my summer bucket list.

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a few days before school let out i was standing in the parking lot talking to another mom, waiting on the bell to ring.

“so what are your plans for the summer?” she asked.

i shrugged. “oh, nothing really. and you?”

she immediately started searching her phone for a picture as she explained that every summer since her kids were small she made a summer bucket list, reminiscing bucket list past as she continued to search on her phone of all the things they’d done and places they had been.
finally locating the picture she held it up right in front of my face in a quick motion that caused me to pull back a bit startled. i laughed at myself, then squinted at the bright sun off the screen and tried to make out what she was showing me..

“we make a poster to hang on the wall with everything all listed out.”

the picture became clearer now and there she was. she and her kids standing next to the sparkly board on the wall looking all organized and calm and well prepared for the summer months…

and so it was right then and there i made up my mind –

we were going to have a summer bucket list too!



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but then summer actually came and days all strung along together without really starting or stopping and as summer always does at the beginning, it seems endless. until the guy on the radio the other day informed me there’s only five weeks until the kids go back to school. and i looked right at the radio and said, “nah!” cause i was sure he had it wrong. but then i started counting in my mind and, oh my word!! he was right!! he was right? how could he be right?

how could summer be nearly over when we hadn’t even begun to do all we were going to? what about that sparkly board for the wall of our summer bucket list? and hello! wait a minute.. we hadn’t even made our summer bucket list yet!!!

my foot pressed down harder as i drove a little faster. this new sense of hurry creeping up inside. suddenly feeling all panicky and loser mom-ish. why couldn’t i be more organized?  why didn’t we have more traditions?  why wasn’t i the fun, creative mom? i should have been more intentional.. atleast about more than just NOT eating from the value menu at mcdonald’s every single day of the entire summer! {it’s those doggone dollar drinks. they get you every time. just a large diet coke with extra ice sounds so nice and before you know it, “oh, just add a mcdouble and fries to that too!”} had to nip that one in the bud right from the first week or i could see we were all going to be 20 pounds heavier and one clogged artery closer to a heart attack by the end of summer!!

a light turned red, i slowed and stopped. my mind quieting as i waited.
thoughts of the past weeks rolled over the images of our summer so far.
and what i saw looking back was happy faces. fun memories…

sticky good night kisses from late night ice cream treats. tanned shoulders from afternoons in the pool. piles of sand by the door from days at the beach. early morning sleepy snuggles on the couch watching strawberry shortcake. a house full of teenagers and crazy loud. daycamp at church and writing skits and listening to excited faces tell of their day. a week of mamaw coming to visit all by herself. my boy responsible and working like a man alongside his dad. my young woman of a girl sharing Jesus with tears and a renewed trust in Him herself that i have longed to see again. a wednesday when the kids and i drove mamaw back to the border – the little girls going home with her and dad but then the older two and i realizing a few hours after that we wanted to go too… so turning round and heading south! running into kohls and grabbing things off the 80% off rack since we hadn’t a stitch of extra clothes and giggling that we felt like bandits on the run having to change our identities!! being home in my country for the 4th of july. then coming back to a house quiet. the afternoons all alone. time to paint my toenails and lay on the deck in the sun. to drink my sweet tea before it gets watery. to sleep in! to read my Bible and actually get further into a prayer than, “dear Lord…” because there was no one to interrupt. to realize how dull our lives would be without those little ones. and realizing the fleeting time with the older ones. not just kids but best friends. late nights of one sitting on the counter and the other on the table listening to them talk, knowing i won’t have many more summers like this with them…

and as the light turned green and i drove away. i drove slower now. the panic subsiding. the loser-mom feelings vanishing. sure, there will always be more i wish i did with my kids. more i could have done. but you don’t need bucket lists to create memories. you don’t need spectacular creativity and mind blowing activities. you just need to show up. be present. interested. available. CALM. ready to embrace whatever a day might hold.

