13 Things I’m Doing to Prepare (My Kids & Myself) for Summer

Memorial Day.

It’s the day to remember our heroes.

It’s also the day that means summer is right around the corner.


I love summer.

What’s not to love? There’s unstructured freedom and fun activities, swimming and popsicles, family time. There’s boredom, mildewed towels, sticky floors and arguing siblings.

We have a busy summer since we are heading back to Africa in a few weeks (please pray for peace in Kenya right now), but I’ve discovered summer is better with a bit of preparation and planning.

bunting flags

Here’s what I’ve got:

  1. I’m unplugging alarms: My kids are tired. I’m tired. It’s been a long school year and we need rest (thankfully, none of my kids want to sleep all day). But it usually takes a good week to catch up and find our stride and we all can’t wait for this one.
  2. I’m creating a list of chores: I’m particularly excited about this one. We usually clean house, do laundry on the weekends, with work and school occupying so much of our weekday time. For summer, my kids will have a couple of daily chores starting at the beginning of the week to complete and then keep up with their laundry and rooms. I’m a firm believer in B (fun) doesn’t happen until A (work) is accomplished as a general rule. It’s a great motivator for kids.
  3. I’m sending one kid at a time away for a week. I’m signing my kids up for church camps at different times throughout the summer. Having one kid away changes the entire dynamic and it’s a great opportunity to spend time with kids at home.
  4. I’m adding service projects to our calendar: Every other Friday, my kids will be going with me to help with the refugees I work with an hour from our house. I’m looking forward to serving withe them and I know this regular dose of perspective will help keep our summer balanced.
  5. I’m buying a local family pool pass. Because Texas heat.
  6. I’m zip-locking the heck out of my pantry and fridge. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve cut and chopped and sorted healthy snack choices in an attempt to feed my family better. They love it and so do I. I think having snack-sized portions sorted out will keep us eating healthy during the summer.
  7. I’m researching summer reading lists-We are big readers, so it’s time pay off old library fines and get reacquainted with the library.
  8. I’m allowing screen time on equal parts reading time. We’ve done this the last several summers: if you read an hour, you can watch TV or have screen time for an hour. I’m more lax on screen time in the summer (school year I’m mommy dearest), but I still like to keep it balanced. Usually my kids will get into a great book and won’t be able to use all their screen time. And it doesn’t roll over.
  9. I’m changing the wifi and Netflix passwords  See #2
  10. I’m putting one child in charge of dinner one night every week, including making a shopping list and menu. I’m looking forward to trying this. I have a rotating helper in the kitchen every night, but I want them to not only learn the “how to’s” in the kitchen, but I think it will help with appreciating how much work goes into a family meal.
  11. I’m having my kids write a summer bucket list (so that when they cry boredom, they can create some fun).
  12. I’m getting up before my kids do to work 6:30-9am because it’s quiet and peaceful.
  13. I’m hiring help for Mercy House. This will be the 5th summer of trying to balance Mercy House and three kids home all day. Uncle.

What are your plans for summer?

7 Lessons Motherhood Is Teaching Me

7 lessons motherhood is teaching me

On a Monday, motherhood might completely baffle me.

On a Tuesday, motherhood might amaze me.

On a Wednesday, motherhood might make me eat a lot of chocolate.

On a Thursday,  motherhood might make me smile–all day long.

On a Friday, motherhood might hurt me.

On a Saturday, motherhood might heal me.

On a Sunday, motherhood might exhaust me.

Every day is different. But every day, motherhood teaches me something.

7 lessons motherhood is teaching me

Seven lessons I’m learning:

1. Motherhood will never be easy (for long)-parenthood is surprising. It doesn’t matter how young or old they are, kids surprise us. Whether it’s poop in the tub or a hug in front of their junior high friends, kids have a way of keeping us on our toes. Just when we think we’ve got them figured out–or motherhood down, they keep us humble. Just ask your mom if she understands you. No matter how kids are, moms still mother.  And our children keep us guessing. They keep us up at night. They keep us on our knees. They keep us.

2. There is no such thing as normal- or perfect or good. The secret behind those 3 magic words this is normal, is the truth, that there is no such thing as normal or right or perfect mothering. Some breastfeed. Some don’t. Some co-sleep. Some don’t. Some cook from scratch. Some don’t. Some work outside the home. Some don’t. When we look past our differences, we discover we are a lot the same. We love our children. We don’t always know what we are doing. We long to know we are doing okay. We are okay and that’s enough.

