Wednesday, July 29, 2015

video vednesday: baby jesus. double baby jesus.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

the black hills: day five.

we took the kids to crazy horse on day five of our vacation to the black hills.  

apparently, once or twice a year they schedule big dynamite blasts to blow out large portions of the to-be-sculpted rock, and they fly in a bunch of special people for it, and we just happened to show up twenty minutes before they detonated everything.  must've been me lucky charms.  however, while loud, it was not nearly as impressive from afar as the hype would have led us to believe.  but we had fun watching, and taking  a ten-second video of a little bit of smoke in the distance.  (i hadn't started filming in time to catch the big 'boom,' so the video is even less impressive than actual event, which is kind of saying something.)

inside the memorial, we looked at all the amazing native american artifacts on display.  my favorite part was seeing all the beautiful, intricate beadwork.  penelope kept asking what different things were used for, the answers to her questions ranging from, 'cooking,' to 'hunting,' to 'that's just a plastic five-gallon bucket; i don't know what it's doing sitting right there, but it's not an artifact.'

outside on the deck/platform area, finneas cuddled under his blankie while the big kids threw coins into the water under the bridge.

this is the part of our visit where a couple of sweet chinese tourists asked if they could take their picture with us, so they could show their relatives back home the enormity of our family.  we were a tourist attraction inside a tourist attraction.  #inception.

the big kids posed in front of a teepee.

we got the opportunity to watch an amazing lakota hoop dance.  the kids loved it, i loved it.  two very enthusiastic thumbs up; fine holiday fun.

after the hoop dance, we headed home for a restful afternoon, then headed out to custer state park after dinner to see the wildlife.  we loved seeing the buffalo - especially laurelai, who was losing her mind about seeing all the 'BABIES!  RIGHT DARE!  BABIES!  BABIEEEEEES!  RIGHT DARE!'  

there were literally hundreds and hundreds of buffalo, who did not seem at all shy.  it was incredible.

and that was our fifth day in the black hills!

Monday, July 27, 2015

death of a salesman. i mean, manly beard.

todd decided to do 'no-shave november' last fall.  he carried it into december, but then shaved a few days after christmas so we could have some civilized family photos taken.  until this weekend, he had not shaved since then, so it's been about seven months of an increasingly self-actualizing beard.

i haven't hated it, although i prefer to be able to see more of his face, so i've been ready for the death of the beard for awhile.  i don't think the entirety of men-kind shares my sentiments, though.  men have been weirdly into todd's beard.  even strangers come up to him to compliment him on it.  one guy stopped him in a restaurant in south dakota to emphasize just how 'really beautiful' he found todd's beard.  men act weirdly feminine around it - they emphatically compliment him on the way he looks, and seem to want to brush his (facial) hair while telling him all their deepest, darkest secrets.  this beard melts adult men into preteen girls, if preteen girls had any interest in beards.

so the death of the beard has been a dreaded day for todd, who has not hated being told he's beautiful by random strangers on a near-daily basis.  but it was time.  so on saturday, he said his final farewells.

not before this happened, though:

ahh, this conveys the true heart of the moment a little better:

here, he seems to be lion-kinging his ball of beard hair:

the kids seemed to be on todd's side regarding the loss.  laurelai was not a fan of todd's new old face:

finneas has spent the last two days sitting on todd's lap, rubbing his chin, and saying 'your beard is gone, dad!'  not sure how he feels about it, one way or the other.

and penelope BEGGED AND BEGGED to keep all the beard hair.  i told her absolutely not, it was getting dumped into the compost bin immediately.  she begged some more, and todd fought for her.  i said, no way joses.  she begged again, and todd backed her up again, so i caved and compromised:  she now gets to carry around a jar full of beard hair until next saturday, when it will get dumped.  since this photo was taken, the jar has mysteriously developed a taped-on face, and a name tag that reads "todd" in very scratchy kindergarten handwriting.  Beard-jar Todd goes with her everywhere.  except to church.  i have to draw the line somewhere.

bye bye beardy, yet again.  i'm sure we'll see you again come november, although maybe not as much of you this time?  i guess we'll have to wait and find out.

