All posts by blogabbie

What Child Training Looks Like at Our House {Part 2}

First up, thank y’all so much for your response to last week’s child-training blog. It’s impossible to predict how people will react to that kind of post, and I really appreciate your kind comments and encouragements!

So, I actually wrote most of the below at the same time as the first post but ultimately decided to split it up because–dude–that thing was long, and also, there seemed to be a natural break in the “methods.” I think you’ll find today’s post a bit more…specific? Practical? Nitty gritty? Something like that.

Disclaimer: I am sharing some very specific practices of ours because I have been asked what we do. I do not share them because I think they are the only way or are the gold standard for child-training. If you get something encouraging or helpful out of this post, great! If not, carry on. You are the best mama for your kids because God chose YOU and no one else to fill that role.

Okay, enough intro. Onward and upward.

6. We praise generously

Or at least we try to. If my children do something kind or thoughtful, I heap praise on them in spades. I’ll sing and dance about it if I have to. If they are unselfish, I tell them how proud I am of them. I try to look for ways to affirm their efforts to do right without it becoming some sort of Pavlovian system. As with every other area of motherhood, I fail mightily in this one. But this I can tell you: when I genuinely praise my children for their true successes in character, they beam with joy. When I point out to them ways in which they have grown, they are so excited to realize that the Lord is making progress in their hearts.

7. We don’t tolerate whining

Compassion is not my strong suit. And while it’s yet another mothering goal of mine to be more empathetic with my children, my naturally no-nonsense personality definitely lends itself to shutting whining down quickly. Shaun is very similar in this regard, so we have a saying in our house: “Fussing never gets you what you want.” And it’s true. I don’t think we’ve ever given into a request that was presented in a whiny or entitled manner. We don’t give our kids things to “shut them up” or to make our lives easier at that moment (because it pretty much always makes things harder later on).

That said, there are mountains I’m not willing to die on. Potty training? I’ll do it when they show they’re ready, thanks. Taking the paci away? Theo has just gotten to the point where he can really deal with being told, “That is ONLY for bedtime or naps,” (he’s the only child so far who’s been interested in a paci this long, but we have had finger-suckers too), and pretty soon, after we’ve adjusted to the new house a little more, he won’t have it at all. Right now, his paci at bedtime makes my life simpler, and that simplicity itself is not necessarily a bad thing. However. He NEVER receives his paci if he demands it or asks for it in a whiny way. He is always required to be kind in his wording, no matter how tired or frustrated he is…or no dice.

8. We are really, really big on respectful speech

Speaking of asking kindly, we do please, thank you, you’re welcome, yes/no ma’am/sir from pretty much 1 year on. With near constant repetition and reminding (yup, all day, every day), by 2, our kids have it down 50% of the time. By 4, they’re pretty solid.

So what, Abbie? I mean, all you’re doing is training them to be little parrots, right?

I don’t think so.

By emphasizing kind speech and then modeling specific phrases that show respect, we are cultivating not just the mechanics of the behavior but the attitude behind it as well. (We explain how these phrases demonstrate honor to people and are a blessing to them as well).

We also quickly shut down any form of disrespectful behavior toward each other or anyone else (I don’t think it would even occur to our kids to be mouthy to any adult at this point). Even in joking form, they are not allowed to call each other names or use phrases like, “You’re not my friend anymore” or “I don’t like you.” And if they do, they are required to ask for (and give) forgiveness.

Again, it goes back to doing things “as unto the Lord.” Don’t like your sister right now? Oh well. I can’t force you to like her, but you still have to be kind in your words and actions. Because the Lord first loved us, even in our unloveliest states, we have no excuse.

The other day, I told Theo that he was “acting awful.” Not my finest mothering moment, but there had been a whole lot of pretty awful screeching and demanding going on from the backseat. His response? “No, Mama, YOU awful.”

At least a part of me wanted to laugh. I mean, I pretty much set myself up for that one, right? Plus, his scrunched up brows, puckered lips, and lisp were pretty cute. But his words and attitude were not. So, I told him that he does not get to say disrespectful words to Mama and that he had to apologize. Of course, he didn’t fully understand the word “disrespectful,” and I will be working to use more constructive terms to describe his behavior in the future. But he got the gist (because he had definitely been trying to insult me), and he hasn’t tried it since. We’ll see if it sticks.

Again, I hesitate to share all of this with you because it may sound like I am bragging that, “My kids don’t backtalk.” It’s certainly not because they’re not capable, though. But, because it’s never even been an option in our house, they don’t tend to go there at this point.

9. We are careful of what we watch/read/listen to

Another reason my kids don’t do “attitudes” is because we don’t consume media in which kids have them.

Same with profanity or ugly language.

One of my favorite “my kids” anecdotes of all time goes a little something like this:

One day at the gym, a little boy called another child a “dumbass.” Simon, who was 6 at the time, literally tackled him with his hand over his mouth and said, “We do NOT say that!”

The childcare workers told me that he didn’t seem like he was trying to hurt the kid, just full of zeal to keep him from saying anything else crude.

Here’s the best part, y’all. Simon didn’t know the word “ass” at that point. He had no clue what the compound word meant. He was just horrified at the kid’s use of “dumb!”

And therein lies the tension of “being in the world but not of it” that we try to maintain in our family.

If my goal were to guarantee that my kids never hear a curse word or suggestive song lyric, we would never go to the gym (or most restaurants or, well, much of anywhere). The other day, the girls at the gym’s front desk informed me regretfully that they’d had an incident in which a mother became very upset and dropped an F-bomb or two in front of all the kids.

Here’s the thing: as much as that didn’t thrill me, neither did it concern me too much (if for no other reason than that it was only the twins, Theo, and Honor there that day, and they’ve never heard that word).

Our goal is to use Philipians 4:8 as our guide for what we watch/read/hear. As we do, I am trusting that, with the Holy Spirit as their guide and a firm foundation in the fruits of the spirit, merely witnessing occasional profanity or immodest dress or snotty behavior or whatever will have very little effect on my children’s character. Especially as we take the time to address the heart attitude behind it.

However, a constant inundation that we invite into our home? That’s a different story.

Because from the overflow of the heart, the lips speak. And we plant things in our hearts through repetitive exposure and embracing of them (in other words, we train our hearts to love them, and, boy, does it not take much training to get our hearts to love sin).

Because of this, we are pretty picky and intentional about the movies, books, and music we consume in our house.

There have been a few times we’ve been a little more careless (and by “careless,” I mean that we had some reservations but looked up the movie on Plugged in Movie Reviews and commonsensemedia.org, and it seemed “fine”), and our kids have totally called us on it.

We mostly stick to classic and “old-school” movies, but a few weeks go, we watched the first 15 minutes of a current “kids’” movie for family movie night, and, even only half-watching from the kitchen where I was making dinner, I found myself cringing at the foolishness of the dialogue. I was about to ask Shaun to turn it off when Simon said, “You know, Mama, this is really not godly at all. He is being super disrespectful. I don’t think we should watch this.” Word, kid. (Can you tell Simon is a truth-lover?).

Because they are encouraged to use respectful speech on the daily and exposed so little to snarky, sarcastic, “comeback” laden dialogue, they are able to recognize the folly of it when they do encounter it.

(And this is from a girl who has to watch her own sarcastic tendencies on the daily).

10. We limit screen time and encourage reading

My children get 30 minutes of game play a week on our Wii. Well, the three oldest do. The younger ones get none at this point. We don’t do individual screen time at all. No tablets or phone games, unless we are making a very specific exception for vacation.

game play

(Oh, the joy of 30 whole minutes of Mario Kart!)

Whenever we have introduced any kind of consistent individual screen time, it has fostered selfishness, competition, whining, and addictive behavior. Maybe that’s different in your house, but it just doesn’t go well in ours.

So, we’ve just done away with it all together. Even though they do get some of these privileges at grandparents’ houses, they don’t ask for it at home and are too busy doing other things all day. I’m sure this will have to be adjusted (as will everything we do) as they get older, but for now, it’s best for our family.

I usually require the three oldest to read for a minimum of 30 minutes in the afternoon, and if my children ever come to me bored (which is almost never), I give them the option to read or to help me with a chore.

