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.}


Hypocrite or Holy Writ


Hypocrite or Holy Writ

You can walk into church a hypocrite and super sad and/or wearing a tiara like Mindy

Here’s the thing no one tells you but they’re trying when they sing “Come as you are” and saying “Oh, honey, I know it’s hard right now but the Lord’s house is where you need to be.”

We’re kind if saying it, but watered down a bit. Because what Jesus says is He WANTS your broken and WANTS your presence with Him and WANTS you to quit trying to fake yourself out.

Before church, like 10 minutes countdown to leave, is one of the strongest spiritual battlefields for a Momma sometimes. Not just because the wee one is crying and the husband might be missing (maybe you’re single moming it 🙌🏻#superhero) while you’re fighting the toddler in a tiara to de-accessorize down to just three, please. 

It’s a literal head to head, because the Enemy wants nothing to do with you being joyful in the Lord in a church building with other people shouting “JESUS!”


This evening I was crying so much I couldn’t get the fake-up on which made us late to church. (It happens.) We weren’t able to sit with friends or in the “usual” spot. The man in front of me had cologne that wasn’t my favorite. The lady probably three rows back was interrupting my thoughts with her loud singing. A guy close by looked like a bad ex from the back of his ears down to the shoes he was wearing. 

I was real focused on worship y’all

Directed prayer is something our church does after singing a few songs. It’s a time to reflect, pray together as a congregation for the same thing. I got a little “right with God” about being so self centered and grouchy and really just down on myself for the “little sins” going on in my life unconfessed. But those prayers didn’t go higher than the ceiling as my Mamaw would say. (Kinda forgot p r a y e r is a time for the Lord to search my heart. Not for me to play a quick game of “Sorry!”) 

You know what the worship crew had the audacity to belt out after this prayer time.... 

“Great is thy faithfulness. Thou changest not. Thy compassions they fail not.” 

Nope. Can’t sing that.

“This is your altar...” something the Lord clearly said to me mid worship one of the first times we attended a new church that had no altar. (Like, where do I GO to pray, Lord?). Great is thy faithfulness… not mine, but Yours, Lord


“When Jesus comes back, what do I want Him to catch me doing?” was the question the Pastor asked. And there it was... Those tears I cried earlier in the evening were in vain. “I’ve done it ALL RIGHT! I’ve searched my heart and come up empty.” 

And from that cry at my altar of a chair with lights on.... I penned this heart response “You might have confessed and have forgiveness from your past. You might live day to day loving me. But I’m asking for your eyes to be on eternity during your every day. This skips tomorrow and two Wednesday’s from now and Christmas coming into 2020. Eternity is keeping in mind that my return is coming.” 


The world is a lot more hopeful with kingdom eyes looking through a microscope. People dress up and make themselves smell good for things they’re excited to go to. Women make a joyful noise singing because they are happy in Jesus. We can see people that remind us of our past, but being far removed from that, faithfully see God had a plan all along. 

Coming to church in a drought, left filling the river and dry banks with tears during that one last verse the worship leader felt we needed (so thankful for one more verse).


So please, go broken. Go fancy. Go fake and prideful. Go worn out and humbled. God wants every piece of you.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30


Prayer Notes

Prayer Notes

Prayer and reading God’s Word are two basic tools we have in the toolbelt of Mom Life. However, these don’t come at the top of the priority list as often as they should. Really, they should be so second nature that they don’t even need to be listed.

You can get stuck inside your own head when it comes to prayer. “What do I say? How do I say it? Is that okay to talk to GOD about? Does He even care? Is now the right time? I don’t even know where to start!”

Something I have done that might help you as well, not to make it convenient or simplify prayer, but to help you get unstuck is to write down prayers. I will do this in the Notes on my phone. Why the phone? Aren’t we supposed to keep it old school, no electronics, when it comes to approaching God? Well, yes. You don’t need a cell phone to reach the Lord.

Always having your phone on hand, this is where things get simple. Instead of perusing Pinterest for a motivational quote, you’ll have a section in your Notes of prayers. Read something you have already written out and be inspired to start talking to the Lord.

Coming to God in prayer is as easy as saying His name and talking out loud (or in your head!) just like you would in conversation with anyone.
Jeremiah 29:12 "Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you."

