A Weekend in Maine

We celebrated the Labor Day weekend up in Maine with Darren’s family. It’s fun watching all the cousins playing together and letting them run a little wild outside at Grammie and Papa’s house in the woods. We live off a busy road here so even though I let my kids play outside a lot, it’s just a different feel up in Maine among the woods and pastures, mountains and lakes. Everything feels slower and quieter (helped I’m sure, by the fact that my phone doesn’t even really work up there).
IMG_20180903_125357_582.jpgNow we are home and I was tempted not to post anything about our trip at all. We have spent most of the day in post-travel meltdowns and tears. I have a mound of dirty laundry to unpack and wash. Everyone is just a bit tired and out of sorts and it didn’t feel genuine at first to share a bunch of photos of smiling faces when that is not at all how things look today.IMG_20180903_131137_453.jpg

IMG_20180903_130132_273.jpgBut that is life—this mixture of happy memories photographed and cherished combined with all the headache and frustration that comes with leaving and trying to come back into your routine (especially with little kids). IMG_20180903_125919_996.jpgSo here are some of my favorite photos from our weekend, mostly of my kids’ faces while they watched the Labor Day parade 🙂IMG_20180903_130237_763.jpg

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Life with Littles and Other Misadventures

Already we are to the last week of August and in some ways, it feels like the last week of summer too. Though we are still in the middle of 90+ degree days, kids are heading back to school and here and there I notice leaves beginning to change. On Monday we will celebrate Labor Day here in the States and with that, summer’s last hurrah will officially be over.

We decided last-minute, middle of the week to take one final trip to the ocean. I ran around the house tossing everything in bags and as soon as Darren walked in the door from work on Monday, we threw the kids in the car and took off for a hotel. Darren and I are both fairly spontaneous, adventurous people and if there is a trip to be had, we will gladly be taking it. But life with kids is certainly a lesson in patience and flexibility when you are used to going where the wind blows.

This was our first time staying in a hotel with both kids. Roman had a wonderful time and was especially excited about going downstairs for a hotel breakfast in the morning 🙂 Aletheia saw no real point in sleeping at all.IMG_20180828_174710_111.jpgThe more I do life with kids the more I believe two things: 1) Kids make everything more magical and 2) Kids make everything harder. As grownups, we don’t typically leap from one hotel bed to the other in excitement. Nor do we race downstairs first thing in the morning for a continental breakfast. We’re mostly just tired and grumpy. So watching the world unfold through a child’s eyes is a lot of fun and a good reminder to chill out and enjoy life a little more.

However, children are also the most difficult, infuriating creatures alive.IMG_20180828_174506_267.jpgWe wanted to walk around Portsmouth for a couple of hours before heading to the beach. We hadn’t been in years and never with our kids. Portsmouth never seems to change. All our favorite shops are just as they’ve always been. I walked through my favorite letterpress store that still sells all my favorite Rifle Paper products, got my favorite dirty chai latte at the same little German café, and had sandwiches at our favorite sandwich shop.IMG_20180828_174343_657.jpgWe walked the same loop down through Main street, by the water, and back up. Everything was just as I remembered it from previous visits. Only this time we pushed a stroller over the uneven cobblestone streets and listened to a toddler file many a complaint in the background. He did not want to go in the stores. He did not want to walk. He did not want to eat the fancy grilled cheese we bought him for lunch though it was made with his three favorite food groups (bread, butter, cheese).IMG_20180828_174242_172.jpgHe wanted to go to the ocean and that was all. So after we finished lunch, got the stroller back in the car and both kids back in their car seats, we left for the water. Once there, we figured out how to the load the beach tent, umbrella, chairs, and beach mat along with snacks, sippy cups, changes of clothes and diapers into our trusty red wagon. Everyone changed into swimwear and off we trekked to the sand.

It was approximately 2,000 degrees out and as soon as Roman touched the sand he began to come unhinged. He didn’t want sand on his hands and he didn’t want sand on his feet. His legs most certainly did not work and he desperately wanted to be carried. I was already carrying his sister and his dad was carrying everything else we own in the little red wagon.

