Life With Nine Kids

Thursday, May 31, 2012

I Brought My Kids With Me, and I'm Not Sorry

  I had a doctor appointment yesterday. I brought along Penelope (5), Sebastian (3), and Everett (21months). I felt like walking in with just a baby would be just fine, carting in two other kids made me feel... apologetic. They have toys in the rooms, they are a family practice. (We all go there) They are used to treating homeschool families, big families, Etc. So all these things made me more at ease. I however found myself wanting to apologize a few different times for choosing to tote along all of my youngest children for my appointment. I found myself twice wanting to lie and/or make excuses like, 'sorry I didn't have a babysitter'  or, 'I'm a stay at home mom so I had to bring my kids.' 

 I *could* have left them at home with the older kids, but I dislike doing that if I'm going to be more than 20-30 minutes away from home. (The Dr's is about 40 minutes away.) I also figured the little kids would just watch TV the entire time I was gone; that's no good. I also see them coming along as quality time and life experience for them.  On the way there and back we talk, listen to music, and play car games. (Yellow cars are 5 points, red cars are 2 points, all others 1 point) 
  In the waiting room we learn about signing in, inside voices, sharing the office toys with the other children, waiting, and politeness. The office was running behind and my kids got restless, but that's life. There was mini football in the basket of toys in the waiting room -who provides a ball to kids inside a waiting room?? So that produced exhausting challenges of it's own! 

Other advantages to them coming is that in the examining room they see their mom comfortable, chatting, talking about health concerns, discussing medications, asking questions, being polite, and standing her ground (if necessary). They see their mom get examined, have her ears looked at, Etc. so they know it's ok and not scary if/when they need to have it done. And finally they see mom get blood drawn painlessly and calmly and learn about blood, tests, Etc. 

  I find it interesting and sad our society is so adult focused. It can be pretty extreme. It's too the point that I have to sometimes stop myself from apologizing for bringing my kids someplace with me.

  The kids did end up bickering and fighting a little and it distracted me. If the office had been running on time they might have not felt so 'done' by the time we met with my care provider. So it was definitely more stressful than I thought it would be. But we managed. The kids liked watching me get my blood drawn the most. The nurse who draws my blood is super nice and I always have 1-2 kids in the room with me when I see her (this time I had 3). It's a tiny room, but she happily welcomes us like it's no big deal. When Everett was smaller he'd sit on my lap while she did it. This time he sat on a chair and was happy watching. I'm very appreciative of her carefree attitude.

 In most day-to-day situations I don't think any parent should ever feel awkward or apologetic for having to bring their child someplace they need to be. Sometimes kids act up and misbehave, they may be over stimulated, or maybe they are just plain bratty, but it's still part of life. Kids are people too. Sometimes doing day-to-day things with kids is easy, but sometimes it's hard. Sometimes you have to take kids outside because they are not acting calm, appropriate, or having the patience to deal with the adult themed outing. If my kids had been having a melt down at the office and I felt like I needed to apologize for the disruption I absolutely would have. Not because I brought them though, but because they had not acted as I thought they would or should. But to simply walk into a place and apologize because I'm a mother with children who need nurtured and cared for? Never.  

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Just Go Play

As always, click to enlarge photos
 I adore the picture below, but felt like making my own version (above) because so often older kids aren't encouraged to play enough, or sometimes at all. I wanted a picture that conveys play at many ages. I remembered that I recently had snapped this photo of my older and younger boys just playing and being silly. They were running, jumping, chasing each other, bouncing on an inflatable, and as they rolled to the ground I thought: this is what childhood is about. The youngest 21 months and the oldest 12 years old. Older kids enjoy play too. A release from the hardships or just plain mundane responsibilities of life, chores, and school work. Be it time with siblings, alone, or with friends; play builds imaginations and memories. So many 'big' kids just don't have enough play in their lives. Older kids still learn from playing too. Just because a person learns something doesn't mean they don't have more to learn, or different things to learn. Playing with others, exploring our world, thinking, problem solving, creating, making friends, riding bikes, coming up with games, skipping stones, catching frogs, tossing around a ball are all timeless and ageless activities. My kids keep themselves busy most of the time, but every kid gets bored. Boredom isn't always a bad thing though. I tell my kids that great innovative thinking and ideas can come from boredom.

