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7 Ways to Get Great Stories into Your Kids

It all started when we decided to take the plunge and get rid of our T.V.

Yes, I know, crazy. But, at the time, I felt so convicted that if I kept it, I might somehow be depriving my children of becoming the next Beethoven! You know, what if instead of being bored and discovering some hidden talent, they were in front of a screen?! Anyway, we have our T.V. back now because it got a little weird when we’d invite the neighbor kids over for a special movie night and we’d bring out the iPad.

I kid you not. You should have seen their little confused faces. Not my finest moment.

All to say, I don’t regret the time we spent not having a T.V., because it was during that time that we developed a love for reading and listening to audio books and adventures. I began to watch as my children used their imaginations to act out the stories they were hearing. I’ve seen their vocabulary grow. I watch as they read aloud with great fervor, using different voices and inflection and accents. And most recently, two of my children have joined theatre and will be auditioning for a part in a musical in a week! They’ve been practicing practically all their lives!

And what a joy it has been reading and listening along with them, introducing myself to great stories I had never been exposed to growing up (Anne of Green Gables anyone? Yea, never had read it!). I am delighting in and learning right along with my kiddos!

Which brings me to today’s post. For those of you who could use some good ideas for getting good stories into your children’s brains, I offer you this:

7 Ways to Get Great Stories into Your Kids


1. Grocery Trips to Road Trips – I’m telling you, this is THE secret

The number one way I get great stories into my kids is listening to audio books and adventures in the car.

We listen everywhere we go! Grocery trips, on the way to their Academy, to my son’s reading tutor, road trips, EVERYWHERE, and we have logged hundreds of hours getting stories into our brains this way. Anne of Green Gables, Wonder, Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, To Kill a Mockingbird…the list goes on and on. Right now we are HOOKED on Family Audio Adventures (history plus great stories? Yes please! See the end of the post for deets on getting a discount!).


Road trip? Who needs movies when there are great audio books and audio adventures to listen to?! We pick stories the whole family can get into!



The van basket…messy but effective!

2. Don’t Hide The Good Stuff

Putting books on display around your house is a sure way to get your kids to pick it up, plop down on the couch, and engage.

Every week or so I change out the books we put on display, books I want my children to pick up and check out. I can’t remember a time they didn’t take the bait! 😉




3. Tea and Treats Leads to Keats (you know, the poet)

A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” –Keats (Read the whole poem here.)

Next to keeping audio books and adventures in the car is our reading and tea time.

This is the time of day when we all gather to hear a story, either me reading it or us all listening to an audio book. We head to the living room or the table where they are allowed to do something quiet while they listen. They also get tea and a treat, which is the real trick. I know I can put almost anything in my kids heads if they first have something yummy to eat! Poetry? No problem! Classic literature? Done! I’m telling you, if you want to get great stories into your kids, just feed them something while you’re doing it!



4. The Magic of the Book Basket

Struggle with getting your kids to read more than “candy” books? I’ve been there!

My oldest, avid reader that she is, was always picking books at the library that were of the Geronimo Stilton sort. Fun, but in a candy-appetite sort of way. Sure, she was reading, and I always encourage reading, but Sally pointed out to me that just like our diets, what we feed our minds daily is important in being healthy. If my girl always reads “candy books”, her mind would be engaged, but not necessarily strong. Plus, what we consume frequently we tend to have an appetite for. I want my children to crave good, delightful, meaningful stories. I also want her to learn about history and interesting people and science and so much more through “living books” and the wide world around us. Which brings me to the book basket…

Specifically, it looks like this:

A basket by the bed filled with a biography, a history (can be historical fiction), a science/nature, a classic literature, and a fun book.

Bada bing bada boom!


We go to the library, my kids pick the books based on the book basket rotation (that takes away the struggle), and I know they are going to learn! Simple, easy, THANK YOU SALLY CLARKSON for this idea!

5. Don’t Be Above Paying Your Kids…Or Giving Them an Awesome Experience

Some of you are wondering, “But how do you get your children to read the five books?”

Rewards of course! 😉 My children get to pick a special experience if they read a certain number of books (although I haven’t been above paying my kids a few bucks here and there to read something I really want them to read). Last year (and this year) my daughter chose Hershey park with her dad as her reward! My son chose a night out with me in a hotel. Yes, these are expensive items, but they have to read quite a bit to earn the reward, and it’s a once a year thing. They keep track by keeping a poster in their room and they put a sticker on it for each book they read. It has been a great success!



