Category Archives: Life

30 Week Pregnancy Check-in: Baby #7

When you find out that you’re pregnant as early as I typically do, the whole process can seem to drag a bit.  A girl I follow on Instagram was surprised by her 5th pregnancy–to the tune of not knowing until she was fully 10 weeks pregnant. And I couldn’t help but feel a taaaaad envious. I mean: 10 whole weeks of not knowing you’re pregnant is practically the same thing as not BEING pregnant, or…something that like that. Of course, then she had her baby at 36 weeks (the baby was perfect…no complications), so she got to skip another month. And then, I really was jealous! :)

Ha! I kid (mostly), but I was actually pleasantly surprised to realize that, last Monday, I hit the 30 week mark with #babynumber7. I mean, that’s legit. We’re getting there! And I’m guessing that, with Thanksgiving, Shaun’s traveling, birthdays (Della’s, Simon’s, and Theo’s), and Christmas just around the corner, the time will fairly fly.

Until I hit Jan. 1, and this babe is still snug as a little love bug in his mama’s belly. Because my due date is technically January 2, but if you’ve been following along for any amount of time here, you know my babies like to be well-done before they make their appearance.

I am definitely mentally preparing for 1) lots of Braxton Hicks/false labor/mental torture for the last 6 weeks or so and 2) a January 15th delivery date. Maaaaaaybe, just maybe, then I won’t get as antsy as I have during the last two weeks of–well–most of my pregnancies.

ANYhoo, since I’ve made it to 30 weeks, I thought it might be time for another check-in.

31 weeks

{I know this is not my usual “bump shot,” but I forgot to have Ezra take my pic on Monday, and we finally made it to Charleston–YIPEE!–so a GAP dressing room side-pic will have to suffice}

If my belly were a grocery basket, it would have this in it: I’ve never really done the whole, “My baby is the size of a _____________” comparison before, but apparently, Baby #7 is about the size of a coconut at the moment. Funny, since I’d have said pumpkin or watermelon with the way he’s already stretching up into my ribs. Oy.

If I could only eat one thing until he comes, it would be: nope. Still no significant food cravings. I still drink about 3 too many Dr. Pepper Icees per week (hangs in head in abject shame), but the rest of the time, I eat the exact same things that I always do (i.e. lots of fruit, veggies, carbs, and protein at home–with the occasional Thai food, pizza, or Chick-fil-a thrown in).

If I were an energy meter, my readings would be: alllll over the place. I’m finally over that epic cold I had, so I have more energy than I’ve had in weeks, but I feel like I flail wildly between CLEAN. ALL. THE. THINGS. and a constant mental chant of, “Nap, nap, nap, nap…” I would really love for the energy to stick for longer than 24 hours, but I’m happy that it exists at all, so no real complaints.

If I went into labor today, Baby #7 would have: no room at the inn. Ha! So, Theo is still in his crib and will remain so likely until we move because our babies usually sleep in a bassinet in our rooms for the first 2-3 months. BUT! Thanks to generous friends/hand-me-downs, I’m pretty well kitted it out with baby clothes. And everything else is still hanging around from the last–oh–six or so. So, I’m not too worried.

If I wanted to confuse you majorly, I would: show you this picture…

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…and tell you that this adorable crocheted otter, which I had Theresa (go follow her on IG! She’s so stinkin’ talented!) make for me, is a clue to the baby’s name. :)  Can’t wait until I can tell you the whole story! (hashtag so mean)

If I had my exercise druthers, I’d: quit. ha! Not really. I know I’d go fitness stir-crazy in no time. But I’m not going to lie: I don’t feel bad when I exercise as a general rule (and I always feel better when I’m done), but I am SO over pushing myself as hard as I did with my last 3 pregnancies. I can remember being terrified of losing some of my strength if I went down on my weights in BODYPUMP when I was pregnant with Della. And now I’m over here happily cutting my squat weight in half and LOLing at my silly 27-year-old gung-ho self.

Perspective and age, yo. They are good, good things.

Also, I probably still have 60 classes to teach before he comes, so…I figure I’d better pace myself.

If I had to pick my favorite cute things the kids do/say about the new baby, they would be: the way Della kisses my belly every night and quietly/earnestly says, “Good night, ________. I love you.” She’s such a sweetheart these days. The fact that Theo has started saying his name, and it’s the just the most precious thing ever (don’t think he has a clue WHY he’s saying it, but he’s a very dutiful little parrot). Oh! And the fact that Nola still checks in every now and then with: “This is a girl baby, right? ‘Cause I really want a girl baby.”

If I had my best guess as to the baby’s future profession, it would be: an American David Beckham. This kid likes to KICK. And wiggle, shimmy, jostle, and jive. He’s a mover, y’all. BUT! My midwife’s assistant said that she thinks all of his limbs are facing outward, with his spine curved along mine, which would explain why I can feel everything so keenly.

If I had to name one thing I’m doing differently this time, it would be: myofascial stretches. My midwife, Melena, (also a nurse, by the way) has me doing these exercises to align and loosen my myofaschia (the “webbing” that covers all of our muscles/tendons) in hopes of shortening labor length (she’s seen good results so far) and just helping the process to go more smoothly all around. And I’m all for it! My muscles/tendons are really tight from all of the exercise I do, and my labors are long, so if there’s even a chance that a couple of easy stretches will help, I’m game.

If I could wear anything for the rest of the pregnancy, it would be: leggings and tunics. But I don’t wear them. I hardly own a pair of leggings, so I’m usually to be found in exercise clothes or stretchy jeans (some maternity, most just a size or two up from what I normally wear) and flowy tops. Next best thing.

Aaaaand, there you go! More info than you could have ever truly wanted to know about this pregnancy.

But when has that ever stopped me from sharing anyway? (Never).

