Life With Nine Kids

Monday, December 31, 2012

SICK AGAIN: You've got to be kidding me!?

Life was getting back to normal. We got over the flu and in two short weeks we celebrated Sage's 13th birthday, we went ice skating, we saw Santa, I got all the laundry caught up again, I was feeling 100% better, I cleaned and de-cluttered like crazy; I even dusted the ceiling fans. We decorated inside and out and baked tons of cookies, we made Christmas cookie care packages for all service people/ mail carrier who stopped by, we happily made crafts, Smith-wick (our elf) brought great joy and fun. Sugarplums danced in our heads for the better half of December. I spent loads of time doing other things with the kids too, like making Santa faces from paper plates and cotton balls, watching Christmas movies, hanging red and green paper chains all over the house, playing and reading. We made delicious homemade pretzels and everyone settled in and enjoyed the time together (and being well again). On the Winter Solstice we decorated a tree outside with apple rings, birdseed pine cones and circle pretzels as offerings for the "snow angels" just like in Little Bear, and we sang.
Things were indeed TONS better. The kids were weaned of the TV after being sick and overloading on it, the house looked great, we were happily awaiting Christmas Eve. Then I noticed sniffles and sneezes starting up in the kids. I soon woke up with a sore throat, it appeared we were getting a cold. Just a day before Christmas Eve a few younger kids had fevers. I was nervous but super hopeful and sure it would be no big deal... Christmas Eve came and we watched my favorite comedy Christmas movie that we all totally enjoy and laugh wildly at, Jingle All The Way. Christmas morning came early (5:30am) and we had a lot of fun and family time full of joy. Sebastian enjoyed his toys for a few hours and then laid down on the couch with a warm rosy face; the poor little guy burned up from there on and didn't get up the rest of the day except for us to give him drinks. Ricky felt under the weather by 11am and took a nap until 1:30. Aunt Sharon and Grandma visited and overall we had a nice time and pretty Christmas dinner. By the time they left Charlotte was in bed sick and other kids seemed feverish, too.
For the following seven days after Christmas I walked around the house getting lethargic laid up kids orange juice, water, hot tea, cold rags, medicine, tissues and small meals while repeating to myself "I just CAN NOT freaking believe this. THIS IS SO NOT FAIR." Ricky recovered quickly and was able to help me thank goodness ( just as I got sicker). It was/is an upper respiratory virus and some of us now appear to have bronchitis. It's not nearly as bad as the flu but it still took its toll on all of us. With the flu it was just misery, with this "cold" at least Ricky and I got to spend time together snuggling and watch TV (although interrupted often by kids needing us). So now we're back to square one, recovering as I pick up the pieces of a messy house and getting caught up on laundry. I so did not expect this! We've never all been sick with a flu or cold ALL at the exact time and here it happened back to back in the same month and with a vengeance!! I can't fathom it still, even though I lived it! I'm thankful we are up healing up faster this time and even us bronchitis stricken people actually seem to be fairing okay. In hindsight we are awesome and we are troopers and we overcame all of this: but man did it suck. (Still sucks since we really aren't over it yet.) New Years Eve is upon us and no one feels like eating much, nothing sounds good at all and as a result we have no party food or drinks or noise makers. Bah! Humbug! :) In reality though my head is full of snot and I'm coughing like crazy so I don't care. I've been holding Everett all day because he's still not feeling well. I wanted SO bad to be all better this morning that I thought I was... I was so determined. I started trying to do my normal Monday routine: stripping the bed for washing, making the bed, cleaning my room, starting the laundry, making breakfast... I made it as far as taking the pillow cases off our pillows, making hot tea and starting one load of laundry before I was EXHAUSTED and holding a fussy baby on the bed as we both dozed off restlessly.
I can not wait to be normal again!! I have things to do and kids to enjoy and decorations to put away and a house to clean... we have loads of school we have to catch up on and I have so much hope that this was the last of illness we need to have for a long time! I hope the winter goes by as fast as it came and with lots of: trips to the Magic House, school/art projects, more pretzel making, good conversations, family games, hot cocoa, winter hobbies, a few home projects... and a snowman or two!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Kid Break ~~Relaxing

Aunt Sharon hasn't seen the kids very much lately and wanted to give us a much needed break after being sick so she picked up the kids Saturday for a sleepover. They all go now, even little Everett! It's SO cute watching him go. This is his second sleepover. The first time I was thinking about him nonstop and missing him a ton! This time I was really mellow probably because I needed the break, but probably because the weaning is in full swing so it makes it easier knowing he's not really expecting me to nurse him. It's so cute when he's in the car with the other kids waving goodbye to me and giving me a kiss. His cute little two year old voice and chubby hand waving. Oh the cute. The little kids are all really cute when they go. I'm always surprised how much they wave and kiss me and say goodbye. At times we can get so burnt out, so tired, so sick of each other, but when we part for a day or two there is such a sense of love and appreciation. After they left I excitedly told Ricky, "They love me, they really showed me that they love me with their kisses and goodbyes." :) Sometimes being a mom is a thankless job, and sometimes it's totally not. :)

Ricky and I relaxed and just enjoyed the quiet house for a while. I thought about doing some housework without being disrupted but then thought nahhh. We went out to dinner in the evening and then walked around the mall for about 20 minutes and bought a new personalized family Christmas ornament. Malls aren't our scene at all, but once in a great while we'll stop by one for some reason or another. We watched tv briefly at home before turning into bed. We slept in this morning until 9:30; waking up to a super quiet house and warm snugging bodies was so nice. Since I was sick for so long and unable to breathe well or be close to Ricky we are extra-enjoying being close again. Our furnace went out last night so we were under three heavy blankets and stayed nice and warm and cozy. Ricky looked at the furnace this morning while I whipped us up an elegant breakfast for two. It was fancy and super-fantastically delicious! Chocolate covered strawberries, blackberries, hot cinnamon rolls, egg and ham croissant sandwich and a side dish of organic vanilla-banana yogurt! Romantic breakfast for two in heaven!

