happy birthday, todd!

Happy 38th birthday to my awesome husband.  I don't know how I got so lucky as to get him, honestly, so I can't give you any pointers if you're on your own husband hunt.  You could try crossing your fingers and hoping someone decides to slum it a little and take a chance on you.  I mean, that seems to be what worked for me.

My current favorite things about him:  the length of his beard (not too long, not too short); the fact that he's been pretty imperturbable about any minor stuff lately; that he suggests spontaneous weekend adventures and also spontaneous weekend let's-do-nothing days; that he playlists Counting Crows songs for me even though they're not his fave; that he is willing to consider buying a garage door as our joint Christmas present to each other, even though he doesn't really get anything he cares about out of the deal.  I also like it when he puts Band-Aids on my fingers for me when I inevitably stab myself with knives or box cutters or whatever other sharp object is within reasonable reach.

But what I love most about him are the things I've always loved most about him:  I love having fun with him.  I love watching him be Daddy to our kids.  I love hearing his thoughts on Scripture and doctrine and translations.  I love cracking jokes with him and watching sitcoms together.

So, happy birthday to Todd.  I'm so glad he was born.

weekly 'what's up.' (minus photos because i'm a lazy bum.)

Not a single photo was taken this week.  Not one goldarn blasted photo.  THE. WORST.  So you'll just have to bear with me, photoless and pathetic.  I'll try to make it quick.

Saturday: we went to Shelter Gardens, and I had so much coffee creamer. (Saturdays are my cheat day on Trim Healthy Mama.)  It was like the world was ending and I was trying to be all 'virgins with the lamps' and stock up on oil.  Only my "oil" was just salted vanilla caramel-flavored sugar sauce.  It was good.  Also, dangerous, because I could have ended up in a blood sugar coma, and that's not how anyone wants to spend their Saturday.  So I'm glad I narrowly avoided that.

Sunday: Church.  Stretchy Pants.  Noodles for Dinner.

Monday: Monday stuff.  School.  Laundry.

Tuesday:  Cleaning day.  Laundry.  Connection group.  I made a huge pot roast that only cost me $10 at Aldi. You GO, Aldi Coco.

Wednesday: Amish.  Laundry.

Thursday:  School.  More laundry.  Paid the kids a penny per pair to match socks.

And that brings us up to date, really.  I mean, other than the fact that I should tell you Rocco is starting to chow down on big kid foods all of a sudden.  He ate like a whole piece of salmon the other night and a bunch of quinoa.  He also ate chicken, at which point I yelled, "Yay, chicken!" at which point he threw a rock fist in the air.  Now, anytime someone yells, "CHICKEN!" at him, he throws up the rock fist.  I think he's also trying to say "peekaboo," even though it just sounds like "ba-buhhhh," because he does it every time he puts a blanket over his head and then pulls it off.  Same cadence as 'peekaboo' and everything.  I mean, is that enough to decide conclusively that he's a genius?  Not definitively.  But not NOT definitively.

it's time for a list of things!

I have no ideas for a cohesive blog post today, so I'm just going to list some stuff out.

1.  Try as I may, I have never gotten the hang of making cheese sauce.  It always just turns into a sticky ball of melted cheese swimming around in some kind of yellow-colored broth.  You know it's bad when your kids look at their cheese-covered cauliflower and ask for permission to pick the cheese off so they can eat the cauliflower plain.

2.  Rocco is almost a year old, and is nursing nursing nursing.  I mean, dang.  I feel like Rosie the Riveter.  Like, "Lady!  You can do anything you put your mind to!  Don't let them put you in a box or glass-ceiling you!  You, my friend, can breastfeed if you want to."  It feels good.  Probably akin to building airplanes for the war effort.

3.  I am really wrestling with coming to grips with the fact that the paint color I chose for the living room/dining room/hall is absolutely wrong.  It looked awesome in Cedar Falls, where the floors were darker, but here it looks terrible.  But I seriously cannot bring myself to consider repainting.  But I also can't bring myself to consider living with them as-is.  I mean, there's enough about this house that's working against it as it is.  Why subject it to further mental bullying by clothing it in the wrong color? I mean, that is totally changeable.  Turning the whole house to face South is less realistic.  So I should be willing to do what I can, right?  But UGH UGH UGH.  Don't make me paint!  (Anyone want to come for a painting party?!!)

4.  I am going strong with homeschool.  Strong-ish.  Of average strength.  At the rate we're going with our hours, we may have to sign on for year-round school, or at least year-round math, but we're at least consistent.  We have only missed one scheduled day of school so far this year, and we're ten weeks in.  That is a huge win for Paige Van Voorst.  Now, to see if the same holds true once the weather turns and I get SAD and want to stay in bed all day instead of living up to my obligations and responsibilities...

5.  Laurelai is currently living in her own version of Second Life: she is apparently named Lack (or Leff, who is Lack's sister, but also played by Laurelai).  She lives in a castle, and her mom has all kinds of rules that conveniently overrule mine.  I told her to eat a brussels sprout the other night, and she told me, "My mom says I can't eat that because it has grain."  Convenient.  Very convenient.  Also, her mom seems like she may be a bit misinformed about some things.

6.  I started doing Trim Healthy Mama and I simultaneously love it and hate it.  First of all, stevia makes me sad and I miss sugar.  So Saturdays are my Huge Coffee with Ungodly Amounts of Creamer days.  Also, I have a grilled cheese sandwich every night before bed, even though it totally flies in the face of everything Trim Healthy Mama stands for.  Just because I can.  (And because I'm nursing and I'm ravenous at 10:30 at night.)  

7.  I feel like I need to come up with a seventh thing.  No?

8.  My dishwasher is my new best friend.  I need help coming up with the perfect name for her.  She's shiny on the outside AND the inside, she likes to sing, she's a hard worker, she's basically silent (except when she's singing, of course).  I just know there's a fitting character to name her after, but who?  HELP ME.

9.  I write these blog posts at night, and it's now 10:42 p.m. and it's grilled cheese time, so I'm outtie, yo.

our trip to Shelter Gardens.

On Saturday, we decided on a whim to take the kids over to Shelter Gardens, a botanical garden and arboretum on the property where Todd works.  It's weird that we've become an 'on a whim' family - Todd and I are both "J"s on the Meyers-Briggs inventory (Todd especially so), and spontaneity has definitely been a learned trait for both of us.  But it has been so good for us, because look at the kinds of things we'd be missing out on!

There's a beautiful old one-room schoolhouse within the gardens, and the kids had a heyday sitting in the seats (and, in Laurelai's case, getting folded up into one of the seats) and coloring on the chalkboard.  I had a heyday taking pictures of the trimwork around the windows and reining in my desire to steal the beautiful wood-burning stove to have for my very own.  (Don't worry, I kid.  I kid.  I would never do that.  It would be way to heavy for me to carry.)

Please excuse how blasted out this photo is.  A) This building had the absolute nightmare of a problem that is having tons of windows and ample natural light, and B) Finneas is basically glow-in-the-dark anyway.

After we had walked through the gardens, we headed to the front of Todd's building to check out the fountain.  This company does so much for our community, and it values treating its employees well and making things beautiful.  I am so thankful for the unexpected blessing Shelter has been in our lives here!

I'm really wanting to come back regularly, to see all the different trees and flowers change through the seasons.

what's up weekly. (I got wordy this week. #srrynotsrry)

Happy Friday, everyone!  This week has been a good one, full of mostly normal stuff, a few exciting things, an injury, and lots of time at home.

Friday night, two of our favorite babysitters from Cedar Falls, Ellie and Bethany, came all the way down to stay with us for the weekend.  It was a blast.  

Saturday morning the kids got up to find the girls here and kind of lost their minds.  We spent the morning at home, then spent some time out hiking the trails at Rock Bridge.  We got zero pictures of that on the nice camera because we're huge idiots. Luckily, Todd had his phone on him.

Saturday night, the girls watched the kids for us so that we could go on a date.  We headed to a restaurant we'd been wanting to try out for a while that serves Cajun food.  Any kind of restaurant orienting their menu around spicy shellfish in cream sauce is fine by me.  And daaaang.  It was so. good.  I about died.  We will definitely be eating there again.  I can predict that whenever the next pregnancy strikes, we will probably spend a large portion of Todd's income there.

After we got home, our friends Josh and Megan came to crash on our air mattress for the night, so it was a full house.  It was so fun having everyone here!

Sunday night, we had a Connection Group leaders' meeting at a friend's house.  Atticus ran in the door, somehow hit his toe on the floor (I'm still not totally clear on what happened), and spent the rest of the night absolutely sobbing.  He was in so much pain.  We decided to head home early so he could soak it and then go to sleep, and then we'd see what we were dealing with in the morning.

