the finer things club.

The last time I described our Friday morning Tea Time in a blog post, my friend Jeska commented that we have our very own Finer Things Club going down on a weekly basis.  So true!  (If you've seen The Office, you get the joke.  If you haven't seen The Office, what the heck are you doing reading my blog right now?! You have more important things you should be doing with your precious time.  Namely, binge-watching The Office.  Thank me later.)

Anyway, I snapped a few pictures of last week's Tea Time.  It's our weekly time where we study music and art.  What you can't see is that Dvorak's "Humoresque" is playing in the background, making us especially hoity toity.

We start Friday's art study by examining a piece by our current artist.  This term, we're studying Mary Cassatt.  We talk about what we notice in the painting - who/what is in the picture?  How are they framed/posed?  What are they doing?  What kind of colors do you see?  How does the painting make you feel?  Do you like it or not?  Why do you think he/she chose to paint this?  How is it similar to, or different than, other paintings we've looked at?  You know, uppity questions like that.

After that, I'll give them a little more time to examine the picture, then I close the book and ask them to 'narrate' to me what the painting is like - to describe it in as careful detail as possible.  Then we'll pull the book back out, and they'll sketch their own copy of the work.  They really get to know the painting well by the end of it!

And really, the best part of this whole endeavor is that, the entire time, they get to drink tea.  Ahem, I suppose I should clarify that it is, at best, half a mug full of honey with a splash of hot brown water.  This is how I get them all revved up for art study.  Honestly, they love it.  And so do I.  I admittedly know zipzerozilch about art (or artists), so Fridays hold a lot of appeal for me as well, since I'm learning - and drinking tea - right alongside them.

A very cheery "Cheers!" to Tea Time!

'what's up' weekly.

Saturday was a busy one for us:

1.  Breakfast.  This one is getting super enthused about food lately, which is good, because I think my milk is starting to dry up.  Good timing!

2.  Baths.  It's getting chilly in the mornings, so we needed some extra snuggle time to warm up.

3.  Finneas and I went grocery shopping, and Todd hung out with the rest of the kids at home.  How did Penelope spend her time?  Why, reading of course.

4.  On our grocery shopping trip, Finneas spent some of his remaining birthday money on a Lego set.  When we got home, the kids all worked on assembling it together.

5. After Rocco woke up from his morning nap, we headed out the door to check out some of the Homecoming hullabaloo going on around town.  Anytime we get ready to go anyplace, the kids all line up by the door (in birth order) and cry, in unison: "We're REA-DY!"  I am not making this stuff up.  

6.  When we got back, the little kids (and Todd) went down for naps, the big kids played outside, and I curled up on the couch and called my mom.

Sunday was pretty normal, except that it was my mom's birthday, so the kids and I FaceTimed her before bed.

Monday was Todd's birthday, so we painted pumpkins.  I'll share more on that next week.

Wednesday, the kids helped me make pumpkin bars, and we roasted pumpkin seeds as part of the ongoing birthday celebrations for Todd.  I hardly ever bake anymore, and I can never remember why.  I usually chalk it up to the fact that gluten-free baking is always such a doomsday prospect: you know it will turn out terrible, so why even attempt it?  But I remembered on Wednesday that it's primarily because I can never actually reach the counter or any of my supplies, nor can I move because someone is always holding onto my legs, so it's not really a matter of not wanting to bake.  It's more a matter of being physically unable to bake.  Trying to remain totally stationary, five feet away from the bowl and ingredients, can, um, hinder a person.  BUT our gluten-free pumpkin bars turned out amazing, so maybe the kids bring Good Baking Luck.  Or maybe the baking gods figured I earned it.

Thursday, a friend babysat for us so we could go out.  We went to dinner at this English Pub and then went to Walmart and bought some rakes and a discounted house plant.  We live large.

And that brings us to today!  A good friend from Cedar Falls, who will soon be leaving for two years in Vietnam, is coming to drink wine and spend the night.  I'm so excited!

Have a happy weekend, everyone!

welcome to the jungle.

I've been trying (and trying and trying) to make this house feel like 'home' to me.  It still has a ways to go, but I've been trying.  This week, I brought the house plants inside from their summer out in the Missouri heat and humidity (which they LOVED - my potted orange tree is actually blossoming as we speak), and it has made a world of difference.

I don't know about you, but having something living in my living room makes me feel like living there, too.  And we've chosen not to have pets - nothing personal to pet-lovers; animals are super cute and cuddly and I love other people's pets to the moon and back.  But I already have enough hair and feces and piles of barf to deal with in my personal life; I don't need to invite more of that kind of drama.  So to enhance that 'living room' feel, I choose plants.