So Mr. Roman plopped himself down in that horribly offensive sand and threw a royal temper tantrum. It wasn’t a horrible day, really, it was just another day with kids. All winter my friends talk about how they can’t wait to go to the beach, sit by the water, and read a book. And I chuckle inside a bit because that is not at all how I picture a day at the beach…and that is why I only go once or twice a year.IMG_20180828_174824_398.jpgI know this season of littles will change. Someday when we want to take a trip to the ocean all we will have to do is throw a couple boogie boards at our kids and they will be happy all day—and I will finally get to read that book. But for now, traveling with kids feels a bit more like an obstacle course and a lot less like a vacation.

But we’re not quitters, Darren and I—we spent last night on Google and Amazon trying to figure out how to get ourselves, our children, two car seats, a stroller, and two suitcases through the airport next month. We will travel, watch the world unfold before our children’s eyes, and deal with plenty more tears along the way—both theirs and ours.

Here’s to life with littles and all the misadventures along the way ❤IMG_20180828_170121_273.jpg

Let’s Make Blogging Fun Again

I started blogging seven years ago in 2011. A lot about blogging has changed since then. Honestly, some of those changes have started to suck the life out of my interest in this space and the online spaces of others. When I first starting sharing online, I did so after being inspired by what I saw from a handful of creative people. I loved the stories I came across and all the interesting photos accompanying them. I loved having a peek into someone else’s life and marveling at both how similar and different we all are.IMG_20180826_142648_734.jpgBlogging has made me a better writer and photographer and given me courage and inspiration to share when I previously would not have done so.

But then, as with all things it seems, someone figured out you can make money with these spaces — be it through ads, an online shop, affiliate links or however you choose. You can brand, build a platform, attract a huge audience and following, and in the process, create an image completely your own. You can (and are encouraged to) curate and color coordinate your image feed, your home, yourself, and your whole messy life into a visually attractive color scheme. We document and share both everything and nothing at all.IMG_20180826_142758_185.jpgWe try to be “real” and “raw” while also being positive and uplifting. We want people to know our lives are not perfect or easy, that they’re messy and complicated, but also magical and sprinkled with beauty throughout. So we do our best to share the hard stuff but also to balance it out with all the good. We take in mountains of beauty through the images and stories of others and struggle not to compare our own lives and stories with all the many bits and pieces we see each day.IMG_20180822_165935_270.jpgWe admire the house remodels and exotic trips, the stylish clothes and curated lifestyles, the gourmet food and fruffy coffees, the love stories and darling families, the book launches and success stories — it’s all good — we know that. But there’s just so much of it and sometimes we wonder where we even fit in anymore. What do I have to offer in a world already so full of both beauty and heartache? Hasn’t everything already been shared and said?IMG_20180823_222036_004.jpgIt’s like those rare times when you stumble across something truly interesting and unique and it seems at first that no one else even knows about it — a sweet little coffee shop, a book or song, a little store that sells the coolest stuff. You like it because it’s different and you like it because it’s yours. But then other people start to realize how good the coffee is there or that book you loved is adapted into a movie for the masses and some of the magic is lost.

The little shop you loved gets bought by a big corporation and though they can now mass produce the same results at a fraction of the cost, the unique quality of it is lost. It’s not yours anymore; it’s everyone’s.IMG_20180823_222352_445.jpgThat’s how blogging, and social media in general feel to me now. Where once I read every single post featured on “Freshly Pressed” and truly enjoyed so many of them, I hardly open any of the ones featured now. Why? Because they feel like “big business” now. Political. Corporate. How To — grow, build, expand. I miss reading normal people’s normal little stories. I miss the days when Facebook really was for staying in touch with friends and family rather than selling something or growing a following. I miss photography that was good but didn’t feel quite so professional and curated. I miss the good old days of blogging.IMG_20180823_221837_900.jpgAm I alone in this? I’m genuinely curious how others feel on the matter. Do you like the changes or wish we could go back to the way things were ten years ago?

Obviously I can’t change what anyone else does or how social media operates at large, but I have decided for myself at least to do just that — to go back to the “good old days.”

