cloistered away | enjoying simplicity



October 2014



on “doing it all”

Written by , Posted in MOTHERHOOD + MARRIAGE


Last week, I received an email from a sweet reader asking how I manage to do it all and make it look so easy–”I’m not even homeschooling and I can barely hold it all together,” she added. From where I read her words I surveyed the mess around me–my unfolded laundry still sitting in the basket, our books and notebooks scattered across the table and chairs and floor. In that moment, I might have spouted a whole series of unfinished TO DOs, everything from meal-planning and some sort of exercise with the kids to finishing a writing piece, calling a friend, paying a bill, or arranging an overdue date night. When had my floors last been swept and wasn’t there something my husband asked me to do on his way out this door? I might have actually laughed out loud at myself. For anyone who has ever asked me this question, I can only ever respond, “I really don’t.”

For those of us who really long to parent well–the majority of you reading this, I imagine–it is that word well that can often result in our trying to do everything in the first place. We want to raise well-adjusted, well-educated, well-dressed, well-informed, well-liked, well-prepared, well-[whatever other goals you may have] children and yet remain well ourselves. We want to look and feel well. We want to perform well in our work in and outside of the home. We want to eat well, read well, pray well, and of course rest well.  We want to take care of the of earth well, take care of those outside our homes well–and of course, our homes, too!  It sounds ridiculous written out like this, yes? Yet we try. And then we scroll through our media feeds and other online communities, where we all share our beautiful [homes, travels, children, partners, friends, meals, work, etc.] and it appears as though other parents are actually doing it! We have somehow missed some well-known secret or truth to meeting all of our goals–or maybe that’s just me.

The truth is my house is not always clean. Our meals are not always gourmet. I sometimes wear sweatpants all day or let my kids play and draw/paint instead of doing their “school” work (ahem–like right now). I am sometimes grumpy with my family and often forget to brush my own or my girls’ hair. For every beautiful moment or thought I write here or elsewhere, there are other potentially beautiful things I am not doing. It’s the nature of living with limitations of time and our humanity. They force us to choose. Although I have no magical secrets, I do have a few things I’ve learned in my journey of motherhood and home-education that help me choose well for myself and my family. Here’s a few, just in case you’re interested:

let go of perfectionism // You cannot give 100 percent of yourself to everything. Something will always give. If you tend to be a perfectionist (ding, ding, right here), as a parent, it will serve you well to learn and practice the phrase “well enough” and to see each piece of your life in the context of the whole. Perfectionism can be valuable at time, but it can also waste time.

do what you (and your family) love //  Each family will value something a bit different, and it’s good to know what those values are. Many times in parenthood, instead of choosing between good and bad, we’re forced to choose between two good options, two things we want. In those times, my husband and I begin to assess which option more closely aligns with what our family values as a whole. Sometimes this can help us choose spending money on travel or a new home project. Other times it can be making a decision about our extra activities. 

evaluate how you use your time // This seems perhaps the most obvious, but spend a week recording how you use your time–and be honest. (There are several apps to help with this if that’s easier.) How does your time match up with your values? For instance, I really value writing and photographing, which can sometimes compete with time I need to spend with the kids in our school routine. Each morning I wake up at 5 am to write/work until 7 when I force myself to stop and switch gears to our usual routine. If I need to resume working, I’ll do so in the afternoon when possible. Although these are two things I value, I have to choose how to prioritize my time.

say “no” confidently // For some of you, this will sound ridiculous, but I actually have a hard time telling people no. I want to support what others are doing and honestly I’m a bit of a people-pleaser. There’s simply not enough of any of us to say “yes” to everything. Don’t feel guilty for turning opportunities down, even good ones. Also, there are certain seasons in motherhood that require us to say “no” more often. If you’re in one of those seasons, enjoy it. Those seasons can be some of the sweetest times, and they’re sure not to last forever.






