Monday, March 24, 2014

Guess What? I'm Moving Tomorrow

Hi friends! Guess what? Tomorrow is moving day here at a la mode

Originally we'd planned on today but we're finishing a few last tweaks. I try to avoid rush and stress at all costs so waiting a day just seemed like the grown-up thing to do. Though I am passionate about this online space and have been hard at work, it is, after all, a blog. I'm not saving the world over here or anything. 

If you want to know more about the move, feel free to look at this post

Plans for this new space have been swimming around in my head for a couple of years now. It's super exciting to see those dreams take shape and become a real thing. 

As you can see from those pics above, it's been fun and messy and caffeinated around here. I've been staging DIY photo shoots at the mama desk, obsessing over font combinations, and sending my designer countless emails and texts. Is there such a thing as a virtual restraining order? Because I have stalked poor Kindel night and day with my questions and ideas. She is surely the most long-suffering fairy blogmother on the planet.  

While I have your attention, I'd love to have a bit of feedback {again} if you have a minute. And then I will leave you alone. Until tomorrow. 

If you're a regular reader of blogs, what's important to you regarding design, readability, and finding your way around?

For example, do you appreciate a large font within the post to make reading easier? {Do you feel like you often have to enlarge a blog in order to read with greater ease?} How important is it for categories be easy to find? Do you like it when there's a list of favorite posts? What are some of your pet peeves? These are just sample questions. A bit of feedback can help me better prioritize some of the final tweaks we'll be making today.

I've been a blog reader for years so I have ideas of my own. But I'm only one person with one set of opinions. I would so love to hear from others on this. 

Just leave a comment in the comment section. I really appreciate your feedback!

Thanks for reading here. Thanks for being excited with me about the move. I can't wait to show up first thing tomorrow morning and take you by the hand to my new home. 

It's such a lovely place and I'm already more grateful for it than I can say. 

See you tomorrow!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Why Every Mama Needs an Office {and how to make your own, no matter how small the space}

I took early retirement at the ripe old age of 33. That was 7 years ago. Though I haven't looked back, I've been surprised about one of the things I miss the most about working: an office of my very own. 

So. Over Christmas break I decided to give myself a little gift and it didn't cost me a dime. Yep, this mama rigged up an office of her very own. I don't know why I didn't do this years ago.

This fancy sophisticated office sits in a tiny corner of my bedroom, wedged between the chifferobe and the window. It's roughly 3 feet wide and 2 1/2 feet deep.

I plundered the house for my office furnishings, dragging in one of our former homeschool desks and snagging a lone mismatched chair from the attic. A spare lamp, a pin-board, my diplomas {only because they are pretty} and a few pieces of art finished off the space.

This makeshift office works hard every day. Though we can all agree that a writer needs her own desk and chair, I've been surprised at how much I use this small space for all sorts of work. I pay our bills, plan our groceries & meals, study, e-mail, make lists, and return phone calls, all at this humble Ikea desk with the $5.99 table-top. 

It gets messy every day but each morning I clean it up and start over again.

Though I don't know why, my desk has made me more productive and serious about my work. It's provided a designated space to ponder and plan, listen and write, and tackle the mundane with a bit more gusto than I possessed pre-office. There's just something about having a legit place that belongs only to me tucked back in the corner of our little home. It makes me feel official and allows me to work with intention and a I daresay a bit of professionalism. Even if I'm just paying bills or making my to-do list in my pajamas.

Plus, a mama's office can feel like a makeshift retreat, a quiet{ish} space away from the dishes and the legos.

Do I have dreams of a bigger office? Sure. Perhaps one with a tufted chair and ottoman in the corner {so I can read in luxury}, lots of bookshelves, liberal doses of art, two lovely lamps, and a desk that allows for a bit more sprawl. 

Just for fun, here are some of my favorite smallish-space office inspiration photos:
30 Creative Home Office Ideas: Working from Home in Style

white & pretty


No traditional home office? No problem.

shelves enable quicker arrangements and an easier way to swap frames or objects in and out of the composition

And last but not least, I'm in love with Ann Voskamp's writing space, which really is like a tiny chapel retreat. Isn't it just the loveliest? I'm afraid I'd lock myself in there and never come out.