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nothing wrong with bucket list and plans, if you are that mom.
obviously, i’m not. atleast this summer anyway.
and that’s okay.

sometimes the best thing we could do for ourselves as moms is to stop trying to be like all the other moms around us.

we read blogs and see things on facebook and instantly feel like we aren’t measuring up.
somehow everyone else is having wonderful afternoons at the park as the light filters just so through the trees drinking power shakes they’ve juiced from the vegetables they’ve grown themselves-  while we’re picking poop out of the sink at our friends fancy pool house from our 2 year old messing her swimsuit and going through the mcdonald’s drive thru for that dollar drink that ends up turning into dinner!

there’s days for us all when there’s light filtering just so through the trees.
and days of poop in fancy pool house sinks.

and on the good days we soak it up and savor the preciousness.
and on the bad.. we watch the clock longing for bedtime and grateful tomorrow is another day!

new start. fresh mercies.

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but no matter what. there are memories!
and i’m seeing that it’s my choice whether they are happy ones~
not determined by bucket list and cool summer activities.
but determined by how i choose to respond to my every day circumstances.

like coming home to the patio umbrella upside down in our pool which had knocked over the large planter of flowers that sits close by leaving the pool filled with dirt and the top of the planter on one end and the bottom on the other. feeling this was so not what i was wanting to be dealing with at the moment, but shayne was out of town so no other choice. and i started barking orders to the kids to grab this and get that and then all of a sudden i happen to notice the flowers, still in perfect tact right there in the middle of all the ugly just floating round like some botanical garden. and it struck me funny. i started laughing, the kids stopping and looking at me a little nervously like maybe mom’s finally lost it.

“ya know… those flowers are kinda pretty like that. i think we should leave them there all the time.”

and soon we’re all laughing. and it was only a week ago and i’ve already heard, “remember when the umbrella blew into the pool…”

yeah. those are the kind of memories you can’t plan. and you wouldn’t want to! ha.
but sometimes the best moments in mothering happen when we stop trying so hard and just live!

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so. what’s on my bucket list for summer?
not having one at all! :)

´¸.·¨) ¸.·¨)
(¸.·´ (¸.·´ (¸.·¨¯`♥ amber

52 thoughts on “my summer bucket list.

  1. Beth

    I love this. Maybe your summer bucket list could just be something you do right before school starts, where you just sit around leisurely at like 2pm and reminisce together about the stuff that happened this summer.

  2. Clarita

    This kinda makes me all teary. For some reason I get a little panicky too when I hear of bucket lists. It’s just not the season of life for me to have bucket lists, and I go through a lot of those same feelings of inadequacy and loser-mom and all that stuff. Until I stop and remember – it’s not the things you DO, it’s who you are, that matters most. Yes, I’m all about making memories. But mostly I want my kids to remember me as a mom that was happy and restful, not one racing around to compete with other mom’s bucket lists. This is SO GOOD, Amber. xoxo

    1. wilma

      QUALITY time, not QUANTITY time with kids is what has lasting effect on kids! :) sure, we can make memories while spending quality time with them – whoever said we have to do, do, do, be busy, busy, busy??? I think we error in trying to plan things for our kids all the time- it’s good for them to use their creative brain in fun ideas of their own – many are satisfied with playdough, paint, dolls, trucks and tractors, sand boxes, swings, etc.

      1. amber Post author

        so SO true, wilma!!! that whole busy busy busy thing. and i’m thinking.. “who says it has to be this way??” it’s time we as moms take back our lives and start running them as they should be, instead of letting them run US.

    2. amber Post author

      happy. restful! you said it exactly.

      i often tell myself my kids happiest memories will be of a HAPPY mom. and what makes me a happy mom is letting go of expectations {especially the ones i put on myself} and simply enjoying my kids – bucket lists or not. :))

  3. wilma

    looks and sounds like you have had a full summer! I’m sure you could put a poster of pictures together and call it your bucket list ;) even if it didn’t start out that way…I love the beach photos, the photo of your two youngest and you on the porch is adorable! Thank you for the reminder that it’s best to just BE ~ life isn’t about being like someone else, or trying to be as good or better than so n so! People will know us by our love, by our fruit. miss you!

    1. amber Post author

      miss you too. and i love what you put at the end.. they will know us by our love, by our fruit – i pray my kids know that of me!

