About Natalie

I am a Jesus Lover, a wife, and a mother. And I'm making the best of what looks like a mess!

Social Distancing Week 7

Week Seven is in the books. It was interesting because we officially started “reopening Ohio”. Granted not much changes. I did get a text from our dentist office wanting to reschedule missed appointments so that was kind of refreshing to see.

It’s really weird how all of this is rolling out. I heard in a press conference that the shut down was like turning off a light switch. It happened all of a sudden, like the flip of a switch. Everything immediately went black. However, opening the state back up is not turning the light back on, it’s using a dimmer to gradually add a little bit of light at a time.

It’s been intense to see the reactions of this reassimilation. Most people seem really unhappy right now. They are angry that the government isn’t moving quickly enough. Other people are upset that the government is moving too quickly. It’s a lot to process.

Most of my kids are still struggling with distance learning. It is not going great. So I am bummed about that and the fear that this coming school year will be affected in some way. I am also bummed that my 6th grader doesn’t get to have an elementary school graduation. I know that sounds silly, but allow me to quote myself from a blog post I wrote earlier this year called “Big Year for Z

In May, at the end of the school year, all the faculty and students line the halls of the school and the 6th graders walk through the crowds one final time before graduating elementary school. Everyone claps, cheers, and gives high fives to the graduates. It’s always made me tear up even when it was for kids that didn’t know at all! I imagine I’ll be a big ball of emotion this year when it’s Z making that walk symbolizing the transition into this next stage.

It’s something I’ve looked forward to since he was in Kindergarten and saw the big kids get their “clap out” (I didn’t know that was a thing until then). I know it’s not the same as a high school senior by any means (God bless them and their families right now) but it was meaningful to me. So I cried when I realized that he would miss that opportunity.

On the bright side, there have been some sweet moments from this quarantine time. This past weekend we started a garden.

We weren’t going to this year because we would be traveling. I had big plans (I blogged about that too). Another plan bites the dust.

There is a quote from Dwight Eisenhower that says something to the effect of “Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable”. I think what it means is that you can never predict the exact outcome and plans inevitable change. However, it’s the dreaming, problem-solving, or strategy that you drum up that gives you direction and motivation.

Plans don’t always roll out perfectly, but either way, planning has a purpose. That’s reassuring to me because of how many times do I have a plan and it gets ripped away from me?

I planned the family trip of a lifetime and now the coronavirus ruined it.

Or the time I had the perfect birth plan! Then the baby was born on the way to the hospital.

Or what about last month when I planned meals for all thirty days of April, only to have a tornado knock out our power for three days and force us to eat out.

I take great stock in the verse “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps”. It’s nearly impossible for ANY OF US to plan much of anything these days because the top doctors, world leaders, and scientists do not know what the rest of the year will look like. We just don’t know. Earlier this year I read Lysa Terkeurst’s book “It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way”. It’s really great and I recommend it. She talks about being a planner and in Chapter Ten she said somethings that I related to so much when I read it last year and it definitely still applies now. Terkeursts says

“Whatever your situation is, you probably feel like you can’t change it, but you still have to live through the realities of what happening right now. Sometimes you just have to walk in your ‘I don’t know’…What if settling down and all your disappointments going away would be the worst thing that could happen to you? What if your ‘I don’t know’ is helping you, not hurting you? What if your ‘I don’t know’ is helping you let go of things you aren’t supposed to know because that knowledge would be too heavy a burden for today? But the One you do know, the Lord, is so perfectly capable to bear it all.”

Colossians 1:11 says “God will strengthen you with His own great power so that you will not give up when troubles come, but you will be patient.”

Lord, help me to trust you as I walk through this season of “I don’t know”.



By | May 4th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Social Distancing Week 6

I can’t believe it’s been 6 weeks since the country basically shut down. Last week Ohio officially announced that school would be closed for the remainder of the semester. Unlike when schools closed the first time, this was not a shocker to anyone. It is still surreal and somehow comforting to have it finally settled for certain.

I have not been shy about sharing my struggles throughout this whole pandemic. It’s been heavy enough that I decided to take a break from social media and some of my usual routine last week. I know this was the right choice for me and even though I still feel a bit disoriented by the whole act of quarantining I definitely worked out a lot of the kinks for distance learning. One way of doing this is by choosing sanity over assignments. I almost can’t even type that because it might sound like a cop-out. Academics have always been a HUGE priority to me. That’s why when other parents seemed to be struggling through all of this I had no problem reminding them that the teachers and schools are extending a ton of grace and understanding right now and “just do what you can do”, but when I had to turn around and say that to myself it didn’t really stick. I felt like I was failing my children.

The cool thing about distance learning or homeschooling is that each family can do what works for them. I know some people that keep things really flexible and do school at any hour of the day or break it up between their kids instead of doing it all at the same time. For us, with grades 1, 3, 6, and pre-k and a work from home husband who does a lot of conference calls, we have had to rely on some structure.

9:00 am – 1:00 pm is school hours. If you include travel time this shaves off 3 and a half hours from their school routine which used to be- leave the house at 8:00 am and get home at 3:30 pm.

