'what's up' weekly.

this week we mostly hung around at home, since it's the second week of potty training laur, and while she's doing really well (only one accident since monday!), it's better to let things really get locked down before risking going in public or for long car rides.

on a whim, penelope made finneas a batman costume out of paper.  they were both pretty stoked about it.

these two frequently have a difficult time getting along, so it was so nice to see some fun and unity happening between them.

i spent much of the week checking some decorating projects off the list.  todd helped me hang our new buffalo skull in the living room (after it had spent a couple weeks airing out in the garage as it had smelled pretty... dead.  it smells better now).

he also helped me hang these giant V's he found for me a while back.


but the biggest decorating accomplishments happened in our bedroom - i worked on styling the bookshelf, i got some plants and decor, i unpacked and got our new bedspread put on, and i hung part of my 'jewelry collection' (which consists, as i found out while hanging said 'collection,' of exactly eleven necklaces and some earrings.  i'm not really a jewelry girl, apparently.)

i will eventually install a second, lower hanger on which my two pairs of earrings can live.

once i get everything finished in there, i'll show you more, but i still have a ways to go - a full length mirror, a rug, and a nightstand, as well as some wall art, are all on the still-to-get list.

most of all this week, i spent time getting prepared for our school year to start next week.  i went school supply shopping on sunday.  (to be blunt, it sucked my will to live - generally, i hate shopping of any kind, especially when the fruits of my labors don't result in a prettier home or a fuller stomach, plus there were fully rabid kids and completely ambivalent parents in the dead center of nearly every school supply aisle.  side note, as a parent of young kids, i totally get that children act like creatures more often than they act like adults, so i have patience when babies cry and preschoolers run and kids play 'marco polo' at the top of their voices while they're standing right next to each other, but there at least needs to be a modicum of parental effort to reign that stuff in while in public.  please, yall.  don't gab away with your friends while your ten-year-old kids lay on and lick the floor of the walmart.)  i got most of what we needed, although i have some handicrafts supplies to pick up at hobby lobby, and a few odds and ends from staples, so i'll be making that run tomorrow morning - please pray for me.

in preparation for the school year, we also spent time continuing to train finneas for 'blanket time' (up to 45 minutes of quiet time on a designated blanket with a set of toys reserved specifically for this purpose - i pulled out the train set one day, the plastic farm animals another day, some magnetic letters and a truck to scoop them with on another day).  he loves it, and frequently requests to be allowed to continue playing after his timer goes off, but i'm learning to make 'kill it before it dies' a household mantra.  just kill it before it dies.

i also started training laurelai for similar time in a pack and play with some toys (though we've only worked up to about 25 minutes at a time for her), but she's less inclined to jump on that love train than finneas has been.  she spends her time screaming and throwing toys until the pack and play is empty.  oh well.  she'll learn to love it, or at least tolerate it, at some point.  

i'm hoping that keeping the little kids occupied and contained for at least small amounts of time will help things go more smoothly this year than last, without having to resort to constant netflix for them during school time.  fingers crossed!

and lastly, in people-growing news, i'm 27 weeks along.

and in related people-growing news, i grew all these miscreants as well.

see y'all next week!

the black hills: day six.

on day six of our trip to the black hills, we laid low and spent some great quality time at home with todd's parents.

the day started with laurelai getting her head stuck in the banister.  close up, it seems like a pretty pathetic sight.

but zoomed out, i'm sure you can agree the situation becomes a whole lot funnier when you realize she's merely part of a gallery of mounted heads.  it was pure performance art.

we headed outside, and the miraculous happened again:  laurelai fell asleep in todd's arms.  as a family who does sleep scheduling from the time the kiddos are just a few months old, we rarely end up with kids napping at rando times or in rando places, so this is incredibly anomalous for the van voorst offspring.  how sweet is it?!

later, the kids played ladder ball.  it was all fun and games for Photographer Todd until he got hit where it counts.  (beaned in the beans?  took the balls to the... too many jokes.  you get the idea.)  i guess he had it coming, especially since atticus was playing with his eye patch on, which is a clear sports handicap.  there were no more ladder ball photos after that.

we came inside and todd took some not-as-full-contact photos.  reading books about national monuments proved a pretty safe pasttime to photograph.