  4. Dawn

    Sort of glad there weren’t bucket lists when we were raising ours. I think it would have put me over the top. Enough to think about during the school year. Having the summer to just BE was welcomed by our family. It was never long enough. Loved having them all home.
    Have my 15yo grandson here this week.
    Love it!
    He will soon be busy with his live and coming here in the summer will be just another memory.
    Always enjoy your posts, Amber.
    D xo

    1. amber Post author

      yes. i so appreciate the perspective of you moms further down the road – my own mom was saying the same thing to me recently, like, “oh my goodness.. how in the world did i raise you kids w/out all these methods and ideas and pinterest boards…” haha!! ;)) true that there’s something to be said about the freedom to just BE in our homes and w/ our family.

      i’m sure you loved having your grandson there. kate and ben are going to go down in aug. to be w/ my parents.

      thanks for still following me here, friend. i always enjoy hearing from you.


  5. Jessica

    No bucket lists here, unless having only one thing on the list counts. POOL thats the one thing I can accomplish;). Beach days, day trips, or anything that makes me pack or be too far from home…looks like too big of a project with me River Joy…so we’re all about pool time! Blueberry picking today, picnic last night, just little things that make some memories and lots of every day life in between. I love being able to be at rest not being that other mom…it’s too stressful to try and compete. Love it friend, you gave a good word….now lets get together and talk over one of those $1. drinks or I’ll whip up a marvelous frappe for us on the deck while the kids play!

  6. Christine

    Hey there lady – nice new site!! I’m so glad you are continuing to blog even though xanga will soon be no more. I love your thoughts and your honesty in life. I love that we can make memories without things needing to be “perfect”. We were at a fair a couple weeks ago……it wasn’t supposed to rain, but it did. It was so hot and humid that the weather was miserable. But, it didn’t rain on our parade. We still had so much fun and now it is, “remember that time at the fair in the rain!” I’ve been focusing on being very present. Not having my mind on 10 different things when Tyler is trying to tell me about something or when Kaylie is needing kisses and hugging. Of all the things I want them to remember is that I treasure them and that they are viewed as the best little things in my life.

      1. amber Post author

        i’m still not sure if they’re shutting down completely – i think the last day is one day this wk if they don’t meet the amount they were trying to raise! kinda sad. it was a great community there and i miss the coziness of it~

    1. amber Post author

      ah.. those time of focusing when little ones are trying to tell you something. yes and YES!! emma said to me not long ago, “mom, i can always tell when you’re not really listening to me. you kinda just go, ‘uh-huh. uh-huh…” i tried to argue and say that wasn’t true. but i knew she was right. i’m working on that too. :/

      need to pop in at your site – i’ll bet kaylie is already getting so big. they certainly don’t stay little long and already w/ my teens when i’m the one talking and wanting them to listen.. yeah, i think of what emma said.. think of when they were little and i didn’t want to listen or made them feel i wasn’t interested. how much i want to be a present mom and live with that long term perspective that it’s NOT always going to be like this…

      so glad you stopped in. xo

  7. rachel

    So glad to see you posting again. Like always your thoughts challenge me as a mom and I absolutely love your pictures! Enjoy the rest of your bucket list-less summer.

    1. amber Post author

      thanks so much. my thoughts have first challenged ME! and i’m always reminded when i share something that writing it is way easier than living it. love all the extra grace God gives us mama’s!! i’m pretty sure He has a special vat with my name on it. :))))

  8. Karen

    Amen to this! I think we all struggle with not measuring up–to what, we may ask–the neighbours, the friends who seem to have it all together plus the ability to have a lot of fun!

    I kind of have a bucket list–because if it doesn’t go on the list, there is hardly a chance of it happening–but I would love to be more spontaneous. How does one do that when you have to get home to cook dinner?

    1. amber Post author

      i hear ya! i think even us most unorganized moms have lists running through our brains – whether we write them down or not, or call them what you want – we know what we’d like to do, what needs to be done, and what we have to do to make that happen. women really DO run the world!! ;))

  9. Carmen Byler

    Amber, you always hit the nail on the head! This is soooo good and so true. Thanks for sharing this and for the reminder that life isn’t about getting all the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted, but rather living from our heart and loving well! hugs…

  10. Debbie

    This is so very good! I like what someone else said about not having to be busy busy busy all the time with our kids. We need to let them use the imaginations God has given them. I have so many great memories of my childhood of being outdoors playing for hours along with my brothers, building and making whatever we could think of. I want those experiences for my children also and it can be a struggle with a culture so infiltrated with entertainment at our fingertips. I pray daily for God to increase my sensitivity to what is a wise use of our time as a family.

