'where have i been' wednesday.

Oh, y'all.  I'm sorry I haven't shown up here the last few days.  We've had sickness in the house.  And it has been rough.

I already mentioned Laurelai came down with a cough and a high fever a week and a half ago.  That was on a Saturday, and the fever lasted five days.  Rocco came down with it the following Tuesday, and his fever lasted five days.  On Thursday, Callista was hit.  Then, on Sunday afternoon, I was suddenly hit with a stomach bug and fever, which was thankfully short-lived, because Callista was awake all night long.

No, I stand corrected: She slept.  But only if she was being held upright in the Ergo.  Which meant I sat upright, wearing the Ergo, all night long.  I watched a lot of Netflix and read a book by the Duggars, who I really don't talk about enough.  (Except here.  And here.)  It was a long night, but God's grace was so present in it, moment by moment.

Even though her fever had broken by Monday morning, I made an appointment with the doctor.  Laurelai, Rocco and Callista were all still dealing with deep, wet, painful-sounding coughs.  Rocco was coughing so hard it was making him gag, and Callista was starting to develop a wheezing sound when breathing.

After a thorough once-over by the doctor, Laurelai was dubbed 'fine,' Rocco was dubbed 'wait and see' - if his cough doesn't start improving by the end of the week, they'll want to start him on an antibiotic.  And Callista was diagnosed with a double ear infection and bronchiolitis.  Poor sister.

So now she's on amoxicillin, which makes me nervous.  Of my kids, only Atticus and Penelope have ever taken antibiotics before.  (Atticus took them once for a double ear infection, and Penelope took them once for strep.)  Penelope ended up being allergic, so that led to an ER visit and whole-body hives and swelling that lasted for days.  Brutal.  So I'm praying that Callista is able to tolerate them okay, and that no one else in the house gets this bug!  (Todd is fighting hard against what seems to be his own run-in with it.)

I will say, there has been an upside to all of this.  The night spent cuddling Callista in the Ergo had its sweet moments.  And the next night she slept well, although she wanted to get up at an unusual time to eat - but it turned out she didn't actually want to nurse, she just wanted to cuddle up next to me and pat my shoulder until she fell back to sleep.  It was so sweet, and I'm grateful for those little silver linings to an otherwise rough stretch.

Whew.  It's only Wednesday.  Here's to a strong finish.  And also a strong middle that I also have to tackle before I even get to the finish. Wish me luck and naps.

'what's up weekly.'

This is the week (this is the week)
that the Lord has made. (That the Lord has made.)
We will rejoice (we will rejoice)
and be glad in it. (And be glad in it.)

(And now that that song is stuck in every Sunday School attender's head...)

It was a decent week!  Saturday was spent decorating the tree, and by the end of the day, Laurelai was coming down with a low-grade fever and a cough, so the kids and I stayed home from church on Sunday. 'Tis the season.

Monday and Tuesday, the kids and I spent some hardcore time cleaning.  I was in it for the clean house; the kids were in it for the extra money they could earn to buy each other Christmas gifts.  This is the first year it has occurred to them to give gifts to each other, and it has been amazing to see how excited they are to be generous with one another!  And, as an unanticipated secondary benefit, they have spent approximately zero time talking about what they're hoping to get - all of the talk has centered around what they want to give.  SUCH a wonderful atmosphere to breathe during this time of year!

I spent some time with each of them, one-on-one, helping them to count the money they had in their "Spend" jars, and brainstorming lists of ideas they had for gifts for each sibling.  Later in the week, I found time with each of them to do a little online shopping, and I am so excited for the gifts they chose.  It's so neat to see how well they know each other, and how well they're able to pick good gifts for one another.  (Well, the littler kids have a little more growing to do in this area: Laurelai especially was coming up with super rando ideas.  She wanted to get Penelope an "Ariel Dog," whatever that is, and she wanted to get Finneas a "singing elephant.  Or singing box."  Callista was slated to become the proud owner of a "ballerina mermaid," which sounds good in theory until you start to wonder practically where the pointe shoes would go...  The whole thing falls apart pretty quickly after that.)