Ann! xoxo


Though I'm so grateful for my own small sacred space {even though I still indulge in dreaming of an office with its own door and walls}, I'm reminded that I somehow scrawled about 450 posts during the past 5+ years on this blog. And I did it without a dedicated space of my own. 

I wrote at the kitchen table while the kids did math, on the sagging-in-the-middle sofa, and cozied beneath layered blankets on my bed. I wrote in local coffee shops and on trips to the beach and sitting in a folding mesh chair in the driveway while the kids rode scooters around me. I've paid bills on my iPhone and from the living room floor, scribbled to-do lists in pick-up lines, and held important phone conversations in my van while it's parked in the garage because the noise inside the house was just too dang loud.

The art of the multitasking mama knows no bounds. Her work is not dictated by walls or swivel chairs or well-designed interiors. Amen?

But if our own workspace / dreamspace is just one hour and a few random pieces of furniture away, it's kind of a no-brainer. 

Why not carve one out today? I wish I'd created a tiny office years ago. If we wait to have the perfect space in place, the world may well end before we ever pound the first nail into the wall. 

So fetch that tiny table from the attic and steal a chair from the kitchen table. Shop the house for a lamp and some pretties for the wall. Heave the dresser to the left a few feet and stake your claim on that little corner there beside the window. Yep, right there.

In a house that's bursting with laundry and crumbs and plastic super heroes, save your own day and set up shop. 

It's time mama got an office of her own.


How about you? Do you have a designated work space just for you in your own home?

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Full Disclosure: On Writing, Mixed Motives, & Redemption

If all goes as planned, I roll out a new blog in six days. I am equal parts terrified and excited.

Remaking what I've had in place for five and half years at a la mode has caused me to reflect {and overthink} on blogging and why I'm still doing it after almost 450 posts. 

I've considered the positives and the pitfalls. I've obsessed far too much about silly things. I've had to repent of messy motives. 

Most of all, I've doubted and despaired that I may never be able to pursue writing with complete purity of heart. 

And that has caused me to wonder whether I should do it at all. 

Then I apply that line of thinking to all of my pursuits. Marriage? Motherhood? The years I spent in school and college teaching and then homeschooling? All of these relationships and endeavors have been and still are a perfect storm of actual giftedness mixed up with selfishness and pride and all sorts of messy motives. Good and bad and everything in between all swirling around together. 

I love this excerpt from A Million Little Ways, a recent book by Emily P. Freeman:

The art I believe I was born to make lingers even in the midst of my inadequacy.        
Just because you can't fully live your life the way you so long to live it doesn't mean you don't fully believe it's possible with all your heart. And it doesn't mean you are forbidden to share what you're learning unless you are living it perfectly.      
Christ is in you and wants to come out through you in a million little ways--through your strength and also your weakness, your abilities and also your lack.      
I call it art, someone else calls it rubbish.      
So what?      
Call it what you will. God calls us his poem. And the job of the poem is to inspire. To sing. To express the full spectrum of the human experience--both the bright hope that comes with victory and the profound loss that accompanies defeat.

So I realize that if I wait to pursue anything--relationships, vocation, service--with only 100% pure motives and with a 100% pure product and with a 100% track record of living perfectly what I believe to be true and right, I'll be waiting until I die.

I've mentioned before that I'm knee-deep in the study of Matthew this year. Getting to know those in Jesus' inner circle has been refreshing, encouraging, and sometimes hilarious. Whenever I'm tempted to think I'm too much of a mess or too unprepared to really be of much good, I'm wise to consider the disciples. They fought over who would sit at Jesus' right hand, wanted to be considered the greatest in his kingdom, tried to send away children instead of allowing them to be blessed by Jesus, and were rebuked for their weak faith. Some even denied the very One who came to give them life. 

Talk about mixed motives. But God used them to change the world anyway. He used their strengths and their sins. He redeemed their pasts and their positions. He used their God-given gifts and their God-allowed inadequacies. Either way, it was all God and all grace. 

Like the disciples, I'm a broken person living in a fallen world. My marriage, my mothering, my writing, my many relationships--they're messy, laced with my good contributions and also many failures. But because of more grace than I can comprehend, they're being redeemed all the time. 

And because of this overwhelming grace and redemption, I can be a-very-much-in-process wife, mom, friend, and writer. 

I can write imperfect posts with honesty and with hope. I can keep putting my art out there with truthfulness and humility all the while acknowledging that there will inevitably be some hypocrisy and pride tainting its edges, whether I'm fully aware of it or not.

