Our Fall Bucket List – FREE Printable

Last weekend we crossed an item off our Fall bucket list and took our kids to our favorite pumpkin patch. The kids had a blast; the adults had a blast. Pumpkins were picked. Fun was had. It was a good day. If you find yourself in Southeast Missouri in October, you should visit Beggs Family Farm. We’ve been to a few different pumpkin patch farms, but we keep coming back to Beggs.

We had a long, hard summer of transition, working on the house, and catching up on homeschool lessons after our move last spring. However, we are trying very hard to take opportunities to make some memories this fall. It may be halfway through October, but I created a Fall Bucket List poster for us. I can’t wait to cross a few more items off our list this week!

Isn’t it cute? If you would like to have your own copy to print (or save for next year!), just click here OR on the photo above to download your own.

Happy Fall y’all!

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Back-to-Homeschool: 100 Books in August – A Read Aloud Challenge

I’m bringing it back!

Several years ago I started a reading program for myself and my kids to ease back into our homeschool routine with a fun incentive. I created 100 Books in August as a way to get our family back in the habit of enjoying read alouds as a family. We often get out of the routine with longer summer days full of playing outside and being on-the-go. However, as my bigger kids got older and started reading independently a LOT, I took a break from doing this challenge. Last week though, my big kids got to talking about it, and telling the littles how much fun this challenge was. They listed off all the fun family outings and memories that resulted from it, as their “prize.” (Putt-putt golf was the crowd favorite.)

100 Books in August

Y’all, I was blown away that they actually remembered that much of it, and how much it meant to them! Needless to say, I immediately knew I had to revive it for my littles! With babies, moves, home renovations, and all the other craziness of the last couple of years, I’m ashamed to say, our family culture of reading together has suffered. I’m REALLY looking forward to bringing it back.

If you’ve been around for a while, you probably remember how this works. It’s pretty simple.

The goal of this challenge is for us to read 100 books in the month of August. This will help us get back in the swing of reading together, and if we reach our goal (we always do), we earn a family fun day! This is a great way to get us excited about getting back into our school lessons, and it gives the kids motivation to spend those super hot afternoons reading together instead of begging for screentime or whining about being bored. (If your kids do not do this, please don’t tell me.)

My older kids love to read, but they don’t always want to read aloud, so this challenge is also good motivation for them to practice those reading skills too. This year we will follow the same rules as previous years for my older kids’ reading to count toward our goal.

Here are a few of our guidelines:

  • If he/she reads a book, it has to read aloud to the younger siblings (because this is 100 books for everyone!), bring it to us, answer a few questions, and then read a bit of it aloud to us, for it to count.
  • Our read aloud chapter books will count as 1 book per chapter.
  • Books such as our history textbook for school do not count.
  • While I want to include as many different books as possible, my kids will be choosing the books most of the time, so I know I’ll be reading some books multiple times. That’s okay!

We would LOVE for you to join us in this! I updated our sticker chart design this year. All you have to do is enter your email below, and I’ll send it straight to your inbox. So join in!

I’ll be sharing some of our favorites along the way. You can also share your progress and favorite reads with us over on Instagram using the hashtag #100booksinaugust

Success! You're on the list.

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Free Northeast Arkansas Summer Activities for Kids

Summer is here!
For many NEA families, summer means the kids are out of school and at home every day. With rising costs of everything, you may also be searching for fun activities that don’t break the bank. I certainly have been!

Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center – The Nature Center is a favorite for all my kids! They have posted their June calendar, full of different daily activities for kids of all ages. (More information about each activity can also be found on Facebook.)

June 2022 events calendar for the Forrest L. Wood Crowley's Ridge Nature Center in Jonesboro Arkansas

Library programs are often an obvious summer go-to. However, I’ve found the smaller libraries’ programs are often just as fun and engaging as those of larger libraries, but much less crowded.
The Mississippi County Library System is hosting an Oceans of Possibilities Summer Reading Program with prizes to earn and several in person events scheduled at each library location throughout the county. For July they are preparing “take & make” kits with activities the kids can complete at home.

