Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Brightness of Hope

The other day the world was a sky sandwich. White clouds hung overhead as a slice of clear blue sky hung near the horizon, everything below was illuminated by the fresh foot of snow that covered the valley. I smiled happy that it would be the first white Christmas I have had in many years. We have had wet Christmases and sunny Christmases but the snow has avoided me for a few years. I am very glad to have snow.

I love that snow takes the darkness that overwhelms this time of year and just brightens everything; mother earth's flashlight. This natural flashlight physically AND emotionally lightens hearts. I see it everywhere; adults act like children and frolic just as readily through the crisp landscape, everyone staring out their windows in wonder as the fat flakes fall and land like a magic trick. Tension disperses from my heart as I drive and expand my peripheral view and take in how beautiful it all looks.

It contrasts against the reality that for many, the literal darkness parallels loneliness, loss, and heartache. I still feel great pangs of loss this time of year. The lack of James' physical presence is made more apparent in sending out Christmas cards, hanging stockings, and selecting gifts. I still think about him most at night, when it is darkest. It is difficult to not let those dark feelings overcome the joy this season can bring.

But when I see the snow, I am reminded of light and the power that it possesses to take even the darkest day of the year and illuminate it. Even the smallest bit of light disperses dark.

That is why I have such hope despite all the bad in the world. Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ and He himself said,
"I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." (John 8:12)
 Though we know that He was not actually born on December 25th, the actuality that we celebrate His birth close to the darkest day of the year is a powerful symbol. His coming to earth was literally Heavenly Father sending light to illuminate and dispel the darkness. His birth was miraculous as the snowflakes that fall and cover everything, He too blankets the earth with a bright hope.
In an effort to remember James more, I reminded my family that we should be praying for him in our family prayers more regularly. Max has taken this to heart more than anyone and requests to say almost every single family prayer and you know what he says? Each time Max utters a sincere prayer of gratitude, "Thank you that James can be resurrected someday." Each time a little more light flows into my heart. Even though Max is only four years-old, he understands being resurrected means that James will be brought back to life, that we will see him again.

That is the hope and joy His life brings. Those who are lost will be returned. Hearts broken will be healed. Comfort and peace will come through acknowledging the light is there.

We just have to pull back our perspective and see how He illuminates this entire world and covers it in His grace.  
"Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men." (2 Nephi 31:20)
His light is there and it brings joy, a joy even greater than a child discovering the first snow of the season.

I hope and pray you all have a joyous and merry holiday season filled with light. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 11, 2015


Thank you for all of the support for my New Year's Resolution this week. I have spent so much time convincing myself  I could NOT do it, and then so many of you expressed such kind confidence in me any residual fear was blasted away. Kindness is powerful.

I was thinking a little more about this project and kicked myself for being so self-absorbed in my privilege. I am doing this as a personal choice to step away from consumerism, but for a majority of the world, this way of life isn't a choice, it is just reality. People struggle to pay the bills. There are people who struggle to keep a roof over their head and food on their table. There are people in war torn countries who don't have access to basic necessities and live in constant fear. They don't have the luxury of "too much."

So, I don't necessarily think what I am doing is brave. I just feel like with everything going on in the world, I am done coping with it all by buying things. I want to break the cycle of shopping to relieve stress; because, to truly honor my privilege I feel that I should live as authentically as possible. To practice more empathy, to feel all of the feelings and recognize that those feelings are what truly connect us.

Kindness. Fear. Love. Anxiety. Patience. Stress.

We all feel them. I would just rather feel them about people than transfer it on to buying more stuff. Does that make sense?

 Now don't get me wrong. I don't think shopping in general is wrong or bad. Just the over-consumption and the obsession with it.

Anyways, thank you again. Because even though it feels silly and trivial, the need to buy is a strong addiction and I expect some growing pains.


Daniel HATES snow. (15 months)

Maxwell LOVES the snow but strongly dislikes getting his picture taken (4 years).

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

No Shopping for a Year

Last week I mentioned challenging myself more seriously to do away with excess consumerism and focusing even more on what matters most.

Well if you can believe it, starting in January I am doing a major decrease in shopping.

