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?

The New House Updates and Plans

Shaun always says that the best part of building a house is framing. And I’m inclined to agree, even though I didn’t put one single nail into one single board either of the times that we’ve framed a house for ourselves. It’s just such a relatively fast process, and the progress is so measurable and exciting. Look! A whole house where, mere weeks before, there was nothing but dirt! We’ll be done in no time! We’re invincible!

Ahem.

And then, of course, everything slows to bit of a crawl as the more tedious, detail work begins. Which…is pretty much where we are now.

Although, speaking of framing…we did manage to get the porch up, and we even got a few windows installed. But more about that in a minute.

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Next up: siding, roofing, finishing the window installs, and the plumbing and electrical. Almost all of which we’ll be doing ourselves. (With the exception of shingling the roof, which is a much faster process for a professional and relatively inexpensive). We had thought to sub out the siding since it’s a pretty daunting one-man (or two-man, when my incredibly awesome father-in-law can help) job, but the quotes we got were laughable. $33,000 for 3 people to hang siding for 4 weeks??? That one was enough to make me think I’d missed my calling in life. I mean, $120,000/year to hold siding up to a wall and nail it in place? Sign. me. up. (Says the girl who taught a foreign language to hordes of wiggly freshman for less than $30,000/YEAR as a 20-year-old).

Hopefully, you don’t think I’m being tacky. It’s just that, after having subbed out the siding on our addition several years ago (Shaun hung the siding on the original portion of our current DIY house himself), we had a pretty good idea of what it should cost, and–the best we can tell–the crews who quoted us jobs took one look at our large house, and, instead of simply extrapolating time/materials/labor accordingly, practically tripled their asking prices (per day).

So! Shaun will be hanging the siding slowly but surely in between working on all of that other stuff I mentioned. Plus working his day job and taking work trips this summer. Plus being a husband and father. (I have mentioned how incredible he is, right?)

In other words, we’ll be lucky to finish this house by summer 2018.

I kid. I hope.

Actually, the plan (and I use that word with great fear and trembling and a heaping dose of yeah-right-itis) is to completely finish enough sections of the new house by the end of the year that we could move in and put our current house up for sale. Because, while living in an in-progress house is not my favorite, the thought of attempting to keep our current house showing-ready while homeschooling six kids is shoot-me-now-because-I’ll-die-anyway worse (dramatic, much?).

So…that’s the plan. Who knows what will actually happen?

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{These are the vintage doors I mentioned the other day; fun, yes?}

In case you’re wondering what this whole process has been like, it’s been mostly smooth. The weather has been (mostly) great. Except for that one time it flash-flooded (worse than we’ve ever seen it), completely washed out the culvert of the new (granted, it’s still dirt) driveway, and left 3 foot deep ruts all down the length of it, with water rising within 30 feet of the actual house.

Of course, fixing a driveway is nothing compared to finding out that your husband has been swept away in the flood, like one woman in our area had to. (I can’t even imagine).

And then, there was the window order for the entire house that was, in a word, wrong. Wrong sizes. Wrong quantities. Wrong grids. Shoo-wee. That was a mess. But, thankfully, the company is acknowledging their mistakes and–slowly–fixing them. We’ll be able to finish installing windows whenever they get that done.

Oh! And then we had a special visitor.

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Yup. That would be a cow in our living room. (Thanks to the aforementioned flash flooding knocking down a fence to a neighboring pasture).

Side note: Shaun wanted me to say that we’d be working on this house ’til the cows come home, but, um, I guess they already did.

I’m sure there will be more hiccups along the way, but after my brother fell off of his roof (and badly broke his leg) and then our closest neighbor fell off of a roof and broke his shoulder blade, I’m just so grateful that we haven’t had any accidents (yet). Lord willing, we won’t, but I’m honestly taking this whole process one day at a time and trying not to look too far ahead.

Honestly, the house-building process this time has been considerably less stressful (for me) so far because we live in our home this time. We lived in the second story of my parents’ house the first time, and while it was a wonderful setup, it still wasn’t “our house.” And we felt an urgency to finish and move as quickly as possible. Just the knowledge that, this time, we have no deadlines other than the ones we set for ourselves is a comfort in itself.

So, there you go. Consider yourself completely updated. Unless, of course, you’d like me to discuss in detail which bathtubs I’m considering for each bathroom.

No?

Okay. Your loss.

