Category Archives: Intentional Living

Happy New Year & The Reason for the Silence…

Happy 2015! I hope this finds you enjoying the season of fresh starts, goal-setting, and dreaming for the year to come. I’m a big fan of January for all of those reasons.

You may have noticed that things have been a little quiet around here lately. That’s because December brought me to weeks 36-39 of pregnancy, followed by the flu for our whole family, followed by…

The birth of this little guy:

Baby Luke

Sweet little Luke joined our family in the wee hours of Christmas Eve morning.

Why yes, this is my second Christmas baby. PSA: don’t ever say your only childbirth preference is not to have a kid on Christmas.

Sigh. Trying to remember these words of wisdom.

We celebrated big brother’s third birthday on December 23rd , went to bed, woke up close to midnight with contractions, and welcomed Luke around 4am.

It was my longest labor—four and a half hours, don’t hate me—and the longest I’ve ever carried a baby—39 weeks.

Other fun details include: my husband and I watched You Tube videos of animated French monks singing Frère Jacques during early labor. Really, you haven’t lived until you watch a pregnant lady snort-laugh through a contraction.

After about an hour of laboring at the hospital, I was all “shouldn’t I have a kid by now?” (having only spent about 30 minutes at the hospital before delivering my other two babies).

And everyone should have a friend like my friend Jess, who brought leftovers of her Swedish smorgasbord Christmas Eve dinner to my hospital bed.  Such a treat.

Now we’re adjusting to being a family of five and I’m trying to rest, enjoy the slower pace, and dial down my expectations of myself over the next few months.

The last one is hard for me. I want to do all the projects, set all the goals, pursue all the dreams. But I’m in a season of very limited time and energy.

So I’m focusing on the basics: eat, sleep, feed the kids, love them and Hubs well, trust Jesus. I literally have a to-do list that consists only of those things.

And I’m trying to hold all the goals and dreams with an open hand, trusting that they’ll still be there when I get some margin back.

So things here at ASH will be quieter for a while as I rest and find a new rhythm to life. I do love this little online home and I’ll be back to more regular posting as soon as I’m able!

Also: Thank you for all of your well wishes and prayers surrounding the birth of our little guy! I’m always surprised and blessed by the real community that can be found online. 

In the meantime, I’m taking all the advice you may have for a new mom of 3! 🙂


A Playlist for Everything :: Holiday Edition

Christmas Favorites Playlist | A Simple Haven

I ran this post last year, but they’re pretty much still my favorites.

You may not have a playlist for sweeping the kitchen or afternoon dance parties with toddlers, but I’m guessing you’ve got a favorite holiday playlist.

While I enjoy the classics as much as the next person, most of my favorite Christmas tunes are a little less traditional. They get air time beginning at Thanksgiving (though this year, I fudged a little) and I enjoy them into the new year.

A Christmas Playlist

Little Town by Over the Rhine :: I once saw their Christmas concert in a lovely old theater in Cincinnati.  Bill Mallonee opened and I got to chat with him afterwards.  Karin Bergquist’s voice was amazing.  I went with two dear friends and wore a sparkly sweater.  It was pretty perfect.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel by  Rosie Thomas :: Thanks a bunch to Brittney for sharing this gem.  Love me some Rosie.

Peace, Peace by Sara Groves :: Her holiday album is so great.

Eternal Gifts by Leigh Nash :: Oh, I could sing these lyrics all year long. So very true.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel by Sufjan Stevens :: Hubs groans when I play his holiday stuff and mispronounces his name on purpose but I’m a fan.

Angels We Have Heard on High by Chris Tomlin :: Bun’s favorite.  Besides Joy to the World.

Joy to the World by Citizens :: A new find. Toe-tapping fun.  Bun’s other favorite.

O Holy Night by Shawn McDonald :: The lyrics are my favorite ever.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by Barenaked Ladies & Sarah McLachlan :: I know, it’s old.  But still a fav.


  • For reading by the fire: Celtic Christmas Pandora station
  • For cooking in the kitchen: Bing Crosby Pandora Station

 What are your favorite holiday tunes?