Unfortunately the furnace issue is not resolved. I think I want a post breakfast chocolate-strawberry snack before we re-read the manual and decide if we need to call a real repair person. A couple years ago we ordered a part and made a repair on it ourselves, but we can not for life of us remember what we did! I think we are also off to buy another space heater or far it looks like it's going to be a cold night or few days...

Update: We have finally located the igniter and somewhat remember replacing it before. We checked and it's not lighting, so we have all the info about it and luckily remembered where we took it for replacement part (not a regular home store an actual manufacturer supply place). Tomorrow I will hopefully be able to pick it up at the same place without a wait! For now we will sleep and heat two rooms like people did in the old days of winter! (Except we are using handy electric heaters instead of wood heaters. :) Tonight's low is the coldest of this season, 20 degrees! Burr!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Sick, The Quest for Some Family Time, Weaning Toddlers

I was sick forever. Ok, it was only a week, or nine days...give or take...but it was awful! Layla brought us influenza B home for Thanksgiving, so over the Thanksgiving holiday people started falling ill. The kids were pretty easy and straight forward; fevers, tired, achy...then I got it. I was the sickest of all. It was totally pitiful how sick I got. I slept for six hours a day, the kids watched six hours of TV a day. It was misery. Everyone got over it slowly, but I got over it even slower. I'm still totally recuperating but I'm much better now. I have some cold like symptoms and until last night I hadn't slept an entire night in two weeks. Usually we have our tree up by or on Thanksgiving, we finally got it up yesterday. We have been doing Christmas crafts and finally getting more into the holiday! Funny because we had actually started early last month, we had Christmas music playing as usual in November, but then everything got put on hold.
I feel really bad I've been SO bitchy to the kids. I really do. I've been: tired, cranky, demanding, impatient. It happens from time to time, but being sick has just made me even more miserable I'm sure. I wish I had the grace of Michelle Duggar. I would love that. I would love to treat my little people with more respect sometimes; I would never nag at my husband the way I nag at them. It's a reoccurring theme, and I need to re-read this post and I'll feel better and try harder and start over from a place of more patience. I'm always working at being a better calmer mother-person. Things have been very stressful lately, I need to remember that first. Second: things will get better. For months and MONTHS Ricky's been working a lot, which is totally understandable and needed right now, but it has made things more stressful. We are both tired, stressed and busy and while that doesn't reflect on our relationship with each other it does on the kids. I'm more stressed, he's not seeing them as much or playing with them as much. It's just hard. A lot of nights we just rush around trying to get them in bed so we can talk for 30 minutes and then either collapse on the couch together or in bed. I'm in bed a lot since I'm so sick. We recently have been trying to watch more TV in the evening with the kids. It's hard because there is not much we can watch together as a family since our society thinks family TV has to include non stop adult themes, teen dating and/or crude humor filled with stereotypes. But, we've found a few shows we like and with holiday movies and shows being in season it's much easier right now too. At least if we are tired we can still sit around together and be in each others company instead of rushing everyone off to separate rooms for quiet time or whatever. This craziness is just a phase though: things get better and worse, rinse and repeat, it's called life! I'm looking forward to us feeling better and playing more family games in the evenings again.
WEANING THE TODDLER (otherwise known as the baby)
Before any of the sickness started, right about the time Ricky started working a lot more hours on some special projects, Everett started getting really cranky and going through a "stage." It was what we called 'a REALLY HARD time that would pass.' That has now been compounded with weaning him. So he is EXTRA cranky and needy now, but things are improving with him! He is starting to understand more and the slow almost-child-led but mostly mama-led weaning is going well. It's so very hard for a child to make that transition. Weaning is forever, it's a huge milestone as well as a huge new development into being his own person. In addition we both have to learn an entirely new toolbox of mothering and soothing skills. It's not just about him not nursing anymore: it's him not getting extra calories, him no longer getting my antibodies that help him during colds and flu, him needing something new to do instead of nursing for a big owey or emotional breakdown, him needing a new way to fall back asleep at night, him needing a new coping strategy for teething, him needing to find something to do when he is bored...and the big one me and him HAVING to find away to get him to sleep for bedtime and naps to begin with. His life is changing big time; eventually he won't remember it, but it will be forever a part of him. Even though I'm SO, so ready for him to wean, it's still bittersweet. He's still my baby, he'll always be. We have some tears at night and nap time when I just *won't* nurse or when I nurse him and then tell him 'all done now.' (Because physically it's just NOT working for me, not because I'm trying to withhold from him through will-power, I'm actually at that point where it's just not working out and milk is drying up.) As we lie together and I try to soothe him it's getting easier every few days. He's getting older and more understanding (or at least accepting). He's doing great. Today he found ice cream cones in the cupboard and wanted ice cream. We are all out of ice cream. A couple months ago he would have cried and cried because emotionally he wouldn't have been able to accept not having ice cream in the house while having the cones in his hand. Today he got over it after looking in the freezer and accepted it for a simple reality. Growing up is AMAZING. Lots to learn about cause and effect and acceptance...

Friday, November 23, 2012

I Am Thankful

The younger kids are in the middle of many fevers and lethargy but still enjoyed a family day of snuggling, watching the parade, feasting, being thankful, and playing games. One thing I was thankful for yesterday is that even when we have to cancel our Thanksgiving guests from coming over, to not to spread illness to others, we still have a full house.

Also, I’m thankful everyone felt much better yesterday (on Thanksgiving) than today. Today we have some serious kids down! Sebastian is sleeping like a log. Penelope is pitifully watching TV and Everett is restless on my lap cat napping. I'm glad we got to enjoy Thanksgiving yesterday. I’m also thankful for a sweet husband who heard kids crying last night and got up to say he’d stay up with me. I don’t need him to, I don’t expect him to (I can try to nap during the day -he has to be at work and can't nap or sit on the couch watching cartoons like I can), but it’s sweet and thoughtful and generous that he is sympathetic and wanting to help. I'm ever thankful for him.