Inspired by the blog Blonde on a Budget, I am banning myself from purchasing anything new for an entire year.

Ok! ok! There is more too it than that so don't freak out quite yet! There are rules in place so that we don't starve as a family, keep clean, and still enjoy life. I will explain more of why I decided to challenge myself this way, but first, here are the rules.

Things I am allowed to buy:
  • Groceries and kitchen supplies (tin foil, etc)
  • Toiletries (toilet paper, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.)
  • Makeup (I only wear mascara and blush and so I am only allowed to replace these when I run out)
  • Cleaning products (pretty much detergent and dish soap since I make everything else using this)
  • Kid Necessities (wipes, diapers (we use cloth during the day and disposables at night), etc.)
  • Kid Clothes if necessary (Generous hand-me-downs cover mostly everything. If there is a true need, my goal is to shop second-hand/thrift stores first (i.e. Max will need a new coat next winter))
  • Haircuts (I only cut my hair twice this past year, so I think I will stick with that number again)
  • Gifts for others
  • Christmas/Holidays (Limited to $50 per person)
  • Experiences! (more on this below)
Things I am NOT allowed to buy:
  • Clothes and shoes (I have given myself some flexibility if I have gift card money to use or if something desperately needs replaced (my nude flats currently have a hole in them), but that is IT!)
  • Extra makeup (nail polish, eye shadows, etc.)
  • Toys (the boys have plenty)
  • Books (the library is free!)
  • House stuff (furniture, appliances, decorations, etc)  
Experiences include going out to eat (limited to twice a month), going to zoos or museums, movies, concerts, water parks, and travel. To me experiences embody the spirit of focusing on what lasts; memories stay with you forever and time spent with loved ones or even on personal goals builds healthy relationships and greater love. That is EXACTLY what I am trying to get at here!

Guys, this is going to be hard and just thinking about it makes me nervous. But at the same time, I am really excited because I know it is possible! I have everything I need, everything else is just excess really. I just have to chant that when it gets hard.

So why am I doing this?

Because I believe that shopping takes up too much of my time.

Because I know that I spend money unnecessarily on things that end up as clutter.

Because I want to more aggressively attack our student loans.

Because I want to practice self-control.

Because I want to be satisfied with what I have.

I want to slow down, I want to simplify, I want to connect.

I want to focus on being instead of having. (@zerowastehome)

I am ready. I know it will be challenging and frustrating, but I know that it will be worth it. I know this will stretch me in the best possible ways and teach me lessons that I wouldn't learn otherwise.

There have been a lot of resources I have utilized to get me to this point, but I want to share some of them with you in case you want to know more.

Becoming Minimalist
SUCH a good resource! Great posts and awesome links to other like-minded blogs. This is an internet wormhole worth going down. I especially love his weekly round up of articles!

Blonde on a Budget
She has successfully completed a no shopping ban for a year and is on her second year (in a row!). Most of my personal challenge comes from her inspiring success.

Hands Free Mama 
She has another book and a blog, but so far I have just read this book. I love it. It is meant to be read over the course of a year but borrowing from the library doesn't afford me that luxury. It is still just as inspiring and helpful, especially as a stay-at-home mother.

"Of Things That Matter Most" 
This has been an influential talk since I first heard it and more recently he has spoken about simplifying and finding joy despite circumstances (find those here and here respectively).

Slow Your Home Podcasts
These are basically interviews with all of my favorite simplifying blogs. Good stuff.
The Small Seed
A spiritual and thoughtful-living blog. I love its posts and resources.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
A best-selling book on finally getting rid of the clutter once and for all. I really enjoyed reading it an implementing it as best I could.

Zero Waste Home
This lady's four person family produces enough garbage a year to fit into a glass jar. No joke. Her book is ripe with steps and tips for eliminating waste and focusing on reuse.

Harmless Home 
This blog is written by the same friend who introduced me to Becoming Minimalist. She no longer writes on it but I still utilize her advice for creating a toxic-free home. Plus I still get to text her for personal queries! She is so well-researched and thoughtful, I love everything she sends my way.

