'what's up' whenever.

These last few weeks have been full of rest and anticipation of Christmas.  It has been so great, doing things like snuggling up with the kids in the evenings to watch Christmas movies.  We're gathering quite the DVD collection, because Lord knows we can't rely on Netflix to have anything decent: even though their Christmas movie game has lots of players, it's far from strong.  Unless you want to see fourteen versions of the same Hallmark baloney on repeat ("She goes home for the holidays; she meets some guy in the airport/on the street/at the auto repair place; they fall in love; health crisis ensues for one or both; Christmas solves the problem"). 

No thanks, friend-o.  Some of the classics we enjoyed this year were the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Nativity Story, A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Muppet Christmas Carol, and Home Alone (which I watched by myself, as Todd was gone, and the kids aren't quite old enough).  Todd also bought the claymation Rudolph movie, which we never got around to watching before Christmas, so there may be an encore showing sometime this weekend.

In other news from the past couple of weeks, Todd kept me well-stocked in pregnancy-survival supplies.  You are looking at the source of approximately 75% of my entire nutrient profile over the last ten weeks. I think it's safe to guess that this coming child will be a genius.  Perhaps even with an extra arm or leg, to boot.  #overachiever

Rocco has been trying his hand at climbing on anything and everything that he can - meaning, anything and everything he finds that is approximately 2-4 inches off the ground.  Daredevil.  (And yes, he IS wearing a head-to-toe sweatshirt-onesie and girl socks.  Because I know you were wondering.)


Todd took advantage of some of his extra days off to take the kids out on Daddy Dates.  He took Atticus out on his birthday earlier this month, so last Friday he took Penelope out to breakfast at McDonald's, per her request, and on Monday, he took Finneas to Five Guys for dinner.  Next Monday, it will be Lo's turn.

For Christmas, Rocco got a highchair/booster seat that pushes right up to the table, and he's been pretty thrilled about getting to sit with the big kids at meals.  (Also?  He got an amber teething necklace.  I have yet to log enough hours with this thing to say whether I believe it works or not, but dang, it's cute.)

The weather has been outrageously mild.  I spent Christmas Eve grilling (and raking leaves away from the grill so that we wouldn't set the whole yard ablaze with a single rogue spark).  All in my sweatpants, because I still feel like a bag of barf.

The day after Christmas, the kids played outside in their jackets.  I'm pretty sure I can predict how at least one of them will die, if this playhouse stays with us much longer.

In pregnancy news, Laurelai is currently sporting a rounder belly than I am.  Hers is cuter than mine will ever be.

And lastly, I am working on finishing the paint job in our main living area that I started almost three months ago.  I had gotten two walls done (out of nine) and then got pregnant and sick, so I've spent the last however-many-weeks laying on the couch and staring at the abomination that has been my two-toned walls.  After a couple of dedicated days this week, I am SO VERY CLOSE to finishing.  But wouldn't you know it, I have two and a half walls left to go, and I ran out of paint.  So this morning may hold an unplanned trip to Lowe's so I can look forward to a job finally done.  (And then I can start on the bathroom... and kitchen... and basement.  OH Lord.)

SO. MUCH. CUTTING. IN.  I just left the curtain rod hardware up because I Just Couldn't Deal with getting out the screwdriver one more time.  It ended up being okay in the end.

Whew.  It's been a good, full couple of weeks.  And I didn't even get around to telling you about Christmas - I'll cover that next week!

exciting news!

So, if you were around Facebook or Instagram yesterday, you have likely heard our big news already: we are expecting Baby #6 in June!  We are really excited.  I had my first prenatal appointment last week, and got to see the nugget in a quick ultrasound scan, and it was so surreal.  It's amazing how the excitement really doesn't diminish with each subsequent kid - every single time, I find myself totally blown away by the miracle and blessing and strangeness of the concept of a new, tiny little person, just doing its own tiny thing somewhere deep in the wilderness of my guts.