At last count, it would seem I have at least fifteen plants that I'm needing to find housing for now that summer's over.  This house doesn't currently offer reasonable decorative solutions for all of them, so some of them are kind of piled in the basement or our bedroom.  But still, I find myself thinking, "I need more plants in my life."  Because sometimes that spot on the piano needs a tiny-statured plant and I don't have one, or I have too many 'leafy' plants and need something with a more 'frond'-y feel.  I know you hear me on this and I'm not just a nutjob rubbing my hands together while whispering, plaaaaants plaaaaaaants all the plaaaaants.

All that to say, I'm glad my friends are back inside.  They make me feel like I can breathe a little easier...  and I mean that both literally and figuratively.  I bet my house has the best air quality, what with all of my chlorophyllic friends plus the two - count 'em, two - salt lamps that keep trying to reassure me that they're practicing their invisible voodoo on my air ions or whatever.  (I'm questionably convinced.)

So anyway.  If you want to pray that the plants procreate, or weave me a sisal rug for the living room while I'm sleeping to enhance the living room experience even further, I wouldn't be opposed.

happy birthday, todd!

Happy 38th birthday to my awesome husband.  I don't know how I got so lucky as to get him, honestly, so I can't give you any pointers if you're on your own husband hunt.  You could try crossing your fingers and hoping someone decides to slum it a little and take a chance on you.  I mean, that seems to be what worked for me.

My current favorite things about him:  the length of his beard (not too long, not too short); the fact that he's been pretty imperturbable about any minor stuff lately; that he suggests spontaneous weekend adventures and also spontaneous weekend let's-do-nothing days; that he playlists Counting Crows songs for me even though they're not his fave; that he is willing to consider buying a garage door as our joint Christmas present to each other, even though he doesn't really get anything he cares about out of the deal.  I also like it when he puts Band-Aids on my fingers for me when I inevitably stab myself with knives or box cutters or whatever other sharp object is within reasonable reach.

But what I love most about him are the things I've always loved most about him:  I love having fun with him.  I love watching him be Daddy to our kids.  I love hearing his thoughts on Scripture and doctrine and translations.  I love cracking jokes with him and watching sitcoms together.

So, happy birthday to Todd.  I'm so glad he was born.

weekly 'what's up.' (minus photos because i'm a lazy bum.)

Not a single photo was taken this week.  Not one goldarn blasted photo.  THE. WORST.  So you'll just have to bear with me, photoless and pathetic.  I'll try to make it quick.

Saturday: we went to Shelter Gardens, and I had so much coffee creamer. (Saturdays are my cheat day on Trim Healthy Mama.)  It was like the world was ending and I was trying to be all 'virgins with the lamps' and stock up on oil.  Only my "oil" was just salted vanilla caramel-flavored sugar sauce.  It was good.  Also, dangerous, because I could have ended up in a blood sugar coma, and that's not how anyone wants to spend their Saturday.  So I'm glad I narrowly avoided that.

Sunday: Church.  Stretchy Pants.  Noodles for Dinner.

Monday: Monday stuff.  School.  Laundry.

Tuesday:  Cleaning day.  Laundry.  Connection group.  I made a huge pot roast that only cost me $10 at Aldi. You GO, Aldi Coco.

Wednesday: Amish.  Laundry.

Thursday:  School.  More laundry.  Paid the kids a penny per pair to match socks.

And that brings us up to date, really.  I mean, other than the fact that I should tell you Rocco is starting to chow down on big kid foods all of a sudden.  He ate like a whole piece of salmon the other night and a bunch of quinoa.  He also ate chicken, at which point I yelled, "Yay, chicken!" at which point he threw a rock fist in the air.  Now, anytime someone yells, "CHICKEN!" at him, he throws up the rock fist.  I think he's also trying to say "peekaboo," even though it just sounds like "ba-buhhhh," because he does it every time he puts a blanket over his head and then pulls it off.  Same cadence as 'peekaboo' and everything.  I mean, is that enough to decide conclusively that he's a genius?  Not definitively.  But not NOT definitively.

it's time for a list of things!

I have no ideas for a cohesive blog post today, so I'm just going to list some stuff out.

1.  Try as I may, I have never gotten the hang of making cheese sauce.  It always just turns into a sticky ball of melted cheese swimming around in some kind of yellow-colored broth.  You know it's bad when your kids look at their cheese-covered cauliflower and ask for permission to pick the cheese off so they can eat the cauliflower plain.