I enjoy giving my kids classic toys like: jump ropes, bubbles, chalk, hula hoops, jacks, marbles, paint, hop scotch, sand, swords, and tire swings. Encouraging this kind of simple play is healthy, fun and wholesome...but I do it also because I hope, hope, hope with all my heart they will be inspired (despite this digital age that is so dependent on electronics) to make 100% sure their children one day have an extended opportunity to just PLAY. I see my role clearly: make sure my kids have plenty of time and opportunity to be kids.  Other jobs I have: Tell them to be kids, tell them why, play with them, enjoy them, tell them to make play a priority for their own kids, and take pictures of it all.

Other places to read about the importance of play:
Old-Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills

Climb, Swing & Snuggle: Reading Readiness Involves the Whole Body


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Spring Turns Into Summer

I love grilling because the oven stays off and the kitchen stays cool, there are less dishes and clean up, and it tastes good. We love grilled pineapple and veggies! In search of a healthier version of hot wings I invented (with the help of some online suggestions and searches) a fry-free non breaded grilled hot wing. The recipe will be posted on my food blog later today. 

I love when the little kids take pictures of me because I get to see myself from their point of view. 
We are enjoying lots of fruit. The blackberry bushes are heavy with fruit, it's really exciting to see them flourish. We bought all our raspberry (thorn and thorn-less varieties) and blackberry (thorn-less) bushes from two years ago, I think. I'm so very happy with them I plan on planting more for sure. There is something so amazing about planting a 3-7 inch twig into 
the ground and watch it grow delicious berries.


Poison Ivy

The poison ivy has gotten way worse on us both. We itch, bust mostly we have rashes, headaches and we are tired all the time. We had to cancel our all day trip away and swimming plans for the rest of the weekend because Ricky breaks out too bad when out in the heat. His rash and energy level don't do well if he does anything other than than hang out on the couch. (Ha, the perfect ailment for him on a 3 day weekend, lucky guy!)

Yesterday he finished extending the fence to my guinea and goose pen and adding a gate, it wiped him totally out even though it only took him an hour. He broke out horribly (way worse than the picture above). I made a slippery elm paste and rubbed it all over him. It helped take the swelling down. 

I swear by slippery elm bark. It is good for so many things, but for anything skin related if it's: red, raw, weepy, blistery,  sore, crusty or wet then slippery elm bark is your cure. I used it on chicken pox and it was amazing. When Layla was a nine month old baby with chicken pox she ended up getting them so bad on her face she had deep blistery wet pits. They were very deep, wet and weeping. I sprinkled or dabbed dry slippery elm powder on her constantly and it kept them clean and dry.  Slippery elm has antibacterial and anti fungal properties, its soothing and can help with itchy and soreness.  She once got impetigo, too, and it totally cured it where most would have needed to go to the doctor. 

Ricky's now crashed out on Zyrtec (allergy pill). He said it already seems to be helping the swelling around his eyes. If he gets any worse we'll take him to the Walgreen's Take Care Clinic. We've always had great luck and helpfulness there. 

                             Guinea Fowl        
 Guinea raising has been totally satisfying! We have worked hard on taming them! They are not totally tame (I'm not sure that's possible), they are however just skittish enough that you remember they are a game bird, but they are mostly calm and easy to be around without them getting spooked much. I was thrilled when I was working in the garden and they came near me! I'm able to easily herd them into their house each night, which his really fun and neat! I had read guineas like routine and we have them on one. They are really a lot of fun. I see them out my kitchen window guarding the garden, eating bugs and grain, and visiting their house several times a day. I also see them admiring themselves in the several mirrors I put around for them. I love them and think of them as pets more than any fowl I've ever had. For the first time I got to see their watch dog instincts kick in as they freaked out squawking and carrying on when we started using the weed eater the other day. It was hilarious. I think we have two females and one male, but it's very hard to tell. They have gotten big very quickly!

