rocco's modern life: nine months.

Welp, now that we're less than a week away from him turning ten months old, I think it's time to do Rocco's nine-month update.

I think it's clear from the photographic evidence that he is still as stinking cute as ever.  Seriously, I cannot get enough of this kid.  Does he not just melt you?!  Look at those ears!  Look at those funny teeth and that wrinkly nose!  OHMYWORRRRRRRRD.

I have no idea how much he weighs. I was supposed to take him in for a nine-month check up, but our insurance here is wonky, and no one will take it, and I got an appointment with a doctor like 45 minutes away, and then I was like, "I just can't even."  So I cancelled it and have not put enough effort into finding a doctor closer to us.  My goal is to get a one-year check up scheduled... but we'll see if it pans out.  

I think the most notable thing about this month is that I'm still breastfeeding.  Exclusively.  He has never had formula, and I'm not currently supplementing at all.  This is the most successful I've ever been at breastfeeding.  I have prayed for this over and over with each kid, and not to jinx it or anything, but it is finally happening for me.  PTL!  (That means, "Praise the Lord!" for all you folks out there who don't throw around dorky Christian-ese abbrevs on the regular like I clearly do.)  In addition to nursing, he also loves guacamole and sauerkraut juice.

I am in love with this sweet, sweet, wonderful boy, and I'm not the only one.  The rest of the Van Voorst clan is pretty smitten as well.  What a lucky kid he is, to have such a big family of admirers!

a photo post about photo posts.

*not to be awkward and insert a weird, unrelated bit at the beginning of this blog, but i just need to say thank you to all of you who reached out after yesterday's meltdown post.  it kind of made me feel like a dummy, because the last thing on earth i was aiming for was to panhandle for attention, and it also made me feel like a dummy, because duh:  look at all these friends who love me enough to read my blog every week.  if i'm feeling forgotten about, that's a lie i'm choosing to believe.  but really, more than anything, your kindness made me feel loved and reassured that i'm not forgotten, so thank you so much.

Okay.  Onward.

You guys, I got my photos back!  I got allllllll the photos back, plus access to my photo software!  My mom came to visit and worked her IT-computer-technology-newfangled magic and everything has been recovered.  Which means no foreseeable heart attacks for me, and lots and lots and LOTS of photo posts for you.  I can finally finish posting about our trip to South Dakota.  And I can tell you more about the time we spent at the pool, and about Rocco turning nine months old, and our afternoon spent at Devil's Icebox.  I can show you All The Photos of Laurelai's birthday.  I think I may even plan another 'day in the life' post soon.  I'm clearly frenzied by my renewed access to my camera card.

Anyway.  All the excitement kind of tuckered me out, so I'll save my first official photo post for tomorrow, but in the meantime, this gem will singlehandedly make you so happy I got access to the photos:

Like mother, like daughter.  And like daughter, like Beaker.

One big happy family.

what it (sometimes) really feels like to church plant.

Last week was hard.  The students are back, and the church officially launched, and homeschool is in full swing.  There are things vying for my time and attention, and on the one hand it feels good, because I feel productive, and I feel most confident about myself when I'm actually accomplishing something.  But I think this church plant is exposing the lies I most readily believe: that I am only as valuable as my contributions.   That I stop existing when I'm no longer offering anything to anybody.  That I'm only worth as much as I can accomplish.

I think that can be the hard part of semi-nomadic ministry for me.  I feel like I pour myself into the ministry God gives me in a given spot, and then we're uprooted again, and I have nothing to show for it.  A few people have touched base since we left, but not many.  Almost no one asks, genuinely, how I'm doing with everything.  And if I'm being honest, I have been dealing with some hurt feelings and bitterness in response.

If I were to answer, genuinely, the question of how I'm doing with everything, I would say, "Not that well."  I hate our house, and I feel like a total ingrate because I can't just buck up and change my attitude about it.  I miss friends and family who don't seem to even notice or care that I've left.  I'm already drowning in homeschool and we're only three weeks in.  I think I may be in over my head with some of the outreach opportunities I've been given.  I get up at 8:00 in the morning, and by 10:30 I have to take a nap because I can't function.  And listing it all out makes me look like a sad-sack who can't get her crap together.