I have one child who is an independent learner and barrels through assignments very quickly. This is where we have had to put up boundaries with google chats and video games. I have had to implement the fact that even though the assignments may be done it doesn’t mean the second half of the week is a free-for-all. Monday-Friday 9:00-1:00 is mostly used for educational activities. If you run out of assignments from school you can work on something fun that is educational like building a website, or you can read or help your siblings.

I have another child that is starting to become more of an independent learner so that is very helpful, but they also are a perfectionist. For all of our sake, I have had to cut off school at a certain time (this is where sanity over assignments comes in). We haven’t completed everything in distance learning, but we are doing our best and working well beyond the two hour daily minimum requirements that the district set. With this child I have also had to set boundaries about screaming for help. We are still working on the no screaming rule, but the idea is instead of screaming come and let me know that you need something and then be patient. When I (or big brother, or occasionally dad) can come to help I will.

For the other school-age child, I have had to sit down and walk them through everything. It’s been helpful to see the learning struggles there that I never realized were an issue. This child is great at math though, so when I have to leave them to help a sibling I will have them work on math independently, or just try to read, or take a break to play or have a snack. I set a timer and then come back when time is up.

Timers are my friend, I don’t use them religiously, but it works in other areas of my life so it finally dawned on me (5 weeks into it) to use a timer for distance learning rather than using the assignment as the standard for how long everything will take. Teachers don’t even do that in school! You give an assignment and some will finish early and some will be incomplete, but when the bell rings or test time is up then it’s “pencils down”. I have written about timers and routine before and they are some of my most popular blog posts. Here are the links if you want to check them out.

The Magic Kitchen Timer (from my teachable parenting series)

Ideas for Helping Kids with daily routines

For the record, we also do walks, outside time, movement time, family time, reading a book together time, and of course breakfast and lunch. So when I talk about the first half of the day being all about school that doesn’t mean the kids are sitting at a desk with their nose in a textbook for four hours straight.

I sound like I really have things down pat now, but the truth is we are all navigating things one wave at a time. The kids are not thrilled with distance learning. We have some hard times. This is real life. I am grateful that at least for now I don’t feel like my head will spontaneously explode at any moment and that’s a good thing right?

By | April 28th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Social Distancing Week 5

I really wish I could say that we’ve figured out this whole church/school/everything-at-home business now that it’s been over a month, but that would be a lie. The last week of distance learning was absolutely brutal. My 1st grader really struggles with reading and writing.

He isn’t necessarily delayed in school but his learning style is very different than his siblings so I am trying to figure out what motivates him. I tried nagging and threatening (which I know isn’t effective, I’m just acknowledging my flesh here). Lots of tears and power struggles ensued.

On Tuesday my 3rd grader was having trouble following directions when I realized she was ahead in some areas but behind in others. The rest of the week we worked to catch up, but never managed to finish the week’s worth of assignments.

I felt so helpless and behind. I emailed the teacher and left comments on a survey to the school. The teacher was extremely generous in her response and told me that we were both doing a great job. Then I read this post that my librarian friend posted on Facebook

Then I also saw this in an email from the school district.

“A good friend and mentor of mine stated that these times feel like trying to patch a swimming pool with duct tape. I’m sure we are all feeling like that at times. I want all of you to know that you are doing amazing! We need to continue to come together as parents, and as a school community.  There will be times that things will not get done at home or times where we have to revise the way we are doing things as educators. Just this past week I received an email from my 4th grade son’s teacher. She said (very nicely and caringly) that he had not turned in one Science assignment since remote learning started. We simply overlooked it on Schoology. And that is okay. We know now and we will begin the process of working on the assignments. Camden started to get upset and I simply wouldn’t allow it. I share with the intent of easing your mind throughout this remote virtual learning process. I am in education and we missed it. We will be flexible and we are here to help.”


You can imagine how much her candid confession made me feel. I knew at that moment, I am not behind and I am not alone.

Between the Coronavirus pandemic, the schools being shut down, helping get the church services and ministries exclusively virtual, and then the storms and power outage, *deep breath* I have been completely tapped out! Oh yeah, and you know the stimulus checks that are easing the pain for some families right now? Well, we had a little hiccup with the IRS in 2018 (no fault of ours) and we were audited. We still do not have tax returns from the past two years. The process has been lengthy and grueling and because that isn’t sorted out yet, although it supposedly should be by now, no stimulus check for the Busch family. Also, in our defense, we pay a professional to do our taxes for us.

Cry me a river right? We are actually doing fine! We are grateful that all of our needs are met. Glory to God. Hallelujah! My husband still has a job. We eat really well because I have been blessed in the grocery stores and crushing it in the kitchen (humble brag). We are all healthy- not even a little sniffle, cough, or tummy ache. 100% clean bill of health for all six of us. On the other hand, if my vulnerability and openness about our struggles help you feel a little less behind or alone then I will pull the curtain back my friend!

