Category Archives: Family

Nothing formed against me shall stand—not even screeching toddlers

A few days ago, I ended up in town from 8 AM until 6 PM with all three girls due to an unexpected confluence of, well, quite a few things actually.

I’m not an intensely scheduled person, but we definitely stick to a loose daily routine, and, ideally, that routine, always includes a nap for the twins.

Doing back to back (to back) errands accompanied by two 19-month-old napless toddlers is a bit like doing errands accompanied by a couple of baby wolverines. Which is why I was so very grateful when, on the way to the always-dreaded Wal-Mart leg of our trek, both twins fell asleep. And then, due to my mad Mama ninja skillz (or their utter exhaustion…whichever), they stayed asleep during the transfer from the van to the grocery basket, even in blinding sunlight. They stayed asleep, in fact, the entire time I shopped.

Oh sweet relief! It was a modern day miracle.

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And then we got to the checkout line.

And Nola started to squirm and whimper.

And I started to pray. Desperately. “Lord. Please. PLEASE. I just need 8 more minutes. Just 8 minutes! Could they please stay asleep that long? Then, they can scream at me in the car all they want. I won’t mind.”

(I know. Worst bargainer ever).

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(Side note: I don’t love being in public with my children when they’re screaming no matter what, but there’s just something about being trapped in a checkout line with screaming children that is uniquely capable of making my blood pressure skyrocket . You’re in close quarters with lots of other people. There’s a really good chance that someone will shout something like, “Well, they’re not happy, are they?” over the screaming duet {or chorus, in some cases}…and you’ll want to put your head through the nearest wall).

Pretty much the moment the last words of my prayer of desperation evaporated from my mind, both girls woke up and proceeded to make that noise that makes the hair on every mama’s neck everywhere bristle.

It’s not screaming. It’s not wailing. It’s not even shrieking. It’s screeching. Screeching is the worst, especially at the decibel levels that my children, who all inherited their mama’s big lungs, can achieve.

And this wasn’t just momentary screeching. It was inconsolable screeching. In stereo.

And I thought, “Gee, thanks, Lord.” (I am convinced that God is fluent in sarcasm in such cases as these).

I shoved bananas into four little outstretched, flailing hands. I prayed, stream-of-consciousness style. I pushed the basket back and forth enough to wear grooves in the tile floor.

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{Look how angelic I am. I would neverput my mama through any kind of discomfort in public}

Nothing worked. The girls woke up disoriented and hungry, and nothing—not even the sight of food and a familiar face—was going to rob them of their opportunity to express their displeasure.

At some point, I stopped praying, “Please make them stop,” ad infinitum and prayed this instead: “Okay, Lord. I get it. They’re not going to stop right now. So forget whatever’s easiest. Please, just do whatever sanctifies me most.”

I would love to tell you that they stopped crying immediately. That Della stopped yanking on my shirt while droning, “MAH-ma, MAH-ma, MAH-ma” on a constant loop. That I looked up to discover all of my groceries magically and neatly bagged and deposited in my basket. That I felt even a tiny bit less tense.

None of that was true, though. In fact, I think the screeching reached new heights, and a lady a lane away chose that moment to lean over and holler, “ARE THEY TWINS??”

But as I heaved a box of diapers into the basket with one hand and attempted to force-feed a banana to Nola with the other, I heard a quiet voice say, “What can I do to help?”

I looked up to discover my friend, Holly, a fellow mama of five (although hers are older), leaning in with an expression that said, “I totally get this. I’ve been there. We both know this is no big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it kind of stinks right now.” There honestly wasn’t much for her to do. I was almost done loading the basket. Getting the twins out of their car seats was only a temporary fix that I couldn’t sustain. I just needed to get the heck outta Dodge. But her expression and those calm, quiet words were helping already.

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{Deep in concentration, planning her next moment of public mayhem}

Sadly, I couldn’t leave quite yet since I needed to go to the in-store bank, which was a whopping ten feet away. So, I wheeled my basket of apple juice and bawling children over to the bank desk and finally capitulated to releasing the twins from their seats, since it’s awfully hard to tell the cashier you only want 10’s and 20’s when she can’t even hear you over the screaming (by the way, I think getting your license back from someone while holding a baby on each hip should be an Olympic sport).

Before I knew it, Holly was by my side again, filling out deposit slips and helping reposition car seats and babies. Just as I finally started to wheel my way towards the exit, a man came up to Holly and started chatting about life. I heard him say something about Super Mom (Holly) coming to my rescue and about how he had five kids now too.

I had Nola on my hip, Evy strapped into the seat in the front of the basket, and Della riding on the side. And everyone was finally and blessedly (mostly) quiet.

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At some point during the unloading process at the van, I noticed that my basket was resting against the truck next to me. And I looked up to discover the owner, who looked vaguely familiar, approaching. I started to apologize and drag my cart away from his truck, but he waved me off and said, “No worries. I have kids too. I know how it is.” And I realized that, of all the people that I could have parked beside, I had ended up next to Holly’s friend, a fellow parent of 5.

I smiled and said, “Yeah. It’s fun. And I mean that, even though the last 10 minutes were not my favorite.”

He grinned back and said, “Yep. It’s hard. And fun. And the two don’t cancel each other out. Praise the Lord for that.”

And then he helped me load my groceries and left with a, “God bless you. Have a great day!”

Y’ALL.

Can I just say how thankful I am that God sometimes ignores my survival prayers? That, instead, He looks deeper into my true needs and hears me best in my moments of submission and brokenness?

Because what I needed most that day was not just for the babies to stop crying. That was just survival. What I needed most was an opportunity for surrender and an assurance that I’m not alone. That there are others who have gone before me and lived to tell about it…and help others who are coming behind them. What I needed was an encouragement to do the same. That’s sanctification. And the Lord gave me that. Twice.

Right after we got in the car, I heard these words on the radio:

Nothing formed against me shall stand.

You hold the whole world in your hands.

I’m holding onto your promises.

You are faithful. You are faithful.

Amen and amen.

P.S. I do not actually think that having screaming babies in Wal-Mart for ten minutes is a huge hardship. I am grateful that they are alive and well and healthy-lunged. Neither do I think that anyone is doing anything wrong by asking, “Are they twins?” or “Why are they crying?” Also, I’m sure there’s something practical I could have done to avoid something like this scenario in the future. If you have any of these concerns or any others I’ve missed, feel free to share them. But I hope you hear my heart in this and not just the specific details that stand out along the way.

P.P.S. If you’d like to hear a little more about my Mama-ing process, head on over to Brown Sugar Toast and read my portion of a fun Mom Series she has going on just in time for Mother’s Day.

P.P.P.S. (: )) Speaking of Mother’s Day, have you entered to win a set of Mama printables yet?

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Easter, 2014

The first half of Easter, 2014 was eventful, to say the least.

