Friday, March 27, 2015

Good-bye Rocket -- Blessings on Your New Home

So we had a cat named Rocket.  Black.  Handsome.  Strong.  Virile.

Ok, maybe not virile.  He was fixed.  He IS fixed.  He isn't past tense since he is very much alive and happy.

About 6 weeks ago, Rocket disappeared.  Kevin and I didn't notice, but Lydia did.  All our cats are outdoor cats and we have another black cat (though she is smaller), and the neighbors have at least one black cat who visits our food bowls.  So it isn't stunning that we "missed" his disappearance.

  A week ago, we got a mysterious phone call telling us that our microchipped cat "Snoop" had been found by a "Good Samaritan" and we needed to fetch him.

  Snoop?  Huh?  Microchipped?  Double huh?

  We sat on that for a couple of days. Then the people who found our cat called us.  Kevin again expressed bewilderment about the chipping thing.  Plus the people said the cat they found was a girl!

  At this point, we had a family conversation and figured out Rocket was missing. We also remembered that we got him from the Humane Society, who might have named him Snoop. And the Humane Society microchips their cats! The female thing was still confusing, but we decided to assume it was Rocket.

 And indeed it was.  We called the nice family who found him, and discovered they lived around the corner.  A vet said he was a girl but of course he is all boy.  Fixed boy, but all boy.

 So a few days ago, Rocket returned to the fold of our cats.

  For about an hour.

 He scarfed down some food, dubiously sniffed the other cats, and hightailed it back to the neighbors around the corner.

  No surprise.  The very kind, sweet lady said that not only had she brought Rocket inside, but she had bought him catnip toys.  She cuddled him and maybe sang to him.  Rocket very sensibly decided he WAY preferred the new digs.

 Today the nice lady called again and said she'd bring him back.  I asked her, after some conversational circling, whether she wanted to keep Rocket. The answer was an ecstatic yes. She obviously didn't want to steal our cat, to the point of actually having him checked for a microchip to find his real owners, but she really likes him and Rocket really likes her and her husband.

 So, new home for Rocket.

 And it really is a happy ending. We know he has a very good, happy home, and we don't have to worry about him traipsing back and forth between our house and theirs, and possibly getting hit by a car.

 So good-bye Rocket, blessings on your new home.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Random Pics from a Random Week

This is the time of year with wild temperature oscillations and precipitation changes.  It rained.

Then it was gloriously sunny.

Yesterday the high was the low 60's.

Saturday, the weather winkies are predicting a high of 34.  Wow.

     Rosy Posy is indeed scooting.  This picture shows her 2 feet from where she started.  Yes, it takes her 10 to 15 minutes to move a couple of feet, but the point is, she's MOVING.  And in a few short weeks, I know she'll be moving faster, maybe much faster.

    A couple of weeks ago, I talked with a lady at church whose son is now 14 months, but he started walking at 9 months.  None of our children have been early to walk and that makes me happy.

   Naomi pointed out correctly that our little people have probably learned to scoot on their bottoms first because they don't spend much time on their tummies.  Rose, like her sibs before her, is a powerful "spitter upper" and if she is on her stomach, she often spews like Mt. Vesuvius.  So I don't give her a lot of tummy time.  Her spitting up seems to be subsiding a LITTLE, though this morning she hurled (ok, graphic but true) after eating a baby rice puff.  

    Rose is also able to stand now, briefly, while hanging firmly onto something and with an older sibling "spotting" her.

  I will freely admit that our boy has a mom who dresses him funny. I don't take him out in public like this, but he needs to be warm!  The purple shoes were HIS idea.  Pink and purple are fine colors and in some cultures they've been very "manly."

   Cat ears.  Nuff said.

Monday, March 23, 2015

If It Weren't For This Homeschooling Thing...

I have been feeling frazzled lately.

I never have enough time to do everything I WANT to do.

A lot is going on.


I know I can do what the Lord God wants me to do.

Jesus had a bazillion people He COULD serve, but He always knew exactly what the Father wanted Him to do. And He did it.

But I'm so NOT Jesus. I don't hear God clearly all the time.  I tend to run in ruts.  Sometimes, probably often, I don't spend my time doing exactly what it is best to do.

The reality, though, is if I stress too much about doing "the best thing", I'll get wound up and not get anything done.  At some point, I just need to tackle SOMETHING on the to do list and get it done.