And I would still tell you that I wouldn't trade this life for anything.  I would still tell you that I'm absolutely convinced God will show up in this in amazing ways.  That he will use even this for my good.  These things are still true.  But it's hard.  It's lonely.  It's messy.  And I'm really tired.  These things are also true.  

smell ya later.

I'm sorry guys, but I'm throwing up my hands.  I need to take the rest of the week off of blogging.  My computer is being a veritable pee-pants, and I need to take a step back before I end up doing something rash.  Like chucking it out a window.  Or burning my whole house to the ground in my rage.  Yeah, I'm starting to break. 

So I think we will all be better off if I take a small breather, and come back on Monday.  Pray for me, guys.  Right now, I feel like there's a Highlander situation going on with the laptop, and I'm losing.

perfect storm.

It has been a full couple of weeks.  School has been running smoothly, but it makes for very full days, which I'm still getting accustomed to.  I don't love having every second of every day dictated by a schedule, so that has worn me down.  Although, I did wait until yesterday to come completely unhinged by it, so in a weird way, that's a win.  I mean, I held it together for two full weeks.  That's progress, friendo.  That's growth.  However, I'm going to need to figure out a way to protect some QuietIntrovertSilentFunTime each day, or we're in for a pretty rough ride.

In addition, Connection Group has started up, and Anthem's soft launch was last night.  It's really exciting to see this thing we've been working toward finally get off the ground, but it comes with the knowledge that things are probably about to get really busy and really difficult. 

I think one of the hardest things about the pace of life over the last few years has been trying to achieve balance.  I need a lot of alone time and a lot of sleep in order to function like a decent, non-mutant human being, but I also have kids to raise, and teach, and enjoy the heck out of.  So... balance.  And I (have grown to) love ministry and having people in my home, but I'm also a deeply sweatpanted hermit with one million kids.  So... balance.  And we have moved to Missouri, where the homeschool laws are a pain in the tuckus, but I don't want to make our whole life revolve around school at the expense of our, well, whole life.  So... balance?  Maybe?  Hopefully?

I think yesterday's mental breakdown, and last night's soft launch, came with the sobering realization that this is it: this is where it gets difficult.  We will walk through trials.  We will make mistakes.  We will come unglued.  The straw that breaks the camel's back in this season will end up being a kid who put so many carrots in their mouth that they can't swallow any of the chewed up carrot-bits, or something equally ridiculous, and we will feel certain that we can't do any of this. 

It is coming.  We are not naïve this time.  We are standing on the porch in the middle of the tornado, and we already know what it will feel like when it hits us.  And maybe we're just idiots who should be hunkering down and hiding from the storm.  But maybe we'll know something more about awe and miracles and provision and faithfulness because we're willing to stand on the porch.

I don't know.  Maybe it's just the idiot thing.

whut's up. (weekly.)

In the near-constant stream of computer problems we seem to be having, we no longer have access to any of our photos, or any way to upload and edit the ones on our camera.  So if you follow me and Todd on Instagram, the photos in this post will be old news, since that's all I've got for now.

First things first, I would like to air my grievances about our computers, if you don't mind.  First, our Dell hard drive died a few years ago.  We replaced it.  Then the moniter got way wonky.  We replaced it.  Then the DVD player crapped out.  We replaced it.  Then the battery and power cord situation ended up super janky.  We replaced them.  Now the hard drive seems to have died again.  In the meantime, we've been using a hand-me-down laptop, but it doesn't type properly in any internet applications, so I have to type most stuff in Microsoft Word and paste it into Internet Explorer.  Why Explorer?  Because it won't open Google Chrome without freezing.  Or attach photos to anything using Internet Explorer.  And now Lightroom (the application with all our photos and all our editing) now won't open.  And the DVD player has decided it doesn't work, so I can't even use the kids' math curriculum instructional videos for school.

