setting a new PR.

Last year, I read a measly eight books.  Total.  The entire year.  2016 numbered among the least productive reading years of my whole life. Which is fine; it was what it was.  But I hoped this year would have a little more to show for it.

I'm happy to say I've already read more at this point than I did all of last year.  That is to say, I've read more books this month than I did all of last year.  (It is our summer break month, and I've been pretty couch-bound with a newborn, so I've had an unusual amount of reading time made available to me by circumstances.)  I'm pretty sure this is a personal record for me, which is super exciting.  I will probably never run a marathon; I may never even run a 5k.  I don't lift weights or do anything remotely resembling athletic effort.  So I'm doing the literary equivalent of whatever you do after you complete a marathon... pass out, I guess?  Yes, this blog post is my nonathletic collapse.  (The good kind.)

Though some of them were started earlier in the year, all of these were completed in July:

  1. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (7/1)
  2. A Woman After God’s Own Heart by Elizabeth George (7/2)
  3. Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend (7/7)
  4. The Heart of a Woman Who Prays by Elizabeth George (7/15)
  5. Seven Women and the Secret of their Greatness by Eric Metaxas (7/16)
  6. A Natural Sense of Wonder by Rick Van Noy (7/18)
  7. Disciplines of the Home by Anne Ortlund (7/21)
  8. Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung (7/22)
  9. All the Pretty Things by Edie Wadsworth (7/23)
  10. When You Rise Up: A Covenantal Approach to Homeschooling by R.C. Sproul, Jr. (7/25)
  11. Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry (7/29)

And, as it's still technically July for the rest of the day, I'm going to try to finish my current book, "Crazy Busy" by Kevin DeYoung in time to include it on the list as well.  Partially to get one more in under the buzzer, and partially because I don't like numbered lists with odd numbers of items on them.  They just seem so unfinished.

While I'd love to say this is a sustainable pace, I really doubt I'll be able to come anywhere close to this many books in a month anytime soon.  Maybe if I start listening to audiobooks?  Which might be worth it - I've read a couple posts lately about cultivating a radical habit of reading, which have been inspiring and thought-provoking.

In the Time You Spend On Social Media, You Could Read 200 Books

Reading Wars

Now, knowing me, homeschool will kick in here in a week, I will get exhausted trying to juggle it all, and I will spend my leftover, limited free time lying in a coma on the couch in front of Netflix.  Because, seasons y'all.  But any step in the right direction is a step in the right direction.  (By that I mean reading something, not my Netflix habit.)

Onward and upward.

what's up weekly.

Well, the honeymoon couldn't last forever.  Yesterday I told you about how I've been laying really, really low since Callista was born, but this week I've been forced out of hibernation.  The kids have had swimming lessons all week, which has been great for them - a chance to get out of the house, a welcome addition of a bit of structure to our days, and lots of glorious sunshine.  (Finneas is now so tan, he just looks like a kid-sized Slim Jim with a shock of white hair on top.)

I've actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would - swim lessons are typically exhausting for me in seasons when I don't have a newborn, so I was dreading it a little.  But it's been nice to have a reason to get out of the house and go sit in the sun for an hour.

Today, we don't have lessons, so I'm hoping to use the time to go shopping for school supplies.  We will be starting school again after next week, so I need to get all our preparations taken care of.  I'm hoping to soon do a Facebook Live video on homeschooling (why we homeschool, an overview of the method we use, and a rundown of what our school days look like), but we'll see if I'm able to make it happen anytime soon.

While swimming lessons dominated the news this week, I did have a few other things going on.  Breaking up fights between the kids, for one.  We do year-round school for many reasons, but one of them is that it is so hard to maintain a sense of order and civility when there is no structure.  We will only have taken four or five weeks off, but three seems to be about the maximum enjoyable amount of rest time before things start to devolve into an atmosphere great weeping and gnashing of teeth.  We are all feeling ready to jump back into school.

The kids do spend a lot of time reading these days, and Finneas is learning to sound out words on his own!  He seems to have just decided he wants to learn to read.

