Finding joy and grace in the ordinary.

Current Favorites

One of my favorite things to read on other blogs is what people are currently loving. It’s so fun to read about what others are drawn to and sometimes I end up finding a new favorite for myself. I have a lot of current favorites right now and just wanted to pass them along in case you’re needing inspiration (or maybe even a few gift ideas)!

Favorite Small Business: Rose Henges

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I try to be really intentional about spending my money through small businesses first. I came across this KC-based artist a while ago and when I saw this print for Christmas I knew it could be something I use every year. You can find all of her artwork here.

Currently : Listening

I love listening to podcasts while I’m doing housework. It’s a great way to distract myself during my not-so-fun chores and I feel more productive than if I were to just put a TV show on. I’ve been a big fan of Revive Our Hearts radio for many years. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is a very gifted teacher. She has a series out right now that walks you through the meanings of many classic Christmas carols. There are so many phrases that I’ve sung since a child and had no idea what they meant. It’s fun to have a bit more knowledge about the carols we sing. You can find that series here.

Another great podcast that is a little more lighthearted is Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey. Jamie has interviewed so many great women that I admire. From authors to entrepreneurs, she chats about life, spirituality, motherhood, inspiration, etc. I particularly love the Happy Half Hour where she asks them a list of great questions and I always find a new thing to look into. You can listen to that podcast here.

Last one. The Daily Liturgy podcast that is produced by our old church, Coram Deo. Lately I find it SO hard to spend a decent amount of time in the Word. This short, daily podcast is combined of scripture readings and prayers and liturgy. I love to put it on while I’m getting ready in the morning. Find it here.

Currently: Reading

I don’t have a ton of time to read, but I’ve been trying to be disciplined in the evenings to turn off the computer and open a book when I’m in bed. I recently started Francine River’s A Lineage of Grace: Five Stories of Unlikely Women Who Changed Eternity. I used to scoff at cheesy Christian fiction books, but Francine Rivers proved me wrong. I don’t read many fiction books, but I fall in love with every book that I read of hers. This one is quickly becoming a favorite, as well. You can find it here.

Currently: Wearing

I can’t even talk to you about clothing right now. Maternity winter clothing is the most depressing, ugly subject and I haven’t made peace with it yet. Moving on.

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I have never made self-care a big priority in my life. Once I started having kids, that became even more true. However, after three kids and many brutal winters, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not leaving Nebraska any time soon and I need to figure out how to thrive through this season. Self care plays a huge role in that. I get down in the dumps easily this time of year. It’s dark and cold and my skin is dry and pale and it’s easy to fall into a slump. I’ve decided to make self care a priority this year by paying extra attention to my skin, taking the extra time to do my hair and makeup (on most days) and forcing myself to get to the gym or yoga studio. I’m even going to put together a basket of pampering items for my bathroom where I can lock the door a few nights a week and create my own little spa. These are a few of my favorite products right now:

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(1) Rosemary Mint candle from Target (2) Glossier cleanser (3) Nars orgasm illuminator (4) Arbonne lipgloss-Anise (5) Arbonne CC Cream

Currently: Spinning

I don’t have half as much of the time that I used to have as a teen to find new music, but every now and then I’ll come across something new (to me) that I love and, of course, I have to share. I heard of Kacy & Clayton a while back and instantly fell in love with their retro sound. She reminds me of a folk singer from the 60’s so obviously I’m destined to love it. You can find all of their music on Spotify. This song is a favorite:

Ryan Adams released a new single for his upcoming album today and I just love it. It’s a bit edgy and abrasive, but his new album is inspired by his divorce to Mandy Moore (still sad) so it’s not surprising.

I think that’s it for now! I hear two children fighting in the backroom so I suppose I should go take care of that. Until next time!

J.

A Gift

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Sometimes Thanksgiving feels like that holiday you need to get through so that Christmas can start. We’re so eager for the magic to begin that we forget to stop and savor the holiday of gratitude. I’m totally guilty of it. However, Thanksgiving is particularly special to me this year because God has blessed us in crazy, unexpected ways.

