Life With Nine Kids

Thursday, April 10, 2014

10 Hard Things about Having a Large Family (for me)


1. Cleaning House 
My expectation for the kitchen: it needs to look un-lived in AND cute.
Nothing is ever good enough at my house. The bathroom needs cleaned 2-3x per week, the kids and dogs require me to sweep the living room floor at least 10x a week (the kitchen floor alone actually gets swept 14-20 times a week) I never feel like I can relax (however I am technically relaxing right now wasting time plucking away at my blog). Notice I said that bathroom "needs" cleaned 2-3 times a week..it doesn't always necessarily get done that often! I feel like my life is in pieces most of the time, always in need of being put back together again by me. A couple of kids are two days past baths. The laundry needs folded. The living room is dusty. Everett won’t stop dumping water on the floor. The back porch looks terrible. The storage clothing closet needs sorted. The yard is a mess. There is chicken, goose or goat poop (or all three!) on the porch. I'm pretty sure anyone that comes over to my house expects it to be... oh I dunno, lived in by 10 people. Someone should have told me if I wanted my home to look like a vintage version of Pottery Barn I shouldn't have had 8 kids, but I bet wouldn’t have listened anyway.
I've actually gotten much better over the years, but the never-ending list of what I need and want to get done, on top of children who make messes 24/7, make it hard for me to just let go and enjoy my home. I'm working on this constantly. I have gotten better than I used to be. It's okay to go to bed with a messy bathroom, craft supplies on the kitchen table, ‘base10 blocks’ on the dining room floor, laundry in the washer, and dust bunnies under the couch... and just be in peace about it all for the night.
I told myself in December not to fret about our bedroom and as a result it's been a mess since December. It's an exercise I'm trying ...be content with the mess because it is temporary and I'll get caught up when other stuff gets caught up...enjoy the baby, enjoy the kids, work when you can.

While this post sat in my drafts folder my friend wrote this piece titled The Housework Can Wait? And I couldn't agree more! It's terrible parenting advice to tell others not to clean house. We have to find balance, yes, but there are things that have to be done. Letting the house fall apart at the seams is good for no one.

2. Going Camping (and fishing)
We are totally outdoor people, me even more than my hubby because mosquitoes think he is delicious but leave me alone. The sheer logistics of taking 10 people camping boggles the mind and gives my husband nightmares. I want our kids to remember going camping (and fishing!) growing up, but so far we just have fires and weenie roasts in the backyard all summer long. (We used to camp a little but haven't in over 6 years or so) It’s still a lot of fun having at-home outdoor fun nearly every weekend but I wish we could do more. I'm super adventurous and impulsive, so we really should just get up and go camping; sounds so simple until we start planning. The kids have recetly taken to camping out on our trampoline.
3. My Ambition is not compatible with my lifestyle
This goes a little bit with number one. I want to do a million things, so I attempt to do a half-million of them to be conservative in my wish list. I finish five and tell myself: "one day at a time" and "what doesn't get done will be okay." My kitchen needs finished painting (just one tiny corner!), the basement needs finished painting -hell according to me any wall without paint needs to be painted. I want to start keeping bees.We also decided we should raise rabbits. Turkey are coming to join our small homestead...so ambitious.
 My husband is such an enabler too! Last weekend we went to Home Depot for a simple gas can and while there I declared I wanted paint for the upstairs hall. So what do you think he did?  He bought it for me. God love him. He should tell me no sometimes.

I have lots of ideas on the back burner: some business related, some personal, some birth work related... none of them very compatible with a full time homeschooling mom of eight.

4. Enjoying the kids
We enjoy them plenty but with so many kids there is always room for improvement. It's not just about making the time (although we have to do that too especially for the teens), but we have to also tell ourselves to slow down and just enjoy them, or we'll miss the good stuff as we juggle the crazy stuff.  Let’s face it sometimes these little kids run amok, and it’s hard on us. One time some kid wiped their butt on the shower curtain. Another time we found baby carrots in the bathroom drain. The kids hurt our ears they talk so loud, and they climb on top of each other like playgrounds. Sometimes there are days that a kid is always crying or yelling. 

This is what a busy mom looks like knee deep in kids and pumpkins! Some one is even crying...
  Just walking in the door with them this afternoon after a day out was hard. While I was trying to gather everyone's coats and shoes I was simultaneously changing the baby's diaper on my bed. This is also what was going on: Sebastian trying to tell me something he did at preschool, Penelope asking me to help pull her boots off, Everett asking where a plate was as he shows me he suddenly has a handful of graham crackers, and I'm still trying to take my coat off and change the baby's diaper. We were literally home for less than 60 seconds and that much was happening all at once!

We can focus on all of that craziness and let it overwhelm us, or we can focus on enjoying our little hobgoblins instead.

5. Saving money
There is always something you need regardless of having a big family or not. It’s called life. There are always wants vs. needs -and the wants can be hard to ignore. The needs are amplified when you have a gazillion animals and kids though. Just when it seems like saving money seems doable (or just when we actually have money saved up) something happens to drain it all. When you have more kids there are more things that can pile up. Dentist and medical bills can be...yikes. Home repairs are killing us this year.