October 2014




Written by , Posted in THE 52 PROJECT




“a portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2014″

liam // This week, you suffered your first deep feelings of being-left-out with friends as a result of decisions your dad and I have made for our family. Maybe you won’t understand until you’re a parent how hard these choices can be for us, that it hurts us to see you in pain, that we really do want good things for you. And maybe one of the hardest life lessons is when goodness comes to us through the word, “no.” We love you dearly, son.

burke // Your friend had a birthday this week, and you decided to make him a birthday card with 12 of your favorite jokes. Your quietness is often mistaken for seriousness. You so love to laugh and be silly.

blythe // One of your teeth fell out in your sleep this week. You noticed just after breakfast and excitedly found it near your pillow, “Mom! Look! My tooth came out in my sleep!” (Exclamations points are warranted here.)

olive // This week you and your sister helped me make a tasty treat for a new issue of Wild + Free.  You love being in the kitchen, always right by my side. When I asked you this week where you’d like to go if you could travel anywhere in the world, you replied, “to you!” It was the sweetest and most sincere response.



October 2014



style inspiration | the fall blazer

Written by , Posted in STYLE + SOUNDS


Since our Fall weather can range in temperature from the 50s to the 90s, I am always hunting for easy and flexible transitional pieces for my closet. One of my favorite pieces right now is the blazer. I particularly love seeing how other women have taken a piece originally designed for men and business attire and transformed it into something casual and feminine by pairing it with a dress, worn denim, or even shorts.

But how do you know if you can pull it off? Try one. Take into consideration your height and build. Curvier women or shorter women might feel more comfortable with a hip-length blazer or at least one more tailored at the waist, like this one. If you have broader shoulders, you may want to try something thinner and without shoulder pads like this one or this one. For taller women, you might enjoy the longer, non-traditional length or style like this onethis one, or this one. I love the menswear-inspired blazer paired with shorts above, too, and found a similar one here and here. I also really love the growing number of businesses providing earth-friendly, socially responsible options (with good design) like this one.

I hope this inspires you, too, this morning! Happy Friday, everyone. 

All images sourced via Pinterest.




October 2014



giveaway | mamoo kids



From a young age, my children have each had their own bags, fitted to their size for a few of their favorite things. It seemed an easy way to teach them about responsibility and forethought while also giving them something that was their very own. Around age four, they were each required to load/prepare their bags for outings, whether an errand, an appointment, or a car trip. Of course, I always ask them reminder questions, “Do you have your book or supplies to draw/write?” “Will you want your [favorite toy]?” “Will you need a snack or water bottle while we’re out?” For the most part, I leave the details of what will keep them busy up to their own interests and planning, and it works. On occasion, I hear, “oh no! I forgot to bring ___!” Even these moments teach them something about innovation and problem solving: what will you do now?


When Anna, the founder of Mamoo Kids, introduced me to her bags, I was instantly smitten. Handmade in San Francisco, each sustainably-made bag is designed in size and style for toddlers to early childhood, including toddler backpacksmini-messenger bags, and totes.  Mamoo bags are meant to encourage wonder and possibility, “to stimulate kids’ minds and imaginations, carry their most important things – and go with them on their journey.” Isn’t that a lovely vision? My girls carry their totes everywhere, packing them with everything from library books to their school work to their art supplies and collected treasures–weirdly-shaped sticks and wildflowers, small toys, or even bouncy balls found on the grocery store floor. Since our homeschool days can easily migrate outdoors with good weather, the girls often use their bags right at home, too!


To get to know more about the purpose and vision behind Mamoo, I encourage you to read ”Founder’s Story“ on the site, where Anna shares the importance of her own childhood bag during her summer trips to Japan with her mother. It was so sweet to read how impactful her mother was in her own journey of motherhood and in her vision for Mamoo.


But here’s the best part (which you most likely gathered from the title)–this week, Mamoo Kids is giving away one bag from their shop to one of you! The winner gets to choose, and you can find out how to enter below. The giveaway will run until October 7 at midnight CST. Good luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post is in partnership with Mamoo Kids, a small business committed to creating environmentally conscious and imaginative modern bags for young children. Blythe is wearing the Broken-Ka tote and Olive is wearing the Rambler tote.  All images and thoughts are my own. 



