Life With Nine Kids

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Her Name is Madeline

Born at home October 28, 2015 at 11:31 pm 7 lbs 1 oz  18.5 inches long, Baby Madeline joined our family

Charlotte (19) drew me the above picture and I absolutely LOVE it with all my heart. It's so SWEET! It's our family drawn in the style of this page in the 1939 original story of Madeline:

Page from Ludwig Bemelman's book Madeline
It's not Madelyn, It's Madeline (Mad-ah-line). Like the little girl in the books.

Instantly I'm transformed into whoever I need to be for her. Late nights, early mornings, patting, rocking, swaying, humming, food on demand...a sore back.  I'll do anything for her. Anything at all. 
Ricky wanted the name Madeline at least three kids ago. I loved the name but shied away from it repeatedly because of the spelling and pronunciation confusion of Madelyn and Madeline. I never wanted to name a child something that would have to be corrected all of the time.

When Beatrice was born the kids and I pushed for the name Beatrice. We wanted our little "Baby Bee." It just fit her and the sunny June week she was born. I always liked the name Joy, because my children bring me so much Joy, but Ricky doesn't like it.  I loved the name Beatrice even more when I learned it meant bringer of joy and many blessings. That just fit so perfectly for how I feel about my children and motherhood. None of us can imagine her being anyone else. She is a vibrant free spirited, talkative, happy, joyful baby and child...with a gaggle of sunny / bee themed nicknames too. Ricky of course also loves Beatrice's name, but I clearly remember and will never forget Ricky saying that we could name her Beatrice but the next baby WILL BE Madeline. I even remember where he was standing outside and how he said it. I promised him Madeline. I could tell he was slightly disappointed that the kids wouldn't give up on Beatrice. I finally caved but couldn't talk Penelope into changing Beatrice's name to Madeline. She would have sobbed. And I'm so glad we kept Bea! It all worked out for the better. Beatrice fits our little Bea so wonderfully and Madeline SO fits our new baby! I really love saying it and it came to us all really naturally to call her Madeline. We however do not have a middle name yet. We have ideas but we need to see what feels right, and if something else jumps out to us. Even though we named this baby girl Madeline years ago we still tried out the name for over a week before announcing it officially. Beatrice called her Madeline for the first time a couple days ago and it was so precious. The trial period is over: we adore our baby Madeline.

Everett (5)  is still devoted to the name Blueberry. I told him that is fine. I asked Ricky about naming her Madeline Blueberry. He said no. Penelope and Aunt Sharon love it though. :)
Here's the funny conversation I had with Layla:
Layla (11): You can't name her middle name BLUEBERRY!
Me: Why not? Just imagine this sweet little girl with a basket in the woods or a meadow...she's picking wild flowers and her name is Madeline's SO PRETTY.
Layla: Eh, that's not real life Mom.


And for the record: I see our very own Penelope Juliet happily frolicking and picking tomatoes, strawberries, flowers, and plantain all summer long in her prairie dress and bonnet and she is just darling. So there. Real life. :)

Most of the time when we name our children something that's the name we want to use exclusively. The exception is Bea. We knew we would call her Bea and Beatrice. We were asked about Penny as a nickname for Penelope. It never crossed our mind. We named her Penelope. Penelope is called Nellie within our family but it's a casually used family nickname (given to her totally by Layla when Layla was three because she couldn't say Penelope very well). Near 99% of the time we all call her Penelope. To our surprise we were asked what Sebastian would go by when we named him. Well, he will go by Sebastian of course! The same happened with Charlotte. People asked if she would go by Charlie or Lottie. Um no. Charlotte is her name! We spend way too much time naming our babies to call them something other than what we actually name them. So no nicknames for Madeline, please.

We love her like this.

Penelope (9) and Beatrice (2) with baby Madeline (7 days)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

We decided to stay in for Halloween ...and I love my family so much.

The kids trick or treated twice before Halloween so we introduced the idea of staying in on Halloween. It was drizzly out and we just had a baby. We told them we could have fun with carving pumpkins, some games, and a pizza/ice cream/movie party instead. Thankfully they were all fine with it. Still, we know how much they love trick or treating (we do too!), and of course the candy sorting and candy trading that goes with it. The kids have been trading and sorting their candy all week long from other Halloween events and Trunk or Treat. It keeps them so busy! Even though they were fine with staying in we still felt a little bummed about not actually taking them out. Ricky had a great idea though... he bought a bunch of Halloween candy (like oh my goodness a ton of it) and he surprised the kids with indoor trick or treating. We have a lot of family members around here and he armed everyone age eleven and over with candy for their bedroom or bathroom station. (Layla wanted to help hand out candy.)

The younger three kids got dressed up (Beatrice was asleep). When they knocked at the first "house"  Ricky opened the bathroom door and I about died laughing when I saw he had put on the kids' shark towel last minute to be dressed up. Then he asked the kids questions like he didn't know them. I fell in love with him all over again. I love that after a really crazy and busy three days of postpartum craziness he still made Halloween so uniquely special for all of us.

