The Ministry of Chocolate Chip Cookies

Do you have a person in your life who just knows how to be a good friend? Among many people I know who possess this gift, my friend, Erin, is someone I automatically think of. She’s thoughtful. She sends cards in the mail that seem to arrive when I need them most. She shows up when it matters.


And every time I see her, she bakes the most delicious chocolate chip cookies for me to take to my kids. Which I do (after I eat half of them on the way home).


This means so much to me. First, because I love cookies. More than that, it’s her thought and time and energy of making the cookies that matters.

Buying the ingredients. Softening the butter. Mixing the dough. Watching the oven.

An effort no one sees. For kids who will never properly thank her.But one that makes me feel seen and cared for.

The world is full of people wanting to be noticed with clicks and likes and shares (and the irony of writing this on Facebook is not lost on me), but the important work in life is the ministry of chocolate chip cookies.

The work done when no one is watching for people who will never thank you. But has immense value to those who matter.

Special needs parents fighting tirelessly for children who deserve every good thing in life, yet bureaucracy makes an already sacrificial life beyond exhausting.

Single moms and dads doing the impossible work of two parents with the fallout from choices often beyond their control.

Teachers working harder than ever with unrealistic expectations of what their job should entail.

Coaches talking through the hard things in life.

Small business owners going without a paycheck so their employees can eat.

Employees doing the work of six people because of downsizing.

Parents who drive to practice, listen to problems, explain algebra, and put away laundry.

The list could go on forever. Because every single person I know is doing important work that no one will ever see. Loving and serving your family, friends, and neighbors well. Unnoticed acts of love that deeply matter.

You nourish the souls of those you love. And it cannot be overstated how valuable the smallest acts of kindness are.

Beautiful flowers may seem frivolous but bring beauty on life’s darkest days.
PB&Js in the lunchbox fill their bellies but also warm their hearts.
A card in the mail can turn a day around.
And chocolate chip cookies shouldn’t matter, but they do.

This post isn’t profound. I know that.

But in the overwhelming stress of every day life, sometimes it’s good to be reminded that the things you do that no one sees (or thanks you for) are so very important. The daily, small acts of service matter.

That’s the ministry of chocolate chip cookies: an ordinary thing that nourishes the soul in the most extraordinary way.

The Messy Middle

My husband and I have an ongoing joke for when he comes home to find me buried in a heap of donation boxes, trash bags, and feral children. He laughs at my half-done project and says, “You about that deep clean, huh?”

 

Because in my life, there are three things that are certain: death, taxes, and home projects always getting worse before they get better.

 

Which is where we are in a small renovation we are doing. By “we”, I mean the two most talented men you will ever meet are doing some much needed home updates. While “we” watch in amazement of their skills.

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This current project is in the “it always gets worse before it gets better” stage that looks like a mess of bricks and scaffolding. But because I know what it will become, it’s really no mess at all. It’s evidence of progress. I am giddy with excitement every day when I see all that they’ve done. Their workmanship is amazing, and the finished project will be beautiful. I know this because I have the blueprints and trust the builders.

 

It’s easy to enjoy the process when the outcome is obvious.

 

It’s not so easy when the outcome is unknown. Which is where we find ourselves in this pandemic situation. We are in the thick of the worse before it’s better.

 

The messy middle. My least favorite place to be.

 

Oh, what naïve little creatures we were last year when we had no idea how easy we had it with our normal school schedules and packed out concerts and full restaurants.

 

What could be shaken has been shaken. And it’s left us in a heap of fears, insecurities, and feral children.

 

It’s easy to look around and believe this is our new normal. To think it will always be this way.

 

That the drilling will last forever. That the mess is here to stay. Metaphorically speaking.

 

It’s hard to enjoy this season of life because it feels so messy. But it’s really no mess at all. Because we can trust the builder of it all.

 

Jesus is not an indifferent bystander in your life. He is our unshakable hope.

 

He does not give as the world gives. Media pumps us full of fear, outrage, and hopelessnesss. God offers peace beyond what we can understand, wisdom for long term solutions, and the promise of good things to come.

 

Maybe you have known this your whole life but have lost your way a bit. I know I have.
Or maybe you have never experienced true assurance that your future is secure, no matter the financial, educational, political landscape.

 

If you are overwhelmed with fear and anxiety and uncertainty about the future, ask God for help. (And if you have no idea how to do that, message me.) He is the builder who has a blueprint for you.

 

I know life looks nothing like we imagined it would in 2020, but just like any good home project, there is beauty we could have never dreamed of on the other side. Don’t get so caught up in the mess that you forget no terrible thing lasts forever. So many good days are ahead. So much awesomeness is to come.

 

Trust the builder. His workmanship is amazing.

