Hope Rises

During this troubling time, it is easy to focus on all that’s going wrong: the hoarding, refusal to stay home, sickness, death, shortage of supplies, separation from loved ones….the list goes on and on.

It would be easy to focus on the negatives,…but if you do that you miss the hope rising!

There is no shortage of negatives to focus on. However, among the negatives, hidden beneath all of the scariness are glimpses of hope. We simply have to look and be open to see them.

How many schools have we seen put together a hurried plan from scratch to not only continue educating kids at home, but also a plan to continue to feed them? How many restaurants have offered free meals to kids without any purchase requirements? I know that McAllister’s Deli and Burger King did not to mention countless local eateries. Along with places offering free meals, there are a large number of educational websites that are offering free usage to anyone so that kids can more easily keep up with their schooling. Websites like ABC Mouse and many others. You can find a complete list at this blog: https://kidsactivitiesblog.com/135609/list-of-education-companies-offering-free-subscriptions/ Most of these are websites that charge an annual fee, but they have waived it for the good of our society. No one asked or demanded that they did this. Goodness reaching out!

Churches from all over have taken to Facebook live, Zoom, Skype, and other live streaming services to continue with regular services, classes, and study groups. Zoom has offered their services free to schools and organizations so that they can video conference during the pandemic crises. This Sunday alone, my husband and I had a class, two of my children had classes, my oldest had youth group, and we had two worship services all online. People are finding a way to carry on with what they value and find important. Faithfulness finding a way!

Through the news and social media, we’ve seen people decorating windows of nursing homes, decorating sidewalks with encouraging chalk messages, putting Christmas lights back up to lift spirits, putting stuffed animals in windows so that children can “hunt” them during walks. We’ve seen people reaching out to help advise and encourage each other on social media. There are videos of grandparents meeting newborn grandchildren through windows, children visiting parents through windows while on phones, and scores of people video calling to keep up with family. Love overcoming distance!

During this crazy time when people could focus on themselves, authors like Andrew Peterson, Mac Barnett, and Pete the Cat creator James Dean to name a few, are reading their books aloud to kids via Facebook or Instagram. Musicians are giving free concerts. Just today I’ve seen Brad Paisley, Neil Diamond, Tim McGraw, Switchfoot, Steven Curtis Chapman, and so many more playing and singing on Facebook live. Reaching out and encouraging people in the best way they have; giving of themselves. Museums giving online tours, The Met giving free concerts, artists from local (Make Paducah, Ky) to famous (Mo Willems) offering free art lessons, Zoos offering close, live online encounters with zoo animals (Cincinnatti Zoo offering Home Saffaris). In fact, there is such an abundance of opportunities to explore right now, that there’s honestly no way to take advantage of them all. Joy emerging out of tragedy!

The fact is if you only look at the surface, the situation looks grim. It would be easy to focus on the negatives, the fear, the isolation, but if you do that you miss the hope rising. It’s there!! The goodness, faithfulness, love, joy and HOPE all still there ready for us to choose to focus on them! Let’s all agree to look for the good!! Look for the hope! Look for ways to pass on that hope!!

There is a saying in Tibetan, ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’ No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.

Dalai Lama XIV

Advice for Parents Now Schooling at Home

I have been a homeschooling mom for 8 years. None of my children have ever been to public school. I was also a public high school teacher for 10 years. I have schooled all grades pre-k through grade 7 at home for 1 to 5 children. There was a huge learning curve when I started because even though I had an education background…things at home do not and should not look like regular school. I thought that I would pass along some of the most important lessons that I learned while home educating.

Number 1: This is probably the most important lesson that I learned. It doesn’t take 8 hours to school your own children. I know that it takes that long at school, but there’s a lot that goes on that isn’t actual teaching. Not to mention that it takes longer to school 30 kids as opposed to 1…or 5. Seriously, 2-4 hours (four hours being high school kids) is very sufficient. I know that you may think this sounds like very little time, but I promise it is enough!

Number 2: School should be done and finished before lunch. I’ve tried numerous schedules over the years, but kids tend to get distracted after lunch. I have kids with ADD and ADHD and working when they are fresh is best. Plus, it is easy for me to get distracted after lunch. We usually leave educational videos, games, projects, and creative activities like art for after lunch. I also have time then to work on activities that I need to get finished: laundry, cleaning, preparing, and writing or reading of my own.