We had a really great summer. Truman started his new job and he was home often, the girls were all at an age where we could go do fun things, and I was feeling like myself again after surviving the baby stage. I was closer to God than I’ve ever been, my appetite for His word was so strong and I had the mental capacity to invest in others and cultivate relationships. I was even leading a bible study and organizing a women’s retreat! It felt like we were thriving and it felt good. When autumn came, I entered this unexpected and abrupt dry season for no particular reason. Negative thoughts were setting up camp in my mind and I felt like God was silent. I knew that God is steadfast and I knew He was still there, but I couldn’t feel his closeness like I did in the summer. It’s happened before, this numb-spell, and I knew that relying on my own feelings was fruitless so I continued to seek Him in little ways and hope that He would breathe life into our relationship again.

It was mid-October and I found myself walking down the street to the local pharmacy to buy a pregnancy test. I wasn’t doing it because I thought I was pregnant, I was doing it to ease my husband’s mind. We were both on the same page about the timeline of our family. We wanted more children, but after three kids in three years, we needed a break. We needed time to invest in our marriage. I needed to give my body time to heal. We wanted to be in a place where we were thriving and not just playing defense constantly and it finally felt like we were getting there. We liked the feeling of not being in constant chaos. We liked the feeling of not drowning. We liked feeling like we had enough room to breathe.

As I watched two pink lines flash across the test, I felt the blood rush to my head. I’ve only ever cried tears of joy when I read a positive pregnancy test, but this was different. I turned around into the towels hanging on the wall and I cried into them. Tears of confusion and fear and shock. How could this be? Why, God? We were just getting our feet underneath us. I was just starting to feel like myself again. I can’t do this all over again right now. How on earth was I going to tell Truman? The hysterical part of me legitimately considered keeping it from him, but we all know how well that would go. I eventually mustered up the strength to tell him and we processed together. For a long time. We went through all of the stages of emotions that you go through when you get unexpected news and at the end, we came to this conclusion. God is good and life is a gift and a miracle. Whether it was planned or not. Whether it’s convenient or not. We truly believe that. The tears are welling up in my eyes as I think about the glory of God that shines through in all of this. Being pregnant right now was not at all part of my plan, and yet I still cherish and love this tiny life so deeply. Truman held me as I was crying the night that we found out and he said something that I’ll never forget. He said that even though we don’t understand God’s plan, life is a gift and we are going to love this life just as though we had been expecting it. I felt a peace in that, in surrendering to God’s will.

Fast forward a week. I had been having horrible back pain and cramping for a few days and it was causing concern. I went into the doctor just to make sure we weren’t dealing with an ectopic pregnancy. They were behind schedule and Truman eventually had to leave to pick up Penny from pre-school before we got to the ultrasound. When I went to the bathroom, I saw pink and my heart dropped. I have never once seen pink with any of my pregnancies and I just knew. I knew what was happening. I hopped up onto the ultrasound bed with a lump in my throat, shaking. The ultrasound tech scanned over my stomach for what felt like an eternity and couldn’t see an embryo or detect a heartbeat. She tried to reassure me that it was still very early and it’s common not to hear a heartbeat yet, but she was concerned with the shape of my gestational sac. I tried to let my body go numb. I wanted to hold my tears until I was alone. The midwife gave me information on miscarriage and explained my options if that’s what it came to. She told me not to lose hope yet and that it’s not over til it’s over. The pain in my back was so intense that I had to rest in bed for two days. I couldn’t stand without feeling like I was going to pass out. My mind had shifted from a place of hope and gratitude to a place of sorrow. I cried out to God in bed, begging that it would just be over soon. I had finally accepted this pregnancy and even gotten excited about it, all to have it taken away. On the day of my 27th birthday, the pain had become so intense that the midwife advised me to go into the ER. I was poked and prodded and my blood levels were checked and somehow they were still slowly rising. It didn’t make sense. How was I bleeding and cramping? The doctor speculated that we were possibly dealing with a blighted ovum (when an embryo never develops but your body thinks it’s pregnant), but said there was nothing she could do since it was still so early. The next morning I got a call from our family doctor, asking me why I was in the hospital. After explaining to him, he offered to let me come in to check my levels again to see if they were rising. I just needed a clear answer. I needed someone to tell me that it was going to end. Holding onto hope hurt too much. When I met with him and explained what I had been going through, he wasn’t hopeful either. He told me he doubted that this would be a viable pregnancy, but would call me later that day with the results. When our family doctor called, he was shocked to tell me that my levels had jumped once again. He told me that he really wasn’t expecting those results and that he thought that was a good sign. I was driving when he called and when I hung up the phone I bawled. This back and forth motion was taking a toll on me, but this good news felt like a sweet kiss from God. He felt so far away, I felt so alone, yet I knew He was still there.

