Nine Ways to Save Big at Dollar Tree

dollar tree graphic

When I first started shopping at Dollar Tree, I was floored at the things I could purchase there that cost 3 or 4 or more times at other stores. Dollar Tree isn’t compensating me for bragging on their store (ha!), I just want to pass these fabulous savings on to you!

photo(12)1. Cards

I know people who have stopped sending altogether because they cost SO much at standard stores. Dollar Tree has a HUGE rack of cards for a dollar and even a 2-for-a-dollar rack!


2. Party Supplies

I have bought all the decorations for the past few birthday parties we’ve had at Dollar Tree. They aren’t themed but they are cute and very nice in my opinion. Dollar Tree also has lovely gift bags, wrapping paper, and ribbon.


3. Toys

I’ll be honest: A lot of Dollar Tree toys are PURE JUNK. But there are gems there as well. Molded plastic animal toys, character coloring books (like Strawberry Shortcake, Pooh, and Jake and the Neverland Pirates), army men, sweet little dolls, play doh, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, and small stuffed animals are just a few things we have enjoyed. I even saw doll house furniture the other day. They even have some things of sufficient quality that I was comfortable giving them as gifts.


4. Organizers

Dollar Tree has lots and lots of baskets and bins in various colors, styles, and sizes. Yes, they are cheap plastic. They aren’t going to hold up if a 3 year old uses them for a step stool (ask me how I know). But for basic shelf organization, they do the job nicely for a fraction of what you’d pay elsewhere. I color code them for each room…the boys get blue, girls get purple, and general household is turquoise.


5. Cleaning Supplies

This is one area where I love Dollar Tree the most. I buy all of my sponges, scrubbies, disposable dusters, and swiffer-type cloths there, and they are of nearly equal quality as name brands, in my opinion. Even the store brand of these products at Wal-Mart or Target costs several dollars. I have also bought small brooms, dust pans, a store brand swiffer (the actual dry mop itself, not just the cloths), and sponge mops. Of course, these are lightweight, but they work just fine if you take care of them and don’t need industrial quality.


6. Homeschool/Teacher Supplies

Dollar Tree has lots of basic school items like flash cards, cursive writing strips, beginning writer’s tablets, math posters, workbooks, and early reader books, as well as a boatload of office supplies used in the classroom too. I have spent so much money in the past on items like these. No more!


7. Craft Supplies

Dollar Tree has drawing tablets as well as nicer sketchpad-type drawing paper, crayons, colored pencils, paint, glitter, rubber stamps (especially at Christmas), craft kits, stickers, large sets of markers, and more.

{oops, no picture!}

8. Flower and Garden Seeds

In the Spring, they have a few basic veggie and flower seeds 4/$1. Later in the summer they are usually marked down to 10/$1. What a steal!

love{Madeleine L’Engle?!  I couldn’t believe it either!  Woohoo!}

9. Books

Sometimes Dollar Tree books are a bust. Other times they actually have some good titles. I have gotten several good children’s books there, such as Richard Scarry’s counting board book. I bought a book about farm animals at Dollar Tree that was a favorite of my little ones…later I saw it at Bass Pro Shop for around $5. More recently I found some graphic novels of classic stories like David Copperfield and White Fang, which really piqued the interest of my less-enthusiastic readers. Typically I stick with non-twaddle/good literature for my kids, but in a pinch these work. I have gotten a couple of interesting novels for myself too, during times when I really needed some light reading.

The more I shop at Dollar Tree, the more amazed I am at their great selection, and often decent quality. Would I buy everything there? Definitely not…but it is ABSOLUTELY worth a stop on my way to the grocery store!

Do you have any tips for saving big at Dollar Tree?

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How to Keep Family Relationships Strong When You’re Under Stress

relationships stress graphic

They say that what’s really inside of us comes out when we’re squeezed. Scary, huh?

