what's up weekly.

This week we got back into the grind after taking a week off from school.  It was great to get some structure back into our days, although I will say that it wasn't without some whining from all involved.  But before I get into whining about the whining, let's back up.

Our most major news of note this week is that ROCCO TOOK HIS FIRST INDEPENDENT STEPS!  I don't have photos, since my hands were busy trying to keep him from cracking his head open in an inevitable drunk-fall, but trust me: it happened.  And it felt like the best day of my life.  That's the funny thing with kids: every time they do something new, it's like it's the first time you're ever seeing it happen.  It doesn't matter that you walk every single day of your own life without thinking twice about it; it doesn't matter that you've seen X-number of kids before this one take their own first steps.  It is just so exciting to see them hitting those tiny major milestones.  And it is just as exciting every single time, with every single kid.  I'm so glad I get to be here for these moments!

In other, less major news, we started off the weekend with an adventure at Lowe's, where the boys got to build fire boats.  After that, we stopped at Wal-Mart to pick up our grocery order, and uh, hello: ordering online and having someone just deliver it straight to the van was a game-changer.  I will be doing it that way from here on out, forever and ever, amen.  Between the thing at Lowe's, our stop at Walmart, and our bi-weekly trip to Aldi, we were still only gone for about two hours.  MIND BLOWN.

Saturday night, a couple of girls from Cedar Falls came and stayed the night, and came to church with us on Sunday.

On Monday, we hopped back into the swing of school, refreshed and (mostly) ready for it.  The kids don't really mind school; it's the other stuff about structured days they sometimes get worn down by - namely, chores.  When school is on break, chores tend to be on break as well.  So it was a sad, sad day in the Van Voorst house when I told them it was time to deep clean their rooms and strip their sheets on Monday morning.

Monday afternoon, I popped all the sheets into the washer, and then moved them to the dryer.  I'd been noticing that the washer hadn't been draining properly lately, but I figured I could live with it.  Then, when I went to add a second load into the washer for the day, the washer died.  Like, it spit out a little water, and then it rolled over onto its back and its eyes turned to "X"s and its tongue lolled out of its mouth.  It was a really excellent moment for me.

See, I've been hand-washing dishes for the last three weeks, since our dishwasher is also dead.  So I'm already kind of on the outs with our appliances.  But the thing is, I'm capable of hand-washing dishes.  Not so much with hand-washing dirty laundry.  For one thing, I don't have one of those scrubby washboard things (unless my abs count), and I'm fresh out of lye soap, so hand-washing seven people's laundry is not really an option for me.  Having a functioning washing machine is kind of a big deal around here.  But we just dropped serious cash on the (yet-to-be-delivered) dishwasher, so...

I was, um... unhappy.  So I spent Monday night pouting and crying and not sleeping and trying to force the washer to resurrect.  And then I spent Tuesday praying for my obvious total depravity, as displayed in my ingratitude and temper tantrums, and also trying to force the washer to resurrect.  And then Wednesday, Todd lined up a friend with a truck to go with him to Menard's to buy a used washer, and half an hour before he was set to leave, I decided to try the washer one last time, just for kicks.

And do you know what that stupid, stubborn, prankster of a washer did?  It started up just fine.  It ran cold water.  It ran hot water.  It drained properly.  It acted like the most medicated of problem youths.  And I was ecstatic.  Slash ticked off.  You know, how a person gets.  So, long story short, our washer is (tentatively) back in my (skeptical) good graces.  I forgive it, but it's currently having to work hard to regain my trust.

And other than that, the rest of this week has been pretty normal.  On Wednesday, we headed to the used book sale at the library, which sucked, but we got a schedule for the upcoming sales, which seem like they "should" (HEAVY EMPHASIS) be pretty decent, so I'm crossing my fingers.  I may even have to get a babysitter for the kids so I can browse, singularly-focused and uninterrupted, the upcoming Classics sale.  (Nicholas Sparks books should probably be part of that one, right?)

Eeeeeeenywayz, that's all I've got to show for the week.  Tomorrow is October, you guys.  October.

the problem with not being Teddy Roosevelt.

I'm going to shoot you folks straight: I'm dealing with total writer's block.  Stuff is getting cray-cray around here, but not in any kind of 'oh, this would be interesting to write about' kind of way.  It's like a boring kind of crazy, if that makes sense.  So the blog has been a bit lackluster, yes?

Well, today is no exception.  I am absolutely teeming with no stories.  My cup runneth over with non-blogs.  I am a vast, churning ocean of boringness and predictability.