This photo is from when we tried to participate in the “Bear Hunt Challenge” where you put a stuffed bear in your window so that during this time of quarantine families can go for walks and spot bears in windows. We don’t really have much of a window sill though. So we tried to tie the bear up to the curtain rods and it ended up looking more morbid than sweet. So yeah, that sums up social distancing for me right now.

On that note, I have identified the need for a little break so that I can do some spiritual maintenance. I can’t go on vacation and I can’t quit doing homeschool or helping the church completely. I did delegate some of my responsibilities though and I am signing off of social media for the week. Just a week, but I think if I  am really intentional it will be a time of refreshing. Prayers appreciated.

By | April 19th, 2020|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Resurrection Sunday

The past couple of weeks had been rough (read “Social Distancing Week Three” and “Social Distancing Week Four/Spring Break/Tornados”). I had no plans for Easter. I thought about trying to do something and maybe even getting dressed up, but even though the power in the house was back on I still felt powerless.

However, I have two little girls who scrolled through their closets to pick out the prettiest brightest dresses they could find. They paired them with tights and fancy shoes. They dug through the stash of bows and started asking if I would curl their hair. After the week we’d had how could I say no. I was more than happy to participate at that point.

I also happened to have a bin full of Easter eggs, table cloths, and goodies from my mother in law who was clearing stuff out of her house last time we were in Texas. She asked if we wanted it and I accepted not knowing that a big box of Easter fun would be exactly what we needed! I filled the eggs with coins, candy, and small toys that the kids already owned but probably wouldn’t remember. I’m not against regifting little toys in Easter eggs, even when we aren’t on lockdown.

That morning we had breakfast burritos before sitting on the couch to watch our church service that which we had recorded Friday.

When the worship team played the song “Forever” by Kari Jobe I invited SJ to worship through sign language with me. I had already learned the signs to this song before and she knew some of it too. SJ isn’t fluent in ASL, but it was technically her first language. From age 9 months to 3 years old that is exclusively how she communicated. We also have friends who are deaf that we sign with. So it’s not just that it’s a beautiful language, it really is special and meaningful to us. J caught a small bit of it on video.

We took a couple of Easter photos using a tripod and a remote.

Side note, I decided to get a selfie stick for the time of quarantine and it also works as a remote shutter. I don’t regret this lowcost purchase. I knew it would be just us for a long time and if I wanted to document it a selfie stick would be the way to go. Anyway, I am glad it’s worked out so well.

After photos, we went outside for the egg hunt.

It wasn’t a sunny picturesque day at all, but it wasn’t raining at that moment and that’s all that mattered!

The kids had a blast finding eggs. SJ even found a real Robin’s egg! Sadly it was probably a storm casualty because the egg was homeless.

That night for dinner we had steak and we finished The Chosen series, which was so great.


It turned out to be a very special Easter. I was reminded of where my power source comes from, one that will never let me down.

By | April 17th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Social Distancing Week Four/ Spring Break/ Tornados

The fourth week off of school (April 6-10) was already scheduled off because of Spring Break. I had no intentions of doing anything special, we were quarantined after all. I was looking forward to a little less pressure though since there were no assignments due.

Becuase I had experienced so many wonderful “porch blessings” the week before I was seeking the Lord about how to pay it forward. One by one the opportunities arose. I had older neighbors and church family who needed masks and santizer which I happen to have extra of since we had the flu this year! I had another friend who needed toilet paper and packing tape. I happen to have plenty of that too!

I was also able to loan out some Bible based children’s books. On top of that, the kids made Easter cards for the retirement center for a card drive. They turned out really cute and felt good to be able to give back.

Spring Break 2020 was shaping up beautifully, all things considered. We were outside everyday and on Wednesday, April 8th, the kids were in their swimsuits  making a slip and slide with the water hose.

I got videos of them on my IG story laughing and splashing in the warm sunshine. I added the background music “I’ll stop the world and melt with you. You’ve seen the difference and it’s getting better all the time” because it seemed fitting. That night we were all hanging out watching “The Chosen” series when a Tornado siren started going off. We calmly gathered in the basement hall. Then the power went off and it was pitch black. You could hear thunder, sirens, wind, and cracking branches, but we couldn’t see anything. SJ started crying because she was so scared. I realized my phone was about to be dead and I was kicking myself for not having more of a charge on it. I texted my mom at 10:30 pm with the message “Power went out and my phone is almost dead. Trees went down. Sedona is scared. Pray for us.” Once the storm seemed to die down a bit J and I went out to collect the blown over trash cans and patio furniture in the rain. We surveyed some of the damage in the dark. It looked bad, but we were fine and so was our home. SJ was the most shaken up. She takes her cochlear implants off every night to charge them, but she can’t hear anything at all when they are off. That night, for the first time ever, I told her that we could switch to disposable batteries and she could leave the devices on while she slept. It was the security of knowing she could hear if there were an emergency.

We all laid down in sleeping bags and couches in the basement that night. We happened to have this lantern that is solar powered by the sun in the day and then looks like a flame when it gets dark. I’ve gotten compliments on it before, but now it was actually very practical as a night light for all of us as we slept.

I was the first one up the next day. I went outside and felt so deflated as I walked around.

