5 Secrets For Standardized Testing Success

5 secrets for standardized testing success

Yes, it’s here once again! Standardized testing time in Tennessee. You can hear the collective groans around the state this week as parents, teachers, and kids feel the pressure of test-taking.

How do you prepare your kids for doing their best when they face any kind of exam, presentation, or project? I have a few tried-and-true tools that I always pull out during standardized testing week and anytime that the kids need an extra “boost” to perform at optimal level.

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Disclosure: I am not a medical doctor. Any statements made on this blog about essential oil use are not meant to treat, diagnose, or cure any condition. My statements about essential oils are my opinion and are based upon my own experiences and research.

I occasionally feature affiliate links in my blog posts. Should you follow my link and make a purchase or join a membership website, I will be compensated for my referral.

Mom, May Is Coming! Are You Ready?

April is National Poetry Month. In honor of that, I thought I’d try writing a poem. Inspired by the chaotic whirlwind that is the end-of-the-year and a classic children’s poem, I wrote “‘Twas the Week Before May.” I dedicate this to busy mothers everywhere! 

'Twas the Week Before May

‘Twas the Week Before May

‘Twas the week before May, and all through the land
Not a mother was ready for all that was planned.

The schedules were filled with too much to do
As everyone wondered how they’d make it through.

The children were waiting for the year’s end–
Summer vacation they wanted to spend.

With Mom in the minivan, the kids strapped in back,
We braced for May 1 as we would for attack.

As the clock chimed twelve and April turned to May
We dove headlong into the chaotic fray:

Final tests! And projects! And banquets and games!
“Help me,” I cried, lest we go down in flames.

Picnics! Elections! Concerts! And prom!
“I could use some wine to get back my calm.”

Graduation! And board meetings so next year we won’t sweat!
“Tell me, is it Memorial Day yet?”

To the end of the month, to the week, to the day,
Now go away! Go away! Just. Go. Away.

And then in a twinkling, the calendar was clean
Like that! It was over—my month fueled by caffeine.

I sighed a relief and gave a pat on the back
I’d made it through another May Attack.

I spoke not a word, but instead smiled inside
Sanity intact, I swelled with pride.

But my moment was short as I realized, now sober:
I’ll be doing it again in October.

Do you know about Grammarly? It’s a super-cool service that I’ve just discovered. I’ll write a full review post on it in a few weeks; but go check it out now, especially if you need some extra writing and editing help with your kids’ papers, your own business-related correspondence, or even blog posts.

The #1 Writing Tool

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Disclosure: I am not a medical doctor. Any statements made on this blog about essential oil use are not meant to treat, diagnose, or cure any condition. My statements about essential oils are my opinion and are based upon my own experiences and research.

I occasionally feature affiliate links in my blog posts. Should you follow my link and make a purchase or join a membership website, I will be compensated for my referral.

A Sure Sign We’re Ready for Summer’s End

Barbie is bald. 


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I Want to Be Famous?

I’m mad at Nickelodeon right now. 
As if The Fresh Beat Band, Dora‘s whiney-tail screaming, and the disrespectful dialogue from The Fairly OddParents weren’t enough, now I have new reasons to despise the Nickelodeon Marketing Department. 
I’m convinced those marketers are simultaneously brilliant and evil, as they plot their next big marketing campaigns:
“Should we play the promo 15 times during each commercial break?” 

“No. Let’s go for 25. That will really drive the parents bonkers and securely cement the product into the minds of the toddler-something crowd.”
Sadly, I don’t think I’m terribly off the mark. 
The latest to fall under the gaze of my scrutiny? Big Time Rush and their song, “Famous.” If you’ve watched Nick for 30 seconds within the last month or so, you’ve seen the song. 185 times. Or more.

But in case it has escaped you, I offer it here for you now. 

Now, my husband would say the musical quality (or lack thereof) alone disqualifies the band (if you can call it that) from recording songs. He chalks them up to wanna-bes who are programmed and manufactured. 
I don’t know. I’m sure they are. My ears are not quite that discerning. I just cringe that the bankrupt-of-values song lyrics are set to such a catchy tune that one must hear 185 times a day—which makes mimicking a snap for my five-year-olds. 
As I try to teach my kids other-centeredness, humility, and the benefits and blessing of servanthood, these guys are singing about how the object of life is to “see your name in lights.”  They say a perk of being famous is “cut[ting] to the front of the line” and “tak[ing] a free ride.” Being famous is the “American dream” and it means “that you’re the best.”

