Category Archives: Kids

2 Months of Honor

It feels like mere days since I did Honor’s 1 month update. Like…last week, right?

But no. A whole month has passed, and this little boy of ours is getting less little by the minute it seems. Especially considering that I put him a 6 month sleeper the other day, and…it FIT. 6 months. He’s 8 weeks, yo. That’s just wrong.

Everything else is juuuuust right, though. Seriously, he deserves some sort of award for being the chillest baby in the land. Joely, a super sweet freshman girl who used to work in the childcare at our gym, texts me every time she’s home from college and begs to see my kids (see: suuuuper sweet), so Shaun and I snuck in a Tuesday night date while the kids yucked it up with Joely at home. Of course, we had our main little man with us, and he was the model citizen. You might even say it was an Honor to have him with us (grooooooooan. I know. so wrong).

8 weeks1

Such a chill dude.

He was awake (and happy!) for pretty much all four hours of the date, just staring around, cooing, smiling, making bubble goatees, and generally being an all-around sweetheart.

15 years ago, when I knew nothing about babies, I think I foolishly thought that those with lots of kids must surely get jaded by the whole process. Ho. Hum. Another baby. Big whoop.

But it IS a big whoop, as I’ve discovered more and more with each new little amazing human that has joined our clan. I might be getting MORE (not less) obsessed (which is saying something–because I was pretty dang smitten with Della, and she was number 3!).

I think I mentioned that Honor was sleeping great from the beginning but had yet to make the jump from 6 hours to anything longer consistently. Honestly, that was my fault. I hadn’t really hadto employ any of my more “hardcore” sleep-training techniques (letting him fuss before bed or cry a little at night) because he’d pretty much always slept for big chunks, since day 3.

But, one night, a few weeks ago, I put my mean mama mask on and put him in the bathroom when he started to stir after 6 hours and let him spit and mew for a bit (which he only did half-heartedly anyway). And the very next night, he bumped his sleeping stretch up to 8 hours and has been holding steady between 7-9 hours ever since.

Edit: I first wrote this a few days ago, but didn’t manage to get the pictures loaded (because that is the story of my life right now), and he slept a whopping 10 hours both of the last two nights!!

8 weeks

I slept 10 hours last night, and I feel grrrrrrEAT! (Also: baby feet). 

Which…is awfully considerate of him, since Theo has decided it’s time to try a little 2-year-old sleep regression on for size. Hint: it doesn’t look good on you, buddy. Mama thinks you’re the cutest toddler in the land, but she still has no interest in waking up at 3 AM to your chubby-cheeked self mouth-breathing an inch away from my nose.

As far as regular life, we’ve been pushing hard to get the house ready. It’s kind of a disheartening process. Just when I think we’ve got it in shape, the kids wake up. HA!

For real, though. It’s really, really hard to keep everything decluttered and straight and picked up when 9 people are con.stant.ly using it!

Still, the cabinets have been cleared out, their contents pared down, reorganized, wiped down, etc. The flowerbeds are completely done (and we haven’t killed anything yet!). Shaun has pressured-washed the exterior of the house. More loads of stuff than I even knew we owned have been carted off to Goodwill. (I’m starting to get downright ruthless…if it hasn’t been used in the last 15 minutes, it’s GONE).

And everyone has pitched in in his/her own way. I paid the oldest 3 a dollar each (which Della promptly gave to her grandma for her birthday…love that sweet girl!) to clean and organize my fridge, and it was 3 of the best dollars I’ve ever spent! They also completely overhauled and cleaned the pantry while I worked on closets, and it looks better than it has in years!

8 weeks4

Looking over into the kitchen and seeing moments like these–the older kids are painting the littles’ fingernails–give me such a boost of energy and motivation to keep plugging. 

As far as I’m concerned, I have ONE more space (a doozy) that serves as the game/outgrown clothes/pillow/suitcase/randomness closet, and it’s eating my lunch (mostly because I’m insisting on going through every last piece of 5 year old clothing instead of just shoving it all in bins), and the process of weeding out the stuff with the tiny stains I missed the first time and the stuff that’s just not cute enough to keep and the stuff that might come in handy (but who knows?!) is grueling for me. Well. As grueling as sifting through a surplus of possessions can be (we’re not talking about working in the rice paddies here, people).

Through it all, Honor continues to be a constant source of sunshine and snuggle breaks. MAN! I love this baby. I really couldn’t sugar-coat his existence if I tried because he’s just that sweet already.

8 weeks3

Best smile. Best baby. 

