please explain

The winner of the De Vier Zusters' givewaway is
Kimberly S. !!!
Please email me and I will hook you up! 
And remember you can still visit their page and message Trish the code "sweetnectaroflife" to get your magnets for $1!! That's a steal! Do it! Don't even read this blog post. Just go do that!

There are SO many things I don't understand about fashion. [Why are you reading this? Go order your magnets ;)]. Okay, most of the things. But I do know that I love my Toms shoes, as well as my Sperry's,  and I do know that these are in style. At least they were 4 or 5 years ago and that is good enough for me. 

However, could someone please explain how the heck I am supposed to wear these in the winter? In Fall and Spring I feel like I've got it handled. I don't wear socks with them and they are comfy and look good with shorts, capris, or jeans. 

But in the winter I just don't feel right wearing shoes without socks! I mean, maybe if I lived in California, or some other more temperate place, but when there is snow on the ground and/or it is below 20*, I am not wearing shoes without socks. But I understand this looks dumb: 

So what am I supposed to do? I know these shoes are supposed to be worn in the winter [the ones pictured have corduroy linings so obviously they aren't Summer shoes]. But how? I know I can't wear white socks. Do I just wear brown? I don't consider the little panty hose bootie sock things warm enough [or comfortable!]. 

Would someone please explain this to me? Thank you. While you're at it, please let me know how to do eye makeup too. 

Have a great weekend and may your feet be warm yet trendy. Somehow. 

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turn down the noise

Today is your last day to enter this giveaway! 

Last night I was in the shower [weird, I've been writing about the shower a lot lately] and I was listening to some music. I had it playing at a somewhat low volume because 1. I was listening to it just to help my mind stop from rattling around BUT 2. did NOT want just extra noise. Ya know?

So I popped into the shower and as soon as I was under the streaming water I realized I couldn't really hear it. It was weird because I thought I had it at the perfect volume but all of a sudden all I could hear was the constant beat in the background of the song. Which was kind of annoying. And is there a name for "the constant beat in the background of a song"? I'm sure there is.

I couldn't recognize the song just from the thump thump thump of that beat. As soon as I turned off the water the rest of the song became audible and instantly I recognized it and could sing along.

And I realized that the volume I thought was perfect didn't take into account the extra sound of the water coming out of the faucet or pounding on the shower walls and floor. It didn't take into account the clicking and popping of opening and closing soap bottles.

It had been easily drowned out by extra noise.

And my life feels like that a lot. I think I am listening to God and I think I can hear him just fine, and then I actually shut off the extra noise and I realize what I thought was the whole song He was playing for me was actually just some muffled beat playing in the background.

When I still myself long enough, and turn off the extra, I can hear the rest of the music.

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risk the more

I've received it in cards or text messages. Had it whispered in my ear during an embrace. It's been written on my facebook wall and I've seen it on countless others.

You mean more to me than you'll ever know. 
You'll never know what a blessing you were. 
Your friendship has meant more to me than you'll ever know. 

And those sentiments always are well-meaning, and are nice to hear. But why do we say that? Why do we say "…more than you'll ever know" instead of telling them exactly what that more is and let them know! 

/When you told me I looked nice in that dress, it was the first time all day I had felt confident in my appearance. 
/Your friendship brought me out of the dark place of loneliness that I had been in for a few months. 
/When you dropped off that meal, I realized what it meant to be taken care of and loved by someone. 
/When you laugh at my jokes I feel validated as a person. 
/When I was sick, and you sat by my side, I realized what people mean when they say "in sickness and in health." 
/When you reached over and held my hand when you noticed I was crying, and then offered me a tissue, I realized it was okay to express my emotions. 
/I've always lived in great fear and trepidation of "the worst" happening, and then you lost your son and you let me watch you grieve and lament to God and I learned the meaning of C.S. Lewis' quote, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains: it is his mega-phone to rouse a deaf world." And because you let me walk through that with you, I now take each of my own steps in faith and my fears are subsiding. 
/When you ignored the drivers all around us and danced to that Taylor Swift song anyway I realized what it means for someone to be truly comfortable in their own skin.