The Homeschool Life Chose You

For the decade before the world fell apart and forced all parents to become homeschoolers against their will, I have homeschooled my children. Teaching a child to read is the most insufferable part of education. If you’ve never read with a six-year old, maybe consider waterboarding instead?
When my oldest child was learning to read, he often confused vowels. One day in Kindergarten, while sounding out the word “fox”, he proudly said,
“Fo-fo-fo-FUX!”
For fox sake.
Nothing like a Christian homeschool environment to be the place all of my little children learn the F-word.
As the education system apparently spins off its axis, there is an amazing amount of homeschoolers sharing their experiences and encouraging parents who didn’t choose the homeschool life; the homeschool life chose them. You should read those. They’re full of very helpful information to get you started on this unexpected path.
But there will come a day when your school day looks nothing like what you envisioned. The beautifully organized school supplies and strategically placed bean bag will fail to teach your child algebra, and you will consider if day drinking is a viable option.
I call this The First Day of School.
The day you casually brunched with your girlfriends and Instagrammed the heck out of your newfound freedom back when you were so young and naïve (a year ago) will likely end in you questioning why you ever had children in the first place.
This is not me trying to scare you. This is me being a good friend to your future August self.
Homeschooling is hard when it’s a life you choose. Homeschooling when there’s a good reason (or twelve) why you don’t educate your offspring around the dining room table is no easy thing.
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As the first day of school pictures flood your timeline and everyone posts their magical moments, you will remember me (and hopefully text me) when you are eating your feelings at 2 pm because HOW HARD IS IT TO DO THE FIRST PAGE OF SPELLING??!!
There is good news! I promise homeschooling gets easier. It truly does.
The first few weeks of school are always hard. The little video game addicts are coming down off of their summertime high. Quality reading ended at the summer solstice. Math makes even less sense in the middle of a pandemic. Speaking from experience, two negatives –such as spending every day of the last five months at home with my cherubs AND canceling school—do not, I repeat, DO NOT make a positive.
The adjustment will be tough on everyone. You’ve never done this before. Be patient with yourself. Be patient with your children.
Easier said than done, of course. Especially for the hundreds of you who, over the years, have assured me you could never homeschool because you do not have that sort of patience.
To which I reply, “Neither do I.”
And that’s okay. Because no one is asking you to be perfect. Or even anything close.
Any veteran homeschool mom will tell you teaching your children at home is the most sanctifying thing they have ever done. Multiplication tables and diagramming sentences are challenging. Doing so with a toddler who colors herself with marker while another sneaks off to play the iPad while the mere mention of prepositional phrases sends another’s eyes rolling so far back in her head you don’t know how she will ever see again. Well, that’s a whole other thing.
The reason we wear our denim jumpers with our hair pulled so tightly into a bun is to keep from pulling it all out.
That is a joke. We save the jumpers for fancy nights out at The Walmarts.
Homeschooling will likely test every good virtue you possess. But the secret you’ll soon discover (once you find a rhythm that works for you) is that homeschooling is pretty awesome.
Fractions on the front porch of a crisp Fall day are somehow a bit more bearable.
When siblings aren’t fist fighting over who called what seat first, watching a 6th grader read with a 1st grader is a precious sight to behold.
Finishing school by lunch (that you didn’t have to pack at 6 am) leaves the whole afternoon to get lost in a book or run in the sprinkler.
Or, gasp! Hang out with what you former public-school people call “friends”. This shocks literally everyone, but homeschooled children actually have quite a thriving social life.
Why else would we drive vans bigger than some houses but to fit every kid in the neighborhood?!
The stress of the school year is weighing on everyone. It’s expected to be completely freaked out. If your school system is forcing you home, I promise you will figure it out and learn to thrive.
It’s not always easy. It’s not always pretty. It involves a lot of grace and even more forgiveness. You will blow it. Your kids will blow it. But there is something so special about being in it together. Kids are so resilient. And the fact that you’ve made it this far in parenting means you are, too.
This may not be what you chose, but you can choose your attitude. And in my tenure as a homeschooling mom, a good attitude goes a long way in making the best of a hard situation.
Here’s to you newly minted homeschool moms:
Cheers! You foxing got this!

When Parenting Pays Off

My oldest child starts high school next month, a fact that makes most people groan and warn me about the terror that is to come. I get it. In five years from now, I will have four teenagers. I am not naïve to the fact that I have some 𝗧𝗛𝗜𝗡𝗚𝗦 ahead for me (not to mention a grocery bill that will require a bank loan). Phones give me anxiety. The idea of dating makes me have heart palpitations. Don’t even get me started on my feelings of whether or not my children will be ready to launch. And that’s just the things I know to worry about.
 
I know enough to know teenagers are a thing. But don’t have enough experience to respond to people who audibly sigh when talking about them. Raising children into adulthood is no small feat. The final stretch seems to be as hard as it probably should, given that I want to keep my children young forever and their underdeveloped brains contend otherwise.
 
There is so much negativity surrounding teenagers. I really do get it. But what people don’t talk enough about is how absolutely awesome they are (when they’re not being terrible).
 
