Moving on...

I created this blog in September 2005 in Dallas, TX at a time when I needed to find my voice. I remember typing the first words as a young woman in the twinkle-lit loft of my condo. At first, it was simply an outlet to stay connected to friends near and far and share the tidbits of my newly-married life. Soon, it became so much more...a place for me to share my photography and art, regularly practice gratefulness, and process the way my life was moving to a simpler one day by day.

When we uprooted our lives from Dallas to Nashville in the fall of 2015, I had captured 10 years of our lives in words, photos, memories, details. This blog is a treasure, a time capsule of a very important decade of my life where we were young and married, owned our own businesses, and had two children. 

Now, after a long hiatus, I know it's time to close the door on Dreams of Simple Life and start fresh on my new website.

Here's a list of my favorite things I've written here over the years. Enjoy!

3 fave podcasts.

Well, it's happened.  I'm a podcast addict.  This is out of character for me, because I'm a visual learner.  I prefer to read the written word or watch people speak.  But there's something about podcasts that have drawn me in - perhaps it's the part of me that loves learning new things, or the social part of me that feels I'm meeting new people through spending time with them for 30 minutes.  And the inspiration is never-ending!  It's so neat to hear about the lives of others and think of ways I can incorporate their ideas into our new, simpler life.  

With homeschooling two little ones, I don't have a ton of time to listen to podcasts, but it's a welcome change of pace to pop in my earbuds and listen for 30 minutes during naptime, after bedtime, or occasionally at a coffee shop when my hubby is able to let me escape for a bit.  I always feel refreshed.

Apparently learning about new podcasts is still largely a word-of-mouth thing. I found out about several of these from my French-inspired and simple living pal, Ginny.   So I thought I'd share...

My 3 favorite podcasts right now:

The Simple Show just speaks my language, and it starts with happy music that draws you in.  I've enjoyed reading Tsh Oxenreider's books and blog, The Art of Simple, for several years now, and I love her definition of a simple life - "living holistically with your life's purpose."  Not everyone has to move to the country or sell all your things and live in a tiny house to "live simply."  This podcast shows how different simple living looks for women from all different stages and walks of life.

One of my favorite episodes is with Emily P. Freeman whose most recent book is Simply Tuesday.  Emily's voice is comforting and seems so familiar, like a close friend.  In this episode, Tsh and Emily talk about slowing life down and finding the beauty and enjoyment in those normal everyday moments, like what Tsh calls a "soupmaking day," the kind of day where you're just hanging around the house doing ordinary things (like laundry, or tending to a big pot of soup).  These ordinary moments are actually key to forming our memories and relationships.  I love how Emily talks about feeling like she's been taken "hostage by hustle."  Something rises within me with that phrase because it's absolutely what I don't want for my life, and I'll keep working towards eliminating busyness and hustle from our daily lives as much as possible.

I've also loved the Sarah Mackenzie episode, as she's a super positive homeschooling mom (of six!) who talks about not having it all together.  When posed with the question, "How do you do it all?"  she replies, "There are a ton of things I don't do that other people are doing."  Love that.   Reminds me of a list I wrote awhile back on the things I don't do. Being able to say a clear "no" to certain things that don't work for myself or my family has been really freeing (although I might have to change my mind on the canning/preserving thing!).

Speaking of Sarah Makenzie, Read Aloud Revival is her excellent podcast.  If reading to/with your kids is something you enjoy or aspire to, then you will love this!  After listening to RAR, I'm always inspired by new children's books and ways to help ensure that my children grow up to be lovers of the written word.

That Sounds Fun is the podcast of sweet and hilarious Annie F. Downs, a friend of mine in Nashville (we used to work together at The Mocha Club). This is a little bit of a shameless plug since some of the people she interviews I know personally - ha!  But if you want a light uplifting listen to discover new authors, musicians, fun places, and more, give this one a try.

~ ~ ~

Other podcasts on my list to check out:

Your Morning Basket - "truth, goodness, and beauty for your homeschool day" - yes, please.

The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey - I have several friends who love this one. Jamie Ivey interviews her girlfriends about topics like "marriage, faith, children, parenting, sorrow, grief, joy, justice, books, and what they are loving."  Sounds pretty awesome.