I know we mean well when we say "…more than you'll ever know." But instead, what if we risk sharing and fill cards and texts and pages and air space with the more.  

If we don't, they really won't ever know. 

Let's risk the more. 

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second child

I am a second child, so obviously I think second children are great. However,  I have heard everything under the sun about "second children." When I was pregnant I was warned that Becks would be crazy. She wouldn't sleep. She would make me pull my hair out. Her teen years would be dramatic. Basically all hell was about to break lose. Luckily most of these things haven't been true…so far.

I also heard all the things I wouldn't do for this second child that I did for my first. I wouldn't have as many pictures or documentations. I would let her play with knives. You know, that sort of thing.

It's been funny because in some ways I've been shocked with how I am different with her: I was way more worried about her in the night and while she was sleeping when she was a newborn. I thought that I would be more relaxed but instead I found myself panicking more and had to turn that over to God more than the first time. I don't wash her paci when I drop it, but I never did for Blythe either, so that's not surprising. When she was just tiny I would lay her on the carpet without blanket under her quite frequently. This was definitely different than I was with Blythe-- there were quilts laying around in every room for the sole purpose of her laying on them.

I still document and take pictures just as much as I did with Blythe, but I think that the reason for that is twofold: 1. I enjoy it. 2. I am the product of not much documentation [but to be fair, my mom didn't do much for her first child either ;)].

Some things that I think are funny that I don't do for Becks that I did with Blythe:
On her onesies I snap one button in the center and call it good. Is there really a point to snapping all three buttons? It just takes so much time and effort, right? So one button is good enough for me and Becks.

Speaking of buttons- I don't use any sleepers, no matter how cute they are, that have a million buttons. It is zippers or nothing. Blythe wore every outfit and every sleeper no matter how much of a struggle it was to put on her. Becks gets the practical outfits. ZIP! [Unless I need to do laundry…]

I had a large variety of baby food made and ready in the freezer with Blythe. Now I make a big batch of one veggie and one fruit and Becks gets it on repeat until it's gone or I have time to make more.

There are more, but these are the ones I just thought of. Do you have more than one child? Did/does the second one get a little different treatment than the first? What about that poor third and fourth child?

But seriously-- zippers.

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De Vier Zusters: A GIVEAWAY!

I have been sitting on this gem of a giveaway for awhile and I'm super excited that the time as come to share this shop with you all!

When I was a senior in college, I had to find a school and a teacher that would allow me to try my hand at teaching in a real classroom. Now I can understand how it would be hard to open your room and your students and turn them over to a potentially terrible wanna-be-but-not-quite teacher and let them practice their skills on your turf. If you're not a teacher, or you're a bad one ;), this may sound crazy because you're thinking, "Hey! Someone else to do my job for a couple months!" But [good] teachers view their students as theirs, and the thought of someone coming in and boring them or letting all hell break lose is a risk. Lucky for me, I had not one but TWO teachers not only open their classrooms to my new professional slacks and sweaters, but open their arms and their hearts to me as well.

I spent a month with Seniors and Tricia, and my last month with Freshman and Trish. [I actually started my blog around this time and posted THIS poem way back then]. And those three months were filled with practical advice from them, as well as lunches out and endless cups of coffee and lots of laughter. So much of the teacher I became was because of these two ladies, each of them fabulous teachers in their own ways. And now, seven years later, I still consider them dear friends and try and sneak in visits when I'm in the area. They ask about my daughters, I've watched their kids become teenagers and adults, and I know God had a hand in that student teaching placement in that small, frozen Iowa school.

For fun, here are two pictures of me student teaching. Please notice the massive amount of HAIR and CURLS that I had.

Trish, the Freshman English teacher, was everything I wanted to be and then some. She was full of spunk and sass and just so much dang fun. Her students adored her, and so did I. And now she has a little business with her sisters, Di Vier Zusters, and I can't get enough of her stuff! She and her sisters always thought they may start a business someday, and this past year their love for vintage books and dictionaries coupled with their love for words and stories and their craftiness. And now they make some of  the world's coolest, most personalized magnets you'll ever see.

