Tree of Life Mothering Picture Book of the Week: On Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck


It happened again. I read this book two days ago to my little guy and got teary-eyed. I have read this book aloud every year for the past 8 years or so, every Christmas, and every year, I always cry. It’s just so sweet! At least this time, I maintained composure. I think I can read it tomorrow to my homeschool group and not get a catch in my throat. As I read it recently, I noticed new things. I had never noticed until this year’s reading that the tiny circle of light on the cover image is coming from the flashlight beam of the main character, as he walks to the barn to give his Christmas gift to his father. It’s funny how so many things slip past me, for so long. Sometimes it takes me several cycles through to learn, not just the reading of picture books, but life! That’s another post for another day!



A gentleman in my church told the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth at our Christmas party to the little children after they sang Christmas songs.


I read the book after we came home from our church’s Christmas party so I’m including pictures from that amazing party in this post. The decorations were so wondrous. Kudos to my friend Jacklyn and her team of angels for going to all that work to honor our Savior’s birth with such beauty.



I loved this idea! The decorators planned for entertainment for the children as well. They had bags full of candy to build sleighs out of of using Scotch tape. Then the kiddos could race the sleighs down plastic slides that were attached to ladders. So clever and cute!




Another cool thing I noticed in this picture book is how the main character, Rob, a teen boy, transforms. He says that after he overheard his father tell his mother how much the dad loved his son, it made it easier for Rob to get up at 4 AM every day to do the farm chores when his dad called to him to awaken and get up. This love motivated Rob to sacrifice a gift of service on Christmas Day. As he lay awake one night before Christmas Eve, he realized that he wanted to give something more than the gift he had already picked for his dad, a necktie from the dime store. He pondered on what more he could give to his father. He finally chose to surprise his dad by doing the milking and other early morning farm chores all by himself, before his dad woke up, on Christmas morning. That allowed the dad to see all the kids run to the tree, to see what Santa brought, for the first time ever. In the story, the boy says that when he did the chores for his dad on that Christmas morning, it was so easy, because he knew he was doing the chores for his dad, just to please him, because he loved his dad and wanted to please him.

It got me thinking of how when we do things for God the Father, and His Son Jesus Christ, just to please them, that makes the hard things easier. They are still hard, a little bit, at least for me, but they aren’t nearly as hard. When we turn to God in whatever moment of pain or sacrifice we are in, and say, in our mind, if we have to, “God, Thou knowest this is hard for me. I am doing it for Thee, to serve Thy children for Thee,” then that focus and dedication make the problem easier to bear.




I learned this from Jim Cox’s book, Becoming Spiritually Centered, which I highly recommend. Last January, I started an earnest study of the book, again, after letting the concepts lapse in my life for over fifteen years. I listened to the audios and referred to the text in the book many times a month. It helped me so much! It was a wonderful gift to myself to internalize the principle of turning to God, in the name of Jesus Christ, and silently reaffirm His truths and give to him any troubles I have. Also pray to Him silently, asking for help to do the right thing to please Him. Like the time my daughter made the toilet flood all over the bathroom floor, on a Wednesday afternoon when I felt I had not time to deal with it. I showed her how to mop it all up and together we worked with a bunch of old towels to clean it all up. As I did, I told God, silently in my mind, that I was doing it all for Him, to create order and cleanliness, to serve His children. It worked! I didn’t complain. I felt joyful instead of feeling burdened.




I’ve also been thinking of how this book is the perfect Christmas picture book, because it subtly shines forth the love of Jesus, for His Father. On the surface, it’s simply a heartwarming story of the love a father has for his boy, and how that love, when finally accidentally communicated to the boy, allows the boy to feel great love for his father in return and show it with sacrifice.




On a deeper level, the book symbolizes the love of Christ, the Son of God, for His Father. Just as the son in this story did something to please his father, the Son, Jesus Christ, always sought to please His Father. That is what gave him joy, just as pleasing the father in this farm story gave the boy immense joy. So much joy that the memory of it warmed his heart decades later, even after his father had passed away.




