a whole blog post about chairs. because, you guys. CHAIRS.

Since we've moved, getting stuff settled around the house has been a very slow process.  One area I'm  really ready to get moving on is the dining room.  It's directly in front of you when you walk in both the front and side doors, so it's kind of in your face all the time, and I get tired of looking at how ugly it is.  Someday it will have a big glass door leading out to a deck, and it will have pretty curtains, and paint on the walls that is not the exact color of smokers' teeth.  Aahh, someday.

Luckily, a tiny bit of progress has been made already.  I found a killer rug on deeeeeep clearance at Anthropologie a few months back (like, I felt a little like a criminal for buying it so cheap), and when we moved, my sister built us a beautiful, custom-made table.  Such a pretty table needs a pretty home.  And it needs pretty friends around it... eight pretty friends to be exact, since this table is (thankfully) bigger than our last and we don't have enough chairs.

So when Chairish asked me how I'd go about mixing and matching dining room chairs, I was all over it.  Because I love the look of mixed chairs, and I spend a weird amount of time thinking about dining room furniture on a daily basis.  So if someone's going to give me the green-light to ramble about it, then shonuff I'm gonna.


I went with white polypropylene chairs for the kids (which may surprise you but wait a sec) and tufted velvet captain's chairs for me and Todd.  Yikes, when I write that out on "paper," it makes it obvious they don't seem like they'd work together.  Kind of like the mind-boggling marriage between Maury Povich and Connie Chung.  But the chairs have somewhat similar lines - flat tops along the back, simple legs - so they have enough in common to navigate a healthy and committed relationship without feeling the need to change the other one.  And I mean, if the white chairs want to slip on a white sheepskin for a date night (read: non-mealtimes) to take it up a notch and coordinate a softer look to go with the green chairs, so be it.  Who am I to stand in the way of true love?

Okay.  You guys, I'm weirdly drawn to those white ones even though I normally stick with natural materials.  This is just as much a shock to me as it is to you.  You don't really find plastic decor, or furniture, or even soap dispensers anywhere in my house as long as I can help it.  But think how great they would be with kids - no slats for food to fall through, no wood grain for stuff to get ground into, no fabric that could get stained, no delicate pieces on the framing that the kids can stand on and break.  You can just spray them down and wipe them off and let them take care of themselves.  Genius.  These chairs have kind of stolen my heart.

As for the fancy-pants velvet chairs, well, all I can say is I'm a hopeless optimist.  I have crazy blind faith that Todd and I will be the only ones to sit in them.  That for the few scattered minutes I get to actually sit down and eat a meal, I'll be outrageously comfortable.  That the pillows will fool me into thinking that dinnertime in a large family will be at all relaxing, and even downright ergonomical.  These chairs will make me think that sitting in my dining room will be good for my physical and mental health.  ...And to shut the mouth of the hopeless realist in me, they will be heavily Scotchgarded.

So anyway, you can see how I'm finding myself in an "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" situation.  "If you give Paige Van Voorst a nice new table, she's going to need some new chairs to go with it.  And if you give Paige Van Voorst some new chairs, she's going to want to put pillows and sheepskins on them."  Etc. Etc.  You know the drill.

I hope you all forgive me for picking plastic chairs.  I just couldn't help it. They were calling out to me.

Thank you so much to Jeska from Saltwater Kittens for her work on the style board.  I'm absolutely clueless about Photoshop, and she came to my rescue!

the black hills: day two.

We had pulled into Custer around 9:30 after the long road trip the first day, so the kids went right to bed.  They zonked out pretty immediately.

The next morning, they were up with the sun and ready to play cowboys with their cousin David.

They handed me a 'cowboy' gun.  I clearly have no idea how to cowboy.  And David clearly takes no prisoners.

Then Penelope found the hippie-est way to use a gun.  Make gardens, not war, amiright?

The kids learned to ride kid-sized ATVs around the driveway, while Todd rode a kid-sized...something.

Rocco steered clear of all the shenanigans and hung out in safety with Grandma Jacqi and Papa Tony.

Later in the afternoon, Todd and Tony put together a teepee for the kids to play in...

...and then all the kids jumped in the hot tub.  All the kids but Laurelai, that is.

