August 27, 2014

a day in my life | 8.26.14

Yesterday, in iPhone photos:


Photo Aug 26, 5 59 06 AM

5:30 am | breakfast and Bible study.
6:00 am | yoga (ouch!), then shower (ahhhhh...)

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6:50 am | this little bird is wide awake. I'm lucky! He slept an hour longer than usual today.


7:15 am | distracted from breakfast by his toys.

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7:35 am | more play, play, play before school.

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8:10 am | big bro safely at school, little bro gets breakfast and I snack.

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8:30 am | household chores. They never end!

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8:50 am | sitting down to read a few blogs and write out what's on my mind.
9:10 am | Hawk is fussy. I pull him into my lap to nurse, and he's right to sleep.

Photo Aug 26, 9 58 03 AM

10:00 am | littlest startles awake. He climbs up to standing on my lap, snatches the glasses from my face and giggles. Climbs onto the table and starts trying to help me with my graphic. What do you think? (see above...) That's teamwork, baby.

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10:15 am | call from my sis. She wants to drop in on the fly. I'm game!
10:30 am | sharing animal crackers, waiting on Auntie.

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11:15 am | Auntie has dropped in for a visit, and we leave her to work on her (nursing school) studies while we head off to pick up Seth from school. I kinda dig her ride.

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11:45 pm | Seth has rejoined us for the day, we stopped for gas on the way home, and now he's climbed into the front seat with me rather than wait for me to open the (childlocked) back door for him. Drives me bonkers. Love him.

Photo Aug 26, 11 57 41 AM

Noon | playing in the yard, chatting with our neighbor.

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2:50 pm | we've had lunch and been playing with Auntie for several hours. Now it's time to destroy the living room and veg for a little while. I was going to clean the carpet and list some things for sale on Craigslist today.... oh, well. This is more fun!

Photo Aug 26, 3 06 15 PM

3:05 pm | out like a light.
3:30 pm | scrolling through Twitter, checking out Instagram. I can't lie.
3:45 pm | load up the dishwasher, scrub the sink. Real exciting over here!

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4:00 pm | chopping lettuce for tonight's dinner.

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4:10 pm | hanging Seth's school work on the fridge, proud Mommy. He knows his vowels already- two weeks in! Good boy.
5:00 pm | checking out the online directory of Fall small groups on our church's website. I have my picks narrowed down! I'll probably choose two this time.
5:30 pm | dinner is ready and Eric is home.

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6:00 pm | dinner time. It's Taco Tuesday!

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6:35 pm | playtime with Daddy!

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7:10 pm | bathtime for all the dirty little boys.
7:45 pm | line up for teeth brushing. Seth brushes Hawk's teeth for him, wish I'd pictured that. So sweet.

Photo Aug 26, 7 56 55 PM

8:00 pm | picking our bedtime stories.
8:15 pm | Eric reads one story, I read one story. Hawk plays while we tuck Seth in.
8:30 pm | nursing Hawk to sleep while I read a book. He goes down in the crib tonight, good boy!
9:00 pm | sending out an email and thinking about tomorrow.
10:30 pm | scheduling this post for tomorrow morning.

One more ordinary day! Now we get to do it all over again.

All photos processed in VSCOcam | f2 + b1

August 26, 2014

standard of grace.

I've been thinking this morning about how I (and, I'm sure that you do this, too) expect far too much of myself. I keep myself to such high standards most of the time that when I fail, it hurts miserably. On the way back from dropping Seth off at preschool this morning, I spent some time talking to God about it. About how I am a relentless perfectionist. How I burn myself at both ends until I'm no longer useful. How I take such pride in producing perfect results.

A little later, while doing my morning chores, I was thinking about whether I'd write a blog post this morning or not, and I realized I haven't posted any original images from my DSLR camera in the past five or six posts. Initially, I started to kick myself a bit. I mean, come on! Shouldn't I be working harder to give you guys good content? Goodness knows, you only come here for the pretty pictures. Heck, I'm on the verge of losing half my followers. Don't even look at my Twitter feed from the past few weeks. It's verging on pathetic.