It is hard to know sometimes what to 'drop' when life is hectic.

Regarding school, I seriously think if I could just DROP school, we'd be good!  I could get (almost) everything I wanted done, and maybe fit in some extra Psych episodes too.  (Just discovered Psych.  I like it a lot, though it isn't always 100% kid friendly. But it is fun.  And as shows go, it is way friendlier than most.)

Of course, we can't drop school.

So what I am doing now is this.

We have 2 weeks of "normal" school where we toil away on school.

Then the 3rd week, I catch up on grading and we do more outside the home activities.

It is sort of working.

Have I mentioned I am busy?

Yes, I have.

Have I mentioned that Rosy Posy is starting to scoot and will soon be mobile?

Have I mentioned that Daniel took a flying leap from the 3rd step up the staircase today and crashed to the ground?

Have I mentioned that Sarah has been totally obsessive about Octonauts?

Have I mentioned that Joseph had a bewildered moment about multiplication?  (Which we worked through?)

Have I mentioned that I am frazzled?  And busy?

Have I mentioned that God loves me and will enable me to do what I should do?

I just need to rest in His strength and really really really not try to do it all in my own strength.

Because I can't.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Pain of Decluttering

11 people in the family means a bunch of stuff.

I am constantly working at decluttering and minimizing what we have in our house and in our lives.

I'm at the minimalist end of the spectrum so this comes easily in most areas, though one TOUGH area for me is books. I hate getting rid of books.

Our kids are all over but the kids over 6 like to keep things I don't want them to.  The younger ones have no choice about what I keep, and don't notice (generally) if something disappears.

Today we're working on removing items, and reorganizing, one of the bedrooms. The children in that bedroom deal with frequent allergy issues and there is a lot of dust in the room. There is enough stuff that it has proven impossible to clean it well.

So we're working to clear that room out so it can be a cleaner environment.

We also removed ALL the bedding and are washing and drying it. That's a big job too!

It is emotional and challenging to get rid of precious items, but a clean room is a great thing.

The pile of bedding and stuffed animals we threw down the stairs to be washed and/or dried today.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Thinking about Retirement

Kevin sent me a link to an article this week.  The basic gist is that a very wealthy guy, I think the Google CEO, is planning to retire at age 52.  He said he wants to spend time with his wife after 30 years of barely seeing her because of his intense career.  They are going to travel the world.

Most people can't do that, of course, which was the major point of the writer of the article.  This dude hasn't really balanced work and family life successfully. He has worked and worked and worked and joked that while he and his wife have been married 30 years, they've spent so little time together that it is like they are relatively newly married. Sad.

So anyway, that sparked some thoughts of my own about retirement from work.

I have long had the view that retirement isn't a de facto given for anyone.  During most of human history, people didn't expect to spend the last 20 or 30 years of their lives basically doing nothing.  Or at least, they didn't have the financial resources to spend their golden years travelling and doing fun things.

I still think it is kind of weird that a person can work from age 21 to about 62, which is a little over 40 years, and then spend 30 years goofing off.  How does that even WORK?

I also used to have sort of a "nose in the air" attitude about how Christians should be focused on doing God's work and we shouldn't worry a lot about retirement because God might call us to work later into our lives.

So I wondered why Christian financial gurus emphasized saving for retirement so much.  Is retirement even Biblical?  The only situation in the whole Bible which seems to talk about retirement is in Numbers or something, where the Lord directed the priests to "retire" at age 50.  They had fairly strenuous jobs involving killing animals and sacrificing them, so I wonder if sheer physical frailty was the reason for that directive.

Well, I admit I've changed my views somewhat.

I still believe Christians should be open to working for money in a job if the Lord directs, even if they are old.

I still believe Christians should not focus exclusively on personal pleasure for the last years of their lives.  There are obviously crying needs all over and a retired person, if healthy, can meet a few of those needs.  My parents, who are retired, do many tasks for their church that younger, working families cannot.  And that is great.

BUT I do believe saving for retirement is wise, IF POSSIBLE.  It isn't possible for everyone, obviously.

We know a dear lady who is past retirement age and still working.  Due to some life circumstances beyond her control, she doesn't have the financial resources to stop work yet.  I believe with all my heart that working later in life can be a FINE thing.

