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Justin

0 In Projects

Our DIY Fire Pit and First Family Bonfire

We spent our Saturday making a DIY fire pit! It turned out just like we were hoping it would and it works great!

Here is our step by step process and our first family bonfire.

Justin and Titus started off this project by heading to Lowe’s Saturday morning. They filled the truck with all the supplies and even found some plastic Adirondack chairs on sale to add some atmosphere and help define the space. Someday we’ll invest in some nice wooden ones, but these do the job and they look great.

We opted for Dakota fire hole inspired fire pit with a vent to bring in extra air and hopefully create a fire with less smoke. We were able to pick up all we needed for this project for under $200 including all the items for the vent. This could be done for even less if you don’t do the vent or decide to have three levels of stones instead of four.

Here’s are the supplies for the fire pit:

If you want to do a vent like ours, pick up:

  • Dryer vent tube
  • Drain cover (plastic, 4”)
  • 2 adjustable metal rings
  • Black metal dryer vent

Other tools you’ll need:

  • Shovel(s) and a post hole digger if you have one
  • A level at least 3′
  • Caulking gun (for the adhesive)

First, we took 12 of the wall stones and layed them out where we wanted them. We made sure to follow our city’s fire code and placed it 15+ feet away from any structure and near enough to our hose for safety. (Each city has different fire regulations, make sure to check yours). We used the stones as a template and dug the shovel in behind each stone to mark the perimeter of the circle. We then removed the stones and dug the circle down 5-7 inches.

Next, we dug a hole in the middle about 12 inches deep and 8 inches wide. This is optional for drainage when it rains. This hole will be filled with small stones. We also dug a trench connecting the inside of the fire pit with the outside about 12 inches deep. This is the Dakota fire hole part of the project. We place a metal vent inside the pit and connected it to a dryer vent tube with an adjustable metal ring. The other end of the vent tube connects to the outside and is covered with a drain cover held on place with another adjustable metal ring. We go into more detail about this on our vlog video so make sure to catch that.

This is basically how the vent part should look when we fill around it with dirt. Justin is making sure the stones fit before leveling with sand.

We poured in two bags of leveling sand and smoothed it out. We placed the foundational stones in and used the level to adjust them in the sand making sure they were totally level.

We put a tube of masonry adhesive in our caulking gun and zig zagged it in the middle of the stones making sure not to get too close to the edges so it wont squish out the side when the next stones are layed on top. We bought four tubes to put between four levels of stones. We could have skimped by with 3 tubes, but we probably would have felt most comfortable with five tubes divided between the three spaces in between the layers. Think of it like icing between the cake layers except you don’t want any squishing out. As we added each level we staggered the stones so the cracks would fall in the middle of the stone above it.

Cosette trying it out before we added the fourth level of stones. Originally we thought three levels would be enough, but since we dug down about 7 inches we couldn’t see all three levels from the outside so we picked up more stones and adhesive in the afternoon to finish it off.

And here it is FINISHED! What a fun project! Here it is in the lovely sunset light!

We’re not fire pit experts and we managed to finish this project in about seven hours. This includes 3 hardware store trips and watching four kids during the process. That’s not bad. If you feel inspired to make a fire pit too feel free to ask any questions in the comments or on our Instagram. We are happy to help.

We decided to wait till the following night to do our first bonfire so that the masonry adhesive could dry. The fire pit worked perfectly and even continued into the night with friends after the kids went to bed. We couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. We will be adding pea gravel around the pit soon for safety. We plan to also build a custom wooden cover for the pit when its not in use to make it a table and to keep the rain out (or keep our kids out of it. Haha!)

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0 In Home/ Projects

Backyard Update: Two Dump Runs and What a Difference

A few weeks ago our big backyard was a vast wasteland of weeds. After the tractor came most of our yard was smoothed with a layer of wood chips. It was an incredible change.