I don't write that because I'm fatalistic about my depravity or because I'm light-hearted about it. I write that because I want to be honest and because I have hope.

Hope that God, in his love, will continue to show me my sin and mixed motives. How else can I attain the freedom and joy that only repentance brings? 

Hope because I know I stand loved, forgiven, and redeemed in the messy midst of all the sacred work I do with my life. {And it is all sacred.}

Hope because I can gaze back and see how far I've come, not because of self-effort and boot-strapped righteousness but because God has set his love upon me and is remaking me. 

The remaking, much like pruning a delicate plant, is sometimes painful. It means cutting away things I'd rather keep. It means waiting. It means rest. It means seasons of ugly barrenness in order to give birth to new seasons of fruitful beauty. And this process of cutting away, waiting, ugly, beauty is a cyclical one. I'll never arrive and simply live in a state of blossomed beauty for the rest of my days. Redemptive pruning lasts a lifetime.

So I will keep writing in this remade space, mess and neuroses and all. 

Bear with me as I try to write with humility, honesty, humor, and hope. 

Bear with me as I do this imperfectly and inconsistently. 

Bear with me as hypocrisy, pride, selfish ambition, and fear of man are inevitably thrown in the pot and mixed up with all the good stuff. 

I dream that I might make a difference with the words I write in this space. But I try to let go of any hard and fast visions of what that might look like. 

I hope that I'll have words to write, hope to share, grace to give, and humor to lighten our hearts for many posts to come. But I try not to cling too tightly. I want to be ready to lay it down and walk away should I ever need to. 

Being known and loved perfectly and intimately by the Creator of the universe is an incomprehensible gift. And I want this to matter more than being known and loved by those who read my posts. I don't want this space and the person typing out the words that fill this space to ever become too important. This is hard. Because the things we love most always have a way of becoming the things we love too much.

This is a season of new opportunity. And though I certainly have a few ideas and hopes and dreams, I teeter on the scale of acceptable enthusiasm versus unacceptable ambition. 

I accept that there are good things here: finding gifts in the mess and the mundane, spilling encouragement from the overflow of my own life, writing honest stories of hope out of imperfect marriage and crazy motherhood, and even sharing the magic popcorn recipe. Yet these spiffed-up posts can still have a bit of muck at their core. 

I suppose I write all of this because I need you to know. And because I need to remind myself. 

Something about the shiny new blog that I'm unveiling--this lovely, long-held dream of mine--urges me to pull back the curtain so that you can see me in all of my shaking, sweaty, lounge-pants-wearing, people-pleasing, mixed-motived glory. 

Putting one's art out there is a such a paradoxicial gesture--humility mixed with pride, confidence blended with fear, a longing to encourage followed by a longing to be loved for it. 

Welcome to the neurotic life of a writer. Welcome to the mixed-motives that characterize each one of us, if we're honest. Welcome to a God who's big enough to use it all anyway. Welcome to redemption. 


If you're interested in more on this topic of mixed motives, I appreciated this post that Emily wrote a while back: For the Artist Who Worries Her Motives Are Wrong

Thanks for counting down the days with me to the new blog. I can't wait to show you around. I'm hoping and praying that we won't have debilitating glitches but that's always a possibility. I'm so glad my life doesn't depend on a smooth transition. 

If you'd like to weigh in on some of the questions I asked in this post, I'd love that.

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This post first appeared at a la mode: a little scoop for every slice of life.

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Perfectly Imperfect Special Occasion Using What You Have

If you read this post, you know that our girl recently turned 13. For many months I'd hoped to do something extra special to celebrate this milestone birthday. But I also knew that it was most important for the celebration be something she really wanted. 

Meaningful for me and meaningful for her don't always translate into the same celebration language.

We brainstormed and planned. She considered a slumber party but didn't want to leave anyone out. By the time the invite list reached 16 girls, she and I both realized we simply couldn't sleep that many in our house. Plan B was an overnight outing, just the two of us. But this girl is savvy; she knew that an overnight trip might take away from the money we'd put toward her gift. 

The only thing she could decide on was her favorite meal. But should we eat it at home or at a restaurant? The poor child {who suffers from decision-making anxiety just like her mother} couldn't decide.

