I Know How She Does It

One week ago today I woke up and decided to try and solve a problem of mine. Books. More specifically, the abundance of books. We have a lot of them. When we moved into this house I decided to name my front room "the library" and put all my books in one room. They were regulated to 5 different bookshelves, none of which matched. 

After 5 years in this house, we've added a family member and more interests of budding readers. And we home school. In short, we've outgrown our bookshelves. Unable to bring myself to buy an additional shelf and bring the number of mismatched shelves to a total of six, I began to think. 

The solution I came up with? Get rid of the bookshelves and build a wall of shelves in my entryway to house ALL of the books. 

After discussing options and budget with Jimmy we came up with a plan. (Although I had to spend all of the first day painting the entry since it had never been done since we moved in.  Painting. It's never done. Onward.)

After a fresh coat of paint we headed out to buy the supplies. Our van has carried many, many things. Though we always seem to be able to close the back door somehow, we found the limit- seven 12 foot by 10 inch pieces of pine. So this time I had to climb in the back, tie it closed, and then enjoy the ride home. 

We spread out the planks and I invited the kids to distress the wood, since that seems to be all the rage, and also because making something messy on purpose seems to be the order of the day at this stage in my life. We used hammers, nails, chain, and other various tools. Someone asked what we were doing and someone else answered, "we're stressing the wood out." Then, "Mom, why do we have to stress the wood out?" What do you say to this? "Because it's cool!" ?? I think in reality I didn't answer because I was too busy hitting the wood with my huge chain.  Eventually I told them it's "distressing" the wood, but don't worry kids. If anyone can stress wood out, it's you guys. 

I got zero photos of the stressing out of the wood because it was just a little chaotic. That night after bedtime I poured a little coffee (on the wood, come on, I don't drink coffee) and began to sand and stain the wood. 

And here is where the real work begins. In mind and body. When you do meanial,  repetitive work with your hands, there is something that happens. You begin to access a part of your brain that may otherwise lie dormant. You begin to be consumed with what you're doing while ignoring it at the exact same time. After doing a little research on making new wood look old, I did it my way. And guess what? I skipped a few of the recommended steps. Because if there is anything you learn how to do when you're living with six kids and a dog, it's leave out stuff. 

So of course, the sanding, cleaning, staining, and waxing of this wood became a metaphor for my daily life. It's full of scratches, dents, and holes, but it's beautiful. And the very action of the work I did was a picture of how I always function. Isn't there even a movie titled, "I Don't Know How She Does It?" And believe me I get asked that. And you know what? I know how she does it. At least I know how I do it. I skip stuff. Yes, I probably could have sanded it better. It probably could have used another coat of stain. But this is how we do it. We get the whole lot of us involved, we batter and bruise the situation, but it all comes out beautiful somehow in the end. (And we do it in two days because we can't stand the chaos. And we had company coming!)

After all was said and done and we got the shelves hung, it was time to fill them up! Libby was suuuper excited to help and kept asking when it would be time. But in the end the whole family got involved (we missed Cash, he was at a sleepover) and we got those mismatched bookshelves emptied and new shelves filled up in just a few hours. The kids really took ownership of it. Who doesn't like to see your kids excited about books?

Here are girls late at night as we were in progress. There were some books that are tied to our curriculum that I had the kids place tiny colored dots on the bottom of the spine.

And then, later, this scary book zombie came out! Ah!

I don't have great photos, I'm not quite done yet...but we are all enjoying our shelves and even though I enjoyed the work, my arm is enjoying the rest!


My Family is NOT a Reality Show

We spent last weekend at my parent's house to celebrate 4th of July.  My sisters and I and our families try to all be there at the same time this one weekend of the summer.

And guess what?  Nothing exciting happened.  There were no fights, no drama, no hurt feelings, and no stress.  It was awesome.

It just occurred to me, afterward, that we live in a world that presents all of the above as a good thing.  That if your family has drama and dysfunction, you're normal.  Everyone deals with it.

Let me tell you, not everyone does.  We love being together and we have an ease with each other that is a gift.  I pray that Jimmy and I can also raise a loving family as free from issues as possible.  By God's grace.

