Finally-Part 1

FeaturedFinally-Part 1

**I decided there were too many pictures for one post! The ceremony and reception pictures will be posted in a few days! Be sure to check back!

I married the love of my life and gained three new daughters on May 27th of this year. Now, on October 11, I am finally sharing the pictures of that day! I will save stories and explanations from that day for later posts, but I know many are already unhappy with me that I have not yet shared!

Photography by the AMAZING Hilary Colleen Photography

Dessert Bar by (of course!) Little Blessings Bakery

My dress from Elda’s Bridal Boutique

Hair (mine) and Makeup by Bella Chic Beauty

The Bride and Groom:

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Our beautifully blended family:

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We did a first look before the ceremony. This series captures it:

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Pictures with our immediate families:

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Wedding Pretties:

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It was a beautiful day and we are thankful to all of the people who were a part of it! So many helpers, so many guests, so many that wished they could be there. We have embarked on a crazy adventure and we love sharing it with you!

Isn’t it ironic

FeaturedIsn’t it ironic

So much has happened in the last week that I don’t even know where to begin this post! We have closed on our house, raced Hurricane Irma to get moved in and prepared for the storm, celebrated two birthdays in the family, and spent our first days in our new house without power or school. Sounds like more of that kind of living we call beautiful chaos!

While thinking back on the last week, I had to chuckle to myself when I realized that my last post was about all of the little things we were looking forward to in the new house, and most of those things went away our first week here in the new house. Allow me to remind you of the list:

  • BathroomS! I had written that I was so excited to have more than two toilets and one shower. Well, after the storm we had a toilet backing up bringing us back to, you guessed it, two. And one of those toilets was mine and David’s! Two WORKING toilets was still a major improvement, but I had to chuckle.
  • City Water. Well…we did get it! But it was cold for days. Again, still so much better, but chuckle-worthy.
  • Toilets that flush. One toilet….refused. We had to go out two days after the storm in search of an open store and a plunger! But at least I got to drive through Dunkin. Oh and yes, we found a plunger…at our third stop!
  • A dishwasher! We waited so long. Before we could even use it, we lost power. Chuckled again.
  • Garbage Disposal. See above.
  • Split Plan. The house is indeed split plan, but I spent nights trying to make it feel less like a split plan because of the storm. I had all the bedroom doors open and slept the light mom-sleep so I could hear anything. Yes, if you did not know, moms can will themselves (well sometimes it comes when you don’t will it!) to sleep lightly so they can hear their child’s cry. Why? Five of our seven children are young, and no power means dark, and dark is scary. It was so hot that they were waking up from being uncomfortable and then getting scared because they couldn’t see anything. They couldn’t come to us in the dark and I wanted to hear them so they didn’t sit there scared any longer than necessary. Again-chuckle.
  • Five Bedrooms. This one made the list last week because it meant the kids being able to spread out and have their own space. Instead, younger kids were in bed with older kids to not be alone, we stayed in closer proximity because light was limited, and we prepared ourselves to all sleep in the master bedroom together (though it never came to that).
  • Better Electricity and A/C. Chuckle with me this time-hahahaha.
  • Dat Double Oven.…that I could not use.

We know we fared MUCH better than many around us and many across the state. We sustained practically no damage, we had no flooding, and we only had to go without power for two and a half days. We are oh so grateful and relieved that we are all safe, our new house is ok, we have power, and, umm, we got a new house this week! We are praying for all those still enduring the wrath of Irma!

For those who have been asking and waiting, here are pictures of our new completed home!

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Exciting Things!

FeaturedExciting Things!

Disclaimer: This post is meant in jest. We have been oh so grateful for the roofs that have been over our heads and we know we have more than many. ❤

Almost two years ago to the date, I had to move out of the house that had been my home for 7 years. It was the first house I lived in as an adult and the house I lived in when the four children I had at the time were born.IMG_4107

Me and my four kids moved into my grandmother’s house- a two bedroom, one bathroom, second floor home. When David and the girls moved here to be with us, they stayed with us to save money. David stayed downstairs in the one bedroom in the garage that was separated from the rest of the house (which is why I had been unable to use it when it was just me and my kids) and the girls moved in upstairs with us. We were now all sharing 1 bathroom and the 8 of us upstairs were sharing two bedrooms.

This house ended up selling before we got married and we had to find another place. As it turned out, some members of my extended family had a house we could rent in the same neighborhood, but asbestos had been found in it so we had a 2 week limbo time. Friends lent us a place we affectionately refer to as the farm. That was a fun experience, but also not ideal for our big family.IMG_0300

Since then, we have all been staying in an older three bedroom, two bath (but there is only one shower we all share). We were laughing the other night about the things we are most excited about in the new house. All the amazing things it holds and it is the little things that have us most excited. As I said, we are so grateful for the roofs that have been over our heads, but we have compiled a list of the things we are most looking forward to about our new home that we will finally be moving into in less than two weeks!!

  • BathroomS! We have known what it is like to share one bathroom. We have known what it is like to share two bathrooms and only one shower. We have had enough of that fun. I will say though that we have gotten it down to an art! The youngest 5 get cycled through like a car wash. David is on water and I am on washing. We rotate them through: one gets pre-rinsed and then comes to me to get shampoo and soap while he pre-rinses another. After shampoo and soap they go back to Dad’s side for rinsing. Girls go back to mom’s side for conditioner and then back to Dad for rinsing again. As they finish they get a towel and sent to their room to get dressed. Once all the kids are out, Dad helps the littles finish getting dressed for bed and mom starts the hair brushing. The whole thing moves quite quickly now! The 10 year old is sent to the shower during the dressing and hair brushing and the 13 year old jumps in as soon as the 10 year old is out. Mom and Dad….well they grab showers when they can! If you are wondering why we can’t use the bathtub in the other bathroom, it is because when you fill it, you can see little black specks floating in the water. We assume it is due to the pipes being old, but short time span means: make it work!
  • City Water! If you have ever been on well water then you understand this one without another word. If you do not know the joy, allow me to enlighten you a little.  Well water might not be for you if you do not prefer the color orange. We replaced the shower head when we moved in 5 months ago-it is already orange with hard water stains and the water doesn’t come out right anymore. This stuff works fast.

    My washing machine has turned orange on the inside and clothes sometimes come out with orange stains that look like rust.image2 (10) Let’s not even talk about the inside of the toilet bowls! We tried filtering the water for drinking-ewwie. So instead, we refill 17 gallons of water a week at the grocery store for drinking (so fun with littles in tow!). And oh my hair. I have been on well water since I moved two years ago and it has taken a toll on my hair. Straw just really isn’t the feel I am going for.

  • Toilets that flush. Y’all. Our toilets.image1 (11)

    We are on septic and it’s an old system. I am sure it needs maintenance or replacement, but we were here such a short time we thought we could deal. It has gotten progressively worse. The kids were forbidden from flushing after the third overflowed toilet I had to clean up. After teaching them all to flush after they go, we had to unteach them (Sorry Daniel Tiger). We can no longer flush without simultaneously plunging. (I have included a picture showing the flusher on the left. If you look to the right, you will see the flusher. Use together.) And when everything finally does go down, your success is marked with loud bubbling water coming from the shower drains (which scared the younger kids for a while). I am so excited to flush the toilets in our new house! *Update-Since starting this post, a horrible smell has started coming from the toilet in the hall bathroom. I have cleaned and cleaned and it only gets worse which leads me to believe it is coming from within. I told David we need to just pray it makes it till the 9th!

  • A dishwasher! I grew up without a dishwasher so you’d think I would be used to it, but nope! (PS-sorry, mom, for all the dishes you have done your entire life. I get you.) Two years I have been without a dishwasher. You are probably thinking I am being a baby now, but remember, we are a 9 people strong family. I want you to imagine the number of dishes we go through in a day. Spoiler alert-It’s a lot. We bought paper plates for a while and then realized how much money we were throwing away (20-27 plates a day!) Few will appreciate a dishwasher as much as we will.

