Wednesday, August 31, 2011

End of the Month Report!

August is over. Today is the 31st.
I survived sending 5 kids and my hubby back to school.
I returned to school as well with a new job description
and we all survived albeit still adjusting to the new routine. (I think Libby is pleased though as she has the run of the house all day long ... lucky dog!)

While I've not done any specific blogs this month with the "To Write a Better Story" theme, I am pleased with how August shaped up. I have introduced 2 new categories:


Tuesday will continue to be Practical Parenting day as that is the day my article runs in the local paper.
I developed Monday and Fridays more for myself and my writing rhythm. I mean, if I had topics preassigned to a day I knew it would help guide my writing on the days that I sit and stare at the computer wondering what I want to share  I have writers block.

Interestingly enough those two particular categories have given me a lot of energy to write!
More than I've had in awhile ....
seemed like lately blogging was becoming a bit chore-some. Not so with Menu Monday or Finance Friday. Particularly Finance Friday. I have about 6 drafts of blogs for that category. The words just started flowing and that gives me energy! So excited!

I hope your enjoying my blog as well. But even if you are not ... it's ok. I'm writing for me. I would blog even if no one read it. I write because I like to. I write because if I don't I just think about writing ... so I might as well write it down to get it out of my head.

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”
-Cyril Connolly

I'll close with a link to my highest visited posts this month: Lonely Mothers No More

I got a TON of local feedback from moms who enjoyed the article. That makes me happy! If it's possible that my words would ever encourage someone, ever give you strength or, I pray, ever minister to you ... well, it would all be worth it!

Thanks for stopping by today!

p.s. writers, I got a lot out of Jeff Goins blog this week! Check it out!

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Creamy White Sauce

the roux (butter & flour)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
minced garlic (as much or as little as you like)
2 cups milk (we use skim)
1 1/2 c Parmesan cheese

Melt butter in saucepan. Add garlic. Whisk in flour ... slowly...
whisk till nice and bubbly but be careful not to burn
slowly add milk whisking constantly
keep whisking till you can feel it get thicker
slowly add cheese a little bit at a time whisking frequently
don't burn it!

Create Conversations

 (this article appears as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series for The Daily Review Atlas, Monmouth, IL)

Last night before bed I wrote out my schedule for today. You see I am a chronic list maker. Also, I had so much to do I was seriously worried I would forget something important… you know, like a kid.

It only took me a few minutes to wrap my head around all the errands, practices and general taxiing of children. Seeing it mapped out on paper set my mind at ease that somehow I could get it all done. I loathe busyness. And while I’ve not yet quite figured out how to eliminate all the chaos I have come to recognize one thing. Busyness cannot be an excuse for not spending time with my kids.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cheesy Mexican Rice

1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup your favorite salsa
1/2 pound Velveeta (classic or Queso Blanco=yummo!)
2 cups instant white rice

Boil water. Add salsa, Velveeta & rice. Remove from heat. Cover and let sit 5 minutes. Fluff with fork.

Menu Monday

Last week I introduced my new Monday Theme: Menu Monday. It's a sneak peek into what a budget conscious working mother of 5 feeds her Tribe! Here's my first menu post:

from the week of August 15

Tacos, rice, chips & Salsa Cruda
(I made regular tacos but also tried a shrimp taco recipe I saw on the Today show! As I predicted the kids didn't touch the shrimp but that's ok! I loved it!)

Grilled Pork Steaks (I use Cavanders Greek Seasoning .. OMG delish!)
Grilled Potatoes with bacon bits and cheddar cheese
Grilled Sweet Vidalia Onion (peel it, sprinkle it with brown sugar and a dab of butter, wrap in foil)
Corn Bread
Sliced Tomatoes
Cucumber Salad

Taco Salad (with leftover taco meat from Monday)

Chicken 'n Waffles  (got a Belguim Waffle maker for christmas & we Love it!)

Fish Fry
Corn on the Cob

Lasagna Casserole (a Rachel Ray recipe)
Garlic Bread

Sunday Brunch
Cheesey Scrambled Eggs
Fried Potatoes
Sausage Links

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Sunday, August 28, 2011


The dog greeted me in the sun flooded, kitchen this morning and waited patiently while I made the coffee. Then she and I headed out as we do most days.

It was a perfect morning. I put my face to the sun and whispered a thanksgiving to the heavens. It felt good to be alive on such a  gorgeous Sunday morning!

