Thursday, December 18, 2014

Show Your Real: Callie

Sometimes these Show Your Real guest posts have "all the feels" and sometimes, they're more of a practical look at what real life is. Today's post is the latter....I hope you see a little bit of yourself in Callie's life, and a glimpse into her life is an encouragement to you!
My brother, who is one of my best friends, told me once that I am a sponge; that I store everything up and sort of let it all simmer until it’s ready be released. He meant it as a compliment, and I took it as one, but sometimes, especially in the midst of transition, being a sponge feels more like a burden. I don’t always have a moment to wring myself out, so to speak. Currently, I am in the midst of transition. I’ve recently earned an MFA in Creative Writing, my daughters, Hadley and Harper, are in school full time, and I went back to teaching middle school after an almost ten year hiatus. Writing a “Show Your Real” post resonates with me because as much as it makes me nervous to show you a messy, scattered, perhaps un-confident person, it allows me to delve into that gray confusion and maybe bring to light something that shimmers. Or rather, something that could shimmer.

What I try to make time for:

Reading: Normally, I begin my day at 5:30. I make myself a cup of coffee and I read for about 45 minutes. I love to read. I love words. I think I collect them. When we got married, my husband Jesse brought with him a college dictionary, and when I look up a word, I write down the date in the margin. There are sixteen years worth of dates revealing when I looked up a word. 

I’ll read just about anything, but I only read paper books. YA is probably my favorite genre, but I love creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry, all of it. Going to a bookstore or library and pulling stacks of books from shelves that I’ll never have time to read is one of my favorite things to do.

Exercise: Exercise is another one of my favorite things to do. I hold a lot of thoughts hostage and there is something about jumping around and breaking a nice sweat that lets those thoughts loosen up a bit. I always feel better and stronger and funnier after I workout. As with reading, I’ll try any kind of exercise but I really, really, really don’t like yoga. I’ve given it a shot, really I have. But it makes me crazy.

These days, I do a lot of working out at home, which makes me sort of sad because I love working out in a gym. I’m the most shy person you’ll ever meet, but I love being in group exercise classes. There’s something fabulous about everyone jumping around to really loud, thumping music. Also, my favorite instructors are the ones that yell at us while we are working. I love people who can boldly encourage me to do things I don’t think I can do. This might have to do with why yoga and I don’t get along so well: I don’t like being told to accept where I am. I like being dared to do things I don’t think I could ever do; like write, or run, or give birth.

Writing: Every other day, I sit at my desk and write for two hours. I write for Coffee + Crumbs, Relief Journal, and The Banner, plus I try to submit an essay at least once a month to various places where I admire other writers’ work.

I write long hand, and only go to the computer to type once I think I have an essay on my hands. Then I print it out, get another color pen, and begin revising. It’s a slow process, but I don’t mind. 
I also blog twice a week, although lately I’ve added a third post on Fridays called, “My Week In Words.” I have a blogging journal where I keep track of ideas to write about, and an editorial calendar where I write down posts a month ahead of time so that when it’s time for me to sit down and write, I don’t waste time wondering what it is I want to write about.

Teaching: On the days that I don’t write, I plan my lessons for teaching. I am an 8th grade English teacher, and I love being a teacher. Once, after watching me teach, my husband told me that it was as though a light switch had been turned on inside me. That is one of my favorite things he’s ever said to me. He is right: there is no other place where I feel more myself than in front of a group of middle school students.

Family: The truth is, I didn’t think I would go back to teaching after I became a mother. I certainly never thought I’d go to graduate school. When writing began to pull at me I was afraid. I had that same fear when I began daydreaming about being in the classroom again last winter. I seem to get pretty tunnel visioned when I’m writing or when I’m teaching. It’s difficult for me to pull myself away from them, and I was afraid for what that would do to my family, especially my daughters. I never planned on being a working mom, but it was a pleasant surprise when I realized that’s what I wanted to be. Teaching and writing are just as much work as mothering, and the effort to juggle these three can be exhausting. However, the three of them, I’m starting to see, are a part of who I am, and each of them somehow enhance the other. 

