Life With Nine Kids

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Manhattan Toy Company: MiO Doll House Review

For Christmas I searched high and low for dolls and furniture to compliment our empty old wooden dollhouse. The original dolls and pieces had been long gone for years. I really didn't care much for the same old doll house stuff that had been circulating around for years. I really couldn't find anything else though. I was about to give up when I saw this on a Google image search I did for dolls and doll houses:
Hello cute people. Why are you so round and cute!?
And then...


I learned they are called MiO, I visited The Manhattan Toy Company's website link and found a new little world waiting for me. The soft little bean bag bodies looked perfect for younger kids to grip and play with, and especially to set down and stand upright It's very frustrating for a young child when the toy they are playing with won't stand up. I noted right away there were various open ended ways the houses and other materials could be manipulated. If these toys sparked creativity and imagination in me, imagine what a child would think! I was finally excited! At first I thought I'd just get the little soft people, but it didn't take long for me to convince myself that I needed to keep our regular wooden dollhouse in storage a bit longer and embark on a brand new play adventure for our family.

Plus, I saw this:
Tree house with a tire swing! Just take my money now.

If you subscribe to their emails they give you a 20% off coupon. Cool deal! As soon as my order arrived I wanted to see those little people! They were indeed cute! Later the evening, when the kids were sleeping, I played with the new toys. I was very pleased with everything. I sat on my bedroom floor testing them all out while telling my husband repeatedly to keep coming in to look at what I had made. It was hilarious! On Christmas morning the kids loved them!

I noticed right away that this wonderfully fresh toy is about play as much as it's about set up. With so many other doll houses my kids only seemed to enjoy setting up. However, the tree house, the homes that change from one to two story (or more!), the car and trailer, the roofs that can double as tents for camping, the various people and animals, and even the trees and blocks, they all provide so many ways to create, play, and story tell. I notice that with these we are telling a story as we build.

One thing we added to the set, which was not from The Manhattan Toy Company,  is a stacking rainbow. See the curved wooden pieces? It's a wonderful add on.
(Watch the price though and look for deals. They are usually $19.99, but are $34.95 right now.) 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

December 2017: The Decade Dames and Christmas Eve!

This month has lasted forever but in a good way! I feel like I've really gotten to be present with my kids and we have done a lot together! I'm so grateful were able to fit in almost everything we wanted to do before Christmas. We had fun hibernating at home for most of the month. We had friends over a few times. We did lots of crafts. We also made and painted salt dough ornaments, baked several batches of cookies, decorated candy graham cracker houses, and re-decorated the entire Christmas tree not once but twice! (Madeline pulled it over once and then we decided to buy a new one that was on clearance at Target) Beatrice (4) had a Christmas performance on December 16th at pre-school. Ricky's parents were able to drive out for it. Lastly, we took a leap of faith by calling a contractor to give us a quote on finishing our basement and adding a massive two story sun room and patio to our house. We still want to move rather desperately but we cannot find anything that fits. The quote came back and it's in the works as a maybe. One huge change we have had lately is that we got rid of all our chickens and ducks. We don't have time for them. We are working on re-homing our goats but have not been successful yet. We are downsizing because we have too much to do and just can't keep up.
Waiting for the hard butter soften. She was so cute waiting.
What ever shall a bored girl do when the butter
is not already pre softened?

December was a great month! I can't possibly find the time to write everything I'd like, but I need to highlight some things that important to me while I can though.

Snicker-doodles for daddy! His very favorite. 

Thanks for the tree knock down, Madeline.
I have (and love) a small white kitschy Christmas tree, but I was becoming nostalgic for a green tree this year. When I mentioned it the kids were all excited! We have had a vintage white one for years. I had it on a rotating tree stand and it wasn't a good fit. To be honest, the whole thing was getting annoying because it kept leaning in the poorly fitted stand, and we just wanted a change. We decided we would buy a new tree at the end of the year when they went on sale. While doing last minute shopping though, I noticed Target had them 50% off the week of Christmas! I knew instantly Ricky would LOVE this tree. It was love at first sight for me. It is so classic and beautiful looking. It has white lights which he likes. Its tall, slender and classy. Its branches are thick and the color is rich, it is slightly varied at the tips in both color and texture. I bought it and had it all decorated when he came home that evening and he LOVED it.  His reaction was great!! He loved it! Of course pictures don't do it justice, but oh well. Sharing anyway.
Oh, I'm not giving up on my vintage white tree. I'll just love it in another room. It's loud and bright, like I like my decor. lol Madeline kept stripping it of ornaments, too. You can see the bottom is missing lots --and there she is happy to plunk more off as I take a picture.
Up close pic: I'm excited because our new tree just sparkles!

