Life With Nine Kids

Monday, October 31, 2016

October, the Good and the Bad

Madeline turned one on the 28th.
  Happy Birthday Madeline
Every morning Madeline sits on my hip as I wash the stove. On this morning, I handed Layla (12) my camera and asked her to take a picture of what I thought would happen. I handed Madeline the rag for the first time ever and just looked her. She blinked twice, looked at the rag, and then went to work right away. I LOVE watching these amazing moments of development!! And of course, she felt proud of herself! I figured she'd mimic what she saw me always doing.
Madeline is such an interesting child with a cute personality. She is very watchful and determined.  She loves to snuggle with everyone. She looks at us sometimes and just lets out a little laugh of delight for no apparent reason. (She's happy with her family I think!) She has made up her own language using the word mom. She says either "mom-mom!" or "maam" or "ma" depending on what she wants. "Mom-mom!" means get this for me. Sometimes she pats me while saying "mom-mom!" If she pats me on the chest repeatedly and urgently saying "mom-mom" it means she wants a drink of water. A drawn out and sharp "maam!" is an urgent call for help. A very simple "ma" is usually a more laid back casual call for me to look her way. It's also been her way of asking my permission. As I typed this she just did it! She just sweetly and curiously said, "Ma?" as she looked at my empty coffee cup next to the couch. She was very pleased that I handed it to her so she could see it. She recently went down the toddler size slide all by herself. She climbs everything. All of our chairs are outside on the porch because we gave up taking her off of them and the table. She's wild and sweet. We have no idea what life was like without her. If someone is crying she will go right to them and place her head on them and hug them. She has showed empathy well before a year old. A baby showing empathy at that young of an age is very powerful thing. Babies are so smart; this is especially true when they are nurtured and cared for. Deep neurological pathways are laid in the brain with more positive stimulation (less occurs with less stimulation) and they quickly become capable of amazing, amazing things. All babies are amazing and hold remarkable abilities. Nurture them, teach them, watch them! They are capable of so very much. The older kids marvel at the way she communicates with us. I tell them it's because we all show her love and constant attention. She knows we hear her!

October's end wrapped up six kiddo birthdays in three months! Phew! Madeline and Penelope are our October babies.
Penelope's 10!
New pioneer clothes
Our Penelope turned 10. She loves the Little House series still and I'm so glad. She's so helpful and kind. She's happy to follow the rules and eager to please, funny that this makes her a very perfect fit in regards to what being a pioneer-child was most like! She makes parenting easy. She has a tender soul. She loves tomatoes and farm animals. She will sign up for any class, go to any event, and meet up with any friend. She is very social and happy. I love the way her eyes light up and her smile beams. She loves to bake. Family and fun is her life. She's a sweetheart in everything she does and is so much fun and also funny. I'm really proud to be her mom. I have so much fun with her. She has her father's outstanding memory, clever wit, and attention to detail and problem solving. She has her mother's silliness, restlessness, and love for baby and toddler care. A cute recent funny thing occurred at the grocery store. I asked her to grab two packages of ham. Aldi always has their ham shoved high and wildly stacked on the shelf. When she grabbed one package a bunch tumbled down. She caught most of them with two hands and without missing a beat hollered, "Ahhh help! Ham-alache!" I will always LOVE that! I was cracking up as we restocked the shelf.

Yesterday Beatrice asked us if we knew why she loved squirrels. She replied to us sweetly, "Because I am a fairy girl!" That child is SO full of sunshine. Recently she has really started talking about how she is a bee. She likes honey just like bees and she is a bee too. It's very cute. She recently made friends with the statues at the store. I told her it was time to go but she told me she was talking with her friends. Luckily daddy was at home with the kiddos so I let Bea have her time.

Madeline got a broom and mop cleaning set for her birthday. She loves playing with my broom, which is obviously gigantic to her and not easy or very safe. We bought her the Melissa and Doug cleaning set that has a stand. It came with other supplies too (duster, mini broom, dust pan). It's super fabulous and great quality. Bea loves it too. I thought the stand wouldn't work out. I thought Madeline would knock it over or try to carry it around. She thankfully gets its purpose and leaves it alone. If she can't get her cleaning supplies off of it she hollers at me in the absolute cutest alarmist way, "Maam! Maam!" as she tugs at it and looks at me. It's SO cute!

