new year, new you!!!

Ahh, New Year's Eve.  The time when everyone is scrambling to make their resolutions and imagining how awesome they're going to be at this time next year.  I, personally, have been known to make resolutions regarding biting my nails less, losing weight, gaining weight, having a better temperament, reading my Bible more, reading a variety of enriching literature, exercising more, and, in general, being a more pleasant and enlightened person.  I, personally, have ever only seen one of my resolutions to fruition, but at least it was a good one:  not once, but twice have I read through the Bible in a year.  Self-righteous pat on the back.

But, the thing is, even though I was diligent and buckled down and made it happen, and even though it was a pretty noble endeavor by worldly standards...I wasn't made new by it.  At best, I was made better by what I read, but I wasn't a new person because I met some goal I'd set for myself.  And if I had hoped, somewhere deep down, that I would be a 'new me!' by having done so, I'm sure I would have been sorely disappointed.

Because that's the let down of New Year's Eve:  it promises that, in a year, if you can just try really hard and stick it out, you will stop being the kind of person you are right now.  But that's a lie.

The fact that I've now read through the Bible a couple of times only shows that I can force myself to do something I don't always want to do - but it doesn't change the fact that I'm the kind of person who doesn't always want to read my Bible.  Which, though it seems benign, makes me a pretty audacious kind of sinner - the very words of the only God are available to me at any given moment, promising me that, by hearing from my Maker, I will have access to the things I was made for... the words of God that people in the past shed their blood to translate and print so I could read them now, the words of God that people today would take drastic measures to read if they were only literate, or allowed by their governments to do so.  People face death in our world this moment for reading something I have to resolve to pick up because, let's face it, a lot of the time I just don't care about any of that stuff.  That's the kind of person I am in my flesh.

The point is, as seen in my own life, the New Year might possibly be able to promise a healthier you, or a better educated you, or a nicer you, or a richer you, but if it tries to promise a new you, it cannot deliver.

But the Bible says that "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."  (2 Corinthians 5:17) The old has passed away.  The only way to be made new is to get the old gone, not just covered up or forgotten about or evolved out of.

Which is why the Gospel, not the New Year, is where we can find actual hope: when you trust in God to rescue you from yourself and your sin, the record of the kind of person you are is placed on Christ on the cross, and is killed.  "For our sake, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us..."  He became that wretched old person you were.  And the new you?  It doesn't come from resolving to be better, and to try harder, and to buckle down.  It comes from the work of Christ on the cross, because he became our sin for us "...SO THAT in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Jesus becomes the old you on the cross.  And once he takes the old you and kills it, he makes you an entirely new person in its place, which is being transformed into the image of himself - righteous.  sacrificial.  loving.  compassionate.  unafraid.  delightful.  at peace.  And isn't that better than just a better you?

I thank God that, by his grace and his work, I can honestly say that no longer who I was nearly twelve years ago when I repented of my sin for the first time and experienced a complete renewal.  And I am so glad.  Have you found what I have?  Have you believed this amazing news for yourself yet?  If not, it's a new year... why not ask our great and gracious God for a new you?

video vednesday: we've gol[gulp]den soil...

christmas morning shenanigans.

Christmas was wonderful this year.  This winter has been so stinking warm and fantastic, and then on Christmas Eve the heavens dumped loads of thick snow errwherrr, so it was a white Christmas.  And then it all melted away the next day.  *mwah* Bellissimo!  I could live like this every year and never complain once.

So it was a white Christmas, and we ate salmon for breakfast.  NEEDISAYMORE?!

Okay, I guess before I start raving about the salmon, I should probably show the people that came to visit us and who helped us eat the salmon.  Priorities.

Here are The People:

My sister, my grandpa, my sister's fiance (YES HE IS!), my stepdoug, and mi madre.

Okay, on to the salmon:

Here's my homespun recipe for Bagels and Lox:  1. Bagel (GF or normal).  2. Cream Cheese.  3. Smoked Salmon.  4. Sliced Tomato.  5. Sliced Red Onion.  6. Those perennial besties, Salt and Pepa.  7. Dill.

Instructions: Assemble.  Eat.  Die and Go to Heaven.  Be Pulled Back Earthward to Finish Your Bagel and Kiss Your Grateful Family With Your Raw Onion Breath.  Repeat.  (You better try this and then thank your lucky stars you read this blog, if only for changing your life with bagels and lox.)  Here, this lady will show you how, albeit minus most of the good stuff on top of the bagel:

After 'Salmon-Bagel Happy Fun Time Yeah,' as it's loosely translated in Japan, and after cuddling on the couch for a while with Aunt Lauren and Uncle Austin...

