penelope, age six (for a few more days).

This girl.  Oh my word.

(Yes, she's working on getting all those barrettes into my hair, which she did eventually achieve, and yes, I'm basically in a relaxation coma from having my hair played with.  It's a win-win.)

Penelope will turn seven on Saturday, and I have no idea where the time goes.  She has grown into such a smart, sensitive, creative, funny girl, and I just love spending my days with her.  And while I love where she is now, I am so excited to continue to watch her grow.  I can already see little glimpses (and often, big glimpses) of her grown-up self in there, and I am confident that this 'knowing her' thing is only going to get better and better.  Someday, I will get to be her peer.  I will get to be best friends with her, and that will be amazing.  I will be so privileged to have a friend like her.

She spends most of her days reading, writing stories (and even whole books), and composing worship songs.  She has a steel trap memory, and tells the funniest jokes.  She has wit, and charm, and battle-tested faith in the astonishing power of the Holy Spirit. 

Annnd... she loves to type, hoping that someday she'll get good enough at it that they won't kick her off Facebook.  You know, when she gets a Facebook.

So I'm just going to spend the next few days relishing knowing my "Little" Penelope, until Saturday, when she will turn into my "Just That Much Bigger" Penelope, who will also be wonderful, I just know it.

what's up weekly: 'extra wordy' edition, to make up for my truancy this week.

So, apparently the week got away from me.  As did last week.  And the week before that.  I've been a terrible excuse for a mom blogger lately.  Although, in my defense, it's been because my actual "mom" responsibilities have gotten in the way, and I'm okay with letting the "blogger" side of things kind of fall to the wayside for a bit.  However, my goal is to be a little bit more regular around here next week.

I have spent so. much. horrible. time. this week sorting out clothing bins for the kids to get their wardrobes ready for the nicer weather.  I seriously hate this part of large family life.  So much laundry, so much confusion, so many lists of stuff we need to go spend money on (which I also hate).  Then, as has been the case this year, finding out the hard way that the kids are between sizes.  I got out the 12-month bin for Rocco, and everything was huge on him.  So I put it all back and got out the 9-month bin, and most things were too small.  So now I have to put most of it back, and get out the first bin yet again.  Atticus is in the same boat with all his clothing, too.  And once all that is finally sorted, I will need to go through the baby stuff and start prepping for that.  And once that is done, I will have a huge shopping trip to make to prepare us for the current sizes and season.  Seriously, a month of my life gets sucked down the 'seasonal clothing' hole twice a year.  Bleh.

So as not to be a total Debbie Downer, I will assert that some good things happened this week, too.  We went to a friend's birthday party.  We celebrated Easter.  MY BEST FRIEND VISITED FROM TENNESSEE, and we actually got to see each other face-to-face for the first time in four years!  It was glorious.  Of course, we forgot to take a single photo, because we're dummies.  So the hope is that she can stop in town again tomorrow before heading back home, and we can snap a few photos then.  In the meantime, here are photos from each of our respective weddings.  You can see that we made elegant brides.

Finneas has been struggling hardcore with seasonal allergies here, which is brand new to me, as I've never, ever experienced anything like that, nor have the other kids.  Todd seemed to have gotten some throat congestion, but it's lifting, so we think it may have been a cold.  But poor Finneas.  His little eyes are all burning and red and swollen, and he's just miserable.

So I spent some time trying to get the yard cleaned up to hopefully help with that, as well as prevent ticks and mosquitos from wanting to chill at our house.  I simultaneously spent some time sunning my sad, sad, white mom legs.  Which you can see clad in my from-eighth-grade-and-still-hanging-on-by-a-thread pajama shorts.  Also, check out the bulging veins in my neck.  I'm a classy broad, friends.

Other than that, we're just trucking along like normal: the FB live chat on church involvement and ministry went well on Monday night!  Tuesday was connection group and a trip up to the Amish.  I've been sticking pretty well to Trim Healthy Mama, and feeling great.  Normal stuff.  It's been a heavy couple of weeks of discipleship meet-ups, but the end of the semester is looming SO SOON, and I'm so looking forward to the slower pace of summer.  (I took a 2.5-hour nap yesterday, just recovering from the pace of the last couple of weeks.) 

