6 Summer Projects for Your Tweens & Teens

Are you a mom who dreads the summer months with your teens, fearing the unscheduled time and worrying about them being on their screens too much? Do you feel anxious about the rhythm of packing and unpacking for camp drop-offs and pick-ups in between family vacations?

Imagine being the type of mom who looks at the calendar and sees a blank canvas ready for doing life together, especially with your tweens and teens.

That’s what I’ve asked the Lord to do in me this summer, recognizing that I only have a few years left with my tween and teen at home. I’m so keenly aware that now is the time to make life-time memories, while also seizing the moment to train them up with the skills I’d like to see them take into their future.

Summer Projects for Tweens & TeensSo rather than letting a summer pass without purpose, I’ve come up with six summer projects that I can do with my tween and teen that will enable us to connect while expanding their skill set.

1.  Paint a Room {or Something}

Learning how to paint a room or a piece a furniture is a skill worth having, so look around your home — or maybe a grandparent’s place — for a small space that can be painted in a day with a gallon of paint. This is a low budget project that offers a great reward!  Work with your teen, teaching them how to pick out the paint and supplies as well as prep the space:  clearing out the room, getting the walls ready (Spackle, sand, etc), taping edges, cleaning the floor before painting, etc. And then do the job with them, showing them how to roll, cut in, etc. If painting isn’t a skill you have, watch some tutorials on YouTube and do the research together before you start.

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2.  Prepare the Food

How about having your tween or teen plan the family’s menu for a week, or for an upcoming trip, and prepare all the food? Offer them a budget as well as assistance in the shopping and food prep time. Use the process to teach about how to select produce and meat, what unit price really means, shelf life for food, how to determine quantity, measurements, etc. Depending on your son or daughter’s maturity, let them handle as many of the responsibilities as possible. You could even toss in an incentive for an older teen, such as “Here’s the amount we spend on food per week.  If you can fix our meals for less than that amount, without us eating bread and water all week, you can keep what you save.”

3.  Purge Something

I’m guessing that you have a closet, storage room, garage, or cabinets that need some purging and reorganizing. Maybe even your tween or teen has a personal area that needs some TLC — like their dressers, bedroom, or old toy room. Let them pick one space to totally purge and reorganize. Be involved in the process in the beginning, but also give them space to figure it out on their own. You can keep it simple and have them focus on “keep, give, toss” for the space. If there is enough to give away, considering letting them organize a Yard Sale and keep the proceeds for themselves.  Or, if your budget allows, you can let them redesign the area, including painting and creating organizational systems.

4.  Put on a Party or a Small Gathering

Since everyone doesn’t have the gift of hospitality, learning how to put on a party or small gathering is another skill worth developing. Consider hosting a party for a birthday, anniversary, or a milestone celebration, or put on a small “themed” gathering for your tween or teen’s friends or your own friends. Have your son or daugther organize the details, including the invitations, menu, decor, party schedule, and setting up the house as well as clean up. Offer a budget as well as working with them through each step. If you do not have the gift of hospitality, don’t fret. Here’s some help just for you, and ideas for a simple tween party here and here.

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5.  Pick a Project

Is there a project your teen would like to work on, but needs your approval, input, and budget help? Maybe it’s learning a new instrument or developing a new skill, like how to paint with watercolors or write an app for a smart phone. Take your tween or teen out for ice cream and ask them, “What is one thing you’d like to learn how to do this summer?” Help them brainstorm and offer your support in the process, making a timeline and setting attainable goals.

6.  Plan for the Future

This one is definitely the most serious of projects, but worth the investment of time. Have your tween or teen begin the process of preparing for their future — specifically their college years — by creating for themselves a College Bound Checklist & Portfolio (CBC&P).  They can do this either in a binder or notebook, or online using Google Docs, which they can share with you. Their CBC&P can be divided into sections based by grade-level, with a “to do” list for each year. We’re using the Countdown to College: 21 To Do List for High School as our guide. Your teen can also include in their CBC&P a list of college scholarship opportunities (something that can be researched throughout the summer), college picks, and a record of their volunteering, work experiences, and awards throughout high school.

