Category: family

If you’ve been reading here for any length of time then you probably already know about Let’s Play Oprah.

If you’re new here, (hey! hi!ūüĎčūüŹľ) let me explain: It’s a game we play each month in which I share my top 3 “Favorite Things” at the moment, and then at the end of the month I give one of those things away to a lucky reader.

You’re always invited to share YOUR Favorite Things too, so I hope you leave a comment and tell us all what you’re digging right now. It can be anything- food, products, podcasts, t.v. shows, movies, drinks, music, clothes, you name it. There are no rules, except you must dish because that’s what friends do.

If you’re subscribed to this blog that means you’ve invited me into your email inbox which is a privilege I don’t take lightly, and also why I’ve decided that ALL subscribers are automatically entered to win the monthly giveaway. Forever. The only time your name comes out of the drawing is if you unsubscribe or if you just won (in which case your name goes back in 6 months later).

Sometimes I’ll spice it up by adding extra ways to enter, like commenting on a FB live video or over on IG/Twitter, but by far the easiest way is to subscribe by email, so if you’re picking up what I’m putting down, just scroll to the bottom of this post or to the right margin of the page and enter your email address!

Okay, now that we have all the business out of the way, let’s get to the fun stuff!

This month my 3 Favorite Things are: Read More…

 

~ Guest Post By Emily Allen ~

I stood in the back of a women‚Äôs conference session with six-month old baby (my first) on my hip. A content, but increasingly active baby, I swayed with her and nibbled the side of her neck every few minutes so she‚Äôd light up and giggle at me, batting me with her chubby hands. A few feet away, an older woman whom I greatly respect, who has always been warm and encouraging whispered to me, ‚ÄúEnjoy her now while she is little and sweet. Before you know it, she‚Äôll be driving you up the wall, and you might not even like her.‚ÄĚ

I nearly gasped. How dare she say such a thing?

I smiled awkwardly and offered a courtesy laugh, but I could not fathom such a day would come when I would be anything but smitten with this darling little curly-haired creature and absolutely everything she did. I was in the honeymoon phase of mothering; a new mom just beyond the challenging newborn days (my baby slept mostly through the night by this point), but still quite unaware of how demanding parenting becomes as a child grows.

Five more babies came after her, and as each of them reached new milestones, so arrived new perspective. Read More…

Hey, hi!

How are you, even?

I’ve been thinking about you guys a lot lately-¬†all you moms (and¬†dads!),¬†creatives, and dreamers. I’ve been wondering how it’s going for you. Summer, I mean.

It’s a tricky time, amiright? We want to slow down with our kids, we want to speed up with¬†our work, we want to remember to be present along the way. It can get a little dicey when all the kids-at-home and the work-at-home¬†priorities “cross mojonize”¬†for an entire season. (Bonus points if you can name that‚ėĚūüŹľ movie reference).

Dude, I get it.

I get it “big time.” (Double bonus points if you can name that¬†movie reference. HINT: ¬†Terrible Jamaican accent.)

Anyway, last time I wrote you, we talked a lot about this middle place between motherhood and creative work.¬†I confessed that I worry a lot about whether I’m getting it right. We also talked about rest as an act of resistance.

Ever since I came across¬†those words of Sarah Bessey’s:

– Rest… “as an act of resistance”¬†–

I haven’t been able to shake them. So I’ve embraced them.

I’ve been resting.

I’ve been having a relatively unplugged, undocumented summer… and can I tell you something? It’s been revolutionary. I’ve been off my computer and away from my phone more than I have in a long time. I’ve been living moments with my people and capturing them in memory only. And you know what? The world keeps spinning. In¬†a way, it even feels¬†a little¬†brighter and¬†more spacious.

And besides, does the internet¬†really need to know¬†that I went paddle boarding or rode a horse for the first time? Do they really need to hear about that or see pictures? (Answer: No, because it’s¬†decidedly not pretty.)

Don’t worry, this isn’t¬†one of those conversations about how terrible¬†social media is and how we should all post less in revolt…¬†Because first of all-¬†YAWN. And second of all, I honestly love¬†social media and I think it’s a fun, useful tool.

No, this is one of those conversations where we make room for the possibility that it’s allowed, it’s okay, and it’s even good, to let ourselves off the hook every now and then. To¬†rest and be a real person for a while. It’s okay to get off the carousel ride¬†and¬†go get some cotton candy and lie in the grass looking at the cloud formations with our kids. The ride will still be there. It’ll still be going round and round and you can hop right back on when you’ve gotten your bearings again.

Rest needs a full stop and it’s okay to take it.

I¬†don’t know… Maybe this is bad advice?