A Breakfast Nook Update (FINALLY)

Many (many) moons ago, I polled you guys about some changes I wanted to make to our breakfast nook. And then, I posted a little update on the direction I wanted to take. At which point, it looked like this:

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Everything was too brown. The rug was the wrong shape. The shades (as much as I love them) kept a lot of light from getting in. I knew all of these things. But making this particular, seldom-used room a priority just wasn’t happening at the time.

Well, I’ve gradually made progress on lightening up the entire space (most notable progress shots from my Thanksgiving spread last year), but, after 2 years (!!) of baby changes, the biggest (and, in my mind, best) thing I’ve done for this space took approximately 20 minutes.

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I’ve wanted to paint that table for, like, ever (insert: hair flip) but, if I don’t have a definite plan, I’ll procrastinate for ages. I knew I wanted to make it lighter, but I couldn’t decide what color or what kind of paint–whether to go with chalk paint and distress or to prime first and then give it a solid coat or…

And then there was the issue of actually buying the paint/brushes, etc. I have lots of that stuff lying around, but I wanted it to be perfect.

Until, suddenly, I decided that my desire for perfection was killing all of my progress, and, one day, a few weeks ago, in a burst of: oh, let’s just do this, already! energy, I grabbed a brush and a quart of sample paint I had lying around, and brushed on two coats lickety split–even though I should have been studying my Combat notes and getting the kids up from naps to get ready for the gym.

Miraculously, I squeaked in the door on time to teach class, AND I had a painted table. Well, table-top, anyway.

And you know what?

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I love it.

I still need to apply a third coat to even out the streaks and then seal it with wax to prevent (most of the) scratches. But the way it brightens up the space is enough to make me roll my eyes at all of my feet-dragging for the last 2 years.

As the Nester says, “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.”

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If you were paying any attention to the “plan,” you’ll notice that I deviated from it a fair bit. What can I say? That’s how I roll. (A fitting, if cheesy, phrase considering my love for paint rollers).

Other than the painted tabletop, those pale blue Anthro chairs are making my pulse jump the most. I have three more that we’ll use around the dining table in the new house, but I couldn’t very well leave them all languishing in boxes when I had a space for them now, could I? (Don’t answer that).

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Of course, if we’re talking racing heartbeats, my new-to-me giant vintage fan is a close contender too.

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Not only because vintage fans are just rad in general but because I got that bad boy for FREE (they can easily cost $60). I bought a bunch of vintage doors from a lady (they’ll be scattered throughout the new house for pops of character/architecture) and spotted the fan in all its grimy, rusty glory in a corner. The lady shrugged and said, “I don’t even know if it works, but you’re welcome to it.”

Turns out it does, and after 20 minutes of baking soda, vinegar, and elbow grease, it’s actually a bit of a looker (the “plan” is to give her another scrub or two, but…yeah…don’t hold your breath).

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Oh! And can we talk about how much I love this Paris Flower Market box? bnook9

Even Shaun thought it was super cool. (And his attitude, in general, about my bringing home fun finds is: “Oh great. Another thing we’ll have to move.”)

I spotted it as I was finishing up a solo trip to Ross, courtesy of my annual Mother’s Day night out alone, and, even though I’d already gone all the way through the epic line, I snatched it up ready to do it all over again. Thankfully, the clerk let me slip back into line since I’d barely gotten out of it and rang it up for me lightning fast.  No one threw eggs at my van as I was pulling away, so I’m going to assume that nobody much noticed. Or maybe they were just fresh out of eggs.

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ANYhoo, as much as I’m finding it a bit demotivating to decorate my current space WHILE planning for the next one, I’m so much happier with how the breakfast nook looks now that I thought I’d share.

Oooh, and speaking of sharing, take a gander at the 20 mint condition vintage teacups and saucers that I scored for $20!

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Now, who wants to come over and sip tea with me? (Or maybe lemonade. I’m not a big hot tea fan).

 

Our Homeschool Year in Review

I’ve talked about our homeschooling/daily routine here a couple of times before (you can see my “day in the life” post + some other bits and bobs), but I’ve gotten so many questions recently about how to get started in homeschooling, what curricula we use, and what our typical day looks like that I thought I’d give all 20 of you (who have probably already emailed me privately, ha!) interested another peek at our school routine–especially since this year has been considerably different than usual.

Although…we’ve had several iterations so far in this homeschooling journey (including full-time homeschooling and part-time homeschooling + private school), and I never know exactly what the next year will hold, so maybe “usual” is a misnomer.

