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It’s been a bit breezier here this week. A slight chill is in the air. Fall’s just around the corner. The annuals are looking worn and torn from the dry, summer heat. Our garden is still vibrant for late August, but plenty of plants are overgrown, beyond bloom, and in need of a hearty prune. The kids have their school supplies. My youngest received a letter from her preschool teacher. Nine days from now, we’ll be operating on a September budget, which will include hot lunches, cold lunches, field trips, and more school clothes and shoes. Yes, we’re in the final days of summer now. I can feel it. I can sense it. I know it in my bones.

When I looked through my photographs from the summer this past weekend, it alerted me that I hadn’t taken nearly enough summer photos of my children. Having taken photographs obsessively since I was 10 years old, there’s a certain threshold in my mind as far as when an occasion has been properly marked or NOT marked with photographs. This summer has NOT been standard by any means, nor has it been properly marked with photographs. This summer’s photographs show a lack of routine, instability, inconsistency paired with utter craziness. Where are the beach photos? Where are the sidewalk chalk photos? Where are the “I love gardening” photos? Where are the fun summer stuff photos? Where are the easy, breezy, airy photographs of kids without a care in the world?

If there’s one thing I’m reliably good for under any circumstance, it’s a photograph. I have my camera with me most all the time, only this summer was a little (lot) crazier than normal, a little (lot) more out-of-routine than normal. My photos reflected what was happening, but they didn’t necessarily reflect what I wanted my children to remember as they paged through the photo albums I need to catch up on someday soon. (Yes, I’m 4 1/2 years behind on those photo albums!)

This morning, two of my children played with a Fisher Price doll house while the third spent an hour or more organizing her school supplies and getting them packed in her backpack. It was a poignant moment, for sure, one that brought tears to my eyes when I stopped long enough to look.

Summer and school.



I love summer. It’s my favorite season by a landslide. I’m quick to admit to my husband (and hesitant to admit publicly) that I don’t love summer quite as much when it comes to being a mom. I’m torn. I don’t know. I love summer with kids. And I don’t love summer with kids. Part of me longs to treasure this time, these days with my kids while they’re little and somewhat-still little because I know there won’t be many more. But part of me sees the kids bored, longing for friends and routine, stimulation and more interesting things than me and my not-so-fun mom ideas. I’m the kind of mom who’d fully embrace a year-round school schedule with more frequent 2-3 week breaks throughout the year. I’m the kind of mom who’d thrive in a hot, dusty village with kids chasing balls, and moms gathering greens and cooking all day.

Yeah, I diverted a bit. Back on track now. Sorry about that!

So when I teared up over one kid organizing school supplies and two kids playing doll house, I knew I needed to do MORE to wrap up summer good and tidy in my tender heart.

This is the ONLY summer my children will be 4, 11 and 13 years old. There’s no getting this summer back. And it’s not lost on me that five years from now, my oldest will be IN college.



Sometimes this season of littles everywhere feels like forever. But it isn’t long.

I told the kids we were going to do some special things these last two weeks of summer. Some simple summer things. A day at the park. A day at the beach. A picnic. More time outside. Maybe ice cream one random afternoon. I don’t know.

So yes! The plan for today was picnic at the park, a special park we hadn’t gone to this summer. Because sometimes the simplest things in life are the best things.

I loaded the three kids in the car + 1 friend for my daughter. Heck, a good summer day’s never complete unless my oldest daughter brings a friend.

We drove 25 minutes to grab a bag full of sub sandwiches. Then we drove another 5 minutes to the biggest, grandest, most modern park in the area. We ate our subs and chomped on chips at a picnic table, and the kids played their hearts out for an hour, maybe more.

I followed the kids around the playground like only a good mom would, and carried my camera around like only a photographer would. Kids climbed ladders, spun in circles, glided across zip lines, spun in virtual spider webs, and hopped on giant ladybugs. Moms, nannies, child care providers and day camp leaders watched and followed children casually. It felt good. It felt right. It felt like summer. The kids were being kids. And I was being a mom. Just a mom. In summer.