I really don’t expect Nickelodeon (or any media or culture outlet) to instill in my kids Christian values and ideals. I shouldn’t think they’d exercise restraint during a promotional campaign.

But I would hope (stupid of me, I know) that Nick would take its responsibility a bit more seriously. Especially when I don’t see much (if any) value in “being famous.” 

Let’s review the price of fame during the last year, shall we? Tiger Woods, Michael Jackson, Lindsey Lohan, the Gosselins. And those are just the ones off the top of my head.

Nick, you have a greater responsibility than just selling programming or records. Could you find something else to sing about? Something other than one of the main contributors (in my opinion) to celebrities’ broken relationships, addictions, and self-destruction?

No thanks, Big Time Rush. I don’t think I want to be famous.


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Mommy Guilt: Always Right There for the Introvert

I am an introvert.

People drain me. Suck the life out of me. Make me tired and crabby. Make my head hurt and my knees buckle.

Really, just leave me alone. And I’ll be fine.

So, then, is it any wonder that I’m BARELY FUNCTIONING after a week at home with the kids? My kids have to be the most extroverted, entertainment-seeking, fight-starting, snack-begging children on the planet.

And they got me for a mom.

So, when I’ve had enough and my pulse races at the sound of “MOOOOOOOOOOOM! MOOOOOOMMMMMMMEEEEEEEEEE! MOOOOOOOOOM!” for the 8 billioneth time, I retreat. I retreat both physically (leave the room) and mentally (block it out; ignore it, which only makes it louder and longer; stupid strategy, I know).

And, here they come.

Today, I had one boy saying every 10 seconds, “I want PEETZA PERFECT for dinner. Mom! I want PEEEET-ZA! If I don’t have PEETZA, it’s going to be the worst day of my life!”

The other boy was finding random sticky notes throughout the house and bringing to shred them in the paper shredder.

“Mom! Can I put this piece in? PUH-LEEZE????!!!! Mom! This piece? What about this one?”

Honestly, I just got to a place of paralysis. I was so overwhelmed with the noise and constancy that I just zoned out.

Thankfully, I managed to keep it together enough to ensure everyone’s safety and sanity AND I got dinner on the table in a timely fashion.

But reflecting on this day, I just wonder why I do that? It’s as if I can only absorb so much, and like a sponge when it’s saturated, I just can’t take anymore. I’m a big, sloppy blob of yellow and of no use for my intended purpose until I can be wrung out.

Then the guilt sets in. I think, If only we’d been making crafts, taking a nature walk, or reciting all those Bible verses we haven’t memorized, then my kids would be properly stimulated and appropriately edified and would have no opportunity for dangerous antics with office machines.

I’m not really sure what to do with all of this.

But I would like to know if you, too, are an introvert, do you struggle as I do?
Do you have the “mommy guilt,” and if so, how do you reconcile the two?

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5 Years With Twins

 November 2009: Spencer (age 4), me, Seth (age 4). Photo by Amy Jacobs Photography.

Last week, my twins turned five years old.

There was a period of time when I absolutely, positively did not think we would all survive the night, much less the next five years.

But, we made it.

Without a doubt the most fascinating thing about being the mother of twins is to look at each of them and “see” the same person but know the intricacies and preferences of each personality. I only hope and pray I adequately nurture and encourage expression of those personalities.

Nothing about parenting twins has been easy. Nothing. I would gladly and willingly throw myself in front of train to rescue my children, but good gravy, those little boogers drive me to the brink of insanity most everyday. In their super-cute and so-adorable-you-could-gobble-them-up ways, of course.

They are funny and smart and love their mother fiercely. They are addicted to chocolate and ketchup (not together, but I know they’d try it if I suggested it).

Most of my memories of the first two years of their lives revolve around Prevacid and acid reflux and carrying a baby in each arm and crying.

Lots and lots of crying. Them and me.

Mostly me. 

 Easter 2006: Seth (left) and Spencer (right), age one.

I don’t remember first steps or first words. I sort of remember first teeth. I vividly remember first days at Mother’s Day Out. (Thank you, Lord, for Mother’s Day Out.)

The highlight of their first year for me (as was with Susanna) was their baptism. The most special act of God’s marking them as members of his family was—and is to this day—incredibly precious to me. I’m so glad I remember the events of that day.

The last three years’ memories are muddy, also. But potty training success in one week (by God’s grace) tops the list. (Thank you, Lord, for quick potty training success.)

