Why Being “The Cool Mom” Isn’t the Goal

I don’t try to gain accolades from Gen Z-ers. Really. I’m a geek if there ever was one. A middle-aged minivan mom who watches Great British Baking Show and knits and has a great fondness for plants and quilts and documentaries. As I write this, I am wearing elephant pajama pants, an “I ❤️Coffee” sweatshirt and a fuzzy pink bathrobe. Not really a cool mom wardrobe.

And if you have ever been around me, you know that I’m am not out to make friends with my kids. I’m the mom, and that relationship should be more than a mere friendship for my kids. The months I carried them and the hours of labor and the extra weight I’ve gained on their behalf means we are more than friends. We are family.

But there are things that I think and do intentionally to keep an open line of communication for my kids. I try to learn their lingo. They think it is dorky when I throw shade, but I remind them that they are just recycling trends from my day. Word.

Photo by Neringa Šidlauskaitė on Unsplash

I do sniff around social media to understand trends and fads and things that I notice the kids take an interest in. The Biblical challenge to be “harmless as doves but wise as serpents” I take to heart.

The realization is that I am not training children to be reclusive. While I do not want them adopting every societal more out there, I do need to train them to engage the culture we live in to reach them for Christ. It requires hard conversations about personal standards and self control and spiritual discernment.

My husband and I do not talk down to our kids. We let them have opinions and ask their ideas. We value their thoughts within reason. We use the knowledge we gain to have meaningful discussions about music, social media, modesty, relationships and more.

Photo by Blake Barlow on Unsplash

Because of my acquired knowledge, I have often heard that I am the “cool mom.” I am honored that my kids’ friends think of me that way. Not because I was a dork growing up (true) and am looking for validation in the next generation that insists on wearing socks with sandals. (Just. No. Not again.)

No, the reason that I will accept this badge is because I know that they know I am a mom they can talk to who will listen. I will not shut them down. We parents spend a lot of time eye rolling and dismissing our kids without trying to understand the whys. Ironically, we spend a great deal of mental energy trying to pass along traditions that they don’t understand because we don’t share the whys.

And there is balance here. Be Biblical. Be the parent. You do know more about life than they do and always will just by nature of your 20+ year age gap. Your kids ought to respect you as an authority. Rules you have for them have purpose.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

But do keep a door of communication open. Don’t just bury your head in the sands of time and refuse to see or know anything about this current generation. That is dwelling in ignorance instead of knowledge, and it does no service in cultivating a good relationship with your children. It does nothing to help you disciple them to reach a world that desperately needs Jesus.

You don’t have to start wearing joggers and socks with sandals (please don’t.) or use a hydro flask or randomly spew out the word “yeet.” (Although it can be fun…) The basic challenge is to learn about the world your kids live in so that you can effectively help them navigate it according to God’s Word.

How Do You Do It? Time for God

If there is one thing I have learned and had to relearn and will probably have to learn a thousand more times before I die, it is this:

I need God.

I need Him every moment of everyday, whether I think I do or not. Those times when I think (only in my head, because we gotta look righteous, right? *kidding*) “I got this today.” God usually shows me in difficult ways that I do not “got this.” 

I need God more than I need my cup of coffee in the morning and a good pre-natal vitamin. And it isn’t so much that my day itself will turn into a hot mess without God, but I turn into a hot mess without God. 

So if I need God so badly everyday, yet am sparse on time, what am I going to do? I mean, five kids don’t raise themselves. Dishes, laundry, teaching, helping the kids…  They can, I guess, but have you read Lord of the Flies? Not recommended. 

And when I talk about spending time with God everyday, I’m not going to belay you into a guilt trip of how much time it must take, or how it is your duty, or you are living in sin if you miss a day. Because the real truth is if we view this time as something to check off a list, or as a cosmic appointment that, if missed, sends us into condemnation, then we are looking at it all wrong. 


God loves us. He knows time in His Word is good for us. He loves to hear us come to Him in prayer. He created us for a relationship with Himself. So when we don’t have that time with Him, we wilt like a plant not getting water and sun. And we really are. We are missing out on the Living Water, the Light of the World and the Bread of Life. 

When I gained that perspective about Bible study, my motive changed. It is no longer a check off the list. It is a desire and delight. The days that are missed? I miss that time and want to make it up asap. God wants to feed me and I want to be fed.

But the matter at hand is this: how do I have time with God with “all these kids?” 

I’d be lying if I said that I’m as consistent as the sun rising everyday. I miss sometimes. But here’s the non-earth-shattering thing I do to carve time for devotions: 

I just do it. 

I stop what I am doing and go to my room. Sometimes I lock the door because kids have a radar about them when it comes to mom taking some time to herself. I read and study and pray. Sometimes it is long and sometimes not. I pray Jacob’s words to the angel of the Lord when they were wrestling, “I will not let you go until you bless me.” I want God to give me something to dwell on for the day. 