This year’s notable difference has been the addition of my mom as a teacher. (Insert aaaaalll the praise hands). She homeschooled my brother and me through around age 15 when we both started college (although, not that at the same time, since my brother is 4 years older), and before + during (albeit very part time) + after that, she taught both high school and college students. She’s an amazing teacher–patient, creative, meticulous…

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I really don’t toot my mama’s horn enough, but she’s an incredible woman, and I am so grateful that my kids have her so actively involved in their lives. This year that looks like hiring her to come to our house on Tuesdays and Thursdays to teach the boys and Della from 10-3. Then, those three go home with her on Thursday evening and stay through Friday (they only have to do their “independent” workbooks at her house on Fridays rather than our full curriculum, so it’s our lightest day).

Which means that I only home school alone on Mondays and Wednesdays. That has been such a Godsend this year, with 2 very active (read: tiring) 3-year-olds + a toddler, since I spend those days catching up on laundry and housework, blogging, meal prep, figuring out stuff for the new house, etc. I always have grand plans of getting giant projects done the days that my mom is here, but the truth is that I’m usually doing well to get the normal housework done. Funny how excited I get about having help, only to realize that having 3 little kids “underfoot” is enough to put a kibosh on painting projects and the like. Duh, Abbie. Turns out 6 kids at home all day is busy whether there’s help or not. (Don’t get me wrong: I’m THRILLED to have it and wouldn’t want my kids to be anywhere else).

Typically, Mom focuses on history, writing, handwriting, keyboarding, and __________ (additional subjects vary per day/need). And I do history, science, grammar, and Christian apologetics (plus some Spanish; but I’ve slacked on that this year). This is in addition to the boys’ independent work, which they do (with questions answered) mostly on their own each day.

Our Monday routine is: gym in the morning (where the boys complete their independent work), grocery shopping for the week, errands, home for lunch, school in the afternoons, dinner prep, free time, (these days) soccer practice, dinner, then bed.

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{This is usually the scene when we get home from grocery-shopping on Mondays, and everybody’s famished, and there are bags everywhere in the process of being put away}

Wednesdays are a mad rush of: chores, school (both independent and with me), lunch, piano practice, gym, dinner, bed. Definitely our most hectic day.

We don’t do school on the weekends, of course, and on Monday the whole rigamarole starts all over again. I cannot even begin to express lightning fast this year has gone. I am still in denial that it’s May with the school year already almost done. #likewhoa

As far as curricula, we’re all over the place. I’ve done all-inclusive curricula in the past, but I never loved every last bit of it, so over the years, I’ve honed my favorites and gleaned a lot of recommendations and reviews from fellow homeschool mamas until I’m pretty happy with our setup.

Which is:

Math – Horizons

Reading – Bob Jones

Writing – Institute for Excellence in Writing (I can’t actually speak to this because my mom teaches writing, but from what I’ve gleaned from her, she doesn’t love it; feels like it’s a bit dry/restrictive. Others I know rave about it, but my mom IS a writing teacher, so I definitely trust her to take what she can from the curriculum and put her own unique stamp on it)

Science – Apologia

Apologetics – Apologia (Who is God and Can I Really Know Him)

History – The Story of the World

Spelling – A Reason for Spelling. Honestly, I’m not impressed with this curriculum, and we won’t be using it next year. The activities don’t do very much to reinforce the words, and the words, themselves, seem way below grade level to me (my mom agrees)

Grammar – First Language Lessons for the Well-trained Mind

Handwriting – We have a book (whose name I cannot currently remember, shamefully), but I also print Bible verses to copy for handwriting practice

We also supplement with some super-reading/language skills books from Sylvan learning, which I really like because they include word finding exercises, lots of practice with prefixes/suffixes, homonyms, synonyms, antonyms, and various other “wordy” things that can kind of fall through the cracks of a curriculum category.

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Della doesn’t do all of these things, of course, but she does have her reading/math/handwriting exercises, and she’s usually present when we’re doing history/science/grammar together (she’s surprisingly good at spotting things like prepositions and adjectives, even when the boys get stumped), so she’s absorbing a lot. She’s also grown a ton in her reading confidence, so she’ll be ready to officially head into 1st grade in the fall (even though she doesn’t turn 6 until the end of November).

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Speaking of the fall, we’ll be adding yet another twist to our homeschooling routine because we’ve joined a co-op. When I was growing up, I remember being part of a co-op–which basically meant that, once a month or so, all the home schooling moms and their posses got together at the park and played and ate a picnic. It was definitely a social thing.

