19 March 2017

5 T I P S: Surviving After School Time to Bedtime

We all know that crazy time between 3:00-8:00p.m.  It's loud, it's chaotic, there's hungry people hovering over the kitchen counter, there's homework to be done, and there's after school activities to get ready for and of course a parent is needed to drive the children there, AND there's remembering everything for the next day of school.

It's enough to make any normal, sane parent completely C R A Z Y!

I've talked to my two closest friends about this time over coffee and by the end of the conversation we all felt like hyperventilating.

Let's be honest, just surviving homework with one child is rough, let alone add 2, 3, 4, or more.

Dinner has to be prepped and cooked.

Everyone wants a snack.

People are fighting over electronic devices.

Toddlers are whining to play outside.

And poor mom (me) is crouching down in the corner of a the dining room chugging her 3rd cup of coffee just to survive the next 5 minutes, let alone the next 5 hours!!!

Tip 1

Prep your meals.  

No, I'm not kidding.  I'm completely serious and this is the only way I survive motherhood.  I have a plan for pretty much everything starting with MEALS!  And now that I have older kids I have them help me plan Sunday night (sometimes I plan the month in advance, most times I plan a week or two in advance) and Monday morning when they are in school I food shop for the week.  Get your kids involved because the more they can help plan things, the better chance you have of encouraging them to eat their dinner.  The calm you will feel knowing that dinner is already prepped, thawed, or in the crock pot will do wonders for the post school stress! Know what meals you are making ahead of time and plan accordingly when you food shop.  To read more about my meal plan strategies and how I gather meals for the week/month click here.

Tip 2

Collect lunch bags/boxes at the door and proceed to the kitchen counter to pack them for the next day.

I know this sounds crazy but it works and it's done and you don't even think about it.  It's a routine.  You greet the kids at the door.  "Hi, how was your day, can I see your lunch box and your homework folder?"  My kids sit at the counter eat anything that was leftover from lunch and they tell me all about their day and I tell them all about my day (I got this from my sweet friend Laura and the article she posted recently.  Kids love to hear about your day and then want to share about their day).  As you are talking you are placing apples, clementines, granola bars, juice boxes, water bottles into their lunch boxes and packing their snack for the next day.  I leave them on the counter and in the morning I make their sandwich.

**Another Tip:  When you buy crackers, pretzels, cookies, almonds: buy snack size zip lock bags (the super small ones) and fill the snack bags ahead of time and stack in a pantry or drawer, then when you are lunch/snack packing that part is already done. (Thanks Beth!  My amazing neighbor/friend from across the street who also has 4 awesome kids gave me this tip last year).

Tip 3

Check homework folder at the door.

I have found that kids completely forget they have homework.  Even if they just wrote their assignments down on their homework pad at 2:45pm.  I like to collect their folder at the door look through it and take out what needs to be done.  I leave it on the counter so we can all see it.  I am all for letting kids snack and play for 30-60 minutes to decompress after school.  I let them go in the back yard and run and scream, jump rope, ride their bikes, but by 4:00 you better come inside ready to get down to it!  I like homework done before dinner because I like dinner time to be relaxing.

**Bonus Tip: Keep back packs by the front door at all times.  Anything that needs to go back to school tomorrow should be there with the back pack, gloves, hat, gym shoes, show and tell, this way nothing is forgotten and it's all in plain view!

Tip 4

Teach them to be responsible.

Listen, we can't do it all.  We just can't.  This crazy busy time is a great way to D E L E G A T E.  I actually hate this but am really trying to do this more because I want my kids to be responsible kids.  I want them to learn to wash the dishes, wash their own clothes, fold their laundry, make their beds, put their laundry away, put the cap back on the toothpaste...(for the love of pete put the cap back on!)
So after homework time I assign some chores honestly to keep the busy, but also to teach them that we are a team and that mommy and daddy can not do everything.  Everyone needs to pitch in.  So while I am helping Julia with homework, Mark might be putting his laundry away.  When I am doing spelling review or reading with Mark, Julia is organizing the toys in the basement or cleaning up the office.  I even have the big kids help me with setting the table, putting the condiments out, getting the drinks ready.  And after dinner we clean up the kitchen together.  (Let me tell you I would love to do this all by myself because it's cathartic for me but teaching them life skills is super important).

**Make them read.  I never met an adult who complains about their parents having made them read a lot when they were young.  Reading is awesome.  I make my kids read at least 20-25 minutes more than the teacher suggests/requires.  I don't care if it's a magazine, a novel or a picture book but make them read!  We do mandatory DEAR time (Drop Everything And Read)  And even though Micah and Mia can't read they've been read to so much they just copy the words from memory or make up their own story.

Tip 5

Enjoy them.  Read the extra book.