My son went with me to a T.V. interview where we got put up in a hotel. Since he had read his books, he got to go with me as his reward. We stayed in the hotel and ate pizza in bed while watching a movie! So fun!

6. Read (or listen) Before They Watch

My oldest two really want to watch The Lord of the Rings. They know that they don’t get to watch until they have read (or listened) to the books. I know, harsh, eh? They are tough books to read (I tried reading the Hobbit to them and gave up because it was so difficult! We got it on audio book instead)! But I have found that it motivates them to read and get into the story before seeing it visually. We now do this with almost every book-to-screen story they want to see.

7. Make Stories Come Alive and Your Children Will Get a Great Education (Plus, an AMAZING deal)

When we listen to exciting stories that come alive through wonderful acting, music, and sound effects, we are transported into the story where we can almost taste it. We love these kinds of stories.

I have found that when I want my children to really grasp a concept or an event or a philosophy, listening to living stories makes in impression into my children’s minds and hearts. A good story, a thrilling story, opens my children wide for learning, and because of this, right now we are all enthralled with the historical adventures from Family Audio Adventures.



These top-notch audio adventures are filled with stories about courage, conviction and character, and they are all wrapped in a Christian worldview.

We just finished up With Lee in Virginia which led to several conversations about the Civil War, State’s rights, slavery, and the complicated hearts of those who love God in the midst of complicated choices. I am relishing in these conversations.

Just this morning we began listening to the audio adventure about William Wallace (In Freedom’s Cause) and let me tell you, aside from the fact that my son is already talking in a Scottish accent, we are all fascinated by the history and legend and want to know more. These stories are pushing all of us to dig into history and learn.

And of course as soon as we finish one adventure, my kids want to hear another one, and I have a feeling we’ll be listening to these over and over again. Which is a good thing!

“Studies show that “listening and learning” with audio actually improves how a child’s brain works. It’s true. With audio learning, the left hemisphere of the brain gets stimulated in a way that no other learning method can stimulate. This is an education breakthrough!

And, once the left hemisphere is activated, research from Carnegie Mellon shows dramatic increases in verbal memory and fluency. Other studies show profound increases in the ability to use imagination. Lastly, researchers also discovered that even the ability to focus gets improved with audio learning.”

If you want to invest in good stories, hero stories, that enlighten and delight, I highly recommend Family Audio Adventures.

Story has a way of forming us, particularly hero stories.

Get a Discount on the Adventures We’re Hooked On!

To get 67% off of the four introductory adventures, The Dragon and the Raven, With Lee in Virginia, In Freedom’s Cause, and Under Drake’s Flag (so far, Under Drake’s Flag is my kids favorite), go HERE and use code: MAE1

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But here’s the kicker, this discount is only available to the first 27 people who order.

UPDATE: There are only 7 left for this deal!

And you first 27 that order, your order will be doubled AND you will receive these bonuses:





100 Percent Money Back Guarantee!

To learn more about Family Audio Adventures, head HERE.

To go ahead and use your discount code to get the 4 audio adventures (MAE1), head HERE.

Just think of all the delicious stories you can eat up by just putting a little creativity into your day!

Love and happy listening,


So very grateful to Family Audio Adventures for sponsoring this post.

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When Ideals Become Idols (What I Know Now)

Perusing through the kids section in Barnes & Noble where I worked, I began to make mental lists of the books I wanted my kids to read. Not only did I make a few lists, I picked up a book and took it to my locker to purchase later, in preparation for the day I would have my own little ones to read to. Walking back to the kids section, my assigned domain for the day, I continued to daydream about how wonderful it would be to have children.

I pictured a pig-tailed little girl running around with me in a pumpkin patch. I imaged many adventures I would take with my future girl, and I dreamed of sitting around a table with many children laughing and singing and eating together in joyful harmony. I studied up on discipline techniques, and I read a slew of parenting books. My major in college was human development and family studies with an option in children, youth, and family, which surely put me on track to being an expert as a mother.

There were going to be no surprises because I had parenting all figured out.

Not only did I have parenting figured out, I relied on my grand ideals to usher in reality. I reasoned that because I wanted children and wanted to spend my days with them teaching and nurturing them, of course my ideals would come true.

