Because It's Cheaper than Counseling

A few blog posts ago I mentioned that neither Herm nor I could remember the last time we had went on a date, just the two of us. It's something we want to improve on this year; we've set money aside in our monthly budget, so really, we have no excuses. I've got a little black dress that he loves to see me in, and the only time I ever wear it is on date night... (So if you're reading this babe, and it's been a little while since you last saw me wearing that thing, maybe make a reservation somewhere.)

There are a few ladies I follow on Instagram (this one in particular) who make dating their spouse high priority. I think its the sweetest, most sexy thing ever. I love when couples seem to grow closer and more in love as time moves on. It takes intention for that to happen, because if you aren't setting time aside to get to know your spouse better in this season of life, life really does have a way of filling up with good things that will call for your every waking minute.

Sometimes you have to say no to the good, so you are able to say yes to the best.

We spend a lot of time together, Herm and I, but we're going to try to be more intentional about time together. Alone.

One thing we've done several times though in the past year, because it's cheaper than counseling, but also because we truly to love these couples and enjoy spending time with them, is to ask friends -- ones older and wiser than us -- out to dinner.

We pick their brains about family and marriage and business and community -- because we see fruit in their lives, evidence of what intentionality and cultivating character qualities can do, and we want to learn and grow from their life experiences too -- then we pay their bill.

Like I said, it's cheaper than counseling.

We've got a serial killer-like list of specific couples we're planning to target: The ones who seem to do life well. The ones who have marriages that created the hashtag, #MarriageGoals. The ones who have good relationships with their kids. The ones who have businesses. The ones who love to travel. The ones involved in serving their church and their communities.

Really, the list is endless. We choose people based off of things we know they are skilled at or have done well at, that are areas we want to grow in.

Who knows, your name might even be on there.

Our lives are richer and more meaningful because of it, and even though we're planning to go on dates with just the two of us more often this year, our double-dating is something we don't want to give up.

If you don't have a list like this, of people you're planning to target, start thinking about it. I don't think you'll regret it, we certainly don't!


When Love is Boring

We're celebrating five years today, five years since that cold, wintry evening when Herm asked if I'd like to go out for coffee with him after work. It was there, in that quiet corner of Dunkin' Donuts, our hands holding lattes --his a raspberry mocha, mine caramel-- though we both secretly wished to instead be hand-holding each other, that he wondered if I would want to go out for coffee again with him, perhaps even regularly.

He was asking, nervously, if I would be his girlfriend, and before he even finished the question I was already nodding my head yes, and to myself thinking, Heck yes!  Relieved it didn't take him much longer to work up the nerve... because I was about ready to reverse cultural roles and call his dad to ask if I could date his son. (I'm kidding! Sort of.)
Today I went through the Dunkin' Donuts drive thru and ordered a raspberry mocha latte to deliver to Herm at work. I'm not really a sentimental person, but five years! It doesn't feel like it's been that long, yet in the same breath, I say it feels as though we've always been together.

Time growing older with him, studying his habits and preferences, told me he wouldn't like that latte as much now as he used to --we didn't really know what good coffee was back then-- and I was right, it's so sweet, he said. 

My phone vibrated this afternoon as I was preparing supper. I glanced down.  Hey, I know it's late in the day but if you want to go out tonight you may. I'll watch the kids.

Heck yes!

Now I'm back at Dunkin' Donuts again, for the second time today. I hadn't visited this place in months, possibly pushing years. I'm here mainly because the coffee shop I'd rather be at, the one with good coffee, is closed. But also, if I'm truly honest, because Dunkin', on that cold, February night exactly five years ago today, is a bit nostalgic to me. Perhaps I am the sentimental type.  

I used to think people who were married for five or more years were basically married for a lifetime; they held a wealth of knowledge and knew each other inside and out. At times it seemed their love lives must be boring. Us though, we would never let it get to a place of boredom. Never.

