Life With Nine Kids

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Kids and Magic 8 Balls

The Magic 8 Ball is a real pain around my house. The little kids think it's totally real. Layla (8) I'm not 100% sure about. She's at the age that you can't really tell if she's believing or playing. I totally forget that Penelope (6) and Sebastian (4) think it's real and they ask me all the time what it says. I'm always distracted when they do it too, so I'm reading answers from it mindlessly and not actually realizing they are asking the ball questions. Typical situation yesterday:

Penelope: Mom what does this say?!
Me: (I glance from computer screen to 8 ball) It says it's Likely
Penelope: So what's that mean, yes?
Me: Yes.
Penelope: OHhh nooo... my baby doll IS haunted!
Sebastian: (Screaming in fear) Ahhhhugh!

They all run around, then dramatically hide.
Penelope 5 minutes later: Mom, did it really say yes?
Me: Um, nooo. Heh, heh, I was, ah, kidding.

Me: I was just kidding, ok?
Penelope: I hope my baby doll is not haunted!!

HAHA. Oh brother! You'd think I'd learn to at least ask them what they asked it before I read it! Everett (2) calls the 8 ball an egg and says "crack!" and then throws it. How has this magic 8 ball made it through four toddlers without breaking? That is the true mystery. The toddlers have ALL thrown the thing across the room for the last 8.5 years.

This morning Penelope says our two dogs' eyes looked green and creepy. She concludes they must be aliens. The next thing I know I have a Magic 8 Ball shoved in my face.
Penelope: Mom, what does this say?
Me: It says....wait, what did you ask it?
Penelope: If Chippy and Ranger are aliens.
Me: It says to ask again later.
Penelope: They are using mind control I bet.

Kids are the BEST thing ever.
Last night Sebastian (age 4) says to his dad at the dinner table, "Hey dad, did you know time is space?"
The look on Ricky's face was priceless. I have to always remember that. 
See, this is why we want to have little kids practically forever! They are so great.

Another Good Conversation (non 8-ball related this time):
Layla: Can we get some pop rocks and soda soon?
Me: I guess so.
Layla: Cause I want to try them together...because some people say if you eat pop rocks and soda together you'll explode.
Me: Yup, okay. We can try it.
Penelope pipes in: But do it outside, okay Layla?

LOL! Ricky and I totally laugh. Good thinking Penelope. 
We had a big spring snow last weekend. We really want spring but take the good with the bad. Good= snow is so pretty and we can still have some fun in it. Bad= We want WARM outside time, we want to get the strawberry patches ready and some grass planted. Only 12 weeks until our NEW BABY will be here! I don't have much planting and yard work time!

Super Mom

I recently added an occupation to my Facebook profile. I already had 'Stay at Home Mom' as my job but Facebook asked me to get more specific by asking for my position at 'Stay at Home Mom.' Without thinking I instinctively typed "homemaker/awesome wife/super mom." And I've been thinking about it ever since. My husband thinks I'm awesome, and I think I'm awesome (a good portion of the time at least), and now I'm telling everyone that I indeed am awesome -and super. Awesomely super-full of myself perhaps?

 We sure are fed mixed signals about being great and feeling good about ourselves, aren't we? I was fed a healthy dose of self esteem as a grade schooler. The 'you can be anything you want, you can do anything you want, you are special, feel good about yourself' pep talks from school and parents were rampant in the 80's.  All of that self esteem building only to find out later that if we actually feel that way, if we actually have a can-do attitude, and if we actually feel awesome, we are really in a way just putting other people down, and we might be conceded. As life rolls on I've figured out that for just as many people that tell you to feel good about yourself there is a line of people that tell you to feel guilty about it --or to quit making them feel guilty because of your happiness or achievements!

 I have noticed there are lots of articles and blog posts online dedicated to the myth of the super mom; posts about how no one is perfect and about how being a "good enough mom" is good enough. There seems to be a lot of moms out there writing to inspire others to feel good about their decisions, to assure women that we are all fighting the same battle, and that as women, wives, and mothers we don't all have to be: cookie baking, elaborate party throwing, bathroom scrubbing, play date hopping, do-it-all, super moms. I think some of these articles bring a lot to the table, but at the same time some of the things people write aren't very nice. Many of these articles claim that Super Moms don't exist, that moms that seem to juggle life with a smile are fake people or lying, I have even read that Super Moms are actually bullies in disguise trying to make everyone else feel bad. So when I described my occupation as Super Mom I kinda felt bad about it. So I thought about it and I think what most moms probably don't know is that they are Super Moms! Nearly all moms work HARD, so I think moms should start acting like they are super. A mother's work is never done and being a mother is important. Remind me again what job is more important?

