I don’t remember when I fell in love with Jane Austen. I think I transferred my love of Laura Ingalls and all things prairie to the dry humor and lower necklines of Austen’s world in my early teens.
I had a copy of Emma Thompson’s screenplay of Sense and Sensibility that I wore slap out. I memorized scenes and I knew every piece of trivia ever published about that movie.
My sweet Grammy watched a little bit of the 1995 BBC Pride & Prejudice every night for years. (She has since transferred her affections to Downton Abbey, but I know there’s still a soft spot for good ol’ Colin Firth.) Every line of that movie is part of my family’s lexicon. We quote it as easily as breathing.
So when my friend Megan asked if I’d like to summarize a “best of” Jane Austen movies, I jumped at the chance. Go read it here and then we can all play the “spot the Austen character” in every TV show we watch!
WHY DOES EVERYTHING I LOVE HAVE TO GO AWAY?????????
What movie is that from? Please, somebody tell me. I’ve been trying to figure it out for two days and it’s on the tip of my brain but that’s just not close enough. HELP ME.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not but there’s been some changes on the internets recently and I thought maybe I’d hold your hand a bit and speak soothing words while we face the horrible transition together.
In other words, Google Reader is going to die.
I know, not everybody uses Google Reader, but along with Google Reader, my old friend Feedburner is being slaughtered as well. And don’t even get me started on the killing of Tweetdeck.
What does all of this mean for you?
I shall tell you.
First, you have until July to move all the blogs you love into another reader. The two best choices out there are Feedly and Bloglovin’. I chose Feedly and, even though it’s different, it’s definitely prettier than Google.
The transition to either option should be seamless. They’re both set up to slurp in your Google Reader subscriptions, so just follow the directions on their site and you won’t miss a single word of the your internet.
PLEASE NOTE: If in the past you subscribed to this blog using Feedburner (and most people probably did and don’t know it), that handy little feature is also kicking the bucket. This means that, whenever Feedburner joins the Choir Invisible, you will no longer see any new posts from us.
NO NEED TO PANIC. We’ve turned the Feedburner link off so if you just go ahead and resubscribe (see below) in the reader of your choice, you’ll have uninterrupted installments of Vitafam fodder.
And if, for awhile, your favorite blog appears twice in your Reader, ENJOY! (Or, you can delete the old subscription, if you feel like using common sense.)
This seems like an opportune time to mention you can subscribe to Vitafam words two ways: via RSS or via email.
If you like to read blogs through a reader, click on the orange and white button up in the sidebar. Depending on which browser you use, it will either give you a choice of which reader you want to subscribe in or, if you’re using Chrome like me, you’ll see a bunch of gibberish. DON’T PANIC. Just log into your reader of choice and then subscribe to Vitafamiliae from there.
If, like some of my friends, you prefer to get the Vitafam delivered to your email inbox, click on that white envelope up in the sidebar. Enter your email address and you’ll get a pretty little email from us every time a new post goes up.
Or, if you fear commitment, you can just like Vitafamiliae on Facebook and then, assuming evil Zuckerberg cooperates, you’ll see new links as I post them.
(Please forgive my bitterness against the internet today. It’s all the changes. I can’t take it.)
I hope this clears up some things for y’all. Rest assured, the Vitafam will still be here offering the same brand of mediocrity as always. Thanks for sticking with us…
Our van hit 10,000 miles this week.
Which seems like a good time to update you on how we like our ride. The review I wrote of our Nissan 12-passenger NV is still one of my most popular posts. I get new questions every week and some of you have even sent me pictures of your snazzy new wheels. I love it!
So here’s the stuff I know now that I didn’t know then:
You will literally stop traffic. I was pulling through a drive-thru once and I had a man walk up to the speaker where I was ordering and demand to know what mileage the van gets. BEFORE I’d finished my request for chicken mini biscuits and a sweet tea. He was so insistent I had to answer him before the server could give me my total and tell me to drive around.
Please note: I am happy to answer your questions, I’ll probably even let you look inside, but let a girl order her chicken first, ok?