We watch between 0 and 1 1/2 hours of “TV” a day (we don’t have channels or Netflix, but Peppa Pig, Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers, The Kratt Brothers, and Shaun the Sheep are our current go-tos on YouTube), depending on whether they’ve had laundry to do (I let them watch shows while folding as long as they actually are folding) or have been at the gym (where they almost always have a show going, which the kids usually watch at least part of).

We will never be accused of being hip at our house, but as far as I’m concerned, my children are incredibly uncool in the coolest way possible. They know very little about current trends, desirable brands, or hot games.

And I think that’s rad because I only get one chance to protect their innocence, and I choose to do that by shielding them from character-destroying influences while still making them very aware of the true evils that exist in this world.

We study other cultures. We learn Hebrew and Spanish. We read about what’s happening in Syria with ISIS’s systematic genocide of Christians and other “undesirable” people groups. We remember the Holocaust and don’t skip over the hard parts in the Bible. We read updates from Voice of the Martyrs. We don’t sugar-coat sin and death. It’s a part of this world we live in, and they are aware of it and its consequences.

So far, I am happy with how UNworldly my kids are while still being able to deal with some tough stuff (some of which I don’t feel at liberty to go into here but which has definitely given them a taste for real life hardships and hard emotional situations).

In other areas, though, I see lots of room for improvement. Both in them and me.

I haven’t figured out how to make our desire for incorporating more service projects and community outreach work in our family’s schedule.

Even with the fact that I almost never buy my children new clothes or shoes or toys (with birthdays and Christmas being almost the only exceptions), I still feel like they are too entitled (as am I).

I’d love to figure out how to foster more empathy for a hurting world in need of Jesus (in them and me). It’s just too easy to get caught up in all of this focus on training ourselves to the exclusion of truly seeing others (because the Bible does NOT say that pure and undefiled religion is well-behaved kids).

As much as we are an atypical first world family in some ways (lots of kids, lots of home businesses, DIY houses, etc.), we are typical in our love of first-world comforts. We can train ourselves out of that. I want to train us out of that.

I hope that you can hear my heart in these posts, y’all. I am all too aware of my shortcomings as a human and as a mother. I see mamas all the time that are killing it and want to pick their brains so that I, too, can excel in a certain area.

flooring

(One of the benefits of child-training? The 6-year-old gets the little ones snacks while the older boys lay flooring. Nap time for mama! Jokes, folks. Jokes).

However, as imperfect as we all are, I genuinely believe that I have remarkable kids who will be world-changing messengers of the gospel. And I know that I, by the grace of God, am the primary instrument in nurturing that.

Honestly? As many times as I fail each day, those last two sentences above should be a giant encouragement to any mama. BY THE GRACE OF GOD, I–a sinner, saved by Jesus Christ–have the privilege of having the most significant role in shaping my children into remarkable kids who, I believe, will be world-changing messengers of the gospel. A privilege which I exercise very imperfectly. But that’s the power of God’s word and his grace. And he has called me to share them with my children as I foster their hearts in discipline, in love, in word, and in deed.

I hope I can encourage you to view your role in training your children’s hearts toward the Lord as a high and holy calling. It’s pretty easy to see it as a chore (I do, sometimes) or to feel like we’re not making headway (we are!).

But we can’t grow wear of doing good! If we don’t, we WILL reap a harvest. That’s a promise.

Child-training is hard. But I bet you know what I have to say to that. Yup. Hard is not the same thing as bad. Not by a long shot.

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What Child Training Looks Like at Our House {Part 1}

I have referenced the concept of “child-training” multiple times here on the blog (obviously, I didn’t come up with that, since it’s Biblical). I’ve even answered a lot of specific questions (here are part 1 and part 2) with things that we do in our house to point the kids toward the Lord and help them be consistent every chance we get.

BUT! I’ve never actually sat down and written a post that puts our child-training philosophy and practices in a nutshell (ha…as if…more like a Christmas-sized bag of walnuts…the “nutshell” approach is not my forte).

One reason? For every one of you that has specifically asked me to do this (and there have been a number over the years), there are at least as many who are thinking, “Nah, I’m good. I’ve got our routine down. Not interested.” And that’s FINE. My blog may be called M is for Mama, and I may talk a lot about motherhood, but I am in no way deluded into thinking that I’ve got this all figured out or am doing it perfectly. AT. ALL.

Another reason? The internet can be a bit of a scary place filled with people who come into a blog post (sometimes without ever reading a single other post you write) with all kinds of assumptions and baggage. There’s no guarantee they’re going to read my words as I intend them or to even read them correctly. Example: a while back, I stumbled upon a message board about my blog in which a woman criticized me for my extravagance in choosing a Viking stove because she had seen a picture of one in a design board I’d thrown together and had not read the sentence immediately following the picture, which said it was just there as an example and that I would never actually pay $13,000–or anything like it–for a stove.

It took me a long time to even consider the possibility that I might have anything helpful to share and to feel confident enough in my mothering to recognize that my fear of being seen as “bossy” or a “know-it-all” was just a (potentially) selfish excuse to keep from getting yelled at (virtually or not). Because people get touchy about this momming stuff, yo.

But then I shared this on Instagram last night and had several young mamas ask me again about my “methods,” so I figured I would woman up and just write the post already. I hope it is helpful to at least one of you. ;)

lunch in bed

This morning, I woke up almost sick with exhaustion after a week of house projects and Honor’s waking up multiple times every night. 

I lay down on the couch after I’d fed Honor and put him down for his morning nap, and before I even realized it, I’d dozed off. 

I woke up periodically to the sounds of the kids playing upstairs and Theo’s squawking, but all was mostly calm. 

After about an hour, I got up to check on them and discovered them deep in hush-hush discussion. They begged me to go get in my bed and wait for them. 

So, I got Theo down for a nap, then lay down again and caught up on Instagram.

15 minutes later, the twins came and “took my order” for drinks and lunch, and 15 minutes after that, all of the (awake) kids (not pictured, but awake: Honor) brought me lunch in bed. 
They informed me that, while I napped on the couch, they had convened a “kids’ council” in which they had discussed ways to be a blessing to me–landing on making my bed, preparing me lunch, and giving me a “mama spa” (hand and foot massage). That’s not even the best part, though. 

During their kids’ council, Ezra had read them all a devotional and taught them a new memory verse. Which all of them, including the twins and Theo, practiced together. 

You guys. This is the kind of day that brings me to my knees in tears in worship of the good God who has allowed me to be mama to these precious creatures. 

Only He is great, and His love endures forever! 

……………………………………………………………………….

To say that I was touched by and proud of my kids’ sweet actions doesn’t even begin to describe it.

And I can honestly say that, while this kind of behavior doesn’t surprise me that much now (although, it’s certainly not an everyday occurrence, and it thrills me to no end), 5 years ago, I couldn’t have even fathomed such a thing (because my oldest would have been 6, and, while they can do fun things like bring you wildflower bouquets, lunch + massages + devotionals aren’t really in their wheelhouse yet).

So, the questions that I get the most are: 1) What do you do to instill a servant heart in your kids and 2) How do you get them to be self-motivated to do right?

I’m definitely still learning, but the things that seem to “work” best are:

1. Prayer.

Every day, I thank the Lord for my children in their presence. They hear me tell God how grateful I am for them. And they usually hear me tell him that I need his help being patient and kind and using gentle words (pretty convicting when I stop, mid-prayer, to snap at the toddler for pile-driving me from the arm of the couch).

Throughout the day, I thank the Lord for good moments, repent of bad ones, and ask for his wisdom and help.

At night, I thank him again for my children when I pray in bed with my husband.

Am I perfect at this? Hardly. I miss many, many opportunities to pray over my children. It is actually a very specific mothering goal of mine to get better at this.

But I can tell a big difference when I’ve been slacking off in this area–if nothing else, in my attitude towards all of the little blessings who can start feeling much more like burdens when I don’t have prayer to clear my vision.

2. Family Bible Reading.

There’s a reason Ezra thought to do a devotional during their “kids’ council.” We do family Bible reading (using www.oneyearbibleonline.com) pretty much every day. And we’ve been working on memory verses more faithfully for several months now.

