Shedding My Skin

by Mary Ann on March 27, 2017

What do you do when your skin doesn’t fit anymore?

That’s a question I have been asking myself for four years.

How in the world does one get to the place where their skin ceases to fit?

When I moved from Montana to Utah it was simple to join the homeschool community. I had homeschooled a couple of my children. One of my daughters wanted to homeschool her kids and we shared some friends who homeschooled their kids.

Then, I discovered that I had a tool that I had been using with my children for over thirty years that was a great fit for mom’s and dad’s who homeschooled, who wanted to help their children love to learn. I called it The Closet, and that name worked for a few years. Eventually, I changed the name to The Spark Station.

Shortly after I began sharing the Spark Station with families I was asked to speak at the FORUM, a large and well know gathering of homeschool parents. The room was packed and the presentation was a roaring success. But now I had a new problem. I needed a website and I needed to call it something. Driving down the freeway one day with my daughter she said, “Well, why not call it the Home School Coach.” And so I became The Home School Coach.

I loved sharing the Spark Station but over time it morphed from a learning tool to a family connection tool. I didn’t plan it that way, it just happened because what I am really good at is family connections. I’ll never forget the day that a dad came up to me after a training and with tears in his eyes said, “I  always wanted to connect with my kids but I was so busy I just didn’t know how. Thank you for showing me.” That’s when I first noticed my skin was getting tight.

A home school coach knows about curriculum and how to transition to high school and how to set up the school day and how to……right? Wrong. Here is what I knew about. I knew how to help busy moms’ and dads’ connect with their kids. I knew how to help mom’s find space for themselves in a busy day. I knew how to help parents like being with their kids. I knew about the difference between adults and children, and how those differences could make or break a relationship. And because I had seven grown children I knew the importance of this information before kids were grown and gone from home. I knew that this insight could help families be happier.

When I understood that parent-child relationships and helping moms’ and dads’ take responsibility for those relationships was my gift, well,  that’s when my skin got tighter!

After so many years I was The Home School Coach. I felt limited to talking about homeschool and inspiring kids to learn and answering those pesky curriculum and high school questions, but I had much more to offer.

My skin began to fit less and less. Life felt itchy and uncomfortable. That’s when the big question surfaced –

What do you do when your skin doesn’t fit anymore?

As a lizard ages they have to periodically shed their skin. This allows for proper growth. The time comes when it is just too uncomfortable to continue to wear the old skin. Shedding your skin isn’t an easy or an attractive process. In fact, it can be downright uncomfortable and it’s not pleasant to watch. The skin begins to split and then the animal rubs itself on rocks and branches to get the old skin off. It’s a patchy process! It can be a downright grouchy business. The new skin is tender and it takes time for it to toughen up and for the animal to feel its old self again.

That is the messy, uncomfortable and sometimes painful process that I have been going through. I began by changing the topic of my message from inspiring kids to learn, to helping families connect. It took a few years to make the change and fully develop my message.

Then I began serious work on a book that had been shaping itself in my mind for years. I knew it would be life-changing for parents and their families. It took almost two years from start to finish. But, halleluiah, it is now available for pre-sale and launches on May 9, 2017. In fact, you can get a FREE chapter of the book. 

Now I’m ready for the next step. I am changing where and how you will be seeing me in the future. I have a fully revamped website. I will look a bit different on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, even Linked In.

I know, I know, it will take some adjustment for me and for you. But, sometimes we have to shed our skin for our own proper growth. I hope you will stick around as I shed this old skin and expose the new.

There will be a place on the website for mom’s and dad’s who homeschool. There will be a place for those that don’t. There will be tons of ideas, thoughts, and articles for parents who want more connected and happier families. There will be a bunch of great books over the next few years, beginning with the newest one, Becoming a Present Parent, How to connect with Your Kids in Five Minutes or Less,  which you can pre-order HERE.

I’d like to invite you to take a look at some of the changes. Visit the website. Join me on Twitter. See the changes on my Facebook Fan page, with a few more to come.