I get the sentiment but I still take issue with the "good enough" comment. Who wants to be a good enough mom? Or a good enough doctor? Or a good enough hair stylist? Or a good enough firefighter? I my eyes being the best you can be and being good enough are different things. One is inspiring willpower and accomplishment, the other implies a lackluster attitude and settling for less. I think we should encourage each other and our own selves to be good, even great, each in our own individual ways. No matter what there will always be someone better than all of us (someone smarter, prettier, funnier, more creative, more organized, more patient, more witty, Etc.). But everyone has the potential within them to be the best they can be and feel good about it; I think that is awesome. It is super.

We are all super in different ways.
 Okay some of us might not be super, and some should work on that. Like if you binge drink around your kids, physically or mentally harm your children, hit your partner, or if you abandon your kid or otherwise put your child in danger. In those cases you probably aren't very super mom-ish. In those cases people need to reach out for some help. Generally speaking though moms love their kids and protect their kids. There ARE cruddy moms (and people) out there but generally speaking us moms strive to care for our kids and work hard at it. I work hard at it. I work hard a being fair and being consistent. I work hard at being a good example for my kids. I work hard at having a clean house, a fun life and good kids. I work hard and sometimes I feel really awesome about it, other times I feel like it's never enough and sometimes it's totally exhausting. Sometimes I make little mistakes, sometimes I make big mistakes. What I do know is that as long as I'm trying and working hard I am accomplishing super things. I don't want to be good enough, I want to be the best that *I* can be. As long as I spend time and effort making myself a better person and show love to my family *I* feel full of awesome, and we should all feel full of awesome!

So what is a super mom?

 This is such a loaded term, and it means different things to all of us, and that's good and okay. A Super Mom to me is almost any mom really. A Super Mom is brave enough to love deeply, to try, to cry, to laugh, to be brave enough to be strong and brave enough to be weak. A Super Mom still makes mistakes and knows how to own up to those mistakes. A Super Mom comes in all shapes and sizes. A Super Mom should know that no mater what happens today that tomorrow is another day. Super Moms pace the floor with teething, crying babies and have to sometimes clean up barf at 2am. Super Moms teach kindness to their kids, Super Moms love their kids, Super Moms worry about their kids. Super Moms hold hands with their kids. Super Moms buy store bought play-doh, or make homemade play dough. Super Moms make homemade pizza, or store bought pizza. Super Moms bake from scratch brownies, or store bought brownies. Some Super Moms scrub their houses weekly and some don't. Some Super Moms wear make-up and some don't. Some Super Moms make homemade baby food, some buy it at the store. Super Moms do the best they can with what talents they have. Super Moms make the best decisions they can with the information they have. When a Super Mom makes a mistake she tries better next time.

Traits of Super Heroes

A super hero possess extraordinary powers and abilities... 
Mothers do
A super hero has a strong moral code including a willingness to risk one's own safety in the service of good without expectation of reward...
Mothers do
A super hero has a motivation, such as a sense of responsibility...

Mothers do
A super hero can have both weaknesses and limited capabilities. Super heroes can make mistakes, misjudge and can sometimes lose!
Mothers do

(WHAT? Super heroes can be weak? Defeated? Tired? On the verge of giving up? Yes, and guess what? They are still SUPER!)

I love being a Super Mom (and wife). I happen to enjoy staying home and being a traditional homemaking mother and wife. Not everyone does, but I do. I'm not super at all of it all the time, no one is super at what they do ALL of the time. But in general I feel super, happy, and accomplished at things that are important to me. I have my good days and bad days and I know everyone else does too. I shouldn't be a threat to other Super Moms for saying that I am super nor them to me. Superheros aren't comparing capes with each other and Super Moms shouldn't either. We are all full of awesome.