Trying to get this kid to read fiction is like roller skating backwards up a hill.  But check out a how-to manual from the library, and he will shortly be an expert on drill bits and coping saws.  He has literally already written his OWN woodworking manual, with step-by-step drawings and everything.  

And then there's Calliegirl, who is growing like a weed and developing the sweetest expressions.  I'm just dying to see that first real smile!  She is also losing a bunch of hair (as am I).  We were going back through baby photos of the kids the other night, and were astonished by how much she looks like Penelope as a baby!  As I mentioned, she turned one month old already this week and is doing so well.

(Sorry for the awful lighting in this photo - our living room is really tricky to take pictures in, but we wanted to document her actual one-month "birthday.")

And that was our week. 

On another note, I wanted to just say thank you for the overwhelming positivity you all expressed toward my post earlier this week on whether kids are expensive.  I was totally taken aback, and really touched, by all the kindness and sense of community I received in response.  Thanks so much for continuing to read this blog, and for being such a supportive group of friends.  You all are just the best!

healthy postpartum recovery.

One thing that has consistently been my downfall is an inflated sense of what's appropriate to undertake during the newborn days.  And I have suffered deeply for it in the past.  Postpartum depression, hormone imbalance, extreme weight loss, moderate weight gain, adrenal fatigue and thyroid dysfunction have been part of various postpartum experiences for me.  And while I believe that some of it just came with the inevitable difficulties of the newborn season - my hormones were reeling from pregnancy and delivery, and everything is just aggravated by lack of sleep - I really believe that much of it was a direct result of choices I could have made differently.

I've taken on too much in the postpartum season in the past - for example, I was on my feet for hours at the Tulip Festival with nine-day-old Penelope strapped to me in the Moby.  I painted my living room when she was two weeks old.  We took a road trip to my mom's for an overnight weekend when Penelope was barely a month.  I did too much.  And I eventually ended up dwindling down to 117 pounds, and drowning through months of indescribable anxiety, depression and insomnia.  I looked and felt like a ghost of a person for a long time.

A few years later, we were church planting when Laurelai was born, so we took on a ton of heavy ministry from Day One, and started leading and hosting a Connection Group in our house when she was three weeks old.  I ended up gaining 25 pounds, dealing with extremely heavy bleeding, mood swings and digestive problems, and suffering through over a year of mild depression and extreme self-hatred.

Both of those seasons were, hands down, the unhealthiest times of life since I've been married, both physically and mentally.  It has taken me a long time to reverse some of the health damage I incurred as a result, and I still deal with a lot of guilt and regret for my mental state during these times that should have been full of sweet memories.

This time around, I have been healing well both physically and emotionally, and again, I believe it has been pretty closely related to the choices I've intentionally made.  I know my propensity to attempt to accomplish too much, too early, and I've learned that it is absolutely crucial to prioritize self-care in these nebulous postpregnancy days.  I have forced myself to focus on rest and nourishment rather than getting back to a normal pace of life as soon as possible, and it has made a world of difference.

These have been my three main priorities over the last month:


I set a goal to get out of bed as little as possible the first four weeks.  While I ended up being fully successful at this for only about two weeks while I had help with the big kids, it was still a game-changer.  I read, slept, cuddled Callista and ate.  That was what I filled much of my time with for two whole weeks.  And the following two weeks, though busier, were still very scaled-back.  I didn't go to Target.  I didn't go to church.  I didn't schedule playdates.  I didn't clean my bathroom.  I ordered groceries online and had Todd pick them up.  I stayed put.  I am only now slowly coming out of this, and only begrudgingly so.  It has been a very sweet, healing season.

I know it sounds unrealistic, and I had to intentionally guarantee this time in whatever way I could.  But it has absolutely been worth it.


I nap pretty much every day.  No excuses.  I never feel like napping at the time, because there are always more productive ways to spend my time, but it has made a huge difference in my mental clarity and attitude.