All that being said, I am also constantly blown away and surprised by how difficult early pregnancy is.  There really is this amnesia that kicks in in between pregnancies that makes you think, "It can't possibly have been that bad.  It wasn't debilitating.  It wasn't all-consuming.  It was hard, yeah, but I took it in stride and can do it again."  And then cold reality slaps you in your sweaty, barf-crusted face and you're like, "HOW DID I NOT SEE THIS COMING?!"

Over the last two and a half months, I have likely averaged about twelve hours a day lying on the couch, watching Call the Midwife.  The only liquid I can keep down with any level of consistency is RC Cola, and even with that, I'm getting pretty seriously dehydrated.  Heaven forbid I eat anything for breakfast other than bacon, or I will spend the day tossing my cookies.  And we've probably dropped over a hundred bucks at McDonald's on (muffin-less) Sausage and Egg McMuffins, because this baby is clearly a foodie.  I have never felt less like Audrey Hepburn in my life, which is saying something, because I've never actually felt remotely like her.

I won't lie to you, it's been hard.  And I think you can probably figure out why I have been much more sporadic on the blog over the last few months.  I'm hoping it will get better soon - I'm now fourteen weeks, and I'm having longer stretches of manageable days in between the days where I'm basically a lifeless carcass, but I'm not out of the woods yet.  So continue to bear with me, and hopefully we can get things back onto a more regular track soon!

let's pretend these are recent and it is warm out.

I was finally going back through some photos from earlier in the year, taken before our hard drive crashed.  Everything had been stored on an external drive, so I hadn't seen many of these photos basically since the day they were taken.  I'd forgotten about some of them altogether.

I "discovered" these photos taken on a hike around Todd's parents' South Dakota property, and fell in love with them!  So, even though they were taken in June, we're going to scroll through them today, okay? Okay.

I think I'm going to print out a few of these, specifically a few of the boys being explorers, and also so brother-y, to hang in their room eventually.  Nothing tugs at my heartstrings quite like brothers.  Except sisters. 

what's up... whenever.

(Appropriate title adjustment courtesy of a genius suggestion made by my sweet friend Anastasia.)

Oh, guys.  Oooooh, guys.  It's been three weeks since a W.U.W. post.  GAH I AM FAILING AS A MOM AND BLOG WRITER I AM SO ASHAMED.  Not ashamed enough to mend my errant ways, clearly, but at least ashamed enough to use all-caps, which I think testifies to my sincerity of heart.

We're going to have to do a fly-over.  I realize I could just count my losses and recount only this week a bit more in-depth instead, but I have a legacy to document.  Someday, when I am old and frail and bossing my children around from my perch at the respective heads of their own families' dining tables, I will tell them to go back to my blog and read about their childhoods, which they will do under threat of being cut from our measly will.  (All I have to leave them is this blog, ironically, so I'm doing the kind thing and just giving them their inheritance while I can still watch them enjoy it.  It really is altruistic, all my geriatric bossiness.)

And if there are gaping holes in the account?  There are weeks and weeks undocumented in the written history of our family experience?  What then?  Oh, I can't and won't think about it.  So instead, I will give a very shallow summary of our last few weeks so as to assuage my hypothetical future conscience. K? K.

There was one occurrence of particular note that must be mentioned:  Atticus turned eight years old and, yeahyeahyeah, I know you already know.  Or at least, if you've been a good faithful reader of this lately-spotty blog, you already know.  Atticus turned eight years old, and my motherheart COULDN'T TAKE IT.  But Eight Years Old does not care about broken motherhearts.  It does not care about the cruelty of passing time and whatever.  Eight Years Old just wants oatmeal for breakfast, so oatmeal it shall have.

Army had a half-day (read: Todd got off work early), so he and Atticus went out to lunch at THE local pizza place.  Atticus loaded up his pizza with so. much. hot sauce.  Because Eight Years Old eats fire.