This stage of work-writing-school-family-extra-curricular activity is new for us, and we are still getting our footing. I’m not sure I can discuss how balance works here, but I’m not so sure I strive for balance. To be in balance seems to me, not to be moving and wandering and trying. I think that’s what I’ve noticed in writing this, in showing my real.

Show Your Real is a series of guest posts centered around the concept of authenticity. The goal is to encourage each other to expose the reality of our lives- good and bad- and to foster a sense of community that goes beyond the often surface-y interactions of social media. And you're all invited to participate! Please write, caption, comment, link, and hashtag to spread the #showyourreal love. And if you would like to contribute a guest post to the series, please email me (

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sharing Christmas: Link-up Party!

It's time, It's time!

(Do you own Song of the Stars? If so- you get that reference. If not, allow this to be the first and most valuable tip I share...It's the Christmas story written by the author of The Jesus Storybook Bible. Read it and weep. Literally...)

It's time...for the Sharing Christmas link up! I'm super (SUPER) pumped for this, so let's just jump right in. First- a reminder of our lovely hosts:

mary evelyn : what do you do dear  //  kacia : coconutrobot  // shannon : the scribble pad
rachael : kincaid parade  // kristi : and babies don't keep  //  kirstin : kojo designs  //  heather boersma

Not to sound like a broken record...but I seriously cannot even tell you how excited I've been for Christmas this year. And not even just the day itself...I mean, I am looking forward to Christmas eve/morning and all the awesomeness that comes with it: evening church service, matching jammies (that I might be able to wrangle the girls into), reindeer food, stocking stuffing, gift unwrapping, and general merriment...But truly I'm loving the whole season. I switched over to full-on Christmas pretty much the day after Thanksgiving (I do believe in giving each holiday its due) and have been a happy little elf ever since. I'm actually kind of hoping time will slow down and Christmas actually would be late so I could pack in a little more fun, and a lot more glitter, but alas, we're 10 days out, so I'll just have to soak it up while I can.

I'm not totally sure of the difference this year vs. Christmases prior. I guess it's a combination of factors...But the mix of a new house, a new job and a festive-loving 3 year old is making this year extra fun. We've been doing all kinds of festive fun, but for my Official (whatever that means) Sharing Christmas Post, I figured I'll focus mostly on the decor. It's certainly not the most important part of Christmas, and in fact- in years past, it's actually been one of my least favorite parts, but I've had so much fun decking the halls this time around, I'm excited to share that piece of our holiday.

Since we haven't decorated much in the past, and even got rid of some of our old Christmas decor in the move, this year is a rebuilding year, so it started with a trip to buy all the garland JoAnn's had. That lead to a big (temporary) hot mess, a floor covered in glitter, and me swearing I was just testing things and wouldn't keep it all. (spoiler alert- nothing has gone back. We've even got garland in the bathroom and I'm not sorry.)

I went on an Elf-like bender, pretty much covering every railing, doorway, and horizontal surface with sparkly greener. It was totally More is More, Aka: my happy place. Dustin humored the entire endeavor, but not without slyly ribbing me to a former co-worker via group texts:

If you've worked in get this. I'm I'm a little bit sorry for you. 

So yes...I may have gotten a liiiiiiiitle carried away, but honestly I think it's only over the top compared to scaled back years of yore. If you're used to decorating year after year, it's likely you have more flair than I do (you should see my mom's's a winter wonderland of truly epic proportions- we're talking a tree in every room. She borderline started a blog just to join in the Sharing Christmas fun.) But this is our first time back in the game, so it feels big, and festive, and warm, and magical.

Some snippets:

It all started with this arch. It was all I wanted to do....I knew we'd get a tree, but I felt like we needed one other big Christmas "moment" to make the house feel festive. And then of course, it got all, If You Take a Mouse to the Movies, and I suddenly had to have faux-greenery on everything. But for real....this makes me so deliriously happy, I'm going to be hard pressed to take it down in January. (and believe me that it's staying until at least January. Aka: my birthday month. Aka: Let Courtney hang on to her garland-draped dreams for just a little longer month.)

A real disco ball, and real dutch shoes. I could just die.