I looked at the trees blocking the road (other than a path carved out by some heroic neighbors to insure road access). I saw an old pine tree of ours completely uprooted and laying on the ground. The neighbor behind us has a trampoline that went over their fence and landed in the yard next to us. Our chimey cap went across the street and into another neighbor’s yard. My biggest concern at that point was the electicity. I had two refrigerators fully stocked with hundreds of dollars worth of food since we were staying at home through the pandemic. I was also worried about not having a way to charge our devices. I know internet is somewhat of a luxury, but at this point we had been stuck at home for three and a half weeks with our screens being our only connection to our friends and family and now that was stripped away from us too!? My husband couldn’t work without power.

I got in the car and turned it on to charge my phone. Then I did what any good millennial (barely, I’m 37) would do and I made an Instagram story explaining our plight. I also posted it to Facebook. I started getting texts and calls immediately checking in on us and offering suggestions, or help. The first thing I did was get ice for our coolers. Driving around and seeing houses that had been hit and roofs blown off, I realized how we had it mild compared so many of those around us.

It felt weird traipsing into the gas station wearing a mask and looking disheveled. It was like Could my life get any weirder right now?.

Soon after that I got a text that said “Natalie call me about a generator. We can probably help you out.” I called and it was a client from my photography business. I had photographed their daughter’s wedding back when I was pregnant with Ellis (5 years ago). They were so kind to bring us a fully functioning generator to save all of our food and charge some of our devices.

My parents, who I hadn’t seen in weeks due to the quarantine, also swooped in to help. They brought Chick-fil-A for the whole family and a couple of chainsaws.

We got to work cleaning up the yard and ordered pizza for dinner. The food might have been saved, but there was no way to cook anything!

The next day we got a call from more people wanting to help. Our yard was fine now but there was devastation all over the neighborhood.

A family from our church came with a chainsaw and helped our neighbors clean up all the fallen trees in their yard.

There were still tons of roads closed. At one point J went out and could not get back home until finally a fire marshal came to the scene where cars were lined up. The informed the utility workers that they had to leave access to come and go.

We still had no power and were scheduled to record two church services back to back that night for our online services. I hadn’t showered in days and wasn’t feeling up to it, but there were others in the worship band in the same boat and we all agreed to just power through. The kids stayed at my parent’s house because we had no lights or heat and the temperature had dipped down to freezing. I don’t remember the last time I felt so completely defeated.

Our power came back on Saturday morning. I was beyond grateful to have a hot shower. We drove down to my parents to pick up the kids and on the way home we stopped at Walmart so that I could pick up a few things. I grabbed some bags of candy and a couple of steaks while I was there because the next day was Easter…

By | April 15th, 2020|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Social Distancing Week Three

This post is about our third week with our schools shut down (March 30- April 3). I am a little behind on posting and I’ll explain why later. For now though I want to chronicle what it is like to suddenly be forced to stay in your home during a pandemic. Maybe at some point, my grandchildren or someone will want to read about it the way we would be interested in reading about a first hand experience during The Great Depression or World War.

The word I would use to describe my emotions throughout all of this would be waves. The shock comes in waves. The first week out of school was incredibly difficult! The second week seemed better. The third week was back to difficult for me.

The school closures happened so suddenly and without warning that at first there was no plan. So the first two weeks the district encouraged everyone to do their own curriculums and schedules. It was a season I refer to as the wild west. Now they are enforcing (in some ways) lesson plans, conferences, and assignments that students are expected to participate in. They call this “Distance Learning”. School is back in session, but it’s from home now.  For my 6th and 3rd grader this meant they would need to do their school work online and my 1st grader had a packet sent in the mail. We ordered a chrome book so that Z could do his work, but it isn’t due to arrive until the end of the month so that’s not much help. Luckily he is a technology mastermind (in my eyes) and he was able to take an old broken Chrome book that we had lying around, somehow plug it into our TV to be used as a monitor and paired it with a wireless keyboard.

So that’s what Z is using, but SJ was still lacking. She can’t do all of her schoolwork on my old iPhone like we had been doing. The school offered loaner chrome books for students that needed a device so I signed up. It was a weird feeling going into the school during quarantine and this was another wave of shock for me. There were no instructions so I asked what we needed to do (I was curious if there would be guidelines or a sign-in for this laptop?). The principal encouraged me to ask Z. She said “He’ll know what to do.”

I really struggled to be able to teach all three kids at different grade levels. I know enough about homeschooling and Montessori education to see the beauty of teaching kids at different levels through cooking, science, read alouds, nature observation etc. Each child will absorb the lesson at their level and the older kids will help the younger. The problem is, this isn’t homeschooling. This is now distance learning so all three kids have completely different websites, worksheets, books, and projects. I have them in separate parts of the house, but other than my 6th grader they aren’t independent learners! So I hear “MOM!!!” being screamed from one room and I go to help the third grader with a problem that, let’s be honest, I don’t understand because math is different than it was when I was in school. Then I hear fighting from the other room and realize that the preschooler is in tears. I separate them, hand the youngest a tablet to play on, and start addressing my first grader with a tone that does not display the fruits of the spirit at all. After throwing a box of tissues across the room because I am so done I get a text from my husband who needs it to be quiet because he is on a conference call.

