Sunday 7: 3

I don't have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness —
it is right in front of me if I'm paying attention and practicing gratitude.
— Brene Brown

ONE
This past week for work I commuted downtown via train. Those days provided relaxing me time where I got to sit, not pay attention to traffic and simply read a book! Bonus, I took a few train photos and sent them to my crazy train loving kid!

I am not a boy, yet I am raising one to be a man. For those of you other clueless boy mamas, this book, Wild Things, really gives a glimpse into our kiddo's heads.

TWO
Each spring/summer season I look forward to our town's French Market. Valor's and my routine is to grab coffee, fresh hot kettle corn — they make it right there, and supplies for bruschetta. We jumped at the chance to meet friends and stroll the market this past week, and it did not disappoint.

THREE
This weekend a local farm, Klien Creek Farm, had their annual sheep sheering. The sun was shinning so Grammie, Valor and I all piled into the car to visit. There were baby lambs and calves that were so precious, as well as chickens roaming the property. Valor's favorite were the sheep, same as last year!

FOUR
Roasted veggies with fresh chimichurri sauce — one highlight meal from this past week. Toss your favorite veggies with a little extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast them until perfection in a 425 degree oven. Serve topped with a heavenly drizzle of sauce. Mmm!

Chimichurri Sauce
fresh cilantro
fresh flat-leaf parsley
fresh or dried oregano
garlic cloves
red onion
freshly squeezed lemon juice
salt & pepper
red pepper flakes — if you like a hint of heat
olive oil
red wine vinegar
Blend all the ingredients to taste in a food processor or blender. Keeps great sealed in the fridge for about a week.

FIVE
He must have been pretty exhausted to sleep like that, right? He was! On Saturday night Valor slept 15 hours and I got to sleep 8.5 hours! That may not seem like much, but I do not remember the last time I personally got to sleep that long. I'm typically really excited if I even get 6-7 hours of sleep. Oh, God is good and He knew I needed that rest.

SIX
After church we tried a new restaurant, BenjYehuda. Nick and I both got falafels enveloped in fresh, hand-stretched pitas along with heaps of toppings — it was fabulous! Valor enjoyed a side order of falafel dipped in hummus. They dropped the falafel fresh for each order which is good practice and no wonder it was exceptional. We're scheming plans to go back soon!

SEVEN
Valor loves swinging in a rainbow hammock hung between two great trees in our backyard. This hammock is more than just a hammock, it reminds me of adventure and how much we have to be grateful for. Years ago Nick and I bought this hammock in Mexico at a cruise port. It was our very first cruise and we went with my whole family. It reminds me of climbing the Mayan ruins, ATV-ing and getting hundreds of bug bites in the Honduran jungle, snorkeling in Belize, and all the other special memories from that trip. I love how little souvenirs help us remember. To travel, to experience and learn: that is to live. —Nepalese mountaineer Tenzing Norgay

Sunday 7: 2

Sometimes we should express our gratitude for the small and simple things like the scent of the rain,
the taste of your favorite food, or the sound of a loved one's voice. –Joseph B. Wirthlin

ONE
Many times when I share how long my daily commute is to people I can audibly hear them groan, but I have learned to embrace this time (and continue to remind myself, because sometimes I need it when traffic is heavy). It is two hours in my day that I can do whatever I want — listen to music, catch up with a friend on the phone, or listen to podcast. The majority of the time I spend binge listening to podcasts. A few of my favorites include: Coffee+Crumbs, God Centered Mom, Young House Love, A Couple Cooks, among a handful of others. If you're listening to a podcast you're crazy about, please share with me, I'm always in search for new content to devour.

TWO
Friday evening we celebrated my sister's birthday and ate one of our recent-favorite meals, bahn mi bowls.

THREE
The days are finally getting warmer and our daffodils are taking over. Looking out our back windows there is a sea of yellow. On Tuesday Nick cut a large bouquet of them for our kitchen counter — it was like having a piece of the sun inside. Seeing flowers in the house simply and easily brings a smile to my face.