And my very very favorite piano turned mantle. Seriously...I'm only barely joking when I tell you that hanging stockings makes me want to have more babies. There's something irresistible about the a line of giant coordinating socks with everyone's initials on them. I want like a million (stockings/babies). Plus this shot has at least 3 more of my favorite things: a new ampersand marquee light to add to my & collection (Old Time Pottery, how I missed you!), a tiny glittery bird that was one of those little Target splurges that made me way happier than it probably should, my absolute favorite candle scent of all time (it's seriously like you're in a forest. obsessed.)

PLUS: chalkboard gift tags. I couldn't love them more if they were made out of gingerbread. (ok...that might be a toss up). But they're pretty stinkin' awesome, no? And you can just stop it right now with those pom poms, TJ Maxx. Stahp!

Hideous picture. Deliiiiiicious candle.

And another thing tied for favorite...our Christmas Card books. We save them all, hole punch and bind them with a ribbon. We take our cover selection pretty seriously so if you're sending us a card, mail your A-game.

What's that? you wanted more garland? Ok. I guess..... (is it starting to make sense why I love ampersands so much? AND is a way of life.)

That tree. I know. I KNOW. 

Annnnnd...time for another favorite. I snagged this advent calendar from Starbucks as a gift for my mom, and before I had even paid for it, I decided I wanted to keep it. Woops! Good news though...about a minute later, I remembered that after she pined for it last year, she actually did end up getting one, so I got credit for thinking of her, and got to keep it. Win-win.

It's a little magnetic board, that comes with chocolate filled tins, but I spent the last two hours of November frantically unpacking them all, and replacing the treats with little notes- each one specifying a family activity for us to do that day. It's a mixture of simple, totally over ambitious, genius because my kids can't read yet (allows for last minute switch-a-roos) and honestly might be my actual favorite part of our Christmas this year. Turns out sappy family memories are even better than glitter.
(I'll be writing more about this over on the Thrive Moms blog this week, so if you're intreguide by how we're doing advent, stop by there later this week for the scoop!)

Oh, and don't worry...we aren't denying our toddlers their God-given right to a daily chocolate fix. Thanks Trader Joe's!

Ok...(at least) one more favorite: Christmas Cards. Obsessed with these burlap chains...hung them from little adhesive clips and our laundry room door is now a gallery of love. 
And I have to tell you- I was worried we wouldn't get any cards this year...we moved, people cut back, I get it...But I love mah cards. I gotta have mah cards- never mind that we haven't sent ours yet!!- So when my mom heard my (really silly) fear (via me publicly complaining/begging for mail on facebook), she started sending us a note Every Day. Seriously. (And yes- she lives 10 minutes away, yet she mailed each and every one of them). My door is almost filled now- with 15 different cards, each signed with a different version of my parents names. She loves me in such a specific, fabulous way.

Oh- and you know it's not Christmas without a yule log video
So those are the pieces and parts that add up to the whole... least, those are the aesthetic pieces and parts that add up to our holiday home decor whole. 
I could (and likely will) write another week's worth of posts about all the other things filling up our holiday season. No- it's not all spruce scented sparkles...There's the regular life bits that have to get done, regardless of the magical memory making we'd like to prioritize. (Last week's "regular life" included the stomach flu making the rounds through our entire family, requiring us to cancel a much anticipated trip "home" to Pittsburgh. Ugh.). But Christmas this year is also full of some really great bits of togetherness- searching for trees, having past your bedtime dance parties, and making some complete pinterest-fails that were fun at the time. We've done "santa baths" (red water + bubble beards), and played with our Little People nativity evvvvvvveryday. It's been so simple, and so full all at once. This time...especially this time with two little ones, is truly a magical intersection of routine and spectacular. I'm so very thankful for it all- the things that don't truly matter, and the things that are actually Everything. And not least of all, for the chance to share a teeny tiny bit of it with you. 

Merry Christmas!
xoxo, Courtney, Dustin, Piper and Fin

AND NOW....It's time. It's TIME. For you to share.
I can't wait to see and hear about your Christmas this year. The decor, the treats, the feelings, the struggles....The polar bear footie pajamas. Show me all of it!
We'd be delighted to have you link up...and then grab yourself a cup of hot chocolate (with some Bailey's if that's your jam, I'm not judgin') and make the rounds through the rest of our Sharing Christmas participants (and our lovely hosts!). Leave them some love...let's make this a party!

