judah goes to camp.


Yesterday evening we dropped Judah off for 6 nights at Bethel Christian Camp in Gaston, about 30 minutes away from Columbia. It’s a camp we’ve known and loved for a long time. We’ve met the director, and have seen lots of friends attend over the years.

I can’t imagine a better first camp experience for our boy; still I can hardly believe he’s gone.

He’ll turn 10 in September, which is the age I was when I started going to camp, but it still feels young somehow. I was delighted that we were allowed to settle him into his cabin and see the bunk he chose and meet his senior counselor. He was so excited. I reigned in my emotions and put my big girls pants on and said good-bye with a clear voice and a big smile.

The five of us made a forlorn trek back to our van, and cheered ourselves up with a stop at Pelican’s Snowcones before we headed home.

We gave Amelie the option to go to camp this week too, but she said, “No way! I’ll miss you too much!”

She regretted her choice when we dropped Judah and she got swept up in the excitement of chattering kids and rustic cabins and the lake. Still, she’s not even 8 yet, and I’m not sorry she decided to wait. Next year will be soon enough.

And so this week we find ourselves one kid short. It’s the quietest kid we’re missing, yet still the house feels a little bereft today.

I know I’m being sentimental, but to me this feels like the first big milestone of my kids growing up. Bit by bit they’re gaining independence, making memories apart from us.

I felt sad in the months leading up to this week, but even though I miss my boy like crazy, I suddenly find myself so very happy for him. This week away at camp is good and right; such a fun, valuable part of childhood. I love that he’s living his own story. It’s a gift to be a big part of that story, but I’m okay with letting go a little. I love the boy he’s becoming.

We get to send Judah emails throughout the week which are printed and given to him at lunch time. Here’s Noah’s message from today:

Dear Judah,

I can play Hobbit with you and play special toys with you. And I can play with the big Lego set too, and I can do Hobbit Hole reading with you. And I miss you really and I like you to sleep there because you had a good, good night. Obey your teacher and your class. Let’s sit in the chair together and read a book.

Love Noah


here’s to a great summer.


Here are three ways I’m embracing our summer so far:

1. These thoughtful words have given me permission to feel peace and joy, rather than guilt for what I didn’t do last school year (this applies to you too, even if you don’t homeschool!).

When the school year comes to a close it’s important to let go and move on to the business of truly enjoying summer. Don’t allow yourself to dwell on the areas where you or your children fell short, which could turn into a swarm of negative and worrisome thoughts.

While honest reflection is helpful, too much in the wrong direction becomes never ending and will rob us from the joy of a job well done. You showed up each day, you put thought and effort into your parenting and teaching, you consider each child and what they need, you are nurturing their minds, hearts, and spirits for hours a day. This is the truth: in spite of all the improvements you could make, you still did a great job.

If we focus continually on where we are falling short it will become harder and harder to see the good.

For me . . . that means that no matter what our year looked like or what we may not have accomplished; In faith, I will choose to celebrate it, to be thankful for it, and to be finished with it.

– Toni Weber, Wild + Free


2. I loved reading this free Simpler Summer Guide, by Melissa Camera Wilkins, and saved it to my desktop so I can review it in a month. Melissa’s wisdom caused me to immediately change some aspects of our plans, to deliberately decide not to work to provide endless entertainment for my kids at the expense of my own peace.

Isn’t it crazy how much pressure we put on ourselves!? And how exhausted that makes us?


3. I’m vacationing from social media. It somehow always adds to the daily angst that I’m not doing enough or being enough or looking great enough. If Pinterest counts as social media, then I’m taking a break from that too, and design blogs. Our house is fine, just the way it is.

Now I want to relax and enjoy it and enjoy the people in it.

What are you doing to embrace summer?

a review of my first bullet journal.


Friday morning David took the kids on some errands and I spent a happy (quiet!) hour at the dining table starting my new bullet journal.

I did it! I finished my first bullet journal in its entirety!

I didn’t lose steam and shelve the thing halfway through the year as I’ve done with so many day-planners. I got my money’s worth!

Sorry. I read somewhere that exclamation points should be used very sparingly by blog-writers, and clearly I’ve broken that rule.

But I’m just really excited report that this system works for me

The bullet journal I use has 249 pages, and I used it for 7 months. I know, that’s pretty quick. My mother-in-law expects hers to last for an entire year, and David, who has the smallest handwriting on the face of the earth (says the person who painstakingly read his love letters in college), thinks his bullet journal will last 18 months.

All three of us use the same brand, which you can find here on Amazon, or, for a little more fun, here at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

We like it because the pages are already numbered and the dotted graph paper is great for ruling your monthly calendar. I also like the customizable label stickers.

I purchased my newest bullet journal from Modern Mrs. Darcy, because I love her blog and podcast so much, I want to support her work.


I posted about beginning to bullet journal back in January, so I’ll try not to repeat myself. All of the things I loved about it back then are true today. This post will be full of boring photos, but it’s the only way I know to show you what works for me.

Here’s a couple of new things I learned as I finished up my first notebook:

1. I don’t really track books I read in my bullet journal.

Does that surprise you? It does me. I tried a few different times, but I just don’t keep up with it.

I use the Goodreads website very faithfully now to track what I read, and it works great for me. Typically if I’m out and about and see a book I’d like to try, I’ll snap a photo of it with my phone. Every so often someone will mention a book in conversation and then I’ll jot it down there.


2. I enjoy the process of migrating tasks and setting up my monthly spread.

It takes a little more time than a ready-made planner, but it keeps my to-do list before me and let’s me purge things that have been finished or canceled. At the end of each month, I’ll pick a few quiet moments and sit at the dining table with a cup of hot tea and a ruler. I find it very soothing to draw up a new monthly spread and add events and tasks. Truly this takes no more than 30 minutes (well, unless you have a half dozen distractions).

I do not draw a cute little “migrate” arrow next to unfinished tasks unless I’ve literally re-written it for the next day. The act of writing it again helps me decide how important this task is, and whether it deserves a little star for “priority.”

Ok here’s a quick run down of my signifiers:

A triangle is an event; when the event is over I color in the arrow (yes, apparently dinner is an event in our house; I write what’s for dinner first thing under the date because my whole day feels smoother that way)

A dot is a task; I “x” through the dot when the task is completed

Side arrows mean “migrate” (as in, move the task to the following day or week)

Hearts are for fun memories

Stars are priority tasks

Pretty simple, right? You can really use whatever symbols you want.