A constant reminder is what Jesus says right before He gives the example of what we know as the “Lord’s Prayer”
”…For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” Matthew 6:8b

Opening up your Bible and praying scriptures is a great practice! You’ll get more comfortable with this as you practice it. Start with Psalms, Proverbs, or a specific story and translate it into a prayer. For example,
”Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins.” Proverbs 10:12
Lord, right now I have hate for (that person) so deeply that it’s causing a lot of issues in my life. I know that your Word says that hatred stirs up strife, so I need to give this over to you. It’s bigger than something I can handle alone. Let love cover all of the hate and emotions that go with it. The shame, fear, anger, and other negative emotions I let come up. Cover it with your love and let me be one that shows You by being someone who doesn’t act out of hate towards (that person). In Your name, amen.

Here’s how Prayer Notes work.
• Make a heading (forgiveness, hatred, envy, shame)
• Write out a prayer with a Bible verse that is fitting.
• The next time you’re struggling with that same feeling or issue, you’ll have a quick start to a conversation with the Lord.

I love that I can look back on prayers from months ago and remember when and where that conversation happened and the peace I felt following being obedient.

It is always so good to journal to kind of brain dump your thoughts onto paper. It slows down the scattered thinking process, and there is something therapeutic and healing about writing. Do this in an actual notebook if you find your phone is a distraction. I’m not trying to convenience a relationship with God, but instead finding solutions to a real issue… I over complicate the simplest of practices!

Copy and Paste these into your notes to get you started!


Doing what’s right:
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105 God, this has seemed so big and so overwhelming that I have almost given up. All You ask of me is that I do the next right thing. It’s easy for me to react in fear or uncertainty. Yet You will lead me one choice, one response, one action at a time- through YouGidr Word, and through the Holy Spirit. Thank you for that. In Your name, amen.*

Temptation: “If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?” Matthew 18:12 God, I need your help to remember Your faithfulness when these sinful desires tempt me to go against Your will for my life. I’m thankful for the forever connection I have to you becuase of Jesus. That even if I stray as the 1 lamb did, You will leave the 99 to come find me. Thank you for that faithful love towards me. In Your name, amen.

Restoration: “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,” Joel 2:25 God, right now there is so much unsettled in this relationship. I feel like I have wasted years not giving this area of my life over to you. I know that you can restore those years and Your word says that I won’t go hungry when I’m feeling starved of love and security. Your love is enough. May I always come to you first and ask for Your way, not my own. In Your name, amen.

Forgiveness: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” God, I know that I am messing up in the area of forgiveness. Anytime that their name is mentioned, I twinge. Who am I to pass judgment on them and not be forgiving when you have forgiven me of so much? Help me to see what I can forgive for and to love my enemies. In Your name, amen.

Conviction: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 Father, You are full of mercy and grace, and I confess to unintentionally allowing things to become more important than You. Thank You for the warning in Your Word and for Your Spirit that convicts us of our sin. Please help us to see the areas where we tray, and give us the power to turn back to You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

*Two of these prayers are taken from an app I like to use for daily devotionals. First 5 has dozens of plans you can do daily to read scripture, learn, apply to your own life, and end in prayer.

Saying Yes Won't Spoil the Kid


Saying Yes Won't Spoil the Kid

The combination of a rainy summer day, schedules leading to having just one kid at home instead of three, and the awareness that life should daily be given our best to the ones we love following the sudden death of a local Mom’s son had me saying, “Yes!” to my middle girl today.

I hesitated to share, because not everyone has the liberty to make their child feel special due to financial and/or time constraints. But then when I really thought of the parents that have influenced me to treat my kid extra special one at a time, I noticed something they had in common. They all have excuses. Too many kids, working a full time job, needing to tend to a child with special needs most of the time, literally no money to spare or some other issue that could come up. Instead of excuses, they made a way!

I didn’t want you to feel guilty, but now I kinda do want you to share in that emotion with me. Maybe guilty is a strong word. Let’s settle on “urgently yearning for making your child feel known and seen; creating a space in time with them that is just their own; setting aside your wants for their needs”. Do I need to go on, or are you already thinking “I MUST TAKE THE EXTRA TIME FOR MY KID(S) NOW!!!”

Chris and I find pockets of time or set aside a half a day, sometimes spend money and sometimes don’t. Without a concrete “we must do this on X day with X amount of money”, it just seems more natural.

So today, specifically, Mindy was in summer day camp and Dallas is in Florida for an alone trip with my Momma. (Something she has planned to do for years when her grandchildren each graduate from 5th grade…. wonder where I get the urgency to make my kids feel special? It was definitely done for me growing up…. I just didn’t notice the sacrifice until I had kids of my own.)