But this is infinitely more structured than that, and both Shaun and I will be participating in a teaching/helping capacity (parents are required to pitch in, and election for the very limited available spots that come open each year is awarded according to which parent positions need filling rather than child “merit” or number). Fortunately, they needed a computer programming teacher (Shaun, NOT me), which is why we made the cut. They have nursery and toddler facilities, so our whole family (well, Shaun’s role is limited to an hour) will be spending 3 Mondays a month attending school at the co-op. The rest of the week should look similar to our current setup, but again, I never know quite what to expect, so we shall see.

Aaaaand if you made it all the way through that, I congratulate you. Your attention span is better than mine. (I started nodding off somewhere around paragraph 3).

Obviously, our routine wouldn’t work for everybody, but it’s great for us right now. I’ve said it before to anyone who cares to listen, but I’ll say it again: I love homeschooling for its flexibility (among other things). Is your kid ahead? Great! Bump him up. Is he behind? No problem. Slow down, and take more time on a specific subject. Is your schedule nuts one week? Not the end of the world. Just double up on your work the next week.

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{Sometimes, you just gotta take a break to help your sister put together her new Princess Legos}

My kids are easy to teach, so far (not gloating; just observing with gratitude), and they really like the schedule, what they’re learning (for the most part), and the opportunity to see their Softa (my mom) so often. This has been the least intense homeschooling year for me by far, and I’m honestly just really grateful for that, with everything else we have going on, building the new house and how much that requires Shaun to be gone.

ANYhoo, I’d love to hear about your homeschool routines and any curriculum suggestions you might have for me (I’m especially interested in finding something fantastic for: spelling and maybe some more Charlotte Mason style subjects like poetry, art, and music), and I hope this post has been at least a teensy bit helpful and informative for those of you who have questions about such things.

If I overlooked something or didn’t address your questions, feel free to ask away. Even if I can’t answer it, I bet you a much more seasoned and awesome homeschooling mom than I can answer it in the comments.

P.S. Lest I have somehow painted too rosy a picture of our homeschooling experience, I would like to point out that Simon came downstairs the other day intent on having me settle an argument between him and Ezra, in which he was insisting that the USA is in South America, while Ezra countered that it was in North America. Whomp whomp. At least one of them had a clue, right? Methinks I may need to add “geography” to our must-have curriculum list.

Thrifted or Grifted Results–Apricot tops + Skinnies + Neutral Wedges

Well, that was fun! And CLOSE!

Just as a refresher, here’s what we were voting on:

thrifted or grifted collage

50% of you thought that B (left…I know confusing, but it really was option B in the original post) was thrifted. 49% of you thought it was A (right).

2% of you picked “other,” even though there was no other. M’kay.

3 of you wrote your rationales for your choices on the poll itself…even though I have NO CLUE how you did that. (Maybe I should’ve taken my own poll).

So…we know the “other” folks were wrong, but which 1/2 of you got it right?

option a

It was this one.

And I couldn’t help but chuckle at and be impressed by Robyn, who said:

Outfit A has got to be Thrifted. As a former self-described denim addict, I would know those beautiful Big Star jeans anywhere; and no thrifty mama of 6 would pay retail for those bad boys. The top is adorable, and almost makes me second guess myself, but the wedges look a wee bit big and perhaps a little worn in- as in some kind stranger paid full price for them, suffered from countless blisters breaking them in, and then gave them away. If I’m right, you totally hit the thrift store lottery, because that outfit is thrift-a-licious!

Not only did she know her denim well enough to recognize THAT pair of jeans (she was totally right; they are Big Star), but she managed to analyze my shoes AND incorporate the word “thrift-a-licious”–all in one comment. Now, that’s talent!

Oh! And since I always break down the cost of each outfit, here you go:

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Necklace: Goodwill, $2

Top: GW, $3

Jeans: Clothes Mentor, $3

Shoes: GW, $3

TOTAL: $11

t+g2

Necklace: $5

Top: LOFT, $7

Jeans: GAP, $16

Shoes: Target, $9

TOTAL: $37

What I find most fascinating about the two outfits is that, although neither are expensive (at all), the thrifted version is less than 1/3 of the the (clearance) retail one. And most of you seemed to like it better.

So, yeah. Even if they did close down the best Goodwill that ever existed, I will forever hold a special place in my heart for wearing someone else’s clothes.

Hmm…that sounded different in my head.

Happy Wednesday, friends!

May your children be docile and your to-do list short!

