The Baby Name Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mostly just because it’s awkward.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Twins are FOUR!

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

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

wood floor labeled

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

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

SO!

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

wood floor3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

twins birth

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

Of course, they are tiny no longer.

rockstar twins

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

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

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

twins are 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

And mine.

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

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

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

Praise God for that!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until I found 3 that are juuuuust right.

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

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

So, what are these samples of which I ramble?

wood floor

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

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

wood floor1

Think you can guess which one it is?

I showed my social media folks this shot…

wood floor2

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

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

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

wood floor labeled

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

25 Week Pregnancy Check In {Baby #7}

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

25 weeks logo

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

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

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

theo24 weeks

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

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

How has this pregnancy compared to the others?

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

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

What is this baby like?

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

Do you have a name yet?

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

Are you still exercising/teaching fitness classes?

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

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

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

Still planning on a home birth?

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

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

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

How have people responded to your having another baby?

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

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

Which is TOTALLY cool with me!

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

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

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

Any big pregnancy quirks?

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

And now it’s your turn.

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

I’d love to learn more about you!

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

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

 

More New House Progress

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

Part 2 is coming, but for now…

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was SW’s Riverway.

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

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

exterior colors

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

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

And here they all are on the siding…

exterior colors1

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

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

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

exterior colors2

Oh! And those countertops I mentioned…

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

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

Which is why we’re leaning toward laminate countertops.

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

jesswasserman

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

Shaun and I brought these samples home…

countertops

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whoa there, Mom.

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

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

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

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

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

Here is it:

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

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

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

blessed4

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

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

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

HOWEVER.

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

blessed3

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

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

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

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

blessed2

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

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

Jeremiah 29:11 says:

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

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

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

blessed1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

blessed

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

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

Save

Save

Mama Life Hacks{#21}: The Penny System

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

So!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

penny

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

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

So, what is it?

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

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

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

penny1

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

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

penny4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

penny3

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

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

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

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

Save

Save

Save

Save

You asked. I attempted to answer (Part II)

If you already read Part I, then you already know what Part II is about, so let’s just jump right in, shall we?

{Just be warned that, if you thought last time was long, holy cow! Several more questions rolled in, and this one is a doozy, y’all}

I’d love to hear how to deal with some of the more negative sides of pregnancy with so much (seeming) ease on your blog. Varicose veins, exhaustion, homebirth nay-sayers, etc.

My (seeming) ease on the blog definitely has a lot to do with the fact that this is not an acceptable place for me to vent. Sure, I am as honest as possible, but I am not here to complain. My husband gets an earful every now and then, so just know that, just because I don’t say it here, it doesn’t mean that nothing ever bothers me.

HOWEVER, in answer to your specific topics:

  • VARICOSE VEINS ARE FROM THE DEVIL. Oh. my. word. I DESPISE them. I never really had them before the twins (just a few light blue lines in the back of my right leg), but they’ve progressively gotten worse and worse until they hurt like the Dickens, and I’ve stopped wearing shorts or “shorter” skirts of any kind because it literally looks like my right leg is diseased (yippee!). My mom says that Bilberry is a good supplement to take, and my midwife recently told me about Butcher’s Broom, which is supposed to help a lot, so I’ll be ordering both of those very soon. I used to take a Vitamin K supplement, which I need to get back to. Just lazy, I guess.
  • EXHAUSTION IS ALSO FROM THE DEVIL…but a good reminder that I truly cannot do it all while I’m pregnant. I have given myself so much grace the last two pregnancies to nap as much as possible, even if it means telling Ezra and Simon that they may put on Peppa Pig for the twins and Della while Theo sleeps, and they are required to read quietly in the room with them while I lie down for 45 minutes. Much harder to do when you have little bitties, but chances are, they take naps, and I’ve learned to just lie down when they lie down, regardless of the laundry piling up. Also, I drink It Works Greens–a natural source of fruits, veggies, fiber, and energy. It helps.
  • HOME BIRTH is awesome. I don’t like the pain, but I LUUUUUURVE being in my own bed holding my wee babe. I have never for a moment felt unsafe, and I know that, if a complication arises, my midwife will be very swift to send me to the hospitable 10 minutes away. Maybe it’s because of where I live (conservative, family-friendly area), but I haven’t dealt with too many naysayers. I do know that my mother-in-law, who is a nurse, gets some flack from her colleagues and will sometimes come to me with questions. I just answer them and tell her to tell them to mind their own business (nicely, of course). :)
I’d like to know about having more kids. What’s it like? How much more does each child bring of chaos and stress. I’m really hoping to have more, so just any and all info on adding another child and large families in general.