It’s been pretty intense the last two nights with Everett. When I get one kid asleep another wakes up. everyone is easy to get back to sleep except Everett. Then if I do get him to sleep a dog starts barking and I have to fly out of bed to quiet him --and it happens ALWAYS just as I start falling asleep. The worst part though is that Everett has either flat out refused to sleep or he is too restless to get comfortable. He's not congested or anything so that's not the problem, he's just not feeling well. Even if I suppress his fever he still doesn't sleep any better.

Even though I'm tired, at the core of it I really enjoy taking care of the kids when they are sick -even though seeing them sick is not fun at all and I'd rather them be well! I'm still thankful though... it's tiring and hard work, but I'm thankful I can stay home with them. I'm thankful we are healthy and get over things easily. I'm thankful I studied a bunch about natural health 16 years go and still use what I learned. I’m dearly, dearly thankful we hardly ever need to see a Dr. (only 2 kids ever have needed to). I’m thankful that I don’t take things like health and family for granted. 

This is the last thing I got to see before going to bed last night. ♥ I was putting sick little kids to be while others were doing this.

These are some conversations/moments from November that I am thankful I wrote down and saved so I don't forget:

It is SO SWEET listening to babies talk. Everett talks so much to all of us now. I just told Penelope to put a coat on if she's going outside and Everett points to the heavy sweatshirt I just put on him and says to me, "Doh-knee-co." (Don't need coat.) Such sweetness, so adorable. He talks all the time now.
Sebastian ate all the soft mints I bought.
Penelope reminded me, "I told you yesterday Sebastian was eating them under the table!"
I asked, "Why Sebastian, WHY AND HOW could you eat all the mints!?!"
Sebastian's reply, "I don't know. I have problems."
Sebastian: Everett do you want to play castle toys with me?
Everett: "Auhh" (means yes)
Sebastian really sweet voice wrapping his arm around Everett as they walk away: "Ok, I promise I'll let you play this time."

This month has also been a bit overshadowed by grief, not mine but of other peoples. I've thought non-stop and helplessly watched on as a friend of a friend lost her two year baby to a terrible accident and as one of my friends watches her husband lose to cancer. Do I become thankful I'm not having that first person heartache? That I only get to grieve for a moment and then am recused from pain because my husband comes home healthy every night and my kids are safely tucked between the walls of our warm home? No, not exactly. What I'm thankful for is empathy, which hurts and sometimes keeps me up at night, but also keeps me grounded and unselfish. I'm also thankful I recognize the strength others have and that I try to learn from people who have no other choice but to be strong, because no one is immune to pain or loss. It finds us all someday in someway. I pray for peace and love in the hearts of those that grieve this holiday season. I hate sadness. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Clean Houses, Bathroom Mishaps, Moms Need to Eat

So I had an awesomely-horrible mishap today. I was gone for a few hours to take Sebastian to the dentist. When I left I told the kids what snacks they could have while I was gone, one being string cheese. Everett (2) cries if he doesn’t get string cheese even though he only takes one bite of it and then sets it down.  When I get home I rush into the bathroom from being gone all morning and as I’m washing my hands I notice string cheese on the counter, one bite taken out.  I instantly know Everett left it there, probably sat it down to use the bathroom and forgot about it. As I take a bite and swallow Charlotte knocks on the door, “Mom I have something to tell you.” I jokingly say, “Is it that I’m eating your cheese stick?”  She exclaims, “Mom are you eating that…? Mom, DON’T EAT THE CHEESE STICK THAT’S IN THERE!" I open the door laughing knowing I'm in trouble. "Oh God did it fall in the toilet?" “No, but Everett peed on it, I forgot to throw it away.” I see the humor, I see how gross and unclassy I am for eating off the bathroom counter. I somewhat deserved what I got. I threw it away and had a drink of water. Never a dull moment.

Now in case you don’t know, moms eat leftovers from their kids all of the time. It’s a thing we do. If we didn’t do this we’d waste 50% of the food we bought at the store. Sometimes we do it out of convenience, other times out of pure hunger, other times to prevent waste (I do it for all three reasons). This is not the first time it’s backfired either. Sometimes you discover that you bite into their half-eaten hairy apple, or drink orange juice with pancake at the bottom. Sometimes you think you’ll finish someone’s cereal and find hidden eggs in it.  It’s a dangerous job, but moms get hungry.  

Tonight I was cleaning up for the billionth time this week and remembered that I loved it when a few weeks ago Charotte (16) said, “I see household tips online for cleaning and organizing and big families... sometimes I read through them and think geez we do all these, or have done them at some point, already.” It cracked me up. It’s true though; I’ve tried and do all kinds of things to make life easier and just making running a large household easier. Sometimes you’ve exhausted all the tricks of the trade and the only thing that helps is good old fashioned hard work and the desire not to live in utter chaos.

I was cleaning the bathroom for the third time in a week (toilet, sink and floor…yes 3 times a WEEK) and thought about that cute sign/door mat that says ‘My house was clean last week, sorry you missed it’

I need one that says ‘My house was clean yesterday, sorry you missed it.' When you have nine people living under one roof, I kid you not, that’s how fast things change around here. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

We forgot our anniversary. But it doesn't really matter.

Even though we have a kid-free night planned this Saturday with the intent of going out to a nice belated anniversary dinner we hadn't thought about it in weeks. It just hasn't been on our minds, living day to day seems to be our focus lately. It's really that bad. I'm tired and busy, he's tired and busy at work, the little kids-are complete handfuls. Life is just really trying this fall, and that's okay -it happens. We'll get through it. I only found out it was our anniversary because I checked my email between cooking oatmeal, chasing after crazy kids and sending Layla off to school this morning. In my email I saw a note; Ricky's mom wished us a happy anniversary. I thought it was sweet and how many days...early? Or a week? Wait, WHAT DAY IS IT?

 I looked at the computer screen date and it was like a dream. 10/16/12

It's our anniversary. I called Ricky to share the news.

Did I feel like our life is too busy, too hurried, too kid focused to remember our anniversary? No.
I smiled and laughed. We had spent extra time snuggling in bed this morning, we even locked the door. We are good about that... making time for each other. That's why it doesn't really matter that we had a near miss with the day we vowed to love each other 'without end.' We really love holidays, traditions and special days, but we do make time for each other every day regardless of what day it is.