Goslings snuggling up in the grass
Quickly and effortlessly goslings are becoming treasured pets. Charlotte lays in the grass and they hobble over and lay down with her! Its darling! 
They follow the kids around a little and they occasionally graze on grass themselves and take offers of weeds the kids hand feed them. 
Learning about nature and making new friends

Quiet Outdoor Spaces 
Shhhhhhhh. Mom's quiet time. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Poison Ivy

There's a lot of interesting things we've learned about poison ivy lately... Ricky and I are both having reactions from pulling some up. I started noticing HUGE poison ivy leaves coming out from every which way all along our driveway and chicken house area. I was impressed I noticed what they were. We cleaned them up on Sunday, I wore gloves but Ricky didn't. 

Did you know you can get rashes, blisters, Etc. anywhere, not just where the plant touched you? And you actually don't spread the rash to other areas of your skin, or to others by scratching or touching your rash/blisters. 

Did you know you can "break out" for a week or longer from it? I've had new small itchy spots start to rash up several times a day everyday for the past three days. I thought: you get exposed, you get a rash, it sucks, the end. NO! Not so. You can go days or over a week (or about ten days -but as long as several weeks) getting new rashes or blisters that itch like crazy. Two days after exposure I thought I was in the clear, not so!

Did you know many people don't react the first time they are exposed? Apparently the more you are exposed the worse the reaction each time. Ricky thought he was immune all these years, but it turns out he is not. 

Genetics play a role in how severe your reaction may be.

You can have headaches and a general feeling of unwellness (and diarrhea, nausea) from exposure. You may have to see a Dr. if swelling occurs or if the reaction gets progressively worse. (Ricky has the headaches and doesn't feel well, he also has a slight flat bumpy rash starting on his face) This can also be a sign on a systemic reaction that may need treated. 

Kids under 3 don't generally react to it (although I see two spots on baby Everett). Some places online say kids under 11 don't usually react too strongly to exposure. 

I'm glad we just have rashes, not any fluid filled blisters. Some of the raw bleeding looking photos online look scary! I look more like I've scratched tiny chicken pox marks on my body. Ricky has a very flat non itchy rash. He doesn't itch at all, only me.  Still, on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the WORST reaction possible) I rate this a 2. Maybe a 3. But I'm pretty tough. 

Poison ivy is weird!!!

Ricky did have take allergy pills, it seemed to provide some relief for a while. Two weeks after exposure rashy spots that had started to fade started to come back in full force, and this time with with warmth and more swelling. He went to the Take Care Clinic at Walgreen's (so fast and easy and they are so nice there) where he was prescribed steroids. He is on the mend, but it has been pretty sucky. He can't go outside because for more than 15 minutes or makes the rash flare up.

Update 2: He had to get on a 9 day steroid medication. He went to Walgreen's Take Care Clinic and they prescribed him that because the swelling was not going away. It's now been a week since he's been off steroids and all is well again. The swelling started going away at one point, but then came it was time to go in.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The New Birds Arrived

Support organic and local farmers!

Charlotte, 15 and Everett, 1

Changes to the Order
We ended up getting one turkey instead of four and no meat birds. I chickened out. (ha!)  I felt like I was overloading my dear husband if I got them all. Two weeks before the chicks were due to hatch & ship we had: a retaining wall fall down, a bad rain water drain problem occur outside (which includes a newly found foundation crack/leak in the basement), AND a driveway patch and repair problem all come up...all in the same week. I could tell the very back, back yard where I had planned on raising four turkeys and 25 dinner table chickens was not going to get fenced in. 

So, I decided in a panic that we can't do any turkeys or meat birds. We have too much to do. So on the the phone as I'm canceling all the meat birds I immediately realize I need to add a couple birds to meet my minimum shipping amount (for warmth and safety). So while on the phone altering my order I blurt out, "I want one turkey.

(Hahah. I just wanted to raise a turkey so bad!) 