For instance, the teenage years are when you finally see the payoff for the insane amount of parenting you’ve done over the years. Anytime my kids tell me something isn’t fair (which is every six seconds), my canned response is, “Fair is a place you buy funnel cakes.”
 
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𝘛𝘰 𝘨𝘪𝘷𝘦 𝘤𝘳𝘦𝘥𝘪𝘵 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘪𝘵’𝘴 𝘥𝘶𝘦: 𝘐 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘬 𝘐 𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘭𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘦, 𝘰𝘳 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦 𝘷𝘢𝘳𝘪𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘰𝘧, 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘑𝘦𝘧𝘧 𝘍𝘰𝘹𝘸𝘰𝘳𝘵𝘩𝘺.
 
That feels like decent parenting, to be honest. There is no way I can possibly be fair to five small humans.
 
Last week, my oldest child asked me if I could buy him sushi for lunch, to which I answered, “Well, that really wouldn’t be fair to the rest of your siblings.”
 
His reply (𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘨𝘶𝘦𝘴𝘴𝘦𝘥 𝘪𝘵): “Well, Mom, fair a place you buy funnel cakes.”
 
He didn’t get the sushi, but his well-played response proves he’s actually been listening all these years.
 
I don’t pretend to know anything about anything. If parenting has taught me something, it’s that my pride will get me into some sticky situations. So I do my best to stay humble and gracious. (See: potty training has been a total fail. But that’s a story for a different day.)
 
There is something kinda great about teenagers. Just today, I went to two different DMVs, got my oil changed, went to the grocery store, and picked up school books ALONE. Blissfully alone.
 
Just two years ago, those errands would have taken me all week. Today, I was done by noon. And I wasn’t a sweating, screaming mess by the time I got home.
 
My daughter was born an entrepreneur, and I’ve spent many hours helping her with her business pursuits: lemonade stands, slime, rainbow looms. You name it, she’s done it and tried to sell it. And roped me into a lot of unpaid labor. This week, she opened up an Instagram shop (@𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐂𝐡𝐥𝐨𝐞𝐆𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐞𝐏𝐥𝐚𝐜𝐞), and my only responsibility is making sure her business isn’t a front for getting a personal Instagram account that she’s not allowed to have.
 
It is fun watching kids grow up and become the people they were made to be. It’s not always amazing, of course. I can no longer chew without eyerolls of disgust. Emotions are BIG and irrational. It’s hard to loosen the reins and let children explore the great big world out there. And as previously mentioned, I am like five minutes into this teenage gig. I know nothing.
 
But one thing I do know is that the impossibly hard and constantly sweaty work of the small years is paying off. I can grocery shop alone, which is quite nice given it’s my second home these days. The long days and short nights have given way to manageable days and quality talks late into the night. My children trust me with their secrets and share their struggles. I am sure there is plenty they don’t tell me, but I treasure what they do. The things I worried about when they were young have mostly dissipated, and they are becoming people I genuinely love to be around. My son’s perfectly timed wit makes me keel over in laughter. My daughter’s enthusiasm about everything makes life feel a little lighter.
 
I still stay awake at night replaying all of the mistakes I made that day. I still cry when parenting feels incredibly overwhelming. I still worry if my kids will like each other when they’re grown and if they’ll want to come home for Christmas. I still wonder if it will all work out okay in the end.
 
There are no guarantees in life, and there is no telling how this wild ride will all turn out. But I can say with absolute certainty that the investment is worth it.
 
Probably always, but particularly when you have small kids, I don’t think enough people tell you how important your work is and what a good job you’re doing. So, in case it’s been awhile since you’ve heard it: what you do matters and you’re a great mom! Your kids are so fortunate to have you. Even on your worst, ugliest days, unconditional love is enough.
 
The hardest parts of today will be repaid in spades just a few years from now. And the best parts will become the sweetest memories.
 
Keep up the good work. It’s more valuable than it seems. Your children are paying attention to what you’re teaching them, and one day, you might just be lucky enough to for them to teach it right back to you.

Life Events That Deserve a Party

Wedding season is upon us. The coronavirus has sadly changed many plans, but hopefully life will soon resume and weddings and showers will still get to happen. I know that wedding showers are meant to help soon-to-be married couples start their first home. While the sentiment is nice, as a child bride whose brain was not fully cooked the day I said, “I do,” I think we should rethink the whole thing.

Not do away with wedding showers. For sure, not. Young adults with loads of college debt need all the help they can get. And I am happy to oblige in exchange for rubbery chicken and the Cha Cha Slide.

But you know who else needs some help? A middle-aged woman who is still using said wedding gifts fifteen years and five kids later. Someone who now realizes that good pots and pans are more important than building a DVD collection that will unknowingly age faster than that young bride’s face. With the benefit of hindsight, I would have registered for good health insurance, probably a urinal, and the most expensive noise canceling headphones money could buy.

