And a Happy New Year....

Happy New Year!

Hope this post finds all of you surviving and thriving. We had a great Christmas, and now we are home enjoying some quiet days in our pj's.

I have begun my major winter clean out and declutter. I do this every January, and I find that it always needs doing! Every year. It's a good time to move some stuff out since the flurry of new toys from Christmas and a couple of birthdays has arrived. Yesterday, I began sorting through children's clothes, starting with the youngest and moving up to the oldest. I'm convinced I could clothe 10 little girls under five. It is so hard to let go of good clothes in good condition! Plus, I'm sentimental.

But, I love being free from the burden of too much stuff. I like knowing what I have and using it. One time I let a whole season's worth of great hand-me-downs sit in a box just because I was so overloaded. I LOVE hand-me-downs, so now I'm much more on top of my children's clothing. I'm convicted that not owning too much is being a better steward of our resources.

Another reason I like decluttering is the house is much easier to clean.

And most importantly, I'm much more likely to engage with my children when I'm not constantly managing our things.


I'm not making any resolutions this year. I'm more interested in forming good habits....little by little. Eat well, exercise regularly, read more, stop yelling at my kids....these are all things I would like to implement indefinitely, gradually, and permanently.

A few months ago, I read Better Than Before. Loved this book along with all of Gretchin Rubin's books.


Though I don't have resolutions, I do have a word and a theme of the year. The word is MATURITY. Something about being in our thirties and having a fourth child has really brought out the adult in me and my husband. I'm hoping, praying, and working toward continued maturity in 2016. I (we) are the grown ups, and I think it's so important that we act like it. To me, I think maturity covers deep, spiritual growth as well as things like...staying up to date on doctors appointments, being organized, not staying up too late, fulfilling our commitments, and sticking to a budget.

My theme of the year is "the most frugal and thrifty year ever." I feel like I have grown over the years to finally...want less. Also, with year after year decluttering there are so many things I "had to have," and now I'm hauling them off to Goodwill. I feel like years of exercising frugality and thrift are finally paying off and 2016 is the year I'm looking forward to putting so many lessons into practice.


So curious, do you have a resolution? A word or theme of the year? Do you like to declutter as much as I do?



Merry Christmas Eve Eve!

This summer, I was dreaming of a non-Disney or commercialized Christmas. I was thinking baby dolls, non-battery powered toys, and a stack of classic, hardback children's books. I added this darling wooden toy food set to my Amazon wish list.

But after considering my children's actual interest, I have altered my plans a little. I'd like to think my 1950's vintage Christmas dreams will meet in the middle with the tacky, commercialized, battery powered Christmas of our modern day. Can you mesh the two? I don't know.

I still like to use the want, need, wear, read as a guideline for buying gifts. (We've done this for a couple of years.) It's plenty! Especially when our 4 gifts are combined with the gifts from grandparents and cousins and the few extra happies they get in their stockings.

For stockings this year, I'm giving the older three children some new pajamas, Scotch tape, candy, and a $5 Starbucks gift card. My kids always ask for chocolate croissants from Starbucks, but they are expensive! So I'm thrilled to be giving them an "experience" to look forward to and not a thing. Yes, we can go get croissants!


We do Santa to the extent that some gifts are mysteriously under the tree on Christmas morning, and the kids assume they are from Santa. Whenever my children ask me specifics about the North Pole and Santa....my answer is always....I have no idea, what do you think?

This way, all the Santa stuff is in their imagination. I don't like to fabricate the issue. This is mostly from a place of laziness than a moral issue. 

 sure, leave your Clementine peel there, I don't mind cleaning it up.

I'm not going to lie, Christmas has been a tad stressful to me this year despite my attempts to keep it super simple. There are so many extra social events and things at church and school. All good, but extra on top of normal which is pretty chaotic in itself. I've tried to just do one thing at a time without losing it, and every now and then I stop and have a cup of decaf tea by myself.

It's my coping mechanism these days, tea.

I did not buy Christmas pj's for my kids this year. Everybody is wearing an old pair of pajamas that somehow work or have Christmas colors in them.

Just because it's kind of a thing to buy your kids Christmas pj's...or do Elf on a Shelf....or go see Santa...or surprise your kids with a trip to Disney on Christmas morning.....or ____ fill in the blank, you don't have to do those things. You can pave your own way. You can do some of it and not all of it. It's easy to feel so much pressure to do the big, exciting things that everybody else is doing.

But if money is tight, or you are tired, or stressed or newly pregnant and feeling sick...go smaller. Don't do and spend in Christmas futures. I promise, nobody cares. Like I've already said, there is already so much extra going on this time of year without you thinking up more things for your family to go and do.