In addition to festive December things, I de-cluttered the basement, halfway cleaned out the garage, and gave away a ton of clothes. I really have been so busy this past year juggling kids (Madeline especially since she's a handful), so it felt really good to have so much momentum in such a busy holiday month. I guess in a way I felt back to my normal self. I know I've been accomplishing a lot just by raising and caring for my baby, but there were (and are) also lots of things left undone that I wanted to get back to! Everything just fell into place his month -but I also worked really, really hard at it! The younger kids are doing Reading Eggs and Teaching Textbooks on the computer to fill in school gaps with me being so busy.

The Decade Dames
Part of this belongs in its own post for fall, but we all know I'll never get around to that!
In October I joined a group of women who dress in pin-up style fashion and other period or vintage wear. One day I saw a local group share a photo on social media that caught my eye. They were called The Decade Dames. They were posing with a local police officer and with his police car as a "support your local police" photo shoot. The Dames were all in 50's dresses and hair. I was like WOAH, WAIT! WHAT? Where and who are these gals? They are my people! I dress like this! Well, I tracked them down. They were in fact taking applications for more vintage loving Dames to join them in having fun, dressing up, supporting each other, and also being a positive influence within the community, including anything from charity/service projects to going to car shows, nursing homes, and any other local events. The sky is the limit!

I know, Right!?
Hair style practice before even finding out about the Decade Dames!
 So I just nervously showed up at the meeting and they welcomed me. It was super fun! Just founded in June 2017, they have a very fun and full calendar of events, service projects, and community presence in the county we live in.

 Picture of me on my way to the first Dames meeting in October!

The Dames were featured in a county wide community paper in October.

Is this fun or what??

           Wreaths Across America: My First Decade Dames Event

Every December Wreaths Across America takes place in over 1200 cemeteries across our nation. Volunteers place Christmas wreaths at the resting place of veterans. This is a family event, which was perfect for my first event! My younger kids were especially excited to meet "Mommy's new fancy friends." That's what Bea calls them, my fancy friends. I don't go very many places alone, so it's been a big deal that I have a once a month meeting I go to. (Mom is going someplace: WHAT?! WHY?! LOL!)

We walked at least two miles at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery placing our assigned six wreaths at the headstones of veterans, thanking them each aloud by name so they are not forgotten. We were offered four wreaths to place but I said we could do six! The day turned out great. It was a beautiful, peaceful, and sunny 60 degree December day. I was blessed to share it with my family, as well as with my Decade Dame sisters who lead the group in this fundraising effort for the wreaths. The kids were excellent. It was very sweet that they were a part of this as well. I cannot believe they did so well because we walked so much! Seeing all those wreaths laid is really a beautiful sight. 
 Thank goodness I had Ricky to navigate the large map for us. (He's really good at figuring things out in general...he's an analyst, so...) Prior to the event I suggested that I could go with some kids and leave him home with others if it seemed too crazy to take everyone. He just kinda looked at me like: Nope. He affectionately said, "I'm not having you go alone." This is mostly because I have a simply terrible time finding my way around things like this and he would never see me again! Haha! I was so thankful he wanted to do this as a family and that he is always eager to navigate for me no matter what we are doing! We had to walk really far across nearly the entire cemetery. (The whole grounds are 296 acres, so we didn't actually walk all that, but boy oh boy we did walk A LOT!) We also had to walk up a big hill, down a big hill, across a huge uphill gravel/dirt wash, then down and up a hill AGAIN. Once we got to our furthermost wreath assignment laid we could hit all of our other wreath assignments as we walked back towards our van. We didn't have to cross the wash again. Ricky mapped it out perfectly for us. It was so adventurous and fun for the kids! At one point Everett was up the wash and accompanying hill while I was down below far away, but I could see him a bit. He saw me and started howling towards me, "Awooooooo!" I howled back at him loudly for fun. Sebastian, who was near Everett, joined in and howled as well. Suddenly four deer came flying out of the woods like crazy. I could see Everett turn around as he ran towards his dad high tailing it out of there. It scared him good. It was very surprising for all of us and we all had a good long laugh over it! 
My family!

