Big Sis’ Favorite Books #1

Book Review with Big Sis | Motherhood in the Trenches

Every two weeks we go to the library and leave with a giant stack of library books. Each time we walk out the door with our giant stack of books I am amazed that we get to just walk out with a giant stack of books, for FREE. We are so blessed! I’ve mentioned before that I LOVE children’s literature. There’s something so magical and so exciting about immersing yourself into the stories.

In every batch we’ve had some really awesome books and some not so awesome ones. I’ve had a few moms ask us what some of our favorite books are to read so I thought I’d periodically let you in on some of our favorites. They are always changing so here are our favorites right now…

First up I had Big Sis pick her two  favorite books right now and the books she picked were “Shhh!” by Valeri Gorbachev and “Piggie Pie” by Margie Palatini. These aren’t the books I would have picked as her favorites right now but you can read about my picks below. ;)

Here’s Big Sis’ review of “Shhh!” by Valeri Gorbachev

Mom’s Review: It is a super cute book and full of imagination. It’s also great if you have a kiddo with a younger sibling. I have found myself referring back to the book while Little E is sleeping, reminding Big Sis to tiptoe like the big brother in the story does or to tell her animals to play quietly.

Big Sis’ review of “Piggie Pie”

Mom’s Review: While this is a super fun book, there are some elements that I’m not a big fan of. I love that it’s a play on the Old Macdonald song. Gritch the Witch visits Old Macdonald’s farm and incorporates some elements of the familiar song into the story. There are quite a few opportunities to ask anticipatory questions, which is super fun and also a key comprehension strategy (that’s the teacher part of me talking, heh). There are two aspects I’m not a fan of. First of all, witches aren’t my favorite thing. All of the casting of evil spells and her evil self just aren’t things that I like to incorporate into our home. I still read this book to Big Sis several times but it is preventing me from buying it. Also Gritch the Witch doesn’t speak kindly and says phrases like, “dumb duck” or “fork over the pork, you walking milk machine…” While these might be totally fine for some kids, I have a child who has an amazing memory and always seems to repeat the most offensive part of every movie and book, like the time she called me a “two-faced son of jackal” which she heard on Aladdin. Oye! So while neither of these things might be an issue for your family, they aren’t something that I want to read to her on a daily basis, which is a shame because I really, really like it! I would still recommend checking it out from the library and if those things don’t bother you then it’s a book that is well-written with so much fun inside.

Some other books we’re really enjoying are:

I Love You, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt. This is a story we have in a compilation book so it often gets forgotten but we recently rediscovered it and have been reading it quite a bit. The title comes from the line in the book, “But Mama, but Mama, what if I were a super smelly skunk, and I smelled so bad that my name was Stinky Face?” The book is full of what ifs as a little boy asks his mama what she would do if he were a big, smelly ape or an alligator with sharp pointy teeth. The mama always responds with some creative way to show her little one that she loves him. It’s imaginative and playful. We love it and I love to call Big Sis “Stinky Face” because she always smiles and says, “I’m not a stinky face!”

Curious George is always a favorite in our house. Big Sis loves to repeat the common line in every story, “He was a good little monkey but always very curious.” The favorites in our house are:

Curious George Feeds the Animals

Curious George Makes Pancakes

and Curious George and the Birthday Surprise

We would love to hear what books you’re loving right now so we can check them out too. Share in the comments or send us your link!

Painted Dish Towels: The Perfect Kid Made Mother’s Day Gift

Mother’s Day is coming up so fast! I always like to give a handmade gift to my mom, especially now that she has grandkids. These painted dish towels are so easy, so cute and so useful!
Handmade Dish Towels for Mom | Motherhood in the Trenches
Here’s what you’ll need:

  • White dish towels, washed, dried and ironed (I bought ours at Target for like $5, and they are giant. I didn’t realize it until after I opened them. They work fine but I would have preferred something smaller.)
  • Fabric Paint (we used Martha Stewart Paints because I love their colors)
  • Paint supplies (brushes, sponges, printmaking things like apples, stamps, whatever you’d like.)
  • Paper to cover your area
  • Masking tape to tape the towel down

Here’s what you’ll do:

Make sure your dish towels are washed, dried and ironed.

Start by covering your work area. You may want to set up a few different “stations” because the paint will bleed through the towel and onto the work surface. If you reuse the work area you’ll get paint on the back of your new towel.

Use masking tape to tape the towel taut.

Whenever I do a project I start by letting Big Sis do whatever she wants. I find that if I give her free reign first, she’s more likely to cooperate with directions after. So the first towel (pictured above) I let her paint however she wanted. That one ended up being my favorite.
Handmade Dish Towels for Mom | Motherhood in the Trenches
Then we did an apple print. Cut an apple in half, dip into paint and press onto the towel.
Handmade Dish Towels for Mom | Motherhood in the Trenches

Handmade Dish Towels for Mom | Motherhood in the Trenches
Lastly, we did a handprint towel, because what Grandma doesn’t love kid handprints?!
Handmade Dish Towels for Mom | Motherhood in the Trenches
Let them dry for the time allotted on the bottle of your paint, usually 24 hours. Then wash them again to make them softer. The paint will still be pretty stiff but washing them softens them up a bit.

