Wedding Max Out

We have a family wedding in about a month in Vail, Colorado, and it’s the most excited I’ve been to go to a wedding for the sheer spectacle of it in a long time. It promises to be a gorgeous event, and Della, Evy, and Nola are all going to be flower girls (which…honestly…could either be super-cute or super-stressful; praying for the former).

4 years ago, my cousin, Amanda, got married in a vineyard in California, and I so wanted to go, but I was 37 weeks pregnant with twins, and for some strange reason, my midwife wasn’t real thrilled with the prospect of my flying thousands of miles away so near my due date. I guess I see her point.

Even so, I was disappointed to miss it.

And I think I’m channeling all of my frustrated outfit planning from four years ago into this wedding because I’ve spent hours (spread out over weeks) scouring the internet for thee perfect dress.

As always, I have a very specific vision in mind. And, as always, I can’t find the exact look I want. BUT! I am sharing the creme de la creme of my research with you guys on the off-chance that you, too, are searching for the perfect maxi dress.

Because that’s what I’ve decided will work best for this wedding for not one, not two, but three reasons, which I will of course share whether you want to hear them or not: 1) I think, for such a special occasion, as few people as possible should be forced to endure views of my right leg, which still shows the rather vivid marks of 6 babies worth of varicose veins, and the long skirt of a maxi is perfect for shielding innocent eyes (wouldn’t want to give the bride cold feet at the prospect of what awaits her currently unblemished stems. ha!) 2) even in the middle of July, it actually gets a bit chilly in the evenings in Vail, so I think I’ll be glad of the extra leg-coverage come evening, and 3) I would really like to be able to enjoy the evening without fear of a wardrobe malfunction a la Theo sticking his hand up my skirt and giving it a good flip. I don’t wear short skirts as it is, but with a maxi, he can flip away to his heart’s content, and a clear shot of the varicose veins is about all I’ll be risking.

ANYhoo…I actually spoke a bit erroneously when I said that I couldn’t find what I was looking for because I didfind the perfect dress…without even looking for it over a month ago.

It’s this Vineet Bahl Portia Maxi from Anthropologie.

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I found it NWOT on Ebay for $50, which, while more than I usually pay for an article of clothing, is an absolute steal for this dress.

BUT! They only had a size that was on the lower end of my possible-wear range, and, although it fit everywhere else, it was suuuuper tight (think straight jacket) right across the chest. Which is kind of funny considering that I am far from well-endowed. Apparently, this was made for a twiggy kind of gal, which…I am not.

Fortunately, I was able to resell it for the same amount that I paid, but unfortunately, I haven’t found anything I like even close to as much. I know. My life. It is so, so hard.

Still, I have unearthed a few that I’m mulling over…

wedding dress collage

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

1. This one is cute, cheap, and has good reviews, but…the print is kind of dark, and I’m not a big fan of strapless.

2. This Free People lace maxi from ebay is more than I want to pay and a little casual for a wedding (although, I think it could be dressed up with the right accessories. Read: NOT the combat boots the model is wearing). In some ways, it’s my favorite of the group because of the color and textures, but it’s not quite my size, and that, coupled with the price, make me wary.

3. I was thisclose to ordering this gorgeous embroidered dress from SheIn because I had 40% off of my order as a new member, but then I put it in the cart and realized that 40% off was as high as the discount could go (NOT the amount extra it was subtracting), and since the dress was already considered 35% off, that fancy 40% off coupon only made it a whopping $3 cheaper. Without having a clue how it would fit and no reviews of the quality, I wasn’t willing to shell out over $70.

4. Ordering from ASOS is always appealing because they send you prepaid return labels for anything that doesn’t work (plus free shipping your direction too). I like the idea of this navy/white floral maxi. The neckline is pretty, but I’m not a big fan of the keyhole cutout in the front. It could be fine. Or it could be racy. Hard to tell.

5. I luuuuuurve the color of this dress. I tried on a similar saffron-colored dress in Anthro in Canada and was surprised to discover that the color worked well for me. Also from Asos. Also easily returned. Hm…tempting.

6. This one from Nordstrom Rack is probably my favorite cut of all the options. The neckline is high and modest, but it still highlights toned shoulders, which is one of my favorite features. For some reason, I don’t love it on the model, but when I picture the colors on me, I think they might work (I promise I don’t mean that as arrogantly as it came out; it’s definitely the opposite of my normal reaction, which is: it looks fabulous on that goddess of a creature, but I’ll look like a dowdy mouse).

7. For some reason, a weird glitch wouldn’t allow me to save a picture of the front of this dress from thredUP. Honestly, it’s out of my price range, and it’s a sweetheart strapless neckline, so it’s not even a real option. But! The color is GORGEOUS! (If you manage to get sucked into perusing the 3,600 !!! maxi dress options they have over there, you can use this code for $10 off your first order).

8. This one is a pointless wishful pick. It’s from Anthro but sold out everywhere. I love the subtlety of the print and background color and–again–that lovely neckline.

So, far, I’ve scoped out all of the brands listed here plus Old Navy, GAP, LOFT and…I’m sure a few others I’m forgetting.

What have I missed?

Which one(s) do you like best?

Any suggestions for me?

I’m definitely–ahem–maxed out on this particular dress hunt.

 

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Mama life Hacks {#20}-The List That Changed My Life

Okay, so admittedly that title is a wee bit on the dramatic side.

But not untrue.

So, here’s the thing. I like to make lists. There’s nothing quite like the thrill of marking a line through a goal. Boom. Done. Cue: We Are the Champions (and Mighty Ducks flashbacks).

Planners are good too, since they force you to focus your list-making by day and time period. I’m a fan of both and have used both effectively. (Albeit inconsistently).

But here’s the thing: I have a tendency to overload my list.

I know this.

I know that when I write down: clean out girls’ closet, organize pantry, clean fridge, and plant front flowerbeds that I will, realistically, only get ONE of those things done (hopefully) in addition to the everyday stuff that I don’t bother to write down on the list.

I also know that I should probably write down that everyday stuff so I can check it off and feel better about myself when I get to end of the day and maybe don’t have ANY of the “extra” stuff done due to: unforeseen diaper blowouts on the sheets–necessitating a full nursery airing out and 87 foreseen but underestimated 3-year-old tantrums–necessitating accumulated hours of talking-to’s, praying, timeouts, and other various methods of discipline, etc. etc., etc.

Because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told my husband that I feel like I haven’t sat down or stopped “doing” all. day. long, and I’ve still “accomplished nothing.”

Honestly, if I were to hear another homeschooling mama of 6 say this, I’d be like: “Duh. You’re busy keeping half a dozen humans alive/fed/educated/reasonably happy.” But when it’s me, all I can see are the projects I never even started.

So, one day, this idea popped into my head: what if I wrote down EVERYTHING I do in a day–including time frames–so that I could be more realistic about my goals and also so that, by day’s end, I could look back and see exactly where my time was spent. No more of that: “I have no idea what I did today” business.

My hand got tired just thinking about such a list, so I decided to type it instead.

And you know what?

IT WORKED!

Totally.

Each day that I took the time to start out by typing my list, I ended feeling accomplished and satisfied with my work. Even if I hadn’t done anything “more” than what I consider a normal day.

The key was to include even the most mundane of tasks. Flipping a load of laundry? Yup. Getting the kids ready for the gym? Uh huh. Reading a story to the twins? Absolutely.

After all, they all take time, don’t they?