She finally gave up and left all the plans to us. 

I worried that it wouldn't be "enough." My idealistic expectations convinced me that it wouldn't be the special, commemorative time I'd envisioned for her or that she'd envisioned for herself.

In the end, it was lovely and simple and included only us, her family.

Truth be told, I think it was a success because she got the gift she wanted but didn't think she'd get. She's all about the swag. {Yet another thing she inherited from me.}

But I also think she loved it because it was all about her simple favorite things and this made her feel special. A dorky poem and small surprise gift each day of the week leading up to her birthday, her favorite meal, a pretty table with real stemware, and chocolate torte for dessert.

This chocolate torte makes everything perfect.

The occasion reminded me that we can pull off a sweet and personal affair using what we have and not going to great expense or stress.

I'll let you in on our birthday lineup:

Fettucini Alfredo {recipe from America's Test Kitchen and supplied by my brother}

Grilled chicken to go with the pasta 

A simple iceberg lettuce salad with Olive Garden dressing {her fave}

The Bread

Milleniyum Chocolate Torte

Pretty dishes and glasses

Sweet tea {because this girl is certifiably southern}

Wildflowers {weeds} picked by our youngest as the floral centerpiece

Homemade cards by her brothers that are so priceless, we'll be dying over them for years to come. The youngest drew a misshapen crayon heart and then apologized in the card that the heart looked like a bottom. {I suspicion that for kindergarten boys, many things tend to resemble bottoms.}

My iPhone camera. Because my real camera's battery died at the exact moment I snapped the first picture. I mean, of course. How appropriate to have less-than-perfect photos for our perfectly imperfect occasion. I had to laugh.


In an age of "pinworthy" parties and perfectly themed events and magazine-inspired everything, it's refreshing to remember that hospitality and celebration isn't about perfection; it's about people. It's about making them feel loved and unique and worth fussing over. It's about making their joys your joys. It's about using what you have--blossoming weeds, time to go to extra lengths in the kitchen, your weathered and wobbly kitchen table, and a tried-and-true torte recipe. 

Eighteen years into marriage and thirteen years into motherhood, I'm finally getting a clue about the real art of celebration.

She told me it's the best birthday she's ever had. 


In other news, Kindel and I are hard at work on the new blog details. I'm so excited! If you haven't read my last post, it tells you a little bit about what's coming next. It's also the post where I plead for a bit of help from you readers. Check it out.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

An Announcement. Aaaaand...I Need Your Help.

Hi friends.

I've been staring at the blinking cursor on the blank screen waiting for meaningful words to show up. They have not. 

So in the absence of a meaningful post I thought it might be time to tell you the thing that currently preoccupies.

Are you ready?

I'm rolling out a new blog. 

Raise your hand if you thought I was going to tell you I'm pregnant and that I need help naming my baby.

Nothing that huge and dramatic, people. But it does feel a little bit like having a baby {minus the sickness, stretch marks, and pain} and I do need some help with a name. But more on that in a minute.

I don't have an exact "delivery date" yet. There will be plenty of wrinkles to iron out first. But after an extremely long gestation period / creative and technical process, she's almost here. 

I'm giddy and terrified. {And will stop with the pregnancy / baby metaphor now.}

Here are some questions you might have:

Scooper, why are you changing things up?

I'm glad you asked. It's something I've wanted to do for a very long time. For lots of reasons, the timing simply hasn't been right until now. I've wanted a name that was less "themey" and more reflective of me and my content. And I wanted a design that felt more reflective of those things too.

Are you switching from Blogger?

Yes, I'm switching to a self-hosted site using a custom Wordpress theme. Blogger is great in that it's very user-friendly and easy to set up. It's lacking, however, in functionality and customization. I also worry about ownership of my content with Blogger. Having a self-hosted site {where one actually owns their web domain} provides more options and makes my content a little bit easier to find. 

Will you tell us your real name after you move?

Yep, I sure will. No more Scooper. Unless of course you really want to call me that. In a way I'll forever be Scooper.

Will you still be writing about the same stuff?

That's the plan. My content will still be "a little scoop for every slice of life." As much as I'd love to be a niche blog, I'm just too random to pin down. There's too many things I love to write about. I've made peace with it.

Will all of your content and comments move with you?

