Influence Your Kids


Influence Your Kids

We have to earn our kid’s trust. This comes in listening to the small things and instilling values they can SEE with how you live your own life. Like the above scripture says “as beloved children”- here demonstrating how kiddos are natural imitators!

So in the same token, they are imitating what they see at school.


A Mom’s Mental Load: Self-Inflicted or Necessary?

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A Mom’s Mental Load: Self-Inflicted or Necessary?

In 5th grade, I learned the difference between a fact and opinion piece of writing. Opinion was my favorite. Go figure! What I’m about to reflect on is my own personal opinion within the walls of my home. 

Having a primary parent does not work for our family. Having two parents that show up for their kids does work really well. 


By now you know I’ve been a teen mom, single mom, widowed mom, and now a married mom to three. In each season, I’ve realized the phrase “tough as a Mother” is an honor, not a pain point. I’ve prayed for deep discernment on my kid’s unknown actions and also deflected some tough parenting issues to someone else. Giving up these imaginary titles I place on myself leaves space for my kids to learn and grow with another adult. Usually their dad.

I recently read another opinion article about how mothers carry this mental load of care for their family. It’s true. Yet, no one asks us to. Is it innate? Is there an expectation there? What if we just... quit? Are we as women truly made to be nurturers and emotional supporters? All I know is, I carry weight that my husband doesn’t. “Will the teacher notice I didn’t fix hair this morning? I literally cannot even imagine signing the kids up for one more activity to chauffeur around to. What kind of future emotional impact will there be with us having the same six meals on repeat? Shoot, I forgot to flip the laundry!”


You know who else can yield a brush, drive a car, cook a meal, and re-wash a load of soured clothes? 

Mr. Guess. 

You know how Mr. Guess knows those things should even be worried about? By me telling him. The response is usually, “those things don’t really matter. It will all work out.” Ohhhhh is it that easy, sir? Yes, yes it is.

SPOILER ALERT: it’s self-inflicted

Bottom line, I had to quit listing out subtitles to motherhood (chauffeur, cook, teacher, principal, counselor, doctor, maid, laundromat, nanny). I’m just a M O M and these kids and husband, I can choose to gladly serve or be bitter about it. 

Would it be nice if motherhood was a paying gig? Sure! Who doesn’t like some extra cash. But the pay truly, hear me out, is in the giving of yourself in love and receiving back more than you could even imagine. The sacrifice and selflessness are the token that you keep on loading in the slot.


I could brush off the give and take we have in our marriage or tell you this- it was hard fought for. From someone who raised one kid on her own, to voluntarily creating more humans with another human... it took some compromise and relinquishing of control. 

“I married you to parent our son,” said as a joke to make a tough parenting conversation with Mr. Guess a little lighter. But it’s so true. I married a man that I prayed specific qualities for- and none of them included “Please, Lord Jesus, let him worry about the little things like dust bunnies and lurking food dyes.” No, I wanted a man that would listen to me and the kids. A man that knew how a boy’s brain ticked and could guide him. Someone who was gentle where I was rough around the edges. The man I needed to pursue my heart was heading fast after God’s heart for his own life. Who we needed was a parent that didn’t pass off but leaned in.  

And he needs that from me too! Our kids deserve it. 


This mental load, don’t fall for it. Fact: it will make you tired. bitter. lonely. fearful. discarded. Focus on serving, loving, giving. Settle into enough, joy, and receiving. Praise the Lord, He’s already made a way for you, Momma! 

There is no season you’re in as a mother where you have the excuse to let the mental load weigh you down. Seek out a friend for help when needed. Renew your thoughts. Don’t have a friend? Be a friend. Let other adults into your kid’s life. Whether divorced or single, there is a way out of the mental load. Put it at the top of your list “give grace and ask for help when needed”.


I can’t leave you without encouragement from a well that will never run dry on direction. God’s Word is an open book of instruction. Pray over these scriptures. Ask God to show you in what ways can you let go of this mental load and step into a role you’re made for as a Mom. 

ANXIETY: “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:22-24‬ ‭

FEAR “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭1:7‬ ‭

CONTROL “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:22-24‬ ‭

FRIENDSHIP “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

‭‭John‬ ‭15:13‬ ‭

SERVING “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:46‬ 

JOY “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

‭‭John‬ ‭15:11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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I had to read for 30 minutes every night. This was torture! I wanted to read MORE! Books have always been an escape for me. I relate so hardcore with the plot that I daydream about the next plot twist and even once caught myself praying for a main character to please please be delivered from her trouble! Like, what?!