There wasn’t anything glorious, super special or incredibly poignant about that picnic and trip to the park, but it was exactly what we needed.

A little more summer before school starts.

A few more photos to properly mark the occasion, “The Summer of 2016.” 

A few more moments together before those routines start back up again.






The 13 3/4 year old was the first to say he was ready to go.

The 11-year-old girls followed suit 10 minutes later. “We’re bored. We wanna go home now.”

The 4 year old was much more hesitant to leave the park. “NO! I wanna play more!” But after a while, she was ready to go home, too.

Nobody argued.

Nobody fought.

Everybody ready in their own due time.

As we left the park, my son even said “Thanks for bringing us to the park and getting us lunch, mom.”

This afternoon, he played XBox live with friends and is now outside playing with a neighbor boy. My 11-year-old daughter is playing with her friend. And our neighbor girl just rang the doorbell, asking if my 4-year-old daughter could come out and play. The doll house is out on the porch. There’s an empty water bottle blowing across the driveway. A bunch of boys played football in the neighbor’s yard. A little one rode by on his bike, another on a Hot Wheels. And that little neighbor girl who rang the doorbell? She called me “Maisie’s mother” and asked if I could raise my daughter’s bike seat.

It’s summer here for now.


The days are long.

The days are getting shorter.

Can she use my bathroom “really quick?” Can they play water guns on my driveway? Can he balance on the retaining wall running through our garden? Can he ride her bike? Can she hang on your porch? Can they scream, shout and fight? Can they eat an applesauce from our pantry or a popsicle from the neighbor boy?

Yes. It’s summer.

School’s soon enough.

Do whatever you need to do to wrap up summer good and tidy in your tender heart.



Our pizza party happened fairly spontaneously, really.

We were due to pick up Cooper from his morning activity and it was lunch time, so I asked the girls, “Should we get a pizza and head to the park after we pick up Cooper?” They agreed it was an awesome idea, so we pressed onward with plans.

Boys and girls flowed from the school. Cooper hopped in the car and instead of heading for home, we headed to the pizza place for carryout. Cooper was delighted. “Who’s idea was this anyway? This is fun!” he exclaimed.

When we arrived at the park, we casually made our way to a shaded area with picnic tables and got set up. It was incredibly simple. One large Domino’s carryout pizza. Soda. Some paper plates. And a few napkins. That’s it.

Simple was the word.

Almost benign, unremarkable.




But yet, not.

It worked. It was fast. And it was fun for the kids.


We ate our pizza. We drank our soda (not nearly all of it, mind you). We cleaned up. All in a matter of 10-15 minutes.

Then we made our way to a nearby park. Because for some reason, parks always work well for us.

They swung.

They took turns jumping off swings.

Maisie went down a triple slide.

Then they all went down the triple slide.

They climbed up. Came back down. And climbed some places they really shouldn’t have been climbing.

They had a blast.








When they exhausted their fun at the park, we made our way along a bike path and landed at the skateboard park.

All three kids ran back and forth, up and down, on the skateboard ramps. It was hot. And the ramps were pitch sparkly black. I’m not sure how or why they ran that long. But they did. Apparently they needed some exercise. Cooper was the first to weary. Then Elsa. Then Maisie, “the baby.”

Just when I thought it was time to go, Maisie made her way up to the top of a skateboard ramp onto what looked like a big stage. Cooper, Elsa and I were sitting on a park bench at this point, so we watched as Maisie began performing her favorite songs. Let it Go, of course. And ABCs among other childhood faves. Then, after a while, Elsa joined her on stage. Cooper followed shortly. Before I knew it, they were singing ABCs, as in ALL TOGETHER, at the park, on the skateboard stage. I couldn’t believe my eyes or ears for that matter. My three children were singing the ABCs ALL TOGETHER at the park?! You can’t make this stuff up, especially when two of your kids are 10 and 12 and far beyond ABCs.