If you aren't a self proclaimed Super Mom, then maybe it's time you became one. Because if you are a mom and you *LOVE* your child(ren) you probably are a Super Mom in disguise. :)

And now after ignoring my children to write this I'm going to try and reclaim Super Mom feelings within myself and muster up some energy and patience to regain control of the household since my kids are fighting, one is naked, and they are all bored and complaining! Have a great day Super Moms!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Pretzel Letters, Aunt Sharon's Trash Can & Enjoying Simple Things

I was just thinking about last weekend when Ricky sat with Sebastian and Penelope and he bit the shapes of letters out of pretzels and helped them spell their names. I almost took a picture but then didn't. I take so many pictures that sometimes I tell myself not to because do I really need to record everything... and now I think I should have. They worked intently with their dad and they had a lot of fun just sitting and snacking and making letters. I found this online though and it's pretty neat and pretty much how they did it:

It's one of those simple moments in life that you just love to watch. Happiness and entertainment, family and simpleness. I soak it up.

 Last weekend was much calmer and more focused than the previous weekend, thank goodness. This week I'm tired though and wishing I'd snap out of it. I have so much to do and I'm not sure how to find the motivation. It's a lot of work running a household AND finding things for kids to do all day long. I don't always feel like I have to find them things to do but it's the end of winter and we are all crawling up the wall. (The older kids seem pretty content though, they have been working hard at school work it seems.)
 All I really want to do is paint the upstairs hallway and stairs. And maybe the kitchen. And I can not wait for the grass to turn green again. I can not wait to fix up the grass that has been ruined by run-away chickens and dogs, repair fence, plant tomatoes, do a million other things, and get ready to have a baby. We have a lot to accomplish before the baby arrives. I have no focus just a whole lotta "I wants!"

Recently I've been marveling at the simple things that entertain or excite us.

I went to Target the other day and bought a new kitchen trash can. Our old kitchen trash can is about 13 years old, like at a minimum it's that old. It was just a open white bin, standard size, old and crappy and stained/scratched up in some parts. It may have had a lid at one point, I have no idea. Eventually it was half decoupaged by me and the kids with Eric Carle pictures, to help hide how old it had become. Every time I got sick of our crumby kitchen bin I'd put 'new trash can' on the grocery list. But every time I went grocery shopping, for like two years or more, I'd reconsider it as a want and not a need because I just had too many groceries to buy for our big household and would rather save the money.
So finally this week I went to Target with a serious intent of buying a new trash can. Penelope (6) was with me and as we looked at the selection she saw one that has the push foot lever and lid. She exclaimed, "Aunt Sharon has one like this! You push it open with your foot!?" She was so cute explaining it to me. I asked her if she thought we should get it and she beamed with, "Yes, and EVERETT LOVES Aunt Sharon's trash can. He will love this new can for us!" When we got home with this trash can I kid you not at least three of the four kids that greeted us upon arrival said, "A new trash can, like Sharon's!"  Everett and Sebastian took turns throwing away things all day long. If something needs thrown away they are racing to the can. Everett being two is especially enthralled with being able to operate something with his foot, the wonder of cause and effect. He's so cute and intentional when he does it too. I wanted to take a picture of them but stopped myself. It's just a trash can I told myself. Other kids made comments about the can throughout the day, too.
 So Layla comes home from school and says hi to me as she walks past me and heads to the kitchen for a snack. Less than a minute later I hilariously hear her yell, "Mom we got a new trash can! And it's like Sharon's! I like it!"

 I just love all the fuss over a trash can. :)

 From the window yesterday I saw the dogs pawing and rolling something around on the ground, the size told me it was a round soup bone but the shape made me yell, "Charlotte I think the dog has a big egg... like a goose egg?!" Charlotte ran outside in the freezing cold and sleet with no shoes on and swipes it up and runs back inside. She cradles it in her hands and we gather around it and marvel at the huge, thick, heavy shelled wonder as if it's made of gold. I jump up and yell, "Our goose laid an egg!" Charlotte says, "Awwwwwwww, my little goose laid it's first egg!" And we are all excited for 10 or 15 minutes. Everett, the egg cracker 2.5 year old who can not be trusted with eggs ever, is begging and pleading to hold it. We help him and he softly says, "Wowww." We text Ricky a picture.

I just love all the fuss over a goose egg. :)

I thought these things pretty much sum up how simple we are. I can only wonder what other exciting things are in store for us this week!  Hahah :)
(We are having 20 bales of straw delivered soon, so I imagine that will be pretty exciting, too. And the kids will play on them.) 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Homeschool Reflections far we've come and where we are going

Layla has a snow day and so far today she's watched various educational shows from Nova Science, learned about Ireland, played an online game that helps you construct a model of the human body (with focus on the digestive system), and is creating an advertisement (for a real or made up product) with the other kids. Homeschool family win! We are education focused, wholesome, and family centered. Nothing changes that. I think you can have that dynamic with a public school family as well, it's just rare because focus is easily shifted to other things and school left up to the institution. Ultimately the environment the child is raised in makes a huge difference no matter what, but from a homeschool family’s point of view I'm thrilled our household dynamic never changed. This is a common wonder/concern in families that enroll homeschool kids into public school.

