want to make a bunch of yogurt?

We eat a lot of yogurt.  The kids will gobble up two quarts in a single sitting, and I make a lot of baked oatmeal, which uses quite a bit as well.  (I'll be posting the recipe for that soon, so keep your eyes peeled!)  So, in order to save money, I make it by the gallon.

That is a LOT of yogurt.

Luckily, it's probably the easiest thing I do in my life, so I don't sweat it.

If you, too, would like to make a disgusting amount of yogurt, you'll need the following items:

1 gallon of milk*
2 cups plain, store bought yogurt**
Crock Pot

Put the milk in the Crock Pot on low for three hours.  After three hours, turn off the Crock Pot and let the milk just sit there like a chump for another three hours.  Then whisk in the yogurt - I just eyeball it, and shoot to use around a third of a quart - and let all sit at room temperature for at least 12 hours.  (I've been known to leave it out upwards of 24 hours before, and it doesn't hurt it at all.)

That's it.  Yogurt: accomplished.  You end up with a gallon of yogurt for about three bucks and two minutes of hands-on time, which is better than buying it for $3 per quart at the store.  You win at life!

*We use whole milk, but any homogenized milk works.  This yogurt ends up runnier than store bought, so I like the thickness the fat adds.  If it's too runny for your liking, you can always run it through some cheesecloth or a coffee filter, but I feel like that's bordering on coddling the yogurt, and no one has time for that when there are REAL babies to be coddled.

**Any plain yogurt works for these purposes, though I'd steer clear of lowfat kinds that have a bunch of stabilizers in them.  This time, I only had fat free Greek on hand, so I used that.  My favorite is whole, though - again, the fat makes it a little thicker.

And there you go.  You just made enough yogurt to last a lifetime.  (Or, about a week and a half if you're a Van Voorst.)

january and new churches.

Four years ago, we had just moved into our house in Cedar Falls.  Laurelai was about five months old, we were neck-deep in new ministry, and I was in the throes of a serious health crash and likely some postpartum depression.  (It's hard to know: church planting and postpartum depression feel kind of the same a lot of the time.)  And it was January.

To clarify, it wasn't just January.  It was January in Cedar Falls, where ice goes to cool down.  It was a record-breaking January in Cedar Falls.  The temperature gauge literally did not budge above zero degrees the. entire. month.  That's not an exaggeration.  It was so miserable.  I was so miserable.

Fast forward to last January.  It was our first January in Columbia, and it was gorgeous.  There was one day I got in the van to run to the store, and I was like, "Dang, it's cold out!"  So I looked at the temperature gauge and it was forty-two degrees.  Apparently it didn't take me long to get acclimated to the weather down here.

But even though it was warmer than Iowa, it was still the first winter of a church plant, and it was dark.  I so desperately just wanted to go home.  I wanted to throw in the towel and turn around and be done.

If I'm being honest, there are still a lot of days where I struggle.  If I'm being honest, life down here has been hard in a lot of ways.  Good, but hard.

But yesterday, I found myself in another January, with another new baby, in another somewhat new season of ministry, and in another new postpartum season... and I was outside in a Tshirt, grilling burgers for dinner.  And it hit me how 'the same' and yet how different our life is here, and how every place has its hardships... and every place sees its moments of just reveling in being where you are.

So I got to revel a little yesterday, and it felt good.

what's up weekly.

Blargity blarg blarg blarg.  It's Friday.  We've been on break from school this week, and while I was planning on hunkering down, grading papers, and getting a pretty good week of 'nothing' set in the books, this week got weird and I feel like it was kind of wasted.

We didn't really do anything particular that made it feel like a waste.  In fact, I got quite a few really good conversations and meetups in throughout the week!  But I feel like most of them felt spontaneous, and that is really hard for me to deal with mentally.  I'm an INTJ (or an ISTJ, depending on who you ask, and what day it is, and where the moon is at in its orbit, and what side of the bed I rolled out on that morning.  But usually an INTJ).  So either the "I" part of my personality takes over and literallycan'tevendeal with unexpected social interactions (even just getting text alerts sometimes stresses me out), or the "J" part of my personality kicks in and starts freaking out that THIS WAS NOT ON THE SCHEDULE.  Luckily I have the "T" part that seems to be the boss of all the other ones, because he usually steps in and is like, "Cool it, y'all."  And then they all fall in line.