But if I don’t write them down, then I tend to discount those chunks of 20 minutes here, 15 minutes there, until I’m left with that frustratingly vague feeling of aimlessness when my day has been anything but.

In case you’re wondering what this list looks like exactly, here you go:  list1 list

This list is from several months ago on a random Tuesday (I don’t save most of my lists), and it’s fairly representative of a typical Tuesday during the school year (notice homeschooling was not on the list because Tuesdays were one of the days that my mom came to teach the kids).

Obviously, I didn’t get every last little thing checked off. Even when I try to be realistic by breaking things down sometimes by 5-15 minutes increments, I can still get too ambitious.

BUT! I can look at that day and see that my time was not spent idly and that I did accomplish a fair bit.

Some days, there’s quite a bit less red, due to my own hubris or unexpected distractions. Maaaaaaybe one day, I’ve checked every last thing off (I doubt it, though).

But the peace that this list gives me at the end of each day? That’s consistent.

Full disclosure: so far this summer has felt about as organized as a toddler-planned birthday party.

Trips!

Sickness.

Birthdays!

Shaun’s traveling.

Swimming with friends!

Seriously. It’s all over the place. That’s summer, right?

But I’m definitely starting to crave more order, so today, I made my first list in a month, and it went a little something like this:

MONDAY:

6:30 – Feed twins + Theo

7:00 – Make/eat breakfast

7:30 – Hang out with Alby (he just got back from a trip, and I’ve barely seen him)

8:30 – Bible reading with kids (totally haven’t done this yet because they weren’t all awake)

8:45 – Write blog

9:15 – Research/load new Audible book

9:30 – Get kids ready for gym

9:45 – Leave for gym

10:15 – Do Combat + 1/2 hour of weights

11:45 – Grocery shopping with kids

1:00 – Lunch

1:30 – Little kids down for naps

1:45 – Rest time

2:15 – Practice reading with Della

2:45 – Sort/start load of laundry

3:00 – Start dinner prep

3:45 – Put away laundry  in bedroom

4:00 – Wipe down kitchen cabinets

4:20 – Play outside with kids

5:00 – Finish dinner for kids

5:30 – Kids eat

6:15 – Read Bible reading (since we didn’t do it earlier)

6:45 – Play time

7:15 – Get kids ready for bed

7:30 – Kids in bed

7:30 – Finish dinner for Alby (I didn’t get to make his Father’s Day dinner last night, so we’re going to attempt a “date night at home” tonight; I certainly don’t usually cook two dinners or get my kids down by 7:30…wish us luck!)

8:00 – Eat dinner + hang out with Alby

Clearly, since it’s summer, there’s a lot more free time and margin for rest, but I think I’ll still enjoy highlighting (most of) these things in red tonight.

So…what do you think of my epiphany? Maybe not feeling accomplished at the end of the day is something you never struggle with, but if it is, and you often feel like you’re not sure where the time went, I HIGHLY recommend at least trying this method.

It’s done wonders for my sanity.

 

Boho Kimono

In general, I don’t post tons of pictures of myself on the blog anymore. Which…I doubt makes anybody too upset. I mean, I did write a few posts back last fall about holding myself accountable here for weekday outfits, but…I failed on that one pretty miserably. I did a better job of actually getting dressed in general, and I even documented it (most of the time), but I just never got around to posting about it, and then, I thought it would be pretty silly to show you a round up of what I wore…for the past 4 months.

So…there you go.

I have officially gotten too lazy to blog about outfits for the most part. If that’s your jam, I’m sorry. If it isn’t, you’re welcome.

ANYhoo, that longwinded intro is sort of a hybrid warning/preamble to the fact that you are about to be bombarded with pictures of me…wearing clothes (huge sigh of relief for that second part).

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So, I have to ask: what do y’all think about the kimono trend? I mean, it’s been going for a while, but it always takes me a loooooooong time to warm up to the latest thing, and I honestly have always felt that kimonos–along with most drapey, flowy clothing–are best for super-slim, long-limbed girls. Now before you go scolding me about complaining about my weight, I’m not. I just don’t have a leggy, lithe physique. I have muscular arms, curvy hips, a long torso, and relatively short legs. And despite being almost 5’7″, I “read” shorter, so lots of loose-fitting things don’t drape well on me.

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Cue: my reader-friend, Amanda, contacting me about trying out some LuLaRoe gear. I’ll be honest–at first, I was hesitant. I’d mostly heard about how great their leggings are. But I am firmly in the leggings are not pants camp (unless, of course, you’re wearing a tunic that covers both bum and thighs), and there’s only about 4 months per year of leggings-tolerable weather in East Texas anyway, so I passed on that option.

So, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they have much more to offer. I especially liked the look of their jersey maxi skirts, but since LuLaRoe distributor’s inventory turns over rapidly, and even they are never sure which prints they’ll receive, I never managed to snag a particularly gorgeous large-scale floral print I had my eye on.

BUT when Amanda sent me pics of a few kimono options she had in stock, I was intrigued. As mentioned above, I didn’t really think I could pull off a kimono, but with Amanda being so gracious to let me try out an item of my choice, I figured, “Eh. How bad can it be? I’ll give it a whirl!”

Turns out, not bad at all. As in, I really like it!

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{I especially like the fact that you could wear leggings or more close-fitting pants with it, since it thoroughly covers the rear-view}

I wore this little ditty to church on Sunday, and, while I’ll freely admit that, as of this week, it is officially too hot to wear this particular version of it until–oh–December again, I like the fact that I could easily throw it on with some frayed jean shorts, a white tank, and some wedges, and–voila!–easy (breezy!) date night outfit. I also spotted a pic somewhere of someone wearing a kimono over a white shift dress with strappy sandals, and it was so cute, I’m definitely going to have to give that one a shot too.

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Oh, and, as always, I had plenty of helpers around for my oh-so-fancy photo shoot.

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Yup, that would be my almost 18-month-old running around with no shoes and the snaps of his onesie undone. Classy. (Not pictured: the other 5 kids lurking just outside the shot).

One more thing I like about this kimono? It’s a little like wearing a twirly dress.

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Regardless of how much it looks like I am escaping from a bee attack, I can assure you (since I was there) that I am, in fact, twirling. #graceful4ever

So, what’s the takeaway? Um, kimonos are rad? Oh! I know! Don’t be afraid (like me) to try things that you think you won’t like. You might just be proved pleasantly wrong.

If you’d like to chat with Amanda about her LuLaRoe selections, you can find her on her Facebook page or Instagram. She’s an absolute sweetheart and will work patiently with you to figure out exactly what works best for you!

P.S. Ezra takes pretty much all of my pics now. Man, I love having a 10-year-old.

P.P.S. My jeans in these shots are Blank NYC Denim, and I “splurged” on them with some Amazon gift card money I had squirreled away because I’d read raves about how great they are. I asked a trusted source about sizing, since they didn’t have my actual size in stock, and she said, when in doubt, size up. So I did (because they did have the size directly up from what I normally wear). But…I think they’re too big. Well, I don’t think. I know. They are quite loose through the waist and hips, but I would probably only wear them with longer shirts, so that might not matter. On the one hand, they’re insanely comfy. Soft and buttery and pliable without falling down. All good things. But! Considering that they are skinny jeans, methinks the bagging around my ankles (you can see it especially in the profile shot from above) is problematic. Thoughts?

 

Vancouver Do-Over (Part II)

So, where was I?

