How to Be A Great Mom {This Summer}

It’s the last day of school for my kiddos.

About this time every year, I look longingly at pending summer and I am giddy.

I can’t wait to unplug the alarm clocks and sleep-in, eat powdered sugar donuts from the bag, live in our swimsuits, let my kids sleep in the fort made from bedsheets and make 27 varieties of popsicles.

Once those things are checked off our list, it’s generally Summer: Day 2.

Before the end of July, I can’t get my kids out of bed, they won’t stay out of the pantry, they are chaffed from all the swimsuit-wearing, my “good sheets” are filthy and the floors are sticky from all the sugary frozen ice and I’m on a countdown for school to start.

Don’t get me wrong, I love love love summer with my kids. We create memories that last forever and want it to be summer all year long (at least that first week), but I learned a long time ago, that reality is well, reality. And there can be too much of a good thing.

I know I’m a great mom and I don’t need a summer to tell me that. But I want to live this summer without regrets and I plan to do so by following these simple thoughts:

  1. Say yes as often as possible Yes, you can paint your toenails everyday a different color. Please do it here _____because it’s easier to clean up. Yes, you can hook up the hose the trampoline and create your own water park while tossing grapes in your mouth. Yes, you can have ice cream for lunch.
  2. Refuse to over-schedule– but get into a routine that works for your family. The beauty of summer as a child is the freedom to be carefree with days to do whatever. But at the same time, at our house we need a routine of good choices. For example, our default is the public swimming pool, library and $1 movie days or a crafty project. On a week we do nothing, we might do all 3 or none of these, but they are options when we start picking on each other. I like to give my kids time to do nothing!
  3. Be impulsive and creative-some of the best memories are from our spontaneity. I’m not so good at this (insert Type A), but if I listen to my kids, their impulsive ideas are often good ones, even when it means there’s a mess. Messy moments are often the best.
  4. Don’t be a tour guide– Kids don’t have to constantly entertained. We usually install a reading hour every day during the summer and last year for every hour they read, they earned screen time. It’s not timed or forced, but we stock up on really great summer reads to help make this happen. It’s during these down, unplanned times that kids have the freedom to be creative and entertain themselves.
  5. Monitor screen time– in our technology-filled world, this is absolutely necessary. We are pretty strict about it during the school year, but more lax in the summer. But the last thing I want them doing is filling their hours in front of a screen, so I will be conscious of how much my kids are idle. I also won’t be tweeting or Facebooking much and blogging less. My screen time needs to be limited too.
  6. Summer bucket list– Summer flies by and the time needs to be intentional. I like for my kids to pick one thing they really want to do-sometimes it’s berry picking or making homemade ice cream. My 5 year old really *wants* to break her arm, so she can get a cast. We’re going to try and skip that one. Choose one thing each and count is successful if you get it accomplished!
  7. Set aside time for yourself– I work from home and while I plan to cut back this summer (closing Mercy Shop for June and July and not taking on new writing projects), there are still things I need to do for Mercy House and words I want to write so I stay sane. I try to work an hour or two before my kids wake up and I usually have a babysitter one day a week. This summer, I’m paying my oldest to help me. She’s Red Cross certified and we’re both excited about it. I also arranged with my hubby to have one night a week out of the house to get work done.

I think just being present is the greatest gift we can give our children. There’s a lot of opportunities for this during the summer and I plan to take advantage.

Y’all remind me of that when I chafed, m’kay?

WFMW: “Mom, I’m Bored” Edition

Yep, you read that right.

For the last 4 years, I’ve shared a “Mom, I’m Bored List” list with you on WFMW and hundreds of blogs have linked up their tips too. There are literally thousands of ideas at your fingertips.

Our kids have no reason to ever be bored ever again.

But I’m not going to lie: our summer is going to look a lot like this: sleep, swim, library, a craft or two, repeat. I’m all about the lazy schedule. Oh, and about 17 days in a third world country.

