Monday, July 30, 2012

Swimming pics

I can now be a lifeguard, which means the kids are getting to swim more.  I really am feeling much stronger now that it has been 2 months since I delivered Daniel.  I feel like I can safely watch the kids in the pool, and they are pleased!

     The older 5 are good swimmers.  Angela is a beginning swimmer. She is very good about staying in the shallow area unless an adult is working with her.

Sarah does not like the water, which is a good thing. She toddles around the edge of the pool, with the occasional fall and scraped knee to liven things up. She has never fallen INTO the pool.  The floatie swimsuit is on her so that if she does fall in, we can fish her out easily.  Unfortunately, this suit will keep her up but won't keep her face out of the water so of course I have to keep very close track of her.  I'm still glad she would float...far easier to rescue a floating child than a sinking child, if necessary!

After swimming, the children often spend a few minutes "sunbathing".  I am not a fan of spending hours in the sun getting a deep tan as I agree with the medical doctors that it isn't great for your skin.  However, sunlight is beneficial in some quantities because it provides Vitamin D.  So I make sure the kids don't burn, but I don't slather sunscreen on them when they are out for a short time. So far, every last kid has inherited Kevin's ability to tan. I just burn. I am glad they tan!

Less Yellow?

    I THINK our little guy is less yellow.  He's been having regular sunbaths and it seems like his skin color has improved.  He'll have additional bloodwork on Friday. I think all is well.

    Many thanks to Anna for reminding me about tummy time. I have a love/hate relationship with tummy time. Yes, it develops neck muscles and that is good.  But all my kids have HATED tummy time. Hated it.  Wailed and screamed.  So with Daniel, I will confess I was giving him ZERO tummy time 'til this week.

   And then he shocked me by actually liking it!  He fell ASLEEP on his tummy once this week, which my other kids would never do. That is not recommended as the SIDS risk is higher for babies who are used to back sleeping and then fall asleep on their tummies, so I quickly turned him over when I realized he was asleep. But we can do tummy time for Daniel without gnashing of toothless gums.  That is a very nice thing :-).

Oh yeah, I can do this tummy time thing!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Crazy Medical Week

This week has been crazy!  I had medical appointments scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, and then Wednesday ended up another medical day.  Wow!

Monday was a follow up eye appointment for Sarah and Isaac.  Sarah was diagnosed very early in life with extreme farsightedness. She really cannot see much up close and was in danger of her eyes crossing.  She is doing great and indeed her prescription has weakened a little bit though her glasses are still very strong.  We have a new set of lenses on order.

Isaac's appointment was SO encouraging.  He has amblyopia.  His left eye essentially shut down a few years ago but we didn't know it because his right eye is so good.  He's been diligently patching his good eye for more than a year now.  A few months ago, we added some therapy exercises.  On Monday, we learned that his bad eye has improved from a dubious 20/40 to a very definite 20/40, and he even got a few letters at 20/30.  More exciting still, his depth perception improved a LOT in the last 4 months.  He used to have zero depth perception and is now getting close to normal. Thank you, Lord!  We caught his amblopia very late and it was possible he'd be close to blind in that one eye permanently. That is NOT the case. Much of that is due to Isaac's complete diligence about patching.  He has never fussed about it and usually puts the patch on without any reminding from me.

Tuesday was Daniel's 2 month well child checkup, and I took Miriam in as well as she was complaining of pain while urinating.  So yes, she has a UTI.  Poor girl.  Daniel had 2 issues. One is that he is yellow...we took bloodwork (not fun) and his bilirubin and liver enzymes were elevated. The other issue is that he keeps turning his head in one direction and that is causing a flat spot and tight neck muscles.

Yesterday I took Daniel to the local children's hospital to see a GI specialist.  She recommended putting him on formula for 3 days to see if the bilirubin levels drop as his high numbers can be breastmilk related.  She and our pediatrician also ordered a full abdnominal ultrasound.  We did the ultrasound and everything came back normal. The GI said it was probably just breastmilk jaundice but we want to make sure it isn't a liver problem.

Ok, so here's the thing. I am a rules follower.  If a doc says we should do a particular thing, I have a strong feeling we should do it.  Kevin is not.  He questions everything.  He is right, of course...doctors aren't infallible!  They are people.  Actually, as Kevin says, we're doctors too. We are, but not medical -- we are engineers.  But I know I'm not perfect and I don't know everything, and that is true of medical doctors too.