3. Speaking of which, I like my bullet journal simple.

At the beginning I pinned so many adorable page spreads to a Pinterest board. I love people who doodle and turn even their to-do list into a work of art. I tried, I really did, but I am not one of those people. And I’m at peace with that. I started out checking the weather each morning and writing it in next do the date, but dropped that habit months ago.

As you can see from the photos, my pages are very plain-Jane. The plainer, the more likely I am to keep up with them. It’s just what works for me.

The genius is in the lists.

The genius is also in keeping my bullet journal close at hand (laying open on a bookcase at home during the day, in my bag when I go out), so that anything that pops into my head can be written down.

Years ago, a counselor actually recommended this habit of keeping a notebook with me (even at my bedside) since I struggle with anxiety. Little did she know that the bullet journal craze was about to sweep the nation!


4. I still love planning out my week by folding in a center page.

At the top is the dinner schedule, then underneath I began writing a “To do this week” list, which works well. I also write out a daily list, but I like picking and choosing from my weekly list. I found that it keeps me from feeling overwhelmed by tasks and needing to migrating unfinished tasks as often.

As you can see from the photo above, the back half of that center page was my grocery list, which I simply tear out with a straight edge and take the the store. I love this system.

Here’s a novel idea: when you’re waiting in line or have a few free minutes, instead of pulling out your phone, pull out your bullet journal! In this way I often have a head start on the grocery list and next week’s dinner ideas, which eases stress.

5. I don’t do homeschool scheduling or planning in my bullet journal.

This is something else I really tried. I looked up several blog posts and tried to copy other people’s systems, but it didn’t work. It felt too jumbled.

Now, I do keep running homeschool To-do list there, and will jot down ideas that pop into my head. But when it comes to actually planning out our days or record-keeping, I do those separately. I like a larger sheet of paper for homeschool brain-storming (like 8.5 x 11). Plus, as a friend commented, “I’m not sure I want our homeschool curriculum plans that entwined with my daily life.” I wholly agree.

6. I use very few running lists; I find that I didn’t really keep up with them.

Rather, I focus on my monthly and daily lists and when I write down important information (such as swim meet details), I add the page number that information occurs on to my Index in the front for easy reference. If I created an entire separate page for “Swim meets” it would probably mostly go to waste, especially since each meet information is quite different.

And there’s something very organic and “full of life” about scribbling sermon notes and book quotes and recipes under that day’s date. It makes the book more fun to read back over.

Does that make sense?


I guess something would warrant its own separate page if you have lots of information right from the get-go.

Want to know the few lists I did start in my brand new bullet journal?

– Friends we want to hang out/have over with this summer

– Things I need to do to be ready to start our new school year

– Blog post ideas

– And after all I just said, I simply couldn’t resist creating a new Book Recommendations list. It’s just nice to have.


7. Finally, I extended my Future Log to 12 months over 4 pages.

In my first bullet journal it was 6 months, and when I learned of a date beyond, like a dentist appointment, I was always crunching it into the corner. I do not stress about writing events in order in my Future Log, it’s more like a scratch box to add anything that will happen in that month. It’s always a bit messy. I’ll make it look all nice and organized when I sit with my monthly spread.


And that’s that!

It’s not a perfect system, of course. I still forget things.

But it’s the best system I’ve found for reducing how much I forget, for feeling organized, and for clearing the clutter from my head. I love knowing that pages aren’t going to waste.

I love the way it tracks our life.

David laughs because a couple of disputes as to when events occurred were solved by consulting my bullet journal. He says, “The bullet journal never lies.”

All of last December’s Christmas plans and activities and our baby chicks and our whole house addition process are encapsulated in my first now-battered notebook. It’s gratifying to skim back through and remember what we did and see how much we’ve accomplished.


i’m still here!


Hi friends!

I’ve been pretty terrible at keeping up with the blog lately, and I feel bad about it. Not that I expect you to be sitting by your computer waiting for a post.

It’s so odd, really. For years I wanted to experience a home renovation so that I could take pictures and blog about the process, but I neglected to factor in one very important thing: that during the renovation I may have zero — and I mean zero — energy for blogging or really anything beyond laying on the sofa with glazed eyes and watching Netflix every night.

Ah well. I’m sure some of you could’ve told me that was a pretty good possibility.

I have absolutely no idea how these DIY-ers manage to do enormous home projects and also blog about them. They have all my respect. Meanwhile, I’m most certainly not a DIY-er, and I’m still just hanging on for dear life.

Things got a whole lot harder here during the last third of the addition when a giant hole was cut in our living room wall, and various and sundry people began traipsing in and out every day. Oh and there’s the dust. And the noise. And the piles of clutter around our house. And a lot of kids to keep out of everyone’s way.

And the shopping. I know, I know, you’re like, wait, she’s complaining about shopping now? Must be nice. But as anyone who’s ever experienced a house or yard project can attest, you go to Lowe’s or Home Depot on average 1.5 times a day. There are so many decisions, about things I never in my life expected to care about, but are suddenly vitally important. And remember this: whatever you buy will have to be exchanged at least once.

Yesterday I’m pretty sure I blanked out at least two times in Target, and when I came to I was wandering aimlessly in an aisle and had no idea how I got there. It’s bad, people.

For all their challenges, here’s where Gabe and Noah are just the best.

Me: “Hey, guys, I’m sorry to say this, but we actually need to go back to Lowe’s.” Amie and Judah: “Noooooooo!!!!” Gabe and Noah: “Yay!!!! Lowe’s!!!!!”

And enough of my whining already, right? I mean, I’m getting another bathroom! And a bedroom! And a closet! And a lovely little hallway for books and plants. Truly, I’m very very thankful, and David and I say constantly that it’s going to be worth every inconvenience and every penny we’ve spent. It’s turning out better than we ever imagined it could be.

Also, we couldn’t have asked for a more pleasant group of people working on our house: not just our builder and his crew, but all his subcontractors have been so nice that Amie said, “I’ll be so sad when all the workers leave” (that’s my extroverted child speaking).

We’re almost there! We’re so close we can just about reach out and touch it. Maybe two weeks until we can move in? That’s nothing, right!?