Unfortunately, my under-developed brain apparently thought that marriage was built on love and 47 picture frames. I barely knew how to make mac ‘n cheese from a box, so surely I would never need things such as a “blender” or “mixing bowls”? And I hadn’t lost enough sleep to yet know the value of good sheets.

I am not necessarily advocating for anniversary showers, mostly because I don’t have the energy to feign excitement over a toothbrush holder. But between graduations and showers, most of life’s celebrations happen before 30. When the times we really need to come together and party happen well after.

Because I love a good list, and I have too much time on my hands, I have compiled a helpful guide of life events that deserve a party (and gifts if you’re feeling generous):

  1. Potty training a toddler. I hate potty training more than anything. I would rather spend my entire paycheck on diapers than chase a naked two-year-old around the house, asking if he needs to potty. Put him on the potty, for him not to potty. Until he’s off the potty and pees all over the floor next to the potty. Have I said the word “potty” enough? Multiply that times a million, and you have day one of potty training. It’s the worst.

    Gift ideas include: professional carpet cleaning, air fresheners, and enough chocolate to eat your feelings

  2. Teaching a child to read. Just when you recover from the PTSD that is feeding M&Ms to a child in exchange for poopies, you must begin the second worst part of parenting: phonics and sight words. There is nothing more boring on the planet than listening to a child sound out “ca-ca-ca….DOG!” How we get from “ca” to “dog”, when it’s obviously “cat” (AND THERE IS EVEN A PICTURE OF A CAT), is something I will never comprehend. Literacy is important, of course, so we must forge ahead. The first time a child successfully reads a book, we should throw that mom a ticker tape parade (that she definitely does not have to clean up herself).

    Gift ideas include: copious amounts of coffee and a ceremonial burning of phonics flashcards

  3. The first time you find a gray hair (or a much too long facial hair). guide of life events that deserve a party Obviously #1 and #2 are to blame for this milestone that happened WAYYYYYY sooner than my child-bride-self expected. Hair dye covers the external evidence, but internally, this sends a woman spiraling. How is the universe so against us that we still get pimples while our hair grays and our preteens wonder aloud if we are really wearing that shirt out of the house?! It’s the perfect storm of self-esteem annihilation that honestly deserves a party more than ever.

    Gift ideas include: telling me I’m pretty and my shirt is totally cute; a magnifying mirror if you want to be X’ed out of my life forever

  4. The moment you realize you’re becoming your mother. Look, I have an awesome mom. There are worse things in life I could be. But sometimes my mother comes straight out of my mouth, and I am surprised I am now the woman my teenage self was embarrassed to exist on the same planet with. Sure, I inherited some great qualities from her; it’s just never not surprising that we’ve arrived at this place.

    Gift ideas include: a time machine, a JCPenney gift card because it’s inevitable, and cute shoes (because my mama knows how to spend money on good shoes)

  5. Surviving middle school. No, not as a middle schooler, but as a parent of a middle schooler. My oldest son just finished 8th grade, and that’s a day I wasn’t sure either of us would see. He is especially gifted at completing schoolwork but not turning it in, then being totally shocked when his teacher called me. I mean, he did the work. How did they not magically know this? I especially loved being asked 12 times a day if he could download Snapchat. Apparently, my overused phrase, “That’s been asked and answered” was taken as more of a challenge than a statement.

But I did it, you guys. And honestly my pride over this moment is the entire reason for this post. Middle school graduation is enough of a prize for this particular victory, but gift cards to a therapist are welcome. Especially when I remember I have to endure this four more times. Never mind the fact I still have to potty train my last toddler and teach her to read. Yikes.

Before this devolves into a cry for help (as if it hasn’t already), I will stop. There are dozens more events that definitely deserve a celebration. Too many to list here, honestly.

If my friends and family fulfilled my Target registry without knowing if this thing would even work out (and probably assumed it wouldn’t, given that Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights was listed when everyday dishes were nowhere to be found), then surely we can honor the mostly overlooked milestones that are fraught with more tears, prayers, and elation than a wedding will ever be.

Shower brides, of course. But when the china has collected dust and the silver has tarnished, celebrate the middle-aged women who have lived enough life to know good shoes are always worth it and life’s little milestones are what makes it all worth living.

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Hope For Your Weary Soul

I’ve been thinking a lot about Easter. The meaning of it and its timing.

As a collective whole, we’ve all been stripped of what we hold dear: relationships, jobs, freedom, control. So much of life has been taken for granted, and it’s been humbling to see what truly matters in life. And where we’ve placed too much value on unimportant things.

All week long, I’ve worked to reconcile Holy Week during one of the worst weeks in modern America. I’m rarely at a loss of words, but the words just wouldn’t come. Religious platitudes can feel hollow when the future feels so uncertain.

