Bringing Pieces of Ireland Home

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We are upon our last days of Ireland.  Neil slips into the Irish accent when he’s feeling spunky and our hearts have found such rest here.  We keep talking about what we want to bring back from Ireland to implement into our home in America.  And in our most dreamy moments, we have spent a few hours on Zillow researching farm houses in Michigan.  The beautiful, quaint Irish towns have stolen our hearts and I’m not sure we will ever be the same.

Honestly, even admitting that I’m tired of city living feels wrong.  So much of who I am has been wrapped up in intentional city living.  And partly, that’s the problem.  My identity has been in where I live, who I help, and what I do.  Not in the One who created it all.  If my identity were in Him, as His daughter, it wouldn’t hurt to admit that I’m tired of concrete and seeing into all the backyards on my street.  That I’m craving privacy and a slower pace of life.

For various reasons, we can’t move right now.  But that doesn’t have to stop me from bringing parts of the country into my small lot in the city.

Here’s what I hope to add to our home when we get back to our street-side parking and concrete forest.

Flowers:
The flowers in Ireland are incredible.  Granted, it rains every day and never reaches 80 degrees, so it’s the perfect climate for gorgeous blooms, but I’m making it my aim to continue efforts in my gardening hobby. Hanging flowers on the porch, flower boxes on my railings, more potted flowers in every corner of my yard. Perennials, annuals, bicentennials.  Ok that last one doesn’t exist.  But, just all the flowers.  More.  And then even more.

Privacy:
This one is really hard to accomplish in the city.  Especially considering we don’t have a fence between our neighbors on either side.  We do love this aspect in that it expands our lot size for our children to run around in.  But I want to figure out some ways to create more privacy.  I think I should act as if I’m going to live in this house for decades, and planting a few more trees and bushes might be the way to go.  I’ve also played around in my mind with building a pergola and getting some vines to grow up on either side during the summer.

Country Living:
The easiest way to get the country living vibe is to hang my clothes on a clothesline during the Spring, Summer, and Fall.  Which means I need to find a clothesline.  And to send my kids out to play in the backyard every chance I can.  Baking also seems to be in line with country living, as well as continuing to create an urban farmhouse feel for the inside of my house.  When I’m sitting on my couch, I want it to feel as if I already am in our dream house in the country.  So that means more trips to antique shops and thrift stores.  Darn.

Exploring:
One of the best parts of Ireland has been the natural playgrounds it provides for my kids.  Fallen trees, rock gardens, stone walls, and open fields have all provided an amusement park of exploration.  When we get back to Michigan, we plan to put away the devices more and get out into the beautiful parks and nature centers that our state has to offer.  Even in the heat.

It can be tempting to feel unsatisfied with the place we are heading back to after being in such a picturesque country.  I don’t want travel to leave me in a state of discontentment.  Instead, I want travel to enrich my home life in the city.  I truly love the house that we live in.  Its white exterior, slanted grey roof with dormers on each side, and large windows makes it appear to be a farmhouse in the middle of the city, and if I could someday uproot it and move it to a spot with more land, I would in a heartbeat.

I am bringing pieces of Ireland home with us – including a flag that we plan to wave alongside the American one on our porch.  See you soon, America.

 

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{Those pictures are from our week in Ireland.  This post will have nothing to do with our trip.  Carry on.}

It’s Friday again.  And soon I will need to find a new way to start off these weekly blog posts.  It’s becoming redundant.

The problem is – it’s my third week logging into my blogging platform, and EACH WEEK I need to reset my password because I can’t remember what it is.  So, my blog is the most secure one on the Internet since there is a constant new password.  Safety first.

But back to what matters.  And probably the biggest news buzzing the mazes of the Internet this week.  Instagram copied Snapchat.  And while I am in Ireland and could be talking about what it’s like to travel with children or drive on the left side of the road (terrifying), I’ve promised myself that I will sit each Friday night and blog about whatever comes out.  And Instagram vs. Snapchat is bursting out my fingertips.

