What’s REALLY in my purse…

Have you ever seen one of those posts about what your favorite bloggers carry around in their bags? These are (supposedly) real women often with real, live, snotty-nosed, poopy-bottomed children, and yet when we see what’s in their bags, it looks like some sort of curated (and recently spit-polished) collection from Kate Spade.

So, in the interest of realness, transparency, and bracing honesty, I thought I’d share with you what it’s my bag these days.


  • An Erin Condren life planner so that I’m always perfectly organized and on task
  • A pristine wallet that is COMPLETELY devoid of old receipts or anything else untoward or not perfectly in its place
  • Sunglasses whose earpieces have NOT been stretched by little hands to the point that they slide down to the tip of my nose, librarian-style, .02 seconds after I put them on
  • A handful of change so that I’m always able to buy my kids a snack on the go. (Ignore the black goo on the pennies and nickels; I’m sure it’s just a glitch on your computer screen)
  • Gum, so I’m aaaaaalways ready for a round of lively close-talking
  • 60 second polish, should my already spotless mani need an instant touch-up
  • Lipstick/gloss in an adorable strawberry case
  • Roll-on perfume, so that I’m always fresh as a daisy; definitely not just for those times when I have to go somewhere right after BODYCOMBAT and don’t want anybody to pass out if they get downwind of me
  • A pen, so that I can notate any last minute changes to my agenda…don’t worry, I’ll never forget that I was supposed to meet you to pick something up…ever
  • A perfectly patterned little pouch to corral it all so there’s no unsightly mess or clutter in the bottom of my bag
  • My phone. Again, I’m sure that lint on the screen is actually on yours






….Are you done laughing yet? I’m not sure I am.

So, here’s the deal, folks: every single one of those things actually IS in my purse…hypothetically for the reasons I listed.

HOWEVER, the other night, Mandy (who just/FINALLY had her baby girl! Huzzah!!) and I were having dinner, and when we got ready to leave, I couldn’t immediately find my keys. I started digging through my purse, and, even though I was pretty sure the keys weren’t in there after I pulled out the first few items, we were already laughing so hard at the magical appearing act I was putting on that I just kept going.

Now, granted, this was my bag immediately after vacation when we had been out and about all day long multiple days in a row, and being “prepared” was super-important, and I hadn’t had a chance (code for: taken the time) to edit anything down at all, and…(insert 6 more excuses)…


Here you have it:



The Hit List:

  • diapers
  • a ginormous makeup bag full of various and sundries
  • gum
  • a pile of (CLEAN!) napkins
  • a hair band
  • socks
  • deodorant
  • sunscreen
  • umbrella
  • earbuds
  • applesauce
  • a plastic baggie full of essential oils
  • a package of crushed crackers
  • BODYCOMBAT notes
  • Chickfila kids’ meal toy
  • wallet
  • headwrap
  • belt
  • glow stick wand
  • onesie
  • mini-file/foot scrub/lotion

NOT pictured: wipes, several small piles of crumpled up receipts, straw wrappers, etc., (clean) underwear, and probably at least 5  more things I’ve forgotten.


Basically, if you are:

  • hungry
  • naked
  • going swimming
  • in need of a makeover…or a pedicure
  • bored
  • desperate to unleash your inner glow-stick princess
  • smelly
  • worried you might get caught in the rain
  • in need of a workout

…come see me. My BFF, Mary Poppins, and I will hook you up.

Okay. So, now that I’ve let the cat out of the bag (kind of amazing that I don’t mean that literally)…it’s your turn.

What’s REALLY in your bag??


A Tale of Two (well, technically three) Couches

For as long as I can remember (well, at least as long I’ve been interested in decorating and design), I’ve had this thing for tufted furniture. We’re not going to call it an obsession or anything cray-cray like that, but I was always inexorably drawn to every tufted wingback at Goodwill, no matter how battered. My knees get a little jelly-ish at the sight of a worn-in tufted leather sofa, and my DIY Tufted Ottoman is still the most pinned item I’ve ever made.

It’s real love, folks.

So, you can just imagine how my heart went pitter-patter when I did a rather lazy craigslist search for “Tufted Chesterfield sofa” one day–expectations extremely low–and an entry popped up that looked–if not promising–possible.


It was a dark, grainy, ugly-McAwful picture of TWO linen tufted Chesterfield sofas in a drab furniture store showroom. But despite the picture’s ick factor, I could see the potential. Especially when I looked them up and discovered they were the well-reviewed Gordon Tufted Sofa, 32″HX91X38″D, NATURAL LINEN that Amazon carries for $1,200.

The furniture dealer was only asking a little over 1/3 of that price, and the listing was 2 weeks old, so I was sure it was already sold, but when I called, it was still available.

HUZZAH for terrible, dark, grainy, ugly-McAwful pictures that had most assuredly scared off all of the other potential buyers!

We emailed back and forth and exchanged a few phone calls, and that Saturday evening, after we had attended a birthday party for Shaun’s family, halfway to Dallas, we ended up driving the rest of the way up there to see the couches in person.


The showroom wasn’t much better in person than it was in the pics. It was in a strip of “furniture outlets,” and I couldn’t quite tell what I thought of the couches at first because their surroundings were–ahem–not quite my style.

When I’d first called, I had discovered that not only did he have the two full-sized couches, but he also had one matching love seat.

Sadly, when we got there, we discovered that the love seat had two little slits in the right arm from careless box-opening techniques.

Not that that was going to stop me.

And so the haggling began.


In the end, we got both the couches and the love seat WITH TAX AND DELIVERY (two hours away, mind you) for less than the cost of ONE of the sofas on Amazon.


I was ecstatic. I hadn’t been planning on replacing our couches, which were comfortable and hid stains like a toddler hides the remote. My tufted linen Chesterfield sofa dreams had been just that–distant maaaaaaaaybes if I happened upon a good deal at an opportune time…one day…possibly.


{Can you spot the thing that I forgot to hide in this shot?}

And then, within two whirlwind days, I had sold my old sofas (y’all, proper styling is everything. I used pretty pictures from my blog, and people on a local FB site were clamoring over those perfectly fine but certainly not super-exciting gray herringbone couches like I was selling some sort of prized heirloom for 95% off), and my dream couches were in my living room.

And I do mean dream couches, people. Because, not only did they look about a trillion times better once they exited that cluttered “showroom,” but they’re a) comfortable b) well-made and c) a HUGE bargain…which means that, even if (when) they don’t stay pristine, I won’t feel sick to my stomach for dropping $2,700 on one little ol’ couch. (Because, yes, that’s what the fancy versions of this couch cost, and no, I was never going to go there).

