Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Great Paper Crisis of 2012

I realized yesterday that we are almost out of printer paper.  What a crisis!  We go through a LOT of paper.

We spent some time looking in nooks and crannies, and have found enough to get by today. We hope.

Obviously, a trip to Sam's Club has risen in importance so that we can end this unsettling and unnerving state of affair.s

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Miscellaneous Pictures

Yep, I had a birthday.

He is too cute sometimes.

A manly moment.

Funny thing, he is very cute when he is awake, too!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Fall Festival, Part 2

AMAZING bouncy house!
 Naomi on a big pony.

Ice cream Sundaes
Angela on the bull.

Fall Festival

Our church had a fall festival last weekend.

Angela on a pony.

Lydia.  She loves horses!
Isaac riding the pretend bull.
Naomi (or Lydia?) going up the climbing wall.
More pony riding!  (Miriam)
More pics later.  2 littles on my lap make typing difficult.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Finances: Clothing Part 2

I forgot to mention another life lesson from my childhood years in South America.

We lived in the rain forest where it was hot and steamy.  Our missionary village, Tumi Chucua, was attached to a village of native Bolivians, and we interacted fairly often though the language difference was a barrier.  We spoke English, they spoke Spanish. And while we took Spanish in school, I never learned to speak well.

Anyway, that was a digression.  The Bolivians were poor.  We weren't rich by American standards, but we were rich compared to them.

Their clothing was ragged and usually gray.  The gray thing seemed weird to me but I THINK that the clothes were gray because the dye washed out of them due to repeated washings.  Let me assure you that the Bolivians were not "well dressed" in the American sense of the word.

I suspect each person had one or at most 2 sets of clothing. Mostly they just wore the same clothes day in and day out.

I look at our closets and our drawers and I am amazed at how many clothes we have.

I read about people from even 200 years ago in our country who had to spin their own thread and weave their own fabric.   For them, every garment was precious.

I think my exposure to truly poor people helps me realize that none of us need as many clothes as we have.  We have many clothes and I'll talk later about why we have many clothes while spending relatively little.  But when I get "bored" with my clothes and think, "I just want something new", I remember the Bolivians of Tumi Chucua.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Finances: Clothing

I just looked at our budget.  We are on track to spend less than $1500 this year on clothing.  For a family of 10.

I'm guessing that some people think that is high, and many people think that is low.

I don't remember a lot of things that happened 25 years ago but I do remember the following incident.

I was at Michigan Technological University at a Women in Engineering summer camp.  A female engineer sat down with us one day to talk about "budgets and money."  She showed us a budget, and her clothing budget was about $200/month.  For her, alone.  In 1986.

One of the girls with me said, "ONLY $200/month??"  The lady smiled and said, "Well, this is just after you have your wardrobe largely established."

I was shocked.  My parents were middle class but didn't have a lot of extra money, and NO WAY did we spend $200/month/person on clothing.  When I heard that conversation, I wondered if I too would spend lots of money on clothing as the years went by.

The answer is, obviously, NO. 

Truth is, I REALLY dislike clothes shopping. It is really almost peculiar how much I hate buying clothes! 

There are probably several factors.

1.  I like being comfortable way more than I like being fashionable.

2.  I lived in the jungles of South America for 3 years as a child, where moth and rust destroyed though no thieves broke in and stole.  (That's a paraprase of a Bible verse in the gospels somewhere :-).)  Actually, mildew and mud attacked our clothing more often than moths.  Why was that important?  Well, I learned that getting attached to clothing tended to be a disappointing experience.  I would occasionally get excited about some clothes only to have them develop holes or grow mildew.

3. I had hypoglycemic episodes while shopping.  That sounds weird.  My paternal grandmother loved me dearly and we spent quite a bit of time together considering we never lived within 100 miles of one another (once I was older than 6 or 7, anyway.)  She was a young adult during the Great Depression and was very frugal.  When we went shopping for clothes, she headed straight for the sales racks.  She was SO careful.  Due to her generosity, my parents didn't have to buy many clothes for me during my teen years because my grandmother bought me so many quality, low cost items. 