Thrifted or Grifted–Apricot tops + Skinnies + Neutral Wedges

So, I had to do a search on my own blog to find the last time I indulged in a round of Thrifted or Grifted, and even though I knew it had been a while, I was honestly surprised it had been THAT long. 2 years and 4 months, folks.

Whuuuut?

So, why the lapse?

Well, a couple of reasons, really. 1) I don’t do a whole lot of traditional thrifting anymore. Even when I had 5 kids, and the twins were tiny, it was still worth it to me to hit up Goodwill on the regular, but…well, they closed down my favorite hole-in-the-wall-with-all-the-best-stuff Goodwill, and the local thrifting grounds just haven’t been the same since.

Thank goodness for ThredUP, though. (Use that link to get $10 off your first order if you’re so inclined).

And 2) I just don’t do a lot of fashiony posts here anymore. Not sure why that changed exactly (and feel free to weigh in if you’d like to see more), but it’s just sort of fallen by the wayside since I stopped having a “wardrobe” theme for Wednesday.

BUT.

I was going through my closet the other day and noticed that I had several items that were similar enough to throw together a good ol’ round of T+G, and–what can I say?–I guess I was feeling nostalgic because here we are.

thrifted or grifted collage

So, for those of you uninitiated, what IS Thrifted or Grifted?

Thrifted or Grifted is a silly little fashion game I came up with in which I wear two similar ensembles, and you test your thrifting savvy by deciding whether an outfit is:

A) 100% Thrifted: (adj.)—previously loved and therefore ridiculously cheap…aka Secondhand

OR

B) 100% Grifted: (adj.)—swindled or cheated…aka Retail (NOTICE THE “R” IN GRIFTED! SOMETIMES, I GET EMAILS FROM PEOPLE WONDERING WHY I DO A GAME ABOUT “GIFTED” CLOTHES! : ))

…and then you vote and leave me comments telling why you chose the one you did!

(Disclaimer: No, I don’t actually think you’re getting ripped off every time you pay retail, but I do believe that if you can’t tell the difference, you shouldn’t have to pay for it).

If you’re a Thrifted or Grifted pro, then you know the drill—get out that magnifying glass you’ve got in some drawer somewhere and procrastinate on those dishes a bit longer as you scrutinize the minutiae of each outfit (WRINKLES DON’T COUNT!) and then comment away telling me why you chose which one you did.

The commenter I find most entertaining (there’s nothing fair or random about it! ; )) will get 5 free entries into our next giveaway (coming soon!).

Alrighty, enough explanation…here we goooooo!

Is it…

option a

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{Because I know y’all hardcore T+G-ers appreciate the profile angle so you can scrutinize for shoe-size gaps}

Or…

option b

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P.S. Ezra is now my photographer. He does a great job. Except for when he cuts off part of my shoe. I promise I’m not trying to obscure your view here.

Oh! And just because Miss Evy-Lou was rather poorly/clingy and wobbled all the way down our gravel driveway in those plastic “princess flipper shoes” (aka: death to all toes with which they come in contact), I’ll include this oh-so-attractive picture of the both of us.

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So, what do you think? Have you made your decision?

Well, then vote away! And don’t forget to comment telling me why you chose the one you did!

This poll is closed! Poll activity:
start_date 01/05/2016 06:57:28
end_date 03/05/2016 23:59:59
Poll Results:
Which outfit is 100% THRIFTED?

P.S. “Other” is not an option. I just couldn’t figure out how to make it disappear.

Do not grow weary of doing good…

As a mama to six (barely) under ten, I get weary. Like, fall asleep in the middle of praying at bedtime weary. It’s not that my life is so very hard. It isn’t. I don’t wash our clothes by hand or fetch our water from the river several miles away (both of which my Ugandan friends have to do). I cook dinner most nights, but if I ever don’t feel up for it, I only have to drive a few miles and pick up something already made for me.

My children are sweet and helpful. I genuinely like as well as love them.

But the list of daily tasks is literally never-ending. I never ever get every last thing checked off.

I know yours is too.

It’s the nature of this earthly, toil-filled life. Even if we don’t have to grow every morsel of food we consume, we do have to grocery-shop. Which takes time. So does potty-training and vacuuming and laundry sorting and soccer practice and homeschooling and having meaningful conversations with your teen.

Which is why I feel like I need to tattoo Galatians 6:9 backwards on my forehead so that every time I look in the mirror and notice the dark circles under my eyes and new lines between my brows, I’ll also see these words:

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This is seriously my mantra, y’all. “Do not grow weary of doing good.”

Why?