Friday, July 24, 2015

weekly 'what's up.'

here's what was happening in our neck of the woods this week:

i've mentioned before that we recently switched bedrooms with the kids, so now the three big kids are in the large master bedroom upstairs, and we are in the itty bitty main floor bedroom.  i'm using this as an opportunity to FINALLY put some pretty in our room - it's always the last room on my mind when it comes to decorating money because no one but us ever sees it.  (i know that's not how the experts tell you to think about your master bedroom - that it should be the  first recipient of your efforts because it is a haven for your marital relationship - or whatever - but the reality is that, on a limited decorating budget, you try to make the most often-presented part of your house the most presentable, and worry about the rest later.  and the master bedroom is always classified as 'the rest.')

but anyway, it's now on the main floor, right next to our only bathroom, so most guests will probably see it at some point.  i'm taking full advantage of the new arrangement and loving it.  i have big plans, my friends; big plans.

all that to say, i spent last weekend painting.  i had painted the ceiling a few weeks back (oh my word, talk about wanting to die.  three coats on a ceiling without a roller extender.  but it was totally worth it), so last weekend i put two coats of paint on the walls and touched up the trim, which had received some pretty serious abuse when the kids were in there, and were less 'white' than they were 'mottled.'

it was an undertaking.  when i say the room is tiny, i mean it.  our living room rug is 9'x12'.  our entire bedroom is 9'x11'.  noodle on that for a second.  so by the time we pushed the bed and bookshelf to the center of the room, there was verrrrry little space for my nearly-third-trimester body to move around and wield a roller freely.  it was exhausting, but i took one for the team.

here's just a teaser photo of the color - it's this gorgeous navy blue with black undertones.  

i also hung our curtains, and will eventually get a rug and some pretty decor in there, and then i'll flaunt it all over this here blog because it's the first time our bedroom has not been the saddest room in the house.

on to other news:  these three actually got along for a couple of seconds while distracted by the special privilege of being allowed to open the piano.

on sunday, i got all the kids up and busted through the morning trying to get them ready for church, just to find out five minutes before i was shooting to leave that i was actually an hour ahead of schedule.  so the kids were allowed to watch bible movies before church to hopefully preserve their hair and clothes for a full hour.

laurelai had a grand old time humiliating batman by making him ride this ridiculously too-small motorcycle with one wheel.

we spent the whole week working on potty training.  i had made the mistake of assuming that, because she was clearly ready, that it would be less work than normal.  it has not been.  it has been exhausting.  we're making progress, but it's slow going.  i may or may not have cried when my couch got peed on.

the kids spent a lot of time watching movies together while we waited for some easy successes.

the van got a tattoo.  i was...not thrilled.

and, as for the weekly pregnancy update, i'm now 26 weeks along and feeling tired.  i've been super surprised at how exhausted i've been this whole pregnancy.  i fall asleep on the couch most nights, take at least a small nap most days, and still feel like i've been hit by a truck.  i'm guessing this won't get any better as i enter the third trimester, so i'm trying to rest as much as i can in between spurts of major re-organizing, so that once i'm entirely down for the count (as i expect to be at some point), i know at least the inside of the baking cabinet isn't coated entirely in spilled honey like it was.  i don't know why the one helps me feel better about the other, but it does, for some reason.  (this week alone, i organized our bookshelves, the inside of my china cabinet, and the inside of many of my kitchen cabinets.  next week, i'm hoping to tackle the basement storage closet, the closet in our room, and the rest of the kitchen cabinetry.  i also got most of our curriculum in the mail this week, so since we're planning on starting school the first week of august, i'll be going through it next week.  all of this is is assuming i don't sleep through all of next week, that is.)

on the good-news front, though, check out my eyebrows.  they're present and accounted for and speaking to me once again.  still working on them, but at least i don't look hairless anymore.

(also, not to brag or anything, but did anyone notice i blogged every day this week?!  i'm way more proud of this feat than is warranted.)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

home sweet home.

tuesday marked the two-year anniversary of our move into this house.  this is significant because we have now lived here longer than we lived in our story city house.  can you believe it?  i can't - the story city house felt so permanent while we were there that it's difficult to remember accurately that it really was only for a very short time - especially when you consider the fact that the last five months of our residency were spent showing the house and packing it.  so really, we were only 'settled' there for a year and a half or so.  so crazy.