...the kids opened gifts.  I found four of these crazy pencil faces in the clearance section at Wal-mart, and this photo is proof that kids really do love the thrill of a good bargain:

Then the kids opened more gifts...

...and more gifts...

This is Rocco Baby, not to be confused with her human male counterpart, Baby Rocco.  It is not at all confusing.

...and Finneas transformed into his alter-ego, Batman, just like the wise men did on that very first Christmas of yore.

And just to prove he really was here:

And that was our Christmas morning, A-Z. 

christmas eve jams.

Each year for Christmas, we get the kids jammies they're able to open on Christmas Eve.  We do this for a few reasons:  1) It was a tradition in my house growing up, so it's fun to carry it on with our kids, 2) Getting to open one present early puts at least some kibosh on the nagging that goes hand-in-hand with Christmas anticipation, and 3) They're not dressed in junky old tshirts and ratty old jammy sets on Christmas morning when a bunch of photos are taken.  Win-win-win.

So this year was no different.  (Though next year I need to make a mental note to allow the kids to open them before the sun goes down and the lighting gets abysmal; in December, that's at like 3:00 p.m.)

When Todd asked Laurelai what she thought of her new jammies, she gasped and whispered, "Pin-cess!"

Finneas is enamored with all things The Dark Knight.  He even calls me BatMom.  So while this photo is blurry and blasted out in places, I think it accurately captures the spirit of his response to his Batjamas.

Penelope needed a bit of convincing to believe she liked her jammies right at first (after all, they're not pink), but when she was told that Laura and Mary Ingalls wore nightgowns that went down to their ankles just as this one does, she was sold.

Atticus, of course, got camouflage jams.  He was, of course, stoked.

And photos of all five kids?!  It's a Christmas Eve Jammies miracle!

video vednesday: [...]


Merry Christmas Week, everyone!  We'll be laying low this week - I haven't scheduled any school, although the kids have a couple of math tests to take.  (And I don't feel guilty about making them finish them over break because they seriously take like five minutes to complete and involve coloring and playing with blocks.  So don't judge me.)

Here's what's up with us right now: the newborn phase is starting to get a little draining - don't get me wrong, Rocco is an absolute champion at night.  In that respect I've been really blessed.  Three- to four-hour stretches at night have been common from Day One, and it's not unheard of now for him to go anywhere between five and seven hours for his first stretch of the night.  He eats, burps, and goes right back to sleep after each nighttime feeding, and doesn't wake for the day until around 8:00 a.m.  See?  Rockstar.  As a result, I'm nowhere near that delirious/maniacal/jittery stage that's pretty typical for me at this point with a new baby.

That being said, I'm heading into that really, really foggy land of Mom Brain.  (Remember that time after Penelope was born when I couldn't remember the difference between my last name and my first name?)  The house is a wreck, chore charts are basically in retirement, and I think I only harped on Atticus to wear his eye patch like three days last week.  Rocco, while he sleeps so well at night, is becoming much less predictable and much higher maintenance during the day (plus he's been semi-sick for the last week and a half), which is frustrating at times and exhausting always. 

There are some 'wins' happening too, though.  I was supplied with so much meal support this time around (friends bringing meals the first week, my mom taking the four bigs the second week so Todd and I just got to order in, and tons and tons of freezer meals gifted to me by my wonderful parents and a couple of friends) that I still am not having to cook for us!  This has been such a huge help - and I'm starting to think I should do more freezer cooking for our regular lives.  It's so great being able to run down to the deep freeze while the kids are eating breakfast, grab something, let it thaw during the day, and pop it in the oven an hour before Todd comes home.  Everyone's fed and happy, it requires minimal effort, and I feel like Suzy Homemaker.  Could it be better than that?!  (No.  The answer is no.)

And in Postpartum Self news, I haven't started losing my hair yet, which is a win, but I also haven't started losing any weight either, which at this point is still neutral.  I'm not panicking yet.  I've been drinking tons of water and using a hospital grade breast pump to hopefully keep my milk supply up so I can nurse Rocco longer than I've been able to with the other kids.  I would love to breastfeed a kid to a year, but that's never happened before.  And with the pumping, if it still doesn't happen this time around, at least I'll have some milk saved up.  I already have over 200 ounces frozen!  LOOK AT ME GOOOOO!  (That looks like 'look at me goo.'  To clarify, that's not what it says.)