FOUR
Saturday afternoon's weather was more than perfect as we relaxed on the patio. Nick and I caught up on our busy week while Valor played with a few toys in between running back and forth to his sandbox. I see this becoming a routine for our little family this summer.

FIVE
Seeing these two buddies together makes my heart leap for joy. They squeal with excitement and knock each other down with hugs when they get together. They have been friends since they were in the womb and I cannot wait to observe their developing friendship as the years move forward.

SIX
Easter Sunday — such a perfect day that started out with an egg hunt, easter basket and cinnamon bunny rolls for breakfast. At service we were reminded that hope is to the soul as oxygen is to the lungs. So thankful for the hope we have in Christ Jesus and the real reason for Easter! After church we spent the afternoon cooking out with my parents, sister and bro-in-law. The day closed as Valor unwrapped his first chocolate bunny and chomped down on the ears. Is anything cuter than a toddler face beaming and coated in chocolate?

SEVEN
Never in my life did I think I would be playing trains and discussing bugs, but here I am and wouldn't change it for a second! It is really precious to observe Valor's crazy obsession with trains and I am sure it tickles his Great-Grandpa who also loves trains. In his Easter package from his Great-Grandpa and Grama, he received this new shiny train which he has asked to bring with him to bed almost every night since he opened it.

Sunday Seven: 1

Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy,
and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.
—Willam Arthur Ward

Today is my first edition of Sunday Seven. If you didn't read my last post, this is my reminder of the blessings woven into my life — or a digital gratitude journal as some might call it. This will be my record of memories that bring a smile across my face, or things I simply want to remember. Life is incredibly short, which I am reminded of often, and we need to celebrate it!



ONE
In our home, there is constantly a project going on. Most recently we had to have our kitchen ceiling repaired as the newly installed drywall was cracking. Thankfully it was a quick fix with minimal drywall dust.

TWO
Monday I seized an opportunity, after work Valor and I ate a quick dinner and hurried to the playroom. I sat on the floor completely focused on him as he cooked up tacos and chocolate milk in his kitchen. His sweet-giving heart served me and made sure my plate was always full. While he cooked I thought about times when we have guests in our home, or simply when I walk in the door from work — my boy with a servant's heart says, "Take off your coat and shoes. Come in!" If I have drinks set out for guests, he quickly makes sure they have a napkin. Watching his tender heart develop is a huge blessing. As I sit watching him stir the pot of plastic tacos, I realize he is the living reflection of our Savior. What a beautiful reminder on a mundane Monday. God wants to take care of our needs and He will if we just sit down on the floor by his feet.

THREE
The Coffee+Crumbs Magic of Motherhood book was release this past Tuesday, and I read half of the book that same evening. It has made me laugh, cry and everything in between. For any mama this is an excellent read. Also, I am in love with the Coffe+Crumbs website and podcast. I look forward to each new essay published and podcast. This essay, She Gave Me The Eyes Of A Mother, is one of my all-time favorites.

FOUR
After graduate school Nick accepted a weekend position in a hospital's geriatric psychiatric unit —which was okay at the time. But after becoming a family of three it was painfully obvious that this schedule was not to our benefit. We were simply ships passing in the night. His absence each weekend and many holidays was difficult. It often felt that work unfortunately came before our family. After four-plus years of this schedule, Nick was able to put in his resignation and this weekend was the first of freedom!

FIVE
With Nick's new found freedom, we got to spend the weekend in Indiana celebrating my mother-in-law's and oldest nephew's birthdays.
SIX
I'm always on the hunt for a healthy, yummy and quick recipe. This one marks off all the checkboxes!  Add this one to your lunch menu for the busy work week, you won't regret it!

SEVEN
Blurry but oh so precious. This Palm Sunday was the first time Valor got to participate in the waving of the palm branches at church. It was very cute to see how excited he got when he saw me in the congregation and tried to jump out of line toward me.

Well, that's a wrap folks, my seven highlights from the past week. Writing them down and giving thanks will continue to remind me how much I have to be grateful for. There is so much good. I hope these Sunday Seven posts will help inspire you to count your blessings and join me in living your life in a constant state of gratitude.