P.S. 14-18 in town, 21 on highway. You’re welcome.
We regularly field questions about our van from random strangers on the road, at gas stations, and yes, even in the drive-thru. If you make this purchase, be prepared to be friendly!
Vacationing in the NV:
- In September, we filled the van to the brim with 12 people and enough stuff to feed and clothe us for a week at the beach. And we had us a comfortable ride to our vacation.
- I LOVE having the headrests fit on any seat in the back so I know that no matter where we squeeze any adult riders in, they have a comfy place to rest their heads.
- Go ahead and spring for the trailer hitch. We installed the trailer ball on the back ourselves (in the dark at 10 pm, not recommended) but the pigtail that you need to make the lights work on a trailer and such is really easiest installed by a dealer.
- We used the hitch to add a cargo extender on the back for our beach trip. Worked like a charm.
- Cruise control. It is a God-send.
- We actually go places now. And we don’t mind.
Twelve Seats and How We Rearrange Them:
- We make use of the flexibility of seating like WHOA. When we were getting our house ready to sell, we rearranged everyone so that Andrew could pop out half of the back seat and stuff boxes to haul to storage with our whole gang in tow.
- Andrew can leave car seats attached to the seats and remove them from the van. This makes reconfiguring SO much easier.
- The back row splits in half and each half has wheels. So even though those are pretty heavy seats to get out the back door, once you do, it’s super easy to roll them right into the garage.
Other Things We Love:
- That center console up front. It is my everything. It’s got TONS of storage and it’s comfortable to lean on. There’s also a plug and a slot for your charger cord so you can juice up your phone inside the console if you need to. (With that many people in the van, we’re bound to have more than one device that needs charging at a time. Nissan clearly thought of this.)
- We use the auxiliary input to play our iPods all the time. And I hear from some of you that the Bluetooth is wonderful, too.
Our One Complaint:
- That driver’s side head rest. It doesn’t bother me, but for taller guys like Andrew, he will get a headache on long trips from having his head pitched slightly forward. The dealer insists it’s a safety feature, so we’ll stay stocked up on Advil and roll with it. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a tiny price to pay for a ride that we love.
There are a ton of great questions and comments on my original post. I tried to answer everyone’s questions there, so check there for more info.
Also, we received a LOT of questions about being able to reverse the second row. There are conflicting versions of this from the dealer. I’m doing my homework and we’ll get back to you on it.
Whenever we load up to go somewhere and we finally buckle the last car seat and get the preferred tunes playing, I always sit back for a minute and just breathe in the sweetness of riding together. I remember many days when I would have been happy just to have something… anything, that would hold all of us.
And now: we’re together, we’re comfortable, and sometimes God’s goodness just overwhelms me, even if its only about a hunk of metal on wheels.
There’s something about being contained in a small space that’ll make you crazy and make you feel crazy blessed all at once.
Even if that “small space” is a gigantic twelve-passenger van…
When I was in elementary school, I had a teacher who gave us a study sheet before we would start a new unit. She titled it THINK or “Things I Need To Know.”
This always bothered me because the TH used two letters for one word and then there wasn’t a letter for To.
And yet, this is what came to mind when I sat down to write to you all tonight with a list of links and other things I think you need to know.
Further proof that our elementary school years are the ones that warp us and that I should be very concerned for the children under my tutelage.
THINKS (Or, Things I Need You To Know…S):
1 – I played around with a new video app yesterday called Montaj. I made you a video of what a typical morning around my house looks like. If only I’d had this app when I was sweating blood and tears over my recent Simple Homeschool post, I could have just SHOWED you what my day looked like, set to music and with all the gnashing of teeth edited out.
2 – Speaking of gnashing of teeth, Finn is trying to get some teeth to gnash. In the meantime, he’s gnashing his gums in misery. I sent out a cry for help on the Vitafam facebook page and got a myriad of great suggestions to try. He’s now rocking his amber necklace and smells fantastic from all the essential oils I’ve smothered him with.
3 – You can now subscribe to the Vitafam feed via email, if that is your preferred method. Click the orange button on the right up in the sidebar.
