Life With Seven Kids

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...

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

31 weeks

31 weeks
This pregnancy is going by quickly! I find myself scrambling to enjoy this pregnancy and thinking up ways I can have weekly mini celebrations for myself as I close out the next nine weeks! I made a fall pregnancy celebration head wreath to wear already. I am taking online belly dancing classes (and signing up for a local one in October), I have started a list of must-get supplies for me and baby (waiting to purchase until October). I have plans to: do a belly cast, paint Beatrice's belly cast with Ricky (it is still just plain), color birth pages  and write affirmations on the back of them, go on a hike with the kids and tie prayers to a tree, and get pampered by my husband a bit! But ohmygoodness time is slipping away. I cannot believe it is September 1st and we leave for our beach vacation next week! When we discussed a possible beach trip for this fall I was very newly pregnant. The first thing I exclaimed to my husband was that I get to be pregnant on the beach and have beach-belly pictures. (I have never had belly-beach pictures! How fun!) Whenever I am getting ready to visit the beach I am pretty excited, but it is not until I am there that I can truly remember just how amazing the sight, touch, smell, and experience feels. Come to think of it,  it is a lot like having a newborn baby! Some experiences, no matter how fond and dear our memory holds onto them, are nothing like actually experiencing them all over again. I can't wait to feel the ocean's energy at my feet!

Life on Fast Forward
I started Oak Meadow with the younger kids this fall and although we have barely started we are loving it so much. I have wanted to dabble in this curriculum for years and years but I was too afraid. I realized I had way too many years left of being afraid and that I really just needed to take the plunge. I also am really tired of coming up with material on my own. I'm spread so thin. I wanted direction. I wanted help. There's some we add to it too, but having Oak Meadow be our focus has been simply wonderful. We have been sewing a bunch, finger knitting, working with clay, and keeping scrapbook journals filled with artwork and our schoolwork. Things seem to be really falling into place with the younger kids and this curriculum. The teens aren't complaining that they get to start school up after vacation. I am doing a mish-mash of stuff with them, but that is easier because they are largely independent learners and can pick and chose through many things I recommend to them easily.

 Ricky started a new job (at the same firm). As I mentioned we started a new school program and we are going on vacation. We are due on Halloween! We are in the middle of 'Birthday Season'. We have five kid birth days in three months ...and our anniversary. We absolutely LOVE fall and I am so looking forward to all the fall festivities as my belly grows. Whew! It's no wonder I feel like I'm on a Ferris wheel set on fast! (There have been some other not so happy things going on, like our air and septic system both needing major, major updates and repairs. Over the summer we also dumped thousands into repairs on vehicles...we have to take the bad with the good! Life happens.)

This baby is resting his or her head smack down on my bladder which makes cleaning house... and just walking in general pretty hard. Usually my babies are more centered on me with a lot more overall pressure and very low. I am walking a ton, staying active, crawling around on my hands and knees (scrubbing the floor is great for getting baby in a good position), belly dancing, and doing squats to all help optimal baby position. (I need to get to my chiropractor to check on/ align my pelvis, but since I don't hurt I have been so bad about taking the time to go in!) I'm not concerned about this baby's alignment, but I am aware of how to optimize my babies positioning in these last weeks!
Spinning babies is a great resource for learning about optimal fetal positioning for labor and birth.
See: The 3 Principles in Pregnancy Balance, Gravity and Movement! Positive principles to prepare for, and progress through, childbirth.

Nesting has started I think... I cleaned under the fridge yesterday (filthy!), I washed the silverware caddy out, I laundered the kitchen drapes, and cleaned nearly the whole (filthy!) basement, I washed the trash can inside and out (even the bottom). I sure hope the nesting energy continues. I feel like tearing the place apart (time to sort through fall wardrobe bins and paint the basement stairs)! This is all kinda bad timing because we leave for vacation next week! I sure hope vacation doesn't totally wipe me out. This mama is just getting started!

Out of nowhere I started getting baby-girl vibes. This happened last week. Usually by now I "know" what gender we are having through intuition/dreams. Amazingly I have never been wrong...yet! I'm not actually sure if I am sure...but I started feeling a girl. I think that I really, really do think baby is a girl but I'm afraid I'll be wrong and I've never been wrong! Yet!