I don't know what Finneas was doing here, but it was wonderful, whatever it was:

Then after dinner, the kids all cuddled up together on the couch and watched a movie with David.  

When Laurelai got sick of her Cozy Seat #1, she found Cozy Seat #2.

And that was how we spent our first day in Custer, hanging out at home and soaking in the sun!

the black hills: having a bad time in the badlands.

We drove through the Badlands like we always do on our yearly trip to see Todd's parents in the Black Hills.

This time, though, the sky was looking a bit... ominous as we approached the entrance to the scenic loop.

A photo posted by Todd Van Voorst (@toddhenryvanvoorst) on

It hadn't started raining yet, but the clouds were making it pretty clear they were looking for a fight.  We stopped at an overlook and, ahem, gently coaxed the kids out of the car to go look at the clouds over the landscape.  Sidenote: someone needs to fire the guy who made the walking paths up there.  Imagine walking along the tops of cliffs on a sidewalk made out of oil slicks and banana peels, and you'll come close to imagining the true experience.  It's nerve wracking on a normal day, but the strong wind and eventual rain made it downright harrowing.  We held it together okay for a little while.

But the kids were getting more and more freaked out the longer we were out there.

Zoom in on that photo and you'll see what I mean.

Her face is doing something similar in Every. Single. Photo.  Poor girl. Atticus was really starting to get anxious as well, so we decided to get a family photo and then head back to the car.

It was taken just in time, too: right as we got our camera back from the kind stranger who snapped this shot, the heavens opened, and it started pouring and gusting, and the kids started screaming and sobbing, and we still had that whole slippery walkway to traverse to get back to the van.  Todd did not seem stressed.

Please keep in mind that Todd is not really shaped like this, with a marshmallow belly and fins on the backs of his legs.  The wind was just whipping his clothes in all directions. 

Once we were inside the van and dry, and everyone was calmed down, we started moving through the rest of the loop.  I was in the back feeding Rocco when Todd slammed on the brakes, which unnerved me until I saw that it was to avoid killing all these rando mountain goats.

I only know one thing about mountain goats, and that is that they always escalate a situation for no reason other than the entertainment value of it all.  Narcissists.

The rest of the drive was smooth, though I couldn't help but feel a little creeped out by the atmosphere of it all.  It was so otherworldly.

This is not a black-and-white photo.  This was what the light was like.  Doesn't it look like we were driving on the moon or something?

Well, there you have it.  Our not-exactly-near-death experience through the Badlands.  Oh, I mean, except Rocco, whose experience really did seem near-death... was mine when I saw Todd do this and my heart stopped momentarily.  Glad they made it back from the edge safely and my husband and baby aren't laying in mangled piles on the floor of a deep crevasse.  #itsthelittlethingsinlife #blessed

 Happy Monday.

what's up weekly. (PHOTOLESS EDITION?!?!?!)

So, now that I gave away the milk for free (i.e., told you we've been to South Dakota), who knows who will stay around to read the cow.  Or whatever.  You already know what we did this week.  But I'm going to blog about it anyway because this is the minivan voorsts and we. know. how. to. party.

Like I mentioned, we spent much of the week in South Dakota or on the way back.  I'll be chronicling the rest of the trip in detail over the next few weeks, so I won't give anything away by telling you how it ends. We got home safely.  Shoot.  Did I say too much?  Sigh.  I always do that.

So yeah, we got home late Tuesday night.  It was a long day and a late night, and we were all exhausted on Wednesday.  The girls and Rocco all slept until 9:30 that morning (and Rocco didn't even wake up a single time through the night to eat).  Todd had a job interview that morning, but due to a mix-up, he wasn't able to make it.  So we spent the rest of the day laying low and living in the apocalyptic state that the house inevitably ends up in when we come home from anywhere.  We went grocery shopping; I grilled a bunch of chicken for no apparent reason.  You know.  How a person does.

We ate so much food while we were gone, so I've spent the week trying to eat a little lighter.  My favorite light meal is chicken soup with shredded roasted cabbage in place of noodles.  Also it has literally been 100 degrees outside with like 1,000,000% humidity.  So soup is light and delicious and also makes me want to die when I eat it.  You know.  How a person does.

