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.

My Top 10 Parenting “Pearls”

Top Ten Parenting PearlsRecently, a friend asked me to share my top ten list of parenting “pearls”—you know, those ten phrases you’re saying over and over again; those most important things you’re always praying about or discussing with your spouse.

It was actually harder than I thought it would be. So much of parenting is intuitive and boiling down my “pearls” to a list of ten was helpful for me to see exactly where my parenting is currently. I definitely want to continue emphasizing those parenting areas where we’ve been.

But looking over the list also showed me a few areas where I want to address more intentionally, too.

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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.

The Dirty Little Secret I Hope My Daughter Never Finds Out

My daughter is 11 now and already involved in the middle school years (since fifth grade is in the middle school here). We talked last week about what activities she’s going to do next year. Before the conversation was over, she had mentioned dance, softball, band, cheerleading, and gymnastics.

I said to her, “Well, you’re going to have to decide on one or two and do those. I mean, if you’re cheering at a game on Thursday night, you can’t also be at softball practice or a dance lesson. There will be overlap, and you can’t do it all well.”

Inside, I cringed, thinking, Do as I say, not as I did.

My husband turned to me and whispered, “She’s your daughter, alright.”

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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.

The First Day of School=Relief

One doesn’t just wander into motherhood as one wanders into a Starbuck’s.

No, becoming a mother is more like the space shuttle re-entering Earth’s atmosphere after a voyage. It’s bold and loud and fast. It’s violent in many ways. It’s a bumpy ride, for sure. It’s a complete reorientation.
It’s life-changing. 
Today I took my five-year-old twins to their first day of kindergarten. I know. Moms in my shoes are sobbing, mourning the loss of their infants. Some are in deep reflection about the preschool years. 
I’m just relieved. 
Sitting here now in the quiet of the house, the adrenaline, anxiety, and blood pressure levels are down. My body is slowly relaxing from the ends of my hair to the tips of my big toes. 
I’m so relieved. 
I’ll confess to you that time and again, I’ve prayed and wondered silently, Really, God? Why did you give me twins? You know I can’t do this job. You know me. You know them. What were you thinking putting the three of us together? Why would you challenge me in this way when I’m clearly not equipped to handle this?
Yet here as I approached this great milestone, God clearly spoke to me recently. As he ordained their teachers for this year, I thanked him. They received the exact teachers I would have picked. God sweetly used their class assignments to demonstrate his love and mercy to me!
God reminded me that, It’s not about you. It’s about them. I have plans for these two young men. You’re just a means to an end. Sure, I’ll grow you in the process, too. But you are way too focused on YOU.
I really needed that shift in perspective. My boys (and my girl) are God’s.
And it’s not about me.
Another reason to feel relieved.  


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When We Compare Ourselves to Other Mothers

Not long ago, I was in a small group of women, three of whom were pregnant. Inevitably, the discussion turned to childbirth stories. I remember when I was just out of college and in a small group when a woman told her childbirth story and how she had broken her tail bone during delivery. It’s a wonder I ever got pregnant after hearing her tale of excruciating misery.

Anyway, we all started swapping stories of how we delivered and the nuances of childbirth rose to the surface of the conversation. In one moment, we were all MOTHERS. In the next, we began discussing the ins and outs of our choices—some made with education, some in haste, some because of tradition or emergency, and so on—but our choices nonetheless.

And so, the conversation soon began to turn to OB’s or midwives, natural or medicated labor, C-section, vaginal, or VBAC deliveries. As the conversation progressed, I could feel that ever-so-slight “rift” dividing us. You know the one. My choice versus your choice. My choice is better than yours or I wish I could have/should have/would have chosen as you did, then I’d be right/better and you’d think better of me.

What is it about our mothering choices that drive wedges between us otherwise harmonious women? Why do we love to compare? 

Why do we elevate some aspects of motherhood to places of idolatry and “rightness” and either feel shame or disappointment if we somehow “don’t measure up”? Why do we look down our noses at others who may have chosen differently, thus perpetuating this vicious cycle?