The other day Layla told me all kids should go to public school. I gently reminded her that if homeschool isn't for everyone then public school isn't for everyone either. I know she agrees but she was being defiant and stubborn and argued with me. I didn't take the bait and dropped the conversation.

Today homeschooling and public school came up again and I mentioned one of the reasons I asked her if she wanted to try public school was because she was so angry when she'd ask me to teach her something and five minutes into me helping her she would suddenly get angry for no reason and storm off. It was confusing and frustrating for me. This went on for not just months but years!
 She told me defiantly, "Well yeah ‘cause learning with math blocks is BORING!" I retorted, "Yeah and you've never used math blocks in public school have you?" 

There was SILENCE and Charlotte half smiled at me knowingly and quietly. We didn't say anymore, nothing needed to be said. Layla's RARELY silent and I rarely can get the last word in with that child! But she realized for a moment that some things, many things perhaps, aren't that different when you learn them at school or home; you still have to sit and learn some things and be patient. She obviously just prefers her school, and that's okay because we like this particular school and she is thriving.

The other day something else caught her attention. I was cooking dinner and talking to the children about having good character. We started discussing what it means to be a good role model, to do the right thing and to have good character. We talked about how the way we act shapes the entire world around us, what others think of us and how we feel about others and ourselves. Having good character is important. Layla excitedly piped up, "Oh at school we have a sign in the lunch room that says character is everything!!"
I knew this -and that's why I enjoy her school. They spend time focusing on developing respectful students, and we get reinforcement of values and manners that we have already been working on at home for years! Because of this Layla is even more perceptive to our rules and our family’s character. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I really love her school.  It’s won awards, the principal is amazing, the staff down to the bus drivers and cafeteria workers are all part of the schools mission statement /goal to teach safety respect and responsibility.  

We have an understanding though, 5th grade is the cut off. Our kids aren't going to public middle school/Jr. High and it's something we made clear before she was enrolled. The very idea of segregating children in a Lord of The Flies, popularity driven environment with dwindling adult supervision and dwindling parental involvement in a media obsessed and boyfriend/girlfriend/sex crazed parents we simply draw the line. Her elementary school is fabulous, but it all ends here. No exceptions. We don't agree with the moral decline of our society -and we have a commitment to raise our own children in a respectful, supervised and wholesome environment. I know what *I* learned in middle school and what a lack of supervision and direction there is. I lived in an upper class suburban neighborhood and went to a brand new pristine school that was still tainted with a society that teaches ‘teens will be teens’ and use a condom for sex, instead of don’t have sex.  Like the majority of teens I knew I looked at my peers and the media for what was acceptable social behavior. Friends suddenly become your family, at least you feel that way for a while. Sadly, no one is immune to it, so I can't predict if our kids will get horribly sucked into that culture or not. Ultimately the bad influences won out for me and it set the stage for high school years that were terribly reckless, valueless and not at all school focused. It's the reason I'm an obsessively attentive mom. I'll never let that happen to my kids. I don’t believe in the society I stand in, I don’t trust others and I take responsibility for how my kids turn out (to a certain degree anyway…at some point nature and nurture do collide and they fully become their own human being). That saying "I've seen the village and I don't want it raising my child" applies here.

Layla and I have always had a weird relationship. She's very standoffish but warms up and I have to be careful in order for our relationship to grow. The only reason she's not a raging brat with a ton of problems is her stable life and family. Ricky and I are 100% sure of it. We also have no doubt that she is not only improving and growing but she is learning trust, patience and acceptance...slowly over time...since birth. It's almost like through her I have a glimpse of my own complicated and angry self at a young age. As a child I was fraught with emotional problems and anger that was difficult to pinpoint and it haunted me from 8 until 18. I told Ricky I would not let that happen to her, and so we carefully supervise and nurture her. We give her space when needed and surround her with siblings/family and proper morals. We limit her exposure to all media (just like the rest of our kids). She seems to thrive and grow instead of get worse. Thank you, God.