For dinner, Atticus requested Buffalo Wild Wings, so we ate it relatively quickly (read: it took us less than an hour at the table, which is warp speed for us), then we headed out to Hy-Vee to pick out a Christmas tree.  It was hard to really tell what we were getting, since all the trees were wrapped up all skinnytight.  So it was a matter of making an educated guess based on height, and straightness, and 'heft.'  It's like picking celery, really, only a really really big stalk of it that you have to bungee to the roof of your car.  We ended up lucking out and getting a truly incredible tree.

This past Sunday, we got out all the decorations and let the kids (in their various states of appropriate dress) go to town hanging theirs.  Decorating the tree always looks way more enjoyable in photos and in hindsight than it was in real-time.

Todd went on an elder retreat last weekend, so the kids and I trekked out to Aldi on Friday night, since I hadn't bought groceries in three weeks.  I HUNKER DOWN during pre-Christmas shopping season.  There are some FREAKS in the world, and they all show their scary faces and scarier driving skills in absolute droves around the holidays.  No thanks.  I'd rather do without groceries then wade through that noise.  But I braved it, since Friday night at 7:00 isn't typically mass-riot time.  I will say it went smoothly for what it was, but I'm looking forward to another three weeks of not needing to leave my house for any reason.

And here are just a couple rando shots of rando life.  First, Penelope wanted to take my picture, and because I can't just sit and smile for a portrait like a normal person, I do what any person does when they're awkward in front of the camera: I make weird faces.  I never take selfies for this reason, because I always look half-crazed and/or smarmy.

This photo somehow then inspired Atticus to want to take a photo of Penelope, who did her own weird faces.  I really am training up my daughter in the knowledge and instruction of the socially awkward.  But she's way cuter at it than I am.

And lastly, I cannot tell you how much this girl has my back.  She is my right hand man.  My gal.  She literally came out of her bedroom today with a cape and a mask on and said, "I'm SuperHelper! What can I do for you today?"  And I was like, that's about right.  WHAT WOULD I DO WITHOUT HER?!

And other than that, it's been a lot of minutiae around here... slowly getting the Christmas decorations out and put up, listening to the Pandora Christmas station, eating a lot of bacon.

WHEW.  That was a long post about a long stretch of time.  But now I can say the legacy I'm leaving my kids is untarnished and void of, well, voids.  It feels good.  It feels really good.

our """"""mudroom""""""" (heavy sarcasm).

Oh, guys.  I'm almost embarrassed to tell you what I'm going to tell you.  Or show you what I'm going to show you.  Can I have just a minute to give some backstory so you don't totally judge me later on in the post?

When we bought this house, what we liked about it was the extra living space it had - it has four bedrooms (one more than our last house), two bathrooms (one more than our last house) and a separate basement family room (again, more space than our last house).  As far as living space goes, this house is stellar.  ...As far as storage space goes, this house is sorely lacking.  Basically the entire house is finished living space.

The only storage spaces we have, besides bedroom closets, are a single car garage and my laundry room.  That's it.  No attic storage, no basement storage, nothing under the eaves.  In those regards, this house is the least functional place we've ever lived.

So, I'm trying to do what I can to make it work.  My clothing bins are currently stored in my laundry room, although I literally don't have space for even one more single bin, so when the big kids move up a size, I'm going to be in a pickle.  Also stored in our laundry room are all of our homeschool curricula, CD's and movies, painting supplies, cleaning supplies, the kids' shoe bins, and my scrapbooking files.  There is barely any room left for laundry.

The right side of our laundry room.

The left side of the laundry room.  I still need to get rid of the old crapped-out washer...  

So... what to with all my decor (which is still packed up in moving boxes), my Christmas decorations, our school supplies, our yard gear, our suitcases, my great-grandmother's crystal set, our tools, the coolers, etc etc etc...?  Plus, our bedrooms are so small that Todd's dresser doesn't fit in the house, so we needed to find a spot for that so he still had access to things like socks and underwear.  Not to mention we don't even have an entryway closet or any place near the door to keep coats and shoes...  What on earth were we going to do?  (Other than the option to stop being hoarders, like this list makes us sound.)

