And Baby #7 is a…

So, have I kept you guessing long enough about the gender of #tiebreakerbaby? I honestly feel almost guilty because…I’ve known for a good six weeks. We found out at 15 weeks right before we went to Colorado, since we knew we’d be seeing lots of family and wanted to be able to reveal the pregnancy AND gender if at all possible. Thankfully, it was possible.

And we had the gender re-confirmed (Ezra was all: “What did the sono guy mean by, ‘Let’s see if this baby is still a __________???” I think he was genuinely worried) at our most recent sonogram last Tuesday.

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Friendly little thing, waving and all.

And it turns out that Baby #7 will officially be on…

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Yup. It’s a boy. Indisputably.

I told myself I would, but I didn’t officially go through every single social media/blog comment to tally the percentages of boy votes versus girl ones. However, a quick glance showed it was pretty evenly split, with a sliiiiight advantage for the girl vote. (I think).

Which. Is honestly what I thought too. I typically (well, with all two such pregnancies so far) have stronger symptoms with girls, and my nausea (pale in comparison though it is to what so many suffer) and exhaustion definitely lasted longer with the twins and Della than with the boys.

But this little guy has thrown me for a loop. I think I’m finally over the nausea (haven’t had anything significant in about a week), and I had a day last week when I had TONS of energy (if only I could bottle that one up), but other than that, this has felt like a girl pregnancy to me.

Shows what I know.

Of course, the boys were thrilled.

team blue

Although…I love Theo’s, “I’m smiling because my brothers are smiling, but…why…are they smiling?” expression here.

The girls, after a very brief moment of disappointment, showed themselves fickle to their cause and switched over to Team Blue lickety split. They have now claimed their as-yet-unborn baby brother as “theirs.” Except for the occasional lapse when Nola confidently informs me that “the baby in your tummy is a girl baby.” To which I respond with a gentle negative, and she remembers anew that the girl camp has been outmatched…and proceeds to blithely bop her way onto whatever next catches her fancy. I’m actually really excited to see how the girls interact with the new baby because they were all a little too young to get that jazzed about Theo, but they’re all acting adorably motherly and proprietary this time around.

How Theo will respond when faced with the actual fact of the interloper is a mystery. But I was genuinely worried about Della’s reaction to the twins’ birth, since she was a major mama’s girl. And she was fiiiiiine. So. I think we’ll figure it out.

Speaking of figuring things out, you guys had some really great comments/questions on last week’s post, and I’m still working my way through those and putting together a blog post with the “answers” (ha! as if I’ve got them all). So be on the lookout for that soon(ish). Who knows? It might cure a nagging case of insomnia or three. I’ll try to be lively.

ANYhoo, I’d best head to bed before the little boy in my belly decides that I need to eat a(nother) one of the Italian Cream Cupcakes that I whipped up “for the girls in my home school co-op” (riiiiiight, Abbie).

Happy Monday, friends!

#Tiebreakerbaby (Baby #7): Who am I?

First up, THANK YOU so much for your words of encouragement, excitement, and celebration with us. I know that we’ve never made it anything close to a secret that if the Lord gave us more children, we’d happily take them, but still, announcing a seventh kid is not always met with such joy and positivity, and I can’t really adequately express how grateful I am for each of you that took the time to say YAY with us! (And each of you who thought: Whuuut? They CRAZY?!…and kept it to yourselves. insert laughing/crying emoji).

7 weeks

7 Weeks – Oh, abs. How I miss thee. Push-ups just aren’t the same without you.

I’ve false started on this post at least 6 times because I wasn’t sure which direction to go with it. Do I do a recap of the whole pregnancy so far? (YAWN…no, really…that would be a good word to sum up how I’ve felt for the most part). Do I hit the highlights? Do I skip the whole first half and go straight to the gender poll? (Because you know I love me a good gender poll).

9 weeks

9 Weeks – Trying on a dress my husband loved in the Vancouver Anthro…sucking in mightily.

So, here is the briefest (that I know how) of recaps, and then we’ll get straight to guessing exactly who is kicking around rather impressively in this big ol’ belly of mine.

I knew VEEEEERRRY early that I was pregnant. How? Because I woke up one morning with the vividest of dreams. Seriously. That was my first clue, at least. Like at maybe 1 week (well, technically, 3 weeks…if you count the two weeks from the 1st day of your last period that they include in your 40 weeks…SO weird that you’re already considered 2 weeks pregnant before you even conceive…but I digress).

13 weeks

13 Weeks – Shopping for the girls. Full of dinner from Zoe’s (my fave “fast” food), and…sucking in mightily.

I literally went from having completely dreamless sleep to 3 days in a row of such intense sleep adventures that I had trouble waking up from them.

And that was it. I just knew.

16 weeks

16 Weeks – at the wedding in Colorado…and not sucking in mightily
enough, I guess. I saw this picture and was like, “Whoa, baby.” And I
wasn’t talking about my husband, although he does look dashing.

So far, this pregnancy has been very similar to my others (well, the twins’ was a little different, but that’s a given). Which is to say: fairly easy and blessedly uneventful.

Buuuuuutttt…I’ve been SO tired. I think (oh, Lord, please) that I’m finally getting some of my energy back, but I’ve really never hit that magical 2nd trimester rush of endorphins and perkiness. I take naps every chance I get, and there have been days when it’s felt like if I didn’t lie down right that second, I might die. Only a slight exaggeration, y’all. This was legit exhaustion.