And, congratulations to Jessica for winning the Lindsay Letters O Holy Night art print giveaway! 🙂

On Christmas Birthdays & A Lindsay Letters Giveaway

Lindsay Letters O Holy Night Print

The only preference I ever had about babies and timing was no Christmas babies, please.

I had always imagined that laboring, delivering, recovering, taking care of a newborn, and then figuring out how to properly celebrate the kid’s birthday near Christmas would be…lame.

Despite my best-laid plans, I find myself the mother of two boys, one born December 23rd and the other coming any day now.

But you know what? Birthing a baby near Christmas wasn’t nearly as awful as I’d pictured.

Even though we’d just moved across the country, knew hardly anyone, and spent Christmas day in the hospital, it was a rich time of seeing our needs provided for in every way.

Plus, apparently a Christmas baby means extra attention from nurses, a miniature tree, and a hand-knit hat for baby. And a pretty peaceful wing of the hospital.

Lindsay Letters O Holy Night print

The birthday celebration thing, however, is still something I’m navigating.

So far, it’s not been too tough. Buckaroo is only three and doesn’t yet plan his parties six months in advance like big sister.

But throughout this pregnancy I’ve bemoaned the fact that as he gets older and we’ll (probably) have two December birthdays to contend with, it will be more of a challenge to carve out special birthday time for both kids in the midst of a crazy season.

Back in September, I was sharing these thoughts with a friend and a new acquaintance.

The acquaintance, who I knew only from her fabulous work on some of my favorite book covers, mentioned that she had a Christmas birthday and that it had never been a bummer, but something she rather enjoyed.

Then she interjected some wisdom, something along the lines of:  “After all, you’re in charge of making your kid feel special.”

I didn’t take her remark in a burdensome “go find ten Pinterest projects you can craft for your kid’s birthday party so he feels special” kind of way, but more as “it’s possible to be intentional to make your kid feel special even in the midst of a crazy season.”

I don’t have to just sit back and fuss about what I imagine to be the bad timing of it all. I can remember that God’s timing of my kids’ births isn’t bad at all. And I can choose to celebrate my boys in ways that are meaningful to them.

It might take a little extra planning and strategy, but I’m pretty sure it can be done.

Lindsay Letters O Holy Night print

Right now, it’s as simple as wrapping his birthday presents in non-Christmasy paper, making a cake (or, at 36 weeks pregnant, let’s be honest—buying a cake), and planning to do his favorite things (bath-time, blocks, trains, sword fight, chase, and lunch with Daddy at work) on his birthday.

And later? I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Until then, I’m thankful for the good reminder from a lovely lady.

So in honor of her bit of wisdom, I’m giving away one of her art prints!

It’s one of my favorites. I have it hanging in my entryway now and it brings a smile whenever I see it.

Want to win one for yourself or to give to a friend? Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below! You can complete more options to earn more entries. I’ll announce the winner next Monday, December 15th. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*This giveaway ends on Sunday December 14th at 11:59pm CST. One winner will be chosen using Rafflecopter and will be notified by email. The winner will have 48 hours  to respond with their contact information; if they do not respond a new winner will be chosen. Must be at least 18 and live in the U.S./Canada to enter.
*All photos via Lindsay Letters

A Recovering Perfectionist Does Christmas


I wrote this post last year, but at 36 weeks pregnant and with a history of early, fast labors, I’m again determined to keep this holiday season simple.

Each year, I enter December with high hopes for a peaceful, simple holiday season focused on the heart of Christmas.

But generally by this time I am, as the editors of Watch for the Light say, “sensing the deeper meanings of the season but grasping at them in vain…[with all] the bustle leaving me drained.”

This year, I’m determined to attend to my heart over the next few weeks—to pay attention to my stress level and motivations and to adjust my attitude or what’s on my plate accordingly.

Yes, there will be tasks to accomplish, events to plan, and more activities than usual.

But I’m holding onto hope that it’s possible to approach all of it with grace–instead of an attitude that makes my kids and husband casualties in the storm of Mommy Trying to Make an Amazing Christmas.

So I’m watching for those moments, those forks in the road where I can decide to plow ahead on the road to perfection or choose to slow down, do less, accept my (and my kids’) limitations, and see beauty in the midst of it all.