Splash pads are possibly my kids’ favorite summer activity. Last summer my kids and I did a park hop day. We picked a few parks in our area, including one we had never visited, and spent the day hopping from playground to playground. This summer we will be doing the same, but with splash pads! If you are new to Northeast Arkansas, you might be surprised to learn there are quite a few splash pads in the area.

I’ve listed a few of them below.


Rotary Centennial Park at Craighead Forest Park
Allen Park (*Currently out of order & waiting on parts for repair as of 6/7/22*)
Parker Park

Surrounding areas
Lake City Splash Pad & Playground(*Lake City, AR)
Trumann Sports Complex (*Trumann, AR)
Irma Belcher Park (*Osceola, AR)

ASU Museum – This is a great option for rainy days or those super hot Arkansas afternoons. Enjoy the regular collections and displays, play for a while in the Tinkering Studio, and check out the short term displays and collections.


Many universities and community colleges around the state offer day to week long classes and camps for kids throughout the summer months. While these programs are often not inexpensive, this summer students in Mississippi County have a wonderful opportunity through Big River Steel to attend several classes and camps offered at the Osceola ANC campus for free!

A list of those free camps can be found here.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of all the fun, free activities going on in Northeast Arkansas this summer. If you have other activities I should include, leave it in the comments or email me at emilyaanderson@icloud.com

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A new fixer upper (life update)

If you follow me over on Instagram, you already know this, but we moved! We’re finally, somewhat, settling in, so now I can share more about it here on the blog.

If you have never lived 3 hours from your spouse while prepping and selling a house, while also homeschooling a large family, well – I don’t really recommend it. Whew. It was an adventure. We survived though, and are all so glad to be on this side of it now.

We closed the sale of our previous home in early March, but a few weeks before that we bought our new (really old) house. We aren’t certain how old it is, or what kind of house it started as, but currently our home is a 4 bedroom, 1 bathroom, with an office type space and a (extra large!) laundry room, ranch-ish style.

*Yes, we downsized. Yes, it was intentional! More on that later.*

We have lots of work to do, and I can’t wait to share it all with you! However, just like everyone else building or remodeling right now, a big part of the project is just waiting on supplies. At this point, most of what we have done has been the necessary, but less exciting stuff (like a new breaker panel and putting up electric fencing for our animals), but we have big plans for our new space.

I’ll share more about those in another post, along with some before pictures. Be sure to sign up for the email updates to see the progress!


Filed under home, home improvement

How to learn to cook without being overwhelmed

Kitchen utensils for bakery cooking on color background, Top vie

Does learning to cook sound like an exhausting, mentally overwhelming task to take to you?

Here’s a little secret. When I got married, I could. not. cook. I’m not exaggerating. Hamburger Helper was a feat. Dry chicken was my specialty. We were not bringing home much money, but I know some months our dining out spending inched a little too close to 4 digits. A large portion of that was due to my husband traveling for work, but still – it was ridiculous.

So what changed? How do I now enjoy cooking and actually cook meals my family asks for over and over? Well, the reason behind it was that I didn’t exactly have a choice. Our location and budget changed, forcing me to get serious about feeding my family (of 5 then) at home. However, I’ve put together a few things that helped me along the way and will hopefully also help to make your journey from drive thru extraordinaire to dinner bell(e) queen a little easier. If I can successfully learn to cook and actually find some joy in it, I’m certain pretty much anyone else can too.