That's when I remembered a quote I'd stumbled on a while back:

Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop. (Ansel Adams)

Even one of the most iconic photographers of all time didn't expect himself to produce perfect work every day. Isn't that a comfort? I know I'm capable of producing high-quality photographs and captivating content, but life "gets in the way". Hasn't that been the conversation we've been having here over the last week? Life trumps perfection. Let's reject that phraseology now (in the way...)- isn't it better to live with a standard of grace for ourselves and others?

Ansel Adams | give me grace

Do your expectations get in the way of embracing the joy in your everyday life?

Image credit: Ansel Adams (public domain) via National Archives, my edit.

August 24, 2014

short form.


It's been about six weeks ago that I checked out all these books from the library, and I've only finished one of them. One, I had to return before I could finish it because another patron had put a hold on it. And one, I'm slowly plodding through and contemplating returning this week without finishing. And then there's two of them I really want to read but just can't do it.

And there's more I can't just get around to reading- like, your blogs. I have tried everything in my power to make time for blog reading and returning comments this month, and I'm sucking wind. When did life get so full? When did I start depriving myself of my favorite things?

I'm consciously putting aside the technology more these days to be "all in" with my family and my life, and certainly that contributes. In a lot of ways, though, participating in online community also brings me great joy and there has to be some balance between the two.

I've read about 1,000 books and articles (So, I exaggerate. Sue me! Haha.) about productivity lately and I have yet to hit on a system that really works for me. One book, I actually read two chapters before angrily throwing it at the wall...

I'm giving the bullet journal another go this week and brainstorming some ways to truly work better, allowing myself time to really go deep with you all. I know some of my frustration is due to this season in my motherhood journey, and what works now will not be the same thing that works two years from now, or ten years from now, etc.

My posts probably need to get a little more short-form as well. I can't help myself sometimes (yes, I'm chatty in real life, too!). But maybe I need shut up and listen a little more. Thank you all for returning day after day to hear me out. Perhaps this week, I'll finally get around to returning the favor.

August 22, 2014

gratitude | v. 05

gratitude v. 5

Do you see what we’ve got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander. He’s actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and he won’t quit until it’s all cleansed. God himself is Fire! (Hebrews 12: 28-29 MSG)

  • I baked an apple pie this week, even though I felt like I was drowning in the deep end. You know what? It really did help. It was far from perfect- I didn't have enough dough to fill my pie pan so it looked sort of piecey. But it tasted amazing! Apple pie: 1 Bad week: 0 ...I'll call that a victory.
  • I found the IKEA table and chairs I've always wanted on Craigslist for a steal! They look amazing in our kitchen, and after I sell our old set, we'll nearly break even. That was a total mood lifter, for sure.
  • Eric and Seth playing Candyland at the new table last night. Be still, my heart.
  • I finished birthday shopping for both Eric and Hawk this week. YES. Eric's birthday is a little less than two weeks from now, and Hawk's first birthday is one week later. So, I'm early! Can I keep the presents tucked away that long? Time will tell.
  • Yesterday, I was praying through some lonely feelings. Let's be honest, moms. Sometimes the stay-at-home gig isn't what it's cracked up to be! It's truly the most isolating thing I've ever experienced. Well, BAM, out of the blue, my sister calls and invites herself over. I haven't seen her all summer because she's a busy trauma nurse juggling her full-time schedule at the hospital with a return to college so she can eventually become a nurse practitioner! (Proud big sis moment here.) We hung out nearly all day!
  • Really digging the Cartwheel app by Target. I'm training to become a first-class bargain shopper so we can start scrapping away to dig ourselves out of our real estate issues. I'm already pretty thrifty in a lot of ways (see: bullet about our new dining table, above), but it's time to get serious. This app is one more weapon in the arsenal!
  • 21 Days of Prayer is drawing to a close tomorrow. Even though I may not have seen earth-shaking breakthrough on some of my most fervent prayers, I know God is working and some of His greatest work is taking place inside me.

August 20, 2014

love it or leave it?

