Everything in my life has brought me here. ––Rainer Maria Rilke

Each new year, like many of you, I toss the figurative pieces of my life in the air to reimagine myself, our home, our work, our life. Culture-wide, it is the great re-evaluation of what we are meant to do, how we are meant to live, what or whom we truly value.  To keep my thoughts free of expectation, I pen them quietly in my journal as I go about cleaning forgotten corners and shelves, emptying the house of unnecessaries. Clearing the contents of a closet or an unsorted drawer seems to inspire my brain to do the same. And like the contents that end up piled by the door to pass on to another home or donate, I often discover it is not that I need more, but to be more disciplined with less. The same can be true of my goals. As I flipped through four journal pages of scrawled lists and fragmented thoughts cluttering my headspace––everything from our family’s core values to the spilled soil in the car that needs vacuuming to unfinished creative projects to a book I want to read aloud with the kids this year to something on this blog that needs fixing and so on––I was surprised to learn that my reaction was not to organize or optimize these thoughts, and it certainly wasn’t to add to it. Instead, I wanted to pen inked lines through them, to discern which mattered the most and fold the rest away with the unnecessaries by the door.

The underlying truth? Everything is a trade-off. I know this. You know this. Whether it is the space in our home or calendar or the more figurative space in our head, choosing one thing always requires us to give up something else. And yet, still, I find myself living and making choices, ignoring this core principle. I learned this the hard way recently. I am home for the bulk of my day, and from the time I wake up through the dinner hour, our energy seems high and buzzing, frenetic even. The hours fold into one another with personal work and chores and schoolwork and play and social media and meals and emails and walks and character conversations. The evening hours have always been life-giving for me in a different way than the day. They restore and quiet me. They allow space for my introverted person, for reflection or reading or time with Mark. Yet not wanting to compromise my daytime rhythms and work, I was scheduling more and more meetings and meet-ups during the evenings.

During much of this last fall, I felt this ongoing frustration at the lack of order in our days. The evening chores were often sloppy and only mostly done, meaning our mornings often started there. I felt this growing exhaustion and grumpiness in me coupled with a lack of creativity. I stopped picking up my camera. My writing felt flat, lacking in soul and often remained in drafts or in journals. Much of my time typically allotted to writing here or on social media was spent in restorative prayer and reading to curb a growing current of anxiety in my chest. There were regular piles in my bedroom: schoolwork needing reading/checking, books and articles I wanted to read, clothes folded and waiting to be put away somewhere in my messy drawer. I planned out my lists weekly and daily, crossing off, crossing off, crossing off; I had an assistant a few hours a week to help manage it all, and yet still, I sensed this looming sense of disorder and disconnection. As I cleared spaces and thoughts last week, wondering and making notes, I realized I had been giving too much to other people in the evenings. I had said yes to meetings and meet-ups with others because the hours seemed available. Technically, I didn’t have things scheduled, right? Without realizing it, I was trading off an essential part of myself, a crucial part of my own creativity, restoration, and connection within the home. One fresh start for the new year? Protect evening margins during the week.

Naturally, your own trade-offs will be different. Your home, core values, and energy will differ, too, sometimes year to year. The aim is not sameness. Rather, it is understanding your/family’s highest value and how to best protect and honor the energy required to work toward it. Sometimes it will mean folding up and shelving something for later; sometimes it will mean better-organization of time or resource; sometimes it will mean letting go of something altogether.

This post is sponsored by Bed Bath & Beyond.    

On the day we purchased this old house nearly four years ago, Mark fell through the pantry floor. Read: he landed in the crawl space below (gratefully, unharmed). The space was in poor shape, and although a good sized pantry, it lacked the proper storage for the space. There was a 30 year old hot water heater in the corner, too, one that exhausted right back into the pantry, leaving film on everything and polluting the air. In short, our pantry felt like a dark cave I barely wanted to enter more or less store food. But if you’ve followed any bit of our home’s evolution, you know this is only one sliver of the work this home needed. Like many things, we had to be patient with this small space, too.

We cleaned it up a bit, eventually replacing the water heater with a tankless one on the outer wall, a strategic move for the future day we renovate our kitchen the way we intend. Mark used old wood boards from a building tear-down nearby and built some shelves at the back, but mostly, our attention was needed in other places in our home. And this pantry space remained both inefficient and unwelcoming. Take note of the BEFORE image. Yikes! Naturally, when the opportunity arose to partner with Bed Bath and Beyond, I knew their one-stop-shop with all things kitchen organization would be a perfect way to redesign the pantry and make it a more useful space for our home.