I don't get scans so there are no opportunities for us to cheat and find out even if we wanted to. We truly love not knowing though! It's such a special surprise that Ricky and I just love sharing with each other and the kids. It makes the birth even more exciting and special to us. I love when the kids come down early in the morning and greet the fresh newborn baby. They marvel at the baby for a while then realize to ask, "Is it a boy or a girl!?!" Every where I go people ask me what I'm having. Most are truly surprised we don't know.   

Just because we don't do scans doesn't mean other people's experiences don't touch me. I actually teared up (like a few tears actually fell!) at this yesterday:

Charlotte, our oldest (18), is lead cake decorator at a bakery. Yesterday she got to make a surprise 'gender reveal' cake for an expecting mom. A lady came in with her *secret* ultrasound picture in an envelope and pleaded with Charlotte to not lose it as it was her only copy and she didn't even know her baby's gender yet! Charlotte said the lady was really cute about it and had a little toddler girl with her. The toddler wore the same 'Big Sister' shirt we had bought for Beatrice many months ago. After the lady left Charlotte opened up the photo. Charlotte was excited to find out the cute little toddler girl has a new baby sister on the way! Charlotte thought it was really special and fun to hold this secret. She did four stacked thinner layers of cake so that she could get more pink colored frosting inside of the cake. I totally teared up as Charlotte told me this whole cake/ultrasound story! I couldn't help it, dang pregnancy hormones! As Charlotte told me the whole story with excitement and sweetness in her voice - well it was just so sweet! I love that my daughter is so touched by the celebration of new life and feels happiness for others in such a touching and sentimental way. I love how much effort and time she puts into her work. She really goes above and beyond for people and wants their cakes to be as special as their event.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

When Babies Wean and Re-purposing an Ottoman

A New Bed for Beatrice
Beatrice was waking more and more at night as her co-sleeper got smaller and smaller for her growing baby self. I had a great idea suddenly. I re-purposed a large unused ottoman of ours that had storage inside of it and made it into a toddler bed! Beatrice got the bottom part and Everett the plush top part.

I feel like a genius, a free and cute bed! I lined it with lots of blankets for now but we could add a memory foam mattress pad later if needed. They LOVE their new beds in our room. Beatrice plays in her bed with her baby dolls and looks at books periodically during the day. It's SO cute! She is sleeping really well in her bed once we rock her to sleep in the evening. She has recently weaned (at 25ish months old). Gone so quickly are the care-free easy days of nursing to sleep...for both of us. I had been sadly counting down until I was to hit 20 weeks pregnant...because of nursing.  She was already nursing less and less naturally, but around 20 weeks pregnant seems the magic number my body tends to halt milk production altogether. She was on her way towards self-weaning and this of course progressed it. Some of my babies will keep on nursing through the milk decline and others stop completely. Both are hard life changing situations. If you have ever 'dry' nursed you know it's pretty awful and you start to go through a natural stage I call the mama cat stage... where you just don't want them nursing on you anymore. It's worse than fingernails on a chalkboard. Mama cats (and other mammals but mama cats I've watched) bite their young, growl, or walk away from their young when they don't want to nurse them anymore. I know the feeling! It's a very primal reaction and I am always so surprised how it feels. It's also so sad! She's my sweet baby! I don't want to growl at her! But that is what happens. I actually have made growling or frustrated sounds and felt like a mama cat wanting to get away. It's happened with the other kids too. My body just gets done, but my mind wishes it wasn't the end already. It's natural.

Weaning has been hard on her but not super hard. She mostly weaned herself thank goodness. But it's still a hard and different thing and a huge change for us both. Before things went totally dry she had gradually cut out all nursing except once at nap time, bed time, and sometimes at 4am. Once milk dried up she further cut out enough sessions that she eventually "forgot" how to nurse. This is natural and normal progression of weaning. She no longer sucks correctly which makes nursing super horrible and irritating for me and a bit confusing for her. She knows it was comfort and food. She knows it was warmth and love. She just doesn't understand why it's not the same. After a couple of minutes of awkward nursing she will usually ask for milk from the kitchen. If she doesn't stop on her own I have to make her stop nursing. Sometimes she willingly stops when I ask her to and other times she cries a little or a lot. Overall she has been my easiest to actually help wean. I had other babies hang on to the prospect of nursing, dry nurse, and cry and cry over the change. (Some started nursing again after a new baby came which was pretty sweet actually -though not without a new set of challenges.) Sebastian and Sage technically win the easiest and fastest weaning awards. They both just abruptly stopped one day and never wanted back on again. Not even out of comfort, habit, or when sick or hurt. Just pretty much like 'Thanks mom, nice to know ya! Bye now!" Interesting enough to later learn their personalities are VERY similar even now! (They are seven years apart in age.)

