"What's Up," Weekly-Style.

 Last weekend, Todd's parents came to visit, which was wonderful, and the kids were clearly on board with it:

While they were here, we headed to Kmart, where the sliding door on the van decided to fall off.  I mean, it decided to just, like, fall off.  Which, of course, would have been slightly hilarious when all was said and done, if the other van door hadn't also fallen off previously.  Both sliding doors are now simply jammed into place and completely unusable.  Getting an infant seat in and out of the van will be interesting if not impossible from here on out, so now we get to navigate the joy of solving that problem.  WOOHOO!

Atticus lost another tooth.  He was absolutely accommodating when asked if he would show it off for the camera.

He eventually came around.

Penelope turned five-and-a-half.  WHY DOES THIS KEEP HAPPENING TO ME?!

Atticus developed an immediate and binding interest in termites after an especially titillating episode of Wild Kratts.  Combined with his powerful attachment to building things out of Duplos, this termite mound was the logical love-child.  It came replete with Duplo termites, of course, as seen next to Laurelai's left hand.

Speaking of Laurelai, she won a battle and looked great doing it.  Unfortunately, the battle was waged against one unsuspecting Finneas Van Voorst, who did not appreciate being wonked in the head with a sword, pink and wooden though it may be.

Second-to-Lastly, I am the big 4-0.  I made it, y'all.  And I haven't killed anyone.  Or eaten anyone.  Which are both wins in my pregnancy book.  Now, just to keep my fingers crossed that my stats stay the same as I cross from this side of my due date to the other.  I make no guarantees for your personal safety once I'm officially overdue.

Apparently the kids get their lazy eyes from me.  Comforting.

And lastly, I have written this entire blog post with proper capitalization.  Look at me, I'm nearing thirty and I'm finally growing up.  I guess it had to happen sometime.

no skeletons in here, surprisingly.

seeing as how i have no more exciting news to share at this point, let's tackle the topic of my entryway closet.  i already mentioned how it had been the exact color of a dirty booger.  and i really wasn't lying.  it was also really, really messy.

the weird problem with this closet is that it's GIANT.  like, really, really big.  i've thought about insulating it better and turning it into a play room or nursery.  no lie.  but anyway, i find that the bigger the space, the bigger the mess that accumulates, and it doesn't help that we use the back door almost exclusively, but this closet is at the front of the house.  so stuff gets brought in, then dumped on the kitchen floor, then i yell at everyone to put their crap away, then they dump it in here.  and by that time, they're just tired and don't care as much as they did when they first walked in the door, which was already a minuscule amount of caring to begin with.  and that's the solid excuse behind why this closet was so out of control.

so anyway, you see a huge basket of shoes (top photo), which is a nightmare to dig through every time we want to leave the house, and a bunch of random jackets for different seasons and in different sizes, and some boxes of toys for the little kids' morning independent time, and a box fan for when finneas naps in the entryway (yeah, i'll tell you about that sometime). and our vacuums, etc., etc.  also, todd's dresser, buried there beneath those coats.  our bedroom is too small to house any of our clothing, so we have random clothing storage in random places all over the house.  ideal.  this closet was seriously a bane.

so i decided to do something about the shoes and jackets.  i wanted something the kids could keep organized independently.  i'm still working out the details, but it's basically a pegboard with a space for each of them that includes a top basket for hats and mittens (though currently holding shoes, as you can see), and a kid-height coat hook, and once it's hung, i will put a separate basket on the floor below for each of them to keep their shoes separated.  this is the plan, anyway.

the hot glue holding penelope's "P" in place has already given up the ghost.  not the most optimistic omen for how these efforts will work out.

once i had put together the pegboard, though, it made it really obvious just what terrible shape the closet was in.  so of course, i had to embark on a painting-and-purging rampage.  and it turned out okay, but am i the only one that doesn't really feel like the walls look much different?  

also, if anyone wants to come and change out that light switch for me, it would be much appreciated as it's been nasty-looking and exposed for well over a year, and though i have all the new hardware on hand, i have no plans of rectifying that situation anytime soon.

anyway, there you have it.  if i remember later on, i'll post pictures once the pegboard is hung up and fully completed.  but you know me... that may or may not ever happen.  see: light switch conundrum.  it's apparently just who i am.