2.  Rocco is almost a year old, and is nursing nursing nursing.  I mean, dang.  I feel like Rosie the Riveter.  Like, "Lady!  You can do anything you put your mind to!  Don't let them put you in a box or glass-ceiling you!  You, my friend, can breastfeed if you want to."  It feels good.  Probably akin to building airplanes for the war effort.

3.  I am really wrestling with coming to grips with the fact that the paint color I chose for the living room/dining room/hall is absolutely wrong.  It looked awesome in Cedar Falls, where the floors were darker, but here it looks terrible.  But I seriously cannot bring myself to consider repainting.  But I also can't bring myself to consider living with them as-is.  I mean, there's enough about this house that's working against it as it is.  Why subject it to further mental bullying by clothing it in the wrong color? I mean, that is totally changeable.  Turning the whole house to face South is less realistic.  So I should be willing to do what I can, right?  But UGH UGH UGH.  Don't make me paint!  (Anyone want to come for a painting party?!!)

4.  I am going strong with homeschool.  Strong-ish.  Of average strength.  At the rate we're going with our hours, we may have to sign on for year-round school, or at least year-round math, but we're at least consistent.  We have only missed one scheduled day of school so far this year, and we're ten weeks in.  That is a huge win for Paige Van Voorst.  Now, to see if the same holds true once the weather turns and I get SAD and want to stay in bed all day instead of living up to my obligations and responsibilities...

5.  Laurelai is currently living in her own version of Second Life: she is apparently named Lack (or Leff, who is Lack's sister, but also played by Laurelai).  She lives in a castle, and her mom has all kinds of rules that conveniently overrule mine.  I told her to eat a brussels sprout the other night, and she told me, "My mom says I can't eat that because it has grain."  Convenient.  Very convenient.  Also, her mom seems like she may be a bit misinformed about some things.

6.  I started doing Trim Healthy Mama and I simultaneously love it and hate it.  First of all, stevia makes me sad and I miss sugar.  So Saturdays are my Huge Coffee with Ungodly Amounts of Creamer days.  Also, I have a grilled cheese sandwich every night before bed, even though it totally flies in the face of everything Trim Healthy Mama stands for.  Just because I can.  (And because I'm nursing and I'm ravenous at 10:30 at night.)  

7.  I feel like I need to come up with a seventh thing.  No?

8.  My dishwasher is my new best friend.  I need help coming up with the perfect name for her.  She's shiny on the outside AND the inside, she likes to sing, she's a hard worker, she's basically silent (except when she's singing, of course).  I just know there's a fitting character to name her after, but who?  HELP ME.

9.  I write these blog posts at night, and it's now 10:42 p.m. and it's grilled cheese time, so I'm outtie, yo.

our trip to Shelter Gardens.

On Saturday, we decided on a whim to take the kids over to Shelter Gardens, a botanical garden and arboretum on the property where Todd works.  It's weird that we've become an 'on a whim' family - Todd and I are both "J"s on the Meyers-Briggs inventory (Todd especially so), and spontaneity has definitely been a learned trait for both of us.  But it has been so good for us, because look at the kinds of things we'd be missing out on!

There's a beautiful old one-room schoolhouse within the gardens, and the kids had a heyday sitting in the seats (and, in Laurelai's case, getting folded up into one of the seats) and coloring on the chalkboard.  I had a heyday taking pictures of the trimwork around the windows and reining in my desire to steal the beautiful wood-burning stove to have for my very own.  (Don't worry, I kid.  I kid.  I would never do that.  It would be way to heavy for me to carry.)

Please excuse how blasted out this photo is.  A) This building had the absolute nightmare of a problem that is having tons of windows and ample natural light, and B) Finneas is basically glow-in-the-dark anyway.

After we had walked through the gardens, we headed to the front of Todd's building to check out the fountain.  This company does so much for our community, and it values treating its employees well and making things beautiful.  I am so thankful for the unexpected blessing Shelter has been in our lives here!

I'm really wanting to come back regularly, to see all the different trees and flowers change through the seasons.

what's up weekly. (I got wordy this week. #srrynotsrry)

Happy Friday, everyone!  This week has been a good one, full of mostly normal stuff, a few exciting things, an injury, and lots of time at home.

Friday night, two of our favorite babysitters from Cedar Falls, Ellie and Bethany, came all the way down to stay with us for the weekend.  It was a blast.  