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Even if all we’d done was get up early to bathe and feed 5 children under 8 years of age and then wrestle them into their Easter best, it would have been eventful. Of course, it almost went a step beyond “eventful” when, after I fixed Ezra’s tie, I returned to finish ironing Della’s dress and discovered that the (hot) iron had fallen over and was resting squarely on it. If you heard someone screaming, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” that was me.

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Sorry for disturbing your morning.

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{Evy, left, Nola, right}

Miraculously, the Easter frock remained unburned, and even more miraculously, we managed to get to church 30 minutes early to set up for our Children’s Church duties (our church is small, and we still ended up with 22 kids, ages 3-6; they did awesome, and it was really fun, but it was still a lot of kids).

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{Della’s current outdoor obsession = bringing me weed flowers}

Of course, on the way to church, we got the text we’d been awaiting for over 40 hours: Baby Halleli (my brother’s first kid) had finally made her grand entrance after a long, hard labor. As the labor dragged on, and the updates remained largely unchanged, I kept getting shuddery flashbacks to my own 44-hour-long marathon labor with Ezra (I find it amazing how quickly we can forget the pain of childbirth, only to have it all come rushing back in gloriously vivid and visceral detail given the right prompt).

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{My snaggle-toothed big boy will be 8 in a month; I think we have braces and lots of acts of kindness in our future}

After church, we rushed over to the hospital to visit Hannah and Shae and Halleli. Sadly, we didn’t get to meet her because she had to spend a little time in the NICU to get her oxygen levels stabilized and wasn’t out by the time visiting hours closed. (She is out now and doing great, though).

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{Simon is our resident “male model;” he’s known just how to pose and smile since, well birth, pretty much; he’s also a thoughtful, hardworking young-man-in-training who still loves to cuddle with his mama first thing in the morning}

From the hospital, we raced to our next stop, which was an Easter egg hunt at our neighbor’s house “down the hill” (we can literally see their peach orchard from our back yard/field).

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{Della is {mostly} a ray of sunshine. She definitely has her drama-queen moments, but she’s such a cheerful little girl that she spends way more time beaming than bawling}

Honestly? I’m not just a huge fan of Easter egg hunts or anything Easter-ish that has nothing to do with the resurrection of Jesus (don’t even get me started on the Easter Bunny). I realize that Easter is a manmade holiday. In fact, it’s a pagan holiday that Christians have hijacked to memorialize the death and resurrection of our Savior. I get that. But since it is when we celebrate it, I want that to be my family’s focus. The blatant commercialization of, well, pretty much every holiday ever at this point is obviously a blog rant all its own, and I won’t really get into that, but it definitely saddens me that my children get more excited about the prospect of candy than the prospect of eternal life.

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{Nola is a little social butterfly; she took to the egg-hunting immediately!}

And yet, I get that too. Eternal life is a really hard concept for a six-year-old to grasp. Eternal bags of chocolate, though? That, he has no trouble with.

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{Unfortunately, this picture is rather representative of Evy’s moods lately. She smiles a lot, but she’s also spent a lot of time perfecting her brow furrow; she had just woken from a nap in the car when the egg hunt started and was even less sold on the concept than I am}

And part of the problem is definitely me. I didn’t do as well as I would have liked this year at really emphasizing the most important aspects of Easter, but it gave me renewed resolve for next year (last year, we stayed home sick on Easter Sunday and did a Scripture Easter egg hunt that I think I’ll bring back).

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And here’s the thing: if I can manage to compartmentalize an Easter egg hunt as something completely separate from the celebration of Jesus’s death and resurrection, I can definitely enjoy it for the sheer joy and thrill it brings my children.

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{Egg hunting in heels = a calf work out + a lot of holes in your neighbor’s yard}

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{All three of the girls’ dresses were on clearance at Old Navy}

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Our neighbors were so generous to let us eat their food and roam their yard searching for eggs, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to spend time together reveling in the sunshine and the feeling of too-full tummies.

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{Something I can totally get behind? Easter wagon rides}

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{PUUUUUUUULL!}

I was even more grateful that we only had to drive one minute up the road before we could haul all the kids out, dump the babies in bed, and send the older ones to their rooms for mandatory egg inventory.

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Nobody much actually slept, but at least we all got a chance to regroup after a jam-packed day.

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{Nola was the lone child who did take nap after we got home}

The rest of the day was considerably less eventful (not that I’m complaining), and I am happy to report that Easter, 2014 was day of rejoicing for many reasons.

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{My favorite picture of these three, maybe, EVER}

And, now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go discipline a 3-year-old who now thinks that candy is a right rather than a privilege…

 

 

How was your Easter? Is the candy count in your house as obscene as mine?

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We carried a jerry!

Hi there, folks!

Sorry to leave y’all hanging last week, but between a crashed computer and battling a nasty cold, blogging sort of fell by the wayside out of necessity.

So, just to catch you up on the last 5 days or so, I taught exercise classes (including subbing a 5:45 AM slot while battling the aforementioned cold, which = pathetic kicks and punches), shopped a local (MASSIVE) consignment sale (twice!), hung out at my mom’s house, had pizza picnics at the park with the kids, and stayed home from church with a sick kiddo.

In other words, pretty much life as usual.

One thing was a little unusual, though, and in the best possible way.

If you’ve been reading along for a while here, then you know that one of my favorite ministries is Parental Care Ministries. I’ve talked about them several times here, and y’all have even helped me raise money to build them a classroom, supported Sarah, and just generally prayed for and rejoiced in their successes.

PCM started, not as an official organization at all, but instead as the response of one godly Ugandan man (with a painful past of abandonment and abuse), whom everyone affectionately calls “Pastor Emmy,” to God’s call to practice “pure religion”—caring for the fatherless and the widow. He started by taking needy children into his own tiny home with dirt floors until he had 35 children sleeping end-to-end on those floors. And over the past decade, by the grace of God, Pastor Emmy’s passion for being the hands and feet of Jesus to the struggling children of Uganda has spread. And spread. And SPREAD. Until, by now, I’ve lost count of just how many PCM schools—each with several hundred students—have been started to care for and educate the orphans and the needy.

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{Evy wasn’t feeling super-cooperative, but I’m pretty sure Pastor Emmy has held his fair share of ornery toddlers}

My family has had the privilege to sponsor a precious girl named Harriet for the last four years. We love getting her letters. She calls me Mama and Shaun, Daddy (even though her parents are living) and all five of my children her brothers and sisters.

Well, last Saturday, our city (which is the American headquarters for PCM) hosted a Carry a Jerry event. To clarify, a “jerry” is the can that Ugandan children (and many others worldwide) have to carry back and forth to their water source, to the tune of 10-20 miles each day just so they can have “clean” (sometimes not so much) water for drinking and washing of any sort. Can you imagine not being able to turn on the tap and see clear, cool water flow out of it? Y’all. The few times my water has been off because of some sort of malfunction or bad weather, I can’t tell you how impatient and irritable it made me each time I walked to the sink, twisted the knob, and…nothing happened.