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    Our torture chamber
  • Counters that are not white.IMG_4421 We have granite counters in the new kitchen. I have never had granite counters before. As much as I am excited to have them, I am most excited that they are not white! Who came up with white counter tops?? Such a bad idea. They are impossible to keep clean. We have tried every product imaginable (one concerned friend even gifted us a tried and true cleaner!), but the counters have had the victory. No matter how much you clean, it still looks like you need to wipe down the counters-annoying!
  • Garbage Disposal. I know I know-first world probs, but I so look forward to not having to make sure the chunky parts of soups, stews and sauces go in the trash and liquid parts go down the drain. And not having to do the continuous walk back and forth to the trash can because kids left food on their plates and I can’t let it just wash down the drain.
  • Two words: Split Plan! This is our hallway. The door on the right is ours. The two on the left are the two kid bedrooms. We are so easily accessible. And so they access…a lot.IMG_4422 “It’s 2:20am, I just went pee, and look! There is mom and dad’s door. I should just knock and make sure they know I peed.” “It’s 4:43am and I have to pee. Oh look! Mom and Dad’s door is so much closer than the bathroom. I’ll just go in here and use theirs.” “It’s 4:59am and my blankets fell off. Mom and Dad are right across the hall so if I yell loud enough they will hear me and come help. Mom! Mooooom!….” And let’s not even talk about traveling sound.
  • FIVE Bedrooms. Currently we have the twins and the practically twins in one room and the two older girls and Josiah in another. It has worked okay and the kids have been champs about it, but there are complications. The older girls have a hard time getting privacy to change. Grace has a hard time finding a quiet place to do homework. Josiah really needs his own space sometimes (so many sisters!) and he thrives when he gets it, but that is impossible at the moment. And the stuff! The kids have all gone without their stuff since we moved here. There wasn’t room to unpack their bedrooms so the only toys and things are what they have gotten for birthdays since we moved here and a few select things we chose to bring along to the inbetween house. It will be like Christmas when they all get their stuff back and have room to keep it! We get asked all the time what the bedroom situation will look like: Josiah will have the smallest room, but his OWN room. Charlotte (3) and Faith (3) will share a room. Hope (10) and Meredith (6) will share a room. And Grace (13) and Madalyn (6) will share a room (Madalyn asked her last month if she could share with her because she “likes her sleep” and Grace of course said yes. It will probably be temporary but they are excited.).
  • Being fully unpacked.
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    This is me, scaling Mt Karaffa because we needed something that was packed.

    We have all been moving around with boxes that have been packed up for years. Both families had to downsize when the hard parts of our stories began so we couldn’t bring everything. We at least got it all in one place now, but we have a 10′ by 20′ storage unit filled with boxes that have been packed up for over two years. There are even more boxes in the garage here we never unpacked because it didn’t seem worth it for 5-6 months. I sense a ginormous garage sale in our future!

  • Master Closet. In the house before this, I shared a closet with the girls. In this house, I share with David, and it just doesn’t all fit. But that isn’t even what bothers me. I can deal with a small space. What bothers me is that our closet doesn’t allow the clothes to slide! Gah! So we are already dealing with everything squished in but then I can’t squish it all together to fit the clean clothes back in! I have to find a small space and cram it in. Then to get the clothes off, you have to unwedge the hangers from under the stuff on the shelf above. No. Just no. I can safely say that space will not be an issue in the new house!
  • Electricity and A/C up to current codes. If you vacuum in this house, the lights flicker. And there is no perfect thermostat setting. It is either hot or freezing-there is no inbetween. I can’t stand to be hot, so freezing it is. I think everyone is over mommy freezing them.
  • Normal sink water pressure. Because of the age of the pipes and the pump, the water pressure is crazy in the sinks. Try teaching 3 and 4 year olds to only turn the knob a little. The result is water everywhere!IMG_4423
  • Normal Color Bothrooms. 60s and 70s be gone!
  • One key. I know-little thing to be excited about, but it takes two keys to unlock the front door and they are identical. When it’s raining, and kids are trying to stand in it, and your hands are full, and someone is having a meltdown, you don’t want to be fidgeting with which key unlocks which lock. Hellooooo garage door opener! And one key to rule them all.
  • Dat double oven! Okay, so this one is just plain selfish, but I have never had a double oven before. In fact, there are a lot of things in this house I have never had before. It is the kind of house I have only ever dreamt about and thought I would never have. I am so excited and thankful to be getting such a beautiful home to raise my new, big, beautiful blended family in with my new amazing blessing of a husband!
  • It will be ours. We are so thankful to all the people over the last few years who have helped to make sure that we all always had a roof over our heads. We never spent a day homeless and our kids always had a bed to sleep in. But we are excited to no longer be in anyone’s space, no longer live around someone else’s stuff, no longer have to deliver the bad news of something being broken to a homeowner, no longer feel like a burden on anyone else. We will finally have a space, a home, that is ours.image5 (5)

 

I am saving pictures of the completed house until it is 100% done, but we are in the final stages! We did our initial walk through last week with the building manager and marked all the things we saw that needed attention before the closing. We will have our final walk through this week and we close on September 6! Moving day is set for September 9, which is also David’s birthday! His birthday will be our first night sleeping in our new, perfect for our family, home. God is good. God is faithful. We are so thankful.

 

I Have a Book

FeaturedI Have a Book

I have a book. A book of horrors. I can’t even crack it open without my heart beginning to race. I can’t peek at its pages without feeling the sweat form on my palms. Common sense would tell you to avoid such a book, but I cannot. I keep coming back to it as though it holds me captive in some way. Oh right, it does. This book of horrors is…my planner (insert eerie music, a bolt of lightning, and a menacing laugh).

I used to get joy from my planner. I love to pick a new one every year; one that reflects how I feel about that year. I used to use pretty pens to color code categories of events. I used to enjoy filling it out. Birthdays, outings, new beginnings, even memories were recorded. Gone are the days of color coding, and joyful scheduling. Now it is like a puzzle; the kind where you not only need each piece in the right place, but it must be lined up perfectly to fit into its space. Or maybe it’s a ball and chain; I feel I must carry it with me everywhere. Without fail, if I bring it with me, I will not need it, but if I forget it at home, I will need to check it before committing to something else. This falls under the umbrella of Parental Murphy’s Law. The same law that says that the one time you run to the store with your kids (and yourself) looking affright is the time you will run into someone you know that you, until now, had convinced that you always had it together. It is also the same law that says if you go out without an extra pair of underwear in the car, someone will inevitably have an accident. Hold on, I’m getting a shiver up my spine. Ok, it is gone.

Allow me to show you my planner for this year. It’s so cute.

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Now let me show you inside of it-the week before school started. No pretty colors, no orderly layout. Chaos.

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I loved the cover when I picked it. I bought it in December. I had just gotten engaged. My fiancé and his three girls were moving to my town and we were to be married sometime before the end of the year. It had been a hard couple of years prior to this one so this cover was worth the extra money I didn’t have to replace the one that came with the planner. “It’s Your Year.” Encouragement to look upon every time I took out my planner. A reminder that no matter how full the pages of this planner may get, this is my year. The year everything would (and did!) change. The year God would turn what had been ashes of a former life into a life with beauty I couldn’t even imagine. How quickly busyness causes us to lose sight of the blessings. I never leave my planner open to the current week so that every time I need to reference the planner, I see my reminder. I still swear I feel a chill upon opening it, but I am reminded how welcome all this busyness is and that it is all the blessings this year brought that keep me this busy.

The chaos within-The week before school started was full of appointments, phone calls, repeated visits to schools, school supply shopping and holy open houses batman. It didn’t help that we showed up to one doctor appointment 5 hours early and it was a 20 minute drive there. There was also the fun of having one child accepted into a gifted program (yay! woot! huzzah!), but the school still needing a completed application packet for their records. Gathering everything needed for that was like a time intensive scavenger hunt! I won’t recount for you how interesting drop off and pick ups are at the moment living outside of the school district, having kids in three different schools, and all having different start and end times. Say hello to lunches and entertainment in the bus for the littles and the little red gas light that always seems to be on!IMG_4255

Ok, so obviously I am over exaggerating A BIT by calling it a book of horrors, but I am sure many of you can relate to the sentiment. If you have been a reader long, you know our love of the phrase “Beautiful Chaos.”image2 (9) The schedule, along with our lives is chaotic, but I love being a mom, I love having this big family, and I love being busy for them. Does it always show on my face? Most definitely not. I have written before about my RSF (Resting Stressed Face). David says to me all the time, “Are you sure you’re still happy? Is this really what you wanted?” I remind him time after time that I have experienced two different mom lives before this one. My first mom life was one where I wasn’t alone, but I felt alone. I had infant twins, then three in diapers, then four in diapers/pull-ups at the same time, and did most of the care myself. My second mom life was as a single mom and started with two 3 year olds, a 2 year old, and a 6 month old. I also owned a small business at this time and worked long hours to keep it afloat. For a long season, time and schedules didn’t even exist. What even was a planner? It was put your head down and power through every day. I now consider those two mom lives to be my training-preparing to be a blended mommy. This mom life I live now is busy and challenging and exhausting at times, but trumps either mom life I had before. Being a mom has always been worth it, but I enjoy it so much more with a teammate and a home exploding with love. Yes, this is what I wanted. 

These people that surround me are my family. They were always going to be my family-the whole lot of them! My early years as a mom conditioned me for this family. If you think you hear my horn tooting, I assure you it is not.

