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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).

easter2016

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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This and That

If we were just sitting down for a chat (how fun would that be??), I would have lots and lots to share with you. Life is careening along at a breakneck pace, and things that I think just happened (like last night) turn out to have taken place 5 days before. No wonder Honor seems like he was just this teensy little thing and now is stretching the toes of all of his 6 months outfits, holding his head up, swiveling it around when he hears a voice he likes, and even starting to giggle a little at his siblings’ shenanigans.

He’s just as wonderful as ever and maybe my most content baby yet to just be. This is the first time the boys have been old enough to “watch” him at the gym, which has actually simplified things considerably, since he’s not allowed in the nursery until 12 weeks, and I started teaching at 3 weeks postpartum (totally not what I would have preferred, but I ran out of subs rather quickly this time). In the past, I would have had to feed him mere seconds before rushing out the door, leaving him home with Shaun who hopefully wouldn’t get an important conference call in the middle of a crying fit (Honor’s, not Shaun’s…although Honor has almost as few of those as Shaun does, so it probably would have been fine ;) ). And then, I would have had to hightail it home as quickly as possible (since it’s a 30 minute commute both ways) to feed him again.

baby elephant

Gimme those thigh rolls!!

But now, Ezra and Simon–who have turned it cute little bookworms–will happily sit for an hour and read at the table right outside the childcare room door with Honor hanging out beside them snoozing or looking around with bright, round  blue eyes (shaded by thee longest, straightest eyelashes…after having a passel of curly eye lashed kids, it’s funny to see him peeking out from underneath his stick straight fringe). Maybe you’ve heard of blanket-trained kids? Well, Honor is car seat trained. And it’s pretty rad. And then, if we need to do an errand, or–like on Tuesdays–I’m teaching two classes, well, he’s right there with me to feed. SO much simpler!

Speaking of babies, we have six new fur babies at our house.

kittens

Having nursed twins while 3 other small children used my body as a jungle gym, I feel a great kinship with that mama cat right now.

They are just getting to the super-cute, playful, fluffy stage, and the kids have convinced themselves that we’re keeping ALL of them (my eyes just crossed a little). You know…one for each of the big ones (because Honor is only old enough to pull their tails by accident).

Funny story: we have a cat house that Shaun made with the boys a while back that matches the exterior colors and trim of our actual house. And Faith (the mama cat) had the good sense to have her kittens IN that house. But the very day that Shaun hauled a trailer of miscellaneous junk to the dump (a few weeks after they were born), she had the very bad sense to move them.

Shaun came back from his trip to the dump carrying a mewing bundle in his t-shirt and informed me that, just as he was about to throw out the last bit of trash, he heard high-pitched meows and noticed that a dark, furry pile in the corner of the trailer appeared to be moving!

Nothing like throwing all of your kids’ kittens in the trash to lose you your Dad of the Year Award double-quick. (And nothing like hauling a bunch of frantic clawing fur balls home in your shirtto elevate you to Super Dad status even quicker…and a well-deserved status it is).

Speaking of kittens (sort of), we’ve already shown the house to one family of 6, the dad of which asked if the kittens came with the house. (The mom was less enthused). And it’s a good thing our older kids weren’t there because both Shaun and I very enthusiastically agreed to throw a pile of kittens in as a closing incentive.

Either way, this family is coming out again today, this time to see the property in daylight (they had to come in the evening the first time), and they are not only interested in the house/property but in possibly buying it furnished! (I can’t even begin to properly express how happy the thought of not having to move furniture and/or sell it off piece-meal makes me).

If you think to pray for the outcome of that situation, I would be grateful. We want the Lord’s will first (and only), but I’m not going to lie that I have definitely been pestering the Lord about whether this might possibly be it. This morning, during family Bible reading, we read Luke 11:9, which says: “Ask, and it will be given you, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened to you.” I KNOW that verse is used out of context all the time, but it is addressing the idea of approaching the Lord boldly with our requests, and so that’s what we’re doing. Ultimately, only he knows our future (of course), and I feel perfect peace about all of it, so it’s all good!

In other (bizarre) news, our UPS driver has taken to dropping our packages off next to a particular tree beside the driveway (only about 1/5 of the way down it) rather than bringing them to our front porch.

At first, I thought it was a fluke (had to be, right?), but after our last three packages all materialized in the exact same spot, I’m thinking not. The slightly impish part of me wants to call his boss and suggest that he only pay him 1/5 of his pay and see how he likes that! Ha. Either way, he has me trained to check the bushes for packages these days.

books

 

Those pretty books that I scored on Amazon Warehouse Deals were just languishing beside our driveway for several days before I realized it. Good thing they were wrapped in plastic!

Hmmm…what else? I think I’ve mentioned several times before that my mom (who is my super hero) takes my three oldest kids home with her to sleep over every. single. Thursday night? Shaun and I like to make that our “date night” of the week (which usually means Thai takeout that we eat while watching Fixer Upper on the couch #partyanimals). Last week, instead of the usual, we went down the hill to our neighbor’s house for the very definition of a “roaring fire.” Our neighbors have a peach orchard (he’s a farmer, among other things, by trade), and they have an actual peach pruning bonfire. We roasted hotdogs and s’mores (though not on the big fire…our sticks would have had to be 30 feet long) and then awed all of the little kids with the blaze.

blaze

In still other news, we only have 2 meetings left of our home school co-op this year, and I’m a bit flabbergasted that the school year is almost over. The way this particular co-op works is to focus less on “tuition” (which is nominal) and to focus more on parent participation (your kids can’t attend unless you’re there fulfilling some role or another). To that end, I’ve spent my Mondays for the last 7 months grading grammar workbooks and essays. I actually kind of enjoy it as it gives me 5 kid-free hours a week during which I can exercise that word/sentence loving part of my brain, and my kids can socialize and learn from someone else. But next year, they’ve tapped me to teach high school Spanish, which is taking me back to my teaching roots (since I taught Spanish 2-4 in 2 different public schools and 1 private one before I eventually quit after I had Ezra and Simon).

I’m thinking I may have Ezra take Spanish 1 with me, even though he’ll only be in 6th grade, because he’s very bright, has an incredible memory, and needs to be challenged. I can honestly say that I never really expected to be able to teach my own child in a classroom setting, and I’m actually really looking forward to it.

Oh! And in case you’re wondering, it’s not nearly as hard as I thought it would be to keep a house show-ready, even with 7 kids in it. Yes, it’s taking up way more of my day than it did before, and other things (usually dinner prep) are getting put on the back burner (sometimes, literally). But it’s happening, and I am really enjoying not tripping over toys as much. (Although, to be honest, one of the main reasons that it’s so much easier is that we have gotten rid of almost all of our toys or anything else extra, for that matter). Now, if we can only convince ourselves to “live like we have a house showing in an hour” in the new house, we’ve got it made!

cactus

Theo has been SUCH a helper, replacing cute little cactus decorations with toy cars and wearing his sister’s necklace on his head so we don’t have to put it back where it goes. So thoughtful. 

And speaking of the house, I did manage to get pictures of (almost) the entire thing, so as soon as I get a chance to edit those, I’ll do a post or two.

Aaaaand, now I’m off to do a list of things longer than my arm. Our Tuesdays are always hectic because they start with school/chores, continue to piano lessons + errands + teaching 2 gym classes in town, and end with getting dinner on the table and everybody ready for bed (and then falling onto the couch in exhaustion). It’s a long day for everybody, but I’m always pretty impressed with what troopers the kids are.

Thank you again for all of the kind thoughts and prayers. I appreciate them more than you know.

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Raisins and countertops

Hi, friends.

I write those two words with almost the same level of trepidation that I would if I were texting a friend whose birthday I’d missed (something I did last week, actually). Everything is such a blur at the moment. But I still feel like I “should” be blogging…should be updating and encouraging and sharing with you.

In the past, I don’t think I couldhave gone a week without blogging without a significant level of guilt because I’m a dutiful sort, and I feel “bad” if I don’t do what I say I will…even if no one else is requiring it of me.

HOWEVER, I know that you all are busy too–that you understand that some seasons in life are more hectic than others and that you would agree with me when I say that my priorities are better now than in the past when I might have forgone something more important than blogging just for the sake of fulfilling some sort of misplaced duty.

Even so, I miss you guys. I miss writing. And I’m sorry that I’m not doing a better job of balancing all of the things at the moment.

To make up for and distract from my shortcomings, I am posting pictures of Mr. Theodorbs himself in the midst of the Great Raisin Heist of 2017 (aka: what you have to resort to to get a snack around here when Mama is distracted by cleaning/organizing/rearranging all the things that seemed perfectly fine to you to begin with).

raisincollage

This little boy is like no other of my children so far (true of each, but, in some ways, especially true of him). He is mischievous and happiest when either a toy sword or stick is clutched in one plump fist (or both). He is noticeably athletic–leaping, throwing, catching, and running with a coordination that belies his mere 27 months. He’s reached almost every milestone earlier than any of the others. He is SO cheesy and hammy. Definitely the most theatrical of a bunch of rather UNshy and drama-prone children. He still has his sweet, soft, lisping voice–except when he’s hurt/scared/just plain mad as a hornet…in which case he uses the exact same level of volume and ear-scratching rasp to express all of his woes (makes it a wee bit difficult to discern between “bleeding to death” and “he looked at me wrong”).

And, even though he has his “days,” more often than not, he is a welcome source of smiles and chubby-armed hugs in the midst of the crazy that is trying to get a house ready to sell, finish building the other one, homeschool (including attending our homeshool co-op), teach fitness classes, and put something decent on the table for dinner most nights. Oh yeah. And feed a newborn every 2-3 hours.

Speaking of the new house, the loose plan is to shoot for moving in in about 3 months. That is, if this house sells quickly (only the Lord knows). If it takes a while to sell, we’ll just keep plugging away at the new one. Regardless of when we sell this one (unless it’s a year from now), we’ll be moving into an unfinished house because, even with all of the incredible progress Shaun has made, there’s still a lot left to do.

But we have lined up some tradesmen to finally start doing some of the work (he’ll still be working every chance he gets…just in different areas of the house)–especially key as he’s about to start a round of work trips that will significantly decrease his ability to get things done out there.

The plan–Lord willing–once we get our current house on the market (hopefully this week) is to spend as many evenings as possible at the new house as a family–cleaning, caulking, puttying, sanding, and doing anything else that might lessen the load and expense for any workers that come out.

To that end, I really need to figure out some travel-friendly meals to plan ahead for those nights. We have a small fridge there, and Shaun will hook up a stove for us to use, but it won’t be anything like a fully stocked kitchen, and most nights, we’ll be stopping at the new house to work on our way home from my teaching at the gym. So! Any brilliant ideas you have for easy, portable, reheatable, nutritious meals would be greatly appreciated.

In other news, we’re seriously considering going with quartz on the countertops after all. The manufacturer we were planning to use to fabricate our laminate countertops is no longer available, and let’s just say the samples I’ve seen of the laminate edge I want from local guys have left something to be desired.

We’re still not set, but we’re leaning toward Torquay by Cambria, which comes in jumbo slabs, which we’ll need for the length of the island. Even so, we’ll have to shorten the island by a little over a foot, since the longest option is about 132″.

torquay

 

That’s it above, and the color is a pretty white with gray/tan veining that more or less mimics the look of marble.

We’ve gotten three quotes (well 2 wholes and 1 partial) so far. The first was eye-bugging, the second reasonable, and the third hopefully a bit of a steal (we’re waiting on them to come back with what they will charge for the quartz itself; but their install price per sq. foot is almost half of their competitors).

Aaaaand there you go: an update of sorts for the goings-on in these parts.

The good news is that I’ll have to take pictures of our entire house for when we list it, which means you’ll get a more detailed HOUSE TOUR than any I’ve yet shared in–oh–the last six years.

Which means you’ll finally get to take a gander at our master bathroom–something I just know you’ve been hankering to see. Ahem.

Anyhoo. Get excited. If we’re all lucky, I miiiiiight post a room or two sometime later this week.

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Mama Life Hacks {#11}: Grape Juice + Activated Charcoal to Combat Stomach Bugs

A friend texted me a thank you the other day for posting this blog (which is several years old by this point) and observed that, if life ever gets too busy to post, I should just repost this one, since it was such a lifesaver and as many people as possible should see it (having been the recipient of this life-changing tip from several readers, I know how grateful I was too). 

The stomach bug has ravaging the entire East Texas area, and–while my children have emerged largely unscathed (so far) (the twins + Theo are the only ones who’ve had a short-lived bout with it after a stint in the Chick-fil-a play area #ofcourse)–you better believe that my pantry is stocked with both of these items at all times (and that they were a large part of the reason our only stomach bug this season passed so quickly). 

So! Here you go. A repost of what is currently my most popular blog post according to my analytics page (must not just be East Texas getting hit). 

If the title of this post doesn’t just steal every little bit of thunder I might have been able to conjure up for it, I don’t know what does. grape juice Still, I feel like a little more explanation is needed, so here goes:

About a year and 1/2 ago, Shaun was doing one of his marathon rounds of work trips that seem to come in waves during the spring and then again right around Christmas (when, unfortunately, everyone suddenly gets frantic to spend the rest of their budgets by the year’s end).

I had 5 kids, including 20-month-old twins, and I was pregnant with Theo. First trimester pregnant to be exact, so I was feeling suuuuuuper peppy and swell, as you can imagine.As you can also imagine, I was suuuuuuper thrilled when, pretty much the second that Shaun left for his first work trip, we came down with a stomach bug. Yup. Angels were singing and everything.

Before 24 hours had passed, every single one of my children was lying on the floor with a bowl by their sides. We couldn’t leave the house due to unpredictable puking patterns (is there any other kind?), and my feelings of thrilled-ness were just increasing by the moment. (Although, I was oh-so-grateful not to be sick myself). grape juice1 Which is when my kind, wonderful, awesome readers came to my rescue. I posted some sort of pitiful picture of us all, and several fellow mamas told me to get my hot *germ-covered) little hands on some 100% grape juice and a bottle of activated charcoal capsules ASAP.

I did a bunch of internet research and discovered that grape juice is, indeed, widely lauded as a preventative for stomach bugs. Something about the particular acid it carries is effective in combating stomach bug bacteria. (AKA the stuff that must, assuredly, coat every surface of the 7th level of Hades).

The most important thing to remember, though, is that it’s a preventative measure, not a cure. In other words, once you’re already puking, the only thing grape juice will produce is purple puke. And who needs that?

So! The next time the first victim succumbs to the stomach flu in your house, buy 100% (important not to get the “cocktail” or the “lite” or the “combined with other juices” version…you want the straight stuff) grape juice and get your kids to guzzling. If they’re anything like mine, they’ll be so excited to be given pure, undiluted juice on demand that they won’t ask why you’re suddenly so keen on their gulping it by the glassful. grape juice2 (Of course, the second Nola saw Evy being my model, she insisted: “Mama, I want my picker too!” And of COURSE, she was wearing nothing but undies, so I told her to go put something decent on if she wanted her moment in the spotlight…and this is what she came downstairs wearing. Eh. Could be worse)

The other little miracle that I mentioned is a bit of a harder sell for kids. Activated charcoal comes in little capsules that can be found at most drugstores (I found mine at Drug Emporium…is that a chain? I don’t know, but it sounds kind of shady, now that I think about it), and it basically works as an absorbent agent to soak up the bad bacteria in your gut.

I know that’s a super untechnical description of its properties, but even though I did my due diligence, it’s been a year and 1/2, and I don’t remember all the particulars. I do know that it’s safe, even for small kids, if administered correctly (be sure to do your research on amounts for small children and how often you should take it). And IT WORKS. And! It works once you’re already upchucking too. It helps to lessen the symptoms and shorten the sickness time.

Disclaimer: I think it goes without saying that I am NOT a doctor, nor do I claim to be. Before you ingest anything to help with sickness, you should make sure that you’ve done your own research and consulted your own doctor if you have any questions or are unsure about dosages/usages. grape juice4 Okay, so going back to that time I mentioned when we got sick. Well, Shaun had to travel again a couple of weeks later, and you know what? We got sick AGAIN. What?? So wrong. But this time, I was stocked up on grape juice and activated charcoal capsules, and I got everybody drinking their anti-voms cocktails as fast as you could yell, “BOWL!”

And you know what? That time, only Della (our first to fall) got sick. GLORY! To mix up this lovely, magical concoction, you simply twist the capsules of activated charcoal open, and stir in one full capsule (for older children and adults; I use fractions of capsules for younger). You can do this multiple times a day (up to a point…again…RESEARCH!).

It doesn’t have a taste, and the grape juice completely masks the inky black color, but it does have a bit of a gritty texture that you’ll feel on your teeth afterwards, so I suggest downing it as fast as you can go. You can even make it a game with your kids to see who can finish first! And then everybody can snicker at each other’s black mustaches.

I’ve used this trick every time we’ve had even a whiff of the stomach crud for the past 18 months (my kids don’t get sick often, but considering our frequent trips to the gym daycare, the sickness does tend to rear its ugly head 2-3 times a year), including this past weekend (you might recall that I mentioned that we stayed home from church due to sickness), and it has made such a difference–so much so that rarely do more than one or two of us get the nastiness and then only for 12 hours or less.

So, there you go! One of my BEST Mama Life Hacks for you. I’d happily give credit where it’s due, but honestly, it was multiple mamas who shared this little nugget o’ pure gold, so my heartfelt thanks goes out to all of you.

