Sunday, December 29, 2013

Decluttering and Maintaining

Decluttering...what a word!  It evokes some feelings of dread, because it is hard, some feelings of delight, because life is so much better with MORE SPACE.

I really don't think I'm a pack rat.  My family moved around quite a bit when I was young, so I got used to packing and getting rid of things.  Thinking it over, there are few things amazingly precious to me.  However, I am cheap, and I don't enjoy shopping, so I like to hold onto things we "might need".  That way madness lies, so I work hard to get rid of items that haven't been used in a long while even when part of my brain is whispering, "We might use that someday..."

Yesterday I tackled bookshelves, which are my nemesis. I love books. My parents love books. I grew up in houses full of books. My parents' home has bookcases everywhere, with books neatly arranged by author, genre, etc.  Kevin and I have many bookcases, but not nearly as many as parents do. 

Books are hard to part with!  They individually are usually small, so it is easy to think -- well, this won't take much room.  Yesterday I had the emotional energy to go through 2 bookcases and I did get rid of probably 50+ books, and I am proud of myself.  One thing I realized is that some very thin kids' books just get lost in the shuffle.  If I can't find them when I need them, why bother?  Furthermore, we live close to a library and visit if often, so usually I can just look up a particular topic (like artists, or medical pioneers, or astronauts) and borrow books instead of hanging onto a few vague volumes on those subjects.

 This bookshelf is still a work in progress, but yes -- there is empty space!  One huge breakthrough  is that I finally just TOSSED an entire set of children's encyclopedias. I bought them 8 or 9 years ago for $5 and we just never used them. They were too simple to be of much value.  But I kept thinking, "Oh, maybe someday..." Well, they took up a lot of space so I just ditched them.  And I'm proud of myself.

And in the middle of decluttering, I need to keep maintaining certain areas of the home.  This is the kitchen.  The kitchen is a CONSTANT battle.  Our house is huge -- 3500 square feet in the official living space, plus a huge basement.  The kitchen is not especially fancy, nor is it amazingly big for the size of the house. Don't get me wrong, it is very nice.  But we prepare food for 10 people in this kitchen, and most of us are at home all day every day.  It doesn't take long for the counters to become completely cluttered with items, and I feel like I am at WAR much of the time with dirty dishes, pans, fruit, doughnut boxes, etc. that encroach on valuable counter space.  We do have a pretty good system at night, as the children wash all pans and bowls and finish loading the dishwasher with whatever remnants weren't put in the dishwasher after meals, leaving relatively few dirty items on the counter.  So usually at bedtime, the kitchen looks decent.

What is my point?  Hmmm...what IS my point? I guess my point is that in house cleaning, sometimes you just have to keep trucking away.  I get frustrated at times that the kitchen isn't as nice as I would like. BUT it is far better than if I just ignored it completely. When I have a few spare minutes, I will wipe up crumbs and put away random items that belong in bathrooms, and it helps.  Our kitchen never degenerates into a total disaster. And I'm proud of that :-).


Friday, December 27, 2013


Beautiful Christmas sunrise

Stockings prepared with care (by Kevin)

Toys under the tree.  The children's Secret Santa gifts for each other were mostly "wrapped" in paper bags, which I think was a brilliant idea (MY brilliant idea!)

The contents of Daniel's first stocking. (I don't think we bothered with a stocking for him last year as he was too little to care.) Daniel was especially excited by this light up plastic mace, which he loves to use to pound on things.


My favorite gift from Kevin -- $100 to buy carryout food for the family.  I very rarely buy carryout as it is expensive for the 10 of us, and I'm notoriously cheap.

Kevin's mom came over for Christmas dinner, and blessed our 3 youngest girls with these cute hats.

She also gave the children "thinking putty".  It is KIND of like silly putty, but with much more interesting colors plus it holds its shape better. The children love it!  Some of it has strange swirly colors, other children got glow in the dark putty. Such fun.