And yet, this is their reality (minus even the possibility of knob-twisting).

And YET…this is their attitude:

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{This is Adrine…moments after she met Della; she proceeded to hold her for another half hour, and Della loved it!}

So, Saturday, our family participated in the family Carry a Jerry walk/run, which basically consisted of Shaun, the boys, and I jogging along for about a mile, taking turns “carrying the jerry,” while the girls rode in strollers.

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{I carried the jerry in my right hand while running and pushing Della in her stroller, but that can is not nearly as big as most of them are. Side note: Simon did AMAZING! He ran practically the whole mile, and I was genuinely running to keep up with him at the finish line}

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{Shaun came through with the next round—hilarious to me that our family is big enough to come through in shifts—because Ezra was already starting to not feel well, and had to take several walking breaks. He still finished strong, though, and I was so proud of him!}

Obviously, our jerry-carrying experience was hardly a true taste of what these amazing children do every single day just to get access to a basic necessity. But the event itself was just so stinking enjoyable and humbling and awesome and fun.

Why?

Because of these lovely people!

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(You can hear a clip of their singing here)

The PCM Uganda choir of 17 children came to America to perform mini-concerts all around East Texas (and beyond), and although neither Harriet nor Sarah are part of the choir, Harriet’s best friend, Shallon, is. Christie, PCM’s sponsor coordinator, had already texted me Shallon’s picture, so when I saw her, it was like spotting a friend!

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{We made sure to snap a pic so that we can send it to Harriet with our next letter; I love how, out of all our kids, only Ezra is actually looking and smiling}

And when we actually met Shallon, it felt that way even more! There is something so artless and infectiously joyful about these sweet people.

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{So, Nola obviously had not gotten the same hair consideration as Evy; I did put hers up soon after this}

I can’t even express it other than to say that Jesus just SHINES out of their faces. The moment you meet them, they hug you and tell you how grateful they are for you (I found myself saying back, “No, we’re the ones who are grateful” and completely meaning it. I think, in many ways, they have more to offer than I do). They take your children from your arms and hold them and play with them with no self-consciousness or worry about offense. To them, we are all related, and this is just one big family reunion! And they’re right! But how quickly we lose sight of that fact when we focus on denominations and cliques and get so bogged down nitpicking theological ambiguities.

The clarity and conviction of the love of Jesus that blazes forth from these kiddos’ faces is undeniable and incredibly convicting and inspiring all at once.

Tears started leaking out of my eyes the second this happened…

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(that’s the first Ugandan runners leaping jubilantly through the finish line of the 5K that came before the family run/walk)

…and they pretty much didn’t stop completely until we left.

(Which is why I’m wearing my sunglasses in every picture; I didn’t want my kids constantly asking, “Mama, why are you sad?”).

Thing is, they weren’t sad tears. At least not mostly. But amongst the happy tears were a few tears of conviction at how much more prone I am to complain than my dear Ugandan brothers and sisters in Christ who are so much more “underprivileged” than I.

Another fun treat was getting to meet this pretty lady.

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This is Kristin, and she and I have emailed back and forth a few times (once she figured out that I lived in her area) and interacted via Instagram, but we had never officially met. I spotted her while we were eating our picnic lunch and thought, “Man! She looks familiar!”

But I couldn’t quite place it until she walked up and introduced herself. I’m so glad she did! We ended up chatting while we waited in the face painting line for our kids to get smeared, and she was a delight. Her husband, Jamy, and Shaun hit it off too, joking about how they’d never talked online or ever seen any pictures of each other (such a strange virtual world we live in, no?) and yet were still glad to meet each other.

The weather was gorgeous, and, even with five small children to wrangle, and Ezra’s not feeling very well, the whole thing was just such a joyous celebration of the Lord and His love for us.

I can’t say enough how big of a blessing PCM is in our lives, but I want to encourage you to find out more about them yourself. They are a small ministry with a selfless, hardworking staff that I know personally here in the States and tireless, godly, devoted pastors and leaders in Uganda. Every bit of their resources are poured right back into those precious kids. There are alwaysmore kids who need sponsoring, so if you’re looking for a “worthy cause” to invest in, let me assure you that this one is and that you will easily reap just as many, if not more, benefits than you extend to them.

P.S. Shifting gears dramatically, I need to thank all of you guys for your awesome feedback on my breakfast nook. There were so many helpful, thoughtful suggestions, and I really feel like I’ve got a better handle on the direction I want to go with it. Y’all are so nice!

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A spontaneous trip to the Big D

The last few weeks have been busy. Like BIZ-ZY. (Because misspelling and capitalizing it conveys my point so much better). I feel like I say that a lot, and I probably do. After all, we are in an incredibly busy season of life. The fact that we have five small children, two of whom are involved in soccer at the moment, and we are required by some unspoken law to, like, feed them multiple times every.single.day (insert eye roll) would be enough to keep us hopping most of the time.

But throw baby showers and spring break and house projects and rental house repairs and trips to visit family and extra work for Shaun into the mix, on top of the usual gym classes, blogging, home schooling, full time jobs, church, and—oh yeah—the constant food-making, and things get a bit out of hand. (P.S. I did a fun interview with Kelli of Eat Pray Read Love a little while ago about how I don’t really do it all if you want to check it out).

The week before last, Shaun was slammed. Last week, I was (okay, he was too) because I can’t just throw a baby shower. Oh no, I have to clean out and organize my refrigerator, my pantry, my breakfast nook…even my Tupperware drawers, for crying out loud. I have to replant my flower beds and spray paint everything in sight and sew new pillows and hang wall art and sort through all my kids’ clothes. What does any of this have to do with baby showers, you ask? Um, nothing, as far as I can tell. But between that whole advent of spring business (doesn’t sunshine just make you want to scrub things?) and the fact that having people over always gets me in a frenzy of unrelated but much-needed activity, things have been cuh-razy up in here.

The shower went great (I’ll show you pictures soon), but by 6 PM Saturday evening, I was done. Like “I’m going to lie on the couch and rest my eyes for just a sec and keep an ear out for the twins crying while I wait for Shaun and the older kids to get home…whoa! Did I fall asleep? They’re already home”…DONE.

So, Sunday morning, we woke up and kind of said, “Hi, remember me?” all around, and as Shaun and I sat on the couch mustering the energy to bathe and dress five children for church, we looked at each other and said, “What if we did some sort of family day today since we’ve all been passing in the night and running ourselves ragged?”

Less than an hour later, we were on the road to Dallas loaded up with snacks and toys and the double-stroller.

First stop?

