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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Beauty of A Summer Bucket List for the Working Mama

Somewhere early this summer, I read about a summer bucket list and freedom.  The article gave permission to not do it all, but do what you really want and it freed me from the working mom guilt I sometimes carry.  During the school year, I don't worry too much about being in the office each day.  I'm beyond blessed to clock-out in time for school pick-up lines.  But during the summer, I long for lazy days with my crew and imagine what it would be like to not go to work each day.  Sometimes the longing isn't as much working mom guilt, but working mom jealousy.  My children seem totally fine without me...I'm the one who wishes things could be different.

But, instead of wishing for what cannot be, I've prioritized what I want to do.  Some people create elaborate lists of adventures, but I kept mine succinct and doable.  One of the things on our list was for my oldest guy and I to hike Mount LeConte.  In our area, it's a reputable hike and rite of passage. We accomplished our goal this week and it was just the best!

Hiking has long been a shared activity for us, and for the family in general. So it was natural to set out together.  This is our longest hike so far.  It was strenuous, but not terrible and I was intentional about allowing us to take our time, rest as needed and make it fun.  On previous hikes, I've been guilty of pushing too hard or pressing too quickly.  I let my guy take the lead often and set the pace.

We had wonderful conversations, the kind that just don't happen unless you have many hours together without distractions.  My bucket lists aren't about spending all the time together, that's just not possible and I'm learning it's actually great for my maturing children.  I'm seeking intentional one-on-one time and creating a general feeling of availability.  So when I'm able, I'm all-in.

I've got a few more "bucket-list" items that will provide ample one-on-one time with my children.  But most of our summer list items are just keeping things relaxed, calm, and a big break from the routine. Sleeping in.  Screen Breaks.  Swimming (learning to dive).  Snow Cones and Sparklers are part of our wishes.  So far, it's going great!

So if you, like me, aren't with your children all-day, all-summer long, then know that it's totally alright!  Pick the moments you want to share and make the best of them.  The rest of the time, be proud that you're providing for all the moments when you're not there, and giving them people and experiences that will only add to their lives.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Six Weeks of Summer

I have a love/hate relationship with summer and its relaxed schedule, which sometimes drives me to madness!  Mostly I love that a more relaxed schedule means later bedtime and more family time.  The early sun means I can exercise in the morning and have my afternoons wholly devoted to family time.  We can go to the pool or the mountains or just on a walk around the loop (our equivalent of the block).

We have a lot of coming and going in our blended family.  During the school summer break, we add in summer trips, camps and sleepovers...well, it gets a bit nuts.

One child is in D.C. doing an internship.

One is spending time with her mother.

One went to church camp for a week, and came home all independent.

One is itching to do more with friends, but is somewhat trapped in the house.

The "baby" just wants to play video games and ride a scooter all day, annoys the older siblings in the process.

We did manage a family vacation for a week at the beach.  There is a trip to visit grandparents and the Midwest, plus a girlfriend getaways still to come.  We are down to six weeks left of summer vacation - oh my!

There are some things we need to complete in order to finish the summer satisfactorily:

Hike Mount LeConte with the Teen Boy.

Make more snow cones.

Go kayaking.

Memorize a Bible chapter.

Enjoy fireworks together.

Lesiurely drive through Cades Cove.

Roadtrip to somewhere fun.

Have more friends over.

Read more. Play more. Ride more.

Visit Burger Master.

Ride Go Karts.

Summer days are long, but the weeks are truly fleeting.  I truly do treasure the days of less pressure and stress.   Keep it up, moms, your summer days are floating by and your children will remember the investment you make in their wonder.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017


We've change our pace into a less scheduled summer routine.  I don't know how often I'll post, but will keep up on Instagram.  I hope your summer includes sweet, simple times and togetherness.  We have some travel, but more time at home together.

I'm praying for deepened family relationships and connections this summer.  Middle School isn't easy and with two there next year, I know that a strong sense of family identity is so important.  As adolescence looms, our children will be more and more independent.  I don't want to fight that, but do want to support it with a solid foundation.

Another one will head to college, too, so there are more reasons than ever to foster the connections
we have today.

I will spend time enjoying each moment, knowing changes are ahead.  We have so much for which to be thankful.

Monday, May 22, 2017


We have a high school graduation in our family this year and it always marks such a big season of transition.  Next year another room will be empty in our home and time just keeps marching onward.  We are grateful and proud of Lindsey for her work and perseverance to complete a challenging high school curriculum.  She has made wonderful choices and we are wide-eyed to see how her future unfolds.  Way to go!


It was special to be together with family and celebrate another milestone together.  We keep building our little blended family experience by experience, one memory at a time.  I love it.


