Settle Down, Y'all. It's Okay to Rest Easy this Season.

I keep feeling the need to tell myself, and then to tell you, that it's okay if you want to rest easy this season. It's okay if you haven't even started your Christmas shopping and the only thing you've done that's remotely holiday-ish is to stuff your face with fake-white chocolate-covered pretzels with sprinkles.

(that sort of describes my week, which has been full of unpredicted twists and turns) 

This time of year is my favorite time of year--I love the smells and the sights, I love wearing layers to bed and walking around in my slippers. I love kissing my kids' soft cold cheeks and sharing my jackets with my growing daughter (and also my Uggs, this kid). I love serving hot chocolate and not telling Landis he has a chocolate mustache because I just want to stare at it a little while longer and smile inside.

I love thinking about the food I want to make and not thinking about how many pounds heavier I will be at the end of the season. I love lighting candles and jotting down things I'm thankful for, snuggling with my children on the couch and reading until my tongue hurts. I love that my cat is now sleeping inside and keeping my feet warm at night.

The season is bulging with joys and delights, but along with all this, I'm nervous. I'm afraid I will all too soon cave into the stress of the holidays, because I've been here before and am all too familiar with what eventually happens. I start to fret about the menu and the grocery list, and then that I haven't bought a single gift for my kids yet. Then I realize I haven't even thought about decorations this year and I get jealous of all the pinteresty home tours that will happen soon that will so-not-be-my-home, and I end up putting way too much pressure on myself.

Please tell me you know what I'm talking about.

But lately I've been reminding myself, and pressing it into my soul, not to listen to the expectations of the world--the frenzy, the pressures, the noise, the rat race. Not to cave under perceived pressures of what the holidays are supposed to look like. This isn't me! And this isn't what it's all about. And friends, these things are for you too.

Some friendly reminders for the season, things I'm telling myself...

1// Listen to your family, and pursue traditions, foods, activities, rest, memories that will be meaningful to them, and don't worry about what other families are doing.

2// Take frequent breaks from your to-do list to spend time with your children...when your little one says, "Can you read me a book?" or, "Can you play something with me?" Just do it! It only takes five minutes but it means the world, and these are the things you will remember forever.

3// Don't try to create a pinterest worthy home. Make your holiday home pretty and cute and warm and comfortable, a place where your little ones and your husband love to come home to, but a place that can be lived in. Keep it simple and meaningful to you, and don't worry about it keeping up with the trends.

4// Pursue spiritual opportunities with your family--times of giving thanks, doing an advent calendar together, reading the Bible. Keep these things central. You have to make this a huge effort or it will get washed aside with the business of the season.

5// When it comes to gifts, do what your own family is comfortable with. If this is the time you love showering your family with precious items, then do it without guilt (as long as your husband is on the same page!); if this is the time you like to keep it really simple and not focus on gifts, then own that too! But don't feel pressure from either side of the spectrum--your family is unique and do what's best for your own family and your own budget.

6// If you like to wait until December to do your shopping, don't feel bad about it! (this is where I am) Don't feel trapped in keeping up with other people's preparedness. Remember that it will all get done in due time, and resist the urge to feel stressed about it.

7// Hug your husband a lot! Don't act like it's such an interruption to what you are doing...(I may also struggle with this sometimes...)

All this to say, this season I plan to curl up with my kids and listen to their tall tales, read them stories, tickle their backs, watch movies together, and realize that my to-do list will get done in due time, but it's more important to enjoy the season than to plan ahead for it and be ultra prepared. I'm determined to see the faces of my family this season and not to worry about keeping up with standards of the culture.

Really, people, I'm giving you permission to be unprepared this holiday (as though I can really give permission), and to be okay with it. To not freak out when your best friend tells you she finished her shopping in July and she's already working on next year. To not be upset with yourself that you didn't get to make any homemade gifts this year and the closest you've gotten to your sewing machine is to dust it. To be restful about hitting the grocery store next week even with all the crowds, and skip over the regret of not being able to shop ahead and cook ahead and all that jazz.