Hope you have a lovely weekend, friends! I’ll be eating my way through Charleston for the next 2 days and then returning to real life until the baby comes (at which point it becomes real, real life).

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The I Do Chronicles: Positive Husband Talk

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I’m no expert on any of this and am just learning what the Lord has to teach me as I go, but if you’re interested in bumbling along with me, you can read all of the posts in this series here.

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I’m assuming you’ve heard of this lady named Oprah, yes? And the power of something called “positive self-talk?”

Not that Oprah created the concept or anything. But when I think of personal pep talks, she definitely comes to mind.

I’m honestly not super-great at positive self-talk. I can beat myself up with the best of them. But I can also be disdainful in general of the potency of motivational quotes and rah-rah speeches. Probably because, deep down, I’m a bit of a cynic (I prefer “realist,” but when the Bible tells us to give thanks in all circumstances, semantics are pretty moot).

And yet, I can’t ignore Ephesians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

And I would assume that includes the things we tell ourselves.

It definitely includes the things we say about our husbands.

Which is why–in many ways–positive husband talk is one of the best things we (I, me…preaching to myself) can do for our marriages.

I am blessed to be surrounded by women, who, in general, speak positively about their husbands. I have several close Christian friends who have never “husband-bashed” in my presence. And unless I have a serious case of marriage amnesia, I think I can claim the same.

I mean, honestly, Shaun is pretty easy to praise. He’s kind. He’s witty. He works hard. He’s a great daddy. He loves the Lord. He’s genuinely my best friend. And he’s super hot too, so there’s that. ;)

I have few (if any) legitimate complaints.

And any I do have are usually brief and certainly don’t bear airing to anyone else but him (or the Lord).

STILL! This does not mean that I’m always perfect in the way that I speak to him. (Or about him, although this is not my main struggle).

Recently, two incidents came to my attention that made me analyze more closely how I communicate my regard for my husband to him and to others.

In one case, the claim was legitimate. I was tired/hormonal (not an excuse, but it was the context), and I responded shortly/dismissively/disrespectfully to one of his requests in front of someone else. And that person noticed! I have since apologized to Shaun, but that incident is lodged in my mind as an example of a time when I failed to present a godly snapshot of marriage.

In the other example, my “rudeness” was completely misunderstood as I was only pretending as part of an inside joke between me and Shaun–one that he finds hilarious and one that it never occurred to me could be misconstrued. But still. It affected this person’s opinion of my treatment of my husband.

Tricky, right?

What we say about and to our spouses matters (duh) but, especially (for women), in the context of how we display respect to our husbands. (Because I don’t know a single man who values “lovey dovey” over words of acknowledgement, affirmation, and praise).

I have an acquaintance who has mentioned several times that she becomes frustrated with the way her husband goes about certain tasks and that she would just rather do them herself. She’s not negative, per se. Simply dismissive. And yet, I can’t help but have a different view of her husband (and their relationship) than I would otherwise have.

I overheard another conversation recently (because I was in close vicinity and incapable of moving) about a wife’s refusing to even consider her husband’s wishes on a certain subject that I can’t unhear, and it has–whether it should or not–created an image of their marriage in my mind.

I’m not saying we should lie. Or that we should present a rosy picture when there is genuine conflict at home. I’m just saying that proclaiming it to the world–like a stranger in a restaurant the other day was doing too loudly for me to ignore–is doing no one (least of all, us) any good.

Yesterday, with at least mild fear and trembling, I asked Shaun if he felt like I used kind, respectful words with him in general (because I know the answer to “all the time” is no).

His response? “In general? Yeah! I mean, sometimes, you can be short. But for the most part, yeah.”

Phew. I passed (although you could argue that what else is a guy going to say to his seven-month-pregnant wife if he values his life? ;) ).

I knew what he meant, though. Especially in the last several months, there have been certain days when I’ve felt like I could crawl out of my skin with irritation for no good reason. (Thank you, pregnancy hormones). So, even though, for the reasons I listed at the beginning of this post, I generally find it easy to be nice to my husband, that’s not necessarily what actually comes out of my mouth if I’m especially tired. Or emotional. Or fed-up with kid drama. Or…

If I tried hard enough, I could probably find a justification for speaking snippily to my husband all day every day.

None of them would cover my sin, though.

And none of them would change the fact that–even when he takes it well or says he understands–I am not “building him up according to his needs.”

The Lord has been impressing this on my heart in pretty much every area of my speech lately, if I’m honest. But it might as well start with how I speak to and about the man God has given me to respect, love, and serve for a lifetime (because if I can’t speak words of life to him, how am I ever going to hack it with everybody else?).

But, Abbie. What if I struggle to find even one nice thing to think or say about my husband? I get this. Completely. Not about my husband. But about a different relationship in my life in which I fail miserably in this area more often than not.

And I have a challenge for both of us: let’s pray for the Lord to reveal one tiny thing for which we can praise this person. For at least one word that we can genuinely speak that will be “life” and not “death” to this person’s soul. No matter how much we think they don’t deserve it. (Because what do we deserve except eternal punishment and separation from God in hell? Thank you, Jesus, for the cross!) And for strength to keep our mouths shut until we hear from the Lord what that word might be.

And if you find your husband easy to praise, ask yourself: when was the last time I said out loud–either to him or to someone else–at least one of those good things I know to be true of him? I’ll be asking myself the same thing.

I’m not naive enough to think that every (or any?) marriage makes it so very easy to focus on spouse-thankfulness. But neither am I cynical enough to dismiss the benefits (to our husbands, to ourselves, and to those who hear us and are encouraged) when we choose praise over criticism. Not to mention that, when we do right, it brings glory to God!

I am grateful for the godly example of women who have realistic, yet unfailingly positive things to say to and about their husbands. And I pray the Lord would make me more like them each day.

Feel free to shout out something you love about your husband in the comments! (Just don’t forget to actually say it to him too :) ).

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Well, we didn’t bust…

But we didn’t go to Charleston either.

So, yes, I’m still alive, for those you that were worried. (Thanks for the sweet messages, by the way).

But only barely.

Okay. So, that’s a bit on the dramatic side, but I am on day five of thee worst head cold I think I’ve ever experienced. Couple that with the fact that there has been almost zero margin for rest the last four days (Monday: Homeschool co-op all day, Tuesday: all-day appointments + gym classes, and Wednesday: homeschooling, house-cleaning, and more gym classes, yesterday: the same), and I have been collapsing on the couch as soon as I get home and staying as still as possible, until dragging my aching body to bed every night. This morning, I finally woke up feeling a little more like a human being instead of a walking zombie, so praise Jesus for that!

ANYHOO, there’s no way to know just how coherent this post will be, but I thought I’d give y’all an update on what we did do to celebrate the super-monumental event of my turning 34-whole-years-old.

We were waffling back and forth until the last second on whether to chance Charleston, but when they started evacuating folks, and the airlines declared a weather advisory, that pretty much made the decision for us.

Thankfully (for us, not for Charleston), because of those two things, both our Airbnb rental and our flights were refunded (or at least credited, in the case of the latter), so it looks like we’ll still get to go. Just not quite yet.

My sweet mama was cool with keeping our kids anyway, so we headed to Dallas last Wednesday to do exciting things like eat Thai food, sleep on clean sheets we didn’t have to wash, and check out tile stores and bathroom faucets.

I know. What party animals we are!

But seriously. After months of go, go, going for our family, it was such a relaxing, rejuvenating 48ish hours with my man.

Before we ever made it out of Tyler, we stopped for lunch at The Grove.

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I’d heard good things but had never been, and I was pretty blown away by the rad interior design. They put some serious thought and effort into getting everything just so.

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{Those chandeliers made us think of alien vegetables, which…normally wouldn’t be a good thing; but it totally worked in this space}

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{Coolest lounge ever}

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{Aren’t you just so thrilled that I managed to capture this creepy down-lighting shot?}

Thankfully, the food was just as yummy as the decorations, so I left a very happy pregnant lady.

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{Shaun loves few things more than a good balsamic glaze, and this was a very good balsamic glaze, so I was not the only happy camper}

On our way to Dallas, we stopped by Paul Michael, a big warehouse style decor store in Canton, Tx (home of the famous Canton Trade Days, in case that name rings a bell) and wandered…then wandered some more.

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We didn’t buy anything, but I was sorely tempted by a 1/2 off giant pedestal table (that still cost $600…nope). It was a fun little jaunt just the same, and at least a chunk of the wandering was due to Shaun’s having to take phone calls (more on that in a minute), but I certainly wasn’t complaining.

That night, we ate the aforementioned Thai (if you’re in Dallas uptown, check out Malai Kitchen—SO good), watched a movie (Queen of Katwe…it was good! Not life-changing, but sweet and clean and well-acted), and ate some super-tasty gelato (can’t remember the name of the place, but it’s right beside the Magnolia Theatre).

I mentioned Shaun’s being on the phone a lot. So, remember all of those flooring samples I showed y’all?

We found a (much) better price online for the laminate (yup, we took some home, made a little mini-”floor” and tested it out for a week and reeeeeeally liked it) than the local place, but I asked Shaun to contact the local guy before ordering, since he had been so helpful, had already spent over 3 hours with me, and I wanted to at least give him a chance to make the sale.

Shaun did, and what ensued was a two-day-long bidding war between the online guy and the local guy for our business. It actually got a little comical toward the end, and Shaun was pretty much completely stressed out and wishing it were over by the last 6 calls or so…

BUT!

The fairy tale ending is that 1) we ended up going with the local guy because 2) he MATCHED the crazy-low price the online store had dropped their already crazy-low price to (assuring us that he was still making money on it) and agreed to store it for us until we need it, AND 3) because my bro and sis-in-law were also ordering the same laminate in a different shade for the house they’re building (hence the bidding war; it was a big order), we saved $$$$ between the two of us on flooring that was already very reasonably priced and which we were fully prepared to pay the online price for in the first place. Praise the Lord!

Thankfully, it wasn’t all phone calls and negotiations, even as exciting as the outcome was.

My actual birthday started out with a trip to The Boulangerie in Greenville Ave. for breakfast

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They have amazing croissants!

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{Shaun got me a Fitbit Blaze–complete with an aqua band, of course–for my birthday; the better to track just how many steps it took to burn off all {okay, my half} of those pastries)

Plus, their decor is such a feast for the eyes as well.

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{It’s hard to tell what’s going on here because of the glare, but a lady saw us praying over our breakfast and thought it was a cool shot, so she snapped a pic. Kind of a fun shot to have}

The next few stops were a bit on the utilitarian side, since we stopped at a tile store and a faucet store, but after doing most of my house-researchonline, it was fun to be able to see and touch real! live! stuff!

Again, we didn’t buy anything, but we didn’t come away with a good idea of what we want to do in the master bathroom. Which is my favorite. Not the master bathroom. The knowing. I enjoy researching and finding the best deal, but my favorite part is that big sigh of relief when you land on the final decision and can just move on.

And the NEXT stop was a complete happenstance but a  very happy one, indeed. As we were on our way to a cool-sounding antiques/salvage shop, we spotted this giant brick building with the words, “Uncommon Ground,”  on the side.

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Turns out, it’s kind of the mother of all antique quirkiness and decor awesomeness. Again–you guessed it–we bought nothing (because the cheapest thing I saw there was an old spoon, and it was $8), but it was still such a fun little (um, big; it was BIG) find.

Am I just under a rock that I’ve never heard of this place? Because it was rad.

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{Couldn’t leave without snapping a pic of just one of the G.I.A.N.T rather dour-looking cats who clearly ran the place}

Our last decor stop of the day was the salvage shop I mentioned, which was more reasonably priced, not quite as rad, but still worth the stop (hmmm….can’t remember the name at the moment…sorry!). Aaaand we bought nothing.

Lunch was an authentic New York Style pizza place called Mimi’s–where the nicest guy with the thickest New Yawker’s drawl told Shaun he was: “Real classy…taking the lady to a dive like Mimi’s on her birthday.”  But seriously. Good, good pizza, y’all.

Sensing a carb theme to this birthday? Apparently Baby #7 is keen for mama’s hips to GROW!

Our last stop of the day was our traditional jaunt to Anthropologie.

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I am completely happy 99% of the time to just browse and get ideas, but this trip, I found a dress I loved on sale (and then an extra 40% off) that will work the rest of the pregnancy and poooosssibly beyond? So, that was a fun surprise. I tried to snap a pic of it, but my phone battery gave the fateful “extremely low battery” signal literally as I opened the camera on it, so you’ll just have to wait for that one. Nail-biter. I know.

The day ended with another super highbrow carb fest of chips, queso, and Torchy’s Tacos (because NOTHING says classy like ordering a taco called “The trailer park” and being asked if you want to “make it trasy”–i.e. add queso) and a very sweet reunion with my babies.

Honestly, it’s one of the best birthdays I can remember in recent years (and they’ve all been good!).

There’s nothing quite like a super-relaxing time away with your love–with a bit of deal-haggling and house productivity thrown in for good measure!

And there you have it!

Consider yourself caught up for the moment. I had a good birthday. And then I got sick.

The end. (Anybody else wondering why I didn’t just write that?)

Y’all have an awesome Thursday!

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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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You asked. I attempted to answer (Part II)

If you already read Part I, then you already know what Part II is about, so let’s just jump right in, shall we?

{Just be warned that, if you thought last time was long, holy cow! Several more questions rolled in, and this one is a doozy, y’all}

I’d love to hear how to deal with some of the more negative sides of pregnancy with so much (seeming) ease on your blog. Varicose veins, exhaustion, homebirth nay-sayers, etc.

My (seeming) ease on the blog definitely has a lot to do with the fact that this is not an acceptable place for me to vent. Sure, I am as honest as possible, but I am not here to complain. My husband gets an earful every now and then, so just know that, just because I don’t say it here, it doesn’t mean that nothing ever bothers me.

HOWEVER, in answer to your specific topics:

  • VARICOSE VEINS ARE FROM THE DEVIL. Oh. my. word. I DESPISE them. I never really had them before the twins (just a few light blue lines in the back of my right leg), but they’ve progressively gotten worse and worse until they hurt like the Dickens, and I’ve stopped wearing shorts or “shorter” skirts of any kind because it literally looks like my right leg is diseased (yippee!). My mom says that Bilberry is a good supplement to take, and my midwife recently told me about Butcher’s Broom, which is supposed to help a lot, so I’ll be ordering both of those very soon. I used to take a Vitamin K supplement, which I need to get back to. Just lazy, I guess.
  • EXHAUSTION IS ALSO FROM THE DEVIL…but a good reminder that I truly cannot do it all while I’m pregnant. I have given myself so much grace the last two pregnancies to nap as much as possible, even if it means telling Ezra and Simon that they may put on Peppa Pig for the twins and Della while Theo sleeps, and they are required to read quietly in the room with them while I lie down for 45 minutes. Much harder to do when you have little bitties, but chances are, they take naps, and I’ve learned to just lie down when they lie down, regardless of the laundry piling up. Also, I drink It Works Greens–a natural source of fruits, veggies, fiber, and energy. It helps.
  • HOME BIRTH is awesome. I don’t like the pain, but I LUUUUUURVE being in my own bed holding my wee babe. I have never for a moment felt unsafe, and I know that, if a complication arises, my midwife will be very swift to send me to the hospitable 10 minutes away. Maybe it’s because of where I live (conservative, family-friendly area), but I haven’t dealt with too many naysayers. I do know that my mother-in-law, who is a nurse, gets some flack from her colleagues and will sometimes come to me with questions. I just answer them and tell her to tell them to mind their own business (nicely, of course). :)
I’d like to know about having more kids. What’s it like? How much more does each child bring of chaos and stress. I’m really hoping to have more, so just any and all info on adding another child and large families in general.

Hmm…there’s this adjustment period every time we have a new kid that feels both strangely peaceful and insanely chaotic. We don’t know what our new normal is, but we’re also not doing nearly as much as we usually do because, hello, new baby.

There are usually a few nights in a row whose soundtrack is: “Y’all gon’ make me lose my mind…up in here..up in here.” For real.

Pretty quickly, though, new routines start to emerge. And patterns of behavior that are causing either chaos or order become clear. We tweak. We adjust. We lose our tempers. We apologize. We extend grace. And then, sooner than you’d think, we adjust to the new normal that is however many kids, and it’s all good.

Notice I did NOT say “easy.” Because #hardisnotthesamethingasbad

Also, the younger they all are, the crazier it is. Because they’re soooooo neeeeeedy. I find myself in a really sweet spot at the moment of having two (almost three; Della’s getting closer) really helpful, sweet, thoughtful older kids who are a genuine source of support and encouragement to me. They’re not perfect. But then, neither am I. And most days, I can rattle off a list of what they need to do, and they just get it done (after I repeat several items on the list several times, of course. They’re still boys).

A perfect example would be the homeschool co-op I mentioned on Monday. The first morning was pretty hectic and crazy-making, even though we’d prepared the night before. The second time was better, but I still had to do a lot of reminding. This week was thisclose to perfect. Everybody knew what was expected, and Ezra asked me multiple times: “Mama, what else can I do to help?” Next week, hopefully, we’ll have Simon and Della on board, and we’ll be golden.

It’s a constant process of adjustment, give and take, and recalibration. It’s far from perfect. But it’s definitely doable. Joyful, even! (Some days…should be all days…but just keepin’ it real).

From your blog posts you always seem to be so patient and calm— how do you do it?! Can you share how are you able to juggle homeschooling, housework– cooking, laundry, cleaning, organizing, etc. with teaching aerobics, grocery shopping, just motherhood and all that comes with it?! Do you have a large circle of support from family, friends, babysitter? I have 4 kids and there are so many days that I feel so impatient exhausted and overwhelmed. I sometimes feel that I am just on survival mode. Would love to hear how you manage everything. Do your kids play sports that you are required to chauffeur them around? What meals do you prepare and can you start sharing more on your blog or Facebook, recipes? Thank you so very much.

Like whoa. That was a lot of questions, girl. ;)

But good ones. So, here I go…laughing all the way because a) NO, I am NOT always calm and patient and b) I had no idea that was the impression I gave on my blog.

I lose my temper, same as anyone else. But I find that, if I’ve had a decent amount of sleep, taken the time to do Bible reading, and EATEN (huge for me; I have issues with “hang-er”…”h-anger?” I have no idea how to spell that so it doesn’t look a) weird or b) like something you should put clothes on), I can usually deal with most of the crazy in at least a semi-gentle (sometimes full on kind; sometimes all I can manage is business-like) way.

I have major triggers. For example, getting out of the door with 6 kids is always challenging, but I expect that, and it doesn’t bother me too much. HOWEVER. If I’m late, and the twins (it’s usually the twins) decide to have a meltdown as we walk out the door, I turn into Nazi-Mom, barking orders, and doling out discipline willy-nilly. So…I try (oh, how I try) to avoid those triggers. Some days, it’s unavoidable, and I do okay. Sometimes, I lose it and have to apologize. But “knowing thy (my) self” (what brings out the mean mama in me) and PRAYER are about the only things that help me keep it together on those overly emotional days when it feels like every screech is an ice pick to the brain (and then, there are 3 days in a row that are totally zen, and I start to feel like I’ve really got this mama-ing thing licked…which is pretty much the moment when the Lord lowers the humble boom and shows me just how much I have yet to learn).

In answer to the rest of your questions: HERE’S THE THING. I do NOT do it all. Not really. But I genuinely do not feel crazy most of the time either. Mostly because I keep it simple.

Yes, I cook. Yes, I clean (with help from my kids). Yes, I home school (although, we’re doing the co-op, AND my mom’s helping again this year, so I won’t have as much…except that the twins are starting preschool work, so…yeah…we’ll see). Yes, I exercise. But I do NOT: volunteer anywhere (not anymore, anyway), attend a Bible study, always take a daily shower (#ew), attend a MOPS group, or….insert any number of things that lots of other moms do that I just don’t. My life is pretty basic: home, husband, kids, family, friends, church, gym, blog (oh, and then there’s that whole building a house and running a business thing, but let’s not talk about those right now, m’kay?). When I complicate it beyond that, things get wonky. (See the last two I mentioned + being pregnant; oy!).

I naturally struggle with physical (as opposed to time) organization (slowly but surely getting better as I get rid of more and more stuff), so I have to keep that SUPER-basic. There’s always at least one legitimately messy room in my house (usually my bedroom, where all of the extra stuff that doesn’t have a true home goes to die). And I have plenty of unfinished projects that have been waiting on my attention for ages.

All of the things that I seem to do well and/or effortlessly are my strong points. Of course, I’m going to seem good at those. I like to exercise. I’m a good (albeit simple) cook, and I spend a lot of time training my children, so we get along well and keep the house in okay shape most of the time.

But for every thing I’m good at, there are ten that escape me. And I’m just over here marveling at what Y’ALL do: cleaning your baseboards and windows regularly (whuuuutt?), making your own kombucha, gardening, doing really fun/creative projects with your kids, reading 3 educational books a month, crocheting, learning a new skill, getting dressed in real clothes every day (ha!), etc.

We all have strengths and weaknesses, and I’ve learned to play to mine and let the rest go to the extent that it’s not laziness (although, sometimes, there’s some laziness involved).

As far as meals, here are a lot of my go-tos plus great suggestions in the comments.

As far as kid recreational activities: yes, we have a few. So far: piano and soccer…for all three older kids. They don’t seem to mind the sameness one bit and have expressed zero interest in doing something different. Heaven help us when the day comes that they do.

As far as a support circle: I don’t use regular babysitters (as long as you don’t count the gym childcare) or nannies, but my mom is an angel and takes my big kids home with her one night a week (they’ve been doing this since they were each 2, respectively). My in-laws are also very sweet and will take the older kids or even all of them on the weekend occasionally. So, while I’m rarely without ANY kids unless I’m teaching an exercise class, I still consider myself blessed with help.

How do you discipline your kids?

Such a loaded, loaded question. Y’all be nice, okay?

So, I think this question has more to do with teaching them to do right rather than punishment (based on the fact that it was attached to another question that seemed to imply this). As in: how do you teach your children to be disciplined?

And I just have to return to training. And repetition. And NEVER growing weary of doing good.

Yes, we have to punish. We do spank (especially when they’re younger), use timeout, and take away privileges (especially when they’re older). We also talk about the “heart” of the matter (the why of the action and the sin that’s causing it) all. the. flipping. time.

I have zero interest in raising robot children who “follow the rules” by rote without ever thinking about why they’re doing it or who they’re doing it for (the Lord, others, themselves, in that order), only to discover, 15 years later, that they don’t have any reason to continue.

As far as the practical nitty-gritties, this one is huge for us: TERMS OF RESPECT.

Our children are required to say Yes/No Ma’am/Sir to every single adult they encounter. They are required to say “May I please” and, “Thank you” when they ask for/receive something. And they are required to make eye contact with the person with whom they’re speaking. “Yeah,” and “Okay” and “No,” are not acceptable responses. And they are required to do all of this with a cheerful attitude, instead of a sullen one.

Some of you are probably thinking: “Basic.”

Others are going: “Dude, they’re hardcore.”

Shaun is originally from the North where the Ma’ams and Sirs aren’t as much a thing as in the South, and he was originally skeptical of my wanting to do this. But now he’s TOTALLY on board.

Because here’s the thing that we have found with our children: respectful speech often dictates respectful actions. (It’s like that whole bit in James 3 about the tongue being like the small rudder that controls the whole big ship).

A slouchy, grouchy, “Yeah, Mom,” is often followed by dragging the feet and whining about a chore.

A cheerful, “Yes Ma’am,” is often followed by swift execution, which makes us all happier because I don’t have to nag or punish, and they’re done with the task more quickly.

It’s such a simple thing, but it is SO hard to train because it takes so. much. repetition. Once they’ve got it, though, I notice a difference/improvement in both behavior and attitude almost immediately. (I’m already starting to train Theo to say “Yes ma’am,” and he’s hilariously resistant, the little sinner).

Between talking about doing things “as unto the Lord” all the time and striving to address each other respectfully, I don’t have TOO many issues that need actual punishment with the older ones these days (usually just a bit of “come to Jesus” attitude recalibration). The youngers are another story (as noted above, Theo is juuuuuust getting into his “expressing my independence stage,” and it’s both fun and “fun”), but I believe they’ll get there.

Have you dealt with any jealousy among the younger ones yet? Also how do you get your little ones to sleep through the night when you nurse? We are at the brink of 11 months and my not so little guy refuses to sleep through the night which makes this mommy exhausted with a 3 and 8 year-old during the day.

Nope, no jealousy yet, thank the Lord. I’ve had my worries before, but they’ve never come to fruition. My kids fight, sure, but they also really, genuinely like each other–again–thank the Lord.

Oh, and here’s the post I wrote on my go-to sleep-training tips (most are too young for him, but maybe you’ll see something that helps).

What is your stance on sleepovers?

Honestly? Not a big fan. I would make exceptions for close, trusted friends/family, but I remember all too well some of the junk that I was exposed to (that still sticks in my brain 25 years later…close your eyes, Mom!) that I wish I hadn’t seen at such an early age (or ever) on sleepovers.

We haven’t had to address it hardly at all (yet), but we will do so prayerfully and as Biblically as we can when the situation arises.

I’ve got a bunch of little kids (4 to be exact, with the oldest at age 6). When, do you feel like is the turning point for their going from helpless to genuinely helpful?

Side note: when I read this, I think, “Oh, Mama. You are one busy woman. Bless you.” And then, I remember, “Duh. I have 4, 5 and under, and will soon have 5, 6 and under.” Ha! It really does help to have a couple of older ones to balance out my perspective, though.

I think the magic number for us has been between 6 and 7. They’re still pretty limited on tasks, but they’re able to communicate well and see problems that need solving like: Mom needing helps carrying things to the car. They also start to take a little more initiative and ownership of their responsibilities around that age. But, of course, your mileage may vary. You might get a very early or late bloomer.

It ever hard to say “we are open to as many babies as God sends us.”? I hate being asked “so are you done?” or “this is the last one right?” I also cringe at my own embarrassment at answering this question. Maybe I need to just practice saying it so I can answer the question and move on! It seems I always stand there stammering and embarrassed trying to defend or explain our family. Oi! It’s a joy to follow your blog. Keep up the good work mama!

I get it, girl.  I do. But I don’t mind being asked the question because I’ve begun to see it as an opportunity (that I wouldn’t normally get) to tell people about the Lord. I understand the cringing, though, because it’s hard not to project what we assume people are thinking of us (cuh-razy) onto their expected reaction once we tell them. I usually just say, “No, we’re not done…at least as far as we know. We leave the ultimate number up to God, so we’ll see how it goes!” Insert big smile. I haven’t yet met a person who will respond (outwardly) negatively to that response. They very well may be thinking, “You’re nuts,” or, “Glad it’s you and not me,” and that’s fine. But at least I’ve had a chance to give the Lord the credit, and eeeeeevery now and then, it leads to something more meaningful.

What are your reasons for homeschooling? I have homeschooled and now we are trying public school. I would homeschool 100% but I feel like my sanity is an issue! But I totally love homeschooling! So tell me your perspective please!

I feel like my sanity is an issue!” This made me laugh.

We home school because we genuinely believe that, for our family, it is the best and most effective way to raise lights in a darkened world. THAT is my primary goal in education–not math, reading, writing, or history. Although, OF COURSE, we teach all of those diligently, and I believe that God made our brains to soak up the knowledge of all of the goodness and order with which he imbued his creation.

I believe that, as their mother, I am called to be the primary influencer of their learning, and I don’t know how to do that if they’re gone 8 hours a day.

We also love the flexibility it provides our large family to spend lots of unstressed time together and to explore God’s creation/take trips at odd times of year/keep going during the summer (which we did at a more relaxed pace this summer).

There’s also so much opportunity for tailoring each child’s education to his/her own learning needs AND the opportunity to speed ahead in areas of strength and take your time in areas of weakness.

I know homeschooling is not for everyone, but we love it (yes, the kids too!), and it’s truly ideal for us.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Aaaaand I’m out…of words, thoughts, ideas…all of it.

Well. Almost. There was one question that I’ll address in its own blog post, but for now, I think I’m done.

{Doesn’t mean I won’t answer more in the comments if you think of more}

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The Vacation from the Wedding

If you read my Vail Wedding recap, you know that, while we had an absolute blast, it was a jam-packed week. Nothing wrong with that. But hauling 6 kids around to multiple events a day and missing bedtime 5 nights in a row definitely takes its toll.

