'what's up' weekly.

This week has like zero photos.  Part of that is because I already showed you photos from our trip to the fire station, and that was basically the only photo-worthy event happening this week, and part of that is because I was busy and tired and over it this week, so the camera hardly ever came out.  So I guess you'll have to just read my writing.  (Or just honestly assess things now as a TL;DR kind of situation.)

Last Friday, we grabbed a picnic lunch and took it over to the gardens at Todd's office building to spend some time with him over his lunch break.  It was beautiful out, the kids had a blast, and I'm really hoping we can start doing that more often.  (Of course I forgot the camera.)

That night, Todd went on a men's retreat with our church, so he was basically gone from the time he left for work Friday morning until around 9:30 Saturday night, and I was on my own with the kids.  I spent Friday afternoon with one of my discipleship gals, and a friend from church dropped by unexpectedly for a while, and we actually got a full day of school in, so by Friday night I was totally wiped out and I just caved and ordered Jimmy John's delivery for dinner. 

On Saturday, some of our really good friends from Cedar Falls came down for a visit, and the girls took me out for lunch.  (And the guys paid my babysitters so I could go out with their wives, so it was amazing.)  It was so good to just be around friends who know me - I'm not sure I realized how much I'd missed that, or even realized how very hard this transition has been over the last year, until given the opportunity to just sit face-to-face with girls who know church planting, and know ministry, and know me, and just talk about what it's been like.  It was so good for me.

They dropped me off at home after lunch, but then both couples came back over in the evening after the kids were in bed so that we could all hang out together once Todd got home from the retreat.  It was so great, just laughing about stupid movie quotes, and talking about serious stuff, and telling dumb jokes, and just being with people who are like us.  Who just 'get' us.  You know what I mean?

On Sunday, the kids still had a cough, so we had to stay home from church, which stunk, since one of our friends was actually teaching that morning.  So I was extra grateful we'd gotten to spend the time together the night before.  The rest of the day was spent laying low.

Monday, we went to the fire station and I vacuumed out the van, which shouldn't warrant its own mention, but it was DISGUSTING and it no longer is, so I feel like bragging rights are earned.

Tuesday was spent getting ready for Connection Group, which was actually combined with two college groups that night, so there were like 25 people crammajammed into our living room.  It was an adventure.  My white rug got christened with a blob of melted chocolate and a near-miss with a full cup of coffee, but I didn't have a stroke about it, and Folex came to the complete rescue.  Thank the good Lord for everything Folex has done in my life.

Wednesday, we went to the Amish and I got together with a new discipleship girl.  And Todd finally had enough of the smell wafting through our house from the milky, wet, rotting carpet on our stairs, so he ripped the carpet out.  We are lining up the basement recarpeting project as we speak, and I wish I could fill you in on all the ways God has been just absolutely astonishing in his provision for all of this.  It's really incredible.

Thursday, we had friends from church over for dinner.

Which brings us to today - and I am so stoked.  My sister and her husband are coming down for the weekend, and they're watching the kids overnight tonight so Todd and I can get a night away for my birthday.  (I will be thirty-one tomorrow and I need a little time away to mourn.) 


BUT.  We'll be eating at an amazing steak place for dinner, and staying in a room with a fireplace, and renting a movie and eating dessert in our pajamas.  Maybe it means we've become those boring people that look forward to eating cheesecake and watching Netflix and going to bed at ten like it's the apex of life, but I'm okay with being those people.  So maybe becoming an old hag has its perks.


spring cleaning.

Years (lifetimes?) ago, I was a Spring Cleaner.  Like, hardcore.  I liked spring cleaning so much I did it twice a year, because only doing it in spring just wasn't enough for me.  I'd pull everything out of everywhere - closets, cupboards, shelves - sort things, scrub things, organize things.  I had lists for every room that started up at the top with the light fixtures and ended with the floors, baseboards and air vents.  And then I'd put everything all back in order and feel so good about the state of my life.  Like, if the depths of my house were clean, the depths of my soul felt clean.

