Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Very Minor Epiphany (About Clothes Shopping)

  I heroically took Lydia to Kohl's this week.

 I say heroically because I usually dislike clothes shopping.

  And I had a minor epiphany this week about WHY!

  You know what is wrong with department stores?  They aren't organized properly!

  Here I am, a size 12-ish 45 year old woman.  All I want to do is find clothes that fit me.

 But can I?  Can I?  NO...everything is spread out in a bewildering way!  What is the method?  What is the scope?  What is the sequence?

  Is it by fashion designer?  That does me NO good.  I don't know which designers I like.  I don't know anything about designers.

  Is it separated such that all sales items are in one area of the store?  No, not really.  How about by size?  No.  How about having all the pants in one area?  No.  How about having all the inexpensive lines in one area of the store, and the more expensive clothing lines in another area?  No.

  It doesn't make any sense.  It is inefficient. I find it extremely annoying.

  And maybe that is why I do somewhat enjoy Goodwill shopping.  Because Goodwill, and St. Vincent De Paul thrift stores ARE arranged more by size and type of clothing. I can just briskly go through a certain size of, say, short sleeved shirt and maybe find something I like.

  Obviously I'm weird.  Most women enjoy shopping.  They don't treat clothes shopping like a hunting expedition. For most sensible women, shopping is an experience. A fun one.

  But not me.  The older I get, the more I'm into efficiency.  The older I get, the more I want items organized so I can quickly and easily find them, bag them, and take them home (after paying, of course.)

  Of course, I know I'm not the whole world and I don't expect the world to cater to my unique (oddball) personality.

 I just feel better knowing why the vast array of clothes in Kohl's makes me want to run for the exit.

Gettin' My Exercise

       Honest truth.  She's not very heavy, but after half an hour of carrying her around, I was TIRED!!  But it was great exercise.


  Can't you just see the little wheels turning in her head?

 "How DO I get over the one inch lip of this baby gate!  Once I figure that out, I can RULE THE WORLD!!!"

  Little does she know, the gate can be locked.

  Let her dream, our sweet little megalomaniac.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Learning from Haiti

  Church has been great the last couple of weeks.  Our pastor is preaching on spiritual warfare and while Kevin and I both have learned quite a bit about spiritual warfare in the past, some of what Pastor Jeff is teaching is new to us.

  At the end of last Sunday's service, a missionary from Haiti got up and gave us a short presentation on Haiti.

  I think mostly people know that Haiti is in deep trouble. The government has been unstable for a very long time and hunger and poverty are rampant.  Then in 2010, there was a horrible earthquake and many died.  Many who were hovering on the edge of disaster tumbled over the edge.  Many are still homeless, many children were orphaned, and an already inadequate infrastructure came even more unstuck.

  This missionary who spoke has been affiliated with our church for more than 20 years.  He works with orphans and other poor children.  He showed pictures of their living quarters, with a leaky roof that was only fixed recently when a mission team came from the US to fix it.  He talked about how  over 100 children get 2 hot meals a week from their ministry, and for some kids that is the only hot meals they get at all, ever.

  It was, of course, shocking and saddening.

  And I got a reality check.

  I know about poverty and 3rd world living. I spent 3 years of my childhood in Bolivia, South America, and I saw poor and sick people there.  We were wealthy compared to most Bolivians we knew, but missionaries are relatively "poor" compared to most Americans.

  I am certainly guilty of taking many things for granted, like electricity and running water and food and clothing and shelter and heat in winter and AC in summer. But I do think about those things, often. I still remember Bolivia well. There were many great things about my time in Bolivia, but I did miss hot water, a lot.  I do relish consistent electrical service now, as we didn't have electricity all the time when I was a child in Bolivia.  I enjoy air conditioning. So I am grateful.  I do thank the Lord often, daily, for the blessings of my comfortable American life.

