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Raising Kids

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.


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.



Thank You, Teachers


Thank You, Teachers

I was ready to purchase Lillie-Mae’s kindergarten curriculum and Dallas’ fourth grade books for another year of homeschool when I sensed the Lord leading the Guess Tribe in a different direction. For three years, home was where I birthed two babies and played teacher. 

It was the most growing and strengthening time as a woman. To be responsible for all areas of a child’s growth is huge. There is no principal to answer to, guidance counselor to send an emotionally needy child to, and no lunch lady to cook the meals. 

Homeschool moms are everything. 

Homeschool can get a bad rap with Mom’s believing the lie “I couldn’t do that, I just don’t have the patience.” You can do anything you’re called to do and are stronger than you think. Quit selling yourself and your Creator short. Who am I to tell you that? Well I was the Mom that said “I will NEVER homeschool my child.” But then I had a very wiggly, energetic, beyond smart for his age child that was put into a box of a school room and needed out. The three years he was at home taught him how to study, listen, and discover that learning is outside of a book. For me, the same things were taught. I studied my child to pay attention to cues that life wasn’t great and learned to listen, because his words mattered too. I learned that some of the best life lessons are taught at Aldi when your seven year old unloads groceries for a worn out Momma with a screaming newborn, without being prompted to show compassion. 

To say it was a shock to feel peace that my kids would enter into public school is an understatement.

Ask Chris, I don’t lose sleep over many things. I lay down, close my eyes, sleep. But those nights feeling restless was a struggle. He felt it too. What’s faith like? It’s a consistent, close walk with the Lord on a path, and then one day He pulls your hand to go a new direction. You can either hold tight and move, stand still and think whether you want to go along, or let go and keep going the way you always were because it felt comfortable. 

Faith is holding tight and moving. Continuously. Blindly. 

Needless to say, I woke up one night and said the name of the school my kids now attend. Telling Chris about how we should check it out, he said it was where he knew they should be for a couple of months. Why didn’t he tell me that? Because I needed to hear it from God too. 

My first worry turned prayer “Let my kids have nice, caring, better than their Momma teachers that give them love and patience and kind words and encouragement.” Mrs. Bussey was that for Dallas. He would have a hard day at school, be misunderstood by one of his many teachers, and I would tell him, “Find Mrs. Bussey, she will give you a hug.” Sometimes when a kid isn’t really wrong and there are a lot of students and opinions, their side can be shut out, and I get that. Coming from a school room of one to 25 was a shock for Dallas in that area. He always had a safe place though to feel comfortable and grounded. 

Lillie-Mae is the kindest, most soft hearted child I have ever been around. She is made up of all the niceness of her Daddy and the little bit that I had to give, and that’s it. I was terrified her kindergarten teacher would be too energetic, the classroom too loud, and she would be looked over. Turning six on the first day of school meant she was starting at the bottom of the totem pole. Leaving her in that classroom the first day, I bawled my eyes out (still crying now thinking about it!). The superintendent, Mrs. Day, gave me a hug and said it will be alright Momma! Mrs. Stansell was the perfect teacher for her. Calm and quiet and always smiling. The type of personality I imagined Lillie-Mae to grow into as an adult! Every day was exciting for her to go to school. The first month she was tired and cried after school but was always ready to get up and go the next day! 

And this year... Mrs. McBryar, I can’t say your name without thanking God right after. Lillie-Mae was worried no teacher could be as nice as Mrs. Stansell. Says right there in her card “I can’t believe how nice you are to me.” You were an answer to her prayers over many nights. And the first day of school, “I can’t believe she knew my name and she has two names too! She even gives hugs and I wanted to kiss her but didn’t know if I could.” 

Dallas has all male teachers this year, and it’s teaching him to be more responsible and focused on goals. There might not be any hugs, but he admires every one of his teachers. They’re giving him something to model after as men. 

Elementary teachers, you are like school Moms and Dads to our kids when they’re away, and I’m am so thankful for you!