Yesterday the Anthem family all got together for a potluck, and the group is growing.  It's amazing to see how many people are already committing to a church that hasn't even started yet!  God's going to do some crazy stuff, you guys, I just know it in mah bones.

And today I have a bunch of errands to run in preparation for my sister's wedding next week!  I get to go buy some candy for the bridesmaids and some Spanxx for myself.  (Party on, Garth.)  I need to go tanning and run to Target and see if I can get my shoes fixed.  I need to wax my brows.  And my chin, too, if I'm being honest.  And above all, I need to take time to just be excited because my sister is very likely the best human being who exists anywhere on earth at the moment, and she is getting married to the best human for her.  Which is the best news.  And that is worth getting excited over!

And lastly, I think I'm going to start exercising.  This is not a drill.  It's (probably) happening, people.  Now that we have our treadmill set up again, and now that my butt has literally turned concave as a cry for help, I really have no excuse to not start using them.  (Both the treadmill and my butt.)  I mean, other than the tiny, insignificant excuses that 1) I don't like to, and 2) I don't want to.  But I'm a grown-up, and grown-ups have to do hard things like pay taxes and pluck chin hairs and deal with medical billing offices and walk on the treadmill.  Sigh.  Wish me luck, Fellow Grown Ups.

the black hills: day 1(A)

I told you last week that we'd been up to something, and now's the time for the big reveal: we spent eleven days on vacation!

I'd mentioned that we spent a couple days at my mom's, but what I didn't tell you is that we left from there to head up to South Dakota to visit Todd's parents.  Early last Monday morning, we loaded these cute kids and their cute backpacks up in the van and got ready to make the long drive.

This was the first year that every single seat in the minivan was occupied, and we were definitely feeling the squeeze.  Looking forward to the day when we can make this drive in a twelve-passenger van.  We won't know what to do with all the leg room, although at that point I will have to reconsider the name of this blog.  'the twelve-passenger-van voorsts' doesn't have the same ring to it, and 'the maxivan voorsts' makes no sense. 'thevanformerlyknownasmini voorsts?'  nope.  I guess we'll just have to keep crammajamming in this van because sizing up poses too much of a blogging dilemma.  End tangent.

I get a little anal about planning our stops.  You have to be organized if you're hoping to imprison five young kids in seatbelts for hours and hours and hours of waking time and live to tell the tale.  You have to plan stops well and maximize your time at each one.  Otherwise you're just inviting a coup.

It ended up taking about 16 hours.

Our first stop was at a rest area about three hours into the trip.  That first stop is easy to keep low-key.  The kids just needed a chance to pee, stretch their legs and eat a Larabar or two.  We try to make it through the first stretch without movies and we bribe them into moderately controlled behavior with a promise of a movie after the first stop.

The next stop was a bigger one in Sioux City.  We ate a picnic lunch and spent a good amount of time at a really cool park.  I'm not kidding, it was the best playground I've ever seen, and I've seen a good number of playgrounds in my day.  This park was the King of Parks.  I'd move to Sioux City for this park alone.  (False, but near-true.)

Then it was back in the car, where the little kids thankfully fell asleep for a while.  A word to the wise: there will be No Sleep Till Brooklyn unless you declare No Movies At Naptime.  Then everyone gets bored enough to sleep.

Our next stop was at Chamberlain, where there's a really big Lewis and Clark exhibit/museumy thing at the rest stop (weird, but it works).  There's a beautiful overlook, a weird and huge concrete teepee, and also some poisonous snakes.  One interesting pit stop does it make.

Our last stop was at the Badlands, at which the kids were absolutely convinced they were about to die.  I'll have to tell you about that later, though, because this post is getting outrageously long. #cliffhanger

And that was the first part of our trip!  

a basic overview and a video.

Short version and short video: Recently, our church-planting network was highlighted at the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention, and Todd was in the highlight reel:

Long version and longer video:

If you haven't been reading along here for a while, I can give you a basic run-down of our lives as church-planters: Todd became a Christian in his early twenties when he started attending Cornerstone Church in Ames.  After I graduated from college, and we got married, I moved to Ames and we called Cornerstone our home church.  We never had any intention of ever leaving.  Like, ever.  Like, ever.