All of my kids are required to participate. Everyone but Theo has to sit still with no toys and listen. And if he can’t play quietly or mostly stay in one area, then he has to sit on my lap (which is sometimes more punishment for me than anything). I act like this is no big thing. But it, like pretty much every other aspect of child-training, is sometimes grueling, frustrating, and infuriating. Not giving up is the key.

It did my mama’s heart SO much good to know that this habit is one that my kids have latched onto and that they chose to do it for themselves even when I wasn’t leading it.

Their knowledge of the Bible (beyond the obvious stories like David and Goliath and Jonah and the Big Fish) has grown so much over the years, and their insight astounds me sometimes. Even when I don’t think they’re listening, they come up with some pretty deep stuff and show a really good grasp of the Gospel–both in the Old Testament and New.

3. Practice makes consistent.

You know that phrase, “Practice makes perfect?” It’s not true. Perfection isn’t attainable this side of heaven. Not only that, but it matters very much what you are practicing because what you practice, you will consistently repeat. Not perfectly. But on a daily basis.

So, really, practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes consistent.

If you practice complaining and disobedience, you will consistently whine and disobey. But if you practice gratitude and diligence, they will become (something much closer to) second nature.

To me, this is THEE most crucial, practical aspect aspect of child-training. You cannot.give.up. Period. It may take a week, a month, or three years (or more) for kids to get something “right,” but until they do (and even after), it is your job to remind, encourage, admonish, discipline. REPEAT. Even when you’re just too tired to do it again. Even when they don’t seem to get it yet. Even when they fall on the floor and melt down in a puddle of frustration that they still can’t get away with ____________.

4. Routine is key.

This one is another mothering goal of mine. Because, while I’m really good at some parts of this, I’m more lax in others, and guess which aspects of our household suffer more than others? (Yup, the ones for which I don’t have a routine).

Example: all of the kids who are capable have a simple “morning routine.” For the boys, it’s an alternating cycle of sweeping/wiping down the breakfast table and morning dishes. For the girls, it’s picking up the living room. I still have to remind the little girls, but the boys treat their morning routines like breathing at this point (ha! this morning, I came downstairs after feeding the baby to find them chilling on the couch, without have made any effort to do their routines, so I guess it’s not foolproof). It just happens. It’s taken years (literally) to get it to this point of effortlessness. But it’s worth it (and how!).

When your kids know what you expect of them and when, they will do it. Usually with a decent attitude (because, duh, this is my contribution right now, and is nothing to whine about).

5. Teach actions “as unto the Lord.”

This one probably should have come before routines. We talk constantly about “being a blessing” to each other and others. Why? Because we are doing it “with our whole hearts…for the Lord, not for men.” If my kids do a sloppy job, I *try* not to simply harangue them for being lazy (although, I do use that word) but to point out that every single thing we do throughout our daily lives can be a testament to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I think our next Bible verses to memorize will be these:

9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you,q we have not stopped praying for you.r We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his wills through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,e t 10 so that you may live a life worthyu of the Lord and please himv in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,w 11 being strengthened with all powerx according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,y 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father,z who has qualified youf to share in the inheritancea of his holy people in the kingdom of light.b 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darknessc and brought us into the kingdomd of the Son he loves,e 14 in whom we have redemption,f the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:9-14

People notice my children everywhere we go, just for the sheer number of them. Often, they also notice them for their obvious joy in being around each other. The olders take care of the youngers (true of Ezra and Simon with the twins…true of the twins with Theo and Honor…and so on). They notice when they help me load the checkout belt and bag the groceries. I will almost always get a comment or two on how well-behaved my children are when we are in public. Which is great and all but a completely lost opportunity if we are only “being good” for head pats or man’s praise. So, every chance I get, I take the opportunity to 1) tell people what a blessing my kids are to me and 2) tell them how good the Lord is to us.

I know it sounds like I am bragging, and I always shy away from talking about the fact that my kids are “well-behaved” or “good.” I know that I’m supposed to tell you that they are wild and out of control and “stinkers” and all that. But it’s not true. Nor do I want it to be. They are not perfect, nor am I. Not by a long shot. But the fact of the matter is that our goal is to act the same way in public as we do at home (and yes, I meant to put it in that order). There is no perfection, only progress, and the more we’re aware of why we’re doing it and for WHOM, the more progress we make.

Part 2 coming soon. 

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The Moving Mambo

If there is such a thing as a Moving Mambo, I think we might be doing it. It goes a little something like:

Clear out dining room area so the table will actually fit…clutter up the kitchen island.

Wash all laundry while painters are upstairs…rewash half the loads when they come out smelling like paint fumes.

Put away all of the dishes in the cupboards…pull them all back out so the cabinet guys can rehang the cabinet because your mixer won’t fit under the cabinet by 1/16″ due to the awesomely chunky nature of your concrete counter tops.

In other words: 3 steps forward…2 steps back.

BUT! Note that that still puts us 1 step farther forward than we started out. I’ll take it.

That said, here are a few things I’ve learned over the past two 1/2 weeks.

1. I raved about what a pretty color Simply White by Sherwin Williams is. And it is! In oil paint. It’s the color of my white upper cabinets and all of the ship lap in the house, and I love it!

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See the white cabinets? No yellow! Also, the range hood is huge for a reason. We’ll have two ovens side-by-side underneath because two 30″ was a loooooooottt cheaper than one 60″ range. (Also, I had Della stand by Honor specifically for this picture; I was standing by him at the island before, and at no point was he left alone on there). 

Imagine my confusion, then, when the exact same color on my walls was yellow. Like, a lot. I don’t have a picture, but it was such a jarring feeling to see the point where the wall met the ship lap and realize that they were the same color. Even Shaun, who is red-green color blind and not the best gauge of colors in general, could see the difference and didn’t like it.

2. Sherwin Williams Pure White IS a true white. No yellow at all. We ended up repainting the living room in it, and it’s such a gorgeous crisp, bright color (or lack thereof). Definitely going with it for the white in the rest of the house. I even chose it for the exterior trim!

week3

Woooohoooo! Lookee there at that pretty white trim AND landscaping…which…my mom is doing for me. While I vacuum all of that red dirt inside over and over and over…

3. Not having kids sleeping in your living room will do WONDERS for your sanity. I was borderline twitching the other night, literally feeling like moving was the biggest mistake ever. And, even though I could logically identify my emotions as a major overreaction and just all-around lie, it wasn’t until the kids, my dad, and I took the time to move all 240 (!!) boxes of flooring out of the schoolroom and all of the kids into it to sleep (thus freeing up my living room floors at night) that my brain felt like it could begin to truly relax. Apparently, I really need that hour before bed without little eyeballs on me to recharge.

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Something else that recharges me: spending time with this guy. Yeah, that hottie who is happily serving his kids (their oh-so-nutritious special lunch of choice on Father’s Day) on his special day.

4. Prayer has a major effect on my perspective. Duh, right? But it’s amazing what praying for the 7 men who are in every room of my house by 8:30 in the morning does for my attitude about their presence. I still don’t love it, but it makes me feel less like a cat on a sheetrock and power-tool covered porch (I think that’s how the saying goes?).

week36

Another thing I prayed for for YEARS: this piano that fits perfectly in the piano nook we designed in the house long before the Lord ever answered that prayer with this beauty for $100!!

P.S. While I am typing these words, painters are adjusting ladders in rather ear-splitting fashion, there is the constant whine of a saw in the background, and the ever-present soundtrack of my life is blaring Tejano music. #sanctuary

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Upside of having painters in your house? The cools toys…like plastic sheeting…apparently. 

5. You can use exterior paint inside. Technically, it’s frowned upon because “the formula’s not the same,” but according to our paint guy, latex paint is latex paint, for the most part. Which is good news, since it means I can use the “fixed” color of our exterior paint goof on the inside. And that’s just what I plan to do.