I'm encouraging myself to not have ridiculously high expectations where I'll just be disappointed when I don't meet up to them. It's okay for us mommas to enjoy this season too, even though it's a ton of work for us. I don't want these seasons and holidays to pass by me and leave me feeling like I chose everything else but being with my family.

It's hard, cause who's gonna make the pumpkin bread pudding for Thanksgiving breakfast? I am. Who's got lots of sides and pies to make and a house to clean and a Friday dinner party to plan? I do. (and I'm assuming every one of you has similar situations)

But let's just say right now that we are freeing ourselves from freaking out and stressing out, and that we WILL enjoy our family through all of this. We WILL sit and play a game with our little boys and we WILL read to our kids when we really should be cooking or cleaning or tablescaping.

Let's just settle down and rest easy. You have my permission. And I'm sure I have yours.

*be looking for a post real soon with some ideas and links for appetizers for a dinner party, and some simple tablescapes that won't stress you out. and then I'm taking a break from this space to snuggle my family....*


We Have a Shared Need, You and Me

Last weekend I whisked myself off to Mexico City to spend some time with Naomi (& her family); it was a well needed girl weekend for both of us (we did include my brother in law some too, cause he's awesome when it comes to good conversation and encouraging words, so every now and then he's allowed in).

We stayed home lots, but also wandered the pretty streets nearby, and found ourselves at the Panaderia two different times--it's such a charming little bakery and has amazing coffee and pastries, how could we not be drawn back again and again? Of course, the company was probably what made all those things delicious and pleasing, since good food and coffee is almost always better shared with friends.

The beauty of this friendship we have, is the sharing too--it's such a give and take. We are both needy gals, needy for Christ, needy for leaning into Him and depending on Him for absolutely everything. And when we share our hearts, that's the reoccurring theme, the common thread. The more time we talk the more we connect over life struggles, heart issues, and the overall desire to see Jesus shine more clearly through us, and the confusion we feel when we can't see that in ourselves.

As we spent the last morning together praying (a tradition that is soooo good for our souls), I found that we have a shared need, and I'm thinking most moms out there have this in common too---

We want our love for Jesus to pour out of our lives, to drip out of our mouths, to be the fragrance our children know us for and recognize. And daily we struggle, fighting our flesh and our negative attitudes and our complainy hearts and our unmet expectations. But we desire with the strongest of all desires to have the power of the Gospel guiding us and leading us, with joy! And this was our prayer for ourselves and our prayer for each other.

And our prayer for you, momma, woman, daughter, friend--may the power of the Gospel impact your life on a daily basis; that it will be the steady guide in all you do. That you won't be bound by your own emotions, but that you will be able to overcome with all grace and wisdom, and that others will see Christ in and through you.

As I always say, we are in this together...

*P.S. The kissy-face picture above was totally unplanned--neither of us knew the other one was doing it...I think that is the sign of a kindred spirit.


A Few of My Favorite Things// All About the Totes

Not too long ago I was on the hunt for the perfect tote. And by hunt, I mean the kind of hunt that causes me to whine about it every day to my husband, uttering complaints about the perfect tote not being out there, wishing my life was easier. (of course I jest...)

I am a woman of large bags... I have a huge ol' wallet, several little bags, a huge ol' camera, and lots of Transformer Rescue Bots to carry along with me, so I've got to have a bag that can handle the strain. Oh, and sometimes I like to throw in my lap top and my iPad. And maybe a book. And the carrying around of more than one bag is for the birds. I almost wish for the diaper bag days again so I could just stuff all my treasures in there with the diapers.

The problem with tote shopping is that if you actually put foot to pavement, there just aren't that many places to physically try on a well made tote (no pun intended) to see how it hangs and feels. I hit the mall one Sunday afternoon and tried on a couple of totes just to get the idea, but even then, they weren't really what I was looking for. So mostly my shopping consisted of clicking on websites and using visualization techniques in order to figure out if I liked this or that bag. As well as sending every single one I liked to Naomi via Facebook messenger for her yay or nay.