A few days later I went in for my second ultrasound. My emotions were all over the place. I didn’t know whether to expect bad news or to be hopeful that things were okay. This baby that I hadn’t even planned for had become something I desperately longed for and now I feared that it would be taken away. As I waited for the ultrasound tech to scan my abdomen, a tiny little speck appeared. There was, in fact, a baby. “Shall we listen for a heartbeat?” she said. My own heart was racing and then the sound of a miracle pulsed through the speakers. She smiled and tears rolled down my face. I had spent the weekend in bed, my  birthday weekend, waiting to miscarry a baby that I didn’t even know I wanted and now the sound of a beautiful little heartbeat filled the room and all I could do was praise God. I felt so undeserving of this blessing and so, so thankful for this precious life.

It turns out my intense pain and spotting was due to a small hemorrhage in my uterus that had formed when the embryo formed. It’s a small sac of blood that dissolves over time. The first ultrasound tech had been looking at the hemorrhage instead of the gestational sac, leading me to believe that the shape was concerning.

I felt emotionally exhausted after such a long week. I think God took us through that detour of fear and lost hope to help us see how precious and valuable this life is. We didn’t realize how much we wanted this baby until it was almost gone and after all of that, I feel a confidence that God’s plan is greater than ours. Even when it doesn’t make sense AT ALL. He knows what this life will be and He believes that this is the right time for it to join our family. So we will trust that and move forward with joy.

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I apologize for the novel. I know that this is very personal, detailed information, but it was easily one of the darkest and most beautiful weeks of my life and I believe in sharing those vulnerable moments with others. We are getting close to the end of the first trimester and sharing this news with the world is very scary for me. I feel so fragile. My hormones are running in every direction (much like my children) and a part of me is fearful of what others will say. “What are they thinking?! She can barely handle three! Don’t they know how babies are made?!” Believe me, I’ve thought the same thing. Some days I break down and think I can’t do this. I liked being the person that wasn’t falling apart! I liked being the person to help others, not the one who constantly needed help. I liked wearing high-waisted jeans! But after all we’ve been through in the past few months, I firmly believe that this was not an accident. God will use this life for a very special purpose and he will sanctify us through it all.

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SO. It is with deep gratitude and joy that we announce that another Faeh baby will be joining us in June of 2017. And according to Penny, it’s a boy and he will be named “Nergis.” TBD.

Advent 2016

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There is always this lingering tension I feel as the holiday season approaches. Don’t get me wrong, I love this magical season of beauty and cheer and all things cozy, but the (self-imposed) pressure to create a memorable season for myself and my family can seem daunting. Pictures start popping up all over Pinterest and Instagram of the perfect Christmas where the halls are decked head to toe in fresh garland and every corner of the home looks like a photo from a magazine. If I’m not careful, this season can quickly become more about me trying to prove something (my worth? my creativity? my ability as a mother?) instead of celebrating the always-incredible gift of Jesus. I don’t ever want to be the reason my family is drawn away from the true meaning of Christmas and I want to be very serious about avoiding comparison and high expectations and falling into the trap of consumerism. It’s not easy and it’s going to take a great deal of intentionality through the years.

So. In order for me to achieve this, I need to do a little planning ahead. First, I need to decide what I want my family to value most through the holidays. First and foremost, I want Jesus to be exalted and in order for that to happen I think it’s best to keep things simple. Simplicity is my goal and that’s going to mean being content with my choices and not using social media as a measuring stick. Family time, service to others, and teaching the girls about the Christmas story are the essentials. I need to hold onto everything else loosely.

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Since I would like to be intentional about creating special moments for my family, I knew that I needed to plan early enough to avoid any stress. We’ve never done an Advent calendar, but I love the idea of having something fun to wake up to every day. I know there are many ways to do this, and after doing some research I feel that the best fit for us is an advent calendar based around experiences rather than actual daily gifts. I searched the web and asked other mamas what their favorite Christmas activities are and I came up with a list of activities we will enjoy. This requires little prep time on my part and the only thing I’ll need to do is create a simple advent calendar. There are more than 25 activities here so I need to condense them before I finalize our calendar! If you’re looking for some inspiration, here you go!

