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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.

game play

(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.

flooring

(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!

week35

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

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

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

week3

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

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

week34

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

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

week36

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

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

week32

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

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

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

week31

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m all ears!

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

 

 

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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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I think I can…I think I can…

Despite the pep-talky title, I’m actually fine. As long as I don’t think about all of the tiny, little, bitty–oh, yeah! THAT!–things that I know that I am forgetting to factor into my mental packing/moving schedule, I’m fine. FINE, I tell you! (Insert nervous giggle plus facial twitch).

No, but seriously, packing is going really well. I’ve been at it steadily for over a week. And I’m really reeeeeally glad that I took the time to do all the decluttering I did before we even started packing because–even with that–there’s a lot. Just the clothing situation alone, what with the various seasons and sizes of clothes that aren’t even currently being worn (because, even though I’ve given away BAGS, I refuse to just chunk it all when there’s still really nice, perfectly usable stuff for the next kid in the mix), is a bit daunting. But I’ve sorted it (as the Brits so charmingly say) and, after seeing the fabulous shelving Shaun built for me in the family closet, I’m almost looking forward to unpacking those boxes. Almost.

The barn is an entirely different story. We’re tackling it tomorrow, and I’m not looking forward to that even one bit. Except that it’s been looming in the back of my mind for so long that I’m a little relieved that it’s finally getting its turn, so we can get it DONE.

Thank the Lord for my mama, dad, and sis-in-law who have all been enormous helps since Shaun is spending every spare minute at the new house building shelves, pouring concrete countertops (they look amazing so far; can’t wait to show y’all the finished product!), and just generally completing all of the last minute things that need to be done for the house to be livable in A WEEK!

The nice people buying our house are being very flexible with the actual move date, which is super, since it will all be a bit down to the wire. But even though we won’t have flooring or beds (just mattresses) or any exterior landscaping (hello, red East Texas mud everywhere!) or more than one functioning bathroom, we will no longer live HERE as of next week.

Our anniversary is next Friday, and Shaun and I were joking (only not) that we were going to celebrate by collapsing in exhaustion on the couch and saying, “Here you go, Honey. I got you a house!”

Works. for. me.

As has been the case for almost the entire process, everything has been going about as smoothly as it possibly could, considering all of the variables like weather and work schedules and availability of outside help. The painters I talked about a few posts ago are unexpectedly less busy than usual for this time of year, so we’re having them hang around and paint everything they can get a roller or sprayer on. I could very easily (well, easily as in it’s not hard…not easily as in having a ready opportunity) have painted after we moved in, but I know that the more we can get the house in a finished state before we move, the easier the transition will be, and I’m going to be grateful for any semblance of normalcy this summer, which is going to be gone in a flash, I have a feeling.

Still, even with the good flow, not everything has been perfect. I walked in this evening for a quick chat with Shaun and discovered that he was running an  errand, and the “Simply White” the painters were rolling on the wall was looking “Awfully Gray.”

Turns out, while Simply White is a Benjamin Moore color, Sherwin Williams (where we’ve gotten all our paint) has a SimPLE White, which is considerably darker. So, yup. Wrong color. Fortunately, the paint store acknowledged it was their bad, and I caught it before the painters had gotten that far. Could definitely have been worse!

A couple of other minor snafus (like the fact that somehow our cabinets didn’t end up having a symmetrical distance between them and the range hood, and we’re scrambling to figure out an add-on so it doesn’t feel lopsided) have surfaced, but over all, considering how many plates are currently spinning in the air, I have no complaints.

In other news, as of tomorrow, I will have an 11-year-old!!

mother's day

{Tomorrow’s birthday breakfast will look very similar to this Mother’s Day spread, except that, currently, that table is covered in packed boxes, so we’ll all be huddled around the island, per our usual eating situation}

Ezra is turning into quite the responsible, considerate, kind young gentleman, and–as much as the teenage years scare me a bit–I’m actually really enjoying watching him “age.” He’s always been an old soul (typical firstborn), and I can’t wait to see how his gifts of servant-heartedness and gentleness develop as he matures.