I would like this space to be my own and not driven by the stats. I want to get back to sharing the stories from my heart and the normal, every day photos that accompany them.IMG_20180823_221713_403.jpgThis week I made a conscious effort to pull my camera out more often and document what was going on around me. Not just for the sake of having something to share online but for the sake of creating and remembering. I want to notice and remember what our life was like, every day, in between — and not just the big trips or special occasions. So the photos in this post are just that — our week. The evening at the park, our Sunday best, snuggling after long days and temper tantrums — all the normal moments of all our normal days. Next week I hope to do the same and the week after that too.

I hope in a year when I look back over this space to have a week-by-week documentation of our lives and all the ways we loved, grew, and changed. Memory and reflection of how our lives and family and story were written and built one normal day on top of another.IMG_20180822_165713_064.jpgMaybe you will join me in taking our blogs back to the inspiration from which they once sprung. Here’s to recapturing some magic and rolling our eyes at the corporation. Fist bump 😉

You Were Always the One

Ten years ago today, I married the man I love. That number catches in my throat. Ten years — it sounds like a long time.

I woke this morning to our baby crying. At first I was annoyed, but then I realized those cries are just one piece of what we’ve built together over these years. We will spend the day changing diapers, taking our son to swim lessons, and doing some much needed laundry. Tonight, we’ll drop the kids off with my brother and get dinner at a favorite Italian restaurant. And if you read my recent London posts, you know we really celebrated a few weeks ago with a big trip and some treasured time away together.

Life turns out to be an odd, and sometimes unpredictable, mixture of all these varied moments. Romantic moments and exciting ones but also many, many mundane and frustrating moments too.

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If I have learned anything about marriage over the last ten years, it’s that life is all these moments and not the highlights or big trips in between. Love and marriage are built day by day, choice by choice — by a man who got up with our crying baby to let me rest on the weekend. By small moment of flirtation and teasing and notice and delight right in the middle of washing dishes and mowing grass. Big trips and nice dinners refresh and punctuate the ordinary with an extra dose of magic, but life and marriage cannot be built on those moments alone.

We stay and grow together through compromise, mutual respect for varied thoughts and opinions, grace for our faults, forgiveness and letting go when we get it wrong. We fall down but get back up. We stumble but try again. We argue and wound but find our way back to work it out and fight not against each other but for — each other, our family, our home.

These are the middle years — of our lives, marriage, work, and family. We are in the middle of everything — building homes and careers and raising young children. The responsibilities we wake up to each day are both mundane and intense. And so much of making these middle years work and still finding ourselves together and in love on the other side requires, if nothing else, just showing up.

Just choosing to get out of bed early to go to that same job and instruct once more our children in all the same lessons as the day before. We show up around the table at the end of the day and choose to share  a meal together as a family. We fall into the same bed at night and choose to talk later than we probably should so we might not lose each other in the shuffle of all the other showing up we must do to survive.

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We choose, one day at a time, one ordinary moment at a time, to do the next right thing. And on the especially exhausting or frustrating days, when all the fun and romance seem to be memories from another time and place, that showing up and trying again is the very glue that binds us together.

When we were walking around London a few weeks ago, miles and ocean and time zones away from our ordinary and routine, I dreaded coming back to it all. Not because I don’t love our life together (I do) but because it’s easy to get lost in all of it — the dishes and diapers and bills and groceries. There are so many needs to be met and things to be done and I just wanted more time — more time to walk slowly and talk deeply, more time to gaze and see and hear and enjoy the heart and mind of this man I so love but sometimes can’t seem to grasp in the speed and intensity of our normal lives.

We are home now of course and I wasn’t wrong — it has been really hard. We talk more about the logistics of the day than our big dreams for the future. We are constantly interrupted by crying and whining and a hundred billion questions from a certain four year old.

But here’s what I know we’re doing right — we still want to be together, more than anyone, more than anything — I want him. I struggle with the responsibilities that sometimes pull us apart because I want more time with him. I am frustrated we don’t have more time to talk because there’s no one I enjoy talking to more. Even after ten years, ten years of change and growth and plenty of challenges, he’s still the one — he was always the one.

I’m not looking for a way out after all these years but a way in — a way to find more time together, a way to see and hear and enjoy each other more no matter how crazy life gets. And that, I think, says a lot. We may not know how to make life and marriage work sometimes, but we at least want to make it work together — and that if nothing else, means we’re doing something right.