Have I scotch-guarded the daylights out of them? Yes. Do I keep a blanket draped over the one that sits in the main thoroughfare between our kitchen and living room, much to my husband’s eye-rolling amusement? Mmm Hmmm. Have I already had to wipe up a few marks and greasy spots? Yup. (They came right up, in case you’re wondering, thanks to this magical cleaning solution).


But you know what? As I told a reader who was wondering how in the world I would cope with light-colored furniture and so many kids, I would rather have furniture I love with a few stains than stuff that I really don’t like with the very same stains…that you just can’t see.

As long as said loved furniture doesn’t cost very much, of course. ;) (I’ve already paid for my couches by clearing a few more items that I didn’t need out of my house. Feels SO good).

Oh man, does finding exactly what I’ve been looking for for at a tiny fraction of the price make me giddy!

Stef’s Cupcakes: AKA–THEE Best Vanilla Cupcakes Evah!

I’ve loved almond extract ever since I bit into my first twisty red and white candy cane cookie that my childhood best friend’s mom used to make every Christmas. She was a crunchy granola type, and I don’t think she used any processed white sugar in the cookies, but they tasted plenty sweet to me…with a hint of something mysterious and special and just plain scrumptious.

When I got older and discovered that said scrumptiousness had a name, I was determined to use almond extract in any baking recipe in which it might possibly make sense. I’ve since simmered down a bit, but there’s one recipe that I won’t make unless I have almond extract in the house, and it’s the one I’m sharing today. Which is funny because the recipe doesn’t even call for it.

vanilla cupcakes

From scratch cake is hard, y’all. Done right, it’s way better than boxed cake, but getting the texture right is tricky, which is why I love how these cupcakes turn out–moist, fluffy, and yet dense and richly flavored.

To be honest, I don’t remember where I got the recipe. Online, I know, but where, I don’t. I copied and pasted it into a word document and printed it out 8 years ago when I made a “cake” in the shape of a flip-flop out of dozens of mini-cupcakes for my friend, Stef’s, going away party, and it got such raves that I made it for a baby shower next.

stefs cupcakes

And then on and on. For 8 years, any time there has been an occasion that require’s vanilla cupcakes, I’ve whipped out my “Stef’s Cupcakes” recipe. (In case you’re wondering, the most recent “occasion” was last Friday night at 10:30 PM, while Shaun and I were watching a movie, and I got an itch to bake that only these cupcakes would scratch).

vanilla cupcakes3

Which brings me to why I’m sharing it with you: a) because it’s really too good to keep to myself and b) because I’m afraid I might lose that ratty, stained sheet of paper, and then I’ll be up a major, vanilla cupcake-less creek without a spatula. Or…some other sort of mixed metaphor that not even I can follow.

A couple of notes:

1) In MY opinion, it’s the almond extract that makes these cupcakes, but if you have something against it, then we can’t be friends you can just replace that 1/2 tsp with vanilla, and the results will be fine. And only fine. Don’t judge me or this recipe based on a version of it without almond extract.

2) These are at their absolute best as mini-cupcakes. They make such decadent, addictive little moist mouthfuls, especially when smothered in the cream cheese frosting recipe I gave you here. They’re also good as full-sized cupcakes and even as a layer cake; they’re just a little dryer.

3) This is a husband-pleasing recipe. Shaun LOVES these cupcakes, even though he’s not really a big cake person and tends to swipe most of the best part (aforementioned cream cheese frosting) off of the top. So, yes. Husband-approved recipe, in case you, too, have a hubby who is particular about his cake.

vanilla cupcakes1

So, did you think I was going to make you scroll up and zoom in and squint at that snapshot of the recipe ’til you go blind? No such luck.

Here’s the full recipe (complete with my little almond extract addition, of course):


(Makes about 30 cupcakes)

1 3/4 cups cake flour, not self-rising

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1 TBS baking powder

3/4 tsp salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes

4 large eggs

1 cup whole milk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp almond extract

1. Preheat oven to 325 (F). Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix on low speed until combined. Add butter, mixing until just coated with flour.

2. In a large glass measuring cup, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, and almond extract. With mixer on medium speed, add wet ingredients in 3 parts, scraping down the sides of the bowl before each addition. Beat until ingredients are incorporated, but do not over-beat.

3. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling about 2/3 full. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. About 17-20 minutes for full-sized cupcakes, and 9-12 minutes for minis.

4. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely before frosting.

Note: I’ve had these cupcakes with pretty much every kind of frosting under the sun, and they’re fabulous with all of them…but cream cheese will forever be my favorite.

Mama Life Hacks {#11}: Grape Juice + Activated Charcoal to Combat Stomach Bugs

First up, let me say a big ol’ THANK YOU for your kind words on Monday’s post. Vulnerability is hard. You never know how people will respond, exactly, but I’ve seen your kindness many times before, and I felt pretty confident that I would see it again. Thanks for proving me right! :) ANYhoo, if the title of this post doesn’t just steal every little bit of thunder I might have been able to conjure up for it, I don’t know what does. grape juice Still, I feel like a little more explanation is needed, so here goes:

About a year and 1/2 ago, Shaun was doing one of his marathon rounds of work trips that seem to come in waves during the spring and then again right around Christmas (when, unfortunately, everyone suddenly gets frantic to spend the rest of their budgets by the year’s end).

I had 5 kids, including 20-month-old twins, and I was pregnant with Theo. First trimester pregnant to be exact, so I was feeling suuuuuuper peppy and swell, as you can imagine.As you can also imagine, I was suuuuuuper thrilled when, pretty much the second that Shaun left for his first work trip, we came down with a stomach bug. Yup. Angels were singing and everything.

Before 24 hours had passed, every single one of my children was lying on the floor with a bowl by their sides. We couldn’t leave the house due to unpredictable puking patterns (is there any other kind?), and my feelings of thrilled-ness were just increasing by the moment. (Although, I was oh-so-grateful not to be sick myself). grape juice1 Which is when my kind, wonderful, awesome readers came to my rescue. I posted some sort of pitiful picture of us all, and several fellow mamas told me to get my hot *germ-covered) little hands on some 100% grape juice and a bottle of activated charcoal capsules ASAP.

I did a bunch of internet research and discovered that grape juice is, indeed, widely lauded as a preventative for stomach bugs. Something about the particular acid it carries is effective in combating stomach bug bacteria. (AKA the stuff that must, assuredly, coat every surface of the 7th level of Hades).

The most important thing to remember, though, is that it’s a preventative measure, not a cure. In other words, once you’re already puking, the only thing grape juice will produce is purple puke. And who needs that?