I have about had it with technology.  It's not worth it.  I'm going to move in with my Amish milk girl and reboot my life.  I can figure out a way to blog while Amish, right?

Okay.  Now that I've ruminated on that long enough to make me want to chuck this very laptop through our dining room wall (and hopefully get insurance to pay for a big glass door and address another one of my grievances: Complete and Utter Lack of Natural Light Even at High Noon), let's move on, shall we?

Last weekend, we took the kids to Rock Bridge, a natural rock formation with lots of nearby hiking trails, a stream, and a cave.  It was fun!  There was this half-underwater cave called Devil's Icebox, where the water stays 58 degrees year-round.  It really sucks that I can't show you pictures.

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

Saturday evening, I got in the van to drive to a friend's house, and it wouldn't start.  The fuel pump had totally died and needed to be replaced.  I think you can start to see how our week has been.  But God ended up using it in amazing ways to really show us how strong our community already is here - a friend gave us a ride to church the next day, another couple of friends lent us their van for a few days so I could pick up milk on Monday, and yet another couple took a look at our van for us.  It was a weird blessing, and I ended up being so grateful for the chance to see our community come around us to love us so well.

Yesterday was our ninth anniversary!  It feels so surreal.  I remember once, when we were first married, meeting a couple who had been married for nine years and thinking they seemed like they had been married forever.  It's weird to think that that's us now.

A photo posted by Paige Van Voorst (@theminivanvoorsts) on

To celebrate, Todd took me out to dinner at this super fancy steak place.  And by 'steak,' I mean, 'thing that resembles steak but is so far superior to steak that it's kind of a new thing now.'  It was incredible.  Even the salad was so good.  And you know if you're freaking out by the time you take the first bite of the side salad, the rest of the dinner is going to be fantastic.  And it was.  Right down to the crème brule cheesecake.  Yes; if you're wondering, I did gain exactly 74 million pounds last night.  Thanks for noticing.

We headed back home for a date intermission so I could feed Rocco and Todd could put the kids in bed for the sitters, then we headed downtown... to a tattoo place.  I have wanted a tattoo for literally half my life.  I have found myself in tattoo shops no less than three times now, ready to pull the trigger.  And each previous time, something got in the way.  So I'm so excited to have finally gotten to go through with it.  I got little triangles for each of the kids on my wrist.  I also got my nose pierced again.  And twice.  I'm hoping to (SOON AND VERY SOON) change out the blingy studs to some very small gold rings.

A photo posted by Paige Van Voorst (@theminivanvoorsts) on

We survived our second full week of school, and I'm still going steady with my Couch to 5k endeavor (I ran 3.00 miles in 30 minutes the other day; my goal is 3.1 miles in under 30 minutes, so I'm getting close!).  It's been kind of a crazy week, but we all lived to tell the tale, so life is good, right?  Right.

happy ninth van-niversary to my very best pal in all the world!

Oh, Todd Henry Van Voorst.  The love of my life.  I'm so glad I have you.  I'm so grateful for your steadiness, your depth, your color, your character, your conviction.  Your loyal, unwavering friendship.  The way you make me belly laugh on the regular.  The intentionality with which you approach parenting, marriage, work, leadership.  The way you choose not to see me only for my (many, ever-present) flaws.  You're better than I am; you're better than most people, in fact.  I'm so lucky I get to share my life and my home and my kids and my highs and my lows and my memories and my jokes and my sorrows with you.  I wouldn't want it any other way.

Todd, you're the best thing about me.  Thank you for picking me!

the good word collective: rest.

"We were crushing each other, and we were each being crushed.  It was suffocating, this expectation to be perfect and holy and wonderful all the damn time.  We loved each other, and we even liked each other, but there were times where we both kind of wished to die and finally end the constant pressure..."

Read the rest of my story of, well, rest today over at The Good Word Collective!  (I'm not sure what time it will post, so keep checking back if it's not up quite yet!)

whut up or shut up.