Happy ten years to my love. I hope we have a hundred more ❤

London Day Six: Shakespeare Play at The Globe

On our last night in London, we went to see As You Like It at Shakespeare’s Globe.

It amazes me how words written hundreds of years ago can still fill a building and get an audience laughing out loud, cheering, and dancing. And it reminded me too how powerful and lasting words can be.

We’ve always wanted to see Shakespeare in London and it was the perfect way to end our trip.

Now we’re home — recovering from jetlag, babies in our arms. Time alone with Darren is magic and I’m so thankful we got away and got to explore such a beautiful city together. And though I’m a little sad the adventure is over, I can’t tell you how good it is to be home with my littles again. Now we just need to seek out the love and adventures to be had right here.

Thanks for reading along; I had fun sharing our trip with you. If you missed any of the posts in this London series you can read them all by clicking the links below 😊

London Day One: Kensington Gardens // Hyde Park // Buckingham Palace // The Strand

London Day Two: The British Museum // Westminster

London Day Three: Piccadilly // Trafalgar Square // The Phantom of the Opera

London Days Four and Five: Windsor Castle // Stonehenge // Oxford

London Days Four and Five: Windsor Castle // Stonehenge // Oxford

WINDSOR CASTLE //

I wanted to see at least one castle here; we decided on Windsor because it’s still in use by the royal family today. The royal standard was flying meaning the Queen was present that day but sadly, she did not come out to have tea with me 😉

Living our best tourist life 😆

STONEHENGE //

Before Stonehenge, we drove through the English countryside taking in the landscape. The tall grass, thistle, and clover moving and bowing in the wind reminded me so much of my childhood home in Missouri. My favorite flowers, poppies, dotted the landscape and the open rolling hills are probably the prettiest thing we’ve seen this trip. I was enchanted before we ever got to the monument.

But still, Stonehenge itself did not disappoint. It’s difficult to comprehend how old these stones really are and the lives that once touched and lived around them. Magic.

OXFORD //

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien are forever two of my favorite writers. The brilliance, creativity, and hope with which they wrote always brings me back to their familiar words. And for that reason I have always hoped to see the pub where they once met as the Inklings to share their yet unfinished works.

We had dinner at The Eagle and Child yesterday and not only did we get to try some English food but I also got to be in the place where their wonderful minds once met and worked. Such a privilege.

Also in Oxford, we found the pottery shop, Illyria, owned and operated by my former college teacher, Katie. I was miserable at pottery but Katie was always a gracious teacher and such a talented artist.

How fun it was to see where her artistry has taken her over the years, to buy some of her handiwork, visit with her and she was even kind enough to show us around her studio where the pottery is made.

Shop kitty 😊

Around Oxford.

We road the train for hours yesterday getting to and from Stonehenge and Oxford but the views made the ride half the fun. Now if I can find myself an English cottage in the countryside I’ll be all set 😊

If you’d like to read the previous posts in this London series, check out the links below:

London Day One: Kensington Gardens // Hyde Park // Buckingham Palace // The Strand

London Day Two: The British Museum // Westminster

London Day Three: Piccadilly // Trafalgar Square // The Phantom of the Opera

London Day Three: Piccadilly // Trafalgar Square // The Phantom of the Opera

After gallavanting all over the city for the first two days, we crashed in our room and swore to never walk again. Darren came up with the last minute idea to see The Phantom of the Opera the next day partly because it’s something we’ve always wanted to do but mostly because it involved sitting down 😆

I needed to find something to wear because I’m a ripped jeans and t-shirt kind of girl and that’s all I packed so we ran into H&M where I found the perfect dress. I’d been admiring all the beautiful, classy British clothes ever since we stepped off the plane so dressing up was half the fun.

When Darren and I met in college, he was working stage crew and the first photo I had of him (though I can’t find it now 😭) he was dressed in a Shakespearean outfit with one of those ruffly lace up shirts and breeches…no wonder I fell in love with him 😆

The school has a great fine arts program and puts on operas and Shakespeare plays every year. Our first date and the first photo I have of us together is at one of these productions. So many of our memories from dating and falling in love wrap around our days in school and all the plays and programs we sat through together.