*this article contains affiliate links*

  1. Start SUPER Simple
    Super duper simple. When I first started cooking, I’d search for things like “3 ingredient _________” or “4 ingredient ___________.” No joke. If it had too many ingredients or steps, I skipped it. Learning a totally new skill is overwhelming enough with 3 kids 3 and under at my feet. I sure didn’t need 15 steps and/or 10 ingredients, 4 of which I had never heard of! You will be surprised how much you can cook with only a few ingredients. You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated dishes for it to taste good.
  2. Make Your Own Seasonings
    Making your own taco or fajita seasoning is a great way to dip your toes into cooking from scratch! The actual cooking process isn’t much different (if at all) from using the pre-packaged seasonings, it’s healthier, and you can tailor it to suit your tastes!
  3. Get a Slow Cooker
    A slow cooker can make many recipes less complicated. There are tons of recipes out there that only require dumping in the ingredients, stirring, and then waiting on that slow cooker to do it’s thing. Soups, pulled pork sandwiches, and bbq chicken, are all quick and very easy with this method. (Check out my Slow Cooker Pinterest board here.)
  4. Get Organized with Meal Planning
    THIS was a huge one for me. The phrase “meal planning” sounds way more intimidating than it actually is. Meal planning just means an organized method to plan out your meals and keep track of what you are planning to eat and cook. Find a calendar arrangement you like, and write it all down, even if it’s just frozen pizza for lunch. Make a plan! I also recommend putting notes on the calendar for anything you have going on that would interfere with being able to spend time in the kitchen. DO NO TRY FANCY NEW RECIPES ON BUSY DAYS. Kids have practice? Not a good day for trying a new recipe with 15 steps. That’s a day for a sandwich, maybe a new hot sandwich. Maybe not.

    I’ve done a few articles about the methods I’ve used for meal planning. I started out putting pen to paper, which I still recommend for meal planning newbies, as mentioned here, and more recently I have switched to using an online planner subscription, Plan to Eat, which I shared about here. For both methods I prefer a full monthly calendar layout, even if I’m only planning a week or two at a time. It works best for my life, but feel free to do a weekly layout if that works better for you.

  5. Do not get too discouraged when that recipe everyone raved about online tastes terrible.
    It doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. Sometimes you follow a recipe exactly, and it just tastes bad. lol I’ve thrown a few in the trash after just a few bites. A couple never even made it to the table. I’m not a picky eater either, so those were rough.
  6. Get disposable dishes.
    This one is probably going to be a bit controversial, but stick with me. I’m not saying use paper plates every meal for 6 months. (Well, if you want to, do your thing, but that’s not what I’m getting at here.) You’re saving money compared to your previous dining out spending habits, so invest in some disposable plates or bowls for nights when you are planning to try a more complicated or time consuming meal. If you finish cooking and you feel proud of the meal you have prepared, you may just decide you would rather eat it on your regular dishes. You also might decide that was a lot of mental work, and it definitely took longer than the 15 minute prep time the recipe claimed and opt for an evening with less dishes.

These are just a few of the things that helped me as I taught myself to cook. Have you taught yourself to cook? If so, I’d love for you to share any other tips you may have in the comments.

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Meal Planning for a Large Family with Plan to Eat

The beginning of another year has arrived. Unfortunately, I did not write here on the blog as much as I wish I did last year. Hopefully I do better this year. I guess it is sort of a goal for this year, but honestly I’m just too exhausted to set any goals right now. Maybe in another month? The last year, mostly the last several months have nearly depleted our entire home.

In an effort to regain some normalcy for our large family in a very busy, chaotic season of life, I’ve set out to update my home management systems and routines. The first of these systems I have updated is my meal planning routine. The actual planning system I had was fairly simple and working fine. You can check it out here. The grocery list and shopping wasn’t flowing very well though, especially since I switched to mostly doing pickup orders for our grocery shopping. It was just consuming too much of my time. As a mama of many, I needed to take back some of that time for other important tasks – like homeschooling 5 kids this year. Gulp.

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

I had a friend from our homeschool co-op who had mentioned she used Plan to Eat, but I didn’t know much about it. Back in November though, I finally signed up for their free trial. (FYI they always have the option on their site to sign up this way. No commitment. BUT it is very, very worth the $39/yr fee for this large family mama. No regrets.) Plan to Eat has been a game changer.

