Life With Nine Kids

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

THE ECLIPSE of 2017

August 21, 2017
A moment like this happens once in a blue moon...

 Our home was to be in totality for the eclipse. We were so excited and I read so much about what to expect. We had friends over, made homemade t-shirts and had a fabulous party. The whole experience was very special to me! 
Safety eyewear ready to go! Pictured: Four of our kids and five friends!
I had no idea that the colors and contrast, the detail and structure of the eclipse, well, that image is beyond reproduction. When you see it on TV or in pictures, it's NOT the same thing. I was shocked that there is not really a true representation of it as it is seen in person. It was truly shocking! It was jaw dropping. I felt amazed and it was truly spectacular. I had read previously from eclipse chasers that once you see your first full eclipse you immediately want to know how you can do it again. Where, when, and how...

This was proven true for everyone in our group. What surprised also was how unlike dusk it got. As the replication of evening unfolded all around me, it did indeed become dusky. There is a sunset that spans 360 degrees. But it was a weird Sci-fi type of dusk. A glowing dimming experience that can't really be explained. Another descriptor I had read was that it is a "Sci-fi like" experience, but I failed to fully understand that too, until it was me standing under the enormous sky looking around in awe. 

Birds did fly off weirdly like 'they' said they would. Our ducks came all at once to the exact place where they bed down to at night. They sensed an urgency to bed down quickly as it became not only darker much earlier but also at a faster pace than they were accustomed too. Shadows of the disappearing moon appeared on everything.
Shadows of the crescent moon danced up the walkway to our home

Each hole in my colander was a tiny crescent moon reflected onto the paper! So beautiful! 

It was spectacular. I will see it again. I will do this again. I must. When the moon covered the sun it was breathtaking. I for sure thought three minutes of totality would seem much, much longer than it did. It doesn't look like any of the high quality pictures or videos that are available. And.... it was over faster than I expected.

The kids and Ricky loved it as well. Everyone did, and it was so much fun! We have video of our crowds reactions and that is really cool. I had read not to waste much (if any) time recording or photographing it. It would be hard to get a very good image unless you really knew what you were doing, and it would not look the same anyway even if you had the experience. Some of the best advice we got from a scientist online was that if you do anything then video people's reactions. That's where the special moments will really be captured. It was so true! We have a great video of oohing and ahhing and excitement! There is also a clip of me as the moon breaks away from the sun thus ending its totality. I'm stunned at how fast it happens. Immediately you need your glasses again. Immediately everything brightens. It's like slow but fast. It's weird. So, I'm totally geeking out on the video. I even choke up with tears a little because it's so dang beautiful and its such an amazing thing. Lastly, I have a video clip of Sebastian (9)  immediately inquiring in a dumb founded way as he literally trips over words in wonder and amazement, "Mom... Hey, Mom...um, how often does, I mean when can I see this again?"   Immediately the words repeat in my head that I had read three says ago:
             Once you see totality you want to know how you can possibly see it again. 

This is picture is totally how hard of a dork I actually am!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Summer 2017

We flew into summer full force and full of excitement, I expected glorious family time, BBQ's, swimming at the creek, giant flamingo blow up rafts, and lots of relaxing outside time. I also daydreamed about getting away with Ricky to a nearby resort or maybe a far away resort...maybe a fancy rooftop pool or if need be a simple water park. Could we plan a much deserved getaway? Wait, we have a baby. I quit daydreaming and realized that we'd have to stay nearby. However, in actuality he got swamped with work while I was swamped at home and nothing transpired or worked in our favor for a small dreamy getaway. That's okay, we will still enjoy the awesome long summer days ahead of us... right? RIGHT? 

In reality we have been at least 90% busy trying not to just simply drown! We had only about 10% of actual free time/fun. It's our own fault really. I'm not complaining, but reflecting; good gracious we really have done it. This summer has been nutso! Nine kids is a hearty load of various healthcare appointments, food, laundry, dishes, noise, and everything else in between. And the animals. They take up more time than I ever think they will. We are exhausted. Madeline climbs EVERYWHERE and EVERYTHING. She reminds us of Everett! I used to say seven is the hardest number of kids! (Everett was the seventh) now I say nine is. ;)  (Admittedly, this was unscientifically based more on which babies and kids were the most difficult at the time, not the actual number of kids.)

Madeline is soooo clingy. My mind is in 1000 places trying to tackle too many projects both old ones and new. Most of the time I tell myself I must thrive on chaos, because every time I think we should pull back and lighten the load we end up just doing more!