This was quaint.

This was obviously a once in a lifetime occurrence.

This was a little other worldly.

This was the motherhood I envisioned before I became a mom.

This was the moment that made me feel like I was doing something right. Even if the moment only lasted as long as the “ABCs” song.


What more can I say? The moment came. And the moment passed.

It was a simple outing. Far better than I would’ve ever guessed sitting at that fairly unremarkable pizza party table.

Another summer bucket list activity checked off. Another day at home with the kids.

Pizza party (and another park).

Total Cost: ~$12.00 for pizza and pop

Mom Lesson: Don’t underestimate kids’ ability to make fun anywhere.

Kid Lesson: Big kids are still little kids at heart.





This post is part of a summer-long series titled Summer Bucket List. This is my first summer home full-time with our three children. My hope for this series is that it will challenge me to adventure out of my mothering comfort zone, will provide opportunities to live and write simply, practically, beautifully and meaningfully, and will stimulate some some fun ideas for your summer as well! To check out the entire series, click here and you’ll be directed to the introductory post where all the posts are listed and linked for easy reading. Enjoy, friends! And have a blessed summer.

window box

We’re hosting a Ginny’ Owens acoustic house show two weeks from tomorrow.

I’m outside wiping down the siding, railings, window sills and window boxes in our front porch. They’re full of dried up bugs and leaves from fall, crusty things, gross disgusting dirty things, caked on muddy things from barn swallows who attempted to nest on our front door. I want to wash it all away. I want to make it clean. I want to make all things new. For Ginny. For our guests. For my husband. For me. Make us new, Heavenly Father.

It feels good to wash and wipe surfaces. But it’s all surface, isn’t it? All this cleaning, all this preparing? This house show isn’t about that. Because we’ll never be clean, we’ll never be wholly pure, we’ll never be whole on earth.

So I stop.

The realization washes over me at the window box filled with coral geraniums and tiny, but sturdy multi-colored flowers I discovered at our nursery’s mid-season sale.

The only thing she’ll see is my heart.

window box 2

There’s grace in that realization.


Freedom to be me. Fully me.

The only thing she’ll see is my heart.

God’s preparing this moment, this concert, to help me see that life’s not about appearances. It’s about my heart. Where is your heart? Where is your soul? Where do you stand today? Are you all about appearances and making things look clean and sparkly on the surface, or are you working in deeper, hidden places?

window box 3

I stop and create. These words, they fill me. These words, they nourish my soul. My fingers fly like the wind. Because I was created to express God’s beauty, God’s truth, God’s wisdom.

Today, as I clean and make all things new on my front porch, I know one truth for sure.

The only thing Ginny will see is my heart.

The only thing God sees is my heart.

And the only thing people really need to see when they come to our house for that concert – is faith, hope, love and the sweet Spirit who will meet them here. Right where they are. Clean and unclean. Tended and untended. Always loved. As is.






We picked two summer bucket list items for the day’s adventure. Ice cream party and a park. They went together naturally.

Our oldest daughter was away at camp for the week, so it was just me, our son and “the baby.” We made our way to the lake, a quaint and coveted place where wealth meets nature, a place we don’t frequent much at all, but should more often.

It was easy, really.

We parked.

We walked to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop.

The 12 year old chose a small cup of “Cookie Dough,” and I chose a cup of “Late Night Dough” to share with the three year old. Chocolate cookie dough, peanut butter cookie dough, and cookie dough? Oh yeah, and a little ice cream with that dough, please. Who could ask for more?

As we strolled to a park bench, the 12 year old surprised me with these words.

“Thank you very much, mom. This is fun!”

Who knew a small cup of ice cream and a stroll could make a kid so happy?

They ate.

I ate.

We said “hi” to two dogs, Romeo and Lucky, who passed with their owners.

When the baby finished her portion of “Late Night Dough,” she rummaged around under the park bench, picking up rocks, bugs and a bunch of dirt.



