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).

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.



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!)

Why we need to stop saying, “You need a bigger house.”

Guys & Gals,

There is something that a few people have told me lately and it really gets my goat.  Pretty much since baby #3 was just a bun in the oven I’ve often heard, “You need a bigger house.”

I don’t get this statement (and I have to curb the need to say, “You need a smaller mouth” LOL).

Here’s the reality:

I don’t need a bigger house. 


Our family of 5 lives in a humble 1300 square feet.  When Brian and I bought the house we figured we may have a baby or two and they’d fit just fine considering we had three bedrooms, a yard, and a garage.  Built in 1920, our house is pretty typical for the time in was built.

The current average home size in America is 2,679 sq feet.  The average household contains 2.54 persons.  (I’m not sure where the .54 lives but I think in our case we have 5.54 persons because Miley cat weighs 18 lbs.  I digress.) When new build home statistics were calculated in 1973 the average home size was 1660 sq. ft and there were 3.01 persons in the home.

We’ve shrunken our families but increased the size of our abodes.

In the UK the average home is 818 sq feet, Germany is 1,173 and Spain in 1,044.  The Yoders are actually living high off of the hog compared to our European friends.

Truthfully, there are days when I want a bigger house.  When you walk into our home you are smack dab in our living room.  I’d love to have a foyer to drop our shoes and bags so they aren’t greeting you at the door.  I’d like to have an office where Brian and I could shut the door and hash out those budget meetings.  For goodness sakes, I’d like a toilet on the main floor!

The thing is, we could totally buy a bigger house TOMORROW.  We are in the financial shape to do so and could be approved for a larger mortgage (not tooting our horn, just putting it out there).  We CHOOSE to stay in our home because we love our neighbors, enjoy a small mortgage payment, and really just aren’t up for selling and moving right now (like I wanna keep a house spotless with three littles around).

Also, I don’t think there is anything wrong with kids sharing a bedroom!  Our kids have a few toys in their bedroom but they are typically only in there to sleep.  It doesn’t hurt them to share a dresser and a few square feet, someday they may go to college and have to do this and eventually they may get married and be sharing a whole lot more.

Furthermore, I think as Americans (or Canadians or Australians- at 1948 sq feet and 2303 sq feet, respectively), we can throw this around flippantly without really thinking about what we are saying.  Are we telling people that their home isn’t good enough (even though we don’t live there)?  Are we denying that sometimes people don’t have the financial wherewithal to support a bigger place?  Are we implying that a big home is the marker of success and perfection?  These are issues I think we have to work through.

Also, as Christians, I’ve heard it approached as if “well if they want to have more kids, adopt, foster, etc, they are going to need a bigger house!!!”  Maybe this is just said flippantly, but this is not the Gospel.  The Bible says to “take care of the widows and orphans” not “go get yourself strapped into more debt so you can take in your grandmother.”  Children (and adults) need an environment that is loving and safe- they don’t need their own closet and bathroom.

We choose to have a smaller home because it allows us to give more, save more, and travel more.

Having a small mortgage (and lower utility bills) allows us to pay cash for cars, take vacations, and give to causes when led.  It makes me consider all the stuff I may bring into our home because there may not be a space.  I’m working on living a more minimalist lifestyle and I’m thankful that our smaller house forces me to do that!

So next time your bff or your neighbor tells you that now that baby #2 (or 4 or 6) is on the way you’re going to need a bigger house, ya’ll can smile politely (or roll your eyes) and tell them confidently that you’re doing JUST fine where ya are!  I’m pretty sure our grandmothers had babies sleeping in dresser drawers. 😉



The Fruit of the Spirit for Moms

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”  Galatians 5:22-23

My kids love this catchy little tune on YouTube. – “The fruit of the Spirit’s not a coconut.  The fruit of the Spirit’s not a coconut!”   You’re sooo welcome for engraining that in your brain. 

While we often teach little ones to know these character traits, how often as a mom do I need them even more?



I know that I love my kids.  That one is easy!

But do I have joy?  Joy when they wake me up at 5:45 am?  Joy when I’m on the 3rd dirty diaper of the day?  Joy when the popcorn or graham cracker crumbs are all over the floor?

Do I have peace?  Peace from the anxiety that keeps me up at night?  Peace that God is with my children even when I can’t be?

Patience.  No need for a question mark, I do not have patience.  Lacking patience when I’m ready to leave and little shoes are not around. Or someone hasn’t been to the potty.  Or we’re leaving 30 minutes late.

Do I have goodness?  Do I speak well of others?  Neighbors? Friends?  Daddy?  Do I help others?

Faithfulness?  Am I faithful to my commitments?  Am I faithful to my friends?  To my husband?

Am I gentle?  Do I respond gently when little hands fumble glasses of juice?  Am I gentle when I’m angry and I’m flailing around the house like a mad woman? –the answer to that one is No.

Do I show self-control?  Negative.  See last sentence above.

I’m continually reminded of my need for the Gospel.  That I am a sinner saved only by His grace. Motherhood has revealed my selfishness and fear.  While we think we are here to preach the truth to our children, most often than not they are the ones that reveal our sin.  No, they don’t come out and say, “Mommy, you’re sinning again,” my reactions alone show my heart.  This is why I must be in the Word and of the Word.

Romans 6:1-4  What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?  Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

Mommas, I’m going to focus this coming week on praying for God to help me with the fruits of the spirit.  Who’s in?