That is so far removed from the current state of my life, it's laughable.  I mean, I still 'spring clean,' but the meaning has drastically changed.  Because it's spring, the kids are playing outside more.  Because the kids are playing outside more, they are getting dirtier.  And because they're getting dirtier, my house is a constant pit.

On the bright side, items do stay picked up longer, since the kids aren't inside creating chaos all day, but dang.  We're at the point where I have to take a magic eraser to the streak of grime running down the hallway walls twice a week.  I am that weird lady who magic erasers her walls twice a week.  I mop at least once a week, I scrub the bottom of the tub a few times a week.  I even have to wash the shower curtain on regular basis because it gets MUDDY.  (Not the liner, the actual outside, decorative one.)  HOW DOES A SHOWER CURTAIN GET MUDDY, I ASK YOU.  I'm surprised there's any dirt still left in the yard for them to bring in - it feels like it's already all been brought.

And to clean any of it up feels like that part of The Cat In The Hat Comes Back where they're trying to clean up the pink ring from inside the tub, and then it just transfers itself to the mom's dress, to the walls, to the rug, to the bed, to the snow.  It doesn't go away, it just dirties up the next thing.  I AM the kid in The Cat In the Hat, all panic-stricken and overwhelmed, like WHY WON'T THIS JUST GO AWAY I DON'T UNDERSTAND HELP ME.

So, all that to say, I do not regularly do the classic 'spring clean' anymore.  I'm too busy keeping my house from looking like a scene from a movie about the Dust Bowl to care about scrubbing the contact paper lining my kitchen shelves.  Priorities.

Now.  Off to scrub the same walls again.

our trip to the fire station.

Recently, we made some new friends at church, one of whom is a fire fighter here in town.  I think you can imagine the boys' excitement when they found out that a real, live fireman was going to be coming to our house for dinner.  And I think you can also imagine the mania that ensued when he invited us to drop by the fire station so he could show us around.  UM, OKAY!

We were going to go last Thursday, but everyone here was sick.  So we rescheduled for yesterday morning, but Lance texted and said he had something unexpected come up and was hoping we could push it back until the afternoon.  So, by 1:00 p.m. yesterday, after having to wait years and years and years to get to see the station, the kids were basically frothing at the mouth as we loaded into the van.

Then, to complicate matters, I first went to the wrong station.  (There are nine in town, and I thought he'd said to go to Station 3, but I was really supposed to have gone to Station 1.)  So that made us even MORE late.  Gah.  Mothers.  They ruin everything.

But, finally, we arrived!  And the kids had a blast.

In addition to the ladder truck, we got to see a foam truck and the fire boat.  Atticus thought he'd died and gone to heaven.  The only problem is that now he just absolutely can't decide on his longterm career path: Soldier (where you can't know for sure what vehicle you'll be assigned to man), or Fire Fighter (where you might have the opportunity to man multiple vehicles on any given day).  Real crossroads kind of stuff here.

Finneas clearly found his new hero.  (I should also mention that Lance spends his free time skydiving and SCUBAing.  Finneas could not be more in awe.)

Doesn't Finn look just like his new bestie?

Lolo wasn't so sure the hat went with her outfit.

And, as a great way to end the visit, Lance even offered to take a photo of me WITH THE KIDS.  And Rocco showed his face and everything!  This is a miracle photo.

And that was our time at the fire station - the kids are already devising the plan regarding when to go see each of the other stations in town.  So, if they have anything to do with it, this blog will soon morph into simply a 'fire station home tours' interiors blog.  Brace yourself.

it's time for the weekly 'what's up'!

Well, my positive attitude from yesterday was short-lived.  I'm just going to shoot you straight. 

The carpet cleaning guy came to assess the situation with the stairs, and was basically like, "Yeah, I'll clean the carpet, but there is SO MUCH MILK in there that the carpet pad and probably the subfloor under that is entirely saturated.  I can make it look better, but it will definitely smell terrible indefinitely.  You're going to have to replace it."  So, silver lining, he cleaned the rest of the basement carpet for free because he felt so bad about the stairs.  But brown lining, the milk is starting to dry and our whole house is starting to smell of rotting milk, wet carpet, mold and synthetic cleaning chemicals.  Yum.