Hmm…there’s this adjustment period every time we have a new kid that feels both strangely peaceful and insanely chaotic. We don’t know what our new normal is, but we’re also not doing nearly as much as we usually do because, hello, new baby.

There are usually a few nights in a row whose soundtrack is: “Y’all gon’ make me lose my mind…up in here..up in here.” For real.

Pretty quickly, though, new routines start to emerge. And patterns of behavior that are causing either chaos or order become clear. We tweak. We adjust. We lose our tempers. We apologize. We extend grace. And then, sooner than you’d think, we adjust to the new normal that is however many kids, and it’s all good.

Notice I did NOT say “easy.” Because #hardisnotthesamethingasbad

Also, the younger they all are, the crazier it is. Because they’re soooooo neeeeeedy. I find myself in a really sweet spot at the moment of having two (almost three; Della’s getting closer) really helpful, sweet, thoughtful older kids who are a genuine source of support and encouragement to me. They’re not perfect. But then, neither am I. And most days, I can rattle off a list of what they need to do, and they just get it done (after I repeat several items on the list several times, of course. They’re still boys).

A perfect example would be the homeschool co-op I mentioned on Monday. The first morning was pretty hectic and crazy-making, even though we’d prepared the night before. The second time was better, but I still had to do a lot of reminding. This week was thisclose to perfect. Everybody knew what was expected, and Ezra asked me multiple times: “Mama, what else can I do to help?” Next week, hopefully, we’ll have Simon and Della on board, and we’ll be golden.

It’s a constant process of adjustment, give and take, and recalibration. It’s far from perfect. But it’s definitely doable. Joyful, even! (Some days…should be all days…but just keepin’ it real).

From your blog posts you always seem to be so patient and calm— how do you do it?! Can you share how are you able to juggle homeschooling, housework– cooking, laundry, cleaning, organizing, etc. with teaching aerobics, grocery shopping, just motherhood and all that comes with it?! Do you have a large circle of support from family, friends, babysitter? I have 4 kids and there are so many days that I feel so impatient exhausted and overwhelmed. I sometimes feel that I am just on survival mode. Would love to hear how you manage everything. Do your kids play sports that you are required to chauffeur them around? What meals do you prepare and can you start sharing more on your blog or Facebook, recipes? Thank you so very much.

Like whoa. That was a lot of questions, girl. ;)

But good ones. So, here I go…laughing all the way because a) NO, I am NOT always calm and patient and b) I had no idea that was the impression I gave on my blog.

I lose my temper, same as anyone else. But I find that, if I’ve had a decent amount of sleep, taken the time to do Bible reading, and EATEN (huge for me; I have issues with “hang-er”…”h-anger?” I have no idea how to spell that so it doesn’t look a) weird or b) like something you should put clothes on), I can usually deal with most of the crazy in at least a semi-gentle (sometimes full on kind; sometimes all I can manage is business-like) way.

I have major triggers. For example, getting out of the door with 6 kids is always challenging, but I expect that, and it doesn’t bother me too much. HOWEVER. If I’m late, and the twins (it’s usually the twins) decide to have a meltdown as we walk out the door, I turn into Nazi-Mom, barking orders, and doling out discipline willy-nilly. So…I try (oh, how I try) to avoid those triggers. Some days, it’s unavoidable, and I do okay. Sometimes, I lose it and have to apologize. But “knowing thy (my) self” (what brings out the mean mama in me) and PRAYER are about the only things that help me keep it together on those overly emotional days when it feels like every screech is an ice pick to the brain (and then, there are 3 days in a row that are totally zen, and I start to feel like I’ve really got this mama-ing thing licked…which is pretty much the moment when the Lord lowers the humble boom and shows me just how much I have yet to learn).