Where…

Oh yeah! That pesky phone call right in the middle of the movie. (Read Part I if you’re lost as a goose).

Shaun checked his voicemail on the walk back to the rental, but try as he might, he couldn’t make out much more than that it was the Vancouver PD and that they had found our car with the smashed window (it was the little triangular window behind the full-sized rear window, in case you’re wondering) and were trying to notify us that it had been vandalized.

Of course, we already knew this. We also knew that we hadn’t lost one single penny or scrap of possessions.

So, when Shaun called back, fully expecting to be able to explain the situation, and was informed, instead, that the police had towed the car for “safekeeping” without permission or actual notification (methinks a missed phone call does not count), we were both a bit stunned.

Of course, the biggest bummer (at that point) was being car-less when we had been planning a day trip to Squamish the next morning, but the impound (hey! I got to visit all kinds of places I’d never been on this trip) was only a 30 minute walk away. So, the next morning, we strolled over to the Twisted Fork, ate an, ahem, hearty breakfast of banana stuffed french toast and Eggs Benedict, and then did our darndest to walk off at least a tiny fraction of those calories.

On the way, we were treated to some not-so-shabby views.

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When we finally got there (somehow, we missed a turn and turned our stroll into a 45 minute hike), the niggling suspicion that the VPD was going to stick us with the bill for their little act of kindness came true…to the tune of $155. (So, basically, our car got broken into, and we lost nothing…until the police came along. Ha!).

It was actually kind of (but not quite) comical to watch the exchange when the girl told Shaun the bill, and he said, “But…we didn’t ask to be towed or do anything that warranted it.” And she said, “But we performed a service.” And he said, “That we didn’twant.” And she said, “But we performed a service, so…” And he paid up.

I told him in the car that I was going to start washing random people’s doorsteps and then showing up a day later demanding payment, even though they didn’t ask and/or want me to wash their steps.

ARgh.

To add insult to injury, we had a parking ticket, even though I had proof that I’d paid the bill (we’ve since managed to clear up that little snafu, but at the time it felt like, “Oh, C’MON!!”).

Of course, although it never occurred to either one of us that getting towed was even a possible outcome, we sure weren’t keen for a repeat, so we drove the first rental car back to the airport, exchanged it for a zippy little VW Golf, and headed out for Squamish.

My brain could never quite immediately conjure the name, so I kept throwing out ridiculous versions like Squeamish, Sasquatch, and Saskatchewan, but the town itself was way cuter than its name (which, to be fair, originates from a Native Indian tribe and probably sounds much better in their language).

We got there while the Saturday market was in full swing and proceeded to eat all. the. things.

Basically, I’ve done vacation food two ways: 1) try to find a place with yummy salads and pace myself on all treats…mildly obsessing over/dreading the next meal (yup; that would pretty much describe my 20′s) and 2) gleefully research thee best food within a reasonable radius on Yelp and then eat what/whenever strikes our fancy.

I’ve learned that I much prefer the second, even if I do come home with some extra jiggle. Both because it frees up my mind up to actually enjoy the moment and because it makes Shaun happy when I don’t worry about it.

I point this out because I’m blushing a little remembering our farmer’s market indulgences, which included: a Greek Souvlaki wrap, an empanada,  a strawberry rhubarb hand pie, caramel kettle corn, and the best sno-cone I’ve ever had (most of them shared, I might add #justificationsrus).

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{Half raspberry vanilla, half hibiscus lemonade = aaaaaalll yum. Also, I really wanted to buy that gorgeous flower arrangement for only $10–$7 with the Canadian/US exchange rate, but it was our last day there, so it wouldn’t have made much sense}

After all of that, we couldn’t manage much more than a leisurely waddle around the picturesque square for the next half hour, but Shaun had warned told me about a challenging hike just outside of Squamish, and I said I was game. So, off we set, determined to beat the estimated 3 hour round trip time.

We started up the trail, unsure of when “the hard part” would start, but it didn’t take long to figure it out.

Y’all.

This is the hardest hike I’ve ever done…by a long shot. Now, granted, we didn’t take our time. We were determined to go as fast as possible, but after the first 10 minutes of climbing big rock after big rock and ascending stairs so steep you practically had to use the handrail to haul yourself up them, my pulse was hammering in my throat, and my breath was coming in jagged rasps. (And I thought I was in decent shape)

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{I keep looking at this and thinking: “That doesn’t look nearly as steep as it felt.” This was only the first flight of stairs, by the way}

Fortunately, although the trail rarely let up (there were 3 or 4 spots that plateaued for maybe 20 feet before you were climbing steeply again), once my legs warmed up and my breathing achieved a rhythm, it felt doable. Still hard. But not quite as likely to kill us.

Of course, I think we were pretty much the only ones on the trail (that day, at least) really pushing ourselves, since we passed quite a few people we never saw at the start, taking their time picking from rock to rock and stopping at the outlooks. (Like normal folks; not knocking this approach).

But honestly?

I loved it.

I love exercise (y’all know that). And I love challenges. But I don’t love hiking. I’m a multitasker, but I don’t enjoy stomping through nature while trying to enjoy it. If I’m meant to be looking around and taking in the views, I’ll need to stroll, thankyouverymuch. But if I’m working hard, I’m focused on the next step, the next handhold, the next summit, and trying to get me to simultaneously enjoy that waterfall over there just makes me peevish. (Don’t I sound like a fun hiking date?)

Fortunately, this time, since our goal was speed, and the ascent was so stinkin’ vertical, I kind of got the best of both worlds. I was always looking up for the next rock, which helped me take in my surroundings, and I was always pushing myself to get to each one a little bit faster.

At the end of the hike, there was a section where you basically picked your way up the side of a vast boulder, in some cases using chains anchored to the rocks to haul yourself up when the footholds weren’t sufficient.

And then…we were there!

And the payoff was pretty spectacular. 360 degree views of God’s stunning creation. As soon as we reached the tippy-top, we flopped down on the warm rock, sipped water, and shaded our eyes from the dazzle of the sun off of the water.

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It was a lovely reward for all of the gasping and sweating and burning muscles.

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{Heeeellooooo, Squamish! Anybody else picturing that scene with Tom Hanks and his “aunt” and his “brother” from You’ve Got Mail?)

It’s a little hard to tell from the panoramic shot from above, but we were up high. I don’t honestly know if the next pic is going to give you any better of an idea, but…

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…we were on top of that giant boulder.

Of course, the wildest part is that we spotted at least one group of crazies folks rappelling off of the sheer face of the boulder. Shudder.

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{I promise we didn’t coordinate our climbing outfits}

Half an hour later, we started the descent.

And, y’all, it felt like we went so fast. Again, on the way down, we passed up multiple people taking it slow, but I was concentrating too hard on landing on the next boulder down to notice much other than the constant: “Don’t fall” chant in my brain.

Ultimately, it took us approximately 46 minutes to climb it and 40ish minutes to get down (I was pretty slow on the first section of the descent where you had to hold onto the chains, since I was more interested in not dying than speed at that point).

Still, we were pretty happy with our 2 hour round trip (including the rest at the top), and–I’m not gonna lie–I felt considerably less like a slug after 2 days of eating with no exercising.