Here are 441 fun ideas I found while looking around:

50 Inspiring Rainy Day Activities

80 Inexpensive Ideas for Summer Fun

50 Summer Crafts

11 Summer Water Games

50 Ways to Keep Kids Minds Active during Summer

50 Screen-Free Ideas

100 Free Things to do this Summer

50 Projects to Make with Duct Tape


You’re free to link up any tips, but if you have old or new posts with boredom busters, please share!

So, We Did This Over Memorial Day Weekend

After 9 years in the same house and town, we put our house on the market.


It was a spur of the moment decision that we’ve been contemplating for years. We have loved our time in our nice community, but we’ve questioned if we should move since my first trip to Africa. We want to live without regrets, live cheaper and offer our kids a chance to grow up and go to school in an area that is a little more economically diverse.

But we have been blessed with the kind of neighbors who become life-long friends, so that part is going to be very hard. Not to mention the lack of cookies in my future.

With our trip to Africa just weeks away (and in the middle of brainstorming Mercy House future plans), I feel overwhelmed, but that seems to be our normal. I’m trying really hard not to morph in Crazy Lady trying to figure out how all this going to work out. But I’m confidant God’s got this, just like everything else.

Speaking of crazy…

I filled more than fifteen large trash bags full of donations and it felt amazing to purge. I’m not done. We’ve been tackling a few projects that we’ve put off (nothing like deciding to move to make you do things you’ve put off for years)…my hubby replaced a few broken fence posts early in the weekend. He put the old wood in our little outdoor fireplace we inherited from my parents.

We went from s’mores at 9pm to our deck on fire from just after midnight:

We have a lot to be thankful for! My hubby discovered the deck in eight foot flames and was able to put out the fire before the whole thing was destroyed (a propane tank lay a few feet away from the flames). We lost the railing and a bench.

So, the day we put our house on the market, we nearly burned it down. I’m looking for the sign in this. My hubby spent all day Sunday repairing the damage (so glad he’s handy).

God is already stretching me through this process of unknowns. I’m reminded that He is in control and to look for the beauty in life’s imperfections.


The lovely items above were sent to me by Dayspring as a part of their new Redeemed Indoor and Outdoor Collection:

{doormat and wall clock and beautiful mirror} I’m looking forward to hanging this doorknocker on a new front door. Somewhere.

Use code WATF30 for an extra 30% off price.

When Parenting Knocks the Breath Out of You

The room was dark and we lay facing each other, toe to toe, so close I could feel his breath on my cheek. It was late and we were both tired from an exhausting week, but we needed this.

In the hush of pillow talk, he told me about a conversation with our son. I heard the uncertainty in his words, the way his sentences ended with a question mark. I listened to the voice of a father who loves deeply, but feels inadequate when he can’t protect his children from hurt.

I whispered back reassuring words and reminded him he was enough. And then I gave voice to my concern over our daughters, my own self-doubt and mom guilt. I forced down a sob, when I said the words, “this parenting thing is so hard.”

I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

And so we did the only thing we could think of-the only thing that really works, we prayed for our children together and fell asleep with their names on our lips, tangled arms and legs, in this together.

We have great kids-there’s no subliminal message here, but they are human and they push for freedom we aren’t ready to give, they say things that hurt, they are wounded by friends and face discouragement and failure. So, basically, we’re all a big human mess.

And we’re navigating this journey together, sometimes it’s loud and riveted with pain and it’s always messy.

During a particularly challenging day in which my entire clan was angry at me, I felt like God dropped this truth in my heart and now I’ve got a death grip on it:

Hard parenting doesn’t mean bad parenting. If often reflects good parenting.

Let’s face it, we’re sinners raising little sinners. That’s a whole lot of flesh. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent.  And sometimes when it gets hard, it’s because they are fighting against us and ultimately God. And sometimes it’s just plain hard because it’s normal.

Hey you-yes you, that child who refuses to sleep and the one that sucks the very breath out of the room with her drama, that’s normal.

Fight on, weary soldier.

And have some sweet tea.

I was talking to a good friend the other day who has her first foster child (added to her three biological). She was talking of the uncertainty of it all and the mountain of unknowns, the fear and doubt. She said her husband reminded her that this new foster baby was just like their kids–all their children belong to God. They are all His and we are only promised this moment with them.