6. A sink can be life-changing. Or something close to it. Our giant (51.5″) sink from NBI Drainboard Sinks is practically my favorite thing in the house. It’s equally split between the two sinks, but one is deeper than the other (the left is 8″, the right is 11″). I gravitate toward the shallower one for rinsing things–grapes, cups, babies–but I can pile practically anything in the right side at the same time, so there are no dishes on my counters, even if there’s a full load to do. It’s made from cast acrylic, which is durable and super easy to clean. I’ve only been using it for 3 weeks, so but so far, it’s held up beautifully, and–ask Shaun–I’m prone to go off in raptures about it while washing off Theo’s muddy feet or scrubbing an entirely submerged cookie sheet. Just for full disclosure, I did receive it at a discounted price, but I had already asked Shaun if we could buy it outright before I ever collaborated with NBI Drainboard Sinks, and he said yes. Even at full price, I think it’s a good deal because farmhouse sinks that are 40% smaller are going for the same price. There’s just nothing else like it (that I’ve found) on the market, and it has made this mama of many’s life so much easier already. I’m a huge, huge fan. As are my boys. We went with double dishwashers, and they love that they can rinse/load simultaneously without bonking elbows. I’m not exaggerating one bit when I say that they’ve actually thanked me for getting such a nice sink (they’re my primary dishwashers in the morning, so it makes sense for them to be excited by the upgrade).

week31

 I almost feel bad for posting this picture of Honor with all of his rolls hanging out, but, honestly, when else is it just so stinkin’ cute to be this chubby? Never. That’s when. He doesn’t look too enthused about his bath in the awesomest sink ever, but I promise he loved it.

7. Baby sleep schedules + moves don’t mix well.

Honor has gone from being a solid 10-hour sleeper to trying nonsense like waking up every hour and 1/2. And no, it’s not the 4 month sleep regression…because he’s FIVE months now (how???) and his 4 month sleep hiccups were a mere blip compared to the sleep deprivation he’s been putting me through for the past week. Basically, we need to get our sleeping arrangements a little more spread out (i.e. move everybody upstairs once the paint stink from all of the oil enamel is gone), so he doesn’t sense me (from his pack ‘n play all of 2 feet away), and I think we’ll be back on track. Hoping to get there by this weekend.

I’m sure there’s much more I could share, but I’ve already written this post in shifts over days, so I should probably hit publish before it languishes as a draft for another week.

OH! Before I go, though, I wanted to ask: what kind of posts would you like to see me write about this house-building experience?

I’ve already been asked about where I find my deals (I’ve shared a lot of those, but if you have more specific questions, I’ll be happy to share) and how we came up with/went about designing the layout and exterior of the house. I’ve also had various questions about how we took large family dynamics into account when building. I’m happy to blog about any of the above or anything else y’all are interested to know. I’m just trying to get a gauge for which topics interest the most people.

I’m all ears!

P.S. If you want to see more daily pics of our house progress, be sure to follow along on Instagram. It’s the only place I seem to be able to post daily right now.

 

 

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We made it!!! (I think)

Well, hi there, guys. Remember me?

That girl with lots of kids who types a lot of words? Usually. Although, lately, not so much.

So, when last I typed said many words, it was to outline the task ahead of us. Namely finishing packing, loading, moving, cleaning, and just generally doing all the things that would get us into the new house. And that’s exactly what we proceeded to do for the last 3 weeks.

I packed (and packed) and kept kids alive while Shaun worked late into the night every. single. night finishing plumbing, finishing concrete countertops (dedicated post on that soon), finishing electrical, finishing siding, etc., etc., etc. (adding a few more etceteras wouldn’t be pushing it).

Then, the week before last, we started the actual move. We couldn’t do it as gradually as I would have liked because there was some pretty significant painting going on downstairs right up until our first official moving day. To say that it was grueling would be to say that swimming the English channel is a little tough. Well. Not grueling like the rowing scene form Ben Hur. But it just didn’t let up. For days. It’s all running together in a big blur, but I just remember lots and lots and lots of packing tape and vacuuming and hauling really big, heavy things like full-sized freezers and pianos and ping pong tables (I’m not exaggerating; Shaun was tied up at the new house, so my Dad and I moved some pretty giant stuff, yo).

I’m sure hiring movers would have made things simpler in some ways, but here’s the thing: my husband works for himself as a software developer and has all of the techie tools to show for it. Also, we home school, which means lots of schoolbooks and supplies. Also, we run Paint and Prose out of our home office, so there’s a fair bit of stuff that comes with that. Also, we build our own houses, so the tools, they are plentiful. Also, we have rentals, and there is definitely some paraphernalia associated with that. Oh, and ALSO, we have 7 (!!!) children, and their baggage is impressive! It’s all useful, necessary stuff (weeeellll…I just discovered, upon unpacking, that I own 7 casserole dishes…not sure how necessary all of those are), but I don’t even know what movers would have done with half the stuff we had (presumably, moved it…deep, I know).

And, yes, we did sell our house furnished, and yes, I am SO grateful to not have to have moved beds and sofas and chairs (oh my!). But it was still a boatload (and not a small one either) of stuff that we moved. And moved. And moved.

We had help. My awesome parents, sister-in-law, and in-laws were there at various points throughout the week. We wouldn’t have made our deadline without them, even though we have pretty much worked toward this goal steadily day in and day out for about 3 months now (not including the 18 months of house-building before that). But even with the help, Shaun and I were pulling away from the barn with the last load at 8 in the morning, running on 4 hours of sleep, as the new owners’ U-Haul was pulling up. first week2 {This wasn’t even a load from the move…it was stuff I’d bought from a friend who had been gracious enough to hold it for us until after we moved, but it’s a pretty good example of just how much that beast of a van can hold. In this load, there is a: full-sized couch, book shelf, large mirror, upholstered chair, day bed, mattress, giant clock, and, of course, a disco ball. And I think we could have shoved a couple more things in there}

It just so happened to be on our anniversary (12th, in case you were wondering), and Shaun was teasing me that we needed a selfie at the local garbage dump to show how we had celebrated as we were tossing our very last load (for now) of broken this and worn-out that into the dumpster. Sadly, I forgot, so we settled for this one instead. anniversary We were reeeeeaally tired in this picture, but we still managed to squeeze in an anniversary dinner after we got a teensy bit settled in the new house for the first time as our *only* home (thank the Lord for not being split between two places any longer!). We both managed a cold shower (Shaun finished installing it after we got home that morning, but the water heater didn’t have a chance to warm up enough). I think we were both a bit loopy with exhaustion at dinner, not to mention to the exhilaration of being DONE! (With the move, that is).

Six months ago, I was dreading this move and doing my best to prepare for it without stewing on it because it frankly sounded awful.

And now that it’s done, I’d say that every bit of that dread was warranted in a lot of ways. Sorry. That sounds bad. But I don’t mean it bad. Because hard is not the same thing as bad. I just mean that the whole process was pretty much exactly as much work as I expected to be. Nothing was any easier than I had thought. But neither was it particularly harder. There were no major mishaps or problems. We just chipped away at it, bit by bit (and then, at the end, as the deadline approached, chunk by bigger chunk), and by the grace of God, we finally cracked it! But I am SO grateful for the help of family. I sure wouldn’t have wanted to do it without them!

Of course, then the real fun started. first week4 {What’s that you say? Those floors look filthy? Why, that’s because they ARE!!}

Although most of that stuff I mentioned earlier is necessary to our family and various businesses, I’m quickly discovering that–despite all of the decluttering and donating I did for the past year–we still have too many duplicates of certain things or other things that I really want to be useful but haven’t actually been touched in a good year or two. I’ve already started a pretty healthy Goodwill pile from the boxes I’ve unpacked so far, and I’m sure it will grow, grow, grow.

Also, our house is Grand Central Station at the moment. I have to make sure to throw a bra on first thing in the morning because there’s no telling what time a painter or a carpenter or a delivery man will poke his head in the door and ask a question or continue on through upstairs (which is unpainted and lacking a bit of trim).

There are giant stacks of our flooring (we went with the laminate wood if you’ll recall) in multiple rooms. A 5 foot wooden range hood is just hanging out in the dining room because it and a (big) cabinet that needed to be redone are waiting on the cabinet guys to come install them. If you see me and I look prematurely gray, don’t worry: I either really am (hashtag moving stress) or–more likely–I am coated in paint lacquer. As is EVERYTHING.

We’ve swept and vacuumed and then vacuumed and swept, but that stuff is e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e. We have one working bathroom, which, I realize, is a major first world problem. But it’s surprising (or maybe not) how fast you can create a pile-up with 8 people in the house (plus a handful of workers) using the same facilities.

