Life With Nine Kids

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Spring 2016

This spring we got a new baby! This is Gunnar. 

Dumpster Rental for spring cleaning, downsizing, and garage cleaning most of all
I have learned over the years that there is usually a really difficult time (even several) throughout the year. Usually it has to do with various age transitions of kids. I used to get burnt out by it, but now I think I am so used to it I just let it flow. I know better days will come. I fight it less. It does not last forever.  Raising kids is like climbing a mountain. At first it's fun and you are all prepared and pumped, and then it becomes rough. Stuff you aren't prepared for can overwhelm you; situations you didn't pack for. Sometimes you even feel lost or stranded. Eventually you get your second (and then third) wind, and you pick up some speed. You eventually make it over. It just takes a bit more effort than those first steps! I see the pattern now. Right now it is loud and Ricky and I have trouble just talking over the noise! But it wont always be like this. It gets better. They get bigger. Things smooth over. (And then it will get hard again. Life is like this!) Having Madeline join the gang is really fun. She is just plunked right in the middle of all the chaos and she loves it.
It's always like that I suppose. Each amazing one of them right in the middle of crazy-everything.

Nine kids is hard...but is it really that different than six? (It's not, both are hard.) Really though, I am scrambling at trying to find ways to cut back. We have way too much going on! We butchered a bunch of turkeys and chickens to thin the population. I have spent hours and hours planting, training, staking, and admiring my tomato plants. I love working in the garden. It makes me so happy. But every time I'm out there working my house is being wrecked, someone is probably watching too much tv, laundry is piling up, and the bathroom probably has an un-flushed toilet (from Everett age 5 most usually lol). I ignore my family to garden, and it's a slice of heaven on earth. My free time is a premium! And that's how I love to spend it.

Spring has been filled with new critters. We are struggling to keep our one acre farm actually ON our one acre. It's not easy. Ricky got ducks! We have a lot going on! LOL.
Beatrice holds a new chick hatched by a friendly and patient barred rock mama hen

We like our home a lot and we have put a tremendous amount of hard work into it (and continue to do so), but we have been looking for a new place with more land to move to for a long time. We haven't found anything perfect yet. (Oh, you can try telling me perfect doesn't exist. I won't listen though.) We obsessively looked for the fourth year in a row this winter and into the spring. It is now feeling ridiculous at this point. We have a nice place to live now, which makes me feel so bad that I am often obsessed with moving. We can't shake it though. We want more land for a multitude of reasons. I have some boxes packed already and we have even put offers on places but they didn't work out. I am fighting staying here with my best possible efforts, yet here we stay firmly planted. There is a reason. Part of my lesson, I believe, is finding peace and contentment within. I am trying to master that. The other related lesson is faith and patience. 

Something I learned recently was how much I was ruining my children by constantly talking about what we were looking for and why we didn't like here. They have no idea our property is less than ideal to us until we tell them about it. This is the only home most of them know. This is their sacred childhoods. It really helps to see things through a child's eyes. They see things differently, or perhaps not at all. For example: Kids don't see the jelly they smeared all over the side of the jar, nor do they feel the peanut butter creeping up the knife handle making them sticky. They are too focused on their sandwich. That's annoying to grown ups but not to kids. Kids don't see things in the less than perfect way adults do. They don't dwell as much as adults. Kids have fun with what they do have. Kids are resourceful. Kids live in the moment. Kids are awesome. I want to be more awesome. I have been undoing the negative thoughts that I accidentally fed them about moving. When I open my eyes  I make sure I see blessings instead of shortcomings. How spoiled and accustomed we all become when we don't have to go without. Now I take a deep breath and look around at what we have. I have talks with myself. Human nature is to strive for more and better, it's part of survival and self perseverance. That can clash hard when we mesh that instinct with modern life. My mantra lately is 'be content.' I also tell myself, 'Teach your children well. They will follow you into to happiness or despair. It's my choice.'