So that was Christmas. We had a really GOOD day.  The children got along well and enjoyed their presents, and we were healthy.

Then yesterday, Dec. 26th, Kevin and Isaac got sick. Isaac threw up, once.  Sigh. But we're thankful for a very nice Christmas Day.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Kevin's Brilliant Idea

Kevin and I used to go to Secret Santa gift centers in our schools when we were young.  The basic idea was that children with a little money could buy cheap gifts for siblings and parents.

Our kids don't do "Santa". We've told them from birth, from BEFORE birth, that Santa is just a pretend character.  Not that the prenatal babies have listened, but if they did -- they would hear Santa isn't real.


Anyway, this last week many of the children said they wanted to go to a Dollar Store and buy gifts for their siblings. Kevin took Lydia, but we were running out of time and taking all of the kids, individually, just wasn't going to work well. So ... brilliant thought from Kevin!  He went to Meijer and a Dollar Store, bought up a bunch of stuff, set up a Secret Santa Shop in our basement.

The children then came down, one by one, and picked out presents for their siblings.

While some of the presents were subsidized  (which is to say, we charged $1 for everything, but some were a bit more than that to buy), the children did use THEIR money.  Our kids have a small allowance  and earn money in other ways as well.  So they had to decide to part with hard earned or gained money.  We have a range of money personalities. I was pleased that everyone decided to buy gifts for their siblings.

So tomorrow they will all have many gifts for Christmas.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Church Christmas Party

I took the older 6 kids to a Christmas party at our church yesterday morning. It was great fun.

First thing we saw were these wonderful animals!

Yes, there were real, live camels!  They were SO big.  I think they were a little wet and I hope didn't mind. It alternated between raining and pouring yesterday.  The camels, donkey, and sheep were under a canopy but definitely got a little wet.


We then entered the church and found food.  Tasty food. Delectable food.  Exciting food. So naturally, the kids wanted to eat.  I really had to chuckle because we had already had breakfast and I wasn't expecting much food enthusiasm and all the kids wanted to do was eat.  So they mowed through Rice Krispy treats and fruit dipped in a chocolate fountain and cookies and get the picture.

Then each child was able to play 3 little games in the back of the church. Regardless of whether they won, they won...each child got to pick out a prize at each game area.

It was onto the pancake breakfast then. Seriously.  Most of the kids STILL wanted to eat.  Ok, fine, we ate some more. (Well, THEY did.  Very little of the food was diabetic friendly :-).)

Then it was time to dress up.  There was a stable outside next to the camels, and the children were able to dress up as nativity scene characters inside the church and then go outside to pose.

Isaac wasn't interested in dressing up, so he kindly watched our prizes and other items while everyone else dressed up.  They are such a good looking bunch of kids, if I say so myself.

 By then I was tired, so we headed home.  It was a lovely time and I'm very grateful to all the volunteers who worked hard to put together this event for area children.

Driving home was a little adventurous.  I was driving the big van as our minivan is in the shop.  I got to a place on the road where a lot of water was encroaching, and the van slipped a bit.  I did fine with it, but didn't like it.  This morning, when I went to church, that particular road was entirely closed off as water is completely covering it now.  Actually, driving to church this morning was interesting. I've never seen so much water in fields, and the 2 small rivers we saw were flooded in a truly impressive way.

P.S.  One last brother and his wife have their first baby due ANY DAY NOW.  So excited for them!!

Friday, December 20, 2013


I'm very pleased to report that the so called "Teddy's Law", Senate Bill 248, is being withdrawn by the bill's sponsor.  I am thankful the senator saw that the bill was flawed in many ways, and pray that she and other concerned lawmakers will craft a bill that WILL improve care for children in abusive situations.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Senate Bill 248

Wow.  Wow!  Ohio homeschoolers like myself are reeling in shock, and mad as wet hens.  An Ohio senator named Cafri Cafaro just proposed a law described by Home School Legal Defense Association as the worst they've ever seen in this country.  Feel free to click on the link below...