Budget Bytes
This is one of my favorite food blogs. I started using it when I was first learning how to cook and her recipes were perfect for our small budget and growing tastes. Her recipes remind me that food doesn't have to be complicated or expensive to be good and healthy. I still use many of her recipes weekly. Her copycat Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana is especially amazing!

Thanks for reading about my crazy life and thoughts. I plan on updating my progress as often as feels necessary here on the blog and I love knowing that there are people supporting me my crazy ideas. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Practicing Gratitude

I have so much to be grateful for.  At the end of the night my basic needs are always met; a roof over my head, warm clothes, a full belly and a whole lot of love from my family.

Sometimes though when I am expressing thanks during my personal prayers I create little footnotes in the back of my mind.

I am thankful for a roof over my head....but I wish it had hardwood floors and a bigger kitchen and a more accessible backyard.

I am thankful for warm clothes....but I wish I could buy those new shoes, sweater, etc.

I am thankful for a full belly....but I wish I didn't have to cook it myself.

I am thankful for the love of my family...but why do I feel so worn down by the end of the day?

I kick myself for all of those little footnotes. I don't want to just acknowledge my blessings but I truly want to be grateful for them, for the imperfectness of them, within each circumstance I find myself in.
It is no secret that James' death sparked a massive change in my heart. A desire to be more, to do more with this life I have been given. I don't want to waste it wishing away for more of something or for something that I have deemed "better." I want to be grateful despite my circumstance. I want to find the value in what I have and to stop the pursuit of things.

Over the past couple of years I have become more and more disillusioned with our culture's constant push towards more and more stuff. I have been caught up in it for too long feeling like those basic necessities aren't enough and that I deserve more. I have dreams and hopes that I have mentally turned into essentials for my personal happiness.

We are a young family and as such are dealing with issues like paying off student loans, saving up for a home of our own, budgeting for extras like snow pants and family outings and it is hard to be patient through this time period and wait to accomplish personal and family goals. I found myself growing bitter and exasperated that the effort that I have put in so far towards these goals still has us moving at a snails pace. I am impatient, I want to accomplish everything RIGHT NOW!

I started looking more closely at my efforts and the smaller details. I started realizing that my daily pursuits did not match my long term goals. I have busied myself with stuff that eventually become clutter. Stuff to clean, to sort, to organize, to move from pile to pile, until finally it finds its way to the thrift store. My true goals and passions have nothing to do with this stuff that for so long I have accepted as a part of the daily grind. But I don't believe it has to be, or at least not in such a massive way.

I had a friend introduce me to the blog and since I have started reading I have come to many quick realizations. Realizations about the amount of stuff I am drowning myself in and how unnecessary a majority of it is. As I have made small changes to where I invest my time, my money, my thoughts, and my efforts, I have found peace. I feel as if I am not wasting the day, wishing it away but rather taking advantage of all the opportunities for special moments. I feel as if I am the best version of myself, the version God sees in me. I feel myself practicing true gratitude, doing away with excess and soaking in that which matters most. As a result, those footnotes have quieted and there really is more joy to each day.

I probably sound crazy but I cannot express how good it feels to pursue love, family, and personal growth rather than clothes, furnishings, and things.

Of course, I am not perfect in this pursuit, I still want many things, but I have seen the difference enough that it has lead me towards challenging myself more seriously (more on this later). I have felt a shift for the better and I truly believe that taking all the superfluous away has real and lasting benefits.

In the Sermon on the Mount the Savior said,  
 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)
I want to follow this admonition. I want to invest in that which cannot be corrupted. I want to treasure that which lasts. I know that as I do, I can be confident that I am living the true life I have imagined, I can be more thankful for what is before me, because in reality there is so much.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Hawaii Snapshots

Going to Kauai with my family was the most amazing thing. There were plenty of extra arms to wrangle babies and jump in the waves with them. There were extra eyes and shifts taken for nights out. Sunscreen, shampoo, and diapers were shared. It was a communal effort that made for a blissful trip.

I have a tendency to set my expectations too high, so I decided before we left that I couldn't complain. I thought to myself, "You are going to be in Hawaii with your whole family, even if the sky pours down rain the entire time, just be grateful." Singing this song helped a great deal, especially when my younger siblings had a harder time when things did not turn out perfectly. My main goal for this trip was to visit the beach as much as possible. I did away with my tendency towards lists of places to visit and things to do. It was bliss and it restored me.