Have you ever seen the show "Love It or Leave It" on HGTV? I know from the response on this post a couple weeks ago that many of you are fellow HGTV watchers, but for those of you unfamiliar with the show concept: it's pretty simple. A family is faced with a real estate dilemma, and usually the couple doesn't agree on how to address the situation. Should they stay in their current home or find a new one? As for our family, we don't disagree. We both agree that we just have no idea which is best.

In 2007, I didn't know much about owning a home, but I knew that I loved Eric and he loved me and we needed a place to live. We'd been crashing in my parents' living room for more than a year, and now we were newlyweds without a place to call our own. We didn't even have a bed to sleep on: instead, we folded up blankets to make a pallet on the floor. My mom offered to hang curtains over the entrance to the living room. That was nice of her, but we needed a different kind of change.

I searched high and low for a perfect house, fully expecting that we'd have to get a fixer-upper and make do. I felt like we could pull it off somehow. We could take a low-cost house and turn it around, and in a few years we'd start a family and move on to bigger and better.

It didn't take long to realize our ideal neighborhoods were going to be out of the question. I toured home after home with a price tag we could swing (I'm just going to be transparent here and reveal that our budget was $60-$90,000) and each one needed upwards of $30-50,000 worth of work just to be livable. I saw houses with rotted out floors, mold problems, gutted kitchens, and busted up bathrooms.

We needed to shift our geographical preferences if we were going to buy a house! One day, we were driving to visit Eric's parents and we were passing through a quiet little neighborhood on the way. We'd normally have passed right by this area, but that day we'd been at his company picnic and took a shortcut on the way back to the main highway. That's when I saw her.


Photo Aug 19, 11 29 31 AM

Photo Aug 19, 11 30 04 AM

Eric turned around in a parking lot up the road to circle back down the street and jot down the realtor's number listed on the "For Sale" sign. That evening, we looked up the MLS listing on the internet and we were sold before we even called to schedule a tour. We'd found our starter home!

We closed on the house a few weeks later, and I took a second job to help make ends meet. We had a detached garage apartment out back that was available for rent: I listed it on Craigslist and rounded up a tenant within the first few weeks. Between my part-time gig and the rent money, we were able to get by (just by the seat of our pants). Our house payment was lower than rent for even a modest apartment, and we were grateful. My parents helped us stock up on essentials at the local Walmart- towels and pot holders, baking pans and curtains. We were home at last!

Ugh, how I hesitated to share all this. The advice I've read everywhere is rattling in my head, "Don't post images that aren't Pinterest-worthy." Well, my friends, I have to tell you. Real life isn't Pinterest-worthy. Obviously, I've committed to be honest, and this week has already been all about rejecting pretense. So, here goes. These are iPhone photos and they're not styled in the slightest. I did clean up- you can thank me later, haha!

If you came to visit me today, this is what you'd see:

Photo Aug 19, 11 23 39 AM

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Photo Aug 19, 11 26 53 AM

Yes, you even got to see my toilet and the laundry pile! Pin that! Ha!

I have a laundry list of things I love about this house. I love that the main living area is wide open and full of great natural light. I love that we have a separate living room and family area, and that the kids can play in the same area where I cook all our meals. I love my kitchen window. She only has two bedrooms, but I love that they are spacious. There's not much closet space, so I've learned how to part with non-essential items easily and buy only what we need, when we need it.

Since we started preparing for Seth to start preschool, though, Eric and I have been talking a lot about our changing needs. The schools we're zoned for are terrible. I always thought I'd homeschool, but I've been a stay-at-home mom now for two years and I learned quickly after quitting work that I don't have the temperament (patience, long-suffering, selflessness) for a homeschool lifestyle. There's a good private school nearby, but it only goes to sixth grade, and when you consider the money we'll be paying for tuition once both kids are in school- well, we could just move to a nicer neighborhood for that!

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Eric's been working so much so I can stay home, he hates to spend the time he has off mowing the lawn or taking care of other chores. When we discussed finding a new home, we quickly agreed that less maintenance would certainly = better. No yard at all? That would be a plus. I found some listings for condos in a section of town known for having "the smartest schools in Alabama" with a perfect price tag! But would moving be really feasible?