In answer to the rest of your questions: HERE’S THE THING. I do NOT do it all. Not really. But I genuinely do not feel crazy most of the time either. Mostly because I keep it simple.

Yes, I cook. Yes, I clean (with help from my kids). Yes, I home school (although, we’re doing the co-op, AND my mom’s helping again this year, so I won’t have as much…except that the twins are starting preschool work, so…yeah…we’ll see). Yes, I exercise. But I do NOT: volunteer anywhere (not anymore, anyway), attend a Bible study, always take a daily shower (#ew), attend a MOPS group, or….insert any number of things that lots of other moms do that I just don’t. My life is pretty basic: home, husband, kids, family, friends, church, gym, blog (oh, and then there’s that whole building a house and running a business thing, but let’s not talk about those right now, m’kay?). When I complicate it beyond that, things get wonky. (See the last two I mentioned + being pregnant; oy!).

I naturally struggle with physical (as opposed to time) organization (slowly but surely getting better as I get rid of more and more stuff), so I have to keep that SUPER-basic. There’s always at least one legitimately messy room in my house (usually my bedroom, where all of the extra stuff that doesn’t have a true home goes to die). And I have plenty of unfinished projects that have been waiting on my attention for ages.

All of the things that I seem to do well and/or effortlessly are my strong points. Of course, I’m going to seem good at those. I like to exercise. I’m a good (albeit simple) cook, and I spend a lot of time training my children, so we get along well and keep the house in okay shape most of the time.

But for every thing I’m good at, there are ten that escape me. And I’m just over here marveling at what Y’ALL do: cleaning your baseboards and windows regularly (whuuuutt?), making your own kombucha, gardening, doing really fun/creative projects with your kids, reading 3 educational books a month, crocheting, learning a new skill, getting dressed in real clothes every day (ha!), etc.

We all have strengths and weaknesses, and I’ve learned to play to mine and let the rest go to the extent that it’s not laziness (although, sometimes, there’s some laziness involved).

As far as meals, here are a lot of my go-tos plus great suggestions in the comments.

As far as kid recreational activities: yes, we have a few. So far: piano and soccer…for all three older kids. They don’t seem to mind the sameness one bit and have expressed zero interest in doing something different. Heaven help us when the day comes that they do.

As far as a support circle: I don’t use regular babysitters (as long as you don’t count the gym childcare) or nannies, but my mom is an angel and takes my big kids home with her one night a week (they’ve been doing this since they were each 2, respectively). My in-laws are also very sweet and will take the older kids or even all of them on the weekend occasionally. So, while I’m rarely without ANY kids unless I’m teaching an exercise class, I still consider myself blessed with help.

How do you discipline your kids?

Such a loaded, loaded question. Y’all be nice, okay?

So, I think this question has more to do with teaching them to do right rather than punishment (based on the fact that it was attached to another question that seemed to imply this). As in: how do you teach your children to be disciplined?

And I just have to return to training. And repetition. And NEVER growing weary of doing good.

Yes, we have to punish. We do spank (especially when they’re younger), use timeout, and take away privileges (especially when they’re older). We also talk about the “heart” of the matter (the why of the action and the sin that’s causing it) all. the. flipping. time.

I have zero interest in raising robot children who “follow the rules” by rote without ever thinking about why they’re doing it or who they’re doing it for (the Lord, others, themselves, in that order), only to discover, 15 years later, that they don’t have any reason to continue.

As far as the practical nitty-gritties, this one is huge for us: TERMS OF RESPECT.

Our children are required to say Yes/No Ma’am/Sir to every single adult they encounter. They are required to say “May I please” and, “Thank you” when they ask for/receive something. And they are required to make eye contact with the person with whom they’re speaking. “Yeah,” and “Okay” and “No,” are not acceptable responses. And they are required to do all of this with a cheerful attitude, instead of a sullen one.

Some of you are probably thinking: “Basic.”

