Saturday, August 30, 2014

Weekend Cheer-Up List

Lots of little cheery things happened today, but one in particular thing rocked my world.

Thank you, Jesus, for giving me a son who knows his way around brown-girl hair. Your love for me has never been more evident. Thank you also, I guess, that said son desperately needs cash this week.* Bonus points for moving in his spirit in such a way that he actually let me feed him something other than mayonnaise or chocolate. Amen.

Since we're already here being cheery, I gathered up some more Cheer, list form. 'Cause I love yas.

:: I love all of her lists, all the Fridays. (Thanks, inspiration!)

:: This is the most satisfying movie I've seen in a very long time.

:: The only thing that would have made it better is this snack oh my word.

:: Also, if I'd been wearing this.

:: I read this to Cory in bed one night. In its entirety. We laughed our heads off so bad.

:: Oh, Anthro. You're so weird in a bad way. (Skip the top if you get mad about bad words. Also, the very end. Everything else will make you pee your pants laughing. Wait, just found one right smack dab in the middle. Maybe if this sort of thing really troubles you, just skip it.)

:: Oh my Josh, just STOP. (Bill Cosby, you read my mind.)

:: I want to vacation here.

:: This song will never get old. Ever. In any form.

:: Just give the kid a dang pencil

:: I'm dying over this art. 

:: Jail + College = Radness.

:: I don't have a freckled girl, but we did just read Freckle Juice.

Happy holiday weekending, Party People!

*It's only fair to point out that he offered to do it for free. :)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Entry Table - Back-to-School ed.

This green entry table has created a real situation.

I can't stop doing weird things to it.
It inspires me in the strangest, most seasonal of ways.

We've lived here for 2 years now and there have been at least 8 iterations that I can think of.

We'd been in a holding pattern for the past few weeks, after I'd finally had my fill of the Nester-inspired Art Wall. Not gonna lie, it was painful taking it down. I LOVED it. Loved.

But I was also ready for a change.

Here's the thing.
I don't put a ton of thought into the stuff I do.
(Pretend this wasn't obvious.)

I don't buy new things or take great pains.

I throw a bunch of stuff together that makes me happy.
Boom. I'm happy.

In this case, I have strong feelings that the balance is all off whack. It's all sort of a downhill slide. But hey, better than an uphill climb, am I right?

Often, after I monkey around, I'll notice something I want to change.

In this case, I swapped out the old oil can for one of my beloved Erlenmeyer flasks.
It rocked a more back-to-school vibe, which was a theme that only occurred to me when I was more-or-less done with the whole deal. And now we've swung all the way back around to, "I don't put a ton of thought into the stuff I do." Endquote.

You know what else I wanted to change?
My heinous, streaky mirror.

I didn't notice it was such a problem until I took a few pictures. And then I realized that I didn't care enough to fix it.

But then, suddenly and without warning, I did care.

I cared so much that I walked all the way to the bathroom, grabbed the Windex, walked to the paper towels, tore two off, walked back to the mirror, sprayed, wiped, sprayed, wiped.

Still a hot mess.
I give up.

You win, gray mirror.
You: 1
FPFG: nada

But it's okay, because there's some distracting, homemade, 100% weird in a "where-do-I-get-these-ideas-no-really-where" kind of way.

I made pinwheels.
With the back-to-school catalogs.

Are you dying yet? From things like jealousy or fervent inspiration? No?
Does this scream e-book???? Because I think this is my 8th catalog/magazine-related craft.

Eight must be my lucky number.
Who knew?

Dear God,
I cannot handle four more kids.
Just playing straight.
Don't want eight.

It's my weirdest work to date.

Now do you believe me?

Now do you??
(see: YOUR FEET)

Hello, fancy Garnet Hill backpacks and leggings.
I cannot afford you, but you sure do make my green entry table look stunning and bright.
And odd maybe a little.

If that's your little girl on the left in the pink shirt and ombre skirt, I'm sure this is awkward.
I know my pits feel damp. Just know that I really do think she's lovely and she totally fits our vibe. In a theoretical sort of way. I won't make it weird. Promise.

There are all kinds of tutorials online on how to make pinwheels. The ones I saw were saying I needed arcane instruments such as pencils. Scissors. Rulers, for the love of the land.


