Life Lately // Being Real

I’ve had this post idea floating around for quite some time. Feeling that I needed to share and acknowledge that life isn’t always as pretty and put together as we can make it seem on blogs or Instagram or Facebook. I’m part of a fantastic MOPS (Mothers Of Preschoolers) group and we just watched an interview that MOPS headquarters did with writer and speaker Shauna Niequist on mothering comparisons. It was a great interview and during part of it, Shauna talked about this very thing that I’d been drafting a post on. How online lives can be edited to look so pretty and perfect, that you can share only the happy, wonderful moments of life, and it’s so easy to see these images and read these status updates and think everyone else in life seems to have it all together. They have the perfect looking house, with impeccably dressed kids, who never throw tantrums, they make incredible meals, and renovate rooms in a days time. She talked about how we look at these things during our “low” moments, when we don’t have anything particularly fantastic happening in our life, and just start to compare our lives and feel like we don’t measure up. And as a blogger, I felt that I needed to come clean and air some of my “dirty laundry”, to share that I don’t have it all together and I struggle to find balance. So I’m sharing with you today a couple areas that I really struggle with…my house and well, myself.

Sometimes I joke with Caitlin while we are doing a shoot together, now we should turn around and take a picture of what the other side of the room looks like….the un-staged part. Not that I think there’s anything wrong with taking the time to create a beautiful project, set up a pretty back drop or scene to photograph it in and then carefully edit those photos and share them. I love seeing those images. They inspire me. They provide eye candy to just enjoy during those very precious few moments of downtime. And I love creating those projects and photo shoots. They help fill that creative niche, they keep me motivated to at least attempt to get some things crossed off my to-do list.

I’d love to say that after living here for over 10 years, I’ve got my house looking exactly how I want it. It’s so far from that. The progress on updating and repainting rooms has been slow…mostly due to a lack of time and lack of money. I’m glad to say that we do put spending time with each other, and with family & friends, above getting these projects done.  But it doesn’t mean that I always feel okay with how things look or are progressing.  And I’ll be honest – I put house work and cleaning pretty low on my to-do list.  If something comes up, or I’m having a busy week (which is pretty much always!), my housework is always the first thing I neglect.  And with three little boys, the mess, the chaos, can be a lot.  And it kills a part of me, because I tend to always want things to be clean, organized and run a certain way.  I’m just hoping that it’s shaping me into a better person to let these things go…
And does it always look like this here? No, we do usually get things pretty well picked up by the end of the day….and sometimes, it can even be worse!
Real Life / Sharing Honestly @themerrythought
My living room is pretty much always in this state during the boys waking hours.  Couch cushions are never on the couch, the bookshelf has books thrown in haphazardly, boys are being silly…
Real Life / Sharing Honestly @themerrythought
The coffee table has cups and snack wrappers left on it. And someone always seems to knock my branch lamp shade & the curtains askew!  I love our big pillows, but hate that they don’t really go with anything and have making new covers for those on my never ending to-do list.  I’m also waiting to get a fresh coat of paint on these walls.  And I’m dying for a new couch…Mike told me I would regret getting light colored couches…he was right!
Real Life / Sharing Honestly @themerrythought
When the boys get home from school, backpacks and jackets and shoes are thrown here…because we haven’t had the time to make the coat rack I want, that will include hooks low enough for the boys to actually reach.  So mama’s got to take care of this everyday because they can’t reach the hooks!
Real Life / Sharing Honestly @themerrythought
I usually don’t like to let things get too chaotic on the kitchen counters, as the kitchen is the room you walk into in my house, and I don’t want to be greeted with chaos immediately.  But life happens and my counters sometimes look like this.
Real Life / Sharing Honestly @themerrythought
One of things I really want to do is redo the stairwell.  I’m not a fan of wallpaper and the stairs need to be repainted.  Unfortunately, the whole wall going up the stairs needs to be knocked out (lath & plaster under there, that’s super wavy and cracked) and new drywall put up.  So it’s a big, time-consuming, money project.  So it’s been on the to-do list for a while.
Real Life / Sharing Honestly @themerrythought
Remember Levi’s sweet room with the awesome triangle decals?  Well it needed a new ceiling and the carpet torn out, and a closet put in, so that’s happening (slowly), so his room currently looks like this.  (Yes, the decals are staying, and no, he does not currently sleep in here…).  I can’t wait to have his room put together again!
Real Life / Sharing Honestly @themerrythought
Oh my red bedroom! I picked this color for our room. I loved this color. I still think it’s a nice color, if you have a red room in your house I’m not hating on your color – I’m just so done with it and ready for it not to be on my walls.  I try never to take photos in here…because I’m not happy with the wall color and because our bedroom is never picked up!  It’s a pretty large room, so it’s easy to just throw any and everything in here.
Real Life / Sharing Honestly @themerrythought
And my desk, oh my desk. How do I let you get like this?!  Another spot where everything seems to just kind of end up…
Real Life / Sharing Honestly @themerrythought
And here’s me….I tend to not want to share a lot of photos of myself here on the blog.  One of my struggles and where I feel like I’m just not doing a good enough job, is with my weight and physical health.  I love food and I hate exercise – not a good combination!

