happy sixth birthday, penelope!

Happy birthday, my big girl!

You have grown so much this year.  You are so helpful and kind.  You insist on serving others.  You have a mind like a steel trap, and a memory that gives elephants a run for their money.  You are  You are light-hearted.  You dote on the littlest kids and are so helpful and loving with them.  I just absolutely adore you - I love hearing your deep thoughts, and your extensive use of vocabulary, and your funny jokes.  I love your insightful questions and your quick wit.  You are beautiful, inside and out, and I just know you will be used as a mighty tool in the hand of God to accomplish great things for his Kingdom.  I cannot wait to see how he will grow and shape you this year!

Love you, little Sweet P!

video vednesday: i want all girlfriends to tell me that after dates.

living room REEEMIXXXXX.

One thing Todd and I have been talking about a lot lately is how we're going to put our own spin on our new house, because that's one of my favorite parts of moving: adopting a new house into our family and making it our home.  Believe you me, the house we bought is a cute house, and it has a ton of space compared to what we have now, it's just lacking a little pizzazz.  But pizzazzing is my favorite thing to do, so this should be fun.

So just for funsies today, spend some time dreaming with me about what I would do with our new living room, if all our current stuff sadly evaporated and also I hit the lottery.


So, let's break this down.  Here's what I love about this room:

Couch:  Neutral but interesting, traditional but modern, extra deep for lots of comfy hours logged sitting here watching Netflix, or blogging, or breastfeeding, or caring for strung-out-sick kids.  An inordinate amount of our life is spent on or in the vicinity of our living room couch, so this baby has to have it all.  And it has to be Scotchgarded.

Rug: Ohh, lawdy.  I'm a bit of a snob/hoarder/pageant mom when it comes to rugs.  First of all, give me wool or give me death.  Second of all, it's blue and pink, and if you know me at all, you know this rug had me at blue and pink.  And third of all, this thing is huge and nothing makes me go all Mama June quite like a large-enough rug.

Chairs: I'm taking a chance on my fictitious living room remodel and picking an out-of-my-comfort-zone pair of chairs.  They're raspberry.  They're midcentury modern, for crying out loud.  And yet, I feel like there has been a midcentury-shaped, raspberry-colored hole in my heart that these chairs have surprisingly come to fill.

Table: It's carved wood and I think that is all I need to say to convince you.  Also?  It's round, and every room needs something round, or at least rounded.

Paint: I know this is 2016 in America and everyone and their mom is all WHITE WALLS, Y'ALLS.  But I have kids.  And even if I didn't, white walls remind me of motels, and I don't like motels.  The air is always so damp in motels.  So that's why I nix white walls.  Yeah, it's weird, but it works for me.


Plants: Living rooms should have stuff, you know, living in them.  I don't like pets, so I pick plants.  I pick All The Plants.  You don't have to vacuum up after them or pick up their poop or get them vaccinated, plus you can have millions of them and even kind of neglect them, and no one is going to tell you that you're the one making Sarah McLachlan cry.

Art:  I like to make sure at least some of our art is personal.  The piece I stuck in this new living room set up is a real piece painted by a real girl I know.  Plus, it's black, and I firmly, firmly believe that every room needs some black.  It keeps a room from looking like it's about to float away into space.  But I get that black can be kind of scary - if you're wanting a confidence-boost for using it in your own real or made-up living room, I thought this blog post from the online interior design company, Laurel & Wolf, had some great tips on how to use black without making your house look like something from the set of the Addams Family.

Also, I like to make sure there is at least one super hefty piece of art in there - please, when you daydream up your own imaginary living room, in the name of all that is good and right and true, do not fill a gallery wall with only 8x10 prints.  Pick at least one piece that errs on the side of "That is really huge."

And then lastly, go nutso with accessories.  I didn't put those in this rendering because sometimes I just have to walk into TJ Maxx and let the tchotchkes speak to me.  You can't force these things.  But if I had unlimited dinero, I'd grab some coffee table books, some baskets, a couple of sexy lamps, maybe a terrarium (a kennel for all my plant puppies!), definitely something gold-toned.  Maybe something marble, probably something made from natural stone or wood.  And then something teal, because I like to party.

