Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The homeschool mom's guide to sick days

I'm sick. Its just a cold, so I'm not going to die or anything, but being the mom and being sick ought to be mutually exclusive, in my opinion. No one gave me the number for the homeschooling sub line, so I guess I'm stuck being the one in charge, despite my deep desire to do nothing but curl up with my box of Kleenex, a hot cup of tea, and watch the rest of Downton Abbey season 3 (which I have not watched yet, so don't you dare give anything away!).

So what do you do when you're the mom, and the teacher, and there's no hope of a replacement? There are a few go-to things that can help the day go by smoothly and keep you from feeling too terribly guilty that your sick day is turning into a total day-off for the kids. (Although if it does, don't beat yourself up. This kind of flexibility is one of the benefits of homeschooling).

1. Audio books or stories

We enjoy a lot of audio stories, especially in the car. But at home, they can be a great quiet time activity, allowing you to not only get some much needed rest, but expose your kids to great language and literature at the same time. Picture this - you, on the couch with your tea (or beverage of choice), doing nothing while your kids soak up rich language and literary awesomeness. That sounds like a win-win to me.

Check out the tons of great stories by Jim Weiss, and we love all the wonderful free stories on

2. Netflix

Yes, I am suggesting TV. Gasp! But the screen! The mind-melting effect of television! The horror!

Let go of your mommy-guilt, and turn the darn thing on. No, I don't normally let my kids watch lots of TV, but I do let them watch some and there are days when "some" turns into "a lot." Like today. But maybe use that time to watch that documentary on ancient Rome you thought the kids might enjoy. Watch March of the Penguins. Let them watch episodes of Magic School Bus. Let your preschooler watch a Leapfrog show. There are a lot of pretty great shows available, and whether you have Netflix, or some cool DVDs in your collection, declaring a movie-afternoon isn't a bad thing once in a while.

Even non-educational movies can have value. Watch The Little Mermaid, then listen to or read the original version later. Talk about how they are the same, and how they are different. Watch a fun family move, then use it as a springboard to talk about characters, plot and conflict. Movies have the ability to distill an entire plot line with character arc, conflict and resolution, all in one sitting. Use the movie to point out some of these very literary elements in a new way.

3. Art

Get out some art supplies and have at it. Make recycled material robots or cars. Cover your table with a table cloth, put out your paints and paint brushes, a big stack of paper, and let them go to town. Get out the play dough, or even just a bunch of paper, crayons, markers, scissors, tape and glue. Don't worry about how much they use - let them use the supplies freely. Many kids love to create and giving them free access to supplies and the time to use them is a great use of an afternoon.

4. Music

Do you hear about those families who regularly play classical music while the kids copy lines from the Declaration of Independence or the Bible? Have you been wanting to include more music exposure in your homeschool? Use the sick day to give it a try. Don't make a production out of it - just log into Spotify, or grab a classical music CD you already own, and hit play. Let it be on in the background while they play with their toys and let the melodies and magic of great music soothe you.

When all else fails, just do your best. Throw some food at them now and then, make sure they have access to clean water, and know that you'll feel better soon and a few days thrown off by illness isn't going to hurt them in the long run.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

An open letter to mothers everywhere

Dear Moms,

What I want to say to you has nothing to do with whether or not you work outside the home, inside the home, stay at home with your children, send them to boarding school, or public school, or private school or homeschool. What I want to say isn't dependent on whether your life looks like mine or affirms my life choices. It doesn't matter whether those children of yours grew in your womb, or grew in your heart and in the womb of another; whether you had the chance to hold your babies or had to say goodbye to them far too soon. What I want to say to you is simply based on what I know to be a Truth, one with a very intentional capital "T," as it is one of those truths that simply is.

You are a mother, and that matters.

There was a time when us women did not have very many choices. We could be wives and mothers, or nurses, teachers or secretaries. Brave and unrefined were the women who sported pants and dared to stand up and say something ought to be different. We are more than bodies to bear children, hands to cook and clean. We are bright and thoughtful and wonderful creatures and you should set us free in the world. Just you wait and see what we can do.

And we did. We cast off the shackles of cultural expectations and changed things. And in very many ways, this is good. Free will is one of the cornerstones of human existence, granted to us by God Himself, and not tread upon even by Him. A woman today has choices in things she would not have once had. She can be so very many things, do so very many things.

But regardless of what you tell people you "do", mothers - you matter.

Somewhere along the way, things went off course. The choice became the expectation. The superwoman can do it all! The truth hits us hard in the face, as we realize something is amiss with that vision. The right choice for one may not be the right choice for another. But instead of that being OK, there is judgment, or the fear of judgment.

What was once a cry for liberation has become a cry of confusion. If I stay home with my children, am I worth less than my sister who earns a salary? If I work and earn money, am I neglecting my kids to do so?

With either choice, you matter.