Starting about a month ago I became really grouchy, moody, tired, and felt so off. I was snappy at the kids and that is a huge red flag for me. Not just the normal stressed mom occasional snappy spell either... I mean it felt more like I was going to snap every 20 minutes and the kids seemed irritating/annoying to me over normal stuff. I was way less patient and dreading every day for a while. It's a "red flag" because I have learned that feeling that way often means my thyroid is under active. Also I felt depressy. Not fully depressed, but just kinda depressed and down. I take Armour thyroid so I had my blood drawn to check out my levels/dosage. The tests came back fine for the dosage I'm on. I later finally realized her big weaning transition coincided with this grouchy, moody, tired, "off" phase I was having. See: Sadness and Depression during (and after) Weaning at Kellymom.
Very interesting isn't it!?
I am feeling better now and Beatrice is too. She was also super cranky around the same time that I was. She of course wanted me to hold her a lot and I did. I told everyone in our house why she was cranky and that she needed extra love and patience but I didn't realize I needed that too! The acceptance period has now set in for the both of us. Her and I are finding new ways to snuggle and cuddle and we are learning new ways to soothe her when she is tired, hurt or upset. For a solid two years nursing was the cure-all for everything. Nursing is such a easy fix. It is amazing how fast nursing can solve problems. Tired, cranky, hungry, teething,'s the most magical thing. And now I have to pace the floor with her and actually get out of bed if she wakes up at 2 or 4 am. (So much more work ;) Overall though she is doing so great.
I don't feel sad, but if I think about how fast it went I can get sad real quick. She was such a fun, sweet nursing baby. She still is sweet and fun and my "baby." Look at her though: weaning, out of diapers, has a new bed, talking SO much, and has a new baby sister or brother on the way!

It's also quite natural that around this time I get a bit bummed that "I'm throwing her out of the nest." I started having the feelings that she is the baby and I want her to stay the baby.  True she won't be the youngest, but she's just two! She has not over welcomed her baby stay. She is still very much my baby. But, whether I like it or not she is growing up and is a big girl older baby now. A lot of women have guilt, sorrow, and fear about having another baby and "replacing" their baby with a fresher, newer model. Since I have done this many times this is what I have to say about that: Feel sad, afraid, overwhelmed, feel whatever you are feeling and just know those feelings will melt away and they are normal. Everything will be okay and you will love both babies the same and cuddle with them together and hold them together... and do motherful things you never thought physically or mentally possible with them. It is truly amazing what mothers do.

Beatrice has weaned completely since I started writing this post off and on for over a month. She is now falling asleep on the floor every night near us while we get the other kids ready for bed or while I read books to her. I move her into her own bed after she falls asleep and she sleeps all night! I am SO lucky! Not all babies/toddlers are this easy so quickly. I can't believe how many sleepless nights of toddler waking and weaning hardships I've had in the past years with other babies. I so deserve this break! Every child is different and their needs and personalities are too. I am enjoying sleeping ALL night long (most nights anyway) while it lasts!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Family Photos With Kids

Getting everyone to look at the same time in a photo has been more challenging than ever lately, and by lately I mean for at least a year. Not every photo needs to be perfect, the quirky off beat ones are great too, but I really do love a "perfect" photo at least twice a year.

I have wanted to do one of those kids in a circle photos for quite a while but hadn't yet tried it. Stock photo example:

At the botanical gardens I see this way cool yin and yang rock mosaic. I gather everyone up and explain what kind of picture I have been wanting and how this would be a cool spot.
They agree to try...