And that's the kind of thoughts, mixed with some property hunting and soul searching that I have been up too. I looked at my garden the other day and asked myself what my 16 or 20 year old self would have thought of this place. I grew up in the desert, and while I can appreciate the desert as a nostalgic and unique habitat all on its own, I always loved woods, rivers, trees, and fireflies growing up. When I was visiting family or going camping, the smell of the farms and forests was so fresh and full of life. I can't imagine being anywhere else but the Midwest. I remember how much I just loved the Midwest the times I visited it before I moved. As a child I learned to swim and canoe in Missouri. As a young lady I played in the corn fields of Iowa. In my 20's I took jaw-dropping photos of sunflower fields in Kansas. The first time I drove through a small Midwest town my face was literally pressed to the car window. I recall thinking "This is why it's called God's country." I really do remember the total awe. Driving through small towns I had no idea houses were really different than the stucco ones I was used to. When I was a kid I wanted a family and an old house with a basement. When I was a teenager I adored sunflowers and couldn't get enough of them. Here I am in my thirties typing this in the 90 year old home Ricky and I bought together. The love of my life and blessed with all these children. Right outside my window are sunflowers. Twenty minutes ago I went down to my cool basement to do laundry.

Out my window June 2016
How stupid it is that sometimes it becomes hard to see what's right in front of us?

That's why I am writing this. Writing always provides clarity for me. Moving is just not what we are supposed to be doing right now. I would venture to guess that living happily, teaching the kids, and enjoying our life in little and big ways is what we are supposed to be doing right now! It's not that we can't plan to move, but maybe I can just let it unfold. Maybe it will take time.
The Farm
Two months ago we started visiting the farm more (Ricky's family farm). The drive is long with the kids and it's hard packing up. Each trip exhausts us but it's worth it. The kids love it so much, too. We want them to connect with the farm and our family there. We are actively overcoming feeling that we are always too busy to go to the farm. Ricky and I have lamented to each other about how we will always be too tired, and too busy, and it will always be too far. Always. Either we let that stop us or we don't. Are the rewards worth it? If they are then we do it. Just power through and just do it. 
So we have! It is glorious.
See how worth it it is:

Digging for worms with PawPaw

Madeline 6 months old
After we fulfill our promise to slowly spend more time at the farm we are going to fix up the old farm house there so that we have a part time place! We are very excited. So instead of focusing all our energy on moving right now we are trying to redirect that desire into something special. And something with more family time!!

Little Kids
I was wondering last month how I can forget how hard having a two (almost three) year old and an infant is?! And there lies the real dilemma: It is hard to get anything done with little kids! How do I forget this!? I never used to pay attention. Now I know why people stop having's hard! lol!

She is sweet and amazing. Her intense eyes and watchful personality is starting to become more apparent. I see that I'm actually building a trust with her. She's not as free spirited and silly as the other girls. She observes differently than some of the other kids did. It's subtle, but I know it! I can tell. If you are not into astrology you won't understand, but I can tell I lighten her mood. I can tell I'm unfolding pages in her personality. I didn't know much about Scorpios, but occasionally I read about them since I had her... and so much I am experiencing with her is so true. Her happy and secure babyhood, because of gentle hands-on mothering and parenting, will help serve her for a lifetime. This of course is true with all babies and children. Perhaps though, the ones with the more difficult or secretive personalizes gain the most.  
Watchful Sisters 
When we get home from an outing Layla and/or Penelope stay with any little kids if I leave the van unattended. I don't ask them to. They just always have. Day-to-day Penelope and Layla will also often ask where various little kids are randomly. If it has been a while since they have seen a sibling they will check and see if they are napping or outside. Especially they check on under 5 year old aged kids. We have been home an hour and just now Penelope stopped playing with playdoh and causally walked over to me in the living room. She asked, "Did you get Madeline out of the car?" It's quiet in the house and she knows it shouldn't be. I can't even explain how much I appreciate and adore their watchful eyes. They have heard me say that kids can die in cars. We do kid counts. Their awareness speaks volumes about what good sisters they are. Something else I love is that they don't just think about themselves. There is something bigger than just them. They watch. They love. They take care of each other. 