Anyway.  They all eventually chose great gifts and learned to gift within a budget - and, as was the case with one child, suffered setbacks when they had to face the hard lesson of, "the gift budget suddenly got cut in half after you acted irresponsibly and now must pay to replace something you broke."  Ouch!  But this child is responding super well to the disappointment, and has been working very hard, doing extra jobs around the house to earn up enough money by Christmas to still pay for the (truly excellent) gifts they had planned to get.

Atticus turned nine.  I haven't mentioned anything on the blog or Facebook about it yet, though I still plan to.  "Nine" is different.  "Nine" has caused serious contemplation in my soul over the last few days.  I feel kind of like we've breached the clear line demarcating Childhood from Pre-Adulthood all of a sudden, and we're venturing into new territory.  Things will never be again what they have been for so long - life has been set fair-and-square in the middle of raising little kids.  Now life is changing.  And while I didn't think I'd really be all that sentimental about it, since I'm so very excited and happy to know the person that Atticus is, and who he's becoming, it turns out a small part of me is starting to panic that it's going too quickly.  I don't want to rewind the tape, but I do want to set it to half-speed moving forward.

Whew, anyway.  There will be a post on that soon.  But I need a little longer to process.

Moving on, so I don't start bawling.

Penelope is frequently asking for things to 'do.'  She's never been as much of a play-er as my other kids.  She prefers reading and writing to pretty much any 'pretend play' activity most of the time, so when she's not in the mood to read or write, she frequently complains of boredom.  She wasn't super thrilled with my constant suggestions to go clean the toilet if she was looking for something to do, so I figured I'd try another tactic: crafts.

I'm not super crafty myself, mostly because crafts are messy and I have enough mess in my life as it is.  But she's getting to an age where I can reasonably allow her to have independent, responsible access to supplies.  So out came the weaving loom.

I bought a couple of these wooden loomson supersale last Christmas, and they'd just been sitting in the closet since then, waiting for their time to shine.

Um, what else?  I've been wrapping up my Christmas shopping this week, and while pretty much everything I've ordered has been for others, I did crack and get something for myself.  Something really, really exciting...

NEW VACUUM FILTERS!  I'm a freaking weirdo, but I am genuinely giddy about these.  Todd got me my current vacuum four years ago, and I'd never changed the filters.  Granted, the kind of vacuum I have (which is incredible and I'd tell everyone and their mom that they should get one) has filters that can be washed out and reused, so it really wasn't as gross as it sounds.  But eventually, they stopped getting entirely clean, so I knew it was time.  AND HOT DANG.  It's like I have a brand-new vacuum again.  Also, how disgusting to the old filters look next to the new ones?

And other than that, not really a whole lot of out-of-the-ordinary stuff has been happening.  The city electric guys came out and spent a few days installing a new power line pole in our yard (oh yay), so the kids have had ample entertainment, and I've been trying to keep everyone as healthy as I can as the fever-and-cough nonsense is slowly traveling through them one at a time.  Rocco caught it after Laurelai, and Callista is the latest casualty.  Here's to hoping it's the last round of sickness we see for a while!

working our chores like christmas elves.

I used to roll my eyes at the proverb, "Many hands make light work."  I was all, "Yeah, sure; but not before those many hands make many, many messes."  And it was true: for a long time, I was the lone and sole proprietor of the little business endeavor called Keeping Everyone Clean and Also Alive All Day.  Now, don't get me wrong; I'm a huge proponent of starting kids off with household responsibilities from a young age.  So I'd raised up little apprentices, sure, but no one who could manage the business while I went to lunch.

But I can thankfully say I think I'm officially out of that tunnel at last.  My apprentices are slowly but surely becoming managers in their own right, and stuff actually gets done.  And not just a token 'done', either; like, real-live, actual done.