I don't take into account how hard the ground is, or that I am asking them to basically lay on rocks, or that I have nothing to stand on to even take an overhead shot. Oops. The younger kids are in swimwear because they were playing in water. So not only can they not lay down well, I would also really prefer a clothed picture anyway.
Layla's face is hilarious and she wails in discomfort, not even facing the right way. Everett has enough and leaves. I can't get Beatrice to lay down at all, she ran away a long time ago. I tell everyone to get up and that it's not going to work...

Once we admit defeat and give up Beatrice finally comes and lays down. Of course. haha.

There is this amazing bridge in the Japanese Garden that would be amazing for any photo occasion...

This would have been almost perfect if I hadn't had to tell Sebastian (6) to stop waving his hands around ...just as Everett (4) said, "I'm going to jump." Bhahaha. If you knew Everett this is totally him. And he was pretty much totally serious about jumping.
Big brothers spring into action and tell Everett not to jump, trying to get him to look at the camera. Meanwhile I actually holler to them not to move and "Everett won't jump." Which is actually only a 50/50 shot. He could jump... lol.
Big brothers know better and hold onto Everett. The moment has passed, Everett wiggles, and we have now lost Beatrice's attention. I say, "Why did everyone move apart so much?" And Charlotte's (18) expression and shrug is I love this.You can tell with her body language she is thinking, "Mom you have eight kids that's why..." LOL.

Next we found some sheep...
And that's a wrap.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

All Things With Faith and Love

When we were expecting baby Penelope (kiddo #5) Ricky was accepted into an intensive graduate program for finance at Washington University.

When we were expecting baby Sebastian Ricky graduated from the intensive graduate program and got his first job using his degree.

When we were expecting baby Everett Ricky changed jobs within the firm he worked for. He earned himself a position that was more fitting for him (but still not exactly what fit him best.) His new boss, who had six kids of his own, helped Ricky with his career in ways that we will always be truly thankful. He helped introduce him to people and recommend him to another department because he wanted to see Ricky use his full potential.

When we were expecting Baby Beatrice another job opportunity came along. Remarkably, his next new boss also had a large kids. Very fun to meet so many others with a large families.

We have joked that good things happen to us when we have babies. We have joked off and on over the years that we should just have another baby so he can further his career. We joked, and not really joked, because it is true. It kept happening. Remarkable things happen to us when we have babies. We grow as a family, as a couple, as parents, and in other ways. Everything aligns: faith, luck, hard all seems to come together. As we began our journey to large family living I often heard other very large families with 10, 12, 14 kids say that God always provides. Over the years I started to understand what they meant.

We are expecting a new baby this fall, the ninth blessing to join our home and lives, and Ricky is yet AGAIN going through a transformational period in his life related to his career. Staying within same firm that has been such a blessing to our lives, he recently had an amazing career opportunity. He starts his "new" job today. He gives 100% of himself at work and 100% of himself to us at home and I am so very thankful every single day of my life for such a passionate and hardworking man. I love him so much and know how much he loves us because he shows me everyday. I am truly blessed. I hope the children read this someday and know that their mother and father truly do support, love, honor, and cherish each other everyday. I hope Ricky reads this and knows that I know how hard he works, and that he does it for us, and that I am grateful for his dedication. Some people have told me that we make having so many kids look easy. I know what they mean, because so often Ricky makes taking care of us look easy too. It's not so much that it's easy. He works very hard. I of course work very hard too. We both get worn down, we get stressed, we get tired...really tired. I suddenly realized one day that it's not that it's easy, it's that we do all things with faith and love.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Magical Land of Trader Joe's

Yesterday I spent more money at Trader Joe's than I ever have at one time before. Dang you Trader Joe's with all your no hydrogenated, no preservatives, mostly natural bread, prepackaged biscuits, cinnamon rolls, sauces, rbGH-free creamy yogurt, and all that other food too that tastes so good... including the ever so random mahi-mahi burger samples with tartar sauce that tastes homemade!! I feel like I've stepped into another dimension of food when I enter that store. Much of it is fairly affordable, but then mahi-mai burgers happen their way into my cart. They have magical food I don't have to make from scratch because theirs is already that good. I even slowly flirt over the stuff I don't intend to buy, because most of their stuff won't feed a family of ten...even if I bought two packages! (Have you seen the size of their peanut butter jars? We would use that up in one day!