Late last night, I stumbled upon words my twelve-year-old daughter wrote. She mentioned starting a blog, but I didn’t know she actually had.

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I read her words that concluded with, “It will be okay if we have one year without people besides our family,” with the emphasis on ONE.

I am her mom, so, of course, anything she writes makes me beam with pride. But these words encouraged my weary heart as I read them. This week I emotionally hit a wall. The quarantine is wearing me down. I’m in the head space where this feels like it will never end. It all feels like too much, and I don’t think I am alone.

But the writings of my preteen girl speak of the greater truth: it’s just one Easter.

It won’t last forever.

If ever there were a way to reconcile Holy Week and the impact of social distancing, it’s the tender words of the One who breathed His last breath on this day thousands of years ago,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you…and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I don’t know if you’re an atheist, an occasional church goer, or a person of faith. Jesus isn’t concerned with your religious resume or lack thereof. His offer of rest and peace and hope is for you. And if your brain is opposing that with all of the reasons it’s untrue, you’re in luck. Jesus happens to really like people who don’t much like Him.

You may not believe in Jesus or typically care much for church or religious people, but you aren’t typically enduring a global pandemic either. If this moment in history finds you spiraling into anxiety and fear and shame as everything you value most is gone (at least for the moment), you are certainly not alone.

With no community egg hunts and no church service to routinely attend this holiday, in the words of my daughter, you can do fine without those. But when you lay awake at night wondering why this is all happening and thinking there has to be more to life than this, you can find rest for your weary soul.

The global pandemic and the economic fallout and the fear surrounding it all is heavy. I won’t pretend it’s not. In a way I cannot explain unless you experience it for yourself, Jesus is able to take the very worst things in life and exchange them for unexplainable peace and hope.

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You may not believe that you’re worthy because of what you’ve done or the choices you’ve made. Good Friday serves as the hope in what Jesus DID on the cross, not what you’ve done in your life. He exchanges your weary and burdened soul for His light and easy yoke.

If you are exhausted, burned out, disheartened, depressed, anxious, angry, sad, unsure, fearful, or just plain tired…Jesus’ invitation stands,

“Come to me.”  

You Can Do Nothing During A Pandemic

The people creating memes during the coronavirus are honestly doing their best work. As someone who avoids bad news like it’s my job, memes are practically my love language. Just when I think the internet can’t get any funnier, Joe Exotic enters the zeitgeist in the best and weirdest way possible.
 
The exception I take to the meme game is the one circulating about how Isaac Newton invented calculus during the Bubonic plague. I appreciate the sentiment that being at home for an extended period of time affords us the opportunity to do something magical.
 
But you know what it also affords us? The opportunity to do nothing.
 
Isaac Newton may have invented calculus during a plague. But maybe the woman who birthed him and raised him and sent him to college was doing the 17th century equivalent of locking herself in her bedroom to binge watch Tiger King on a Thursday afternoon.
 
There is absolutely nothing wrong with coming out of this quarantine a new person with newly acquired skills and perfectly organized drawers. And there is also nothing wrong with coming out of this quarantine exactly the same you went into it (save for finally being caught up on all of your favorite shows).
 
You are surviving a global pandemic, not taking a weekend spa retreat to the Bahamas.
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Perhaps spending 30 days in a row in your house without seeing friends while trying to homeschool your kids and work your job (or maybe you lost your job) with no breaks during a worldwide crisis isn’t the *best* time to become your best self.
 
I paint and clean and organize because that is how I successfully avoid bad news. It’s not because productivity is more valuable than rest. It’s how I survive the unknown.
 
There are many ways to survive a pandemic. Among them:
– consume an exorbitant amount of carbs
– watch allllllll the news
– read
– ignore responsibilities
– excessively post on social media
– create art
– delight in being an introvert
– panic if you’re an extrovert
– do literally nothing
 
None is nobler than the rest. Newton chose Calculus. I am suddenly interested in the underbelly of the Big Cat world. It might be all you can do to get out of bed in the morning. There is no shame in whatever you choose.
 
There is a weird amount of pressure to become amazing during this historical time of social distancing. Some people thrive in chaotic life circumstances. Some people can barely focus on anything. It’s okay to be whoever you need to be. That might even change day to day.
 
I think we forget that there is a lot of life to be lived post-pandemic. This time sort of feels like the weeks leading up to having a baby. You somehow convince yourself that baseboards must be cleaned right now because it feels like there will never be another time to do so. But the baby comes, and you realize none of those nesting chores were as urgent as they seemed.
 
The same is true of a global crisis. Life will eventually normalize. And you can become amazing in July or next year or in 2027.
 
Or maybe, just maybe, you can realize that you are known and loved and valuable just the way you are. Don’t allow your social media feed to cause you to believe otherwise.
 