So the basic story is this.  Recently, tragically, horrifically, a teen boy named Teddy was murdered by his mother's abusive boyfriend. Teddy had endured abuse for years, and while in the public school teachers had reported suspected abuse to Child Protective Services.  CPS did nothing useful to protect him. Eventually, Teddy's mother pulled Teddy from a normal public school and enrolled him in an e-school, and it is suggested that her motive was to avoid further investigation.  Teddy eventually died from the abuse, and mom and abusive boyfriend are in prison where I hope they stay for a very long time.

So...the logical first assumption is that some moms and live in boyfriends are evil and the second is that CPS messed up incredibly on this precious child.

 Senator Cafaro, instead of dealing with the obvious failures of CPS, instead chose to go after homeschooling as the major culprit in this tragedy.  Senate Bill 248, as it currently stands, would require every homeschool family to submit every year to interviews with a social worker.  Said social worker would not only interview the parents, he or she would interview every child separately.  And then, if the social worker decided (for whatever reason) that homeschooling would not be "in the best interests of the child", the homeschooling request would be denied.  Just like that.

I've been hopping mad for the past 24 hours about this. Hopping mad because we homeschoolers are being assumed guilty until proven innocent, according to this bill.  Hopping mad that a senator of Ohio (plus 3 Democrat colleagues) would dare to formulate this disgusting attack on our constitutional rights.  Does she really think it is good for a harassed, busy social worker, a social worker who often sees the worst in parents, to come into a home and make a quick judgment about how we choose to raise and educate our children?  What if said social worker has a prejudice against Christians?  Or large families?  Or engineers?  Or homeschoolers in general?   There is nothing in the bill that gives any kind of guidelines about what constitutes "best interest of the child" except the whims of the social worker. 

Even if there were guidelines, it would be an ugly bill.  We don't let anyone alone with our young children unless we've decided that person is a safe person.  No one.  We don't go to a pediatric dentist because locally, pediatric dentists don't allow parents to go back with the children and that is unacceptable.  We found a family dentist who is happy to have me in and out with the kids.  We don't leave our children alone with doctors.  No one.  Am I really supposed to allow some random person to come in and ask random questions, perhaps traumatizing, invasive questions, without oversight from me?  I don't think so!

And what about CPS, already strained to the limit to the point that children like Teddy are falling through the cracks and not being protected?  If the bill were passed, CPS would be required to conduct thousands of interviews every year, which would take an awe inspiring amount of time.

This bill will NOT pass as stands.  The Senator is, I think, shocked at the groundswell of outrage from homeschoolers and indeed all who see this as the clear violation of our freedom as parents and citizens. I spent part of this morning looking at Senator Cafaro's FB page, and she is now quickly backpedalling, saying that the bill needs "revision" and she knew it was "far reaching".  No, Senator, it doesn't need revision. It needs junked.

Yes, changes need to be made to protect children like Teddy. His death is a monumental tragedy. But don't blame homeschooling. Blame the mother, and the live in boyfriend, and CPS.  Not homeschooling.

The vast majority of homeschoolers, the VAST majority, are parents who love their kids fiercely and are willing to give up a lot to teach the children at home.  Homeschooling our kids is a way of life for us, but that doesn't mean it is easy.  We put in time and effort and money.  While I work very part time, I am mostly a stay at home mom and -- given that I have a PhD in engineering -- that means we're giving up a lot of potential income.  We don't regret it a bit.  It is all worth it.  But for this senator to introduce a bill saying we should be treated like likely abusers is disturbing and insulting.

Lord, have mercy on our land.  Help us to do what is right. Help us to pass laws that are good and wise, not intrusive. Have mercy on us.



Monday, December 16, 2013

Kevin and Me

 This picture is more than a week late.  Ah well.

  Kevin and I attended a party thrown by my company.  Even though I'm a very part time employee, I get to go to the fun parties!

