The long days of {a mother’s} summer

Thoughts on a world full of tragedy

School took place from late August until the end of May, but summer was when you got your education.

It was July of 1994 and we were free.  A two-wheeled Huffy gave my brother and I all the freedom we could ever need.  We’d bike down 2 streets and knock at the door of my brother’s friend, then zigzag on to the next house, our numbers growing each time.

An empty acre of grass beckoned — for 2 hours I was one of the boys.  Sitting in deep centerfield, I alternated between catching fly balls and picking weeds.  We’d stop at home and rummage through Dad’s change jar for dimes so we could buy ourselves a nutritious lunch of Jo-Jos from the corner market- 10 cents a piece.

Those were the glory days.  We owned our time and felt as though we owned the world, nevermind we had $12.87 in our piggy banks and ate Ritz crackers as though they were a staple of survival.

We knew nothing but living life.  


It is 22 years later and the Ohio humidity hasn’t changed one bit.  I’m now the proud owner of two vehicles, 4 bikes and enough Chinese plastic in my garage that know that while I may not own the world, I certainly own enough of it’s junk.

The news is heavy again.

Before I’ve had my toast, my newsfeed reminds me these are dark days.  There is hate and violence and death.  How long, Oh Lord?

I’m not the little sister anymore, I’m the mom to a little girl and her two older brothers.  And while the day-to-day parenting doesn’t change, the times feel like they have.

Maybe the incidents of violence have not increased, but the 24-hour news reminds us everyday of the sad state of our hearts.

Orlando.  Nice.  Dallas.  Minneapolis.

The kids are engrossed with Teletubbies so I take my coffee up the stairs and turn on the TV in my bedroom.  I’m not ready for my children to know these things– to hear the manner in which so many lives were lost.

The truth- Motherhood changes your perspective.  Men that were killed, those are your husband.  How do you explain this to your children? An 11-year old run over by a truck?  How do you wrap your head around the sick soul that ended the lives of 10 children?  Mothers weep for the mothers who have lost a piece of their heart.

Olen cape

It’s 4 pm and the baby is up from her nap and we’re in the backyard.  It is the heat of the day.  The blondie’s cheeks turn a bright shade of red.

I watch him swing higher and higher.  He’s learned how to get himself started, to pump his legs.  His t-shirt cape flaps in the wind.  He is 4 years old, but just like his momma once felt, he knows he owns the world.

I pray, “Oh God, help me to focus on this moment.  The joy.  The element of carefree.”

My nature is the nurture them in tighter.  To hold on.  To stay in and hide them from the bad that can happen.

Are my children worried?  Do they know?  Do we change our outlook when we step away from social media and Dateline and the “Summer of Chaos” and instead look at the summer through the eyes of our children?

My children trust in us (their parents) for their safety and then fully enjoy their life.  I too, can trust my Heavenly Father and then go forth.  Be free.  If I’m living for heaven and not for today, I have nothing to fear- for myself or my children.

The long days of summer just got a little sweeter.

Grace for the Thursday morning

I come down the stairs amid a 6:45 am haze.  The littlest has woken me up the same way she did yesterday- with her blood curdling there’s-a-serial-killer-in-my-bedroom scream.  We grab her monkey and blankie and fight through hour #35 of this week- just me and the kids.

I can’t do it.

I look at the pile of dirty dishes.  My to-do list litters my desk with a pile of uncut coupons and unpaid bills.

I’m weary again.

Joy escapes me and the weariness, and loneliness hits again.  It comes in waves.  On a quiet day I can tread the water and serve the meals and wipe bottoms- with smiles.  On rough days my tone is angry. my voice speaks of rush, and I lack the grace for my kids that I so want them to see in me.  I’m the worst role model.

I remember the words a former client said when I talked to him about working from home:

“You don’t want to be one of those women that just stays at home and decides which kind of cookies to bake.”


I push the toaster handle down and pour the water  in the back of coffee pot.  Dora the Explorer skips from Spanish to English in the background.