This week has been a fun one... intense, but fun.

Last Friday marked our last day of swimming lessons for the season.  It was bittersweet.  I'm really (really really) glad to not have a standing daily appointment, but the kids sure loved it.  Plus, there are very few things cuter in this life than a scrawny kid in a swimsuit.  And I had the luxury of hanging out with four scrawny kids in swimsuits every morning for two weeks.  Pure bliss.

(There were too many photos to choose from, so you know I'm going to have to promise another post on this next week.  And you know that I'm 50% likely to follow through on that promise.)

Rocco is nine months old now, and he's totally rocking it.  Again, more on this to come.  Probably.  Most likely.

On Monday, we started back up with homeschool.  I know I'm basically a broken (and lying) record at this point, but this year is going to be different.  We are going to get things done.  We are going to do school.  We are!!  We are... We are?  (Are we?)

We are settling into a more normal routine, which I am so grateful for.  School is such an anchor for our days - the structure it offers makes everything else go so much more smoothly.  The kids are picking up their household duties again, which is a lifesaver for me, and with a schedule for the day, there is so much less dead time available for the kids to be picking at each other and getting into fights.  I always dread getting back into the groove of things after breaks or vacation, but then I'm always so relieved by the return to order.  At some point I'm going to need to remember that school saves my sanity.  school saves my sanity.  school saves my sanity.  Remind me of this in February when I'm ready to throw in the towel.

I need to bite the bullet and order school supplies for this year, but golly do I hate actually ordering anything online ever.  I don't know why, but pushing that "order" button is so scary to me.  It's paralyzing.  It feels so final.  I want to do it.  I need to do it.  I will do it.  Someday.  Not now.  For now, I will just use last year's books and pray the kids never graduate last year's grade level.  Just like all the good moms do.

Yesterday morning, I got to pick up my first Azure Standard order in ages and ages.  Man, I love ripping into those boxes and finding the random collection of food and household goods I've deemed necessary.  This month, it was 15 pounds of potatoes, three liters of olive oil, trace mineral drops, a borderline-concerning amount of sauerkraut and pickles, some laundry enzymes, and a five-pound block of cheese.  And the fact that this delivery stirs something deep inside me that makes me truly love my life is telling of something.  What, I'm not sure.  But something.

In other news, Penelope and Rocco are developing quite the relationship.  It basically consists of Penelope hauling him around to random places for no reason other than to haul him around to random places.  They both love it. 

In Missouri Wildlife News, we found a fascinating grasshopper on the houseplants that are still sitting in our driveway after the move.  We also found a blue-tailed skink (think: crazy neon lizard) in the driveway yesterday!  And Finneas found a molted cicada carcass/skin/thing... you guessed it, in the driveway.  Laurelai is less interested in the nature-y bits and most interested in the magnifying glass.

And this.  You guys.  This.  My first daughter just finished her first chapter book (the first Van Voorst child to do so), and look what it was.  We just sat together for a while yesterday, quietly reading our respective books.  I got up to run on the treadmill for a bit, and after my run and some yoga and a shower, I came upstairs and she was still reading.  She spent nearly three hours reading yesterday.  My heart could juss essplode.

And on that wonderful (wizard of oz) note, I'm headed out to officially wrap up our first week of homeschool for the year, and take a long, long nap.

how to decorate your home on the cheap.

Decorating a home: it is seriously one of only a handful of activities that I can say I truly love.  I also love reading, watching TV with Todd, writing, eating carbs, and... no, that's it.  Just those things.  And if you take decorating off the list, I can skate through my hobbies without spending a ton of money.  But if you add decorating back to the list, it can get pricey quick.

My main goal when I was starting to decorate our first apartment all those many moons ago was to do it on the kind of budget that only allowed $35 a week in groceries.  It seemed a little hopeless at first.  But I started to realize that, if you're willing to hunt around, and wait for The Things to find you, you can end up with a stellar, very personal home for not a ton of money.  So I thought I'd share my favorite places to find antiques, tchotchkes, and rando bits of ephemera that can really make your home your home.