and for dinner, todd's parents took us to this little joint, where we got to eat $5 half-pound burgers under the loving gaze of about a billion mounted heads.  we left stuffed and feeling like we understood a little better what celebrities feel like most of the time.  ('i am just trying to enjoy my meal like a regular person!  why am i constantly being watched?! stop looking at me - i just want to live a normal life!')

after dinner, we came home and put laurelai to bed, then todd and i, the big kids, and todd's mom all snuggled in for some popcorn and a viewing of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe in the theater room.  a perfect end to a really relaxing, enjoyable day!

video vednesday: baby jesus. double baby jesus.

the black hills: day five.

we took the kids to crazy horse on day five of our vacation to the black hills.  

apparently, once or twice a year they schedule big dynamite blasts to blow out large portions of the to-be-sculpted rock, and they fly in a bunch of special people for it, and we just happened to show up twenty minutes before they detonated everything.  must've been me lucky charms.  however, while loud, it was not nearly as impressive from afar as the hype would have led us to believe.  but we had fun watching, and taking  a ten-second video of a little bit of smoke in the distance.  (i hadn't started filming in time to catch the big 'boom,' so the video is even less impressive than actual event, which is kind of saying something.)

inside the memorial, we looked at all the amazing native american artifacts on display.  my favorite part was seeing all the beautiful, intricate beadwork.  penelope kept asking what different things were used for, the answers to her questions ranging from, 'cooking,' to 'hunting,' to 'that's just a plastic five-gallon bucket; i don't know what it's doing sitting right there, but it's not an artifact.'

outside on the deck/platform area, finneas cuddled under his blankie while the big kids threw coins into the water under the bridge.

this is the part of our visit where a couple of sweet chinese tourists asked if they could take their picture with us, so they could show their relatives back home the enormity of our family.  we were a tourist attraction inside a tourist attraction.  #inception.

the big kids posed in front of a teepee.

we got the opportunity to watch an amazing lakota hoop dance.  the kids loved it, i loved it.  two very enthusiastic thumbs up; fine holiday fun.

after the hoop dance, we headed home for a restful afternoon, then headed out to custer state park after dinner to see the wildlife.  we loved seeing the buffalo - especially laurelai, who was losing her mind about seeing all the 'BABIES!  RIGHT DARE!  BABIES!  BABIEEEEEES!  RIGHT DARE!'  

there were literally hundreds and hundreds of buffalo, who did not seem at all shy.  it was incredible.

and that was our fifth day in the black hills!

death of a salesman. i mean, manly beard.

todd decided to do 'no-shave november' last fall.  he carried it into december, but then shaved a few days after christmas so we could have some civilized family photos taken.  until this weekend, he had not shaved since then, so it's been about seven months of an increasingly self-actualizing beard.

i haven't hated it, although i prefer to be able to see more of his face, so i've been ready for the death of the beard for awhile.  i don't think the entirety of men-kind shares my sentiments, though.  men have been weirdly into todd's beard.  even strangers come up to him to compliment him on it.  one guy stopped him in a restaurant in south dakota to emphasize just how 'really beautiful' he found todd's beard.  men act weirdly feminine around it - they emphatically compliment him on the way he looks, and seem to want to brush his (facial) hair while telling him all their deepest, darkest secrets.  this beard melts adult men into preteen girls, if preteen girls had any interest in beards.

so the death of the beard has been a dreaded day for todd, who has not hated being told he's beautiful by random strangers on a near-daily basis.  but it was time.  so on saturday, he said his final farewells.

not before this happened, though:

ahh, this conveys the true heart of the moment a little better:

here, he seems to be lion-kinging his ball of beard hair:

the kids seemed to be on todd's side regarding the loss.  laurelai was not a fan of todd's new old face:

finneas has spent the last two days sitting on todd's lap, rubbing his chin, and saying 'your beard is gone, dad!'  not sure how he feels about it, one way or the other.

and penelope BEGGED AND BEGGED to keep all the beard hair.  i told her absolutely not, it was getting dumped into the compost bin immediately.  she begged some more, and todd fought for her.  i said, no way joses.  she begged again, and todd backed her up again, so i caved and compromised:  she now gets to carry around a jar full of beard hair until next saturday, when it will get dumped.  since this photo was taken, the jar has mysteriously developed a taped-on face, and a name tag that reads "todd" in very scratchy kindergarten handwriting.  Beard-jar Todd goes with her everywhere.  except to church.  i have to draw the line somewhere.

