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|1 Comment

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|1 Comment

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|5 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?

Routine

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

Fold

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

10-year-old

Put folded towels away

Bring garbage cans to and from the curb

Wipe down kitchen counters

Wash windows

Vacuum

7-year-old

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.

Allowance

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

Kids and Chores

Toddlers and preschoolers aren’t known for being tidy. It takes superpower skills to get them to do chores. When they want to help (i.e. cook)  it’s usually inconvenient for us. Then when we want them to help (i.e. clean up their toys) it’s usually inconvenient for them. I still have a child that is the preschool category.  I am living that reality and it feels like a constant battle.

So I am preaching to myself and all of you mamas of littles when I say that it will pay off in the long run. Train your kids to help around the house. Do whatever it takes to get them involved in housework! I know it feels like it’s more trouble than it’s worth, but that is false. Not only is it going to help your children as they grow into adulthood, but it will also help you when they start to become more efficient at these tasks.

I can’t speak to the teenage years, but I have three elementary-age kids and so far it has gotten easier as they have matured. My three older children, ages 7, 10, and 12, do chores every weekday. They actually HELP me, and it is incredible. Every day I wake up and the dishwasher is unloaded.

Every Tuesday the trash and recycling are brought to the curb and taken back in after school. Almost every day their beds are made (not perfect, but tidied up). I have laborers to bring baskets of laundry up and down the stairs for me. When I didn’t get to sweep during the day I realize I can just add it to one of the kid’s chore lists and I get a huge grin every time I have a burden lifted. I have to pinch myself that I am not doing all the housework all by myself anymore! The best part is that I don’t have to nag and gripe (as much as I used to). It really is a dream come true.

How did you do it Messy Mom? You may ask.

Step one, Just do something. I don’t care if you do Marie Kondo’s “Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” or sing Daniel Tiger’s “clean up pick up, put away clean up, every day”. It is not about the method. It’s about the growth that comes from the contribution.

I have tried sooo many different systems. We’ve done rewards, payments, chore charts, competitions and more. It’s kind of embarrassing because in the past I would try a new system and even blog about it. Then I would fall off the wagon and feel like a failure, but the truth is I haven’t failed. I am inconsistent and imperfect, but I am NOT apathetic. So don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you are getting nowhere.  You are planting seeds whether you see any fruit yet or not.

Step two, have realistic expectations. You might be wondering why you should take advice about housekeeping from the MESSY mom. You shouldn’t. If you want to have an immaculate house, do not read this article. If you regularly scrub the crevices of your microwave and fold your sheets in a military fashion then I am probably not your gal. No shame to you neat freaks (quite frankly I am jealous). As the Messy Mom though, my house is never going to be showroom ready and our living room isn’t going to be getting hundreds of likes on Instagram. However, if you just want your kids to chip in some and have a good attitude about it, I can tell you what has worked out for us.

I’ll say it again though, it isn’t so much about the how as it is about the why. There are many paths that can lead to responsible kids that help around the house. Just pick a path and start walking. If I can do it, you can. Change paths if you want, but keep walking. Take it one step at a time.

Oh, and one last little disclaimer. My kids are not perfect. I might wake up tomorrow and find out they went on strike and never want to make their bed ever again. I am just taking it one day and one child at a time. Pride goes before the fall.

For now though, we’ve got a good rhythm. It’s lightened my load  and made our home a lot more orderly. I’d call that a win. So for those who don’t have children at that age yet, just hang in there! If your kids are older, but you still feel lost check back tomorrow for some practical solutions and our personal routine/system.

 

 

By | March 11th, 2020|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Inspiring Mom Jean Schmidt