• The parents acing the homeschool game likely thrive with structure and order.
• The artists creating are doing their part to make the world a brighter place.
• The ones with clean homes and freshly painted walls are letting their kids play way too much Fortnite (ask me how I know).
• The people hiking may feel like their walls on caving in, and the fresh air is the only thing keeping them sane.
• Those posting on social media are showing five awesome minutes of a day that might have ended with crying in the shower.
• And the guy inventing Calculus will be hated by every high school student for the rest of eternity. So maybe he isn’t so amazing after all, you know?!
 
I promised myself I wouldn’t write during this crisis because I didn’t want to add to the noise on social media. With little else to do, there are a lot of words being written and a lot of words being said. But they seem to heavily favor the idea of making this time as productive as possible (hello, the exhausting American way).
 
So I broke my own promise in order to write for those who are barely hanging on by a thread and fighting fear and wondering how this is all going to shake out.
 
Stop feeling guilty if this isn’t the most magical time for you and you seize in fear more than you seize the day. It’s a freaking global pandemic, which is literally the least magical thing to ever happen. Even if you don’t see it when scrolling through Instagram, this is really hard for everyone. And none of us have a clue about any of this. We are all in this together, doing the best we can. You can be whatever and whoever you need to be to survive.
 
And if that includes illegally buying a tiger to keep you company during this lonely time, I happen to know a guy.

5 Tips for the 4th Quarter Homeschool Mom

Last week, I wrote a lighthearted post about homeschooling when you never wanted to homeschool in the first place. That turned out to be a simpler time when it seemed like everyone was just getting a bonus week of Spring Break. The stakes were low, and the quality of advice even lower.

The reality of the situation has taken an unexpected turn, and many of you are scrambling to make sense of it all and figuring out how to educate your children at home when that has never been your plan (or even fits with your reality).

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The best gift I can give the world at the moment is keeping my little petri dishes at home, and I think the next best thing I can give is help for those trying to figure out this new normal.

On my best day, I am the most average homeschool mom. That’s important to know because if you searched Pinterest or Instagram in an effort to broaden your understanding of teaching your children at home, you likely encountered liars moms who are very gifted in this.

Starting there will set you up for failure, and I know this because that is how I lived for at least three years. It took me a very long time (as in, YEARS) to feel confident in homeschooling my children. If you are on day three of this adventure and feel like you’re drowning, you are definitely normal. It is likely you will feel that way for the entirety of your fourth quarter homeschool tenure. That’s okay! You will still do a great job.

Much of the advice in my original post stands, but more applicable ideas are probably helpful at this point.

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5 Tips for the Fourth Quarter Homeschool Mom:

1. The most important part of homeschooling your children is CONNECTION. This has never been truer than now. This crazy global pandemic offers a gift in the form of quality time with your family. Value your relationship above academics. This feels like a historic event that our children will remember for a lifetime, and how they felt during it matters more than their school work.

{If you struggle to connect with your child, Brene Brown has a wonderful teaching on this subject. It’s short and free on Hoopla. If your library is closed, Hoopla is an excellent resource to get free books, as long as you have a library card.}

Your relationships matter the most. If you have a personality conflict with a given child or are having a hard time figuring out how to homeschool, always put your relationship first. Bond over The Office or a walk around the block or (Lord, help us all) Tik Tok. Value connection with your children. When summer soon hits and their brains turn to mush anyway, you will be so glad you did.

2. But it’s not summer yet. And school work still matters. Legally, it has to be done, I think?! You do not have to replicate the school setting at home. It’s probably best not to, actually. A novel virus is a great opportunity for a novel school experience (you like what I did there??). Kids can do math right when they wake up. Or at 2 pm. Or after dinner. Some kids work best at a table. Others in their bed.

{If you’re all in on this fourth quarter homeschool mom thing, The Way They Learn is an excellent book about, well, the way children learn. I highly recommend it!}

My boys like to sit around our dining room table to annoy each other because a hard chair and people present helps them focus. My daughter prefers to work in her bed, alone in a comfortable spot. My toddler chooses to draw on herself with marker.

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One of my boys inevitably goes to the living room because his little introvert heart has reached its limit. Plus, he likes to kneel by the coffee table to work. Let your children live their best homeschool life by doing work where it feels right to them. It’s fascinating to discover their quirky learning styles.

{If you need to supplement your child’s education, Khan Academy is great resource. Outschool is another site that comes highly recommended by a friend.}

3. Even with kids spread out all over the house, starting in a central location is helpful. It doesn’t have to be fancy. We use our dining room. It is probably overkill to set up everything you need, but having most of the necessary supplies nearby will save your sanity: pencils, scissors, glue, markers, etc. (I have used this for many years, and it’s perfect to organize school supplies.) By now, your sanity is probably long gone, so as long as your child has a pencil, you’re good to go!

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4. Take a recess! Anytime! Physical activity is an absolute necessity. Play outside. Ride bikes. Jump on the trampoline. If the weather is bad, GoNoodle is super fun. Use the flexibility of homeschooling to your advantage and play as much as possible.