4 – In case you haven’t noticed, the Vitafam’s favorite soap lady is back in the sidebar advertising bath bombs. The Cheeky Maiden moved to a new state but she’s open for business once more and is offering you lucky readers a discount:
LOVEBOMB will get you 15% off any bath bomb through the end of February. STOCK UP, PEOPLE. You won’t regret it.
5 – If you watch the video, I mention Reading Kingdom. We’ve been test driving it this year (for you, I do it all for you, sweet readers) and I should have a review for your shortly. In the meantime, you can find out more here.
Look! Can you see it? (Click over if you’re in a Reader.)
This re-work been a long time coming. I had to go through a little behind-the-scenes Bloggy Identity Crisis to figure out what this space was all about. And then I had to figure out how to put that into words and a new design that would work better for all of us. And “Just make it pretty,” apparently, is too vague of an idea to work with. But finally, with a lot of help from my friends, I was ready to do some defining and refining.
So the blog spent the weekend at the spa. And now it’s had a complete physical, a massage, a mani/pedi, and a make-over. Voila!
(No, seriously, you have to click over here to see it.)
Let me show you some of the new stuff:
First, and I’m kind of proud of this, I’ve slowly been updating the navigation menu at the top so that now “School Life,” “Parent Life,” and “Adoption Life” should all point you to a summary of “the best of” from that category. If you’re relatively new here and want to get to know us, that’s where you should wander. Or, if you’re looking to reminisce or remember why you ever started reading our drivel in the first place, those are the buttons to click.
Second, with some help from Abby Leigh Creative, I’ve revamped our bio, our tagline, and re-thought the whole “why are we here” issue. It was a lot of navel-gazing, but Abby made it fun and I hope this makes it easier to understand what the Vitafam is all about. (And what in the heck Vitafamiliae means.)
There’s also more ways to follow Vitafamiliae (including an email subscription which should be up and running soon) and the much-requested Search feature. You should also see “Related Posts” at the bottom of each post. In case you can’t get enough. Sometimes I sort of feel like we’re a train wreck that’s hard to look away from.
Couldn’t have done it without the help of Scott, who managed to turn my nonsensical requests like “clean eclectic with color” into the pretty design you see today. Our friend Ben at Ridiculous Pixels did the install and all the tech work that Andrew normally has to do and Andrew is gonna owe him a Starbucks or three for putting up with all my dumb questions.
The new foot picture you people have consistently harassed me for is courtesy of Southern Rose Photography. My mug shot was done by the genius Kelly Sauer, who took a few frenzied pictures of a sleep-deprived me and, lo and behold, I had a hard time picking from all the good options. I opted for one where you could see my face through all my hair. (And, yes, that is an archaic inside joke just for you long-time readers. You’re welcome.)
My hope is that you all don’t see this so much as an exercise in vanity as a clarification of what Vitafam has always been. It’s our life. And our life is defined by family, both the physical family and the family of Christ. It’s lessons learned and learning lessons, the unpredictable and the mundane, and it’s crazy but controlled chaos.
Thanks for sticking with us, peeps. Y’all are all part of the family of Vitafam. And we’re so glad to have you with us.
House buying is a draining process and this particular time around it has been more so. Today, we hit Snafu #857. It will get sorted out, but in the mean time, I’m gripping my prayer crickets by the throat and refusing to pack any boxes.
I’m very mature.
Instead, I think it’s the perfect night to curl up with Season Six of the West Wing, because Aaron Sorkin’s characters make for much more fun elections.
The kids are pretty excited about voting tomorrow. They’ve gotten a big kick out of playing with the electoral map here and if you’re looking to do a quick lesson about the election, the videos and games here are worthwhile. (The electoral college video was especially helpful.)
I’ve discovered that Adam is a news junkie. Ever since Super Storm Sandy, when I was abnormally glued to the news channels, he’s asked me to “check on the hurricane.” He’s the one most obsessed with the election results and asks me every day for an update on the electoral map. The poly-sci minor in me is just beaming with pride.