I know not all of you have flexibility to carve that time out. It doesn’t have to be long and drawn out. God has given you things to do and He knows how much time you have available because He is ultimately in charge of your itinerary everyday.

I wish it was more systematic than that. Maybe you like a routine or schedule. Make one that works for you. 

I know some of you are asking, “What about the kids being left to themselves?” 

My kids know mom needs this time with God. If an emergency arises, they know I’ll be there when they call. There are times when they decide to have a popcorn fight or my toddler has decided to reprogram the tv. I’m better able to handle those little things (and they are little) when I have had time with God. And usually I wait until they have started seat work  or are eating breakfast to step away.

I will say, Moms of Littles, it gets easier the older they get to step away so do not get discouraged because your time slips away so quickly everyday. While the babes nap, I know you want to do a load of laundry or catch a nap. Do it. If nuggets of time are all you have, then use one of those nuggets to feed your soul. Laundry and dishes and vacuuming are not as important as your soul.


What about accountability and studies and such? I will post some things that have been useful to me…. next time. (Yes, I just did a “What’s in the Bible” closer. I don’t think Phil Vischer copyrighted it.)

How Do We Do It: Homeschool Edition

I don’t post a lot about homeschooling. Part of it is because I still feel like I know so little, even though our family has been at it for 8 years. Part of it is because I know people and blogs who are very efficient and good at homeschooling. I’d rather you go to them for curriculum advice.

It’s not that we fail at it. I guess it’s more about what my philosophy of homeschooling is and how that makes our education here look very different than others. And yet, it might not be that different at all.

So maybe, today, I will share a little of what my basic objectives/ideas in homeschooling are. I’m the first to say this is a work in progress. But here goes:

  1. I want my kids to love the process of learning.

There are too many kids out there who think all learning is stupid. Ironically, they are not being smart by saying this. A love for learning is based on the premise that learning is a lifestyle that never ends. That goes for academics as well as spiritual pursuits. We are never done. It’s easier to do something when you love it.

2. I want my kids to be responsible adults someday.

The wonderful crazy thing about homeschooling is that my goal does not have to be to “get through the book” or “ace all the tests”. I get to integrate character building at will. I get to disciple my children all the time. Things like, kindness, service, selflessness, perseverance and initiative. There are many great teachers who instill these things in students too, but I am just as interested in my kids’ character as I am in their grades.

3. We learn to remember, not a “bulk dump”.

I want my kids to understand concepts, not just breeze through to take a test. And it is hard. And discouraging. You second guess yourself and think you are royally messing your kids up. I have to remind myself that learning is not a race. I want my kids to gain a mastery more than I want them to add another star to their chart. So, sometimes, we struggle. But those struggles make the victories greater.

A beauty in home education is that it can be tailor made. I am not a worker on an assembly line. The same things are not going to work for different students. Adaptability is key. Age, learning style, weaknesses and strengths make for many differences to adapt to.

4. I want my kids to function in society.

There is a reputation that homeschooled kids are social idiots. Some of it is unfair, but some of it is well earned. I think that we need to teach the social aspect to our kids in a balanced fashion. Think of a balance: one side, complete independence. The other end: constant succumbing to peer pressure due to naivete. I want a Christ-centered approach where my kids dependently independent yet engaged with others around them. Wordy? Yes. Another post for another time.

6. Commit to making things work.

I am committed to homeschooling. Part of it is desire and the other part is necessity. The same idea goes for curriculum. I could spend a lot of time and money getting fancy curricula, but seeing as I have neither, I must make do with what I have and can afford. Also, changing too often, at least for my kids, really can confuse them; especially if each year you are trying different methods. I tried out several different math curricula for consecutive years, until I finally decided to stick with one that, while it isn’t my favorite, I can work with it. We just couldn’t keep changing.

Remember too: just because a curriculum is challenging doesn’t mean it is wrong for your child. School is a great place to learn to overcome difficulties, and that is a lesson so needed for our young people today. When the going gets tough, work harder.

At the end of the day, the Holy Spirit really needs to be your guide in homeschooling. I can’t do it myself. The wisdom I need to teach and ultimately disciple these children has to come from God. When people find out we homeschool, the #1 response I get is, “You must be so patient! I could never do something like that.” You know what I want to say (but don’t)? Neither can I! It’s a lot of moments of “Lord, give me…”

Give me wisdom. Give me patience. Give me love. Give me understanding. He has to give me a lot of things during the school day. But you know what? He’s generous.

 

“How Do You Do It?” Travel Edition

For a family of seven, we travel quite a bit. We really do not let our size get in the way of adventure. Life is just too short not to explore the world around us and visit those we love.

I’d be lying if I said travel was easy with kids. It’s not. And some things really cannot be avoided.

One instance is the numerous bathroom stops. Do we really need to choose between dehydration and 40 million stops in 8 hours? It’s an age old conundrum that does not really have a happy or sanitary conclusion.

But we do make a few trips a year and have learned some helpful things along the way that keep us safe and sane.

Pack Snacks.

