Celebrating Independence Day is an annual party we host for friends and family - and this year was the most epic yet. We hosted about 50 adults, teens, toddlers and even a couple of babies. Here's a glimpse at hospitality in action at the House of Howe.
Wow, Mother's Day! We created a photo booth, served donuts and spent the rest of the day passed out from all the activity. Or, maybe we simply crashed from snacking on all that sugar!
By the way, if you are in need of a photo backdrop or other party decor, check out our rentals.
Since becoming covenant members of Stonegate Church, we've had a really good time serving our new church family. It's also one of the best ways to meet people.
I've had a life-long love of photography and hospitality so it's not surprising that I ended up on both teams. Sometimes it's bit of a challenge because I double book myself. Thankfully, my husband, Shayne, is usually right by my side and he picks up the slack. All the ladies love how hard he works. Me too.
One of the best parts of serving on the hospitality team is having easy access to 77 Donuts (that's the name of the donut shop...not how many donuts I devoured).
This past weekend, a new guest to the church offered to pay for some of the donuts. My husband, the donut runner, explained that we serve the donuts for free. It's just one of the ways that Stonegate Church demonstrates our shared passion for hospitality.
It's the small things that matter!
We set up our tables while our kids ran up and down the halls. By the end of the first service, young Caleb, became a donut runner assistant to my husband. That's how you train up the next generation, y'all.
Behind the scenes, Shelly Slack kept the donuts rolling out (And, we could use a few more volunteers. Hint, hint.).
Happy Mother's Day to my mom, Rose Marie Kauhane, and the many other "moms" that God brought into my life.
We celebrated Easter in a big way. Last year, we hosted a party in the backyard for our family and friends. This year, we enjoyed serving our family and friends at Stonegate Church. My husband built a photo booth backdrop that we complimented with furnishings from our house. We also helped to set up and serve a massive donut display. Later that evening we tried not to fall asleep at my aunt and uncle's annual Easter dinner. It was an epic day.
For all the great memories we made, one of the most memorable moments happened off camera. In the midst of all of the activity one of my new church friends, Clarice, congratulated us on our one year anniversary at Stonegate Church.
Last Spring, Clarice handed my husband an Easter invitation and encouraged him to visit her home group. Several weeks ago, Clarice remarked in home group that she had been nervous in that moment. After all, it can be totally awkward to invite a stranger to church. But she did. And we are eternally grateful.
My husband set that Easter invitation on my desk and said "I want to go to home group." For the first time in our ten year marriage, he wanted to go to a home group. Ever since, he's led the way on our spiritual journey. Life has become about enjoying Jesus together.
I will always have a sense of wonder about the resurrection of our family that all began because one woman decided to celebrate The Resurrection with strangers like us.
THE AFTER PARTY
I usually spend too much money that I don't have on plants. It's an urge that overcomes me each spring. My dad and uncle were great landscapers. My aunt is a master gardener. My mom and her mom enjoyed growing old fashioned flowers together. It's a part of the heritage I hope to pass on to my children.
At three and six years old, Samantha and Jaden are old enough to begin growing their own green thumb. So, instead of dropping major cash on plants, I purchased several packets of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds at a minimal cost.
The night before I had asked this sweet girl, "What is mommy's favorite thing to do?"
Without hesitation, she said, "Work."
I knew that was what she would say. But to hear her say it – while looking at me with those big blue eyes. Wow. Words failed me. Samantha's truth hurt but it was also empowering. It was healing to ask Samantha to share her truth, and it was healing to receive it. I kissed her goodnight and let the truth sink in.
I'm a working mom and probably always will be. It's in my blood as much as the green thumb. In the past, I felt a sense of guilt about working. This time, I decided to keep asking questions.
I asked Jaden, "What kind of work does mommy do?"
He said, "You take pictures of people and work on the pictures on computer."
It dawned on me that I hadn't taken pictures of my own people for a long time. So, this weekend, I focused on them with my heart and lens. First, they took over my office for a mini photo shoot. We also spent portions of the weekend getting out of the house.