Not everyone is going to have the same struggles. Some of those perfect looking rooms and homes I see do really look like that all the time. Even those with little kids in them. Sometimes the things that we’re struggling with, that we can’t seem to take care of, or keep pushing to the bottom of our to-do lists, are things we can’t take photos of. Relationships that are falling apart. Or a lack of relationships. Bitterness eating away at our souls. If there’s someone that you think seems to always be able to do it all or has it together all the time, trust me, they don’t. There are things you are doing or have in your life that they aren’t doing or don’t have. And neither is better or worse. Just different. We need to learn to embrace our lives and our homes in whatever stage they are currently in.


This post isn’t meant to be a guilt trip on anyone, it’s just an area where I sometimes struggle and wanted to share and be a little more open and honest. And please know, I intend to keep sharing pretty, staged photos here on the blog. And beautiful real moments too. And I want to keep seeing those moments and photos from others (I’ll be pinning those because they are beautiful to look at and inspire me!). But I thought that maybe someone out there needed to see and hear that I don’t have a perfect looking house. And that I’m struggling with my weight. To be honest, this post is pretty hard to share. I feel vulnerable and so hesitant to even hit the publish button. But I want to learn to be content with where I am at and with what I have. I want to be able to appreciate the beautiful moments that are happening right now, inside these walls, even if those walls aren’t the color I’d like them to be. I want to be thankful for the life we have and the memories we are creating, even if it’s not exactly picture perfect. And I can keep working towards getting my house, and myself, to where I want them to be, but without feeling like I’m not doing it as quickly or as well as someone else might be.

In one of my favorite clips from the interview, Shauna said that one of her friends told her that one of your goals should be that when you have people over to your house, they should leave feeling better about themselves, not feeling better about you. I loved that and hope to always remember it…and hope that maybe by showing you some of my home as it is, you’re feeling a little bit better about yourself now. 🙂  (And if you’ve made it this far through this short novel of a post – wow!)

And these verses pretty much sum it up…“I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Phillipians 4:11-13)

(If you’re interested in hearing/watching this interview, I found a video of it here.  It’s a really fantastic interview on mothering comparisons. The first couple minutes are a MOPS intro, the interview starts at about 2 minutes in. And the part about our online lives starts around 18:30…)

Here’s to my beautiful mess and being real!


  • rachelThursday, March 27, 2014 - 11:36 am

    I love this, Manda! This is something I often struggle with when looking at blogs. I think the “blogosphere” is dangerous in that regard – it can make us really unhappy with all the things we’ve been blessed with. Thanks for honest insight into your sweet, happy home.ReplyCancel

  • dianawillardThursday, March 27, 2014 - 11:41 am

    What a beautiful and brave post to share! I’ve been following your blog for a while and always love the lovely crafts and recipes, but what really draws me in is seeing how the women who write it work and grow together. Really inspiring. And thank you for sharing such an honest glimpse into your life — I can imagine how hard it is to open yourself up like that on this forum, but I really appreciate it. It is so easy to get caught in the comparison trap, and so refreshing to hear such honesty. Best of luck with everything!ReplyCancel

  • Hello LidyThursday, March 27, 2014 - 11:54 am

    Thank you for your honesty! I think that a lot of your readers are going to be appreciative of the openness and transparency about what goes on behind the scenes. I have always loved all the things you gals do on this blog – you are all brilliant, beautiful and blessed! I too attend MOPS and have seen this video, it’s an amazing reminder of how we we don’t need to compare ourselves to others. I love the quote “Comparison is the thief of joy”. It couldn’t be more true. I too wonder if people think my life is all together – I often have friends ask me how it is I do what I do with three kids because they could never do it. I feel guilty, my intention isn’t for others to feel that way! So it is so courageous of you to open up about this and to show the reality of what life really is, not what it seems to be. And I LOVE “when you have people over to your house, they should leave feeling better about themselves, not feeling better about you”. Thank you for sharing, I feel inspired to do something similar now 😉


  • AshleyThursday, March 27, 2014 - 2:43 pm

    LOVE this!!!!ReplyCancel

  • AnnieThursday, March 27, 2014 - 8:02 pm

    You are beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing this.ReplyCancel

  • Amy KThursday, March 27, 2014 - 9:16 pm

    I love your beautiful mess, so glad you shared it with us.