This past week I attended the funeral for a gentleman in my church congregation who passed away after a 22 year battle with cancer. To see his wife and children speak at the funeral was such a tender experience. I love how the daughter said that they would always honor their dad by remembering him always. He will always be a part of them even though he’s not physically with them any more. That’s how I feel about Jesus. He’s no longer with us, but at every day, not just at Christmas, we can honor him by remembering him, by keeping our covenants done in His name. We can also turn to Him in our thoughts and words, turning over our troubles, laying them at His feet, and actively do things, purely in order to please Him.

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Best Financial App for Your Family Ever! New! It’s a Digital Cash Envelope System!


Have you ever wanted to use the cash envelope system? But it seems too cumbersome?

This post is long, so if you are short on time, watch the video above and go here to learn more in a snapshot of time. If you have more time, read on about my backstory and why I’m so excited about Qube! Qube is a new financial app that will help you get out of debt, know how much money you have at a glance, in each budgeting category, see what your spouse is spending, and then save a lot of money so you can be financially free forever more!



I have used the cash envelope system for almost four years now. I’m so grateful for it. That’s how my husband and I finally got control of our finances so we could get out of debt last June. You can read the start of my story here, and all about the end of our journey, with my pretty DIY cash envelope here.

The cash envelope wallet is great because it forces you to get in touch with your money, see it, touch it, and even count it, before you spend it.

As great as the cash envelope wallet is, let’s face the drawbacks. It’s hard to pay cash at the gas station when you are a young mom and don’t want to leave your children in the car to go pay inside with cash…or unbuckle all of them to go pay only to have to buckle them all up again. It’s also impossible to pay online with cash. If you lose your envelope wallet, you are out of luck.

Wouldn’t be nice to have the budgeting, organizational features of the envelope system, as well as the physicality of being required to see if you have enough money in a category before you spend it, with the convenience of a debit card that is attached to the envelope system? So that when you buy from amazon, the money you spent is immediately deducted from your envelope system?

Have you ever wished that you could integrate all of your money systems? So that all your money, anything you usually pay with cash, your digital money, like PayPal,  your checking account, and your savings, are all controlled by an app on your phone? On top of that, do you want the money you spent tracked automatically, so you have an instant ledger? Have you wished that you could have a fund of money that your children can access, with a debit card, like when they go on a trip, so they can buy food with a card, but not overspend?

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Dream no longer…that app is coming to the world this spring of 2020! It’s called Qube! It’s a digital envelope system tied to a debit card!

So many personal finance apps clamor for your attention out there.

Many of them are either:

a) difficult to use

b) don’t change behavior


c) only show you what you’ve spent but don’t actually help you budget.

Fortunately, there’s a new budgeting app that is changing all of that!

It’s called Qube Money.

Qube Money is the world’s first banking system that controls spending, eliminates debt, and creates a healthy financial environment just by using the app, shared by family members.

The Qube Money app provides digital envelopes we call Qubes. This app includes budgeting envelopes in digital form tied to a physical debit card, debt payoff tools, and kid cards with family access. The ultimate goal is to create harmony when spending while strengthening relationships and building financial independence.

This new app launches in the spring but right now, the company, Qube, is offering lifetime memberships. You’ll get access to all of the premium features and you’ll only have to pay once!

After it launches, lifetime membership access will end and the only thing available will be the monthly subscription.

Imagine how cool it would have been to get a lifetime membership to Amazon Prime if you like to shop online, or a lifetime membership to Netflix if you like to watch movies. Wouldn’t you have loved to have locked that lifetime membership in at a super low price?

Qube will change the way you use money just as Prime and Netflix have changed the shopping and entertaining habits of the masses. This is something you will want to use multiple times a day to manage your money! You can get it now for the lowest price it will ever be! Go here to learn more. This introductory price goes up in 4 days!

