family_hiking-3 family_hiking-4family_hiking-2 family_hikingwinter_family_hiking

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity. ― John Muir, Our National Parks

We live in Central Texas, far from foothills and mountains. Still I can agree with Muir’s words just the same: being outdoors is the best way to clear my mind, my nerves, my heart. On a typical day, when I’m feeling anxious or exhausted, stepping outside my door is an immediate cure. Nature has a way of quieting my soul and thoughts, of reminding me of the simplicity of life.

On the weekend, when we have a larger block of time together as a family, we love being outdoors together for the same reasons. It reminds us of the gift of time, the simplicity of family life together. Plus, in a really practical way, it’s good to be in spaces where the kids can run-a-muck with loud voices and laughter, where we can step away from the demands of the home. Deep breathing, fresh air, sunshine–every bit of it is good for the soul and body.

Most weekends, we may simply enjoy our yard or a local trail or park. On my favorite weekends, we make a day trip to the coast or a nearby state park. In the fall and spring, we try to camp for the entire weekend. These trips don’t require the fanciest gear or even a ton of preparation, but I love how they inspire curiosity, how they allow for idle conversation and thought, how they bring us together with a fresh experience (even when we are familiar with the place).

We took one of these day hikes on a recent weekend together. We packed the kids’ water backpacks, snacks, binoculars, a notebook, pencil or colors, camera, local field guides and drove to a state park. We mapped out our hike, taking consideration of how far our youngest can walk, 3-4 miles at most right now. The goal for us isn’t length or speed, and I find it’s more fun for all of us if we pause and climb trees or skip rocks or draw when everyone needs the pause. When possible (like this day), we stop by the ranger station to grab a junior ranger backpack. They’re free to check out for the day and include paper, crayons, binoculars, nature guides, and a little packet of things to look for and activities to do while on the trail. We’ve also been enjoying the Wild Explorers Club, an online adventure program, to help lead us through nature exploring and basic wilderness skills. The lessons are self-paced and easy to adapt to our own outings as we go. Likewise, they inspire us to get outdoors together!

Do you have plans to be outdoors this weekend? Even if it’s sitting on a porch, make some time for it. Happy weekend, friends! xx


Last autumn, our family began practicing a weekly Sabbath meal together, which I wrote about in more detail over here. Six months into this new family tradition, I have a little more to say about both the difficulties and surprises of this new practice, so I thought I’d list them out to share:

Rest is a gift. ||  This point sounds redundant but it is worth repeating. I simply cannot stress enough how valuable this weekly 24-hour period has become to our family and to myself. Naturally, it better guards our family time but the sweet spot for me is shutting down the obligation of output, whether in social media or school work or even events within the community. For an entire day, I literally shake my hands of typical responsibilities pertaining to the home and work. If I wake early, I’ll often wander back to our bed at some point for a nap or to more leisurely read a book. In a season of life filled with millions of things to do, it has been empowering and peaceful to tell myself (and the nagging TO DO list in my head): not today.

Rest is a discipline. || Oddly, by practicing rest more often, I’ve realized how often I actually fight it. Because Mark works outside of the home and our children are with me during the week, the weekend can feel like my time to get things done. So it’s been surprising to learn that while I love this period of intentional slow, it still requires discipline to practice.  In the same vein, I have noticed that practicing the Sabbath has helped me gauge the my levels of stress more acutely, as it takes me longer to settle into a restful state when I am feeling anxious. On those weeks I tend to think “this is wasted time; I have so much to do.” I know it’s ridiculous, but in those more stressful weeks, rest is a discipline, one that always rewards me with what I really need: time to wrestle with the origins of the stress, time to ask the even the deeper questions of why I feel undeserving of it, and of course, time to bring all of this to God. The gift is time. Although it feels anti-productive, the discipline of rest has been a spiritual and mental refreshment from the tyranny of all work, even work I love, even when I don’t think I need it.