In and out of: crazy days, long work days, teething babies, fighting kids, too many chores and nearly too many kids...we don't take each other for granted. Soft loving eyes, loving kisses, gratitude for this love and life, looking in the same direction, compromise, holding hands when we fall asleep... that's the foundation for our marriage. It all started from just two people who wanted to build a family together. When we met we were both fumbling around alone in a world where it seemed no one valued love, commitment or family anymore. What an enormous blessing our marriage is, a day doesn't go by without us thinking so. We just want to take care of each other, and we do.

Not our actual wedding ... I brought my wedding dress on vacation for professional beach wedding pictures just because I wanted some! Ricky had no idea I was planning it or that I had packed my dress. I told him to be on the beach at 6am, and I came out in my dress. haha :)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Busy months, ready for holidays, homeschool/toddler burn out, saving money, Charlotte's 16 now...

Just a long busy week, actually long busy September AND October....
Lots of responsibilities and trying to get back into a routine this week, and mostly not having much fun. (but I'm not feeling fun anyway :)

 Ricky's work computer crashed last night for the THIRD time this year. The first time they fixed it, the second time they replaced the hard drive, now I don't know what they will do. Poor thing, he's so behind because of various projects and working so hard. I'd be a lot more stressed out than he seems! We are still on the 'leaves every day at 5:30am and gets home at 7 or 8pm schedule'. I'm so tired of getting the kids dinner and ready for bed alone. It's not really that bad, but it's sure not fun! This type of work load seems to happen for several months out of the year, I'll just hope it gets better by the holidays! He has a smile on his face when he gets home though. We still find time to love each other, spend time with each other, have coffee, talk, hold hands. This makes my life 100% perfect and able to deal with anything that comes our way. I don't take it for granted, not even for a day. He is amazing.
The little girls each had their first Girl Scout meetings this week, they had fun. I'm an actual co-leader in Penelope's troop now.

Right now I am focused on school work and routine with the kids, and just added yard work to our to-do list. Outside is badly neglected and needing some attention before it gets too cold to do anything. So the kids have been working hard too. I've felt really high strung and irritable lately, like everything the little kids do annoys me. I can't wait for that to pass. I realized recently that I was totally burnt out. Burnt out by the kids, homeschool, toddlers, responsibility, serving dinner to whining, complaining preschoolers, Layla's mood swings...TODDLERS!
Everett is a typical two year old. A good portion of the day he is in tears and a good portion he is running around like a crazy person. He dumps out toy boxes. He mimics every single thing -bad or good- that the other kids do. He is sweet, but he is a pain. He nurses when he's bored. I'm so tired of that. (again typical)

Pretty much the only way I get through burn-out stages is to *know* it's going to get better and work really hard at pushing through one hour or one day at a time, and taking a nap if possible in-between long days. As much as I want to throw my hands up in the air and give up I know it will only make things worse, so I work hard at not getting behind. And I work hard at not throwing the broom....
I hit the broom on the floor six times really, really hard the other day and yelled, "I'm SO FREAKING TIRED OF THIS CRAP." LOL. :) I totally felt better afterwards. I needed a time-out. I need a soft bat to hit things with. I need to be grounded.

This too shall pass.

Penelope just showed me that she drew 'ice cream cone monsters' on a piece of paper. It's really cute. Almost everyday I take the little kids across the street to the old quiet, grassy cemetery to sit in the grass, play ball, read and do an activity. This gives the older kids some quiet work time too. We made a leaf bar graph yesterday. (counting fall leaf colors).

My oven works again. It broke last month and we just did not have time to care. (Well we cared, but we couldn't do much about it.) Ricky finally had a chance to fix it and it only cost $27.00, yay! We have a few other repairs that are piling up and we keep ignoring them...for now. I hope to make pie and cookies today and tomorrow. I just now thought it was Thursday, but it is actually Wednesday. So I have an extra day. Humm, not sure if that is bad or good.

So the oven...I was happy we could make cornbread to go with chili last night. It's baking season. Soon Christmas cookies will fill the air. I love pecan snowballs. I am working on a blog post about Christmas. We are not buying a bunch of toys this year, but instead only giving the kids a filled stocking with a toy from Santa. We are really focused on saving money right now. We have cut out so many things because we just have too many expenses and debt. We also dream about buying some acreage so we can raise chickens and geese for meat (for us and to sell). Maybe goats too. We definitely want a milk goat. Oh and there are these small breed milk cows I dream about having! So we are going to try and save up just in case some good property becomes available. We adore our home though, but if it were just on more acreage darn it! I've actually found some neat property, but we need to get on track and spend way less to make that possible. We decided we should never go into Target ever again, stop buying little things here and there, almost only shop second hand and I'm stocking up less at home in the way of food. We are trying weekly shopping for a while. We usually go on a couple HUGE shopping trips a month, but I find it's too hard to regulate spending/eating this way.

So this Christmas we are focusing on creating an old time family style Christmas. Cutting our own tree down, making decorations, stringing popcorn and cranberries, Christmas caroling, having a hot cocoa party, and making a homemade Christmas village that we will start next month and work on for all of December too. I started a Pinterest board for Christmas ideas too. The idea is to fill our December with even more family time, crafts and meaningfulness than usual, instead of spending money on more 'stuff.' We clearly do not need more toys. I am starting a list of what activities we are doing and how much they will cost. Supplies can really add up, but the idea is simple, cost effective, meaningful. I'm still looking for a perfect Christmas Day activity. I wish I could count on sledding and tubing, but we may not have snow.

I can not wait to make these! I hope we are awesome at it.

Well there is my run-on update. Oh and Charlotte is awesome.  (Sage and Ethan too!!) They sense my recent irritability and they know the little kids have been a total handful, so they have really been trying to help me out and are being compassionate to my cranky overwhelming-ness. 