A pilot version of the app has already helped thousands of people be more intentional with spending. Qube is on a mission to help married couples with harmony in their spending so it is on a mission to decrease the divorce rate by 1%.

What others are saying about the Qube app:

“I have been using a pilot of this product for a couple of months. I like it that both my wife and I can spend money and both see what is left over at any time. I can buy stuff on Amazon which I couldn’t do before from my cash envelopes. Although I have been using cash envelopes since 2003 when I went through Financial Peace University, I like this new system a whole lot better and don’t plan to switch back.”

“My wife and I are so excited to use Qube! Since the announcement of the restructure I have checked my inbox every day waiting for the announcement of the programs launch (even though you guys said it would be several months, haha). We have done cash envelopes for YEARS and are so beyond ready for Qube!”

If you’d like to learn more and become one of the first to use the new budgeting app, check out their offering here!

Don’t miss your chance to grab a lifetime membership before they’re gone! Go here to learn more and get it now! A limited number of lifetime membership are available. On December 9 the price goes up from $134 to $179! Family membership with unlimited kid cards are also on sale at an introductory price. Go here to read all the details and lock in the introductory, lifetime price!

FTC Disclosure Statement: I receive an affiliate commission if you purchase this product through the above links. The price is the same to you, and the affiliate commission helps me pay for the cost of running this blog. Thank you and enjoy your quest for financial freedom!



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How I Saw the Hand of God in My Life in November 2019


Before I say goodbye to November, here are a few experiences I had last month where I felt the hand of God in my life. Listening to William Bradford’s book, History of Plimoth Plantation



and my friend Audrey’s podcast about William Bradford  shows me God’s hand in the Pilgrims’ lives. The Pilgrims weren’t perfect, but neither is any other group of people. They did some great things. I’m so grateful for their sacrifices. That got me thinking more of how God moves through all of us. Here are few of my experiences


  1. I went to the bank to withdraw some money early in November. It was a Saturday so it closed early, at 1 PM. I was in a hurry to withdraw some money and then get to a friend’s home for a social event. I got to the drive-thru portal with just minutes to spare so I was feeling flustered. Someone drove up behind me,  and parked behind me, waiting for his or her turn. That made me even more flustered. I wondered, “Why is that driver parking behind me when he or she can go to the empty lane and get service right away?? Now I feel even more flustered.”  Within seconds of driving away after finishing my withdrawal, I got a phone call. A friend,  who also lives in my church congregation, asked me if I had just been through the drive-thru. She said she was right behind me and found my driver’s license in the tube carrier thing. She told me that the bank teller had it now so I could go back and get it from her. I thanked her of course and promptly retrieved my license. So the person I had let myself be irritated with turned out to be my greatest help in that moment. God knew I was going to accidentally leave my license in that tube, so I feel he inspired her to drive up behind me so she could let me know and save me some stress and frustration. Who knows when the bank would have called me. It just makes me wonder, how many times do I let myself get irritated or frustrated by someone or something, when really, that person or thing turns out to be a great help? I could save stress by just treating all potential irritations as potential helps.




2. My husband found a $100 bill on his dresser. He asked me if I put it there. I said no. He didn’t leave it there. We don’t know how it got there, but I feel so blessed that we received it. It meant we were able to have more money instead of month at the end of November. We’ve been doing the Dave Ramsey Baby Steps. We got out of debt in June and have been doing Baby Step #3 so the budget is still pretty tight with all that money that went to the debt snowball now going to savings. I like to think an angel put it there.




3. For years, I’ve been wanting to  read aloud picture books and play more games as part of our homeschooling routine with my children. I started out the plan to play the games in Utah before we moved. Then here in AZ I attempted to do it on Fridays. That didn’t last long. These kids didn’t want to play games! Go figure!




Well, I was recently given an opportunity to have other children in my home for part of our schooltime. As I thought about what to do, for my “lesson plan” I realized, hey, we can do what I’ve been struggling to do with my own kids, over the years. That is, read at least one picture book a day to ALL of them and play educational board and card games!



