the new new year

"Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address." - You've Got Mail

Ah, the start of fall and a new school year. Here in Florida, it doesn't feel anything like fall, nor will it for a long time. In fact, temps are in the 90s, humidity is hovering between 90 and 100%, and it feels like over 100 degrees during the day. Perfect beach weather - not great for loading small children into car seats. But I digress.

I love a new school year for the feeling of newness it brings, and a renewed commitment to routine and order. Listen, I adore summer as much as the next gal, but with two small kids in the house who thrive on routine, I am actually relieved to be back on a schedule. I can't help but feel like the start of school is like the second coming of the New Year, because new routines are being set, and with them the opportunity to improve.

My One Word Theme for 2016 is Prepare - I'm dedicating myself to being on time (it's not in my nature - I have to work at it!), planning my week ahead of time, packing and laying out clothes the night before, and getting up before my kids. All of this is an effort not to rush, not to be urgent all the time. It's really been working for me to keep my mind focused on an idea, rather than striving for 5-10 different written goals. I find that "preparing" fascilitates good habits, like Bible reading, exercise, writing, and cleaning.

With the NEW New Year - the beginning of school, I want to add a One Word Theme to focus on during the months of August through May (the duration of our school year), and that is consistency. A little bit every day, with the focus on every day. I have to say - it will be hard work to change this about myself. I often feel like I need large chunks of time to dedicate to something, or I can't do it at all. But that leaves me procrastinating until I have more time, and that almost never happens.

I see this helping me in a few areas:

• Bible Study - getting up early to read 2 or 3 chapters - nothing huge. Usually ends of being 20 minutes of reading.
• Writing - I made a commitment to myself to write more consistently, so as soon as I'm done with my Bible reading, I get to pour myself a cup of coffee and write until Teddy wakes up. It actually feels like a treat, since I pair it with my coffee and some quiet time. (Pippa might be up by this time, but she gets to watch her TV show)
• Fitness - I am so done with feeling self conscious about my stomach, due to separated abs from my last pregnancy. I'm working a little bit each day on healing exercises, but also on walking 2 miles a day (or more) pushing the double stroller and holding the dog's leash. I've already noticed improvement in the area from a week's worth of short, but consistent, workouts.
• My business - we're kicking off a 90 day game plan, and I'm committed to helping serve those who said they are ready for a change in their health and their income. This is hard to balance with being home with my kids and teaching, but per the advice of a mentor, I'm getting organized, and making sure I do one thing for my business each day, no matter how small.
• Correcting papers - I have to say, I have often left a stack of papers because I felt like if I didn't have  time to correct all of them, then I wouldn't even start. No more this year! A little bit at a time will prevent the overwhelm.
• Reading - 10 pages each day before falling asleep.

But the beauty of it is that there are no goals I can "fail." It's a mindset of designing my days and weeks to faithfully fulfill my roles and use my gifts. I find there is a feeling of satisfaction in being consistent - I feel responsible and dependable, and that is empowering. It's also liberating to not have a specific goal, deadline, or number to hit. "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." So says Aristotle.

Do you renew your goals around the start of school or in fall? I would love to hear them!


a mother's spiritual life

I thought I was finally going to have the chance to pay attention to a sermon. My husband had taken our squirming and active 13-month-old son out to the narthex to crawl around, and I relaxed as I back into the pew with a sigh of contentment. To only care for my 3-year-old during church felt like a vacation. She would quietly color, or even lean her head against my chest as we took in the Lord's words.

Somehow, I found myself minutes later carrying a disgruntled preschooler out of church as she sobbed, "I want Daddy! I want Daddy!" while employing the 'boneless' technique that children in her age category are so fond of. I sighed, this time with exasperation, wondering when the day would come that I would hear and comprehend an entire sermon.

* * *

It's 6:35 a.m., and the coffee is brewed. I had cleaned the house the night before, prepped everything for the day, and was ready to settle in with my mug of organic coffee and the Concordia Study Bible I had ordered from Amazon only a few days earlier. I was ready to dig into God's Word, and really connect with my Heavenly Father's will for my life.

It's 6:36 a.m. and somehow through the closed door and the white noise machine, the 3-year-old has heard me take a sip of coffee, and realized that life was going on without her - she must arise and seize the day!