I laugh now, because I still feel like a new bride, though a bit more settled in my role as wife, more comfortable with who I am. And quite certainly, a touch more boring. Time has a way of drawing us closer, we understand each other better, we communicate deeper and more easily. We've felt overwhelming sorrow and experienced overflowing joy. And we're okay with the quiet, non-glamorous, as long as we're together.

I love this kind of love. 

The simple, every day choosing to love, love. 

It's what prompts him to make a second mug of coffee --the good, freshly ground beans, perfect temperature water, Aero-pressed sort-- just before he heads off to work, to leave it on the counter, for me.

Because of love I buy the expensive, might-as-well-be-wiping-with-cash-it-costs-so-much toilet paper. Every time, cringing, as I read how many cents it cost per hundred squares, but I buy it anyway. (And when I accidentally buy the cheap stuff, like now, it never runs out... much to his chagrin. Thanks for still loving me.)

It's the love that learned how to assemble a bologna sandwich in the same order --bread, mayo, peppers, pickles, lettuce, cheese, bologna, mayo, bread-- day in and day out, for the past 4.5 years of lunch-box lunches.

The love that tells you, as you're walking out the door for a kid-free evening, that you're not to return until at least 7:30. No, make it 8.

I see now, five years in, that in the daily acts of service, of giving and knowing of receiving and being known, in the boring, is where love flourishes.

It's in the small moments.

Five years in, and I'm excited about this boring love. Because now, five years in, I realize it's anything but boring, and we're still certainly brand new at this growing old together!

The real romantics know that stretchmarks are beauty marks, and that different shaped women fit into the different shapes of men souls, and that real romance is really sacrifice.  -Ann Voskamp


Say Yes to the Dress

We went on a date the other weekend.

For some people that wouldn't be news, they're good at regularly dating, weekly even. Embarrassingly for us, we couldn't even remember the last time we went on a date, sans kiddos.

But a dear friend had generously offered her time, and told me if I need a few hours off, I was suppose to let her know. (If you're looking for the perfect way to bless a mom-friend, do this! It beats chocolate bars and beautifully arranged bouquets of flowers, though those are highly valued as well.) Herm overheard her offer, and almost immediately scheduled a date night. Apparently he was feeling the need for some one-on-one time too.

He made reservations a few days in advance, and I spent all afternoon on that blessed Saturday primping.

You know that joke about taking a weekly shower after becoming a mom? It's not true for me; I still shower regularly. The joke in this case would have to do with shaving legs and grooming eyebrows. Excuse the pun, but it can get a bit hairy at times. (Including the few stray bow hairs hanging out on my chin - I disclosed that here.)

But gosh, it had been so long since we last went on a date, I was going to look the nines for that man of mine!

Silky smooth legs, slathered in raw Shea butter. Check. Eyebrows groomed and eyebrow hairs on the chin, plucked. Check. Check. Hair worn down, naturally curly, just the way he likes it. You better believe it! I even put on a bit of lipstick. Something I would have never worn back when we first were married. Herm isn't too sure what's been happening to me. He doesn't say a lot about that, except for when I wear dark red. Then he just says, wow, that sure is red, and leaves it at that.

You know that body-con dress I mentioned back in this post? I tried to make excuses why I should not wear that on our date. It was cold, after all, and jeans are so much warmer when its cold.
But Herm wasn't buying it. He hadn't seen me in that thing since our last date, and neither of us could remember when that was.

I was back in our room, still trying to decide if I would say yes to the dress, when he came in, phone in hand, Pinterest app open. On the screen was an outfit inspo photo. (Ladies, don't let your husbands get Pinterest. They'll use it against you!) Black dress, black tights, boots, and a denim jacket.

You've got all of those, babe. Wear the dress. 

I wore the dress.

We had such a delicious meal at Port's Cafe, a restaurant my Aunt Wilma had recommended. I got duck meatloaf. Ah, heaven! Just kidding, it was amazing, but I'm not a foodie. In a few months from now, I won't even remember what I ordered on this date, all I will remember was staring into the blue-grey eyes of the man I love, as we talked about some goals for the coming year and how date night needs  to become more of a priority, and of course, I'll never forget how he chose my outfit via Pinterest!

