A Week of Maxwell Dinners

We had a request to share some of our main-meal menus. We keep those in a Google Spreadsheet that the cooks can access from their computers or phones. I copied a week from there to post here.

Saturday 2/16 Instant Pot ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans
Sunday 2/17 Burritos, green salad, homemade whole wheat tortillas, chips, salsa
Monday 2/18 Salmon patties, buns, green salad
Tuesday 2/19 Leftover vegetable beef soup with pasta, homemade whole wheat bread
Wednesday 2/20 Leftover enchiladas, green salad, chips, salsa
Thursday 2/21 Vegetable ham soup with pasta, homemade whole wheat bread
Friday 2/22 Ham pot pie, green salad
Saturday 2/23 Ground beef skillet, green salad

About two years ago, we started having our bigger meal at lunch time. After the initial adjustment of more food preparation in the mornings, we have liked the switch. We talked about making this change years ago, but with homeschooling weren’t willing to give up our quality, morning homeschooling time for food preparation.

In winter, we often have homemade soup. Anna discovered cooking the pasta separately and then adding it to the soup portion keeps it from getting mushy as it does if boiled in the soup broth and then reheated for leftovers.

Trusting in Jesus,

“And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee,
if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God”
(Deuteronomy 28:2).

Special Life-Long Memories

Charles Spurgeon in his autobiography tells a heart-warming story of his grandmother making treats for him with leftover pastry. A kneading trough was located in the kitchen, and in it was a little shelf. Charles knew if he came into the kitchen, he would likely find a pastry treat waiting for him, shaped into an animal with currants for eyes. 

One of my grandmas got up very early on Thanksgiving mornings to cook and bake. She had extra pie crust dough after her pies were all made so she rolled it out thin, brushed it with melted butter, and topped it with cinnamon and sugar. She cut the dough into rectangles, baked it until golden brown, and served it to her grandchildren. To this day, my family loves pie crust made just like that.

My other grandma welcomed my sister and me for visits by putting our Raggedy Ann dolls on our beds along with a little Tupperware container of her homemade fudge so we each had our own portion, along with a love note. When we arrived at her house, we hugged her and Pampie, and then ran straight to our beds!

Pampie and Meme

My children recall with fondness our read-aloud time. When we started homeschooling, I read a chapter from a book right after lunch. Eventually our read-aloud time moved to late in the afternoon.

Reading to John and Joseph
Reading to my grandchildren

They also greatly loved the season when they found an encouraging note under their pillow when they went to bed. Each week, I wrote one of those notes to a child, snuck into their bedroom during the day, and slipped the note under the pillow. I kept track of who had received the last note and worked through the children in age order so each would receive an equal number of notes.

A note I wrote about 20+ years ago to Sarah.

Simple things create life-long memories. They don’t have to be time consuming, burdensome, or expensive. They express love! 

You probably have some of those memories, too, and are building them for your children. Want to share them?

Trusting in Jesus,

“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God;
and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (1 John 4:7).

Winter Workouts and Gear

“First, I have noticed that your family is into fitness, and I was wondering when the weather turns cold and snowing/raining, what do you do for cardio? Also, what are some of the things that you might wear in order to stay warm and dry?” A blog reader

This is a great question. We’ve had a lot of snow and ice this winter. It is true that we love to exercise, and just because it’s winter, well, that doesn’t stop us.

While we do most of our cardio workouts in our home gym, we still walk outside, and we girls also try for a weekly run. For walking, we like down coats, especially Eddie Bauer. They have different options of warmth and length available. My personal favorite I wear a ton is the Cirruslite Down Jacket. Jesse loves his North Face down jacket.

All three girls are wearing EddieBauer down jackets.
Jesse wearing a North Face down jacket while hiking. We’ve found down to be perfect for hiking too!

Under Armour Base Layer is another blessing. They come in varying levels, but their 3.0 and 4.0s are perfect for winter. Running gear we prefer to layer because down coats are too bulky and hot. Under Armour’s ColdGear turtleneck is one of my favorite options.

Under Armour ColdGear turtlenecks

If it is icy, YakTraxs are an option to wear over a running or walking shoe. They are a little hassle to put on, though. YakTraxs seriously make it possible to walk in otherwise impossible slippery conditions.

We’ve also found hiking shoes have more traction than normal running shoes, so if it’s slightly icy, but not enough to call for YakTraxs, those are a great option.