So, in a rousing effort to post something (mainly because I'm currently reading a biography of Theodore Roosevelt, and I'm realizing by contrasting my life with his that I'm kind of waify in my daily achievements and ambitions, so I feel the need to do something) I thought I'd simply pop in to tell you that I'm still just as Not Teddy as always.  I do not charge up San Juan Hill.  I do not dedicate anything of significance to the National Parks, other than my vague admiration of their distant existence.  I do not read 500 books a year or initiate the terrifying prospect of personally wrestling William Taft.  I have never held the world record for Number of Hand Shakes in a Day.  And I do NOT have a blog post prepared for today.

If Teddy were running this blog, you can be certain he would have something witty and profound to say.  But that's the problem with just being the ordinary guy that has to step up to the blogging plate every week: sometimes you're just not Teddy Roosevelt.  And you have to find a way to be okay with that.

in which i dote on Lowe's.

I usually take one or two kids with me to grocery shop on Saturday mornings, and this week, I decided to also try taking the boys to one of those Build and Grow class-thingies at Lowe's.  It was Fire Boat Day.  I'll give you three guesses regarding whether the boys enjoyed themselves, and the first two don't count.

It was outrageously fun.  And honestly, stuff like this is always cause for a little pre-game anxiety, since you never know how much parent involvement/supervision/pressure will be required, and how the kids will do in an unfamiliar dynamic in public.  But it was seriously so low-key: we showed up, picked up our baggie of materials, and the boys did so great.  I didn't help Atticus with anything, and Finneas only needed a little help positioning nails before he hammered them in himself.  We will definitely be doing this again really soon.

whut's up weekly. (fall break edition.)

This school break week has been so great.  Honestly, I didn't realize I was at the point of needing a break.  I had considered just continuing on until we felt tired of school, but if there's one thing I've learned as a mom, it's that you should always - ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS - 'kill it before it dies.'  You make lunch before the kids feel hungry.  You put the kids to bed before they hit that wall of exhaustion.  You leave the swimming pool before the sunstroke-induced meltdown starts.  And you take a break from school before you're fed up.  You don't wait until a state of emergency before you take action.  You head off emergencies at the pass by killing stuff before it dies.

So that's what we did this week, and it was so great.  We filled our time with chiro appointments, visits with friends, audiobooks, Adventures in Odyssey, and growing mushrooms.

Yes, you read that correctly.  We're currently mothering some mushrooms into maturity.  I found this mushroom farm kit on clearance at our local natural food store for five bucks, so I figured it would be fun to do with the kids.  We've had a good time cultivating these little guys, making predictions about what will happen, sketching growth and changes in our nature journals, and vacillating between awe and disgust at the whole concept.

Day 1.

Day 6.  Atticus observed that this little cluster reminds him of coral.  I think it looks like button candy that got Alex Mack'd.

Day 7.  It's starting to look like something from a Dr. Seuss book.

Finneas came down with a super random fever over the weekend - he was warm and complaining of a bad headache all evening on Saturday, so I gave him an ice pack to sleep on and put him to bed, and by Sunday morning he was fine.  We stayed home from church anyway.  (I'm a strict observer of the "Fever-Free for 24 Hours" rule, just out of respect for other families who might not want to have to deal with whatever lingering germs we might be carrying.)

On Tuesday, we went to Lowe's and ordered our new dishwasher.  I found a really fancy one on super-sale, so we bit the bullet and bought it... but it's backordered for another three weeks or so.  So, I get to continue to handwash in the meantime.  You better believe that once it's installed, I will be shouting it from the rooftops and getting weirdly maternal toward my new, pretty, savior of a dishwasher.  (With bottle jets! And a hard food disposal!  And a steam-rinse setting! And a setting for kosher-observant families, whatever the heck that means.  I told you this thing was upper-crust.)

Oh, and nbd, but btw, I witnessed an actual, real-life, non-hyperbolic miracle the other day.  I have been doing my best to clean out our glass milk bottles by hand.  But without a dishwasher, I've been skeptical that they're getting totally clean, so I tried sterilizing them by rinsing them with boiling water.  After doing a few without incident, I went to sterilize the fourth bottle the same way - I put water in the bottle, covered the opening, and gave it a few good shakes to rinse the inside.  But this time, the steam built up in the bottle, shot the lid off, and sprayed boiling water all over my arms and stomach.  And it didn't burn me.  I was sopping wet from water that was hot enough to blow a lid off a bottle, and my skin wasn't even pink.  Other than the fact that God clearly could have bestowed on me a little more common sense that would have prevented me from doing this in the first place, I think it's clear that this moment should be canonized as a miracle, or however that works.

