penelope got baptized!

Yesterday morning was a baptism service at church, and Penelope chose to get baptized!  It was so great, and I am so proud of her.

A few months ago, we were in Aldi, and Penelope suddenly said something like, "I think I'll get baptized when I'm 23 or 24."  So I asked her why she would want to wait so long.  "Because I'm afraid of going under the water." 

So we talked about how the Bible tells us to "repent, believe and be baptized."  She had already done the first two items on that list - God tells us that the next step is to be baptized in obedience.  Without pushing her, I asked her if she thought obedience gets easier or harder the longer we wait, and I asked her why she thought she'd be less scared of the water when she's 23 or 24.  Advancing age doesn't always cure our disobedience problems or our fears.

Something in her just 'clicked.'  She started talking about wanting to get baptized, and Todd started discussing with her what she thought it means to be baptized, and asking her about her testimony - the story of her life before faith, how she came to know Jesus, and her life since becoming a Christian.  After a few months of gentle discussions (and a time or two of choosing not to sign up for earlier baptism services, because she was afraid of sharing her testimony from stage), she finally decided to dive in. (Bah dum bum CHHHH.)

She looked so tiny up there, reading her testimony, and even tinier once she got into the baptism tank.  (We're a church plant that meets in the conference room at a local hotel; our baptismal is a horse trough.)

It was indescribably amazing to watch my tiny daughter tell our church family about her faith in Jesus, and the truly supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in her life.  It was even more amazing to watch Todd baptize her.  One of the best days of my life, by far.

After she got dried off, she got to get dressed in a new white dress, and we had a small little lunch party at our house for the family that came into town to celebrate with us.

I am so proud of my girl, and so happy for her!  The friend that takes photos and video of things like this at church told us that he'd send us the video - when I get that, I'll be sure to post it!

the weekly 'what's up.'

So.  I've been AWOL around here this week.

The last few weeks have really ushered in a hard new season.  I'm surprised I don't feel more overwhelmed by it all than I do, but I do feel really, really drained.

To start things off, Callista has been giving me a really hard time overnight, and I'm just exhausted.  For the last six weeks or so, she's been waking multiple times through the night, even though she'd been voluntarily sleeping all the way through before that.  The most recent development is that she wakes up to eat, spends nearly an hour nursing, and then spends the next 45 minutes or so wide awake, just talking to herself and making all kinds of noise.  So every time she wakes up, I'm up for nearly two full hours at a time.  One night this week, I logged a total of three and a half hours of sleep, which I got in three separate chunks.  It has been rough.

And, of course, our schedule is just chock-full.  This week we had three eye doctor appointments, two dentist appointments, a speech therapy appointment, and I had four meet-ups with discipleship gals.  We made our regular drive to the Amish, I made a big grocery shopping trip, we babysat for some friends, and we tried to get school squeezed in there the best we could.  The kids have enjoyed doing their work while they lounge around in the girls' room this week.

And remember my motto?  You know.  "In order to be fruitful as a stay-at-home mom, you actually have to sometimes stay at home."  We have been out of the house so much lately, things are really starting to fall apart.  Because we're only home long enough to make a mess, but not long enough to actually clean it up, the piles are starting to spawn.  The house is a serious disaster zone.  In the name of authenticity, here's what our house continually looks like at this point:

Just when I think I couldn't dislike my green-and-orange kitchen any more, I see it in a photo.  One of these days, I'm really going to have to find the time to paint.

And because we have to get dressed in our 'going out into public' clothes so often lately, I have tons of extra laundry to do, but I'm never home to actually do it.  And I started switching out seasonal clothing bins this week, so there's that extra laundry chaos happening.

Luckily, some of my favorite and most relaxing parts of our weeks have remained the same.  The kids are still so very sweet...

..and.we still prioritized together, like during family movie night.  (This week, we watched "B.F.G."  Have you seen it?  It was so. wonderful.  We loved it!)

I do have to say, though:  it looks like we will be averaging about four out-of-the-ordinary appointments per week for the next four weeks or more.  And I have no idea if, or when, Callista will settle back in to a normal sleep pattern.  I'm giving myself permission to blog less during this season, and use the time I usually take to write each day to nap, shower, clean up the house, or just relax so I don't end up going insane.  So if I'm a bit spotty around here for the next month or so, I trust you'll understand why!

a little more on postpartum recovery, and my goals moving forward.