    1. amber Post author

      you said a very important factor in all this – PRAYER! my mom reminded me of the same not long ago when i was lamenting to her about how overwhelmed i felt with all that needed to be done in a particular week. she asked, “have you prayed about it?” it’s like i stopped in my flurry with a “duh! oh, yeah. i guess i could try that!”

      and yes to playing outdoors for hours growing up. me too!!

  11. Carmen

    Amber, Your post always make me smile and remind me to be just me!
    Beautiful Pictures!
    So, Thankful that I was able to figure out how to put your blog into my feed!
    – Carmen

  12. Jen C

    As always I love your pictures and I struck by the happy carefree smiles on your kiddos faces. Looks like they are having a great summer bucket list of not! I smiled to myself as I was reading your blog. I too had a moment when I realized the summer was over 1/2 over and I felt so much stress. Since I work full time outside the home, I always feel guilty I can’t be that mom that takes their kid to fun places all summer. So I asked our youngest, Tommy what was on his bucket list for the summer. He said the local water park, so I am scheduling that in.
    Since I started posting a review of our week on my blog – I see the blessings in our everyday life and it makes me smile. We are making memories and minimizing the stress of too high expectations!
    Thanks for stopping by my blog…added your site to my blog roll, so will follow along more regularly. I have always loved your pictures, such a talent you have at capturing the emotions in the photo….
    Enjoy the rest of your relaxing, carefree summer!

    Jen C

    1. amber Post author

      ugh. the mommy guilt – whether we work or stay at home we all battle it. good for you for being intentional about getting in those things they want to do – i love that you just asked. i think i’ll do that too.. ask each of the kids to name one thing they’d like to do before summer’s over!

      thanks for your encouragement w/ my pictures. i just recently started my own photog biz and that’ll make ya question your ability big time. ;))

  13. Rachel Helmuth

    hey girl, this was like you just got in my head and wrote everything I didn’t know how to put into words. sheesh, thanks. :) and you are spot on. we are having the laziest summer EVER and we are LOVING it. it’s just about being together, work and play, that makes us a happy family. NOT trying to keep up and compete with everyone else.

    love you girlfriend.

  14. oldermom

    Love the way you encourage us to live in the moment and be thankful for what God provides. Bucket lists can just be unwanted pressure, This spring the oldest of our seven children moved out of our home in rebellion. The shock and sadness overwhelmed me until I realized I had six more to parent. We came up with our first-ever bucket list just to force us all to rebuild new and happy memories together as a family. It has been a good thing this summer, as we can rejoice in the fun times we’ve had together instead of always being sad. Amber, although I am older than you, God has used your blog to teach and encourage me. Thanks so much!

    1. amber Post author

      when i first read your comment a week or so ago it gave me this new surge of inspiration in my heart to want to pour myself into my kids like you are doing with yours~ and now, sitting down to finally reply to you and reading your words again, a whole new surge once more! i love so many things about this experience of motherhood, but getting to share it with other moms is one of my favorites! that even though some of us have never met we can still lift each other up. walk beside each other with our words. and encourage. so even though you thanked me – i’m thanking you right back! because you have equally blessed me. :))

      and about your oldest. i can so understand your shock and sadness. it’s one of our greatest fears, isn’t it? stopping to pray for him/her right this second.. for grace. for conviction. for God to lead them back. and for peace for your heart through it all! xo

  15. Luci

    This post is so, so good. I love what you said about it being my choice as to whether the memories are happy ones or not. You always inspire me, Amber. Happy last few weeks of summer to you and yours.

    1. amber Post author

      thanks luci dear~ i’ve had to remember my own words since i wrote them. haha. MY choice to happy memories. my choice!!!! :)))

  16. Kim

    Your new blog home looks great~ If only I could figure out how to move to a new blog with my old post, I would be happy! Is this one easy to figure out?
    I enjoyed your pictures!

    1. amber Post author

      yay!! i’m so glad to see your name here, kim!! i want to keep up with your family adventures.

      yes. i think moving was fairly easy. simply open a wordpress account and then you can download this plugin here – and copy over all your old xanga files that way. and anything you get stuck on come back and ask me – i’m not a computer techy at all but so many of my friends have switched blogs and they’re the ones who supply me with all these fancy links and what to do. so i can get answers for ya if you need them! ;))

      hope y’all are having a great summer!!