But the Mommy in me wants to wrestle the remote away and make him promise never to watch a full newscast. Can’t I keep him in a bubble forever?
Like I said, I’m very mature.
Y’all go vote tomorrow, people. It matters.
A few weeks ago I attended a blogger event at Cahaba Clayworks. Andrew and I were in the throes of fixing up the house and it seemed like really awful timing to leave for an evening, but I was committed and Andrew thought a break would do me good.
We sat and watched two masters spin clay while they tried to explain their craft in short easy sentences we could understand. One of the potters explained Centering: the clay needs to be evenly distributed in the center of the wheel so that it won’t wobble and the creation will look the same on all sides.
I quickly discovered that centering the clay was the trickiest part. When I watched the expert hands at work, they seemed to just gently press in and the ball of mud was centered. Then with light fingers they would pull a vase or a cup out of a lump. It was mesmerizing to watch.
But when I sat down at the wheel and tried for myself, I learned that they were actually applying a great deal of downward force on the clay to get it centered.
The wheel would spin wildly and I’d feel the clay be slightly off kilter under my clumsy fingers “ga-loop, ga-loop, ga-loop.”
With some instruction, I leaned in with my shoulders and pressed down with all my might. Suddenly the clay began to simply hum as it spun. Only then could I begin to make something truly lovely.
And that’s sort of what I’ve felt like lately: like the off-centered, off-key lump of clay. Imbalanced by all the spinning and not quite feeling as smooth as I ought.
I need to be centered.
But now I know: only with great pressure can the clay find the even spread.
And so my Potter presses down hard and I cringe and squish and fight, but the spin and the pressure are beginning to take effect. And then once I am centered, He can begin creating with me again, making me into something less lumpy, more beautiful to the eyes.
Fortunately, we’re going to spin our little world over to the beach tomorrow.* The beach is my centering place, where I go to remember I am dust (or mud) and God is so much bigger than all the plates that spin on this planet.
The last time I was at the beach, Mira was the unknown child I longed for, the one I knew was close but so far across the globe. The last time I was at the beach, Finn was outside my field of vision. The last time I was at the beach, I couldn’t have imagined that life could spin any faster. But it did.
So we’re gonna go rest and I’m gonna process and hold my babies and my big kids and swim and think and cry and laugh and soak up my people.
And maybe when I come back, I will hum like I ought and you’ll be able to see the Potter’s fingerprints once again.
To remind me of my day of pottery, I got to bring home a lovely plate for me and one for you.
*Giveaway Closed* Leave me a comment and tell me where you go to find your center, to balance out the rough spots. I’ll pick a winner this weekend and send this lovely plate to you. Thanks to Rachel at Grasping For Objectivity for including me! Go here to read more about the beautiful place we visited.
*Dear Creepy People: Aubrey will be house-sitting for us while we’re gone. She is Ferocious. You’ve been warned.
On Friday afternoon, after two weeks of working and cleaning and purging and painting and storing and moving, I stood in my yard and saw the fruit of our labors.
Thus ends phase 1 of this adventure. House on the market – Check. Now we just have to keep it clean.
We had the house all gussied up on Friday. We took Saturday to just chill and hang out with the kids. There was a showing today. It took us two full hours to undo what the kids hath wrought in 24 hours.
This doesn’t include the marker on the garage floor or the crayon marks on the walls. Because we can’t get those off.
We’re all learning some lessons this week. I’m learning to just pick up something whenever I see it, no matter what, to interrupt whatever I’m doing to tidy. I’m learning yet another layer of patience as I try to let seven kids be seven kids in a space where we don’t want potential buyers to know we have seven kids.
The kids are learning that their lives weren’t really all that difficult after all until we actually needed to keep the house clean. You mean I can’t leave ANY clothes on the floor? What?
“Everything” is in storage or “everything” is on the floor. “Everything” is freshly painted and “everything” must be hidden immediately. The kids have less toys to deal with and yet the messes are just as huge. So we readjust – they work on taking better care and I work on realistic expectations.