Now all that sounds good and it was.  However, there was one semi-comical aspect to our shopping trips.  My grandmother and I (and my aunt, who also has excellent taste in clothes and an eye for bargains) would eat a hearty breakfast and go off shopping.  By hearty, I mean we'd have toast and cereal and the like.  About 11 a.m., I would start feeling "hungry".  It wasn'really hunger, it was hypoglycemia.  I had those episodes throughout my teen and young adult years frequently.  I would start feeling incredibly shaky and just AWFUL.  I felt like I was going to fall down in a faint.  I felt like I could eat the entire Earth and have the Moon for dessert.  At the time, I believed that was what "hunger" felt like.

In my mid 30's, I was diagnosed with diabetes.  I started measuring my blood sugar and realized that when I felt that awful shaky feeling, I was dropping low with my blood sugar.  So it wasn't hunger, which I could have handled, it was hypoglycemia.

The long and the short of it is that while I enjoyed some aspects of our shopping trips, my most vivid memory was getting faint from hypoglycemia.  My grandmother and aunt had no intention of starving me of course, and we always had a nice lunch at some point, but it was often later than noon and those couple hours when I felt bad are branded in my memory. It is sad that none of us knew what was going on, as I could have carried some nuts or other high protein snacks in my purse and avoided the whole thing.

I guess this is Finances:  Clothing, Part 1.  I'll write a Part 2 one of these days talking about how we keep our clothing budget down.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sharpie Markers, Alcohol, and Shirts

The older 4 girls made shirts using colored Sharpies and alcohol.  This is a variation of making tie dye shirts, but it is not as messy.

The basic procedure is to make pictures with Sharpie markers, then drip alcohol on the marker pictures with alcohol. The alcohol dissolves the ink and makes it blur out.  Then we tossed the shirts into the dryer for 15 minutes to set the ink. 

I think Miriam doesn't like the smell of the alcohol!

Art lesson!

Crazy Cake

Naomi and Lydia made this crazy cake.  It is a chocolate cake with fudge frosting, though the frosting turned out peculiarly light.  Then the girls put candy corns on top.  The cake stuck on the pans somewhat and the whole thing wasn't as gorgeous as it could have been...but everyone agreed it was very tasty.  We ate it up in ONE night.  (When I say "we", I mean the rest of the family.  Daniel and I, because I am a diabetic and Daniel because, well, he's a baby!)

The girls made this entirely by themselves with no help at ALL from me. It is fun that they can just go and bake something without me helping even a teeny bit.

Friday, October 19, 2012



We've been sick for a couple of weeks. 

I'VE been sick this week.

Moms really don't have time to be sick!

Kevin got it first.  I didn't get sick, I didn't get sick, I didn't get sick.  Lydia got sick.  Some of the others had sniffles.  I didn't get sick.

And then, just when I was sure I had dodged it, I started having symptoms.  It is just a cold virus or something of the sort, but I have had aches, pains, coughing, sore throat, and asthma symptoms.  The latter is of greatest concern since I have had serious asthma flare-ups when sick with a respiratory illness.

So I'm taking it easily as much as possible. Today is better than yesterday so I hope I'm on the upswing.

So far, Daniel apparently hasn't gotten it, praise God! 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


  Yes, we have visitors!  These are the guinea fowl from next door.  They have decided that our yard is much nicer than their own yard.  We have a pool with a railing.  We have chickens who are interesting, though oddly the chickens never leave their yard.  Fly, chickens, fly!

  Their own yard has 2 dogs.  No self respecting guinea likes being chased around by dogs.