I had ordered a bunch of gardening supplies but I was waiting for the right time to dive into the project of potting seeds. In other words, it wasn't on the agenda. Most days with children involve moments of intentionality and random moments of pure survival. Sometime during the day I hit my limit. I gave them a huge bag of potting soil, seed pots and two mini shovels. Then I walked away. Honestly, I just wanted a moments peace.
It wasn't long before I was outside and scooping up handfuls of soil with my bare hands. I had the kids pick out their seeds. (By the way, don't let the pictures fool you. They look enchanting but in reality there's a healthy dose of whining happening that the camera blessedly does not capture.)
My husband joined us and we managed to get most of our seeds planted before the rain started. For all of the toddler drama, it felt incredibly good to spend a couple hours outside with our children. And we managed to accomplish a lot of good work together.
I chose Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds because of their awesome customer service and beautiful (and free) seed catalog. Last year, I ordered a live plant called Okinawa Sweet Potato. Unfortunately, it was out of stock. I received an immediate refund and warm email from the owner. Service like that deserves loyalty. I did not receive any form of compensation for this post – I just enjoy supporting good people.
My new obsession is horchata at Casa Jacaranda. Located in Maypearl, Texas, Casa Jacaranda is a super cute restaurant – that I have yet to eat at – but I'll gladly drive a few miles for a creamy glass of horchata. It's that good.
While paying at the register, a couple of humble pineapples caught my eye. Since I had my camera handy, I decided to capture a few more shots. The designer in me loves the impact that this restaurant makes. I can't wait to actually sit down for a meal here.
Until then, cheers!
When the kids sit on my desk...it's pau hana!
It was a blast hanging out with #irvinincredibles this week. I was supposed to be milking cows but we decided I was better at capturing the day with my camera. The kids love getting their pictures taken. Well, except for my son. So far, we've celebrated Halloween and Christmas. This week was all about the great state of Texas.
We rode ponies.
We discovered textures at the Alamo.
We cheered on Mrs. Parr at the rodeo.
We roped a cow.
We milked a cow and made butter.
And, we got our silly on.
Y'all it was a fun day at J.R. Irvin!
Our son was late for school this morning. That's hardly earth shattering but today it was significant. For the first time we understood why he was stalling to go to school. In one word – anxiety.
Jaden has been in "school" since he was old enough to enroll in a mother's day out program. We have been blessed to find wonderful schools with caring teachers. Mrs. Linda from Tate Springs was one of our favorites.
Ever since graduating from Mrs. Linda's class, our son has struggled. Like many working moms, I felt guilty for working away from the home. Attributing his struggles to my work-life, I adapted my schedule to include flex time. Still, Jaden struggled.
As a human being, not just as a mom, I also struggle with anxiety. I've been impacted by anxiety for my entire life. My father suffered trauma as a child that left him with unresolved anxieties as an adult. By the time I came along, he was securely planted in church. Yet, he struggled. As I grew up, I absorbed his anxieties and acquired my own.
Back then, anxiety and depression were issues that people just didn't talk about. Even toward the end of my dad's life, he struggled to identify himself as having been depressed. He publicly shared his battle as an alcoholic, including multiple suicide attempts. In the end, he even took anti-depressant medication. Yet, it still felt shameful for him to confess depression and anxiety.
For church folk, all too often, depression and anxiety are considered to be spiritual issues. When I confided about some of my dad's struggles, a Christian coworker questioned my dad's salvation. All because my dad struggled with depression.
As a working mom attempting to juggle a demanding position, raise young children and care for my ailing father, I went through postpartum depression and two emotional burnouts. At work, I was advised to keep quiet about my emotional health. Others hadn't and they ended up being driven out of the organization. A Christian organization. That's a reality, and it's a shame.
We live in a world that idolizes strength and leadership and ambition. This is true of Christians and non-Christians. In our home we are making adjustments to turn this around. Mostly, we've learned to let go of our expectations.
My child has anxiety.