Tell me that’s nothing.

And now, because I’ve proven to us all I’m definitely not one of those cool DIY bloggers, can I please just give you a hodge-podge of low-quality phone pics to fill you in on our month?


Okay, first, the house!



We have brick! Actually these photos are outdated. The brick is completely finished, and I’ll post more after the masons come this weekend and clean of the mortar and it looks all nice and crisp (who am I kidding, I’ll probably post photos a couple weeks after the fact).


Oh, how much my little guys are going to miss having an “instruction site” in our yard. They were mesmerized by this dumpster exchange. And meanwhile, I was consumed with guilt over the fact that our little house project has generated over a dumpster’s worth of waste. Wendell Berry would be horrified. Please don’t tell him.


For those who are interested, here’s the roof tie-in from the back yard. Isn’t it cute?

And speaking of back yard . . .


A few weeks ago, the kids and I went on a lovely field trip to a nearby family-owned farm outside Columbia, and the farmer showed me this whole area where she lets her one-year-old daughter garden to her heart’s content. I told David how inspiring it was, and about two days later he put in a third raised garden bed, for our kiddos.

The other two beds are David’s babies. He loves them. He tends them. It’s one of his favorite ways of unwinding. But we want our kids to learn the gardening process and to be able to do it all by themselves, so this bed is for them. Soil and plants aren’t especially cheap, so it’s more than “digging in the dirt.” There are rules. Think of it as a little hands-on class. They are thrilled.


And now we go inside!

Here’s our new doorway, in all it’s glory. I love that Scott made it larger than a traditional doorway, in order to let in more natural light from that window. The bookcase to the left will go in Judah’s room to open up that space more, and those books will be moved to the new built-ins, which will be in the nook to the left when you walk through the addition doorway. The brown chair will go elsewhere too.


We’re doing the painting ourselves in order to save money, and by “we” I mean mostly David, with some help from my brother and me. It’s a whole lot of painting, especially with all the new trim. Some pieces were primed but still need two coats. He’s been wonderful about it.

I really wanted to go with an almost-white to make our space look big and light-filled, but worried that all white would feel a bit stark. So our exact color is Olympic Hourglass, which is a very-slightly-gray white. The trim and doors will be the Behr paint match of Benjamin Moore Simply White (I highly recommend this color if you’re looking for a true white; I got the tip from Young House Love).


The hardwood floors will be sanded and stained next week to match the floors throughout our house.


Here’s our closet! After getting the quote for custom shelving, we decided to go with an IKEA metal rack system, which is considerably less expensive. There will be carpet in here too.


And here, my friends, is the bathroom. In the last two weeks the shower and floor were tiled. We planned to save money and use vinyl flooring in the bathroom right up until this very week. The cost turned out to be reasonable, since we went with larger tiles, and we are so, so glad we did it.

I found our bathroom paint color on an HGTV Pinterest post: it’s the Olympic brand of Sherwin Williams Intellectual Gray (from Fixer Upper!), and it’s a Gray/Taupe. I spent some time really stressing that it was too dark (of course it was the one color we didn’t get a sample of), but the light floors and cabinets make it look better. I wanted it to feel cozy and I think it does!


Look at this shower! We think it’s stunning. We wanted to go with subway tile with an inset and little shelf, and because we were willing to use remnants from our builder and the tile guy, we got the floor tile and that pretty inset design for free. We still walk in the bathroom and look at each other and say, “This can’t really be ours.”

Actually our other bathroom is kind of disintegrating during this building process (for example, we now have to use a wrench to turn on the hot water, and more floor penny tiles pop free daily), so I have a pretty sneaking suspicion that the entire family will be using the new bathroom for the foreseeable future. That’s okay: at least we’ll all comfortably fit, right?

If you’re wondering what all my Home Depot and Lowe’s trips consist of, let me give you a list of things we’ve needed to provide: shower tile, door knobs, cabinet hardware, sink faucets, all paint and primer, light fixtures, mirrors, shower head kit and shower curtain, towels, towel rack, toilet paper dispenser, closet shelving system, not to mention furniture for our room and Amie’s.

Okay, now that I look at it written out, it doesn’t seem like that much stuff. Why, oh why, does it feel like it?

Whew. Let’s move on:


My baby is a Classical Conversations Memory Master! He did it! He was tested on 400 pieces of information from our school year in the subjects of Latin, English Grammar, History, Math, and Science, and had to achieve one hundred percent in order to get the award. He was the youngest student at our CC campus to become a Memory Master this year.

Words cannot express how proud I am of him. It’s not that I care if all my kids are Memory Masters. But God has given Judah an amazing mind, and I loved seeing him set a new goal this year and work hard for it and do his best. We told him he’d get the reward of a fun experience if he became a Memory Master, and I’ll let him tell you about that in a post after the experience.

We had our CC end-of-year program on Monday, and have just about three days of school left before we’re officially finished. It seems early, I know, but last year we started back during the summer, and that worked really well for us, so we plan to do it again.


Monday was a big day for another reason: we celebrated two years with Gabe and Noah.

Two years! Can you believe it?

I’ll give you an adoption post here soon, probably after the addition is finished, because I have some thoughts. But I’ll just say now that choosing to adopt our boys is the hardest and best thing we’ve ever done.

It’s a mark of what God has done in making us a family that we had to consider how exactly to celebrate this anniversary, because they don’t even really think of themselves as adopted now. They’re just ours.

But we love adoption and want to celebrate it and support it for the rest of our lives, and of course we know one day they will have lots more questions. And so we decided our family’s annual Adoption Day tradition will be Dunkin’ Donuts for breakfast. The kids loved it!

Today David took the two older kids on a big hike in the Greenville area, and I took Gabe and Noah to the zoo and to Chick-Fil-A. Personally, it was my favorite two-year celebration because it’s rare that I get to be alone with just the two of them, just having fun. Spending today enjoying my boys felt beautiful. They make my life better.

Thank you for enduring my long-windedness, my friends!

And now will you do something for me?

I know all of you have your own busy, stressful lives, but if you get a moment, shoot me an email or text letting me know what’s up with you! What’s the hardest part of life right now? What’s the best? (those could actually be the same thing)

I love hearing from you and hate that this blog often feels like a one-sided conversation. In all of the construction stress, the most restful thing for me is to NOT think about the construction. I love hearing from my friends and family (and internet friends! you’re not a blog stalker!).