Best of the Web- June 6

June 6 is here and I’m at a constant love/hate relationship with the air conditioner.  (First world problem, I know).  I’m always too hot or too cold and I’ll suffer through being too hot to keep the a/c off and then the hubs comes home and is hot and then it’s like the budget v. comfort argument all over again.  Because I will spend $4 on a coffee at Panera but I will sweat it out to save $4 on electricity.  I do not understand these mysteries of life.   Maybe you deal with this, too?


Oh, yeah, I run this little weekly post about my favorite articles from the web.  Here’s my recap from this week:


Tell Your Story, Then Live It  – What happens when you write the first 4 sentences of your obituary?

25 Awesome Tools for Getting Organized – As I find myself trying to purge and organize, this post will come in handy.


7 Reasons I read to my little ones – Helpful reminder of why we do what we do, but also some great suggestions of summer books to read to your preschoolers and beyond.


How to make family roadtripping better – Another great post from The Art of Simple.

Namibia’s Landscape Safari– Beautiful photograhy, add it to the list.

Family Friendly in Atlantic Canada– This destination has been on my Bucket List for awhile, and I think the kids will want to go just based upon Theodore Tugboat (who I didn’t know existed until now).

8 Travel Bloggers to Follow on Snapchat– I just started on Snapchat a few months ago.  It’s a fun way for the kids to send Daddy videos during his work day.  Anyhow, following the Travel Bloggers is super fun, I got to learn some things this week about Nashville that I would’t have otherwise known.  Great way to inspire some wanderlust!


“Yes, I’m wading through my own mess, but that doesn’t preclude me from venturing into yours. It may mean I don’t know what to say or how to respond… which gives us both plenty of chances to practice grace”

^^ I really love this blog post from Wendy.  And I’m excited to be on the Fair Trade Friday Blogging Team with her!

When Your Heart Isn’t In It – Sadly, there have been many times when my heart just wasn’t excited about going to a worship service.  I’m thankful for a husband that made me go (even if I was spitting nails at him on the way there).  A good read.


This could have been filed under Faith but I was between laughter and tears when I read this post from Annie Leigh.  I never tried to stab Mr. YT with a stiletto, but there is a story floating around about how I threw a stained-glass Santa at his head.  It was large.  And I missed Brian, but injured Santa.  I digress.  Read the post.  So good.


That’s all for this week!  Thanks for stopping by!!

Best of the Web- May 23

Happy Memorial Day weekend!  I have a post coming for you on Monday that you’ll want to check out (Hint: it has to do with Spring Break)!

In the meantime, here’s my favorite links from the past week.



This piece by Ann Voskamp really shook me.  “You are where you are — to help others where they are. The reason your hands are where they are in this world — is to give other people in this world a hand.”



Sisters, Let’s Become Cheerleaders–  Yes, let’s do this.



What’s New in Hocking Hills

Because SE Asia is on my list- 72 Hours in Bangkok with Kids

Just another reason to visit Australia

A Children’s Museum with a full-sized AA plane to explore? Wow!  Add Puerto Rico to the list!

I have been eyeing the WOW Air flights to Iceland.  Where else can you go in Europe for under $2000 for your family of 5?  This is a great review of the flight- and helpful info about the extra fees and charges.

How to dress like a local around the world– A little heavy on the Europe and US content, but helpful nonetheless.  Put away the bright white ASICS, friends! Haha.


That’s all for now.  Thanks for stopping by!

Hey Christians, do you really value life?

Dear Christian,

I see you wearing a pro-life shirt, yet you scowl when I sit next to you at the restaurant.

You see, that baby turns into a squirmy, squealing 17-month old.  She’s full of movement and determined to never lose to her older brothers.

I hear you joke that you’re glad your hotel room isn’t next to mine.  And then wonder if I’m maybe a Catholic or a Mormon.

I’m not, but I love Jesus.  You know, the guy who said, “Let the little children come to me.”

value life



Having three kids in four years has proved one thing to me- that most Christians don’t really support life.


Have we forgotten that babies grow up–  and to support life you have to like babies, and toddlers, and sassy preschoolers?   Maybe what you really support is women having babies because it makes you feel better about yourself?!  Oh, Pharisee!


This isn’t easy for me, either.

Somedays I want a break.  A vacation.  A quiet house.

I forget that when I love on my kids and teach them grace and love and mercy, that I’m literally doing the Lord’s work.

I forget that when I spend extra time to do all those little things- brush teeth, wash behind ears, cart them to the grocery store and swim lessons and homeschool outings, that I’m investing in them the way that Jesus invests in me.

There have been days I have wished them away so I could JUST get my house tidier and my toenails painted.

We’re on this journey TOGETHER.


I don’t want you to babysit.  Or offer empathy.

I want you just to stop.  Hold your comments.

Maybe chew on this,

“Children are a heritage from the Lord,
    offspring a reward from him.” (Psalm 127:3 NIV).


Not every Christian needs to have 19 children.  Or even 3.

The disobedience lies in our hearts.


Do we love children?

Do we value the next generation?

Do we value Christ’s view of children?


I’m so thankful the Lord  blessed me with these three little hearts.  They have revealed my own selfishness and my wicked heart in regards to children.  I pray that your heart will reconsider your actions towards children (and the moms and dads doing the hard work to raise them up)!


In Christ,