Stylish Lighting Under $150 (Including actual lights I’m putting in the New House)

I almost titled this post something SUPER cheese-fest like, “Lighting deals so good, they’re scary.” But, considering that we are kind of the opposite of the Halloween Family,  I think that’s just the influence of all of the marketing ad banners that keep popping up as I’m doing the research which now brings you said amazing lighting deals.

But let’s back up a bit and talk about my nasal passages for a moment, k?

What? EW, Abbie. No! Why would we want to do that?

It’s a fair question, but I just really feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t reiterate what I said last week (aka: the last time I actually mustered the energy to post…I know…I’m the worst), and that is: this is THEE worst head cold I have ever had.

I’m on Day 12, and, while I would consider myself technically better by this point, certain symptoms (I’ll spare you the details since I’ve already used the phrase “nasal passage”–twice now–in this post) are still lingering. I still sound like death, which is oh-so-fun for my fitness class participants. But I no longer FEEL like I will meet my Maker at a moment’s notice.

I shudder to think what kind of pestilence I would have ended up with if I hadn’t faithfully dosed myself with: garlic, apple cider vinegar, essential oils, honey/lemon, and Vitamin C and Echinacea. But dose myself I did.

And I’m still here to tell about it. And keep on telling, apparently

Okay, I’m done.

So! This post has nothing to do with coughs and sniffles, so let’s just move right along, shall we?

I’ve mentioned several times that most of my research for the new house has consisted of online sources. Which…is tricky, since you can’t see or touch anything for yourself. Still, if you stick to well-reviewed, trusted brands and pay attention to dimensions, you’re fairly likely to end up with what you were expecting. (Emphasis on the word “fairly”).

I’ve had several people ask me about lighting sources–especially of the barn light/industrial variety–so I thought I’d put together a little round-up of some of the best-looking, most reasonably priced lights that I’ve found in my travels across the wild wastelands of the world wide web (sorry, I’ve been grading high school English papers at our homeschool co-op, and I have alliteration on the brain).

Most of these are options that I’m either seriously considering or have already ordered for the new house, but almost none of them have arrived yet. I’ll update when I’ve seen them in person.

lighting collage

1 / 2/ 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10

And just to be clear, all but 3 of these lights are WELL under $150. Most are under $50!

1. I have seen these galvanized wall sconces  from Lowe’s (they come in a medium and a large size and cost $30/$40 respectively), and I have to say that they look MUCH better in person. The picture up there makes the silver look muddy and dull when, in reality, it has a nice weathered sheen. I am using 3 of these in the boys’ bathroom by their mirrors.

2. I’m ordering no fewer than 5 of this Swing Arm Sconce and hoping for the best. The reviews are good. And I haven’t found anything nearly as close to this pretty in this style for this price ($44 with Prime shipping).

3. This seafoam beauty is one of the pricier options on the list for a single sconce at $125 (well, that’s’s pro pricing, since we have a builder account, so I think they’re a little more normally). But they’re also one of the most unique. I don’t have a specific place in the new house for one of these…but only because I can get such better deals on something kind of, sort of comparable. The shade is 10″, though, so they would make quite a statement if you had a spot for them.

4. I get asked all. the. time where the lights over my kitchen island are from. Well, the answer is Grandin Road, but the BEST PART is that all of three of the glass pendant styles that I have hanging over the island are on MAJOR sale, and there’s a 30% off code (FRIENDS16) you can stack on top of that right now. Which makes them ridiculously cheap! I just bought 5 more to put in various rooms in the new house that need a single hanging light that still creates a decent glow. Seriously, if you’ve considered these lights before, run grab one before it sells out. Especially since you’ll be getting them for $30-$40 when I’ve seen them elsewhere for $120!!!

5. I love the simplicity of this brass/glass globe pendant, although I do wish it cost less than $100. Still, at 12″, it’s a fair bit of light to work with, and I’m seriously considering it for the downstairs main bath.

6. Oh, how I wish I had a place for this seafoam vanity light. At $120, Joss and Main has it for about 1/2 the price of anywhere else I’ve seen it (don’t ask me why).

7. Likewise for this industrial pendant from the same brand that I’m seriously considering 3 of for over the kitchen island. Joss and Main has them for $104 (they’re big!), which is almost $100 cheaper than anywhere else I’ve found it. The white and aged brass pictured here is currently out of stock, but they’re supposed to get it back, and there are other colors to choose from.

8. Contrary to what you might think based on the picture, this over-the-island pendant is BIG. Like 40″ across, with 16″ shades on those lamps! It would make a huge statement for very little money ($100). I actually seriously considered getting two of them for our island and painting them or changing the color with Rub n Buff, but I think I want something with a little more bling.

9. I did jump all over this $35 (!!!!) vanity light like a duck on a June bug, though (to give you a point of reference for how good of a price this is, Amazon has it for $55, and they’re the next lowest price). I got three–two for the master bath and one for the downstairs half bath–and I plan to paint all three. They are 20″ wide, and the shades are good-sized. Even though I’m going to paint mine, if I liked oil rubbed bronze, I would certainly keep them that way because they look much more expensive than they are. (They’re currently out of stock, but it says they’ll be getting more).

10. I’m ordering 3 of this pretty Brass Globe Sconce to go beside the girls’ mirrors in their bathroom vanity. I love that they’ll add sparkle and lots of light without breaking the bank ($50 each). (A similar light from West Elm or Pottery Barn costs 2-3 times as much).

A couple of honorable mentions:

After months of watching the price go up and down, I ordered this blue beaded chandy from All Modern (which is the same as Joss and Main and Wayfair, in case you’re wondering) when I noticed that they had a clearance/returned version (just one!) for $55 less than the lowest price I had ever seen it go.

blue beaded pendant

It’s more for looks than anything, since it only has one bulb, but there are other light sources in the room, so that’s okay. Oh! And just in case you find yourself compelled to order it too, be warned that the chain (which you can’t see in the picture) and all other metal on this light are YELLOW. Like canary yellow. I will definitely be toning that down with a DIY. Otherwise, it’s a really fun, big light.

Also! I have not ordered this light because I have no need for it, but man, is it pretty!

crystal chandy

And relatively cheap at $190, since most of the ones like it I’ve seen in this size range have been $250+.

And finally, we have the dark horse.

ding light

I really love this green barn light for the three spots we’ve designated for sconces  above the kitchen sink. But I didn’t include it in the collage for two reasons. 1) For some reason, Olioboard (the program I use to create inspo boards) wouldn’t let me add the image, and 2) even though it’s an AH-mazing deal (only $32 for an already funky-color painted 10″ barn light…practically unheard of)–or maybe because it’s such an amazing deal–it’s shipping through Amazon from a Hong Kong based company I’ve never heard of. In other words, I’m going to order 3 of these and then forget that I did it because they won’t show up until Christmas…if they ever do. I figure it’s worth the risk for the price, though, because all of the comparable ones I’ve looked at are LITERALLY 10 times the price, y’all! And apparently, our credit card will cover us if we get completely shafted. Or at least that’s what my finance-savvy husband says.