They were saying this because ideally, all your paper pieces should be the same size and shape to make a non-wonky pinwheel.

Or, you could just grab your trash, tear out pages, and fold them like a B.O.S.S.

Pre-measured. Winning.

How to make a catalog pinwheel:
Tear out a bunch of pages from the same magazine. (I was going for bright and colorful, so I kept that in mind while I ripped.)

With each page, fold back-and-forth, accordion-style, keeping your folds roughly the same width but DO NOT DARE use a ruler or I will bust you up. Rulers aren't fun. Catalog pinwheels are fun. Rulers in the context of weird junk-mail crafts are inherently incompatible and might even ruin your life.

Fire up your hot glue gun.
(Prayers for safety.)

Glue the edge of one accordion page to the next. Every now and then, fan them out and see if you need more pages to make it circle all the way around. When you have enough, glue the final edges together.

Glue a small piece of heavyish paper to the back, to help it keep its shape. I also added a little dot of watercolored paper to the front center, because I'm practically the Queen of England.


Remember my croquette mallets? They were looking sad and crusty, so I painted off their stripes a few months ago and spray painted them white.

I wasn't sure if it was the right move, but now I am.
Like 'em so much.


This is a page from a big, delicious, vintage kids book I bought years ago and immediately forgot about. I probably paid a quarter for the book and IT IS AMAZING. But this was totally my favorite page.

I painted this sunburst thingy one day while the kids refused to paint one with me. Good times. Instead, they painted blocky Mine Craft figures (Calvin) a new signature "Dot" series (Silo) and Girls with Cats (Rubes).

Kid's dictionary (thrift store duh) and Calvin's Dangerous Book for Boys.

Zinnias. AKA "The Only Thing We Don't Kill".

Life Lessons:
Live with what makes you happy.
Live with what doesn't add to your debt or make you feel like you have to compete.
Be content with what you have, but fearless in switching things around, because THAT IS FREE THERAPY.

Now, go! Dig around. Move things. Do something weird. Break the rules.

I will straight-up love you for it.

*Amazon Affiliate link used.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Secondhand Wardrobe Challenge

There are lots of things that turn my crank. Here are a few:
Sleeping in.
Riotous fiction.
Compelling non-fiction.
Every fruit except bananas.
All the Mexican food in the world.
Even Taco Bell.
Because it totally counts.
Magazines. (This is dinner tonight.)
Tunes (right now it's Lecrae.)
Hammocks. (How do you say this word? Because I was laughed straight out of AR when I said it.)

I could go on.

When it comes to the internets and the blogs, there are two kinds of posts that I will always, always stop to read. 1) Those list posts where you say what you're wearing/doing/wishing/etc...right now and 2) Outfit posts.

Come on, show me what you're wearing. I don't know why, but I love it.
I was raised on Teen Magazine and the Supermodels. Somewhere along the way, something stuck and now I remain intrigued by personal style, especially if it's thrifty. And comfy.

Here are some of my recent wears:

Old Navy eyelet (2010), cut-offs, my impulse-buy vest, and Noonday wrap bracelet.

Target boyfriend cut-offs (2013), House of Belonging T, the love-of-my-life J Crew gingham, Farmgirl Paints cuff, flea market cuff, Krafty Kash necklace, road-trip hair (not pictured.)

**Repeat after me: Gingham is a neutral. "Gingham is a neutral!"**
Thank you.

Vintage dress, Target necklace (2005), bracelet from my sister (2007), TJ Maxx wedges (2005)

Patched-up AE jeans (2009), consignment Arizona striped T, J Crew belt, 31 Bits necklace, Noonday bag, FP cuff, Old Navy peep-toe flats (2008).

I bought this dress at the jankiest Salvation Army earlier this summer. I think it's a Target brand. Not something I would usually go for. But, it was made of t-shirt knit...and black...and not a micro-mini (I'm extremely prudish about skirt length.)

Jacket: Marshalls (2014), rummage sale coin necklace, shell necklace from Silas, TJ Maxx sandals (2011)

Believe it or not, there's a moral to this story.
A weird one.