  The neighbor called a few days ago, apologetic and distressed that his guineas were camping out at our place.  We really don't mind. Yes, they make a minor mess on the deck but that's not a huge deal. We are entertained by their antics.  They are ugly. They make funny noises.  They amuse us by being devoted flock birds. They NEVER stray far from one another.  It is hilarious to watch them tripping along the railing around the pool, with one fat bird scuttling eagerly after another.

  Yes, guineas are nice.  Useless, but nice.  (As for us, we'll stick with hens who lay eggs!)

Miriam Is Reading! (And Angela is too.)

A LONG time ago, I was a new homeschooling mom.  I had a 4 year old daughter, Naomi.  I wanted to teach Naomi to read.  And it was very intimidating. I had never done such a thing!  Could I?

 We had our bumps in the road because I tried to start too soon, but yes, I did teach Naomi how to read.  She was actually quite fluent by age 5!  Lydia, the next child, also learned to read early.

 Then came our boys.  They didn't pick up reading quite as easily.  But they did learn. I was on the lookout for dyslexia but I don't think either is dyslexic.  Isaac is a very fluent reader now and Joseph really is too, though Joseph still struggles a bit.  Both boys often pick up a book and read it for fun, which is an important milestone.  For a long time, reading was more "work" than "fun".  That's over!

  Miriam will be 7 years old in a few months.  She is a quick learner.  As you may recall, this is the sweet girl who memorized the entire times tables in a couple of weeks.  (As an aside, she couldn't remember 8 X 4 yesterday, so the multiplication facts are not embedded in her memory forever.)

  I think if I had worked with Miriam more, she would have learned to read fluently a year ago.  Like our older girls, she has done well with phonics.

 This week has been fun because she has "turned the corner" with reading fluency.  The first 5 kids have all been somewhat the same. When they first learned to blend words, every single word was a struggle.  They had to think about the sounds of each letter, and then put the letters together to make the word.  It could take 10 minutes to read a book with only 4 or 5 simple words in it. 

  With practice came more fluency, but for each child there has been a magical week when reading really seemed to "click".  Miriam had that week last week.  She is reading a Pathway Reader Pre-Primer and the words are flowing from her mouth in a moderately effortless way.  Yes, she occasionally runs into a word she can't sound out, but in general she is just READING without agonizing over the words.

  I love it.

  Angela learned to blend together a few simple letters in the last couple of weeks.  She read "MAT" and "SAM" on her own.  I'm excited.  I love every momentous step in the journey of learning to read


...there must be SOMETHING interesting in this trash can!

I love my little bald boy

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Money, Part 1

A few weeks ago, one of our children was in a fast food restaurant with Kevin. I don't know exactly where they were (in line or at a table) but the child said (loudly), "Dad, if you didn't have SO many children, you'd be rich!"

We chuckled about that.  From the perspective of many of the world's citizens, we ARE rich. We have a roof over our heads, money in the bank, and we've never missed a meal.

But I'll admit I don't FEEL rich.  Rich, to me, is being debt free, and we are not debt free.

And I hate debt. I am just one of those people that really dislikes being in debt, ANY debt.  The distaste is to the point of being illogical, because sometimes a debt will allow us to do something that is right and sensible.  Scripturally, I don't think that all debt is bad.  It is good to get OUT of debt when possible, but debt isn't inherently evil or sinful.

I've lived with debt for 13 years now, as it was almost exactly 13 years ago that we moved down to Ohio and bought a house.  Yes, our ONLY debt is our house and it is (I hope) worth more than we owe on it.  So in the grand scheme of things, we are doing fine.  We are doing well.

I think a lot about about personal financial matters. I am a born saver.  I have my areas of weakness.  I find myself stressing out quite a bit about how to spend money because I want to use it wisely.  I tend to hoard money instead of using it as a tool.  As Kevin says frequently (and he is right), money is a TOOL.

I think too about our children. We live in a culture which gives us a million options in terms of spending. Now if we can't go to the store, we can order things online!  And we can use credit to buy things that we really can't afford yet.

How do we teach our children to use money wisely?  I pray a lot about that because I know I have my hangups about money and I want to give godly, wise advice...not advice based on personality or fear.

