Author: reneee

DIY Family Camp

I’ll do my best to answer the questions you’ve asked….

How and why did you start doing this camp at home?

I remember reading years ago in Mothering Magazine about doing “camp at home”. Four mothers did it with their daughters. It sounded like a delightful idea! I stored that idea in my head for years. In 2007 Hilary and I decided to make it a reality. At the time we were doing Keepers at Home with our daughters, and we wanted fun activity along the lines of what their Scout brothers did. So we decided to run our two day camp and invite all of the families from our Keepers group. The best part is whole families got to spend the weekend together, getting to know each other better. Children and adults alike forged closer friendships over that weekend.

How long does it take you to plan the camp?

This is a tough one to answer. Who knows how many hours we spent brainstorming and planning our first year? The next two years we used approximately the same schedule and same meals, introducing new games and crafts to keep things fresh. This year we had three different planning/preparation days. We’ve learned a lot and things have been streamlined. For instance, year one we tie-dyed camp shirts…and that took way too long. Several of us mothers spent several hours rinsing out shirts. Year two, we did shirts in team colors and used a freezer paper stencil to put Solid Rock Camp 2009 on the back. This took probably four or five hours. Very tedious and labor intensive. This year, Hilary and I both took on screen printing as a school project. We each learned the technique and practiced it with our children. When it came to camp shirts, my children and I designed a screen, and it took less than a minute per shirt! The screen is now saved, and we’ll use it again next year.

How much do you spend on camp and how do you divide the cost?

Hilary and I are both used to being thrifty. Its a necessity in both our homes, so its no stretch for us to do camp on a budget. We are both used to making nutritious homemade meals for our families, so we do that for camp too, using all the usual methods such as buying in bulk, etc. We look for new and exciting crafts and activities throughout the year and collect supplies on sale as much as possible. This year Hilary picked up nearly two hundred plastic eggs after Easter for about 19 cents a dozen. These we filled for a huge egg scavenger hunt. By watching the sales we were able to buy our camp T-shirts for only two dollars a piece! All receipts were saved and then divided per child. The cost this year camp to $13 per camper (our first year camp was $18, the second $20- so this year was a bargain!) We did have two families confirm after the T-shirts were purchased, so they had the extra expense of paying $4 per shirt instead of two.

Our children, like most children, love tradition…And decorating camp shirts is a tradition we plan to keep. Several campers showed up this year in last year’s camp shirts!

We encourage team spirit and helping others. It is a blessing to everyone to see how the older children come along side the younger ones to encourage them. The little ones look up to the older children and the older ones grow in character as they learn to include even the youngest team members. The children always come up with team names, posters and cheers. This year every team put their names on their T-shirts (we have the Mustangs, the Leprechauns, the Blue Jaguars and the Shining Rocks).

Judah (13) made this knot board and spent over an hour teaching knots to the other campers. This was a hot activity! Everyone wanted to learn to tie the knots…when they made it through all five knots, they were rewarded with their very own ropes!

Despite what you may have experienced at other camps, our camp food is good! Or meals have remained basically the same, year to year (why fix something thats not broke?)

Day one:

Sack lunches (sandwich, fruit, juice box, string cheese, cookies)

Dinner: hot dogs, watermelon, potato salad, baked beans…then s’mores around the campfire!

Day two:

Breakfast- breakfast burritos (five dozen eggs, three pounds of sausage, cheese and tortillas. We made these ahead and assembled about fifty burritos in about half an hour), applesauce and hot chocolate.

Lunch- sandwich bar (bagels w/ cream cheese, chocolate cream cheese, curried chicken salad wraps, peanut butter and jelly) fruit and chips.

Dinner- chalupa with all the fixings, popsicles

One key to the success of our camps has been parental involvement. Every family has to have at least one parent present. This way we avoid discipline issues and everyone is assigned a job (Snack Shack, crafts, kitchen helper, etc).

To be continued…

Why? Why spend so much time and energy for two days of “camp”? The answer is simple. To build memories.