That’s another thing, everyone is always on someone kind of video conference! I feel like my home has been invaded. Where I used to be able to walk around in pajamas with a towel on my head singing at the top of my lungs in my own private space. Now I have to worry that the hot mess life I live is going to be on video! Then I have to try to get little brother and sister to keep quiet too. We have 6 people in a three bedroom house. We are blessed, but it’s not a huge house!

SJ is also struggling to adapt to being on video. She doesn’t like hearing herself and it probably has to do with her speech delay. Her teacher posted a video with the question “How are you feeling about distance learning ?” Video after video showed responses of cheery children who all enthusiastically agree that they are EXCITED about this next month of distance learning. Then there was SJ. She solemnly says “I am excited… and a little bit NOT excited because I don’t really like to be on videos. I just like to be at school like it has always been, before this happened.” Thankfully SJ’s amazing teacher sent her an email telling her she did not have to do videos. She could participate in Q&A and lessons however she felt comfortable. 

 By the time Friday rolled around I was beat. I kept hearing that there were people who were bored during this time of quarantine. That sounded amazing, I felt more stressed-out than ever. Just when I wanted to give up I got several encouragements through my friends and community that weekend. First I had a neighbor drop off treats for the kids at the door step.

Then a friend left Starbucks and my favorite LaRosa’s Pizza and ice cream at our doorstep.

Then we made a sign together for the teacher parade that was coming through.

We walked to a designated area (practicing social distancing of course) and waited for the cars.

The kids got to see their teachers and cheer for them as they drove by.

The teachers waved and simultaneously cheered for their students.

It was absolutely beautiful.

The next morning was the icing on the cake. The kids had been preparing to be in charge of our weekly Saturday morning “Busch Brunch”.

Usually I cook the brunch and they eat it. This time, not only did they prepare the whole meal but they made it really special by playing music, refilling our coffee, and writing their names upside down (rightside up from our perspective) because I had previously told them that’s what I did when I was a waitress at Macaroni Grill.

I let all the tears come at this precious display and I will cherish it forever!

Lastly, a friend dropped off some sunflower seeds and soil at our doorstep and SJ received seeds in the mail from her teacher! What a great way to show kindness during the quarantine. My heart was full!

All these acts of kindness lifted my spirits. It was like God reminding me that He sees my struggle and we are going to get through this. I felt like this was the perfect kick off for what would be an uneventful stay-at-home Spring Break. Or so I thought…

By | April 14th, 2020|Uncategorized|3 Comments

April Meal Plan {30 Days of Keto Quarantine}

Yesterday I posted this on Facebook and now I have requests for the full scoop.

Because we are following the extended stay at home order for the month of April I felt it would be helpful to have a game plan. I have 540 servings to prepare during this crisis situation. With so much that is out of my hands right now, I think this meal strategy gives me some semblance of control. That is a screenshot of my actual calendar in the graphic above.

I will not post all the breakfast and lunch options because those are pretty repetitive and I’ll leave those ideas for another post.

Here are my dinner recipes for day 1-30 though.

April 1: Spaghetti and meatballs with Ceaser salad (for Keto there is no spaghetti and limited low sugar sauce)

April 2: Zucchini Lasagna A Busch Family fave! Way easier if you have the ground beef prepped in advance. A simple recipe either way. I have it memorized.

April 3: Creamy Spinach Chicken Another FAVORITE here.

April 4: Mississippi chicken Dump it all in the crockpot. That’s it! Side options- salad, mashed potatoes or cauliflower, rolls or rice.

April 5: Turkey I don’t make turkey often, but when meat was low at the stores I snatched it up! Serve with a side of green bean casserole (without the crunchy onions for Keto) and succotash.

April 6: Pork chops Bone-in in the crockpot. Season with lemon pepper and add some onions and mushrooms. Serve with salad. Super easy, cheap, and in my case kid-friendly.

April 7: Pizza. Frozen pizza for the kids. Low carb pizza for the adults.

April 8: Low Carb chicken parmesan 

April 9: Kabobs with rice or cauliflower rice.

April 10: Taco soup. My kids don’t even like soup, but they will eat this. I buy a 3 lb roll of ground beef and cook it all at once then divide it up to use in recipes like this and the next one.

April 11: Stuffed peppers. Another Busch family favorite. I actually don’t follow a recipe. Saute some onions, olives, and mushrooms. Add a pound of browned ground beef and a half a cup of salsa. Fill the empty bell pepper shells and top with cheddar cheese. Add a little bit of water to the pan that you are baking them in and bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

April 12: Ham! It’s Easter. When you buy ham for less than a dollar a pound it’s so cheap and lasts forever. You can eat the leftovers with mac and cheese, or in an omelet. I even make bone broth out of the bone and it has so many health benefits which we really need all we can get right now. The Ham I got was $.85 a lb at Aldi. That means for $9.28 dollars I can have the main course for three meals for a family of SIX!