Using the attached single-car garage was our only option.  This is all I have.  It has become our mudroom-slash-storage room.  As there is no shelving or available organization, IT IS NOT PRETTY.  IT IS SO NOT PRETTY.  And I am losing my mind.

This is our "mudroom":

There are no hooks that the kids can reach themselves.  There is a small basket for shoes that is clearly inadequate.  It is freezing cold out here, so people (ahem, I) never want to spend much time out here trying to keep things organized.

I can't take it anymore.  All I want for Christmas is a magical shelving elf to come in and tap his wand around and click his little heels, and give me some shelves for my Christmas boxes and decor, a hanging bar for storing out-of-season coats, some lockers/cubbies for coats and shoes, and some rafter hooks for bikes.  Also, if he could haul away the loveseat and coffee table that are out there that I still need to get rid of, I would greatly appreciate it.  (For an elf, he's quite muscular and capable of hauling furniture, so I'm really not being unreasonable.)

I spend a weird, unhealthy amount of time dreaming about what this garage could achieve with just a little bit of vertical storage.  AND SO VERY MANY COAT HOOKS AND SHOE CUBBIES.

what time is it? LAUNDRY TIME! (again. still. hooray!)

Just like I promised, I'm back with more laundry talk.  WOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOO!  Let's talk products today, okay?

I will preface this by saying that I like to pretend I'm a purist, but when push comes to shove, I'm a realist.  I would love to stick dogmatically to principles about parabens and pthalates and fragrances and carcinogens... but, to put it bluntly, I also have a side gig called a real life.  I'm super open-minded to trying all kinds of natural methods of doing stuff (I can give you a rundown on all my failed efforts sometime), but I'm going to shoot you straight: if it doesn't live up to my standards for actually doing its job well, I don't use it.  And sometimes natural products just don't work very well.

Case in point: Stain Remover.

I use good ol' Shout.  I've been using it since college, and it works.  I deal with a lot of stains - breastmilk and formula vomit, blood, grease, chocolate, grass, paint, poop, popsicles, infection-related snot, pit sweat.  I have to be ever-vigilant in my war against stains, and I refuse to man my laundry cavalry with the simply well-intentioned.  No.  I will pay mercenaries to fight my stain battles.  And Shout is a mercenary.  Sure, it's probably loaded with all kinds of hormone disruptors and carcinogens and bad chi.  But it's not like I'm letting my kids eat it or anything, and it gets the job done like a boss, so I'm at peace with my life choices.

I keep a bottle under the sink in our bathroom, where most of us get undressed at the end of the day, so we can just deal with pre-treating any issues before they make it into the 'big' laundry.  I also keep a bottle on the shelf above the washer, because I often find guerrilla stains lurking around when I go to put stuff in.  Stains don't fight fair, so you have to be prepared at all times.

(I buy Shout at Walmart.)  (And, only because it's too funny not to mention, I accidentally just typed, "I buy Shitout at Walmart."  I think it's still an apt name.  Perhaps even more so.)


For detergent, I am an ever-faithful Biokleen groupie.  I am getting ready to bust open my fourth five-gallon bucket of this stuff.  Do the math on that.  In the last few years, I have gone through fifteen gallons of this detergent, one tablespoon at a time.  I clearly speak from experience when I say this stuff is worth buying by the drum.  (Or, by the normal-sized bottle, if you, unlike me, are a normal person, with a normal-person-sized family and a normal-person amount of poop in your weekly laundry.)  It doesn't build up in the towels, eventually making them smelly and nonabsorbent.  It gets underwear clean.  It's safe for the environment and nontoxic to pets and kids.  It doesn't cost gold shekels.  It doesn't smell like anything.  So laundry just comes out smelling like warm fabric.  Which I prefer for reasons such as parabens and pseudoestrogens and other science facts.

(I buy Biokleen detergent through Azure Standard, but it's available through Amazon and many bulk sites as well.)

Most loads only involve these two products.  I'm serious.  No fabric softener, no laundry sheets, no boosters, no whiteners, no bleach.  A few sprays of Shout and a tablespoon of detergent, and I'm good to go.