Our oldest, Charlotte turned 16 last month. We had an elaborate Alice in Wonderland Party for her 16th birthday. This is the link to the party Blog, all nice and updated with pictures The party was fantastic. I was so busy planning her delightful party that I hardly noticed or cried about my baby girl turning SIXTEEN!
Photo area I made for Charlotte's party

Since I decided to blog this morning I will pay dearly...Everett got into the cornbread and crumbled it all over the kitchen.  There is also play dough everywhere!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Dear Sebastian,

Ohhh Sebastian. You are so wild, brave, silly and serious; you've always been all of those things, but as you've gotten older you have gotten even more so! Recently, or maybe not so recently, you started screaming and being really demanding. Really, you've acted like a jerk. Your brothers and sisters finally got fed up with you, mom and dad were busy and hoping it would pass. Time went by, more TV was watched, and soon you turned into a preschooler that I for one could not believe. I actually said to your daddy, "I cannot believe this is my child!" You were not very nice, you were awfully temperamental, you were mean. For a long tome you also had trouble controlling your anger and hitting / scratching people. You once scratched your dads arm in an angry tantrum and he actually got an infected, red, swollen scratch from your dirty little kid fingernails. I remember him washing his arm with soap and hot water in the bathroom. Finally I knew you weren't growing out of this; you needed more attention, you needed more time with your mom and dad and we had to stop turning the TV on when we were busy or you were bored. We are a reluctant TV watching family. We don't have cable or satellite; we have only a few basic channels, Netflix and video tapes. We limit TV watching for all the kids, but ALWAYS, always every preschool child of ours ends up watching too much TV at some point. By the time they are four or five years old our TV dependent preschooler gets angry when we tell them no more.  (Charlotte and Layla are the only exceptions, they never got immersed in TV.) We have to fix a cycle of boredom, habits and lack of imagination. TV suffocates the imagination of a child and it's entirely our fault it happens.

 Since we let your meanness problem get out of hand we knew it would get worse before it got better. And it did. Oh the screaming. :( It tore a hole in my heart, but a couple of kids had already done that over the years so your Daddy was there to help me remember we've gone through bad times with other kids and that it would be okay. You told me you didn't like me, you told me I was mean, you told me I wasn't your family anymore. I reacted by not looking at you. Sometimes I'd tell you that you could go get a job and move away and take care of yourself if you don't want a family. Sometimes I'd tell you that I love my family and would never tell them they weren't my family. Sometimes I'd tell you that you will not have any family if you treat people that way. I would remind you of all the things I do for you and when you'd ask for something I'd tell you I didn't feel like doing it because I don't do nice things for mean people, I stay away from mean people. "I don't want to get you a drink, get it yourself because you are mean to me and you tell me I'm not your family." This helped you understand that relationships are a two way street where people must mutually respect each other to get anywhere.

 There are many hard stages of parenting, but dealing with the willpower and independence of a toddler or preschooler is pretty high on the list. They are their own people and they feel so good about themselves when they are making decisions, but on the other side they feel so bad about themselves when we try to "control" them. Different personalities in these little people add another element. Charlotte always trusted I knew what was best for her so we reached compromise easier, Layla did not and so it was always a battle of wits with her. Sebastian, you fall in the unique category called 'I know what's best because I'm as tough as nails and a superhero-man-boy.'

 After months of your behavior going from bad to worse and a bunch of time-outs that had various results I asked myself what I needed to do. The answer is just about the same for every kid problem we've ever faced: less or no TV, more one-on-one time, more family fun time (games, exercise, field trips), more outside time, more attention, more story books read. So that's what we did. Magically (or not so magically) you have transformed over the past month. You only yell or scream about once a day instead of six times a day. You are more thoughtful, more kind and happier. You think before you act most of the time. I have had the great pleasure of watching a respect bloom between us as well. Recently if I raise my voice, get mad or say "What?!" in a frustrated tone (usually because three kids are talking to me and a baby is crying at me and I'm rushed and impatient) you will get a very serious look on your face and in a very particular and concerned tone you will say, "Don't talk to me like that" or, "You are talking mean Mommy." When that happens I drop to my knees and I go to your level. I immediately apologize and thank you for teaching me how to talk nicer. Since you have started asking me to talk nicer and I respect you, you in turn respect me when I ask you to be nicer or not yell. It's been a joyous uplifting time in our relationship with each other. Communication with people is such a wonderful skill to have and I feel like you are really learning that.

 Every morning you say good morning to everyone. This morning you happily said good morning to Everett and kissed him. You then looked at me and said, "Do you know why I say good morning to Everett? Because I love him so much." You are so sweet. I remember this sweetness, it was always inside of you. Last winter I made you breakfast and you hopped up on a stool, looked at it and cheerfully said, "Tank you Mommy for this breakfast that you made for me."

 THAT is the Sebastian I lost and found. That is the love you have in your heart for your family.

 I don't even know how many months ago it was when I noticed there was something missing, something was lacking inside of you. I mentioned to your daddy that I feel like there's no preschool magic in your life. I did this project with Penelope and Everett while you sulked and complained to watch TV. Since attempting to reclaim you as a preschooler everything feels better. You used to not want to leave the house very much, now you bring a backpack of toys and do well on outings. You used to throw fits when it was TV-off time, now you don't. You do projects more willingly and everything just seems better. The sparkle in your eye is back. Today we did that same project and you proudly worked hard at stringing your cereal necklace. You stopped halfway through and said it was a long project. I could tell you were proud and determined. I told you that you could stop and do more later or just not string it all of the way. You were enjoying having focus, seeing the results, making something useful and feeling good about your ability. You talked cheerfully, joked, laughed and worked hard.

You are four and of course this isn't the end of fits and troubles, but we're on the right path again. You have also matured tons over the past 6 months, so that you listen and talk about things. That is something that can't be forced, it comes with time. This will make things so much easier on all of us. Yesterday there was an issue and you were mad at Sage, but you listened when I talked to you about it and you actually saw a different point of view. You want to understand and you are open to the idea that the world is a big place and you are just one person. What a big boy you are becoming!