I set my devotional and Bible on the dining room table.

“God, is there more than this?”

How do I serve You and serve them and find peace and fulfillment in this?

blog cover Thursday

My favorite Psalm is without a doubt, Psalm 139 which says,

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

By Thursday morning in the life of a stay-at-home-mom, you begin to feel invisible.  Maybe a little lonely.  Mostly a little insane.  The work is mundane, exhausting, and mostly thankless.  While you’re working, you receive the praise of clients and co-workers, but at-home, kids are sometimes our worst critics – “I don’t LIKE that vegetable! I don’t WANT to go there.”

While others may not see my efforts or praise my ability to tame a toddler during a diaper change (ahh), GOD SEES ME.  He loves me.  He’s there when I sit (do I even do that anymore?) and he’s there when I rise (even to screams)!  He keeps me when I’m ready to JUST GIVE UP.  I can rest without the praise of men when I know The One who is above all knows my heart and my need.  Just like he knitted each child in my womb (v. 13, For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb); he hems me.  He’s still molding and forming.  His eye has not left me. 

His grace is there.  For the Thursday morning.  Or the Monday evening.  Or, say it ain’t so, 8:45 am on Sunday.

HE will bring me through.

Fighting entitlement in children (and all of us)

A book review

I’ve been following Kristen Welch for a long time.  Her oftentimes raw prose about parenting, marriage and raising kids is always something I’m eager to read.  So when I was accepted to be on her Launch Team for Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, I did a little happy dance for the opportunity to read the book (for free) before every once.  Of course these opinions are my own.

I will admit it’s empowering for me to hear a mom that is 10 years ahead of me (in parenting years- her oldest is 16) say, “It’s okay for our kids not to be rewarded all the time.”  In a world where kids get a goody bag at the party or a trophy at the game JUST FOR SHOWING UP, we’re swimming upstream when we show our kids a life that looks any differently.  I’ve been pressured into feeling like my kids are due something, when they really aren’t.

Kristen also thoughtfully reminds parents that kids will cling more to what they catch than what we teach them.  Our parenting will look different when we choose to raise un-entitled children.  Kristen points out, “This involves not just fitting Jesus into our lives, but fitting our lives into Jesus.”  I had to say that phrase a few times over and ask myself whether I’m all in for Jesus or I’m just expecting him to be all in to my plans.  I can’t preach “take up your cross” if I’m expecting my kids to learn from my sometimes whiny demands for take-out or new clothes.

Kristen shares many stories from her own family’s quest to live differently.  She gives real-life examples of how to help kids gain perspective on our wealth and abundance in the First World.  In the chapter named Gratitude, Kristen shares how each family member put a rubberband on their wrist and snapped it when they made a complaining comment.  (Yikes!  I think my wrist would be raw.)  She shares how it was a wake-up not only to her children, but herself as well.

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Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World would be a great book to read for the new year.  I’ve definitely implemented some of Kristen’s parenting strategies and taken note of my own behaviors that scream “entitled.”  If you have older children,  you’ll  appreciate the time spent discussing social media and the Welch family’s social media contract!  I better tuck that away for the near future. 🙂


How do you fight entitlement in your family?


Order the book via Amazon

Kristen’s blog : We are THAT family

Need Fair Trade products to give as gifts?  Check out one of Kristen’s ministries.


(Links to Amazon are affiliate links.  There is no additional cost to you).

Best of the Web- September 5

Hi everyone!

Thanks for stopping by for another week in review.



What I learned (about family) on my summer vacation – It’s not what you expect.

Some wise words, here.  I am not Rocky Balboa.

This could be filed under travel. Or life.  Or faith.  It brought big tears to my eyes because I’ve felt so much of this- Wings and roots: of mixed metaphor and the search for home


How I got over my fear of flying – You know I never fail to heed this advice!

Molokai: It’s all about the love–  The photos are breathtaking, as is the travel story.