I read aloud chapter books every day, that’s been a decade-long or more habit, but the picture book thing for all of them wasn’t a daily habit yet. I’ve just been reading aloud picture books at bedtime to my youngest, my baby, who is ten. He’s my baby but he’s growing up! I’m so glad he actually likes being read to.  He actually askes for it. That melts my heart! The other kids, thirteen and fifteen, however, don’t ask for it like he does at bedtime but will cooperate with me if I insist we do it for school. The trick has been remembering to do it!




I kept forgetting to have it be part of our morning time school routine. But now with these other kids coming over, I remember. I love playing games and reading aloud picture books! I could do it all day! It’s especially fun if I can have the picture book relate to the game. Like one of these days, after Christmas, I’m going to read them the picture book about Monopoly



and then play it even though I loathe that game! I heard there’s a 30 minute version of Monopoly so I can handle that. That will be for our history day. We do language arts on Mondays, math on Tuesdays, history/geography on Wednesdays and science or art and music on Fridays. I feel God has been watching over me, knew the desires of my heart, and worked out how to make it happen in my life.  I look forward to seeing God work out my other righteous desires. How has God been working in your life?



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Super Cheap DIY Festive Thanksgiving Garland



Remember when I posted about the festive Independence Day garland that I learned how to make here? I used the same directions but different colors for fall/Thanksgiving. I drape these on my hutches and above doorways. I love how the pink, orange, and yellow combine together to be so eye-popping! I also love how they go with all my Pioneer Woman tablecloths. I meant to put these up starting in September but didn’t get them up until after Halloween.  I will be so sad to take them down after Thanksgiving. At least when I take them down that means I can replace them with red, white, and green streamers for Christmas. I’m thinking a mint green with red and white will be extra pretty. We shall see if I can find mint green crepe paper.



Excuse the mess in the kitchen background. That’s life! We hadn’t cleaned up after lunch and I wanted to get this up. I plan on making winter garlands again in January out of jewel tones and then some again in February out of red, pink, and white. Easter will be pale pink, yellow and aqua blue or lavender.

Read my suggestions on the original blog post so you know how to keep the thread from breaking as you sew the garland, and remember to “fluff” out the layers like butterfly wings so the whole streamer looks a lot prettier than if the layers are all lying flat. The colors in my streamer are the same in Dana’s video, I just changed the order so that the yellow streamer is in the middle.




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Thanksgiving/Black Friday/Cyber Monday Sale of My Two Ebooks


My ebooks are on sale for Thanksgiving/Black Friday/Cyber Monday/ Giving Tuesday, and the Wednesday after!

The ebook detailing how I lost 70 lbs in less than one year is here. It’s regularly $4.99, but is on sale for 99 cents. Go here to learn more about it and buy it.

My ebook full of links to stories, songs, poetry and scriptures grouped according to seasonal themes is explained here, with the link to buy. It’s regularly for $9.99 but on sale for 99 cents as well!

Both of these products are digital downloads, as such there are no refunds.

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12 Thanksgiving Games for Homeschool and Family Time


I love Thanksgiving time! I love the coziness and hygge-ness of it all. If you don’t know what “hygge” is, it’s pronounced “hoo-gah,” and you can learn more about it over here. If you want to really get into it, check out this podcast on “hyggeschooling.” I love the idea! It’s what I’m doing!

Maybe you are like me and aren’t having a big gathering of relatives or friends this year. Maybe it’s just your own family, your half family (as is the case in the pic above and what we will have this year as well) or a small group of friends. I am going to miss the fun we had last year in Utah. We won’t be seeing my whole huge clan this year, on either side of the family tree, like we did last year. I am, for the trade-off, however, looking forward to having more control over what happens by having The Feast at my home this season with just a small group. Whatever the case you are in, if you are looking for activities that don’t involve watching football or overeating, here are a few games for togetherness. They will increase engagement, learning, and connection with whomever you celebrate the day with, hopefully resulting in light and laughter. You can also use them in your homeschooling like we are this week.