We decided not to order dessert at the restaurant, but rather go to the new coffee shop in town and split a pastry there. (After we first made out like teenagers in an empty parking lot.)

Out of luck. The coffee shop closes early on Saturday nights. Dunkin' Donuts? We considered it --we aren't haters of that place, after all, that is where he asked me out five years ago -- but in the end we decided to stop at the local college Starbucks.

Out of luck again. They were closed the whole month of January. I live less than two miles away; how did I not know this? I need to get out more.

So we came home. Back to our cozy house and rowdy kids and wonderful friend who offered her time to babysit.

And I came back, feeling more in love with the man I married. Reconnected, as we shared our dreams and hopes and even frustrations.

I'm not even sure how to wrap this story up, I mainly shared it because of how Herm manipulated me with Pinterest, bless his heart.

All of that to say though, we really do want to make dating more of a priority in our lives. And I would love to hear feedback from you: If you're married and have kids, what does dating your spouse in this season look like for you? How do you keep the romance alive? (Does he choose your outfits via Pinterest too, or is mine the rare exception?)


It was Second Hand First

Image by David & Sarah, Shirt via ThredUP

Image by David & Sarah, Shirt via ThredUP

 It's late summer and our non-air conditioned home is sweltering. Herm had an evening work appointment and wouldn't be home for some time. For both his sake and mine, Carson and I headed to Victor for an evening shopping at the mall.

I already know what shopping with a toddler can be like, but I convince myself that this time it'll be completely different. Carson will be on his absolutely best behavior; he'll hold my hand as we stroll through stores; he'll listen when I ask him to wait for me as I try a few things on; the water fountains and Lego store will intrigue him, but when I gently remind him it's time to keep on going, he will oblige and follow close behind.

Oh the perfect picture I painted in my mind.

As we step into the entrance at Macy's, already things begin to sour -- a foreshadowing of what is to come.

Carson rushes ahead of me, darting around a clothing rack, suddenly out of sight. When I catch up to him he is standing near an eyeless mannequin, holding its now unattached hand. He was a bit too enthusiastic with his hand shake, or so it appeared.

We stroll by the Lego store, which happens to be near the fountain. I gently prod Carson on, and his eyes, like the fountains, begin a show of water-works.

I'm on a mission, doesn't he understand? I cannot be deterred.

You see, I was given a $100 gift card to my all-time favorite store, Madewell. This never happened before, and I want time to carefully make a decision. I want time to fit things on and slowly select colors. Legos, to my nearly two year old, are much more important than having a mom who cares about looking good and wearing nice clothes.

When we finally step foot into our destination store, I feel a bit of angst rise up within me. I push it down, convincing myself we will be okay. I select five things I want to take into the fitting room with me, all the while my Carson is unfolding the perfectly folded stack of vintage-fit tees, which had been arranged in color ordered on a low table, but no longer are.

A beautiful sales associate, wearing the latest releases from this wonderful store, her makeup and hair perfect, asked if I needed help with anything. Was my state of frustration this obvious or was she simply doing her job?

We some how managed to make it to the dressing rooms. Good thing too, because the store would have looked like a small tornado wandered through had it taken us any longer to get there. But curtains for doors. HELLO! What is this world coming to? I thought architects and interior designers were maybe smarter than that. As these thoughts pass through my mind, my small child darts through the curtain and back out into the store. The jeans I was trying to try on aren't completely on. But my child and his well being are more important to me that any ounce of dignity I wish I could save. That is, if there is anything left to save. He hadn't made it far, and I think I went mostly unnoticed as I swiftly made my way back into the fitting room.

I slip back into my jeans, and we leave, completely empty handed and with a $100 gift card still tucked away, unspent. I try not to make eye contact with Miss Perfectly-Dressed, the friendly sales clerk.