I love this man.
Then we went upstairs to trick or treat Layla's bathroom door. We had all the lights off upstairs and the kids called it Dark Street.
We started calling the various rooms neighbors. They all got scared at Charlotte's room when she played some creepy Halloween sound maker with the lights off. Sebastian (7) wasn't expecting the creepy noises and screamed and fell down flailing around like a goofball. It was hilarious.

Then Sage's room, I mean house, was next.
 Sage opened the door and asked the kids to tell him their joke. We all laughed so hard at this. (It is a St Louis tradition to ask kids to tell you a joke when they Trick or Treat to your house. We are not from St Louis and do not embrace this tradition at all. In fact we find it super annoying and time consuming, though we participate grudgingly when we have to .)

Then at Ethan's door he had sat out a pumpkin on his "porch." Super clever and cute. Their older siblings are the best for trying to make it so fun and memorable for the kids!
Ethan's room
The kids went around to the "houses" again and Ricky opens up this time like this:

I am seriously amused by all of this. 

And the candy trading and sorting fun begins...

Updatey Stuff...
Day 4 postpartum ~ Sunday Nov 1, 2015
The weather is beautiful and so good for the soul! I am so thankful it will be in the 70's this week. What a treat to have the kids be able to go out and for me to be able to get some fresh air. I cried three times since the baby was born and that's not like me. The house is a little loud (ya think?) and between our busy month, birthday parties, our anniversary, Ricky working 12-14 hour days, crazy amounts of errands/appointments, the holidays coming, and finally a new baby ... I have been zapped. I was able to take several naps the past few days and they have been super beneficial. Ricky has been busy and so great taking care of kids and me, grocery shopping, errand running, Etc. It's been a really hard time actually! We were not very ready for baby yet. We have all done great overall though. Beatrice is really settling in now and sleeping better. She doesn't mind me caring for her baby sister and she is fawning all over her. This is still such a new time! The broken up sleep the kids had the night of the birth really whacked things out around here.

Day 5 postpartum ~ Monday Nov 2, 2015
Things are better and *almost* feeling normal again.

Bea was having a hard time but is now doing amazing! She was just sleep deprived and also missing my baby-belly which she rubbed every night to fall asleep! I woke up to her this morning cuddling with me and the baby. She stroked the baby's head for a half hour. As I nursed the baby and fell in and out of sleep Bea jabbered on and on to her baby sister in our dark bedroom. It was very sweet! 

Everett is extra, extra spazy and wild and that is the current challenge. Still so thankful for nice weather this week. Ricky has been really busy taking care of everyone and helping his weepy wife. He has been a trooper and everything I need. I love him SO much! I'm feel so much better now that I am caught up on sleep, not sore, and Bea is doing better. I was so exhausted and emotional about her being exhausted and emotional. 

I am really looking forward to a nice November and December where we slow down a bit and focus on family time and fun school days! In hindsight I was way too busy in Sept. and Oct.! But at least we enjoyed the fall! Ricky had to go into work today but I am feeling brave and rested. I can't wait for him to take more days off though. Now I need to go write up a plan for the day and chore list. I have loads of help but I have to go assemble my troops.
Sisters Bonding

Saturday, October 31, 2015

40 weeks (actually 39) Happy Halloween!

Last Saturday I was 39 weeks pregnant and I took these pictures just in case baby came before Oct 31, 2015. I had planned on taking them on Halloween but last weekend it was so pretty out and these vibrant orange trees were rocking fall colors near our house. That's why due dates are just guess dates, I could have actually been 40 weeks! :) EDD are not spot on, they are based on averages. Fortunately, I didn't wait to take these pictures until today as I had planned. (It's also cold and not sunny today.) Unfortunately though, we didn't do the belly cast on time. We were tempted when I was in labor, but seriously that won't work and would be impossibly uncomfortable. I am pretty bummed about it. This past two weeks that I thought about doing it I told myself that if it gets done it will get done, if not that's okay too... I was being greedy and waiting for a bigger belly cast by waiting! Haha!
Well it turns out I did care about not getting it done. Bummer! But, at least I have this self-done photo shoot! Fall is our favorite time of year! 

I kinda can't believe I'm actually sitting here posting this with my little pumpkin on the outside now! I'm actually more blown away now, three days later, than the day she was born. How fun! 
(But tiring given we are now carving pumpkins with the kids indoors and with a newborn!) 
Thank goodness we went to a Trunk or Treat last week and a big homeschool Halloween party. The kids are actually fine with staying in tonight and having a family pizza and ice cream party with old monster movies and some festive last minute Halloween games! (Forecast calls for rain tonight too.)

Happy Halloween Everyone!

 (We did group kid photos a day later so Ricky missed the family one above. We will try again with the new baby if we get a nice day and the leaves stay!)

Friday, October 30, 2015

New Baby Number Nine!

 Our New Baby! 
October 28, 2015 11:21pm 7lbs 1oz
(Am I good at these gender prediction dreams or what!?)

