Stumbling Through the Week



Happy Roo before things turned sharply south.

Hey friends! I’m back after a few crazy days – that’s what I get for not having my posts written a few days in advance. Life happens, and suddenly I’m behind.

Life happening looked something like this:

Riley Roo and I got up on Tuesday morning, dropped the boys at school, and headed out on a Girls’ Road Trip! We were headed up to Big Bear for the night as I had some homeownery things that needed to be done stat. We had some vegetation (read “weeds”) at our property line that had come to the attention of the city, and I needed to clear them out to avoid a ticket. Plus, we have a family that is going to be using our house and since the washing machine up there died (and the repairman informed us that “your washer is so old they don’t even make part for it anymore. That will be $90, please.) I had to take all of the clean sheets and towels back up to the house before they arrived for their getaway. We are in the middle of an epic two month stretch of travel for Kevin, so this was literally the only 24 hours I could get away, get it done, and get back before he was off again.

So, Roo and I headed up the hill, clean linens in tow, for a quick and productive night. The night started strong with a cool evening, chicken fingers, weed pulling, freshly made beds, mountain rain, and a movie night. It went sharply downhill from there as Miss Roo woke up around midnight throwing up, and proceeded to throw up regularly all night. So all those clean towels and sheets I just hauled up were put to immediate use – then bagged up to go back down the hill and be washed all over again. The sun came up to find us both bedraggled, bleary-eyed, and desperately needing a bath. But with no clean clothes left, we simply stumbled to the car, found the largest coffee Starbucks had to offer, and then booked it back home as fast as we could (legally) go. We basically rolled in in time for Kevin and I to high five as he headed out the door to catch his next flight.

Good times.


So it’s Thursday as I write this – or as a friend of mine just called it, “Friday Jr.” – even though I’ve thought it was alternately Friday and Monday all day. Wednesday got me all kinds of discombobulated. But the weekend is upon us – hallelujah! A chance to take a break, take a breath and start over. Here’s to new beginnings next week!


In Another Life: Favorite Past Blog Posts


Yesterday’s Blogtember prompt was to list our favorite blog posts. It made me think about my very first blog. You see, way yonder back in 2005 when blogging was brand spankin’ new, I started a blog to record our life in New York City. It was really just an outlet for me to write and to help keep friends and family scattered around the country up to date on our lives. We didn’t have Facebook back then, kids. Nope. Just flip phones, modems, and blogs.

I went back and read a few of my posts from those carefree, kid-free years in New York, and then the shift to new parenthood just after Cameron was born. Lots of fun times, lots of struggles, lots of humor and honesty. I really enjoyed going back and taking a peek into what now feels like another life. And maybe even more so because my sweet sister-in-law just had her first baby last month. Much like us, they had some amazing pre-kid adventures, and are now in those first foggy weeks of new parenthood. So this is kind of a virtual hug from me to her across the country, and from my new-mom self from years ago to her new-mom self now. And if nothing else, it will give her something to read during those middle of the night feedings. Enjoy!

Aimless – March 2007

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry, for Tomorrow We Have Jury Duty – December 2007

The Post-Maternity Wardrobe, or How is it Possible Nothing I Own Fits Me? – March 2008

How Can the Glorious Effect of Vacation Be So Short? – November 2008

I Promise… – June 2009


The Stress of De-Stressing


“How do you de-stress/take care of yourself?”

Oh man, why does this question feel so loaded? Raise your hand if you wrestle with desperately needing a break/a de-stress strategy/self-care/whatever you want to call it, yet feel so epically guilty when you finally get that much-needed break that you can’t enjoy it. I feel like everything I do needs an end game, a purpose, a reason. Oh no, I cannot just read that book for fun – it needs to be enlightening. No, I cannot get my crafty on just for kicks – I need to be working toward some goal.

Here’s an example – my sweet husband walked into my office/studio/craft space this afternoon to ask me a question, and I was cutting out embellishments from my most recent Illustrated Faith devotional kit. And I immediately felt guilty. Like I had been caught. There were (cough, cough…are) three loads of laundry downstairs that need to be folded, the kitchen sink was still full of breakfast dishes, and I still hadn’t unpacked my suitcase from last weekend. What right did I have to be taking the time to do something for me when I clearly should have been tackling all that other stuff? Don’t misunderstand, this isn’t him. He doesn’t care – he’s thrilled when I get to do things I enjoy. But I feel like I can’t catch some time for myself if it means other things I need to do get pushed back. And let’s not kid ourselves, there are ALWAYS other things that I need to do.