And don't you ever, ever....EVER...buy one of these for your kids for Christmas like I did one time. Bad idea.


Star Oranaments + What I'm Into These Days

George made this one.

Merry Christmas!

Are you ready? As of yesterday, I think I am.

Today, I had the best time making star ornaments and reading Song of the Stars with my 4 year old's preschool class. These ornaments are so easy to make. It's basically a craft for a non-crafter. Popsicle sticks, Elmer's glue, sequins, twine. Let your imagination run wild.

The older our family gets, there seems to be more Christmas-y details that fall under my umbrella of responsibility. To my benefit, I'm not a holiday fanatic, and I don't try to do it all. This time of year can get totally out of hand, but I have held my ground and made sure to have a lot of normal days.

Here lately, I've been enjoying some great walks. Our weather has been unseasonably warm.

I've been listening a few episodes of this podcast, Slow Your Home. I love the hosts' Australian accents.

I'm all about this tea! I'm seriously crazy for tea because I'm trying to stop drinking afternoon coffee, and I'm cutting out alcohol during the week. It all messes up my sleep.

Speaking of sleep, Stephen and I have been staying up way too late watching season 3 of Mr. Selfridge. I'm loving Jeramy Piven almost as much as I'm loving tea right now!

The last thing on my to-do list today is to finishing ordering items to complete my winter capsule wardrobe. I'm pretty sure this Gap scarf is going to make the cut. I'm all into capsule wardrobes these days.

What are you into these days?!


Life Hack...Birthday Gift Box

We go to a BA-jillion little people's birthday parties. And it's so fun. Lots of friends, lots of people to celebrate. My kids live for it!

But you know what takes the wind out of my sails?

Running the errand to buy the birthday gift. Ain't nobody got time for that!

I am literally kicking myself when I don't plan ahead and end up buying a gift in desperation on the way to the party. I overspend. It adds needless stress. It cuts into my Saturday mornings.


To keep this mayhem from happening, every couple of months I stock pile children's birthday presents. All from my beloved Dollar Tree. And because it is truly the thought that counts, I try to keep costs to $1- $2 per gift.

This past Saturday, I restocked the gift box.

A few of my faves...

For the 3-4 year old boy...

And the 4-5 year old girl...
Beads and twine... love it.

Stickers and a shiny notebook. What 4 or 5 year old girl wouldn't appreciate these? This is good stuff!

I didn't find much for the 6 -7 year old boy age range.... but some glow in the dark bracelets and necklaces. Everyone is crazy for those. Glow sticks and a pack of gum. That would be a great gift for a 7 year old boy.

Also, I think the Little Golden books are nice gifts, especially for first and second birthdays.

So, do you have a gift box? You need one.

This is one of those life hacks that I have learned the hard way. Trust me. Ask my husband. He's seen me flying out the door one too many Saturday mornings....cursing the whole way.


Big Boy Bed

This week, we moved G into a big boy bed. He turns 3 this month. Besides one big thud around 11pm on night 2, the move has been seamless. That's G, easy with life's transitions and milestones.

I'm a big believer in keeping babies in their cribs for as long as you can. All of my children have crawled out at some point, and we disciplined them for it. (And they responded well to discipline. I know that's not the case for everyone.) When we've had new babies, we bought or borrowed a second crib.

The crib is a safe haven. Plus, the thought of moving an 18 month old into a real bed was a battle I never wanted to fight. Also, the crib is a perfect place to put a toddler that is having a melt down. When a two year old can't deal, I scoop him/her up and stick them in their crib. My thought is... if you are going to have a fit, you can do it alone in your room.

When G fell out of the bed (poor fella), I immediately thought of this idea. It's genius.

I didn't have any pool noodles, so I rolled up some blankets and tucked them under the fitted sheet.


Super Food Soup

My mother in law served a soup like this a few weeks ago at a family gathering. And it is glorious. It is healthful and filling, and as soon as I made it, I knew this recipe was a keeper.

Super Food Soup
(Turkey Sausage - Sweet Potato - Kale - Chick peas) 

extra virgin olive oil
1 onion diced
minced garlic to taste
1 lb turkey sausage
chicken broth or water seasoned with chicken bullion (enough to cover all the other ingredients)
2 sweet potatoes, diced into bite sized pieces. Tip: use a very sharp knife. Sweet potatoes are tough.
1 can chick peas
1 can diced tomato
bunches of handfuls of kale
salt and pepper to taste

Coat bottom of pan with olive oil, add diced onion and turkey sausage. Cook until sausage is thoroughly done. Reduce heat. Add garlic, stir. Add broth, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. Cook until sweet potatoes are tender. Lastly, add chick peas and several handfuls of kale and a little salt and pepper if needed.