I have a hard time telling myself that I can't do it all. So I pile up my to do list as high as I want and if it overflows it overflows, and if I make a mess then I make a mess. But I never, ever run out of stuff to do.

Madeline chipped her front teeth in early summer. It was caused by  Sebastian and Everett fighting over her! Sebastian felt Everett was being too rough in his play with Madeline so Sebastian grabbed Madeline from him, then they both end up pulling on her in disagreement!!  I was close by at the kitchen sink telling them to let her go. Wellllll, they let her go alright. Just as I turned to take a step towards them to get her, she flew smack into the fridge like a rag doll. I was so mad I was almost blind. I had to take her outside because if I didn't I was going to scream at them until I ran out of air. I paced the driveway holding her and I checked her teeth. To the pediatric dentist we went. He filed them smoother and the x ray looked as if there was no damage to the root. It can still take weeks for nerve damage to show up though. We should be out of the danger zone now, her teeth are holding up and there is no damage to them other than slight cosmetic. They broke off in nearly the same place.

Our toddlers are always both wild kids and wildly unlucky with teeth. Charlotte broke hers in half at 14 months old slipping on a picnic table and landing on them, Sebastian broke his falling outside, Everett cracked his on the bathtub! Bea's front teeth were doing poorly due to decay despite aggressive attention to hygiene. Eventually we had hers capped. I just want my kids to keep their baby teeth! 

 I finally planted tomatoes in late June because I found discount plants and planting makes me feel so good. I just had to do that for myself. Penelope (10) and I planted pumpkins, too. They are coming up great and we have so much fun watching them grow!

June and July seem like a blur. It seems like we ran into a string of bad luck, I'm not sure if bad luck is the accurate descriptor I'm looking for, as we are very lucky and blessed overall, but I can't think of a better way to describe mounting auto bills (yes again --as was experienced last summer), sickness, wildlife problems including owls and possums that culled our flock of at least 20 hens down to just four laying hens over several months time. ONE single night a possum killed eight young chickens in one go at it. Nature has not been kind to us this year, and now, after trapping those pests, I'm at war with a much bigger pest: deer!!! They were munching my sunflowers like crazy. I used some top rated stinky spray that deters them and it seems to help for now.

Everett
Everett (6) is having an emotional time and needing a lot of slow, calm attention. He has full-on emotional outbursts over everything! He goes through this phase from time to time. Probably around growth spurts. It's hard balancing all this STUFF and also remaining calmly present for the people that live this crazy life too. Six can be a hard age and he is a middle child. So I'm always trying so hard to make things better for him. He's wild, hilarious and sweet but also emotional and sensitive.

He has outbursts like this funny and quirky one I wrote down:
Everyone's eating yogurt at the table right now. Everett jumps up suddenly, pulls his pajama pants down (no underwear, no shirt on) and has an outburst, "Ughhh YOGURT! FINE! I'll eat naked!" Apparently he got yogurt on his pajama pants. He sat back down and in a calmer tone this time announces to us with confidence, "Good thing I like being naked!" We just stare in disbelief until sassy Bea chimes in, "Uhh you CAN'T be naked, GET some clothes on you EVERETT!" And I'm like, "Yeah you have to wear clothes." He obliged and left the room.

Cute:
I showed and made the kids cup-o-noodles instant soup from my childhood (My Grandma Smith had these for lunch frequently which I fondly remember!) and Everett said, "Wow, did they have these in prairie times?"

And then the sweetest moments ever like these recently:
"Thanks for my peanut butter and Jelly mom. And thanks for life for me. For my life you gave me." 

One of the kids casually said that I don't work (as in a job outside the home, which is true). Another kid said I did work. But Everett (age 6) out of nowhere adds his profound opinion, "Mom doesn't work. Mom has a destiny. Mom takes care of kids because it's HER destiny. And it's really hard." 

My heart melted. My six year old summed up my entire beautiful, messy life.  
(By the way, this totally made up for him swiping out of my hand earlier the breakfast sandwich for dinner I had made for myself. Literally OUT of my hand!  He gave it back and said sorry. He has impulses. I know this.)   

