Families With Grace

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

20 Lessons from having a second baby

What I learned in the year after having a second baby

I originally wrote this in January of 2014 when my son turned 1 and my daughter was 4. The year after having a second baby was a difficult for me with lots of challenges, but having my son was the best. And it’s hard for me to believe those some little ones are now 8 and 11!

My baby boy turns 1 today. Cliche as it may be, I must say that time really does fly. I mean, I feel like I seriously just found out I was pregnant. And now here we are celebrating one year. It’s been quite a year. Along the way, as always, I’ve been learning and learning. I’ve learnt about being a mom to two. I know moms with more than two children, and I commend them. But, here’s what I’ve learned this past year as a mom to two.

1. Being a mom of two is both harder and easier than I thought it would be.  

I remember when my daughter was born. The shift and adjustment to being a mom was so incredibly challenging and earth-shattering in some ways. I was as ready to be a mom as I could be. I was excited to be a mom, but actually being a mom and being responsible for this tiny, oh-so-needy person was certainly life-altering.  

However, I didn’t have to go through that when I had my son. I was already in mom mode. So, that was easier. The harder part I’m not sure was completely unexpected because I knew I’d have more work as a mom. The hardest part to me at the moment is how different my children are and how much my son is already challenging me.

2. Sometimes even I don’t put on makeup.  

I’m a makeup girl. I’m a do-my-hair girl. I have the whole shebang down to a less than 10-minute process to put on my makeup and style my hair. But, especially in the early days when my son wasn’t sleeping, even I went sans makeup. I seldom left the house. I didn’t put on makeup for a while.  

This was true for most jewelry as well. I’ve had my ears pierced since I was 18 months old. I got my second hole pierced when I was 14. For the first time ever, I had trouble with my earring holes starting to grow back over and had to work through that. Good grief!

3. It is OK for my daughter to be entertained by Disney Junior sometimes.  

In the early days, I’m not sure I could have survived without it some days. There were times I got two hours of sleep at night in the recliner before my daughter was up for her day. I let her watch an extra show (or sometimes two or three!) just so I could actually get a bit of sleep while the baby was sleeping.

4. My support team is invaluable.  

Having a second baby has made me appreciate my parents and in-laws even more. I’ve asked them for advice. I’ve accepted and asked for their help. My mother-in-law has cleaned my bathroom. My mom has done my laundry. They’ve both made us food. Granted, some of their help had to come after my surgery, but so many other times throughout this year (and always!), my parents and in-laws were there to encourage us, help us and babysit for us. It really does take a village and I’m so blessed by my village.

5. The biggest challenge to my marriage has been having kids.  

My husband and I have been together for almost 20 years. We were high school sweethearts whose relationship started with long conversations on the phone. We’ve been married for 14 years. Becoming parents has challenged us personally and relationally as well. For the first time we have to make more of an effort and be more intentional about finding time to really connect and listen to one another. We’ve had to rework our ways to communicate because we often get interrupted by little people who need things. Adding a second child added to these challenges.

6. My husband really is a good man.  

I’ve said this numerous times, but over and over I fall in love with him and appreciate him more and more. He’s settled into being a dad so very well. He’s great at it. My husband is quick to jump in and do things with the kids. He works hard to support us financially. The guy tries hard to make my life easier and do things to help me. He takes out the trash without complaining. He does gross things that I appreciate him doing (like cleaning ridiculous amounts of my hair out of the drain and dealing with plumbing issues) and can’t imagine having to deal with. Most importantly, he loves God, he loves me and he loves our babies.

7. My heart is big enough to love both of my children so completely and fully.  

Sometimes I am sure my heart will burst into a million pieces. Seeing my children interact with and love on one another and/or my husband makes it expand even more. Even just watching my son learning how to play with our dog makes me tear up sometimes. It’s almost ridiculous, but I make no apologies.

8. Time goes even faster when you’re busy with two children.  

My daughter being 4 seems like an impossibility. While her first year went by fast, my son’s has somehow gone even faster. Life is busier this time around and it just flies by. I try hard to suck it all in and appreciate all the good moments when they happen.

9. I can take both children places on my own.  

In this truth, I also have way more physical strength than I ever knew I had. We have a lot of stuff that goes with us and there’s a baby to carry and sometimes a preschooler to hang onto. Even though I’m now outnumbered in taking them places on my own, I can do it without too much trouble.