Sometimes you run out of gusto. And that’s okay. || Some weeks simply steamroll us, making it more difficult to find the physical or emotional gusto required for the elaborate meal. On those sort of weeks we’ve adapted our meal, at times eating pizza or take-out food by candlelight. Those are the weeks I need rest the most and relieving the burden of the fancy food (while less enticing) is helpful.

Sometimes we say no to good things. || Tons of events happen on the weekends, especially with children: birthday parties, sleepovers, sports activities, traveling, etc. When possible, we stack our weekend plans for Saturday evening or Sunday. Although we occasionally make exceptions for travel or holidays or special events, we weigh those things heavily and are learning a simple lesson that sometimes it is good to say no to good things. Sometimes we need the undivided rest more. Since a few of you have asked, our children do not currently participate in any activities that require regular weekend commitments. In certain seasons, it’s better for the harmony of the home to say no.

Share the meal (and the meal preparation).  || Since my sister and brother-in-law live practically down the street from us, we share this meal together most weeks. While it requires more coordination and larger amounts of food, it’s fantastic sharing the responsibilities and expense. It always helps with accountability too, much the way having a gym partner will. You’re more likely to follow through if you know someone else is counting on it. If you’re far from family or don’t yet have a family of your own, consider hosting a meaningful weekly or monthly meal with close friends who have similar values. A communal table is beautiful.

Children love helping. || The children are perhaps more enthusiastic about this meal than the adults, and although in our home they are required to help, it’s beautiful seeing how they love participating in the process. They are eager for this time together with good food, family movie night, and a following slower day together. Each week, they mostly set the table themselves, spreading the table cloth, arranging the florals and tableware, and writing the name cards. They also help filling the glass water bottles and making the food. They’re always eager to help with the weekend cake. Wink.

Eat outdoors, when possible. ||There’s something tremendous and spiritually connecting about a beautiful meal and nature together. I’ve found the weeks we set a formal table outdoors are often my favorite. Since the weather has been sporadically warm this January, we enjoyed our Sabbath meal in the backyard last week, just beside a warmly life backyard fire-pit. Honestly, leaving the physical house for a bit can be the best way for me to draw that initial line to end work. Walking through the back threshold of our home, I figuratively announce: I’ve worked enough. Perhaps that’s the greatest lesson for me thus far, learning the power and humility in the word enough.



For as long as I can remember, Mark and I have used the term simple in relation to some aspect of our life and personal aesthetic. For us it has always been a way to draw attention to quality over quantity, to enjoy having less amid the cultural tide of wanting more. Simple? Definitely. Easy? Definitely not.

Of all of the modern terms, simple can certainly feel the most complicated and convoluted. Used to describe everything from the way we live, parent, decorate, eat, exercise, and dress, it has become a catch-all term translating to a variety of things depending on those who use it.

For some, simplicity is a way of grassroots living, a homesteading life with clear attachment to food and materials. For others it is an aesthetic of clutter-free living, minimal extras, and clean color palettes, and still for others it is a detachment from home and things altogether, a prioritized way of living in simplicity with God or nature. While I can see bits of each on are own path, the short note is this:

Simplicity is not simple.

Ask a farmer, a minimalist, a monk, an environmentalist, or even another parent. Simplicity requires choice. It requires clear YESes and difficult NOs. For me, this is always the rub. Choosing quality–whether in food or objects or relationships or spiritual life or social commitments or home–always requires an intentional choice. Honestly, sometimes I grow weary or distracted with the process. Sometimes I need a little encouragement or new tactics for a different season of life. Sometimes I need to spend a winter weekend tucked with books that remind me  why it’s important.

That was last weekend for me. After breakfast, I made coffee and a snack and headed straight back to my room with Erin Boyle’s new book Simple Matters. Filled with her refreshing writing and images, I have barely put it down since. I was encouraged most by her final words: “we are more than the sum of our possessions; we are more than white-tiled walls.” A hearty yes.

Other resources on simplicity that have encouraged or inspired me recently: this one if you tend to overcommit or struggle saying no;  this one for spiritual simplicity; this one for simplifying family life and routines; this one for the honest work of eating locally and more sustainably; and this one of course for tidying. Stay warm, and happy weekend, friends!