What else?  We figured out the automatic timer on our camera, which we all enjoyed a little too much.

Today's agenda holds a blissful 'nothing,' other than normal school.  Fridays are fun: tea time, artist and composer study, nature study and nature journaling.  Fun stuff!  We'll also be grabbing some fast food and meeting Todd for lunch at the gardens/grounds of his office.  Then I'm going to read and read and read some books, and nap and nap and nap, and have Todd pick up dinner on his way home.  It's shaping up to be a pretty restful, needed day!

I'm 31 weeks, the nausea has stopped if I carefully watch what I eat, and my leg hurts.  Pregnancy, amiright?

And finally, here's Rocco in his favorite boat, to play you into the weekend with his cuteness:

easter, this year and all the years.

Yesterday was Easter, as I'm sure you probably heard if you have Facebook.  And, not to be left in the dust by all my cohorts, I will also post our family Easter photo.  Here it is.

Honestly, it's not too shabby, amiright?  Everyone's looking, no one is having a meltdown or looks like they're having a stroke.  A person couldn't really ask for more... unless they were asking for a 'silly' shot, in which case (most of) the Van Voorsts delivered, albeit a bit blurrily.  (I could have chosen a more clear one, but Finneas is just so great in this one, and Laurelai is trying to copy him.)

It was actually a really great morning - the weather was beautiful, and due to some very intentional planning, extreme overexertion the previous day, and desperate prayer, we actually made it out of the house on time for church!  After church, we grabbed lunch and headed home for naps.

And then I made the dastardly mistake of eating some chocolate chips.  "It's Easter," I said. "What can be the harm in cheating on my THM ways for one afternoon?" I asked.  And then I spent the rest of the day feeling nauseous, lightheaded, disoriented, and fatigued.  And then I tried to make Easter dinner while feeling this way.  And while it was actually a really good dinner - roast chicken, sautéed green beans with mushrooms and bacon, loaded cauliflower casserole, and salad - I got really mad when the kids complained through the whole thing.  ("Do I have to eat this?  I don't like mushrooms.  How many bites of the cauliflower do I have to eat?  I don't want chicken.  Can I be done?"  And I was all, "the next person to complain will be next year's Easter dinner.")

And then I laid on the couch in a half-comatose state for the rest of the evening.  All because of a couple of handfuls of chocolate chips.  NOT WORTH IT.  Note to self: sugar is no longer your friend.  Sugar is no longer your friend.  Sugar is no longer your friend.

So, to cheer myself up, I went back and found Easter photos from the past few years!  So many kids, so many houses.

Last year (2016):





And there was this gem of a photo (and a whole post of equally funny photos of Atticus being an Easturd):

'what's up' weekly.

Sorry I haven't been around much this week - it got surprisingly full, surprisingly quickly.  It's crazy how the week can start with Todd being like, "Anything out of the ordinary on the schedule this week?" and me being like, "No, not on my calendar," to multiple somethings every day.  It's been a good week, but I'm glad I'm nearing the end.

(As a quick aside, prepare yourself for photos that have little to do with their surrounding paragraphs.  They were just cute, so I needed to include them.)

Saturday was mostly spent resting and reading, which was nice.  Sunday was pretty typical, though we did have some friends stop by for a bit before dinner.

Monday, I spent the day scrubbing the house down.  It had been weeks since we'd hosted Connection Group, and despite my best efforts, the house was coated in a thin layer of grime... and people were coming Tuesday night.  So I had to get on top of stuff.  We got school done, but the rest of the day was spent cleaning and catching up on laundry and cleaning some more.

Tuesday was also spent cleaning, as everything I did on Monday was basically erased overnight because, duh, we live here and it's nice out so there's constantly dirty little piggies running in and out of the house, touching walls and light switches and shower curtains and sink faucets... Plus, the season of help with Connection Group house prep that I had been given has come to an end, so I was on my own.  So we missed school on Tuesday because I couldn't keep up with everything.  I think we may be nearing the end of our capacity to host here.  I just feel totally incapable of juggling it all.  So Tuesday was a bit defeating, although after CG I got to have a great heart-to-heart with one of my college girls, so it wasn't a total loss.