There you have it. I have seen the light(s). And!!! Best of all, between this list and some craigslist/facebook swap finds over the last 6 months or so, I’ve already knocked out 90% of the new house list!

Whoop! I told you figuring stuff out and calling it done was my favorite!

So, now it’s your turn. I still have a light or two to snag. Namely something large-ish for both living room and “big room” upstairs. Hit me with any brilliant (ha) suggestions you have!




Well, we didn’t bust…

But we didn’t go to Charleston either.

So, yes, I’m still alive, for those you that were worried. (Thanks for the sweet messages, by the way).

But only barely.

Okay. So, that’s a bit on the dramatic side, but I am on day five of thee worst head cold I think I’ve ever experienced. Couple that with the fact that there has been almost zero margin for rest the last four days (Monday: Homeschool co-op all day, Tuesday: all-day appointments + gym classes, and Wednesday: homeschooling, house-cleaning, and more gym classes, yesterday: the same), and I have been collapsing on the couch as soon as I get home and staying as still as possible, until dragging my aching body to bed every night. This morning, I finally woke up feeling a little more like a human being instead of a walking zombie, so praise Jesus for that!

ANYHOO, there’s no way to know just how coherent this post will be, but I thought I’d give y’all an update on what we did do to celebrate the super-monumental event of my turning 34-whole-years-old.

We were waffling back and forth until the last second on whether to chance Charleston, but when they started evacuating folks, and the airlines declared a weather advisory, that pretty much made the decision for us.

Thankfully (for us, not for Charleston), because of those two things, both our Airbnb rental and our flights were refunded (or at least credited, in the case of the latter), so it looks like we’ll still get to go. Just not quite yet.

My sweet mama was cool with keeping our kids anyway, so we headed to Dallas last Wednesday to do exciting things like eat Thai food, sleep on clean sheets we didn’t have to wash, and check out tile stores and bathroom faucets.

I know. What party animals we are!

But seriously. After months of go, go, going for our family, it was such a relaxing, rejuvenating 48ish hours with my man.

Before we ever made it out of Tyler, we stopped for lunch at The Grove.


I’d heard good things but had never been, and I was pretty blown away by the rad interior design. They put some serious thought and effort into getting everything just so.


{Those chandeliers made us think of alien vegetables, which…normally wouldn’t be a good thing; but it totally worked in this space}


{Coolest lounge ever}


{Aren’t you just so thrilled that I managed to capture this creepy down-lighting shot?}

Thankfully, the food was just as yummy as the decorations, so I left a very happy pregnant lady.


{Shaun loves few things more than a good balsamic glaze, and this was a very good balsamic glaze, so I was not the only happy camper}

On our way to Dallas, we stopped by Paul Michael, a big warehouse style decor store in Canton, Tx (home of the famous Canton Trade Days, in case that name rings a bell) and wandered…then wandered some more.


We didn’t buy anything, but I was sorely tempted by a 1/2 off giant pedestal table (that still cost $600…nope). It was a fun little jaunt just the same, and at least a chunk of the wandering was due to Shaun’s having to take phone calls (more on that in a minute), but I certainly wasn’t complaining.

That night, we ate the aforementioned Thai (if you’re in Dallas uptown, check out Malai Kitchen—SO good), watched a movie (Queen of Katwe…it was good! Not life-changing, but sweet and clean and well-acted), and ate some super-tasty gelato (can’t remember the name of the place, but it’s right beside the Magnolia Theatre).

I mentioned Shaun’s being on the phone a lot. So, remember all of those flooring samples I showed y’all?

We found a (much) better price online for the laminate (yup, we took some home, made a little mini-”floor” and tested it out for a week and reeeeeeally liked it) than the local place, but I asked Shaun to contact the local guy before ordering, since he had been so helpful, had already spent over 3 hours with me, and I wanted to at least give him a chance to make the sale.

Shaun did, and what ensued was a two-day-long bidding war between the online guy and the local guy for our business. It actually got a little comical toward the end, and Shaun was pretty much completely stressed out and wishing it were over by the last 6 calls or so…


The fairy tale ending is that 1) we ended up going with the local guy because 2) he MATCHED the crazy-low price the online store had dropped their already crazy-low price to (assuring us that he was still making money on it) and agreed to store it for us until we need it, AND 3) because my bro and sis-in-law were also ordering the same laminate in a different shade for the house they’re building (hence the bidding war; it was a big order), we saved $$$$ between the two of us on flooring that was already very reasonably priced and which we were fully prepared to pay the online price for in the first place. Praise the Lord!

Thankfully, it wasn’t all phone calls and negotiations, even as exciting as the outcome was.

My actual birthday started out with a trip to The Boulangerie in Greenville Ave. for breakfast


They have amazing croissants!


{Shaun got me a Fitbit Blaze–complete with an aqua band, of course–for my birthday; the better to track just how many steps it took to burn off all {okay, my half} of those pastries)

Plus, their decor is such a feast for the eyes as well.



{It’s hard to tell what’s going on here because of the glare, but a lady saw us praying over our breakfast and thought it was a cool shot, so she snapped a pic. Kind of a fun shot to have}

The next few stops were a bit on the utilitarian side, since we stopped at a tile store and a faucet store, but after doing most of my house-researchonline, it was fun to be able to see and touch real! live! stuff!

Again, we didn’t buy anything, but we didn’t come away with a good idea of what we want to do in the master bathroom. Which is my favorite. Not the master bathroom. The knowing. I enjoy researching and finding the best deal, but my favorite part is that big sigh of relief when you land on the final decision and can just move on.

And the NEXT stop was a complete happenstance but a  very happy one, indeed. As we were on our way to a cool-sounding antiques/salvage shop, we spotted this giant brick building with the words, “Uncommon Ground,”  on the side.


Turns out, it’s kind of the mother of all antique quirkiness and decor awesomeness. Again–you guessed it–we bought nothing (because the cheapest thing I saw there was an old spoon, and it was $8), but it was still such a fun little (um, big; it was BIG) find.

Am I just under a rock that I’ve never heard of this place? Because it was rad.


{Couldn’t leave without snapping a pic of just one of the G.I.A.N.T rather dour-looking cats who clearly ran the place}

Our last decor stop of the day was the salvage shop I mentioned, which was more reasonably priced, not quite as rad, but still worth the stop (hmmm….can’t remember the name at the moment…sorry!). Aaaand we bought nothing.

Lunch was an authentic New York Style pizza place called Mimi’s–where the nicest guy with the thickest New Yawker’s drawl told Shaun he was: “Real classy…taking the lady to a dive like Mimi’s on her birthday.”  But seriously. Good, good pizza, y’all.

Sensing a carb theme to this birthday? Apparently Baby #7 is keen for mama’s hips to GROW!

Our last stop of the day was our traditional jaunt to Anthropologie.


