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The Ultimate (LAST MINUTE!) Amazon Gift Guide 2017

With only two actual days before Christmas, it’s a bit laughable that I’m posting my last gift guide. I almost didn’t, but then I had several people ask me about last-minute ideas and noticed how many items on Amazon are available for 1 day free shipping (if you hustle) and figured, well, why not? The post has been written, waiting to be finished up, for days.

So, here you go!

Pretty rose gold + leather watches are always a good idea!

Such a versatile gift–salad, fruit, decor, WHATEVER!

Ezra and Simon got one of these for me for my birthday (sweet boys), and I LOVE it! It has saved my bacon (somewhat literally) so many times, considering I can cook the chicken for soup AND the soup in under an hour. Tons of other uses.

Cute, high quality rainboots for less than $50? Yes, please! (Multiple styles in the $30 range). Click through the link for the warehouse deal prices, which are the ones I mentioned. Look for “buying options” or the blue text at the bottom of the description.

NOT under $50, but Shaun has bought me Hunter boots twice for Christmas over the last several years when they went on sale, and I can personally attest to their quality/comfort/cuteness. I wear mine often. A couple of colors and sizes are as low as $75.

Herschel is kind of the standard for hipster/cute bags, but they’re pretty over-priced imho. Good thing Amazon Warehouse Deals has got our backs. Click through the link and look for the blue text to the right under the “add to cart” column.

And then there’s this fun canvas/leather tote at $43 at the “like new” warehouse deal price. (Check out the blue text on the far right under the “add to cart” column where it says “used and new from”)

I’ve eyed up the Naked2 eye shadow palette by Urban Decay many times, but I just can’t pull the trigger on $60 eye shadow (y’all, my current shadow is from the dollar store, so…). $12 for two different palettes that have FANTASTIC review, though? Yeah, I already bought it.

Something else I’m not very savvy about but have been looking for is a good curling wand. My bestie has this one and used it on my hair the other day, with awesome results (it took 5 minutes, added some definition to my natural curls, and lasted all day). I wasn’t surprised when she told me it was the Babyliss brand because I have the straightener, and it’s awesome.

Another gift that Shaun has gotten me that I LOVE. This is actually a good price, since they don’t go on sale often. It looks like the earliest you could get it is Tuesday even with free One day Shipping, but still…maybe an option for someone you’re not doing Christmas with until next week or for a future gift?

http://amzn.to/2BzYIHJ

Got a reader who loves his/her Kindle in your life? You could give them the gift of unlimited reading for a YEAR (at 30% off the usual price).

http://amzn.to/2BPMxDm

Along the same lines…I love Audible! I always have a book in my ears while I’m doing projects. It makes for a great gift too.

I’ve done a review of our Amazon Alexa, and our love remains strong. We use her for all kinds of stuff all day long. Plus, we have two echo dots in separate rooms in the house that we use as intercoms (you can call between Echos). At $30, it’s a super affordable way to have a decent speaker for playing music or setting timers or any of the other myriad things Alexa is awesome for.

I know this is a super-eclectic list, but these were all hanging out as “extras” (or ones that I found since posting my other guides) that I intended to post, and then life got away from me.

Plus, my sister-in-law told me last night that she was sad her dad had missed out on the opportunity to buy her mom an instant pot, and I was happy to tell her that he could still squeeze it in!

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The Ultimate Amazon Gift Guide 2017 {$15 – $50}

Hopefully, you guys have most of your gifts under control already, but just in case you still need some inspiration, I’ve got lots more fun finds in the under $50 category.

Would it be one of my gift guides without gold + initials in some form of dainty jewelry? No, no it would not. Love this bar necklace version.

I know lots of people take their coffee seriously. The closest thing I can come to relating is in how seriously I dislike it. BUT. Even though the most obvious beverage to carry around in this NO spill wonder that keeps your drinks hot for hours might be a cuppa joe, it would obviously work just as well for my beloved ho-cho (hot chocolate) or for a cold drink as well. My friend, Chelsey (a coffee drinker), has one of these and loves hers for the unspillability (sure, why not?) of it if nothing else.

And now for a cup for those who prefer to take things stylishly. It may not be spill proof, but at least it’s cute!

This jewelry “box” is another one that falls in the Anthro-esque category. I love the combination of rustic with a little glimmer.

There is only one of these Fossil wristlets available for less than $40 (they’re usually $70) from Warehouse deals, but I absolutely love the super cute b + w + cognac leather combo. May the best woman (aka: the fastest with a keyboard) win! (Scroll down and look the for the blue text to find the Warehouse deal price).

I mean, I know we’re not 12, but still. These socks ARE pretty cute.

I have one of these and love it. (And how cute is it that you can label everything with chalk?)

It’s entirely possible that I’ve recommended this EXACT box set before. I know I’ve recommended the books separately, but I can’t remember about the set. Either way, it’s a great price for all four books. It would make a great gift for one, OR you could split up the books and give them to multiple people.

I don’t know why cute raincoats are so fun. But they are. And this navy and white floral option is surprisingly reasonably priced (because raincoats are expensive, yo) with good reviews.

I know fiddle leaf figs are pretty much the trendiest plants in the history of ever. Plus, they’re expensive. But if you (or someone on your gift list) has a green thumb (because, apparently, they’re also finicky) and some patience, this $30 version could be just the ticket!

Some people collect art. I’m more partial to garden stools. And poufs. But I’m happy to say that I rarely pay more than $50 for either and almost always considerably less. Amazon Warehouse Deals always has great deals like the one above. I love these to go beside a chair for a drink or a book. My kids like them as actual stools. We both win. (As with all Warehouse Deals, you have to click through the link then scroll down to the see the discounted price, which is over HALF off what it says in the pic above).

Gotta love a cute, mama-themed graphic tee.

And again. I don’t know why llamas are so popular (can you say OWL replacement??), but they make for some pretty cute graphics. Plus, I do love me a good long-sleeved gray tee.

Letter boards are all the rage these days, and I can personally attest (because Shaun got me two small ones for my birthday) that, while expensive, they are super-fun! This one’s actually a pretty sweet deal for this size board PLUS letters.

I LURVE this minty green cake stand plus glass dome. I find cake stands surprisingly versatile/useful in both decor and baking. And you can never go wrong with mint #imho. Sadly, this one has jumped in price $10 since I first jotted it down for the guide, but it’s still cheaper than it’s similar World Market counterpart.

Got a camera-lover in your life? What about gifting them this stylish bag for all their gear?

I just can’t help myself with pom poms. Keep in mind that these are pillow covers only. The better to stuff from your graveyard all those old pillow forms in your closet. Just me? Whoops.

It took me a long time (um, $30 years?), but I finally have what I would call a “signature fragrance” (Tocca’s Stella). But I love ALL of Tocca’s scents. They’re earthy and rich without being too, um, “mature” (catch my drift?). They can be expensive (but considering that my $70 bottle of Stella easily lasts me 2 years, I’m not mad about it). But this set includes a fair bit for a reasonable price and would make a great gift.

