Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Drama Continues...

I like our lives to be orderly and in control.  9 kids makes that impossible.  9 kids plus multiple things breaking plus illness makes it triple impossible.  The sooner I am peaceful with being out of control, the better!

Seriously, I know God uses these moments to help me realize I am not in control and I need to depend on Him -- not our organization, our strength, our money, etc.  In a painful way, it is good.

Anyway, here is a litany of our woes:

Our computers have been acting up, especially our main computer and laptop.  Kevin has spent countless hours battling them into submission.  Late last night as I nursed Rose, he announced that he thought he had figured out the problem with the main computer.  He tried to explain it but I wouldn't understand it when I was most alert and it was 1:30 a.m. so I was not alert.

Our vacuum cleaner and microwave broke in the last few days.  The microwave on Christmas.  Kevin went out and bought a new one on Dec. 26th and installed it.  He was able to dissect the vacuum cleaner and connect to sides of a broken switch with the result that the vacuum IS working now -- it turns on whenever it is plugged in instead of a switch turning it off and on.

We probably have yet another illness making the rounds.  Daniel threw up a few nights ago, then Lydia got unhappily ill in the same way last night.

The very GOOD news is that I am feeling a whole lot better. I have turned a real corner -- breathing is Ok, cough minimal, more energy.  I can now shoulder more of the parenting load, which is good as Kevin is feeling terrible now :-(.

I had such hopes of getting a lot done with organization and cleaning and preparing for homeschooling next year.  I may get time this coming week but I realized this morning that while the organizing bug was upon ME, it wasn't fair to the kids to suddenly get all excited about cleaning and organizing and deculttering because THEY aren't feeling well now, many of them anyway.

We have a birthday today, had another one a week ago, and have yet one more on New Year's Eve.  Then the next family birthday is Daniel's, in May. We're heavy on birthdays towards the end of the year.  I'll post some pictures of our birthday celebrations when the main computer is accessible. Kevin is still toiling away on it.

I wonder what Daniel will be like at age 3.  He has calmed down just a bit and does fewer crazy things these days.  He has been really safe on the stairs.  Well, safe in the sense that he doesn't fall down them. I don't like watching him go down the stairs as he often carries items downstairs, and sometimes he JUMPS instead of steps.  Silly boy.

Sarah is in a phase herself.  She screams a lot.  There are certain traumatic events that happen repeatedly; for example, this morning she experienced the horror of being the LAST girl to leave her bedroom. Yes, her 2 older sisters LEFT HER BEHIND.  Naturally, she had to deal with it be screaming at the top of her lungs and waking up her father.  Because you know, you have to let it out.


Another sort of funny thing is the effect Rose has on Sarah. Sarah loves Rose. Loves, loves, loves, loves, LOVES Rose.  So that's good. But ... I was trying to come up with an analogy and was failing, and then Kevin and Naomi suggested that Rose is like a shot of caffeine or adrenaline to Sarah. Sarah gets weird around Rose.  She starts making high pitched squeals, she wants to kiss Rose's head, and pull on her arms and legs (fairly gently) and jump up and down, and get in Rose's personal space.  I have never seen anything quite like it before and we have many children!  Interesting that we still have new dynamics between our offspring at this stage in the game.

So, we don't have total control around here but life is interesting, and that is a blessing.

Please pray for us that we'd get over this illness or these illnesses.

And please continue to pray for my dear friend S. and her children, as they mourn the death of husband and father D.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Have I mentioned...

that our dishwasher is broken?

Yep, it went out about a week ago.

We called immediately to have a repairman come out (we have an extended warranty.)

We had to wait until Tuesday morning of this week (yesterday.)

As I totally expected, the repairman came (with his female coworker -- which was unusual as most repairmen seem to be male) and poked around for a while, only to announce that he didn't have the necessary part to fix it.

So it is being ordered.  And we still don't have  dishwasher.

It is not HUGE in the grand scheme of things, but with 11 people the dishes pile up quickly.

In the interests of helping me have a good attitude, I will note that my mother in law is having a problem with her drains so that her dishwasher and shower and clothes washer are all problematic right now.  That puts our little dishwasher issue in perspective.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Illness and Sorrow

I wait here for the baby to wake up. She's been sleeping 9 to 10 hours a night, bless her!  If she isn't up in 20 minutes, I'll get her up as the hordes will come down at 7 a.m. and I need to nurse her before then.

It has been a tough week. We've been sick.  I lost my voice entirely 2 days ago.  I had basically NOTHING all day.  That is not easy as mom of 9!  Fortunately, I have my big girls who can help run things. Fortunately, our older 6 children can read well so I could write notes.  Sarah, age 4, found Silent Mom the hardest as she cannot read yet.  She just kept asking the same questions, over and over, louder and louder. WHY isn't Mom answering?  It bewildered her.

Lydia did an amazing job of interpreting my waving arms and pointing when I was nursing Rose and couldn't write a note.  It was funny.

