Snapshots From a Social Media Free Weekend

I decided a few weeks ago to give up social media on the weekends. This decision came together for a few reasons such as –
  1. I’m not very good at rest and even worse at the concept if I have the opportunity to constantly work (via social media).
  2. I realized the onslaught of never ending information was making me anxious and depressed. Yes, I care about people, yes, I want to know how they’re doing, but after awhile it just becomes too much, and I have to step away.
  3. Social media was making me less present and available for those I love – my husband and children.
  4. I’ve found I’m much more productive in so many other areas of life by setting boundaries around social media on Saturday and Sunday.
  5. Finally, I’ve also discovered the flip side to be true – I’m much more productive and engaged online Monday through Friday because I’ve had a mental break over the  weekend.
This past weekend was fantastic. We began Saturday morning with giant banana split yogurt parfaits, then we all helped dad plant the garden, followed by chores which resulted in Wendy’s frosties and a trip to the store where the kids picked out a new book for being so helpful. Saturday night we had homemade pizza and strawberry/beet sorbet. We intended to go to church on Sunday morning, but Luke slept in until 9! So instead we took the family to the park, Ryan and I went for a hike, and then I parked my rear end in bed and poured over my new cookbooks from the previous day’s shopping excursion. It was good for my heart & perhaps my experience will encourage you to try a social media free weekend.
See you Monday!

Just keep livin!

Introducing The New & Improved JESSPLUSTHEMESS!

This is a quick post – my kids are still home for summer break – to tell you all –

I HAVE A NEW WEBSITE!

This has been months (maybe even close to a year!) in the making. I officially went live yesterday, and I am so incredibly proud of how it all turned out. Lisa Delaney has been the epitome of patience as she has sought to bring my vision of rustic jessplusthemess charm to life, and she succeeded beautifully.

There are lots of changes you’ll initially notice as the blog is no longer the focal part of the website as I seek to expand my jessplusthemess brand to include: merchandise, speaking, favorites, and recipes to name a few.

So, go ahead – poke around a bit. The Favorites and Store tabs are still a work in progress but the store will soon offer super hip and inspirational “just keep livin” apparel and the favorites will be all of my favorite things in life.

Oh, and as you’ll also see, if you subscribe to receive emails from me – which honestly, will just be blog updates for awhile until I find time to create a newsletter, you will also receive the introduction and first chapter of Sunlight Burning at Midnight FOR FREE!

Thank you as always to all of you who continue to support me on this wild ride I get to call my life.

Just keep livin!

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.