But the reality is that as we age, many of us start experiencing more physical problems. This lady does have some physical challenges -- not severe, but starting to be there.

There is another man that we both know who recently HAD to retire due to health issues. He really did not want to yet, but he just couldn't keep working.

So here are 2 people who aren't elderly (I think of elderly as being past 80 at least) but for whom retirement has its financial challenges.

I'm 45 years old and quite healthy, but I don't feel like the spring chicken of my youth, for sure!  I have aches and pains not that were not around when I was 25.

I'm guessing when I turn 62, I'll be a little frailer than I am now.

I mention 62 because Rose will be 18.  I will likely be done with homeschooling and can "retire" from that job.

It is so far off I don't think of it often, and of course homeschooling isn't a paid job.  But my husband is working full time and yes, we're saving for his retirement.  We'll see how all that pans out since we had a bunch of kids, 3 of them while we were in our 40's!

I appreciate that sometimes the passionate beliefs of my youth often given way to more pragmatism as I grow older and wiser. That's a good thing.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pics with a baby in my left arm

Little text, cute pics

Cute baby

Working on art for an art benefit.  More on that later.

Tons of fog from a few days ago.

Lovely weather so kids were outside enjoying it!

Our 3 boys enjoying the heater.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

We're Like a Semi Truck

I have never driven a semi and I don't want to.

I know this.  They are big, they are long, and they don't turn on a dime. They also take quite a while to stop after the brakes are applied.

I read a story about a truck driver who was coming down a long hill to a bridge, and there was an unexpected traffic stoppage.  He knew he COULD not stop in time to avoid hitting stopped cars, so he deliberately veered off the bridge into the water.  And survived, by God's grace.

Ok, we're not planning on diving into water or anything. I do have a point.

The point is this.  A family of 11 has a lot of inertia.  We don't shift quickly. We don't dance like a butterfly and sting like a bee.  We don't do well with sudden changes in schedule.

I sometimes feel like I've got 3 or 4 rocks attached to my ankles that slow me down every time I want to go somewhere with the children.  Our big children can get shoes on and grab their stuff and get in a car without too much trouble.  But even then -- if we take our older 5 kids somewhere by themselves (not that we've done that recently) it takes TIME to get everyone situated in the car.  When the littles come too -- wow, we really have to plan!  We have to get diaper bags prepared and find lost shoes and make sure everyone is properly attired.

So ... we do not do well with changing our plans. We don't do well with impromptu opportunities.  We really have to think about EVERY little idea.

I know some of us find that frustrating. I wish I could be more casual about what we do outside the house, but we can't.  It is our season.

But God knows that and I trust that we can do what we are supposed to do as a family.  We have to say no to some things, but that's Ok.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Totally Weaned Little One

  Now is that cuteness, or WHAT?

 So yes, this little girl is totally weaned now. I nursed her for the last time 2 mornings ago and I can tell I'm 95% dried up.

  I can also tell that I made the right decision. She wasn't getting enough milk. She is sleeping better, seems happier, and is producing wetter diapers.  She is also sucking down formula very quickly and, I believe, is gaining weight like she should.

 So good call.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Eating For One

  It occurred to me 2 days ago that I am essentially "eating for one" now, after 18 months of eating for 2.  During pregnancy, I had relatively little trouble eating appropriately to sustain a little growing baby.  After Rose's birth, I knew I needed to eat and drink early and often to maintain milk supply so I got in the habit of snacking frequently, often on chocolate!

  So now I'm nearly done weaning Rose and I'm thinking...hmmm...I need to not eat just for the sake of eating. I've always been one of those annoying souls who loses weight easily, and I don't generally eat "for fun". And I'm diabetic, which limits what I can eat.  And I'm moderately active as I tear around the house chasing children.  So I hope I won't gain a bunch of weight from snacking randomly.

  I keep remembering something that Mary Lou Retton said (for those of you who are too young to recognize her name, she was a Olympic gold medal winner in gymnastics when I was a child).  Her gymnastics regimen was so physically demanding that she ate a CRAZY amount and stayed thin as a rail. After she retired from gymnastics, she had to totally adjust her eating habits so she wouldn't gain a lot of weight.

  So I need to be self controlled and wise as I eat for one now.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Fun in the Snow

  February had several bitterly cold snaps.  The children weren't able to play outside much because I didn't want frostbite.  Yep, mean Mom. That's me.