And to top it all off, my morning sickness seems to be back in full swing, and the smell is just doing me in.  I've had the windows open all day and it's still all I can smell. 

So, to summarize: I have a virus AND scent-aggravated morning sickness.  We are now on the hook for paying the hundreds-to-thousands of dollars to replace the carpet on the stairs (and possibly the whole family room - the watershed at the base of the stairs extends pretty far).  And I'm finding out about myself that, when all is said and done, I'm not actually some hyper-spiritual, deeply positive, mature Christian woman, but rather a fickle girl-toddler in a great big body.  So I'm growing grouchier by the minute about the state of things.  Lest you think yesterday's post was static.

So, let's reminisce about the good times, shall we?  The days before the Fateful Milk Spill?  Okay, let's.

Last Friday, we wrapped up our second trimester of school, which felt fantastic.  The kids would agree.

(And on a funny note, can you guess whose watercolors are whose?  Opened on the same day, used with the same frequency, but clearly owned by two distinctly different kiddos.)

On Saturday, my parents came down to help us celebrate Finn's birthday in style.  Ninja style.

Five year olds sleep hard.  Cuddling their blankies and sucking their fingers.  In case you were wondering, five year olds are the best nappers.

Todd's boss gave the boys these old military-issue hats of her husband's.  The boys were thrilled (I mean, real-life, actually thrilled, not the kind of thrilled this picture would convey).

On Sunday, we missed church because Atticus had come down with some major hacking and snotting the night before.  I was apparently coming down with it as well, since I couldn't keep my eyes open.  We frequently take pregnancy photos on Sundays, since it's the one day of the week I can guarantee I'll get dressed and ready during daylight hours, but this Sunday found me looking slightly more typical.  Todd did not hesitate to get a glowing pregnancy shot anyway.

I had planned to lay low this week, since I have planning and prep to do for our final trimester, plus portfolio organization to do of last term's work, so I don't get too far behind.  But then I was sick, and Monday was spent miserable, and Tuesday was spent miserable and gearing up for Connection Group, and Wednesday was spent going to the Amish and cleaning up the stairs, and yesterday was spent lining up the carpet cleaner and scrambling to get something - anything - accomplished in homeschool planning and.... here we are.  Friday again.  Rocco is here to summarize how I feel at this point (and, honestly, how I dress at this point, too).

On the plus side, because I did that FB live chat on grocery shopping on Monday night, I actually got dressed and put on makeup, so I was able to redeem my pregnancy photo, despite the low lighting.

i'm literally not crying over spilled milk.

I'm not going to lie to you guys, I'm in rough shape.  Last week, I completely overbooked myself and stretched myself way thin.  I remember thinking, "I'm going to make myself sick if I keep this up."  And here we are.

First of all, the whole family has come down with yet another bug.  We are seriously almost never sick, but this late winter has been brutal.  I feel like it's just one thing after another.  Is anyone else feeling this?  I have been so sick this week - fever, painful chest congestion, sinus headaches.  Add on top of that the fact that I'm approaching the third trimester, and I'm getting huge, and sore, and tired, and still dealing with morning sickness and pregnancy headaches (which get much worse with overexertion), I'm just kind of... in rough shape.

And then there was yesterday.  I was already exhausted from our trip to the Amish.  Call me a pansy, but Wednesdays just wear me out - being gone from home so long, driving so long, carrying SO MUCH heavy milk in heavy glass bottles.  By the time we got home, I was absolutely drained.  So I rested the afternoon away. 

When Todd got home, he went to carry the outrageously heavy cooler to the basement to unload the milk into the downstairs fridge.  While he was on the stairs, the handle on the cooler broke off under the weight, and our glass bottles of milk went tumbling down the stairs.  Five glass bottles shattered into tiny shards all over the stairs, and two and a half gallons of milk saturated the carpet.  And my whole insides went quiet.

It is a strange thing - that's apparently what I needed to snap myself out of the funk.  Even as I was hauling my giant, sore, exhausted body up and down the stairs with the Shop-Vac, I couldn't help but kind of laugh.  I mean...

