Books I Have Read (free printable for kids)

I’m still blogging in my mind, but no one has invented the Telepathic Blog App yet, so I can’t prove it.  I did, however, attend a fun and refreshing little blog conference here in San Antonio last weekend, and I am really, truly, planning to start blogging again.  Soon.  Maybe.

In the meantime, here’s a quick little project I did this morning for my kiddos, and I thought I’d take a moment to share it with you.  This is the first printable I’ve ever shared, so be kind.  🙂

Books I Have Read - free printable

Books I Have Read – Title, Date finished, Author, and 2 line Summary for 5 books (free printable in PDF format)

Every time one of my younger children finishes a school book, I take him or her out for an inexpensive treat – a dollar burger, a trip to The Dollar Tree, or something similar.  If they want, I let them wait and use 2 outings at once for a trip to the dollar theater (which actually costs $2 for each of us).  They always ask if reading a “regular” book can count, but I would be taking someone out every day of the week if I were that generous!

But here is a compromise: With this printout, they can earn an outing every for 5 books they have read – and they’ll have a good start on writing a mini book report!  As they gain practice, I’ll add a few more lines for the summary and switch to a 2-page format.  It will be easy since my printer does 2-sided printing painlessly.

Of course you can make up your rules, but I did put just a few requirements for my own children as to which books are acceptable:

  1. It must be a new book that you have never read before.
  2. You must read it – audio books are great, but they don’t count toward this goal.
  3. It must be at an appropriate level for you.

In the future, I might require that a minimum number of books on the list be non-fiction.

My kids are already enthusiastic readers, but I think this will encourage them to read with more purpose, seek out new titles, and retain more of they read since they will be summarizing each book as they finish it.

Do you use something like this? Would you like to?  If you download and use this, I’d love to hear what you and your children think!

Big family transportation – your input wanted

Back when we crossed the line from Large Family to What Were They Thinking with the birth of our 4th child, we upgraded from an econo-car to a minivan.  A few years later when we learned that we were expecting our 6th child and officially crossed into Crazy People Territory, we sold the minivan and bought an old Suburban.  We lived up north at the time and it was 10 years old, so it wore a skirt of rust around the bottom, but it had three bench seats and drove like a dream.  With room for seven children, we were set for a few more years.

But those years passed quickly, and before we knew it we were out of seats again.  Number 8 was on the way, putting our near-future headcount at 10 in a vehicle designed to seat 9.  It was time for the big move.

We thought briefly about a 12 passenger van, but we knew that there was almost zero cargo space behind that back bench.  It would be a challenge just to accomplish a weekly grocery trip with the kids in tow.  How would we ever make a road trip?  Prices and gas efficiency were nearly the same whether we chose a 12 or 15 passenger van.  Our choice was clear: with a 15 passenger van, we could take out one bench, giving us the seats we needed and the cargo space to make this vehicle practical for the needs of a family the size of ours.

So we bought a 15 passenger van on Ebay.  That may sound a little crazy, but we put more stock in Ebay feedback than in a salesman’s handshake.  This was a brick & mortar dealer 250 miles from us, with a solid online reputation.  Ebay feedback is hard to fake, and his buyers were happy.  We got a great deal on a van that has served us well for many years, so we’re happy too.

But now that van is 18 years old with over 200,000 miles on it.  It was rough inside when we bought it, and the years haven’t been kind to it.  Who am I fooling?  We haven’t been kind to it.  The seats are ripped.  The back doors won’t open.  There was never carpet, and some of the inside body panels were missing when we bought it.  The a/c needs work – in San Antonio this is serious – and there are a few other issues as well.  And the gas mileage is terrible.  We might as well be driving a bus.

What to do?  We have talked over at least 3 options:

1. We could put some money into our current van.  It would cost more than its current market value to make it comfortable, but it has proven solid and reliable over the years.  Maybe we should stick with the vehicle we know.

2. We could sell it and buy a newer, nicer van.  It wouldn’t have to be expensive to be a significant improvement over our current ride.  Would we be buying someone else’s problem?  Maybe.  That’s always a risk you take with a used vehicle, but what if our own engine blew up next week?