3. Laughter really is the best medicine-We educate, we motivate, we create. We worry, we fret, we stress. We work so hard at this mothering thing. At the end of a long day, with dirty laundry spilling over and a sink full of dishes, and the mediocre progress report we might give ourselves, laughter fills in the gaps. When a giggle turns into a belly laugh and the whole family joins in and tears stream and you catch your husband’s eye, you know everything may not be perfect, but everything is good. And that’s enough.

4. It’s okay to eat cake for breakfast (sometimes)- Motherhood is teaching me flexibility. I am not a new mother, but I am a slow learner. I like order. I like lists. I like control. I like to do things a certain way. And children like to jump in the puddles instead of walk around them. They like to hide in their sister’s room and jump out and scare them half to death. Regularly. They like to eat cake for breakfast. And every once in awhile, it’s good to let them. Because life isn’t a set of rules or a list of do’s and don’t’s. Some of the best day are the ones that go wrong.

5. We don’t have to have it all figured out-I live in this chapter of motherhood. I don’t always know what my kids need. Does my teen daughter need a hug or an extra chore or both? What’s best? What’s next? What do I do? I have more questions than answers. I am learning. I am making mistakes. I am asking questions. I am okay with what I don’t know today because tomorrow I will be one day further in this journey.

6. We can’t do it alone- Nothing makes me need God more than motherhood. As we parent our kids, God parents us, often teaching us both the same lessons–patience, forgiveness, steadfastness. We need the community of other moms, too. We need to be reminded we aren’t alone. Or crazy.

7. Every day is the perfect chance to begin again- Motherhood has consisted of a lot of new mercies for me. I get it wrong about as often as I get it right. Motherhood has taught me that my children forgive me more quickly than I forgive myself. Today is the best day to be a mom. It’s the perfect chance to start over.

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Whatever kind of day you’re having- an amazing Tuesday or a chocolate-filled Wednesday, look for the lesson.

Building A Strong Family That Lasts

What started out as a conversation about putting up a swing set in the backyard turned into a conversation about building something.

There was talk of power tools and large pieces of wood. I’m pretty sure I even heard a grunt or too.

It seemed like the perfect project for father and son to start when grandpa came to town.

Three generations. Wood. Power tools.

My mother-in-law and I watched from the window as our men worked on the “treehouse” also known as the 8th wonder of the world. We tried not to laugh as they measured and drew diagrams and leveled the ground and measured again… all day long.


They were building something to last.

Grandpa left and every other night or so, my two boys went and worked a bit on the treehouse. As I watched father and son, I could see they were building much more than something in the trees. They were making memories, sharing stories and building a relationship that would last through the storms of life. Something sturdy.

Just like Grandpa did with his son, I’m watching my husband do it with ours. Teaching and guiding.


Since the family is God’s means to tell His story, our goal is to build a strong family who lives with intention and isn’t sucked into doing what everyone else is doing just because it’s a cultural norm. We spend quality time together. We keep important things important and we try not to chase what doesn’t matter.

Here are 12 other things we are trying to do to strengthen our family :

1. We have a family mission statement.

2. We resist spending money we don’t have. Kids watch you even if you don’t realize it. We try to be an example of someone who has good spending habits. And if we should overspend, it’s important to attack the debt immediately because debt becomes an encumbrance.

3. We tell our kids no if what they are asking for or wanting to do isn’t right for our family. We strive to be intentional with our choices.

4. We expect our kids to work. Hard work creates a sense of pride and ownership. It encourages kids to work for what they want. Don’t just buy them everything. Keep a job jar in the kitchen and reward their effort.

 5. We decipher between needs and wants. There’s a lot of pressure as parents to give our kids the best of everything but it’s important to determine what your kids really need. Never skimp on what God says they need unconditional love and grace. Laugh every day and be grateful.

 6. We make family meals a priority.

 7. We don’t overschedule our kids. It’s not uncommon to hear moms in my community talk about shuttling their kids around for hours every day after school. I think kids need unscheduled time at home. We limit activities outside the home.

  8. We encourage alternative choices to what others are doing.- Challenge your kids to creatively express themselves and think outside of the box. One example that I loved was a group of kids giving the $100 to charity that they would have spent on a homecoming football mum. They let everyone know by wearing t-shirts that said so. There’s nothing wrong with a mum or splurging for a special occasion but the average family spends a thousand dollars on prom. I think money can be spent more wisely.

