cloistered away | enjoying simplicity



June 2014



finding boundaries

Written by , Posted in LATELY


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Time has stopped almost entirely here these last two months. Offline, we are fumbling through changes again, wrapping up our school year (finally), beginning new and larger home projects, and still trying to find that unclear balance between so many roles. A dear friend recently commented to me, referring to the comical amount of activites her kids were involved in, ”This was suppose to be easier. I was a hard-ass, draw-the-line mom before I had kids.” I laughed aloud–not just the LOL or ”crying I’m laughing so hard” emoticon either–a rich, from the gut laughter at how easily the lines of modern life blur between shoulds and shouldn’ts, needs and wants, and that in life which is mine, theirs, yours, and ours.

Honestly, I really love the internet, this space, and the relationships I’ve made here, but sometimes it smudges those boundaries even more, twisting my priorities and perspectives more than I want to admit. I’ve needed some room to find those lines again, to remember the parts of me that give substance within this somewhat hazy online world. Although this sort of silence is never popular and entirely antithetical to the social part of social medias, it has been healthy for me to put aside my phone and camera more often recently, to actually read the books on my nightstand, to choose slower-to-make whole foods over the more quickly made processed ones, to switch off the computer and be with Mark, to study the clouds for shapes and stories instead of the weather, to have pillow-fights and watch movies with the kids, to share weekends and drinks with friends.

I now have several backlogged portraits of my children and  images of our home projects to share soon. Thank you all for your patience in this process and for the many ways you inspire me to bravery and courage. Happy Friday to you.



June 2014



on change

Written by , Posted in SOUL


I have always considered myself a lover of change. A new soap scent, a different routine, a fresh arrangement of furniture in a room. Those are the fun changes, the ones I initiate to give fresh experience to something that might otherwise be growing stale. But sometimes change happens to us without our consent, without our knowing. It sneaks up and swipes out our feet, forcing us to adapt and modify our lives to a new perspective (albeit sometimes on our face), to move on, to survive. And sometimes, even then, outside of our own comfort and realm of choice, we find beauty and goodness where we never expected, in an evening walk, a generous gift, or the words of a friend. We learn something new about ourselves, about one another, about God. We grow.

This last year has contained a domino effect of change for our family, beginning with an unexpected financial catastrophe a year or so prior. Last Spring, we sold our home (which we had almost entirely renovated), invested our profits in a rental property, moved in with my sister + brother-in-law sharing their mortgage and bills for the year, worked every extra freelance job the two of us could (including Mark’s full-time teaching job), saved every extra bit we could without starving, bought a hundred year-old home for a tad more than some might by a brand new luxury car, and now are slowly renovating it. All with our four kids.

As I’ve been thinking about this past year’s changes for our family, I’ve wondered what little nuggets I’ve learned and might pass to someone else face-planted by change. The list below is for me to remember and for you, just in case you ever find yourself needing it:

:: be honest :: Admit you’re hurting or disappointed about things not happening the way you anticipated. After I had each of my children, my body would convulse uncontrollably from shock and heat loss, naturally. Difficult changes can often cause the same response emotionally, or they did for me. Being honest about my hurt or fear always connects me to Jesus and to others. Honesty reminds me I’m not alone.

:: hope :: “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both secure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us” (Heb. 6:19-20). These words have been life for me. It’s good to feel anchored in change, to have a sense of your soul’s belonging , especially when your physical self feels so transient.

:: slow down :: It’s ok to put aside extra commitments, to allow a different pace for yourself and your family. If you have children, make time to hear from each of them. Each of our children has responded differently to all of this change, but all of them have needed extra affection, extra time to be with us.

:: dream together :: Dreaming aloud, reminds us we are in this together–as a couple, as a family. It helps us form goals and learn from one another in the process.



June 2014



in the bag

Written by , Posted in STYLE + SOUNDS


Have you read The Goldfinch yet? When Bri from Mamages asked me to share what I’ve been carrying around in my bag recently, I had to include this read. I’ve literally toted it with me everywhere the last month, finding random 15 minute intervals to resume. Although the plot moves quickly and with increasing intensity, Tartt managed to endear me to her characters, sprinkling poetic glimmers throughout an otherwise dark exploration of humanity, beauty, and worth. If you’re looking for a read this summer, I highly recommend this Pulitzer Prize winner. If you’re curious about what else I’m carrying around you can find it over here.



