My Summer (un)Bucket List

Last year I made a Summer Bucket List for our family and I think it’s a very good way to be intentional with the short time we have with our children.  After all, we’ve all seen that meme about how you only get 18 summers with your kiddos.  #cuethemomguilt

However, the reality is that we mothers already place a TON of expectations on ourselves, that can never be met.  Right after you hold your child for the first time someone should be handing out a pamphlet  – you know, one to let you know that your dreams and ideals may not be reality.

So in the spirit of letting some of the pressure off, I’ve come up with my Summer (un)Bucket List, to remind me that kids need to be kids and I’m not the summer cruise director.

Summer (un)Bucket List:

 I will not beat myself up over screen time.  I know that summer will have rainy days and we can’t always be out gallivanting in the glorious sunshine.  My brother and I watched the movies Cloak and Dagger and Clue at least 74 times each summer and we turned out okay, right?

To the other extreme, I will not consider summer as a staple of childhood that should be enjoyed by gargantuan amounts of kid-lazy.  I will remember that little ones will too soon have husbands and wives and I’m raising them for that, too.  They are old enough to pick up a wet swimsuit or make a sandwich.

I will not talk about my summer body or my swimsuit readiness.  First, because there is a little girl in my household that needs to grow up knowing she is made in the image of God, not made in the image of Cosmopolitan.  Secondly, kids want me in the pool, not hovering on the sidelines because of my own insecurities.

I will not be an activities coordinator.  My mom didn’t give me a list of stimulating activities, she sent me out into the yard.  I will employ little minds to entertain themselves, knowing that imagination is the best part of childhood.

I will not feel guilt over rest.  Mom is allowed a summer vacation, too.  Although there will be laundry and meals and the ever-present demands, I will not allow myself to be suffocated by the hands on the clock.  I won’t be acting as cruise director, but I AM steering the ship.  This means that ice cream or Cheerios are perfectly acceptable dinner menus.

Have you struggled with summer guilt?  What’s on your (un)Bucket List?


My Favorite Products from Thirty-One Gifts

Thirty-One Gifts was introduced to me quite a few years ago by my neighbor.  I fell in love Thirty-One’s products because they offer so much for the busy mom!  We’ve used their travel totes & thermal on multiple trips by car AND air!  I even have a favorite office product.

Thirty-One Gifts is Ohio-based and focuses on giving women the chance to enjoy the freedom of their own business!  I love their emphasis on faith and family.

It’s hard to pick a favorite Thirty-One product.  I adore my new Getaway Tote.  The navy and white stripe with cork is on point for summer’s hot nautical theme.  I love that the bag is big enough to use for an overnight or daytrip to the beach, but also doesn’t feel too big to carry as a purse.

Currently I’m using the Getaway Tote to haul my laptop and notebooks to work at the coffee shop.

But I also plan to take it to the pool.

The Getaway Tote pairs perfectly with the All About The Benjamins Wallet.  My matching wallet is Tan Metallic Cork and I appreciate that the wallet has numerous spots for cards and cash!

Another favorite product that has been used time and again is the Large Utility Tote.  This is a catch-all.  We’ve used it to take towels and games on a beach vacation.  It’s hauled baby gear to an overnight at my parents.  We even stuffed it full of miscellaneous items when we moved in December.   The possibilities are endless.

Large Utility Tote in Starfish Splash

The Large Utility is so versatile. And until the end of May, when you spend $35 with Thirty-One, you can add a Large Utility Tote to your order for just $10.  What a deal!

Going on a field trip or a short drive?  Need a new school lunchbox for your child?  The Thermal Tote is another one that gets a LOT of use from our family.  This bag easily fits 2 water bottles & a few sandwiches or snacks.  I also used it when my kids were babies to carry their bottles.

Thermal Tote in Candy Corners. This print is gorgeous.

I’ve also got my eye on the Picnic Thermal Tote for our summer travel plans.  This larger thermal will hold two 2-liter bottles (or 2 bottles of wine, just sayin’).  The Picnic Thermal is only $35, so this is what I could buy to then get my Large Utility Tote at the discount.

Here’s my van all loaded up for a day out with the kids. (Some patterns may be discontinued)

Now that I’ve relayed some of my favorite Thirty-One products, what are yours?  Do you find yourself coming back to the same ones again and again?