Number 3: You will not mess up your kids. I can hear you now, “But I know these homeschoolers that pulled their kids out of school and the kids didn’t do anything.” Yep. We all do. People who pull their kids out because they have an ulterior motive of some kind, don’t always do a great job. For the most part, however, people LOVE their kids and want the BEST for them. This means that they make sure that they do a good job. In the case of right now, many of you haven’t chosen to school at home and it won’t last forever. Any forward educational movement is a win!! You can’t undo all that teachers have done to this point!! Have faith in yourself!!!

Number 4: Do the fun things!! I am a true believer that learning should be fun! We are all home, we are all stuck, and we all have extra time…so go ahead! Do the fun things! One of the things that I have loved seeing in the corona virus crisis is that so many people are coming together to reach out and help. Zoos are doing Home Safaris, authors are reading their books, artists are teaching classes, teachers are doing demonstrations, performers are streaming performances and so many more!! Children have so many opportunities that they wouldn’t normally have if they were in school. Do it!!! Take the time and experience all of these!! You have no idea how much your student will learn or what ways it will inspire him or her.

Number 5: Do NOT compare yourself to other mommies or daddies!!!!!! In this time where social media is the ONLY way that we can reach out to each other, do NOT compare what you are doing to what someone else is doing. We are all doing the best we can with what we have during the time we have. And online pictures only show what the person wants you to see. Truly this is one of the moments that doing what works for you and your kids is so important. Don’t let what everyone else is doing bother you.

Number 6: MOST IMPORTANT!!!! Give yourself and your kids GRACE!! Some of you are experiencing extreme anxiety. Some of your kids are experiencing extreme anxiety. Everyone is probably experiencing stress to a degree. This is a huge adjustment for you and for your kids and its one that neither of you asked for. It may be that you only tackle one subject a day, or you only do math and language arts and science and history take a back seat, or you may focus on an area that you and your kid really like, or you may focus only on creative areas that your kid normally doesn’t get at school. Whatever it looks like for you, remember that forward motion is more motion than they would be getting if nothing was being done.

Moms and Dads, love your kids, have fun with your kids, teach your kids something…anything, and in this crazy, crazy time remember this is but a moment. It will end. We will return to normal. We will look back and remember this time with laughter and joy…..one day.

Parenting through Panic–the gift of the pandemic

Many states in the nation have closed their schools and many more will be following suit soon. Aside from the concern parents are having over health, safety, work schedules, and activities, they are also facing the dreaded idea of having their children with them 24/7 for an unspecified amount of time while being encouraged to stay home. This could cause any sane parent to panic. Have no fear, I am here to help!!

There are only 940 Saturdays between the birth of your child and the day they leave for college.

As a homeschooler, I am at home with my children 24/7 most days. I am not by any means claiming to be an expert, but I thought that I would include some activities and resources that we use on a regular basis to help. When facing a stressful situation, sometimes we forget options because we don’t readily use them. My list isn’t all inclusive, but I will try to include many suggestions to encourage learning and stave off boredom.

  • Play with shaving cream on a table
  • Paint with water on the sidewalk/sidewalk chalk
  • Bubbles outside or in the bathtub
  • Create an obstacle course in your living room
  • Build a tent and have an indoor camping trip
  • Do yoga–Cosmic Kids Yoga on YouTube or Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube for older kids
  • Read story books together
  • Choose a longer chapter book and read aloud together
  • Encourage kids to play pretend
  • Look up and learn origami
  • Have a paper airplane contest
  • Play outside–free of germs
  • Board games
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Paper bag puppet shows
  • Go hiking in the woods
  • Take a virtual vacation–choose a country, research it, watch videos and pictures, prepare food, and play games from that country.
  • Sing Songs together
  • Select pictures from a magazine, cut them in half, glue to paper, and have the child complete the picture.
  • If you need help teaching your child or keeping up with learning, check out https://www.khanacademy.org/signup It is a totally free education site run by actual educators. I use it daily!
  • Have children keep a writing journal. Here are middle school prompts: https://www.journalbuddies.com/journal_prompts__journal_topics/365-writing-ideas-for-kids/
  • Here are high school prompts: https://teens.lovetoknow.com/High_School_Journal_Topics
  • Take an online class–this site offers classes at a very inexpensive rate https://outschool.com/online-classes
  • Learn to draw: Art for kids hub on YouTube
  • Look up science experiments on YouTube
  • Let your kids plan and prepare meals
  • Teach your kids to do the laundry or other household chores and let them be in charge while they are off.
  • Encourage free reading time or have them read to one another. Many of the classics are free on kindle or your library may have online books.
  • YouTube has many books that are read aloud for younger kids.
  • Create a stop motion movie with the stop motion video app. You can use Legos, small, toys, or even drawings. We like stop motion studio
  • Take virtual tours of museums or famous places.
  • Do a research project on a fun topic: animal, place, amusement park ride, person etc.
  • Write and perform a play together

These are some of our favorite things to do (not including video games and streaming services) and I hope this helps your family. I know that this unplanned time at home is a burden for many homes with 2 working parents. IF you have the ability to stay home with your kids, I encourage you to look at these days as a gift. As a parent, we get 940 Saturdays with our kids. These days are bonus days!! Make them count and make memories because we aren’t promised 940 Saturdays.