Stress can make us show our worst side, and it can push us to treat those closest to us in ways that shock even ourselves.

We often hear what we need to do to keep our families strong. Date night. One on one time with our kids. Speaking each other’s love language.

Let me tell you, when you are in survival mode, sometimes those things just aren’t going to happen.

Maybe money is too tight or you’re working three jobs or you’re so distraught that you can barely get out of bed in the morning.

It’s OK. This is a season, more than likely, not forever.

It is OK to just plug along as best you can for now.  You don’t want to doggie paddle in your relationships forever, but for now it’s OK.  Breathe.

And until things change or you figure out how to manage your new normal, here are a few ways that help keep relationships with spouse and kids going even in the midst or chaos.

Be Gentle With Yourself

Acknowledge your trauma and its effect on you. Don’t feel guilty for caring for yourself as much as you can so that you have something to give others.

Speak Kindly

Use kind words to those around you. Err on the side of grace and mercy.

Bite Your Tongue

You won’t always feel like being kind. That’s when you just have to bite your tongue. Take a walk. Go to the bathroom until you get control. Whatever it takes to keep the geyser from erupting.

Seek Forgiveness

None of us will always treat others the way we should, especially when we’re in the pressure cooker. When we mess up, lose our tempers, or speak harshly, we should seek forgiveness quickly. Even if you have to apologize many times, it’s far better than saying nothing.

Give Each Other Space

During times of stress, families need to give each other space. This is different from withdrawing from each other. But we each need time to back away from the fray and recharge a little bit. Whether it’s a once-a-day quiet hour or giving each other the chance to go out for coffee or spend time on a hobby, with friends, or reading a book, space helps us to come back together stronger.

Hug a Lot

Be affectionate. Hug. Kiss. Snuggle. Married people, have sex. Don’t withdraw from each other physically because you’re emotionally spent, as much as you might want to.


It helps to have a place to process what’s going on, your thoughts, and feelings.  This is especially helpful if you don’t have a safe person to confide in.

Pray for and With Each Other

All the human help in the world isn’t enough to save us—and our relationships–from hard situations. Call in heavenly reinforcements!

I’m no expert, not even close. But in my observation and experience, these are a few things that help keep us close during hard times.

Do you agree or disagree? What would you add?

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Tuesday Poetry Teatime: The Rough Little Rascal by Edgar Guest


rough little rascal graphicWe love Poetry Tea Time (or Hot Chocolate Time…or Lemonade Time…), popularized by Julie Bogart, a veteran homeschooling mom and owner of Brave Writer, a company that helps homeschooling families teach writing in an organic fashion. Here on the blog, I’m going to share a poem each Tuesday in honor of Tea Time. And for a while I’ll be using the poetry of my favorite poet, Edgar Guest. His work is a treasure that’s too precious not to share.

A smudge on his nose and a smear on his cheek
And knees that might not have been washed in a week;
A bump on his forehead, a scar on his lip,
A relic of many a tumble and trip:
A rough little, tough little rascal, but sweet,
Is he that each evening I’m eager to meet.

A brow that is beady with jewels of sweat;
A face that’s as black as a visage can get;
A suit that at noon was a garment of white,
Now one that his mother declares is a fright:
A fun-loving, sun-loving rascal, and fine,
Is he that comes placing his black fist in mine.

A crop of brown hair that is tousled and tossed;
A waist from which two of the buttons are lost;
A smile that shines out through the dirt and the grime,
And eyes that are flashing delight all the time:
All these are the joys that I’m eager to meet
And look for the moment I get to my street.

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Cozy Homeschooling: Make Your Own Poetry Books

cozy homeschooling graphic

I’m a huge fan of Julie Bogart and her Brave Writer Lifestyle. Poetry Tea Time is one element of the Brave Writer Lifestyle we’ve enjoyed with great success.

However, poetry books are in short supply around here at the moment. One day our shelves will be filled, but until then, we’re doing poetry the thrifty way!

