How We Plan Our Summer as a Homeschool Family

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Anyone else hit summer and look for ways to have some structure but not over-structure? Me. I am anyone else. Homeschool ends, and then I feel overwhelmed – “What do I do for summer?!” I want my children to feel like they are more relaxed, and to be able to differentiate from homeschool. We will not do any formal full lessons and I will give them time to be bored because boredom is not a bad thing. I do not want the summer to pass and also feel like we have done nothing.

I have three children, 12, 7 and 4. I included them in the planning and set specific goals for each day. Now these goals will not rule our whole schedule as vacations, summer camps and other events will definitely happen but we will have a loose plan for each day. I am not sure about you but by breakfast each day my kids are asking “what are we doing today?” and they are typically not satisfied with “nothing.”

Here is what our summer schedule looks like for the months of July and August. Mondays are zoo mornings (we get a membership to the local one each year), Tuesdays are pool afternoons (we have a small pop up one otherwise it would be dedicated water play outside). Wednesdays are mornings the the museum (again we have a membership to the local children’s museum but we will also explore our other museums as well). Thursdays we will visit the library and a park nearby hosts picnics in the park with family entertainment for free. Fridays are our adventure day, we will be checking a new local park or two (we will also blog and rate our experience for those local to Erie County Pennsylvania).

Using the Notability app on my iPhone I created these fun color coded calendars (I also use similar ones for our homeschool year), I then took advantage of the $0.99 magnet deal on the Shutterfly app to create magnets as a reminder for the fridge.

This helps us have an intentional and focused summer not being limited by what we plan, but if we feel like we have nothing to do it helps to have a plan already! Let me know your tricks to keep summer fun and easy for your kiddos.

x. earnest mom

We Mix the Play Dough.

I will admit. I was not the mixing of the play dough colors kind of girl. I like things just so. Order, proper places, and keeping things neat and tidy. I like to know that when I go looking for something in it’s rightful place, it will be there. Then I had kids.

Keeping up the house, having dinner on time, kids in line, making all my own “homemade” everything, keeping all the crayons sorted and NOT mixing the play dough colors. That is how my parenting style looked, before I had actual real, brilliant, wild, breathing, crying, incredibly full of life children. I could leave a list here of all the things my imaginary kids were NOT going to do, then give the perfect counter as to how my real life children have done or are currently doing all those things.

Rigidity in motherhood for me was a fallacy. It took a while to learn that being flexible, honest with my emotions and not ‘keeping everything together always,’ was what would be best. Early on as a mom to one, I was one of the few in my group of friends and family to have children. My son was adored by my siblings, grandparents, parents, and friends; he was so loved. He grew up enjoying one on one with his father and I, and excelled in language skills holding conversations with adults by the time he was 4. He was amazing, and he is still a rock star at 11, in my honest and totally unbiased opinion but I digress. Then we had our daughter. Life changed, for the better but not in ease.

Overnight, our daughter was born and I went from a full-time working mom of one to a stay at home mom of two. Talk about learning a new way of life, I am not afraid to admit that I was wholly unprepared for the challenges as a stay at home mom but we survived. In the midst of recovery and getting settled with a new little person, we moved states. A move that took me away from my family, friends, and village; then opened wounds and showed vulnerabilities I did not know I had. Relocating is not easy, reestablishing and making a home somewhere other than the only home I knew was a bit traumatic. It was tear-filled, fear-filled and over all a learning experience. Did I mention that I like things to be just so?

Then there were three. Three years of getting settled into a new state, we were a family of five. I always heard how three changes everything, and much to my chagrin it proved to be true. Our loveable, strong, honest, loud, happy, snuggly, kind-hearted Wreck-it-Ralph came barreling into our lives. Our family dynamic changed. Breakables were placed high, but when climbing began most were eventually stored for safety. Church service is exhausting as I chase, play, distract and feed our busy little man. He is so full of life it literally bursts over everyone we come into contact with. He mixes the play dough, he mixes all the colors; then he mixes it with sand, water, food, or anything else that brings playful joy to his big old heart. Toys are dumped and thoroughly played with; passion roars from him like a lion and love comes out gentle as a bunny. He is the wild to my quiet, the chaos to my perfection, the love and life that my heart never knew it needed.