 9. We limit screen time (video games, computer, and TV). There are different ways to do this: You can set a certain time limit for each day, make it weekends only, or have a “no technology day” once or twice a week—whatever works for you. At our house, we limit the kids to thirty minutes of individual screen time a day. We try hard to enforce this during school and are more lenient in the summer. Last year, we started screen-free Sundays. When we told our kids, they flipped out. Their reaction reinforced exactly why we needed to do it. The key is consistency. Before long, we noticed our kids expected it. But we aren’t legalistic about it. Some of our best memories are when we break our own rules and pile on our bed and watch a movie together on a Sunday afternoon.

10. We expect more from our kids than culture demands. Society says kids need stuff and all teens are lazy. We read the book Do Hard Things as a family. The authors, Alex and Brett Harris, challenge kids to live above what the world expects of them.

11. We let our kids make their own mistakes and see ours. We don’t fix everything. It’s important to teach children responsibility by letting them fail sometimes. If we always rush to bail them out of problems and mistakes, they will continue to make them.

12. We splurge. It’s fun to surprise the kids every once in a while by breaking one of the rules.

 Excerpt from Chapter 8, Rhinestone Jesus

Last weekend, my guys went on a father son retreat in the woods. They returned dirty and tired, mosquito-bitten and sunburned.

I didn’t hear much about the trip, but this framed prayer to God that they wrote together, turned up a couple of days ago on the counter.

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I cried as I read it because building a life and legacy together is a beautiful thing.

Oh, and about that treehouse?


My mother-in-law was right. It is the 8th wonder of the world.

For the Day After Mother’s Day

I slept in late Mother’s Day morning. Gift #1

I’m pretty sure my first grader watched me sleep the last 45 minutes, willing me awake. Ok, really it was because she tapped me every few minutes and whispered, “Are you awake?”

As soon as I opened my eyes, there she was, waiting to usher me to breakfast.

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She had climbed on the countertop to get our “You are special plate” and it was in the center of the table with a granola bar, two strawberries, one blackberry and a Spongebob gogurt.

It was delicious.

Then she presented me with a card that compared me to all her favorite animals…”Mom, you’re as kind as a bunny. You are as gentle as a chick. You are as smart as a dolphin.”

I cried.  Because WE ALL KNOW how smart dolphins are.

And don’t even get me started on the kindness of bunnies.

My older two smiled as they handed me a card that said, “Grasp the significance of today because tomorrow is back to normal.”

I loved yesterday…everyone trying to be on their best behavior, not asking too much of me. Working very hard not to argue or criticize the lame breakfast choices.

All day long, I could feel my kids trying to honor me. It wasn’t perfect, but the best gift wasn’t really what I unwrapped, it was that the people who lived with me tried. 

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And just like that: the day is over and today is back to normal. There is laundry I didn’t do yesterday because no one wanted me to work and now there is more. There are lunches to make and groceries to get. There is an argument to settle. Funny how that happens.


So, on this day after Mother’s Day remember this:

  1. You are loved, even when they don’t say it.
  2. You are appreciated, even when they don’t show it.
  3. You are not forgotten, even when they seem to forget you the day after.
  4. You are important, even when you don’t feel it.
  5. You are shaping and molding and influencing your children for eternity, even when you mess up. Especially then, because they are watching the way you serve and love them anyway.
  6. You are what your kids want—more than anything you can give them, they just want you.

Friend: “Do you know what your kids want?

Me: “Besides cell phones?”

Friend: “Your kids want you.”


“When they say ‘Mom, watch me,’ they just want you. When they pull you away from whatever you are doing, it’s because they want you.” 

I sat there, both convicted and freed by her words. They jolted my heart awake. My kids don’t need me to fix their problems, they don’t need me to provide more stuff or help them try and keep up with everyone else. I thought back to the times when I was asked to “Take a look at this,” and I was too busy to stop what I was doing. I vowed from that day forward to be present in the moment as much as I possibly could.

“God, I realize they need me, but even more, they need You. I need You because this mothering thing is awesome and hard. When I look back, I won’t remember the days. I will remember the moments. And I’m thankful for that because, believe me, there are days I don’t want to remember!”

