Category: Vacation

Perfect or What Is – It Matters!

Recently I moved from one small town to another. It required four long months and two moves. It was not easy! We are still not fully moved in because the new floors are not completely finished and we still have a kitchen in progress. The bright spot is this – our bathroom is completely done. That’s right, we have one room in our home which is fully unpacked and completely decorated and ordered. I love going into that room and luxuriating in its completeness.

One thing that this room needed was a new mirror. The medicine cupboard is interestingly over the toilet but we wanted a new flat mirror on the wall above the sink. I didn’t want just any old mirror; I wanted something with birds on it because that is the decorative theme of the room. So I went on a search and found the perfect one online.

It’s so beautiful and going into the bathroom made me feel happy. Then over the next few days as I sat in the room I began to notice small flaws in the patina of the birds and how the branches were soldered together. My joy in the room diminished a bit.

Many years ago I spent some months in California with my daughter who had just survived a terrible car crash and as part of her therapy to regain her ability to talk and process information we attended a painting class. I was proud of my painting when it was finished. It was such an accomplishment. I had done a great job for a first-time painter.

My husband really loved that painting and as a special gift a few years later he had it blown up about five times the original size, put on canvas and framed. Wow, I was stunned. He insisted that we hang it on the living room wall. He liked it so much that he wanted to be able to see it all the time. I was flattered, to say the least.

However, when you take a 9″x10″ piece of paper and blow it up five times its size an interesting thing happens; you can see all the flaws! It wasn’t long before the joy of having that painting hanging in our living room diminished for me because if I could see all the flaws so could everyone who came to visit.

I am sharing these two stories because that is what I find when I’m mentoring parents, they are alive to all the flaws in how they do just about everything. Their joy in any family activity or relationship or family system is dampened by what they perceive they haven’t done as well as they should have.

A great example of what I am talking about was experienced by my friend Leah. She and her husband took their family on an amazing trip one summer. When they returned I asked her how the trip went, and she said, “Well, it was OK but it didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped.” I asked her what went wrong, and she told me all the things they hadn’t done including having the boys journal each evening for writing practice.

I asked her to tell me what they did do. They went on a dinosaur dig and had a fun day. They sang a ton of songs in their van as they traveled. They had interesting conversations about the creation of the earth and what outer space would be like. They dug for gems one afternoon. They visited museums and other cool places. They had a lot of fun and laughter. Her boys learned new things to add to their growing store of knowledge about rocks and gems.

“My goodness,” I replied, “there are parents out there who would give anything for a week like that with their kids.” There was a pause on the other end of the line and then she said, “You’re right. I guess it was a pretty good trip after all. I hadn’t thought about it that way.”

Leah had done what I had done with both my bathroom mirror and my first ever painting. We had let our expectations get in the way of enjoying what was.

I have a bathroom mirror that sets off the whole room perfectly and that, if I let it, soothes me and makes me feel really happy. And I have a painting hanging on my wall that is darn good for a first-time painter and is a constant reminder that my husband loves me a lot! Leah and her family spent a week laughing, bonding and learning even though they didn’t accomplish all they had planned.

As we move through our days with our family it is valuable to remember not to let our expectations get in the way of enjoying what is; not to let less than perfect results mar the joy of the good that did happen.

A family trip will have its disrupted moments. There will be temper tantrums, spilled soda, arguments. But were there songs sung, hugs given, soothing words spoken occasionally? Then allow yourself to feel joy for those moments rather than disappointment for the others.

Baking cookies with your children may have spills and mess. You may feel worn out and edgy by the end. But did the children enjoy the process? Did they love the cookies? Then let that be enough. Feel joy in what is.

If you have a strained relationship with your child, watch. Despite the arguments, the poor choices, the stress, did you spend three minutes at bedtime, maybe not talking but sitting quietly with them. If so let yourself feel joy for those three minutes.

Life is messy. It is noisy. There are distractions. Relationships are challenging. We need to have expectations of better, we need to make changes and strive to grow, but if we learn to hold on to what is good now, what is working, focus on when we did right despite what we may have done wrong, then as a family and as parents we will experience more joy.

Link your satisfaction to your ability to enjoy what is right with your family even when it falls short of your expectations. It will refuel you to try again and you will like being in your family more. It will feel better.

What are your experiences with expectations in your family? I want to hear about the good, the bad and the ugly. : )

Heres to more joy,
Mary Ann

P.S. You can learn more about family expectations in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less.  You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, points of connection, FREE by visiting  It can be life changing for your family. I promise!

