She’s Getting Married

One of the first pictures I ever posted on my blog of MacKenzie Grace was this sweet picture of her on a mission trip in Jamaica.

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I’ve always been so proud of her love of God and her passion for christian living.  As all of our children have grown up Audley and I have prayed so many prayers that we raise our children in a way pleasing to God.  We have not been perfect parents, but we have tried to be what God expects.  As we have prayed over our children, we started from birth praying that when the time came, God would send the perfect person to accompany our kids through their adult years.  I was specific in my prayers that God send them someone who could compliment their personalities, love them unconditionally through all the good and bad this world has to offer, someone that they could mutually submit to and respect, and above all someone that would help them get to Heaven.

Well, MacKenzie’s getting married!

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Up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, her boyfriend, Michael, popped the question this past weekend.

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And just like that my sweet little girl is going to be a Mrs.

Not only is she going to become a Mrs., she is going to be a minister’s wife!

I think God answered our prayer.

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They are giddy with excitement and so in love.

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And I can’t wait to see how God uses them in their future together!

The date is set for June 3, 2017, so be prepared to see a lot more posts as the day arrives!

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Back-To-School Success

August is coming to a close, and the three remaining kids at home have all returned to school for the year.  One has gone back to USC for her sophomore year, then I have a junior & senior to keep me running like a mad woman for the next nine months!

You would think after twenty years of “First Days” (my oldest is 24 now) I would have the ability to pull off a flawless First Day, but the truth is, I don’t have a clue.  There is always something that doesn’t go as planned, which is why this year we found ourselves doing back-to-school shopping at 10:30 pm the night before classes were to resume!

While I may not have mastered the art of a perfect First Day of School, I have learned several things over the last twenty years that do make those First Days and every day thereafter so much easier to manage.

So, here are eight simple things you can try to make the beginning of the school year a wee bit easier in your home!

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1. Plan your breakfast/mornings ahead of time to minimize chaos.  Plan out your menu and even go as far to set the table the evening before.

Don’t teach your kids to eat on the run, it’s a horrible habit that is very difficult to break and can lead to other unhealthy habits as they get older!

Breakfast doesn’t have to be elaborate.  If you want to serve cereal and milk, by all means serve it, just go an extra step by setting out bowls, spoons, juice glasses, etc.,  early so you aren’t slinging everything around the next morning trying to rush out the door!

If you prefer to cook, plan ahead and make sure you are up early enough to do it!  Breakfast doesn’t have to be elaborate, just planned and easy to execute.  Pancakes (yes, from a mix) are always an easy option as are scrambled eggs and bacon.  One of my favorite things to make for morning breakfast is homemade muffins.  These are so easy and so flavorful.  Give them a try!

Mixed Berry Muffins

2. Sign all paperwork and homework the day before.  There is no worse feeling than to have a wad of paperwork shoved into your face five minutes before you walk out the door for school.  Seriously, it DOES NOT get any better when your kids become teenagers, so make the conscious effort to ask your kids if they have anything that you need to sign or review when they are pulling things out of their backpacks for homework.

3. Set aside a jar or special bank to hold only lunch/fee money.  As each pay day arrives, go ahead and count out what you know your kids need for lunch each day (should they buy) and then stick an extra $5, $10, or $15 in the jar for emergency fees.  If your kids carry their lunch, still have an emergency fee jar available.  That speedo for swim team that was $50 last year may have gone up to $65 this year, tee-shirts for homecoming are $15 x’s two or three, and for some reason there is never enough notice when field trips are planned.  This emergency fee money is one of the best things I ever implemented in our home!

4. If you plan for your kids to carry their lunches, have them assist you in packing them the night before.  While you make sandwiches or pasta salad, they can be getting ziplock bags, fruit, chips or crackers, and granola bars to add.  Not a fan of store bought packaged food?  Try this easy, peasy granola bar recipe.  You’ll all love this one and the kids can mix them up as well!

