Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Coffee Winner & Crafty Goodness

Thanks so much for your unbelievably kind words on my last post. Y'all sure know how to make a girl want to keep on writing. 

The winner of the Starbucks gift card is....

Supermac! {Such a fun name} Supermac, I'll get your address and put your gift card in the mail. 

I thought I'd keep things light for this post and dish about some crafty goodness. Is anyone else out there hopelessly in love with Pinterest

If you've never heard of Pinterest, let me explain. It's basically my room as a teenager {with magazine pictures, ideas and quotes sticky-tacked all over the walls} blown up to the size of the world. 

You can create your own "boards" and organize your boards according to recipes, decorating ideas, fashion, etc. You can then "repin" other people's "pins." It's like having every cooking, fashion, and decorating magazine right on your computer. 

It makes me want to let everything go and do nothing but bake, decorate, hot-glue stuff, write inspiring quotes and take amazing photographs.

Here are some favorite Pinterest inspirations that I've actually tried at home:

The "last iced-coffee recipe" you'll ever need. 


I made a big batch for my family reunion a couple of weeks ago and have decided that sweetened condensed milk is my new best friend. Best iced-coffee I've ever had, hands down.

If you're longing for comfortable accessories, look no further. Behold the T-shirt necklace. These are all over Pinterest and you can make thick, twisty scarves or simple necklaces with nothing more than an old t-shirt and a pair of scissors. 

{link no longer available}

I used the above tutorial to make one for myself. Cute, isn't it?

I wish all of my bling could be crafted out of stretchy knits and still look fashionable. Alas, I am still a fan of metal. And chunky beads. And ginormous bangles.  

Framed monograms on fabric are another hot item all over Pinterest. I already had a big monogram just sitting in the attic. I found the frame for $2 at Goodwill. Here she is in all her faded and fake-gilded glory.

And here she is now, wrapped up in burlap and coated in white spray paint. My mantle wanted a little makeover and this fit the bill and the budget.

Last but not least, fabric flowers. I've lost count of how many I've made. Old sweaters and cut-off jean scraps have all fallen prey to my fabric flower obsession. The ridiculously talented Emily at Jones Design Company has several simple tutorials on making a variety of fabric flowers. 

I pin them on shirts and purses and hot-glue them to headbands. 

I attached a cluster of these rolled petite fleurs to tiny totes for all of my new nieces. 

They are such fun and happy goodies to use as gifts. I've even thought about opening a little etsy shop and selling them. Because I have nothing else to do. : )  Maybe I'll just stick to giving them away. 

What about you? Have you tried out any fun ideas on Pinterest? 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Bloggiversay Bossy-ness {Plus a Giveaway!}

{My daughter's birthday cake to me. Best cake ever.}

If my blog was my spouse I'd be sleeping on the sofa. I forgot our bloggiversary.

Three years ago I began scrawling out randomness in this little space. For months I'd considered creating a blog but it needed a name. Late one night, a la mode: a little scoop for every slice of life, popped into my over-thinking brain and a blog was born. And though the name now seems a little too cutesy and contrived and themey for my taste, I still love her.

Leery of crazies and cyber-stalkers, I also came up with anonymous names for myself and for my kids: Scooper, Blondie, Brownie, and Cupcake. And while those also seem a bit silly to me now, I've decided to keep them too...even though I crave dessert every time I sit down to write. Should've thought about that. 

I've also discovered that I'm not that anonymous. If you google my real-life name, my blog comes up. {Hi stalkers!}

It sounds cliché to say that I sort of found myself through blogging, but it's true. And in some ways I actually feel like my blog found me.

Hiding beneath those initial posts of recipes and thrift store finds and quirkiness was actually a girl who had something to say. As the fun but superficial posts became fewer and further between, the honest and vulnerable posts showed up in their place.

The girl with something to say began to learn from herself. The words became teacher, therapist and friend to the one doing the writing.

Even now, when I sit down to write, I typically don't know how it will end. I only know when it's time to begin. The posts sort of write themselves.