I think you will like this new skin. I know I’m going to. But as I said, shedding your skin is a messy and uncomfortable business. I’d sure like to hear from you. What do you think of the new skin? How does the website look, the book, me? Leave a comment below and let me know. I’ll thank you for it.



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My Christmas Gift to You

by Mary Ann on December 3, 2016

Service at Christmas

Before Thanksgiving, I set a goal for myself. I wanted to do service each day of December. That was a big thing to contemplate. But I felt determined because I wanted to increase my own joy and sense of happiness, as a gift to myself and to the Savior. “In as much as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren ye have done it unto me.” Matthew 25: 40

Then just after Christmas, I found a link that gives you one act of service to do each day leading up to Christmas day. Voila!

So my act of goodness for today is to share a wonderful story of family and tradition with you and a recipe that is over 100 years old. It is my favorite cookie recipe of all time. For those who are not gingerbread fans, this cookie is for you. Mild and delicious.

I have used it for gingerbread men and gingerbread houses. It works perfectly.

The Christmas Gingerbread Story

All Ready for Christmas giving

Ninety years ago Ann Gardner, my grandmother on my mother’s side, taught first grade in Star Valley, Wyoming. In fact, she taught all of the grades over a 40 year period of time. She was known as a tough, but fair teacher. My dad, Verl Cazier, was in one of her first-grade classes!

One of her holiday classroom traditions was making gingerbread men with her students. Each child would get a large ball of dough. They would break that into smaller balls, for the body, head, legs, and arms. They would also get a square of cardboard. Each child would flatten the largest ball of dough in the middle of the cardboard square. They would then add the head, arms, and legs by doing the same with the smaller balls of dough. The ‘man’ had to fit in the square of cardboard with nothing hanging over. Then red hot eyes, mouth, nose, and buttons were pressed into the dough.

Each child would then carefully carry their piece of cardboard, with their gingerbread man, to the cafeteria to be baked.

When I was a young mom, making gingerbread houses and villages to pay for our families Christmas, I asked her for her recipe. She gladly shared it with me and the story of what she had done all those years before in her first-grade classes. Since then her gingerbread has graced many Thanksgiving tables, been given as countless Christmas presents and been shaped into numberless gingerbread houses and cookie people.

I hope that you will enjoy this recipe and pass it down to your own families. It is well over a hundred years old and you won’t find a better recipe out there. : )

Ann Gardner’s Gingerbread Man Recipe

1 cup shortening                                                          1 tsp baking powder

1 cup sugar                                                                  ½ tsp nutmeg

1 cup molasses                                                            ½ – 1 tsp cloves

2 eggs                                                                          2 tsp cinnamon

6 cups flour                                                                 (if you like a little bite, add 1/8 tsp

2 tsp baking powder                                                   cayenne pepper)

Cream sugar and shortening. Add molasses and beat until fluffy. Add eggs and mix. Add dry ingredients. When it gets too stiff to mix with a spoon turn it out onto the counter and knead until all the flour is mixed in. Chill one hour.

Roll out ¼ inch thick on tin foil. (If I am making a house I roll it out 1/8 inch thick because I want to cut down on the weight and bulk.) Lift foil onto the pan. Cut out shapes. Remove excess. Bake at 350* for 8-10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on a flat surface. Enjoy!

If you want to try your hand at making a gingerbread house these patterns will get you started. The frosting recipe makes a huge difference too. Here is one that works every time. Be sure that you beat it until it is thick and stands up in peaks and then your house will hold together just right.

Royal Frosting (Meringue Powder)

This frosting is much easy to make and handle. Grease does not break it down and it can be re-beaten for later use. It can be stored in a covered container for up to 6 months. Meringue powder can be purchased at some craft stores and any store that sells cake decorating supplies.

¼ cup meringue powder               ½ cup water             4 cups or 1 pound powdered sugar

Mix the meringue powder and water…beat until it peaks. Add the sugar (1/2 cup more for stiffer frosting) ½ cup at a time on low and then beat on high to desired consistency. This will beat up a bit more quickly than the egg white version.