Sometimes I will grab their little “lovies”—smooched and rubbed stuffed animals—and just cuddle them. The lovies in those really hard early days were great sources of comfort for them. For me, the lovies still serve that role: a constant, abiding, and unchanging presence, even though the boys are more and more frequently becoming less attached to their lovies.

I am simultaneously heartbroken and ecstatic about that.

Next year they go to kindergarten. While it’s a bittersweet milestone, I’m not terribly sad (at least not yet). I’ve always said I’m not really a “baby mom.” I’m excited to see my little babies grow into rugged boys and responsible young men. Call me crazy, but I think I’m looking forward to the next few years.

Happy birthday, boys. So glad we’ve made it.

November 2009: Susanna (age 6), Seth (age 4) and Spencer (age 4). Photo by Amy Jacobs Photography.

Just a Little Caffeine and Aspartame

I try super-hard to feed my family healthy food the majority of the time. Despite my best efforts, we occasionally slide off the wagon and wallow in the chicken nuggets and french fry soup a little longer than I’d like.

But I do know the problems. And I am trying to address them.

I just don’t have the time—nor the affinity—to make homemade yogurt, churn my own butter, or grind my own wheat. I applaud the women who do. And at one point in my life, I measured my own worth as a mother and homemaker by those women.

But I have been released from those chains of comparison because God had a little talk with me and told me that that’s not me. At least not now. Not here.

And I’m OK with that.

I think. 


There’s another thing standing in my way of total embrace of the natural and healthy lifestyle.

That would be my little addiction to Diet Mt. Dew.

I love the stuff. And I know it’s bad for me. And I won’t touch aspartame in any other food product because yes, I really do believe it’s a scary chemical.

But I’m still struggling with my Diet Mt. Dew.

So, Saturday, I had my cold Diet Mt. Dew in the car. Susanna and I were running errands in Green Hills. We were in Macy’s—almost to the door—when she said she was thirsty. We went back through the mobs of shoppers to the nearest restroom sign, but there was no water fountain there. I didn’t feel like going all the way back to the 3rd floor, so I told her she could finish off the Diet Mt. Dew in the car.

I felt guilty for a smidge of a second but concluded it was only a small amount. We got to the car and she started sipping.

Now, because I am the trying-to-be-healthier mom that I am, I decided we would also stop at Trader Joe’s for a few of my favorites from there. We hopped out of the car. Susanna had the Diet Mt. Dew in hand. We were headed in when I stopped.

“Susanna. Why don’t you finish that drink before we go in?”

I couldn’t let all those yogurt-making, mill-grinding, butter-churning, Trader Joe’s-shopping moms know that I had—on occasion—allowed my daughter to consume both caffeine and aspartame, now could I?

They just wouldn’t understand; I don’t care how far away that municipally contaminated water fountain was from the door.

Check Out the Savvy Source

If you’ve visited here with much regularity, you’ve probably noticed that flashy sidebar thingey to the right over there that advertises The Savvy Source. If you’d like to go visit there now, go ahead. I’ll be here when you get back.


Oh, hi. You’re back.

So, anyway, I just wanted to say that I’m going to be relying on this website A LOT this summer. I’m starting to get that kind of quesy feeling in my stomach that is the beginning of a panic attack when I think of my long summer days ahead with THE KIDS.

Many of my friends have their kids enrolled in 9 million camps, have three vacations planned, and send the kids to each set of grandparents for two weeks at a time.

Not the Bernards. We have $0, so the most we can do in the summer is a couple of days of preschool for the boys and swim lessons.

The rest of the time is directed by yours truly.

It’s funny to me how God turns inside out has all the assumptions I had about myself and motherhood. Turns out I’m not nearly as crafty as I thought and don’t really enjoy spending hours in the boiling sun playing Duck, Duck, Goose.

Who knew, right?

So, thank goodness for The Savvy Source. And guess what? The Nashville Savvy City Guide is Nashville-specific and written by my friend Rebecca! I’m so excited for her new job at The Savvy Source. I know Rebecca will be my go-to girl this summer to find new adventures for the kids and creative ways to spend our time.

If you’re wondering about what’s going on in Nashville or you have other parenting needs, look no further than The Savvy Source and The Nashville Savvy City Guide.

photo: Morgue File

Ten Things I Never Thought I’d Do (or Say) as a Mother

Motherhood has been and continues to be the most exhausting, challenging, stimulating, surprising, and soul-searching endeavor upon which I’ve ever embarked. No book, class, seminar, or magazine article could have prepared me for the astonishing changes motherhood brought to my life.