Jaden has always been incredibly aware of his surroundings, and especially the emotions of other people. When he started kindergarten, he became obsessed with staying out of trouble and taking care of other kids. So much so that he developed a facial tic. His bright beautiful face became distorted and contorted. It tore me up. His face only relaxed while playing video games. So, we let him play video games.
The facial tics eventually subsided but then his socks began to drive him to distraction. We bought all types of socks but nothing felt right. Finally my mother-in-law found an ugly pair of socks that he could tolerate. We washed those socks everyday until I finally broke down and purchased more at $7 a pair. So, function replaced fashion.
In searching for answers, I discovered that some children with anxiety develop sensory disorders. They cannot handle clothing tags, pants (especially jeans), and socks seams. Some children completely break down from these three simple everyday items.
Jaden's sensitivities aren't that intense. I think that's why it took us so long to figure this out. We always attributed his outbursts to behavioral issues, even spiritual issues. Family members thought we didn't spank him enough. Other thought we spoiled our kids. My instincts screamed that something else was happening. I just couldn't figure it out.
Now that we understand the root issues, we've discovered the way forward. We know when our son is simply testing boundaries as a six-year-old versus unraveling as a child consumed with anxiety. Understanding the difference has brought peace to our home.
What can help?
If you are reading this and you recognize your family in our story, here are some things that have helped us (beyond letting go of fashion).
Jaden would occasionally describe feeling "nervous." He identified his own feelings as a child, and long before we adults understood what was happening. It's become our code word. When he's becoming emotional, or withdrawn, we ask if he's feeling nervous. If he is, we stop and talk.
We also make time to talk at bedtime. He looks forward to processing his day with us. Sometimes, we simply ask, "Did you have any questions about today?" It's truly amazing to listen to him unpack his day.
Most recently, he's been stressed about art class. In one of our nightly debriefs, he said, "I hate art." It turns out that he had gotten in trouble in art class for drawing on the table. He was convinced his teacher didn't like him and wanted me to call her. Instead, I suggested that he write her a letter and draw her a picture to make up. The next morning, he woke up early to do just that. For a time he felt better. But again, the anxieties began to creep into his heart. This time, I sent a message to his homeroom teacher and she took him to have a chat with his art teacher. It would be easier for me to just call his art teacher. Instead, we hope to teach him that he has the power to create change in a positive way – and not be consumed by his feelings.
Who can help?
Jaden's kindergarten teacher, Bailey Parr, has been so helpful. She's messaged me and demonstrated a genuine kindness towards Jaden. She understands why we allow him to come to school in shorts even though its 30 degrees outside. She's his advocate at school. We do our best to support her as well.
My counselor at Creekbend Counseling Center has helped me to see myself as I am – strengths and weaknesses. In understanding myself better, I have the capacity to understand my child better.
My in-laws have always provided weekend sleepovers and trips to the park. As parents, we've enjoyed the break and our children are always refreshed after quality time with Mimi and G-Pa.
Our new church has such a thoughtful approach to raising children, and that especially includes supporting dads. The world needs more dads and Stonegate Church in Midlothian has so many wonderful examples.
If you've read this post all the way through, you might have struggled with some of the same realities. Perhaps you're in the midst of that struggle right now. If you are, it helps to know you aren't alone. Things can and will get better in time. Most importantly, God has uniquely wired your child. In our case, we've been blessed to have been given a child who has a deep empathy for others. Even now, it can drive us to distraction because he's not able to process all of that emotion at his age. But I'm convinced that God has a plan. What appears to be a weakness in our children can become a strength.
I was backstage at our church yesterday with my camera in hand to capture images of our baptism service. Around the same time, a man entered a church in South Texas. While we celebrated the death, burial and resurrection of the saints, he unleashed an unfathomable evil upon the saints.
This morning, my son was in earshot of the news. It weighed heavy upon his six-year-old heart. How do we reconcile these events? Especially for our children?
I don't have any answers. I do know that I was tired yesterday. My son had a fever. You know, life happens. I was tempted to skip church but then I received a text message asking for a volunteer to help capture the baptism service. So I went to church.