Happy Birthday America!  Though you're not exactly free from drama and dysfunction, we still love and celebrate you!

On Avacados and Growing Older

Lately the Jim Gaffigan bit about "Sometimes I just throw out my avacados at the grocery store..." has been running through my head.  It's funny of course because there is such a small window for avacados to be ripe enough but not too ripe and before you know it, they're yucky.  Even though this has never happened to me--they are too expensive and I love guacamole too much to let them pass me by-- I still find it funny.  It's funny also, of course, because it's delivered by Jim Gaffigan and he certainly can't find it in himself to pay attention to the ripeness of avacados.  Not while he's busy taking naps and eating donuts.

We can all relate to life moving so fast that before we know it, things are over ripe.  We're too busy to babysit avacados.  Jim's point is, "Why even buy them?  I'm just going to throw them out in a few days."  You stare at them and you think, "How did this happen??  How are they already gross?"

This is how I feel about getting older.  All of a sudden, though I was just at perfect ripeness not so long ago, I'm now quickly approaching middle age and the downhill to, well, death.  It's hard not to feel like I'm the avacado you squeeze in the grocery store and then put back to look for a bit more firm, less bruised one.

I have tennis elbow.  But let's be clear, it's certainly not because I exercise.  I'm pretty sure it's more like photographer's elbow.

I have a child who will start driving in a few months.  If this doesn't signify that I'm no longer young and hip, I don't know what does.

Pregnancy is a part of my past.  Enough said.

I'm starting to feel the need for reading glasses.  At least to wear while I try to pluck out my gray hair.

Those are just some of my realities.  But I don't want to come across as negative.  I'm not sour or bitter about getting older.  It's just that there is definitely a coming to grips with it going on in my mind.

I plan to decide some things.  I decide first and most importantly to have a heavenly perspective.  I know that though outwardly I'm wasting away, inwardly I'm being renewed day by day.  I'm getting younger, really.  And though I might be halfway to death, I'm not actually going to DIE.  I will live forever with Jesus.  So, there's that.

Because my human faith in the above can waver, I try to bolster it by deciding some things.  I want to be resolved.  I will decide to be excited about all that is to come in my life here on earth.  I will decide to not look so far ahead, and not to look too far behind.  To focus on today.  To rejoice and be glad in it.

And I decide, if I do look back, not to long for those younger days, but to find joy in them.  I have gained wisdom and experience that allows me to speak into the lives of others who are younger.

Sometimes I use soft avacados with bruises.  And you know what?  They still make a mean guacamole.  A few bruises never hurt anyone.  I'm certainly not going to throw myself out at the grocery store.  Even though I spend enough time there, trying to keep these kids fed!


10 Years and Counting

In just a few short weeks it will be 10 years since I started this blog.  (This is Cash when I started!) I swore to myself I would never blog about the process of blogging, that I would never waste anyone's time with why I don't have time to blog or do some sort of personal initiative that I share with readers about how I'm going to blog a certain amount and then fail to meet my self imposed goal.  But I'm sort of doing it.  A little.

This milestone of 10 years has made me think a lot about this thing with which we exist called the "internet".  Sometimes I don't know what to do with it, honestly.  I spend much of my time avoiding it, calling upon it as little as possible, mostly for recipes, Bible verses, and encyclopedic home school questions.  Every website I visit has annoying ads that make it nearly impossible to find anything out without unintentionally clicking on something that I don't want or need.

It being an election year hasn't helped either.  The internet has become a breeding ground for manipulation and mud slinging.  The recent tragedy in Orlando was quickly turned into an opportunity for everyone and their granny to offer opinions about the situation.  And social media just makes me want to scream.  It has changed so much of the way we relate to others and it's sad.

So I have been avoiding the blog.  I just don't want to be a cog in the machine.  I don't feel like the internet is worthy of my time, even in this form.  I tolerate it, not sure how I can be in it but not of it.  I fall into the lie the internet sells- that we really just all exist to market ourselves and show how amazing we are at every turn.  Throw in a selfie or two just to make sure we don't loose our focus- that we should be as self centered and self promoting as possible.