I have a lot of feelings about my beloved Insta plagiarizing Snapchat in a true Melina vs Michelle moment.  But, instead of taking sides, I’m going to share how I have decided use each platform along with some general “Dos and Don’ts” for each one.

SNAPCHAT:
I use Snapchat as our family video memory album.  At the end of each day, I download the whole ‘story’ and it becomes a 7min recap of what we did.  Each clip is only 10 seconds, so it prevents me from videoing TOO much.  Although, on this vacation, I think I’ve snapped about every minute.  Which in my opinion, is too much for Snapchat.  But, the platform is for me – not for the people I follow.  So, I don’t really care.  We use the fun filters as tools to beat boredom and have a good laugh, but I rarely post them as snaps.  Again, snapchat is for my family memories.  I’m not out to entertain or educate anyone watching.  Think: family movies.

INSTAGRAM STORIES:
This is why I’m so excited about Instagram stories.  I’m a pretty sassy person.  Instagram stories has become my platform to share funny things, encouragement, real life stressful mom moments, and more.  I had found on Snapchat that I wanted to share things like that, but I didn’t want them in the “family story” that I downloaded at the end of each day.  My kids don’t need to know that their mother is anything but meek and kind.  You know?  And since you CAN’T download an entire day’s worth of stories on Instagram, it’s become my perfect platform for unfiltered chatter that disappears in 24 hours.

I’ve also LOVED the community interaction from Instagram Stories.  You can message anyone you follow and I’ve “met” so many more of you who commented on something I said or a question I asked.  I respond to every single one.

SOME OTHER THOUGHTS:
Snapchat is HARD to find people on since you can’t search easily.  So if you are a brand or a business, I suggest moving over to Instagram Stories.  There seems to be a bigger reach there, too.  If you DO use Instagram Stories, keep them short, funny, and entertaining.  Maybe just 4-5 clips a day.  There are a LOT of stories to wade through on Instagram now – and while it’s fun to see the faces behind the ‘grams I follow, if you have too much to say or too many videos of your kids eating pizza, it gets boring and Imma skip right over.

Instagram will probably be adding a lot of new features to the Stories over the next few weeks, which may change how I decide to use each platform, but I’m landing here for now.   Snapchat = family movies.  Instagram = an extension of my personality.

And you can find me on both accounts here:
Snapchat  = search for “rebeccaisonline”
Instagram = @rebeccasmithonline

As far as the Better Life Bags account, we will use Instagram Stories when I’m at the office and something new and exciting is happening like new products, new fabrics, or a sale.  I’m thinking of Instagram Stories as mini/choppy Periscopes for our business.  BLB never got around to using Snapchat anyway and have built such an amazing community of fans and followers on Instagram that I’m thrilled to get to communicate with them in this way now.  (As soon as I get back from Ireland).

The night that Instagram launched their Stories was probably the best night on social media in awhile.  Seeing everyone’s first snaps was absolutely hilarious.  I wished that I could have downloaded them all and made a montage video of everyone staring at their phone in utter confusion.  And going back and forth between Snapchat and Insta to see everyone’s emotions was reminiscent of passing notes between fighting friends in Junior High.

So, I leave you with this.

Will you break up with Snapchat and go out with Insta Stories?  
Circle one:
Yes or No. 

 

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Birth Certificate LIES and Underwear.

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It’s Friday.  Already.  Again.  And I’ve committed to blog every Friday – about whatever comes to my mind.

I should start by telling you all that I have lived 33 years believing that I was born in St. Paul, MN.  I’ve written that for every application and “forgot password” security question that I could.  If I met you and found out that YOU were from St. Paul, I would have rejoiced about how much we had in common.

However, this week, as Neil was gathering documents he needed to re-enlist in the Army, he found my birth certificate.  In which it states Edina, MN as my birthplace.  You guys.  Edina is 45 minutes from St. Paul.

I have yet to confront my parents on this.  Mostly because they are 30,000 feet in the air on their way to Ireland and are unreachable by modern technology.