You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in ink.
— G.K. Chesterton

Treading Water


In the throws, I'm barley treading water. It's Sunday after 8:00 pm and I'm finally loading the breakfast (and lunch) dishes into the dishwasher. A pot of water is on the stove waiting for me to start cooking dinner. I sneak away from the meal prep to pack my laptop and files in preparation for work that starts in less than 10 hours. From the office I hear the water on the stove start to bubble and overflow like an angry volcano. Ugh, another mess to clean up.

Dinner is cooked. Our son is safely tucked into bed with a zoo-quantity of stuffed animals surrounding him. My husband and I collapse on the couch with our dinner plates. We are bone-tired and the workweek is looming. 

Monday morning comes, my thoughts and tears flow as one:
I am missing everything.
I want a weekend re-do.
I messed everything up.
I wished I focused more on him and less on the things I had to get done around the house.
Why do we even have to eat? Cooking takes so much time and makes a huge mess.
I wish I sat on the floor and played with him more.
I need more time.
It is not enough.

Recently for me being a career mama is all about treading water and full of regrets come Monday. The weekend checklists are long and somehow have become the main focus. But the heartbreak that rolls around with each Monday morning is not worth it. I'd rather have time with my boy in a dirty house if it erased the guilt and sadness each Monday morning. Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets.

Of course there was time spent with him, but the time not spent looms a little higher and darker. I am realizing it is easier to focus on the misses than wins. So I am going to be trying an experiment — I'm going to attempt a return to the blog world in a more consistent manner. It will be my way of reminding myself of the good in the midst of the hard — and a momento of the time we do spend together. 

For my fellow career mamas, you are not alone in your struggles — I am treading water next to you. Let's keep reminding one another to focus on the positive, to spend more time playing on the floor — who cares that the floor we are sitting on needs mopped. The days are long, but the years are painfully short. And don't forget to hug your cutie a bit longer at bedtime tonight, I know I will be!

Our Love Is Magic (a love letter)


It didn't take long to fall hard and deep. Not the scrapped, red and bloody knee-type of falling but the falling into heaven's clouds. At that moment we met, we understood each other, we were unblemished in each other's sight, and quickly became inseparable. I don't remember the exact moment when I knew and it doesn't even matter, but you were the one. We traded every part of our souls, even the broken pieces, because we knew that the other held the healing salve for our lives.

They say opposites attract — this is true. Though we've come from very different backgrounds it gives us a strength like no other. As the years continue to gather, we weave more together as one, unsure of where one starts and the other ends. Soulmates. It is not our goal to become one another, but to recognize each other. Playing as witness to each other's life.

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"...in a marriage, you're promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things...all of it, all of the time, every day. You're saying 'Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness'." Shall We Dance (2004)

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They say having a baby changes things. It does. It has propelled me unfathomably further in love with you. As I look at our son, I plunge deeper in love with every part of you, the man who made me a mama. You are a faithful, honest, kind and good man. You are the answer to every question my heart could ask.

I am so thankful for everything. Every graduation. Every fight. Every mortgage bill. Every dirty dish. Every illness. Every birthday celebration. Every vacation. Every ordinary day together. Because it all has woven us tighter together.

Nick, thank you for taking a chance on me. I know every day is not easy, but by the art of committment you continue to be my soulmate. I could never live without you. I love you in untold ways, you've cast a spell over my heart and our love is magic. What a gift of a lifetime. You and I have journeyed the path of rocky roads and have swam in the sparkling blue, but the constant always has been you. Our love may be old but renews forever. Beauty arises and my soul is satisfied.

Life is a journey, and I have chosen well with whom I travel alongside. Together let's leave a beautiful history for our family, a legacy of deep and true love, a marriage to inspire and encourage. Thank you for helping me discover the greatest joy of life.

Pep Talk for the Working Mama


To the mama heavy with guilt.

To the mama who is sitting in her office choking back the tears.

To the mama who literally feels her heart breaking.

To the mama who is questioning her motivations.