I had an appointment at 9:00 am until 10 for counseling. Chris was taking Lillie-Mae into his work until 1:00. The plan was for me to pick LM up after and head to Lake Winnie! Mindy would go home with a friend from school giving us the whole day together! Instead… it rained and my appointment was cancelled. “This is the way it’s meant to be.” had to be my response to changed plans or else the day would start on a sour note. Picked up blueberry donuts from Dunkin, picked up my girl and asked her what she wanted to do since the amusement park wasn’t going to happen. “SHOP!!!!” In my mind, I decided today would be a “Yes!” day (saying yes to everything), despite the excuses I could have.


Why am I being so specific with our day? 1. To remember it. 2. Transparently show you the back and forth dialogue between reality and what we want for our children that is constantly pulling at this Momma’s heart.

And shop we did! Except one tiny detail… Chris and I have MAJORLY cut back on spending. Like 0 wants and no eating out (those $3 donuts were a splurge!) to plan for things coming up in the future. Lillie-Mae did have an envelope with $25 at home, so I told her we could spend her money. The “YAY!” response settled it. Off to Learning Express (Chattanooga’s Best and maybe only toy store?) for her to blow it all. On the way, I got a message from World Market to get a free Toy Story Pez Dispenser just for stopping by! I tucked that pocket of awesome away to share with Lillie-Mae later. She took a solid hour at the toy store.

Being a “Yes!” day, I did gently guide her away from the giant sparkly, fuzzy, stuffed things that she already had a collection of at home and back to areas of creative toys I knew she would love. Settling on a sparkly clipboard that opened to store her drawings in work and a panda bear ring, she was stoked! At the checkout, she saw that some things were monogrammed with paint pens. “I wish I could have that done on the clipboard, but I want to save my money for pens at the art store.” I so wanted to just say “If it’s just a few dollars, Momma will pay for that extra.”

Well little did we know that was FREE for her to do! Oh the sparkle in her eyes when the cashier asked her if she wanted it done and she could pick out any color. She became very talkative and cheerful as we left the store in the pouring rain. Asking how long we had to go to the store and when did we need to get Mindy? She is little Momma in our family, always thinking of others and punctuality.

At Michael’s, she learned real quick that a yellow clearance sticker was like a golden ticket. Racking up enough supplies to glitterify the whole house and paint her Daddy two “D’s for his office, because he didn’t have any decorations”, and a pencil box to match her clipboard, we headed to checkout! The total was about $1.50 over what she had left of the $25, so I told her she would need to put one thing back. “OH NO, honey child. You just wait.” Said the friendly cashier to Lillie-Mae who had been smiling up at her the whole time. Scanning one coupon… then another…. and one more, her total was just right! That SMILE on her face. Goodness, worth it all!

Now, Lillie-Mae still didn’t know today was a “Yes!” day heading into World Market where she got a Bo Peep Pez Dispenser with three candy refills, “One for brother when he comes back and sister and me! Do you and Dad like these too?” She didn’t ask for anything else. The lady did give her a pack of gummies that was the cherry on top of the candy mountain. At checkout, Free again!

“Want to eat inside somewhere Momma???” Inside is a big treat for just a lunch day, because paying for chaos at a restaurant isn’t my jam. She wanted to go to Steak N Shake, but honestly I didn’t think we would have enough time. Lillie-Mae, “Well, we might not have enough time to go there and get sister. How about Chick-fil-A?” That works! Little does she know that I have hoarded bazillions of points and have a never ending gift card that has been swiped three times but still has money! Jackpot!

Sipping her lemonade, she told me she was saving it to last all day. I told her she could get a refill. Eyes big as the plastic lid, “I CAN!!!!” Apparently my children don’t know this, because they get water refills when they run out of lemonade. She chugged that and then said, “Why did you say I could?” “Today’s a “Yes!” day. Have you not noticed.” She didn’t! And trust me, this Momma says “NO!” a lot. Getting a refill, she got one more freebie! A stuffed cow! Couldn’t believe the irony as I had steered her away from them earlier at the toy store.

What a gift this random turned intentional time was!

I want all kids to know they’re loved, freely. In my house, that starts with me and my husband making it a priority. Make the time for your own kiddos as you can. Trust me, it will be beyond worth it.