5. Be kind to yourself and your children. There will be A LOT of togetherness in the next several weeks. Too many people together for too long is, as you know, A LOT. Extend extra grace to everyone, including yourself. You will yell over something so stupid. Your children will cry over something even stupider. You will want to get divorced and give sole custody of your children to your spouse at least twice a week.

And that’s why it’s important to remember connection matters the most. Apologize when you blow it. Offer compassion when your children do. Netflix and chill with your man because it’s cheaper than divorce.

This unprecedented time feels overwhelming with so many unknowns. Homeschooling your children is likely not your first choice (nor is a global pandemic, for that matter), but YOU CAN DO IT! You are more than capable. It won’t be perfect. It won’t always be pretty. You have potty trained a two year old, and I promise that’s way harder than anything you will encounter in the next eight weeks.

But if it’s a total dumpster fire, your children will likely never complain about going to school again. And perhaps that is the best education you could ever give.

Homeschooling During The Coronavirus

Parents who may end up having to homeschool for a few weeks and are worried you don’t have the patience for that:

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’ve been homeschooling for nine years and still don’t have the patience for it 🤣🤣🤣🤣

But if you need guidance, I am happy to help. In hopefully just a few more weeks, your little cherubs will get back on the school bus. And you’ll be alone in the quiet, wondering how your homeschool friends afford all those snacks children suddenly require when it’s time to do math.

Until then, I have created a list for you to survive these trying times.

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Ten Ways To Survive Homeschooling Children (who you would be homeschooling all of the time if you actually wanted to homeschool them):

  1. Crank up the music. A dance party is good for the soul. When your classmates are your siblings, fights break out over things you never knew were possible to fight about. Dancing is the fastest way to restore peace because it’s a scientific fact that no one can resist a good beat (especially when the alternative is diagramming sentences.)
  2. When tensions get high, send your children outside. Abductions should be at an all-time low right now, so it’s the perfect time to not watch them while you enjoy a hot cup of coffee.
  3. If the weather is problematic (or your next-door neighbor sneezes towards your house without regard for the current social climate) and you must stay indoors, water solves nearly every problem. Put little kids in a bath. Make big kids take a shower. It’s amazing what water can do for a cranky child. Or a cranky mother. I have been known to take a bubble bath at two o’clock in the afternoon when I find myself fighting with a child about adverbs.
  4. This is the perfect time to Venmo your child’s teacher one million dollars when you realize that teaching one child multiplication tables is impossibly hard, and they have to teach twenty-five children all at once. Nothing like a national crisis to remind us all that we do not deserve the amazingness that is our teachers.

  5. A forced homeschooling situation is the perfect time to teach your children what their homeschool friends already do on a daily basis: bake bread from scratch, sew yourself a denim jumper, and learn to braid your hair. JUST KIDDING. This is the time to do what it takes to survive. And if that includes a little too much Fortnite, consider that their socialization.
  6. If you text your BFF on a near daily basis that you are considering selling your children in exchange for toilet paper, CONGRATS! You are officially a homeschool mom. Welcome to the club.

  7. The upside of homeschooling is the flexibility it allows. You can give a spelling test at 8 am or 10 pm. If patience is running low and yelling is running high, take a break. Lock yourself in your bedroom and binge Love Is Blind to remind yourself that you are capable of making good life decisions. And Jessica probably made straight A’s in school, so perhaps there’s more to life than acing that spelling test.
  8. This is the perfect opportunity to let you know that your college experience will be put to good use in the days to come. Not the education part. No, I am talking about all those hours you spent at the Pi Kappa Alpha house. Because your normally beautiful home is about to be transformed into a gross frat house. Children will wake up and go to bed at all times of the day and night. Your fridge will only have a bottle of mustard and one beer by the end of this thing. A mysterious layer of sticky will be on every surface. There will be pee in places you didn’t know pee could be. That student loan debt will feel justified when you realize you spent four years preparing for such a time as this.
  9. Have grace with yourself and grace for your children. This is weird and confusing and new for everyone. You don’t have to be the world’s greatest homeschool mom or anything even close. Do what you have to do to survive. Even though it feels like it, this won’t last forever. And no one is going to die if you skip a chapter of science.
  10. This is a sweet opportunity to embrace the forced slow down and enjoy your family in a way life does not often allow. I know it can be potentially scary financially and the unknowns are difficult to process, so I do not want to dismiss very real feelings. My hope is that this will serve as a resetting of sorts, where the best in humanity comes out and communities inexplicably grow closer during the social distancing.

 

“In the darkness, there is always light.
In the light, there is always hope.
In hope, there is always love.”
– Author Unknown

Let us be people of light, hope, and love.

And truly, if you need some help or encouragement, message me anytime. If anything, I know exactly how much a 4th grader sells for on eBay. Even with the discounted coronavirus rate, it’s enough to cover the cost of their snacks.