Ideally, my kids would become natural readers! Completely forgoing the whole it takes two (DNA’s) to tango and each kid is different, I set up my first son for success. I didn’t have a lot of money or time and zero experience as an 18 year old girl with a growing human inside.

But a sweet wise woman told me that my son could hear me read to him! So, I did! I read children’s books and the entire Harry Potter series out loud to my growing boy in the womb.


Memory lane, y’all. It takes you to places where you see how your own kids could really benefit from elementary school you. Dr Seuss gave me confidence before kindergarten when I normally had a baby voice, but reading I took on the strong or silly or emotion filled voice of the characters.

When the rose colored glasses of home life became clear, a book escape was my resting place. As an adult, I crave all the self-help, Bible journals, historical romance, biographies, and memoirs to give me an “Oomph!” ahead in life.

Even still… they are an escape!

Girls reading

CREATE an environment where kids love to read. Making this reading nook for our girls, this is the picture I had in mind. Sunlight pouring in. A quiet corner at the top of the house in their room. Lillie-Mae reading out loud to Mindy. Even if you don’t have the “perfect” nook, imagine and create anywhere in the home.

SEASONS change, and so can books! These shelves celebrate the first day of fall with books about Trick or Treating, picking apples, being thankful, or illustrations of leaves changing.

Mindy Picking a Book

SPACE to grow is a new season of parenting as we now have a sixth grade boy (who brings a book every. single. place. he goes! and yes, Harry Potter is his favorite!). Learning the importance of a kid, having influences and encounters outside the home is so important. Our girls can’t go to Bear Country and have some honey with Little Sister, but they can dive into the pages of a book!

Mr. Guess is an artist, so “pretty books” are something he really enjoys. Most of the kids’ books come from McKay’s Used Bookstore or are gifted from family members (they too see that our kids love to read!).

Bookshelves and Decor-  Target

Bookshelves and Decor- Target

I wrote a lot more about fostering a love for reading on our local Mom’s Blog. Do you kids like to read? What are your favorite books now or as a child?

FALL BOOK LINKS (reminder, most of these were bought used and/or local all have been collected over time):
From Seed to Pumpkin , Bella’s Fall Coat , I am a Warrior Goddess , I’ll Always Love You , The Biggest Pumpkin , Where’s My Mummy , The Berenstain Bears go on a Ghost Walk , Secrets of the Apple Tree .

Hard to find/collector title: A Farm by Lenmart Rudstrom

I don’t think we did anything special except be intentional with our kids reading. They see us read, listen to audiobooks in the car together, and we take the time to read to them. Each child has read on their own pace.

Dallas was 4 and in preschool when he started to sound out letters then figure out how they made words. A whole new world opened! Lillie-Mae was conservative about giving reading a go. It took her mid year of kindergarten, but she was the youngest in her class also. Mindy is reading her little books 6 weeks into kindergarten and will soon be six.

Relating text to self and text to world is a HUGE life lesson.

I thought for sure that I would ALWAYS know the books my kids read, but I literally couldn’t keep up with our oldest after third grade. Our homeschool days were spent reading together on the couch… but separate. Still get butterflies thinking of those sweet moments seeing his mind soar!

Y’all, I just want you to be inspired to think outside this ticking time (box) of life. Be intentional with your kids. Reading slows down their minds but stretches it too. Reading is a friend. Reading teaches you things about a world you have yet to explore. Reading is innocent. Reading is free! Reading opens doors a front door to discovery and imagination.


Packing Lunches for Kids


Packing Lunches for Kids

Sent my son to school today with his lunch in a Target bag, so that makes me qualified to tell you how to prep a successful kid’s lunch! Right?? If you’ve been around for any moment, I hope you’ve realized something . The Guess Tribe is not perfect. This is me taking a guess at life! Keeping in mind what’s important.

With school lunch, here’s what is important:
1. My kids are fed.
2. They have food they enjoy.

Just to clarify, the Guess kids do have lunchboxes. Something about a middle school brained boy - brain cells start to scatter. I know one day (soon, Lord!) they will gather back together. But for the moment, the lunchbox gets left in the locker some days. No, the Target bag is not to punish him or bring shame to a “mistake”. It was his solution! And so we move forward.

”SHOOT FOR THE STARS AND YOU’LL LAND ON THE MOON”- Mr. Guess’ translated quote of a positive thinker, Norman Vincent Peale. #familymotto


There is nothing worse then opening an empty fridge needing to pack a lunch. Maybe worse, waiting until 4 minutes to leave and three kids fighting each other for the leftover taco soup. Prepping for us looks like washing fruit and chopping veggies. Weekly grocery trips. Separating last night’s leftovers into ready to go containers. Having clean lunchboxes and washed out reusable storage bags.


