myrtle beach swim meet.

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This month we started meet season with our swim team, Columbia Swimming.

David and I decided to take Gabe and Noah out of swimming this year, partly because the rates went up, and partly because neither showed great enthusiasm for it. In fact, both were happy when we told them they could quit!

Being part of a swim team takes some commitment because it’s a year-round sport. The kids practice right through the summer. But as of this year, there’s really been no question in our mind of whether the commitment’s worth it; we’ve seen so much good come of it for both Judah and Amie. They’ve gotten stronger, more energetic, and more confident. We’ve made some wonderful friends. And the longer they swim, the more they enjoy it.

Judah now practices three times a week for an hour and half, and Amie twice. It’s a lot, but I will say it helps tremendously that the pool is just five minutes from our house. I can drop them Tuesday and Thursday mornings, race home to put in an hour of home school with the little guys, then pick them up and have a few minutes to chat with my friends. Judah’s third practice is on Saturday, which is nice too.

The other tricky thing about swimming is it’s a traveling sport; there’s only one meet in Columbia this year. We’ve decided to compromise by not doing every meet, and mostly competing on Saturdays, so we can be back home for church Sunday.

Thankfully most of the meets are within a couple hours away. Still it’s not the easiest for our family since David is a pastor; he can get away a couple Saturdays, but uses most to prepare for church Sunday. We’re making it work!

Since this month’s meet was in Myrtle Beach, which is 3 hours away, we decided to stay overnight and have the kids swim Saturday and Sunday. And my mom was very kind to come along and help.

Here are a few snapshots from our trip:

North Myrtle Beach Aquatic Center:

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Saturday afternoon warm-ups:

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CS 12-and-under teammates:

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A couple of events:

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Amie in lane 2

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Judah in lane 2

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Judah in lane 3

If you’re interested, here were their events:

Judah:

50 and 100 Back
50 and 100 Free
50 and 100 Breast

Amelie:

25 and 50 Free
25 Breast
25 and 100 Back
25 Fly

The Aquatic Center is quite small, and the boys lasted in the bleachers for about 10 minutes of the first warm-up. Thankfully the weather was beautiful, and we found places to set them up. We brought toys, Uno, and lots of snacks, and my mom loaded them with activity books from the dollar store, which turned out to be the biggest hit of the weekend. Swim meets last a long time, most of it is waiting for a 50-second race!

I have to say here that Gabe and Noah were incredible all weekend. I have so much to learn from their flexibility and enthusiasm for whatever life brings their way — even if it’s Goldfish and sticker books at a picnic table!

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The great news about a smaller swim meet is that parents were allowed on the pool deck. We set up outside, and my mom and I took turns running in to watch events. We could stand right up at the edge of the pool and cheer the kids on, and I could even bring them a Gatorade in the bleachers mid-afternoon (which isn’t allowed at other meets).

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We took a risk and got a super cheap motel room so we could be right on the beach. I think I have to say it was worth it, although there were some patchy moments. Maybe I wouldn’t do it again, without David or my dad along. My mom and I have both traveled a lot overseas, so saying it was one of the worst places we’ve ever stayed is saying a lot. But it could’ve been a lot worse. There were no bedbugs!

I love my mom. She can go with the flow better than most. And we have lots of things to laugh about.

And we woke up to this:

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Judah and I walked a mile up the beach to our beloved vacation spot:

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This is what he thought about our motel this weekend:

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When we met up Sunday afternoon, one of the kids’ coaches asked, “How was your night?” And Judah said, “Well, now I know what it’s like to stay in a one-star hotel!”

Thanks, Judah. Hey, at least there was a hot tub!

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The kids finished up around 3:00 on Sunday and we hit the road for home. We were so thankful for a fun swim meet experience after all the hard, scary meets of last year. I think a year makes a big difference. Both kids improved their times in every event, and say they’re excited for their next meet in Greenville! As a parent, I love watching them conquer their fears and blossom.

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judah’s room and chores for kids.

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We moved into our new master bedroom on our 13th anniversary, May 22. Shortly after, Judah and Amelie finally got their own bedrooms.

I thought I’d show you around Judah’s room today, and tell you about our chore system.