17 weeks

17 Weeks – on a date in Boulder with Shaun (duh) and–you guessed it–sucking in/angling for all I’m worth.

I’ve also been considerably more nauseated than ever before (including the twins). It’s still nothing compared to what some (many) people deal with–just a generally icky feeling on a fairly regular basis that won’t just go away and stay gone.

ANYhoo, other than that (and let’s face it: the fact that I really don’t like the physical changes and challenges that a pregnancy brings to my body…I’m not a lover of pregnancy, in general), it’s all been good.

Of course, the awesome part is that no amount of tiredness, sickness, aches, or expanding hips can even hold a candle to the exquisite bliss of holding a baby, fresh from heaven, in my arms and marveling at the fact that the Lord used my body to create this little bundle of perfection.

So, that’s where we stand.

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20 Weeks – Because “outtakes” are fun (ahem, twins + my derpy expression). NOT sucking in at all.

This pregnancy has felt slow as molasses so far (despite the summer streaking by in a lightning blur of activity), but I’m hoping, with school starting, that the weeks will just melt away. (I can only imagine once we get into the holiday season).

And now we get to my favoritest part: the gender poll.

So, what do you think?
Is #tiebreakerbaby a boy or a girl?

Because, yes, there is just one in there.

P.S. Guessing whether it’s a boy or a girl is not the same thing as saying that you want it to be a boy or a girl, and my asking what you think is not saying that I have a preference either, so no fair saying: Team Healthy Baby. We are ALL on that team together! :)

P.P.S. After I announce a pregnancy,  I always get an influx of emails asking me questions about: pregnancy (of course), life with lots of kids, birth (particularly of the unmedicated variety), family planning, even pregnancy fashion. I’m happy to (and do) answer all of these individually, but I thought if there are that many folks willing to send emails, then maybe there are others who don’t message me that have questions too? Maybe I’m way off on that. BUT! If you do have a such a question, feel free to ask it in the comments, and I’ll put together a blog post answering all of them soon(ish) :) .

A Tiebreaker

When we first found out we were having a boy as our sixth kid, I expected to get a lot of Brady Bunch references.

But it pretty much never happens.

I do, however, get congratulated somewhat regularly on having an even number of boys and girls. I never quite know how to respond to, “3 boys matched with 3 girls? Good job, Mom!” Umm…thank…you? If only I could claim credit.

Well, I’m afraid that we’ve gone done and ruined any chance of being complimented on our gender planning savvy because we’ve got a tiebreaker in the oven, y’all!

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Not too surprisingly: A) the kids are THRILLED and B) the girls want a girl, and the boys want a boy. (Well, Theo is still existing in blissful ignorance of his imminent dethronement as the reigning baby of the house, but the older boys have claimed his vote, and he seems down with the t shirt).

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Before you go speculating about my blue dress…note my pink nails, please.

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Don’t worry. Evy is happy about a new baby. She’s just a little miffed about being edged out of prime bump-hugging position.

In case you’re wondering, I’m 20 weeks today, and I feel HUGE. I look at these pictures and realize that I don’t necessarily look so very big, but I can definitely tell this is Baby #7, and the ol’ gray mare almost-34-year-old abs just ain’t what they used to be.

Oh, and just so you know, we didn’t wait until 20 weeks to announce for any particular reason. It’s just when I managed to get some pics taken and a post written with a bump to show for it.

So…

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YAY lucky (don’t believe in it, but whatever) #7! We love you. We praise God for you. And we can’t wait to meet you!

The Rug I love. Or don’t? HELP!

EDIT: I found the Nourison Fantasy Rug for cheaper on Amazon with free shipping! (keep reading if you’re lost…that’s an affiliate link, by the way, but it is absolutely the cheapest price I’ve found so far; the color is Aqua, and the 8X10.6 size is available right now. Also, don’t be fooled by the dull/ugly pics. It’s really bright in person).

First things first: we have been busy bees getting all of your Paint and Prose orders out (thank you!), but you still have until tomorrow at midnight to take advantage of our Buy 2 get 1 Free sale that includes all prints (even our brand new ones!).

For the most part, I have been limiting my house purchases over the last year, both because we don’t really need anything for this house and because I want to move as absolutely little as possible whenever that day comes.

There have been some exceptions when I find deals on a Facebook swap that are too good to pass up, but those have been rare.

But what’s a girl to do when she stumbles across a rug she spotted in someone’s Instagram over a year ago but had all but given up hope of ever finding?

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Because that’s totally what happened the other night as Shaun and I were at Home Depot sans kids (thanks, Mom!), and I stopped dead in my tracks and squeaked: “There it IS!”

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You see, after I spotted a pic of the rug, I asked the Instagrammer for the deets, but she didn’t know because it wasn’t her rug. A fellow commenter was nice enough to let me know that Home Depot carried it, which…obviously turned out to be true. But at the time, I couldn’t find it online or in stores anywhere.

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So, I buried that (oh-so-worthy) dream and forgot about it.

Until Monday night, that is.

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Y’all. I have to give major props to Shaun on this one. He stood there with me and stared at it for 10 straight minutes as I went through every room in the new house debating whether it would go well here or be big enough/too big there. He even had an associate open up a runner so that I could see it in smaller form (the 5X7 was the only one displayed, and it didn’t even have my favorite part of the rug–the pink flowers–on it). He was super sweet and patient and did an Oscar-worthy job of seeming interested for a man who doesn’t give a rip about rug designs.

Ultimately, I decided that a) I wasn’t sure whether it would skew too traditional for the couple of spaces it might work (namely: the girls’ play room or my craft room), and b) it was the wrong size for the places that it made the most sense.

And we left.

flower rug 10

But that darn rug nagged at me for the next 24 hours. Why? Because we didn’t have enough chutzpah to have the big version (8X10.6) opened to look at in person. And I knew that, until I saw it in person in my house, I wouldn’t know FOR SURE whether it was the rug for me/the new house.

flower rug4

Can we say “overthinker?” Yes, yes, we can.

So, the next day, the twins + Theo and I went back to Home Depot while the older kids were at piano lessons. Clearly, I was serious about this rug. I mean, I didn’t buy it while I had no kids + a husband to help me haul it, and then I dragged 3 littles across a SCORCHING parking lot (East Texas: any time you want to cool down juuuuuust a smidge will be fine with me) into a big box store where I loaded up a large rug on a small cart and proceeded to make a spectacle of myself getting it into the back of the van. Thank goodness for the nice lady who noticed me sweating through my clothes in my efforts to work it over the top of the seats, and thank goodness for her being nice enough to ignore the messy  back of my van. (I couldn’t help but mentally chuckle at her: “I had 3 little kids once too; bless your heart.” If she only knew :) )

ANYhoo, I got it home and set it up in the sitting room upstairs to see how I liked it, and…I do.

Like it, that is.

flower rug1

A lot.

In fact, if all of it looked like this part, I would LUUURVE it without reservation. But that whole: “Is it too traditional?” question keeps niggling at my mind–mostly because of the deep red + yellow. Nothing so inherently traditional about them. That’s just how they strike me.

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Which is where you guys come in. What do you think? Am I crazy for worrying about it so much? (Let’s go with yes, and move on).

Do you think it gives off a funky/happy/Anthro vibe or…more of a Pottery Barn feel? (Nothing wrong with either; I’m just going for the former over the latter).

In case you’re lost on what I mean by funky vs. traditional, the pic on the left below is my favorite view of the rug, mostly because those pink flowers against the teal just make me happy and have a slightly modern feel to them. The picture on the right focuses on the darker, more traditional-looking patterns and colors, and I’m not as in love with it.

flower rug collage

It’s like it’s a split-personality rug. At least in my strange mind.

So, the question is: could you picture this rug in a girls’ room or craft room? I, personally, think it’s a better fit for a dining or living room, but it’s too small for either in the new house.

Ugh. The first-world, extremely insignificant problems I have to do deal with, y’all.

Oh! And just in case you’re wondering, it’s NOT wool, so it won’t be a beast to vacuum, and it’s quite thick and cushy/comfy underfoot.

flower rug5

Honestly, when I ask you guys for your advice, I’m usually leaning one direction or another. Sometimes your feedback sways me. Sometimes, I stand firm.

But this time, I’m genuinely torn.

Thoughts?

P.S. In case you’re wondering what Evy thinks…

flower rug2

Yeah. I have no idea either.

The Vacation from the Wedding

If you read my Vail Wedding recap, you know that, while we had an absolute blast, it was a jam-packed week. Nothing wrong with that. But hauling 6 kids around to multiple events a day and missing bedtime 5 nights in a row definitely takes its toll.

Truth be told, after last year’s best-vacation-ever stay in Louisville, CO, we had already planned on making the drive again this year before we ever heard anything about the wedding. So, when we heard the dates, we decided to tack a little extended stay on the end–this time in Broomfield (also close to Boulder/Louisville/Denver).

Yet again, we managed to snag an adorable, reasonably priced, ideally situated Airbnb rental. I was sure we wouldn’t be able to top the placed we scored last year (or find anything at all; the pickings were slim this year), but this one–with its twin over full girls’ bunk bed, basement toy room, fenced in backyard + sandbox, and ample bed/bathrooms, was even better.

broomfield13

{If the hand over the eyes is any indication, Evy was pretty embarrassed for the naked–and likely motion-sick–Ken doll that Theo is so gleefully toting}

I’m almost embarrassed to say how little we did during our five days there. But I can say this: we needed the rest. The kids were pretty exhausted after all of the wedding excitement, and I’m not too proud to admit that I was too.

So, we vegged. We played board games.

broomfield1

{We eventually had to resort to a “virtual” Life game spinner on Shaun’s phone for the twins, since the real deal kept getting wrenched off of the board}

We took naps. We ordered takeout. And we played an inordinate amount of a very addictive, very silly internet game called slither.io. We are not a video or phone game family (I literally didn’t have a single game on my phone before I downloaded this one), but we made up for a fair bit of “lost time” that week.

broomfield6

ANYhoo, lest you think that all we did was stare at our phone/tablet screens (the boys do not have phones and had to take turns playing on the 1 tablet we brought, and the girls were downstairs playing with the “new” dolls for hours on end), I would like to point out that we did get out of the house and enjoy the local culture a time a two–starting with the Broomfield Farmer’s Market.

broomfield5

It was a fairly small operation, but it boasted of being the ONLY volunteer run farmer’s market in…(insert large geographical area that I don’t recall). I didn’t really know what that meant until I realized that they had several booths for kids, including one with giant bubble wands and another with several carnival-style games that were completely free.

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{Apparently, Nola considered bubble-blowing a tackle sport}

PLUS! They held a zucchini-mobile race for the kids (complete with free zucchini + stick-on wheels) with a $20 first prize.