Simple. Profound.

I tucked that truth right next to the other:

My kids belong to God. He uses their trials to work in them just like He uses mine. 

And sometimes He uses this family thing to grow us all.

Everyday is Kid’s Day {Giveaway}

UPDATE:  The winners of the CD are: Traci (comment 9), Stephanie W. (comment 28), Christina Z. (comment 34), Deven (commet 125), and Beth (comment 132).  And the grand prize package winner is comment #108, Tara.  Congratulations!

It happens every year.  The question usually pops up after Mother’s Day and right before Father’s Day is on us.

So, yeah, this week.

“When is Kid’s Day?” they ask with the tiniest hint of bitterness.

I smile and always answer with the tiniest hint of triumph, “everyday is Kid’s Day. Yay!”

And then I jump up and down. Once.

Well, everyday is Kid’s Day. But I can’t blame them for trying.

My kids are easy to please. Their entire day can turn into THE BEST DAY EVER with a visit to the gumball machine or a visit to the Sassy Box (a box we keep with goodies for extra great behavior). Although as they get older, they want the gumball machine that’s giving away the iPods. I’m just saying. But in return, my kids MAKE MY DAY when I catch them humming an inspiring song or watch them in the rearview mirror dancing to the beat.

We’ve been skipping around to Hillsong Kids JR Crazy Noise CD lately and I’m excited to give away a bunch of them! Let’s make today one that our kids won’t forget!

The Hillsong KIDS are back with an energetic collection of kid-friendly praise
songs, guaranteed to get your young ones on their feet and singing along! But
that s not all, for the fi rst time ever Hillsong Kids presents an album especially
for preschoolers and early school age children. Crazy Noise is an album full
of catchy new songs for fans of The Wiggles and Yo Gabba Gabba. A couple of
Hillsong KIDS favorite songs and an appearance from JD, lead singer of Hillsong
United, are also added into the mix to complete this wonderful collection.
More than products, Hillsong KIDS albums are resources, thoughtfully created
for Hillsong Church s Children s Ministry. For a long time we have wanted to
create an album for this age group and we are so excited about producing this
album for the preschooler, Hillsong Children s Pastor Dave Wakerley says.
Crazy Noise is full of brand new songs that your little ones will enjoy singing,
dancing, and praising God to.

5 random commenters will win Hillsong’s Crazy Noise CD and the accompanying Crazy Noise DVD and 1 grand prize winner will win:

-Hillsong’s Crazy Noise CD

-Hillsong’s Crazy Noise DVD

-$25 gift card to Toys R Us

-$25 gift card to WalMart

Listen to a few songs, tell me your favorite in the comments and you (your child) will be entered to win!

This giveaway ends on Tuesday. Disclaimer: This is a sponsored giveaway.

WFMW: Traveling with Kids | Mega Tip List

I’m starting to think about travel again this summer for straight 24 hours (one way) with a five, ten and twelve year old. I brushed off this list and started planning. You can never be too prepared!