video vednesday: for your health.

he-nanigans: in which todd turns 37.

eggs and cinnamon rolls for breakfast.  thirty-seven normal candles would not have fit on his cinnamon roll, so we put one dynamite-stick candle on there.  it is mathematically equivalent.

he successfully defused the dynamite.

i was maternally obligated to paint one for rocco as well, since he's coming soon and i didn't want to have to give an account for where his pumpkin was.  try making excuses to a newborn and see how far it gets you in life.

sorry for the blurry photo; it randomly decided to storm all of a sudden that morning, so the light got terrible.  but here was our birthday gift to todd: a bialetti espresso pot, a milk steamer, some yummy coffee beans, and some torani syrups.  we're about to open our own coffeehouse, not open to the public, but open to friends.  invite yourself over!

and that's how the van voorsts turn thirty-seven: in style.

rocco is coming sometime soon and i can't pretend otherwise.

well, folks, it's official.  we are counting down the days to my due date within the week.  the kids are getting very excited.

although, i think one of them might have some unique insight into what is coming.

maybe she knows she's about to become a middle child.

i feel so torn about whether or not i'm ready.  i'm SO ready to be done having to haul the preggo belly around, and all the body aches that come with it.  and i'm ready for the mental games to end: every morning when i wake up, and every time i have a braxton hicks contraction, i start thinking, 'is today the day?!'  it's tiring to be constantly mentally at-the-ready.  so, in those ways, i'm ready to be done being pregnant.  but there are also some perks to staying pregnant - i would rather look pregnant than look postpartum; people are way nicer to you when you're pregnant than when you have a newborn (sad, but true); and preparing myself for all of the newborniness is a bit daunting - not sleeping, getting breastmilk all over everything, juggling the baby's sleeping and eating schedules with everyone else's schedules, the loss of independence and routine, the difficulty with body image.  is anyone ever really ready for that?

however, i DID finally get my hospital bag packed last night, and only six days from my due date.  so, i guess that means i'm not in total denial about the imminence of what's coming.  bring it on.  i guess.

W.U.W. (in which i can't stop talking because i haven't blogged in forever. so it's long.)

first off, i just wanted to say thanks for all of your kind words and support and, most of all, prayers after my last blog post.  it's an ongoing thing, and i so, so appreciate you praying for me (and him).  you guys are the best.

this week was great.  we're trying to wrap up another six-week stretch of homeschool, and we stayed pretty on-task, which was great.  one more week and we'll wrap up our first trimester!  so if i can just keep this baby cooking for another week, it'll work out really well with our schedule.  because we all know that's how labor and delivery and newborns work: it's all very contingent on convenience factors.

laurelai has started a new love affair with Pockets.  things are getting pretty serious.

i went to a friend's baby shower on saturday morning, and on saturday night, we got a sitter to watch the kids so we could go on a date.  very few opportunities left to hang out as autonomous adults for a while, so we carpe'd the diem.  and this pregnant lady chose red lobster.  i don't know what it is about pregnancy, but i always want seafood.  never not seafood.  plus, red lobster has gluten free cheesecake.  so, yeah, it was a no-brainer.  and it was glorious.

finneas' hair was getting super long, so todd cut it.  surprisingly, we have a few 'Before' shots, but no 'Afters.'  i'll have to take some and post them next week.

he was not thrilled about having to get his hair cut, so he pulled a napoleon dynamite.  'worst day of my life, waddya think?!'

i went to my 39-week appointment this week, and the very-experienced midwife said she suspects this might be my biggest baby yet from the feels of my stomach.  oh good.  not a shocker, actually, as i've gained more weight with this pregnancy than i ever have before, plus he's a boy (which have both run around a pound heavier than my girls), plus he's a fifth baby and i've heard they supposedly get bigger as you go.  (although, i've also heard they arrive earlier and require less labor-time, and neither generalization seems to hold true for me.  so i just take that stuff with a grain of salt.)  anyway, interested to see if she was right, and kind of hoping she wasn't.

lots of time logged as knights.