I'm a bit of a clothes horse. I don't necessarily buy often, but I enjoy thinking about what works together (sometimes). It's something I like, and it can be a source of frustration, along the lines of, "It's a new season and I want ALL NEW THINGS."

I jumped ship a couple years ago and began buying the kids' stuff almost exclusively secondhand, and though I've slowly slid into more of that for myself, I was never ready to take the plunge and commit to buying only secondhand for moi.

I have lots of excuses, namely that it's almost impossible to find certain things that fit me in stores, thanks to my gangly proportions.

But the truth is, I have enough jeans. I don't need more, anyway.
I have enough everything.

I consistently wear and re-wear the same things, year after year. They're what I'm most comfortable in and what I'm drawn to, yet like an ill-trained pup, I keep adding new things to my closet, often things I don't really even love.

I'm thinking long and hard about stewarding our resources wisely, and I'm lying to myself if I think this isn't an area that could use some tweaking.

So, for the next six months, I hereby do solemnly vow to only buy secondhand.

I've gotten a taste of how much fun it is to put things together I might not ordinarily grab in a retail store. It forces the ol' noggin a bit, and often, I like the outcome even better. 

Does anyone else want to dive in with me?
It could be fun.

Monday, August 25, 2014

We Are Human

Some days are for digging deep into thought, floating on the current of real world problems and questions of war and peace and how on earth can we ever have both?

Some days are meant for the hard work of the soul, for recalibrating, mining truth, crossing our hearts for change and heart-felt compassion, knowing when enough is simply enough.

Scratch that. All days are meant for those things.

But the truth is, the floors still need to be swept. There are so many unholy things wrapped in dust bunnies and hiding under the couch. (I am not speaking figuratively here. Just fyi.)

We're out of milk no matter how hard we wish we weren't, and the sitter comes at 5:15 and, you know, the kids will want dinner.

There are piles of piles and letters to mail and our hearts thumps inside our chests because life never stays simple long enough.

We crave this salad but first it's got to be made and we want our legs to be less wobbly. Our minds, too.

We feel God moving and shaping and pulling us like taffy but for the love, we're finally ready to make the downstairs bathroom look cute.

It doesn't feel necessary to explain (again) why you end up with so many different parts of me. I'm just here in last night's wonky ponytail and my XL Ball State t-shirt, waving my human-flag. I'm raising my mug of Pure Kenya Tea - to all of us!

We're creative and scattered complex and we cannot be penned. We weren't wired to be pensive all the time. If that were the case, God never would have invented zinnias or 5-year olds or Mindy Kaling. We can't always be serious or burdened because, hello, there's salsa in the fridge and a hot guy waiting on the couch with the TV remote in his hand.

So we multi-task. We let the deeper business marinate while we take the lighter road.

We live here and there; in our heads and way, way out in the open, where all we are is simply us, fully human, asking questions and doing our best to live out loud.

Don't ever apologize that you don't read enough, you aren't consistent or scheduled enough, your vocabulary isn't big enough, your clothes aren't stylish enough, your home isn't clean or pretty enough, or that you always burn the stew.

What you are is brave and needy and scared and wild.

(Me, too.)

You're lazy and powerful and so tired.
You're thoughtful and kind and sometimes, you're rude.

(Me, too.)

We aren't a shiny colony of robots. I don't want that lie. I don't like it and if you try to convince me it's real, you will lose me. We're ridiculous, hilarious, random, shy, way-imperfect people. With the forehead-wrinkles and the kids who went to school in yesterday's socks to prove it.

We are so on it, party people.
We've got this. But only, only, only because we sure know we don't.

So we bare our guts and admit when we're wrong and talk about silly things like George Clooney's baby and what's showing at the movies and how she won't sleep through the night. Oh, and that we will never care enough to scrub our floors as often as we should.

It's Monday, guys.


Be human with me.

Friday, August 22, 2014

What To Wear When You're Lost

I spent this morning listening to grim stories on the news; filtering through headlines that remind me this world is broken, this world is hurting and raging and mostly, it is lost.

We need our Savior.
And He's here. Emmanuel.

But I'm lost in the lostness. I'm that child alone in the parking lot, looking for a familiar face, waiting for arms outstretched for me.

I don't know what to do about anything.
Does anyone? Do you?