I've started some exercises recently to hopefully heal the small gap in my abs left from my pregnancy with Laurelai (and possibly from having Finneas, but I didn't know to check then, though I do know I had a definite pooch and like zero core strength, so it seems likely).  Luckily, even though Rocco was HUMONGOUS, the separation didn't get too much wider than it was before, and I have about two finger-widths to close up.  Wish me luck.

Anyway, that's us in a nutshell right now.  Maybe tomorrow I'll have to tell you the rest - like how I discovered seven vintage, leather-bound, 24-carat gold foil-stamped copies of books like The Divine Comedy and The Pilgrim's Progress for ONE DOLLAR EACH.  Yes.  I'm jealous of me as I type this.  But that kind of thing deserves its own blog post.  So I'll stop yapping for today.  Toodles and happy Monday!

video vednesday: bears will be bears.

the kids' bedroom/playroom.

We switched bedrooms with the kids a while back.  Our room had been the inexplicably large (at least, 'large' for our tiny house) "master" bedroom upstairs, and the three biggest kids had the tiny bedroom on the main floor.  It was a decent set up at the time, but the kids were getting larger (both in body and number), and the downstairs room just wasn't going to cut it much longer, so we moved our room downstairs and moved Atticus, Penelope and Finneas to the master bedroom upstairs, with Laurelai across the hall in the smaller nursery room.

While I don't have pictures ready of either our new room or Laurelai's room, I thought I'd show you the big kids' room today.  Please note: I have done NOTHING in here other than lay a rug down.  It's all mismatched furniture and mismatched bedding and ugly green paint and broken ceiling fan.  BUT, it's big.  And the rickety bunk beds are no longer stacked.  And the toys can now stay out of sight most of the day, since the kids just have free rein of the upstairs.  And all those are major pluses.

From the door, this is what we're working with:

You can seen Finneas' mattress under Penelope's bed.  They make their beds every morning, at which point Finn's bed gets pushed underneath Penelope's, to give the kids as much play space as possible.  It's podunk, but it works really well for us.

This is what you see from the other side of the room:

Finn naps in the Pack 'n Play so he doesn't get out of bed and play with toys all through naptime.  We will probably move Laurelai's crib to that corner soon, and give Rocco her room.  (Nursing babies are always on different sleep schedules than bigger kids, so I like to keep them in quarters all to themselves.)

As for giving them free rein of the upstairs, I still like to keep things under control by limiting the toys they have access to at any given time, and rotating them out occasionally.  Right now, they have a basket of dress up (seen at the foot of Penelope's bed in one of the above photos), a basket of books,  and the following three bins:

Barbies and Superheros; Knights and Army Men; Duplos

That's seriously all they have unsupervised access to.  And it works well for them - enough to keep them occupied, but not so much that they can't clean it up and keep it well organized independently.  They're responsible for cleaning up their room before breakfast, before lunch, and before bed.  Every Monday they do a "deep clean," where they sort through the bins and make sure everything is where it goes, and find any rogue toys hiding under beds or dressers.

And that's the kids' space.  I'll probably post more about it in the future, when I've had the chance and motivation to make it cuter (or until I've been sufficiently pressured by Atticus, who seems to be quite visual and responds really positively to 'pretty' surroundings, and who asks each time he sees our partially-finished master bedroom when I'll be decorating theirs).  I'll keep you posted.

penelope just aged twenty years.

Reading Harry Potter while positioning oneself to make sure an infant can't roll off the couch?

Like mother like daughter.

Rocco knows what's up.

what's up weekly: Kelsey Grammer edition.

There was plenty going on this week, including Atticus' birthday party on Saturday, Laurelai's first haircut (well, actually that was last week, but I forgot to include it in WUW), and Atticus losing a tooth.

But this week's news centers mainly around the Christmas tree.  Let's start with the fact that we have 8-foot ceilings and we bought a 10-foot tree.  Why, you ask?  Well, because I refuse to repeat that one year when our tree was a midget and I cried and cried.  Also, because we don't have a tree star to cover vertical real estate.  Also, because it's possible to cut a tree shorter, but impossible to make it grow taller, so if you get one with a pretty long stump and a pretty long shoot-thing that comes out the top, you have plenty of wiggle room and can still get a tree that reaches to the ceiling without looking weird.

Todd cut it inside so we could test the height as we went.

We eventually got it perfect, after cutting about 22 inches total from top and bottom.  As you can see, we bought one that was wrapped up to save Todd the annual angst involved in wrangling a non-bound tree, but as we weren't able to see the shape and condition of it before buying it, I admit that I DID pray on the way home from Menards that it was normal-shaped and didn't have any critters hiding inside.  Plus, it made it look like a "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" tree, which was weirdly a plus.