on wednesday, i decided on a whim to paint the entryway closet.  because i'm late-pregnant and instead of doing the common-sense-ical thing, like packing my hospital bag (not done yet), i find one of the least-viewed corners of my house to obsess over.  it all started with the stupid pegboard coat rack thing i started last week and spiraled into this 'if you give a mouse a cookie' scenario.  'if you paint a free pegboard with free paint, you have to go out and buy cute supplies to finish it off.  and if you attach the cute supplies and go to hang the thing on the wall, you have to paint the wall so it looks cute.'  because, yes, though mostly unseen, this closet was the exact color of a dirty booger.  one that had been picked from a dirty nose by a kid with dirty hands and then wiped on his dirty jeans.  sad booger walls.  and it just seemed like a waste to hang a freshly painted, navy blue pegboard against a wall that wasn't a fresh coat of grey.

this is the best shot i could get.  not only was it ugly, it was messy.  now it's slightly less ugly, and slightly less messy, which is a less-dramatic improvement than i was hoping for.  i'll post 'Afters' next week, because i also forgot to take them for this project.

oh, also, the pegboard isn't even done and ready to mount yet, so it was really just a paint job for the sake of a paint job.  also, once i got everything put back in there, it really didn't end up looking all that much different from before.  sad trombone.

this one woke up not feeling well one day this week, but it was nothing a little snuggle-time with her daddy couldn't fix.

ANYWAY.  that brings us to today.  todd's parents are coming into town to spend the weekend with us.  both our moms' birthdays are today (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOMS), and todd's birthday is tomorrow, so it's a weekend custom-made to par-tay.

every year (except last year - whoops), we celebrate todd's birthday with pumpkin painting/carving.  we did it wednesday morning while he was home.  i'll post more on that next week.

and in pregnancy news, i'm still pregnant.  getting anxious about labor and meeting rocco.  i mean, i know this isn't my first rodeo, but every labor is different, and the unknowns are still unnerving.  plus, until i know that he doesn't have two heads or only one arm or a full set of teeth, my imagination kind of runs away with me sometimes.  so i'm excited to meet him just to calm those fears, but i'm not excited to actually go through labor.  (shocker, i know.)  plus, it's just mentally exhausting to not know exactly when it will be - every braxton hicks contraction (and there are a lot of them in a fifth pregnancy, as it turns out) makes me freak a little, like, 'is this it?!'  and i've only ever woken up in labor - i've never had it start in the middle of the day, or at least after i've been awake for a while, - so in some ways, it feels like i'm a first-time mom, checking for exits any time i enter a public place because, 'who knows what it would be like if i just started labor right here?!  what would i even dooooooo?'  anyway, all that to say, i'm just crazy.

and that was our week!  how was yours?

in which i process something personal.

so, i feel like i should explain myself.  not because i feel like you're expecting it, but because i think i need to for my own sake.  i just process things better when i write them.

i know i've been AWOL the last week or two.  and i know i gave the heads-up, and i know all y'all aren't sitting at your computer screens holding your collective breath or anything.  i just feel like i need to say that i haven't felt like writing.  the honest truth is, i've been sad.  and i don't really know how to best explain everything on here, and i've been dealing with the pride issue of always wanting to be clever, and entertaining, and not wanting to look weak or boring.  but right now, i just feel weak and boring.

very long story short, my dad has struggled with substance abuse over the course of my whole life.  over the course of the majority of his life.  it's just how i've always known him, and our relationship isn't what i wish it was.  i spend a lot of my time wishing he was different, and wishing we were different, and being angry and hurt when the reality of my life doesn't live up to what i wish was true.  and, for someone who is generally a realist about most things, i get frustrated with myself that i somehow cannot handle the reality of who he is, and how my relationship with him will likely always be.

things have gotten especially bad for him lately, and i've just felt... well, i've felt lots of stuff.  i've felt like i'm just 'over it,' and have wanted to have nothing to do with him.  and then i've felt guilty for that.  i've felt angry and bitter.  and then i've felt guilty for that, too.  and now, i just feel really sad.  and though i tend to process things when i write them out, i just feel like that writing part of me is just... dampened.  fuzzy around the edges.  a bit lifeless.  i don't want to write about it because i don't want to acknowledge it.

