Category Archives: Life

The Twins are FIVE!

(…and have been for a little while [see title]. Their birthday was September 24th. I’m a slacker).

If I can just indulge in one of the ultimate motherhood cliches, may I just take a moment to say that it is both IMPOSSIBLE to me to imagine life without “the twins” (yup, each one of us in this house is guilty of taking that little verbal shortcut on a daily basis, and Evy and Nola answer to it readily) and equally as impossible to think that they been with us for FIVE whole years?

I’m the mother of 5-year-old twins. 

Those are not words I ever thought I would write. And yet, there they are in black and white, as stark and real as you please.

And joyful.

Because, as I’ve said many times here before, as much as I did NOT care for the idea of multiples, the Lord knew that I needed them. And, of course, I wouldn’t trade them for a centillion (my kids’ favorite number) dollars plus a planet or two.

I wouldn’t have traded them for anything back when they were losing their ever-loving minds every time I buckled them in their car seats (or woke them up from naps or looked at them cross-eyed) either, but I feel like I have to take a moment to stop and declare what the Lord has done in Evy’s and Nola’s lives over the past year.

Remember my post about my stronghold of mothering pride and how the twins had managed to defy practically everything I thought I knew about training and child-rearing? At the point when I wrote that, I was already seeing glimmers of progress in between the shrieking and the fits of prostrate, abject misery, but it was only flashes. Certainly nothing I was willing to trust. And, boy, was it inconsistent. One day, they seemed capable of responding somewhat rationally, and the next, it was back to floods of tears over a button being too tight or one twin’s getting the last pink cereal bowl and thus forcing her sister into the horrors eating out of a red (or worse, YELLOW) bowl.

I wish I were exaggerating, but I can’t emphasize enough how genuinely distraught those cute little blue-eyed girls could get over the tiniest hiccup (sometimes, literally…oy vey).

And yet, here they are, at 5-years-old, and we’re all still alive and well. Not only that, but Evy and Nola have become two of the most delightful little creatures I know.

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(Such sweet little grannies…this is actually a screenshot of a GIF from my IG if you want a little more cuteness in your life)

As much as I hoped and prayed for it, I don’t know that I ever genuinely believed, in the middle of the “lost months” (dramatic much?) that I would ever think, much less write, those words.

But it’s true. Our little twinsies are kind and considerate. They’re full of spunk and energy without that energy needing to devolve in bouts of manic distress. They are helpful and bright-eyed and clever and endearing.

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They are now capable of riding in the car without subjecting the rest of us to episodes of hearing loss.

They are–dare I say it?–FUN.

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And while a large part of me isn’t surprised (I’d already been through toddlerdom and the recovery process thereof three times, after all), the twins’, ahem, “challenging phase” (which lasted almost 2 years) felt a bit like that moment when you’re 42 weeks pregnant, and you’re convinced that the baby has made your uterus his/her permanent home and will never, ever leave. It just seems surreal that anything other than your current reality could ever be true.  (Can you tell I’m speaking from personal experience on both counts?).

And yet, life with the twins is very different than it was a mere 6 months ago. And then 6 months before that. It’s been such a gradual process of perseverance and prayer and training and repentance (me, usually)…rinse wash, repeat…that I can’t even point to a moment when the changes really began to be obvious.

Instead, it’s the little things–Nola’s wearing jeans instead of leggings without dissolving into tears (because buttons and zippers and restrictive fabric…come to think of it, jeans kind of make me want to cry too), Evy’s being able to push through having her hair rinsed at bath time without panicking, both of them playing happily together for an hour without one single hair-pulling, shriek-filled fracas.

Because, as it turned out, all of that praying and teaching and training (both of them and me) was having an effect, just like James 1:4 says:

And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Not that we’re anywhere near perfect. But we are (all of us) better at dealing with adversity than we were before.

Praise God for that!

I want to encourage any of you fellow mamas who are deep in the trenches of tyrannical toddlerhood, I’ve been there. Shoot, I’m still there (Theo has taken to hurling himself off The Cliffs of Insanity at least 4 times a day recently). Wishing the hard away is never where the breakthroughs happen. Instead, the maturity comes from “counting it all joy” (yes, even when they pee on the floor mere inches away from the toilet or go into volcanic meltdown mode because of the line of their socks not being straight across their toes) that we are privileged to be counted worthy of these “trials of various kinds.”

I am privileged to have twins. Not everybody gets that chance, you know. ;)

The mother with a disabled child is privileged to have him.

The mother of one who longs for more is privileged to have her one.

The mother of many who wonders what she was thinking is privileged to have her multitude of opportunities for sanctification.