The Kids: A Rundown
The Teens

 Charlotte (19) was decorating cakes for a local store and got quite good. She's extremely artistic and found a way to use her creative side on cakes! Wither her positive work ethic she worked her way into an unofficial bakery management position at only 19 years old. She was in charge of managing the daily bakery operations, baking, decorating, ordering, inventory, Etc. She was the sole person in the bakery for quite a while, often working overtime while trying to complete highschool! She is now focusing on college courses. She may go into business management with aspirations to manage a high end bakery. She is not sure though. She likes decorating cakes so much so she is trying to get more experience with wedding cakes.

There are so, so many things that Charlotte does for us. Charlotte is so amazing, and she is so fun to her siblings. She bought and filled mini piñatas for each of them for Christmas, she bakes with Everett every time I go some place he can't because of his broken arm, she watches the baby and Bea so I can garden, which is serious therapy for my soul. She helps all the time around the house. She is a hard worker. And she's so cheerful!

Sage (16) is a typical teenage boy that keeps to himself and doesn't rock the boat he is sailing on. He is tall at a whopping 6'3.  Poor kid hits his head on everything. He has friends that are into some various card games and chess. He is teaching himself guitar. He likes to work with his hands and is currently building a rabbit hutch for his rabbit. His white rabbit is named Shakespeare. It is cute when Bea says it. She says Shakes-beard. Sage is our super helpful outdoors farm kid and he helps with the animals a lot and doesn't mind heavy lifting. He's good at catching our turkeys and chickens. Sage hates indoor chores. All the kids are friends but he has a special bond with Bea. He loves weapons, fires, and self defense books. He knows a lot about history and conspiracy theories. He might already be a spy, but probably he just has lock picks, night vision goggles, and a mysterious personality all  for the fun of it. He doesn't like making his bed. It's my mission in life to convince him that it's worth the effort.

Ethan (16) is an extremely talented artist. It's not just a hobby to him. He draws for hours every day like it's air to him. Ethan and Sage have the same friends. Ethan is a bit less farm oriented than Sage, but he still loves animals and eagerly helps out. He likes mammals over the birds. He hangs out with our goats. He loves dogs most of all. Ethan nearly always picks indoor chores over outdoor. He can mow a yard fast and straight, which sounds silly to mention, but it is awesome! His handwriting is amazing! His room is almost always clean. He is so helpful around the house and never complains. He is super nice to his little brothers who want to play constantly with him. He is calm with Everett (and all the younger kids) when they throw tantrums and I appreciate it so much. Ethan is composing music and singing a bit with the keyboard we got for Christmas! He's very talented! He is young at heart and still runs around and plays with the kids.

Layla (11) taught herself gymnastics over the past year by watching videos online. She's very talented.

Her dad bought her a gymnastics mat last summer because she was so dedicated. There were many weeks that she practiced five hours a day doing gymnastics, watching tutorials, and stretching. We were stunned. We finally enrolled her in a gymnastics program at an amazing place. They were super impressed with her and moved her from beginner to advanced intermediate after two classes. I loved every time I heard them mention how impressive it was she was self taught. She then tried out for team and made it. She will be competing four times this year locally. She is advanced in floor work because that is all she had to train with at home. She is now trying to get better at bar, beam, and vault. As you can figure, gymnastics is her life right now. Layla is a very helpful and such is great sister. She goes everywhere with me even when kids are allowed to stay home. I often call her my personal assistant. She is extremely organized. This child could dress herself at 18 months old so...
Layla is always making up games for her siblings and is a natural with young kids. Ricky just laughs and laughs, like real laughter, to me in private because when she's being a stinker and moody to me he says she sounds just like me when I'm pissed off. He thinks it's hilarious.

Penelope (9) loves everything. She loves, art, cooking, farm animals, her siblings, games, and the list goes on and on. She is always up for anything. She loves the Little House books and dressing up like a prairie girl. I adore it and wished she'd never grow up! She's a natural at mothering and scoops up this baby in an instant. She is very smart and very advanced at child and baby care for her age.
She plays a lot with Bea and Everett. She is interested in gymnastics and has followed in Layla's footsteps a bit with that. She is gaining quickly in strength and balance from her gymnastics classes. Her favorite food is tomatoes. We just planted 40 plants. She has planted tomatoes with me every spring for her whole entire life! 