When I first met Jean Schmidt she was going door to door in my neighborhood passing out flyers for her campaign and answering any questions locals might have about her run for State Representative. I took the flyer and told her thank you while I went back to hurriedly preparing my kids to go out the door for gymnastics practice. I glanced down at the flyer in my hand and read the words “Jean is 100% Pro-Life and has fought for the unborn throughout her life”. I felt like I needed to go give her a hug and to thank her for her work in fighting for the unborn. I didn’t grab my coat or even tell my kids where I was going, but I immediately ran after her. She had left my property by this time and I had to wonder how weird it would be for me to be chasing her down, but I did it anyway. I didn’t know anything about this woman, except she was out in the streets by herself walking from one door to the next in the back of a huge neighborhood where the houses have quite a bit of distance between them. This takes stamina and commitment for sure! I knew this woman had grit and I had to meet her to find out more. First I hugged her neck and thanked her for being a voice for the voiceless. Then we began chatting. The more I heard of her story the more intrigued I became and asked her if I could get her contact info and do a formal interview for my blog. I am so grateful that she agreed! Her story is absolutely fascinating and definitely checks all the boxes of what “Inspiring Moms” is all about.
Her story begins with her parents who lived out a real-life version of the classic tale of a poor farm boy falling in love with an affluent well educated young lady. Although Jean’s father didn’t have much of an education himself, he always believed that if you work hard, live a clean life, and keep God first then anything is impossible. His strong work ethic drove him to push and keep trying until he had nothing left to give. In the end, all of his hard work and dedication paid off and allowed him to become very successful. Jean’s mother shared those same values. She earned a college degree majoring in French. The two of them married and raised their four children on a gorgeous farm in Miami Township. They taught their children to the same values and principles that allowed them to pursue their dreams. It’s no wonder Jean has such courage and strength. It took a lot of work to get to where she is today.
As Jean looks back at the beginning of her career journey and says “I worked my way through college cleaning houses on new construction sites. I also worked in a bank.  I graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in Political Science” She married her husband Peter Schmidt and they had a daughter. Shortly after the birth of their little girl Jean left her job at the bank to be a full-time mom. Jean read up on motherhood before and after her pregnancy wanting to be prepared. One of the things she learned in that time was that running can often be helpful in fighting postpartum depression. So Jean decided to run. She ran daily and she kept running. She worked her way up to running her first marathon in 1990 and over the course of the next two decades Jean has run a total of 149 marathons and counting!
As far as how Jean got involved in politics she says “I have always been active in the Republican Party.  At first, I worked on campaigns for other folks-  writing copy, making signs, etc.  In 1989 I decided to run for Miami Township Trustee. I served in that position until 2000 when I was elected to the State Legislature.  In 2005 I ran for Congress and served until 2013.  I began teaching at Chatfield College and continue to teach.”
Jean has always been passionate about the rights of the unborn.
She attributes her activism in great part to her mother. “Before Roe. V Wade, abortion was a state by state decision” Jean says “Mom did not want our state legislature to allow abortions and even when I was younger she brought me to our state capital to fight against it.” She says her parents were friends with John and Barbara Wilke and were with them when they started the Right to Life movement in Cincinnati. Jane says her first memory of protesting was in front of Fountain Square in Cincinnati. Jane reflects on the days her mother fought against this injustice even while battling Colon cancer. If her mom felt well enough after chemo treatments she would protest in other areas of Cincinnati. Jane took care of her for almost 8 years until she passed away. She will never ever forget what her mother taught her and her legacy continues on.
Jane was the first state legislator to successfully defund Planned Parenthood. She was President of the Right to Life organization in Cincinnati.  In Congress, she was chair of the Pro-Life Woman’s Caucus.   “Many times on the House Floor Vice President Mike Pence and I would host an hour talking about the right to life movement.  We became friends and I am so glad he is our vice-President.”
Jane was enthusiastic when she told me that she is ready to serve in Columbus for many reasons. She said she wants to help protect life for everyone, the unborn, those at risk, and the elderly. She is committed to finding ways to end abortion.
I am so glad that I happened to run after Jane. Here I was worried that running would make me look like a weirdo when Jane is all about running! Running for office, and literally running in marathons. Washington Post recently compiled a ranking of the most prolific athletes to serve in Government and Jean Schmidt came out on top! from the Washington Post article.
Here is a brief excerpt from that article:
“It’s a mind-set,” Schmidt said, just days after completing her 20-somethingth Boston in April. “You just have to roll with it and move forward and always look at the goal. You want to finish the race. You want to win that election.” You can read the rest of the Washington Post article here.
 Jean Schmidt is dedicated to her family including her husband of 44 years, their daughter and two grandsons. She is excited about this next season and encourages everyone to go out and vote on March 17th!
By | February 26th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Planning 7 months in Advance

Alternate title, “Officially Adulting”. Seriously, though I have spent my whole life procrastinating and flying by the seat of my pants. Now that I have kids in school it’s a whole new ballgame.