There is no one like a mother. She fills a certain place in a person's heart that simply cannot be filled by anyone else. Ask anyone who has lost her. It feels much like the phantom itching of an amputee, reaching out to scratch a leg that is no longer there. She was so enormous, so important and irreplaceable, when she is gone, the loss is breathtaking. I know this because my husband knows. She is gone, and he will never be the same.

You, dear mother, you are the boo-boo kisser, lullaby singer, fixer of broken trucks and builder of paper airplanes. You are the one they go to in the night when their tummy hurts; the one they snuggle up with on the couch in their most innocent, tender moments. You are their strength, their soft place to land, their roots and their wings. You are a piece of your children that no one else will ever be. And that matters. It matters to your children in ways that you might not realize. It matters to those around you, as you pour yourself into your children, loving them and nurturing them, teaching them and molding them.

You may go your whole mothering life and never get the thanks you deserve. The people around you might never understand or appreciate what it is you do. Or they might. But your worth, your value, your dignity as a person don't hinge on them. It isn't the size of your paycheck or the grades your kids get that make you worthy. You are worthy simply because you are, because you exist. You are a totally unique and irreplaceable human being and God loves you with a love that defies the understanding of our comparatively small hearts.

And your children? They love you almost that much.

However it is that you fill your days; whatever you'd write on a resume or in a letter to an old friend - you matter. You matter to those kids who call you Mommy. The very mundane tasks of caring for a family are so very, very valuable. The hard and unglamorous work of mothering - the dirty diapers, soccer games, messy faces, misplaced socks, piles of laundry, snotty noses, Curious George books, and toys on the floor - those things feel so terribly ordinary, and yet are so terribly important.

Mothers, you are the glue that holds us all together. With your love and care, each generation of humans rise up to inhabit this earth. It is at your hands, and figurative apron strings, that these little people grow up and become our replacements. That matters.

You matter. And the next time you question your worth, question your decisions or question your value, look into the eyes of one of those extraordinary little people you gave your heart to, and I promise you, you will see it. You'll see that you matter, and that what you do has value and great worth.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Monster Green Smoothie

This is super random, but has me rather excited. I am on a mission to feed my family better. Rather than being one of those sexy super spy missions that requires a black spandex bodysuit and lots of tiny gadgets, this mission looks more like me sitting at the computer a lot. I read a lot about nutrition, and I search for new recipe ideas a little bit obsessively. But feeding a family with three children who have not been raised on 100% healthy food for their entire lives, and a husband who has some, ahem, pickiness issues, is a challenge. Perhaps if I'd been one of those moms who never pulls through a McDonald's and whose kids have never had anything with sugar in it, I'd have them happily eating nothing but broccoli and brussels sprouts. Alas, I am not that mom, and my kids will chose crappy chicken nuggets over almost anything else, any day of the week.

I've had a recent success, however, and when I come up with a recipe or food idea that is not sugar laden, and all three of them will eat, I get a little excited.

Enter the Monster Green Smoothie!

(I totally made that name up just now)

There's really nothing revolutionary about this recipe, and I'm sure you'll find numerous versions of a green smoothie that are basically the same. So to say I "created" this isn't quite accurate. Mostly, I just threw a bunch of stuff in a blender and hoped for the best. But this combination has proved to be delicious, and although it does contain orange juice as a base (aka, sugar), it is healthy enough for my liking.

And my kids are drinking these with breakfast. Cue Hallelujah Chorus in my head.

Monster Green Smoothie

  • Handful of spinach and kale
  • Lime juice
  • Coconut milk
  • 1/2 to 1 ripe avocado
  • Frozen banana chunks
  • Orange juice
  • Lemon juice
  • A few ice cubes

Short version of the directions: throw it in a blender and turn on.

Longer version:
I blend the spinach and kale first, with a few squirts of lime juice and enough coconut milk to get it to blend. The lime juice cuts down any bitterness in the green stuff.
Once it is nicely liquefied, I add the other ingredients - the avocado makes it creamy and adds healthy fats, frozen banana is awesome in smoothies, and they like them really cold so I still add a couple ice cubes. Grayson came up with the idea to add a squirt of lemon juice, and usually another squirt of lime juice, at the end. The kids seem to think those little squirts of acidity to be essential, but bet they can be left out and probably not alter the flavor a whole lot. Add enough orange juice to get a good smoothie consistency and blend away.

I have a Ninja Kitchen Prep, which is a pretty cool blender, but not one of those crazy expensive ones, and it blends everything up just fine.

The smoothie ends up a fabulous green color, and it is full of some good stuff - and best of all, my kids happily slurp them up. This has vegetables in it, people. That is huge.

I realized I probably should have taken a picture, because blog posts look better with pictures, but I didn't and my kids already drank theirs down. If I think about it, I'll add one later, but chances are I won't - so I submit the lack of picture as evidence of this smoothie's yumminess - gone too quick to photograph!