when we moved in here, i was terrified.   we had sold a 5-bedroom, 3-bathroom, 3000+ square foot home occupied by five people, and were moving into a 3-bedroom, 1-bathroom, 1100 square foot home that was expected to house six people pretty urgently (we moved in here 27 days before i was due with laurelai - thank goodness she was born 12 days late!), and with the potential for more in the future.  as our friends were unloading the truck and asking where i wanted them to put various things, i kept saying, 'i don't know - i don't know where it will fit!'  a week or two later, i sold a kitchen island, a bunch of chairs, rugs, nightstands, a bench, a dining room table and a bunch of other stuff at a garage sale.  a loveseat, our coffee table and side table, and a double bed all went into our basement or garage for storage.  this house just couldn't fit everything we owned (which felt weird, since the story city house always felt kind of empty - it was so large, it was really difficult to furnish).

and even now, there are some things that i've held onto that i really should get rid of, since they won't ever realistically fit - some antique dining room chairs, some antique, solid oak bank chairs, my beautiful $7-garage-sale-find blue tufted-velvet wingback (which i will keep until i die, whether or not it ever becomes useful, or practical in a house full of kids).  also, i have way too many little decorate-y items that i haven't been able to part with, but also don't really seem to fit our current house, style- or size-wise, so i know that will have to be addressed soon.  use it or lose it, right?

but honestly, i've been most surprised by the fact that i LOVE living in this tiny house that doesn't fit much other than all the people we cram in here.  i LOVE a kitchen that's small enough that, when we're ready to replace the counters and flooring, will be a pretty (comparatively) cheap overhaul because i don't have much counter or floor space.  i LOVE that stuff stays pretty organized because there isn't all that much stuff to keep track of (and having to downsize all the stuff has been so freeing!).  i LOVE that furnishing and decorating projects are do-able because a little bit of 'oomph' goes a long way in a small space.  i LOVE that the kids are never too far away, and that i won't have huge tall ladders to climb in order to clean out the gutters or paint the house, and that my yard is small enough to maintain easily.  and most of all, i LOVE that i've learned to let enough be enough - i'm happy here.

sure, there are things i would change in a heartbeat if i could.  like the fact that our 'mudroom' is just a 3'x3' landing on our basement stairs that bottlenecks every. single. time. we come home (especially when we're dealing with cold weather gear or groceries).  or the fact that, instead of usable cabinetry or counterspace, a third of my kitchen is eaten up by a banquette table that we've used, like, twice.  (so wasteful of what little space i do have, especially considering the dining room table is like two steps from the kitchen.  it seems so pointless.)  or the fact that our bathroom is ridiculously tiny and on bath nights, or whenever i decide to do my makeup, every single member of the family seems to congregate right there.  (not to mention the panic that ensues every time two kids in our single-toilet household declare at the same time that they have to poop.)

but i've learned, having moved from story city, the House That Never Stopped Demanding, everything's a trade-off.  and the price i pay for being crammajammed in the bathroom with all the littles twice a week is easily made up for with the time i save cleaning all those extra toilets and tubs and sinks and floors and mirrors.  it's all a matter of perspective, and a willingness to recognize that 'more' or 'bigger' doesn't necessarily mean all my problems would be solved, it just means that, at best, i'd trade in my current difficulties for different ones.

and not only that, but this house has come with so many unexpected blessings - an extra fridge, a gas stove, a seriously state-of-the-art whole-house water filter, new roof, new heating and air, custom cordless blinds (GREAT for kids), solid oak cabinets, a garden that actually grows stuff.  in certain ways, this house is nicer and meets our needs better than our story city house did.

so, it's not to say i'd never consider moving somewhere bigger, or adding space here if i could, but i'm happy.  i love what i've got.  and that contentment has been one of the best parts of being here the last two years.

please ignore the wonky landscaping.  there are three additional itty bitty hydrangeas you can't even see, but in a few years, there will be a bank of hydrangeas under each window.  and the mailbox planter contains purple salvia, red coleus, and yellow asiatic lilies, but just looks kind of blah at this point in the summer.  plus, i'll gradually add more plants and maybe some colorful pots.  i'm guessing these front beds will take a few years to be really complete.  but it's home, and i love coming home to this sight!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

video vednesday: they never did catch that anthrax guy.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


i'm panicking.

each pregnancy has come with its anxieties about the upcoming unknowns; i've been surprised at the fact that i've never gotten to a point where i feel like i know exactly what i'm doing when it comes to newborns.  if anything, each baby makes me realize more and more that i clearly don't have a handle on my life, and i'm less of an expert than i assumed i was. 