Charlotte (20)
A few mentions about our oldest, Charlotte. Her hard work paid off when she made the dean's list last semester for her excellent GPA. Last year she was invited to join the honor society at her college. She became Vice President of her chapter within a couple of short months and then President by the end of the semester. She got to go on an expense paid honor society trip to Branson, MO. She has worked VERY hard, studies almost all the time, and we are so very proud of her. She helps around here as much as she can. Two weeks into summer break she was already working at a bakery part time for summer. She's motivated, awesome, helpful and just a great young lady. We are very proud of her. Can you imagine how interesting yet challenging living in a home with 10 other people, most of them under age ten, all while holding down jobs, going to college and having a mother who is constantly wanting you to stop leaving her dang dishes in your car. Haha! :)

Recently, Charlotte found out her very hard work and huge amounts of studying paid off because she was accepted into the physical therapy assistant program she was working hard to get into. Then a day later she received a "surprise" letter in the mail! Charlotte was awarded a nice scholarship from her school to help her pay half of this fall's 2017 and half of this spring's 2018 semesters!! SO PROUD OF HER!!!!!!!

More of the stinky....
Our main computers all went out on us. And our ipad is missing. We wonder if the baby threw it away. So, we need to do something about that and now writing / posting is harder than ever! As if I needed another obstacle to writing besides falling asleep exhausted every night at 8pm! Ha! I've been convinced I couldn't really type a blog post on my phone but here I am.

Speaking of exhausted, here's a funny text from recently when Ricky brewed coffee and we were going to try and enjoy some TV watching together. The baby woke up and I fell asleep trying to get her back down:
When I woke up the next morning it was the first laugh I had of the day.

We message each other a lot in the evening and sometimes it's the only time we talk in the evening! But sometimes it's sad and not that funny. We really do miss each other when it gets crazy!

Dog Trouble
In the late spring/early summer, Gunnar, our one year old pup who was supposed to be a Great Pyrenees but is actually an Akbash (more about that below) had an incident that devastated us. 

This is what I wrote at the time:
I am having a hard time focusing after crying for two days! Gunnar was triggered by strangers and jumped our fence (we had feared it after finding out he is not a Pyrenees) and he was very aggressive. There was a huge fight (mostly him) with my neighbor's dogs and I felt I had to protect my neighbor and her dogs. No one was injured. She was traumatized and I was devastated. I was sick over it. I cried for two days. It was that bad. We were in extreme fear for ourselves and her dogs. After talking to Akbash rescue and going to my vet I feel better. They both assured me that if he had wanted to do damage he would have. A rescue mentor who knows the breed well told be this breed will purposely threaten and act like they are coming at you but don't make contact. So he's not an immediate threat, but we are taking this beyond serious as we well should. He is mainly triggered and a threat to dogs passing by. Akbash dogs are horrible for this. 
Me hugging Gunnar's head after I was crying day 1. He knew something was very wrong. And he acted different and somber after his outburst. At this point thought I might have to put him down for viciousness.
We do assume we will have to rehome him through the rescue, but since we are heartbroken we are still researching. He still needs neutered and that is on May 1. The vet thinks we should do all that first, too. We still have the jump the fence issue though, which is only an issue so far  if he sees a "threat." Unfortunately everything to him is a threat! A privacy fence is a heavy consideration. At least with the info we have now we get time to assess our future and get used to the idea that he may need a new home. So I can stop crying at least for now.  (Vet thinks a new home will stress him more and give him anxiety issues since he is with us so much.) We can take it one day at a time for now. This is taking extreme planning and he has to be inside if we are not home. He can only go outside with close adult supervision and on a long tie out for no more than an hour. My neighbor is thankfully not angry with us! I have visited her twice now. She and I had a great conversation. There are other dogs on her walk giving her trouble too. And we are the only pet owners taking this seriously. 

He has redirection issues which is horrible. That has been improving, but not perfect by any means. This means he bites us if we try to stop him from going after his target. His harness has made him able to walk on a leash willingly and be pulled away safely so that is great. Our vet says it sounds and looks like we have spent a lot of time with him which is key to teaching him.

Months after writing all of the above, I wrote to Akbash rescue on their Facebook page thanking them for helping us:

We thought we got a second Pyrenees puppy last year, but the breeder was either ignorant or not truthful. I did not want an Akbash, as I know they can be territorial,  jump fences, and need lots of work, but we realized it all too late when Gunnar was around six months old. We hoped that around one year old we would not have to rehome him for the typical reasons. I am so thankful Akbash Rescue gave me the time, support as well as the advice I needed to hear on the phone (through my tears!) without being judgmental. They saved us from having to give up my best pup friend.