Because, at the proper time, I will reap a harvest IF I DO NOT GIVE UP.

(I don’t know about you, but if all it said was: “Do not grow weary of doing good…just because,” I don’t think I’d be nearly as into it)

This is what I clung to when Ezra constipated himself (which transformed his sunny disposition into that of a crotchety 85-year-old with hemorrhoids) to avoid potty-training for an entire year. And then when he spent years 5-7 melting down over, well, most things. It was my saving grace throughout weeks of waking up 5 times a night to feed twins. And then again when those same twins decided to make car rides moderately torturous experiences for the last year (although, we seem to be mostly out of the woods). It’s my lifeline every time I’m 39 weeks pregnant and fully aware that I probably still have 3 weeks to go.

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Do Not Grow Weary

And you know what? It is absolute, God-given truth. I have yet to be disappointed with the harvest of persevering in “doing good” with these short-term “trials.”

Ezra eventually potty-trained…and stopped being so dramatic (he’s a lovely, level-headed, considerate, kind almost-10-year-old now, who folds laundry cheerfully instead of prostrating himself on the ground with weeping and gnashing of teeth. Hallelujah!). The twins eventually slept through the night and haven’t had a full on tandem car tantrum in several months. And somewhere between 41 and 42 weeks, I finally get a baby to snuggle.

I could give you other examples, but suffice it to say that the harvest has been all the sweeter for the struggle (however mild) that preceded it.

do not grow weary

I’m so grateful for these little rewards since there are plenty of other things the Lord and I are still plugging away at, which have yet to reveal their harvest.

And praise God that the whole “do not grow weary” part has pretty much nothing to do with feelings. Will I feel weary? Yes. Exhausted? Yup. Despondent? Sometimes.

But if I do not give up, regardless of how I feel, I will receive a harvest at the proper time–even if it’s not the one that I think I should get or in the time frame I was hoping for.

I hope this encourages you as much as it does me.

It’s hardly a magic formula or a carte blanche of “happiness” (because, again, notice it says nothing about how you will feel during this process of perseverance). But it is a promise. And, as Psalm 145:13 says: “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does.”

Lindsay and I have been wanting to create a print with this verse on it for ages, but…see above about having trouble checking everything off the list.

We’re so glad we managed to get it knocked out before Mother’s Day, though.

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Maybe you or a mama you know need this encouragement in your lives?

We just released it today, and now through Sunday, you’ll receive a FREE 5X7  of your choice with the purchase of our “Do Not Grow Weary” print in an 8X10 or larger.

(Just be sure to specify which 5X7 you want in the notes at checkout)

Has this verse proved true in your life too? I’d love to hear about the harvests you’ve seen so far…

Mother’s Day Gift Guide {2016}

I know I’m a bit biased, but I pretty much have the best mama in the whole wide world. I seriously don’t know anyone who is more giving, loving, practically helpful, and involved (in a good way) than she is. We’ve always been best pals, but I don’t think I’ve ever been more aware of just how awesome she is than this year when she’s been helping me home school the kids (they, of course, adore her, and I find myself waffling weirdly between jealous of their experience with her as their “Softa” {as a rather “grandma-deprived” child myself} and just so thrilled that they get to have it).

That said, I don’t know that I’ll be buying my mom one thing from this Mother’s Day Gift Guide List since she reads my blog (hi, Mom!).

But if YOU’RE in the market for a gift for a mama in your life (yours, a sister-in-law, friend, aunt…you get the idea), OR if you just need to send a few hefty hints your husband’s direction (nudge, nudge), I’ve compiled my usual list of things-I-love-and-think-you-will-too.

Disclosure: this post contain Amazon affiliate links because Amazon is the bomb.com (just dated myself), and I practically don’t buy things from “real” stores anymore because that requires getting dressed, and it just makes sense to promote the store that lets me shop in my p.j.s and get my stuff via Prime shipping.

1. A gift guide of mine just wouldn’t be complete without a Rifle Paper Co. product. I love them so.

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I hadn’t run across this Rifle Paper Co. Great Things Notepad before, and I absolutely love both a) the aesthetic and b) the saying: “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” If that’s not comforting to this mama who feels like she never finishes a “big” (think: cleaning out the pantry) project in under a week (split into 37 different little scrubbing/sorting sessions), I don’t know what is. Maybe all of those small efforts really will pay off some day!

2. Have a coffee-lover in your life? Then, they might just love this Presto 12-Cup Stainless Steel Coffee Maker. I am not a coffee-lover, but if the 3,054 4 1/2 star reviews of this best-selling product are any indication, it makes really hot, really great tasting coffee, holds up well, looks pretty, and is an amazing price for the value. So, there you go.