- "once we get new bottles, I'll have a few extra lids left over from the broken ones, which will save me the stress of having to account for every single lid at every single moment, because I can't afford to ever misplace one."

- "we will definitely need to have the carpet cleaned so the place doesn't reek of milk, and we weren't planning on that expense.  But this came right as we're expecting a tax return, and honestly the carpet could have used a good scrubbing, even without the milk.  It's nice to have a pressing reason to do what needed to be done."

- "I normally vacuum the basement stairs on Tuesdays, but didn't get to it this week, so it's not like I'm redo-ing work that I just did yesterday."

- "only five of our fourteen bottles broke, so we saved a large majority of the milk."

- "I only pay $2.25 a gallon for our milk, and $2.50 a piece for our bottles, so all things considered, it wasn't a huge cost."

- "I'm constantly surprised to see situations arise that would have, in previous years, made me lose my ever-loving mind that now really are just like, 'Oh, that figures.'  This life of raising tons of kids, and dealing with constant surprises, and constant opportunities for unanticipated work and interruptions, has tempered me.  It's nice to see the evidence of that."

So, while I'm still tired, and still sick, and still giant, at least the milk spilled everywhere.

rotating and organizing kids' toys (and books): pt 2.

Yesterday, I gave you a glimpse of our kids' (sad, yet-to-be-decorated) rooms and the toys they keep in there.  Today, I'd like to show you the rest of what we have, how it's organized, and on what occasions it comes out of hiding.

We have two closets in the house that are filled to varying capacities with out-of-rotation toys.  The boys' closet is where we house board games, small bins of different 'kinds' of toys, and my craft supplies.  Here's what toys are currently in there, and out of daily rotation:

(each * indicates a single tub or bin):
*small plastic animals and My Little Ponies
*a few items of dress up to rotate in and out
*trucks and cars
*Barbies and action figures
*toy tool set
*pirate ships (you have to have two of these, or who will a lone ship battle?!)
*wooden castle and accoutrements
*army men, soldiers, knights
*puppets and puppet theater
*train tracks and trains

The bigger items, like the trains, castle and pirate ships, are toys that I'll pull out for a day or so, to give the kids something novel to play with.  They're really great for when friends come to play, since everyone gets really into playing with an unusual toy, so they all stay really occupied and don't fight a ton.  The smaller bins will come out occasionally to either join or replace the more semi-permanent bins the kids already have in their rooms.

Rocco's room also houses toys, but these are more of the 'puzzles and activities' sort that come out to be used at the dining room table, under varying degrees of supervision, depending on the kid.

(Yes, it's a hard closet to photograph, since it has a mirrored bifold door, and yes, if you're trying to count at home, we own three - count 'em, three - pack and plays.  And have a huge stash of diapers, clearly.)

To some, it may seem like a lot, and to others it might not seem like much, but it's a manageable amount for me.  I feel like it's enough to keep the kids' interest without overwhelming them - or me - with outrageous toy chaos.  I simply try to limit the space I'm willing to give anything - a certain number of shelves for books, a certain number of tubs for toys, a certain amount of space in the closet, etc.  Once it outgrows its space, I start chucking stuff.  It's one efficient way I've found to keep our things from outgrowing its welcome and/or ruling over us.

As for kids' books:  I am very, very picky about what kids' books we own, especially board books.  We love Sandra Boynton and Eric Carle, and almost anything else is kind of open to the chop, should I so choose.  For picture books for the younger set, I keep anything with stellar illustrations or stellar writing, and once the dedicated shelves are full, anything else is at risk of the chop.  We have an excellent public library here, so I have felt less and less need to 'own' throughout the years, since we have basically any title we'd ever want available to us.  And I have noticed that, with fewer but better books on our personal shelves, it gives the kids the opportunity to fall deeply in love with a few excellent books instead of just showing mild interest in a lot of mediocre books, if that makes sense.