Royal frosting dries as hard as cement and dries quickly so keep it covered at all times with a damp cloth or in a tightly covered bowl. Keep any utensils, tip, bags etc. covered also.



I experimented with transferring the pattern to a printed page. Right click and save photo. Paste it to Word, Publisher or a similar program. Size it to fit on an 8×10 sheet of paper and print. Cut out pieces, place on your rolled out gingerbread and cut around the paper pattern with a small, sharp knife.

For those of you that want to make a gingerbread house with your children but find the whole idea a bit intimidating why not check out this article which shows you how to do it with less fuss, mess, and intimidation. It works every time and I have helped thousands of kids make them from as young as 18 months old. They love the whole project and I have yet to have a child who wasn’t over the moon about the results.


Each year our family makes these gingerbread houses as part of our

Getting Ready and Aftermath!

Getting Ready and Aftermath!

Thanksgiving tradition. You will see from the photos that each child house is unique and each one is pleased with the results. I hope that each of you has a wonderfully Present and connected holiday with those you love.

P.S. Why not take a peek at my new book which will be released May 2017 and get a complimentary chapter. The ideas you find will help you make that Present and connected Christmas a reality despite the business of the season.

Image result for christmas clip art

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Why take Your Kids Camping?

by Mary Ann on August 9, 2016

2016 Bear Lake

I had the opportunity to go camping for four days, twice this summer. When I was a younger mom, with seven kids at home, we went camping a lot. I loved cooking over the fire and toasting marshmallows. But now my kids are grown and camping had become something from my past.

13669246_10210058927172283_8218899777607771389_nI wasn’t sure how I would feel going camping again. And it wasn’t just any camping, it was ‘rough’ camping. You know, no flush toilets or showers, just an outhouse, and a fire pit. Yikes! However, I survived and was again reminded why I used to take my kids camping, as I interacted and watched my grandkids learn about and experience the great outdoors.

The following article by Simon Baker will remind you of some of the reason we take the time and trouble to get our kids out of doors through camping. It’s sprinkled with some super pictures of my own grandkids and our camping experience.

There are a few weeks of summer left and Labor Day is coming up. Why not take a couple of days and go camping. Enjoy!

5 Reasons to Take Your Kids Camping

It might not seem like a good idea to bring your kids when you go camping. However, bringing your kids with you is less work and stress than leaving them alone at home. For one, you won’t need to worry about them staying up too late or how they’re treating each other while you’re gone. You won’t even need to feel stressed about who’s going to look after them. : )

If you’re still not buying the idea, here are 5 more reasons why you should consider taking your kid’s camping.

1. It increases your children’s physical activity

With the internet and all the cool devices today, it isn’t surprising to find a lot of kids who would 13767135_10210058893651445_7724966516306075184_orather sit on the couch and play mobile games than to spend time outdoors. The problem with this is that it encourages a sedentary lifestyle. Furthermore, it can make children overweight and weak.

Camping encourages your kids to participate in a lot of outdoor activities. You will also be exposing them to the sunshine and fresh air, which are essential in boosting their natural immune system. Camping activities can strengthen their muscles and bones, too.

2. It helps them appreciate what they have

13707616_10209883755233124_2818818463530542869_nIt’s easy to take things for granted if you have everything within easy reach at home. You have food ready when you get hungry. You have a roof over your head when the weather gets bad.

With camping, you’ll be able to let your kids see a different way of life. You can teach them how to create fire from scratch and barbecue on it. You can teach them to cook simple meals and the importance of cleaning up after themselves (to keep the rodents and small animals at bay). There will also be a lot of hard work, particularly when it comes to erecting tents, hauling drinking water or chopping firewood.

When you get back home they will have an appreciation for hot water from the tap, clean sheets, and a refrigerator. For a while at least, they will be very grateful for home.

3. It builds memories13770307_10209883757833189_401734804439110884_n

Even though you may experience a few mishaps while camping, they’re likely to be the same memories you’ll be laughing at in a few years. Camping allows you to bond with your children in a different way than you do at home.