Through many years of witnessing graduations I see that being intelligent is nice, but having integrity is so much better.  Yes, it's nice to know much about many things, but being wise will have a greater reward.  I wish this for our own graduate as she steps out into new adventures.

Another little girl completed elementary school this year and is headed to Middle School.  It will be a fall of great change in our household.

It is an honor to love, support and guide each of our children.  I feel no greater responsibility than to parent well.

Here's to more life and adventures!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mothering Everyday

Mother's Day has become a day that I absolutely love.  I remember what it was like to be sad on this day as I longed to be a mother, but worked to focus on the wonderful mother who raised me.  Now, I just adore the celebration of all that mom's do in our lives - Mothers really do rule the world, even when things aren't ideal.

I will save these handmade cards forever!
This year my husband wrote me the most meaningful note.  The words and encouragement remind me that what I do each day is worth it and valuable.  Mothering is the most important job I have, but it's not always the most rewarding and hearing that he sees the effort, is grateful for the input and my partner in the outcomes just means the world to me.  He also surprised me with something sparkly!
The children gave me thoughtful notes, love coupons and pampering items.  I am thankful their dad supported them in acknowledging their mom.  These original thoughts from my children are treasures to keep for all time.

I was able to see my stepdaughters, too.  I strive to honor their bond with their own Mother, but I really appreciate that they include me in their motherhood circle.  I love the bright, thoughtful flowers that I was given!

I missed getting to be with my own mother, but we chatted and texted between the miles.  I hope she knows how much I value the energy she continues to pour into my children.  She taught me to be a mom and always reinforced the value of motherhood.  I loved talking with my grandma, too.  She has been kind and supportive of me for all my life.  As an added bonus, I loved chatting with my mother-in-law.  Her influence is felt through each part of our family and she had an enormous role in the life of my Mr. Wonderful.  I'm so grateful for her.

I have a Sunday tradition of coffee with my kiddos.
 I like to imagine us meeting for coffee when he is all grown.
I received notes and texts of encouragement from my dearest friends, as well.  Mothering with them is so much fun and their wisdom brings dimension and perspective to my own parenting choices.  It's an honor to share this season of life with other mothers.  Everyone needs a mom-tribe.

"Mother's Day" has passed for a year, but these ladies are a part of my daily life and it reminds me of the influence I will have for generations to come.

Mother's Day comes and goes, and the investments of today often don't return to us for many years to come.  Count the cost and enjoy the privilege that you possess as an influencer in the generations to come.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Heart of A Mother - What I Didn't Know When I Became a Mom

This is the most recent photo I have with my three.
Long before I became a mother, I can see how the heart of motherhood was growing within me.  I loved playing with dolls and setting up a "house" in my bedroom or our garage, which doubled as our playroom.  As I matured, the longing to nurture was satisfied with my pet and nesting happened in dorm rooms and one-bedroom apartments which I delighted in making cozy.  I couldn't wait for the day to become a Mother and my first Mother's Day was one of the greatest days in my whole life.

I knew that I would adore my children and that they would also require me to be selfless and sacrificial.  I underestimated the intense connection that I would feel, especially in those early years when they were so very dependent.  I knew there would be fun times as well as stressful ones.  So much was predictable, but there were some things that surprised me about motherhood.

Last year, I got to be with my whole crew on Mother's Day!

What I Didn't Know

1. I didn't know how I would learn to value myself through their eyes.  That I was important to my children was obvious from day one - they needed comfort, care and protection.  But each time they run to me for assurance or glance to make sure I'm noticing, I am reminded that my presence in their lives in huge. The size of my thighs or the brand of purse doesn't matter one bit to my kiddos, but showing up at school or seizing one-on-one time makes their day.  I didn't know that having children would bring razor sharp focus for the purpose in this season of life.

First Mother's Day with Faith
2. I didn't understand how my concept of self would become wrapped up in these little people,self-care was truly important and martyrs do not make good mothers.  Along with that purpose above, I found I could lose my own identity in theirs.  Now I know that it is worth the effort to value myself and not build my whole world around them - it is too great a burden for little hearts to bear.  This article describes it so well: Motherhood Taught Me To Love Myself.
why that wasn't always healthy.  I learned that

3. I didn't guess that I would find reasons to laugh and smile, even on my very worst days.  I was unaware of how my attitude would set the tone for the whole household.  I had no idea how to live "in the moment" before children entered my life.  I was planner and performer, always striving to please or working to be productive.  I was often thinking in the future, or checking off lists.  Becoming a mother let me savor rocking a baby, long after he had fallen asleep.  It taught me joy in folding tiny pajamas and to let go of imperfect garden beds.  I learned to quit trying to be perfect and be satisfied with enough.