Day 1 October 29, 2015
We have a small cold floating around the house (no fevers thank goodness). Ricky's every bit as exhausted as me but with a sinus headache. The timing is not ideal, but we are all still in love and enjoying her every moment. You never, ever get that first newborn day back! Everyone age 11 and under woke up last night at some point and saw the baby and couldn't get back to sleep. We were up and down all night with various kids and a newborn. The various reactions of the kids were amazing and great. I will write about that with the birth story. The new baby fussed a lot last night and seemed uncomfortable her first eight hours. She nursed okay but got the real hang of it during the day. It's always  a marvel that they know what to do, or at least what to try to do in order to latch on. She loved being skin to skin with both mom and dad; she didn't really settle down until we put her on our bare chests as we took turns with her. I had her partly skin to skin, but once I took the blanket off her completely she was much happier. After she was about eight hours old she was super cozy, happy, nursing and sleeping/ waking in perfect intervals, and calm. She likes to swaddle in a loose wrap but gets too warm easily and wants her hands near her chin and face most of the time. I knew her hands were by her face in the womb. I could feel them constantly and I kept feeling that her head was probably not in an optimal position either. Her labor and birth proved I was right, it was okay but certainly not super optimal/easy. I love learning about new babies! You know so much so quickly about them. Just a day old and I know so much about her preferences already. People are such unique individuals, and babies are people too!

I had a good nap during the day today and I have been good about not being on my feet for more than 30 min at a time. I am trying a 2-3 hr break for every 30 min that I get up and about. I have been sore, a bit more than usual, mostly in a crampy way. I have felt like a postpartum woman more this time around. All births and postpartum experiences are different! I feel a bit like a new mother this time. I find myself wondering how new moms do it. I have done this before, I know what to do, what is coming, what I can expect. So in those aspects it is easier. I am currently feeling aware and in awe at mothers in general... what we do and how we do it. Having a toddler and a newborn again is so life changing...but I've done it many, many times. I suddenly can't imagine being a new and less experienced mom and feeling this tired, this stretched to her limit, all while healing, and going through all the changes in general. So overlooked are the little things that can wear on you greatly: getting up during the night, changing the newborn, using the bathroom/ changing your pad, dealing with pain, cleaning up soiled blankets, sheets, pajamas, and all while juggling a waking toddler and nursing a newborn. It can be so exhausting. (Even with the help from my supportive husband.) New moms are so amazing. Nursing can be hard, juggling toddlers and other kids can be hard, the lack of sleep can be hard, the healing can be hard (c section moms are heroes). I'm finding myself in awe at women who embark on this brave and selfless journey. How ever do we do it? We are so amazing!

After writing the above I saved the draft for later and opened up an enchanting book of poetry my friend wrote called Earthprayer, Birthprayer, Lifeprayer, Womanprayer. So fittingly this was the first poem I randomly opened to:

Prayer for Mothers 
The world needs you.
Sing your strengths,
dance your passions,
smile your successes.
Hug yourself with compassion
for your painful moments.
Take a second to drink it up
and to rest in powerful certainty
that you are enough.
Breathe out,
breathe in,
soft shoulders,
soft belly,
strong legs,
strong woman.
A mother who is seen,
who is heard,
who is appreciated,
who is valued.
In and out.
Mama, you’re amazing

I gave my family my usual 'I just had a baby' postpartum talk last night. This is where I explain just how important rest and help is for a new mom and how it could make ALL the difference with healing and breastfeeding, not to mention a happy and stable mother and baby unit. I also explained the placental site that is healing in my body and why rest and relaxation aids in healing and less blood loss. (At least the over six or seven year old crowd listens to me. Toddlers and preschoolers still act themselves lol.) Also, this is a good lesson in mothering biology!

I found myself in frustration over Everett's wildness several times. (Newly 5 years old...he can be intense, wild, not listen... you know, be a young kid.) After pleading with him to listen to me I finally told him that I had a baby come out of my vagina so he has to be nice to me so I can heal. I should really have a recording of the bizarre and hilarious things I tell my children. People tell me my older kids are such nice kids/teens, but perhaps they just know and fear that I'll say blunt stuff to them if they aren't good. Like, "Be nice to me, I just had a baby come out of my vagina." Hahaha. It worked though. He asked me about the baby coming out and I talked to him about it. For a moment it did get his attention and work.

We are recovering from a very, very busy fall season, a cold, and childbirth... I am focused on keeping our first few days as calm as possible. Not easy to do right now. Later on in the evening Everett cried and had a 30 min bedtime meltdown. He was over exhausted. This week is not how I imagined it at all! I am reminded so well right now that life is what happens when you are busy making plans! I was crazy busy and then bam baby came. I actually started to feel I wasn't going to make it until 40 weeks on Tuesday. Then by Wednesday night I had Ricky come home from work around 5:30 (instead of working late) because I felt like I did when Bea was born in 30 minutes. (A heavy, low baby head and super low, tight cervical contractions that felt super progressive.) We got all the kids to bed by 7:30 and I held off active labor (I think by sheer will power to get the kids ASLEEP lol) until around then. Things really picked up once they were asleep and I had her at 11:21pm. I'll type up her whole official story soon.