So on this belated bloggiversary, I want to thank you, dear reader, for showing up. Thank you for your encouragement and your presence and comments. I invite you to stick around because I hope the best is yet to come.

And I'm wondering if I can ask you a few favors...

First of all, if you comment but haven't enabled your e-mail on your profile, I'd love for you to take a minute to do so. I've often wanted to reply to commenters only to click on their names and find that I can't reply. : (

Second, I realize that most people who read don't comment and that is just fine. Really it is. I certainly don't leave a comment for every post I read of someone else's. But if you're a reader, I'd love it so much if you could take a minute and introduce yourself. Because really, I don't know who's out there. {Except for my mom...she reads every post and always comments. Hi mom!} 

Subscribe? If you look in the right sidebar, you'll see subscription options. You can read a la mode in your preferred "reader" {such as Google Reader} or you can subscribe by e-mail. Just enter in your e-mail address under the "Never Miss a Post" box and every time I publish, the post will be delivered straight to your inbox.

Become a follower. Mercy, I sound like a cult leader. I promise that I don't try to brainwash anyone but my children. You can become a follower and show your support right over there in the right sidebar. 

Okay, enough bossy-ness and blog-promotion. 

I've come up with some bloggy resolutions for the next year and I thought I'd let you in on them. {Even though it terrifies me to do this because what if I don't follow through with any of them? What if I quit? What if I fall off a cliff?}

More posts. In recent months I've given up some extra responsibilities in order to focus on rest, family, and simplicity. This has opened up more space in my schedule and psyche for reflection and writing. It feels good and right and timely.

31 days. I'm still planning to join in the 31 days "party" and begin my 31 Days of Real from October 1st to October 31st. I'm scared. And excited. Join me and hold my hand?

A makeover? For a long time I've wanted to switch from blogger to Wordpress and create a more customized blog that works better for me. Y'all, it is expensive to hire creative, computery experts. So I'm thinking about learning a few tools of the trade and trying to do it myself. Because I am crazy. 

Oh I wish the bloggy versions of Clinton and Stacy would show up at my house with their expertise and a $5,000 credit card!

{Techie readers, please advise. I'm thinking to get "Pixel Happy" and then trying to customize it myself. Am I insane?}

I'm so excited about what the next year may hold for this little space. And while I'm hoping for fun bloggy stuff like bigger photos and better functionality, I'm most excited about building a real and honest place. A place to share and receive and know that we're not alone.

And now for the fun and caffeinated part. Because it's a special occasion and I like presents, I thought I'd give something away...

$10 Starbucks gift card anyone? We all need an iced coffee  or three every now and then to know that all is right with the world.

Just leave a comment....whatever you want to say. {And make sure you enable your e-mail on your profile or include it in your comment. If you win, I'll need to e-mail you and get your address.} Facebook comments don't count. You have to actually go through the blog. I am such a meanie. 

To all of you newbie commenters, I can't wait to meet you! To all of you faithful friends and join-in'ers, thanks for being so awesome. 

And thanks to everyone who put up with this crazy-long post that is all about my big self and her blog.


{I'll randomly choose a winner by next Tuesday night, August 30th. Stay tuned...}

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Parenting and Tightrope Walking

{The formatting on this one post got all wonky after the fact. No idea why. My apologies for the paragraph-long gaps of white space.}


One of my kids won't speak to me today.

So naturally, I'm writing a post on parenting. Everyone knows that only the best parents provoke their children to seething silence.

More and more, I'm realizing that certain heart issues in our children don't necessarily go away; they simply switch forms. If you tell a toddler that he cannot have Kool-Aid and must instead have water, he may throw himself on the floor and wail. He simply did not get the decision he wanted. But he gets over it.

An older child may shut himself {or herself} in the bedroom and refuse to speak. He simply did not get the decision he wanted. He will probably get over it...but resolution is more complicated and prolonged.

I've decided I much prefer the wailing toddler and his short-lived tantrum.
Honestly, I don't have too much trouble disappointing my kids in little ways.

"Water instead of juice."

"No, you can't play outside for even 5 more minutes. Supper is ready."

"I know that toy is only $1 but we're not buying it today."