Everyone likes having a little cash in their pocket, even if it’s not much. There’s a freedom of choice attached to pocket money, a subconscious autonomy in how we spend, save, or share it. My husband and I both have an allotted bits of personal money in our monthly family budget, a small amount of cash budgeted (even in the hardest financial times) for each of us to use how we will without excuse or explanation, without the internal conflict of self versus family needs. I tend to spend my own on books, something to wear, or tasty drinks with friends, while my husband more often patiently saves. I notice the same confidence of choice in my children when they receive birthday money or their bi-weekly allowance. They have the power to choose whether to purchase something small and instant or to save for something bigger in the future.

Since my husband and I have always both agreed that every family member, even the littlest, needs to contribute to the home’s well-being, we haven’t given allowances until more recently. In my idealism, I’ve always hoped the completed work itself would be a reward. But seriously. They. Are. Children. A clean home and completed school work will never feel the same to them as purchasing something they really want when it’s not a birthday or Christmas. As they grow, their own lists of personal wants and goals seem to grow also. So we opted to give each of our children a bi-weekly allowance related to their responsibilities around the home, hoping an allowance will serve both as a small, concrete reward for their work and provide simple lessons about financial responsibility.

pocket money

The children’s allowances are allotted by the amount of their responsibility. Liam, at age twelve, naturally has more work than Olive, at age six. At this point, they each currently receive what equates to $3-4/week, and we distribute it every other week, as we take out our own cash for all of our family expenses. Since one of our goals through this is to teach our children about fiscal responsibility, they immediately divide their bi-weekly cash into three categories: GIVE, SAVE, SPEND. We use re-purposed (and clean) gelato containers for their cash. Fancy, right? ;) There is one family GIVE jar, and each child has their own SAVE and SPEND jar. Each week, they are required to put something in both the GIVE and SAVE first.

GIVE | This is our one community jar. As our family becomes aware of needs around us, one might suggest, “I think we need to take $__ out of the giving jar to give to __.” We then talk about it as a family and decide an amount together. As the holidays approach, we’re already beginning conversations about how we might use our give jar during the season. This jar helps our children recognize need and see the ways our money, even the smallest bits, can encourage, inspire, and love others.

SAVE | The save jar is treated as a long-term savings. Again, we let each child determine how much they want to add, but we do require they add something to their savings from each allowance. When they reach $100 (only one has yet), we open a savings account for them to begin storing their money at the bank. We treat the jar like a real savings account: deposits only. This is an area we use to talk about long-term goals with them: purchasing a car, saving for college, or traveling the world when they are older.

SPEND |Whatever is left over goes into their pocket or spend jar. Here they also save but for purchases in the nearer future. For instance, last year, the boys chipped in together and bought a video game console. This is where they often buy birthday or Christmas gifts for one another, or tiny treaties that I might not. Olive loves to carry her purse everywhere and will often keep a dollar or two in her wallet to buy gum! Either way, it’s theirs.

Our children earn money in other ways, too. The last two summers the boys have mowed lawns in our neighborhood and the girls have helped bag leaves. If there’s a larger home project, such as cleaning the garage or washing/vacuuming the car, they may also earn an extra bit of money, too. It’s not an exact science, but a simple way we hope to teach them about the world. On the rare occasion (as it happened last month), if their attitudes are poor or they are consistently complaining or not finishing their work, we withhold allowance. Although it pains us, we want them to remember, this way of earning money is a privilege, not an entitlement.

What about you? Do you have an allowance set up for your children or a way they can earn pocket money?



children_chores_responsibilitychores, responsibilities, + cleaning with children

Over the years of early motherhood and homeschooling, I have learned to be flexible with our home cleaning routine. At times, we have hired help to wash the floors or scrub the bathrooms, a life-saving gift in early homeschool days and newborn-dom, but in more recent years as our children have grown older, I’ve looked for ways to make this a more regular part of our family rhythm.  These too are [quite practical] lessons I want my children to learn.