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In-n-Out Burger! We only recently (and by recently, I mean 3 years ago) got these in Texas, and I hadn’t been in 11 years (since a visit to one in California), so we made a beeline for it when we saw a sign for one around lunchtime.

Honestly, it wasn’t as yummy as I remember, and Shaun said the Dallas version didn’t measure up to California’s standards, but it got our bellies full.

The best part , though (and the part that I am KICKING myself for not having a picture of), is that, as we were all piling out the door to leave, the person coming in the door said, “ABBIE!”

I looked up and saw a face that was so familiar, but because of being taken by surprise and having zero context for it, I just stared, dazed, for a second. And then it came to me just as she said, “Hey, it’s Emily from 52 Mantels!” Emily and I have been blogging buddies for over two years now, but we have never met in real life. She lives in Dallas, so there’s that, but otherwise, the odds of our running into each other on that day at that time are so stinkin’ slim. It was awesome! When I finally managed to express to Shaun that I’d literally never met her in person, he jut stared at me and said, “Wow. That’s crazy.”

Next, we headed to Northpark Mall, home to—da da DA!—the LEGO store!

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Do you think they’re maybe a wee bit excited to be there?

After the boys had found something big to share, and Della had instantly picked out the girliest LEGO product ever  (a mini princess castle), we went to my version of the LEGO store: Anthropologie.

Sadly, my phone battery died before we even got out of the car at the mall (that’s what happens when your phone gets lost in the midst of shower preparations, and then you spontaneously run off to Dallas without having a chance to charge it), so I kept having to borrow Shaun’s phone to document everything. I wish I’d grabbed it and snapped some pics of that Anthro store because they had outdone themselves. There was a life sized  elephant (okay, maybe more like baby life sized, but still) made out of some sort of plastic-y scale thingies (technical jargon, right there) that was just too rad.

But not nearly as rad as the fact that my husband wrangled kids while I spent 45 minutes rooting through the clearance racks and trying things on.

Here’s what I wore to Dallas.

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(A sweater, jeans, and boots because, even though it was March 23rd in Texas, it was 55 degrees and windy)

And here’s what I tried on:

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Wanna guess what (if anything) I actually came home with? You’ll find out if you were actually right on Wednesday.

After Northpark, we headed to Ikea.

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This was only maybe the 6th time that I’ve ever been to Ikea, and we had never used their childcare, so I was kind of excited to be able to shop while the kids played.

However. Apparently going to Ikea on a random Sunday afternoon is akin to doing your Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve. Everybody, their dog, their cat, and their goldfish was there. Which means that we got waitlisted for childcare. The first girl told us 15-20 minutes.

So, of course, we got ice cream.

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{Oh, Ikea, you’re so clever with your automated ice cream dispensers}

And then we tortured our little sisters with our ice cream.

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{After seeing this and the above pictures, I promptly French braided Della’s hair; it was a mess}

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{“Mama! Della has ice cream and she keeps dribbling it on the floor all around me but won’t give me a bite!”}

The ice cream venture killed about 10 minutes. Then a series of field trips to the bathroom ate up another 10 (at least).

And still they hadn’t called our name.

So, the boys perused their complementary Lego magazines.

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And I changed poopy diapers.

By this point, we had spent at least half an hour distracting 5 children just so three of them could have the privilege of entering Smaland.

So, I went back to the check-in desk to see if we’d somehow managed to miss our name being called. The girl shuffled through all the paperwork and informed me that 8 children were in line ahead of ours, so we were looking at another half hour of waiting.

Ain’t nobody got time for that. So we set forth with our brood, creating a mini roadblock everywhere we went. And let me just tell you: we were there for an hour and a half because, hello, it’s Ikea and you can’t get out of there fast, even if you try (I heard a lady loudly complaining to the air about how irritated she was that there wasn’t a shortcut to the checkout because she had been “tired for the last five MILES!”), and during that 90 minutes, various names were called on the intercom to come to Smaland either to deposit or pick up their children.

But ours never was.

Which was fine. Because they had tunnels to wriggle through in the kids’ bedroom displays.

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Honestly, this picture represents maybe 5 minutes of our 90 minute trek from top to bottom, and even though the kids do remarkably well with stores after many, many  epic trips to Walmart and Sam’s with me, they were pretty sick of it by the end, and the twins were worn slap out, while still refusing to nap in their stroller.

We made it out alive, though,  and immediately did a GPS search for the nearest park so the kids could run off their pent up energy.

This is what we came up with:

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{This is Hope Park in Frisco, Texas. Can you spot Shaun and Nola?}

Seriously. This park was the coolest kids’ hangout that I have ever seen.

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It was HUGE, with multiple sections and everything from every type of swing imaginable to makeshift pianos and pipe drums. Not to mention myriads of slides and benches and pavilions and…Sigh. It was kid heaven and the perfect end to an enjoyable day ( just don’t ask Shaun’s honest opinion of those 45 minutes in Anthro and the last 20 minutes or so of Ikea :

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{In case you’ve ever wondered how to get cardio exercise while pushing kids on a swing, try running from one swing to the next while holding a baby!}

We capped off the day with a trip to a local frozen custard shop (it was delicious!) and watching Frozen in the car on the way home (well, the kids did, while Shaun and I sat in the front and tried to recreate this hilarious video).

Want to know the best part? We got home a little before 10, dumped the kids in bed, and then got in bed by 10:15 ourselves. After a solid week of mild sleep deprivation, getting a solid 8 hours was just plain glorious!

And now you’re officially caught up on the events of our spontaneous Sunday foray into the big city. Do y’all ever just take off for the day and do something unexpected? We don’t usually, and I have to admit that I almost chickened out because I was tired, but I’m so glad Shaun stuck to his guns. Our family needed it.

What’s your equivalent of the LEGO store? Mine is definitely Anthro, even though I’ve only ever bought a few articles of clothing there ever, but my runner-up would definitely be Paper Source or any other pretty stationery store.

Any guesses on what I bought at Anthro? You might be surprised.

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A bad idea + Caption this Photo

Shaun left for a work trip yesterday, and he had been so insanely busy preparing for it, working on another project with my brother, and also managing our rent houses that I barely saw him at all last week. 

So, we were determined to fit in a date before he left. Originally, we’d planned on Friday night, since that’s the night that my three older kids sleep over at my mom’s house, and we only have to get babysitting for the twins.

But, of course, Evy started running a fever that morning, so date night was out.

Do you ever get so something stuck in your head that you have a hard time letting it go, regardless of circumstances? Something you’ve been looking forward to, perhaps? And then, you’re tempted to have a great big pity party?

Oh good. Me neither. That would just be silly.

Friday was the kind of day where I went from one thing to the next to the next, never feeling like I spent more than 2 minutes on any one (answer homework question, change a diaper, wipe the 3-year-old’s bum, answer homework question, scrub pot, clean up a mess, make some food, answer homework question, sweep floor, change a diaper, console screaming baby, make more food, change out the laundry, wonder how the floor got dirty AGAIN, answerhomeworkquestionchangeanotherdiaperLOSEMYMIIIIIIIIND!) without having anything to show for it at the end of the day.

