fun to go back and see them from the time they were in their cribs on their first birthdays until now.

My daughter was born in the morning, so we usually go in there a little earlier than necessary for a school morning and then count down to 6:36 a.m. when she officially becomes another year older.

3. Let the birthday kid pick dinner.

I love food, so this one comes natural to me. Another kids’ birthday tradition we have is letting the birthday kiddo decide what we have for dinner. They can pick somewhere to go or something for me to make. So far, they’ve always chosen eating out, and I’m fine with that. This year, my daughter picked Chinese food and wanted to get it takeout to eat at home. She is so my kid!

4. Read a special book together.

We continue to read together at bedtime every night, but on birthday nights, I have a favorite book. We read “On the Night You Were Born” by Nancy Tillman. It’s a great book that celebrates life. I always get choked up throughout it, but I love reading it with them each birthday.

5. Pray over them out loud.

Usually at bedtime, our children pray out loud. Their dad and I don’t usually pray out loud with them at that time. On their birthdays, though, I always jump in after they finish their prayer and add one of my own thanking God for the blessing of the kiddo and asking Him to be with them as they grow and so on.

Of course we do other typical kids’ birthday traditions, too. The kiddos have presents to open. We have a sweet treat, which isn’t always cake. I love cake and ice cream, but my oldest doesn’t so much. So this year, for example, we had Oreo ice cream cake with her friends and brownie sundaes with her grandparents.

Kids’ birthday traditions really do make some great memories. Sure the kids know some of what to expect, but I think that anticipation makes it even more exciting.

What birthday traditions does your family have?

Looking for ideas on what to bake for birthdays? Check out these recipes!

20 Motivational quotes for kids

Inspirational quotes for kids in school

I love encouraging and uplifting quotes. Recently, I also love motivational quotes for kids that I can send in their lunchboxes.

Each Monday I send a “Monday Motivation” quote for my kids’ lunchbox notes. These are short, inspirational quotes for kids in school from mom — a.k.a me!

You can use these quotes for your own lunchbox notes or however works best for inspiring your children!

Short motivational quotes for kids

“Try to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.” — Maya Angelou

Motivational quotes for kids

“People see God every day; they just don’t recognize Him.” — Pearl Bailey

Motivational quotes for kids

“No one is perfect — that’s why pencils have erasers.” — Wolfgang Reibe

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi

Motivational quotes for kids

“If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours.” — Dolly Parton

Motivational quotes for kids

“It doesn’t matter how slow you go as long as you don’t stop.” — Confucius

Motivational quotes for kids

“Never give up on what you really want to do. The person with big dreams is more powerful than one with all the facts.” — Albert Einstein

Motivational quotes for kids

“Learn from yesterday. Live for today. Hope for tomorrow.” — Albert Einstein

Motivational quotes for kids

“Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other.” — Randy Pausch

Motivational quotes for kids

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” – Mr. Fred Rogers

Motivational quotes for kids

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” — Theodore Roosevelt

Motivational quotes for kids

“Be silly. Be honest. Be Kind.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Motivational quotes for kids

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi

Motivational Quotes for kids

“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” — Augustine

Motivational quotes for kids

“Don’t just read the easy stuff. You may be entertained by it, but you will never grow from it.” — Jim Rohn

Motivational quotes for kids

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Motivational quotes for kids

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matter.” — Epictetus

Motivational quotes for kids

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” — Aesop

Motivational quotes for kids

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” — Oscar Wilde

Motivational quotes for kids

“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Motivational quotes for kids