Tuesday, September 29, 2015

It's the Little Things

   We try not to pointlessly add more "stuff" to our lives.  With 11 people in the house, it is a constant battle to not be overloaded with stuff.

  So, I seriously thought about buying this bib (and the other 4 that came with it) for months.  What is wonderful about these bibs?  Well, they have SNAPS.  3 of them.  That all fasten at once.

  Rose considered bibs her mortal enemy. We would put one on, and she would pull it off. We worked on training her to leave them on, but I'm busy and often she would get it off and then smear food all over herself and her clothing.  That of course meant she was a horrible mess and she often had to be changed.

 Finally, I broke down and got these bibs with snaps.

  And voila, she is now significantly cleaner at meal time.  She can't get these off. And since she can't, she's decided that life really is Ok with a bib on, and is at peace.

  I'm all for being thoughtful about new purchases, but sometimes something like bibs makes a big difference in reducing my workload.

Goofy Mom

  I'm not usually goofy. I'm a serious person by nature, and rarely just let loose and do something remotely crazy.

 But Kevin's mom brought over some funny costumes from her basement, and I tried on the clown costume to see if it fit me (answer -- yes, but it is a little on the small side.) Then I put on the wig and voila, Goofy Mom.

  The funniest reaction was Rose's.  She would stare intently at my face, then shoot a nervous look the crazy wig, then stare at my face, then look at the wig.  It was clear that the face and voice and smell were all familiar, but that wig freaked her out a bit. But there was no crying, so I danced into the living room for a picture before taking off the clown costume. 

 Normal Mom was back, and that relieved her little mind.

As a little postscript to the adventure, I put on the costume in the evening to show to Kevin. His response was a shocked look and "you look terrible".  :-)  I wasn't insulted because...I really did look terrible. I am not a clown person.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Book Review: Between a Rock and a Grace Place by Carol Kent

  This is the second book I've read by Carol Kent.  Her story is a sad and challenging one, but she has managed to find contentment in life and blessed many people through her books.

  The first is When I Lay My Isaac Down, which describes the incarceration of her only child, Jason, for first degree murder.  There was no question that Jason did commit the murder of his stepdaughters' biological father, because he was afraid the father was going to abuse the girls.   The various underlying issues that resulted in the murder are fascinating but ultimately it is all a tragedy, both for the man who died,  and his family, and for Jason and his family.

  This book, Between a Rock and a Grace Place, is full of personal stories (Carol's stories and others as well) and Scripture about persevering and finding contentment regardless of one's circumstances.

  I have to admit that I feel weird about the Kents' situation.  Weird and horrified and grieved.  I consider my children a huge responsibility and I suppose like most parents, I really want them to do well in adulthood. What "well" looks like, I don't know. I want them to follow the Lord. I want them to work jobs that are satisfying and useful -- whether that is in the workplace or at home as parents to children.

  The thought of all my kids ending up in prison due to first degree murder is just dreadful. Of course, I can pretty much guarantee that ALL my kids won't end up in prison like that, and it is almost certain that none will (Lord, please protect my kids from going nuts and murdering people!)  I don't know why the Kents had only one child and that's none of my business or concern, but they sort of put all their parenting eggs in one basket (to use a complicated metaphor) and until Jason was in his late 20's, he lived an exemplary life.  And then, murder, public and ugly trial, a life sentence, and a series of denied appeals.  So now the Kents are facing life without grandchildren (the wife and stepdaughters have moved on, apparently) and their son is stuck in prison 'til he dies.

  Yep, that is a hard thing to cope with.

 And it is a good message for me. I'm a perfectionist and I like things to be clean, neat, tidy, and good.  I dislike a messy house (though our house often IS messy) and get down about it.  Compared to what the Kents have gone through, I don't have anything to complain about.  But I still do. I still feel dissatisfied with life and fret about the difference between my ideal, and reality.