Tell me: did you already know about the grape juice trick? What about activated charcoal? Any “fun” vom stories to tell? We had a nice little incident in Subway when Della hadn’t puked for 48 hours, and I thought we were in the clear that involved an unfortunate amount of puke on the floor right near the drink dispenser + a total lack of readily available wipes on my part (#momfail), and the stingiest stack of napkins ever from the young male Subway employee who had clearly never cleaned up toddler vomit . (Oddly enough, we no longer frequent this Subway).

Any great #mamalifehacks to share? Leave them in the comments, or hashtag them on social media, and who knows? I might just feature YOU! (And then, your life would be made. I just know it).

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A Month of Honor

I know this is what every mother of a newborn says every.single.time, but–well–I’m willing to be a cliche just for the chance to exclaim how ridiculous it that my seventh kid is already a month old.

Over a month, actually, because, despite my best intentions to get this blog posted last week on Thursday, when he officially completed his one month tenure on planet earth…it didn’t happen. And, yes, I know that I say that a lot. Ce la super-busy, constantly-distracted, nursing-daze vie. (And good for you if you actually deciphered that last sentence).

Honor is just the sweetest thing, y’all. I know I said the same thing about Theo on his one month “birthday” (and I would have said the same thing about the twins too if I hadn’t been too sick battling mastitis and shingles to blog when they were a month old. Yuck). And it was just as true. But in a different way. Theo is a ham. He dances. He squeals. He even does a dramatic, Hamlet-esque stagger/chest-clutch/collapse move when his brothers pretend stab him while playing swords. It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen a 2-year-old do…especially since no one taught him to do it. But most of all, Theo SMILES. Almost all the time. A big, gap-toothed, cheesy grin that you can’t help but return. He’s been like that since birth, practically.

month1

See? Solemn as a tomb. Clearly.

Honor is different, though. Equally winsome. But, whereas Theo is the constant life of the party, Honor is thoughtful and serious.

month3

Apparently, he was digging the retro vibe at The Grove–a local restaurant with the COOLEST decor. 

 

He started smiling on Valentine’s Day (little love-bug that he is), but he literally has to work up to it. He gets bright-eyed and happy-looking. Then he wriggles his whole body, as if the smile is buried deep in his toes and needs to travel all the way up to his lips. And then, finally, after he’s cocked his head this way and that a few times, a crooked half smile emerges from a big open mouth. Once he gets going, though, it’s one smile after the other for a little while.

Shaun’s the best at extracting these hard-won smiles, followed closely by Ezra and Simon. Honor’s most content to be held by me (although, he’s a chill baby who will happily go to most anybody), but I rarely have/take the time to sit and coo at him like Shaun does (that implied that my husband has lots of free time…he doesn’t, but when he’s holding Honor, he is usually devoting his entire attention to him. I can be guilty of hauling him around with me like a sack of potatoes on one arm while I get lunch or pull laundry out of the dryer with the other).

month2

Oh, Daddy. You’re so funny. 

To say that we’re all completely smitten with Honor is probably completely unnecessary but no less true. It’s not unusual to hear an exchange that goes something like: “Mama, can I hold Honor?” And then immediately: “And me next?” Followed by: “And then me?” And: “And then ME!” And finally: “Oh man! I wanted to hold him. Now, I’ll have to wait forever!”

month

Surrounded by his fan club. 

Everybody pitches in, but the older boys, especially, are sources of genuine and constant help. They hold him while I eat. They change his diapers. They fetch clothes and dress him. They load him in his car seat and carry him to the van. If they could feed him, they would do that too.

And almost none of this is because I ask them to (although, when I do ask for help, they are very quick to respond). They just adore their baby brother and are eager to be included or in charge of anything that involves Honor. They were the same way with Theo (less so with their sisters since they were so much younger when they were born), and they still are, but there’s just nothing like a brand new little human to get everybody’s attention.

I say this, yes, to brag on my sweet sons but also to encourage you mamas of little-bitties (only) out there that this day is coming if you keep plugging at training those soft little hearts. And it is a good day, indeed.

I know not everybody is into the newborn stage, but I love it. Much more so now than in the past (that’s my mama experience talking; I know now how fleeting it is). I think I would happily have a newborn in the house at all times if I could. There’s just not much better than holding a bundle of yummy-smelling squish for cheering you up or calming you down.

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Hey, girl. Thanks for getting down on my level. How about you change my diaper while you’re here?

I love the grunts and the squinty faces they make when they stretch. And don’t even get me started on baby yawns. Even their snores are cute, for crying out loud.

Of course, I know that it helps (immensely) that I have healthy, easy-going babies who sleep well (Honor’s still holding steady at 6 hours a stretch at night, but I’m hoping he will bump that up soon). And I certainly don’t take that for granted. But babies are just cool, so that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Thank you, Lord, for Honor. We sure are tickled he’s here!

P.S. After looking at the pic of above of all 7 and then at Theo’s one-month pics compared to Honor’s, I’m starting to believe that, maybe, our kids look a bit alike. #yathink

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Strolling with Evenflo

Even though I have 7 kids, I’ve never owned a new stroller. Several new car seats, yes. But no new strollers. Which is fine. Because the secondhand versions I’ve owned have fulfilled their purposes well enough. But I’ve never loved a stroller system. Until now.

Meet the Evenflo Pivot Travel System.

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{Disregard Della’s squint o’ death; she didn’t mind the fact that I sent them out in the cold to walk their baby brother around the block for me…JK! They dressed themselves in various and sundries–pretty sure Theo has socks on his hands rather than mittens–and headed out to brave the big, bad 45 degree chill without any prompting from me}

AKA: my new BFF.

It’s different from anything I’ve ever owned before in a myriad of ways but probably the most significant is that the stroller base is just that: a base. Which allows you to pop in either the car seat…

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{Clearly the postpartum hair loss has not kicked in yet. Hello, lion’s mane}

…or the stroller bed.

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The bed can be laid flat (ideal for infants) or tilted upward for optimal viewing, especially once baby gets older (it has straps to keep him snug and safe). It also has a handy cold-weather cover, which we have happily utilized on chilly mornings.

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I love having the option to carry only the lightweight base and simply snapping in the car seat (the option I utilize the most). Most of my strollers have been unwieldy and heavy (especially the twins’ double stroller, which is a total beast), so I am loving how easy it is the toss the stroller base in the back of the van and then transfer the car seat right into it.

Speaking of the car seat, it’s my favorite!

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{Can you spot my cute photographer?}

In fact, the very day it came in the mail, Honor ended up napping in it multiple times throughout the day because it’s so well-cushioned and plush that he went right to sleep every time we laid him in it. Even though he’s a big baby for his age, he still needed an insert in our last car seat to keep his head from lolling side-to-side. The Evenflo Pivot car seat has sufficient padding to keep his little noggin in place, though, so I don’t have keep up with an insert (major bonus in my book).

Also, while our last car seat was awkward to carry in the crook of your arm and hard to release from the base, the Evenflo Pivot car seat has a wide, smooth arced handle (Shaun’s first comment was how good it felt to carry), which is easy to slip onto my arm and doesn’t bite into my skin. AND! The best part? It comes out of the base without any complicated lifting/wiggling/coaxing (can’t tell you how many times I’ve accidentally woken a sleeping babe wrestling with our last model).

It also includes an anti-rebound bar built into the seat base, which limits the rebound impact in a frontal car crash and keeps my baby safer.

The stroller, itself, is the easiest to maneuver that I’ve ever used. I can steer it, no problem, with one hand, which is kind of a big deal, since that’s usually how many hands I have available (because there’s always somebody else that needs me to wipe a nose or hand out sippy cups with my other one).

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{Pretty much everybody–from Ezra down to the twins–can navigate this stroller because it glides so easily}

Another plus? There’s a generous amount of space between the basket on the bottom and anything that might block it on top. It’s an easy-to-overlook perk until you find yourself trying to deposit or retrieve a bag or snacks from underneath a stroller only to have them snag hopelessly, requiring a full-stop (and an inevitable pile-up of small bodies behind you) and rummage situation.

When Evenflo (nice post sponsor!) contacted me and offered me an option of stroller systems, I took my time reading reviews and ultimately decided on the Pivot system, since I love to walk the trails near our gym with friends and wanted something that maneuvers easily and handles well on rough terrain.

I am happy to report that it does both.

Honestly, I couldn’t be more pleased with this travel system. It does what a stroller system should do–make my life easier. And while “hard is not the same thing as bad” may be my motto, I see no point in making things needlessly complicated.

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{Honor stayed snug and happy in his car seat, even though it was time for him to eat}

The Evenflo Pivot Travel System simplifies traveling with a baby, and I am a big fan of that and it.

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{Also a big fan of the car seat canopy with a peephole that my sis-in-law, Hannah, made for me}

Although Evenflo was kind enough to provide me with product, all gushing is entirely my own. 

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