The ones I had pretty much narrowed it down to were these...I loved each of them for different reasons.

 1// Madewell Transport Tote, English Saddle color (beautiful, simple, nice size)
2// The Go Exchange Leather Saddle Tote (sturdy, lined with a laptop divider)
3// Baggu Oversized Leather Tote Bag (roomy, pretty)
4// Live Fashionable Mamuye Tote (rustic and beautiful)

I also looked at the Fossil leather totes and the Frye artisan leather tote (way out of my price range, but quite nice) when I went to the mall. But I finally landed on the Madewell tote. And I'm so glad I did. I love it! It carries beautifully, sits exactly where I need it to sit and I can reach everything on the bottom of the bag with it still hanging on my shoulder. And I can stuff it to the brim and it makes no complaint. It stands up all by itself, no matter how full or empty it is.

I really, really, really wanted to buy a tote that supported women in third world countries trying to make a living; companies such as the Go Exchange or Life FashionABLE, because their mission is so wonderful. But it just ended up that my favorite one was the Madewell bag. And so I decided I would get the bag I really wanted, and find other products to purchase from those companies in the future to help support these beautiful, artistic women.

Naomi purchased the Mamuye tote, and honestly it is soooo close to the Madewell. The biggest difference is that her leather is more of a suede. When I was visiting her in Mexico City last weekend, I seriously dug my hand around in her bag a few times thinking it was mine. And we looked like twins everywhere we went.

I'm happy with my bag, and I can tell it's going to last a really long time (probably longer than I really want it to and I'll have to make up some new lame excuse for wanting a new bag next year...)

Do you have a favorite tote bag this Fall?

*this is NOT a sponsored post, by any stretch of the imagination.


Nightly Clean-up With Kids

A while back, Luke and I (mostly I), were bemoaning the fact that after the kids go to bed, when I come back downstairs, I'm faced with an onslaught of messy house syndrome. It's like I take a deep breath after having tucked the kids in, and then lo, my house is in shambles. It seems so discouraging and unfair that the kids are all tucked in and comfortable, when all I'd like to do is settle down for the night too! And yet, who wants to go to bed with a disaster of a house and wake up to it again? We all know what would happen come morning time--grouchy mom syndrome, to say the least. So with a huff and a puff, I'd set about to aright all the wrongs done to the house so that peace would once again be restored and I could relax. 

And then, in a moment of pure genius on Luke's part, after he had listened to me complain about this dilemma one too many times, he came up with this brillianceness (made up word--there's no other word for it).

Here's how it works:

After we have dinner, and whatever dinner chores assigned to each kid are finished, we set the timer for ten minutes and release the kids upon the main rooms of the house to clean it up. One person gets assigned to each room (with Landis as an assistant), and if they finish early they get sent to their own room to straighten it up. They are responsible for tidying it up perfectly--everything gets put back in its place and beautified (books straightened, pillows fluffed and replaced, blankets folded, etc). 

And bam. The house is clean. And beautiful. In 10 minutes. 

Sometimes we even make it a competition (as if we need to put our kids against each other anymore than they are already), and we will offer an extra treat to the winner of the most beautiful room. (*side note--I attempted to go the "non-winner" route tonight because I don't want them to always expect that, and met with some tears from one of my children who was dreaming of a three-time victory. But we worked through it. Such is life.)

The genius of this is that it's such a no brainer! We don't even know why we never thought of it before. Maybe it was the age of the kids and up until now they really couldn't be trusted with an entire room, who knows. Mostly it just took us stepping away from the situation and evaluating how our family could work together to bring peace to our home (instead of the burden always resting on me). 

We don't do it every night because sometimes the schedule just doesn't allow it. And sometimes this momma just needs her kids tightly tucked into bed and quiet, even if it means a few more minutes of me cleaning up by myself. But I'd say we do this three or four times a week, and it's quite amazing how pretty the kids can make the house look. 