So when I told Kevin about the GI's recommendation of formula for 3 days, he was very dubious.  I've had serious milk supply problems with previous children, and pumping is not as effective as a baby.  Also, a number of our children have had cow's milk allergies that showed up when they started drinking cow's milk formula.  I definitely don't want to sabotage nursing, and I don't want to push Daniel towards a cow's milk problem.

I posted the situation on FB and also contacted a dear pediatrician friend in MI.  Everyone agreed that quitting breastfeeding isn't wise, even for a few days.  Yes, I would pump, but it is not the same. Nor is it easy for me to make time to pump and I'm afraid I just wouldn't do it enough with 8 kids running around and needing to give Daniel frequent bottles too.

I talked to our local pediatrician and she agreed that we can just recheck his bili levels in a week or so.

I looked up breastmilk jaundice and this seems classic breastmilk jaundice.  The liver enzymes were slightly elevated and maybe that's a little unusual but it seems likely we know what the "problem" is and it isn't really a problem. 

So that has been my week.  I am very tired of running around and indeed tired in general as I've not gotten a nap the last couple of days.  However.  I am very grateful for access to good medical care.  We were able to get that ultrasound right away and there is nothing showing up as a problem for Daniel so I think he is fine.

Oh, I mentioned that Daniel keeps turning his head in one direction.  My pediatrician friend in MI warned that this can be a significant issue as it can increase the risk of amblyopia (and we already have that in the family line) as well as cause very tight neck muscles.  So we may do physical therapy at the children's hospital, but for now we're just going to work with him at home to have him turn his head often in the non preferred way.  He can do it without pain, just doesn't want to.

Crazy week, but good.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Saved by Jesus

We had a very special day today.  We were at lunch talking about our time at church, and then the conversation shifted into a discussion of the differences between Christianity and orthodox Judaism.  In the middle of a lot of chatter, our almost 5 year old daughter Angela asked a quiet question.  After getting everyone else to quiet down, Iwas able to hear the whole question, "How do you become a Christian?"

I very simply explained that becoming a Christian means accepting that Jesus died for your sins, receiving His forgiveness, and deciding to follow Jesus your whole life.  Angela promptly said, "I want to become a Christian."

Kevin took her into our family room and they prayed together.  Oh, what a special day!  I know that this is just one step in a long road.  She has much to learn about the Lord...she is such a little girl!  But she did make a decision to follow Jesus and I am so excited and thankful.  Thank you, Holy Spirit, for working in the life of our sweet Angela.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Chicken Update

For those of you who have been concerned about our chickens, let me finally post an update!  Kevin strengthened our fencing and has been closing the chickens in at night. They've been protected and we've not lost another one to the mysterious predator.

Their egg production has dropped a little though we are usually getting more than a dozen a day.  Of course, having 3 chickens eaten a couple of weeks ago didn't help.  But the remaining 18 just aren't laying as well. That might well be related to the heat.  It has been SO hot.  But we're fine with a dozen plus a day, and indeed have had enough to sell to friends.

Naomi and Daniel

It is amazing having big children who can help soothe Daniel.  Evenings are his "fussy time" and last night Naomi marched around the house for quite a while with Daniel in her arms. Like billions of babies before him, he likes being carried around, so he was happy.  Naomi said at the end of her walk that her arms were tired.  Oh yes, I can relate.  He isn't very heavy but still, a long time of carrying him is tiring. And Naomi is a petite big sister.  You are such a great big sister, Naomi!

Rice Stir Fry

I have found making meals to be a challenge since Daniel was born. The first few weeks of his life "ex utero" were easy as Kevin and friends took care of it all.  The last few weeks, I have gradually taken over the meal making duties again, with continued help from Kevin and the kids.  I've struggled with not planning ahead as well as usual, and sometimes it has been 3 p.m. and I have had NO idea what to fix for dinner. 

A long time ago, I had a brief season of planning my meals out in 2 week intervals.  I know and respect people who plan a whole month ahead and there were nice things about meal planning, but I've decided long term it is not for me right now.  One big problem is that I could never gauge how many leftovers we would have on a given day, and food would tend to disappear into corners of the refrigerator and be forgotten. 