The funky load.  You know the one I'm talking about.  The one that smells like wet hair and zombie breath.  The one that, for no apparent reason (other than the fact that you left it sitting wet in the washer for 36 hours), has begun to ferment.  YOU KNOW the one I'm talking about.  So you also know that sometimes it's necessary to bust out the big guns.

First, those perennial laundry besties: Washing Soda + Borax.  4ever.
I don't know why these work.  I don't know what's in them or where they come from or whether they have other uses.  I don't know if they're married or 'just friends' or simply Burt-and-Ernie-ing.  I just know they work, and they work best together.  And they're integral ingredients in most "DIY SO-NATURAL-YOU-COULD-EAT-IT-BUT-DON'T!" homemade laundry detergent recipes.  So apparently they're natural.  According to Pinterest.  Good enough for me.

I just dump half a cup of each one into the load alongside the detergent, and whammo blammo, Funk-B-Gon.  (These also help when your towels start smelling weird and need to be stripped of buildup.)

(They carry both of these at Walmart, and they're each under five bucks.)

And my silver bullet: Biokleen Bac-Out.  I think this is made from the sweat of worker bees?  Something like that.  In the loads that are just above-and-beyond nasty (think, left-in-the-washer-for-three-days-IN-AUGUST, or mildewy-washcloth-that-got-misplaced-behind-the-hamper, or worst of all, cloth-diapers-that-got-left-in-the-pail-too-long) I add a big squeeze of this stuff to the load in addition to the washing soda and borax, and everything comes out smelling like daisies.  Or, really, it comes out smelling like clean, neutral, warm fabric.  Just like I like it.

(I also get this through Azure Standard, but Amazon and Vitacost both carry it as well.)

And those are my favorite laundry products.  Does anyone have anything else they love?

atticus' eighth birthday. (i mean, seventh. he's still only seven. forever.)

Atticus is eight.  Atticus is eight.  How did this happen?  Eight is the last year that can be considered a 'little' year, and even that is starting to stretch the truth.  A kid at the age of nine is clearly in Not Little Anymore Land... and eight is headed that direction.  

I need time to stand still.  I need it t roll itself backwards.  I need to go back to the days when he could only pronounce Penelope's name as "Puppy."

As it is, he eats far more than me at any given meal.  His feet and hands are nearing the size of mine.  His heart is bigger than mine, too, but that has always been the case, and I won't complain about that.

He wants to be a missionary to Syria or China when he grows up.  He wants to have six kids.  He wants to be in the army.  Clearly, he wants to lead a full, courageous life.  (He also wants to get married, but when asked about 'when' and 'to whom,' his quiet response was, "I don't know.  I'm still thinking it through.")

How can I fully describe the feeling of watching Atticus grow older?  His birthdays are my birthdays - the day he was born, part of me was born.  We have grown up together.  In that way, he has always been my peer, not just my child.  His birthdays always awe me and sober me.

I'm already proud of the Man-Atticus I catch glimpses of sometimes.  He is kind and considerate, thoughtful and deliberate, reliable and trustworthy.  He is funny and fun, hardworking and pensive.  He loves math and art, people and problem-solving.  He is, as always, Very Atticus.  I have a feeling he will always be Very Atticus.  I have a feeling I will have a ton of respect for the big person this not-so-little person is becoming.

Yesterday was a great day, made up of celebrating, remembering, and looking forward - which is what the very best birthdays are made of.  So, happy birthday to Atticus... and here's to hoping that he will turn eight again next year so I can buy myself just a little more time with him.

how we do: our laundry routine.

Oh, laundry.  It's been on my mind a lot lately, since I'm super behind on it, what with changing seasons and the resulting changing wardrobes and bedding.  While I admit that I do like being clothed, I hate actually having to deal with the responsibilities that come with being clothed, and clothing my children.  I'm up to my eyeballs in laundry right now, and admittedly, I like cussing at the laundry like it's somehow the sheets' fault that stuff is piling up.

If it was just a matter washing and drying, I'd be fine.  I'm usually a load or two away from everything being clean.  It's just the folding and sorting and putting away that I'm terrible at.