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What summer projects are you doing with your tween or teen?

How are you using side-by-side experiences to connect with your teens while they are still at home and train up skills they’ll need in their future?

Shine Bright,


moretobe.com & elisapulliam.com


For more ideas on how to connect with your tween or teen, especially a daughter, visit moretobe.com.


My Life by Accident

My Life by Accident

I’m a writer by accident. I never had a thought in my head about writing a book or a blog or anything more than trying to write something pithy on a birthday card! Family-wise, I’m  married to Mike, my best friend and I’m mom to recording artist Francesca Battistelli and Mimi to Franny’s two children, Eli and Audrey Jane. Before becoming a Christian, I pursued a career as an actress and singer in the New York Broadway musical theatre world.

Accident might be too strong a word since there really are no accidents when you’re following God. I just never figured writing into my plans. What I did figure was this: I’d get married, have a big family and be a star on Broadway. I know, crazy right? But God has ways of getting you onto paths you never saw coming.

A little background is in order since I’m sure you don’t know where I’m going with all this.

I graduated high school in New Jersey in the early ’70’s and didn’t know what on earth I wanted to be when I grew up. I was lost, rudderless and clueless about my future. I always loved to sing and started voice lessons at 15 but just didn’t know where it fit in my life. Lacking a Christian foundation I drifted through most of my teenage years. I attended four colleges in two years but didn’t graduate from any of them. I finally realized my passion was music and theatre so I auditioned for a local musical theatre company.

I worked with them for two years getting tons of experience and then started auditioning in New York. I did lots of regional theatre and one thing led to another until I was cast in the Broadway National Tour of The King and I starring Yul Brynner. For those of you too young to know who he was, he played the king in the original movie of The King and I. He was a huge star and I was chosen to be the understudy to Mrs. Anna, the leading role.

I never imagined I’d get a chance to actually perform the lead role but God has funny ways of changing your life when you least expect it. One night I got to the theatre in Buffalo and found out the leading lady was sick with pneumonia and I was going on in 45 minutes! What a terrifying and exhilarating night! I ended up performing the lead role for two weeks until she recovered and returned to her role. However, Yul Brynner liked doing the show better with me so he bought out her two year contract and put me in the lead. Can you even imagine? I was twenty-six years old and starring with a legend in a classic musical. What??? I did the show for almost three years and over 1000 performances.

The best part of the entire experience was meeting my husband Mike.  He joined the tour about six months into the run as Associate Conductor and, as he likes to say, we fell in love across the footlights! After performing eight shows a week for nearly three years, we left the tour, moved back to New York City, got married, bought a little condo in Greenwich Village and began our new life together. Still no inkling any of this would lead to writing.

A year later, we found ourselves answering an altar call and giving our hearts to the Lord. Our daughter Francesca was born soon after and we thoroughly enjoyed our new little family. Before long God began to tug on our heart to lay down our careers and follow what He had next.

Bucking conventional wisdom we left New York and our careers behind to embark on building a new life including moving to the suburbs, starting a new business and homeschooling our little girl.

We both wanted a big family of five kids, with all the chaos, crumbs, and craziness it involves but of course, God had a different plan in mind. After a life-threatening ectopic (tubal) pregnancy we tried everything we possibly could to have more children including three failed adoption attempts. Clearly, God called us to be parents of an ‘only’ and I fought it for years. You can read more about my struggle with God and infertility here.

As Franny grew up, we noticed astounding gifts and talents and God began teaching us how to bring them out, polish them up and help her offer them to the world. He showed us her life was going to be a public one, her ministry large and far reaching and she’d need our full attention to help her achieve her dreams. So we learned all about the Christian music business and did what we could to help her launch her career.

After all this, writing now enters the picture. Mike and I were invited to speak to a homeschooling organization about the steps we’d taken to raise our daughter into an adult who’d found her purpose and was living it out. We talked it over and we came up with fifteen intentional things we’d done as parents and later that week we spoke at the meeting.

The next morning,  I’m stretched out on the floor just thanking God for allowing us to share our fifteen steps and for all the good things He’d done for our family when I heard God’s voice in my spirit clear as a bell. I like to call it a God Dare.