  1. Go to the bookstore and let each child pick out a Christmas book to read throughout the month.
  2. Make dinner together and eat by candelight
  3. Find a scripture to read and memorize each week
  4. Family Movie Night: Charlie Brown Christmas
  5. Open Christmas gift of jammies to wear throughout the month
  6. Decorate sugar cookies
  7. Family  Movie Night: Elf
  8. Look at Christmas lights
  9. Make and take treats to friends
  10. Donate food to a food pantry
  11. Take gift to teacher
  12. Take treats and thank you card to local police station
  13. Pay for a stranger’s coffee
  14. Make Christmas cards for a nursing home
  15. Make handprint Christmas trees
  16. Read Christmas stories by the tree
  17. Decorate and hang snowflakes
  18. Family Movie Night: Polar Express
  19. Visit a live nativity
  20. Leave a thank you note for the trashman
  21. Bake cinnamon rolls for breakfast
  22. Family game night by the tree w/ Christmas music
  23. Go watch the ice skaters
  24. Go to a local Christmas carol concert
  25. Hand out care packages to the homeless
  26. Special date with mom and dad to pick out Christmas gift for siblings
  27. Make paper chain Christmas countdown
  28. Each child gets to pick out one new Christmas ornament
  29. Make picture ornaments for grandparents and mail to them
  30. Handprint reindeer
  31. Snowman craft
  32. Make Christmas wreaths

Some days we’ll do a few of these together (i.e. look at Christmas lights and finish with a movie). For me, this is a great way to experience all the fun Christmas things without the stress. It takes a little planning ahead, but it’s worth it if I get to enjoy the month with my family!

What are your favorite ways to celebrate the Christmas season with your family? How do you avoid the trap of comparison and consumerism? What are your essential family traditions? I love hearing how others stay intentional during the holidays!

Cheers to a stress-free, grace-filled holiday,

Jord.

My Favorite Things

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I had a completely random thought the other day that caught me by surprise.

Our world is very driven by the influence of others. This isn’t always a bad thing. Some mom might share her favorite recipe with me and suddenly it becomes a staple in our house. Or I might read a blog about this book someone recommends and I’ll add it to my Amazon cart. It’s fun to discover new things and adopt new interests and get inspired, but I realized that I hadn’t stopped once to think about what I love. What are the things that I’ve naturally become drawn to? What are the things that would still be a part of my life if the internet didn’t exist? What are the things that I’m passionate about? What are the items that have subconsciously worked their way into my daily/weekly routine? What are the things I love that haven’t been recommended by some hip mom on Instagram?

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Social media is a great tool to inspire creativity and encourage others with glimpses into our own lives. I won’t get into the downsides of comparison because we already know all of that. What I hadn’t considered, though, is the fact that social media has a tendency to form my likes and interests in a very gradual and disguised way. It makes me wonder how much of us is influenced by others? And also, are we just playing the game? I have to remind myself often when reading blogs that many of these bloggers are being funded/supported by a company that wants you to buy their product. They’ve hired a cool girl with a sh*t ton of followers to make their product look cool and then suddenly dozens of other girls think they need that too (I’m 100% guilty of this). And like I said, it’s not always a bad thing! Sometimes I end up really loving that product or tip and that’s great too.

Am I making any sense? Am I completely alone in this? I guess what I’m saying is as I get older, I want to continue to strive to give social media and blog influences a proper place, but a small one. I want to utilize them for what they’re good for, but I don’t want them to distract me from finding my own creativity and my own interests, whether they are Instagram-worthy or not. For the most part, I want to be in a place where my life would look the same whether I was going to share bits of in on social media or not.

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So. The only proper reaction I could think of was to come up with a list of things I love. Not things that I wish I loved (like cooking, or using all-natural products, or skincare, etc.) but things that I’ve come across over the years that have become a part of my life to a certain degree.