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This shocked face is the result of getting all 7 of the kids out the door EARLY for school thus giving me time to get some Dunkin’. Shocked=NOT the norm 

 I do not think I am super mom. In fact, being a mom makes me feel oh so human most of the time. Anyone else?? I lose my temper, I buckle under the weight of the schedule, I forget things, I get grumpy, I forget things, I don’t act with grace, I lose sight of the blessings, I forget things. The very day I first wrote most of this post, I had a bad day. I was sick and the schedule was full. As the day went on, my grumpy grew. Toward the end I texted my husband, “Freaking. Hard. Day.” He texted back, “Same here baby. So very long and involved.” I rarely admit I am struggling because I don’t want him or anyone else to think I don’t “got this.” Did you catch that? I think I need to write that differently for my own sake. I rarely admit I am struggling because PRIDE. I texted him because I was wanting encouragement, support, something. Here are the two problems with that: 1.) I didn’t tell him what I needed (not fair) 2.) It is not his job to fill my empties. The only One who can fulfill me, sustain me, strengthen me, and restore my joy is God and He is who I should be turning to when my soul is in need. Expecting my husband to do that for me is not fair to him. I should have run to God first, and then my husband WITHOUT expecting him to read my mind. I share all of this to show that I am not a perfect mom who juggles all of this with ease, I am just a mom. I am a good mom. A mom who doesn’t always get it right, a mom who doesn’t always remember to be thankful, a mom who forgets. But I am also a mom who keeps a teachable heart, is equipped to live this mom life, is sustained every day, and who doesn’t have to be a prisoner to the planner.

 

I have a book. image4 (5)A book of blessings. I can crack it open and feel my heart begin to fill. I can peek at its pages see evidence of all the people I love. Common sense would tell you to appreciate such a book, but I don’t always. I forget to count it all joy. I’m learning more every day. This book of blessings is my planner (insert a mom that chooses to be happy, 7 wonderful children, and a patient understanding man I am so happy to call my husband).

 

 

Since I briefly referenced the first days of school, I feel I have the right to share pictures of my children like a good mom loves to do!

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Back to Reality

FeaturedBack to Reality

We are married!!

Our wedding day was perfect. Well, as perfect as a wedding day can be. There was some crazy (including Josiah throwing up in the middle of the dance floor during the reception!), but everything came together beautifully and was a lovely representation of both of us and our family. I will share more about the wedding at a later time when we have pictures and video to share.

Our Honeymoon was also perfect. It was short and it was simple, but it was just the time we needed to focus on just each other, celebrate our love and how far we have come, laugh, dream, connect, and of course….talk about the kids. We tried not to, but I think it is just impossible! I will also share more about that in the days to come.

Today, I share about our oh so short journey back to reality.

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Look, this is us re-entering reality. Turn back!  

 We knew some of the kids had gotten sick while we were gone. It was inevitable-I had had it and Josiah had it the day of the wedding. I checked in with my mom during our drive back to reality and found out that she had just finished cleaning up two cases of throw up and that four were currently sick. We had planned to come home after all the kids were in bed Tuesday night so we could ease back in and have one more evening of just the two of us. Little did we know, our two oldest were waiting up by the window in their room for us to drive up and they came running out as soon as we arrived. They were excited, and bouncing and they had decorated the house with signs hung with electrical tape. They wanted to show us everything they had done while we were gone so it was a while before we sent them back to bed. My poor momma was spent and coming down with what the kids had so they left about the same time.

 

 

Through the night we were up quite a few times with sickos and our first morning waking up together in the same room in our home….we were accompanied by three other little bodies. Hellooooooo reality! David had to go to work that Wednesday morning and I had to take M, M, J and C to their other dad’s so we were up and out and in different directions. When I got home, I began the process of snapping the rest of the kids and the house back to reality. They were also in vacation mode and that just wouldn’t work to keep this big family moving forward efficiently. Our day was filled with chores and unpacking and laundry. Don’t worry, I let them have fun too!

Friday was the first day of all 7 kids home with me while David went to work and then an evening to spend together as a family. We had a full morning of celebrating national donut day! I had secretly planned to take them all for donuts, but M, M, J and C were dropped off with a box of donut holes for their breakfast. Everyone had a few pre-donuts to prepare the palette and we jumped in the van for the surprise. First stop-Dunkin! Dunkin was offering a free donut with every beverage so I got two coffees and two donuts and headed to David’s workplace! We surprised him image11and spent a little time with him. There was an outdoor eating area that the building surrounded and windows were everywhere. As people above walked the glass lined corridors they looked down on us and stopped walking. Some of them waved for others to join them and pointed out the huge family below. I asked David if they were his coworkers as we smiled and waved and he said “Nope!” Felt a little like being in a fish bowl, but it was cool to see the smiles we brought to faces just by existing. David informed me later that word had spread to his office and there was a buzz about his big family visiting. The next stop was Little Blessings Bakery because we can’t be near it and not pop in! It is a part of our story too, and we love the current owner! Then it was on to Love Bugs because they were offering a free donut for every person! I failed in my attempt to not eat another donut just because it was free. I don’t regret it. We almost made it through our outing before the gremlin sides of my darling children began to try to come out. That means it was time to load up and get out of there! image8 (2)

That evening we fulfilled a promise we had made Saturday as the reception was wrapping up: we had a dance party to the playlist from the wedding! By the time it was over, half the house hold was coughing up a lung and not many of us slept well as a result. It was fun but we decided no more dance parties until everyone is well of this ick!

 

Saturday. One week. We had been married one week and that deserved a celebration! Fun! Festivities! Yes, we knew just the thing-we spent the entire day in the garage going through the rest of the boxes, clearing a path to the things we need access to, filling a dumpster bag with things that had just accumulated over the years when my aunt and uncle lived here, and putting the final nail in the storage unit coffin (if that is not as funny as I think it is and gets lost in translation, I mean we filled that sucker to the brim!).

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That goes back 20 feet my friends

By the end of the day we were exhausted, sore, and ready to just sit down; but we promptly realized we were missing a few things we needed to make dinner happen. I was off to the store and David was on “distract the kids so they don’t realize they are hungry” duty until I returned! As we sat around the table later we reflected on the fact that we were finally all moved in! Whether we are here 2 more months or 6 more months, we will be as comfortable as we can be and thankful every day for an in-between place to stay.

 

Sunday we kept the bedroom door locked as long as possible and then dragged ourselves out of bed. I am proud to say that our first Sunday walking into church as a blended family of 9, we were on time! We even had a homemade French toast breakfast, looked presentable, and were mostly smiling. Church was… eventful. There was an epic hunt through the building for David’s missing laptop cord. We are unable to work on the video caught of the wedding without it. It was found! But the herd forgot acceptable church behavior before we did. And many are still sending me props for catching Charlotte’s puke in my hands in the sanctuary and saving the church floor. I made another save in the foyer and tried for a third time in the kitchen, but I was bested that time. My knight in shining armor found us about that time and he took over the kitchen cleanup while I tackled the kid clean up (complete with some amazing church family members who came to our aid). David called all the kids to assemble and announced that we had thoroughly defiled the church for this week and it was time to go. After church we finally got over to the new house to check the progress. Trusses had been delivered! Wood for load bearing walls had been delivered! It looked like it was going to be a big week! Hoping to see big changes despite the rainy, dreary week we are having. After seeing the house we went to pick up our first ever online grocery order…y’all…we got a week’s work of groceries in less than 10 minutes and never got out of the van! Heck, two of our kids slept through it! Cue “A whole new world” music.

So we are married! And life has resumed. We are elated and we are tired. It is crazy to me how what we have can feel so fresh and new while simultaneously feeling like we have been a family forever and this was meant to be. We are a family-we are blended and in some ways, still becoming blended. Part of that will be a lifelong process. One thing is for sure: Life here is still most definitely best described as beautiful chaos!

4 Houses and a Storage Unit

Featured4 Houses and a Storage Unit

May not have the same ring as similar sitcom and movie titles, but it is an accurate representation of our lives right now. My absence from the blog (and my business and my social life) is completely related to this reality. While we have known about our move for some time, it was hard to find the desire or motivation (or TIME) to begin packing. There were many factors that could have led to the sale falling through and we didn’t want to live out of boxes if not necessary. I also remind you-we are trying to plan a wedding! It was moved….due to the move, which means a shortened window, for a long task, that also hadn’t been started. While waiting for the closing on the house which would signal our acceptance of a definite move, we tried to knock some planning out.

In my last post, I updated you that with the move on the horizon just a week ahead of us, possible asbestos was found in the house we were moving in to. It was tested and confirmed asbestos. We now had to move out of one house, but with no house to go to. Friends began offering to give us a place to stay, but we are NINE people! That’s enough space as it is, but we also have stuff; so much stuff. While we knew our friends knew what they were offering and meant it, there was no way we weren’t going to throw a wrench in their lives with our presence. We can’t get away with “You won’t even know we are there.” Oh you will most definitely know we are there.