There will also be fewer distractions so you won’t need to compete for your child’s attention or them for yours. It’s a great break for everyone in the family.

4. It’s a cheaper alternative for a family vacation

ben-ryan-swordsCamping is an affordable way to vacation with your family. With proper planning and preparation, there are ways to make it even more affordable.

National and state campsites are  far less expensive than hotels or theme parks. Meals cooked on the fire are cheaper than restaurants and often taste better. It isn’t hard to find a place with water for fishing and canoeing and that costs less than a fancy waterpark.

You can build up the necessary equipment over  time so that it doesn’t need to break the bank. Look for durable equipment, high on quality and be less concerned with name brands.

A great option to consider is an electric cool box. You can fill it with ready-to-cook meals and lots of water so you won’t have to buy from nearby stores. Make sure there’s enough snacks for everyone and include sandwiches, cookies, and chips in your box.

5. It’s a good opportunity to enhance their skills13770437_512553178937454_7216229431872155922_n

Camping skills don’t come naturally to everyone. They need to be taught and learned. Taking your kids camping gives you the chance to teach them survival lessons they’ll be able to teach their kids. It’s a good opportunity to pass on or even start your own family traditions. You can learn many things together – to identify flowers and trees, animals and how to care for the earth. Camping can also enhance your children’s social skills. They’ll be able to meet a lot of people from different places and with different cultures, depending on your chosen campsite. If you find a lot of kids in your area, make sure to invite them over for a campfire, some smores, and a few scary stories. These experiences are the ones your kids will remember for a long time.

Camping is a truly connected, family activity that pays dividends for the time and effort it takes. So use what’s left of the summer and take your kids camping.



Author Bio:

Simon Barker writes to inspire people about low-cost ways of traveling and camping. Aside from sharing his best tips in saving while making the best out of his trips, he also does in-depth electric cool box reviews.

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A Summer of PRESENCE Is Here! AGAIN!

by Mary Ann on June 14, 2016


Summer is a wonderful time for families. There is so much to do, so much fun to be had. But it can also be stressful for the very same reasons.

The summer months are an important time to implement strategies to stay Present as a family, to utilize touchpoints and minimize points of contention.

  • Are you open to being more connected as a family this summer?
  • Are you ready to maximize relationship building with your kids?

If so, I invite you to join me for a night of virtual training on how to use what already happens in your family daily to solidify your family relationships, feel better as a parent and to add more enjoyment to your summer days.


*Two skills which will enhance your ability to tune into your children and genuinely connect every day, multiple times a day.

*An increased understanding of three touchpoints that happen in your home daily and how utilizing these touchpoints can increase your ability to be Present with your children no matter how busy the summer gets.

BONUS: A PDF copy of three chapters from the upcoming book: Becoming a Present Parent: Maximizing Presence in Five Minutes or Less

  • Chapter Three: Master Important Skills – This will give you all you need to know and to begin practicing all six basic skills which will increase your ability to connect with your children more consistently.
  • Chapter Four: Utilize Touchpoints. This chapter will teach you about four additional Touchpoints which can ramp up your ability to be PRESENT all summer long.
  • Chapter 9- Adjust Your approach. What would happen if being Present with our children was our ultimate goal rather than ticking things off our list?

Let’s take chores for example. Part of our job is to keep our home clean, as well as teaching our children to be     responsible. So we assign duties. One of the most common chores for kids is cleaning their bedroom. So there’s the weekly ritual of saying to children, “Go clean your room.” We spend the next few hours cajoling and possibly yelling in an effort to get our kids to behave in a responsible way and also get the room cleaned. We’re deeply into home and family management.

The bedrooms do need to be cleaned – your children do need to clean them – but are you invested in having a Present relationship with your kids, rather than just getting the room cleaned? How can we get chores done – the management part – and keep being Present as the end goal?

When you participate in the webinar you  get an entire chapter that answers that question beautifully. It will be life changing and family changing. It will rock your world.


When: Thursday, July 28th
6pm-8pm MST

ONLY $39
(Couples attend for the same price)



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