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

A friend texted me a thank you the other day for posting this blog (which is several years old by this point) and observed that, if life ever gets too busy to post, I should just repost this one, since it was such a lifesaver and as many people as possible should see it (having been the recipient of this life-changing tip from several readers, I know how grateful I was too). 

The stomach bug has ravaging the entire East Texas area, and–while my children have emerged largely unscathed (so far) (the twins + Theo are the only ones who’ve had a short-lived bout with it after a stint in the Chick-fil-a play area #ofcourse)–you better believe that my pantry is stocked with both of these items at all times (and that they were a large part of the reason our only stomach bug this season passed so quickly). 

So! Here you go. A repost of what is currently my most popular blog post according to my analytics page (must not just be East Texas getting hit). 

If the title of this post doesn’t just steal every little bit of thunder I might have been able to conjure up for it, I don’t know what does. grape juice Still, I feel like a little more explanation is needed, so here goes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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That time I didn’t go to Hawaii…

 

A few months before I started blogging, Shaun and I took a trip to Hawaii with Della (who was only two months old at the time).

kauai

{An evening excursion to the beach the first night we were there}

It was a fun trip, but I discovered while I was there that I don’t love Hawaii (because, apparently, if you don’t absolutely fall in love with Kauai, then Hawaii is not in your soul because it doesn’t get better than Kauai). Don’t get me wrong. Kauai is gorgeous. It just didn’t inspire the raptures in me that it does in some.

So, when Shaun found out that he would be going to Honolulu on a work trip, my initial thought was that I would try to go, but I wasn’t as excited as you might expect. Mostly because–having traveled once before to Hawaii with a newborn–I knew the limitations/challenges. Della did AH-MAZING everywhere we went…even on the 6 hour flights there and back. She hardly made a peep. And Honor is an equally chill baby, so he probably would have done well too. But still…he is a newborn. Who blows out his diaper, needs to eat often, and gets cranky if we can’t find him a quiet place to sleep.

Plus! The timing was terrible. We’re smack dab in the middle of getting our house ready to sell, and, as my friend Kristy says: “There’s nothing like moving to make you feel like hoarder.” (AKA: what IS all this stuff, and what idiot bought it?? Oh. Yeah. Me).

All that to say that I chose not to go. Instead I stayed home with 7 kids and did yard work. I know. What a doofus, right? But all I could think about was how busy Shaun usually is on his work trips and how I’m not a big beach girl and how I’d rather sell our house quickly than frolic by the pool. (Hmm…maybe not that last one).

Turns out, this was one of Shaun’s least busy trips. He got to surf and hike. He has told me more than once that I “should have come” (although, he was fine/in agreement with my decision to stay).

So, 7% of me (the whiny 7%) is all, “Booo! Poor me! Should have gone!” But the other 93% knows I did the right thing. The kids and I got SO much done (with help from my sweet parents, sister-in-law, and some awesome friends), and I know I would have been stressed by all that was still left to get done when I got back from Hawaii.

Plus, a super bizarre thing happened to my dad, which, although not his fault at all, still required a lot of running around and trouble for my mom. And that stress would have been magnified greatly by having six kids under her care. For that reason alone, I’m grateful that I didn’t go and grateful that the Lord is sovereign even down to the smallest detail.

Also, grateful that our flower beds are DONE! I’ve admitted here several times before that exteriors are not my forte. So, having that particular monkey off my back is a huge relief. We have friends whose family business is a plant farm, so last Friday, I dragged the four littlest out of bed before it was fully light and drove out to their plant farm, where our friend, Rob, proceeded to race me around helping me (code for: practically choosing for me, thank goodness) choose flowers. Then, I hustled home, unloaded the van, jumped back in and drove to town to teach my morning class. After which, I booked it home to start planting, stopping for mulch on the way. My mom and older kids were already there hacking away at my neglected flower beds.

flower beds

 

{Theo is napping and Honor is in the swing on the porch in this picture, in case you’re wondering}

I know that I talk a lot about how #hardisnotthesamethingasbad and, honestly, I think that one of the hardest and best things in mothering is child-training. Especially training your children to do the right thing–i.e. obey, go to bed, pick up after themselves, speak respectfully, work. 

Sure, potty-training is rough, but it’s less of a heart issue than so many other aspects, and training your child to be diligent or full of integrity or kind is where the true mama rubber meets the life road.

Surely, that’s why the Bible specifically commands us to: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6.