We'll give out more baby details soon in general. We like to get to know our babies before we name them. I'm always afraid we will change our minds and then have to tell everyone we changed it. We don't file a birth certificate right away, so we have a looong while to decide. The earliest we filed a birth certificate is two months and the latest 10 months. 

First night with baby. He is actually falling asleep sitting up with the baby. We were so tired! Dads deserve credit and love too, care-giving for mom and kids is hard work too.
Day 2 Morning October 30th 2015
What a difference a day makes. Ricky is feeling better and I am too. I am getting around comfortably and despite another long night of newborn fussing and Bea going to bed too late I feel pretty good. I know I still need to take it easy, but it was nice to move around this morning without cramping or feeling so wrung out. Beatrice is having fun but she is adjusting too. She misses my round belly and even told me to get it back. I thought this was going to happen. When she is tired she wants her daddy to hold the baby and not me. And she wants me back with the baby belly she loved to snuggle against... it's an adjustment. She is enjoying the baby though and is super cute telling her that she loves her so much! We have never had a toddler miss me so much as I cared for such a new baby, and this is only day two! Beatrice is a very sweet girl with a larger than life personality and her and I are close. She also gets loads of attention and love from everyone in the house.  I know we'll all get through this quickly. We must learn new routines and that's hard for every single one of us. The giant toddler morph has also occurred. Every day this past couple months Bea truly looked bigger and bigger to me, but it's nothing like when the newborn actually arrives! Giant Bea is here... she is just so heavy and big now. Since she is super articulate, bright, and verbal for her age it makes her seem all the older!
This little new baby has a mighty, mighty, wailing, screeching cry. Beatrice never cried so this is different. We seriously never heard Bea cry hardly ever at all! She would whimper and then get her needs met and she never cried. This little one is a screamer if we are not careful! She settles down fairly easily though. I am in awe at how loud this baby can get in no time at all. This may make night time a real challenge to keep Beatrice asleep if her baby sissy is a screamer! Today we used a swaddle me blanket on the new baby and it really helped settle her after nothing else worked. Beatrice loved them when she was a baby. I really believe the first few days or weeks sets the tone for the baby, so Ricky and I are trying to keep all the calm in the house we can! One really, really hard thing is that the baby wants to be held up, not really laying down with me. So the whole 'rest with baby' thing is non existent. She doesn't want me resting with her. She wants me sitting upright or walking with her. Little stinker. I think once milk comes in fully she will relax a lot. I think that is what she is waiting for. She is nursing like a champ and for hours on each side at a time. I am staying hydrated and eating lots of good food.  
Just now said in cute curious voice tones between the 5 and 2 year old as Beatrice is holding the baby:
Everett: Is the baby two yet?
Beatrice: Not yet!

Oh! And speaking of Everett, he does call the baby Blueberry. It is totally the name he chose and he continues to stick with! It's really cute. I was in bed with her when he tried to get into bed with us at 4am. When he saw I was holding a baby his tired eyes adjusted in the shadowy bedroom and I could see his bright blue eyes light up like stars. He smiled so huge and exclaimed in a quiet, surprised voice, "Blueberry is here!? Oh blueberry you came out!"  I told him that she was a girl and he was really happy she was a girl.

So much love ...

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Blessings for Birth and Motherhood

Support, laughter, love, sisterhood, friendship, being seen, being heard, being valued as a mother and woman...

Those are the things I was given at my most recent mother blessing. Some cherished old friends of mine, many driving from afar to be with me, threw me an impromptu mother blessing last week. Stars aligned and it just happened to work out with only three days notice for the five of us to get together! I dearly thank Molly, my long-time best friend, for throwing it together so last minute.

38.5 weeks baby-belly and counting... gathered together for sweet blessings for me and baby!
I originally had the background and playing baby-Tanner cropped out but decided I love my home and friend's baby taking up some of the photo. This is motherhood.
 A mother blessing is a celebration of new life, womanhood and motherhood all rolled into one fantastic, celebratory, inspirational, and often creative event. The focus is more on the transition into motherhood and is supportive in nature, rather than a baby shower which is thrown as a party with games and baby gifts. At a mother blessing support is offered in preparing the woman spiritually and emotionally for the event of childbirth and beyond. I was especially touched at the offering of support and acknowledgment after all these years, all these births, and all these kids. I was told that this baby matters and I matter. I was reminded and joyfully honored that each birth and each baby is unique, and I am transformed into a new mother with each one! I admit it is usually easier every time, because with experience we all tend to gain new knowledge and confidence, but I'm still a human being. I still carry a brand new life and will birth that life. I bring forth a brand new individual that will always be an individual, with individual needs that will be hard to meet sometimes. I'm still a woman and mother who is ever changing. This is my special journey. Each mothering journey is a new path carved in the labyrinth of my life. I appreciate the energy my mother blessing celebration took on in regards to that. I also appreciated the confidence others have in me and how they shared that. It's actually a great balance. It is easy to pass off a woman with nine kids as 'been there done that.' It is easy for me to pass off myself as being there and having done that. While that still may be partially true and inspiring, it's also true that life, birth, motherhood, and womanhood are all so much more complicated and sacred than that. I might be an old hat at this, but even old hats have to be cared for... maybe even more so, as my friend Molly eloquently pointed out to me. 

Having a small mother blessing provided a nice opportunity for a bit more chit chat and sharing than we usually have time for with a larger group, and it parred well with our usual ceremonial events. I had the most lovely, inspiring, uplifting afternoon! (I missed Charlotte, my oldest, who had to work that day. She had never missed a mother blessing of mine until now.)

Pampering rose petal herbal foot bath and friends' babies discovering the warm water. I was delighted at their joyful playing in the water. I actually thought to myself  'I feel so alive and inspired around babies, it's where I feel the most comfortable.' Sometimes we have kids at mother blessings and sometimes not, but we always have nursing babies! And look how sweet they are!

Labor/birth candle collage we made for me, an inspirational group craft.
 In the past we have done group projects like: jewelry, belly henna, wreaths, birth prayer flags, painted belly casts... the sky is the limit with the creativity!
Some of my motherful treasures! Pampering gifts of herbal teas, hand thrown pottery, sisterhood bath salts, seashells, motherhood dolls and trinkets, handmade with love items, a tea ball with charm, pampering oils and soaps.
A well loved mantra and song at many of our blessings, Woman am I, Spirit am I. Mother blessings can include creative crafts, a floral head wreath for the honorary mother, belly casting/painting/henna, gifts, stories, working through fears, prayers, blessings for baby and mom, songs, and lots and lots of friendship and support! (And a pot luck feast!)

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Pregnancy Post 36 / 37 weeks

Bea (2) was hugging my belly and telling the baby she loves the baby:
Me: What do you think the baby's name is?
Beatrice: Baby's name my friend!
This child is seriously cute and sweet and obsessed with the baby in my belly. She asks to see the baby all of the time. She claims the baby can't see and lifts my shirt up. She closes her eyes and hugs my belly and nuzzles into my belly. She totally gets that there is a baby in there. She confirms with me the baby is growing still. She tells me the baby will nurse. She is just totally in love with my growing belly, the idea of the baby joining us, and he fact that this baby already has a place. At nap or bedtime she tells me she is sleeping or holding the baby and she cuddles right in. I've never quite seen anything like it. She is very, very sweet and very excited. Oh in fact, now she actually asked to 'lay down with baby' when she is tired. This means she wants me to lay with her in my bed and she wants to nap with me and the baby belly. haha. So cute!
Baby Dream
For months I have been waiting for The Baby Dream. This would be the gender prediction dream I have that so far has always, always, amazingly been correct! Even with Everett at one point I thought that maybe he might be a girl, but then I had a very prominent baby boy dream and I was sure after that he was really a boy. Penelope (9) has been waiting and asking for months about my baby dreams for this pregnancy! I told her there were no dreams and she reassured me that it would probably happen in October. 
In the meantime all three of my daughters and my sister Heather had dreams I was having a girl! I told Ricky I thought girl too but I hadn't had any real signs yet. On October 1st Penelope woke up and excitedly asked if I had the dream. It was so cute! But I still had not! As October got started up there were quiet nights and pretty boring dreams. This wiggly somewhat of a mystery baby has been camped out, stretching and outgrowing my womb day by day, bumping and thumping, twirling and whirling... but still inspiring no dreams.  Then sometime last night, in the dark hours of the best slumber there is (3-6 am) I had a dream! It was pretty realistic and had all the realistic features of past gender dreams I have had. Maybe it will be right or maybe wrong...but my track record is so good! In the dream I sat up on our bed and cradled a newborn baby in a soft blanket, I placed her on the bed and Ricky stood over us. He was doing something near the closet in our bedroom, but still he was over me. I got the sense that the baby was brand newly born and we had just moved into the bedroom from the bathroom. All wrapped up in a neutral colored gauzy blanket (I think grey) I gazed at the baby and asked Ricky if he had looked at what sex the baby was yet. He said no and I said I would look. In the dream I was prepared for a boy for some reason, thinking I bet we had a boy because I thought we would have a girl. And then there she was, a tiny perfect naked newborn girl. As I swaddled her back up I told Ricky I was so happy and that she was a girl. In the dream I said with a sense of completeness, "This is way it is supposed to be."
A couple weeks after the dream I made check-ups for the kids in order to keep them established at our doctors office and decided to go ahead and make one for the new baby in the upcoming future. Making 11 appointments all at once is a long process. Our doctor's office has lots of large families (and homeschool families) so they are a little used to it, but it's still a circus making the appointments and getting everything straight. I have to write down everyone's birth dates in advance because I am bad under pressure on the fast quiz of birth years! That's right, I need a cheat sheet!