10. My children are very different and that’s OK.  

My son has had different challenges from my daughter. She struggled with eating as a newborn, but slept like a champ. He ate just fine, but felt sleep (especially at night) was optional. I figured some things would be the same for them like having the baby sleep in his Pack-and-Play bassinet in our room for the first three months or so just like his sister did. Instead, I spent three months sleeping with him on the couch so he could be propped up on his Boppy.

I hoped he would be as easy to discipline as my daughter. She is like me. Even as a baby we could just tell her no in a stern voice and she’d stop what she was doing. We do the same with my son and he looks at us, smiles then continues right on having a pool party in the dog’s water bowl. They are different. As we get to know each of them better we can better help them learn how to navigate life and learn right from wrong.

11. It’s OK to do things differently for my kids.

In my head, I want always, always, always to be fair. I want things to be the same for both children, but that’s just not reality. We had professional newborn photos taken of my son and didn’t of my daughter. I almost felt bad about it, but then I realized with just one baby I was able to do my own photo shoots easier. With two, that was more of a challenge. I don’t love him any more or her any less. It just worked that way.  

She didn’t have pizza until after she was 1. He had some a couple of weeks before his first birthday. She has had a bedtime of 8 p.m. since she was about 9 months old. He still goes to bed at 9 p.m., because it’s easier for them to be on different bedtimes and gives us a chance to have some time with just him.

12. I have to cut myself some slack.  

I need to continually remind myself of this lesson. I am still learning daily to give myself a break and remind myself that I really am doing the best I can. Being a mom to two is hard work. It’s busy work. It’s so very much. I can’t do it all. I just can’t. There will always be something left undone. I just have to make sure that the important things are done. The other stuff will fall into place.

13. My lap is big enough for two children.  

Even now that they’re both bigger, there’s still room for both of them in my lap at one time. It makes my heart happy.

14. I am a better mom to my son because of my daughter.  

I used to tease my parents that they learned the hard lessons with my older brother. He loved to push the limits as much as he could. They learned from their parenting of him, I think. However, it’s 100 percent true and it’s not a bad thing. I remember even just figuring out the best way to bathe a baby and feeling, quite frankly, a bit intimidated by it when my daughter was a baby.  

With my son, I was an old pro. I had no qualms. I am better at this mom thing because I’ve had more practice. Also, I have more perspective. I knew the newborn days really wouldn’t last forever. I knew that it would eventually get a bit easier and more fun.  

Right now as I’m struggling with a baby boy who is getting into everything, I’m reminding myself that he won’t be this way forever and will eventually learn what no means (and that my husband and I are going to need a lot of patience to get through our battles of will with this child!).

15. Having a second baby is good. Being a mom of two is very good.  

I can’t imagine life without my two children. They are so much a part of me and my life and who I am right now. They consume me. Sometimes that’s incredibly overwhelming and exhausting. Sometimes I’m just plain worn out and drained from having two little people who need so much so often.

But, it’s also the best thing I’ve ever done. It’s good! I would never be happy without them in my life now that I have them. They are perfect, frustrating, loving, demanding and hilarious all at once. My children make me laugh, they make me cry, they make me frustrated and they make me love. They keep me from getting too self-involved. Right now there’s not a huge amount of time for Stacey, but there will be again one day. And I’m sure I’ll somehow miss these days when I’m so consumed with being mom.

16. Sometimes the squeakiest wheel really does get the grease.  

Before my son was born, I read advice from other parents of two. Some parents said if you have to pick between meeting the needs of a baby and an older child, go with the older child first because he/she will remember this moment. I have done that sometimes, but other times I haven’t. It’s not always feasible. Sometimes I work like the ER at the hospital and prioritize who needs the most help first. And every so often it’s the kid who is squeaky the loudest.

17. I can survive sick children.  

Before having my son, my daughter was hardly ever sick. She’s been a healthy kid. After he was born, he had a few issues here and there. Some were accidents, like when he was a newborn and raked a fingernail down his eyeball on a Friday evening.  

