Category: Family Culture

What a bus driver taught me on the way to the Women’s March on Madison

As we waited at the bus stop, a woman slowed her car to a stop, rolled down her window and shouted, “Hey! Are you going to the march?”

Jake and I had the three girls with us, and before either of us could respond, the girls happily told the lady we were. “Thank you!” she yelled. “I’m so proud of you all!”

A few minutes later, the bus turns onto the street and we were relieved. It was well overdue and we were nervous we weren’t going to make it in time. Then we saw that it was full. To the brim. The message flashing on the bus’ front sign “Drop offs only.”  My heart sank. There was no way we were getting downtown by car. The bus was our only option at that point.

As I was giving Jake the “what do we do now?” look, the bus driver stops, opens the door and yells- “Hey! Do you guys want to squeeze in?”

“Oh, uh, are you sure?”

“We are very full, but it breaks my heart to leave your girls out in the cold. We can make room. Come on in.” (more…)

Why We Don’t Give Gifts on Christmas (and what we do instead)

why-we-dont-give-gifts-on-christmas-morningIt’s no secret that Jake and I can be a little unconventional.

But, it may surprise you that we don’t give our kids gifts on Christmas morning. None. Zero.

When we tell people this, we get a variety of reactions:

  • The wild-eyed are-you-freaking-kidding-me, what-kind-of-person-are-you look (my personal favorite).
  • An I really want to roll my eyes at you because aren’t you taking this Jesus thing a little too far look.
  • Honest confusion. Why? 
  • Ohhhh, I get it, you must be a super fundamentalists look (btw, we’re definitely not).
  • Genuine Sadness for our kids. Oh. That’s so sad. You must have a really boring Christmas.

All of these are fair responses- it IS a little strange. But our family loves Christmas. It just looks a bit different than what other people are used to.  (more…)

Creating a Family Rule of Life


When opening the Sacred Ordinary Days planner, one of the first things you’ll see is a section that helps you create a rule of life. What is a rule of life, you ask? Great question.

A rule of life is a set of routines, patterns, or habits that we practice in order to help us to become the kind of person we want to be.  A rule of life isn’t about achieving, but about being.

I spent some time last year writing about it in Developing a Rule of Life and Developing a Rule of Life (Part 2). Feel free to read those if you want more background.

This time around, I’m more interested in developing a rule of life with and for our family. We already have a version of this in place, I suppose. We try to talk about and celebrate our family’s core values (compassion, generosity, faith, equality and creativity) on a semi-regular basis, which is a great start. But I think a rule of life takes us to the next level. It means creating rhythms that help us to become people who embody those values instead of just hoping that we end up there.

We’re still in the brainstorming and creating phase, but here are some ideas that have sifted to the top:

  • Read together. We want to be a family that’s learning, growing in our understanding of the world and how other people experience life. Reading helps us grow in empathy and compassion, and helps us to remember that everyone has a perspective and it’s vital to listen to those perspectives.
  • Explore the world together. We’d love to travel together someday, but for now, it means finding opportunities to learn about different cultures, eating different kinds of foods, examining maps and playing with languages. We want to be the kind of people who love well, are not afraid of that which is different, and are listening to the voices that may not always get equal air time.
  • Grow in our faith together. We started out really good about this- being intentional with reading the Bible together every night, praying together, and simply living life with an eye towards what God is doing in us and in the world. As the kids have multiplied in number, we engage in this less intentionally and less often. It’s been challenging to find our rhythm. We keep trying things out, as our kids get older and we start learning about how they might best experience God. We know that our kids might not end up choosing to trust Jesus with their lives, but we also know that we want to be on this faith journey together, always with an open door for sharing thoughts and questions.
  • Give together. We want to be generous with our love, our time, and our money. This one might be the hardest for us. Our budget is tight. Our fairly simple schedule already feels like we don’t have enough time for one another, let alone people outside of our walls. But we continually try to find ways that we can say yes to opportunities that allow our family to engage generously together. Yes to creating a relationship with a child through Compassion International, Yes to making a meal for someone, Yes to spending our money on someone else. Yes to babysitting a friend’s child. Yes to making a bracelet for a friend. Yes to giving a book we love to a friend. Yes to inviting people into our lives.
  • Create together. Cooking. Drawing. Inventing. Creating videos. Writing. Making games. Picasso has been credited for saying, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” We believe that we were created in the image of a creative God, and that when we create, we are playing alongside God.

Here are some questions we asked ourselves when creating our family rule of life:

  • What’s the end goal? What kind of people do we hope we’ll be in 10 years, 20 years, 30 years?
  • What values do we hold higher than others? How can we lean into those?
  • How is our family wired? What natural dispositions or heart leanings do we have? Where are they different from one another? Where are we the same?