5 foolish things people do when they’re broke– Please, please, don’t do these things.


Hope you have a fantastic Labor Day!


I know my life is cushy


I’m not oblivious to the fact that I write a blog geared towards finances and travel.  Saving money, building wealth, and traveling the world are things in which I’m genuinely interested.

This week it’s been weighing on my mind that this blog is not for everyone.  Not because people aren’t interested in those things, but because they don’t have the opportunity to be interested in those thing.

When I served at a local meal for the unfortunate this week, many of those there were elderly.  It bothered me that social security checks aren’t measuring up and so they frequent a weekly community meal to make their dollars stretch further at the grocery store.

It worries me that two classmates of mine from high school, both mothers, are facing medical issues.  One started chemo this week, the other had a heart attack.

I can’t ignore the articles that tell me that girls in Kenya miss school only because of their period, or that bodies of refugee children are washing ashore.

And while I’m blogging about what retirement looks like for us wealthy North Americans or how to travel the country on a dime, it’s not forgotten that I lead a super cushy life.  That most of my wants are really that- wants.  That the world is full of people trying to hold onto their babies a little longer and just keep their tummies full until the next meal.

No #FridayFunny today, just lots of prayers.



Best of the Web- August 29

Hi friends-

My web content is sparse.  Hoping to change that soon, now that house projects are done, painting supplies are being put away, and life shall return to a relative state of normal (if normal even resides with three little kids, one whom I start homeschooling this week)!


Here are my favorite links from this week:


I may have to hang this one on the fridge:  When people let you down

#5 is something I’ve been realizing more and more:  Here’s what I learned during a year of worldwide travel


I’d never heard of these, but I’m interested in signing up for a few.  If the author can save $1600, it’s worth a try, right? :  My 6 Favorite Financial Companies this Year


American Marvel: First thoughts on reentry – This is a little painful to read only because she is spot-on on so many things.  I will never forget when two of my friends came over from Australia for our wedding.  They took a  picture holding a 32-ounce Coke and a piece of Sbarro pizza!  Until then I’d never thought of the SIZE of our lives- to the demise of our health.

Must. go.  The Isle of Skye: Still my favorite part of Scotland

25 Children’s Books from Around the World:  Because I love books and this is one way to create tiny travelers.


That’s all for this week- have a super weekend!


Best of the Web- Aug 22

I’m back in my house after 5 nights away- Vacation?  No. Parents.  But alas, the hardwood floors are finished (or refinished) and there will be no more house projects for my sanity awhile.  The contents of our living and dining room are currently in the kitchen and on the front porch.  We keep it classy around here! 😉

Enough of me, here are some of my favorite links from this week:




This is so beautiful. “As I was clearing out the accumulated detritus of my physical life, God was effecting a similar housecleaning project within.”  The table of God’s love


Should you buy a home or invest?  Great read from Get Rich Slowly that reminded me of this post of mine.


A Star Wars edition to Disney?  I see a multi-generational trip in the future!

I adore this map wall art-  Creating a travel themed nursery

$39 flights from Southwest!  Score!

I’ve got my next Canadian adventure planned thanks to Travel with Bender-   Quebec City in Summer with


Have an awesome weekend!


Best of the Web- July 25

Hi everyone,

Almost August?  I’m not sure what to make of it!  The boys made a Bucket List for Summer that was 2 items long:

1. Go to the outdoor YMCA pool

2. Go to a hotel and swim in their pool.

Haha!  We’re crossing 1 of 2 off today so I have 4 weeks to make the next one happen.

Here are my favorite links from this week:

Lake Erie looked so inviting last weekend when we picnicked with our friends the seagulls.



Will someone come decorate my house with all of these ideas?  16 Map and Globe Decor Ideas

We aren’t selling our house anytime soon, but Carmel’s tips will be pinned for future use.  I would have bought her house, but requested she let me keep all of her furniture and decor!   Tips for selling a house


I am so guilty. A must read for SAHMs.