Garage Sales
This is where I usually found myself in those early days, hunting for ten-cent onesies for Atticus and only-slightly-broken laundry drying racks for the cloth diapers (that were also bought at a garage sale).  I also found some crazy deals on pretty stuff for our house.  Antique ball jars and chalkboards, old books, even house plants were scouted out.  And this.  This $7 tufted blue velvet wingback chair is the Crowning Jewel of my garage sale efforts.  (If you see something you love at a garage sale, don't be afraid to haggle, especially if it's a single-family sale.  This puppy was priced at $10, which is still a great deal, but $7 is an even better deal.  Ain't no harm in asking.)

Estate Sales
If the garage sale is the place to find all the stuff someone else thought was worth getting rid of, the estate sale is the place to find all the stuff someone else thought was worth keeping.  These things are goldmines, because the stuff was considered valuable (to someone, at least), but is now being jettisoned, usually for dirt cheap.  Some of my favorite finds have been at estate sales, like this little planter basket inside an antique egg basket.  ($10.50 total for this killer setup.)  I've also found dressers, pretty kitchenware and art.

Gifts and hand-me-downs.
Don't be afraid to accept basically anything solid your family offers you.  It might not be your jam at the time, but eventually you'll probably think of something cute to do with it.  My mother-in-law had a collection of tiny, antique brass bells, which were so lovely, but I wasn't sure what to do with them, so they stayed in storage.  Eventually, it dawned on me to string them together and hang them from our buffalo skull at Christmastime.  But I loved them so much that they never ended up coming down at the end of the season.  They're one of my favorite things in the living room now.  Another piece I just love is a vintage painting of my mom as a toddler.  She had received it from her mom and didn't know what to do with it, so you better believe I scooped that thing up and gave it a place of honor.

And my piano.  Oooh, I love that thing like a human child.  My dad was all, hey I have this free piano sitting in my garage, yawannit?  And I was like, sure thing and I hope it's not ugly.  AND THIS IS WHAT HE BROUGHT ME.  People, please.  I just took the front off of it and it's a showstopper.  Lesson learned: ALWAYS SAY YES TO FREE STUFF.

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

It's coming together slowly.

The side of the road.
You might think I'm kidding, but I have found so much awesome stuff in people's trash piles.  An antique headboard.  Beautiful old suitcases.  Vintage tennis racquets.  Old books.  In fact, 75% of the décor on top of my piano was in some lady's junk pile.  Keep your eyes peeled, son!

Make it to fake it.
If you're at all handy (or, like me, are not at all handy but are well-loved by people who are), why not try making something awesome on the cheap?  We needed a new, bigger table, and I fell in love with one from Crate and Barrel (uh, cha-ching much?).  I sent my sister the link, and for Christmas, she made us this kick-ass, look-alike eight-seater out of an solid wood door and some lumber from Home Depot.  (Pictured here with chairs from - where else? - a garage sale.)

Hunt your own house.
Be willing to work around weird stuff, or move things from place to place.  This bathroom had an uber-weird old toilet, but it ended up being really cool once I upped the drama with a chandelier I moved in from the entryway.  Try to see that 'same old same old' kind of stuff in a new light.

Craigslist and Etsy.
I have to admit, I don't shop these sites often.  Like, hardly ever.  I kind of hate internet shopping.  I often like being able to see and feel what I'm buying for my house before I spend money on it.  But I did find Penelope's beautiful Jenny Lind bed on Craigslist, and a vintage coral wool blanket on Etsy that now lives on one of our living room chairs.  (Pictured below on the chair on the right.)

