Life With Nine Kids

Monday, August 14, 2017

Summer 2017

We flew into summer full force and full of excitement, I expected glorious family time, BBQ's, swimming at the creek, giant flamingo blow up rafts, and lots of relaxing outside time. I also daydreamed about getting away with Ricky to a nearby resort or maybe a far away resort...maybe a fancy rooftop pool or if need be a simple water park. Could we plan a much deserved getaway? Wait, we have a baby. I quit daydreaming and realized that we'd have to stay nearby. However, in actuality he got swamped with work while I was swamped at home and nothing transpired or worked in our favor for a small dreamy getaway. That's okay, we will still enjoy the awesome long summer days ahead of us... right? RIGHT? 

In reality we have been at least 90% busy trying not to just simply drown! We had only about 10% of actual free time/fun. It's our own fault really. I'm not complaining, but reflecting; good gracious we really have done it. This summer has been nutso! Nine kids is a hearty load of various healthcare appointments, food, laundry, dishes, noise, and everything else in between. And the animals. They take up more time than I ever think they will. We are exhausted. Madeline climbs EVERYWHERE and EVERYTHING. She reminds us of Everett! I used to say seven is the hardest number of kids! (Everett was the seventh) now I say nine is. ;)  (Admittedly, this was unscientifically based more on which babies and kids were the most difficult at the time, not the actual number of kids.)

Madeline is soooo clingy. My mind is in 1000 places trying to tackle too many projects both old ones and new. Most of the time I tell myself I must thrive on chaos, because every time I think we should pull back and lighten the load we end up just doing more!

I have a hard time telling myself that I can't do it all. So I pile up my to do list as high as I want and if it overflows it overflows, and if I make a mess then I make a mess. But I never, ever run out of stuff to do.

Madeline chipped her front teeth in early summer. It was caused by  Sebastian and Everett fighting over her! Sebastian felt Everett was being too rough in his play with Madeline so Sebastian grabbed Madeline from him, then they both end up pulling on her in disagreement!!  I was close by at the kitchen sink telling them to let her go. Wellllll, they let her go alright. Just as I turned to take a step towards them to get her, she flew smack into the fridge like a rag doll. I was so mad I was almost blind. I had to take her outside because if I didn't I was going to scream at them until I ran out of air. I paced the driveway holding her and I checked her teeth. To the pediatric dentist we went. He filed them smoother and the x ray looked as if there was no damage to the root. It can still take weeks for nerve damage to show up though. We should be out of the danger zone now, her teeth are holding up and there is no damage to them other than slight cosmetic. They broke off in nearly the same place.

Our toddlers are always both wild kids and wildly unlucky with teeth. Charlotte broke hers in half at 14 months old slipping on a picnic table and landing on them, Sebastian broke his falling outside, Everett cracked his on the bathtub! Bea's front teeth were doing poorly due to decay despite aggressive attention to hygiene. Eventually we had hers capped. I just want my kids to keep their baby teeth! 

 I finally planted tomatoes in late June because I found discount plants and planting makes me feel so good. I just had to do that for myself. Penelope (10) and I planted pumpkins, too. They are coming up great and we have so much fun watching them grow!

June and July seem like a blur. It seems like we ran into a string of bad luck, I'm not sure if bad luck is the accurate descriptor I'm looking for, as we are very lucky and blessed overall, but I can't think of a better way to describe mounting auto bills (yes again --as was experienced last summer), sickness, wildlife problems including owls and possums that culled our flock of at least 20 hens down to just four laying hens over several months time. ONE single night a possum killed eight young chickens in one go at it. Nature has not been kind to us this year, and now, after trapping those pests, I'm at war with a much bigger pest: deer!!! They were munching my sunflowers like crazy. I used some top rated stinky spray that deters them and it seems to help for now.

Everett
Everett (6) is having an emotional time and needing a lot of slow, calm attention. He has full-on emotional outbursts over everything! He goes through this phase from time to time. Probably around growth spurts. It's hard balancing all this STUFF and also remaining calmly present for the people that live this crazy life too. Six can be a hard age and he is a middle child. So I'm always trying so hard to make things better for him. He's wild, hilarious and sweet but also emotional and sensitive.

He has outbursts like this funny and quirky one I wrote down:
Everyone's eating yogurt at the table right now. Everett jumps up suddenly, pulls his pajama pants down (no underwear, no shirt on) and has an outburst, "Ughhh YOGURT! FINE! I'll eat naked!" Apparently he got yogurt on his pajama pants. He sat back down and in a calmer tone this time announces to us with confidence, "Good thing I like being naked!" We just stare in disbelief until sassy Bea chimes in, "Uhh you CAN'T be naked, GET some clothes on you EVERETT!" And I'm like, "Yeah you have to wear clothes." He obliged and left the room.

Cute:
I showed and made the kids cup-o-noodles instant soup from my childhood (My Grandma Smith had these for lunch frequently which I fondly remember!) and Everett said, "Wow, did they have these in prairie times?"

And then the sweetest moments ever like these recently:
"Thanks for my peanut butter and Jelly mom. And thanks for life for me. For my life you gave me." 

One of the kids casually said that I don't work (as in a job outside the home, which is true). Another kid said I did work. But Everett (age 6) out of nowhere adds his profound opinion, "Mom doesn't work. Mom has a destiny. Mom takes care of kids because it's HER destiny. And it's really hard." 

My heart melted. My six year old summed up my entire beautiful, messy life.  
(By the way, this totally made up for him swiping out of my hand earlier the breakfast sandwich for dinner I had made for myself. Literally OUT of my hand!  He gave it back and said sorry. He has impulses. I know this.)   