  1. J.CREW CAMP SOCKS My mom bought me a pair 6 years ago and I’ve loved them ever since. They are thick and cozy and the perfect thing to wear around the house during the colder months.
  2. MONDAY MORNINGS ON KZUM I discovered our town’s local radio station back in college. Some of it I don’t care for at all (not a big blues fan and they play it EVERY afternoon) but every Monday morning an older gentleman named Con Good comes on the radio and from 8 to 10 he plays the best of big band music. It is my favorite way to start the week. His voice is gentle and friendly and I really wish he was my grandpa. You can live stream it via their  website.
  3. INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC Over the years, I have grown to really love instrumental/classical music. There is so much noise in my life so I think that genre of music brings a necessary gentleness that I need. My sister calls it Hobby Lobby music. I call it peace.
  4. REVIVE OUR HEARTS This ministry has played a huge role in my spiritual maturity. I respect Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth so much and I’m thankful for her wisdom and insight into the scriptures. No, it’s not very hip. The intro music is a bit cheesy. But the teaching is so solid. I often put her podcasts on while I’m cleaning the house. I went through a phase during the early years of motherhood where I always had a Netflix show playing throughout the day and I didn’t like how it made it feel. Listening to podcasts was a great transition out of that and it made me feel more intentional about my time.
  5. WOMEN OF THE WORD This book is a GAME CHANGER. I didn’t grow up with a very solid foundation in scripture so I approach the Word very timidly. Jen Wilkin has played a huge role in giving me confidence to study God’s word for myself instead of just turning to scholars to tell me what it says. In turn, it has given me a love for the Bible like I’ve never known before.
  6. VANILLA CHAI I worked at a coffee shop in high school that sold this brand of chai and I haven’t found anything else that can even compete with it. I love to stir it into some warm almond milk at night before bed. Soooo good.
  7. JAZZ/BIG BAND I love love love jazz. Especially in the fall. There’s nothing better than jazz music on a crisp fall day. Truman and I are currently taking dance lessons so we learn how to dance to this genre of music. Even if it’s just in the middle of our living room.
  8. WEEKLY PLANNER The notepad I actually use doesn’t exist any more. It’s Sugar Paper from Target and I can’t find it anywhere online. But if I had to choose another one, it would be this. I’m a big list-maker. Every Sunday night, I sit on the couch with my planner and calendar and write down everything that needs to get done that week. I’m a visual person so I need to see it written out in order for me to gain motivation to do it. It’s an added bonus when you can write it on cute stationary 🙂

That’s it for now. It’s nothing glamorous, but these few things are significant to me and I love that they naturally weaved their way into my life. What are those things for you? Have you ever thought about it? I would love to hear.

Cheers, Jord.

 

Family Photos

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It can be a scary thing to take family photos. Children are so unpredictable and professional photos can be extremely pricey and you can get easily stressed by the whole thing. But. We didn’t have a nice photo of all of us since Maggie was born and I really wanted to commemorate this crazy, chaotic, but really beautiful season we’re in.

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Nebraska is FULL of amazing photographers. Seriously. I could make a very long list of photographers that I would love to capture our family, but what it came down to for us is the price. We aren’t in the place to be spending hundreds of dollars on family photos especially when our children are so young and don’t really cooperate and we’d like to add to our family at some point. As I searched for newer photographers looking for more experience, I was reminded that Truman had a cousin nearby who has a photography business. She’s in high school and is looking to gain more experience with families.

I was amazed at how talented she already was at such a young age! I loved that we could partner up with family and her price was very reasonable. I think the key to taking photos with littles is to go in with very low expectations. I knew the girls weren’t going to sit still for very long and we brought along m&m’s to encourage them to cooperate for a little longer 🙂 #noshame

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^^^June was so over photos at this point. It cracks me up that she’s the creeper in the background.

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^^^This is probably the most accurate picture of our life right now, ha!

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If you live around Lincoln and are looking for an affordable photographer I highly recommend Jessie! You can view her website here.

Cheers to embracing the crazy!

Jord

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Apple Orchard

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So, if you follow along on any social media platform of mine, you know that I am 100% a summer girl. I want to live where the sun always shines and it’s 80 degrees. Saying goodbye to summer isn’t easy for me. It doesn’t mean that I don’t love autumn, but knowing my favorite season is a year away makes me want to cry into my pillow for a bit. However, there is something beautiful about living in a place that fully experiences all four seasons. Whether you’re ready or not, you’re carried through the rhythms and you get the chance to start fresh and indulge in the special gems that are saved specially for the time. Visiting the apple orchard is one of those things.