I was reminded that this is exactly how I should be living my daily life. Focusing on time with my family and soaking them in.

One day in Hawaii, I spent one-on-one time with Max sitting next to him as he played in the sand while Kyle was at the condo watching Daniel while he slept. I sat there as my child played, no phone (too sandy), no camera (too sandy), no book (too sandy) and felt so connected as I sifted through the sand myself. There was time and space to think, to assess, to step back and gain perspective and what I saw was someone who is constantly waiting for the next thing; for student loans to be gone, for the weekend to show up, for Kyle to get home from work. In that moment, it became very clear to me that I cannot live this life waiting and if I do, I will miss out on what is happening right before my very eyes. I will miss all the mischievous moments, the tender brotherly moments, the bursting with joy moments.

So I made a pact with myself to work harder at bringing that Hawaii mentality to life here in Washington. If you find me walking around in my swimming suit...don't be too surprised!

Hawaii Snapshots (a lot of baby bum shots!):


Friday, November 13, 2015



vacation+computer troubles+sickness+netflix binging+lethargy=no recent blog posts

It made me sad too.

So this week I pulled myself up by the bootstraps. I returned to the things that help me get through the day. We started a daily service activity for the month and it has been such a positive thing for Max and myself. We got outside as a family and I brought my camera and exercised my creative muscles a little bit and I feel so much better overall. Those small simple things always add up and make such a big difference in my life.

So grateful for the beautiful outdoors. So grateful for time to spend with my family.


Max is learning how to make friends and it is so hard not to try to force him to be nice (like that is even possible) and not tease/annoy everyone. Everyday he tells me all about his escapades as school and I have to cringe a little bit, because I so badly just want him to be that sweet and gentle mannered child but that is just not Max. He is strong and loud and funny and a little resistant towards the necessity of kindness. He demands it for himself of course, but anything goes for everyone else in his mind. So we are learning, slowly. But I know that it will stick at some point. I will not give up.

Daniel is also learning kindness in the form of being gentle. He is obsessed with feeding himself yogurt and is walking, going on for about a month now (made the decision that walking>crawling in Hawaii).  He is still smiley and cheesy and squishy and just tries to learn from Max but stay out of the path of his fury. This has made him both tough and sensitive in the process. It is hard to know whether or not to step back or swoop in. Depends on the day and the level of hurt mostly.

Grateful for these days with little ones, as hard as they are. So I am trying to get as much snuggles and coloring and dancing with them and their lack of inhibition in as much as possible. Grateful to be able to.

Friday, October 9, 2015


It has been a wonderful week. Earlier in the week I went on my first hike sans Kyle and it went really well. It was super sporadic but I was so glad we did it. I love getting outside and the weather is so beautiful right now it is hard to not want to get out and enjoy it.

Max had school pictures this week and refused to let me trim his hair. Also, when I picked him up, I asked him to show me his smile. Man I cannot wait for the hard copy to show up! It is going to be awesome.

Daniel has finished cutting some new teeth (including a pair of molars) and his spirits are on the rise. He keeps adding new tricks like sticking out his tongue and dancing which brightens my day every single time he shows them off.
Snapshots from this week.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

My Choice

Motherhood is not as seamlessly easy as I thought it would be.

This was a surprise. I have worked at summer camps and in daycare and as a nanny, all very mother-oriented positions, or so I thought.

As I approached my final year of college, and I was trying to figure out what I was supposed to do with this one "wild and precious life" (Thanks Mary Oliver!) like most of my other classmates. I had spent four years discovering that I LOVED literature. I loved exploring themes and ideas and dissecting characters and plots. I loved the analysis and the discussions in class. This led me toward pursuing a masters in teaching and as I was preparing for that next step, it suddenly seemed completely wrong.

Suddenly I very much wanted to be a mother, more specifically a stay-at-home mother. I could imagine it vividly and it seemed like there were signs all over signaling a switch in my course. Becoming a mother felt undeniably right. It was seated deep within my heart and this desire to raise up children swelled within me. I was so excited.