I used so much restraint yesterday putting down the lemon curd and stepping away.
This is like lemon pie in a jar. Or at least that's the fantasy I have.
And this:
This store makes me lose my freaking mind. I have to try this next time. I'm just too curious.
Their employees are also the best in all the land. They are always so friendly and helpful and HAPPY. Yesterday the guy checking me out was totally turning on the Trader Joe's charm and then asked me what I had going on as he hoisted 8 packages of British Muffins, 7 cans of all natural bake at home cinnamon rolls, 4 packages of mini bagels, and 3 gallons out milk of my cart (among many other things). I told him I have a lot of kids at home, and also some family coming to town too. He said that sounded fun and asked me how many kids I have. I told him eight with one on the way. He was super enthusiastic and friendly and said that was so cool. I only had Layla with me yesterday so he asked where the rest of the kids were and told me I need to bring them all with me next time so he can meet them. He asked if we homeschooled and then told me that he used to have a customer from St. Charles with 9 kids and he got a picture with the family one day and has it at his house.

Seriously, where do they find Trader Joe workers? They must have the best hiring and training in the world. I always love the people who check me out! They become my new BFF every time I shop. lol.

My new checker friend sees me shuffling around in my chicken purse to get out my wallet and asks me if I have a farm. (I have this big ridiculous chicken purse, like it's literally a rubber hen with a zipper. It tipped him off that I just might have farm animals haha.) I tell him yes we have an acre "farm" and we are currently looking for more land for us and our animals. He thinks that is so cool and wants to know about all our animals and if we butcher our own turkeys.

Then he calls his coworker over to meet me, "You have to meet this lady. She has eight kids, homeschools, and they have a farm with 11 turkeys, 2 goats, 35 chickens, geese, this lady is super mom right here..."

LOL. :) Before leaving he made sure to tell me again to bring ALL the kids back next time to see him. Too fun! I have actually been meaning to set up a homeschool field trip there for a while (they do school trip tours). This reminds me that I'll have to organize that for later this summer/early fall.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Happy Second Birthday Beatrice!

The kids were so excited about Beatrice turning two. It's seriously sweet and cute. I have heard non-stop about her birthday for two weeks. They made homemade cards and presents for hours the day before her birthday. Layla made Beatrice Bee-noculars! How cute is that?! Beatrice loves the song 'going on a lion hunt' where you act out going through tall grass, water, hills, Etc. Bee sometimes acts all nervous at the end when there's a lion. It's ADORABLE! Layla made her Bee-noculars to go with the hand motions to the song while looking for the lion.

Sweet quotes I caught the day before her birthday:
Sebastian (6) making Beatrice a birthday card:
 "I just made her a really sweet deal. Her birthday card has a dime and a penny in it, and now I'm going to put a nickle and a quarter in it."
Penelope (8) "I'm so excited it's Bee's birthday tomorrow!!" -She said this no less than 50 times!
Penelope (8): "I am so glad I'm a big sister."

Penelope wrapped the presents for her sister last week. Everett(4) insisted we needed a pinata, so at the local feed store I let the kids buy some candy by the pound. Not sure what we were going to use as a make shift pinata, but I kinda left them unsupervised with the candy and they ate most of it the day before her birthday. haha.

Charlotte (18) has been working in a grocery store bakery and she has been promoted to "lead cake decorator." Very exciting and fun! She has been given tons of creative freedom and is having a blast using her artistic side to decorate cakes and expand her decorating skills. I had never seen her make frosting roses before, and she made some under the beehive and they are SO great! This is one proud mom! When she left for work today Everett (4) told her how to make a bee themed cake for Beatrice. He's four, so you can imagine how he goes on and on, wheels turning a mile-a-minute. He is such an interesting, creative, and funny kid. He has the wildest imagination, too.
When Charlotte brought the cake home and showed Everett he excitedly said, "Exactly what I wanted!"

We had a big birthday bash last year. This year we had a relaxing family day celebrating our sweet Baby Bee.

 Beatrice LOVED her presents. I was very careful to pick things I knew she would just love. I mean isn't that always the goal? But I really tried to be careful because there are so many junk toys that kids don't actually play with, and some good toys they don't actually play with either! One thing I ended up buying her was a bee fork and spoon set because she loves small silverware and this was her reaction:
We also got her a barking/walking toy doggie, a bell toy that makes very nice sounds, a bee backpack, and a music player. She loves dancing and singing to music and this player really worked out to be cute. I read loads of reviews for hours trying to get something that would sound okay, be engaging/educational, and not be full of pointless noise. It really worked out to be a good one!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Life With Nine Kids!