I stir my tea and when the phone rings, I wish it hadn't. I want to ignore it, but instead I spend 22 unplanned minutes with a woman made of bricks, her pain and hatred and her need for love stacked edge-on-edge until it's almost all I see, it's all I can hear. She screams at me through the receiver because I'm the only one listening and she's mad as hell. She spits her venom here and I don't know what to do. I can't fix any of it.

I listen and in the end, I tell her, "I understand why you're angry," because honestly, I do. (That's where listening will get us. It will change all our plans and all our ideas. You've been warned.)

Today, this week, this month, this year, it's a long run of wounds.

It's a bruise the length of a little girl's cheekbone, faded down to a dusty green. I'm left wondering how long it's been there, who else has noticed, how does she stand in my kitchen and smile anyway?

It's a brother and sister on the news, holding up a memory with courage and hope while their hands wring in their laps. They plead with us to separate evil from good while they sit dressed in black, reminding us good still lives here, too.

It's confusion and fear and wanting to to be heard but believing it's a lost cause.

It's itching from the inside for change and waiting for marching orders but realizing we're all waiting. There's no megaphone, no map, nothing but the Gospel, so we take it up with trembling and do our best to hear.

And it tells us: Put on love in the morning, wear it around, wear it to bed, wear it out.

This requires action, not just thought or emotion. We can never outspend or outgrow it. It gets softer with time as our shoulders relax into its creases and we know, this is all we can do. This is the only thing.

It's simple and it's hard, but God stands on the scaffold right this second. The volume is cranked up but He's shouting anyway, because He knows this pain we feel. He gets our confusion, our anger, our anxiety, our despair.

We're reading all of the words and doing our best to hear every side. It's not such a bad idea. But His voice has got to be the loudest. It has to be the filter through which we hear or speak a single word.

Make allowances. 
And above all, wear love, be bound up with me.

It seems impossible that harmony might stretch around the frame I see today, but His word says it can, so I believe.

{Do you need a little more good news today? Read through the comments on yesterday's post. Dare you not to cry.}

Thursday, August 21, 2014


Did you guys know today is legendary?

15 years ago today, I donned a puffy, too-short dress, re-routed myself past the "center aisle door" that had mysteriously been BOARDED SHUT for reasons I still don't know, walked down the aisle towering a full head over my cute Dad, and married the man God gave me for life.

We are similar in so many ways and also polar opposites in others, which probably makes us an ideal match. I learn from his example everyday and look forward to nothing more than our low-key evenings puttering around this little house or watching shows from the couch.

If you're tempted to believe our story has been edged in roses, you're wrong. We have fought for us. We still fight (both figuratively and the other way.) I've linked to this before, but I shared our love story right here. I just re-read it and it makes my insides bunch up over all the ways we've been saved and then saved again.

He just invited me out for tacos, so I've gotta skate.

But here's one more thing I keep forgetting to tell you about. I had the fun opportunity to chat on-air with Lynne Ford of the Mid-Morning Show last week. As someone with a history of "forgetting" when I'm being filmed/recorded or otherwise memorializing actual, verbal words that might live in the stratosphere in infamy, these events are always ripe for catastrophe. I'm happy to say that, despite repeated efforts not to cough on air, our convo was fun, but not in a way that will make it onto an unfortunate Pinterest meme. I call that success! 

If you'd like, you can have a listen right here. (Click "download file" to make the magic happen.) The interview is just ten minutes and should you be alarmed by my rugged, manly voice, be reminded that I was battling a cold. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

In honor of today, because I like hearing your voices, tell me something about your love story. Or the love story you've prayed for. Or the one that broke your heart. It can be happy or sad or funny or boring. I've lived every chapter and I'm sure to do it again.

Love and salsa forever,

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Living in the Outtakes (New Family Pics)

Of all the messes we make and we are around here, Sunday mornings are the hottest ones.
It doesn't matter what we do or how we try or how everyone slept the night before, we are immune to getting our act together. We're incapable of forging a new path. We're rushed and cranky and on occasion, there is blood-shed.

We fly out the door for church - the one positioned just a breezy, 2 minute walk from our front door - leaving the house looking like a crime scene and the cat happy to have us gone.

