Summer Reading Challenge

I’m not a big marbles jar / sticker chart sort of mom… however, I think they’re great for certain seasons. Potty training, was the first time we tried a sticker chart. Then there was the brotherly love chart which worked like a charm to inspire kindness between our three preschool aged kids. But, for the most part, I’ve wanted the boys to learn to do right without the bride of a sticker or a marble. That said, now that they are getting older, reward charts are making an annual summertime appearance in our home, and this time our prize is money!


Let me preface this post by confessing that I believe parenting is a lot like throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks! What sticks for one family, may not stick to the kitchen walls in another family’s home. Same is true from kid to kid. But that’s part of the treasure hunt we’re on. We’re figuring this out as we go, and what works for me may not be right for another. That’s one of the reasons why I appreciate hearing what other moms and dads are doing when it comes to allowances and chores, family devotions and disciplining techniques. I’m always on the lookout for inspiration and trust that you are too.


And with that brief introduction, let me tell you how we incentive our three sons – not with stickers or marbles or matchbox cars now that they are older, but with cold, hard cash.

Let’s talk money

Before I tell you the specifics of their summertime reading challenge, I’ve got to confess that we reward our young men with money for their grades each semester as well. Since we don’t give our boys a regular allowance (gasp), we use their grades to teach them that “a worker is worthy of his wages.” (1 Timothy 5:18). For the rest of their lives, when they work hard, they’ll get paid. Each morning their dad heads off to work, demonstrating a good work ethic for us all! When I head off to speak at conferences, they help me tally the books that I sold and see the income I brought in. At this time in their young lives, school is our boys’ main work – therefore, it is also their main source of income. During the school year we pay them for their grades twice a year.

A = $10

B = $5

C= -$20

If a child has 6 classes and straight A’s, he earns $60 at the end of the semester. However, if they gets 1 A, 4 B’s and a C he’ll end up with 10 greenbacks in their wallet. I also give them the chance to put their money into a savings account that they can’t touch until they turn 18. For every dollar they’re willing to save, I’ll match it dollar for dollar. So basically, if the kid earns $60 and wants to keep half of his money and defer the other half to double his reward, I’ll give him $30 now and deposit $60 into his account.

Again, these sort of blog posts are fun to read because they get us thinking outside of the box and trying new things. Of course this isn’t a one-size fits all formula. Okay, now onto our…


Summer reading challenge

When my husband was a boy, his dad paid him a penny a page in the summers. Today we pay our boys 25 cents per chapter for age appropriate books. (Inflation) We pay the boys halfway through the summer, about the time we go on a family vacation. That way they have some spending money that they’ve earned for our travels. And then again at the end of the summer.


image-2The first few summers I was that Pinterest-worthy mom with her fabulous, glittery poster-board. Last summer, however, they kept track of their own books on a sheet of lined paper by their bed. Not very fancy, but it sure is fun. All the kids have to do is list the name of the book, along with the author and the number of chapters. Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy! 

This year I tried to get crafty again, and made this darling sheet for them to track their books. Download yours here.

Again, and I hope you hear my heart on this, it doesn’t matter what you do or if you pay your kids this summer… but do something! Give them a challenge, and watch them rise to meet it. And make it fun!



Here’s a list of some of our favorite boy books!


Stay tuned… in my next post, I’ll be sharing details about our other favorite summertime challenge, which includes great gobs of EXERCISE for little boy bodies on long summer days! Don’t miss out: sign up for email updates from our Summertime Series: BOYS right here.


Our Favorite Boy Movies of All Time

My husband was raised on a steady diet of classic rock (think Roy Orbison and Neil Young) and classic films (John Wayne and Gary Cooper.) When I birthed our third son, something was born in my husband’s boy-loving heart… a passion to share his favorite music and movies with his sons.

There’s no better time to crank up the music than poolside in the summertime. Likewise, when the afternoon sun wears the kids out, and it’s time for a break, a good movie in an air-conditioned room is the perfect treat!

And so I bring you, a list of our favorite movies to enjoy this summer! 


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This post is part of our Summertime Series: BOYS! 