That being said, we’ve had so much ice this winter, that Dad and Mom have erred on the side of caution and not done as much walking. Instead, they’ll do a home workout, using the treadmill and the stairs. Then, they’ll finish out with a kettlebell workout.

Dad wearing an UnderArmour jacket and Mom wearing a Columbia coat. She’s since received (for Christmas!) a CirrusLite Eddie Bauer jacket mentioned above and loves it.

I hope some of these ideas help you to brave the winter weather!


“For he saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth;
likewise to the small rain, and to the
great rain of his strength.” Job 37:6

The Power of a Homeschool Schedule

Last week I spent a morning homeschooling some of my grandchildren while Melanie took a child to a doctor’s appointment in Kansas City. You know what? It wasn’t hard because Melanie has a solid homeschool schedule in place. All I needed to do was consult the schedule posted on the refrigerator, and then follow it. The children are used to the schedule, so they know what they are to do as well. They had even figured out how to compensate for the child who was gone for the doctor’s appointment and wouldn’t be there for her 1/2 hour playtime with Andrew and Benjamin!

Each child’s school morning is structured and interesting. The power of a schedule during our homeschooling years was vital for our success, and now it is blessing my grandchildren’s lives with productivity, direction, and peace (although I know it isn’t always peaceful with little children).

Trusting in Jesus,

Such a cute trio
This little guy is almost 2!
Drew reading to me

“Children’s children are the crown of old men;
and the glory of children are their fathers.” Proverbs 17:6

Axton Maxwell’s Newborn Pictures

Eight days after Axton was born, we decided spur of the moment to do his newborn session. I borrowed some props from Christopher and headed to John’s. Upon arrival, I literally Googled something about newborn baby photos natural light, had about two minutes to try to figure out what I wanted to start with, and set to work.

We started photos about 2:30 and ended two hours later. The day was pretty perfect for light, with a cloud cover quite a bit. Babies are so sweet to work with, and Axton did great. I’ll share through the post what I used for location and background.

I use a Nikon D800 and most of these pictures were with my Tamron f2.8 28-75mm lens. I took some with Nikon f1.4 50mm lens. I did not use a flash.

Oh, and John cranked the heat way up in the house, so it was pretty toasty warm: perfect for Axton and pretty warm for the rest of us.

Not quite a happy face yet, but we were just starting.

I began in the dining room, using pillows and a blanket for my background, and put him in a cute little sack. His bright eyes lent the perfect sparkle to the photos.

Next, we went to the nursery. The gray wall was an ideal backdrop. The south window let just enough light in through the curtains.

So I began experimenting. Doing some pictures with Baby and Mommy.

I used a chair or stool for height and worked to get some family pictures and stay with a clear focus in the tight space. Don’t you love how those teal greens worked together?

What a cute threesome!

Next, we needed some pictures of Daddy and Son.

I love those eyes: so trusting, looking to his daddy.

In the midst of that, I wanted a ring pose, and I tried a little different twist.

I originally wanted to try the black shirt so I could do the strong arm holding-baby-out photo. Although it didn’t turn out the way I had thought, the black shirt brought a dramatic look with the gray background, and I loved the result.

Next, we moved to the living room. As I set up for the basket photo, Dad and Mom went by on a walk, and John flagged them down and invited them in. It was great to have some company for the last part of our photo session.

For the black backdrop, I used two dining room chairs and clipped a black blanket on it. We swaddled Axton in the wrap, and then I put the gray blanket on the ground. We had a perfect amount of light coming in from the windows. For the family picture (see the last one), Dad and Mom held the blanket out because I needed the extra width to keep the background black.

An adorable package
Axton Maxwell
Axton Maxwell
The John Maxwell Family

I hope you enjoyed a peek into the newborn baby session!


“By thee have I been holden up from the womb:
thou art he that took me out of my mother’s bowels:
my praise shall be continually of thee.”
Psalm 71:6

Grandpa and Grandma’s Christmas Gifts

Mom and Dad gave a very sweet practical gift to Abby, Betsy, and Tina for Christmas: Hobby Lobby gift cards. But it had an extra perk. Included with the gift cards was a shopping trip to spend them with Mom and Anna and Mary plus lunch out. Each girl picked out what they wanted to spend their money on.


Mom and Abby
Anna and Bethany
Bethany and Mary

“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart,
so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity:
for God loveth a cheerful giver.”
2 Corinthians 9:7