I called in the advice of a professional, meeting with a real estate agent Tuesday morning to discuss our options. We crunched some numbers and talked about the ideas I've had running through my head for the past few months. I've been praying for wisdom and direction and feeling so frustrated with the silence I've received in return.


Love it or leave it?

Now I'm convinced the silence is God's answer: for now, we must remain still. We are being called to love this house and love this neighborhood, for I don't know how much longer.

We exist in this frustrating limbo right now: loving our house but knowing she has "deferred maintenance" issues that we can't address on our own strength. That's a fancy way of saying there's too much work that needs to be done before we can sell this house, and none for which we can get a return on our money. There are thousands of dollars that we don't have yet needed for our attic and around our windows, under the house and in our walls.

We can rent the house out but wouldn't see a profit unless we rent the apartment, too. The apartment needs work before it can be livable again: our last set of tenants messed up a lot of stuff and we said we'd never be landlords again after that. Without a profit, we can't fix the issues that need to be addressed in the main house before we sell.

All around us, it seems our friends are "moving up": the American dream. They get the subdivision house and the brand new furniture while we live with hand-me-downs. I'd be lying if I didn't say I'm a little embarrassed. I'm always conscious of the differences between "them" and "us"- the haves and the have-nots. We're a working-class family with a single income: only barely qualified to be called "middle class". Compared to the rest of the people I know, I don't feel like a "have".

But I am. We are so stinkin' rich, it's disgusting.

These are the thoughts that are heavy on my mind today. I'm so grateful: really, just laden with blessing and privilege, trying to exist well in a culture that tells me I'm not good enough.

It didn't take much discussion last night for Eric and I agree that we will stay here and continue to fix things as we go. I have to trust God will be there with the provision when the roof finally falls in and He will be there when another appliance breaks and He will be there when the plumbing backs up again.


The subject matter I've broached this week isn't the kind everyone really wants to read, but I think the blogging community needs more honest conversation about our intentions as influencers. What are we expecting of ourselves and others? Is it OK to edit out the rough patches from our social media posts when what our audience might need is a healthy sense of reality?

I was encouraged to know yesterday's post resonated with so many of you. I was hesitant to press "publish" on that reality check, but your comments have assured me it was the right decision. I want to keep inspiring, and I will. Even if the really good stuff only comes once in a while, I want to share it all! Thanks for being patient while I sort through the rest of it.

August 19, 2014

tapped clean out.

Photo Aug 14, 9 09 19 AM

In the spirit of being honest, I have to tell you that mom-land really stinks this week. I love these boys. I'm hating my job as their mother right now. One is a mouthy little punk who can't obey to save his life and the other one is an adventurous toddler with a bad teething problem. These little angels are trying to kill me.

One thing I've learned over time is that the mom bloggers you think have their crap together- really don't. They just have help.

I don't have help.

I'm just a one-woman show over here. My husband and I get about two hours together each evening, and that time is spent wrangling kids to the dinner table, then into the bathtub and to bed. We get no time to be alone. We don't get date nights.

I spend weekends doing the same thing we do all week. When Eric isn't working, he's either doing yard maintenance for our house, helping his parents around their house, or trying to catch a few minutes of rest. Many weeks, he works seven days.

We don't have a babysitter. We don't put our kids in daycare. We can't afford either luxury. Our kids' grandparents aren't well enough to help with the kids. Between sickness and physical disability (among other issues), we don't have family members to help. Neither of us have close friends.

I'm so burned out on motherhood right now. I know from experience this is a temporary feeling- it will pass. I hate feeling this way.

It's hard to be vulnerable. It's hard to feel alone taking on the the most monumental task you've ever been asked to do. It's even harder pushing out good content for a blog when all the "experts" are telling you to put a lid on your negative feelings and share the rainbows and puppy dogs and all you really have time to do is pull your youngest kid from his precarious perch on top of the kitchen counter while screaming at the older kid to please stop emptying the contents of an entire tube of toothpaste into the bathroom sink.

Times like these, I want to throw in the towel on everything.

My kids are precious to me. That said, I'm hoping the rest of this week will serve to remind me they can be as sweet as they are difficult.