Sebastian (7) draws almost as much as Ethan.
He is really quiet and thoughtful, but also has a wild boy side that comes out especially when playing with Everett. Sebastian is tough and strong. Sebastian has quite a temper. His feelings can also get hurt very easily. He is a very tender soul with a very tough exterior. Sebastian loves playing chess and Magic the Gathering. He collects wolves. If he was an animal he would be a wolf. He's loyal, private, and fierce. If you upset him he doesn't forget. He enjoys running around and playing chase games. He loves babies. Bea and Madeline, with their giggles and fun, will often lighten his mood and crack his frown into a smile when times are emotionally tough for him.

Everett (5)

This kid has the most free spirit we have ever known. He loves babies and says Madeline is is favorite person. He loves to laugh and be silly. He will wrestle, play-fight, and run around almost non stop with anybody. He is very rough and he is sensory seeking. He seeks out textures, noise, and lots of stimulation. He has an above average pain tolerance. He is wild; Ricky and I always said that he was going to be our first ER visit with a kid, and we were right! None of the other kids ever have had an emergency room warranted injury. He climbs trees, to the top of our van, the pillars on our porch, up the walls, and a couple times he has stood still hiding in the frame of a window inside the house.  His new and tamer life is very hard on him due to the cast but he is really happy and positive most days. It is hard for us to get him to be careful with it! He smashes anything he can with the cast.

Bea (2) is really sweet and cute. When showing me her pine cone she said, "This is my best pineapple!" with a lot of ADORABLE enthusiasm.

She is a dainty little girl, and all girl in every way. She is tough and mighty, but mostly she is made of sugar and spice. She loves talking and is very good with expressing herself. She tells us Madeline is the best present she ever got. We never told her anything like that. She just came up with it. She says cute stuff like that all the time. She goes to gymnastics too. The teacher is amazing. There is a big foam pit the kids can jump in. They have in-ground trampolines. They play color games, learn balance, use beans and bars. It teaches a lot of great skills and they are so amazing with kids. Bea loves playing with play food, baby dolls, and her siblings. She also likes to call us Mother and Father. Cutest thing EVER? When she hugs us and says sweetly, "You are my mother." "You are my father." She closes her eyes and gives us big hugs when she says that. She's a doll.

Madeline is six months old and wobbly when sitting up.
Her real accomplishment is crawling. She can get across the floor already! She loves her siblings and loves watching them. When she watches them run around she will yell out baby talk and flap her arms up and down in excitement towards them. She loves her daddy and gives him the sweetest starry eyed smiles.

She is perfectly fun and sweet like the rest. She is a good sleeper, but prefers to be home for sleeping. She is a good car rider though which is a great thing for this busy bunch! 

Gymnastics is a huge part of our lives, this picture taken when Madeline is tiny bit older (7 months)

The kids had a fun spring with gymnastics classes, a project fair, and an art show. We do most things together and things that are nearly all ages together.

Everett Finally Broke Something

We were gone all day running errands and got home for an afternoon of beautiful weather, family time, and grilling. As soon as the car was unloaded and Ricky got the coals on the grill hot for kabobs, Everett (5) fell off the playground in the backyard. He was climbing up and down the monkey bar ladder and he fell landing backwards hard on his left arm. Sage (16) scooped him up and brought him to me. Sage calmly told me Everett was hurt and that he broke his arm. I looked at his arm thinking he was probably fine...a split second later I realized that my wishful thinking was not going to get us out of this one. I have never seen a broken arm before but everything about his arm looked very wrong and broken. It looked like rubber, had very little tone, and his wrist bowed upward and bent funny.  His arm was deflated looking and it was floppy. He fell from about three and a half feet, which is usually nothing for that rambunctious tree climbing kid, but he fell backwards and tried to catch himself backwards.