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Pizza shop photoshoot

On Sunday, we trekked out to get a tree, but stopped for a quick (kind of...) slice of pizza- or 8- on the way. (Full bellies = happy hunters) We goofed around for a bit while we waited on our food, and I handed the camera to Dustin to snap a few shots of my rowdy booth-mates.

And this magic happened:

Dang, I love that little girl. And I'm downright obsessed with how Dustin captured her in this photo. (Though I'm not in love with how she looks about a day away from her teenage years...How is this happening?!)

Oh- and then there's this hamball:

Sometimes (a lot) in my head I call her Crazy Old Maurice.

I'm so thankful for these goons. And for sunshine-y December days, last minute plan changes, toddlers who eat their weight in pizza crust, and for those magic moments when the mundane things of life turn unexpectedly awesome. Our family lives at this wild intersection of routine and spectacular, and I have to say: it's a crazy-good spot to be.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Sharing Christmas 2014

Is it too soon to say this is my favorite Christmas yet?
Well...probably. But really, something about this year is just magical already...and it's only the 8th! It might be that the kids are getting bigger, so they're getting into the spirit, it might be that we have a new house to decorate, it might be that getting out of retail means I'm no longer required to celebrate the holidays (starting in the Summer!) But whatever it is, I'm jumping into Christmas with both feet, or diving head first, or something...And I'm loving it.

So I'm extra excited to joins some other ladies in hosting a festive little link-up...Sharing Christmas!

If you've been around a while, you know I have an accidental tradition of participating in Sharing Christmas every other year...(don't exactly know how that happened...but historically, even numbered years have been my thing: 2008, 2010, 2012), so for 2014 I'm back and thrilled to be a part of it again!

If you're not familiar with Sharing Christmas..let me fill you in: It's pretty much exactly what it sounds like...a chance for us all to share a little about our Christmas with each other. There's no formal tour or requirements. We just want to see and hear about sights, sounds, smells, tastes....The overall feel of Christmas in your home (or in your life) this year.

Next Monday, December 15th, all the hosts will be sharing their Christmas, and posting a link-up so you can join in the fun. You can share your decor, your approach to advent, a favorite recipe, or the cheesy movie you're rewatching instead of getting anything productive done. Anything goes! You know my thing about being real, so everything doesn't have to be a picture perfect snow covered wonderland. It's just a fun chance to to virtually share our holidays- the little things or the big things, mess or masterpiece. It's all good!

So start snapping some pics, and recording your stories. And in the meantime, stop by to say hi to all of the lovely hosts:

Merry (best) Christmas (ever)!

Monday, December 1, 2014


Happy Cyber Monday! And First day of Advent! And post-holiday return to the daily grind!
Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend, filled with turkey/deals/rest/family/all things that are awesome about this holiday. We stayed home this year for the first time....ever. Seriously EVER. It was weird. And great.

And since we weren't traveling, and shuttling from place to place trying to pack in togetherness, we had plenty of time for...well...wasting time. So you know I spent a good portion of it pinning.

In no particular order, here are a few of my recent online loves.

Stripes. I'm in. (the gold is a bonus).

I always have big dreams of elaborately wrapped presents, and though I sometimes manage a little theme, I never quite get it together to this level. Bad news is- I still haven't adequately unpacked my wrapping supplies, so bags and bows are pretty much strewn about the basement. Good news is- I bought a couple of new rolls of paper from of them has Santa-hat wearing zebras. Aw, yeah.

What do you do with your cards? I love to display them, but don't really have a great solve for where/how. I love the idea of this faux-tree! (P.s. I'm kind of worried we're not going to get any cards this year. So lame I know, but I have visions of all of our mail going to our old house, leaving my mailbox sad and empty. We moved! Ask me for my address! I want to see your cards!)

This layout is pretty much exactly like our bathroom...and the finishes are about 900% cooler than our current builder-grade situation. Someday, dream bathroom, someday. 