I can’t be sure. I mean,¬†deadlines and contracts and appointments are all real things that can’t¬†be ignored just because we want off the ride at the moment. I guess we have to account for that.

All I know is that rest has¬†been absolutely life giving for me at this juncture. For me, this juncture looks like the pause between two notes. It’s a quick refuel halfway through the marathon of my creative project. (Okay fine, if a marathon is 26.22 miles then¬†I’m probably¬†only like 2.8 miles in, which I’m pretty sure is technically less than half. Whatever. ¬†I don’t know. I’m bad at math.) The point is, I just googled how many miles a marathon¬†is, so obviously things are getting serious between us because I fact checked, and I told you the real truth of how far along I am.

No wait-¬†the point is, I’ve been resting hard over here and loving it,¬†but also thinking about you often.¬†I wonder¬†what your summer has been¬†like. Has it been full of rest? Has it been full of work? Has it been full of both? If so, I’d love to hear how you’re balancing it. What’s working for you? What’s not?

If it has been full of rest, then please share! What are you reading? Watching? Listening to? Learning? Feeling? Leave a comment, tell me your things!

Tag, you’re it. ūüėé

*this post was sent from my computer and my heart*

P.S. Because I hate to leave you hanging, the movie references were:

Austin Powers

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&

I Love You Man

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But you knew that already, right?

While our kids played in the next room, my friend and I stood in her kitchen, sipping coffee and talking about our dreams- in hushed tones peppered with nervous laughter, as if the very topic was somehow taboo.

Frivolous.

Indulgent.

Maybe even selfish?

“I feel like I’ve lost pieces of myself since having kids…‚ÄĚ She spoke quietly, almost to herself, but her words echoed loudly inside my own heart.

I knew exactly what she meant.

I think in an honest moment, many of us would admit we do.

Motherhood, especially in those early years, can be¬†an engulfing experience. It’s¬†a deeply beautiful, life-giving (literally), and fulfilling role that some of us have always dreamt of, but there can be¬†moments when it feels as if motherhood and the minutia of the day might swallow our identity¬†whole. Like we’re¬†constantly needed yet rarely seen.

We’re busy doing those million and one little things that we worry don‚Äôt matter, even while knowing, deep in our hearts they do. We teach, we train, we pray, we worry, we kiss, we rock, we soothe, we comfort, we’re filled up and¬†emptied clear out 100 times in a day. We lose sleep and gain access to chambers of¬†our hearts we never knew existed. We’re driven to the edge of our sanity and then pulled back again in one suddenly¬†tender moment.

We ride¬†that rollercoaster of fear and worry, pride and dismay, wonder and bafflement, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

We love our life.

And yet…

We wonder about those pieces of ourselves that seem to have disappeared. Our audacity, our playfulness, our ability to dream. They don’t call. They don’t send flowers. They just slipped unceremoniously out the back door.

Will they ever come back? Read More…

I’m not sure where you find yourself reading this, but over here in Oregon, we are still smack dab in the middle of a Snowpocolypse.

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And after 23 days of straight togetherness with my little people there are only two things I have to say about this:

  1. Oregon, you are beautiful to look at.¬†Stunning, even. You are such a show off with your wild mysterious rivers, your wide open prairies,¬†and your¬†jutting snow-capped mountains. I love you. You’re gorgeous.
  2. But if you don’t calm down with the snow and the cancelled school days I am going to move away and never look back. I hear Texas is real nice this time of year. I’ll do it, I swear.

Read More…

When you hear the word “hospitality” does¬†it give you a warm, cheery feeling as you envision your house and your heart full to capacity? Do you think of meals and stories shared with friends, of laughter, drinks being poured, and memories being made?

Or does it conjure slightly less pleasant feelings- like sweaty palms, insecurity, and pressure?

Does your mind instantly dart to your unmade bed, your outdated kitchen, or the glops of toothpaste that you just know¬†are smeared around the entire perimeter of the bathroom sink? Do you shrug and hope that one day when all the planets align with the moon, when you have time to clean and decorate your house, prepare the perfect meal, and figure out how to get your children to be their best selves, then you’ll get around to planning that dinner party?

I often hear peers comment that they wish they had the time or the knack for it, but they’re resigned to the fact that they’ll just never be “the hospitable type”.

But what if hospitality could be as simple as an act of vulnerability? What if it just meant being open enough to invite someone into your real, right now life, however that might look?

We get scared off by the word “hospitality”, not because we don’t actually want anything to do with it, but because it’s intimidating. It’s automatically associated with some formal, stuffy, made up version of the “dinner parties” of yesteryear. (Also yes, I’m sticking with the word yesteryear, because how often do you really get a good opening to say it? Almost never, that’s how often.)