When Everett cries he is usually really hurt. He has an amazing pain tolerance. I yelled out to my family random things, "We are going to the hospital NOW! Keys? I need diapers. Where are my shoes? Oh my God, where are the keys!?" Ricky asked me if he should stay or go with me. I told him he's going for sure. A huge bonus of having many older kids is that we actually had that option. The teens were at my side asking what they could do and assuring me they had things at home covered. We had just unloaded over $600 worth of bulk shopping from Costco. Everything was a mess. Boxes everywhere. I had no idea where the keys ended up. I deal well with stress unless one of the kids is hurt. I almost can't see straight when there is a kid crisis. I was wandering around with Everett crying in my arms. He's five and so heavy. I was trying to get him to take deep breaths and he tried. He wailed that he didn't want to go to the hospital. He told me in all seriousness his arm wasn't broken and he just needed to rest it a little while. That's right. My five year old has an obvious broken arm and he stopped crying long enough to say he just needs to rest it. I told him there would be popsicles at the hospital and he became more accepting of the hospital. I couldn't cradle hold him anymore as it was getting me no closer to leaving. I was literally walking in circles around the house. I laid him on the couch. I had no idea where Ricky had gone. I assumed he was getting ready and dousing out the coals on the grill. Layla (11) was in the shower as all this was going on. She goes everywhere with me. She got dressed in a flash. I was still frantically searching for keys and telling the other kids to put away all the food. I was still pacing frantically. I didn't know where to look for the keys and my brain was in overload mode. I soon switched from yelling "where are the keys?!" to yelling about not being able to find my phone. It was taking me too long to get my head together. I had to tell myself to NOT call 911. I was wanting somebody else to take over. I felt like I was in a dream where I was being chased but unable to move. Everett sat crying on the couch.

Sage (16) scooped up Everett from the couch and held him until Ricky got him. Layla found the keys (she finds everything) and I now somehow had my phone in my hand. Love my kids! Layla toted little Madeline out to the car and put her in her car seat. I have no normal 11 year old, I assure you. She's amazing. We loaded up and left. Ricky rode with Everett in the backseat and held his arm. On the way I called information to get the hospital's number. I had the most insane experience with 411. I said the city and state and then I said "Hospital" and it couldn't give me a listing. I said the hospital name and it still said there was no listing. I said the city and state and the word HOSPITAL loudly. It told me no listing. I asked for an operator and it said it was an automated service. I did this four times. I was incredulous as my mouth dropped open. My attention turned to Everett's cries. He cried out that his arm hurt and I was close to crying. I held it together and found focus. I told Ricky to start asking Everett what happened in hopes it would distract him. Everett's crying slowed as he told us. Meanwhile, I decided I could be an ambulance driver. I was now super focused, cool and collected. Since I had no siren I was speeding only when 'safe' and changing lanes as I could without being jerk. I now had way more focus than back at home. I'm still laughing that my thoughts as I sped to the hospital consisted of worry and that I could totally handle being an ambulance driver. Haha.
We ended up being gone 10 hours after two different hospitals. It seemed an insane amount of time for a broken arm. (You should see the bills. It's a long story and I'm stopping there.) Overall we had amazing care. Everett is such a wild kid that we knew his cast was going to be a huge problem for everyone:
First day at home birth a broken arm:
He was running outside and when I called him to stop he says, "I am not Everett I am Johnny Mountain Climber. I fell down a 300ft mountain and broke my arm." For an hour he wouldn't answer to his real name and only Johnny Mountain Climber.

He tried to break open a rock with a screwdriver.

I had to get him off the swing outside. Twice.

In the middle of the day Everett casually asked Layla if it is time for his next trampoline gymnastics lesson yet. 

Day two
I looked to my left and he is sitting on top of our vintage living room dresser eating a bowl of dry cereal. What in the world. 

Everett, you are fantastic and free and brave. I hope you know your spirit is strong and your will is mighty.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

Sage is very tall. (Did you accidentally put Ethan's age the same as Sage?)

Sorry to hear about the breakage. It must cost a fortune.

The gymnastics is amazing.

Have you ever had studio portraits taken? It must be hard to get a picture of all of you.