We would toss around the idea of moving somewhere warmer someday, but our biggest hang-up was our disbelief that we could ever find a church home as wonderful and biblically solid as Cornerstone was.  Then Cornerstone got this crazy idea to plant a church in Iowa City at the U of I, and they asked community members to consider moving.  One hundred people said yes, and we said nofreakingway.  We weren't interested in uprooting our lives to move to start a new church when we were warm and cozy at the church we already had.

We bought our first house shortly thereafter, and it was intended to be our forever home.  It was huge, it was gorgeous.  It was literally my dream home.  But we were getting restless.  Todd felt called to do something... but he had no idea what it was.  Seminary?  Law school?  We were about ready to pull the trigger on law school when we got asked to help out with Cornerstone's second university church plant at the University of Northern Iowa.  And I think on a gut-level, we knew that this was why God had been stirring our hearts to look for something different and more purposeful.  He was preparing us to say yes.

So we did, and we moved, and we went through the incredibly unique experience of getting to be a part of a church literally starting from scratch.  And, long story short, we're at it again - our home church in Cedar Falls is now planting a church in Columbia, Missouri, and we're privileged to be doing it again.  God has changed us through this process.  He has grown us, and challenged us, and blessed us.

And I would LOVE - and I mean LOVE it if you would watch a segment of this video from the SBC.  It not only explains Cornerstone's vision for church planting, and shows what amazing things God has already done through Cornerstone (in Ames) and Candeo (in Cedar Falls), but it gives me so much excitement to see what he will do through Anthem (in Columbia).  And it's also so wonderful to see these men we dearly love in the video - Troy was preaching the day Todd was first viscerally impacted by the true Gospel.  Jeff discipled Todd when he was a brand-new Christian, and he was the one who married us.  Paul asked us to move to Cedar Falls and let us live in his basement for months while we were trying to get settled through that transition.  And Stan is one of Todd's biggest champions and dearest friends.  These men are doing incredible, hard, worthwhile work, and we love them so much.

Please check out the video below, starting around the 22:15 mark, and ending just before the 42:00 mark.  (Sorry I wasn't able to embed just that segment.)  And yes, that's David Platt looking absolutely maniacal in the still frame.

what's up weekly.

Last weekend we headed down to my mom's for a visit.  I mean, we headed UP to my mom's for a visit.  I'm going to have to start getting used to the fact that we're southerners now, at least relative to pretty much everyone we know.

Todd had agreed to preach at a church in Illinois on Sunday, so instead of driving all the way there from Columbia, we camped at my mom's for a couple days so his Sunday morning drive would be shorter.  The kids and I weren't able to go with him, as he had to leave really early on Sunday morning and the drive was too long to trust that the kids would be in any shape to hold it together in public once we arrived.  So I'm really glad they posted it online so I can watch it.  I'm so proud of him!

While the kids and I hung back at mom's, we kept cool by playing in the pool.  I think it's evident the kids loved it.  Especially Penen.

Laurelai wouldn't get in the pool, but she did her best to keep up with everyone on dry land.  This funny lady rotates her whole lower half back and forth when she runs.  It's the absolute cutest little run and I wish I could bottle it and put it in a cupboard to pull out on dreary days when my kids are all grown up and I need a pick-me-up.  

While the big three splashed in the pool, my two littlest buddies hung out with me.

In an effort to move Rocco into the shade and keep him occupied while I waded in the water a little, I came up with the genius idea to put the pack and play under a shade tree.  At least, I thought it was a genius idea.  Rocco thought it was a crime against humanity.

And that was the major highlight of our week!  Well, at least, the one I can tell you about.  Some other stuff has been going on around here, but you'll have to wait to hear about it next week.  And before anyone starts freaking out, No I Am Not Pregnant.  I am as fully confident as a person can be... when that person is Paige Van Voorst and babies seem to appear out of thin air as if by magic every year or two.  But like I said, I'm as confident as I can be given the circumstances.  So, roughly 60% confident.

Anyway.  Tune in next week to see what we've been up to.  I'll give you a hint, though: it involves these outrageously cute backpacks: