What Happens When a Mom Takes a Step Back

Well, honestly, sometimes when this mama takes a step back (literally), I fall over (actually). I’m just not as spry or coordinated as I used to be, and also sometimes the reason I’m falling is because I have tripped over the groceries my kids didn’t put away after I asked them twice.

Which leads me to a big point of this post.

It is rare that my kids will do exactly as I ask, immediately after I ask. I often have to say things twice or twelve times. They hardly ever come right when I call. Sometimes I say, “Put all your shoes away before you head up for the night” but then I find all the shoes exactly where they shouldn’t be in the morning. We can be sure that if I didn’t tell them to pick up their sweatshirts, all of the hoodies in the world would stay on the floor forever.

One of my kids always forgets to rinse his dishes even though that’s been our practice after every single meal for every single day of his entire life. Getting my kids out of bed in the mornings requires much more than a cute wake-up song, and I often hear about all the parts of life that aren’t fair.

This is what I do all day. I am Mom. I am blessed to be with my kids all day, but the thing is that I AM WITH MY KIDS ALL DAY.

It is my responsibility to educate and train them in everything ranging from geography to kindness to algebra to selflessness. I’m intentional about preparing them to be godly husbands, leaders, servants, employees, people. So every time one of their weaknesses flares or their response to an assignment, chore, brother, friend, or parent is less than ideal – I am on it! I instruct, reprimand, encourage, cry, offer suggestions, pray, and yep, sometimes even yell.

I see their weaknesses; no doubt they see mine.

What I sometimes fail to see is their strengths. Their gifts, talents, leadership abilities, Christ-like hearts, tenderness, humor, care, compassion – those are all there in my kids too, in abundance. But I all too often forget to notice the greatness through all the crusty socks that never made it upstairs to the basket.

It’s when I take a step back that I see the good that’s been there all along. It’s there in spite of me and even a little bit because of me. Mostly it’s there because God is at work in my kids and He wants their good even more than I.

When I step back I see…

  • My oldest, almost 20 now, being loved by so many on the college campus, taking a lead he doesn’t even know he’s taking, just because people are drawn to him. He rocks at videography, already utilizing his skills professionally. When he talks about his special girl, his voice is gentle and sweet. He loves the Lord and continues to learn what it means to live for Him.

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Photo cred goes to the man himself

When I step back I see…

  • My 17-year old being a leader on the basketball court, encouraging his younger teammates, motivating his youth group peers to join him in a service project, teaching younger kids how to play soccer, talking sweetly to an elderly lady. I hear the music he creates and I am blown away that my kid has ability like this. I hear his poetry, the words of which tell me of his talent and of his heart for God.

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When I step back I see…

  • My 15-year old coming out of his shell, making people laugh, talking to me about the sweet girl he likes, getting the door for people coming in behind him, and spoon feeding our disabled friend. I see him cheerfully making trips back and forth from apartment to truck as he helps another disabled friend load heavy furniture. I hear him confidently singing a solo on stage for the first time, fulfilling roles we never could have dreamed he’d be willing to step into. I hear him pray at night, amazed at his growing relationship with God.

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When I step back I see…

  • My 12-year old being the “big kid” that the little kids at church flock to. I see him confidently teasing adults and making them laugh. I see him hugging the man whose wife is dying, making the gentleman smile through his tears. I watch him on stage, acting as if he was born to be in character. I see him excited to finally have a chance to go on a mission trip this summer with his older brothers, and I see him with tears in his eyes as he says, “Mom and Dad, I am ready to be baptized.”

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When I take a step back, I see all of this, and I don’t even have to look hard. This is all there because at their very core, this is who my children are.

In the thick of parenting, instructing, teaching, planning, dreaming, longing, and probably not sleeping quite enough – too often parents are only able see to the tip of the arguments and to the end of the unmade bed. Stepping back, we see the entire picture – the one that is beautifully painted with caring children, strengths that shine through the weaknesses, and a God who is at work to bring out His purposes for these darlings who are dearest to us.

To all who are in very middle of this parenting adventure: Take a step back. What are your children doing well? Where do they shine? In what ways have they grown? Bring it all to mind. Sit there for a while, and bask in the sweetness. It’s peaceful there and it is very real.