We’re talking to the kids about all of this A LOT. We want to answer all of their questions (as if we have all the answers) and we want them to feel part of this decision. This is for them, for our family.
We sat and made a list of what we wanted in a new home. Some of the kids’ answers surprised us. But it united us as a family. We have a goal, a reason for setting out on this adventure.
And we’re doing it together. Faults and foibles, messes and mistakes. We’re learning to love each other a little better through it all.
And then there’s the joy of just having a lovely put-together home. Even if it’s only for a split second. Or the random adventures we’re forced to take during showings. We grabbed lunch after church and headed to a nearby park. We ate a happy meal on a picnic table and enjoyed togetherness, away from our shiny house. The kids ran and sang Newsies songs at the top of their lungs (I am perhaps a bit regretful that I showed them that movie now that they sing All the Songs All the Time.)
The air was cool, the sky was clear, and we all seemed to feel that the day was a gift. Now I sit on my freshly painted porch with actual furniture (who knew porches were for sitting?) and we rest. We are together.
And that is all we need.
Joining up to help host a synchro-blog with these lovely ladies:
For more of an explanation of what we’re doing, head over to FriedOkra’s place. The short version is: if you write about parenthood, we want to link you up. You can enter your link on any of the hostesses’ blogs and it will show up at all the other blogs. So whether it’s the funny or the fatal side of parenting, share it with us! We’ll be doing it every Monday. Join us.. we’ll hang out in the ‘hood. No big whoop.
Today was a majorly big day in the House of Vitafam. Only, for once, we weren’t IN the house of Vitafam. We actually left our house.
Andrew and I packed up some lunches the night before and this morning, at precisely 8 am, my four oldest children trooped out the door wearing backpacks and loaded themselves into the van. At 8:02, the baby was loaded into the van. At 8:03 I discovered my keys were missing. At 8:10 Andrew located the keys in the bottom of my purse, handed me the coffee I so obviously needed, and sent us on our way.
Today was the first day of homeschool co-op. For an entire morning, Sam, Ian, Adam, and Ellen were taught art, music, Spanish, and writing by some other sweet souls.
They were so excited they were up at 6 am. I know this because I heard Ellen’s feet hit the floor over my head. And then I laid awake for the next hour to be certain that I wouldn’t forget to get up because I was too lazy to just set an alarm already and oh, can you tell we’re going to have to adjust to this leaving the house business?
As I navigated through rain and traffic, we talked cheerfully about the day ahead and all that the kids would get to experience. Shortly before I pulled on to the interstate, I said, “Let me pray for you all before we get there…”
And promptly commenced with the sobbing.
We all laughed at Mommy and her tears and then I hiccuped out a prayer between sobs and my poor children had enough sense to stay quiet while I giggled some more and pulled myself together.
Once we arrived and unloaded, I made them pose for a picture before I turned them loose on the world. Ellen was especially excited (remember 6 am?). After all, Kindergarteners got their very own class. She had a Notebook, a backpack, and a lunch bag with her name on it.
I can absolutely relate to her little girl heart and all the anticipation and tiny anxiety that flutters around that first day of anything new. I remember feeling brave and scared all at the same time.
To keep the waterworks at bay, I glanced down at my feet and I thought of Annie. My friend Annie wrote a book for the girl-at-heart. It’s the kind of thing Young Lora Lynn would have devoured and taken in. It’s the sort of book full of wisdom I will press into Ellen and Willa and Mira’s hands when they’re older and pondering All The Things.
And today is the day Annie’s book launched. I was wearing my grey tennis shoes, just because they match Annie’s book cover.
I’m so proud of Annie. She dared to dream big, to follow where God led, and to be obedient in the big scary stuff. She is brave, even when she’s scared. And now she has a Big Bad (Good) Book Deal and her dream has exploded into rainbows and I couldn’t be happier for her.
To celebrate, Annie will send one of you lucky readers an autographed copy of her book. Just because she’s Annie and she’s cool that way.
Leave me a comment and tell me what one best bit of advice you would give your daughters or the Younger Version of Yourself. Maybe we can pool our wisdom and write Annie’s next book for her…