I mean, my children were alive, and my house was still standing. And…nope. That’s it.

And nobody rested or napped like they normally do, and Evy insisted on being held constantly.

Which meant that date night would have been the perfect exclamation point to an exhaustingly mundane day.

Only, there was no date night anymore. (Can you tell I was having a hard time letting this go?)

And I had to cancel a running date with a friend too. At which point I decided that fevers are pretty much the scourge of the earth and should be outlawed.

And then?

Then, I had a stroke of brilliance.

Evy was the only one sick, and she doesn’t weigh much. Plus, she seemed to be feeling better already (if looking very sleepy and not screaming quite as much equals better, anyhow). So, what if I took everybody else to the gym and pushed Evy in the stroller while we ran? And then, I could meet Shaun in town afterwards, and he could take us ALL on a date somewhere with yummy food I didn’t have to cook.

(It’s amazing what passes as a stroke of brilliance in your own mind when you’re desperate to get out of your house).

Well.

The first part of my plan really was pretty inspired. It was a gorgeous, balmy day for a run, and Evy loved riding in the front of the stroller and feeling the breeze in her face as she people (and dog) watched from her prime perch. And the run itself did wonders to clear my head and mend my frayed nerves (endorphins, baby!). Plus, I got to spend time with my friend, Lindsay, who definitely has the gift of encouragement.

I felt like a new (and much less homicidal) woman when we got done. (It might be argued that the endorphins from that run are at least partially responsible for what I did next). So, I called my husband and asked where he wanted to take all 6 of his dates.

Y’all.

It is testament to what a sweetheart that man is that he didn’t say, “Can we please just get pizza and go home? I mean, we ARE talking 5 children under 8 here, babe.”

Instead, he started suggesting places like Cheddar’s and TGIFridays and Olive Garden.

Two side notes:

A) We’re not usually that in to chain restaurants, but if you’re going to sit down for a meal with five squirmy children, then they’d better have crayons and coloring sheets (and many of the more unique places we like do not)

and

B) We have historically done pretty well as a family of 7 in sit-down restaurants. Depending on their level of hyperness, the older kids usually acquit themselves somewhat admirably. No food is thrown. No plates are broken. There isn’t too much screeching. They even keep their audible bodily functions to a minimum (the ones that assault your olfactory senses are a different story).

ANYhoo, for some reason the only thing that jumped out at me was Olive Garden’s salad and breadsticks.

Which, of course, launched one of those shoulder angel vs. shoulder demon moments, except mine were Common Sense vs. Pollyana.

Good ol’ CS was saying, “Woman, you can’t go to Olive Garden on date night with 5 small children. This town LOVES Olive Garden. There’s going to be a 3 hour and 5 minute wait to begin with. And then, you’re going to have to wrangle twins while attempting to feed them things that involve red sauce and slippery noodles and grease. Not to mention the fact that Ezra has asked you where y’all are going to dinner at least 17 times in the last 2 minutes. Do you really think this is his best night for this?”

But Pollyana fired back with: “Oh hush up, Common Sense. Haven’t you seen those Olive Garden commercials that say, ‘When you’re here, you’re family?’ There’s always like 12 people sitting at the table in those commercials. I mean, granted, all of them are adults who know not to attempt to eat their steaming spaghetti by face-planting in it. But still. The kids will LOVE it. And besides, it’s only 5:55. It won’t be that crowded yet. And Evy’s so sleepy, she won’t be a problem at all. Plus, Nola loves bread, and they bring you baskets upon baskets of that. And Ezra’s just being spirited. You don’t want to break his spirit, do you? It will be FINE.”

Thing is, Common Sense and I are usually likethis. But I blame being cooped up all day with the never-ending loop of activity insanity + the running endorphins for the fact that I said, “Well, of all of those, Olive Garden sounds the best to me. So, let’s try that.”

And I blame my husband for being too nice that he said yes.

Weeeeeeeelllll…

The truth is that is really wasn’t THAT bad.

I mean, yes,  Evy perked up enough to make whimpery noises and want out of her seat the whole time. And Nola dropped her plastic water cup with such perfect aim that it cracked the bottom open like an egg and leaked the entire contents out in 3.6 seconds. And the bread only kept the twins interested for about 6 of the 66 minutes we were there (no need to read any significance into those specific numbers in triplicate).  And Ezra’s spastic movements were responsible for many a, “Sit STILL,” hiss from me, his daddy, or, sometimes, both of us in perfect unison. And, after, glugging down several cups each of chocolate milk and nibbling at the bread, the three oldest didn’t touch their spaghetti (it is, in fact, still residing hopefully in our refrigerator in its who-in-the-world-thought-this-thing-was-okay-to-put-spaghetti-sauce-in takeout boxes). Oh, and I’m pretty sure they had to bring in a professional cleaning crew before they could seat the next table.

But other than that? It was great!

At some point, I said, “Well, it’s less of a fiasco than it could have been,” as I fished Nola’s hand out of my Chicken Scampi (again). 

And Shaun, who had clearly been distracted by wrestling Evy into her high chair (again), said, “Yeah, I know. It’s pretty bad.”

It felt a little like adding insult to injury when we analyzed the head-scratchingly high bill after finally straggling out the door (under the scrutiny of dozens of curious eyes) with our crew and discovered that the we had been charged $5 for kid drinks that the menu had promised us were included in the already exorbitant $6 kids’ meal price (we usually just split an entree between all the kids but figured that the treat drinks + side of grapes would be a source of distraction + bribery for good behavior).

My theory? The waitress saw this gaggle of humanity sprawling out across her table and figured that she’d better add her own “tip” because she probably wasn’t getting one out of a man who had three weddings and, obviously, a lot of braces to pay for in his future.

We were too tired to bother with correcting it.

But I can tell you this—we learned a valuable lesson that night: (are you ready? because it’s pretty profound) Breadsticks work in a pinch when you just have to have a swordfight at the dinner table.

No, but seriously. I cannot even begin to imagine attempting such a foolhardy venture with anyone else by my side but this guy. He can hold a baby while wiping a toddler’s nose and cutting the 6-year-old’s meat about as well as any Mama I know (and THAT is a compliment, indeed). 

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{Nola in purple; Evy in green; This is Shaun’s expression BEFORE we sat down to eat; I wish I’d had the presence of mind to take a picture of our table afterwards, but I’m guessing you can understand why I didn’t}

Which brings me to a fun idea. I thought it might be entertaining (especially now that you know the back story) to have a little contest for the photo above.

Just leave me a comment with how you would caption this photo of Shaun and the twins, and then I will pick a winner who will get TEN free entries into our current MOMbassadors giveaway.

P.S. Have YOU ever temporarily lost your mind and taken your children somewhere to eat that they had no business being? How did that go?

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Sister, Sister (Sister)

After last week’s ode to the wonder of boys, I thought it only fair to give my girls some exclusive time here on the blog.

(Plus, it’s been forever since I’ve bombarded you with cute twin pics).

So, when the weather turned warm this week, and I remembered the matching outfits from Uncle Shae and Aunt Hannah (my bro and sis-in-law) hiding out under my bed, I decided it was time for a photo shoot.

I shot these at the bridge on the running trail behind the gym where I teach, and the light was really great, which is good because I didn’t have time to do anything fancy or artistic.

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The girls were too busy being, well, little girls to be much interested in posing, but between the boys being willing to chase down the repeat runaway (EVY!) and lots of runners and bikers coming through and oohing and aaahing over the triple cuteness threat, they stayed interested long enough for me to get a few good shots.

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{Ru-un, Ev-y!}

Love this one.

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{Watch out, Nola! Big Sisterzilla ‘bout to bounce you DOWN!}

Both girls are usually quite smiley, but Nola’s usually the more expressive of the two.

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{Work that smolder, girl}

Not this time, though.

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She insisted on maintaining a poker face throughout, while Evy clowned around.

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I only have one brother, and he’s almost four years older than I am, so we didn’t really bond until I was about 11 (and by “didn’t really bond,” I mean that we had knock-down-drag-out FIGHTS that involved kicking and wrestling and scratching and screeching).

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Since then, we’ve been the best of friends, but I haven’t the slightest clue about sisterliness, and to be completely honest, I was never one of those girls who pined for a sister growing up. That’s probably almost entirely attributable to the fact that I had a best friend named Ronda who lived a mile and a half up the road and with whom I spent practically every waking hour most days. We were so inseparable that “Me’nRonda” was practically one word in my vocabulary (much to my English-teacher Mama’s chagrin).

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But just because I didn’t miss having a blood sister of my own (M’nRonda were pretty much the equivalent) doesn’t mean that I’m not thrilled that my girls get to experience the joys of sisterhood.

When the twins were first born, I was a little nervous about Della’s reaction. She was almost two at that point, and since 3 months, she’d been the biggest Mama’s girl you’ve ever seen—in the most endearing way. She was my little mini-me, and we were tight.

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I worried she would resent this double-intrusion into her special bond with Mama. But, by the grace of God (and a lot of prayer), she weathered the transition amazingly well. She grew even more attached to Shaun, started playing more with her brothers, and, from the beginning, displayed a sweet fascination with “her babies.”

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It wasn’t until recently, though, that they really all started playing together and interacting in a more meaningful way. In fact, when I went to pick Della and her brothers up from my mom’s house the other day, she threw her hands up with ecstasy when she saw the twins, exclaiming, “SISTERS!” as she ran over to hug them and drop a kiss on their heads. Then she tugged at their arms and said, “C’mon girls. C’mon. Wet’s go pway.”

That’s new. And I like it.

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{I love Nola’s bemused expression here}

Their new favorite past time?

Yup.

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Jumping on the bed.

I can’t wait to see my girls get closer and closer as they grow up. I know the twins will have a special bond that Della can’t fully share, but they’re all such happy, outgoing, friendly little misses that I am hoping and praying that they will all be best friends. Yes, even when one of them uses the last of the other’s favorite nail polish, and somebody sticks somebody else’s bra in the dryer (on purpose or not).

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Do you have sisters? What was that like growing up? If you didn’t, did you always wish you did?

What about little girls? Got any of those? I’d love to hear about your little sweeties!

P.S. If anyone else thinks that the twins look like adorable little Martians with spriggy antennae…I totally agree.

P.P.S. I’ve got a new MOMbassadors interview + giveaway for you tomorrow, and you’re going to LOVE it!

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Christmas Traditions—A Special Breakfast

Each year that my kids get older, Christmas becomes a little more exciting—for them, certainly. But maybe even more so for me. It’s so much fun to see them “get” Christmas more and more—both the significance of Jesus coming as a tiny baby destined to save the world and also just the pure, unadulterated joy that is tree-trimming and gingerbread houses, gift-wrapping and Salvation Army bell-ringer donating, decorating sugar cookies and reading Luke 2 on Christmas morning.

But since we’re a young family, we’re still figuring out what traditions work best for us.

I think we’ve got one nailed down, though, and that is a special Christmas breakfast. 

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This will be the 3rd year in a row (I blogged about it our first year) that we set a festive table and load it up with special treats like fancy fruit salad and homemade pigs in a blanket (not so fancy, but yummy for sure). 

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Shaun was gone all last week on a work trip, which means I can hardly tell you what happened on any particular day, other than keeping us all alive, fed, and marginally in our right minds. Of course, some of the craziness was for an especially good “cause” since I was getting ready to join Shaun in Riverside, California (do you remember our last trip there?) for the weekend.

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I knew that by the time I got back (I get home this afternoon), the frenzy of preparations and recovering from my whirlwind weekend vacation (I’m guessing I’m not the only one who needs a nap after my vacations?) would make these last 10 days before Christmas zoom by.

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So the day before I left for California, while the boys were at school and the girls were napping, I went ahead and decorated for our special breakfast (which will happen sometime before Christmas morning because, well, ain’t nobody got time for leisurely breakfasts when there are presents to be ripped open).

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(Remember the plate wall?)

If you’ve been following along on Instagram, then you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been getting my Christmas craft on.

I made this fun advent countdown banner (tutorial coming soon!)

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I also stole my bathroom fabric art and Christmas-if-ied it a bit.

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(I really do want to have a merry heart, instead of a Scroogey, stressed out one, for Christmas).

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I also took my spray-painted “twigmas” tree from last year and hung it with some old ornaments and some new (the colorful ones are from a jumbo pack I bought at Sam’s Club).

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I wrapped the jar in burlap and then hot glued leftover stencil letters to add a little “joy.”

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I piled more of the colorful ornaments into the center of my Target wooden rosette wreath (from two years ago, but I think they still have it in stores) for an easy centerpiece.

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Of everything on the table, though, my favorites are definitely these quirky reindeer plates that I scored at Goodwill.

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Cupid.

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Comet.

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And, of course, Rudolph.

We don’t do Santa at our house even a little bit, but these plates were just too happy to pass up. I’m excited for my kids to see them (although, I’m a little afraid that a squabble may break out over who gets “the astronaut one”).

And this one?

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This one just made me laugh.

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I’m really looking forward to a) seeing my munchkins’ sweet faces this afternoon (the weekend was amazing, and I will tell you about it soon) and b) seeing their reactions to the breakfast nook Christmas makeover.