On our best days, we squeeze into the pew somewhere during the first hymn.
On our worst? Nevermind.

So it makes perfect sense that I decided on a lark last Sunday to head to the park after church for a few family snapshots.

And if you don't believe me that it makes perfect sense, let me add the following to my body of evidence: It was 84 degrees out with harsh sunlight. Cory is allergic to all temps above 71. (And harsh sunlight.) We had a carry-in after our service. (I "invented" a pasta salad around midnight the night before with bacon grease as the secret ingredient.) Half of us were suffering through Allergies from The Pit of Hades. We had just gorged ourselves silly on church-lady food. The kids had better things to do (aka: anything else in the world besides wear church clothes past noon and pose for family pictures.)

But even more compelling than those reasons? We all kind of matched. And I was having a decent hair day.
The end. Goodbye.

Don't even think about trying to talk me out of this one, Cory Brandon. Don't you dare. I don't care if you're "dripping in sweat". Call someone who cares, but first, set up that tripod LIKE YOU MEAN IT.

We ran past the house to grab equipment before heading across the street to the park, and found our oldest Goober sitting in the driveway on a 4-hour pass from the clink.

Let me say again, This wasn't planned.

So yes, God was good to me. I can't tell you how badly I've wanted a family pic with all 6 of us and I had almost given up hoping.

In a twist of fate, dude was "dressed up" and even more arrogant about his appearance than usual. It worked in my favor. Selah.

But as pretty as that picture looks, of course it's only part-real, part-pretend. It doesn't begin to show all that we are, and for that fact we thank the God of the heavens.

Real life is everything happening just beyond the frame.

It's fun to capture our best selves now and then, but let's not get too attached with an ideal. Let's not forget that just one slim hour before, we were wearing chocolate frosting on our chin and inconspicuously slinking up to the buffet for thirds.

Here's more of what we caught on Sunday:

Oh, homeboys. For the love. Look alive.

The bad thing about Robert is that he lacks personality.
And a sense of adventure.
Also, he's shy and nervous about himself as a person. Afraid of the camera. Insecure.

 Also, he's just not affectionate AT ALL.
Typical teenager.

(Don't tell him I just called him a teenager because technically, he isn't. But in my heart, he shall always be...)
This guy is fairly fond of his big brother and doesn't miss a single beat, as evidenced by this photo and the fact that he picked out high-tops for his back-to-school shoes.

So far, he hasn't taken up smoking.

(I know smoking is not a laughing matter, reader-friends. JUST SAY NO.)

This happened when Cory was trying to set the timer on the camera. Silas climbed onto my lap and cuddled way in like he does when he's not busy raging or constructing elaborate water circuitry. "Take our picture like this!" 

So, duh. We did.

Sister could not stop twirling...

We didn't know Silas posed himself like this until we were sorting through the shots.
I can't look at it without cracking way up.

We had the most painful time trying to get a shot of the two of us, but only because we're the most awkward and weird people we know. (And the whole "allergic to the heat" thing.)

Bottom line: We nailed it.
Then again, the years have taught us to keep our expectations on the left side of the bell curve, if you know what I mean.

These pictures aren't fancy or airbrushed. There was no "golden hour" sun-flare or quirky props. Calvin is wearing his homemade cuff.

This is just us, and I love us so dang much.

Ruby's dress and Siley's T: Tea Collection
My dress: Vintage (from Vintage Twill at Junk Evolution, South Bend, IN)
Robert: Wal Mart (his fave)
Cory and Calvin: whatever.


Hey, guess what? I'm speaking at one of the main sessions at the annual Passion for Orphans conference (Oct. 3-5, 2014) in Boulder, Colorado.This year's theme is Hope and Healing and I'm  honored to have the chance to share with this group of fun, like-minded women about the journey of hope my family has been on through adoption.
"Passion for Orphans exists to serve women involved in adoption, fostering, and world wide orphan care in an authentic and Christ-centered manner." - from their site
They have put together a truly top-notch conference that covers a wide variety of relevant adoption/foster-/orphan-care topics.

Want to join us? DO IT! It's open to anyone who wants to attend and I would love to meet you!

You can go here for more info and to register. They also have a facebook page.
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