I am completely happy 99% of the time to just browse and get ideas, but this trip, I found a dress I loved on sale (and then an extra 40% off) that will work the rest of the pregnancy and poooosssibly beyond? So, that was a fun surprise. I tried to snap a pic of it, but my phone battery gave the fateful “extremely low battery” signal literally as I opened the camera on it, so you’ll just have to wait for that one. Nail-biter. I know.

The day ended with another super highbrow carb fest of chips, queso, and Torchy’s Tacos (because NOTHING says classy like ordering a taco called “The trailer park” and being asked if you want to “make it trasy”–i.e. add queso) and a very sweet reunion with my babies.

Honestly, it’s one of the best birthdays I can remember in recent years (and they’ve all been good!).

There’s nothing quite like a super-relaxing time away with your love–with a bit of deal-haggling and house productivity thrown in for good measure!

And there you have it!

Consider yourself caught up for the moment. I had a good birthday. And then I got sick.

The end. (Anybody else wondering why I didn’t just write that?)

Y’all have an awesome Thursday!

Charleston or Bust. But hopefully just Charleston…

So, I think I may repost that baby name blog every time I’m pregnant–if for no other reason than to test my ability to cackle really loudly without my treacherous, baby-kicked bladder betraying me.

Y’all are funny. And fun. And if you didn’t go back and read the NEW “this is why I agonized for months over my child’s name” comments, you definitely should. So stinkin’ entertaining.

ANYhoo…today’s “post” is more of a cry for help.

My birthday is Thursday, and we’re headed to Charleston, SC. Normally, we’d just hang out in Tyler or Dallas for the day, but (and I know I say this every time we have another kid, but I really do think it’s true this time) this is probably the last solo trip we’ll get for a loooooong while. Which is totally cool. I mean, 7 kids, y’all. We’ve had a good run.

So, we decided to go for it and visit a city that has long fascinated us but has never been on one of Shaun’s work-trip radars (typically how we choose our travel destinations).

I heard over and over how it’s a super vibrant city with tons of charm and history and character, but…we’ve been so busy that I haven’t had much of a chance to research it like I normally would.

We love doing food tours, but I haven’t found one that just screams our name this time. So, instead, I think we’re going to check out The Fall Tour of Homes.

fall tour of homes

This is just one of the beauties that you can go inside on a tour. I’m thinking we’re not going to get too many practical ideas for our big-family-home in a multi-million dollar mansion, but I love the fact that these homes are chock full of historic detail and charm.

We also love farmer’s markets to get a feel for the local flavor (literally and figuratively), so I’m sure we’ll nose around at least one of those.

There’s also something called the Historic Charleston City Market, which has good reviews. Any locals know whether it’s worth a visit?

Other than that, I have NOT done my due diligence on this pretty city, and I’m starting to feel a bit antsy that we leave Wednesday morning without much of a plan (yes, thanks to the internet, “winging it” will be pretty simple, but still…).

ALSO–and this is a bit of a big deal–there’s a hurricane heading straight for South Carolina this weekend.

I am definitely praying (first for the folks in South Carolina and then, more selfishly, for us) that it doesn’t hit like it could.

So…here’s where the plea for help comes in.

Are you from Charleston? Visited once or often? What should we do/eat/see?

I’d be ever so grateful for any advice you can offer.

The Baby Name Game

I don’t usually do reposts of past blogs, but the comments on this one (almost exactly) 2 years ago were just so fun to read that I thought I’d be depriving anyone new-ish around here of a treat if I didn’t reshare. Also, I know several of you have had babies since then, so I’d love it if you’d update in the comments about whether you stayed with your “name theme” with your newest kiddo(s). ALSO also, if you’ve already read it, feel free to skip to the end where I give you an (extremely ambiguous and unhelpful) hint about Baby #7′s name. :)
Oh! And I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t mention that I have a rockin’ giveaway going on over on my Instagram account.
ig giveaway
Yup, one happy girl is going to win $100 shop credit to Evy’s Tree (gorgeous hoodies), $50 shop credit to Paint and Prose, a gorgeous striped + leather bag from Better Life Bags, 2 sterling silver initial rings from my friend Chelsey, and that hilarious “Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom” tote from At Home With Natalie.
Go get entered! :)


I had a reader ask me about my process for choosing baby names last week, and it got me thinking about a) whether I even have a process, and b) what in blue blazes it is if I do?

And here’s what I’ve decided: I don’t really have a baby name picking process so much as a baby name picking quirk.

For lack of a better term, I’m calling it “name parallelism.”

There’s this thing in grammar called verb parallelism in which you are supposed to keep the form of your verb consistent throughout a sentence. For example, if you’re going with the gerund (a verb ending in “ing” that’s been made into a noun), then you would say, “I like fishing, eating ice cream, and playing in the rain.”

If you were going with the infinitive (the word “to” + an action), you would say: “I like to fish, to eat ice cream, and to play in the rain.”

However, you’re not supposed to say: “I like fishing, eating ice cream, and to play in the rain.”

Mostly just because it’s awkward.

So, why the grammar lesson? Because a) I’m a grammar freak (and, yes, I realize that there are typos and grammar mistakes on this here little ol’ blog in practically every post; I may be a freak, but I don’t catch every mistake…and, sometimes when I do catch one after I’ve already hit publish, I’m too lazy to fix it :) ), and b) the little twitch I get when I read a non-parallel sentence is the same one I get when I think about my children’s names not being parallel.  Or not “matching,” to put it in less geekish terms.

In the words of the immortal Inigo Montoya: “Lemme ‘splain.”

If I had two children, a boy and a girl, and named the first one John and the second one Mary, then I could never, under any circumstances, name a third Rocket. No matter how much I adored the name Rocket. No matter how much it made my soul sing. It would just drive me nuts. And then my soul would stop singing forever. (See? Quirky).

Honestly, I think most people have this in them to some extent since most families with multiple children that I encounter have a pretty high degree of name parallelism.

Keep in mind that this particular quirk is not the same thing as the First Letter Quirk. (See the Duggars and their thing with “J’s”).

But, if you were to look at all of my children’s names, you would see that they have two things in common: 1) they are old-fashioned, somewhat unusual names and 2) they are all only two syllables long (when it comes down to what we actually call them). Ez-ra, Si-mon, Del-la, Ev-y, No-la. Theo. I tend to think that the length thing is purely coincidental, but maybe it’s actually another subconscious name quirk that I have. I guess I need to try to name a kid something longer than two syllables and then actually call him that and see if it makes me itch.

ANYhoo, just for fun, I put together a little graphic of different kinds of name that I consider “parallel.” Feel free to disagree or chime in with more!

baby name game It’s interesting to me how, with both the trend-setters (AKA: “I really like last names!”) and the hipsters, there’s a lot of gender ambiguity within the names themselves. Is Taylor a girl or boy? What about Quinn? (I have friends who both have kids named Quinn almost exactly the same age, and one’s a boy, and the other’s a girl). Whereas, with the traditional names, there’s no doubt. Whoever heard of a boy named Caroline??