A while back, I posted on a few things that have helped me recover incredibly well from this birth.  Honestly, I'm not sure if I've ever had a more restful, nourishing, smooth recovery period after a baby, and I really think it's because of how intentional I was in preparing for the postpartum phase, as well as how committed I was on the back end to protecting and sticking with those decisions.  This post goes into detail about how cocooning, napping and good nutrition have made a world of difference for me.

There are a couple of other things that I feel have helped, too: Ab Rehab exercises during pregnancy, supplements, and not pushing my body to be 'normal' too soon.

Diastasis recti exercises during pregnancy. 

I started these exercises up again toward the end of my second trimester, after I stopped feeling so sick, and did them until I was too huge to do them comfortably.  (About six or eight weeks total.)  I'm going to go into more detail on this later this week, but it significantly narrowed the ab separation that was very large during pregnancy, and my current gap is much smaller than it was after Rocco (Baby #5) was born.  I have much less work ahead of me to get it to close again completely.


I go into more detail in this post about the supplements I take, but I was very diligent through pregnancy and postpartum to supplement my diet with thyroid and hormone helpers.  Right now, I take a raw prenatal, vitamin D, kelp, selenium, magnesium, calcium, collagen and zinc.  I also take fermented cod liver oil - in capsules, because it's disgusting and I don't want to have to taste it!  These helped me reach equilibrium again after my health crashed in the postpartum season after Laurelai, and I try to stay on top of taking them now to help my body continue to run smoothly.

Not getting physical, physical.

I had told myself that I would wait at least twelve weeks before even starting to try to get my body back to 'normal' functioning.  I think this is so important!  I try to think about it like any other intense physical recovery - surgeries, injuries, and illness all require a bit of waiting and resting before getting too physical.  I wanted to honor what my body has done, and protect myself from injury.  So I really have spent the last three months resting and recovering, and am so glad I have.  But now here I am, fifteen weeks postpartum and ready to start moving again.

I'm getting ready to begin again with my diastasis recti exercises, and I'm going to start some other light exercise as well.  I'm also gearing up to tighten up the reins on my diet.  So get ready, because throughout the rest of the week, I'm hoping to fill you in on my current ab separation, and my plans for moving forward with that (I'll even post current photos), as well as what exercise I'll be taking up so that I can get moving again without pushing myself too hard, too quickly.  And I'll hopefully give you a rundown of the nutritional plan I'll be focusing on to help me start looking and feeling like myself again.

weekly 'what's up.'

Whatta week, whatta week, whatta week, whatta mighty good week.

It ended up being better than I'd anticipated.  We had tons of appointments scheduled, all during morning school time, and I was kind of dreading it.  But we survived the really unusual schedule, and even enjoyed ourselves - eye doctor appointment for the boys, a speech therapy appointment for Atticus, a dentist appointment for Penelope, and a couple out-of-the-ordinary get-togethers with older women from church. 

These gals, by the way, were so outrageously refreshing to me.  If you have any older women in your life who will let you pick their brains about faith, family, trials, cheesemaking, etc., TAKE ADVANTAGE.  I mean, for one thing, they each brought over gluten free cookies.  So, there was that.  But on top of it, it was so grounding and helpful to hear their stories, ask their advice, and learn from what God has taught them.  I really hope to make room for so much more of this in my life.

Other than that, I would say that the two most defining things about this week were, 1) the fact that I got my hair colored.  It is now very dark.  I am still very pale, and 2) we finally got a replacement for the camera lens that broke a while back, so I don't have to use the zoom lens for everything anymore.  I'm so giddy over it, I could dance a jig.  Or something.

Other news?

Todd gets to come home to the best sight in the whole world: screen door-smooshed baby faces.

Penelope is basically my mini-me in so many ways - not the least of which is the fact that she likes to write stories while she simultaneously bounces a baby.  She also asked this week if she could make a video tutorial teaching other kids her age how to make tuna salad by themselves.  I'm thinking about handing over the family "blog-and-FB Live" business to her, and sitting around drinking margaritas by the pool for the rest of my days.

Atticus and Finneas logged an outrageous number of hours honing their drawing skills.

This is an Atticus original - no tutorial necessary.

Laurelai turned my bookshelf into Ponyville.  In her words, it's looking very 'fashionable.'