  1. Thanksgiving Scattergories– You can find Scattergories new of course, at major stores or amazon, or so much cheaper, in used condition, at a thrift store, It’s one of the most common board games I see all the time while thrifting.  (Scene It is the game I see most often.) In fact, I just saw two Scattergories at my local Goodwill this morning! You don’t even have to have the official game with the cool 20-sided die. Just write down all the letters of the ABCs except the 6 least commonly used letters. Cut up your paper so you have one letter per piece of paper, fold the papers, and put in a small cup or bowl. Give everybody a pencil and paper.  Set your phone timer for a short time, like 15 to 30 seconds. Or a minute if you have deep and broad thinkers. Take turns rolling the die or drawing out a letter on a paper. Shout out a category from the list of Thanksgiving categories here.  Then everybody races to write as many words that fit that category starting with that letter. We use phrases too that begin with that letter. I don’t even know if that’s allowed in the official rules. (I left out a few categories I didn’t think applied to kids, like “someone you look forward to playing footsie with” when we played this morning.) Then have everybody read off his or her list. Whenever someone writes what you write, you both have to cross it off. You score 1 point for each original word or phrase you thought of. First person to get to 5 or ten points wins. We had some very creative answers this morning when playing this game! I love seeing pencils put to paper, as thinking made manifest.




2. Thanksgiving Word on the Street. Word on the Street is one of the best board word games ever. That’s because it involves everyone playing at once. I love games like that. I haven’t seen this one as often as thrift stores. You might have to get it new. Use the same categories as found in the same link I referenced above as for Thanksgiving Scattergories. I love playing this game with kids because it’s such a stealthy way for practicing spelling skills. Especially if they come up with “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!” Yeah, the kids were stretching it to make that relate to Thanksgiving, when we played this morning, LOL! Word on the Street Jr. is best for kids as it involves vowels, unlike the regular version for adults, which just has consonants.

3. Thanksgiving Escape Room. We are doing the one using math here for our homeschooling tomorrow. Then there’s a free one here that’s a general Thanksgiving theme. I can’t wait to see the kids engage with this!

4. Thanksgiving Double Ditto. We were going to play this today but ran out of time. I don’t have a real official game, I was doing to do it homemade. It’s basically the opposite of Scattergories where the goal is to answer the same answer as the other players instead of avoiding duplicates. Read the directions here for regular Double Ditto and then you can use the Thanksgiving categories I referred to above.




5. Thanksgiving Pictionary. Who doesn’t know how to play Pictionary? This has been a staple party game since it came out when I was in high school. We got it for Christmas my junior year and I’ve loved it ever since. Google if you are a rare game player who doesn’t know how to play. You don’t have to have the official game, just use white boards and markers. As gamemaster, make a list of Thanksgiving words. Have teams, and score one point for each word guessed in a set amount of time. First team to five or ten points wins.

6. Adapt other games like Taboo, Apples to Apples, or Password with Thanksgiving themes. These games are all easily DIYed. Rules can be found at Apples to Apples would be the hardest to DIY, as you would have to come up with a lot of cards, but it could be done. I have seen Apples to Apples a lot lately while thrifting, four games in the last two weeks! You could use the adjective cards in the box and come up with your own Thanksgiving-themed nouns.


6. Thank-you Notes. OK, so this isn’t a game but I had to sneak it in here. Get some bright colored cards and envelopes, lots of colored pens and pencils. Set out some snacks and or leftovers, for those still hungry, later in the Thanksgiving day. Hopefully, that’s enough to encourage everyone to write a few thank you notes to people who have given to them, like church leaders, friends, family members, and community workers. I got this note below a few years ago from a sweet little girl in our co-op, which melted my heart.