Wednesday was really full, with our weekly drive to the Amish, an emergency run to Target, two separate one-on-ones with girls from church, and some friends from out of town staying overnight.

Yesterday, we actually got all our schoolwork done (the first time since Monday!), and I met with another gal. 

Also, I hit the big 3-0 this week.  I'm starting to panic a bit about giving birth.  I realize I'm still months out, but the single-digit weekly countdown is getting close, and I'm realizing how quickly this is all going.  I'm pretty suspicious of the medical atmosphere here - this town is weird when it comes to that stuff.  Though we have a quality university hospital here, the approaches and attitudes towards medical care are still really, really old-school in a lot of ways.  And labor/delivery is not immune to it.  So I'm nervous, and getting more nervous as time goes on.  I have never found myself more sympathetic to the idea of a home birth than I have been during this pregnancy, though it's still beyond my comfort zone at this point.  But on more than one occasion I've just found myself thinking, "I now get why women want to keep birth as far away from the medical system as possible."  I just don't trust it here.  So.  Be praying for me.  My head is not in a great place about it all right now.

Today, my main objective is getting as caught up on our missed schoolwork as is reasonably possible, though I'm sure we won't get to all of it.  I have such a hard time expecting the kids to cram so much into a single day in order to catch up, when the only reason we're behind is simply because my ministry is so sporadic and, at times, time consuming.  Some weeks, I really feel like I'm able to manage it all, and juggle our daily schedule around so everything gets done, but this week, for various reasons, it just wasn't possible.  So I'm wrapping up the week with a slight feeling of failure and disappointment.

Which is a weird way to tell you that I'm planning another FB Live chat, on the topic of balancing motherhood, church involvement, and ministry.  I clearly do not yet have all the answers or have a perfect system ironed out for balancing it all, as this week has been so kind to remind me, but I figured I can at least share what I've learned and struggled with so far.  So, if this is a topic you've wondered about or are currently struggling with, you should head over to the FB page at 8:00 to talk through some of the realities, advantages, and challenges.

And, last but not least, here's what happens when a mother of many ventures from her watchtower on the couch to sit with a lonely kiddo in the fray down below.  The rest of the kids seem to smell that Mom Is Among Us.  Which is actually really sweet.  And, until they start physically stepping on me and fighting over whose turn it is to sit on my lap, actually tempts me to sit on the floor more often.

(kind of) trim healthy(ish) preggo.

This pregnancy has been kind of rough, in the sense that I was sick for a really long time.  The daily, near-constant morning sickness didn't let up for a full twenty weeks, and even after that, it was common for me to still be really sick every few days.  I started noticing that it was much, much worse after eating starchy or sugary foods, resulting in nausea, lightheadedness, and horrible fatigue, and it was getting to the point where tasting something sweet would make my stomach turn.  So I had initially determined to cut back a bit on those things to see if that would help.  (So, you know, stop eating fourteen bagels a day.)

But then I started thinking about my track record during postpartum months with each of my kids, and those days have been especially hard on me after my girls were born.  After Penelope, I had crippling postpartum depression, anxiety, and insomnia.  That's when I discovered my issues with gluten, and lost so much weight.  I was seriously skeletal.  After Laurelai, I had thyroid issues, hormone and adrenal imbalance, and crazy weight gain.  I think I also may have been experiencing some mild postpartum depression and anxiety.  (It's hard to know, since we were also in the throes of a recent move and our first church plant, so it all kind of coalesced into a lot of crying.)

Honestly, it may just be coincidence that my girls were much, much harder to recover from, mentally and physically, than my boys were, but there also may be some kind of hormonal explanation, too.  I really don't know.  But it got me thinking about how I can best set myself up for success, both now and later, with this newest girl baby. 