After three kids, homeschooling, a pandemic and the change to rules/opinions daily we find refuge in our home. Here it is safe, here we have order among the wild things, and we are learning to love deeper, respect more and most of all, learning to become the people God has designed us to be. When I started out in motherhood I would cry in frustration when things were not just so, when my plans would get muddled and mixed and I felt like things were out of control. Now, the phrase I often heard “blessed are the flexible for they shall not break” rings true every single day. Here, we mix the play dough colors; which is still hard for my first born as he was raised with more of a rigid mom who taught him we had to keep things the ‘right’ way, a mom who was quick to react and slow to listen. Now he has a more flexible, albeit less stressed (well sort of) mom and we are learning the power bending and not breaking together in life. In the flexibility we have found happiness, we have found resilience and now we are growing together. It is not always easy and there are fractures from past rigid moments that can make things stressful, but slowly the as we stretch old wounds they begin to flex and not hurt so much.

“When the milk is splattered all over the floor, and those little eyes are looking at your for your reaction, remember what really matters. It takes 5 minutes to clean up spilled milk. It takes much longer to clean up a broken spirit.”

Rebecca Eanes, The Gift of a Happy Mother.

I saw this truth just this week. My children love balloons, and I love to have them for fun occasions. Recently we surprised them with 22 inch balloons for a homeschool celebration. I made the rules clear, the balloons are for floating and leaving alone today and tomorrow they could have at them. Half way through the day, my youngest wild one who is 4, was sprawled out facedown on the floor crying, I sat down next to him and said “It sounds like you are feeling upset. Did something happen you want to share?” As he sobbed he cried out “I popped one of the balloons!” Immediately my heart broke, I thought ‘Oh no, is he crying because he is afraid of getting in trouble?’ So I responded, “Ok, the balloon broke. Can you tell me why you are crying?” He responded “I broke the rules and I am so sorry. Do you forgive me?” Could I have disciplined him? Sure, he did not listen and the balloon broke, but I realized his heart was already sore because he chose to break the rules and he knew it was wrong. Lesson learned.

Talk about unpacking some personal trauma – I decided to be the adult I needed when I was too scared to tell my parents my mistakes, and I often hid from them. I asked him for a hug, and as we sat on the floor, cheek to cheek, heart to heart I thanked him for his honesty, and even though he knew it was wrong he chose truth, and told him that I forgave him. I reminded him (even though he is only 4) that I am always here for him and no matter what I love him. This child who has ran naked through the middle aisle of the church, who mixes all the play dough colors has caused a great work to come upon my heart.

I am not perfect, no way do I get this parenting thing right every time but moments like that remind me how far I have grown. A decade ago, when I preferred things ‘just so’ I subconsciously placed unfair expectations on my children. I judged my mothering success by their behaviors, but slowly as we have mixed the crayons, spilled the milk, been too loud, ran too hard and broke the mold that I was placing us in – I have taken that unfair pressure off of all of us and started enjoying the ‘new’ that we create when we mix the play dough. To this day, I organize the kids books in my living room according to color. Yep. I place them in order ROYGBIV and when I sit down to relax after a stay at home/homeschool day, that sight relaxes me. No one sees it but me, and a few days later I am left to sort them again – the way I like it because I like the way it feels. In this small way, my ‘just so’ attitude gets satiated. I was not one to mix the playdough colors but I love how motherhood is molding me into something new, different and dare I say…better.

An Earnest Attitude of Gratitude.

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It is November. We have Friendsgiving and Thanksgiving that we host every year and so quickly I can get distracted by the planning (I like to really plan with a lot of care and thought our Friendsgiving to create an intimate time for the group of us that have been celebrating for the past 3 years). I am seeing on social media, people posting thankful anecdotes daily, which is so refreshing to read when I decide to scroll – especially when I haven’t been online for a few days and all the thankful posts pile up! Some have been known to cause a few tears in my own eyes.

I feel like while I am mama, teacher, cook, tidy-upper, help mate and all the other hats that I juggle through my days I miss being thankful for my life, abilities and the little things!