Absolutely. All 400+ posts and comments will be moving with me. {Fingers crossed!}

I subscribe via e-mail to your blog. Will I still get each post delivered to my inbox?


You mentioned that you need my help. How?

There are two ways. First, I need some naming help. I've got the name for the blog. It's both very original and not original at all. How's that for vague? But I'm still struggling with the tag-line. I've got long lists of possibilities and while one of them stands above the rest, even it doesn't feel 100% right. As it turns out, naming your blog is harder than naming your baby. At least it is for me. 

I'd love some feedback from you on this. What overall theme or message do you find in my posts? How do you feel after you've read a post? What words describe my content? I've got some ideas on this but I'm obviously not objective. Hearing from you may give me some fresh perspective. 

There's another way you can help. What sort of posts are your favorite? What would you like to see more of? My primary motivation for writing is simple. I write because I'm a writer. I can't not write. It's how I process. It's how I learn. It's how I reinterpret and make meaning of both the epic and the everyday. Some of my writing is private {in journals} and some of it is public here on the blog. But I've also come to see writing as part of my calling, as a way to encourage and inspire, as a way of speaking truth and beauty into the world around me. With that said, what are some of the most encouraging and enjoyable kinds of posts you've read here? What topics would you like to see explored in the future? 


I can't wait for you to see the new place. The design is close to done and it's going to be simple and lovely. My friend and fairy blogmother, Kindel {at Willow White Studios}, is the genius and cheerleader behind this whole endeavor. I wouldn't have attempted this without her. 

Stay tuned for more updates but in the meantime, help a sister out and let me know your thoughts. You can reply in the comments or even send me an e-mail: scooperalamode at gmail dot com. 

Thanks a million, friends!

Friday, March 7, 2014

And Then She Was a Teenager. 13 Things I'm Learning in Her 13th Year.

My girl turned 13 on Sunday. Her birthday week was such a whirlwind of gifting and celebration and cooking that I didn't have time to process the emotion of it all. It's probably why as I sit down to write this now, the tears well up unannounced. 

My oldest and only daughter is a teenager. What?

We have just over five years left together before she likely leaves home. The reality is more than I can bear. It's easy to be fueled by panic when you begin to think in these terms. It's tempting to amp up and get crazy intentional about getting it right from here and out and making sure she's prepared and knows what she needs to know. I want our relationship to be perfect and awesome so that her remaining time under this roof is nothing but pedicures and laughter and chick flicks. 

But if parenthood has taught me anything, it's that we can't rush or manufacture anything. Relationship takes time. Lots of it. Wisdom shows up gently and slowly. Too slowly for my taste. Figuring it out is laced with more failures than successes. Embarrassing, fall-on-your-face failures.

I may have a clue about what I'm doing by the time she leaves home. {Why is knowledge backwards like that?} 

And that's why I've titled this post, "13 I'm Learning" instead of "13 Things I've Learned." I'm nothing if not in process. 

Here they are, in no particular order.

1. The winds of adolescence are fickle breezes. 

{And by breezes I mean the tsunami variety.} This very week has brought everything from euphoria and gratitude to hysterical tears and silent treatments. Do your best to stay calm and take deep breaths. {You, not her.} The current weather condition will soon pass.

2. Remember. 

My adolescence was fine and good on the outside but a hot mess on the inside. I didn't realize that I stood at the precarious intersection of hormones, change, insecurity, and mounting stress. I didn't realize that my crazy was actually normal. It's a wonder any of us survive. Remembering the volatility of my own internal waters all those years ago can help me have more compassion and grace as she navigates her own waves...even if she sometimes leaves us in the turbulent wake of it all. 

{Unfortunately, my girl learned from the best. It's tempting for me to sink to her level instead of being the mature mom that I obviously am. Situations have at times looked like this: "I'll see your 5 on the freak-out scale and raise you 50. Do not mess with me because I invented the freak-out. I am going to out-drama you, sister!" This is a very bad idea. Very bad indeed.}

3. Do not take it personally. 

I repeat, do not take it personally. Detach. As much as you can. Deep breaths. As many as it takes. Decompress. After the storm has died down.