Then I heard zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

I looked up at the utility pole just in time to see a furry, little orb falling to the ground. Libby and I walked over to see if I saw what I thought I saw ... I mean I didn't think birds could get electrocuted.

Aren't they hanging out on telephone and electric wires all the time? I've never been able to understand or even explain that phenomena to my kids when they ask ... I just knew it was safe for animals but dangerous for us. End of story, right?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Finances

When I was a child memories of Saturday morning conjure up more than thoughts of my favorite cartoons.

It was the day of the week that learned to avoid my parents.

I remember many Saturdays when Dad got out the checkbook and mom collected her steno notebook and her prized heirloom; the bill basket. I can picture my mother even now, in that avocado green kitchen, standing on her tiptoes reaching for it on the kitchen shelf above the microwave. Often I saw her remove an envelope or two before she sat down in front of my dad at the kitchen table.

She and my father sat hunched over steaming cups of black coffee and a mess of paperwork. I would quietly slip out of earshot despite the fact it was my only chance at cartoon viewing for the week. I knew it wouldn't be long before things got loud.
I didn't like when they fought over money.
It made me feel afraid.
And it made me feel guilty.
I often mused maybe I shouldn't have asked mom to buy me that pack of gum yesterday.
This is how the adolescent mind reasons. We believe that our parents problems are directly related to our actions.

Fast forward to my own marriage.
I had developed a reasonable expectation that money matters were battlegrounds.
Imagine my surprise when finances were a non-issue for us. My new husband was prone to saving rather than spending. He had socks filled with bill rolls, piggy banks for change that we cashed in for "fun" purchases and a savings plan that ensured we lived a practically debt free live.

We may not of had a lot of material possessions on our meager salary but we got by.
and we didn't fight
and I was thrilled.
Until about 3 years ago.

Three years ago, with five children, we made a decision to work for a nonprofit organization. Aaron gave up a relatively small, steady income for a job that would not only be based on his own fundraising skills but started at base zero.


It was in no uncertain terms a leap of faith.
And it was unsustainable.

Now, we've depleted all savings. We live paycheck to paycheck and we are one disaster away from financial ruin. And while it is unbelievably stressful ... and humbling (more on that in the future) ... it remains an area in which we agree it's not worth fighting over.

I've decided to spend Fridays talking about Finances (gasp!) on my blog.
I'll share how we are making ends meet,
how we are not and
how we survive the stress of it all.

Stay tuned for a peek into one of the most very private areas of our life and how I'm determined to live through this season with dignity and grace so that someday my children can look back on these times not as scary and stressful but with a lot of joy and a healthy dose of reality.

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Thursday, August 25, 2011


Hey! Thanks all you readers out there who have given me so much positive feed back this week! I want you to know I really appreciate it! I hope as I approach my one year anniversary of blogging I can focus on increasing the amount of activity happening! (that's just the ever-hostess in me!) I hope you'll join me! You're invited to leave comments, share my blog directly to Facebook or Twitter and you can even email it to your friend right from this page! Just put your mouse on the little boxy, bubble-loooking things below and you can forward it however you like! I think sharing is nice! Feel free to share or comment! I look forward to connecting with you more!

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011


I blogged last spring about a scene from the television show Parenthood.
Lauren Graham plays Sarah Braverman who has written a play gathers all the bravery she can muster and is incredibly persistent in asking for her script to be read.
Her first play.
She's a nobody in the world of playwrights.
But she's told that her play is good and deserves attention.
So she asks for attention.
Even though initially she was swiftly brushed off.
She persisted.
She was persistent (and she wasn't even b!tch-ey about it).
She was kinda quite adorable.

Reminds me of Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and her speech at TED Women's Conference "Why we have too few woman leaders"

We must be people who raise our hand. Speak up for what we know. Ask questions. Use our voice for good. I am so inspired by these women who persisted. Who asked. Who raised their hands. I hope you have been too!

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Lonely Mother's no-More!

(this blog originally appeared in the 8/23/11 edition of The Review Atlas as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series)

There's a huge difference between being lonely and being alone. You can be in a room surrounded by people and still be lonely. Activity doesn't necessarily ward off alienation either. You can run around all day, shuffling your kids to practice, taking care of errands or chasing overactive toddlers and be absolutely lonely. And overwhelmed. And angry. And at your wits end.

This is a reality for many mothers. Particularly stay at home moms.