This Saturday we put our focus on the shed in the farthest corner of our yard. It was messy and stacked with wood, bricks, tires and randomness. It looked awful. As a family we moved, organized and threw stuff away. After two dump runs our shed area started looking pretty nice. Watch our second ever vlog to see our day in a nutshell.

This is the before and after of our progress on Saturday. We used to keep all kinds of stuff thinking we’d use it someday. Now we have grown to LOVE throwing stuff away because it feels like a clean slate. We enjoyed filling our dump trailer up twice today. And now our shed is simplified and peaceful. It’s not perfect, but it’s so much closer to our vision.

Here is our pile of vintage bricks. These bricks are gorgeous with so much character. We unearthed these from our old patio near the house a few years after we moved in. They’re waiting for the day we build them into something new.

Boaz sitting on top of Justin’s old truck as we started work in the yard. This is him in his natural environment. Little clothing, feet covered in dirt and a stick of some sort not far away.

More beautiful, old wood for our many project ideas. We thinned out and organized our wood pile.

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0 In Marriage/ Parenting

We’re Fighting in Front of Our Kids

“Let’s just try to have a nice family dinner.”

“We can all just try to get along here at the table.”

Sounds like something you’d expect parents of four young kids to say when they were all out to eat after church and the kids were being wild. Right?

Nope. That was our oldest, Titus, trying to get Lindy and I to stop disagreeing (let’s not call it fighting) at the table over dinner.

Lindy had a handful of errands she’d wanted to run that morning but wasn’t able to because, you know, kids. I wanted to spend the night on the couch watching Cars with my boys, but instead I’m one town over driving laps in the Michael’s parking lot. Lindy wanted to eat at Chick-fil-a, but instead I dragged us all to a place specializing in greasy cheeseburgers. I paid for a Very Berry Strawberry shake and it never showed up.

It was kind of a long day, we were both pretty exhausted, and neither one of us was doing a great job listening to the other while we each made our case for why it was ok for us to feel the way we were.

And there was Titus trying to get his mom and dad to stop arguing.

I’m reading a book called Released from Shame by Sandra Wilson right now trying to help untangle some of the knots of confusion and lies in my life to help me move forward as a better man, husband, and father.

Chapter 3, Unhealthy Families, starts out with these words:

It has been said that an unexamined life is not worth living. It might also be hazardous to your health and to the health of those closest to you. Especially as you loyally and thoughtlessly repeat painful patterns learned in childhood.

Here’s the reality – no family is perfect. And none of us were born in to two families so we could compare healthy vs. unhealthy parenting – we just have our parents and the ways of thinking we developed as they raised us. So it’s hard for us to compare the differences between how we act and think and how a healthier version of ourselves would act and think.

Lindy and I are almost 8 years into our parenting journey and the deeper we get in to it the more respect I have for my parents because this stuff is just hard and no one knows what they’re doing. Wilson writes that:

“healthy families are not problem-free families. What distinguishes healthy from unhealthy families is how they handle the inevitable problems they encounter.”

Justin two or three years ago would not only be arguing with his wife over dinner, he’d be overwhelmed by shame in the middle of the conflict and that feeling would translate to anger. Justin today was able to look at Titus and say “Thank you, buddy. You’re right, but we need to figure this out right now.” Or something like that.

Wilson continues to say

“parents in poorly functioning families deny problems and emotional pain. To preserve the illusion that the family is perfect, these parents expend their energy on appearance management instead of problem solving.”

Man, that punches me in the face. Titus’ words trying to silence our conflict at the table were basically a direct reflection of my soul. I want everyone in our family to happily suck down their favorite flavor of milkshake over a super fun dinner and I want to take a photo of it so we can share it on Instagram and preserve the illusion that our family is perfect.

And I can convince myself this is the right thing to do – that this is healthy parenting. My inner monologue says “the most important thing for your kids is for them to feel safe in this family, this conflict is going to screw them up.”