  What really hit me was how grumpy I've been about doctor appointments and shopping lately.  So a few times a year, we have a cycle where I am trundling kids off to medical appointments a lot. Right now I'm taking kids to the eye doctor.  We have 5 kids who are currently in glasses, but they all get checked, every year.  Rose will be checked for the first time in about a month.  4 kids have been checked, and I have 5 more to go.  Or is it 5 down, 4 to go?  I can't remember.

  I also took 2 kids to get allergy testing in the last 2 weeks.  One of them is having asthma problems and the other is going on allergy shots.

  In a couple of months, I need to take the older 7 to the dentist, which will take a few days.

  Medical appointments aren't the ordeal they used to be, because I can leave most kids home with a big girl.

 Still medical appointments make an always busy week EVEN busier.  And the kids don't appreciate them, or like them (usually.)  That's logical.  Who LIKES going to the dentist?  Who LIKES going to the eye doctor and having his or her eyes puffed with the little thingie that checks for glaucoma.  So I'm doing it because I'm a good mom and I love my kids and I want potential problems found.

  But I don't get accolades or thanks from the kids, and they are boring or annoying trips.

  And then I think of Haitian mothers, who love their kids but can't take them to the doctor because no doctors are available and they wouldn't be able to pay them if they were available.

  I think of our sweet 4 year old Sarah, who would be close to blind up close without her glasses.  She is very far sighted with a bad astigmatism to boot.  I don't think she'd ever learn to read without glasses.  If she takes off her glasses, her eyes immediately cross as she struggles to try to focus.  So without glasses, she would look odd, not read well, and would almost certainly develop amblyopia.  I'm so blessed that we live where there is good medical care and we can afford glasses and doctor visits.

  Shopping is of course a corollary.  Kevin used to do most of the grocery shopping but his job has been more demanding so I've been going to the grocery store more in the last few months.  I don't like shopping in general and grocery shopping in particular so I'm always vaguely annoyed when I need to go.

  And then I step back.  A whole building FULL OF FOOD.  Food from all over the world. Food that I can buy with the swipe of a credit card. Food I can pay for, easily.  Food that I can use to feed our children.  Food that makes me know my kids won't cry themselves to sleep from hunger.

  I don't understand the world and why some people are blessed materially like we are, and some people struggle mightily to the point they don't even have enough to eat.

  I do know this. I need to be thankful and grateful and full of joy for doctors and food and enough money to care for our family.

  I'm grateful. And next doctor appointment, I'm going to work on having a really great attitude.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Assessments and Testing

I'm not doing "normal" school this week as I'm pulling everything together for our annual homeschool assessment next week. That's an Ohio requirement. There needs to be some kind of assessment to "prove" to the powers that be that the kids are making reasonable academic progress.

 There are 3 options, but the 2 most popular are either standardized testing or having each child's work looked over by an Ohio certified teacher (known as a teacher assessment).

We've always taken the assessment route.  I rather enjoy looking at what we've accomplished each year, plus this way I don't need to deal with trucking the kids back and forth to our local homeschool group's standardized testing. For the record, I very much appreciate the hard work of the group's leadership in putting testing together. BUT, it is administered over 3 days, and it is 25 minutes away one way, and a parent has to be present to help out. That just doesn't work for me as I can't leave the young ones home alone (of course!) and my big ones would be taking the test!

However, Naomi and I ARE talking testing.  She has taken very few tests in her life, and in particular has not taken standardized tests.

But we are inkling towards college.  Shocking, but true.  Our precious eldest is 15!!

So the ACT, at least, is in her fairly near future.  Maybe even this coming fall for a first attempt?  I can also order an Iowa test and administer it to her at home..  (I could do that with all the kids, but I would need to administer it correctly and think that might be hard in a home full of screaming toddlers.  Naomi can go off by herself and block out the world, but the younger ones -- not so much.)

Naomi is an good student and I'm sure will do fine on the Iowa and ACT, but there is no doubt that it helps to have good test taking strategies in addition to just basic knowledge.  Naomi hasn't, for example, EVER filled out a bubble chart in taking a test. That is one simple skill she'll need to practice.  It is something a 7 year old COULD do, but you have to know the procedure in order to avoid silly mistakes.