I have continued to (casually) follow Trim Healthy Mama since delivery.  I've been eating virtually no sugar, plenty of protein, and healthy carbs and fats.  Once, I indulged in a couple brownies, and about fifteen minutes later, my whole body started aching and my postpartum bleeding got SO INTENSE.  Physical healing is slowed down when I'm not eating well, so I have really tried to nourish myself.  I've also noticed a major difference in my breastmilk - I'm making more of it, and it's much more yellow and higher in fat than it ever has been with previous kiddos.

Honestly, I would recommend these things to pretty much anyone coming up on a postpartum season, even if you don't have a history of poor healing.  Preventive care is always better than reactive scrambling to pick up any pieces that drop unexpectedly.  So here is my advice: plan in advance how you'll make these things happen.  Talk to your husband or your mom about how to get as much help as possible afterwards.  Does your husband have vacation time?  Can your mom take your big kids for a few days, or come to stay with you to help with the baby?  Could you hire a postpartum doula?  Maybe you can start training older kids now to have short stretches where they're independent - playtime in a crib for a toddler, movie time for older kids, etc. - that will help you get naps in once the new baby comes.  Plan what you'll eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinners after the baby's born - have a couple weeks' worth of healthy, nourishing food on hand.  Make freezer meals, stock up on Larabars, etc.  Ask a trusted friend to organize a meal train on your behalf to avoid cooking for the first week or two.  Do whatever it takes to prioritize rest and nourishment.

It is such a blessing to be able to actually enjoy this time of rest, cuddling and bonding.  All the effort it has taken to protect it has been 100% worth it, and I'm so grateful!

callista at one month.

Callistaloo is one month old today!  Is it just me, or did that month just fly by?  I would definitely say we're still not totally out of the woods with the newborn stage yet, but all things considered, she is killing it at this 'being alive' thing

Baby girl is still up pretty often through the night, although (unless I'm jinxing something by saying so) she seems to at least have her days and nights organized.  Some days she's really sleepy, other days she's not so much and just wants to be held all day.  (Which I equally feel limited by and just love.)  But at some point between 10:30 and midnight, she eats and then conks out for a good 3-4 hour stretch.  She's usually up again around 2:30 and 4:30, and then up for the day between 6:30 and 7:00.  She typically takes around 15 minutes to eat, and is still on a 1.5-2 hour routine through the day.

I'm still really trying to get a nap in most days - I'd say in the last month, I've only missed four or five days.  The rest of the time, I've at least gotten in a 20 minute power nap during the stretch in the afternoon where she's sleeping, the little kids are down for nap, and the big kids are playing in the basement.  (A few days, the stars aligned just right and I got over an hour!)  I think that this has single-handedly been the key to how awesome this recovery period has been - I am really feeling good at this point! 

I'll try to get a post up tomorrow with my suggestions for healthy postpartum recovery, though I can't promise anything. The blog schedule is totally at the mercy of how much hands-free time I get during the evening.  Sometimes I just have to read a book and cuddle her endlessly all evening.  It's a rough life I lead.

My whole life right now.

So that's where we're at, one month in.  Callista's doing well managing the one job she's been given in life (growing), and I'm not wanting to crawl in a hole and sleep until I die, so I'd call it a successful month with a newborn!


A few weeks ago, Penelope and I were making a drive to the library and having a "girl chat," which is what we call any one-on-one conversation between the two of us on any topic, because it elevates the whole exchange to a special 'girlfriends over coffee' vibe.  We weren't talking about anything major, and I don't even know what turned her mind to it, but she suddenly asked, "Mom? Are kids expensive?"  I told her that, yes, they sometimes can be.  (Though I maintain lifestyles cost more money than kids do.  The kids themselves are often not the problem.)

She asked if we would have more money if we had fewer kids.  "Maybe.  Probably not.  I'd probably just find a way to spend it on something more selfish and less important."

Then she asked if I was glad we had as many kids as we do, even if it meant having less money for other things.  "Absolutely.  No question."

I sometimes think I'd like more money.  I sometimes think life would be easier or somehow better if our money didn't feel so purely utilitarian at times.  But it's easy to quickly see the cost of free money: we spend our time and energy working to accumulate things, and then more of our time and energy working to manage and care for and keep track of those things, all in the name of always-fleeting satisfaction.  The Bible and pure common sense tell us baldly that we won't take any of it with us when our short stint on this earth is over.  We will die, others will rummage through our stuff and likely see it for the junk it is, and they will jettison most of it at an estate sale.  It will be lost, or mishandled, or undervalued, or pawned.  That's the inevitable legacy we leave behind.  This is what 'stuff' buys us.  It can be a terrifying thought if our hearts are too entangled in the stuff.

But children.  They're not free.  But they're what we've been given money for.  Financing family life doesn't impoverish us, it makes us richer in a way that can't be taken from us.  

I was able to tell my girl that no penny spent in the name of having more kids will be wasted.  God is populating heaven through simple mamas and daddies right now.  I will not get to take my shoe collection and my curtains and my organic groceries with me when I die.  And if I did, I don't know if I would care much to see them in heaven anyway - I don't imagine I'd spend tons of time in praise and rejoicing should I see my cheap Target curtains waiting for me at the pearly gates.

But my kids?  I am so hopeful and expectant that I will spend eternity with them, grateful for the opportunity to have invested myself in something immortal.  I don't think I will waste one second of my forever wishing I'd had a nicer house, or thinking that I maybe should have had fewer kids so we could have taken flashier vacations.  But I am confident that, should I get to worship side-by-side with my kids for all eternity, praising God for the miracles he's done through the mites we had to give, I will have no choice but to rejoice.

So I told my girl, "Penelope, we are lucky to have been granted so many kids.  If that's poverty, we are lucky to be so poor.  We will get to take our riches with us, and I would never wish for a life that's cheaper."

what's up weekly.

Well, folks, I did it!  I managed my way through my first full week of juggling all the kids by myself since Callista came home.  It was also my first week without friends bringing all our meals over, so I was in charge of remembering to take stuff out of the freezer for dinner.  I'm not going to lie, there were some definite rough patches.  And because we're in the middle of a heat wave, I let the kids watch way more Netflix than I will 'fess up to.  But we're all alive, moderately well-fed, and mostly whole, so I consider it a win.  I mean, mostly a win.

There is very little news to report for this week.  I did my best to have nothing on the agenda, which was equal parts blessing and curse.  I'm still going strong with my commitment to nap every day (though, Wednesday I had to make the tough decision to shower instead of nap during my hands-free window.  It was necessary and the right choice to pick the shower, but very sad to give up the nap).  Callista is eating and growing and eating and growing and sleeping (sometimes) and eating and growing some more.

Totally milk-drunk.

She went through her three-week growth spurt last weekend, waking up every hour to eat through the night on Saturday - 2:30 a.m., 3:30, 4:30, 5:30, 6:30, 7:30, 8:30, 9:30, 10:30... it was brutal.  I kind of got to a breaking point.  I feel like I've mentally stayed ahead of the game for the most part this time around, but there's always a moment where the newbornness of it all just swallows you up and drowns you.  That was the moment for me.

I had already planned on staying home from church with Callista on Sunday, but since Saturday night had been so rough, Todd stayed home, too, and we all just kind of cocooned in our jammies for the day.

We are on break from doing schoolwork for the next few weeks, so the big kids had ample free time on their hands.  Kids always think they enjoy vacation, but they don't really.  They're restless and bored and fight all the time and run around the house like caged animals.  I did make them go outside every day, but with 100+-degree temps and 1000% humidity, about an hour a day was all I could really enforce.  So everyone got cabin fever.  In mid-July.

Next week, we start swimming lessons, which I'm equally dreading and grateful for, since it will make me get out of the house (boo) but it will get the kids out of the house (yay) and break up the day a bit.

Other than that, nada.  Seriously.  I finished about a zillion books, since that's something I can do one-handed while I nurse Callista and keep one eye on Rocco, who lately seems dead-set on throwing anything he can find, breaking everything he can reach, and jumping to his death from every raised surface he can access.  So my house is falling down around me, but I'm at least well-read.