I sighed in resignation, realizing that as happy as I was to see my daughter, give her a good morning hug, and set her up with breakfast, I would have to put my own spiritual needs on hold once again. After all, if you give a preschooler breakfast, she'll want some milk to go with it. And the dishwasher will need to be unloaded to get the correct Princess Sofia cup. And she'll want to share a shake with me, causing the baby to wake up from the noise of the blender. And thus the day will begin, with the bustle of cutting up food, wiping little faces, setting up and cleaning up toys, laundry, getting kids dressed, changing diapers, and loading kids into carseats.

* * *

Mothers of young children - really, parents of young children - as a rule don't have tons of personal time. And each phase and season is so short-lived, that as soon as you figure out a time you can fit in some Bible reading, the children's schedules completely change. It truly is a challenge to fit in the time to study scripture, pray, or even read a devotional book. But every time I start apologizing to God, thinking, 'You understand, right God? You know how tough it is for me to read peacefully for 5 minutes. You know how I'm showing my kids how to sit and listen during church, putting my spiritual life on hold for the sake of theirs? You know all this. You gave me these beautiful blessings. You understand. I'll come back...I promise..." he whispers back with his gentle admonition, "Emily, Emily. You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed."

And somehow, instead of making me feel guilty for putting Him last, the reminder comforts me and pulls me closer to Him. I remember that when I am in his Word, when I am praying continually, and when the books and music I am consuming point me to Him, the job of caring for little ones is more joyful. It's easier to see that my cup is overflowing with blessings. I have his Words at the front of my mind when I need more patience, a rest, or a friend.

So where does a busy mom of young kids find that time with her Savior? It's different for each person, and it changes frequently as children grow and change. Some tricks I have found helpful:

• I figure out what time my kids wake up each day, and set my alarm for a full hour ahead of that. Factoring in hitting snooze, making coffee, splashing water on my face, etc. etc., it leaves just enough time for about 3 chapters of the Bible. Now if your kids wake up in the 5 a.m. hour, this may not be the strategy for you!

• I may find a time when one kid is napping and the other is playing quietly to sneak in some Bible time. This may not be dependable, as some days the older one plays quietly, and other days she needs more of my attention. Some days the baby naps, others not so much. Some days we have to get out of the house earlier, so I need to use that time to shower or pack bags.

• I read my Bible right before bed. This takes discipline not to fall asleep on the couch or let my other work get in the way - after all, after the kids go to bed is the only time I truly have to get work done!

• I listen to hymns or praise music during a walk or driving time.

• I listen to a devotional podcast during a walk or driving time.

• I realize that my prayers don't have to be formal or 30 minutes long. I try to keep an "open dialogue" going with God throughout the day.

• I pray right when I wake up - giving thanks for 3 things, and asking God to bless my day, for his will to be done in my life.

• Online devotionals like Proverbs 31 Ministries and Time of Grace are excellent resources for quick devotions.

• Listen to the Bible on audio while you get ready for the day, or while you fold laundry or do dishes. I use the free YouVersion app.

• Read a kid's Bible story or devotion with your children. They may have no idea what you're talking about right now, but little by little they're learning! And you get a refresher on Bible stories and a reminder to be an example for them.

• Solidarity! Find other Christian mothers to have a weekly Bible study with, or simply to hold you accountable via text, Facebook, Voxer, or whatever other form of communication you choose.

So it's not always the picture-perfect Pinterest Bible Study I dream of. I don't always get to sit in a comfy chair with an adorable throw blanket draped over my lap with a steaming cup of coffee while I discover God's truths for my life. Sometimes I'm trying to hear Nehemiah's struggle to rebuild the wall over the sound of my preschooler whining or as my son shouts, "Ball. Doggie. DOGGIE." But nothing worthwhile is easy, and I know God is working through these small moments. After all, he is the one thing needed.



Pippa: Mommy, can I have a piggy back ride?
Emily: Sure. *struggles to carry child for more than 10 steps* Wow, you're really growing so big!
Pippa: The food is working!

My sister Molly sits down with a bowl of cereal.
Pippa: Can I have a bite of cereal?
Molly: Sure. But first, what's the magic word?
Pippa: Abracadabra?

Pippa searches for her doll. 
Pippa: Where's Baby Princess Kitty Cat?
Emily: I think she's in your room.
Pippa: What? That's impossible!

Pippa walks in on me getting ready for a night out.
Pippa: Mommy! Look at you! You look so fancy!

Pippa and I snuggle in bed. Pippa leans over, feels my forehead looking concerned.
Pippa: Wow. You're really sweaty.

Emily: So, what do you want to play next?
Pippa: Let's play blocks!
Emily: Meh. I don't know if I feel like doing that.
Pippa: Mommy you have to. It's family time.