Maybe you’re good at choosing the better way.

As a recovering perfectionist, I am not.

So far, the slower but more intentional route has meant making choices like:

Accepting that doing everything on my awesome holiday traditions list is not possible.  Unless I want it to feel like holiday boot-camp.

Involving the kids in the decorating–even though my son will likely threaten his, others’ and the ornaments’ safety.


Delegating some decorating tasks to Hubs and accepting variant outcomes.

Pausing in the midst of tasks to read the Christmas books my kids bring me.

Letting my daughter wear the tree skirt around the house because it’s “such a beautiful dress.”

Tree Skirt1

Choosing not to stress over the fact that my son slept/acted hilariously awful over Thanksgiving break with fam. I must be chilling out as a mom because I’m less apt to profusely apologize for a fussy baby.  Score.

Nothing earth-shattering.  Just small steps toward a slower, less-stressed holiday season.

How is December going for you so far?

What a New iPhone Taught Me About Living Intentionally

What a New iPhone Taught Me About Living Intentionally | A Simple Haven

I sometimes think I was born in the wrong century. Or at least the wrong decade.

I am suspicious of new technology. I was the last of my friends to get a cell phone and one of the last to get on Facebook. Siri weirds me out. Social media overwhelms me. I learned what emoji are yesterday.

When considering children’s activities/education/toys, my framework is often WWLIWD? (What would Laura Ingalls Wilder do?)

So when Hubs started extolling the wonders of the iPhone 6, he wasn’t surprised when I responded with my usual snarky attitude toward the latest and greatest things.

My three-year-old iPhone 4—that I purchased after eating my words about how I’d never get a smart/touch-screen phone—was perfectly fine, thankyouverymuch.

Fun fact: I bought it with money I got from selling my blood to science while I was pregnant with #2. Don’t worry, it was only a little blood. A story for another day.

Until it started acting weird. And I had to face the reality that iOS7 + all of my files + an old iPhone weren’t getting along. It was time for a new one.

After finding the best combination of storage, capability, and price (for me, a 32G iPhone 5C–and isn’t this case lovely?!), I attempted to set it up as much like my old phone as possible.

And that’s when I noticed.

A new iPhone’s default settings are to notify you about EVERYTHING.  Alerts for texts. Voicemail. New emails. Sent Email. FB posts. Tweets. Calendar Events. Air Drops (what?).

Thankfully, you can change all of these and remain blissfully unaware of the constant stream of new information. Which, except for texts and a ringtone, is what I did.

Most people probably aren’t bothered by phone notifications and would have just left them. However, I prefer as little visual/audio clutter as possible. (HSP and all).

So if I didn’t want my life’s soundtrack to be chirping or chimes, I had to make a little effort. It felt a bit tedious, but it didn’t take long and now my life is uncluttered by alerts.

 It reminded me of living intentionally in other areas of my life.

If I don’t want to just drift along doing our culture’s defaults, I have to be purposeful.

Sometimes, opting out of default-mode takes serious time and energy.

Like when I overhauled my family’s eating habits. Or decided to homeschool for pre-k this year. Or planned a two and half week road trip with a toddler, preschooler, and pregnant belly.

Those decisions meant research and planning and preparation.

But sometimes living intentionally is more like changing your phone’s settings. It doesn’t take much time and still yields satisfying rewards.

For example, back in October I imagined that writing every day for 31 days would feel totally overwhelming in the midst of an already crazy season of life.

But actually? If I kept the posts short and sweet, it amounted to less than an hour a day.

If I want to keep my Christmas season simple and stress-free, I’ll take a minute to make a list of what we’ll do this year—and then resist adding to it.

If I want to stop mindlessly checking email throughout the day, I just put my phone out of sight (which is why it’s often in the kitchen cabinet instead of on the counter, begging to be checked).

If I want to make a habit out of reading the Bible to my kids, I’ll just read a psalm or a proverb at breakfast every morning.

None of these takes crazy time or effort; they’re just small changes that have helped me live more in line with what’s important to me.

Thanks, new iPhone, for the reminder.

