Monday, March 31, 2014

Pregnancy Update

I had my 28 week appointment today. Everything looks fine.  I am happy. The baby has been active.  She is measuring small and that, in itself, is reassuring because all of mine have measured small. I will have an ultrasound in 2 weeks just to make sure all looks well in there, but so far, so good!

We're getting ready for her:

This is her nursery, which is really a weird little room between our master bedroom and the master bathroom. It has a closet, obviously.  We splurged on a new little sleeping seat for her. It reclines, and all but one of our children has done MUCH better reclining than prone.  I have a little seat that most of them have slept in, but it is really old so I decided to get a new one.  The hanging clothes are in the closet...

and the onesies and separates are in these drawers.  We need to pull that chair (in the master bedroom) into this room so I'll have a comfy place to nurse the baby at night. 
We need diapers and a few other things but we're close to ready...

Daniel and His Taggy Toys

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Encouraging Independence

  Kevin and I could never keep our household running without much help from our kidlets.  They do so  much -- most of the laundry, sweeping, vacuuming, changing sheets, caring for chickens and cats, etc.

  Every family has to figure out how to manage the whole "chore" thing. We started giving Naomi chores (like setting the table) when she was about 3 years old. She may have helped pick up toys before that -- I can't remember but it seems likely.

 As our other children grew, we gave the young ones chores and trained the older ones to do new chores.

  Mostly it works very well, and I am truly grateful for our children's help.  This is especially true right now, when pregnancy aches and pains are starting to make me much less mobile.  I'm actually having rather a hard time. Yesterday I had lots of contractions and weird pressure.  This is normal for me at this stage in the pregnancy, but it is still unnerving.  The baby will be 28 weeks along on Monday, and we need at least another 10 weeks for her in the womb.

  One thing on my mind is that it is the little things that can wear me out. Yes, the kids do a lot, but I find myself dashing around doing a little of this, and a little of that, all day every day unless I specifically work to rest.  An example is shown in the picture above.  Miriam realized we needed toilet paper and got some out of the pantry to put in the appropriate bathroom, but then she had trouble getting the plastic broken so she could get at the TP inside.  Normally, I would get up, find a pair of scissors, and open it for her.  This time, I told her to find a pair of scissors and open it herself.

  When I'm really not feeling well, I realize how many times the kids ask me to something they could easily do themselves.  This is more true of the "middle" kids.  Naomi and Lydia are independent and usually just take care of a problem. But the middles are more likely to depend on me or their sibs.  Sometimes they NEED help, like getting a stubborn jar of peanut butter open, but even then they can ask a big sib instead of me.

  I hope I don't sound lazy at all.  I'm sure we all have our lazy moments, but I'm way more likely to err on the side of doing too much than too little.  I hate being weak, honestly. I hate not being able to do things that our kids want me to do, but every life has seasons, and this is one of my seasons when I need to take it super easily.

  So, I am thankful for the hard work of our kids, and am working to encourage even more independence.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Winter Again

And then, after a brief foray into spring, we are dealing with snow again.


This is from a few short days ago.  We were outside, enjoying sunny skies and temps in the 60's.

This is a silly can just barely see Lydia and Isaac behind a tree.  Isaac just got new roller skates (purchased with his own money!) and they were joyfully tearing up and down the driveway.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

2 Weeks On, One Week Sort of Off

I have titled this a "homeschooling" blog but obviously don't talk about homeschooling all the time :-).

I could change the blog title and maybe I will, but part of my reasoning for keeping it is that ALL of life is homeschooling.  We are constantly learning about something, whether it be facts, concepts, cooking, cleaning, or (most challenging of all) how to live as kind, godly, caring people.

But let me talk briefly about the academic side of homeschooling.  Life is getting a bit more challenging as I proceed through this pregnancy, and my energy level isn't where it was a month ago.  I've had a couple of episodes in the last 2 days when I honestly felt rotten and needed to sit and rest.  This tends to happen more in the afternoon and evening hours.  I'm a morning person through and through!

I need to keep teaching the kids, but I get frustrated when I fall behind on grading and organizing.

So for now, I have a plan.  The plan is to have 2 hard hitting weeks of academics, followed by a week when we do more puzzles, games, reading.  During that 3rd week, I catch up on grading.

This week is a "down" week. I am not fully prepared for it, but then I can make Monday an organizational day if necessary.

Since I am an engineer, I like having schedules and plans and producing paperwork.  I have read, and agree, that a more casual approach to homeschooling can work very well.  But with my personality, I need things to be more organized.  I want to know the kids are progressing in various areas. 