Sure we look happy in the carpool lane. We take our kids to story time and you see us at the park. We're out in public and we're smiling. But sometimes, ok most of the time, it's just on the outside. We work very hard to look somewhat put together. But many times the truth is our nerves are frayed and we are one poopy diaper away from insanity. It's those days that we feel like a failure. I mean how can we feel successful? We can't even simultaneously take care of our children and own personal hygiene. Days go by before we brush our teeth and we wear permanently stained clothes. We are mothers and we struggle. 

I recently had a mom pull me aside and ask me how I look so happy all the time. This was the fourth time she's seen me in the last two years. If she really knew me she probably wouldn't have asked that question. But she did and I felt compelled to answer her. Especially after I looked into her eyes and I could tell she wasn't kidding. She was desperate.

"Well", I said, "I am happy ... today. But that's just today. You didn't see me yesterday when the toilet was clogged. Or Sunday when the birthday party was in full blown chaos. Or last week when we discovered the ceiling had a water stain directly under the bathtub."

Her sigh was so loud and violent I did a double take. She lifted her face and with tears in her eyes she looked into my mine and said "Thank You!"

This whole scenario reminded me of two very important facts. First, there is no perfect mother. This is big news for some of you. You are striving for perfection, falling short (of course) and swimming in a stream of guilt. Let me encourage you to stop looking at the other mommies and imagining they have it all together. They don't. If you get caught in the dangerous habit of observing other families and judging them against yourself you'll never allow yourself to feel truly happy. Instead, you'll always feel less superior than the women around you. And your parenting skills will suffer. Trust me when I tell you that other mother is far from perfect anyway. She has her days just like you and plus, did you catch a glimpse of her minivan? It's a total disaster. I think I saw a moldy sippy cup roll out into the parking lot.

Women are relentless with ourselves. We can walk into a room and within seconds know who is prettier, thinner, heavier and more athletic. Next we mentally filter through the assessments we've made and rank ourselves in the line up. Then we comfort ourselves. We think, "Well, at lease I'm not the heaviest in the room" or "I definitely have the prettiest shoes". We've got to stop this. It's nothing more than self inflicted torture. And it's ridiculous. If we all stop looking each other up and down and instead take a step forward and initiate kindness our neighborhood playgroup and PTC's would be more popular places.

Secondly, give yourself a break. Now that I've completely reassured you that you are not the only one who's frustrated, lonely and worn out, cut yourself some slack. Not everyday is lovely. Some days are terrible. Some days you have peanut butter in your hair. Some nights you get no sleep. In fact many. We all, at times, feel angry at our kids. Some of us are just better at hiding it than others. Motherhood is not easy. I'm sorry if they forgot to cover that in your Childbirth Preparation Class. It's hard work. Like, really hard. It's messy and ugly. It's exhausting and overstimulating. It's a tough road. But it's kinda supposed to be. It's not easy. For anyone. Know that and give yourself a break. 

If you are sensing that you are feeling angry or short tempered with your children you may need a physical break from them. This is tricky move to navigate because taking time off tends to initiate more feelings of guilt. You think, "I'm such a bad mother I can't even stomach to be around my our children today!" This is a natural feeling and it shouldn't keep you from taking the time you need. Sometimes it is imperative that you ask a loving, responsible adult whether it be Grandma, your mother in law, a neighbor or best friend, to care for your kids for an afternoon. Get out and window shop. Take a walk. Read a book in the park. Journal. Go out to eat or to the movies. Just take sometime to breathe and rejuvenate. You'll be happier for doing it and thereby be in a better mood for all the crazy demands of motherhood.

No mother is perfect. You're not. She's not. I'm not. Let's understand this and move on. Why? Because I think we're meant to be a support to one another not a discouragment. Let's stop downgrading ourselves because we think all the other mothers are doing a better job then we are. We each have our own strengths. We have different personalities. And we are raising children with unique temperaments. No two motherhood experiences are going to be the same. It's not possible.

Instead let's I hope for a remnant of mothers who will support each other. Women who can share the joys and challenges of motherhood instead of the isolation. There are a host of lonely mothers out there. We are struggling and we need a friend. How about the next time you see one of us you offer an encouraging word? And how about the next time someone asks us, "How are you doing?" we take a deep breath and answer honestly. You might find you're not alone. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so! That's why!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Introducing Menu Monday

I wish I knew when I was 18 years old how much I was going to enjoy cooking as an adult. I didn't even know how to cook until my sophomore year in high school when I took HomeEc. Sure I could put a frozen pizza in the oven, but I had no idea how to put a meal together, how to snap green beans or plan a menu.