That being said, I've found a few things that make large-family laundry a little easier, and I thought I'd share.  Because I've been a terrible blogger lately and am trying to stretch out my material so I can blog a little more often this week, AND because I've spent nearly ten years trying to perfect a laundry routine that doesn't make me want to throw in the towel and become a nudist, I'm going to space this out over a couple of days. Thrilling idea for a series, isn't it?

Anyway, here we go.  Let's talk laundry routine today.

Our routine:  
Our Cedar Falls house had a laundry chute on both floors that would just drop laundry right in front of the washer, which was DELIGHTFUL.  Sadly, I don't have that luxury here, so I've had to set up hampers in most rooms - one in the girls' room, one in the boys' room, one in the nursery, and one under the kitchen sink.  Bathroom and adult laundry get dumped into the girls' hamper.  Once a day, it is Atticus' job to haul all the laundry to the laundry room.  Normal laundry gets dumped into a pile; nasty kitchen laundry gets dumped into its own separate container to stew - ahem, I mean, in order to get washed first and to not mildew everything else.

I don't really have a set day to run all the laundry through the washer.  It just kind of happens whenever it occurs to me, but I try to get caught up with everything by Monday or Tuesday.  I am not of the mentality that laundry is something that should happen everyday.  Oh my word, I'd kill myself if I had to think about laundry every day.  Blech.  Instead, I just let stuff pile up in the laundry room through the week, trying my best to keep the clean laundry baskets separate from the dirty laundry baskets.

I only sort into Hot, Cold, and Jeans.  I mean, if there's like a pair of red socks or something hanging around, I might do a small load of darks, just in case, but honestly, I'm probably more likely to just throw the red socks away so I don't have to ever think that hard about laundry again.  "Hot" items are those with smells, germs, or (pre-treated) stains.  That's it.  White Tshirts get washed in cold because anything and everything that doesn't have smells, germs or stains gets the cold water treatment.  Why? Because cold water is cheaper than hot water and it doesn't steal precious hot water from my molten-lava showers.  Rock-solid reasoning right there.

I'm uppity about jeans belonging to me and Todd, otherwise I'd just throw them in with a regular cold water load.  We like spending a little more money on nicer jeans (but having fewer pairs of them, so it evens out), so I like to treat them as well as possible.  We try to go as long as possible between washes, but when they do need to be washed, I button the waist, turn them inside out, wash them on cold, and line-dry them.  Our jeans get more special treatment than our kids.  Don't judge.

Now, once everything's washed and dried, you're probably wondering when I fold it.  Because you're intensely interested in the details of my laundry routine.  See?  I knew it.  On Wednesday afternoons, before the big kids get the special privilege of doing their scheduled 'Arts and Crafts' time for the week, they sit and fold laundry with me.  They're responsible for folding all socks, underwear and washcloths for the whole family, as well as all kids' clothing.  They are also then responsible for putting away their own laundry.  We listen to audiobooks or Adventures in Odyssey while we fold, and an entire week's worth of laundry usually takes us about 45 minutes.   The kids earn double stickers for this.

And those are the details of our weekly routine - how we keep the laundry from piling up and consuming us.  You may have noticed that I didn't detail how I stay on top of actually putting away all the folded clothes, so I'll tell you.  My method basically consists of letting it sit around in laundry baskets in our room for a month, while I pull out towels and underwear as needed, until the basket is basically empty again.  Is it efficient?  Absolutely not.  But as I can't seem to break the habit, I guess I should just embrace it.

In case I drop the ball and miss a day or six of posting this week, and you're getting desperate to read about more Van Voorst laundry, you can pop to this past post of my laundry room and routine from waaaaay back when we lived in Story City.

jumping back into some bible reading.

My Bible reading has been abysmal this year.  In fact, all my reading has been abysmal this year.  Remember this post from January, in which I outlined 'a few' books I'd like to read this year?  Or this post, in which I lamented how few books I read last year?  Well, this year I'd give anything to have last year's record.  I mean, I know it's only December, so I still have a month to pull a miracle out of  my hat, but so far I have read seven books.  Seven.  Books.

And my Bible reading record is even worse.  I doubt I've even finished a single book of the Bible this entire year.  I had lofty goals at the beginning of the year - somewhere around here floats a printout of a six-month Bible read-through plan.  HAHAHAHAHAHA.  In what life did I ever think that would be realistic?

I mean, in my defense, at the time I had made all these reading goals, I was still living in Iowa, with no plans of moving, with the easier yoke of an Iowa homeschool schedule.  I had a newborn, so I figured my year would involve lots of hunkering down and gently working our way back to normal.  I did not figure we'd sell our house, buy a new one in a new state, help start a church, see Todd through a couple months of unemployment, and juggle new homeschool expectations.  Sometimes I'm astonished by how my life always ends up looking so different from my expectations, even over a short period of time.  Never a dull moment around here, but it can be a bit defeating sometimes.

All that to say, though, I'm setting a goal to read the book of John in the month of December.  I'm at a point where I need this.  I'm just feeling really tired and drained and isolated, and I need to be reminded of God's power and also his friendship.  And I'm ready to at least commit to a month.  Twenty-one chapters.  That's all.  And then I'll set the next small goal.  It's all I have in me for now, but I feel like it's enough to slowly start moving forward.

So wish me luck - and join me in reading through John this month if you want to!  

how we do christmas gifts in a large family.

I made my first Christmas purchase yesterday.  Online.  If you know me at all, you know this is a major feat, since I find clicking the 'checkout' button inexplicably paralyzing when internet shopping. It doesn't matter that I know for a fact I will be buying that exact item eventually; it doesn't matter if the item is a genuine need.  For instance, one of the kids has been dealing with a legitimate health concern for the last week and a half, and the supplements for treating it are still sitting in my amazon cart because I JUST CAN'T EVEN CHECKOUT.  I'm terrible at millennial-ing.

However, there will occasionally be some kind of major catalyst powerful enough to finalize an online purchase.  And yesterday the stars aligned, and there was 40% off at Burt's Bees on coordinating Christmas jammies in all the kids' sizes, and I just had to go for it.  And, with it being the first Christmas purchase of the season, it was simultaneously freeing and sickening.

Don't get me wrong; I love the fact that I can do all my shopping from the comfort of my own couch, and from the womb of my own jammies.  But we're not really in the habit of throwing money around willy-nilly like we live in some kind of casino cash machine.  Online shopping is already hard for me, and Christmas is especially disorienting.

So to cushion the blow, we are really intentional with gifts for the kids each year.  For instance, this year, the kids will each get one present for under the tree, one pair of jammies, a fair trade tree ornament, and a small gift for their stocking.  I'll round the stockings out with small treats and maybe a dollar bill or two, but that's really it.  That's all we do for gifts each year.  And believe me, it's plenty.  By the end of the gift-opening, the kids are all foaming at the mouth and Todd is pre-stroke.  Any more than this, and I'm pretty sure someone would end up in a coma by the end of the day.

The nice thing about keeping it simple is that each gift can be pretty well thought-out.  There are no flippant gifts in this system.  Throughout the year, I jot down gift ideas for each kid on a list I keep in the back of my planner, then I spend a couple weeks around Thanksgiving really noodling on what to get.  Then between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I watch the online sales and pounce when I can.  Our checking account doesn't make it through the holiday season completely unscathed, especially since we're giving gifts to about one million kids, but it's definitely not as bad as it could be, and I at least take comfort knowing that each gift was an intentional choice.

So anyway.  That's the system that's currently allowing us to keep gift-giving alive at Christmastime without breaking the single-income bank, or watching the kids' brains peel out over too much stuff.  What works for you guys?

what's up? (it's hardly weekly anymore.)

I hope everyone had an awesome Thanksgiving yesterday!  We are celebrating with family today, so yesterday was really low-key for us at home.  I had Lucky Charms for lunch and nachos for dinner.  Viva America.