Having said that, I have learned to be very flexible about how RAPIDLY a particular child is progressing.  Every child is different, and I have fully embraced that one child may read fluently at 5, and another may not be 7 or 8 until he or she reads, and that is fine!  I have a couple of pairs of kids (separated by about 18 months in age) who are doing exactly the same math work because in each pair, there is one "math kid" and one kid who doesn't grasp concepts as easily.

Kids chattering, so I'll sign off.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bed Switcheroo



 So, to explain.  About a week ago, Kevin and I snuck off after the children's lunch to have a Chinese restaurant meal together.  It was nice, it was fun, and we thought Daniel was in bed peacefully sleeping while everyone else was playing games, so all should be calm at home.

  When we got home, we discovered that Daniel had decided that napping in his pack and play wasn't nearly as interesting as hurtling his small body OUT of the pack and play.  Which he did, more than once.  So the big girls found Daniel wandering around the house when he was supposed to be napping.

  ARGGHGGHHH!  Our small boy was no longer safe in a pack and play!

 Kevin ran off to get a spare mattress from his grandmother's house, and we put it on a bed frame that has been sitting without a mattress in the little girls' room. So we thought we'd move Sarah into a "big bed" and put the crib in Daniel's room.

 Sarah made the transition to the big bed with no problems at all. She hasn't fallen out once!

  And Daniel, to our surprise, decided that his pack and play was fine at NIGHT (maybe because it is dark) so he actually hasn't needed the crib moved into his room.  So now I am putting Daniel in this crib during his nap time and he is still in his pack and play at night.

   I like the setup better with the crib and Miriam's bed switching positions. In actual fact, we didn't need to move Sarah into a big bed but she is fine in it, so we'll leave her there.

  I am thinking that as the days get longer and 7:15 p.m. (Daniel's bedtime) gets progressively lighter, we may start having trouble with him hurtling out of his pack and play. In that case, we will likely need to move the crib.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Throwing Away Homeschooling Magazines

Just to show you how SERIOUS I am about decluttering, I threw out these magazines today.

I am kind of a "print junkie" and it is hard for me to get rid of good magazines, but I hadn't touched them in years.  They were just taking up space in the room where our new baby is going to sleep for a few months. So out they go! 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Complaining? Or "Being Real"?

I've been contemplating something this week.

I have read a lot of books, and if there is one thing that comes off poorly in a novel, it is someone who complains and whines a lot.

I don't like complaining or whining either, and indeed there is a Scripture that says something like, "Do everything without arguing and complaining, so that you may be children of God in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe."  (Hmmm, where IS that in the Word?  I'll have to find it later.)

So complaining and whining aren't good. BUT, I believe there can be a place at the opposite end of the pendulum where someone pastes on a happy face and pretends everything is fine even when it isn't. That bothers me.  I feel like that can be, in some ways, lying.  Deceptive.

So you know, when someone asks, "How are you doing?" and you are doing poorly, is it right to say, "Fine."?

Actually, I think it IS fine to say "fine" if the person is just asking without expecting an answer. That question is a ritual greeting in our culture, and no one really expects a serious response from someone when 2 people are passing quickly in a hallway.

But if it is a friend, or the person seems to really want to know, what do I say?

Because right now, I'm doing ... pretty well, but not great.  I don't feel wonderful and I am definitely getting hit with those pregnancy aches and pains, difficulty sleeping, digestive issues, etc. I'm also hormonal and that does funny things to my brain. 3 months to go, and those symptoms are not going away until she is born. 

I talked to a couple this week at church and felt guilty afterwards because in our 2 minute conversation, I didn't express well enough how HAPPY I am about the baby I am carrying.  This couple just had their first baby and seemed to really want to know how I was doing and I answered pretty honestly that I'm doing Ok, but struggling with some anxiety about the sleep deprivation that comes in the first 2 months. It IS tough, and I have the added concern that the C-section will be challenging. Daniel's was as I had a bladder tear and a fun filled week with a catheter (I really did NOT like that.)

I am afraid I did come off like I was whining though, and I regret it. This baby is completely worth every iota of nausea, aches, pains, and hormonal moments.  She is wonderful, a gift from God.

