Life With Nine Kids

Saturday, August 31, 2013

What was that I was saying about shoes?

Everett ran and fell into a prickly pear cactus bush today. Our dogs got out of the fenced part of the yard and while rounding them up some kids followed me out. Everett was barefoot of course. We didn't know it but the neighbors apparently have what appears to be ornamental cactus in the middle of nowhere. It's a huge weird, low lying cluster. I was at a distance when Everett didn't listen to me and ran away from me. I saw him fall on grass and cry but I didn't know he was hurt or that there was any cactus under him. I thought he was just throwing a fit. :(

 Layla was the one who carried him all the way back home and met up with me informing us that he was hurt. We all rushed around him at the kitchen table grabbing pillows and giving him chocolate to distract him. He had huge, huge clusters of the orange glochids which I thought we could remove in large clumps with tweezers, nope. They came out one by one sometimes in broken pieces. I almost gave up and went to the hospital. Ricky took over the big clumps and I did the scattered invisible ones. Ricky luckily had better and faster luck with the large clusters than I did, but it was still slow going. So many of his little plump toddler toes were just covered in clumps!! It was awful to see. He had a bunch of them scattered across his legs and feet too. They are SO much like fiber glass, pretty much exactly like that. We of course got some of them in us as we worked on him.

The good that came out of this is team work. I ordered each kid a job: grab the light in the basement, get pillows, hold this leg, get wet paper towels, get the laptop for a movie, give him a chocolate. When he had finished two chocolates Layla offered him a sucker she had saved for herself from school. What a sweetie!

Charlotte is recovering from wisdom teeth removal surgery (and is doing well!) and she hopped up to help with the baby; when Beatrice wouldn't stop crying I nursed her and continued to work on Everett's foot. Charlotte went right to Everett's head to soothe and distract him and we powered on through.

What a morning that was! Many hours later I'm happy to report he is walking around and doing great! We also did a glue trick we read online. Spread white glue over affected area after you pluck what you can, wait to dry, peel glue off. We told him we were making him have snake skin. Three other kids did it with him too. lol. :)

When do babies eat? Whenever they want!

surface of prickly pear

magnified, look how beastly and sharp! Like shards of glass.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Third Grade ... Summer Fades... we're back at this place again

Layla started 3rd grade.

I want her back. I don't want her to go away every day. She's nine and learning a lot about herself and others. She's full of wit and wonder, she's fabulously smart, and she's nearing that glorious stage where she's a young lady but also a kid. She likes jump-roping, play dough, Lalaloopsies, Legos, and dolls --just the way she should. She's playing Batman and Robin with her baby brother Everett (almost 3) right now. She dressed him in a skirt of hers and a hair bow and told him he was Batman. When I asked her why she dressed him like that she said, "Because he doesn't know any better." They are running and playing all over the house. It's great. Imagination is awesome.
All week we talked about how excited she was for school, but sad too because she'll miss me. She hardly ever tells me things like that. I just hug her and tell her I understand that feeling. I'm excited for her but I'll miss her too. Sometimes we have to do things we like and don't like, or that we are excited about but have mixed feelings about.

It's hard knowing we have so many things we'll be doing without her. We have a lot of homeschool fun planned this fall. 
This summer we played, laughed, and made new routines. We danced in the backyard; we sang songs in the car. We added a new baby to our family and got lost in the magic of a newborn and the wonder of life. Layla learned to change a diaper. I can’t fully explain it but just her smile makes me a better mom.

She graduated from little kid to big kid all in one expeditious summer.

We also had tiffs and squabbles, she'd roll her eyes and I'd say, "oh you did not just do that!" She had her birthday party taken away five times. Turns out it was an empty threat, but she was being so "bad" so "defiant" and she....*sarcastic gasp* rolled her eyes at us. The desire to have an "obedient" child didn't override a birthday party. We can find common ground, we can learn many lessons together, and we can all cool off and talk about things later. And we all did.

 In the thicket of various problems, bad attitudes, and complaining I'd ask myself if I was glad she was going back to school in August. I said no every time.
 And here we are the first day; smiles, giggles, tummy butterflies and all. The sisters say goodbye after a summer together, and pieces of my heart tried to hold it together. A stuffed brand new backpack is ready to endure nine months of being tossed around and carried back and forth. We waited for Mr. Dan to pull the bus up to our house (and hoped so much he'd be our bus driver again). Layla and Penelope laughed and giggled and wrestled like little girls while we waited. (Little girl wrestling = grabbing and hanging on each other, giggling and being goofy)
  I love when Layla tells me the things Mr. Dan says. He thinks we are funny... he finds it hilarious when Sebastian and Everett fight. One day they rolled out the front door in a pile screeching at each other as Layla got on the bus. Mr. Dan got the biggest kick out of it.
 So, the first day of 3rd grade the bus pulled up and Everett jumped onto the fence wearing his batman costume, Sebastian waved manically and yelled bye to Layla over and over, Penelope and I shouted HAVE A GOOD DAY!! We made an enthusiastic ruckus at 8am. A man of few expressions, Mr. Dan waved at us and cracked a smile. And off they went. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Summer Fun, KOV, Siblings, Ketchup, Doing Good

 The kids look forward to this week all year long. This is our third year at this very special VBS. It's a high energy, fast paced time of competition, biblical learning, field trips, team building, and fun. I had no idea what an experience it was until family night rolled around the first year. Family night is filled with energy, excitement, competition, dessert, prayer, an amazing slide show of the week, and a walk through (literally) of what they experienced camp that week. I realized quickly that this wasn't just a VBS. I couldn't believe how much activity and leadership could all be packed into a week. (So many activities: Bowling, sports, crafts, ropes course, water games, sponge wars, silliness, swimming, and a ton more!!) After their first week of camp in 2011 it was all they could talk about for a long time. They could not wait until the next year. Charlotte's been a teen leader since we started going, this is Sage and Ethan's first year of teen leadership, and this is Layla's second year as a camper. Besides fun focus is on being kind and helpful to others, to Do Good, and to put God first, others second, and yourself third. It's encouraged to have team spirit in the form of hair color spray, face paint, Etc., and for this you get extra points for your team. (Spirit points!) Charlotte painted her nails her team color in the car, I can’t believe I let her.
Our very first year I heard the dean saying “do good” to the children; I also saw him say it on Facebook and in camp letters, too. That is something we have been telling our kids for years; be kind and don’t just be good…do good! I liked him right away for that and other reasons.
Back to family night: I was stunned at the excitement and fun! The chants, songs, and cheers that came from all the kids were instrumental in team building. For two years in a row our kids' voices were hoarse after day two, nearly gone at day four and seriously gone by the end of family night. Screaming, cheering and showing enthusiasm is part of the whole experience! Even the kids that are reserved at first seem to warm up to the idea that this is a time to really let loose and be part of something good. The kids really feel part of something bigger than themselves, and why wouldn't they with the faith and character building exercises they get to be a part of. 
From the very beginning I was absolutely thrilled that all ages were mixed together on teams. This was a welcome surprise. The big kids help the little kids and the teen leaders are instrumental in creating balance, enthusiasm and fun.
Our home life works the same way...we help each other. There is no choice, it's just the way it is. It's expected, it's healthy, and it’s natural. 
Habitually segregating children by age is a huge pet peeve of mine (and is of many homeschooling families). We have so much to learn from each other. In a society where children are constantly pushed aside and treated as inconveniences, it's super important to teach kids of all ages how to interact with people younger than them. I can't tell you how often I see other siblings treating each other horribly; hitting each other, telling each other to shut up, refusing to help one another. I think it's a real problem and I think it's very sad. I've recently seen it in a public school setting, the park, and the grocery store. I saw a 12 year old boy literally shove his little six year old sister in the grocery store. I saw a 10 year old boy scare his little six year old brother in the grocery store by purposefully hiding so the six year old would think he was lost. It's gross. Kids and teens need adult supervision, guidance, role models (in the community and at home), and they need to understand how respect works.

That first year, after driving the kids for a week back and forth to the church, I hadn't expected a family night event to close out the week. It wasn't a convenient night for us so I told the kids I wasn't sure if we were going. They explained to me that it was super important they go and that the winning team was going to be announced. Clearly we couldn't miss that. So off we went with their exhausted and reluctant dad who had worked late all week, and I with a baby and toddler glued to me. We found ourselves in a packed church with hundreds of kids who lit the place up, all full of life and hearts full of love. They had bonded together and they were really, really having fun together, even with the adults.