Charlotte (20)
A few mentions about our oldest, Charlotte. Her hard work paid off when she made the dean's list last semester for her excellent GPA. Last year she was invited to join the honor society at her college. She became Vice President of her chapter within a couple of short months and then President by the end of the semester. She got to go on an expense paid honor society trip to Branson, MO. She has worked VERY hard, studies almost all the time, and we are so very proud of her. She helps around here as much as she can. Two weeks into summer break she was already working at a bakery part time for summer. She's motivated, awesome, helpful and just a great young lady. We are very proud of her. Can you imagine how interesting yet challenging living in a home with 10 other people, most of them under age ten, all while holding down jobs, going to college and having a mother who is constantly wanting you to stop leaving her dang dishes in your car. Haha! :)

Recently, Charlotte found out her very hard work and huge amounts of studying paid off because she was accepted into the physical therapy assistant program she was working hard to get into. Then a day later she received a "surprise" letter in the mail! Charlotte was awarded a nice scholarship from her school to help her pay half of this fall's 2017 and half of this spring's 2018 semesters!! SO PROUD OF HER!!!!!!!

More of the stinky....
Our main computers all went out on us. And our ipad is missing. We wonder if the baby threw it away. So, we need to do something about that and now writing / posting is harder than ever! As if I needed another obstacle to writing besides falling asleep exhausted every night at 8pm! Ha! I've been convinced I couldn't really type a blog post on my phone but here I am.

Speaking of exhausted, here's a funny text from recently when Ricky brewed coffee and we were going to try and enjoy some TV watching together. The baby woke up and I fell asleep trying to get her back down:
When I woke up the next morning it was the first laugh I had of the day.

We message each other a lot in the evening and sometimes it's the only time we talk in the evening! But sometimes it's sad and not that funny. We really do miss each other when it gets crazy!

Dog Trouble
In the late spring/early summer, Gunnar, our one year old pup who was supposed to be a Great Pyrenees but is actually an Akbash (more about that below) had an incident that devastated us. 

This is what I wrote at the time:
I am having a hard time focusing after crying for two days! Gunnar was triggered by strangers and jumped our fence (we had feared it after finding out he is not a Pyrenees) and he was very aggressive. There was a huge fight (mostly him) with my neighbor's dogs and I felt I had to protect my neighbor and her dogs. No one was injured. She was traumatized and I was devastated. I was sick over it. I cried for two days. It was that bad. We were in extreme fear for ourselves and her dogs. After talking to Akbash rescue and going to my vet I feel better. They both assured me that if he had wanted to do damage he would have. A rescue mentor who knows the breed well told be this breed will purposely threaten and act like they are coming at you but don't make contact. So he's not an immediate threat, but we are taking this beyond serious as we well should. He is mainly triggered and a threat to dogs passing by. Akbash dogs are horrible for this. 
Me hugging Gunnar's head after I was crying day 1. He knew something was very wrong. And he acted different and somber after his outburst. At this point thought I might have to put him down for viciousness.
We do assume we will have to rehome him through the rescue, but since we are heartbroken we are still researching. He still needs neutered and that is on May 1. The vet thinks we should do all that first, too. We still have the jump the fence issue though, which is only an issue so far  if he sees a "threat." Unfortunately everything to him is a threat! A privacy fence is a heavy consideration. At least with the info we have now we get time to assess our future and get used to the idea that he may need a new home. So I can stop crying at least for now.  (Vet thinks a new home will stress him more and give him anxiety issues since he is with us so much.) We can take it one day at a time for now. This is taking extreme planning and he has to be inside if we are not home. He can only go outside with close adult supervision and on a long tie out for no more than an hour. My neighbor is thankfully not angry with us! I have visited her twice now. She and I had a great conversation. There are other dogs on her walk giving her trouble too. And we are the only pet owners taking this seriously. 

He has redirection issues which is horrible. That has been improving, but not perfect by any means. This means he bites us if we try to stop him from going after his target. His harness has made him able to walk on a leash willingly and be pulled away safely so that is great. Our vet says it sounds and looks like we have spent a lot of time with him which is key to teaching him.

Months after writing all of the above, I wrote to Akbash rescue on their Facebook page thanking them for helping us:

We thought we got a second Pyrenees puppy last year, but the breeder was either ignorant or not truthful. I did not want an Akbash, as I know they can be territorial,  jump fences, and need lots of work, but we realized it all too late when Gunnar was around six months old. We hoped that around one year old we would not have to rehome him for the typical reasons. I am so thankful Akbash Rescue gave me the time, support as well as the advice I needed to hear on the phone (through my tears!) without being judgmental. They saved us from having to give up my best pup friend.

Every night my Gunnar follows me around the house. From doing the nightly dishes, to reading to the kids, to brushing teeth (he lays RIGHT in front of the sink every night lol), and then laying near the kids at bedtime. Family pets are so special! I *totally* get why our vet said re-homing him would traumatize him and if at all possible he should stay with us. I am so glad I made the call to Akbash rescue as well as contacting the vet so that they could both educate me and help us make the choice to keep him and how to proceed from there. I'm so glad he is responsive to his new routine and supervision. He is not allowed outside alone except in one small area for very short periods of time. He has a larger area to run in a couple times a day with us supervising. It's been very rewarding taking care of him! I didn't think I could do it because we have lots of children and my time is limited. But I stay home full time and I wanted to do everything I could to help Gunnar stay with us. I did it! And I'm so glad! I have even worked with him and our goats, and he's quite good at herding them! I am working on him not chasing chickens now. He is a joy and I feel so lucky he can stay with us. Thank you Akbash rescue for taking my call months ago. Happily, we can keep our friend and family member!
                                                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Now, don't let me fool you, he's still a pain in the ass teenager dog. But he's really improving.  His redirecting issues are even getting better. If I'm careful I can feed him and the other dogs treats together. (Akbash dogs are extremely territorial of food, like they go full on crazy! Lucky for us it's only an animal issue and not also a human issue! Some have issues with any pet or person and food!) He is very sweet and affectionate. Most people don't get to see the sweet, ridiculously affectionate  dog we live with because he's SO territorial. He's a heavy duty guard dog. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is making it through our front door with him here. A guard dog is important to me -this is a little over the top though, but okay...it's what we were handed.