The story did end well eventually. Herm went with Carson and I to the mall a few weeks later, and while I tried things on, he chaperoned the small escapee. The gift card purchased my very first pair of Madewell jeans -- worth every pretty penny they cost.

It was just a few short weeks later when I discovered ThredUP, an online second hand clothing store, via a friends referral. It was also around this time that our prayers for another baby were answered. In the months that followed I didn't have to go to the mall, toddler in tow, to buy maternity clothes. I went online. I was able to get brands I like at a fraction of the cost. They arrived packaged beautifully, often in like-new condition.

I was hooked. Still am, in fact.

Wool Cocoon Sweater c/o ThredUP, Madewell Jeans via ThredUP

Anthropologie Buffalo Check Tunic via ThredUP

Wrap, linen tee and sweater, all ThredUP

I've scored many deals for my kids, my favorite brands being Zara and BabyGap, and my entire wardrobe got an overhaul too, with labels I wouldn't normally allow myself to invest in at full retail price -- such as Madewell (jeans for $30 versus $125. Yes! It's true!) Anthropologie, J. Crew, and Free People -- because after pregnancy many of my things weren't fitting quite right.

I've had friends ask how I'm able to find things on there; it is overwhelming, the amount of items you need to search through. My simple tips are: Download and use the app for shopping, and apply size and brand filters, so that you aren't seeing items that won't fit or you wouldn't typically wear anyhow. And finally, be persistent and specific in your searching. You have about 24 hours for an item to be held in your shopping cart before it goes back into the store again, so don't delay if you do find something you absolutely love.

And that's how it all began, folks, my love affair with second hand shopping... online, and without kids trailing me. From now on, its always #SecondHandFirst.

ThredUP sponsored this post (thank you!), and they are generously offering 50% off Free People items to all first-time customers with the code FREEPEOPLE50. Discount up to $50.

Happy shopping!

Blouse via ThredUP


Dainty Dawn + a Giveaway

NOTE: We have a winner! A big congratulations to Crystal Miller! To all of the rest of you who entered, thank you for participating. I love having you here.

Have you ever started browsing Etsy with the intent of finding a fun and affordable gift to give one of your girl friends (or maybe to give yourself), only to get lost in the black hole of beautiful, hand-created, homemade goodness?

Yeah, I've been there too. Too often, in fact.

Today though, I'm here to help you out a bit and give you a suggestion: Check out Dainty Dawn Create. Alaina, the shop owner and creator, gifted me a generous collection of her pieces: rings, earrings, and bracelets. She recently opened a shop on Etsy, and I'm excited to help spread the word!

I was, of course, drawn to the bracelets when I first opened the package. The black one is made from lava rock and works as an oil diffuser.  Don't mind me... but I will probably be smelling like a walking lavender plant from here on out.

And those rain drop earrings are darling!

But, what I truly didn't except to love as much as I do was the Marble Rose Gold Ring. I've been married for 4.5 years, and in that time I've never worn rings aside from my wedding bands. After just one evening out with that ring, though, I think I am officially okay with the idea of wearing rings in addition to my bands. YOLO, right? (For my readers born before 1996 - that stands for You Only Live Once. You're welcome.)

Like I said, Alaina was extremely generous to me, and I would like to pass that on in the form of a giveaway!

The rules are simple: Click over to Alaina's Etsy Shop, browse her pieces and leave a comment in this post (or on the Facebook link) with the piece you like best. That's it!

The winner will be selected at random on Wednesday, January 25th, and announced here.

Up for grabs are these lovely pieces: the Small Gold Marble Bracelet, a White Confetti Druzy Ring,
and Aquamarine Druzy Earrings.

Best of Luck!

P.S. You can follow Dainty Dawn on Instagram as well to keep close tabs on new items and learn more about Alaina and her fun shop!



Reading: The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones.

I don't know what you think about most kids storybook Bibles, but honestly, a lot of them feel dry and dull and shallow, if you ask me. I get bored reading them, which might also translate into my kid's attention not being captured. (Then again, maybe not. Have you ever been begged to read and reread the Dick and Jane books?)