This is great to pair with some handpainted wooden kitchen utensils which I’m hoping to share on Monday! If you try the project I’d love for you to share. Comment below with a link to your blog or tag me on Instagram or post on our Facebook page. Happy crafting!

Explore: Local Farm

Living in Southern California, we’re so lucky to live near so many great things to do. While we may not live in the prettiest area of Southern California, we do have access to some of the best beaches in the US. We are within a two hour drive of beaches, mountains, and deserts, we really have it all.  I’ve also found that we have a lot of hidden gems in our area, you just have to look for them!

Explore a Local Farm

I get asked a lot about the places we visit so I thought that I should start sharing some of the places we love to visit. If you live in So Cal, then you should totally check them out, but if not, maybe you can do a search and see if there’s something similar in your area. I’ve found that there is so much more to our area than I’ve ever thought, you just have to look for it.

We love Amy’s Farm in Ontario, CA. I found Amy’s Farm through a friend who had told me about a one time Saturday class they were having. While we couldn’t make it to that class, I went on their site and saw all that they had to offer and knew that it was totally the right place for us.

We signed Big Sis up for the “Fun on the Farm with Your Little One” 8 week class. I came into the class with low expectations, thinking we just signed up for an 8 week glorified farm tour, boy was I wrong. Each class is packed with enriching activities but never overwhelming. Big Sis learned how to milk a cow, groom a horse and feed and pet all of the animals.

Explore a Local Farm | Motherhood in the Trenches

She also learned about all sorts of vegetables in the garden. How they grow and how to pick them. Most days we tried a new food that we picked straight from the garden.


Big Sis’ favorite is Rainbow Swiss Chard because of all of the beautiful colors.

We ended up taking the class for two sessions and enjoyed every minute of it! Each season is different so you can take all four sessions and get something new each time.

Explore a Local Farm | Motherhood in the Trenches

There is something so valuable about seeing your little one learn about where food comes from and how to care for the land and animals that God has given to us. It’s the best!

Explore a Local Farm | Motherhood in the Trenches

If an 8 week class isn’t right for you, you can visit for a farm tour or even a one time Saturday class for various ages, which you can also find on their website. We did the Bethlehem in the Barn class during Christmas time and made the cutest wooden nativity.

If you are looking for somewhere to buy fresh, local, organic produce you have to check out their farm stand. Each week their offerings change but let me tell you, their carrots are the best I’ve ever tasted. So so sweet!

One last thing that is actually so fun, is that you can volunteer there to help work in the garden. You just spend a few hours there picking weeds or whatever they need help with and then you can pick some produce to take home with you. I was surprised at how relaxing it was to pick weeds in the garden. I would go every day if time allowed.

The farm is one of our favorite places to go. If you are in the area you have to check it out and if you’re not, ask around for a local farm near you. You might be surprised that there’s one closer than you think.

Our Favorite Easter Resources

You guys, I cannot believe that Easter is less than a month away. Wasn’t Christmas just yesterday??? Gee willikers (do people even say that anymore? I say that all too often, haha)

Over the past 4 years I’ve collected a few Easter resources that we really enjoy and I want to share a new resource that I am SO excited about! Here are a few of our favorite Easter resources.

Our Favorite Easter Resources | Motherhood in the Trenches

Easter books! I LOVE children’s literature. Like really, really, really love children’s literature, A LOT! If I could, I would buy a new book every day, I just love them! Anytime there’s an opportunity for a themed collection of books, I’m all over it! Here are some of our favorite Easter books and why we love them.

Our Favorite Easter Resources | Motherhood in the Trenches

The Easter Cave by Carol Wedeven is my favorite. It is repetitive which younger kiddos love. It focuses on specific pieces of the full story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. From the tomb, to the rooster crowing, to Jesus, then the crown, the guards, the nails that sting, the women who cried, the stone that was rolled away, the angel and lastly the friends with the good news. It opens up room for discussion and while it’s simple, it’s not dumbed down. Definitely a must have!

Our Favorite Easter Resources | Motherhood in the Trenches

The Very First Easter Board Book by Paul L. Maier. We have the board book which is a simplified version of the actual book, I have not read the full book so I can’t speak for that version. Both books are a historical account of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The board book is very simplified, maybe a little too much? but the pictures open up opportunities for discussion. We have had some great discussions about the pictures and what is portrayed in the pictures.

Our Favorite Easter Resources | Motherhood in the Trenches

God Gave Us Easter” by Lisa Tawn Bergren. I really like Lisa Tawn Bergren. I haven’t read all of her books but the books I have read I really enjoy. This one does talk about Santa and the Easter Bunny, so if you don’t do those, it may be confusing for your kiddos. On the flip side, there are some great questions answered that your kiddos may ask as well.