Of course, as much as I like many of the names above, I fall into a completely different category (the ones above are by no means exhaustive, of course), which I will tentatively call: oldfashioned rebel

Again, these are not ALL the names I like, but they are my favorite kinds of names and–in my strange little mind, at least–they have the same vibe. They’re not your everyday-average-go-to’s, but neither do they inspire visions of dreadlocks and nose rings (nothing inherently wrong with either; they’re just not “me”).

So, what about it, folks? Do you have a name-picking philosophy? Am I the only one who’s weird about names needing to “match?” The funny thing is that it doesn’t usually bother me when I encounter a lack of name parallelism in other families; just mine.

Do you fall into a particular category? Or is it just a “whatever I like” kind of thing? Honestly, I go with what I like. And my husband tends to think like I do (although he has both vetoed a few of my more outlandish preferences and promoted some that I didn’t expect. See: Magnolia). But what I like tends to be pretty consistent.

P.S. Unlike last time, Baby #7′s name is nowhere to be found in the above list. We’re going a little rogue with this one. Not too crazy. But we figured it was time for something a bit different. It still “matches” (again, in my quirky little mind), but it’s not nearly as “normal” as the rest. Feel free to guess away to your heart’s content!

The Twins are FOUR!

Okay, so before we get to that exciting title, I’ll try to put you out of your misery on the wood (and “wood”) samples that I teased you with last week.

I showed you these three options and hinted (okay, flat out told you) that only one of them was wood.

wood floor labeled

It’s the one on the right. Which…was my favorite (BUT I totally forgot to write down the name…sorry). But it’s also over twice the price of the other two, not to mention about half as practical.

It’s actually engineered hardwood (which means only the top layer is real wood), and we considered laying it in part of the downstairs, but ultimately, as much as I love the white-washed plank look, I think I’m better off going with something super durable in the kitchen and dining.


At this point, we’re seriously considering going with this combo instead.

wood floor3

That would be Option 1 (on the top), which is a Shaw porcelain tile product called Napa Noce in Cask, in the kitchen/dining and Option 2 (on bottom…y’alls fave by far) in the rest of the house (minus the bathrooms). It’s actually a laminate wood product by Mohawk (Rare Vintage Fawn Chestnut), which is supposed to be super-durable (but still is not ideal for kitchens since you can’t wet-mop it, and, boy howdy, do we put the wet in wet-mopping round here. “Flood mopping” might be a more apropos term for what the boys do).

It’s hard to see from this picture with the harsh fluorescent lighting and angle how closely the two tones match, but they really do. They’re a different width, but there’s a cased opening between the kitchen and the living room, so our plan is to run a plank under the opening to create a divide between the two “woods” and then have porcelain on one side and laminate on the other.  (Contrary to what the picture suggests, they will be running the same direction, not perpendicularly). Even the owner of the lumberyard was impressed with how closely the styles and tones matched in person.

Also…remember how I mentioned how consistent I am once I like something (i.e. picking the same paint color we were already considering from across the room at Lowe’s)? Well, I went to a different store the other day juuuuust to see if they had something I liked better at a comparable price and picked out a “similar” look…which…when the sales rep actually looked up the name, ended up being the Fawn Chestnut AGAIN! Just change my middle name to consistent and/or obsessed.

So! That’s the current plan. It could change. But I think, no matter what we finally end up with, I’ll probably go with a wood-look tile in the kitchen, since it gives me the style I want with the price/durability our big, mess-making family needs.

(Unless, of course, some of you have laminate in your kitchens and have had a great experience with it, in which case…CONVINCE ME!).

Oooooookay! So, that was pretty much a blog post all its own, but I couldn’t let the week completely get away without blogging a belated Happy Birthday to the twinsies.

They turned 4 on Saturday, and it’s still a bit surreal to think that it was that long ago that this happened.

twins birth

(Oh man, I look tired…and they’re sooooooo TINY! And look at Nola’s double-chin!! I am suddenly very proud of how much protein I ate during that pregnancy to give a TWIN that level of chub)

Of course, they are tiny no longer.

rockstar twins

(Evy, left. Nola, right. This was from our homeschool co-op’s Nerds vs. Rock Stars day, and the twins were only too happy to, ahem, rock their “wock star gwasses”)

I’ve admitted here several times before the unique challenges that I’ve encountered with mothering twins–especially after they hit age 2 1/2 (up to which point they were actually considerably easier than I expected).

It’s been a constant process of adjusting and tweaking and finding new ways of implementing old tricks. Oh, and prayer. Lots and lots of prayer.

twins are 4

{Nola, left. Evy, right. All the girl cousins on my side of the family, decked out in Peppa Pig gear)

On the one hand, they are some of the most joyful little creatures you’ll ever meet. Smiling and jumping and squealing with laughter. They’re suuuuper snuggly and thrive on attention and loving touch.

But all of that touchy-feely emotion definitely has its downsides, and we’ve muddled through a good 18 months of meltdowns and tantrums the likes of which I would love to say my kids never do, but–um–apparently they do.

It’s been getting steadily better for the last six months or so, but we’re still privy to an impressive display of fireworks every so often (or 4 days in a row, depending on how rested they feel).

Still, I know that the experience of parenting two very sensitive, very quintessentially female  little humans ((who are very different from their mama in this respect) has been so, so good for me.

And seeing their characters develop–their desire to help and nurture and mother (Evy) and encourage, cheer-lead, and comfort (Nola)–has been such a testimony to the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness in my children’s lives.

And mine.

Because motherhood is sanctifying. And hard is not the same thing as bad. (Can I get an amen?).

Honestly, I’m excited about year 5 for the twins. I can’t wait to see their personalities blossom and their friendship with each other (and others) deepen.

I have great confidence that he who began a good work in them (and me) will carry it out until it is completed. (Philippians 1:6).

Praise God for that!

Now, I just need to find someone to teach one how to play violin and the other one to play cello, and I’ll be all set.

Floor Samples for the New House (WOOD you help me decide? :))

Every Tuesday, the three older kids have piano practice for an hour and 1/2 because our teacher is awesome like that, loves my kids, and is fine with their being there for 3 consecutive lessons.

Which gives the twins, Theo, and me some time to “kill”–which we usually do by heading to the grocery store or dropping off a load at Goodwill + other various and sundries.

Lately, though, I’ve been trying to fill that gap with house-related chores, since we’re to the stage where lots and lots of interior design decisions need to be made.

Unfortunately, neither Lowe’s nor Home Depot are much help to me this time around, since we’re buying our sink, faucets, and quite a bit of lighting online, which leaves the various specialty stores around town to check out–usually a fool’s errand that ends in my having heart palpitations at the price tags.

This past Tuesday, though, as I was wracking my brain for a useful place to visit, it occurred to me that I hadn’t been to see a local flooring company from which we bought our carpet for the house we’re in now.

There won’t be any carpet in the new house, but this place carries lots of tile and wood options too, so the more junior half of my squad and I dropped in for a visit on a sweltering afternoon (seriously; after a surprisingly mild August, we are getting hit with heat indexes of 105..hmph).