3. We could sell our big van and one small car, and buy two minivans instead.  We now have three drivers and will probably have a fourth soon, so this could be a very practical solution.  It would create some limits – one adult could not transport all the children alone, so if two adults are missing the family is grounded.  But it would also create more options. Two minivans would use roughly the same amount of gas as our big van, so we would use the same amount of gas to move the entire family – but we could move 7 people without firing up the gas guzzler.  Right now if we go in different directions, we use the gas in the big van PLUS the gas in a small car.  Two minivans would save gas in that case.  If we all went to the same place, we could leave at the same time OR one of us could take the little ones home early.

The third idea is intriguing, and I would love to know if anyone does this.  I’m a little nervous about the limitations imposed by not owning a vehicle big enough to hold our family, but I think the added freedom and flexibility would outweigh the occasional inconvenience.

What does your big family drive?  What would you like to drive?  What do you think your family should drive?

A small comedy of automotive errors

I woke up Thursday morning with plans.  It was a bright sunny morning, and the first thing on my agenda after breakfast was to pick up my sister’s three young children for the day so that she could enjoy some quiet time with her newborn.

I usually drive the Mustang, but since I would be buckling children into the back seat I decided I much preferred the 4 door car, so Natalie and I climbed into the little gray Lancer that Kaitlyn normally drives.  We buckled our seat belts and I turned the key in the ignition.  Nothing happened.  Although it has been a reliable car, I wasn’t terribly surprised.  We had all spent the previous evening outside, and the kids were playing hide & seek.  One of the little ones must have hidden in the car and turned on a dome light or failed to close the door all the way.  I would take the Mustang to pick up my nieces and nephew, and jump start the Lancer when I got home.

Natalie and climbed into the Mustang, buckled our seat belts, and I turned the key.  Nothing.

Apparently the little brats were playing hide & seek in both cars last night.  I decided to have a talk with them about playing in vehicles when I got home.  In the meantime, I would use the van to jump start the Lancer, then jump start the Mustang when I got home.

We moved the van into position, popped the hoods of both vehicles, and attached the battery cables.  I turned the key in the Lancer ignition.  Nothing.

Now I knew I had been wrong to blame the children for this car’s failure to start.  The ignition switch in this car had been showing signs of wear since we bought it, and we knew it would need to be replaced eventually.  Apparently, today was the day.  Grrr.  I would have to jump start the Mustang instead.

I squeezed the van into the driveway next to the Mustang, attached the cables to both vehicles.  Finally, things went according to plan.  The Mustang roared to life without hesitation.  Less than ten minutes later, I was at my sister’s house and three of her children were in my car.  I turned the key in the ignition and…nothing.


Perry works about 1,000 miles from home now, so I am exceedingly thankful to have a daughter with a driver’s license.  I am also thankful to have three, count ’em three, vehicles, for those days when TWO OF THEM SUDDENLY WON’T START.

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Moby Dick

I called Kaitlyn to bring the 15 passenger van and jump start us.  She did, and I did not turn off the engine when I got home.  Instead, I kicked out the kids and headed to the auto parts store to get my battery tested.  My hope and expectation was that I would need a new battery.  I would have to turn off the engine to get the new one installed, but with a new battery I would be good to go.

Unfortunately, my battery tested good.  And my car wouldn’t start once again.  I knew this was a possibility and had already arranged with Kaitlyn to drive the 2 miles to jump start my car again, but the guys at the store gladly did it for me.  They thought I probably needed a starter, but warned me that it was not returnable once installed so didn’t want to talk me into buying the part purely on their hunch.

This time when I got home, I did shut off the Mustang.  Then out of idle curiosity, I turned the key.  It obediently roared to life.  I tried again, and again, and again.  Ten times in a row, it started.  Grrr.

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In the meantime, Kaitlyn had been researching online and learned that it was a quick and easy job to replace an ignition switch in the Lancer, even for a novice.  Excited by the idea that we could handle this problem ourselves, I rushed out and bought the $92 part.  I took the Mustang, but I also took an older child so I could leave the engine running.  Even with ten consecutive starts under my belt, I wasn’t taking any chances.

When I got home, Kaitlyn had already disassembled the ignition of the Lancer and just needed some help breaking the old switch loose.


Naked steering column. Not pretty.


Shiny new $92 ignition switch

Go, Kaitlyn!  She quickly got the new one in place, reassembled everything, and turned the key.


Nothing?  Did we just waste $92 on a piece of plastic?