  A few days ago, the temperatures were reasonable and the snow was piled high, and Lydia kindly agreed to take Daniel out for the first time this winter.  Yes, first time.

  Toddlers in the snow are a pain.  They love it, but they lose mittens and fall over and all that jazz.  So I just don't take the littles out much (obviously.)

  I think 6 kids went out, and they had a great time.


      Kevin spent a couple miserable hours earlier in the week plowing snow, which produced a giant snow pile.

     Daniel was only out for a short time before, sure enough, he lost his mittens.  Lydia brought him in.  He was pretty cold but fine.  And he enjoyed his sojourn into the elements, and slept very well that night.

  Today it is snowing again -- weather forecast is for 3 to 5 inches but I suspect we may get more.  In a couple of days, the temperatures will rise and everything will melt. So in the next 2 days, I'd better get those kids outside to play again.  

  We're ready for spring but I am thankful for winter fun.

Weaning Rose

  I am in the process of weaning Rose.

  Not an entirely easy decision, but I've prayed and believe it is the right thing to do.

  She is 8+ months old.  That isn't very old to stop nursing, but I only nursed Daniel 3 months so I am actually VERY proud of nursing her this long.

  I've talked about my breastfeeding issues before on this blog.  I've had milk supply issues with the last 6 kids.  Starting with Joseph, I didn't seem to have enough milk at some point, though I was fine at birth.  Joseph nursed 7 or 8 months, I believe, Miriam 6 months, Angela 10 months, Sarah 9 months, Daniel only 3 months, and Rose will probably nurse for the last time this week at 8+ months.

 With Rose, I've worked very hard at maintaining milk supply.  I have drank and drank and drank water and herbal tea. I've eaten early and often. I've added steel cut oats to my diet (even though they are a bit hard on blood sugar levels.)

  In the last couple of weeks, I've noticed how little milk I seem to have.  Rose has started biting me with her 2 sharp teeth, I think partly out of frustration.  I have been supplementing with formula (now that Rose will drink out of a sippy cup -- she hasn't taken bottles for several months) and last night, after I nursed her, she sucked down 3 oz of formula.

  She also is not gaining weight well.  I don't have an infant scale but we have a good digital scale and I've been weighing myself, then myself with her, and done the advanced math.  She is measuring about 15 lbs, which isn't very much for her age.  She is definitely falling on the weight chart.  Sarah went through a season between 6 and 9 months where she was NOT getting enough food and I was horrified to discover at her 9 month well child checkup that she had only gained a pound in 3 months.  With Sarah, I started supplementing with formula and she made it clear by her eager acceptance of it that she was HUNGRY.  I felt so badly.

  One of the challenges of our kids is that they don't act like NORMAL babies.  A normal baby, when hungry, would probably start waking up at night crying for food. Right?  Not my kids. They are all enthusiastic sleepers and Rose is sleeping 10+ hours a night.  She is also a mostly happy baby and smiles much of the time, like in that adorable pic at the top of this post.   She isn't acting hungry and she still has regular wet diapers, but she looks thin to me.

  I have thought so much about the issue of breastfeeding.  In centuries past, a mom who couldn't nurse her baby would often lose her baby.  It was hard to provide good alternatives without refrigeration and modern processing methods.  Some rich moms would even hire someone to wet nurse her baby if she could not or chose not to breastfeed.

  We are blessed to live in a time and place where "good" formula is available.  And by good I mean, the child can live and thrive on it.  It is safe.

 Having said that, I know that breastmilk is much better than formula for a variety of reasons. One biggie is that Mom is passing on her antibodies to baby through the milk. Rose has been remarkably healthy this winter in spite of much family illness, and I am guessing she has benefited by ME getting sick first.

 So I admit there is some guilt here about weaning Rose. Part of me thinks I should be able to make this work, I should be able to maintain milk supply for a few more months. Realistically, perhaps I could have done something different but then would have had to neglect other important priorities.  I AM an old mom, I DO have 8 older kids who need care, and we really like that the baby is sleeping through the night (so we're not keen on her waking every 3 hours to nurse at this age.)

  So, good-bye mommy guilt.  I am thankful for Rose, and thankful for 8 months of nursing her.  On to a new era in our lives.