Camp Schedule 2010:

11:30 Check in/registration/lunch

12:00 set up tents

12:30 decorate shirts/team posters/team names

1:00 orientation/group pictures

1:30 group  games (shoe kick/freeze tag/ sharks and minnows/ human knot, etc)

2:00 free time/snack shack/crafts

Crafts this year included: clay, making crossbows (that shoot straws), beading, rock painting, gimping, badge making and making felted dolls

3:30 more group  games

4:30 camp songs/meal prep

We have each team help with kitchen duties and use plastic trays. These are washed in a “dish line” outside. More than one person has suggested using paper plates for ease of clean up, but we want to preserve the camp atmosphere and feel like KP helps accomplish this. The children earn tickets for washing their dishes which can then be spent at the snack shack in the afternoon.

5:00 dinner

7:00 Camp fire

8:30 in tents

9:00 lights out

Day 2:

8:00 breakfast

9:00 invention bags

10:30 group games

12:00 lunch

1:00 free time/snack shack/crafts

2:30 water balloon fight

3:00 egg scavenger hunt

3:30 take down tents

5:00 dinner

Popsicles and farewell

Campers left about 7:00 Saturday night.

Click here and here and here for two more perspectives on camp.


Meal Plans, Grocery Shopping, and a Large Family

Some of the most frequently asked questions I get on this blog relate to: meal plans and grocery shopping in our large family. This post will be my attempt at answering those.

How much money does it cost to feed your large family?

We spend $1,200 per month on groceries for our large family. I know this is what we spend and no more because we use cash only for groceries. Every two weeks we put $600 in an envelope and use that to purchase our food. The number $1,200 honestly sounds astronomically huge to me, but then I remind myself that we currently have ten kids and two adults, so that comes to $100 a month per person. Or $400 per month for a family of four. This is interestingly less than USA Today reported the average family of four spent on groceries in 2013. According to the USDA Food Plans list, a family my size, in June 2014,  would have spent $441.20 per week on the thrifty plan and $868.50 per week on the liberal plan. So I guess you could say we are doing okay.

How often and where do you shop?

I shop 3-4 times per month. We shop at: Costco, Cash & Carry (restaurant supply store), a produce market in the summer, and local grocery stores based on their sales. We shop Costco perhaps every six weeks, Cash & Carry about twice per month and the local stores when we need specific items or there are great sales.

Do you meal plan or shop first?

Meal plan, always! I gather the Tuesday sale fliers and see if there is anything worth purchasing (meat on sale, etc). I may base a few meals off of the sales or I may not. We have a clipboard hanging in our pantry with a printed list and we highlight items as they are needed. When we use up or run low on something, we simply highlight it on the list.

How do you meal plan?

I hate cooking, but you probably already know that. Even more than cooking, I hate meal planning. It really shouldn’t be that hard, since we eat every day of the year, but it really can seem overwhelming to me. Life is much, much better when I meal plan, however. This week I gave Tilly the job of meal planning because she is a Type A and she was craving all sorts of her favorite foods after two months of going without. Here is our list for the upcoming week:

Lunches: pizza bread (homemade), pita bread and tuna, sandwiches, nachos, sandwiches.

This is the base plan and we will add to it depending on what we have on hand. Each lunch will include some type of fruit, veggie, or both. We may add chips, pretzels, leftovers, or whatever else we have on hand.

Dinners: Chicken enchiladas and rice, homemade pizza, bean burritos and corn chips, cheese steaks, chili and potato wedges.

Today I went shopping and purchased $159 worth of food. This $159 included supplies to pack five sack lunches each day for the five kids attending theater camp (so 25 sack lunches).Tomorrow I will head to Cash & Carry and buy the bulk of our produce and a few staples (I will probably spend $150 there). I have money “left over” from last week, enough to cover whatever we need.

A few notes about meal planning:

This is a base plan. Every dinner includes veggies and usually a salad. Rice is eaten three or more times per week. We prefer to plan just the main dish and be a bit spontaneous with the rest.