One other HUGE thing on my mind is this; it is not very important to me that our kids do amazingly well on standardized tests.  I don't anticipate our kids will attend super selective colleges because mostly, super selective colleges annoy me.  I always visualize their collective buildings and bell towers holding up their snooty noses in the air while charging people $30,000 or more per year to attend their hallowed halls.

I attended Michigan Technological University to get my bachelor's degree, and I mostly liked the atmosphere.  It is a smallish engineering college way in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and has a "working class" air to it.  The buildings are fairly close together so people don't have to walk too far in the arctic blasts of the long winter.  There are no bell towers.  The gardening is minimal, since winter covers the land most of the time normal classes are in session.   Tuition was (and I believe still is) moderate, and the teaching was excellent.  I mostly had real professors teaching my class, not hapless graduate students. And I was a grad student later, and I taught, and I was probably decent at it, but some grad students just aren't any good.  I guess some profs aren't any good either, but at least it is more in their job description to teach than a grad student.

Then I went on to the University of Michigan to get my PhD.  And let me tell you, UM is snooty.  I think I've pontificated about that before but it just irritated me.  If anything, UM has only gotten MORE snooty.  They don't accept most students and give the general impression that acceptance to UM is some kind of signal honor and we should fall on the floor with gratitude if we are so blessed.  There are good things about UM, but there are bad things too.  It annoys me that many undergrads get LOTS of classes taught by graduate students (many of whom don't speak English well) while the profs hide away in their offices and labs doing research.  Now don't get me wrong, there were some great profs at UM and I appreciated my time there, but to say that the UM experience is 3 or 4 times "better" than a college 1/3rd of the cost is inaccurate, in my not so humble opinion.

So unless something miraculous happens, our kids will not be going to UM, even though their parents and their grandparents (on my side) attended UM.

We'd rather the children went to a practical, sensible, fairly low cost school than to a UM. And practical, sensible, low cost schools usually don't require stellar ACT or SAT scores.

So we'll work on teaching test taking strategies, but I'm not going to freak if the kids don't do amazingly well.

Now one other issue is that high standardized test scores CAN improve chances of merit scholarships. So...yeah...that's a factor.  We're still sorting all this out in our heads but I'm still not going to stress too much.  They are just tests.  And tests are not "real life". They are not a reflection of the value of our children.  They are somewhat important, but not amazingly important.  We'll work hard to keep them in their place.

Saturday, April 18, 2015


  There is no doubt I watched a lot of TV as a child.  I loved TV and especially loved superhero shows. I was born in 1969, so Batman, Spiderman, and Wonder Woman were staples of my early childhood years.

  Nowadays, super heroes are often substantially "edgier".  I appreciate that the superheroes of the 1970's were straight forward noble, though I realize they were also one dimensional.

  We are cautious about how much, and what, our children watch in the way of television.  We don't watch network television except for rare sporting events.  We have Netflix and allow some kids' programming and a few adult programs, but we're very careful.  I have found Netflix and DVD's to be a wonderful alternative to "normal" TV, because we watch what we want, when we want. We don't center our lives around when our "show" is on.  It is definitely a very different world from my early childhood, when no recording devices existed.

  Not surprisingly, perhaps, my fond memories of some childhood shows made me want to share those shows with our kids.  In some cases, I realized that the shows in question had dubious moral issues. Sometimes we just decided against a show, sometimes we talked through the issues.  Our kids have watched a few Wonder Woman episodes, for example.  She is smart, noble, and  caring but oh, that outfit. We've had many discussions about that outfit.  Not modest.  There is also the whole Greek mythology thing to contend with.  But I have allowed the kids to watch some of the WW episodes.

  But Batman was off limits, because Batman wasn't available on DVD, nor was it streamed  well from anywhere.  I have very fond memories of Batman, with the utter campiness, the silly "Pow" and "Biff" fights, and the ridiculous contraptions.  But there were apparently legal issues with putting Batman on DVD, so it languished in no man's land for decades.