But here’s the deal with any sort of home organization in our home, especially the pantry. Since my children make and take food and use and put away dishes away, it’s important that I find ways to organize so that it can be maintained without me. Otherwise, I end up having to rearrange regularly which doesn’t seem very efficient, right? To make the pantry prettier and also easy to organize and maintain with all of our kids regularly in and out, here’s the list of needs I wanted to address:

  • Hide the hot water heater
  • Stock and label clear jars for less waste and easy visuals
  • Organize pots and pans in a way that’s easy to maintain
  • Clear out any unneeded or unused appliances and pots
  • Store the bread in a place where it wouldn’t get crushed
  • Store the coffee beans where they won’t spill
  • Add light
  • Cover the floors
  • Paint, to refresh the stained walls and cover the unfinished wood spice/oil shelves
  • Find storage for onions, garlic, scallions, and ginger
  • Remove the pantry door

Keep scrolling to see the changes up close, as well as the specific Bed Bath & Beyond products we used along the way.

Paint and Add Light / We began by emptying the pantry, painting, and adding lights to freshen up and brighten the space. Mark had already built oil/spice shelves for me in the space, so we sanded and painted them to blend into the wall. But I really love this spice/bottle organizing option for pantry doors or for a wall space, too.

Hang Baskets + a Pot Rack / To hide the water heater, Mark installed a clean wood board, where I attached this chalkboard and copper basket wall organizer to use for the produce basket. We narrowed down our pots and pans (which always feels SO good!) and strategically hung our favorite ones on this beautiful copper pot rack. We raised the microwave up a shelf and put our three favorite soup/stew pots there, giving them their own space (making it easy to return to a proper place).

Find Stackable Canisters / We found this perfect vintage style bread box to keep the sandwich bread in tact and a white canister for the coffee beans, which both neatly nestle in the space next to our water jug. The flat bamboo tops make them both flexible for stacking and sealed to keep from spilling.  

Use Various Sizes of Glass Jars for Dry Goods and Label Them / For the glass storage, I mostly selected various sizes of the Luigi Bormioli Lock-Eat jars for grains, nuts, special flours, seeds, and plantains. I  love the wide tops on these jars and the minimal feel. I also used four Kilner 3L jars for the larger needs of dry cereal, oats, and flour. To label, I kept it simple with small, white labels for the top. I like keeping the sides clear, featuring the food only. And for the most part, the label’s purpose is to help us notice when we need to restock, or to separate all the flours from one another.

Rugs and Plants Bring Closure / Our pantry has uneven, non-matching wood floors that can feel harsh on bare feet, and can make it seem weird to store small appliances there. Adding two small jute rugs felt like a simple way to hide the rough floor details, while making the space more inviting for bare feet or heavier kitchen appliances. It was a beautiful, inexpensive way to finish this space. The plant is just for me, a visual from the stove or the doorway, an organic touch to a windowless space.

Can I tell you how easy it has been to maintain so far, with everyone clearly understanding where things belong in the pantry? It’s like a massage for my soul.

This post is sponsored by Bed Bath & Beyond. All images and thoughts are my own. Thank you for supporting the businesses that help keep this space afloat.

Liam turned 14 last fall, and he is currently the only one of his peers without a cell phone. This isn’t a statement for or against it, just the reality. With Burke turning 13 in a few weeks and Blythe doing the same next year, you can imagine cell phones are regularly apart of the table conversation. According to this Pew Research in 2015, only 12% of teens (age 13-17) do not have a cell phone, and of the ones who do, 92% claimed to go online daily, and 24% claiming to be online “almost constantly.” Whether your children currently have cell phones or not, the growing role of technology in the family home can be anxiety-producing. But it doesn’t need to be.

Our home does regularly interacts with different screens within our home for work, school, and entertainment, including my cell phone. Our children watch math lessons online, learn to play instruments via apps, research and write papers about animals, people, and interesting places and events. They write stories, listen to music, take photos, and even sometimes record their own DIY videos. They text and Facetime with friends and family. But they do not yet have unlimited or unfiltered access to any of these places.