Truth be told, after last year’s best-vacation-ever stay in Louisville, CO, we had already planned on making the drive again this year before we ever heard anything about the wedding. So, when we heard the dates, we decided to tack a little extended stay on the end–this time in Broomfield (also close to Boulder/Louisville/Denver).

Yet again, we managed to snag an adorable, reasonably priced, ideally situated Airbnb rental. I was sure we wouldn’t be able to top the placed we scored last year (or find anything at all; the pickings were slim this year), but this one–with its twin over full girls’ bunk bed, basement toy room, fenced in backyard + sandbox, and ample bed/bathrooms, was even better.

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{If the hand over the eyes is any indication, Evy was pretty embarrassed for the naked–and likely motion-sick–Ken doll that Theo is so gleefully toting}

I’m almost embarrassed to say how little we did during our five days there. But I can say this: we needed the rest. The kids were pretty exhausted after all of the wedding excitement, and I’m not too proud to admit that I was too.

So, we vegged. We played board games.

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{We eventually had to resort to a “virtual” Life game spinner on Shaun’s phone for the twins, since the real deal kept getting wrenched off of the board}

We took naps. We ordered takeout. And we played an inordinate amount of a very addictive, very silly internet game called slither.io. We are not a video or phone game family (I literally didn’t have a single game on my phone before I downloaded this one), but we made up for a fair bit of “lost time” that week.

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ANYhoo, lest you think that all we did was stare at our phone/tablet screens (the boys do not have phones and had to take turns playing on the 1 tablet we brought, and the girls were downstairs playing with the “new” dolls for hours on end), I would like to point out that we did get out of the house and enjoy the local culture a time a two–starting with the Broomfield Farmer’s Market.

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It was a fairly small operation, but it boasted of being the ONLY volunteer run farmer’s market in…(insert large geographical area that I don’t recall). I didn’t really know what that meant until I realized that they had several booths for kids, including one with giant bubble wands and another with several carnival-style games that were completely free.

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{Apparently, Nola considered bubble-blowing a tackle sport}

PLUS! They held a zucchini-mobile race for the kids (complete with free zucchini + stick-on wheels) with a $20 first prize.

We went in a little dubious and left an hour and 1/2 later full (from the yummy street truck food) and happy (even though we didn’t win the zucchini race).

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{I hope that you are genuinely impressed with our fake excited expression at the prospect of sharing a giant shave ice sno-cone}

Another night, we attended a free Family Movie Night at the Broomfield Auditorium, and yet another afternoon, we watched the mighty Mudslinger–a trick pig from a traveling show called Top Hogs–do amazing feats like…using his snout to lower a ring so he could walk through it when he was supposed to have jumped through it from a decent height (played for laughs…it was cute).

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That show also featured Bullet, the rescue dog, who did a good portion of one routine in reverse at rather frantic speeds, which, weirdly, was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

Shaun and I even managed to get a date night in, since the people who owned the house–sweet Christians who had a special needs daughter–had left trusted babysitter recommendations.

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We headed down to Pearl Street in Boulder and ate at an incredible restaurant called Riffs Urban Fare. Maybe this sounds like a superfluous detail, but our waitress was FANTASTIC. She was so attentive, knowledgeable, friendly, and cheerful that it definitely made the whole thing a bit more of an “experience.”  (Plus, the food was amazing).

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Holy wow. I’m getting hungry just staring at this yumminess.

After dinner, we waddled wandered down the promenade, peering in cute shop windows, and then circled back to sit on a bench, where we sat and talked for over an hour. More and more, I find myself cherishing moments of rest like these over activity. I’m pretty sure that’s a sign of aging. And I’m pretty sure I’m fine with that.

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{In case you haven’t noticed yet, Theo has quite the personality on him; apparently, end-of-trip donuts get him jazzed. Me too, T. Meeee too}

Oh, and just because…

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{This kid just makes life fun. That is all}

Friday morning, I managed to sneak away to Boulder again for a solo shopping trip to Anthro and LOFT (where I found a dress for $4.88–HOLLA).

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Happily ensconced in the giant Anthro sale room.broomfield15

{This one came home with me. The cropped bell bottom overalls from above…did not}

Oh, and somewhere during the week, I attended two separate BODYCOMBAT+GRIT combos at a local gym, which, despite being exactly what I teach in Texas, felt considerably harder than usual (mayyyybe due to elevation, although I had been in CO plenty long enough to adjust, so most likely just due to my epic levels of slug-worthy couch-surfing + wedding burnout).

We capped off our trip with a visit to my Uncle Kris’s and Aunt Marilyn’s house (just outside of Denver), where they treated us to “Tacos in a Bag.”

Basically, you set out taco fixin’s + a bunch of mini-bags of Doritos (they used Nacho Cheese), and then you add spoonfuls of taco add-ins to the chip bags, shake them up, and eat them straight from the bag with a spoon.

It’s entertaining and quite tasty.

Note to all 8-year-old boys: there is no need to shake the bags so viciously that all of the (rather messy) contents eventually shoot out the wrong end of the bag, which pops open from sheer exhaustion/abuse. Not that that happened or anything.

The 18 hour drive home (to which I contributed a whopping six hours of wheel-time. Bless you, husband) was a bit of a beast, but we made it.

And there you have it, folks. One of the least eventful, and therefore most relaxing, vacations on the books to date.

Am I a total geezer for preferring low key family vacations? Maybe. Am I okay with that? Definitely.

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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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Brain Dump

Emily has these cute little posts she does called “Coffee Chats” which are basically her chance to talk about all the random things she’s been mulling over/doing in her life without having to have a specific post “theme” or title.

Well, that’s what today is for me.

Except I don’t drink coffee. Like at all. I once ordered a hot chocolate and, upon tasting the tiniest sip, immediately knew something was wrong; Lindsay, who is a coffee addict, tried it and said, “Nope, there’s no coffee in there,” but when I asked the barista, he said, “Oh! I think I did add a little shot of espresso.” Mmm hmm. I’m not sure if that means that my taste buds are over-developed or Lindsay’s are dulled, but either way, no coffee for me, thanks.

I don’t drink iced tea either. So, this is not an iced tea chat (but how charming and Southern would that be?).

I do drink HoCho, but the mere thought of something that hot on these blazing Texas summer days is enough to make me shudder. Oh! And Icees. But that might give us all brain freezes.

So…brain dump it is (see above: I think I already got a pretty good start on the concept).

Of course, the thing that’s been occupying my brain the most is the tragedy in Dallas last Thursday.

(If you don’t live in the States, 5 policemen were killed by a deranged sniper at a “Black Lives Matter” rally).

I’ve pretty much run the gamut of emotions–sadness, anger, frustration, futility–and prayed (and talked to my husband) about it a lot.

Ultimately, I know that we live in a sin-ravaged world in which hateful acts are going to be perpetuated by every skin color on the planet. That’s par for the course–as our pastor reminded us yesterday when he pointed out that some of the deadliest race riots in our country happened 100 years ago. Like Ecclesiastes says, there’s nothing new under the sun. Until the Lord returns, we will always struggle to love our fellow man.

I am grateful, though, for reminders that the Lord is constant–that none of this turmoil means that he has abandoned us or forfeited one iota of his sovereignty or his gracious loving kindness. Regardless of the sinful acts of man: “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.” (Psalm 145:8-9).

On a similar note, a black reader-friend contacted me, asking my perspective (as a white woman) on all of the racial turmoil our country is facing, and I was really honored by her trust. She’s a fellow Christian, and we’ve had good talks about various topics via message in the past (definitely the type of lady you wish you could sit down and chat with in real life). Of course, our experiences and perspectives differ, but I think we both agree that the main problem here is sin nature, so I mostly just sent her a link to this article which is so well-written and does such a good job of taking a lot of the emotional factors out of the issue, since it focuses on statistics and numbers instead.

Another recommendation to balance that one out? The Logan Family series from Mildred D. Taylor. Namely Song of the Trees, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, and Let the Circle Be Unbroken. I read them with the kids, and even though they are heavy and hard in some parts, there is so much insight (especially for a white person) into the legacy of racism that still taints our nation’s history. And Taylor, who is black, does an amazing job of characterization without caricaturing. She writes with great pathos, while still seeming to lack a vendetta.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering what kind of music you should listen to while you’re scrubbing your kitchen and praying and feeling sorrow over the state of the world…

I highly recommend Ellie Holcomb. Her voice is gorgeous and haunting. Her lyrics are poignant (and often straight from scripture), and her vibe is just so peaceful.

This is my motto in life at the moment. Not because mine is so hard (it isn’t) but just because it’s a good reminder.

hard is not the same thing as bad

It will be available in the Paint and Prose shop soon, in case you also need the reminder.

Oh, and this one too.

feathers

I love the verse, and I’m kind of obsessed with those feathers. (Be on the lookout for both of these in the shop soon).

We’re leaving for our wedding trip/vacation to Colorado tomorrow night, and I am in full-on packing mode.

I’ve been shopping and setting clothes aside and making lists and planning snacks for days, but as soon as I’m done writing this, I’m diving elbow deep in suitcases (wish me luck; this whole packing for 8 people business is no joke, especially when you’re all required to look put together and presentable for 5 straight days).

At the moment, I’m trying to plan our food for the drive itself.

I need stuff that’s easily passed out and consumed with a minimum of mess. I’m also shooting for healthy(ish).

So far, I’ve got:

  • homemade Lara bars
  • homemade banana muffins
  • homemade chocolate chip cookies (not healthy at all but sooooo yummy)
  • fruit
  • graham crackers
  • peanut butter crackers
  • fruit leathers
  • nuts + trail mix

Any other brilliant suggestions for me?

Speaking of suggestions, I know I’ve asked you plenty of times before what your favorite books are (I need to go back and look at your answers), but if any of y’all have suggestions of books that are super-engaging for long stretches, feel free to share.

We’ll mostly be driving at night (we did this last year, and, outside of leaving Shaun and me a bit zonked the next day, it actually worked really well). And I find that some audiobooks keep me captivated for long stretches while others require a break every hour or so. I need to download some of the “can’t-put-it-down” ones to keep me awake on those long night-driving stretches.

Thanks for all your hairdo suggestions!

I’m thinking I’ll go with a low chignon/braid combo…if I can get my ultra-thick, ultra-layered (the braids tend to end up with sprigs sticking everywhere when your hair is not all one length) hair to cooperate. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of photographic evidence.

Speaking of pictures…

I’m almost completely out of my Younique BB cream that I love so much and didn’t leave myself enough time to order more before the trip, so I decided to take advantage of my Amazon gift card win from last week and order a new brand because of a friend’s suggestion +  glowing reviews (thank goodness for Prime shipping). I was also thisclose to ordering this pore-minimizing finishing powder to go with it when I read a review that said it should NOT be worn to events where you might be captured by flash photography, since the reflective nature of the powder renders your skin completely white in the photos. PHEW! You’d think they might mention that in the product description! Anyhoo, I’m not sure if you should consider yourself lucky or unlucky that I won’t have any pictures of me as a mime to show you after the wedding, but I know I’m sure relieved.

Aaaaaaand…that’s it. I do believe that I have sufficiently dumped most of the contents of my current brain situation right on this screen.

So, so scintillating, I know. Hope your Monday is off to a great start, friends. I’ll just be packing for the next 8 hours.

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