To keep from being the Wicked Mom of the West (we just got done reading Wizard of Oz, so yeah… it’s come up!), I have my two youngest girls pick one day a week that they buy a school lunch. This is not to only save $$$ every month but also to make sure they are getting good food in their bodies. Most likely it will be taco day. My Kindergartener is learning to read “I am blue.” You know, sight word level. But girl knows how to spell BURRITO! “Momma, today is burrito day!!!” was the first thing I heard waking up this morning. Goodness, kids are something amazing.


Listen, I’ve spent hours in elementary school lunchrooms of our county through a mentoring program.
1. Your kids are not eating their packed lunch.
2. School lunches aren’t the healthiest.

I love a lunch lady. They give me cookies and smiles and LOVE THOSE KIDS! This isn’t about a lunch lady. This is about your kid, their needs. I’m so thankful some kids get a paid for lunch at school and sent home with a snack bag, knowing they most likely won’t get dinner at home. Sheesh. This broken world is hungry, FED IS BEST.

Here’s a fact- I stopped adding up the grams of sugar in one “balanced” meal after 20. 20 grams of sugar. If you’re a Momma wondering HOW you can set your kids up for success and an exuberant amount of sugar in a school lunch alarms you, take note.

Balance doesn’t mean my kid has a completely plant based/food specific diet. It means, “Okay, my son has a sniffly nose. No sugar or dairy.” Or, “Lillie-Mae has been devouring dinners and asking for extra breakfast, she must need extra protein in her lunch for a growth spurt!” Maybe even, “Mindy isn’t eating anything at all. How much longer can she survive?! Let’s throw in a chocolate for excitement!”


I tried it once; giving my kids only what they wanted for an entire day. By end of day they were cranky, tired, and had belly aches. Kids KNOW what makes their body feel good when they’re consistently exposed to good food items.

From first bites to now, we’ve just always had a pretty good assortment of foods. I don’t know how to deal with your picky eater. I know what we have done for ours in different seasons.
“You have to try one bite.”
“Miss Priss doesn’t like the texture of squishy veggies. Let’s mash those.”
“Okay, they’re all screaming for sugar like heroine addicts- let’s cut back and have more smoothies.”
“What’s that dear? You LOVE your hot little trees (aka steamed broccoli). Noted!”
”Since you liked this same food last week, take four big bites and you’re done.”
“What do you want for dinner?”
“Wednesday night, will you cook your favorite dinner for the family?”

Giving options. Prompting questions. Focusing on the positive… all good ways to give them what they want AND it be good for their body.

Yesterday for lunch I had a couple slices turkey, half a bowl of pickles, and a banana. Cause it’s what I wanted! So in the mornings, I first ask my kids what they want for the day. It might be random, but hey, it gets them involved. This morning I heard “pretzels, chips and salsa and peanut butter crackers”. Well child, that’s three grains too many. “Okay, and an apple.” The compromise- leftover Beef Lo Mein, an apple, chips and salsa…. in a Target bag, GO!

Modern Honey gives great presentation and meal ideas!

Modern Honey gives great presentation and meal ideas!

I don’t have any pretty lunch pictures. Imagine a Pottery Barn lunchbox (third year running, washing machine tested!), with an assortment of containers, all mismatched, and manipulating the zipper closed to fit it all in for the new football player in the family.

You do you, friend! Don’t spend a fortune but do buy for longevity. Unless your kids lose or throw away things- then Target has a great $5.99, 32 piece storage set! We LOVE the switch from one time use storage bags to reusable- more durable multi use bags. Water cups are mostly found at Dirt Cheap, but still name brand/durable/without many parts.

PROTEIN- chicken, lunch meat (check out Aldi’s Never Any! brand), hummus, beans, yogurt, cheese

VEGGIES- celery, cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers, pickles, cucumbers, carrots, salad

FRUIT- strawberries, candy grapes (big hit right now), blueberries, apples, banana, pineapple, melons, oranges, natural applesauce <<all pre-cut as needed

EXTRAS- chips and salsa, dye free and/or organic snacks, popcorn, graham crackers

At the grocery store (always Aldi), I buy a couple of things from each category instead of having more variety which in turn is more food to spoil. I like fewer items for less choices and more peaceful packing.

LEFTOVER IDEAS- soups and casseroles are so easy to reheat in the morning and then store in a Thermos. Pay attention to dinners your kids love- double it up next time! Could have lunch for a week just doing leftovers!

What are you packing in your kid’s lunchbox? Always up for ideas!
Stay tuned for “Successful Breakfast Ideas”.
I’ll give you a hint- toast, air, and oatmeal are the genius rotation here in the Guess Tribe Kitchen.