A few years and a couple of children later, I often find myself struggling under the immense implications of choosing to be a stay-at-home mother. When I made the choice, I was so sure, so confident. I knew that many would not understand. I knew that many would see this as a step back for feminism. I knew that many would think it wasn't my choice and that I was throwing away years of education.

What I did not get was how thankless this job is, how much guilt and shame is associated with it, how looked down upon one can feel as a stay-at-home mother.

I surprised me how hard it was, how exhausting, how soul-stretching. 

I have doubted my initial choice many times.

Each time I doubt my initial choice, I go back to my love of analysis and discussion. I talk to my husband, to family, to friends. I study books and blogs and scripture. I pray and write and think. Every single time the answer has come back that I need to continue being a stay-at-home mother and each time I understand that choice a little better.

This last time there was more to the reaffirmation of my choice. As I was pondering, a thought came to me as clear as day, Just because a choice is right, does not mean it will be easy.

The image of a professional outside the home came to me. I imagined this person who chose a job they loved and worked hard at, but they struggled with it at times too. The job was not easy, and at times they doubted if their work was what they should really be doing, but ultimately they loved it and pursued onward, even when it was hard.

I don't know why this was so eye-opening to me, because frankly it seems obvious. Of course the right choice for you isn't always easy! The debate between staying at home as a mother and working is long and exhaustive and the correct choice will be different for everyone, but what is amazing is that we have the choice and we get to choose for ourselves.

We have the ability to figure out what feels right and best for us. Sometimes what is right and best for us won't always make us feel good because doing hard work is always soul-stretching, but we must have confidence in our ability to choose.

We may have to make the same choice over and over, or somewhere down the line it might feel right to change, to take a step in another direction. Whatever the path may be, we have the ability to know for ourselves and to know that truth with peace and confidence.

Even when you are sleep-deprived, emotionally spent, frustrated, and haven't showered in 3 days.

Friday, September 25, 2015


I wish I could have complete control over the choices of my children sometimes. Sometimes the effort to get them to make good choices and have them completely resist everything you are trying to ingrain into their little minds is humorous.

Most of the time it is exhausting and frustrating.

Have you ever seen a harried mother in a grocery store? I am sure you have. I am often that mother and I can tell you that it is as embarrassing and shameful as it looks. There is such an immense pressure to get your children to behave and be polite and courteous and a majority of the time your efforts are there and they just don't measure up.

I try to extend as much grace and mercy as possible to those around me that often I forget to extend it towards myself. Of course I want to raise children who are kind and good and polite, but it is a process and there will be trying moments where you will be completely humbled by your children. When your baby is climbing out of the cart because the seat buckle is always broken (ALWAYS!) and your preschooler is running in circles knocking candy bars off the rack and you haven't had a decent nights sleep in a year and you are just trying to get out of the store quickly because your preschooler also notified you that he has to pee and it is much easier to accomplish that at home than to maneuver yourself back through the aisles to the bathroom. I calmly try to keep the baby seated and calmly try to urge the energetic child to slow down and listen to my hiss to stop.

I feel insane. Once I manage to get us all back into the car safely after treading through the parking lot with a baby on one hip and the child by my side and bags on my arms, I take a breath. I breath to calm my heart and mind. To try to discern where I went wrong. What could I have done more to not be THAT mom, the one everyone side eyes with pity or contempt and sometimes even facebook posts.

I could have prepared better yes. I could have paid more attention the carts and given my toddler clearer instructions on behavior ahead of time. Given him some sort of choice to help him feel like he had control over his own will. There is a lot I could have done and that I will probably do in the future, but most of all at the end of the day, I rely on mercy.

I am one person, one imperfect person who is TRYING. Trying to raise good and kind children in a world with a lot of competing values of judgement and selfishness and contempt. Where I fall short, He steps in. There will always be things that are overlooked and mistakes made, but if I am trying with a sincere desire to do right, I KNOW He will fill in those gaps and shortcomings. I know because I have seen Him do it before in my life.