Every night my Gunnar follows me around the house. From doing the nightly dishes, to reading to the kids, to brushing teeth (he lays RIGHT in front of the sink every night lol), and then laying near the kids at bedtime. Family pets are so special! I *totally* get why our vet said re-homing him would traumatize him and if at all possible he should stay with us. I am so glad I made the call to Akbash rescue as well as contacting the vet so that they could both educate me and help us make the choice to keep him and how to proceed from there. I'm so glad he is responsive to his new routine and supervision. He is not allowed outside alone except in one small area for very short periods of time. He has a larger area to run in a couple times a day with us supervising. It's been very rewarding taking care of him! I didn't think I could do it because we have lots of children and my time is limited. But I stay home full time and I wanted to do everything I could to help Gunnar stay with us. I did it! And I'm so glad! I have even worked with him and our goats, and he's quite good at herding them! I am working on him not chasing chickens now. He is a joy and I feel so lucky he can stay with us. Thank you Akbash rescue for taking my call months ago. Happily, we can keep our friend and family member!
                                                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Now, don't let me fool you, he's still a pain in the ass teenager dog. But he's really improving.  His redirecting issues are even getting better. If I'm careful I can feed him and the other dogs treats together. (Akbash dogs are extremely territorial of food, like they go full on crazy! Lucky for us it's only an animal issue and not also a human issue! Some have issues with any pet or person and food!) He is very sweet and affectionate. Most people don't get to see the sweet, ridiculously affectionate  dog we live with because he's SO territorial. He's a heavy duty guard dog. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is making it through our front door with him here. A guard dog is important to me -this is a little over the top though, but okay...it's what we were handed.

We have been thinking for six months or more now that he needs a buddy to play with because he's very playful. He's too young and rough for the kids to really actually run and play outdoors with and our other dogs are all old farts. :)

Summer Season bad luck treks on...
In June (or May!?) We had a beloved cat (my favorite cat) get a snake bite and die. He was only one year old. I was so mad about that. We took on the care of FOUR kittens though, so it the blow was lessened because of affectionate cuteness, but I still was really mad and bummed out for a couple weeks. He's buried next to my garden. One of our rabbits broke through a probably poorly latched hutch door and unfortunately Gunnar found it first and killed it. He comes from a long line of varmint hunters, so the breeder said. Not much you can do when that happens. (he's not allowed in that part of the yard anymore) So that was a bummer. We thought our rabbits were both girls. It was HARD to tell! However the remaining rabbit, a short while later, had babies! And then preceded to eat each and every one of them. I am, at this point, seriously fed up! 

Our kittens we named after my Grandma Wanda and three of her siblings: Wanda, Georgia, Doyle and Dairy. I thought perhaps after we fix them and raise them for a year or so we can take a couple to the farm house (assuming they are okay with it and assuming we fix it up and stay in it more) so that they can mouse the property and hang there when they are older. They already prefer the outside to the inside, but that wasn't my intention. However, they just love living under the cool porch right now. They are super sweet and so friendly. I love our cats even though I don't really consider myself a cat person. We, um, have seven cats. The kids play with them and take such good care of them that they are just the sweetest 
They hang out with the kids all the time
Madeline LOVES to climb stuff. This is worth repeating again because it is a huge, massive drain of my time!


She's. Everywhere. I go through weeks of split personality disorder where I am like: "Grow up already I need space and time" to "My goodness, I love babies so much I must enjoy this moment, nothing matters, stay little -cobwebs and dust go to sleep 'cause my baby won't keep..." to back again, "Oh.My.God, I can't get anything done, I want time to garden and make pie, and the dishes and laundry are slipping into a disaster, and the other kids need me, I'm tired and I can't water the ducks with her because she stands in the water with her shoes on every time, she throws dog food everywhere, throws spoons, climbs on everything....and.child.get.off.my.freaking.boob!"

                                                                  Oh.But.Motherhood.
 

                                                                    Life Is Perfect.
                                               It's this back and forth struggle all the time. 

Bea
Bea turned FOUR and we had a fun flamingo party our house and at the creek with friends and a GIANT blow up flamingo raft. We narrowly dodged a thunder storm that threatened to ruin her creek party!




















Bea funnies:
One day while I was trying to get the baby down for a nap Bea wanted to watch Berenstain Bears on the computer. Layla was helping Bea but didn't know the password so they had to wait for me to sign it in. For fun while they were waiting Layla passed the time asking Bea what she thinks my password might be. Her ideas are adorably hilarious: 

Hug your babies 
I love babies 
Wear shoes or you'll get a splinter in your foot
Take a bath or you'll get a rash
Homeschooling is the best 

Instead of saying last weekend, Bea calls a previous weekend "yesterday weekend." And I love it so much.