Broken Bread

Broken Bread

May I be broken bread, may I be poured out wine. May I incarnate, Your kindness Lord Spend my life Jesus, anyway You please.Whether on great things, or what seems small”

House is clean and bellies are full. Babies are sleeping. It is now 57 minutes until Sunday- a holy day of rest. In these last moments of the night, I am listening to friends practice praise music for tomorrow's church service. Earlier this evening, I attended the marriage of my cousin and witnessed love at it's start. Just looking at today, all is well. But looking back, because we all do, the year has been a downward battle. On April 22, I put pen to paper to tell the world that I had overcome depression. However, Death came knocking at my door. Well, it wasn't exactly Death, and he didn't really knock. More like seeped through the cracks of my home. Cracks that we had forgotten to patch in the remodeling. Soon, the cracks were ignored as more problems came. There was no time to work, the list of time suckers too long: court appearances after being sued, trying to sell a house that was deemed "unsellable" when it was on the front page news as the location of a death (suicide), bills from two years past that went unfiled and 2013 seemed like a good year for them to surface, tuition for Dallas' school basically... disappearing, stress related health problems. Oh, and there are also the tending of two kids while increasingly pregnant and Chris' full time job that pays the bills.

Emotionally, I escaped to numbness. A place of no action besides the necessities. I became lifeless, physically sick, unenjoyable. Death brought his workers. We were on a first name basis, so they just walked in the front door and joined me in my daily work. Sitting beside me when I {attempted to} enjoy playing with my children. Laying in the bed between my husband and me at night. You would think I might abandon my Bible, God, praising Him, and doing His work. Thankfully, I considered these actions necessities. Right on my to do list {coffee and prayer, dress girls, breakfast, clean rooms, daily chores, laundry, lunch, naps, Bible, errands, supper, paperwork} were the things I had to get done. I have thought about revealing how routine and ritualistic my life had become. Would you believe me if I told you that I put over 20 items on a to do list a day? Not counting for the other long term lists I had. I could control my tasks and the daily commitments I said, "yes" to.

As a new baby joined our family, my hormones skyrocketed. The control I thought I had quickly stood within an edge of a suicidal cliff. Remember Death? He loved my actions. I believe it brought him great joy for my anger to be at a point of recklessness. Many times, the husband took me to the floor, protecting me from myself, saying, "Just quit, Danielle. Please, quit." I wanted to. I thought about it... But his version and my version of quitting were different. I did not want to go through the sticky mess that I had made. I wanted a divorce. I did not want to know what God had on the other side of this darkness. I knew that I was completely out of control of my life. I knew who was in control.

One Sunday, after attending a church service that I did not want to be at in the first place, I walked into my home, the babies cried and I left. Driving and thinking. Asking God, "why?!" but not waiting for an answer. Considering my past and the heartaches, in some ways heaven seemed so much sweeter than the home I left. Mindlessly, I made my way back home with no thought to how I arrived. A quiet voice prompted me to call for my husband, "Come get this gun."  He came and shook his head in disbelief. This wasn't the first time he had to rescue me from myself. I left home again. Hours later I came back to my kids. 

That Tuesday, I admitted myself to Parkridge Valley Hospital. I stayed for four days. Few revelations were reached there. Mainly, I had to let go of my pride. I could not do this alone. I had family and friends that loved me and were willing to help {quite a few missed me from my four day vacation and showed up at my house to a teary eyed husband}. There were professionals that understood mental illness {and offered hope}. My children showed me mercy, that being created in God's image allowed them to show me. I realized my husband was loving me day to day- no one was telling him he had to; he wanted to. The love story of Hosea and Gomer came to my mind often. No, I was not promiscuously living my life, but I was running back and forth and deeper and deeper into a place that had no name in my mind but always appeared satisfying. And every time I came back, the husband was there without judgement. Mercy. 

Some say {with strong opinion and lack of education} that you can pray your way out of depression. But doesn't that put God in a box? Yes, he is Healer, Provider,  Holy, and Just. I know God is capable, and He knows I'm willing to have this thorn in my side removed. But God doesn't always heal in the ways we think are best. Before going to Valley, I sought counsel from a friend. At the moment, I was in an oppositional state of mind. I knew that for some reason God would have me go to a place I did not want to. My words to her, "I do not want Valley to be a part of my testimony." You see, in my "Christian" mind frame, God had given me all the tools I needed to move forward. God's Word alone could have been all. This story, this part of my life, does not yet have an end. Changes have been made, and I can say that the present is where I live. The day to day. Learning to move beyond the necessities. Receiving mercy. Accepting mercy. 


{post originally written 2/3/14, two months after I planned to take my life. keep living, friends.}