That night, we crowned our culinary “achievements” with a trip to a place with Brooklyn style thin crust pizza, and I couldn’t help but notice a couple at the table across from us who were engaged (I presume; she had a solitaire, but he had no ring) but rarely spoke to each other. I honestly felt a little sorry for her, since she seemed inclined to talk, but he spent most of the time staring at his phone. (Apparently, I’m a nosey Parker; probably, there was someone observing me, wondering what I was doing staring at another couple instead of talking to my husband. Ha!)

I only say this because–weirdness of all weirdness–the exact same couple were on my plane home, on the same aisle as I was. (And they STILL didn’t talk!)

I mean, Vancouver is a city of over 600,000 people, and the odds of my sitting beside a couple I’d happened to notice especially at one of literally thousands of restaurants the night before are pretty darn slim.

Cue: It’s a Small World. (Sorry).

So…there you have it, friends: what we did, what we ate, what we saw.

I know I say this every year when we manage to get away, but I fully expect each trip to be our last. But our gracious parents (this time: his) are always so stinkin’ nice to keep our kids for several days, and–not gonna lie–as long as they keep saying yes, I’m going to keep tagging along on work trips!

The longer I’m married to my husband, the more I’m struck by how much I like him. Like just genuinely enjoy being in his presence–the way he makes me laugh, the way he can always, always make a crummy day better. I’ve always felt this way, but I don’t know that I expected my appreciation for him to keep increasing. It has/does each year, though, and I’m so grateful for a good God who saw fit to give me such a good husband and bless our marriage so richly with these opportunities to get away and just be us.

Vancouver Do-over (Part I)

I mentioned last week that Shaun and I took a quick 11th anniversary trip to Vancouver over the weekend (Thursday through very-early Sunday, to be exact). I don’t trust myself to be completely accurate, but I think it’s the 5th-ish time that we’ve managed to tack a getaway onto one of his work trips, and, while I’m not a fan of the fact that he had to stay behind and work, I loved our time together.

Vancouver–as I was “warned” multiple times–is a beautiful city. Tons to see. Tons to do. Tons to eat (as always, we were especially keen on that last part).

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{Random pretty building, but I was really impressed with the attention to detail throughout the city–especially all of the hanging flower pots}

We started out the trip pretty sleep-deprived. One of Shaun’s client’s QuickBooks program crashed the day before we left (naturally), and Shaun literally worked all day and all night (minus 1 1/2 hours when he slept fitfully) to fix it in time for us to catch our flight. I got something like 4 hours of (equally fitful) sleep, so by the time we got up at 4 AM and spent the next 7 hours traveling, we showed up in Vancouver pretty zonked out and ready to sleep for 3 days straight.

Of course, you would have thought something more than lack of sleep was affecting me on the way to the parking garage when I fell off of my 4″ wedge and, overbalanced by the bags I was carrying, came crashing down on my right hand/knee. (Why do I have a feeling there’s a video of this on the internet somewhere?). We were actually being directed by some sort of City Guide to the parking garage at the time, and she came running back offering to call 911. I’d like to say that was an overreaction (it was), but maybe it was just a dramatic fall.

We got situated in our Airbnb rental, where I nursed my “wounds, and we opted for a 90 minute nap…which morphed into 3 hours when one of us (we still don’t remember who; see: zonked) didn’t set the alarm correctly.

We knew we didn’t want to do anything complicated our first night there, and we love to eat good food, so we spent a while scoping out a great restaurant on Yelp. We landed on Le Crocodile because of its fantastic rating + interesting menu, got all fancied up (it was our actual anniversary, so we made a bit of an effort), and set out on foot, since it was only 10 minutes away.

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{I love that I still have “nap face” here a full 2 hours later}

After the episode with the wedge heel, Shaun was giving my 5″ dressy wedges some serious side-eye, but this time, I managed to stay upright and only ended up with 6 small bleeding blisters to match my mottled, purple right knee. Oy. The things we [I?] do for fashion.

The entire experience at the restaurant was one of the best we’ve ever had. The decor was tasteful and elegant (but not stuffy) and reminded us of our favorite restaurant we found in France two years ago. And our waiter, who was actually French and named Pierre, was thee best waiter we’ve ever had. Absolument (yup, I had to Google that).

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{Pierre even snapped our pic! Woohoo! We’re terrible about taking pictures together on our trips}

If you’ve ever been to a place where they drone through the specials of the night, and you find yourself taking a quick open-eyed nap, then I wish you could have seen Pierre do his specials spiel. He enunciated every word, varying his facial expressions and punctuating the important parts with little hand flourishes.

We were kind of mesmerized. By his accent. And by all the choices. Okay, but mostly by his accent.

The food was…incredible.

Everything was flaky or buttery or savory or crisp, depending on what it should be.

The only miss was Shaun’s Chilean Sea Bass, but the second Shaun mentioned that it wasn’t his favorite, Pierre whisked it away and asked what he’d like instead.

Now, that’s how it’s done.

Also, because apparently your 11th anniversary is the one where you attempt to gain 5 pounds in one sitting, we said yes to dessert. Thing is, we couldn’t decide. So we asked for Pierre’s opinion, and…after listening to the ones we couldn’t decide between, he winked at us and told us he’d bring us a surprise.

Moments later, he came back with a pear sorbet “palate cleanser” that, had it been our actual dessert, would have gotten no complaints from us. It was divine.

But then, he showed up with profiteroles (because “they are actu-ah-lly French”) and proceeded to smother them with rich, warm chocolate from a gleaming silver carafe.

So, so, so good.

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{Any place that finishes off the meal with little dark/milk chocolate crocodile molds is a win in my book}

And, yes, I know I’ve just written way too many words about that meal, but it really was epic, and I can’t recommend Le Croc (as Shaun insisted on calling it) enough.

The next morning, we continued our gluttony with a feast at PureBread…

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then moseyed on down to the seawall.

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{Pardon our giant, fuzzy heads blocking out the view, but the morning mist hadn’t burned off yet, so there really wasn’t much to see}

We’d heard so many good things about Granville Island that we knew we wanted to visit, so we ambled back to the parking garage where…we discovered that our rental car had been broken into!

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{Couple things: a) that gold door is so stinkin’ rad and b) I love the shirt I’m wearing in this pic, but I didn’t pay attention to wash instructions when I got home and unpacked, so…Della has a new shirt now. :/}

Thankfully, they didn’t even take the only thing we’d left in there (a package of Ritz crackers…apparently, these weren’t peckish thieves….although Shaun’s suggestion that they’d probably licked them all made the cracker I’d just put in my mouth taste a little funny).

We called the rental agency, and they told us we’d need to bring the car back at some point to exchange it and fill out an incident report, but we decided to keep it for the rest of the day (a decision that came back to bite us) since it was an hour round-trip to switch it out.

We spent the afternoon at Granville Island, meandering through the shops, buying 2 lb. bags of Rainier cherries (that I proceeded to eat pretty much single-handedly…over the course of 2 days), and fighting off the cheeky seagulls who attempted to snatch food directly from your hand the second your head was turned.

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{So much window shopping cuteness!}

An IG friend had suggested a trip to The Cross Design and Decor, so we popped in for a quick look-see on the way back to our apartment.

And let me just say that if you’re in the market for overpriced gorgeousness, this is the place for you. Every new corner was filled with yet another impeccable display of stylish knick knacks, and–much in the same vein as Anthropologie–the sum of the whole made the individual pieces all that much more desirable. Every vignette was just so perfectly curated and arranged that I found myself thinking, “Oh! Yes. I need chairs like these,” until I actually lifted the tag and gulped so hard I almost swallowed my own tongue. $800 for one little rickety wooden chair?