But let's back up, shall we?  Let's back waaaay up.  I didn't post last Friday, because let's face it, I haven't posted most days in the last few weeks.  For the eight of you remaining readers, thank you for your steadfastness, grace and lack of expectation.  It will be richly rewarded with a likelihood of continued sporadic posting.  Sorry the prize isn't better.

We have started Term 2 of school, and have already taken two weeks to complete the first week's worth of work.  It's not even Christmas and I'm losing steam.  It's like the planets are aligned against me; also, I'm partly to blame.  But that's usually the case.

In order to pick up some of the slack, Todd has instituted bedtimebooktime.  Basically, the little kids get put to bed and the big two get to stay up and read for a half an hour.  Not only does it help me rack up loggable core hours, but the kids love it, and Atticus' reading skills have grown so much just over the last few weeks.

Last week, a friend texted and asked if I had checked the mail yet.  I hadn't, since I'm incredibly outside-averse, and a veritable hermit, and 99% likely at any given moment to be wearing "pajamas" (old boxers and giant, holey tshirts), so I threw on some clothes and walked the fourteen steps "in public" to the mailbox, and BEHOLD WHAT AWAITED ME.....

That, friends, is Abe Lincoln.  A GOLD Abe Lincoln.  For the CHRISTMAS TREE.  Historically, my favorite Christmas ornament has been this weird, shiny glass pickle that Todd and I bought as our first 'joint' ornament.  This Golden Lincoln is a close second to that.  My Christmas tree is full of oddities, if you can't tell.  SHINY ones.  Just how I like it.

Because of a generous early Christmas gift from my in-laws (a TV! We own a TV!  That actually mounts to the wall and everything!  We're quite the modern family), we have been reinstating family movie nights on Sundays.  The kids had been watching movies on Sundays on the regular, but between the fact that we don't all fit on the living room couch, and the fact that we only had the laptop screen to squint at, and if a single child moved their head wrong, the rest of us lost our line of vision to it, Todd and I had been making a habit of sitting at the dining room table, dinking around on social media while the kids watched their movie.  Familytastic.

So anyway.  Check it out.  We now have a basement family room - with a sofa AND a TV that are both appropriately-sized for our family.  I mean, look:  THERE IS SO MUCH COUCH THERE.  (Please ignore the rest of my spartan basement.)

Ummm, what else?

Penelope and Rocco are thick as thieves.

Laurelai has begun insisting on dressing herself, which is always a treat for the eyes.

Rocco is eating hearty and growing quickly.  I'm going to weigh him when he turns thirteen months to see just how much poundage he's gained over the last month.  He's killing it.

My hair reached noteworthy heights.  I NEED A HAIRCUT SO BAD.  Rocco clearly agrees.

Rocco can now say the word "hat," which sounds like "tuh," but I'll take it.  He loves putting anything and everything on his head and pretending it's a hat.  He struts around and makes all kinds of 'look at me' noises when he's wearing one, to make sure the hilarity never goes unnoticed.

The big kids helped me bake some Thanksgiving treats yesterday.  Every time I bake with just the big kids, I think, "We should really do this more often.  It's not that complicated!"  And then I have to load the dishwasher afterwards and I'm like, NEVAH AH-GAYYYYN.  Yesterday was no different, although at the end of it all, we had a maple-bourbon apple crisp (humminah-humminah-humminah), two pumpkin pies (regular and GF), and a whole thinger of homemade cranberry sauce.  (I'm pretty sure I'm the only one in my extended family who even likes that stuff, but it's SO GOOD.  Plus, it makes your plate so pretty and breaks up all the brown that every.single.other Thanksgiving food lends to the meal.  PLUS it's so excellent on a turkey grilled cheese the next day.  Or a Turkey Sandwich With The Moist-Maker.)

Now, off to gorge myself on the fatted calf.  I mean, turkey.  You suckers that got impatient and ate your big meal yesterday have only yourselves to blame.  I'll say a prayer for you and your lonely leftovers before I dig in today.