We went in a little dubious and left an hour and 1/2 later full (from the yummy street truck food) and happy (even though we didn’t win the zucchini race).

broomfield7

{I hope that you are genuinely impressed with our fake excited expression at the prospect of sharing a giant shave ice sno-cone}

Another night, we attended a free Family Movie Night at the Broomfield Auditorium, and yet another afternoon, we watched the mighty Mudslinger–a trick pig from a traveling show called Top Hogs–do amazing feats like…using his snout to lower a ring so he could walk through it when he was supposed to have jumped through it from a decent height (played for laughs…it was cute).

broomfield

That show also featured Bullet, the rescue dog, who did a good portion of one routine in reverse at rather frantic speeds, which, weirdly, was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

Shaun and I even managed to get a date night in, since the people who owned the house–sweet Christians who had a special needs daughter–had left trusted babysitter recommendations.

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We headed down to Pearl Street in Boulder and ate at an incredible restaurant called Riffs Urban Fare. Maybe this sounds like a superfluous detail, but our waitress was FANTASTIC. She was so attentive, knowledgeable, friendly, and cheerful that it definitely made the whole thing a bit more of an “experience.”  (Plus, the food was amazing).

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broomfield12

Holy wow. I’m getting hungry just staring at this yumminess.

After dinner, we waddled wandered down the promenade, peering in cute shop windows, and then circled back to sit on a bench, where we sat and talked for over an hour. More and more, I find myself cherishing moments of rest like these over activity. I’m pretty sure that’s a sign of aging. And I’m pretty sure I’m fine with that.

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{In case you haven’t noticed yet, Theo has quite the personality on him; apparently, end-of-trip donuts get him jazzed. Me too, T. Meeee too}

Oh, and just because…

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{This kid just makes life fun. That is all}

Friday morning, I managed to sneak away to Boulder again for a solo shopping trip to Anthro and LOFT (where I found a dress for $4.88–HOLLA).

broomfield14

Happily ensconced in the giant Anthro sale room. broomfield15

{This one came home with me. The cropped bell bottom overalls from above…did not}

Oh, and somewhere during the week, I attended two separate BODYCOMBAT+GRIT combos at a local gym, which, despite being exactly what I teach in Texas, felt considerably harder than usual (mayyyybe due to elevation, although I had been in CO plenty long enough to adjust, so most likely just due to my epic levels of slug-worthy couch-surfing + wedding burnout).

We capped off our trip with a visit to my Uncle Kris’s and Aunt Marilyn’s house (just outside of Denver), where they treated us to “Tacos in a Bag.”

Basically, you set out taco fixin’s + a bunch of mini-bags of Doritos (they used Nacho Cheese), and then you add spoonfuls of taco add-ins to the chip bags, shake them up, and eat them straight from the bag with a spoon.

It’s entertaining and quite tasty.

Note to all 8-year-old boys: there is no need to shake the bags so viciously that all of the (rather messy) contents eventually shoot out the wrong end of the bag, which pops open from sheer exhaustion/abuse. Not that that happened or anything.

The 18 hour drive home (to which I contributed a whopping six hours of wheel-time. Bless you, husband) was a bit of a beast, but we made it.

And there you have it, folks. One of the least eventful, and therefore most relaxing, vacations on the books to date.

Am I a total geezer for preferring low key family vacations? Maybe. Am I okay with that? Definitely.

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3 New Paint and Prose Prints + a Sale!

Gooood morning!!!

Okay, so I had to sound a little cheerier than I currently feel just now, since I’ve been staying up way too late watching the Olympics (hashtag obsessed, hashtag GOUSA), and I miiight have had trouble falling asleep after the American men gutted beat the French and Australians in the 100M freestyle relay last night. Shaun and I were gushing over how their relay comeback from 2008 (when 30-year-old captain Jason Lezak chased down the French in the last lap) was the best race we’ve ever seen, and Ezra and Simon–who are way into the Olympics too–were just staring at us in slightly bemused fascination (apparently, we were pretty animated). But then, they got their own team to cheer for, and they were hopping around like hyper grasshoppers, shouting our boys home, so suffice it to say it’s either in the blood or very catching.

ANYhoo, clearly, I did not manage to get the three promised Paint and Prose prints posted by Friday because Life. That’s all I’ve got.

But they’re here now!

And I don’t like to play favorites, but…they are definitely some of my absolute faves we’ve done so far.

And not just because this one is a phrase that I coined. (It’s not exactly a super-original thought or anything, but it is an encouragement that I need daily).

First up, our Hard is Not the Same Thing as Bad print.

hardwhite

Hard is Not the Same Thing as Bad.

hard1

What I tell myself when I’m overwhelmed by laundry or 3-year-old angst or too much to-do list and not enough sleep. What I tell my children, too, when they moan and groan about a shopping trip to Walmart when we’re all hungry and tired or when they’re cowed by a difficult new piano piece. (Notice all of these are first world problems and would hardly qualify as “hard” in many countries).

We made this one simple, with pretty watercolor script and bold prints. Because the message is the big picture here.

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And then there’s our ethereal Under His Wings print.

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under his wings

The delicate purples, green, and blues of the feathers would make this one perfect for a little girl’s room (I already had a reader tell me that she needed this one, since they were the exact colors and verse she had already chosen for her daughter’s nursery!). But really, this print would work anywhere that you need some pretty encouragement of the Lord’s care for you.

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I do believe it fits right in with all of the blues in my entryway.

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And last but not least, we have our Just Roll With It print. I don’t remember if I ever told this story here (I know I did over on the Paint and Prose Instagram page...do you follow us there?), but this one is the print that almost never was.