The word chore is most often given to the these sorts of home tasks, but honestly I’ve never really preferred it. Chore tends to convey a certain dismal attitude about housework and the importance of the home in general, I think. Even the word itself sounds dreadful and uninviting. Chore.

Although it may be a small semantic matter, we more often use the word responsibility in connection with our house work around here. Opposed to a chore, responsibility is a gift and privilege that comes with maturity.  In short, I like the noble attitude of responsibility a bit more. But does it mean they or I always feel like cleaning or tidying our home? Of course not. But as our children’s freedoms and experiences are growing in one hand, so is what my husband and I require of them around the home in the other. As they inevitably grow up, connecting joy and responsibility is a helpful reference point in all of our family conversations .

chores, responsibilities, + cleaning with children

Our family cleaning routine loosely divides into two major categories right now: daily and weekly tasks. My children’s daily responsibilities fall more into the tidying up category such as

  • making beds
  • washing/folding/putting away laundry (they do their own 1-2 times/week)
  • cleaning the kitchen (washing/drying/putting away dishes; wiping down counters and table; sweeping floors–each child has a rotating role)
  • putting away their toys or school work at the end of the day

Aside from the kitchen, we do little actual cleaning during the week. Then every Friday afternoon, prior to our family Sabbath meal, my children and I set aside a couple of hours for our weekly responsibilities of cleaning of our family home. We spend a lot of time in and around our home, so it’s nice to have a hard finish to our week by tidying up any remaining clutter from our work and play. Ending Friday with fresh linens and clean floors and bathrooms feels celebratory before the weekend, even for the kids. In our current season, Friday seems to work best for this, as it adds an extra layer of enjoyment to Saturday’s play and rest. I try to help them (and myself) remember that part when the tasks become mundane. As with everything else in life, I’d say we’re not perfect but learning. Our home is certainly not spotless all the time, and some Fridays we run out of hours before everything is finished. But isn’t that too a lesson in real life?

chores, responsibilities, + cleaning with childrenchores, responsibilities, + cleaning with children

Since these sort of conversations can often be interesting to parents. I thought I’d share a bit about our family cleaning responsibilities and routine here in the event it might be helpful in your own home.

Begin laundering the linens in the morning. | After we have eaten breakfast, the children strip their beds instead of making them. Since we have four beds worth of bedding  and bath mats to wash, I like to get this moving in the morning so it’s finished by our dinner hour. Bedding and bath rugs are the only laundry for this day. Clothing and towels are washed during the other weekdays. We switch the laundry throughout our school morning

Gather and refill all cleaning supplies. | Since we now make most of our own cleaning products, I usually take a moment to make and refill all of our spray bottles (using my favorite non-toxic cleaning recipes) just after lunch on Friday. I make sure the duster, broom, mops, cloths, and scrub brushes are all in an accessible spot for everyone.

Create detailed cleaning lists for each space. | Over the years, I’ve realized my children do not see things the way I do when it comes to what is clean. Ha! Imagine. When I set them on a task, whether washing dishes or cleaning the bathroom, our ideas of “finished” vary dramatically. This year, I wrote a list of very specific tasks for each space in our home for my children to check off during our weekly cleaning time. Some of the tasks seem almost silly to write out, for instance one from the bathroom list, “Place toothbrush holder and soap dispenser  back on the clean counter” or “place the shampoo/conditioner/soap in the shower after it is cleaned.” For adults, these imperatives seem laughingly intuitive, and yet you have no idea how many times I’ve walked into a “finished” bathroom to find these bottles on the floor or another surface. Lists help create a sense of sameness and agreement about what “finished” really means. Although the lists look longer, each task is smaller, giving a sense of accomplishment as each is finished. I’m sure there are beautiful cleaning lists or templates you can purchase on Etsy or elsewhere, but I made ours in a moment with only lined paper and a pencil. I plan to go back to create a cleaner, laminated copy one day, but this works for now. If paper isn’t your family’s style, consider an app like ChoreMonster to help organize your lists and rewards.