We don’t plan each breakfast. We always have a supply of: eggs, rolled oats and the staples for baked goods (pancakes, muffins, etc).

Do you cook in bulk and freeze or cook fresh each night?

Both. I prefer to have the freezer stocked will meals, but that doesn’t always happen. Here are two great posts that describe my methods: Freezer Cooking for Real Moms  and Freezer Meals for the Large Family

What items do you buy in bulk?

Staples such as: oatmeal, flour, sugar, beans, grains. We purchase most of our produce from Cash&Carry (a restaurant supply store): bags of apples, oranges, lemons, avocados, six-pack bags of peppers, scallions, potatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, etc.

Meat is purchased either: on sale at our local grocery stores or Costco. Last time ground beef went on sale for $2.99 per pound, I went and bought $100 worth of meat and stuck in  our freezer. That was months ago and I am still using it. Costco offers whole chickens for $1.29 per pound. I can often find drumsticks for $0.99 or $1.09 per pound and I stock up then.

This is a basic overview of how I meal plan, grocery shop and feed my large family. Do you have any other questions? Ask away!


Meal Plans for our Large Family

I’ll confess, I’ve been doing terrible in the meal planning and food fixin’ department for far too long. So here it is, this week’s meal plans for our large family, including the first few days of our Month of No Sugar.


b: pancakes

l: english muffins, fruit, cheese

d: spaghetti, fresh bread, tomato cucumber salad


b: oatmeal with blueberries

l: tuna sandwiches (on lettuce for me) and fruit

d: Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole and green veggies


b: oatmeal

l: Greek Salad and raw nuts (homemade mac and cheese for kids)

d: Crockpot Orange Chicken, rice, raw veggies

Thursday (our first day of no sugar)

b:Blueberry Spinach Smoothie, rice cakes with peanut butter

l: southwest quinoa salad, string cheese, pbj’s

d: tacos, homemade refried beans, chips, restaurant style salsa, rice


b: Scrambled eggs with peppers and cheese

l: leftovers from dinner

d:  White Chicken Chili


b: granola

l: leftovers

d: Beef stew


White Chicken Chili Recipe

Now that I’m 11 weeks and a few days from my due date, I decided I need to work on teaching my older children to make dinner. The whole dinner. And nothing but the dinner. Okay, they can make something other than the dinner, but you catch my drift.

Sunday afternoon I had everyone from Enoch up to Keziah write down five dinners they would like to learn to make. With a little coaching (you really only want rice and corn for dinner? Sorry, I’m not teaching you to make steak…but when you’re a grown man, you’re welcome to fix it) they all came up with a nice list.

So, this week as I was planning our meals, I worked into it the meals my children have chosen. On the top of Tilly’s list was White Chicken Chili. Mmmm, so yummy. Here is a recipe (they’re lots out there) adapted for your family.

Soak four coups of navy beans in crockpot overnight. In the morning, turn on high.

Once beans are cooked, add:

4 cups chicken broth

4 cups shredded chicken

2 cups frozen corn

Turn down to low or warm.

Sautee chopped onions, garlic and one small can green chilies until soft.

Add 2 teaspoons cumin

1 tablespoon chili powder, until it is evenly distributed.

Add to crockpot.

Add salt and pepper, and Frank’s Hot Sauce to taste.

Serve with:

warm corn tortillas or chips


pepper jack cheese (or cheddar, if that’s all you have)

sour cream

sliced avacado


This meal gets a thumbs up from everyone in our family.


Juicing 101: Ideas and Resources for the Beginner

Post includes affiliate links

Every time I post about juicing I get a whole boatload of questions and yesterday was no different. Here are some resources and ideas to get you started.

Current Routine

Chuck’s routine right now is to get up at 5 am, go for a three mile run and come home and juice just carrots before work. For lunch he takes (I think) a couple of Clif Bars and some nuts. He drinks a ton of water at work. When he gets home he drinks a cup of coffee and juices a mixture of vegetables. Sometimes he eats a small portion of the dinner I cooked, other times he eats rice cakes and avocado, some raw nuts and some fruit.

