Category Archives: Kids

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.

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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.

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(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.

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(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.

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{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.’”

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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A Wedding in Vail (Part 2)

Welp.

We’re back in Texas–the land of 156% humidity and no rain. Exceeeeept. We’ve actually gotten a fair bit of rain this past weekend, which has made the transition from the dry Colorado heat (and cool, crisp mornings) to “swimming in my own sweat” a bit more bearable.

I’m mostly happy to be back to our usual routine but not the least bit happy about the laundry situation. Actually, the house we rented had a washer and dryer, so I’m pretty caught up on dirty clothes, but just the process of returning 2 weeks worth of clothing (including lots of “special occasion” items we wouldn’t normally have with us but needed for the wedding) to their proper places for 8 different people is…not my favorite. Seriously, it’s making me consider capsule wardrobes for all of us.

Speaking of the wedding, I left you guys hanging just a wee bit last week, now didn’t I? Sorry about that. I have been writing this post piece-meal for the past 3 days, but the transition from time zones and driving/trying to sleep in the car all night has been a bit rough. (I might have taken a total of 4 hours of naps–split up–on Sunday to catch up…neither confirming nor denying this).

So, last we checked, the girls were all gussied up for the big event, and it was go time.
We drove over to the wedding site, which was mercifully close, and I hustled all three girls, still clad in curlers and play clothes (because the things that can and will happen to white dresses during a five minutes drive are just too numerous and ugly to count) into the women’s bathroom. I wanted their hair to have as long as possible to dry, but as I started unrolling it, I could tell that there were quite a few damp strands amidst all of the ringlets. All I could do was hope they would last through the ceremony and pictures. Praise the Lord for my new BFF, Emily (aka: the random girl washing her hands in the bathroom), who quickly sized up the situation and jumped right in unrolling curls, helping change the girls into their dresses, and fastening shoe straps. She was a Godsend. Of course, I thought we were on a bit more of a time-crunch than we were, since our flurry of activity ended in sitting around for a good 10 minutes waiting for further instructions. But better safe than sorry.

The following has to be my favorite picture of the entire shindig.

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I have no idea what I said that made the girls all gaze so adoringly at the ring-bearer (or him to make the perfect smug “stud muffin” expression), but I’m seriously hoping the quality of this picture is good enough to blow this one up big and frame it. Because I’m pretty sure I’ll need it when one of them marries cute little James one day.

vail13{Forgive the fuzzy bathroom pic… After all of the dithering about my hair, all I had time for was a low ponytail with a side braid–completely invisible here–and side-swept bangs, which I fruitlessly tried to tame with a straightener, producing rather limp results. Meh. But Shaun said he loved it. Good man}

ANYhoo, the moment of truth had arrived. I was feeling pretty good right up to the point that Evy got her bow retied and suddenly decided that, although it was tied in exactly the same way as before, it was worthy of a full-on feet-stamping tantrum. Good thing I’m not above a bit of bribery/threats when the situation is desperate enough. I reminded her, through a clenched teeth smile, that the Princess Jelly Beans that were waiting for her at the end of the aisle  would never make it into her eager little palms if she kept this up.

Miracle of miracles, the waterworks dried up pronto, and she and Nola lined up like the good little sugar-lovers they are.

I couldn’t see their faces as they walked down the aisle, being the hovering Prom Mom/flower/hair/shoe/prop checker that I was, but I’m told that there were some smiles, and–most importantly (so importantly)–neither of the twins dropped the adorable-if-slightly-hefty “Here Comes the Bride” sign on their toes.

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{Ha! Clearly in all of my attention to detail, I still managed to miss the sign sticker}

S-U-C-C-E-S-S

The rest was pretty much one big victory party. For me, at least. I mean, important stuff like vow exchanges and such happened, of course, but I was pretty confident of the adults’ abilities to do their parts. It was those sweet lil’ 3-year-olds that had me worried. Oh, and I should mention that Della was an utter professional. She swept down the aisle in time to the music scattering petals tastefully and smiling demurely. Girl’s got class.

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{Heading out into the sunshine to take 86 posed shots #goodtimes}

I would love to tell you that I did a wonderful job of photographing the gorgeous reception, but…I’d be lying. I literally got one “decent” shot.

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…and then went back to snatching steak knives out of little hands and steering the twins around the beautiful but precariously situated (read: entirely too close to our table; I had visions of their running headlong into it and the entire thing crashing down in a spectacular explosion of raspberry filling and buttercream) cake table.

But I/Shaun did snag a few keepers outside.

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This little woman gets more poised and thoughtful daily. I can already see glimpses of her grownup self, and it’s pretty amazing.

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And then there’s this young man.

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And this one. They’re both hilarious and wise and helpful. In between being total goofs, of course. Man, I love them!

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Everyone keeps commenting on “how BIG” Theo looks with his haircut, and I can’t help but agree. *Sniff.*

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I realize the next pic was supposed to be of the twins together, but they were pictured out by this point (as evidenced by Nola’s enthusiasm above). vail5

Posing with my beautiful cousin, Amanda. Before Nola’s picture-taking humor turned sour.

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Aaaand after. The twins had already been told a minimum of 6 times: “This is the last photo. Just smile oooooone more time.” #nope Also…note my expert use of the “the mom claw.”

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{Poised bride and senior flower girl; unimpressed junior flower girls}

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And a semi-decent pic of my whole family? Whaaa? Miraculous, I tell you.

Try as I might, I didn’t manage to snag one single decent pic of the kids bogeying down on the dance floor, but I did capture some of their more memorable moves in a quick video on IG.

So, there you have it. Many, many pictures and words about a very pretty, very fun, very busy wedding.

And now to tackle that laundry.  But first, sleep.

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A Wedding in Vail {Part 1}

Whoa.

The past week has been a blur. I looked up this morning expecting it to be Monday, maaaaybe Tuesday, only to realize that–shoot!–it’s Wednesday, I haven’t blogged in over a week, and our vacation is almost over. (Pssst…even when I’m not blogging, you can still find daily updates on Instagram).

Okay, so I’m not quite that clueless, but the last 7 days or so  have melted together in a rush of travel and wedding activity.

The past few days have been a welcome respite from the busyness (we decided to stay a few days longer in Colorado after the wedding at an Airbnb rental in Broomfield), but I haven’t done (or felt like doing) much other than my best slug impression (although, I did get a free pass to a local gym yesterday and did BODYCOMBAT + GRIT STRENGTH for the first time in a week, and now eeevvverything hurts).

ANYhoo, how about that wedding that I went on and on about for weeks on end?

It. was. lovely.

And a lot of fun.

I’d only been to Vail once before (that I can remember), and while I had a vague impression of charm, my memory was a pale facsimile of reality.

I’m pretty sure at one point I said: “This is better than Disneyland!”

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Vail Village–while far from “real” (no convenience stores, grocery stores, gas stations, or otherwise necessary shops)–is such a picturesque escape from reality that it’s hard to care. Window boxes fair-to-bursting with vibrant blooms everywhere you turn, funky sculptures, adorable boutiques, a burbling river that runs through the center…and all of it set against the backdrop of the mountains and the crisp blue Colorado sky.

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{Theo woke up at 5 one morning, went back to sleep, but I couldn’t, so I went for a “run.” Code for mostly walk. Because I’m an elevation wimp}

It’s seriously Fairy Land.

We pulled in around 3 PM after driving all night last Tuesday and the first half of Wednesday. Other than Evy waking up and squawking every 15 minutes for the first 4 hours, the drive went as smoothly as it possibly could have. In what I can only describe as God’s care for the details of our lives, Theo, who had been churning out pretty horrendous teething diapers every half hour for a week, didn’t poop once on the entire 18 hour car ride. Grateful doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt…even when he made 4 (!!) huge diapers within an hour of our pulling into Vail.

We were staying in the same condo as my parents, which was great, since my kids adore their Safta and Sabba, and my mom is pretty much the grandmother of everyone’s dreams (always willing to babysit, help, change diapers, do laundry, and just generally be a blessing).

We took the (free) public bus to the local Safeway (the kids thought riding the bus was the raddest thing ev-ah) and then proceeded to buy way too many groceries without realizing that we would have to haul them across a highway to the rather strangely situated return bus stop. Whoops. Let’s just say that, after contemplating hauling 6 kids plus 8 bags of groceries and a watermelon across the highway, we dismissed that thought and called Shaun to come rescue us.

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{Della: “Softa, this bus is sooooo fun. It’s like the funnest ever.” Not sure where she picked up her Valley Girl vernacular, but it’s pretty cute}

Thursday morning, Shaun and I took the kids on a jaunt through the village and up the pathway to the river + the park. Simon fell in the river, but, really, with six kids, that was bound to happen to at least one.

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{Simon is likely dunking himself in the background. Theo and Daddy aren’t too worried about it; also, RIP, Theo’s curls}

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Here we are at a bus stop that we would likely have waited at for a very long time had someone not come along and informed us that that particular bus was only running every 2 hours.

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And what would a family “hike” be if it didn’t end in celebratory ice cream?

Thursday evening was the first of a series of wedding festivities–a pizza/pool party at the Lion’s Square Lodge. The kids took turns shivering in the pool, but I was glad that none of the adults seemed the least bit interested (and also that I have a 10 and 8-year-old who are happy to save their mama some swimsuit angst and herd the little kids in their floaties in the shallow end–don’t worry; there was always an adult on the edge of the pool too).

We got to meet the lovely bride (who was marrying my first cousin, Erik), and the girls (the twins especially) shined up to her immediately, offering shy hugs that quickly morphed into Koala bear clinginess at every opportunity.  (Sorry no photographic evidence was captured of this adorableness).

Friday was the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, so the girls and I headed to the rehearsal at noon while the boys (minus Theo) rode the gondola for some fun on the mountain. Not gonna lie. I was sad to miss the mountain adventures, but it was still pretty cute to see the girls taking their flower girl roles so seriously…prancing gravely down the “aisle” (it was an outdoor venue, so they mostly tried—and failed–to walk a straight line in the pavement and pretend that there were people on each side).

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{The bride gave them matching satin clutch purses and “pearl” bracelets, and they were just a wee bit thrilled}

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{My Aunt Patti–mother of the groom–was so sweet to the girls, even giving them wedding-themed coloring books/crayons, which kept them enthralled as we waited for the rest of the wedding party to practice}

Meanwhile, Della and I took shameless selfies.

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The rehearsal dinner was at a charming Austrian restaurant inside a resort called Sonnenalp (conveniently located a stone’s throw away from our condo), and, while multiple trips to the huge bathroom several levels down were the little kids’ favorite activity, the food was delicious, and I was just happy to make it through a 3 hour shindig with a minimum of spilled drinks and tears. (Between my brother’s two little girls–ages 2 and 9 months–and my brood, there were 8 kids, 10 and under, at 1 table; it could have been disastrous, but the kids did great).

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Nola: I luuurve Uncle Shae.

Shae:

{Kidding, he’s a fabulous uncle; just managed to catch him at a rather blank moment}

I’d been worry-warting about the girls’ hair for a while, since the twins’ is stick-straight and fine, and Della’s is long but still needs a little help to look smooth. I wanted curls but had struck out with trial runs of foam curlers and curling irons. Lots of nice people on social media suggested curlers through the night, but we were home way too late from the rehearsal dinner to stay up and roll. Plus, the twins were doing well to keep the curlers in for an hour, much less sleep on them.

ANYhoo, Saturday arrived–WEDDING day!–and the girls were suuuuper excited. Most of the day was spent in some form of preparation or another. But my mom was nice enough to keep kids while Shaun and I slipped away for a quick bite.

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Mmmm…crepes + bacon.

When the girls got up from naps, we went into full-on beauty mode. Pretty much everybody who wasn’t dressing him/herself got in on the action, whether it was toenail painting (Shaun: “So…how do you keep the paint from getting on everything around the nail?”) or hair-drying (Simon can wield a mean blow-dryer, y’all).  I dampened the girls’ hair, applied mousse, then rolled them in foam rollers and blasted them with the hair-dryer. I knew it would be touch-and-go, but it was the best option we had, so we went with it.

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Clearly, they loved the process. Clearly, I was very sympathetic.

A couple of hours later, it was time to go–not so much because were were all as ready as I would have liked but because we had run out of time.

Wedding time was upon us…

And now, lunchtime is upon me. Plus, this is really long.

Part 2 is coming…get excited.

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For such a time as this…

First up, thanks so much for all of your suggestions/advice on what I should wear to the wedding. Especially those of you who took the time to send me links. Y’all are nice! I’ll be sure to keep you updated.

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A few months back, I attended an event featuring a panel of “powerful” Christian women. I use the quotation marks because, of course, nobody is truly powerful but God, but these women are definitely influential in the Christian spheres in which they move.

And while I was  impressed with their accomplishments and their talents, I left feeling a bit let down by their philosophies of work and motherhood.

Each woman on the panel is both a mom and an entrepreneur. Great! Me too! Definitely nothing wrong with that. I don’t choose to monetize this blog (did you know that? I don’t know if that will always be the case, but I make very, very little money as a blogger…by choice), but I do teach exercise classes and  have my art print business, Paint and Prose, with my friend/business partner, Lindsay, and I am really grateful to have outlets that also provide some income for my family.

As a Biblical point of reference, the Proverbs 31 woman buys fields, “makes linen garments and sells them,” (she’d be a hit on Etsy!) and “perceives that her merchandise is profitable.” She “does not eat the bread of idleness.” In other words, she’s  the ultimate worker bee. Much more so than I am (SO not a fan of getting up “while it is still night;” yikes!).

But the emphasis in that passage is not on the name she made for herself. Or on the amount of money she raked in. Or on how many books she wrote about her impeccable housekeeping skills. Or on how many people followed her on Instagram (I have to think that, had she had access to social media, she probably wouldn’t have spent much time on it).

No, it’s on the way she cares for her family and her community. She brings good, honor, and security to her husband (vs. 11-12, 23), she feeds and clothes her children well (vs. 15, 21), and she provides for the poor and needy (vs. 20).

Now, obviously, this woman is a prototype–an example to strive for. AND she had servants (aka: her versions of washing machines and microwaves). But, even though I know I’ll never be as perfectly efficient and compassionate and loving and balanced as she’s described to be, I can still learn so much from her diligence and priorities.

In contrast, while I left in awe of these modern day women’s accomplishments, I felt unsettled by their priorities.

To a group of (mostly) young women with little kids and big dreams, one of their most notable pieces of advice was not to despise your children’s younger years because: “pretty soon, they’ll be at school, and you’ll have time to do what you really love…unless you home school. In which case, you chose that.”

I think my mouth fell open a little bit at that phrase. NOT because I was offended. I know full well that home schooling is not for everyone and that, by choosing it, I willfully forfeit a certain amount of freedom. I happily own that choice.

No, I was struck by the implication that a child’s impressionable, formative, baby years are something of a holding pattern until his/her mama can be released to fulfill her “true calling” of __________ (maker, writer, teacher, business owner…whatever).

I couldn’t help but feel that, amidst plenty of other good advice, they’d gotten that part backwards.

Not that I was too surprised, since the emphasis on “following your dreams” and the importance of “me time” and self-care before care of others is one that reigns supreme  on pretty much any form of media that I encounter lately.

Don’t get me wrong. I get why the baby years feel a little–forgive me–pointless. After all, they won’t even remember most of what we do.

And the neediness! Oy! They can’t even wipe their own poopy bottoms or runny noses, for the love. Anything “productive” we accomplish is punctuated by numerous, oftentimes odorous, interruptions and will probably be accompanied by tiny, sticky hands wrapped fast around our legs.

And yet. Studies show that, by age 5, a child’s personality, character, and feelings of security and worth have already been cemented to a very large extent. So, apparently, they were paying attention to our care of them–for better or for worse–even if they can’t remember the particulars of it.

And I know, deep in my bones, that no words I write, no art I create, no money I earn, no societal contributions I make, no amount of #girlboss cred that I achieve could ever trump the significance of the impact that I have as the primary influencer of the little humans that have been entrusted to me. Up to age 5 and beyond.

Which is why I bought this cuff in Canada at a cute little shop in Squamish.

for such a time as this

It’s a paraphrase of Esther 4:14, which says: “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

In Esther’s case, these words came from her cousin, Mordecai, who was encouraging her to entreat the king to spare her people from eminent destruction.

Heavy.

Important.

Significant.

But I can’t help but think that a series of smaller, less portentous choices were what brought Esther to that momentous brink. The choice to go to the palace to audition for the role of queen. The choice to humble herself under the care of the chief eunuch and let him direct her entire beauty regimen. The choice to not be a diva. The choice to continue to listen to her cousin’s godly advice, even though she was now queen.

I read that phrase, and it wasn’t images of the book I hope to someday write (nope, still haven’t found the time) that popped into my head.

Instead, I pictured one of the twins having a meltdown in her car seat–something that has been an almost daily reality for over a year–and I thought, “I need this cuff.”

What if, instead of despising the mundanity of motherhood or merely gritting my teeth until I can do something that “actually matters,” I viewed each seemingly insignificant moment of child-training as the “moment for which I was created.” The moment that is shaping me into the kind of woman that I hope to someday be. The moment that is allowing me to be a little bit more like Jesus.

(I’m not very good at this, y’all. Why else do you think I need to wear it on my wrist?)

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{Sporting my cuff and posing with my humans in the sweltering Texas heat}

Which, after all, is the ultimate point, right? Well, that and teaching my children to do likewise. Anything else that I create or contribute pales in comparison to the legacy of faith that I leave behind with my family and–as we serve them and share the gospel–our greater community.

It’s not a very glamorous calling. At least not on the surface. There is nothing glamorous about “the first shall be last” or “take up your cross daily and follow me.”

But last I checked, I am not called to be glamorous. I am called to be godly.

And that is infinitely better.

P.S. Two caveats: 1) I have framed this post as a response to the things that mothers often can’t wait to escape FROM, but the truth is that, glamorous or not, I love spending time with my children. I may not always cherish or enjoy every single snot and tantrum-filled moment, but the fact remains that they (along with my husband) are my favorite humans on the planet, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything–not only because I know that they are my calling, but because they’re just rad, and I like them a whole lot. And 2) I know that not everyone who reads my blog is a mother, and I don’t want you to feel that this post is marginalizing your giftings and callings in the Lord. If you are not a mom, I would encourage you to consider even the most “insignificant” aspects of your calling to be “the moment for which you were created,” even if no one else ever recognizes the worth of it.

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Playing catch up…

Can you tell I was on spring break last week?

Technically, of course, it was just for the kids. I had no intention of changing much for my own schedule. But…given the fact that you haven’t heard from me in a week and a half, I’m guessing you can tell how that worked out for me.

So, I thought I’d take a moment (i.e. this entire post) to catch y’all up on my oh-so-scintillating life. It occurs to me that I don’t do a lot of “life” blogging anymore–although, clearly, any material that I post here is the natural overflow of something I’m doing. But still, it seems to me that we might just be a tad overdue for good o’l picture spew post.

Betcha can’t wait.

First things first, though.

We have a brand new Paint and Prose print in the shop, just in time for Easter. paid my ransom

“How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” is one of my all-time favorite hymns. The tune is so haunting but the words even more so.

“I will not boast in anything, no gifts, no power, no wisdom. But I will boast in JESUS CHRIST, his death and resurrection. His wounds have paid my ransom.”

Honestly, as much as I love Easter, I need this reminder year round. I also love that we managed to incorporate our signature floral ampersand to give the print a pop of color/whimsy.

I ALSO love that you guys can order any print in an 8X10 or larger, and you’ll get a FREE 5X7 (just be sure to specify which one you want in the notes at checkout). Good through Sunday!

Speaking of Paint and Prose, spring break week started off with a trip to Austin for the Happy Hour Live with Jamie Ivey. We donated Paint and Prose prints for the goody bags and thought it might be fun to be there in person too.

goody bag

And it was!

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If I’m completely honest, I didn’t feel a strong connection to any of the interviewees for the actual broadcast (The Happy Hour is a podcast), but they were entertaining, and the event itself was lovely! (Twinkle lights! Flowers! Crazy good pork tacos! Wine! Which…seemed to excite everyone else but which I happily passed on because the one swig I had tasted like mouthwash. #teetotaler)

Even lovelier? 36 kid-free hours with girlfriends that included lots of good food + a trip to Magnolia Market on the way back.

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{Oh, and, of course, we couldn’t pass up a quick pit stop at Common Grounds. I got an extra-hot Mexican hot chocolate, in case you’re wondering}

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{On an unrelated note, I saw this pic that Lindsay snapped and thought, DUDE! My hair is getting long!}

I’d already been to Magnolia once (when we got Nina, the Nissan van), but it was l.i.t.e.r.a.l.l.y for 12 minutes before they closed, and Shaun and I were the only people in the joint. This was a wee bit of a different experience.

There were snaking queues of people lined up waiting to get in, like it was some sort of popular amusement ride, and inside was even more chaotic. I honestly didn’t know that I wanted anything badly enough to wade through the checkout lines.

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{Sorry for the blurry shot, but I just couldn’t resist a quick snap of Joanna Gaines’ cute mom helping out customers in the checkout line}

Until I saw this beauty.

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Yup, that would be a floral lunchbox. And no, I haven’t suddenly developed a penchant for wearing my hair in pigtails, eating PBJ’s and skipping.

It’s the perfect size for my fitness mic, which had formerly been housed in a frumpy cardboard box with no handle. So now, even though I look like a bit of a doofus hauling a lunchbox with me to the gym every day, I don’t care. Because it’s really quite brilliantly utilitarian, not to mention dang cute.

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{Everything about Magnolia is cute, but I thought this faux flower display–they’re just held there by washi tape–was particularly clever}

We got back Monday evening, and Tuesday morning began with a phone call from my mom informing us that my brother had fallen off of the roof of his house.

Y’all.

My heart plummeted down to my knees. I literally felt sick. At the point that she was calling, he was just being picked up by an ambulance, and, while he was lucid, we didn’t really know how bad it was.

Turns out, not that bad–especially when you consider that he didn’t just fall off of the roof. He started his slide at the peak (he was inspecting some work that the roofers had done) and proceeded to pick up speed until he literally shot off of the 20-feet-tall edge and landed, feet first, 25 feet away from the house.

He broke one leg very, very badly. The doctors are saying he’ll never run again (although, if the Lord says otherwise, I know that he will). But, quite honestly, he should be dead, brain-damaged, or paralyzed. I’ve had a week to adjust to the shock, but when I actually went to his house for the first time since the accident and stared up at that steep, towering, metal roof, all I could do was think: “Thank you, Lord, for giving us more time with him. He shouldn’t be here.”

After that “excitement,” everything else seems a bit mundane, but other (way more fun) stuff happened too.

I spent an afternoon at Lindsay’s house helping her do a bit of decorating….

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…while the kids insisted on filling the kiddie pool with freezing water and happily splashing around in it for a good hour. I feel a shiver coming on just thinking about it.

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That’s Lindsay’s cutie pie youngest, Judah, but the twins were in there somewhere.

It rained pretty much the entire week, so we stayed inside and baked.

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Seriously. This sweet potato cake (I followed the recipe but subbed cream cheese icing + caramel drizzle–YUM!) was preceded by banana muffins AND chocolate chip cookies.

I would have been a bit worried about the fate of my hips, except that I knew that I would be doing a Grit training on the weekend. If you’ve been hanging around here for any length of time, then you know that I teach BODYPUMP and BODYCOMBAT, which are both Les Mills group fitness classes. Well. Grit is also from Les Mills, but it’s a 30 minute HIIT (high intensity interval training) class that I kind of fell in love with. I say “kind of” because falling in love with Grit is bit like falling in love with a tiger. It’s the closest you will get to death while sort of, kind of enjoying it.

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{That’s my, “Welp. Let’s do this,” expression. I certainly had not gotten sweaty yet}

It’s hard, yo. Think: burpees, tuck jumps, air jacks, and just about every variation of a push up you could possibly imagine (including one called a donkey kick push up that I may or may not demonstrate for y’all if I can ever get it down enough not to look like a complete fool)

The best part? It’s ONLY half an hour. So, just when you think you might pass out, you’re done. :)

The training was two full days, and I definitely felt like a bit of a limp dishrag by the end of the second day. But I felt strangely accomplished too. I had trained for 7 weeks, practice-teaching Grit before I ever got certified in it, and the actual certification–while hard–was more of a formality (for me, at least) than a shock of: “WHAT did I get myself into?”

I realize this probably sounds like insanity to most of you, but as my certification trainer told me: “There are not a ton of people who truly love this kind of stuff, but you were made for Grit.”

Weirdo. (Me, not him. Or maybe both of us).

ANYhoo, you’re pretty much caught up on the goings-on around here. The first part of this week has been a process of getting back into the swing of homeschooling and my getting back into the swing of, um, walking. JK. I was fine as of Tuesday, but Monday was pretty much a big ol’ string of “ouches” run together. (Apparently, if you do jump squats for multiple hours two days in a row, your muscles will be less than pleased with you the next day).

What about you guys? Have you already had spring break. Or is it this week? I feel so out of the loop. What have Y’ALL been up to?

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The Hair Up There

I have no excuse for my extraordinarily, ahem, punny title other than…Monday?

Sure. We’ll go with that.

Anyhoo, I think I’ve talked about this before (but six children is slowly but surely turning my brain into sludge so…) here’s the deal:

I love DIY. I will happily DIY practically anything that I think I can pull off instead of paying lots of money for an already done deal.

Anything except haircuts.

I know there’s this magical thing called Youtube, which could certainly give me more than enough information to fake it through a few little boy haircuts and a bob or two.

But…I just haven’t been able to make myself pull the trigger on that one.

Partly because I feel like I am missing the hair-cutting gene. I have the hair-styling gene for sure. I’ve always been able to braid/elaborately style my own hair without having to look in a mirror, and I’ve even been recruited to do styles for special occasions for others a time or two.

But put a pair of scissors in my hand, and I’m all thumbs and elbows and overflowing potential for one of the worst chili-bowl cuts since 1994.

If I were forced at gun-point to open a hair salon (because that’s what it would take), I would probably name it, “Weedwhackers R Us,” just so everybody would know what they were getting going in.

Which brings me to my wonderful friend, Hollie (who would be a good egg in my book just for being a fellow “ie” name-speller but who also happens to be the best hair-stylist I’ve ever been to, so that’s a nice bonus).

I’ve been going to Hollie for…I’ve lost track. But something like 5 years? I think? (I really have lost track). And besides that one time that she accidentally grabbed the cutting shears instead of the thinning shears and lopped an impressive chunk off the back of my hair (yes, we laugh about it now; no, we weren’t laughing at the time), she’s never steered me wrong. (And let’s face it: I have enough hair for three people, so that one chunk was practically enough for Locks of Love, and I didn’t even miss it that much…once I learned to hide it when I styled my hair. :/).

Add to that the fact that she lets all of my kids cram into her studio to do cuts assembly style, and I couldn’t imagine a better friend/stylist.

That assembly-style situation is exactly what we had going on a few weeks ago when every single last one of my kids (minus Della, since she’d already had her birthday cut) got a trim (or more) on the same morning.

I would love to say that I was the least bit emotional about the twins’ first haircut because that would make me sound like a better mama (I guess), but I wasn’t. I was ready. Della didn’t get a haircut until her 5th birthday, but her hair has natural curl and never looked scraggly or weedy.

I could not say the same for the twins.

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{Getting ready for her big chop}

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{Duck lips and downcast eyes; oh no! Already her bob has aged her to teenagedom!}

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{Oh, phew! Back to being little girls!}

And the boys only get about 2 haircuts a year and were looking more than a little Hobbitish.

Even little mister’s Theodorable curls were starting to frizz and hang down in his eyes.

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Clearly, he was a huge fan of the process.

I would also love to say that I lined all the kids up and took a group photo of all the freshly shorn sheepies. But…I didn’t. #momfail #bloggerfail #seenoteaboveaboutsludgeforbrain

I give, as my excuse, the fact that all 7 of us headed to the grocery store to buy Shaun’s birthday dinner ingredients immediately following an hour and 1/2 of haircuts, and keeping 6 children a) alive b) happy and c) out from underfoot of fellow shoppers WHILE remembering all the things on your list kind of drives the thought of group pics straight out of your head.

This was not taken on Haircut Day, nor does it showcase any of their haircuts in any sort of clear way.

But it IS a group pic (and rather compelling evidence that my husband is a hoss). So, there’s that.

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Do you guys cut your own kids’ hair? (Go ahead, make me feel like a fraud as a mother; I can take it).

Any great (beginner) Youtube videos to share? I’m all eyes!

 

 

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A Stronghold of Motherly Pride

My children are (generally) well-behaved. People comment on it when we’re out and about. It’s a fact.

And it’s not by accident.

I work really, really hard to train my children to be polite, kind, respectful, helpful, godly.

It’s one of my mothering strengths–my tenacity, my consistent discipline, my ability to never get tired of nagging exhorting my kids to “be a blessing,” my constant reminder to say, “Yes ma’am” and “No ma’am.” #funmom

Now, before you get all, “Well, wooty-woo, Abbie. Aren’t you special?” and head for the “X” button…

Hear me out. Please.

Because I have all kinds of mothering weaknesses too. I struggle with patience (especially when I’m hungry; that may sound funny/trivial, but I have finally figured out that I am a better mother with enough food in my stomach, and I will sometimes ask my children to not talk to me–as much as possible–until I can eat. H-anger is a real thing, yo). I require them to clean their rooms, even when mine is a mess (I justify this by the fact that I am cleaning the rest of the house, but…they’re helping with that too; so I’m basically being a hypocrite). I sometimes, ahem, raise my voice (euphemism alert) despite my best efforts not to.

Oh! And my sock game? Is TERRIBLE.

Someone on our Facebook page asked me for a #mamalifehacks tip for keeping up with socks, but I didn’t have one. And then someone else explained her efficient (and somewhat involved) system, and I almost cried laughing at the thought of the effort that she puts into socks that I just never will. Honestly, it probably doesn’t feel like that much effort to her because she was clearly born with a penchant for organization that I am lacking. But I admire her so much for her dedication to keeping her kids’ clothes in line. We do fine, but I’m certainly not going to give out any tips there.

I could go on, but I think I’ve probably at least convinced you that I am aware of my shortcomings as a mother.

Okay, so switching gears (but it’s related, I promise)…

The twins were dream babies/little toddlers. Happy, smiley, great sleepers, cuddlers, easygoing, and so, so fun!

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{SEE?! So, SO fun! Also, did you notice their new haircuts? It was time}

Pretty much the opposite of what I expected when I begged the Lord not to give me multiples.

And then they hit 2 and 3/4. I know that seems like a really specific age. But it’s the truth. They were still really easy and cheerful all the way until a few months before their 3rd birthday. And then, Shaun started traveling a lot (like 7 straight weeks of being gone most weekdays), and they. just. lost. it. (I don’t actually think their change in behavior was particularly related to Shaun’s traveling…but I doubt it helped. It certainly didn’t help me ;) ). I started getting heart palpitations at the thought of putting them in their car seats because they were especially volatile when we got in the van to go somewhere (which was pretty much every day). At first, I thought, “Eh. Not my fave.” But after weeks of it, it literally gave me anxiety.

I know there are people who have actual, real life problems to deal with. Serious illnesses. Deaths in the family. Wrongful imprisonment for declaring their faith. The list goes on.

But maybe even the people who are dealing with those hardships would find a writhing, shrieking, body-slamming toddler X 2 a bit of a frustration, at least.