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roll with it

It’s one of the first prints we ever created, and we luuuurved it. But somehow, we managed to leave it in the hotel room (where we holed up for 30 hours making prints and eating chocolate), and the hotel staff never found it. We were so sad. But, after showing our IGers an in-progress shot of the original print and getting a universally positive response, we knew we needed to recreate it.

So, TADA. Just Roll With It 2.0. The message seems fitting considering the circumstances of its creation.

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Obviously, I’m super-jazzed that we have her back, considering how fun she is on my shelves full o’ paraphernalia in my kitchen. This one would make such a cute gift for a baker or amateur chef in your life. (I’m thinking it would be perfect as a gift paired with an actual rolling pin + measuring cups).

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In case you’re wondering, we’re already working on some fall-themed prints plus {!!}, by popular request, a boy-themed print.

Oh! And, in celebration of our new print launches, we’re running a flash sale from now until Saturday at midnight.
Buy any TWO prints and get one FREE (of equal or lesser size). No code necessary. Just let us know which free print you want, in which size, and we’ll include it with your order. Standard shipping, as always, is free!

You can find all of our art prints here.

Happy shopping and HAPPY Monday (meh).

P.S. Did you have a favorite of the three?

 

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A $7 Embroidered Bag??

I get a fair number of questions about this purse.

kimono

I bought it, um, 18 months {?} ago on major sale from Anthropologie’s website, and everyone from complete strangers to RL friends to blog readers to Anthro employees have asked me about it.

It sold out pretty quickly, but I stumbled across a different design in the same print for crazy cheap (like $10) from Modcloth (during the epic wedding dress search of 2016), but–le sigh–it sold out too before I could even share it with you guys.

Which is why I got a wee bit excited when I stumbled across this little gem from Whoa, Wait, Walmart? (do you follow them on IG? it’s a fun account). I guarantee you I never would have noticed it if I’d had kids with me, but I was–shockingly–shopping alone, which freed up my brain cells to register its cuteness. Yip-to-the-ee.

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Honestly, I would have expected to find a bag this hip at Target, not Walmart, but, since their gender-neutral bathroom decision, I’ve kept my distance from Target. I mentioned boycotting them on Instagram, and it sparked quite the discussion, but I just wanted to clarify two things that came up as a result: 1. I don’t expect Target to share my Biblical views of gender/God’s design for men and women, so their support of people who identify themselves as transgender does not surprise me. I do, however, expect them to give even more weight to the safety of their shoppers, and allowing any man who claims to identify as a woman to enter the women’s bathroom is an inroad for voyeurs and pedophiles (not saying a person who identifies as transgender is a pedophile, simply that people who are predators could easily claim to be transgender for restroom access), and 2. Even if our Target had a family restroom (it doesn’t) or I could make sure that my kids never need to use the bathroom while we’re there (I can’t), my most persuasive voice at the moment is my money. I love Target’s wares. But I do not love this policy, and if abstaining from shopping there can help change it, then that’s what I’ll do.

ANYhoo, sorry for the tangent. BACK to the purse.

It has the same boho vibe, complete with a fun yarn tassel pom-pom, as the Anthro version, and, while I haven’t truly tested its mettle (I just bought it on Tuesday), I figured that, for $7, it was a chance I was willing to take. (It does have several good reviews).

Plus, it’s the perfect size for my laptop (which I use for choreography notes) + gym mic + mic belt + diapers and wipes, which means I can load it up, leave it in the car, and snag it to bring inside the gym, instead of bringing in my larger Anthro bag or trying to transfer everything I need back and forth (because carrying my mic around in my everyday bag is a surefire way to break it).

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In stores, I found 5ish different designs, and they were all on sale for $7. (Originally $13). Online, the prices vary a little more, but none are over $10, which still makes it a pretty great deal for a cute, nicely-sized bag with fun details like embroidery, a lining, and an inner zip pocket.

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{Oh, the siren’s song of poofy tulle skirts and being able to reach the light switches}

ANYhoo, apparently, this is the week where I share things I like (and some I don’t. Ha!). I have all kinds of other posts in the works, including a recap of our post-Vail Colorado vacation and, tomorrow, the release of not one but THREE new Paint and Prose prints (we’ve been busy!), but I just thought I’d pop in and share in case, you know, you’re just desperate for a new bag or want to stock up on Christmas presents.

Hasta mañana!

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Meet Alexa (An Amazon Echo Review)

And no, Alexa is not the 7th child that we somehow sneaked into our family without anybody noticing (and no one who had ever read this name parallelism post would even begin to consider such a thing, since Alexa is pretty far outside our family name aesthetic).

I am not much of a techie. Quite the opposite. I mean, yes. I’m a blogger, but I probably wouldn’t be if it weren’t for my geektastic husband who helps me out with the trickier aspects.

Granted, I’m not quite as bad as I used to be–when saving a file was a source of never-ending angst (which directory did it disappear into? And how can there be this many different layers to sift through before I find the right one??! And yes, I know all of the Mac users are like: Apple, baby! But I am stubbornly/masochistically dedicated to my maddening PC).

But still, I am hardly the first (more like the 1 millionth and 1st) to jump on a new gadget’s bandwagon. I don’t even like updating my (few) apps. It messes with the (rather limited) memory on my phone and usually means that things–gasp–change (no joke, Abbie; think that might be the point, maybe?).