Top twenty classic film favorites (curated by my husband)

20 – Treasure Island

19 – The Alamo (John Wayne)

18 – McLintock (John Wayne)

17 – North to Alaska (John Wayne)

16 – High Noon (Gary Cooper & Grace Kelly)

15 – Beau Geste (Gary Cooper)

14 – The Quiet Man (John Wayne)

13 – Chariots of Fire

12 – The Great Escape (Steve McQueen)

11 – Ben Hur (with Charleton Heston)

10 – The Man from Snowy River

9 – True Grit (with John Wayne)

8 – Shane (Alan Ladd)

7 – Seahawk (Errol Flynn)

6 – Captain’s Courageous (Spencer Tracy)

5 – Robin Hood (with Errol Flynn)

4 – The Human Comedy (Micky Rooney)

3 – Old Man and the Sea (Spencer Tracey)

2 – Magnificent Seven (the one with Yul Brynner)

1 – Swiss Family Robinson


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Best Series – The Chronicles of Narnia


Best Boy Musical of All Time



More Recent Family Favorites

The Princess Bride

Facing the Giants

The Perfect Game

That Thing You Do (I love this one!)

Teen Beach

Nacho Libre


Remember the Titans

War Room

The Queen of Katwe

McFarland, USA


TV Series


The Little Rascals

Tom and Jerry

I Love Lucy


Phineas and Ferb


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Special thanks to the man who builds tree forts, takes boys on motorcycle camping trips, teaches them to worship, and is always up for an adventure.

You’re our favorite dad, Matty B.


Head on over here for the rest of our boy-loving posts in our Summertime Series: BOYS  or sign up here to have the rest of the summer’s posts delivered to your inbox.

(This post contains affiliate links because sharing our favorites is fun!)

BOYS – a summertime series

Summer is here for many of us – just around the bend for others. Either way it’s time to get ready for those sweet, sandy, sun-kissed shoulders; sticky popsicle smiles; and long afternoons at the pool. But there’s more to summer than those iconic highlights. There are perfectly temperate days when kids dare complain, “But mama, I’m bored….” and sweltering afternoons when you’re all desperate for a movie on the couch in an air-conditioned house – specifically, a good movie that both entertains and teaches a virtuous lesson! Here in our home, we love movies that inspire boys to be good and masculine and adventurous. (The classic Disney adaptation of Swiss Family Robinson is my personal favorite.) Similarly, we want them to read tons of good books for the same reason. You can find a few of our favorite boy books here – and stay tuned, because I’ll be adding to the list in the summer days ahead.


This will be an on-going summertime series simply titled: BOYS.




Get ready for our favorite recommendations: movies and music, books and board games too. We also love good bbq followed by lemon bars and lemon scones, chased down with a cool glass of lemonade. Since we have lemon trees all over our property, summertime means lots of these citrusy treats. Let me know if you have a favorite recipe I need to try.


I’ll also be sharing our two annual summertime challenges! Each summer I give my children the chance to earn money two different ways. First, a reading challenge, where they earn 25 cents per chapter. Secondly, a seriously strenuous workout regime where they have a list of fun exercises to choose from. Each exercise earns them one point, and after they hit 200 points there is a big $$$ payout at the end. I’ll be bringing you more details next week, so stay tuned! Sign up here to have this summertime series delivered direct to your email inbox.



Here’s one of my all time favorite summertime shots – circa 2009! 

The series begins next week, so sign up now to receive the first installment!

Until then, here are a few of my favorite summer posts from the vault:

  1. Let them be bored!
  2. The Best Lemon Bars Ever
  3. Slow Down and Say Yes to Summer
  4. Summertime – there’s no better time to begin reading through the Bible
  5. Summertime Parenting – parenting right when our children do wrong
  6. Our Favorite Books
  7. Our Favorite Boy Movies

If you have a specific question about boys and summer, leave a comment and I’ll try to address it in the sunny days ahead.

Summer love to all the BoyMoms out there!



If you’re new to, let me introduce myself. First of all, I’m a BoyMom, married to one hunky BoyDad. We live in San Diego, raising our three masculine charges, ages 9, 11, and 13. They all have a creative bent – like their Mom – and they’re all strong-willed – like their Dad! I recently co-authored the parenting book Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses with Amber Lia, and Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom with Kelli Stuart. That’s me! Now be sure to introduce yourself in the comments below or shoot me an email. Looking forward to getting to know you this summer!

Depression and Motherhood – The Mom Club Few Talk About


Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to my friend, author and board certified clinical neuropsychologist, Dr. Michelle Bengtson. Recently, I asked Dr. Michelle if she’d be willing to write a message for my mom-friends who are currently struggling with depression.

Some of you know a bit of my experience with depression, as I shared snippets of my own dark journey in chapter 18 of Triggers. And so it is with an insider’s perspective that I fully endorse Dr. Michelle’s new book, Hope Prevails, and appreciate her ongoing support for moms.

I pray you find courage and companionship as you journey through the dark and into the light of healing and hope. For hope truly does prevail!


Depression and Motherhood

a guest post by Dr. Michelle Bengtson


“No one understands,” she whispered, as she brushed her hair off her face and accepted my offer of a tissue to dry her tears that gently flowed down her face.