Anyway, that whole weird paragraph to say, busy weeks are one kind of stressful.  Spontaneously social weeks are another kind of stressful, even if they're not technically busy in their own right.  This week was the second kind of week.

Oh, you know.  Just drawing a soldier with a machine gun and drinkin' some coffee.  What's your five year old up to?

It was icy through the beginning of the week, so it kind of messed up my Amish morning - we had to move it back a day.  But I did have a grocery pickup scheduled at Walmart Wednesday morning, so we had to get out of the house anyway.  I'd already been struggling with Whole30, but when I got home and realized that they'd mistakenly substituted four huge bags of honey roasted sunflower seeds for the four big bags of plantain chips I'd ordered, I lost it.  That's the moment I quit Whole30.  It wasn't a shining moment, but it was definite.

Laurelai has started doing this thing where she lays out her clothes for the next day in such a way that it looks like she had been wearing them and just kind of evaporated out of them.  Here lies the Ghost of Laurelai Future.

When we moved Callista into the nursery, we moved Rocco into Laurelai's old crib, and Laurelai moved to a toddler mattress that 'trundles' under Penelope's bed.  Here they're reading bedtime books in their nextdoor beds. They're wearing socks on their hands because Penelope's hands are cracked and bleeding from the dry air, so we put heavy duty lotion on them (and socks over that) to keep them moisturized.  Laurelai's sock hands are pure reverential mimicry.

Todd and I got to go on a date last night, and hit up an amaaaaaaaaaaaaaazing barbecue place.  It looked like a dirty old bar, was attached to a gas station, and apparently didn't have a working furnace.  I was the only female customer in the place.  And it was seriously sooooo. gooooood.  (It deserves all the vowels I'm giving it.  There is no hyperbolic vowel usage in this paragraph.)  Then on our way home, we stopped at Schnucks so I could exchange some mayonnaise.  That's a thing people do on date nights.

Brothers who draw construction vehicles together... stay brothers either way.  Because that's how genetics work.

Um, what else happened this week...?  I went grocery shopping.  My sister closed on her house, which really has nothing to do with me other than it has to do with houses, and my sister, and my sister's opportunity to now decorate a house, which are all things that make the world a better place to live.

And that was our super random week.  Now I'm off to hurriedly grade papers.

i wholegiveup.

Well, I threw in the towel.  Yesterday was Day 17 of the Whole30, and I up and quit.  I was irritable and starving, which some might say is par for the course, but I kind of got to a point where I was like, why am I doing this to myself?  And inflicting misery on everyone else around me as a result?

I wasn't craving things like Oreos or Mt. Dew, or really anything else that was bad for me.  (Although I did have one dream about some reallllllly cheesy macaroni.  And another dream about 100 or so foil-wrapped rotisserie chickens, all laid out before me like it was a feast and I was a king.)  I wanted brown rice.  I wanted milk.  I wanted butter.  And heaven help me, if a nursing mother just wants to eat some rice and drink some milk, I'm not going to stand in her way.

Am I a bit ashamed that I didn't have what it takes to finish out this round?  Yeah, to be honest, I am.  I wish I had finished strong.  I wish I had more discipline in the face of difficulty.  But I don't really regret giving up.  I spent two and a half weeks eating really healthy, and now I'm going to go back to eating my own particular brand of 'mostly healthy.'  And that's good enough for me.

So there's that.  Consider me WholeOuttie.

whole30 is making me want to wholeKill someone.

So, I know I told you yesterday that I'd talk more about church planting, but... nevermind.  Today, all I'm here to say is that I have a headache, I'm completely burned out on Whole30, and all I want is a giant Rice Krispy treat.  I'm sitting here all bitter and resentful at the fact that I'm eating a huge bowl of ground beef with tomato sauce on top and acting like it's a meal, and knowing the worst part of it all is that it's completely and totally self-inflicted.  There is no reason to keep going with this, other than to not have to actually give up and quit.