Todd cut off the binding...

And other than being slightly dry inside, this tree is a downright gem.  It's well-shaped and fabulous.  I, as you can see, am neither well-shaped nor fabulous, but I'm five weeks postpartum and eating nachos while I write this, so I'm clearly not all that frantic about it.  I'll let the tree steal the show for a while.

This year was the least stressful we've had since we started letting the kids participate in trimming the tree.  I chalk it up to having separated all their ornaments last year when I was packing everything up, and also to shrugging a lot throughout the morning, to convince myself with my own body language that I really am happy-go-lucky about life.  Nothing broke and I didn't yell a single time!  The shrugging seemed to have worked.

Also, the separating.  Each kid got their own cookie sheet of ornaments and only came to me for hooks.  Streamlining at its finest.

This single branch got pretty much all the love.  Happy-go-lucky Me didn't care a whit.

And because we always name our trees, this year we decided on Kelsey Grammer...get it??

what's up weekly.

In big news this week, we hosted Thanksgiving here on Saturday.  It was THE BEST.  I threw some prepped-in-advance potatoes in the crockpot, popped a turkey in the oven, and delegated much of the rest of the food to others, so I found myself sitting around, reading a book while we waited for people to arrive. 

My parents, my grandpa, and my sister and her boyfriend all came up to spend the day.  It was so great to have such a full house.  Maybe my love of having people over is one reason why we want/love having a big family.  Like, every night is Thanksgiving when you have a million kids.

Anyway, the following picture is physical proof of the consumption of my first postpartum margarita and it was CRAZY GOOD.  Have I said yet that I love Thanksgiving?

Why yes, those ARE cheese-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon, presented on a marble platter.  These are the kind of shenanigans that happen at the Van Voorst house when I decide to let others bring food.  Note to self: always let others bring food.

Is this not just the best?!  I LOVE having my grandpa living so close now!

The afternoon of watching the grown-ups socialize and nap got a bit long for the big kids, so they took a Netflix break.

End: Thanksgiving.

And the next morning, Todd got a photo with all five kids in it.  You might have to take a second to find Rocco.

And as for other news this week, Rocco is officially one month old today!  CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT?! And yesterday he smiled at me for the first time!  All the exclamation points!!!

rocco's modern life.

Oh, you guys.  Rocco is the rockin'est.

Now that he's four weeks old (or, will be tomorrow), I feel like I can safely describe him without having it blow up in my face.  After all, we'll be two-thirds through the first six weeks, which are always the hardest for me.  Once we hit six weeks, there usually seems to be a bit of light at the end of the tunnel, newborn-wise.  They start smiling more, pooping less, and (hopefully) getting into an easier-to-deal-with sleep rhythm.

But here's the thing: Rocco is already killing it.  Maybe he weighed so much at birth because he was actually a two-month-old already?  I don't know.  But I can tell you that the first night home, he slept for two four-hour stretches and I got a full eight hours of shut-eye.  And I can tell you that pretty much every night since then has been a similar story.  He sleeps in three- to four-hour stretches, and goes right back to sleep after eating.  I'm in heaven.

He's my first baby who hasn't liked to be swaddled.  Like, at all.  All my other kids were swaddled until around five months old, and Rocco was two weeks old and was all, 'Cut it out.  I get that I'm not in the womb anymore; we don't have to play this game.'  So I was like, okay.  And we've been on good terms ever since.

He has started focusing his eyes and tracking me when I walk by, and I suspect he'll start smiling soon, as there have been a couple times where it actually seemed like he was trying to 'social smile,' and wasn't just working on crapping his pants.

He is a really cuddly baby like Finneas was.  There is no setting him down when he's awake.  But you know what?  Fine by me.  I kind of don't hate getting to cuddle him all the glorious day.

What else about him?  Um, let's see.  He barely ever cries, except for that one time Laurelai walked on his chest, so I can't really hold that against him.

And that's about it.  We are four weeks into the six-week stretch, and I'm feeling good.  I'm feeling really good.  Just keep praying it stays this way, would you?  I definitely am.

please welcome the newest member of our family.

No, I don't mean Rocco, although I could see where you would think that, since I'm just so over-the-moon for him that I can't shut up about it.  But no, we have an even newer member of the family:  this unnamed-as-of-yet, brand-new-to-us minivan.