Coming Next (as soon as I get done scrubbing this crayon off the wall!): a house tour and some frank talk about our real estate situation.

August 14, 2014

form & function: DAAME bags for literacy

This first week with Seth in school has been awesome. Yes, it's an adjustment. But the little bit of structure our new schedule added to the day is just what I needed to draw some motivation to take care of lots of things I usually overlook. I'm tired from waking up extra early, but it's the kind of fatigue that feels accomplished, and I count that as a good thing.

Earlier this week, my kids and I headed to the local library after picking Seth up from school. It was time to exchange his stack of loaner books for some new ones. I love how he lights up to hear a new story. I'm thankful for the time we spend cuddled up with a stack of new books. It reminds me of the time when I was little and I devoured books one after the other- especially classics like Alice in Wonderland and the entire original Nancy Drew series.

Stephen King quote | books

And then I think about how grateful I am that I can read the words on the page to him and then I can sit down in the light of my MacBook Pro and type in these words to tell you about it. No, really- I hope you understand how monumental this really is.

Recently, I learned about DAAME, a company dedicated to crafting timelessly styled handbags and totes. Their bags are so gorgeous: crafted from supple Italian leather, made by hand in the United States and designed with a perfect balance of elegant form and function in mind. Best of all:

DAAME will contribute 5% of their earnings to partners such as Outliers International, that are dedicated to educating girls living in impoverished regions.

In some regions of the world, only a minority of all women ever learn to read. Take for instance Pakistan, where there is a great disparity in the quality of education between boys and girls. Women living in poverty are especially vulnerable to the pressures of a society that devalues their intellectual worth.
This is just the kind of bag I've been searching for: one big enough to carry my laptop on-the-go (it has a special reinforced pocket inside for this purpose) and classy enough for any occasion. Basically- I need a tote that can handle whatever I throw at it- diapers and wipes, laptop and cords, a stack of library books... even, it seems, a cat:

I am filthy rich- how extravagant is my wealth! My parents were able to send me to a great school and I not only learned to read and write- but I also do it for pleasure! In my free time, I love to read. Given more time, I like to write even more. I am free to read my Bible- in public, without criticism from passersby. I set a goal for myself to read 52 books in one year- one each week. It's decadence, I tell you. A luxury I take for granted.

Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development... Literacy is a platform for democratization, and a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity. Especially for girls and women, it is an agent of family health and nutrition. For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right. (Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General))
I'm thankful for the opportunity to partner with DAAME- a company founded with more than a product in mind. I believe in brands with a vision for making the world a better place to live! I think this mama's found a brand new bag.

Shop this bag here.

Sign up here to receive an invitation to view the limited Fall 2014 collection when it is available.

This post contains affiliate links. I have not been compensated, but may receive credit to the DAAME shop in return for traffic generated. Text and opinions are my own. Images are mine except any noted with source credit. Thank you for supporting the brands featured on Hello Hive!

August 12, 2014

see the magic city: vulcan

I've lived in Birmingham, Alabama my whole life. You can call me Magic City born and bred! My hometown earned it's nickname because of the explosive population growth the new city experienced during it's first few decades. Founded in the 1880s, Birmingham was a steel town, and it was also called "The Pittsburgh of the South" for a while.

As a Birmingham native, I have quite a fond attachment to the iron man overlooking our city: our statue of the Roman god of fire and forge, Vulcan. The cast iron giant was created by sculptor Giuseppe Moretti for the 1904 World's Fair and was erected over Birmingham in 1936. I've known Vulcan my whole life, and he's like part of my own family.

Unfortunately, I don't get around to see my extended family often enough, and it's been at least twenty years since I last visited Vulcan's 10-acre park. Recently, we decided to remedy that situation and introduce our sons to their great-uncle Vulcan:















No matter where my family lands in this life, Birmingham will always be my earthly home. I've been thinking about making this an occasional feature. I'd love to share some of my favorite spots with you all. Then, when I think I've run out of posts about my hometown, I'll be encouraged to explore and find some new favorite places!

Where do you live? Does your town have any unique attractions?
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