Our house has devolved into chaos over the last few months year and a half since moving here.  With homeschooling, lots of little kids, ministry, pregnancy, and newborn days, the house has just kind of stayed a level of clean that ranks just above 'grimy'.  I'm actually okay with it, for the most part, since there's not really a whole lot more that I have the energy for.  As long as things stay 'clean enough,' I'm cool with it.

But lately, stuff has just irked me.  I think I'm at that stage post-newborn where I'm just ready for things to get back to a sense of normal, and for a predictable level of calm, controlled chaos.  So yesterday morning, after a quick trip to the chiropractor and the eye doctor's office to pick up Penelope's new glasses, I declared a cleaning day.

We sat down around the table for Cookies For Lunch.  (The eye doctor gives out the best, hugest, chocolate-chippiest homemade cookies in the whole world, so lunch was made for me.  I'm okay with my choices.)  I asked them to brainstorm all the jobs we could do in each room, with the promise of earning extra money with which to buy Christmas presents for their siblings.  The list they came up with was surprisingly long and thorough, and while they finished up their cookies, I divvied out the jobs amongst the kids.

I gave them each their own list, and as they completed jobs, they were allowed to 'check off' the items on their list by putting cool stickers on their list.  Non-readers were helped by me or their older buddy.  And we got so much done!  And on top of it, it was kind of fun all working side-by-side!  I never thought I'd see the day.

Here are just a few things we were able to tackle on our main floor in a little over an hour:

Mopped the entire first floor
Vacuumed all rugs and the 'edges' of each room
Wiped cabinet fronts
Cleaned windows
Cleaned baseboards
Wet-dusted (big kids)
Dry-dusted (little kids)
Watered plants
Changed sheets
Sorted toy bins
Sorted the Lego table
Mopped kitchen and wiped cabinets a second time after a glass of milk broke all over the tile floor and splattered everywhere.  Whoops.

Tomorrow, we'll be continuing on our quest to get a handle on the state of things.  We'll be working together to:

Fold and put away laundry
Clean the showers
Vacuum and dust the basement
Wash the ring of dirt off the walls

I am so ready to have a fresh baseline from which to allow everything to fall to crap again!  And, in a year and a half when we do this again, all the kids will be even older, so I'll have even more hands on deck to help out with stuff.  Having a bunch of kids sure feels lucrative sometimes.

For more on how we equip the kids for household responsibilities, and how we teach them to manage an allowance, check out the following:

decking the halls, etc., etc., etc., and whatnot and so forth.

We were really on top of things this year and got our tree pretty early in the season, even though we've been guilty in years past of being pretty delinquent about it.  We've definitely had our share of tree-drama in the past, like the year I cried because it was too small, or the year we waited so long we literally got the last normal tree Menard's had, or all the many years we've had to revisit the 'fake tree v. real tree' death match

But this year was pretty drama-free: we spent our recent date night at Lowe's, taking our pick from a wide selection of trees and watching a teenage employee in very, very too-tight pants cut all the bedraggled bits from the bottom of the one we chose.  Todd was super happy he didn't have to do all that himself, and while he strapped the tree to the roof of the Kristy Chrysler, I spent time in the plumbing aisle, getting more than I bargained for when I asked an employee to cut some copper pipe for me.  (It is nothing other than a Christmas miracle that he still has both arms after the way he was cavalierly and indiscriminately shoving his limbs into the gaping maw of a running power saw with zero obvious idea of how to use it.)

Anyway.  Tree: home.  Kids: stoked.  Ornaments: locked and loaded.  Lowe's Garden Center Employee: probably hasn't peed in a week; he's still trying to pry those tight pants off himself.

After church yesterday, I pulled out the kids' bins of ornaments, and we all buckled down to decorate.  This used to be suuuuuch a stressful (albeit hilarious) process, but we've streamlined: everyone gets their own bin, they bring each ornament to me for a hook, hang it on the tree, go grab another from their own bin, etc.  No more stress.