God knew we needed this promise. Because it’s just so much easier to do the chore yourself or ignore the eye roll or let the toddler sleep with you every night, amiright? Except that it’s really not. It’s easier at the time. But ultimately, laziness, whining,  bad attitudes, and no sleep are a hardship on everyone involved (including the whiners) and makes the inconvenience of the initial training pale in comparison. 

Not to mention that kids can be genuinely helpful. All of my kids (except Honor and–99% of the time–Theo) have been required to pitch in as we’ve organized closets, weeded, planted, swept, scrubbed trim, hauled out trash, and just generally given our house a much-needed shine-up.

honor

{This was Honor’s reaction when I told him we needed his help with the flowerbeds. #sideeye}

And, yes, there has been some fussing and complaining. But there’s been a lot more cooperation and hard work. I hadn’t told Shaun what we planned to do while he was gone (although, he knew that I would generally be working around the house to get things in shape), and the kids loved the concept of wowing Daddy with a surprise yard makeover.

Simon–who started out finding things to kvetch about–ended up being upset that he had to have any help raking and clearing our entire (very large) front yard. He wanted to be able to present Shaun with a leaf-free lawn courtesy of Simon alone. He ended up needing a little help to finish, but that idea of ownership was a huge motivation for him.

I don’t always encourage my children the way that I should, but I do try to take every opportunity to tell them how important they are to our family. Their worth is inherent, of course. But I also tell them almost daily how their help keeps a particular aspect of our household running smoothly. And they love it. They grin from ear-to-ear every time I praise their efforts.

I don’t mean to broadly generalize, but it does seem that our society has something very backward when it comes to kids and young people in general. They are handed more knowledge (much of it completely inappropriate) than they know what to do with or have the maturity to process correctly. But they are given very little responsibility or true opportunities to grow in maturity through manageable, age-appropriate tasks and goals.

What if, instead, we protected our children’s innocence while respecting their potential to contribute?

What if we trained their hearts while shielding their minds from junk and praising their authentic efforts to help?

Again, I’m far from perfect in this pursuit. But it is my goal. I want my children to honor God first with their attitudes and then be a blessing to others with the actions that follow (because just “doing the right thing” without the right heart attitude is only half the battle). And not just because it glorifies God or benefits man but also because it produces character and joy for them.

chaos

{If you’re like me, then sometimes, when bloggers claim that their house is a “hot mess,” but all you ever see are perfectly styled pictures, you think: “Yeah right. Not MY version of a hot mess, it’s not!” Well…see Exhibit A of Hot Mess Central. It definitely gets worse before it gets better. This is what happens when you empty every single kitchen drawer of its contents so that you can clean all the things}

Because I only want good for my children, but, just as hard is not the same thing as bad, easy is very often not the same thing as good.

And seeing how my children glowed when their daddy got home and gushed with pride and appreciation for how hard they’d worked only underscored just how rewarding the results of training can be.

ANYhoo, I hadn’t started this post intending to preach at you, but I hope that–if you’re in the trenches of child-training (I still am, for sure)–you’ll feel encouraged to hang in there.

My children have spent the vast majority of their spring break weeding, mulching, cleaning, and planting. And–as Ezra cheerfully proclaimed after a full day’s work–”Getting stuff done is FUN!” (Not always how he feels about it, but the fact that it’s EVER how he feels is enough to motivate me to stay the course).

flower beds1

So. Much. Progress. Want to come buy our house? ;)

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Baby Brain

You know how people are always talking about the things they’re going to ask God once they get to heaven?

Well, I’m inclined to think that–once we’re there and behold His glory–we’re not going to care. We humans are so intent on thinking that this earthly world of ours is all there is–that the affairs of it are the only ones that could possibly matter. We’re so NOW that we often can’t imagine caring (or not caring) about anything else.

If it sounds like I’m about to embark on a lengthy philosophical treatise about eternity, nothing could be further from the truth.

I just wanted to establish what I REALLY think about the subject of asking God WHY before I very frivolously claim that, when I get to heaven, I intend to ask God about the phenomenon of “baby brain.”

I’m sure I won’t really.

But here on this earth, I find myself befuddled about–well, a lot of things, including where I put my phone, which was JUST in my hands (oh yeah, it’s in my back pocket ::sheepish chuckle::). But mainly, I’m curious why, after you’ve had a baby, it seems that someone has liquified your brain and siphoned it out of your ear. I mean, I get that the lack of sleep thing is a major contributing factor. That makes sense. But the rest of it? You’ve just been entrusted with a tiny human, whom you must feed, care for, and generally shield from harm, and yet you find your IQ suddenly reduced to that of a slug. Who hasn’t slept in weeks (do slugs sleep? surely). HOW are we supposed to keep a baby alive when we’re constantly walking into rooms with zero inkling of why we’re there, and there’s at least a chance we’ll try to clean our teeth with our hairbrushes if we’re not careful.

baby brain

It’s a good thing you’re cute, you little brain-sucker. Because I used to be marginally intelligent. I think. 

And the talking? It’s hopeless. This one has been the most pronounced for me this time around. As if I didn’t already have enough names to get wrong with regular old kid brain. Now, I’ve added another name, and my gray matter is in an extraordinary state of mush, which means that I stare directly at one of my children (who knows which) and intone: “Ezra! Simon! Evy! Theo! Faith! (a cat)…ugh! N-O-L-A!!!!!”

Every single time.

I called Honor “Theo” 9 times out of 10 for the first week of his life.

The other day, I explained to Simon that he needed to get a towel from the pantry to clean up a spill because I’d already put all of the dirty ones in the dishwasher. And the most astonishing thing about that scenario is that I hadn’t actually done either of those things…just messed up the nouns.

It is a genuine struggle for me to form sentences these days, people. Often to hilarious effect. Except that, usually, I have no idea what I’ve just said. My children sure are enjoying it, though.

It’s just a constant stream of: “You said, ‘dinner.’ Did you mean, ‘lunch?’” And: “You said, ‘Drink your yogurt.’ How am I supposed to do that?”

Funny, kids. Real funny. Your mother is thisclose to the insane asylum, and you’re goading her. That’s dangerous. She is the one who makes the food, after all.

haircuts

Hey look! It’s Who’s-it, What’s-it, That girl, What’s-his-name, and What’s-her-face (plus two more that I really can’t place).

And teaching fitness classes is a total lark. I have to memorize large amounts of choreography that  coordinate exactly with specific beats of specific music. And, when your brain is only functioning at 7%, that is quite a feat. Sometimes, an unmanageable one. I do all right, for the most part. But yesterday, as I was teaching BODYCOMBAT, a song started, and my brain literally stalled. And I just stood there, thinking: I don’t even know which appendage to move first. One of my participants, who practically knows the choreography better than I do, starting moving her legs, so I followed her, even though I was sure she wasn’t quite right. We did half the track before my brain finally remembered what it was supposed to be telling my body to do.

Argh.

I would say it’s embarrassing. But many of my faithfuls have been taking my classes since I was pregnant with Della, so they’re kind of used to the drill. Abbie just had a baby. Abbie will not be firing on all cylinders for a while. ::Shrug::

know I’m not alone–that baby brain is a very real thing (even if our husbands don’t believe it).

But what I want to know is: what is the funniest/worst/baby brainiest moment you’ve had as a mama?

Mine is actually kind of major. And maybe I’ll share it someday. But not right now (I know; so mean). Honor’s hungry, and the rest of the natives are getting restless.

Whatever their names are…

P.S. If you find an unusually large number of typos in this post, well, I would expect no less.

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Mama Life Hacks {#22}: A Breast-feeding Tip to Prevent Soreness

I almost feel embarrassed to admit that I’ve gotten horribly sore (we’re talking cracking, bleeding, blistering…the works) with every single baby except Honor. After all, that must mean that–six babies in–I still couldn’t figure out how to get a good latch.

Thing was, I’d had several people–long-time midwives and lactation experts among them–confirm that there was nothing wrong with my latch. Everything was where it should be. Baby’s lips were flanged. We were good. I’ve been able to successfully feed all of my babies for a year or more (well, Ezra actually only made it to 9 months, but that child ate so. much. food that my body literally could not keep up enough supply, at which point I got pregnant, and my milk supply completely tanked), so clearly, I’m doing something right. But for the first two weeks, I’ve been in so much pain that I dreaded every single feeding.

I have several mama friends who have confirmed the same–their latches were good, and nursing was going smoothly. Except for the fact that, until calluses formed, the entire process was excruciating, every single time. Of course, I’ve also known a few friends who have never dealt with nursing soreness, regardless of how practiced or not they were, so I just figured I was among the “lucky ones.”

You know who you are: the ones who take deep breaths and hold them to stifle the screams as your baby latches (or maybe you just muffle them into a pillow…not that I would know anything about that). You stomp your feet and hunch your shoulders up to your ears until, finally, the sucking numbs the pain, and you can relax a little. At least until next time.

If this sounds familiar, then this post is for you.

nursing 1

Because, for the first time in my considerable nursing career, I did NOT get sore while feeding my newborn, and it made a worldof difference in my recovery and mindset about feeding my baby in those first few weeks. 

And I have my rock star midwife, Melena, to thank for it.

Honestly, I don’t know that she would have even presumed to tell me anything if I hadn’t mentioned that fact that I dread nursing for the first bit after I have a baby (because who wants to tell a mama of so many something that she surely already knows?). But, since I did bring it up, she asked if she could show me something that had been helping her clients. And I said, OF COURSE! Honestly, I was a bit skeptical that anything would work for me and my (apparently) sensitive skin. But I was willing to give it a shot.

Thankfully, she sent me videos to show you (the first is real people, and the second is done with sock puppets, so pretty inoffensive to even the most modest) because I’ve thought about how to describe the latching process several times, and I just don’t think I can do it justice, especially for those of you who (like me) need visual aids for this sort of thing.

Here’s Video 1.

And Video 2.

The first part of the process is a different kind of position/latching method than I’ve ever used (seen in Video 2), and I honestly found it awkward and strange (I think almost anyone would). But I still did it for the first several days because I was determined to do everything I could to avoid the pain. And I believe it helped Honor to get an especially deep latch from the beginning. (I have since reverted to my usual latching method, and it works great now that I’ve got the second part of the process down).

But the second part, which isn’t featured in the videos, was the the most life-changing for me.

Once Honor had a good, deep latch, Melena had me basically slide him horizontally away from the breast on which he is latched toward the opposite breast. Not a lot. Just enough so that, instead of being directly on the nipple, the baby is, instead, slid away (as in toward the opposite arm, not down toward your navel), which redirects the nipple toward the roof of his mouth and takes all of the sucking force of off the ridge.

Oh my goodness, y’all. It’s so simple–literally a 1″ shift at most–but so effective.

As in practically no soreness (there’s a bit of a learning curve, and all it takes is a couple of minutes of sucking in a bad position to get a little bit sore, so I can’t say zero pain).

I spent the first 3 days thinking it was too good to be true. That surely the chafing and cracking were still coming. Something this easy couldn’t possibly have been the solution all along.

Or could it?

I am now convinced that it could and is the solution to my nursing angst.

I had considered sharing but wasn’t sure how many might need the info. But when I referenced this tip in passing in one of my posts and got a barrage of comments begging me to elaborate, I knew it was something that needed a blog of its own.

When I asked Melena why more people weren’t sharing this trick, she said that she was never taught this either and can’t even remember how she happened upon the videos (that I shared above) but that they just made sense to her. So, she started sharing with her clients, and they started seeing results. She also said that she knows many lactation specialists who teach that a good, deep latch–with the baby’s lips flanged–is the only factor for success, when, in fact, the positioning of the nipple in the baby’s mouth is equally (or, as I discovered for myself, MORE) important.

I so hope this helps you guys as much as it helped me. As I mentioned earlier, it completely transformed my view of nursing in the early days. I love nursing my babies once the soreness goes away. And I am determined to fight through it at the beginning to give them mama milk. But to not have to deal with it at all? It almost feels to good to be true!

Praise God for wise midwives who risk the wrath of potentially know-it-all mamas to share their wealth of knowledge!

P.S. Feel free to pass this along to any mama friends who might need to see it. I guarantee they will thank you for it.

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7th Heaven

Because how could I not use that title at least once?

So, I have a feeling that at least 2 of you are wondering what life with 7 kids is like. And let it never be said that I mind writing for a small audience because I’m going to deliver the goods for all 2 of you right here, right now.

Life with 7 is…a whole lot like life with 6.

In other words: busy, but good.

Edit: I started writing this a week ago. So. Yeah. Very Busy. 

The end.

HA. There is not one single person out there who has read more than one post of mine who believes for even a nanosecond that I did or even could write a 100 word blog post. (Because that sentence, alone, had 35 words).

But seriously. Adding a baby to our daily life has been a remarkably smooth process, due to several factors.

1. My mom kept all 6 of the other kids for 5 days after Honor was born, which, yes, I realize, pretty well qualifies her for sainthood and makes me spoiled rotten (guilty). She even brought homemade dinner with the kids to meet Honor the day he was born then took them all back home again. And let me just say that–when you’ve had 6 kids already–5 kid-free days to rest, recover, and bond with your baby is completely unexpected…and all the more amazing for it (although, there were several evenings I almost made Shaun go get the other kids because I was missing them something fierce, and the house was entirely too quiet).

2. Once we were all back together, the crazy levels never got out of hand. The older kids, including Theo, have all been super-chill–while still extremely excited–about Honor’s arrival. (I wouldn’t say that Theo has been “super-chill” in general because, well, he’s two, and the emotions, they are strong. But he loves his baby brother).

Ezra–true to his “helper” name–would gladly hold Honor all day long, which is a huge–yes–help when I need to flip the laundry or even take a shower. Shaun has been around a fair bit, which doesn’t hurt, but the kids and I are managing pretty well on our own too.

7th heaven1

{I need to give Simon his “helpful brother” due too. This is the scene I turned around to one day from the kitchen. Gosh, those boys are sweet; also, don’t you love my clumsy baby nudity censorship?}

3. We’ve gotten back into our routine as quickly as possible. We started back to homeschooling the week after the baby came, and we even made it to our homeschool co-op last Monday and today. (Honor just hangs out with me and naps in his car seat or the crook of my arm while I grade papers…or he gets held by a succession of eager-to-help fellow homeschool mamas).

I probably would have waited longer to jump back into thick of things if we hadn’t just had Christmas break, but we all needed some schedule in our lives, and it has helped to stave off the baby blues (which I tend to get if I have too much time to think).

I even managed my first solo flight a week and 1/2 ago with seven kids (to the grocery store, mostly) and only rolled my eyes halfway back in my head at my own ding-battedness after Honor COMPLETELY peed through his outfit, and I fished around in my bag to discover wipes and a change of clothes but not one single newborn diaper. Of course, when I decided I would just have to diaper him up to his eyeballs in one of Theo’s size 4′s, I discovered I was out of those too. #meforpresident

7th heaven

{I felt like we needed a herald going before us declaring, “Here ye, here ye. Your ankles, knees, and hips are in grave danger of assault by these awesomely unwieldy car carts. HIDE!”}

Thank goodness for a nearby gas station, which sold size 2 diapers…so he only had to be diapered up to his armpits.

Shaun and I managed to sneak off to Dallas last Monday (thanks again to my nice mama) for a last minute birthday celebration dinner (for him) and circumcision date (for Honor). I’ll give you one guess which one of them enjoyed that trip more. Spoiler: it wasn’t Honor.

And last night, we had 35 people in our house for a joint birthday (for my bro and Shaun) + Super Bowl party.

Like I said: busy. But good!

4. My physical recovery has been swift and (mostly) easy. Minus some rather atrocious after-birth pains for the first week, I’ve had very little pain or issues. I attribute this to a) the grace of God, b) water birth (way less bruising than usual), c) a brilliant tip from my midwife, which made latching better and helped me avoid the nasty nursing soreness I’ve battled every other time, d) decent amounts of sleep (see below), and e) using an ingenious invention called a Belly Bandit, which has helped so much with ab/organ support.

5. Honor is a total babe of a babe. He sleeps 5-6 hour stretches at night, takes great naps during the day, eats really well, and is generally the picture of health and contentment. Even in utero, he seemed to have his days and nights straight and that has continued (at least in some small part due to the fact that we’ve been implementing our tried and true–for us–sleep-training tricks from pretty much week 1).

7th heaven2

{Hanging out with the big kids}

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t let myself worry (as much as possible) about what life with another baby in the house will be like…mostly because it doesn’t change a thing, and it doesn’t help me prepare.

cover pic2

{Hey look! I finally got a new photo that we can use as a blog-header. One that includes ALL of my children and isn’t 3 years old. How long will it take me to actually get it up there on the home page? Who. Knows). 

It helps that I’m not a worrier in general, but I can be a stresser (the two are different in my mind). But even with the inevitable hiccups and hardships that come with introducing anything new–much less a tiny human–into your life, each transition has been better than I expected–at least partially because I keep my expectations low or nonexistent.

I may sing a different tune when it comes time to stage our current house, sell it, and then move (the goal is a couple of months, but we’ll see). For now, though, I’m trying to do the next thing and not worry about the stuff I can’t get to yet.

So far, so good. Because God is good. And hard is not the same thing as bad. (Come to think of it, neither is easy…because sometimes, we just need a little stretch of unexpectedly easy to rejuvenate our spirits).

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Honor’s Otter

So, I’ve had quite a few questions about Honor’s name: where did we come up with it? why did we choose it?

That sort of thing.

Which I totally understand because it’s not exactly a usual name.

Interestingly enough, as I mentioned in my teaser on my “name game” repost, I feel like it still fits with the rest of our names because a) it’s only two syllables (this is a completely unintentional “requirement,” but it has held true so far) and b) it’s old-fashioned–hailing from the 1800′s.