Bea (3) told me in delight that she was a real girl now because she can sweep the floor. (And she asked me, "Right, mom? I'm a real girl!" for extra conformation.) I told her she was a real girl and a very good sweeper-girl. Ricky and I were so amused and laughed at how cute it was. Children are so sweet. One of the things I love about children is how they hold so much innocence and inner happiness. I wrote in another post about when Madeline was really little and how she said to me, "Mommy, you are a really big girl nursing the baby and putting me on the potty."

Children remind me to not take such little day to day things for granted. Sweeping is a chore (one we do in the kitchen 4x a day here because of all the kids and dogs) and fumbling with a small baby one-handed while lifting a two year old onto the potty is not glamorous or easy. Her view reminds me to be so grateful for the small things.

Weird & Wild October
The only key to our van key got misplaced this month. It was so lost that I had to have a locksmith come to our house and make me a new one.

September and October were months of so much running around: homeschool co op , Halloween parties, the zoo, homeschool homecoming dance, MANY other kid and teen events, giving Charlotte rides to college, gymnastics, lots of gorgeous weather and park days, lots of gas to get around, and tons of unexpected 'life happens' problems. All that running around is normal for some, but it's not my thing. I like being home more. Hauling so many kids around wears on me and the littlest kids who have frequent bathroom and food needs. It was wild! Also, doing the household chores is impossible if I'm not home to do them!

In an attempt to cut back on our crazy life, we got rid of all of our chickens in September. They were not staying in their designated areas. We had too many inbred, too many old hens, too many super wild ones. They also wandered to the neighbors frequently because they put cat food out for their cats. It was a mess. We actually began hating our chickens. As many of you know, I love chickens! We never had problems until this past year and a half, so we need to start over with a clean slate. We can easily go through five dozen eggs a week, so we kinda have to have chickens!

Our back fence for the goats needs repair. Ricky has been trying to work on it for weeks. Every weekend something else comes up. So the goats are in our yard eating everything. It's seriously crazy right now.

Goats and ducks and turkeys and dogs and cats everywhere. And they poop and eat and make noise making constant work to juggle along with the kids. (Whom also poop and eat and make noise. Ha!)
I am trying not to say it, I'm trying not to think it, but the fact remains: We need more space. Well, and more time! Time would be great.

Plumbing "Fun"
We have been enduring a six week septic problem with the main line to our home's plumbing. We had two companies out and they didn't help much. We rented an electric snake machine from Home Depot three times and now we finally think we have it done. Every week we would get backed up again and every weekend our life was consumed with having to fix it. Twice we had 3-5 days where we siphoned water from the bathtub after bathing and did the same for the kitchen sink in order to do the dishes. Our anniversary was spent cleaning crap from the basement drain and snaking the line together. Better than being apart at least! 

During one particularly long week of broken-ness Ricky fixed me up a make-shift way to do laundry for the week. I kinda freak out if I can't do laundry. I hate getting behind on laundry. The three hardest things for many families, but especially big family life, is laundry, dishes, and feeding everyone. (The three runner up things I'd say are keeping bathrooms clean, driving everyone around to events/appointments, and the noise level inside.)

If I can't do chores, like laundry, I start to whine about it. It just freaks me out to get behind. It's too hard to get caught up. Plus, we have a lot of wet laundry that simply cannot sit around: cloth diapers, bibs, dirty kid clothes (with food on them which can mold if sitting around!), dish towels, bath towels, rags.

We've had three major power outages and a couple septic problems over the years. Ricky always finds creative ways to keep our household running. He's a modern pioneer. He grew up on a farm and farmers can do anything (he reminds me of this). So, he made a way for me to do laundry without resorting to a washboard, which he at first actually suggested.
Doing laundry without using the pipes via a submersible pump, garden hose drain, and a storage bin.
We worked on our septic problem nearly every weekend for six weeks. It was on again off again. Improvement was made most weekends but by the time Thursday rolled around water started backing up into the basement drain again. It was finally suggested by our septic company that we camera the line. This was as we hit week four. It costs $299.00 just to look in there! On a gut decision we kept spending money on fixing it ourselves. We almost rented a plumbing camera ourselves but thankfully didn't end up needing to. In the end, we probably came out ahead money wise for all our efforts!