Soup is forgiving, so this is less of a recipe and more of a guideline.



Diaper Delivery is the BEST

I know I've written about this before, but its totally worth mentioning again. The best thing I've done for myself in the diaper department is to have a diaper subscription through Amazon.

We get a huge box delivered every month. Occasionally, I edit the subscription and change the size. When you subscribe, you get the item at a discounted price.

I've been changing diapers since 2009. Six and a half years!

I'm a Luvs gal. They are less bulky than other diapers, and they are a great price. They get the job done, you know what I mean? But my sister prefers Target brand. To each her own.

I never run out of diapers! (Never say never.) I never have to make decisions about which brand to buy. I never have to take up space in my grocery cart. Best of all, I never have to make a mad dash during rush hour...with 4 kids...to buy diapers.

Do it. It is a luxury of our modern times. Take advantage.


Lessons Learned on Halloween

This year, my older two children (6 and 4) had a lot of expectations surrounding Halloween. They put their order in early for costumes, and I obliged....all to have them ditch their new costumes for old ones at last minute.

Lesson learned - I'm never buying Halloween costumes again! 

We did have a nice (crazy) time. Hay ride, trick or treating...the whole shebang! My parents were visiting and had a delicious pot of gumbo waiting for us at the house. It was all very fall-ish, minus the 80 degree weather.

There was a moment during trick or treating that my children starting running in three different directions on a dark and crowded street. Maybe I freaked out a little. Ask my husband.

Another lesson learned - have a family meeting/pow-wow before trick or treating about sticking together, the buddy system, and not running wild into the night.

Experience is the best teacher!

The thing I like most about Halloween is the pictures of kids in costumes. Each one makes me feel so nostalgic. This photo of my kids and my niece and nephew is such a framer! I love it. It almost makes me forget the panic attack I had.


Improving My Laundry Skills

I'm stealing a few minutes with my computer and a cup of tea, and I thought I would share my latest break through in....


Ever present, never stopping LAUNDRY.

One day I stumbled upon this post....Do you feel like your house is always messy? 

How could I resist it?

Here's a quote from the post...

"doing laundry from beginning to end is a cycle. When you start a second load of laundry before you complete the first one, you’ve broken the laundry cycle. Then it gets harder to complete the cycle (i.e. put away the first load of laundry)."

This concept is revolutionary to me. The end of the cycle is putting it away, my least favorite part of laundry. I'm good at pushing loads through and piling small mountain ranges of clean clothes on our  bed. I even get as far as folding it most days. But putting it away, I loathe the task.

But by not putting it away, I'm never done. I continue to fold and fold, and then I have so much laundry to put away it's no wonder I dread it so much.

So because I had nothing to lose, I dabbled in a little laundry experimentation last week. I washed, dried, folded, and put away a load before I started another one. I'm not going to lie, it was little bit magical. There was a sense of done-ness with my laundry that I've never experienced before.

Do you do this? Put laundry away before starting a new load?

P.S. The blog post is about more then just laundry. It's about finishing jobs staying on task. Truly inspiring. 


Freezer Meals I Made Before BABY

chicken spaghetti

chicken pot pie filling 

enchiladas verdes

red beans and rice

white beans and rice


taco soup

Back in July, I started making freezer meals. It was a blessing to my future self.

Our family, friends, and neighbors generously brought meals to us for several weeks after Caroline was born. Seriously, I can't believe how much food people brought us! It truly got me through the double whammy of baby and back to school. A million thank you's.

But, I knew the day would arrive when I would be on my own again in the kitchen. For that, I made the above list of freezer meals. If there is anything more exhilarating than freezing a meal flat in a Ziploc bag, I don't know what that thing is!

If you don't have a deep freezer (I don't), the flat bag method is the way to go.


In case you want some more inspiration....

Freezer Cooking!


Large Affordable Art for My Kitchen

There were a handful of projects I wanted to get done before Caroline was born, and I knew if I didn't, it would be a 100 years or never.

At the top of the list was to get big art on the huge wall space in our kitchen. At first, I dreamed of a custom painting, maybe a farmer's market scene. But that idea was totally out of my price range.

And then I thought maybe a huge bulletin board with kids' art, etc. But we have so many kid decorated spaces, I decided to err on the side of something more sophisticated.

A friend (hi Whitney!) suggested a huge Audubon print which ultimately set me on the right track.

As I was searching for prints, I came across these gorgeous botanical posters (can't find the sunflower on the site anymore but the other one is here) and after getting a few second opinions, I ordered them. My decor savvy friend, Laura, convinced me that it was worth the risk, and if I didn't like them in the kitchen then I could put them on another wall.