I want my children to grow up knowing truth from the Bible. I don't want it to be watered down. I don't want gory details to be left out completely. I don't want the Veggie Tales version to be the only version they know.

I read to them directly from the scriptures and Carson and I are also working on memorizing certain passages. But sometimes, just like their Momma, it takes a story version to make something stick to memory.

Recently I heard about The Jesus Storybook Bible, and after seeing it in person, Herm and I decided we would gift it to Carson for Christmas. It's got beautiful, whimsical illustrations. Each story has details that a lot of other storybook versions I've read left out and it's got a bit of humor in it too, which I love. Every story always points to Christ, the center of God's wonderful, redemptive plan.

Carson absolutely loves this book, and asks for Herm or myself to read a story, or five, to him every night before bed. Since Christmas he's been talking about Noah and the ark, about Jonah being swallowed by a fish, about a giant named Goliath... These stories, and even the scripture passages we are working on memorizing, are becoming real to him because of this book.

I highly recommend this book. Every family with young kids should have a copy.

Loving: The slower, more relaxed weeks right after the Holidays.

It's rather ironic, because truly, my life is not busy. I'm home most days with my kids. Our week nights are spent together as a family, with the exception of Wednesday night, when we are with our Care Group from church. Weekends we often host friends or sometimes travel. I'm always doing something -- never bored or lacking projects, often even wishing for a few more hours in each day, but schedules and agendas aren't a huge part of life for us.

Over the Holidays however, there is a pressure I feel, mostly self-inflicted, from the events and gatherings and festivities and traveling. From Thanksgiving through New Years, every year, life feels intense, and if I'm not careful to keep myself in check, stress becomes a part of activities that should be joy-filled.

But Christmas is over and January, with the cold and snow and long days at home, has seemed to relax all of us again. I've been realizing lately that there is a pressure I put on myself all the time, where I measure my worth by how much I am able to accomplish in each day. Having two young kids can change things, and subconsciously I was putting pressure on them too. It resulted in bad attitudes all around, mine being the worst.

I'm being more intentional this month, to stop what I'm so often focused on --the daily tasks, of laundry and cleaning and cooking, that no matter how many times I do them, they'll never truly be done-- and spend more time playing or reading or going on coffee dates or library outing with my kids. We're only a few weeks in, but so far it's been good. For all of us.

Dreaming: Of a few upcoming trips we have for 2017. Tickets aren't booked yet, and I know time has a way of changing things, but at this point it looks like I'll be able to cross number eighteen, Visit a New Country, off the 25 Before 26 birthday bucket list! (I hate excess usage of exclamation points. Doesn't that defeat the purpose? But in this case, I almost made an exception, thinking that one really isn't enough to convey the excitement I get whenever I'm boarding a plane bound for a brand new destination.)

Wishing: For this necklace from Noonday Collection. It's one of those statement pieces that I think would go with everything. A teal blouse, an olive sweater, stripes, neutrals, colors. Everything. And it's on sale!

At times I really miss those days of being an Ambassador for Noonday. It wasn't a mistake to leave, I know that. The timing of signing up, then becoming pregnant and having a baby wasn't great, so stepping away was a good choice. But still, the community of women I got to know, and the company as a whole... you couldn't get much better than that. I still love my Noonday.

Thinking About: What new dish I should try, in order to be able to cross number eight, Try a New Dish, off the list. Last time I made Jamaican Patties. They were quite tasty. This time though, I'm not sure what I want to try. Rules of the game: It's got to be something I never made  before with ingredients new to me. Any suggestions, foodie friends?

Listening To: Noel by Lauren Daigle. Christmas is long gone, but this song won't be going anywhere. It's powerful.