And therrrr you have it.  This is where I'd start if I found out tomorrow I was a party princess with a dungeon full of gold, and a castle that is actually a 1962 ranch house in Missouri.  I'm halfway there in real life, anyway, so it's definitely a realistic possibility; whenever I get the news that I am, indeed, a princess, I'll be really glad I already put all this work into brainstorming.  You're welcome, Princess Me.

the weekly what's to the up.

Laundry and packing, laundry and packing, my whole life is laundry and packing.  Doodly doo.

That's my theme song for the week.  Last weekend was beautiful, so I was forced to pull out weather-appropriate attire for all the kids, and many of them were due to move up a size anyway, so I switched out all of their bins over the weekend.  Eesh.  

It may not sound like a major undertaking, but since I never know how clean the laundry in their dressers are (they frequently put questionably clean clothing back in their drawers), and I don't want to put dirty stuff in an airtight bin to breed for the next two years until I pull it out for the next kid who needs it, I wash everything before it gets put away.  Which means I washed the entire wardrobes of five children, and folded it an put it away, then pulled out NEW entire wardrobes for five children and folded it all.  (It hasn't all been put away yet; I ran out of steam.)  And I had already been behind on our normal laundry because of the other major task ruining my life lately: packing.

Ohhh, packing, how I hate thee.  BUT, the one thing I will say about packing is it forces you to evaluate what you own.  I am getting rid of SO MUCH STUFF.  I didn't think that I would be, since I just purged a bunch of stuff less than three years ago when we moved here, and we haven't really accumulated a bunch of extra stuff in the meantime, but seriously - SO. MUCH. STUFF.  And it feels good!

In other weekly news, Laurelai drew her first 'babies' without help from anyone.  I was seriously impressed, to be honest with you.  (At first I thought Finneas had drawn these for her, but then she drew another one while I watched.  It was crazy.)

And Rocco rocked the Classic Van Voorst Boy look: the felt knight helmet.  He seems like he'll fit in around here just fine.

As for the rest of our week, it was spent hanging out with neighbors, taking Finneas to an eye doctor appointment, Todd taking an exam for a potential job with the Postal Service, and plenty of family dance parties to Family Force Five songs.  It's been a decent week!

and the 'i didn't really expect you to make it, but you did!' award goes to...

...this rubber band, who has held his own for the last two and a half years.

He did not get brittle.  He did not stretch out too far.  He did not allow himself to become conspicuous.  He stayed strong, and finished the task set before him like a true champion.  He should go to the rubber band Olympics.  Or he should go straight into retirement, because he has more than earned it.

And while I'm handing out awards, I think I'd like to give myself the the "Thrift and Ingenuity" award for jerry-rigging this crazy contrivance instead of footing the bill for new curtain rod hardware.  I had faith in that lowly rubber band, and it paid off.  I feel like a talent scout who's able to see the untapped potential in some drunk girl at a karaoke bar.  And that's a good feeling, friends.  A good feeling.

video vednesday: you're afraid of the dark, and you stink like a fart.

(Thank you to our awesome babysitters for introducing us to Krispy Kreme, who is, compared to Jay-Z, a hard worker.)

It's okay Beyonce, I think you're cute, too.

house tour: kids' rooms.

Ah, the kids' rooms.  We have done basically nothing to these two upstairs rooms other than put our stuff in them.  Other than the fact that we put a closet system in the big closet, and the glass bulb cover for the ceiling fan got broken and never replaced, these rooms are pretty much the same as they were when we first saw the house, except our furniture has replaced the previous owners' furniture.

Here was the upstairs nursery when it was listed:

And here it is now:

I love this room.  I love the cozy, soft carpet, and the cozy, soft light coming in through the north-facing window.  It's been a great nursery for Laurelai, and now Rocco.

The other room upstairs is the master bedroom.  This was our room for a while, but we switched bedrooms with the big kids when I was pregnant with Rocco.  I posted previously about the big kids' room and how we fit them all in this room.  Here's what it looked like when it was listed:

And here's what it looks like now:

This room has been so fun for the kids.  They have plenty of play and sleeping space, all up here in their own little 'wing' of the house.  I know Atticus would have really liked for me to have decorated it specifically for them, which I may or may not have gotten to eventually.  But either way, it has become distinctly 'theirs,' and it's been so great to see the bond that's been forged between them having to share such close quarters.