September 2014



mixtape no. 05 | fall

Written by , Posted in STYLE + SOUNDS


It will be another month before the leaves begin to fall and the Autumn season remains–my favorite part of the year. Until then, we’re waiting, preparing our home with Fall scents, tastes, and sounds. We’re spending more of our days outdoors and tracing the shifting light indoors. Each season, our home comes alive in a new way, and I’m grateful. Here’s a few sounds floating through our space these days, a mixture of rhythms reflecting the variety of this season–and the perfect way to begin a new week, I think. Happy Monday.


My Mind was a Fog Hammock | From Gold Novo Amor | Maneater Grace Mitchell | Over My Head Caveman | Cloudline Joesph | Hard as Nails Peter Wolf Crier | Closer JMR | Always Panama | Ram’s Head Seawolf |South Racing Glaciers

rdio  |  spotify



September 2014




Written by , Posted in THE 52 PROJECT



“a portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2014″

liam // You have been reading voraciously and are enjoying taking this pleasure outdoors again. You also began writing an illustrated book this week, full of heroism and imagination. I’m not surprised.

burke // We spent this week mostly outdoors, and while the rest of us sprawled on blankets in the backyard, you chose to complete your work on the front porch alone. I’m learning to respect your deep need for quiet and solitude.

blythe // You picked out a book at the library, “How to Talk to Mom,” a few days ago. I laughed inwardly but also took it as a sign that you’re growing older and are ready for deeper connections.

olive // You have crawled into my bed and lap more often this week for snuggles, still catching up from my absence last week.




September 2014



here and there

Written by , Posted in LATELY


I am still mentally swirling from my extended weekend trip to Virginia. As expected, the whole experience was both invigorating and exhausting, filling and depleting. I had forgotten the simplicity of traveling alone, the refreshment of an unplugged life, the disorientation of mingling in a sea of people I didn’t previously know in the flesh. That last part, of course, has now changed. Over the weekend, we heard several different stories of motherhood. Naomi discussed ways to live in joy in the hard parts; Kelsey shared about the importance of community/sisterhood instead of competition; Kirsten gave us direction for environmental consciousness in our parenting; Tiffany talked about protecting our time/life margins to focus on what’s really the most life-giving and important; Terri shared several “pillars” or foundations for their homeschool; and I shared about the importance of vision as an educator and mother, the ways we set goals in our home, and how most importantly, we focus our attention to the day–”now is now,” a phrase from the last part of Little House in the Big Woods. In the afternoon, Michelle shared about the power of art and Stephanie shared about the myth of the balanced life.  All weekend, we mingled together over delicious food, including vegetable lasagna with music by The Last Bison followed by s’mores in a garden courtyard the first evening and a garden party dinner the last. In the afternoon, I enjoyed leisure conversations with other mothers in the hotel gardens and lounges and then packed into a tiny car with new friends and headed to the misty, windy coast.  The weekend details arranged by Ainsley were thoughtful and dreamy–I am so grateful.

It seems weird that I didn’t take many images last weekend. Leaving home, I knew my soul needed to recharge, to restore. I wanted perspective and vision for our family, as an educator, a mother, a woman. I needed to put aside my shared visual and written experiences to allow the words and images to soak in through my other senses. To hear. To taste. To feel. I wanted the varied wisdom, stories, and connections to percolate within me, without needing to immediately process them. Each will certainly impact our home. Bit by bit. And I am grateful.

This weekend, I plan to move slowly, lingering in PJs, making some treats with the kids, and setting more specific goals for our academic year. That’s right. Even in near October, we have yet to move fully into our school routine. A younger version of myself might have been panicked, but I’m learning with age and maturity to move and plan with the seasons life brings us instead of artificially imposing my own.  My children have spent more time creating through art and food and mess these last several months. They have read/listened to books and practiced their math a bit, too. The rest will come soon. For now, we’re right where we need to be.

There and elsewhere:

Happy weekend, everyone.