Rocco had four ornaments he was responsible for.  He did not want to hang them on the tree, nor did he want to leave anyone else's ornaments on the tree.  He also did not want to be told 'no.'  It was fun for everyone.

So he eventually got relegated to the confines of his bed to entertain himself for about ten minutes while we finished up.  Everyone was clearly happier with that arrangement.

After the tree was successfully decorated, we got some decent photos of the kids: first, the four biggest kids, who survived the entire process without a meltdown and subsequent reassignment.

Then, all six of them, after the smallest two had been fetched from their beds.

Annnnnd, sad faces, just so Rocco looked like he was supposed to be growly and uncooperative.  Callista, however, didn't get the sad-face memo.

And that was our tree-decorating process this year!  Todd and I will take some time soon to hang our ornaments, and hopefully redistribute the ornamental wealth over the face of the whole tree, as it seems the bottomlands have received more than their fair share.  But isn't that always the case?

Christmas is fun, but exhausting.

what's-been-up the-past-two-weeklies.

Weekly Update times two today, since I totally slacked on posting last week!

Much of last week was spent either prepping for Thanksgiving, or at the dentist with the kids.  Penelope got a tooth filled, and Finneas had a dead tooth taken out since an abscess had formed above it.  Yummy.  He looks so scrappy and "Finn" with a missing tooth, but I have to admit I miss his little-boy smile.

This year, I had a lot of help prepping for Thanksgiving.  This lady helped me brine the turkey and make the stuffing, and she made cranberry sauce by herself!  To top it all off, she got the urge to try her hand at baking one day, so she made some cornbread muffins for me.  Between her interest and skills in the kitchen, and all the stuff I've just delegated to the Amish bakery (our rolls, pies, and bread for the stuffing were all from there this year), I'll probably be totally out of a job come next  Thanksgiving.  Which is fine by me!

My beautiful turkey in its beautiful brine.  If you want the recipe I use every Thanksgiving (and believe me, you do: I end up wrapping this guy in bacon!) you can find it posted on the Facebook page.

Thanksgiving itself was great.  I clearly had an amazing time stuffing my face.

The boys had fun cuddling up with their Uncle Austin and watching YouTube videos of Humvees.

We finally weaned Rocco off his bottle, and oh my word, it was rough.  It took him nearly two full weeks before he'd drink from anything else, and he was so dehydrated and felt like crap.  As a result, he was super clingy, so I spent a lot of time trying to do normal-people things with a Toddler Turtle Shell.

Todd taught at church on Sunday, and really blew me away.  He is such a great teacher - check out this week's sermon from Malachi on the topic of marriage here.  (If you want to hear about the time someone threw a whole pizza at me because I was being 'shallow', that story is in there.)

The rest of this week has been spent getting together with lots of college gals and friends.  Unsurprisingly, Todd's marriage sermon has stirred the pot in the college quarter, which means lots of fun, deep, real talks, which I just love.  It's been a good week!

Now, if I can just wean Rocco off his paci and move Callista to her own room... Whew.  There's always something to look forward to in future weeks, I guess.

deep thoughts by paige van voorst.

I haven't really felt like writing lately, and I think it's because a lot has been on my mind.  I know that seems super weird and backwards, but I feel like I'm in kind of an introspective season, and writing it all out takes work.  And work takes effort, and effort requires energy, and I'm living on four hours of sleep a night and I just don't have it in me.  (Plus, on a sleep schedule like this, it's pretty likely that many of what I consider to be my 'deep, introspective thoughts' are probably in reality just a bunch of jumbled, garbled, half-witticisms that everyone is like, 'well, duh' about.)

Anyway.  Here's a sampling of what may or may not be to come:

1.  Everyone, even Christians, are guilty in the current climate of adopting a kind of laissez-faire attitude about most things.  "You do you, Friend-o," and "Just live your own truth" are somehow acceptable stances to maintain even in moral and ethical discussions anymore.  That is, except when you're talking with Random Educated Mother about CAR SEAT SAFETY!!!, at which point you will find yourself, disoriented and terrified, smack-dab in the middle of the last remaining bastion of legalism that exists in our country.