So! The next time the first victim succumbs to the stomach flu in your house, buy 100% (important not to get the “cocktail” or the “lite” or the “combined with other juices” version…you want the straight stuff) grape juice and get your kids to guzzling. If they’re anything like mine, they’ll be so excited to be given pure, undiluted juice on demand that they won’t ask why you’re suddenly so keen on their gulping it by the glassful. grape juice2 (Of course, the second Nola saw Evy being my model, she insisted: “Mama, I want my picker too!” And of COURSE, she was wearing nothing but undies, so I told her to go put something decent on if she wanted her moment in the spotlight…and this is what she came downstairs wearing. Eh. Could be worse)

The other little miracle that I mentioned is a bit of a harder sell for kids. Activated charcoal comes in little capsules that can be found at most drugstores (I found mine at Drug Emporium…is that a chain? I don’t know, but it sounds kind of shady, now that I think about it), and it basically works as an absorbent agent to soak up the bad bacteria in your gut.

I know that’s a super untechnical description of its properties, but even though I did my due diligence, it’s been a year and 1/2, and I don’t remember all the particulars. I do know that it’s safe, even for small kids, if administered correctly (be sure to do your research on amounts for small children and how often you should take it). And IT WORKS. And! It works once you’re already upchucking too. It helps to lessen the symptoms and shorten the sickness time.

Disclaimer: I think it goes without saying that I am NOT a doctor, nor do I claim to be. Before you ingest anything to help with sickness, you should make sure that you’ve done your own research and consulted your own doctor if you have any questions or are unsure about dosages/usages. grape juice4 Okay, so going back to that time I mentioned when we got sick. Well, Shaun had to travel again a couple of weeks later, and you know what? We got sick AGAIN. What?? So wrong. But this time, I was stocked up on grape juice and activated charcoal capsules, and I got everybody drinking their anti-voms cocktails as fast as you could yell, “BOWL!”

And you know what? That time, only Della (our first to fall) got sick. GLORY! To mix up this lovely, magical concoction, you simply twist the capsules of activated charcoal open, and stir in one full capsule (for older children and adults; I use fractions of capsules for younger). You can do this multiple times a day (up to a point…again…RESEARCH!).

It doesn’t have a taste, and the grape juice completely masks the inky black color, but it does have a bit of a gritty texture that you’ll feel on your teeth afterwards, so I suggest downing it as fast as you can go. You can even make it a game with your kids to see who can finish first! And then everybody can snicker at each other’s black mustaches.

I’ve used this trick every time we’ve had even a whiff of the stomach crud for the past 18 months (my kids don’t get sick often, but considering our frequent trips to the gym daycare, the sickness does tend to rear its ugly head 2-3 times a year), including this past weekend (you might recall that I mentioned that we stayed home from church due to sickness), and it has made such a difference–so much so that rarely do more than one or two of us get the nastiness and then only for 12 hours or less.

So, there you go! One of my BEST Mama Life Hacks for you. I’d happily give credit where it’s due, but honestly, it was multiple mamas who shared this little nugget o’ pure gold, so my heartfelt thanks goes out to all of you.

Tell me: did you already know about the grape juice trick? What about activated charcoal? Any “fun” vom stories to tell? We had a nice little incident in Subway when Della hadn’t puked for 48 hours, and I thought we were in the clear that involved an unfortunate amount of puke on the floor right near the drink dispenser + a total lack of readily available wipes on my part (#momfail), and the stingiest stack of napkins ever from the young male Subway employee who had clearly never cleaned up toddler vomit . (Oddly enough, we no longer frequent this Subway).

Any great #mamalifehacks to share? Leave them in the comments, or hashtag them on social media, and who knows? I might just feature YOU! (And then, your life would be made. I just know it).

In case you’ve ever (mistakenly) believed that I have “it all” together…

Last week was a doozy, y’all. And yet it was full of grace. And lots of opportunities for me to learn humility. Yippee.

Want to hear about it?

Okay, well then grab a cup of coffee and find a comfy chair because we’re going to be here a while.

Yesterday, we stayed home from church because of a stomach bug. (And yes, I realize that yesterday was actually the beginning of this week. But I don’t want to think about that right now).

Four days ago, a (large) cup of water got knocked over (yes, a kid was involved) and poured directly into my husband’s computer case (he’s a software developer, and his computer is his livelihood; this was very, very bad), soaking the motherboard, CPU, sound card, video card, and many other important things that I know less than nothing about.

There was a flash, an explosion, the smell of frying electrical components, and the whole machine just. quit. working. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen Shaun so close to completely losing it. I hustled the kids off to the library, while he took everything apart in some sort of wildly optimistic (yet, surely futile) effort to salvage something. And the whole way, I prayed pretty much nonstop for mercy. I begged God to let on that sad, fricasseed machine work again.

And you know what? He did. As I was fixing dinner, Shaun came down with a flummoxed expression on his face, shaking his head and saying, “It shouldn’t work. At all. But it does. Praise the Lord.”

A day later, I lost a pouch containing a rather substantial wad of cash + a check from the sale of quite a few furniture items (I’m in de-clutter mode). I spent hours scouring my house/garage/car + calling everywhere I’d been in the last 48 hours, and I couldn’t help but feel some sympathy (empathy?) pangs for Uncle Billy from It’s a Wonderful Life (WHO loses a pouch full of cash?).

Just when I had lost all hope and become convinced that it had fallen out of my purse or been stolen, Shaun walked into the living room, and dropped it in my lap, declaring that it had been hiding out under a pair of jeans–the one thing I hadn’t looked under–on our “dining room table” (code for: landing strip for all paraphernalia that comes into and leaves our house). So! I hadn’t lost a bunch of money! Just buried it under the laundry. Yay.

Last Tuesday, though. THAT was the day that got this whole crazy ball rolling in a major way.

The twins and Della apparently all got the same memo that their mission was to break each others’ records for shriekiest, most skin-crawlingly ear-piercing scream evvvver.

And they were succeeding. At least in my mind, every scream was a little shriller and more nerve-shredding than the last.

Theo didn’t seem to be taking his naps as well as usual (see above description of my daughters’ vocal gymnastics).

The older boys were hyper.

I was trying to blog, answer FB questions about some furniture I was selling, coordinate pick-up/meet times for other items I was selling/buying, study BODYCOMBAT choreography notes, dole out snacks, clean up messes, do laundry, nurse a baby, and try not to forget the 13 things I needed to bring with me.

Nola didn’t nap, and to top it all, my living room was in total chaos (see above about selling furniture), and the visual mess was majorly messing with my head.