The lower two shelves of that wider brown bookshelf on the left are where I keep the kids' books: picture books on the lower shelf, chapter books on that divided upper shelf.   Those are all the kids' books we own that the kids have free access to.  We use the library heavily, and there are many classic titles that are kept on upper 'school literature' shelves, so these are their free reads.  Everything else you're seeing is either books for school, or books belonging to me and Todd.

I lean heavily on the Ambleside Online booklists, and the 1000 Good Books list to guide what I keep.  Honey For A Child's Heart is another great resource for finding high quality literature for children of all ages.  I don't religiously follow these, but they really do offer great insight on the authors and titles that will feed the minds of our kids in the long run, and help me discern whether a book is a keeper or a tosser if I have to start weeding things out.

And that is how we keep our kids' stuff organized, limited, and easily accessed when we need it!

rotating and organizing kids' toys.

I would like to take a moment to announce that, now that we've lived here for ten months, our toys are now fully unpacked and organized.  It took me this long because none of the closets had shelving systems, so I needed to get those installed before unpacking the toys that are currently out of rotation and stored in the closet.  (I'm kind of a slow unpacker.  I am pretty high strung when it comes to organization, and I would rather leave something packed until I find the most logical, helpful spot for it, than unpack it and stuff it in a closet somewhere, all willy-nilly.  And since not every closet or cupboard is already set up for efficient organization, and since we're on a budget, I often wait.  And wait.  And wait.)

So all that to say, our closets are now organized, and while the room toys have been unpacked for a while, all the closet toys now have a home as well.  If you haven't gathered already, we have separate 'room' toys and 'closet' toys, which is a system that has worked really well for a variety of reasons, so I thought I'd walk you through what all we have and how I keep it organized.

Today, let me show you how I organize the toys that we keep in the kids' rooms.

Each bedroom has a limited set of toys that all the kids have free rein of throughout the day.  All kids are welcome to play in any bedroom they feel like, with any toys they feel like - there is no 'territory' beyond their special blankies and snugglies.  The boys' room has dress up and Duplos.  (My boys play with dress up way more often than my girls.)  As it is a very sad, windowless, undecorated room, I will spare you many photos, but you get the point:

Dress up is in that laundry basket.  The bin on top of the dresser is full of Lego instructions.

The Duplos bin slides under the bed when not in use.  And I hope it's apparent that the boys made their own beds, and this is not the work of a grown up (meaning, me).

The girls' room houses baby dolls, Little People/peg dolls/small dolls, and kitchen toys.  Rocco is the most frequent patron of this room's toy boxes.  (Again, not fully decorated, but at least it has windows, which is a definite step in the right direction.)

Look, it's Baby Todd!

Why, yes, that IS a tiny plastic Jesus from the Dollar Store that I just couldn't pass up.  Doesn't everyone have one?

Rocco's room has the baby toys and the board books.  The boys play in here more than anyone else. 

There is also an area in our basement where we keep the Lego table and the bookshelves.

You might have noticed that everything is separated by 'kind.'  This helps keep things really simple: When there are too many toys of a kind to fit in a single box, there are probably too many toys of that kind.  It's time to start weeding.  Secondly, it helps eliminate those stupid 'nowhere' toys, like Happy Meal trinkets and rando plastic bits.  If there's no logical place for a specific item to 'belong,' it might be an indicator that the toy doesn't really belong in your house at all.  And thirdly, it helps the kids immensely when it is clean up time.  They know where everything goes, and how to quickly get it there.  And for the littler kids, who have a hard time with broad instructions like "Clean up your room," it makes it really easy to narrow it down for them.  ("Lolo, go find all the baby dolls and put them in their box.  All the babies - Go!")

Now, we have a lot of toys that aren't out all the time, too, such as toys that we get out every so often, just for the day, or bins of toys that I will switch with the current room bins to keep things interesting.  Tomorrow, I can walk you through what all I keep back, how it's organized, and how I rotate it through.

See you tomorrow!

And for anyone that's interested, I will be live on Facebook again tonight at 8:00 CST, this time talking about groceries: budgeting (including what our budget looks like), menu planning, and shopping efficiently without losing your mind.  Join me over there!

what's up weekly. ('better late than never' edition.)