Bed frame for $50 on Craigslist, dresser for $30 at an estate sale

Flea Markets and Antiques Shows??
I would love to tell you to check stuff like this out.  I'm fascinated with the idea of the flea market, but I'm also a little terrified, so I've never gone.  I've toyed with the idea of telling people that some day I'd like to go to Round Top or Brimfield, because in theory I would.  But I also know myself well enough to know that I'd walk in, spend 30 minutes being totally overstimulated by all the people and the pretty, unique things and the good deals, and then go home to sleep off the excitement of the day.  (That's the same reason I spend very little time hunting through thrift stores.  It's mentally, physically and emotionally too much for me.  I'm really kind of terrible at being a normally-functioning person.)  But I was reading this blog post that mentioned that Walnut, Iowa is also known as Antique City and holds a yearly antiques show, so maybe I'll dip my toes into that scene on a trip home next summer?  And if it goes well, maybe I'll make plans to visit some of the other stops on the list.  (New Orleans?  Charleston?  Twist my arm.)

Do you guys have any places you love to find affordable stuff for your home?

i missed you!

Whew, guys.  So sorry I've been MIA.  Our internet just like, quit.  On Saturday night it was fine.  On Sunday morning it was like, 'Outtie.  Imma find greener pastures.'  Then the internetsters couldn't come to fix anything until yesterday afternoon, and even then they sent out this guy who would only make eye contact with my shorts-region when he talked to me, so that was uncomfortable.  But whatever, now I can Google anything I choose, which I guess makes it worth it?  So now, lucky me, I can answer Penelope's questions about Lizards That Have Stationary Eyes But The Tails Of Which Can Grow Back If Severed, and also the origins of chicken pox.  What did I ever spend time Googling before she was verbal?

Anyway, I had all kinds of plans for what I was going to chat about this week.  I was going to tell you more about our visit to the Big Muddy.  I was going to show you photos of our newly-nine-months-old Rocco.  I was going to issue the final verdict on Ab Rehab.  I was going to tell you how to get cool vintage stuff for your house for dirt-cheap (which is always relative to the current cost of dirt).  I was going to gab away about our strategy for buying kids' clothes that doesn't leave us destitute.  I was going to marvel at how I've surprisingly convinced my kids to beg to clean the whole house (and yard and van) for me.  (This miraculously happened to me yesterday and I was all, HAVE I BEEN RAPTURED AND I DIDN'T KNOW IT?! But then one kid punched another kid and then Second Kid screamed at First Kid and I was like, Is this heaven?  No, it's 10:30 a.m. in Missouri and I need some tequila.) 

Anyway, ALL THE PLANS, you guys.  I was definitely overly ambitious in my blog plans, but I really kind of love blogging.  I feel weirdly awkward about the fact that you people care at all about what happens at our house.  I feel like I'm that friend that you meet for coffee every morning and all I ever do is talk about myself and never ask how your life is, but you still somehow want to meet me for coffee everyday and I'm all like, I don't deserve you as a friend.  You know?  Anyway, that's how I feel about getting to write notes to you every day, so sometimes I get a little over-jazzed about telling you every little thing.  So thanks for bearing with me.

But all those plans will have to wait until next week, I guess, except for the post on how to find unique stuff for your house without going broke - let's talk about that tomorrow.  Sound good?

weekly 'what's up.'

This week has been a busy one.  It has been full of really great stuff, but man, am I glad it's Friday.  I am just such a hermit - I get super drained by trips out of the house, and we've had a lot of activities this week.  That being said, they've all been tons of fun, so I can't really complain!

Last Friday, I took the kids grocery shopping.  In recent years, I have gone by myself or with one kid at a time on mornings that Todd was home to watch the other kids.  But we haven't gotten into a routine like that here yet, so I've braved Aldi by myself with the kids a couple of times now.  And you know what?  It is actually getting easier.  I have found that it works best to wear Rocco in the Ergo, put Finneas and Laurelai in the front of the cart (Lord love you, Aldi, for getting two-seater carts!), and let Atticus and Penelope walk.  We have made it in and out of the store in under an hour, had enough space in our cart for kids AND food, and had no meltdowns.  I don't want to jinx anything, but it hasn't been the worst thing in the whole world.