For the last two years, our home has had countless conversations about technology, the internet, and its role in our home. We’ve also used Circle––a small white device and user-friendly app that easily pairs with our Wi-Fi to help manage the content and time online––a helpful tool for navigating this new territory together. While every family must decide how to navigate these waters for their own home, here are some helpful ways we bridge the topic and manage it together.

Talk About Tech and the Internet as a Family / This may seem obvious as a parent, but sometimes talking with our children about the Internet can be the hardest, most complicated part. It’s so important to help create vision in your home for the gifts and vices of the abstract online world, to establish yourself as a trustworthy advocate for them and their interests. As with many areas of life for tweens and teens, their world and perspective is broadening and awakening. Whether they are able to communicate it or not, they need us in their corner. They also need to understand sometimes that means setting boundaries for their time or on the places they’re able to navigate online. If you’re using a helpful tool like Circle, introduce it to them. Set up their profile together, and show them the ways you will help them navigate the online world together.

Create a Clear Plan / Plans are empowering, especially for children who depend on predictability and consistency. Discussing the harder parts of this journey ahead of time, and how to handle them, also creates harmony and trust within the home. Consider how your family wants screen-time incorporated within your home and life. How will you handle social media? Will technology be allowed in every room? How will your choices vary from friends’ homes? How will your children or you bridge those differences together? Create a plan for your children to implement if they are exposed to something inappropriate or explicit online (within or outside of your home.) This is a wonderful reference we use. 

Set Helpful Boundaries / Clear boundaries are also empowering and life-giving within the family home. Naturally, each home’s boundaries will vary, sometimes even between older and younger siblings, but the idea is for you to settle into what your home needs for the time and be consistent. Last summer, we tucked away the television for several weeks just to reset as a family. Now we pull it out each weekend for use, tucking it back into the closet to help direct our focus toward work/school and family time during the week.  Circle has been the most helpful way for me to be more consistent with those trickier boundaries during our busy school days when my attention and presence is spread between the four. Here are my absolute favorite ways it helps our entire family (including me!) manage my time better.  

Off-time | This feature within the app allows us to set regular blocks of time during a day or week to not be available for the internet. As a parent, I use this during my school hours with the kids, so I’m not distracted by notifications or app-browsing. I also use this for my children during hours we typically allot for play, outdoor exploration, and study.

Bedtime | This feature is my absolute favorite, even for myself. Although I know screentime right before bed isn’t helpful for any of our sleep habits, I still find myself scrolling and working sometimes in the evening, and sometimes just after dinner is Liam’s only free time to connect with friends via text. I love being able to set a bedtime for specific days of the week, for my boys (who are enjoying staying up later) and for myself and Mark, who tend to want to work.  

Pause | In moments when we need a quick focus for the entire family, I can hit a pause button on the app and pause the internet for everyone at once. Although we don’t use this feature often, this can be particularly helpful when friends are over to play or join us for dinner, or when we’re simply enjoying some quality family time for a game night or conversation and I don’t want to be interrupted with notifications.

Filter Content / I like to think of an internet filter as floaties for the internet. It helps protect our children (and teens) from explicit material even when they think they don’t need it. And like toddlers wearing floaties in the pool, it doesn’t mean we’re off the hook to pay attention either. At this point, our children often have a specific purpose for being on the internet, but I appreciate having a filter in our home as a safety net. Circle has five different general filter levels: Pre-K, Kid, Teen, Adult, and Unfiltered. Within each profile, you have the option to filter specific apps and websites, too, allowing me to tweak it as my children grow in maturity and responsibility.  

Reward Efforts / We all love rewards! Celebrate the way your home honors your boundaries and collaboration. Celebrate with a night out together, or a family excursion. Give them a later night bedtime on the weekend or have a sleepover. Set rewards that do not require technology or screens. For those of you who keep track of chores and home responsibilities online, Circle also connects to Mothershp, Chore Monster, and Landra. We don’t currently use this feature, but it may be helpful for some homes.

Circle Go/ For those of you with children/teens with personal devices, Circle Go is an optional subscription  feature that allows you to filter your child’s device wherever they go, including data plans and other wifi networks. Wink.

Raising children in the digital age is intimidating and foreign to many of us. This doesn’t need to be a tense or fearful conversation, but it does require mindfulness and more intentional connection with one another. At the very least, as parents it’s a gift to know we are not alone in the journey.