I have a dear friend who posted something on Facebook awhile back about reading a book mid-day, but she consciously made the decision to sit inside and read, as opposed to reading outside on a gorgeous afternoon so that it might be “okay” and she could get away with it. I mean, really? Is this what we’ve come to? Here is something I really love, and a beautiful place to do it. So I can’t, because…why? I don’t deserve it? It’s unproductive? It doesn’t check anything off my herculean to-do list? I can’t justify it to my husband/friends/Facebook/self?

I know this feeling so well. It’s only when (ha! more like “if”) I have made a major dent in my to-dos that I feel like I’ve “earned” time for something I truly enjoy. And I don’t know about you, but there is no dent. That to-do list is never gets any shorter. So I never feel truly comfortable “indulging” in meaningful activities. And by “meaningful” I mean fun, life-giving things that make my happy. With no agenda.

So, back to the original question: “How do you de-stress/take care of yourself?” Here are the things I love to do: crafting, Bible journaling, hand lettering, reading, Project Life, cooking, writing, reading magazines, drinking wine, working out (though not while drinking wine. I do have some standards), eating good food, entertaining, connecting with friends. But unfortunately, my de-stress strategies come with their own underlying stress as I wrestle with accepting that I am “allowed” to actually do things I enjoy guilt-free.

What about you? Anyone else struggle with taking time for want-to-dos when the need-to-dos keep piling up?


A Day in the Life

I swapped out the “Day in the Life” prompt from a weekend to a weekday. I really wanted to capture what a normal day looks like for us. These are not great pics. The aren’t staged or color corrected. I didn’t wait for perfect lighting or snap hundreds of pics to get one great one. These are real life, captured in the moment – bad lighting and all. But they are an accurate glimpse of a 12-hour stretch of a normal day, from start to finish. Enjoy!


6:03am – The coffeepot kicks on at 5:45am, so I can roll out of bed a bit before 6:00am and immediately hit the caffeine. I would never have considered myself a morning person pre-kids – frankly, there are a lot of things I wouldn’t have thought I would be/do before kids, but that’s a different post for a different time. But getting up before 6:00am gets me a few precious minutes of quiet before the day gets going. These are the top 2 books on my nightstand as we speak.



7:46am – Carpool time! Yes, this picture is wretched, but whatever. Here is the crew headed off to slay the dragons in 3rd grade and 1st grade. #gopackgo



9:48am – Riley and I head to the gym after we get the boys to school. She plays in childcare and I take a class. Then I sneak in a few minutes to organize the week before I have to pick her up again. Clearly on Monday I was suffering some shoulder pain and WebMD was my most reliable resource. No drama here, folks.



10:36am – Grab that happy girl and a coffee refill and head on home.



2:00pm – Lunch is done, Riley Roo is napping, and I may or may not have had a shower. No time for that nonsense. Gotta catch up on my video lessons from Let’s Keep Lettering and The Perfect Piece with Amanda Arneill in the few precious minutes between Riley going to sleep and the boys hitting the door after school.



3:13pm – Boys home – inhaling a snack and checking in on Geronimo Stilton. Cereal is the boys snack du jour most days.



5:07pm – Taco Tuesday! Sautéing peppers before browning the ground turkey for our weekly taco night. You guys, if you don’t actively participate in Taco Tuesday, well, what is wrong with you! Seriously, it is about the easiest meal on the planet, and every single week one meal is DONE. My kids come home every week and say, “Yes!!! It’s Taco Tuesday!” Do it. You won’t regret it. #votefortacos



5:17pm – Little miss had a crappy nap today, so she woke up cranky and needy. Slightly difficult to whip up fabulous tacos while holding an almost-2-year-old, but oh well. We make it happen.


6:15pm – And then this. You guys, I have no words for this. The kids were in the trampoline screaming and playing like maniacs while I was upstairs dealing with laundry. All of the sudden I realized things had gotten quiet. You know, like scary quiet. Like someone-is-coloring-all-over-their-sister-with-a-Sharpie quiet. Or we-shaved-the-dog quiet. So I peeked out our upstairs window, and this is what I found. Seriously, I die. Now, please don’t misunderstand. Approximately 3 minutes later all three of them had whipped off their shirts and were beating each other with those throw pillows from our living room couch. But because of this one golden moment I forgave them for turning back into maniacs, aka their normal, rambunctious selves. Priceless.