So, what about you guys? What are your favorite Christmas traditions? We didn’t make gingerbread houses last year, but I think we’re going to try to this year. I love them!

At what age did your kids start “getting” Christmas? Della just turned three, and she had fun last year, but she’s pretty much full-on giddy about all things “Kissmas” and giggles maniacally every time she spots a Christmas tree or a house all lit up with twinkle lights.

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Catching up (AKA: The great Birthanksgiving Celebration!)

I can’t believe it’s been almost a week since we’ve “talked.” Partly because the last time I didn’t blog for a week was…maybe never since I started blogging? And partly because, with another birthday (Simon’s) and three back-to-back-to-back Thanksgivings, last week was gone in a flash.

I have a Project Elephant update that I hope to show you tomorrow (fingers crossed), but I thought I’d catch you up on the goings on in these parts first.

P.S. A lot of these pics are from Instagram, if you care to follow along. #imthequeenofridiculouslylonghashtags

First up, this little cutie turned six last Wednesday:

simon ratatatcat  

We celebrated with a play date with friends (where Evy celebrated by deciding to start walking<—click to see crazy-cute video proof) and many rounds of Rat a Tat Cat, which has quickly become our family’s favorite card game.

The next day, we headed to Shaun’s grandma’s house for their Thanksgiving get together. We even managed to snag a decent pic of all of us. Uncle Alex took the picture, and, at one point, he exclaimed that surely there was a good one among the bunch because he felt like he’d taken hundreds. IMG_8834-001

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that he’d only taken 20 or so and that getting a good shot of our crew usually literally  requires at least 100 takes. Thank the Lord we got a decent one. I’d say a 1 in 20 chance of getting something this good (6 out of 7 looking!) has got to be a record for us!

While there, we indulged in yumminess like this pumpkin spice cake trifle. (I promise to try to get the recipe for you guys).

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The next day, we hosted a game day at our house. I made this soup (I added beans, and it was even better that way), and we played a massive (read: 4 1/2 hours) game of Killer Bunnies.

And then, on Saturday, we went to my family’s traditional feast—the one where my mom cooks everything, and I contribute nothing and don’t clean up even a little bit afterwards. 

(Or take any pictures, apparently).

After several days of whirlwind birthday/travel/cleaning/cooking, it was so nice to just be a bum. Thank you, Mama!

Then, yesterday, we finally got around to Christmassorizing the house.

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I did a little pillow sprucing (the deer + joy pillows are $3 from Target’s Dollar Spot).

Then, we hauled the tree out, and the kids went to town.

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And then gazed in wonder when it was done.

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Here’s a close-up, in case you’re wondering how they did:

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We fueled our decorating with appropriately-hued dipped pretzels.

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(Seriously, I just happened to have red and white candy melts in my pantry; what are the odds?)

And we capped it off all with a viewing of A Charlie Brown Christmas (my first ever; I KNOW, how is that even possible?) on our DIY big screen (one of my hubby’s best ideas ever).

You may now consider yourself officially caught up. But I’m guessing I’m not the only one who had a busy week, and I’ve missed you guys!

So, tell me:

How many Thanksgivings did you attend this year? 2 for us, technically, since our game day wasn’t actually a Thanksgiving celebration

Was there gorging involved? I actually did pretty well this year. I don’t like feeling overly full, so when I felt things starting to pile up, I slowed down and waited for my second wind. Sometimes, it never came.

What’s your favorite holiday movie? Anyone else out there a Charlie Brown Christmas virgin? My favorite has to be It’s a Wonderful Life. I mean, really, how can you beat it? And as for CBC…will you hate me if I say that I wasn’t super-impressed? Maybe it has to be something you’ve grown up with? I don’t know. The kids liked it well enough, so we’re calling it a win.

P.S. I’ll be picking a winner to our current MOMbassadors giveaway tonight, so don’t forget to enter if you haven’t already!

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Gratitude is not a feeling…

gratitude is not a feeling

I wasn’t even sure if I was going to post this week. I’ve got a lot on my plate at the moment, and I know you guys are busy too.

But I had a vague idea of wanting to do a thankfulness post of some sort. I just didn’t want it to be the usual thing. I mean, yes, I am ridiculously thankful for my family, my friends, my house, our health, my physical possessions…and on and on the list goes.

But if I weren’t, I’d kind of be a jerk. After all, I have zero real complaints in any of those departments, so anything but the requisite attitude of gratitude would be, well, downright ungracious.

So, without any new revelations on thanksgiving, I was planning to announce my intention to take the week off and wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!

Then, last night happened.

And now I have all kinds of, um, unique things to be thankful for:

1) I am grateful that my house has not burned down.

2) I am grateful my children do remarkably well in grocery stores, even when they’re hungry, the grocery list is longer than Mama’s arm, and it’s very cold and wet outside.

3) I am grateful my husband works from home.

4) I’m also grateful my husband is still speaking to me.

5) I’m grateful for Subway.

6) I’m very very grateful for Febreeze.

There are more, but let’s just get to the story behind all of these oddly specific points of gratitude.

I posted this on our Facebook page after “the incident,” and I thought it was worthy of blogging too (especially considering its length).

“Oh, y’all. It’s been quite the night.

The bad stuff: I left a burner on on the stove when I put dinner in the oven, and then we left for the gym.
My husband took the casserole out when he was supposed to, and then put it on the stove top, not realizing, of course, that I’d left the burner on.
He didn’t know that dinner had burnt to a crisp and then exploded all over the kitchen and filled the house with billows of black, acrid smoke until they finally made it all the way to his office which is at the farthest, second story corner of the house from the kitchen.

The everyday stuff: while all of this was happening, the kids and I went to Wal-mart in 35 degree nasty, awful, no good wet weather after 2 hours of taking/teaching classes at the gym. We were at the store for an hour and 1/2. An entire box of angel hair pasta ended up on the ground. My heel got rammed by a grocery cart at least 3 times. A wipes box burst open and spilled its contents on the ground as I was getting it out for the checker to scan (sensing a theme?). There were only 3 regular lines open, and with two entire baskets full of groceries (and children), something tells me we couldn’t have faked our way through the 20 items or less line. And by the time we finally finished checking out and dragged ourselves through the inside-Walmart-Subway to get sandwiches to replace the aforementioned exploded dinner, the twins were practically hiccuping (screechily) with exhaustion and even the Craisins I was shoveling in their mouths weren’t doing the trick. And, then, by the time I got all the kids and all $277 worth of groceries (I had been putting this trip off for a looooooong time) in the back, my hands were shaking uncontrollably with the cold. (Because 35 degrees of wetness feels waaaaay colder than 18 degrees of dryness).

And I’m not gonna lie: I was pretty tempted to mope. Like, really? I spent TIME out of a very busy day on that stinkin’ casserole. I kind of can’t stand grocery shopping already, much less when there’s borderline freezing water in my shoes, and there are people clogging the aisles doing their Thanksgiving shopping, making it very hard for my easily distracted 7-year-old to not mow somebody down (usually me). Plus, there are no open lines. Plus, I’ve been assured that when I get home, every inch of my house will smell like a charred casserole exploded and ate my kitchen whole because, oh wait, it pretty much did.

But then, darn it, if God didn’t remind me that, while my whiny little self with my chattery teeth leaned in close to my van’s heater vents as I drove my five healthy, sweet children home with a back hatch brimming with grocery bags, there were most certainly people not 10 miles away with no groceries, no heaters, and no husband at home to clean up the mess and open the windows and light candles and basically make himself so sick trying to get rid of the awful smell that he had to lie down to avoid vomiting. Those people would give anything to have a big kitchen like mine to explode a casserole in. Those people would give anything to have $277 to spend on food, and then some leftover to buy stock in Febreeze.

I know this is long and windy and maybe more than a little affected by smoke-inhalation and the fact that it’s entirely too late right now. But seriously. Even if my house had burned down (and praise JESUS it didn’t because of my stupidity), I would still be better off than most of the world’s population.
And it’s realizations like that that bring forth real thanksgiving. Real praise. Real gratitude.

May I not soon forget it.”

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What I didn’t mention in that novel  status update was that my husband never said one word about my mistake. In fact, I was the one struggling with mild snippiness when I got home, not because I thought it was his fault (it wasn’t!) but because I was worn out and wanted something, anything, to be upset at. I got over it pretty quickly, and I never lost it at either the store or at home (that’s God, y’all). But as I huddled in my van, letting the seat warmers restore much-appreciated heat to my stiff legs, all I could think about were persecuted believers around the world who spend every night of the winter in their cells, with nothing but a thin blanket—if they’re lucky—to combat the cold. I hate being cold, y’all. It makes me cranky. It does not inspire an attitude of gratitude in my soul. And yet I’ve read story after story about how these wrongfully imprisoned folks spend their time focusing on Bible memory and prayer (for their captors!) to take their minds away from their physical and emotional misery.

And it hit me—a simple truth that I already know but need a reminder of pretty much every single day.

Gratitude is not a feeling. It’s a choice.

Because if I’m only grateful when things are going my way, then I’m not very grateful at all. Just relieved and pleased that my life is easy.

But if I choose to see the good when the bad is more obvious—to give thanks in all circumstances—then I can finally begin to grasp the true meaning of the word “grateful.”

Do I do this well? Nope. In fact, I kind of stink at it most of the time. But I’m so so grateful (there’s that word again) for those moments when I feel like God has really hammered it into my heart. (Especially when he leaves behind a lingering stench as a reminder).

I am very grateful for the opportunity to practice real gratitude.

P.S. In case you’re curious about the stories I mentioned, then check out Voice of the Martyrs. It is such an inspiring, encouraging, and convicting resource that will surely bring a heaping helping of perspective. At least that’s what it does for me.

P.P.S. If you’re interested in helping out a specific wrongly imprisoned man, you can read about Pastor Saeed, a U.S. citizen who is being wrongfully imprisoned in Iran because of his Christian faith, and even sign a petition requesting his release.

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Confessions of a Wannabe Stylist (Fall Family Photos + Tips)

Have you entered to win $75 from the Pleated Poppy yet? (I’m linking up with her for What I Wore Wednesday today!).

I have this fantasy that I would really love being a magazine stylist. I can imagine putting whole photo shoots together with one fabulous bracelet or torn-out picture or pretty plate as the inspiration for the elaborate, perfect-down-to-the-last-detail finished product.

In reality, though, I’m pretty sure I would be a stressed out mess with damp armpits and a tension knot tighter than my almost-3-year-old’s sphincter—at least when she’s sitting on the potty—at the base of my neck. And while I massaged that sucker, I’d be busy second-guessing the placement of that bowl or the scarf on that model. Plus, I’d be worrying about how many more months of potty-training my fragile psyche could take before I snapped and bought stock in adult diapers since that’s clearly a good investment for us.

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“Hey Maaaaamma. I just made you a present!”

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Not too surprisingly, I’m sticking with my day job because a) baby girl twins don’t get all, “I’m sorry, but I don’t do horizontal stripes” on you when you dress them in high-water leggings (apparently, they just had a growth spurt), and b) I don’t think anyone wants me “styling” them when I’ve got soggy cracker crumbs and goodness knows what else all over my shirt.

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(From left to right: Nola-13 months, Simon-almost 6, Evy-13 months, Ezra-7 1/2, and Della-almost 3)

Plus—bonus—when you find an adorable green/navy polka dot shirt dress that you would wear if only it came in something other than toddler sizes, you can buy it for your toddler instead and begin what will surely become a longstanding tradition of living vicariously through her.

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“Mama, you can’t fool us. We know these ‘shirts’ are actually six-month dresses that Great Aunt Tonya gave us last Christmas. What, you couldn’t spring for something in our actual size?”

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{Can you tell that I am attempting to will all 6 of our heads in the same direction by the sheer force of my concentration and ability to smile while talking through clenched teeth? It almost worked!}

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Little boy clothes are so much better than they used to be. Seriously. Chambray shirts for my not-quite-six-year-old? Swoon. Also, sweet brother love? Swoon again.

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I love Evy’s expression (center), which clearly says, “Who are all of these laughing people and why am I forced to sit here in their midst?”

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And in this one, it’s Della’s expression that takes the cake. Either that, or Nola’s “Thriller” moves.
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Not that it took Della too long to catch on to the zaniness (pardon her glowing green dress. For some reason, it reacted more strongly than any other color in the picture when I lightened it).

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Good grief. Seriously, y’all. Sometimes, I just look at my children and think, “How did I get so blessed?” Of course, 5 minutes later, I’m thinking, “Where is the nearest bus stop and will they pick all of them up if I put a bow around their middles?” But still. They’re pretty great kids.

Oh, and just in case you’re wondering about my philosophy for styling our family for pictures, here’s how I like to roll to keep things coordinated but not too matchy-matchy.

styling family photos

I’m certainly no expert, but these guidelines  have served me well for our other photo shoots as well (you can see how I applied similar concepts in  our prenatal shots, our family photo shoots 1 and 2, Mother’s day pics and our lake pictures)

Clothing sources (I’m only listing the ones I bought recently):

Della’s dress: Old Navy outlet (about $8 after a coupon)

My dress: Anthropologie (a $50 splurge; I posted about it on the blog when it was still full-price; it’s sold out online, but you might be able to find it in stores. I bought mine 2 weeks ago in South Carolina at Allume)

The twins’ leggings (which have adorable ruffles on the bum): Old Navy outlet ($3 each after a coupon)

Ezra’s shirt: Target ($10)

Simon’s shirt: Kohl’s ($10 after a coupon)

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