  Dress is supposed to be formal, but I don't own a formal dress and I don't want to shop for a formal dress and I don't want to pay for a formal dress, so I wore this.  Kevin wore the suit he wore at our wedding. My man has not gained much weight in the last 16 years :-).

  We had a nice time at the party.  It was fun hanging out with colleagues without having to focus on work, and Kevin had an interesting conversation with a Russian couple whom we'd never met before.  This party usually lasts into the wee hours but hey, we are parents of 8 and therefore tired, so we headed home around 9 p.m.


Author Review: Mike Venezia

Mike Venezia is an extremely prolific writer of children's biographies.  His short books on presidents, scientists, artists, and musicians include basic information about the person, plus a healthy dose of humor in the form of fun little cartoons.  Our older 3 children are on a Mike Venezia kick right now, and I literally have checked out over 100 of his books from the library in the last month.  And yes, they are reading them ALL.  I believe Venezia wrote about every single American President, so I had our big girls read all those biographies as part of our recent short unit on the presidents.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Miscellaneous Happenings

  For the very first time, Daniel happily put pencil marks on post it notes.

Sarah spilled a LOT of cereal.

We got snow, and more snow, and more snow!  And some ice, too!

 The kids built a giant mound.

Kevin and I went to a fancy work party.

Gingerbread house!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


I feel quite worn out today, somewhat physically, but more emotionally.

It has been a HARD few weeks with Kevin's grandmother dying and all the associated struggle.  Kevin's mom has a ton of work to do plus she is the one most affected. Her life has changed so much!

Then on Monday, we got news that a close friend of Kevin's at work experienced a monumental tragedy last week.  He was away on a business trip and came home on Thursday to find his wife of 20+ years dead in their home from a fall.  It was truly a freak accident and we are heartbroken for him.

Another friend's husband has been struggling with heart issues and was taken to the hospital for yet another admittance last night.  The doctors don't seem to know what is going on, but any problem with a heart is scary stuff.

I guess I'm just feeling weighed down by how hard life can be sometimes.  I am so thankful for the Lord Jesus, who does give me strength when my own strength is at an ebb. 

Perhaps it would help to write out some of my many blessings.  I think it would. So here goes...

1.  I am thankful for the LORD and His constant, unceasing care and work in our lives.
2. I'm thankful for Kevin.
3.  I'm thankful for our wonderful children.
4.  I'm thankful that a little illness that visited us this week has stayed quite little.  The 2 babies have had a cold with a small amount of coughing, but it could be a lot worse.
5.  I am thankful for our country. When I'm feeling weighed down, it is easy for me to focus on what is WRONG in our country -- and plenty of things are wrong.  But as our 9 year old son said, we live in a place where we do have freedom to work where we want, marry whom we want, read the Bible, pray out loud, go to church, have as many children as we decide to have.  All of those things are blessings that are NOT shared by everyone in this world.
6.  I am thankful for financial stability.  I went off to Trader Joe's this week and bought $70 worth of low carb bread and Trader Joe's chocolate.  $70!  That really sounds CRAZY but we can do it because have the money to do it.  (That should last me quite a while!)

   Well, there are many more things I'm thankful for, but our 3 year old needs me to get her up.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Family Pictures

My mother made or purchased the Christmas outfits for the children.

We decided to attempt a stairstep picture, and this one turned out quite well.  It was hard to keep Daniel in the line but here he is just THINKING about making a beeline for the camera :-).

Friday, December 6, 2013

Good Chickens!

  I haven't mentioned our chickens in some time, but that's because they aren't causing any problems. They aren't dying of a plague, they aren't being killed by raccoons or dogs, they aren't breaking out of their fenced in area.

  What they ARE doing, is laying eggs. Good chickens!  We were getting an average of...about 12 for quite a while.  We have 21 or 22 chickens that so that was a bit wimpy, but we still have 6 or 7 older chickens (purchased the month before Daniel was born) who were molting. 