I think I might be erring on the side of "honesty" because it seems like people sometimes imply that if something is hard, then something is bad.  I read part of a truly appalling article this week (before stopping midway through) written by a woman who divorced her husband of many years because "she just wanted to be happy."  They had "grown apart" and she was tired of it, so she ditched her marriage.   She left 2 kids to deal with the devastation of an unwanted divorce, plus of course her husband.  All because she "wasn't happy".  Life sometimes isn't happy.  Marriage is hard, parenting is hard, pregnancy is hard. That doesn't mean any of those things are in any way BAD.  God can use hard experiences to help us grow.  He is using this pregnancy to teach me lessons that I should have learned 10 years ago, but I have to keep learning -- about how He is sufficient, about how I am loved and valued even when I can't do as much as I want to.

So...I guess what I want to convey is that this baby is awesome, AND pregnancy is hard for me.  I have medium difficulty pregnancies and plenty of people have a much harder time.  I'm not horribly nauseous the whole time, I have never had high blood pressure or any other enormous complications.  But still, pregnancy isn't EASY.  But we were personally led by the Lord to be open to a large family and the Lord has blessed us richly.

Not necessarily easy, but very very good. 

Organizational Frenzy

A sweet friend on Facebook invited me to join a "40 Day Decluttering" group.  The idea is that all the ladies in the group will encourage one another to work hard on decluttering and organizing our homes.

The stated goal is "one bag a day" -- which is to say, remove one bag of trash/clutter per day for 40 days.  I balked at that as I'm pregnant and tired, and knew there would be days when I couldn't find the energy to declutter and clean.  My friend assured me that anything I wanted to do, was fine.

I wasn't expecting to get excited, but I am!  I'm working on the "baby's room" right now -- the new baby, that is.  We have a weird little room between our room and our bathroom, a room that doesn't have any logical original purpose, but it has been the room for the new baby for the last 4 or 5 kids. 

This is it.  It is small.  And yes, that is a new counter top for the bathroom. 

I have focused on the closet in that room.  Here is the original state of the closet.

And this is now.  I was able to discard almost everything that was originally on the top shelf.  I even found homeschool records from 2007, which is ridiculous!  There were also a whole bunch of homeschooling magazines that I am never going to read, though they were good the first time through. So out they go!

The closet now is jammed with clothes that are usually in the little girls' closet, which is empty because the trap door to the attic is in there.  See previous post for our Adventures with Animal.  So that part looks a bit messy, but when the clothes go back where they belong, there will be room for New Baby's clothing.

I found a bajillion things that belonged in other places, so cleared those things out.  The top shelf now has lots of "baby stuff" -- oatmeal based infant shampoo and lotion, some formula, etc.  (In an ideal world, I wouldn't ever need formula, but if I make it 3 months breastfeeding this baby, I'll be pleased.  I have had milk supply problems with the last 5 kids.)  The boys' bathroom closet is now in pretty good shape too and I have all the spare toothbrushes there. 

It is much better organized and I am pleased.

The counter top is now where it belongs. Isn't it gorgeous? 

Animal in the Attic

 3 nights ago, Kevin woke me up at 1:30 a.m. because he was hearing strange sounds.

 Kevin got out a flashlight and looked on the roof of our porch.  Nothing was there.  While he was downstairs, I heard a thumping noise and told him about it.  We eventually realized it was in the wall of our bedroom!  Ugh!  Animal in the wall, animal in the wall!

We pounded on the wall and it scurried upwards, so we think it is in the attic somewhere. Sigh.  Kevin put a trap in the attic and a trap outside on the front porch, but so far we've not caught anything.  I did hear it 2 nights ago as well, and Isaac heard it in his bedroom last night.

This is the trap on the front porch.  We put a food bowl in it at night, hoping that the attic animal CAN get out and will go to its normal food source. Not surprisingly, we just keep catching...cats.  I think every single one of our 6 cats has gotten trapped at least once, and Moonbeam (our fattest and most foolish) has been caught 2ce.

Ah well.

Stay tuned for the latest developments.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

I'm Hungry!

  Nothing like the hunger of later pregnancy!

  I tipped the scales at 153 lbs about a week ago when I went to the OB.  I told that to someone a couple of days and she looked rather horrified.  I wasn't upset about that, as she is of an older generation when doctors were obsessive about expectant moms not gaining much weight during pregnancy.  Now I think there is a clear understanding that while TOO much weight gain is unwise, it is detrimental for a woman to be restricted in calories to the point that she doesn't gain more than 20 lbs.  To be clear, some mamas gain less than 20 lbs and are fine, but it isn't a hard and fast rule that a mama should gain less than 20 lbs.  I usually gain between 30 and 35 lbs.