Callista seems to know this won't end well for her.  The very next shot Todd got, Rocco had managed to get her into a full-on choke hold.  

And that was our very weird full-slash-empty week.  I'd love to hear how your week went - how's summer going?

our vehicle solution. (or: Are We Still Technically the "Minivan" Voorsts?)

Before Callista was born, I was chauffeuring the kids around in a seven passenger Town and Country minivan, named the Kristy Chrysler.  (At the risk of ruining the joke by having to explain it, I have a good friend named Kristy Crisler.  It's all very funny if you like puns and random references to people that I know.  Maybe less funny if you don't.)

A post shared by Todd Van Voorst (@toddhenryvanvoorst) on

Anyway.  The Kristy had been good to us, but would be too small to cart us all around once Callista was born, so we spent months brainstorming what we were going to do.  We had test driven old church vans, gotten in contact with dealerships and car lots all over central Missouri, and spent soul-sucking hours on the internet, trying to find something affordable for us.  Because, contrary to popular belief, single-income families with one million kids don't exactly swim around in gold doubloons like the McDucks.

We quickly found that twelve-passenger vans were just too expensive.  (Correction: we did find a couple affordable options on Craigslist.  One listing for an outrageously cheap 15-seater bragged that it got a fresh, full-body coat of matte red Rustoleum spray paint every year.  Score.)  So we kept noodling.  Todd suggested a shuttle bus, but I was too afraid of getting hop-ons, like with the Bluth Company stair car, or the Michael Scott Paper Company van.

Then Finneas suggested a limo.  Then a semi trailer.  Both of which seemed like solid options.

Then, against my preference, we started looking at eight-seater SUVs and minivans.  I didn't want to go this route, since we'd be spending dealership amounts of money (cha-ching) on a minivan (which we already had), knowing that we'd have to trade it in a couple years when we had another kid.  But by then, it would have depreciated quite a bit.  We'd probably lose out on about 3,000 bucks when all was said and done, just to have an extra seat for two years - at which point we'd have to spring for a bigger van anyway.  Plus, all the eight-seater options utilized a fold-down seat in the middle row to access the back row, and considering all our kids are still in carseats or boosters, this didn't really seem like a practical choice since we'd have to remove a carseat every time the kids needed to get into the van.

But it was really all we were finding in our budget, so I acquiesced.  There was a black Yukon we considered for a while.  Then a white Honda Odyssey.  (I was leaning toward the Yukon, if only because then I could name it Yukon Cornelius.)  Todd got financing lined up and was in discussions with the dealerships.  But we just never really felt ready to pull the trigger.  So, instead, we invested in this:

Somewhere along the line, Todd got the rando idea to see if the back bench seat of the Kristy would fit across the middle row.  (It would.)  And if there was enough room on the side for the kids to get to the back without folding a seat down.  (There was.)  And if there was a salvage yard in the general vicinity that carried another bench seat for the back row that would match our exact make and model.  (There was.)  And if the bench seat was the exact leather and color as that of our current interior, that would be peachy.  (Okeedokee.)

So.  For $330, we have a newly-eight-seater minivan and the Kristy Chrysler continues to reign supreme in all her glory.

And we are still, as always, the Minivan Voorsts.

how we brush our teeth. in case you were wondering.

I'd been using normal toothpaste (usually one of the Crest Blindingly White kinds) for a long time and not thinking anything of it.  I have this one dead tooth in front that just drives me crazy, so I'd been throwing whatever whitening options I could at it in hopes that it would magically look less dead.  No such luck.  And in the meantime, I started developing this really sensitive, painful area on one of my teeth - what I suspected might be the onset of my very first cavity.  Over the course of six months to a year, the pain never got worse, but it never got better, either.