Another thing? It’s almost exclusively a girl’s name. As in, it’s not common, period. But anytime it does show up, it’s almost always associated with a female.

Which…seems strange to me, since the word Honor evokes a strong, masculine sense of purpose and integrity.

It’s a strong-sounding name to me. And to Shaun too, apparently, who surprised me again (just like he did with Ezra, Adelaide, and Magnolia) by preferring it over some of the more “normal” options we considered.

As far as where I first heard it?

Well, let’s just say that most of the original seeds for my children’s name inspirations are planted in less-than-highbrow soil.

Here are the origins of each of my children’s names:

Ezra: a fitness teacher friend mentioned a student named Ezra during class one day 12ish years ago, and I loved it immediately (clearly, I already knew about the Biblical book, but I’d never heard it used in conversation as a “real” name, and that made all the difference for me).

Simon: don’t remember. Shaun and I both just liked the name.

Adelaide–AKA “Della”: the name of the *dead and never pictured* mother of Emmeline Harris from Anne of Avonlea (the movie). I have literally loved the name since I first watched the movie a good 28 years ago.

Evangeline (which we pronounce–somewhat unusually–as: Eh-VAN-jeh-lin)–AKA “Evy”: the sister of one of my brother’s ex-girlfriends. It just appealed to me.

Magnolia–”Nola”: a dear friend mentioned a cousin’s friend’s sister’s baby (or something like that) with that name, and it majorly appealed to my Southern roots.

Theodore–AKA “Theo”: I spotted the name “Theo” in the rolling credits of an episode of Lost yeeears ago, and it just stuck in my mind.

Honor: the name of Logan’s sister in Gilmore Girls.

Clearly, I don’t tend to insist on their inception’s having great significance, but I will not name my child something if, after having researched its origin and meaning, it turns out to be something negative. (In case you’re wondering, my children’s names mean: “helper,” “he who hears/listens,” “noble,” “spreader of the gospel,” “a beautiful fragrant flower/tree,” “gift from God,” and “full of honor”…so we did all right in the end).

ANYhoo, not that you asked for that detailed of a rundown on all of my kids’ names when you asked about Honor’s, but I do know that I find the etymology of a person’s name fascinating, and others do too.

whole crew

 

{All the names I love in one spot!}

So! For those of you who are still awake, here is the story (that I promised to tell) of Honor’s Otter.

Shaun’s Grandma (Great-Grandma to our kids, of course) has a weekly Saturday gathering that we usually can’t attend because she lives over an hour away, but we try to go as much as possible.

One day, in the 2nd trimester of this last pregnancy, Shaun took the rest of the kids to Great-Grandma’s, while I…I don’t honestly remember, but it must have been significant because I pretty much always go.

And while he was there, one of the aunts asked Shaun what the new baby’s name would be.

To which he replied, “Honor.”

To which she replied: “…Huh??”

Shaun: “Hon-or.”

Her: “What?”

Shaun: “H-o-n-o-r.”

Her: “Ooooooooooh! I thought you were saying OTTER!!”

When Shaun came home and related this exchange, I got so tickled that I decided on the spot to change his name to Otter.

No, I didn’t.

But I did decide to commission Theresa to crochet Honor an Otter of his very own to commemorate his weird and wonderful name.

honors otter

Who knows? He made need therapy after having to spell his name for every single last person who asks for 18 years.

But, hey! At least he’ll be able to spell by age 2.

Any good baby name origin stories to tell? I’ll just be over here nursing Otter…er, I mean, Honor.

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The Twins are FOUR!

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

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

wood floor labeled

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

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

SO!

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

wood floor3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

twins birth

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

Of course, they are tiny no longer.

rockstar twins

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

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

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

twins are 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

And mine.

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

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

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

Praise God for that!

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

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

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

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

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

Whoa there, Mom.

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

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

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

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

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

Here is it:

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

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

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

blessed4

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

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

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

HOWEVER.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeremiah 29:11 says:

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

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

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

blessed1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

blessed

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

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

Save

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Meet Alexa (An Amazon Echo Review)

And no, Alexa is not the 7th child that we somehow sneaked into our family without anybody noticing (and no one who had ever read this name parallelism post would even begin to consider such a thing, since Alexa is pretty far outside our family name aesthetic).

I am not much of a techie. Quite the opposite. I mean, yes. I’m a blogger, but I probably wouldn’t be if it weren’t for my geektastic husband who helps me out with the trickier aspects.

Granted, I’m not quite as bad as I used to be–when saving a file was a source of never-ending angst (which directory did it disappear into? And how can there be this many different layers to sift through before I find the right one??! And yes, I know all of the Mac users are like: Apple, baby! But I am stubbornly/masochistically dedicated to my maddening PC).

But still, I am hardly the first (more like the 1 millionth and 1st) to jump on a new gadget’s bandwagon. I don’t even like updating my (few) apps. It messes with the (rather limited) memory on my phone and usually means that things–gasp–change (no joke, Abbie; think that might be the point, maybe?).

Which is why I was a less-than-rapt audience when Shaun first told me (rather excitedly) about the Amazon Echo (nope, not a sponsored post) maybe as much as a year ago. It sounded like something from “the future” (or the Jetson’s version of it), and I couldn’t see much point.

Imagine my surprise, then, when a package showed up on our doorstep after we got home from vacation with our very own Echo inside. I gave Shaun my best side-eye + “Hmph, men” expression.

alexa3

But then he started taking Alexa (you can address it as, “Echo,” “Amazon,” or “Alexa,” and the kids preferred the latter) through her paces, and I started to perk up a little.
So, what is this mysterious device? Well, it basically looks like an unassuming black cylindrical speaker (which is partly true) and functions as a voice-activated portal to all things news, music, weather, games, and quite a bit more.

alexa

You “wake her up” by saying, “Alexa,” and then follow with a command such as: “Add milk to my shopping list.” Or “Alexa, play Ellie Holcomb.” Or even: “Alexa, tell me a joke.” (Example: “What’s black and white and red all over?…An educated penguin.” Bah Dum Bum).

You can tell Alexa she’s pretty, and she’ll thank you for the compliment. You can play Simon Says or 20 Questions. You can ask her to sing Happy Birthday. She’ll play your Audible books or a Bible-reading app for you. She’ll tell you something interesting about that day’s date when you say, “Good morning,” and will set a timer for any amount of time that you tell her. She’ll tell you what day of the week a particular date was or will be.

Honestly, she’s kind of amazing, and I’ve never been so smitten by a piece of technology. I’ve always despised the learning curve that naturally accompanies a new machine, but with Alexa, because everything is spoken, it’s all pretty intuitive. As soon as you learn what she can do and how to give the correct command, you’re golden.

I’m sure I haven’t even scratched the surface of everything she can do (I’m interested to research how she can integrate with homeschooling), but for the moment, I’m enjoying the ability to walk downstairs and ask her to play the Good Morning song while we make breakfast (there’s nothing like a dance party in the kitchen to start the day off on a happy note). Or to tell the kids that they have six minutes to finish cleaning up the living room and be able to set the timer without walking from the laundry room to the kitchen stove. (Whoa, that makes me sound lazy). I’ve made grocery lists without a single pen or keystroke. Shaun and I have used her 7 Minute Workout feature to do a quick round (or 3) of exercise at night. We’ve even used her to lower the thermostat when we got too hot doing said exercise.

The kids, of course, think she’s magic. They tell her to play music, ask for jokes, give her copious compliments (to many of which she responds with a demure: “I’m not sure what you mean by that”) and play games like Zoo Keeper (you can ask for examples of animal sounds) and the Magic Door (an adventure game in which you choose from two or three options at a time to make your way through a series of scenarios that ultimately culminate in the opportunity to slay a dragon).

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{Shaun said, “Alexa,”from behind me right before I took this pic, and she obligingly lit up. He was more than a little pleased with himself}

She’s entertaining as can be and can keep the kids occupied for a good hour, but more than that, she’s darn useful (because if it were just games, I wouldn’t care much for her).

And I looooooooooove (not enough o’s believe it or not) being able to turn on soft music in the background with a phrase (the music comes from your Prime membership if you have it or an Amazon music library, Spotify, or Pandora if you don’t). Yesterday, the kids and I folded 3 loads of laundry while Norah Jones crooned from the kitchen, and it was kind of awesome. Oh, and the speaker quality is really good, with crisp, clear tones and good bass.

Shaun bought Alexa during Prime Days, so we got her for $100, I think. But–and I normally wouldn’t say this–I’d say she’s worth the $180 regular price.

And let me reiterate that Amazon is in no way sponsoring this post (although it does contain affiliate links).

I just thought I’d share something a little out of the ordinary for us that our family is really enjoying, in case you’ve been eyeing it and wondering whether it’s all it’s cracked up to be.

Now, if only I could figure out how to get Alexa to scrub my toilets for me. Oh wait, that’s what little boys are for.

What about you guys? Any experience with Amazon Echo?

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