Oh! And one more house-related thing before I fall into bed and go to sleep in no seconds flat, I’m back to testing exterior colors, sadly.

I’m still set on a deep blue-green, but Lindsay’s husband (our painter) expressed a pretty serious concern that a color as dark as Riverway would fade a fair bit, so I’m back to the drawing board trying to find a more medium-toned blue-green that I love.

exterior colors

After testing now fewer than 5 different colors, I finally started mixing my own. And I *think* I’ve come up with one I really like (it’s that one to the left of the front door under the porch). We’ll have to see how well the paint store can match it.

ANYHOO, that’s all the coherency I’ve got for the moment! If you think to pray for this last mad dash to moving, I’d be ever so grateful.

As always, I appreciate y’all!

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Amazon Warehouse Deals + Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

Whereas I bought almost of all of my deals in person for the house we currently live in (I feel like such a dinosaur saying this, but internet home shopping sites weren’t nearly as much of a thing almost 10 years ago when we started building), I’ve gotten the preponderance of lights, sinks, faucets, rugs, and even furniture for the new house from sites like Joss and Main, Overstock, Wayfair, etc.

I would say that nothing beats a good Craigslist or Facebook swap deal (because thrifting will forever have my heart), but, while I’ve scored my fair share of those too, some of my online clearance finds have been even better (brand new) than some secondhand options I’ve seen. (Not to mention how convenient it is to search for a specific item rather than being at the mercy of someone’s purging whims).

I’ve already shared my tips for finding the best deals online, but what I had yet to discover when I wrote that post was an awesome little thing called Amazon Warehouse Deals. (And, no, this is not a sponsored post, but I do include affiliate links).

I don’t remember how I first stumbled upon it, but since I did, I have scored some pretty sweet deals— from a major discount on Honor’s Moses basket to a $60 chair (brand new) that is currently selling for $340 to a $17 lamp that is still available for $140!

Even if you’ve never heard of it, you’re probably already more familiar with Amazon Warehouse Deals than you think because, if you’ve ever shopped for something on the site and seen the words, “used from $_____,” underneath the item’s description, then that’s a warehouse deal.

Basically, these are open box items–some of which come perfectly packaged and pristine and others which have a scratch or two but are otherwise in great condition (it will tell you the condition in the description of the item so that you know what you’re getting into before you check out). I have only bought things described as being in “very good” condition, and they all have been at least that.

The best part is that they now have an actual entry in the drop-down menu called Amazon Warehouse Deals, so now, instead of looking for the “fine print” below specific items one at a time, you can search for “tufted chair” or “polka dot comforter” or “kitchenaid mixer” or “meat thermometer”–whatever you want!–and it will show all the deals they have for those terms. There’s no guarantee there will be a deal, but it’s definitely worth checking before paying full price.

amazon

ANYhoo, I know Mother’s Day is only a few days away, and I’m sure all of you fine folks have had your Mama/Grandma/Daughter gift all lined up for weeks (ahem), but in my Amazon Warehouse Deal research, I stumbled upon a couple of deals that were too good not to share, so I whipped up a quick little gift guide (shhhhh…nobody has to know they were on clearance).

AND they all come with free 2 DAY shipping if you’re a Prime member.

1. These rain boots are thee cutest.

I don’t have a pair, personally (although…the ones with the bees are, um, the bee’s knees) but Lindsay does and LOVES hers.

They can be a bit pricey, but if you click the link above, it should take you to several clearance options (limited sizes, but maybe you’ll luck out!). If you don’t see a price immediately, click on the yellow button to the right that says “see all buying options.”

2. I’ve never made it a secret that I love Rifle Paper Co. products, and I think they make fabulous gifts (because what girl doesn’t like pretty and useful?).

Like this gorgeous address book.

Or this fun recipe box!

(Look for the “used from $______” I was talking about for the cheapest option).

Or the ultimate, Mother-Daughter tale: Little Women!