Announcing *drum roll* ...ANOTHER BABY! I'm due October 31, 2015 (On Halloween, how fun!) He or she will likely be our first November born baby, but you never know until they get here. If born in November, we'll have six months of back to back kiddo birthdays (Aug. through Jan.)! Beatrice is the only child not born in one of those months.

This is shaping up to be an interesting year with many, many adventures and changes for us!
 Beatrice is head over heels for babies. She will be two in five days and we are having SO MUCH fun with her. I remember all too well our other toddlers joyfully welcoming newborn babies into the family. Knowing her spunky, sweet, caring personality makes me extra excited she will be a big sister! She is a load of fun and totally acting two.
She is so full of life, love, and curiosity. And, she also screams. :)
She says "Mommy, Mommy pleeeease" in an amazingly sweet toddler voice when she wants something and it's pretty killer-cute.

Life in a Big Family
 All of the kids are so excited about the new baby. When I told Charlotte she jumped up and threw her arms around me hugging me excitedly. I was really, really touched that this 18 year old "kid" didn't see her mom and dad as being too overextended to have another baby to love and cherish. I actually cried I was SO touched and it was also reassuring that we are doing a good job. Our days are filled with a lot of love, but also a lot of work. Living in a large family is quite a lesson in selflessness for all of us. Meal times are hectic, groceries disappear three days after they arrive, showers turn cold if not staggered, dishes are washed around the clock, gas is expensive wherever we go. Someone always needs me. Someone is always running through the house. Depending on the kids' ages and stages we'll go through periods of time where it seems like somebody is always crying. The youngest kids are always in the fridge, running around, or asking somebody to play something with them. Everyone shares almost everything. We sweep floors 3-4x daily. We raise our hands if there's too much talking going on and another person needs to say something. (Beatrice has seen her siblings hand raise and started raising her hand and walking up to me to show me she is doing it too! It's very, very cute!)

I'm an experienced mother (which makes things easier each time), I'm a good mother, I'm a confident and empowered mother, but I'm still very much human. I still question, doubt, and struggle. I still have good days and bad days. I still learn. I still worry about if I'm doing a good job. There isn't a time that we aren't expecting a baby that I don't ask my husband why I think I'm good enough to do this again, and if we are taking care of the kids well enough to spread ourselves thinner. He says it's probably really good moms that worry and wonder if they are good enough.

I am of course busy, so I sometimes forget to do things I say I'll do: sew something for someone, make an appointment, mail something, or give someone a hair cut that has been asking. Our kids are so patient and forgiving though. One of the negative implying questions you might get with a big family is: How can you have time for ALL of them? Besides the obvious fact that we love them and don't have any other option other than to take care of them and make time for them, we also all roll with the punches. It's understood that we all do our best and we have to have patience. We know there is a bigger world in front of us than just ourselves. We respect each other. We make the time if we have to, and we get creative with it too. Homeschooling helps a lot. The kids are actually always around me. Most of all, Ricky and I structure our life around our kids -not them around us.

It's neat to to see that the kids are totally happy to add another love-bug of a baby to this life of ours, even if it means we all have to think of another little person sometimes instead of ourselves. I remember when it was Everett, Sebastian, and Penelope who were the babies. They could melt tears away from sad siblings with a goofy smile or dance, they could change bad moods in cranky preschoolers or moody teenagers, and oh how they make us laugh! Beatrice is constantly making everyone laugh and smile. It is really special how much love she adds to our life. All of the children and teens add such specialness. Seeing the children and teens interact with each other, play together, share together, work together, problem solve together, and dream together is a priceless gift. We feel like we haven't just given them the gift of family though, we feel like we have taught them to cherish children and that children are worth the work. Kids come first. Kids matter a lot.

When you break it down we only have: three big kids, two medium kids, and three small kids. Easy enough. ;)
It's not always that simple, beautiful, and easy; it's also really quite expensive, exhausting, messy and hard. What is amazing is that when each new baby arrives it's like they never weren't with us. I don't know why it amazes me each time but it does! You'd have to be crazy to have so many kids, but for us, it's a good kinda crazy.