Winning a Pie Contest and Meeting Jim Bob & Michelle Duggar (Why I really do love them)

 When we arrived at the Patriot Day Rally we had a few things to get in order: pie drop off, bounce house for kids, find some food. After we got our food I was happy the table seating was taken up because I instead parked us in the grass next to where the Duggar family was signing autographs and meeting people. There was a huge line to meet them. Some of their older kids noticed us as I started spreading out blankets for kids to sit on and as Ricky and I opened chips and drinks for little kids. I often feel like a busy and satisfied mother hen tending to my chicks as I'm: wiping faces, making sure they have the food they will actually eat, helping them with this and that, patting them on the heads, kissing their cheek and laughing at them... or telling them to be good/quiet down... or to STOP fighting.

 The line to meet the Duggar family got longer and longer. I had not planned on waiting in line. I went up close to take some photos of them talking to other people. I just wanted to observe. As more of the event unfolded the Duggar clan soon took the stage leaving the line of people on hold. Their kids sang, played violins, played piano, they talked. 

 I knew our little kids were going to grow bored so we headed off to the playground after a while. Jim Bob and Michelle were telling their life story together which included the motivation behind having a large family, but I already knew some of those things. I wanted to make sure my kids didn't get burnt out and bored so I could listen in later and be there for the winning pie announcement. Sebastian is at this really frustrating (for us all) 3-4 year old screaming/angry stage. He's very independent and having trouble expressing himself and controlling his anger so I try to keep him busy and unruffled.

 We played on the playground and then played closer to the event. We played duck-duck goose, red light green light and ran round like crazies. Sebastian screamed over something, I was worried about him having a meltdown but he was okay. 
Charlotte's unbaked cherry-raspberry pie

 When it was time for door prize announcements we moved in closer. 
my unbaked apple star pie

 Yay pie contest was up first!! Third place was a peanut butter pie, second place they announced was Charlotte! To which I jumped up and down and started yelling, "This is my 16 year daughter!! She won 2nd!!" I'm sure she was thrilled at my yelling. Hahaha. Then they announced my name for 1st place. I jumped up hollering and acting like I was at a pie rodeo. I grabbed Charlotte by the arm and pulled her up to the front of the podium with me. All the while I'm yelling, "Mother-daughter won, mother-daughter won!!" at the top of my excited lungs.

                                                                  I dorked out. Totally.

And not only did they say I won but they said that my pie was exceptional. I'm so happy!

 The lady handing us our ribbons questioned me with a smile, "Wait, did you say you're mother and daughter?" I proudly did not hesitate to confirm that fact once again. When we got back to our seats in the grass some other people asked if we were mother and daughter too. It was fun. Several people thought it was so neat! We thought it was pretty great to win together. Charlotte worked so hard on her pie!

 After we collected our other prizes/ gift certificates I realized I dorked out and Charlotte was sweet and reassured me that it was okay. She's so cute :)  Aunt Sharon had met us at the rally so she got to see. She was so glad she came and didn't miss it!

 It was dark and the little kids were bored, unfortunately the other fun things closed down. We didn't get to the mechanical bull ride or rock wall climb in time. It was a bummer. We walked around the back of the stage area and ended up at the end of the line to meet the Duggar family. I stepped in line and looked at my husband lovingly and asked if we should wait after all. Charlotte was all for waiting in line and so were Sage and Ethan. Ricky said sure but we both had the obvious worry about the younger kids. He took them for a walk to see some emergency vehicles on display. I strapped Everett into the Ergo baby carrier to nurse and he thankfully fell asleep. When Ricky came back Sebastian and Penelope sat in the double stroller and looked bored but tired. It wasn't long until they started fighting, crying or doing both. It was 8pm and dark. I thought the fireworks might start and that would be the perfect line waiting activity, but we found out they didn't start until 9pm. Somehow we entertained the kids, it was touch and go for a little bit but then things were fine. There were jumbo post cards with the Duggar family on them that we could get signed. The kids met about five of the Duggar kids, they were super friendly. They talked and answered questions if you instigated the conversation. I thanked them for being so nice to sign autographs and be at the event, they said they loved it.

 As I approached Jim Bob and Michelle I gushed with a big smile and they returned it. 

 They were just as fantastically refreshed and happy looking as they were at the beginning of the event. There is nothing wrong with the picture above, but I'm telling you they look better than this. Charlotte had mentioned earlier how much younger they looked in person, and it's so, so true! They look great and younger! They beam with happiness and gratitude for their happy and content lives. They glow with love for each other. That's what first attracted me to them so many years ago. As I gushed and told them we wanted a big family and now have seven kids they were super happy for us. I totally thought they probably hear that all the time and would be like 'oh yes that's so nice dear now run along'. But it wasn't like that at all, they were interested in our kids and us! I thanked them for being an inspiration to us and that having lots of kids was something we already wanted to do but were afraid to plunge into. I said, "People think you are crazy when you have a lot of kids." Jim Bob laughed, "Well it is a little crazy." :) I laughed back, "Okay, it's actually a lot crazy, but so wonderful! They said they had to get a picture with our family which really made me happy. I wasn't going to ask but they jumped right up and joined our kids in line for a picture. I was so happy they wanted too! 

 As I introduced Ricky to both of them Jim Bob shook hands with Ricky and quipped, "There's the good guy." I can totally see Jim Bob in politics (as he has been) he's very personable and very charismatic. Jim Bob took the time to ask how old Everett was as he slept in the Ergo even though Everett had his face hidden. Michelle commented on my Ergo baby carrier. (Moms bond over Ergos!)  She said, "Aren't Ergos the best carriers, we have a few of those."

 Nicest people I've ever met. They had met hundreds of people over the past 4-5 hours and they were that nice to us. I feel like they actually looked at the people they talked to and met.
 I don't care that they believe in somethings I do and somethings I don't. I don't care they are "extreme." I'm fascinated by them and always have been. We didn't have a big family because Jim Bob & Michelle did, but it has sure made me feel better about it at times. Made me feel less alone I guess. When they look at each other I see how Ricky and I look at each other. When I hear them talk about children it's how we feel about our children. It was wonderful meeting such wonderful happy people. I'm amazed they have so many children and I'm inspired by them in various ways.