Perhaps that what we do. We keep going to church. We keep being the church. We keep loving and leading the lost from death to life. We keep praying. Even as I type, my words seem too simple. I don't have the words, like many of us. But thanks to that text message, drawing me to church, I have proof that God is good. He is our savior. He does redeem.
In the most vulnerable kleenex clenching moment, there was incredible strength and resolve to respond to the Living God in word and deed.
If you are feeling tired today – weary of the brokenness of this world – I'm inviting you to be a witness of life. Take a moment and see the joy in the eyes of the living. It's an eternal light that will never die.
Three years ago our family relocated to Midlothian, Texas. I've transitioned between California, Hawaii and Texas but our most recent move was much less dramatic. We moved a mere twelve miles up the road.
Our first home was a solid starter home. We hadn't any plans to move but then my aunt and uncle put their home up on the market. Unexpectedly, in the span of one summer we listed our home, packed and moving. And then our baby girl was born.
My parents moved in shortly after and we witnessed my dad make the biggest transition of all. All the while, we attended church a mere twelve miles down the road. The church leaders were smitten with my dad and honored him well during the last three years of his life. Because of them, and him, we continued to worship in the same seats that dad used to share with us.
When our son was about to begin kindergarten, we felt a stirring in our hearts to become better planted in our community. Really, it was a stirring that began when our daughter was born. At the time, I was on mission to spread the news about local people living in local communities that were translating the Bible. But how was I engaging my own local community? I wasn't.
It took awhile to find our way. I decided to stop commuting away to work. It was a tough transition for me but worth the wait. For the past four months, I've teamed up with a local nonprofit organization based in Ellis County, Texas.
Around the same time, my husband was given an invitation card to the Easter services at Stonegate Church. We'd attended Stonegate seven years ago but at the time, it wasn't time to join. We needed seven years, two kids and a new home to break new ground with the people known as Stonegate Church.
And we are just in time to help our new church family make their own move. We began by capturing the story of the groundbreaking celebration.
On the eve of the first day of school, our son finally decided to get excited about starting kindergarten.
Transitions have always been tough for our little man. In the past I struggled to handle it all with grace. But this time around it was different.
Over the summer, we decided that Shayne would not resume his position as the AP Physics Teacher and Head Golf Coach for Red Oak ISD. Instead, I'm taking on the role of full-time-working-mom while Shayne becomes the full-time-stay-at-home-dad.
As a former latch-key child, I know it sucks to not have parents around. On a missional note, we also felt that our culture needs more dads that are engaged in our schools. And so, I'll be pounding away at my keyboard in my home office while Shayne volunteers at the kid's schools.
We are only just beginning this new season but our role reversal has changed everything for the better!
My first dance with my dad was on my wedding day. I'm not sure our feet ever moved. Instead, we awkwardly held onto each other and swayed ever so stiffly. As special as it was, I wish we had shared more moments on the dance floor. My dad is gone but his namesake, our daughter Samantha, has a lifetime to dance with her daddy.
Over Father's Day weekend they attended the annual Daddy Daughter Dance at the Midlothian Conference Center. The dance is an annual event and tickets sell out fast. At $30 per couple, its a splurge worth saving up for.
This year's theme was "A Night under The Big Top." As expected, daughters of all ages took over the dance floor and chased each other from game to game. Some in curls and and bows. Others in ponytails and sneakers. Each girl had her own style and every girl was all smiles.
The whimsical details were designed for the girls in mind but their dads had a blast too. They wolfed down pizza and guzzled sweet tea like any man. They dominated the dance floor during the Chicken Dance and the Limbo. And each one had a sparkle in his eye for his daughter.
Midlothian has some precious men who are raising a generation of confident, well-loved little girls. I'm thankful for the staff at the Midlothian Conference Center for cherishing our dancing daddy's and daughters.
Want to see more pictures? Visit the gallery.
Hardworking Woman Rule #1: Keep a hose handy. Keep on working.