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Nooooo thanks.

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{Gray walls have never been my favorite, but, even though this pic doesn’t do it justice, this slate gray on this wall was such a sophisticated backdrop for all of the white frames that I found myself scheming walls in the new house that could use a coat of gray paint}

But it was still so fun to look–and to guess prices (we basically made up our own ritzy version of The Price is Right and took turns guessing, with the person who didn’t go over “winning”…nothing much).

Dinner was simple–a quick stop at a Fresh Bowl (kind of like an Asian Chipotle–yummy and, yes, fresh), and then we walked down to Bella’s Gelateria, which is this much-lauded little spot that’s won oodles of awards.

We waited in line for a good half hour (and, apparently, this was a slow night), but it was such a beautiful night that we didn’t mind a bit. Really, the weather could hardly have been more perfect if we ordered it up especially.

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And the gelato was pretty delicious to boot.

We took another stroll along the seawall as we slurped our sweets (my only complaint is that mine melted lickety split, and I’d forgotten to grab napkins, so I ended up looking like a toddler who got into the chocolate sauce).

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{It always fascinates me how the sun seems to take its time getting to the horizon, and then, suddenly !!!, it’s gone. There were literally 5 seconds between when I decided to snap a pic of the sun setting at the edge of the trees and when I actually got the shot, and I still almost completely missed it}

Once we (I) were clean, we decided we were still awake enough to watch a movie (we’d been drooping in our noodle bowls around 8:00 but got a second wind once we’d  blown right past our CST bedtime).

So, we headed over to the Odeon to watch Love and Friendship (a take on Jane Austen’s novella Lady Susan–it was entertaining and very clean!) and were, by a good 15 years, the youngest people (of about 20) in the audience. At one point in the movie, Shaun got a call, but the number just said, “Unlisted,” so he ignored it.

Turns out, that was a bad idea.

But you’ll have to wait until Part II to find out why.

Muahahaha.

Until next time!

The I Do Chronicles {The 11th Anniversary Home-building Edition}

Goood morning! Shaun and I are currently living (which really means: eating) it up in Vancouver, but I thought that, with our 11th (!!) anniversary (yesterday) and all, it might be time for another round of:

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I recently had a reader ask me when I was bringing back this series, and I had to smile because, while I’m learning all kinds of lessons about marriage these days, I feel like most of them are so specific to my life/current circumstances that they might not be very interesting/relevant for anyone else.

But then, I thought, “Who cares?” After all, this is the place where I share my life with y’all, and if it’s not a relevant post, you’re plenty welcome to and capable of skipping the post.

So! Without further lame explanation and dithering, let’s dive right in.

Today, Shaun and I are both answering 6 questions about what it’s been like to build 2 (well 1 1/2 so far) houses together.

(Hope you) ENJOY!

1. How would you describe the first house-building experience in 3 words?

ABBIE: Hectic, exhausting, fast

SHAUN: First house – Easier than expected. New one – Longer than expected

2. How has this time been different?

ABBIE: At least for me, the pace has been considerably less frenetic. Probably because my main contribution–other than design decisions–so far has been my role of what I lovingly refer to as a “construction widow.” Lots of weekends on solo kid-duty–especially while we were pushing hard to get everything dried in (weather-proofed). Now that we’ve got the exterior foam up and the roof on, I usually get my beloved Sundays back, so I’m good.

SHAUN:  The house is different this time.  It is much larger and has more complicated details, which present new challenges for sure.  Overall, though, it is going fairly smoothly, like last time,  only slower, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

3. What has building houses together done for/to your relationship?

ABBIE: I know a lot of people joke that building a house together is a quick road to divorce. But, even outside of the fact that divorce is off the table for us, I feel like it’s been a really positive experience. Both times. But especially this time (which is probably due to some hard lessons learned last time). Maybe it’s because we do so much of the work ourselves, and Shaun is such an excellent, meticulous builder that I have utter confidence in the sections that he tackles. It seems like, as relaxing as it sounds to not have to do the actual labor yourself, the more we sub out the work, the more frustrating the situation, as contractors change their prices halfway through the job, don’t show up when they say they will, and finish well after their self-professed “deadline.” We haven’t had any disasters yet, but we’ve had some narrowly averted ones (I’m looking at you, cement dump truck driver who drove directly into the sink hole my husband had just told to avoid), and I often find myself wishing that I could clone Shaun (and his dad) so they could do every last bit of the work. Nothing like personal investment to motivate you to do a good/timely job!

As far as personal growth, I feel like I’ve really improved in the area of expectations (as in: not having them, which, in turn, helps me avoid feeling resentful if they aren’t met) and Shaun has gotten better at communication.

SHAUN: Let’s say it has highlighted ways in which each of us could stand to improve our communication, decision making, and patience – all of which make for a better relationship.  Fortunately, this time around I believe I see evidence that we’re a little better at each and the result is less stress in the building process and hopefully more decisions that turn out just as we planned/hoped.

4. How is it different to have 3 times as many kids involved this time around?

ABBIE: Surprisingly, it’s better. Mostly because everyone but Theo is older than both the boys were when we were building the first time. And Theo is just the chillest little dude ever (whereas Ezra spent the entire year that we built constipated and miserable), so even he is pretty easy to handle. The boys love to head out to “the property” with Shaun and help. They haul trash to the burn pile, pick up nails, and even get to pound a few boards along the way. Sometimes, Della hangs out there too and contributes a bit every now and then.

SHAUN: Well, the older boys now get to come out and swing hammers, burn scraps, clean up, play fetch, and generally prove somewhat helpful – so that is nice.  It is also fun to see them take an interest in how their areas will turn out. But of course there’s more going on in general with 6 kids, so we also have to take it slower in some ways and not tie ourselves to a strict building schedule – this is where the improved patience from question 2 comes into play.

5. Any advice for other potential home-builders?

ABBIE: Well, considering that one of the topics I receive the most emails about is our DIY house-building process–and the fact that they range from: “Hi, we’re both 19 and have zero construction experience, but this is our dream. Where do we start?” to: “We’ve already bought the land and have our blueprints but are wondering about ______ specifically”–my best piece of advice would be to research the tar out of your project. I get a lot of rather, um, clueless questions. (See: “We’re 19…” from above). But the main thing seems to be that people don’t know where to find the answers to their questions and are hoping that I’ll know or at least have an idea of where to send them. The truth is, though, that building codes and requirements, materials, and costs will range widely from state to state and even from inside the city limits to outside. So, taking the time to get online and research your county’s requirements or (shudder) visit physical government offices, check out books from the library or buy them at Lowe’s, and watch beaucoups of YouTube tutorials (yup, many are legit) will ultimately save you money, time, and sanity in the end.

SHAUN: Building a house yourself isn’t for everyone.  You’ll definitely want to make sure you have the skills/resources to tackle whatever parts you want to do yourself.  For some people that will be everything from foundation to fixtures, for others it may just be painting a room after the general contractor hands you the key.  Don’t try to tackle something you have no experience with that are more critical in nature (structural framing, electrical, plumbing, etc.), but on the rest, don’t hesitate to save money with your sweat.  For many of the house’s jobs you can easily do as good or better than a contractor would if you take your time and do a little research first.  It’s obvious, but there are a lot of good videos online of contractors who know what they are doing showing you how they do it.  Take advantage of this, but don’t just watch one, watch several on each task and you should quickly see which ones know what they are doing because they do it for a living and which ones are simply hacks.  The good ones will typically point out what not to do and tell you why they do it the way they do.  There’s plenty else I could say, but basically you need to go into it with realistic expectations of the process and of your capability.  One last tip would be to start in the most inconspicuous area for each task.  You may be tempted to start in the most obvious place because it shows progress the quickest, but if you are patient and start in the least obvious place, you’ll get better as you go and the little imperfections from the learning curve will be out of the way where only you will see/know/care about it.