 Sometime in late 2004 or early 2005, before people knew who they were,  I caught a TLC documentary on TV called 14 kids and pregnant again. Ricky and I had four kids and wanted another couple of kids at least. So this show was a must see for me. I thought four kids was busy...I couldn't wait to see how a household of 14 ran! This show was my first TV encounter with the Duggar family and it covered lots of things I wanted to know:
Why do they only have one closet?
How much do they spend on groceries?
How much laundry do they do every day? And who does it?
How can they support such a large family?
How does each child feel about being a member of such a large family?
What do they do for fun?
Where does everybody sleep?
Do the kids ever get in fights?
How are conflicts settled?
How do you home school so many different ages?

 I recorded the show and watched it with Ricky and we found it interesting. It was the first time that I truly believed we could have more kids and be okay. Soon I heard about them on morning shows and in follow up shows on TLC. I remember telling my husband after we had Penelope, baby number five, that I had heard 'that family with the 14 kids are up to 16 kids now.' They soon became a household name in our own home. I enjoyed hearing about their new additions. I recorded their documentary style TLC shows to show our kids how their big family ran as I struggled to find our own groove and routine. As the laundry and chores at my house piled up I felt like if they could do it so could I. We were also new to homeschooling at that time. The Duggars were the first family with more than five children that I remember being exposed to. They inspired me and helped me see that we could do what we wanted to do, which was have more kids because it was what we believed in and it was the path we felt truly lead to. Their birth control beliefs struck me as especially interesting because we hold our own unique and in some ways similar beliefs as well. It didn't matter to us that they are extreme in their lifestyle. They are who they are and I enjoy the pieces that I connect with, which is really what we should do with all people. Their love and commitment for their family, their beliefs, their home and each other was and still is full of familiar and happy inspiration for me. I feel like people think they need to be exactly like each other in order to respect, embrace or admire one another. The best thing I learned in my young adult years was that this notion is totally wrong and dangerous. The saddest thing I discovered is that people love to hate each other. It's all over in our society. When I really opened my eyes to it I saw it everywhere. We all expect our children not to bully each other but our society shows adult bullying and the berating of people all of the time. It's in the news, in our own lives, in celebrity news, on TV and movies. Hate because some one is too fat or thin, too ugly or too beautiful, too outspoken, gay, because of political or religious beliefs. Hate just because. Read the comments at the bottom of news stories and opinion pieces, the hate is thick. Hate is the default emotion of 'I don't agree.' The biggest change I made over the years was to make doubly sure I didn't hate on others for who they are and that I didn't teach hate to my children. I was already teaching that to my kids but I had to make sure I was living that way. I now try hard to find the good in people, because it's there.  When I started doing that I felt more free because of it. Learning how to do that in a society of bullying and self righteousness takes realization, acceptance, self discovery and at times effort.

In a world where we aren't rallying against abusers and rapists or rioting in the streets over hungry and abused children in our very OWN country, heck in our very own communities,  I hold a lot of sadness and disappointment in people who take the time to criticize the Duggar family.

Related topics:
In Defense of the Duggars  

The Anti-bully Bullies 

The Top 10 Most Bullied Internet Celebrities People just being people, except hateful people band together and decided when people apparently aren't allowed to just be themselves.

Cyber-bullying cripples even celebrities  

Cyber / Bullying Statistics 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Happy National Chicken Month!!!

This month intends to promote the consumption of chicken...but chickens are so much more than food. They are fun to watch, fun to feed, fun for kids to frolic with. They are good at eating bugs and their manure is good for gardens. I actually support less chicken consumption because most chickens are raised in inhumane conditions. It's also important to note that while buying "free range eggs" feels good there is actually no legal definition in the United States of what that means. There is no common standard to what the term means either. It does not mean they roam and forage in grass; they may only get small area of concrete pad.

I support and encourage more backyard flocks so families can enjoy self sufficiency and healthy tasty food, whether it be for eggs, meat or both. When people decrease their dependence on factory farms smaller family farms benefit and so do the animals and our health. So, wish a farmer or backyard enthusiast a Happy National Chicken Month! 

Related links:

FDA finally admits chicken meat contains cancer-causing arsenic  

Meet Real Free-Range Eggs The new results are in: Eggs from hens allowed to peck on pasture are a heck of a lot better than those from chickens raised in cages! 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

One of Those Days

Yesterday I had one of those days. It wasn't a bad day it was just a tiring day. I had the 'I'd rather be almost any place but here today' feeling. Everywhere I turned there was something new to do, and a million things I hadn't done. I like having projects, kids, a home to care for, a husband to care for, aspirations, some-day dreams, right-now dreams, parties, gardens, homeschooling, animals and home-cooked meals... but it is sometimes totally exhausting. When it gets like that I try and remember just about everything I have created in my life I not only made and created but I wanted! So I take baby steps to get back on track. I literally tell myself to keep on going. Do one thing at a time... and if I'm not enjoying it (at least most of it) then 'it' should probably go. I can't make my husband and kids go, nor would I want to, but I could: not throw parties, do boring homeschooling stuff or none at all, sell my animals, not garden or grow things, get rid of a whole bunch of our stuff and I could make boxed dinners. But none of that would make me happy.    

All of the things below were extremely frustrating yesterday but none of it is today. Today most of it is funny. 

Jelly on the bathroom wall.
Honey and peanut butter all over the jars, the peanut butter lid screwed on crooked.
Too much toilet paper in the toilet.... Everett! I scooped it out with my hand. Later he drops keys in, too. 
My flip flops go stick-flop-stick-flip across the kitchen floor; it's time to mop.
The longer I scrubbed the bathtub the more I realize how bad it needed scrubbed.
The fridge handle looked like a science experiment.
My bedroom door was sticky. This makes me frown. The fridge door is at least more understandable.
Why does my almost two year old throw food he doesn't like onto the floor? Oh yeah he's a baby.
Of course I forgot the cable guy was coming over and of course I have no bra on and a low cut cotton dress on. Of course my bangs aren't curled so they fall in my face. Of course when the cable man comes in the yard the dogs go crazy, the guineas start squawking and the geese start running and flapping their wings all while some chickens quietly crowd around to see what the big deal is. Of course I looked like a crazy bird lady.
Of course the baby has a shirt on but no pants...or underwear... when the school bus stops in front of my house. Kids on the bus go wild with hilarity. This does make me laugh out loud.
Of course I forgot there were some wet towels in the basement that should have been washed days ago.
Why did I let the dogs dig big holes in the yard? (I wanted them to catch and kill the moles that were digging up the yard). But now there are huge holes in the yard. On the bright side... no more moles. On the other bright side? My husband comes home, gives sympathies to me for all of my stresses and compliments the last three nights of dinner as being great. 