I searched for some of my favorite poets online and chose a few poems I felt the kids would understand and enjoy. Then I copied and paste them into a document, printed, and stapled them.


For just pennies they have samplers of kid-friendly poetry to enjoy at tea time. I can add to this collection and give the kids exposure to a wide variety of rich poetry.


I know it really couldn’t be simpler, but sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. Maybe this will inspire you to make your own poetry books as well!

Who’s your favorite poet and why?

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Lovely Weekend Reads

weekend readsAn eclectic collection of posts for your reading pleasure…

“There is indeed a peaceful joy to be discovered in simply owning one. And this principle can be applied to almost any item we own: One coat. One spatula. One mug. One pen. One set of bedding. One television. One…”

~The Simple Joy of One (Becoming Minimalist)

“”The ability to self-direct can spell the difference between an independent student, who can be relied upon to get her work done while chaos reigns around her, and a dependent, aimless student,” former teacher Jessica Lahey writes in The Atlantic. “When we reduce the amount of free playtime in American preschools and kindergartens, our children stand to lose more than an opportunity to play house and cops and robbers.”"

~Study: Too Many Structured Activities May Hinder Children’s Executive Functioning (Education Week)

“It turns out that some of my family’s favorite games are educational tools in disguise. Dr. Bill Hudenko, child psychologist and assistant professor of psychiatry at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, uses board games in his practice to diagnose and strengthen these much-touted executive function skills. He also encourages parents to play these games with their children at home.”

~How Family Game Night Makes Kids Better Students (The Atlantic)

“Children learn best when parents demonstrate biblical truth by how they treat others, especially their children.  It begins with not assuming an adversarial relationship, instead seeing them as our brothers and sisters in Christ. As we one another our little ones, we will look for ways to serve them, far beyond those necessary things we do for them required of moms. This often means setting aside our personal rights and desires in order to accommodate the various struggles and woes of childhood as our children pass through various stages. It means understanding them, their age of development, their particular strengths and weaknesses. It means showing them by example how to have self-control, to love and forgive each other, to be patient and kind. It means eliciting empathy from them as we dole it out to them in full measure. When we are mindful of our attitudes as well as our actions, we lay the groundwork for mentoring when they are adults.”

~Why The Nanny Doesn’t Understand What’s Most Important (Karen Campbell)

“This desire for control speaks to a deep longing in all of us for life to make sense, for harmony to rule, for hurt and confusion to be settled and healed. Yes, our sin is mixed into this longing, but at the core, as beings miraculously created in God’s image, we long for heaven!

~The Great Thing About Yelling (Connected Families)

Tagline on the CT Facebook page: “It’s scary and shameful to admit being broke. Knowing we subject ourselves to judgment and rude comments only make it worse.”

~How Poor Could They Be? (Christianity Today)

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Hi sweet friends…so once again I started posting regularly and then fell off the map.  We are working on The Little House and are entering the “one more week” stage for the 4th time before we can move in.  Don’t these projects always take longer than we expect?!   Currently we are searching for a solution or sulphur in our well water, so if you know of one that doesn’t involve chlorine, we would love to hear it.  I’ll be back to writing when I can!

Poetry Teatime on Tuesday: Compensation by Edgar Guest

We love Poetry Tea Time (or Hot Chocolate Time…or Lemonade Time…), popularized by Julie Bogart, a veteran homeschooling mom and owner of Brave Writer, a company that helps homeschooling families teach writing in an organic fashion.  Here on the blog, I’m going to share a poem each Tuesday in honor of Tea Time.  And for a while I’ll be using the poetry of my favorite poet, Edgar Guest.  His work is a treasure that’s too precious not to share.

This poem in particular speaks to my heart…I have no desire for fame, but my goal is to make my mark on the world by daily encouraging someone else.