We'll miss you, sweet bedrooms!

how we do... [staying healthy]

(I realize the full weight of irony resting on the timing of this post, as Penelope is still recovering from her reaction to antibiotics, which were given to treat her case of strep throat.  We clearly do not have everything figured out.)

A friend of mine asked the other day how our kids seem to stay so healthy.  While it is the case that our kids are rarely sick, I think most of it is just luck of the draw, which feels so farty to say to someone who is struggling through a long stretch of family sicknesses.  "We're not all that on top of things, we're just fortunate.  Good luck, and you're welcome."  See?  I felt like a fart.

However, while I don't have a magic bullet up my sleeve (or, rather, in my magic gun), there are a few things I do to try to keep the kids' bodies as healthy as I can while a) still living real life, b) being realistic about the likelihood that they will, eventually, get sick, and c) not making the pursuit of health an idol.

That being said, our health routine around here basically involves two things:

When it comes to prevention, we use food as a health-builder.  I try to incorporate live or fermented foods with most meals.  This means sometimes they get a salad or a side of traditional sauerkraut with their breakfast.  They hate that, but tough noogies.  They have to eat it.  They eat a lot of produce, a lot of protein, a lot of real butter, and very limited sugar.  I make bone broth and sneak it in whenever I can.  We don't feed them snacks throughout the day - they get three meals, and a small dessert if they finish their dinner.  They don't always like what I serve, but they always have to eat at least some of it, if not all of it, and there are no alternative foods available ever.  (I sound like a drill sergeant, but it's really almost never a battle.  I can tell you about our mealtime routines and policies in a different blog post, if you're interested.)

Now, I realize this is a quick tangent, but as a culture, we are afraid of ever feeling hungry.  We orient our lives around making sure our kids never feel the discomfort of a single moment of healthy hunger, so we pump them full of snacks all day.  But I find that kids are less picky at mealtimes when they're sufficiently hungry when it comes time to eat, and this way they end up filling up their bellies with healthy, meal-type foods instead of sugary, starchy, snack-type foods (including too much fruit).  Now, my kids are still little and they don't require the calories an older, more active kid needs, so I'm not prescribing "No Snacks Between Meals Or Else!" as a lifestyle rule for all people.  But I will submit that this is how Susanna Wesley ran her house and raised her nineteen kids, and I am not one to knock the wisdom of Susanna Wesley.

When it comes to treatment, we are pretty hesitant to use interventions when they do get sick. Preventive medications and treatment medications all have short-term side effects and even long-term consequences on our overall health.  So we're really, really slow to utilize them until we know for sure they're necessary.  We tend to use a 'wait and see' approach.  We rarely use fever reducer unless the fever gets outrageously high, or if they can't sleep enough to allow their bodies to heal.  Fevers can actually aid in healing, so we're not quick to suppress them.  Sleep, sunshine, snuggling, limited activity and plenty of water (or breastfeeding) are frequently what little bodies need to kick an illness.  Sometimes we use things like garlic oil, ear candles, essential oils, diet adjustments, fermented cod liver oil, and probiotics to help aid healing.  (But obviously, if a kid needs a doctor and some meds, they need a doctor and some meds.  No one's being cavalier.)

And y'all, that's it.  I'm not an expert, and I think I've just gotten lucky with pretty healthy kids.  I feel like that self-righteous mom who tells you she got her newborn to start sleeping through the night by two weeks because she implemented the Baby Rock Star Sleep Boot Camp or whatever, and then her next kid just doesn't sleep and she realizes that it wasn't her A+ momming that got that baby to sleep, it was just dumb luck, and she has to face reality that sometimes stuff is just outside of her control and she should just reel in her condescending advice.  Whew.  Long sentence, weird metaphor, but all that to say, this is stuff we do at our house.  Also, our kids aren't sick all that much.  Perhaps one has something to do with the other, perhaps not.  Take it for what you will.

what's up (weekly-ish, at this point).

I have two weeks to fill you in on, and it has been a full couple of weeks.

The weekend before last, we took a trip down to Columbia, and Rocco turned five months old.