Right now Everett is whining and pushing my CD drive in and out of the computer. Today he learned to spit. It's totally not funny! ;)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

School Starts for Layla

What a busy, crazy, lovely family filled summer. For a moment I think that I hardly remember it. And then I read my blog or look at pictures of my happy children. Where does the time go? 

Layla has changed so much since last January when she started public school. Gradually as she started going to class she started seeming happier and more fulfilled. By the time first grade let out in May Layla seemed much more at ease and even happier. Public school was a pretty smooth and effortless transition for her and hard but not unbearable for me. When summer arrived I was thrilled to 'have her back' in a way that I see some parents talk about and feel when they have their kids "back" and out of school for the summer. That's one thing I like about homeschooling, it's not a seasonal thing to have my kids at home, it's permanent. Last year it was fairly easy to have her start public school, because she started in January. I knew in roughly four months she would be home again. This time it's a wee bit different. She's in for the year. Her first full year of public school. So when that bus pulled up to our steps and I snapped this photo tears welled up in my eyes.

A few weeks ago she told me she was staying home this fall and was back to homeschooling. My heart swelled. We were having such a good time. She's a completely different kid. She's so at ease, so happy, so much more patient. I know over the years I've given her the love, time and patience she's needed to gain self confidence and work through her sensory issues and that makes me proud of the effort and trials we've both faced together.

Throughout this whole summer we haven't had one problem like we used to have: no anger, no bad outbursts, barely any tears, no unhappiness. She's been simply content and happy. (Bad moods are not long lasting when they do happen now, everyone has them sometimes of course!) Maybe this is how smooth things will be from now on, maybe not, but I'm delighted seeing her sunshine filled smile a lot more often. Her gratitude towards me is beaming, her humor is as witty and as sharp as ever, her radiant energy keeps all of us alert. She always has needed me and loved me, the difference now is she shows it in her actions. 

When she told me she was back to homeschooling this year I hugged her and let her know that I liked that idea a lot. (That's another thing, she hugs me more now, and we hold hands and take walks.) I didn't tell her yes or no to homeschooling this year. I knew she wasn't ready yet, but she's enjoying being home so much she didn't want it to end. I didn't either. Since the school is such a good school and it is good place for her right now I figured I should not expect her to really stay home. Not surprisingly a week later she wanted to go back to public school for "one more year." I told her that even though I want her home I know this school is the right thing for right now. She happily agreed. I was so happy for her mature decision and that she wanted to be with the family too. Choosing something that is right over something you just want is a very mature decision. I was always afraid her going to public school would somehow mess up or change our homeschooling family dynamic. (An idea that maybe only a homeschool parent would understand...?) I realized quickly you can't change the family dynamic when you have a strong family. 

It's still hard because even with most good schools there are things that make me uneasy. I'm sad for the little boys she talks about that don't hold still in class and lose recess because of it (kids NEED recess and it should not be used as punishment), it's disappointing kids are given sugar everyday multiple times a day in the lunch and/ or classroom, it's super disappointing to me there is only one recess a day, it's hard for me to understand boxed up standardized learning and her being away from home so much. But it's okay. The confidence she shows and the schedule she is given at school is what she wants. The independence and structure and book learning is what she likes. I'm not going to tell her that's bad, it's not. As long as she's happy and has good role models at school I'll support her. Even though I miss her. 

Yesterday morning five year old Penelope said she would "miss Mommy if she went to public school." Layla said, "I miss Mommy too, but it's just what I have to do." That was the first time she ever said she missed me, the last school year she always said she didn't miss us. :)

I always want to remember this transition in her life, how hard of a baby and toddler she was and what an extraordinarily young girl she has become. She's so thankful and responsible for things, people and her actions. She's so watchful and content. I'm so very proud of her, and our family. Go Layla!!!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Fourth of July Game Day!

Fourth of July Game Day was a huge success. We had so much fun. A bunch of the kids told me things like: this was the best 4th ever, the games were fun, and thanks for planning it mom. :) 

Watermelon eating contest (a slow one, not fast)

I love Everett's face in this picture! Sweet baby. I love this picture!

Ethan wins, but Penelope and Sebastian say they do.

Charlotte made 130 water balloons!

Water fight!

Sack Races- Charlotte wins

Sack Races- Layla wins (Penelope a close second!)

Dad wins the whipped cream cheerio face contest

Dad throws cheerios on kids

Cold water gargle contest - Charlotte wins

Drip, drip, goose. Like duck, duck, goose except you get water dumped on you when they say "goose." 

Talking to Everett about the game we are playing. (Half of front yard is fenced off with orange fence because we are trying to regrow grass on that side of yard. The dog and kids on the tire swing just about killed it!)

Egg Roulette. 7 raw eggs, 11 hard boiled. Everyone takes turns splatting them on their own head to see who is lucky and who is not...Ricky= NOT lucky !!! He smacked his HARD!! lol! It was AWESOME.

Charlotte thought there was only one raw egg...hahhaha there were 7! 

Sage gets creamed. 

Ethan was lucky! Not one raw egg, he wins!

Apple Bobbing

Cute Penelope wins! Look at that proud face! 

Smoke bombs in bucket of water, just because

Pop Time!

Getting ready for the soda-mentos experiment

Soda-mentos experiment

The yearly 'on the house steps' 4th of July picture 

Another watermelon picture, I love the watermelon pics!