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Judah’s one request for having his own room was to have “a library.” So we promised him one of our tall pine bookcases from the living room for his growing book collection.

You may remember back in May 2016, we gave Judah and Amie a bedroom makeover. It was a fun project, and as you can see, little changed in the room for Judah once his sister moved out.

Even though they were nine and seven, and truly needing some privacy and space of their own, a big part of me dreading giving our two oldest separate bedrooms. I just love Judah and Amie’s friendship. They’ve been through thick and thin together over the years and are best buddies. I didn’t want them to miss out on shared afternoon play-times, whispering at bed time, waking up and spreading out Lego’s before breakfast.

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But really I didn’t need to worry.

If anything, having a little space has helped their friendship. Now they aren’t tripping over one another’s things. Judah, who is very neat, isn’t frustrated by his slightly-less-neat sister.

It took a few weeks to get used to the new arrangement. We had to have some talks about selfishness and using bedrooms to exclude one or more siblings. We had to ask Judah to come out and play with his siblings. You know, the usual family stuff.

But now we’ve found our rhythm. We have a two-hour afternoon playtime. Judah and Amie spend the first hour alone in their rooms, and the second hour together in one of their bedrooms. They draw, play Lego’s, or sneak out to jump on the trampoline. They always have an audiobook going together and will sometimes listen before bed if they aren’t hanging out with David or me.

I also regularly ask them to have special time with one of their brothers in their bedroom. I’ll set a timer for 30 minutes, send Noah in with Judah and Gabe in with Amie, and tell them to play together. Then another day we’ll switch. Maybe that seems contrived, but it really does help sibling relationships in our home. And the little boys love it.

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Judah keeps his bedroom very neat, and loves having a place for all his books.

He nearly always has a Lego project going on the floor. He alternates between building back sets he’s gotten over the years, creating scenes from his imagination, and looking up Lego instructions on the iPad to try and copy a set (he doesn’t own any of the Harry Potter Lego sets but has built most of them in some form from internet instructions).

The painted white IKEA dresser and lamp came from our old master bedroom. We got him the Wingfeather Saga map poster as a “room warming gift.”

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I feel that this closet is a bit wasted now that Amelie has moved. I wish we could have the closet in her room, because she needs it more than her brother, but oh well. I’ve settled by stowing some of her things in here.

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Judah set up his bookcase all by himself, and I think he did a pretty great job. My favorite part is the Harry Potter glasses.

He requests books for Christmas and birthdays now and often has family members find used books for him.

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Now let’s talk a little bit about chores.

I mentioned awhile ago that my friend Kelly shared her chore system with me. I have tried so many different systems, charts, schedules, and we just don’t keep up with them.

A good thing about David and me is that we have great house-keeping habits. We work as a team to keep things clean and picked up inside and outside, and have done it so many years that it’s just second-nature. I’m so very thankful for his helpfulness around the house.

It’s a great thing … until you’re trying to share the load with your kids.

We can both be a little controlling about how we want things done (i.e. no messes!!), but truly most of the time we just forget to make the kids help us out. We jump up and load the dishwasher automatically after breakfast. We take out the trash as soon as the can becomes full, grab an armful of books to put away as we’re walking through the living room.

What I really want is to impart these habits to the kids. I want keeping house to begin to feel like second nature to them too, because that’s just what we do as a family.

So it’s taking some intentionality.

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We started with this list. I’m focusing on just the big kids at the moment until they really get their chores down well.

They do a great job by now with the daily chores at the bottom of the list. We do those weekends and weekdays, day in and day out. Gabe and Noah also clear their dishes, put away laundry, clean up their room, and make their beds. All the kids help unload the van on grocery day.

After a few months of practice (and yes, finally, some consequences of losing a dollar out of his allowance jar), Judah now automatically begins the lunch dishes every day. I never have to remind him. It’s amazing! Amie is reaching that point with caring for the chickens too.

The only thing I can say is we’re learning to tackle just one new habit at a time, and to keep it simple.

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By looking over the chart, I know there’s more our kids could be doing. I have friends who kids are doing all their own laundry by the time they’re eight!

But I’d rather get these few habits down pat and build from here.

I add “Daily chore” to my kids’ school list so they’ll remember to check the chart. And I still do some reminding.

I really need to update the chart, but I’ll just clarify that my kids do not remove their sheets every Friday and I do not wash them all every Friday. It’s a nice idea though, isn’t it? We’ll get there!

Finally, the biggest help from this system has been the bathrooms. I keep a container of Lysol wipes and a bottle of Mrs. Meyer’s spray under each bathroom sink. I taught Judah and Amie how to wipe down the sink and toilet (using separate wipes!), and clean the toilet bowl.

Are they cleaning the entire bathroom? No.

But it’s amazing what walking into a nice-smelling bathroom with clean counters and toilet will do for your mood. I’ll take it!

I’m still getting used to cleaning my own house again since we decided to stop using our beloved house cleaner. And by “getting used to cleaning,” I really just mean “not cleaning.” I have this daily chore schedule posted for myself on the fridge:

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Isn’t it great? So thorough!! Well. I rarely follow it. But I do water my plants! And I do vacuum when we have company!

How about you? Do you have any chore advice for us?



interview with judah: summer camp.

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Tell me about your camp. What kind of camp was it?

A Christian camp

How many boys were in your cabin? How many counselors did you have?

Ten boys and two counselors

What major did you choose for the week?

Outdoor survival

What’s one thing you learned about outdoor survival?

That clay can be used as a bug spray

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What other activities did you get to try?

Archery, climbing, GaGa ball, zipline, jump on the Blob, kayaking, water games in the lake

What did you do during chapel?

Talk about Jesus being the Vine

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What did you do to celebrate 4th of July?

Big fireworks on lake

What’s something that surprised you about camp?

That everyone was so nice

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Did you get homesick?

Yes

What was the hardest thing about your week?

The showers weren’t very clean

What was your favorite part of your day?

I liked it all

Do you want to go back next year?

Yes!

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Was the lasagna as good as your mom’s?

Not quite as good

What would you say to someone who’s thinking about going next year?

It’s very fun and there’s nothing to worry about

Is there anything else you want to tell us about?

Not too much, I would if I felt better

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And there you have it, folks! Poor Judah has been sick ever since he got home Saturday and wasn’t quiet up to this interview. We’re headed to the doctor this afternoon to see if he has strep throat. He still insists, “It was worth it!’

I felt like he came home about a year older and a foot taller. He is just growing up so much.

The senior counselor pulled David aside Saturday when he picked Judah up and said, “I want to tell you what an amazing kid you have. He was so nice to everybody and so respectful. We love Judah!”

Thanks to Bethel Christian Camp for an awesome first camp experience!!!



judah goes to camp.

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Yesterday evening we dropped Judah off for 6 nights at Bethel Christian Camp in Gaston, about 30 minutes away from Columbia. It’s a camp we’ve known and loved for a long time. We’ve met the director, and have seen lots of friends attend over the years.

I can’t imagine a better first camp experience for our boy; still I can hardly believe he’s gone.

He’ll turn 10 in September, which is the age I was when I started going to camp, but it still feels young somehow. I was delighted that we were allowed to settle him into his cabin and see the bunk he chose and meet his senior counselor. He was so excited. I reigned in my emotions and put my big girls pants on and said good-bye with a clear voice and a big smile.

The five of us made a forlorn trek back to our van, and cheered ourselves up with a stop at Pelican’s Snowcones before we headed home.

We gave Amelie the option to go to camp this week too, but she said, “No way! I’ll miss you too much!”

She regretted her choice when we dropped Judah and she got swept up in the excitement of chattering kids and rustic cabins and the lake. Still, she’s not even 8 yet, and I’m not sorry she decided to wait. Next year will be soon enough.

And so this week we find ourselves one kid short. It’s the quietest kid we’re missing, yet still the house feels a little bereft today.

I know I’m being sentimental, but to me this feels like the first big milestone of my kids growing up. Bit by bit they’re gaining independence, making memories apart from us.

I felt sad in the months leading up to this week, but even though I miss my boy like crazy, I suddenly find myself so very happy for him. This week away at camp is good and right; such a fun, valuable part of childhood. I love that he’s living his own story. It’s a gift to be a big part of that story, but I’m okay with letting go a little. I love the boy he’s becoming.