  17. Kellie

    I have felt the same way- comparing myself to other moms and feeling like I need to be more intentional about doing special things with my kids. Then they’ll tell me about something we did that they loved and it didn’t seem like that big of a thing at all, but they loved it!
    Love the picture of you and your little girls and the one of your mom and kids!

    1. amber Post author

      yes. some of their favorite memories always surprise me!

      hope you’re doing well and getting all unpacked and settled. xo

  18. stacey

    of course I love this….but no big surprise there!
    Sounds a lot like our summer.
    we did a bucket list one year and it was fun but not necessarily more fun.
    it’s nice to begin to get a little freedom from the cyber world mirages that are all around, ya know?! i suppose i’m always on guard because i know comparison and all that junk can sneak up anywhere but i’m thankful for my normal, not always pretty, sometimes boring, but oh so wonderful reality.
    love you bunches and adore kate’s precious, age appropriate bathing suit… theres a whole topic in itself! i don’t have teens yet but d.u.d.e.
    since when is it okay for a 14 year old to prance around in strings?! i mean there are two pieces, then there are TWO PIECES. i’m sure that season won’t be all smooth sailing but i already think about it with my girls…….like i said, lots to ponder on that!

    1. amber Post author

      two pieces and TWO PIECES!!! yes. exactly! i’d love to write something up on all that but i guess i’m too chicken – believe me.. i’ve heard it ALL when it comes to the argument of bikini’s as i’m sure you have. problem is, i totally get where girls are coming from. they’re cute. they’re less restrictive to swim in. we’re not accountable for a guys thoughts. where do you draw the line. i know i know i know!! but.. when your 13 year old is walking down the beach and some guy old enough to be her grandfather is eying her up and down you start to look at things a bit differently. kate come to the conclusion on her own this summer {so thankful} but we know all about bikini battles in this house. ;) hey.. even i own one but wouldn’t dare put it on this summer.. THAT’S another topic too!!! we need a coffee date. what ever happened to our girls trip?? :)) love ya friend.

  19. Christy

    Hey, Amber, I am so not keeping up with blogs right now, and it makes me miss my friends to not hear from then! (Not their fault, mine). I’ve been thinking of you a lot lately and hoping life is good for you at the moment. :) I LoOoOve the ferris wheel picture! My summer has been a lot like yours–no bucket list. Sometimes feeling like I am not the cool, fun mom I want to be, and wondering why I didn’t make a list. But then also realizing that I’ve add in fun whenever I could and we have had a great summer.

    1. amber Post author

      i’ve been missing you too my friend and everyone else.. it’s so hard to learn a new habit of getting around to everyone’s blogs but i’m determined to get a system. :)) let me know if you find anything easy. so far i’m not liking feedly and i’m not sure if there’s a place to follow blogs just straight on your wordpress site or not – i need to look into that.

  20. Nina Petty

    As I read this, I was thinking of a conversation Bill and I had just tonight over dinner. His natural tendency is toward cynicism and pessimism, and tonight was one of those “natural” moments. He simply couldn’t see anything we’ve ever accomplished in our lives – 32 years of marriage, with nothing to show for it!! I gently reminded him that while we have no savings or retirement, our house isn’t finished, and our place needs lots of work, we have 3 children with lovely childhood memories, people who love and respect him for what he’s done for and with them, grandchildren who love to come see Papa, and know that he can fix anything…So many blessings that don’t count monetarily, but are really what make us richer than we can imagine. I never could manage a bucket list, or any other organized plan, but I feel so blessed by what my husband has provided to our family and so many others in our daily path! I don’t know if I’m making sense, but it really connected in my mind!
    I loved seeing the kids in your pics, and I especially loved that you and the older two went to Kohls so you could pick up stuff and go to your folks with the littles!! That is just too sweet!