  Carol Kent's ideal is as far from reality as the earth is from the sun.  But she's content.  She's learned to thank the Lord for what she can. Jason has committed his life to Christ, and spends much of his time working with and discipling fellow prisoners.  That is good.

  I guess another point is that this life really is a blip in eternity.  To me, the thought of languishing in prison for decades until death is horrifying.  The death penalty seems easier. But we all need to embrace what the Lord has for us.  Sometimes it is pretty hard.  Sometimes is very hard.  Jason, of course, "deserves" his fate in that he stalked and murdered a man in cold blood, though his mental state was pretty wonky at the time.  But I still feel sad for him.  God is loving him, and using him, where is at.  That' s a great thing.


Friday, September 25, 2015

Pencil Thief

   Our Lydia likes to write stories at night.  We don't have laptops in the rooms, so she is "forced" to write them by hand.  I use the quotation marks because I don't think she minds very much.

   However, these are the famous triangular Ticonderoga pencils and they require a special pencil sharpener to be sharpened.

  Which is downstairs on the main floor.

  And we don't want kids wandering around after they are in their bedrooms at night.

  So the logical approach is to snaffle all the available pencils she can find every day, sharpen them up, and haul them up to her room.

  So sometimes it is hard to find a decent pencil around here!

 But who am I to argue with the creative impulse to write stories?

  More Ticonderoga pencils are on the way.  Thank you, Amazon.

Shoe Organization

Shoes are a challenge in our home, not surprisingly.  Eleven people have a lot of shoes, though we have fewer shoes than Imelda Marcos had all by herself :-).  WAY fewer shoes.  Some of our kids have literally one pair of shoes.

But still, lots of shoes.

I discovered this wonderful shoe organizer some time ago, but I recently bought a few more and utilized the setup more competently.  We now have 4 shoe organizers like this one.  It hangs from any closet rod.  I have one in my closet, 2 in the big girls' closet, and one in the main coat closet.  Obviously this organizer is up off the floor and allows for tidily storage of shoes.

I have most of my shoes located in the coat closet now.  The big girls have most of theirs in their closet, but if I find theirs kicking around, I put them in the coat closet too. The younger children's shoes are just tossed into a laundry tub and stored in a corner of the kitchen.

Little things like this really do help.  My shoes kept being stuffed in strange corners of the main floor, and I'd trip over them. Or Rosie would.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Book Review: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

For all that I LOVE to read books, I usually don't like "the classics."  Many are gloomy or depressing. I get that many authors are plumbing the despair of the human condition, or making a point, or expressing outrage at the world system, but I usually read for fun.  I don't like depressing.

Fahrenheit 451 is a classic, I think. And to my total delight, I LOVE the book.  It is AWESOME.

It was written a long time ago, in the 1950's, and describes a dystopian society where "firemen" don't put out fires, they start fires to burn books.  I think many people who talk about the book talk about it in terms of book censorship, but the issues are way larger than that.  Essentially, the culture described in this book has embraced pleasure and simplicity and destroys books because no one wants to really THINK or grapple with difficult concepts.

It is a powerful book.  With lots of amazing ideas. AND, the prose is...wow...just...phenomenal.  Wow.  I mean really, Bradbury paints pictures with words like Van Gogh painted pictures with oils.

Given that my life consists largely of cleaning and cooking and disciplining 4 year olds and changing diapers, I relish times when my brain is engaged intellectually. This is an intellectual book in some ways, but also -- not really fun, I would say, but so fascinating it IS fun. I mean, we're not talking humor here. It's not amusing.  It is soul searching. It is penetrating.  It is good.

I read it because I've assigned the book to our big girls, who are working through a Christian based study guide produced by Progeny Press.

I think I'm more enamored with the book than the big girls are but that's Ok -- we don't always get to read books we love. And this book is worth reading.  Highly recommended.