Getting one turkey is totally a dumb thing to do. Turkeys are not known for being very hardy or easy to raise. So now I have this one little turkey that knows he's different. You'd think he (or she?) wouldn't know, but "he" does. The poor little thing stands off by it's self all lonely like. The first day he arrived I even said he looked confused. I feel bad I ordered only one turkey, not just for it's social interaction and self-esteem (Aunt Sharon's laughing at this part right now :) but also because if it dies that's my only shot at raising my first turkey. I should have got at least two! Right from the start all the birds were super healthy and active. Things were fantastically great for two days, then Turkey-Lurkey starts laying around all sick like. An hour and a half later though he's peppy again. Now this morning he looks sick again. I start to think he is just a really lazy sleeper and really comfy on his heated area. I hope. After searching online I finally read something about baby turkeys being limp, crashed out, floppy sleepers. (Seriously he looks like he is dying!) So looks like Turkey-Lurky is normal -for now. 

 I'm giving him GSE drops in his water, which is supposed to really help with blackhead disease and anything else than can kill a turkey. So I'm hopeful. 
                                             He (or she?) is an odd and cute little fellow.

This brings me to another thought...if I spend so much energy keep this little turkey alive will I really butcher it? I should have bought more than one turkey darn it. Who buys just one turkey!!?? Sheesh. Ricky, a real farmer, calls him Butterball.

The Birds
All the birds arrived four days ago. We have goslings!  They. Are. Cute.

They are unbelievably soft and fuzzy! Especially on their underside.

 They are all getting along famously in their brooder house during the warmth of the day (no heat source needed).

 I bring them all in at night where they sleep on a heating pad in a pillow case inside a plastic tub, as pictured above.

I don't usually use heat lamps due to fire hazard and chance of kids getting burned while they help out. I like using a heating pad covered in a pillow case. It works for us. Some time 
soon-ish I plan on writing a post about the care of birds and how/why we do it that way. 
Note: you do have to check on them often though. 

The birds are so excited to be released in the brooder house each day. They run, skip and jump around. The chicks have already started scratching (but only in the brooder house, not in the plastic tub). It's really neat to see. They seem really happy. 

I change their water every half hour to hour (except overnight where I leave it for 7-8 hours, unless I get up in the middle of the night).  A few drops of GSE go into the water every time. I use purified water. I clean their plastic tub daily, their brooder house shouldn't need cleaned for a long time. Unless we have a sick or dead bird. I love this many birds. It's the perfect number. I had 40 at once one time and we lost a few. I think the smaller flocks are much easier to manage. You can tell if there are any trouble makers quickly, or sick ones. Healthy robust birds will pick on small, weak, sick, or pasty butt birds. 

We have one black chick with pasty butt. It's usually harmless, but the chicks were picking on him. He's separated for now and doing very well. 

Soon I have to write about my guinea hens! They have proven to be quite fun and the most satisfying to raise! 

Everett can't really hold them, for obvious toddler reasons, so after a while he gets upset at us not letting him hold them by the neck. This is a picture of  him crying WHILE simultaneously squealing in delight. Really cute and sad.
Poor little guy.

UPDATE: Turkey Lurkey died. Never will I get one turkey alone again, they need to be paired in even numbers. I have found nothing online saying this yet, but I have info now from people that says so. Bummer, poor thing.  This winter, if it's a mild winter, I'll work on their official pen and shelter and be ready spring 2013!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Guinea Garden

 It's sometimes fun when plans don't totally turn out "as planned." We decided to keep the guineas close to the house so that I could enjoy my bug eating pets. So we also started making raised beds. Ricky likes what we've done so far so much that he wants three more beds this year. We have scrap wood to make more. These pre-cut and drilled cedar ones we got on sale years ago and just now had the perfect time and place to use them. So this is the progression of the 'guinea garden' that is neatly placed outside one of  my kitchen windows.

Outside my kitchen window we planted a cherry tree, to the right there

This is Everett who climbed into the new Guinea house right as we were finishing it up 

The whole area in progress. I'm building a roof top herb garden on the guinea house,  I lined it with a blue tarp. We added reed fence along the top of our existing fence it to help keep the Guineas in (even though we clipped their wings) and for an extra seclusion feel. 

The boys hauling dirt into the beds from the chicken pen

First day on the loose! I love 'em!

In progress. I have it all planted now. Basil, chamomile, lemon balm, cilantro, marigold flowers 

Hungry-yummy baby!

The first wonderful raspberry harvest is starting! All my raspberry and blackberries are taking off like wild fire. It's awesome!