As I was getting dressed this morning, I thought, Who am I? Hmmm. Where is that girl I knew ten years ago? 

She’s morphed into this mom who is surprised to discover she’s always doing or saying something she never dreamed of.

Ten Things I Never Thought I’d Do (or Say) as a Mother
  1. I never thought I’d be anything but a perfect, pearl-clad mom, looking crisp in penny loafers and a button-down Oxford blouse.
  2. I never thought I’d say such things as, “You can’t go potty with a pancake in your hand” and “No. You can’t take your guns to church.”
  3. I never thought I’d give the pits a sniff, declare, “good enough!”, slather on the second third coat of deodorant, get dressed, and go out in public.
  4. I never thought I’d not leave the house for 13 consecutive days. And by “leave the house,” I mean, Not. Leave. The. House. Not to the porch, to the mailbox, to the garbage can. 13. Days. Inside. My. House. With acid refluxy twins. 
  5. I never thought I’d have guests in my home when I hadn’t mopped the floors or dusted the furniture in a few months days.
  6. I never thought I’d look forward to “introspective alone time” at the grocery store.
  7. I never thought I’d be 40 pounds overweight–at five years post-partum.
  8. I never thought I could have breastfed twins for nine months.
  9. I never thought my idea of a fun evening would involve Seinfeld reruns, a bowl of popcorn, and a 10 p.m. bedtime. 
  10. I never thought I’d be anything but a perfect, pearl-clad mom, looking crisp in penny loafers and a button-down Oxford blouse.

How has motherhood surprised you? 

I’m linking this post today at Oh Amanda’s Top Ten Tuesday. Visit there to read more top ten lists!

photo: esrasu

I’m Going to Whine Now

Typically, I don’t like to post whiney-tale ramblings.

But, hey, I’m in a funk and I have a blog.

And if I can’t whine on my blog, then why have a blog, right?

So, if this is a problem for you, then you can click off my post and come back tomorrow.

I hope you’ll stay, though, and help me. Help me, readers.

Help me figure out my life. 

I’m really overwhelmed right now, and I’m not sure what to do about it.

I know that I have no margins in my life. I first heard about the concept of margin several years ago.

Think of the margins on a piece of paper. That’s the “extra” space that can be used if needed or in an emergency. A place for spill-over. White space that is pleasing to the eye and a soft place to land.

Nope. I have none of that in my life.

(I’m going to get this book, ASAP, by the way. I’ve heard other friends talk about it. It’s been on my to-read list, but I’ve procrastinated. But, I’m going to get it soon. Disclosure: I am an Amazon affiliate and receive a small commission for purchases referred to Amazon.)

My life runs from sun-up to sun-down with far more to do than there is time for.

FlyLady wants me to do my routines. Yea, I have no time for routines. Because as routine as routines go, they Still. Take. Time.

Exercising and grocery shopping and cleaning toilets all take time. Fifteen minutes here, an hour there, thirty minutes there. Time.

I need a lot of sleep. Like 8-9 hours to feel really good. But, hey, that takes time. I can either cut corners on my sleep and be grouchy and grumpy and less productive or I can feel guilty about going to bed when there is still so much left undone. (I know that’s crazy. But that’s me.)

All my little part-time jobs are wonderful blessings, and we truly need the money. We count on each little $100 or $200 check to make ends meet each month. So, which $200 check do I forfeit so that I don’t feel guilty when I go to sleep?  In the meantime, which meal/activity/chore is neglected so that I can finish a work assignment?

Blogging and writing are the only things I do for fun. Period. I don’t read. Magazines and books sit untouched on my nightstand. I haven’t scrapbooked since July 2007. That’s terribly sad, but seriously, how in the world can I justify sitting around sticking pictures into books when I have a to-do list as long as my arm? Plus, scrapbooking would require my downloading, sorting, and actually printing pictures. I don’t even want to think about how much time that would take.

Do I stop blogging? Do I stop writing for fun?

Do I shrivel up to nothing because I have no outlet for creativity?

I could go on and on. I know you know that I have laundry, meals, activities, Bible study, and church. I know you know what it’s like to juggle and prioritize.

Am I the most insanely organizationally-challenged person in the world? Or is this just “part of it” and I need to grin and bear it until retirement? 

What should I do? How do I take some of the pressure off? Which ball(s) to drop?

At what point do we simply step out in faith, do away with things that drain us, and trust God to provide compensation (whether emotional, financial, spiritual)?

Truly, I’d love to hear your feedback and any suggestions for me and my family.

Thank you. Whining over.

Image: Morgue File