The Slow Home - This podcast was started by a gal named Brooke who lives a slow, intentional life with her family in the mountains of Australia.  The description says, "We live life in the fast lane.  We race to keep up with The Joneses.  We are over-worked, over-committed and over-stressed, and we compete on how busy and important and sleep-deprived we are.  But we don't need to."   (raising hand emoji) Sign me up.

Sorta Awesome - I've actually heard a bit o' this awesomeness and read Megan Tietz's blog in the past but would love to get into it more.

~ ~ ~

What are your fave podcasts right now?  Please share below in the comments!

Abide.

"Release brings with it the gift of peace.  When we release in peace, we signal we're now ready to receive.  Receive what's next.  Receive what's best.  Receive what's meant for this season, right now." 
~ Lysa Terkeurst // The Best Yes

God really gave me a gift by leading us, releasing us, to move from Dallas to the rolling hills of Tennessee.  So, this is what it means to have a "gentle and quiet spirit."  My soul feels quiet within me.  I can only explain it as true presence. At this moment, I'm perched in my new favorite peaceful spot - in the living room chair reading by the twinkle-lighted branches I found in our backyard woods.  The intimacy of our home allows me to hear all three of my people breathing in their sleep about 10 feet away.  

The biggest gifts have been those of time and less distractions.  When we first arrived here in mid-November, it felt like my heart was soaring everyday with excitement and possibility.  After the initial giddy excitement wore off and we finally settled into our home south of Nashville, I hit the wall about 2 months later feeling isolated and regretful, like I needed to scramble to fill my time with activities and friends old and new and that maybe, just maybe, this whole thing was a big mistake.  Although I have so many dear, close friends here, it was still difficult starting over in a new place and living in a rural setting for the first time in my life.  This social introvert wanted to know, How would I fill our days?  Who would be our everyday "people"?  

But through much seeking to hear the Lord's voice, He spoke loudly and clearly: my real purpose right now is here under my roof - this little 1200 square foot rental house roof.  I've always seen it as a gift (and my choice) to be able to be home with my daughters.  Now, I see the difference in being truly present vs. just being around.  Time to myself and connecting with friends are still greatly needed, of course, and I drink them up.  But those things are bonuses now, not distractions.  

See, in the light of a new perspective, things change. Loneliness becomes the gift of time and presence with my husband and daughters. Isolation becomes space to breathe, to move more slowly and savor my surroundings. Even when I complained and doubted, God was gracious and kept bestowing these good gifts.  He didn't give up on me.

After this renewed viewpoint, I felt such peace.  And I started to cry.  Because the gift was in front of me the entire time since we've moved, but I didn't see it.

We may not own a home right now, and this one may not look exactly like the one we dearly loved and sold in Dallas, but this little home surrounded by stunning woods and meadows will always be where Norah was two and spirited and hilarious.  This home will always be where Luci Belle was 5-going-on-6 and becoming a "bigger little girl" every day.  There's already a spot on the kitchen floor where they love to show me their made up dances to vintage Disney songs on the record player.  And because of the smallness and closeness of this home, I can hear and see their imaginations take flight - playing "family" or restaurant or making a fort and cafe in my closet.  They'll only be 2 and 5 once, and good gracious, I get to be a part of it.  

These really are the days.

So here we are, and we are content.  For now, we're living in a season of abundance that's not about money or things but gifts much more difficult to measure.  We explore our yard and drive the rolling hills.  We homeschool and fly kites.  We draw and bake and pretend.  We're in closer quarters than ever, and sometimes we don't know what to do with ourselves when Steven arrives home from his new farming job at 3:30pm.

Don't be mistaken in thinking we're living a charmed life, though.  There are daily sacrifices required to live on a cash system, to be frugal with our purchases, to figure out how to feed our family healthy food on a tight budget when we no longer own a produce co-op, and to say "no" to things we wish we could do in order to say "yes" to the ultimate life we want.  Many people want to live more simply but don't want to give up what it takes to get there.  We knew we were going to have to give up a lot, and as scary as it was, we did it - we sold our family business and beloved home of 9 years and said tearful goodbyes to dear friends in Dallas.  Those things were so hard, but the release has indeed brought peace.   

This - the true simple life - is what I always wanted, everything I've asked God for, and what I thought I had it in Dallas.  I didn't realize - until now - how by uprooting our lives and moving to this place, He was giving me everything I've asked for.  