Happy Friday!

on creativity (or the lack thereof) and the bullet journal.


Happy weekend, dear readers!

I’ve promised you a blog post about the bullet journal, but first, a confession:

I’m having a very hard time writing on the blog these days.

Oh, it’s not that I don’t enjoy writing, or that I don’t have any ideas. I do! I have two full page spreads in my bullet journal of ideas. It’s just that when it comes time to actually sit down and write, I stare at the screen and my head feels like mush. I do have the time — I can make the time. But where oh where is my creativity?

I look longingly at my DSLR camera and think how lucky I am to have it, and how much I love photography, but truthfully, I’m bored of taking photos of my kids and my house. But that’s who I’m with, that’s where I am. Every day.

Is it just me, or is it hard to create in this season of life?

I feel like it’s just me, because bloggers and writers I enjoy somehow churn out books and gorgeous photos in the midst of changing diapers and making dinner and homeschooling or attending PTA meetings.

They tell me in their introductions that they seized every sleep-deprived scrap of time they could find to write, late at night or at 5:00 am and in between loads of laundry.

Truly, I am baffled by this skill. I do not have it.

Do you know what I do when I’m sleep-deprived?

I sleep!

I love my children, but right now, I feel like I’ve actually lost brain cells at the end of every single day. I have just enough energy to help David tuck the kids in bed (bonus points if I don’t snap at anyone in the process), do my twenty minutes of stretching exercises, and then collapse onto the sofa with a book or a BBC drama.

I’m just plain tired.

I know what you’re thinking: Take a break, Julie! Stop over-analyzing everything! Your hands are full: this isn’t the season for writing and creating.

And I know that you’re exactly right. But can I just say that the truth of that fact is a bitter pill to swallow? I want to write. I ache to write. I love it and it’s an outlet and it makes me happy. I love this little blog. I love taking pictures and trying to get better at doing it. I feel so thankful that I get a tiny online space to actually practice creating, and that you respond!

The truth is, some days I feel plain resentful that my life is so full and exhausting that it leaves little margin for creating.

That is very wrong of me, and I’m asking God to change my heart. I am truly living my dream, in a charming little house full of children and a husband who loves me and stacks and stacks of books. I am not carting water in pails or plucking chickens for dinner or mending clothes by candlelight.

I have hours to sit and educate my kids and I have money to shop and cook healthy meals. I’m embarrassed to admit that I even have a house cleaner who faithfully comes each month and leaves us with a sparkling-clean house. I have evenings to read and no one is waking me in the middle of the night to nurse.

Why am I telling you all of this?

I guess to confess that in my deepest heart, I struggle with contentment. I have more to be thankful for than I could ever list here, and yet I’m selfish with my time and energy. I don’t want to give them away to my family, I want to hoard and collect enough moments to write without interruption — whenever inspiration strikes. I want to be a hermit.

It’s hard to make myself come back again and again to the blog when my brain hurts. It’s hard to accept “good enough” when I want “brilliant.” Does that make sense?

This post is not punctuated with pretty pictures because I’m too tired to take pictures.

This post is a little scattered because I’ve had a dozen interruptions while writing it, including a four-year-old who’s currently sitting on the arm of my chair, asking to “press buttons.”

So we’ve established that creativity isn’t exactly working for me these days. You know what is working?

My bullet journal!

Now that I finish this long rant I have to smile because when I first saw blogs and YouTube video describing the bullet journal, I thought:

Eew. No. Too sterile. What about space for rambling thoughts and quotes? What truly creative spirit could possibly consolidate their life into dry bulleted lists?


Now I’m eating my words.

Journaling is not what I need right now. Who has time for journaling!?

Bulleted lists are exactly what I need right now!

I’m not going to describe for you how to bullet journal, because there are those who have done it wonderfully. There are two posts David and I followed to get started: this one from the official Bullet Journal website, and one from the Lazy Genius Collective. You can’t do better than to read their posts thoroughly as you begin.

So why do I love my bullet journal so, so, so much?

I’m so glad you asked! Ready? Here we go:


1. Everything is in one place.
And I mean everything. Monthly calendar. Meal plans. Grocery list. Blog ideas. Christmas gift lists. Homeschool ideas.

Before I had dozens of scraps of paper, floating in my purse, taped to the fridge, drifting from basket to basket in my house.

I constantly felt like I was forgetting things, searching for lists, trying to remember what today’s priorities are.

Now I keep my one notebook close by throughout my day and carry it in my purse so I can always access it, always keep my notes in one spot. I guess that leads me to clarify: I take my bullet journal out in public, so it includes anything I wouldn’t mind someone finding and reading. It’s not a diary. But it is a faithful record of my days.

The daily lists help me see exactly how much I get done every day (and it’s a lot!), they allow me to remember that date night to Barnes and Noble I had with Judah. They’re sort of an in-your-face, glass-half-full reminder. Yes, it was a crazy week and I never got around to writing that blog post, but David and I got to take a sushi class!

I’ll give you one example of how it’s dramatically helped me, and that’s with meal planning and grocery shopping. Look at the photo at the top of this post: when I start a new spread I always fold a middle sheet of paper in half. The front lists dinners for the week, an exercise log, and homeschool ideas specific to that week. On the back fold is my grocery list. It is always with me.

Before heading to the grocery store I simply rip out that little flap of paper and take it with me.

Do you know how the moment you come home from Publix with your arms overflowing with groceries your child reminds you that you’re out of peanut butter?

Well guess what, you now have a running grocery list, so you drop everything, grab your bullet journal, start your next Grocery List, and jot down “peanut butter.” Of course I’m still frustrated as heck with myself for forgetting, but I take it in stride because it’s right there written down, I’ll see it today and tomorrow and someday soon my child will have his peanut butter.

If I’m sitting at the kids’ swim practice and a parent says, “We had the most amazing chicken enchiladas for dinner last night,” I grab my bullet journal and jot down the idea for next week’s dinner plan. (Or that Spelling curriculum I’d like to research, or the book I wanted to request from the library.)