April 13: Low Carb Mexican Casserole. I haven’t made this recipe yet, but we love a good casserole

April 14: Low Carb Butter Beef. Pot roast are easy to make. Just set it, forget it. Whether stew or Asada or corned beef is a simple hearty meal.

April 15: Left Overs (probably ham)

April 16: Burgers. Bunless if you are low carbing. This cucumber salad on the side is yumazing.

April 17: Pesto Chicken with Zucchini noodles

This is my own recipe. Saute garlic, a 1/2 cup of mushrooms, a tablespoon (or more each) of sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and olives in oil for 5 minutes. Add sliced chicken four or five breasts for my family. Mix with two tablespoons of pesto. Layer on top of zucchini noodles which you can make fresh or buy prepackaged. This photo is not the keto version. The only difference is use regular pasta.

April 18: Creamy Spinach chicken (because it’s been a couple of weeks and we love it)

April 19: Pizza again

April 20: Zesty chicken enchilada. I love one-pot meals. We always serve over chopped romaine

April 21:Ribs. Serve with mash potatoes or cauliflower and steamed broccoli. Buy preseasoned and put it in the crockpot on low for four hours. So easy and delicious!

April 22: Low Carb keto cheesesteak skillet. I haven’t tried this one yet. I added a couple of new meals to keep things fresh.

April 23: Fish and asparagus. I buy Tilapia from Aldi. I use this recipe to bake it. I bake the asparagus in a large toaster oven at the same time (cover with oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and bake 20 minutes at 375)

April 24: Keto cauliflower Ziti similar to zucchini lasagna. Use low sugar sauce.

April 25: Carne Asada with cheese quesadillas for the kids. Lots of lettuce, guac, sour cream, Aldi Salsa (yum) and cheese.

April 26: Pork Tenderloin. If you haven’t cooked this you should try. It’s so easy to bake and really low cost. Chop up some decent size root vegetables and/or brussel sprouts and bake with a preseasoned pork tenderloin all together. I linked to a recipe but the directions are right on the package.

April 27: A Whole Chicken in the crockpot with a bunch of veggies like carrots, cellery, garlic, onion etc.. My kids love to see the bones and fight over who gets to pull the wishbone apart. This is another meal that is very economical and healthy.

April 28: Brats and Metts topped with a jar of “Italian sandwich mix”. Add deviled eggs and broccoli on the side. These sausages are a Cincinnati tradition. You can substitute with hotdogs or other sausages.

April 29: Low carb crockpot pizza. We have tried all the low carb pizza recipes in this family.

April 30: Turkey Tenderloin. Similar to pork tenderloin. Buy it preseasoned from Aldi, Kroger, or wherever you shop. It’s easy to follow the directions on the package and it’s always moist and flavorful. Side of green beans and mashed potatoes.

By | April 2nd, 2020|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Social Distancing Week 2

I have compared the stages of quarantine to be similar to the stages of grief in some ways. I started out in denial, then anger, then I started to have a light-hearted, you have to laugh to keep from crying approach. This past week was crazy, but I feel like I have overcome some huge hurdles and really had some breakthroughs!

First off I got a new phone. This is a game-changer. My old phone was barely hanging on and right now I am the director of social media at our church (and for Messy Mom AND my photography business) so I could really benefit from a good quality phone especially when we are doing everything via video. This was harder than it should have been with all of the Apple and AT&T stores being closed for COVID-19. We eventually got it figured out though and it was mailed straight to my door. It was perfect timing because now that SJ is doing online videos with teachers and classes it helps her to have Bluetooth streaming the audio to her cochlear implants. I could have let her borrow my phone but once it’s synced everything from phone calls to music and GPS will go straight into her little bionic ears. As you can imagine this is frustrating to everyone. Now that I have a new phone I have let her use my old phone and we just keep the Bluetooth synced to her devices! It’s great.

She is still REALLY adjusting to video conferences. Quite frankly she hates being on video and talking for a recording. It has not been an easy transition at all and I’m sure there are other parents that have kids in the same boat. One sweet story though, is that her teacher started reading The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. Although you are not expected to get the book and read along with the teacher we actually already owned it! I love The Tale of Despereaux. We own the DVD too. One of the reasons it is special to me is because it’s about a brave little mouse that is different than all of the others. One of the reasons he is different is because of his ears and another reason is that he doesn’t scurry or cower. SJ was also different because of her ears (although they aren’t big like Despereaux) and she has always been brave and one of the things we noticed before we knew that she was deaf was that she didn’t seem to startle like a hearing child. All that to say it was very touching that this book is the read-aloud during this trying season. And how awesome is it that we have the technology for SJ to hear her teacher read aloud and have the sound go straight to her implants!?

Another breakthrough we had this week that made a huge difference was having desk areas for each kid. It’s been almost a fun challenge to know all of the problems that we are solving have to be using what we already have on hand. Sure, there are some stores open, but it definitely detours the idea of running out to Ikea or Hobby Lobby which can lead to overdoing and overspending.

We made nameplates together for a class project and the kids loved it!

  I think the nameplates really help them to feel a sense of pride in their workspace.