Others are going: “Dude, they’re hardcore.”

Shaun is originally from the North where the Ma’ams and Sirs aren’t as much a thing as in the South, and he was originally skeptical of my wanting to do this. But now he’s TOTALLY on board.

Because here’s the thing that we have found with our children: respectful speech often dictates respectful actions. (It’s like that whole bit in James 3 about the tongue being like the small rudder that controls the whole big ship).

A slouchy, grouchy, “Yeah, Mom,” is often followed by dragging the feet and whining about a chore.

A cheerful, “Yes Ma’am,” is often followed by swift execution, which makes us all happier because I don’t have to nag or punish, and they’re done with the task more quickly.

It’s such a simple thing, but it is SO hard to train because it takes so. much. repetition. Once they’ve got it, though, I notice a difference/improvement in both behavior and attitude almost immediately. (I’m already starting to train Theo to say “Yes ma’am,” and he’s hilariously resistant, the little sinner).

Between talking about doing things “as unto the Lord” all the time and striving to address each other respectfully, I don’t have TOO many issues that need actual punishment with the older ones these days (usually just a bit of “come to Jesus” attitude recalibration). The youngers are another story (as noted above, Theo is juuuuuust getting into his “expressing my independence stage,” and it’s both fun and “fun”), but I believe they’ll get there.

Have you dealt with any jealousy among the younger ones yet? Also how do you get your little ones to sleep through the night when you nurse? We are at the brink of 11 months and my not so little guy refuses to sleep through the night which makes this mommy exhausted with a 3 and 8 year-old during the day.

Nope, no jealousy yet, thank the Lord. I’ve had my worries before, but they’ve never come to fruition. My kids fight, sure, but they also really, genuinely like each other–again–thank the Lord.

Oh, and here’s the post I wrote on my go-to sleep-training tips (most are too young for him, but maybe you’ll see something that helps).

What is your stance on sleepovers?

Honestly? Not a big fan. I would make exceptions for close, trusted friends/family, but I remember all too well some of the junk that I was exposed to (that still sticks in my brain 25 years later…close your eyes, Mom!) that I wish I hadn’t seen at such an early age (or ever) on sleepovers.

We haven’t had to address it hardly at all (yet), but we will do so prayerfully and as Biblically as we can when the situation arises.

I’ve got a bunch of little kids (4 to be exact, with the oldest at age 6). When, do you feel like is the turning point for their going from helpless to genuinely helpful?

Side note: when I read this, I think, “Oh, Mama. You are one busy woman. Bless you.” And then, I remember, “Duh. I have 4, 5 and under, and will soon have 5, 6 and under.” Ha! It really does help to have a couple of older ones to balance out my perspective, though.

I think the magic number for us has been between 6 and 7. They’re still pretty limited on tasks, but they’re able to communicate well and see problems that need solving like: Mom needing helps carrying things to the car. They also start to take a little more initiative and ownership of their responsibilities around that age. But, of course, your mileage may vary. You might get a very early or late bloomer.

It ever hard to say “we are open to as many babies as God sends us.”? I hate being asked “so are you done?” or “this is the last one right?” I also cringe at my own embarrassment at answering this question. Maybe I need to just practice saying it so I can answer the question and move on! It seems I always stand there stammering and embarrassed trying to defend or explain our family. Oi! It’s a joy to follow your blog. Keep up the good work mama!

I get it, girl.  I do. But I don’t mind being asked the question because I’ve begun to see it as an opportunity (that I wouldn’t normally get) to tell people about the Lord. I understand the cringing, though, because it’s hard not to project what we assume people are thinking of us (cuh-razy) onto their expected reaction once we tell them. I usually just say, “No, we’re not done…at least as far as we know. We leave the ultimate number up to God, so we’ll see how it goes!” Insert big smile. I haven’t yet met a person who will respond (outwardly) negatively to that response. They very well may be thinking, “You’re nuts,” or, “Glad it’s you and not me,” and that’s fine. But at least I’ve had a chance to give the Lord the credit, and eeeeeevery now and then, it leads to something more meaningful.