    1. amber Post author

      yes! makes total sense – i think in other words what maybe we measure as success in our lives isn’t always what true success is. while we sit back and see all we’re lacking or could have done, others are seeing all we are! and you’re so right.. having the respect and love of those around you is one of the greatest riches of all. i read a quote the other day by francis chan that said, “loving God and people is what life is all about. period. there is nothing else.” if only i could remember that everyday and live accordingly, not get caught up in the world’s idea of success~

      so thankful for you friend and the encouragement and wisdom you bring to the table here~ xo

  21. Ronda

    I really love this, Amber! I have gone through quite a bit of angst the past couple of years, feeling like I haven’t educated my children well enough. We are winding down the homeschool years, and it just feels…unfinished, not good enough. But the other day, realizing that I should clear out my curriculum cabinet, since I only have one more child doing two more years, I dug in to all the STUFF I had saved. And I realized that I had evidence there that learning really had happened, that we really had fun sometimes, that cool things occurred during our homeschool years and good memories were made. It was very reassuring, and made me feel so much better. So I related to your story of summer on that level. It’s easy to berate ourselves for all we haven’t done, while forgetting the good things that actually DID happen. And now I know that I need to QUIT reading homeschool stuff, because I no longer need to learn how and get new ideas–they will only frustrate me because I can’t do them! Having quite an epiphany here… ;)

    Glad you’re having a great summer with your kids. And glad I’ve found you again. :)

    Ronda (aka homefire)

    1. amber Post author

      oh, i’m so glad you found me here!! thanks for stopping by~

      homeschooling is such a HUGE area for comparison. i remember well. and ya know.. it wasn’t until my kids started going to school that i realized how well i actually did at teaching them! they knew way more than i thought and made outstanding grades. sometimes i think every homeschool mom should send her kids to school, even for a month or two, haha…. just so she could see that she hasn’t failed after all!! ;)) so yes. stay away from the stuff that makes you feel inferior and just keep being faithful as you’ve been to teach your kids how God leads you!! you’re doing way better than you think. trust me!

  22. Ronda

    Question: When you transferred all your xanga stuff here, did your comments come, too? And if so, how did you do it? Mine didn’t import the comments.

  23. amber Post author

    yes. most came, but not all. and not all my posts imported either. i was too lazy to go back and try again so just left it however it all came through the first time. ;))

  24. Elizabeth

    Oh Amber…opening my window as I read your blog and I see my neighbors packing up their truck to go camping for the weekend, something that we’ve wanted to do all summer long! but haven’t gotten around to. We have been so busy between my sister’s wedding in the beginning of summer and farmer’s markets and Jeff working 70 hour work weeks and only having one car (we are home without him a lot when we’re not running!)…we are NOT having a lazy day, BBQ, beach day, swimming, fun filled summer! I was starting to feel guilty by not having an exciting summer… my kids have been doing fun things, but with my parents and Jeff’s parents and my sisters and Jeff’s sister. I had to realize that my kids are having a great summer and it is my standards that bring on the guilt. and it may not be a stellar summer for Jeff and I, but my kids are making great memories with cousins and aunts and grandparents. and they also have the experience of being at farmer’s markets. We had talked about making a list back in the spring and I am SO glad we didn’t get around to it because then I would have felt even worse! Haha.

    Thank you so much for this post. It was an encouragement to me as I listen to the camping neighbors! ;)

    Miss you! Wish we could see each other soon!

  25. Cindy

    boy! I’ve missed reading your blog. and then I see the date and go whoa. how did THAT happen? I knew that I was behind… I guess blog reading wasn’t on my sparkly summer bucket list. ;)

    phooey to comparison.
    here’s to those that SPARKLE with their lists!!!
    and here’s to the rest of us;
    (just as awesome. :) and broken and
    struggling in probably some of the same dang ways underneath.)
    those that do bucket lists in reverse.
    meaning… remembering what we did looking back
    and realizing. recognizing.
    all of The Unscripted Fun and Good Memory Making
    that we did after all.

    excellent post dear friend! love it and miss you.

  26. Melissa D. SC

    Helllllooooooo Amber,
    Ok, so I just fell off the face of the earth for about 4 months here and just found out that Xanga was going to close or whatever and that I needed to check in and find where my blogs I followed moved….. So here I am glad to see you on the blog again and I hope to try and follow along a little better…I just seemed immersed in the Lord right now and not sure when that is going to change…lol….

    Have a blessed day and weekend!!

  27. Cindy

    btw, the intensity that you might have heard with, “phooey to comparison,”
    is because the girl that wrote that hates it.

    hates it because she’s guilty of it. it hurts, both sides of it.



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