Posts

Some of my favorite dates with Mark have been fairly simple ones at home. In the years when our children were really young or our budget really tight, an intentional evening at home together after tucking the kids in bed was our salvation. Some evening, it meant simply pouring a glass of wine and sitting on the sofa without phones or computers. Some nights, we waited to have our own dinner together. Either way, they were a gift for our relationship in busy years.

When Mark and I do make space, our conversation can easily slide into talk about the kids or work or about some logistical solution our home needs. Sexy, right? Wrong. Those necessary conversations are practical, helpful, and foundational for building a home, but my advice (based on experience), leave it for another time. Date nights, whether enjoyed at home or out and about, should be a respite from the logistics, a place of connection where you remember your relationship apart from the logistical juggle of parenthood or work or whatever other life circumstance. I imagine it’s natural in a lot of homes to give ourselves so fully to our work (in and out of home), that we feel too spent to connect beyond sitting in PJs and watching a show together. Or is that just us? Wink.

Whether you are staying in or going out, I will be sharing ideas here more often to help keep date nights sacred. And to keep all of us from slipping into the talk that feel comfortable (work, home life, etc), I’ll be adding a few conversation starters, too. If you all love being in the kitchen, this is one of my very favorite date night recipe and idea books. Be warned, these are not recipes to throw together at the last minute, but they are delicious and worth their time for something special.


CHARCUTERIE AT HOME

You know I love a good Charcuterie board, but they’re such an easy option for a date night at home, even at the last minute or mid-week. Although I adapt it regularly, I like to generally stick to a 4-3-2-2-1 board––4 fruits/veggies, 3 cheeses, 2 meats, 2 sauces/dips, 1 bread/cracker. If you have a luxe food market nearby, consider asking their cheese specialist or even their sommelier for a wine pairing. If that’s too complicated or over your budget, consider a simple cheeseboard or dessert instead. I love the charcuterie board because you can prepare it earlier in the day, wrap it up, and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready for it.

MOOD

In terms of mood, after the kids are tucked in bed, consider using the coffee table instead of the dining table. Spread a throw over the floor or sofa––I love something thick and cozy this time of year, like this fur throw blanket. Light a few candles nearby. Turn on a favorite playlist. Swipe on a bit of red lipstick.  Set the table with the char board and pour a glass of wine.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

Some days can be harder to make the shift from work or home life than others, so consider ways to let go and focus on one another. If it was a hard day, set a 5-10 minute timer for you both to rant and release. Then re-focus the conversation to one another. Here’s some ideas:

  • What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you?
  • What’s a memory that always makes you laugh or smile?
  • What’s your favorite part of our marriage?
  • If you had 30 more minutes in a day, what would you do?
  • What’s the sexiest thing about me?

Who knows where you’ll go, but have fun!

simple_play-1simple_play-7simple_play-6The girls received beautiful play scarves from Shovava last week, and the timing could not have been better as it has rained almost every day of the last two weeks. We’ve had almost 30″ of rain since January. The boys keep joking that they almost played soccer this season–since they’ve had more games and practices canceled than they’ve actually played at this point. A soul-crushing reality for 10 and 11 year olds.

The kids have gone out to play in the rain several times lately, although I suppose they only want to be cold and wet for so long before they return to the porch or the indoors again. After our more formal studies are finished, our time indoors generally drifts toward art-work or books or various sorts of indoor play. The boys will sometimes play basketball in their room or build Legos across the floor. The girls tend more toward pretend play, sometimes mimicking everyday life like making food or taking care of babies, and other times living in stories as animals or fairies or queens.  The scarves have added a fresh flavor for the girls’ daily pretend play. Roza, the owner/deisigner of the Australian-based shop, draws and paints the wing designs by hand before screen-printing, and the light and soft material gives the wings such presence and flight during play. This week they have worn them as wings and head wraps and neck scarves in almost every variety of role. It’s so amazing what a piece of cloth can inspire, yes?