We get to send Judah emails throughout the week which are printed and given to him at lunch time. Here’s Noah’s message from today:

Dear Judah,

I can play Hobbit with you and play special toys with you. And I can play with the big Lego set too, and I can do Hobbit Hole reading with you. And I miss you really and I like you to sleep there because you had a good, good night. Obey your teacher and your class. Let’s sit in the chair together and read a book.

Love Noah

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noah two-year adoption interview.

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What’s your favorite…?

Fruit: Avocado

Vegetable: Peppers

Dinner: Soup

Treat: Chocolate donuts

Snack: Ring pops

What’s a food you really, really don’t like?
Lemons

Restaurant:
Go eat sushi and then go on a walk

What do you like to play outside?
Play with the water table, swim in pools

What do you like to play inside?
Play some toys

What is your favorite thing to do at the park?
I like climbing up, spinning, and I like eating snacks

What’s your favorite book?
My favorite book is Harry Potter

What do you like about swim practice?
Getting out and getting warm and having a snack like Cheerios

What don’t you like about swim practice?
I don’t prefer swimming

What’s your favorite TV show?
Batman and I like Voltron and Hoopa Ring (Pokemon)

What’s your favorite movie?
Lightening McQueen

What do you want to be when you grow up?
I wanna be a cooker who cooks

What are you really good at?
Making some snacks, making some dinner

 
What are you scared of?
Of a monster. At the night there’s a monster and it’ll scare me. But then I’ll wake up and see and then Gabey will wake up too and see a monster and be scared too.

What do you like to play with Judah?
Play some Legos and play some Everything is Awesome and play zombies and tag somebody and kill them (ghost zombie game)

What do you like to do with Amie?
I like to play with Amie’s Lego set

What do you like to play with Gabe?
With his storm trooper Lego sets

What do you like to do with Daddy?
I like to play fighting

What do you like to do with Mommy?
I like to play with toys and blocks

What’s your favorite thing about school?
Going to my class, having lunch

Who’s your best friend?
Sam

What do you want for your birthday?
A Hoopa Ring toy (from Pokemon)



gabriel two-year adoption interview.

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What’s your favorite…?

Fruit: Watermelon and cantaloupe and pineapple, grapes too

Vegetable: That’s a hard question. Broccoli.

Dinner: Inside-out pizza (calzones)

Treat: Decorations on desserts, all different kinds of decorations on donuts, cake or cookies

Snack: Oreos, the cookies you put on your finger like a ring (Fudge round cookies)

What’s a food you really, really don’t like?
All different kinds of veggies, salad

Restaurant: Papa John’s

What do you like to play with outside?
Ride bikes, play with the chickies

What do you like to play inside?
Make projects, play with my stuffies (stuffed animals), I like to play games, drink all different kinds of drinks but not grown-up drinks. I don’t really like coffee. I tried it once with a little sugar but I didn’t really like it. I like lemonade, fruit punch, and apple juice. I like boxes of juice.

What is your favorite thing to play at the park?
The splash pad

What’s your favorite book?
Superhero books, Star Wars, Elephant and Piggie, I like lots of different books

What do you like about swim practice?
The warm shower

What don’t you like about swim practice?
I have to swim in the cold water

What’s your favorite TV show?
Iron Man, Voltron, I like the girl elf in Voltron because she’s so pretty

What’s your favorite movie?
I like all three Toy Story movies

What do you want to be when you grow up?
A policeman to protect the whole world, and a daddy. A daddy policeman.

What are you really good at?
I’m really good at puzzles and at games. I think I’m good at hard games but first we have to read the instructions. I’m good at putting the ball in the hoop on our trampoline sometimes

What are you scared of?
That’s a really hard question. I’m not really scared of anything, even the dark is not scary. I think I’m scared of a thief if they come in the dark and grab my stuff but they don’t.

What do you like to play with Judah?
I like to play games with Judah, I like to play cannons with the blocks

What do you like to do with Amie?
I like to play with her in her fort

What do you like to play with Noah?
I like to play blocks

What do you like to do with Daddy?
I like to go on dates with Daddy and today we’re going to the Fireflies baseball game

What do you like to do with Mommy?
I like to do cooking

What’s your favorite thing about school?
My favorite part is the iPad

Who’s your best friend?
Sam, Judah, Amie, Noah

What do you want for your birthday?
A remote control



i’m still here!

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Hi friends!

I’ve been pretty terrible at keeping up with the blog lately, and I feel bad about it. Not that I expect you to be sitting by your computer waiting for a post.

It’s so odd, really. For years I wanted to experience a home renovation so that I could take pictures and blog about the process, but I neglected to factor in one very important thing: that during the renovation I may have zero — and I mean zero — energy for blogging or really anything beyond laying on the sofa with glazed eyes and watching Netflix every night.

Ah well. I’m sure some of you could’ve told me that was a pretty good possibility.

I have absolutely no idea how these DIY-ers manage to do enormous home projects and also blog about them. They have all my respect. Meanwhile, I’m most certainly not a DIY-er, and I’m still just hanging on for dear life.

Things got a whole lot harder here during the last third of the addition when a giant hole was cut in our living room wall, and various and sundry people began traipsing in and out every day. Oh and there’s the dust. And the noise. And the piles of clutter around our house. And a lot of kids to keep out of everyone’s way.

And the shopping. I know, I know, you’re like, wait, she’s complaining about shopping now? Must be nice. But as anyone who’s ever experienced a house or yard project can attest, you go to Lowe’s or Home Depot on average 1.5 times a day. There are so many decisions, about things I never in my life expected to care about, but are suddenly vitally important. And remember this: whatever you buy will have to be exchanged at least once.

Yesterday I’m pretty sure I blanked out at least two times in Target, and when I came to I was wandering aimlessly in an aisle and had no idea how I got there. It’s bad, people.

For all their challenges, here’s where Gabe and Noah are just the best.

Me: “Hey, guys, I’m sorry to say this, but we actually need to go back to Lowe’s.” Amie and Judah: “Noooooooo!!!!” Gabe and Noah: “Yay!!!! Lowe’s!!!!!”

And enough of my whining already, right? I mean, I’m getting another bathroom! And a bedroom! And a closet! And a lovely little hallway for books and plants. Truly, I’m very very thankful, and David and I say constantly that it’s going to be worth every inconvenience and every penny we’ve spent. It’s turning out better than we ever imagined it could be.

Also, we couldn’t have asked for a more pleasant group of people working on our house: not just our builder and his crew, but all his subcontractors have been so nice that Amie said, “I’ll be so sad when all the workers leave” (that’s my extroverted child speaking).

We’re almost there! We’re so close we can just about reach out and touch it. Maybe two weeks until we can move in? That’s nothing, right!?

Tell me that’s nothing.

And now, because I’ve proven to us all I’m definitely not one of those cool DIY bloggers, can I please just give you a hodge-podge of low-quality phone pics to fill you in on our month?

Thanks!

Okay, first, the house!

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We have brick! Actually these photos are outdated. The brick is completely finished, and I’ll post more after the masons come this weekend and clean of the mortar and it looks all nice and crisp (who am I kidding, I’ll probably post photos a couple weeks after the fact).

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Oh, how much my little guys are going to miss having an “instruction site” in our yard. They were mesmerized by this dumpster exchange. And meanwhile, I was consumed with guilt over the fact that our little house project has generated over a dumpster’s worth of waste. Wendell Berry would be horrified. Please don’t tell him.

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For those who are interested, here’s the roof tie-in from the back yard. Isn’t it cute?

And speaking of back yard . . .

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A few weeks ago, the kids and I went on a lovely field trip to a nearby family-owned farm outside Columbia, and the farmer showed me this whole area where she lets her one-year-old daughter garden to her heart’s content. I told David how inspiring it was, and about two days later he put in a third raised garden bed, for our kiddos.

The other two beds are David’s babies. He loves them. He tends them. It’s one of his favorite ways of unwinding. But we want our kids to learn the gardening process and to be able to do it all by themselves, so this bed is for them. Soil and plants aren’t especially cheap, so it’s more than “digging in the dirt.” There are rules. Think of it as a little hands-on class. They are thrilled.

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And now we go inside!

Here’s our new doorway, in all it’s glory. I love that Scott made it larger than a traditional doorway, in order to let in more natural light from that window. The bookcase to the left will go in Judah’s room to open up that space more, and those books will be moved to the new built-ins, which will be in the nook to the left when you walk through the addition doorway. The brown chair will go elsewhere too.

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We’re doing the painting ourselves in order to save money, and by “we” I mean mostly David, with some help from my brother and me. It’s a whole lot of painting, especially with all the new trim. Some pieces were primed but still need two coats. He’s been wonderful about it.

I really wanted to go with an almost-white to make our space look big and light-filled, but worried that all white would feel a bit stark. So our exact color is Olympic Hourglass, which is a very-slightly-gray white. The trim and doors will be the Behr paint match of Benjamin Moore Simply White (I highly recommend this color if you’re looking for a true white; I got the tip from Young House Love).

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The hardwood floors will be sanded and stained next week to match the floors throughout our house.

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Here’s our closet! After getting the quote for custom shelving, we decided to go with an IKEA metal rack system, which is considerably less expensive. There will be carpet in here too.

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And here, my friends, is the bathroom. In the last two weeks the shower and floor were tiled. We planned to save money and use vinyl flooring in the bathroom right up until this very week. The cost turned out to be reasonable, since we went with larger tiles, and we are so, so glad we did it.

I found our bathroom paint color on an HGTV Pinterest post: it’s the Olympic brand of Sherwin Williams Intellectual Gray (from Fixer Upper!), and it’s a Gray/Taupe. I spent some time really stressing that it was too dark (of course it was the one color we didn’t get a sample of), but the light floors and cabinets make it look better. I wanted it to feel cozy and I think it does!

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Look at this shower! We think it’s stunning. We wanted to go with subway tile with an inset and little shelf, and because we were willing to use remnants from our builder and the tile guy, we got the floor tile and that pretty inset design for free. We still walk in the bathroom and look at each other and say, “This can’t really be ours.”

Actually our other bathroom is kind of disintegrating during this building process (for example, we now have to use a wrench to turn on the hot water, and more floor penny tiles pop free daily), so I have a pretty sneaking suspicion that the entire family will be using the new bathroom for the foreseeable future. That’s okay: at least we’ll all comfortably fit, right?

If you’re wondering what all my Home Depot and Lowe’s trips consist of, let me give you a list of things we’ve needed to provide: shower tile, door knobs, cabinet hardware, sink faucets, all paint and primer, light fixtures, mirrors, shower head kit and shower curtain, towels, towel rack, toilet paper dispenser, closet shelving system, not to mention furniture for our room and Amie’s.

Okay, now that I look at it written out, it doesn’t seem like that much stuff. Why, oh why, does it feel like it?

Whew. Let’s move on:

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My baby is a Classical Conversations Memory Master! He did it! He was tested on 400 pieces of information from our school year in the subjects of Latin, English Grammar, History, Math, and Science, and had to achieve one hundred percent in order to get the award. He was the youngest student at our CC campus to become a Memory Master this year.

Words cannot express how proud I am of him. It’s not that I care if all my kids are Memory Masters. But God has given Judah an amazing mind, and I loved seeing him set a new goal this year and work hard for it and do his best. We told him he’d get the reward of a fun experience if he became a Memory Master, and I’ll let him tell you about that in a post after the experience.

We had our CC end-of-year program on Monday, and have just about three days of school left before we’re officially finished. It seems early, I know, but last year we started back during the summer, and that worked really well for us, so we plan to do it again.

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Monday was a big day for another reason: we celebrated two years with Gabe and Noah.

Two years! Can you believe it?

I’ll give you an adoption post here soon, probably after the addition is finished, because I have some thoughts. But I’ll just say now that choosing to adopt our boys is the hardest and best thing we’ve ever done.

It’s a mark of what God has done in making us a family that we had to consider how exactly to celebrate this anniversary, because they don’t even really think of themselves as adopted now. They’re just ours.

But we love adoption and want to celebrate it and support it for the rest of our lives, and of course we know one day they will have lots more questions. And so we decided our family’s annual Adoption Day tradition will be Dunkin’ Donuts for breakfast. The kids loved it!

Today David took the two older kids on a big hike in the Greenville area, and I took Gabe and Noah to the zoo and to Chick-Fil-A. Personally, it was my favorite two-year celebration because it’s rare that I get to be alone with just the two of them, just having fun. Spending today enjoying my boys felt beautiful. They make my life better.

Thank you for enduring my long-windedness, my friends!

And now will you do something for me?

I know all of you have your own busy, stressful lives, but if you get a moment, shoot me an email or text letting me know what’s up with you! What’s the hardest part of life right now? What’s the best? (those could actually be the same thing)

I love hearing from you and hate that this blog often feels like a one-sided conversation. In all of the construction stress, the most restful thing for me is to NOT think about the construction. I love hearing from my friends and family (and internet friends! you’re not a blog stalker!).

Happy Friday!





five things on friday.

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1. We’re recovering from two weeks of sickness. Not the flu, thankfully, but a bad virus that we all passed around and just lingered until I finally took the kids to the doctor on Tuesday. Turns out the three oldest had sinus infections and Noah had a double-ear infection. Poor things! It was kind of miserable, because I caught it on the front end, got better for a few days, then caught it again from someone else.

Thankfully I’m healthy again, and after a few days of antibiotics the kids are much more like themselves too, although let me tell you what, dispensing different doses of antibiotics twice a day for four children is not for the faint of heart.

Now we’re all more than ready to resume our normal routines next week. I consider myself a homebody but this bout of illness made even me stir-crazy!

2. Judah and Amelie finished their first swim competition season on a great note. They worked hard and overcame some fears and their last meet at the end of January was the smoothest yet. Still a little nerve-wracking, but no tears. More smiles and more thumbs-up to their cheering section in the stands. They’re both great swimmers and I love seeing them gain some confidence.

Before the meet, David said to Judah: “You know what buddy, after your very first race when you messed up and were embarrassed and wanted to quit? You know how you came back and swam again and finished the whole meet? Well, that was the proudest I’ve ever been of you.”

Later Judah said, “When Dad says stuff like that to me, I feel like I can do anything.”

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3. All eight of our chickies are alive and growing and as cute as they can possibly be. It turns out I’m a very happy chick-owner; and I’m more surprised about that than anyone.

I put off getting animals because I thought they’ve be a nuisance; one more chore that falls to Mom. But first of all: Amie adores her girls and, along with David, does most of the feeding and watering. Of course I think it makes a big difference that they’re outdoor pets. I just cannot imagine owning an indoor pet with all these kids.

But also, I care about them a whole lot more than I expected. I love their bright, curious eyes and how they each look just a little bit different. I like that some are feisty and wild and some like to be held. I even liked scrubbing their Tupperware bin home in the sunshine on Wednesday, and then making it all cozy again with a layer of pine shavings. I try to take time every single day to walk down to the basement and hold them and talk to them and freshen up their water.

It’s simply impossible to be in a bad mood when holding a baby chick.

4. Which brings me to my next point. This morning some fun plans we had were canceled and the kids were very disappointed. We had to talk through a couple of their reactions, but Judah came back said later, “You know what, Mom, after I heard the news I went to my room to build Legos because I knew it would make me feel more calm.”

And so that launched a discussion about things we can choose to do when we’re feeling angry or frustrated to help us calm down, rather than lose our temper. I was amazed that each of the three oldest had something that they knew right away makes them feel better.

Judah: “jump on the trampoline or build Legos,” Amie: “curl up with my stuffed animals, visit the chicks”, Gabe: “build a puzzle.” We all told Noah his calming activity is to go outside and dig for bugs (and when available, fire pits are a close second). Mom: “go for a walk, hold the chickies, go to the library.”

It was such a sweet, rambling conversations, one of those that made me think, Wow, my kids are actually becoming my friends.

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5. I’m making it a goal to learn names of native South Carolina trees and shrubs. My mom and Linda are a fount of information, and when I walk with them I ask them to tell me names of things. It feels very overwhelming to begin, so I’ve decided to focus just on what’s in bloom. Then I try to write what I learned in my bullet journal so I can practice on my run or when I’m driving.

Here’s what I learned to identify (and what’s blooming!) this week:

Forsythia

Camellia

Tulip poplar

Loropetalum

Nandina

What’s blooming where you live?

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Happy Friday!