We think fancy cocktail hours, followed by even fancier 8 course dinners, and before we know it we’ve got low-grade anxiety.

How many forks is too many forks? Does the soup course come before or after the salad course? And what if we don’t know which wine pairs with which hors d’oeuvre? And how could we possibly know that if we had to google how to even spell “hors d’oeuvre”? (I love you so much, Google. You help me feel smart.)

The train hasn’t even left the station before we’ve jumped the tracks because let’s all be real here, it’s more trouble than it’s worth, right?

I get it.

Inviting people in, both to your home and your life, feels inherently RISKY.

Your home is personal.

It’s your safe place, your retreat, and your hideaway from the rest of the world. It’s also where your dirty laundry lands, where your bills pile up on the counter, and where all your worst habits are likely to manifest themselves.

To share your home with others can be a real and true act of vulnerability at times. Read More…

I have a confession to make. It’s the sort of thing that a writer should never admit.

I’m a VERY picky reader.

When it comes to purchasing books, I rarely discriminate. At this very moment I have at least 20 fantastic books on my shelf that are still waiting to be opened. I love to buy books. I love the smell of them, the feel of them nestled in the crook of my arm as I walk into a coffee shop, and the way my little heart skips a beat every single time I walk through the doors of a Barnes & Noble.

But when it comes to actually reading books in their entirety, I do admit that my standards are…shall we say…a bit high? I’m not easily entertained. I can’t help it! I’m just not.

If a book doesn’t grab me within the first 3 chapters I rarely pick it back up. I realize that this makes me sound like an elitist snob, and no, the irony is not lost on me that as a humble and lowly writer myself, I may need to consider suggesting LOWER standards for consumption, but whatever. I don’t care. It’s the truth! And I’m only telling you so you understand that when I recommend a book, I really mean it.

So obviously I’m going to recommend a book now.

Are you ready? Read More…

By the time you read this, some of you have already enjoyed weeks of your littles being back in school.

It’s okay. It’s fine. I am not jealous of you.

It’s something I’ve learned to deal with, living in our time zone over here in the Pacific Northwest. The views are stunning, the air is crisp and clear, the rivers are wild and mysterious. But living life on some kind of delayed loop from the rest of the world really bites sometimes.

It seems that %80 of humans get to experience most of life a solid 2-3 hours ahead of us Oregonians. When it comes time for anything really important, like election coverage, the Bachelor finale, or one of the precious few new Game of Thrones episodes, I’ve learned the hard way to STAY OFF THE INTERNET. Otherwise it all gets spoiled.

Also, don’t judge me for putting the election in the same category as junk TV. This is where we are in 2016.

Adding insult to injury, everyone and their Aunt Fay also gets to be on a school schedule that is roughly an entire semester ahead of us. Every single May I see pictures of my internet friends’ kids doing cannonballs into pools with Hasthag-FirstPoolDay while I am counting down the 17 lunches I still have to pack with Hasthag-DoUncrustablesCountAsLunch?

Every single August, when we are finally finding our summer groove, everyone else is posting pictures of their littles holding tiny chalkboards¬†with their new grade written on it, or pictures of their own feet on a charming brick path next to the one maple leaf that has managed to dislocate itself from it’s home and fall to the ground, indicating that Fall has indeed arrived.

What’s the deal with that anyways? Everyone needs to calm down already with all this “Fall in August” talk. August is not Fall! August is definitively a SUMMER month. Can we please sort this out, because it seriously messes with my head and gives me a severe case of FOMO.

Just when I think that I am truly enjoying the days at home with my littles, and patting myself on the back for ‘counting my blessings’ and ‘soaking up the moments’, I see a picture of some first grader with a backpack on and I start sweating and rethinking my whole angle. Read More…

This week’s guest post is from my friend,¬†Kris Camealy, and I’m¬†thrilled to be hosting her words because they are honest and real. I hope that you, like me, see an echo of yourself in these paragraphs, and are encouraged.

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I sat down on the front stoop the other evening and watched a flock of Canadian geese fly overhead, while my kids scattered themselves down the street, making new friends with the neighbors. They’d been recruited for an impromptu soccer game happening up the street, in the common area between a couple of houses, an invitation unlike any we’ve ever had. This kind of living is completely new to us.

Before we moved here in March, for nearly twelve years, we lived on a noisy, unfriendly street that over the years, became more and more transient with the shifting tides of the economy. Our neighbors changed frequently as houses changed hands, suffered foreclosures, became rentals and so on. The neighbors who did remain we rarely saw, on account of a number of factors.