“Oh, I think more people understand than you realize. The problem is that people just don’t feel comfortable talking about it unless they know others understand. But I do understand—I’ve been where you are.” I explained.


“You have? But you always look so joyful, and put together!”


“I am now, for the most part, but I still have to do the work to stay here.” I paused for a moment, taking a sip of my iced-tea, letting that sink in for a moment before continuing. “But I’ve gone through depression a couple of times in my life. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It was very dark. But each time, I was right where you are…feeling alone, like no one else understood.”


“But no-one I know ever talks about it openly. Is it very common?”


I smiled before answering, not because the answer was a happy one, but because we all just want someone else to say, “me too,” and if we all knew the statistics, we would know we aren’t alone. We’re in a club that few talk about. “By 2020, depression is going to be our greatest epidemic worldwide.  In fact, more than 9 million women in the United States suffer with depression every year. I’d say that’s pretty common, wouldn’t you? And I was once one of them.”


She shifted on the couch, clearly becoming more comfortable as she acknowledged we had more in common than she previously realized. She dried her cheeks and leaned in, beckoning me to continue.




“I wasn’t much further out from my pregnancy than you are now, just a few weeks, when I ‘went down under’ and then got help the first time. My mother was the one who realized I was suffering from post-partum depression. I had never known anyone who had suffered from PPD before, so I was ashamed. I thought there was something wrong with me. My baby was perfect, my husband was supportive, my home was beautiful, and yet I was falling apart. I cried all the time over nothing and anything. My mother knew what was wrong because she had gone through it, so she encouraged me to see my doctor for help and it made all the difference in the world. It was after that that I realized many women suffer, but often in silence, ashamed. But there is nothing to be ashamed of. And it’s treatable!”


We talked some more about my experience with post-partum depression, and then her own current experience… not sleeping, having no appetite, being irritable all the time, crying for no reason, not wanting to do things she used to enjoy, not wanting to get out with friends or family.


Then she was curious about my other experience with depression, since it ran deep and wide in her family. She feared the demands of motherhood, and the stress it could have on her physically, and emotionally.


What she didn’t realize, and what many doctors and therapists don’t discuss, is the fact that there is also often a spiritual component to the disorder. When we don’t consider that spiritual component, we’re really just putting a band-aid on it, hoping it’ll get better.


According to Scripture, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).


John 10:10 declares, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” In the case of depression, the thief comes to steal our joy, kill our peace, and destroy our identity, but we can thank God that he doesn’t get the last say! Because of Christ’s finished work on the cross, hope prevails, even in depression!


Part of the reason I wrote my book, “Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” was to share not only my story but my clinical experience, helping people address the spiritual component of depression and heal it from the inside out.  


We have a very real enemy who attacks us incessantly, primarily through our thought life. Have you ever had thoughts like, “My kids would be better off with a different mother”? Or how about, “This is just too hard. I can’t do this.” Do you ever find yourself thinking that you’re a failure?


Can I let you in on a little secret? The same enemy who wormed his way onto the scene and tried to destroy Eve, the mother of all living things, is out to try to destroy you too! Those thoughts you have about your inadequacies as a mother? They aren’t your thoughts. They are from the same enemy who made Eve doubt what she knew to be true. And if he can get you down or depressed, he knows you’ll be less effective in your mothering responsibilities—the most important job you’ll ever have.


But the good news? God promises that, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).


Here’s what you need to remember: God chose you to parent your child. He is 100% for you. And He loves your child even more than you do, so He hasn’t left you on this journey alone. He will guide you through this parenting journey, working ALL things together for the good of you and your child! The best way to fight back, is with the truth of God’s word.


When you find yourself thinking, “I don’t know what to do,” remember, “God will direct [your] steps” (Proverbs 3:5-6).


When you berate yourself believing that you “aren’t smart enough,” remember God promises, He will give you wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30).


When parenting is difficult and you feel like you can’t go on, remember God promises that His grace is sufficient for you (2 Corinthians 12:9).


When you are at the end of your parenting rope, and you don’t know what to do, remember that God promised that He will supply all your needs (Philippians 4:19).


When you are afraid, remember where that fear comes from, and know that instead, God has given you power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).


And perhaps my favorite: when you have made a mistake as a mother, and find it difficult to forgive yourself, remember that God has already forgiven you (Romans 8:1), and you can use this as a teachable moment with your child.


I see them as they come into my office day after day, week after week, each so similar, yet individual and unique: mothers. Some initially surprised, but ultimately honored by, and then fully embracing their God-given call to motherhood. Some longed and desired to be mothers for years. Regardless how they got there or how long they’ve been in that role, they have all had their share of insecurities, doubts, and fears about their adequacy as a mother, often made worse when they’ve fallen prey to the torment of depression. But there is help and there is hope available. You are not alone, and you don’t have to suffer in silence.