There was a special nostalgic moment early this spring I had been wanting to write about. I was at the park with the five youngest kids. When it was time to leave I was loading up a toddler, preschooler, and the elementary aged kids into our van. I was being asked for: snacks, water, what was for dinner, when will daddy would be home, could we have ice cream, and I heard someone say they dropped their toy. It was chaos, everything happening at once. I fetched water from the front seat because some of them were certain they were going to die of thirst. After I had the littlest kids buckled into their seats I just looked at everyone and froze. I took in the craziness as kid voices filled every space of the van. I just stared at them for a moment. My heart rate was up from chasing Everett into his seat, loading up kids, a stroller, a picnic basket, a diaper bag. My heart thumped on, I felt tired but accomplished. I had a sudden and totally nostalgic feeling of when I was doing this with these five guys:
2008~ When there was five~
I became overwhelmed with gratitude that Ricky and I had the bravery, faith, craziness, and riskiness to keep growing our family. I looked at the young faces in the back of my van that day at the park, a van that now held more than twice as many people as our past mini vans did. I had such an amazing flashback of the kids in the picture above from 2008. I actually whispered to myself aloud as I climbed into the drivers seat, "I am so lucky I still get to do this. I cannot imagine not doing this still." I felt amazing gratitude.

I saved the following comment a while back from a dad of seven about large families. My heart smiled when I read it. I thought this post would be a nice place to keep it:
"I had 7 and loved every minute of it. Oh sure, we shopped at only the most exclusive garage sales, drove 5 year old vans, and built large utilitarian homes with 3-6 bathrooms, but it lasted so briefly and now they are all gone with many children of their own.  The flashlights work, the car has gas every time, there's milk; the house is clean; and I'm bored. What a riot it was..."

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

My First Turkey Tractor...I made it myself!

My poor husband is swamped at work and then swamped at home with us. He's the best. I don't know how he does it. Something I am impressed with is how he comes home every day completely happy to see us...I told him I'd run away if I had such a demanding job AND wife AND kids (we are pretty demanding too) at my heels at the end of a 12 hour work day. He just laughs at me and looks at me sweetly. I seriously love that man. :)
But he can't do everything. The list of home repairs we have around here is insane. Many of them pretty important, like how he just fixed our air conditioner last weekend.  I have been trying to find some things that I could do for him to help his load. One thing on his ever growing to-do list is building a chicken/turkey tractor. It's a moveable pen so that they can be on pasture. Some birds aren't a problem but young ones especially can be. We have been having increasing problems with our farm animals wandering over to neighboring houses. It's something we are working on. It's tough having a 1 acre mini farm -we so need to move but that's a whole other bag of worms. We have three Standard Bronze turkeys that have been living in the chicken pen and now are big enough to be let out in the bigger grassy area. I'm afraid they could fly over the fence though, and the one smallest one could definitely slip through the woven wire fence. Once these three are fatter they won't be able to fly and they can be out of the turkey tractor full-time. This is the breed I love the most, they waddle over to you so happy like puppy dogs.

So yesterday afternoon I tried my hand at building our very first small tractor. Everything I used we already had. Some of the kids even helped out making it a learning adventure for all of us. Ricky came home last night when it was a little more than half done and he was SO IMPRESSED! I was so thrilled at his reaction. He also marveled at how sturdy and light (but not too light) it was. I am NOT a builder at all. While I am crafty and creative (especially with kid stuff) I have a really hard time building something from scratch. My brain does not work that way at all. Over the years I have learned a lot from watching him build stuff so I had some idea of how he puts stuff together. I looked online for simple inspiration and then I TOTALLY DID IT! I have gotten much better at constructing over the years I must say.

We had everything on hand. Everything we used was re-purposed from another project. (The only thing that was new was the staples in the staple gun.) The frame is thin so it is light, we re-purposed plastic garden fence, we used old screws from old wood fencing, the shade/rain tarp is an old table cloth. The teens are so happy it is lightweight. The chain link dog kennel we used last year was brutally heavy! (But it was bigger so we had to move it less often!)

Salad bar!