Whew. Tuesday in the books. Anyone else live for nap time and Taco Tuesday?



If you’re following along with the Blogtember Challenge, you might have noticed I’m jumping around a bit. There are a few prompts I missed due to travel or lack of preparation that I really wanted to do, so I’m swapping them in for others that were less inspiring for me. Whatever man, it’s my blog.

So, today I’m sharing the Insta-love, and introducing you to a few of my favorite Instagrammers. And let me tell you, it was tough to narrow it down. I know Instagram is huge, but for some reason it has always felt like a small community to me. Maybe because I have my own little corner of the IG universe populated with Bible journalers, hand letterers, planner girls, photographers, and brilliant writers. I picked three very different accounts, but they are all so inspiring in their own space. So, in case you don’t know these uber-talented gals, check them out! You won’t be disappointed.



Amanda Arneill – @amandaarneill

Amanda is a crazy talented hand letterer whose work totally wows me. She is also witty, charming, and generous. When a chance came up to take her “Let’s Keep Lettering” and “The Perfect Piece” online courses, I jumped at it. She is very involved with the students – she gives feedback on each homework piece and does a live Facebook video everyday to address questions and issues. Seriously, if you’re looking to take your hand lettering practice to the next level, I can’t recommend her courses enough.


Christie Purifoy@christiepurifoy

Christie Purifoy is a photographer and writer who lives on a farm in Pennsylvania called Maplehurst. I mean, seriously. It sounds like a modern day Jane Austen novel. Her photography is stunning and evocative. She shares captured glimpses of life at Maplehurst, and it’s almost like catching a peek through a keyhole. Her photos are ethereal and otherworldly. You can read more about their life at Maplehurst in her book Roots and Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons.


Meredith Toering – @meredithtoering

Meredith is the International Director of Morning Star Family Home in Beijing, China. The Morning Star Foundation takes orphaned and abandoned children with severe heart disease and helps provide heart surgeries and medical care and then helps place them with their forever families. Her posts are both hilarious and heartbreaking. She gives comedic glimpses into both life in china (#becausechina) and with a house full of toddlers. She also shows you each of these precious babies’ personality, spirit, and journey. It is a beautiful and hard job she has and you can’t help but fall in love with these little warriors. Check out their website, where you can find out more about their mission and even sponsor a tiny fighter to help get their heart healed.

So there you go – my Instagram top 3. Who are your must-follow Instagrammers?


The Nightstand Stack


How ’bout a quick peek at the top 5 books piled on my nightstand right now:

Simply Tuesday, by Emily Freeman

Cold Tangerines, by Shauna Niequist

Interrupted, by Jen Hatmaker

Bread & Wine, by Shauna Niequist

31 Days of Prayer for the Dreamer and the Doer, by Jenn Sprinkle and Kelly Rucker

I always love a good book recommendation. What are you reading?




Pump Up the Jam

One of the days I missed earlier this week was “Create a Playlist“. We always have music playing in the house – the music clicks on in the kitchen at 7am every morning to help get us out the door. Kevin and I fall asleep at night to Pandora station called…wait for it… “Music to Fall Asleep To”. Creative title, huh? The end-of-the-day-kitchen-clean-up becomes a lot more relaxing with a glass of wine and my downtempo station. So it shouldn’t have surprised me when the boys suddenly got super tuned into music. They want Hits 1 on every time we get in the car. They roll their eyes when Taylor Swift comes on. They love “Stressed Out” one week, and by the next week they can’t stand it. It’s fun to see them explore and discover music styles and form real opinions about what they like and don’t like.

So, in light of that, I thought I’d post a playlist of their current favorite songs. Now, before you go get all Judgey McJudgerston on me, please keep in mind that they hear these songs on the radio or on So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation. In other words, they hear the cleaned-up radio versions. So just because a couple of these tunes are labeled “explicit”, that doesn’t mean that is the version we rock. Also, in case you want to host an epic dance party in your kitchen with this list a la the Clem Clan, just know you have been warned. Earmuffs, kids.