I juice once, sometimes twice a day. Yesterday’s juice consisted of: one apple, one orange, four carrots, half a cucumber and a handful of spinach. Neither of us are “juice fasting” just adding it in to our diet while focusing on eating healthy, whole foods. Juicing is a great way to get extra micronutrients (the ones that heal our bodies!) into our system. Imagine eating that pile of fruits and veggies as a “snack” after a run…Apollo also drinks  juice daily and I believe it has contributed to his lack of sickness and colds this winter.

Am I planning to lose more weight? Yes…but I’m not focusing on a number as much as trying to become “lean” and lose the extra body fat I have. When I began this my body mass index number was exactly on the boarder between “normal” and “overweight”. It has been great to see my BMI drop and now be nowhere near the “overweight” mark.  I will say I am within ten pounds of the weight I was when I got married…16 years and 9 babies ago! And I am proud of that. I am also proud of my new ability to run a mile…I couldn’t even do that back in high school!

So, it’s the overall picture of health and fitness that we are working toward, and weight loss just happens to be one of the benefits. Chuck is a heavy equipment operator and now has guys at work asking him about juicing. You can’t miss the fact that he’s lost 30 pounds!

What we use:

We use a Champion Juicer. I don’t remember why we choose this one (we’ve had it for 8 years). Before that we had a Omega, which worked but was difficult to clean. My parents just bought a Breville.

I look at every sip of juice that take as one step toward a healthier body and one step toward feeling better.

Other Resources for juicing:

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead

This is an amazing documentary by Joe Cross. This is what jumpstarted our journey with juicing and health.

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead 2

The follow up to the original movie. Every bit as inspiring and informative!

Reboot with Joe Juice Diet: Lose Weight, Get Healthy and Feel Amazing!

Full of ideas, recipes and inspiring true stories. If you don’t want to buy it, check it out from your local library.

Reboot with Joe

Website with tons of information about juicing and free recipes.

12 Days of Juicing

Delicious recipes and gorgeous photos!

Top Ten Juice Recipes

Ten delicious recipes to get you started.

Healthy Juice Recipes Board on Pinterest


Judah’s College Survival Kit

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BeReadyPlayBook #CollectiveBias

In 1995, I spent a semester at the University of Hawaii, Hilo. I left Alaska, the state I was born and raised in for Hawaii. I traded frozen nose hairs and permafrost for sun and surf. The University of Hawaii had an excellent Linguistics program at the time and a tuition exchange with Alaska. I was able to attend the University of Hawaii at the resident rate; which happened to be cheaper than the university I was attending in Alaska. It was win-win…especially when you realize I dragged my brand new husband along with me! A six month honeymoon in Hawaii? Yes, please!

Somehow, impossibly, we are about to send a child, off to university. Not in another state, but across the state. Back in April, Judah, Chuck and I attended a scholarship dinner at CWU. Judah loved the campus and university. He applied and was accepted into their Honors College: “Central’s premier interdisciplinary program for academically talented students“. Yeah, I’m kind of proud.

Judah leaves for Central exactly four weeks from today. He will be working (he’s doing summer maintenance at the community college) up until the day he leaves. He just finished his summer quarter and completed all of his requirements for high school and a two-year Associate of Arts degree. 


We have now sent four teens on five different Teen Missions trips. We almost have packing for that down to a science. Sending a son off to college? That’s a little different. Judah will be working his way through college and money will be tight, so I want to send him with as many necessities as possible. I had a ball at Walmart selecting as many needed items as I could think of. 

I picked out this laundry basket and filled it with:

  • towels, wash cloths and sheets (twin XL for college) and laundry soap
  • toiletries: toothbrush, toothpaste, flossers, mouthwash, deodorant, razors, shaving cream, bar soap, shampoo, etc.
  • medicine: Ibuprofen and Tylenol 
  • SNACKS! A few protein snacks (natural peanut butter, nuts, beef jerky), fun snacks (candy, Nutella!, Slim Jims) and beverages (herbal tea and Dr. Pepper)
  • * Judah has been a Boy Scout for years, so I did not include: flashlight, first aid kit, etc. Things he already owns and will take. You may wan to add those items to your list.