“Those are book chapters.”

Wait, what? Book chapters? Are you SERIOUS God? You want me to write a BOOK??? 

I gave every excuse imaginable why I couldn’t write a book. But He wouldn’t let up and He showed me this truth: If He calls you to something He’ll equip you to carry it out. So I said yes and Growing Great Kids was born.

I never saw myself writing a book. No way! But God did because year by year He was writing the chapters deep in my heart. His chapters stuck with me and when He was ready He gave me the ‘divine nudge’ I needed to write Growing Great Kids. My part? Obey and start writing. It didn’t really matter how I saw myself. He said write so, I wrote. And now, I’m about to publish my second book called The God Dare. Go figure!

So, like I said, I’m a writer and food and faith blogger by accident.

Who knows what the next chapter will bring? 

What about you? Has God taken you on a different path than you expected?



Kate Battistelli

This post is a part of our “Who We Are” Series. For all posts visit,

“Who We Are: The Stories Behind TBM Writers”

Who We Are at The Better Mom

Prioritizing Family Time

I watched him as he edged up to the counter, money in one sweaty hand in anticipation of the barista’s request. I found a table for two and settled in with our favorite board game.

We talked and laughed. I beat him in Lost Cities. He shared his observations about the football season; I told him about my week. He held the door. I looked on him with a deep heart of affection.

I was a married woman on a date. Only it wasn’t with my husband.

It was with my son. My middle school son.


Our dates started years ago, when he was a little guy. Now he wears bigger shoes than me and has inched up taller me. We go out once a month. On the weekend. It’s part of an idea that Rick had and we call it Family Night. (I know, right?! Super creative of us. We’re tricky like that.)

Family night has one goal in mind: time set aside so that we can make sure that the busyness of life doesn’t crowd out our relationships with each other. It’s especially important now as the kids are getting older and their friends are becoming more important to them. Of course, family night isn’t our only time together! We do other things together throughout the week. We eat family dinners several nights a week. We talk a lot along the way. We worship and serve together. And we weave random movie nights and walks and bonfires into our weekends whenever we can. But, a set aside Family Night ensures that we are getting at least one day a week of concentrated time together. Because, let’s face it, our schedules are a reflection of our priorities.

I have found that we American Christians can be tricked into thinking we are very family-oriented. Afterall, we are the ones who ‘focus on the family’. We encourage each other away from workaholism. In fact, our lives are often filled with our kids’ activities. But don’t be fooled: carting them around to their friends’ parties, being supportive and watching their activities (their sporting events, dance recitals, band shows, etc.) is NOT the same thing as spending time with them. I thank God for Rick’s foresight in this. Otherwise, I think we’d be an overly busy family running from activity to activity. I’ll be honest, it’s not always easy. Family Night means we say “no” to a lot of other good things.

We follow a simple rotation. The first weekend it’s all four of us doing something together (a game night, an adventure like rock climbing, a walk along the river downtown, or dinner and fro yo at our favorite yogurt shop). The second weekend is girls time and boys time. I take Madison out and Rick gets time with Caleb. On the third weekend, we swap: Caleb and I go out while Rick takes Madison out. And, then on the fourth weekend, I get a night out while Rick and the kids hang-out together.

I value all of our family nights. But those date nights are golden. Concentrated one-on-one time with each of my kids has proven to be invaluable. Sometimes they open up right there. Other times we just laugh a lot together. But, either way, it paves the way for so many other along-the-way conversations and interactions. And it forces me to think about different activities with each of the kids – what I do with Madison is not the same as what I do with Caleb because they are different kids. While we sit at Five Guys snapping open peanuts and chatting, I get peeks into their souls. Glimpses into who they are becoming.

Now, as I write these things, I realize that every family has its own culture. Maybe you have too many kids to do a monthly date with each of them. Maybe you’re a single mom and getting alone time with each child is nearly impossible. There’s nothing magic about our system. But, I want to encourage you to make time for the glimpses. Somehow, someway.

How does that look in your home? How do you make family time a priority in your home? I would love to hear!