The last week has been better in that I've been more prepared ahead of time.  I made this stir fry a couple of days ago and it was quite a success.  I cut up zucchini and tomotoes (both from our garden) as well as carrots and onions, fried them in olive oil, threw in some boiled rice and a few eggs and salt, and voila, dinner. The kids mostly liked it.  It is rare for ALL the children to like anything I make, so if 4 or 5 like it I feel I am doing well.  The ones who don't like it have the option of not eating. We don't make anyone eat anything, but I don't prepare separate things for those who don't like a particular meal.  The kids don't have to eat, but they are not allowed to whine and complain about the food.

One thing we have NOT done much is ordered out.  I have a personal allergy to running to a restaurant when I fail to plan. Anything but that :-).  We were blessed with a gift card from our church which allowed us to buy a few meals from restaurants and oh, that was a blessing.  But in general, I always find something to eat in the house. There have been times when dinner was eggs, muffins, or a variety of leftovers.  Very occasionally, we've had cereal for dinner.  So yes, odd dinners, but dinner is served every day.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Last Piano Lesson

  Yesterday was our big girls last piano lesson with Miss Sarah.  She is leaving for college in a couple short weeks.  She has been their sitter for a couple of years when I work, and their piano teacher for a year.  It is sad to lose her but we are overjoyed that she is following God's call for the future. She is going to study music at college.  Sarah is a great singer and piano player, and a great teacher as well.  She will be missed!

  We're still praying about whether to continue piano lessons with one or both older girls.  There are other piano teachers out there and we have exchanged emails with a young man who seems a likely prospect.  But lessons are expensive...not unreasonably so, "the worker is worthy of his wages", but we need to decide whether this is the best use of money at this time.  So we're thinking through it.

 I have always regretted that I didn't stick with piano when I was young.  I gave up after a few months when I was 9 years old, because it was harder and duller than I thought it would be.  My teacher was a sweet older teen but her mode of teaching was, I think, on the boring side.  I did lots of scales at the beginning and I was frustrated that I didn't play actual songs.  Miss Sarah taught our girls differently and they have played quite a few simple songs. They have made a lot of progress in a year.

  I went through some mourning this last week thinking about the girls not pursuing piano.  Like I said, I wish that I had continued to learn piano when I was a child.  I'd kind of like to take lessons now but don't have the time.   Ok, that was and is ME.  It's not a wise thing for a parent to project her disappointments on her children. Just because I wish I could play the piano doesn't mean the children need to learn piano.  Maybe they should, maybe they shouldn't. We need to pray about it and seek the Lord's direction, not blindly move forward based on emotions.

 Our big girls learned quite a bit this year and can now read music moderately well and can play simple songs.  Perhaps that is all they need for now, or perhaps the Lord does want them to learn more.  We'll see.

Family pics

We had the joy of spending time with out of town family this week. Kevin's sister and 2 children were visiting from Texas. They are driving back right now.

Our children only have 2 first cousins and they live a LONG way away so it was a very special couple of days.

And here is Kevin's mother with Daniel.  Yes, he is getting big!

Christmas Request

This is funny. Our 2nd daughter wrote a Christmas gift request in chalk on our driveway.  I know you can't read this because I barely could when the picture was large. 

It says"  Mom if u read this can you get me a Shadow T-shirt."  That's Shadow the Hedgehog from the Sonic the Hedgehog comics and games.

Working on...the SCHEDULE

This is just a short post to encourage myself.  I am working on our master schedule for the coming school year.

Many years ago, I read a book called Managers of Their Homes by the Maxwells.  The Maxwells are a homeschooling family with many children, and they found it helped them organize their time to have a tight schedule where each half hour of the day was designated towards a particular task.

I'm of the view that scheduling is not a moral issue, but a practical one. Some people hate schedules, others thrive.  I thrive.

But working on the schedule is just that, WORK.  I need to factor in times for the baby to eat, for certain people to get naps, for meals, chores, homeschooling, down time, etc.

May God give me wisdom. This is the first year where I'm splitting the schedule onto 2 pages. There just isn't enough room on one piece of paper for me and the 8 kids to have a column...or at least not without making the print type ridiculously small. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Well, let me start out by saying that Sunday was a first -- the first time our entire family went somewhere together since Daniel was born!

We have a 15 passenger van and I am thankful for all that space.  We now have 3 kids in the first seat (including the 2 little ones), 3 in the next seat, and our big girls in our back seat.  There is another seat that is out of the van so we have plenty of cargo space.  It was wonderful looking back at our brood!  We're so proud of them.