We have been thinking for six months or more now that he needs a buddy to play with because he's very playful. He's too young and rough for the kids to really actually run and play outdoors with and our other dogs are all old farts. :)

Summer Season bad luck treks on...
In June (or May!?) We had a beloved cat (my favorite cat) get a snake bite and die. He was only one year old. I was so mad about that. We took on the care of FOUR kittens though, so it the blow was lessened because of affectionate cuteness, but I still was really mad and bummed out for a couple weeks. He's buried next to my garden. One of our rabbits broke through a probably poorly latched hutch door and unfortunately Gunnar found it first and killed it. He comes from a long line of varmint hunters, so the breeder said. Not much you can do when that happens. (he's not allowed in that part of the yard anymore) So that was a bummer. We thought our rabbits were both girls. It was HARD to tell! However the remaining rabbit, a short while later, had babies! And then preceded to eat each and every one of them. I am, at this point, seriously fed up! 

Our kittens we named after my Grandma Wanda and three of her siblings: Wanda, Georgia, Doyle and Dairy. I thought perhaps after we fix them and raise them for a year or so we can take a couple to the farm house (assuming they are okay with it and assuming we fix it up and stay in it more) so that they can mouse the property and hang there when they are older. They already prefer the outside to the inside, but that wasn't my intention. However, they just love living under the cool porch right now. They are super sweet and so friendly. I love our cats even though I don't really consider myself a cat person. We, um, have seven cats. The kids play with them and take such good care of them that they are just the sweetest 
They hang out with the kids all the time
Madeline LOVES to climb stuff. This is worth repeating again because it is a huge, massive drain of my time!


She's. Everywhere. I go through weeks of split personality disorder where I am like: "Grow up already I need space and time" to "My goodness, I love babies so much I must enjoy this moment, nothing matters, stay little -cobwebs and dust go to sleep 'cause my baby won't keep..." to back again, "Oh.My.God, I can't get anything done, I want time to garden and make pie, and the dishes and laundry are slipping into a disaster, and the other kids need me, I'm tired and I can't water the ducks with her because she stands in the water with her shoes on every time, she throws dog food everywhere, throws spoons, climbs on everything....and.child.get.off.my.freaking.boob!"

                                                                  Oh.But.Motherhood.
 

                                                                    Life Is Perfect.
                                               It's this back and forth struggle all the time. 

Bea
Bea turned FOUR and we had a fun flamingo party our house and at the creek with friends and a GIANT blow up flamingo raft. We narrowly dodged a thunder storm that threatened to ruin her creek party!




















Bea funnies:
One day while I was trying to get the baby down for a nap Bea wanted to watch Berenstain Bears on the computer. Layla was helping Bea but didn't know the password so they had to wait for me to sign it in. For fun while they were waiting Layla passed the time asking Bea what she thinks my password might be. Her ideas are adorably hilarious: 

Hug your babies 
I love babies 
Wear shoes or you'll get a splinter in your foot
Take a bath or you'll get a rash
Homeschooling is the best 

Instead of saying last weekend, Bea calls a previous weekend "yesterday weekend." And I love it so much.

Bea talks so much and it's adorable. She says amazingly funny things and unexpected things that make us laugh. For example: suddenly she handed me some cheese she was eating and she said, "Here mom, here is my cheese, it is rubbish."

Aslan's Last Days 
Aslan is our Great Pyrenees and the first dog Ricky and ever had together.
Sebastian and Aslan at 3 am years ago
Aslan had been having subtle problems in his hips for years. The years passed, he became old and he had trouble getting around. Some days were better than others. Eventually he'd spend days at a time laid up and unable to walk, but he always got back up eventually. One day he just couldn't anymore. We spent about three months caring for his every need around the clock. We put him in our own home "doggie hospice." We bought dog wraps (diapers), fed him extra special food, toted him inside and outside for fresh air, set him up doggie TV, cleaned and bathed him, tended to pressure spots. It was a tremendous amount of love and care.
Aslan watch doggie TV on YouTube

Aslan's Hospice Care Room
One day I commented on how great we were doing caring for him but that it can be so hard.

We spent a lot of money on comforts for him and a lot of time washing his bedding, diapers, the floors, etc. He was no small dog: At his largest he was over 100. As he became sick he weighed 80-90 lbs. (less at the end as he lost mass before his passing) Ricky said caring for him and spending the money to care for him is the one the way he can thank him for watching over his family all these years and times he was out of town for work. I thought that was really sweet and special. 

Finally, Aslan was exhausted and so were we. We made and cancelled THREE euthanasia appointments for him. We didn't want to give up on him. We waited as long as we could but could tell we were all growing tired. Aslan would attempt to army crawl around the yard and get sores from dragging himself. He couldn't go far, but he could make it across the front yard eventually. Somehow he'd roll down the porch stairs to get to the yard! But we never saw how he did this. Pyrenees' are stubborn and this ol' dog was being no different. We'd clean and treat the sores he caused himself by dragging (also bed sores). It got too hard after a while, the bathing became SO hard, and as the sparkle started leaving Aslan's eyes and it became time to face the music and say our goodbyes. His condition would only deteriorate him in the future and we wanted to avoid kidney failure and other eventual breathing/ eating complications. 

I originally didn't want to be there for his passing, but when we loaded him up it felt natural to climb into Ricky's truck with them. The vet was super impressed with how we took care of him disabled for so long, so that felt good. The vet thought it was great timing so that was nice. It was all so extremely peaceful. The vet gave him a kiss on the head which was extremely touching. He gave him a sedative that made him sleepy. He fell fast asleep and started snoring. The vet then gave him the injection, he changed fro. Snoring to breathing deeply, he took in several fast breaks through his nose and it was almost endearing. His heart stopped in about five seconds. It was so peaceful and even beautiful. I cried only a little as we left and the extremely kind staff wrapped old blankets around him and said we could keep them. The compassion was touching and amazing. I'll never forget it. 

We stopped at a store that has lots of concrete statues for sale to buy some grave markers. It was for us too, but I thought the kids would think it was special to have something to give and commemorate our beloved dog with. 

We drove to the farm where PaPa (Ricky's dad) dug us a grave with his trench digger. Ricky's dad is so thoughtful, and so it comes to no surprise that he was thoughtful about where to put Aslan for his final rest behind the old farm house. He also had extra shovels and a rake for the kids to add finishing touches. We all participated and had good closure. I want to plant something next year to add to the area. I had photos to share but they are on Ricky's IPOD and I have not nabbed them yet.