So on the one hand, I'm like, "It's good to practice discipline and learn to tell yourself what to do, even when you don't want to.  It's good to follow through on your commitments, even when you don't feel like it."  And on the other hand, I'm like, "Forget that noise.  This is so arbitrary it makes me sick."

I haven't been grocery shopping in three weeks, which hasn't helped matters.  I'm basically subsisting on SO MANY eggs, apples, raisins, cans of tuna, salad, salmon filets and frozen vegetables, eaten in a continuous loop.  I had Todd get me some pistachios on a recent dash into Schnucks, and I have never been so stupidly excited over pistachios in all my life.

I'm clearly not in a mood to be trifled with, so I think this is where I'll leave it today.  I'm going to go return to my big bowl of meat and pretend that it's a big bowl of butter.  Which is no less gross, but it's at least different and anti-Whole30, so it's got that going for it.

how we got involved in church planting.

Once, when we were in Cedar Falls, a lady in Lowe's started up a conversation with us, and eventually asked us why we had moved to the area.  I got to tell her we were church planting, and had been there for however long it had been at the time.  Her face went totally blank for a second, and then she said truthfully, "I'm Catholic, and I have no idea what that means."

Well, sure.  That's understandable.  Church planting isn't exactly a hot topic around the generalized dinner tables of America.  It's not even a commonly recognized ministry pursuit in all Christian circles, unlike, say, missions.  So I think there's a lot of ambiguity surrounding what it is and why we do it... and even what, exactly it is that we do.

So, first, here's the main gist of how we got involved.  Our original home church, Cornerstone, is a nondenominational, Bible-believing church that holds as a central core value the ministry of reaching the next generation (college students) with the gospel.  We were living in Ames, Iowa, where Iowa State University is, and our college ministry was really thriving.  Students were being reached, and lives were being radically changed by the good news.

Cornerstone started feeling a pull to reach not only its own community with the gospel, but other communities as well.  (Think about it like domestic missions, if that helps.)  So they decided to staff and fund a start-up church in Iowa City, to reach the students at the University of Iowa.  Todd and I were sitting in the Members' meeting the night they announced the plan, and watched as about eighty community folks and students volunteered to uproot their lives to help.  We looked around us at the volunteers, and were like, "That's all fine and good for them.  Glad they're going.  We, however, are never ever leaving Ames."

We ended up having a couple of kids, and buying a house.  (Our "forever" home!)  We got more and more deeply rooted in our community.  And then they announced they were planting another church in Cedar Falls, at the University of Northern Iowa.  And we were like, "Great for them!  Hope everyone who goes has a great time."  We clearly felt no pull to a life of church planting.

It was kind of a weird season of our lives, and long story short, the pastor leading Candeo (the Cedar Falls church plant) asked Todd if we would come.  I still don't really know why.  It was kind of out of left-field, but maybe that's what we needed.  We both realized pretty quickly that this was what God was asking us to do.  And it was the easiest and hardest decision I think we've ever made.

Todd isn't on staff with the church (he works in auto insurance), so he had to apply for jobs, and when he got a job that started before we sold our house, he had to move up there without me and the kids for a while.  We sold our beautiful big house and bought an adorable, tiny (1100 square foot!) crackerbox of a house for all of us, and we were thrown into more intense ministry than we'd previously ever experienced.  I can talk about it more later in the week, but I can say this now: it was hard.

So why on earth did we do it again a couple years later when Candeo decided to reach out and plant yet another church?  I still don't really know, but I can explain it the best I can tomorrow!

viral video. or, more realistically, just video.

If you are on the Minivan Voorsts email list, you already saw that I'm looking to branch out a bit in 2018!  (And if you're not on the email list, you should be.  I can't tell you how to live your life, but I can try.  So go sign up to get the emails here!) 

I'm going to be experimenting with adding some vlogs to the rotation, in addition to the blog posts I'll continue to write, and I'd love to kick things off with a Q&A series.  No topic is off-limits - from marriage and family stuff, to practical homemaking or time management stuff, to homeschooling or pregnancy or newborns.  Heck, even if it's just a burning personal question, ask it!

So let me know what you'd like to talk about, and I'll make sure it happens.  (You can comment here, message me through the Facebook page, or email me at theminivanvoorsts@gmail.)  Look, Penelope's already in the process of emailing me all her most pertinent questions.