bye bye beardy, yet again.  i'm sure we'll see you again come november, although maybe not as much of you this time?  i guess we'll have to wait and find out.

weekly 'what's up.'

here's what was happening in our neck of the woods this week:

i've mentioned before that we recently switched bedrooms with the kids, so now the three big kids are in the large master bedroom upstairs, and we are in the itty bitty main floor bedroom.  i'm using this as an opportunity to FINALLY put some pretty in our room - it's always the last room on my mind when it comes to decorating money because no one but us ever sees it.  (i know that's not how the experts tell you to think about your master bedroom - that it should be the  first recipient of your efforts because it is a haven for your marital relationship - or whatever - but the reality is that, on a limited decorating budget, you try to make the most often-presented part of your house the most presentable, and worry about the rest later.  and the master bedroom is always classified as 'the rest.')

but anyway, it's now on the main floor, right next to our only bathroom, so most guests will probably see it at some point.  i'm taking full advantage of the new arrangement and loving it.  i have big plans, my friends; big plans.

all that to say, i spent last weekend painting.  i had painted the ceiling a few weeks back (oh my word, talk about wanting to die.  three coats on a ceiling without a roller extender.  but it was totally worth it), so last weekend i put two coats of paint on the walls and touched up the trim, which had received some pretty serious abuse when the kids were in there, and were less 'white' than they were 'mottled.'

it was an undertaking.  when i say the room is tiny, i mean it.  our living room rug is 9'x12'.  our entire bedroom is 9'x11'.  noodle on that for a second.  so by the time we pushed the bed and bookshelf to the center of the room, there was verrrrry little space for my nearly-third-trimester body to move around and wield a roller freely.  it was exhausting, but i took one for the team.

here's just a teaser photo of the color - it's this gorgeous navy blue with black undertones.  

i also hung our curtains, and will eventually get a rug and some pretty decor in there, and then i'll flaunt it all over this here blog because it's the first time our bedroom has not been the saddest room in the house.

on to other news:  these three actually got along for a couple of seconds while distracted by the special privilege of being allowed to open the piano.

on sunday, i got all the kids up and busted through the morning trying to get them ready for church, just to find out five minutes before i was shooting to leave that i was actually an hour ahead of schedule.  so the kids were allowed to watch bible movies before church to hopefully preserve their hair and clothes for a full hour.

laurelai had a grand old time humiliating batman by making him ride this ridiculously too-small motorcycle with one wheel.

we spent the whole week working on potty training.  i had made the mistake of assuming that, because she was clearly ready, that it would be less work than normal.  it has not been.  it has been exhausting.  we're making progress, but it's slow going.  i may or may not have cried when my couch got peed on.

the kids spent a lot of time watching movies together while we waited for some easy successes.

the van got a tattoo.  i was...not thrilled.

and, as for the weekly pregnancy update, i'm now 26 weeks along and feeling tired.  i've been super surprised at how exhausted i've been this whole pregnancy.  i fall asleep on the couch most nights, take at least a small nap most days, and still feel like i've been hit by a truck.  i'm guessing this won't get any better as i enter the third trimester, so i'm trying to rest as much as i can in between spurts of major re-organizing, so that once i'm entirely down for the count (as i expect to be at some point), i know at least the inside of the baking cabinet isn't coated entirely in spilled honey like it was.  i don't know why the one helps me feel better about the other, but it does, for some reason.  (this week alone, i organized our bookshelves, the inside of my china cabinet, and the inside of many of my kitchen cabinets.  next week, i'm hoping to tackle the basement storage closet, the closet in our room, and the rest of the kitchen cabinetry.  i also got most of our curriculum in the mail this week, so since we're planning on starting school the first week of august, i'll be going through it next week.  all of this is is assuming i don't sleep through all of next week, that is.)

on the good-news front, though, check out my eyebrows.  they're present and accounted for and speaking to me once again.  still working on them, but at least i don't look hairless anymore.