Rocco has been killing it this week: standing on his own quite often, learning to wave, melting my heart.  You know.  Here he is, chasing dust particles.  WHAT ON EARTH IS BETTER THAN A BACKLIT, PUDGY BABY HAND?!?!?! (Nothing.  Nothing.  Clearly, nothing.)

in which i rest my case that finneas is just the best.

Finneas drew this picture of Penelope, and signed his own name. Swoon.  Penelope responded by drawing a shirt on 'herself' that says "I Love Finn."  Double swoon.

it's still technically summer for two more days, so...

I feel the need to remind the internet that it is not yet fall.  It is still ninety degrees every day with one million percent humidity.  It is still bug spray and lemonade season.  It is still SUMMAH.

So you can keep your cinnamon-scented candles and your hot, spicy lattes and your stupid burgundy tights.  You can keep your flannel shirts and your berry-toned lipsticks and your knit beanies.  We, friends, we will still be in our shorts and flipflops, drinking Cokes through straws, hitting up the pool and watching the butterflies.

And just to prove it, and to stick it to the man Pinterest, I would like to flaunt some pool photos.  Of the kids in the pool.  The swimming pool.  Because it's hot out.  Because it's summer.

a little of this, a little of that, a few morals of the stories.

We have finished our first six-week stretch of homeschool, and to celebrate, we're taking this week off!  That's right, it's already fall break for us.  Our school year is broken into trimesters, which are each broken in half themselves, with a week break in between each one.  So we have six six-week stretches scheduled this year, if that makes sense, and we just finished the first one!  Maybe, just maybe, this year will be different and we'll actually stay on track this time.  

I have big plans for the week:  chiropractor appointments.  Picking up paint samples.  Getting in a short run on most days.  Finally finishing the Laura Ingalls Wilder autobiography I started about a bijillion years ago.  You know.  The kind of stuff you dream about doing when you're a teenager and imagining your life after the age of twenty-one.  Life full of high-flying adventures, and raw, gritty passion, and advocating for the voiceless.  That kind of stuff.

Meanwhile, the kids have been ecstatic that we're going to be taking a break this week.  Except, they still want to do Morning Basket.  Also, art.  And composer study.  Also, handicrafts.  And free reading.  They would also like to continue to do read-alouds in the afternoon.   So... we're basically just skipping math and handwriting for a week.  Penelope has even written her own compilation of original fables that she would like to start reading aloud to the rest of us each day. 

Here is a sampling of her writings (shared with permission from the author, and edited only for spelling):

The Foolish Ram
A hole not far from a flock was being dug.  A ram went there.  His shepherd called the flock.  The ram did not come, he ran to the hole and fell in.  The moral of this story is: The foolish end up in disastrous places.

The Fly and His Shadow
Once a fly was walking along the field by sunset when he saw his shadow.  He felt big and important.  Then at the last minute a spider hanged down from its web and grabbed the fly and ate him.  The moral of this story is: Don't get distracted when you're supposed to pay attention to your enemies.

The Uncontent Peach
Once a peach didn't like his color so he painted himself rainbow.  But when the kid came to pick peaches, she saw him and put him in the compost.  The moral of this story is:  Be content with what you have because your riches fade away in the end.

Oh, my dear, sweet Penelope, who chugs books like they're lemonade, and writes stories all day long, and stays up way too late to get in one more chapter.  Daughter after my own heart.

Well, I better be going.  I have all kinds of daredevil, free-spirited plans to be getting to.

whut's up weekly.

Ugh, I'm so sorry I went dark without warning this week.  If you've been wondering, I'm alive.  I'm not hungry or hurt or in peril.  I have adequate food and supplies.  I'm fine.  Really.

Todd was in Oklahoma all week and I've been wrangling the kids by myself, and have had tons of house guests (ten total individuals, if we're counting, and some of them on multiple nights).  I have had dinner guests four of the last six nights, and my dishwasher is still dead as a door nail, so I've been just trying to keep up.  Now, I think I may be getting sick.  All that to say, by the end of each day, after the kids are in bed and all guests have gone home, and I find myself sitting in the quiet, perpetually dark house alone, blogging has not been my main priority.  

My main priority has been eating microwave popcorn and watching Parenthood and picking the peeling skin off of my dried-out dishwater hands.  Mmmm.

So, let's start with the dishwasher.  I go back and forth with what I'm hoping happens with that.  Yeah, we could just pay to have ours repaired, but I really don't know how much that will cost and if it will be worth it in the long run.  It's already seven or eight years old, and it's not a super nice dishwasher, so I'm guessing it's nearing the end of its realistic lifespan.  However, buying a new one is kind of a major deal.  I mean, it's not the most expensive appliance in the whole world, but a new dishwasher is still hundreds of dollars more expensive than the $0 we had previously been spending on dishwashers.