The actual planning and calendar layout is basically an online version of what I was doing before. I still print out the finished meal plan calendar and tape it up to the inside of my cabinet door. However, it saves me time and work in a few different ways. To put a meal on the calendar, you simply drag and drop it from a list on the side of your screen. As you are making your meal plan, Plan to Eat is compiling your grocery list from the recipes you choose! When you are finished, you can click over to the shop tab and edit, print, or check off your grocery list as you place an online grocery order.

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Tips for Surviving Storm Season as a Linewife

It’s been a long time since I’ve shared much about our family’s journey in the linework world. It’s just our normal, and I’ve become pretty accustomed to the constant changes that it brings. I forget that there are so many other young couples and families starting out in the business every day. With the recent devestation along the gulf coast from Hurricane Ida, the linewife groups online have been flooded with newbies. For many of them, this is their first experience with a major storm. If this is you, I’ve got some tips to help pass the time, worry a little less, and know what to expect.

lineman on a pole with wife and kids

Linewife Storm Season Tips

The plan will change. Then change again. Over and over. (Insert “PIVOT” joke here.)My rule of thumb: “Believe where he’s going when he’s checked into a hotel room. Believe he’s coming home when he walks in the back door.” Even the hotel part is debatable, as sometimes they overbook or mix things up. Also, after most storms, the first few days are spent sitting and waiting. It takes time for the damages to be assessed, jobs organized, and assignments given.

He will be uncomfortable. It sucks. It’s part of the job/situation though. They know that going into it. It’s temporary. There will be long hours. There will be less than desirable food, maybe even no food outside of what they brought with them for a while. Sometimes they have regular hotel rooms. Sometimes they have rooms with no AC. Sometimes they are in “man camps” or even sleeping in their trucks. It doesn’t always mean they work for a terrible company or someone wasn’t doing their job. These towns have been ravaged by a natural disaster. Many local residents have been displaced, and now there are thousands more people pouring into the area to try to restore things as quickly as possible. That creates a logistical nightmare. The powerline companies and utilities are doing their best to find the resources to care for their workers.

Be very cautious about what you post on social media. This is a big one. Customers are watching. Companies are watching. Like it or not, as his spouse, girlfriend, etc. you also represent their company.

Protect your mental health. If you can’t laugh at the ridiculousness, do NOT read the comments on social media. If it’s going to make you angry or anxious, don’t even look.

You probably will not hear from him very much. Phone service may be down or congested. They will also be working extra long hours. Communicate that you would like a “good morning” and an “I’m going to bed,” text if possible, so that you don’t worry. Outside of that, just try to be patient. Another options is to utilize apps for location sharing to ease the worries on both sides.

Find something to do. Seriously. Buy a new book. Start a new Netflix show. Learn a new hobby. Paint your bathroom. Find. Something. To. Do. It will not be good for you or him for you to be sitting around bored and anxious.

Be supportive. Now is not the time to pick fights or get your feelings hurt over silly stuff. Do not be a drama mama.

Dread bedtime? Make it your time. Many linewives will tell you that as much as they love having their husband home at night, this is also a big perk to storm calls. Get the kids in bed, grab a snack and a book or tv show. Guess what – you don’t have to share and you get to pick the show!

Find community. This one is so important. It can be really exhausting answering the same questions over and over, trying to explain to others all the things you worry about or the problems you are facing while holding down the fort at home, knowing they don’t fully understand. Reach out to the wives of his co-workers if you can. Join a group on Facebook. Reach out to the other women that understand this crazy life. We are here for you. <3

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Taking Back Our Homeschool

three young kids exploring in a shallow creek

I’ve been seeing lots of “back to homeschool” posts on Facebook this month. One in particular this week made me stop though. There were pictures of kids, working hard on assignments and a cozy learning space. It appeared to be a great start to a new year. Then I came to the “disclaimer” at the bottom of the post. One I’ve seen many times over the years. This mama was explaining that their school room/area gets chilly, and the kids were dressed, but prefer to wear their robes over their clothes to stay warm.