If you have fun ideas or activities that you love doing with your kids when forced to be home bound, include them in a comment on this blog that way we can all share ideas! Remember, what you consider normal, someone else may consider extraordinary!!!

If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them and half as much money.

Abigail Van Buren

Will trade children for Oreos

I have always been a skinny girl. I know! I know! If you’ve met me post children, you wouldn’t know this, but the truth is for more than half of my life I was super skinny. Now I am NOT skinny. I blame 4 pregnancies, stress, and the fact that we live WAY too close to a Dairy Queen! Darn you, Cocoa Fudge!! I have tried several things to lose weight: Trim healthy mama, Keto, counting calories, fasting, supplements etc. I have recently started a program called Cinderella Solutions. So far it is working. If you want info on it….google. It like many other programs requires you to go sugar free. I am here to tell you that sugar detox is REAL!!

Many people, perhaps even doctors, will tell you that sugar is a drug and our bodies react to it like a drug. I would have told you that’s crazy talk!! But after a week of detox…folks, it is a DRUG!! Tuesday I had a headache in the afternoon….that continued until Sunday. Wednesday I would have sold my kids for an Oreo. I wanted that sweet, chocolaty treat so badly it was ALL I could think about. In an hour I think I told my husband 100 times that I needed an Oreo. He was seriously starting to think I’d lost my mind. Honestly, I think I was starting to a little bit. Thursday I had several bouts of dizziness and Friday I was just so tired. Saturday I was okay and Sunday my hands shook several times. Today is day 7 and I finally feel normal.

Frankly, it’s a little concerning. This eating program also requires me to give up milk. I LOVE milk and yet I didn’t find myself willing to trade a kid for it.

Needless to say, I did survive the week AND I still have all 5 kids!! I have lost a few pounds and I feel better, so I’m calling it a win. I have a long way to go to get close to that skinny girl I once was and, truth be known, I don’t want to be that small again. Hopefully I can lose the 63 pounds AND keep my whole family! 🙂

Sugar is a drug. [It] sets off the same biological mechanisms that are triggered by cocaine and other drugs.

Dr. Frank Lipman, physician

My baby is 6!!

This past week my baby, Z, turned six years old!! I cannot believe that he is six!! What they say is true, “It really does go by in a blink.” Of course, with the birthday wishes and postings on social media, comes the advice from the sage parents who have long forgotten the crappy parts of parenting,

I mean NO ONE enjoys projectile vomiting! NO ONE enjoys liquid diarrhea! NO ONE enjoys the constant whining, sibling fighting, or complaining….NO ONE!!!

“Enjoy every second!!! You’ll miss it when it’s gone!” Let me just make something very clear, in case you couldn’t ‘hear’ the sarcasm, I HATE this advice!! Why you ask? Because it is inhumanly possible to enjoy every second. This just increases the mom guilt that is ever present in our lives. I mean NO ONE enjoys projectile vomiting! NO ONE enjoys liquid diarrhea! NO ONE enjoys the constant whining, sibling fighting, or complaining….NO ONE!!! But when someone tells you in the throws of the difficult part of motherhood, to enjoy every minute of it, it just sets you up for failure!!

I also know some moms that miss certain stages of childhood. I look back at all of the stages with fondness. I mean, I loved snuggling my babies, I loved my squishy toddlers, but every stage brings about even more things to love!!! As I look at my six year old, my baby, my last, I know that there is a sadness to the passing of his little kid hood. He’s growing up and getting to be a big kid….but the big kid stage is fun!!! Learning to read! Having opinions, learning and telling jokes, being more responsible….all of this is new and exciting too!! Each stage brings about something just as fun!! Z’s oldest brother A is about to be a teenager! I can’t wait to see what fun this brings!! Yes, I know that it comes with hormones and attitudes, but it comes with adult thinking and turning into a independent person. A new way to relate to your child.

When we were in Daytona, I saw a young mom with a toddler who kept trying to climb out of his high chair. As I passed by, I said to her, “He’s adorable! You know, everyone tells you to enjoy every second…but that’s really impossible. Plus, in my experience, each new stage brings even more fun than the stage before!” I walked on, but she found me later and thanked me for the encouragement.

Mommies when you are frustrated and entrenched in the battle of whatever stage your kids are in, remember, it will pass. Soon you will be on to the next stage and although it will come with its own challenges, it will also come with its own fun! Hang on!! We don’t enjoy EVERY moment, but we CAN enjoy the fun of EVERY stage!!

“Life is in different stages. Every stage of life is the foundation for the next stage of life. Every stage of live must be fully-lived.” 

Lailah Gifty Akita

Turning the big 4-0

Terribly sorry that I have been out of pocket for several months. I don’t really have an excuse, wish I did. Life just happened! During the time of my absence, I turned 40!! I am a child of the 70s…barely, but I am still a 70s baby!

I realize that many people see 40 as a dreadful age and get very grim about it. I, however, am choosing to make my forties my best decade yet! I don’t really know why anyone would want to go back. Each decade has brought about its own unique benefits and challenges. My twenties were unsure. Being an adult, but still really knowing very little about life. In my twenties, I got married, finished college, worked three teaching jobs, we bought our first house, and I had my first two babies!! It was exciting, challenging, and full of changes. The twenties were a time a making my own way and figuring out what “our” way was and wading through the advice of all the “well-meaning” people. Along came my 30’s and I remember thinking: “I am now an adult!” I didn’t care what other people thought. I had two more babies, but we’d done this before. My husband and I decided to homeschool our children, I quit my job, we bought our first minivan, remodeled our home, we took guardianship of our fifth child, and my husband went back to school. I became more confident in my choices, who I was, and how we were doing things. I didn’t think about what other people thought about our choices. I got used to people looking at us funny and wondering why we had so many kids and why they weren’t in school. In looking back, so much growth took place in two decades!

My FORTIES!!! I turned 40 in Daytona Beach, Florida while on vacation with my parents, brother and his family, and my family of 7. It was AMAZING!!! We had a fantastic vacation! Peaceful, relaxing, exciting, fun….all the things that I want my 40s to be! Age is just a number! But the wisdom and life experience that come with it are priceless!! I am excited to see what the 40s decade brings my way! In the next 10 years, I will have 5 teenage boys living in my house. Who knows if we will adopt more kids? There’s no telling if we will move or add on to our house….there is so much waiting just around the corner. Life isn’t simply a journey….it’s an adventure! We should look forward to it with excitement and expectation. No matter where you are in life or what’s going on, change is coming just around the corner!

When asked if she felt a year older, my grandmother would always say, “Just one day!!”

Eula Mae Black

The Mom Conundrum

It is one of the great mysteries of motherhood: How can we LOVE being with our children and LOVE being away from them?? I absolutely adore spending time with my kids! For crying out loud, I even homeschool! There are weeks that I am literally with them 24/7…most weeks. I LOVE teaching them! I LOVE taking them to the park! I LOVE doing family activities!! I really LOVE family togetherness!! However, the other day when we left to pick up our new van…I was giddy! I was excited to get the van, of course, but I was giddy to be alone with my husband!!

We drove 2 hours by ourselves. I read my husband a hilarious article on Facebook and we both laughed. We listened to the music we wanted to, we stopped and looked at campers that we have no intention of buying, we ate lunch together, and we talked about dreams we have for the future. It was wonderful!!!

A few years ago, we went on a weekend away. I think it may be the only weekend away since kids, now that I think about it. I was so excited! We had a great time!! Dinner on our own! Going places that kids can’t go! Staying in a hotel without having to put kids in bed. It was WONDERFUL!!! Yet when it was time to go home, I was pretty sure that I could run faster than my husband could drive! I was ready to be home and I missed my kids so much!!!

Why is this? How can we love being with them and love being away from them at the same time?!?! I honestly think the answer is, as mothers, we have two halves: motherhood and the woman we were before motherhood. The person we were before kids, enjoys revisiting those care free days where the only concern we had was our own wants and plans. The person we are after kids lives for their needs and they become the center of our world…our heart walking on the outside of our bodies. Sometimes I think I lose that girl, the one I was before kids. But when I have time away from them, I find I don’t want to stay there for long, because I miss them too much.

It is strange how two seemingly contradictory feelings can live in one person. And yet, they do! Talk to any mom. Most of us feel this way!

It is a grand thing to be a mom!

The natural state of motherhood is unselfishness. When you become a mother, you are no longer the center of your own universe. You relinquish that position to your children.

-Jessica Lange

My Dream Car

For the past several years I have been researching cars that hold more than 7 people. Some women dream of BMWs, convertibles, and Jettas. I dream of shuttle buses! I can remember the moment that I saw my dream car; we were at a gas station in town and this large vehicle drives up.