  Well, maybe our elderly ladies are coming back on track, but 2 days ago we got 15 eggs, and yesterday we got 16.

 The eggs are piling up!  We need to sell some!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Grandma's Funeral

Yesterday was Grandma L's funeral.  It was good. Not fun, not easy, but good. The pastor's message was touching and pointed to Christ.  More people came than I expected, which we all appreciated.  Several relatives flew in from out of town.  After the funeral, most of us followed the casket to the graveyard.  It's quite close to our home, and I have to admit that I like graveyards in general, and this one in particular.  The tombstones are interesting, the land is well kept, and there were many beautiful flowers near the gravestones.  It is strange to think of all those fathers and mothers and children and grandparents...some gone for decades.  Kevin has an aunt (Grandma L's second child) who passed away in the early 1990's, and Grandma is buried next to her.

  After all that, we went back to Grandma L's house and spent some time with the out of town relatives. I've not met many of them and it was a special time.  Grandma L was one of 11 or 12 children (I never quite figured out the number) so there were MANY cousins.  It was enjoyable meeting some of them for the first time.

  This afternoon, Kevin's uncle and aunt, from out of town, came to visit. They are on their way back to their home down South now.  So things will sort of go back to normal soon. Kevin's mom has a boatload, a BOATLOAD, of work to do as the executor of her mother's estate, and we'll help if we can.

  Now I'm going to sound like I've suddenly changed the subject dramatically, but read me out :-).

  I've had C-sections with my last 5 children.  I have thought more than once that a C-section is some kind of CRAZY operation, because a woman has a pretty major operation and then, instead of resting a lot, she has a newborn to care for.  Of course, it is the best reason in the WORLD to have major adnominal surgery, but still!

  Seeing all the Kevin's family is coping with makes me realize that in a way, losing a loved one to death is a LITTLE like a C-section.  Here they are, grieving the loss of Grandma L. Everyone has been under major stress for 3 weeks since she went downhill.  And then, on top of the emotional and physical stress, there is a ton to do in terms of arrangements, dealing with the job of executor, cleaning out the refrigerator, etc.
  They are not the same -- I guess what I'm saying is sometimes, just when we think we are pushed to the limit, we have even more piled on our shoulders.  I am so thankful to the Lord who gives the strength to do what HE calls us to do.  There are many times I've been unhappy with not doing enough of what I thought needed done but reality is, I am always able to do what HE calls me to do.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Our Mantle

  We have a fireplace in our home...not that we can actually light fires, but we have one.  There is something wrong with the chimney.  Above the fireplace is a lovely wooden mantle.

  I said in a previous post that our home is not a decorator's delight, far from it.  This mantle of ours would be a great place for pictures, or a few choice knick knacks.  But reality is, the mantle is high up and horizontal and that means it collects STUFF!

  Here are a few pictures from the past few weeks of our mantle.

Let's see...we've got 2 boxes of shoes that need returned, a globe, some clothing, a radio controlled car, and a birthday sign. My laptop is on the far right side in its accustomed place, as I don't want little people messing with my laptop!

Well, that's a bit better. The clothes are gone, as is the radio controlled car.  But those shoes are still there...

  Sigh, more stuff now.  Papers, a Smash Boppit game, and those tedious shoes are still there!

And now the shoes are joined by some pants that need returned as well.

So what's my point?

 My point is this...while my mantle is NEVER what I want it to be, I keep plugging away at it.  I would like it to just be decorative, but at this point in life -- it won't be.  We need the tall, horizontal surface to store items.  BUT, I keep moving things off of it when I can, and while there is plenty of clutter, the piles aren't climbing higher and higher.

 I have a perfectionistic streak, and one of my biggest accomplishments in life was to accept that better is better.  No, my home is never as clean, tidy, and uncluttered as I would like.  But there IS value in consistently working away on trouble areas.  I rarely have time to spend hours cleaning, but if I take 10 minutes here, 15 there, our home will stay at least habitable.