Now many, many years later I'm the mother of 5 hungry, growing, picky eaters who need nutritious meals. Combine that fact with my love for cooking, list making and recipe collecting, I'll sheepishly admit I love creating menus and grocery lists and trying new recipes.

So henceforward Mondays are dedicated to Meal Planning. Every Mondays blog will be a list of our family's menu. Most meals are inexpensive to make but contain real food (thanks Jaime Oliver) and come together in a snap!

If you'd like a recipe let me know, I'll be happy to share because in posting my menus I secretly hope you'll be inspired to gather your family around the table and share healthy meals!

Enjoy Menu Monday!

Question: How does this fit in with your blog theme To Write a Better Story?
Well, I want my family, my kids and their kids to have memories of homecooked meals, warm chocolate chip cookies and homemade birthday cakes. I want my grandkids to tell their children about their Grandma's recipe box and I want to create a legacy of kitchen laced memories! 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

My Mommy Date
I had a great morning.
Even though I was running late and had no time for a shower.
Even though I wore the mommy-ponytail hairstyle.
Even though the toilet was viciously clogged and I had to ... ahem ... use my hand to unplug it.

I had made a MommyDate.
Mother-of-2 and I bumped into each other last week at the library (boy! did I enjoy being the substitute storyteller) and she invited me to meet her again. I think her words were "Will you be my new best friend?"

It seemed she needed someone to talk to!
Ya, think?

In between interruptions and kids and thrown library books we connected.

"How do you stay so upbeat?"
"I just get so angry!"
"I'm on from the moment I wake!"
"I find myself arguing with a two year old"
"Somethings you don't know by instinct, ya know?"

People need people.
And I don't mean that in a cliche way.
I mean we really, seriously need interaction with each other.
Moms need other moms to say, "I know how you feel"
and women need other women to ask "Who has the best childcare?"
and I need a friend to admit, "Sometimes I feel lonely".

Mommy-of-2 didn't need any answers from me, only a listening ear and a dose of encouragement.

Who can you listen to today?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

You Don't Know

I sat in
section 3012
row V
seat 8
otherwise known as the nosebleed section.

There were only two rows between me and the back wall. That's how high up we were.
I was at a Taylor Swift concert in St. Louis over the weekend. I'm not particularly a fan (not that's there's anything wrong with that) but I'll admit - it was a great show! I went to celebrate my daughter's Sweet 16! She and three of her friends had a blast and rocked out all night long. It didn't matter I didn't know the words to any of the songs ... I was happy that she was happy!

Half way through the set one song in particular caught my attention. Mean
"...But you don't know what you don't know..."
Let that roll around your head for a minute.

You don't know
you don't know.

There is a lot I don't know. A lot I don't understand. But subsequently there is an awful lot I do know. I clearly know what I know and have no idea what I don't.

Forgive me, I'm not trying to go all Freudian this morning, and I don't usually get my personal theology from a nineteen year old pop/country star. It's just that I think it's important to embrace what we do know. I think we should embrace the fact we don't know everything ... won't know everything .... shouldn't know everything.

And be ok with that.

Because if we spend our days worrying about what we don't know, what we missed because we weren't aware, then I think we'll always miss the present. If I didn't know something then ... and I discover it now ... I can't mourn the fact that I missed the opportunity because I didn't know it existed at the right time.

I don't believe my life is an accident. I'm not sure I believe every moment of my day is Divinely orchestrated either. I think I'm somewhere in between.

What I am sure of is life is full of choices: choices to be present, choices to be happy, choices to be content, choices to make the most of it, choices to live life respectfully and integrious.

Or you can choose to focus on what you don't know. Choose to fear the unknown. Choose to worry about what you might be missing out on.

I choose life.
I choose health.
I choose to focus on what I do know.
I think that's an element in writing my life into a great story.
And if the Great Author in heaven chooses to interrupt my story with facts from the past, well, then I'll deal with that chapter when it begins.

And yet, I sense a new chapter on my horizon.

In case you're interested, here's the Taylor Swift video for the song "Mean"

"But you don't know what you don't know"

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Encouraging the Discouraged Student

(this article originally appears in 8/16/11 The Review Atlas as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series)

image from
I've made it quite clear in my recent articles that I'm thrilled that a new school year is about to begin. But that is because I value learning, crave routine and, really so do my kids. But also I am sick and tired of being treated like the family's personal concierge; Mom what can I do? Mom where can I go? and Mom when's that movie come out?
There is one occasion however that would cause me a great dread this time of year. It has in Septembers past and I remember it quite well. Nothing is more difficult than preparing a child for school who doesn't want to go.

