It’s been a while since I shared a batch of Gold Stars here on the blog. “Gold Stars” are those objects and moments that make life just a little bit better: a kind word from a stranger, a joke shared with friend, a new product that exceeds expectations. I try to find the Gold Stars in every day; sometimes there are dozens, other days I struggle to identify just one. The simple act of seeking out the good can pull me out of a dark mood and help me maintain an attitude of gratitude and positivity.

These six gold stars are all fairly superficial, but each one has served to meet a need, alleviate a stress, feed my soul, or simply make me smile. Half of them are technically Charleston’s Gold Stars, but as his life and mine are so deeply intertwined, his Stars qualify as mine, too. (Something I know every parent will understand.) Each one is “Golden” enough to share here with you in hopes that one might become a Gold Star for you, too!

Marble Jar: For the record, I’m not the biggest fan of extrinsic rewards for motivating behavior. That said, we have been at a loss with our little threenager lately. He’s a great kid (I’m not just saying that because I’m his mom, he really is), but he’s definitely been giving Luke and me a run for our money lately. We’ve tried time outs, talking it out, taking away toys and privileges, natural consequences—they’ve been moderately effective, but only up to a point, and Luke and I were feeling as though the constant corrections were fostering a spirit of negativity in Charleston and in us. We needed some wins! So Charleston and I went to Dollar Tree to pick up some marbles and a plastic jar. Now, every time he demonstrates great behavior (listening the first time, using kind words and manners, helping out around the house), he earns a few marbles. Once the jar is full (which happened yesterday for the first time!), he gets a reward (this time, he has chosen to go to Dollar Tree to pick out a toy). The marble jar hasn’t solved all of our disciplinary issues, but it is helping. Charleston loves earning marbles, and it’s nice to have a default incentive to offer for good behavior instead of constantly feeling like I’m dishing out consequences. 

Rose Petal Witch Hazel: I first learned about witch hazel nearly four years ago in our Bradley birthing classes: our instructor advised us to soak some pads in witch hazel and freeze them for use post-delivery. She also suggested that we redirect the time we were spending on Dr. Google, researching “doom and gloom” pregnancy issues, toward researching uses for this incredibly diverse product. Since Charleston made an early appearance, I never got around to making my witch hazel pad popsicles (which was fine because my recovery was a breeze), but I kept the information tucked in the back of my mind and was reminded of the product a few months ago when a podcaster mentioned using rose petal witch hazel as a daily facial toner. I decided to give it a try, and I’m loving it! I use a cotton swab to swipe some on my face every night after washing off my makeup, and each morning before applying my facial cream and sunscreen. I love the subtle floral scent (much more appealing than the apple cider vinegar I’d previously been using as a daily toner) and it leaves my skin feeling smooth and refreshed. I haven’t experienced any changes in my acne (it hasn’t caused me to break out but also hasn’t reduced the frequency or severity of my breakouts), but I have noticed improved skin tone and decreased pore size. Not bad results for a totally natural (very inexpensive) product! 

An Elephant and Piggie Biggie!: We attend a lot of kids’ birthday parties these days, and books are my go-to gift. I almost always gift Charleston-approved favorites, and since he’s somewhat obsessed with Mo Willems these days, we’ve been giving an awful lot of Piggie and Elephant books, including this one which includes five entire stories in a single volume. After gifting it on two separate occasions I decided to add the book to our collection, as well. It was great for our road trip to California because I was able to pack five stories in a single, easy-to-carry tome. Before purchasing, I worried that its size would make it unwieldy, but the book has a hard cover and thick pages that make it easy to read and tote around. If you have toddler or preschool-aged kids, I’d highly recommend this book series; it’s funny but not at all crass or dumb, as some popular children’s books can be, and the characters are endearing and learn some great lessons. The language and stories are simple enough that after hearing them a few times, Charleston is able to “read” them on his own which is a win for all of us.

Storyworth: Have you heard of Storyworth? It’s a vehicle that helps your loved one (or you!) write their memoir through a year’s worth of inspiring prompts. Each week the writer receives and responds to a story prompt and at the end of the year, the stories are consolidated into a book. We gifted this to my dad for Father’s Day this year; I realize now that it might have been a strange gift, as we were essentially assigning him a year’s worth of homework. You’d have to ask him what he thinks of the product, but I am LOVING it! Every week I get an email with his responses, and through them I’ve learned so many fascinating things about my dad, his childhood, my grandparents, and his earliest memories. It helps that my dad is a phenomenal storyteller: his weekly responses are uproariously funny but also quite poignant and have brought me to tears on more than one occasion.The prompts are helping him to share stories that I might never have heard, and preserving his legacy in a way that I would not have thought to do. I selfishly want to gift this to every single adult in my life so that I can ensure the documentation of all of their stories. 

Folding Step Stool: The counters and sinks in our house are unusually high, and our child is rather small, so we have learned to make use of every possible stepping surface—chairs, step ladders, sturdy toys . . . you name it, we’ve used it. We already had one step stool upstairs but realized that for safety and practicality, we needed to add a second one to our house. This $10 Amazon find has been perfect! It’s sturdy and adds just the right amount of height and, best of all, folds up flat for easy storage. It even has a handle, and Charleston has taken to carrying it around the house with him “just in case” he needs to reach something high. He’s become our official household light switch monitor, high-positioned-item retriever, and faucet turner-onner, and he couldn’t be more happy about it. 

She Reads Truth: For the past year I’ve been using the study plans on YouVersion for my daily devotional guides, but this month I decided to switch things up after hearing great things about these community-driven devotionals for women. The She Reads Truth website offers various topical and book-based reading plans. I just finisheed Psalms of Prayer, and plan to do Hymns of Hope next. Each day includes a passage of scripture as well as a short devotion around that day’s theme; the devotions are written by different women which keeps them feeling fresh. The passages are thoughtfully chosen, and the devotions are well written and have deeply enhanced my understanding of the daily Scriptures. At the end of each devotion is a place to write and view comments from other women, adding to the community experience. Each day’s devotion also includes a sharable image with a select verse from that day; I’ve been using my favorites as lock screens on my phone. The plans can be read free online; I’ve chosen to read via the app, where you pay a few dollars for access to the individual plans. I’m happy to pay, as the app provides a much more user-friendly interface than the website and I know that my dollars are going to an organization I feel good about. I will note that while the app is beautiful, it’s a little buggy and not easy to navigate, but the fantastic content compensates for its clunkiness.

What is one of your latest Gold Stars?

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