I mean, its sparkly slippers. Need I say more?

Okay, I told you I have a thing for stools. But did I mention I like faux fur too? Well, I do. So, put ‘em together for less than $40, and you have a winner in my book. Not to mention a fun gift for a decor-lover in your life.

AGAIN with the stools!!! I get asked where I get these stools (I have 6, but they come in packs of 2) ALL of the time on Instagram. The above link is your answer (scroll down for an Amazon Warehouse Price). I wait til they go on sale or I can catch them from the Warehouse, and they are SOOOOO worth it. Cute, sturdy. Practically unflippable. Small enough for even Theo to tote from one place to the next. I can’t say enough good things. They are fantastic for kids, but even I use them every now and then, and I love how sleek they are to look at.

Floral duffle. Meant to be…given to someone who loves cute bags! ;)

This poncho is a fun find…

As is this ruffly option, which has a VERY similar version at Anthropologie that costs almost 4 TIMES as much!!

Speaking yet again of Anthro, they have this very same milk bottle measuring cup situation for one dollar LESS (ironically enough) than Amazon. Free Prime shipping definitely evens the playing field, though.

Love this pretty camera strap, and so does pretty much everyone who reviewed it!

I have a mint desk lamp similar to this one I got from Target 2ish years ago that I got asked about all of the time from the old house. I think I might actually like this one even better because of the wood accents.

I love it when cooking utensils match. Double love it when they’re GOLD!

Something else “fun” (and by fun, I mean informative and potentially slightly depressing): this scale that not only weighs your food but will also spit out a caloric reading for you.

I love dough bowls. I don’t actually own one because they’re either a) expensive or b) really expensive. But this one is both affordable and interesting because of the unique live edge.

And that’s what I’ve got for our under $50 category. I’ll be back on Thursday with a kids’ guide, so if you have any last minute deals to snag, stay tuned!

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The Ultimate Amazon Gift Guide for MEN {2017}

When I first started doing these gift guides, I only included items for us girls. But it didn’t take long to figure out that what y’all REALLY wanted were ideas for those hard-to-buy-for men in our lives.

Lucky for you, that’s exactly what today’s post is about. I consulted Shaun, dug around the depths of Amazon’s “manly” categories, and came up with some winners in variety of price ranges.

Here we go with the Ultimate Amazon Gift Guide for MEN

I know. Grill tools. How basic. But Shaun insisted that a simple, quality set of grill tools (as opposed to a package of every little gadget under the sun) was a thing every guy would want. I definitely could have hit a higher price range, but these are on a special (for now, anyway) for $20, and the reviews are pretty convincing.

In the same vein, we have this fire starter, which looks a little like a curling iron with holes in it but is basically the equivalent of a mini-blowtorch and great for lighting charcoal fires or just for impressing your guy friends. Shaun’s exact words when he saw it were: “OH. That’s cool.”

And while we’re all about fire, let’s talk fire pits. They’re more expensive than they should be (IMHO), but some of our favorite memories from our old house were of spending chilly evenings on the back patio huddled around our (rather junky, rusted, and now defunct) fire pit, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows and telling silly stories. I’m already planning to replace our pit for Shaun’s birthday (shhhh…don’t tell; he’s been warned away from reading this post), and I may just go with this 30″ version, which, according to the reviews, is quite substantial and more durable than most in its price range (the “fancy” ones quickly jump to twice the price, and the cheaper ones are cheap in more than price alone).

Speaking of hot dogs, this little gadget seems like it would be a winner for the hot dog lovers in your life. It toasts the bun AND grills the weenie at the same time, then pops them up, just like a slice of toast, when they’re done. NEAT-O!

Another rec from Shaun: a lightweight sleeping bag that rolls up compactly so it’s easy to throw in a backpack for a hike but keeps you toasty at night. This one’s rated for cooooooold temps and supposed to be both durable and light.

If you’ve got a guy who’s a reader in your life, and he has somehow managed to miss out on this gem, you NEED to get it for him. Absolutely incredible story. I don’t usually gush about books, but consider this one a full on slobber-fest. It’s fantastic.

I’m less enthused about this book. Ahem. But the guys who have read it (because I never will) seem to think it’s awesome. So, there’s that.

Shaun insisted that the best kind of wallet is a slim one, and the many options/reviews seem to agree with him. This version won’t break the bank, has great reviews, and comes in a variety of colors/textures.

I have the hardest time finding tools to buy for the man who builds houses because, duh, he already has at least one of each and knows which one does what (me, not so much). But I take great pride in the fact that I found this little gadget all by my lonesome, and Shaun loves it (and recommended that every handy guy have one).

Shaun and I are both big fans of audio books, so a good pair of noise-canceling earbuds is high on both of our lists of “necessary” things in life.

This pair gets at least as good of reviews as ones 3 times its price.

And here’s a well-reviewed blue tooth version for not much moolah.

If you’re looking to spend a little MORE moolah, Shaun highly recommended this 12 volt drill kit from Milwaukee. Actually, come to speak of it, after using it to install kitchen hardware, I highly recommend it at as well. It’s way easier to handle with one hand than Shaun’s giant Dewalt beast of a drill.

Who doesn’t love a good hoodie? These Champion fleece versions come in tons of colors, and some are as low as $20. Great reviews too!

If you’re looking for a gift that says, “Why don’t you relax?” more than say, a drill or a socket wrench, how about this fantastic British series set in World War II? It’s DEFINITELY guy approved (Shaun loves it), but I’ve watched every episode of the 8 seasons as well and think it’s grand. Best part: very little objectionable material throughout. A war series that’s not rife with profanity and gore is hard to find, but this one does this trick.

I’m getting this shirt for Shaun…if for no other reason than as a visual reminder for me that, just because I didn’t get an immediate answer, does not mean that he’s ignoring me. Plus, it’s funny.

Speaking of funny AND entertaining, Killer Bunnies is a blast for guys and girls! But it does seem to me that males appreciate its off-kilter nature a little more than we girls do.

I kind of want this hat for myself. Buuuuuut I think it would make a great guy gift too.

Depending on your husband’s temperament, he might not consider this a kind gift at ALL. But I can see Shaun and I having a lot of fun (and good discussions) with a book like this.

Is there anything manlier than the words “camo survival bracelet?” Okay, so maybe not the “bracelet” part, but you gotta call it something.

Okay, so I’ve wanted one of these record players for ages, but they just don’t get great reviews for speaker performance, and they’re a bit much at full price. HOWEVER, Amazon Warehouse Deals always has one or two color options in the $30 range, and I am highly considering buying the girls a turquoise one for their room. There is currently a like new black one available, though, so if you’ve got a record-lover in your life who doesn’t care THAT much about an awesome bass beat, this makes for a stylish and functional gift he would love. Click through the link and then search below the listing for the blue text that says: “Used and new from ________”

And last but not least, we have this fun game, which is currently residing on our front porch, and of which Shaun is the current reigning champ. He loves it!

Annnnnd, there you have it! A BOATLOAD of suggestions for the guys in your life! Hope you find something he’ll love!

 

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Hawaii 2.0 (Part 2)

I almost didn’t post this. Because it’s been a…month (?) since I posted Part 1, and surely, no one cares anymore. Right? (Pretty sure right).

But I’ve had the text written for ages (the pictures are always what slow me down), and it seemed off-kilter to post a Part 1 but no Part 2, so here we gooooo…

So, where were we in the grand Hawaii birthday adventure? I think it was somewhere between yawn and ho-hum. I mean, we’d been in Hawaii for two whole days, and we had hardly done diddly-squat (but, oh, what a GLORIOUS diddly-squat it was).

Wednesday is when things started picking up considerably in the activity department, though.

Shaun worked half a day, and then we packed up the rental car and headed off to find a hike. What we found was a near brush with death. J/K. But only just. Because, while not deadly (for us), the Koko Crater Tramway hike is no joking matter. Basically, you start at the bottom of a rather dusty, barren-looking strip of old rails, and you keep climbing them, up, up, UP until you finally arrive at the top gasping and heaving, with burning legs and (if you’re like I am) a heavy dose of vertigo if you glance back down.

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Those big smiles are on our faces in the first pic were because we didn’t know (well, Shaun had done it before but not with a baby on board). The second pic smiles are because we’re still alive.

Or, if you’re like the silver-haired dude who passed us coming up while we were on our way down, and THEN passed us going down as we were (still) on our way down, you eat that trail for a snack and then ask–as my children so often do–what’s for “real dinner?” (Thanks, silver-haired dude, for making me feel like a wimp).

But seriously. I am not in bad shape, y’all. And it still was a tough hike. And Shaun did it while WEARING Honor, so he took the whole Real Men Wear Babies trend to the next level.

After that (tortuous, yet strangely satisfying) experience, a shave ice was feeling pretty necessary, so we headed to Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha, where Uncle Clay himself regaled me with stories of how he used to frequent his own store when it was a sweet shop decades before and long for the day he would buy it and be in charge of handing out cups of sugary goodness. See? Dreams do come true! He was a sweet guy. Plus, he told me I looked like Elizabeth Taylor, and I’m all about a fancy sno-cone with a side of flattery.

The next day, our hiking trend continued as we tackled the (much easier but considerably windier) Makapu’u Point Lighthouse trail.

hawaii part 2 1

See? Gusty? I don’t recommend hiking in a bathing suit, by the way, unless you’re doing what I mention below. 

The views were spectacular, but even better was when we picked our way down to the tide pools halfway back down the trail and got sprayed by giant geysers of water from the blow-holes.

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Daddy’s swimming in the tide pools while Honor and I got our selfie on.

Of course, then came the moment in the hotel parking garage when Shaun discovered that his wallet was missing. We couldn’t find it anywhere in the car, and he ended up hightailing it BACK to the hike, doing half of it in the now near-darkness and then the rather precarious goat path down to the tide pools in the then pitch blackness. Couple that with the fact that his phone wasn’t charged, and I was a rather concerned and uptight wife for a good two hours.

As you can imagine, when he came back without the wallet, we were both totally bummed.

AND THEN, we discovered it in a shopping bag…which he finally remembered shoving it into before we started the hike so the exact scenario of losing his wallet in a tide pool did not come to pass. Grrrr…all’s well that ends well?? Yes? Yes.

Friday was my actual birthday, and we started with a delicious breakfast at Sweet E’s Cafe. Honor and I had eaten there another morning when Shaun was working, and I told him we had to go back so he could try the blueberry cream cheese stuffed French toast. Holy exploding taste buds. I usually like the concept of French toast more than its execution, but this stuff was AH-mazing.

After that, we brought Honor back to the hotel where a sweet girl we had hired from an agency local to Honolulu babysat him while we took a surfing lesson. Shaun had taken one once before on his previous trip to Honolulu, but I never had. It was fun, and I did manage to stand up on the board several times, but the ABSOLUTE best wave that went on forever (and happened to be at the tale end of our time…so no chance for repeats) ended up coinciding with water smacking me straight in the eye and knocking my contact loose. So, I spent the entire wave crouching on my board trying to get the ornery thing back in my eye.

Eh. Worse things have happened to me.

Like the massage I got after surfing!!!

Okay, that’s being a bit dramatic. But I guess I should have known when my masseuse asked, “You ever have Thai massage before?” and then just grunted dubiously when I said, “No,” that I was in for an interesting experience.

Hilariously, Shaun came along for a couple’s massage (his first massage EVER), so he was even more bewildered than I was when we left.

So, basically Thai massage involves a WHOLE lot of having elbows dug into your back muscles, being walked on, and being pulled into some of the most unappealing positions ever. All by tiny Thai women who weigh maaaabye 90 pounds soaking wet.

Which makes you feel like EVEN more of a wimp when they say, “Pressure okay?” and you’re like, “Um, it’s a littlemuch” (and by that, I mean, the imprint of you fingers will never leave my collar bone), and they respond with, “Oh, okay. But this light. You need toughen up!”

I think maybe in the future I will avoid massages that get me thinking things like: “It’s like labor, Abbie. The pain can’t last forever. Just breathe, and the worst will be over in a minute.”

Or 70.

ANYhoo, we continued the festivities with lunch…somewhere…and a nap. And then we got all gussied up for our dinner reservation…

But Honor was having none of it.

He had been SO good this whole trip. Chill and cheerful and easygoing. But that night, he was H-Y-P-E-R.

We stuck him in the stroller and walked for a good long while, but he absolutely refused to fall asleep and kept emitting random, excited whoops and squeaks. Our reservation wasn’t for a fancy place, particularly, but neither was it a place where you would bring a vocalizing baby just for “fun.”

hawaii part 2 3

We aaaaalllmost won a few times, but the minute he got drowsy, he popped right back up. 

So, we gave up and headed to a nearby Vietnamese/Thai/African (random, yes?) place.

You guys.

It was SO good. I’ve racked my brain and can’t remember the name of the restaurant for the life of me, but the atmosphere was cozy and romantic and the food delicious. Plus–bonus!–the seating on one side was bench style, which gave Honor plenty of room to crawl out some of his excess energy.

We capped off the night with fireworks on the beach. I’d love to claim they did it just for my birthday, but the Hilton does a fireworks show every Friday night, so it was just really good planning on my part having my birthday fall on a Friday this year. Or…something like that.

Saturday was our last day there, and we squeezed in one more hike–to Diamond Head this time. Which was…overrated. Except for the parking experience, which was both slightly maddening–we ended up in the waiting line for quite a while because the lot was full…which should have been our first clue–and diverting. The guy in charge of the lot was wearing a yellow face mask with holes cut out for his eyes and mouth, a giant straw hat, and gloves. Plus he was SUPER zealous about his job of getting people into parking spots as they opened up and shutting down any attempts at line-cutting, which made for some pretty entertaining shouting and pointing showdowns.

ANYhoo, after idling in line for 25 minutes, The Man in the Mask finally gestured us into a spot, and we began the climb. Along with about 4,567 other geniuses who thought it would be a good idea to hike Diamond Head on a bright, sunny Saturday.

The views at the top were pretty, but hard to enjoy, since there were 14 people eagerly awaiting the chance to claim your spot at the railing. Eh. It wasn’t my favorite experience all around, but it was still an experience, and I don’t think I’ll soon forget weaving like mad through crowded paths in an attempt to keep the hike to a respectable time (we wanted to get up and back in under 45 minutes…just because).

The rest of the day was spent souvenir shopping (at, ahem, Walmart) for the kids, driving to a scenic view (which was completely obscured by fog) and trying some local poke (didn’t love it, didn’t hate it) and yet another shave ice before heading to the airport.

The flight home was the most daunting to me because it was an all-nighter, and Honor had been so full of nervous energy on the flight over, I figured he wouldn’t easily go to sleep. Plus, we didn’t have the extra space for his car seat this time.

Sure enough, he put up a valiant effort to stay awake for close to 3 hours, but he finally couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer and slept for a good two hours. Shaun and I dozed fitfully, but at least the flight back was a full hour shorter than the one there, and it went by somewhat quickly.

By the time we touched back down in Dallas, we were feeling pretty bleary-eyed but happy to be home and SO ready to see the rest of the kids.

Pretty much every aspect of the trip exceeded any expectations (they were few) that I had, and I came back feeling a strange mixture of exhaustion and rejuvenation.

Best of all, the kids thought their Hawaii Walmart shirts were A M A Z I N G. Well, those and the chocolate covered macadamias, of course.

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Of course we proudly wore our shirts to homeschool co-op THE DAY AFTER we got back. 

Stay tuned for the first installment of my yearly Amazon Gift Guide on Tuesdays (pinky promise). 

 

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Hawaii 2.0 (Part 1)

This past month has been one of the busiest and most exciting in a while. And that’s saying something coming from a woman who has spent the last year birthing her 7th baby, packing up and selling her beloved DIY home, then moving into her 2nd DIY home and living the last 5 months in a constantly evolving (code for: under construction) space.

But! None of that can quite trump the triple-threat that was traveling the first week in October, only to have Shaun leave on a work trip the very next morning after we got back, and then turning around and heading out on yet another trip just two days later. We’ve been home for a week now, but it doesn’t really feel like it. My days are all starting to blur together. Well, I don’t know about “starting.” That was a while ago. But continuing in an even more dizzying fashion. I’m ready for a dose of quiet and normal…says the girl who has 2 children with birthdays in November plus Thanksgiving, Christmas, and another 2 birthdays right around the corner. Yep. Quiet and normal should be exactly what it looks like around here. Heh.

ANYWAY, back to the travel. Do y’all remember back in the spring when everything was even more cray-cray than usual, and Shaun ended up with a work trip to Hawaii smack in the middle of our mad dash to get the house ready to sell? I remember.

He told me I was welcome to come with him, encouraged me to, even, but I just couldn’t wrap my brain around relaxing in Hawaii while there was so much work to be done at home. So, I passed. And I didn’t regret it…mostly.

So, imagine my delight when ANOTHER Hawaii work trip appeared on the radar. And my nice mama agreed to keep the oldest 6 kids. Shaun’s work trips are usually a bit up in the air for a pretty good period of time. Until they aren’t. Clients have been known to hem and haw about dates for a good four months and then suddenly need him out there in 2 weeks time. So, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to go on this one either, depending on the timing.

Wouldn’t you know it, though, Honor and I not only got to go, but Shaun managed to schedule the trip for the week of my 35th birthday! I spent my birthday surfing and getting the most excruciating massage of my life. But more on that later.

I mentioned a while back that Hawaii isn’t really my jam, which, I realize, sounds nuts since it’s plenty of folks’ dream vacation. But Shaun, Della (at 2 months), and I went to Kauai years ago, and, while I enjoyed it, it didn’t blow me away.

Well, low expectations are a beautiful thing, let me tell you. I went into this trip thinking that it would be a welcome break from our construction zone of a home and looking forward to spending time with my husband not hashing out which stair railing to choose or whether or not we had actually ordered the knobs we couldn’t find for the upstairs doors but having pretty much zero other expectations. And you know what? I had an absolute blast.

First things first and what all the mamas want to know: how did Honor do on the flights? Pretty darn well. He’s a chill baby. His favorite pursuits are eating, smiling, and sleeping. So, I wasn’t too nervous, even though it was fully an 8 hour flight on the way there. I had my arsenal of tricks all ready and raring. And let me tell you: I used every one. The thing I had not anticipated is how HYPER my usually laidback baby would become upon entering a confined space full of strangers.

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Do not be fooled by his calm expression. This kid was FULL of energy.

He bounced.

He giggled.

He shrieked.

He fought sleep like it was a Nazgul intent on sucking the soul from his body.

But with Shaun’s and my tag-teaming it, we prevailed. Huzzah! And Hooray, God! Because, on the way there, we ended up getting an “extra” seat, which means they allowed us to bring Honor’s car seat on, which was awesome the two times we managed to wear him down enough to take a cat nap (him, not us…zzzzzzz). The lady checking for open seats was flabbergasted one was available, since it was supposed to be a packed flight with multiple standbys. She looked very confused as she told us that they had already settled everybody in the standby line, and the seat was ours but then responded to my, “Hallelujah! Praise Jesus!” with a big smile and an, “Amen.”

Once in Hawaii, we scouted out some grub pretty much the second we exited the airport. Newsflash: this will not be the post where I tell you all of the best Poke Bowl joints in Honolulu. As a general rule, I prefer to eat the authentic food of the place I’m visiting. But as another general rule, I do not care for raw fish. I did try it. But it did not wow me.

So, we settled on Thai food (it was pretty decent, especially for hungry folks fresh off a plane), then checked into our hotel, which was right across from Waikiki beach. Normally, we would have scouted out an Airbnb, but since Shaun’s work was paying for the nights when he was on the job, we decided to stick with a traditional hotel. And I’m glad we did. It just made things so much more relaxing to not have to worry about laundry and cleaning up after ourselves for once.

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The view from our hotel was not terrible

That night, we ventured for a quick walk on the beach and a longer stroll down the main thoroughfare where I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of ABC stores. If you’ve ever been to Honolulu, you’re nodding your head right now. ABC is a chain of convenience stores, and there is literally (and no, I’m not misusing that word right now) one every fifty feet. It’s bizarre to me that any population could sustain them all, but they were always buzzing with business whenever we ducked in for some necessary small thing.

We ended the night bringing a burger (which I highly recommend) from the Hideout at the Laylow back to the hotel and putting Honor down while we propped our eyelids open long enough to make it to a respectable bedtime. (Honolulu is five hours behind Texas).

Shaun didn’t have to be at work until Tuesday, so since we’d gotten in on Sunday afternoon, we had all of Monday to explore. We slept in yeah right…we were up and at ‘em by 6, thanks to Honor’s extremely confused body clock, but first dibs at our hotel’s custom omelet bar aaaaaalmost made up for it. Plus, Honor needed a nap like an hour later, so we got in a bit more shuteye after all.

The rest of the day was spent driving around the north end of the island…while it rained. Which sounds like a bummer. But it really wasn’t. We didn’t have a single thing we HAD to do, so instead, we wandered, taking breaks when we felt like it, trying out Korean barbecue (I’m a fan!), and doing a lot of talking and breathing. I can’t remember for the life of me what we had for dinner, but, since this isn’t strictly a guide to things to do and places to eat in Honolulu (and by “isn’t strictly,” I mean really not at all), I’m not going to stress about it.

Tuesday, Shaun had to work, so after our early morning omelets (yes, again), Honor and I headed back to the hotel room where we both napped (ah, the blissful, guiltless sleep of really, truly having nothing else you should be doing) and then headed out to explore. We spent the afternoon walking and eating and browsing the Anthropologie sale racks (confession: I bought a bathing suit on major clearance and don’t feel one bit of shame, since I immediately wore it multiple times throughout the rest of trip). At one point, Honor was a bit out of his mind with tiredness, so I plunked him in the stroller, plugged in my Audible book, and proceeded to walk for the next hour.

 

 

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The views on our walk were not awful either. Come to think of it, there weren’t too many bad views. ;)

The weather was perfection, with a bright smiling sun, breezy blue skies, and the tang of saltwater in the air. I could feel some of the tension that I’ve been carrying with me constantly for months starting to uncoil from my spine. Honor and I ended the afternoon chilling (literally) in the hotel pool until Shaun came home. I’m not really a pool girl, but that baby needed something that wasn’t sitting in a stroller to do once he woke up. And he is a w a t e r b u g.

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This shot is from our balcony patio, not the pool. But yay for clearance Anthro bathing suits and cute little pool mates.

Again with the dinner amnesia. I had intended to be more, um, intentional about cataloging our watering holes so that I could be a font of info for anyone planning to take a trip. But I had also intended to type this post up about 57 times over the last 2 weeks, so intentions clearly have little bearing on this situation. ANYhoo. We ate. It was probably pretty good. And then we went to bed.

It may sound kind of lame given the location, but one of the best parts of the trip was the complete and total lack of agenda. We are not obsessive schedulers, but we do tend to plan ahead a fair bit. This time, although we did have specific activities in mind, we put zero pressure on ourselves to accomplish them. And some of my favorite parts of the first part of the trip were spending evenings in the hotel snuggled up in bed in the dark with Shaun (because Honor was in a pack ‘n play in the same room), talking or watching episodes of Shark Tank or Chopped.

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I couldn’t resist with Honor’s beach outfit. He couldn’t resist the salt shaker. Hey, whatever distracts a tired baby

By Wednesday, though, we were rested and raring for something more active…but you’ll have to wait for just what that was until next time because I’ve recently switched to teaching early morning Body Pump classes, and my body has not adjusted yet, and I’m getting very sleevnb,mns

 

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6 Months, No Clothes

My deepest apologies, friends, for the click bait title. I just couldn’t resist.

So, you know how I mentioned in one of my child-training posts that I want to teach myself and my children to be less entitled and less enamored of worldly things?

Well, it’s wasn’t just idle words (I hope).

Here’s the thing: I love bargains. I always have. And I couldn’t care less about name brands–at least in terms of status symbols. I like that certain brands are known for their quality but will only buy them at steep discounts and am happiest when I find them secondhand at Goodwill (i.e. I talk about being an Anthro-lover, but I only buy things from there on rock-bottom clearance with an extra percentage off plus a coupon). And if something declares that I spent a lot of money on it by the brand emblazoned on it, I literally won’t buy it. (Because, even if I bought it for an incredible bargain, I would feel compelled to go around telling everybody about how I hadn’t actually paid full price, and–let’s be honest–that’s just obnoxious).

So! In case many, many rounds of Thrifted or Grifted have failed to convince long-time readers that I love me a good deal…the above overkill paragraph probably won’t either. But I guess you get the point that I don’t spend a lot of money on, well, practically anything.

And that’s a good thing.

But, as I’m sure you’ve heard, you can actually have too much of a good thing.

And in this case, my too much of a good thing is: cheap (as in inexpensive) clothes.

My nose was pretty well rubbed in this fact as I sorted, donated, sorted, packed, sorted, and unpacked an embarrassing amount of clothing in the process of prepping to move.

And that was after several rounds of the same a year ago when I donated over 50 bags of “stuff.”

Not too surprisingly, I realized that, like just about every other creature of habit on the planet, I found myself reaching for the same 20 items of clothing, which was making everything else in my closet jealous and sad. But never fear! This is a not a blog about how I threw out everything I owned and have now vowed to wear the same 3 t-shirts and 2 pairs of pants until the end of time, amen.

Yes, I donated and gave away a ton. Yes, I f-i-n-a-l-l-y tossed the ratty stuff. Yes, I tried to only bring the things that I truly loved and plan on actually wearing. And, even so, I have puh-lenty of clothes.

Which is why…I’m not buying any more for 6 months.

Anybody else feel a bit let down by my big revelation? I mean, big woo, Abbie. 6 whole months of not buying clothes. Cry me a river, please.

But I decided to just start somewhere and see where it goes. Who knows? Maybe I’ll end up with a full-on capsule wardrobe as a result of all of this. Maybe I’ll end up only wearing itchy hair-dresses as penance for buying too many clothes from Goodwill for too many years (#nope).

In all honesty, I haven’t bought many clothes at all in the past year due to: pregnancy, house expenses, lack of interest/time, etc. But not being ABLE to buy anything is another animal entirely. I don’t go to very many stores these days, but now, when I do, I avoid the clothing section altogether, whereas, in the past, I would have made sure to at least rifle through the clearance racks.

The three exceptions–since we’re going for honesty here–have been a tankini top that I bought to match some swim bottoms I wore to the beach last week, a big beach hat that I wore there (both kind of necessary), and a pair of slip on sneakers that I grabbed for $3 when my flip flops broke on the trip. But I have yet to wear them, so I may return them.

It’s been two months since I’ve bought any clothing (other than the above items), and I…don’t miss shopping. Mostly because I stay away from it. I’m sure I would be considerably more tempted if I were putting myself in harm’s way, so to speak. But, as I mentioned before, I already wasn’t doing much of it, so it hasn’t been a huge shift.

But, huge or not, it’s been good.

My 6 months will be up right before Christmas, so maybe I’ll treat myself to something nice (on major sale, of course) at the end of it. But maybe I won’t. As always, I will keep you posted, whether you want me to or not.

Anybody else ever gone on a clothing fast? (I’m sure many of you don’t need to and are rolling your eyes at me, but…maybe not everybody?)

Or done a capsule wardrobe?

I thought I like variety too much to even consider one, but the older I get and the more kids I have, the more I care about a) quality/long-lasting pieces and b) simplicity (too many options = frustration/time I don’t have spent on picking outfits).

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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 2}

First up, thank y’all so much for your response to last week’s child-training blog. It’s impossible to predict how people will react to that kind of post, and I really appreciate your kind comments and encouragements!

So, I actually wrote most of the below at the same time as the first post but ultimately decided to split it up because–dude–that thing was long, and also, there seemed to be a natural break in the “methods.” I think you’ll find today’s post a bit more…specific? Practical? Nitty gritty? Something like that.

Disclaimer: I am sharing some very specific practices of ours because I have been asked what we do. I do not share them because I think they are the only way or are the gold standard for child-training. If you get something encouraging or helpful out of this post, great! If not, carry on. You are the best mama for your kids because God chose YOU and no one else to fill that role.

Okay, enough intro. Onward and upward.

6. We praise generously

Or at least we try to. If my children do something kind or thoughtful, I heap praise on them in spades. I’ll sing and dance about it if I have to. If they are unselfish, I tell them how proud I am of them. I try to look for ways to affirm their efforts to do right without it becoming some sort of Pavlovian system. As with every other area of motherhood, I fail mightily in this one. But this I can tell you: when I genuinely praise my children for their true successes in character, they beam with joy. When I point out to them ways in which they have grown, they are so excited to realize that the Lord is making progress in their hearts.

7. We don’t tolerate whining

Compassion is not my strong suit. And while it’s yet another mothering goal of mine to be more empathetic with my children, my naturally no-nonsense personality definitely lends itself to shutting whining down quickly. Shaun is very similar in this regard, so we have a saying in our house: “Fussing never gets you what you want.” And it’s true. I don’t think we’ve ever given into a request that was presented in a whiny or entitled manner. We don’t give our kids things to “shut them up” or to make our lives easier at that moment (because it pretty much always makes things harder later on).

That said, there are mountains I’m not willing to die on. Potty training? I’ll do it when they show they’re ready, thanks. Taking the paci away? Theo has just gotten to the point where he can really deal with being told, “That is ONLY for bedtime or naps,” (he’s the only child so far who’s been interested in a paci this long, but we have had finger-suckers too), and pretty soon, after we’ve adjusted to the new house a little more, he won’t have it at all. Right now, his paci at bedtime makes my life simpler, and that simplicity itself is not necessarily a bad thing. However. He NEVER receives his paci if he demands it or asks for it in a whiny way. He is always required to be kind in his wording, no matter how tired or frustrated he is…or no dice.

8. We are really, really big on respectful speech

Speaking of asking kindly, we do please, thank you, you’re welcome, yes/no ma’am/sir from pretty much 1 year on. With near constant repetition and reminding (yup, all day, every day), by 2, our kids have it down 50% of the time. By 4, they’re pretty solid.

So what, Abbie? I mean, all you’re doing is training them to be little parrots, right?

I don’t think so.

By emphasizing kind speech and then modeling specific phrases that show respect, we are cultivating not just the mechanics of the behavior but the attitude behind it as well. (We explain how these phrases demonstrate honor to people and are a blessing to them as well).

We also quickly shut down any form of disrespectful behavior toward each other or anyone else (I don’t think it would even occur to our kids to be mouthy to any adult at this point). Even in joking form, they are not allowed to call each other names or use phrases like, “You’re not my friend anymore” or “I don’t like you.” And if they do, they are required to ask for (and give) forgiveness.

Again, it goes back to doing things “as unto the Lord.” Don’t like your sister right now? Oh well. I can’t force you to like her, but you still have to be kind in your words and actions. Because the Lord first loved us, even in our unloveliest states, we have no excuse.

The other day, I told Theo that he was “acting awful.” Not my finest mothering moment, but there had been a whole lot of pretty awful screeching and demanding going on from the backseat. His response? “No, Mama, YOU awful.”

At least a part of me wanted to laugh. I mean, I pretty much set myself up for that one, right? Plus, his scrunched up brows, puckered lips, and lisp were pretty cute. But his words and attitude were not. So, I told him that he does not get to say disrespectful words to Mama and that he had to apologize. Of course, he didn’t fully understand the word “disrespectful,” and I will be working to use more constructive terms to describe his behavior in the future. But he got the gist (because he had definitely been trying to insult me), and he hasn’t tried it since. We’ll see if it sticks.

Again, I hesitate to share all of this with you because it may sound like I am bragging that, “My kids don’t backtalk.” It’s certainly not because they’re not capable, though. But, because it’s never even been an option in our house, they don’t tend to go there at this point.

9. We are careful of what we watch/read/listen to

Another reason my kids don’t do “attitudes” is because we don’t consume media in which kids have them.

Same with profanity or ugly language.

One of my favorite “my kids” anecdotes of all time goes a little something like this:

One day at the gym, a little boy called another child a “dumbass.” Simon, who was 6 at the time, literally tackled him with his hand over his mouth and said, “We do NOT say that!”

The childcare workers told me that he didn’t seem like he was trying to hurt the kid, just full of zeal to keep him from saying anything else crude.

Here’s the best part, y’all. Simon didn’t know the word “ass” at that point. He had no clue what the compound word meant. He was just horrified at the kid’s use of “dumb!”

And therein lies the tension of “being in the world but not of it” that we try to maintain in our family.

If my goal were to guarantee that my kids never hear a curse word or suggestive song lyric, we would never go to the gym (or most restaurants or, well, much of anywhere). The other day, the girls at the gym’s front desk informed me regretfully that they’d had an incident in which a mother became very upset and dropped an F-bomb or two in front of all the kids.

Here’s the thing: as much as that didn’t thrill me, neither did it concern me too much (if for no other reason than that it was only the twins, Theo, and Honor there that day, and they’ve never heard that word).

Our goal is to use Philipians 4:8 as our guide for what we watch/read/hear. As we do, I am trusting that, with the Holy Spirit as their guide and a firm foundation in the fruits of the spirit, merely witnessing occasional profanity or immodest dress or snotty behavior or whatever will have very little effect on my children’s character. Especially as we take the time to address the heart attitude behind it.

However, a constant inundation that we invite into our home? That’s a different story.

Because from the overflow of the heart, the lips speak. And we plant things in our hearts through repetitive exposure and embracing of them (in other words, we train our hearts to love them, and, boy, does it not take much training to get our hearts to love sin).

Because of this, we are pretty picky and intentional about the movies, books, and music we consume in our house.

There have been a few times we’ve been a little more careless (and by “careless,” I mean that we had some reservations but looked up the movie on Plugged in Movie Reviews and commonsensemedia.org, and it seemed “fine”), and our kids have totally called us on it.

We mostly stick to classic and “old-school” movies, but a few weeks go, we watched the first 15 minutes of a current “kids’” movie for family movie night, and, even only half-watching from the kitchen where I was making dinner, I found myself cringing at the foolishness of the dialogue. I was about to ask Shaun to turn it off when Simon said, “You know, Mama, this is really not godly at all. He is being super disrespectful. I don’t think we should watch this.” Word, kid. (Can you tell Simon is a truth-lover?).

Because they are encouraged to use respectful speech on the daily and exposed so little to snarky, sarcastic, “comeback” laden dialogue, they are able to recognize the folly of it when they do encounter it.