Bea talks so much and it's adorable. She says amazingly funny things and unexpected things that make us laugh. For example: suddenly she handed me some cheese she was eating and she said, "Here mom, here is my cheese, it is rubbish."

Aslan's Last Days 
Aslan is our Great Pyrenees and the first dog Ricky and ever had together.
Sebastian and Aslan at 3 am years ago
Aslan had been having subtle problems in his hips for years. The years passed, he became old and he had trouble getting around. Some days were better than others. Eventually he'd spend days at a time laid up and unable to walk, but he always got back up eventually. One day he just couldn't anymore. We spent about three months caring for his every need around the clock. We put him in our own home "doggie hospice." We bought dog wraps (diapers), fed him extra special food, toted him inside and outside for fresh air, set him up doggie TV, cleaned and bathed him, tended to pressure spots. It was a tremendous amount of love and care.
Aslan watch doggie TV on YouTube

Aslan's Hospice Care Room
One day I commented on how great we were doing caring for him but that it can be so hard.

We spent a lot of money on comforts for him and a lot of time washing his bedding, diapers, the floors, etc. He was no small dog: At his largest he was over 100. As he became sick he weighed 80-90 lbs. (less at the end as he lost mass before his passing) Ricky said caring for him and spending the money to care for him is the one the way he can thank him for watching over his family all these years and times he was out of town for work. I thought that was really sweet and special. 

Finally, Aslan was exhausted and so were we. We made and cancelled THREE euthanasia appointments for him. We didn't want to give up on him. We waited as long as we could but could tell we were all growing tired. Aslan would attempt to army crawl around the yard and get sores from dragging himself. He couldn't go far, but he could make it across the front yard eventually. Somehow he'd roll down the porch stairs to get to the yard! But we never saw how he did this. Pyrenees' are stubborn and this ol' dog was being no different. We'd clean and treat the sores he caused himself by dragging (also bed sores). It got too hard after a while, the bathing became SO hard, and as the sparkle started leaving Aslan's eyes and it became time to face the music and say our goodbyes. His condition would only deteriorate him in the future and we wanted to avoid kidney failure and other eventual breathing/ eating complications. 

I originally didn't want to be there for his passing, but when we loaded him up it felt natural to climb into Ricky's truck with them. The vet was super impressed with how we took care of him disabled for so long, so that felt good. The vet thought it was great timing so that was nice. It was all so extremely peaceful. The vet gave him a kiss on the head which was extremely touching. He gave him a sedative that made him sleepy. He fell fast asleep and started snoring. The vet then gave him the injection, he changed fro. Snoring to breathing deeply, he took in several fast breaks through his nose and it was almost endearing. His heart stopped in about five seconds. It was so peaceful and even beautiful. I cried only a little as we left and the extremely kind staff wrapped old blankets around him and said we could keep them. The compassion was touching and amazing. I'll never forget it. 

We stopped at a store that has lots of concrete statues for sale to buy some grave markers. It was for us too, but I thought the kids would think it was special to have something to give and commemorate our beloved dog with. 

We drove to the farm where PaPa (Ricky's dad) dug us a grave with his trench digger. Ricky's dad is so thoughtful, and so it comes to no surprise that he was thoughtful about where to put Aslan for his final rest behind the old farm house. He also had extra shovels and a rake for the kids to add finishing touches. We all participated and had good closure. I want to plant something next year to add to the area. I had photos to share but they are on Ricky's IPOD and I have not nabbed them yet.

We also celebrated Ricky's parents' 40th wedding anniversary! We had a small but wonderful party at the farm with just us and Ricky's sister.

Aslan's Backstory 
People always love the story of how we got Aslan. We bought a Great Pyrenees pup from some friends well over a decade ago and named him Aslan. His father was absolutely massively big, his quite fitting name was King. Aslan means king in Turkish. (You may recall, Aslan is the lion's name from The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe)
  
We had Aslan for about nine months or so before he disappeared on us. I literally watched him walk away that afternoon (we were on lots of property then) and unlike every other night, he just didn't come back when I called him for dinner. I was pretty upset and started posting signs and buying LOST ad space in the small local paper. Nothing transpired and we eventually gave up. An old time farmer called me an unexpected three months later saying that he probably had my dog. I went over to his farm just as the sun was setting. An old man in overalls promptly brought me a big white dog on a rope leash. He said he just showed up two days ago. I looked over the dog and wasn't sure. He didn't really respond to "Aslan!" I told myself surely Aslan would remember me...right? Or, maybe not? Seriously, a lot of Pyrenees dogs look the same. It's not super crazy to not be able to recognize your dog if you have a Pyrenees. I didn't know what to think. It looks like our dog. He sure didn't seem to know me though. I walked him around in a hesitant circle for a second as the sunset quickly turned to black sky. I told the old farmer that to be honest I wasn't sure if he was my dog. His reply, "Well do you want him or not? And you can't bring him back if you take him." 