We have friends that were married a year ago and the husband of the duo is still trying to sell the home he owned as a bachelor. They offered us the empty house as a place to stay and we jumped on the offer! They are pretty much amazing and we are so grateful. Packing started Tuesday, they offered us the house on Thursday, and we had help offered to help us move big things on Saturday. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday consisted of the type of packing where you take the time to look at things and pack based off of what things were and where they needed to go. The type of packing that consists of packing the things you don’t really use that much. The type of packing where, when you get overwhelmed you stop and think and breathe. The type of packing that, while productive, doesn’t really get you far. There was also never a moment with less than three kids present, so that affects productivity. Come Friday, panic sets in. David and I spent the morning at a pre-marriage counseling session (that was an amazing time by the way). After the session, David needed to do some work from home and I needed to go to the grocery store. I had made a plan for easy meals that wouldn’t take a lot of ingredients or dishes to prepare as transitions happened. When I got home, it was planning time. We needed to pack and plan what could go to the storage unit since we didn’t have much room to work with. We needed to pack and plan what could go to the little one car garage of the in-between house to wait for us but still be protected from the asbestos abatement process. We needed to pack and plan what needed to go with us to the farm (It’s just a mini farm with no animals anymore, but it needed a name to be able to keep our lives straight!). This means we needed to think about what we would need to live for possibly two weeks since we had no timeline, but also think about what we could live without because this was temporary and would all have to be moved again soon! I said 4 houses though-what is house number 4? Through all of this we keep dreaming of and building gratefulness for our home that is being built. We drive by often just to check progress; so far-zip!

While planning, we decided that packing suitcases was priority so that when everything else left tomorrow for various destinations, we would have clothes. After dinner, we set the kids up with a movie night in a basket that their Mawmaw had put together for them for Easter, and we got to work! We picked clothes for two weeks, with one laundry day accounted for, for the 7 kids and ourselves. After we were done in the bedrooms, we got the kids in bed and continued on projects we each felt were important to have done before help came the next day. For David, that was things for the storage unit since it would be the first stop in the morning. For me, it was the areas that would be harder to explain to people what I needed to be packed and what I needed to stay (like the bathroom). We worked till we dropped and had much still to do the next day.

Saturday came, and one person appeared early and two more later in the day. Friends reading-this isn’t written with any resentment! We know how crazy and needed and filled Saturdays are and this Saturday just so happened to be an eventful one. We know you love us. But little help means we had to kick our high gear into higher gear! David and his help loaded things for the storage unit and made a run out there while I stayed and packed like crazy. Somehow, there was still most of the house left to pack! When the men (and Grace, also known as “muscles” that day) returned, they went to work taking bunk beds and dressers apart and loading the trunk for the run to the garage of the in between house. I continued packing like crazy. By now my mom had joined me and for a few hours we had another friend stop by. Unfortunately for them, I had reached frazzled and unable to think point by then so I kind of just kept moving without giving much direction and they would jump in where they saw need.

When it came time to load boxes, my control started to activate. We had of course now accumulated more for the storage unit so as I was watching things fly out the door, I was so worried something would end up at the wrong place of the three and cause a problem when it was needed (or take up space when it was not needed). I was telling myself not to stress it but I don’t think my self was listening. We worked till the two men we had had to leave and looked around to find that even though so much went out, it seemed there was still so much left to do.

We were still staying in our current house until Tuesday so thus started suitcase life. One thing we have learned is how little fun a vacation for all of us at this point in our lives would be! All my nope. On Sunday after church, we needed to visit the friends lending us the farm to move a fridge from their house to the farm because (of course) the farm fridge was on the fritz. As we drove the fridge out there, we got our first sense of the distance. It got prettier as we drove, but oh so far. As we rounded the last corner, we looked out over a field of cows. This was so different from where we had been that we decided to call this house the vacation house. This would be fun! We arrived, opened the gate, and pulled into our first views of the farm. The property was beautiful and the little house was adorable from the outside.

Allow me to reiterate that we are so grateful to our friends lending us this place and we are so grateful that an empty place existed so all nine of us could fit without being a bother! That being said, the place is not exactly what we expected. We walked from room to room checking out the situation. We had planned for the kids to stay up in the loft room, but after two kids cried on the steep stairs, and the older kids said they were a little scared up there (it is unfinished so it looks like an attic to them), we knew that plan had to change. When we came outside to tell the kids to load up, we found them all in the van already. We asked why and they said that, at 2pm, they were getting eaten by mosquitoes and didn’t want to be out there. We both decided that if we were marrying young and without kids, buying a place like that would be a grand adventure! The house is super cool and full of potential and the property as I said is so pretty, but with 7 kids, it was going to be interesting! We dropped off the fridge, ran Grace to youth group, and then went back to the current house to prepare a load for the farm (we had already changed our minds on the title “vacation house”.

Now, in all the wedding planning, I have accumulated a small….ish collection of things (including a box of dresses that don’t fit the girls but don’t get me started on that!) and David has the arbor he is in the middle of building. Neither of us want to be far from our projects or let them too far out of our sight for fear they will get lost. This means we packed up all the decorations, the clothes, the arbor and wood, and all the tools to take with us to the farm. We also packed the trailer with all the boxes of food we wouldn’t need for the next few day or even weeks, but that we couldn’t take to the in-between house to wait for us because of the asbestos abatement that would be happening. With all of this we got back in the vans to pick up Grace and go drop the load.

On Monday evening, we all got cleaned up and went to see Madalyn and Meredith perform in the Spring Concert at their school (I’ll skip the part about when we realized we had be at this and how to fit it in.) After it, we got the kids asleep and let Grace stay up and read. We do not leave Grace with all 6 of her siblings when they are awake, but since everyone was asleep and we were only going two streets away, we figured she could handle the tough job of reading on the couch. See, we had to move the remaining things for the house that we didn’t get to on Saturday: a deep freezer, the washer and dryer, and a second fridge that was in the garage that my grandmother said we could have. Thank you, Shaun T, for preparing me for this task. We loaded up and headed to the garage of the in-between house. Now, while the guys had left a path through the center of the garage that held so much of our stuff, it was not quite wide enough for the appliances we were adding. So we pulled things out of the garage, maneuvered the appliances to the back by the plugs, then refilled what we had taken out. It was about this time that we decided that this whole experience would do more in preparing us for marriage than any preparatory class ever could!

Tuesday came and it was the day. Today we would leave this house and move on to the next thing. I spent the day finishing our packing process between all the usual duties life brings. We decided to go out for a quick fast food dinner before yet another awesome friend came to help move the last of the heavy items downstairs. We had hoped to be able to move everything in one trip, but because we had to bring so many big items with us, space filled up quickly. We had to bring the futon so the kids didn’t have to sit on the tile floor. We had to bring the tv because…well, we were scared not to have the option! So many things keep happening that weren’t expected and we didn’t want to be without entertainment if it would be needed. We had to bring the table and benches so the kids would have somewhere to sit and eat. We had to bring many mattresses so everyone would have a place to sleep. We had to bring dishes, and all the food we owned, and a big cooler and bathroom things, and bedding, and suitcases, and backpacks, and boxes of pull-ups, and boxes of shoes….all for one week. We packed and loaded vans and the trailer for almost an hour. We made the first trip to the farm and it took well over an hour due to the distance. We loaded again and did the final walk throughs to make sure we had everything. We took our final moments, looking back and remembering our times in this house. My grandparents built this house before I was born. My mom was a single mom who raised my siblings and I three houses down from this house. I spent so much of my life here as my mom worked so hard to provide for us. It was my second home. My life went full circle when I moved into this house two years ago as a single mom, working hard to provide for my kids, with my own mother just down the road. It was hard and beautiful at the same time. I did not want to move in here. I fought it. I called it going backwards, but I didn’t see how forward it was going to be. The time I spent here in the middle of my journey was a time of change. God did so much in me and for us. My faith grew as I grew and became a different woman than I had been: loved, accepted, strong, cherished. As God moved my story along, this house then became the first place me and my future family shared together. So much has happened here-I grew up here, I grew here, my family grew here. I am so thankful for all this house held, and now it is time to move forward again.

We began our final trek out to the farm after 9:30. I was so worried about the kids and getting them in bed. When we arrived my first priority was getting the kids in bed. We brought some light bulbs and put them in the bedrooms and did just what was necessary to get the kids laid down. We came back out and put light bulbs in the main living areas….but still no light. We spent half an hour messing with the breaker box, with outlets, with switches and pull cords. It finally became clear that the problem was wiring based. We could twist the bulb just enough that the light would come on, but then it would go back out 20 seconds later. We finally continued our work to the glow of some of those little electric candles with the fake flame and every now and then twisting the bulb to have light for a small quick task. We did just enough to be able to call it a night and both be able to have a place to lay. I think we both went to sleep unexcited and unsure.