So... I decided to totally cut caffeine and pretty much all refined sugar.  Also, these major life decisions coincided with the Week of Rotavirus (which will be spoken about in sotto voce around here for the rest of our days), so it was rough going.  I've traded my beloved daily cup of coffee and raw cream for some kind of herbal junk that is at least warm and uncaffeinated, but is hardly a substitute.  I've traded sugar for... not sugar.  And I've started doing Trim Healthy Mama again.

I tried once before, but felt horrible on it, plus I hate that there's so much emphasis on weird specialty ingredients.  This time around, I've simply been making normal meals that fit the plan (no erithrytol or protein powders or weird thickeners made from idk), and I have felt awesome.  I'm not sure if I'm dealing with some extent of gestational diabetes or something (I haven't seen my midwife since December, and have yet to do the test), but keeping my blood sugar balanced has made a huge difference for me.  Plus, it doesn't hurt that I'm getting so much more protein and so many more veggies in than I was before.  It has only taken me six pregnancies to get to this point.

The real test came yesterday, when I found myself at Target after church, with dipping blood sugar, staring right into the eyeball of the In-Store Starbucks.  I wanted a coffee so badly.  I was all, 'maybe I could get it skim, so then it's only carbs, and stealthily eat some of the turkey and cheese I have in my purse to keep everything balanced...' (Yes, I had turkey and cheese in my purse, wanna fight about it?)  But I held my own, guys.  And I spent the rest of the day not with my head in the toilet, so I consider that a pretty major win!

A couple weeks down, only months and months and months left to go until this baby is a toddler and I'm hypothetically no longer pregnant or postpartum.  I am going to be ordering the hugest, creamiest, sugariest mocha ever made.  And I'll probably hate it because I'd have acclimated to a low-sugar diet by then, but I'll drink the whole thing ON PRINCIPLE.  Also, I will throw all my herbal tea in the garbage.  Because I'm nothing if not principled.

'what's up' weekly.

Most of this week was (thankfully) easier than last week.  It was mainly spent playing catch up on the rest and work we missed out on while the kids were all super sick.

Friday, Finneas came down with another round of the barfs, so he spent his day cuddled up with The Bucket.  Laurelai and Rocco both spent the entire day sleeping and refusing food.  Friday night, I got a call from Urgent Care, saying that Laurelai's 24-hour strep test had come back positive, so she needed to start on antibiotics.

And then Saturday dawned.  Everyone woke up.  Everyone got out of bed.  No one barfed, no one was running a fever, and everyone started eating.  Mainly bananas and rice, because I wasn't risking anything on hot wings or something, but eating.  It was glorious.  Rocco smiled, and I realized it had been a week since I'd seen his little personality show up.  And (knock on wood) it's only gotten better from there.  We still stayed home from church on Sunday, since Laur had barely been on the antibiotic for the twenty-four hours necessary to render her noncontagious. 

I went grocery shopping Sunday afternoon because our fridge was looking mighty sad.  DANG.  I thought Saturday mornings were the worst time to grocery shop, but I was wrong.  It was like a freaking madhouse out there, and to top it all off, I had received a new debit card in the mail earlier in the week, but hadn't yet activated it... or even brought it with me.  So I finally got through the line at Aldi, figured out I didn't have my card on me, had to have them suspend my order, drove all the way back across town to pick up my card, drove all the way back to stand in line forever and then pay, then drove to a different side of town to hit up Walmart.  I was much grouchier than the minor annoyance of this all would warrant, and as a result, I even justified opening the box of granola bars I was purchasing at Walmart while I was still shopping.  I have never, ever eaten something I hadn't yet paid for... but apparently it was time to break the legacy.  I have no regrets.  (I did still pay for them, mind you.  The box was simply "halfway" [ahem, mostly] empty when they scanned it.)

Monday and Tuesday were mainly spent resting and catching up on school and normal life.  And resting some more.  And sleeping.  Because this pregnancy is knocking me on my butt.

Wednesday was full, as we went to the Amish, I met with a discipleship gal, AND I did the Facebook Live chat on chores/allowance/money management that evening.  (I typically never try to squeeze in more than two extracurriculars at the most on a given day.)