I lifted this huge dog into the backseat of my car, I just shoved him in like Rabbit trying to shove Winnie the Pooh through his rabbit hole. This dog didn't know what to think either. We didn't even have a mini van back then this was so long ago! And off I went. 

We kept him chained to our porch for a month. (When he wasn't inside.) One day we let him off the chain and held our breath. "Aslan" was home and never left again.

It's a hilarious family story amongst the kids. They love wondering if it really was the first Aslan or not. We all do. Sometimes we'd call him Aslan 2. Pyrenees dogs aren't known for being super excitable or even personable in a reuniting situation per say. A lot of them are farm dogs. They patrol. They bark. The are lazy and noble. They are like lions. Can you tell two lions apart? Not always. Aslan's personality was always kinda dry and so was Aslan 2's. We will never really know. He lived a full and noble life though. 

Birds 
Thanks to our optimistic and clearly not rational thinking brain, our new ducks, chickens, and turkeys arrived somewhere during all this craziness.
Madeline is obsessed with duckies!!
I thought it would be easy to care for them because of the predictable warm summer weather. We wouldn't need to use heat lamps long. Not was I only right, but we were thrust into a nearly month long horrible heat wave. We lost a few birds from the heat. It really shouldn't have happened, but three birds got flighty and stuck in between a wall and their brooder. I guess there was a gap in their cover allowing a couple to get out with enough effort. So.Sad. It makes you feel like crap when that happens. We also lost one laying hen from heat stroke, which was just a fluke unfortunate incident. This leaves us down to only three current laying hens now. 

Ricky made us a new cute turkey tractor.  Once the turkeys are fatter we can let them free range. These don't fly over fence (because they get too fat) once they get a bit older. 

Ethan (17) has been helping so much with the animals and I'm so thankful. We have been SO busy and I have been swamped with that cute and clingy baby. It's exhausting doing just about anything and I'm struggling to keep up! So he has really stepped up to help for many months now and I'm really thankful. 

We made a couple farm visits to the family farm and my family also visited us this summer. The heat wave drug on in a painful way. The grass dried up. We were bored. Illness struck. I got a cough and then the other kids did and then we got better and then sick AGAIN, somehow!? It dragged on forever. It felt like winter except with hell-like temperatures outdoors. Layla somehow developed pneumonia and it was awful but we acted quick and got her antibiotics! She almost had to go to the hospital.

I somehow pulled a large muscle in my upper back/ shoulder blade area . I was barely mobile for a  week. After an hour long massage at my chiropractor's office and some rest it's still getting better. I couldn't lay down or even take a full deep breath without it being excruciating. I had a cough too and that was killer! I finally discovered if Ricky pushed on my back while I coughed the counter pressure helped me through the stabbing pain in the pulled muscle as I coughed. Ricky worked from home the week my back was out and Layla was so sick. Every time he heard me start to cough he'd run over ad push on my back. I was so thankful!

Here's what I wrote on my private Facebook on Layla's birthday:
August 1, 2017
You guys, things are hard right now. We have a bad sickness and Layla got pneumonia. Her 13th birthday is today. Two days ago we thought we'd be in the hospital. Luckily we knew the signs (uh, she had every one!) and on Sunday called our doctor's after hours number. We got her on antibiotics and even some oxygen. (We did that on our own -you can buy oxygen in cans on Amazon!) She's doing better, though recovery is still going to take a bit. It's been a little scary and hard. She has barely eaten anything in days. The other kids are hit or miss... but mostly alright. Ricky and I are a force. Sure we are a bit unwell too, but we are taking turns sleeping as needed because some of the kids need care at night, especially Layla. Though things are hard, things are also amazing because we are doing this together. As a mother I felt heartbroken that Layla's much anticipated 13th birthday is being spent so sick. I'm also sick and tired and doing the best I can, which means presents got done but no decorations or other special thing. We certainly aren't doing sweets today. And then in comes Charlotte. She apparently went to the store and bought all this stuff. Outside, so the kids didn't see, she carved out this amazing cake of fruit for her little sister. Candles and all.