6. Making time for other people
My family squeezes every last ounce from me. It's not a bad thing to me, but since I give near 100% to my husband and kids there is not much left to give and that is sometimes hard. It’s not that I feel like I don't have time for myself, but I instead feel like I don't have time for anyone else. I want to reach out, send cards, donate my time, be there for a friend, go to a moms night out, attend a woman's retreat my friends have, but I just don't have the time or energy. I mean well. I pray for others and think about others very often. I often have people in my heart and mind and no one even knows it. In turn, Ricky feels the same way. He works a lot, and then he has family time. After that there isn't a lot of time for extra things.
When we try to get involved with service projects or some other thing it's often hard because of our various ages. There are things we just can't do with little kids in tow, and it's a sacrifice for all of us to have to miss out on some things. That's just our life and everyone's life is different.

Ricky and I are admittedly pretty selfish about our free time. We want to spend it all with each other. It's really quite sweet, and it's our marriage and our life and we are happy with it. I know we'll never regret the time spent with each other and the kids now. So we do what we can and don’t stress about it, but it is hard sometimes when it feels like we don’t have time for anything else. Someday the kids won’t take up so much of our time and we know that. We embrace them and each other now. 

7. Eating
This is super obvious. Feeding a large family is a large task. Eating out is expensive and a special treat. Eating in is very time consuming and it costs a large chunk of money, too. On average I spend at least 3-4 hours in the kitchen each day and it's not doing the fun, pretty stuff I wish I was doing...like rolling out cinnamon rolls or canning apples. It's fetching milk for little mouths, putting snack platters out, cooking up three different types of eggs for breakfast and throwing a home cooked meal together for dinner –all while literally tripping over an insane kid named Everett (or telling him to get off the kitchen table for third time in 10 minutes). Even if I was doing the fun stuff I'd be doing it while tripping over at least three kids which makes it more stressful and not as much fun. It's all fun and games until someone picks their nose and then dips their finger into the cake batter. Question the food you eat from my house if made in the presence of toddlers or preschoolers. Ha!

The thing I look forward to the most when my kids are grown is baking, gardening, and canning. I have an entire storybook scene in my head of me happily frolicking in my garden, picking, canning, cooking, baking and then having all the children and grandchildren over for dinner once or twice a week...I'll wipe the grand-children's little noses and faces with my apron and say things to my grown children like 'Oh, let them make a mess, I have no one but your dad to pick up after these days...’

8. Noise
Someone is always talking to me! ALWAYS! Sometimes it's three or four kids at once. There's a kid talking in my ear right now. She's been talking for 45 minutes. I'm not kidding. I'm giggling typing this because it's so funny and perfect timing for this post. When they aren't talking to me they are talking to someone else. It can also be hard to manage the noise level of so many people, especially the ones that are ‘volume level’ challenged. The positive side is that everyone learns really good group communication and turn taking (eventually). We do raise our hands on particularly high volume days. We respond quicker to hand raisers and the little kids learn waiting a wee bit easier when their hand is raised, we nod or put a finger up indicating in 1 minute you are next.
9. Running out for something
It's hard to just run out of the house to get milk or whatever. Even though I have older kids at home, I don't like leaving the kids home alone. If I do run out for a ‘quick trip' it takes me at least two hours to just leave the house because it’s hard for me to just pick up and leave. First of all I have to ask myself a million questions: Should we do school work first? Is everyone fed? Does the kitchen need cleaned up? Is anyone fighting? Is anyone going to fight? Who should keep an eye on who? Who should I bring with me? Will Everett fall asleep in the car? Do I want Everett to fall asleep in the car? How much money is left in my grocery account? Where is my cell phone? Does the baby need nursed first? Where are my shoes? Do I even have clothes on…?

(Then on my way out out to the car I get the chickens some feed and water and inevitably get poop on my shoes or hands, or both. Farm life.)

If if need something specific like glue, crayons or printer ink I'm WAY more likely to just order it from Amazon Prime than to ever step a foot out my door.
10. I'm the Domestic Goddess/ Household Manager/ Boss
If it were just me and Ricky I'd seriously be happy as a clam just doting on him and keeping house. I'm convinced I'd clean house in my pearls. I love being a homemaker! I love: baking, cooking, canning, gardening, sewing, scrapbooking, etc. In my fantasy life without kids I'd volunteer two days a week at the food pantry or local woman's shelter. I'd host little teas and brunches for me and my friends and invite Ricky's coworkers over for dessert and drinks on Friday nights. 
 Ricky has told me several times that I can keep homemaking forever if I want to, and never work outside of the home. I jokingly exclaimed, "Dang, I wish you would have told me I could have been a housewife without all these kids! Sign. Me. Up."