But my inner monologue is wrong. My kids need to know that life isn’t easy, they need to see Lindy and I acknowledge our emotional pain and problems, they need to see us expend our energy on problem solving. Our children need to see that our family isn’t perfect – and that is ok.

I’m not ignoring my children’s emotional needs by arguing with their mom in front of them. I’m ignoring their emotional needs by ignoring the conflict in front of them.

My kids will be better off in a family that admits Daddy can be a jerk to Mommy sometimes, when they see that you don’t have to be perfect parents to be good parents, and when the things their parents ignore are unrealistic expectations, not emotional conflict.

We sometimes fight in front of our kids, and I’m ok with.

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0 In Music & Media

Podcast Recommendations: The Very Best

I’m a smidge obsessed with podcasts. About eight years ago the stereo in my truck broke and we were too broke to fix it so I started listening to podcasts while I was driving. Since then my consumption has only increased and I’m currently subscribed to 53 podcasts. I get asked all the time for podcast recommendations and I’ll start with a list of my Top 5.

If you’re new to listening to podcasts, here are the ones you should start with:

5. 99% Invisible

99% Invisible is a show about design – but not in the way you think. It’s about the little details that go mostly ignored in architecture, technology, art, language, and so much more. Episodes are usually around 20 minutes so they’re easy to work into your weekly rhythms.

Have you wondered where the Jolly Roger (the universal symbol of piracy), came from? And what does it have to do with nuclear waste? Do you know why Palm Trees–which are actually weeds, by the way… not even trees–became an iconic symbol of Southern California? If you’re intrigued, 99% is for you!

Episode 155: Palm Reading is my favorite because the world class city of Riverside makes an appearance in the narrative. Heck yes!

4. RadioLab

Trying to explain RadioLab is hard. They tell stories about life, ideas, and science – and that may sound off-putting to some of you, but trust me: it’s great. The hosts, Jad and Robert, interview science and other experts about really heavy or complicated topics  and the production mixes clips of interviews, news or radio, sound effects, and conversation in a way that helps my brain track along and actually learn.

My all time favorite episode is 23 Weeks 6 Days, a story about life, death, pregnancy and marriage – it is just so good. The Cathedral tells the incredible story of how a video game helped a father deal with their sons diagnosis of terminal cancer – you will definitely cry. And then there is Home Is Where Your Dolphin Is, the story of a lady who lived in the same apartment as a dolphin in the 1960s and let’s just say things got weird.

3. Criminal

Ok, Criminal is awesome. I’ve been listening since the debut of the show with an episode all about a lady who was murdered by an owl. Not killed: MURDERED. Crazy. Or maybe you can just listen to an episode all about how to fake your own death. Either way, subscribe.

Lindy and I got to see Criminal live in May and it was so rad.

2. This American Life

This American Life is basically the godfather of podcasts. It started as a public radio show sometime in the 90s and they began podcasting the show in 2006 – they’ve been at this game a while. The host, Ira Glass, is a master storyteller and the show itself has birthed so many other fantastic podcasts like Serial, S-Town, The Mystery Show.

Every week they use stories of real life people just living their lives to help you think more deeply about both life and current events. They’re also just a lot of fun sometimes.

In 2015 they did a two part show called Cops See Things Differently that really helped me process some of the race related challenges our country has been working through these last few years. A story about refugees living in Greece was super challenging much like one about immigrants living in the US. And then there’s this awesome one from a few weeks ago about lady pirates. If you’re going to be listening to podcasts you’ve got to listen to This American Life.

1. The Debrief

How could The Debrief not be my #1 recommendation? Every week I get to sit down with Pastor Matt Brown and my friends and walk through really tough questions about faith, life, and the bible. But here’s the deal, even though I’m on the show I still listen every week. I think it’s just that good.


I’ve got lots of other podcasts I’ll be sharing with you soon. In the meantime, what are your 5 favorite podcasts?