What about that weird name? Di Vier Zusters? If you don't know, I went to college in a very Dutch town. Windmills everywhere you look. Trish and her sisters always said if they ever started a business they were going to call it "The Four Sisters." Of course, they wanted to be a little more unique, and they are Dutch [like everyone up there], and "De Vier Zusters" was born. [Ahem. If I must spell if out for you: Di Vier Zusters is the Dutch translation of The Four Sisters.] Trish and her sisters have always loved words and holidays and things that tell a story, and they found that their magnets had the ability to capture all of these things in one. Their favorite part about their business is the stories their customers share about why they are ordering what they are and about their loved ones who will be the lucky recipients.

Do you remember the traits Brent and I chose to pray over Blythe, and then later the ones we chose for Becks? Well I shot the list off to Trish and then badda-bing, badda boom a package arrived in the mail and out tumbled two sets of magnets with my girls' traits emblazoned on them! I was immediately in love. Not only do they mean so much, but they are absolutely beautifully made. 

Right now I have Blythe's traits holding down her behavior chart. I love this because if I'm frustrated about a day she does poorly in some of these areas, I see the magnets and am reminded about the reasons why I am enforcing these things in the first place: to teach her to have hospitality and compassion, to live modestly and with purity. 

And let me tell you: the magnets are substantial. Which I think is important. Weak magnets frustrate me.  But these puppies can hold up multiple pictures on your fridge in the most important room in your house: the kitchen. :) [Or wherever. Your file cabinet at work. Your medicine cabinet in the bathroom. Your belt buckle. ]

Di Vier Zusters can pretty much put anything you want on a magnet. Look at these examples of some fun custom sets they have made for their customers:

music lover?
Christmas lover?

Dachshund lover? [or any dog lover?

Beard lover? 
what? [I love this!] 

 Comic book lovers?



I guess some people even love cats, God bless 'em. :) 

A fun Valentine's set/ just someone you love ["schmalty" "hot stuff"… if you haven't been able to tell the reason I loved working with this lady, maybe you're getting a better idea now!] 


And check out their Facebook page for even more! I think these would make a perfect gift for someone for Valentine's Day, which is fast approaching, but also a myriad of other occasions. Your mother in law likes sewing like mine? Have them make you a set with sewing words-- "cut", "sew", "create"! Have a friend who loves to hunt? "shoot", "deer", "camouflage"! Need a little something to throw in with that gift card for your graduate? "learn", "college", "friends", "cum laude"! Baby gift? Spell out the babies name or the meaning of his/her name. Do you see what I am saying?! The possibilities are endless and the stories they tell are so cool! [You can also find some sets on their facebook page in which the magnets spell something out: "Each" "Day" "Is" "A" "Gift".] You come up with it, they can most likely figure out a way to tell that story through your magnets!

And they are a steal. The magnets are $1.50 each, and sometimes she has sets you can purchase that end up being great deals, like this awesome month set for $10! [How fun would this be to make a calendar out of on your fridge or something?]

Coupled with these weekday magnets?!

They ship for $3.00 anywhere in the USA for up to 10 magnets. BUTTTTT… For YOU GUYS, my lovely readers, right now Trish is offering a SA-WEET discount. You can order yours for just $1 a magnet! What can you get for $1 right now? Nothing. Not even a cheeseburger on the "value" menu. Just send her a private message on her facebook page [HERE] with the coupon code "sweetnectaroflife". [And if you can name the movie that came from I will give you two imaginary bonus points. And with a coupon code like that, you can tell this lady is super fun! She is a peach to work with].

AND for one of you lucky ones, De Vier Zusters is giving away some awesome GOODS! One lucky winner will not only win this super fun Valentine's Day set...
seriously, how cute.
but ALSO gets to have a CUSTOM set of FOUR magnets made just for them. WHAT?! I know! It's a great giveaway. Here is how you enter: Any of the following will earn you ONE entry in the giveaway. Do ALL THREE and you'll get THREE entries. Do TWO and you'll get TWO entries. Do ONE, well, you get the picture. Just don't do NONE. Because then you can't win.