We went to church together on Sunday.  The speaker is a pastor who works in FL for a church reaching out to the lost -- many of whom are facing serious challenges.

I didn't get to listen to the whole sermon because Daniel got fussy. There were several valuable themes to the sermon but the big one for Kevin and me was the speaker's focus on FAMILY commitment.

The speaker said that many men tend to put their "work" above their family.  He said he used to put in 90 hour weeks as a pastor in his church. The needs were so great and he felt good about himself when he put very long hours into "reaching the lost". But he was completely neglecting his wife and children.  The speaker said that is quite normal, even in Christian circles.  Maybe especially in Christian circles?  Fortunately for him, he was able to listen to his wife when she showed that he had a problem, and he has friends who keep him accountable to spend time with his family so he now lives a more balanced life.

 The speaker also recounted the sad true story of a founder of a major world relief organization who told God, "I'll take care of the little lambs overseas if you take care of the my little lambs at home."  He didn't see his children much at all as he was overseas 10 months a year.  The results were devastating.  His wife separated from him for a season, one child tried to commit suice, and another succeeded in commiting suicide.  No, that bargain with God was a false one.  It was HIS job to minister to his family, not someone else's.

Kevin and I talk about priorities all the time.  We live in a world with such an array of options.  200 years ago, even 100 years ago, women had relatively few options in terms of employment opportunities.  That has changed dramatically. I have a PhD in engineering and could be working long hours and making a lot of money.  In fact, for many years before my marriage I had every intention of being a single career woman.  One of God's gifts to me is a gift of giving. I really do like giving money to the Lord's work and I THINK I probably would have given much of my salary away if I had indeed stayed single. I don't know for sure and maybe I would have succumbed to materialism, but I hope not.

Anyway, life obviously took a sharp turn when I got married (after 6 months of courtship) to Kevin.  The story of how we opened our lives to a large family is for another day, but suffice it to say that we do indeed have a large family!  I had my first child 2 months after I turned 30, and our 8th child at age 42.

So, no full time job outside the home!  I need to be home with my kids most of the time and indeed child care would wipe out a lot of my salary anyway.  So that means I am "giving" relatively little to the Lord's work in terms of money compared to what "might have been." But obviously our marriage has resulted in 8 children whom we hope will grow up to serve the Lord with all their hearts, souls, and minds.

We also felt God's leading to homeschool, which means most of my time is completely filled with caring for children and home, and teaching.  We also need  to devote time to our marriage so that it stays strong in the midst of very busy lives.

This post is getting long so I'll close it out.  Every Christian needs to obey the Lord as much as he or she can.  What that looks like will vary to some degree.  Not everyone is called to marry, not everyone is called to a large family, not everyone is called to homeschool.  But we do need to pray for wisdom and seek to avoid following our culture if God calls us to something different.  I was very encouraged by this pastor's sermon that sometimes the best thing we can do is to serve our family at home. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Organizational Frenzy

I do feel like I've turned a corner physically this week.  I didn't feel well the last couple months of Daniel's pregnancy, and I certainly didn't feel well after the C-section. This week, I have felt more energetic and vigorous than I have in a long time.

2 or 3 times a year, I am seized with the desire to ORGANIZE.  And this week was one of those magic weeks.  So the big kids and Kevin and I put away about ten million clothes that had been removed from dressers and needed to be tucked away in storage.

And I tackled a cabinet in our breakfast room.  It wasn't a big cabinet but it was a mess!!

After.  And better!

Daniel and Mommy

Pool Time

Kevin opened the pool the day Daniel was born.  Our pool is a blessing, and especially now when it is SO HOT!!

You know it is really hot when it is 91 by 9:30 a.m.!

Since I had a C-section, I need to be careful about not doing anything too strenuous, and in particular I cannot pick up anything or anyone heavy for 6 to 8 weeks.  Daniel is 6 weeks old and I am feeling much better, but I'm still not lifting Sarah.  It makes sense that I am not quite up to "lifeguarding" yet.  If a child did have a problem and I had to leap in to rescue him or her, I would have to expend considerable strength and probably lift the child out of the pool.  So for now, Kevin has been taking the kids swimming when he has the energy.

Our older 5 children are competent swimmers. And they all LOVE the pool!

