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Summer Bucket List: Swimming & Sandcastles


It was already 4:00 p.m. when they asked if we could go to the beach. I was hesitant, as it had been a long day already. But we had nothing to fill those witching hours before dinner and dad’s arrival back home, and it was a warm, beautiful day. The kids reminded me “the beach” was on our summer bucket list, so I agreed. Yes, let’s go. To the beach it is.

When we arrived, we made our way straight to the water. A ginormous family gathered to the right. Picnic tables littered the forested area leading to the beach. We chose the table closest to the water’s edge, 20-30 steps from here to there. The two oldest plopped their stuff down and entered the water promptly. Like any “good mom,” I organized all the stuff at the table, then got our youngest geared up in her life jacket before she headed to the sand.



I made myself comfortable at the picnic table, watching the kids swim within the buoys from a distance, watching our baby play in the sand. But something was making me feel uncomfortable, guilty, really. I felt like I was TOO FAR away from my children, like I wasn’t being a “good mom” sitting at that picnic table 20-30 steps from me to my baby, many feet from my children frolicking in the water. It was my perception of a “good mom,” my perception of one “good beach mom” that did me in. There she was, the embodiment of “good mom,” fully pregnant with dad and one older child frolicking in the water, all three of them together loving and enjoying this beautiful day.

Yes, the contrast between my perception of that mom and my perception of myself was stark in my mind. That pregnant mama frolicking in the water with her husband and son? A “good mom.” Me at the picnic table in full-on clothing and several steps and feet from my children? Not a “great mom.” Yes, I’ve read all those viral blog posts telling mom to “just put on that suit and get in the water, your kids are only young once.”

I was feeling guilt and condemnation from the start of this summer bucket list gig. And it was likely largely in my mind.

So I got up from the picnic table, took off my shoes, picked up my camera and moved much closer to my baby.

Fortunately, there was a gigantic rock right next to her. So I sat there, close. It felt better, more responsible, more engaged, more motherly. Although I still had guilt that I was clothed, not “right in there” with the kids.

I chilled out for a while. Relaxed. Dug my feet in the sand. Wiggled my toes. Watched the big kids frolic in the water. Took a few photos of my baby playing in the sand, making her own version of sandcastles – the kind you never flip over into castle form. I watched as she found tiny rocks and one by one, carefully placed them on top of her castle. It was all grace. Pure grace for my “not a good enough mom” heart that day at the beach.





But after a while, I looked up, looked long, looked all around. Why oh why do I do that? Why oh why must I constantly worry I’m not doing life right? Why look right and left when I already had peace? Why question and compare my identity with hers and hers and theirs?

This questioning and worrying and wondering if I’m doing life all wrong must stop. But it didn’t. The subtle lies ruminated in my head as I looked left, right and all around at everyone else.

Look at all the people swimming. 

Look at the moms building sandcastles with their children.

Look at that pregnant mom frolicking in the water with her husband and child, enjoying life, taking advantage of every opportunity to get right in the thick of things.

You’re not swimming.

You’re not even in a swimsuit.

You’re just sitting here on the beach, fully clothed, with a camera, watching your children from “a distance.”

You’re not a “good mom” like them.

You’re not getting life right.


The subtle, but undeniable lies continued ruminating in my mind as I sat on that rock at the water’s edge. But God persisted with grace, unmerited favor upon me.

After a while, the baby was clearly done with the sand.

We got up and made our way back to the picnic table to brush and dry off. I checked my clock for the first time since we arrived. To my surprise, we’d already been there for 1 hour 40 minutes. It was 6:10 p.m. Dinner time. We were 20 minutes from home and I hadn’t even started dinner. “Good mom” came to mind. “Good mom” would have had dinner in the crock pot all day or a cold tuna salad and fruit salad waiting in the fridge or a full-on picnic dinner of chicken and coleslaw for that picnic table. But I had nothing. No dinner. Dad likely on his way home from a long day at work. And then there was us, here at the beach. And me, late and empty handed.

This was truly an amazing, fun-filled summer bucket list adventure for my three kids and a torturous “bad mom” adventure borne out of my wandering mind.