this time around, i'm not (yet) freaking out about making freezer meals, or having all the cupboards in the house cleaned out.  maybe those freak-outs will come, maybe they won't.  maybe it will eventually be like when i was pregnant with finneas and on the edge of a legitimate break down because one of the bedrooms was yellow and i needed todd to paint it RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND so the baby didn't have to come home to yellow walls or i would LOSE IT.  (and it wasn't even the nursery.)  i'm not there yet either - our bedroom is in the middle of a non-urgent paint/redecorating job right now, and i'm fine taking it slowly.  this time around, i'mostly freaked out about our lack of structure, and my need for the big kids to grow a little more independent and responsible with their school and chores.

so i've been doing what i do best: trying to solve all of life's problems with books.  i've been reading books by mothers of large families, by cleaning experts, by organizing experts, by children from large families, by homeschool moms.  because wisdom-by-osmosis is a thing, right?

so i'm currently working on a few things in preparation for the upcoming school year, to hopefully allow me to feel a little bit more prepared for the chaos that's coming with the baby:

*a semi-flexible school plan for the year.  i'm learning about myself that i err on the side of too flexible, rather than too rigid, when it comes to our school schedule, so i need to be more disciplined about that.  i'm thinking we'll do six weeks on, one week off, because it's more realistic for me to hope to stay on track for six weeks at a time, and then have a week to spend time with other moms or meeting with younger women or whatever, without that stuff always taking precedent over our school time.

*a family schedule, which outlines what each member of the family is/should be doing during certain blocks of the day.  it may seem like overkill or micromanaging or something, but i'm learning that, in a house with a lot of people, there is a lot less bickering when everyone is given some direction about what they are supposed to be doing at a given moment.  and that seems to be the consensus among older moms with lots of kids, unless the books are lying to me.

*chore charts for the kids.  for certain blocks of the day (before and after meals, etc), the big kids now have specific, explicit responsibilites.  we're doing a clipboard system right now, because they can carry their boards with them around the house, and unlike a printed/laminated checklist, i can add or take away jobs on their lists pretty easily.  the downside is that there are a lot of clips to manage and keep track of, but once i figure out an efficient (and decent-looking) system for that, it should be smooth sailing.  here's what we're working with right now, although the clipboards are destined to become a lot cuter with scrapbook paper at some point.  but you get the jist:

early morning jobs.

after-meal jobs.  they also have some weekly jobs i sprinkle in there.

*blanket/pack-and-play time for the little kids.  last year, our biggest obstacle in homeschool was how to keep the little kids occupied and not distracting during school time.  i really don't want this year to be a repeat of that, so we're trying something new.  it will take some training, though, which i have low hopes for.  i'm guessing it will be a long and arduous process, though the payoff will hopefully be worth it.

*a daily and weekly schedule for me.  i need to get back on track with having specific days for doing household tasks, etc, instead of just being like, 'there's a lot of crusty pee around the base of the toilet.  i guess today is bathroom day,' and, 'todd owns 20-odd pairs of underwear, and precisely zero of them are clean.  that means i haven't done laundry in three weeks, so i should probably get on that.'  i used to be much more systematic about that kind of stuff, and i think it would be good for me to hop back on that train.

so there you have it.  i'm basically overhauling our whole lives, which is how i can tell this is baby-induced anxiety.  normal-person overhauls tend to be smaller and more realistic in scale, but go big or go home, right?

Monday, July 20, 2015

the black hills: day four.

so, i promise to break up the string of vacation posts with more run-of-the-mill crazy ramblings this week, but we're going to start this monday off by talking about the monday we spent in the black hills.  sound good?  okay.

the boys started the morning of day four with a good ol' fashioned gun fight, with a pause to appreciate the view through the living room window.

then we headed to reptile gardens.  i had really been looking forward to this, because finneas has been on a snake kick recently.  

by lunchtime, those non-maternity skinny jeans had cut off the circulation to my very-pregnant thighs entirely and induced horrible restless leg symptoms through the whole evening.  just looking at this photo makes my legs ache.  i make excellent life choices.

we got to see a crocodile/alligator show, which was horrifying and entertaining all at once.  see what i mean?  that guy is throwing a raw chicken leg into the gaping maw of a full-grown gator. 

the kids got to touch a baby gator.

oh, you know, we're just one big happy family, standing in front of a veritable compound of vicious animals.  cheese!