May 2014



wild + free | a beautiful homeschooling conference

Written by , Posted in HOMESCHOOL


I’m so excited to announce WILD + FREE, a beautiful homeschooling conference in Virginia Beach September 19-21. I will be speaking and sharing a bit more about our homeschooling journey right alongside several other inspiring mothers.  It will be a time to intentionally connect with other mothers and be encouraged through the various experience and stages of this journey. All women are welcome, whether you currently homeschool or simply want to hear more from women who do. You can find more information and register here. I hope to see you there.



May 2014




Written by , Posted in THE 52 PROJECT



“a weekly portrait of my children in 2014″ — (a little behind)

liam // you are learning so many things right now about the importance of details, of taking care of the little things. Sometimes this lesson is hidden in a math equation or a relational squabble, and other times you are learning this in your help around the house and yard. I love watching you grow in this way.

burke // as you all played in the rain this week, you stood in the yard, soaked with spring rain,  growing like our bamboo stalks.

blythe // the days are growing warmer, and soon I will miss your gifts of wild blooms picked from nearby fields and yards.

olive // you told me this week, “See! I’m brushing my bangs to the side so everyone can see my eyes when I talk.”



May 2014



giveaway // Mimok Jewelry

Written by , Posted in COLLABORATION


I know things have been quieter around here lately, but I promise they are anything but quiet offline. We’ve been wrapping up our school year, enjoying the most incredible spring weather, planning summer renovations on our new old home, and I recently lopped 6 inches off my hair. (Insert: sigh of relief.) I’ll catch you all up soon, but for now I want to announce this exciting giveaway with Mimok Jewelry. Cecilia, the Spanish creator behind Mimok, is giving away one of three necklace+earrings sets to a lucky reader. Cecilia is also giving 10% off all orders for cloistered away readers now through the end of August. Just enter the code: CLAWAY10BMK. You can read more about Mimok and enter the giveaway below. Good luck!


Tell us more about your work. At the moment, I’m focused on my Etsy shop, Mimok. I really enjoy working on it because I’m learning something new from the handmade business everyday, It’s so exciting! Local markets are the better place for me in the spring and summer seasons as I participate. They are full of fantastic people and stories, and if you try it, you’ll always learn chic tips from all those people you meet.

How did you start your business? I have played with beads since I was a little girl. On Christmas and birthdays my parents gave me wooden and plastic beads as I really enjoyed educational games and crafts. I remember some special moments of my childhood visiting and buying any kind of bead in the historian crafts stores of my city. Discovering Swarovski elements was a new world to me, as I fell in love with them! The next step was to learn beading . . . and here I am. My friends recommended me to sell my creations and that’s how I found Etsy.


Who/what inspires your work? As a history lover, I find my inspiration in historical moments and especially in the relationship between historical processes and cultural movements. I’m an admirer of the great empires, Egyptian, Mongol, Ottoman…their intellectual and artistic legacies are incalculable, and them inspired me. Music is in my life everyday, and especially when I am crafting, so every piece has a special story behind with great ambient music for each creation. Also I used to combine them with my personal style, and don’t forget to watch for trends!

Do you have any long-term goals for your business you want to share? I dream of recognizing and seeing some of my designs on the streets, here in my country or whenever. It’s a pleasure to see someone is wearing your handmade pieces. And step by step I hope everyone who received my creations will enjoy them.

mimok_jewelry_cloistered_away-2mimok_jewelrya Rafflecopter giveaway

Images by Fidelis Studio. Necklace and earrings c/o Mimok Jewelry.



May 2014




Written by , Posted in THE 52 PROJECT



“a weekly portrait of my children in 2014″

liam //Although you’re intuitive, articulate, and well-read, you love to play. I love this mixture in you and am convinced you’re going to be one fun adult someday. You made a t-shirt for me this weekend for Mother’s Day with “I {heart} mom” on the front in large letters. You plan to wear it every year. I hope you do.

burke // this week you informed me, when you become an adult, you plan to buy an old school bus and paint it white. You’ll build a bed in the back and drive everywhere, stopping in empty fields to sleep so you don’t have to pay rent. My sweet, wilderness-loving introvert.

blythe // you see order in everything, from plant life to color to time. Although I sometimes have to remind you you’re not the mother, I’m grateful for all the ways you help keep me in order.

olive // although this image was a little blurry, I had to keep it because words often fail me when I try to describe your passionate nature. One time, you were angry at my telling you no. As you stomped away from me, you stopped at the piano, lifted the lid, looked me in the eyes while you hit three low staccato notes — bom, bom, bom — then you closed the lid again and walked off. I think often words fail you, too.