So, how do I feel about all of this? Mostly fine. first week3 {How could I not be fine with this little nugget around?}

In a rather unfortunate (in my mind) turn of events, Shaun ended up having a work trip scheduled for the week after we moved in. So, we moved in on a Friday morning and by Monday morning, he was gone for 6 days.

I miiiiiight have had a pity party or two about the towers of boxes and the sheet rock piles in the yard (yep) and the fact that he was sleeping on clean hotel sheets (through no fault of his own) while I was having trouble creating a clean square inch (forget the sheets….they got covered in dust the second they exited the dryer).

But I got over it, and every day, we’ve made a little more progress establishing some semblance of normalcy. As soon as the painters are done upstairs, we’ll be able to put kids in their actual rooms because they are currently sleeping on mattresses in the living room, guestroom, and schoolroom (well, Honor’s in a pack ‘n play in our room–aka: Shaun’s office), and I can put away things where they actually go (rather than just finding a holding spot for them so that they’re not simply lost in the sea of boxes). first week1 {This picture is pretty representative of what our days have looked like: my mom–who has been over a couple of days to help unpack–is putting the smack down on a fly, which are plentiful in our current state of the door being opened and closed constantly. The kids are done with their chore for the moment and taping together box tunnels, and there is stuff everywhere}

It’s going to take a long time to get things really neat and tidy and put together–especially since we’ve had zero time to focus on the exterior, which means we’re constantly tracking in dirt–but we. will. get. there! Or somewhere very close to it! (Just kidding; my Instagram peeps were worried we would never finish the house if we moved into it before we complete it, but I promise we will get ‘er done). daddyshome {We did manage to get it to this point…not finished, certainly, but better than the “before shot” with all of the boxes and dirt} first week{I finished just one of the many wallpapered walls, and it only took me…4 hours…must. get. faster} armoire {Anybody remember when I blogged about this giant hutch that I stumbled upon entirely by accident? It’s finally fulfilling its destiny as the holder of a decade’s worth of thrifted, clearanced, and gifted kitchen pretties!}

Speaking of the exterior, I finally decided on a color (after painting who-knows-how-many swatches on the walls), and…it turned out kind of bad. At least for what I wanted the house to look like. I chose to go lighter than I had originally wanted so that it wouldn’t be overwhelming and/or fade in an ugly way. Unfortunately, the paint store didn’t have the formula for the color I chose (Valspar’s Seascape), and their color match skewed a bit baby blue (should have been a soothing, medium blue-green). house color {The messed up color is on the left…this is after it had dried and calmed down a lot, but it still wasn’t what I wanted; the color on the right has been played with to get it closer to what we ended up with}

I saw it shiny and wet and LOUD as we drove up after depositing that last load I mentioned at the dump, and I narrowly missed bursting into tears. Praise the Lord that our paint guy was able to salvage most of the 30 gallons by tweaking the too-babyish color into something deeper and greener that ended up serving as a good primer coat for the color I’m actually-finally-once-and-for-all choosing: Valiant Blue by Sherwin Williams. We will lose some gallons of the tweaked color because we had already bought enough paint to do almost two coats. But I will try to use some of those inside. And I’m just so relieved to have saved the majority of it and ended up with a color that makes me go: “Aaaaaaaah” instead of “AAAAAACK!” that I’m calling it a win. house color1 {I reeeeeeallllly love it and can’t wait to see it with the trim painted a nice crisp white}

And there you have it, folks. The full update on my life currently.

She packed. She moved. She survived.

Through it all, I have seen the Lord’s goodness over and over again. In my sis-in-law’s insistence on making us food for days. In supernatural bursts of energy when I should have been beyond exhausted. In my neighbor’s being willing to watch the littles while I packed. In Ezra’s cheerful attitude about helping his younger siblings and little cousins while we cleaned out the barn on his birthday.

God has been so faithful to remind me of his sovereignty whenever I get overwhelmed by the mess. And I am grateful.

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I think I can…I think I can…

Despite the pep-talky title, I’m actually fine. As long as I don’t think about all of the tiny, little, bitty–oh, yeah! THAT!–things that I know that I am forgetting to factor into my mental packing/moving schedule, I’m fine. FINE, I tell you! (Insert nervous giggle plus facial twitch).

No, but seriously, packing is going really well. I’ve been at it steadily for over a week. And I’m really reeeeeally glad that I took the time to do all the decluttering I did before we even started packing because–even with that–there’s a lot. Just the clothing situation alone, what with the various seasons and sizes of clothes that aren’t even currently being worn (because, even though I’ve given away BAGS, I refuse to just chunk it all when there’s still really nice, perfectly usable stuff for the next kid in the mix), is a bit daunting. But I’ve sorted it (as the Brits so charmingly say) and, after seeing the fabulous shelving Shaun built for me in the family closet, I’m almost looking forward to unpacking those boxes. Almost.

The barn is an entirely different story. We’re tackling it tomorrow, and I’m not looking forward to that even one bit. Except that it’s been looming in the back of my mind for so long that I’m a little relieved that it’s finally getting its turn, so we can get it DONE.

Thank the Lord for my mama, dad, and sis-in-law who have all been enormous helps since Shaun is spending every spare minute at the new house building shelves, pouring concrete countertops (they look amazing so far; can’t wait to show y’all the finished product!), and just generally completing all of the last minute things that need to be done for the house to be livable in A WEEK!

The nice people buying our house are being very flexible with the actual move date, which is super, since it will all be a bit down to the wire. But even though we won’t have flooring or beds (just mattresses) or any exterior landscaping (hello, red East Texas mud everywhere!) or more than one functioning bathroom, we will no longer live HERE as of next week.

Our anniversary is next Friday, and Shaun and I were joking (only not) that we were going to celebrate by collapsing in exhaustion on the couch and saying, “Here you go, Honey. I got you a house!”

Works. for. me.

As has been the case for almost the entire process, everything has been going about as smoothly as it possibly could, considering all of the variables like weather and work schedules and availability of outside help. The painters I talked about a few posts ago are unexpectedly less busy than usual for this time of year, so we’re having them hang around and paint everything they can get a roller or sprayer on. I could very easily (well, easily as in it’s not hard…not easily as in having a ready opportunity) have painted after we moved in, but I know that the more we can get the house in a finished state before we move, the easier the transition will be, and I’m going to be grateful for any semblance of normalcy this summer, which is going to be gone in a flash, I have a feeling.

Still, even with the good flow, not everything has been perfect. I walked in this evening for a quick chat with Shaun and discovered that he was running an  errand, and the “Simply White” the painters were rolling on the wall was looking “Awfully Gray.”

Turns out, while Simply White is a Benjamin Moore color, Sherwin Williams (where we’ve gotten all our paint) has a SimPLE White, which is considerably darker. So, yup. Wrong color. Fortunately, the paint store acknowledged it was their bad, and I caught it before the painters had gotten that far. Could definitely have been worse!

A couple of other minor snafus (like the fact that somehow our cabinets didn’t end up having a symmetrical distance between them and the range hood, and we’re scrambling to figure out an add-on so it doesn’t feel lopsided) have surfaced, but over all, considering how many plates are currently spinning in the air, I have no complaints.

In other news, as of tomorrow, I will have an 11-year-old!!

mother's day

{Tomorrow’s birthday breakfast will look very similar to this Mother’s Day spread, except that, currently, that table is covered in packed boxes, so we’ll all be huddled around the island, per our usual eating situation}

Ezra is turning into quite the responsible, considerate, kind young gentleman, and–as much as the teenage years scare me a bit–I’m actually really enjoying watching him “age.” He’s always been an old soul (typical firstborn), and I can’t wait to see how his gifts of servant-heartedness and gentleness develop as he matures.

Oh! And one more house-related thing before I fall into bed and go to sleep in no seconds flat, I’m back to testing exterior colors, sadly.

I’m still set on a deep blue-green, but Lindsay’s husband (our painter) expressed a pretty serious concern that a color as dark as Riverway would fade a fair bit, so I’m back to the drawing board trying to find a more medium-toned blue-green that I love.

exterior colors

After testing now fewer than 5 different colors, I finally started mixing my own. And I *think* I’ve come up with one I really like (it’s that one to the left of the front door under the porch). We’ll have to see how well the paint store can match it.

ANYHOO, that’s all the coherency I’ve got for the moment! If you think to pray for this last mad dash to moving, I’d be ever so grateful.