and here i am, a week and a half from my due date, and my dad is in a facility that doesn't allow him to make contact with anyone for a while.  so, if our baby is born sooner than his restrictions lift, i will not be able to call him and tell him.  and even if i could, he is not functioning at a mental capacity that guarantees he would remember the next day.  this is where he is at in life.  and it breaks my heart, and it also breaks my heart that i feel a little relieved that i have an excuse to not share good news with him right away.  and i feel guilty for that, too.

and that is why i haven't written much.  because i can't write about anything - even the unrelated - without feeling this cloud, this barrier, around me.  i just want to hole up inside myself for a little longer.  you know, just until he's completely cured and we work out our history and our future, and we frolic around in a meadow for a while.  you know, just until then.

but i want to 'show up' here.  i want to be documenting the kids' days and the stupid stuff that makes up our great life.  i want to be able to say that stuff that is outside of my control doesn't direct or determine whether i'm able to do the things that i enjoy, and the things that are important to me.  so i'm going to try, for my own sake, to be around here more often than i have been.

and that is why i haven't been around much, but why i will be.  hopefully.  i know you understand, and i appreciate that.

what's up 'weekly.'

ooooh, lawdy.  this has been a packed week.  we had all kinds of appointments, plus i had a day where i had this weird burst of energy so i got in over my head on some projects.

my sister and her boyfriend stayed with us on friday night and saturday morning, as he had some photo shoots to do in town, and we glammed it up with fancy breakfast.  bagels and lox when it's not christmas?!  yes please.  then saturday night, todd and i got to go on a date and headed to hu hot.  and as a person who feels strongly that how well a day goes is often dictated by the food involved in said day, saturday was a good day.

sunday was a typical sunday funday.

monday was the day i woke up with tons and tons of energy and motivation.  weird, but okay.  mondays are typically pretty busy anyway, but in addition to my scheduled weekly stuff, i  somehow propelled myself along enough to do things like hand-scrubbing the flatwoven rug under our dining room table.  yeah.  i don't know why i do the things i do.  

i hauled the rug outside, scrubbed the whole thing with detergent and a scrub brush, and let it air dry out there.  it looks brand-new, which is shocking considering that for the last two years it's been living under a table used three times daily by four small children and a Spiller of Things (yours truly), and hasn't been more than spot-cleaned with that Nectar of the Gods, folex.  but even with folex by my side for the last two years, there had accumulated plenty of overlooked spaghetti sauce stains, blueberry chunks, and ground-in oatmeal and scrambled eggs.  but NO MORE!  it's finally clean, and it cost me exactly $0, which is significantly cheaper than the $150 dry cleaning bill i could have been staring at.  so that was a win.  then on tuesday, i sprayed it down with scotchgard and got it back inside.  and just because i'm a legitimate freak, i feel much better about the state of my life now that my rug is clean.

on tuesday, we had an appointment at 10, so i just had the big kids bring their school work along to finish while we waited.  i LOVE that about homeschooling.  since we were all clean and dressed and presentable to the public at that point, we ran a bunch of errands, including a trip to menards to get some supplies for me to start another project: a pegboard coat and shoe organizer to hang at kid-height for our entryway closet.  as soon as i get it finished, i fully anticipate our lives radically changing for the better.

on wednesday, we had more appointments: chiropractor for me, eye doctor for finneas.  both went smoothly, although i'm trying out a new chiro and i'm... not loving it.  has anyone else ever gone somewhere where you have to wear a weird gown every time instead of your own clothes?  it's awkward, and made more awkward by the fact that, while a medical gown rarely offers any real integrity to its wearer, a pregnant belly gives the medical gown the opportunity to strip the wearer of any remaining shreds of human dignity they may have otherwise held onto.  and that is all i will say about that.

thursday, yes, another appointment.  OB this time.  i'm losing my mind trying to keep track of all of our appointments anymore.  we went to the wrong clinic for finneas' eye appointment on wednesday, then on thursday, i showed up a half an hour early to my midwives' office.  it actually didn't turn out too badly in the end, though, as i had brought a book and got an entirely unadulterated half an hour in which to read it in the waiting room.  pure bliss.  (i'm reading The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan and it is fascinating.  plus, i love his writing style.  it comes highly recommended from someone who has logged a cumulative forty minutes or so into the first few chapters, so take that for what you will.)  blissful, blissful friday.  there are the typical friday-y things, like school and washing the sheets and cleaning, but nothing extra on the agenda except a date with the one and only Todd Van Voorst.  you better believe i'm excited.  only a couple more opportunities for this before two-person dates will be thwarted by an ever-present, ever-feeding newborn.  one whom i will love to spend all that time with, surely, but still.  i'm taking advantage of the time alone with todd while i've got it.