Maybe it’s similar to how everyone in a 1 hour radius of Chicago says that they are from Chicago.  And people who live in the suburbs of Detroit always say they live in Detroit.  But my BIRTHPLACE?  You would think someone would have been specific on that level of information.

Next, I’ll find out that I was adopted or have a twin sister who died at birth.  These things cannot be hidden.

In other news, I discovered the BEST underwear.  Seriously.  I think they are meant to only be worn during your period, but I’m wearing them everyday with magical results.  Anti-microbial, moisture-wicking, and everything great.  Probably too much information for my second consistent blog post, but since having kids, all of those things are so necessary in an underwear.  I know that they work because I’m NOT wearing one today (they are packed in my suitcase for Ireland) and I can smell tell.  And I actually bought lingerie laundry bags and have been hang drying them after their gentle cycle in the wash.  That’s what $30/pair will do to you.  It’ll help you GROW. UP. and do grown up things like take care of your delicates.  You should try them.  Here’s $10 and free shipping on your first order.  I promise you’ll be hooked.  I ordered one and then a week later ordered six more so I’d never have to go without.

I mentioned Ireland so casually above.  No big deal.  We leave on Sunday for IRELAND.  I can’t remember the last time I was out of the country.  Honestly.  I just took a two minute break from typing to think.  I can’t remember.  Which makes this trip nerve-wrecking and exhilarating all at the same time.  Do I bring peanut butter?  How can I make sure my phone will work?  They drive on the LEFT SIDE?  Craziness.  If all goes well, we may consider an out of country move after this next election.  No matter who wins.

We moved the BLB workshop this week and I keep pinching myself at how pretty it is.  White and natural wood and grey and the bright pops of color from our fabrics.  Mix that with the smell of leather and fresh paint, and I’m in heaven.  You can watch a quick tour before things got settled here.  But, keep an eye out on my Instagram for more sneak peeks that I grabbed today in photo form.

Ok.  I need to finish packing.  And wash and hang dry my underwear.  I’ll see you in Ireland.  Seriously.  I blog every Friday now and next Friday I’ll be in Ireland, lass.  And if that’s not enough of me, I Periscope on Wednesdays under the BetterLifeBags account.  I know, it’s a lot.

A bit of wisdom before I go.  Check your birth certificate.  You might find a lot of surprises lurking for you there.

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Hello Again.

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Well. Hello.

Yes, it’s been awhile. We don’t need to talk about it. In fact, it’s been SO long that I not only couldn’t remember my password to get back into the admin-side of this blog, but I couldn’t even remember my own username. It’s pretty hard to push the “forgot password” button when you don’t even know your username.

I finally get logged in and am greeted by a long list of spam comments on my precious posts. Here are some of my favorites:

  • I read your post and wished I’d written it.
    • Thank you spyweb.pw – it was a good post, wasn’t it?  It was written almost a year ago and is the 3rd most recent post.  But that day was so peaceful.  And look how clean my house looked!  {I have subsequently ignored dishes, toys, laundry, and myself to sit down and type these words.  Things do not look that peaceful.}
  • Now I feel stupid.  That’s cleared it up for me.
    • Wow, spyweb.pw – you’re back!  I had no intention of making your look stupid, and I’m so curious to know what confusion I cleared up for you.  Thanks for bringing my attention to that post, though.  It was from July of 2012 and I was heading out to teach our first seamstress some bags.  I talked about my dreams for Better Life Bags and where I hope it would end up.  I’d say that was written around the turning point of the business becoming what it is today.
  • I’m not worthy to be in the same forum. ROTFL
    • Oh dear, carinsurancequotessa.info.  This is a little dramatic, don’t you think?  I mean, I did write this post in 2011 when I was merely a 28 year old.  And my love for shooting and editing photos was really going strong.  It still is – just now on an easier platform: my iPhone and Instagram.  No need for internet photo editing software anymore, carinsurancequotessa.  In fact, Picnik seems to be no longer with us.  Put to death in April of 2013.  May it rest in peace.  Maybe that’s why you are ROTFLing.
  • If you wrote an article about life we’d all reach enlightenment.
    • First of all, webstats.pw, an article about life would be extremely hard to write.  And long.  And probably confusing.  And slightly erratic.  However, experiencing all of those emotions at once might push some toward enlightenment, so maybe I’ll try it someday.  In any case, thanks for taking me back to a blast from the past.  This was 2011 when we were heavy in the Kiva loan chapter of BLB.