2.  I had a very conscious battle with God on the topic of obedience - specifically in regards to breaking the speed limit.  I was speeding.  I was reminded by the Holy Spirit to obey my authorities.  I proceeded to argue like a child: " But I like going faster than the posted limit.  I need to go faster than the posted limit.  You just don't understand."  I was basically acting like a giant toddler in possession of (clearly undeserved) autonomous choice.  I thankfully made the right, hard/easy decision to slow down and just obey the speed limit like I'm asked to do, and as I crested the hill I was driving up, I was immediately rewarded with the knowledge that I was saved from imminent reprimand and likely ticketing by the state trooper discretely posted on the downhill slope.  I think there's a pretty obvious object lesson in this that could be played out with adequate dedication and brain-power, if I had such things.

3.  While parenting is, anymore, a largely independent endeavor in which we all try to outdo one another with our sense of adequacy, knowledge, self-righteousness and glowing rigidity to 'the rules' as we've established them, I was convicted in my read-through of Joshua recently that God is speaking directly to mothers when he tells us, "Do not be afraid.  Be strong and of good courage."  So much of motherhood today is based on fears of the 'what-ifs.'  What if they get cancer from eating too much candy?  What if my mother was right about fill-in-the-blank?  What if they never sleep through the night?  What if they ever feel deprived of something essential or nonessential?  What if someone knows better than I do about some of this?  What if someone feeds them Red Dye 40?  What if I get an epidural?  What if they throw a tantrum in public?  What if they grow up to resent me?  What if I hurt their tiny egos and fail to nurture their potential?"  God tells us straight up to abandon those ways of thinking, and in humility-confidence, confidence-humility, draw near to the throne of grace.  Grace stiff-arms all the "what-ifs."  And what if our parenting reflected this truth?

Anyway.  That's where I'm at.  My brain feels like a Jell-O shot after simply typing out the summaries of my recent thoughts, so who knows if I'll ever venture deeper than this into any of these topics, but it's nice to at least get something on 'paper.'  And that, friends, is how I choose to wrap up November.

callista at five months.

Oh, this lady.  She has given me a run for my money.

You'd think that by the sixth kid, there would be no troubleshooting involved in parenting.  I really thought I'd be an expert by now, with all the answers, all the time.  But, if anything, there are days now in which I'm much less confident in my parenting abilities than I used to be.  Parenting is so humbling!

She is the happiest, smiliest baby.  Also, she hardly ever sleeps.  I don't know how she does it.  Since I'm running on a similar sleep schedule (one dictated by her, that is), I can tell you it's not easy to keep a sunshiney disposition all day on a schedule like this, but she manages it.  Self-discipline and attitude management at its finest.

Until very recently she was eating every two hours around the clock.  It has (thankfully) stretched out a bit since then - she's starting to go about 2.5 hours between feedings during the day, and about three hours between feedings at night.  And, amazingly, the last two nights have seen stretches even longer than this! Unfortunately, she still spends a lot of time awake at night.  More nights than not see her up for one-to-two hour stretches sometime in the very, very early morning.  (Think: from 2:30 a.m. to 4:30 a.m.)  It is really tiring.  I'm having to return to my nap habit from our early-newborn days, which is frustrating but necessary.

Other than that, she's a total champ.  She is reaching for things and putting them in her mouth.  She's able to find her Wubbanub (little pacifier animal-thing) in her bed, and bring it to her mouth, which is HUGE.  She rolls both ways, has two teeth still, and has tried very small tastes of avocado while I was making guacamole.

She nurses a ton, and has started to consolidate her naps.  Most days see one or two very long naps (2-3 hours) and a much shorter nap.  She's able to stay awake for 1.5-2 hours at a time.  I find if I can keep her wake times a bit longer, and limit her naps to three a day instead of four, she does sleep a little better at night.

