Friday, November 29, 2013

Foiling the Boy

Those who have been in my home have no doubt noticed that it is not an interior decorator's dream.

Our home has off white walls, everywhere.

Our kitchen is functional, not gorgeous.

There are boxes of toys everywhere.

It looks like what it is, a house with a bunch of children.

In fact, the older I get (and the more children I have) the more extreme I get about not wanting extra "stuff".  I don't like knick knacks, and if it wasn't for Kevin I think our walls would be entirely bare.  He does like some artwork so we have items on our walls.

But you know, with is complicated. Especially with a toddler who is into EVERYTHING.

I'm going to share a few things about keeping our home in decent shape with 10 people in the family, and 9 of them home most of the time.

One important job of mine is to Foil the Boy, the boy being our toddler Daniel.

This is, of course, a bookcase.  We have many bookcases. We have many, many books. I try not to be a book hoarder but I do love books.
There comes a time in the life of every little child when the desire to pull books off of bookcases becomes almost irresistible.  In my younger mothering days (when I had fewer children) I worked on training the children to NOT pull books off the bookcases and leave the books strewn everywhere. But reality is, I'm super busy and if I can keep Daniel safe, I often don't have time to address his messy propensities. 
The solution is shown above, though it may be subtle. The lower 3 shelves of books are totally jammed to the point that Daniel can't pull books out. 
And it is working.  I did that 2 days ago, and he hasn't removed one book from that bookcase since!
Now there is a disadvantage -- namely, it is difficult for ANYONE to remove a book and the point of having books is that we can read them. But this is just a season. I hope he'll get discouraged and give up on trying to remove books.  Then we can remove a book or 2 from each shelf, and normal people can get easily to the books again.
And here is another solution to a bad habit of Daniel's.  This switch is on a wall next to a raised step next to our fireplace. Therefore, Daniel can climb on the step, climb into the library box next to the switch, and turn the light on.  And off.  And on.  And off.  And on.  And off. 
You get the picture. It is annoying. I tried training him to just leave it alone but I was too busy to always catch him at it.  So I taped it down. He is foiled.  And again, I hope this will just be temporary and he'll give up on the switch soon.  (I taped it down 2 weeks ago and he tried again yesterday, so he hasn't forgotten entirely.)
Tune back for later episodes of Foiling the Boy.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you kind enough to read my blog.

Kevin's grandmother Lydia slipped into eternity yesterday afternoon.  It was not a surprise, but it is still a shock to lose someone you have known and loved for many years. As Joseph has said many times, Thanksgiving won't be the same without her.

We do have Kevin's sister and family in town from Texas, because they came up to see Grandma Lydia one last time.  I get to meet Cheryl's new husband today, which is exciting.  Kevin met Marc during a business trip earlier this year, but none of the rest of us have met him yet. 

I'm thankful for many things right now, even though the last couple of months have been quite challenging.  I'm thankful for the Lord Jesus, most of all.  I am so thankful for the assurance that I have about Heaven. This life has some pretty hard times and sometimes the weight seems too much. I KNOW that in the end, I will go to Heaven -- not because I'm a "good" person, but because Jesus died for me.  I suppose from an earthly perspective I am pretty good, but I know that I give way to bad temper and irritability and a bad attitude and covetousness all too often. I'm guilty of so many sins, but they were all paid for me on the Cross of Christ.  Thank you, Jesus!

I'm thankful for Kevin, my wonderful husband of 16 years.  Until I was 26, I didn't have any thoughts of getting married.  The Lord very definitely brought us together.  Our marriage isn't always easy but it is always good. The hard times refine us, the good times fill us with joy.  Being parents of a large family takes tremendous effort and limits our time with one another, but we have stayed close and our love is stronger now than when we were first married.  I am thankful for many things about Kevin, but I am especially grateful that he puts a high priority on our marriage.  With 8 children, we could easily lose sight of the importance of our relationship. He doesn't let that happen.

I'm in awe of the gift of many children from the Lord.  I had our first child when I was 30.  There are women who can't conceive at 29, yet I've been pregnant 13 times.   Obviously some of those pregnancies ended in miscarriage, but to have 8 healthy, living children now is amazing!  They stretch me way behind my own ability to be a good mom, but I have Jesus and I have His wisdom.  I pray for our children often, that they will follow the path the Lord has for them.  I pray that Kevin and I will be wise as parents...each child is so delightfully unique, and what one needs, another does not. 