So I called the big kids in. “Come in, guys!” It’s time to go! Time to get some dinner!”

The only thing is….they didn’t respond. They didn’t listen. They didn’t come in from the water. They just kept playing and acted like they didn’t hear me when I know they did.

I was miffed.

So I called my husband and let him know we were at the beach, that I’d called the kids in once, but they hadn’t listened, that I was trying to get them out sooner rather than later so we could get home for dinner together, that I didn’t have anything planned, but maybe he could make some hamburgers and beans and we could have some of that watermelon cut up? (Yes, I intentionally wrote that as a run-on sentence because it best describes my wandering thoughts and worries that afternoon.)

I called the kids in again. “Come on guys, time to go!” They looked and me and kept swimming. Utter disregard for my direction. I was starting to get irritated, but there was nothing I could do. My 10 year old and 12 year old were swimming free, independently, far out by the buoys and having a heck of a good time! Why in the world would they want to come in now except for complete OBEDIENCE? I couldn’t blame them and was waffling between just letting them swim some more and complete anger at their disregard for my direction.

So I let them swim some more, because there was nothing I could do other than get in the water with my clothes on and drag them out. And that didn’t seem sensible nor necessary.

Did I mentioned God persisted with grace through this whole adventure?

It was as if He was saying…breathe…rest my child. It’s okay. I am here and you are a good mom despite their disobedience right now.

I watched as my baby filled a bubble bottle cap with with water and stirred with an old glow stick she found on the ground. I watched as she did this dirty, hard, small work with care. I watched as she walked up the steps, down the steps, then jumped off to the bottom without a care in the world. She walked and jumped again and again and again some more.



Time passed in grace. Enough so that I felt it was justified to give another try at calling the kids in so we could leave, so we could get home, so we could get dinner with dad.

I called. “Come on in guys, it’s time to go. We need to get home for dinner. Dad’s home now.”

They didn’t respond. Kept playing. Kept swimming. Kept laughing and swimming farther out, farther away from me.

I was getting ticked now. Angry.

The baby was ready to go. I’d packed up our stuff and was clearly ready to go. I started waving the kids in, gesturing “come” as quietly and nonchalantly as I could without making a scene. Every time the kids paid attention to me, I gestured angrily and abruptly, attempting to let them know I was mad and needed obedience ASAP.

No response.

No obedience.

I was so mad.

To make things worse, this was all happening in the immediate presence of the “good mom” who was still pregnant, still frolicking in the water with her husband and one older son. I was truly embarrassed that my children were not obeying my direction to get out of the water. I was truly embarrassed that I had to keep calling with no response. I was truly embarrassed that I came in clothes and was stranded on the beach with no way of getting them out of the deep other than to make my way in, fully clothed. I am truly embarrassed to say it was 7:05 p.m. before they finally got out of the water.

I let them know that I was SO mad, that I had been calling them in for 55 minutes, that they had been so disobedient and I was not happy at all.

I gathered our stuff.

And we took one last walk along the beach.

Grace for us all.



As we drove out, we passed a beautiful pond surrounded by grasses and wildflowers. It reminded me of the beautiful pond my sponsored child’s tutor stopped to photograph in Haiti, the one I made into a 8×10 and sent her in the mail because I knew it meant something special to her.

More grace.

I stopped the car. Got out. Told the kids I was taking a moment for myself. Walked around and snapped a few photos at my leisure.





My husband had dinner ready when we got home. Hamburgers, beans and watermelon cut up. I told him about the kids’ direct disobedience, how the outing was great fun for the kids and not so great for me.

After dinner, my husband took the kids. And I took some time away, by myself, in our bedroom. After a good long while, they came in and sincerely apologized. I’m sure at the direction of their father, but still. The apology was felt.

I wasn’t the world’s greatest mom, but I was a better mom.

Swimming & Sandcastles

Total Cost: $0

Mom Lesson: Moms need heaping doses of grace. Everywhere. All the time.

Kid Lesson: Kids have fun and make fun anywhere, even when they’re in trouble.



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.