It is in this place, the place of stepping back, that we can remember our purpose and joy as parents. We remember that good shines brighter than bad, and that God is powerfully at work in both our children and in us.

Then hopefully, next time we trip over the backpack that got dropped right in the middle of the floor, we can recall to mind the heart of the child that left it there, even as we holler once again for said child to come put the backpack where it goes before we throw it into the fireplace.

What Happens When a Mom Takes a Step Back

Please take a turn! I got to share about each of my sons. Will you please take a minute, step back to see the good in each of your kids, and leave a comment to share that good with us?

Sometimes I Sit Around While My Kids Cook for Me

Last week, my three younger kids (17, 15, 12) arrived home from events of the day at 7:45 pm and a weird thing happened. We realized that we were all home and that the rest of the evening was free.

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This happens so rarely these days that we all just stared at each other for a moment, trying to remember what we were supposed to do at a time like this. I thought going to bed early sounded like a good idea. But for some reason, no one agreed with me. Spoil sports.

We chose a movie to watch together but then everyone realized how hungry they were (as in, popcorn just wouldn’t cut it). As is the norm, they all looked at me. Unfortunately for them, I had clocked out of the kitchen, and most definitely forgotten which way was upright. From my comfortable position in my recliner, I offered hearty snack suggestions and said, “Go for it!”

Typically, my kids (who are awesome, but also normal) will choose the easiest options (like opening a bag of chips and a jar of salsa). But somehow, all three of them kicked it into high gear and decided to go all out and make a big snack buffet. Within fifteen minutes:

Matt and I made them get out the baby carrots and eat at least six each (because we care about them enough to be cruel like this). Malachi went all out and set up a table with juices and individual bowls of dipping sauce.

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While all this was happening, I just sat in my chair and watched. After all, I’d put in my time that day. It was my turn to eat their food.

We fixed our plates, then the movie night began WHICH I STAYED AWAKE FOR – please be amazed and proud.

The next morning, we decided to make Super Mama Waffles (which means instead of just waffles and syrup, we have waffles with sliced berries and whipped cream). I loved the idea, but said, “If that’s what you want, I’ll make the waffles while you guys do everything else.”

Man, having kids that can cook is awesome.

  • Justus washed and sliced berries.
  • Elias made whipped cream, then scrambled cheesy eggs.
  • Malachi warmed up his Homemade Fudge Sauce from the night before, deciding that would taste awesome with strawberries and whipped cream on a waffle. No one argued with this plan.

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I promised if I took a picture of our team-made breakfast, I would not include their bed-heads.

Well, I say all this to once again encourage you to teach your kids to cook. Nothing they made here was difficult, but for me, the best part is that they are all at a point now that I didn’t have to walk them through how to make any of it.

Oh the years of taking them through all the cooking steps, reminding them to crack the eggs carefully over the bowl (instead of down the front of their brother’s shirt), and helping them understand the difference between a teaspoon and a tablespoon. I no longer cringe when they use a knife or the stovetop.

Young moms, you too can enjoy this some day. Eventually, they won’t just make messes. They’ll make dinner. (And messes, but let’s just focus on the dinner.)

For everyone with kids, no matter their age, I encourage that you work with your kids to help them get around confidently in the kitchen. The extra work it takes has a huge pay off in the end (so says the mom who sat in her chair while her kids made her favorite dips).

Pull your kids into the kitchen with you, as much as possible.

Help them learn. Help them appreciate the work you do to get food on the table for them every day.

If you’re intimidated about the whole idea, have no idea where to start, or just need a kick start – I highly recommend the Kids Cook Real Food course. We used it for Malachi, our youngest, because I really did need a kick start by the time this task came around to the baby of the family. He knew some basics, but he definitely needed to know more. However, I was in the middle of graduating our oldest and I was dealing with some personal health issues, so the KCRF course was just what I needed to help Malachi finally become confident in the kitchen and actually like cooking.

You can check it out here. It is incredibly well done.

Here’s some extra good news: I got my hands on a free All-Access Membership to Kids Cook Real Food that I’m giving away to one of you this week. Who wants to win? Sign up in the Rafflecopter below. I’ll draw a random winner on Tuesday, April 11. Watch for an email telling who the winner is!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Pssst! I just found out about this!