Somehow, we managed to get out the door “on time” (read: 15 minutes later than I wanted but technically still early enough to cram everything in), and we spent the next 30 minutes racing around from one errand to the next. When I glanced in my rear-view mirror and saw that Nola had fallen asleep 10 minutes before we got to the gym, I knew I was in for it.

Nola is my all-or-nothing girl, and she doesn’t wake up easily or happily unless it’s on her own terms.

But, as I hauled her out of the car, she seemed docile enough, and I hoped against hope sound reason that she would cooperate. Halfway across the parking lot, though, she started to stomp her feet and whimper and insist that I hold her–no small feat when I’d forgotten the stroller (of course) and was already schlepping 18.7-lb.-Theo in his car seat plus my purse/diaper/mom bag (which weighs only slightly less than a baby elephant).

By the time we got to the nursery, I was sweating, (more) stressed, and five minutes late. Not only that, but the woman who had been supposed to meet me in the gym parking lot to pick up a sale…forgot. And was planning on jumping in the car to run up there in “10 minutes” (she had to load kids, so I was guessing that meant more like 20, but it was impossible to tell).

I dropped my kids off, and Nola dropped any pretense at civility and began wailing like some sort of emergency siren. Feeling like a deadbeat parent, I gave the nursery worker an apologetic look and raced to Studio A, now 8 minutes late to practice.

3 minutes into practice (during which my brain felt like absolute mush as I tried to scrap together the fragmented choreography study sessions I’d slipped into the day’s cracks), the gym’s assistant manager came in and informed me that Nola’s temper tantrum had escalated into a full-blown atomic meltdown.

I apologized to Israel (my practice partner…who doesn’t have kids, by the way) and raced back to the nursery, where I discovered the gym’s manager sitting on the floor trying to talk a hysterical Nola down from her oh-so-high-and-mighty crazy cliff.

(Two grown men + one hysterical toddler is not good math).

Nothing was working. Not even the suggestion of snacks, which–let me tell you–means that Nola was deeeep down the rabbit hole (because that girl loves to eat).

Fast-forward through much screaming, an absolute insistence that I (and no one else) take her potty, and (OF COURSE!) a sudden need to sit on said potty and wait to see if maybe, possibly, she miiiiight need to poop, and I was feeling a bit frantic.

I knew that Israel was waiting for me, the gym managers were probably drawing up my resignation letter (not fair, since they were both incredibly gracious and even got snacks from the vending machine for my children free of charge), and the lady was probably texting me wondering why I’d dropped the face of the earth.

Sure enough, by the time Nola was finally even approaching a return to her right mind, and I finally checked my phone, I had a text saying, “I’m here!” from twelve minutes before, and then another (very politely) asking if she was in the right place.

I ran back into Studio A, apologized to Israel again, then sprinted out of the gym to meet the lady outside. She was nice as she could be and apologized to me for forgetting. I tried to smile and nod, but mostly I just snatched her money, shoved the table at her, and then careened back inside.

After Combat practice, I hustled all the kids to the car so we could make our next appointment, checking my phone for the text I was sure would be waiting for me since, yet again, we were running a bit behind.

Only my phone wasn’t in my purse.

Oh, for the love.

There was no way in 103 heat-index East Texas (which is, quite possibly, a little hotter than the word that people usually use to complete that phrase) I was hauling 6 children back inside to wander the gym halls searching for my phone, so I parked in the handicap spot (that counts for “mentally” too, right?) near the gym entrance, turned on Loony Tunes, cranked the air-conditioner, and instructed Ezra to lock the doors and open them for no one but a crazy lady with a wild look in her eyes that resembled his mother.

After a lightning fast but fruitless search of every room (nursery! studio A! studio B! the upstairs bathroom! the downstairs bathroom…oh wait, I never went in there) that I could think of, I started to wonder if pressing the “quit life” button was truly an option. Or maybe, at least, the “pause so I can sit down and sob without more time passing, thus making me even later to the next thing” button. Yeah, that would work too.

You better believe I was offering up some pretty fervent/incoherent prayers like, “Lord, please. Help. Where’s my phone. Please, clear my brain and help me remember. Phone. Where IS it??!”

And then it came to me: I must have put it down in the back of my van when I met the lady to exchange items/money. I must have.

And so I pelted past the front desk yet again (pretty sure they thought I was staging my own indoor race at this point), hurtled down the stairs, and threw open my van hatch to discover…

My phone.


But, of course, the lady had sent me a text at 5:13 saying she was waiting (I was supposed to meet her at 5:45, and it was now 5:55; I have no idea why she texted so early) and then another asking if I was still coming.


After meeting her, I drove to Chick-fil-a, where I had promised to buy dinner for my children.

Or, more accurately, be given free food for my children. You see, it was Cow Appreciation Day (you dress up like a cow, they give you free food; it’s the perfect combination of humiliation and charity), and one of the many things I had thrown in my car as we left the house were–don’t laugh–supplies to “make” cow costumes.  Because it just hadn’t happened earlier, despite my best intentions. We’re talking scissors, my travel sewing kit, construction paper, face paint…the works.

But, as I saw family after family skipping happily inside wearing their already-done (of course; what kind of insane person tries to craft cow outfits in the car???) costumes, I could feel the ball of tension in my belly unraveling and spreading along my limbs until even my fingernails felt taut as an over-tuned piano wire.

Still, I persevered (code for: stubbornly refused to acknowledge obvious defeat) and doggedly cut out cow spots and sewed them onto the girls’ (non-white) shirts, one at a time. And then made the boys smear black paint on everybody’s noses. Because, yes, Abbie, the defining feature of a cow’s face is its black nose. Huge eye-roll.

After 15 minutes of this circus act, I gave up. We looked a hot mess y’all. Literally. Remember the part about the 103 heat index? Yeah. The van’s idling air-conditioning can only kick it for so long before it’s like, “Ah’ight. I’m out.”

NOT ONE of us looked even remotely like a cow. And as I got the last spot sewed onto Evy’s shirt, I turned around to discover that Nola had pulled every last one of hers off.

{Beat head against car window; pause to glare at perfect family in perfect cow costume; REPEAT}

I just kept telling myself, “These are first world problems, Abbie. You are not a persecuted believer in China whose husband has been thrown in prison and doesn’t know where her next meal will come from. You can go inside Chick-fil-a and buy food.” But I was feeling pretty persecuted, y’all. And tired. And ridiculous. And like an utter failure at mamahood and life in general.

Desperately hoping not to encounter anyone I knew (unlikely since I’d seen at least 2 families I recognized head inside already), I herded (ha. ha.) my motley black-nosed crew inside and joined the hordes of appropriately black and white clad free-food-seekers.