Turns out, they’ve expanded a ton since we were last there, and I was a little overwhelmed with all of the choices. Thankfully, I have a very specific tone in mind for the wood floors we’re hoping to install, and they’re not exactly the norm for East Texas, so my job was made a little bit easier by the fact that there wasn’t tons of selection in the range I want.

Not that this will do most of your any good, but if you’re in the East Texas area, you need to check out Flooring Liquidators of Tyler. They are thee nicest people–sweet Christians who homeschooled their kids aaages ago (like when I was homeschooled…ha) and now work together to run their family business.

The owner spent over an hour with me and the kids, navigating us around his packed showroom, patiently weathering my: “Nope, too shiny. Um…too dull” (all right now, Goldilocks) comments.

Until I found 3 that are juuuuust right.

He even let me bring home the giant “sample” even though it was the only one he had on hand. So, so nice.

Oh, and reeeeeally competitive pricing. (He kept calling his distributors to get me better prices until he had gotten them down to their rock bottom).

So, what are these samples of which I ramble?

wood floor

The two planks on the left are actually from the same material, believe it or not. The middle is different. And then the right is the big sample he let me bring home.

Only ONE of them is real wood. Man, “wood” has come a long way since we first built.

wood floor1

Think you can guess which one it is?

I showed my social media folks this shot…

wood floor2

And maaaaaybe 2% got it right. Which tells me that I could pretty easily pick any one of these, and they would work just fine.

Honestly? We’re probably going to use a combo of all three. Probably. But nothing’s set in stone, er, concrete slab…yet.

Which is where, as always, y’all come in.

wood floor labeled

IF we only go with one, which one should it be?

25 Week Pregnancy Check In {Baby #7}

Welp. I’m 25 weeks pregnant today. Which means it’s about time for another oh-so-fascinating check-in on how this little guy is doing.

25 weeks logo

Overall, I’ve felt bigger this time around (even though the scale, which I’ve only stepped on once, says I have gained the same amount of weight as I had at this point last time). Rounder belly earlier. Just generally more change in my body more quickly than I’m used to. I think my body is distributing things differently. Baby’s higher than usual, for sure. I’m usually a super low carrier.

P.S. I am NOT complaining here. Merely observing a difference between this pregnancy and others.

And, after looking back at my 24 week pregnancy update with Theo, I can definitely see a difference in my shape (not bad, not good; just different), so…I guess it’s good to know I’m not just imagining things?

theo24 weeks

Considering that I started with the “faux-questionnaire” format last time, I guess I’ll just go with that again.

So, here are the answers to all of the questions that maybe no one has even asked, just in case you might possibly have been wondering.

How has this pregnancy compared to the others?

Hm…I guess I already sort of answered part of this with how I think my body’s reacting differently.

I touched on this in my recap of the first 20 weeks, but this has maybe been the hardest pregnancy yet (other than the twins’). More exhaustion, more nausea, more mood swings, more/worse varicose veins. Yippee! That said, I think I’m finally completely in the clear on the debilitating exhaustion and nausea front. I’ve only taken one nap (other than Sunday…Sunday naps are sacred) in the last month, and, in general, I have decent energy until bedtime. I’ve even had a burst or two of nesting but nothing sustained. As in, the piece of furniture I hauled upstairs that used to hold all of random toys (that I sorted, threw out, and organized the same day) is still sitting in the same place I left it over a week ago. Sigh. Baby steps (Ha).

What is this baby like?

Hmm…well, I thought he was super-wiggly and was a little worried that we had a hyper one on our hands, but Shaun claimed that I said the same thing about Theo (aka: Lil’ Chill Dude), and as I looked back on my 24 Week Update, it turns out he was right. I talked about Theo being a mover and shaker too. Which kind of makes me glad that I’m taking the time to write these. (Because aren’t we just so sure we’ll remember every little last detail, and then, no matter how hard we try to hang on, it all starts to fade? Good thing for labor. Bad for the rest).

Do you have a name yet?

Yup. :) Although…I’m not stuck on the middle name, so we’ll see.

Are you still exercising/teaching fitness classes?

I am. I teach 6 classes a week, and Tuesday is fast becoming my least favorite exercise day of the week, since I teach Grit Plyo (think: squat jumps off of a bench, tons of burpees, jack push-ups, tuck jumps, etc.) and then BODYPUMP. Grit is exhausting in its own right, but halfway through Pump, all I can think is: are we done yet?

I’m already having to modify majorly in Grit (not Pump), but I’ve joked with my participants that, by the end, I’ll be sitting in a deck chair with a glass of lemonade calling: “JUMP! DROP! PUSH-UPS!” At least I think I’m joking.

Funny story: the other day, a new childcare worker told me, “This is weird, but I had a dream about you. You were, like, 9 month pregnant and still teaching…” at which point, I said, “Um, well, that part’s not a dream. I do that every time.” And she was like, “Whaaaat? No way! Oh, and then you went into labor.” And I was: “Um, yeah. That’s probably not going to happen, and even if it did, I’d probably just finish teaching the class, then go home, eat dinner, and do some laundry before I had the baby.” #darnslowlabors

Still planning on a home birth?

You better believe it! I’m not one to say never, but, barring some kind of significant change in my mindset/midwife situation/health, I think I’m going to be a home birth girl from here ’til there are no more babies to birth. I just love being in my own bed with no one prodding or poking me afterwards. No monitors. No nothing. Being able to eat/walk around/get in the tub/just generally do as I please during labor is pretty awesome too.

Of course, I have family that is willing to take my kids for a couple of days when the baby comes, so I’m sure I would be more enthralled with the hospital option if I didn’t.

I’ll be using Melena again (one of the midwives who assisted at the twins’ birth and then was the primary at Theo’s birth after my longtime midwife, Thalia, died suddenly from a stroke), and I’m super-happy to have someone that I trust so much assisting me again.

How have people responded to your having another baby?

Honestly? I’ve made very few “official” announcements. And, in the South, if someone doesn’t give you a big toe in the door to say something (you know, besides, “Bless your heart”), then you don’t necessarily say anything at all (well, to their face…ha!).

So, while my belly is growing by the day, I haven’t gotten just tons of comments, either good or bad. I think there were many weeks of, “Has Abbie just given up and starting eating bon-bons for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?” at the gym since no one much officially knew until we got back from Colorado. But now that they do, nobody much seems to notice.

Which is TOTALLY cool with me!

I think, maybe, by this point, it’s kind of obvious that this is just what we do. And everybody has, more or less, accepted that. Our family on both sides are very supportive of our having however many kids the Lord blesses us with, so we’ve never heard a peep of opposition from them (yes, I know; we’re very thankful). And I’ve actually gotten FEWER comments lately at the grocery store. I think part of this is because we only go once a week, which is one of the few times I run errands anymore with all 6 kids with me, and the rest of the time, I usually have little kids with me while the older ones are at piano practice or Softa’s (my mom’s) house.