I couldn’t help my stomach doing a little flip-flop when I heard two of the pregnant moms (who have already delivered children vaginally) voice their disappointment that they may be facing C-sections with these babies. They had been advised by their midwives—for various reasons—that a smooth vaginal delivery may not be possible, so they should prepare for possible C-sections.

“I’ve already delivered naturally. Why can’t I do it again?” one of the women said. “I don’t want to have a C-section.”

And then my guns came out swinging (in my head). Why don’t you want a C-section?, I thought. What’s wrong with a C-section?

You know what? Had it not been for a C-section, I would most likely not be here today. My mother could have died in childbirth and/or lost me in childbirth. If I weren’t here, then my kids wouldn’t be here (and incidentally, all of my kids were born by C-section, too!). In my world, C-sections are good things!

I’m not coming down hard on my friends. I know their hearts and believe they don’t really “look down” on C-sections or people who have them.

But that conversation served as a reminder to me that I’m still not quite beyond comparing myself to other women, especially in the mothering area. I’m not quite past the feelings of inferiority as I measure myself against other women because I just care too dang much what others think of me. And yes, I’m reminded that my heart still houses thoughts of judgment and condemnation towards others when I think I’ve got a “better” something—whatever the case may be.

Friends, could we mothers just let go putting others in our preconceived parameters of what’s “right”? Can we give each other a little grace to breathe, to occasionally mess up, and to also taste success? Are you with me?

Motherhood Monday
I’m trying something new. Each Monday, I’ll post about one aspect of motherhood. I want you to participate! I’ll give a writing prompt then ask you to link up your Motherhood Monday post the following week. 

Writing prompt for July 26, 2010: Talk about the role of comparison to others as you mother. What has been the most challenging? How do you overcome it? What advice regarding comparison to others would you give a new or expectant mother? 

Come back here next week to link up your post! 


For further reading, check out “The Snare of Compare,” a blog post series at girl talk
I found it really helpful with this issue. 


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 photo: bjearwicke at stock.xchng

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.

I Guess I’m On a Break

So, it’s been another week without a blog post.

They are there. In my head. But not here.

I’m busy with birthdays and Easter and family dinners. I cleaned my house ALL DAY on Friday. It had been since Thanksgiving a few weeks that I had really cleaned. And my bathroom floor was actually clean for about 4 hours before one boy “missed” and peed on the floor.

That was a really satisfying, exciting four hours in my day. 

Once upon a time, I remember a friend saying that when her child turned five, a “breath of fresh air” blew through the house.

Yep. Waiting on that breeze to come on through. 

I really think parenting is getting harder. The boys have two modes: fighting or needing attention. No such thing as playing happily together or playing quietly independently. And I hear one million times a day, “MOM!!! Help me wipe my bottom. I want juice. I’m hungry.”

Plus, as they get older, they get bigger. There’s just more surface area. There’s more food to make and more dirty dishes to clean. There’s bigger clothes to wash, dry, and fold.

I guess I’m trying to say that even though I’ve cut out much of my “extra” stuff, I’m still busy. I suppose I couldn’t have picked a better time to cut back, with my bigger, demanding almost 5 year-olds.

I’m tired.

So, I guess I’m on a break. Not sure when you’ll hear from me again.

Maybe when that refreshing gust blows through my house.

What I’d Do to be Left Alone

Water-boarding? Schmorter-boarding!

We can put an end to all sorts of alleged inhumane and unusual interrogation tactics for criminals, terrorists, and spies.

Just turn my kids loose on ’em.

After being subjected to the umpteenth millionth request for something to drink, the accused would enthusiastically spill his or her guts just to enjoy a reprieve from incessant demands.

A few other sure-fire scenarios to break the most hardened of criminals:

  • Give the accused a comfy chair, a Snuggie, and a cold drink in front of a flat screen TV playing his or her favorite show. Allow the person to get comfortable and engrossed in the show. Admit a couple of hungry, thirsty, and irritable toddlers.
  • Take the accused to a restaurant with at least three kids under age eight. At intervals of every 15-20 minutes, have kids rotate requests to go to the potty.
  • One toy. Three kids. Watch the sparks fly as the accused tries to referee the fights.
  • Put the accused in the room with a small group of first graders. Tell the kids that Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s, Easter, the Fourth of July, Halloween, and Thanksgiving are coming “soon.” Have the kids ask repeatedly how many days until their favorite holiday.