    John painted me a red bedroom in our first apartment and I am so thankful I didn’t carry it on to our house.ReplyCancel

  • jacchamberlainJacqualineThursday, March 27, 2014 - 9:16 pm
  • SamanthaThursday, March 27, 2014 - 9:25 pm

    Oh goodness this is perfect and for the very reason that it is imperfect. I struggle with blog envy and photo envy and why-cant-I-have-that-life envy. It sucks but like you said, it’s not entirely real.

    Thank you for being true, and exposing yourself like you did. That is the true essence of beauty.

    You go girl!ReplyCancel

  • JasmineThursday, March 27, 2014 - 9:30 pm

    Oh I miss MOPS and I miss you guys love seeing you at church and love your blog and believe me my life is a very large mess even before Matthew’s accident but now it’s even worse and there are always people over lol!ReplyCancel

  • LyndsayThursday, March 27, 2014 - 9:48 pm

    Love you more than you’ll ever know, seester! I am so proud of you! And I do leave your house feeling better about myself – you’re already really good at it! Heavenly desserts contribute too :). XoxoReplyCancel

  • bakesinslippersThursday, March 27, 2014 - 10:12 pm

    I love reading posts like this, the realness we all face each day. Great read!ReplyCancel

  • Gloria RoordaThursday, March 27, 2014 - 10:32 pm

    Love, love, love this! I don’t have kids at home and I’m still too busy to keep things picked up. Even when too busy is just choosing to read. Thanks for sharing this Manda!ReplyCancel

  • Light Up the CityFriday, March 28, 2014 - 12:06 am

    oh man I am so grateful for you and your beautiful heart and your boldness in sharing. I so relate on so many levels to all of this…I remember when we lost our house feeling like now that we live in a rental, in a new city, no wallpaper or new appliances, what could I possibly share anymore with the online world. I’ve felt trapped by the notion that if it’s not “just so” than it’s not enough because everyone else online is managing to do so much…ramble ramble…but all that to say I just loved this different angle of your life, a little window into another side of you. It’s refreshing and just as beautiful as all the rest. You’re a gift and I love finding myself here in your online space and I am feeling bolstered in my own boldness to continue to share life online because this community is truly incredible and inspiring! xoxoReplyCancel

    • Rebekah GoughFriday, March 28, 2014 - 12:08 am

      that last one (Light up the City) was from me 🙂 sorry my hubby was logged in…ReplyCancel

  • mtdbFriday, March 28, 2014 - 12:54 am

    Oh my god, what a relief it is to read this post. The inadequacy I feel after every pinterest session or blog binge can get me feeling pretty low. I get so much joy out of beautiful images like yours, but then I yearn to recreate them in my own life and when I can’t…well you know. Thank you for the reminder that no one is perfect. <3ReplyCancel

  • Kaylin WoodFriday, March 28, 2014 - 3:56 am

    Wow. This was beautiful. I feel like vulnerability is very underrated in our day and age. And to be honest, having the ability to be vulnerable is incredibly courageous. A lot of people need to be reminded that no one is perfect, and not as an excuse to put yourself on a pedestal, but to be gracefully humble and realize we are all human. Thanks for being so open 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Sarah KFriday, March 28, 2014 - 5:52 am

    Thank you so much for posting this. I have been thinking a lot about this lately – with the increasing number of social platforms to check and people’s lives to follow along with, it is hard at times to remember that those photos ARE staged, and that for all we know, the person behind the camera could be half in tears wearing hole-y torn sweatpants and gross sneakers etc 🙂 I love the reality of this post and the fact that you were open to sharing with us. Bravo!ReplyCancel

  • Kate TFriday, March 28, 2014 - 7:26 am

    Thank you for such a brave post! I also like things to be ordered and neat and am working on letting that go sometimes in order to really experience and not over-think.