A few years ago we made a resurrection garden. It was so much fun to do and while we didn’t use it any specific way, it was fun to put together and to retell the story of Jesus rising from the dead.

Our Favorite Easter Resources | Motherhood in the Trenches

We’ve also incorporated Oh Amanda’s Un-Easter Baskets. These are a great alternative to the Easter basket and have so much more meaning. You should definitely check them out!

Uneaster basket 1


And now to share a new resource that I’m so excited about! For three years now, during Christmas, we do “Truth in the Tinsel” which is an amazing advent experience for young kiddos. I look forward to it every year. Well this year Amanda, the creator of Truth in the Tinsel, came out with “A Sense of the Resurrection.”

Our Favorite Easter Resources | Motherhood in the Trenches


It’s 12 lessons that take you through a sensory experience of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Because it’s brand new, we haven’t done all of the lessons but we did start with the first lesson and I can’t tell how excited I am to continue.

For the first lesson we read John  12:1-8 where Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with oil. The activity for that passage was to make Mary’s perfume. We decorated glass jars, filled them with essential oil and olive oil and stuck bamboo skewers in them. Every time we walk past them it is a reminder to thank Jesus for dying on the cross for our sins. It is a constant reminder of Christ’s sacrifice.

Our Favorite Easter Resources | Motherhood in the Trenches

The conversations are rich, the text is the Bible, the activities are unforgettable. So so great! The e-book is only $7.99 but right now, until March 28th, you can use code OHEASTER at this link and get 20% off.  Although the lessons can be pretty deep, you can simplify them for preschoolers. A lot of the materials are materials you’ll already have around the house. This is an investment of time and money that you won’t regret! Go check it out!

The Prayer Jar | A Great Tool to Teach Your Kids to Pray

The Prayer Jar | A Great Tool to Teach Your Children to Pray for Others | Motherhood in the Trenches

“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6.

That verse is not a promise, it’s a proverb, a general truth and one that encourages me as a mom to teach my kids the things of the Lord. It is never to early to teach your kids to pray!

We’ve been using the prayer jar for a year and a half now and it has been such a great tool to teach Big Sis to pray for others. Each night, after her bath, we read a kid’s devotional book and then she picks someone out of her prayer jar to pray for. This has sort of become a game as she gives us hints and makes us guess who we are praying for that night. After we guess it we pray for the person that we picked out of the jar. It’s something we all look forward to every night.

It’s so easy to make your own prayer jar and to implement it into your home. Here’s what you’ll need:

The Prayer Jar | A Great Tool to Teach Your Children to Pray for Others | Motherhood in the Trenches

  • A container (For our first prayer jar we used a soup can but it does have sharp edges so make sure to put tape on the edges. We obviously used a cashew “can” which has no sharp edges. Look around your house and see what you might have)
  • Decorative paper to go around your can
  • Any embellishments you might want. (mine aren’t pictured but you’ll see them in a bit)
  • Glue (any glue will due but if you’re doing this yourself, hot glue works wonders and makes the project sooo fast)
  • popsicle sticks
  • fine tip permanent marker or black pen
  • scissors
  • pictures (more on that below)

What you’ll do:

First you’ll want to gather your pictures. When I made our first prayer jar I went through my pictures and printed any pictures I had on hand, just as they were. This resulted in G-Pa’s head being gigantic and Grammy’s head being so tiny. This time around I used Photoshop to crop the pics and brought them into a new 6×4 document so that the heads would be around the same size. If you don’t have photoshop you could do the same in Microsoft Word or Pages. If you aren’t worried about having all different head sizes then skip this part.

Hint: If you want to get your pics for free, try signing up for an online photo site that you haven’t used before. I got mine printed at CVS. I created a new account and got 10 photos free. So I uploaded them and they were ready to pick up within an hour.

Now that you have your pictures, you need to cut them out and glue them onto the popsicle sticks.

Now you’re ready to write names on them. I started writing the names in fancy type but then realized that Big Sis is the one who will be reading them so I went back to the printing them so that she would be able to read them herself.

The Prayer Jar | A Great Tool to Teach Your Children to Pray for Others | Motherhood in the Trenches

And now you just need to put the sticks in the jar. We put our sticks upside down because Big Sis was taking forever to choose who she was going to pray for. If they’re upside down it’s a fun surprise and it speeds along the process.

The Prayer Jar | A Great Tool to Teach Your Children to Pray for Others | Motherhood in the Trenches

Lastly, when we finish we put the stick into an empty basket. When the jar is empty we put everyone back in the jar and start over again.

The Prayer Jar | A Great Tool to Teach Your Children to Pray for Others | Motherhood in the Trenches

And there you have it…the prayer jar! Do you have other ways you teach your kids to pray? I’d love for you to share them!