We also celebrated Ricky's parents' 40th wedding anniversary! We had a small but wonderful party at the farm with just us and Ricky's sister.

Aslan's Backstory 
People always love the story of how we got Aslan. We bought a Great Pyrenees pup from some friends well over a decade ago and named him Aslan. His father was absolutely massively big, his quite fitting name was King. Aslan means king in Turkish. (You may recall, Aslan is the lion's name from The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe)
  
We had Aslan for about nine months or so before he disappeared on us. I literally watched him walk away that afternoon (we were on lots of property then) and unlike every other night, he just didn't come back when I called him for dinner. I was pretty upset and started posting signs and buying LOST ad space in the small local paper. Nothing transpired and we eventually gave up. An old time farmer called me an unexpected three months later saying that he probably had my dog. I went over to his farm just as the sun was setting. An old man in overalls promptly brought me a big white dog on a rope leash. He said he just showed up two days ago. I looked over the dog and wasn't sure. He didn't really respond to "Aslan!" I told myself surely Aslan would remember me...right? Or, maybe not? Seriously, a lot of Pyrenees dogs look the same. It's not super crazy to not be able to recognize your dog if you have a Pyrenees. I didn't know what to think. It looks like our dog. He sure didn't seem to know me though. I walked him around in a hesitant circle for a second as the sunset quickly turned to black sky. I told the old farmer that to be honest I wasn't sure if he was my dog. His reply, "Well do you want him or not? And you can't bring him back if you take him." 

I lifted this huge dog into the backseat of my car, I just shoved him in like Rabbit trying to shove Winnie the Pooh through his rabbit hole. This dog didn't know what to think either. We didn't even have a mini van back then this was so long ago! And off I went. 

We kept him chained to our porch for a month. (When he wasn't inside.) One day we let him off the chain and held our breath. "Aslan" was home and never left again.

It's a hilarious family story amongst the kids. They love wondering if it really was the first Aslan or not. We all do. Sometimes we'd call him Aslan 2. Pyrenees dogs aren't known for being super excitable or even personable in a reuniting situation per say. A lot of them are farm dogs. They patrol. They bark. The are lazy and noble. They are like lions. Can you tell two lions apart? Not always. Aslan's personality was always kinda dry and so was Aslan 2's. We will never really know. He lived a full and noble life though. 

Birds 
Thanks to our optimistic and clearly not rational thinking brain, our new ducks, chickens, and turkeys arrived somewhere during all this craziness.
Madeline is obsessed with duckies!!
I thought it would be easy to care for them because of the predictable warm summer weather. We wouldn't need to use heat lamps long. Not was I only right, but we were thrust into a nearly month long horrible heat wave. We lost a few birds from the heat. It really shouldn't have happened, but three birds got flighty and stuck in between a wall and their brooder. I guess there was a gap in their cover allowing a couple to get out with enough effort. So.Sad. It makes you feel like crap when that happens. We also lost one laying hen from heat stroke, which was just a fluke unfortunate incident. This leaves us down to only three current laying hens now. 

Ricky made us a new cute turkey tractor.  Once the turkeys are fatter we can let them free range. These don't fly over fence (because they get too fat) once they get a bit older. 

Ethan (17) has been helping so much with the animals and I'm so thankful. We have been SO busy and I have been swamped with that cute and clingy baby. It's exhausting doing just about anything and I'm struggling to keep up! So he has really stepped up to help for many months now and I'm really thankful. 

We made a couple farm visits to the family farm and my family also visited us this summer. The heat wave drug on in a painful way. The grass dried up. We were bored. Illness struck. I got a cough and then the other kids did and then we got better and then sick AGAIN, somehow!? It dragged on forever. It felt like winter except with hell-like temperatures outdoors. Layla somehow developed pneumonia and it was awful but we acted quick and got her antibiotics! She almost had to go to the hospital.

I somehow pulled a large muscle in my upper back/ shoulder blade area . I was barely mobile for a  week. After an hour long massage at my chiropractor's office and some rest it's still getting better. I couldn't lay down or even take a full deep breath without it being excruciating. I had a cough too and that was killer! I finally discovered if Ricky pushed on my back while I coughed the counter pressure helped me through the stabbing pain in the pulled muscle as I coughed. Ricky worked from home the week my back was out and Layla was so sick. Every time he heard me start to cough he'd run over ad push on my back. I was so thankful!

Here's what I wrote on my private Facebook on Layla's birthday:
August 1, 2017
You guys, things are hard right now. We have a bad sickness and Layla got pneumonia. Her 13th birthday is today. Two days ago we thought we'd be in the hospital. Luckily we knew the signs (uh, she had every one!) and on Sunday called our doctor's after hours number. We got her on antibiotics and even some oxygen. (We did that on our own -you can buy oxygen in cans on Amazon!) She's doing better, though recovery is still going to take a bit. It's been a little scary and hard. She has barely eaten anything in days. The other kids are hit or miss... but mostly alright. Ricky and I are a force. Sure we are a bit unwell too, but we are taking turns sleeping as needed because some of the kids need care at night, especially Layla. Though things are hard, things are also amazing because we are doing this together. As a mother I felt heartbroken that Layla's much anticipated 13th birthday is being spent so sick. I'm also sick and tired and doing the best I can, which means presents got done but no decorations or other special thing. We certainly aren't doing sweets today. And then in comes Charlotte. She apparently went to the store and bought all this stuff. Outside, so the kids didn't see, she carved out this amazing cake of fruit for her little sister. Candles and all.

I cried when she showed me. I'm just so thankful she made Layla's birthday special! Layla was so grateful and happy. Her face just lit up when we brought it to her in bed. And then thankfully Layla ate for the first time today!  Happy Birthday to my sweet and funny Layla! And thank you SO much to my wonderful thoughtful Charlotte!