1. Leave a comment on my blog [or on the link on FB or Instagram to this post] and let me know what you think of this sweet little shop. 
2. Go LIKE De Vier Zusters Facebook Page [and tell me in your comment that you did so I can count it] 
3. Follow my blog through Google Friend Connect by clicking on the blue "Join This Site" on the right side of the screen [not on mobile app unless you view full web version] and following the simple steps to join and follow! 

I've had some people ask how I select winners for these giveaways. I take all the entries and use a random name picker app [here] and it selects the winner at random. If you have three entries then your name gets entered three separate times and so on. It's the easiest way for me to keep it fair. 

This giveaway will be open until Thursday at 8 p.m. and the winner will be announced here on my blog on Friday! Good luck! Enjoy browsing the facebook page and thinking of the custom magnets you want, and if you don't win Friday then get to ordering because these are seriously awesome. 

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a day at the spa

This morning I laid Becks down for her morning nap, built a quick fort for Blythe and deemed it a "library", and then headed for the shower. Sometimes five minutes alone in the shower is equivalent to the joy of sitting down to eat a handful of Oreos with some whole milk. And today I was super pumped at the prospect.

I quickly warmed up the bathroom and jumped in. No sooner had I pulled the shower doors closed than a brown-eyed two year old rushed in and urgently informed me she needed to use the potty. Okay! I dripped water mercilessly all over the floor and helped her up. She went. I wiped. And off she galloped.

I began scrubbing my hair and heard the door creak open again. "This is a nice shirt Ellie give me." Yes, it is. Yes, it is. And she was off.

I was rinsing the shampoo when she poked back in to inform me her library was "really good, Mom."

I don't even think she made it ten feet away after that because she was quickly back with a troubled look on her face, informing me she needed to go poopy. I slid the door open, ready to get the floor wet once more, when the panicked face disappeared and she said, "Oh. No. There isn't poopy there," and skipped out once more.

While washing my face she brought me an animal cracker.

While washing my arms she felt the need to return and discuss human anatomy.

While standing under the hot water at the end of the shower, relishing in the brief solitude, she opened the door and mumbled something I couldn't understand before leaving again.

I turned the water off, grabbed my towel, and while drying my hair the door opened and I heard a muffled, "You're rubbing your head, Mom. That's silly." 

I realized I had taken my lotion into the living room the day before and asked her to fetch it for me.

Waiting for the lotion, I wiped up the floor. Finally she came in…and handed me a broken tea cup and insisted I fix it. I told her I would, and reminded her of her lotion mission. A few minutes later she came back with the pink Johnson and Johnson lotion from her bathroom. Which is kept high on the counter. What?! How did she get that? "I jest climbed up there." I had no idea she could do that. I gave her specifics on where the lotion was located and sent her back out. After a few more minutes I went and got it myself, since she clearly didn't understand my directions and was rummaging around in my bedroom. Valiant effort though.

All of this in around 15 minutes or less.

I'm telling myself that someday when I'm showering for 20 minutes in absolute quiet I'll long for the days those brown eyes kept appearing at the door. But it's kind of hard to fathom that right now. :)

Annnnnddddd PLEASE come back on Monday for a really fantastic giveaway opportunity! I can't wait to show of this shop and these goods. If you love vintage and words and stories and cool people, then this one is for you! Have a great weekend.

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with this ring…

She mashed the ground beef and bread crumbs in her fingers, feeling the slimy meat ooze through her hands. The other condiments for the hamburgers were already laid out before her and as she continued to mix and mash and form the patties she surveyed the counter to make sure she had everything she needed.

And she saw them. Set aside to keep from getting gooey with meat.
Her rings.

A diamond ring and a wedding band slightly scratched in a few places and desperately needing to be cleaned.

She remembered the day he had slid that diamond on her left hand and asked her to grow old with him. She remembered the giddiness. The way she felt filled with air and heat and glitter.