What are your reasons for homeschooling? I have homeschooled and now we are trying public school. I would homeschool 100% but I feel like my sanity is an issue! But I totally love homeschooling! So tell me your perspective please!

I feel like my sanity is an issue!” This made me laugh.

We home school because we genuinely believe that, for our family, it is the best and most effective way to raise lights in a darkened world. THAT is my primary goal in education–not math, reading, writing, or history. Although, OF COURSE, we teach all of those diligently, and I believe that God made our brains to soak up the knowledge of all of the goodness and order with which he imbued his creation.

I believe that, as their mother, I am called to be the primary influencer of their learning, and I don’t know how to do that if they’re gone 8 hours a day.

We also love the flexibility it provides our large family to spend lots of unstressed time together and to explore God’s creation/take trips at odd times of year/keep going during the summer (which we did at a more relaxed pace this summer).

There’s also so much opportunity for tailoring each child’s education to his/her own learning needs AND the opportunity to speed ahead in areas of strength and take your time in areas of weakness.

I know homeschooling is not for everyone, but we love it (yes, the kids too!), and it’s truly ideal for us.

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

Aaaaand I’m out…of words, thoughts, ideas…all of it.

Well. Almost. There was one question that I’ll address in its own blog post, but for now, I think I’m done.

{Doesn’t mean I won’t answer more in the comments if you think of more}

You asked. I attempted to answer.

Okay, so it’s only taken me, um, well, I’d rather not count how long, to finally get a post together answering some of the (really great!) questions y’all asked about motherhood, but let me just put a big ol’ disclaimer out there: despite being a mother to almost-7, I am NOT a mothering expert. I know what works for our family. I know lots of things that don’t work. And I know what the Bible says. That, plus a lot of prayer and a really wise, supportive husband, is how I get it done each and every day.

I think most of you were already aware of all of these caveats, since your questions are about how we do our thing. But I just wanted to reiterate it, just in case someone who isn’t as familiar with this blog comes along and thinks that I’m trying to lay down some sort of motherhood law for the whole land. Do I think some things are universal? Sure. But every single mama + kid combo is different (whether you have 1 or 13), and I would be a fool to think I have “it all” figured out. (I don’t).

Phew.

Okay, moving on.

I don’t think there’s any way that I can get through all of your questions in one post, so I’ll be splitting them up into at least two, but I thought I’d tackle a handful in no particular order this morning as I sit at my “grading table” at our home school co-op, having already blazed through a stack of grammar workbooks (I’ll share more about this new part of our routine sometime soon).

All right, here we goooooo…

How do you handle bedtime with that many? I have one, and it’s a nightmare.

Honestly, although I will freely admit that some of my most challenging mothering days were when I “only” had two kids, and they were both very small (they are 18 months and 3 days apart, so my days were filled with a whole lot of bottom wiping and tantrum subduing with very little conversation beyond grunts and baby babble), I don’t remember really having a bedtime battle until Della hit age 2. Before that, she was the easiest kid in the world to get to bed, and the boys were good too. Part of that is due to sleep-training from an early age. Part of that is due to natural temperament. Part of that is due to the fact that we’re pretty consistent with our bedtime rituals, so they knew what to expect.

But, at age 2, Della suddenly decided she was afraid of the dark, and thus began a cycle of bedtime meltdowns and middle-of-the-night wake-ups. They really didn’t end completely (and were dealt with with lots of prayer, midnight counseling sessions, and various rotating methods of calming her down) until we moved the twins into her room (and even then, there were some hiccups), but she did eventually work through a great deal of her fearfulness and can now sleep in the dark and go to bed without complaint.

I give you that long, convoluted history to encourage you that, if you’re still in the stage of only small ones going to bed, you may have some training to do yet, and that’s okay. Just hang in there!

At this point, though, Theo goes to bed around 7:30-8 without (much) complaint in his crib in the dark in the nursery.