Saturday morning the kids got up to find the girls here and kind of lost their minds.  We spent the morning at home, then spent some time out hiking the trails at Rock Bridge.  We got zero pictures of that on the nice camera because we're huge idiots. Luckily, Todd had his phone on him.

Saturday night, the girls watched the kids for us so that we could go on a date.  We headed to a restaurant we'd been wanting to try out for a while that serves Cajun food.  Any kind of restaurant orienting their menu around spicy shellfish in cream sauce is fine by me.  And daaaang.  It was so. good.  I about died.  We will definitely be eating there again.  I can predict that whenever the next pregnancy strikes, we will probably spend a large portion of Todd's income there.

After we got home, our friends Josh and Megan came to crash on our air mattress for the night, so it was a full house.  It was so fun having everyone here!

Sunday night, we had a Connection Group leaders' meeting at a friend's house.  Atticus ran in the door, somehow hit his toe on the floor (I'm still not totally clear on what happened), and spent the rest of the night absolutely sobbing.  He was in so much pain.  We decided to head home early so he could soak it and then go to sleep, and then we'd see what we were dealing with in the morning.

Well, he was totally out of commission for three full days, and is still in the 'gingerly healing' phase.  Monday, Tuesday, and most of Wednesday, he spent the entire day either sitting at the table or sitting on the couch with an ice pack wrapped around his foot.  I had to carry him on my back to get him up and down the stairs and take him to the bathroom.  (He is wiry, but he is SOLID, so carrying him is no small feat.)  Wednesday, he was able to start putting a little weight on it, so Penelope made him this 'wheelchair' for his foot, and he kind of scooted around on it.  It was genuinely helpful.  (Please ignore the fact that he's still in his jammies.  Wearing jammies helps you heal faster.)

By yesterday, he was able to walk slowly on his heel, and he seems to be on the mend.

On Monday the dishwasher guy came and installed our new dishwasher, and Todd installed our new washer.  I am now living in the twenty-first century once again, and I couldn't be more thrilled.  Plus, our dishwasher is so nice.  And I don't just mean fancy (which it is!), but I mean, like, literally nice to me.  It asks me when I want it to start washing.  It tells me exactly how many minutes are left in any given cycle, and it sings at me when it's done with the load.  Plus, it fits even my deepest crock pot and tallest spoons, and there are no visible buttons on the front.  It's like someone asked themselves, "What kind of features would Paige Van Voorst hope for in a dishwasher... and a friend?" and then they went from there.

Other than that, our most major news was food-related.  (Isn't it always?)  This little guy got his very own seat at the breakfast table this week, and tried some scrambled eggs.  He really liked stuffing them in his mouth; he did not seem to get the hang of what to do with them once they were in there.  He also had his very first chunks of pickles and some bone broth.  He was a fan of both.

Please ignore our sad, booger-colored walls.

And that was our week!  How was yours?


After a long, arduous six-week stretch of crying over all my broken appliances, I can now say that I am now the proud owner of a functioning dishwasher AND a functioning washing machine.  GLORYHALLELUJAH.

No more trying to scrub the insides of our milk bottles with soap and rice because the bottle brushes weren't long enough to reach inside.  No more boiling water to sanitize the insides of those bottles after the soap-and-rice thing only worked okay.  No more driving our laundry halfway across town to do at a friend's so that we had access to such luxuries as underwear and kitchen towels.  And I am a brand new, grateful, singing-and-dancing lady.

So here's to my new best friends, GE and Maytag:  May your life be ever long and your stainless be ever shiny. 

your feelings are real, but they can be liars.

This weekend, we headed over to Rock Bridge State Park for a hike with friends.  The water was lower this time than the last time we went, and it was possible to actually walk underneath the Rock Bridge.  Penelope, who tends to be our most timid kiddo, refused to go underneath because she was afraid it would collapse on her.  So, after a failed attempt to convince her to try it, we walked back over to the trail to wait for everyone else to get done exploring.

Once we were back on the trail, though, we had a good opportunity to talk about how, 'our feelings are real, but they can be liars.'  Her fear was a very real feeling, and while it is a very good thing to acknowledge how we feel, her fear was telling her something would happen that, realistically speaking, was not going to happen.  She was trusting her fear more than she was trusting reason and truth, and she was allowing that to dictate her behavior.  People always act in response to who or what they trust most.

This photo is from a different trip, since we forgot the camera this weekend.

There is a growing trend of parenting 'experts' essentially telling us that our kids' feelings are the most true things about them.  Our kids are no more than a sum of their emotions, and our job as parents is to identify and validate every single thing they might be feeling at a given moment, or we risk smothering their truest selves.