" 'Everyone else' may be watching that show; we don't think it's appropriate."

But when it comes to the big stuff, the consequential stuff that involves more than juice and junk toys and playtime, I struggle. I'm afraid he {or she} will hate me. I'm afraid I'm getting it wrong. I'm afraid that this or that decision may affect his future in some catastrophic way and that when I'm visiting him 20 years from now in jail, I'll say to myself, "If only I'd given him his way on August 23, 2011."

Today was one of those days.

Discouraged and weary, I went to Jesus. I read. I prayed. {Not because I'm righteous but because I'm needy.} And I also savored today's message in Jesus Calling and its timely encouragement:

Entrust your loved ones to Me {Jesus}; release them into My protective care. They are much safer with Me than in your clinging hands. If you let a loved one become an idol in your heart, you endanger that one--as well as yourself.

The author, Sarah Young, then writes about Abraham and Isaac and how idolatry, "even in the form of parental love," is "detestable."

Parenting, like most of my pursuits, is one I'd like to get right. Daily, I get it wrong. I have not parented close to perfectly even one day in ten and a half years. I have read books on the subject, looked for answers from wise and learned experts, attended conferences, and talked to those who appear to have done a pretty good job.

And after all of that research, I still feel clueless. {No offense to the "experts."}

The truth is, we so easily and unknowingly place these tiny people up on pedestals and we bow down to their happiness, their education, their behavior, their manners, their skills, their well-being.

And let's be honest, if they turn out well, we can reflect their glory and shine glittery with success. If we're lucky, others may even look to us as supposed experts one day. How lovely.

It is a good thing to love our children sacrificially, to desire to raise them well and to "bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." But I'm beginning to wonder if it has more to do with resting and releasing than it does with rules and requirements.

Perhaps it's not about figuring it out; it's about lifting them up...

To the One who loves them more than I do.

To the One who promises to provide moment by moment, just as He did with Abraham.

It still amazes me that in an instant, a father's hand was stayed, a son's life was spared, and perfect provision appeared. Not before. Not after. At just the right time.

But that poor father, he had to completely let go and entrust his only child to the One who created him, the One who surely had a plan for his life even if that meant death.

I realize that parenting seems less dramatic {and violent} for us moderns. And though our cares may appear trivial compared with the literal sacrifice of a child, we still worry to the point of ridiculousness.

Oh how we cling tightly to our own. It seems downright unnatural to do anything else. But over and over, I'm seeing that His ways are counterintuitive. It makes sense to read books, to follow methods, to make checklists; it does not make sense to do the opposite of, well, doing something.
Praying and trusting and resting in can feel a bit silly and ineffective. But let me tell you, I have never had such peace in the midst of such uncertainty.

It's a season full of decisions: school, sports, curriculum, activities, peer groups, etc. And of course there's the everyday parenting challenges from outright rebellion to excessive whining to silent treatments to special needs to sleeplessness. With every decision and every challenge, it's easy for fretting to turn into obsessing.

Sometimes we walk the road of parenting like we'd walk a tightrope, carrying our kids on our shoulders while we're sweating bullets and teetering with fear, praying we'll make it across and not drop them to their doom entirely.
But that's not trust. And it's certainly not freedom. I, for one, don't want to live that way.

I want to walk with confidence and know that the One who's got my back is the same One who's got my kids' backs and who put the safety net of grace underneath for those moments when I fail and fall and need to begin again.
I'm grateful for the gentle Voice that whispers:

Loosen your grip and give those babies to me. I'm the expert, the One who formed them and knows them perfectly. I'll provide what you need moment by moment, situation by situation, decision by decision. Just let go.

I got this.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

So Long, Summer. Sort Of.

Sometimes tiredness creeps unannounced and uninvited. And all you can do is rest, let stuff go, reflect and keep drinking coffee, praying that the caffeine will finally take.

That's where I'm living today and with good reason I guess. Between the sleep-deprivation and the kids and starting school and life's ongoing drama, I am worn slap out.
But I am thankful too. And hopeful. And, well, just plain full...even though I'm emptied out. How's that for making sense?