Jessica Revak Milkes - This is perfect Amy!!! I do the same thing all the time. None of us are perfect – far from. I’m okay with that :). It makes us that much more relatable. I miss you my friend :)August 26, 2015 – 12:03 am

Monica Anderson Palmer - I’m so sorry that the enemy robbed you that day at the beach, I’ve been you. Battling in my mind to find grace, truth….to “take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ” but I don’t always win and I’m so proud of you for holding on and leaning in close to the offered grace of God’s ! YOU are a “GOOD” mom forever and always because YOU are HIS and HE is filled with new mercies every morning!August 25, 2015 – 9:04 pm

How I Rock My Style

This is a guest post written by my younger sister, Tiffany, who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Once a month, Tiffany documents a single day in her life. The purpose of these posts is to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with mental illness. I’m also hoping the posts will help readers recognize that we all have hopes, dreams, challenges and mountains to climb regardless of our mental health status. If you’d like to read the posts I’ve written about Tiffany’s journey and all the guest posts she’s shared on this blog, check out the mental health page. Without further ado, here’s Tiffany.


As some of you know, I have a diagnosis of Schizoaffective Disorder, bipolar type, and ADHD. My mood can change from extreme highs to extreme lows within hours. When attempting to write, I realize how extreme my mood can be. I tend to write best when I am in a neutral mood. After thinking and rethinking throughout a day, I was stoked that I had a blog post idea. I was experiencing mania. When I started to reach a low, I began questioning myself, my ideas and my life. I was ready to give up.

I was introduced to the movie “Rudy” years ago. This movie is about staying motivated even when you feel like giving up. The loud voices in my head tell me I am not good enough. I cannot reach my goals. I am not listening to them today. Today I am writing my unedited thoughts on how important fashion is to me.

During back-to-school shopping for my daughter who is entering kindergarten this year, I started to think more about fashion. Fashion can create a picture of who we are and how we feel about ourselves. Fashion is the image we want to portray about ourselves. My personal fashion ideas vary depending on how I feel and how I want to express myself on any given day.

I tend to dress my children more traditionally. I have found that consistency with their clothing choices works best. I do not always know what is appropriate for them to wear on a daily basis. I tend to mix pieces of my style into their wardrobe. Sometimes family and friends help me pick out my kids’ clothing. For my daughter this year, I allowed my mom to pick out a few outfits that I approved of. I also picked out a few items on my own. My daughter is young, but gradually creating a style of her own.


I attended the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising when I was in my 20s. I had fashion ideas that I wanted to implement. I wanted to open a store called OuiSei. My plan was to complete my degree in Apparel Manufacturing Management. I had everything planned, including a runway show. For the runway show, I wanted animals to walk down the runway with models. I even had music picked out. I wanted the store to include all-natural fibered clothing, mostly hemp.

Guess what happened? I quit. My voices were telling me that I could not succeed. I was also experiencing something that I experience to this day. People promised to make my dreams come true if I’ll only give in to their desires. I do not agree with that way of thinking, and I would rather deal with genuine people who have no motives in mind. Despite my voices, I feel that the world is set up for us to succeed. We just have to be careful who we let into our world.



After quitting fashion school in Los Angeles, I decided to try working in commercials on TV and in movies. I was able to truly be myself during this stage of my life. While working in that business, I loved changing clothing so I could portray different characters. I continue being that person today. I would not say that I have a set fashion style.

I had a very tough time coming up with this post and getting organized. When I am in a certain state of mind, I can’t get organized and I feel like giving up. My dad helped me outline this post. We talked about my ideas over coffee. He asked me at the end if I was going to ever pursue my dream of opening a clothing store? I told him that I don’t know what the future holds. I wouldn’t mind having a store that people could come chill at and look for comfy clothes and accessories. For now, I am going to keep trying, as Rudy did, even if forging ahead seems to be impossible.