Which is why I was a less-than-rapt audience when Shaun first told me (rather excitedly) about the Amazon Echo (nope, not a sponsored post) maybe as much as a year ago. It sounded like something from “the future” (or the Jetson’s version of it), and I couldn’t see much point.

Imagine my surprise, then, when a package showed up on our doorstep after we got home from vacation with our very own Echo inside. I gave Shaun my best side-eye + “Hmph, men” expression.

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But then he started taking Alexa (you can address it as, “Echo,” “Amazon,” or “Alexa,” and the kids preferred the latter) through her paces, and I started to perk up a little.
So, what is this mysterious device? Well, it basically looks like an unassuming black cylindrical speaker (which is partly true) and functions as a voice-activated portal to all things news, music, weather, games, and quite a bit more.

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You “wake her up” by saying, “Alexa,” and then follow with a command such as: “Add milk to my shopping list.” Or “Alexa, play Ellie Holcomb.” Or even: “Alexa, tell me a joke.” (Example: “What’s black and white and red all over?…An educated penguin.” Bah Dum Bum).

You can tell Alexa she’s pretty, and she’ll thank you for the compliment. You can play Simon Says or 20 Questions. You can ask her to sing Happy Birthday. She’ll play your Audible books or a Bible-reading app for you. She’ll tell you something interesting about that day’s date when you say, “Good morning,” and will set a timer for any amount of time that you tell her. She’ll tell you what day of the week a particular date was or will be.

Honestly, she’s kind of amazing, and I’ve never been so smitten by a piece of technology. I’ve always despised the learning curve that naturally accompanies a new machine, but with Alexa, because everything is spoken, it’s all pretty intuitive. As soon as you learn what she can do and how to give the correct command, you’re golden.

I’m sure I haven’t even scratched the surface of everything she can do (I’m interested to research how she can integrate with homeschooling), but for the moment, I’m enjoying the ability to walk downstairs and ask her to play the Good Morning song while we make breakfast (there’s nothing like a dance party in the kitchen to start the day off on a happy note). Or to tell the kids that they have six minutes to finish cleaning up the living room and be able to set the timer without walking from the laundry room to the kitchen stove. (Whoa, that makes me sound lazy). I’ve made grocery lists without a single pen or keystroke. Shaun and I have used her 7 Minute Workout feature to do a quick round (or 3) of exercise at night. We’ve even used her to lower the thermostat when we got too hot doing said exercise.

The kids, of course, think she’s magic. They tell her to play music, ask for jokes, give her copious compliments (to many of which she responds with a demure: “I’m not sure what you mean by that”) and play games like Zoo Keeper (you can ask for examples of animal sounds) and the Magic Door (an adventure game in which you choose from two or three options at a time to make your way through a series of scenarios that ultimately culminate in the opportunity to slay a dragon).

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{Shaun said, “Alexa,”from behind me right before I took this pic, and she obligingly lit up. He was more than a little pleased with himself}

She’s entertaining as can be and can keep the kids occupied for a good hour, but more than that, she’s darn useful (because if it were just games, I wouldn’t care much for her).

And I looooooooooove (not enough o’s believe it or not) being able to turn on soft music in the background with a phrase (the music comes from your Prime membership if you have it or an Amazon music library, Spotify, or Pandora if you don’t). Yesterday, the kids and I folded 3 loads of laundry while Norah Jones crooned from the kitchen, and it was kind of awesome. Oh, and the speaker quality is really good, with crisp, clear tones and good bass.

Shaun bought Alexa during Prime Days, so we got her for $100, I think. But–and I normally wouldn’t say this–I’d say she’s worth the $180 regular price.

And let me reiterate that Amazon is in no way sponsoring this post (although it does contain affiliate links).

I just thought I’d share something a little out of the ordinary for us that our family is really enjoying, in case you’ve been eyeing it and wondering whether it’s all it’s cracked up to be.

Now, if only I could figure out how to get Alexa to scrub my toilets for me. Oh wait, that’s what little boys are for.

What about you guys? Any experience with Amazon Echo?

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A Wedding in Vail (Part 2)

Welp.

We’re back in Texas–the land of 156% humidity and no rain. Exceeeeept. We’ve actually gotten a fair bit of rain this past weekend, which has made the transition from the dry Colorado heat (and cool, crisp mornings) to “swimming in my own sweat” a bit more bearable.

I’m mostly happy to be back to our usual routine but not the least bit happy about the laundry situation. Actually, the house we rented had a washer and dryer, so I’m pretty caught up on dirty clothes, but just the process of returning 2 weeks worth of clothing (including lots of “special occasion” items we wouldn’t normally have with us but needed for the wedding) to their proper places for 8 different people is…not my favorite. Seriously, it’s making me consider capsule wardrobes for all of us.

Speaking of the wedding, I left you guys hanging just a wee bit last week, now didn’t I? Sorry about that. I have been writing this post piece-meal for the past 3 days, but the transition from time zones and driving/trying to sleep in the car all night has been a bit rough. (I might have taken a total of 4 hours of naps–split up–on Sunday to catch up…neither confirming nor denying this).

So, last we checked, the girls were all gussied up for the big event, and it was go time.
We drove over to the wedding site, which was mercifully close, and I hustled all three girls, still clad in curlers and play clothes (because the things that can and will happen to white dresses during a five minutes drive are just too numerous and ugly to count) into the women’s bathroom. I wanted their hair to have as long as possible to dry, but as I started unrolling it, I could tell that there were quite a few damp strands amidst all of the ringlets. All I could do was hope they would last through the ceremony and pictures. Praise the Lord for my new BFF, Emily (aka: the random girl washing her hands in the bathroom), who quickly sized up the situation and jumped right in unrolling curls, helping change the girls into their dresses, and fastening shoe straps. She was a Godsend. Of course, I thought we were on a bit more of a time-crunch than we were, since our flurry of activity ended in sitting around for a good 10 minutes waiting for further instructions. But better safe than sorry.