I am thankful for many things this Thanksgiving Day, but those are the top 3.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Challenging Days

Kevin's grandmother has been very sick and getting sicker, for days.

It has been a hard time.  She turned 95 last week and has lived a good, long, interesting life -- but saying good-bye is never easy.

We have out of town family in town right now, so Thanksgiving will have extra family -- which is a blessing.

But we won't have Grandma Lydia and as our 9 year old says, "Thanksgiving won't be the same without her."

It is amazing to think of how many changes she has seen. She was born during World War 1 and has weathered the Great Depression, the Second World War, major societal changes (some good, some bad), raised children, lost a daughter who was quite young (only in her 40's) and then has lived as a widow for 30 years. 

I know we are blessed to have family who have those memories, who have lived through the turbulent last century. And it is hard to say good-bye.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Saturdays Are Tough

  A friend posted on FB that often blogs seem impossibly positive, that too many bloggers represent their lives as full of sweetness, light, and endless fun.

  I don't know if that's true, but I'll be real today to counteract that perceived trend :-).

 Saturdays are tough.

  The reason, for me, is that Saturday is my "catch all" day.  I'm busy all week with teaching the children, plus the occasional doctor appointment, plus library trips, skating events, and so on. We stay home way more than most families, but we still have occasional forays into the outside world and all of them take time.

 So I wake up on Saturday, knowing we won't have school but that I have a LOT of work to do. I usually have many papers to grade, plus I need to plan school for the next week.  Saturday is also our day to change sheets and that means 10 beds need new sheets.  I usually do extra cooking on Saturdays so we have some food stored up for the week.  Last, but definitely not least, Kevin and I try to go out on a date on Saturdays for at least a couple of hours.

  The problem is that while none of these tasks are particularly unpleasant and some indeed are enjoyable, they take focused attention and...the kids are here.  Now I love the kids, don't get me wrong. But this morning, by 11 a.m., I was totally stressed out and exasperated as every 3 minutes (it seemed) I was interrupted from the task at hand.

  I told Kevin that I understand better why my parents used to let me watch literally 6 hours of Saturday morning cartoons when I was a child.  It meant I was in the basement and leaving them alone while they got a million jobs done.  We don't allow the children to watch random TV, but they are allowed to play "extra game time" (which they earn in various ways) on weekends.  If it was just the older 6, I'd probably find life comparatively peaceful on Saturdays as they each can play 30 minutes of game time, and that means (potentially) 3 hours of extra game time.

 But of course, we have 2 little ones.  Daniel is very demanding these days, Sarah only slight less so.

  Of course, I know the kids are more important than the tasks, but the tasks are important too.  I honestly have not figured out how to make this happen. I've been really tired in the evenings lately and don't feel up to lots of grading and school prep in the evenings.  So Saturdays and Sundays are my time, but often the children just make it hard to get my stuff done.

  We have some additional stress right now because Kevin's grandmother is in the hospital and her health is failing, so that's hard on everyone.

  I don't feel very perky today. I know things will work out, that I can do what God has for me to do, but I wish I had more time to do things WELL.  I am all for working hard, but how do I balance all these needs?  Only the Lord knows, and I have faith He'll show me what to do.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Big Family

People sometimes ask me and Kevin, "So, did you grow up in big families?"

The answer is no.  Kevin has one sibling, I have 2.

I came across a question in a blog today asking, "How do children who grew up in big families FEEL about being a member of a large family?"

That's a challenging question and an intimidating one, I admit.  I really really really really really want to be a great wife and mother.  With 8 kids, I definitely have WAY less time per kid than if I had 1 or 2 children.

We have a large family because we felt the Lord's call to accept the children HE brought to us.  I don't think either of us fathomed we would end up with a LARGE family, since we married in our late 20's and I had Naomi, our first, when I was 30!

As we like to joke, we've been focused.  8 kids in less than 13 years is definitely unusual.

And you know, we're totally in love, crazy about, through the roof delighted, with every one of our children. It is hard to imagine life without one of them, it really is.

That is not to say life is always a bed of roses, because it is not. Sometimes I get tired of the constant mess, the baby climbing EVERYTHING, the frequent bickering, the struggle to keep up with meals, the FATIGUE.