4. Respect. 

She's a little girl and young woman hybrid right now. Think about how awkward and confusing that is. And while she still wants to be cared for, she has a growing longing to be heard. Treating her like a child can insult her and harden her heart toward you. Lovingly respect her need to be heard. But it's also vitally important that the respect is mutual. You're still the parent. {Disrespect yields major consequences in this house, no matter how old you are.}

5. Be very honest about the facts of life and the realities of this world. 

Yes, it might be uncomfortable for you both. No, she may not want to hear it from you. Tell her anyway. She will learn things eventually and it's better that she learns it from you, tawdry details and all. We had one such conversation this week. I wouldn't call it fun but I'd definitely call it needful. My hope is that talking about "heavy" and uncomfortable things on a regular basis will make her more likely to come to me in the future when it transitions from theory to real life. I might be wrong about this but I figure I have nothing to lose by putting it all out there. I may, however, have something to lose if I don't. 

6. Find the things that bring you together and prioritize them, no matter how trivial or superficial. 

Shopping, pedicures, watching favorite shows together--these are my girl's love languages. I could {and have} rationalized that these are not exactly the most world-changing endeavors. But if these are the things that bring us together and keep our relationship tight, they're worth every superficial penny. It's not about the worthwhileness of the activity; it's about the connection forged over time in the togetherness.

7. Hope for the best. Be prepared for the worst. 

Love and respect are unconditional but trust must be earned. Whenever I'm tempted to implicitly trust her, I remember my own duplicity all those years ago...and I think better of it. I respect her basic needs for privacy--getting dressed, having her own room, time to herself, etc. That's pretty much where it ends. {Types the mom who has full access to her daughter's iPad mini and every single app.} Guess what? Our kids are sinful.They will make bad decisions. This doesn't mean you're a bad parent; it means your kids are human. 

8. Notice the becoming. 

She's creative, analytical, and infinitely curious. She loves being with her friends but recharges in solitude. Her strengths and weaknesses come out in myriad ways and God only knows what she'll end up doing with her life. As a parent, it's my job to notice her gifts, to foster them as best I can, and to teach her that God plans to use her uniqueness for her good and for the good of others and most of all, for his glory.

9. Know her limits and guard them as if her life depends on it. 

Because it just might. Rest, stress, activities, margin--you still have control over these. Today's adolescents are woefully under-rested and over-scheduled. Our toughest battles this year have been over the good endeavors we've said no to. I second-guessed these displeasing decisions at the time and now I feel nothing but relief that we stuck to our guns. Our family life and family schedule and family sanity are all the better for it. 

10. Never underestimate the power of a mental-health day. 

This one is really a life lesson for all of us. After a particularly stressful and busy two weeks this winter, I dropped her off at school on a Friday morning like I always do, got home, and had a gut-feeling that I needed to bring her back home. It had been the most emotional morning in the history of ever. The stress and exhaustion had shown itself in all sorts of unlovely ways. I checked her out of school during first period, took her to Starbucks, and declared it a mental health day. I had a gut feeling she needed rest more than she needed school. The next day she came down with the flu. Which brings me to another point: trust those maternal instincts. You have them for a reason.

11. Keep telling her that your boundaries are rooted in love and protection, even if she hates you for it. 

Especially if she hates you for it. Keep telling her even if she doesn't believe you and even though all of your rules seem to be ruining her life at the moment and even if you're the "only mom" who has to approve every friend she accepts on Instagram. Also? Keep telling yourself that your boundaries are rooted in love and protection. When emotions are high and you could temporarily make it all better by giving her what she wants, try to think long-term. And please, hold my hand and remind me of this too?

12. Surprise her with grace. 

Draw the boundary-lines deep. Let natural consequences be the best teacher. Don't rush in and save her every time she needs help. But for the love, weave grace through it all. Sometimes that does mean rushing in and saving her. Sometimes it means getting her out of school for the day. Sometimes it means purchasing something she doesn't deserve and sometimes it means letting her out of consequences she does deserve. This is how the Father treats us; let his character spill over into our relationships with our own children. 

13. Love her for who she is and not for who you want her to be. 

{Even if you end up being the reluctant cheer mom.}

And really, doesn't this apply to every relationship? And isn't this how all of us long to be loved?


There's far more that I'm learning but these are the thirteen things that floated to the surface for this post. 

My current season of motherhood is sure to be intense, but I'm full of hope that much of it will be intensely good. We watched the Oscars together Sunday night and I realized just how fun it's going to be to hang out as grown-up {ish} girls together in the coming years.  

