A Mama’s Guide to Surviving Summer Break

As I reread this post from last year, I’m reminded of the panic I often experienced as summer approached and the isolation of rural life began to close in on me and 8 kids.  Last year was tough as I’ve detailed in many posts with Ryan’s health issues and the kids getting older, and soon after summer break, we made the life changing decision to change what wasn’t working anymore. We found a house in the Nashville area, and we jumped.  It was the best decision for our family. 

The first week of summer break sucks every single year.

I always vow to wrap my mind around all of my blessed offspring being home for every second of our life together, but apparently I fail because it doesn’t feel very blessed approximately 10 minutes into the first morning as the fighting begins over PBS versus Netflix followed by moans of disgust when breakfast is served and teenage smirks ensue as the youngest squeals “”STOP IT RIGHT NOW!”

Where’d I put my coffee?

I know, some parents love the freedom that summer break offers, but I am not one of those people. I love structure because structure in the form of a school building and angels masquerading

as teachers allows for a few peaceful hours of productivity and peace and productivity are this introverted mama’s best friends. Amen.

Every year, a week before the last day of school, I vow to do better. I vow to have more patience, be more intentional in my unique calling, have more grace and mercy and love – all of those good motherly qualities- but inevitably the stress mounts with my offspring’s constant need for food and entertainment; they fight and bicker and moan and bewail their existence, and I turn and hiss at my husband in the dead of the night – or actually like 9 p.m. because we’re so dang tired –

“You can’t work anymore. You need to stay home and co parent for the summer. No individual is physically and emotionally capable of raising this many human beings for any stretch of time. And honey, four teenagers! Do you understand the complexities and the zits and the hormones? Are you listening?”

I hiss even louder –

“It would drive anyone insane!.”

Those are the words I say, and he smiles and lovingly replies, “You go through this every summer. It’ll get better after a week.”

”

NO IT WON’T! I wail and open my eyes really wide so he knows just how serious I am.

“Give it time” he smiles again.

Of course he smiles – he goes off to work the next morning.

I usually enjoy the rural life that we chose – the peace, birds chirping, the river, the beauty, the land our children roam upon and the innocence this life has provided. I enjoy it all until the last day of school, and then it begins to feel a tiny bit like the land is closing in on me, and the river is rising, and I’m trapped in a zoo where the birds never stop chirping (and yelling and screaming and fighting) and the coyotes are ready to tear me limb to limb if I don’t remain constantly vigilant, and in desperation I inform my husband that we are not living in the country any more. We are moving to the biggest city we can find before the next school year begins. NEW YORK CITY if need be, and I swear I’m not living in rural America for one more day, no sir, I need options! I need restaurants! I need a coffee house and a park and easy access friends for my children and a Mrs. Jones who lives down the road who will dote on my precious babies and feed them snacks and allow constant video games so that I can enjoy a few moments of peace and quiet.

I chose this life but that doesn’t make it easy. I chose to have four children. I chose life for Luke my boy with special needs. I chose Ryan and I chose to adopt his three kids. I chose a rural life, and I chose to have another baby but damn – those choices kick my rear end the first week of summer break as we all figure it out again, figure out how to maintain loving, somewhat tolerable relationships with one another in close quarters – relationships with respect and boundaries – relationships where we still like each other at the end of summer. There is a steep learning curve as the kids sacrifice a huge chunk of their social life from school and a huge learning curve as I give up a pretty significant chuck of quiet work hours. Not to mention, the substantial increase in dishes and trash and diaper changes and grocery runs and meals (have I mentioned the meals)?

Every year I prep for the last day of school. I frantically implement great ideas for our many hours together such as our pool purchase a few years ago. I plan vacations. I sign them up for camps and volunteer positions and kids bowl free coupons. It helps! It really does. And we eventually get into the groove. We stay up a little later, and we sleep in. I begin to relax into what summer is all about and the kids do too. I kick up my feet and read a good book while they splash away in the pool. I shorten the to do list. I lower my expectations and then – just as soon as summer break begins, it comes to an end and without fail I realize, I survived summer break, and I turn to my husband and whisper in shocked acknowledgement –

“Honey. The kids and I have found our groove. They are having fun together and doing their chores without nagging, and helping with Luke and Annabelle, and I kind of like this motherhood gig again. Maybe we should consider homeschooling!”

And he rolls eyes just like he does every summer the week before school begins again because he understands that the only reason we have all found our groove is because we’ve also found the light at the end of the tunnel. Those two miraculous life giving head lights that will soon be rolling down the road at 6:30 a.m, firmly attached to a big yellow bus, ready to transport 7 eager souls promptly back to school.

Ahhhhh. Structure.

Just keep livin.

Healthy Sweet Potato Dark Chocolate Muffins

New recipe for y’all as the school year ends – which is today – you can start those prayers now please.  These are my go to muffins to make for the kids in the morning before they head off to school.  Easy, tasty, low mess, healthy sweet potato muffins.  The best part, as always, is that you can make them in one bowl.  Don’t we all love that? Enjoy!