Woah. What? Why would that even matter?
Because there’s a good chance without the disclaimer, something would be said about it.

Now, I’m sure someone is reading this and thinking I’m going to give a lecture about how it’s totally okay to do schoolwork in your pajamas. And while it totally is, (Didn’t we learn anything in college?) that’s not where I’m going with this.

What our kids wear to homeschool DOES NOT MATTER. If someone outside of your household cares, let it be their problem. For multiple reasons, I have my kids get dressed most days. It works better for us. However, I don’t give two cents what anyone else’s kids are wearing as they practice writing or read about World War I. I’ve taught plenty of lessons to kids in pajamas, superhero costumes, random ensembles of mismatched clothing, and swimsuits. And I am completely unapologetic about it.

young boy in a costume showing off a lego creation

Mamas, let’s take back our homeschools.

Take them back from the expectations of others.

Gone are the days of needing to explain or apologize for the way we craft our children’s learning experiences. Would anyone go to their child’s kindergarten teacher and ask why they have the kids sitting on a brightly colored rug together while listening to a story, insisting instead the students should all be at their desks? Absolutely not.
Do people come at homeschooling parents for not having their kids fully dressed or sitting at desks? They certainly do.

Things We Do Not Have to Do/Have/Be to Educate Our Children:

(Also known as – Things We Will No Longer Apologize or Make Explanations For NOT Doing:)

A strict 8 a.m. start time

Fully dressed kids

Fancy curriculum

A classroom in my house

Lots of extra curricular activities

Regular tests in every subject

Very structured, academic homeschool co-op classes

A college degree

Workbooks for every subject

A set number of “class time” hours

Anything else that someone outside our home thinks we “need” to have or do to fully educate our children

young girl with a pink bow writing in a math workbook

Now, I’m NOT saying any of things are bad or shouldn’t be part of a homeschooling plan. In fact, they’ve all been part of our plan at one time or another in some form. However, I AM saying every family and situation is different, and we get to choose how our learning time and space looks and feels. That’s the beautiful part of homeschooling!

The point of homeschooling is not just to teach our children the information, but to teach them to find the information and to love learning. If a space and life is created where a child learns to love learning and how to teach themselves, that will serve them well in every area of life, for the rest of their life.

That is nothing to apologize for. Ever.

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7 Smart Ways to Use a Stimulus Check or Tax Refund

Regardless of your political views on it, families and individuals across America are looking at larger sums of money in their bank accounts recently. With tax refunds and stimulus checks hitting at the same time, many are faced with the important question of “What do we do with it?” If this is you, here are a few suggestions to consider.

7 Smart Ways to Use a Stimulus Check or Tax Refund

(This article contains affiliate links. Purchasing through these links does not affect pricing, but a small portion does go to our family and blog.)

Set it aside, earmarked for mortgage/rent.
Especially if your work situation is unstable or you’re currently unemployed, this option could relieve a lot of stress and be a necessary move. This would also free up other income each month for saving or investing throughout the year.

Most people have felt some irritation or discouragement when trying to build up a decent savings, and it didn’t build as quickly as they desired. If 2020 taught us nothing else, it taught us just how important a back up plan is. Get that safety net in place.

Pay ahead on utilities.
This can be especially helpful if you struggle with wanting to spend instead of save. Once the money is spent in this way, you can breathe a little easier each month, but also don’t have a large amount sitting, tempting you to go on a shopping spree.

Pay off debts.
Seriously. Just do it. Less debt means less stress.

All the things that you usually put off unintentionally. Property taxes, pest control contract fees, car tags, car insurance if you don’t pay it monthly, etc. This could be a number of things depending on your personal situation. Also, car tags can usually be paid for multiple years in advance.