simple_play-3simple_play-4simple_play-11

My children play at home in quite creative, simple ways. I do allow them a bit of daily screen time, usually toward the dinner hour, and I’m not entirely rigid on this topic. Yet I learn so much about them during their play, whether the characters they become or the buildings they create. They also learn much about themselves, their dreams, their ingenuity. When they speak the word bored, I kindly remind them that boredom is their responsibility to resolve, but I usually offer them a few options to get their brains ticking. Our culture is full of passive entertainment with screens–and our family certainly enjoys that part, too–but as a parent, I want my children to begin learning now how to take responsibility for the way they live, even in small ways and at young ages. Life is something we choose, something we create daily. As adults, we choose daily how we spend our limited resources of time and money, and sometimes it requires great creativity and problem solving. These habits and lessons begin in our children in quite small, seemingly unimportant ways. Giving them space and time to create and play on their own seems small and trivial. However, it is teaching important skills necessary in adulthood, such as problem solving and decision-making, even lessons in compassion, empathy, and change of perspective.

simple_play-5simple_play-10

 

We love reading books around here. And I particularly love books that celebrate imagination and ingenuity. Here’s a few of our favorites. If you have a few of your own to recommend, I would love to know so we can find them on our next library trip. Wink.

PICTURE BOOKS

CHAPTER BOOKS

 

 

peace-1cleaning_out_closets-2

In the South, we really have two seasons: hot and cold. Since our family has always lived in an older home with small (and shared) closet space, typically, we only have enough room for what we can wear right now. This means every fall and spring season, we clean out each of our closets (the kids, with my help) and transition them for the new season. We also use this time, to actually clean our closets and dressers, to inventory what we have outgrown or outworn, and to list what we need for the upcoming season. Over the years, I have found this process to be almost therapeutic. It helps us to discover what we really love, our style, our needs. For the kids, it gives them opportunity to remember their favorite shirt or dress and to choose a friend/family member who  might enjoy it as much. When I had babies, it also served as a time of closure for me, a time to tuck away what has passed and prepare for where and who they are now. Cleaning out our closets is another tangible way we prepare for the changing seasons and simplify our home.

Since cleaning out closets can be dreadful for so many, I thought I might share a few ways we move through this bi-annual process in our own home.

PART ONE: CLEANING OUT YOUR CLOSET/DRESSER

  1. Set aside an entire afternoon per closet and only move through one bedroom at a time. If your children share a closet, allow for more time. You will want to work through each room until completion.
  2. Create four piles: KEEP, STORE FOR NEXT SEASON, REPAIR/ALTER, and GIVE AWAY
  3. Observe the way you currently use and organize your closet and dresser. Is it ordered well for how you use it? Do you feel overwhelmed looking at it or have trouble finding what you need or want? Are some drawers bulging or over-stuffed? Do you have heaps of shoes on the floor? Are your hanging clothes lying around? What about bags, ties, hats, scarves? Make organizational notes. What do you need to allot more space? Do you need something to contain smaller items like socks or undergarments?
  4. Empty each drawer and section of your closet, one at a time, placing each garment/shoe in one of the four piles. Be ruthless. Did you wear it this season? Does it fit you well or work well with your style (what you’re comfortable or enjoy wearing)? Do your children’s clothes have holes or unremovable stains on them?
  5. Vacuum and wipe down each drawer and closet shelf. Throw away or recycle broken hangers, empty shoeboxes, and clothing tags/paper you’re not using. Add a fresh lavender sachet to each drawer.
  6. Neatly fold and organize the garments or shoes you’re “KEEPING” and place them in the drawer or shelf.
  7. Place the “GIVE AWAY” pile in a bag and place them in your car. If you are giving select pieces to certain people, place them in separate bags now also, and move the bags near the front door or into your car. This part is important to do quickly with children, since they are likely to begin pulling pieces back out of bags.
  8. Move the garments needing “REPAIR/ALTERATIONS” to the room where you might do it. If you send them away, place this pile in a marked bag and place in the front seat of your car. This way you’ll remember to take them next time you’re running errands or heading to work. Make a note in your planner or agenda to set time aside to do it this week.
  9. Temporarily set aside the “STORE FOR NEXT SEASON” pile in a clear corner or shelf in your room. You will put them away in a bit.