I don’t know how you do this every day.”

The second the words left his lips, I swear I heard angels singing in the background. Sunbeams shone through the windows as I promptly kissed him on the mouth.  

“That is the best thing you could ever say to me,” I replied sympathetically with a smile.  

I became addicted to the validation, the affirmation that caring for two tiny kids wasn’t only hard for me, it was hard for him too. “I don’t know how you do this every day”—I wanted that phrase tattooed on his forehead, spray painted on our garage door, printed on a canvas in all caps and hung over our bed for me to read every night before I went to sleep. He could say those words three times a day and I would never get tired of hearing them.  


This was convicting:  The Truth About Complaining


We need to do a few of these, anyone want to babysit?  🙂  12 Money Adjustments You Should Make Mid-Year


How to Camp and Enjoy it–  I’m uncertain as to whether I would enjoy camping with kids- this list makes me think I may.

I really want to go to Quebec.  This guide made it worse.

How to Survive a Museum Visit with Kids– love these tips!


That’s all, folks!  Have a great weekend!



Best of the Web- July 18

Hi everyone!

So it’s been another busy week around here.

11 years

Thursday was our 11th anniversary!  Whew, we made it another year. Ha!  Don’t believe what this blogger says, marriage is hard work (Maybe she didn’t have kids, or maybe the kids fried her brain?).  It takes 100% commitment from each party, each day, to have success.  Is it rewarding and fun work?  Absolutely!  Have I ever wanted to throw in the towel?  Absolutely.  But the marriage will bind us still… why I love this quote from Dietrich Bonhoffer:



Now on to my favorite links from the week.


Kristen always makes me think:  Maybe we are just spoiled

This post from Christy Wright had me reconsider how we give of our resources, “But Jesus didn’t follow the need. He followed His assignment. Jesus was not focused on what others were asking of Him. He was focused on what God was asking of Him.”


Hi, my name is Leah Yoder and I want to be a free-range parent.  There, I said it.  I think every single mom in the 1980s was a free-range parent.  I know because I thought my mom was the meanest most over-protective mom (thank you, Mom!) and the reality was SHE WAS NOT AT ALL.  Parents these days think we need to be up in our kids’ faces every single moment.  Guys, I know a family that does not let their children play outside barefoot- because they MIGHT get stung on the foot  As far as I know, they aren’t allergic).  I think this is a travesty!  Being barefoot is a basic right of childhood (and being a redneck, too, I guess)…. LET YOUR CHILDREN TAKE THEIR SHOES OFF. I BEG.  Oh, and here’s the blog I like (with other things you should let your kids do): Nature Valley’s Get Outside Ad


Why ‘Don’t Worry about Money, Just Travel’ is the Worst Advice of all Time– ** some language ** I agree with about 75% of this article… I think the author is particularly angry that her friend is better off than she, but she does have some valid points.  Everytime I log onto Pinterest and see this quote “Don’t worry about money…” I ultimately want to scream because sure, don’t worry about money, but then mooch off of your parents the next 6 years and cause them to work longer to support your wanderlusting butt?  Ijustdon’tknow.  (End rant).


What do you think?  Should young people forget about money to travel?  Should parents let their kids play outside by themselves?  Maybe you don’t let your kids go barefoot and now you hate my guts?  Maybe you have been married over 11 years and you don’t think it is hard work?  Lots of tough subjects this week!  

Have a great weekend! xo

How Fair Trade Friday turns ashes into beauty

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim freedom for the captives

and release from darkness for the prisoners…

to comfort all who mourn, 

and provide for those who grieve in Zion–

to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, 

the oil of gladness instead of mourning,

and a garment of praise instead of a Spirit of despair”  Isaiah 61: 1b-3a

When the words I’m trying to say or write don’t come easy,  I’m at a loss.  Talking (or writing) has never been my weakness (my poor mother!), but when I’m perfectly trying to craft what I want to say, nothing comes.  The perfectionism kills and I’m left with blank pages and blank stares.