Our kids spend almost all day every day together, since we homeschool. That means they are close in many ways. They love each other. They are best friends. They also totally annoy one another at times. Sometimes they annoy me.  Sometimes I annoy them.

That is really LIFE, you know?  I think having the kids at home with me (with Kevin home in the evening) is forcing us to be real.  I can get along with people I rarely see, but with family, I have to WORK to be patient and kind and longsuffering and generous. 

So, I hope and pray our children will emerge into adulthood with good memories of their childhood. It won't be perfect, because life isn't. I am sure some of the kids sometimes are frustrated that they don't get more one on one time with me. Sometimes they wish they could just go hide in a room somewhere. Sometimes they DO hide in a room somewhere.

But at the end of the day, I think the kids enjoy being members of a big brood.  Perhaps the most obvious positive message is that every time we've announced another pregnancy, the children who are old enough to understand have been delighted. That does encourage me as pregnancy leaves me tired and sick, and a new baby takes a lot of time. But the older ones dote on the littles, and that fills my heart with joy.

She's 3!

We celebrated the birthday of our sweet Sarah this week.

A giant Tails plush toy.  Could ANYTHING be better?

The American Heritage Girl cake

  Here's the cake our big girls frosted and decorated for their American Heritage Girls awards ceremony celebration last Sunday.  It looked beautiful and, I'm told, tasted delicious.  I just hope they'll have cake in Heaven, because I won't have diabetes in Heaven so can partake :-).

Sunday, November 17, 2013


This is a few days late...

  We woke up to snow.  It was beautiful outside.

  I cancelled regular school and most of the children went outside to play in the snow. 

Then, more excitement!  My wonderful mother-in-law came over and we took the children bowling.  We went to a small bowling place on our local Air Force Base.

Kevin came over from work for a while and gave the children some bowling pointers.  The kids aren't very good (since they've rarely played) and we were very grateful for bumpers so we didn't have a steady, disheartening succession of gutter balls.

As if bowling wasn't exciting enough, we ordered pizza, french fries, and pop for lunch.  The children don't drink pop much, so that alone was enough to make their day :-). If you look carefully in this picture, you can see Daniel sitting behind the table. He is in a high chair.  More on that later.

YUM, pizza! 

My role in this whole expedition was to help tie shoes, find light bowling balls, and (mostly) to chase Daniel.  I didn't actually bowl any games as I guessed I would need to leave early with the 2 little ones. 

So, Daniel.  I have been to this bowling alley with a toddler before.  And it was tiring.  I can't remember which kid it was, maybe Joseph?  If memory serves me, the toddler back then marched around in the restaurant area, explored around the pool table, and generally kept me busy.  So that's what I was expecting.

Well, Daniel was different. Daniel wanted to be on the bowling alley and its environs. You know, that area you aren't supposed to walk on without bowling shoes?  He just kept making a beeline for that area over and over again, and I picked him up repeatedly (not good for my back.) The big girls helped with him, but I was super glad when we found a spare high chair.  I strapped him in, gave him fruit snacks and french fries, and he was happy.  He eventually did get tired and cranky, so I took Daniel and Sarah home for a nap.  My MIL stayed 'til the older 6 were done bowling.

It was tremendous fun.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Give Them Time...

  I spent part of yesterday morning sitting in a doctor's waiting room.  My doctor and her heroic staff are switching from paper records to computer records and while that is awesome in the long run, it means they are running behind a lot these days.

I sat grading homeschooling papers and was quite content, except that I observed a rather sad interaction in the waiting room.

  There was a cute little girl waiting with 2 adults, one definitely her mother, the other probably her grandfather.  The girl looked about 5, possibly 4, almost certainly not 6 years of age.

  The mother was busy filling out paperwork, so the grandfather (?) suggested the little girl read a book with him. They chose "Green Eggs and Ham" by Dr. Seuss, but to my surprise the man insisted that the little girl read it to him.  Well, she couldn't.  It is not a HARD book, but it isn't a very early reader either.  As I said, the little girl seemed very little.  The man helped her sound out a few words but then got impatient and angry, and kept saying things like, "You aren't even trying!  I'm not going to sit here and listen if you won't even try!"

 I have to admit my Mama Bear instincts kicked in and I was indignant, but I didn't say anything.  It wouldn't have done any good.  I was upset with the mother for not interfering, and upset with this older man pushing a small girl to read when she couldn't yet.