2 big sweet potatoes – baked at 400 for about an hour – until soft.  Cool, remove peels and mash in a large bowl.

Add –

1 cup coconut oil or applesauce

1 cup almond milk

1/1/2 cups maple syrup

1 tea salt

2 tea cinnamon

4 tea baking powder

4 tea baking soda

2 tea vanilla

4 cups flour

2 TB Chinese 5 spice

Mix all together well.

Add dark chocolate chips, wheat germ, flax seed or chia seeds if you want.

Grease muffin pans and fill about halfway.  Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

 

 

How The Church Can Care for the Childless

I’m excited to have Chelsea Patterson Sobolik offering a guest post today about being sensitive to the needs of the childless mothers.  She has also graciously given me a copy of her book Longing for Motherhood to give away to one reader.  To be entered, simply comment on this post.  I will draw a winner on May 24th.

 

Sitting in the pews of every church are men and women struggling with the excruciating pain of childlessness. For some, it might be infertility, trying month after month with no success, to finally get pregnant. For others, it might be a miscarriage, the death of their precious anticipated little one that’s left them heartbroken. Regardless of the particular circumstances, the trial of childlessness is one of the most difficult and devastating that someone can experience. Living in the nightmare that is infertility cuts to the very core of the way humanity was designed. One of the first commandments the Lord gave Adam and Eve was to be fruitful and multiply. When a couple struggles to bear babies, they can quickly feel guilt and shame over their inability to fulfill that commandment.

I’m all too familiar with the ache to be a mother, but natural motherhood won’t come. With a tear stained face, I’ve entered into the greatest wrestling match of my life with the Lord. “God, I don’t understand!” I’ve cried out in prayer. “You’ve placed this longing on my heart, only to leave me with an unfulfilled desire!” Over the years, I’ve shared the cries of my heart with close friends and trusted companions at my church, as they’ve helped me walk through my sorrow.

The Church is God’s household, filled with God’s children. It should be a beacon of comfort and hope. A place where people will feel cared for, heard, understood and unconditionally loved. Christians know that they will face trials, and they must be armed and equipped to care for the wounded and the hurting among the Saints. Below are a few suggestions for pastors, elders, and church members on how to care for the childless in your congregations.

Remind People that Grief is Godly

Those grieving childlessness are grieving a dream deferred. Proverbs 13:12 tells us that hope deferred makes the heart sick. Come alongside the childless and grieve with them. Remind them that it’s okay to feel the hurt, pain and loss. That they don’t have to quickly “get over” their sorrow, but they have a Savior who’s well acquainted with grief, and was the man of all sorrows (Isaiah 53:3). Encourage them to take their grief, and press into the arms of the Beloved who knows their pain.

Preach Good Sermons

Make it a point to regularly incorporate the childless into sermons. Remember that the Bible is full of women that have struggled with the longing to be a mother. (Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, and Elizabeth) Dive into these passages, and preach Gospel-centered sermons that will encourage the souls of the weary.

Pray With and on Behalf of the Childless

David was bold in his prayers before the Lord. He knew where to take his questions, his grief, his pain, and his longings – straight into the heart of his Father. Prayer should should be the first thing Christians do with and on behalf of the childless. In the Psalms, we see that David’s most trusted companion and friend was the Lord, but we also see that David wasn’t afraid of sharing exactly what was on his mind and heart. In Psalm 13, he bluntly asks the Lord how long he’ll have to suffer. David felt forgotten, and bent the ear of the Lord in his sorrow and frustration.

“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (Psalm 13:1-2)

Hannah, a woman who intimately knew the pain of infertility, wasn’t shy to bring her pain and tears before the Lord in prayer. The Bible says that “she was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly.” Hannah’s prayers were so fervent that Eli, the priest thought she was drunk.

We should take the charge to weep with those who weep seriously and come alongside the suffering with words of comfort and truth. Never underestimate the power of prayer.

Point Their Eyes To The Lord

The most important thing the church can do is redirect the gaze of the childless to Christ. Give them room to grieve the loss of their dream, or the loss of their baby. Please don’t feel the need to swoop in, and slap Bible verses on their suffering. Yes, the word of God is inspired and inherent, but shouldn’t be viewed or used as a quick fix. Learn how to sit with someone in their grief, and how to gently point their eyes to the Lord in the midst of their trials. One of the most comforting verses in the bible is found in Revelation 21:4, where the Lord promises to wipe away every tear from our eyes. Until that day, remember that the Lord is present as each tear falls. Suffering is inevitable while we live in a fallen world, but may we ensure that no one suffers alone.

Chelsea Patterson Sobolik is the author of Longing for Motherhood, and has worked for the U.S. House of Representatives on issues such as child welfare, religious freedom, adoption, and foster care policy. Chelsea was adopted as a newborn from Bucharest, Romania, grew up in North Carolina, and then graduated from Liberty University. She and her husband Michael live in Washington, D.C.

Written by Chelsea Patterson Sobolik author of Longing for Motherhood, Moody Publishers 2018