But it wasn’t all their fault. We could have made more of an effort.
***
When my husband and I first moved to the old house, we had one toddler and one baby on the way. After walking through a number of nasty houses, we stumbled into a house that was clean, tidy, and move-in ready. We didn’t deliberate long before signing on the dotted line. We made our home there, and for a while, tolerated the openness of our large backyard. But as the boys grew into preschoolers, and we added yet another baby to the mix, the lack of fencing around the perimeter of our yard gave me pause. Our backyard became a regular cut-through for teens making their way to the bus stop, or to the main road. People regularly walked through our yard as if it were a public thoroughfare, and honestly? I hated this. The regular foot-traffic of strangers across our property made me feel unsafe, and caused me great angst when the children wanted to play in the yard. This, coupled with the fact that our home sat only one house into the neighborhood, off of a busy road, made me long for a fence to keep the kids in, and the wanderers out.

As soon as we were able, we had a 6 foot privacy fence installed all the way around the backyard. I would no longer have to deal with the neighbors dogs pooping where my kids played, or the teenagers behind our home traipsing past my living room window on their way to wherever. My kids could play freely without my worrying that they’d somehow make their way to the busy street out front. This was exactly what we wanted.

But now? I would no longer see my neighbors.

Before the fence, we’d greet each other while returning our trash cans to the backs of our homes, or while raking the yard or letting the dogs out. Before the fence, we could wave hello as they sat on their back deck, or grilled burgers across the lawn.

Before the fence, interaction with our neighbors happened naturally, without much effort, without any pretense.

The fence gave us exactly what we wanted. I still think we needed the fence for all of the reasons I mentioned, but at the same time, we lost something too. When we locked the door on that house for the last time, after 11 years in the only neighborhood my children had ever known, we didn’t say goodbye to anyone. We had no relationships there to grieve or miss. We’d been rooted there alone, and partly by our own doing.
***
After nearly 12 years in what felt like a social dessert, we’ve miraculously landed here, on what is arguably the most social street in the state. Six months ago, I didn’t know places like this actually existed, outside of Hollywood sound stages and sitcoms. We are living in a place “where everybody knows your name”. For real. It’s crazy-amazing.

Almost no one has a fence.

Our current backyard is a wide open space that bleeds indistinguishable into our two neighbors yards. Our children play between the houses, and in the common area situated smack out my kitchen back door. On any given afternoon, half of the neighborhood can be seen wandering between each others homes, sitting in each others driveways, and wandering in and out of each other’s garages. Here, you can’t help but see each other.
I’ve thought a lot about fences since we settled here. I’ve thought a lot about the ways we build them in real life, and relationally. If I am honest, I liked living behind a fence. It made me feel safe. The 6-foot privacy fence erected behind my old house is not the first fence I’ve lived behind. Or hidden behind. It’s only in the last couple of years that God has revealed to me, what a master architect I have been at building fences.

Last year, God called me to launch GraceTable, a hospitality themed website where writers share stories of what it is to love their neighbors, to live in community and wrestle out what Jesus meant when He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself”. GraceTable is a virtual space, but through it God is teaching us what it means to make actual space for people. As we have been coming around to the idea of practicing intentional hospitality, it’s not lost on me that God planted us here, in a neighborhood free of fences. This is a place God is growing me, growing us, as a family. We are learning what it is to let others in, to let them walk on our grass, and discovering the beauty of fence-free living.

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Kris is passionate about bringing people to the table to be nourished by good words, good food and Jesus. Meet Kris at her blog, kriscamealy.com and on Instagram @kriscamealy. Kris is the author of the book, Holey, Wholly, Holy: A Lenten Journey Of Refinement and the founder of GraceTable.org, a community Table open to all who are hungry for more of Jesus.

In our 14 years of marriage, Husband and I have belonged to 10 different addresses.

TEN.

We have owned, rented, bought, sold, lost, renovated, and built from the ground up. We’ve lived in apartments, condos, big houses, and small houses. With each move we’ve taken away a surer sense of what’s important to us as a family, a greater understanding of our needs, and an ability to create a sense of “home” no matter the house. We’ve also picked up quite a few new skills along the way: everything from how to lay tile, to how to electrically wire an entire house, to how to take a space that feels small and make it feel “cozy” or a large space and make it feel “warm.”

We also learned how NOT to do these things.

But that’s a story for another day.

One thing that’s become clear over the years is that both Husband and I genuinely love the process of making a home. He loves learning new aspects of carpentry (and all the subsequent new tools they require), and I love the design end of it all. While some find building and renovating to be stressful, we actually kind of love it. Some of our favorite dates have been spent strolling through tile stores, or pouring over floor samples, or commiserating over window trim and molding.

I know.

Try not be jealous of our wild and crazy dating life. Read More…