I have so much to say but not enough oomph to say it. I think some more reflection is in order before the proper words will make their way out.

In other news, we eased into school this week.

But first, a family trip to Target was in order. We gave each kid $6 for new pencils, erasers, and folders. The boys picked out Spiderman stuff, made peace with their purchases, and even had some change to spare.

Blondie literally broke down crying in front of the kitty notebooks. Too many choices and not enough money. So I loaned her six more dollars and she left happy. That may have not been the wisest decision but we were all tired and hungry.

The next day we hunkered down and started our new school-year, whether any of us felt ready or not.

Turns out, we were all ready.

New pencils and watercolors and puppy folders apparently worked their magic.

It will be steamy and un-Fall-like in the Southeast 'til mid-October but summer as we've known it came to an end this week.

So here are some sweet shots of Summer. Our lazy days felt normal and commonplace while we lived them but I'm already a bit nostalgic for those days. Making peace with transition takes a bit of time.

In the midst of some hard days, a simple pictorial retrospective helps me to see it all from a better vantage point. And I feel grateful.


The beach in May

My birthday cake, made by Blondie. It was a major covert operation. She recruited my friend to take her to the store, help make the cake, and keep it hidden in her fridge. She's been watching a lot of Cake Boss.

Fourth of July 5K where even the kids got to race and dodge superheroes.

There was much fort building...

And fun time with cousins...

And rock sales with "really low prices!"

Apparently, chunks of backyard granite aren't going for much these days.

There were babies. Four brand new nieces to be exact. I'm still giddy.

Meet Bree.

And Tabitha.

I got to meet baby Caroline for the first time yesterday and I will meet baby Naomi this weekend. 

And there was golf in the backyard, complete with wet, grassy feet...

And golf at the Par 3...which is, in fact, the only place Cupcake knows how to whisper. It's crazy, he's like a whispering savant at a golf course but has no volume control anywhere else. Not even church. Especially not in church.

Blondie made herself a tree swing at my parents' house.

Oh, to be 10 again.

So "Happy Fall, Y'all!" Even though it's still 97 degrees.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Let's Get Real

I had a conversation with some friends this week. They know a little bit about some of the crazy in my life and they asked how things were going. So I told them.
Often I feel like I'm the dysfunctional one in the group. I've endured hard seasons that are difficult to talk about. Embarrassing even. Everyone else's life just seems more normal by comparison.
But as I began to share, heads began to nod. There were a lot of, "Me too's" and "I can so relate's." They each had their own stories and frustrations and I quickly began to realize that we're all struggling, that there really is nothing new under the sun.
Isolation and pretense are enemies of community and transparency.
Somebody has to be brave enough, crazy enough, or simply worn down enough to speak up. {I fall into the latter two categories.} And when she does, walls come down and realness transpires. It's a beautiful thing.
There is glorious freedom in honesty and imperfection.
It's a truth that's been simmering in my heart over the summer, the first summer in years that has truly been one of rest, reflection and healing. {Well, as much as is possible with three kids running wild and still needing to be fed.}

But even amid the clamor of children, I have heard God whispering, Invite realness. Open your heart to possibilities. Don't be so afraid to share the hard stuff. Ultimately It's My story anyway.
I love this line of Christa Wells's song, "How Emptiness Sings": He writes my story into His song.
All of our stories are simply different verses of His song; fear and pride make us hoarders. There is freedom in simply letting go and giving it away for a larger purpose.
I don't know what that will look like exactly but I've been considering an opportunity in October and I'd love to know your thoughts.
If you've flitted about the blogosphere lately you may have heard about the "31 days" invitation. The Nester wrote about it here. And Emily wrote about it here. It's open to anyone.
It's an opportunity to write in a thematic way for 31 days, every single day in October. An idea came to me within seconds and in a matter of minutes I had scribbled out over 20 ideas for possible posts.
So here's my idea: 31 Days of Real
I know, it may sound sort of vague but the basic theme is this: Real life. Real hope.
It will be a little bit of everything since that's what my blog is anyway {A Little Scoop for Every Slice of Life}: Real motherhood, real marriage, real homes, real kids, real life…not the one we wish we had, not the one we’ve settled for, but the beautiful, messy, raw, normal everyday that is the life we live.
It will be far more descriptive than it is prescriptive. I'm not an expert. I don't do formulas. I avoid preachiness.
But I long for my little circle of influence to be a place of honesty and acceptance, hope and inspiration.
I'm excited and scared to pitch my idea and I still haven't made my final decision. A spaceship could land on my house or I could experience some other dramatic life interruption. Then I'd probably have to cancel.
But barring a spaceship, I think I'm ready for the challenge.
So what do you think? Would you join me here for "31 Days of Real?" And if so, do you have some brilliant post ideas?