This week was pretty full for us, with lots of time spent with friends - which is the best kind of full, but it also kind of leaves me reeling, like, HOW IS IT FRIDAY ALREADY?!

Today is the last day of Term 2 of this year's homeschool schedule, so if we can get everything wrapped up today, we'll get to enjoy a week off next week.  It couldn't be better timing - the weather is beautiful, the house is grimy, and I am tired.  I tell myself I'm going to spend next week washing the windows and deep-cleaning the basement, but like... I probably will check out Deathly Hallows from the library and spend my week engrossed in that instead, if I'm being realistic.  So maybe Harry Potter and windows should be my goal, and skip the basement all together, because again, if I'm being realistic, having deep cleaned the basement will only show fruit for like three hours before the kids take over down there again.  So why bother?

ANYWAY.  Here's a rundown of our week:

Last Friday, I attended a girls' night with the women at our church, and there were sixty-five women in attendance.  Church planting is so mind-blowing ALWAYS: like, less than a year ago, there were maybe ten women total, and now there are sixty-five women who are here on a Friday night (and many others who couldn't make it that night).  Amazing.  Granted, we spent a lot of time playing 'minute to win it' games, and if you know me at all, you know how games-averse I am, so it kind of stretched me outside of my comfort zone a little.  But, on the plus side, I can now tell you that I'm quite skilled at knocking over water bottles with a baseball hanging from the toe of a pair of pantyhose dangling off my head...  I have arrived.

Penelope spent tons of time nature journaling, chronicling all the first signs of spring we're seeing:  robins, a redheaded woodpecker, daffodils, BUGS.  And so it begins.

On Saturday, I went grocery shopping, and I took the two big kids with me because they were wanting to spend some of their allowance money to buy birthday gifts for Finneas.  (MELT. MY. HEART.)  So we made a day of it - we did all our grocery shopping, then we stopped at Target and ate lunch at the Starbucks inside.  They felt so grownup drinking their hot chocolate, and if I wasn't an idiot, I would have had a photo-capable phone with me to take a picture of their pure elation.  Sadly, I am an idiot, so you'll have to be satisfied with a photo of their very own Starbucks cups, taken once we got home.

Sunday was the best kind of normal, full of church and fast food for lunch and naps and homemade alfredo for dinner and family movie night.

Monday was Finneas' fifth birthday.  I repeat: FINNEAS IS NOW FIVE.  HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN, AND WHY DOES IT ALWAYS HAPPEN TO ME?  The first thing he said when he got up that morning was, "I'm five now, Dad!  Do I look bigger?  I think I'm taller.  Are my hands bigger?" It was so stinking sweet and also a little heartbreaking.  I can't be expected to keep taking birthdays in stride, or I will have no babies left!  Luckily for me, they're all becoming pretty amazing big kids, so I don't spend too much time wishing for time to go backwards.

Monday night we got our first taste of a Missouri spring: tornado sirens going off at 10 p.m.  In our entire nine years in Iowa, we only had to head for shelter once.  Missouri is now tied for that record, and we've only been here ten months.  I can't say I'm looking forward to seeing Missouri take that lead.

Luckily for us, the boys' room is the most sheltered in the entire house, so we carried the sleeping kids down there and they all curled up in the boys' beds together and tried to sleep.  (Their room is also pitch black, so please forgive the crazy flash photography.)

The rest of the week has been less eventful, thank goodness - just full of meetups and phone chats with friends, dinner dates, and these cuties:

And an interesting item of note: I bought this orange tree five or six years ago at a garage sale for five bucks.  It has never grown an orange, which I have found fully within the realm of expectation for a potted citrus plant living in the Midwest.  It has blossomed before, but never actually fruited... 

...Until the other day when Atticus found a real, live, baby orange growing on it.  In March.  Inside a very dark house.  In Missouri.  Consider me positively boggled.

Apparently it's gotten sufficiently jealous of my own fruitfulness, seeing as how I flaunt it each week in a pregnancy photo.  Twenty five weeks, baby.  I'm still waiting for the morning sickness to completely go away, and I think the orange tree is secretly glad about that.  It's always a competition with that thing.

tuesday in waco: the alternate version.