All I could think was, “I could put 9 car seats in that car!”…..I was IN LOVE!!!

They opened the large, sliding side door and revealed several rows of 3 captains chairs. Curiosity got the best of me and I approached the owner to find out about this dream on wheels. The man said that it was a Mercedes Sprinter 3500. It carried 15, all of the seats had headrests, and it was 6 feet across….I was IN LOVE!!! At the time, all of our kids were in car seats and all I could think was, “I could put 9 car seats in that car!!” I began researching as soon as I got home. They don’t make the sprinter anymore, but I found the Ford Transit. I knew that someday I would own one!!

We have 5 boys. My three oldest boys are all very tall for their age and they will only get taller. My two five year olds are in 5 point harnesses still. Our minivan is TIGHT! There is NO wiggle room! The three oldest are on top of each other in the back and the two littles are both strapped into the captains chairs. Needless to say the fighting, whining, and complaining is horrible. They’ve done ok with the arrangement, but we knew that we were going to have to upgrade. After January, I started contacting dealers to have them look for a Ford Transit in our price range. There weren’t too many that seemed to try, so we took the search to the internet. We finally found a Ford Transit that we can afford and that had everything that we want. We will have to drive to Tennessee to get it, but we found it!!

Two weeks ago, we placed our 2008 Grand Caravan with 220,000 miles on it for sale. It sold Tuesday! We are headed to get our (read MY) 2016 Ford Transit on Saturday! I cannot tell you how excited I am!!! We will finally be able to take the kids’ friends with us to do activities! There will be be 5 extra seats!!! I am so excited!!! I know many people think that we are crazy! Of course, they thought we were crazy when we had four boys, AND when we took in another 5 year old, AND when we want to drive a bus…..maybe we are crazy!!! It’s a crazy that God’s called us to and He has provided the means to get my dream car! I never thought that I would see the day that we would actually buy it, but it is just days away!!

Picture of the car we are picking up on Saturday.

Now, not only will we have plenty of room for our kids, but we now have the car space just in case God wants to expand our family again. I know….we’re CRAZY!!

Sensational Sunday –esalon hair color

Most women eventually get to the point where they start to color their hair unless they want to have the natural grey look. I have been coloring my hair for several years. It is such a costly habit!!! Usually anywhere from $80 to $130 for me. Being a family of 7 on one income, in kills me to spend that much on my hair! I also don’t feel like I can do it as often as needed because it costs so much. About a year ago, I saw an advertisement for esalon, but hadn’t actually tried it. Last week, I finally did and I am thrilled with the results!!!

Esalon has an easy survey that you answer and then it shows you the colors that are best for you. You can even include notes and a picture for your stylists. When you receive the color it has color and developer for your roots and color and developer for your length. It also comes with gloves, a brush, shampoo, conditioner, and two bottles. All of this for $20 ($10 your first time). I also bought clips, a bowl, a timer, and a cape. My total was a little under $30. The second and third shipments will just be for your roots, then the fourth will be roots and length again. They automatically send out your color to you as often as you request.

This is my before shot. As you can see I have dark brown hair. I have quite a bit of grey at the top and in the part which has also been difficult to color at the salon. My hair is naturally darker than this, but I had blond/caramel highlights. The color I ordered did not include highlights. They offer them and I may get them for summer, but I wanted to go back to one color.

I have to admit that I have an amazing husband who strives to bend over backward to make me happy! He offered to help me color my hair. (He basically did it for me.) For my roots we used the bottle and brush method. The color went on great and didn’t have a strong odor. For the length we did the bowl and brush method to paint the color on. The odor was a little stronger. The color was easy to do. The instructions that they sent were simple to understand and even came with a sticker to stick them to your mirror for easy access.

As you can see, we were a little messy and got it on my face and neck. I was a little concerned, but it all washed off in the shower and with the removal wipe they sent. My grey was covered even the difficult spot that stylists struggle with. I am VERY happy with the product.

Right after I washed and dried it the same day.

My hair was soft and smelled great!! I have naturally curly hair, but I dried it straight so we could see the color coverage.

The next day when ready to go to church.
One week later with my hair straightened.
Picture on the left one week after and picture on the right the day that I dyed it.

My experience with this product has been so positive!! I imagine I will continue to use it for a long time. You can go to the below link and get your first order at a 50% discount for only $10!!


Or if you would like to let them know that I referred you, you can click on my personal referral link. Either way I hope that you visit them and find a less expensive way to beautifully color your hair!!!