Does this make sense? I guess you could say since they’re always in front of me, my meal plans and grocery list are a constant work in progress, so if David texts to say he stopped at Whole Foods, do I need anything, I know exactly what to say. And on Grocery Day, rather than staring at Pinterest in despair, wondering what on earth to feed my family, I take just a couple minutes to complete my lists, and I’m off.

You don’t need to do this, but I have a Go-To Meals spread in my bullet journal that I can work from.

All of this reduces my stress considerably.


2. It’s impossible to mess it up.
Because the bullet journal is just a notebook I’ve created, there is nothing to mess up! If a page looks ugly, I just finish it up and turn to a new page and vow to use better handwriting. As much as I adore sparkling, gold-foiled Yearly Planners, I’d end up wasting gobs of space, year after year, because none was ever exactly what I needed.

But my bullet journal is exactly what I need. Some days I use it a ton, other days I don’t touch it. Some days Amelie and I sit and doodle cute pictures next to the date, some days it’s sparse. There’s no pressure to make it look a certain way (stop looking at Pinterest, now! Unless you love to doodle, and then have at it). No space is wasted.

In case you’re wondering, I keep almost everything in my Daily and Monthly lists and just add page numbers to the Index as I record important information. I’ve made a few extra lists, for Gardening tips and Book ideas, but I rarely refer to them. The Daily List is for me.

An example of the bullet journal’s flexibility I tried the Bullet Journal website method of planning out my month in a list for two months, and didn’t love it. I missed those squares. So in January, I made squares! And they’re just perfect.



3. It helps me feel less scattered.
So here’s exactly what I do if I really have it together: I spend a few minutes before bed at night starting the next day in my bullet journal. I write the date and the weather, then what’s for dinner directly under it. I write appointments, migrate any tasks I’ve left undone.

But if I don’t have it together, I wake up in the morning, pour my coffee, and spend about 5 minutes writing out those things. It’s like emptying my head, in the most pleasant of ways.

Then I pull out my Bible and read, and I can focus much, much better. I’m not worried about forgetting my to-do list, because I’ve already started it. It’s right next to me.

I guess you can say that it feels like starting the day on the offensive, with a plan in place.


4. It’s pretty.
Finally, I just think it’s pretty. Despite the fact that I no longer need to buy a Planner, I like nice things, especially nice bookish things. I won’t lie, having a good-quality, clean notebook and pen for my bullet journal makes a difference.

I like the feel of it in my hands. I like the gray cover and the silky smooth pages. I like that those pages are numbered for me. I love my $3 pen that doesn’t smudge, ever. The last thing I bought is a tin of book darts to mark my most-used pages (for me that’s the Future Log and Monthly Calendar), and I think those are pretty too.

Do you need all of this to Bullet Journal? Absolutely not.

But David and I have found them a worthwhile investment in feeling organized.

I wish he’d write his own bullet journal blog post, but he never will.

Suffice it to say, he’s a convert too.

Neither of us will return to more conventional calendars or planners.

One day, I’ll really write again. For now: I’ll bullet journal!

There. Now don’t you want to try it!?

Happy Saturday!!!


swim team and adversity.

Our big kids had their second swim meet this weekend.

It went really well, both of them improved on their times from their first meet, and Judah swam two new events.

But this competition experience is challenging me in a new way as a parent. All four kids for the most part enjoy their swim practices. They like their friends and their coaches and have gained confidence in learning new skills.

But truthfully, the meets have been hard for Judah and Amelie. They are really, really intense experiences: noisy and crowded and competitive. David and I aren’t allowed to be on the pool deck with them, so we drop them off at the door into a sea of coaches and children, armed with bags of towels, swim caps, goggles and snacks, and they spend the day with their coaches and team. They have some help, but still need to remember where to line up and what heat they’re swimming in, what the whistles mean, when to start and when to end the race. They’re surrounded by kids who are way, way better than them.

We’ve had lots of tears, lots of requests to not do swim meets anymore, even requests at times to quit swimming altogether.

It hurts me so badly to see them scared and pushed beyond what they think they can do. In short, I want to let them quit. I want to wrap my arms tight around them and protect them from the hard things in life: from making mistakes and being embarrassed in front of their friends, from coaches who yell at them and from being told they aren’t doing it right.

But I know (largely from my husband, who’s much wiser than I) that it’s not the best thing for my kids.

I think that a real weakness of homeschooling is the ease with which we can shelter our children from adversity.

I see that desire in my own heart. I want to tell the kids that if they want to quit swimming, if it’s too overwhelming and scary, they can. When they face a bully or a clique in our homeschool community, I want to intervene or to pull them out, to search for another group where they’re treated better.

That’s a strength for those of you with kids in school. There are typically more built-in opportunities for adversity, less opportunity for you to just remove your child from classes and teachers and experiences that are hard, more teaching moments as you help them navigate difficult situations, more chances to learn to get along with people who are different.

Although I’m not saying it’s any easier for you to go through it than it is for me. None of us parents want our kids to suffer. All of us have this innate desire to rescue them from the hard things.

Lately, dipping my toe into the waters of parenting older children is testing my faith in a new way. It feels downright excruciating for the momma-bear in me to see adversity as a healthy and important part of growing up, and to even embrace it as an act of God’s love for them.

I’ve come to willingly affirm the way God has used suffering in my own life, to humble and change me and make His care for me more personal and dear. I’ve even reached the point of being able to thank Him for suffering.

But somehow when it comes to my kids, I feel the opposite. I fiercely want to protect them from any kind of trial. I want to straighten their paths and raise their valleys. I want to step in and micromanage circumstances and keep them from pain.

But we all know that does not prepare them for real life.

In real life, we suffer. We are lonely and misunderstood and sometimes we get made fun of. We fail and we get embarrassed and have to do things that are really hard. Sometimes we get sick or anxious or depressed. In real life we also sin against other people and have to face the consequences. We have to learn to see and admit our sin — our own bullying or cliques or unkindness — and repent and ask forgiveness from others. Our pride gets hurt as we realize we’re not quite as awesome as we once thought.

And so, David and I are asking God to give us wisdom to know how and when to put our kids in the path of scary new situations and possible adversity.

Does that sound crazy to you? We’re no masochists — of course if a struggle goes on too long or is affecting our child negatively over a long period of time, we’ll reevaluate and seek a different solution.