Yesterday my voice was sort of back, but if I talked too much, I started coughing. So I was still pretty quiet.  School has been out this week, but the kids have done some puzzles, some reading, some educational videos.

We've also learned more about grief. Last night, the 4 older girls and I went to the visitation for my friend's husband.  There were hundreds of people who came.  He was loved and admired by many in the community. His parents were there.  They've lost a son.  His brother was there.  His wife and children, now a widow and orphans.  It was hard.  It was sad.  It was wonderful to see the outpouring of love, but how we wish he was still here.

His wife wrote a wonderful blog post about her journey:

I have more to say but the bambino is waking.  May God bless you all. Give your loved ones an extra hug today. Let's not forget to appreciate the people in our lives.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Heartbroken for a Friend

Yesterday morning brought shattering news.  A dear friend lost her husband unexpectedly when he passed away during the night.  He was my age.

Now S. is a widow with 3 heartbroken children to care for.  The children range from age 8 to 12.  The girls are close friends with our girls.

I've been praying for them so much over the last 24 hours.  It reminds me again that life goes on day to day and then something happens and we realize that so many of the problems in life are quite trivial.  It reminds me to hug my husband and my children more, and not get so uptight about the little stuff.

Please pray for S. and her family.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Cuteness Personified

My mother made this matching blanket sleeper and hat for Rose.  And she made another one in yellow.  AND she made a Christmas stocking for Rose to go along with the other 10 she's made for the rest of the family.  Yes, I am GRATEFUL for a generous mother who sews!

Isn't Rose just the cutest thing?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Our Sweet Baby

  Our darling Rose has outgrown this little reclined seat and now is sleeping in pack and plays and cribs in various places in the house. I moved this seat out of our room, which means (sob) that she's really gotten (sort of) big since she was born.  But on the good side, we have room for the gifts flowing in from  Amazon and other online stores this week. Christmas is less than 2 weeks away, and we have 3 kid birthdays in the next 3 weeks as well!

Rose continues to be very popular.  She loves her big sisters and brothers too.  Naomi, Lydia, and Isaac are particularly good with her.

Sarah is BANANAS about Rose, and BANANAS is the operative word.  Sarah has been "blessing us" with a high pitched squealing lately.  It is very loud and a bit much in a family that is already heavy on the noise.  We finally figured out that she's trying to imitate Rose's high pitched squealing. But Sarah is louder.  All in all, the volume of sheer exuberance around here is intense sometimes.  But I am very thankful and delighted that everyone loves our little lady.  She surely is lovable.   

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Hitting a Wall on Homeschooling

This was a week when homeschooling just felt like too much.  I decided last weekend that we wouldn't do "normal" school so I could catch up on schoolwork, deal with some organizational requirements, and battle some paperwork.

Kevin was home on Monday and observed one of our kids having a "math meltdown".  I was working with this child individually as I knew some extra work was needed.  Kevin had some very helpful input into the situation. Sometimes as the children's primary homeschool teacher, I am too close to the situation to really see what needs done.

So Kevin's conclusion is that this kid needs a more "public school approach" to math.  I am a math "person" and it drove me NUTS in public school that we were drilled and drilled and drilled on stuff I knew COLD.  I was so bored much of the time. So in teaching our children, I've gone with a relatively low drill approach as I don't want the kids to be bored.

This has worked well with several children who are gifted in math. The child in question is NOT gifted in math.  And drill is necessary.  Another insight from Kevin is that the child needed instruction in a variety of skills because combining them all was too much. So we practiced erasing.  Seriously!  Because sometimes the error was erased plus other parts of the problem.  We practiced writing numbers in columns.  We had this child speak out loud what was going on in the head while doing problems.  The end result was that after a few days of work, there was great improvement.  So that is encouraging.  I'm sure more work will need to be done, more REVIEW will need to be done, but at least this kid is feeling encouraged and is able to do subtraction with borrowing consistently.

  Earlier today I was working around the house and had Isaac bring a bunch of K'nex to the main table.  4 kids gathered around and worked vigorously on putting together K'nex structures.  It was great  -- fun and educational. I love that!

  I am not sure what next week will bring in terms of homeschooling. I think I'll go with some formal school but not as much as usual. The following week we'll definitely be "off" as we celebrate 2 birthdays and Christmas.

One More Reason to Love My Kindle

I do LOVE my Kindle.  Dozens of good books in one small electronic device?  It is like heaven to someone who loves to read as much as I do.

I started using a special feature a few weeks ago, and have been having much fun with it.  If I carefully tap the screen and highlight a word, it'll pop up with a definition from some online dictionary.

I enjoy some of Georgette Heyer's romances and have read them over and over again.  In spite of my large vocabulary, she uses many esoteric and unusual words for which I don't know the meaning.  I have gathered from context what they PROBABLY mean, but I'm having much fun using the online dictionary when I run into a weird word.  Interestingly, the dictionary doesn't know some of the words either!  She definitely used a wide range of words and many of them were common during the period she is writing about (usually the Napoleonic War period) and aren't in common usage now.