chores, responsibilities, + cleaning with childrenchores, responsibilities, + cleaning with children

Find age-appropriate tasks. | This is the hardest part, yes? I’ve begun by simply taking notice as we clean or work in the yard/garden together. What types of work can be more challenging or too  much for them? Is it a matter of attitude or a lack of skill? Then I adjust the work as necessary. For instance, Olive at age six still needs much encouragement every step of the way through folding and putting away her laundry. Leaving her alone for too long with a large basket can be overwhelming and frustrating for her, even though she is capable, so I first ask her to first sort her basket by category: tops, bottoms, undies/PJs, and hanging clothes. I then check back and ask her to fold the tops neatly and put them away, then the bottoms, and so on. This helps break up the tasks she’s completing on her own into manageable bits for her age, whereas the older three (ages nine-twelve) take care of their laundering start to finish. I do often prompt them, “Do you need to do laundry today?” The goal of our parenthood is never to crush the children with burden, but to give them enough weight to make them stronger as they grow. Since at every age they are all learning, we still come alongside them in the process. Also, begin small. If your child doesn’t have any current cleaning responsibilities, begin with simple tasks such as vacuuming or sweeping or wiping down surfaces. I’m convinced all children love using spray bottles, and I keep a child-sized broom and mini dustpan/brush set hanging in the girls’ room, since it’s easier to use than our larger broom. Vacuuming is of course more thorough for children to collect dirt before mopping.

Work in sync. | Again, this seems obvious, but when we are all working at one time, it’s good for there to be order in the work. In our home, we begin in the common spaces: kitchen, dining, and living room, move into the bathrooms and bedrooms, and finish by mopping it all.

Take breaks. | Break up your tasks in a way that you and your children can take periodic breaks. Pay attention to when your children naturally begin to sit down or daze off. Take a break and head outdoors for a bit. For younger children this might be a 20 minute window. Make races against the clock or against you. “Can you clean out under your bed faster than me? Let’s race and find out!” Our older children can work for up to 90 minutes before I generally notice their lagging. We tend to take a mid-afternoon pause for snack on the lawn or front porch. The girls might ride their bikes for a bit and the boys play catch. This renews them to finish the task.

Turn on music. | Rotate music you and your children enjoy listening to and play it loudly for everyone to enjoy. This helps keep the tone of our time together upbeat and light. We all have turns choosing something, which means we listen to everything from film soundtracks to Taylor Swift to Arcade Fire to Andrew Byrd or Patty Griffin. The idea is play music you all can enjoy at some point.

Cleaning and taking care of the home requires a lot of patience for ourselves and our children, but we all share the sense of accomplishment when it’s finished–high-fives and hugs all around. Since the topic of allowance is so closely linked, I’m planning to share a bit about that next week. Stay tuned. Happy Friday!

tidy_family_home-3the tidy family home

Perhaps most parents want to know the secret behind keeping tidy homes and teaching children to clean up after themselves. It feels nearly impossible at times, doesn’t it? Abandoned blocks on the rug, a random sock on the sofa, books on the table, dishes in the sink, clothes on the bathroom floor. If I turned a corner in my home, I might find any one of these right now. “These are the indicators of family life,” my mother often gently reminds me. “Mess happens because life is happening. Be patient. You’ll have time for a neat house again.” I’ve always appreciated this perspective as a mother, the grace to allow the mess. In different seasons of motherhood–such as newborn stages or when life feels more frenetic–I have lived by these words. But mess is not peaceful for me. I work better, think clearer, feel happier in clean, tidy spaces. Honestly, I imagine most people do, including children. While it is impossible for our home to be both comfortable for play/work and tidy all the time, here are a few ways we have tried to keep things neater in our home over the years. Like most things in life, it is mostly a balance in effort and letting go.