4. I wasn't prepared for how much I would have to take the long-term perspective.  I thought most things could be conquered and tied up neatly, but motherhood taught me the value of daily investing for future payoffs.  Mothering well truly is a marathon that is won by daily consistencies in correction, compliments, time and affection.  Investing today may not have its reward for many years, but they are so worth the efforts.

5. I didn't know the instant connection that would happen among mothers and how it would bond me to a tribe of people who "get it."  In my neighborhood and in the headlines, my first response is from the heart of a mother.  I am grateful for the common bond even though we express our motherhood so differently at times.

I'm still growing as a mother, and I still have so much to learn  I'm so very grateful for the little hearts that teach me, stretch me, motivate and move me.  Motherhood has surprised me with lessons of life that I could have learned no other way.  Mothers aren't born the day a baby arrives.  The heart of a mother grows as a woman nurtures, cares sacrifices for those in her life: whether it is a child born to her or the child up the street who needs encouragement.  The heart of a Mother grows when we give away our very selves.

Other Thoughts on Mothering:

Rules of Motherhood

Essential Stepmom Skills

The Truth About Mothering

My Greatest Accomplishment

Stepping Through Mother's Day (As A Stepmom)

Mother's Day, 2015

Friday, April 28, 2017

How I Embraced the Role of "Adventure Mom"

I'm not exactly high maintenance, but I rarely leave the house without makeup and wear bright lipstick everyday.  I enjoy sparkly jewelry and high heels and think a bubble bath is the ultimate luxury.  I'm the last person you would think of as an adventurer.  But a flip switched when I became a mother and I innately wanted my children to value time outdoors and to be confident in their natural abilities.

Add to that, we live right near the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and the space for (inexpensive) adventures is just so available.  My son was only two months old on his first trip to the mountains.  He has grown up being confident about tromping through streams, forging through trails and absorbing the sounds of nature.

During my single mom years, heading to the mountains was a saving grace for me with three children.  There is no cell service or wifi, no goofy cartoon noises and no one to be bothered with the rambunctious noises of three young children.  They could throw rocks in the river for hours and "hike" the walking trails on their own.  They gained a sense of accomplishment and freedom that we couldn't have found in the neighborhood.  I believe it was during these preschool and early elementary years where we adopted the general mentality that this is where we go to be together, to connect and to make memories.  It's where I established my free range parenting philosophy.

This is also the period in life when I went on my first road trip with three young children - that is an adventure unto itself!  But what really happened is that I adopted a "Can-do" attitude toward challenges and my children picked up the same attitude along the way.  Now, they just assume I'm up for just about any adventure.
My first trip to the mountains with my children
and Mr. Wonderful.  Look at the fairy wings!

We continue hiking as a family, even more exciting as we became blended because it is something we can all do together.  It's not easy finding an activity that kids ranging from first to twelfth grade like, but hiking worked for us.  We do it on weekends, holidays and vacations.  Whenever we can escape, we try to do so.  All of us go together, or we just take whoever is available.  We like to bring friends, too.  Some of my best bonding with my step daughters has been side-by-side, hiking in nature.

Hiking provides lots of one on time
for talking or just being together.
Soon, my oldest son will turn thirteen.  For his birthday, he wants to hike Mt LeConte as a right of passage.  So, we've been working our way up to the eleven-plus mile distance and terrain.

Clearly, my son didn't have any concern that I was capable of completing his dream.  In his mind, I'm already the "Adventure Mom" so it was natural to assume I would help him accomplish his goal  And so, I will.

How to do it?  Just embrace the role and look for it: Adventure is Out There!

The little guy was only five years old when he completed this five mile hike.

The waterfall was worth the whole 8+ mile hike, and we saw two bears.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Heart of Faith and the Real Possibility of Second Chances

Easter is a holiday that I enjoy celebrating, but it comes at such a somber price.  During this week leading up to joy, I read about the cost required for victory.  Forgiveness never is fair, is it?  We don't get to the resurrection without the dying, and that is the part that weighs heavily on my mind today.

There is hope found in the most dire of places - a cruel betrayal, torture, humiliation, agony, isolation and death.  The process of sacrifice marks our example for obedience, sacrifice, love, honor, forgiveness and new life.  Yes, new life: Life that is different, marked, etched and set apart from what if once was.  Death leaves its scars on all of us, but it doesn't mean we are forever bound in its grip.

New life.  This is what I claim on Easter Sunday - Resurrection Day.  My worst moments have birthed my best.  What I once was, I am no longer.  Hope for my future dark days (I know there will be some).  Trust in the One who overcomes.