Jill Brummett Tucker - So inspiring! And brave of you, Tiffany! I would buy something from your clothing store.August 21, 2015 – 3:21 am

Rachel Arntson - Thank you for sharing your dreams, frustrations, set-backs, and triumphs. Every time you write a blog post, you are helping others and, i would guess, helping yourself. Take care.August 20, 2015 – 4:57 pm

Monica Anderson Palmer - Tiffany Femling-this post is awesome! Remember this….Jesus created you perfectly! I know He loves when you battle hard for truth and although I can only imagine how that this isn’t easy-HE IS THERE, praying for you, rooting for you! I hope and pray one day you seek your dreams and you keep fighting like Rudy! Thank you for sharing your life and heart here! I admire your courage & strength!August 20, 2015 – 2:44 pm

Ryan - I think you should pursue your dream of ooening a store. Brainerd would be a great place to do it. As a dad of three girls there is nothing for clothing stores for girls mid-teen to young adult that is fun and trendy. You also seem to have a support system already in place to help you with the kids and with the day to day struggles of opening a small business. With social media to help get your name out in the area and online tools to help with a starter campaign you could make it work. To get a fun store in the area for my girls to shop I would definitely pledge.August 20, 2015 – 10:34 am

Tara Nichols - Tiffany, you fight a battle few people know of. It is extremely frustrating, constantly second guessing oneself. I hope you are at peace, knowing you have all the strength and power within you, even though finding it is another dilemma. Be brave and don’t forget that these days, these struggles, these joys, are all part of the adventure.August 20, 2015 – 9:52 am

Second Guessing Beautiful



I’ll never forget that car ride to Wisconsin Dells one year ago. The day the word beauty caused a quiet, but felt disagreement between me and my husband.

You see, I’d invited him into a conversation about the development of my new blog vision, mission and core values. I wanted to talk with someone about those core values, a set of 7-8 words that define my blog, the tone and qualities a reader can expect when they visit and read any given post on this blog of mine.

The exercise was important to me.

I’d surveyed readers, did my own brainstorm and thoughtful analysis, and had a list of words narrowed to 20-some final contenders. So that day, I guess I decided it was a good time to share those words with my husband who’s obviously close to me and familiar with my blog and writing.

I shared all the final contenders with him. My intention that first go-around was that I didn’t want to reveal my personal opinions and preferences about each word. But when we got to the word beauty, my husband wasn’t so sure it fit as a core value for my blog. He wasn’t sure it was the best word to describe my blog.

Perhaps he was thinking beauty as in hair, makeup, clothing, fitness – physical beauty? If so, he was totally right. My blog would not fit within that definition of beauty. I was thinking beauty as in recognizing beauty all around, finding beauty in the hard and crazy stuff of life, creating something beautiful every time I sit down to write in this space, discovering the beautiful divine in the daily.

Either way, that word beauty caused a bit of friction, a minor tiff between the two of us. I asked for his opinion on the words. He expressed his opinion about beauty. And I became defensive. (We are both first borns, mind you. We want our way and we both have the best ideas, you know.)



My husband and I needed to end that conversation promptly, so we did. It was getting us nowhere. And really, there was no point hashing and rehashing those core values. There was no point hashing and rehashing whether my husband thought beauty was a good word to describe my blog. I was seeking confirmation, for sure. In an ideal world, I wanted our perspectives and visions to be perfectly aligned. But perhaps I was picking a fight when I asked him to weigh in on beauty.

Here’s why.

Beauty wasn’t up for grabs.

Beauty wasn’t in question.

Beauty was the one word I was 100% sure about.

I knew I was going to pick that word before we even began our conversation.

Discovering beauty in the horrible, crazy, sickly, unusual, everyday, ugly mundane? Finding beauty in the ashes? I can do that. Creating beauty where there is none? Totally my gig. Finding unseen people, places and things and calling them beautiful? Love that so much. Making beauty out of the teeniest, tiniest thing? Need to do that for my own good.

Beauty was a core value on this blog from day one, and always will be. So it wasn’t fair for me to ask my husband’s opinion. It was already decided.

(Sorry, babes, for putting you in that position.)



I’ve pursued beauty hard these past 12 months. Both good and bad, it’s been a heck of a year. Beauty has been easy. And beauty has been hard. Beauty’s been in unexpected places. And beauty’s been elusive. Beautiful projects have been birthed with detail only to stall suddenly. Beauty’s been imagined, but not yet fully realized. Beauty’s been in the future. And beauty’s been here and now. Beauty’s beaten down. But beauty’s getting back up again.