The kids spreading out some bags of topsoil we added

Some of my tomato babies getting ready to go in the ground. I took VERY awesome care of them this year to see how big I could get them. These are the best starters I ever had --the extra care and attention helps them  thrive so much! I plan to sell tomato plants at our local farmers market next year. 

This is with the green garden fence and gate up. I made this gate myself, I am super proud of it. It's the first thing I ever sawed and screwed together -totally built from scratch. It's super sturdy! Ricky was impressed :) Then I painted it cute. 

This was a totally unplanned outfit. Too funny.  I love it!

Guineas like to look at themselves so we have mirrors everywhere, even in their roosting house. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother's Day

Amazing and Fun Mother's Day! 

The children clamoured around the kitchen at 7am. I heard pots and pans and chatter, a few disagreements and then I was brought a huge omelet with spinach, cheese and onions, toast with strawberry jelly drawn on with a heart, fruit salad with a heart shaped kiwi in the center, coffee, creamer and two frosted toaster pastries. I was touched and proud of their teamwork and generosity. 

Ricky gave me a super cute Mother's Day card from him and a swimsuit top I mentioned was cute at Target. He had never even seen it and I didn't even think he was listening when I told him I saw a cute top at Target. I described it to him though in a ramble, and he went and found it! I told him not to get me anything for Mother's Day since I had such a big birthday last month. He's so very thoughtful. I don't need to wonder how he became so thoughtful, I don't need to look any further than his mom and dad. They are super wonderful and thoughtful people. His dad sent me amazingly gorgeous flowers a couple days before Mother's Day with a sweet note attached thanking me for being a great mother for his grand kids. 

When I was just about done eating Sebastian and Penelope came to visit with me and I snuggled with them. I called Sage in to take a picture of us and just as he was taking a picture I told Sebastian to move positions and when I helped him his legs hit the platter of food - food and coffee dumped all over the bed!

So this is the picture we got instead 
Later on I saw the adorable sign Penelope and Layla made for me, and the kids gave me handmade cards (which are always soooo creative and awesome).  They also gifted me with some herb plants and a new grill spatula. I use grill spatulas in the kitchen. I hate small wussy spatulas I like big metal ones! Ours recently broke so I was really glad to have a new one!  

Then it was work day time! Every Mother's Day I take full advantage of my family helping do yard work, cleaning the chicken coop, getting the garden ready, Etc. I love it! The boys filled and hauled soil-compost from the chicken area for three new raised beds we put up. 

We took a couple hour break in the afternoon when suddenly Aunt Sharon showed up unexpectedly -from two hours away! She told me her and Grandma were here to share the "Mother's Day Surprise" with me. 

My Dad was in town!!! So just then my Dad and Grandma start walking up the driveway to surprise me. He flew in for just a day to surprise his mom. The kids were so happy to see Grandpa, even little Everett was happy. We had an awesome afternoon chatting and ate some fruit they brought over. They also brought some wine called Island Getaway... Ricky wears tropical shirts all the time in the summer so this was a fluke and not planned to go with the wine lol. We made him be in the picture just as Sage was taking it apparently, too funny.

They were off to dinner before my dad had to go to his hotel room near the airport order to catch his super early am flight back. I snuck out of the house and joined them for dinner. My family was super awesome and didn't think anything of me ditching them. I think they were grateful I wasn't home to come up with more yard work, LOL! Ricky was glad I could get some more visit time with my Dad and was happy to 
to stay home with all the kids.

We went to a Japanese grill and had loads of fun.
My family does two things VERY well: Eating and having fun

Our chef made us try and catch shrimp in our mouths while he flung it in our faces!

We are trying to figure out what this critter is! 