(And this is from a girl who has to watch her own sarcastic tendencies on the daily).

10. We limit screen time and encourage reading

My children get 30 minutes of game play a week on our Wii. Well, the three oldest do. The younger ones get none at this point. We don’t do individual screen time at all. No tablets or phone games, unless we are making a very specific exception for vacation.

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(Oh, the joy of 30 whole minutes of Mario Kart!)

Whenever we have introduced any kind of consistent individual screen time, it has fostered selfishness, competition, whining, and addictive behavior. Maybe that’s different in your house, but it just doesn’t go well in ours.

So, we’ve just done away with it all together. Even though they do get some of these privileges at grandparents’ houses, they don’t ask for it at home and are too busy doing other things all day. I’m sure this will have to be adjusted (as will everything we do) as they get older, but for now, it’s best for our family.

I usually require the three oldest to read for a minimum of 30 minutes in the afternoon, and if my children ever come to me bored (which is almost never), I give them the option to read or to help me with a chore.

We watch between 0 and 1 1/2 hours of “TV” a day (we don’t have channels or Netflix, but Peppa Pig, Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers, The Kratt Brothers, and Shaun the Sheep are our current go-tos on YouTube), depending on whether they’ve had laundry to do (I let them watch shows while folding as long as they actually are folding) or have been at the gym (where they almost always have a show going, which the kids usually watch at least part of).

We will never be accused of being hip at our house, but as far as I’m concerned, my children are incredibly uncool in the coolest way possible. They know very little about current trends, desirable brands, or hot games.

And I think that’s rad because I only get one chance to protect their innocence, and I choose to do that by shielding them from character-destroying influences while still making them very aware of the true evils that exist in this world.

We study other cultures. We learn Hebrew and Spanish. We read about what’s happening in Syria with ISIS’s systematic genocide of Christians and other “undesirable” people groups. We remember the Holocaust and don’t skip over the hard parts in the Bible. We read updates from Voice of the Martyrs. We don’t sugar-coat sin and death. It’s a part of this world we live in, and they are aware of it and its consequences.

So far, I am happy with how UNworldly my kids are while still being able to deal with some tough stuff (some of which I don’t feel at liberty to go into here but which has definitely given them a taste for real life hardships and hard emotional situations).

In other areas, though, I see lots of room for improvement. Both in them and me.

I haven’t figured out how to make our desire for incorporating more service projects and community outreach work in our family’s schedule.

Even with the fact that I almost never buy my children new clothes or shoes or toys (with birthdays and Christmas being almost the only exceptions), I still feel like they are too entitled (as am I).

I’d love to figure out how to foster more empathy for a hurting world in need of Jesus (in them and me). It’s just too easy to get caught up in all of this focus on training ourselves to the exclusion of truly seeing others (because the Bible does NOT say that pure and undefiled religion is well-behaved kids).

As much as we are an atypical first world family in some ways (lots of kids, lots of home businesses, DIY houses, etc.), we are typical in our love of first-world comforts. We can train ourselves out of that. I want to train us out of that.

I hope that you can hear my heart in these posts, y’all. I am all too aware of my shortcomings as a human and as a mother. I see mamas all the time that are killing it and want to pick their brains so that I, too, can excel in a certain area.

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(One of the benefits of child-training? The 6-year-old gets the little ones snacks while the older boys lay flooring. Nap time for mama! Jokes, folks. Jokes).

However, as imperfect as we all are, I genuinely believe that I have remarkable kids who will be world-changing messengers of the gospel. And I know that I, by the grace of God, am the primary instrument in nurturing that.

Honestly? As many times as I fail each day, those last two sentences above should be a giant encouragement to any mama. BY THE GRACE OF GOD, I–a sinner, saved by Jesus Christ–have the privilege of having the most significant role in shaping my children into remarkable kids who, I believe, will be world-changing messengers of the gospel. A privilege which I exercise very imperfectly. But that’s the power of God’s word and his grace. And he has called me to share them with my children as I foster their hearts in discipline, in love, in word, and in deed.

I hope I can encourage you to view your role in training your children’s hearts toward the Lord as a high and holy calling. It’s pretty easy to see it as a chore (I do, sometimes) or to feel like we’re not making headway (we are!).

But we can’t grow wear of doing good! If we don’t, we WILL reap a harvest. That’s a promise.

Child-training is hard. But I bet you know what I have to say to that. Yup. Hard is not the same thing as bad. Not by a long shot.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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?).

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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

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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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We made it!!! (I think)

Well, hi there, guys. Remember me?

That girl with lots of kids who types a lot of words? Usually. Although, lately, not so much.

So, when last I typed said many words, it was to outline the task ahead of us. Namely finishing packing, loading, moving, cleaning, and just generally doing all the things that would get us into the new house. And that’s exactly what we proceeded to do for the last 3 weeks.

I packed (and packed) and kept kids alive while Shaun worked late into the night every. single. night finishing plumbing, finishing concrete countertops (dedicated post on that soon), finishing electrical, finishing siding, etc., etc., etc. (adding a few more etceteras wouldn’t be pushing it).

Then, the week before last, we started the actual move. We couldn’t do it as gradually as I would have liked because there was some pretty significant painting going on downstairs right up until our first official moving day. To say that it was grueling would be to say that swimming the English channel is a little tough. Well. Not grueling like the rowing scene form Ben Hur. But it just didn’t let up. For days. It’s all running together in a big blur, but I just remember lots and lots and lots of packing tape and vacuuming and hauling really big, heavy things like full-sized freezers and pianos and ping pong tables (I’m not exaggerating; Shaun was tied up at the new house, so my Dad and I moved some pretty giant stuff, yo).

I’m sure hiring movers would have made things simpler in some ways, but here’s the thing: my husband works for himself as a software developer and has all of the techie tools to show for it. Also, we home school, which means lots of schoolbooks and supplies. Also, we run Paint and Prose out of our home office, so there’s a fair bit of stuff that comes with that. Also, we build our own houses, so the tools, they are plentiful. Also, we have rentals, and there is definitely some paraphernalia associated with that. Oh, and ALSO, we have 7 (!!!) children, and their baggage is impressive! It’s all useful, necessary stuff (weeeellll…I just discovered, upon unpacking, that I own 7 casserole dishes…not sure how necessary all of those are), but I don’t even know what movers would have done with half the stuff we had (presumably, moved it…deep, I know).

And, yes, we did sell our house furnished, and yes, I am SO grateful to not have to have moved beds and sofas and chairs (oh my!). But it was still a boatload (and not a small one either) of stuff that we moved. And moved. And moved.

We had help. My awesome parents, sister-in-law, and in-laws were there at various points throughout the week. We wouldn’t have made our deadline without them, even though we have pretty much worked toward this goal steadily day in and day out for about 3 months now (not including the 18 months of house-building before that). But even with the help, Shaun and I were pulling away from the barn with the last load at 8 in the morning, running on 4 hours of sleep, as the new owners’ U-Haul was pulling up. first week2 {This wasn’t even a load from the move…it was stuff I’d bought from a friend who had been gracious enough to hold it for us until after we moved, but it’s a pretty good example of just how much that beast of a van can hold. In this load, there is a: full-sized couch, book shelf, large mirror, upholstered chair, day bed, mattress, giant clock, and, of course, a disco ball. And I think we could have shoved a couple more things in there}

It just so happened to be on our anniversary (12th, in case you were wondering), and Shaun was teasing me that we needed a selfie at the local garbage dump to show how we had celebrated as we were tossing our very last load (for now) of broken this and worn-out that into the dumpster. Sadly, I forgot, so we settled for this one instead. anniversary We were reeeeeaally tired in this picture, but we still managed to squeeze in an anniversary dinner after we got a teensy bit settled in the new house for the first time as our *only* home (thank the Lord for not being split between two places any longer!). We both managed a cold shower (Shaun finished installing it after we got home that morning, but the water heater didn’t have a chance to warm up enough). I think we were both a bit loopy with exhaustion at dinner, not to mention to the exhilaration of being DONE! (With the move, that is).

Six months ago, I was dreading this move and doing my best to prepare for it without stewing on it because it frankly sounded awful.

And now that it’s done, I’d say that every bit of that dread was warranted in a lot of ways. Sorry. That sounds bad. But I don’t mean it bad. Because hard is not the same thing as bad. I just mean that the whole process was pretty much exactly as much work as I expected to be. Nothing was any easier than I had thought. But neither was it particularly harder. There were no major mishaps or problems. We just chipped away at it, bit by bit (and then, at the end, as the deadline approached, chunk by bigger chunk), and by the grace of God, we finally cracked it! But I am SO grateful for the help of family. I sure wouldn’t have wanted to do it without them!

Of course, then the real fun started. first week4 {What’s that you say? Those floors look filthy? Why, that’s because they ARE!!}

Although most of that stuff I mentioned earlier is necessary to our family and various businesses, I’m quickly discovering that–despite all of the decluttering and donating I did for the past year–we still have too many duplicates of certain things or other things that I really want to be useful but haven’t actually been touched in a good year or two. I’ve already started a pretty healthy Goodwill pile from the boxes I’ve unpacked so far, and I’m sure it will grow, grow, grow.

Also, our house is Grand Central Station at the moment. I have to make sure to throw a bra on first thing in the morning because there’s no telling what time a painter or a carpenter or a delivery man will poke his head in the door and ask a question or continue on through upstairs (which is unpainted and lacking a bit of trim).

There are giant stacks of our flooring (we went with the laminate wood if you’ll recall) in multiple rooms. A 5 foot wooden range hood is just hanging out in the dining room because it and a (big) cabinet that needed to be redone are waiting on the cabinet guys to come install them. If you see me and I look prematurely gray, don’t worry: I either really am (hashtag moving stress) or–more likely–I am coated in paint lacquer. As is EVERYTHING.

We’ve swept and vacuumed and then vacuumed and swept, but that stuff is e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e. We have one working bathroom, which, I realize, is a major first world problem. But it’s surprising (or maybe not) how fast you can create a pile-up with 8 people in the house (plus a handful of workers) using the same facilities.

So, how do I feel about all of this? Mostly fine. first week3 {How could I not be fine with this little nugget around?}

In a rather unfortunate (in my mind) turn of events, Shaun ended up having a work trip scheduled for the week after we moved in. So, we moved in on a Friday morning and by Monday morning, he was gone for 6 days.

I miiiiiight have had a pity party or two about the towers of boxes and the sheet rock piles in the yard (yep) and the fact that he was sleeping on clean hotel sheets (through no fault of his own) while I was having trouble creating a clean square inch (forget the sheets….they got covered in dust the second they exited the dryer).

But I got over it, and every day, we’ve made a little more progress establishing some semblance of normalcy. As soon as the painters are done upstairs, we’ll be able to put kids in their actual rooms because they are currently sleeping on mattresses in the living room, guestroom, and schoolroom (well, Honor’s in a pack ‘n play in our room–aka: Shaun’s office), and I can put away things where they actually go (rather than just finding a holding spot for them so that they’re not simply lost in the sea of boxes). first week1 {This picture is pretty representative of what our days have looked like: my mom–who has been over a couple of days to help unpack–is putting the smack down on a fly, which are plentiful in our current state of the door being opened and closed constantly. The kids are done with their chore for the moment and taping together box tunnels, and there is stuff everywhere}

It’s going to take a long time to get things really neat and tidy and put together–especially since we’ve had zero time to focus on the exterior, which means we’re constantly tracking in dirt–but we. will. get. there! Or somewhere very close to it! (Just kidding; my Instagram peeps were worried we would never finish the house if we moved into it before we complete it, but I promise we will get ‘er done). daddyshome {We did manage to get it to this point…not finished, certainly, but better than the “before shot” with all of the boxes and dirt} first week{I finished just one of the many wallpapered walls, and it only took me…4 hours…must. get. faster} armoire {Anybody remember when I blogged about this giant hutch that I stumbled upon entirely by accident? It’s finally fulfilling its destiny as the holder of a decade’s worth of thrifted, clearanced, and gifted kitchen pretties!}

Speaking of the exterior, I finally decided on a color (after painting who-knows-how-many swatches on the walls), and…it turned out kind of bad. At least for what I wanted the house to look like. I chose to go lighter than I had originally wanted so that it wouldn’t be overwhelming and/or fade in an ugly way. Unfortunately, the paint store didn’t have the formula for the color I chose (Valspar’s Seascape), and their color match skewed a bit baby blue (should have been a soothing, medium blue-green). house color {The messed up color is on the left…this is after it had dried and calmed down a lot, but it still wasn’t what I wanted; the color on the right has been played with to get it closer to what we ended up with}

I saw it shiny and wet and LOUD as we drove up after depositing that last load I mentioned at the dump, and I narrowly missed bursting into tears. Praise the Lord that our paint guy was able to salvage most of the 30 gallons by tweaking the too-babyish color into something deeper and greener that ended up serving as a good primer coat for the color I’m actually-finally-once-and-for-all choosing: Valiant Blue by Sherwin Williams. We will lose some gallons of the tweaked color because we had already bought enough paint to do almost two coats. But I will try to use some of those inside. And I’m just so relieved to have saved the majority of it and ended up with a color that makes me go: “Aaaaaaaah” instead of “AAAAAACK!” that I’m calling it a win. house color1 {I reeeeeeallllly love it and can’t wait to see it with the trim painted a nice crisp white}

And there you have it, folks. The full update on my life currently.

She packed. She moved. She survived.

Through it all, I have seen the Lord’s goodness over and over again. In my sis-in-law’s insistence on making us food for days. In supernatural bursts of energy when I should have been beyond exhausted. In my neighbor’s being willing to watch the littles while I packed. In Ezra’s cheerful attitude about helping his younger siblings and little cousins while we cleaned out the barn on his birthday.

God has been so faithful to remind me of his sovereignty whenever I get overwhelmed by the mess. And I am grateful.

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