As I have learned more about this tool over the past few months, I have come across a few creative ways of writing and illustrating them.

  • This person used a bread recipe format for her rule of life. It communicates the organic nature of spiritual formation, and it’s just really beautiful.
  • This person used images to communicate their rule of life. I would have never thought of this!
  • If you scroll down a little in this post, you’ll see a rule of life written in a word art kind-of-way. I can imagine making something like this to hang on a wall in our house.

Have you ever created a rule of life? How has it helped you to become more of the person God created you to be?


How to Make Personalized Back-to-School Photos

Families around the country have been snapping pictures of their kids on the first day of school for years. 90% of these photos seem to happen on the home’s front stoop.

In our family, it’s no different. Fifteen minutes before departure time, we line the kids up and snap pictures of their sweet faces in front of our door.

How to Make (easy) Amazing Back-to-School Photos

Each year, I like to add a little extra information to help me remember what they were into (and what they weren’t). For fun I even sometimes make one for my husband who is a PhD student ;). 

To create these great memories, I use the free online editing tool- PicMonkey.

1. I upload the photo by going to “edit” and then “computer.”

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 7.35.37 PM

2. After choosing the photo I want to edit, I’m ready to add some text. (more…)

Tripping Our Way Towards Gender Equality


On the way home from dinner tonight, Aly was telling us how a classmate gave her candy in celebration of Polish Girl’s Day.

Isn’t it so fun that girls in Poland have their own day? But that got us wondering– is there a Polish Boy’s day too? And of course, since it is International Women’s Day, I was quick to tell them all about it and the kids were intrigued. Why did such a day exist? What about an International Men’s Day?

These kinds of conversations are some of my favorites to have with the kids. I love their natural curiosity and how unhindered they are in talking about the world as they see it. I’m also curious as to how they perceive the world. I know the version of the world I’m trying to point out to them; but as we all know, it doesn’t always translate how we hope.   (more…)

February Positive Parenting Challenge: No Yelling

No Yelling

I have a teensy bit of a confession.

When pushed towards familial chaos, my instinct is to start hollering.

And while I know why my first reaction is to do this, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I figure out ways to take a deep breath, count to 10, and with respect and firmness, speak calmly to my children.


And while I know we won’t be batting 100% on this one, that’s the goal. Because it really, truly matters that our home is a place of love and respect. And yelling quickly drains a home of those two things.

Does this mean we’ll never fight? No.

Does it mean we won’t have to ask forgiveness, sometimes multiple times a day? Nope.

Does it mean we’ll be all rainbows and roses and laughter? Ha!

It just means that we’re all aiming towards kindness and respect and love.  (more…)

Making a Yearly Family Soundtrack

Make your own family soundtrack

Music is powerful, especially when it comes to memories and emotions.

Prime Examples:

Whenever I hear Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road” I think about couple skating with Kyle in 4th grade. I was SO HAPPY that he finally asked me to skate with him, but equally as disappointed because in just a few short weeks I was moving to a new town.

Or Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” — roller skating in 6th grade. I was very much in the middle of a teenage angst and this song sang right into my poor adolescent heart.  Middle school is hard, y’all.

Truly Madly Deeply by Savage Garden brings me back to high school– I listened to this song on repeat for an entire school year as I was going to sleep.  I’ll spare you the details of my emotions about this one ;).

So there’s that :). (more…)

2016: The Year of Positive Parenting

positive parenting


We’ve had a rough year or two with parenting.

Jake and I started out parenting with a whole lot of energy. Sure we were stressed at different points and made poor choices at others, but overall, we had more than enough patience, compassion, and stamina to parent our kids well.

We were committed to spending a lot of quality time with them, listening, asking good questions, looking behind the behavior into the heart, calmly redirecting and being generally playful.

Somewhere along the way things began to shift.

We got tired.

We got distracted.

We got tired some more.

Our patience grew thin and our words got lazy.


The-Not-So-Perfect Life: Advent Edition

Not So Perfect Life Advent

For Advent this year we’re keeping it simple.

After dinner, we read a chapter of the Jesus Storybook Bible and take a link off of a paper Advent chain given to us by our church. Each link has a discussion question or a small game/activity to do. Easy, right?

We missed December 1st altogether. Nothing says intentionality and awesomeness like missing the very first day.

On December 2nd, we played a hot potato game and tears were involved for one kid. And when we talked about what they were excited about for Christmas, several said presents, which is ironic, because I just posted about how we DON’T EVEN DO PRESENTS ON CHRISTMAS CHILDREN!!

And yesterday I stopped reading mid-sentence to say (loudly), “Can’t you guys just sit and listen to a short story for 5 seconds???!!”

Advent memories, baby.