What Is Your Story?

My church hosted a baby dedication on Sunday where parents commit to raising their children to love and follow God. I love how my church honors and celebrates its youngest members.

The theme was, “What Is Your Story? What is the unique story God is writing for you and your family?”

I love this idea because it offers so much hope. For new parents, it’s the hopeful anticipation of the beautiful story that will unfold in the years to come. For seasoned parents and grandparents, it’s the hope that chapters are still being written, and it’s never too late to write a new story line.

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God writes a different story for every family, and I had the privilege to share part of mine at the dedication brunch.

I appreciate how God makes every child and every family unique. But I haven’t always liked parts of the story He was writing for my family.

When my oldest son was a toddler, he was the shyest little guy. As the most extrovert of extroverts, being home with my toddler was lonely for me, so I attended every moms group, playdate, and church event possible. My reserved son did not share my enthusiasm. He would cling to my leg, cry when I dropped him off, and took a long time to warm up in social situations.

I would stay awake at night, wondering how he was ever going to make it in life. How would he interview for a job? Would he ever be a contributing member of society? I was concerned for him, and I was embarrassed by what people thought of me. I wondered if his nerves were my fault. Did I fail to form a healthy attachment? Had I done something wrong? I just knew I was somehow to blame that he wasn’t outgoing like most boys his age.

Fast forward a couple of years and a couple of kids later.

Pinterest was invented and singlehandedly took parenting to a whole other ridiculous level. Birthday parties now required a bank loan, and I believed that I had to be a crafty mom to be a good mom. Following a tutorial from someone who is actually talented, I made my first DIY home décor. I hot glued some materials to a dollar store vase and filled it with candy. When my husband got home from work, he gently questioned the wisdom and quality of a dollar store glass vase filled with candy in a home where our three children were all under five years old. Sure enough, my kids plowed through the candy by bedtime, and the vase didn’t make it much longer.

Never deterred, I decided to impress my children with my newfound Pinterest knowledge. They enjoyed eating their boogers, so I figured they were an easy crowd to please. I made them the cutest lunch. I used cookie cutters for fun sandwiches and topped their peanut butter celery with raisins to create edible ants on the log.

My children sat down at the table and all ran off screaming, “THERE IS RAT POOP ON OUR FOOD!”

All of my Pinterest hopes and dreams were crushed.

Fast forward a few more years.

A dear friend, who I greatly admired, taught her kids the Bible in the coolest ways. Her family read it together, and she made the words come alive. I wanted my kids to love the Bible and thought how I would be an amazing mom if I accomplished that. So I gathered my supplies, sat my kids down, and told them that we are a Christian family who would now be reading the Bible together.

The best way to describe how this turned out is…well…have you ever watched WWE? This sweet devotional time turned into an episode of Monday Night Raw. Kids were wrestling. Things were thrown. There was screaming. Mostly from me.

In what could only be described as the ugliest of ugly cries, I sobbed to my husband that our kids would probably never follow the Lord if we couldn’t even read the Word of God without trying kill each other. Ever the voice of reason, he kindly suggested maybe I should stop being so hard on myself and trust God.

Over the next few years, that’s exactly what I did. As I gained more experience as a mom and matured (both in age and in my relationship with God), instead of trying to be someone I am not, I embraced the unique story He is writing for my family.

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The nervous and shy toddler that I was unsure could ever adjust to adulthood is the most awesome young man. He is outgoing and has lots of friends. He is so funny and has gotten in trouble for being the class clown. Who he was as a toddler was, in no way, indicative of the person he has become.

These days, my kids are content with a bag of chips and an orange for lunch. I gave up on DIY projects years ago, and they’ve grown up just fine in a home with factory made décor from Hobby Lobby. My daughter loves to craft (and destroy my house in the process). My complete inability in that area did not impede the creative girl God made her to be.

My children, whose spiritual lives seemed doomed before they began, all love the Lord with their varying levels of childlike faith. We’ve yet to have a precious devotional around the dinner table. However, sometimes when we are driving down the street and the car is unusually quiet, my little boy will pipe up from the back of the van, “Mom, why do boys have wieners and girls have front butts?”

This is not at all how I pictured their spiritual growth to happen, yet here we are. While buckled in their seats with nowhere to wrestle (legally), I have a captive audience to share with them the words of Psalm 139 that tell how God made each of them perfectly before they were ever born. He knows exactly how many hairs are on their head. He made them just the way He wants them: how they look, their personality, what they’re good at, what they’re not. As much as I love them, Jesus loves them infinitely more and is writing the most awesome story for each of them.

The same is true of you. Your story may be everything you dreamed of and more or it may look nothing like you imagined. Either way, God made you the perfect parent for your children. Your strengths help shape them into the people God has designed them to be. Where you fall short, His grace and goodness are more than enough to make up for your deficit.

Chapter by chapter, God is penning the most beautiful story.