But it was acting different now: the hey-idiot-you-left-your-key-in-the-ignition alarm wasn’t beeping.  We decided maybe she should put the old one back on, just to ensure that nothing had changed.  Maybe the new one wasn’t working because something was assembled incorrectly.  When she took the plastic cover off of the steering column, several small pieces of something fell down and bounced around the floorboard.  Impossibly tiny coiled springs, and little pieces of electrical-looking pluggy-things.  Bad things.

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The girls had a prior engagement, so were out of time and had to leave.  Forced to choose between Moby Dick and the Mustang, they decided to take a chance – and a pair of battery cables.  There would be plenty of pals to ask for a jump if the need arose, but all went well and they returned later in the evening without incident.

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Perry was due home in less than 24 hours and we had a busy weekend planned.  I had hoped to solve these problems for him, so at this point we left it to the experts: two friends with mechanical experience came to look at the vehicles.  One identified and reassembled the door-open sensor lying in pieces on the floorboard, and then they worked together to diagnose our other problems.  Their advice: buy two starters.  As crazy as it sounded, they both believed we had experienced two starter failures on the same day.

As crazy as it sounds, they were right.

And the ignition switch?  It turns out, that was a good call too.  The car that has always, always required a good strong 3-second crank on the key, until the little cutouts in the key pressed funny shapes into your fingers?  It now starts when you just turn the key.  Imagine that.

Photo shoot

So, during my little blog hiatus Perry and I had a quick photo shoot.  I know we’re long overdue for an update to our photo header, but this one was more fun and much easier.

We shared one of the photos on Facebook, but it was really hard to choose a favorite so I’m going to share my six favorites here.  Which is your favorite?

IMG_5933 IMG_5929

IMG_5928 IMG_5926

IMG_5920 IMG_5919

Throwback Thursday: Grandpa and Grandma’s house

I don’t usually do the Throwback Thing, but I stumbled across an old photo and I am trying to get back into a habit of blogging, just a little.  So here ya go.  It’s my grandparents’ house, not in its current magazine centerfold glory, but as I will always remember it.

grandparents house


I still haven’t gotten over the loss of the red shag carpet, and I hope to see that rocker in heaven.  And is that a Fisher Price Little Person I spy on the floor, just in front of Grandpa?  A tiny cylindrical guy with a bald head and a green torso?  I secretly despise the new-fangled plastic Little People with all their fancy details.  Ugh.  Where’s the imagination in that?

It’s hard to tell when he’s seated but Grandpa is a big guy, so big that his nickname was Harry Gorilla.  The other people in the pic are Mom, me (age 6), and my next two sisters.  That may be a peek of Molly the Old English Sheepdog in the lower right.  She will always be Grandpa and Grandma’s dog in my heart.

Life with kids

I just wanted to pop in to share a quick funny.

Today we had my sister’s 3 older children at our house to give her some quiet time with her newest little one.  As I buckled them into the car to take them home this evening, my 7 yo niece smiled and offered me a piece of candy.  “Here, do you want this?”

I smiled back, thanked her and popped it into my mouth.  A moment later, gazing out her window,  she added, “I found it on the floor of the car.”


Happy Birthday, Dad

dad and mom

Today would be The Old Man’s 60th 62nd birthday.

He had a habit of forgetting details and making them up on the go, including his own age.  Since sometime around his fiftieth birthday, he started rounding his age up to sixty.  He also had a habit of rough speech, so was well known to exclaim, “I’m sixty damn years old!…”

While on the topic of Dad’s rough speech, I’ll tell you a quick story.  In the his last house, there was a divided door between the kitchen and the living room – the type often called a Dutch door.  He spent most of his free time in his place at the table, chain smoking cigarettes and reading books.

He insisted that the door between the living room and kitchen stay closed, and frequently yelled at the last person through the door to “shut the damn door!”

For many years afterward, my children thought that a horizontally divided door was called a Dam Door.


Let’s try this again

usOK, here we go again.  You might have noticed my blog has been, well, not quite itself lately.

It was broken.  Very broken.  In desperation, I tried several desperate measures.  Some helped, others didn’t.  Then I decided it was nice not feeling obligated to blog all the time.  I just left it standing with my very oldest posts and had some fun mommy time instead of continuing to stress over how to fix my broken blog.

Now, thanks to friends, I think most or all of my blog’s problems have been solved except one.  It’s a huge one, but it’s just one.  Here’s the deal: I’m going to work on putting everything back, including all my posts between 2007 and now.