Someone once told me it could simply be a matter of switching up the narrative in my head. when my days get busy (especially lately when home inspection calls are non stop some days), I get caught up in the stress of what I have to get done. Earnest dad will come home after a long day of inspecting and maybe hunting, and he wants to relax. All I can see is what we have to do and I quickly get overwhelmed. There are days he comes home early and the moment I see him, I immediately think of my have to list and I don’t stop to even greet him. (I feel awful saying it but it is true).

The word of God says,

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
2. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
3. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
5. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

Psalm 100: 1-5

Be thankful to him, for the Lord is good and his mercy is everlasting. These words were life to me this week.

We use a curriculum that we print monthly – and it is a lot of printing! Well we start a new unit TODAY and because of the busyness and time spread everywhere, I started printing last night. And last night, nothing was going right. With lack of sleep (thanks daylight savings), homeschooling, business phone calls and energetic kids I was done. I felt, as Bilbo Baggins so eloquently put it, “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” My patience, calm and thankful tanks were on empty. I went to bed and as I fell asleep I remembered the words, attitude of gratitude.

As I got up this morning feeling resting, my youngest little laid on the ground with his little fingers reaching under the door and began singing one of my favorite hymns. In my head I hear, attitude of gratitude. I go to get my morning vitamins and breaks and my little guy climbs up to sit on the counter with me (I was with him the whole time) and brewed me my k-cup (again with my support). Again, I am reminded attitude of gratitude. I need to change my narrative.

Here I sit, with my printer trying to print our workbooks we should already be working out of and there is a paper jam. Then mid print job, it cancels itself. No error information, no reason that I can see. Attitude of gratitude. So I changed the narrative. Today for homeschool we will read stories together, we will clean up the house together, we will do our supplemental subjects already printed and ready to go. We will go outside and get some vitamin D and watch our favorite squirrel at the park as he buries his acorns in planning for his winter survival. Today we will do what we can with what we have. That is all that we ever have.

Instead of telling myself I have to, today I will remind myself that I get to. I get to school my children in my home because my husband works hard and the Lord blesses us. I get to clean up with my children because all of us are healthy and able. We get to go the to park because we have an amazing set up less than a block away in our quiet neighborhood. I get to work with my technology because we have the ability to own the necessities to do so.

I sit here, printer in error state, some kids not clothed running about the house with more screen time than I would like. But we get to do all of this because of the blessings that we have in our lives. This earnest home, family and life we have is such a privilege and honor, I am working daily to keep in an attitude of gratitude and to not let the sideways, caught off guard messes throw me off. Let November be the month you work to gain gratitude, then keep it all year long. Not because you have to, but because you earnestly get to.

x. earnest mom.

I Am THAT Mom.

I am also human, and working on myself one step at a time.

As I prepare to write this, I earnestly feel gutted. Today, I was THAT mom. The mom that I have seen a million times; trying to keep it together as she can feel the entire façade of “everything is perfect” start to crumble and slip away. At first it was hard, but as I realized that I am human I was forced to give myself some grace.

Let’s set the stage for you. Thunderstorms kept us indoors. So movie and popcorn it is, until the popcorn maker got knocked over spilling popcorn every where and cracking the side panel. It was an accident, stay chill mama – accidents happen and its just a popcorn machine. Then children kept climbing the counter, literally I was taking children down from the countertops. Things started to calm until the hall closet upstairs was completely dissected from its contents while I was cleaning the popcorn machine. By then, the window to prepare dinner was closed, my oldest needed to go to karate and this mama was waving her white flag. It was enough.

My vehicle was parked across the street at my mother in laws and since my youngest two usually refuse pants and shoes, I needed to move the car to my driveway to save them from crossing the street shoeless (I have learned to pick my battles, shoes make it to the car in case they’re needed but I do not fight them on – in these cases I prefer peace to the fight). I called all three to the kitchen and said “get your shoes ready and stay RIGHT HERE, I am bring the car over.” They get busy putting their shoes on and I hot footed it across the street. All of the sudden, as I open the driver door there is my middle little. She startled me, then I realized she had ran across the street unassisted and that her 3 year old brother is likely right behind her. In my fear, my frustration I yelled at her. Ouch, it hurts my heart to even write that as I have been really working on my volume and tone with my children, but I was scared. Scared she could have been hurt, scared my youngest would soon be doing the same or is elsewhere outside completely unsupervised. I yelled, right at her “you scared me, and what about brother?! IS he safe?! I told you to stay in the house as I ran across the street!! Why didn’t you stay???” Ugh. We ran back to the house, and my oldest and youngest were standing right where I had asked them to stay only three minutes before.