Z’s desk is a table that we have in the basement.

SJ’s is in the girl’s bedroom. It was her idea to ditch Elle’s toddler bed that was taking up a ton of space and have Elle sleep with her. This freed up room to add a little table and they are all happy with it. Yes, we are wanting to get bunk beds. In fact, we recently ordered one from one of those auction sites but it didn’t have all the parts so it was a bust. For now though, this works!

Last but not least Ezie is using a table in the living room by the balcony. It’s very loft chic.

I’m using my imagination here, but regardless of how simple our setup is, I am definitely proud of the fact that we managed to find a space for each of them in our three-bedroom home.

I’m really much happier with how the end of this week has gone compared to the first 10 days of social distancing. We are finding our rhythm, and getting to do some things that we normally wouldn’t like eat outside with J in the middle of the day. We also met one of our neighbors (from a distance) on a walk because she had a giant bear on her porch for the lockdown bear hunt.

We have dressed up for spirit day at school and left encouraging messages on social media.

It’s still tough. One day I was so frustrated I stormed out of the house and just started walking down the street to release some steam. Another day SJ was in tears because she didn’t want to record a video to answer the question from the teacher. I had another child ask “Can I be freed now?”. So we’re not the Brady Bunch here. This is hard stuff. It is getting easier though and I wanted to share in case it was an encouragement to anyone else. Bring on week three.

By | March 27th, 2020|Uncategorized|5 Comments

My First Week of Social Distancing

Compassion is not a pizza.

That’s the phrase that has been going through my head this past week.

You see, last week life was normal for us. I had a conversation with my parents in a Chick-fil-A on Monday (March 9th) talking about the Coronavirus and how in my little town in Ohio it wasn’t affecting us. My exact words were “we’ve been doing business as usual”.

Then on Thursday (March 12) everything came to a screeching halt. As in- slam the breaks, no seatbelt, we are all ejected into an alternate universe. I was actually looking at my phone scrolling through hairstyles for my daughter to choose for the father daughter dance the next night. She was so excited. Then I got the text that it was canceled. I couldn’t believe it. It was 24 hours away, what had changed? Then I got the next update that school would be closed for 4 weeks.

Tears welled up in my eyes and I even started to get angry. I wasn’t upset about my children being home, I was upset that the government was enforcing their idea of health onto my family. I believe that getting dirty and not overdoing antibiotics will build a strong immune system more than disinfecting everything. I am the one who told my husband not to stop the car when the baby was being born on the way to the hospital because ‘Once you get the paramedics involved they’ll treat it like an emergency and I don’t see birth as an illness’. I want to be in control of my health, not the government. Please don’t freak out on me without reading the rest of the article, we’ll get back to that.

Friday (March 13) was the last day of school for the kids. One thing after another was being canceled. First church, then restaurants, gymnastics, the roller rink where my daughter’s birthday party was scheduled to happen, dentist appointments and pretty much everything else. It really was like a real life apocalyptic sci-fi movie. I went to the grocery store to find rows and rows of empty shelves. I bought things I never would have like cans of peaches, and high priced paper towels because that was all that was left.

I had to pinch myself to see if this was really happening. I have daily to-do lists on an app and every morning I go through and delete the previous week’s list to add new ones. Here are some of the things that I did last week.

Go to the library

Dentist appointment

Meeting at church

Sedona’s Gymnastics class

Pick Zion up from Lego League

Make invitations for Sedona’s Birthday

So every day (up until now) I looked at a snapshot of the week before, when those things were all very normal. Every day I was reminded that last week I was living my life not knowing my whole world was about to be turned upside down. I was devastated.

That was the initial shock. The reality is that although I still don’t understand all there is to know about the coronavirus I know a lot more now to realize why all the shutdowns are mandatory.  I am completely compliant and supportive because it is apparently necessary with this freakishly contagious virus that we have no treatment for. We are obaying the president and our governor.

I also realized how blessed we are to be able to make this transition fairly seamlessly. I am a stay at home mom. My husband works from home already. I have lots of supportive homeschool friends and family who have shared their wisdom. I also have a 12 year old who has helped me navigate not only his academics but those of his younger siblings as well.

We have high speed internet and technology to facilitate their virtual classroom needs. We have plenty of food and toilet paper (not because I bought extra). We live in a decent size house with a big backyard and I can only imagine what it would be like to be in an apartment in the city right now.

As you can see I have so much to be thankful for, which is why I feel guilty for ever feeling tired of it all already. I feel embarrassed that I ever dug my heels into the ground about this quarantine in the first place. But here is where “compassion is not a pizza” comes in. I read Brené Brown’s book “Rising Strong” years ago and this part has always stuck with me:

“Empathy is not finite, and compassion is not a pizza with eight slices. When you practice empathy and compassion with someone, there is not less of these qualities to go around. There’s more. Love is the last thing we need to ration in this world. The refugee in Syria doesn’t benefit more if you conserve your kindness only for her and withhold it from your neighbor who’s going through a divorce. Yes, perspective is critical. But I’m a firm believer that complaining is okay as long as we piss and moan with a little perspective. Hurt is hurt, and every time we honor our own struggle and the struggles of others by responding with empathy and compassion, the healing that results affects all of us.”