So last night felt extra special…like being on one of those early dates in college all over again. Though I must admit, we always loved the Shakespeare plays but ALWAYS fought through the operas. I am happy to report we made it through last night’s opera without an argument and that is a first 😁

If you’re ever in London and only have time or money for one thing, The Phantom of the Opera should be that thing. YOU GUYS. It was incredible. Pretty sure I sat on the edge of my seat with my mouth hanging open for the entire 2 1/2 hour production 😄

We’re only halfway through our trip but I’m having a hard time imagining how anything will top that night.

Before the opera, we had a few extra minutes and decided to walk around Trafalgar Square. Piccadilly and the square are lively with tons of people walking around exploring and enjoying the city vibes. The best part for me — sneaking a kiss and admiring all the beauty around me.

Sometimes, on vacation, you eat dessert for lunch 😊

If you’d like to see the previous posts in this London series click the links below:

London Day One: Kensington Gardens // Hyde Park // Buckingham Palace // The Strand

London Day Two: The British Museum // Westminster

London Day Two: The British Museum // Westminster

I always wanted to be an archaeologist growing up — I even looked into several programs when deciding what to do for college.

And I still love old stuff today — the feel of an old book in my hands, quality leather goods over cheaper alternatives, the vintage typewriter I keep beside the laptop reminding me to keep my writing rooted in something deeper than today’s trends and fashions.

So when we were talking about where to go for our anniversary, London topped my list for one big reason — The British Museum.

For the last four years I’ve worked my way through the Old Testament using an Archaeology Study Bible that gives insight into the culture and history surrounding the Biblical narrative.

One day after getting lost in the story of Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian empire, I noticed something — All the artifacts mentioned are housed in The British Museum — and I knew I had to see them with my own eyes.

Also we took approximately 37,000 selfies and upon review I learned two things: I don’t smile enough and Darren has no idea where to look at my camera; we’ll work on both 😉

4,000 year old door from Egypt making all my Indiana Jones dreams come true ❤

The Rosetta Stone

What I was most excited to see — the Babylonian exhibit and the Ishtar gate…I kinda geeked out a little bit 😁

WESTMINSTER //

After the museum, we decided to walk around Westminster for a bit. Unfortunately Big Ben and Parliament were under construction and I wasn’t able to get many pics but it was still a fun area to walk around.

London is enchanting and there’s certainly lots more to come ❤

If you’d like to read the previous post in this series check out the link below:

London Day One: Kensington Gardens // Hyde Park // Buckingham Palace // The Strand

London Day One: Kensington Gardens // Hyde Park // Buckingham Palace // The Strand

We landed in London yesterday to celebrate our 10th anniversary a few weeks early. Here are a few pictures and memories from our first day (follow along throughout the next week if you’d like to see more 😊).

Life rushes by if you let it. This season of parenting little ones is intense and I often find myself longing for a pause button or a slower rhythm to our days — time enough to enjoy food and coffee hot, to consume a few pages of a book, to carry on a conversation about more than the logistics of the day.

Sometimes you have to get away for a minute, to breathe new air and catch your breath. That’s what this week in London is for us. We celebrate our marriage and the years we’ve shared with sleeping in and waking up slowly, walking hand in hand through places we’ve never been (isn’t that what all of marriage is?), savoring uninterrupted conversations and the time to really see and enjoy each other again outside the normal hustle of our everyday.

You can’t be on vacation forever. Soon, we’ll head home and back into the busy routine of life with work and littles. And I’ll be glad to be back, glad to have my babies in my arms, and glad all the more because we found the time to step away, recalibrate, and come back refreshed and ready for all the normal days that build our normal, beautiful lives.

KENSINGTON GARDENS //

I took about a million billion pictures of petals and flowers today. I never imagined London, a busy, bustling city, to be so brimming with life and color.

I’ll need an English rose garden of my own now, I think.

HYDE PARK //

We walked miles today, not just through Hyde Park but several others too. I simply couldn’t believe how many sprawling green spaces there are here. I’ve always been a country girl but how fun city life would be in a place like this with so much green throughout.