 Earlier this year, it finally came out. The entire season was, drum roll please, $150.  I am not kidding.  $150!!!

  That was TOO much.  I actually had a pang of longing to buy them (like I said, fond memories) but quickly pulled myself together and decided firmly NO. 9 kids.  Gotta be careful financially.

  And then the library got them!  Problem solved. We ordered a couple of disks.  Our eldest 2 sons like them a lot, in particular.  I am surprised to note that some of the bad guys have immodestly dressed female sidekicks, but Batman always pontificates to them about turning away from evil, which is at least a good message.

  So I'm enjoying "sharing" Batman, without spending any money out of pocket. Win-win.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Fun Pictures

I'm a horse!  Or a pony.

I took the children to a nearby park for the first time. It was wondeful.

Daniel is our intrepid climber.


FIRST time on a seesaw, I think.  Awesome.

Update on Facebook Limits

I wanted to mention that my decision to not look at Facebook 3 days a week was definitely a good move.  It is hard to NOT look at FB on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, but I get more done those days.

I also am more careful on the other days to not just mindlessly surf Facebook.  I'm more cautious about wasting time on it.

So good call. It is hard sometimes to stay off of it when I'm tired and worn out but for me, this is a good decision.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Our House

This is our house.

This is our giant porch, covered in bicycles and toddler scooty toys.

             I really like our house.  I am extremely thankful that the Lord led us to this place.  It is big (5000 square feet if we include the basement!)  It is on quite a bit of land, so the kids can run around.  It has a pool, so we can teach our kids how to swim without hauling them off to the Y.

           But let me tell you about another house I like.  A couple of weeks ago, I visited a family from church who live in an A frame house about 30 minutes from us.  

            The A frame is SO different from ours, and I enjoyed touring it.  Our previous home to our current one was a Cape Cod and the upstairs of the Cape Cod had weird angled ceilings and lots of character. This A frame was the same except that the weird ceilings extend down to the first floor as well.  The living room is quirky. The upstairs bathroom is cool, with a skylight and oddly shaped ceiling. I liked it.  A lot.

          But I don't want an A frame. I want our house, because our house, while boring, is extremely efficient. Our house is a big rectangle.  We don't have a fancy roof line, or a 2 story entrance hall, or a turret (we used to joke we wanted a turret in our house.)

          If we had a smaller family, we might go with quirky.  But given that there are 11 of us roaming around, I value easily accessible floor space.  I value simple rooms where we can put up bookshelves without worrying about roof lines.  I appreciate a big attic where Kevin was able to put all kinds of insulation to reduce our overall heating costs.

        So I'm at the stage in life where I love looking at neat or quirky homes, but give me simple. And big.:-).

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

And...She's Mobile!

A friend visited this week and brought her 5 younger children, including a 7 month old baby boy who is crawling and pulling up.

I don't know if little M. inspired Rose or not, but in the last couple of days, Rose became mobile.

She doesn't crawl. She scoots on her bottom.  So far she isn't really fast but she can get anywhere she wants.

Mobility is always exciting but also super exhausting.  We are now going through the house, removing small choking hazards from the main rooms.  Kevin put up a baby gate today, which will help us keep Rose in our family room when we are busy and need her in a safe place.

So yes, it is super exciting.  Rose is mobile!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Growing Weary

Galatians 6:9New International Version (NIV)

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

  The Bible is full of great verses.  The one above has always seemed wise, but I didn't really understand it well.  I am a very compulsive, hardworking person and I didn't understand "growing weary of doing good."  I could imagine being lazy, or selfish, or sinful, which would lead to "not doing good".  But what does "growing weary" have to do with it?

I am now 45, and I understand.  Let me talk about ONE LITTLE THING -- fights between little people.

We have 9 children.  The first six each had ABOUT 18 months gap between successive babies.  Then between our 6th and 7th baby was a 3+ year gap (with 3 miscarriages between those births.)  #7 and #8 are 18 months apart again, and then #8 and #9 are just a bit over 2 years apart.

So we've had many 18 month gaps.  I don't know if that gap is particularly significant, but it sure seems like little people with that age span fight a lot.