So then I'm like, maybe I'll just keep washing stuff by hand and use the money that we would have used for a dishwasher to have solar tubes put in (because dang y'all, my house is a full-blown hobbit house and my eyeballs are starting to sizzle anytime I walk out the front door because they're like, "WHAT IS THIS UNFAMILIAR, BLINDING HELL FIRE COMING FROM THE SKY?!?  SUNLIGHT?!?!"  And then my skin blisters and starts to melt).  Honestly, solar tubes are probably as practical an expense as a new dishwasher when it comes to saving my sanity.  But then I wash seventeen people's dishes over the course of a week and I start to reconsider.  So we'll see what happens.

As for the rest of our week:  On Saturday, while Todd was still home, our friends Josh and Megan came to stay the night.  We know them from the Cedar Falls church plant, and they'll soon be moving down here to help with this plant.  Megan spent some quality time with the girlies, polishing their nails.  The girls LOVED it.

On Sunday, Todd left after church to make the eight-hour drive down to OK.

On Monday, we finally got in to the chiropractor for the first time since the car accident, so the little kids all took rockstar naps.  After nap time, we went with a friend to an indoor play place/Tiny Ninja Warrior training course.  The kids had a freaking blast.

On Tuesday, we had Connection Group here at the house like we do most weeks.  Remind me next time to get someone else to host it when Todd's gone.  I kind of lost my mind trying to get ready for it.  It was not pretty.

On Wednesday, we headed up to the Amish in the morning, and a friend and her daughter came for dinner.

Yesterday, we did nothing except make a run to the library to pick up some of the books I'd put on hold.  Also, I had to re-pierce one of my nose ring holes with a safety pin after a botched attempt at switching out the gaudy studs for little gold rings.  It was a success in the end.

I am, at this point, basically catatonic.  Luckily, Todd is home today and I am planning on making the world's largest margarita and going to bed at like 4:30 p.m.  That is, after I pick up a friend's kiddo from preschool and her mom comes to get her.  Because the order of those things is important.

Tomorrow, I have a baby shower to go to and a college girl is coming to read to the kids for a bit for a class she's in.  On Sunday, Todd will be teaching at church, only after which will my max capacity for extracurriculars will have been exceeded and I will go into a coma.  Do not resuscitate.

ANNNND.  Laurelai in a hat.  You know.  Because.

weekly 'what's up.'

This week has been great.  Nothing major planned, nothing major missed.  Just a standard, run-of-the-mill week, just like I like them. 

On Saturday, instead of going and doing anything, we just hung out.  Like, all day.  Todd even went and picked up food for dinner so I didn't have to cook or do dishes.  (Our dishwasher is broken so I've been doing our dishes by hand for the last two weeks.)  The only things I accomplished all day were a little bit of reading and a run.  Which I have to brag about, by the way - 3.1 miles in 29:22.  I met my goal of doing a full 5k in under a half an hour!

Sunday was pretty standard: church, naps, movie night.  And Rocco turned ten months old!

Todd was home on Monday, since it was Labor Day, but other than that, our day looked super normal.  We did some school and went to the Amish, like we usually do, only Todd got to come along for the ride!  Anything is better when he's along.

Tuesday, we had a couple of doctor's appointments scheduled in the morning to get the ball rolling on treatment for the minor injuries we sustained in the small car accident we were in a couple of weeks ago.  I'm really excited to get started with our chiropractic care for all of that - I've been having a hard time sleeping, and having a lot of neck and back pain, and the doctor thinks Atticus got a mild concussion.   So I'm ready to get that stuff looked at by a chiro.  (In my own limited experience, chiropractors have been a lot more helpful and knowledgeable than MDs in regard to most things health-related.)

Also on Tuesday, Finneas turned four and a half!  I am not one to really keep track of half birthdays (heck, I have a hard time keeping track of actual birthdays) but Todd is on top of all of that, which I'm thankful for.  It provides for one extra day a year for each of them to feel special and unique!

School is going pretty well.  I'm desperately trying to get into the groove of Missouri record-keeping, which is tedious and burdensome, but no one asked me what I thought before passing the law.  The one silver lining of all of it is that we'll end up with a 'yearbook' of sorts when all is said and done.  Pictures like this are for the portfolio (check out Atticus' beading!) but it's also nice to know that the little things like this will end up being documented through our days.