I cried when she showed me. I'm just so thankful she made Layla's birthday special! Layla was so grateful and happy. Her face just lit up when we brought it to her in bed. And then thankfully Layla ate for the first time today!  Happy Birthday to my sweet and funny Layla! And thank you SO much to my wonderful thoughtful Charlotte!

Not Enough To Do: Let's buy more things to feed ;)
We wondered more about getting a friend for Gunnar. We have two beagle mixes that are getting older and limp sometimes (GREAT more hip problems). They are nice dogs but are kinda grouchy when it comes to other dogs wanting to "play." We have been keeping our eye out for a Newfoundland for at least six years but never found any within 200 miles. Then Suddenly SHE pops up on Craigslist; a not very good photo of a supposedly $50 Newfoundland (originally paid $600 by her first home. We'd be there THIRD HOME). They are moving. So we think this over for a couple weeks. Can't believe no one has nabbed her. I finally ask if she has any trouble or issues. Does she like cats, kids, farm animals? They say she's super sweet and deserves a good home. No issues. Runs with goats. Hum.

Gunnar rates two stars out of a six scale for "gets along with other animals" on any site you look at. You know what he rates a six at? Territorial jerk-ass. BUT, also, a redeeming five at loyalty and affection. :) 

So due to the even natured temperament of the breed (mellow friend for Gunnar?) and the fact that this Newfoundland is a girl, AND the fact we have wanted one forever, we nervously (I do mean VERY nervously) went to get her. We were nervous because we knew we had too much on our plate already! We were nervous because what if she was not a good fit for us, or us for her?

She's as sweet as they said. Her name is Shadow. She happily wagged her tail and loaded into our van. The second she saw baby Madeline (1) strapped in her car seat she rested her head right on her. She loves kids. Newfoundlands really do. The breed was memorialized as "Nana", the beloved guardian dog in J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. On the way home we stopped off for some Iced Tea at Mc Donald's. I gave Shadow a drink of water and visited with her. She was SO happy. So sweet. So darling! I couldn't hold back my excitement, "Oh Ricky, I'm not nervous anymore! She's so sweet!!!

Sadly, Shadow is underweight from just having FOURTEEN puppies. Her skin and teats are sagging badly as she's all stretched out from nursing the 14 puppies.
She's fabulous and gorgeous despite needing some TLC 

They had never fed her puppy chow to get her enough calories, vitamins and minerals for nursing, and instead fed her extra eggs. Poor girl. I can feel her ribs on each side of her and her hips. They were nice people, but it's still awful. She also had a large sore spot filled with pus I would later find on her.

Also, we had a surprise... when we got her a muddy little puppy greeted us.
WHAT!? Her last puppy. They didn't tell us Shadow was a mother in milk still. They didn't tell us she had a litter of 14 puppies until we were picking her up. This all unfolded. They had apparently sold all the pups but one, they kept this one (perfect) female puppy back for themselves but decided that it would be unfair to take her the apartment they were being forced into. I don't know their back story, but this seemed to be a single mom and the whole thing was sad. They seemed to be losing their hobby farm. 

What do you think happened next? Yup!!!!!!!!!! PUT THAT PUPPY IN OUR VAN!





New Friends Forever

We hit the puppy jack pot! The puppy is affectionate and amazing. Her father is a Great Pyrenees. She is still unnamed thus far, except Everett (6) calls her Aslan 3. Hahaaa! 

The night we brought the puppy home we bathed and combed her for two hours the fleas were so bad. They poured from under her eyes. It was truly horrible. Charlotte graciously offered to go to Walmart at 10pm to get us Capstar because I was exhausted but could not go to bed with her like that. Capstar kills all the fleas quickly and in about a half hour. 

The momma, Shadow, is a very sweet girl. She follows me to feed and then follows me back. She's super chill. She's beautiful!

She does bark a ton at night, which is a bummer because I asked and was told she didn't bark at night. I was looking forward to a not barky dog. But it's not like I wound not have gotten her anyway.

We've given her a kind home with lots of kids to enjoy and she's eating a ton everyday. She doesn't know how to sit. (How do you not teach your dog to sit? I already have her puppy sitting for food at 12 weeks for goodness sakes!) Shadow lived most her life with goats so gets along great around here and it's kinda nice having a mostly outdoor dog! Although, as she becomes a part of the family and accepts us as hers too she'll probably more readily want inside too which is fine. She's more comfortable outside it seems for now. She's great with children and animals. She comes right to us.