Yes, it was a series of difficult decisions that have led us to this place, and now it's time to just abide.  

"We get to."

Sometimes you read something that stops you in your tracks, causes you to look honestly at your life and be grateful but also become better, stronger, more sanctified.   This interview with Erin Loechner was one of them.  Seriously, read it in its entirety if you can.  I found it as very humble but wise advice from a fellow mama.

But especially, this part...

I do not believe in the words, “I have to,” as in, “I have to go to work, or I have to raise my children.”

It is only, “I get to.”
We get to go to work.
We get to raise our children.
We get to take out the trash, evidence of abundance.
We get to chop these vegetables, evidence of nourishment.
We get to rush out the door, late and frenzied, with the diaper bag spilling and phone ringing, evidence of life abuzz all around us.

I stopped and stared at it.

Yes.

A million times, yes.

The last one really got me, though, because how many times have I rushed out the door snapping at my children just to load us all in the car and scurry off to a play date or park - something that's supposed to be fun?  How often have I been quickly making dinner in a huff so I can just "get it done" and move on to bedtime?

I plow through the day and over people in my life and my work at home as things I "have to take care of" or "get done" rather than seeing that these things and people are life itself.

This isn't a guilt thing, though.  This is a "I feel convicted and want to change" thing.  Are you with me?

Some more words that have beautifully convicted me - this post by my friend Audrie begs the same types of questions:

What am I living for, and how is that reflected in my behavior?

Do I see my children as obstacles?

Do I see my work at home as drudgery, or as a way I willingly get to serve?

A renewed perspective changes everything.

The answer here, of course, is that we are all sinful and act wrongly and grumble about the blessings in our lives.  But we cling to grace and start fresh today.  This should affect our lives moving forward.  We will make mistakes and have bad days, but we also MAKE CHANGES that help us engage more with our real everyday lives before us with gratefulness.

What will those changes be for you today?  Take the things you grumble about, and reform them into "we get to." 

Here are some things on my list...

  • We get to own a business that helps our community and farmers.
  • We get to live in a country where our needs are met, and we have the freedom and opportunity to provide for our family.
  • We get to live in a beautiful urban neighborhood.
  • I get to stay home with my children all day. 
  • I get to homeschool.
  • I get to move my body everyday.
  • I get to do load after load of laundry, evidence of myself and the children and husband who wore them, making mudcakes and memories.
  • I get to read Raindrop, Plop! and Counting Kisses over and over and over again to wide-eyed little girls in my lap.
  • I get to freely worship the Lord and spend time studying His Word.
  • I get to make homecooked meals, wash dishes, put them all away, and start over again, to feed and contribute to the health of my family and friends.
  • I get to constantly clean up messes - food thrown on the floor, sticky fingerprints off mirrors and tables and windows, evidence of curious hands full of LIFE.
 ~ ~ ~

As a reminder, I made a simple PDF of this quote and posted it in my kitchen.  Download it here.

Let's practice thankfulness today but also let it change us...

What are some things you get to do?  Please share below!

Healthy homemade fruit snacks.

 modernparentsmessykids.com

modernparentsmessykids.com

Parents - do you feel like you're always feeding your kids the same thing?  Are you looking for new ideas that are healthy and unprocessed?  ME TOO!

I've tried a few times to make homemade fruit snacks for my girls.  My goal was to use a good quality gelatin and recipe without sugar in order to provide a different snack idea and get some extra nutrition into my little ones.  Finally, I've finally found a recipe that super quick and easy with a good texture that's kid-approved (even by my picky eater 4-year-old!)

I used this recipe from Modern Parents Messy Kids.  Here's how I personalized the recipe:

  • For my first batch, I used fresh-squeezed orange/carrot juice from Central Market.  If I'd had my own juicer, I would have juiced my own.
  • I used this gelatin but you could just use regular gelatin packets as well.
  • I added a bit of organic orange extract to mine, but as the recipe says you could also add vanilla extract. Next time I might try doTerra Wild Orange, lime or lemon essential oil.  I'll also probably add some powdered probiotics.
  • I used these adorable heart-shaped molds.  But for any extra that doesn't fit in the molds, you can just pour it into an oiled brownie pan and then cut into little squares once it sets. 