Since I'm writing and reflecting about school life and kids I must write about how proud I am of our teenagers Charlotte, Sage and Ethan. I want to reflect on how far we’ve come with homeschooling/ child-led learning!  I'm really proud of how proactive they are of their education. They spend so much independent time on school work and I don't do very much in the way of planning their day out for them anymore. They have texts, workbooks, and projects, suggestions from us, computer programs and internet sites. They have the 'tools' they just have to apply the time and desire to learn. And they do. We have long told them we are not responsible for their education beyond providing them the tools and support they need. From a young age we gave them simple ideas and suggestions about what success might mean to them. We painted a picture of what lazy and unmotivated is and we strongly discouraged that kind of behavior. We provided rules but also gave suggestions for keeping busy at home and limiting things like TV, video games and procrastination. We often say 'find something constructive or meaningful to do.' It can be anything but it needs to have a purpose. Another thing I say is “live with intent.” Move your body or your minds... take care of something. It can be housework, school work, reading, playing, exercising, art, crafts, playing games with siblings, building something, journaling, knitting, gardening, nature walk, write a letter, play with siblings…whatever! But we must keep our minds busy. We must keep our bodies moving. I use their dad as an example: he has to be at work all day long; we must use our time wisely as he does and show something for our day.

We always embraced child-led learning by leaving educational magazines and books strewn about the house. We always had nature guides and maps around the house as well as snake, bird, plant and spider identifying books. One year, many years ago, we did almost nothing but go on field trips and watch I'm STILL amazed at all the stuff they learned from that site (and still learn), it is pure gold! I wanted our kids to value books and the library. I wanted them to know they could learn anything; and that we didn't have to teach them, they could teach themselves. I wanted them to love to learn and to never be bored by history. I wanted them to learn arithmetic, but to choose how much math they needed in their life. I used to be worried about what they knew or didn't know but after years of studying them and their habits I realized there is no one size fits all way to ensure kids learn 100% of everything. Some kids are voraciously academic (my husband) some kids struggle (me). Sage was a “very late” reader and still isn't a real strong reader, but neither are lots of other public school kids. Ethan and Charlotte need more spelling skills, but so do a lot of public schooled adults I know. We find our strengths and weaknesses and we hone both as needed. As parents we of course guide them towards the area that show weakness so they can improve and the things they are best at they naturally build upon. Charlotte is old enough now that she can see her own weaknesses and think through what she really wants to accomplish academically. She has taken it upon herself to learn many things this year without guidance. One focus she has is to improve her math skills and prepare for college in case she wants to go. She spends hours and hours on the Kahn Academy website.  It all seriously impresses me. We teach personal responsibility and self-sufficiency but I barely realized that when we told our kids their education was up to them it was actually the ultimate test and act of personal responsibility a person could have. They log their own subject and homeschool hours and they do very well at writing everything they do down.  I’m really proud of them. 

There are still times I’m concerned, there are still doubts, and I still get completely overwhelmed about what we are able to provide them or not provide them. That’s life though. I wish we could afford more things like piano lessons; and if we had less kids we could. That doesn’t mean our kids can’t work on playing piano on their own (Charlotte does!) and it certainly doesn’t ever mean we wish we had less kids.  Same goes for private school. We were well aware that by having a big family private/alternative school would not ever be an option. I mention Sage not being a strong reader. I’m sure he’d be labeled in public school as dyslexic but since labels tend to give people an excuse instead of encouragement I never wanted him to learn that excuse. I felt like it was enough to just know –on his part and ours- that he needs extra practice and time. And he does know he has an extra hard time and we try to present it as a challenge instead of a handicap. We are all good and bad at different things. I told him SO WHAT if he is homeschooling until he’s 20. So what? So what if he can’t “graduate” and he takes time to live at home while probably working a side job while working on more language arts or math or whatever….Public school wouldn’t have given him that option. Public school would have failed him until he quit or passed him with a diploma he didn’t deserve. (I knew illiterate people in high school, it was painful to watch them struggle and it was stunning to see them graduate barely able to read.) I don’t think he’ll be “schooling” that long. I think he makes huge strides and improvements and he’s gaining confidence, but the great thing about homeschool is learning at your own pace and directing your education and yourself.

 I had to let go of a tremendous amount of fear to homeschool the kids.  “What if we make them dumb!?” I’d ask my husband.
But when does self-doubt about life ever stop? It never will truly. It will control you if you let it. This is yet another thing I’ve recently talked over with the kids; we should not fear where we are in life. Life is a ‘choose your own adventure’ book and behind every adventure there are unknown challenges, lessons and rewards. Have faith my children, for it has served our family well.