I think you’re going to have a NEW favorite- The Getaway Tote & All About The Benjamins Wallet because YOU CAN WIN YOUR OWN!  Fill out the Rafflecopter below- you have a chance for 6 entries.  Be sure to share with your friends.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

** Thirty-One Gifts provided me with a free bag and wallet.  As always, opinions are my own.**

SAHM survival: Keeping your sanity when your husband travels

I know I normally write about family travel destinations, but there’s another aspect of travel makes me a little cray to the Z every month and that’s when my husbands travels for his job.

Ever since we just had one teeny tiny baby, Mr. YT has been leaving me for 2-3 nights per month. I know some of you have a husband that travels much more more- so I shouldn’t complain.  In reality, in 7 years it’s never gotten easier but it has gotten more manageable.

While Mr. YT was away this week, I realized that in years past I could have used a little advice on what to do on days when he wouldn’t be home in the evenings to give me a little relief.

Here are 5 things I do to maintain my sanity (and a little bit of order) whilst the husband is away:

  •  Sleep (or lack thereof) is super important.  You have to take the age-old advice and nap when baby naps.  If your kids are a little older, don’t feel guilt over turning on the TV or sending them to their rooms so you can get a little shut-eye.  I can go from Mommy Dearest to the Wicked Witch in about 17 seconds if I haven’t had enough sleep, so I KNOW that if I am going to make it through the marathon I have to close my eyes to the mess and just REST.
  • Eat.  Eating is my favorite.  No, really.  Mealtimes with little ones are stressful at best, downright chaotic at their worst.  I’ve noticed that in order to help with my own sanity I will eat my meal while I’m cooking for the kids.  That way, if I’m getting up and down a lot while they eat, I’ve already suppressed my own hanger (#notjoking).  Before your husband skips town, grab a frozen pizza, mac n cheese, whatever convenience foods you’re going to need to make dinner time be easy. “Snack lunch” is a personal fave of mine- cheese and crackers, grapes, single serve applesauce, yogurt, those type of things that are easy & easy to get on a plate.  This is not the time to be Julia Childs.  You can also use lunch time to do read-aloud… I read and drink coffee, they eat in peace.  Winning!
  •  Bedtimes.   There is only one of you, so start early.  My kids always try the stall method 20x worse when Daddy isn’t around so be kind, but firm–  You’re just down the hall.  I’ve found that calling Daddy right before book time can give them a happy little assurance that they can go to sleep and all is well.
  • Plan ahead for adult time.  I’m an extrovert by nature, so being inside with 3 kids for 3-4 days can be a little hairy.  Think of simple ways to speak to adults without creating a lot of work.  Playdates can work (pick a neutral place so you don’t have to clean!).  A Skype date with a faraway friend.  Asking a child-free friend to stop by after work for a coffee date.  These are all things to refuel that don’t require a lot of work.  If you have babysitters that can do daytime, this may be the time to spend a little money and head out on your own.
  • Lower your expectations.  My #1 piece of motherhood advice is also the most important for the weeks my husband travels.  This is not the time to be a screen-time martyr.  This is not the time to start the Whole 30.  This is not the time to dive into painting or reorganizing the house.  Get up. Get dressed. Be present.  Having a husband that travels is not always easy.  Try to connect with him positively – now that mostly involves my kids sending him Snapchat videos of our day or me texting him in the a.m. to remind him I miss him.


Does your husband travel for work?  What things do you do to save your sanity?

The disease of wanting to be liked

Today after dropping off boy #2 at preschool, I was attempting to “sell” preschool to my daughter, using it as a leverage tool for her to (for the love) go in the potty.

Her response, “Yeah I go to preschool next year and people will like me!”

I have to stop buckling her seat and look at her.  Did she just say that?

She’s not even 3 but she’s going to go to preschool with the aim that people will like her?

Oh that little girl made my heartrate soar…


As if surviving middle school and high school wasn’t enough, we’re continually bombarded by “likes” in our culture.  We wait for the newsfeed counter to tell us how many we’ve gained on social media, and we feel a lack when the internet voices are silent.

Adulthood presents just as much of a longing to belong.  For people to approve of my house or my desires– think my kids are well behaved.  For others to notice my hard work or my quiet spirit (the latter I have never been pointed out for! Ha!).

If this isn’t true, why do we buy a new car or take a great vacation or have our kid selected as honor student and immediately put it on Facebook– aren’t we all searching for someone’s notice?

No matter what persona we like to put out, it’s HARD when others simply don’t like us.

Did I do this to my little girl?  Did I unintentionally give her the feeling that people have to “like” us.  I’ve been so careful with my kids (even at their young ages) to quiet myself on body image and attitude (<- ok, that one notsowell), did I give the feeling that I, too, was waiting for the next approval rating from my peers?

I love the words of Brené Brown, who in her book Daring Greatly, said, “Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it’s a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands.”

{{All the praise hands on that one!}}

So your supportive mom is upset- take notice.

Your best friend is frustrated with you- take notice.

A girl you see at school pick-up is nasty- WALK ON BY.

Crabby lady in the grocery store whines about your kids- WALK ON BY.

We can’t control everyone.  And really, if we are Christians, God redirects our focus.  In her book, Unashamed, Heather Davis Nelson says, “We expect the worst from others, and we assume that they think about us as negatively and as much as we fear they do (which is not usually true).  Yet even if their thoughts of us were as condemning as we fear, we are living for the wrong audience.  As someone created in the image of God and for the purpose of reflecting who God is, I am created to live before God alone.  (My emphasis added).


It’s hard not being liked, but we are FREE. 

Have you struggled with this, too?  How do we teach our kids to search for real friends not “likers?”

(Post contains affiliate links)

I don’t do it all… and neither should you

I was talking to a friend the other night and she said, “you have a lot of responsibilities.  I don’t know how you do it.”  I laughed a little … because I don’t.


It’s a Thursday morning at 10:44 am and I’m sitting at the coffee shop typing this.  Alone.  You see, for the last 18 months or so, I’ve had a babysitter sitter come in at least twice a month to give me a morning to do whatever.  Right now I’m having a sweet young lady come once a week so I can pay bills, blog, run errands, etc…without kids.  This is a luxury.  I know it’s a luxury.

I’ve had a cleaning lady at times.

Even though I’m homeschooling Jackson, we typically only school 4 days a week.

We eat pizza once a week.

My kids eat PB & J for lunch AT LEAST 3 times a week.

My husband gives the kids a bath every night and that’s my downtime to go for a walk or do the dishes (those are far ends of the spectrum in terms of enjoyment).

When my husband travels, I’ve been known to feed my kids drive-thru Wendy’s and mac n cheese for DAYS.

I’m not doing it all.


All of us mothers are in different boats, too … financially… the role of our extended family…or even the time our husband is home v. at work (or single moms HOW DO YOU DO THIS?).   When I start looking around I start thinking I’m not doing enough and that’s when the mom guilt and the stress builds.

For instance:  I know a friend that watches cartoons with her kids and I AM JEALOUS OF HER.  When my kids are in front of the TV, I can’t sit still. I’m like a little child hyped up on Red #5 KoolAid.  But I want to take the moments with my kids. I want to look them in the eyes more instead of being Miss Productivity.

I want to do my computer work before they wake and after they go to bed so they don’t see me tied to it.

I want to spend less time griping at them when the day isn’t going as planned and it’s 2:30 and we haven’t even started school.

I want to not be doing the dishes at 8:40 pm (can I get an AMEN?)


I’m not looking to cut-throat motherhood, I’m looking to do-your-best-and-live-to-tell-about-it motherhood.

So do what works for your family.  Hire a cleaning lady if you need to.  Take time to rest if you can.  You don’t have to do it all, you just have to do something.

Keep looking forward, mama.  No time for looking around– unless you’re looking into those big eyes of your little ones. 🙂

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.

Stop the Mom Shaming

Taking time away doesn’t make you a bad mom

It was November 2010 and I was visiting my Aussie bff in London.  We’d taken a day trip to Paris on the Eurostar.  It was nearing the end of the day- we’d climbed the steps at Sacré Coeur, eaten a crepe, and tried to figure out those free-standing Parisian toilets.  Ha!

I was waiting outside the loo for Briony when I heard an American couple next to me.   We made small talk.  I don’t know how it came up but I said something about being away for my baby for the first time- a 10 month old.  The lady, probably in her early sixties, made her opinion known.

“You need to go home and be with your baby.”


Little did she know that I hadn’t slept more than 3 hours at a time for 10 months.  I’d nursed until I was raw and then my sweet little man would spit it up all over me.  I’d change my clothes sometimes three times a day.  I didn’t have time to rattle these statistics-  Share about the colic, the YouTube videos of a vacuum sound that would soothe him enough just so I could take a break.  Her judgment was known.

Paris was not where I should be.

Mom shame 2

Mom shame 3

It appears that since the dawning of the social media craze that we’ve all become experts on parenting & motherhood.   Try going on Facebook to make a comment about vaccinations, breastfeeding in public, the cry-it-out method and you’ll see that most covet their own opinion more than their own friendships.

If there is one thing that I’ve learned in 6 years of mothering:  It’s a crap shoot. 