WHATEVER the reason, I’m completely fine with the lull in comments. (They were pretty intense when the twins were babies and both in car seats; that was quite the attraction, apparently). On the one hand, they definitely give me an opportunity to share the Lord with people, so I should desire more contact, but my flesh would definitely prefer to just zoom in and out of Walmart without too many roadblocks along the way.

Hmm…maybe I should start praying for more people to stop and talk to us.

Any big pregnancy quirks?

Um, y’all. It’s so embarrassing, but I am quite the snorer when I’m pregnant. I sleep on my side and everything, but, combine my–what? pregnancy sleep apneia?–with the cold that I’ve been fighting for almost 3 weeks now, and I actually feel a little sorry for my husband. He’s a pretty sound sleeper, though, and hasn’t resorted to sleeping on the couch yet, so I guess we’re fine.

And now it’s your turn.

If you’re pregnant right now, give me a shout out and let me know how far along you are, when the baby’s due, how many other kids you have, whether or not you snore…you know…the important stuff.

I’d love to learn more about you!

Did I leave out something that you’re just dying to know?

I can’t even imagine, but if so, ask away!


More New House Progress

First, thank you for your comments on Tuesday’s post. I never know what kind of response I’ll get, exactly, when I share my heart like that, and I appreciate your kindness and encouragement.

Part 2 is coming, but for now…

Things at the new house are rockin’ and rollin’. It’s kind of exciting to see the progress after such a busy summer, and I am always in awe of how much Shaun is able to knock out (either by himself or with his dad’s help)  in one day. The man’s a beast!

I’m also getting to participate more, albeit mostly from the couch (with a trip here and there to Home Depot and Lowe’s thrown in), as Shaun has tasked me with researching faucets and appliances and lights (oh my!). We’ve already scored some really great deals, thanks to coupons and sales, but I’m still on the hunt for the best price on, um, lots of stuff. It’s a bit daunting if I think about it too much, but if I just focus on one thing (or three) at a time, it becomes a bit like a treasure hunt–reading the reviews, cross-referencing prices, picking finishes, finding a shower faucet I love at a great deal, only to discover it’s only available through a super-sketchy Chinese outfit (#ofcourse).

I have to admit that, while the “treasure hunt” aspect appeals to my love of good deals and analyzing things, I’m MOST happy when we land on a definite decision, and it’s DONE.

Which is why I’m thrilled that we are considerably closer to figuring out the exterior house colors and our countertops.

Shaun and I went on a “date” to Lowe’s a couple of weeks ago (my brother and sis-in-law laughed when we told them this; they’re also building a house, and I think it’s the only kind of dates they get these days too; but hey! When you’re with your honey, who cares where you are, right?), and right before we checked out (with something super-fun like electrical cable), I said I wanted to swing through the paint section.

From across the room, I spotted a swatch that just “spoke” to me (you know, as much as a paint sample can), and, when I picked it up, I couldn’t help but grin.

It was SW’s Riverway.

The same color that we’ve been considering painting the house’s exterior all along. I held it up triumphantly and said: “Well, at least I’m consistent!”

So! Here are the exterior house colors as they currently (hypothetically) stand.

exterior colors

{Left to right: TRIM – SW Snowbound, DOOR – SW Cascade Green, SIDING – SW Riverway}

I’m going to hold off on painting the front door until I see how I like the natural wood against the painted walls/trim. But, if I had my guess, it’ll probably end up painted. (I’m laughing at how much I want to insert a monkey-covering-his-eyes emoji here).

And here they all are on the siding…

exterior colors1

So, obviously, they would not all be in a row like this (this was obvious, yes? I mean, I like color, but…

I have been into the idea of colored door the whole time, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on a “pop” that wouldn’t be over the top until I stumbled upon that soothing green. It’s not a definite, but I’m definitely liking it at the moment.

Oh, and here’s a bigger block of just Riverway (I didn’t edit those last two in any way, so they should be fairly accurate for shade vs. sun).

exterior colors2

Oh! And those countertops I mentioned…

I’ve done a fair bit of research on various types, and I just can’t quite wrap my brain around quartz for our kitchen (which is my 1st choice). It would be beautiful and incredibly durable. But it’s quite pricey…especially for the size of island we’re talking about.

We’re *hoping* to install a 12 foot island, which, yes, is HUGE. (And also pretty much unfeasible with quartz because the slabs have length limits). But, um, if you read my last post, then you know that we’re probably going to end up with a few more kids. PLUS, we’re definitely hoping that this will be a house of hospitality. I envision neighbor kids over for snacks and play. I would love to have middle and high school girls over from our homeschool co-op to learn how to cook (several of my homeschooling friends and I did this at a lady’s house growing up, and it was a blast!). I can even see using that big island to prep lots of meals or loaves of bread for the community with my kiddos. One of my FAVORITE moms of many is September McCarthy. She’s a mom of 10 and has an incredible ministry both to her family and her community. Her family even hosts a community “festival” each year (to which 300 people come!!!) in their backyard for which they bake and cook and prepare for days. Amazing, right? I don’t honestly know what all the Lord has in store for my kitchen, but I am trying to plan in in such a way that allows for maximum usefulness (and kids…ha!).

Which is why we’re leaning toward laminate countertops.

My IG friend, Jess, chose them for her DIY kitchen (honestly, her entire house is so full of thoughtful details and the work of her and her family’s hands that it’s pretty inspiring), so I pumped her for all of the details the other day. And–even outside of being 1/3 of the price of stone–they seem like a pretty rad choice.


{Didn’t Jess and her family do an incredible job? They did everything from the tile to the range hood to the cabinets and even the countertop installation; mad props!}

Shaun and I brought these samples home…


(The big one is Formica Calacatta marble. The small is Wilsonart Carrara marble; that’s the one in Jess’s kitchen).

…and did everything from place pans full of boiling water directly on them to whack them with sharp knives at full force to drag a giant cast iron pan across them. And…nothing. The only thing that had even the slightest effect was a butcher knife that Shaun pretty much walloped the bigger sample with (with the kind of force that I probably couldn’t even muster, much less ever need to use). And even that was only slight.

That’s an exciting prospect for a mama of messy, careless kids (because that’s pretty much all kids, amiright?) who spill things and forget hot pads and don’t always get the cutting board out.

ANYhoo, that’s where we stand at the moment as far as “interesting” decisions (you know, the pretty ones; I could talk about outlet placement if you really want me to, but somehow I doubt that would float anybody’s boat but mine).

Oh! And I *think* I may have found my kitchen sink, which is a pretty fun prospect all by itself, seeing as how it’s big enough to bathe TWO toddlers and handle pretty much the biggest pan I own. But I’ll share more about that later.

Hope y’all have a lovely Friday. And, as always, if any of you fellow home-building, decor, DIY folks have any fantastic tips for me–especially about your experiences with laminate countertops–I’m alllll ears!

The Reason Why We Have So Many Kids (Part 1)

If I had to name one question I get/have gotten asked the most over the last 5 years of blogging, it would have to be: “So, why, exactly, do y’all have so many kids?”

The “funny” answer, of course, is because we just like each other that much.