I do want to remember the drive on the way to school this morning. The way my daughter laughed. The moment she opened up and shared her heart. The way our hearts connected. Those treasured moments make up for the rest of the day with the exaggerated eye rolls and exasperated sighs. It’s all part of this job.

Instead of asking myself “Is her room clean? Did he ace that test?” I’m asking “Did I connect with them in a way that I will remember twenty years from now? Did I listen when she called my name four times? Did our hearts meet for a brief moment? Did he know that even when I couldn’t fix the problem, I was there for him?”

At my house, rooms are still messy, floors are still sticky, and laundry still piles up. After all these years as a mother, I’ve accepted the fact that there will be good and bad days. I lose my cool, pick my battles, and say a lot of I’m sorrys. But in a few years, when my house is quiet and my children are gone, I will be able to recall the precious minutes when I stopped everything and just loved them because that’s what God wants me to do.                                                        

Excerpt from Chapter 2, Rhinestone Jesus

Moms–when the flowers wilt and the chocolate is gone, when the homemade cards are put away, don’t ever forget that your small, everyday faithfulness is changing your kids’ world.

Especially the day after Mother’s Day.

The Most Important Thing You Can Do for Yourself This Mother’s Day

I’m no parenting expert, but one time my child did say that I was the best mother she ever had.

So, there’s that.

I love being a mom. At the end of the day–no matter how many mismatched socks are in the laundry pile or how dirty the van is or how many kernels of corn are under the kitchen table, I am glad I said yes to motherhood.

But it’s no surprise that motherhood is hard.

Hard like crying yourself to sleep. Hard like second-guessing every decision. Hard like someone else’s bodily fluids on your person. Difficult mothering days are like a suckerpunch in the gut. And like a mood swing gone wild, the next day is beautiful and tender it takes your breath away and makes you want to do it all over again. And again.

Moms do it all.

We fish the icky things out of the dark scary disposal.

We sniff diapers.

We clean and trim other people’s finger and toenails.

We give up the other half of our bagel so our child can have a second breakfast.

We smell socks to determine if they are clean or not.

We wait for hours and hours and hours in car lines, doctors offices, at dental appointments, practices, rehearsals and recitals.

We clean up messes we don’t make.

We give up our bodies, our beds, our figures, our very lives for other people.

We sacrifice something we really want for something our kids really need.

We say yes.

And then we say yes some more.

We say yes without getting anything in return.


Because that’s what moms do.

And the most important thing you can for a mom in your life this Mother’s Day?

The most important thing you can do for yourself this Mother’s Day: remind mom (even if she’s you) that what you do is important. The unseen, unknown hard work of motherhood is changing your kids’ world.

Even if no one recognizes it. It matters.

Small service may feel small, but size doesn’t matter. What you do matters. It has long-lasting, eternal significance.

And there isn’t anyone else in the world who needs to hear this more: Mom, your small daily acts of service, your mundane–it matters so much more than you think it does.

Because when we embrace our yes–as messy and undervalued as it may seem some days it gives us the passion to keep saying yes every day.

It reminds us why we love being a mom:

We love that our teen daughter wants to borrow our clothes (Keep telling yourself it’s the highest compliment).

We love it when their feet are no longer the same size as ours though. Whew.

We love that our son who will be 12 next week, still grabs our hand when we are walking together.

We love that he mumbles sorry when he drops it quickly-just in case anyone’s looking.

We love that our baby still acts like our baby. But not to be confused with acting babyish. Some things are not meant to be loved.

We love the handmade cards and the small collection of homemade pottery.

We love the noisy car filled with arguing, fighting kids (everywhere we go). Ok. we don’t really love this.

We love the hope that one day our kids will sleep in on Saturdays (This is also when you know that you have ARRIVED).

We love that our children don’t hold grudges and are easy forgivers.

We love that no matter how hard of a day it’s been–no matter how much we yell or mess up, our kids still want us.

On this messy parenting road, we can always find something good to be thankful for. No matter what. Always.

Because deep down, we know one day there won’t be anyone asking to borrow our clothes, reaching for our hand, making us handmade cards, filling our car, our home, our lives with noise, leaving a trail of mess and mayhem in their wake.

We love that even though we don’t love every minute, every phase, every hard mothering day that leaves us weary and wondering if we are doing it right–we love that God chose us to mother our kids.

And that makes even the hard moments, so good.



[Click to download the above 5x7 Mother's Day Printable]

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