On we went. Down the sidewalk. Down the street. Alongside the railroad track. Around the old train station turned museum. Past the dainty light pink roses wrapping around a trellis. Past the man sitting on the park bench who clearly knew this place all too well.

There it was.

The shining star.

A tiny community with bridges, churches, farms and depots. The miniature train wasn’t up and running, but that didn’t make the scene any less alluring.

We made one round. Two rounds. Another round. I held her hand that third time around. She walked the ledge. There was freedom in the walking, with nobody there to yell or suggest get down, go away, don’t do that. I knew she was okay up there. I had her hand most all the way. All was good. Very good.



It was time to move on.

We strolled towards the water, towards big boats, yachts, really. The 12 year old suggested we’ll probably get one of those someday. “Yeah, maybe we’ll get a boat someday,” I agreed casually, not wanting to burst his bubble quite yet. After all, maybe he will have a yacht someday.

After a while strolling the dock and holding hands vigilantly with the three year old, we came upon a launch with clean, easy access to the water’s edge. Rocks littered the ground. Nobody was around. It was just us, the water and the rocks.

The 12 year old began throwing stones, one after another after another. “I’m going to skip stones,” he exclaimed. I couldn’t remember the last time he had an opportunity to skip stones. I couldn’t remember the last time I saw him skip stones. He was great at it. Awesome, in fact. He knew just how to throw to skip, skip, skip. Ripple, ripple, ripple. So cool. So simple.

Then she began to throw stones, too. I thought she might pick up on the fact that her stones were just plopping in while his were skimming. Nope. She had no clue. She was just as elated by her plop as he was by his skim. She cheered. He cheered. She smiled. He smiled. Life was good.

After a long while of plopping and skipping stones, he said “Let’s just say here as long as we want, until we get bored.” “Okay,” I said. “Great idea.”

So we did.

I sat.

I watched.

I chilled.

And took a few pictures.

They plopped and skipped stones in the water repeatedly. As many as they wanted. I swear it was the best fun they’ve had in a long time.

The fun finally fizzled a bit. We agreed it was time to continue our walk down the dock.





We found ourselves a park on the beach, another quaint spot we’d only been once on the way to family pictures a few years ago. There was sand everywhere. So she took off her shoes. He kept his on.

They played.

They climbed.

I followed.

Until it was time to go. Back to the dock. Past the big boats and yachts. Past the launch where they threw stones. Up and around the railroad tracks. Down the long sidewalk. And across the crosswalk to our vehicle.

It was a good day, yes. A good summer bucket list adventure.

Ice cream party and a park.

Total Cost: $8.50

Mom Lesson: I’m a much happier mom when we get out of the house. 

Kid Lesson: Kids need nature.





This post is part of a summer-long series titled Summer Bucket List. This is my first summer home full-time with our three children. My hope for this series is that it will challenge me to adventure out of my mothering comfort zone, will provide opportunities to live and write simply, practically, beautifully and meaningfully, and will stimulate some some fun ideas for your summer as well! To check out the entire series, click here and you’ll be directed to the introductory post where all the posts are listed and linked for easy reading. Enjoy, friends! And have a blessed summer.


Sitting on the deck.

It’s just me. Birds singing their song. A crescent moon hung in the sky. And God.

I’m wondering.

Perhaps we have it all wrong.

Perhaps we’re not lonely at all.

Perhaps we need more quiet space. Space to be. Space to breathe. Space to listen and find our place in this world.

For me, it is true.

One star hangs bright. Alone. To the right of the crescent moon.

I see it. Twinkling, burning bright from a distance.

Clouds painted across the sky.

God’s simple majesty awaits.

We must silence ourselves for His grace.


Be. With the crescent moon and twinkling star and birds singing their song.


  1. Carol Femling says:

    It’s been so beautiful in the evenings this summer! The weather has been perfect– love it! Your thoughts are my thoughts.

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