{Here we are at Chick-fil-a the week before Cow Appreciation Day; because there was zero photo-documentation of our costume fail on the day of}

When it was our turn, I could barely meet the teenage clerk’s eyes as I mumbled, “Um, this one has spots and a black nose. Does that get us anything?”

And he smiled at me and said, “Sure, how about a kids’ meal?”

I nodded numbly, and he said, “How many will you need?”

I met his eyes in surprise and realized that he meant all of them–aaaaall of my many, sadly inappropriately dressed children.

I could barely get the words out: “Um, five?”

“Okay, ma’am. My pleasure. What would you like to drink?”

By this point, I was fighting tears so hard, and only the prospect of that poor boy’s distress at the sweaty, stressed-looking mama’s breaking into heaving sobs while her crowd of children looked on in confusion empowered me to keep it together.

He didn’t know about my “day.” He didn’t know how badly I just wanted to give up and drive home and scrounge in the fridge for leftovers. He didn’t know how his timid little smile and total lack of judgment were spreading healing balm over what felt like gaping wounds in my pride and patience and pathetic resolve to keepittogetherfor5moreminutesdangit.

If ever a fast-food checkout dude was Jesus to me, it was that guy, that day.

So, why do I tell you this?

Because I need you to know that the girl who writes posts giving you tips about how to have a successful vacation with kids and how to sleep-train babies is the very same one who spent 4 days in a row feeling like she was two over-scheduled hours away from the loony bin.

I love having the opportunity to share the things that do work (because I wasn’t lying; that vacation was awesome,and so are sleeping babies) in hopes that they help somebody out. But if you met me in real life, then you would know just how much I don’t  have it together all the time (most days are not like that Tuesday, but neither are they completely smooth sailing) and how much I don’t claim to.

It’s just so easy to see people after they’ve showered and had a chance to compose the crazy and think that that’s how they roll all the time.

A friend told me that I seemed to be “graced with patience for motherhood,” on a day when I’d spent the morning snapping at my kids.

A nursery worker heard me humming along to “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” when I was picking my kids up from the daycare and said, “What? You sing too? What don’t you do?”

And I thought: “What don’t I do? Oh my word. SO, so much.”

I am so very flattered and appreciative when people share kind words, but I also need you to know how human I am. How flawed. How desperately in need of Jesus. All day. Every day.

And how I cling to these words: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Most days, we do all right. But even on the “easy” days, that verse is what I’m banking on–the promise, sure and true, that if I just keep swimming, keep apologizing when I blow it, keep doing the next thing I know is right, keep reading my Bible, keep dying to myself and growing in grace…that I will reap a reward–not in ease and comfort and wealth–but in character growth and better relationships with my children and more empathy for others who are struggling with their humanity too (because isn’t that everybody?).

So, yeah. Just in case you ever (mistakenly) thought that I have “it all” together…just reread this post. I’m so grateful for the simple days when everything just falls into place. But I’m even more appreciative (of them) when every little last thing is just a bit (or a lot) off because it reminds me exactly Who does have “it all” together right in the palms of His hands.


{What a relief!}

I sure won’t complain, though, if we don’t have a do-over of last week starting today. Nope. Not one bit.

That time I wore clothes on vacation…

…and there was great rejoicing.

Because the alternative would be awkward at best.

ANYhoo, the truth is that there has not been much in the way of cute clothes this summer. I’m usually headed to the gym with the kids in the afternoon, so it doesn’t make much sense to get out of my pajamas and all gussied up only to change again into gym clothes.

And–let’s be honest–sometimes, the gym clothes don’t even make it onto my body until 15 minutes before we have to walk out the door. Yet another reason why I’m glad we live in the boonies. And our UPS guy is totally unfazed by my answering the door in lounge pants. #blesshim


When we went on vacation to Colorado (someday, I’ll stop talking about this trip…pinky promise), I made an effort. It was fun to plan outfits again, and since I wasn’t teaching fitness classes, I forced myself to pack options that didn’t involve a) spandex and b) the (non) color black.

It was still vacation, though, so I kept things pretty simple/minimal. And, OF COURSE, I documented all most of it.

Ezra is my budding outfit photographer because he thinks it’s a privilege of the highest order to be asked, and Shaun…doesn’t.

Anyway, you know me: I love bargains, so most of these looks were thrifted or deeply clearanced, but I’ll tag what I can.


The only thing worth even attempting to buy is that peach skirt from SheInside (this one’s not identical, but it’s pretty close). The tissue top (over a tank top…I wear white tanks with e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.) is from GAP, and the sandals were an impulsive Ross purchase a couple of years ago that I have worn to death.


I should probably call this one my, “I Heart thredUP outfit” since the top, shorts, and shoes are all from there. (If you’ve never tried it and want a free $10 credit–I get one too–you can use this link).


This outfit comes to you courtesy of date night. I’d been on the hunt for some leopard print heels at a decent price that I love for…years. And I bought these calf-hair Jessica Simpson ones at Nordstrom Rack in Boulder for $35 after leaving them the first time and then spending odd moments during the next 24 hours planning outfits I could wear them with. So, I told myself if I went back, and they were still there, I could buy them. They were, so I did. Are they comfortable? Um…relatively. I sure thought so in the store, but as the night wore on, and we walked around cute downtown Boulder, my dogs started barking a little. I can definitely tell that I’m getting older because, 10 years ago, I wouldn’t have thought anything of not entirely comfortable but entirely cute shoes for date night. Now, I’m all: where’re my slippers at?


Want to know what to wear when you have greasy, vacation hair? A head-wrap. Mine is from the J. Crew Outlet for something like $5, but it’s super easy to just fold a scarf or a cute piece of fabric and tie it around your noggin too. Dirty hair? What dirty hair?


I promise I don’t have mold growing on  my face, but for some reason, this particular pic didn’t come out clear. At all. My striped tank top is from the GAP forever ago, the skirt was a clothes-swap score, and the sandals are handmade from Greece. Aaaaaah, Greece.


And then, we have the, “I’m going to pretend like I tried by throwing on a pair of gold wedges and hoping they look okay with destructed boyfriend jeans.” Eh. Good enough. My jeans were from LOFT this past spring (on suuuuuuper-clearance), and my tank is from Target about a month ago. Also super clearance. I love it because it’s a bit sheer (see above comment about white tank tops under everything) and flowy without being tent-like.


And last but, apparently, NOT least, we have the outfit that made my husband give me an appreciative head-to-toe and say, “I really like that outfit.” I’m literally laughing while typing this. Of ALL of the outfits I wore on the trip, I think I look the silliest here. Or maybe it’s just my awkward I-don’t-golf-and-have-no-idea-how-to-hold-this-thing stance.