My challenge my not be your challenge may not be her challenge over there, but we are all privileged to have them, whatever they are. We are being shaped and molded and renewed and loved by a Father who will absolutely, yes, give us more than we can handle so that we get over our silly, prideful, I-can-handle-this-thanks selves and fall at his feet in recognition of our lack. It was always there. He’s just been gracious enough to give us something that makes it painfully obvious.

Praise God that, even when the “payoff” doesn’t come for 2 years, or 5, or ever in this lifetime, hard is not the same thing as bad. And we are more than overcomers in Christ.

Oh, and praise God for the unexpected blessing of twins. We sure do love you girls!

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Grocery Shopping for Our Large Family

I noodled around several different title options before picking one because I didn’t want it to be misleading. This post is not about THEE cheapest way to shop if you have lots of kids. Or about coupon clipping. Or about the best, most filling meals for the least amount of money.

Elements of most of those things are in here, but more than anything, I’m writing this post in response to several questions I’ve received about what the process of feeding a family of 9 looks like.

And they are:

1. How often a week do you shop?

I do one big haul a week–usually on Saturday mornings. And then, we supplement as needed with a quick stop or two throughout the week. The “big haul” day has rotated through the week throughout the years (we even went together as a family immediately after church for a while there), and historically, I’ve had ALL the kids when I go (many moons ago, when the kids were all smaller and much less helpful, I used to stop on Monday evenings…after teaching two hours of classes at the gym. Because, apparently, I’m a masochist??). Lately, I’ve been heading to town on Saturday mornings for a free Cross Fit community WOD (workout of the day) and then shopping immediately after. NO KIDS. Because the oldest ones are mature enough now to do basic younger sibling maintenance (Honor’s down for a nap) while Shaun does projects around the house.

Are there words to adequately describe the sheer joy of grocery shopping alone? I’m not sure there are. But “bliss” comes to mind.

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Shaun’s been traveling a fair bit recently, so the kids were with me on a random Tuesday. We always have two baskets and take up a fair bit of space, but they are genuinely helpful (I don’t load the belt or bag groceries) and definitely know the drill after years and years of tagging along. My favorite thing about this picture is that, as I was looking at several that I took from my phone, the lady with the white hair in the back is staring at us with that same bemused expression in every single one. Ha!

2. How much do you spend?

This is the one everybody wants to know, right? I mean, we’re feeding 9 people. Surely, we must be spending a fortune. Of course, with 4 (almost FIVE!!!)-year-old twins, a 2-year-old, and a newborn, half of my people don’t actually consume that much in terms of volume yet. But the amount feels like it increases on a weekly basis, which makes me nervous.

Our typical bill for the “big haul,” including some non-food items (so, a package of toilet paper, or a box of diapers) is about $190. Obviously, there are some weeks that all of the extra stuff comes “due,” and the bill is considerably higher.

If we were to stick to that every week, that would be a pretty incredible budget for such a big family. But we always end up stopping at least one more time to grab a rotisserie chicken + fruit + milk, etc. Most weeks, we spend another $50 at least.

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This particular load was about $135. I usually get more of most things (like bagels and yogurt), but we were still stocked on those from a previous trip. 

3. What do you eat every week?

I’m sure this is true of most folks, but we eat basically the same thing every week. Cereal, bagels, or eggs for breakfast, yogurt and fruit for snacks, sandwiches or leftovers for lunch, and an ever-repeating rotation of about 20 dinner options that use a lot of the same ingredients.

My go-tos are:

  • Turkey spaghetti (my kids would eat my spaghetti–you can find the recipe for my sauce at the beginning of my lasagna recipe–every single day). For reals.
  • Turkey burgers + homemade sweet potato fries + homemade guac (one of my fave meals ever that I eat without a bun and with all the fixin’s on the side).
  • Chicken Pot Pie
  • Taco Soup
  • Chicken Tortilla Soup
  • Turkey Burritos
  • (Chipotle-style) Chicken and Rice Bowls
  • Chicken Pesto Pasta
  • Steak + Scrambled Eggs + Roasted Seasoned Potatoes
  • Greek Chicken + Rice + Veggies
  • Turkey Meatloaf + Mashed Potatoes
  • Pot Roast
  • King Ranch Chicken
  • Quiche
  • Chicken + Veggie Stir Fry
  • Chicken + Veggie Pasta
  • Chicken or Steak Fajitas
  • Chicken + Squash Grill
  • Salsa chicken (in some form or another)
  • Homemade Pizza
  • Chicken Lettuce Wraps

We don’t do much in the way of prepacked foods, but neither do I make complicated meals.

4. What ingredients are you never without?

You’ll pretty much never find us out of: diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, limes, cilantro, avocados, OTB Corn Chips, cheddar cheese, black beans, onions, tortillas, raw chicken, and raw ground turkey (obviously those last two get cooked quickly, usually in batches for the entire week).  We are a Tex-Mex family, apparently, and I make homemade salsa (it takes 5 minutes and is SOOOO good) and guacamole on the daily. If I’m in a pinch for dinner, we’ll probably be eating burritos and black bean salsa or spaghetti that night.

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Bonus points if you can a) spot Theo or b) figure out why Nola looks so distressed (probably, she just heard that we weren’t having “her favorite spaghetti” for dinner that night). 

5. How much do you eat out?

In the past, not very much. We still don’t do tons, but we’re a little “looser” than before. Shaun and I have a “date night at home” every Thursday night when my mom has Ezra, Simon, and Della at her house. We get the four littles in bed by 7:30 and settle down on the couch with takeout Thai food to watch an episode of Fixer Upper or Vera (British crime show).

Once a week (usually on Fridays after I teach Combat or a Tuesday night if Shaun’s out of town), the kids and I will have lunch or dinner at Chick-fil-a. And we usually eat out lunch on Sundays. Plus, we go pick up the big kids from my mom every Friday night, and she fixes dinner for us + my brother’s family. So, I typically cook (or at least prep some kind of food) 5 nights a week, with Thursdays and Fridays off.  If I moan even a little bit about cooking on Sundays, Shaun orders pizza. :)

5. Any brilliant money-saving tips?

I used to religiously scout out the sales in the local ad papers and then take them to Walmart for price matching. My mom just told me that Walmart isn’t honoring competitor ads anymore, but I haven’t done this for a couple of years anyway. I did save a fair bit sometimes, but I also found that–outside of a $0.99/lb sale on grapes or some other produce–most of the things we buy regularly at Walmart were pretty comparable to the sales I usually saw.

We also used to shop at Sam’s Club, but we’ve been in such a busy season of life for so long that the extra effort of driving out there (it’s a ways from our house) and spending at least an hour grocery shopping–usually on a Sunday–just wasn’t worth it to us. We may renew our membership in the future, but for now, we’re keeping it simple.

As to coupons, I just don’t. I know I could save a lot of money, and, of course, I use the ones they include on the yogurt packages, etc., but I don’t actively buy items based on whether they have coupons available.

I think my best way to keep our food bill decent is to buy inexpensive, simple food and do a fair bit of cooking. Cheaper AND better for you!

So, there you have it, folks! What grocery shopping for 9 looks like around here. I know this will continue to evolve as the kids get older/eat more. I’m seeing lots more beans (and flatulence…) in our future.

What does grocery shopping look like at YOUR house?

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Fun Mom

I have been known to say things like: “I’m not a very fun mom.”

But that’s not strictly true. I love having fun with my children. We do fun things. But I tend to think of fun moms as the kind who fix their kids pancakes with chocolate chip smiles every morning, mix up homemade play-doh on the regular, and spend hours playing Legos on the rug.

When I actually think about the logistics of that kind of behavior, though, it strikes me that, while some moms have more of a gift for play than others, it’s just not super feasible to be a fun mom ALL the time, even if it comes naturally to you.

Sure, there are times I would RATHER play Uno with my kids than do laundry (um, always), but I (and the rest of the world) would also RATHER we wear clothes, so…

Plus, the Bible has a lot more to say about training and discipline than it does about “fun,” so there’s that.

Do I have a point?

Yup! I sure do.

My goal, as a mama, is to provide my kids with a childhood full of God’s truth, first and foremost, but, right behind it, an unswerving belief that they are loved (which, come to think of it, is kind of the ultimate God’s truth).

A lot of times, that means instruction and discipline (because I can’t think of anything more unloving than letting my child flail around, lost as a goose, or neglecting to turn him away from a destructive path).

And sometimes, that means taking an unexpected day off from school and packing a picnic to the park instead (one of the beauties of homeschooling).

There are many fun mom categories in which I fall short, including: crafting (it happens, but it’s rare), library trips (ditto), trips to the pool in the summer (thank the Lord that my mom has a pool, and my three oldest spend the night with her once a week), and any kind of play involving little characters that I dance around and provide high-pitched voices for.

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One way to earn automatic fun mom status? Let them do school on your bed (my mom loves having her picture taken. Hi, Mom!) 

Conversely, my “fun mom” strengths are:

1. Baking. I actually love whipping up something yummy with my kids in the kitchen. I don’t get uptight about their making messes (for most part), and I love to see their little faces light up when they take the first bite of whatever yummy treat “they made.”

2. Dance parties. I have been known to boogie down with my kids at least once a day. Okay, so there are stretches when that doesn’t happen for a week. But we almost always have some sort of music on during chores, and we take timeouts for a shimmy or two in between vacuuming and scrubbing toilets.

3. Reading. I’m pretty good about reading to my kids, which, to my delight, they consider fun. If I’m honest, I’m better about reading chapter books to the older kids, but I have read my fair share of Frog and Toad and Winnie the Pooh as well.

More specifically, these are two habits that elevate me to “Super Fun Mom” status in my kids’ eyes:

1. We have a constant rotation of who gets to “drive” down the driveway to our house, sitting on my lap (from Theo to Ezra, who is pushing 100 pounds). We’ve done it since the old house, and, while we don’t do it every single day, most days, whoever’s next in line clambers up to the front and gleefully “steers” us home. Good thing we have long driveways, eh?

2. Icees on Mondays. We established a tradition last year that, after we got out of home school co-op and before we hit the gym, we’d stop for Icees. What this means practically is that I buy a 32 oz. Icee and split it between all 6 older kids (Honor gets shafted), so they really only get it a taste, but they LOVE it and look forward to it every week.

And you know what? I’m guessing that these will be the little things that my kids remember about me. Not lavish birthday parties or flashy vacations but the simple, everyday pleasures we enjoyed most because we we did them together. Like when I let them listen to “In the Hall of the Mountain King” 7 times in a row (they would listen 100 times if allowed) while I prep dinner, and they race around the island shrieking with laughter, and then we all fall down in a heap of giggles at the end.

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See what a fun mom I am? I keep a smile on my face even when my children are falling to pieces! Ha. Ahem. By the way, you really owe to yourself to see the rest of these photos (and read the story behind them) on my IG if you haven’t already. 

I know these will be the things that I carry in my heart for always.

So, whether you’re a natural “fun mom,” have to fight tooth and nail for it, or fall somewhere in the middle (but with a definite bent toward the training side) like me, I just want to encourage you to create little traditions for your children to remember you by.

And never measure yourself by the standards of whatever other moms are doing–even if it’s creating magical, glitter-dusted fairy wings out of nothing but Elmer’s and a scrap of tulle just because.

With that in mind, though, I’m always looking for ways to improve that fit within my wheelhouse of strengths (because the traditions that form organically stem from a shared love–both yours and your kids’–of the activity, and that’s going to vary wildly from family to family).

So, hit me with your best fun mom ideas! Who knows? I may just find a new tradition to steal!

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L.I.F.E.

How ’bout that original title, yo? But seriously, you guys. I have no excuse for disappearing except that I have been doing more living than writing about it. And, while all of the memes would tell me that that means that I must be doing something right (and they would be correct), I can honestly say that I’ve missed “chatting” with you guys here in this little corner of the internet. I have a plethora of half-written blogs floating around in my brain:

  • Big family dynamics to consider when planning a house
  • A recap of our beach trip (from 6 weeks ago…hides face)
  • A tour of the updates so far on the house
  • A post about comparison in motherhood
  • A post about our homeschooling routine
  • A round-up of the best Amazon Warehouse Deals I’ve scored (I’ve gotten some goooood ones)
  • Insert random post title here

But I don’t really have the brain power right now, at 10:23 PM, to be terribly topical, so I’m just going with the ol’ fire hydrant approach.

So, what have we been up to? Well, some exciting house updates, for one.

**As a quick follow-up to my tile gaffe post, we did some scrubbing on it, which lightened the grout a bit it and made it less noticeable, and after talking to a friend who is also a tile expert, we’re just going to let it breathe for a while, try out some rugs, and then go from there. If we absolutely cannot take it, we’ll rip it up and start again. Or paint the entire floor. Or…something. But I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that.

I ALMOST feel sheepish telling you guys about the things that we’re NOT doing on this house currently, considering what big DIYers we are and how much we have invested until just recently. Almost, but not quite. Because you know what’s better than bragging rights on doing it all yourself? Having it DONE. (We’re still doing all of the finish work on the exterior, the interior plumbing, the rest of the concrete counter tops, the lighting, the electrical, etc., so yeah…it’s still pretty busy around here)

And done is where we are (or at least close to it) with our floors.

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{Hello, beautiful, happy craft room/girl cave/office/studio/Paint and Prose headquarters}

We found a crew to lay our laminate “wood” floors (brand: Mohawk, color: Rare Vintage Fawn Chestnut…because just calling it one of those words would have been way too vague #verbose), and they’ve aaaaaalmost finished TODAY…but we ended up a bit short on laminate. Sigh.