Yesterday, I got my hair cut.  For the first time since July.  IT NEEDED IT SO BAD.  It was a mess.  I'm hoping to start getting into a pattern of staying on top of taking care of it, but this will be a transition for me.  I even scheduled my next appointment in advance.  This is a milestone.

Other than that, I've been trying to spend some time reading - I'm in the middle of "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," which I get the itch to re-read almost every spring.  And then I get all Imma Homestead!  ...for like twenty seconds until I look up from the book and realize I'm barely keeping my houseplants alive at this juncture in my life.  So I'll just live vicariously through Barbara Kingsolver.

And I'm 29 weeks and feeling it.  I know I still have a long stretch to go, but I'm really feeling tired and sore and big.  This pregnancy thing isn't for the faint of heart.  Either that, or I'm just a huge wimp, which also may very well be the case.

it feels like Lent.

I mean, I know it's Lent.  But this year it has been very apparent to me that it's a season of asceticism and waiting. 

With the kids' health being so crummy this winter, I have missed church the last four weeks in a row.  We have had to cancel Connection Group, since we can't, in good conscience, host other people in this apparent hotbed of disease.  I have canceled time with friends, rescheduled time with discipleship girls, and missed trips to the Amish.  And I have felt so emptied and empty and waiting for change.

I find it interesting that God chose this specific season to strip me of most of my life outside these walls.  Even good things - all of the Lent church services, for instance - have just had to fall by the wayside.  In their place is the constant reminder that this life is hard, these bodies are failing, the work is lonely, and I am groaning.  In their place is Lent.

And because of this season, there has come some clarity.  Singular focus on the only work I'm able to accomplish.  "Enough" has been all I've been able to manage, and "enough" is all I've been able to face it with.  And enough has been enough.  Somehow, everything necessary still gets done.  Somehow, the world out there isn't falling apart without me.  Somehow, the world in here isn't falling apart because of me.   And God has reminded me that the simple, the base, the dirty work, is the most real thing he's called me to in this season, and it's enough.  It's enough for him. 

I have to let it be enough for me, too.  To have enough, and barely enough, strength and patience to endure what is directly in front of me.  To have my tiny sphere and my tiny influence on my tiny plot once we've been effectively quarantined and isolated.  It has had to be, and in some ways, it has been really... sweet. simple. easy.  It's funny how the barebones still support you well, sometimes better than the fat could.

it's monday, monday, gettin' down on monday.

I honestly really love Mondays - a chance to get back into a normal groove, a chance to look forward to the rest of the week.  It helps that I really love my day job, so that makes Mondays easier, too, but I think on top of that, I'm just wired for Mondays.  Maybe that makes me a pariah.

Today is an especially good Monday - after the rough go of things we had last week, I am more than ready for a fresh start.  The kids seem to all be on the mend or fully healed, knock on wood.  And other than spending the last few days feeling really weak and tired, I don't seem to have caught it.  (I was really worried, since it was such a bad bug, and it made me nervous about what it could complicate with the pregnancy.)  It seems like we may be out of the storm.

So I'm excited to jump into today and this week, with all of its normal, boring day-to-day-ness.


(I dare you to go back through this post and take a shot of espresso every time you read the word 'Monday.'  There are a LOT of them in here.  It will help get your week off to a great, albeit jittery, start if you personally don't foster an inherent love for Mondays.)

w.u.w.: 'whew' edition.

Whew.  Just... whew.

This week has kicked my butt and then some.  I had previously been riding on a high horse, all like, "Oh, look at me!  I'm untouchable!  I'm patient with my kids lately, I feel like I have a handle on my life.  Ho, ho.  UNTOUCHABLE." 

I have since learned the error of my ways.

So, I told you about how last Friday night, Todd and I ducked out for an overnight to celebrate my birthday, right?  And how, by the time we got home the next morning, Rocco had started some kind of barfing shenanigans?  The actual vomiting was limited to a few hours that day, and by Sunday, though he was running a fever and was super cuddly/clingy, he seemed to be on the mend.

I figured it was just another stomach bug going through (our third in the past six weeks, mind you), and therefore I figured the other kids wouldn't likely come out unscathed.  I was right, and by Monday afternoon, all four of the other kids were out for the count.  Everyone was dealing with digestive pyrotechnics, one kiddo even trying to aim both ends of their stomach activity into the toilet at the same time.  It was a dismal failure, as I'm sure you could have guessed, and it required a follow-up discussion on where, exactly, to barf if you're already pooping.  (Into the tub, if you needed that clarification yourself.) 

The biggest three spent the day alternating between barfing and sleeping.  Laurelai sidestepped the GI issues until late afternoon, at which point her "illness" button switched to "ON: VERY ON" and she was puking every ten or fifteen minutes for the next twelve hours.

But then it didn't go away.  Rocco was still sick, and even more lethargic, on Tuesday.  He slept about 23 of those 24 hours, was awake long enough to cry about being tired and refuse a bottle, and then he would go right back to sleep.  I was getting seriously concerned for him, as well as Laurelai, who developed a deep chest cough and high fever that kept her up all night.  I was worried it might turn into pneumonia.

By Wednesday morning, Finneas couldn't control his bowels at all, Rocco woke up in a puddle of his own puke, and Laurelai's fever was so high she wouldn't even sit up in bed.  I called Todd and asked him to come home and cover for me so I could take the little two to urgent care.  I'm glad I called for backup because the visit took two and a half hours - after first being turned away by one clinic because they didn't take our insurance, I drove to another one, where they did all kinds of swabs and waited for lab results and did chest xrays and had the doctor come in multiple times, etc etc etc.  Both kids fell asleep in the exam room in the middle of it all, which tells you how sick they were.  At the end of it all, strep, influenza, pneumonia and RSV were all ruled out, with some suspicion that we're dealing with Rotavirus.  (It would have taken a stool sample to know for sure, so I was positive I didn't want to even attempt knowing for sure).  Blech.

Yesterday was more of the same: explosive diarrhea everywhere, tons of laundry, lots of naps.  Although Rocco did start eating and drinking a bit, which was the first time in days he would touch anything.  He ate some rice and a couple of bananas throughout the day, and while he adamantly shunned both water and apple juice, he would outright chug chicken broth from a bottle. 

By last night, I was just so mentally and physically spent that I asked Todd if I could run to the library for a bit, just to get out of the house.  If you know me at all, you know I am a total homebody, and leaving the house is never an appealing idea, regardless of circumstances.  However, I hit that point last night, and just sat on the floor of the library, in the architecture aisle, in the quiet, under the ambient lighting, and texted with my sister.  That's all I did.  Because I just needed to.   

Which brings us to today.  I have limited hope that things will be much better yet, since Finneas started throwing up again last night, and Atticus started running a fever.  BUT.  I did at least get all this week's horrible, dirty laundry done AND folded AND put away (a feat that only took about three hours, NBD), so I'm at least ahead of the game there.

And while there wasn't a huge amount of 'non-illness' news, there were at least a couple items of note.

I turned 31, and spent the day reading Harry Potter snuggled up to one of my favorite reading pals.

Finneas, before he got sick, was really riding the tuck pretty hard for some major fashion glory.

Also, he spent time nature journaling and I DIED AT THE CUTENESS.

And I'm now 28 weeks pregnant, and starting to realize that the time is flying.  I'm in full-on panic mode.

Aaaaannnnd that was our week.  Whew.

what a difference eight years makes. kind of.

I was searching for something in old blog posts the other day, and came across this photo, taken at 27 weeks with Atticus.

Compare that with this photo, taken a couple weeks ago with the newest baby.

There are some very noticeable differences. (In the first photo, I look so young! And thin!  And tan!  And my front tooth hadn't yet died and turned yellow from when Atticus eventually head-butted me in the face.  And I've gotten better at decorating.)  But there are also some very noticeable similarities.  Namely, the fact that I'm basically still pregnant.  Not pregnant again, just 'still pregnant.'  At least, that's what it feels like sometimes.

It's true what they say: the more things change, the more they stay the same.  I will say, I wish I could say my muscle tone had stayed a little more the same, though I am glad my eyebrows have changed for the better.