Wednesday we were up and out super early and didn’t return until evening. The tv stayed off last night, lamp light pierced the darkness that had been and hours of conversation filled the living room. We went to bed last night agreeing that no matter how long we are here, God is already using this place to do big things for us and our relationship. Things we could have never anticipated. It is now Thursday. I have things a little more put away and we got the furniture laid out in a way that makes sense and almost fits. I am sitting on the steps of the front porch typing away at this while the three youngest play with brooms across the wrap around porch. There is a breeze blowing and sunlight is flooding the house behind me. Surprising to me, I love it here right now in this moment. I am thankful to be in this place. I am thankful to be on the farm. I am thankful for the role God has planned for this place in our story. Forward.

 

I leave you with a list of things I will NOT miss about our house of 2 years:

Stairs!

Carrying laundry up and down the stairs.

Forgetting about the laundry (sometimes intentionally) because it was so far away.

Uncovered, outdoor stairs to access the home itself (fun in the rain!)

Watching children have to learn to navigate the stairs without you.

~I think you get the stairs thing~

The smoke alarm going off every time I blow dry my hair.

Going downstairs to do laundry, telling the kids to behave while you are gone, and hearing the opposite of behaving happen above you.

Sharing one bathroom.

Sharing ONE bathroom!

The bathroom heater that one child insisted on constantly turning so you walked in to the bathroom to a flood of heat.

A huge loud house fan that often scared the children when accidently flipped on.

Peeling wall paper/unapproved child activity.

No dishwasher (though we still won’t have one until the new house gets built).

Hard Water (though we will still have that until the new house gets built).

Doors that I couldn’t unlock from the outside without removing the doorknobs.

Closet doors that constantly fell off.

A sliding glass door that constantly came off the track.

To these things I say: Bye Felicia!

 

A day in the Life

FeaturedA day in the Life

When I started this blog, I had aspirations to post every other day. As reality started to set in, I bumped that down to twice a week…and then eventually settled on once a week. It has currently been two weeks since my last blog entry.

I know what you are probably thinking: “No duh, Ash!” But there are things taking my time that I didn’t even account for. For example: You have no idea the amount of time I have dedicated to trying to find a dress for our oldest to wear in the wedding. She is 13 and MY size! All I want is a formal dress in my size that keeps our 13 year old looking like a just 13 year old. I still have yet to find it. And do you have any idea how many varieties of gold spray paint there are?? Many much-the answer is many much. It was cute how I was like, “I’ll just go to Lowe’s and pick one easy peasy.”

All this has led to the decision to walk you through a day in the life! Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: My Monday.

6:20 First Alarm…..ignore.

6:45 Second Alarm….ignore….no wait! Can’t ignore. Drag myself out of bed. Go into the bathroom to get as presentable as one can get before 7am and with only 5 minutes. While I am in there I hear David come in and start waking children. Love that man.

6:52 Go to the kitchen, turn on coffee maker, and start making lunches. Five lunches and two snack bags (because the twins are required to bring separate lunch boxes for lunch and snack). Say Good Morning to children and fiance’ and they trickle into the kitchen one or two at a time. Direct able children to go get dressed while I finish lunches.

7:08 First sip of coffee….ahhhh

7:09 Head to the bathroom to do school hair and inspect clothes picked. I don’t know when the ability to match clothing kicks in, but I’ll let you know when I find out. And have some younger kids somehow exited the house without underwear before? Perhaps. Shoes on the wrong feet? Perhaps. Inspection time is key.

7:18 David leaves to drive Hope to the bus stop.

7:21 David returns. He tackles diapers on the littles and I tackle 5 bowls of cereal. Love that man. Once cereal is poured I realize we didn’t read the four books that the twins needed to read as homework over the weekend. I stand and read books to all 5 youngest while they eat breakfast. Two books in, David takes over so I can go get out of my PJs and put real clothes on. Love that man.

7:40 Mad dash to fill in reading log, get shoes on, pour coffee into travel mug, get lunches and homework into back packs and get out the door. (With the help of one awesome fiance’. Love that man.)

7:46 Get five kids buckled in car seats, kiss fiance’ goodbye, get on the way just a few minutes behind schedule.

7:52-8:22 Drive to the school to drop the twins off and then drive back home all the while breaking up fights about not liking the noises someone is making, whether or not it is a “sunny day”, who loves everybody more, etc. There are cute moments mixed in too of kids telling each other, “I love you” and singing songs.

8:23 Pull up to the house as David is leaving. Get to say goodbye again and hear about how he woke up the oldest by playing loud British Fife and Drum music, marching into her bedroom carrying a toy broom like a musket, and poking her with said musket till she got up. Effective parenting. Head upstairs to help Grace get pulled together and out the door on time. I also start a to do list for the day and answer a few messages received overnight.

8:50 As Grace leaves for the bus stop, I take a load of laundry downstairs to the laundry room to get started.

8:54 Return upstairs and draw all over my face with a pink sharpie. Yes that’s right. I then record a video for my little make up business, but get interrupted right in the middle. This was a video I wanted to be able to reuse so I head to the bathroom to remove all makeup and sharpie from my face, redraw the cat face, and rerecord the video.

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Ya, I wasn’t kidding.

9:30 Edit video. Post video. Do not remove makeup and sharpie from face.

9:40 Get the starving children a snack, put in work out DVD, try to get in the mood to work out. Does that even exist? I don’t think it does. See, as if my life isn’t crazy enough, the human in me can’t help but want to make a few changes before the wedding day that is quickly approaching so I am trying to work out every day. In all my free time.

9:47 Push play.

9:47 Push pause. The children are thirsty. Of course. Fill three water bottles. Tell children I won’t stop again until the end of the DVD. Josiah decided to do it with me.

9:50 Push play.

9:59. Push pause. Sigh. Place child in time out who drug a comb hard across the tv and then argued with me when I asked them not to do it again. Push play.

10:06 Push pause. A fight has broken out over one child’s unquenchable need to knock over another child’s tower every time it is built. Push play.

10:08-10:25 Work out, refusing to stop again, while yelling out things like “stop!” “Be nice!” “Don’t look at her if you don’t like it.” “Just ignore it!” Josiah did do most of the DVD with me. My favorite moment was when he asked, “Mommy, am I going to wear a wedding dress?” “No baby, but you are going to get a suit.” “A wedding suit?!” “Yes.” “Then I better work out harder!” They are always listening, my friends, and picking up on more than you realize!

10:28 DVD ends and NOW they are all playing nicely.

10:28-10:35 Lay on the floor. Find my life again. Sweat. Wonder why I do this.

10:35 Go downstairs with shaky legs to move the laundry to the dryer. Tell Josiah he is in charge just because he thinks its fun to be the oldest for a moment.

10:38 Hear crying and run upstairs. Find Jo putting a band aid on Charlotte because she got a boo boo. I see no boo boo but assist since he was trying so hard to be a good big brother. Faith sees there is no real boo boo so fakes her own injury to get a band aid. Josiah of course now needs a band aid for his old boo boo. I looked entirely too long for a blue band aid among all the princess and Dora band aids. Finally found a minion one.

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10:45 Answer a few messages that have come in through the morning.

10:47 Stop that to put a child in time out for hitting. Hit child cries as though she has been mortally wounded. Finish message responses anyway.

10:50 Snack time. Almost immediately regret giving the 2. 3, and 4 year olds open containers of applesauce.
Fact: Saying “Don’t step in it!” pretty much guarantees someone will step in it while looking for what you were saying not to step in.

10:58 Head to the bathroom to shower and find the boy stinking up the bathroom.
….timing…..

11:01 After getting in shower, get back out of shower to remove cat face I forgot was there (dat coverage).

11:08 Get out of shower to hear 4 year old calling 2 year old by both her first and middle name. He takes his job of being in charge seriously. Proceed to get dressed while simultaneously looking for a Superman suit, answering texts from fiance’ about things that need to go in the savings account, and helping everyone get their selected dress up clothes on. Obviously I went with comfy Lula leggings today!

11:22 Find the cup of coffee I made at 6:55  this morning and never finished. Place it in the microwave.

11:25 Start setting up to do a live video for the little make up business because it’s been forever since I have.

11:37 Start live video. Ramble for 13 minutes and try to keep my train of thought with children playing behind me. Clean up my make shift studio while listening to the video just to make sure I didn’t say anything too foolish while I was half distracted.

12:02 Start making lunches

12:13 Call children to the table to eat the lunches. Smell poo. Times 2. Change two poopies while telling myself I really need to start pushing the potty training. Tell that first voice to shut up and allow second voice to remind me it’s okay that they are not potty trained yet. Finally change the 2 and 3 year old out of the pajamas and into play clothes.

12:19 Call kids to the table for lunch take 2.

12:24 Find coffee in the microwave. Restart microwave to heat it again.