Here’s your part of the deal: you’re not going to complain if you have to put up with one of those annoying captcha boxes when you want to see my blog.  It should only happen to you once, or maybe once in a while, but not with every visit.  You’ll just be asked to type in a username (which is given to you right there: just read the little box) and do a single math problem that any homeschooling mom should be able to do in her head.  If you can’t, just call one of your know-it-all kids over to help.  They love that feeling of power when moms needs their help instead of vice versa.

Are we all good with this arrangement?  I hope so, because while I don’t miss feeling obligated to blog every day, I do miss using it as an online journal so we can actually record and remember all the fun stuff that happens around here.  And I miss YOU!

Job update

Everyone relax.  I’m here.

coffee date

See?  I knew how worried you were.

The last month has been an adventure, but a good one.  With Vision Forum closed, Perry’s job of 10 years came to an end.  However, God provided some very good temporary work.  He is doing process improvement in various places.  Process improvement is something that he has enjoyed for many years in the Vision Forum warehouse, constantly working to cut waste and streamline the way they did everything from picking and packing orders to organizing the break room.  He has a natural talent for this work and finds it challenging, and it pays well – or rather, it will pay well.  Life as a contractor means getting paid 30-45 days after work is finished, instead of a few days or a week after the close of a pay period.

Those are the pros, and we think they are very exciting.

There are also some significant cons.

The job requires constant travel – if he gets constant work.  He is out of town five days a week, home for the weekend, then off again.  Winter weather can make it even worse: last week, his Friday flight home was cancelled.  He made it home eventually, but it was less than 24 hours before he had to fly out again.  One week he got stuck in Atlanta overnight, and eventually the airline flew him home because his destination was snowed in.

It’s also week by week.  We usually don’t know if he has work more than a week ahead of time, although it has been mostly steady so far.

So we find ourselves torn.

We are excited about this current opportunity.  It is temporary, but provides experience and marketable skill in an area he would love to pursue.  There seems to be a very real chance that it can become permanent.  Not knowing makes it difficult to look for another job in the meantime, especially since we don’t know if we want or need another job.  That’s not to say Perry hasn’t been looking, but so far we have not been presented with any difficult decisions – meaning we have yet to receive a concrete offer that rivals what he is doing now.

But it’s hard to have Perry gone so much after having him so near for the kids’ entire lives, and it’s hard on him to be gone.  With Vision Forum, he could and did freely take children to work with him almost every day of every week.  With his previous employer, he came home for lunch every single day.  We have always seen him every day, not just morning and evening but often throughout the day.  Now we see him on the weekends and on Skype.  He is a big part of the life and energy in our house, so it’s a big adjustment for all of us.  It’s as if our lives are black and white while he’s gone, and everything bursts into full color when he walks through the door.

silly dad happy dad fun with dad i like him too 5 guys

For now, we are walking by faith on the road of an independent contractor.  It’s slightly unnerving after 20 years of regular paychecks, but also exciting.

If you are praying for us, please pray that God would give us discernment and make His will clear to us, giving us peace as we walk this new path ahead of us.

Not dead or kidnapped. Just busy.

I’m so sorry for disappearing. We’ve had so much going on lately that blogging never quite makes it to the top of my to-do list.
Perry has been job hunting, networking, and doing some temporary work as the opportunity presents. We don’t know what the future holds, but we all hope God keeps us here in San Antonio.
The girls and I are gearing up for a yard sale soon, decluttering and fund-raising at the same time. If we do have to move any time in the near future, I’m sure we’ll be glad we did this. We also have quite an impressive pile of discards out front, waiting for our area’s semi-annual bulk trash pick-up. Yay for less stuff!
More news: Kaitlyn is getting her driver’s license any day now. Since she can’t work with her dad anymore, she wants to earn some income as a sitter and/or tutor. Am I the only who is shocked at what babysitters earn these days?!
More news later. Thumb typing a blog post on a phone an hour after I should be asleep is NOT the best use of time.
Before I go, here are a few random pics from the last couple of weeks.
Mom, sibs and me at our sister’s wedding:
wedding fam

Our first family dinner with my new dishes, courtesy of my sweet in-laws:
new dishes

Perry helping Parker work in his first-ever school book:

Bethany waiting to find out where we going, on a little trip to celebrate a very special accomplishment.

The look on Perry’s face when he opened a letter from Grandpa and Grandma Coghlan, to find the item on his Christmas list that everyone laughed about:
hundred bucks

That’s all, folks!