This week marked a milestone in Angela's life.  She is only 4 years old and until this week, she wore a floatie swimsuit that kept her floating on the water.  We are extremely careful in the pool and we didn't take the floatie swimsuit for granted. We always keep a close eye on all our children, swimmers and non swimmers, with floatie swimsuits or, as they put it, "sinking swimsuits".

We laugh at the latter description because it sounds like a swimsuit with rocks attached to it.  But yes, I guess if you are used to a floatie swimsuit and switch to a normal one, it seems like a sinking swimsuit.

Anyway, over 4th of July, Kevin decided to start working with Angela. He has taught all our children to swim thus far, and the first step is learning how to put one's face in the water.

Angela has had 3 days of training and she is doing great!  Yesterday she was underwater holding her breath for 10 to 15 seconds, which is impressive.  She and Kevin were throwing a toy torpedo back and forth under the water and she did an amazing job.

So she may  learn to swim this swimming season. She turns 5 next month so is ALMOST 5.  Certainly there are kids who learn to swim that early.  It would be great if she does.  If not, there is always next year!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Follow Up to Miss Fluffy

Yesterday I was organizing a section of our basement, and came across our Christmas letter from 2007.  We included brief descriptions of all the children and had this to say about our 5th child, then almost 2 years old:

"Miriam (almost 2) is a toddler with an amazing capacity for getting into things. She is constantly climbing on chairs and counters, playing in water and grabbing delicate things off of the counter. She is a complete charmer with bouncing curls and an infectious smile."

I had to laugh at that.  I could substitute "Sarah" for "Miriam" and it would work perfectly!  So no, Miss Fluffy is not our busiest, nuttiest toddler. They've probably all been like that at this age and I just forgot.  I suspect "playing in water" is a euphemism for paddling in the toilet so the parallel is quite exact.

I think the Lord led me to that letter because truthfully, I've been frustrated with Sarah. Life is busy and having a little one who is into everything has been tough. Reading about Miriam helped to realize that yes, this is totally normal. 

One cute little extra thing about Sarah that I really think IS unique...she LOVES toothpaste.  Sometimes she actually squeezes some out, but mostly she goes into miscellaneous bathrooms and carries off the toothpaste to another room, where she either gives it to me or abandons it.  Of course, this means the older children sometimes have trouble brushing their teeth properly. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Miss Fluffy

  I hope I'm not the only mother to give her children very silly nicknames when they are small.  My nickname for our 19 month daughter Sarah is "Miss Fluffy".  Her hair is a dark blond and she has cute little ringlets in the back.  Fairly often, her hair fluffs out in a way that reminds me of a day old chick.

 We actually have intimate experience with day old chicks since we raised chicks this spring.  Sarah is fluffy like a chick, but has some notable differences.  Our day old chicks ate, but they didn't take a bag of sunflower nuts and pour the entire thing on their plates.  Our day old chicks got rid of their bodily waste products, but never played in the toilet.  Our day old chicks NEVER reached a surprisingly long arm up and yanked things off the table and onto the floor.

  And guess what, Sarah has done all of those things!  Yes, she is a toddler extraordinaire.  Truthfully, she keeps us all hopping!  It has only been 3 years since Angela was this age, and I am fairly certain that she was a "calmer" toddler.  Ok, let me be honest, I think Sarah is the most exasperating toddler we have ever had.  She has insatiable energy when awake and is constantly grabbing things she shouldn't, pushing buttons to turn off computers or clothes dryers, and climbing stairs when we want her to stay on one level. She is adorable and wonderful and precious, but it takes a ton of work to keep her safe and to keep our belongings safe from her.

I had a follow up appointment at the OB more than a week ago and I was reading an article in a magazine.   The article with about a pair of identical twin girls with a serious genetic problem who are 8 years old and not able to talk or walk or do much of anything.  The mother said that she looks at parents scolding their kids in the grocery store for grabbing things, and thinks, "How I wish my children could grab things at the grocery store!"

That was helpful. Yes, Sarah needs to learn obedience and discipline. But she is a healthy happy girl and I am incredibly grateful for that.

I love you, Miss Fluffy.


Cute Daniel

Look at that little smile!

He doesn't fall asleep this way.  He was sound asleep in his bed and I brought him down as it was time for him to eat.  He was out like a light so I propped him up against the couch to take a couple of pictures.