The creator of Kids Cook Real Food just came out with a brand new free download: 10 Snacks Your Kids Can Make! I just downloaded it for my boys. Go get yours!

Some of the links in this post are my affiliate links.

On Thursday I Killed the Chicken (so I took pictures)

 

Of course I got excited when I found antibiotic-free, hormone-free, happy-happy chicken marked down for quick sale on Wednesday. I bought a sack full and planned to throw it on the grill to have with salads at lunch the next day. It would be easy, delicious, and nourishing. It was bone-in, so I could cook the chicken slow and low while still getting little bits of work done around the house. Yep. I had it all planned out.

Around 11:45 I fired up the grill. The chicken soon started to sizzled happily. I went back into the house for a few minutes. After all, the chicken didn’t need a babysitter.

Except that apparently it did.

When I went back outside after “letting the chicken cook low and slow” for several minutes, I noticed that the outside of the grill looked slightly discolored. Weird. I also noticed that the air didn’t smell like yummy chicken. It smelled…burned. Weird.

I opened the grill. WHAT????? Noooooooo!

Check it out. I killed the chicken.

burned chicken

I don’t know what actually took place in the few minutes between placing the chicken on the grill and going back to check on it, but judging from the looks of things, I’m thinking the entire interior of the grill caught fire. (I guess the fat from the skin of the chicken was just too drippy?)

Score none for Mom. (I mean, I didn’t burn down the entire house, so I guess I’ll take a half a point for that.)

I immediately got mad at the burned chicken. I got mad at the grill. Mad at myself. Mad at the kids (because when I apologized to them and told them what happened, a couple of them came back at me with attitude about “having to eat leftovers again.” Then I got mad at myself again for raising children who would actually complain about leftovers.

It was my finest hour.

I even went so far as to decide not to take any stupid pictures or write a stupid post about it. (As you can see, I’ve chilled out since Thursday.)

Sometimes I can burn chicken and laugh about it. Thursday was not one of those days. I had too much to do, not enough time, and I needed lunch to cook itself. When it didn’t – I snapped.

I know life isn’t perfect and I’ll never arrive at perfect homemaker, perfect mom, perfect wife, perfect chicken cooker. I know this. But I guess I still want the status of practically perfect. Why is that? Why is it that I ruin lunch and get mad? Why is it that after running around for three days this weekend serving people, loving people, and being with my family – I look at my filthy kitchen and get frustrated that I can’t do it all?

I guess where I land is that I constantly need truth checks. What is truth? Am I failing or not doing enough? Most importantly:

What does God ask of me?

Truth tells me that my dirty kitchen and burned chicken are a tiny piece of my daily puzzle and that other pieces are bigger and carry more weight. Truth tells me that many of my daily puzzle pieces fit together perfectly, even without me trying. Truth tells me that I don’t have to do all and be all because Jesus already is. Truth tells me that I’m rocking this job even when I don’t – because Christ’s power is made perfect in my weaknesses.

These thoughts are brought to you today by completely blackened chicken and a sink full of crusty pots and pans with a side of crumbs and sticky counter-tops.

I had to pray over my mess, and these are the truths that rose to the top. I guess it’s a good thing I decided to take a picture of that chicken.

Character Badges: Something You Might Want to Check Into for Your Family in the New Year (With a Giveaway!)

Right now Christmas is on our minds. If you’re like me, a few days after all the Christmas fun calms down, I’ll start thinking about fresh beginnings and settling into a new year.

Cleaning and organizing always rank high on my list during the new year craze. But I also start thinking more about what my kids need. After all, they’ve just experienced presents, extra sugar, and lack of routine during Christmas break. Usually after Christmas I need to crack down and be a little more intentional in our conversations. I need to be more consistent in following through with consequences for disobedience.

Here’s something I highly recommend you looking into to get started with your kids when 2016 rolls around:

Character Badges

From their website:

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I had the opportunity this week to look over the complete package of Character Badges. It has everything a parent needs to set up a consistent, intentional training system for their kids. It encourages good behavior (based on Biblical principles) and discourages disobedience and poor attitudes.