The following has to be my favorite picture of the entire shindig.

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I have no idea what I said that made the girls all gaze so adoringly at the ring-bearer (or him to make the perfect smug “stud muffin” expression), but I’m seriously hoping the quality of this picture is good enough to blow this one up big and frame it. Because I’m pretty sure I’ll need it when one of them marries cute little James one day.

vail13 {Forgive the fuzzy bathroom pic… After all of the dithering about my hair, all I had time for was a low ponytail with a side braid–completely invisible here–and side-swept bangs, which I fruitlessly tried to tame with a straightener, producing rather limp results. Meh. But Shaun said he loved it. Good man}

ANYhoo, the moment of truth had arrived. I was feeling pretty good right up to the point that Evy got her bow retied and suddenly decided that, although it was tied in exactly the same way as before, it was worthy of a full-on feet-stamping tantrum. Good thing I’m not above a bit of bribery/threats when the situation is desperate enough. I reminded her, through a clenched teeth smile, that the Princess Jelly Beans that were waiting for her at the end of the aisle  would never make it into her eager little palms if she kept this up.

Miracle of miracles, the waterworks dried up pronto, and she and Nola lined up like the good little sugar-lovers they are.

I couldn’t see their faces as they walked down the aisle, being the hovering Prom Mom/flower/hair/shoe/prop checker that I was, but I’m told that there were some smiles, and–most importantly (so importantly)–neither of the twins dropped the adorable-if-slightly-hefty “Here Comes the Bride” sign on their toes.

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{Ha! Clearly in all of my attention to detail, I still managed to miss the sign sticker}

S-U-C-C-E-S-S

The rest was pretty much one big victory party. For me, at least. I mean, important stuff like vow exchanges and such happened, of course, but I was pretty confident of the adults’ abilities to do their parts. It was those sweet lil’ 3-year-olds that had me worried. Oh, and I should mention that Della was an utter professional. She swept down the aisle in time to the music scattering petals tastefully and smiling demurely. Girl’s got class.

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{Heading out into the sunshine to take 86 posed shots #goodtimes}

I would love to tell you that I did a wonderful job of photographing the gorgeous reception, but…I’d be lying. I literally got one “decent” shot.

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…and then went back to snatching steak knives out of little hands and steering the twins around the beautiful but precariously situated (read: entirely too close to our table; I had visions of their running headlong into it and the entire thing crashing down in a spectacular explosion of raspberry filling and buttercream) cake table.

But I/Shaun did snag a few keepers outside.

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This little woman gets more poised and thoughtful daily. I can already see glimpses of her grownup self, and it’s pretty amazing.

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And then there’s this young man.

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And this one. They’re both hilarious and wise and helpful. In between being total goofs, of course. Man, I love them!

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Everyone keeps commenting on “how BIG” Theo looks with his haircut, and I can’t help but agree. *Sniff.*

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I realize the next pic was supposed to be of the twins together, but they were pictured out by this point (as evidenced by Nola’s enthusiasm above). vail5

Posing with my beautiful cousin, Amanda. Before Nola’s picture-taking humor turned sour.

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Aaaand after. The twins had already been told a minimum of 6 times: “This is the last photo. Just smile oooooone more time.” #nope Also…note my expert use of the “the mom claw.”

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{Poised bride and senior flower girl; unimpressed junior flower girls}

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And a semi-decent pic of my whole family? Whaaa? Miraculous, I tell you.

Try as I might, I didn’t manage to snag one single decent pic of the kids bogeying down on the dance floor, but I did capture some of their more memorable moves in a quick video on IG.

So, there you have it. Many, many pictures and words about a very pretty, very fun, very busy wedding.

And now to tackle that laundry.  But first, sleep.

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A Wedding in Vail {Part 1}

Whoa.

The past week has been a blur. I looked up this morning expecting it to be Monday, maaaaybe Tuesday, only to realize that–shoot!–it’s Wednesday, I haven’t blogged in over a week, and our vacation is almost over. (Pssst…even when I’m not blogging, you can still find daily updates on Instagram).

Okay, so I’m not quite that clueless, but the last 7 days or so  have melted together in a rush of travel and wedding activity.

The past few days have been a welcome respite from the busyness (we decided to stay a few days longer in Colorado after the wedding at an Airbnb rental in Broomfield), but I haven’t done (or felt like doing) much other than my best slug impression (although, I did get a free pass to a local gym yesterday and did BODYCOMBAT + GRIT STRENGTH for the first time in a week, and now eeevvverything hurts).

ANYhoo, how about that wedding that I went on and on about for weeks on end?

It. was. lovely.

And a lot of fun.

I’d only been to Vail once before (that I can remember), and while I had a vague impression of charm, my memory was a pale facsimile of reality.

I’m pretty sure at one point I said: “This is better than Disneyland!”

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Vail Village–while far from “real” (no convenience stores, grocery stores, gas stations, or otherwise necessary shops)–is such a picturesque escape from reality that it’s hard to care. Window boxes fair-to-bursting with vibrant blooms everywhere you turn, funky sculptures, adorable boutiques, a burbling river that runs through the center…and all of it set against the backdrop of the mountains and the crisp blue Colorado sky.