But thus far, we’ve seen good fruit from allowing our kids to face hard things. We’ve seen them grow a little more humble. We’ve seen them trust Jesus in new ways — to pray to Him themselves instead of just waiting for Mom and Dad to pray.

We’ve seen them learn to forgive. We’ve seen them grow thicker skin and learn some resiliency, to learn that they aren’t victims, that they’re stronger than they thought they were. We’ve seen them become just a little bit more compassionate towards other people.

If you’re a parent of kids older than mine, I’m sure you’re thinking right now, Oh this is just the beginning, Julie. I know you’re right. And while I’m tempted to fear the unknowns in my kids’ future, I trust that God will give us grace for the hard things yet to come, just as He’s helping us day by day right now.

I trust that He’ll give David and me the courage and wisdom to know when to push our children and when to gather them close and protect them. I know we’ll make mistakes — we’ll push when we should protect and vice versa.

Though it breaks my heart, I’m not naive to the fact that some of my children’s suffering will be caused by the two of us, who love them more than life itself, but who are broken and sinful. I beg God to somehow use even that in their life for good.

I’m so glad, with all our fumbling and failure and learning, that nothing is ever wasted with Him.







the post i was going to write.


I had a great post planned for today.

A couple of friends asked me to write on navigating life with young children as an introvert, and I’m only too happy to oblige.

I’ve been thinking on it for a couple of weeks now, anxious to share all these things I’ve been learning. I have some new systems in place. A tighter, more effective daily schedule! Fewer commitments! Less time on social media! But the more I tried to get my thoughts out of my head and wrestle this blog post into submission, the more I seemed to notice my real life, hitting me over the head like a 2×4. In short, the more miserable I became.

So today I’m going to write about something different: my sin.

You know, I have this growing resentment in my heart as I struggle to reconcile the Julie in my head with the Julie in real life. But I’m doing everything right! I’m making better choices. I do have a better daily schedule so that I get one-on-one time with each kid. I read a book during afternoon rest time instead of browsing Pinterest and Instagram. I get weekly time out by myself. I hardly ever even watch TV!

And yet. I’m so tired. And miserable. I work and work and work, and still, deep down have this gnawing, ever-present knowledge that I’m not a good mom.

It is hard parenting four small children as an introvert. You know what? It’s hard parenting small children period, whether you have one or six, whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert. The mundane-ness of life, day after day, with the laundry and making dinner and sibling quarrels is enough to make me crazy.

I’m making some good choices, but I’m still failing. Every single day I beg God, “Make me a better mom. A better wife. Make me less selfish. Please, I beg You.”

And yet, here I am.

I snap at my kids every.single.day. Multiple times a day. I correct them for stupid, meaningless things, like chewing food with their mouth open and spilling water and wiggling too much at the dinner table.

I’m so negative. I have a real problem controlling my tongue. I criticize David and the kids way too much. I have impossible expectations of Gabe and Noah, who are very little boys who make a lot of messes and noise and are doing their best to learn to obey.

I want my house to be unrealistically clean.

I want “please” and “thank you” every time I do something for someone. I want gratitude, darnit.

I want my kids to dress nice and have good manners so that I look like a good mom.

Also, I want to be left alone. I want space to sit and breathe and read a book without little hands pushing and pulling and stroking my hair and endless questions. Oh, the questions.

I want my husband to come home from an exhausting day at work and I want to dump the kids on him and say, “I’m done. Here. You do something with them.”

I see my kids faces when they look at me, the way they sit up a little straighter and also brace themselves, just a little, for whatever word of correction I have to dole out in that moment. The way they try so hard to please me.

Do you know how it makes me feel to look back and read everything I just wrote?

Like crap. I hate it.

This week our family was invited for dinner at someone’s house, a family who were total strangers to us. It went really well! Especially for all the anxiety I’ve had this year. I made it through the whole evening and felt happy. We all talked and laughed and my kids were polite and actually ate the dinner they served and played great with their kids and we exchanged numbers when we left. They really liked us!

We left and my heart swelled with happiness and satisfaction over a job well done.

And then the very next afternoon I’m standing in my kitchen, yelling at Gabe for something he said.

I laid on the couch and said to God, “I can’t do this. It’s too hard. It’s impossible for me to live for my family the way I live for other people. I can’t keep up the performance for them. They see the real me. ”


So I guess that’s at the heart of all this.

In truth, I know that I’m impressive to other people. I know that I’m friendly and easy to talk to and can be called upon to give good advice from time to time. I speak sweetly to my children in public and have taught them nice manners. I stay home full-time and I homeschool but I’m also a pastor’s wife! I like to make people feel welcome!

Do you know what God up and did this year?

He took all of that impressive-ness away from me.

He said, “No.”

He took away the ministry and the girl nights and all the affirmation highs I live off of like an addict, and allowed me to start disappointing people by saying, “No” a whole lot. And you know what He left me with?

My house and my family.

Here, people are not so impressed with me. Here I don’t get quite so many compliments.

Why should I?

My family knows what friends and acquaintances do not: that I’m a very average person, with some strengths, yes, but with many, many weaknesses. It seems I cannot go one full day without yelling at my kids or choosing myself over my husband or puffing up with pride because of how good I can pull it together in public.

It seems I can’t do one nice thing without expecting a “thank you.”

It seems I can’t sit and focus all of my attention on one child without the distractions of my phone or that mess on the couch or the school list.

Is that real ministry? Is that serving “with a happy heart” like I try to teach my children?

I think not.

To me, serving has always been something I do outside of my home.

Well, God has taken much of that away from me. I’ve been shocked by the feelings of anger and worthlessness it’s dredged up. And after I got over those feelings, I get to face the cold, hard truth: that it’s way easier to spend time with and serve people I know just a little than those I know a lot — those who know me inside and out.

And my pride is such that I’d way rather confess my sin and ask for prayer from my small group friends than from my family.

Our Advent catechism this week says,

“What is it to repent?”

“To be sorry for sin, and to hate and forsake it because it is displeasing to God.”

Each morning around the dining table, Advent candles lit, the kids and I have recited this catechism together. We’ve broken down the phrases and defined the words. But this morning I said to my kids, “Do you know what sin displeases God today?” They asked, “What?” And I said, “My sin.”

I proceeded to tell them a little about my sin. I told them how wrong it is, that I do not have a happy heart, that I am often unkind to them, and very selfish with my time, and care more about how I look on the outside than how my heart is on the inside. I listed some of the ways I disobey God.

I told them that I want to hate and forsake my sin. I asked them to forgive me. I prayed then and there, that God will forgive me and help me.

Then, gulp, I told them I want them to tell me when I’m using unkind words or an unkind tone of voice — if I speak to them that way, if I speak to their siblings that way. After all, don’t I get to do that for them?

I said, “I’m your Mommy and God still wants you to obey, but I’m displeasing Him if I tell you what to do in a mean way or when I’m too harsh and critical with you guys. That’s wrong.” This gives you an insight into the real me — Judah’s first question was, “But what if telling you that makes you even more mad?” And I said, “I really, really hope that doesn’t happen, but if it does, then tell me that too. I trust that the Holy Spirit is living inside me and will show me my sin.”

Do you know what happened there at the table?

It was like a huge load rolled off my shoulders.

The despair, the oppression of this week seemed to melt away as my precious, noisy children each looked me in the eye and said, “I forgive you, Mommy.”

They are, after all, kids, so we almost immediately moved on to other things, to reading aloud and coloring and getting ready to go to the park, and no one’s mentioned it since (oh, the humbling ability of children to forgive and forget in mere seconds).

I realize that nothing is solved, exactly.

I still don’t know how to live in my house as an introvert. Clearly you now realize I’m probably not the best person to ask.

I know I will sin against God and against everyone in my family before this day is up.

But I’m not feeling resentful any more. I’m feeling more than a little humbled, more than a little chastened. I go to the park and look at the people around me and know that I’m no better than any of them, even with a dinner plan for tonight and well-behaved children and cute shoes. I don’t have to endlessly prove to God what a good Mom and good wife I am, because I’m not.

And I’m feeling like maybe all of this — all of it — is a good thing. Maybe there are even more lessons to be learned right here, in this house, with these people.

I’m closing my computer now, to go see them.

morning time.


A few of you have asked if we use Morning Time in our home school. I love the idea of it, but haven’t successfully incorporated it into our rhythm yet, so I thought I’d ask my friend Kelly to tell you about her experience.

I also wanted to separate this post from my homeschool series, because I actually think anyone can do Morning Time! It could happen any time of day. I plan to work hard to create a routine like this for our summer, to give our mornings some structure.

And now, here’s Kelly . . .

It all started 2 1/2 years ago on a drive to my aunt’s house for July 4th weekend.  As an introvert traveling with noisy children, I had my headphones in and was listening to an interview I had stumbled upon between Andrew Kern of the Circe Institute and Sarah Mackenzie of Read Aloud Revival.  They were discussing the idea of teaching from a state of rest and the importance of not approaching the education of our children from a place of panic and anxiety to check off the growing list of boxes on our to-do list each day (here is the podcast).

This talk of anxiety and long to-do lists resonated deeply with me because I daily fight against my type-A personality. I was a deeply ingrained overachiever in school when I was a student.  I was hanging on their every word and eager to drink in more of their wisdom.  The idea of “Morning Time” was brought up and the name Cindy Rollins, who most consider the inventor of this genius and beautiful idea.

Essentially Morning Time was a time set aside in the day that Cindy gathered her children together to cover areas of their curriculum most filled with truth, beauty and goodness.  These are the subjects that with time constraints and daily stresses, are easily pushed aside and yet they can be the nourishment that our souls, minds and hearts need the most.


Well I knew then and there that I had to incorporate this idea into our homeschool day and quickly began to look into what elements I wanted for us to cover together.

The beauty of Morning Time is that you can tailor it uniquely to your family.  As with most things, it is wise to start slowly and then build on your routine rather than trying to fit in all the inspiring subjects at the beginning and overwhelm your kids and stress yourself out.  In our home with a daughter in third grade and a son who is 2 1/2 this is what Morning Time looks like for us.

* Start by saying the Pledge of Allegiance

* Recite Charlotte Mason’s motto “I Am, I Can, I Ought, I Will”
“I am …. a child of God, a gift to my parents and my country. I’m a person of great value because God made me.

        I can …. do all things through Christ who strengthens me. God has made me able to do everything required of me.

        I ought …. to do my duty to obey God, to submit to my parents and everyone in authority over me, to be of service to others, and to keep myself healthy with proper food and rest so my body is ready to serve.

        I will …. resolve to keep a watch over my thoughts and choose what’s right even if it’s not what I want.”

* Recite a Creed choosing from the Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed, Lord’s Prayer, Gloria Patri or Doxology.  This element was important to me, because our daughter sits in the service each week at our church and I wanted         her to be actively participating in the liturgy and familiar with the words.

* Sing a hymn

* Recite a passage of Scripture we are learning together.  Right now we are working on the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23.

* Review Catechism questions

* Review memory work.  We are currently memorizing “I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud” by William Wordsworth

* Read poetry by a poet we are studying each term.  Our current poet is William Blake.

* Recite a family motto.  I drew these from Sally Clarkson’s “24 Family Ways”. One example is “We are generous with what we have, sharing freely with others.

* Finally, we read a passage from The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine Vos

Although this may look like a lot, this whole routine usually only takes us thirty minutes and on average we do this three days a week.

We gather around the kitchen table with our individual Morning Time binders which contain everything we need for our routine so everything is streamlined.  Since my youngest is only 2 1/2 he does not actively participate in this routine but is with us so he can soak in the truth being spoken and also start learning the routine so he can join us as he gets older.

These days his participation looks like shouting “America!” after we say the Pledge and then clapping for us when we finish singing a hymn.  The rest of the time I attempt to keep his hands busy with paper and crayons, sticker books, puzzles or snacks.

When I first began Morning Time as part of our homeschool day two years ago, I wondered if it would truly impact my daughter with a love for virtuous things or if she would just find it boring.

Over time as we steadily committed to it day by day, I caught glimpses of how it was impacting her heart.  These glimpses came through hearing her singing “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” from her bedroom or watching her attempt to climb a tree to play out the poem “Foreign Lands” by Robert Louis Stevenson that we had read.

On a recent road trip I looked back into the backseat to offer an activity to pass the time and she told me she’d rather look out the window at the beautiful clouds and fields.  It is through these and other peeks into her heart that I am seeing that she is learning already how to slow down and take in the beauty of what God has created.