Pippa stares intently at female Target worker with short hair.
In my head: Please don't say it. Please don't say it. Please d-
Pippa, loudly: Mommy is that a boy or a girl? I think that's a boy worker.

Pippa: I think I'm feeling a little sickies.
Emily: You are? Are you ok?
Pippa: I just need a little something to make me feel better. Maybe I can have a little bit of a t.v. show?


summer in wisconsin

One of the hardest parts about living in Florida is being so far away from our families. On the flip side, one of the best parts about living away from family is how special each visit home is. We get to spend so much quality time with our people, just condensed into a week or two instead of scattered haphazardly throughout the year.

This year we spent three weeks visiting family in Wisconsin, and it was a busy three weeks! We got to relax and enjoy staycations in rented houses with both sides of the family, hit up some favorite spots in Milwaukee, and celebrate some birthdays and anniversaries with family. I'm normally a pretty laid back traveler, but I'll be honest. I was straight up worried about how our kids would sleep. At home Teddy sleeps from 7 p.m. until 7:30 a.m. Pippa takes forever to actually go to bed, but once she's sleeping, she sleeps through the night. Unfortunately for us, they are not used to being in a room with other people, and tend to take turns waking the other one up when they are confined to a small space.

Thanks to very accommodating family members and creative sleeping solutions, they kids actually slept fairly well throughout our time away from home. Pippa definitely had many late nights and early mornings, and was fairly crabby due to lack of sleep by the end of the trip, but other than that, it was such a relief that they slept as well as they did.

Some highlights of the trip included:

• s'mores by the campfire
• celebrating Teddy's first birthday with both sides of the family
• having free babysitting so we could celebrate our sixth anniversary with our traditional drinks on a patio
• a Spike Ball and Corn Hole tournament with my family
• volleyball, yard games, and Mafia with Justin's family
• my 10 year high school reunion
• the simple things like cooking dinner while being together as a family, taking walks, and watching the aunts, uncles, and grandparents bond with my babes
• the 18 hour drive back that took like 22 hours (KIDDING)

I am so grateful for the time to be able to see our families. It was really cool to see Pippa playing with her cousins, and I really look forward to watching their friendship grow over the years. Now, without further adieu, only a small percentage of the hundreds of photos I snapped on our trip:

Our 6th Anniversary

Teddy's First Birthday
family pictures

Best. Trip. Ever! See you again soon, Dairyland!

ode to sundresses

In my high school philosophy class, our culminating project was to create a utopian society. It was an incredible exercise in recognizing what each student truly valued. One thing I remember about my utopia was that each person wore matching cloaks - comfortable, shapeless, and plain. Thinking back on it, I believe I decided on the cloaks not because I dislike fashion, but because I figured it was one less thing people would have to decide on each day. One less choice people would have to make. One less thing they would have to spend money on. 

Well sundresses kind of solve that problem, don't they? A sundress is an outfit unto itself. A sundress is comfortable, and eliminates choices. Just throw one on, maybe add a pair of earrings or a bracelet if you're feeling fancy, and out the door you go. Not to mention it's a bit more fun to wear than a shapeless cloak. 

Anyway, we're back from our vacation in Wisconsin! After visiting family for three amazing weeks, we are happy to be back in a routine - especially with the little ones! We thought we were getting a break from the Florida heat by escaping to the midwest, but a heatwave followed us, and I was sure glad I packed my sundresses! There were quite a few days during our trip where we had a mix of events going on; some as low key as meeting someone for lunch, while others were more special, like a first birthday party! A casual dress made the perfect outfit to look appropriately dressed for whatever was going on that day. After all, they're comfortable, even in the heat of the day, but still look polished and put together. And I would almost always be overdressed than underdressed! 

I actually borrowed this dress from my younger sister while I was home, but liked it so much that I think I'll be investing in a chambray dress myself soon! They're so versatile! And since I'm all about that minimalist wardrobe, versatile is right up my alley.
The dress Pippa is wearing is from H&M kids, and I'm thinking about buying a few more. At $4.99, they really are a steal, plus they have such fun prints for little girls! H&M kids is seriously a hidden gem of affordable children's clothes. (And I'm not getting paid to say this - H&M has no idea who I am...I just recently discovered their kids' clothes and am in love!) 

Bracelet is the Rainforest Wrap from my friend Karen's Trades of Hope website! Its a company that empowers women around the world out of poverty - accessories with a purpose! Check out her Facebook Page for more info.
Peace, love, and sundresses!