I’d like to think when life is done
That I had filled a needed post.
That here and there I’d paid my fare
With more than idle talk and boast;
That I had taken gifts divine.
The breath of life and manhood fine,
And tried to use them now and then
In service for my fellow men.

I’d hate to think when life is through
That I had lived my round of years
A useless kind, that leaves behind
No record in this vale of tears;
That I had wasted all my days
By treading only selfish ways,
And that this world would be the same
If it had never known my name.

I’d like to think that here and there,
When I am gone, there shall remain
A happier spot that might have not
Existed had I toiled for gain;
That someone’s cheery voice and smile
Shall prove that I had been worth while;
That I had paid with something fine
My debt to God for life divine.

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{art: Thomas Kennington}

Where to Turn When You’re Disillusioned by Homeschool Leaders

homeschool leaders graphic

Today I’m going to speak to a very small segment of my small readership.

Some of you were crushed by the recent news of Doug Phillips’ resignation from Vision Forum Ministries because of an inappropriate relationship with another woman. (As more details have emerged, some people are calling it clergy sex abuse…but for the purpose of this post, a mere acknowledgement of infidelity is sufficient. I’m not here to argue the finer points.)

I know how you feel. I do. And my heart hurts for the pain and confusion that some of you feel right now. As the months have passed, and other sex scandals have come to light in the homeschooling community, many of you are left reeling.

Perhaps over the past few months, these stories have made you back up and question a lot of things.  Let me tell you about when I was where you may be right now.

When I was a sheltered, homeschooled teenager living on a small Central Texas farm, milking cows and canning vegetables, the highlight of my month was receiving magazines published by homeschooling ministries and families. It brought such joy, encouragement, and relief to read articles by people who valued the same life I did—homeschooling, modesty, courtship, children, and family.

These magazines were a big part of what tied me to the larger community of what we called “conservative Christian homeschoolers.” (Now I suppose these publications have been replaced mostly by blogs that promote the same values.)

They assured me that I was not weird for believing as I did (or if I did it was a good “peculiar people” kind of weird), that we were right and righteous and even revolutionary, changing the world one handwriting lesson, one loaf of homemade bread, one diaper change at a time.

My favorite magazine had a huge readership and was published by a beautiful, godly mother of nine. She gardened, cooked 30 meals (some of you know what that means!), and wore long cotton dresses and a head covering. She had a unique ability to draw women together and encourage them deeply in their household endeavors.

One month the magazine didn’t come. (Yes, I had the schedule memorized.)

We waited. And waited. Another month passed.

We started to hear whispers that something had gone wrong.

And finally, weeks and weeks later, the magazine did arrive, with an announcement.

The beautiful editor of this treasured publication, this conservative, modest, domestic, big-family homeschooling mother, had had an affair and ultimately divorced her husband.

Shock, dismay, disappointment, anger, and confusion…That pretty much sums up how I felt.

How could she?

How could this happen?

How could such a godly woman fall?

How could this Titus 2 leader of women betray us like this?

How could someone who encouraged women to build strong families walk away from hers?

You may find it silly that news about someone I’d never met caused so much distress, but understand that this woman was a rock star in our world.
As much as she described herself (and we would have described her) as gentle, humble, and unassuming, we held her in high esteem.

She influenced many profoundly.

In short, she was a celebrity role model of our counterculture.

We hear of moral failures all the time. We’re sinful people in a broken world, a world that doesn’t value morals or family as it once did, a society that fails to build high fences around the God-ordained institution of marriage.

So these failings are not uncommon, nor are they particularly shocking.
But when the one who falls is a leader of a ministry specifically built on the principles of godly family—it’s shocking.

When it’s someone who claims that courtship and “emotional purity” (that even forbids adolescent crushes) will guarantee that you or your children wouldn’t have to suffer the heartbreak of serial dating—it’s shocking.
When it’s someone who elevated the role of wives and mothers as the most important work in the world and encouraged people to nurture strong, godly marriages—it’s shocking.