Morning Time has been a discipline that teaches both of us to not just tackle the day’s to-do list, but instead to linger together over what is true, beautiful and good and allow our hearts to be fed.  As we do this together it knits our hearts together and gives us a shared experience that tightens our bond.

Homeschooling is hard work and I have to admit on many mornings when we are reciting our own liturgy at home, my heart is having to repent from the impatience or harsh tones that I may have already exhibited that day.  It gives me the opportunity to pause and change course and get back on track and receive fresh grace and forgiveness.


I encourage anyone who wants to take time during the day to pause with their family and sit together taking in truth, beauty and goodness that it is worth the effort.  It could be as simple as reading a poem each night at dinner or memorizing a verse together every day for a month and discussing it.  It doesn’t have to be formal or complicated.  The dailiness is what makes it special and powerful.

Since listening to that first podcast interview, I have gleaned ideas and wisdom from many others who are also utilizing this liturgy in their homes.  Here are some resources below if you want to dive in further and investigate for yourself:

The Circe Institute has available for pre-order a book specifically on Morning Time by its creator, Cindy Rollins.  It’s available here.

* Mystie Winkler of the blog Simply Convivial has a great post on how to get started with Morning Time, including her memory work lists, her own plans and many other resources.  You can find that here.

*Allison Burr did a very informative series on her blog about Morning Time with videos of her family and lots of resources.  You can find that here.


we’re back!

Hi there everyone!

I’m sorry that the blog was down for a few days; there was a server migration which resulted in some needed updates. But now we’re back in business!

Remember my very profound post after vacation about being content and living in the moment and spending more time curled up at home with my kids? Well, I started the week with the best of intentions and ended it flat on my face. On Friday, we went to look at a bigger house in our neighborhood, which was charming but just not quite the right fit for our family. Nonetheless I came back home and stomped around complaining about our one bathroom and small kitchen and patchy front yard (yes, apparently I’m not above behaving exactly like a teenager).

I was tired from a week of kids and meals and homeschooling and David left to spend two days out of town for work and I felt resentful and mean-spirited.

What’s more, I discovered that despite my promises to Gabe and Noah, I did indeed commit us all to another year of swim team by paying a hefty deposit for all four kids. So I’m continuing to pack everyone up and head to practice two mornings a week.

Which all proves that we can have the best of intentions and sometimes life knocks us on our rear and we have to deal with it. That’s where repentance comes in. And forgiveness, and the God of new-mercies-every-morning.

Isn’t it nice that that’s the good news, not whether my performance was up to par?

And my post was still true, perhaps even more so because the kind of restlessness I was speaking of mostly refers to my heart and not to what’s happening externally. I can rearrange priorities and our schedule, but sometimes I have to do things I don’t want to do and make the best of it. So I worked in our yard all weekend and bought a few more plants, which did wonders for my gratitude. And I tried on a gentler voice this morning while getting the kids out the door to swim team. We switched mornings so they could be with their friends, and they were all happy. And back home I skipped a few worksheets so that I could curl up with Gabe and read.

I’m also grateful for this blog and for each one of you too, dear readers!

More soon!

Love, Julie

harry potter progress.


I shared here about Judah starting the Harry Potter series for the first time.

So many people have asked me how we made the decision to let him begin, and how far in the series we’ll let him go (he’s 8 1/2). Honestly, I wasn’t exactly sure when we started, and that may have been a poor parenting decision on my part, but here we are.

After much deliberating, I just let Judah start book 5 of 7, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I keep saying “I” because David hasn’t read the books, and defers to me, but we’ve discussed it quite a bit, and are on the same page.

If you’re unfamiliar with the series, they begin when Harry is 11 years old, and each book covers a year of his life at Hogwarts School. The books mature as Harry matures, which is one of the many reasons I think J.K. Rowling is a genius. Not only do they follow a plot that darkens with each book, but the characters become complex as Harry moves from the rather emotionally concrete world of middle school, into the murky teenage years where everything isn’t black and white, and he’s navigating different sorts of relationships.

However, there are clear lines between good and evil in the story, and (spoiler alert), good wins out at the end of each book and at the end of the series.

My main hesitation with letting Judah finish the series now was wanting to protect him from the dark elements of the plot, which, quite frankly, give me the creeps. There are also some “teenage themes” as the books progress, which include dating, falling in love, and kissing, but I think it’s handled fine.

I guess in the end I realized two things:

1. There are a lot of things I want to shelter Judah from right now, while he’s 8 1/2, but the content of the Harry Potter books is just not high on that list. I love the characters. I love the themes of friendship, loyalty, making wise choices, standing up for what’s right rather than what’s popular, and forgiveness. We’ve talked about the dating stuff, which is just part of life, and we discuss other situations and characters as they come up. Oh how I wish I could start assigning him literary analysis papers, because this series is a treasure trove of characters and themes (I’m such a nerd, I know).

2. Judah has always known his limits with regard to what scares him, and he’s said that the books haven’t been too scary yet. You know what I realized? Because of his age, I think he’s processing them differently than I do. Because I’ve experienced more of the world, I shudder at the evil and grief and loss. But right now Judah sees it all as a magical world and a big, glorious battle between good and evil. I’m okay with that.

3. If you yourself are trying to decide when/how to let your children read this series, all I can say is that every family is different and every child is different. Definitely read the books yourself first so you can discuss situations that come up. Both Judah’s Mum-Mum and I are reading each book right behind him as a refresher, and lots of our family and friends have read them too, which makes for fun conversations right now (he’s exchanging letters with David’s aunt as they read, which he loves). Watch your child to see how he/she is processing it. Are they consumed by it? Are they having nightmares?

One rule we have is that Judah doesn’t read the books right before bed; he and Amie listen to something light like Beverly Cleary or the Boxcar Children on audiobook before they fall asleep. Another thing I’ve realized, is that I think in general people can handle violent or scary scenes in books better than on TV. There’s something about the images on a screen that stick in your mind, whereas when you’re reading a book you subconsciously create the image and scene for yourself, and typically it’s not as graphic. So Judah reads the books, but knows that he doesn’t want to watch beyond the first movie for now.


So that’s our update! I can’t tell you how much joy it brings me to see my child embrace reading and get swept up in a really great story. I hope this is just the beginning of a lifelong hobby for him!