In any case, I scored both those shorts that my husband called, “Long enough to be modest but not so long that they look weird” AND the cute graphic tee (crazy soft! I like!) at the J. Crew Outlet for $16. And I scored my white chucks on sale at Academy where I happened to check out with a store manager, and she gave me the skeptical side-eye when they rang up full price, and I informed her of the sale. Turns out I was right. OOOOOOOoh yeah. Ahem.

And there you have it. I did wear more clothes, but you’ve either already seen them in other posts, or they were workout clothes. And nobody wants to see those.

So, tell me, does your husband get all excited when you wear boring stuff like shorts and t-shirts? I. just. don’t. get. it.

My Best Tips for Traveling With Kids

When we were planning our trip to Colorado, I probably should have been more nervous about hauling 6 children 9 and under 15 hours away from home for two weeks, but I really wasn’t. We had a game plan, and, as evidenced from this post, I’m used to carting my children with me every-stinkin’-where I go, so I was pretty confident that we’d at the very least survive.

I realize this is supposed to be the part where I laugh at my own naivete, but honestly? The trip went off without a hitch. We didn’t have car trouble. No one got (seriously) sick. No epic traffic jams. Nothing.

And we had so. much. fun. I’m already pining for next year. Because–yes–we’ve vowed to do everything in our power to make it back to Colorado every summer from here to eternity.

So! Even though I can only credit God’s amazing kindness with a great deal of our trip’s success (because, let’s face it: stomach bugs aren’t exactly something you can control, and they can bring the fun to a screeching halt in a hot upchucking second), there were some things that worked really great for us, so I thought I’d pass them along on the off-chance that they help someone else.

1. Just say no to over-packing.

I’ve been known to pull the, “I can’t decide which necklace I want to wear. I’ll just bring all of them,” move before. Which is all well and good doable when you’re single.

But that kind of mindset just doesn’t fly when you’ve got 6 (or even a lot fewer) little humans and their junk to think about.

Which is why I’ve become increasingly sparse in my packing methods. So much so that I brought ZERO necklaces with me on that trip…and ended up regretting it. (Good thing I found two squirreled away in the pocket of my makeup bag, eh?)

ANYhoo, I used the same spartan approach when packing my kids’ clothes and managed–somehow–to get ALL 6 KIDS’ stuff in one large suitcase. I brought plenty of socks and undies but limited each kid to 5 or so outfits that could easily be mixed and matched (except Theo, who is kind of the king of blowouts and needed lots of extra onesies). Of course, it helped that we were going to a place with a washer/dryer.

Which brings me to…

2. Just say yes to vacation rentals

I’ve already sung the praises of VRBO and Airbnb several times before on the blog, but this is the part where I tell you that I will never again stay in another hotel for longer than two nights if I have anything to say about it.

We found our adorable vacation rental on Airbnb (which is where we also found all of our rentals for our European anniversary adventure last year and 2 out of 3 of the places we stayed in Cali for our 10th anniversary).

Not only was it super affordable and a pleasant place to stay in a great neighborhood close to all kinds of restaurants and shopping and parks and, and, and…

But it had everything you could possibly want to make an extended stay possible–fully stocked kitchen, washer and dryer, extra towels, toys, etc.

Because that’s the beauty of renting a real house from a real person. You get access to all of their real life stuff (like a double oven and muffin tins) and you get some of the perks (like shampoo/toothpaste/lots of extra linens) of a hotel, since most owners have planned ahead to make their guests’ stays the best possible.


{There’s a strange man in my bed! Oh well, at least my pillow cases are cute}

I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve stayed in vacation rental houses or apartments at this point, but we’ve never had a bad experience. If you do your research and communicate well with the owner, you can be sure you’re choosing a reputable rental, and most of the time, the owners will go out of their way to accommodate your needs.

If you want to try Airbnb, you can use this link for a $25 credit towards your first rental (I get a $25 credit too, so we both win!).

3. Plastic snack baggies are the bomb!

I’m aware that nobody uses the phrase “the bomb” anymore, but I just don’t have it in me to say, “on fleek,” so now that we’ve got that sorted, let me tell you about the snacking system that–while not eco-friendly–definitely made life easier on our long drive.

In case you hadn’t noticed, pre-bagged snacks are…expensive. So, I brought along a big box of sandwich baggies + a club-sized box of a certain brand of fish-shaped orange crackers universally loved by children, raisins, pre-washed grapes, pretzels, etc.

And every time (pretty sure it was once a minute for the first two hours of our drive) that one of my offspring (and then, of course, all of them) said, “I’m huuuuungry,” I simply dumped a little bit ‘o something in a baggie and handed it back. The older kids were able to keep up with their bags for a couple of uses, but the twins usually “misplaced” theirs as soon as they were done with their snack. Which was okay (though not my favorite) because a) I brought a LOT of baggies and b) the kids have to clean out the back of the van, so they were the ones cleaning up all of the dropped bags.

4. Drive all night long (all niiight)

I was extolling the virtues of night driving to a friend of mine at church the other day, and she told me they’d tried it, and it was disastrous. So, I guess I’d include the disclaimer that I highly recommend driving at night IF you’ve got good car-sleepers. All of mine are, which resulted in a much more peaceful and speedy (fewer stops for food/potty) trip for us.

I also highly recommend audiobooks + earbuds for distraction on those 6-hour stretches through flat, featureless, sleep-inducing West Texas. (Which is pretty much the opposite of hilly, green, tree-filled East Texas, where I live).

5. Coolers are the coolest

I can’t actually tell you exactly how we ended up with 8 people’s stuff + 8 bottoms in 8 available seats and didn’t feel crazy cramped (because we didn’t), but I tell you this: our cooler would have been worth every last square inch of space that it took up, even with a tighter fit.

We brought raw milk + farm eggs + a few other thing that we didn’t want going bad with us on the way up, and it was really nice not to have to immediately head to the grocery store for supplies. And then, on the way back, we were able to bring all of the perishables that we hadn’t polished off during our trip. Which I loved because I’m not a fan of wasted food (but then, who is?).

Plus, it’s pretty sweet to have chilled water bottles with you on a long trip.

6. Keep the toys simple

I know it’s tempting to bring every gadget and doojabber (this, along with my “the bomb” reference, just cemented my status as an old lady) that might possibly capture your children’s attention and keep them from spending the entire vacation hanging onto your shoulders and saying, “Mooooommmmm, I’m booooooored”…

But honestly?

Our best toy purchase of the entire trip was a giant pad of drawing paper and a new set of washable markers in bright colors. We bought them to make Father’s Day cards for Shaun, but we used them almost every single day, and all 5 of my drawing-capable children spent hours (spread out) doodling and scribbling.


Other than drawing, we spent most of our time at home hula-hooping or kicking the soccer ball in the backyard. Although, the little girls did log some hardcore time accessorizing the Barbies that the girl of the house had left for us to play with, and the boys + Della got some serious Minecraft time with Shaun (usually, they only get 30 minutes of game time/week).

7. Scope out the kids’ eat free nights

If you’re traveling to a well-populated area, chances are, you have several kid-friendly chains near you, some of which have a kids-eat-free day/night (with the purchase of an adult meal)…which can translate into big-time savings in the eating out department. A couple that pop to mind are Chick-fil-a (kids eat free night varies) and Jersey Mike’s (all day Sunday).

Oh! And PSA: Today is the day of all days to make a total doofus of yourself and dress everybody in your family like a COW. Because if you do, and you have a Chick-fil-a near you, everybody in cow-gear gets free food! If you do and don’thave a Chick-fil-a near you…well, your neighbors will still get a kick out it.

8. Bring the stroller. Leave the pack n’ play

We used our stroller constantly–while hiking, while shopping, while trolling the local farmer’s market, while sampling food at the street fair, while jogging around the neighborhood. Pretty much everywhere.

And we contemplated bringing a pack n’ play for Theo to sleep in. But it was going to take up a lot of space, so we opted for making him a pallet in the closet (what we’d done on our anniversary trip as well). It sounds a bit ghetto, I realize, and might not work if you have an older baby. But it worked great for Theo (6 months). Just make sure there’s nothing on the floor or within reach for them to fiddle with and turn into a potential choking/strangling hazard.


{I should have said, bring the stroller AND the baby carrier…and then let your husband do all the wearing}

9. Picnic every chance you get

We ate most of our evenings meals out or had them delivered because this mama–who cooks dinner almost every night of the week–was on vacation, if you know what I mean. But other than dinners out, we ate a lot of cereal and eggs and sandwiches at home. Any time we could, though, we packed up a picnic or took our food outside in the backyard, which made turkey and PBJ sandwiches (again) seem festive and cut down on clean up inside. More fun and less cleaning? Count me in!

10. Do a little research

With just a few clicks of a keyboard, we found more activities–VBS! Free movies! Street fairs! Craft mornings! Music festivals!–than we had time or interest to go to. Summertime, especially, is ripe with opportunities to get outside and do something fun, so be sure to check out the local offerings for kid-friendly activities because they’re sure to abound.


{My kids loved tickling the ivories on one of Fort Collins’ “pianos about town”}

What are YOUR best tips for traveling with kids? I loved all of your ideas of doing errands with kids and picked up some new tricks for our outings, so I can’t wait to hear your travel wisdom too!

A Table Swap

If you’ve been hanging around these parts for a while now, then you’ve seen this little nook near my entryway a lot.


This has been its current state for the last several months. Fine. A year. I wouldn’t necessarily called it styled. More like…piled? It’s kind of become the roosting place for all the little decor doodads that get moved from somewhere else.

Which has been just fine by me. In the past six months, I’ve had a (sixth!) baby, muddled through the winter doldrums with a newborn plus homeschooling, hunkered down for a spring of semi-single parenting, and then done my fair share of traveling this summer.

Home decor hasn’t exactly been on my radar.

So much so that when, recently, I started to get inspired to do a little house sprucing and decluttering and refreshing, it felt a little like exercising a muscle that had been neglected.

SO much so that when I started changing out the little display shelves on my living room wall, taking down the little white wooden trees (not Christmas trees…I promise…ahem) that were still lined up and the glitter reindeer I’d left out after Christmas for “winter decor,” Shaun quipped, “Well, you’ve only got six months to go til it comes around again. Might as well leave them up.”

Ha. Ha.

But then, all of a sudden, Abbie got her decorating groove back. (Whoa. Not sure why I just referred to myself in the third person, but that was a little weird). I got the “itch” again.

Even so, I wasn’t planning on giving that cute little table the axe. I love it.


It’s not terribly functional. We never actually use it as a desk. And it’s not much good for storage with only those 4 little drawers.

So, when I spotted a cute little blue and cream chest on our local FB swap and shop, it got my wheels to turning.

I couldn’t get it out of my head.

I stopped by the lady’s house to see it in person. I wandered around her estate sale, finding bargains on name brand clothes and then circling back with my pile of tops to take another look at the chest, which was even cuter in person. I finally made up my mind to leave it, but as I was backing out of the driveway, I just couldn’t.

So, I hopped back out and asked if she would take $20 less than her (already reasonable) asking price if I threw it in the back of my van right that very second, and…she squinted…and cocked her head a little…and then sighed and said yes.


So, I plopped it on top of my stroller in the back of the van (where my 6 kids had been watching Loony Tunes in the air-conditioning while mama circled a piece of furniture at a garage sale like some sort of weird decor vulture), and brought it home.

Then, I commissioned Ezra to help me wrestle it into place, did a little clutter editing…

Et Voila!


Not only was it the perfect size for the space, but (and this is what ultimately sold me on it), it has waaaaay more storage than the little desk and is the perfect depth to house all of my BodyCombat/BodyPump DVDs and notes (which are currently languishing in disarray in a cabinet that’s too shallow to hold them properly).


As much as I loved it, there was something just noooooooot quite right. It was a little too mousy and subdued sitting there in all of its blue and white pristineness.

I knew just how to fix that, though.

10 minutes later, I was perfectly content with my new/old little chest.


Did you spot the difference? table

How about now?

Yup. It was practically begging for some gold knobs.

I thought about heading to Hobby Lobby for something funky, but it’s hard to beat the immediate gratification of a little spritz of spray paint, and ultimately, I love the simplicity of the little bit of understated shimmer.

So, what do you think? Do you love my little table switcheroo as much as I do?

I’d love it even more if it didn’t take away my excuse for avoiding organizing all of my exercise junk. Sigh.

Happy Friday, y’all! May you find the perfect thing for the perfect space this weekend–even (or especially) if it’s just the perfect little body to give a big tight hug.

Rocky Mountain Getaway {Part 2}

So, I think when we left off on the oh-so-scintillating recap of our Colorado trip it was with a pic of my chowing down on pizza, yes?

Well, the good eats just kept coming (I’m not planning a dedicated food post, but there was a lot to like about the food options in the area), and so did the fun activities.

Simon, who loves the outdoors like a mama loves naptime, had been begging to go hiking in Colorado, pretty much since he discovered that the concept existed.

So, hiking we went. With 6 kids. And a non-sport stroller. On a gravelly path. AKA: death to your calf muscles.


At least 10 people coming down the mountain when we were on our way up looked like they wanted to either laugh or cry for me as I puffed my way along wearing Theo in a carrier and pushing Della and Nola in the stroller. But, as ridiculous as I knew I looked, I also knew that I was getting a stellar workout (that pizza I was holding in the last post was more of a theme than a cameo), so I turned down all of Shaun’s offers of: “Are you SURE you don’t want me to take a turn now?” and tried not the pass out in the whoa-this-is-much-higher-than-I’m-used-to elevation.


At least there were giant his/her dandelions waiting for us at the “top” (code for: as high as we got before the kids started melting down). (Not that either one of us had enough breath left to actually blow all those little fuzzies off to make a wish).

Simon, for his part, discovered that he doesn’t like hiking. He likes walking on flat paths through nature, while taking long breaks to catch lizards. Why hike when you can flit?

Putt putt golf, though? That was an entertainment medium that all my kids could get behind.


And by “get behind,” I really mean that they were all very, very capable of losing their mini golf balls (sometimes intentionally…ahem, Nola) and then fishing them out of the water features.


Oh, and NO ONE has ever been prouder to hit the 500 ticket arcade jackpot than Della was.


ESPECIALLY once she realized that said jackpot was just enough to buy her the world’s biggest, ugliest, gaudiest plastic “diamond” ring eh-vah. #goals

Her expression was slightly less ecstatic when she had to wait one whole turn to ride the go-karts.


This picture makes me laugh every time I look at it. Oh, the agony of having to wait five minutes for your turn when you were expecting immediate gratification.

Of course, all of that arcading and putt-putting and go-kart riding took its toll on certain members of our family.


That would be Nola passed out cold on the lovely teal couch in an attitude of complete and total abandonment to sleep. Which is something she never, ever, ever does at home.

Meanwhile, her brothers and I were busy whipping up a little deliciousness in the kitchen.


Note to self anyone who cares to listen, remember to adjust temps/times for altitude differences while baking, or else your banana muffins will taste great but look like squashed piles of mush. #askmehowIknow

Our final night was spent with some family that lives near Denver, and not only did my kids love getting to choose the toppings for their pizza and help pile them on, but they just about had apoplectic fits of excitement when they discovered my cousin’s army gear in her closet and were allowed to put it on.


Don’t worry. They’re going to kill them with cuteness.

Honestly, I had worried that almost two full weeks of vacation with 6 little kids was going to be too much. That we would get bored. Or homesick. Or stir-crazy.

But none of that happened. All of our (verbal) kids declared their love for our little rental and the trip as a whole. And I think we were all at least a little sad to sardine ourselves into the van and head back to real life.


Not that we look it in this pic.

So! There you have it. A pretty ridiculously amazing family vacation in to two parts.

I’ve gotten several questions about vacation rentals and traveling with kids, etc. so I’m putting together a post on what did/didn’t work for us.

Just a little something to keep you going to the end of the week, eh?

Happy Thursday, folks!



A Rocky Mountain Getaway {Part 1}

I know I’ve mentioned that Shaun has traveled a lot recently. But the truth is that I’ve pretty much lost count of all the trips he’s taken this past spring/early summer, and there are more to come.


So, even though the kids and I have our solo (can you really call it “solo” when there are 7 of you??) routine down pretty pat by now, you better believe whenever there’s even a chance that we’ll get to tag along, we jump at it.

So, several months ago, when Shaun mentioned the possibility of a trip to Boulder during the summer, he barely got the words out before I said (shrieked?), “WE’RE COMING TOO!”

Fortunately (for his well-being and my sanity), he thought it was a great idea, so I started combing Airbnb (if you’ve never tried it, you totally should!) for a rental until I stumbled upon this lovely little home in Louisville (about 15 minutes from Boulder).


I mean. Turquoise painted brick? Now that’s my kind of rental!

Because it wasn’t in the heart of it all (not that we cared) and because it was the owner’s first time to rent her house out and because she didn’t charge some of the more ridiculous fees that some rentals do (like an extra $25 per night for each person after 2), we got an amazing deal on a super-cute house with a killer backyard and patio and easy access to tons of great restaurants and parks and shopping (heck, I went to Anthropologie twice…not that I actually bought anything).

Plus, it served as a great home base for all of our adventures…of which there were plenty.

In fact, the very first thing that we did after driving all. night. long (on the way there, Shaun did every bit of the 13 1/2 hours of driving, so I can’t really complain a bit) was to hightail it over to the Louisville Farmer’s Market, since we arrived on a Saturday around noon, and the market was over by 1.

And the second thing we did?



I am not exaggerating a bit when I say that this is, by far, the best vacation we’ve had together as a family, and it ranks up there with several that we’ve enjoyed with just the two of us.

Somehow, we managed to strike pretty much the perfect balance of play and rest…of doing nothing and lots of things.

There were plenty of days that we stayed home all day, drawing and playing with the toys the owner’s kids left specifically for anyone who might have kids, watching Netflix (which we don’t have, so it was a huge treat), hula-hooping in the back yard, and ordering Thai food for dinner.

But then, there were the days we left the house early in the morning and didn’t get back until late in the evening. Like that time we hit up Estes Park and Fort Collins. In one day. 12 hours away from the house with 6 kids, including two toddlers and 6-month-old.

And you know what? It was a blast!

In Estes Park, we checked out a Scandinavian Street Fair and ate a picnic by Grand Lake.


{Yeah, I wasn’t too mad about life at this point}

In Fort Collins, we hit up a park/animal farm right in the middle of the city, then meandered down Main Street, checking out the cutest little toy store you ever did see, eating pizza, with ice cream for dessert, and finishing it all off with a splash in the Old Town fountains.


{We got to the animal farm right after they stopped doing the pony rides, but pretty much all of that disappointment got erased when they brought them all out for us to pet}


{You better believe I was wracking my brain for ways to take this gorgeous peachy piano home with us from a toy store that my children happily played in for almost an hour}


{Clearly, Nola was pretty upset about the opportunity to get soaked while wearing regular clothes}

Louisville has a fairly modest population of just under 20,000, but there are so many towns close by that their weekly summer street festival is absolutely PACKED and includes all kinds of miserable pursuits such as face painting…


and bungee jumping…


and FOOD…


{Anybody else thinking I’m storing most of that pizza in my cheeks? #chipmunkface}

Yup. We were seriously depressed after that night.  (Depressed that it didn’t last longer).

And wouldn’t you believe it? This was just the first half of our trip.

That’s right. I’ll be back with even more pics of my offspring + obnoxiously beautiful backdrops very soon.

I know, I know. Your week has been made. Until then, try not to sweat too much at the community pool, okay?