Now I tell you, I have seen this mom around, so many times. Tired, worried, stressed, overwhelmed, scared, angry, frustrated, and yelling at her kid. Until this moment, I had always viewed the “yelling” mom as such a villain – and to all the moms I have judged before, I earnestly apologize. This is so HARD. Not that I condone yelling at children, however when I was scared, overwhelmed and worried for the safety of my children, that panic kicked in and naturally my voice elevated.

As soon as I saw all three of my children safe (my oldest is 11, so legally he can stay 3 minutes with his siblings as I drive up to get them, in case you are worried lol); I knelt down, cried and apologized instantly for yelling. I asked for my middle little’s forgiveness, I explained how scared I was but that yelling was not appropriate and I am working hard not to yell anymore. Then something surprising happened, she apologized for not listening and saw how scary that was for me. I was taken aback. I did not expect her to mirror my actions, to recognize and acknowledge her mistake and my feelings. It was messy, it was hard, but even in my mama-meltdown epic failure moments, these brilliant amazing little humans are still learning forgiveness, empathy and owning their own mistakes.

Yes, I am THAT mom. I am the mom that struggles with keeping my temper, sometimes doesn’t get food to the table on time (by the way we ordered in tonight), allows too much screen time, gives in to some demands to avoid the fight, and yells when I do not mean to. I am also THAT mom who forgives quickly, loves fully, asks for forgiveness and apologizes to show them I make mistakes too, and would protect my children at all costs. I cry in the bathroom, laugh at the dinner table and hug with everything I have got. I am 100% that mom and proud.

x. earnest mom.

Did Disney Give us Frozen 2 to Help Cope with COVID-19?! Maybe Not, But There Are Ways We Can Cope Together.

IMAGE COURTESY OF MOVIES.DISNEY.COM

God bless Disney+, they released Frozen 2 this past Sunday – a whopping three months early just so we could have some extra entertainment during our quarantined situations. As I sat through the movie for the 14th time by Wednesday, I actually started listening to the lyrics that I had been singing for the past few days. Then I noticed something, were these songs Disney was preparing us for the current state we would be in? Whether you are in complete lock down, shelter in place or have simply been urged to stay home; social distancing is now the new normal.

Is something coming? I’m not sure I want things to change at all. These days are precious, can’t let them slip away I can’t freeze this moment, but I can still go out and seize this day…

Some things never change
Turn around, and the time has flown
Some things stay the same
Though the future remains unknown

Music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

This will all make sense when I am older
Someday I will see that this makes sense
One day, when I’m old and wise
I’ll think back and realize
That these were all completely normal events

I’ll have all the answers when I’m older
Like why we’re in this dark, enchanted wood
I know in a couple years these will seem like childish fears
And so I know this isn’t bad; it’s good

Music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

Every day’s a little harder, as I feel my power grow
Don’t you know there’s part of me that longs to go

Into the unknown
Into the unknown
Into the unknown

Music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

I won’t look too far ahead
It’s too much for me to take
But break it down to this next breath, this next step
This next choice is one that I can make

So I’ll walk through this night
Stumbling blindly toward the light
And do the next right thing
And with the dawn what comes then?
When it’s clear that everything will never be the same again
Then I’ll make the choice to hear that voice
And do the next right thing

Music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

So maybe I am just seeking comfort and reason in the everyday things around me (like a Disney movie that plays several times daily), I will give you that. I feel like that is an okay place to be. I earnestly want to slow the roar of the news reports, the re-sharing of the under reporting, and quiet the worry monsters that build daily. I have chosen to scroll minimally, not read the news or listen to every single live update and keep my husband my news giver – unless it is urgent and pressing I want a small debrief once or twice a day.