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3. I don’t usually include items over $50 on my gift lists, but Mother’s Day just might be one of those moments to splurge, so I thought I’d throw this Babyliss Pro Nano Titanium Straightening Iron on here just in case someone is looking for an extra-special gift, and this one fits the bill. I’m actually seriously considering getting it for myself because I managed to come home from our Colorado vacation last summer without my good straightening iron and have been making do with a Walmart cheapie version that does a whole lot more flattening than straightening. (Ruuuurl cute).

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My hairstylist has this one, and I always marvel at how smooth and sleek my bangs are after one swipe. It’s seriously THEE best my coarse, wavy/curly, ultra-thick hair has ever responded to a heating iron.

P.S. The best I can tell, this is the authentic Babyliss product (I read through a lot of reviews and “answered questions” boards to determine that this link–and this link only–appears to be legit on Amazon. Any others I found were universally declared to be knock-offs), and I’m thisclose to pulling the trigger myself. I’ll be sure to do an update post if I do.

4. I love functional things that are also pretty, and this Sakroots Artist Circle Critter Travel Case Cosmetic Bag, Natural Peace, One Size definitely fits that bill. It comes in all kinds of fun patterns and has great reviews for functionality and style.

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Best part: it has three separate transparent compartments that all unfold and are clearly visible when you hang it by the hook provided.

5. I keep stumbling upon Pressing Pause: 100 Quiet Moments for Moms to Meet with Jesus, and I’m really liking what I see so far. That said, I haven’t read it yet, but it would make a great gift for a busy mom who needs encouragement/scripture/direction/prayer all rolled into one.

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6. I don’t bake a lot of pies, but I still use my (clearance Anthro) rolling pin often enough that I keep mine hanging on the wall behind my sink. If I didn’t, I would be so tempted to go for this White Marble Rolling Pin with Wood Base. It’s super-chic looking and would look so great against the wall with some pretty wooden chopping boards stacked behind it.

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7. Speaking of which…I use cutting boards every day, but mine are far from pretty and stay squirreled away in a drawer. I’m loving the trend of displaying cutting boards against the kitchen wall, though, and this Paddle Cutting Board would be a great start to a collection (awesome price…great reviews).

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8. I think I’ve recommended a Tocca perfume trio before, but it’s totally worth mentioning again. I have a tendency to get headaches after about 30 minutes of wearing a fragrance, but I never have that reaction when I’m wearing Tocca, and I have yet to try one of their scents that I don’t at least find pleasant (there are at least two that I downright adore). The price for this Tocca Eau de Parfum Viaggio Holiday Collection is incredible. (Shaun bought me a similar trio the Christmas before last, and I still have plenty left).

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9. I keep seeing rave reviews for these dark chocolate barkTHINS–enough so that I’m both a) curious and b) a little relieved I’ve yet to cave. If you have a chocoholic in your life, I think it’s a pretty safe bet she’d love these.

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10. I’m always on the prowl for a headband that will actually keep my hair out of my face without slipping off the back of my (apparently bullet-shaped and rather large) head. If it’s cute, well, all the better!

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I don’t personally own this one (yet), but, if over 250 five star reviews are any indication, this non-slip running headband just might do the trick. It comes in a variety of fun patterns and colors too.

OH! And if none of these suggestions caught your fancy, be sure to check back to my under $10, under $25, and under $50 Christmas gift guides. Lots and LOTS of other fun ideas, most of which are still available/similarly priced.

P.S. Remember when I posted about Beauty Counter skincare? Well, I’m fiiiiinally out of every last thing that I bought (yes, it took that long), and I am ready to reorder. Because, even though their products aren’t cheap, they are literally the only ones that I’ve ever been able to say, without a doubt, made a visible difference in the clarity, tone, and evenness of my skin. (My husband and friends noticed too…that’s never happened before). And clearly, they last forever. I had my girl, Noelle, start a “social” (basically an online party) so that I could order through it to get hostess rewards on my own purchases, but several of you had expressed interest in how to order ages ago, and I did a terrible job of following up with that. So! If you are at all interested in getting some product–either for you or for a gift–you can use the social link to do so. NO pressure, of course. But I thought I’d mention it since I’m ordering from it myself.

Mother’s Day Gift Idea: The Funniest Tea Towels

So, I’m working on putting together a little Mother’s Day gift guide…as I am wont to do.

And I stumbled across Primitives by Kathy tea towels.

Y’all.

These are the funniest (and cutest) tea towels I’ve seen in a while.

That said…I don’t get the impression that they have a whole lot of worth as actual tea towels. The reviews are generally good because of the clever designs, but the quality of the towel itself doesn’t sound like it’s stellar.

Still, at an average of $6-12 per towel, it might just be worth a chuckle for a mama in your life who likes to display cute things (rather than actually dry her hands on them).

Here are just a couple that caught my eye:

For the devout germaphobe…

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JESUS AND GERMS

For people like me that genuinely struggle with h-anger…

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HANGRY

For the girl who’s reached her limit…

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CLEAN KITCHEN

For the girl who gives/need encouragement…

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FULL OF JOY

 

For the realist…

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SILENCE IS GOLDEN

{This one might be my favorite because it speaks such profound truth}

For the hardcore dieter…

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CUPCAKE

I could go on. Seriously, there are 6 pages of designs for everyone from a dog/cat-lover to a grandma (Mimi, Nana, etc.) to a Marine wife. (P.S. Some of them are questionable, but there are still plenty to choose from among the raunch)

Oh! And there’s even this one that would work great as an end-of-year teacher gift…or a reminder for every homeschool mom everywhere…

tea towel teacher
THE TEACHER

So, there you go! A cute, easy gift for any mom/teacher/aunt/friend/sister/neighbor in your life.

Happy Friyay!

Disclosure: I have included affiliate links, which means that I receive a small percentage from any purchases you make.

The Future Dining Room Design Board {X 3}

First things first:

Paint and Prose is having a surprise FLASH SALE today only for all of our lovely email subscribers. 50% OFF all orders. Yup. Any size. Any amount. Y’all. This is thee best deal we offer and a fantastic opportunity to grab one of our “Call Her Blessed” prints (or maybe a coffee print?) as a gift for a mama (because Mother’s Day–eep!) in your life (or, um, yourself…shhhh). 

Simply sign up for our newsletter, and you’ll receive the code in your inbox. We never sell your info or spam you. And you’ll be the first to know about exclusive discounts and deals!

OKAY…

Building houses from scratch is nuts grand and all, but even though I’ve painted my fair share of furniture/walls, caulked trim until I got blisters, and held things up for measurements, my mad DIY house-building skills are…not so mad after all. As in, they would probably make whoever ended up being the recipient of them rather mad/angry, and that’s about it.

Part of me likes the concept of learning to wield a power tool like a boss. And the other (much more practical) part of me is all: yeah, but I’d stink at it and make lots of mistakes for a while, which is kind of a big waste of time when I’d have to pay a babysitter to even get the practice in, and Shaun could do it well the first time.

So, when we’re in the hardcore building stages of the house, my job is to keep our children alive and tell him how wide I want the trim to be and what the roof of the porch should look like.

Oh, and make design boards. Naturally

I showed you my Anthro dining room chair score on Monday and promised to show you how I plan to incorporate them into my decor.

But…

The truth is that I haven’t quite decided.

I mean, I could go with the pastel theme and keep things relatively neutral with a side of quirk a la wallpaper (that pattern is reeeeeally popular in blog world right now, which usually means that I’m not interested, but–sigh–I love it lots), gold dot curtains , and a gold sputnik light. , and a gold sputnik light. olioboard1

Another option would be to hang simple drop cloth curtains (seriously considering these since we’ll have 10′ ceilings, and tall curtains are expensive, yo), go for a slightly more “country-chic” table look, and throw in a colorful cow print. Because I just can’t quit the quirk. (Bumper sticker, anyone?)

Side note: I totally forgot to factor in rug selections, which is weird because I’m kind of a rug fanatic. But I’d probably use this overdyed turquoise rug
that we currently own if I went with the cow art. olioboard2

And then we have the mad-hatter version of this room. Complete with florals + stripes.
I think the stripes could work as a table runner, but they would also be super-fun in large scale as a rug (that would stay clean for approximately .02 seconds under a dining table so…probably no).

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If you’re wondering why the sputnik light features in all three boards, that would be because I already bought a version in silver from Lowe’s that I plan to gold-leaf or spray paint. I have yet to find an affordable option in the brassy gold I love, so I figured a cheap-o makeover would do the trick.

Because that, my friends, is the type of DIY I do like a boss.

So, what do you think of my dining room dreaming? Did you have a favorite look? Hated all of them? Have a suggestion for me?

I’m listening!