And that was our super normal week!

i'm readin' a book, kid; i'm readin' a book.

my diastasis recti: the final verdict on Ab Rehab.

Well, I've not only completed my ten-week Ab Rehab course to recover from my diastasis recti, but I finally have the ability to upload photos to the blog again!  Yay!  So it's time to issue the final verdict on whether Ab Rehab actually helped or not.

If you remember from the previous series of posts on this topic, I had started out with a gap between my abs that was about the width of two fingers.  After having carried and delivered five babies over the course of the last few years, my stomach was bulging, and I had no core strength.  Even standing up straight required more conscious strength than I was able to muster most days.  So I got in touch with Kelley Suggs of Lithe Wellness Solutions in Buffalo, MN, who regularly helps clients recover from ab separations like mine, and got my hands on a copy of her Ab Rehab DVD.

Basically, it's ten weeks of exercises that help re-train those muscles back into proper, healthy position.

So... did it work?

(For reference, there is only a two-pound body weight difference between the first photo and the last.  I am not sucking in or slouching in any of these photos.)

Girlfrannnn, it DID work!  If I'm being totally transparent, I was pretty darn skeptical that the exercises would make much of an actual difference.  From the way things sounded when I'd read up on diastasis recti online, it seemed like once you were struck by it, you were doomed to a lumpy existence for the rest of your sad, slouchy life.  So it was out of desperation that I had started the program, but I didn't have a ton of optimism that it would do much good.

Ugh, how pallid was I when I first started this?!  Thank the good Lord for UVBs.

But here's the thing:  my gap is now only half a finger wide.  I repeat, it is only HALF A FINGER WIDE.  That's 75% improvement in just ten weeks.  That's huge!

And here's what else: I asked Kelley how closed the gap has to get before it's considered fully healed, and she said, "CLOSED is closed."  If my gap wasn't fully closed yet (which, obviously, it isn't quite), I should go back to the beginning of the DVD and do exercises one and two again.  So I'm back in exercise one, and I'm seeing continued improvement.  I really do have full confidence that in the next month or so, my diastasis recti will be no more.

Guys, I really can't recommend this enough.  I am feeling strong again.  I am looking more normal to myself.  I still have a little ways to go still, but I am feeling hopeful that at some point, I won't be carting around any extra softness in my belly region... at least, softness that wasn't put there by nachos.  (If anyone has a DVD program for healing Nacho Addiction, I'll be all over it.  I'll do a blog series on it.)

If you're wanting to go back to the beginning and read through my journey, or if you want to learn more about diastasis recti and how to check if you have it, check out the rest of the posts in this series:

*I was not financially compensated for this post.  I received the DVD for review purposes.  The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.

our hike at Rock Bridge State Park.

A few weeks ago, we took a Saturday to head over to Rock Bridge State Park to hike around and check out, well, the Rock Bridge.  If you can't guess by the name, it's a naturally-occurring bridge made out of... rock.  

Getting out of the house still requires some scheduling acrobatics in this season of life, since Rocco still takes a morning nap and an afternoon nap.  He wakes up from his first nap around noon, and we have until two-ish to get out and back before he's ready to head to bed again.  So once he woke up that day, I nursed him and then we took a super-easy picnic lunch with us, so we could maximize our time out there. 

After lunch, the kids (meaning, mostly Atticus, but also the rest of the Tag Along Gang) spent some time burning off their freshly acquired calories by jumping off of rocks and climbing trees.

Then we headed to the hiking trail.  There are two main sights along the trail:  the Rock Bridge, which we've covered already, and Devil's Icebox, a cave kind of under the Rock Bridge where the water stays 58-degrees all year round.  We didn't go into the water, since it's crazy-rainy here over the summer and the water was really high and moving pretty fast.  But even in just descending the stairs to get down there, there was a drastic temperature shift.  It felt so good - the heat and humidity here is outrageous, so we were all pretty sticky, and grateful for even a temporary cool-down.  (There was a Professional Park Guy on hand who said that Columbia's climate can best be summed up as "Georgia Summers, Michigan Winters.")

After we'd hiked around for about an hour, we headed back toward the car.  Right at the opening of the trail, there's a place where, even though the bank is steep and muddy, the water is shallow enough to walk around in.  The kids begged to dip their toes in, so we let them for just a minute.  Some kids ended up ticked because they didn't get to stay in the water longer; other kids were ticked because they were put in the water at all to begin with.  I'll let you guess who is who.

At the end of it all, the girls got a few flowers that had accidentally been pulled up by Todd's shoe.  I'm pretty sure that was their favorite part of the day.

I'm really looking forward to more opportunities to go check out some of the neat things nearby!