12:28 All kids have left the table. I look at plates and wonder why I try. Call children back to the table.

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12:29 Find the reason why I always say food stays at the table.

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12:32 While trying to convince the children to eat I realize that the 4 year old is starting an asthma episode. I give him his inhaler and help him focus on relaxing.

12:37 Tuck littles into their beds for nap time. This is after finding an impressive mess and deciding to clean it up rather than have them do it and delay nap time. Get Josiah (who has insisted on wearing his Superman muscles to bed because they make him “feel better”) tucked in for quiet time with a movie in his room.

12:42 Find coffee in the micro again. Give up and dump what is remaining.

12:45 Customer stops by to exchange a product.

12:48 Clean up lunch. Start to tidy living room. Realize I am pretty much just moving the mess around because the kids are in their rooms where the toys actually go. Abort mission.

12:52 Go downstairs to to get clean laundry from the dryer. Add basket to the two already upstairs from last night and tell myself I will fold all three baskets….soon. I do see one of David’s shirts sticking out though and he likes those hung right away so they don’t wrinkle so I go back downstairs to hang it up in his closet. While in his room I see a basket of clean laundry on his bed that needs to be folded. I decide to take care of it for him. I bring it upstairs and place it with the other baskets to make four total…..for later.
Remember-wrinkles are a fashion statement.

1:01 Sit down to work on this blog entry. See all the open tabs on my lap top of things I am in the middle of. Sigh. It can wait.

1:33 Another customer stops by to pick up an order. While chatting with her she sees the for sale sign and asks if we are moving. I tell her yes to which she replies, “You are moving, planing a wedding, taking care of all the kids and running this make-up business? You should consider adding something else to that-how about a pet?” I laugh and tell her about the blog and tell her she should read this entry because she pretty much just summed up exactly what this entry is about!

1:41 Back to work!

2:14 Superman comes out of his bedroom in need of a nebulizer treatment. I sit with him while he uses his machine (as he calls it).

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2:28 The littles come out from nap time just as I am finishing up getting to this point of the blog. It’s time to start putting on shoes and going potty before going to the school to pick up the twins!

2:40 Out the door! Fun 40 minute ride full of more chaos than you can imagine. What is it about being in the car that brings out the sport of “pester” in children?? And they are all pros!

3:20 Walk back in the door as Hope is arriving home from school too. Have, the now 6 kids home, sit at the table for snack time. About this time I start to admit to myself what I tried to ignore in the car: I have somehow tweaked my back again. It is slowly getting worse. Boo! Ibuprofen in as well as a mental note not to pick up the kids. I’ll admit: I struggle with this. From the 5 year olds down I still like to pick them up and cuddle them. They will always be my babies.

3:30 Take a moment to message a new member on my Y-team while Hope is making it rain animal crackers and goldfish for everyone at the table.

3:35 Check back backs, put lunchboxes away, check homework, check mail.

3:40 Set the youngest three up with an activity. Set the older three that are home up at the table for homework time. Hope works mostly on her own while I work with the twins on theirs. Stop a dozen times to help the child that still hasn’t figured out how the kid tablets work. “Mommy it not work again.” *I swipe up with my finger* ” Oh!”

4:14 Twins’ homework is done and there is still no dinner plan. Despite the fact that I have so many things I’d like to get done at this moment, I plan the meals for the week so I know I have something for tonight.

4:25 While making the menu in the kitchen I realize the sink is full of dishes from breakfast and lunch, and dinner time is coming. I better empty it so it doesn’t get out of hand. PS- We don’t have a dishwasher. Hand washing dishes gives you the opportunity to think about all the things you will need to do later because you had to spend time standing at the sink. Then there is just enough time left to scold yourself for complaining about washing the dishes, that hold the food we eat, under the clean water that runs in our home. Refocused!

4:43 That laundry pile is calling my name. It sounds a little eerie and ominous. And then it laughs and I shudder. I cannot even see my bed under all of it. Waiting another day will only result in it growing. May the folding begin…
As I fold I start making a list of the things I have to do tomorrow that I didn’t get to today. It gets bigger as the laundry pile gets smaller. Or is it getting smaller? How have I folded this much and the pile still looks the same??

How you ask am I able to wash dishes and fold laundry? I may have distracted the children with electronic entertainment. I try not to do it often, but sometimes it’s just necessary. Today is one of those days. Plus it keeps Josiah from getting worked up when he is having an episode. But alas, 5:10 and there is the screaming that has been missing.

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5:10 I head back to break up an all out brawl while Grace walks in from school. She tells me about her day as I start dinner (and she makes sure the cauliflower that she sees being prepared is not something she has to eat. Nothing like pre-dinner complaining.)

5:20 David comes in from work, greets me with a kiss (yay) and tells me about his day while I finish preparing the part of dinner I am working on. He too had to confirm the the cauliflower was not for him.

5:30 I get it in the oven and he heads to his room to change. On his way out the door I hear, “Is that the laundry from my bed??” Little blessing 🙂 While he is gone, its time to clean up the mess before dinner. I will not include a picture. It’s not pretty. Seven can do some damage! Rally the troops! Hand out the orders! Supervise the execution of said orders!

5:46 Sixteen minutes and much hollering (nicer word than yelling) later and the toys are put away. David asks “Do you have a surviving cup of coffee lying around or should I  make you one?” He calls coffee my second love language. And he speaks it well. As he brews, I set Josiah up for another treatment with his nebulizer.

5:48 Continue making dinner while listening to the sounds of the other room. I love listening to David talk to the kids.

To Josiah he says: I hear you watched your little sisters and helped mom today.
Josiah bashfully: Ya, I know.

Charlotte: that one! that one!
David: we are not watching the trailer park boys
(not sure what this was referring to but something on Netflix)

David to the room: And that, I believe, is snot on my pants. Eww.

David to Charlotte and Faith: It sounds like you two need some separate time. Let’s have some separate time. You there and you there.

6:00 brings the need for us to work together to work out a disagreement. After double teaming it, Meredith and David double team setting the table while I go back to preparing dinner.

6:13 We sit for dinner. And I bring my coffee because…..I forgot about it. I sit and put my head on David’s shoulder and he says, “Don’t worry dear, you’ll get your 47th wind.”

It is now 6:44 and David has banished me to the living room to sit for a few. Gosh, I love that man. The oldest four will work together to clean up the kitchen they are assigned jobs to get it done. I will sit for a few and edit the blog to this point.,,,aaaand Grace just brought me my coffee…again.

7:00 That was fun. Up I go. There is a crier and a beggar currently and its time for PJs!

7:30 Youngest 5 kids are tucked in. Josiah has been given medicine and we prayed over him when we tucked him in because he is still having trouble breathing. My mom has stopped by. She is flying tomorrow (which she is terrified of), for the first time, on her her birthday, and has a million questions. Before she leaves, she gives me a copy of her flights so I can check them if any planes go down tomorrow. Oh brother. David is sure to make a few jokes to lighten her spirits.

8:00 Mom leaves. The count of going in the tell kids to get back in bed is up to 5 (the last one was preceded by a parental fist bump). I sit on my heating pad to finish this blog entry.

8:30 Blog complete and now is the time of evening that David and I try to dedicate some time to each other. No working, no facebook, no folding laundry (even though it is still calling my name and jeering me). Tonight we are looking forward to watching the last of the Horatio Hornblower movies from A&E. Don’t judge. (Perhaps now the fife and drum music from earlier makes a little more sense. Perhaps not.)

*8:35 Josiah is awake and needing another treatment. A mother’s job is never done ❤

Before bed I will make a to do list for tomorrow with hopes of actually making some wedding or business progress tomorrow. I think I hear the laundry piles laughing again.

I just can’t imagine why I am not able to get more blog entries done….

Beauty From Ashes

FeaturedBeauty From Ashes

Where should I even begin? How about with a greeting?

Hi. Hello. My name is Ashley. I am 30 years old. I am divorced. I have four children, 5 years old and younger. I was a teacher turned stay at home mom, turned baker, turned small business owner, turned stay at home mom. And in all that turning, my life turned out nothing like I thought it would.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

I had many plans. I was not the type that had 5 year plans, and 10 year plans, and knew every step I wanted to take. I made plans and changed plans and changed plans again. But I did have an idea of what I wanted out of life. I held on to things that I thought mattered and, without realizing it, made them the standards I would use to determine my success as a woman. Graduate college, get a job in my selected field, get married, have babies, stay home with my babies, be a good wife, be a good mom—> Success. I checked all of these things off of my subconscious list, but when all of my plans fell apart right in my hands as I held on so tight to them, I felt like a failure. The overall plan was simple really. How could I have failed? What went wrong? What would people think? Would they see me as a fraud?