I don't mean like my 6th grader who bemoaned at registration. I'm talking about the child who doesn't separate well from mom or who's anxiety levels are disproportionate for their age.

Because I had a child who literally hid behind my leg for five and a half years, I understand the stress that builds in a mothers heart when you must pry yourself out from your child's clingy grasp and send them on their way. Will they go? Will they throw a fit? Will I be able to leave them? Will the other moms judge me?

If your child is showing signs of stress about the first day, take heart. Strategically days lay ahead and it's possible to spend the time you have encouraging your child alleviating back to school anxiety.

Firstly, young children need your love and support, not ridicule. When your child expresses nervousness let them know you hear them and understand. Avoid statements like "You'll be fine!" or "You better not cry this year!"

Instead gather them in your arms and acknowledge their feelings. Wouldn't you hate it if you confided in a friend and they brushed it off your feelings as trivial? Tell your child, "I know you feel nervous but that's normal" or "I know you don't know who your teacher is yet! But well find her and meet her together."

Sometimes as parents we feel compelled to make everything alright for our children. We don't want our kids to feel nervous so we try to hide or cover up the feeling with our demeaning words or unnatural reactions. But consider this, if we never allow our kids to experience their nervousness then we also eliminate the possibility of allowing the opportunity to be brave. And brave is a good way to feel. But you never experience it unless you welcome cowardice.

Secondly parents, keep your own fears at bay. It's likely if you're aware that your child is nervous you will be as well but behave wisely. Don't let your children overhear you talking on the phone about how afraid you are that they'll cry. Your children need to see your strength.

Don't misrepresent school either. If you know your child loves chocolate cake don't tell them the cafeteria will probably serve it just for them on the first day. We often confuse age for intelligence. Your child might be young but they are old enough to recognize when they are being sold a line. Don't try to downplay the negatives by overstating the positives. This technique almost always backfires. You're child will be doubly disappointed, by you and the school.

Follow your child's cues as well. Don't over talk the situation. If your child is not talking about their fears supress the need to fill the silence with positive rhetoric. Overtalking about fears can be just as stressful for your child. They can pick up if mom is unnaturally talking about an event. When or if they bring up any concerns your job is to listen, acknowledge and encourage.

The first day of school is coming. It's normal to wonder if teachers will be kind, if lunch will be good and if our friends will be there when we arrive. How we as parents handle these fears will teach our children to face the uncertain future with bravery. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so that's why!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Stop Hiding

I don't allow eating in my family room. I have a personal conviction about eating in front of the T.V. but also - I got 5 kids. They make a mess. I like to limit the mess to the kitchen. Where there are vinyl floors. And washcloths.

Yesterday one of the twins poured herself a tall glass of red Kool Aid. Now, this is a double edged sword. On the one hand; Yeah! she can get her own drink and doesn't need me to serve her every time she's thirsty. But on the other hand;  Boo! She often pours with a vengeance creating a wicked splash back. My kitchen counter tops are permanently stained grape and cherry red. Not kidding.

Yesterday my daughter poured her own drink and proceeded to sneak it into the family room.

While working at his desk my darling husband noticed Bell was on the stairs, not watching T.V. He thought this was strange since he knew I gave the kids permission to watch a movie. He asked, "Honey, why aren't you watching your movie?"

Bell cowered on the stairs.

Her nature was disturbing so DH probed further, "What's the matter, baby?"

She backed up out of his sight.

He pursued her. Attempted to gather her in his arms. She refused his comfort, eyes big as saucers, silent as a mute. Then he noticed she had on a new set of clothes.

"Bell," he firmly insisted "What's wrong?"

Nothing. Diverted eyes. Crossed arms.

"Tell Daddy! What happened!"

Slight shake of head.

"Show me, baby. Can you at least show me what's wrong?"

Bell took her daddy by the hand and led him to her laundry basket where he discovered her new birthday shirt stained with cherry Kool Aid. Tears began to spill down her cheeks.

"Where did you spill this?" he asked.

Again, no words, she silently led him to the family room where the movie was still playing and the chair and floor were covered in a sticky, wet mess.

Aaron called for me to bring towels. I cleaned the mess and he cuddled Bell. I overheard him encourage her.