Yes, I know.  It was pretty sad to part ways with Ol' Windy the Vidivan, the Ford Windstar that has seen us through many a life event, has been with us on almost all our family vacations, and has heroically continued trucking along without complaint even when her leather-clad backseat was covered in some motion-sick kiddo's vomit.  (Atticus'.  Atticus' vomit.)

But, like I told you previously, she was starting to show her age.  Her state-of-the-art VCR no longer worked.  The brakes needed to be...fixed? maintained? re-braked?  (I'm clearly no mechanic, as you'd know if you'd ever listened to our brakes.)  You couldn't run the air conditioner while idling at a red light unless you wanted the entire vidivan to go into some kind of deafening seizure.  And, most recently and most notably, the sliding doors had fallen off and were no longer functional.  Like, at all.

So we were "excited" to "get to" figure out what to do about the van problem.  We weren't ready to buy a new van, but we really didn't know how much the doors would cost to fix, and we didn't love the idea of putting tons of money into a van that would likely need to get replaced in a couple years after we outgrow it.  (That's my way of telling you, No, we're likely not done having kids.  I realize inquiring minds want to know.)

But then we got a call from Todd's parents one morning, telling us they would like to gift us with a new van, and that they'd already found a great one - newer than ours (as indicated by many things, like the year it was made, but also by the fact that it sports a DVD player instead of a VCR), with fewer miles on it.  And with completely functioning doors.  And we were like, WHAAAAAAA?!  And then we were like, WE ACCEPT.

So there you have it.  We have a new van, and I clearly have the best in-laws a gal could ask for.  And I also have to say that I feel like a rich person when I drive it.  (To clarify, I feel like the kind of rich person who drives a minivan.)  It has leather seats, smells like 'New Car,' has removable waterproof floor mats (even in the very back!) and makes that expensive clicky-sound when the turn signal is on (a sound I only know about from being in a nice rental car once or twice).  It even has this crazy pop-up shelf system thing in the back to increase the capacity for corralling groceries.  I know these are all 'cup holder'-type considerations when examining a car, so I will also say that it has low mileage, no rust, and has had only one previous owner, but GROCERY STORAGE, Y'ALL.  It's my jam.

 Needless to say, we love the newest minivan voorst and are so grateful to Todd's parents for their generosity.  

We will also miss the Vidivan, and thank her for her services to us.  Just to humor me, gaze at the photo above while singing "Time of Your Life," or something equally and universally sentimental.  Now imagine the van closing those doors and driving into that gorgeous sunset.  (Or into the lot at Mouw Motors, where she was traded in.  Whatever floats your boat.)  Now give the Brown Bird salute and prepare yourself to love again.  Because, guys?

Oh, yeah.

what's up weekly: newborn life edition.

This week was my first with all five kids by myself during the days.  Last week, when Todd first went back to work, my mom took the big four down to her house and Rocco and I had a (relatively) quiet week at home together.  It was so great to get the time to bond, and rest, and just be with Rocco for a while.  But I did miss the big kids like crazy, and I was so glad to have them come home.  That being said, this week has been much busier than last week was.  Rocco has had to adjust to the louder, crazier pace of life.  And it's a rough life he does live, being loved on 60% of the time, and sleeping the rest of the time.

We survived it, and got school done and everything!  Rocco is an awesome baby, and we're halfway through those infamous first six weeks, so I consider that a win.

video vednesday: hi, welcome to chili's.

rocco's first bath at home.

We started off with a checklist of things to accomplish, written by Penelope.

Pour water on him.
Let him play now.
Put shampoo now.
Then wash his body.
Put soap on him.
Put conditioner on him.
Put a towel on him.
Get him dressed now.

Then we got our supplies ready: sink (check), enamelware basin in which to bathe him-slash-make him look like a roasting chicken (check), towel (check), observation deck for penelope (check), a lone dirty spatula (check).

As predicted, Rocco didn't love the series of unfortunate events.

His response to first being immersed:

His response to being scrubbed down:

His response to being rinsed off:

His response to being removed from the bath:

Thankfully, the paci covers a multitude of perceived wrongs.

Penelope stayed faithful to our checklist, making sure we hadn't forgotten any important steps. ("Let him play now" probably did not get checked off, but that was by Rocco's choice.  If there is one thing newborns don't take kindly to, it's allowing anyone to fully complete their to-do lists.  Also, baths.  But I feel that point has been sufficiently made already.)

Being warm and dry and dressed in his best monocle and mustache cheered him up.

And then he was clean for approximately four seconds, which is pretty good for a newborn.