This lady helped me unload all the groceries once we got home!

Last Saturday, we met some friends at The Big Tree.  As you can probably gather from the title, it's a big tree close to town - the biggest tree in Missouri, and the largest Burr Oak in the entire country, to be exact.  They estimate it is around 350 years old.  This thing isn't messing around.  I wasn't really sure what we'd do once we got there, but the kids played in its shade for over an hour.

After that, we headed to a nearby spot where we could get to the bank of the Missouri River.  We had to climb down a hill to get to the rocky shore, and between my bad, bad, terrible ankle and the fact that I was wearing Rocco in the Ergo, I was pretty useless.  Todd helped me down the hill, and then I just kind of camped out on a rock while I trusted the other adults in the group to keep my kids from drowning.  But everyone was fine and had a great time!  Stuff like this makes me really kind of love it here.  I'm genuinely falling in love with central Missouri.  I mean, look at where we are.

I'll post more about that day next week.

On Sunday, we had our first members' class at Anthem.  Stuff is getting real, people.

And as for this week, well...: the mornings have been full-up with swimming lessons.  I also met a new mom-friend at lessons, so I've been spending a lot of time with her after lessons are over.  We also launched connection groups this week, so we're back into the swing of that now (which I love and am so glad to have back in our life!).  We went to the library book sale on Wednesday, which was uber disappointing, but I still mined out a few good finds.  I've spent much of the week in a desperate scramble to prepare myself to start homeschool next week.  And it's been outrageously hot (the heat index was pushing 110 yesterday), so we're all totally and completely strung out from all the activity, social engagements, and draining weather.  But we've survived and lived to tell the tale!

Lastly, I'll leave you with photos of these beautiful girls.  How big are they getting?!?!

All this humidity has turned her hair into a dream.

Please be praying for our start to next week.  We're needing to jump back into school, but Lord A'mighty, it's probably going to be a rough transition.

slowly recovering from having All The Babies.

After Laurelai was born, my body went into this weird tailspin.  There was so much going on, and between having lots of little kids and a newborn, and the exhaustion of moving and church planting, and the fact that I'd had four babies very close together without really taking very good care of myself, I kind of physically broke down.

I was outrageously fatigued, but I couldn't sleep; I was addicted to sugar and simple carbs; the more I exercised, the more weight I gained; my hair was falling out and my skin and lips were dried out; I was constipated; I was always freezing during the day and burning up at night; I had no control over my very crazy emotions; my period was suddenly irregular and truly monstrous; etc etc etc.  I felt like crap.  There were some days I could barely get out of bed, and all day long, all I heard running through my head was, "I'm dying.  I'm dying.  I'm dying."  (That, or, because of my crazy weight fluctuations and emotional instability, I'd hear, "You're disgusting.  You're the worst.  Everyone thinks so.")  It was... a rough time.  I hate looking back on that season.

I took a full-page list of symptoms to the doctor's office, where I was basically told I was just experiencing normal postpartum hiccups and that I would be fine.  One doctor simply diagnosed me with anxiety and wrote me a prescription for Xanax.  So I had to kind of research things on my own to try to pinpoint what was going on, and do what I could by myself to help myself recover.  From all the reading I eventually accomplished, I'm quite confident it was a mixture of thyroid and adrenal dysfunction, and hormone imbalance.  They all kind of go hand-in-hand, and when one jumps off a cliff, its other two buddies jump with it.  Peer pressure at its finest.

So, anyway.  I've been intentionally taking care of myself better over the last two years.  I've been trying to  correct some of the issues I was having, and to proactively build up my body to be able to handle the stress of future church plants (including, and perhaps limited to, this one) and future pregnancies.  Considering that postnatal/maternal depletion is a majorly real (and frequently unaddressed) issue for many women, I thought I'd share what I've been using to help me heal in case it can help anyone else.