In the meantime, I wanted to let you know that I'll be live on Facebook tonight at 8:30 CST to chat about homeschooling.  This will be a super casual conversation, so if you're homeschooling, or even just thinking/wondering about it, pop on over there tonight with any thoughts, ideas, questions or comments.  Looking forward to chatting with you!

what was up this (restful!) weekly.

Oh, this week.  This wonderful, wonderful, glorious week.  It was so very normal.  And because of that, it was so very restful.  We didn't have a single appointment to go to.  We only had one daytime ministry commitment, and it was during lunchtime, so our mornings and afternoons weren't disrupted by anything.  We had nowhere to be, nowhere to go, and nothing we had to do, other than school.  And can I tell you, I could live every single week of life like this and be JUST FINE WITH IT.  Kind of like this:

Monday, what did we do?  Nothing.

Tuesday, what did we do?  Very little - a college gal came over for a bit, and then we had Connection Group in the evening.

Wednesday was a little busier - we headed up to the Amish, then on our way back into town, we stopped into Lowe's for a few things.  I got some supplies to shore up a couple of wonky closet systems I installed all wrong when we first moved in.  I got some paint samples for Callista's room.  I got a big shelf unit for the garage so I could start getting organized out there.  We also had a leaders' meeting in the evening.

Thursday, what did we do?  Nothing.

Today, what's on the schedule?  NOTHING.

Oh my word, I have needed this so badly.  The last six months have been so hectic with appointments and everything else, and I have been holding it all together, but I haven't felt rested.  I have felt ragged and worn thin.  I am really frustrated with how slowly Atticus' speech therapy is going, and frazzled by all the other """"necessary"""" appointments we have found ourselves having to navigate, and I miss the life we had for such a long time - a life that involved very little going-and-doing, and so much more staying-and-being.

I am working hard at reviewing 2017, noting my highs and lows from the year, and setting goals for 2018.  (I'm clearly a bit behind the eight-ball.)  This week has made me realize just how important it is for me to intentionally protect our time, and how I'll need to be proactive to keep the 'good' and 'necessary' from robbing from our 'best'.

Anyway, there were a few simple, sweet moments that I'm glad we got to revel in by being home this week.  Like Callista sitting in the Bumbo for the first time, and wearing THE. CUTEST. tutu-pants I've ever seen.

Because we had so much free time on our hands, we found ways to fill it.  I got so much done around the house - I packed up our Christmas stuff and rearranged the bedrooms a bit.  A bookshelf moved from our room to the girls' room, but not without some much-needed structural support being added first.  Atticus got to lend his handy skills to the job.

The girls' room is so close to being 'done enough'!  I got the bookshelf up and decorated, we recently hung another little bookshelf on the wall above Penelope's bed, and I'm working on getting a few things hung on the walls.  After that, it's just curtains and maybe a little ceiling paint, and that room will be crossed off the list for now.  I'll show you pictures when it's all done!  For now, here's a sneak peek at Penelope's new wall shelf - how cute did that turn out?!

I also made some great headway in the garage.  That place has been a certifiable hole.  We don't have any storage space inside, other than one narrow end of the laundry room.  (No attic or otherwise unfinished basement space.)  So instead of parking in our tiny one-car garage, it has been our catch-all room.  It's where I keep our homeschool and craft supplies, the d├ęcor I haven't yet found a place for inside (I'm a sloooooowww decorator), our yard tools, all our coats and shoes, Todd's dresser, and our deep storage stuff like Christmas decorations.  It's also where Atticus does all his woodworking, so everything is covered in pine shavings and sawdust, and the floor is littered with rogue nails just waiting to Home Alone my feet.

So I spent a few hours out there yesterday, organizing everything.  I still have a long way to go, but it's getting there.  Once I can move all our clothing bins out there from the laundry room, I'm planning to install a family closet down there.  So much domestic activity!

Beyond all of that stuff happening, we've whiled away the hours with our noses in books.

This is Penelope's reading tent.  She is under there reading Tanglewood Tales.

I've been dealing with a lot of back pain over the last few months, and recently it's been flaring really badly.  This was the only way I could sit that was comfortable, if you can believe that.

And here's sweet Post-Bathtime Yacco to play you into the weekend!

i'm eating us out of house and home.

As you already know, I'm doing a round of Whole30.  I've attempted this two times before now (though I've only completed it one of those times, whoops) so I'm not totally new to the game. 

This time around, I was ready: I had learned a few lessons from the times before, like adapting meals that I already eat, rather than trying to look up a bunch of Whole30-specific meals, and I was feeling pretty confident.  Plus, I'd been doing Trim Healthy Mama for a while before this, so I wasn't dealing with a sugar addiction anymore, and I was used to loading up on protein and veggies.  So other than skipping out on a few foods I typically eat, like cheese and 85% dark chocolate, how much different could it be, really?

The first week and a half were pretty smooth sailing.  Other than the brownies I ate the first two days (which I don't even feel bad about because guests made them and brought them over, and who am I to spurn their generosity?), I didn't deal much with food cravings or feelings of deprivation.  I honestly hadn't thought much about it at all.

Then there was yesterday.  Dastardly Day Ten.  Not only did the food cravings hit (I have never wanted a glass of milk and a plain slice of bread so badly in all my life), but my metabolism decided to rev wayyyyyyyy up.  Yesterday alone, I consumed four cans of tuna, four eggs, and half a pound of bacon, in addition to all the fruits and veggies.  Plus like four cups of coffee.  (I think my body is trying to cope with the loss of chocolate by consuming copious amounts of coffee.  I don't know if that's a move in the right direction or not.)

I don't know if I can stomach the idea of this much tuna and this many fried eggs for the next three weeks.  They're pretty cheap, easy-to-prepare sources of protein, but one can eat only so many eggs and so much fish before one is egg-and-fished out.  I'm nearing that point.

So maybe with the today's projected mid-fifties temperatures, I can get outside and grill some chicken to keep in the fridge.  Maybe grilled chicken won't scratch the itch that a really cheesy, greasy piece of pizza would scratch right now (OHHHHHHHHH MYYYYYYYYY WORRRRRRRRRRRRRD) (also, when does grilled chicken ever scratch that itch?), but at least it's not eggs. 

And at least I live in Missouri, where I have the option to grill because it's 55 degrees on January 11th.  (Reveling in Missouri's winter weather will never, ever get old, so if you're getting sick of hearing about it, you might want to go read some other yokel's blog.)

this is apparently what i do with my free time.

In a weird turn of events, I am finding myself with a normal week on my hands.  I seriously have no idea when the last time was that we had multiple days in a row in which we had nothing too far out of the ordinary on the agenda.  The students are on break, so while I'll still get together with a couple of them, it won't be during times that take my attention away from homeschool.  Also, we're waiting on our insurance to approve more speech therapy for Atticus, so no appointments whatsoever this week.

I am embarrassingly excited by this.  I have no idea what to do with my time, so I'm doing idiotic stuff with it.

I may or may not have found myself on Monday with saw in hand, hacking away at some scrap wood so I could stabilize this janky old bookshelf we have.  Once it was stabilized, I was like, "Hmm.  This would look good in the girls' room."  So it moved.  But now I have to find a place for the dresser that resultantly got bumped from its spot, so I'll be moving it into the closet.  But there's already a dresser in there, so I'll be moving that to our room... and on and on and on.

Plus, the weather is supposed to be unseasonably nice today, so I thought it would be a good day to clean out the garage so I could get the Christmas stuff put away out there.  But in order to organize the garage, I need a new shelf unit.  No problem, since I got some Lowe's cards for Christmas, but that means I need to actually stop at Lowe's to get it.  And if I'm stopping at Lowe's anyway, I'll just grab the brackets I need to secure the closet shelves, and maybe some paint samples for Callista's room...

I am clearly in denial about the fact that I have only three days left of this wide open week, so even though I have more time than usual, I don't have an eternity.  Plus, knowing me, I'll get all the supplies I need and then end up spending the afternoon reading instead of doing anything more productive.

Ahh well.  By the end of the week, I'll at least have a torn up house and a bunch of half-finished projects to show for myself, and no time or ambition left to complete any of it, so I have that to look forward to.

Onward and upward, friends!