And all of the “older” kids know that when we tell them to do their bedtime routines (usually around 8), they are to: potty, put on p.j.s, and brush and floss their teeth. The olders help the youngers, and while it can be a bit of a chaotic process some nights (depending on the twins’ level of orneriness), it gets done. Shaun then reads them a Bible story and prays with them. I bring them their water and give them hugs and kisses. And then we turn out the lights, and they go to bed. If they talk quietly for a little while, that’s fine. If they are loud and rowdy, they get disciplined.

Honestly, I think the absolute most important thing is consistency and routine (almost always, but especially with things like bedtime). Because they know what to expect, they don’t complain *too* much (except, of course, if, heaven forbid, we ever skip our nightly sip of water or any other such atrocity).

I spend all day giving and giving of myself until I feel like there’s nothing left. What do you do to recharge and reclaim at least a little bit of your own identity?

Okay, so first of all, the absolute, complete, and total truth is that my identity is in Christ, and my life is not my own. HOWEVER, I know exactly what this mama means, and my answer is very simple, albeit two-fold:

1) I write this blog. Yes, it takes time and effort, but it also allows me to “talk” to all kinds of women that I wouldn’t otherwise encounter. It helps me to know I am being a blessing (I hope) to others–that I have a ministry outside of my primary one, which is, of course, my family. AND it helps me exorcise a few of my writing “demons.” Because I think my life would be the poorer if I didn’t writing anything.

And

2) I teach fitness classes. I get so many questions about how I make time for exercise with so many kids and homeschooling, but the fact of the matter is that my gym has childcare, and I get paid to exercise, so it’s a total no-brainer for me. We go every afternoon M-F, and it’s kind of my happy place. As well as another opportunity for ministry (and social engagement for my children). Yes, sometimes, it’s stressful to keep up with prepping for my classes and hauling the kids to the gym, but I always feel better/refreshed/energized afterwards…even when I’m pregnant and dragging my tired body along. I honestly think that a gym membership with childcare is pretty much the golden ticket of paradise (only a slight exaggeration). Even if you don’t like to do hardcore stuff like I do, you can take a stroll around the track with a good book in your ears or a dip in the whirlpool tub.

No matter how much I advocate for selflessness in motherhood, we all need a little something to recharge and bring a little joy (outside of our children) into our lives.

At what point do you feel comfortable leaving your child/baby with others? And maybe too personal but do you use a breast pump? If so, do you have any suggestions or recommendations?

My gym accepts babies at 12 weeks, so that’s when they start going there. Before that, they’re pretty much always with me or, possibly, a trusted relative. That’s about the same time I would leave them with the church childcare or anywhere else I feel comfortable. As far as breast pumps, I have used them a fair bit, but I am SO low-tech. I have only ever had any luck with an Avent hand pump (I’ve never even tried the electric kinds).

I am just wondering how you wrap your mind around motherhood- this is vague- but I mean, with each child I feel like it’s been a huge adjustment for me and it takes me awhile to figure out where I am as an individual when all the dust settles of a new little blessing. I guess identity and goals and such. I am a believer and I know that my identity comes from Christ first of all. Maybe I am not making sense- but basically how do you wrap your mind around another life you are in charge of?

So, this kind of touches on that earlier question about recharging and identity, but–honestly–the best thing I can do to prepare for each new baby is to do the practical/concrete things and then trust that baby to the Lord. And pray for him every day. I don’t have a lot of rituals. I don’t even think too deeply about it. That may sound cavalier. But I have found, consistently, that if I think too much about the reality of another baby, I start to worry. What if they don’t sleep well? What if they have colic? What if the current “baby” doesn’t adjust well or is jealous? NONE of those are things I have any control of whatsoever, and the more I own that and “with all prayer and petition, present my requests to the Lord” and let his “peace that passes all understanding” fill me, the less I stress. Then, I’m prepared with some level of composure to deal with whatever challenges the new baby does present. I’m by no means perfect at this, but I’m getting better.

Okay, folks. Is anybody still awake? Hopefully, that was more helpful that snooze-worthy. I’ll be back with the rest of the “answers” soon (I’ve already written them, but this post is already out-of-control long).

Hope you have a lovely Monday!

Master Bathroom Mash Up

When we built our last house, we had one main concern: $$$$$$$

(Well, subtract a few of those, and you’d have a more accurate impression of what we were working with).

