Tuesday, June 24, 2014

summer challenge

i have to be honest, a summer with all five kids at home can be overwhelming. the last days of school, i can feel my heart beating faster, my breathing rapidly increase. i wouldn't say that i have a full blown panic attack but i definitely feel the pressure. thoughts of filling a summer with activity for five little people can be daunting.

this year, i decided to get organized. the more organized i became, the better i felt. i created an entire summer checklist for the kids to accomplish each day. surprisingly, the kids were all for this idea. we are now two weeks into our summer here in the south and we are on a roll. i can't say this will work for everyone but for us, this has been a life saver. too much idle time during the summer causes problems; kids fight, they are restless, and quite frankly, i don't want to have to entertain them all day everyday. i'm also from a family of educators. my dad is a retired principal, my mom's a former teacher and speech pathologist, my sister and sister-in-law both teach and i used to teach high school. my kids are surrounded. i don't want them to spend the summer losing all the information they learned over the school year.

all of those factors led to our "summer challenge." each day the kids have a series of tasks to do. at the end of the week, they can earn a star for completing a week of tasks. the stars add up to rewards. it's a simple concept but, surprisingly, the kids love it. i have to be honest, i love it too. they are busy and working for a couple of hours a day and i have time to sit with each of them to help them get their projects or teach them something new. i am actually thrilled with the results. feel free to use this idea and run with it. it may not work for you exactly the way it has worked for us but, please, make this your own and use it to bring some sanity to your own house this summer.

Rules: These were read to the kids on our first day. They all agreed so we kept going!

My kids had already been trained on their weekly chores so that was easy for them to continue. They had several books already purchased for them to enjoy over the summer. We purchased Bridge Books from amazon.com

i printed out a check list for each week. i made several copies for each child with a place for the dates at the top. each child has their own clip boards so their lists can travel with them.

we brainstormed as a family for great ideas for rewards. this is what our family decided upon.

at the end of each week, if my kids have completed their assignments, they get a star for each area. 

They get to choose the reward for our family. That's it. So far so good. The kids are engaged. The days are full. The rewards are fun. This is my kids' summer challenge...and my summer sanity.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

my army of women

my husband has been working a lot lately. with his law enforcement job, it is anyone's guess when or if he'll be home on any given night. normally i can handle the masses but yesterday was a different story. my toddler was on day four of a raging fever and that night, while my husband was out chasing some bad men, my daughter got sick as well. i was up all night with the pair of them. as 7:00 AM rolled around and my other three stirred, i knew i was in need of reinforcements. i'd used the last of the fever reducers over night and there was no way i was going to be able to drag all five to the store.

i contemplated what i could do...leave them at home? take a couple of them? wait until my husband magically returned from work? i wanted to be self-sufficient but when it came right down to it, i knew it was time to wave the white flag of surrender and see if there was anyone who might be willing to help a mom out. i posted this to facebook:

that was it. a simple cry for help in the middle of my sleep deprived morning. i figured someone had to be heading for the store during the day. still, it was hard for me to press send. it was hard to admit i needed help. i liked feeling like i was the rocking mother of five. and yet, when it came right down to it, i figured between the killing of my pride and a trip with five kids to the store, i'd bury my pride and stay at home.

the crazy thing? the response. within minutes someone offered to pick up the medicine. i thought the flurry of messages would end after that but that was just the beginning. there was this:

and this...

and this...

and this...

and those were just the facebook messages. by the afternoon, there were 36 facebook messages offering help. there were several texts from friends. not only did i get the two bottles of medicine, but my favorite drink from starbucks. someone else brought me juice and a party tray of chicken nuggets and fruit from chick-fil-a for lunch. i had three offers for dinner, two people who just came and dropped off food. countless others texted me throughout the day to see how i was.

my friends from out of the area chimed in on facebook too. their responses?

it's hard to believe places like this exist. i was and am still honestly awed by it all. what a remarkable group of people surround me, right? they truly are some of the greatest people on earth, in the greatest neighborhood on earth, from the greatest church on earth, in the greatest town on earth. i know i am blessed.