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{Theo woke up at 5 one morning, went back to sleep, but I couldn’t, so I went for a “run.” Code for mostly walk. Because I’m an elevation wimp}

It’s seriously Fairy Land.

We pulled in around 3 PM after driving all night last Tuesday and the first half of Wednesday. Other than Evy waking up and squawking every 15 minutes for the first 4 hours, the drive went as smoothly as it possibly could have. In what I can only describe as God’s care for the details of our lives, Theo, who had been churning out pretty horrendous teething diapers every half hour for a week, didn’t poop once on the entire 18 hour car ride. Grateful doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt…even when he made 4 (!!) huge diapers within an hour of our pulling into Vail.

We were staying in the same condo as my parents, which was great, since my kids adore their Safta and Sabba, and my mom is pretty much the grandmother of everyone’s dreams (always willing to babysit, help, change diapers, do laundry, and just generally be a blessing).

We took the (free) public bus to the local Safeway (the kids thought riding the bus was the raddest thing ev-ah) and then proceeded to buy way too many groceries without realizing that we would have to haul them across a highway to the rather strangely situated return bus stop. Whoops. Let’s just say that, after contemplating hauling 6 kids plus 8 bags of groceries and a watermelon across the highway, we dismissed that thought and called Shaun to come rescue us.

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{Della: “Softa, this bus is sooooo fun. It’s like the funnest ever.” Not sure where she picked up her Valley Girl vernacular, but it’s pretty cute}

Thursday morning, Shaun and I took the kids on a jaunt through the village and up the pathway to the river + the park. Simon fell in the river, but, really, with six kids, that was bound to happen to at least one.

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{Simon is likely dunking himself in the background. Theo and Daddy aren’t too worried about it; also, RIP, Theo’s curls}

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Here we are at a bus stop that we would likely have waited at for a very long time had someone not come along and informed us that that particular bus was only running every 2 hours.

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And what would a family “hike” be if it didn’t end in celebratory ice cream?

Thursday evening was the first of a series of wedding festivities–a pizza/pool party at the Lion’s Square Lodge. The kids took turns shivering in the pool, but I was glad that none of the adults seemed the least bit interested (and also that I have a 10 and 8-year-old who are happy to save their mama some swimsuit angst and herd the little kids in their floaties in the shallow end–don’t worry; there was always an adult on the edge of the pool too).

We got to meet the lovely bride (who was marrying my first cousin, Erik), and the girls (the twins especially) shined up to her immediately, offering shy hugs that quickly morphed into Koala bear clinginess at every opportunity.  (Sorry no photographic evidence was captured of this adorableness).

Friday was the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, so the girls and I headed to the rehearsal at noon while the boys (minus Theo) rode the gondola for some fun on the mountain. Not gonna lie. I was sad to miss the mountain adventures, but it was still pretty cute to see the girls taking their flower girl roles so seriously…prancing gravely down the “aisle” (it was an outdoor venue, so they mostly tried—and failed–to walk a straight line in the pavement and pretend that there were people on each side).

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{The bride gave them matching satin clutch purses and “pearl” bracelets, and they were just a wee bit thrilled}

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{My Aunt Patti–mother of the groom–was so sweet to the girls, even giving them wedding-themed coloring books/crayons, which kept them enthralled as we waited for the rest of the wedding party to practice}

Meanwhile, Della and I took shameless selfies.

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The rehearsal dinner was at a charming Austrian restaurant inside a resort called Sonnenalp (conveniently located a stone’s throw away from our condo), and, while multiple trips to the huge bathroom several levels down were the little kids’ favorite activity, the food was delicious, and I was just happy to make it through a 3 hour shindig with a minimum of spilled drinks and tears. (Between my brother’s two little girls–ages 2 and 9 months–and my brood, there were 8 kids, 10 and under, at 1 table; it could have been disastrous, but the kids did great).

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Nola: I luuurve Uncle Shae.

Shae:

{Kidding, he’s a fabulous uncle; just managed to catch him at a rather blank moment}

I’d been worry-warting about the girls’ hair for a while, since the twins’ is stick-straight and fine, and Della’s is long but still needs a little help to look smooth. I wanted curls but had struck out with trial runs of foam curlers and curling irons. Lots of nice people on social media suggested curlers through the night, but we were home way too late from the rehearsal dinner to stay up and roll. Plus, the twins were doing well to keep the curlers in for an hour, much less sleep on them.

ANYhoo, Saturday arrived–WEDDING day!–and the girls were suuuuper excited. Most of the day was spent in some form of preparation or another. But my mom was nice enough to keep kids while Shaun and I slipped away for a quick bite.

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Mmmm…crepes + bacon.

When the girls got up from naps, we went into full-on beauty mode. Pretty much everybody who wasn’t dressing him/herself got in on the action, whether it was toenail painting (Shaun: “So…how do you keep the paint from getting on everything around the nail?”) or hair-drying (Simon can wield a mean blow-dryer, y’all).  I dampened the girls’ hair, applied mousse, then rolled them in foam rollers and blasted them with the hair-dryer. I knew it would be touch-and-go, but it was the best option we had, so we went with it.

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Clearly, they loved the process. Clearly, I was very sympathetic.

A couple of hours later, it was time to go–not so much because were were all as ready as I would have liked but because we had run out of time.

Wedding time was upon us…

And now, lunchtime is upon me. Plus, this is really long.

Part 2 is coming…get excited.

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