And then in trying to help some of Atticus' cavities heal a couple years ago, I had been making some diet and supplement changes in our household.  I was talking about it with a gal who cured her daughter's extensive tooth decay with the same protocol we were using, and she filled me in on their family's switch from toothpaste to bar soap, and how clean it left their teeth.  (She even blogged about it here, if you're wanting to know more.)  Unlike toothpaste, soap doesn't leave a film over the teeth, preventing remineralization.  Plus, depending on the soap used, the ingredients are way less sketchy, even if the kids swallow it.  (Which they often do.)

It all sounded a little woo-woo to me at first, but then again, I was entrenched in the world of trying to get my kid's teeth to grow back, so I was already in Woo-WooLand.  I figured we didn't have anything to lose by trying it out.

I ended up buying a couple bars of soap from LuSa Organics - an orange-cinnamon scented one, and a peppermint-tangerine one.  It took some getting used to on the kids' part, since it gets really sudsy and doesn't taste like SUPER STRAWBERRY ATTACK! (or whatever crazy flavor of toothpaste we were using at the time).  However, the adjustment was pretty minimal, and I absolutely won't go back!  The kids' teeth are so much cleaner and whiter now, and their breath is better.  (I haven't taken Atticus back to the dentist to get comparison X-rays taken, so I can't tell you objectively what's going on inside his teeth, but I can tell you that, for as doomsday as our dentist was about his teeth with the initial diagnosis, Atticus never has any tooth pain to speak of anymore.  None.)

Watching all of this unfold convinced me to make the switch myself.  So, yes, I too brush with bar soap now.  I also like to add a bit of baking soda to my toothbrush with the soap - it totally gets rid of any funky mouth tastes/smells (instead of just covering it up with mint flavor, like toothpaste does).  My teeth are so clean - virtually no plaque/tartar buildup anywhere in my mouth, even though I have a couple of orthodontic wires in there, and even though I haven't had my teeth professionally cleaned in probably three years.  And while it can't unkill my stupid front tooth, it does at least lift surface stains, so my teeth are actually slightly whiter now than before...  and my tooth pain disappeared.  A bar of soap costs a couple bucks and lasts the five kids and myself a good year and a half or more, which I consider a win, as well.

So there you have it.  You now know (some of) our unusual - but effective - hygiene habits.  Make me feel less alone - do you do anything weird in your bathroom?  (Hygiene-related, I mean!)

the weekly 'what's up.'

I am at that point in the newborn season when measuring time gets really difficult.  On the one hand, the days just seem to innnnnnnnch along, and on the other hand, you blink and a week and a half has passed and yet you're still somehow wearing the same pajama pants.  My days feel pretty jumbly right now.

Todd had enough vacation time built up to take a week off work once we left the hospital, so his first day back was last Thursday.  To help me with the transition, my mom and stepdad then took the big kids up to Iowa for a week, so they left last Thursday and returned home this past Wednesday.  The kids had a blast - they spent the week crafting, swimming, playing outside, eating, and field tripping to places like the science center and Living History Farms.  Not exactly the worst way to spend your time.  (We got a letter in the mail from Penelope partway through the week, telling us, "I'm having fun! I don't miss you at all!")

Meanwhile, back on the home front, I got to enjoy a quiet week with Callista.  I mainly focused on bonding with her, continuing to establish nursing, and recovering well - sitting down as much as possible, sleeping when I could, and only leaving the house when I had to.  (I have lots of thoughts on healthy postpartum recovery, and you better believe I'll get into that more soon!)

Because she would toggle between long stretches of awake time and long stretches of sleepiness, I found myself either extremely spent or extremely free.  And because I was pretty hands-free and responsibility-free while she was sleeping, but still trying to stay on the couch, I spent what time I could getting ready for the upcoming school year.  It is actually perfect timing that she was born when she was - because of the downtime I got, I'm more prepared going into this year than I have been for any other year, and it's all because I have a newborn.  Which is a weird thing to say.

Working with Atticus on his final exam narrations before he left for my mom's, so that I could finish up his portfolio while he was gone.

Over the weekend, Todd's parents and our nephew David came to visit and meet Callista.  She was a big hit!

We also headed to church on Sunday morning.  Todd was preaching and I didn't want to miss it, and it was (relatively) simple getting out of the house since I was only juggling one kiddo.  Callista was not sure she found the experience worth the apparently torturous ride in the carseat.

On Monday, I took her to her two-week checkup, and she had gained a full pound since our discharge from the hospital a week and a half prior!  Girlfriend is growing, as illustrated by this chubby baby arm that I can't get enough of.

She is still eating every hour and a half or so during the day, and every two hours or so overnight.  I have been really disciplined about taking a nap every day, even if only for 20 minutes or so, so I'm still feeling decent about it all.  Plus, I've been taking my own advice (see the video here) and keeping my expectations very looowwwwww, which has been so helpful.

The kids returned Wednesday afternoon, and it's been an adjustment.  It's amazing how quickly I got used to the quiet, and the lack of laundry and dishes, and the way the house stayed (kind of) picked up.  Yesterday was rough, as everyone seems to need something at once, and I have fewer hands and less time to meet all the needs than I did before. I'm now also, by necessity, going to have to be a lot more physically active than I've been in the last few weeks, which is tiring.  I am so very glad to have them home, and they're happy to be home, but it's taking a bit for all of us to settle back into a sense of 'normal.'

So the standing order is for continued extra naps for all of us, lots of family movie time (with snuggles), and very very low expectations for our days.  As long as we can stick to this, I think we'll settle into a groove pretty quickly!

And that was our week!

'afters' of our basement carpet. finally.

So, think way back to when I told you about the time two and a half gallons of milk spilled all over our carpeted basement stairs.  And then remember how the carpet cleaner said the carpet wasn't salvageable, so Todd just ripped it out because it stunk to high heaven.  Then remember how I told you about the amazing way in which God provided for us to be able to recarpet, instead of leaving everything looking like this:

Okay.  And then remember how I told you we had gotten it all done, but I forgot to show you 'after' photos.  Well, today is the day I remedy that.  Let me remind you again what our basement had looked like the morning we had it removed (all the furniture is stuffed into the room at the back):

I get that it doesn't really look that bad in the photos (other than the fact that I haven't decorated and there are paint swatches all over the walls).  What you can't see is that these are simply carpet tiles, glued to the cement floor.  It was cheap, and uncomfortable, and dirty to boot - the previous owners had a black dog that hung out down here, and every single time I would vacuum, half the canister would be full of black dirt and dog hair.  It was really, really gross.

Plus, everything was the SAME STINKING COLOR.  The walls, paint and trim are all this gross yellowy-beige, and the carpet was a gross yellowy-beige and it just felt flat and dirty, and it looked like a smoker's tooth.


I feel like these photos are anticlimactic, but believe me when I tell you it has made a world of difference!  First, the carpet is a mid-tone greige, which makes everything feel a lot warmer and more anchored.  Second, it is actual carpet laid over actual carpet pad, so it is soft and squishy and doesn't scream 'cheap rental property.'  Third, it has helped me narrow in on the color I'll be painting the walls.  Fourth, it is not chocked full of someone else's dirty pet's dirty hair.  It is clean and new.  Fifth, it doesn't smell like rotting milk.

I am seriously in love.  However, it does make me want to paint the walls even more than I did before, but before I can paint the walls, I need to paint the ceiling and trim, so it's kind of a major undertaking.  Plus, I've been brainstorming how I want to decorate - I'm thinking some built in bookshelves, and a home office area, and a cute play area for the kids... it will look 100 million times different should I ever get the motivation to make some headway down there.

But in the meantime, the new carpet alone has done my soul good.

our trip to south dakota: the trip home.

Okay, now that it's been like a month and a half since we got home from South Dakota, I figured it was time to finally wrap up the retelling.  Luckily, there's only one day I haven't yet touched on: the day we drove home.

Todd and I were up at the butt crack of dawn, loading the van.  Luckily, the dawn's butt crack is pretty good looking up in the Black Hills.

The girls made sure that they got to help Papa Tony feed Joe the Horse before we left.