The kids got the rare privilege of opening the piano.  I don't know if it's simply this season of motherhood, or whether I'm still dealing with some latent issues with my adrenals, but I just cannot. stand. the extra noise of the piano on top of the normal din of life around here.  So it is indeed rare that I let them play.  (I even tried plunking out a few notes myself, for nostalgia's sake, but I'm very rusty, and I discovered it's extremely difficult to play piano when a toddler is literally straddling your arm and sitting on your hand.)

Lastly, but far from leastly, I have finally started reaping the true benefits of motherhood: I have shystered my kids into thinking it's a game and a privilege to brush my hair.  They don't know it's all puppetmastered by Yours Truly in order to get a free head massage.  I have discovered Finneas and Rocco are my most gentle, relaxing stylists; the girls seem to understand that they've been given an opportunity to retaliate against me for all of the detangling I've perpetrated against them in their short lives.

And, in case you missed it, my reading goals for October:

1. The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul
2. Ragweed by Avi  This one came highly recommended by Penelope, who insisted I read it.  So I will.

3. The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis
4. The Shaping of a Christian Family by Elisabeth Elliot
5. L'Abri by Edith Schaeffer  This book literally changed my life.  I am so excited to read it again!

6. A Simple Way to Pray by Martin Luther My friend Karlee sent this to me recently, and I can't wait to dig into it.

7. The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson I started this one this week, and it is so stinking funny.  I have actually snort-laughed.  There are so many bad words in it, because the author is an old British-y curmudgeon.  But, like, not in a bad way...?

8.The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey Another classic re-read.

9. Trim Healthy Mama Plan by Serene Allison and Pearl Barrett Yet another re-read.  (It was also on last month's list, but I didn't get to it, so it's staring me in the face again this month.)

how to live la vida low-tech. (part 3)

A few last thoughts regarding potential resistance in minimizing technology's distraction in our homes.

"But they'll have to know how to use technology..."

I know I will get the push-back comments about how kids have to know how to use technology in order to grow up savvy in our current culture.  But if you think about it, not a single one of us had this current level of technology available to us as kids, but we figured it out when the time came.  Human minds and skills appropriation are really incredible.  Besides, it's silly to think technology will end up looking anything like it currently does by the time our kids are adults anyway.  They'll have to figure out the available technology then, just like we did.  That's the way it goes. 

Knowing how to use an iPad now does not prepare them for the real world.  By the time they reach adulthood, iPads will be obsolete and it will be some new contraption that I don't even care to take a guess about.  But I can tell you what will best prepare them for their future: ample time to use their brains and their bodies.  Ample time to entertain themselves.  Ample time to read actual books and climb actual trees and actually solve actual problems.  These are the kind of people who will have no problem figuring out available technology once it becomes necessary for them to do so. 

So don't be afraid to give your kids breathing room, away from the tech.  You won't be depriving them of anything.  If anything, you'll be giving them more time to be a real-life kid, which will in turn set them up for success as a tech-savvy grown up.

One of the kids' favorite ways to use the laptop: watching art tutorials on Art for Kids Hub.

Keep the good, lose the bad.

I'm clearly not arguing for a Little House on the Prairie existence.  I like Googling and blogging and two-day free shipping and commercial-free episodes of Gilmore Girls as much as the next (Gilmore) guy.   And even if I didn't, getting rid of technology across the board doesn't fix the problem of being a distractible person, one who finds it difficult to be mentally present with my most immediate People.  Technology is not the deepest problem here - my sin is.  Your sin is.  But it can be the case the technology can very easily aid us in becoming more deeply ingrained in our native sin habits if we let it.  So it's important to stay diligent.

Where technology facilitates our most important relationships - snuggling up to watch a movie together as a family, or using the Wi-Fi and my disconnected smartphone to email Todd videos of the kids during the day - I'm all about it.  But the second it starts robbing from our relationships and our homes is when I'm the voice of one calling out in the wilderness, "Chuck that garbage out the window."  Let's endeavor to have an uninterrupted conversation with those amazing people we get to call our very own.  Let them have an uninterrupted conversation with us.  Let's focus on the best things, even if it means having to cut back on the good things.

how to live la vida low-tech. (part 2)

I have a few more ideas today to help you live a lower-tech life.  It's so worth it to avoid being unhealthily distracted by technology, and instead invest some of that time back into actual face-to-face relationships!