Some ways of focus and redirection that has helped me are praying/finding moments of quiet and focused breathing; Alexa is a great DJ and she plays my favorite worship songs that we can belt out and dance to. I have also found that getting outside in our yard or a brisk walk AWAY from people can revive my worried and tired soul. This morning we slowly drove through our neighborhood with our windows down, our favorite Rend Co Kids songs on full blast as we belted them out at the top of our lungs.

Mamas (and papas too because this stress is real for all of us), we are entering uncharted territory, all of us together into the unknown. Knowing that we are together, this connection can help in the tough times too. Reach out to those you have not heard from in a while and if you need to talk, reach out even more. Community will be so important right now, even if it is online. Find an online moms group, or community group (Erie currently has a Facebook group called We’re In This Together, where they focus on uplifting and sharing kindness), or even starting a messenger thread with some of your closest friends where the goal is to share inspiring and uplifting quotes daily. Any little bit will help.

Know this, we truly are in this together and focusing on the things we can control like what our children read or watch online, what we can eat for meals, whether or not we can walk or drive to get out of the house can help. Making a point to look at those things or other things that we can actually control will help to move the focus on the great big unknown that is changing hourly. And if that is still too much, put on the Frozen 2 soundtrack and sing along, there is some comfort in singing about just doing the “next right thing.” Hang in there mamas, and stay safe!

x. earnest mom.

Enjoy the Wow, Earnest Advice from Daniel Tiger

I am not sure about you but two main shows watched in the earnest home are Mister Roger’s Neighborhood and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, at least once a day. I have to admit, watching Mister Rogers with my children strikes such a nostalgic cord especially when our family values line up so perfectly with his. Needless to say, we are big big fans. A current song that is sung here is “Groo-own ups come back,” since separation anxiety is alive and well with our littlest one. If you watch Daniel Tiger, you know the tune. 🙂 Matter of fact, you may have sung it out loud just now – no worries, I did too. I get it.

Well this weekend came to a chaotic end with the craziness that is caused by the dreaded Spring Forward time change. The earnest littles did not fall asleep until 1.5 hours passed their normal bedtime, which is something we rarely have to deal with. Our kids are typically in bed by 8 and sleeping by 8:30, I truly cannot complain about my children and their sleep since they go down and stay down from 10-11 hours…”hashtag blessed,” and I know it!

This weekend was something different, something we were not quite prepared for. The struggle, the exhaustion only amplified by the time change. Earnest Dad and I have this unspoken agreement where we alternate who gets up with kids while the other gets to snooze a little longer. This Sunday morning was my day and 5:04 am my alarm clock toddler came-a-calling. (Which was actually 4:04 am real time lol). I was exhausted, but somehow we pulled them together and made it to church with ten minutes to spare! It was intense and busy – but it worked out.

Before church, I sat on the couch in the dark at 5:30 am hoping my little guy and I could nap a little before church; when he started singing and calling out “Mama, Dada” just to hear his voice echo, I knew we were up for good. Trying to keep us from waking the whole household I turned on the trusty show that is, Daniel Tiger. As I am snuggled up with my squishy little guy and wishing he would take a snooze so I could catch some Z’s Daniel Tiger threw this song at me. “Enjoy the wow that’s happening now.” Instantly my mama heart was convicted – it was true, I needed to enjoy the wow that was happening now. In comparison, Daniel Tiger’s ice treat was melting while he was wishing he could try all the other ice flavors and he was missing the chance to enjoy the flavor he currently had. Where, here I was sitting with my precious last baby whilst wishing for a moment of extra rest.

It is all about perspective mamas, it makes all the difference and I hear that all the time but it is in these moments when I need to hear it again and again. Trying to see the day is so imperative versus trying to seize the day, or wishing and hoping for different days ahead. I do not want to miss one single delicious moment with my children especially while I still have one home with me. Our last few hours of the day when all of us have eaten dinner together in the crazy tailspin that happens from full little bellies; the early dark hours of the morning that give way to the coziest snuggles; the laughter that comes when I catch splashes from the bathtub; the songs being sung in our loudest voices as we drive; and the sleepy prayers we say together before we say goodnight…please Lord let me hold on to these moments just a little bit longer.

Maybe take a moment today to breathe and then look at the small blessings before you; I am slowly learning that not everything has to be perfect before I can enjoy it!

x. earnest mom.