6. Would you ever do it again?

ABBIE: Ask me again in six months. Ahem. Short answer? I sure hope we don’t have to. I mean, if the Lord wants us to build again, I’m sure he can drop a meteor on our heads or something. But seriously. We’ll do whatever he calls us to, but I’m certainly hoping that this is our forever home (you know, other than Heaven).

SHAUN: I probably shouldn’t say this, but building a house yourself is kind of like labor.  It’s long, tiring, painful, and by the end you’re definitely saying you never want to do that again.  But… time takes it’s toll on your memory/sanity and you eventually find yourself ready to tackle it again.  Having said that… NO!

A Winner + Some advice from you (pretty please?)

First up, wow! You guys were super-excited about having pretty, non-bleeding lips. So, let’s get right to the winner of last weekend’s giveaway, shall we?

And that would be:

elise

…who said:

I just had my seventh babe and have had a horrible-so-embarrassing-why-won’t any-stinkin’-lip-product-work dry lip problem since I got pregnant with my son 10 years ago. I think it is because I have had six girls in a row. Apparently, girls make your lips plump up because of hormones??? Who would have thought? Anyway, I am ready to be amazed! My choice is D. ;)

Well, yeehaw, girl! I’m excited for you. I hope this is your cure, for sure!

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

And now, onto my plea for advice.

Thursday is Shaun’s and my 11th wedding anniversary (which is so weird because I feel like I just wrote a post about our 10th), and, as much as I don’t just love it to death when my husband travels, I’m always grateful when we we can manage to coordinate a work trip so that I can tag along.

We did it last year for our 10th anniversary trip to California, and this year, we managed to coordinate a work trip to Vancouver BC, Canada so that I could come to.

I’ve heard so many good things about how pretty it is and how much there is to do, but we’ll only be there for 3 full days, so we’re trying to prioritize our top picks.

Any native Vancouverites (Vancouverans? Van…what DO you call yourselves) out there? Or maybe you’ve visited and have some killer restaurant recs or activities from your trip? I’m all ears.

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This is what I’ve got so far for packing (I need to get on the stick seeing as how I also need to pack for 6 kids!!), but I’m thinking I may need a heavier layer for the evenings. And I doubt I’ll be using either of those swimsuits. In fact, I kind of despise swimsuits, which is weird because I grew up swimming competitively. But these days, I’d rather do just about anything than put on the equivalent of spandex underwear and then go out in public. I was pretty pleased to disover a tankini + a one piece option–both brand new–on thredUP for next to nothing.

And, nope, this is not a sponsored post. I just continue to enjoy getting polka dot boxes on my doorstep occasionally, In fact, I scored the black/red/green floral Anthro top (right) + the cream eyelet blouse (middle/top), and the black + white embroidered tunic (left) recently. (So…maybe thredUP should be sponsoring this trip to Vancouver, since 2/3 of the clothes I’m taking are from there?) You can grab this code to get $10 off your first order ($10 for me too), but no pressure!

ANYhoo, enough about what I’ll be wearing. What we should do/eat/see?

Not gonna lie. A nap might be high on the agenda.

It just makes (Lip) Sense – {GIVEAWAY!}

I think I’ve mentioned several times before that I’ve suffered from severely dry/cracked lips for a while now. And by a while, I mean the last decade. For real. I cannot remember ever consistently having the problem until I got pregnant with Ezra, but ever since, it’s been a real (literal) pain. They peel, sometimes in chunks (sorry for the vivid image), bleed, and hurt like the Dickens. Not to mention look a fright (can you tell I’ve been listening to British books again?).

They’re definitely worse in the winter, but it’s pretty much a year-round problem. Even when I drank a gallon of water a day back in the fall (I’m still drinking between 60-90 ounces now), they were a little better, but I still dealt with pretty much constant dry patches.

So, when my savvy friend, Alissa, whom I’ve known for over a decade and whose impeccable taste in products I’ve always admired, told me about LipSense, I was intrigued.

Lip Sense is essentially a color stain that bonds with your lips, which means that it stays on for hours–even through sweating, eating, showering, etc.–but it comes paired with a Shea butter based gloss top coat that not only provides a nice sheen to your color but actually repairs your lips in the process of wearing it.

Let’s just say I was skeptically hopefully. Because I’ve tried pretty much every lip product out there–drugstore, spa, medicated, organic, homemade–with very little improvement, and it just seemed a bit too good to be true.

Except that it was Alissa recommending it, and Alissa–a meticulous personality and a careful researcher–would not recommend something she didn’t love and which didn’t work for her.

Long story short, I’ve been using my Lip Sense products for about 2 months now, and I love them!

Alissa set me up with a starter kit, which includes a tube of color, a tube of gloss, and a special remover, and then, because she knew I struggled so particularly with dry lips, she also hooked me up with the LipSense Moisturizing Lip Balm, which…drum roll, please…WORKS!

I was honestly shocked at how well the balm works. Like, my lips felt smooth and soft as a baby’s you-know-what the next morning.

Like a doofus, I sometimes go days without applying because I foolishly think that my lips will stay moisturized without adding extra moisture (huh?), but every time they start to dry out again, I just head back to the balm, and, sure enough, smooth lips within hours.

Yeehaw!

Couldn’t be happier with that.

Add that to the fact that the LipSense color + gloss combo actually does what it says: goes on easily and actually does stay on for hours (I average between 4 and 10 hours of wear, depending on my activities) IF (and this is key) you use it correctly, and I was pretty dang excited to have found something I loved that was so low-maintenance.

And pretty!

Wanna see?

I have two LipSense colors, but my fave is definitely Plumeria, which is a deep, pinky-red.

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{Look, Mom! No unsightly peeling or lumps!}

I think I was getting ready to teach Combat in the above pic, and my participants were probably wondering why I was so dolled up for an exercise class, but, honestly, why not? It didn’t budge through all of the sweating, yelling, mike-adjusting, and water breaks.

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{Oh, don’t mind me…just hanging out in my giant van, listening to a book, and wearing lip gloss whilst waiting for my children to get done with piano practice}

One thing I will say is that, since my lips were so dry/jacked up when I started using this, it stung quite badly when I first applied the color. There is some cosmetic grade alcohol in the color (see below for more info). As soon as I used the balm for even one day, though, the stinging went away completely.

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Again wearing Plumeria (and gazing pensively out of an Anthropologie storefront window…naturally).

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I asked Alissa for the low-down to help you understand more about the technical side of LipSense, and she sent me a paragraph, not knowing how much of it you’d want to know, but I honestly thought she expressed it so concisely that I decided to share the whole thing!