Appointments and Busyness

  We deliberately keep our lives fairly simple.  Most people I know have their kids in a bunch of extra curriculars, but we do not.  Some LARGE families do soccer and karate and plays and all that, and of course that is fine. We have just decided being quiet and home much of the time is the best thing for our family.

  Weeks like this last one reinforce that decision, and weeks like this one stress me out. I worked 2 afternoons and had 3 prescheduled doctor appointments on Thursday and Friday.  Thursday morning, Lydia's finger brace broke so we had to make an emergency physical therapy appointment to get a new brace made.  Kevin kindly came home from work to take Lydia, and Kevin's mom graciously came over to watch the younger children, because I already had an orthodontics consult for Naomi and Joseph.  Regarding the orthodontics appointment, we need to figure out exactly what to do. We're praying and seeking wisdom as the course of treatment isn't 100% obvious.

I dislike the feeling of tearing around, rushing in and out, etc.  BUT, once again -- it is a blessing to have doctors and nurses and orthodontists and physical therapists and health insurance.  A blessing!

 When I went to work on Tuesday, I discovered to my shock that several people are being laid off from my company.  One is -- not a close friend, but a friend. So that was sad.  There was a going away luncheon on Wednesday and I talked with this lady for a while. Her entire career has consisted of short term stints (by short term, I mean  few years) at various companies and in various positions.  She keeps getting laid off. Her work ethic is fantastic, she is very pleasant, and everyone has only good things to say about her. But, the money dried up in one sector of the company, and they had to let her go.

  One other guy is retiring/laid off. He is 73!  Kevin knew him back when Kevin was just a wet behind the ears intern.

  I am thankful, once again, that Kevin has been blessed with much job stability. He keeps shifting to new positions within the Air Force, but he's never been threatened with a layoff.

  Friday morning, I took Rose and Angela in for well child checkups. Rose looks thin to me and indeed, she has gained only 4 or 5 oz in the last 3 months.  She is now just under 18.5 lbs.  The doctor and I talked through that.  Her height and head circumference are staying on the curve, and she's always been small, and I have lots of other thin children, so the doc is Ok with it.  I am going to try to add more fat and protein to her diet.  She does eat, but she's not a really enthusiastic eater.

Angela, age 8, gained only 2 lbs this year while adding 3 inches in height. She is also very thin and quite tall for her age.  She is a good eater but a busy girl.  So yeah, tall, thin kids are the norm around here.  I know some people don't bother with well childs for an 8 year old but I like a basic look see every year, to check for scoliosis if nothing else.

This coming week I'm already feeling stressed because I've got appointments Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and Friday mornings!  Sigh. However, we'll get through this week and the schedule should ease up.  The M and T appointments are just for flu shot/flu mist.  Ideally, 6 kids could have gone in at once (3 got their vaccinations on Friday), but they couldn't fit all 6 in at the same time.  I know the pediatrician keeps running out of flu shots and mists, so I want to get it done while they still have them in stock.

I have a GREAT many friends who don't vaccinate.  It is very common in the homeschooling community.  Obviously we do vaccinate, a decision we made based on our personal study of the issues involved.  I am in favor of parental choice in this matter.  My belief is that once the government starts forcing mandatory shots on healthy people, we're walking into very dangerous waters.

Many people choose not to get the flu vaccine and indeed, I really can understand that. They are always guessing at the right strains to cover and people always get sick with some non covered strain.  But for us, with 3 people who get violently ill with the flu, I feel like it is a priority to make it happen. We still have rotten memories of the 2009 Swine Flu Epidemic.  Everyone got sick and I got the sickest. I spent 3 weeks in bed with horrible breathing from an unending asthma attack, and a follow up lung test showed potential damage, though I've been fine since then so I think I'm Ok. But that was nasty.

And that reminds me, I need to get a flu shot.


Last Swim?

  This morning, 3 intrepid children leaped into our pool, which is currently 74 degrees. The outside air temperature was 72 at the time, with a brisk wind blowing.