Beauty was.

Beauty is.

Beauty will be.

For “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11.

Beauty is a promise.

Beauty is the vision.

Beauty is non-negotiable.

We’re fallen, imperfect creatures. But we we’re also crafted and made to know, desire and experience all the beautiful things of this life, straight into eternity.

He has made everything beautiful in its time.


Easy and hard. Slow and fast. Smooth and bumpy. Failure and success. Finished and unfinished. Clear and unclear. Paved and unpaved. All beauty.

No more second guessing beautiful.



Waiting on Shrinking


I felt the weight of the day rush over me as we drove into the Damon parking lot for our 5th trip to Mayo Clinic in eight months. It’s surprisingly easy to become accustomed to illness, to disease, to the crazy and hard things of life, but then there are moments that wake you to the reality at hand.

This is not ordinary. Not. Ordinary.

We drove past our “normal” parking spot in Damon. Full today. All the way up to 9th floor for one open spot. We exited the vehicle quickly and made our way to the closest elevator.

As we turned the corner to wait for the elevator, I noticed a young amputee waiting with crutches. He was shaking a bit and holding some sort of therapeutic device I didn’t recognize. All I could keep thinking was how handsome he was, and why in the world do bad things happen to good people? When we stepped in the elevator, I noticed the amputee’s wedding ring. Thank God. He’s been blessed. He moved to the side, gesturing kindly and graciously to others who entered. Hardship humbles a soul.


An older woman entered in front of me, then adjusted to my side. She breathed deeply, loudly, audibly, wore a cardiac necklace and leaned into her walker. “Ay ay,” she whispered in-between audible breaths out loud. She breathed that way all the way down nine floors. I wanted to put my hand on her shoulder, ask her if she was okay and if she needed help from this place to the next. I should have. But I didn’t. We were running late for my husband’s 3-month check for eye cancer. Our day was pre-filled with five appointments, and I didn’t want to start our day later than we already were.

We made our way down the hall, past the metal sculpture I admired and the information desk I needed our first days here eight months ago, past the insightful, delightful piano player accompanied by two singers and a full house of patients and caregivers. I wanted to stop so desperately, to hear and see this holy glory, but we were late. So we pressed onward to the elevators.

All the rushing for nothing.

We checked in and proceeded to wait a half hour for the appointment for which we were late. Waiting gave us time to breathe again, to reflect on the day ahead. Seth sent a text to his parents. I kept thinking about the piano and how I needed to get down there with the healing and the holy. Then I half-woke to reality of a husband with eye cancer and broke out Amber Haines’ Wild in the Hollow, the book I’ve been trying to finish for two weeks. “Will you pray for me before I go in?” asked my husband unexpectedly. “Sure,” I said, continuing to sit and stare forward, blankly like an idiot. “Right now?” he asked. “Sure,” I said, “right here in the waiting room?” as if BEFORE the appointment was some other time than NOW. So I prayed out loud right there in the waiting room. That we’d receive news that the tumor was shrinking this time.

Finally, he was called in for his first appointment. It was brief, 10 or 15 minutes tops.

We were directed to another waiting room where we waited some more.

Part way through the waiting, a couple in their late 40s was escorted into the waiting room. I was trying to figure out which one was the patient, and nearly commented to Seth how handsome the couple was when her phone rang. “I don’t feel like talking right now,” she said. I intentionally stopped listening in on her conversation, but couldn’t stop observing her body language. She was clearly distraught. Distressed. Very upset. And so was her husband. When she got off the phone, a Mayo employee came and told them they’d have to wait longer for their next appointment, that they needed to get some lunch, that they should check back in at a certain time. He sighed, head down. She was about to lose it. I nearly cried for the two of them across the room. Seth told me he’d heard more of the conversation. This was their first appointment. She’d just received the same diagnosis as Seth, choroidal melanoma. They were clearly still in shock.

By the time Seth got into his second appointment, we were 55 minutes behind schedule. But we made up for any time lost with another quick appointment.