2 In Gifting

Justin’s Father’s Day Gift Guide

There’s this whole concept of “love languages” some people are really into. One of mine is definitely gifts, but definitely way more in terms of giving than receiving. I straight up love giving people gifts that don’t just make them smile, but almost leave them puzzled. Like a “this is awesome, how did you know?” reaction is what I’m going for.

I’ve got all kinds of methods for pulling this off: from pouring over someone’s Pinterest boards to searching for who they’re following on Instagram for any brands and then looking at their new releases. I even have an eBay alert set for a certain hard to acquire item that is going to blow one of my coworker’s minds if I can ever get my hands on one at a reasonable price.

But sometimes you’re in a pinch, Father’s Day is in like a week and you just want to gift something really special. So if you’ve got a dad in your life who is anything like me here are some ideas I think he’d be in to.

Japanese Handsaw

Most guys I know are at least somewhat into the idea of being able to build cool stuff. When I first started tackling projects like building our treehouse I bought one of those power tool combo kits thinking that was what I really needed. Man, I wish I would have waited and done some more learning because I could have saved a lot of money and probably done a better job if I’d have purchased a saw like this.

I’m obsessed with the Wranglerstar YouTube channel and that guy uses a Japanese handsaw all the time and I’m amazed at how much better cutting that guy does by hand than I do with my power tools.

Here’s why your guy will love this: the superior engineering of this style saw will get him better results on any woodworking projects he’s attempting and that will make him feel awesome. Plus it’s less than $3o, so pickup a saw and then watch this video so you can explain why it is so awesome in your own words.

Vans Classics

My Pinterest Wishlist board almost always has a pair of Vans on there, Eras are my personal favorite. Last year I customized a pair in The Debrief colors and I picked up a new pair for our recent anniversary getaway.

Here’s the deal, I never need a new pair, Lindy is all in to minimalism and I’m getting there, but there’s just something about slipping on a new pair of Vans with clean white foxing that makes you feel like a million bucks. For about $40, that’s a pretty good deal, right?

Pro-tip: for shoes that come with white laces I will sometime spend an extra $15 for the black leather laces that give the shoe a little more put together look for date night or something like that.

Relational Soul

This book has been the most important thing I read in the last year. What I learned, about both God and myself, from Relation Soul was the foundation for a sermon I preached in January. It was recommended to me by my boss, Pastor Matt Brown, after he read it and met the authors.

I have now had the opportunity to meet the authors myself and that is another one of the reasons I’d recommend this book. These two guys led a two day training for us and the thing that most profoundly impacted me was the fluidity of their relationship with one another. They were team teaching the whole time and were just bouncing back and forth with such ease and humility. I just kept thinking I need to build a friendship like that. And the book is like that too.

It’s pretty easy to read, but it really speaks to some deep places in your life so I could only read about a chapter every week or two… I like that pacing for a book.

Parachute Bathrobe

This is the only thing on my list that I don’t actually have any experience with. We have had Parachute’s sheets and comforter on our bed for like a year (and completely love them, by the way) so I get their emails a few times a month. Every time I see their Classic Bathrobe in gray it just makes me want one, and I don’t even use a bathrobe! Ok, I guess that’s not true – I use bathrobes whenever we’re staying at a hotel and it always makes me feel awesome. Maybe that’s why I want one.

AirPods

AirPods are the most expensive things on my list, but these are honestly the best things I’ve purchased in the last two years. The only other recent expense I may have enjoyed more was our bathroom remodel, but that cost like a billion dollars. Lindy borrowed my pair for a day earlier this year and then immediately wanted a pair for herself.

“But Justin, I already have the headphones that came with my phone, or another nicer pair, or whatever… how are these better?”

Let me count the ways. First: there are no wires! Seriously, this is a game changer. These things fit so comfortably in your ear because there is no cord pulling down on them or getting caught on something and pulling them out, they’re amazing.