  We are pretty STUPID as a culture about early reading.  Yes, some kids read early, but many need more time than parents and teachers and grandparents give them. I was very happy to see that this little girl didn't seem  upset.  After a short time, the man DID give up, and the little girl happily bounced off to spend time with her mom.  Maybe these kind of harangues are "water off a duck's back".  I hope so.

  I realize he may have had good intentions. Many adults do. They want their kids, or grandkids, to succeed.  But friends, let's give them time.  Give them time to develop and learn at the right pace for THEM.  Give them time to be kids.  Give them time to be loved for who they are, not what they can accomplish.  Give them time.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

My Parents' Visit

My parents blessed us with a whirlwind visit on Friday and Saturday. They live in Michigan with 3 cats, one of whom is super old (like 21 years old!) and who can't be left for long. So they were here about 24 hours. But we crammed in lots of visiting.

Nana with the toddlers

My father spent a lot of time playing "ball" with Angela. Sometimes big balls, sometimes small balls -- whatever kind of ball, she loved it!

My dad used to an awesome chess player, and is still pretty good. He played Isaac and Miriam and said they are both very good for their age.

 We made a "flying" trip to the local Air Force Museum.  I found it a lot more enjoyable than usual as there were 4 adults for 8 kids. So much more relaxing than when I am watching all 8 alone, though our 2 big girls help a lot when I'm going somewhere with the brood.

  This turned out very poorly, but the second award from the left is the one Kevin received when he saved a coworker's life earlier this year -- the Civilian Command Award for Valor.  I enjoyed seeing a whole panel with all the awards that are possibilities for military and civilians.

  We spent most of our time in the Early Flight section of the museum, which was a pleasant completion to an Early Flight unit I did a few weeks ago.  We live near the birthplace of aviation, which is interesting and fun.

Monday, November 4, 2013

And Another One Bites the Dust

Another chicken, that is. We've lost 2 in the last 3 weeks.  Which is sad.  And perplexing. And of some concern.  Do we have a hideous illness? I hope not!

So now we have 22 chickens, which are giving us about a dozen eggs per day. That's enough for our simple needs plus we do sell to a few friends on occasion.

Can I say here publicly HOW MUCH I appreciate my dear husband Kevin?  Dead animals totally freak me out, and in our long and illustrious marriage I have rarely had to deal with a dead animal. I am so thankful that Kevin deals with the dead possums, skunks, guinea pigs, raccoons, cats, and chickens.

Na-No-Wri-Mo Update

Naomi has written (in 4 short days) a WHOPPING 22,000 words in her novel!  Amazing.  I think she needs to increase her word count...originally it was 30,000.  Of course, she may run out of plot soon in which case she'll need to stop.

Lydia has been plugging away and has between 3000 and 4000 words.

Miriam has been a big surprise.  She is almost 8 years old, and I've not taught her much about grammar and punctuation.  To my shock, she is writing her own novel -- I mean, she is actually typing it in instead of having one of her older siblings type for her.  What she is doing is obviously WAY harder, and I am proud of her.  She has written about 400 words, not easy for a 7 year old!  I am considering how much to help her polish and edit it, since her dialogue in particular is fairly hard to follow. I will say this...she is using quotation marks close to correctly, which is impressive.

Joseph decided against writing a novel this year.  His big sisters are too busy to do a lot of typing for him, and he doesn't feel up to writing like Miriam is.

So far, my girls have been more "natural" writers than my boys, which is typical.  I will encourage both boys to do Na-No-Wri-Mo some year, but not this year.

All in all, I'm impressed and pleased with the first 4 days of Na-No-Wri-Mo in our household.

Saturday, November 2, 2013


And it began!  Yesterday!  National Novel Writing Month!

Na-No-Wri-Mo is a monthly effort by hundreds (maybe thousands) of writers to produce a book in one short month.  It may be a SHORT book, but a book nonetheless.

 Adults need to produce at least 50,000 words, but children under 18 can choose the length of their book. If they succeed, they get 5 free copies of their bound book.

Naomi and Lydia are both trying for 30,000 words.  Joseph and Miriam have much lower word count goals.

I'm excited to see how well they do this month. The 2 big girls are, in my humble opinion, wonderful writers for their ages.  I'm looking forward to the results.