the more i got to thinking, though, the more i realized that this is how life is supposed to be. we are supposed to count on each other. we are supposed to live in community with one another, support one another, come along side one another, do life with one another. we're supposed to be honest, and vulnerable, and put our pride aside. the miraculous happens when we put aside the facebook and instagram version of ourselves and take a few minutes to just be real. the results are magical.

i may still be sleep deprived. i may still have two sick kids. my husband may still be a walking zombie. but i'm not alone. i'm surrounded by an army of amazing women who have my back. and just like that, am invincible. i think i may just go conquer the world. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

mmmmm: lemon trifle

summer is the time for cool desserts. this one is in honor of my sister. it's her absolute favorite. she'll fight you for the last bowl. it takes a little time to make but it is so worth the effort. enjoy!

lemon trifle

for the pecan crumble layer:

2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup melted butter

for the lemon custard layer:

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 cup flour

1 3/4 cups cold water

3 egg yolks

2/3 cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons grated lemon peel

for the cream cheese layer:

1 8oz. package of cream cheese

3 cups confectioner's sugar

8 oz. whipped topping or two cups of sweetened whipped cream

mix pecans, flour and melted butter together in a small bowl. press into a greased 9 x 13 pan. bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. remove from oven, set aside and allow to cool.

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch and the flour. Stir in the water until it is smooth. cook over medium heat, stirring while cooking, until hot and bubbly. reduce heat and continue cooking for two minutes more. 

remove the mixture from the heat. stir a small amount of the hot liquid into the egg yolks. add the egg yolk mixture to the pan and cook while stirring until there is a gentle boil. cook for two minutes more. stir in the lemon juice, butter and lemon peel. 

transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature without stirring the mixture. cover the mixture with wax paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled.

in a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and confectioner's sugar until smooth. fold in whipped topping or sweetened whipped cream.

crumble the baked pecan mixture. begin layering the trifle. start with a layer of lemon custard. you will use approximately 1 cup of each part of the trifle per layer. top with whipped cream mixture and a layer of the pecan crumble. continue this process two more times. top the trifle with the remaining pecan mixture. refrigerate and enjoy!

Thursday, June 5, 2014


today i am the mother of an elementary school graduate. as i sat yesterday in the graduation ceremony, i was shocked at my own struggle to catch my breath.  each one caught in my throat as i inhaled and it felt like the weight of the world was on my chest. i watched as my son walked into the ceremony and flashbacks filled my mind: of the first day of kindergarten when i dropped him off in his classroom, of field trips, lunches, each grade's struggles and joys, and of each afternoon when he stepped off the bus. how could this possibly be happening? how could he be moving on to the horrors of the middle school years? it has come too soon. he can't possibly be ready for this. 

but he is ready. the problem here is all mine. he is prepared, excited even. each day he seems to crave more and more independence, more responsibility, more of a life of his own and less to be a part of mine. parenting my son from birth has been a constant pouring, and pouring, and pouring into him, teaching him, training him and pushing him to do things on his own. each day that's what we are doing, training our sons and daughters to be on their own, to be independent, to think for themselves. each time we reach a parenting milestone we are thrilled. they conquer potty training. they eat by themselves. they sleep in a big boy bed. each moment feels like such a victory and it is. it's a monument to great parenting. but as i look back it becomes so clear that each victory is a step in preparing him, all of them, to be on their own, to stand on their own two feet and to live their own lives.

and i struggle to catch my breath. parenting is a whirlwind. the mantra runs on replay through my head. days are long, years are short. days are long, years are short. years are short. years are short. and i struggle to breathe again. i have worked so long to prepare him for this day but i am not prepared. i've become acutely aware that parenting is a consistent process of "release." we train them up to let them go. we let them go. release. each parenting victory, each monument, each milestone...release. countless moments of release. it doesn't hit you until they walk across the stage when their name is called...release. he is ready and so excited. release. pieces of my mommy heart break. release none-the-less.