Not to mention that nothing is written that's more than a couple paragraphs, and most writings are much less.  I like to weave a story, and my dear old blog is feeling squashed by captions and low character count quips that have reduced everyone's attention span to half a second.  On a soap box much Julie?  Whatever, I'm going to speak my piece* and move on.

Since I've gone this far...I also hate that no one seems to care about grammar, spelling, or punctuation anymore.  And I also hate that I sounded like an old fart just now.  But I don't care.  Which makes me even older and even fartier.  Again, whatever.

I will conclude.  I have some folks who read my blog who love it.  They read old posts and look at photos and laugh and remember and enjoy every single part.  And those folks are my own kids.  While I have considered hanging it up at this 10 year mark, printing out the entire blog into a book, put it on the shelf, and making it part of my past, I have decided not to.  I have decided to continue to write for my children.  And not to apologize for long boring posts.  Not to worry about whether people will care about what I'm saying or not.  Not worry about anything, really.  Just do it for my kids.

In 30 or 40 years when my kids read these posts I'm pretty sure they won't turn to me and say, "Geez, Mom, I sure wish you would have reduced this cute story about me swallowing glue to 140 characters or less..."  I think they are going to enjoy every word.

So kids, this blog is for you.  It's not to promote our family, it's not to make money, it's not to allow me to stroke my own ego.  It's stories for you, about you, written by a mom who loves you more than anything else.

*I did use the dear old internet to get this saying correct. (I had written "say" not "speak".)  I fully support the use of the interwebs to get yours grammar good and all.


DC trip- Mount Vernon!

When we left DC we drove to Mount Vernon, the home of none other than George Washington. 

We decided to go without the stroller, which was a good move. Violet was super excited about the map. 

While the family waited in line for our turn to go inside, I let Violet walk around a bit. She decided to use this moment to be her first time to stand and pose for the camera while saying "Cheese!" I took about 3,000 photos. 

There were no photos allowed inside the actual house, but I snuck a selfie of the family in the mirror. Check out that paint color!

One of my favorite parts were these tiles in the bathroom. I mean, printmaking on tiles? Awesome! 

There were a bunch of different ones!

It really is amazing to think that this man's body rests here. The scripture on the wall of his tomb is John 11:25-26: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die."

Thanks for letting us stop by, George!


Washington DC! Days 2 and 3

Our first morning in DC we got up and packed lunches and headed for the subway again, to ride out to the National Zoo. Even though I had checked and double checked my pockets, somehow I only had 2 of 7 subway cards with me. Frustrating as it was, we had to buy more. And because of the extra ride to seek out lost Jackson, our cards didn't have even amounts on them anymore. The whole subway experience overall was complicated and exhausting. But it did save us some miles on our feet, so there it is.

The pandas were out! One of them at least. It really was pretty amazing to see in real life what you've only ever seen in pictures. They are quiet and hungry. 

Love these kiddos.

Hello Bei Bei. Now goodnight. 

After the Zoo we headed to the White House Visitors Center which was really very cool and for some reason I took no photos. Then we walked the few blocks to see the house itself. 

You can see it, but from far away. And there were a lot of people gathered around. It's amazing to think about the decisions that have been made here over the course of history. 

After the White House we headed to the National Archives. This, sadly, was a bit disappointing. It was amazing to see the documents, (no photos allowed) but there were throngs of people and a little baby and tired kids don't really care as much as you'd like them to. When large groups of high school groups are pushing on you as you try to keep track of all your kids, it's hard to exactly feel one with Thomas Jefferson, ya know?

After that we walked through the sculpture garden and then headed toward the National Museum of American History. On the way, Violet fell and sliced her forehead open. Good times. Probably could have used a stitch, but there was no way I was doing that. It stopped bleeding (after getting all over her jacket) and we went forward. 

I had prepared the kids for Julia Child's kitchen by reading a short bio of her and showing them a video of her making an omelet. It was cool!

We didn't see much more when everyone was starting to get really hungry. We considered eating in the museum, but the only food options were not good. The museum was open another two hours, but we just didn't have the mental or physical energy to tackle it. And Jimmy said, "I really want to enjoy this. Let's call it a day and come back tomorrow."