The big thing I'm thinking about these days is that for us, money matters are all about lifestyle choices.

We are fairly well off.  Kevin makes a lot.  We are in that enviable place of having enough money to supply all our needs and quite a few of our wants. But we can't have EVERYTHING we want.  We say "no" to our desires every single day.  I'm a saver, but I still see a lot that I want that I can't or choose not to get.

We have a big house.  A really big house. It is about 3500 square feet PLUS we have a big basement!  Of course, there are 10 of us!  So having a big house is really nice for our family because we can spread out and have room for personal space and items.

The house is expensive.  It takes a substantial portion of our income.  We don't have any trouble "making the mortgage" but we've said no to some things that other people put a priority on. We don't have cable TV.  Our cell phones are simple Trakfones that are very bare bones.  We don't have Ipads or Kindle Fires or neat gadgets that let us check the internet when away from home.  We go on cheap vacations, or don't go on vacation at all.

I'm not complaining about those things.  I have a friend who said they chose to live in a small home so they would have more income to do fun things outside the home.  I totally appreciate that they thought through that decision and decided it was best for their family. For us, having a big house with a big yard with a swimming pool has been a good investment for our family.  We are "homebodies" and being home is a good place for us to be.  I find taking the kids anywhere to be quite a project and I am thankful that our home is big enough and entertaining enough that we are fairly content at home.

I think I'll write a few more blog posts about money in the future, but for now...a baby needs me :-).

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

New Blog Look by...


Yes, our talented eldest has done it again.  This picture of the whole clan was taken by a professional photographer friend of ours and I love it.  It's nice to have it at the top of my blog.

Monday, October 8, 2012


  It was COLD this morning.

And yes, the picture looks weird.  The thingie that pulls the pictures off of our memory card isn't working right.  We bought a new one, but Kevin hasn't installed it yet.

AND, our sweet Sarah grabbed the camera, dropped it, and broke off a hinge for the battery aperture.  We're making do by wrapping a rubber band around the door of the aperture to keep it shut.  The whole "taking pictures" thing has been a bit tricky lately.

Meringue Cookies

Naomi has kindly been making meringue cookies for us.  Meringue cookies are fairly time intensive since they require the separation of egg whites, followed by whipping them.  She (and we) are thankful for automatic mixers!

She always makes a large batch.  We have a large family, and most of us love meringue cookies.

The biggest fan of all is this little mischievous lady.  She has a terrible habit of grabbing food off of counters and stealing it, and that's what she did here.  At least she is not allergic to the cookies. And that, of course, is one of the reasons I've asked Naomi to make meringue cookies...most cookies have wheat flour but these do not.  So they are a nice treat for Sarah.

Big boy!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Last Time...

I think I nursed Daniel for the last time this morning.

I mentioned a week or 2 ago that breastfeeding has been a challenge with the last 4 kids.  I kept running low on milk at about the 6 month mark.

Given that I am almost 43 and that Daniel and Sarah are close together in age, I guessed I might have even more trouble with Daniel -- and I did.

I've been decreasing the number of nursing sessions which yes, is a sure fire way to lower milk supply.  Thing was, certain sessions I had almost no milk and that was frustrating for the baby AND me. 

 At least I've had a LOT of milk when I get up in the morning.  Except this morning I had almost nothing. He sucked and sucked and barely swallowed.

So I think I'm done.

It does make me sad.  Breastfeeding is a precious thing and to stop before Daniel is 5 months old is difficult. I feel guilty because I feel like I should have done more to be able to nurse him longer.  I've had that feeling of guilt with all the children where milk supply has been an issue.

I can pinpoint some things...not eating enough, probably, because diabetes limits what I CAN eat and I'm super busy during the day with the kids.

I think I drank enough fluids.  I even drank Mother's Milk Tea, which is supposed to help.

I stopped taking regular naps about a month ago. Again, I feel like I have too much to do to have a nap each day.