PART TWO: UNPACKING YOUR PREVIOUSLY STORED SEASONAL GARMENTS

  1. Pull out your stored seasonal clothing. We keep ours in long flat containers under our bed.
  2. Inspect your clothing for holes and stains to make sure they stored well.
  3. Wash all stored seasonal clothing before putting them away. This will freshen any of the musty odors or dust that has collected while they were stored.
  4. Vacuum and wipe down storage containers.
  5. Place your “STORE FOR NEXT SEASON” pile neatly in the storage containers. Add a lavender sachet to help keep moths away and put the containers away. Since I store the clothes Blythe has outgrown for Olive, I label the clothing size and season on the outside of the container (i.e. WINTER 4T). This helps me easily know what container I need in future closet transitions. This was particularly helpful when all of my children were babies/toddlers and regularly changing sizes.
  6. Once your clothes are finished washing, fold or hang them neatly in your closet/drawers. 
  7. Create a list of what you need and want this season. Do you need to replace a well-worn basic? Is there a piece you want to tie together or mix up a few things you already own? Do your children have all they need for the upcoming season? Write it down or add it to your holiday gift list.

I hope this helps. Enjoy your freshly cleaned and organized closet!

 

arizona-35

“This is not our home,” Mark told the kids, pointing to the house we’d lived in the last seven years — the only house they have known or remember. It was Thanksgiving weekend last year, and we were sleeping in the backyard, snuggled in our sleeping bags and tent. Mark was trying to speak to them about the kingdom of God, this abstract thing we pursue yet cannot see. “I know that’s weird to say since we eat and sleep here, but our home — our real home — is the Kingdom of God. This is just a house.” He pauses, expecting this statement to segue into a larger dialogue, but the kids just shrug and begin making silly faces with their flashlights. They were camping in the backyard after all. “Good talk,” he sighs and tosses an exasperated glance toward me. I thought about these words this morning, these words left suspended in the cold November night so many months ago, and I realize now, they were meant for us.

We didn’t really have a plan when we put our house on the market in March — so unlike the both of us. Always working hard to live within our means (cash budget, debt-free), Mark and I had found it more difficult to pay our bills and expenses since the previous year when we lost more than half of our income overnight. Although our life wasn’t lavish, we lived with more than we needed, and those little details were the first things to go. We sold our nicer SUV and bought an old Suburban. Mark picked up extra writing jobs in addition to full-time teaching and part-time graduate school. I went back to work part-time, tutoring college students in writing in the late afternoon/evening when Mark could watch the kids. I continued homeschooling during the day. And unexpected money came in the mail like manna. Sometimes we laughed and sometimes we cried. We were tired, but making it. Barely making it. And then the house. Our boys were 1 and 2 when we moved here, and this was the girls only home. It was a second home for so many of our friends, a collection of meals and prayer and discussion and parties and play. Our hearts were hungry for adventures and other unknowns we couldn’t always quite articulate. But somehow it seemed to always come around to this: should we sell our home? We decided to list it through the spring and summer, and if it sold, we would move. Otherwise, we’d stay. This was our coin toss, our fleece. It sold after three days on the market.

Mark and I had always joked with Kristen and Tim about cohabitation. Kristen is my younger sister and she’s married to Tim, Mark’s younger brother. (Don’t worry. It’s legit. Nothing weird, just lucky for us.) We live only 1/3 of a mile apart and our lives already overlapped in so many ways, it almost seemed easier. When our house sold, we decided to try cohabitation. We would move into their home, sharing the mortgage, bills, groceries, and space, for a one year trial period. Our four kids would share rooms with their two (girl/boy rooms) and each couple would have their own rooms. And now here we are after a difficult month of moving, cleaning-out, and giving away — the not so effortless combining of our two households into one.

Why am I telling you this? Why am I sharing this now? Because sometimes media deceives us. We see in part without the perspective of the whole. We consume and swoon over the pictures and the poetry without always understanding its origin, its birthplace. And then we compare ourselves, our families, our decisions, and believe what we have is not enough. I’m just as guilty as anyone else. So as I share handfuls of pictures and places of our life the last month, I want you to have context of what it cost us to get there. No one forced these decisions, the house sale, the move. We chose it based on a coin-toss and a longing for more of that abstract Kingdom, hoping to show our children what can’t always be discussed in a backyard tent– this is not our home.

olive napping

We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams. 
― Arthur O’Shaughnessy, Ode

We snuggled up in my bed for an afternoon nap last week, a rare (and delightful) occurrence these days. With my eyes closed, I listened to the quieting, steady rhythm of your breath, your thumb-sucking interspersed — fast-fast-slow, fast-fast-slow.