What are some small ways you live intentionally?


10 Books Worth Putting on Your Kids’ Christmas Lists

10 Books to Add to Your Kids' Christmas Lists | A Simple Haven

I know, I know. It’s not even Thanksgiving yet.

I hear you. Usually, I restrain all the Christmas stuff until we’ve been properly grateful.

But with baby #3’s arrival quickly approaching, I’m determined to have all of my Christmas shopping done long before Thanksgiving and all decor up the day after.

We’re keeping Christmas plans loose and minimal this year, for obvious reasons: I could be spending Christmas in the hospital. Or at home with a newborn. Or still hugely pregnant.

None of which are particularly ideal, but if Buckaroo’s birth taught me anything, it’s that babies come at the perfect time.

In any case, thanks to organization via Amazon wishlists, Hubs and I are basically done shopping for our kids.

It’s no secret that I love books. But I especially love giving them to my kids. So I thought I’d share some favorites that I’ve given or received over the last few years–in case you’re ready to hop on the Christmas train, too :).

Note: This is by no means a complete list of my favorite books for kids. But these are the ones we return to most frequently, I imagine we’ll re-read in the future, or that are particularly sweet or unique.

There are others I know will be beloved as my daughter and son get older (I cannot wait to start The Chronicles of Narnia), but for now, these have been enjoyed by one or both–at 4 1/2 and almost 3 years old.

10 Favorite Books to Give Children

(In no particular order)

Pantone Colors Book

1.) The Pantone Colors Book

Both of my kids love this one and they’re not alone–I could stare at it for hours. Each page has about 30 shades of a particular color, each whimsically named and noted with its particular Pantone number.

We “read” it by asking each child to point to their favorite shades (then we tell them the name), asking them to describe the colors (which one is lighter/darker? has more blue/green in it?), and asking how they’re alike/different.

Anne of Green Gables

2.) Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

I’m reading this aloud to Bun right now and we’re both loving it. It might help that I’m reliving my drama days by doing voices for every character ;).

It’s a classic for a reason, folks. Anne is hilarious, Marilla is fabulous, and Matthew is precious beyond words. I’ll probably skip over some parts (Matthew dying will be too much for Bun to handle after our poor cat died this year), but generally it’s been the perfect daily segue to “quiet rest time.”

We’re using an old paperback version, but I’m so tempted to grab this beautiful new hardback version by Rifle Paper Co artist Anna Bond.


3.) Heidi by Johanna Spyri

I promise I’m not just recommending this one because of the beautiful cover (another new Puffin in Bloom). We listened to the audio version in the car and I found myself sitting in parking lots longer than necessary to just to find out what happened next.

It’s got redemption, humor, and characters you root for.  Another classic for a reason.

Brambly Hedge

4.) The Brambly Hedge Series by Jill Barklem

The only thing I don’t like about this series is that there are only eight books. Sigh.

Sweet stories of woodland mice in the English countryside, illustrated beautifully. I read these when I was little and they’re still captivating. Apparently Barklem spent five years researching traditional rural customs before she began writing–it shows in the pictures.

Some are out of print, but you can get used ones in good condition on Amazon.


5.) Jamberry by Bruce Degen

Another favorite from my own childhood that both of my kids love. Great illustrations (Degen also did the Magic School Bus and Jesse Bear series) and rhyming I can handle (I’m burnt out on Suess right now).

Bonus: it comes in board-book format for little ones.

Jesus Storybook Bible

6.) The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally-Lloyd Jones

This is my favorite kids’ Bible, hands-down. I sobbed through it as I read it to newborn Bun (may have been the hormones, but it’s also just that good). We still read it regularly and I use it for advent devotionals for the kids.

The collector’s edition went on Bun’s wishlist this year after I heard a sample of David Suchet’s fabulous narration. She listens to audio books during her daily quiet rest time and this one is good enough to make me want to give up my own quiet rest time and join her. (Almost).

Little House

7.) The Little House on the Prairie Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

While on a date, Hubs and I bought this boxed set at a local used bookshop. That he wanted to spend part of our date in a used bookshop and was as excited as me to score the set for $7 made me love him even more.