Christmas Eve Eve
I always want us to get our wrapping done before Christmas Eve. We never do! EVER! We are always up until 2 or 3am wrapping tons of gifts. Its utterly exhausting! Well this year I was determined! This will happen! And it did! Yay yay yay, I mean seriously! YAY!!!
On Christmas Eve's Eve I was wrapping presents and having a cold adult beverage in the union suit PJ's I wear only a couple times every year. My kids always laugh at me when I get these out. I usually put them on and run through the house dancing and singing because I'm a goofball. Last night I suddenly realized I've had these for 25 years! 25 years in a row I've worn these pajamas at least once each December. In the past I've worn them to grocery stores and school just for fun, to family parties, under snow suits, and to bedtime. Who could have known these pre-internet smiley face pajamas from the 90's would now be called Emojis! Lol! ️Traditions are so fun, and they are the heart of holidays. I have also stayed true to myself by expanding my wardrobe over the years to include Santa suit pajamas, elf pajamas, an elf dress, and finally a baking themed gingerbread house dress.
Rockin' 25 year old pajamas!
We were blessed with snow just in time for Christmas. It's the biggest snow fall we've had in nearly two years at only two inches! We missed snow and it was a beautiful and welcome surprise! 
I wanted a picture outside today wearing my gingerbread dress in the snowscape! Bea darted out with me for a picture with me as well!

Christmas Eve
On Christmas Eve we made an appetizer tree that turned out to be super cute and fun. The base is a Styrofoam cone wrapped in plastic wrap to keep it clean and reusable. The toothpick sticks I got have stars at the end of them, but any would do. We used cheese, salami, grapes, two kinds of olives, apples, tiny pickles, and cheese. It was a big hit! We will do it again!

A tradition I started long ago, and the kids beg for every year, are Santa pancakes (or waffles, we did frozen waffles this year). Strawberry hat, chocolate chip eyes, whipped cream beard. They just love assembling these!

A yellow pepper for reindeer and cookies for Santa

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Fall 2017: It happened fast

I went looking for a fall of 2017 blog draft so I could work on it... and it doesn't exist!? What!? I thought I wrote some stuff down! (Well, I know I did, so it's lost or deleted.) Well, I tell you what, I had planned on writing a lot more than I did this year regardless. I don't know how the other big family mom bloggers do it. I'm whipped. Not sure they have a two year old like this though:
Madeline's still high impact lol!
I'm literally trying to type right now but everyone keeps standing over my shoulder and talking to me. It's so frustrating! I usually type late at night if I can. I literally fall asleep at the keyboard nearly every time I do though. Eventually I hit save and go to bed. And I do that for months. We started Reading Eggs back up in November. I'm having such a hard time focusing and pulling the day together. Madeline makes it so hard. I have been telling myself for a year that this is only temporary. It's really hard, but it's only temporary! I'm STILL at that point where I'm telling myself that...
and in the meantime:

So, did fall 2017 even happen? These pictures say it did:
I swear my kids wear clothes...sometimes. lol. (Free Range. You know.)

We made this mummy this year! Next year we are planning on making a swamp monster!
Gunnar in the middle of everything

The Trick or Treat haul was SERIOUS. The kids had a blast trading candy for weeks.

Penelope and I were Roller Derby girls! This is at our homeschool Halloween party. We had beautiful fall weather.

Ethan (17) as Joker!
Birthday Season

Birthday season runs from August 1st until October 28th. We celebrate six birthdays in three months

Layla's 13th Birthday
Layla turned 13 on August 1st. Sadly, Layla was sick in late July. She soon had pneumonia symptoms right before her August 1st birthday! We thought we'd be headed to the hospital if we didn't act fast. Luckily we knew the signs (uh, she had every one!). Early Sunday morning I called our doctor's after hours number. She talked to me over the phone and we got Layla on antibiotics right away. Layla had just been in to the doctor's office the week before. When Ricky picked up her prescription he proactively bought an oximeter from the drug store to check her blood oxygen levels. Her coughing was getting so bad and she could not breathe at times. I went online and bought cans of Boost oxygen and had it shipped overnight. (Amazon Prime!) It's oxygen made for high altitude day trips/hiking, headaches, strenuous exercise, or just a pick me up because some people are into that sort of thing. I wasn't messing around, I wanted some just in case. We didn't do this in place of a hospital, but to help us avoid the hospital and possibly make Layla more comfortable. Her blood oxygen levels never dropped dangerously low but they did drop. (Especially during and after huge coughing fits, which of course is to be expected). This helped us put our mind at ease though. Most importantly, she liked it and it felt like we were doing something to help. She also took Drocera homeopathic with some probable success. We also had her on near round the clock Mucinex. We really believe if we hadn't acted so quickly we would have been in the hospital. I'm very glad I had her in to the Dr. the prior week so that they knew her situation and could help us act fast on the antibiotics on a Sunday! We have had too many emergency room visits the past few years! So thankful she recovered with home care and no ER $ visit!