But, many things started popping up when my daughter started preschool last fall. Like all parents of school-aged kids can tell you, there are so many germs that go around with school. For three months one or both of my children was sick. My husband and I were sick. And, since part of that time included my surgery recovery and our parents were here helping, our parents were sick. It was tough. It stunk. But we all survived. And I know now how to help a baby through a cold more than I did before because I hadn’t dealt with all that much.

18. I have to learn to let go of my to-do list sometimes.  

Yes, I need to get things done around the house. Yes, I need to do some work. However, I’m learning that with two children who are unpredictable in their needs and require me to be flexible, sometimes I just need to let go of my to-do list and do what I see needs done at the moment. I need to not chastise myself. When I get too focused on my to-do list, I just get irritated that I can’t get it done and turn into Grumpy Mom. Nobody likes Grumpy Mom, not even Grumpy mom herself.

19. I can breastfeed.  

I debated as to whether this was a lesson I learned by having a second baby and decided it most definitely is. The first time around, I had unexpected trouble with breastfeeding (thanks to my kiddo’s issues). I didn’t know how hard it would be. I learned that. And I learned what it meant to exclusively pump breastmilk for a year.  

When I had my son, I learned that some babies are just better at nursing and he was one of them. I still daily think about missing that relationship that had to end a couple of months early thanks to health complications on my behalf, but I know I can do it. I did it for nine months. And it worked even while managing a preschooler at the same time.

20. My absolute biggest lesson is I can do it.  

I have learned this year that I can be a mom to two children and manage just fine.  Of course there are bumps along the way.  Of course nothing is perfect.  Of course I make mistakes, but I’m doing it. I’m living this life.  My children are surviving having me as their mother and they’re both pretty happy kids.  I really can do it!

When your faith is shaken

5 Steps to keep your faith during hard times

Life is hard. We all know that. But sometimes life batters and shatters us so severely that our faith is shaken. And we don’t talk about this enough in Christian culture. Figuring out how to keep your faith during hard times is challenging.

My faith has been shaken a few times during my 33-year walk with God. I’ve never once stopped believing in Him or loving Him since I asked him to be my personal savior as a 10-year-old, but I’ve had doubts and questions.

Sometimes I haven’t understood what He was doing, and it bothered me. I have longed for justice that just doesn’t seem to happen. If I’m being honest, I’ve also said prayers that I wasn’t sure were making it to heaven, let alone to the Father’s Throne.

5 Steps to keep your faith during hard times Pinterest image

I can’t tell you all sorts of theological reasons for shaken faith or even list lots of Bible verses explaining how to handle shaken faith. But, I can share some of my experiences of how God has helped me keep my faith during hard times.

Affiliate links are used in this post. If you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Read my full disclosure here.

What happens when your faith is shaken?

Unsurprisingly, we don’t usually have crises of faith when everything is going well. When life is going without major bumps and bruises, we find it easy to believe in a loving God who is with us.

But during the difficult seasons, that can change. Keeping your faith during hard times is often challenging.

I compare my faith to motherhood in this way. During the years as a mom, I have questioned a few times whether I was qualified for motherhood.

Surely all moms don’t struggle with the problems I do. I debated whether I was truly cut out to be a mom. Yet, at the end of the day, I am still a mom (and am so thankful to be!).

Faith is the same way. When all is well, I don’t have questions or doubts in faith. I am confident and sure of who I am and Who God is. But in difficult times and in the hard moments, faith gets shakier.

I sometimes wonder whether God is full of love and blessings. I don’t see Him move. Yet, at the end of the day, I am still a Christian.

We may have doubts and questions, but just because we are having doubts about God and our faith doesn’t mean we aren’t a Christian or we don’t love God. It simply means we are human. And we want a real connection with God.

If we didn’t want a real connection with God, then our faith wouldn’t be shaken by missing that connection. These steps can help you to keep your faith during hard times.

1. Go through the faith motions.

To keep my faith strong in difficult times, I learned I need to keep going through the motions. And sometimes I am quite literally just going through the motions.

A few years ago, I went through a period where for the first time in my life, I was struggling for months to sing the music at church and couldn’t even listen to Christian radio. I was having a hard time.

How could I sing praises to a God who was not showing up when I desperately needed Him to? My heart was too broken to begin to praise. That’s a hard place in which to be.

Then one Sunday, I made myself since along with the worship songs at church. My kids were in service, and I wanted to be a good example.