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Laundry Low-Down

I've been line-drying my laundry since March, not for some noble cause like being "green" or taking up homesteading or saving money.
My dryer broke. That is all.
In the spring I wrote a post about "Life on the Line" and it sort of put a positive, perhaps even existential, spin on the whole thing.
But it is August in the South and I don't have to tell you that it's hot as Hades down here. I do laundry at the risk of heat exhaustion and fire-ant bites. A couple of days ago I was chased by a wasp. Also? Tiny spiders build itty bitty webs in my clothespins. For real.
My clothes have been rained on and covered in lawnmower dust. They have been washed and pinned up only to be rewashed and re-pinned. I have left them out overnight, found socks in the fairway, and strewn clothes across the kitchen table, desks, and countertops to dry on rainy days.
By the time I finish clothes-pinning a full load of smallish shirts and shorts, I am sweaty, seeing spots, and may or may not be muttering expletives {mostly} under my breath. So yeah, the nostalgia may have faded a bit by the end of May.
As I was pinning clothes today, however, I did think of some line-drying perks. So in an attempt to look at the bright side {and in case inquiring minds want to know how the clothesline experiment is going,} here's my list:
Less laundry overall. When you work hard for every article of washed and dried clothing, you wash less. We've all become a bit more conscious of whether something really needs to be washed. And I'm realizing that we could all survive just fine with far fewer clothes.
A quiet time to pray and think {unless I am too mad at the sun for being so hot}
Crisp, folded clothes & completed laundry. Because I have long been sort of slack with the laundry, it often sat in huge piles until someone ran out of underwear or until I lost a toddler in a mound of towels. And once I washed it, I had a tendency to not fold it. I'm not sure why. Laundry has simply been my most dreaded domestic task.
But now? I am terrified of getting behind. You can't procrastinate and do 8 loads in a day when you depend on daylight to dry it. I am actually, finally keeping up with my laundry. It's amazing. 1950s technology has somehow made me more efficient.
Also, the clothes dry flat and crisp. My folding time is cut in half. I fold them as I take them off the line, stack them according to person, and put them away {usually.} And because it is hot, I hurry.
Heavenly linens. Nothing beats the smell of line-dried sheets. Even after I get a dryer, I may dry all the linens outside in the warm months.
Exfoliation. Kiss your loofah goodbye. A line-dried towel serves as a great exfoliator. And if you dry off vigorously enough, you may never have to shave your legs again. What you lose in softness, you gain in smoothness.
A better tan, a slightly lower electric bill, and {sort-of} exercise are a few other perks.
Along the way, I've found a few shortcuts. If you spin your clothes a couple of extra times before you dry them, it really saves on drying time. That's true if you're using a real dryer as well.
Also, do not waste time and energy and line-space hanging underpants and socks.
This is my current drying method for undies, socks, and other unmentionables.
Yes, it is a lawn-chair / drying rack on my deck. We are classy around here.
So, those are my thoughts on line-drying. I've been doing this for a solid 4 1/2 months now and the bottom line is: it works. It is both better and worse than using a real dryer. Like most things, it all depends on how you look at it.
Am I still drooling over a shiny, stackable, front-loading ensemble so that I can turn my tiny laundry closet into a laundry closet / mudroom like Kimba's?

Of course I am.
Electrolux, you have until the first frost to make that happen. Call me?


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