Gunnar is of course not used to Shadow yet. But, he's having a good time with the puppy for now. This is gonna take some time, and that's ok. There have been improvements. He's just a turd and wants her to be all fine when he growls. He wants to be able to act like a jerk, growl, and then have no dogs make a reaction. Then he'll know he's the boss-alpha and feel cool. Well nobody wants to be growled at. So she growls back sometimes. One growl thrown his way and it's on like Donkey Kong! So there have been times when he hasn't growled and they seem totally okay. We don't/ cannot leave them alone together yet. Except, they did get out together briefly when we were working in the yard and we suddenly looked up and were like 'Oh my goodness they are together!!!' They did fine. We need to back off and let them work it out to some degree, but it's scary! And we don't want anyone hurt!  We started walking them each on a leash around our property. Ricky with one and me with the other. This keeps them moving and happily sniffing their surroundings and occasionally each other. It gives them a focus other than staring at each other awkwardly and possibly fighting. This has worked great!! It's bonding time! And it makes sense! It looks like they will get along, I think Gunnar is getting used to the idea! It's only been two weeks. I think he's actually doing okay for two weeks. As soon as he acts like a gentleman she'll accept him. 

Old Toys Made New
One more thing off the to-do list; last weekend we took down our playground because it was getting old and falling apart. Madeline would not stay off of it and ran around on the playhouse top and it was really dangerous. Dangerous because a couple boards were missing and also because she ran by the edge. We could hardly go outside because we were up there ALL the time because she had TOO much fun trying to kill herself up there. Ricky's going to rebuild a smaller playground with a monkey bar area later. But for now, we took the play house and crows nest and turned them in to Little House on the Prairie play structures! The crows nest we made into a cute covered wagon! It took Ricky and I just 30 minutes to screw pool noodles over the top and cover it with an old white tarp. He added some supports and I added a trunk for storage supplies and a seat. It's so darling and fun! The kids play in it non stop!

After Ricky removed the slide, bars, and swings, we used this plastic play structure to help us lower the rest of it down!



I've been taking a break from our weekly park days with our homeschool group to try and regroup. It's amazing how just one day a week can still be too much when I have so much going on. The chores are NEVER done and I noticed the kids needed some home time too. We also had summer camp and family visit! Aunt Sharon, Aunt Holly, Grandma Wanda and Echo visited! We had such a lovely time with them as usual and I'm so thankful they came all the way from Reno to see all of us.

I have had extra time at home but I haven't even made the time to unpack our brand new printer and get it printing our new school books from The Thinking Tree yet! But, we are really gearing up for fall! Fall is when everything falls into place for us it seems: Schedules, school, the weather, family time, and thank heavens earlier BEDTIME for the kids and more grown up time for mom and dad!! Later this fall most of the ducks and turkeys will be butchered and sooner than that we are selling our goats. That will be a huge relief! We are going to attempt to finish painting the exterior of our house in hopes that it will get us that much closer to selling one day. We are always looking for property. But honestly, we are too swamped to do anything serious anytime soon.

In September we are going to Mansfield, MO to Laura Ingles-Wilder's homestead. We will attend a play about her life and tour the Museum. I remember four and a half years ago reading Little House on the Prairie to Penelope, reflecting on how that book has shaped our lives since is nothing short of magic. What a true gift Laura left generations of children and adults that feel kinship to her family and that era. Our children play prairie, call each other Laura, Mary, and Carrie. Everett has played as Pa before. They name their baby dolls after Grace, Carrie or Mary. It has inspired Penelope to create art, sew her own doll, make Little House toys to accompany her cabin, and enjoy ALL the books in the series. Penelope wears her dresses and aprons most of the week. I feel like I helped give that gift to her and the kids too, by opening that book up and reading to them. You never know what beauty and discovery can come from a good book!

Penelope with baby Bea fall of 2013


Penelope has begun arranging her Little House paper dolls and with her camera in hand to create stop-motion animation! Aunt Sharon sewed Penelope, Bea, and Madeline all each two new prairie dresses this summer! They are precious and I need to get a picture of them all together still to add here!

I told the kids that I wondered if I would tear up and feel overwhelmed with emotion when I visit the museum. They laughed at me. Because they are kids. They don't realize and I probably haven't properly expressed to them that I was once a child reading Little House, too. I was a young girl who was drawn to and adored the TV adaptation so very much. And now my children are enjoying it with so much passion, love, and imagination! One day they'll understand how generations connect. And I hope when they do they bawl like babies over it! ;) Haha!