How to Take the Price and Tension Out of Traveling. A Guest Blog from DadSolo.

Daniel Sherwin is a single dad raising two children, a 9 y/o daughter and 6 y/o son.  He created DadSolo.com, aiming to provide other single dads with information and resources to help them better equip themselves on the journey that is parenthood.

PHOTO BY RAWPIXEL.

Hey Parents, Here’s How to Take the Price and Tension Out of Traveling.

As a parent about to travel with kids, chances are you’re trying to figure out how to make it to the destination without experiencing the tantrum of the century that results in forking over money for an airport stuffed animal. It’s true, children add a unique challenge to the traveling experience, but seeing their smiling faces makes it all worth it! Here’s how parents can take the tension out of traveling and avoid unnecessary spending for a more seamless experience.

Don’t Stress Over Booking

Rather than have a gazillion Internet browser windows open trying to find the cheapest price on hotels, flights, and/or car rentals, use a travel site like Priceline. Combine that with cashback options and online promotions for Priceline, and you can increase your savings even further. It’s easy to book, easy to compare prices, and easy to save. Plus, you’ll find that travel sites are able to predict price changes so that you can book at just the right time.

Choose Kid-Friendly Accommodations

Not all accommodations are created equal on the kid front, and you shouldn’t have to pay extra for a kid-friendly experience. As far as airlines go, opt for those that offer pre-boarding for younger children, discounted child fares, stroller/car seat gate checks, WiFi, and special accommodations like changing tables and bassinets. When looking for kid-friendly hotels, pinpoint specific amenities such as large or connecting rooms for big families, family rates, pools, playgrounds, and easy food options via an attached restaurant or room service.

Pack Travel Food and Snacks

Children are snack experts, and it never fails that they want one at the most inopportune times, such as when the plane is taking off or your only option is an overpriced candy bar. Save money, prevent meltdowns, and stop hunger pangs by packing food and snacks not only while traveling but once you arrive at your destination as well. Use containers with labels to keep things organized, and only bring things you know your child enjoys. Once you get where you’re going, find the nearest grocery store so that you can save on lunch and perhaps prevent a meltdown when a restaurant has nothing your child likes. Stick to the staples such as fruits, veggies, bread, deli meat, and mess-free snacks.

Don’t Forget the Basics

Whether you’re traveling to a tourist destination or not, it’s likely you’ll have to pay higher prices for the basics, so bring them yourself. Create a comprehensive packing list that includes everything you and your kids might possibly need including medications, Band-Aids, earplugs, toiletries, and anything your child absolutely can’t function without, such as their favorite stuffed animal, pillow, sheets, tear-free shampoo, etc. Add to the savings by shopping at your favorite stores like Target, searching for coupons, and taking advantage of price-match guarantees. If you’re flying, take a look at the checked-bag policy for each airline to find one that offers the most bang for your buck. For example, your first two bags on Southwest are free, while most other airlines charge $30 to $40 for each checked bag.

Drop Your Expectations

It doesn’t matter if you’re traveling with four kids, one toddler, or solo, having travel expectations is a sure-fire way to result in a letdown. Why? The unexpected happens, and if you have this magical idea in your head of what your trip will look like, then you’ve set the bar high. Let it be what it is. There will be mishaps, maybe even a few tears, but ultimately this trip will be something the entire family remembers.

Regardless of whether this is your first time traveling with children or you’re a seasoned pro, it can still be stressful. Plus, there’s that expectation that it has to be expensive. Hey parents, travel doesn’t have to make your hair fall out or break the bank! A little planning and zero expectations are all it takes for a trip the whole family can enjoy!

Earnestly Seeing the Moment. The Overwhelming Moments of a SAHM.

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Let me set the scene, it is after dinner and usually the dishes wait until after the kids go to bed…or sometimes until the following morning. Anyway, it is after dinner, we have full bellies, family conversations have ended and next we watch a show or two then start bedtime routines. We head into the TV room, earnest dad kicks up his feet the in recliner and I am in my usual corner of the sectional. All of the sudden I cannot breathe – all three earnest littles are on top of me. Literally two on my lap and another snuggled so close next to me it almost hurts! To be honest, I get overwhelmed.