Purchase less. Have you ever counted how many outfits you could assemble from your child’s closet? Or counted how many toys or dress up are in the bin? I love children’s clothing. I love purchasing new things. But honestly, children do not require much. My children tend to find their favorite shirt or dress and wear it over and over. Take notice of the clothing they gravitate toward and purchase a couple of those. I keep something special for dressier occasions, and unless one of them is really longing for a special toy or book for their birthday, we tend to give experiences. Owning less means managing less. It also means they own things that really matter to them.

Clean out. My children and I clean out the toys–less necessary as they get older–and their closets twice a year. This often happens with seasonal change. I fold up clothes that are in good enough shape to pass on to someone else. We might cut up the clothing that is overly stained or hole-y to use for an art project or as cleaning rags.

Use baskets (within reason). I love a good basket. They’re functional and beautiful at once, but they also can be overused and feel clutter-y in a space. Each of the children’s rooms have a couple of baskets for tidying toys or their soft throw blankets they insist on sleeping with at night. I keep two more in the living and dining, with extra blankets and floor pillows since we only have one sofa in our small living area.  This makes clean up super quick at the end of the day. I also use woven baskets for laundry, as one doesn’t fit in our closet and it is prettier than a plastic alternative.

Set a regular clean-up time. Each day, around 3:30/4:00pm we stop what we’re doing and clean up. Since we homeschool and often use our dining table, it’s a great way to make sure our work is put in the right spot and our materials are cleaned-up before dinner. Books go on the bookshelf.  Pencils are returned to the jars. Chalk pieces are collected. Unfinished projects are tucked in a safe place. Laundry is folded and put away. Beds are cleared of art projects, books, or toys. Shoes are collected and returned to the closet. Everything is put back in its home. This is not a deep cleaning time or organizing time. This daily clean-up is simply a returning things to their place for use the next day. We try to do it within 30 minutes, so we’re not bogged down in details. If something doesn’t have a home, I make mental note to find a home or re-organize something over the weekend when there’s more time. This little time allows us to be a mess during the day, to freely focus on our play and work, but also to reset to do the same tomorrow.

Begin with small children. If your children are little, they will of course be able to do far less, but they can still help! Give them single tasks that they can accomplish on their own while you’re nearby. “I need you to put all of these blocks in the basket while I pick up the books.” If they’re easily distracted, as most littles are, work on the same clean-up together. You may also consider having more than one clean-up time in a day, for instance, one at the end of the morning playtime and one at the end of the afternoon. On days that seem overwhelming or particularly exhausting, remember a messy home is a sign of a well-loved home. Take a deep breath and return a bit later.

Point out the rewards to your children. When our home is neatly ordered, I point out to my children how it inspires them to create and play and build. “Isn’t it nice knowing exactly where your things are? Look at how nice it is to build Legos on a clear desk.” These words are not badgering in tone, but simply a way for me to show them the gift of their hard work, the reward for cleaning up when they don’t feel like it.

My home isn’t perfect. If you stopped by at any given moment, you might find toys and books and projects spread across the floor or table top. Although my bed is often made, you might find a load of towels or clothes atop it waiting to be folded and put away. For us, tidying is about reaching homeostasis, a place where we can live and enjoy the life in our home, but also take care of it.  If you follow my Instagram, you already know I highly recommend Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying UpShe offers inspiring and more detailed helps in this area and probably has a tidy home all the time. For us, it is certainly a process and journey.

How do you or your family handle mess? Do you have helpful tips and tricks for tidiness to share?


practicing sabbath

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.  — Ecclesiastes 3:1 

After our trip alone to Taos this summer, my husband and I realized we needed more boundaries between work and rest. Our current season of life doesn’t naturally afford stops (apart from night sleeps), so we needed to intentionally carve out time to restore spiritually, physically, and relationally. We have always been intrigued by the idea of Shabbat (Sabbath), a traditional Jewish practice of rest, family togetherness, and spiritual attention, but with our Protestant backgrounds, this concept was intimidating and foreign. Over the last couple of years, we have talked with several friends about the ways they practice rest within their homes, and this summer, we took more to read and learn about importance of Shabbat.