Although…as my sweet, usually demure mother pointed out that one time: “Oh brother. In your case, you’d only have to have had sex–what–6 times to get this many kids, so what’s the big deal?”

Whoa there, Mom.

Maybe I should take her on grocery runs and let her shut down all of the people who seem so worried about my bedroom TV situation.

Of course, I know that the question is not a literal one (at least I hope it never is) but an ideological one.

Why–when, in this day and age, we could feasibly control or limit the number–would we continue to have more children?

The short answer is that we believe that children, whether there be 1 or 20, are a blessing from the Lord and that we are not the ones “driving this flying umbrella” (as an animated bear named Little John once so eloquently phrased it…please tell me that there are some fellow cartoon Robin Hood lovers out there).

But you know I’m not very good at short answers, so let me just quote an exact question from a sweet reader recently and then do my best to flesh out the answers that she (and the rest of y’all) seem to want.

Here is it:

I have a question that I’ve been wanting to ask for a while now but I’ve never gotten around to it. I’ve been wondering what exactly your beliefs are about children and how you plan (or rather don’t plan) for them. What I mean is, from what you’ve said on your blog, I understand that you give over that control to God and let Him plan your family size. I think that’s wonderful and what a leap of faith! I’m curious where in the Bible you rely on for that truth. I’ve known many large families over the years (I’m the oldest of 11 myself) but often they’re Amish, Mennonite or some very conservative group (think the Duggars, which you must get compared to ALL THE TIME!).

So, one time, I stumbled upon this blog post by a woman who had converted from Protestantism to Catholicism, and one of her chief deciding factors was the Protestant church’s inconsistency in teaching when it came to birth control and trust in God.

As she said, her Protestant pastors were quick to recommend that she hold her money, her time, her relationships, and her possessions loosely, since they were not her own, but God’s. But when it came to child-bearing, they were just as quick to recommend birth control and “waiting, spacing, and planning for an ‘ideal number.’”


She found the juxtaposition of the two ideologies jarring. And, while I don’t agree with many areas of Catholic theology, I found myself completely on board with her confusion. I felt it when, at 19, I went to standard premarital counseling with my then fiance (not Shaun), and the pastor looked at me with pity when I expressed my conviction that our number of children and methods of conceiving them should rely on the Lord rather than our own engineering. Shaun and I both felt it when various premarital counselors (“official” or otherwise) gave us their “best piece of marriage advice” (their words, not mine): “Whatever you do, don’t have kids too soon. And make sure you’re on the same page about how many you want to have.”

Thankfully, we didn’t consider Ezra “too soon” when he showed up a week shy of our first anniversary (honestly, I remember our looking at each other and saying, “Wow, the Lord planned that well,” since he was born 6 days after I gave my last Spanish final to my high school students…yes, I was a teacher in another life). And we were on the same page from the beginning about the number of children we wanted: however many the Lord has in store for us.

Another reader asked me to Biblically flesh out my reasons for believing that it isn’t our call to be “done,” citing the fact that the Bible is vague on various areas of specific life direction, including exactly when and how many children to have. I completely agree. There is no specific “thou shalt” for this topic. And, while I will reference scripture throughout this blog, I won’t pretend to know for certain how the Lord feels on this subject. I believe that being open to his leading in this area (and every other) is a matter of personal conviction and willingness and one that requires great thought and prayer.


On the flip side, I can find absolutely no Biblical basis for the bearing of children to be viewed in a separate category from all other areas of trust. And yet the prevailing modern Christian mindset is one of prevention and control rather than openhandedness.


I was talking to a friend of mine recently who became a Christian in her teens and was counseled on her upcoming wedding by numerous Christian women to go on the Pill lest she become pregnant right away. This friend has two kids–a girl and then a boy–and she and her husband aren’t having any more, but she was still bemoaning her lack of knowledge. “I just didn’t know,” she said. “It’s what everybody told me to do, and, as a new Christian, it never occurred to me to do differently or ask why.” (She was distressed both by the physical/abortifacient ramifications of chemical birth control and by the assumption of the need to control it).

I’m the opposite. It never occurred to me to segregate childbearing from all other areas of God-reliance in my life. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s my upbringing. My mom only had two kids–not because of prevention but because of her body’s inability to carry more to term. She and my dad always made it clear that they would have happily received any others that the Lord might have given them, despite the fact that we were quite poor  growing up.

Maybe it’s because when I read: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths,” that I can’t seem to find a caveat to the “all.”

Not that I wouldn’t like to find a caveat sometimes. Because my “own” understanding says things like: but, if you keep having kids, you’ll never have a waistline again. Or a clean house. Or any alone time. Or a reasonable grocery bill. Or a peaceful retirement. Or anything other than a used car (okay, honestly, this one has never crossed my mind; I like used cars :) ).


I know that I should keep going with: your children won’t go to the best colleges (because you can’t afford to send them all), you will be considered an oddity by your community, and your ministry opportunities will be stunted.

But I don’t actually care whether my children go to college (if they want to, and it makes sense, more power to them, but if they’d rather learn a trade, I’m all for it). My community is who I make it. And, even if my only ministry is that of training up my children to be lights in a darkened world, that would be enough (I’ve already had numerous opportunities outside of that, so I really do believe that the Lord can use me and my family in a variety of ways, no matter how large we are/get).

Jeremiah 29:11 says:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” 

I think we’re all pretty quick to assume that this means physical prosperity. That’s the American dream. But what if it were something so much better? What if it were the ultimate prosperity and sanctification of our souls?

What if, in daily taking up the cross of motherhood (because that whole dying to yourself {that is a suuuuper convicting link to click on, just FYI} business is real when you don’t get sleep for weeks/months/years on end, and your lap/breasts/womb/possessions/time are not your own), the Lord is forging a hope and a future through my children that I would otherwise be denying myself (and them) by choosing the limit of them?


I think about the cultural norm for America. The Census Bureau numbers for 2015 show the average number of children per married couple at less than 2. That means a) that we’re not even replacing ourselves and b) that if I followed that norm, I would not have: Della, Evy, Nola, Theo or Baby #7 (possibly not even Simon). I can’t begin to fathom my life without even one of my sweet babies (or my kids’ lives without their siblings), and I am in awe of the fact that the Lord might have more already planned for me, prepared since before the foundations of the world, known in the deeps before they ever enter my womb, just waiting to offer me an even more amazing form of “prosperity” than I can even begin to comprehend at this point.

But…isn’t that kind of uncertainty about your future number of kids scary? Yup. But so is giving sacrificially when your husband works for himself from home (or in any other kind of position, for that matter) and your source of income could run dry at any time and being open to fostering-to-adopt or moving to another country for mission work.

And yet, I can find nothing unbiblical about any of those things. They are, in fact, mandated in the Bible when he tells us to give with abandon, care for the fatherless, and share the gospel to the ends of the earth.

And then, of course, there’s this verse:

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children[a] of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.[b]

I don’t think that this means that those who have less than a “full quiver” (whatever that means, exactly) will be “put to shame” (my mother certainly wasn’t), but it certainly seems to view having children–even an abundance of them–as a positive thing.