For the first time in my life, I truly understood the sacrifice of praise Paul talks about in Hebrews. (And take note that this verse reminds us that Jesus will give us the strength to praise continually. We can’t do it on our own!)

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.”

Hebrews 13:15 (NIV)

Praising God when you don’t feel like it and when struggling with faith is difficult. While I didn’t immediately feel better and stabilize my faith that Sunday, over time singing, praising and worshipping got easier again.

Sometimes we have to go through the motions (even when we don’t feel like it) until we get back to where we want to be.

2. Shift your focus while on shifting ground.

Just as worshipping and praising started to get easier for me, the hard time worsened and made keeping my faith even more difficult. Honestly, I didn’t think it could get worse, yet it did. I was brought to my knees and broken. One week, in particular, was rough. I went to church that week numb and hurt.

5 Steps to keep your faith during hard times Pinterest image

I sat in service practically scoffing at God. How could He be good in the midst of all He was allowing to happen? Where was His justice? How could He be good? Where was His grace?

I don’t know what the sermon was about, because the cross at the front of our church caught my attention. The cross was what mattered.

Whether God was good or just or full of grace didn’t matter. What mattered is I knew the truth that He sent His Son to the cross to die for me.

When I had no other answers to anything else, I had the answer of Jesus and His love. And in that moment, it was enough.

It was enough until the hard times eased down, and I could once again see God’s goodness and grace. Jesus is always enough. Always.

I still struggle with justice. I still struggle in many ways. But I know God loves me. And just that is enough, because it is the foundation of my faith.

3. Talk to God when you have doubts in faith.

Just like in any relationship, when we are struggling with faith, we still need to communicate and work through it. Praying can be hard when we wonder whether our prayers are even getting through.

Wanting to talk to God when you are upset with Him is hard. But we have to try.

The good news is we don’t have to have all the right words. We can be honest with God. He won’t get offended and leave us. He won’t forget us, and He’ll be right there. And He has given us the Holy Spirit to help us pray even when we can’t quite get all the words out ourselves.

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

Romans 8:26-27 (NIV)

As I began to heal and my faith began to stabilize, I realized I still struggled to see God at work. I prayed for His help to see Him and His goodness in my life.

I knew in my head that He was there and working, but my heart was struggling to believe it. He answered my prayers and opened my eyes to see His hand in my life.

I prayed that prayer a long time, because I needed the reminder to look for God and His help to see Him.

4. Find hope to keep your faith in the hurt.

As I started seeing God at work again, I also saw how so many of my previous struggles prepared me to survive the struggle I was in. I saw how He’d been working on me for years, so I’d be ready for this time.

Recognizing these things strengthened my faith and reminded me of God’s faithfulness, grace and power. God worked on me for years before I even knew about the situation. He is still working for my good for the future!

5 Steps to keep your faith during hard times Pinterest image

I slowly felt more hopeful, but I still battled increased anxiety and depression. Along with my prayer to see God’s goodness and work in my life, I started a gratitude journal.

I wrote three different things each day for which I could thank God. Even hard days and times have blessings. Some days the most I was thankful for was the breath in my lungs, food on the table and a roof over my head.

However, it wasn’t long before I found so much more than the bare necessities for which to thank God. Eventually I was back in the habit of seeing God and His goodness. I was back to thanking and praising Him.

My faith had moved from shaky ground to solid ground. God’s faithfulness restored my faith to solid ground.

5. Decide to trust God completely.

Dealing with shaken faith is difficult. We get a choice whether to keep our faith during hard times. We can head down the path to find our way back to God and His strength. Or we can choose to give up on Him.

No matter the situation, don’t give up on Him. Don’t question His blessings, His goodness or His faithfulness. Remember the cross. Remember how He gave His only Son for you to have eternal life with Him.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16 (NIV)

This verse may be one of the most well-known in the Bible, but it is a perfect Bible verse to strengthen your faith in hard times. Remembering we can trust God completely because He loves us so much is vital.

Keep your faith during hard times

While your faith may be shaken, your God is not. You may have doubt in faith, but God never has a moment of doubt in His love for you. He is ever faithful and true.

Talk to God. Take a step toward Him, and He will come running to meet you. It may take time, but He is working on and for you. He loves you, and He will help you move from shaky faith to solid ground.