As always, I appreciate y’all!

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My Mama

Yes, I realize that Mother’s Day was 5 days ago, and I let it go by without a peep pretty much (unless you count the obligatory me and my peeps–ha–photo on social media).

Such is life right now.

I was bemoaning the fact that I didn’t write a post for it and that I forgot to post about our Paint and Prose Call Her Blessed print for Mother’s Day, and Shaun said, “It’s okay. Right now, it’s not M is for Mama. It’s M is for Moving.”

Word.

But still.

This past Sunday was not only Mother’s Day but my mama’s birthday, which happens every so often when your birthday is smack in the middle of May, and I thought I should take a moment to brag on this woman.

This is my mom, Beth.

softa1

It’s no glamour shot (my choices were limited because my mom hates having her picture taken), but considering that she’s literally covered in grandbabies doing that expert Softa thing she does, it’s kind of perfect.

She is the kindest, most selfless, most servant-hearted woman I know, and I daily strive to be more like her in word and deed.

Growing up, she was one of my best friends, and that has never changed. And now, getting to see her love on my kids has unearthed a whole new level of respect and admiration for this woman who raised me and my brother with so much care.

But what makes my mama truly remarkable is that–while she has given me a shining example to follow–she had to forge her own path to motherhood.

Her own mom, while not vicious, was married to a man who was, and it drained her of intentional kindness. My mom was the middle child–the one whom her mother always told her just seemed older than her years and whom my grandmother treated as such, even when she shouldn’t have.

My grandpa, whom I remember only in shadowy half-recollections that consist of a gesture or scent (cigarettes) more than anything, was nice to my brother and me, by all accounts. But the same cannot be said of his treatment of my mom, whom he would regularly “spank” with a leather belt until he got all of his angst out over such grievous infractions as a glass of spilled milk.

It literally hurts to think of my mom being neglected and abused because she is so quick to pour herself out for her family. Her life has never been easy–still isn’t in many ways–and yet she chooses to be Jesus to me, my children, my husband, my brother’s family, and so many others day in and day out.

My mom is a quiet woman, except if you know her well, in which case she converses easily and willingly. She carries strong convictions and is passionate about truth (a trait that she passed along to me). And she doesn’t just preach it. She acts on it, regularly giving of her time, money, and other resources to numerous outreaches and ministries the world over.

For the past two years, my mom has helped me home school my kids two days a week–a mutually beneficial arrangement (I hire her) that gives my kids access to an absolute wealth of knowledge (my mom has an MA in English and History and is a born teacher; she’s even teaching my kids Hebrew).

They call her Softa (the Hebrew word for grandma–our family has always had a heart for Israel and even lived there twice), and it’s so fitting because she really is a “softie” at heart. Not to mention a worker. If there’s laundry on the couch, she folds it. If there’s a kid in the bath, she washes and dresses him. If there’s a box to be packed, she packs it.

My childhood was not privileged from a monetary standpoint (although it was in every other way). We were barely-making-it, beans-with-no-cheese-at-the-end-of-the-month, secondhand-everything poor. But my mama still chose to stay home and home school my brother and me, while my dad worked long hours, often leaving early in the morning and not getting back until after we were in bed. She scraped together enough to sew my costumes when I got the roll of Marta in our Community Theater production of Sound of Music. She put aside a few precious dollars every fall and spring so that my brother and I could play YMCA soccer and softball/baseball. She endured multiple miscarriages (but for those, our family would have been much larger), and I’m sure she was often down, but I never saw it. You could chalk that up to childish narcissism, and that would be true. But my mama is not now, nor ever has she been, a complainer.

And now that I’m grown with my own brood, she continues that record of relentless self-sacrificial love to me and my children.

She never turns me down if I ask her to keep my kids. She makes dinner for my brother’s and my family every Friday night, which is when we go pick up my three oldest kids who get to stay with her every Thursday night. She helps me redo my flowerbeds because she has a green thumb which, sadly, did not get passed along to me. The toy room at her house is beyond stuffed with everything a grandchild’s heart could desire (all bought for pennies on the dollar from some thrift store or some clearance event or another…in that way, I am my mother’s daughter).

Sometimes, I want to grab my children by their shoulders, look deep into their eyes, and tell them, “You have NO idea how blessed you are to have a Softa like her.”

I never knew any of my grandparents well, so the fact that my children have 4 living grandparents who love them (because my in-laws are fabulous as well) is an aspect of their childhood that I am beyond grateful for. I can only imagine the stories they will swap years from now as they reminisce about their times together at “Softa’s and Sabba’s” and “Grandma’s and Grandpa’s.”

My mom is the unsung hero of my life, without whom I would be a much more stressed out, clueless mess.

I know many of you do not have this kind of support system, and I truly feel for you. Because, although I know I could survive without my mom’s help, I’m sure glad I don’t have to. Not simply because I wouldn’t have the support but because I would be missing out on a cherished friendship.

So, even though I’m late in saying it, and my tired, fuzzy-brained words are far from eloquent, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to say, Happy Mother’s Day, Mama! Your example of continual giving is such a testimony of the life-changing power of Jesus’s love, and I am grateful for and love you today and every day.

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Upstairs Updates

As promised, I’m sharing some of the design decisions–mostly paint colors–that I’ve made for the upstairs of the new house.

The other day in the paint store, I heard a well-groomed woman in designer everything exclaiming to an equally well-dressed lady that, “Picking paint colors is THE WORST. I seriously need wine–or Vicodin–right now.”

And all I could think was, “First world problems.”

So, please know that when I say that picking paint colors is hard, I do not mean hard in any genuine sense of the word.

Maybe “tricky” is a better word.

Those darn color swatches look so alluring, and then you paint them on an actual wall or cabinet, and–tada–they transform from beautiful swans into majorly ugly ducklings. Not exactly what you were going for.

I’ve “agonized” (aka: spent a lot of time carrying painted boards around the house and analyzing them in different light) over various paint colors for weeks now, and I am so relieved to say that–for better or for worse–I’m done! At least with the cabinet paint colors.

In the end, I booted a couple of colors I was considering in favor of the custom paint color we currently have on our kitchen island.

kitchen island1

In case you’re wondering, it’s very close to SW Aloe, but with a less saturated green. We played around with it a fair bit to get it just right, and I like the color so much that I decided to go with it for the laundry room cabinets and the lingerie chest in the master closet. cabinets10

I had been hoping to add some wallpaper to the laundry room (pictured above), but I didn’t have a particular design in mind until I spotted a roll of this  gorgeous wallpaper at Anthropologie on a quick trip to Dallas a couple of weeks ago for Lindsay’s birthday.

floral wallpaper

It was opened and had a few smudge marks on it (obviously a return from an online purchase, since they don’t carry wallpaper in stores), so the manager discounted it 50%. Never EVER be afraid to ask for a discount–even at a high-falutin’ store like Anthro.

I love how the minty colors in the leaves will pick up the color of the paint I chose, and those big pink flowers just make me happy…which is kind of what I was going for in a room where a lot of unhappy (okay, tedious) things take place.

The master bath vanity and the upstairs kitchenette will be SW’s Modern Gray (you might remember I’m planning on painting some walls with this color at 50%, but the cabinets will be full strength). I have enough else going on in these rooms that I didn’t need a competing cabinet color.

This pic has been a longtime inspiration shot for the girls’ bathroom, so I chose SW Deep Sea Dive as their vanity color.

teal bathroom

 

Lots of elements in the girls’ actual bathroom will be considerably different, but I still love the concept of the deep blue-green + the gold accents.

deep sea dive

It’s similar to the kitchen cabinet lowers, but you can see that it’s a bit lighter and bluer in this pic.

paint

(Deep Sea Dive is the far right)

SPEAKING of the kitchen cabinet lowers, I know I’m supposed to be talking about the upstairs, but they got the first coat of paint on the lowers, and–holy wow!–I love it!

teal kitchen

The formula for Weekend (Magnolia Paint) isn’t available yet, so they had to do a color-match at Sherwin Williams. It took some trial and error, but we finally nailed it, I think.

Oh! And one more. The boys’ vanity color will be SW Privilege Green. Their vanity top is stained wood with shiplap behind the vanities, so I wanted something fresh and boyish without being too “primary colors.”

privilege green

And there you have it! Upstairs paint colors DONE. Boom. And all that.