Not Enough To Do: Let's buy more things to feed ;)
We wondered more about getting a friend for Gunnar. We have two beagle mixes that are getting older and limp sometimes (GREAT more hip problems). They are nice dogs but are kinda grouchy when it comes to other dogs wanting to "play." We have been keeping our eye out for a Newfoundland for at least six years but never found any within 200 miles. Then Suddenly SHE pops up on Craigslist; a not very good photo of a supposedly $50 Newfoundland (originally paid $600 by her first home. We'd be there THIRD HOME). They are moving. So we think this over for a couple weeks. Can't believe no one has nabbed her. I finally ask if she has any trouble or issues. Does she like cats, kids, farm animals? They say she's super sweet and deserves a good home. No issues. Runs with goats. Hum.

Gunnar rates two stars out of a six scale for "gets along with other animals" on any site you look at. You know what he rates a six at? Territorial jerk-ass. BUT, also, a redeeming five at loyalty and affection. :) 

So due to the even natured temperament of the breed (mellow friend for Gunnar?) and the fact that this Newfoundland is a girl, AND the fact we have wanted one forever, we nervously (I do mean VERY nervously) went to get her. We were nervous because we knew we had too much on our plate already! We were nervous because what if she was not a good fit for us, or us for her?

She's as sweet as they said. Her name is Shadow. She happily wagged her tail and loaded into our van. The second she saw baby Madeline (1) strapped in her car seat she rested her head right on her. She loves kids. Newfoundlands really do. The breed was memorialized as "Nana", the beloved guardian dog in J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. On the way home we stopped off for some Iced Tea at Mc Donald's. I gave Shadow a drink of water and visited with her. She was SO happy. So sweet. So darling! I couldn't hold back my excitement, "Oh Ricky, I'm not nervous anymore! She's so sweet!!!

Sadly, Shadow is underweight from just having FOURTEEN puppies. Her skin and teats are sagging badly as she's all stretched out from nursing the 14 puppies.
She's fabulous and gorgeous despite needing some TLC 

They had never fed her puppy chow to get her enough calories, vitamins and minerals for nursing, and instead fed her extra eggs. Poor girl. I can feel her ribs on each side of her and her hips. They were nice people, but it's still awful. She also had a large sore spot filled with pus I would later find on her.

Also, we had a surprise... when we got her a muddy little puppy greeted us.
WHAT!? Her last puppy. They didn't tell us Shadow was a mother in milk still. They didn't tell us she had a litter of 14 puppies until we were picking her up. This all unfolded. They had apparently sold all the pups but one, they kept this one (perfect) female puppy back for themselves but decided that it would be unfair to take her the apartment they were being forced into. I don't know their back story, but this seemed to be a single mom and the whole thing was sad. They seemed to be losing their hobby farm. 

What do you think happened next? Yup!!!!!!!!!! PUT THAT PUPPY IN OUR VAN!





New Friends Forever

We hit the puppy jack pot! The puppy is affectionate and amazing. Her father is a Great Pyrenees. She is still unnamed thus far, except Everett (6) calls her Aslan 3. Hahaaa! 

The night we brought the puppy home we bathed and combed her for two hours the fleas were so bad. They poured from under her eyes. It was truly horrible. Charlotte graciously offered to go to Walmart at 10pm to get us Capstar because I was exhausted but could not go to bed with her like that. Capstar kills all the fleas quickly and in about a half hour. 

The momma, Shadow, is a very sweet girl. She follows me to feed and then follows me back. She's super chill. She's beautiful!

She does bark a ton at night, which is a bummer because I asked and was told she didn't bark at night. I was looking forward to a not barky dog. But it's not like I wound not have gotten her anyway.

We've given her a kind home with lots of kids to enjoy and she's eating a ton everyday. She doesn't know how to sit. (How do you not teach your dog to sit? I already have her puppy sitting for food at 12 weeks for goodness sakes!) Shadow lived most her life with goats so gets along great around here and it's kinda nice having a mostly outdoor dog! Although, as she becomes a part of the family and accepts us as hers too she'll probably more readily want inside too which is fine. She's more comfortable outside it seems for now. She's great with children and animals. She comes right to us.

Gunnar is of course not used to Shadow yet. But, he's having a good time with the puppy for now. This is gonna take some time, and that's ok. There have been improvements. He's just a turd and wants her to be all fine when he growls. He wants to be able to act like a jerk, growl, and then have no dogs make a reaction. Then he'll know he's the boss-alpha and feel cool. Well nobody wants to be growled at. So she growls back sometimes. One growl thrown his way and it's on like Donkey Kong! So there have been times when he hasn't growled and they seem totally okay. We don't/ cannot leave them alone together yet. Except, they did get out together briefly when we were working in the yard and we suddenly looked up and were like 'Oh my goodness they are together!!!' They did fine. We need to back off and let them work it out to some degree, but it's scary! And we don't want anyone hurt!  We started walking them each on a leash around our property. Ricky with one and me with the other. This keeps them moving and happily sniffing their surroundings and occasionally each other. It gives them a focus other than staring at each other awkwardly and possibly fighting. This has worked great!! It's bonding time! And it makes sense! It looks like they will get along, I think Gunnar is getting used to the idea! It's only been two weeks. I think he's actually doing okay for two weeks. As soon as he acts like a gentleman she'll accept him. 

Old Toys Made New
One more thing off the to-do list; last weekend we took down our playground because it was getting old and falling apart. Madeline would not stay off of it and ran around on the playhouse top and it was really dangerous. Dangerous because a couple boards were missing and also because she ran by the edge. We could hardly go outside because we were up there ALL the time because she had TOO much fun trying to kill herself up there. Ricky's going to rebuild a smaller playground with a monkey bar area later. But for now, we took the play house and crows nest and turned them in to Little House on the Prairie play structures! The crows nest we made into a cute covered wagon! It took Ricky and I just 30 minutes to screw pool noodles over the top and cover it with an old white tarp. He added some supports and I added a trunk for storage supplies and a seat. It's so darling and fun! The kids play in it non stop!

After Ricky removed the slide, bars, and swings, we used this plastic play structure to help us lower the rest of it down!



I've been taking a break from our weekly park days with our homeschool group to try and regroup. It's amazing how just one day a week can still be too much when I have so much going on. The chores are NEVER done and I noticed the kids needed some home time too. We also had summer camp and family visit! Aunt Sharon, Aunt Holly, Grandma Wanda and Echo visited! We had such a lovely time with them as usual and I'm so thankful they came all the way from Reno to see all of us.