We have a main line outdoor access point below our porch. It's an odd shaped half moon inlet. It's never had a good cover. A long time ago the make-shift existing cover that came with this old house actually went missing. Near this area we also had some concrete steps/walkway start to break apart. We put off fixing it for a realllly long time. Crazy thing is that Ricky finally bought the stuff to repair the concrete right before our clog. We discovered that for who knows for how long, little tiny bits of gritty concrete, dog hair, and other outdoor debris had been falling in our main line pipe from the outside access! Also, we have kids that do stuff too.  For example, I actually dug this skeleton Halloween decoration out of the indoor (basement floor) access line.
I found this week three of septic clog fiasco 2016. We're a little bit Brady Bunch and a little bit Adam's Family around here.
The day our septic was finally (we think now for good) fixed our washing machine's timer broke. The washing machine we were using was given to us and intended to be a temporary solution to our old big front loader needing a complicated new pump. We never got around to ordering the parts to fix our front loader up, and a couple of procrastinating years later here we are. We browsed Home Depot  not expecting to find anything when we saw a floor model top loader with the biggest basin I have ever seen. It's a washer that retails for $799 and it was on clearance for $500. I am now in love! I soon decided I didn't want to fix up our old washer after all. I just want to sell it or give it away. We bought the new washer but not the matching dryer because our big dryer still works (but has some issues). I used the new washer for a week and fell more in love with it! I loved it so much I wanted to go back and buy the matching dryer. Luckily they still had the matching dryer on clearance. My new machines make me very happy. There are chimes and songs and lights; it's a total magical overload of sounds and lights. I'm not big into electronic things but I'm telling you, this is the most sensory pleasing appliance I have ever had! (It plays a little cute chimey tune instead of having a buzzer when a load is done) Life is made so much better by the simplest joys. Like new washing machines that make life easier!

So finally things seemed better. I have a key to my van. Septic is going well now. We didn't exactly want to buy a new washer and dryer right before the holidays, but such is life, and they are awesome at least. I'm a lucky lady! Not so crazy times anymore now for a while... Right?

Trader Joe's
I went to Trader Joe's last week and after ringing up an entire cart full of groceries I realized I had no money or debit card on me. Bea and Everett came in the store with me wearing no shoes (somehow they were forgotten at home).  We had just spent the afternoon at the rainy park. (Yep with no shoes on them, don't judge me.) So, I'm standing there with no money and homely, damp, shoe-less kids.

I was tasked with prying confused and barefooted kids out of the store without their cookies just as they started to cry. Sage (teenager) who was waiting in the van offered me twenty dollars upon hearing their sorrowful cries for cookies. I didn't really want to go back in and buy cookies. I wanted to tell them to get a hold of themselves. I wanted to not care about cookies when I had a missing debit card out in the world somewhere. But I did care. (But also I mostly just wanted a quiet ride home. If they get cookies then I get peace! ) They love those cookies and we only go to Trader Joe's about three times a year. I went in and bought the cookies.

Before pulling out of the parking lot I left a message for Ricky to ask him if he could pick up our abandoned groceries after work. Trader Joe's was holding them for me. Then I was almost run off the road during rush hour traffic. The lane was ending and traffic was at capacity. Soon my lane was totally gone and traffic to the left of me was at a stand still. I was driving along a narrowing shoulder and it was going to end. I sped up very quickly because I can do some serious Fast and Furious in that 15 passenger van of mine. I managed to get in front of a truck just as I was going to get wedged between traffic and a guardrail. I guess to him it looked like I gunned it in front of all the traffic purposely just to cut everyone and him off, but that's not my side of the story. Later down the road he showed me he is a big tough man as he gave me a huge one finger salute far extended into to the air as he exited the interstate. Really cool, dude. I hope you feel big and empowered flipping off a woman and a van full of kids. I told the kids if they ever do stuff like that they need anger management. And then that just left me with a 'what is wrong with people' feeling.