3.  Muster up the courage to lock your smartphone.

Or, better yet, if you need to, regress back to a dumb phone.  This has been our strategy.  Mostly because we know ourselves too well to trust ourselves with smartphones.  It's too tempting to have "that world" available to me at any given moment, when "this world" is being ignored and languishing.  (Plus, it frees up money: we pay $26 per month for our entire phone plan.)

We technically do possess iPhones.  Old ones that have been handed down to us from generous and more culturally-relevant family members.  Todd's is an ancient iPhone 4.  Mine is a somewhat newer iPhone 5.  Neither one has a data plan attached; they simply connect to Wi-Fi.

I love using my iPhone camera to quickly snap photos or videos of the kids, and I adore using Instagram and my Facebook feed to document it all - I just try to intention to use these outlets as an actual help in family life, not a distraction from it.  (NOT always easy, but I'm trying!)  The fact that it's not on me 24/7 as my main phone is really helpful in this regard.

Finding the Boomerang app hilarious.  Well, Callista doesn't seem so sure, but Penelope and I sure found it funny.

4.  Stave off technology in your kids' lives.

Yeah, yeah.  This one's controversial, and I'm about to get bossy, and I don't even care.  Don't give them their own tablet or their own phone.  Really limit their time watching TV, and you be the one to pick what they watch when they do.  Teach them to be present.  Teach them to read a book.  Teach them to learn how to deal with being bored.  Teach yourself to have patience in dealing with a kid who's dealing with being bored.  Don't treat technology like a cure-all for their boredom, or a cure-all for your own impatience with your kid.

It's possible to limit kids' screen time without making them feel like you're starving them.  They will honestly get used to whatever amount is normally allowed.  My first indicator that we need to scale back on screen time around here is when they start asking for more of it, because technology isn't satiating.  The more you ingest, the hungrier you get.  And the way to break the craving cycle is to include less of it, not more.

We have a single Kindle that the kids share, and it is most often used for reading ebooks for school - the ones we couldn't find in hard copy at the library.  They occasionally get permission to type stories on Google Docs, watch a drawing tutorial, or look on Amazon for toys they'd like to spend their allowance on.  That's basically the extent of their internet usage.

As for their TV watching habits, I let them turn on Netflix around 5:00 p.m. as long as the house is picked up first, and they can watch until dinner is ready.  I've given them a list of ten or twelve shows they can pick from, and they alternate days to get to be the one to pick what everyone watches together.  We also watch YouTube videos together as a family sometimes, and watch a movie together every Sunday night.

Again, I'm going to repeat the mantra: look for ways to allow technology to bring you together, and flee from the very, very real tendency to let it drive you apart and steal focus from your most important relationships!

I know this stuff isn't easy to navigate.  It's going to look different family to family.  And I know there is some curiosity and mental pushback regarding how to still raise tech-literate kids in our current culture.  So I'll pop back in tomorrow with a few final thoughts on this!

how to live la vida low-tech, part 1.

Todd and I are pretty slow to jump on the technology bandwagon.  I mean, we're not Amish or anything, but we do tend to be pretty limited in our adoption of gadgets and 'tech' and electronics.  We have non-smart phones and ancient hand-me-down laptops.  We don't have a TV in our living room and we don't use tablets.  And you know what?  I'd unashamedly recommend this slower lifestyle to anyone.

I get it.  There's a valid and even beneficial place in our lives for current technology.  But we have to ask ourselves if we're allowing technology to be our boss, instead of our employee.  We have to ask ourselves if we're wrapping ourselves up too intimately in the 'good things' of technology, and meanwhile robbing ourselves of the best things in life - slow, deep, face-to-face relationships.  It is so very easy to get distracted.

Here are a few things I'd tell you to do if you're looking to protect the rhythm of a low-tech home life:

1.  Don't decorate like you worship your technology.

Why is it that almost every piece of comfortable furniture in our homes are set up to face a television?  This drives me crazy.  Every. stinkin. piece of living room furniture!  When you decorate, try to think of ways to maximize face to face interactions. 

Try to think, "If we had guests over, would we be able to see their faces without contorting ourselves in any way?  What would most naturally fall into my line of vision - a person or a television?"  If at all possible, don't even keep a TV in your most commonly used living space.