Even so, all we lack is the loft, which means that we can start actually cleaning things so that they stay clean (you know, relatively). And then moving furniture where it actually belongs…instead of its languishing in piles in the workshop and garage or being shuffled around from room to room.

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Our master bedroom was the very first floor they laid, and we set up the furniture in it that very night! 

The piece of furniture I’m most excited about hauling out of storage?

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This amazing couch I scored at Anthropologie (yes, I bought furniture from Anthro…wild). It’s 10 (!!!) feet long, the coolest shade of blue, and was a fabulous deal, since it was a floor sample. (Especially jazzed, since right after I bought it, they stopped selling floor samples altogether).

Mostly, I’m just excited about the concept of things being more finished than not because we’ve been in a state of flux in some state or form for a good 6 months now, which, while not a huge span of time in the grand scheme of life, is enough to make this creature of habit a bit antsy at times. (Ask Shaun about my meltdown about the ugly burn pile in our yard; or better yet, don’t).

What else? While we’ve been “doing school” all summer (I have the three oldest continue with their basics at a slower pace and diminished amount), we officially started back at our home school co-op last Monday, and I am loving the chance to dust off my teaching chops.(Weird metaphor…did I mention it’s late-ish?).

lifelately3 I did something I’ve never done and bought the oldest 5 BRAND NEW personalized backpacks from Land’s End. They were on sale (of course), but the thing I like most is that they have a lifetime guarantee, so if (when) they snap a strap or rip a hole in the bottom, I can get a brand new replacement for free (crazy but true…and no, I’m not being paid to say this). 

I was laughing with Shaun about the fact that, after hearing from my kids about how most of their teachers just spent the first day going over rules and having everyone introduce themselves, I felt like I was probably the only nutter who hosed my students down with tons of notes and grammar and 4 take-home assignments. I’m sure that’s not actually true, but it’s definitely my personality. I can’t seem to reign in the desire to stuff AS MUCH info as possible in their young brains for the 55 minutes a week that I have each of my classes.

It helps that I’m teaching eager-beaver homeschoolers, for sure.Including Ezra, whom I am requiring to take Spanish 1 with me, even though it’s usually an 8th grade + level class. He is the eagerest of all the beavers, though, and is a joy to have in class, so we’re both pretty thrilled with the arrangement.

In other news, I have officially drunk the Cross Fit Koolaid–or sipped it, at least–and…I liked it! There’s a Cross Fit gym that several of my friends go to that has a free community WOD (Workout of the Day) that I’ve gone to 3 times now, and I can’t really begin to describe how much I enjoy it. Even though it’s really, really hard, and I’m definitely the odd woman out with my newbie–”Um, what’s a wall ball?”–self. If you’re a Cross Fitter, feel free to speak up in the comments. I haven’t dived in and paid for a membership or anything, but I am more excited about Saturday mornings than I’ve been in a while, and I am determined to learn how to do a hand stand push up or at least seriously injure myself trying.

In other news, Honor is eating everything in sight and loving life… While Theo has definitely entered his “can’t handle any emotional distress without descending into temporary madness” phase. AKA: my faaaaaavorite!

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He still has plenty of cheerful moments, but he has also developed quite the formidable stink eye.

I was so hoping we would skip this stage with him because he possessed just the sunniest of dispositions as a baby/toddler. And, if I’m honest, it’s nothing like the twins’ 18-month bout of insanity, since he doesn’t despise his car seat like they did. But there’s still a whole lot screeching and “No-ing” (on both our parts) and floor-wallowing (just his…although, I’m tempted sometimes), and disciplining going on. It helps that Honor is such a dreamboat, though. I mean. Seriously. I just want to eat him with a spoon.

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He’s 7 months now, and everybody still fights over who gets to hold him. Oh, and in case you’re wondering what has my children’s attention so completely captured, they were building Sam and Pippin (our guinea pigs) a block maze to run through. 

Shaun is getting ready to tackle another big block of work trips (they always come in chunks, it seems), but the good news is that the kids and I will get to go with him on a couple (Honor will, of course, tag along by default). There’s one I’m especially excited about, but…more on that later.

In fact, more on all of it later, since I’ve jabbered on plenty for now and really need a shower before bed.

What have you guys been up to? Have your kids started school yet? Do any of you have your kids do schoolwork in the summer? Anyone else have a 2 1/2-year-old whose life-management skills have deteriorated drastically?

We can eat virtual ice cream together and chant “Hard is not the same thing as bad” while holding virtual hands. K? Cool. It’s a plan.

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A Clothing Confession + a Tile Tight Spot

Did you know that there’s not a “t” word that means: “predicament?” At least not one that I could think of or that Google could help me out with.

I know because I looked so I could achieve maximum alliteration in today’s post title (#wordnerd).

But that is entirely beside the point because this post is about two very different topics, which are only connected by the tenuous thread of one having been photographed on top of another.

First up, a confession:

I took the 4 youngest to Goodwill last Friday because, between the red dirt and the sheet rock dust and the concrete floors and sub-floors and plywood that my children are all pretty well constantly rolling around on, rubbing up against, and/or attempting, in some form or another, to embed into their persons…most of their clothes are trashed.

Which is fine because their play clothes were getting pretty worn out already, but, with our home school co-op starting in a week and 1/2 and cooler temperatures coming (ahem…in another 5 months), it was time to get a few “new” things for the chitlins.

But wait. That’s not the confession.

Here goes: I bought two things for me too.

**hangs head in shame

I had already determined that, given my self-imposed 6 month clothing fast, I wouldn’t even cast my eyes in the direction of the women’s department. And I didn’t. Pinky promise.

HOWEVER, as we were entering the clothing area, there was a rack set up with a bunch of miscellaneous items on it. And what did my eyes behold but a pair of neutral TOMS wedge booties–the likes of which I have eyed up every fall season for the past 5 years. No lie. I just haven’t ever managed to make myself bite the bullet to buy an $80 pair of shoes that should cost half that (in my not-so-humble opinion). They were in fantastic condition, minus a faint gray mark on one (which I was pretty sure I could get out), and I snatched them up, squinting at the tag–half-hoping/half-fearing they would be my size.

And you know what? They were! (Size 9–I have big feet), and, when I slipped them on, they fit like a dream. I put them in my cart and went on my merry way, not entirely sure I would buy them, but half giddy at the potential.

I spent the next hour alternating between combing through the children’s racks, feeding Honor while standing up and combing through the children’s racks, and–toward the end–breaking up squabbles between the twins and Theo while combing through the children’s racks (for the first 45 minutes, they were playing happily with the toys, which Goodwill had had the good sense to relocate next to the children’s section).

Halfway through all of this combing, I stumbled upon another item that I’ve had on my mental wish list for years: a black/white buffalo check puffer vest.

I love puffer vests. In East Texas, we don’t have much use for full on coats–even during the winter–so puffer vests are a great way to stay toasty on a chilly (but still not truly cold) day. I have several, all of which I wear regularly in the colder months, but I’ve had my eye out for this particular style for ages.

And there it was, wedged between a 3T tutu and a size 8 pair of jeans. Because that’s just how Goodwill rolls.

It, too, had a small mark I was pretty sure I could get out but was otherwise perfect, and it fit!

So, into my basket it went.

master tile

I debated all the way to the front whether I would buy them and almost took them out of my basket several times, but in the end, buy them I did.

Because, ultimately, the purpose of my fast is to eliminate impulse (“but it’s so cute and CHEAP!”) purchases of things that only ever get worn once and then spend the rest of their dejected lives stuffed in a closet corner–NOT to pass up good quality staples at great prices that I’ve had in mind for a long time.

Anyhoo, I promised to keep you updated, and now I have, so there you go! Back to fasting!

(P.S. Both of the marks came out like a dream)

Moving on, can we talk about that pretty tile from the picture above?

I love it!

Except…and it’s a really big except.

But first a little background…

After the frenzy of getting moved in, things have slowed down considerably in the DIY department–partially because they finally could, partially because of summer, and partially because Shaun has been utterly slammed with his day job.

That last reason has been the biggest deciding factor in choosing to hire out a few of the finishing things, and tile was pretty high on his list of, “I’d rather nots/don’t have times.”

We found someone able to start the day we left for Gulf Shores, Alabama (3 weeks ago) and came home to a lovely tiled kitchen…

tiled kitchen

and downstairs bath…

downstairs bath tile

That was fun!

Not as fun?

This:

master tile1

(See all of the dark areas? They’re not an optical illusion. There really is more grout in those spaces)

That would be the master bathroom tiled with all of that lovely black and white penny tile. I chose gray grout to hide stains, but, unfortunately, the area in front of the sink ended up showing the grid patterns of the mosaic tiles (they come in approximately 1 sq. foot sections).

master tile2

{See the lines?}

Honestly, we’re not sure what happened. The area to the right where the tub will be does NOT show the grid lines. At least not nearly as noticeably. And the same person did the work almost entirely at the same time. So, why the application is so much better on the first 8 feet is beyond me.

master tile3

(This whole area in front of the window is considerably more even. Almost no areas of concentrated grout}

Another problem?

We ran out of tile.

Doh.

I mean, measure twice and install once, right, Abbie?

You guys. I measure a GAJILLION times. And I ordered 10% extra for waste.

But then, we decided to use the same tile on the shower floor. But even then, we did the math, and we should have been fine.

Except that it turned out that a lot of the tiles had issues. Irregularities. Missing pieces, broken tiles. Etcetera.

So, we ended up one row short.

I ordered more from Overstock, thinking it would be no big deal. I mean, it was the same manufacturer, and I had only ordered the first batch last fall.

Double doh.

The tiles were DIFFERENT. Not to the naked eye, really. Same design. But they’re slightly more off-white, slightly thicker (in height), and more beveled…all subtle differences that look anything but subtle once the gray grout is in.

master tile2

{See the super white strip on the far left? Yeah. Triple Doh}

So, here we are, with half a beautifully tiled master bath, 45% a streaky, segmented mess of a master bath, and one ridiculous-looking strip of non-matching tile.

It kind of makes me sick to my stomach because it’s so permanent.

We haven’t really had any big uh-ohs during this build, for which I’m grateful. But I’m not going to lie. I’m pretty disappointed about this one.

Which is where you come in. Has anyone else ever installed mosaic tile squares, only to have the squares themselves show up super obviously when grouted? I have a feeling I wouldn’t have even noticed the lines if we’d used white grout, but I also know the grout wouldn’t have stayed white-looking for long.

If you have experienced this, did you find a way to fix or diminish the effect? We’re going to give the extra-thick grout lines a good scrubbing in hopes of minimizing the impression of segmentation, but I know that won’t completely fix it.

And when it comes to the non-matching tiles, there’s literally nothing I can think of but adding a rug runner directly in front of the sink to hide it.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s no big deal. I mean, it’s a floor. In a house. Which is a blessing. We are grateful.

In the small picture, though, I’d really love to find a way to “fix” it as much as possible.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions you might have!

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6 Months of Honor

My goodness, have I got a lot to share with you guys! We just got back from a fun family trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama, which I will post about later this week (Lord willing), but today, I wanted to take a second to talk about this little nugget of sunshine, who is…

 6 months old. six months1
(As of yesterday).

Because a baby who is easy to take to the beach is an easy baby, indeed.

Honor Daniel is pretty much the definition of a dream baby. Which…is crazy because I didn’t think any baby could be more chill than Theo (not sure Honor is, but he’s giving him a run for his money). Of course, while Honor coos and dimples and does his best to win over the planet (pretty successful effort…everywhere I take him, people fall in love with him), Theo alternates between being thee funniest little kid and…a 2-year-old (need I say more?).

six months3

It’s okay–better than okay!–if you have abs like biscuit dough when you’re this age. Oh, his rolls are scrumptious!

Theo can still be delightful (often is), but in terms of  charm points, Honor’s definitely ahead at the moment (but then, he kind of has the unfair “baby” card to play). Especially now that he’s back to sleeping through the night (it helped immensely when we moved upstairs, and his pack n’ play was no longer 18″ from me). six months

No one around here ever complains about holding Honor. Wonder why.

Even with teething (his bottom two juuuuuust popped through), he spends about 98% of his waking hours alternating between smiling, grabbing his toes, happily drooling on everything in sight, giving big, sloppy, open-mouthed kisses, and checking off every other “cute” box in the book. He wakes up in a good mood and goes to bed easily. It’s honestly kind of ridiculous. And I can’t imagine an easier baby to travel with (it’s a 9 hour drive to Gulf Shores).

HOWEVER.

As far as milestones, he’s a total slug. He rolled over at 3 months (pretty par) but hasn’t done practically anything since. He doesn’t crawl (or make any attempts to), doesn’t sit up on his own (although he’s quite strong and perfectly capable if he actually tried), and couldn’t care less about rolling all over the carpet (not that I blame him, since our current rug is a dhurrie one, which is about as soft as a ticked off porcupine).

six months2

Crawl?? Ha! That’s for peasants. Why crawl when my adoring subjects will carry me? 

Theo was the exact opposite in this regard. He did everything early. Earlier, in fact, than any of my other kids. Honor, on the other hand, is laidback and easygoing in the extreme and seems in no hurry whatsoever to be his own man, er, baby.

But he sure is the sweetest, cuddliest little slug you ever did see. And I know full well by this point that a mobile baby is a much harder baby to keep up with, so I’m actually grateful for my little 6-month-old sloth–especially since we don’t have flooring down in most of the house yet, and dirty, paint-splotched concrete is less than ideal for soft little baby hands and knees.

six months4

His reaction to Nola’s revealing that, one day, he will be required to transport his adorable chub all on his lonesome from point A to point B–AKA: walk. 

I know that every mother feels a little shock upon realizing that her new babe is “suddenly” no longer an infant, but this past 6 months really have been the most incredible whirlwind with Honor’s birth, prepping the old house to sell, selling it, busting our buns to get the new house ready to move into, moving, and then settling in (at least a little). I can definitely remember life before Honor (so I won’t say it feels like he’s always been here), but it seems a bit like an alternate reality–and one with considerably less sunshine and smiles (cheesy, but this kid really is a sweetheart).

So, happy 6 months, baby boy! It’s been an absolute Honor (whyyyyyy? I just couldn’t help myself. Sorry guys).

 

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Our Favorite Family Movies

So, after Monday’s post, several people asked me about the movies that we watch, and, while I think I’ve talked about this in past, it’s been long enough that I can’t even think which search terms to use to look for the post, so I thought I’d write another one–hopefully, both as a resource for those interested in quality family movies and as a reminder for myself of goodies to revisit when we can’t think of anything to watch for family movie night (Sunday night at our house).

And so, without further ado, I give you:

Our Favorite Family Movies

The Emperor’s New Groove (I like this one more than my kids do, more’s the pity; it’s just so clever)

Chicken Run (same here…the dialogue makes me giggle, but most of it–in all of its Britishness–sails right over my kids’ heads)

Candleshoe

Herbie Rides Again (and its sequels, which get progressively sillier and more obnoxious but which the kids still love)

Mary Poppins

Homeward Bound

Beauty and the Beast (the cartoon)

Swiss Family Robinson (my boys looooooove this one)

Star Wars (basically all iterations of this series–both the prequels, the classics, and the sequels–are pretty clean, and my kids thrill to the action sequences)

The Princess Bride

The Swan Princess

The Sword in the Stone

Robin Hood (both the cartoon and the live action classic)

The Sound of Music

My Fair Lady

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Shaun thinks this one is ridiculous, but my kids get a kick out of it)

The Lord of the Rings + The Hobbit series (these are pretty intense for little kids, but I have found that mine do pretty well with them from an early age, and I’m good with them because of their rock solid good vs. evil messages)

Inside Out (we’ve actually only seen this one once, but it was really clever, and I think we need to revisit it soon)

The Narnia Movies

Epic

The Wizard of Oz

Singin’ in the Rain

Bolt (Mittens is my spirit animal)

Babe

The Incredibles

How to Train Your Dragon (1 and 2)

The Jungle Book (the new one, the cartoon, and the 1994 version)

Charlotte’s Web

A Bug’s Life

The Parent Trap (the classic version)

The March of the Penguins

Wallace and Grommit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Shaun the Sheep

Paddington (another one that makes me laugh even harder than it does my kids)

Movies we haven’t watched as a family yet, but I want to:

The Rookie

Spellbound

Mad Hot Ballroom

Hoosiers

My Dog Skip

Secondhand Lions (Although, if I remember correctly, this one’s better suited for a “clean films” version…more on that below).

I know I’ve talked about “clean films” on social media before, but I can’t remember if I have here on the blog. So, basically, years ago, my mom discovered this site called cleanfilms.com (now defunct), and since then, there have been various versions of it under different names.

So, what are they?

They are sites that sells edited DVDs. They remove all: profanity, nudity, sex, graphic violence, etc. and they do a great job. Most movies are edited pretty seamlessly.

The current one I know about is called Good Media DVDs.

We have quite a few edited movies, ranging from ones that really need it (like Jerry Maguire) to middling ones (like Notting Hill, which is one of my favorite movies…edited), to fairly innocuous stuff (like You’ve Got Mail and While You Were Sleeping…which still have pockets of profanity I could do without).

We even have some movies from them that require no edits whatsoever, just because they were cheap (around $5).

So, now it’s your turn to hit me with your favorite clean, quality family movies! Pretty please? We are always on the hunt for new gems!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

lunch in bed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only He is great, and His love endures forever! 

……………………………………………………………………….

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

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

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

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

1. Prayer.

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

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

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

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

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

2. Family Bible Reading.

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

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

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

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

3. Practice makes consistent.

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

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

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

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

4. Routine is key.

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

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

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

5. Teach actions “as unto the Lord.”

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

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

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

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

Part 2 coming soon. 

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The Moving Mambo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

week35

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

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

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

week3

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

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

week34

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

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

week36

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

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

week32

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

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

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

week31

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m all ears!

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

 

 

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My Mama

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

Such is life right now.

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

Word.

But still.

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

This is my mom, Beth.

softa1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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