This post is sponsored by Circle, a business committed to helping families manage the ways they connect and one we’ve loved for years. All of the images and thoughts are my own, and as always, thank you for helping support the businesses that help keep this space afloat.

I have been in a creative slump the last few months, which may not be a surprise considering the recent season of withering. Lack of vision, clarity, or inspiration in one area of life often begets the same in other parts, too. During these last few months, I mostly neglected my camera, felt a bit bored with social media, stared at blank screens toggling between letters and the delete button. I lacked the typical enthusiasm for this joyful work, and it showed. And it showed in our home, too.

Where this might be a natural point to talk about a new photo project or writing prompt, I sensed there was something larger that has needed tending first––a vital shift within our home atmosphere, a fresh connection with one another and the space we inhabit. The creative culture of our home needed nurturing. For those of you needing a little bit of the same, below are seven habits we’re paying closer attention to in the new year, to refresh and tend to the creative atmosphere of our home.


Make Your Bed / What? I know. That’s what my children say. The ideas feel disconnected, but making our beds each morning does two things: it turns our attention to details and begins our day with a sense of accomplishment and clarity. Most creative endeavors are really a summation of small processes, one part building on another. Beginning with a small and clear task, helps us begin to notice the small, approachable tasks in other areas of life, too. At the very least, there will be a neat spot to take a photo, enjoy a nap, or read a book later in the day.

Add Fresh Flowers + Indoor Plants / I love a good excuse for indoor blooms, especially in the Winter when the world feels dull and grey. Whether a few clipped evergreens from a walk or a small bundle of Wild Chamomile found at the grocery store, the effort always pays noticeable dividends in our home. And there’s increasing amounts of research on their mental benefits, too. According to this study, indoor plants can even boost creativity up to 45%. So if you were ever looking for an excuse to have more plants around, you have it.

Make Time and Honor It / Many of us have days filled with ordinary things pertaining to home and work or school. It can be easy to view a block of time set apart just to work on a craft as a luxurious expendable. If you are wanting to shift your home/personal  culture, this part is indispensable. Find a part of your day that works best for you or your children. The early morning is still my favorite time to work personally, so getting up early before the rest of the house feels necessary to my creative process and worthwhile. For my children, I find the afternoon, after their more focused studies are finished, when their bodies feel particularly antsy is a great time for handwork. We have also added a more defined space in the morning alongside read-aloud. 

Keep Supplies Stocked and Prepared / Making sure our house is stocked with art materials is the second most important practical part, especially during our school day. Although there are bits that are used more often than others, I try to keep paper, paints, colored pencils, scissors, charcoal pencils, string, glue, sewing needles, carving knives, and clay accessible, stocked, and in the same place so they’re easy to find. At the onset of each week, I have the kids sharpen pencils and colored pencils so they’re fresh for the work ahead. We make sure all the right things are in their correct place to have on hand when whim appears.

Bring a Camera/ Photography teaches me both to slow down and to see the world around me differently, but I barely picked it up in the Autumn of last year. I feel my lack of creativity during that period is intrinsically connected. And so I am myself bringing a camera with me again. I’m also including my children in the process, letting them observe when I edit or letting them frame a shot. 

Practice Fluid Movement / We all know it’s better to move our body than not. After all, sitting is considered the new smoking. And for those of us who practice creative arts that require stillness, movement is necessary.  According to this study from Stanford University, certain types of fluid movement stimulate the same fluidity of creativity. Think: hula hooping, tai chi, or yoga. This article even adds belly dancing to the list. Wink. 

Sleep at Least 8 Hours / Every parent shouts for joy! Our bodies need sleep for so many important reasons, but one of them being creative thought and memory retention. Right now, I tend to naturally wake early, and I’ve found it’s often the best part of my day for entering creative flow in this stage of life. Maybe it’s the quiet and dark. Maybe it’s the freshly slept brain. I’m not sure, but after watching this brief video from a Neuroscientist at UC Berkeley about the affects of sleep deprivation on the brain, I knew I needed to get in bed earlier. I’m doing the same with my kids, too, especially the older ones who think “they’re not tired.” This article goes into more depth on the different things happening in our brain while we sleep, especially the way the REM cycle may impact the way we create.