    I’ll be saying a prayer for your happiness and family today.ReplyCancel

  • Darlene MieneyFriday, March 28, 2014 - 7:38 am

    My house looked like that for 20 years as my little boys grew into men. I finally read this one day in another mom’s ponderings. She wrote this and I laughed and then relaxed. ” Do I really care that my headstone says…’Here lies Mary. She kept a clean house.’ ”

    Our house was the place all the kids came and hung out and lived life. I wouldn’t trade those years for anything. And by the way, I don’t think anyone remembered the “mess” they remembered the love. Keep loving them. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • tamimullinsFriday, March 28, 2014 - 3:51 pm

    Thank you for showing the ‘Behind the scenes’ tour. 🙂 Life is busy with boys and I too deal with this on a daily basis, but you are getting things done and living a full, beautiful life. Thank you for your honesty and bravery!ReplyCancel

  • GreyFriday, March 28, 2014 - 4:32 pm

    I’m a recent follower, and I LOVE this post! Even though you describe it as mess and chaos, I see a warm and charming home. I love love love old homes, and I see so many beautiful details here–original to the home and your recently added touches.

    How old is the house? I ask because those stair steps look so narrow, and I’ve heard that old staircases usually had very small steps because people’s feet used to be much smaller centuries ago!

    Thanks again for this nonperfect glimpse into your life. I think it’s just as lovely as staged shots!ReplyCancel

    • MandaThursday, April 3, 2014 - 8:58 pm

      Thanks so much for your encouraging words…they are so appreciated! The house was built in 1835, so yes, it’s an oldie! I too love old homes…they have such character! And our stairs are very narrow and steep! I always get nervous when people come over and go up & down them…they can be a little tricky if you’re not used to them! I never really thought about why they would have been built so narrow – that’s so interesting (and makes total sense) that they were for smaller sized feet…ReplyCancel

  • DylannFriday, March 28, 2014 - 5:47 pm

    I love women who can be real about not having it all together. Because no one does and it’s silly to pretend that we are. Thanks for the encouragement, xoxo 🙂ReplyCancel

  • saidkelleyMonday, March 31, 2014 - 11:39 am

    love this! and you are stunning…more pictures of you please 🙂ReplyCancel

  • debyTuesday, April 1, 2014 - 4:27 am

    You’re beautiful, your house is full of life, your heart is full of love, hurray to you, thanks for sharing !ReplyCancel

  • colleenpastoorWednesday, April 2, 2014 - 3:21 pm

    Great post, I love how beautiful this is. I know this is so true but it’s easy to get caught up with all the ‘pretty’ that’s out there.ReplyCancel

  • MandaThursday, April 3, 2014 - 8:51 pm

    Thanks for all these wonderful, encouraging comments! I’m grateful to know that there’s so many others with similar struggles & feelings! It’s so nice to be able to have this space not just to share beautiful things, but to be real, to share and connect and encourage one another. You guys are the best! xoxoReplyCancel

  • JayNineThursday, April 3, 2014 - 11:53 pm

    Truly amazing… Incredibly brave of you to share this side of yourself with your readers 😀 An honest look behind the scenes post is so appreciated! I love REAL, peoples stories, & lifes real time experiences! Makes us human. You never know when your experience will help someone else. Good of you to be open to that sharing ;D ..i know I wont forget the way you described everyones different circumstance, not being more or less than, but just ‘different’. We dont have alot (I mean we really do not have alot) but I couldnt be more happier in our small rental basement, close together with my girls…. I always hear “mommas boys” etc & not the sAme of Moms but I Am Super BLESSED to have 2 “Momma’s Girls”. Comaprison cant steal that from me ;D love your blog!!!ReplyCancel

  • TashaTuesday, April 8, 2014 - 7:40 pm

    Thanks, Manda! I absolutely love your creativity and I love that I know all of you girls outside this blog so I don’t get caught thinking, “How are they so perfect?” Though, I must admit the green monster always gets me when it comes to your beautiful parties. Thank God for Target for those of us who are not quite as naturally creative. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • dianaMonday, February 9, 2015 - 6:48 am

    This is a beautiful post. Thanks for being real… was a huge blessing to read. Ive been thinking the same for a while. And I’m loving your blog by the way. Btw you are very beatiful. I see that you have a beautiful heart as well.

  • GraceFriday, November 6, 2015 - 12:59 am

    Thank you so much for sharing. It’s so important to be real, before we forget who we really are. Also thank you for the bible verse! This post is so uplifting and beautiful. I think that all of the photos including the one of yourself shows that you are living life. Life happens and it’s important to remember the one who gave it to us. God bless xReplyCancel

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