Based on my (18 years!!?!) parenting experience while looking over the kit, I would highly recommend this for ages 12 and under. Our youngest is almost 11 (though I might be in denial about this). The Character Badges package would have benefited our family a ton just a few years ago when my boys were all small. This perfectly fits our family’s intention to not only raise kids to “be good” but to have kind hearts and obedient spirits. What a great item for families who seek to train their kids well!

character badges

Some highlights I’d like to point out about Character Badges:

  • This system is simple, yet thorough.
  • It will take some time for the parent to read through the details of this system. I recommend taking the time. The instruction manual will help set you up for success. Once you’ve gotten used to the system, executing it will be easy.
  • You can custom fit this system to meet your individual family’s needs. For that matter, you can tailor fit it to each individual child.
  • The quality of these materials is top notch. Everything is well made and will hold up well.
  • Each character building goal has a Bible example to go with it. That’s my favorite part!

Character Badges is giving away a Character Badges Complete Set (worth $47.99) to one of you who leaves a comment on this post!

I’ll draw one random winner on Monday, December 21. Be watching for a post stating the winner as you will be responsible for contacting me if your name is chosen!

Character Badges is also offering us all a 10% discount on any order!

Use the code HH10 to receive the discount. This offer is good through December 31, 2015.

Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win this giveaway!

Cute Clothes and Encouragement. Hey, Moms! This is For You!!

You know those days when you’ve been up-and-at-em for hours – but you still haven’t made it back to your room to actually get dressed? And then how on that very day someone drops by and gets to see you in your jammies? And then later that same morning someone else stops by and you’re still in your jammies, but by then you’re like, Whatever. At least I brushed my teeth.

Yeah, that happened to me this morning. It actually happens often around here. I know the whole “get dressed down to the shoes when you first get up in the morning” advice works well for many and would help me avoid meeting people at the door in my fleece polka-dot pants – but that method simply doesn’t work for me. I roll out of bed early and seek quiet time in my chair with God right away (necessary so that I won’t commit murder later in the day or otherwise think that the success of my day is up to me alone). Then I make breakfast. Then we start school. Then I work out. I really don’t want to get dressed for the day until after I’ve had my workout.

For some reason I thought maybe you needed to know all of this.

Anyway, the two people who stopped by today both happen to be dear friends who think I’m adorable in my pj’s, and by that I mean that they love me no matter how silly I look. So now let’s talk about clothes and how hard moms work (because this segue it just makes sense).

Fun and Encouragement For You!

I feel no guilt about jammie pants at 10:30am, and if I wanted, most days could be yoga pant days or the like because we school from home and I work from home. Clothing is optional (well not that kind of optional – oh, you know what I mean). But I’ve noticed a big difference in yoga pants days vs. cute jeans days – in my mood, in my productivity, in how I interact with my husband – everything. I like dressing in actual clothes (after my morning routine, workout, blah blah blah). Cute clothes are fun. 

Ladies – I’m not going to go completely “do this because you’re worth it” on you. But I am going to suggest that there is a lot to be said about taking care of ourselves in all kinds of ways. Eat well, drink water, exercise, spend time with Jesus, and most days – try to put on a cute outfit.

Cute is relative. Your cute is your cute – so you rock that cute outfit, girlfriend! Be comfy (oh my goodness, be comfy), but go for the cuteness. It can be a game changer in your day!

Agree? Disagree? What have you noticed about your day depending on what you’ve chosen to wear?

Free Clothes For You!

Guess what? I just learned of a way you can get something cute and fun and just for you – for free (plus shipping, which is a flat $5.99 no matter how much you order).

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I’ve been shopping at ThredUp for two or three years now for gently used kids clothes. A year or so ago, they added women’s clothes!! You guys, I’ve gotten two pairs of my very favorite jeans (which would normally be about $80 – are you kidding me?) for a huge discount!!

Finding jeans that fit well is hard (can I get an amen?) so I actually tried on a pair of the pricey ones at the store, and wouldn’t you know it? They fit amazingly well. I waited until they went on sale before I got them, plus I had a coupon, but I still paid more than I wanted. But did I mention that they fit??

Well anyway, after I knew what brand I liked, I started scoping out ThredUp for that brand in my size. Not only have I found two pairs at an enormous discount – they were brand new with tags!!! Oh yeah, by the way – not everything is used at ThredUp. You can search through all the brand new items and score big-time!