two more weeks, y'all.  two more weeks.

and just for kicks: seeeeeesters, atticus' incredible artistic talent (my mind boggles at the things that flow from his mind to his notebook), and a love note from penelope.

yes, the picture he drew is morbid.  he is a boy and i've found it's little use trying to curtail their fascination with the downright gross.

'I Love You God Forever.'

have a great weekend!

what's up weekly.

happy friday, everyone!  i'm at 37 weeks now; this baby is inevitably on his way sometime very soon.  ready or not...!

i had to sit upright to type this, and i'm not happy about it.

so, i'll admit it.  i've been been a veritable turd of a blogger lately.  and i'm not really even all that sorry.  (that's a lie.  i am a little sorry.)  i think it's mostly pregnancy-related, as i've gotten bigger and more tired and less motivated by the non-essentials.  i'm not even motivated to accomplish the sort-of-essentials.  i don't have any freezer meals made.  i don't have my hospital bag packed.  the birth plan they asked me to fill out at the clinic is littered with 'i don't know's, 'whatever works at the time's, and '????'s.  (i'm dead serious.  my birth 'plan' appears to be more of a birth 'shrug.')  

right now it's all i feel i can manage to keep a decent handle on the house and keep on keepin' on with homeschooling.  by the time we're done with school in the afternoon, i'm just kind of...over it.  so i lay on the couch and watch parenthood until i have to get up and make dinner.  this pregnancy has been a doozy in some ways.  i don't know if it's because i'm now pushing thirty and i'm no longer a spring chicken, or because this pregnancy has comparatively been my most difficult so far, or because i'm trying to raise four other kids at the same time that i'm trying to bake another one, or because i am, as my midwife informed me in somber tones, a 'grand multipara.'  which, although it sounds regal, just basically means my uterus has had a relatively high turnover rate and comes with its own issues.

whatever the case, i'm just not able to push myself the way i normally can.  yesterday, i spent the day cleaning the house and making banana bread, and it caused so much back pain i could barely drive myself to the chiropractor this morning because moving my foot between the gas and brake pedals was excruciating.  i just don't have the capacity for normal-people functioning right now, so i'm focusing on the couple of have-to's in life and leaving the rest up to chance.

this is all to say that i may be a bit sporadic from here on out, for two reasons:  1. i have no energy or creativity or motivation to keep up the near-daily writing, and 2. all i feel like doing when i write is to complain about how crappy i've been feeling, and i recognize no one wants that kind of near-daily reading.  so let's just all agree that intermittent posting for the next month or so is in everyone's best interest, yes?  thanks for your understanding, all.

video vednesday: hurt snake. fine snake. fat snake.

on chore charts, the buddy system, and how my kids are starting to earn their keep.

the kids, earning extra money by sorting cans and helping todd return them.

on friday, i mentioned the kids' chore charts, and today i thought i'd give you a glimpse of how it works at our house and what kind of jobs they're expected to do.  not at all that i'm an expert, i just sometimes like to see how other families do things, and figured maybe some of you are similar.

every day, the first thing i do in the morning is present the oldest two kids (ages 6 and 5) with their clipboards.  their early morning clips include the following:

*make bed
*get dressed
*put away jammies
*clean up room
*brush teeth
*brush buddy's teeth
*bring board to mommy

on mondays, they also deep clean their room, which involves pulling all of their toy bins out and making sure everything is in its proper place - no duplos in the dress up, no random toy cars stuffed under the bed.  (they only have a few boxes - duplos, dress up, vehicles, and toy knights, and they do this every week, so it usually doesn't take too long.)  on fridays, i have them strip their sheets so i can wash them.  as for the 'buddy' thing, we've instituted the buddy system in certain situations: atticus is responsible for finneas, penelope is responsible for laurelai.  the big buddy brushes the little buddy's teeth, buckles them into their car seat, and holds their hand in parking lots and stores if i don't have a free hand.