To the mama who feels like the day couldn't move any slower.

To the mama who hasn't seen her baby since yesterday.

To the mama who works outside the home and hears, "it gets easier with time," but it hasn't.

Remember.

Remember you work to provide for that baby you're missing so badly.

Remember you are fortunate to have a job when many do not.

Remember that work is an opportunity to share your talents with the world.

Remember that work keeps you in the game career-wise and connected to the larger world.

Remember that you are providing a positive role model.

Remember each work day ends with an all encompassing bear hug — the best part.

Mama, when you're feeling the guilt overcome, remember hard days don't mean bad days. You can do hard things, because you're doing it for the ones you love. Today while at work, remember there is an end to every day. You are not the first mama to need a little reassurance and reminder that you can do what seems impossible. Maybe work isn't always where you want to be, but it is a push and pull. You are strong and smart. Be fully present, whether you are at work or at home.


At the end of the day...



At the end of the day, when it's all said and done, magically all the hard frustrations melt away. Past the dinnertime food throwing and not actually eating and the purposeful milk spilling. After all the defiant "no's" have been said, we march up the creaky, well-worn wooden staircase to his bedroom.

A small lamp on the bookcase dimly illuminates the room. I help my wiggly boy change into his pjs and we cuddle in soft and deep. Books stacked beside us as we turn the pages together — symbolic of the pages of our lives — quickly turning and passing. We read about the cow jumping over the moon and snowy owl wings among other things. Prayers are said. Songs are sung. Meanwhile my boy clings tightly around my neck and presses close for our cheeks to touch.

I linger, smell his sweet baby shampoo scent and listen to his precious toddler voice. He tells me of his plans for the following day and I become teary-eyed. His scary, life-threatening birth story flashes through my consciousness, and I find myself so thankful and blessed — the very best way to end the day. Heart so very, very full.

Created to Create


There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age. — Sophia Loren
There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age. Sophia Loren
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/s/sophialore120970.html?src=t_creativity
There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age. Sophia Loren
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/creativity.html

I have this desire to create. It is innate in me — it's who I am. As long as I can remember, I've created.

As a small child, I played hours with play-doh and colored every time I could get my hands on crayons and markers.

In middle school I scrapbooked.

In high school I made all my own jewelry.

When I graduated high school early, I landed a design position at a small company.

In college I studied art, was the curator for my University's art gallery, then graduated with a Bachelors in Photography.

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At the beginning of my college career, the professors gathered the new art students in the small prayer chapel for a moment I'll never forget. The professors spoke words that permeated my heart and impacted the entire way I viewed the creative profession — to this day. Their words reminded me that I was made in God's image, the original Creator. As an image bearer, I have been given the gift of creativity and have been called to continue the creation story. Each student in the prayer chapel that day was gathered to have their hands blessed. I won't forget as my hands were anointed and prayed over — I have been commissioned to create.

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On my last summer break of college, I showed a collection of my photographs in a Chicago Arts District gallery — and even sold a few pieces.

After being proposed to, I planned every detail our wedding and handmade hundreds of detailed paper flowers for the big event — held in an art gallery.

After we were married I decorated our first apartment.

Those early years of marriage, I carried my camera everywhere, blogged and fell deeply and madly in love of the art of food.

Enter now: wife, mama, and career. I've viewed my life the last few years as simply full. Too full to have any time for creativity — and just plain tired. But perhaps I am worn out because my creative heartbeat is being muffled. Creative endeavors energize me and in 2017 I am going to carve out the time and space to dip my toes back into my creative roots. Because creativity is the constant thread that is woven throughout my life, how could I simply abandon that now?

I was born with a hunger to experience and create beauty — this is not a coincidence. Throughout my growing-up years I created without thought, unrestricted — it was simply what I did. And I know that gift is still inside me. So give me a shovel 2017, I need to start digging back to my creative place. I want find my creative spark in everyday activities again. I want more than a functional life, I want to be fully aware of this beautiful life. So I'm finding my way back to do my job and keep showing up even when it is hard, and even when I am tired.