We sold our first house for a profit, and we had saved up a fair but, but still. We were a young couple with two small kids, and we were determined to build a DIY house that didn’t put us in debt.

We accomplished our goal, but it meant that we skimped wherever we could. We took one look at granite prices (the hot counter surface at that moment) and went, “Nope.” Do I love our tiled counter tops? Again. Nope. But they saved us thousands of dollars. Did I love making multiple trips (sometimes a day) to Lowe’s to get the best deal on every last appliance and light with two babies in tow? Eh, in some ways I didn’t mind too much because it was my primary contribution to the process (when Shaun was doing 99% of the actual build). But it got tedious and stressful after a while for sure. Did I end up with some mirrors and sinks that I didn’t love just because they were a smokin’ hot deal? Of course.

There’s nothing wrong with ANY of this. I’m not complaining. I’m so stinkin’ grateful we got to build a custom house debt free more than less how we wanted it that I can’t even express it adequately.

HOWEVER.

This time around, it’s not our first rodeo. And we’re not on a time crunch (which is huge).

So many of the budget-driven decisions I made were fine with me because I didn’t know who I was design-wise.

I mean, sure, I thought I knew what I liked.

But…after repainting half of the rooms in our house over the last 8 years, I’ve discovered something: I don’t like colored walls as much as I thought I did. Maybe an accent here or there. But mostly I prefer neutral with (sometimes lots of) pops of color.

Plenty of times, I picked up a lamp and never considered whether I really loved it. It was just cheap and “good enough.”

Again, nothing wrong with this. I will never be the girl that says it REALLY matters (in an eternal way) what your house looks like or whether you love everything from the soap dish to the sconce in the guest bathroom.

Because it DOESN’T.

But it sure does make it easier to know exactly what you’re looking for instead of mentally shrugging and feeling like you could be making a big mistake. Because you don’t want to spend any amount on something and then realize 6 months later that you actually kind of despise it.

So, this time around, I’m happy to announce that I know what I like, and while–true to my bargain-loving self–I will scrape for every last deal I can score, I’m also enjoying giving myself a bit of freedom to plan, play, and maaaaaybe even splurge on something I absolutely love.

Which brings me to maybe the most expensive room in the house (after the kitchen, of course): The Master Bathroom.

I know that I want the following for sure:

  • a (partially) glassed-in shower
  • two shower faucet heads (we did this in our current house, and I love it because it allows a) Shaun and I to shower at the same time and b) each of us to have our own water spray preference…he prefers a rain effect, whereas I like something akin to needles. ha!)
  • a freestanding clawfoot tub
  • patterned tile
  • decorative sconces
  • furniture style vanity with plenty of storage
  • pretty mirrors
  • pops of color

I wouldn’t mind: fun wallpaper + an awesome rug

Using my trusty Olioboard program, I whipped up a mash up of most of these elements to create my dream master bath.

master bathroom boarrd

Something I’ve discovered: I don’t mind mixing metals. Gold with silver. Chrome with matte. Even bronze with something brighter. As long as the mix ends up looking eclectic rather than jarring.

And, yes, that clawfoot tub is the absolute bomb.

So is this AH-mazing Brockway sink.

brockway sink

Image via Pinterest. Also, see those oil rubbed bronze sconces with the chrome sink faucets? Totally works, right?

But, even if I manage to bite the bullet on that one, it would have to be for a different room in the house than the master bath since we really need storage in there.

So…did you notice something missing?

Yup. Faucets.

That’s because I’m torn.

I really like this one from Kingston Brass (I love almost every faucet they make, actually).

chrome faucet

This guy from Delta is pretty fun too.

delta

Oh, and these wall-mounted versions have started catching my eye recently.

wall mounted

This last one is pretty similar to the second one, but I miiiight prefer this funky version. Especially the finish.

kohler faucet

What do you guys think?

Which faucet do you think best matches the master bathroom (as it appears in my head, at least)?

faucet collage

Or maybe you have one you love that you think I should consider? You know I will!

Save

Save