Now that you’ve all suffered through hearing about my polka-dot pj’s and my discounted jeans, would you like to hear about what you can get for free? (Thank you for your patience.)

ThredUp is offering new referrals $10 off your first and second purchases!! (That’s a total of $20 worth of free clothing for you, just in case you’re still in your pj’s and can’t do math yet.) You can absolutely use this credit for your kids, but just know that there is a lovely selection of women’s clothing, maternity, and even accessories for you to pick from for yourself.

So here’s my referral link – go get your free credit! Come back here and tell me what you picked out – even if it’s yoga pants. :)

The Only Thing I Know About Parenting

The only thing I know about parenting….

The Only Thing I Know About Parenting

What do you do when your kids disobey? When they are picky eaters? When they aren’t sleeping well? When they are defiant? When they aren’t getting along with one another? When their attitudes are ugly? When they make poor decisions? When they talk back? When they don’t talk enough? When they ask hard questions?

You know what I thought when I was a kid? I thought my parents knew all the answers. They were the grown-ups. Grown-ups knew all of everything.

Now that I have been a parent for 18 years and have had to answer too many hard questions while raising four uniquely amazing individuals, I know the truth. I won’t speak for every parent, but here’s what I know about myself: I’m winging it here. I mostly don’t know what I’m doing. There are too many decisions and too many difficult questions. My answer all too often is a solid I…don’t…know.

I felt this when each of my kids were babies, when they were toddlers, when they were preschoolers, when they were elementary age, in middle school, turning teenager, becoming more independent, and now I’m excited to begin learning what it means to be a mom of a kid adult in college. Throw into the mix that what works for one does not necessarily work for the others because of that blessed thing we call individuality. This leads me to share what I do know about parenting – the only thing I know.

God has to do this for me. Not with me. For me. Thinking that God is merely by my side on my parenting journey leads me to believe the lie that I must be more than I was created to be. Instead, I can confidently embrace the fullness of who He is as sovereign Lord of my children. God, be for my sons all that I cannot. Protect them, lead them, teach them. They are yours. I trust you.

I am very willing to be God’s tool in this process because these babes are my very heart beat. My love for them is fierce, which matches my insatiable desire to see them grow humbly into Christlike servants, leaders, spouses, and parents.

As with everything else I do in life, as I walk this parenting road, my confidence cannot be in my self. When I find myself at a loss with how to wisely and consistently parent my sons, wondering where I am and how in the world I got here, this is when I know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

It is this place that I recognize that God has a plan for each of my children and He will carry it out. This is where I remember that my job is to love them, care for them, and train them – but not save them or attempt to be God to them. This is when I realize that I am to point my children to the One who saves – to the God who has good works prepared in advance for them – to the Savior who already won the victory for them.

I parent best when I’m on my knees. I say the right words when I’m letting the Spirit speak. I love my children fully when I embrace the Truth of the One who loved us first.

When we ask for wisdom, He provides. When we surrender, He reigns. When we let God, He is.

That is what I know.

Learn Your Numbers, Learn to Serve Curriculum Kit ~ Ready NOW! (Download Your Free Sample Lesson)

It’s here!! I am so excited to share our brand new early learners curriculum kit with you! It contains 148 pages filled with activities, patterns, printables, instructions, crafts, and games – all with the purpose of teaching your child numbers, counting, Bible stories and teachings, and a heart of service – all at the same time.

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What will you find in Learn Your Numbers, Learn to Serve Curriculum Kit?

Let's Learn!

The Academics

This book will offer your child the chance to develop skills in

  • 0-12 Number Recognition
  • 0-12 Number Writing
  • One-to-One Counting (one to one = a number is assigned to an object during the counting process)
  • Pattern Building
  • Sorting
  • Critical Thinking
  • Additional areas beyond numbers and counting (such as colors, shapes, etc.)

Bible Learning and Application

What Does the Bible Say

Why not use the story of Jesus feeding 5,000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish to teach numbers? How about reading the story of the young 8 year-old King Josiah along with learning the number 8? The 7 days of creation while learning about the number 7? Of course! There’s a Bible story/reading suggestion for every number lesson from 0-12.

Count Your Blessings!

Count Your Blessings!