I have had extra time at home but I haven't even made the time to unpack our brand new printer and get it printing our new school books from The Thinking Tree yet! But, we are really gearing up for fall! Fall is when everything falls into place for us it seems: Schedules, school, the weather, family time, and thank heavens earlier BEDTIME for the kids and more grown up time for mom and dad!! Later this fall most of the ducks and turkeys will be butchered and sooner than that we are selling our goats. That will be a huge relief! We are going to attempt to finish painting the exterior of our house in hopes that it will get us that much closer to selling one day. We are always looking for property. But honestly, we are too swamped to do anything serious anytime soon.

In September we are going to Mansfield, MO to Laura Ingles-Wilder's homestead. We will attend a play about her life and tour the Museum. I remember four and a half years ago reading Little House on the Prairie to Penelope, reflecting on how that book has shaped our lives since is nothing short of magic. What a true gift Laura left generations of children and adults that feel kinship to her family and that era. Our children play prairie, call each other Laura, Mary, and Carrie. Everett has played as Pa before. They name their baby dolls after Grace, Carrie or Mary. It has inspired Penelope to create art, sew her own doll, make Little House toys to accompany her cabin, and enjoy ALL the books in the series. Penelope wears her dresses and aprons most of the week. I feel like I helped give that gift to her and the kids too, by opening that book up and reading to them. You never know what beauty and discovery can come from a good book!

Penelope with baby Bea fall of 2013


Penelope has begun arranging her Little House paper dolls and with her camera in hand to create stop-motion animation! Aunt Sharon sewed Penelope, Bea, and Madeline all each two new prairie dresses this summer! They are precious and I need to get a picture of them all together still to add here!

I told the kids that I wondered if I would tear up and feel overwhelmed with emotion when I visit the museum. They laughed at me. Because they are kids. They don't realize and I probably haven't properly expressed to them that I was once a child reading Little House, too. I was a young girl who was drawn to and adored the TV adaptation so very much. And now my children are enjoying it with so much passion, love, and imagination! One day they'll understand how generations connect. And I hope when they do they bawl like babies over it! ;) Haha!
 


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

April 2017

April showers bring May flowers! The grass gets green, the birds get busy building nests, bees visit patches of dandelions and clover, and bright tulips push up toward the sun.... Andddd....I was born!

April is a great time of year, unless you are a financial analyst like my dear husband is. My birthday lands at a pretty bad time of year for Ricky. He used to take my birthday off. But, since quarter end is the first week of April, and we have collected nine kids over the years (lol) it's gotten increasingly hard for him to spend the day or evening with me on April 4th. We do get to sneak away from time to time, but it's NOT usually during the first week of April. Every year he tries to at least get home early, and most years as of recent it just doesn't work out. I had a feeling this year would be tough too, so I planned my own party! Bea wrapped a bunch of flower bulbs that I picked out last week and she had the best time giving them to me. I acted like I had never seen them before. I hadn't looked at them since I bought them, and I was delighted at all the cheery color and fun of them as my gift!

Beatrice also made me a window frame out of Popsicle sticks. When Bea gave me the window she lamented in the sweetest concerned three year old squeaky voice that it was crooked. She even hung her head down sadly! I told her I love crooked windows. Her whole sweet face lit up and her smile beamed. It was precious and I adore my Popsicle stick window!
First thing after breakfast I took the teens to their finance class, but before we left we found a dead chicken and a very wounded one. That was a hectic start to the morning. I was just going to to kill the wounded one but it was wiggling around a bunch. I was too hasty and rushed (AND IN A DRESS) to take it over to the killing cone for slaughtering. I stopped and examined it more...what if she's just real hurt but not mortally wounded? Its eyes were swollen shut. But, sometimes people look pretty darn bad at the hospital after a severe injury. (Then again, they are AT AN ACTUAL HOSPITAL.) Reluctantly, I put away the hatchet and stuck the hen in a box with pine shavings until I could get back home and care for her. While I drove I thought about all the miracle animals I've seen and the compassionate people who saved them. A special floating "wheel chair" for a disabled fish and a wounded turtle with tiny wheels for front legs. Dogs with two legs. Realistically, chickens have a pretty low survival rate once badly injured or ill. Over the years you lose wayyy more than you save. I'll just stop the suspense and tell ya now: Cupcake (I quickly and aptly named her since it was my birthday) didn't make it. I should have put her out of misery after all. I once found a floppy, cold and drenched chicken after a bad rainstorm. I brought her inside and warmed her in a sink bath and blow dried her feathers. That girl made it. (Just fell like adding a happy chicken story here for good measure.)

Back to my Birthday...
I told the younger kids I'd take them to Target to get cake decorating supplies. I browsed the birthday section and found a unicorn headband and super cute plates.

It dawned on me that I had never had a unicorn birthday party, probably because I was so into unicorns as a child that it never crossed my mind. Unicorns weren't on my radar as a once over birthday thing. Unicorns were something I did everyday. But now I'm a grown up. A really big grown up, I'm now at level 39 and it is unicorn party time, because it's been ages since I've unicorned! 

Back at home after Target I made an electrolyte solution for Cupcake, the hurt and probably dying chicken, I packed its wounds with an antibiotic ointment, and then it was time to help Bea (3) and Everett (6) make cakes. It was around this time I realized throwing your own birthday party is a lot of work. 

I quipped on my Facebook: 
"I am juggling four kids making each their OWN cakes for me (it's for me right?), two of which want to make them from scratch, them also fighting, a broken bowl, a one year old playing in dog food, and a hurt chicken I'm trying to nurse back to health. (A very hurt chicken. Blood, everything.) And I'm doing it all with a unicorn horn on my head because I am having a unicorn party. Wild day."

Penelope and Sebastian were not thrilled they had to wait all day to make their cakes. I am only ONE person though and they want to make theirs from scratch. I heard a good bit of complaining about them having to wait. As the other cakes cooled Charlotte got home from college. She enthusiastically, because she's the best adult-kiddo ever, whipped out her cake airbrush supplies and started whipping up frosting. Thank God for Charlotte. 

She got busy with the kids decorating and letting them do list the work while still helping them create. I was off to pick up the teen boys from class. I had to hurry because I had a 3:00 birthday massage appointment. On the way to get the boys I knew I should get gas (gas light has been on all day) but guess what kind of person I am?

However, on the way home I was chatting away so happily with my teens about my crazy day that I forgot to stop for gas on the way home. Nearly home the van made a couple of slower weird feeling jerks only detectable by me. My van was thirsty. I was nervous there for a sec, but we made it home. I promptly got a big gas can out of the garage. (Ricky could be reading this thinking, so that's why I don't always have as much gas as I think we have on hand for the lawn mower... Heehe.)  I quickly put some gas in (no actually I stood there forever because it's not fast pouring gas in from a gas can into a huge van) and I felt like a dork and laughed at myself. As I'm gassing up the kids walked out and show me UNICORN CAKES because they couldn't wait any longer!!!!  I loved them!! They had edible sparkle glitter and star candy embellishments you can't even see as well in photos. Very magical!

Then I took off in my van again. I made it to my birthday massage appointment (and got gas from a real station), a big thanks to all my lovely kids at home holding down the fort. When I got home the LAST thing I wanted to do was make more cakes! However, Sebastian and Penelope had their turn of cakes to still do. I didn't have to do a lot, they could mostly do it, but I'm still needed to help. As they finished up Layla and I decorated outside and took pictures, we enjoyed some cake, too. Bea and Everett couldn't wait for cake so we had cake before dinner. I actually do cake before dinner a lot. They leave me alone to do dinner that way. Besides, after dinner is cleaned up the last thing any mom wants to hear about is getting more food out!
I actually had no dinner planned and it was 5:30 or so. I kinda thought dinner plans would just fall into place. I had going out or ordering pizza in my head. Ricky soon texted me a sincere message about how sorry he was he wasn't home yet. He also joked that we should move my birth date. I texted him back: You are an amazing husband and you love me unconditionally everyday of your life. You always think of me first and I have everything I could need and you always strive to give me more. You don't have to be sorry.

I ordered pizza around 6pm. I had wanted to go get Mexican with Ricky and ALL the kids but I was certain he would be too pooped from work, plus I was way too exhausted, and Madeline is at a very hard restaurant age anyway. I ordered pizza and had everyone help me pick up the house before dinner. Ricky walked in as we got the couch bed out and we all ate in the living room watching something family friendly (AFV probably), I don't remember because Ricky and I fell fast asleep nearly immediately after dinner. Couch beds are the best thing ever.
 Aside from my massage and flowers to plant, I also got nice new rain boots, better clips I wanted for my hot rollers, and a book: Mrs. Dunwoody's Excellent Instructions for Homekeeping: Timeless Wisdom and Practical Advice .
I have spent the last few days doing yard work. I love yard work. I love gardening. I love the kids playing outside all day. I love flowers. I love rain boots. I love spring. I love baby chicks and kids that love them, too. I love the world I'm in when everything turns green. I love fresh air and blue skies. I love warmth. I love little voices next to me asking me questions about earthworms, grubs, and gardening. I love seeing tightly wound Hostas pop up from the ground. I love teaching a kid how to mow. I love my husband. I love spring. Life is so good. Thirty-nine is amazing.


 In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt. -Margaret Atwood



Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems. Rainer Maria Rilke
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/r/rainermari147755.html?src=t_spring

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt. Margaret Atwood
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/spring.html


Friday, March 3, 2017

Come to Think of it, How Do I Do It?

Madeline is a very clingy baby. Which means it's hard to get housework done.

I feel like I get nothing done. I have more clothes needing folding than I did with a newborn and my kitchen is grimy. I hate running out of room around here and feeling like we need to move to a bigger house. I hate our half painted exterior (we started removing the shutters and painting our house last year). I hate my unorganized basement and half hung curtains down there and a much needed plumbing repair for the washing machine outlet. I hate all the things that are undone, the a pile of to-do lists, our annoying goat fence repairs...I hate writing about it. I hate complaining. I hate being unappreciative. I hate using the word hate.

After reading what I just wrote above my frustration begins to wane. I am forced to remember how fortunate we are, how this home is large and we only think it's shrinking because we keep adding kids to it. I remember that we go to the grocery store and we afford plenty of food. I remember the kids are in gymnastics and homeschool groups and they go to homeschool dances and summer camp. We are healthy. We are so blessed. Life with nine kids is not easy, and this past year I have realized it more than ever. But we do love it even if it means that things stay undone and get neglected...even if it means I can't finish projects, even if it means I don't have time for painting or fixing up the laundry room. Even if it means stuff goes undone while babies get nurtured. Sometimes though, I have to tell myself that its also okay to get frustrated and fed up and not to feel guilty about it, I'm human!

When I have mini freak outs of 'I get nothing done' I have to recenter myself. I'm raising people. And thats a lot. So, when I feel like I'm losing ground and I just have to realize it and think about it. When I go shopping I say a prayer of thanks that we eat well. While driving the kids to gymnastics I think of my husband at work and remember that this is one more reason why he works so hard for us. (He has said so too.) Every time we get gas I appreciate we have cars. Every month, at least once or twice, I thank my husband for taking care of us. My worries start to seem small when I remember what real worries look like. 

How I Really Do It 
I get lots of people telling me they don't know how I do it. "It" meaning how I handle all the kids, housework, insanity, long hours, the screaming ( happy and sad kids scream!), the crying, the very little 'me' time, cooking, cleaning (oh dear God, cleaning is most of what I do!), and last but not least, the overall expense involved in raising a gaggle of kids. 
I used to just chuckle it off and give a half hearted "Yeahhh, it's a real hoot!" Or, "They keep me very busy!" and move on. 

It got me thinking a while ago though, how DO I do it? Pretty much what keeps me going, besides the fact that I love my kids and want them to have the best childhood possible, is that I have a really supportive husband. If I could stand there and explain this to every person who asks me how I do it this is what I'd say: I'm not in this alone. Ricky is fully present in our lives as a husband and father. He's almost always present with us when he's home and if he's not home he's always just a phone call away. We have a really close relationship, and he's in nine kids just as deep as I am. 

I absolutely love being a mom and wife, but part of the reason I love it so, so much is that I never feel alone or taken for granted. Ricky and I don't have "who has it harder contests." We have both joy and sympathy for each other on a daily basis. I'm so proud of him working hard and accomplishing what he does and I'm thankful he's a great dad and husband. I honor and cherish him and he does and feels all the same ways for me. I always get more than one kiss goodbye. He is optimistic. He's easy to love. He's a good dad. He loves me at my best and my worst. He supports me. He respects me. He's nice to me. He's funny. He laughs. That's how I do it. .

One thing that helps me through tough days is that he's always there for me. I can get a hold of him anytime when he's at work (unless he's in a meeting of course). Anytime I want to tell him anything, if I just want a sympathetic ear to quickly share my hardships with, he's there. If I'm cranky and un-showered. If the kids are screaming and crying in the background. If the baby just fell off of something. If I'm sick or tired. If I just want to tell him that I wish I had another job for the day where I didn't have people screaming, roughhousing, throwing food, emptying toilet paper rolls, clogging the toilet, losing a toothbrush down the drain, scattering potatoes all over the kitchen floor, coloring on the wall, making "potions" with spices in the kitchen, unmaking beds, playing with mud on the front porch, throwing a mud ball at side of the house, all while the baby is latched on me like a sucker fish as the kids fall off swings and get stuck in trees. I can tell him. Sometimes I want to escape the people who eat 20 lbs of oranges, three loaves of bread, and four dozen eggs in four days.... So I call him. He listens. He lends support. He agrees. He asks me what he can do to help. He's my rock. That's how I do it, and that's how I keep doing it. I'm allowed to have every emotion I have. And he listens.

Then there's the times that he laughs at me as I rattle off hilarious or ornery things the kids are up to. There's also the times he tells me I'm cute as I explain to him the quirky mishaps I have encountered throughout the day. I love his strong supportive voice, his calm demeanor, his attention to detail, his chuckling laugh - I know co workers must hear him laughing sometimes. I adore that laugh so much. I can feel the stress wash away from me and I start to smile because I can hear his laughter and love for me shoot right through the phone line and into my heart. This is how I do it. It's him. He doesn't just say he loves me, he shows it in everything he does. I see it in his eyes. I hear it in his voice. 

He calls me. Sometimes he will call me just to hear me ramble for a minute. I love that. So he'll call out of the blue sometimes and I'll just talk... he also knows it's a way I get some adult interaction and I can share my joys or frustrations.

We are a great team. Last weekend was full of so much crazy. We laughed it off all day. Every whine, scream, wrestling match between the kids, food on the floor, clingy baby, messes, poop, spilled drink, a certain kid defying us, we rolled with it all weekend. We often look at each other and wonder why we did this to ourselves. We often long for some alone time. We get interrupted by kids frequently. It's hard. It's realllly hard. But I'm not alone. But not only all that, we love kids. We love watching them, nurturing them, laughing at their antics, we love providing a loving home and building this legacy together. We love having a built in party on birthdays and holidays. We love it. We love each other. It makes it all so easy even when it's hard.

If I could, I'd stand there and tell complete strangers all of that when they ask how I do it. Or, when some people give me dirty looks or make rude comments because they think children are a burden and that one (or two) people could not possibly provide for or enjoy that many children, I'd like to tell them how wrong they are.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

January at the Park


I needed today. It was full of nature and children.

It was full of the outdoors and free play. It was full of my favorite young people and it was a much needed break from the indoors and my own brain. The sun cracked through the clouds as we inched towards 70 degrees in January! The sky stayed blue for several hours. Clouds rolled indecisively in and out. The sky, clouds, and bare trees made a beautiful backdrop for photography. I love how in the winter the tippy tops of the tree branches look like nothing more than little sticks reaching far into the sky. The trees are so exposed.

I don't like a lot about winter. So it's a big deal when I find something I do like. It's an exercise I need to implement and embrace because I whine every single darn day about winter. Our thoughts shape our moods and actions, so I know this incessant complaining is really bad. This winter is dreadfully dull and I feel awfully uninspired. Today I took time to hear my little ones. I took a break from my complaining about winter and the chatter in my head (my to-do list) and I just let myself be myself with them. I rediscovered a lot.

Madeline was darling as she explored and loved every minute of it. She's been very needy (as I've written about in past posts) and I have neglected to realize that she is probably going through similar outdoor withdrawals just as I am. She spent all spring, summer, and fall outdoors. She loved the outdoors and when the weather finally turned cold she became whiny.

Sure, shes been teething. But seriously, I am realizing she is literally climbing up the window because she wants to be outside. She stares out the window and asks to go out all the time. How confusing for her! I hate the cold so I don't take her out. The kids do a little but not much. Realizing this will definitely help me help her.

Bea and I talked about seeds, trees and moss. She asked me about trails and the posted signs as we waked on trails at the park. I pushed Madeline in the stroller and we had a great time. I really loved just listening to Bea chatter on. We took some moss home and Bea made a moss garden. It's been forever since I just enjoyed them without being rushed or thinking about the house. I miss that.

At bedtime it was still 68 degrees. Bea and I went outside to tell the moon goodnight. She always calls the moon her moon. I told her she could touch the moon and I took a picture of her. She ran inside so excited to show everyone her picture. Her excitement was amazing.
I'm telling her, "Keep reaching! Keep reaching! Hold it! You are holding it right now!"


Today at the park, Everett (6) tripped on some branches on the way to the car, he exclaimed that he "found nature." It made me laugh as he came up with a tiny acorn cap in his hand and a big smile on his face. He loved it, however, he ended up losing it on the way to the car. He wailed over his loss. I walked him over to a random tree and we gathered black walnut shells that looked like little boats and the nut meat that resembles owl faces. This delighted him and he no longer wanted an acorn hat. The ones I found to replace his were too big anyway he said.


The kids swung on vines with their friends. It was just a fabulous day. I feel so inspired and refreshed.