Guys, my Micah is turing 4 this week.  Did you hear that?  My baby boy is turning 4 and this summer Amelia will be 3.  These kids are growing up.  It's all happening faster than I thought it would.  So even during the stressful hours of the day I try to take a deep breath and enjoy them.  I try to enjoy watching Mark teach me his latest Kung-Fu spin side kick.  I try to enjoy Julia telling me every single detail about her day.  Every.  Single.  Detail.  I try to enjoy Amelia trying on her 7th pair of click clack shoes and skipping down the hall.  And I definitely enjoy Micah riding his swing car back and forth from the play room to the dining room to the kitchen to the foyer over and over and over.  Because one day it will just be me and John.  They will be all grown up and conquering the world and all I will have is the memory of the loudness that once filled our home.  (Ok, so now I'm crying...thanks.)  

I learned from a wise mom that the hour leading to bedtime is really a "fill my love tank" hour.  Everyone wants one more book, one more hug, Julia wants one more tip or bit of advice about surviving third grade girl drama, Mark wants to show me one more origami plane he can create.  They all need to be filled and this is a great time to talk to them about Jesus, to go over how they can be a blessing to others in their class.  It's a great time to tell them why you think they are special.  I think of all the cruel things they may hear during the school day and sometimes they just need to be loved on and encouraged and built back up.  So my advice is, no matter how tired you are, read the extra book they ask for, sing one more silly song, share a story about how you felt as a child, share a time where God really "showed up" for you.  Use the bedtime hour (because let's face it sometimes it takes a lot longer than you expected) to fill their love tanks.

This season will surely pass and soon they will be middle schoolers and high schoolers and...


15 March 2017


When someone you love dies it just is indescribable.  The pain you feel, your heart, your mind, and body just can't comprehend it.  You want the world to stop and mourn with you.  But nothing stops.  Time keeps going and all you can do is pick up the pieces of your brokenness and continue.

This past February (February 13th) my Uncle Mark lost his battle to cancer.  He was diagnosed in 2009, took treatment, went into remission and then it came back with a vengeance.

This past May (2016) he and my Aunt Marie came over to visit with us.  They stayed only 2 days but looking back on those 2 days with him I am so thankful he was here, under our roof, playing with our kids, laughing with family.  I can still hear his laughter.  It filled the room.

He preached his last sermon in September of this year.  He didn't know it would be his last.  He was such a fighter.  He was always so positive.  Only 3 weeks before he passed we were texting back and forth, John was on the phone with him, and Uncle Mark was asking me about my Dad's health.  Everything seemed like he was going to get past this and get right back into ministry and preaching.

But God had other plans.

Attending his memorial this past week, I learned two new things about Mark.  It wasn't just us that loved him and his legacy will continue on.  We traveled to California March 2-4th to be with Aunt Marie, his son Paul and the rest of Marie's family and to celebrate Mark's life.

I was so surprised to see so many people from the community and his church come to the memorial to share how Mark encouraged them, blessed them or made them feel loved.  The most impactful messages were given by my Aunt and cousin Paul.  I still to this day cannot believe they got in front of a huge crowd to give testimony to how great a man Mark was as a husband, a father, and a friend, when their loss was so great.  They were so brave.  I know they made Mark so proud.

The trip was harder than I thought it would be.

Losing my uncle has been so hard.

Explaining to your 9 and 7 year old the man they loved is now with Jesus was not as easy as I anticipated.  Through all of this I have learned the grace of God.  He allows us to keep moving, keep breathing, keep going.

Mark wasn't just an uncle, he was a dear friend, my husband's mentor, he was a man I loved so much I had to name our first son after.  His love spoke volumes.  He loved God with all of his heart, mind and soul, and whenever he came to visit that's what we talked about.

His legacy continues because he shared Christ with so many and now those men, and women and children are being bold and telling others the truth about the gospel.

One of Uncle Mark's favorite hymns was, It Is Well With My Soul, as they played that song at the memorial and showed pictures of him and his family and friends and his many trips over seas on missions trips I thought to myself, what a great way to honor him.  To be able to sing and say to God even in the midst of all this pain and sorrow It Is Well With My Soul, couldn't be more fitting.

I know without a shadow of a doubt that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.  And I can see Mark with Jesus now worshipping his Savior and both of them sharing that deep laugh that fills any room.


14 March 2017


Hey mama,

I see you.

You are one busy lady.

Preparing meals, packing lunches, cleaning dishes, washing clothes, checking homework, wiping noses, planning parties.

You give your time.

You give your talent.

You give your love.

And sometimes it feels like no one sees you.

I do.

I watch how kindly you spoke to your daughter.

I saw how you encouraged your son.

I love the way you look at your husband.

I see every time you put something down that you want to do (like read a book) to help someone else.

Keep it up.

You are amazing.

Just so you know, not many people on earth will notice what you do.

You may not always hear, "Good Job!"

And sometimes the people you love the most will forget to say Thank you.

But remember, I see you, I love you, and seriously, you are amazing.

Nothing you are doing today is in vain.

I know it may feel like it, but I promise, everything you do has a purpose.

You have so much value.

And life is more beautiful and wonderful because of all that you do.

So, mama, hold your head up high.

Know that all that you do does not go unnoticed.

Know that I am watching.

I see you.

And I care.

And did I mention, that you are amazing (fearfully and wonderfully made)?

Get back out there.

Put your hair up in a top knot.

Throw on some leggings.

And go conquer the world.

I love you...

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