BUCKINGHAM PALACE //

THE STRAND //

We grabbed dinner on “The Strand”– enjoying each bite slowly and soaking up the conversation in between.

Goodnight for now. More adventures to be had tomorrow ❤

The Road goes ever on and on Down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow, if I can, Pursuing it with eager feet, Until it joins some larger way Where many paths and errands meet. And whither then? I cannot say.

J.R.R. Tolkien

When Life is Heavy

This week was hard. Yes, hard in the sense that I’m an American, middle class, white girl who gets to stay home with her babies kinda hard; certainly there are plenty of people who have it harder. I know that, but still. No matter who or where you are in life, we all have days and weeks that are “sanctifying”—this was one of those weeks for me.

Before I go any further, let me say that I’m not sharing this to complain, get pity, or create drama. There’s redemption in the end and that’s the part I’d like to get to but truuust me when I tell you there were a lot of high fevers, crying babies, sleepless nights, poo (I am now referring to Monday as “poo-pocalypse”), long road trips that fell at the worst time, concerns I didn’t anticipate raised by the doctor, and the most humbling trip I’ve ever made to Target that ended with a shopping cart full of groceries abandoned while I did a walk of shame from one end of the store to the other with a baby on my hip and toddler in tow.

It was not a stellar week.

And none of this accounts for the hard conversations about life with friends and family that go far beyond just one hard week.IMG_20180413_194821_948.jpg

If I could sum life up in one word right now it would be heavy. My heart is heavy. My mind is heavy. My body is heavy beneath the weight of it. And I’m weary. I’d like to say that’s all and drop the mic before I give up and walk away. But again, this story doesn’t end that way…and for that I’m so thankful.

I’m learning something right now, especially about how I pray and ask God’s help and blessing over my life. I used to pray, “please let this day go okay” or “please help me get through.” I was seeking immediate relief from immediate circumstances that felt hard and overwhelming. The only “right” answer then would be a day that went smoothly, enough sleep to manage, or not feeling overwhelmed.

But the thing I’m learning is this: Truly growing and putting down deeper roots in my faith means not just praying for a good day but rather praying for the right heart attitude, grace sufficient, and God’s work to progress no matter the circumstances.

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Yes, I would like the days to go smoothly too. But the key is how I respond when everything goes awry. How do I react when, even after I’ve prayed and asked for help, the days are still exhausting and hard? What do I do when I’m frustrated by circumstances out of my control or humbling moments of motherhood that make me question if I’m doing anything right at all?

Whether or not the days go smoothly says almost nothing in comparison to how I react in my heart, mind, and attitude regardless of the circumstances. Growing in my faith means trusting in the heart of God even when life feels like a brick wall on every side. Is God a magic genie I conjure up when I want to wish something away or is he someone I love and trust even when I’m asked to walk through deep waters in order to know him better?IMG_20180510_114445_195.jpg

It’s easy to walk through life thinking everything will be okay on the other side of_____you feel in the blank. Life will be easier once my kids are in school. Life will be easier once my baby sleeps through the night. Life would be so much better if we could just move or if I could just land that certain job.

I find myself doing this in a million smaller ways day-to-day, too. I seek comfort and reprieve in an iced coffee, online shopping or getting five uninterrupted minutes to myself. I tell myself, “I deserve this” or “I just need to get through this day and start over tomorrow.”

But the truth is, no change in circumstances, no temporary pleasure or comfort is actually going to fix anything if I’m not already surrendered in my heart and present situation. Troubles will resolve, one season will change into another, what feels impossible today will nearly be forgotten tomorrow. But where one weed is pulled out in this life to make room for flowers, so more weeds will continue to pop up.IMG_20180503_211214_754.jpg

The truth of my heart and nature is this: The more comfortable I am, the easier it is to drift away from God. Knowing I need God every waking moment also draws me closer to his heart. So while I’m thankful for the simple pleasures that dot this life—the iced coffees and spring flowers—I’m learning to be thankful too for all the hard things that draw me nearer to my true hope and help.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, which makes me laugh a little considering how this week has gone. In truth, all I want from the day is Chinese takeout and maybe a nap. But regardless of how the day actually goes, I hope I will remember where my hope rests and carry that truth with me into a new week—regardless of the circumstances.