I do not speak profoundly, or with anything new to say.  I simply know today more than ever that while it was kindness that brought me first to Christ, it was pain that saw my heart transformed.  As a child, I couldn't fathom the reality of the cross and it's trauma.  I had not reference for the hate and brutality.  Today, from new across the world I can see the climate of hate that permitted such mob mentality.  I hate the pain for Him all those years ago.  I hate the pain in our world today.  I hated the pain in my own life and dread the pain I will witness in the lives of those I love.  Yet the very pain that I avoid is what allowed new life to emerge in me.  It is the miraculous way that God works to bring something good from even what is the worst in our world.  The horrific pain of the cross was the road new life in Christ.  I wish there was another way, but I am not God.

This is why we have Easter traditions in our home.  We color eggs to remember God always brings new life.  We talk about the last days of Christ and what it must have felt like to be betrayed.  We gather with our church to remember and honor His sacrifice.  We celebrate the Victory on Sunday, knowing it is only a shadow of the celebration to come.

Easter is all about pain.  God didn't choose to eliminate the pain from our world.  He used it then and uses it today.  No matter what has happened to you or what you have done to yourself, the pain doesn't have to be the end of the story.  We are a people of second chances who choose to believe the best is yet to be, whether here on earth or in the hereafter.  Easter is the heart of faith for Christians, but it doesn't eliminate the struggle.  It takes that struggle and makes it worth something, and that is where second chances (or third, and more) take root and bloom.

What is Your Response to Easter?

Some Easter Traditions in Our Family

The Old Can Be New Again

Friday, April 7, 2017


"Safety is the state of being "safe" (from French sauf), the condition of being protected from harm or other non-desirable outcomes. Safety can also refer to the control of recognized hazards in order to achieve an acceptable level of risk."

In this privileged life that I live, I often take my safety for granted.  When I see the conditions of many in war zones, refugee villages, I struggle to imagine what living in that way would mean.  I think of the details through the lens of motherhood and imagine the cumulative stress of trying to parent in that environment.

It's easy to develop a tunnel-vision in the way we view the world and see what we recognize.  My desire is to widen my world view and I do this by intentionally informing myself of the ways others live, their struggles, their joys.  To accept that my lifestyle is a minority in the world isn't condemning myself.  It spurs me to steward the privilege well.  Where I have been gifted, I am looking to give.  Surely I have not been given so much only to serve myself.

So these are some places where I choose to invest:

My Church.  It's the first place that I give and am committed to doing so for life. To make a lasting, personal impact, your church is the place to invest.

Mercy House Global.  As a former single mama, these overcomers inspire me! I feel so glad to purchase their products for gifts and love the t-shirts.

Preemptive Love.  I can't imagine living well in a war zone, but I will help where I can.

Compassion International.  One way that I involve my children is to let them choose a gift each Christmas.

Locally as needs arise.  There are immigrants who need basic living goods and jobs.  There are foster families who need last minute supplies.  There are students in our classrooms who need lunches and clothing.  There are some who need a drink or food.  There are laborers all around who need dignity, a smile, recognition.  When I see the need, I am prompted to give.  The key is to continue noticing the need.

When I am overwhelmed by the evil in our world, it is easy to feel paralyzed with insignificance.  What can I do?  How can I help?  Where can I make an impact?  But small actions truly can make an impact.  Sometimes I have to filter what I see in order balance the difficulties with hope.  But I don't want to be so consumed with my own comfortable life that I miss the benefits of joining to help others.  I want to be part of the solution...even if my contributions are small, they are significant.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Life Lately

There isn't much "news" to share, but life has been full of moments that I treasure.

A couple of weeks ago, our college girl came home for the tail-end of her spring break.  We loved being with her and enjoyed family meals and dreams of future plans.  We fed her well and encouraged lots of rest.

Our own spring break was unhurried and restful here at home, with Nana as our visitor.  Crafts, movies, reading and downtime were on the agenda.

We had a fun family day in Gatlinburg and I'm so glad that as our Spring Break ended, better weather arrived.  Time change didn't even affect us, since that is when the children were out of school, but we sure are enjoying longer daylight and dreamy weather!

Getting back into the school routine wasn't too bad and I think the children were happy to see their friends.  Our senior in high school is counting each day down until graduation, and I am so proud of her for finishing well.

This weekend we went to her university of choice.  We toured the facilities, met her prospective room mate and got a vision of what her world will look like next year.  It is always such an exciting stage to be right on the cusp of adulthood.

For now, we are treasuring the way spring unfolds and planning our patio garden.  It's a simple season for the next couple of months before life changes dramatically once more with another child leaving the nest.  I'm so grateful for the rhythms and seasons.

I'm grateful for this front-row view of my husbands daughters launching into college, even as my own middle school guy gets taller every day...and his voice deeper.  There is such an awareness of the march of time.