In reality we have a gaggle of kids who are going to mess up the house and no one is going to care unless I care. No one is going to organize a housework routine/schedule unless I do it. No one is going to have home-cooked meals unless I make them. No one is going to have clean or folded laundry unless I do it (or tell them to do it). In fact: next to no one is going to brush their teeth either. Sometimes I am plum sick of telling everyone what to do! And it's A LOT of people to get organized. But, it's just the way it is. Charlotte is amazing and really pitches in when she sees an area lacking, she’s a lifesaver in the kitchen and I am so thankful. Ricky is very helpful too but he's not expected to help with most of the housework. I'm expected to ask him if I need something really specific from him regarding housework. (Example: can you clean the bathroom.) When he's home Ricky is always playing with a kid or doing something with a kid -or four of them at a time, so he's plenty busy when he's home. Since he works 50+ hours a week outside the home I don't expect him to ever touch the laundry or dishes. (Although there are lots of times he does on the weekend, especially if we have a newborn, and I sure do appreciate it.) He maintains the outside, fixes stuff, and helps as needed in the home, but other than that he's supposed to just keep doting on me and the kids. He works hard outside the home, I want him to enjoy the kids and not have to help me too much. The teenage boys are awesome usually. They are kind and willing to help, but like most teens they need to be told extremely specific things that need to be done. We do use a chore chart, but it changes a lot and it requires me to change it and organize it. I usually just resort to making simple lists on the whiteboard that I change everyday and we all dig in to what needs to get done. 

 Bottom line: I have lots of helpers, but I still have to be the organizer. And it gets really, really tiring being that person. Sometimes I wish someone would organize and plan everything out for me, and then let me go sit in a hammock and read when I am done with my chores! But monotony comes with any job or responsibility, be it at home or not! So I keep at it...
Layla made this drawing at Thanksgiving - I am expecting baby #8
 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

I let my babies eat dirt (and occasionally a bug)


Baby Bee met another milestone!  Eating dirt in the exploratory sense is a developmental milestone and right of passage in our household. I have lots of pictures of every kid in dirt and mud. Many of the photos are of infants through age six, many barefoot, all happy and healthy.

Today was a beautiful day; I once again have an infant at spring time. It's amazing and mind blowing to us that about every two or three years we have another infant in our arms, in the grass, and on the ground. We love the outdoors and on any nice day I'd rather be outside than in; I love all that open space and moving air. As spring arrives I shovel, weed, and plant near a sitting up, crawling, or toddling infant who always ends up plopped down in the middle of grass and dirt. We leave them to play at our feet and they are so happy doing so. Quickly they snatch up leaves with their tiny hands and smear dirt over their tiny lips and tongues. I wipe the excess from their mouths gingerly and I chuckle at them. Before I go back to tending to my flower beds I often grab the camera to record the free spirit of a baby at peace with eating a wee bit of dirt. It's not the same for them as it us for us you know, it's not gross to them. The gritty feeling doesn't even phase them. They look totally content. With every single baby I wonder how much stuff they put into their mouths that we never even see.

From: Babies Know: A Little Dirt Is Good for You   
"In studies of what is called the hygiene hypothesis, researchers are concluding that organisms like the millions of bacteria, viruses and especially worms that enter the body along with “dirt” spur the development of a healthy immune system."

I remember Everett was an infant "the year of the cicada hit." They were invading porches and yards in hoards. The buzzing sound singing from the woods and grass was almost deafening. Some of our friends down the road were being dive bombed on their porches they had so many. We saw them everywhere and they were loud, but we kind of enjoyed them! (We were not being dive bombed!) At the time baby Everett was about six months old. He was sitting up happy to play anywhere, especially outside. Everett would find cicadas almost anywhere and plop them into his curious little mouth. He'd swish and suck on them and scream like heck when we would take them away from him. At first we were a little grossed out but after the fourth cicada it was part of life.

I wrote this spring of 2011 after his first cicada :
Things Everett ate today (that I know of) that he didn't have permission to eat: some grass, 1 piece dog food, 1 cicada. Yea, I said cicada. Everyday outside I hear the words, "Mom, Everett's going to eat a cicada!" Today no one saw him get one... until he was gagging and I scooped it out of him. It was totally gummed up by him. Ha! Being a baby is so awesome.
      
Everett 6 months old 2011. He's probably looking for something earthy to taste.
After that incident he would some how acquire a cicada while just sitting on our lap outdoors, not even in the grass! And even inside the house on occasion we'd find him with one. Those little buggers were everywhere and our kid could find them! It became a joke; if we were outdoors just give Everett 5 minutes and he'd have one. We'd look in the grass where we put him down and there would be none around, but check his mouth or hands in five minutes and he'd totally have one. Some were shells of the bug, some were dead bugs, some were alive bugs. The live ones really grossed us out with their tacky legs! However, people all over the world eat bugs, it's not that weird even if it does sound gross. They are super healthy and so easy to raise. There's even a bug saying:

Red, orange, yellow, forget this fellow.
Black, green or brown, wolf it down.

Funny to think about it now because when he was two and a half he could grab flies out of the thin air. We called him Mr. Miyagi when he grabbed flies. It was hilarious. Our little free range baby.
Everett, six months old 2011