We happily stepped back into our school routine last week, sharpening pencils and opening fresh notebooks, flipping through old books on our shelves and thumbing through new ones, too. I know not every home feels as enthusiastic about this shift toward structure and routine again, but I LOVE the start of a fresh school year––even the ones we arbitrarily create at home. Wink.

The key to fluid days around here is keeping snack and lunchtime simple, synchronous, and á la carte. I know. You expected some other deeper bit of wisdom, perhaps even something more specific to our studies? But this is truth: having or not having food in some amount of order for our days can make or break it. Meal times form the backbone of our day’s rhythm, and as it turns out, having a purposeful pantry and fridge at the beginning of the week is not only a miraculous gift, but also a contributor to peaceful days spent at home.

I realized several years ago, that although we don’t need to pack lunches for our homeschool, choosing a few quality pre-made snacks to have around the pantry is a life-saver to mix into the day, whether for lunch or a snack or a last minute outing. And I’m happy to partner with Annie’s Homegrown this week, as their organic snacks are longtime favorites to add to our school day table and beyond.

Since our children each have meal responsibilities during the week––helping to chop, prep, and create meals one day a week––they also choose how to pair and prep various fruits and veggies during snack and lunch. The á la carte style options allows each of the kids to choose how to create and re-create, even within limited options. Perhaps chopped apples and Annie’s White Cheddar Bunnies for snack one day will feel entirely different when swapping apples for berries or carrots and hummus. Even with young children, it offers variety while empowering them with options as the helper. Snacks often are planned at the beginning of the week together, which offers the benefit of choice but without the hassle of snack-time bickering during the day.

As for other ways we keep daytime meals simple, it’s important that everyone eats at the same time. Otherwise, our kitchen is a non-stop train of grazing, mess, and incomplete meals. Snack-time might be as simple as adding a box of Organic Snack Mix to our afternoon table, passing around––or more importantly, playing with––Organic Really Peely Fruit Tape, or setting a bowl of fruit at the center of our work table. The same can also neatly pack in a backpack on days we go for a nature walk or play with friends. It depends on our own needs for that part of the day, but it’s important we all snack at the same time so we’re ready for meals together, too.

Lunchtime is a more distinct pause in our day, a meal together without the distraction of any books or projects. I love creating lunch boards with my helpers to again create a selection for everyone to choose from and build on their own. They vary day-to-day sometimes with leftovers from dinner, or fixings for sandwiches or wraps, meats and cheeses or peanut butter and jelly. White Cheddar Bunnies are always welcome. We’ve also more recently discovered using cloth napkins with a lunch board can save time washing dishes and paper towels, too.

Whether you’re packing your littles off to school or trying to create fluid days within your home, having your children help can save you time and empower their independence, too. Let them pack their lunches the night before and plan with you a bit at the front of the week. Are they happy to eat the same thing every day or are there simple ways to swap one part for another? And for all of you mutual lovers of Annie’s Homegrown, use your Target Cartwheel app all month to save money and stock up on your family’s favorites.  

This post is sponsored by Annie’s Homegrown, snacks our family has enjoyed for years. All thoughts and images are my own. And as always, thank you for supporting the businesses that help keep this space afloat. 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Target & Annie’s. The opinions and text are all mine.

I tend to be a planner, an achiever, a doer. In fact, I could write paragraphs on the benefit of goal-minded living, and the need for patience and steadfastness in parenting, business, or home projects. In each of these endeavors, my days have always unfolded better with a little planning ahead, even with the smallest of lists. These lists help me sift through what is necessary in work and home life, to say no more often, to put my limited energy toward what I value. But how did Mary Oliver phrase it, keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable? Perhaps the greatest lesson in the midst of living-out planned days has been learning to temper them with space––space for spontaneity, for whim, for something unimaginable. . . .


cultivating_peace_at_home-2cultivating_peace_at_home Sometimes as a parent I find myself chasing shadows in our home life, trying to repair or address symptoms––consistent sibling squabbles, whininess, regularly unfinished chores, meltdowns, etc.––without taking time to notice something fundamental is broken or hurt in the atmosphere of our home. I’m not talking about a single meltdown or hard day; I’m referring to the days or weeks or months when the abstract connections in the home feel weathered or possibly broken altogether.

The last few weeks have felt a bit like that here. I’ve found myself as the referee between siblings too often or noticing things scattered about carelessly on the floors or counters or tables more often than not. The TV seemed to be on more than usual. The attitudes lower than usual. Meals have felt hustled. And I was exhausted, red flags everywhere shouting pay attention. I talked with Mark about it and we opted to try a small process we used when our children were younger and I felt overwhelmed: set aside a few days for focused, intentional training. Training sounds like such an intense word, but all it is: reestablishing the order and peace of the home. The goal isn’t to lead perfect lives; it’s to heed the red flags as helpful guides letting us know some things need to change. Today always offers a fresh start and new mercy. When life feels chaotic, here is what we do to cultivate peace in our home again.

Clear your schedule for a few days. Set aside 2-3 days for full relational attention and care. No playdates or trips to the grocery. No friends over for dinner or answering emails or checking social media. Create space for full attention and care. If you work full-time out of the home, consider taking a personal day attached to a weekend. If you work from home, plan to keep specific and clear hours for a few days. Sometimes simplifying time restraints can immediately calm the emotions in the home.

Begin with tidy spaces. Clutter promotes stress and works against peace in the home. It just does. This isn’t a mantra or a flag touting a perfect home either, but sometimes when our homes become littered with little things on the surfaces and floors, it effects our home emotionally more than we know. I’m still learning the balance of living with my children (when all the things come out) and keeping things in their place, but I always find it helpful when we begin to feel disconnected emotionally, to begin with tidying our spaces. If this feels like too much, simply walk around the house with a box or bag, collecting things and put it into a closet for now. The goal is a quick clean-up to focus relationally, not to necessarily clean out your house. Mark that for another date. (Makes note.)

Limit or eliminate screen time for these days. Screen time can be a wonderful way to connect as a family, and also a way to buy a mother of young children 30 minutes of quiet. But it can become a slippery slope in our home, so when emotions are high, it’s easiest to eliminate screens from the equation for a bit. So instead of snuggle movie night, we’ll enjoy game night or playing HORSE on the basketball goal together. Instead of video games, we’re enjoying tether ball matches and skateboarding outdoors. This also helps heal broken bonds.

Offer heaps of affection. This seemed particularly important when my children were young and would become consistently whiny or throw regular tantrums. Many times, they simply needed more positive quality time with me, reminders of their safe place with us and at home. But older children need large amounts of affection from their parents, too, something I forget a bit as they grow and exert more independence. Holding time strengthens connection and also reassures children (of all ages) that they’re loved and safe. So during these 2-3 days I snuggle my children even more, and try to make space for alone time with each of them, a time for each to feel heard.

Hold value boundaries more tightly. Things can seem simpler in our minds or plans than they are when carried out. I can know our children need sleep and become distracted during bedtime routines, often prolonging them. I can know our children need more whole foods and yet still cave and offer goldfish or easy processed snacks. When there’s an argument or some harsh word exchanged between siblings, I can delay in addressing it because I’m busy doing something else. This is life. But during these few days, Mark and I focus to reinforce the boundaries we value. Bedtime routine begins a little earlier, allowing for a slower pace. Strife, harsh words or physical outbursts of any sort are addressed immediately. Eating becomes a little cleaner, and so on. This part work because of the heaps of affection being poured out at other times. One part establishes structure for them; the other part establishes the loving context. Since young children are really concrete, it is particularly helpful for them to have immediate consequences and rewards, and heaps of affection and snuggling for context.

Infuse the air with uplifting scents and sounds. It seems small, but turning on uplifting music and diffusing the air with essential oils can quickly help calm emotions and shift the mood of the home. On harder days, rubbing some right on your neck (or theirs) can help, too. Some of my favorite oils to diffuse are:

  • orange, clove, and frankincense
  • lavender and eucalyptus
  • bergamot and lavender
  • ginger, orange, and cedarwood
  • YL Stress Away or Peace and Calming II blends


I love that my children share bedrooms, even when it causes friction about personal space and ownership. Which. It. Does. For instance, Blythe prefers neat and tidy spaces and values privacy. Olive on the other hand, values playful fun and loathes cleaning. She also has little reason for personal space and tends to feel rejected when others want privacy. Naturally, this causes friction about everything from clothes on the floor to alone time. It also offers plenty of conversation-starters about gentleness, patience, consideration, and respect. Still, as the girls both grown older––Blythe will be ten this fall––we needed to rework their room to grow with them, to give each a little space of her own, a personal bed and work space to manage and keep as they will (within reason, of course).

Enter: loft beds. Playful enough for Oli and private enough for Blythe, a personal treehouse for the both of them.

We had just the right amount of space on both sides of the window to build one for each. And since we have ten foot ceilings–one of my favorite features in our old home–we opted to design the beds ourselves and take advantage of the height. I wanted the lofts to feel like little cubbies in the sky, a place for sleeping, reading, or drawing, with plenty of head room underneath, so we opted to build walls instead of stilt legs to create a sense of coziness within the larger room.

I hung the self-adhesive Chasing Paper wallpaper, with a few minor mistakes due to our old, uneven walls and floors (insert: forced smile), but you can only tell with up-close looks. Sigh. The floating leaves in shades of grey, blue, and green are exactly how I wanted the space to feel: whimsical, feminine, organic, and with a touch of history. We used a soft putty grey cabinet paint on the wood to finish them out and a compliment to the wallpaper. I also added a fresh coat of “White Dove”, which has a bit more ochre in it than the “Chantilly Lace” that was there before. It’s a softer white.

After scouring online classifieds and estate sales for months, I found this Vintage iron bed on Craigslist to keep as a guest bed. Fist bumps and high-fives. We kept the linens simple, a white coverlet previously on our bed, a new linen throw, and floral pillowcases. I still need to add lighting in the room, near the guest bed and in the girls’ sleep space for bedtime reading. I also plan to repaint and change the hardware on the armoire, but seriously there are always finishing projects to do. for the time, we pulled out twinkle lights from our Christmas boxes and strung them underneath for a delicate, warm glow.

Although we still do much school work together at the table, sofa, or lawn, we’re moving to years where the kids want personal study/work space. They now each have desk space with small shelf space for their art supplies and books. The armoire is awkwardly placed in front of the door for now, to block the door to the boys’ room. Let’s just say it acts as a peacemaker. Wink.


Chasing Paper Removable Wallpaper: West Elm

Loft Bed Paint Color: Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter

Wall Paint Color: Benjamin Moore White Dove

Antique Bed: Craigslist, similar here 

Floral Pillowcases: Target, similar here

Striped Linen Throw: MUR Lifestyle

Cavallini Penmanship Poster : Amazon

Cavallini “Papillon” Poster : Amazon

Black Cross Mini Banner : Matriarch Handmade

Dahlia Painting : Vintage Cloud Shop

Print of “La Rue Montorgueil” by Claude Monet (1878) : a keepsake from Paris, similar here

Drawing Paper Roll : IKEA, similar to purchase online here

Art Pencils: (Olive’s desk) Amazon; (Blythe’s desk) mixture of vintage pencils and these 

Camden Rose Wood Paint Jar Holder : Amazon

Play Kitchen : Craigslist

book baskets : Target, similar here and here

Armoire : inherited antique, planning to change paint and hardware

Olive’s Vintage Desk : Craigslist

Blythe’s Desk : made with legs from our first breakfast [antique] table that broke, plywood top


The use of technology in childhood is one of the hottest topics for modern parents, and it seems where ever you land on the issue, it can be a potential point of shame and judgement, one where each family must establish strong justification for their home choices in the sea of varied opinion. Before I share my own, I think it’s fair to preface with this: let’s be gentle with one another on this parenting journey. Ask questions. Test ideas. But let’s always be gentle and give space for the various family contexts.

As with most things our family treats screentime and the internet with moderation and respect. Briefly put: we enjoy both with boundaries. Screens have never been a central part of our family narrative, and we prefer to keep it that way. But we do use them often during the school year for research, writing, audiobooks, music, and educational play. Still, to keep these helpful uses in check, we try to keep this educational screen time to a minimum and periodically discuss: How does this benefit us? What does this cost us? These have been helpful questions as our children grow older and more of their friends have personal devices––something we haven’t opted for them yet. How do screens change your time together? How do they affect your attitudes or relationships? How do they benefit you? What might they cost you? This ongoing conversation is also an education.

The truth is, as an adult, I’m still learning how to navigate and set boundaries for myself in the abstract Internet space. And although I want my children to enjoy and learn to create with modern tools, part of my goal as a parent is also to help them understand boundaries, why they exist and how they are ultimately for our good even as we grow older. Healthy boundaries in childhood can be stepping stones to healthy habits as adults.