I’m telling you, if the government officials would just turn interrogation over to parents, we’d have confessions galore.

Sometimes I’m surprised at my own lack of resolve with my kids. I mean, try as I may, I break many of the cardinal rules of parenting. I buckle to their most outrageous demands. I crumble like a stale chocolate chip cookie when I just want to be left alone. When I’m particularly tired, cranky, and/or PMS’ing, I just want distance.

“Can I have fifteen pieces of candy?”


“Can I run around in my underwear?”


“Can I play in traffic?”

Let me open the door for you.


In summary, my new favorite commercial is this (and I don’t watch this show, but I love this promo):

Life’s Struggles. Hope in Christ.

I’m sitting down to write tonight and just feeling the weight of being a grown-up.

As a child, teen, college student, and even as a young adult, I confronted inevitable tragedies with a hope that things would change and improve. While that is still a somewhat valid coping mechanism, it’s ultimately empty.

That belief places its hope in some nebulous something (what? the future? “life”?) that is fallen, temporary, and unpredictable.

The older I get, the more I realize how empty and futile it is to put my hope in anything in this world.

Within the last couple of weeks, I’ve received all sorts of bad news–sad, heart-breaking, concerning news–from family and friends.

I am faced with so many realities in these sober times.

My loved ones aren’t necessarily going through things that are terribly exceptional. Others have endured similar pain, suffering, and confusion. But their pain is so close.

And it makes me sad.

I am reminded that everything (EVERYthing!) in this world will ultimately disappoint–if not destroy–us.

I can only deal with what “this day” may bring because I have Christ.

So, how do we respond?

  • We must live always with the end in mind. I’m not afraid to die, nor do I dread it. No. I want to more deeply, more consistently, more consciously meditate and long for heaven. I am merely a sojourner here. Understanding our place in this world is central to dealing with suffering.
  • We must not clutch too tightly to the temporary, sin-tainted things of this world. At best, their good qualities are but a fraction of that which awaits us; at worst, they become “little gods” for us and derail us from the whole-hearted devotion to which God calls us.
  • We must prioritize our lives accordingly. One of the most important tasks I see before us Christian parents is to equip our children for their future battles. I don’t know that they will face anything more seemingly insurmountable than other covenant children have faced previously. But I am convicted that we, their parents, are much less prepared to train our children adequately for maturity in the Faith. We must feed our own souls so that we are strengthened to nourish them.
  • We must live in the love of Christ. Jesus has conquered all of this! He has defeated sin, death, sorrow, and suffering. Jesus is the Rest that gives a final relief, a complete comfort, and an everlasting peace.

(I’ve submitted this post to the Blog Nosh Magazine’s Loads of Hope for the Holidays Blog Carnival. Read some of the other carnival entries here.)

Our First Birthday Party Where ONE of the Twins Was Invited

This school year we made the grand leap to separate the twins for the last year of preschool.

Had you asked me about doing that two years ago, I would have have never considered it. But that was when the boys liked each other.

Now, their personalities keep getting stronger and stronger, as they are forging their way into life. They fight all the time and are so competitive, I tire of refereeing everything from who gets to open the door first to who makes it to the table first. It’s apparent they are ready for this assertion of individuality. I’m really pleased, actually, because it forces me to emphasize their uniqueness.

So, we knew this day would come. Spencer was invited to a birthday party for a boy in his class. Seth was not invited. I wasn’t sure how it would go, but I was pleasantly surprised at the ease of it all. The boys said their goodbyes. There were no tantrums, tears, or even cross words. Spencer and I went to the party.

I wondered if he’d miss Seth at the party or ask for him. Nope. He was perfectly content, playing with his friends.

And Seth was fine, too. He was very matter-of-fact and seemed to understand completely that this party was for Spencer to attend.

No problem.

And we’re officially heading down that “my-babies-are-growing-up” path.