We move 2 weeks from tomorrow, and there are still paint and tile and countertops (the concrete is a definite at this point…can’t wait to show you!) and finish plumbing and…oh goodness. I’d better stop, since I haven’t even gotten to talking about packing.

Which…is what I’m off to do.

Y’all have a wonderful Monday, ya hear!

 

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Amazon Warehouse Deals + Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

Whereas I bought almost of all of my deals in person for the house we currently live in (I feel like such a dinosaur saying this, but internet home shopping sites weren’t nearly as much of a thing almost 10 years ago when we started building), I’ve gotten the preponderance of lights, sinks, faucets, rugs, and even furniture for the new house from sites like Joss and Main, Overstock, Wayfair, etc.

I would say that nothing beats a good Craigslist or Facebook swap deal (because thrifting will forever have my heart), but, while I’ve scored my fair share of those too, some of my online clearance finds have been even better (brand new) than some secondhand options I’ve seen. (Not to mention how convenient it is to search for a specific item rather than being at the mercy of someone’s purging whims).

I’ve already shared my tips for finding the best deals online, but what I had yet to discover when I wrote that post was an awesome little thing called Amazon Warehouse Deals. (And, no, this is not a sponsored post, but I do include affiliate links).

I don’t remember how I first stumbled upon it, but since I did, I have scored some pretty sweet deals— from a major discount on Honor’s Moses basket to a $60 chair (brand new) that is currently selling for $340 to a $17 lamp that is still available for $140!

Even if you’ve never heard of it, you’re probably already more familiar with Amazon Warehouse Deals than you think because, if you’ve ever shopped for something on the site and seen the words, “used from $_____,” underneath the item’s description, then that’s a warehouse deal.

Basically, these are open box items–some of which come perfectly packaged and pristine and others which have a scratch or two but are otherwise in great condition (it will tell you the condition in the description of the item so that you know what you’re getting into before you check out). I have only bought things described as being in “very good” condition, and they all have been at least that.

The best part is that they now have an actual entry in the drop-down menu called Amazon Warehouse Deals, so now, instead of looking for the “fine print” below specific items one at a time, you can search for “tufted chair” or “polka dot comforter” or “kitchenaid mixer” or “meat thermometer”–whatever you want!–and it will show all the deals they have for those terms. There’s no guarantee there will be a deal, but it’s definitely worth checking before paying full price.

amazon

ANYhoo, I know Mother’s Day is only a few days away, and I’m sure all of you fine folks have had your Mama/Grandma/Daughter gift all lined up for weeks (ahem), but in my Amazon Warehouse Deal research, I stumbled upon a couple of deals that were too good not to share, so I whipped up a quick little gift guide (shhhhh…nobody has to know they were on clearance).

AND they all come with free 2 DAY shipping if you’re a Prime member.

1. These rain boots are thee cutest.

I don’t have a pair, personally (although…the ones with the bees are, um, the bee’s knees) but Lindsay does and LOVES hers.

They can be a bit pricey, but if you click the link above, it should take you to several clearance options (limited sizes, but maybe you’ll luck out!). If you don’t see a price immediately, click on the yellow button to the right that says “see all buying options.”

2. I’ve never made it a secret that I love Rifle Paper Co. products, and I think they make fabulous gifts (because what girl doesn’t like pretty and useful?).

Like this gorgeous address book.

Or this fun recipe box!

(Look for the “used from $______” I was talking about for the cheapest option).

Or the ultimate, Mother-Daughter tale: Little Women!

3. I know most of us aren’t going to be buying anybody a Kitchenaid Mixer, but all three of the color options here are really great deals for a new 5 quart professional series. Some of my mom’s friends and I went in together to buy her one for her 60th a few years ago, and it was a fun gift to give!

4. And while we’re on kitchen appliances, I got a rice cooker for both my mom and my sister-in-law as part of their Christmas gifts last year, and they both love theirs! This one has great reviews and is $20 cheaper than anywhere else on the internet.

And this one, while considerably smaller, is only $13 (again, don’t forget to look for the “used from $______” because the original price doesn’t say $13).

5. It’s hard to find better smelling candles that come in prettier packages than the Capri Blue brand.

Don’t be scared off by the $37 list price. The “used” (not used at all, just repackaged) version is only $16. But hurry! It looks like there are only a few left at that price.

6. I realize it could be dangerous to buy pillows for someone else, but I have recovered an ottoman and two lampshades in this Waverly Santa Maria fabric (albeit in a different colorway) and can personally attest to how gorgeous it is. And $25 is an amazing deal for TWO big throw pillows covered in a designer fabric!

7.  These Ray Bans are considerably cheaper than the retail price. I still love mine, and they are still the only pair of sunglasses that I’ve kept up with for 2 years.

I could keep coming with the great deals, but I think you get the idea. Amazon Warehouse Deals is the bomb!

And now, I will leave you to do your own deal browsing because the appraisal finally came through on our house, which means I can officially start packing! Yip-to-the-ee! (Sort of serious. Sort of not).

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Downstairs Updates (Paint and stain and wallpaper, oh my!)

Welp.

The big push to move into the new house by May 30 is well underway, and…it’s going…great! Truly. I had to think about that for a second but really only to analyze whether I am missing something obviously stressful. Because it really has gone about as smoothly as it possibly could, all things considered.

When we first sat down two weeks ago and decided to go for it, Shaun wrote out a timeline that involved our (mostly his) doing practically every last thing left on the list. And it filled up every free moment of every day from here til the 30th.

By the grace of God, Shaun found himself standing behind a mill work guy (trim, cabinets, etc.) in Lowe’s about 6 weeks ago, so he struck up a conversation with him, and the guy had time to come see our house and give us a quote on the spot. Considering how spotty our experience with hiring out work has been up to this point, we couldn’t be more pleased with Cesar’s work. He’s honest and meticulous. Not particularly fast but a hard worker who does the job right. And he’s been putting all of the trim in for the past month or so. Which is a huge deal because there’s a lot of it, and Shaun was dreading doing the planked ceilings (he would have done a great job, but it would have been a serious chore for one man and would have set us back weeks).

trim

 

{The wainscoting and trim will all be bright white, but that exposed section of wall above will be covered in Daydream Wallpaper in Green}

Anyway, Cesar has been a lifesaver after subbing out almost nothing else up to this point. Also, Lindsay’s husband, Tim, just happens to have a paint company (we’ve used them in the past), and they just so “happened” (thank you, Lord!) to have availability the first two weeks in May. Which is awesome because we weren’t sure they would, and Shaun was including painting all of the ceilings, downstairs cabinets, and trim on his list of things to do himself before the 30th (because we can’t have all of the oil paint fumes downstairs while we’re living in it).

I decided on stain for the island to ground all of the white in the room, and Tim’s crew did an amazing job of custom mixing a color that killed all of the red/orange tones that I kept coming up with when I was testing stain colors on my own (seriously, after seeing the end result, I am so grateful they were available; I would have gotten it done, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as pretty, and I think I would have made a lot of mistakes).

stained islnd

Of course, having two crews in our house doesn’t mean we’re not in there too. We’ve been out there every evening puttying, caulking, cleaning, and–my biggest job–picking paint colors. We fall into bed pretty exhausted (the kids are loving getting to stay up late…until 7 AM rolls round, that is).

Not surprisingly (at ALL), I’ve been testing out every shade of blue-green I can get my hands on.

paint

All three of these were contenders for the kitchen cabinets, but I’m sticking with Weekend (Magnolia Paint)–far left.

So far, I’ve narrowed it down to these:

Upper kitchen cabinets: Simply White (Benjamin Moore)

Apparently, it was the BM color of the year for 2016. Whatever that means. All I know is that I got a bunch of white samples, and Simply White is the one that didn’t skew too cold (blue) or warm (yellow) and was still bright and fresh no matter what light it was in.

Actually, all of the white surfaces in the house, minus the trim (which will be standard super bright white), will be Simply White.

simply white

(According to Pinterest, the walls of this image are Simply White).