after breakfast, they are given fresh clips.  both are expected to:

*clear dishes
*wash hands and face
*return to table for bible time
*ask for a job (this is usually picking up the downstairs, taking out the compost, straightening the couch, emptying the dishwasher, etc.  whatever needs to be done at the moment.)
*bring board to mommy

additionally, penelope is responsible for:

*wiping the table after each meal
*wiping the bathroom with a cleaning wipe on M, W, F
*picking up the entryway closet
*dusting on T, Th
*folding laundry on tuesday

atticus is responsible for:

*vacuuming under the dining room table after breakfast each day
*vacuuming the living room rug on M, W, F
*wiping the bathroom with a cleaning wipe on T, Th
*putting on his eye patch
*folding laundry on tuesday

they have three opportunities each day to bring their boards to me to check (before breakfast, after breakfast, and after lunch).  at each check, if i determine they've done all their jobs well (completely, and without complaining or dawdling), they get a sticker for their sticker chart.  when one row of five stickers has been completed on their chart, they can choose three dimes or three chocolate chips as a reward.  penelope always chooses chocolate chips, atticus always chooses dimes.  are you shocked?  

they each have a set of three jars, labeled Give, Save, and Spend.  if they choose dimes as their reward, they just put a dime in each jar each time.  

with atticus' work ethic and his consistency in choosing dimes, i've taken to calling him Moneybags.  his jars are crazy full.  penelope's belly is crazy full of chocolate chips, even though todd has told her repeatedly that it wouldn't take her long to save up enough dimes to buy her own bag of chocolate chips.  but you know penelope.

anyway, it seems involved, but this has seriously saved my sanity and has given the kids some structure they seem to like.  it does make the mornings take longer - i usually plan for school to start 1.5 to 2 hours after i first hand them their boards (that includes breakfast time and all of the above responsibilities).  but they really don't complain, and i'm loving the fact that taking care of our home is starting to become a team effort.

the weekly what's update.

ahhh, this week.  this week has been...normal, actually.  school got done, chores got done, laurelai's bedroom floor is covered with every single item of clothing she owns and it's my fault.  you know, normal.

okay, first: chores.  the kids are killing it with their clipboard chore system.  i'd been hesitant to really post much about it until i knew whether or not it would 'stick.'  (i have this terrible habit of instituting 'systems' in our house that are way too ambitious, and then dropping them when i am slapped in the face with reality.)  we've been doing this almost every day since we returned from south dakota in july, so i can tell you it actually seems to be a sustainable life choice.  

anyway, it means that every day, my bathroom gets wiped down.  and every day, my rugs get vacuumed.  and each week, the house gets dusted.  not by me, y'all.  this is a downright luxurious life i live, now that i have kids over the age of five.  here's a glimpse of the compost bucket getting dumped, as happens twice a day now.  twice a day.  I LOVE MY LIFE.

also, how old is this girl getting?! i can't even believe it.  this week, she picked up 'the island of the blue dolphins' and started reading it to herself.  SHE IS A TEENAGER YOU GUYS AND I DIDNT GIVE HER PERMISSION TO GROW UP.  well, she's gorgeous and funny and helpful and thoughtful and smart, so i guess i'll let it slide.

in other news, i got a free SAMs club membership this week, since they were running a promotion for 'new and expecting moms.'  well, i'm not exactly a 'new' mom, but i'm definitely an expecting mom, so i figured i'd try my luck.  and it turns out they were cool with the non-newness of my momhood, so i have a free annual membership and a TERRIBLE photo ID to prove it.  (actually, Paige Van has a terrible photo ID to prove it.)  and that, ladies, is how to use a never-ending slew of pregnancies to your advantage.  bam.

also?  this.  four kids in a twin bed and loving every second of it.

and also, this.


preggo-wise, i'm at 36 weeks, and i can now officially say that the baby is due this month.  i'm big.  i'm tired.  this baby is riding so low i can barely walk.  and i'm not ready for it to be over.  so i'm praying time would slow to a crawl for the next month or so.  want to help a girl out and join your prayers with mine?

and because putting on clothes to take this photo was so exhausting and left me so out of breath, this is how i looked thirty seconds after it was taken.

good times.