In her words:

-LipSense is a long wearing lip color that molecularly bonds to the lips.  It’s worn with a permeable Shea Butter gloss which transfers through the color to hydrate the lips. You get the benefits of a hydrating lip balm combined with all the benefits of a beautiful color.  
-LipSense is available in over 70 shades and 10 different glosses.  It’s applied in 3 layers and topped with a gloss.  The layers can consist of one color, or a combination of any 3 shades for a completely custom look.  It’s important to wear LipSense gloss with the color because other glosses will break down the color and they don’t offer the same moisturizing benefits.  
-LipSense provides a mechanical shield from the sun, so you get the benefits of a sunscreen without all of the chemicals.  It’s also lead free, and the color is wax free. It’s also gluten free and kosher.
-When a person first uses LipSense, they may feel a tingling sensation.  This is an indication that their lips are quite dry.  LipSense contains SD40 cosmetic grade alcohol which will kill bacteria and help the pigment to disperse evenly, but it can also sting as it evaporates from damaged lips.  The tingling or stinging should go away as soon as the soothing gloss is applied.  This usually only occurs the first few times the product is applied, if it occurs at all.
-The color should last anywhere from 4-18 hours.  
-The starter kit costs $55 and consists of a Color, a Glossy Gloss, and an Ooops! Remover.  Additional colors are $25, and additional glosses are $20.  The tube of color should be equivalent to 4 tubes of regular lipstick, and it will last the average person around 5 months.  The amazing lip balm that you love is $20, and mine has lasted me about 6 months so far.  I still have a little bit left.    
-I like to use the original Neutrogena facial bar to remove it at night, but the Ooops! Remover that comes in the starter kit is great for fixing mistakes.  If you use the Neutrogena at night then the Ooops! should last forever.  
-I offer a 100% money back guarantee on these products.  If they don’t love it, they can exchange it or return it. 
And now for the best part!
Alissa is offering one of you lucky ducks the chance to win a starter kit–complete with color, gloss, and remover!
No offense to the rest of you, but I’m secretly hoping that one of you girls that struggles with dry lips like I do wins.
Entry is SUUUUUPER easy.
Simply pick a letter from the options below and comment.
FOR EXTRA ENTRIES: Head on over to Alissa’s Facebook page and give it a like, then leave me a comment telling me you did. I HIGHLY recommend doing this. She posts lots of good info and new colors and is very quick to respond to questions.
Okay, comment with either A, B, C, or D:
A) I have heard of LipSense but my interest ends with the giveaway
B) I have heard of LipSense but would like to know more
C) I have not heard of LipSense, but my interest ends with the giveaway
D) I have not heard of LipSense, and I would like to know more

Disclosure: if you express interest in knowing more, Alissa will follow up with you about this. She’s NOT pushy, is very efficient and helpful, and will happily return/exchange anything that doesn’t work for you.

Fine print: open to U.S. or Canada only. Giveaway ends Monday, June 29th  at 11:59 PM

That’s it! Happy entering, and happy LONG weekend (for the Americans, at least!).

10 things I learned from 10 years of motherhood (Part 2)

Continuing from yesterday’s post about 10 motherhood lessons learned in 10 years…

6. There’s a difference between consistency and dogmatism

I’m good at being consistent with discipline. A little too good sometimes. I have a tendency to “stick to my guns,” even when it would be better to show grace, which usually creates an untenable situation–in which the overtired, crazed toddler can’t deal with life without her blankie, regardless of how many times that I remind her that the rule is “no blankies in the car.” (This is a recent rule, and one I’ve only had to establish for the twins, who are my first real blanket fiends). 10 years of motherhood has taught me to better recognize the times when a little negotiation and compromise are necessary for everyone’s sanity.

7. Prayer is miraculous

I can’t tell you how many times simply praying over a situation with my children listening has altered either the situation itself or–more commonly–my attitude about it. Praying for my children is one of my deepest privileges as a mother, and teaching them to pray–while sometimes a tedious process–is so worthwhile. There’s nothing better than stopping to pray that Daddy will, against all odds, find the keys that fell out of his pocket while he was on the excavator at the new house and quite likely got buried in all the dirt he was moving, and then finding out that Grandpa stumbled upon them in the grass the next morning. Every answer to prayer is not such a clear yes, of course, but it sure is fun to share those yes moments with my kids and talk about what a good, good Father we have.

8. Repetition equals results

The runner up header for this one was “nagging is necessary,” but I thought that might be a smidge less inspiring.

The truth is, if I’d had any idea how many times I would repeat certain phrases (“shut the front door” comes to mind) before I came a mama, I might have been tempted to donate my voice box as a preemptive measure.

But the thing is, all of that repetition is not in vain. At least not if you require follow-through. Teaching my boys to fold and put away clothes properly was a painstaking, frustrating process…for all of us. The piles were precarious, the folding itself uneven and lumpy, and the whining abundant. But bit by bit, load by load, their technique (and their attitudes) improved. Now, they can fold 3 loads of laundry and put it away in under an hour, working cheerfully and (relatively; they’re still boys) efficiently.

It took a long time to get to that point, but I’m so glad that I hung in there and kept repeating, showing, and following up. So worth it in the end.

9. It’s important to forgive yourself

I know this sounds a bit touchy-feely Opra-esque, but the truth is just the opposite. It’s nothing to do with feelings and everything to do with a choice.

I mentioned yesterday that I wasn’t very good at apologizing when I sinned against my children at the beginning. Now that I’ve gotten the hang of it, I find myself hung up on something else sometimes (of course).

When I’ve really blown it with my kids, sometimes, I’m prone to dwell on my mistakes, to beat myself up for them again and again, to mentally label myself a “bad mother.” But the truth is that, if I’ve confessed and repented of my sin before my children and God, then it’s gone. Of course, I should strive, in God’s strength, to avoid doing it again, but I’ve also become more and more aware of how keen Satan is for me to borrow the kind of condemnation that keeps me mired in my sin, even when God and my kids have already moved on and “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

10. Mom guilt is useless. Holy Spirit guilt is the life-changing

There’s lots of talk about “mom guilt” and how it’s no good for anybody, and I agree.

But we live in a society which labels all guilt as bad, when the truth is that real guilt–the kind that comes from the conviction that you’re doing wrong–brings positive change, if we let it.

I’m not talking about how you feel when you realize that your friend makes bento lunches for her daughter every day when you’re doing well to get some fruit, a cheese stick, and a slice of turkey meat on a plate. Or that twinge of guilty envy you feel when you notice that so-and-so’s girls all have monogrammed Pottery Barn backpacks while your kid is using his brother’s slightly rattty hand-me-down. Or even that stab of “am I doing this right” when you find out that your sister’s 5-year-old still naps, even though your child gave that up at 3.

None of that stuff matters. It’s misplaced “mom guilt,” otherwise known as a muddled up mess of covetousness, insecurity, and competition.

I’ve definitely felt it, but what I’m learning to listen to is that still small voice that quietly prods me with questions like: “Are you speaking truth with love to your children or just barking at them?” or “Did you say no because it was the best answer right now or because you selfishly just wanted to be left alone?” or even “Did you feel a twinge of guilt just now when you found out how much your friend reads to her little girl because I’ve been prodding you to spend more time reading with your own children, and you’ve been ignoring me?”

That guilt–or conviction, if you like that word better–is the kind that actually spurs me to spend time before the Lord examining my actions and my motives. It’s the kind of prompting that helps me tune out everything the world around me is doing and tune into God’s word because it is my ultimate source of truth, and without it, I won’t have a clue which voices in my head I should heed.

I’m sure I could write another post or two about the things the Lord is patiently teaching me through this motherhood gig, but I won’t. At least not right now.

Again, I’d love to hear your own experiences. I’ve already benefited greatly from reading the ones posted here and on social media.

10 things I learned from 10 years of motherhood (Part 1)

This boy right here turned 10-whole-years-old yesterday.

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That means 10 whole years of mamahood for me.

And I really couldn’t be more thrilled with how he’s turning out. I think back to the day he was born, which is still so distinct in my memory (apparently, having your first kid leaves an impression), and I just laugh at my fumbling, overly strict, clueless self. And I cringe a little too.

I mean, when he was 5 days old, I sat beside him on the floor and jiggled his bouncer, talked to him, did EVERYTHING to calm him down from a screaming rage except pick him up…because it wasn’t “time” to feed him again yet (and he couldn’t possibly have just needed comfort, Abbie?). Who does that? Well, an earnest, nervous, 23-year-old first-time mama who has practically no experience with babies and who is convinced that if she feeds her baby “too early” he’ll be spoiled forever. OY. See? Cringe-worthy.

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Don’t worry. I figured out pretty quickly that this was not necessary, and I held him a whole lotBut there are still puh-lenty of things that I look back on now and wonder why I felt the need to be so uptight about it all. I’m also a little in awe of the fact that, even with all of my bumbling, Ezra has turned out as “normal” as he has so far. (I only use the quotations because the spectrum of normal is pretty wide these days, and he is delightfully “abnormal” in many excellent ways).

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Honestly, I think firstborns are testaments to God’s grace. To the fact that we can flub our way through a whole lot of situations–too lenient, too strict, too careful, too smothering, too free-spirited–and, if we keep coming back to the truth of God’s word, keep praying for them, keep training them up in the way they should go, they will–by the grace of God–survive our clumsy attempts at all of those motherhood firsts.

Ezra certainly has so far. Not only has he survived but he has blossomed into a joyful, handsome, helpful, godly young man. And I couldn’t be prouder to be his mama.

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Ezra and I are similar in lots of ways, but he’s about 10 times more sensitive than I am, and 4 times as kind (the two are probably connected). He’s a stickler for rules (so was I), a personal perfectionist in some areas and a bit lazy in others (yup, me too). He loves to read and makes good grades (just like me). He’s a bit of a know-it-all (ahem).

But where he deviates (in such a good way) is in his instinctive ability to relate to others’ suffering, to express compassion and empathy, to get down on a hurting person’s level and speak with gentleness and feeling. As you can imagine, little kids love him. Theo absolutely worships him and will even go to him from my arms (which is saying something because Theo is a major mama’s boy). In fact, there have been plenty of times when I’m getting ready to drop the hammer on the twins as they attempt to scratch each other’s eyes out, and I hear Ezra sweetly talking them off of their crazy ledges. Sometimes, the hammer is still necessary, but his gentler approach is such a great reminder to, as Titus 2:3 says: “Speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.”

lessons In fact, while being a mother for a decade has taught me plenty more than one thing per year, the number seemed fitting, so here are 10 motherhood revelations I’ve had, in no particular order (and split into two posts because the word count was getting ridonkulous).

1. It’s called a phase for a reason (AKA: This too shall pass)

This has to be one of the most fundamental and yet profound truths of motherhood there is. No matter how maddening, infuriating, and patience-shredding a behavior your little angel might adopt, NEVER FEAR! She will move on to another equally soul-crushing habit eventually. Hmm…perhaps that didn’t come out as encouraging as I meant it to. But seriously, even though there will always be something to be frustrated by, chances are, it won’t always be THAT THING that you thought would never go away/change/resolve itself.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that bad habits respond well to passive parenting. You can/should definitely help your child work through his “issue,” but, chances are, you’ll probably have to ride out a fair bit of unavoidable angst as they get it out of their systems.

I remember reading a Facebook cry for help from a mama of littles whose children were doing something typically childish, and she ended with: “And DON’T tell me, ‘It’s just a phase!!!’” Because that’s the last thing you want to hear when you want instant relief from the kid who keeps going to the same corner and peeing in it every single day at 3 PM. But it’s the truth. Some day, barring a sensory problem or some other special need, he really will stop.

So…Hang. in. there.

Side note: sadly, this also applies to the cute phases. WHY can’t Simon still say “Weh-wah” instead of Ezra? Or Della still lean her head in to touch her forehead to mine when I tell her I love her like she did when she was 1? Or Theo continue to do every single thing that he’s currently doing because it’s completely and utterly Theodorable?

Because these, too, are just a phase. Hmph.

2. Potty training is not worth stressing over

Speaking of phases, I’ve talked several times here about Ezra’s year-long campaign against pooping. Not gonna lie. It was kind of miserable. But! It didn’t last forever (praise Jesus!), and, as a result of it, I learned not to sweat potty training too much. All of my children have been potty-trained between ages 2 1/2 and 3, with nothing more than repetition and training. No boot camps. No special tricks. (Nothing against them, though). Just repetition and reward. I still don’t feel like anything close to an expert. The twins practically potty-trained themselves. But! It did happen. Which gives me great confidence that, in Theo’s case, it will happen again. I am prone to stress about many things. After the debacle with Ezra, I refuse to let potty training be one of them.

3. It’s okay to admit you’re wrong

I’m big on respect. I am not my children’s friend, even when I sure wish I could be. Yes, I play games with them and make silly faces. But ultimately, I’m their mama, which means that I’m their most consistent authority figure. And I have to act accordingly. For the longest time, I had a hard time admitting when I’d been unjust or apologizing for messing up. It felt like an abdication of authority that would weaken my children’s respect for me. It took a while, but I’ve come to understand that, instead of letting my pride blur my understanding of grace, I can be a living and active example of it, letting them see that Mama sins too and that she needs Jesus (and forgiveness) every bit as much as they do.

4. Video games really are addictive

I wasn’t the mom who vowed never to allow video games in her home, but I was determined to stick to a low video game time policy. We have several gaming systems in our home (thanks to Shaun’s buying them secondhand but never playing them), most of which we practically never use, except to play DVD’s. But the boys (and now Della) are allowed 30 minutes of game time on Mondays and then 30 minutes when they’re at my mom’s on the weekend. Other than that, they have zero screen time (other than movies) unless we are a) playing something like Tetris or Mario Kart together as a family b) at the gym (where they show movies and sometimes friends have handheld games), or c) it’s school-related.

Some of you probably find these guidelines too lenient while others are shaking your heads in wonder at my hardcore stance. BUT! I have found, consistently, that when my boys (especially) are allowed more than their allotment of video game time, they become discontented and begin to crave more and more–to the point that they are no longer satisfied with other activities.

Plenty of research has been done about the addictive nature of video games (and screen time, in general), but I have only to look at my own children’s behavior to conclude that, in this case, less really is more.

5. Bring God into the everyday

When Ezra was little, I felt funny talking to him about God all of the time. Sure, we read the Children’s Storybook Bible and prayed, but when I tried to explain more complicated theological concepts in “baby talk,” it felt strange and unnatural. It took a while to get over myself, but one day (years later; I probably already had Della), I caught myself explaining God the Creator through the lens of a spider’s web. And it was effortless. The kids got it. And I felt like I finally did too. Since then, I find myself referencing truths from the Bible or creation or sin nature pretty much all day long as the natural opportunity arises.

Golly. I had NO idea I had that many words about motherhood lessons learned. And that’s only half of them!

Which, I’m sure, makes you soooooo excited for Part 2 tomorrow.

But enough about me. What have YOU learned from being a mama?