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We have a tradition of having homemade chicken salad each year for the first day (and many other days through the year).  While I love to take the time to bake my own chicken, for the salad, sometimes, grabbing a rotisserie chicken from the deli is a delicious, time-saving option when lacrosse practice has run over the night before.

Scrumptious Chicken Salad

Also, pack lunches in age appropriate bags or containers.  My 16 year old son has absolutely no desire to carry a lunch box.  He is also a growing body builder, so he doesn’t carry sandwiches, but grilled chicken.  We found a great lunch kit that allows him to pack his protein powder and aminos as well as help him measure out the chicken or salmon he might carry.

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Now my seventeen year old daughter?  Give that girl a monogrammed bag please!

5. Keep a dry erase calendar in your kitchen.  The first of every month take 20-30 minutes and update it with everything you know that is on your schedule from dentist appointments to sports practice.

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And to think, August isn’t a busy month for us!

I also add holidays, youth group events, my personal schedule and my husbands travel schedule.  You can also color-code this, giving each family member their own color.  When the kids are older have them add things that come up after your calendar is up to help keep everything current. Doing this becomes a visual reminder for everyone in the house, especially teenagers who need that reminder of some things every now and then.

6.  Purchase a day planner and package of colored pens for each preteen and teenager to help teach them how to organize their life and time.

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There are some awesome planners that begin in July (generally when early practices for high school sports begin) and are tailored to fit the school year by month.  I also use the same style calendar so that we are on the same page.  Our planners are organized so that homework is one color, sports practices another color, appointments yet another color, and youth group/church activities another.  It works well for keeping track of little details most teenagers seem to forget.  This has worked wonderful for my girls, and now I have my son doing this as well.  You can find adorable planners at Barnes and Noble, Swoozies, and Target.  Boys of course want a more manly look, so check out Staples for a professional planner for him.

7.  Set a specific time for turning off social media and going to bed.  My kids have never been allowed to watch TV on school days, but now we face the battle of Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and Netflix on their iGadgets and Kindles.  While I would like to think that they are old enough for me not to have to monitor them, they are still kids.  At 10:00 PM I want the electronic devices off.  If they don’t comply, the item becomes mine.  Rest is so important to these growing bodies.  Even though they don’t want to admit they are tired, their bodies are whipped, and they need at least seven hours of sleep. How else does a 16 year old boy recover from growing 12 1/2 inches in two years?!

8. Start each day with a devotion or prayer.  This is a great way to begin the school day on a positive note.  You can find devotional books with little 2-minute devos at Walmart, Barnes and Noble and (don’t laugh) truck stops like TA or Loves.  Let the kids read so that it makes a little more of an impact on them.  We kicked our year off with Audley offering a prayer for our kids.  It was such a special time, especially since he is usually on the road traveling for work.  It was also a reminder that while you often hear “it takes a village to raise a child,” the reality is 95% of what a child learns and habits they develop come from the home, so why not give them positive vibes to carry with them through life.

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I picked this up at Family Christian Stores as a deal for $5.00.  Lifeway and FCS are great for having these little bargains at the registers!

I hope your First Days and all the ones following while not perfect, are a wee bit easier to manage this year!

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Gotta Go Back to School

I always love looking through my social media feeds and seeing the cherubic pictures of my friends children as they are getting ready to head out for the first day of school.  It’s so fun to see how the kids have grown over the summer and see the look of dread or anticipation on each of their faces.  It looks like a perfect day coming right up!

For eighteen years I have worked hard to create that picture perfect First Day of School; I mean going out so that it is Norman Rockwell perfect.

But, the truth is, our first day of school was anything but sweet and charming and picture perfect.

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The chaos inadvertently  started the first of the month when Audley & I left the first for vacation to celebrate our 20th anniversary, not returning until the 10th.  Then we spent the next four days getting MacKenzie packed up for college; spending the weekend in Columbia getting her settled.  Then, yesterday, as we were sitting at Freshman Convocation at USC, it hit me.

“The first day of school for Madeline and Bradley is tomorrow.”

THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL IS TOMORROW!

I had not bought hardly any school supplies or food for their lunches.

There was nothing for special breakfast.

And no one had a clue to what they might wear.

Let me tell you, I’m on the ball with this mothering thing right now.  The stress, guilt and frustrations started swelling up inside me.

So at 11:00 last night I was removing meat from a rotisserie chicken that we picked up at the Publix deli on our way home and whipping up our favorite chicken salad, instead of getting some much needed sleep in the bed with my husband who was leaving town for business today.

And special breakfast this morning?

Pancakes.

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Out of a box.

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Mixed with water.

I did add fresh blueberries though.

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And we used sugar-free syrup.

You may ask why I would write such a harried post showcasing what I feel are my horrible mothering skills at the moment, but the truth is we don’t live picture perfect lives.  Norman Rockwell was an artist of an idyllic life that doesn’t exist (except maybe in 2-minute increments). Behind those smiling cherubic faces are teenagers who five minutes before were screaming at each other and fussing at me because I wasn’t making the right things happen fast enough.

I was feeling a wee bit like a pressure cooker thinking I might blow at any moment this morning, but I kept thinking of ways to ease the pressure so that I wouldn’t say or do something to hurt my kids.

I was reminded of Ephesians 6:4 where the Bible says “Fathers do not provoke your child to wrath.”  That applies to mothers just as much.  We were all irritated and frustrated this morning and the blame for that was squarely on me.  I did not prepare and plan (and it didn’t have to be elaborate planning) like I normally do and it left us without an organized plan for starting off our school year on the right foot.

The thing was, all those little things I wanted to make the day perfect were really not important, but they were stressing me out, which in turn was making for a stressful household.

 The kids could have bought their lunches today and I could have grabbed a box of cereal.  How the rest of this day and possibly this week hinged on how I handed myself this morning.  So, I said a little prayer, turned on some praise music and changed my own attitude and soon the kids were off to school in one piece without me losing my temper and making things worse.

“Happy are all who honor the Lord with fear, and who walk in His ways.  For you will eat the fruit of your hands. You will be happy and it will be well with you.” Psalm 128:1-2

Sometimes we just have to go with the flow, change our focus and do little things to fix the problems and stresses of life we inflict upon ourselves.  Mother’s are to be a blessing to their children, not drive them towards anger and an ill temper. We have a wonderful role that has been gifted us.  It often requires multi-taking and organizing, but at the end of the day the way our kids and especially our teenagers act mirrors our own actions.  I want to build a home that is a beautiful product of my actions, time, focus, and love.

“By wisdom a house is built and by understanding it is established” Proverbs 24:3

Motherhood isn’t about the big breakfast or the perfect school lunch, it’s about the love and teaching moments that direct our kids on a path to a blessed eternity in heaven.

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“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” Proverbs 14:1

Life isn’t perfect by any means, but we can make it so much more enjoyable when we quit focusing on the trivial and focus more on loving each other.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Happy First Day of School!

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Monday Morning Reality

  It’s funny how often you see where a “mommy” post has gone viral.  It may be something dealing with the silliness of toddlers, the craziness of childbirth or the exhaustion of a momma.  It may be a letter to a daughter or the value of raising a good teen boy…..

But in all of those posts, I never seem to read the reality of raising three teenagers.

So, I’m going all “Mommy Blogger” for you today and sharing a wee bit of the craziness, frustration, emotion, and pride that is my life.

Never once in a “mommy blog” have I read where someone’s son got ISS (In School Suspension) for singing “If your Happy and You Know it Clap Your Hands” in Algebra class.

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Nor have I read where that same boy found himself in ISS three weeks later for making mischief on a school bus while on his way to the tech school.  And to say that same boy spent another day in ISS for eating a sandwich stolen by another boy (it’s on video that he was guilty only by association) from the table where food for underprivileged kids is kept would be unheard of…..

But having your 15-year-old come out of his bookworm shell and assume the role of class clown & mischief maker does happen whether you like it or not.