Penelope started complaining of a sore throat on that Monday.  By Tuesday it was so bad, she wouldn't even swallow her own spit; she just kept spitting into the toilet.  I took her to urgent care, where they swabbed her throat and were able to see immediately that the culture was positive.  They prescribed amoxicillin, which was the first time Penelope had ever received an antibiotic (or any prescription medication, for that matter.  She kept asking, "Why do I have to take new medicine?  We already have tea tree oil."  #stuffhippiekidssay).  While we waited for the pharmacy to fill it, we headed over to stock up on probiotics for her to take at strategic times between doses of the antibiotic.  And I do mean STOCK UP.  I think you can safely assume from this photo that I DON'T MESS AROUND WHEN IT COMES TO GUT FLORA.

Todd brought home popsicles for ladycakes since her throat had hurt too badly all day to eat anything.

On Wednesday, Finneas helped me make breakfast, and I think this picture makes it obvious that the day started out on an epic foot.

On Friday, we had a visit from Todd's parents!  They've been living in Arizona all winter, so we hadn't seen them since shortly after Rocco was born.  It was great to see them, and everyone had a blast.

We had a dance party, and as per usual, the kids took it very seriously.  We were all in stitches watching Finneas specifically, who has the coolest moves of all the moves, and Laurelai, who is an incredibly aggressive dancer.

On Sunday, I finally got serious about this whole 'move' shenanigan we're trying to pull, and I started packing.  The girls have helped me label some boxes.  Moving is NO. JOKE.  I will take all the help I can get.

On Tuesday, Penelope started getting some small spots on her neck... then her torso... then her face... then her arms and legs.  I called the nurse, who determined it was an allergic reaction to her amoxicillin.  By dinner time, her whole face had swelled up and she was complaining of a sore throat (one of the warning signs of a more serious allergic reaction) so I drove her to the E.R.  Her airways were clear, so they prescribed a course of steroids and sent us home.

By Wednesday morning, she had hives from the top of her head, to inside her ears, to the literal bottoms of her feet - she couldn't walk without pain.  The poor lady has had a rough few weeks, but she's making it through and has had a great attitude.  We're still pumping the probiotics, and praying that she goes back to her typical, healthy self soon!

And those were the highlights from our last two weeks.  Rocco would like to wish you a very happy Tax Deadline Day from his new favorite way to sit in his old favorite seat.

Happy Friday!

house tour: our bedroom.

For the next peek into some of the ways our home has changed since we've lived here, I thought I'd show you our bedroom.  Please keep in mind that this room only got about half done before we decided to move.  It still needs a big old honkin' piece of art on one wall, a gallery wall on a different wall, a new nightstand, some roman shades between the drapes, etc. etc.  But.  The walls are pretty, the sheets are pretty, and it smells okay when the oil warmer is on, so it's a step up from any other master bedroom we've ever had, even in its half-finished state.

When we bought the house, this room had been working hard as an office.

For a while, we had the two (and then three) biggest kids in here, so their toys and play space could be near me during the day, on the main floor.  But it was a smaaaall space for so many bodies. (The room itself is only 9x11, smaller than the footprint of our living room rug!)

When we found out we were pregnant with Rocco, I needed to brainstorm a new set-up.  We ended up putting the three big kids in the large master bedroom upstairs, and Laurelai across the hall from them, thinking that eventually we'd move her in with them and put Rocco in the nursery by himself.  Meanwhile, we took this downstairs bedroom for ourselves, which ended up being a blessing to us.  Our bedroom has always been the last to get decorated in any house we've lived in, since no one but us ever sees it.  But since this room is on the main floor, right next to the bathroom, it gave me the nudge I needed to finally make our room prettier.

Just imagine a black roman shade hung from high up between those curtains, and some big, pretty art on that right side of the window, like this piece I had been thinking about from Minted.

I'm not sold on the stuff hung above the bed; it was probably set to come down once the big art got hung, and I wanted a grey and white faux-fur blanket for the foot of the bed, and eventually I was hoping to replace the Ikea side table with an actual night stand.  Ahhhh, the things this room could have achieved.

And this gratuitous close-up shot, not because it helps you envision our room at all, but just because it's pretty and it just so happens to be in our room.

So that's our itty-bitty-pretty bedroom!  We're going to miss you, Bedroom - you were the first bedroom we ever called 'ours' that didn't make us feel like we were just passed-out white trash every time we fell asleep.