 I hope that when you see that mother in the grocery store that you will extend grace. That you do it through kind words (I once had another mother look at me and say, "You are doing great." My eyes swelled with tears from that earthly angel. Some days are HARD). You can do it by offering assistance. If you have no children and grab a cart, look at the buckles! Are there two straps? Are the buckles intact? Give it to the next mom who walks in heading towards the carts with a baby or toddler. If you don't know what else to do, smile and buy her a candy bar (trust me she WILL eat it!).


Max's laughter lights up the world.

Daniel waiting for someone to open the door.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Saturday Outing

We all feel asleep during Daniel's nap on Saturday and when I woke up I was charged! I shot up out of bed and all the busyness and disconnectedness of the week, all my frustrations trying to get Max to listen and Daniel to sleep piled up and I marched into the living room.

"Get up!" I declared to Kyle. "We are going outside! We are getting out of this house and doing SOMETHING!"

We had spent the day doing chores, mowing the lawn, vacuuming, laundry, catching up on overlooked areas of the week. It was necessary but frustrating. 

It is easy to get trapped in your own surroundings; to become so content with the daily to do list that you never explore or connect with anything beyond the four walls of your home. It is extra work but getting outside for me ALWAYS pays off. It restores and brings a peace that is so deeply healing.

So out we went!

I don't want to waste this life constantly worried with those to do lists. They are necessary and important but there is wiggle room. Wrinkled clothes, dirty dishes in the sink, a floor needing to be swept; these are far less important than rocks to be skipped, water-skimmers to be caught, and memories to be made and cherished doing it together. I want my ordinary days to be filled with these moments.

Grateful for the escape of the outdoors and the perspective it provides.

Friday, September 18, 2015


Ever since I was little I cannot remember taking my time reading a book. I was always swept into stories and excitedly tore through the pages, grasping for the finish. I am still obsessed with that transportation and the way it makes me see the world with fresh eyes.

It however does not go well with my current lifestyle. 

As a child and teenager I could easily read all day without interruption and fairly late into the night with little consequence. During the summer I turned into a nocturnal creature appreciative of the quiet and coolness that came with the night. I loved most assigned reading throughout high school and college (there are always exceptions of course) and even while a nanny in Seattle I immersed myself during nap times and happily finished once I got home. 

But now, my binge reading does not work very well. To carve out time I ignore and distract and hide away trying to eek out another chapter. The house gets messier and everyone is crabbier. 

Except for me of course. I am contentedly reading away; lost in another world for a few moments before I am inevitably forced to snap back to reality. 

A reality that I LOVE. 

It's funny, because as much as I love diving into the fairy tales and epic sagas, I like the story I am writing with my life best.

Now if I can just figure out how to read like a normal person....any tips on how to read without ignoring the world?

Snapshots from this week:


 Baby blues.

Friday, September 11, 2015



I am so excited. This weekend I get to see some of my closest friends from college. The last time we were all together was before I was even married!!! Luckily two of us live in the same town which so happens to be about smack dab in between the other two. So grateful to get to stay up late catching up and spending some time with them.

We are finishing up family birthdays (with my mother's being today! Happy Birthday Mom!) and settling into a routine of keeping house and preschool and pursuing goals and whatnot. It feels all very grown-up and I didn't expect it to be so hard to be away from Max during the day. He is going to a full week half-day preschool and although I relish in some uninterrupted time to write and plan and play with Daniel, I find myself missing him terribly. He is doing amazing though and is so excited to tell me about the new lessons he is learning and all the special rules. Max LOVES rules and structure and little things like "No, no Mom. You have to push your chair in BEFORE you put your lesson tray away." Doesn't matter that he NEVER pushes in his chair at home....

Also, on a more reverent note, I want to take a minute to talk about the anniversary of Sept. 11th. May peace and comfort be with all those who were directly affected that day. It had an impact upon us all, and I think often about how my worldview changed that day. I had never questioned the safety of living in this country and of hardship hitting my personal life. But Sept. 11th was the first chip at a greater understanding of our global community and my place in it. To know that ultimately there are things we cannot control but we can choose to be good, we can choose to be kind, and we can in the face of trial and adversity still choose love.

Photos from this week:

Thought process facial expressions.

He is going for the books. They were promptly, one by one, chucked off the side table and onto the floor.