I LOVE how they turned out, and I've only grown to love them more over time.

I bought the frames from Hobby Lobby, and my mom helped me with the matting because the poster size did not fit the frames perfectly.

These were so affordable, and there is so much great art on this website, ZAZZLE(dot)com. The map selection is really great. I could get lost for hours. So if you need some large scale affordable art, this is a great resource!


Tiny Goals

After each baby, the little disciplines that are vital to my well being do not naturally make their way back in my life.

Bible reading, exercise, organization, healthy meals, etc fall to the wayside in those early weeks. And I have to fight to get these things back.

There is always something (or more often) someone right in front of me who needs me to do something! I have to start running the ship again so it does not run me.

So...I'm starting very small (tiny) this week with three things that I hope will restore my humanity again.

1. Read Bible 10 minutes/day.

In the living water sense, not the check list sense. A friend (hi Emily!) posted a picture of her daughter sitting outside with a little Bible, and in the caption she says, "Sometimes in the mornings, I ask AS to please leave me alone for 10 minutes so I can read my Bible. I found her outside a little while ago, and she politely asked me to go back inside for ten minutes while I wead my Bible, pwease."

This struck me. What an example! I can totally do 10 minutes even if it requires me asking my kids to leave me alone.

2. Walk 3 times a week.

I bought this awesome double stroller and I love it. 

3. Meal plan/grocery shop once a month.

Every time I get a little free time I find myself needing to go to the store...again. So I'm hoping that a major plan and grocery haul will decrease the number of times I have to go to the store. Sure I will have to run in for milk and bananas once a week. But, something's got to give. It's worth the experiment.


Honestly, I want to be more ambitious than these tiny goals. But my wiser self is standing shaking my other self saying "You have four kids, just do the best you can." 


picture from when she was 3 weeks old


Homework + Coffee + Fridays!

Hello out there!

It's Friday. And I love Fridays because I (we) have no homework. Whoop whoop!

First grade stepped it up in the HW department and no, it's not that much and Stephen is a smart kid. But, it's one more thing. I make coffee it.

Friday is like a deep breathe for me. No lunch preparations, no homework, no pressure to get to bed early.

I've been trying to grocery shop during the week so that I have Saturdays at home or to run fun errands.... like going to Earth Fare for coffee and a muffin. My mom and I did this the first week she was here after Caroline was born, and I just keep going back. I love the way the store smells. And they have $0.99 baguettes.


Caroline continues to be a great baby and her nursery is still the best...so conveniently located right next to my bed.


There are so many ways I'm having to adjust to life with four kids. Having "big" kids, one in real school, and a newborn - it's a lot. But it's also so much fun! I love the mom job. God has called me to do exactly what I've always wanted to do. And that is such a gift.


And oh fall, y'all. It's slowly but surely making its way to the deep South.

Soups, fires, long sleeved t's - they are just around the corner!

Have a great weekend! Be back soon, I hope.


Pics of Me + Caroline

Occasionally, I scoop Caroline up and ask Stephen to take a picture of us - so one day I can prove I was actually here/there. On this particular day, I liked the way her peach onesie looked with my blue shirt.

Caroline is 5 weeks old! She has the loveliest disposition. I've enjoyed her and all that is involved at this age and stage.


Packing School Lunches

I'm totally burned out on making peanut butter and jelly/honey sandwiches for lunch. So when my mom was here last week, and doing me the huge favor of going to the store for me, I told her to buy some (nutritious) prepackaged foods to make easy lunches with.

Yesterday afternoon, we pulled all the choices out and spread them on the table. I told each child to pick four things. They packed their own lunches!

I'm so pleased. This was fun and easy. Lunches may be a little more expensive this way, but paying for the convenience is like "hiring help." I don't have to make sandwiches in the wee hours of the morning. In this season, I need to hit the easy button as much as I possibly can.

Also, I think this type of lunch is healthier than my standard sandwich lunch. We'll see if it sticks.

 Laurie's choices
Stephen's choices

How do you feel about packing school lunches?


Never Put Off 'til Tomorrow....

....what you can straight up cancel.

That's my new motto.

Well...hey there!

Our days have been full. Summer ended. Caroline was born. Stephen started 1st grade and all that that entails...homework!  And in the middle of it all, George, in a fit of rebellion, dropped his dependable, lengthy afternoon nap.

He's back to it, but he gave me a good scare.

We are doing well. Caroline is a good baby (so far). Slowly, we are finding our new normal.


Here are four things that have helped me cope/adjust to this new and wonderful chapter of life with 4 kids.