Before I knew it, I was a single mom, and a working mom, and a scared mom. I didn’t know how I was supposed to be a good mom in this new reality. There were 4 of them and one of me, and that one me was over-worked, stretched thin, exhausted, and anxious. I was overly concerned with making sure I looked like I had it together, and still had faith and joy and hope, and was successful. My entire world had flipped upside down and I was still trying with all my might to form this mess of ashes from the enemy’s schemes into something beautiful with my own two hands.

At one point I was finally able to let go. I don’t think I could pinpoint one occurrence, one moment, in which everything just changed. It was more a gradual change as a result of encounters with God and the people He sent to speak truth into my life. I do remember a friend handing me a piece of paper one day as she said “look for your beauty from ashes.” On the piece of paper was a paragraph from a book written by Elizabeth Elliot. She stated that God never ends a story in ashes. Beauty always comes from the ashes. It may not always feel the way we think it should, or look the way we want it to, but it comes. I stopped looking behind me and trying to mold the ashes of my former life into some picture it once was. I faced the reality that the picture was just an illusion anyway. Instead I started looking ahead, with hope. I didn’t start making new plans of what this “redemption story” should look like, but I surrounded myself with truth and began to get excited about plans far greater than mine. I let go of the expectations I had made of what a good, successful woman, mom, wife, looks like, and prepared myself for the possibility that it would look completely different. I stopped treating myself like a failure, discarded and lacking, and started seeing myself the way my Father sees me-chosen, loved, wanted, accepted, and beautiful.

For a season, I lived a life that looked very different from the plans I had made so long before. I worked (more than) full time. I handled all the household things. I made decisions. I was single and okay with it. I took my small, out of my home business, and turned it into a storefront bakery with my best friend. I gained confidence, found my voice, and became a stronger woman than I was in the past. There were many moments when I thought I had found my “beauty from ashes,” but it was all the beauty. Surviving was the beauty. Thriving was the beauty. Who I became and what I learned was the beauty. Seeing God be faithful to us over and over was the beauty. Life was beautiful.

Life is once again changing. Once again it looks very different in a short amount of time. And it is Beautiful. I hope to share with you some of that beautiful: some of the fun, some of the hard, some of the crazy, some of lessons, some of the hilarious, and some of the hopeful.

Mount Karaffa

Mount Karaffa

I have been a little MIA here. I am going to blame that on a little thing we like to call Mount Karaffa. I know you cannot hear me, but I am laughing a bit like a crazy person over here at my use of the word “little”. There was nothing little about this mountain we had to conquer. It was a journey in more ways than one.

First, let me show you our mountain. IMG_2612THIS is Mount Karaffa (and yes that is me climbing it…we needed something). It was first formed from the collision of two smaller mountains (or, depending on who you ask, one already huge mountain and one hill) in January of last year. This mountain was a beast. We had scaled it a few times, but conquering it was a whole different experience to be had.

See, when two families blend together, so does their stuff. I know this part will come as a surprise to you, but nine people have a LOT of stuff! It is also important to know that containing a mountain is expensive. While we were bouncing from place to place, Mount Karaffa had to exist in a storage unit, a big storage unit. We hated thinking about how much money we could be saving if we didn’t have the mountain. It is also important to know that mountains don’t just go away on their own. It existed, and it was ours.

Once we had the house (and once the hurricane passed) we knew we had to make plans to move it. It took 2 men, 4 teenagers, and me on the receiving end a whole day to accomplish the task. Mount Karaffa had a new home and the daunting expedition before us was frightening.

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Other than a small walking path, it was wall to wall and stacked even above the garage door level. I wish I took pictures of more angles. Ultimate tetris. 

There were many reasons for beginning our expedition: 1) We had a new mortgage to think about and saving that cost would definitely help, 2) We wanted our garage back for storage, and workspace, and the ability to access our second fridge and freezer, 3) Looking at the amount of material stuff that followed us around for years made us sick, 4) So much past existed there, 5) All of our Christmas decorations were buried in it somewhere, 6) See picture to the rightimage1 (24). We hate this futon. For me it represents a hard period of my life in which I needed a piece of furniture that could be both seating and a bed for me; a period of my life that is gone (thank the Lord!!). For David, well it is just so uncomfortable! You know, like a futon. For months, we kept saving up to buy real living room furniture and then needing to use it for life. At least four times we saved it and used it and saved it and used it. I looked at that mountain in the garage and mentally shapeshifted it into living room furniture. This served as a little mental motivation. We were going to go through all of those things that made up our mountain and turn them into our living room furniture.

After having lived for a couple of months in our new home, we were already growing accustomed to the space and the order. We had only what we had brought from the much smaller house so everything had a place and nothing was cluttered. I had even been attempting a cleaning schedule to stay on top of things and keep the new house looking new! On a day in October, we put on our gear and headed to the garage feeling motivated and positive that this wasn’t going to be so bad. After about 5 hours of work, the mountain looked much the same and yet our house looked like this:

Those pictures are still shots from a video I took just walking through the house. Piles, boxes and bins were everywhere, yet the garage looked as though it had barely been touched. They say it gets worse before it gets better right? Thus began the 5 or 6 week routine that consisted of working in the garage on the weekend and going through what was brought inside through the week. Again I say, nine people have a lot of stuff.

While just the amount of stuff to get through is enough to be able to compare all of this to the journey of conquering a mountain trek, this was all a journey in another way too. David and I have an interesting set of circumstances: we are newlyweds, with 7 kids between us (which complicates being a newly married couple), who have lived as adults independently (which complicates being a newly married couple), who have spent a few years parenting solo (which complicates being a newly married couple with kids), and who have scars from prior hurts (which complicates being a newly married couple). Now add in the stuff. Here is what we have learned from this experience:

  1. We have very different tastes. After having a house built together, we thought our tastes were pretty similar. We agreed easily on a lot of things when we designed the house. But while going through Mount Karaffa, things kept appearing that one of us would be so excited to see again while the other would be hoping that was for nostalgia sake and not to use inside. There were a few instances in which we needed to slow down and try to communicate differently to avoid hurting feelings, seeking our own way, getting overwhelmed, or shutting down. We will call this lessons on communication. Crash courses really.
  2. We are stubborn. I sold most of the things I owned years ago when I had to leave my first home. I was downsizing to a much smaller space, I needed the extra money, and I didn’t want to bring so many memories with me anyway. David had to move in a hurry so he and his girls (who were interesting packers at the ages of 11 and 7) put everything they owned into the back of a moving truck and drove it straight to a storage unit in Florida where it would live for two years. As we went through everything, I struggled with a fear of this house looking like the one he left when we were done, and he struggled with my (not well communicated) resistance to all of his stuff. We had to learn to set the stubbornness aside, see the situation from each others’ point of view, and explain what we were feeling.
  3. The past will always be there. As we went through boxes, we would come across glimpses of the past. A picture here, an old wedding gift there, boxes of things to be returned to those people that were a part of our pasts, even boxes of things that had to be kept because the people who are our past are still a part of our kids’ futures. We learned that this is ok. We learned that we are ok. We were reminded over and over how thankful we are for the present.
  4. We have a lot of doubles. And triples. Heck, we had FIVE strollers! The strollers were easy decisions because we don’t need them right now, but other things were more difficult. We each had a set of dishes that we were fond of, but it doesn’t make sense to keep two full sets of dishes that do not match. We each had a blender, a can opener, a crockpot, a griddle…that we swore was “a really good one”. This led to the next thing learned:
  5. Compromise is key. And not the kind of compromising where you let one thing go to earn nonexistent points so you can use them to fight for something else. I am talking about compromise rooted in selflessness. We learned that it doesn’t matter what our drinking glasses look like, if all our towels coordinate, if the pictures on our walls reflect us both. Sometimes stubbornness clouds what is really important. We have enough. We have each other. We have this big family and all of this stuff and a home to put it in.

Sure, it may have just been a mountain of things. But for us, it was also an experience that further strengthened us as a couple. Within the pile was hidden lessons in communication, compromise, selflessness, understanding and compassion. I would love to be able to end this saying that we were done, but we are actually not quite there yet. There still remains some decisions to make, places found for things to go, organizing to do, and a garage sale to be had. That probably means there are still some lessons to be learned, but I am pretty sure that is all of marriage. A constant journey of learning to trust your travel buddy. I find the journey is even more successful if you stay in touch with the Creator of mountains, the One who moves mountains, the One who uses mountains.  We have our packs on our backs and we are ready to trek on together, following our Trail Leader. Speaking of hiking packs, we have one out in the garage for sale if anyone needs one!

Fairytales

Fairytales

Growing up, I often dreamed about what it would look like to be a wife. I was the little girl who loved to play princess and the story always ended with a wedding. As I grew older, I actually spent time trying to learn what a good wife looked like and praying to be that some day. I remember doing a study of the Proverbs 31 woman when I was just a teen and trying to make mental notes of how to do it “right”. When I got married the first time, I tried so hard to be a good wife. I was a different person back then: dependent, quiet, meek, trusting. I was not a perfect wife (whatever that even is), but it was a constant goal nonetheless. With the end of that marriage came feelings of failure in relation to my lifelong goal of being a good wife.