So, this is what happens when you leave your corner of the Internet unattended.  Cobwebs and spiders and spammers.  I’ve taken the dusters to the rafters and cleaned up what I could.  And I’m settling back down into the writing chair.  Not sure how frequently I’ll sit, but I promise to write when inspiration hits – or the mess in my house feels too overwhelming and I’d like some distraction from it all.

Blessings, dear ones.  Until next time.  {Well, blessings all the time.  I’ll just won’t see you until next time.}

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My 2016 Theme.

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My finger hasn’t trained itself to reach further than the number 5 on my keyboard, yet. It took three tries to type 2-0-1-6. Even just then it felt new and far from what was comfortable.

Does it feel to anyone else that January 1st is a literal turn of a corner. That we are all walking a straight line for the entire year until 11:59pm on December 31st. And the next minute a military pivot happens in the largest stadium fan wave across the entire globe as people pivot and turn – each to their own time zone.

In my heart I feel that we turn left. In case that matters.

But here we are. A few steps onto our new path. Our new year.

And I love it.

I think January 1st is my favorite day of the year.

There is so much possibly. So much newness. Other words that are anxious to make their way onto this screen to be included in the adjectives surrounding January 1st are: fresh, clean, hopeful, a restart, a new beginning.

The whole day has felt light to me. But at the same time, I’ve been battling this feeling that it doesn’t last. Because we all know the fresh New Year feeling has already started to fade. Starting something is easy. Finishing it is hard. But the absolutely grueling process is the middle. The July and August. Heck, the 2nd week of February feels torturous.

In my more optimistic moments today, I’ve felt like making the commitment to never eat a carb in 2016. After all, I started 2016 by eating one banana, one apple, and then spent an hour burning it all off at Spin Class. So I was well on my way. A net zero for calorie intake. #winning.

Thirty minutes later, all I could think about was the bag of Doritos that we had last night at our New Year’s party. {The bag was empty and in the trash when I got home. So I ate the rest of the cracker and cheese platter. Doritos were not in the Lord’s plan for me today.}

I’ve done those goals in the past. The “no eating this” or the “lose this many pounds per week” or the “read by Bible every day”. You know, the “be perfect” resolutions.

Last year, I decided to go with a theme for the year. Something that I felt God was laying on my heart as a way he wanted me to act throughout the year.  A word to remember that would change my behavior, attitude, and heart.

It was amazing how many times I thought of that word.  How many times it ministered to my heart and reminded me of what really mattered.  It was good.

So, I’m back at it for this year.

My word actually hit me about the second week of December.  The Advent season meant so much to me this year – in almost a painful, longing, aching way.  It used to be all about the nativity scenes, the wrapped presents, and the stockings.  In 2013, I was introduced to Advent being about a time of waiting.

This year, that waiting felt so hopeful and so painful at the same time.

Maybe it has to do with how sick I’ve become of this world.  And the terror.  And the chaos.  And the horrible things being done to human beings.  It feels hopeless that this world will get better.  We can each throw our starfishes back into the ocean as fast as we can, but there will still never be Peace on Earth.

Sorry to be such a downer.

But we do have a hope.  This weary world rejoiced a long time ago when a little baby was born that would save the world.  And our still SO weary world will rejoice again when He comes back.

We have hope.  We can live in anticipation in that coming.  When He will put an end to the absolute ridiculousness that has become our world.  And all will be right again.