I am so enamored with her.  I told Todd that this is the first time I've actually enjoyed the baby stage.  I've had so much learning and growing to do through each of these early-baby seasons: how to just let go of control and let the season be what it is, without needing to 'fix' every uncomfortable or difficult thing in order to fully enjoy the time I have with them while they're this little.  I'm so grateful to have gotten to do this enough times to finally learn this lesson!


I've told you this before, but Monday is my favorite day of the week.  And today is Monday.  So I feel like doing a Van Voorst dance.  Kind of like this.

Or this.

Or this.

Last week was crazy, so I didn't end up blogging.  (Sorry about that!)  In addition to it being Thanksgiving week, I made a trip to Kansas City, Finneas got a tooth pulled, etc. etc.  It was also supposed to be Exam Week for school, but we never even got around to doing our exams, so it was "No-Exams Week."   So it was basically just "Week."  Weird.

All that to say, I normally like Mondays the best, but today is an especially good kind of Monday; I'm ready for some normalcy!  I'm jumping in with both feet!  Kind of like this.

Or this.

Oh, yeah.  Today is going to be a good day.

'what's up weekly.'

This week started off funnnnnnnnnnnn.  Our babysitters from Cedar Falls (Ellie and Bethany) came down on Thursday night to stay for a few days.  Hot dang.  So much fun.  We hung out, we chatted, we laughed, we watched America's Funniest Home Videos, they watched the kids so Todd and I could go on a date - amazing. 

Oh, and also?  They helped me paint my kitchen.

Maybe you've heard me bemoaning the color of our kitchen walls over the last year and a half that we've lived here.  What you didn't see was me actually doing anything to change said putrid color of the walls.  So a day or two before they came down, I got a text from Ellie saying, "We want to help you paint your kitchen."  And I was all, whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaOKAY!

But then I had to figure out what color I wanted.  (I'm not really a huge fan of color on the walls - I honestly don't love it if I walk into a room and notice the walls at all.  It's the stuff on the walls, or the stuff in front of the walls that I like seeing.  So give me a nice, humble, 'I don't star in the play, I just run the soundboard' kind of wall color.)  Anyway.  I picked up a few paint chips, I spent way too long deliberating over what would look good with the cabinets and the tile and the countertops and the low lighting, I got the paint mixed.... and it turned out to be basically the exact same color that I chose for the rest of the house.  Go figure.  Also, I didn't get an "After" photo.  Go figure.

We painted the ceiling, walls and trim.  It was a major undertaking, and I am sooooooo excited to finally get to brag about the fact that not a single wall in my house looks like boogers.

The girls left on Sunday afternoon, leaving us all very sad.  Penelope assuaged her grief by blogging about the weekend.  Her blog is by far the brightest spot in my life right now.  (In her post about nature facts, she had this little tidbit to share about wolves: "the wolf, first fact, (each animal has two facts) it is a relative of the dog  family which includes, hyenas, wild dogs, pet dogs, and wolfs.  second fact wolfs like any other dogs can't climb trees but can climb down."  Who knew?  I seriously can't get enough of her writing.)

On Monday morning, we high-tailed it out of the house to get to Penelope's dentist appointment.  When we arrived, they told us they must have gotten mixed up and she wasn't in the system.  So we drove home.  On Tuesday morning, we high-tailed it out of the house to get to Laurelai's dentist appointment.  When we arrived, they told us their computers were down and they couldn't see her that day.  So we drove home.  (Sidenote: since when do you need scheduling software to clean a kid's teeth?  Also, why were we witnessing other kids being called back to have their teeth cleaned and we were sent home?)  I was annoyed, but I don't have a picture of that, so instead I'll just share this photo of Todd and me (and Callista) testing out the timer on the camera.

Yesterday, a friend offered to watch the kids so Todd and I could go on a date.  Two date nights in one week?!?! OKAY!

And that's basically our week, other than a mountain of folded laundry so tall that it started at the floor and came up to my hip.  It made me cry.  Again, no photo of that, so let Laurelai play you home with her adorableness.