Overall, the recipe was super easy and I'm glad to have a different snack idea for my girls. 

Have you ever made your own fruit snacks?  If so, please leave and comment and share your recipe and flavoring ideas!

UPDATE:  These are definitely meant to be refrigerated and then eaten at home, not on the go - unless you keep them pretty cool.  We had them in the car for about 30 minutes and they turned to goo.   Eww.

Summatime.

Summer is {almost} officially here, and the backyard is flourishing from all the recent rains.  The downside is that the flood waters have brought an insane amount of fire ants and mammoth mosquitoes which is a total bummer for playing outside.  But we're bound and determined to be outside a lot this summer and enjoy the bounty of this little piece of urban land we own.  This is the first year we've had a blackberry bush that stands upright - and we've already harvested several handfuls of luscious, tart berries.  Luci Belle loves checking on them each morning and making bouquets with our wildflowers.

The fairy ring we planted with gladiolus bulbs is starting to bloom and will hopefully be a fun play spot...if we can keep the fire ants away.  I'm using a doTerra peppermint oil/vinegar/water spray right now - we'll see if it works!

Here's our little plot of land in early June...

Besides that, we're seeking out all the swimming pools and splash pads possible to keep the little ones cool and happy! 

And of course there's already been lots of this....

...with fresh-squeezed lime juice on top.  If you haven't ever had watermelon with lime, JUST DO IT NOW.  Trust me.

What are you doing with your early summer days? 

Are you implementing any new traditions or activities this summer?

I'd love to know!

16 months.

"These days, they are a river
and we're all floating down
every loved one, every neighbor
in Tennessee, in my hometown
so let us not take this for granted
let us not waste the second hand
let your love rage like a lion
let your heart break like a lamb."
(Andrew Osenga)

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My sweet baby Norah is 16 months, and the days, they are indeed a river.  It seems I was just sitting on our front porch (where she is in the above photo) when I was in the first trimester of pregnancy with her, sick as a dog.  I was holding Luci Belle's hand in mine as we waited for a friend to come pick her up to play for the day so I could return to my miserable schedule of napping and throwing up.  My love for Norah was already raging in my heart, and that's what pushed me through so many horrible days of sickness.  I won't ever forget how much she was wanted, prayed for, anticipated.

At 16 months, this little nugget absolutely adores her sister and upon waking every morning (in the sidecar crib next to our bed), she step-step-steps down the hall to Belle's door and knocks.  "Gock, gock!"  Belle always opens and answers, "Well HEH-lo!" And they hug.  Seriously?  How did I get so lucky with little girls who get along so well? I hope it's always so!  

Norah loves being outside, getting muddy, coloring with crayons and markers, copying everything her sister does, trying to put on her shoes, reading books, watching Sesame Street, washing her hands, climbing on every stool and chair possible, and standing on tippy-toes and brushing her teeth alllllll the live long day.

Favorite words and phrases lately include: sticker, tickle, block, uh-oh, puppy, baby, bath, and "where go?"

Foods she can't get enough of: Mommy's smoothies, cucumbers, eggs, carrots, apples, avocados, and basically anything in my bowl - ha!  She turns up her nose at bananas, berries, and olives. 

As Norah starts to wear so many of the clothes Belle wore as a toddler, I cannot believe these clothes are cycling back around so soon - it seems that Belle was just wearing them, that I had just tucked them away for "if we have another girl one day."  Now she's 16 months into her sweet life, and I am doing my best to slow down time by being present, sitting with her and playing and trying to have one-on-one time with her just like I did with my firstborn.  It's not easy, but it's so worth it.

The other evening, we were outside during a glorious sunset, and she looked up and pointed with her chubby little finger and said, "Woooowwwwww....."  I love having a toddler again.  Happy 16 months, baby girl.

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10 Tips For Gardening With Kids.

I recently wrote a guest post on 10 Tips for Gardening With Kids for the What's In The Bible blog.  If you have little ones, I hope you'll check out and get some fun ideas.  There are some vintage photos of Luci Belle as a toddler too :).

"Are your kids bouncing off the walls? Are you struggling with tiredness and a sour attitude? Here’s an idea: get your hands in the soil, and let your kids join you. Surround yourself with green. I promise, it will make everything better. God made us to be nourished by these things..."  {continue reading}