Annnnnd the Most Sporadic Blogger Award goes to... PAIGE VAN VOORST!!  (I'm so honored, and also not surprised.)

How has it been like two full weeks since we were down in Waco, and we were only gone for three days, and I'm still not through telling you about it?  Dumb.  Sorry.

I told you about how I spent my Tuesday down there, but Todd and the kids were spinning in a different orbit that whole day, since they're not uppity members of the media like yours truly, and at least one of them would definitely have covered the entire ballroom in poorly applied chalk paint.  So they found other ways to spend their time.

They woke up in our Airbnb, which we all loved. 


The owners of our duplex were really kind and were expecting their sixth child, too!  They were kind enough to offer to lend us their double stroller and baby carrier if we needed it, and even invited us to stay an extra night for free so we could attend a Christian homesteading event that was going to be happening the day after we were scheduled to leave.  (It looked so awesome, and you know I would have loved to go, but Todd has this stupid job back home he has to go to sometimes.)

Anyway.  It was so nice having separate sleeping space from the kids, which we definitely wouldn't have gotten if we were just renting a hotel room, and the kids had room to spread out and play throughout the morning.

They dropped me off at my sister's hotel, then spent some of the morning just driving around, checking out the town.  Then they headed back for lunch.  I had forgotten to pack any kind of booster seat or travel high chair for Rocco, so he got to have a solo picnic on my pajama shirt.

They laid low in the afternoon:  the little kids all napped, the big kids watched Leapfrog movies on the laptop.  Then they drove into town to meet me at the Silos for a bit.

Then we headed to a local bar/restaurant/thing for dinner the locals all raved about - for a bar, they made a killer shrimp taco.  I mean, truly stellar.  Apparently Texas is good at Mexican food... who knew?

Also, I spent my entire meal getting up and down to take the girls to the bathroom, because they were apparently coming down with some kind of stomach bug.  I swear I was in that nasty bar bathroom at least eight times in the hour we were there; no joke.  Penelope didn't eat anything at all - even though we ordered the kids a Texas-sized chicken fried steak with a side of George's famous dinner rolls dipped in George's famous ranch dressing.  That shows you how 'crappy' (harharnoreally) she was feeling.

After dinner, we headed back to our duplex, got the kids tucked in bed and called it a night.  And that was the Other Van Voorsts' day in Waco.

*Just a note about our Airbnb experience: we were kind of nervous.  Todd was especially weirded out by the seemingly sky-high likelihood that we would end up being murdered in our sleep.  It absolutely did not help at all that the place we rented was kind of far out of town, on this dirt road with a 'road closed' sign... HOWEVER.  We were pleasantly surprised to ultimately find ourselves wrong (and alive).  And now we're raving Airbnb enthusiasts. 

Seriously - it's not even a question in our minds anymore about how to travel with the kids.  $95 per night would have gotten us a single hotel room, where the kids would all have to divvy up sleeping space between a queen bed and a couple of pack and plays... leaving three kids to sleep in the same bed, and all seven of us sleeping in the same room.  We even had to brainstorm how we would put them to bed at a decent time, but still get some wind-down time of our own - watch Netflix on the laptop in the bathroom while hoping the kids would eventually fall asleep in the big room? 

But for the same price we got a place with tons of room for everyone - a bedroom for the big four, and a bedroom for me and Todd with an attached master closet to put Rocco's pack and play in.  AND we got to keep our food in an actual fridge, AND we had a stove on which to heat up Rocco's bottles.  AND it didn't smell and feel perpetually damp like most hotels do.  (Not sure if I've told you or not, but I get the serious jibblies about sleeping in untested hotels.  I really, really, really hate it.)  So, for us, it became apparent that it has become a no-brainer.  Todd has even started scouting Airbnb for more-local-to-us places (like the Ozarks) for more casual weekend trips we can take through the summer.  I mean, it's SO CHEAP to house us all overnight.  Why not?