By Gabrielle.

It’s got to be difficult to follow last week’s out-of-this-world tour, but the Burket family is up for the challenge! Theirs is a home – and life – edited for their specific needs. Nothing more, nothing less. Not in their home design, not in the sweet product they make, not in their social media plan, and not even with their family calendar. If you’re on the verge of considering paring down your family’s day-to-night events, I think Leslie can offer some guidance and inspire all of the over-scheduled readers in the crowd. Friends, I am pleased to welcome Leslie and her family!

Q: Please tell us how the Burket family came to be!

A: We are now a family of four. But this all started 15 years ago with a high school crush on a boy named Tom. We dated briefly as teenagers – I even joined the golf team, no experience required, to try to get to know him! – and then he called me out of the blue in college and took me to see Napoleon Dynamite. He snuck a bottle of champagne in the movie theatre, held my hand, and made me laugh like no other. I was done.

We got married a few years later and then had two kids. Trent, six, is our Lego-loving, deep thinker. His heart is as big as his imagination. Lila, four, is a spunky, loud talking, little lady. Bless her heart. She loves to help and she adores her big brother.

Throw in two dogs, five chickens, building a house, and starting a company together, and I’d say we just really enjoy working together. And that’s just it.

This isn’t perfect, we certainly don’t get it all right, but we are dedicated and have found much joy in making this family work. I am thankful for everyday I get to share with our silly crew.

Q: What makes you love where you live?

A: As Tom and I are writing this, our kids are riding bikes and climbing trees at one of our waterfront parks. We are sprawled out on a blanket and the weather is just dreamy. The sun shines an average 361 days a year in St. Petersburg, which has earned us “The Sunshine City” name. If that’s not enough to convince you, we have the World’s Largest Shuffleboard Courts and some of the best beaches in the country. People just don’t move away once they come here.

Q: Building your home sounds like a dream, but I’m sure it had its moments! What were the biggest lessons learned along the way, and what would you do differently if you had to do it all over again?

A: We had a great time building our house. We agree that it was certainly one of our most favorite adventures together. However, Tom was the builder, and I am certain we got preferential treatment from all of the sub contractors. We stayed on track by setting our budget and timeline and not straying from it. We made choices quickly and didn’t second guess them.

Q: Are there any elements or features of your home that still make you pat yourselves on the back and say “That was an awesome idea!”

A: Our house isn’t big, but it is smart. Vaulted ceilings, big windows, great storage, an open floor plan, and wrap-around porch lend to our home’s clean feel.

To be environmentally and financially friendly, we used Hardy board siding, spray foam insulation, metal roof panels, and insulated windows.

But the best choice we made was to build our home on a lot directly behind my parents’ house. It’s like we have built-in babysitters!

Q:You’ve truly embraced a fun decor in your home; has your aesthetic always been so vibrant, or have your children added their influence?

A: The kids certainly have their influence. We display a lot of their work. Their drawings, school projects, Lego creations. We love to see the things their minds and little hands create. We want them to look around and know this house is a place for them too.

There are some design choices that are not what I would have picked, but its important that our home reflects everyone who lives here.

Q: Your company, Lilapops, is a favorite. Tell us the story of how it came to be.

A: Just two years ago we were on a family road trip, both kiddos were in their car seats sick and coughing. I dreamed of a product that would naturally soothe their coughs and cheer them up.

Within months we created Lilapops, all-natural cough drop lollipops with honey and marshmallow root. We love Lilapops ourselves; I can’t tell you how often I go into the office to open a bag for us. We get lots of love mail from our customers, other Moms and Dads, grandparents, school nurses, all professing their love and gratitude. That never gets old.

Q: How has your company philosophy informed your life with kids, how you design your life, and the choices you make daily with them?

A: Our lives changed in so many ways when we had our first baby. He had food allergies and we chose to reevaluate everything we put into our home and bodies. It was a bit trying at first but turned out to be such an incredible blessing.

Eliminating things was cleansing and established a new simpler way of work for our family. We realized not only do we not need much, but we actually prefer to have less. Living naturally means living simply for us.

Q: How do you balance working and parenting? And do you believe there ever can be a balance?

A: We both work outside of the home. Tom is a commercial general contractor and I am a kindergarten teacher. We share Lilapops duties when we can.

We are continually assessing and shifting our time around to make things work. This year we decided to cut out all the extras. No little league. No ballet. No cub scouts.

We are taking a year to establish the routines we feel are most important in our family, and once those are in place – faith and family night, bedtime routines, family dinners, etc. – we will add a bit at a time. But I have to say, no one is complaining about missing out. Our weekdays feel much more like the weekends now.

Also, I know it might seem crazy, but I do not forward anything to my phone. I have just a couple set times a day I check in with e-mail and Facebook and the like.

Q: What has been your favorite part about living with your own kids? What has shocked you the most about being a mom?

A: I have always wanted to be a mom. I know I was made for this! I still sniff the skin on their foreheads and nuzzle their necks like they are my newborns. We go in and look at them sleeping every night.

I thought I would be much more emotional about them growing up, but the truth is, I am enjoying each stage more than the last. Every year their personalities develop more and our relationships evolve. They are growing and changing, and it is a blessing of a gift to witness.

Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish I had known…

A: I had to sleep on this question! I wish I had known that it was okay for things to be a bit messy. I used to really fear messing up, making mistakes, and imperfections. I’ve learned mistakes are certain, necessary, and totally okay.

The more I acknowledge them, share them, and accept them, the easier it is to move on and grow in a positive way.

No one is expecting perfection from me…including myself.


Leslie, thank you so much for sharing a glimpse into your life. Your thought that “our weekdays feel much more like the weekends now” left me with a new goal. I want to make that happen in my own family. Most weeks, we look so forward to Friday that poor Monday and Tuesday don’t get the love they deserve!

Friends, what about you? Are you ever tempted to opt out for a year or two of all extra-curriculars, or are you and your kids too entrenched to even think about such a thing?

P.S. — Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here. And if you’d like to share your own home with us, just send me a note! It’s a lot of fun…I promise!