As soon as the Holidays were over and the kids were back in school deadlines for enrollment for summer camp and 2020/2021 school year registrations all started rolling in. It is freezing outside and we are planning for SUMMER! Not only is it for summer camp, but also campgrounds. We have learned the hard way over the years that people start booking their summer campsites way in advance. When I was a kid we never made reservations for camping. That’s way too fancy. Back then you pull over at a spot that looked decent, give 7 bucks to the person at the park entrance and call it a night. Times have changed! Now there are some prime places that if you don’t reserve your spot 6 months or more in advance you will not have one. Or maybe you do claim a spot but you end up with a crowded well-lit area by the outhouses and parking lot. It’s better to plan ahead.

Yes, having four kids with activities and deadlines has forced me into being hyper-organized about our calendar.  Here are just some of the things that I have already planned for this summer and even fall *gasp*.

Preschool

I wasn’t planning on her doing a traditional preschool. I figured homeschool would be just fine. It would save me the extra trips in the car (and the part where you have to park and go in and wait for your kid) and also tons of money. The thing is, Elle is the baby of the family and even though she is four now we inadvertently treat her like she is a one year old. I felt like getting her into a classroom setting for a couple of hours a day a few times a week would help get her ready for Kindergarten. So inJanuary J and I made this decision to try to get her into a preschool. I felt like I was way ahead of schedule when I called the preschool to see how to proceed. It turned out the deadline for registration was less than 24 hours away. I got it in just in the nick of time!

Junior High 

I already talked about this last week. Z is officially starting Junior High in the fall. Eek. It will also be his first year to attend youth camp!

Alumni Camp

This will be SJ’s 2nd year meeting up with all of her pals from her old school. They are all deaf just like her and they get the chance to do the coolest activities together. This week is guaranteed to be a blast!

Lastly, we are going on our first midwest road trip and I couldn’t be more excited. We’ll be meeting up with friends along the way and camping out under the stars when we arrive. In fact, that’s what inspired this blog post. When I wrote to friends (in various states that we would be stopping at) I gave them dates in the summer and assured them that our feelings wouldn’t be hurt if they already had plans. The funny part is they all acted a little I was crazy thinking they would have plans for July! I guess I should know better than to assume that everyone else is scheduling seven months in advance.

 

What about you? Do you already have your summer planned?

By | February 19th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Big Year for Z

This year is such a big milestone for my oldest son Z. He is starting Middle School, he is officially becoming a teenager, he’s getting a passport and so much more. Exciting stuff!

Probably the most significant milestone of all just took place this last Sunday. Z accepted Christ as his Lord and savior several years ago, but over the past year it has started to become more personal to him. He has gone deeper in his faith, reading his Bible and being convicted by the Holy Spirit. So after reading some scripture and coming to the decision on his own to pursue water baptism we were completely supportive.

J scheduled someone else to lead worship that day because we usually have the band play throughout the baptism and J wanted to be the one to baptize him.

My family showed up along with one of Z’s best friends. My dad brought a tripod to get the whole thing on Facebook live for those who couldn’t make it. Z was beaming when he approached the baptismal with his dad. The youth pastor and several of the older guys in the youth group went right up to the front to show their support. I hugged every one of them afterward. I know that for me, having supportive friends and a good youth group is what got me through those middle school and high school years so that means the world to me. It was all truly sacred and something that I know he will look back at as an anchor in his life. What a gift.

I have had such a full plate lately that when I posted a video of Z on Instagram I put the date as February 11th (even though it was the 9th). The funny thing is, I know why I put February 11th. That is the day of the Parent Meeting at our junior high and it’s really important! So that date has been in the forefront of my mind.

Z already signed up for what classes he wants and submited his schedule. Official registration is due in a week and tonight we will get a tour of the school and hear all about the Junior High program. On top of all of that this Saturday we are going to Columbus Ohio for a regional Chemistry competition that Z is in. He is on a team for a program called  You Be the Chemist. My mom took off of work and we are all going to be there to support him just like if it were regionals in football.

The following Saturday Z will be taking a big test that he has been studying for for a long time. It is one of the criteria to determine whether or not he will be doing high school math starting in 7th grade. I am not afraid to announce it because whether or not he advances in Chemistry competition or does accelerated math or not, I am just proud of him. I always tell people how all four of my kids are so different. They all have different strengths and things that the accel in or struggle with. Z just happens to be a natural in the academic field, specifically math and science. He wants to be an engineer and his father and I are ready to support him in any way that we can knowing that he is still just a kid. A kid that is quickly growing up right before my eyes!

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.

I’ll stop doting now. If you need me I’ll be looking through old baby photos and dabbing my eyes with tissues.

By | February 11th, 2020|Uncategorized|3 Comments