I am the type of person who likes her own space, I am a snuggler but after being home with the kids all day while earnest dad works – my love tank is full. I am ready for the littles to be all over daddy and let this mama breathe. I look over to earnest dad, reclined, relaxed and maybe even dozing a bit and I get overwhelmed.

There are times in the day, when the kids are running and screaming, fighting and crying, trying to pull me away from cooking dinner to “watch this” or they are too quiet and in a massive panic I rush in to see what is going on. In these moments I am desperate for earnest dad to walk through the door so I can pee alone or at least without children crying and banging down the door. Again, I find myself feeling overwhelmed.

That chaotic hour between home from school and dinner time, when I have to focus of chopping, boiling, tossing and cooking (food not my kids lol) are sometimes the craziest moments of the day. I have to be mom, tutor, playmate, personal chef, or heaven forbid the business phone rings and I have to toss all my hats off to wear the self employed secretary and scheduling hat. I am trying to keep it all together and sound professional, I get overwhelmed.

A few nights ago, kiddos all tucked up in bed and earnest dad working on his reports I was able to sit with my book and some tea, then I started reflecting on my day. It is such an incredible, blessed, exhausting, confidence testing, love never ending, over the top kind of ride, this wild ride that is motherhood. As I sat in my peace, my quiet, my still I start to already miss those squishy little feet tucked under my thigh, the warmth of the toddler and preschool bodies resting heavily on my lap and the arms of love intertwined on my arm as my nine year old lays his head on my shoulder. I got overwhelmed, I missed them and my love for then made me want to cry. My perspective shifted and I remembered the line from the brilliant Lisa Jo Baker’s latest book The Middle Matters,

“I am not asking you to seize the day, just to make sure you actually see it.” – The Middle Matters

So many times I allow the sense of overwhelm take over and I cannot wait to get out of the moments I am in. I cannot wait until, the kids are settled, sleeping, older, quieter or even gone to school. I realize I waste so much of my current moments getting sucked into wishing for different times and I completely forget to see the precious and delicious moments I am currently in.

As we get older we look back on the ‘good ol’times’ with nostalgia and desire to go back. Right now, today I am in the good old days I will look back on, (Hopefully when I am surrounded by my grandchildren and reminding myself they get to go home with their parents, lol). Nonetheless I needed to get out of the rut of longing for a different time and see the moments I am in, before I miss them altogether.

I have the amazing privilege to stay home with my little ones and I have started to make that effort to start earnestly seeing the moments laid before me. It is okay to feel a bit overwhelmed from time to time, but I am working diligently to stop wishing for something different and start finding joy in the moment I am in. Being present is one of the best gifts I can give my children and I know I have a lot more I can give.

x. earnest mom.

No Matter What. An Earnest Effort.

“You, I love you no matter what.” I say to my 9 year old who has come home with his first ever detention for laughing and being silly in class. And it is true, I love him no matter what.

It is hard to explain sometimes, this love that I have had the blessed opportunity to know, the love of a mother. I honestly had no idea how much my mother loved me until my first born filled a place in my heart that I did not know existed. That oldest child is 9 now and I am earnestly pressed to remind him as much as I can, that my love comes without limits. I want all my earnest littles to learn this now while they are young, when it comes to their mama, her love is literally to infinity and beyond.

I decided a few years back to earnestly pay attention to my language with my children, knowing that when they are older I will be that inner voice that they hear. When they fail I do not want them hearing me chastise but uplift them and encourage them to try again. Finding a way to use my parenting language as a way to prevent shame and encourage resilience.

Proverbs 15:4 says “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.” There is so much power in the things that we say, especially to our children or in front of them. I feel that as their earnest mom, I have the power to create a safe language environment for them. When they were little the focus was manners, pleases and thank yous which is a great place to start. I never thought of the language lessons for my children as they got older.

We have the opportunity to lead by example, especially in today’s online environment where language is put out there with little or no thought to consequence. I feel with my children, expressing love is an opportunity to begin to establish a safe language space. When they are teens and struggling with the hard to talk about topics, I want them to hear in their heart “you know, I love you no matter what.” Knowing that what ever they come to me with, my love will not change or lessen.