5 Ideas for a great Father’s Day celebration

How to give him a meaningful Father’s Day celebration

Coming up with ideas for a Father’s Day celebration can be tricky, to say the least. If the men in your life are similar to the ones in mine, they are low-maintenance guys who will tell you they don’t care what they do for Father’s Day. They aren’t rolling in suggestions of what a perfect and meaningful Father’s Day celebration would be.

So, I’ve been doing some thinking and a bit of chatting with my own husband to come up with ideas I think most dads would really love for celebrating Father’s Day. I looked at ideas across the internet and found most of them weren’t actually created with dads in mind. Maybe some dads would love to do a family workout, scavenger hunt or puzzle to celebrate Father’s Day, but I don’t think the guys in my life would.

Instead, I’ve got some low-key and meaningful ideas for a Father’s Day celebration, because more than anything we want the dads in our lives to know how much we appreciate them and love them.

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.

1. Let him rest.

Last Mother’s Day, I shared some no and low-cost gift ideas for moms. At the very top of the list was giving her the gift of a nap. I have to start in the same place with dads. Parenting (and adulthood in general) is exhausting. Especially dads who are living with young kiddos at home could use some rest. While I love a good nap, my husband loves sleeping in.

Whatever rest looks like for your guy, let him enjoy some rest and downtime on Father’s Day. Maybe it doesn’t mean sleeping in or napping. Maybe he wants to watch a show in peace or read a book. Let him have some downtime.

2. Keep it low-key.

So, I will say that maybe not all guys would love low-key Father’s Day celebrations, but the ones I know really would. In the past, I’ve tried asking my husband for ideas of what he wants to do. Honestly, I think it just adds more pressure to him. Of course he wants to be recognized and appreciated for all he does, but he also doesn’t want a big to-do that means he has to act really excited about something he really doesn’t care so much about.

You can ask him if he has anything he wants to do, but keep it low pressure. If he says he doesn’t have anything he wants to do, then let him be. Use some of the ideas on this list. Dads are under so much pressure in taking care of their families and managing work and everything else that the last thing we want to do on a day that’s all about them is add more pressure!

3. Do his favorite activity.

Think about things your husband likes to do and figure out a way to make that happen as a family. For example, if he loves golf, plan a trip to play mini golf or at a driving range. If he loves watching movies, plan an afternoon movie you can all watch together with his favorite snacks. Maybe your guy likes playing games. Pick a game your whole family can play and make memories.

The other thing I know about dads is that it’s often hard for them to find time for their hobbies or things they enjoy in the midst of all they have going on. Taking the time to plan something you know he’ll enjoy will make his Father’s Day celebration all that much better. Getting to do that activity with his family is great, because dads like making good memories and having fun with their kiddos. Father’s Day is a great time to be intentional about making that happen in a way your guy will love.

The bonus we’ve found is that anything my husband or I are into or excited about, our kids are also at least interested in it as well. They want to be involved in things we’re interested in or excited about.

4. Eat his favorite food.

Whether it’s from a restaurant or from your kitchen, your guy’s favorite food should be on the menu for his Father’s Day celebration. My husband loves the bacon ranch cheese bread I make. I don’t make it all that often, so it’s definitely a treat for him. Even if it’s a dish you make all the time, if he loves it then Father’s Day is a great time to make it. Or take him out to eat at a restaurant he loves or a restaurant he chooses.

While my love language is food, my husband’s isn’t so much. But still knowing you’ve made the effort to have food he enjoys will make him happy.

5. Give thoughtful gifts.

You can find all sorts of gift ideas for Father’s Day, but the gifts that mean the most are the ones with the most thought behind them. Just like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day is one of those holidays where it really is the thought that counts. Dads want to know they’re appreciated. They want some acknowledgement that their family sees and appreciates their hard work.

When I stop to truly think about what all our husband does for our family, I am overwhelmed and humbled. He makes sacrifices the kids aren’t even aware of. He is a steady, calm presence that makes us all feel secure. My husband can make the kids and me laugh like nobody else. The list goes on and on. Father’s Day is the perfect time to let him know you see what he’s doing and you appreciate it.