Pre-purchase or stock up on things you purchase regularly, yearly, or a couple of times a year.
This could include things like homeschool curriculum. If you have a particular curricula you use each year, you could go ahead and purchase all you will need for the next few years. Prepaid gas cards would be another useful purchase. Many places also allow you to prepay for propane for your home, and prices are usually lower in the warmer months.

Fill the freezer.
Another great way to spend some unexpected funds is stocking your pantry and freezer. There are many dry goods that can be purchased in bulk and safely stored until you need them. If freezer space is available, consider purchasing meat directly from a farmer in larger quantities. This method protects your wallet from fluctuating food prices at the grocery store, makes meal planning easier and less time-consuming, while also supporting a local business and family.

Other Food items to add to your bulk shopping list:
Frozen/Canned vegetables
Dry beans
Coffee Filters
Peanut butter

(Be sure to pick up some food storage containers like these 5 gallon BPA free buckets.)

Last but not least, start another stream of income!
If you have ideas you’ve been working on or a long-time dream for a side hustle, now is a great time to make it happen. So often people don’t go after a dream simply from the lack of funds to get started. You can cross that off the excuses list now.

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Filed under saving money

That mom who does it all, on her own – she would rather not.

That mom who does it all, on her own – she would rather not.

It wasn’t an intentional choice she made to be the mom juggling all the plates with no help. She just had no help, so she learned how to do it by herself. Her husband has always been her only teammate, and he has a full time job that’s more demanding than many understand. They’re a tiny tribe of 2, raising their kids without a “village.” It’s not a big deal anymore because it’s just life.

But sometimes it is.

Some of the moments she wishes for a “village”…

If a kid gets sick, they all cram into the tiny doctor’s office, or they all go to the store to get whatever is needed. She apologizes to her toddler, over and over, praying he doesn’t throw up before they can get out of the store, or in the car. Again.

When she’s sick, the only rest she gets is between 6 pm and 5:30 am when her husband is home. There’s still meals to be cooked and toddlers to supervise.

When well-meaning people go on and on about how important it is to have a “real date night” with a babysitter and fun outside the house. Actually, in those moments she’s just praying her eyeballs don’t roll back in her head like they so badly want to. She’s been happily married long enough to determine that’s a lie.

Maybe their extended family lives far away. Maybe they have no family. Maybe their family isn’t healthy to be around for one reason or another. Possibly their own parents walked out of their lives when they chose to have more than 3 children. (Sadly that happens more often than you might think.)

That mama with the well-stocked freezer didn’t learn to make freezer meals and batch cook because it seemed fun. It saved her sanity (and her physical health) when she had a toddler and a newborn, her husband was working 80 hours each week, and there was no one to bring them meals in those early days.

That mom with the pack of well behaved kids in the grocery store? They aren’t well-behaved because they’re perfect. She’s not “brave.” They have all been doing the weekly shopping with their mother since they were each 2 weeks old. She’s put a lot of time and effort into teaching and training each child how to behave and stay safe in that situation. She didn’t have another option. Now it’s just part of the routine.

That mama who refuses to volunteer in your daughter’s second grade classroom- maybe you will understand when she shows up to every field trip with a baby strapped to her back, pushing twin three year olds in a stroller. And maybe you won’t. That’s okay too. She isn’t looking for anyone’s approval. (If you would offer to sit with the older kids while she changed the baby’s diaper, she would be very grateful though.)

That mom that doesn’t join a small group at church probably isn’t super shy (or a snob). She doesn’t have someone to watch her kids for two hours on a Thursday night. Or a Monday night. Or any night.

All the moms out there doing all their mama stuff without help aren’t supermoms. Lots of days they’re just surviving moms. They still have piles of laundry to fold and floors that desperately need to be washed. They don’t have it all together. Sometimes they’re lonely moms. Really, they’re mostly just praying moms.

It’s not that they don’t need help. They have no help. There’s a difference. Some moms just don’t have a village. And instead of whining and having a pity party (because they’ve already tried that before), they pray, they get up, and they get stronger.

It’s just what we do.

Scripture in a bible Psalm 46

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