Diet:I started my healing journey off by doing a Whole30.  That month marked the first time I'd started feeling like there was a light at the end of the tunnel.  Since then, I've been very, very strict about avoiding gluten; I haven't ingested gluten in nearly two years.  This is super important if you're dealing with thyroid issues.  I also make sure to drink at least a half a gallon of water a day.

Supplements:I've never really been a supplement kind of girl; I'd believed that a healthy, well-rounded diet can provide whatever you need.  I still believe that, but I've also come to realize that our food and water sources have been so janked up for so long, that much of what our food should contain isn't really there in adequate quantities, or our food and water contain 'extras' that deplete our bodies of needed nutrients.  So I've started slowly, gradually, taking a few supplements, and these have made a world of difference.  Here is what I've been taking:

- Magnesium citrate (shown above as Natural Tranquility): magnesium deficiency can show up as constipation, morning sickness in preggos, restless legs, mood swings and increased cortisol, fatigue, body pain, and recurring headaches.  68% of Americans are magnesium deficient.

- Selenium: necessary for those with hypothyroid symptoms, including autoimmune issues

-Copper and zinc: work synergistically to help with hormone balance

-Prenatal multi: because, well, I'm always prenatal or breastfeeding

-Calcium: helps with magnesium absorption

-Vitamin D (Vitamin D from sun exposure is more bioavailable than a supplement, so I only supplement when necessary and get some sunlight whenever I can.)

-Kelp (Iodine): supports thyroid health in those that don't have Hashimoto's

Exercise:I started healing my diastasis recti using Ab Rehab before I did any other exercise.  (More to come on this topic next week.) I made sure I was seeing improvement in core strength before adding in some running.  I also made sure my adrenals seemed to be healing from the other things I was doing, since running and other cardio activity can cause weight gain in people with adrenal fatigue or failure.  So I started slow with the running using the Couch to 5k app and carefully watched how I felt during or after a run, and whether or not it was making me gain weight.  I currently run for about half an hour, four days a week.  I'd like to start adding in a couple days of yoga as well.

Body care:
I've been focusing on decreasing my skin exposure to synthetic chemicals, which can contain phthalates and parabens and other hormone disruptors.  These can wreak havoc on your hormones and adrenals.  I've started using the oil cleansing method on my face instead of soap, and using rose hip seed oil as a nighttime facial moisturizer.  Additionally, before each shower I've been dry brushing to help flush my lymph system (and ugh, it feels amazing, so it also seems self-indulgent).  And after each shower, I apply magnesium oil (magnesium is best absorbed transdermally), a really healing all-natural body lotion, and diluted nutmeg oil over my kidneys for adrenal support.

I can honestly tell you I feel amazing.  I finally wake up feeling at home in my skin.  I have seen really positive results over the last two years of making gradual changes, and all of the symptoms I mentioned above have improved or have been totally eliminated.  I feel like I'm getting to a point of health again, and I'm not dreading the drain of the next pregnancy, whenever that comes.  Slowly, but surely, I'm recognizing who I am - mentally and physically - and I'm so glad.  I still have a ways to go in my healing journey, and some things I'd still like to add to my regular routine, like taking a fermented cod liver oil and butter oil supplement, and doing regular oil pulling, since I've developed my first-ever cavities since Rocco was born, and my teeth are very loose in my gums.  But I'm happy with the progress I've made, and I'm looking forward to continued healing.

I'd love to answer any questions you might have, or chat with you sometime if you're identifying with any of the stuff I was experiencing!

if you can belieb it, you can achieb it.

Well, everyone.  It is Monday.  I know it can be overwhelming, but today's going to be a good day.  I just know it.  You know how I know it?

Because Justin Bieber believes in you.  He believes you can do this.  I mean, look at that.  He's already throwing you a party, and he's wearing his best leather vest to show you he means business.  (Party business.)

You got this, gurrl.  If I can wear this party cone hat without messing up my blow out, you can Monday.

So go forth and make this Monday the greatest Monday that has ever Mondayed.  You owe it to yourself.  You owe it to the world.  You owe it to Justin.