The office wanted/needed the new baby's name to input into the computer, or suggested I just call and schedule after the birth. I didn't want to schedule after the birth because I wanted a block of appointments together. They wouldn't use my suggestion of "new baby" as a name first name. I thought it was good idea and funny, but nope that's not a name. So I gave them our main girl name. It felt oddly satisfying to use our girl name! And like I was telling a secret out loud. Perhaps this day I just tempted fate too much though!

The doctors office needed a birth date too. I tried my due date, but the computer had a problem with an in-the-future date. We ended up having to use a random October 20-something date. Obviously we can change it later.

I feel very at peace if this baby is a boy or a girl. So dear future baby reading this: we love you already no matter what you are and know you will be a perfect fit for this great big family of ours. We are all so excited to meet you! Even though I have done this so many times and I can still hardly believe you are here to be with us! I can't believe I am a mother to so many sweet children! How is this my life?

37 weeks... I was all in the mood to take a picture of my HUGE belly and show everyone just how BIG I got over the past two weeks and then I looked at this photo and I'm like, eh... I'm small. Looking down at my own belly and trying to get out of bed I seem so much bigger. The baby is a wiggly one finally. He or she started out so quiet. Now feet and legs are busy and pokey as can be. I really love this stage.

Monday, September 21, 2015

September: Talk Like a Priate Day Fun, Fall is Here, Baby Countdown, Birthday Season

We celebrated National Talk Like a Pirate Day at Krispy Kreme and had so much fun. If you go to a participating location and talk like a pirate on Talk Like a Pirate Day you get a free glazed donut, but if you go in dressed like a pirate you get a whole dozen glazed donuts. (EACH person dressed up gets a dozen donuts.) I had wanted to take the kids in the past but we never made it. Sept 19 this year (the official talk like a pirate day) landed on a Saturday, a perfect day for a family outing! As luck would have it our family has an unusual amount of pirate gear on hand. It's pretty hilarious (and ridiculous) that we didn't even use up all of the stuff we had at home and could have costumed at least a couple of more people!

Unfortunately Charlotte (18) had to work that day and Bea (2) was sleeping in the car, so they missed the group photo. I woke Bea to go inside but I wanted to get the photo done before I woke her up just in case she was a cranky mess. She was kinda groggy but enjoyed her donuts and all the commotion. The shop was pretty busy, but in a fun way. We got our 8 dozen donuts (we shared a dozen with Bea, she did not need her own) and even snagged up two tables.

A box of golden treasure for me mateys!
What did we do with 96 donuts? We ate them all weekend long. Some of us regrettably and some not so regrettably. I swore I would never eat donuts again after day one, but then had another one on day two. Ha!

 Fall is Here! 
Charlotte works at a grocery store bakery decorating cakes and she worked her way up to lead decorator over the summer! (I'm so proud!) There is this fabulous and fun lady named Fran that heads up the produce and floral department. Charlotte and her hit it off from the start. Fran totally reminds us of our Grandma Wanda with her green thumb and spunky, hardworking attitude. After Charlotte had been there a few months Fran told Charlotte, "They need to let me have you in produce. I like you, you are no nonsense!" That just cracked me totally up! We love Fran and she's funny without trying to be. She's also always smiling. Charlotte quickly became a valuable asset at the grocery store as they learned what a hard worker and how reliable she is. When some coworkers quit for various reasons she actually became the only person in the bakery department! Just eighteen years old and running it ALL herself! She has worked really hard and a lot of hours when they needed her the most. She has been appreciated and compensated by management and the store owner. It's been a great experience, and I'm so proud of her!

It's super handy having Charlotte working at a store, too! They sell straw and when a bale busts open Fran tells Charlotte we can load it into trash bags and take it home to our animals. When 47 mums needed to be moved because better stock was coming in and they need some TLC Fran told us we could have them for .50 a pot. We asked to buy some bulk apples but some "bad" ones came in that they can't sell  (they are still totally great just spotty and needing TLC!) so we got them for $7. Super awesome!
 Time for pie! I LOVE pumpkins, but apples are the real stars of my fall. Canned apple pie filling for all winter long. The kids eat it in their oatmeal too. Ricky likes apple butter.  (If I have the time I'll process twice this many. I have never had the time though.)

When we went to pick up the mums Fran saw Ricky for the first time. As he began loading them into our 15 passenger van she said in a really funny and friendly way, "Are you the one responsible for all this?" Then she looked at the mums, the kids, and me with my pregnant belly. It was really funny.

The mums just needed a little TLC and a lot of water! These kids happily helped me trim every single dead bloom off of them too! We all had so much fun. The mums will bloom again soon! It only took all of us a half hour and even Beatrice helped! Now to plant if I don't have enough to do already!
 Fall is off to a great start. I have so many plans and there is no way it is seriously all going to happen. My little pregnant brain is floating on a cloud of oblivion. I think it's totally hilarious that my to-do list before October 31st (Halloween is baby's due date!) is out of control ridiculous, in like, the most ridiculous way ever. As long as I know it's ridiculous I think it will be okay when more than half of it doesn't get done.

Speaking of Fall: Turkeys!
Just a random pointless update that I still LOVE raising turkeys. I keep wanting to sell them and might sell a few holiday birds for next year. We are still wanting to move to more land when we can and then I'll have one hundred turkeys. Well, maybe. :)
I call the really big one Thanksgiving.The small red ones won't be butchered until spring, the bigger black ones will be butchered this fall.
Everett turned FIVE years old on the 21st of September!
He's a super spunky wild kid that has a super sweet tender side too. He's really smart but also 'checks out' sometimes. I use play dough with him a lot. He has to keep his hands busy at home. He likes structure and needs loads of play, but wants us to play with him. when he is being spacey and imaginative we say that 'Everett World' must be a verrry interesting place! lol. He's really imaginative and impulsive. He has an alter ego named Bobby Henderson. (He made up ALL by himself!) He has always had an unhealthy relationship with risk fear of heights for the first several years of his life, seriously into fire/fire men/fire trucks, and even bull riding. He scared me when he ran across the street without warning a few months ago. He then declared happily to me, 'I made it!" as I stood there flabbergasted and frustrated. I now know that Sage and Ethan and their young and wild boy-ness was just preparation for dealing with Sebastian and Everett. Boy, I have learned a lot about boys. In hindsight, Sage and Ethan were easier! 
I asked Everett if he thinks the new baby is a boy or a girl:
"I think the baby is a girl because I love girls! And I will name her Blueberry when she is a baby, and when she is a grown up I will call her Grape."
He has wanted to name her Blueberry for a while. I told him that while that might be cute for a baby it won't be that cute of a name for a grown up to have, and Blueberry will be a grown up someday. Thoughtfully his solution is that she can go by "Grape" as an adult. My sweet wild child.  

Baby Countdown & Birthday Season
September 30th we celebrated Charlotte's 19th birthday.

 Nineteen years ago in September I was laundering baby diapers, clothes and blankets while pregnant with my very first baby. I had no idea what to expect but I loved her already. She was the baby that opened up the path I would take in life, deciding the moment I saw her that I wanted to shape my entire life into being a nurturing mother and "housewife." (Yes some of us do really like being housewives and don't mind the term! And that's okay.) When she was about two years old I was sure that I wanted six more children. Boy, I had no idea what I was in for! I stopped to snap the photo below as I was feeling very blessed that on my oldest daughter's 19th birthday... I was laundering some newborn baby laundry. I'm in amazement and wonder. Charlotte will have a baby sister or brother and they are 19 years apart. And I am a mother of an adult and a newborn, and lots in-between! I got to do *this* with my life and I'm so thankful.
35 weeks 4 days ~Washing newborn baby diapers and blankets so they will be nice & clean
on whatever day this baby decides to arrive.

Birthday Season and Baby Countdown
Two birthdays are left in this years birthday season! Birthday season officially starts in August with Layla's birthday on the 1st and Sebastian's birthday on the 23rd. In September Everett has a birthday on the 21st and then Charlotte on September 30th. As we head into October Penelope celebrates her birthday on the 17th (just one day after our anniversary). The next birthday in the birthday season line-up is yet to be determined...will we have an October or a November baby!?! Your guess may be as good as mine! I think November 2nd sounds promising. Or October 25th...or October 31st, or November 6th, or...or...?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Beach Vacation

Family Picture Gulf Shores 2015 ~8 kids and a baby on the way
Our beach trip was great. There were ups and downs of course... I somehow actually expected everything to be perfect and it wasn't (I know go ahead and laugh), but it was totally okay and I did not have my expectations ruin the trip in any way. One day it rained, two days were super duper windy but we had some beach time anyway, one day there were horrible biting flies, one day was pretty perfect. It was interesting comparing the things we liked last year and this year as well as the things we didn't like. The trips were at the same place with totally different pros and cons! I realized the crappy spring weather we got last year was made up for in other ways during that trip. Crawfish and frog leg feasts, for example, were out of season in September but not in April. While both trips were quite windy, the fall trip had MUCH warmer weather and water. Anyway, what I'm actually trying to say is that it's great to have perspective!
You know what WAS perfect this year!? I finally got my family photo on the beach (see above) and I am a very happy momma for it! We haven't had a good one on the beach since Penelope (8) was a baby (see below). I was thrilled. Last years picture was so windy that my hair was standing on end. See. 

Mexico 2007
 I dubbed our trip the 'fun animal trip.' We saw two sting rays in the ocean (Ricky and Charlotte found them while snorkeling and Ricky stepped on one!), some of us saw dolphins, we collected up sand dollar and small crab critters. We made 47 dollars in 'sand money.' We let them all go back to their home in the ocean. Charlotte (18) caught a BIG crab in our swimming pool! That was really fun. She said it was scary. It kept looking at her and snapping it's claws at her. She had to get it from the bottom of the pool and it took her a half hour to wrangle it. The kids told us something was in the pool that looked like a crab and that it even pinched some of them. We didn't believe them! Poor kids! I checked it out after a few minutes and sure enough there was totally a crab in the pool.