Second: they’re so easy to use. Yes, there are other Bluetooth headphones out there, but these are the best. Here’s how you set them up: unlock your phone, open the AirPods case near your phone. That’s it. Seriously, it just works.

Also, they’re tiny so I feel super comfortable wearing them in public. There’s this young guy who walks into the coffee shop downtown I work from most mornings and he’s always wearing a sharp suit and a giant pair of wireless Beats and I’m always like “Man, you’re so close! I get that you can’t stop on that new K Dot, but you don’t need to be in here right now with what a complete 7.1 surround sound system on your head. I’ve got DNA on over here and it’s sounds amazing.” Sorry, I know I sound like a jerk. Sit down, Justin. Be humble.

I’m just telling you though, AirPods are amazing. They’re tiny, they sound great, and they’re so easy to use. If a guy in your life listens to podcasts, music, or literally any audio I promise this will spark some joy in his life.

Ok – that’s enough. If you still want more, you can check out my Recommendations Board on Pinterest. This is all stuff that was on my wishlist, entered my life, and I’m super happy with.

0 In Travel

Three Nights in Palm Springs, Our Recommendations

Part 1 of our 10th anniversary was three nights in Palm Springs. We spent two nights at a mega-resort in Palm Springs for our 5th anniversary, but this trip was much different and so much better. We’re lucky that we’re less than an hours drive away from such a rad city and we’re hoping we can figure out how to spend time there more often.

Here are a few of our recommendations for anyone planning to head out to for some fun in the desert!

Staying at The Parker

We had originally booked our stay at another hotel, but some rad friends of ours spotted a great deal on the email list for The Parker the week before we left so we grabbed a Patio Room, cancelled our other reservations, and actually ended up saving some money.

The Parker was amazing. Massive hedge walls enclose the entire property so you feel completely secluded as soon you pull in the driveway. And the entire place has this amazing retro-60s vibe with a hodgepodge collection of colors and textures. Each of the main buildings are at the corners of the property so you wander through quiets pathways connecting the pools and gardens as you make your way around the place.

  

We actually never left The Parker on our first full day away and that was the perfect way to kickoff our trip. We walked over to breakfast at Norma’s – an outdoor patio space. I had Norma’s Eggs Benedict which were served over asparagus on little pancakes–yes. The rest of the day was spent doing nothing at one of their two outdoor pools, grabbing drinks at the lemonade stand, and then chilling in the saunas of their spa, the Palm Springs Yacht Club. Dinner that night was at Mr. Parker’s, a dark, sexy, rat packy little bistro tucked away behind a velvet curtain next to Norma’s in the main building. It wasn’t the most amazing dinner we’ve ever had, but the vibe was perfect.

Breakfast at FARM

We pretty much only left The Parker to try out new places to eat. We grabbed breakfast one morning at FARM right downtown. It was a really cool space, tucked back in some of the plaza buildings inside old rooms and patios that make you feel like you’re sitting in a little French house.

Lindy ordered their Bacon, Chicken, and Waffles after our server raved to her about it, but they somehow ran out and didn’t handle that very well. Other than that our experience was great; I think Lindy would even give it another shot just to sit in the amazing space they have.

Workshop Kitchen + Bar

We grabbed another dinner at Workshop Kitchen + Bar right off the main drag and it was probably our most amazing meal of the trip. We sat in their main dining room at the community table which must have run at least 30 feet between the massively high-backed booths. While the whole space felt so incredible we were somehow able to just slip out of it all and just enjoy each other.

Workshop would definitely be our first recommendation for anyone visiting Palm Springs. The drinks were absolutely fantastic and both the large and small plates were what Lindy calls “food art.” We had several small plates, but the Duck Study just stood out: the kimchi fried rice under a fried duck egg was amazing.

Mirage House

Mirage is an installation by Doug Aitken just outside downtown Palm Springs. We arrived at sunset to a ranch style house in the foothills entirely covered in mirrors, inside and out. It’s crazy how well the concept of mirage describes this place because it somehow changes appearance, absorbs the surrounding desert, and disappears as you approach it from different angles.