When Seth got out, he was worried. The photographs he saw of the medium-sized tumor in his eye didn’t look different than any other visit. The tumor didn’t look smaller. I reminded him he wasn’t a technician. I reminded him he wasn’t a doctor. I reminded him there’s no need to worry. The prognosis is good. I reminded him that I’m hopeful and there’s no reason to believe anything but good.


It was time for lunch. Two hours until his next appointment. So we made our way back to the atrium, back to the piano, my favorite, most holy place in all of Mayo. Jane and the singers had just finished performing. There they were, chatting and hugging, readying for parting. Seth ran up to 9th floor to grab his prescription sunglasses out of the vehicle; his eyes were dilated and uncomfortable. I stayed with hopes Jane would sit for one more tune at that piano. But no such luck. I waited for Seth’s return.


We ate at a pizza place, the first quick serve restaurant we happened upon. Two pieces each. And a soda. We talked about our son who’s about to get braces, who he was and who he’s becoming. We talked about plans and dreams, things that may or may not happen in upcoming months. Life’s a constant surrendering and releasing of what was, what is, and what’s to come.

He wanted Dairy Queen for dessert. I wanted piano. So we stopped at Dairy Queen on the way back to the atrium.

We had another hour to wait. Funny, we were worried about not having enough time in-between appointments for lunch. Now we had more than enough.

The piano was still empty. So we walked through the glass door to open air seating. The temperature was perfect. The garden was gorgeous. I took a seat and a few pictures of Seth to mark the moment. He seemed worried. Sad. Or maybe he was tired. He kept mentioning how he wished he could nap.

We rested. We read, although I more, as Seth’s eyes were still fully dilated making reading uncomfortable. And we recounted the remainder of the day’s schedule.




It was 2:00. Time to head up for back-to-back ultrasound appointments. Seth checked in. I broke out Wild in the Hollow and read a couple paragraphs. Seth was called in for his appointment, so I immersed myself deeper in reading, then writing. Before I knew it, Seth was back in the waiting room. It was time for our long-awaited appointment with Dr. G, the world-renowned doctor who’s been leading Seth’s case since the beginning.

We were called into the examination room at 2:50 p.m. Hallelujah! 10 minutes early.

One of Dr. G’s fellows arrived promptly at 3:00. He clicked open all the records from the day. Clicked open all the records from our last appointment in May. Looked at a bunch of images. Scratched the back of his head. And made a few notes in the records.

“So it looks like it’s shrinking,” he uttered calmly and confidently.

The fellow continued with an exam of Seth’s right eye, the eye with the cancerous tumor. “Look left. Look right. Up and left.” Etcetera. He double checked the left eye too, the eye that required laser eye surgery in late June. “The laser looks good,” he said. “There are no other breaks or tears in the retina.” After making a few additional notes in the records, he bid us farewell and let us know Dr. G would be in shortly.

15 minutes later, Dr. G whisked in and out with med student, Ine, from Belgium. They were going to look through the eye photography and would be back soon.

I overheard Dr. G explain from a room down the long hallway. “This is the top.” His voice was muffled, so I stopped listening. But later in his explanation to the med student, his tone was as jovial as a world-renowned doctor could be.

As he walked down the hallway towards our room, he gestured “shrinking” with his hands. Perfect timing for his arrival in the examination room when he announced “It’s shrinking! You’re just a slow shrinking kind of guy. It’s shrinking. It’s just shrinking slowly.”

In January 2015, the tumor was 4.6 mm.

In May 2015, the tumor was 4.6 mm.

Today, the tumor is 4.03 mm.

A 12% reduction in the height of the tumor. “We’re going in the right direction,” said Dr. G!


Dr. G examined Seth’s eye closer, just like he’s done every other visit. “Yep, you can see it’s falling backwards, which is the direction we want.” Then, in an unexpected turn of events, Dr. G called the fellow back into the room. Dr. G pulled up one photograph of Seth’s eye from May, noted some things for the fellow, asked him to take a second look at Seth’s eye, and wanted him to answer the question – “How has this part of the eye changed since May?” Dr. G pointed out this blood vessel. Then that vessel. And another one or two. Dr. G reminded the fellow not to be deceived or distracted by that vessel there, to focus in on this one, right HERE. How were they angled? How were they positioned? The fellow examined Seth’s eye even closer and responded, “Yes, I see.”

“One sees what one knows,” said Dr. G to the fellow.

It was brilliant.

I loved it.

So much wisdom in that little room.

So much wisdom for now.

And the future.

One sees what one knows.

Yes, Dr. G.



Seth shook Dr. G’s hand. Or maybe it was a high five.

I shook Dr. G’s hand firmly. “Thank you very much.” And the med student’s hand, too. “It was a pleasure to meet you.”

The nurse who’s been in attendance at the end of every appointment we’ve ever had with Dr. G bid me farewell, “Have a great weekend, sweetie.” I’ve noticed she’s noticed me and appreciated the caregiver gesture.

The day was done.

Before we left the floor, we stopped to make our next set of appointments for mid-late December, but they weren’t booking that far out yet.

Seth made a work call he’d needed to make all day. And I took a moment to release, to breathe, to photograph what was below and above.

Downstairs, we walked freer towards our car, freer past that piano where a young woman played softly. Waiting on shrinking. Healing was beginning.





This blog post is part of a series I’m writing about our journey through my husband’s eye cancer. If you’d like to read the rest of the posts in the series, click here and you’ll be connected to the first post I published about our journey. All posts in the eye cancer series are listed and linked at the bottom of that post for your convenience. You can also access the series anytime by clicking the apple picture on the right sidebar of my blog’s home page at

Peggy Lynn Groenwold - This is the best news… Thanking the Lord for his guidance through the physician’s eyes. Continued prayers for your families! Praises…August 17, 2015 – 12:52 pm

Denise Korman - I will continue sending you positive thoughts and many prayers.August 16, 2015 – 8:45 pm

Denise Korman - Amy,,I can hardly express how happy I am that Seth’s tumor has shrunk. I’ve always learned that God tests us throughout life why I can’t answer . I have been tested many times. But I guess we go on with prayer . And keeping positive thoughts. What you’ve gone through as a mother .wife and daughter it’s beyond my comprehension .but it’s your strength and faith in God I believe keep you going. I love meeting you and children and will hope to do that again sometime. I admire you for who you are and for what you do for so many. DeniseAugust 16, 2015 – 8:44 pm

Amy - Awesome, Raquel!! Yes, He is SO good.August 16, 2015 – 1:16 pm

Amy - Thank you so much, Linda, for your support, good reminders and prayers. Thankful for your presence and thoughtfulness.August 16, 2015 – 1:16 pm

Linda - That’s news worth taking! God sees what He knows & we need to speak what we know too! Of Him, others, and what is to come! Praising the Lord & continuing to pray for you all & Seth’s continued healing!August 16, 2015 – 8:39 am

Tom Baunsgard - This is awesome wonderful news and many prayers answered. Take a deep breath and enjoy the good news and the rest of your day! Blessings Abound!August 15, 2015 – 8:26 pm

Sandi Bishop - God is good! Prayers for continued shrinking of the tumor.August 15, 2015 – 3:44 pm

Raquel - I teared up when I got to the shrinking number part! God is so good!!!August 15, 2015 – 10:05 am

Summer Bucket List: Family Bike Ride



My husband had the afternoon off, so we decided to include him in our Summer Bucket List fun for the first time ever. A family bike ride seemed to be the best option. After all, we desperately needed dad to fill all those tires and make sure everything was in working order.

Our two adult bikes were hanging from the garage rafters. We hadn’t ridden them in two, maybe three years. They were dusty, dirty, and the tires were completely deflated. So Seth broke out the pump and filled everyone’s tires while I managed other prep needs.

Two children put on their helmets without question. One child did NOT, I repeat, did NOT want to wear his helmet. “Dumb.” “Babyish.” “This looks so stupid,” he said. “Nobody my age wears a helmet.” We persisted that we were going on a very long bike ride and that he needed to wear that helmet. Finally, after much persuasion, he agreed and we were on our way.




As we biked out of our driveway, I realized it had been an incredibly LONG time since we’d gone on a family bike ride. I honestly couldn’t remember when the last family ride would have been. As we greeted a neighbor on our way out of the neighborhood, I also realized that it’s incredibly RARE to see families go on bike rides together anymore. Growing up, my family went on bike rides all the time. Back in the 80s, it was fairly routine to see families on casual evening bike rides around town. But today? Not so common at all.

By the time we got all the way out of the neighborhood, I was already a bit winded. Seth reminded me that I should be the most physically prepared for this bike ride since I work out so faithfully. But I haven’t ridden a bike for any long distance in years, so truth is, it wasn’t that easy for me. Why is it that biking as an adult is so much more physically taxing than it was when you were a kid?

We rode those bikes 3.5 miles anyway, all the way to our destination. Up hills. Down hills. Through neighborhoods. Along the highway for a bit. Across the railroad tracks. Then finally through a long bike path.

We drove without stopping, although when we arrived at our destination – a large park – we were exhausted. Thank goodness for the bottles of water I hauled in my backpack.


After a few minutes of rest, we decided we’d go down to the lake where there’s a public swimming area. Suddenly, the kids had a burst of energy. “Let’s go swimming!” Ummm….okay? They, of course, didn’t have swimsuits along, so they agreed to go in their clothes. Not exactly mom’s ideal scenario, but it worked. Two kids in the water with soaking wet clothes. One playing on the sandy, wet shore. No swimsuits for mom or dad. No towels. And no change of clothes for the kids. But again, it worked! Perhaps I need to get out of my box more often.

The fun eventually wore off and the kids came in from the water. We reminded them they’d have to ride all the way back (another 3.5 miles, mind you) with sopping wet clothes, that they might get chafed skin with all the rubbing that was about to happen. But they didn’t seem to mind. In fact, they barely complained about those wet clothes. Wet clothing wasn’t an issue at all. I was shocked.

So we made our way back, all 3.5 miles. Up hills. Down hills. Through the bike path. Across the railroad tracks. And along the highway. Maisie, our youngest, exclaimed “woo hoo” from her baby bike trailer the whole way long. (Yes, that was my favorite part of the adventure.)

The kids wanted to stop for ice cream. Dad thought it would be better to stop for another round of hydration. So I tended the bikes, and Seth and the kids went into a gas station for drinks. We refueled as customers pumped gas. Then we made our way back home.

Elsa LOVED it. Said she’d do this everyday.

Cooper not so much.

Maisie. “Woo hoo!”

Seth and I? A little exhausted.

Family bike ride? An overall success.




Family Bike Ride

Total Cost: $9.00 for beverages at the end of the ride

Mom Lesson: Step out of the box and have a little fun.

Kid Lesson: Don’t underestimate kids’ ability to go with the flow.





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.

Tom Baunsgard - I wanna be Maisie Woo Wooo!!! Puleeeeeeease! LOL

What a nice adventure! the impromtu swim was great and would make for a cooler ride home Huh? Huh? Huh? Mom? I really enjoyed this post amy, well done!August 16, 2015 – 1:20 am

Amy - Always such a battle, Raquel. Not sure why it has to be such a big deal, but it is! Glad I’m not the only one who’s experienced this battle!August 13, 2015 – 7:19 am

Carol Femling - Oh!!!! I LOVED our family bike rides when you were a kid, Amy! Every evening after we had dinner, we either went for a 2 mile walk as a family or a family bike ride around town. FUN!! Did you know that you were the one that sounded just like Cooper?? You were about his age when you said it looked dumb and it was becoming embarrassing to ride around as a group of five. You told us that we were the ONLY family that rode bikes together. Ha-ha!! Now I’m reading the same thing on your blog and I have to giggle to myself. See— you really did enjoy it and you remembered those times as special. What a nice memory of your childhood!! Keep enjoying those family bike rides. I’ll bet your kids will remember them as being fun when they grow up and have children of their own too.. Thanks for the memories!! That part of my life was my very favorite!! MomAugust 12, 2015 – 2:39 pm

Raquel - Awesome! And let me guess on that “one kid” who knows no one his age that wear helmets….I have one here too-but he is also talked into it if he wants to ride…ahhh to be 12 again and know everything.August 12, 2015 – 8:30 am