For all of you who may be on the other side of raising teenagers, what are the lessons you've learned? We'd love to learn from you.

And for your weekend reading, here are two of my favorite posts about teenage daughters that my friend Emily Freeman wrote last year. They are beautifully insightful.

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Friday, February 28, 2014

10 Things I Learned In February

I love these posts. They provide an opportunity to walk on the lighter side of life as I share the stuff I've learned this month. 

The What We Learned posts are hosted by Emily over at Chatting at the Sky as a "monthly community link-up to share the fascinating, ridiculous, sacred, or small." 

Mine is mostly just ridiculous. 

Want to know more of what I'm talking about? Go here.

In no particular order, here are ten things I've learned in February.


1. If I don't unpack a duffel back within 48 hours of returning from a trip, it may sit there for two months. 

We went to Florida before Christmas. My unpacked bag is still in my closet. I've also learned that slackerness tends to beget slackerness. The unpacked bag has managed to spread its slothful contagion to the rest of the closet and the entire area is now a full-fledged epidemic of clothing chaos. Every day I write "clean the closet" on my to-do list and every day it mocks me in its still-unchecked state. At this point I'm contemplating just leaving the duffel bag packed for our beach trip in June. 

2. I can cut my food budget almost in half without clipping coupons. {or making everything from scratch}

3. A dusting of snow down south will get you out of school for almost a week. And provide many days of jokes about "milk sandwiches."

4. Papa John's makes heart-shaped pizzas for Valentine's Day. We may have started a tradition with this one.

5. How to fake a monogram. {for moms like me who don't know how to sew} 

My daughter is a fan of the monogram. We took this ho-hum navy gym bag and turned it into something preppy and cute.

Just print a monogram online. Trace it onto an iron-on transfer sheet. Cut it out and iron. 

A word of warning: If you are ironing the monogram onto a nylon gym bag, please place a towel flat inside the gym bag to prevent melting the front and back of the bag together. If you realize that you have in fact done this in error, quickly and carefully attempt to peel the layers apart and try not to let the molten nylon burn off your fingerprints in the process. 

6. My favorite Easter treats are the Cadbury mini-eggs. Anyone else? The mini-bags are just 99 cents and buy one get one free this week at CVS. The mini-bags are great because you don't have to worry about eating so many. Unless you keep going back to CVS to purchase additional mini bags, all the while rationalizing that they are essentially just samples. Well-played mini-bag. Well-played. 

7. When my 6-year-old confesses anything or hatches various plans to his best friend while standing in the front yard shrubs and I am working at my desk right next to the front windows, I can hear every. single. word. 

Yesterday's bit of surveillance revealed that he got in trouble at school and had to move his clip. {Who has super-powers? This mom, that's who.} When I brought it up at dinner, he looked at me as though I were telepathic. Please don't tell him. I will only be able to blow his mind in this way for another year or two and I am taking full advantage.

8. I don't feel ready to have a teenager. But like it or not, my girl turns 13 on Sunday. 

The embarrassing and ironic part is that on any given day, I feel we are complete equals regarding our emotional maturity level. I fear that I may never outgrow being easily overwhelmed, ridiculously irrational, and paralyzed by everyday decisions. As you might imagine, having two of our kind in the same house is all sorts of fun and not at all overwhelming for anyone, especially not my long-suffering husband.

9. How to watercolor without being a real artist. You've probably heard of Waterlogue by now. If not, it's an iPhone app that allows you to turn any photo into a watercolored work of art. 

Here's a photo I snapped with my phone of Cinderella's castle.

Here it is in Waterlogue. 

I'm addicted. 

My friend, Richella, did a great tutorial on how to print Waterlogue photos and turn them into real art for your home.

10. What celebrities would look like as normal people. With the Oscars fast approaching, this link just seems timely and right. I'll give you a peek. 

Brad & Angelina.


You're welcome. If you tune in to the red carpet interviews this Sunday night and begin to feel just a tad frumpy and less-than in your sweatpants and drugstore mascara, close your eyes and visualize your favorite celebrity sans million-dollar stylist, personal trainer, Spanx, and couture gown. Picture this middle-class, middle-America Brad and Angelina, the ones who never got famous and splurged on a portrait session at the Walmart photo center. You'll feel a thousand times better. 

Happy Oscars weekend, friends!


So, what have you learned this month?

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