Stamp That Passport


If you were here for my #50by50 list a few days ago, you may have noticed a disproportionate number of things on the list were travel related. Kevin and I were big travelers back before the kids came along. Our friends teased us about being on “perma-vacay”. We literally took a trip about once a quarter. Now, don’t misunderstand – it’s not like we were rolling in disposable income. We were paying an obscene amount of money for our 500 square foot apartment in New York City; Kevin was the only one with regular paying job as I was chasing a Broadway dream and working some filler jobs; and life in general was pricey, because, New York. But apart from rent and food, the only thing we really spent money on was travel. Travel was our jam.

And then we had Cameron. Travel took a far back seat to raising a baby in the city. And surviving. Within the next two years we bought our first house, moved to the suburbs (Jersey!) and had Caleb. Now travel became a fairy tale. A rumor we had heard of, but weren’t sure actually existed. Like the Easter Bunny. Or Bigfoot. Or sleep.

Fast forward 6+ years, and we are in a funny place. Our boys are 6 and 8, which makes them at awesome ages for traveling. Our daughter, while still three weeks away from her second birthday, has already fully embraced 2. She’s sweet and adorable. And also willful, irrational, exhausting, emotional, and NEVER. STOPS. TALKING. And also sucks at sleeping on the road. It’s a phase. A stage. A season. And a major road block to doing anything more than visiting grandparents and hoping they’ll take her for a few hours so we can sleep.

Case in point, this summer we took a family trip to Hawaii for 12 days. And by “family trip”, I mean we took the boys to Hawaii and dumped Riley with my parents. And it was awesome. I have precisely ZERO shame about leaving that baby girl behind. She had a blast, ate ice cream for breakfast, and lived all day in her pajamas. We lounged on pool chairs, watched the boys go down the water slide, and drank fruity drinks with pineapple and little paper umbrellas. Win-win!


But as we started hashing out our “50 by 50” list, we realized that this next decade is it. The summer I turn 50 (gulp) is the summer before Cameron goes to college (double gulp). The next 10 years are our chance to not only make some epic travel memories, but to instill in our kiddos the love of travel, adventure and discovery. It’s a short amount of time to make some lifelong memories.

So while today’s prompt was about exploring where in the world I would want to go and why, for me it became less about the where, and more about the why. Sure, we want to take our kids to Europe and let them fall in love with other cultures. And we absolutely want to explore continents for the first time together. But maybe more than anything, we want to pull our kids out of their comfort zones and give them the opportunity to discover what life looks like for those who have less than we do. We want to open their eyes and hearts to a world filled with people who look different, speak differently, and have different life experiences, yet with whom we have much in common. We want to help our kids to fall passionately in love with travel in the same way we have, and then see where in the world it takes them. We don’t have much time, so we better get started.

What about you? I would love to know your “dream” where, but even more your why.


Peaceful, Easy Feeling

Hey friends! I missed a few days as we traveled back to Texas for Labor Day weekend. My grandmother’s 9oth birthday is this month, so we had a bit of a family reunion to celebrate. It was so wonderful to catch up with family – some of whom we haven’t seen in years. But we’re back home now, so back to the challenge!

Yesterday’s prompt was about joy – five things that bring you joy. My first thought was, “piece of cake”! Um, as in, “this will be easy”, not “a piece of cake brings me joy”. Though, now that I think about it, cake has come up several times around here.

I decided to skip the easy and most joyful pieces of my life – Jesus, the hubs, the kiddos – and go with some less obvious happy places. So here are just a few spots that bring me joy.


The Mountains

We live in San Diego, which, I’m not going to lie, is pretty awesome. But I need a regular hit of mountain air. The beach is lovely, but for me, nothing beats the mountains. Every chance we get we dose our kids with Dramamine and head up to Big Bear Lake, which is about 2 1/2 hours from home. The nights are cool, the days are lazy, and the kids run wild outside climbing trees, building forts and creating worlds. It is perfect.



New York City

On the complete other end of the spectrum, there are few places I love as much as I love New York City. We lived in the city for a glorious 6 years and we try to get back there every chance we get, which, being on the far left coast now, isn’t nearly often enough. Just to be there, to wander, to walk. There is no place like it in the world.