We align our parenting with our convictions, we pray, and then we hope for the best.

I love psychology authors like Brené Brown.  From Daring Greatly, “You can’t claim to care about the welfare of children if you’re shaming other parents for the choices they are making…our job is to make choices that are aligned with our values and support parents that are doing the same.”

Obviously she’s not talking about BAD parenting: drug abuse, child abuse, etc- she’s talking about the majority of us, the ones that are TRYING HARD- figuring out ways to get our little ones to sit still through church, pulling our teenagers away from their screens, or trying to make our grocery budget stretch so we can take the kids on some fun outings, or godforbid homeschooling. And we wonder why we have Mom guilt?

In her follow-up book, Rising Strong, Brené adds, “Shaming other mothers is not one of the million ways to be a great mom.”  Ohmygoodness, YES.

I’m not trying to shame the mom that shamed me.  I’m sure she was just remembering the sweet times with her babies (and not the sleepless nights and endless days).  Maybe she didn’t realize that it was exponentially cheaper for me to visit my friend when she was living in London versus Australia.

I’m hopeful for a world where we chose our reactions to moms a little better.  Remember–they probably are trying their best.  And taking 7 days away after 10 months at home does in no way equate to being a bad mom.

For further thought?  Would she have ever said that to the father?  NO way!

Summer Bucket List

The unofficial beginning of summer is only 2 weeks away!  Our family counts Memorial Day weekend as the kick-off to our Summer Bucket List even if the calendar tells me that summer isn’t until June 20.

First, I asked the boys what they thought they would like to do this summer.  They were very excited to offer up “go to the playground” and “the pool!” (if this doesn’t show the simplicity of young children, #idontknowwhatdoes).   Then I wrote out a few of my own ideas, although I am questioning my thought process behind camp in a tent?!  I never really liked tent camping BEFORE kids…we haven’t tried it yet WITH.  The memories created are what is key here!

bucket list with logo

After a long Ohio winter, and a WET spring, we’re excited to get out and explore this summer.  I like to make a Bucket List for each season.  Whether we stick to it or not, it encourages me to think outside of the box when it comes to our daily activities – i.e. we have to try to do more than sitting on the porch with the neighbors, even if it is our favorite summer hobby.

What’s on your Summer Bucket List?

Here’s a free printable copy of the list (minus my website name).

You can check out my Fall 2015 Bucket List HERE.

Or my 2016 Travel Plans List HERE.

Can you tell I like lists? 😉

Life is either a daring adventure…

A Mother’s Day Well-Lived

I’d been in a funk with a capital F the past few weeks and the mundane of life was getting to me.  So when I woke up yesterday and Mr YT asked what I wanted to do that day I said, “Maybe take a road trip.  Or go for a walk.”  “You don’t want to just rest or get out alone?”  He asked a little bewildered.  “I don’t know…let me think about it.”

The sun was shining and the post-church nap by Miss C was complete so we loaded up for a drive.  There is a small Ohio town we wanted to check out (more on that, later) so we headed an hour away and promised the kids ice cream and a park if they took the drive with ease.

We found a McDonalds – not a hard feat- and gave the kids the joy of eating inside.  I laughed to Brian that our kids were more excited to eat inside at the McDonalds of small-town Ohio than they were to go to Australia (notevenkiddingonebit).  Then we found a park and the kids enjoyed all the new slides and swings and playground equipment they’d never been on before.

We left the park with smiling, wind-blown faces.

“I mother better when I’m out of the house,” I said to Brian.

daring adventure



I’ve joked with friends that most days I would consider it easier to put my kids on an airplane than get them all ready and through the doors at the Y.  It’s easier for me to do something different than to do something typical.    Going places- seeing new things and new faces, is what fills my cup.

Beyond that, the kids were different, too.  They were on an adventure with mom and dad.

Somedays I’m so worried about “using my time well” that I forget that the time I have is meant for living.

My family took a Sunday drive most spring/summer Sunday afternoons.  I always thought this was an excuse for my parents to look at used cars and get ice cream (ha!) but I realize now it was more about changing life up a little, finding something new, getting out of our comfort zone, maybe having a conversation without TV and cassettes (hey, 1990) competing for our attention.  Oh, yeah, and Mom & Dad wanted ice cream.


I’m thankful for these kids, for the sleepless nights, for the early mornings, for the long days indoors and the adventures far away.  They’ve taught me so much.  They make me die a little bit to self every day.  I hope for so much for them- in the least that they continue to let me take them along on excursions- big and small.



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.