So, in 2016, I’m living in light of that.  Advent is happening for me all year.  I’m going to constantly view my daily life through the lens of eternity.  Despite what the children’s books say, Christmas CAN last all year because Christmas is about Advent.  About waiting in anticipation for Christ.  Again.

At our church’s last Advent Sunday, we sang the hymn, “View the Present Through the Promise” and I nailed down what 2016 was to be about based on this verse:

Match the present to the promise, Christ will come again.
Make this hope your guiding premise, Christ will come again.
Pattern all your calculating and the world you are creating
to the advent you are waiting: Christ will come again.

I love the last two lines.  Like LOVE them.  Pattern all my calculating and the world I’m creating to the HOPE that I have waiting… Christ will come again.

He is making all things new.  My kids need to know that when their hearts get hurt.  My husband needs to know that after a long day.  I need to know that after another depressing thought about myself.  He is in the business of making things right.  And one day it will be complete.

I thought about making “Advent” my theme for the year, but feel like the real word hiding behind it is “Hope”.

Hope that today is not the end.  Death is not the end.  War is not the end.  The world is not the end.

I don’t even think I know the depths of what God wants to teach me through the word “Hope” this year.  And to be honest, my mind has gone to the worst possible situations.  I tried changing my word to “Blessing” or something that could mean prosperity and wealth, but God wasn’t letting me shake it.

So… hope.

We HAVE hope.

Do you have a theme for 2016?  {I tell ya.  Typing 2-0-1-6 is going to take some major brain power.}  I’d love to hear and follow along as God leads you into this New Year!

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Christmas Traditions 2015

I really miss the old days of blogging.  The days of link ups and transparency and imperfect images.  Ok, I don’t miss the imperfect images – I’ve always loved big, pretty pictures.  But, I’m so excited to be taking a step back into what feels so comfortable and familiar today.

My sister in law did a video blog this week about her Christmas Traditions, and the little blog muse in me started bubbling up.  I was thinking about Christmas traditions every hour since watching her post.  And nothing could stop me from jumping in and sharing our traditions, too!

I taped it live on Periscope (I’m @rebeccaisonline over there) because it seemed easiest for me and wouldn’t allow me to do any editing – which I would be really tempted to do if I had taped it on my video camera or my son’s GoPro.  It’s simple.  Easy.  Live.  And unedited.  Plus, it helped to talk to a “live audience” rather than a lonely camera.  

Here are the links to things we talked about.

I’d love to hear your Christmas Traditions, so come link up with us!

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When Peace Doesn’t Arrive Like a River.

 

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There are moments of peace in our house that officially blow me away with their silence and their longevity.  They last for so long at times, that I hold my breath – afraid to exhale – or God-forbid SNEEZE.  I walk on the tight rope of knowing that any sudden movement could potentially shake the dust and the volcano of chaos could erupt.

It’s hanging on the thin, fragile thread of stillness.

I was laying on the long couch.  One sitting on my legs.  The second propped on my right shoulder like a Pirate’s parrot – his back and head leaning against the soft couch pillow.  And the third had alienated herself to the small couch.

She enjoys her space.  I do, too.  But those calls are not ones I get to make as a mama anymore.  Personal space got taken away in the birthing room.  The same time privacy, free time, and a permanently set, exquisitely decorated dining-room table went out the window of impossibility.

I kept waiting for the silence to break.  But it lasted.  And lasted.  For probably 50 minutes.  Which should be written down in the world record book for a 5, 4, and almost 1.5 year old.  I’m certain this has only happened once – in the entire world.  And it happened in my house.  Today.

They were all on their LeapPads.  We have three versions with various upgrades and improvements on each one: LeapPad2, LeapPadUltra, and the new LeapPad Platinum {with interactive cards that come to life when you take a picture of them on the device.}.  Even the oldest version still works like a dream after having it for four years.

And before your thoughts even move to how much screen time I let my children have today – let me remind you of 50 minutes of silence and stillness.  Including the 1.5 year old.  Sweet summer stillness on a hot day while three fans are whirling white noise and cool air in our direction.  50 minutes of it.  Without a sound or someone fighting or asking for water.