We rolled out of town pretty early, and tried to hit up interesting stops on the way home.  Our first stop was at Chamberlain, where there's a small but surprisingly nice Lewis and Clark exhibit at a roadside rest stop.  The view is beautiful, and the kids had a fun time pretending to row the replica boat and sleep in a tent like the crew would have done.  Atticus also liked the added bonus that a State Patrol station is adjacent to the exhibit building, so there were some patrol cars parked out front.

Riverside Park in Sioux City was a new find last year, and we were so excited to visit again.  It was colder this year than last, and our picnic lunch got rained on for a bit, but after the rainfall, it warmed up enough for us to enjoy the park for about an hour.

Rocco looks so big, eating his own personal bag of chips, just like his elders.

The biggest and littlest brothers were inadvertent twins, and it was the most adorable thing ever

Finneas seemed to enjoy the swing.

I really have no idea what this baseball mascot guy is all about, but we had (relative) fun posing with him.

Once bellies were full and legs were adequately stretched, the kids conked out in the car for a while.  We have survived so many road trips where the kids have refused to sleep, so this is always a beautiful, beautiful sight.

Our last stop was a McDonald's drive-through next to a playground rest area that had been a hit on the way up.  After eating, the kids all had a ball helping Rocco enjoy the slide.  One kid would carry him up to the top and push him down, another kid would catch him at the bottom.  They all loved it.

The last stretch of the trip felt loooooong, and was pretty miserable by the end.  Plus, Todd and I were both starting to come down with the flu we would end up having for the next couple of days.  So, needless to say, we were both so very glad to pull into the driveway around midnight, round up the kids, and then flop into bed.

And that wraps up the lowdown on this year's trip to South Dakota!

'what's up' weekly.

This week was a bit more of the same thing from last week: the kids were all in love with Callista, Todd was home to help me out, and I spent most of the week sitting on the couch and trying to nap when I could.

Because we do a year-round schedule, it was only our first official week of summer break, and the kids had a lot more discretionary time than normal.  They spent most of it outside or coloring at the table.

Penelope was so excited for summer break to start, so she could stop doing school and start... well, reading just as much as we normally do.

Rocco spent much of his time wearing a tiny straw fedora and getting into everything.  He has reached full-on 'toddler' stage at this point, which means lots more talking and communicating, which is so fun, and also lots more climbing on things, temper tantrums, and general activity, which can be hard to keep up with.  (Do I need to mention that later this same day, he fell from his perch up here, hit his head on the china cabinet, and bit his tongue in a pretty gnarly way?  It's as though toddlers don't care whether their choices are good and safe.)

Callista spent her time sleeping, eating and voicing her opinions on various topics, such as: Being Cold, Being Tired, Being Gassy, Being Wet, Being Bored, and Being Manhandled by the Bigger Kids.

Here's how Todd feels about being a dad of a half-dozen kids:

Photo by Penelope

And Penelope lost a top tooth and is now on her way to being a full-fledged adult.  Those top front teeth make such a big difference in their smile - she looks so grown up!  I already miss her crooked little baby-tooth smile, but this one is pretty, too!

And yesterday, my mom came down and picked up the five big kids to spend a week at Camp Ya-Ya, to help me with the transition now that Todd is back at work.  I spent the first five minutes that they were gone reveling in the unusual freedom to throw away whatever 'precious pieces of artwork' (read: scraps of notebook paper covered in various crayon scribbles) covering my kitchen counters, dining room table, and floors.  After that catharsis, I was super bummed and bored and stir-crazy with all the quiet.  It's too chill around here without the kids.

So I spent most of the day working on homeschool planning for next year, finishing up the kids' portfolios from last year, and working on a few assignments in an online drawing course I'm taking.  I also spent a lot of time reading (!!), and some time watching Netflix while my hands were occupied nursing Callista.  I even got in a nap and a shower.  So while the day was mostly spent on the couch, it was full of good, restful, productive things.

And as for today, it should be more of the same thing: Priority #1 is to nap, Priority #2 is to continue to sit as much as possible.  And those are probably about the extent of what I'll be able to accomplish today.  Should be a good day!