(also, not to brag or anything, but did anyone notice i blogged every day this week?!  i'm way more proud of this feat than is warranted.)

home sweet home.

tuesday marked the two-year anniversary of our move into this house.  this is significant because we have now lived here longer than we lived in our story city house.  can you believe it?  i can't - the story city house felt so permanent while we were there that it's difficult to remember accurately that it really was only for a very short time - especially when you consider the fact that the last five months of our residency were spent showing the house and packing it.  so really, we were only 'settled' there for a year and a half or so.  so crazy.

when we moved in here, i was terrified.   we had sold a 5-bedroom, 3-bathroom, 3000+ square foot home occupied by five people, and were moving into a 3-bedroom, 1-bathroom, 1100 square foot home that was expected to house six people pretty urgently (we moved in here 27 days before i was due with laurelai - thank goodness she was born 12 days late!), and with the potential for more in the future.  as our friends were unloading the truck and asking where i wanted them to put various things, i kept saying, 'i don't know - i don't know where it will fit!'  a week or two later, i sold a kitchen island, a bunch of chairs, rugs, nightstands, a bench, a dining room table and a bunch of other stuff at a garage sale.  a loveseat, our coffee table and side table, and a double bed all went into our basement or garage for storage.  this house just couldn't fit everything we owned (which felt weird, since the story city house always felt kind of empty - it was so large, it was really difficult to furnish).

and even now, there are some things that i've held onto that i really should get rid of, since they won't ever realistically fit - some antique dining room chairs, some antique, solid oak bank chairs, my beautiful $7-garage-sale-find blue tufted-velvet wingback (which i will keep until i die, whether or not it ever becomes useful, or practical in a house full of kids).  also, i have way too many little decorate-y items that i haven't been able to part with, but also don't really seem to fit our current house, style- or size-wise, so i know that will have to be addressed soon.  use it or lose it, right?

but honestly, i've been most surprised by the fact that i LOVE living in this tiny house that doesn't fit much other than all the people we cram in here.  i LOVE a kitchen that's small enough that, when we're ready to replace the counters and flooring, will be a pretty (comparatively) cheap overhaul because i don't have much counter or floor space.  i LOVE that stuff stays pretty organized because there isn't all that much stuff to keep track of (and having to downsize all the stuff has been so freeing!).  i LOVE that furnishing and decorating projects are do-able because a little bit of 'oomph' goes a long way in a small space.  i LOVE that the kids are never too far away, and that i won't have huge tall ladders to climb in order to clean out the gutters or paint the house, and that my yard is small enough to maintain easily.  and most of all, i LOVE that i've learned to let enough be enough - i'm happy here.

sure, there are things i would change in a heartbeat if i could.  like the fact that our 'mudroom' is just a 3'x3' landing on our basement stairs that bottlenecks every. single. time. we come home (especially when we're dealing with cold weather gear or groceries).  or the fact that, instead of usable cabinetry or counterspace, a third of my kitchen is eaten up by a banquette table that we've used, like, twice.  (so wasteful of what little space i do have, especially considering the dining room table is like two steps from the kitchen.  it seems so pointless.)  or the fact that our bathroom is ridiculously tiny and on bath nights, or whenever i decide to do my makeup, every single member of the family seems to congregate right there.  (not to mention the panic that ensues every time two kids in our single-toilet household declare at the same time that they have to poop.)

but i've learned, having moved from story city, the House That Never Stopped Demanding, everything's a trade-off.  and the price i pay for being crammajammed in the bathroom with all the littles twice a week is easily made up for with the time i save cleaning all those extra toilets and tubs and sinks and floors and mirrors.  it's all a matter of perspective, and a willingness to recognize that 'more' or 'bigger' doesn't necessarily mean all my problems would be solved, it just means that, at best, i'd trade in my current difficulties for different ones.

and not only that, but this house has come with so many unexpected blessings - an extra fridge, a gas stove, a seriously state-of-the-art whole-house water filter, new roof, new heating and air, custom cordless blinds (GREAT for kids), solid oak cabinets, a garden that actually grows stuff.  in certain ways, this house is nicer and meets our needs better than our story city house did.

so, it's not to say i'd never consider moving somewhere bigger, or adding space here if i could, but i'm happy.  i love what i've got.  and that contentment has been one of the best parts of being here the last two years.

please ignore the wonky landscaping.  there are three additional itty bitty hydrangeas you can't even see, but in a few years, there will be a bank of hydrangeas under each window.  and the mailbox planter contains purple salvia, red coleus, and yellow asiatic lilies, but just looks kind of blah at this point in the summer.  plus, i'll gradually add more plants and maybe some colorful pots.  i'm guessing these front beds will take a few years to be really complete.  but it's home, and i love coming home to this sight!