When it’s someone who had answers for building a rock-solid family—it’s shocking.



I floundered for a long time as I tried to make sense of how this could happen. For a while I couldn’t wrap my mind around it.

Finally I decided that she must have been a wolf in sheep’s clothing, not a true Christian, but an imposter. A tare among the wheat.

And you know, I don’t know her, I suppose that’s possible.

But all these years later I think that I have a better glimpse into how leaders of family-centered ministries can fail their own families so greatly, how these people who set such high, high standards for the rest of us can’t even maintain the most basic moral standard (don’t commit adultery). I don’t say this from a self-righteous position of “That could never happen to me,” but from “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Again, adultery is not a new or uncommon sin, unfortunately.

But we expect more from people who claim to have foolproof answers and rock-solid formulas for building godly families, don’t we? And rightly so!

We want to extend forgiveness and grace, but it’s also OK to ask why.

I’d like to speak as an alumnus of this “Conservative Christian homeschooling movement,” as one who once asked the questions so many of you are asking right now.

I was part of the movement for many, many years, and my time there began long before Vision Forum or the Pearls or Kevin Swanson, back when Mary Pride, Teaching Home Magazine, and Rod and Staff publishers were the primary influencers of this segment of homeschoolers.

During the 25 years or so that I was in this camp, I will say that there was very little focus on the Gospel, the only thing that saves us from sin and gives us the power to live victorious over it.

The conversations were mainly about the evils of the culture and how to modify our behavior, our childrens’ behavior, to avoid it.

The articles, the correspondence, the conversations centered around courtship, modesty, child training and discipline, homemaking, homeschooling, gender roles, and purity, almost exclusively.

I’m not saying that we and others did not believe the Gospel. We did.

But after salvation, our affections (using the term “our” to describe anyone involved in the movement, mainly the adults who influenced the children) quickly shifted to externals. We constructed a set of formulas, which we believed were Biblical, in order to avoid the traps and pitfalls of modern Christianity.

But I almost never recall hearing a conversation, receiving a letter, or reading an article about the Gospel. In my long years of experience, this movement that was supposed to produce children of superior godliness and families of impeccable strength and character, was not focused on Jesus and his saving grace.

At the very least, it’s a movement, with leaders, who are family-centered, lifestyle-centered, and works-centered, but not necessarily Christ-centered or Gospel-centered. This I believe, from being a part of it for a very long time.

Are there exceptions? Sure. But they are just that, exceptions.

I know the difference personally. When I released all the extrabiblical lifestyle entanglements (“Godly women wear only dress this way. Godly families will always homeschool. Godly people will never date.” And a gazillion more.) and instead focused on Christ, the center or our faith and the lover of our souls, it turned my world upside down.

My heart is light and my conversations are certainly different. When I get together with my siblings or close friends now, we talk about all kinds of things—but it always comes back to Jesus and the Gospel. The wonder of him, the excitement of him, and how our Jesus changes us from the inside out and compels us to radically love all kinds of people.

I saw a comment in response to a blog post about Phillips’ resignation. It said, “If a godly man like Doug Phillips can fall, what hope is there for the rest of us?”

Dear friends, there is all the hope in the world for the rest of us. Because our hope does not lie in whether our daughters skip college or stay home until marriage, it does not lie in a 200-year plan or being accomplished homemakers or perfectly training our children, it does not lie in a leader, a fallible man, a fellow sinner with feet of clay just like us.

Our hope lies in Jesus and his precious, life-saving, life-giving Gospel of grace. It lies in the one who makes all things new. It lies in the one who gives us power over sin and forgiveness when we fail. It lies in the perfect atoning Sacrifice.

And that’s a vision worth our pursuit.

Do you agree or disagree?  If your heart has been impacted by news of recent scandals, I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments.  All comments are moderated and this is a safe place.  Feel free to post anonymously if you like.

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