Watching: With fascination as Carson is discovering the world around him. We can't go anywhere without him asking me what certain road signs mean, or what letters and numbers are on receipts. He'll point out the recycle symbol on every cardboard box he can find, and he loves to let me know my name is actually Sarah. Today as we were driving he casually mentioned that this is the way we go to Pennsylvania when we're visiting cousins. And yes, it was a section of road we don't travel often... unless, we're going to Pennsylvania to visit cousins.

Trying: To master a headstand. (Yes, I'm really working on crossing things off that list I've mentioned far too many times in this post.) Today I got myself up to position successfully. I'm thankful, though, for that wall behind me, otherwise I would have tumbled completely over. Balance isn't quite what it should be yet. Also, my neck is rather sore. Most likely that, too, is a sign I'm not doing something right. Perseverance. And a massage. Both are things I need to keep going. 

What about you? I would love to hear about things that are currently going on in your life!


23. Reread a book by Janette Oke

I'm slowly but surely working on that birthday bucket list. It seems, though, that everything I am working on are things that cannot be wrapped up in a day.

For instance, I'm fasting from social media every Sunday for three months. I'm over half way finished with that goal already, but really, until it is accomplished there is nothing more I can say about it.... well, except to make a public confession: I completely forgot about the fast on Christmas Day, which happened to fall on Sunday. Which also happened to be a day we were traveling from Pa where we spent time with family, back home to NY. I may have used Instagram to pass time while in the back seat of our truck, stuck in between two car seats, one which held a little boy who kept asking I tell him another George story. George use to be my pet name for Carson -- because, like Curious George, he is a good like Tyke, but always very curious -- until one day he told me his name is Carson, not George and asked I never call him George again. So now I just tell him stories about a boy named George, who, ironically, does everything Carson does. Carson LOVES these silly stories, and sometimes it about drives me crazy, repeating them over and over again.

I'm kind of bunny-trailing. Back to the social media fast. Monday morning as the sun was rising it dawned on me that the day before was Sunday. Yeah. Oops. I suppose I should be making up for that mistake by skipping Instagram for an entire week day.

Then there is Bible memorization with Carson, which is a slow go. He's got Psalm 23 down pat, but in the shrillest, squeakiest voice, the sort that grates on every mom's nerves. We haven't started on the Christmas story from Luke 2 or even the Lord's Prayer yet. We need some WD40 for that voice first.

 Mastering a headstand? I'm still rather shaky at it. And there so many other things that I didn't even start thinking about.

Over the weekend, though, I did accomplish something I can finally cross off. If I'm not crossing at least something off every now and then, I feel like I might lose momentum.

I re-read the Love Comes Softly book by Janette Oke.

I use to hate reading. Despised it. Until, one day, when I was perhaps twelve or thirteen, my mom introduced me to the Love Comes Softly series.

I remember those stories came alive to me, and after that I could barely put books down, often reading well past midnight, even on week nights, simply because I had to know what would happen to the characters who suddenly felt like real-life friends.

Revisiting the first book in that series was rather fun.

It was a bit juvenile, there is no doubt about that. And twelve years later, the characters no longer felt like real-life friends. They talked in a country slang that rather annoyed me, and coffee was mentioned so often I almost mistook them for hipsters instead of Pioneers on the prairie lands of the Midwest. Nonetheless, I still truly enjoyed the book, but not for the story line as much as for the memory of myself as a young girl, one who thoroughly hated reading... or so I thought -- until my mom handed my the first book of the series, which opened my eyes to a whole world to be discovered, nestled in the shelves of our quiet small town library in the form of "boring" books.

Now, years later, I am constantly reading. I often try to read books that I know will challenge me to grow stronger mentally or spiritually or even physically. Or books written by people who hold different beliefs than I so I can learn about others cultures and values. Or books on how to write well or inspire creativity. Even books about a little monkey named Curious George.

Janette Oke is no longer my favorite author, but there was a sort of magic in her work. Magic which made a young girl fall in love with words. And because of that, it was completely worth revisiting the title which turned me into the avid reader and kind of, sort of, writer I am today...

"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go." -Dr. Suess