So we headed back to our subway stop and ate at District Taco. 

It hit the spot and did not disappoint!!

That night the girls went to bed with their pandas! Thanks for the spending money Nana and Pop Pop!!

The next morning we drove in (genius, Christopher!) and hit the museum again and REALLY enjoyed it. 

Everyone enjoyed the Thomas Edison/light/electricity exhibit. I enjoyed drawings, photos, and etchings like this one. Even though we didn't make it to an art museum, there was a lot of cool art!

Violet and Juliet enjoyed playing in a room just for little ones and it was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip, just watching them enjoy a place like that when they had been in an environment for adults most of the time. 

I mean, come on! Love this girl. 

After eating a packed lunch in the cafeteria we had to say farewell to Christopher and Ranen. It was such a pleasure to have them join us!!! 

We had tickets at Fords Theater so we started walking. 

Violet fell asleep on the way. She was so good considering she was pretty sleep deprived over all. 

We walked through a museum that was a timeline of Lincoln's assassination and full of artifacts and documents and such that explained what led up to that day. 

The Gun. 

After walking through the museum we sat in the theater and listened to a park ranger (it's part of the National Park Service) give a play by play of how it went down. 

Then we went across the street to the house where he died. 

It was very interesting and much like I remembered it from when I was a kid. 

At the very end of the Peterson House they had this really cool tower of books that were not really books, they were made out of metal. They were all books written about Abraham Lincoln. It is said that there have been more than 15,000 books written about him. Amazing!  The placard next to the books had this quote from Honest Abe himself:

"Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren't very new at all." 

What an interesting man he was.

Next we headed back to our van and apartment, took an hour to regroup and headed out to Burke, Virginia to visit some old friends of Jimmy's that he has known for over 25 years. They were gracious and kind and fed our brood yummy dinner and we had a great night visiting and catching up with them and their three boys.

We got home late that night ready to check out the next day!


Washington DC Trip! Day One

Oh, where to begin?  Maybe with this, our selfie as we headed out- we had finally made it. DC bound!

We stayed in Wilson, NC the first night. Got up that morning and rocked the free breakfast like only a family of 8 can, and we were on our way. Violet fell asleep almost immediately, and so begins the life of a toddler on the road. Translation: she was tired. But she did great and really rolled with the schedule pretty amazingly.

I took a lot of photos of her sleeping. It was too cute.

Here she is while Jackson and Libby pass the time while playing cats cradle. 

We made it to our apartment in DC after getting groceries and then ate a quick dinner, loaded up and walked to the subway, ready to meet up with Christopher and Ranen Bennage, who were waiting at the Smithsonian stop on the National Mall. 

Excited to be on the subway! Getting a family of 8 paid for and legit was no easy task. This photo was our very first ride...shortly after we got off at our stop...all but Jackson that is. He didn't make it before the doors closed. They don't keep the doors open long enough for an 8 person family pushing a stroller!! But at least it was the 14 year old. He kept his cool and Ranen is actually the one who found him. 

All our people accounted for, we headed to the Washington Monument. 

We were all pretty excited to see it! And it's impressive even close up!!

After that we walked to the World War 2 Memorial. Which is beautiful. It began at this point, though, hard to really experience it with the many tourists and the task of making sure we didn't lose anyone. 

Now we headed to the Lincoln Memorial. 

We got a view of the Washington Monument from the other side. 

I told Juliet what to do with her hands and then just took one single photo. She had no idea. I love her. 

We made it up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It was full of people and school groups but I managed to gaze up at him and tried to take a moment to appreciate his service to our country. 

And then, we took a selfie. Managed to get everyone in. Good times. I'd like to think Lincoln would love it. 

After this we headed toward the Vietnam Memorial. This one is hard for little kids. I walked the youngest through quickly. You want to be quiet. It's overwhelming when you understand it.

We headed home after this, but had to stop by the Washington Monument once more because now it was dusk and it looked beautiful with the flags blowing and the lights. 

What a terrible photo, but hopefully it will help us remember how cool it looked. 

We were all tired of walking already but we made it home and geared up for another day!