If we’re learning to count, we may as well start with our blessings! This book provides you with this great opportunity to participate in gratitude with not only your little one(s), but with your entire family.

The Service Training: Be a Blessing!

Be a Blessing!

This is where we bring it all together. Each lesson will offer a variety of suggestions, patterns, printables, recipes, or other fun ways to use number knowledge to serve others. For example, when reading about the 5 loaves of bread Jesus served the people – make 5 mini-loaves of your favorite quick bread to deliver to 5 people. What fun, and what a wonderful opportunity for your family to look at ways to serve others!

This is available in download form only.

There are lessons in the book from numbers 0 through 12 – thirteen complete lessons in all. Do one per week, do one per month, do whatever works best for your child(ren) and family! There’s no right or wrong way. There’s no specific Bible translation used. This is all created with flexibility for your family.

Want to peek inside learn Your Numbers, Learn to Serve?

Download Learn Your Numbers, Learn to Serve Sample Lesson – for free!

We encourage using Learn Your Numbers, Learn to Serve alongside Learn Your Letters, Learn to Serve. We’ve packaged them up and knocked a chunk off the price!
Learn Your Numbers, Learn to Serve Curriculum Kit Samples

Learn Your Numbers, Learn to Serve
This eCurriculum contains 148 pages filled with activities, patterns, printables, instructions, crafts, and games – all with the purpose of teaching your child numbers, counting, Bible stories and teachings, and a heart of service – all at the same time.
Price: $9.95
Quantity:  

Pair this curriculum kit!

Learn Your Letters, Learn to Serve
Teach your child to serve…one letter at a time! This 183 page downloadable kit includes thorough lesson plans, games, crafts, recipes, memory verses, Bible story suggestions, vocabulary stimulation and discussion, play, books to read and so much more…all while encouraging service to God!
Price: $25.95
Quantity:  

We hope these curriculum kits are a blessing to your family!

An Open Letter From My 42 Year-Old Self To My 28 Year Old Self Who Is About to Begin Homeschooling

Dear Much Younger Me,

How I wish we could sit for a while with a cup of coffee and chat about this homeschooling journey you are about to begin! That won’t work though because you are me – 14 years ago – and for some strange reason, you don’t like coffee yet. I do not understand this.

iced coffee

If it was possible, I would love to tell you a few things. First this:

You really, really need to chill out. I mean, your uber thorough lesson plans are adorable, but take a look at that baby’s face and realize that hello?! He’s five. I know he seems old to you because the others are so much smaller. But he’s not big – he’s little. He does not need to sit still for that long and workbooks for boys are almost always a disaster. I know you’ll figure this out by boy number 2, so God bless the oldest child. But really. Long school days with all the subjects and all the books and all the projects – they are too much. Your stress isn’t blessing your children. Keep plugging along for the next 13 years of his schooling, and I guarantee that while there will be holes in his education because there always are for every single kid in the entire whole wide everywhere, he is going to be prepared for adulthood. History is history, so if he doesn’t catch it now, he will catch it eventually because you teach it over and over, year after year. The same goes for science – and pretty much everything else you teach from K to 12. He’ll get it. In the meantime, if you could just reeeeeeeelaaaaaaaaaaax.

Now this one is important, so listen up real hard: The “ideal” almost never happens. In fact, what you can pretty much count on is that at the very moment you have gathered your chicks around you on the floor to learn something fabulous about the Bible or about the weather or about the water cycle…someone will have to poop. Please stop being angry about this and trying to figure out what you are doing wrong with your schedule. Poop happens and toddlers melt down and phones ring and UPS men knock on the door (usually all at the same time but it is okay because when you are weak, then you are strong).

It’s mostly best to stop listening to what everyone else is doing. Every once in a while, what you hear or see inspires you. But most of the time, it stabs you with guilt over everything you’re not doing. (Don’t even get me started about the Pinterest of the future.) The boys don’t need to do what everyone else is doing. They need to do what you – their mama – decides they need to do. Seek God’s direction and listen only to His voice.

You will love every single moment of homeschooling…except for all the moments that you don’t. You’ll feel bad for not loving all of it. I sure wish you wouldn’t. I wish you could see that all the stuff you consider to be a failure each day is really a big part of your kids’ success. This is what real life is made of. So when the day doesn’t go perfectly, recognize that you are teaching your kids to be normal adults who face and handle normal life situations. This…is success.

Most of what you think is important now really isn’t. Godly discipleship and training matters 10,000 times more than memorizing dates on a timeline. Of course you will often think you are failing at the boys’ spiritual training even more than their schooling, but remember God’s bigness. As long as you are in communion with your Savior and seeking his guidance, forgiveness, and recognizing His grace – oh dear one. That’s all you need to be doing. The kids will learn to seek Him too. Keep bringing Him into the conversation often – in the car, when talking about situations with friends, when shopping, when teaching, when cooking, when cleaning – all of it. Make God a part of every part.

You know how you’ve watched other families serve with their kids? Do that. The school work will get done because you are diligent and you understand the importance of self-discipline in learning and education. But truly, let service to others trump the rest of the to-do list. Keep teaching the boys to love God and love others.

They are going to grow up and become young men with weaknesses. Do not despair at this. Understand the power of God at work in their lives. Through their weaknesses, God will be at work in ways you can’t even imagine right now since they are so little. When they are teenagers you will watch in amazement at how God is growing them to become leaders for Him. You’ll see more than ever that God loves these boys and that your job is to trust Him. Like, really trust Him. Stop thinking that you must be perfect, or else. They are His – and His ways are perfect.

14 years from today, you will move your oldest into his dorm room with joy and tears. You will hug him and tell him you love him, and he has grown so tall that he has to practically stoop to his knees to hug you back. You will be amazed. You will watch in wonder at all God has done to grow your family. You will love this. Just you wait.

In the meantime, breathe in the faces of those babies, Mama. Take a lot of pictures. They are precious. While you can’t fathom it, your love for these boys will grow even more fierce. Yes, it is actually possible.

Enjoy your homeschooling journey, Mama.

These days are rich and exhausting, delightful and baffling, overwhelming and glorious. Breathe deeply and keep God first. You are going to survive this beautifully, because God equips and prepares His children. Trust Him.

Freely enjoy peace in Jesus.

Love,
Your 42 Year-Old Self

P.S. Maybe I shouldn’t spoil the surprise, but your future grocery bill is going to blow your mind. Enjoy the fact that they can all now share one apple for a snack and be full. This will make you laugh out loud in a few years (we call that lol, but I don’t have time to go into all of that).

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Perfect for every family who wants to eat well and enjoy more family time:

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How I Plan To Keep My Kids Reading This Summer

All four of our boys enjoy reading. However, we often find that summertime lends itself to a more flexible or on-the-go schedule which sometimes makes us forget about important activities like reading books (and combing hair).

Last summer we tried offering a fun reading challenge that worked amazingly well. Why wouldn’t it? There were rewards involved.

How did it work? We kept it simple. For every five hours each child read, they received a reward. These were inexpensive and sometimes even free. But they are rare treats for our kids – so they picked up a book frequently.

Keep The Kids Reading This Summer

This summer, our three older boys will be gone more than they are home (mission trip, church camp, church camp, and church camp). During the few weeks they are home, they will be more than welcome to take part in this. However, it is our 10 year-old that is really diving in and taking the challenge. Summer Reading Challenge

I created a fun chart for Malachi – which he promptly put on the fridge. (Again, the other boys will take part too – they just don’t have enough weeks during the summer to warrant a chart.)

Here are some of the rewards we’re offering for 5 hours of reading time:

  • Pick a movie from Redbox.
  • Get an ice cream cone from Runza (89¢ – yes, I can handle that
  • Pick something from the dollar store
  • Go to Captain Red Beard’s with Mom (this is our local coffee shop)
  • Lego surprise ($4.00 mini-figure) You wouldn’t believe how much this motivates Malachi to get to the 5th week of reading 5 hours (25 hours total).
  • Choose a meal for Mom or Dad to make
  • Choose a dessert for Mom or Dad to make
  • Choose a board game (from our stash) for a family game night

If by chance Malachi reads more than five hours in a week, he will be allowed to move on to “the next week.” This chart is flexible because our summer is flexible.

I created two “open” charts for you to download, print, and fill in with rewards that will motivate your own kids if you like.

Summer Reading Challenge Printable Download and Print Summer Reading Challenge Printable 1

Summer Reading Challenge Printable 2

Download and Print Summer Reading Challenge Printable 2

Below is a chart without the “weeks” filled in so that you can make it work to meet your needs:

Summer Reading Challenge Blank 2

Download and Print Summer Reading Challenge Blank Printable

How do your kids do with reading in the summertime? Do they need extra motivation or do they naturally pick up a book and go for it?

Why I’m Excited About Homeschooling After a Challenging School Year

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This was Malachi a couple years ago during a math lesson. 
You’ll want to read the entire story.

As much as I love schooling our kids at home, I will admit that the past homeschool year was one of the most challenging of all the previous 12 years. Some years are just tough – and this one was a doozy.

God is bigger than all of it, proven by the fact that we not only survived – we graduated our oldest child successfully. He ended his high school career with 24 college credits, persevering through some very difficult online courses with overwhelming expectations. There were many learning curves this year with the ACT, FAFSA, scholarship applications, and weighty decisions to be made. Praise God: we did not die (not even a little bit). There were several times I thought we might. But here we are, kicking and smiling and half passed out on the couch.

It goes without saying, then, that the thought of school coming again in the fall has made me feel a bit woozy. School books? I couldn’t stand the thought. Educating children? Not today, please. Bring on summer break! Yesssssssssssssssss!

While I am praising God for the next several weeks of refreshment and revival – I am also thanking Him for what He just provided. This is actually making me excited about taking on another school year. (After a lovely break, of course.) I wasn’t sure it was possible. But what was I thinking? God always provides the encouragement and resources we need so that we can do what He has called us to do.

I just had a chance to look through all of the packages being offered in the 2015 Biggest Homeschooling Sale of the Year (available this week only). It definitely helps awaken my school book interest simply because all of these are marked down up to 90% off. But it’s not just that. These packages contain so many great items that will bless our 2015-2016 school year.

*UPDATE* The 2016 sale is here!!

My plan is to take advantage of the Buy-Two-Get-One-Free option. That way I’ll be saving even more on the packages I want. I’m finding that I’m very interested in about six of the pre-assembled packages. That means I’ll only have to pay for four of them, and I’ll get two for free. That, along with the already huge discount and the high quality of these educational items is what I find so refreshing and exciting. THIS makes me excited about schooling my kids again in the fall. Thank you, God.

I encourage you to look through the Build Your Bundle offerings to see what works for your family. Even if you don’t homeschool, I believe you’ll find some items or packages that you can use. (I believe we all teach our kids at home, whether we home school or not!)

Here’s how the Build Your Bundle site works:

  1. Look through each bundle package. Add to your cart each pre-assembled bundle you would like.
  2. OR, Look through each bundle package. (Grab any 10 you would like!)
  3. THEN (best yet!), if you like, you can take advantage of the “Buy 2-Get 1 Free” offer. This means that if you buy two pre-assembled bundles, you can pick a third one for free. Or if you buy 2 build-your-bundles, you can get a third one for free.

Buy any 2 individual bundles OR Build Your OWN Bundles and get one free!

There are 15 themed packages to choose from!

Want to see some of my favorites that I’ll be getting?

One Week Only - Ends 5/23/16 - Save 92% on the Character BundleOne Week Only - Ends 5/23/16 - Save 87% on the Elementary #1 Bundle

One Week Only - Ends 5/23/16 - Save 91% on the Unit Studies #1 BundleOne Week Only - Ends 5/23/16 - Save 91% on the Unit Studies #2 Bundle

One Week Only - Ends 5/23/16 - Save 94% on the Brother & Sister BundleOne Week Only - Ends 5/23/16 - Save 88% on the Upper Grades #1

Even more fun is that each person who purchases even one of the Build Your Bundle options will receive an entire book of bonuses.

One Week Only - Ends 5/23/16 - FREE Bundle of Bonuses with ANY Purchase!

The 2016 sale is here. Take your time. Have a blast. Equip your family and home with all sorts of learning opportunities at a huge discount!

Praise God with me that He always provides exactly what we need, exactly when we need it. He is faithful.

Are you enjoying summer break? Still, does it just make you a little bit excited for next year when you see all these great resources?!

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