Of course.

And then I had children, three of them, in five years.

Here is where I tell you what I know now.

What I Know Now

I know that it’s wise to have ideals. Ideals help us to persevere and have vision for our hopes and dreams. They are a standard that helps us focus on our goals. However, ideals can quickly turn into idols if we rely on them/put our hope in them instead of relying on Jesus and how He made us.

How Do You Know If You’ve Made an Ideal An Idol?

The biggest indication that you’ve made an ideal into an idol is that you become angry, depressed and/or anxious when your ideals aren’t working out how you envisioned them.

Looking back, I know that my ideals of motherhood were an idol. In all my dreaming, I had never considered my personality, my bents, trials I would encounter, the reality of sin in daily life, my own selfishness, my own limitations, exhaustion, marriage difficulties, and a million other intricacies that are of life and of me.

When our faith is strong in Jesus, we can weather the falling apart of some of our ideals. When we have put too much stock in our ideals, and they fall apart, so will we.

How Do You Avoid Making an Ideal an Idol

Give your ideals, which is fancy way of saying “standards”, to the One who knows every piece of you. Offer to Him your dreams, and ask Him to give you vision and faith. Remember that you are not a robot; you have a unique personality and woven skill sets and gifts imprinted in the weaving. You cannot be someone else. You are made gloriously! Accept who you are, your weaknesses and your strengths, and trust God will the details (Tweetable). If you have His Holy Spirit intertwined with your spirit, you are being matured and perfected. Let that work be good enough. Let the failures come, look to Jesus, and keep walking. The standards you’ve put on yourself are probably not the ones God puts on you. His standards? Believe in Him; have faith! He sits on a throne of grace, and His burden for you is light.

Ideals are good and helpful. The key is to take our ideals and put them in the hands of God, having faith in His plans and ways, and then walk daily with Him, always asking, “Lord, what do you say?”

Love, SM


Originally posted October 2012

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I’m sorry you have a crazy mother but I love you

You might think this post is about my mom, but you would be wrong. It’s about me.

Yes, I am the crazy mother, and not in the cool way, like, “CRAZY MOTHA”. More like, “Hey kids, sorry I’ve been kind of jerky and emotional and I told you I AM SO OVER THE NEIGHBOR KIDS and I argued with your dad about Hillary Clinton and Ryan Lochte and…I’m sorry you have a crazy mother but I love you” kind of way.

I love our neighbor kids.

I do.

Most of the time.

98% of the time.



But for real.

The morning started so hopeful. I was up before my kids, I lit a candle, put on some music, had some coffee, got into my BIBLE, and then…they got up early. And wanted cuddles. And I LOVE CUDDLES. But I know that once they’re up, it’s mom-time. All day, every day. It’s good. It’s fine. But sometimes, by 4pm, my husband gets messages like this:


I homeschool, for those of you who don’t know, and so when I say I need a babysitter for rest of the summer it’s because I’m with my kiddos 24/7 All.Year.Long. Which is mostly fine because I really like my kids. But, you know, sometimes I feel like I’m sending out an SOS.

Then I take a deep breath.

I remember: “Thou wilt keep in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee.” (Isaiah 26:3)

And this: “For He Himself is our peace.” (Ephesians 2:14)

My peace doesn’t come from less noise.

It doesn’t come from perfect kids (mine or the neighborhood ones).

I can’t find in a good Netflix binge (Stranger Things, anyone?) or on Instagram (see what I did there)

It doesn’t come from a clean home (although, Lord please send me a maid).

I can’t even get it if I get away for awhile. I can get relief, but not peace.

Deep, true, soul-desperate peace will only come from Jesus. And oh man do I need Him on the crazy days. I need Him always, but the days where I want to kick everyone out of the house only to realize the neighborhood kids start talking about who likes and who and someone hurts someone else and I’M GOING TO LOSE MY EVER LOVING MIND…this is when I need Him.

I need Him.

I need Him.

I need Him.

Thou wilt keep in perfect peace who mind is stayed on thee.

He is our peace.

He is my peace. He is enough.


And it’s the same for the big painful things in the world or the big emotions in our small personal world, He is our peace.

So when the anxiety crawls through my body, tingling down my arms and laying heavy in my neck…

When I feel stuck or crazy…

I remember, Thou wilt keep in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee.