And I think it makes them feel good with all the oohing and ahhhing we do after we admire the work. 

So it keeps the house, at least for one moment in the day, a group effort that all of us can take pride in. And I highly recommend it. 

A note for you with really little ones...
This plan might be a stretch if you have only preschoolers and toddlers.  But surely the same principle could apply, in smaller chunks. Maybe you could set the timer for less time and give them a bin or bucket or basket and have them pick up all the toys that go in that basket, or do a toy patrol where they walk around and just find all the misplaced toys and add them to the basket. I think if you start little then by the time they get old enough they can do an entire room according to your standards (mostly...). 


CURRRENTLY// Vol.3 What I'm Into This Week & Weekend

So tomorrow I fly down to Mexico to visit Naomi. We planned this trip one week ago, because we thrive on being last minute around here.  How would we keep the spark in life if we planned everything way in advance? That would be boring.

No, but really, it was just my sweet husband loving both of us tenderly and understanding that sometimes, a friend just needs her friend. Can't wait to see her and snuggle her kids...

I'm a little late to the party, but I've been wanting to write a Currently type post for a while and so I'm following along with Jenna and Anne and their prompts...

Wish Listing//Okay, so I bought Luke bought me a tote in September, and I love love love it. So pleased that I plan to write a full post on this tote (along with a few others I admired along the process). But friends, have you seen these Better Life Bags totes and bags?

They are so pretty, and you can even design your own by choosing your own fabric and style of bag. They have an awesome mission--they employ mostly immigrant women in their town who would otherwise be unemployed, and they teach them skills and provide them with the tools to make a living for their family. So I may not actually be putting this on my wish list since I have an amazing new bag that I adore, but this is just to say, if I needed a new bag I'm pretty sure I'd be seriously considering one of these...

Creating//I pinned this Thankful Tree  from Simply Vintage Girl last week as inspiration for something similar I'd like to do with my own amazing branch that has lasted so well. I wanted to start on it this week, but with the kids sick early on, and what with planning for this impromptu trip, it will have to wait until next week. Honestly, I won't be cutting tree branches and painting chalk paint or anything, but it's the intention of having us remember to be thankful every day that I'd like to emphasize this month...even if it's with scraps of paper and string.

And as an aside, is it just me or is anyone else irritated that shopping centers are decked out for Christmas already? Hello, where did Thanksgiving go? Can we please enjoy the current holiday?

Reading//Remember when I was reading A Praying Life, and absolutely loving it? Some friends and I are now reading Paul Miller's next book, A Loving Life, and are excited about this look at the book of Ruth, digging into what true love is and how we can make it through rough circumstances or through difficult relationships while having a real abiding love.

Loving// (Okay, this picture is 5 years old and I was 40 weeks pregnant, so a little grace here please), but this rag quilt my mom made for me! I love it so much and am very selfish with it...It's mine!!!! However, I have since made one for each of my girls, and will eventually make one for the little man. I'm telling you, there is nothing more snuggly than a homemade quilt. Especially one signed by your mommma.

Appreciating// Can I just give a shout out here to all the women who have gone before me and done this motherhood thing, and all the mommas who've made it through their kids preteen years, and all of you who are in the midst of it, in it to win it, like me? And more specifically, thanks to my Mom for still being my friend after all the smack I gave you when I was oh, anywhere between the age of 11 to now 14? And if you think this is coming from a week of dealing with a preteen, you are right (Ah, but I appreciate her more than she even knows, so there's that.)

Looking Forward To// Some grown-up girl time with Naomi, which I hope will include lots and lots of coffee, standing around in her kitchen watching her cook, but keeping her really good company with my amazing conversation skills, lots of walks (until my feet hurt and then we stop, for a coffee), messing around with our cameras, solving the world's problems, and prayer. Amen and amen.

What are you doing this weekend?