Parents got to meet and interact with the amazing staff and leaders and we got a real sense of what an amazing positive experience our kids got to be a part of. 

On the way to the first day of the third year of camp this morning I looked at my four oldest kids in the car and they were beaming. Smiles ear to ear, chattering about the things they were looking forward to. Charlotte talked about campers from last year, a little girl named Charlotte was on her team last year and she hoped to see her again. The kids spoke of other kids, teen leaders, interns, staff, and the Dean; all of whom that made lasting impressions on them in different ways.
When I picked them all up they were happy and we talked about who was on what team. They asked me for face paint so I stopped at Wal-Mart and took everybody in…all  nine of us, what a sight to see. I held baby Beatrice (5 weeks old) and Charlotte pushed Sebastian (4) and Everett (2) in a cart. We picked out beads, hair spray and face paint in the colors that we needed. (orange, purple, blue) I remembered we needed dog food so we went to the pet section. Of course we had to stop and see the fish. Then I spotted some Betta fish and thought what a fun close to the day it would be if we got a fish. So we got a fish…and a fish bowl. Then Charlotte reminded me we needed to feed it (I laughed because I had not considered that). So she picked out food and treats for the fish. (Fish treats!?) We chattered rather loudly about what to name it as we also picked out fake plants for it to hide behind. It's a bright red fish so Layla liked the name fire. Charlotte suggested Roy. I announced that we can all call it different names like we have done with our cats in the past, "Since it doesn't answer to its name we can all name it something different if we want." Everyone agreed to that. Sebastian became less interested and ran away because he got upset; I wouldn't let him buy something with the 35 cents he was carrying around. I told him gently that this wasn't the dollar store and he took it really hard and was angry, so he ran away. Sage, Ethan, and Layla went after him four isles over and when I finally caught up he came willingly back to the fish isle but was still cranky.
People in the store probably thought we were NUTS. But it's the fun kind of nuts, at least we think so. Everett's face was covered in dirt and strawberries from the day. Sebastian had no shoes on. We looked wild, we were post KOV excitement, and we were probably a little louder than I remember. We checked out and I decided to take the kids to 5 Guys Burgers and Fries for dinner. Ricky and I wanted to take them there for a long time as a special outing. (It's a fat chunk of money to take everyone there!) While nursing the baby in the parking lot and trying to write down everyone's order on a piece of paper somebody let Everett out of his car seat and he climbed on the van dash and laid down. Then he harassed me until I yelled that we were going to go home if he didn't stop being insane. Under my breath I said, "I have lost control. I am defeated." Somehow I finally felt brave enough to get everyone out of the van and we went in. People stared. I guess they never saw a woman, 8 kids, and a betta fish walk into a restaurant before. My reinforcement (AKA the love of my life) showed up and the kids promptly greeted him and exclaimed, “WE GOT A FISH!” The fish sat in its plastic cup on our table while we ate outside in the beautiful 75 degree weather. The kiddos all said what I thought they would about 5 Guys ... best burger they've ever had!
The kids all named their Betta fish Ketchup as we inhaled hot, fresh french fries dipped in ketchup.
Okay so this is a body double pic, but I don't have time to take a picture of the real Ketchup right now and this post is better with a picture of a fish!

7/30/13 and 7/31/13
This morning on the way to camp we had an uproarious time of songs, silliness, jokes and laughter. Layla said the car ride is more fun than camp. I took that as a high compliment knowing what I was contending with. We make up words (like blob-sticle-course ...don’t ask) and laugh at each other. I’m not sure what I said but Charlotte cracked up at something goofy I got wrong or said wrong. I told her I was going to crash if we kept laughing. I love that we all sing in the car together. Somehow, for some weird reason, we took turns fake sneezing how we think Micheal Jackson would sound like sneezing. I don't know how we think of this stuff. 
 We recently had a 20 minute conversation about mean people, people who bully, kids learning meanness from adults, celebrities being shamed and bullied, and also body shaming and fat shaming in our society and how wrong it is. 

I just love our time together!