"Bell you should never hide when you do something wrong. You can always tell me. Maybe your mommy and I can help you when you make a mistake. Please don't hide from me, honey. I love you even when you make a mistake."

I watched as her big, brown eyes focused on her daddy's face. Her lip quivered as she was learning a very important lesson. My heart beat four times bigger as I watched as she listened to Aaron's voice and then buried her head in the crook of her fathers neck, her little arms gripping for dear life.

DH asked me later if I thought the reason why Bell didn't tell him what she had done was because she was afraid of him. I don't think so.

Genesis 3:10 He (Adam) answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I
was afraid because I was naked; so I hid" NIV

I think it's in our nature to hide when we know we've done something wrong. I don't think Bell hid from Aaron because she was afraid of him. I think Bell hid because she was aware she had been disobedient. And disobedience begets consequences. We hate consequences, don't we?

Once I hid the fact that I had dented the bumper of Aaron's truck. Another time, I put a place mat over a watermark I created, destroying the beauty of our antique buffet. I didn't confess when I dropped the computer down the stairs.

On and on .... I could list all the times I've hid my mistakes. When I sin I don't even have time to plot and scheme my cover up I just .... do it. I just instinctively cover up my errors.

I think since the beginning of time it's been evident that it's our nature to hide our sin from God.
From our loved ones.
From ourselves.

If my daughter had not confessed her spill, her new shirt and my wood floors would have been ruined. Instead, because she shared her mistake we were able to do our best to help. I soaked the shirt and cleaned the floors.

Spilled Kool Aid is so small in the scheme of life. In fact, no traces of the accident even remain at this point. That's because she's 6.

But the lesson to be learned is eternal.
We all make mistakes.
And we are inclined to hide when we've sinned.
But confession leads to forgiveness.
And in the arms of forgiveness our burdens are lifted.

God, help me to remember this moment the next time I screw up.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

That's my Name

Mom! MOM! Moooooommmmmm! Mum! Mummy! We have a divide and conquer mentality in our family. If we can avoid taking all of us everywhere at the same time - we do! Does it take 7 people to go to the grocery store? No! Should all of us pay the water bill? No! With the exception of church and the pool rarely do we all travel together. However, in the rare occasion that we are all out in public I have the annoying habit of turning my head to every child (mine or otherwise) who yells for their mother. We're at the park and I hear mom - I turn! We're attending a sporting event - "mom!" - I turn! Everywhere I go, when all my kids are with me, I subconsciously answer every child's call for Mom. This is highly annoying. Within an hour I feel schizophrenic and completely overstimulated! And then any fun we were going to have gets lost in my crabbiness! Does this happen to you? Or is it because I have so many voices to keep track of?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Parents Get Ready too!

This article originally appears in the 8/10/11 edition of The Review Atlas as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series.

While this back to school season is the time for a mother like me to celebrate, it is also the time of year when I get quite serious about my organization. Returning to school isn't just about getting the kids ready for the classroom. Us parents have to do some preparation at home as well.

We always prepare for the new year with school supply checklists making sure to purchase the tools our children need for school success but parents could do well to create their own sort of checklist according to the website

If you are anticipating purchasing new clothes for the upcoming school year it would be helpful to put "Organize Closet" at the top of your To-do list. Kids these day's practically grow out of their clothes overnight. Is your child's closet ready for the new school year? How do you know what to buy if you don't know what they've grown out of? Before hitting the stores organize your kid's closets. Remove items that are too worn or too small and take an inventory of what is really needed. You could save yourself quite a bit of money when you avoid buying items you don't really need.

In addition, an organized closet will increase the likelihood of a smoother morning routine. Store your child's clothes in such a way that anyone, mom or child, can find what they are looking for in the morning rush. This may require rearranging things. Younger children can't be expected to dress themselves if they can't reach their sock drawer. And teaching children to get dress on their own is a huge milestone in independence and self care, a goal families should be aiming for when raising their children.

That's why "Alarm Clocks" are second on my To-do list this fall. The sooner I can teach my kids to wake up on their own the better it will be for all of us. Even very young children can be taught to use digital face clocks.

We will be using the week before school begins to practice waking to the alarm. For the sake of world peace and harmony I cannot be responsible for making sure each of my five kids are awake. Why? Because if it is my job to wake them and if they were to be late to school, it would be my fault they were tardy. But if I teach them how to wake up and be responsible for themselves if they are late to school, it is of their own doing. I will create an atmosphere in my home that allows for each of my children to be successful but ultimately they must take responsibility for themselves. That and I'm not much of a morning person myself.

Thirdly, parents should "Check immunization and medical records" to make sure that their students have all the necessary and required forms for registration. Dentists, optometrists and pediatricians offices can be backed up this time of year with families who've delayed physicals. Schedule any appointments as soon as possible. Children who do not have the required medical information can be pulled out of school and sent home which of course is a huge buzz kill when you've just begun celebrating their return to school!

And since we are talking about scheduling appointments, don't forget to add "Family Calendar" to your checklist. A good calendar, whether on your refrigerator or online, is an extremely helpful tool this time of year. Take the time to write in school holidays and events. Be the first to schedule daycare if you need it for no attendance days. Don't forget to pick up a sports schedule as well, especially if you have older children. Game nights can alter after school or dinner routines. Make note of those days now so you can be better prepared later.

Also make your sure you have current emergency phone numbers and contacts for the school to reach you or a family member. Enter school numbers and important information like class schedules into your smart phone to keep all information with you at all times.

Get your home ready today by preparing a "Homework Spot". When buying school supplies pick up a few extra to store at home. No more excuses from your child that they can't complete a homework assignment because they left their ruler in their desk. I also recommend picking up poster board when school supply shopping. Inevitably, on a cold winter's night when a project is due, you're child will urgently announce they need it and you, prepared parent can whip out a brand new piece. Dilemma diverted!

Finally, make your own space at home where you can keep all the important information your children bring you. Due dates, permission slips, lunch money receipts and class schedules need to be in a handy location. Nothing is worse than those inevitable rushed mornings where you hectically search your house for a tiny piece of information.

No amount of preparation can eliminate all morning chaos this school year but with a little preparedness parents can greatly decrease stress. It's true, a little extra work now can create a more pleasant morning environment later. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so! That's why!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

(This article originally appears in 7/26/11 edition of The Review Atlas as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting column)

2009 Daddy takes the twins to Kindergarten
It's the most wonderful time of the year! The back to school ads are full of deals and my kids are about to be outfitted with shiny new sneakers. The day is coming when they will get off my couch and will return to the confines of their academic careers. I, personally could not be more thrilled.

I realize however that not everyone shares in my excitement. Take your first time mom out there. She's on the verge of a nervous breakdown as she's preparing to send off her first kindergartener. She wrestles with fits of fret concerned about who will help tie her child's shoelaces, who will open the straw in his juice box during lunch and what if he cries more than she does on that first day

Likewise those who are sending their youngest child to school for the first time might also disagree with my enthusiasm. This is the parent who's survived sending the older children to school, knows that it will all work out and that the children flourish in a learning environment, but now find themselves a little less sure as they shop for a backpack for the youngest family member. Shooing the last one out of the nest can be very heartbreaking for some mothers, it is their babies after all.

I imagine parents of college age students are not thrilled with this time of year either. How could they have anytime to mourn the absence of their child in the midst of tuition payments, book vouchers and dormitory costs? These parents are wandering the aisles of the department stores buying different types of back to school supplies. They push shopping carts overflowing with sheet sets, cotton balls, bulletin boards, ramen noodles and gallons of shampoo. They are kicking themselves muttering about how they knew this day is coming and wondering why in the world did they not set up a savings plan.

Finally, I wonder if teachers have much enthusiasm as they prepare on returning to the classroom. I'm simply getting rid of my five children, they on the other hand are about to be assigned twenty or more.

And it's not just the kids they have to deal with. It's parents. There is no room for indifference on the first day of school. There will simply be two types of parents creeping in and out classrooms; the cryers and the dumpers. The cryers are the parents who can't leave without taking just one more picture and getting one more hug. You can spot these mothers because they wear their sunglasses into the classroom in an attempt to hide their tears. I know because I've been there.

But I've since become a dump parent. There will be no tears from me this year. I will proudly deliver my chid into the capable hands of their teachers, plant a prompt kiss on their cheek (if they want one, I suspect my son's will dump me before I can dump them this year) and turn on my heels and vacate the premises as quickly as possible only to head to the nearest coffee shop.

So if you see me on the playground, on that first day of school, waiting to drop off my students, don't expect me to stand out from the crowd. I'll not throw a little party or even whistle when they open the doors. Oh no, I'll hold all my excitement inside until the last of my kids are sent off and snuggled into their new classrooms. Then and only then for a split second will I let my head fall back, I'll release a pent up sigh of relief and whisper a prayer to the heavens. I did it! I survived an entire summer home with five kids.