So that's fun.  Love the Kindle.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Cogitations on Food

  There is a series of mystery books written by Rex Stout about a fictional detective named Nero Wolfe. The books were written for literally decades and then a new writer started writing them, so there have been Nero Wolfe's written off and on since the 1930's!

  Wolfe is an extremely eccentric, very overweight detective who loves orchids and food, and hates work and leaving his house. The books are written from the first person perspective of Archie Goodwin, Wolfe's trusty assistant who runs around collecting the clues to take home to Wolfe, who is a genius and figures out the mystery.

  A series of TV movies were made based on Stout mysteries and Kevin and I purchased the whole set. They are mostly very funny and lighthearted. (I should add there are some adult themes in the books and movies so I wouldn't just let a child watch all of them.)

  One of the recurring characters is Fritz, Wolfe's gourmet cook. Wolfe eats all the time and eats well, and Fritz is a foreign cook who spends most of his time in the kitchen whipping up delicacies.

  Usually when we watch a show, I whisper to Kevin, "I want a Fritz!"

  Because wow, having someone to COOK around here would be awesome!

  Well, I do have people that cook. I cook. Kevin cooks.  Kevin is doing a cooking class with our 2 older girls and THEY cook. They cook WAY better than I did at their age.  Ok, honest truth. I could hardly cook when I got MARRIED at age 27.  I've learned.

 Switching gears, there was a Facebook post from a friend who lives in Michigan whom I admire.  She is (in every good way) a health food nut.  She posted a picture of a child smoking a cigarette, along with a paragraph on the lines of "Yes, this is a horrifying image but WHY do so many parents give their kids refined sugar when it is more addictive than cocaine and just as bad as smoking."

  The paragraph was a forward so she didn't actually write those words.  I didn't delve into the whole "more addictive than cocaine" thing because that seems unlikely and I just want to focus on the main message, which is that lots of sugar is bad and parents shouldn't let their kids eat much of it.

 Well, let me talk about WHY good, caring, loving parents give their kids quite a bit of sugar.  Because I am a good, loving, caring mother who feeds her kids sugary breakfast cereal and lets them eat candy and cookies.

  Time.  It is All.  About.  Time.

  We have a money budget and the reality is that I have a time budget as well.

  9 kids. Homeschooling the older 6.  Nursing a baby.  Keeping a toddler from harming himself.  Dealing with a cranky 4 year old.  Staying emotionally connected to my husband and kids.  Running errands.  Dealing with paperwork.   Grading.  Preparing.  Working a few hours a week.

That is the reality.  Do I feel really good about the fact that my kids eat sugary cereal?  Well, I don't.  But when I think about the various options in my life, I am not finding the time to change our breakfast habits such that we never eat sugary cereal.  I COULD do it, but I'd have to drop something else.

 Lots of people say and believe that food is more important than almost anything in the sense that it has a huge effect on our health.  I agree it is really important. But the reality is that while we can keep cigarettes and cocaine out of the house, we do need to eat early and often around here.  The kids need fed!  And sometimes sugary cereal is what works. Now as I've recovered from Rose's birth, I am finding time to do different things SOME days.  We occasionally have muffins, fruit, french toast, and oatmeal. But often, we have sugary cereal.

I tend to be an all or nothing person but as I've gotten older, I have realized more and more that sometimes life will not be perfect in some area.  We have to give up our ideals at times (in non moral areas) because we don't have enough time or energy or money to do something "right".

So for now, I'm going to reluctantly keep serving such cereals some days.  Maybe as the kids get older and I am not so busy with the baby, and we have more cooks and bakers, we can improve breakfast even more.

A quick caveat -- I know that  obesity in kids is a serious issue and if our kids were dangerously overweight, we'd make necessary drastic changes.  We've spawned a race of skinny kids.  Almost all are on the thin side of normal.  We also avoid fast food most of the time and eat moderately healthy lunches and dinners most days.  I think we are doing ...Ok, where food is concerned.  We could be doing better.  I pray that with time we WILL do better. But I'm also not going to wrap myself in guilt because we're not eating as healthily as would be ideal.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Pictures of a Random Nature

I don't like new computer programs. I like to figure something out and use it forever.  But we got a new camera and the new camera doesn't work with Zoom Browser, our old photo manipulation program.

After some struggle, we found ACDSee.  I'm figuring out how to export photos properly and voila, here are a few random pictures.

What can I say.  She's cute, and has a handsome Daddy.

I'm part of a cleaning/decluttering book on Facebook and I take occasional pictures to encourage myself.  Here's the kitchen -- not perfect, but not horrible either.

This was taken on one of the rare days when Daniel was being pretty calm.  I don't know if he was sick or something, but THAT day he actually sat and quietly played with toys for a while instead of tearing around the house.  It was nice.  It didn't last.