I absolutely believe that it is important to show compassion without condescension for our children and their 'big feelings.'  Feelings are valid.  They're real.  And they can be so, so good.  But it is so very important to teach our kids how to discern whether their feelings are telling them true things, or lies, by comparing what our emotions are telling us with what is objectively true.  The job of our feelings is to follow what's true - such as when we get angry about injustice, or respond in joy and affection when we know we're loved - rather than dictate what we believe to be true.  They were not made to be the sole force driving our behavior if we haven't first asked ourselves if they're telling us the truth.

And our children are strong.  They are insightful.  From as early as toddlerhood, children are absolutely capable of rising above false, lying emotions to choose 'right' and 'true.'  I often tell even our youngest kiddos, "It is okay to feel angry [or fill-in-the-blank], but your anger is not an excuse to act like that."  It's as simple as that at the start, and am I often amazed at how quickly a toddler can respond to reason like this, and their emotions often follow suit.  

Penelope and I stood on that trail and talked for a little bit - "Fear is telling you a story, babe.  It is lying to you, and telling you things that aren't true.  You're feeling scared, and I can understand that.  But I need you to take a breath and open your eyes to what is true: your brothers and sister and Daddy are all under that bridge, having a wonderful time - the reality is that the bridge is not collapsing.  And as your mommy, I would never encourage you to do something that would put you at unnecessary risk.  Will you trust me more than your fear?"

And she trusted me.  She was able to overcome her feeling of fear by hearing truth, and she saw that she is capable of telling her feelings that they aren't in charge of her decisions when they're lying to her.  And she had a blast under that bridge.  And when we came to the next cave, she didn't even hesitate to check it out, because she told her feelings who is boss, and her feelings responded beautifully to truth.  And I was so very, very proud of her.

weekly 'what's up.'

So, you know those weeks where you kind of just want to fake your own death and move away to an island where there's no cell reception because you're just kind of over it?  I mean, neither do I, I was just asking for a friend.  No, my week was great.  My week was uber manageable.  My week did not involve praying for the rapture while standing at the appliance service desk at Lowe's so I could avoid dealing with our appliance problems any longer.  Cough.

Anyway, so it goes.  So let's talk about the good stuff, yes?

Saturdays and Wednesdays are the kids' bath days around here.  Maybe they should get bathed more regularly, but it works for us.  And bath time always turns into a social event, for some reason.  So this was the start to our day on Saturday:

Later that day, the kids spent time outside.  The weather was strangely cool, so they all put on jackets, including Laurelai, who stuffed her tiny self into a somehow-even-tinier sweater.

Finneas looked so cool and grown-up in his jacket...

...until he bent over and we were all reminded how little he still is.  And how Day of the Week underwear is always funnier when sported by a four-year-old who never has any idea what day it actually is.

Also?  Rocco got a haircut, and Atticus continued to work diligently at excavating the site of our retaining wall.

Sunday, we had church in the park and a potluck, and then we came home and had a dance party in our jammies.  Meaning, the kids were just in their skivvies.

Monday was pretty standard.  Tuesday, Todd went out and bought us a new washer because the stupid old washer finally bit the dust for good.  Wednesday, he tried to install the dishwasher but the electrical hookup was weird, so we're going to need to call in a pro, so we still have no functioning dishwasher.  So now we have two huge appliance boxes sitting in our living room for an yet-undisclosed period of time.  The dishwasher guy should call me to set up an install appointment by next Tuesday.  The washer we'll do ourselves, but we won't have time to get to it until at least Monday.

So our laundry is piling up and I'm taking it a friend's tomorrow to get some of it washed, so I can at least have clean towels and sheets on hand for the friends that are coming to stay this weekend.  

Thursday morning, we picked up our monthly Azure order. (Fifteen pounds of butter, fifteen pounds of potatoes, and some pickles.  We like to party.)  We did morning school. We babysat a friend's kiddo  and then dropped her off at preschool.  We ran to Lowe's to sign the install paperwork for the dishwasher and ran to the grocery store.  I had a phone chat with a bestie, babysat a friend's daughter for a few hours, cleaned the house for this weekend's company, had another phone chat with another great friend, and (as if I had to tell you) ate so many Coping Fries and Coping Nachos to handle it all that I rivaled Kobayashi.

Today, I will be doing laundry and grocery shopping and doing school... and then falling into a coma around 2:00 p.m.

It's okay.  This lady will be holding down the fort for me while I'm... away.  I have full confidence in her abilities.