I love to write out a “bucket list” for our family each fall–a list of activities and events to try throughout September and October. We chose the perfect day to check off the first activity on our list. It was breezy and the apple orchard was quiet while most of the state prepared for the first football game of the season. We rode the trailer through rows of trees and took our time finding the best honeycrisps (my personal favorite).

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Penny insisted on carrying her bag of apples and June was only concerned with taking a bite.We’ve been doing this since the girls were babies and it gets better and better as they age. Watching the girls explore and have fun brings me so much joy.

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The transition to autumn is really lovely. I crack open my windows on a crisp morning while the big band music plays and my favorite fall candle fills the house. My tea kettle whistles and I pour hot water into my favorite chai mix and I sit underneath a blanket before anyone’s awake to open my Bible in silence. There is so much romance in the changing of the trees! We’re only on the edge of autumn, but I eagerly anticipate all the goodness it brings and we plan to enjoy it to the fullest.

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We came home from the orchard and I poured myself a glass a wine, put on some jazz music, put my favorite soup on the stove, and made apple butter in the crockpot while my husband watched the game. It felt like the official welcoming of a new season (even though it was 90 degrees the rest of the weekend ha!).

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We welcome you, Fall. Please be gentle as we say goodbye to a dear friend.

I’m excited to share all of my favorite fall things with you soon, including our family bucket list! Stay tuned and have a great week!

My Favorite Tank Top

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I’m a homemaker on a budget who loves fashion. It’s kind of an oxymoron. It’s not easy to have Madewell/Free People taste on a Target budget, amiright?! BUT. After all these years (lol I’m only 26), I’m learning to be selective with the pieces I add to my wardrobe. I’m not a hardcore “wardrobe capsule” person, but I love the idea of being intentional with the pieces of clothing you buy–making sure they are good quality (get outta here F21) and versatile. This tank top is just that.

I’m pretty sure I was born in the wrong era. I love the combination of simple and classic mixed with the vintage elements of the 60’s and 70’s. To me, a turtleneck tank is the perfect piece to transition into cooler days here in the midwest. It’s cool enough to wear as a tank when the sun it out, but it can also be layered and worn well into the winter when the temperatures drop lower than I’d like them to.

So when I found this top at the Gap, I immediately had this idea to do a blog post on a few ways I can style it with different outfits from my wardrobe. I will most definitely be going back for the other colors!

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I love the playfulness of this tank with overalls and chucks. It’s the perfect outfit for running errands.

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For those who know me well, they know that I have a denim obsession. I just love it. Denim jumpers, denim dresses, denim jackets, denim skirts, etc. My husband teases me that sometimes I remind him of a Sunday school teacher from the 90’s. I mean, that doesn’t totally feel like an insult to me but, whatevs. I think denim on denim is great. Most of the time you need to have something to break it up a little (a.k.a. the stripes) or you’ll be mistaken for Jay Leno and nobody wants that.

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I don’t really consider myself to be a badass. I drive a minivan, for goodness sake, but every now and then I like to spice it up with a leather jacket and some black boots. The fur collar makes me feel a little Penny-Lane.

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I love the tank paired with a suede skirt. (It would be equally cute with a mini-suede skirt). Midi-skirts are one of my favorite things and you can wear pretty much any solid-colored skirt with the stripes (I’m not a big gal on mixing patterns but if that’s you, you go girl).

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^^^I also forgot to put my cute black hat on in the photo above because my children were getting antsy and we were rushing to get these photos taken. hashtag RealLife.

I highly recommend you add this top to your autumn wardrobe. As you’ve seen, it can be worn with numerous outfit combos and you will definitely get your money’s worth! And just in case you were wondering…this isn’t some sort of ad for Gap (#goals) I just really like this top and I really like sharing the things I love with you!

I hope you have a wonderful week and I’ll leave you with the song and I’m currently addicted to.

Ireland

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It has been four months since our trip to Ireland. It took me all summer to muster up the motivation to sort through all of my photos and condense them down to a handful. The trip was, hands down, the best experience of my life. I don’t travel the world often and I really hate flying so it took me a while to gain the courage to fly across the ocean, but I’m so glad I did. Ireland was a dream. It was everything I imagined it would be and more. The pictures just don’t do it justice! I think of those special memories often, this romantic week tucked in the back of my mind.

We were able to take this trip through my husband’s work and they took VERY good care of us. Usually when we travel, we are pinching pennies and being as frugal as possible. We were completely out of our element staying in five star hotels and eating at the finest restaurants. I could totally get used to that style of traveling 😉

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We started in Dublin. The city was beautiful and full of history. Truman’s favorite part was the Guinness brewery tour. I’m not much of a beer drinker so I didn’t appreciate the real Guinness as much as he did, but apparently the stuff in Ireland is much better than what we have in the U.S. After a few days in the city, we took a train to Killarney to experience the beautiful countryside of Ireland. I enjoy cities, but I was mostly looking forward to this part. We took a three hour train ride and I was SO excited for it because I had always wanted to ride on a train. However, it was the worst. I don’t really get motion sickness, but something about riding backwards and the cart shaking back and forth made for a pretty miserable ride. The scenery was still breathtaking as we passed many pastures and cute, little cottages along the way.

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We stayed at The Europe hotel and it was STUNNING. When I think of Ireland, I don’t think “mountains” so I was pleasantly surprised when this was our view from the hotel. The first thing we did when we arrived was walk down to the dock to take it all in. After a long morning of travel, I snuggled up on one of the chairs by the pool to read a book.

We took a few tours on the trip and my favorite  was the Dingle Peninsula tour. We rode a bus all along the peninsula and stopped in Dingle to experience small-town living. Unfortunately, we caught a really gloomy and rainy day so we couldn’t see most of the views off the coast. Our tour guide told us it was a true shame because it’s one of the most beautiful things to see in Ireland. Through the fog and rain we could barely make out the site where they filmed the last scene from the most recent Star Wars.

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On our final day, we set out early in the morning to take a tour through the Gap of Dunloe. It felt a lot like Colorado, but getting to listen to the tour guide’s rich Irish accent as he led us via horse and carriage was extra special.

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Once we got back from our tour, Truman treated me to an afternoon at the beautiful spa in the hotel. I spent time in the steam room, I floated in the salt water tub, and relaxed in the sun with a good book before my massage. After my massage, they led me to a special room with heated lounge chairs overlooking the mountains. A small heated pool was attached and I lay over the side, listening to the water and the birds. It had been mostly chilly and rainy while we were there, but on that day the sun was trying to peek through the clouds. That moment was the most restful moment of my life. I listened to the birds chirp and just praised God for this amazing opportunity. I never grow tired of experiencing His beauty and it felt like a big kiss on the cheek to have an entire afternoon of quiet and rest. I think back to that scene often when I need to escape my mind for a moment. I hope that I’m fortunate enough to return someday.

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I want to go back to Ireland so badly. There was so much of the country that we didn’t have time to see and there are many things that I want to see again. I’m so thankful for the experience. Ireland captured a piece of my heart and we hope to return again! (Maybe next time in the summer when it’s *slightly* warmer.)

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South Dakota

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I feel like taking a family vacation to South Dakota is a very American thing to do. I had actually never been to SD and I naively thought it was a boring state. Since we have some family who live in Spearfish, we thought it would be the perfect chance to get away and not have to spend a ton of money on lodging and eating out. I had been looking forward to taking the girls on their first family vacation and even though there were PLENTY of meltdowns, we went in with low expectations and overall had a great time.

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On our way up to Spearfish (a 9 hour drive!) we stopped in the badlands. It was stunning. I mean, truly breathtaking. The girls were tired and cranky at this point so we didn’t get to stick around and explore as much as I would have liked, but I’m really glad we stopped and I would recommend it to anyone who passes by. We were told to avoid Wall Drug because it’s a huge tourist trap–it is. But. Doughnuts. We stopped because we were starving and I caved and bought a few of their cake doughnuts. Zero regrets about it.

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The Black Hills felt a lot like Colorado at some points. We decided to take the girls on a hike in Spearfish Canyon and it couldn’t have gone any better. They were such troopers! They loved pretending to be warrior princesses and they jumped over rocks and climbed their way to the top. We hiked to Devil’s Bathtub and it was beautiful.

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Hiking with children on your back is no easy feat, let me tell you. I got more of a workout on this trip than I have in years! It’s easy to do when the scenery is beautiful.

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We went to Keystone one day to do the Rushmore thing because you have to! Keystone reminded me of a condensed version of Branson and I’m not a big fan of giant tourist traps, BUT they did have a chairlift that took you to a restaurant and on the way down you could ride the alpine slide. That was the girls’ favorite part of the whole trip and they would have been content to ride that over and over again all day.

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A lot of people told us that we needed to visit Storybook Village in Rapid City. The girls loved it and I wish Nebraska had something like it! It’s free and it’s this giant, weird park that’s full of children’s story characters. Of course the favorite spot was Cinderella’s carriage.

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On our last day, we decided to explore Custer State Park. I really wanted to see a killer view before we left and it seemed like that was the place to do it. The mistake we made, however, was going through the wildlife loop. I was expecting to see herds of buffalo surrounding our van. We saw two. TWO. The entire 45 minute drive was very uneventful and disappointing. Obviously it’s wildlife so you can’t guarantee anything, but the girls were getting restless and we wish we would have skipped that part. We took a VERY long drive all the way across the park up to Sylvan Lake and even though everyone was cranky and tired of being in the car, Sylvan Lake turned out to be my favorite part of the trip. It was beautiful. Had I known it existed beforehand, I would have planned an entire day to spend up there on the beach. The trails were pretty, the beach was clean, and the girls loved playing in the water.

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Needless to say, South Dakota wowed us. Even though there were a few bumps along the way, we enjoyed our first adventure with the girls and I even learned to like the uncertainty of traveling. Part of exploring a new area is learning how to go with the flow and take risks and that’s not easy for me, but we learned a lot on the trip and we’re looking forward to more vacations in the future!

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Father’s Day Weekend

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Our Father’s Day Weekend was slow and quiet. I’ll admit, because I stay at home with the girls and our weekdays can be long and mundane sometimes, when Friday hits I’m like a puppy scratching to get out of its cage and I want to do all. the. things! I have a long summer “bucket-list” but that list was put aside this weekend and we spent time enjoying a slower pace at home. Our garden was being taken hostage by weeds with super-powers so I spent the afternoon caring for our ever-growing veggies (and mourning the loss of my spinach that most likely was taken by the cute little bunny that’s been hanging around our house).

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Normally on the weekends I try to spend as little amount of time in the kitchen as possible, but I was signed up to take a meal to a friend recovering from surgery and it was surprisingly a nice change of pace. It was a good chance to get acquainted with the new album that I won’t shut up about and spend some one on one time with Penny, who helped me bake a lemon bundt cake. Truman came into the kitchen at one point and noticed the large mess of dirty dishes and said “geez, I feel like I’ve washed the dishes a million times today.” WELCOME TO MY LIFE.

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I was strictly told “no gifts” for Father’s Day, but I wanted to still make the day special so we took daddy to our favorite little spot on Sunday morning to enjoy the warm air before it became unbearable. We packed our library books, some snacks, and the girls’ princess accessories and we watched them prance around through the trees pretending to be fairies. It took a little arm-twisting, but I tried to get a few decent photos of the girls and their daddy. Naturally, the girls didn’t want to cooperate, but it was still a special morning.

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You all know by now that I’m a firm believer that good music just makes everything better. So I pulled out one of my favorite playlists to add the perfect touch to our morning. It’s a compilation of some of my favorite instrumental songs (many of them from my favorite films). I’m far from the heroin, Elizabeth Bennet, but that doesn’t mean I can’t pretend to be her every once in a while 😉 You can find the playlist here.

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Though our weekend was a quiet one, it was full of joy. I may be starting the week off with a head cold and messy house, but my spirit is resting in this place of gratitude. Grateful to be a mommy to three girls, grateful to live in a place that we love, grateful for new insights into God’s character and grace, and grateful for a husband who has always put his family first and who loves his daughters with a Christ-like, steadfast love. I know the realities of this world are that there are many fathers who don’t live up to what they should be and my heart truly breaks for that. I also know that there are many fathers who are no longer on this side of heaven which makes Father’s Day a painful one. Know that we mourn with you and we’re very sorry.

I can hardly believe that we’re nearing the end of June. I hope that your week is full of joy and that you’re able to indulge in the joy of summer.

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