  • Audio books (my library checks them out) or you can download some for free here
  • Ice chest w/drinks
  • DVD player, preferably with movies that haven’t been seen
  • We’ve been driving our smaller less gas-consuming car that doesn’t have a built-in TV.  So, we strap our laptop on an ice chest with a bungee, so the kids can watch a movie. (Yeah, we are THAT family).
  • Bag or backpack with coloring books and small toys for each child.
  • Pack a plastic box for kids personal things and then use the lid as a tray to eat on.
  • Lap Desk for writing and drawing
  • Headphones for MP3 players and/or DVD player
  • Kid’s camera
  • Sketch pad/pencil
  • Extra change of clothes, separate from luggage.  Because if it can happen, it probably will.
  • If you’re traveling with a toddler, leave when they are tired.  If you leave first thing in the morning, this is their active time and they don’t make the best travelers
  • A package of pipe cleaners (to bend, twist and create)
  • No Spill Bubbles
  • Pack paper towels, wipes, and a couple of blankets.  Remember, we’re talking kids.
  • Buy $5 Tape Recorder and ‘Read’ stories to your kids in your own voice
  • Put a trash box in the back seat
  • Travel Journal
  • Sing silly road trip songs
  • Travel games from the store  (Target has some great ones in the stationary section that are cheap and magnetic!)
  • Travel freebies-links to free stuff for traveling
  • Play the I spy game with license plates
  • Wipe-off white board/marker
  • Magnetic sets (paper dolls, fire trucks, found in book sections)
  • Snack bag filled with pre-portioned zip-lock bags of non-messy foods
  • Kid’s music
  • Desk To Go
  • Tin foil for creations
  • Play Go Fish
  • Make string figures
  • RandMcNally Kids’ Road Atlas
  • Kids pillow and blanket
  • Treasure Jar
  • Rest Stop Box-stock with jump rope, frisbee, inflatable beach ball and Nerf ball, according to July’s issue of Parents Magazine.
  • No Spill Snack Catchers
  • They also encourage travelers to ‘crank up the radio, open the doors and have an outdoor dance-a-thon).
  • Printable Car Trip Check List
  • Child-safety scissors and paper (it worked on a long flight w/my preschooler)
  • Invisible markers/Magic paper
  • Chalk Cloth Oil Mat
  • Moon sand on a tray
  • Post It Notes-draw on them, then decorate the car (Women’s Day, July Issue)
  • License Plates Across the States:Travel Puzzles and Games!
  • Printable Car Bingo
  • Stickers
  • Band-aids (again a toddler-pleaser)
  • Leapster, DS Lite or hand-held game
  • Magna Doodle
  • Cookie sheet with magnetic alphabet letters
  • The following incredible ideas came from MomsMinivan:  travel tickets, surprise packages, and more (Actually EVERY idea on this site is amazing!)
  • Printable Boredom Busters
  • I spy bags/jars
  • Ear plugs for when the “how much longer questions begin”
  • Potty chair (for those long stretches without a rest stop)
  • Best Travel Activity Book Ever
  • Travel Memory Game

Edited repost

What works for you when you travel with kids?

One Month From Today

Our family will be in Nairobi, Kenya at Mercy House!

We now have 8 babies–all 8 of our girls have delivered healthy, beautiful babies. A true miracle!

It’s fun to imagine the house with all sixteen, plus our two live-in staff, our family of five and an intern. One big happy family. It will be crazy and we will fit in perfectly.

You can read the touching and beautiful birth story of our two newest babies born within one hour of each other (on my son’s birthday last week!)

It’s hard to believe Mercy House has been open for only one year this month. I can only say over and over, Look what God has done!

Most of my days are spent exhausted and overwhelmed, trying to discern the next step. But this makes it all worth it:

Meet Rehema and Maureen, 4 days old

We appreciate your prayers as we prepare!

Make Some Crazy Noise

I live with noisy people.

We have loud meals, rambunctious bedtimes and chaotic car rides. It’s just how we roll.

It may also be why I have chronic headaches. Oh, I kid.

But I’d much rather have planned crazy noise than just crazy noise, especially in the car. The other day, I popped in this CD that Hillsong Kids JR sent me for my preschooler:

Everyone got quiet and I couldn’t help but capture this while my hubby drove:

Only don’t let her adorable innocence fool you.

That girl is the boss of our family.

But then the song Crazy Noise came on and my kids went wild. In a totally holy way, of course.

The lyrics are about how everyone who makes a noise can praise the Lord and then there are some funny exaggerated noises. My 5 year old loved this song and giggled.

Apparently so did my son.

Because since then, he (the in-house comedian) keeps clearing his throat and making this awful racket until I make him stop.  When I get onto him for being annoying, he says in an angelic voice, “but I’m praising God.”

All I can do is laugh. That kid.

So, I give this CD two thumbs up because you can never have too much crazy! Plus, we love Hillsong around here and every song is based on Scripture! Perfect for your toddler and preschooler. And perhaps your big kid will give you something to laugh about too.

You can get a copy for your little one here and stay tuned for a very fun, very big giveaway later this week…

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post, but the opinions are mine. So is the crazy.