Grace and peace,

@In a Mirror Dimly

How to Write Books with Babies In Your Lap (Giveaway)

via Worth James Goddard on flickr

You don’t.

You don’t write books with babies in your lap, you don’t even check your email because four boys are honking your nose and pulling at your hair and coffee spills all over the overdue bills on your desk and you wonder again, why you said Yes.

Why you said you’d take in your friend’s two children when she called saying she couldn’t do it anymore, she couldn’t be a mom anymore. And rather than see that one-year-old and three-year-old go into the foster system you said you’d take them in, in addition to your six-month-old and his two-year-old brother.

Because some things are more important than sleep. Or a hot cup of coffee. Or that novel you’ve just been contracted to write because of course, you finally got a contract right after you took the boys in. Because God cares more about the least of these and he’ll reward you for it, too.

But it doesn’t feel like a reward. Especially when one of the boys forgets to lock the gate behind him and your six month old tumbles down the stairs in his walker and you grab him, weeping, you run with him to the office and close the door and hold your baby close to you and sob to God, I can’t do this.

Rock your baby and sobbing, and then somehow, God reminds you that you can. And you rise, open the door, turn on some music for the boys in the living room and they run dancing around the coffee table.

The story only gets written because you hire a nanny–a Dutch girl from your hamlet who makes homemade pasta noodles and laughs with all of her upper body and brings crafts to do with the boys. She brings her keyboard and songs fill the insides of your walls and she makes you mugs of tea and you call her Angel.

But even as the characters begin to form on the screen in your Word document, even as the plot thickens and you try to avoid those excessive adverbs and cliche descriptions, you hear the boys laughing outside the office door.

And you miss them. Your house is full of children but they’re no longer climbing all over you, they’re climbing all over somebody else, and you wonder if they aren’t the greatest story your life is writing?

These four boys whose noses and legs never stop running, who never get enough stories at bedtime, who always want more songs and more snuggles and more glasses of milk and more of you.

boys in the corn

All you’ve ever wanted is to be a published author and now you have the chance and you can’t help thinking, this isn’t what life is about.

It’s incredible to be able to make up stories but it’s even more incredible to live them. To hear the words tumbling from your child’s mouth as he talks about his favorite blue flashlight as you lie beside him in his bunk-bed. “Some flashlights are small, and some are big, and some are tiny and some are huge,” he says as he slips his hand into yours there in the dark.

Catherine Wallace writes, “Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.”

Yes, I write books, but I don’t make a living from them. I make a living from being a mother and a wife, from nurturing life and love through the main characters of my story: the Dutch-German man I fell in love with back in Bible School, the one who converts his car to run off vegetable oil, who cans his own salsa and snowboards mountains. Who hikes up his pajama pants and dances for me in the middle of the living room, who throws his boys on the bed and eats their tummies, who downloads Parenthood for me and goes geocaching with me and kisses me like he means it.

And the two Filipino boys who now only visit us once a month because they’re back with their mama, and she thanks me every week for saving her life last year, and my biological sons–the ones I wasn’t supposed to be able to have–who make me feel famous every time I enter a room. Who squish my cheeks together in their dimpled hands and say, “I lah you Mama.”

This, friends–this is the story worth telling. The one we’re in.

novel ad

I am honored to be giving away my debut novel, A Promise in Pieces--which releases this month–today to you friends… it’s about a woman like me, named Clara, who loves passionately while struggling to believe she is loved.

From the back cover: “It’s been more than 50 years since Clara cared for injured WWII soldiers in the Women’s Army Corp. Fifty years since she promised to deliver a dying soldier’s last wish. And 50 years since that soldier’s young widow gave her the baby quilt—a grief-ridden gift that would provide hope to countless newborns in the years to come. On her way to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Clara decides it’s time to share her story. But when the trip doesn’t go as planned, Clara wonders if anyone will learn the great significance of the quilt—and the promise stitched inside it.”

If you want to win one of two copies, just leave a comment below and we’ll choose two winners within the week. Otherwise, you can download a free chapter and purchase the novel HERE.

This post is part of our series Finding Balance as a Busy Mom. 

Please check the series page for all of the posts! 

Finding Balance as a Busy Mom

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