Well, he was totally out of commission for three full days, and is still in the 'gingerly healing' phase.  Monday, Tuesday, and most of Wednesday, he spent the entire day either sitting at the table or sitting on the couch with an ice pack wrapped around his foot.  I had to carry him on my back to get him up and down the stairs and take him to the bathroom.  (He is wiry, but he is SOLID, so carrying him is no small feat.)  Wednesday, he was able to start putting a little weight on it, so Penelope made him this 'wheelchair' for his foot, and he kind of scooted around on it.  It was genuinely helpful.  (Please ignore the fact that he's still in his jammies.  Wearing jammies helps you heal faster.)

By yesterday, he was able to walk slowly on his heel, and he seems to be on the mend.

On Monday the dishwasher guy came and installed our new dishwasher, and Todd installed our new washer.  I am now living in the twenty-first century once again, and I couldn't be more thrilled.  Plus, our dishwasher is so nice.  And I don't just mean fancy (which it is!), but I mean, like, literally nice to me.  It asks me when I want it to start washing.  It tells me exactly how many minutes are left in any given cycle, and it sings at me when it's done with the load.  Plus, it fits even my deepest crock pot and tallest spoons, and there are no visible buttons on the front.  It's like someone asked themselves, "What kind of features would Paige Van Voorst hope for in a dishwasher... and a friend?" and then they went from there.

Other than that, our most major news was food-related.  (Isn't it always?)  This little guy got his very own seat at the breakfast table this week, and tried some scrambled eggs.  He really liked stuffing them in his mouth; he did not seem to get the hang of what to do with them once they were in there.  He also had his very first chunks of pickles and some bone broth.  He was a fan of both.

Please ignore our sad, booger-colored walls.

And that was our week!  How was yours?


After a long, arduous six-week stretch of crying over all my broken appliances, I can now say that I am now the proud owner of a functioning dishwasher AND a functioning washing machine.  GLORYHALLELUJAH.

No more trying to scrub the insides of our milk bottles with soap and rice because the bottle brushes weren't long enough to reach inside.  No more boiling water to sanitize the insides of those bottles after the soap-and-rice thing only worked okay.  No more driving our laundry halfway across town to do at a friend's so that we had access to such luxuries as underwear and kitchen towels.  And I am a brand new, grateful, singing-and-dancing lady.

So here's to my new best friends, GE and Maytag:  May your life be ever long and your stainless be ever shiny. 

your feelings are real, but they can be liars.

This weekend, we headed over to Rock Bridge State Park for a hike with friends.  The water was lower this time than the last time we went, and it was possible to actually walk underneath the Rock Bridge.  Penelope, who tends to be our most timid kiddo, refused to go underneath because she was afraid it would collapse on her.  So, after a failed attempt to convince her to try it, we walked back over to the trail to wait for everyone else to get done exploring.

Once we were back on the trail, though, we had a good opportunity to talk about how, 'our feelings are real, but they can be liars.'  Her fear was a very real feeling, and while it is a very good thing to acknowledge how we feel, her fear was telling her something would happen that, realistically speaking, was not going to happen.  She was trusting her fear more than she was trusting reason and truth, and she was allowing that to dictate her behavior.  People always act in response to who or what they trust most.

This photo is from a different trip, since we forgot the camera this weekend.

There is a growing trend of parenting 'experts' essentially telling us that our kids' feelings are the most true things about them.  Our kids are no more than a sum of their emotions, and our job as parents is to identify and validate every single thing they might be feeling at a given moment, or we risk smothering their truest selves.

I absolutely believe that it is important to show compassion without condescension for our children and their 'big feelings.'  Feelings are valid.  They're real.  And they can be so, so good.  But it is so very important to teach our kids how to discern whether their feelings are telling them true things, or lies, by comparing what our emotions are telling us with what is objectively true.  The job of our feelings is to follow what's true - such as when we get angry about injustice, or respond in joy and affection when we know we're loved - rather than dictate what we believe to be true.  They were not made to be the sole force driving our behavior if we haven't first asked ourselves if they're telling us the truth.

And our children are strong.  They are insighful.  From as early as toddlerhood, children are absolutely capable of rising above false, lying emotions to choose 'right' and 'true.'  I often tell even our youngest kiddos, "It is okay to feel angry [or fill-in-the-blank], but your anger is not an excuse to act like that."  It's as simple as that at the start, and am I often amazed at how quickly a toddler can respond to reason like this, and their emotions often follow suit.  

Penelope and I stood on that trail and talked for a little bit - "Fear is telling you a story, babe.  It is lying to you, and telling you things that aren't true.  You're feeling scared, and I can understand that.  But I need you to take a breath and open your eyes to what is true: your brothers and sister and Daddy are all under that bridge, having a wonderful time - the reality is that the bridge is not collapsing.  And as your mommy, I would never encourage you to do something that would put you at unnecessary risk.  Will you trust me more than your fear?"

And she trusted me.  She was able to overcome her feeling of fear by hearing truth, and she saw that she is capable of telling her feelings that they aren't in charge of her decisions when they're lying to her.  And she had a blast under that bridge.  And when we came to the next cave, she didn't even hesitate to check it out, because she told her feelings who is boss, and her feelings responded beautifully to truth.  And I was so very, very proud of her.

weekly 'what's up.'

So, you know those weeks where you kind of just want to fake your own death and move away to an island where there's no cell reception because you're just kind of over it?  I mean, neither do I, I was just asking for a friend.  No, my week was great.  My week was uber manageable.  My week did not involve praying for the rapture while standing at the appliance service desk at Lowe's so I could avoid dealing with our appliance problems any longer.  Cough.  

Anyway, so it goes.  So let's talk about the good stuff, yes?

Saturdays and Wednesdays are the kids' bath days around here.  Maybe they should get bathed more regularly, but it works for us.  And bath time always turns into a social event, for some reason.  So this was the start to our day on Saturday:

Later that day, the kids spent time outside.  The weather was strangely cool, so they all put on jackets, including Laurelai, who stuffed her tiny self into a somehow-even-tinier sweater.

Finneas looked so cool and grown-up in his jacket...

...until he bent over and we were all reminded how little he still is.  And how Day of the Week underwear is always funnier when sported by a four-year-old who never has any idea what day it actually is.

Also?  Rocco got a haircut, and Atticus continued to work diligently at excavating the site of our retaining wall.

Sunday, we had church in the park and a potluck, and then we came home and had a dance party in our jammies.  Meaning, the kids were just in their skivvies.

Monday was pretty standard.  Tuesday, Todd went out and bought us a new washer because the stupid old washer finally bit the dust for good.  Wednesday, he tried to install the dishwasher but the electrical hookup was weird, so we're going to need to call in a pro, so we still have no functioning dishwasher.  So now we have two huge appliance boxes sitting in our living room for an yet-undisclosed period of time.  The dishwasher guy should call me to set up an install appointment by next Tuesday.  The washer we'll do ourselves, but we won't have time to get to it until at least Monday.

So our laundry is piling up and I'm taking it a friend's tomorrow to get some of it washed, so I can at least have clean towels and sheets on hand for the friends that are coming to stay this weekend.  

Thursday morning, we picked up our monthly Azure order. (Fifteen pounds of butter, fifteen pounds of potatoes, and some pickles.  We like to party.)  We did morning school. We babysat a friend's kiddo  and then dropped her off at preschool.  We ran to Lowe's to sign the install paperwork for the dishwasher and ran to the grocery store.  I had a phone chat with a bestie, babysat a friend's daughter for a few hours, cleaned the house for this weekend's company, had another phone chat with another great friend, and (as if I had to tell you) ate so many Coping Fries and Coping Nachos to handle it all that I rivaled Kobayashi.

Today, I will be doing laundry and grocery shopping and doing school... and then falling into a coma around 2:00 p.m.

It's okay.  This lady will be holding down the fort for me while I'm... away.  I have full confidence in her abilities.

school days.

Our school routine has fallen into place (for the most part), and it's going really well.  Each day of the week looks a little different, though our breakfast routine stays pretty much the same each morning.  I make breakfast, feed Rocco, and then while all the kids are sitting there, with their hands and mouths (relatively) occupied, we do our Morning Basket stuff:  Bible, poetry, memory work, folk songs and hymns.  I also read a chapter from our free-read book.  (Right now, we're in Brighty of the Grand Canyon, and all the kids are loving it.  When I pull it out, even Laurelai goes nuts and yells, "It's Bwyteeee!")