Currently, we have a basement family room with a wall-mounted TV, and our main living room where we spend most of our time is TV-free.  We haven't always had the luxury of two living spaces, though - in our last house, we didn't have two living areas, so we just didn't have a TV at all.  We watched Netflix on the laptop when we wanted to watch something together, then just put the laptop away during the rest of the time.  In our first apartment, we kept our living room TV inside a china cabinet that we kept closed when the TV wasn't in use. 

It's do-able if you get creative.

Try to get the TV out of your direct line of vision, and I guarantee you'll watch it less and talk to real people more.  (And possibly read more books.  And read your Bible more.  And generally get more done in the areas you say are most important to you.)

AND ALSO GET THAT THING OUT OF YOUR BEDROOM, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD PLEASE.  Please do not make your husband compete with the TV for your attention and affection.  Even one time of him losing ground to the TV is one time too many.  And get it out of your kids' bedrooms too, while we're working on chucking TVs.

If you're counting at home, what I'm saying here is that one single out-of-the-way TV is plenty.

2. Use your technology communally.

Keep laptops and tablets in common rooms.  Don't get into the habit of making technology available in private corners of the house.  Everyone's better off when there's a level of accountability and community available, even while we're using some kind of device. You're able to see what everyone else is doing; everyone else is able to see what you're doing; and you're not under some delusion that you're being social when in fact you're simply on your phone in some empty room while you ignore the present people in the rest of your house.

Watch shows and movies together.  Invite people over to watch football games sometimes - but for dinner and TV-less chatting other times.  Check email next to each other during set times, and then be done.  Don't spend tons of time living separate lives on your phones or Netflix accounts.

Seriously do some soul-searching and ask yourself if your technology is actually helping you or robbing from you right now.  I think we could all - myself included - stand to grow in this area.  Tomorrow, I'll be sharing a couple more ways to set boundaries with your technology to protect a slower, less distracted home life.

the weekly 'what's up.'

We kicked off last weekend with a trip to the Compassion Experience, a traveling exhibit-thing organized by Compassion International and hosted by one of the churches in town.  Basically, it's a simulation experience that allows you to 'see' the living conditions and hear the stories of a couple of children sponsored through Compassion.  We 'experienced' the life of Carlos, a kiddo in Guatemala.

She was a dead-ringer for Carlos.  Minus the headphones and smart device.

Monday, Callista turned three months old (and yesterday she rolled from back to tummy for the first time!).  It was full of ups and downs for her.  Aging is emotional for all of us.

Tuesday, Atticus had a dentist appointment.  His third of six, to be exact.  The first appointment, they cleaned his teeth and did xrays.  Then they had me come in for a second appointment to discuss the results of the xrays and the plan to move forward.  The third appointment was to put sealants on his teeth.  The fourth, fifth, and sixth appointments are to deal with each of three cavities individually.  I AM LOSING MY MIND.  This can't possibly be the most efficient way of going about this. 

I just start doing the math in my head: six visits per kid, times five kids with teeth, every six months... plus well child checks, and vision appointments, and speech therapy appointments, and orthodontist appointments... and trying to find sitters for many of those appointments to avoid the chaos that is taking them all to confined spaces... and trying to actually get other important stuff done, like school... This has the potential to send my stress levels through the roof at some point.  So look forward to hearing about that in the near future.

Wednesday, the kids discovered a spider that had caught a live fly in mid-air.  It somehow captured it and dragged it up the string while we all watched.  It was pretty gross.

Other than those items of note, this week has been pretty low-key.  We've been on break from school, so the kids have had ample free time, which has actually been really good for them.  (Oftentimes their break weeks are spent fighting with each other, since their time is so unstructured, but this week hasn't been too bad!  I wonder if it's because we're also on a TV hiatus - they seem to entertain themselves better when the option for watching Netflix has been taken off the table.)  They've spent the time reading, working through Art for Kids Hub drawing tutorials, and building God-knows-what out of scrap wood.

I looked out the window the other day and saw two of the kids in the yard, jousting each other with janky old pieces of castoff lumber, and it hit me - hard - that we are the rednecks of the neighborhood.  Let me clarify that: Here in Missouri, we are rednecks by comparison.  Let that sink in for a second.  That's some pretty harsh reality to have to face on a Friday morning.