So Sarah and Daniel are fighting a lot.  They quarrel over toys. They scream.  They hit.

And I've done this before.  Oh, so many times. I am weary of dealing with it constructively and wisely.  I just wish they'd get along.  They are so immature!  What is with that?  It is like they toddlers and preschoolers or something!  Oh right, they ARE toddlers and preschoolers.

I know in my brain that this is totally age appropriate behavior. They are learning boundaries, and learning to share, and learning that life does not revolve around them.  Great lessons.  Wonderful lessons.  Valuable lessons.

And I need to not grow weary in doing good. I need to keep working with my little ones just as well as I worked with our older ones when they were that age.

But I confess I'm at the point where I know more than ever that I need the Lord's strength to be a good mother in this area.  I'm just tired of it.  I don't want to deal with it anymore. I just want them to get along.  Barring that (which is impossible) I sometimes just want to let their interactions run a natural course. But the natural course is that the big one hits or hurts the small one and gets the toys in question, which isn't a good result.  So every time it happens, I need to pick myself up and deal with it.  Constructively and wisely.

Only God can give me that strength.  And He does.  And I know He will.  We've still got Rose coming up the pipeline and in a year she'll probably be screaming and hitting.  

Lord, please give me the strength to be a consistent, loving, wise, CONSISTENT mother.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Limiting Facebook Time

I joined Facebook many years ago when a friend's daughter was critically ill and she was posting updates on FB.

At the time, I was nervous it would take up too much time.  I have many many home responsibilities, and (like many people) am sometimes tempted to avoid some of my responsibilities by doing something fun.  I was concerned that FB would prove a significant temptation to waste time foolishly.

I was right.

And I was wrong.

Let me talk about why I was wrong.  FB really has been a blessing to me in keeping me in contact with many friends.

I am home a LOT.  A lot.  I find getting out with our 9 children to be challenging, so we don't go on frequent field trips or playdates together.  We also have a tremendous amount to do at home. Just keeping the clothes clean and under control, and cooking for the masses, and doing the daily housework, is a big job for all us "big people".  And by big people, I mean Kevin and me and the older 6 kids.

So wow, to have access to my friends on FB is a blessing.  It really is!  I have found friends whom I've not seen in decades.  It is so neat to keep in touch and know what is going on in their lives.  It is great that I can keep up with local friends whom I see occasionally, but not often.

I don't have hundreds of "friends", but I believe I have between 100 and 200 now. I'm also part of several FB groups, including Ohio homeschooling groups with members who provide ideas and feedback for homeschooling moms like me.

All this is awesome but yes, it can be a HUGE time sink.

I was reading a book on busyness a few weeks ago, and felt convicted of, yes, my Facebook time.

We have a couple of hours during the day which are Arsenic Hours (I like the way that phrase rolls off the tongue though of course it wouldn't if the "h" in hours wasn't silent.  But Arsenic Hours...all those lovely vowels.)

Ok, back to the blog.

There are times in the late afternoon and evening when our littles are nuts.  They are cranky, noisy, and whiny.  They scream a lot.  They are tired, but it isn't quite bed time. Or they are a little hungry, and dinner isn't ready yet.

Those are the times when I want to shut out the world as much as possible, and surf Facebook while I'm cuddling a cranky little person.  I feel like I can't even accomplish a TASK during those times because the littles are so difficult.

BUT, but, but, I can spend more face to face time with a Little (or a Big) during that time.

I can probably go downstairs with a cranky Little or two and work on an organizational project down there.


So I felt I should limit my FB time, and came up with a near instant solution.

No Facebook on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. At all.

I know myself too well. If I just thought "well, I'll spend less time on Facebook", I would have trouble analyzing "less time".  So this is simple.  If it is MWF, I don't check FB at all.

I've been doing it for a little more than a week, and it IS good. I can still interact with my FB friends 4 days a week, but the other 3 days I am definitely getting more done.

So this is a good compromise for now.  If God pokes me to reduce my FB time even more, I will.