(Some days, I depend on Brighty a little too heavily to cheer this three-year-old up, such as on Scrambled Egg Day.  Everyone tells you about the Terrible Two's, but no one thinks to mention the Absolutely Maddening Threes.  Maybe because it doesn't roll off the tongue quite as easily.)

While we do Morning Basket, Rocco crawls around, scavenging whatever bits he can find under the table and generally getting into mischief.

On Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, we have more traditional school days.  After breakfast and Morning Basket, the kids do their daily chores, and then the little kids head to the basement to play/fight/break stuff, and Rocco goes down for a nap.  Meanwhile, the big kids sit down to do their table work: math, reading and handwriting.  It takes them 30-60 minutes, depending on how motivated they're feeling that day, and how many times I make them re-do their handwriting.  We're usually done by about 11:00.

We break for some play time, lunch, and after-lunch chores, and then we cuddle on the couch to do our read-alouds.  These books are anything from Aesop's Fables, to biographies of historic Americans, to history of British kings, to James Herriot, to Shakespeare.  This week, we read E. Nesbit's re-telling of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and then the kids re-told the story using this cool finger puppet theater I found on Amazon.  Read-aloud time is my favorite part of the school day.

Wednesday and Fridays are a little different.  On Wednesdays we spend our mornings listening to audiobooks on our way to and from the Amish. (Right now we're in Charlotte's Web, but already this year we've listened through Mr. Popper's Penguins, and an AWESOME reading of Peter Pan done by Jim Dale.)  In the afternoons they do art or handicrafts.  We're currently focusing on watercolor painting and bead-stringing crafts.

On Friday mornings, we do "tea time," where I make them tea and we sit around doing art study and music/composer study.  It's all very high-brow.  We're currently studying Mary Cassatt and Antonin Dvorjak.  On Friday afternoons, I send them out to the yard with a 'nature observation' assignment, and they spend time sketching in their nature journals.

And that gives a rough idea of our school week!  The thing with homeschool is that I know the routine will change soon enough (it's all kind of fluid, so you change things up as needed, like when the Amish family we buy milk from asked us to start coming on Wednesdays instead of Mondays, so we switched our days around, or when I started watching a friend's daughter on Fridays so we ended up flexing our mornings to make it work).  But for now, this routine has been keeping us on track without burning us out, so I call that a win!

rocco's first haircut.

I always promised myself that I would never become one of those moms that gets too sentimental about baby hair.  Being too sentimental about baby hair is a surefire way to end up with a mulleted kid, or a baby boy with a flowing, foot-long mane.  No to the thanks.  It's just not worth it.


Rocco is still a baby-baby.  Forget the fact that Atticus had his first haircut at four months.  Forget the fact that Rocco is now ten months old, and even starting to walk.  He's ancient by Van Voorst haircut standards.  Plus, he was in that stage of perpetual bedhead that is your first cue to bust out the scissors.  But still.  Forget all that.  He is still too little for a haircut.

Except that he's not.  And the back of his hair was getting grossly long and scraggly on his neck.  I hate that.  So I finally caved and let Todd cut his hair.  And he looks so much better for it.  Older, but better.

We started off outside, for two reasons: one, for easy cleanup, and two, for some natural light.  (Actually, it was mainly the second thing.  I have realized that, if I want photos of my kids' milestones while we're living here, they will have to take place outside if I don't want the photos to turn out all yellow and blurry.)  

Rocco clearly had a death wish.

The leaf was a safer choice, although less thrilling.

Half the stuff you try to do for babies is easier if they're laying down.  Keeps their head still and their arms somewhat immobilized.  That's a little mom tip from me to you: figure out ways to trap your kid in order to make your job easier.  You're welcome.

After Scissors Snippy Fun Time Yeah, we headed inside to the bathroom to finish up with the clippers.  Todd is seriously a black-belt barber.  (And a black belt in Tai Kwon Do.  I'm dead serious.  Don't believe me?  Challenge him to kick you in the sternum.  I dare you.)  Anyway, he does a really great job on the boys' hair, and it ended up looking way better once he busted out the clippers to kind of even out and blend the back of Rocco's hair.  Rocco didn't exactly love the clippers, but he didn't hate them either.  It seemed more like apathy, bordering on disdain, with a hint of curiosity.

And that is how our tiny man started growing up before my very eyes.  (Luckily for me, he's still in 3-6 month clothing, so I can still pretend he's just a tiny, bitty infant for a while longer.)