Beatrice, only two, had a rough ride to Alabama. It took us 19 hours to drive there instead of a more usual 12. We were pretty calm about it, taking it all in good stride. Over the course of six days I flip flopped between going back next year or waiting three years before traveling that far again (until the new baby is three because we don't ever want to road trip with a two year old again). I flip-flopped a dozen times as if I had to make the decision right then. It's my nature. One minute I was ready to put down a deposit for next year and the next minute I was saying how we are having a stay-cation the next couple years. I think vacationing with kids is like giving birth, you need the reality of how much work it is to wear off before jumping in and doing it again!
A moment for just us

We spent a lot more money on vacation than we wanted to. (Doesn't everyone?) But we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Rolling into Alabama at 6 am after driving all night we wanted a nice breakfast. Breakfast at Cracker Barrel was $112 for us all, but it was worth every penny! We had such a lovely time and enjoyed each others company so much. We almost went to the Waffle House nearby but in the parking lot we decided not to. There was not much space inside at all and we were SURE to be gawked at. I suggested Cracker Barrel across the street because they don't bat an eye when an army rolls in. And sure enough they didn't. We were treated to breakfast royalty and the wait staff acted like a family with eight and half kids waddles in the door every single day. We had fun browsing the gift shop after breakfast which gave the kids more time to stretch out too. 

We shared the ever so lovely and spacious purple house on the beach with our friends and their kids. All of the kids got along so well and had so much fun. I couldn't believe how much fun! I expected normal kid stuff and for everyone to tire of each other at some point but it didn't happen. The beach house we shared is very spacious though so we were never right on top of each other. The kids and adults alike had lots of good fun. It was wonderful to have friends to vacation with, we have never done that before! We had a private pool too, so when the kids weren't swimming like fish in the ocean they were swimming like fish in the pool.

Ahhh that water, those waves, and kids. Love!!
With Friends
In the days leading up to vacation I had the normal tiresome job of packing and prep work. It is so much work getting all of us, the house, and the animals ready for vacation. I asked my husband WHY were were doing this vacation again and said maybe we should have stayed home. He said, "Because you said you have to have pregnancy beach pictures." I smiled, "And why do you give your wife everything she wants?!" Then he grinned and kissed me on the head. Those small loving gestures keep me falling in love with him over and over again. I love him so much...

And sooooooo my mini maternity shoot. 33 weeks pregnant on the beach, thanks to my dear husband...

On the way home Beatrice understood much better that we had traveled far to someplace and we needed to get back home to our animals. We timed our trip home carefully, made two stops before dark that were about two hours apart (one was at a park to play and one was dinner), and things went much better. She actually didn't even cry once (whined a couple times). She is an amazing child and once she understands something she seems to really understand! She talked about home being 'far away' while at the beach. Now she tells us the beach or purple house is 'far away.' She is very smart and cute.

In a total of 19 hours driving there and 12 hours driving home I pitifully only drove 3-4 hours of it. Ricky did all the hard work. On the way home this exchange was funny:
Me: I don't think I'm much of a road tripper
Ricky: I know you're not
Me: Well I like the idea of it but...
Ricky: You like the "idea" of winter too.
Made me laugh so hard.

I am extra glad he was able to drive all the way home because this baby belly is moving up quickly into my diaphragm and ribs making sitting harder. The baby is bouncing around in there like crazy when I sit straight up. I can breathe okay...but I am slowly noticing a big difference in that too!
Pulling into our driveway at 4am the first words I said were "Home is where the farm animals are." I missed our place a lot. I am always amazed how nice coming come feels. We were all awake getting home, and the kids (especially Bea) were so happy with our familiar home. There is something so cozy and appreciating about being home after a week of being gone! I had even put fresh new sheets on the bed before leaving on our trip so that we would come home to a clean and cozy bed.

Ricky and I barely remember anything as we all crashed out. When we woke up at 9am it felt like we all slept for just a half hour. It was so weird and hilarious! It was like we were gassed out. (Kinda scary to be out that cold with kids in the house though!) I woke up to the kids crashed out everywhere all over the floor, which isn't *that* unusual, but it seemed extra funny that Bea and Everett were sharing and sleeping on a body pillow in the hallway. They were out cold! I would have taken a picture but I was still too tired. 

Ricky hasn't stopped working 12-14 hour days since we got home. He's been quite busy for months now anyway, but there is a even larger price to pay for being out for a week! Plus he is trying to prepare for taking time off when the baby comes (due on Halloween!) and then the holidays will come fast right after that.  Things are good but also tired and a bit crazy around here. I got back into the swing of things quickly and picked right back up with housework the first week we were home, and then school work this week. Vacations are lovely...but trying to settle in again can be so hard. We are all excited for fall and it's all I can think about now.

Oh, I almost forgot one of the best things! Ricky told me he feels totally refreshed after vacation. I was so glad to hear that. He so deserved a nice trip and some downtime. He works very hard for his family. He swam in the ocean a lot (he loves to swim) and I'm so very glad it soothed his soul. I know what he means, got to spend an entire afternoon in the water with him and it was very rejuvenating. The winds kept me out the last couple days though. (I get cold easy.)
Can't wait for next year...