I’ve always thought about time in terms of utility, something used for something else entirely. In his book, The SabbathRabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel describes time not as a commodity, but as something holy in itself. He refers to Sabbath days as cathedrals of time which create a sense of longing within us, and poetically notes, “[Shabbat] is a realm of time where the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord. Life goes wrong when the control of space, the acquisition of things of space, becomes our sole concern.” Sabbath is the enjoyment of time itself and the weekly recognition that time is a gift from God.

Last month, we began our own formal practice of Shabbat in hope of living deeper in Jesus together and not allowing our lives to be ruled by work. In just a few weeks of practice, already the Sabbath, especially the Sabbath meal, has become a place of longing and expectation for all of us, even the children. My husband let go of his Saturday work, and I have limited the amount of my own. It is helping us create the boundaries we have longed for, but more importantly, it is teaching how to trust God with our time, to know when to stop working and to celebrate. We are building the habit of saying enough to our work and the “acquisition of the things of space.” We are obviously still learning, but this is a good beginning. Below I have shared a little bit about how we prepare for this time as a family. Naturally, it will look a little different for everyone, but I hope there will be something to glean for you, something to help you treasure the holiness in time.

practicing the Sabbath | Shabbat mealpracticing the Sabbath | Shabbat meal


On Thursday each week, the children and I write out our weekly meal plan and shop for groceries after school work is finished. On Friday mornings, we work through whatever schoolwork we can complete, and we stop at lunch time. Friday afternoon is for deep cleaning our home: putting things away, but also larger jobs like washing floors and scrubbing down the bathrooms. It’s shocking how dirty our home can become during the week. I often turn on loud, upbeat music for us to enjoy and we pause for an afternoon snack somewhere along the way. This cleaning period requires most of the afternoon, and then we transition to preparation for our Shabbat meal.

I begin by making our weekend cake, a rotating baked dessert we can enjoy all weekend. The children begin by setting the table with a large, white linen tablecloth; our china that we picked up at an antique store in Kansas City ages ago; cloth napkins; candles; and fresh flowers. They often make name cards, practicing their cursive on nice white paper, and position silverware and glasses near each place setting. We fill bottles with water to refrigerate for dinner and begin chopping vegetables or preparing meat. Since it’s still quite warm here, we’ve mainly prepared fish that we can grill for these dinners, although I look forward to oven roasts for colder days in upcoming months. We often roast some vegetables and make a complimentary salad. Although we’re hoping to make our own challah bread at some point, right now, we pick up a couple of loaves of baked bread from the grocery bakery for ease.

When dinner prep is complete, I fill two more glass carafes, one with red wine and another with Italian soda for the children. We quickly wipe down counters and wash the dirty prep dishes, although some weeks we run too close to dinner-time for this and clean-up happens afterward. We all get dressed for dinner, freshening up and putting on something nicer than our ordinary daily clothes. This dinner is special for us, and we want to dress accordingly. Our home is generally very casual and our family dining out is as well, so our Sabbath meal is also a great way to teach our children simple rules of dinner etiquette, such as placing a napkin in your lap, keeping your elbows off of the table, or requesting/waiting for someone to pass food to you.

My younger sister, Kristen, is married to my husband’s younger brother–I know, crazy! Brothers married to sisters. Since traditionally the Shabbat meal is intended to be a family event and they live nearby, each week, we all share this meal together.  Before grocery shopping, Kristen and I talk about which meal we want to make and divide up the dishes. Sharing the meal preparation is such a gift! They arrive to our home, dressed, and we all sit down in our named places. Everyone has a place at the table, toddlers included.The baby might be playing in her infant seat or on a palette of blankets on the floor near the table. When she’s restless, we all take turns holding her.



practicing the Sabbath | Shabbat mealpracticing the Sabbath | Shabbat meal

The first part of our meal time is quite formal. My husband wrote down several Messianic Jewish prayers on a notecard that we use, including a blessing of the meal, lighting the candles, sharing of communion, a formal hand washing as a posture of our hearts, and a formal blessing of sons, daughter, mothers, and fathers. Communion and the blessing of the family parts is by far my favorite portion of this time in our meal. Although brief, it celebrates and recognizes each family member and declares noble truths over each person.