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How to Mother Yourself When You’re Feeling Down

Today I have felt…crappy.

I’m sorry, but that’s just what it is. I’m prone to this, I know, so at least I know how to deal with the rhythms of it. Oh, hi again downward-spiraling-for-no-reason-day, I know you. You don’t get to control me, but yea, you do know how to bring me down. And yes, I’m a little down.

My tendency when I’m down is to want to stay away from people. I feel anxious and everything gives me anxiety. Kids around? Anxiety. Messy house? Anxiety. Feeling like I’m stuck in a box and can’t get out? Anxiety.

I tell the kids they have to come in for an hour from playing so I can lie down and maybe get a nap. And oh yea, clean your rooms because I can’t deal.

I’m up again and I’m thinking I’d really like to not be unkind to myself right now. It’s easy to beat myself up on days like this. But today I think I’ll mother myself.

What would a mother do today? How does a mother treat her hurting for no reason daughter? Since I don’t actually know, I’ll guess…this is what I do for my daughters anyway.

Take Care of Yourself

Go and get yourself something healthy to eat or drink, you’ll feel better. How about a smoothie? Put something good into your body because you know later you’re going to eat cake.

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Also, take a walk. Get some fresh air and wind on your face and be connected to nothing but your body and the air. Listening to God on your walks is good too. He is with you right now and He knows of your dark days. He sits or walks with you through them.

Make Some Tea

You know what you need right now? Some tea. Chamomile sounds about right. I don’t know what it is about tea, but there is something wonderfully healing in it. It would help if you could have a hug with your tea, so hug your kids and let them love on you. Kids are awesome lovers.

Eat Some Cake

I’m noticing a pattern here: food. Or some form of food, as in drink. Drinking and eating seem to have healing properties. That’s okay, God made food and drink and He is the bread of life, so cake and tea and a smoothie and Him, sounds about right. Feast with Him.

And yes, eat the cake. It’s your mom’s birthday and you just need to do it. Feel free to have some wine with it.

Rest. You are Loved and Don’t Have to Be Anything

My sweet one, just rest. You don’t have to be anything or do anything right now. Know you are loved and not alone. Maybe read some fiction to get your mind free. A good book is comfort. Be gentle with yourself.

“May your unfailing love be my comfort…” Psalm 119:76

If you’re having one of those days, eat the cake, have some tea, take the walk, rest. You’re going to be okay.

Love, SM

Related: How to Make a Home When You’re Feeling Depressed


Thanks to 98.7 WMZQ for this pro-tip!

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What I want to tell moms (what I wish I would have known sooner)


This morning as Caroline and I were driving back from the grocery story (Saturday morning muffins, FOR THE WIN), she looks out the window at a woman jogging and says, “I could never run a mile.”

I have no idea where that thought came from, but I said to her, “Sure you could, you would just have to practice.”

I began to tell her how God made our bodies in a way that we can build up endurance. If you want to run a mile, the first day you might just walk a little bit, the next day you walk a little faster, and so on and so on, and eventually, you would be able to run a mile.

After sharing all this with her, I said, “I wish someone would have told me about endurance when I was younger and trying out track; I just thought I couldn’t run and was a failure at it.”

And all of a sudden it hit me, I have to tell young moms about endurance in motherhood! Because if I don’t say something, say that it takes practice and work and consistency and twisted ankles and side stitches and exhaustion, then maybe they won’t know. Maybe they will think they are failures at mothering. IT TAKES TIME and practice to grow into mothering with wisdom and maturity and grace and gentleness. But the more we practice, the more we keep on, step by step, slow and steady, learning, doing, listening to older moms, staying before the Lord and relying on His Holy Spirit, the better we will get! There is a reason the Scripture talks about older women teaching younger women to keep on, we need to know we aren’t failing (practical tips are also helpful)! We need to know it takes time and work and sweat and tears. We need to know, ALL OF THIS IS NORMAL.

You are normal if you struggle with mothering.

And when I say, IT GETS BETTER, I don’t just mean it gets easier because your kids sleep and are more self-sufficient (although sleep is awesome), it gets better because you get better. You mature. You grow in grace. You are acting out of what you have been given by God. You have been molded and tested, and if you keep on, you will make it through the fire. And yes, motherhood is a fire sometimes.

So get your running shoes, pace yourself (oh my goodness, PACE YOURSELF), and keep on.

Love, SM

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