Bam! In this case, I am choosing to honor my own struggle. I have tried to reach out to those around me who are in need right now whether with prayer or Lysol! I am not wanting to make this all about myself and why I’ve got it so bad, because I know I don’t!

However, it’s okay to be sad about the father daughter dance and skate party being canceled. The same applies to you. It’s understandable if you miss going to the gym or your hairdressser. You are allowed to get frustrated at your loud kids and wish that you could escape somehow. It doesn’t mean that you are a terrible person that doesn’t care about Italy or the elderly. We just have to make sure we keep it all in perspective. That’s the key. I know I have it good. I also know that God cares when one sparrow falls, he cares that my seven year old misses his classmates.

Compassion is not a pizza.

By | March 20th, 2020|Uncategorized|6 Comments

Kids and Chores Part 2

Yesterday I wrote an article about Kids and Chores. It was mostly a pep talk about how even if you are struggling with getting little ones to do housework keep making an effort because it is worth it. Today I will be sharing a peek into the details of how we do this in our home. I will also be throwing out some links to other articles on the topic.

Are we ready to dive in?


First of all, one of my most popular Messy Mom posts of all time is “Ideas for Helping Kids With Daily Routines“. Getting into a routine goes hand in hand with housework expectations so if you are looking for ideas on how to get your kids on a schedule then check this post out. For our family, the morning starts with the kids making their bed (usually) and unloading the dishwasher.

Dishwasher Hack

If you have multiple kids I can’t recommend this enough. I don’t even remember when I got the idea, but we’ve been doing it for years. The dishes are being washed through the night because I love nothing more than knowing that a machine is cleaning for me while I sleep! Then in the morning, the kids know they just have to unload one little part and it makes it super easy. I will refer to my children by their ages here because it might be helpful.

12 -year-old- unloads bottom rack

10-year-old- top rack

7-year-old- silverware

4-year-old- Tupperware

We just started implementing the Tupperware one this week. I am trying to stop babying the baby and gradually give her responsibilities. I chose the Tupperware because I keep mine in the very bottom cabinet so she can reach it and Tupperware isn’t sharp or breakable. We’ll see how it goes.

One last thing that I love about the unloaded dishwasher routine is that it forces me to get the dishwasher loaded and started at night. I try to have the family put their own plates in the dishwasher, but I am usually the one to truly get the loading job done. Anyway, some nights I don’t feel like it, but I do it anyway because I know that if I don’t start the dishwasher it won’t get unloaded in the morning.

Daily Chores

I have an app on my phone called Cozi, I’ve blogged about it before (you can read the post here) and it’s where I keep all of my To-Do lists. I have a list titled “Kids Chores” and they each have a checklist of what is expected of them that day.

We try to do chores every weekday immediately following the after school snack. This may not work for everyone, but they like getting it out of the way so that’s what we do. Some days there are fewer chores. Some days we don’t do any, but the four chores a day is pretty common.

Here is a generic list of jobs that I may assign them

12 -year-old


Take out trash (and reline trash can)

Sweep (I only make them do one room)

“Make couches look pretty” This is specific to our home and it involves fixing the couch cover and throw pillows and folding the blankets that go over the arms of the couches.

Clean bathroom counter and sink

Do a load of laundry


Put folded towels away

Bring garbage cans to and from the curb

Wipe down kitchen counters

Wash windows



Tidy up entryway (where the coats, backpacks, and shoes are)

Wipe down kitchen appliances

Set the table

Wash dishes

Clean up the toys in the play area

It gets changed up and I didn’t list everything because today, for example, one chore on my 10-year-old’s list was “clean up the basket in your room” so it can get pretty specific depending on what needs to be done. Almost all the elementary age kids can do all of the same chores, but I know certain kids are better at certain chores so I try to pair it up fairly and appropriately. Also, I didn’t even add the 4-year-old to these examples because she isn’t really helpful yet. We are still at the stage of teaching. It’s all very supervised and guided and often I even have to redo her work. The others can read and do stuff on their own. She’ll get there though.


I used to try to pay them for chores so that they could learn about money. Sadly, I have four kids now and I have run out of money. Just kidding… kind of. We do not pay them anything these days unless I have extra jobs. If there is company coming over and I know I have to spend hours scrubbing the staircase, emptying all of the little trash cans in each room, dusting etc. then I usually enlist helpers and give them each one dollar for going above and beyond. I know I am cheap. I have read what you all do for the tooth fairy and allowance and what not. Thankfully my kids haven’t complained and I don’t feel too bad. I would rather them learn to do it as a contribution to the family and good stewardship. Like I always say though, one day and one child at a time. It could change later.

That’s pretty much it for the Messy Mom’s clean up crew. If you are parenting school-age children I highly recommend the book “Cleaning House A Mom’s 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement” by Kay Wills Wyma. It was very eye-opening for me.

I’d love to hear your ideas and what works for you. I know every home is different and it’s nice to get ideas from one another.

By | March 12th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments