what's up weekly.

Well, folks, I did it!  I managed my way through my first full week of juggling all the kids by myself since Callista came home.  It was also my first week without friends bringing all our meals over, so I was in charge of remembering to take stuff out of the freezer for dinner.  I'm not going to lie, there were some definite rough patches.  And because we're in the middle of a heat wave, I let the kids watch way more Netflix than I will 'fess up to.  But we're all alive, moderately well-fed, and mostly whole, so I consider it a win.  I mean, mostly a win.

There is very little news to report for this week.  I did my best to have nothing on the agenda, which was equal parts blessing and curse.  I'm still going strong with my commitment to nap every day (though, Wednesday I had to make the tough decision to shower instead of nap during my hands-free window.  It was necessary and the right choice to pick the shower, but very sad to give up the nap).  Callista is eating and growing and eating and growing and sleeping (sometimes) and eating and growing some more.

Totally milk-drunk.

She went through her three-week growth spurt last weekend, waking up every hour to eat through the night on Saturday - 2:30 a.m., 3:30, 4:30, 5:30, 6:30, 7:30, 8:30, 9:30, 10:30... it was brutal.  I kind of got to a breaking point.  I feel like I've mentally stayed ahead of the game for the most part this time around, but there's always a moment where the newbornness of it all just swallows you up and drowns you.  That was the moment for me.

I had already planned on staying home from church with Callista on Sunday, but since Saturday night had been so rough, Todd stayed home, too, and we all just kind of cocooned in our jammies for the day.

We are on break from doing schoolwork for the next few weeks, so the big kids had ample free time on their hands.  Kids always think they enjoy vacation, but they don't really.  They're restless and bored and fight all the time and run around the house like caged animals.  I did make them go outside every day, but with 100+-degree temps and 1000% humidity, about an hour a day was all I could really enforce.  So everyone got cabin fever.  In mid-July.

Next week, we start swimming lessons, which I'm equally dreading and grateful for, since it will make me get out of the house (boo) but it will get the kids out of the house (yay) and break up the day a bit.

Other than that, nada.  Seriously.  I finished about a zillion books, since that's something I can do one-handed while I nurse Callista and keep one eye on Rocco, who lately seems dead-set on throwing anything he can find, breaking everything he can reach, and jumping to his death from every raised surface he can access.  So my house is falling down around me, but I'm at least well-read.

Callista seems to know this won't end well for her.  The very next shot Todd got, Rocco had managed to get her into a full-on choke hold.  

And that was our very weird full-slash-empty week.  I'd love to hear how your week went - how's summer going?

our vehicle solution. (or: Are We Still Technically the "Minivan" Voorsts?)

Before Callista was born, I was chauffeuring the kids around in a seven passenger Town and Country minivan, named the Kristy Chrysler.  (At the risk of ruining the joke by having to explain it, I have a good friend named Kristy Crisler.  It's all very funny if you like puns and random references to people that I know.  Maybe less funny if you don't.)

A post shared by Todd Van Voorst (@toddhenryvanvoorst) on

Anyway.  The Kristy had been good to us, but would be too small to cart us all around once Callista was born, so we spent months brainstorming what we were going to do.  We had test driven old church vans, gotten in contact with dealerships and car lots all over central Missouri, and spent soul-sucking hours on the internet, trying to find something affordable for us.  Because, contrary to popular belief, single-income families with one million kids don't exactly swim around in gold doubloons like the McDucks.

We quickly found that twelve-passenger vans were just too expensive.  (Correction: we did find a couple affordable options on Craigslist.  One listing for an outrageously cheap 15-seater bragged that it got a fresh, full-body coat of matte red Rustoleum spray paint every year.  Score.)  So we kept noodling.  Todd suggested a shuttle bus, but I was too afraid of getting hop-ons, like with the Bluth Company stair car, or the Michael Scott Paper Company van.

Then Finneas suggested a limo.  Then a semi trailer.  Both of which seemed like solid options.

Then, against my preference, we started looking at eight-seater SUVs and minivans.  I didn't want to go this route, since we'd be spending dealership amounts of money (cha-ching) on a minivan (which we already had), knowing that we'd have to trade it in a couple years when we had another kid.  But by then, it would have depreciated quite a bit.  We'd probably lose out on about 3,000 bucks when all was said and done, just to have an extra seat for two years - at which point we'd have to spring for a bigger van anyway.  Plus, all the eight-seater options utilized a fold-down seat in the middle row to access the back row, and considering all our kids are still in carseats or boosters, this didn't really seem like a practical choice since we'd have to remove a carseat every time the kids needed to get into the van.

But it was really all we were finding in our budget, so I acquiesced.  There was a black Yukon we considered for a while.  Then a white Honda Odyssey.  (I was leaning toward the Yukon, if only because then I could name it Yukon Cornelius.)  Todd got financing lined up and was in discussions with the dealerships.  But we just never really felt ready to pull the trigger.  So, instead, we invested in this:

Somewhere along the line, Todd got the rando idea to see if the back bench seat of the Kristy would fit across the middle row.  (It would.)  And if there was enough room on the side for the kids to get to the back without folding a seat down.  (There was.)  And if there was a salvage yard in the general vicinity that carried another bench seat for the back row that would match our exact make and model.  (There was.)  And if the bench seat was the exact leather and color as that of our current interior, that would be peachy.  (Okeedokee.)

So.  For $330, we have a newly-eight-seater minivan and the Kristy Chrysler continues to reign supreme in all her glory.

And we are still, as always, the Minivan Voorsts.

how we brush our teeth. in case you were wondering.

I'd been using normal toothpaste (usually one of the Crest Blindingly White kinds) for a long time and not thinking anything of it.  I have this one dead tooth in front that just drives me crazy, so I'd been throwing whatever whitening options I could at it in hopes that it would magically look less dead.  No such luck.  And in the meantime, I started developing this really sensitive, painful area on one of my teeth - what I suspected might be the onset of my very first cavity.  Over the course of six months to a year, the pain never got worse, but it never got better, either.

And then in trying to help some of Atticus' cavities heal a couple years ago, I had been making some diet and supplement changes in our household.  I was talking about it with a gal who cured her daughter's extensive tooth decay with the same protocol we were using, and she filled me in on their family's switch from toothpaste to bar soap, and how clean it left their teeth.  (She even blogged about it here, if you're wanting to know more.)  Unlike toothpaste, soap doesn't leave a film over the teeth, preventing remineralization.  Plus, depending on the soap used, the ingredients are way less sketchy, even if the kids swallow it.  (Which they often do.)

It all sounded a little woo-woo to me at first, but then again, I was entrenched in the world of trying to get my kid's teeth to grow back, so I was already in Woo-WooLand.  I figured we didn't have anything to lose by trying it out.

I ended up buying a couple bars of soap from LuSa Organics - an orange-cinnamon scented one, and a peppermint-tangerine one.  It took some getting used to on the kids' part, since it gets really sudsy and doesn't taste like SUPER STRAWBERRY ATTACK! (or whatever crazy flavor of toothpaste we were using at the time).  However, the adjustment was pretty minimal, and I absolutely won't go back!  The kids' teeth are so much cleaner and whiter now, and their breath is better.  (I haven't taken Atticus back to the dentist to get comparison X-rays taken, so I can't tell you objectively what's going on inside his teeth, but I can tell you that, for as doomsday as our dentist was about his teeth with the initial diagnosis, Atticus never has any tooth pain to speak of anymore.  None.)

Watching all of this unfold convinced me to make the switch myself.  So, yes, I too brush with bar soap now.  I also like to add a bit of baking soda to my toothbrush with the soap - it totally gets rid of any funky mouth tastes/smells (instead of just covering it up with mint flavor, like toothpaste does).  My teeth are so clean - virtually no plaque/tartar buildup anywhere in my mouth, even though I have a couple of orthodontic wires in there, and even though I haven't had my teeth professionally cleaned in probably three years.  And while it can't unkill my stupid front tooth, it does at least lift surface stains, so my teeth are actually slightly whiter now than before...  and my tooth pain disappeared.  A bar of soap costs a couple bucks and lasts the five kids and myself a good year and a half or more, which I consider a win, as well.

So there you have it.  You now know (some of) our unusual - but effective - hygiene habits.  Make me feel less alone - do you do anything weird in your bathroom?  (Hygiene-related, I mean!)

the weekly 'what's up.'

I am at that point in the newborn season when measuring time gets really difficult.  On the one hand, the days just seem to innnnnnnnch along, and on the other hand, you blink and a week and a half has passed and yet you're still somehow wearing the same pajama pants.  My days feel pretty jumbly right now.

Todd had enough vacation time built up to take a week off work once we left the hospital, so his first day back was last Thursday.  To help me with the transition, my mom and stepdad then took the big kids up to Iowa for a week, so they left last Thursday and returned home this past Wednesday.  The kids had a blast - they spent the week crafting, swimming, playing outside, eating, and field tripping to places like the science center and Living History Farms.  Not exactly the worst way to spend your time.  (We got a letter in the mail from Penelope partway through the week, telling us, "I'm having fun! I don't miss you at all!")