After the blessing and prayer time, we pour drinks, serve plates, and eat. This part has been the greatest surprise for me. The adults and children slowly enjoy a nice meal and conversation together, even the youngest ones. It is not rigid or dogmatic but a natural enjoyment of all of our work and effort. As the children finish their meals, they head off to play, while the adults linger and talk together.

After the mealtime when Kristen and Tim leave with their family, our own family piles on the couch for a movie night together. Bedtime is pushed back due to our movie night, a pleasure for all the children, with the intention that everyone can sleep-in the next morning. From the moment the Shabbat meal begins, work ceases. We do not check emails or any other work related thing (unless an emergency) until after sundown on Saturday. This can be the most challenging part, especially since I work from home, So I usually tuck my planner and notepad away and stay clear of the computer during those hours. Although difficult at times, this has been the most restorative practice for me.


The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. — Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath





Sleeping-in on Saturday morning is highly respected by everyone in our home (a perk of older children). Our youngest child is six (and often one of the last to wake up), so everyone is old enough to entertain themselves quietly until everyone is awake. During the Sabbath day, our routine is not open and flexible. We usually begin with fresh fruit pancakes my husband and Burke make together, and after that we relax as it seems fit for the day.

As the weather cools more in the next few months, we hope to make day-trips to hike, but until then and while we’re indoors more, we tend to read or play games with sporadic walks or trips to the park during cooler parts of the day. I often let the kids have time playing video games (since we rigidly limit this during the week).  Whatever we do, the point is to do it together and enjoy time without the obstacles of home projects or work.

I hope to have more to share about this part the longer we celebrate this day.  I’m curious, do you practice the Sabbath or another time period of regular rest in your home?

Recommended readings on Sabbath: || 1 | 2 | 3




snickerdoodlessnickerdoodles-26snickerdoodles-6snickerdoodles-18snickerdoodles2snickerdoodles-20Early last week, the girls and I baked cookies together before bedtime. It was a necessary therapy following several days of harrowed conflict and petty arguments between them, not to mention my own exhaustion having managed it. Although making quality time for them in any way always helps navigate us to calmer relationships, the kitchen always has a way of healing these broken connections, of becoming a salve for the rifts caused by careless or hurried days. Honestly, my motherly reminders tire all of us some days–Use kind words. Be generous with your touch. Share with one another.–but a warm cookie that we’ve made together just before bedtime might be the precise tending our tired souls need. (And just in case you’re interested, we made the grain and dairy-free Snickerdoodle found in this tremendous recipe book.)

These moments in our home are often small and spontaneous. We largely rely on whatever I have in the fridge or shelf (or that of my neighbor’s). They tend to be messy because my children love making messes, and cooking with them is not a time to be clean or perfect or style the ideal plate.  Cooking with my children is about mixing and measuring, about tasting and inhaling, about sharing in a small and concrete process together, and above all, savoring. Literally. Figuratively.


This post is in partnership with Odette Williams, a small business owner and inspiring mother who designs and manufactures simple and playful children’s apron sets in Brooklyn, NY. Thank you for supporting businesses that help keep this space afloat. Also for a chance to win a free OW apron set of your choice, hop over to my Instagram page. 

the_common_table-1A large farm table sits at the center of our home between windows and books and doorways to other rooms. It is the place where we eat and work together as a family, where we naturally gather with one another and friends for food or craft or talk. Yet in a more abstract way, the table is also a telling of the soul, a litmus test of our family’s connection and availability. As our little everyday things–mail, school and art work, groceries–accumulate and sprawl the surface, the table always asks us honestly, have you made time for one another today? Have you cleared the lingering clutter of your life to sit with food and story?  . . .

READ MORE of what I wrote about our family table life for The Common Table today.