3. I know most of us aren’t going to be buying anybody a Kitchenaid Mixer, but all three of the color options here are really great deals for a new 5 quart professional series. Some of my mom’s friends and I went in together to buy her one for her 60th a few years ago, and it was a fun gift to give!

4. And while we’re on kitchen appliances, I got a rice cooker for both my mom and my sister-in-law as part of their Christmas gifts last year, and they both love theirs! This one has great reviews and is $20 cheaper than anywhere else on the internet.

And this one, while considerably smaller, is only $13 (again, don’t forget to look for the “used from $______” because the original price doesn’t say $13).

5. It’s hard to find better smelling candles that come in prettier packages than the Capri Blue brand.

Don’t be scared off by the $37 list price. The “used” (not used at all, just repackaged) version is only $16. But hurry! It looks like there are only a few left at that price.

6. I realize it could be dangerous to buy pillows for someone else, but I have recovered an ottoman and two lampshades in this Waverly Santa Maria fabric (albeit in a different colorway) and can personally attest to how gorgeous it is. And $25 is an amazing deal for TWO big throw pillows covered in a designer fabric!

7.  These Ray Bans are considerably cheaper than the retail price. I still love mine, and they are still the only pair of sunglasses that I’ve kept up with for 2 years.

I could keep coming with the great deals, but I think you get the idea. Amazon Warehouse Deals is the bomb!

And now, I will leave you to do your own deal browsing because the appraisal finally came through on our house, which means I can officially start packing! Yip-to-the-ee! (Sort of serious. Sort of not).

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Downstairs Updates (Paint and stain and wallpaper, oh my!)

Welp.

The big push to move into the new house by May 30 is well underway, and…it’s going…great! Truly. I had to think about that for a second but really only to analyze whether I am missing something obviously stressful. Because it really has gone about as smoothly as it possibly could, all things considered.

When we first sat down two weeks ago and decided to go for it, Shaun wrote out a timeline that involved our (mostly his) doing practically every last thing left on the list. And it filled up every free moment of every day from here til the 30th.

By the grace of God, Shaun found himself standing behind a mill work guy (trim, cabinets, etc.) in Lowe’s about 6 weeks ago, so he struck up a conversation with him, and the guy had time to come see our house and give us a quote on the spot. Considering how spotty our experience with hiring out work has been up to this point, we couldn’t be more pleased with Cesar’s work. He’s honest and meticulous. Not particularly fast but a hard worker who does the job right. And he’s been putting all of the trim in for the past month or so. Which is a huge deal because there’s a lot of it, and Shaun was dreading doing the planked ceilings (he would have done a great job, but it would have been a serious chore for one man and would have set us back weeks).

trim

 

{The wainscoting and trim will all be bright white, but that exposed section of wall above will be covered in Daydream Wallpaper in Green}

Anyway, Cesar has been a lifesaver after subbing out almost nothing else up to this point. Also, Lindsay’s husband, Tim, just happens to have a paint company (we’ve used them in the past), and they just so “happened” (thank you, Lord!) to have availability the first two weeks in May. Which is awesome because we weren’t sure they would, and Shaun was including painting all of the ceilings, downstairs cabinets, and trim on his list of things to do himself before the 30th (because we can’t have all of the oil paint fumes downstairs while we’re living in it).

I decided on stain for the island to ground all of the white in the room, and Tim’s crew did an amazing job of custom mixing a color that killed all of the red/orange tones that I kept coming up with when I was testing stain colors on my own (seriously, after seeing the end result, I am so grateful they were available; I would have gotten it done, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as pretty, and I think I would have made a lot of mistakes).

stained islnd

Of course, having two crews in our house doesn’t mean we’re not in there too. We’ve been out there every evening puttying, caulking, cleaning, and–my biggest job–picking paint colors. We fall into bed pretty exhausted (the kids are loving getting to stay up late…until 7 AM rolls round, that is).

Not surprisingly (at ALL), I’ve been testing out every shade of blue-green I can get my hands on.

paint

All three of these were contenders for the kitchen cabinets, but I’m sticking with Weekend (Magnolia Paint)–far left.

So far, I’ve narrowed it down to these:

Upper kitchen cabinets: Simply White (Benjamin Moore)

Apparently, it was the BM color of the year for 2016. Whatever that means. All I know is that I got a bunch of white samples, and Simply White is the one that didn’t skew too cold (blue) or warm (yellow) and was still bright and fresh no matter what light it was in.

Actually, all of the white surfaces in the house, minus the trim (which will be standard super bright white), will be Simply White.

simply white

(According to Pinterest, the walls of this image are Simply White).

Lower kitchen cabinets: Weekend (Magnolia Paint)

For how popular Fixer Upper is, it’s actually really hard to find a picture of her paints in use (other than stock photos); this is the only example of a cabinet painted in Weekend that I could scare up.

weekend1

I would say that, in my kitchen, the color is a bit deeper and less green, but–you know–everybody’s monitor, not to mention, house lighting, is different, so all I really know is that I love it!

Downstairs bath cabinets – Underseas (Sherwin Williams)

This is such a pretty, moody teal that I want to use on all kinds of surfaces in my house (and I just may), but I’m pretty sure that I want it in the downstairs main bath. It definitely looks a bit lighter/greener in the below pic than it reads in my house (so weird how much color can vary), but I still love it!

underseas

via

I had planned to use my black and white Oh Joy Petal Pusher wallpaper that I scored for $30 in this bathroom, but then I tried this Peonies design in there (a $40 score), and I think it’s meant to be. peonies

 

{Underseas is the bottom right drawer, in case you were wondering}

I’m thinking I’ll probably use the black and white wallpaper on the wall behind the vanity of the downstairs half bath (Shaun told me the other day that I was amassing quite a few wallpapering hours in my future, but I figure if he can, oh, frame an entire house, I can surely paper a few walls).

Mudroom Cabinets – Parakeet Pete (PPG Paints)

parakeet pete

That awesomely chippy mint door leads to my pantry, and the yawning abyss to the right of it would be the mudroom. The cabinets in there will be painted Parakeet Pete, yet another shade of blue-green that will pick up on the tones in the pantry door (if you scroll up and look at the bottom left drawer of the bathroom pic, that’s Parakeet Pete).

Living Room Built-in Cabinets – Modern(ist) Gray (Sherwin Williams)

fireplace

You can see at least a part of the built-ins on either side of the fireplace in this shot (what you CAN’T see is the ingenious hidden drawer that Shaun built into the ship lap to squirrel away all of our cords). Originally, I had thought to paint them the same white as the ship lap, but there’s already a lot of white in this room, so I’m planning to paint them Sherwin William’s Modern Gray (or Modernist…I’ve got a sample that says “Modern” and a sample CARD that says “Modernist”) for a subtle pop of color.

modernist

 

It’s definitely a warm gray.

And there you have it!

The walls will all be Simply White or Modern(ist) Gray at 50% strength, depending on the room.

I’ll share the upstairs colors a bit later this week, but for now, I’m off to teach science. What do you think of the progress so far? I’m beyond excited to see how it’s all coming together, but I only have to consider the possibility of moving in 3 weeks to get a bit of a nervous knot in my stomach. We have a LOT to do in the next 21 days!

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Because he first loved us…

I posted this blog a year ago on the day after Easter, but it came to mind again when I recently received an email from a sweet reader who said she kept coming back to it over and over again and wanted to know more about how to know Jesus. Which thrills my heart like nothing else. Being even a small conduit for the gospel is such a honor, and I absolutely love to hear from readers–both Christian and seekers alike. 

So, I thought I’d post this again, since it is once again the Monday after Easter.

Cool side note: the woman that I mention at the end of the original post is now my real-life friend and came to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ in September of 2016 after messaging back and forth with me for months. I had the distinct privilege of talking her through a prayer of salvation over the phone. The Lord is not done with her (or any of us) yet, but it is amazing to see the changes for good that he has already made in her life. 

Again, if you have any questions about how to have a relationship with Jesus or just need someone to pray for you, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

We recently started attending a new church. By recently, I mean back in January. Since January, we’ve only gone half a dozen times or so–one of which was yesterday for Easter Sunday.

The reason for our poor church attendance record is twofold: 1) we’re in an unusually busy season of life right now (I’ll share more about that soon), and Shaun has had to work every single weekend other than his birthday and Easter for the last 3 months and 2) it took me a while to work up the gumption to take six kids to church by myself. (We actually really enjoy “doing church” at home where we can listen to Ravi Zacharias’ sermons and dance to worship music).

When we finally did get our act together, the kids were the most excited about one thing: the prospect of being ferried to the front door on one of the golf carts that patrol the parking lot (it’s not a huge church, but the parking lot extends a ways from the building itself).

Sure enough, by the time we had all tumbled out of Nina the Nissan, there was a cart idling by our van, driven by a beaming older man with a crisp part in his silver hair and dressed in a sweater vest, sharply pleated trousers, and shiny loafers.

The kids clambered on, jabbering and giggling. But I was less enthused. I’m used to drawing stares everywhere we go, but while I don’t think much of it anymore, I don’t tend to choose ways to be more conspicuous. And a woman by herself arriving at the front door on her “chariot” with 6 little kids in tow seemed about as subtle as using a sledgehammer to crack a pecan.

But, like it or not, the next week, our chariot driver was waiting for us again, still smiling, still dressed to the nines, still graciously chatting with my children. He exuded an old-world gentlemanly Southern charm the likes of which I rarely encounter these days.

He told us his name is Chip, and he didn’t ask me where my husband was or if I “know what causes all these here kiddos” (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). Instead, he just told me in the most serious of tones what a good job I was doing as a mama and how precious he thought my kids were. He assured me that he would be on the lookout for us after church.

Y’all. I (a non-cryer) teared up right then and there on that golf cart and had to hide my face in Evy’s hair as she sat on my lap. That kind of unexpected kindness and respect just undid me for a moment.

True to his word, Chip zoomed up the second we exited the building after church that day and cheerfully carted us to our van.

And just like that, one man’s being Christ to a mama and her six ducklings transformed a daunting experience (taking six kids to church by myself) into one to look forward to.

In fact, the next week, when the golf cart driver wasn’t Chip, we were all a little disappointed. Until, of course, the driver said, “You have six?” I nodded, unsure where this was going, but he just grinned and said, “Me too! You don’t see that too often. Good for you, Mama! You’re doing a great job!”

Even in Christian circles, such positive responses to a large family are rare. And much-appreciated. (People aren’t usually unkind. Just surprised or amused).

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Then, yesterday, as all eight of us tramped our way to church together from the “you only got here 10 minutes early on Easter Sunday when you should have been here an hour ago” overflow parking, we saw Chip directing traffic. He spotted us too and called out: “Hey! There are my favorite kiddos!”

I smiled and waved and nudged my husband with a whispered, “That’s Chip.” (You better believe he had already heard these stories). But I didn’t think much of Chip’s “favorite kids” claim until we encountered yet another friendly greeter at the door, who introduced himself to us, surveyed our kids, and said, “Now, you must be the family that Chip loves so much!”

My mouth just about dropped open, y’all.

Chip wasn’t just being polite.

I delivered my kids to their Sunday school classes with the goofiest of grins and whispered admonitions to be extra kind to Mr. Chip on our way back to the car.

So, why the sudden need for story time?

Because it’s the Monday after Easter, and quite honestly, I think it’s a little too easy to come off of the “high” of all of that celebration–the joy of Jesus’ resurrection, the 3 day weekend, the candy buzz–and feel a little deflated.

Like, ho hum, it’s just another Monday. Nothing miraculous about this at all.

I can only imagine that’s not how the disciples felt the day after Jesus revealed himself to them.

Or maybe it was at first.

Maybe, when they awoke, their first thought was one of sadness: Jesus is dead. All of our hopes are crushed.

But then a slow, fuzzy realization began to dawn, gradually solidifying into one crystal clear, glorious thought: NO! He’s alive! He rose from the dead! This changes everything.

Or at least, it should. It should transform how we speak to our children and our husbands, how we respond to the person who cuts us off in traffic, how we treat the mama with her kids who rides on our golf cart. How, when, and with whom we share the gospel (good news!) of Jesus’ paying the penalty on the cross for our sins.

Because that’s ultimately what Chip and the other men who showed us kindness are demonstrating with their actions: that the death and resurrection of Jesus are wonderfully meaningful–not just on Easter weekend–but every other day of the year.

The knowledge of the debt we owe and the Savior who paid it should motivate us to surprise others with our joy, our kindness, and our love.

When my brother fell off of his roof, I was so struck by how fleeting life is that I extended a virtual “altar call” on social media to anyone who wanted to learn more about how to dedicate their lives to Jesus. Honestly? I didn’t expect anyone to respond. People usually don’t unless they know you well. I just felt the need to do it anyway.

But someone did. And that lady and I have been writing back and forth for about two weeks now. This woman has endured a lot of abuse and suffering in her life and is very confused about who Jesus is, so I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me when, at one point she asked, “Why are you doing this? What makes it worth it to you to keep writing me? I want to make sure I can repay you.”

At first, I kind of panicked because I thought, I don’t want anything from you except for you to find your way out of the despair that has been blackening your life and find hope in Christ. How-with your history–can I possibly make you believe that?

But then, this phrase popped into my head: “We love because he first loved us.”

It’s from 1 John 4, which has a lot to say about godly love and how we show it to others. But these are the words that I quoted to her:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannotlove God whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:18-20)

It’s that simple. “While were still sinners, Christ died for us.” And because of that unconditional love, which we celebrate with great joy at Easter, we are–if we have confessed our sins and accepted his salvation–enabled to extend that same love to others.

Every day and everywhere.

So, that is my hope for myself and you too on this, the not-so-special Monday after a special weekend. May we celebrate the joy of Easter year-round by being like Chip, who is, in turn, being like Jesus. Because Jesus first loved us.

And if you don’t know Jesus’ love or have questions about how to accept him as your personal Lord and Savior, please don’t hesitate to email me at blogabbie{at}gmail{dot}com. I would love to chat with you.

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The House that God Sold

When Shaun first floated the idea of our building another house from scratch by me–oh–3ish years ago, I was initially very resistant. I thought he was crazy. At that point, we were only 5 years removed from our first building experience, which, while successful and not nearly as stressful as you might imagine for doing it all ourselves, was a LOT of work. Plus, at that point, I had 1-year-old twins, was pregnant with Theo, and was homeschooling 3 other fairly small children, and it all just sounded…hard.

I mean, what was wrong with our current house? Short answer: nothing. And that still holds true. It’s a great house! And we love it! But Shaun just kept his eye open for land, checking out different email alerts as they came through. None in our price range were that tempting, though. Usually, if the land was a good deal, it was located across from a rundown mobile home park or had little privacy or was designated by more than half as a flood plain.

But then, this property in a little community 10 minutes from us popped up one day. The price for the area (which is growing rapidly and shooting up practically daily in price) was fantastic. And, after checking out the land, Shaun was optimistic. So, I went out and had a look. And, from the moment that I drove down the first long stretch of “driveway” and it opened up into a verdant bowl surrounded by layer upon layer of trees that climbed ever higher up a steep hill that curved around the edge of the property like a big green hug, I knew it had potential. Lots of potential. Plus, it was 10 minutes closer to the town to which we drive almost daily.

This is going to sound strange–especially since I can’t completely put my finger on what made these words pop into my mind–but when I first saw the property, I thought: “Jurassic Park.” Something about the bowl-like park feel to the center section, and the intense greenness of everything surrounding it. Thankfully, minus giant carnivorous reptiles.

And so the story of what I have hashtagged on social media #mifmbuildsagain began.
And it’s no short story. Instead, it’s a bit more like a War and Peace length tome. We bought the land 2 years ago in February, and we’ve been plugging away at either prepping it for the new house or actually building it ever since. In some ways, the process has been similar to our first build as Shaun (and often his dad) have done everything from clearing to framing (so. much. framing) to siding to electrical to plumbing, and so much more. And I have held down the fort at home and hunted for deals on everything from ceiling fans to shower heads.

In other ways, it’s felt different. The pace is much slower. The house is bigger. And even though Shaun has worked almost every single weekend (Saturday, at least) since the beginnning, I don’t feel like I never see him like I did the first go-round. Also, I have more specific architectural things in mind that I have time to hunt down (my favorite details of the house so far are several vintage doors and that giant carved post thingy that I blogged about a while back).

We have 3 and 1/2 times as many kids this go-round, and pretty soon, the kids and I will get to take a more active roll in some of the finishing chores (like caulking, puttying, sanding, cleaning, painting, staining, etc.). And the boys (and even Della) have already spent many a Saturday hauling trash, carrying boards, and vacuuming sawdust. It’s been a family effort, for sure. (Although to say that Shaun and his dad have done the lion’s share of the manual labor would be the world’s biggest understatement). I am happy that my older kids will get to look back on this process and remember what it was like to contribute and get their hands dirty.

And then, for the last 6 weeks, the focus has shifted from the new house to our getting our current one ready to sell–as I’ve already mentioned. (Our house was already sold, and we were renting from my parents while building our first house).

Which brings us to now. We have 3 months left before the new house is move-in ready (we hope), but we decided to go ahead and list our current house because interest rates for loans are rising, and the spring (with the end of the school year) is when so many people are looking to move.

We debated whether to engage a realtor or just try to sell it on our own to begin with, but when a friend recommended a realtor who works for an extremely reasonable flat rate fee, it seemed like a no-brainer to let her take care of the showings.

Plus, if we had contact with the buyer before we signed with her, and they didn’t have a buying agent, we wouldn’t have to pay that 3%. Score!

So, I announced it here on the blog and on social media and proceeded to spend a couple of days fielding over 50 messages (I just about wore out the “copy + paste” combo on my keyboard).

One of those messages came through my Facebook page (for the blog), and before I knew it or we had even signed anything with a realtor, Shaun and I were showing Jessica, her husband, Scott, and their 4 cute kids around our house.

That showing went well, but, since they’d had to come after dark, they decided to schedule another one for the following Tuesday during the day. We went ahead and signed with our realtor, and the MLS listing went live on Monday night. But I held off sharing it anywhere in hopes that Jessica’s family would want to buy it. I wouldn’t necessarily go so far as to say that I “had a feeling,” but…I had a feeling.

And peace. Always perfect peace. I didn’t know what would happen or how long our house would take to sell, but I didn’t feel anxious about it at all, and I was already so grateful for the Lord’s guarding my heart against unnecessary stress.

For over a year, we’ve been praying that the Lord would bring the perfect family to buy our house. That they would be as blessed by living on our beautiful property as we have been and that they would fully enjoy all of the love and sweat we’ve poured into our home.

On Wednesday, I texted Jessica and asked what they thought of the property, and she said they loved it (well, actually, what she said was that they LOVED it!!!). Scott was just waiting on confirmation from the Lord that this was the direction for their family, since they hadn’t even been actively looking for a new place to live when they saw my Facebook announcement.

Turns out, Jessica hadn’t been a blog-reader (as I had assumed) but had simply seen the post shared or commented on (she couldn’t remember which) by a friend and decided to at least get more information, since they’ve had their eye out for property in the country (at least casually) for a while.