Stepping inside is like climbing into a kaleidoscope. You can’t help but spend time in each room getting lost in the distorted reality of every angle.

There is no address, but you can find the house with GPS coordinates at desertx.org/doug-aitken. Mirage is closing at the end of October 2017, so you’ll have to go visit soon if you want to see it for yourself.


Palm Springs is such a rad little city and we want to continue exploring in the future. Lindy has stayed at The Ace, but we both want to stay at Colony Palms next time we visit. We walked by Birba and the pizza looked amazing, Lindy raided the candy bar at Great Shakes, and our friends on Facebook tell us that both Cheeky’s and Elmer’s are amazing for breakfast.

I guess we’ll have to go back! What are your favorite spots in Palm Springs?

0 In Home

Smart Home As Art: Installing the Logi Circle Camera in Our Girl’s Room

As we moved from a two child family to a three child family I decided I wanted to slowly add home automation to our house to make things easier on Lindy throughout the day. I actually left Lindy at the hospital with her mom the morning after Reeve was born so I could finish installing the first pieces of of our smart home. And as Reeve just turned three in March it makes me proud to know that Lindy has never had to pull her keys out and unlock the door to get inside when she’s dragging kids in form the van since that day we first brought Reeve home.

Lindy has convinced me that this isn’t just nerdy, but it’s one of my ways of making life more simple and beautiful when we’re at home. So I’m planning to start a series of posts all about The Smart Home as Art. If you have any specific questions about smart home stuff definitely let me know and I’ll write about it. For now I’ll start with our most recent addition: The Logi Circle Camera.


We’re about ready to move our little Cosette out of her pack ‘n play in our room into the crib Reeve’s – soon to be the girls’ – room. As any parent knows, nothing is ever as simple as it sounds. As best as we’ve been able to figure, here are the steps we’ll need to work out in the process:

  1. Move Reeve out of the crib into her big-girl, “princess” bed
  2. Wait for Reeve’s sleeping rhythms to reacclimate to her new bed
  3. Move Cosette into the crib in the girls’ room
  4. Make sure Reeve doesn’t accidentally upset, injur, or kill Cosette by climbing back into her crib

We endured this whole process when we moved Boaz into the crib when the boys were younger so we have a pretty good idea of how the whole transition will roll. One thing we’d like to try differently this time is using a camera in the room to be able to keep an eye on things and avoid having to go into the room if we don’t need to. We actually installed a peep hold on that door years ago, but it only works when there’s light in the room.

We’ve had a Nest cam before, but it didn’t work as welll as old hoped and you have to pay $99/yr to be able to go back and rewatch video. I did some fancy internet research and decided that we were going to go with Logitech’s Logi Circle. It connect to your WiFi network, records in 1080p, and even has a battery so you can move it around if you need to.

They actually dropped the price a few weeks ago so I pulled the trigger and bought one. The whole install process was super simple and I completed the whole thing, including mount to our brick walls, in under half and hour. Setting up the camera itself only took about five minutes.

The Circle come comes in a nice little box and each little section is clearly labeled with instructions on how to set it up. The camera itself isn’t just wireless for transmitting video, it’s wireless its dependency on power – it fixes to the mount with magnets and is on a battery. You can actually pick the camera up and move it anywhere in your house for a few hours if you want – that’s pretty rad.

You set the whole thing up using an iPhone app. And by “set up” I just mean follow the instructions on screen. If we get another one of these I think I’m going to have Lindy set it up – it’s that easy.

My favorite part of the whole thing is that the holder included if you want to mount the camera to the wall comes with some little sticky tabs that you can use to test the placement before you drill any holes. Every wall in our house is solid brick, so I need to be sure about placement before I run around rilling holes. I initially wanted to mount the camera in the corner of the room, but we couldn’t get it to see all of the crib and big girl bed at once because the girls room is pretty small. So we just used another sticky and tested the camera out in the center of the room which worked great.

Once I had the camera where we wanted it I just popped it off the magnetic clip, marked the holes for screws, removed the sticky tab and drilled exactly where we needed it. I’m definitely planning to use those sticky tables more in the future.

   

We’ve now got the camera mounted up in the center of the girls room. The flat power cable sits nicely against the wall and most of it is covered by the curtain.

We’ve already enjoyed some of the fun parts of having a camera in there. A few days after it was installed, Titus came in and grabbed Cosette out of her room and asked if he could change her diaper. While he was changing that super-poopy diaper Lindy remembered we had the Circle in there and watched the whole thing from her iPhone in bed.

All three kids got involved. Boaz was handing Titus the wipes and then holding Cosette’s feet back after she kicked them into the poop filled diaper and Reeve even joined them to sing Cosette a song while she endured this act of brotherly love. It was so cute that Lindy saved the video onto her phone and sent it to me while I was at work. I didn’t even know we could do that, but I’m glad we can.

I honestly want to get another Circle and install it in the boys room just so we can listen in on some of the hilarious stuff they talk about as they fall asleep. If you’re looking to add some smart to your home, the Logi Circle camera is a great way to get started.

2 In Personal

On Sabbatical

I love my job. I guess I technically have two jobs–and my business, but my “job” job, the one I work 40hrs a week at, is as a minister at Sandals Church and I love it. Lindy and I have been a part of the church for nearly 20 years, and I’ve been on staff for just over eight. This year our leadership has given me the gift of a month-long sabbatical and I tacked on a week of vacation to extend it a bit. I’m smack in the middle of Week 1 and so far it’s been awesome.

I realize the concept of a sabbatical is fairly unusual, so I wanted to share what I’m up to this month.

Humility Through Pain

I’ve chosen the goal of humility through pain as the the theme for my sabbatical. This plays out in lots of ways, but ultimately it means I’m looking for ways to intentionally think of other people as more important than me.

  • I’m getting up daily at 5am and doing “my stuff”, which is everything from reading to managing our finances, from 6-7:30am so that the rest of my days are free for my family.
  • Unless we’re doing something special I’m sticking to a diet of mostly Lindy’s green smoothies as a way of saying no to what I want (and getting that tight body for our 10th anniversary!).
  • After several months off, I’m now back in the Jiu Jitsu game. This basically means I’m getting painfully humbled for an hour twice a week.

Shouldering the Load

I was doing the laundry last Sunday and Cosette was literally pulling every piece of clothing out of the baskets I’d sorted them into. I thought that was a perfect analogy for what it is like to be a parent of little kids: do something, and then right as you’re done undo it all and start over.

Because I work so much Lindy basically never stops working either. And while I get to accomplish things and see projects come to life in my professional life, she’s constantly marching a slow and consistent trudge caring for our kids.

I want to give the gift of rest to her this month. We actually mapped my entire time off on a printed calendar and intentionally blocked out times for her to do the stuff that’s is important to her. We’ve also blocked out time for her to just get away and by herself for 2-3 hours twice a week and catch her breath mentally.

She’s wrapping up work on six canvas art project this morning, our back yard is getting a little succulent corner, the boy’s bathroom and laundry rooms are getting a makeover, and whatever else she wants to do we’re going to make happen.

Switching Out Success

As much as I love teaching and my other work, it’s completely unfair of me to work seven days a week. I’m honestly really good at it so it’s easy for me to feel successful when I’m in that zone. It makes me feel great about myself because I can point to my calendar and our budget and highlight the exact ways I’m loving my family.

But I’m currently going through a process of redefining success. I want to give my best to my family, and the most valuable thing I have is time. So I’m dedicating as much of my time as possible to investing in the success of Home As Art and the vision we have for this blog.

I work for a church and we’ve chosen for Lindy to stay at home with our kids. I’m always going to have to work a lot, but what if all of my extra work could be with Lindy instead of on my own?

That’s some of what we’re laying a foundation for this month.

Praying the Hours

Here’s probably the most important decision I’ve made. Because I’m basically never going to be in meeting for the next month, I’ve got compete control over every minute of my day and I’ve scheduled six alarms to remind me to pray toward my goals:

  • 6am: Pray for Humility
  • 9am: Pray for Wisdom
  • 12pm: Pray for Our Marriage
  • 3pm: Pray for Wisdom
  • 6pm: Pray for Humility
  • 9pm: Pray with Thanks

Each morning I’m praying for humility and wisdom as a way of intentionally disciplining my thoughts and feelings. Humility is about the willingness to do hard things and wisdom is about the ability to see those things. Lindy and I are praying together at noon and then I’m repeating the whole thing in the afternoon and evening. Each night I want to be intentional about reflecting on the day and thanking God for what was good.


So there’s my sabbatical. What do you think? What would you do if you were able to take this much time off work?

2 In Family/ Parenting

Why I Want My Kids to Wake Me Up Way Too Early

When Titus was first born he slept in bed with Lindy and me. Honestly, I was never a big fan of this setup. I had this idea that our bed was supposed to be our bed and letting our kids in there would somehow undermine our marriage.

I know, I have issues.

Thankfully, I started going to counseling and Lindy didn’t leave me on the grounds of my stupidity. I’ve learned a lot and loosened up quite a bit since those early days.

Slowly, I discovered the joy of snuggling my kids in bed.

Titus eventually progressed to a co-sleeper thing and then a pack n’ play at the foot of our bed. Now some of my favorite memories from those first few years of our little family were the slow mornings with everyone up way too early, but spending forever snuggling and playing together in our bed.

As timed passed Titus moved into a crib in his own little room and then a “big boy” bed in that same room when his little brother, Boaz, was ready to takeover the crib. Now that they have two little sisters they’ve been ousted from that room and sleep in bunkbeds in a bedroom across the house.

No Such Thing As Sleeping In

One of the universally agreed upon worst parts of having little kids is how early they wake up. And there’s, like, nothing you can do to change it. I’ve tried keeping the boys up way past their bedtime and they’re still up before the sun.

So a year or two ago I set a goal to train the boys to turn the television and cartoons on all by themselves in the morning. For about the last year they have successfully pulled this off and it’s kind of been awesome. Titus will even serve up some morning snacks for Boaz now.

Every few weeks Boaz has a hard time sleeping all the way through the night and he’ll come into our room at three in the morning or something awful. Once again, I’ve trained him to just bring his pillow and a blanket. He doesn’t even wake me up anymore, he just sleeps on the floor next to our bed and all I have to worry about is not stepping on him when I wake up.

Training My Kids to Leave Me Alone

I had a realization the other day that broke my heart.

My little boys don’t climb into bed and snuggle with me in the morning anymore.

For whatever reason I found myself awake at like 4 AM with this awareness that no one was going to come climb in to my side of the bed; I lay there and was just overwhelmed with sadness.

About an hour or so later Boaz came in with his pillow and blanket and begin to lay down by himself. I heard him quietly getting settled on the floor and decided I’m not having that anymore. So I grabbed his little hand and pulled him into bed with me for snuggles. He fell right asleep in my arms and I just lay there enjoying his quiet breathing.

Just this morning I got lucky because Titus came in pretty early. The TV wasn’t waking up and he needed my help. I pulled him in bed with me, and while he didn’t sleep we did get to whisper and snuggle for a bit.

Sleeping In is Overrated

I’ve made my mind up: I was dumb about all of this sleeping and stuff. One day really soon my boys are never going to come snuggle me in bed anymore.

I don’t care how tired I am throughout the day or how great those extra few minutes of sleep sound; I’m going out of my way now to get my kids into bed with us as early in the morning and as often as possible.