Go for a card (homemade or store bought) that you write in. Have the kiddos draw pictures or write what they love about dad. Buy him a gift you know he wouldn’t get for himself. Give him a photo of the kids (or him with the kids!) that he can put on his desk. Heck, you can even give him a cheesy mug or t-shirt proclaiming how great he is along with a nice card. He’ll enjoy being appreciated. We all need that acknowledgement and dads are certainly no different!

Tween girl gift ideas

25 gift ideas tween girls will love (by a tween girl!)

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.

Tween girls are the hardest humans to shop for. With changing mentalities and all that jazz, you may never know what to get them. Being the superhero I am, I have provided you with lots of tween girl gift ideas that are tween girl approved — by me!

Accessories & jewelry

You pretty much can’t go wrong with accessories and/or jewelry for a tween girl gift!

Lucky Fortune bundle

Jewelry, scrunchies, stickers and more! This is a fabulous set tween girls would love.

Projecting necklaces

These necklaces are so cool, because they have a tiny ball on them that when a flashlight shines through it onto a wall in a dark room, you can see an image. How neat!

Name necklace

How cute is this personalized necklace?! Love, love, love! You can pick the color, font and chain length also.

Charm jewelry set

Jewelry making is something many tween girls enjoy, and with this charm set, she’ll have plenty of options!

Message bracelet

These bracelets are super cute! I wear one that says “The love between a mother and daughter is forever” (Mom has one, too!), but I would totally get more!

Encouraging necklace

This necklace is both adorbs and encouraging. It’s a great tween girl gift to help her remember that she is brave, strong and smart, which is something we can all use!


I don’t think it’s possible to have too many scrunchies. They’re always getting misplaced anyway. I love the softness of the velvet ones that work on even my extra thick hair. And if you’re getting her some scrunchies, add in an organizer for an awesome gift!

Cute makeup bag

Great for those who actually use makeup. This gift could kind of go for anyone, though, since it doubles as a fun snack pouch. She could even use it for pencils or most anything small!

Lotion set

I love lotions that smell good and make my skin soft. Ones that have a variety of fragrances and essential oils are some of my favs!

Paper products

Whether it’s stationery, books or writing utensils, there are some great options for the tween girl in your life!

Compliment pencil set

Listen, we probably won’t tell you this, but compliments make us feel much much better, and so will these pencils. (Even right before that important math test we forgot about!)

DIY journaling set

I received one of these as a gift a while back, and have loved it!

Harry Potter book set

This is one of my all-time favorite series. If she hasn’t read the Harry Potter books, they’d be a great gift!

Scratch paper art set

Ok seriously, how cool are these?! This could easily keep a tween girl (or just about anyone!) busy for hours and hours.

Notebook Doodles

Even for those girls who aren’t exactly great at art, this book can still be fun! Whilst I have only looked through the sample version myself, the book seems like a great way to doodle, reflect and learn.

Cool lap desk

This lap desk is just so cute! Also, it is collapsible. I would seriously love this, so I assume others would, too. It would make doing homework or crafts anywhere so much easier.

Room decor

Tweens tend to be ready for a room makeover. Well, at least I am. (Summer project!) So, some cool new decor can be a fun gift for a tween girl.

LED candle

I have always thought these candles were so cool! They’d make a great gift for any tween. (And they give you the feeling of candles without an open flame, which parents will like.)

Glow in the dark blanket

This is just a fun gift no matter how old you are, but it is definitely perfect for tweens!

Cinema lightbox

Besides looking cool, a cinema lightbox is also fun because you can put your own words on it! This one changes colors and comes with 100 letters and symbols.

Moon lamp

This moon lamp changes colors and just looks neat. It also works as a more grown-up nightlight.

Just for fun tween girl gifts

Tween girls like to have fun, and these gifts help us do just that!

Karaoke microphone

This is a 3-in-1 microphone for any music loving tween! The microphone not only actually works as a microphone, but also plays music.

Instax mini camera set

I have this one, and it’s quite fun. You can find the camera in multiple colors, and it takes fun pictures in a vintage style.

A fun keychain

Whether she uses it for a house key or puts it on her backpack, this keychain is sure to result in giggles!

DIY squishes

These are just fun, and a good general gift for most girls under 13. (They are also super cute and make for a fun afternoon)

Bubble pop fidget toy

First of all, these are super fun for any age. They pop a lot like bubble wrap. Second, if the tween girl you’re buying a gift for isn’t a fan of pink butterflies, have no fear! There are about 50 different options, so you should be good.