I’m thanking LeapFrog for this moment.  It was a moment brought to you by educational games and interactive elements.  That even ended sweetly – well, almost.

One of them decided they had had enough with the screen and went to the game closet to pull out the Melissa and Doug mosaics.

I’m not sure you heard that.

One of them – the oldest, actually – on his own choosing, turned off the LeapPad, went to the game closet, and picked another mind challenging activity to do next.  Which his sister and baby brother joined within three seconds.

And because I don’t have three sets of the mosaics, fighting ensued about 3.5 minutes later.

53.5 minutes of pure bliss.

It sure helped carry me through the rest of the night, though.  The oldest running away from his sister – complaining of her bad breath – even after gum.  The littlest finding the Cheese-Its box and dumping them all over the rug.  Me, breaking the belt on the vacuum while trying to clean up that mess.  And the resident mouse that is just too smart for our traps – who will probably join me tonight on an after-hours Netflix session while he feasts on the crackers in the carpet.

Until the next moments of peace arrive, I snapped that picture up there to remind me – and carry me through like a river.

I’m pretending it’s a floating river.  And I’m in a black inner-tube, on my back, in a chic, black bathing suit that I look incredible in.  Of course, I’m wearing a large straw floppy hat and bigger-than-my-face sunglasses and am holding a margarita.

No, scratch that – I don’t like margaritas.  I’m holding a beer.

 

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Beating Winter Boredom

It’s 10 degrees in Detroit today.  While I am NOT a winter hater like many, around Valentine’s Day, I do get sick of the never ending snow banks.  Mostly sick of being cooped up inside with three kids and endless snow days.

These are some Winter Boredom Busters that we have tried in our family this winter.  My oldest two are ages 4 and 5 – for reference.

Winter Boredom Busters

1. Kinetic Sand.  Bring the sandbox inside!  This stuff is incredible.  It doesn’t get messy, it sticks together, and you can still build sandcastles, mud pies, and more.  My suggestion is to get a shallow plastic tub, fill it with kinetic sand, and bring it out during one of those long snow days.  The sand stays in the plastic tub and a lid goes on after playtime is over.

2. Send the kids out into the snow with icecream scoops, cookie scoops, and empty egg cartons.  My son spent an hour playing outside creating perfectly round snowballs with the icecream scoops.   He then used the smaller cookie scoop to make small snow balls and put them in the empty egg carton.  We did lose the icecream scoop in the snow, though!  Hoping to find it when the snow melts!

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3. Photography Scavenger Hunt.  Our kids have this camera and love taking pictures.  To combine their camera skills with something educational, I spell out their name vertically on a piece of paper and challenge them to go find something that starts with each letter of their name and snap a picture of it.  Depending on your kid’s age, you could do the entire alphabet, or end sounds instead of beginning letters.

4. Introduce new forms of literature.  We recently got into listening to Adventures in Odyssey.  The kids love each episode and I think they are ready to listen to some audio books during rest time.  We also picked up a few of these chapter books and started reading them out loud.  There’s a picture every few pages or so and the story moves quick enough to keep their attention.  When we aren’t reading, they love to go in with their colored pencils and color in the black and white illustrations.

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5.  And my personal favorite… LeapTV.  It’s an educational video game system that hooks up to your TV.  Ours came with two remotes and a camera that sits at eye level to the children.  There are three ways to play the games.  Motion – which uses your child’s physical motions to play the game.  Think jumping, stretching, and dancing.  Perfect to get those wiggles out.  Some of the games even use the motion-sensing camera to show your child on the screen in the game.  It’s pretty cool.  Then the controller can be used in two different ways: pointer, and controller.  Our favorite games are Spiderman, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, and the LeapTV Dance and Learn.   I always love LeapFrog products and highly recommend this video game system for the educational games (my kids have started understanding simple math equations since playing it) and the interactive exercise component (they never sit down and zone out to play this system).

What are some of your family’s go-to boredom busters?

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