“I love you no matter what” includes the times they fail or succeed, the times they hurt or have a hard time controlling their emotions, the times they try and try and feel they may want to give up, or even the times they make a mistake…my love is infinite. In their own biggest messy and complicated struggles, I will love them no matter what. Like my heavenly father loves me, when I have not only created the hole I am in, but leaped in willingly with both feet. He sees me in my failure and my shame and says to me, as he cradles my tear stained cheeks in his hands, “I love you no matter what.” What a gift, and now I have the honor to pass it on to my children.

In this effort, a funny consequence has emerged. The more I say “I love you no matter what” to my children, the more I hear it…myself. I hear myself becoming my inner voice reminding my that I love me too, no matter what. Today, there is so much demand and pressure put on us mamas, from how we sleep to how we feed our children. When I hear this phrase repeated back to myself, I find grace – grace that I feel we all could us a little extra of. Mamas, this may not be the place for you to start but I would encourage, give yourself some grace and find the opportunities to feel and express love, no matter what.

x. earnest mom.

Earnest Mom Squad Feature: Peaceful Parenting of a Tween.

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A guest article from a member of The Earnest Mom Squad,  Kahentiiosta.

I have one girl amid the tween stage and two just beginning.  You would think that I would be a pro since I’ve had one girl as a tween for two and a half years now. Alas, I am still learning something new every day.  A Tween is no longer a little child, but not quite a teenager.  A tween is a child between the ages of  9 and 12. Their emotions and behaviors reflect this in between stage.  The term tween has become very popular in the last few years.

Even if you thought having an easy child, would make tweenhood easy as well.  You may come to realize it is very different.  There are new challenges with each stage of your child’s life.  Learning to deal with your newly independent tween can be frustrating, for both the parent and child.  There are so many new things to think about, discipline, school, homework, spending time with family and friends, and learning independence. 

Many parents react to the them by distancing themselves due to the tween’s moodiness, increasing independence, and maturing physical body.  This can cause some strife to the tween, as they begin to lose that connection with their parents.

One of the main ways to make it through this stage is continuing to build a firm foundation with your child and this will ease the transition to the teen years. 

Here are six tips to peacefully parent your child.

  1. Recognize and work with your tweens need for independence and reduce rebelliousness. As parents we often feel less powerful and become overprotective to compensate.  Instead of hovering over your child, learn to agree and enforce rules that are reasonable and meaningful. Example no phone until after dinner and homework, setting a curfew for the weeknights.
  2. Continue to stay connected.  Spending one on one time with your tween is crucial for this age.  Even if it is a quick check in with them each night, a dinner out together once a month, or taking a walk together. Allow your child to voice their concerns, inspirations, and goals for the future.
  3.  Learn to re-think your ideologies of discipline.  Learning to repair rather than punish, ask open ended questions instead of lecturing.  This will assist in your child learning how to have better judgement with new life challenges.  Learning to base the consequences on the actions, will only work for so long until your child begins to talk back.  Learning to reciprocate the love for one another, will lower the power struggle of one thinking they are always correct. 
  4. Preteens are actively shaping their identity.  It seems as if every week there is a new popular fad, you just caught up to one and another one your tween has jumped into.  Offer support to their experimenting and exploring.  It may be difficult but try not to comment on their fashions if their body coverage is appropriate and keep an open mind about their music. Be supportive of their deep passions and add guidance as needed.
  5. Don’t take it personally!  If they yell at you, don’t overreact.   They may hurt your feelings, and your first line of defense is to walk away, take a deep breath and stand your ground.  Responding with love and calmness will get a more respectful reaction.
  6. Teach your tween about healthy physical self-management.  Tweens need at least nine hours of sleep each night, regular meals with low glycemic snacks, and protein.  Along with regular exercise.  Find ways to maximize on learning mindfulness by encouraging them to listen to guided meditation.  This can assist with fueling creativity, concentration, and reducing moodiness.  Working together as a family can be beneficial, instead of centering your tween out.

It is natural for a parent to worry about their ever-growing child, but we must be mindful of our reactions to the ever-changing world, and culture around ourselves and tweens.  Enjoy this newfound freedom and learning together as a family as the new norm for a developing tween.

What are some of your advice for families with growing tweens?