I have to admit I had a blast shopping for all of this. I love themed parties, themed dinners, themed gift baskets. That just might be my love language, in fact. 

Starting August 28th visitors will be able to play a digital football toss game (similar to the real thing at football conference champ game half time) for a chance to win $20,000 in tuition (can be used to pay off student loans!).Dr Pepper will be giving away free prizes as well as an additional $5,000 in tuition to one lucky winner in each market, in select markets at Walmart locations. Check out for the times and store listings.

Have you sent any kids off to college? What would you put in a  college survival kit?


Homemade Chicken Fingers

These homemade chicken fingers are easy to make and a real family favorite. The only problem with these, is I can never make enough!

Step 1: Preheat oven to 425. Half thaw your frozen, boneless, skinless chicken breasts. This makes them much easier to slice.

Step 2: Slice each breast into even strips.

Step three: Gather bread coating ingredients (Panko, dried onion, garlic salt and parmesan cheese).

Step 4: Dip chicken breasts in egg, then bread crumbs mixture. Place on greased cookie sheet.

Step 5: bake for 20-22 minutes at 425 degrees. 


Large Family Camping Hacks

Post contains affiliate links.Camping with kids in the double digits (or even five or six kids) takes some planning and forethought. We have been camping with our large family since 2002. We have learned a few things over the years and I am here to share our best large family camping hacks with you.

Rent a Trailer

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box (or moving truck) when planning a large family camping trip. We drive a 15 passenger van which means there is virtually no storage space unless we removed the back seat. This year we were only taking nine kids camping, so we had the luxury of removing the seat, but it still wasn’t enough room. Chuck rented a small Uhaul  trailer which we filled with camp gear and eleven bikes. It was small enough that it was easy to pull and large enough to haul our gear.

Organize and Label

This idea came from the friends we were camping next to at our church campout in July. I was so excited about their organized set up that (much to my children’s chagrin) I went over and took photos of her system…then recreated it for our five-day camping trip not the Oregon Coast!

Chuck bought these bins with flip top lids to store our kitchen supplies and a couple of these large  Sterilite bins.  I took a sharpie along and labeled the bins on our trip. This way I knew exactly what we needed (items we remembered and the ones we forgot). I wrote it all on the outside of the bins, so they are all ready for our next trip. I am hopeful that even the older kids will be able to help pack these with minimal help.[For more ideas: here is a great post on packing for camping and this is a cool Rolled Camp Kitchen.]

Be smart about how you pack your coolers.

Chuck had the brilliant idea to get a bar mat and cut it to fit in the bottom of our coolers. This way as the ice began to melt, we didn’t have food floating around in water. This worked out so well. Once we were set up in our campsite, he opened the drain on the side, the water drained out as the ice melted and our food stayed dry.

Shop on Location

Unless you are camping in the wilderness, you may be better off shopping at your destination than home. For the past two years we have driven from northwest Washington (we are only 20 minutes from the Canadian border) all the way to the Oregon Coast. That is a long way to haul meat and loaves of bread. Our campground was only about 10 minutes from a Costco and  Fred Meyer. Next year we’ll be buying our perishables in Oregon.

Plan Your Meals

Do I even need to say this? Of course you need to plan your meals and plan well. This year we have a variety of options for breakfast every morning (granola, yogurt, instant oatmeal, muffins). I laid these out each morning and everyone chose what they wanted. Eggs in a bag have been a huge hit in the past. 

Lunches consisted of sandwiches, chips, fruits and veggies. Dinner is where I spent most of my time planning. 

Campfire Cheesesteaks were a huge hit again. 

Other favorite camping meals include: fajitas (have everything prepped ahead and just reheat), chili dogs, yogurt parfait, nachos (cooked over the fire in an aluminum pan), and meals wrapped in foil and cooked in the fire.

Think about your tents.

