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 to Raise Kids Who Respect Authority

Excited to have a guest on my blog today!

Arlene Pellican is a speaker and co-author of Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World (with Dr. Gary Chapman). Arlene’s other books include 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Mom and 31 Days to a Happy Husband. She has been a featured guest on the Today Show, Fox & Friends, Focus on the Family, FamilyLife Today, The 700 Club, and Turning Point with Dr. David Jeremiah. Before becoming a stay-at-home mom, Arlene worked as the Associate Producer for Turning Point Television with Dr. David Jeremiah. Arlene earned her BA from Biola University and her Masters in Journalism from Regent University. She lives in San Diego with her husband James and their three children. To learn more and for free family resources such as a monthly Happy Home podcast, visit www.ArlenePellicane.com.

I overheard a little girl say to an adult volunteer at school, “Make me.”

I was surprised at the girl’s audacity. She glared as if to say, “Who do you think you are to tell me what to do?” As a child, I would have never dreamed of disobeying an adult like that.

Whether you peek into a classroom, church, or family room, it’s not unusual to find children who show little respect for adults. What has happened in the past few generations to create bad, bold changes in children? Why are kids more demanding, entitled, less respectful, and more emotionally fragile than previous generations. Kids are exerting their voices loudly while parents and adults are stifling and questioning theirs.

Parents have lost their way.

We as adults are the leaders of our homes. Yet many parents are more comfortable being buddies with their kids. This does a tremendous disservice to kids because children need parents, not tall friends. Rebellion grows when authority is absent. When mothers and fathers relinquish control, mutiny inevitably follows.

Parents must first believe they are deserving of honor and respect. This isn’t just a nice idea; it’s a commandment by God. The fifth commandment reads in Exodus 20:12, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Obedience to this commandment is the bedrock of a decent and good society where there is respect for elders and authorities. The relationship children have with parents is the basis for their other relationships in life.

The word “honor” is from a root word meaning “weighty” (in terms of impressiveness or importance). When a child honors a parent, he assigns weight and importance to the words spoken by that parent. He honors the parent with appreciation. Children learn there is a loving moral authority to which they are accountable. Disrespect, which is the opposite of honoring, attacks the parent’s place of authority. When this breakdown occurs, it impacts the “long life on the earth” the Bible promises to those who honor their parents.

So how can we raise kids who respect authority and honor God? Here are three ways to get started:

Speak like a leader. Listen to your word choice and tone of voice when you give your child an instruction. Are you asking your child to do something or telling them? There is a big difference. “Time to come to dinner, okay?” is different than “Time to come to dinner.” I’ve noticed the tendency to tack “okay?” at the end of my sentences. I’m working on clipping off that final word so it doesn’t sound like I’m asking my kids questions all the time.
You might not tack on “okay,” but maybe your voice rises at the end of the sentence. That intonation turns it into a question. You don’t have to sound harsh or blow a whistle to make your children mind your instructions. Speak steadily with confidence, like a capable, caring authority figure.
Be picky with technology. Parents are needed more than ever to provide instruction, correction and boundaries regarding screen time. The content of most popular television, music, video games, and social media is working against your family values. Talk about a program after you watch it and what values are being promoted. You can evaluate your child’s screen time with these easy ABC’s:

Attitude: What is my child’s attitude like after the screen time?
Behavior: How does the content encourage my child to behave?
Character: What character traits are being modeled and picked up?

Consider how parents are being portrayed in the media to your children. Hollywood has made it common practice to make the father figure dumb and the kids geniuses. We’ve come a long way from shows like “Father Knows Best” and “Little House on the Prairie.”

Give your child a good name to live up to. Describe your child as respectful and self-controlled. When they listen to your instructions the first time, you can say something like “I really appreciate your obedience.” Give your children lots of positive attention when they act in a respectful, obedient manner. Let your kids overhear you praising their character to others. What if your child isn’t doing anything particularly respectful? Shakespeare said, “Assume a virtue, if you have it not.” When your child observes your belief in his or her potential, he or she most likely will put greater effort into possessing the virtues you value.

Use drama. Kids love stories, so leverage stories to get your point across. Let’s suppose you’re going to grandma and grandpa’s house for a holiday. You can tell one story in which the kids act disrespectfully; demanding food from grandma, yelling and fighting right in front of grandpa, and running through the house. Then act out the opposite – kids who offer to help in the kitchen, who say thank you, and who follow house rules.

The greater culture hinges on what happens in the microcosm of our homes. Don’t be afraid to step up and lead your children. Your decisions won’t always be popular with your kids, but they will immeasurably blessed as they learn the importance of respect.