  All of our babies have been on the small side.  Our 6th child was a tiny 5 lb, 12 oz.  Our 8th child and 3rd boy was our biggest at 7 lb 4 oz.  I gained the most weight with that pregnancy and topped out at 173 lbs.   We'll see how big Baby #9 is.

  I have noticed my increase in appetite the last few weeks.  Since I'm diabetic, I have to prepare and have food that I can safely eat.  If I don't plan ahead and the hunger pangs hit, I am tempted to eat something I shouldn't.  A few days ago, I went nuts with a dessert I had made for the children. It was made of oatmeal, chocolate chips, coconut, coconut oil and peanut butter. It tasted awesome and I waited to taste it until it was almost finished, but once I took one bite, I was a goner.  I ate all the rest of it and sure enough, my blood sugar spiked. That really isn't Ok...I need to be careful for the baby's sake. It only went up to 150 after an hour but still, I don't like seeing it that high.

  I'm not one of those people who can eat "one bite" of something tempting. I'm an all or nothing kind of person.  If I have one bite of something delectable, I want MORE, MORE, MORE. So I avoid foods that make me want to go crazy. Doughnuts, chocolate pretzels, and other high carb foods are no-nos as I don't want the blood sugar spikes.

  Now to change the subject a little...though I'm still talking about food and weight gain.  I'm a fairly normal woman but I am probably rare in one way; in 44 years, I have never, ever, tried to lose weight. I'm guessing that sounds bizarre.  We live in a culture that is obsessed with weight and body image and I am not sure how I missed freaking out about weight and weight gain.  It helps that I'm naturally thin and all, but plenty of thin women still struggle with body image.

  When I was a child, I lived in South America for 3 years while my parents were missionaries.  I remember, even at age 10, being struck by the fact that in Bolivia (where we were), it was considered attractive for a woman to be plump.  That was because in Bolivia, most people were poor to the point that getting a little heavy was difficult.  Therefore, being plump meant your family was rich, and therefore it was prestigious. It may well be true that thin is in now in Bolivia, as many cultures are strongly affected by Western thought on that topic. But still, that realization that weight is partially cultural has helped me a lot.

  I'm all for being a healthy weight, but our culture is truly obsessive about what constitutes being attractive.  My heartfelt hope and prayer is that our children will have a wonderful body image as they grow.  Some of our kids are very thin, others are just thin. They are all healthy weights. We want them to live healthy lives, to exercise sensibly, and to not use food as an escape.  If we can achieve that in our culture, we'll be doing very well in the food arena.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Our Week

  I decided to have a "light" week of school.  The children are reading and doing experiments and putting puzzles together, and I am catching up grading and organizing. I meant to take a picture of ALL the paperwork that needed filing, but I didn't.  It was just too terrifying to record for all eternity.  MOST of it is put away now.


Ocean puzzle.

Miriam, with some help from her sibs, has been working through an electric circuit kit we have.  The kit has numerous diagrams for making various circuits.  One is a radio, one is a little fan, another just turns on a light.  To my astonishment, Miriam has put these circuits together with no help from me at all.  She definitely is one of our science/math kids.

This picture is notable.  Not because Daniel looks so CUTE reading a book -- he is always cute.  No, it is remarkable because he is SITTING STILL.

This is more typical of Daniel.  We have this rocking horse in our sun room, and he's figured out how to climb on and off of it himself.  That's awesome. It shows how much of a climber he is, though!  I don't think any of my toddlers have SO desired to scale the heights, and it makes it difficult to keep him safe.  We have to keep close track of him, which isn't easy with 7 older kids racing around and leaving doors open and hauling him here and there.  I pray often for his safety.
  Of course, we adore him through the roof. He is a great kid, but not very...wise.  Or sensible.
One charming development is that Daniel is getting super bonded to Kevin. He is very bonded to me too, but he LOVES his daddy (and his daddy's shoes!)  A couple of days ago, I got him out of bed and his first words were, "See Daddy!"  I love it.

Possum on the Porch

  The days are getting longer, and the wildlife is coming out from hidey holes.

 This possum graced us with his/her presence yesterday. We were rather startled, as it was wandering around our porch like it owned the place. Maybe THAT'S why the cat food disappears rapidly some days!

 After we banged the door and yelled at it, it walked off the porch and picked its way daintily across a snow field. 

  It seemed huffy about getting its feet wet.