Tents the size of the Taj Mahal seem like a great idea…until you try to set them up and cram your entire family into it. We have found a little space can work wonders! Chuck, Apollo and I sleep in this Hooligan 4-man tent and we own several of these 3-man tents for the kids. They are inexpensive but do the job well. Also, the best thing we have ever done is give our children with sensory needs a tent of their own. There is no one to fight with and they get their space as night. 

Check out my Large Family Camping Pinterest board there are some really amazing ideas on there.

Are you a camper or a glamper? What are your favorite large family camping hacks?


LEGO Organizing Ideas for Real Families

If you have children and more than one LEGO set, then I am willing to bet you have scoured the internet for LEGO organizing ideas. Chuck and I both played with LEGO as kids and have been thrilled to pass that love onto our children. Because we believe in the value of this toy, we have bought many, many sets over the years and plan to buy many more. Each set that comes into our house, however, magnifies our need for organization. 

We have tried a few different LEGO organizing ideas in the past. For a while we used three-tired plastic drawers. These were stored in the boys’ room…which meant for the girls to play, they had to go in the boys’ room and this caused endless fights. 

I wanted so bad to have a beautiful LEGO studio like this set up for my children. But the thing is, we live in our house. I needed to find a way to organize our LEGO that worked with our home and our family.  I have learned from experience that in our family LEGO gets played with more and for longer if it is in a central area…in this case our living room. I started by finding a place to store them…I cleared out two shelves in a large shelving unit from Ikea. I then measured to inside to find out exactly how much room we had. 

While the outside measures 14 inches, the inside is only 12 inches. These were a bit smaller than I thought when I ordered them, but they ended up working perfectly. 

Next, I looked at nearly every storage bin out there until I settled on these Sterilite bins. I chose these because I like the latch (no spilling LEGO), the size (14 inches) and because they are stackable and modular. I started out with two six packs and then ordered a third when it was clear I needed more room (for a total of 18 bins). 

I also ordered one set of four deep Sterilite bins (these are twice as deep as the standard ones) and one set of four small bins. Since they are modular, they stack perfectly. A must for LEGO organization. 

We chose to sort ours by color. We have enough gray that it fills two of the deep bins! One deep bin is filled with black and the other LEGO  Bionicle and Hero Factory pieces. We also decided to keep wheels and axles together in one bin. 

In another we have windows, doors, fences, etc. The 12×12 base plates barely fit in the bins. I took this picture to show you. We do not keep the plates in there, but they are almost always in use anyway. We use another one of the bins to store our LEGO instruction books.  

The small bins contain our: mini figure pieces, LEGO Technic pieces, teeny-tiny assesories and tiny rod/axel connectors. How did I decide which pieces to separate? I observed how my children play with LEGO and tried to make the pieces they search and search for easier to find. They especially love being able to find those tiny connector pieces!

You might be wondering…but can they maintain this system? The answer, yes. Taking apart creations and sorting the pieces only takes a few minutes, compared to the initial sorting. And, I am not interested in perfection. Anything is better than two huge drawers filled with random LEGO pieces. 

We always, always have LEGO creations outing our living room. We use a train table we purchased from Pottery Barn 12 years ago. It is always covered with their latest creations. The platform they are using in the top picture here? That is an trundle bed Chuck made years ago. It is the size of a crib or toddler mattress. It is on wheels and contains the “overflow” creations. We don’t always have it in our living room, but pull it out as needed. 

This bottom picture shows what our LEGO set up looks like in the context of the shelf. You can see how easy it is to access the pieces. Close the doors, and the bins are no longer visible. 

What are your best LEGO organizing tips? For more LEGO inspiration you can follow my LEGO Pinterest board. 

{The LEGO you see pictured here are the family LEGO. Most of the kids have their own collections, that they keep in their rooms.}


How to Raise Confident Kids

In my opinion (and observation) kids gain confidence when they are given real work and are able to have real accomplishments not from being told how great they are or receiving pats on the back for simply existing. There is simply no motivation to “work harder” when everyone receives the same award. I hate to break it to you, but if Chuck doesn’t do his job at work his boss isn’t going to congratulate him for showing up and sitting around. He works construction and guess who is the first to go when work runs out? The lazy guys and the guys with lousy attitudes. That’s just not how the world works.

