Monday, May 22, 2017


As the spring has unfolded, I've made no secret of the fact that its been a harder season for me.  In fact, I think I've pretty well worn out my friends and family with whining about how "stressed" we've been (probably for years now).  I have most certainly worn myself out.  John has been patient with me, and we have spent a bit of time brainstorming what I needed to help pull myself out of this slump.

One of the things that felt overwhelming to me was the state of our family life.  It all at once felt chaotic and a bit oppressive and out of control.  I wasn't sure how to best enjoy time together, and knowing just how fast these days and years are sprinting by had me panicking that we were screwing it all up.  While this does lead us to a healthy place of examining certain routines, I also needed a healthy dose of #CutTheDramaCarol.  Unfortunately, that is often called for when my mind spins in the wrong directions, because while there are things we need to change, there are also a lot of things going well in our family.

As a way to address some of these issues, John and I planned a full (school) day away from normal life to think, talk and pray.  This year we have been setting aside Sundays as our sabbath, and we wanted to revisit that practice to see how we could improve, because we still haven't exactly felt "rested" in life.  (We have been doing sabbath with continued mixed results and feelings.)

Having a Spenst Summit was exactly what I needed, and we are already reaping benefits.  It is always helpful to get on the same page as your spouse and to address the many ways that you live life together.  It was also a good reminder that many things are out of our control in greater life, but we get to influence quite a lot in our home.

Here's an example:
Dinner time has been consistently stressful and frustrating.  I will also say that for the last several years we have been in hard core survival mode.  Welcoming newborn twins into our family when we had a two and four year old was really hard, and I think I have some PTSD from the whole experience.  Meal times were insanity just trying to make sure every mouth had something to eat.  We have been slowly emerging from that, but we have never really adjusted or laid out clear expectations for what dinner should look like, so it has gone like this by default.

I made a dinner (on a good night).  I served the food straight from the pots/pans onto plates doing most of the cutting up of everything at the counter.  We all sort of gathered at the table.  Sort of.  Children may or may not have started eating food that was on their plates.  Parents would sit.  Then two or three children would get up to get a drink.  Or a fork. Or a second fork.  Or a third knife.  (William really likes knives.)  John and I would eat food quickly, out of habit leftover from survival mode.  When we were finished, we would "encourage" the children to eat, while also getting up and starting to clean up from the whole ordeal, because bedtime's coming, and you know we were ready to get children headed that direction.  One or more of the children acted like the food was laced with rat poison, and everyone became rather frustrated by everyone else.

After thinking through the stress points, we realized that we could change the form of dinner and change quite a bit in just that thing, because it happens every day.  We decided to start that night, because we knew we could make it a special, fun thing.

We set the table with china, cloth napkins, candles and actual glasses for each person.


We explained to the kids that while we won't be setting the table this nicely every night, we will be changing the way that dinner goes from here on out.  The table will be set by the kids - they are perfectly capable of doing this.  Drinks will be made and set on the table, and we will have a pitcher of water on the table from which to pour.  The food will all be served on the table by passing it around.  Napkins will be used at each meal and be put in our laps.  No one will eat until we have blessed the meal, and everyone has something on their plate.  John and I will make sure we do not have our phones at the table.  We will sit together until most people are mostly done, and children will asked to be excused and then clear their plates.  They will also help with clean up.

We have now done this several nights, and while it certainly does not solve all dinnertime woes (apparently some of the food I serve is still laced with rat poison), it does solve a lot of the issues we were having.  It also creates the expectations we want to have for our children to learn how to handle themselves at meals with people, and it makes for richer family time when we are all at the table together instead of jumping up for a second/third/fourth cup of water constantly.

We reset a few other things besides dinner time as well, and we are trying to be careful to not implement too many things at the same time.  It really is true that executing real change comes from doing something differently every day, and we are looking for ways to make small daily changes that add up big for our family.  We're also working to finish out some commitments and not take on anything else for the time being.  I think we've approached the last ten years as a sprint, and it turns out that we've actually been running a marathon.  We have to fundamentally change how we run the race, and that will take more time and thought and prayer.

So - I'm hopeful!  I'm looking forward to better family dinners and a better attitude inside my heart, because I was reminded that we can change things for the better with some thought and intentionality.  It is not rocket science, but it does take effort.  And, I'm working to #CutTheDramaCarol, because in all reality, we have a fantastic life with so much to be grateful for.  It's messy, but it's full of love.

Friday, May 19, 2017


It's no surprise that in our family, the first person to need surgery was Violet.  Bless her heart - the poor thing has had more health complications than the rest of us put together.  Truth be told, none of them are incredibly severe (and certainly none are life-threatening), but when you add them all up, it's quite a lot.  She mostly takes it all in stride, though it gets wearing on everyone to constantly have to wipe her nose, among other things.

Which brings us to this week.  After our most recent ENT appointment, (side note: when you have four children, you totally forget a lot of stuff, at least I do.  I had been pushing to get an ENT appointment late last year, thinking we had never seen one.  Turns out, we saw ENT about 1.5 years ago, and the whole experience had totally left my brain 🀣) they did neck x-rays that revealed that her adenoids were gigantic and likely contributing to several issues for us.  They scheduled her to have surgery less than two weeks later.

On Wednesday, we headed to the hospital to get checked in at 10:15, and Violet was not allowed to eat or drink, which was probably the hardest thing about the whole ordeal.  It was very hard for her to understand why she didn't get food.  But, we made it and got checked in and counseled and registered.  I wish this picture was clear, but it was so cute, I decided to post it anyways.


Though each step in our process took a while, we never were stuck anywhere too long, and when we were, we had a comfy bed and TV to keep little miss (and John) entertained.  By afternoon, V was tired and cranky from lack of food, so John cuddled her which made everyone happy.


Doctors and nurses came in and out briefing us on what was about to happen and having us sign tons of papers.  Because of Violet's asthma, they took the extra precaution of a breathing treatment before sending her back.  She slept through it.


It was a little traumatizing to send her back.  I teared up as she cried when we said goodbye.  But, she at that point had had a "goofy" medicine and apparently fell asleep pronto.  The doctors said that she never knew anything that happened at all.  John's parents had joined us in the waiting room, and we grabbed a quick lunch while V had her procedure.


Before we knew it, they were calling us back to consult with the doctor who had just finished the surgery, and everything went really well!  I'm so thankful that the Lord protected her, and the doctors were able to do what was necessary to help her.  It did take us a R.E.A.L.L.Y. long time to wake her.


She was not interested in coming around but was finally swayed by apple juice and dairy-free yogurt that I had on hand.  Before long, she was answering questions and showing interest in the world, and we were discharged - just like that.  She fell asleep in the car, but once we got home where all of her siblings and grandparents awaited her, she perked back up and seemed as if nothing had ever happened and ate dinner like a champ.


I kept her home from school on Thursday as a precaution, and while she told me that her throat was sore a couple of times, she mostly was not slowed down at all.


Though she feels fine, the doctor's note that I had to dig out of the recycling  to read did state that she couldn't go back to school until Monday, so Violet attended Field Day at the girls' school with me where she enjoyed playing and eating the beans off of both Lily and Bella's lunch trays.


We are so very thankful for a great experience with our first surgery.  It will be a while before we know if it really helps, but I am hopeful!  (As a side note - have you tried the new BBQ chicken sandwich at CFA?  It's so very delicious and different from anything else on our menu.  Go get you some - plus the new limited time Watermelon Mint Lemonade.  Tastiness abounding. πŸ€—πŸ˜‹)

Thursday, May 18, 2017


Mother's Day always brings all the feels, and I've written at length about many of them.  It is multi-layered, and I am sandwiched in the beautiful place of having my children with me and being able to honor my living mother whom I adore.  Adoption adds another layer where I think regularly of W & V's birth mother, and the ways that I share this day with her.  And, you can't stop onto social media for a hot second without realizing how loaded Mother's Day can be.  I also don't really love how my husband and kids are supposed to be "extra nice" to me on just this one day.  Why aren't they extra nice to me all the time? 😜 Don't they realize how hard I work for them? 🀣 Honestly, John is really one of the most gracious, sacrificial people ever, and my children are by and large extremely affectionate (though not necessarily extremely obedient), but I don't like the added pressure that Mother's Day brings.

That said, I happily enjoyed going to get a mani/pedi by myself on Sunday afternoon cause it was Mother's Day and John told me to.  I also decided that we needed to eat lunch and dinner out so I wouldn't be bothered with cooking or cleaning up, so though I may not like the pressure it can put on others, I am happy to reap the benefits.  You can just call me Carol Double Standard Spenst.

I think Mother's Day for me often caps off the emotional spring that I regularly experience.  It feels like the exclamation point on the extra feels I've been having for about a month (+ + this year 😳).  So this year, I'm glad that it's done.  Because of the ways that I share it with another mother close to our family, it often fills me with sadness.  I am reminded all over again of the ways that this world is not how it should be.  I long for heaven, which is a good, though hard, place to be.

But, it was a sweet day for me, and I'm thankful to be a mother.  8.5ish years into this gig, and there is SO much I've learned and SO MUCH still to learn.  I have finally figured out that it goes a million times faster than I thought it would.  The years are so short, so I'm glad that for now, I've got these four loves to snuggle and cherish in my home.


Sweet Muffins for Mom was last week with this precious kindergartner.


And, the twins' teacher got this adorable pic for me.

(Violet told me later that the sun was trying to get her.)

I woke up to gifts and a LOT of enthusiasm from the children who had been talking for a couple of weeks to Dad about Mother's Day and how to make it special.  I so appreciate their abundance of love for me.


One of my neighbors caught John at Target while they were getting cards and sent me this sweet shot.


All in all, I enjoyed the Mother's Day that I had, and I'm truly so grateful from the bottom of my heart for the mothers (my mom, my mother-in-law and Gran Gran) who have walked in front of our family and loved us so well.  We are better every day because of them.

Monday, May 15, 2017


Spring really has been full of so many good things, one of my favorite being the arrival and adoption of baby Lizzie.  We wanted to celebrate her and shower Christy with a few more fun things, so we came up with a special night that was hosted this past Friday.  What a gift it is to walk through life and motherhood with these women - I am richly blessed!


My sis, Ellen was kind enough to design invites for us on the fly based on the nursery colors Christy is using.


We had a yummy spread full of sweet and savory treats and drinks.

(nobody ate the diaper cake, but it was a fun touch.)

Everyone passed Lizzie around who spent time being a delightfully cuddly baby, sleeping and eating.


The evening passed in a blur of talking, eating, laughing and Christy opening gifts.  (She's not expressive at allπŸ˜‚.)


I have not yet gotten over how trippy it is to see glimmers of my children in one of my bestie's kids.


Isn't she a doll?  So far, we see a lot of William with some hints of Violet and Maya and Quinn as well.  She is just precious!

We sent everyone on their way with donuts, though I didn't get a great pic of them wrapped up.


It was truly a wonderful night with some of nearest and dearest celebrating all that God has done!