Mother's Day roses from the restaurant

Then we sat around and talked for an hour outside (and let the drinks get out of our system before driving). It was a fantastic day and night!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Layla's Public School Update

Things that are not so great things:
  • Public school feeds Layla an impossible amount of sweets. She drinks non organic milk everyday, she likes to eat school lunch. (I told her next year no more non organic milk and we need to pack lunch sometimes, she said o.k..)
  • A teacher said she was fat in front of a classroom of children (I growl at that --she's a pretty lady and normal sized woman. I teach my kids that I'm NOT normal size. The obsession with super skinny is so heartbreaking.)
  • Standardized testing came and went. Layla had no trouble, which is great. My heart went out to those kids that did though.
  • Public school demands a lot of my kid's time, I miss her. She missed homeschool art today.
  • Speaking of art; I don't know for sure yet, but it seems like art class is not very good at her school.
  • Layla was scratched by a boy. Accounts of what actually happened are varried. I'm satisfied enough to know it wasn't a bully situation and Layla decided to let it go. I was mad as a wet hen though! (I've seen hens wet, they actually never look mad to me.)
  • Layla wants to go to summer school. Most parents dream come true, right? Well I have other plans. It's a little tough because Layla seems to like school more than us, I take it with a grain of salt though. Layla's outwardly feelings are not always her real feelings.
  • The look on Charlotte's face when she hears how great Layla's school is... she's really at a loss as to why it couldn't have been that way for her. Charlotte had a more negative time at a public school far away. Of course Charlotte's so glad it's good for Layla and we joke about it and laugh about the differences.
  • It's the last seven days of school and for one day this week the younger grades watched the 5th graders field day. I think that's stupid. Layla said it was boring and she fell asleep on the grass. She could have gone to homeschool art with us!
  • Movies/TV during school is not ever why I send my kid to school. I have to bite my tongue and refrain from writing a letter to the school every time this happens.
I delight in:
  • Layla's school had school garden day. Bring tools, gloves and plants to help work and beautify the school with landscaping. What an absolutely lovely and soulful idea.
  • The school has meaningful fundraisers for it's own parents/students. One was for a family where the mom has a debilitating disease. Another was for a family who lost everything in a fire. For one if you brought a dollar to donate you got to wear your hair crazy, another time if you donated a dollar you could wear a hat to school.
  • Layla was invited and went to her first birthday party of a classmate. I met the mom and talked about setting up playdates for summer.
  • Layla's school has field trips, movie nights, class parties, and lots of fun treats and mini birthday parties. Lots of parental involvement.
  • Layla is the most observant and quirky-funny kid I know. She tells us wild tales and informative bios about kids, their families, their siblings, their parents, full names (including middle names). She knows everyone: older kids, younger kids, teachers, kids in other 1st grade classes. And she tells us tons of wacky funny stories about them.
  • At the parent-teacher conference her teacher said Layla will be above grade level by the end of the year. Layla told me two teachers expressed that they want her in their class for second grade.
  • Layla gets 100% on her spelling tests, is very proactive about studying, and remembers everything she needs for school always. Makes our job EASY. She doesn't like to practice her spelling words on paper. She does them orally! @#$! She is her dad's child for sure. School was always easy for him.
  • The Principal of the school is a young, really nice, kind, father of young kids. Everyone seems to love him. I like him tons.
  • Layla was in a good ol' fashioned school play.
  • The school had a bring your pet to school day for teachers and kids 3rd grade and older. (Charlotte's like, 'you HAVE GOT to be kidding me what kind of school IS THIS!!!??') Layla's siblings and I laughed so hard when she told us her teacher's tiny dog pooped on her. (on Layla)
  • Layla ALWAYS has some crazy story to tell about something or someone. It sounds like the most interesting school experience ever. She's always telling us why some kid is absent, cute things kids at school say. She tells us about the cranky-mean lunch lady and how her dog doesn't like kids either. LOL! Layla said the lunch lady's dog was going to bite her so Layla pushed it away and the lunch lady got mad. Layla thought it was funny.
  • Layla tels me everything that goes down at school and talks so much it drives me bananas. It gives us time to bond though. I know all the dirt on what kids do, who gets in trouble, what the teachers say. It's hilarious.
  • Field day was fabulous fun for her, she brought home 4 ribbons. (one first place, two second place, one fourth place)
  • Today was test celebration day --celebrating standardized tests being over. They had ice cream, games, an entire day of fun, and even a bounce house. The Principal was dressed up as the St. L. Rams mascot and handed out the mascot photo and signed autographs. -Charlotte was speechless. lol.
No wonder this kid likes public school!!!!