When people wonder from where come the ideas and dreams that turn the world on its head — it is here, in casual afternoon naps, cradled in the music of breath and sleep.

——————–

{sleep} on Spilled Milk today

20130429-092904.jpg

swing | paper craneschalkboard wall | water colors

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, we sold our home. What I didn’t mention is we are moving in with my sister (Kristen), brother-in-law (Tim), and their two children, Shepherd and Brighten. Let’s refer to it as a cohabitation experiment. In the past, we’ve had young singles live with us, but this will be a first for combining entire families. Stick around — things may get really interesting here. (Wink.)

To prepare for the move, the four adults have been busy rearranging, tearing out, building, and preparing spaces. Currently, Kristen and I are recreating what will be the play + school room for our combined six children. We began this last week with a fresh coat of white paint and a chalkboard wall. Here’s a few things inspiring our design. Happy Monday!

20130425-083509.jpg

I’m thrilled (and honored and any other exciting adjective) to announce my invitation to collaborate on this beautiful project, Spilled Milk.  “Spilled Milk is a collaborative photography blog, featuring a collection of photographs from 19 talented mothers from around the world. We are prompted by a weekly theme reflecting some aspect of parenthood and the complexity and beauty that comes with raising our kids.”

This week we shared images of Mess, something personified in my home. It always surfaces at will, appearing in random corners of the floors or transposing onto our walls. Sometimes Mess spreads before us smothering our countertops and beds, and sometimes I find the sly Mess peaking from dresser drawers waiting to escape.

To see other images of Mess this week, hop over to Spilled Milk.

artwork: oana befort

20130313-213112.jpg

20130313-213133.jpg

20130313-213159.jpg

20130313-213218.jpg

20130313-213239.jpg

20130313-213308.jpg

20130313-213339.jpg

20130313-213359.jpg

20130313-220124.jpg

20130313-213435.jpg

20130313-213517.jpg

20130313-213544.jpg

20130313-213616.jpg

20130313-213921.jpg

20130313-221600.jpg

It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.
― Rainer Maria Rilke

Spring has arrived here, wrapping us with her warm, delicious breath, signaling new birth, disrupting our routines. It seems nearly impossible to drag ourselves out of bed on these still, dark mornings and put the kids to bed when the sun has only recently set, but we’ll make the adjustment to this new time soon enough. For now, as the birds sing and my children giggle, swinging in the sunlight, as the flowers unfold their blooms and sky opens up a vast blue canvas, I remember the sweetness of Spring. With a cup of coffee, of course.

sister hugsspring budsIMG_1072running the mowerblytheboys in treesrunning the mower 2liamIMG_1081 IMG_1082brothers

Be soft.

Do not let the world make you hard.

Do not let pain make you hate.

Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness.

-Kurt Vonnegut

It’s mid-February and already our trees are birthing new buds. Green eagerly sprouts up, as if in symphony to notes we cannot hear. “Spring is coming,” they beckon, and the birds echo in chorus. I watch my children running a motorless lawn mower across our backyard, laughing. As they chased one another in the warm sun, shedding winter’s unnecessary clothing, these words above [I posted on Instagram last week] return to me: be soft. Only then I realize how often I envy my kids’ sweetness — the purity and simplicity with which they view the world, as if life couldn’t possibly be more than sun and trees and laughter. While I know already they see glimpses of this world’s hardness and pain, they are yet untouched by it. I love this about them, about motherhood — how my heart can be directed toward purity and lightness of heart just by observing them. And although at times they, like anyone, can be unkind with their words and selfish in deed, they love sincerely. If I haven’t said it before, thank you Lord for children.

Children, these are the days I want to savor for you, to return you to when life’s pain comes against you. Whenever it is you happen upon these words, please remember: be soft; don’t give up your sweetness to bitterness and hate. Return yourself to Hope, to laughter.