I can’t write this post without reiterating one of the most crucial things that having lots of children has done for me. It’s not even a “side effect” that I could have really anticipated as a young woman with a conviction but no great yearning for a passel full of children.

Because, truth be told, I never had idealistic dreams of many small hands tugging at my skirts, and I am almost never immediately enthralled with the idea of another baby once those positive signals show up on the test. (It takes a few days). Mostly, it’s the pregnancies themselves that I don’t love, but this much I can tell you: not one single one of my other “objections” has ever been anything other than fearful or selfish.

And that is the great side effect of bearing children of any number, as I’m sure every mother reading this knows. It makes you less selfish. Or at least it should.


As I said, this is true no matter the number, but I can’t deny that my own navel-gazing has lessened as each new child has joined our family. As our family grows, my own self-importance (not to be confused with worth) has diminished. And, y’all. It is so good.

Because I was never mine to begin with. I’ve been bought with the blood of the lamb, and every last precious child that he entrusts to my arms (and sometimes initially fearful heart) is simply a priceless loan from heaven. It’s a loan I can never repay and one which–like the manager who had much and, when he did well, was given even more as a reward–I desire with all my heart to steward well.



Mama Life Hacks{#21}: The Penny System

So sorry for the radio silence, y’all. I have been fighting The Cold of Death since Saturday, and I feel like I’m just now emerging from the fog of hacking coughs and congestion into something resembling normalcy. Yip-to-the-ee.


One of the questions that I have been asked fairly often over the past year or so is:

Do you still have outside help (aka: housecleaning help) in your home?

I have answered it here on the blog, but I know some of you are new, and (OF COURSE) not everyone reads every post, so I thought I’d answer it again:

No, we no longer have any cleaning help at our house. Nothing happened. Except that my kids got older and more capable of pitching in. I really feel like teaching them to be responsible for the home they live in is one of the best ways of instilling Biblical stewardship that I can convey to them, so when it became obvious that, between all of us, we were perfectly capable of handling the jobs that Teresa kept up with, we made the necessary adjustments (just FYI: by this point, Teresa had another job and had only been coming sporadically anyway, so it wasn’t a drastic change).

Teresa is our neighbor–a lady who had never been an “official cleaning lady” before but who needed a job when I needed some help. Shaun found her, actually, after I had a hormonal exhaustion fueled breakdown on the phone while he was gone on one of his (then) frequent work trips, and she was an absolute Godsend. She started working for us when I was about 5 months pregnant with the twins and continued until they were two…give or take. (I can’t remember exactly when she stopped coming). And she was wonderful because she did everything from helping me hang wallpaper to cleaning the refrigerator to the aforementioned laundry. She was a true renaissance woman, and I am so grateful for the blessing she was to us in a time when I had 5 kids, 6 and under, including twins. If I could, I would give the gift of House Help to every mama with little kids.

I answer the housekeeping question today because, as we clean, sometimes we need a little extra motivation to be excellent, and recently we have stumbled upon something that’s really motivating us to work hard.

For lack of a better term, I’m calling it The Penny System.


{See those labeled jars? Yup, they’re a big part of the system. Also, see that pencil? It’s actually a “piggy bank” that holds all of the pennies…except the ones we keep out for rewards}

And it’s ridiculously simple…because any time I try to put a complicated system into effect in my house, it fails. Every. single. time.

So, what is it?

Well, Shaun had a big stash of pennies saved up. We had some cute jars with labels in the cabinets. Et voila!

A simple, effective system of reward (and sometimes punishment) was born.

Basically, we wrote (um, Shaun wrote…not my handwriting…although, I don’t know why I’m pointing that out because my handwriting’s not very good) all of the kids’ names (minus, Theo’s) on glass jars, and then we told them that, every time they did something that fell into a certain category of behavior, they’d get a penny.


Of course, the little girls were all, “WHOOO! I get a money in my jar!!” Because they have no clue how inconsequential a penny is. But the older kids, while excited, were a little daunted by how many “good deeds” it would take to save up for anything worthwhile.

Until we told them that the pennies themselves are not spendable. Instead, they are to be used as tokens, which can buy privileges. For example, the other night, both Ezra and Simon paid 2 pennies apiece to stay up 10 minutes past bedtime to play Rat a Tat Cat (totally fun card game…highly recommend) with me and Shaun.


(I doubt you can read this, and it’s hardly an exhaustive list, but that white paper has the gist of our Penny System tasks and rewards on it).

To earn those two pennies, they did something out of the ordinary from their usual list of chores (for which they are compensated in actual money).

Shaun made a quick list of categories and possible actions that could earn pennies (usually just one, but sometimes several).

Some are attitude related (helping without being asked with a cheerful spirit) and are somewhat arbitrary as to whether they are rewarded or not. Simon changed Theo’s diaper the other day without being asked (not something I have him do normally anyway), and you’d better believe he got a penny for it. But then, he wiped up a spill in the middle of dinner without being asked and did not. Both were thoughtful gestures, but as much as we want them to feel motivated to go above and beyond, we also don’t want their desire to help to be fueled solely by an expectation of reward. More often than not, when they do something unusually helpful or kind, they do get rewarded, but they know not to complain (and don’t, actually) about the times when they are not. (Because the fastest way to lose your penny is to complain).

Other categories are more straightforward. For example, Ezra, Simon, and Della have all received 10 pennies for memorizing all 66 books of the Bible. It was on the list. They did it. They got their prize.

The twins are only 3 (almost 4, though!), so their pennies usually come from attitude-related tasks. I mentioned that we work hard to encourage respectful speech. But the twins just weren’t doing a good job of asking without pretty much demanding whatever it is they wanted.

So, we explained that they would get a penny every time they said, “May I please,” instead of “I want.” We’ve been at this for about a month now, and although they’re not perfect yet, they’re better. And if they don’t ask correctly the first time, they almost always correct themselves without being prompted.

Not only that, but as we repeat the same positive actions over and over, everyone is getting a little better about looking for ways to be extra-helpful with a good attitude.

The thing I love the most about it? (Other than the results). I don’t have to hunt for a marker or order a chart. I don’t have to buy stickers or keep up with rows. It either happens or it doesn’t. And, as they “pay” us for their privileges, we are even recycling our “tokens,” which means that the system has a lot of long term potential.

I realize that, if you don’t have a lot of pennies lying around, this isn’t ideal for you, but you could use anything from paper clips to buttons instead.

I do think the penny idea is kind of genius (especially for little kids) just because we’re dealing in actual money, but I’m sure the system could work for a variety of circumstances with a little bit of tweaking.


{I really love my Paint and Prose “Just Roll With It” print}

Anyhoo, I just thought I’d share something that’s actually working for our family to make us extra-mindful of caring for our house and each other.

And I’m also thinking I’d be a whole lot more motivated to go sort the laundry if someone were going to put some pennies in a jar for me.

Anybody? Any…okay fine. I’ll just go do it. (Apparently, I need to work on the attitude aspect of this whole business).