7. Thanksgiving Mad Libs. Just Google and I’m sure you will find some ideas.

8. Thanksgiving Trivial Pursuit. Use Thanksgiving trivia questions from here and adapt to the Pursuit board game or just toss out the questions and score a point for each one answered correctly.



9. Thanksgiving Spontuneous. Use the Spontuneous board game. I just found this one at a Goodwill for less than $3! Woot! When each player makes their trigger word list, ask them to do three regular words and three that come from songs about gratitude. This might be a stretch for some people. Knowing Thanksgiving hymns and Primary songs of gratitude from the The Children’s Songbook of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints helps.

10. Both the New England Game 


11. Keyflower would allow one to feel more what the Pilgrims felt. I haven’t played either yet but they look promising. Check amazon. I have them on my wishlist to find while thrifting or on ebay as they are pricey.

Keyflower Board Game

12. The Thankful Game. Everyone makes a gratitude list of what you are grateful in a set amount of time. Then read them aloud and cross off duplicates. The one who has the most unique answers gets to pick the next game. I learned about this from Linda and Richard Eyre.

Ooh, my mind is going crazy with ideas…Thanksgiving Bananagrams, Thanksgiving Boggle…Thanksgiving Charades…Thanksgiving Jeopardy! I’m sure you can think of more! The site probably has some of these adaptations.

Happy Thanksgiving and happy gaming everyone! Remember, games aren’t only great for holidays but for everyday, especially as we enter winter. They count for homeschooling (it’s called “gameschooling”) and this time of year is extra conducive to it when we naturally want to be inside. Games make any day a hygge day! Enjoy!






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Tree of Life Mothering Picture Book of the Week: Thank You, Sarah the Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving



Did you know that….

  • Thanksgiving used to be a holiday that only some states celebrated, not all of them? It’s true that George Washington declared that the last Thursday in November be a “Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving.” As the decades rolled on, only New England states celebrated the day. Mid-Atlantic, Southern, and Western states did not celebrate it.


  • the woman who wrote “Mary Had a Little Lamb” was the one who had the vision for Thanksgiving to be a national holiday?


  • this woman, Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, worked tirelessly for years on her grand vision?


  • Sarah worked on this vision by writing letters to a variety of people: newspaper editors, magazine readers, politicians,  even the president of the United States?


  • Sarah wrote not only to one, but five U.S. Presidents: Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan, and Lincoln? She patiently worked for her dream to become true.


  • Sarah used the divisiveness of the War for Southern Independence as a reason why Lincoln should declare Thanksgiving a national holiday?


  • Sarah ran this campaign for Thanksgiving all while being a widowed, full-time, breadwinning mom to five children? Her husband died when she was pregnant with her fifth child. She made hats during the day and wrote at night.


  • Sarah waited 38 years for this vision to become a reality? In 1863, Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday, to be observed the fourth Thursday in November.


  • Sarah was the first female magazine editor in America? As such, she was the forerunner of today’s mommy bloggers. She was probably the first female influencer of mass culture for women, as editor of the Ladies’ Magazine, the most popular magazine of the day. She later went to work for Godey’s Lady’s Book.


  • Sarah was a proponent of women but disagreed with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony about the burgeoning women’s movement. She believed that men and women had different roles.


You will learn all this and more by reading the above book by Laurie Halse Anderson. I love how Ms. Anderson plays up Sarah’s determination and her power of the pen to change history and be a true superhero, who literally saved Thanksgiving as an American national holiday.  Sarah is truly a powerful example of what one mother can do! So, mothers of the world, never underestimate the power of what you can do too as you pursue your God-given vision, never letting go of your mothering vision as well!

This is such a wonderful book! It’s a fabulous combination of history, inspiration, Americana, and the power of the female, mothering mind. The illustrations by Matt Faulkner are absolutely beautiful. I give it five out of five stars!

P.S. If you don’t have a vision of  what you want to contribute to the world, like Sarah did, or a vision of your mission in life, I suggest you listen to this presentation by Brad Wilcox and read the book I show in that post. 

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