And she remembered the lace of her dress that clung to her barely twenty-two year old body in the sticky June humidity when the band was slid next to it. She remembered the promise. The way she clung to her new husband's hand as they floated back down the aisle.

She looked at her bare hands, covered in muck and slime. There were places that were cracked and raw from a week of washing and scrubbing and sanitizing when her oldest daughter had been sick. Her nails were trimmed back, short and efficient and able to change her eight month old's diapers quickly and with no fuss.

She finished the last hamburger patty and moved to the sink. Scrubbing her hands with soaps she thought about the time that had elapsed since she first began wearing those rings. The honeymoon, the first apartment, the first real fight, the move, the first baby, the second.

She wiped her hands on a towel and picked up the band. As she flipped it over in her fingers she thought of her friends who were recently engaged or nearly engaged or just married. She thought about their shiny new diamonds, their newly made promises. She thought about them, someday down the road, mixing meat with polish free nails listening to the laughter from the living room. Two little girls squealing and a male voice leaking in to the kitchen.

She slipped the band and then the diamond, tarnished as they were, back onto her finger and whispered under her breath, With this ring… 
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nothing to do but laugh

Brent has always done this thing when he sees a really good dunk on SportsCenter--he laughs. It's like a giddy, I-don't-know-what-else-to-do-with-myself laugh. It's always the same. He sees the dunk, starts the quirky laughing bit, and says something like, "That's just stupid."

["Stupid" in this sentence means: so ridiculously great and above what most people are capable of doing there is no other word I can think of right now to describe it. ]


I always just kind of shake my head at him and he says, "What?! Did you see that?!" And I acknowledge that it was awesome. I love basketball, but I'm not moved to giddy laughter so this response was always a little strange to me.

Monday we were driving back home from a little trip, and my aunt had let me borrow the book Seabiscuit because I had mentioned I was wanting to read it. [Which is amazing in and of itself because I could care less about horses, but the author, Hillenbrand, wowed me with her ability when I read Unbroken]. So we were driving home and I was a few chapters in and Brent said to just go ahead and read out loud.

That's when it happened. I finished a chapter and turned the page to begin the next. I read, "Red Pollard was sinking downward through his life with the pendulous motion of a leaf falling through still air."

And I laughed.
I stopped reading and I laughed.

Brent immediately understood the emotion I was experiencing. It's not that it's the best sentence I've ever read in a book, but it just caught me off guard. It wasn't the opening line of the book, which every good author knows to revise and revise to perfection. It was just the first sentence in an inconspicuous chapter. But it was so good, and I just had to laugh at its near perfection in my adoration for the author's craft.

Brent smiled sidelong at me. "Stupid, isn't it?"

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This weekend we travelled south to visit my wonderful aunt and then stopped to see Brent's sister and family and some good friends/ Brent's college mentor. We rolled into our garage at about 10:15 last night and I was in bed and fast asleep at 10:30. Exhausted.

It was such a full, relaxing, beautiful weekend. But I'm pooped.

So today I'm doing laundry and picking up and drinking coffee…

oh, and Blythe threw her pacis away this morning so I'm listening to her talking and not sleeping. But she's not screaming or crying so I am considering it a success so far. I'll keep you updated.

Becks had a rough couple of days in the sleep department because she's been uncomfortable from constipation…my poor children suffer from this. Hoping to get her back on track too. Whew.

All that to say-- I love traveling to see family and friends. Brent and I love being in the car together. Our girls are awesome companions to travel with [unless they don't feel well and they are up all night…Becks….]. It was so good.

I'll try to be back to blogging tomorrow or so. Until then…coffee…

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hide it in their heart

I try to do a "quiet time" of some sort with Blythe every day most days. And yes, quiet time is supposed to be in quotes in that sentence because there is rarely anything quiet about being with that girl. For quite awhile now though we get out a blanket, get some crackers, and read our bibles. A few months ago I started helping her memorize scriptures. And we're starting to pray together more too [this is slow.] So when I saw that I "I Can Learn the Bible" by Holly Hawkins Shivers was a book available for review, I grabbed it quickly. And I'm so glad I did. 