My Backyard

Okay, let’s swing back the other way again. I love our backyard. It’s not very big, but our house sits up on a ridge giving us lovely views of Black Mountain with the Pacific Ocean waaaaaaay in the distance. We have an outdoor sectional where I would happily spend all day if I didn’t have annoying things like kids, carpool, grocery shopping and laundry to take care of. #buzzkill



Early Mornings

One of my favorite little pockets of daily joy is early mornings. For Lent this year I gave up sleep. I set my alarm to go off at 5:45am every morning so I could spend time with God. A few quiet moments – which are hard to come by once the kids are up and rolling – to just listen, to pray, to breathe, to center my day before it gets started. It didn’t come easily, but it became precious. Riley is going through a stage of waking up at 5:30am every morning (shoot me), and probably the hardest part about it is I’ve lost those pre-dawn, peace-filled minutes to start my day.



My Craft Room

The final place that brings me joy (at least for this list) is my office/craft room. We have an extra bedroom that I gradually and sneakily took over as a crafting and office space. It’s not fancy – in fact, I made my art table out of two mismatched Ikea book cases and a sheet of plywood I had cut down and painted white – but I love it. My boys also have an art table in there, where they will come and sit when I’m in there and create. Sometimes, when my day is nuts, I’ll go peak in just to give myself something to look forward to when nap time comes around. It’s my own private corner, and I’m so thankful to have it.


So there you go. Five pretty diverse places that bring me joy. Where is your favorite joy-filled corner of the world?


State of the Union

How about a currently list for a little snapshot into what I’m doing right now? Ready? Go!

Reading… Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to the boys – they are considerably less enthusiastic about it than I hoped they’d be.
Watching… YouTube process videos. Seriously. I’m a sucker for a good process video – Bible journaling, lettering, Project Life, art journaling. Bring on all the process videos!
Trying… to stay a couple of days ahead of this blogging schedule – it’s an awesome discipline, but it takes work.
Cooking… as little as possible. I love to cook, but we are in a season of intense work travel for Kevin. Which means it’s just me and the kids for dinner. And I simply can’t get inspired to cook for us at the end of the day.
Eating… cereal for dinner. Because, see above.
Drinking… Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc – my go to summer white wine.
Calling… for all the appointments. We are in need of annual check-ups, orthodontist consults, doctor visits, etc.
Texting… with my book club. Those gals are seriously hilarious, and quite often the group text thread is the only thing that gets me through the day.
Pinning… school lunch ideas, garage mud rooms, snarky quotes, and books to entice my boys to read.
Tweeting… Um, no. I don’t tweet.
Going… to hear my bestie, Jen Hatmaker, speak at the Belong Tour this weekend! (Okay, she doesn’t actually know me, but I feel quite confident that as soon as we meet we will instantly become BFFs, she will invite us over for dinner every weekend, and our families will start vacationing together.)
Loving… arugula salad with prosciutto, burrata, olive oil and balsamic glaze. Seriously, get thee to a Trader Joe’s, buy those 5 things, put them on a plate together, sprinkle with sea salt and discover life. You’re welcome.
Hating… that September ushers in our hottest stretch of the year just as the rest of the country is pulling out boots and ordering #pumpkinspicelattes.
Discovering… in new ways every day that adulting is hard and should be avoided when possible.
Thinking… about signing up for Stitch Fix. This Mama’s wardrobe is tra-gic. And ain’t nobody got the time or patience to go clothes shopping with a toddler.
Feeling… a bit rundown, as baby girl is going through a “wake-up-every-morning-at-5:30am-regardless-of-what-time-she-went-to-bed” stage. Makes for a long, exhausting day with an almost-2-year-old.
Hoping (for)… rain. You guys, this drought out here is legit.
Listening (to)… Riley say, “Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommymommymommymommymommy,” approximately 76,428 times a day. Save me.
Celebrating… my grandmother’s 90th birthday in Texas with a huge family gathering!
Smelling… better than I did last week when Cameron sat down next to me after I had been to the gym and said, “Whoa! Mom, you smell like a toilet seat.”
Ordering… birthday party goodies for Riley’s 2nd birthday at the end of the month. Princesses? Ha! Fairies? Nuh-uh. Pink girliness of any kind? Nope. My girl lives for the Paw Patrol.
Thanking… God that the boys are back in school and both love their teachers!
Considering… a nap.
Starting… to re-caulk the shower in the master bath. Sexy, huh? Digging out nasty, old, stained caulk. Bleaching the heck out of the tile. Scrubbing everything with a pumice stone. Don’t be jealous.
Finishing… this list. Whew!

What about you guys? Have you got a YouTube channel you can’t miss? A salad that makes life worth living? A summer wine you love? A recommendation for good ear plugs? Inquiring minds want to know!