  So, what is the future of this possum?  If it persists in hanging around, a quick death.  We don't like possums.  They eat chickens and their eggs.  We know from experience that predators have remarkable abilities to find ways into chicken yards and coops, and chickens are just SO dumb. This isn't a big possum and indeed some of the chickens are close to its size (with feathers) but could kill chickens.  No question.

  So run away, possum, run away from this place!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Thinking About...Esther and Joseph

From the Bible, that is...

I read parts of a book this week called "Hadassah: One Night With the King", a fictionalized novel based on the story of Esther.

I've read a few books based on Esther.  The Biblical record has many of the features necessary to make a great novel -- a beautiful girl, a powerful king, an unscrupulous and vicious enemy, and dependence on God that leads to the "day being saved" for the Jewish people.  It is a wonderful story, a powerful story.  I LOVE the Book of Esther from the Bible.

Having said all that, I wouldn't wholeheartedly endorse the Hadassah book. The author doesn't get too graphic but it is a very adult book with plenty of themes surrounding Esther's plight...and it was a plight.

All of the novels I've read based on this story take the stance that Esther was grabbed and forced into the harem of the king, and I think that is probably accurate.  This particular book delves into that whole issue quite a bit and I'll be honest, it is a stomach churning possibility. 

Esther sounds like...a romantic story.  A beautiful girl is plucked out of obscurity and becomes queen of an empire. Through her courage, and due to her position as queen, she saved her people from genocide.  That is awesome. That is God filled.

But...let me back up a bit and talk about what happened to Esther and scores of other young women.

From Esther 3

Each young woman’s turn came to go in to King Ahasuerus after she had completed twelve months’ preparation, according to the regulations for the women, for thus were the days of their preparation apportioned: six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with perfumes and preparations for beautifying women. Thus prepared, each young woman went to the king, and she was given whatever she desired to take with her from the women’s quarters to the king’s palace. In the evening she went, and in the morning she returned to the second house of the women, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch who kept the concubines. She would not go in to the king again unless the king delighted in her and called for her by name.

So, each woman spent a year in preparation, then went off and was forced to have sex with a pagan king who had slept with hundreds of women before her, and then (unless she was fortunate enough to really impress the king) was bundled off to the House of the Concubines for the rest of her days, without any hope of a normal married life or family.

Yuck.  Yuck, yuck, yuck, yuck.

In the Hadassah story I read, the author chose to say that Hadassah and the King genuinely fell in love.  I ... think that unlikely, honestly.  Obviously Esther (Hadassah) was gorgeous and for some reason the King really liked her, to the point that he made her queen. But in love?  In lust, maybe.  I kind of doubt that a man who could go through women like that could form a godly, close, intimate, soulmate relationship with any woman, even the woman who caught his fancy.

The king sickens me.  I know that his attitude was completely normal in that day and age.  He was ruler of a vast empire, and he believed that he was therefore more important than anyone else, and should have whatever he wanted whenever he wanted.   The women were treated quite well and I'm sure their lot was way better than some of the other women of that time.  But grab a woman and make her a concubine and then lock her away (even in luxury) for the rest of her days is disgusting.

So ... why did God allow it?  Well, that's the big question that haunts us all sometimes, I would guess. Esther's situation was better than some.  Millions of Christians (and Jews, and gypsies, and Russians, and a host of other people) have died unpleasantly in concentration camps and to jihads.  So I guess from that perspective, being a concubine who became the queen sounds pretty good.

I am not God so I don't know WHY He allows what He does.  I know there is evil and that God limits himself to allow human freedom.  No one has ever entirely explained evil and God's allowance of it, and I won't even try.

What did happen this week was that I made a mental connection to Joseph (the Genesis Joseph) as well. His story is actually somewhat similar to Esther's!  He was sold into slavery (by his brothers, no less!)  He was a slave, then a prisoner, then was raised to the position of being the 2nd in command to the Pharoah of Egypt. A decade after that, he saved his family from starvation. 

Again, rough life.  Rough, rough, rough life.  The 2nd in command part sounds cool and it was, but there was a whole lot of suffering before that.  His father Jacob, who adored him, was separated from him for 20 long years and thought Joseph was dead for most of that time.  Lots of suffering.

I think what I can carry away from both these stories is that 1.) God allows very hard things sometimes and 2.)  God can use very hard things for the greater good. That comes right out of Romans 8:28.

Romans 8:28

New Living Translation (NLT)
28 And we know that God causes everything to work together[a] for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

 I would definitely argue that not all things ARE good. They are not.  Some things are just downright bad and evil. But God can use ALL things for good. That is encouraging.