In the foreword, Jennie Allen shares that her seminary professor Howard Hendricks said, "If you give your child one thing by the age of five, let it be a big faith in God." That's what I want. That's what, at the end of my days when I'm exhausted, I pray I am giving my girls. And even though I'm a former teacher, I need help in practical ways to present this to them. And that is exactly what "I Can Learn the Bible" gives me. In the foreword, Shivers shares her purpose and thoughts behind the book: 

"We can educate our children with a biblical worldview, we can enroll them in church activities…and love them well. But there is nothing like the Word of God being planted in their hearts, taking root, and producing genuine spiritual growth. Ultimately, the spiritual well-being of our children rests in the hands of God-- He will form and strengthen them through His Word and His Spirit. It takes the pressure off parents, does it not?" 

The set up of the book is simple: Every week there is a new verse and a small devotional/story that expounds on the verse and makes it practical for a child. There are also fill in the blank statements and questions to help the parent engage in a discussion with their kids. The focus is to help your child understand the scripture, but also to help them memorize it. Let's be honest: three year olds can hear something once and remember it forever! [Just be sure they hear it right the first time because it's locked in there after that. Example: Blythe has been singing "Hot Dog Crumbs" all day instead of "Hot Cross Buns"].

Shivers gives parents a sample "weekly schedule" that they can potentially follow with the week's verse and devotion. This is super helpful because the material is simple and short, so to come back to it everyday for the week can be a bit challenging, but the schedule helps. I also improvised because Blythe is still pretty little, and to keep her interest in the same verse and devotion all week was a little challenging. So here is an example of our week with this devotional:

Monday: we read the verse and the devotional together. This week's verse was, "In the beginning God created the sky and the earth. Genesis 1:1"*.  I gave Blythe a black piece of construction paper and some star stickers and white and blue crayons and we made something out of the nothing. 

Tuesday: We read the verse again and I had her repeat what she could on her own. Then we used the little prayer from the book that had a fill in the blank: "My favorite part of Your creation is….". Blythe said her daddy [of course]. So I had her draw a picture of her daddy and we prayed and thanked God for making him. We repeated the verse before we were done.

Wednesday: We repeated the verse a few times together, and then we read the creation story from one of her bibles. My favorite moment this day was when she wanted to read it back to me [this is every time we read a book or tell her a story now, she has to repeat it back]. She flipped through the pages and told me the gist of the story but got the days all wrong "And on the fifty day…" whatever. But at the end she said was telling me God made animals and people and then she laid on her back and said, "And then God laid down and said, 'That's pretty good.' And He took a nap."

Thursday: She didn't want to do the devotional this day, so I followed her lead and we read a favorite Bible story of her-- Jonah.

Friday: We returned to the original devotional, re-read it in its entirety, and repeated the verse and the prayer.

Saturday and Sunday: I will ask her to repeat the verse whenever I think of it.

At first I thought there would be no way to get an entire week out of it, but when I supplemented some activities, it really worked well.

At the end of every devotion is this phrase that the child is asked to repeat: God's Word is for me and to me, it is in me and working through me, and just like His love, it goes on and on forever! 

Blythe picked up on that right away and by the end of the first week has almost memorized it.

I think this is a great tool for parents with younger children [I believe it is marketed for 4-8 year olds], and is just what I had been looking for. It gives me a baseline, but also allows me to add my own twist if I want to. If you don't get excited about coming up with crafts and activities though, just sticking to the basic devotion and outline Shivers lays out would work well too. If your child is a little older, you could probably just spend one or two days with each devotion.

I hung up a line right by our dining room table where we will clip each week's verse, and I'm hoping at the end of each week to go over each of the verses as a form of review. It is also a great reminder to our family to have these verses hanging up-- God's word is for me and to me, in me and working through me!

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher and BookLook Bloggers, but all opinions are my own. 

*I'm not crazy about the translation of this verse [International Children's Bible], because if you look in Genesis it isn't until verses 7 & 8 that "the sky" is created. 

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