1. Paper plates

2. Accepting all help that's offered

3. Pioneer Woman's iced coffee

4. A new pair of girlfriend jeans store credit + sale, only cost me $8 out of pocket

Somewhere I read the advice to go buy a new pair of jeans for yourself a few weeks after you have a baby. A pair that fit and work for right now. No one really wants to shop when they are freshly postpartum, but getting at least one pair of pants that work is a major morale booster.


Lastly, here's my school girl. First day of K4!

Laurie + Millie 
cousins in the same class


My Girls + A Few Baby Things

Y'all, we are having the best week! Baby Caroline is the sweetest. My mom is here helping and even though she broke my coffee pot of eight years, I'm glad she's staying for a couple more days. We couldn't survive (or thrive) without her!

The baby is easy. It's the older kids that challenge me to my wits end.

Regardless, I've nothing but love for these girlies! And the boys, too. These are sweet times that I'll long for the rest of my life.

A few things you might need to know about...

It's not like me to mention unmentionables on my blog, but this nursing bra is by far the best I've ever owned. It's so soft and comfortable you could sleep in it, and it gives a lot of support and provides a natural shape under your clothes. And the price! $14.99

This set of Carter's onesies is working great as Caroline's daily uniform. I really like the colors.

One of my readers mentioned how she likes to have a lot of places to set her baby down safely around the house. I have a rock n' play in our bedroom, but also got this bouncy seat to keep in the kitchen. Except my kids keep moving it to other rooms. It's driving me CRAZY. That and the constant removal of sofa cushions.



Caroline Frances Spooner
8:19 a.m.
7 lbs 5oz 20in

She's here, and she is a she, and she is the sweetest, little thing you have ever seen! At 7 lbs 5 oz, she is our smallest baby, and it is a foreign experience after my nearly 10 pounder, George.

Things have gone so smoothly - the delivery, hospital stay, nursing, etc. God exceedingly answered all our prayers for health and safety. The kids are Caroline's biggest fans, and they are feeling so big and proud their new sister.

I took this verse into surgery with me...

You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you. 
Isaiah 26:3

We are deeply grateful for the precious, undeserved gift we have in our new daughter, Caroline.


First Day of First Grade

Officially, we have a first grader!

Stephen was eager to start a new year. I love this picture with his good buddy, Townes.

Here's last year

His love language is physical touch, can you tell?

One of my favorite things about Stephen's school is the elementary age kids are dismissed at 12:30. I love this unusual schedule, and I think it is a real gift to the families. The idea is you have time to do your homework, rest, be with family, and do extra curricular activities- unhurried. 

Three cheers for a new year!

A tip from my friend, Beth, about school uniforms...come home and change right away. This will prolong the life of the uniform. They ain't cheap.

We are trying to start and keep this habit. We are 1 for 1, so far.  

P.S. Tomorrow is baby day! Will keep you posted.


Dinner Idea: Taco Salad

I forget about taco salad. Do you?

Do you ever make it?


We had it the other night, and it was a win win all the way around. For the children, I served it deconstructed

I love meals like this that don't involve a full blown recipe. You merely have to assemble.

Make taco meat. Open and drain a can of beans. Wash and chop lettuce. Pile on some tortilla chips. Grate cheese. Top with diced tomatoes, sour cream, salsa, and jalapenos. The end.

Also, I love to add black olives. None are pictured here because we ate them all, and this salad was one I made for lunch the next day.


P. S. Several of you have told me that Zulily is having a great sale on Magna-Tiles. Awesome!


A Toy Worth Investing In: Magna-Tiles

I can officially attest that Magna-Tiles are the BEST toy. Are you familiar with them?! They are colorful shaped building magnets with endless possibilities.

A couple weeks ago, my mom asked if she could buy my children something to get us through these last few weeks of summer and home stretch of pregnancy. Thank you, Mama!

I immediately thought of Magna-Tiles.

They have been on my Amazon wishlist for awhile. I was planing on buying a set for Christmas, but they have come in so handy right now.

They day they arrived, we had a Magna-Tile marathon. Hours of fun.

And ever since, we've just been going and going. Cousins and friends love them, too - all ages and stages.

The end of summer is SO hot where we live. Think jungle of Vietnam. That hot.

It has been wonderful to have an inside activity to keep their hands busy.

This last picture, Laurie is lining up all her creations before bedtime.

Though they are a little pricy on the front end, this toy is totally worth the investment.


Also, I notice if they begin to lose interest, all I have to do is start building something myself and they jump right in.

Along those lines, this blog post, Self Entertainment and Settling In, was helpful and inspiring.
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