We’ve read nearly all of the books plus listened to the audio ones so I know it’s a series we’ll return to again and again.

Press Here

8.) Press Here by Hervé Tullet

This fun, clever book is a bedtime favorite. It’s interactive and unique, holding the attention of even the most wiggly toddler boy.

I’ll probably pick up Tullet’s latest at some point–it looks like a cross between Press Here and the Pantone book.

The Brave Cowboy

9.) The Brave Cowboy by Joan Walsh Anglund

A day in the life of a little boy who imagines himself to be a brave cowboy, rescuing maidens, rounding up bandits, scaring rattlesnakes, and riding out on the prairie. The illustrations are clever and precious.

Audrey Bunny

10.) Audrey Bunny by Angie Smith

Such a precious story of a bunny who tries to hide her imperfections from her owner, but discovers she is loved in spite of them.

Breezy Brookshire illustrated it–I love this art print by her as well.

Bonus: The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson

I’m in the midst of these now and am surprised by how much I’m enjoying them. Peterson has such a gift for storytelling. They’re a bit Narnia-esque in that they’re kids’ fantasy lit colored by a Christian worldview. Will probably read them to my kids when they’re several years older.

What are your favorite children’s books to read or give? I’d love to hear!

*This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting ASH!




What Bold Parenting Has Done For Me

Bold Parenting | A Simple Haven

This is day 30 & 31 in a 31 day series on Living Boldly. To read the other posts, go here. Welcome!

If you speak Myers-Briggs, I am a “J.” And a pretty strong one at that.

If you don’t speak MBTI, I’ll just say that I’m a fan of routine and having things settled and decided. I might also say I’m a recovering control freak.

So for me, it’s bold parenting to periodically drop the schedules. To keep the kids up past bedtimes, skip naps, and take them places most people with toddlers avoid.

This year, I’ve done more of this than usual. And I’ve learned that in moderation, it’s healthy for everyone. Some of my favorite family memories from 2014 are of activities done in lieu of naps.

An unexpected effect of this boldness generally turning out well is that I’m more open to small acts of boldness in the day-to-day:

spontaneous walks in the woods with my wild two year old and pregnant belly,

making gingerbread cookies just because we feel like it and eating them for lunch,

scheduling ballet class during nap-time so Bun can do it with two of her besties–and I have time to connect with their mommies.

Nothing monumental.

Just small choices made in hope of the good instead of fear of the bad.

Done often enough, it starts to turn into a habit of living boldly. Which actually does feel monumental.

What small choices feel bold to you?

P.S. You might also want to check out my blogging-friend Emily’s series, 31 Days of Gentleness for the Rest of Us. It compliments a series on boldness well :).


Boldness in Parenting

boldness in parenting | A Simple Haven

This is day, ahem, 24-27 in a 31 day series on Living Boldly. To read the other posts, go here. Welcome!

We’ve talked about bold homemaking, boldness in relationships, and boldness in daily life. But  parenting is honestly one of the hardest areas for me to be bold in.

Maybe because there’s just so much darn stuff to fear: loss of control (ahem. I never really had it in the first place). No sleep. Public tantrums. Fussing on road trips. Fussing on airplanes. Injuries. Loss of a child. Messing up my kids. The opinions of others.

Thankfully, there’s also much room for hope.

Hope that I will learn that grasping for control of schedules, attitudes, and outcomes is so fruitless.

Hope that God truly can bring good out of any situation (even my toddler screaming all night in a hotel room).

Hope that other people will gracious–but if not, that their opinions aren’t what matter most anyway.

Hope that the trip can be beautiful amidst the bumps.

Hope that as I do what seems best for my kids in each season of life–without worrying about what everyone else is doing–that they’ll thrive in the long run.

Hope that by God’s grace, I’ll do the best I can to raise my babies and trust that the same grace will cover all my shortcomings.

For me, bold parenting means keeping my eyes on these hope and off of the fears.

What does bold parenting look like for you? I’m curious :).

P.S. You might also want to check out my blogging-friend Emily’s series, 31 Days of Gentleness for the Rest of Us. It compliments a series on boldness well :).