So I’m going to hopefully use some of my own words and many of other’s words to tell you about something that is close to my heart.

woman with beads

Fair Trade Friday Club is a ministry of Mercy House Kenya.  You may not have heard of either, but maybe you’ve heard of Kristen Welch, whose popular blog, “We are THAT family” has over 100,000 Likes on Facebook.  Kristen began a mommy blog as a outlet after having children.  Then, back in 2010 she was chosen by Compassion International to travel to Kenya and blog about her experiences as a way to raise awareness for the cause.  This is where I came in (No one knew I was there, but myself) and I began following Kristen’s blog.  I was knee-deep in reading Radical and Crazy Love and reading Kristen’s thoughts, a mom also interested in International Missions, seemed like the next step.

Fast Forward to May 2014 and I’m sitting in a Washington D.C. hotel room waiting for my youngest to take her nap and reading the words of Kristen’s book, Rhinestone Jesus.  As I had been for the past 4 years, I was wrestling with what this all means.  We aren’t saved by works, but as believers in Christ we should be driven to good works.  How can I as “just a mom” of these 3 little ones be a catalyst for change?  How can I help women and children in far off lands without hopping on a plane or selling all I own to give me?

Kevin DeYoung may clear that all up for us in his post “Getting to the Root of Radical” (which Kristen quotes in her book).

The Christian needs to be generous, but generous charity is not the answer to the world’s most pressing problems of hunger, inadequate medical care, and grinding poverty. Wealth is created in places where the rule of law is upheld, property rights are secured, people are free to be entrepreneurs, and there is sufficient social capital to encourage risk-taking. We can and should do good with our giving. But we must not lead people to believe that most of human suffering would be alleviated if we simply gave more.

Giving is a beautiful act of worship.  I’m grateful that God has called us to financially support different ministries… but beyond sending a check every month, as DeYoung points out, the real way to nullify poverty is create businesses and self-sufficiency. 

Again I find myself asking-  How?  Where?

I could tell that Kristen was working that out in her book (written before Fair Trade Friday was started) when she wrote:

“I’ve been down the confusing and hard-to-follow road of trying to buy only fair-trade or secondhand clothes, among other things, I am not advocating boycotting clothes made in other countries, I am encouraging conscientious shopping.”

I’ve been there.  When it feels like solely buying fair trade is too expensive, and buying only used is nearly impossible.  It seems like nothing can be 100% holy or sweat-shop free so instead we (I) throw in the towel and head back to Target Dollar Spot and load up on more worthless junk.

How do we capture consumerism and still help women in the process?

fair trade change lives

Fair Trade Friday is a monthly membership club that delivers high-quality fair traded items directly to your door.  Not only do the items provide employment to women all over the world, they are really cute!  They currently have two clubs- the Fair Trade Friday Club which is 3-4 items that come once a month (for 31.99/month) or the Earring of the Month Club ($11.99/month) where you receive one pair of earrings every month!  Both make great gifts, re-gifting just became a social cause :).   The other option is a one-time box which can be used as a trial or as a gift.

FTF collage

I was sent these beautiful crocheted earrings to try and was impressed by the quality and the color.  They look great with so many things!  Even the packaging seems exclusive and inserted is a business card that tells you where the item was made.  As shown above, my earrings were made by a refugee in Houston, TX.

If you need any more reason to support Fair Trade Friday, check out what a Kenyan artisan told Kristen the last time she visited:


Fair Trade Friday is now helping women sell their goods and help feed their families in 18 countries worldwide.  As Kristen says, “Your YES matters.”  Will you be a part of someone’s story today?

wear a story

Remember, you can sign up for the Fair Trade Friday Club or the Earring of the month club HERE.

And learn more from Kristen herself HERE

(Disclaimer:  I was given one free pair of earrings from Fair Trade Friday.  All opinions are my own!)