Just do it. I usually get a few things that we don’t normally eat. Trail mix, almonds, crackers, sausage and cheese, carrots, apples are all good hand held options. I shy away from dipping things because it always ends in a huge mess I have to clean up later. Don’t give little children things that you’d be grossed out to find in your vehicle when you clean it two weeks later.

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Ethan raiding the snacks… we haven’t even left yet, Buddy!

Snacks are great because they can break up fights instantly. They are kinda magical in that way. Besides that, you can use them to stretch out times between meals. And if you are driving through a boring place, snacks can give you an extra boost so you don’t fall asleep at the wheel. Snacks are really like an extra life of Mario Brothers. You need them in your travel life.

Know Yourself.

What can you handle for driving and still be safe? Marathons may not work for you. That’s okay. We cannot do 24 hours of straight driving AND be safe at it, so we stop at a hotel if our destination is too far for us. Others can drive all night and be a champ. Limitations are up to the individual.

Keep in mind though, one of the reasons we choose not to drive through the night is this: That sleep you miss will make itself up one way or another on your vacation. We would rather be well-rested so we can spend the waking hours of the day making memories – not fighting sleep or being cranky for the duration. We would rather take our time and pace ourselves than waste a day making up for the sleep we missed.

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Another thing you need to know about yourself is what kind of conditions you can handle. I live in the frosty North, but I know that if the snow is piling up or conditions are blizzard-like, I don’t want to be on the highway. Especially in states with inferior or minimal plowing equipment. My husband can drive through a lot with confidence… so more power to him! Just remember, you want you and your family to be safe. Lack of confidence or know-how is a danger on the roadways. There is no shame in saying, “I’d rather wait until the weather lets up…”

Entertainment

I am not ashamed to say that we have a DVD player in the van. We bring along a variety of cheap, clean movies to keep the kids happy for the duration of the trip. But we do not play DVDs the whole trip.

No, we force our kids to look out the windows. Sometimes we torture them with music. The ABC game is a great go-to. They can bring books, coloring, school work… the choices are endless.

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Happy travelers… for now…

We really save DVDs as a nighttime thing or a naptime thing. When they are quiet, the baby can sleep. We really try not to make them our go-to on the road. They are just there when we need them.

Hotels

The key to our traveling success is overnight accommodations. We plan for them. We save for them. We depend on them. As you well know, we usually just book a room on our phones while we are on the road. That can be risky, but it usually works for us.

The Tennessee Welcome Stop... also known as our home away from home. ; )
The Tennessee Welcome Stop… also known as our home away from home. ; )

Now, there are a few things we consider when we book a room. We are choosy for a few reasons:

-We want a clean place. Nothing is worse than being sick on a trip.

-We want beds. A double queen room will not do for us.

-We want breakfast. For free.

-We want affordable.

This limits us. We keep in mind our motto, “Life is expensive.” Then we use our tools to get the best room at the best price.

1. Trip Advisor: This is where I start. We type in a location and get up-to-date user reviews for any hotel we are interested in. It is really a travel encyclopedia for us. Is it clean? Is the breakfast good? Is the area around the hotel okay? We find out here.

2. Six Suitcase Travel: If you are a bigger family, Six Suitcase will be a handy guide to hotels with space to sleep at least six, if not more. They also dedicate their site to tips and tricks of traveling with a large family.

3. Hotel websites: I’m not talking Travelocity or Expedia. I’m talking specific hotel websites. I find online prices from Trip Advisor and then will often go to the actual hotel site to see if they have a cheaper rate in tandem with our AAA membership. Last resort, I’ll call the hotel itself to see what their lowest price is. You’d be surprised how you can save working with the hotel direct.

4. AAA: Sometimes you save a lot, sometimes it just covers those pesky room taxes. It is worth it in the long run. Remember though, travel websites (Travelocity, Orbitz, Expedia, Priceline) usually do not take travel memberships into consideration when giving you a lowest price.

I know this seems like a run-around, but hotel searching will save you heartache in the long run. And if you travel the same route to Grandma’s house, you will eventually find some “go-to” places to stay.

Stretching Those Leggies!!

With kids, you need to let them out to run and use the bathroom, not unlike puppies. It is really better for everyone if you do. Sometimes, a McDonalds playland will work, but you really should buy something…. We like rest areas.

Rest areas can be risky, but usually they are well taken care of. Often times there will be a state trooper on site, which ups the safety factor. Some have playgrounds, but ALL have wide open space for the kids to run. Except in Chicago, when they are in the middle of the interstate.

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Stretching legs in North Carolina

The Welcome centers are usually really nice because each state wants to make a good first impression. Some are mini-museums. Don’t pass them by.

Perhaps making a stop at a museum, or store, or some attraction can help as well. It lets your whirling dervishes know that they are not being tortured. You are supposed to be having fun, right? Why not make the journey as fun as the destination?

Relax.

The mishaps and craziness make for great memories later on. Remember that. Don’t sit fretting over every expense and tab. It’s vacation. Enjoy the adventure with your family!

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