Somebody please nominate me for mother of the year and while you're at it could you solicit our local lawmakers to reconsider the nine month school calendar?  I'd really like to make a motion that we eliminate summer break entirely and move to a year round school year! Please! Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so! Thats why!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Joseph's Life

Here's a little devotional I wrote for a webinar I co-hosted today for EMERGE. I had the pleasure of sharing with women from the U.K., Czech Repubilc, Slovakia, Germany and the U.S.

EMERGE is a wonderful ministry. I've had the pleasure of speaking at the women's leadership development conferences. I've been able to be an encouragement to women living in Central Europe who are answering the call of purpose and destiny in their lives. For more information go to I must raise my own finances to participate in this ministry. I am a quarter of the way to my goal. If you would like to partner with me I'd be happy to help you give a tax-deductible donation. Your gift has the potential to change many lives across the continent of Europe.


Emerge Connection Devotion:
I have recently taken some time to reflect on the life of Joseph.
Joseph and the coat of many colors, Joseph.
Joseph who was thrown in a well, who was thrown into a jail, Joseph.
If you'd like to look at his story for yourself it begins in Genesis 37.

I just want to remind us of his life and because I think as leaders, emerging leaders in particular, we can glean a lot from this story.

Our lives, similar to Joseph, can start with a dream. He dreamed that his brothers would bow down to him. We dream about the difference we want to make
                                                             - the change we could bring
                                                                        - the good we could do

and when those dreams are God dreams it is so good and exciting!
But what's not good is the path that unfolded for Joseph after his dream and as you read through his story we learn that he was
  • rejected
  • abandoned
  • threatened
  • accused 
  • imprisoned

all things we hate and work very hard to avoid but if we can learn anything from Joseph's life is this:

God is fine with us experiencing difficulty - pain - or injustice.

We pray for God to deliver us from hardships but God uses our circumstances to display His glory.

Having the calling or gifting of leadership in your life does not exempt you from challenges and difficulty in life.

Sometimes we mistakenly believe that because we have a calling or purpose or even a mandate from God that all will go well.
It will not always go well.
And as frustrating as that can be it is no cause to abandon your God dream.
God gave Joseph the dream and God watched as Joseph was imprisioned.
So then, if we trust God has given us a dream, we need to understand, like Joseph, our path may not always be pretty.
We may experience difficulty great or small.
We need to trust in the dream giver regardless of our circumstances.
As you walk out these gifts of leadership in your life be mindful of each day.
Each moment that we are given in each day is driving us to our dream you must be aware of it because you will not always be able to see it.

Surely Joseph could not have known that when he was sitting in the bottom of a well, left to starve and die that he would be just the person God used to distribute Pharoh's wealth in a time of famine. Joseph was able to save many many suffering people from starving to death. Quite possibly because he had suffered himself.

Joseph could not have known when he was thrown into a well there was a bigger picture but with God there is always a bigger picture

Allow today, tomorrow, next week ... your life be a part of God's bigger picture. Whether or not you have great leadership oriented responsibility today or not God's purpose is the same as in the story of Joseph He wants to save many lives. He wants you to partner with him in that.

So in closing, may you Hold tight to your God sized dream, may you live each day believing regardless of the circumstances that God has a bigger picture in mind.


some of my favorite moments from past EMERGE conferences:







Thursday, August 4, 2011

Storytellin Time!

BellyBean 2007
I am thrilled to be the guest storyteller at the Warren County Public Library today in their Children's Department for the Summer Reading Program!

Today's Theme: Bears

I collected all the bears I could find in my house. My children were alarmed as I raided their beds for their bears of all shapes and sizes! I did a lot of promising that the bears would be well taken care of by all the children who attend!

Can you believe I found over a dozen bears? I even have a classic Winnie the Pooh from my own childhood!

If you're local I hope you'll join in the fun today at 10 a.m.

Otherwise, I expect to get back to a more regular blogging schedule after this weekend!

Hope you all are doing well and remember .... live your life today well and deliberate. Whether you are in midst of summer routines and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or....

you're working like a slave at your job ....

make it count. Make all of it count! Be present in every moment. Embrace the love and fun and be strong through the tough times. When it is all added up in the end you'll will want to have written a great story with you life.

Your life is happening today!

Go live it!

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