We have a beautiful upright piano that plays surprisingly well despite its questionable craigslist origins...But all the woodwork isn't exactly in great shape, so I'm toying with the idea of painting it. I just can't land on a color I feel passionate about, and I'm too nervous to take on such a task until I'm confident about it.
Ever just pin stuff with no plan...just becaue you like it? That's this one. I have no idea what this will inspire...But it's pretty, and makes me happy. So maybe that's good enough.

Your turn: What's showing up on your boards lately? 
P.s. Check out previous editions of Obsesspins. Or follow right at the source: Pinterest
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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Why I'm never busy

Hey. How are you? Is that you? Are you guilty of giving the lamest set of answers to the world's most common question?

(I am.)

Good. Fine. Busy. Those words don't even mean anything, really. They're shorthand for: "I'm acknowledging your question, while realizing you probably aren't really looking to get into a deep conversation about my actual well being. So I will let you off the hook with a one word response and a small nod, and we can both be on our way. I am so very busy after all."

And sure, we all know that 99 out of 100 (ok...or at least 9 out of 10) times someone asks that question, they actually don't want to get into a deep conversation about your actual well being. "How are you?" is often no different than "What's new?", "Hot enough for ya?", or "How 'baht dem Stillers?" They're just things we say to fill the space, to pass the time, to keep things light.

And I can actually pretty much get behind Good. And Fine. But busy? 
C'mon. That's a cop out. It's like a pity wave mixed with humble brag, doused in obvious sauce (which I think is like metaphorical ketchup?) 

You're busy. So busy. Swamped. Crazed. Full plates. Spinning plates. Wearing all the hats. 

We get it.

But we get it, because we're living it too. We're all busy. Even people who are totally not even busy.

Have you ever, EVER asked someone: "How's it goin'?"And had them respond: "Eh, good. Kind of bored. Like, swimming in free time. It's surprisingly unsettling, actually. But you know what they say: So much time, so little to do!" ?

I'm gonna go with nope. You haven't.

Because for real. Everyone is busy. Even those people you constantly compare yourself to, thinking smugly, "They think they're busy....Ha! I could rock their busy like a second shift. I'd kill for their busy. They'd be real sorry if they ever even glimpsed at my busy. My busy would kick their busy's tail feathers." (That's Christian mommy-blogger for a**).

Busy is a badge of honor. It's a claim to fame. It's a justification of our own importance. Busy is the opposite of lazy, of unpopular, and boring. Busy is productive, and in-demand, and Amurican.

...and it's a bit of a self-involved martyr.

So can we just cool it with the busy?
No, I'm not suggesting your new default answer becomes #soblessed. (even if that's like, totes true). I just think that when asked how we're doing, we can all muster up a teensy bit of honesty, or even creativity, and look beyond the low-hanging "get out of this convo free" fruit of busy.

So, how are YOU? 

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Little P, Big 3!

Baby, big. Mama, sad.

But enough with all the sap...How 'bout a party?

So....complaining about the pressure of throwing a kid's birthday party might be the 1st world-iest problem of them all...but maybe just indulge me for one minute. You know I love throwing parties. Like...LOVE it. And I adore birthdays...But the timing of Piper's birthday is a little bit tough. It's so close to Halloween that it's hard for me to do both things all-out (and all-out is pretty much the only way I want to do things). I grew up having the best birthday parties, so it's something that's hugely important to me. It doesn't have to be expensive, or overly fancy, but it does have to be special. I want to make my kids know that I love them, and that they're worth all the effort that it takes to throw a big bash. Buttttttttt....I also want to keep my sanity, so I try to keep things in perspective and rein in my tendency to care too much, try too hard and generally go all Courtney on things.

I genuinely didn't have a clue what I was going to do for Piper this year...down to a couple weeks before her birthday. I wanted a theme (duh), but I knew that I couldn't exactly dictate things as much as I had in previous years. (Three-year-olds....they think they're entitled to their own opinions or something.) But I also didn't want to throw in the towel so early in life, and resign myself to Dora the Explorer shindigs from here on out. (Daniel Tiger costumes are one thing...selling out to the princess aisle in the party store is quite another).

So I figured I'd pick a theme I liked, but one that I knew she'd still get into as well...even if she maybe wouldn't have thought of it herself. And this year's idea.....