I am now a newlywed again. I have another chance to be a “good wife”. Silly me, I thought it would be easy this time. I have a caring man, a beautiful family and a marriage firmly grounded in Christ. Somehow I had subconsciously accepted the lie that circumstances dictate the ability to have a good marriage. Truth: It’s never easy! I am still an imperfect human being, married to an imperfect human being, and we are constantly surrounded by a bunch of imperfect little human beings.

Before entering this marriage, I spent a few years as a single mom. In that time, I learned how to be more independent, which is something I was never great at before that season of life. The only One I needed to consult about my decisions was God (which I did a lot of because I didn’t trust myself to make even the smallest of decisions). I raised my kids with the methods I thought were best. I cooked the food I thought was best, made financial decisions I thought were best, developed routines and future plans and traditions. I took time to try to learn who I was and some would say I “found my voice” in this time. I learned how to speak out my thoughts and opinions. I learned how to be Ashley.

All that sounds wonderful, and it many ways it is, but it means I entered this new marriage as someone almost unrecognizable to me as a wife. I had no idea how attached to my ways I had become. It is new to me to feel so passionately about things and to want my own way. Sometimes I will find myself three sentences into my argument for why something should go a certain way and only then realize that I even cared. I feel as though I learned how to be independent when it was necessary, but independence and marriage don’t mix.

In the four months since David and I married, I have had moments of being too hard on myself. I felt like the wrong man got a better version of me-an agreeable, positive, patient, submissive version. I now know that was the enemy speaking to my heart. Satan is a liar and a jerk. He knows my weakness is self-condemnation and he knows how to bring me to that place with ease. He wants me to live there, but I will not. The truth about that earlier version of me was that I was young, inexperienced and lacking in wisdom. God has done a lot in me since then and it is not truth that I am a worse version of myself. What is true is that I am still learning and always will be learning how to be the best version of me. “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will continue it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 And that is ok…as long as I don’t settle to stay where I am. It is a constant journey to seek the Lord in how to love my husband well and put him and our children before myself. This goes for the man I love as well. Expecting perfection from him is not fair. We are both works in progress.

Why am I writing all of this? When I started this blog, I promised to be transparent. I don’t want the world to look at this family and see a false picture of perfection. In this family there is beauty, and there is chaos. There is a fairy tale, and there is real life. We have our things just like you have your things. This is one of my things I am working through, praying through, seeking through. For all of us who are spouses or may be spouses one day or may be spouses again one day, I pray that we may be able to see the difference between:

  • Seeking the right way and seeking our OWN way.
  • Speaking in anger and speaking in love.
  • What really matters and what is just pride.
  • What is important and what is not.
  • What is necessary and what is unrealistic expectations.
  • Holding on to something that is important and just plain stubbornness.
  • The enemy and the person we married.

Even in the most beautiful of stories, being the spouse you wanted to be doesn’t just come naturally. It is deliberate. We did a time capsule on the day we got married and filled it with memories from us and guests at our wedding to be opened on the day of our 5th Anniversary. It sits displayed in our bedroom filled with all of its happy thoughts, prayers and well wishes. While it is surrounded by wedding pretties which can sometimes cause a mirage of perfection, the front of it bears an important reminder: Happily Ever After is not a fairy tale – It’s a choice.

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Love,

A fellow imperfect human being learning how to love her husband well ❤

Waves

Waves

David and I share this in common: We are both not the biggest fans of the beach. We live in Florida, but rarely drive the 15 minutes to the beach. I was born and raised 15 minutes from the beach and never became a beach girl.

We also share this in common: This feeling about the beach, for both of us, stems from an experience. For me, I was about 12 years old. I had gone to the beach with a friend and her family and we were enjoying a sunshiny, Florida day. My friend and I were in the water, near where the waves were breaking, attempting to body surf to the shore. I was never very good at it, but it was fun just to be splashing around in the water. Near the end of the day, a wave took me by surprise. I was distracted by all the things going on around me and I never saw it coming. It was big and it was strong and it overpowered me. The wave crashed over me and took me under. It was probably only a few seconds, but I didn’t know which way was up. More waves came and I tried to swim to the surface but I had no idea where that was and the waves kept tossing me to face different directions anyway. After some turns under the water, I found the shore. The wave was nice enough to throw me onto it, bare back first, with much force. I knew as soon as the wave started to recede, that I hadn’t escaped unscathed. I tried not to cry, but failed. My friend’s mom could probably tell I was embarrassed because she walked me out to the car to check it out. When I made contact with the ground, I had managed to scratch up my entire back. There were so many rocks and shells lining the shore that day so a soft sand landing was not what I was met with. I don’t remember much after that. I don’t know how bad it hurt in the days following. I don’t know how long it took to heal. All of that has faded away, but I have never forgotten the fear I felt from being out of control. David shares a similar experience that left a lingering uneasiness about being in the ocean.

There is yet another similarity we share about the ocean: we were both drawn to it through our hard days. Where David lived in Palm Coast, there were two ways to drive to work. One of the ways was a bit quicker and the other was more scenic and took a bit longer. This scenic route rode right along the ocean and the waves and water were visible for pretty much the whole drive. Even though it took longer, David often chose this route to work because seeing the ocean soothed him. For me, I escaped to the ocean. I wasn’t often able to manage any alone time, but when I did, I would go and sit on the beach. I would journal, I would pray, I would sit in silence and just take it all in. I felt calm out there, but I was keeping my distance from the part that brought me fear.

Last week, I took three of the kids and went to the beach to meet some friends. School was starting later that week, so we were just having one last day to relax a bit. IMG_3809When we found our friends, I started applying sunscreen on children and laying out the ground rules. Ground rules were necessary because Mommy doesn’t go in the ocean. When our friends learned I never go in the water, they decided that needed to change. They and the kids started encouraging me to go out and telling me all the things they loved about being in the ocean. There may have also been a little teasing! I finally agreed to give it a try.

We waded out into the water and I saw in front of me the part of the water where the waves crashed. They weren’t very big on this particular day, but I still flashed back in my mind to the experience of being pulled under by them. Turning back now would mean I missed spending time with my kids and friends that were going out. Moving forward slowly would leave me in the break zone even longer. I decided my best option was to move quickly through the water to the other side of the break zone. I took a deep breath, said a quick prayer, and ran forward through the waves until I got to the other side. You know what I found on the other side? Beauty. On the other side, the water was calmer. The sun shone down, the breeze blew, and I was refreshed.

Because I am me, I started to think about the picture this painted. Suddenly, the ocean was my life. There was a time when I was carefree about life. We all start out this way. I enjoyed it and I had fun and I even played where I could get hurt without fear because I hadn’t been hurt before. Then I got taken down by a big, strong wave. I lost control and the waves that followed jostled me more and more because I was already down. By the end of it, I was left scarred and in pain. I stayed away for some time; developed a fear of what I used to enjoy. I stuck to the sand where I felt safe and secure. The sand was my rock. The sand was where I healed. The sand represented being in His presence. The thing about that sand-it is there under every bit of that ocean. There is no place you can go in that ocean that you aren’t still over the sand. There is nowhere life will take you that you aren’t still in His presence.

A time came where it didn’t make sense to continue avoiding the things that scared me. I didn’t know what waited for me out there, but staying on the shore wasn’t right anymore. Learning to trust again, putting my heart out there again, looked like a long series of waves crashing one after another in front of me. Entering into that again would take the conquering of fear; one step after another on the sand underneath. I didn’t go under again. I kept my eyes open and navigated the waves. It was exhilarating to travel through the waves that scared me, even fun to bounce above them. Having experienced the power of the ocean, I knew better how to traverse the waters then I had before. And then, on the other side, I looked around and saw it: BEAUTY! So much beauty. It was beautiful to set fear aside and enjoy life again. It was beautiful to know the sand wasn’t far below me. It was beautiful to see what waited for me on the other side of my fear: God’s handiwork in my own life. A stunning horizon that is all you can see of the vast ocean that stretches beyond it-a reminder to me of God’s continuing promise to do more than I can think or imagine. The waves are still there; trials will still come. Waves that will require me to trust, to jump and dive at the right time, to stay vigilant in the water. But I won’t live in fear of the waves that will come. That was never the plan.

He reached down from Heaven and rescued me; He drew me out of deep waters. Psalm 18:16

I didn’t write this post with this song in mind, but there is a line in this song that says “Your grace abounds in deepest waters” I have seen that line prove oh so true in my life. I couldn’t say it better. If you haven’t heard it, have a listen. If you have, listen anyway and enjoy an impromptu worship moment! Oceans by Hillsong United