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Why Take Your Kids Camping?

I had the opportunity to go camping for four days, twice this summer. When I was a younger mom, with seven kids at home, we went camping a lot. I loved cooking over the fire and toasting marshmallows. But now my kids are grown and camping had become something from my past.

I wasn’t sure how I would feel going camping again. And it wasn’t just any camping, it was ‘rough’ camping. You know, no flush toilets or showers, just an outhouse, and a fire pit. Yikes! However, I survived and was again reminded why I used to take my kids camping, as I interacted and watched my grandkids learn about and experience the great outdoors.

The following article by Simon Baker will remind you of some of the reason we take the time and trouble to get our kids out of doors through camping. It’s sprinkled with some super pictures of my own grandkids and our camping experience.

There are a few weeks of summer left and Labor Day is coming up. Why not take a couple of days and go camping. Enjoy!

5 Reasons to Take Your Kids Camping

It might not seem like a good idea to bring your kids when you go camping. However, bringing your kids with you is less work and stress than leaving them alone at home. For one, you won’t need to worry about them staying up too late or how they’re treating each other while you’re gone. You won’t even need to feel stressed about who’s going to look after them. : )

If you’re still not buying the idea, here are 5 more reasons why you should consider taking your kid’s camping.

1. It increases your children’s physical activity

With the internet and all the cool devices today, it isn’t surprising to find a lot of kids who would rather sit on the couch and play mobile games than to spend time outdoors. The problem with this is that it encourages a sedentary lifestyle. Furthermore, it can make children overweight and weak.

Camping encourages your kids to participate in a lot of outdoor activities. You will also be exposing them to the sunshine and fresh air, which are essential in boosting their natural immune system. Camping activities can strengthen their muscles and bones, too.

2. It helps them appreciate what they have

It’s easy to take things for granted if you have everything within easy reach at home. You have food ready when you get hungry. You have a roof over your head when the weather gets bad.

With camping, you’ll be able to let your kids see a different way of life. You can teach them how to create fire from scratch and barbecue on it. You can teach them to cook simple meals and the importance of cleaning up after themselves (to keep the rodents and small animals at bay). There will also be a lot of hard work, particularly when it comes to erecting tents, hauling drinking water or chopping firewood.

When you get back home they will have an appreciation for hot water from the tap, clean sheets, and a refrigerator. For a while at least, they will be very grateful for home.

3. It builds memories

Even though you may experience a few mishaps while camping, they’re likely to be the same memories you’ll be laughing at in a few years. Camping allows you to bond with your children in a different way than you do at home.

There will also be fewer distractions so you won’t need to compete for your child’s attention or them for yours. It’s a great break for everyone in the family.

4. It’s a cheaper alternative for a family vacation

Camping is an affordable way to vacation with your family. With proper planning and preparation, there are ways to make it even more affordable.

National and state campsites are  far less expensive than hotels or theme parks. Meals cooked on the fire are cheaper than restaurants and often taste better. It isn’t hard to find a place with water for fishing and canoeing and that costs less than a fancy waterpark.

You can build up the necessary equipment over  time so that it doesn’t need to break the bank. Look for durable equipment, high on quality and be less concerned with name brands.

A great option to consider is an electric cool box. You can fill it with ready-to-cook meals and lots of water so you won’t have to buy from nearby stores. Make sure there’s enough snacks for everyone and include sandwiches, cookies, and chips in your box.

5. It’s a good opportunity to enhance their skills

Camping skills don’t come naturally to everyone. They need to be taught and learned. Taking your kids camping gives you the chance to teach them survival lessons they’ll be able to teach their kids. It’s a good opportunity to pass on or even start your own family traditions. You can learn many things together – to identify flowers and trees, animals and how to care for the earth. Camping can also enhance your children’s social skills. They’ll be able to meet a lot of people from different places and with different cultures, depending on your chosen campsite. If you find a lot of kids in your area, make sure to invite them over for a campfire, some smores, and a few scary stories. These experiences are the ones your kids will remember for a long time.

Camping is a truly connected, family activity that pays dividends for the time and effort it takes. So use what’s left of the summer and take your kids camping.


Author Bio:

Simon Barker writes to inspire people about low-cost ways of traveling and camping. Aside from sharing his best tips in saving while making the best out of his trips, he also does in-depth electric cool box reviews.