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Family read aloud chapter books for kindergarteners through 5th graders

20 of the best read aloud chapter books you and your kids will enjoy!

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When my oldest kiddo was about 3 months old, we began reading aloud to her before bedtime every night. She’s now 11-1/2 and we still haven’t stopped. Our reading now includes her 8-year-old brother. We have evolved from short, board books to chapter books. Around kindergarten, my kiddos were able to keep up with read aloud chapter books. We’ve found quite a few that we’ve enjoyed together as a family.

While my kids can read on their own, we enjoy reading books together. We make it a priority to spend 15-20 minutes together before bedtime each evening. Our kids get ready for bed, we pray together and then we read together. We’ve read all sorts of things. We’ve navigated through series and gotten enveloped in worlds as well as read stand-alone books. With our youngest being 8, we also read picture books.

Reading together before bedtime helps our kiddos settle down from the day and get ready for bed. Plus, we also enjoy the time together. (And I’m all for snuggling together to read!) Sharing a book together is fun. In fact, we often reference the books long after reading them. As an avid reader myself, I absolutely love that! We also pass time on road trips by reading together.

Both of my kids spoke early and well and have great vocabularies, which I attribute at least in part to our reading time. And, if you need more convincing to read aloud to your kiddos, all sorts of statistics show how beneficial it is to children. Reading with their parents encourages children to love books and exposes them to language they won’t hear elsewhere. Regular reading time is also linked to kids’ academic success.

So, pick a book off the list, order a hard copy or e-edition and get to reading with your kiddos! The majority of them are book series, so you’ll find way more than 20 books represented here. I’ve organized them by age range, but you know your kids best and what they’d like. We have read some of the books for third to fifth graders with our younger son, and he loved them as well!

Kindergarten through 2nd grades

We love “The Jesus Storybook Bible” from Sally Lloyd-Jones so much. Every story points to Jesus. We’ve read it through many times, and I love it just as much as my kiddos do! It’s divided into stories rather than traditional chapters, but it counts as a chapter book to me since you don’t read it all at once.

One of the first chapter books we ever read with our kiddos was the “Mr. Putter and Tabby” series. These books from Cynthia Rylant are divided into short chapters. For younger kiddos, a chapter at a time is just right, but as they get older, you can read then entire book at once if you’d like. This series is also great for emerging readers to try on their own with you and they don’t need to be read in order.

Another Cynthia Rylant series our kids have loved is the “Henry and Mudge” series. My son especially enjoys these books because he loves his dog so much just like the main character, Henry, loves his dog, Mudge. Again, the books have short chapters, are great for emerging readers and can be read by chapter or all at once. While the first book of the series introduces the characters, the books don’t have to be read in order to make sense.

The “Geronimo Stilton” books follow a journalist mouse who goes on all sorts of adventures. We’ve enjoyed quite a few of these books together. The fun part of Geronimo Stilton books is that you can find them for most any setting since sometimes Geronimo travels through time. Each book includes an age-appropriate mystery. This series is OK to be read in a random order.

We love, love, love the Humphrey book series from Betty G. Birney! (Humphrey likes to emphasize words sometimes by using them three times in a row, so I couldn’t resist.) Humphrey is a hamster who is a class pet to a second grade classroom and gets up to all sorts of things. The 12-book series is entertaining with great character development and plot lines. Humphrey books are good to read in order starting with the first one, but they make sense even if you don’t read them in order.

You also can’t go wrong with classics, like E.B. White’s “Charlotte’s Webb.” Both of my kiddos read this book with their classes in kindergarten during class story time. And they both enjoyed it. This pair of unlikely friends — a pig and a spider — have a heartwarming story that has been enjoyed for generations.

A newer-to-us series is again from Cynthia Rylant. “The Lighthouse Family” series of eight books follows a mismatch family of animals who come together by the end of the first book to run a lighthouse. There is just the right amount of trouble to keep young readers interested but not so much as to make them anxious or worried. Read this series in order.

Another great series of 26 read-aloud chapter books is Ron Roy’s “A to Z Mystery” series. My daughter read them on her own in second grade, but we’ve read a few of them aloud together. Both of my kids love this series. They both dressed as characters from this series for a dress-like-a-book-character day at school when my son was in kindergarten and my daughter was in third grade. Each story in the series is independent, so they don’t have to be read in order.