I mentioned in a post last week that, when they came that first night, Jessica and I had kind of danced around the idea of their buying the house fully furnished (after she joked about my needing to come decorate for her if she bought it, and I basically said, “Um, I think I already did”). So, on the following Thursday (this past one), when she texted to ask if they could come over to discuss the furniture situation, I was hopeful. So hopeful. But still not anxious.

We invited them for lunch on Friday, and we had a lovely time eating on the back patio, swapping backgrounds, and watching the kids play with our kittens.

And then, while I mixed up a batch of chocolate chip cookies in the kitchen, we got down to business. Ultimately, they decided to buy our house, fully furnished, for a little less than our original asking price. Which we were thrilled with since a) we didn’t have to show the house anymore b) they weren’t bringing a buyer’s agent, so we didn’t automatically lose that 3%, and c) we now don’t have to move practically any furniture.

In other words, our house sold in one week to the first and only people who looked at it for a great price, and the buyers are keeping everything from the rugs to the curtains to the sofas.

To say that I am flabbergasted by God’s lavish goodness is barely a drop in the deluge of gratitude and thanksgiving that has been washing over my heart these past few days. Elation. Joy. Celebration. Wonder. It’s all there.

And then, as if to further emphasize that it was He who was orchestrating this deal, they told us that the only furniture they didn’t need was the girls’ bunk beds, which I had been hoping to keep so that I could give them to my mom (since she keeps our kids so regularly).

Not only that, but they decided to buy our tractor (yep, we have a tractor…but will no longer need it, since the new property has considerably less mowing than our current one) as well.

Not only THAT, but they want to keep 4 of the 6 kittens, which means one (or technically 4) less thing(s) to try to find a home for. (Scott even jokingly included some “official” language about the kittens in his letter to our realtor).

Ultimately, every concern that we had about our house being a hard sell–the location (it’s a little ways out), the amount of land (27 acres), the school district (not so great), and the uniqueness of the house (we love it, but we made it to our specifications, without ever really intending to sell) were overcome by the Lord’s doing precisely what we had asked: bringing the perfect family for whom none of those considerations mattered (their children go to a private school; they wanted to be in the country with lots of acreage; and they think our house’s “quirks” are awesome) and who love our home as much as we do.

As far as the furnishings, I’ve had several people ask me how I could let go of so many things that are special to me. But honestly? Even though almost every piece in our house has a story that usually involves finding an amazing deal on it and then strapping it down in our van amidst a passel of kids, I’m not particularly attached to any of it. The only diehards for me were the pipe shelf Shaun made me for Valentine’s and the chest he made me before we were even married that now sits at the foot of our bed and holds all of our favorite sentimental mementos.

The rest? It’s just stuff. Which I am learning to hold more and more loosely. Especially when it means I don’t have to load it up and move it.

But wait. Didn’t I say that we wouldn’t be done with our house for 3 months? Where are we going to LIVE?!

Turns out, God already had that in hand too (no surprise there). One of our rental houses just came open, so we’ll move into it in about a month and sort of “camp out” there (think: mattresses on the floor and clothes in a suitcase) for 6 weeks or so. It’s only 1,500 square feet, so we’ll be on top of each other a bit, but I’m almost looking forward to the simplicity of it while we focus on finishing the new house. (And, as one of my gym members pointed out, “You’ll never have to wonder where your kids are.” Indeed not).

I know this is long, but I wanted to type all of this out as a testament to the Lord’s incredibly gracious provision in our lives in this whole building (and now selling) process. And so that I can look back and say, “See, what our good God did!” I am wary to declare how “blessed” I am when things go my way because I know that, often, the Lord’s blessing manifests itself through hardships.

But neither do I want to skimp on praising him for his love and incredible attention to detail in our lives. Every good and perfect gift comes from him, and I couldn’t have imagined a better or more perfect gift for this tired mama of many than to not have to show my house a gajillion times. Even if I’d shown it a gajillion and one, he would still be just as good and loving. But I am so grateful that he saw fit to let me off that hook.

Thank you yet again for your love and prayers through this process. I have felt them. And I am grateful for them and you.

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