Lower kitchen cabinets: Weekend (Magnolia Paint)

For how popular Fixer Upper is, it’s actually really hard to find a picture of her paints in use (other than stock photos); this is the only example of a cabinet painted in Weekend that I could scare up.

weekend1

I would say that, in my kitchen, the color is a bit deeper and less green, but–you know–everybody’s monitor, not to mention, house lighting, is different, so all I really know is that I love it!

Downstairs bath cabinets – Underseas (Sherwin Williams)

This is such a pretty, moody teal that I want to use on all kinds of surfaces in my house (and I just may), but I’m pretty sure that I want it in the downstairs main bath. It definitely looks a bit lighter/greener in the below pic than it reads in my house (so weird how much color can vary), but I still love it!

underseas

via

I had planned to use my black and white Oh Joy Petal Pusher wallpaper that I scored for $30 in this bathroom, but then I tried this Peonies design in there (a $40 score), and I think it’s meant to be. peonies

 

{Underseas is the bottom right drawer, in case you were wondering}

I’m thinking I’ll probably use the black and white wallpaper on the wall behind the vanity of the downstairs half bath (Shaun told me the other day that I was amassing quite a few wallpapering hours in my future, but I figure if he can, oh, frame an entire house, I can surely paper a few walls).

Mudroom Cabinets – Parakeet Pete (PPG Paints)

parakeet pete

That awesomely chippy mint door leads to my pantry, and the yawning abyss to the right of it would be the mudroom. The cabinets in there will be painted Parakeet Pete, yet another shade of blue-green that will pick up on the tones in the pantry door (if you scroll up and look at the bottom left drawer of the bathroom pic, that’s Parakeet Pete).

Living Room Built-in Cabinets – Modern(ist) Gray (Sherwin Williams)

fireplace

You can see at least a part of the built-ins on either side of the fireplace in this shot (what you CAN’T see is the ingenious hidden drawer that Shaun built into the ship lap to squirrel away all of our cords). Originally, I had thought to paint them the same white as the ship lap, but there’s already a lot of white in this room, so I’m planning to paint them Sherwin William’s Modern Gray (or Modernist…I’ve got a sample that says “Modern” and a sample CARD that says “Modernist”) for a subtle pop of color.

modernist

 

It’s definitely a warm gray.

And there you have it!

The walls will all be Simply White or Modern(ist) Gray at 50% strength, depending on the room.

I’ll share the upstairs colors a bit later this week, but for now, I’m off to teach science. What do you think of the progress so far? I’m beyond excited to see how it’s all coming together, but I only have to consider the possibility of moving in 3 weeks to get a bit of a nervous knot in my stomach. We have a LOT to do in the next 21 days!

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Dig Deep

I do not tend toward depression.

Now, before you think, “Gee, thanks for the update, Abbie. But…why…are we talking about this?” I have a point.

I needed to get that first part out of the way to establish where I am coming from as a personality.

I am a pragmatist. I’m not a huge planner or dream-chaser. I’m a day-to-day-er. I balance on a fine line between doubting that anything “big” will ever happen and believing that all of the everyday stuff is probably going to be just fine.

I don’t have huge emotional mood swings as a general rule. For better or for worse, I am fairly consistently…ME.

With all that said, I’m no robot. I have feelings and lots of them. And sometimes, those feelings are “down.”

The other day, I had dinner with a friend whom I consider an equally even-keeled sort. Not overly emotional. Not prone to high highs or low lows.

But then, she said this: “So…do you ever just get so depressed that you don’t even want to be a mom anymore? Like that you’ve messed up so many times or are just too tired to keep going?”

Now, this friend of mine is a good mama to two sweet little boys. She is patient and kind with them. She stays home with them all day while her husband often works long hours, and she doesn’t complain…to me anyway. Her confession surprised me because she “doesn’t seem the type” (I think we would find that we are all “that type,” if we’re willing to be vulnerable enough to admit it).

I must have hesitated a little too long when she asked me this because she quickly blurted, “You don’t, do you? Yeah. I didn’t think so. That doesn’t seem like you. Never mind.”

She’d misunderstood my pause, though. I hadn’t NOT answered because I couldn’t relate. Instead, my mind had been running back over the many times I’ve felt exactly how she was describing.

I admitted as much in this post.

Most notably, after the twins were born, I experienced what I now realize was at least a mild version of Post Partum Depression.

For months, I struggled to put one foot in front of the other. You wouldn’t have known it from the outside. I was still doing all of the things–breastfeeding twins, part-time homeschooling Ezra and Simon, reading to Della, making lunches and dinners, changing diapers, teaching fitness classes, blogging, laughing at my husband’s jokes.

But I had no joy.

My favorite day of the week by about a million is Sunday. I’ve said it before. I love worshiping with my family in the morning, eating lunch with my family when we get home, taking a nap as a family in the afternoon, then eating dinner together and watching a movie as a family in the evening. Sunday for me is a mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional sigh of relief.

But I can remember standing in my kitchen on a Sunday evening chopping vegetables as my three oldest children played on the living room rug with my husband and the twins napped forehead to forehead–a scene that would have normally filled me with an enormous sense of contentment–and feeling…Bleak. Sad. Despondent.

Like this vast black hole had opened up and sucked in all of my ability to appreciate goodness.

I told my friend all of this–that I had experienced this with the twins and that I have had other, less significant bouts of it at other times. And she said: “So, what do you do? When you feel like that, how do get out of it?”

And I told her what my mom always told me when my hormones got the better of me as a teenager, and she caught me indulging in an episode of adolescent ennui at its finest.

“Dig deep in the Lord. When you are down, lean into him.”

Ugh. Even as a Christian since an early age, I didn’t love that advice when I was 16. I remember thinking: “C’mon, Mom. Surely you’ve got something more practical than that to offer. Where’s the offer to take me shopping or buy me a pint of Rocky Road?”

Of course, almost 20 years later, I know that my mom–who does struggle with despondency sometimes and had a mother who couldn’t get out of bed many mornings–was teaching me something so much more profound than “eat your feelings.”

Ice cream (or wine or chocolate or movies or girls’ nights out or new clothes) will only numb the ache for a day at most.

But digging deep into the Lord, crying out to him, meditating on his promises, memorizing them, taking the time to wallow–not in our sadness–but in the knowledge of his love (even if we don’t *feel* it at the time) has lasting benefits that go beyond even just pulling us out of our current funk.

I’m not saying it’s a quick fix or a bandaid or a magic cure.

In Matthew 5, Jesus does not say: “Blessed are those who are happy all of the time.” Instead, he says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” and, “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.”

It sounds like he knew a thing or two about being downhearted. And about empathy.

Psalm 34:18 promises that “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” But it does not say whenhe does. In other words, as much as I would have loved to have enjoyed every moment of the twins’ infancy, when the Lord did pull me out of my depression four months later, I could still see his hand in all of the times he had said, “Wait,” instead of, “Yes,” in response to my pleas for relief.

Nehemiah 8:10 says: “The joy of the Lord is our strength,” but I think that verse is often misunderstand. People think it means the “happiness,” the “emotional high,” the “giddiness” of the Lord is our strength.

But I’m inclined to believe–based on the context of that passage and what I have learned from personal experience–that the joy of the LORD is nothing like the joy of humans. That it is a rock-solid confidence in his goodness and faithfulness rather than a fleeting emotion.

Romans 15:13 says: “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Emphasis mine).

If that doesn’t sound like my mom’s admonition to “dig deep in the Lord,” I don’t know what does. As you believe in him. That you may overflow with hope. 

Maybe you are struggling right now because the Lord wants you to lean more heavily on him than you’re willing to when everything is hunky-dory. Maybe your sadness now is preparing you to overflow with hope into a fellow mama in the future when she tells you that she’s miscarried…again. Maybe your current depression is a reminder to pray for those who are likewise poor in spirit.

I don’t know.

But I “am confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philipians 1:6.

He’s not done with us yet, friends. Our current struggle does not define us. And it is for our good.

Because hard is not the same thing as bad.

So, if you ever feel like my friend and I do about motherhood (or anything else), dig deep. Push your roots down deep into the fertile soil of God’s word and love for you. It may be months or even years down the road before you witness the fruit of your digging, but it will come. That much, I can promise you.

Disclaimer: I am in no way discounting those who chronically struggle with depression, nor am I trying to be glib in any way. I hope you can read my heart of encouragement and true empathy here.

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