My son and I have recently read a few of the “Magic Treehouse” books by Mary Pop Osborne together. This 28-book series follows the adventures of a brother and sister, who travel by treehouse to various locations and time periods. While reading them in order is a good idea, they don’t have to be read in order to make sense.

Based off the characters from the “Fancy Nancy” picture books, the eight “Nancy Clancy” chapter books by Jane O’Connor follow along with an older version of Nancy. My daughter, in particular, enjoyed reading through these books with me. We read them together before my son was old enough to enjoy chapter books. With great story lines and just the right amount of tension, these books are best read in order.

3rd through 5th grades

Two years ago, we planned to take our children to Orlando, Fla., on spring break. Since we wanted to take them to both Disney World and Universal Florida, we started reading J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series with them. To say they fell in love would be an understatement. The 7-book series is definitely one of our family’s favorites. We’ve read all the books and watched the movies afterward. It took us time to get through all of them; we only managed book one before our trip. But we all loved rooting for the boy wizard who had to overcome so many obstacles. I read the series years ago on my own as an adult and enjoyed it even more reading through it again with my children. The story lines continue from one book to the next, so read this series in order.

Because our family also loves Judy Garland movie and because both of my kids were munchkins in a K-12 production at their school, we also have read L. Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz” out loud together. It’s a great read-aloud chapter book that you can then follow up with the movie, especially if you’ve not watched it with your kiddos before. There are additional books as part of this series as well. I’ve only read the first one with my kiddos.

If you’re not looking for a read aloud chapter book series, consider “Because of Winn Dixie” by Kate DiCamillo. My daughter read it for school in third grade and we read it along with her at home. All four of us enjoyed this story that has well developed characters and many touching moments.

Growing up, I loved Judy Blume books so much that I picked her as my career inspiration in fifth grade. So, I was excited to share her books with my kiddos. Neither have enjoyed them as much as I did, but the 5-book “Fudge” series is great for reading out loud and best for reading in order.

L.M. Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables” 8-book series is another great read aloud chapter book for upper elementary kiddos. My daughter and I read through the first book together a few years ago. It’s one we’ll come back to. Because my daughter has red hair, we enjoyed reading about a main character with red hair! (And note that the Netflix version of Anne isn’t completely in line with the books and has darker content.) As Anne grows up from book-to-book, it’s best to read this series in order.

Another book I loved as a child and have been excited to share with my kids is Madeleine L’Engle’s “Time Quintet.” Just a few years ago, I learned “A Wrinkle in Time,” the first book of the series, was actually the first book of five. So, I read the remaining four and they are just as terrific! I’ve read part of “A Wrinkle in Time” aloud to my daughter, but she was too young to grasp it. I can’t wait to read it with my kiddos again now that they are older. This quintet is on my list for us to read together. I love the characters and lessons woven into these books, which you should read in order.

Our current read aloud chapter books have been “The Mapmaker Chronicles” by A.L. Tait. I bought the first three books for us and we loved following along with 15-year-old Quinn Freeman on his dangerous task of mapping the world. He had all sorts of adventures that kept us all intrigued and interested while also being age-appropriate. I found the fourth book in the British version recently and we just started reading it. Read this series in order.

Another great read aloud chapter book is Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” The book is such a fun read (even more so than either of the movies). Charlie is an easy underdog for whom to cheer. A sequel to the books, “Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator,” continues the story. I read the sequel myself when I was a child, but I haven’t read it with my kiddos.

The 7-book “Chronicles of Narnia” series from C.S. Lewis is great for family reading. We’ve not yet read through the series together, though my daughter is about halfway through the first book. This series is also on my list for us to read together. And the movies made from this series are pretty excellent. Just like with other books I’ve mentioned, we’ll watch the movies together after reading the books, which are best to read in order.

And, finally, I’m rounding out the list with Rick Riordan’s “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” 5-book series. My daughter recently finished this series and fell in love with it. When we were talking about chapter books to recommend for families to read together, she insisted I include this series. We watched the first movie together after she finished reading the book, and I have a feeling we’ll read this series as a family together pretty soon. The story line continues from one book to the next, so you should read them in order.