Birthday date with Bradley ... we went to lunch and the movies

Birthday date with Bradley … we went to lunch and the movies

But it’s amazing how that same boy, finds a passion for cooking and creating food in the kitchen making this Momma wonder if she has a budding chef on her hands.

And that same boy might also take on the role of jock and decide to trade in his baseball bat & gloves and soccer ball he played for 8 years to roll around on a mat with stinky, sweaty boys while his Momma screams like a mad woman from the stands to “TAKE HIM DOWN!!”

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That’s my reality.

My reality is also a lump in my throat & chills down my spine every time I see him dressed in his Air Force JROTC uniform.

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AF JROTC

So is this bedroom he deemed clean before he left for several weeks to work hard, building houses in Tennessee with his uncle.

Lookie what Im going to clean while the boy is out of town!!!

Lookie what Im going to clean while the boy is out of town!!!

No post I have ever read prepared me for the day when my 16-year-old daughter made a 180 degree turn from tomboy to princess; and from living in the shadow of an older sister (who is an overachiever) to becoming Miss “Let me see what else I can do” in a matter of months.

Madeline's 16th birthday just after Varsity lacrosse tryouts

Madeline’s 16th birthday just after Varsity lacrosse tryouts

Nothing remotely prepared me to have this same former tomboy chosen as a spokesmodel for a local photographer and stylist.

Photography by Jennifer Rae Grimes

Photography by Jennifer Rae Grimes

 I was in no way prepared when she tapped into her creative gene discovering an outlet for her frustrations in the form of art which lead to many trips to Michael’s and Hobby Lobby as well as an invitation to take ART II HONORS for her upcoming Junior year.

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Madeline’s version of “Lily” artwork for her bedroom.

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Pink flamingos

And when this same girl threw away the track cleats and soccer ball for Lacrosse sticks, making the Varsity squad her first year out, we prayed for the safety of ever player she came into contact with.

Number 6 is a beast!

Number 6 is a beast!

The penalty box was like a second home while this Momma screamed from the stands, offering the referees her glasses and questioning their ability to officiate at least two three four times a game.

In the penalty box......

In the penalty box……

In the penalty box again....

In the penalty box again….

But the pride that comes from having a 16 year volunteer to spend two weeks at a youth camp for handicap children asking absolutely nothing for herself “because they need her”….

And the fact this girl can rock can rock the 80’s better than I did?

1980's day for spirit week .... channeling Oliva Newton John

1980’s day for spirit week …. channeling Oliva Newton John

That’s my reality.

So is celebrating that “C” she managed to pull in Algebra II.

And no post I’ve read ever prepared me for the emotion of having your firstborn complete her senior year of high school.

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No where was I warned that she might turn in her basketball shoes and color guard costumes to pursue Figure (bodybuilding) Competing.

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Nor did I ever read anywhere that senior year could quite possibly send a Momma to the insane asylum as the idea of taking THREE AP classes seemed like a good one in theory despite Momma’s misgivings.

The ulcer received by that same senior gave Momma a brief “I told you so” victory.

No where have I ever read about an already over-commited child stepping up (without being asked) into the Momma role to take care of her Mom by changing bandages, emptying drain tubes, and even shaving her legs after she had major surgery.

I never found a post that fully prepared me emotionally for the time I let this girl of mine board a bus at 5:00 AM with 25 other kids bound for New York without me chaperoning for the first time in her life….

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Or my heartbreak because she chose NOT to go to the senior prom because it was a waste of money she would rather spend on workout clothes.

I did want to see her all dressed up…..

But then there is that moment when you get an invitation to the French National Honor Society induction ceremony and the notice that your girl is one of only 32 Honor’s graduates in a class of 500 kids and she earned the Health Sciences scholarship…..

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And as she walks that stage this Momma yells with all her might, “THAT’S MY GIRL!”

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Yeah, that’s my reality.

From our cruise in November 2014

From our cruise in November 2014

And I adore every minute of it.

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