So it is a perfect storm of reasons, but the end result is that I can't nurse Daniel longer.

I am thankful for safe alternatives though of course they aren't as good as breastmilk.

It is hard to accept personal weakness where something like baby care is concerned.  But the Lord knows that life is a balancing act and I know He understands I don't have perfect wisdom in knowing how to spend my time. I pray OFTEN for wisdom and I tried my best, but ... this is the situation we are in.

I am thankful that so far, he is doing well with cow's milk formula.  Seeral children in our family had milk allergy, but so far there are no signs of Daniel having that problem.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Thinking about Death

Ok, that's a pretty heavy title, isn't it?

Yep, I'm thinking quite a bit about death this week...

Uncle Tom died last week.

Adalyn May died 2 weeks ago.

Who is Adalyn May?  She is the dear, sweet granddaughter of a friend of ours from church.  Adalyn had Trisomy 13, which is usually fatal either prenatally or within the first year of life.  Erin, Adalyn's mother, carried her for 37 weeks and delivered her stillborn. She was a very lively baby in the womb and Erin and Mark, her parents, grieved and mourned the diagnosis but delighted in every kick and thump while she lived.

Erin and Mark were visiting at church last week (they live out East) and many people prayed for them. I cried through the prayers, and cried pretty hard.  Her death has really bothered me, partly because I feel so sad for them and partly because it brings back memories of our four miscarriages.  All of our miscarriages were first trimester and I think not nearly as difficult as a full term stillbirth, but they were still very difficult.  The first one especially hit us like a ton of bricks. 

Something pretty bizarre happened just an hour ago.  I was reading blogs and ended up at the blog of a woman who lost her infant son a little more than a year ago.  It was pretty rough reading. This lady is struggling terribly.  She is grieving and mourning and full of despair.  It is an honest blog and I admire that, but it is hard to read.

Somewhere along the line, I realized this lady is not a Christian. She is culturally Jewish, but not Orthodox.  She discusses her religious beliefs at some length, and one of the facts of her life is that she has no confidence of life after death. She is dealing with a worldview where she has relatively little hope that she'll ever see her little boy again, and no confidence that her son is in any kind of good place.

It hit me like a ton of bricks that Kevin and I are so blessed, and Erin and Mark are so blessed, that we KNOW that we KNOW that we KNOW that our babies are in heaven.  I have zero doubt.  Our children who died are in Heaven.  Adalyn May is in Heaven.  Jesus' blood has saved them just like His blood saved us. 

What a RELIEF that is.  I hadn't thought recently about how hard it is for a parent who loses a baby to not have hope that they will be reunited at some time. I have that hope.

Now some people might think that this hope is just "wishful thinking."  There is plenty of wishful thinking out there, certainly.  While this lady doesn't have any hope of life after death, there are plenty of people who seem to think that all "good" people are guaranteed Heaven when I don't believe that is true either. (Whose definition of "good' are we using?)

Actually, some people even believe that anyone who is "sincere in their beliefs" will be accepted by God, as is.  To my mind, and I'm not trying to be mean, that is pretty wishy washy thinking.  After all, the hijackers of 9/11 were extremely sincere in their beliefs (to the point of death) but I don't believe I'll meet them in heaven.

I am a moderately intellectual person and during seasons of my life, I've read apologetics works and wrestled with a great many difficult questions. I don't have all the answers to those really challenging questions of life.  But I have studied the science and the historical veracity of the Bible enough to be confident in Christianity. And on a personal note, I've LIVED my Christianity.  I'm a sinner and I've missed the mark (the technical definition of "sin", by the way) a million times.  God has met me.  God has comforted me and communicated with me and loved me through the good times and the bad.  He has brought me into situations that blew my mind and broke my heart, but He has never left me. 

And I'm so thankful for that.

Today, I praise God for Heaven and Jesus' blood that cleanses us.  Praise you, Jesus!