surprisingly, laurelai probably loved reptile gardens more than any of the kids, but i think it's just because all animals are babies to her, and the seeing the pit of crocodiles made her little-mama heart downright giddy.  she kept yelling, 'BABIES!  BABIES RIGHT DARE!  BABIES!'

here, we are attempting to leave the gator area and move on.

this is the funniest.

strangely, there is an entire prairie dog reptile gardens.  but sure, i'm down.  it was penelope's favorite part.

there was a huge indoor area with birds, plants, and TONS of snakes to look at (through glass, thank heavens).  this was my favorite snake, partly because it was dead and those are the best kind of snakes, but mostly because OH GOOD GRACIOUS, how amazing is it?

finneas mistook this bald eagle for a chicken, but the bald eagle was big about it.  he let it roll right off him.

and lastly, this giant tortoise:

yeah, it's real.  finneas even rode it for a minute, and in retaliation, it stepped on his foot (rather, his flip flop).  the thing was very heavy and not in any hurry to move (despite what you may have assumed about an obese, ancient tortoise), so finneas was completely immobilized until papa tony shoved the tortoise's foot off of finn's.  leave it to finneas to manage getting stepped on by a tortoise.

and to end the day, Finneas the Noble-Hearted Wields a Pistol.  covering all his battle bases.

Friday, July 17, 2015

what was up this week.

this week was mainly spent playing catch-up after our week away.  i had made sure before we left to have everything as clean as possible - all laundry caught up, the kitchen deep-cleaned, the whole house picked up.  the house was beautiful and sparkling and took it took me days and days and days before we left to get it to that point.  and it took us exactly two minutes to ruin it once we got home.  water bottles, food, dirty laundry, stuffed suitcases, car bags, coolers and 'souvenirs' (including a buffalo skull; i'll defend myself later regarding that decision - you'll see the light soon enough) from our trip exploded all over the second we walked in the door.  and i spent the next three days putting it all away.

i also had to go grocery shopping right away on sunday, as there was exactly zero food to be found in these parts.  i had done a good job before we left of making meals out of things we had on hand, in order to use up meat and produce before we left, and also to put our grocery budget toward food and activities for the road trip.  which worked out so great on the front end, but meant that the cupboards were bare when we got home.  luckily, we do 'sunday funday' every week, when we get a take-and-bake pizza for lunch from aldi (and frozen aldi gluten-free ravioli for me, which is surprisingly yummy), then we all take naps, and for dinner we eat stovetop popcorn while we watch a movie together as a family.  so there was lots of rest and very few dishes on sunday, which helped a lot.

we had also come home to a very leaky faucet, which had been minorly problematic before we left.  but after we turned the water main back on upon our arrival home, it got significantly worse.  we thought it would be a small fix, and we even had the parts on hand, but after shutting off the water to the whole house on tuesday night, we found that the inside of the faucet was entirely corroded and this was a job for professionals.  unfortunately, we did not have shut-off valves for just the sink, and the faucet was entirely disassembled, so we couldn't turn the water main back on until it was fixed.  so we were without running water for 22 hours before the plumber could turn it back on, which proved to be merely annoying in most respects (we had some stored water, so we had plenty to wash hands, brush teeth, and drink) but majorly inconvenient in other regards.  namely, in regards to the toilet.

there were 22 hours'-worth of bathroom deposits that just couldn't be helped in a household with lots of tiny toileters.  and considering the fact that a long, handheld flosser had recently been flushed whole (don't ask), and was presumably caught in the trap, i was seriously concerned things wouldn't flush at the end of it all.  but prayer is powerful, and there wasn't a single hiccup in getting everything to flush.

and at the end of the day, i have a BEAUTIFUL new faucet - i'll perhaps post a picture sometime, if i can remember.  so it really ended up being a net gain, in my opinion.

the rest of the week was spent resting as much as possible, eating as well as possible (after pizza day, obviously), and getting the house back together.  i also ordered next year's school books, took some stuff in for consignment, and had an OB appointment.  and the glass guy is coming tomorrow to fix our broken window pane.  next week, we will jump into potty training laurelai, training finneas in 'blanket time' in order to prepare for the upcoming school year, and getting the kids proficient at using their new independent responsibility schedules.

pray for us next week.

in the meantime, here's the most current pregnancy photo.

happy friday!