P is 3!

I figured we could do all things that start with "P" and if something didn't fit...I'd just do 3 of them and call it good. Easy P-sie!

When I told Piper, she was pretty pumped (it's taking all of my energy not to make this post packed with profuse alliteration) but informed me quickly that PINK and PURPLE are not her favorite colors (despite what she's been claiming for months!). She got over that part though, and was excited to help pick out all the elements of her party. She's just barely grasping the concept of which words start with which letter, so we had a lot of quizzing about animals, foods, toys etc. that start with P. She would proudly guess Penguins! Pizza! Puzzles! and then... chips!...A WHALE! (a ghost!) Good try, sweetie. I was a little worried about letting her loose in the party, because I was positive she'd abandon the theme and we'd come home with Frozen plates and a Thomas the Tank Engine balloons. But she actually did really well. I helped her keep an eye out for P things, and she picked her favs. And while I'm not exactly a pink and purple fanatic (...understatment...) it turned out pretty perfect.

We debated on who to immediate family is already a crowd, and Piper doesn't exactly have a ton of friends at this stage, so we kept the list to just family plus our 3 sets of neighbors. You know...a exclusive group of 26 people.

We kept the food simple, choosing to order a bunch of pizzas, and then"P" themed snacks:
PB&J- her initials!- (Piper helped me make them open faced and then roll them up) popcorn, peppers & peapods, pesto pasta salad, potato chips & pretzels and- of course- punch! (recipe here) Oh, and some purple rock candy...because it was pretty.

I put out some "P's" I've collected over the years, and we were done!

But we all know the most important part of the p-day b-day spread is the cake! I had my heart set on making a 3 cake...and with a little help from Pinterest, I did it!

I had some leftover rounds pieces, so I made a little personal pedestal treat just for Piper.
And what is becoming a birthday tradition, I completely messed up the frosting, and compensated for it with a million sprinkles. I might just have to do it on purpose next year. (j/k. I'll do it because it's seriously the best I can do. I'm missing the frosting gene.)

I tried not to stress about it though...Piper thought it was "beautiful, mama", so I trusted her taste.

In fact- when my mom asked Piper what her favorite part of the party was...she said "the little cake mama made me". Stop it. I can't even.

She didn't even mind when it toppled over....4 layer, 6" wide, frosting encased cake wrecks will do that.

Surprise! More Pink and Purple!

This girl didn't care how it looked either...she just wanted more. (We actually found her at the end of the night sneak-eating a piece she had somehow squirreled away in the playroom. She kills me.)

We of course tried (in vain) to get a quick family picture before the festivities got too out of control. After all, it was a major milestone, and we were all in themed pink and purple outfits...
But- SURPRISE- my kids wanted none of we got these gems:

P is for Priceless.

But despite all that of the things I was most excited about was this little ditty I spent 1.5 episodes of Parenthood making....

Guys. I'm Pretty Proud of this little pig.  You can go ahead and pin that.

And not-humble brag aside, the kids actually liked it too.
We might have had a little see-through issue with our pink blindfold strategy, because all the kids pretty much nailed it but that probably just made them like it more.

Ok...she was kinda close.

So...we pinked. We purpled. We pinned. We pizza'd. We piñata'd. (you'll have trust me on that last part. We piñata'd so hard I don't even have pictures).

We partied.

And Little P, turned the Big 3!

And I know I shared some of Piper's recent "Pip-Speaks" on her birthday, but I saved a birthday related quip that had me cracking up:

Mama: Your birthday is coming up..
Piper: Right now?
Mama: No, in a few weeks.
Piper: We have party hats?!
Mama: Sure, if you'd like. We'll have to talk about what you want for your party...
Piper: Party blowers. I like those. When it's your birthday, you can have party blowers.
{And I feel the need to clarify, that she didn't mean that when it was time for my birthday, I could have some party blowers...she meant it as a rule of life: When it is one's birthday, one gets party blowers.}

Happy 3, to our precious P. We think you're positively perfect.
P.s. More P-p-party fun from Pip's first birthday (including a "Pi Bar"  and a pretty rad photobooth.)

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