For the last year or so, most things that I thought I knew about child-training have been tested and challenged for months at a time by two of the strongest-willed little darlings you ever did see (says the mom of a little boy who willfully constipated himself and was a very grouchy little human indeed for a year). There have been calms in the storm (praise Jesus), but just when I think we’ve finally moved beyond it, we’ll go through another month-long bout of car tantrums and meltdowns over being handed the pink blanket when a certain little girl asked for the pink blanket (yes, you read that right). (If you’re in need of a laugh, read this hilarious list of laughably ludicrous toddler meltdown rationales).

I have pulled out every trick in the book–discipline, reason, hail-Mary prayers, praying before we leave, bribery (“If you are sweet in the car, we can get a piece of gum after we get to the gym”), misdirection (“OHMYGOODNESS, is that a red-tailed fuzzy wiggle in that field over there?!”), hugs, spankings, timeouts, talking-to’s, and raging like a mad bull.

And it’s all worked. For a little while.

But any one solution never lasts for very long on its own (I’ll be honest: the spankings, the “discussions,” the prayers, and the hugs are consistent; the rest is a constant process of recycling different methods to keep things as “fresh” and effective as possible).

I’ve never felt despair. I am fully aware that, no matter how long this phase lasts, it is just that: a phase. I have vast confidence that my twins will not rail against the injustices of seat belts at the top of their (considerable) lungs when they’re 12 (I know, I know; I’ll have other things to worry about).

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{There are lots and lots of sweet moments like this one. And when they happen, I document them for my own sanity’s sake}

In fact, we’ve had considerably fewer car catastrophes lately, and the trend seems to be towards an ability to hear just a sliver or two of reason in the midst of the mind-melting horror of a not-perfectly-straight sock line.

I’m not holding my breath (I’d pass out), but I am learning a lot about humility. I didn’t really think I needed it (do we ever?), what with the litany of things I already knew that I needed to work on as a mother.

But I do. Because, as it turns out, I have a stronghold of pride in my mothering ability to train my child to behave as they should (and, yes, we emphasize “as unto the Lord;” I focus at least as much on the heart attitude and motivation behind the behavior as on the behavior itself).

Because, let me tell you, it chafes a bit when both twins are stamping and sputtering in the grocery store, and you’ve hauled them into a deserted aisle for discipline, only to have a lady come along and chirp, “Aw, Mom, she’s just hungry,” because she doesn’t see the perfectly good graham cracker that your snitty 3-year-old is already holding. It takes a fair bit of–yes–humility and willpower not to shoot back, “Nope. She’s just a little sinner, like you and me. She wants what she wants…until she doesn’t.”

But the thing is that I wouldn’t even react to this lady’s comment (even if only in my head) if I didn’t care what she thought about me and my ability to control my toddlers’ behavior.

See? Prideful.

Maybe you have a stronghold of motherly pride too? I’d wager that, even the most self-deprecating of mamas can find at least one thing we pride ourselves in doing well.

Chances are, we’re probably right on. We ARE good at XYZ.

I can guarantee you this, though: God is in the business of tearing down strongholds.

James 4:6 literally says that God “opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Oppose (verb) – disapprove of and attempt to prevent; actively resist or refuse to comply with

Oh, friends. I need grace. Buckets of it. Dump truck loads. And, if my stronghold of motherly pride keeps me from receiving it, well, that’s a bigger tragedy than spilled chocolate milk, car seat buckles, the wrong/right blankie, and the crookedest of sock lines combined.

I am doing nothing here, guys, if not preaching to my own heart. I need these reminders. I need this blog post as an “Ebenezer” to come back and read when (inevitably) the girls have another week-long episode of being twinados. Because I am beginning to see glimmers of light at the end of this twin tantrum tunnel, and I’m finding that my tried and true of methods of gritting my teeth, praying like mad, and never. giving. up are, indeed, working…if somewhat more slowly than I would like. (Well, that, and owning up to my own faults that can contribute to the chaos).

Even as I see my cheerful 13-month-old begin to arch his back and wail whenever something doesn’t quite go his way. And the phrase: “Here we go again” rattles through my brain.

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{Back-arching? WAILING? I would never}

Because, if I place my hope/pride/self-worth in my ability to train my children to “do right”–regardless of how well it comes naturally to me–all of that will come crashing down on a daily basis, depending on which child I’m dealing with, how much either one of us has slept, how hungry I am, or any other number of unforeseeable factors.

Much better if I say: “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you. Deliver me from all my transgressions.” Psalm 39:7-8

Even (especially?) if that transgression is being proud of myself for doing something right as a mother.

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Do y’all ever feel like you’re skipping right along with motherhood and then get slammed with a big ol’ humility mallet too? Do tell…

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Meet Nina Cleana {The Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van}

I’ve actually lost track of how many times we’ve been asked what we drive. Which, on the surface, probably sounds like a funny thing for people to wonder about. But, when you think about the fact that there are 8 of us who need to travel together at the same time, the question makes a little more sense.

I mean, there just aren’t THAT many options out there that can accommodate 8 bottoms in one ride.

Thankfully, our Honday Odyssey (“Ophelia”) had 8 seats.

Was it crowded? Yes.

Inconvenient to get into? Mmm hmmm.

Hard to keep clean? You betcha.

Rage-inducing when the big kids weren’t in it, and Mama had to contort herself into circus-worthy positions to  buckle 3 car seats? Amen and bless it.

But it was also paid for free and clear. It ran great. And–honestly–every single one of those “issues” I mentioned is a #firstworldproblem.

Do you know what is a completely legitimate problem? Having MORE bottoms than will actually fit inside a vehicle. Because, since we live in a first world country and stowing your children on the luggage rack is highly frowned upon (as opposed to, say, Central America where you might just see an entire FAMILY hanging off every surface of a motorcycle as they buzz through town), having MORE bottoms than will fit in seats just won’t work.

So, are we expecting more bottoms? Nope. At least not right now. But we also are open to the prospect of more kids in God’s timing, so we’ve been–shall we say–keeping an eye open for something a teeny bit bigger.

But the thing is that there really isn’t much in the “teeny bit bigger than a minivan” category. There are a couple of nine passenger options and then–BOOM!– you’re up to (gasp!) 15 in no time flat. Which is why we’d been eyeing the Nissan NV 3500 passenger van for a while (it’s a 12-seater). And by “a while,” I mean for the past 18 months or so.

But they’re hard to find used, y’all, and we’re not into paying full price at the car dealership. Each time a deal would pop up on Craigslist, we’d check it out and discover that either a) it really wasn’t that great of a deal or b) it was a moot point because it had already been snapped up.

Which…is what I figured had happened for sure when I stumbled upon a listing for a navy blue 2014 NV 3500 south of Waco, Texas with only 10,000 miles on it and all of the fancy bells and whistles for a really great price. It’s gone, for sure, I told myself. You probably shouldn’t even bother. But bother I did. And, as it turned out, it was still available–even after being on the market for over 2 weeks (which is kind of unheard of because these suckers go fast, y’all).

Honestly, I still have no idea why it didn’t sell…except maybe because she had accidentally left off the last digit of her phone number on the ad and had not yet relisted it? Or the Lord was having mercy on my poor bent-back-by-awkward-belt-buckling fingernails? (I kid).

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{We kept the van a secret until we drove up in my parents’ driveway with it; this is moments after the kids saw it for the first time}

I don’t know. But I do know this: we talked the lady down almost another $1,000, and then we drove down to check her out/bring her home (the van, not the lady). It was a 6ish hour round trip, but my mama was kind enough to keep all of our kids, so it felt more like a date than anything–especially when we managed to slip into Fixer Upper’s Magnolia Market in Waco for a few (read: 13) minutes before it closed.

So, how do I feel about driving a bus, er, large van?

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{Acres of seats…whaaaaat?}

I kind of love it. Seriously. It’s all kinds of awesome.

We took out the back row of seats to have extra room for groceries or other things we might need to haul (I’ve already picked up 6 chairs + a dresser, so it’s a bit of a dangerous ability to have), which means that there are still only 8 seats available. But the amount of room/access is markedly more generous. It’s just so much easier to get to everything/one, even if you do feel a bit like you’re mounting a horse every time you clamber inside.

Do you want to know my ABSOLUTE favorite part about it, though? (I think we all know I’m going to tell you, whether you do or not).

It’s SOOOOOOOOOO much easier to keep clean. I hoped it would be, and I was totally right. We eat in our cars. We kind of have to. Living in the country, we drive at least an hour round-trip almost every single day, and we wouldn’t survive in as much peace and harmony as we do without in-car snacking.

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{Cars that actually fit in parking spots are sooooo last year}

But in the Odyssey, it was just too easy for something to get dropped, roll up under a seat, and then never get seen again (cueing multiple episodes of: “Um, what’s that smell?” Yeah, I know. GROSS). Especially with the need for at least one of the twins to be in the back row for all of our car seats to fit. (Why very small children have such a propensity for spilling/dropping/throwing food is a mystery to me, but I love it…clearly).

ANYhoo, because of the new seat configuration in Nina Cleana (Shaun suggested the second name as a motivation for keeping her “cleana” that the Odyssey) and the amount of space BENEATH the seats, I’m happy to report that we have been driving Nina for over two weeks, and she is still as spick and span as the day we bought her (well, except for the mud that we inevitably track inside because country living).

So, yeah. Pretty thrilled about that.

Not quite as thrilled with the gas mileage. I knew we were going to take a hit (we averaged 21 in our Odyssey). But, at an average of 15 mpg, it’s downright scary how many times I’ve had to fill up since we’ve gotten her. It’s not too bad with gas as affordable as it currently is, but I cringe to think of when it (inevitably) jumps back up to $4/gallon.

Oh! And, as you can imagine, I’m not the only one who thinks that driving an ark on wheels is just the coolest thing ever. (It really does have remarkably smooth handling and braking, though).

The kids LOVE Nina.

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They love the extra space, the feeling of being higher than everybody else on the road, the awesome sound system (seriously, it’s pretty decent), the fact that we have zero trouble finding our car in parking lots, and the fact that I let them pile into the (seatless) back for dance parties if we ever need to hang out in the car and wait for a bit.

They don’t even mind the loss of the DVD player that we employed on a semi-regular basis in the Odyssey to kill car naps and distract over-tired toddlers. And the funniest thing? Apparently, there is something irresistibly drowsy-making about that big purring van because, almost inevitably, when we come home from the gym in the evenings, all 6 of my children will have fallen asleep.

I haven’t decided whether this is a good or bad thing yet, but it wouldn’t matter if I had because it’s pretty much a done deal if it’s dark outside.

So, there you have it! A new answer to the frequent, “So, what do y’all drive?” question and one that will not change for a goooooood long while. If you see a blue NV 3500 around town, give me a wave and a slow, conspiratorial wink. Then, I’ll know you’ve read my post. Either that, or it’s someone hitting on a mother of 6 in a giant van.

And that would just be weird.

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