During the school year, we allow our children 30 minutes of daily free time on a screen (watching a show, playing a video game, playing with a new app)––after school work, home responsibilities, and outdoor play have happened. And since it’s generally not practical for me to sit and count minutes with each of my children while they enjoy this screen time (that’s usually when I begin checking emails, finish a bit of work, or prep dinner), I’m grateful to have recently found Circle, a device that pairs with our Wi-Fi to help me manage ALL the internet usage in our home during the day, including my own. I’ve only been using it the last month, and already I am loving it. Parents with children and teens who have personal devices, listen up!
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As a parent, it’s one part to create the rule and another part to hold to it. I do want my children to learn how to manage and use screen technology, to view it as an asset to imagination, education, creativity, and outdoor play––not a replacement. As we slip into our new school year this week and our routine fills up a bit more, here’s a few ways Circle has been a gift to me as a parent, a help in setting and holding the boundaries we value, even boundaries for myself.

Pause the Internet // One of the largest distractors from my time with the kids is the internet on my phone. Whether I’m editing and sharing an image or trying to quickly check my email, it can quickly become a bunny trail, especially in our homeschool morning. With Circle, I can actually pause the internet on my phone (or any other device), helping me to keep focus. This fall, I plan to use this feature often during our school hours, keeping me free of notifications and even quick email checks at the wrong time. It will also keep them from sneaking off with the iPad or from browsing the computer without permission. If they need the computer or an app during our time, I can simply click a button and allow them to do so, pausing again when their allotted time is up.

I also plan to use this feature for myself during our weekly family movie nights and family meetings, too. This will even be handy when Mark and I enjoy date nights at home, since it can be difficult for both of us to shut off our screen work. With Circle, I can pause the internet for an individual device or for our entire home by clicking a pause button. Win win, as they say.

Create Filters and Establish Time Limits // First, I should note our children do not ever have free reign to browse the internet or certain apps (YouTube) on their own for all the reasons one might imagine. Even knowing how to search the internet is a learned skill, one we’re practicing together. There are of course a variety of softwares and ways to set filters for computers and phones, but I appreciate how easy it is in Circle. I created an account for each child using the app on my iPhone, where I could hand-select the apps they’re allowed to use and even change how long they can use each app. For instance, I de-select YouTube and Amazon since I don’t want them on those apps without my knowing. You can also set a general home filter for all the shared screens, which are most of ours.

I like that I can have an itemize list of all the sites and apps that have been used on each device. If I’ve given them the iPad during school hours to review math facts or play a specific game, Circle let’s me know if they’re actually doing it. I can also choose the general level of content they can access by person or device, i.e. kid or teen? This feature also filters sites that might contain content more mature than you’ve selected for the person or device (pornographic or violent).  

If your children have personal devices, this would be particularly helpful, as you can see and regulate the sites they visit and how long they spend on the internet or on a specific app each day. You can also help your children regulate their time by adjusting how long they use a specific app or the Internet in a day, an especially helpful feature as the school year approaches and the day demands more of them. On a side note, this has been so good for me, too, as it allows me to view and occasionally set limits on the amount of time I spend in my social apps. Wink.

Set a Regular Internet Bedtime // Since our children don’t take any devices to bed with them, this isn’t really applicable for them yet. But after writing about the value of unplugging a few weeks ago, I’ve recognized how often I still pick up my phone before bed, even when I have intended to do something different. Habits are so difficult to break. To shift and create a healthier evening habit for myself, I’ve set my own internet bedtime using the Circle app, leaving myself the time to read and unwind without distraction.

While Circle is valuable to me as a parent, especially heading into teen years, it’s also valuable for myself and my own time management, to help me remain focused on what I really value for daily family living. I’m grateful to have a system to help re-direct my attention when I lose focus and also impose set boundaries for my children when I forget or lose track of time.

I’m curious, how do you handle the internet in your home? Do you have a set age in mind or another litmus for when your children are ready for personal devices? Id’ love to hear. 

This post is sponsored by Circle with Disney, a new way for parents to manage devices and time. For those of you interested in trying Circle, you can purchase it on discount for $89 at Amazon, Best Buy, Target, or meetcircle.com until August 31, 2016. As always all thoughts and images are my own. Thank you for supporting the businesses that keep this space afloat.