What I wrote on her birthday:
It's been scary and hard. She has barely eaten anything in days. The other kids are hit or miss with the illness, but mostly alright. Ricky and I are a force. Sure we are a bit unwell too, but we are taking turns sleeping as needed because some of the kids need care at night, especially Layla. Though things are hard, things are also amazing because we are doing this together. As a mother I felt heartbroken that Layla's much anticipated 13th birthday is being spent so sick. I'm also sick and therefore tired myself. I am doing the best I can, which means presents got done but no decorations or other special thing. We certainly aren't doing sweets today. Then in comes Charlotte (20). She apparently went to the store without us even knowing and bought all this stuff. Outside, so the kids didn't see, she carved out this amazing cake of healthy fruit for her little sister. Candles and all. I cried when she showed me. I'm just so thankful she made Layla's birthday special! Layla was so surprised, grateful and happy. And then thankfully Layla ate for the first time today! I'm so thankful for Charlotte. She really saved the day.

A birthday being memorable or special doesn't always mean it was the most fun or best of times. Memorable can also just be everyone pulling together for you and making you feel loved. I think Layla felt very loved.

August 23 -Sebastian's Birthday 
Sebastian is often easy going and likes to keep close to home. We really haven't ever done anything elaborate or big for his birthdays. He usually wants the same things every year and since we are so busy with birthdays in general he gets a laid back birthday! This year I really wanted to really go all out for him now that he was turning nine. I took him to get his hair cut and to buy a new shirt. When Ricky got off work we all went to a hibachi grill! It's something several of the kids had never done. We just knew Sebastian (and others) would think it was fabulous and fun. We had such a fun night!

Madeline jumped into my arms right after this. Poor kid! I kinda sacrificed her for the photo. I got my punishment though. She made me hold her for 30 minutes! lol! The fire DID NOT jump over the edge as it looks. It's contained in the griddle. The photo caught it like that though.
How funny is this picture of our teen boys: Ethan is catching shrimp. The photo bomber guy we don't know at the other table is making a hysterical expression.Ethan was amazing at catching shrimp! Hidden talent.

Beatrice was SUPER cute going to the restaurant. I told her we were going to a fancy restaurant and to get dressed. In no time flat she was dressed, headband was picked out, and she had her dress boots on. As we were leaving up she adorably exclaimed to me, "Oh I'm so excited to be a real fancy person!" She would not hold still for a picture, but I got one blurry picture at least.

Everett Turned 7! 
Everett wanted a Scooby Doo style monster hunt for his birthday. Read about it here.

 Penelope's turned 11 on October 17!
Penelope had part one of her birthday in Mansfield, Missouri a month before her actual birthday! I wrote all about it here: Mansfield trip

Madeline's Birthday! 
Madeline turned two on October 28th!

Madeline loved this walking, flipping, barking puppy. She had a good day at home with family and we played and just hung out.

While writing this I found a couple things in my email draft folder I had started. 

September 1, 2017
Dialogue between me and Ricky I saved to remember:

Me: I'm so exhausted. There's just so much to do. I don't know what I'm going to do. Everything is just SO hard...

Him: We knew this would be a hard time. It's okay. It's hard and we'll get through it. 

Me: We knew it would be THIS hard? 

Him: Yeah we knew birthday season was coming up, and school, and the boys turning 18 and...

Me: I'm talking more like long term. You know, the having NINE kids thing.

Ricky: Oh that. Yea. We had NO IDEA what we were doing with that.

 (And then we laughed REALLY hard together.)

September 25, 2017
I had a fabulous weekend with my husband. Bring married to him is the absolute joy of my life. I had a great weekend despite juggling really wild kids with him, kids that we literally didn't know what to do with at times. Everyone says we make it look so easy, and at times we sure do. But, raising all the kids is crazy hard. I'll admit, we didn't think easily a few was that hard. That's why we went in for more. Everyone has a different threshold. Not sure why we wanted to actually find ours!? Ha!

The weekend was really nice though. We talked, connected, and even reviewed our life, love, and our future. I once read when you marry someone you marry three people. The person they are, the person you think they are and the person they will become as the result of being married to you. That's pretty heavy handed and something next to nobody even begins to think about. It's true.

Over the weekend we took personality tests and discussed why our marriage works so well and we compared how well we fill each other's lives with happiness. We are vastly different people, but yet so much the same. I began to think about the people we were when we met...and the people we became. Amazing! 

Ricky told me that what we lack we find in each other. That was so incredible to hear. What an amazing couple we have become! By fate. By chance. By love. But also by choice!