So here are my 5 Steps to Raising Confident Kids

1. Let your toddlers and preschoolers help.

One practical tip is to always allow your toddler or preschooler to help. They can “help” with the laundry, the dishes, dusting, cooking. At this age, they just want to be near you anyway.

So what if you three year old makes a huge mess while “helping” you bake muffins? Let him mix and pour…the mess can be cleaned up during nap time. He wants to be part of what you are doing, and trust me you want to  harness this energy and enthusiasm now. This will pay huge dividends in the future. Not only will they be confident in the kitchen, but they will feel valued for contributing to the household. Cooking is especially great, because the child gets to enjoy the (tasty) fruit of their labor!

2.  Give Them Real Work: Kids gain confidence by doing difficult tasks.

Kids are smart. They know the difference between real work and busy work. Give them the opportunity to really help. Teach your five-year-old to vacuum and your six year old to sweep. Let your twelve-year-old mow the law. Give your kid their own little patch of garden to tend. If you don’t have a yard, give them their own potted plant to care for.

A few months ago Chuck gave the job of recycling all of our formula cans to Hezekiah (10) and Tucker (8). He told him if they took care of the recycling, they could have all of the money from them. Recycling Apollo’s formula cans is a two-step job. The cans have a plastic wrapper that must first be stripped off, then the cans can be crushed. The boys have been working diligently dreaming of the riches to come as the pile of cans grows higher and higher. They have taken on this job because there is a tangible reward at the end. It is real work and they know it.

3. Let Them Fail

Oh how hard this one is as a mom. I want my kids to be happy…but you know what? I can’t make them happy and it’s not my job to try. Don’t step in at their first sign (or second or third) of distress. They them seek solutions. Be sensitive and help when you feel necessary, but take a good look at the situation first. Do they need you to intervene? Will they learn a bigger lesson by failing?

I remember several years ago when we planning a swim day at a friend’s house. We had a few tasks to accomplish before we left and I gave the children specific instructions, including to make their beds. The kids were ready to go and assured me their beds were made and rooms tidy. I went and checked on and found one child’s bed unmade and chores unfinished. Chuck was home that day, so I had the option of leaving the sobbing  child home. It was hard for me…believe me the easy route would have been to bring that child along, but this had been an ongoing issue, and I knew the lesson needed to be learned. So much better to miss out on a swim day now, than something so much bigger later on. It has been three or four years and that child still remembers that day.

When your does child fail, hug them. Talk to them. Tell them you love them. And help them to move on.

4. Let Them Out in the World

Let your kids order their own food at restaurants, ask the librarian for help them find books, collect  the mail. Let them practice asking for help from adults while you are with them. Teach them to make phone calls (to adults and businesses, not just their friends). We live in a world full of media stories of kids being kidnapped, injured or worse. Don’t let this fear rule you. Train your children and make wise choices, but let them out of your sight once in a while.

{For more on this read my post: Protecting the Gift of Fear.}

Remember the story of Hezekiah and Tucker and the recycling? Last Friday Chuck loaded up the two boys (ages 8 & 10) and drove them to the recycling center. There he allowed the boys to take care of their transaction. The man working was delighted to see the boys bring in their cans. Chuck had them both sign the receipt and the man went the extra mile to divide the money (just over $12) evenly between the two boys. They each walked out with six bucks in their pockets and a whole lot of confidence. They earned every penny and we proud of it.

5. Don’t be Afraid to Brag About Their accomplishments

Tell grandma what a great job they did vacuuming. Tell the mail man your daughter mowed the lawn. Take a picture of their LEGO creation and post in on your fridge. Take the muffins your son baked to the neighbors to sample. Tell them how proud you are of the A they got on their spelling test.

How about you? How to you help your children to grow and be confident?