Thirty seconds later my gas light came on. I had no money but I had the money Sage loaned me. I used the leftover change from buying the cookies to get gas. Inside the gas station I say, "Thirteen dollars on pump thirteen please." I'm a little superstitious, it's been a bad day, and this is beyond fitting. Plus it's October!

Ricky thankfully picked up our abandoned groceries that evening. Trader Joe's had them in their cooler. So all-in-all I got my groceries! It feels like life has an extra slice of "humor" for me lately and I'm not really laughing.

I sure wasn't laughing a few days later as I was dragging all the kids to the bank to report my debit card missing and to get a new one. I wasn't loving the complaining that ensued about the right flavor of bank sucker afterward.We were in the car and there was a shortage of reasonably good flavored choices at hand. I don't even care they complained though.

Suckers are important. I remember this from childhood. (As are cookies too I suppose?)
So instead of totally losing my mind I thought to myself: Let the kids have a little hissy over suckers and don't say a thing about it because one day all this similar SUCKY stuff will happen to them and they'll have to suck it up like I am right now. Right now they get to be self absorbed kids. Getting the unwanted flavor of sucker is just preparation for adult life anyway.

Halloween is one of our favorite holidays second only to Christmas. It's a fun kick-off to the most magical time of year. Despite the craziness we had a beautiful month overall. This year we are having a warm and gorgeously long fall! I now am looking forward to hibernating for most of November and December! Time for some serious down time. It is hard balancing everything when we are so busy. I find it very hard to keep home cooked meals on the table. It's hard to get kids to eat veggies when I'm too busy balancing my budget and our social calendar to even make them. I want to bake again. I want us to do home based activities again. For a while I am ready for the kids to be bored and for me to have the house back in order. I'm ready to read to them more. I'm ready to do crafts again. My time is squeezed extra thin. I am so exhausted at the end of the day of running around that I fall asleep with the kids. I also want to appreciate and enjoy our new chickens!

Our chicken-less lifestyle didn't last very long at all. By the months end we bought fall chicks so they will lay this spring. It was Ricky who brought them home. We were trying to decide if we should get some to over-winter or not. We talked about it and both of us kept changing our minds. The huge advantage is that by the time spring is here they will be laying. By the time spring is here they will also be on free pasture. If we get feeding and raising out of the way in the winter we enjoy the biggest cost benefit of laying hens in the spring. If we were to instead get them in the spring they would eat starter feed all spring into summer and not the free pasture. The spring chicks won't lay until the fall. Once winter hits, if it is very cold, they lay less too. Winter can throw them into an early molt also, and if that happens they won't lay anything all winter long. As soon as the septic problem was fixed I suggested we get chicks again. Ricky hesitated and stated the obvious: it was a bad idea because we are so crazy as it is. Then I reminded him how I do better the busier I am and so maybe if things get too boring I'll not do as well. I was half joking. (But staying busy is better for me, that's true.) Well, two days later Ricky went to the feed store to get animal feed and he brought home surprise chicks. I was shocked! I did not see that coming! He called my bluff. I gulped a little. Aw, crap!

I have carved out some time for them. I used to spend more time to doing animal things with the kids. So Bea and I sit down together and visit with the chickens. We hold them and laugh at them nearly everyday. It's something that I realized I didn't do anymore... enjoying the little things is important. Instead of rushing to feed them and pushing them aside as another thing on my to-do list I promised myself that I would take the time with Bea raising them and socializing them. They both benefit from the one on one time! We are also firmly committed to keeping the chickens on pasture in chicken tractors instead of roaming. This will help if any decide to roam and teach the others bad habits as well as keep them on a mostly pasture diet. We never used to feed our chickens this much feed. It's gotten totally out of hand! When we lived on more land we hardly ever fed our chickens. I miss that! They are amazing foragers if you do not spoil them too much!

A few Halloween Pictures:
 Bo Peep and sheep
My sheep!

 Madeline LOVED Trick or Treating. Bea walked the WHOLE time and was serious about candy collecting.
That's October! For better or worse, and for Tricks and Treats!

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