Because of Him, #HopePrevails



Author, speaker and board certified clinical neuropsychologist, Dr. Michelle Bengtson is also a wife, mother and friend. She knows pain and despair firsthand and combines her professional expertise and personal experience with her faith to address issues surrounding medical and mental disorders, both for those who suffer and for those who care for them. She offers sound practical tools, affirms worth, and encourages faith. Dr. Michelle Bengtson offers hope as a key to unlock joy and relief—even in the middle of the storm. She is the author of “Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” and blogs regularly at follow her on Facebook or Instagram for more encouragement.  Order a copy of Hope Prevails today!



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Do you feel you’ve lost yourself to motherhood?


When I wrote LIFE CREATIVE: INSPIRATION FOR TODAY’S RENAISSANCE MOM, with my dear friend Kelli Stuart, we set out to encourage creative women who feel they’ve lost themselves in this busy season of motherhood – painters and poets, writers and sculptures, actors, home decorators, seamstress’ and business owners, graphic designers, singers and bakers…

Sweet friends, I know how deeply discouraging it can be to find yourself in the dark ages of motherhood – having lost touch with all the things you used to enjoy doing – all the things you used to enjoy about yourself!


(photo credit: Ruth Simons)


When moms lose themselves to motherhood, they tend to lose their tempers too.

Like they have to fight to be heard. 

But I hear you.

When the dream come true of motherhood intersects all the other dreams in a woman’s life, it’s common to feel lost for a season. But you’re not lost – and neither are your gifts.

God did a wonderful job when He created you in his delightfully creative image… and then gave you children. Though there is much sacrifice in this season, He is still the God who made you cleaver and creative, and cast those dreams into your heart.

Think of each talent as a seed lying dormant beneath the earth. When springtime comes again, and it will come, and the sun warms the soil of your life, tender shoots will appear once more.

A reawakening – A rebirth – A renaissance.




Until that time, it is our hope that you discover ways to fit pieces of your creative life into the everyday, ordinary moments of motherhood. The birthday parties you throw, the forts you make, the nursery you decorate, the bedtime stories you tell, the lullabies you sing, the camera you carry in the diaper bag, the family suppers that you prepare, the cakes you bake, the preserves you can… all of these are opportunities for you to create and express love one mothering moment at a time!

As you express your love in creative ways, you are expressing yourself creatively!

Embrace that, embrace them, embrace yourself, sweet mom.

As I said before, there is much sacrificial love in this season, but that doesn’t mean you have to lose yourself entirely.

In Life Creative we tell the stories of 20 women who are using their gifts in various ways in their homes, their cue-de-sac communities, their local church, and even online in this digital age – confined yet unhindered.

Ask For Help

One piece of advice that I feel is most helpful, advice I return to each time I begin to lose myself again, is this:

Share your feelings and ask for help. Whether you seek your husband’s help, your mother’s help, or that of a friend, reach out and simply say, “Remember how I used to love doing this unique thing? Remember how I used to serve in the church with this gift of mine? Remember how I dreamed of doing this or that before kids?… Would you help me figure out ways to fit a little bit of that inspired dreaming back into my life again?”

We call these people our Lifeguards. Friends and family who stand watch on the shoreline of our lives as we dip our toes into creative waters once more. They cheer us on, but they also stand guard and call us back to shore if the tide threatens to pull us a bit to far from home.

As I mentioned, it’s each to lose our temper when we feel we’ve lost ourself. But your husband didn’t marry you to take yourself away. He married you be cause he loves you. He’s on your team, whether you feel like it or not. Find a moment when you aren’t exasperated and feeling like a victim. Plan a date and come to him with love, then ask him for his help.

Renaissance Mom

Ladies, you are so good at helping your little ones discover their creative design. You sign them up for classes and let them experiment with their fearfully and wonderfully made life. While you can’t run off to do the same with the same carefree exuberance, you can continue to pursue your life in Christ in creative ways with the help of loved ones.

Today, make a plan, reach out, ask for help.

How did God make you and what did He make you for? For motherhood? Yes! But what else? What other seeds are lying dormant, eager for the Son to shine His Light upon in the days and years to come.

For a Renaissance, a reawakening, is coming.


For more encouragement, grab a copy of Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom




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Wendy Speake — Welcome To My Living Room

It's an odd modern age, when we meet together in digital Living Rooms, delving deep over a virtual cup of tea. So let me invite you in, as I would at my open front door, and say: “You are welcome here."


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