Meanwhile, back on the home front, I got to enjoy a quiet week with Callista.  I mainly focused on bonding with her, continuing to establish nursing, and recovering well - sitting down as much as possible, sleeping when I could, and only leaving the house when I had to.  (I have lots of thoughts on healthy postpartum recovery, and you better believe I'll get into that more soon!)

Because she would toggle between long stretches of awake time and long stretches of sleepiness, I found myself either extremely spent or extremely free.  And because I was pretty hands-free and responsibility-free while she was sleeping, but still trying to stay on the couch, I spent what time I could getting ready for the upcoming school year.  It is actually perfect timing that she was born when she was - because of the downtime I got, I'm more prepared going into this year than I have been for any other year, and it's all because I have a newborn.  Which is a weird thing to say.

Working with Atticus on his final exam narrations before he left for my mom's, so that I could finish up his portfolio while he was gone.

Over the weekend, Todd's parents and our nephew David came to visit and meet Callista.  She was a big hit!

We also headed to church on Sunday morning.  Todd was preaching and I didn't want to miss it, and it was (relatively) simple getting out of the house since I was only juggling one kiddo.  Callista was not sure she found the experience worth the apparently torturous ride in the carseat.

On Monday, I took her to her two-week checkup, and she had gained a full pound since our discharge from the hospital a week and a half prior!  Girlfriend is growing, as illustrated by this chubby baby arm that I can't get enough of.

She is still eating every hour and a half or so during the day, and every two hours or so overnight.  I have been really disciplined about taking a nap every day, even if only for 20 minutes or so, so I'm still feeling decent about it all.  Plus, I've been taking my own advice (see the video here) and keeping my expectations very looowwwwww, which has been so helpful.

The kids returned Wednesday afternoon, and it's been an adjustment.  It's amazing how quickly I got used to the quiet, and the lack of laundry and dishes, and the way the house stayed (kind of) picked up.  Yesterday was rough, as everyone seems to need something at once, and I have fewer hands and less time to meet all the needs than I did before. I'm now also, by necessity, going to have to be a lot more physically active than I've been in the last few weeks, which is tiring.  I am so very glad to have them home, and they're happy to be home, but it's taking a bit for all of us to settle back into a sense of 'normal.'

So the standing order is for continued extra naps for all of us, lots of family movie time (with snuggles), and very very low expectations for our days.  As long as we can stick to this, I think we'll settle into a groove pretty quickly!

And that was our week!

'afters' of our basement carpet. finally.

So, think way back to when I told you about the time two and a half gallons of milk spilled all over our carpeted basement stairs.  And then remember how the carpet cleaner said the carpet wasn't salvageable, so Todd just ripped it out because it stunk to high heaven.  Then remember how I told you about the amazing way in which God provided for us to be able to recarpet, instead of leaving everything looking like this:

Okay.  And then remember how I told you we had gotten it all done, but I forgot to show you 'after' photos.  Well, today is the day I remedy that.  Let me remind you again what our basement had looked like the morning we had it removed (all the furniture is stuffed into the room at the back):

I get that it doesn't really look that bad in the photos (other than the fact that I haven't decorated and there are paint swatches all over the walls).  What you can't see is that these are simply carpet tiles, glued to the cement floor.  It was cheap, and uncomfortable, and dirty to boot - the previous owners had a black dog that hung out down here, and every single time I would vacuum, half the canister would be full of black dirt and dog hair.  It was really, really gross.

Plus, everything was the SAME STINKING COLOR.  The walls, paint and trim are all this gross yellowy-beige, and the carpet was a gross yellowy-beige and it just felt flat and dirty, and it looked like a smoker's tooth.


I feel like these photos are anticlimactic, but believe me when I tell you it has made a world of difference!  First, the carpet is a mid-tone greige, which makes everything feel a lot warmer and more anchored.  Second, it is actual carpet laid over actual carpet pad, so it is soft and squishy and doesn't scream 'cheap rental property.'  Third, it has helped me narrow in on the color I'll be painting the walls.  Fourth, it is not chocked full of someone else's dirty pet's dirty hair.  It is clean and new.  Fifth, it doesn't smell like rotting milk.

I am seriously in love.  However, it does make me want to paint the walls even more than I did before, but before I can paint the walls, I need to paint the ceiling and trim, so it's kind of a major undertaking.  Plus, I've been brainstorming how I want to decorate - I'm thinking some built in bookshelves, and a home office area, and a cute play area for the kids... it will look 100 million times different should I ever get the motivation to make some headway down there.

But in the meantime, the new carpet alone has done my soul good.

our trip to south dakota: the trip home.

Okay, now that it's been like a month and a half since we got home from South Dakota, I figured it was time to finally wrap up the retelling.  Luckily, there's only one day I haven't yet touched on: the day we drove home.

Todd and I were up at the butt crack of dawn, loading the van.  Luckily, the dawn's butt crack is pretty good looking up in the Black Hills.

The girls made sure that they got to help Papa Tony feed Joe the Horse before we left.

We rolled out of town pretty early, and tried to hit up interesting stops on the way home.  Our first stop was at Chamberlain, where there's a small but surprisingly nice Lewis and Clark exhibit at a roadside rest stop.  The view is beautiful, and the kids had a fun time pretending to row the replica boat and sleep in a tent like the crew would have done.  Atticus also liked the added bonus that a State Patrol station is adjacent to the exhibit building, so there were some patrol cars parked out front.

Riverside Park in Sioux City was a new find last year, and we were so excited to visit again.  It was colder this year than last, and our picnic lunch got rained on for a bit, but after the rainfall, it warmed up enough for us to enjoy the park for about an hour.

Rocco looks so big, eating his own personal bag of chips, just like his elders.

The biggest and littlest brothers were inadvertent twins, and it was the most adorable thing ever

Finneas seemed to enjoy the swing.

I really have no idea what this baseball mascot guy is all about, but we had (relative) fun posing with him.

Once bellies were full and legs were adequately stretched, the kids conked out in the car for a while.  We have survived so many road trips where the kids have refused to sleep, so this is always a beautiful, beautiful sight.

Our last stop was a McDonald's drive-through next to a playground rest area that had been a hit on the way up.  After eating, the kids all had a ball helping Rocco enjoy the slide.  One kid would carry him up to the top and push him down, another kid would catch him at the bottom.  They all loved it.

The last stretch of the trip felt loooooong, and was pretty miserable by the end.  Plus, Todd and I were both starting to come down with the flu we would end up having for the next couple of days.  So, needless to say, we were both so very glad to pull into the driveway around midnight, round up the kids, and then flop into bed.

And that wraps up the lowdown on this year's trip to South Dakota!

'what's up' weekly.

This week was a bit more of the same thing from last week: the kids were all in love with Callista, Todd was home to help me out, and I spent most of the week sitting on the couch and trying to nap when I could.

Because we do a year-round schedule, it was only our first official week of summer break, and the kids had a lot more discretionary time than normal.  They spent most of it outside or coloring at the table.

Penelope was so excited for summer break to start, so she could stop doing school and start... well, reading just as much as we normally do.

Rocco spent much of his time wearing a tiny straw fedora and getting into everything.  He has reached full-on 'toddler' stage at this point, which means lots more talking and communicating, which is so fun, and also lots more climbing on things, temper tantrums, and general activity, which can be hard to keep up with.  (Do I need to mention that later this same day, he fell from his perch up here, hit his head on the china cabinet, and bit his tongue in a pretty gnarly way?  It's as though toddlers don't care whether their choices are good and safe.)

Callista spent her time sleeping, eating and voicing her opinions on various topics, such as: Being Cold, Being Tired, Being Gassy, Being Wet, Being Bored, and Being Manhandled by the Bigger Kids.

Here's how Todd feels about being a dad of a half-dozen kids:

Photo by Penelope

And Penelope lost a top tooth and is now on her way to being a full-fledged adult.  Those top front teeth make such a big difference in their smile - she looks so grown up!  I already miss her crooked little baby-tooth smile, but this one is pretty, too!

And yesterday, my mom came down and picked up the five big kids to spend a week at Camp Ya-Ya, to help me with the transition now that Todd is back at work.  I spent the first five minutes that they were gone reveling in the unusual freedom to throw away whatever 'precious pieces of artwork' (read: scraps of notebook paper covered in various crayon scribbles) covering my kitchen counters, dining room table, and floors.  After that catharsis, I was super bummed and bored and stir-crazy with all the quiet.  It's too chill around here without the kids.

So I spent most of the day working on homeschool planning for next year, finishing up the kids' portfolios from last year, and working on a few assignments in an online drawing course I'm taking.  I also spent a lot of time reading (!!), and some time watching Netflix while my hands were occupied nursing Callista.  I even got in a nap and a shower.  So while the day was mostly spent on the couch, it was full of good, restful, productive things.

And as for today, it should be more of the same thing: Priority #1 is to nap, Priority #2 is to continue to sit as much as possible.  And those are probably about the extent of what I'll be able to accomplish today.  Should be a good day!