 You wouldn't catch ME swimming in that stuff, and the kids didn't stay in long, but they wanted one last gasp of summer and of pool time.  The temperatures for the next week are supposed to be lows in the 50's, highs in the 70's, so it is time to let the pool get cold and then put it to bed for the winter.

  When we moved into this house, I was nervous about the pool given that we've always had little kids.  So far, we've never had a near miss with the children, though I pray periodically for God's grace and protection on the children.  Because, you know, accidents happen. But we have a really good fence and a really good gate and a really good lock and we try to be very careful to keep track of the littles.  None of the children, even the climbers, have made an attempt to climb the fence, which is very good.

     In many ways, I believe our pool is a huge blessing -- not just because it is fun -- but because we have a place for the children to learn to swim.  Next year, Sarah (currently age 4) will likely start learning to swim.

   For all that it is a blessing, it is a lot of work and, as I said, we have to be aware of where littles are. So in some ways, it is a relief when we close the pool and we don't have to deal with it for 7 months. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

House and Flower Bed Status

  I am pretty good at keeping our house sort of clean.

 That is to say, our floors are clear much of the time and the piles on the horizontal surfaces don't usually reach too high.

  I've been working on steadily removing items from our house, because less stuff means it is easier to keep the house in decent shape.

 Though of course we still have a whole bunch o' stuff.

  I am getting rid of all our baby clothes as Rose grows out of them.  I think we're done having children, and if by some chance the Lord blesses us with another kiddo -- well, the local children's thrift store is great.

  This morning, I went through a tub of maternity clothes.  I got rid of some items, but decided to hang on to some JUST IN CASE.  Because buying maternity clothes is a total pain.  I'm tall and pretty thin and most maternity clothes don't fit right.  It would be horrible to have to buy new ones if necessary.

I decided to show a few pics of our house today, especially focusing on our basement storage areas.

      This is our main storage room, which we call the "secret room."  It is interesting place.  We think it was originally designed as a tornado shelter because it is made from poured concrete. We live within 15 miles from a town that has been hit with 2 major tornadoes in the last 40 years.  One was an F-5!  Anyway, we use this as a storage room.  You can see it is full, very full, but there is space to walk. This room constantly need work as we pull items out and store items on shelves.  All our spare clothing is in here.  The rod with the jackets and coats is a new touch.  Kevin put that up a couple of months ago and I love it.

This is the other end of the storage room. We keep our "grown up" DVD's here.  I ponder that because lots of movies can be streamed now but not all.  So for now, we're keeping probably 50 DVD's. We try to weed out the ones we don't like.  Kevin and I both enjoy watching favorite movies over and over again.  A few months ago, I got rid of all my old Doctor Who VHS tapes.  I just don't have much patience for VHS anymore, and the library has all the DVD's. I will confess that I'm slowly acquiring my favorite Tom Baker Doctor Who videos on DVD...

  This weird little area is behind what was originally a bar in our basement.  We don't use it as a bar (obviously) and now I stick a bunch of homeschooling stuff back here. And dress up clothes.  And miscellaneous stray microwaves.  See, I wonder about the microwave.  This one (lower left corner, brown boxy thing) is usually just sitting, unused, in the basement. But every once in a while, we have a problem with our main microwave and then we really like a back up. But it is  taking up space most of the time. For now, we are keeping it.

   This is the same room as shown above, with the bar at the back.  The bar counter usually has bins for items I am going to donate.  I have a bin for items over size 5T children, and those items go to Vietnam Vets or Goodwill.  On the right, are clothes for newborn through 5T, which go to our local crisis pregnancy center.  This room is obviously not amazingly tidy, but I am proud of the lack of clutter because we work at it to keep it moderately clear.  The kids play here often, and we periodically haul out building toys.

Our kitchen this morning. I am proud of this.  This is a good state of affairs for our kitchen.  You can imagine that with 11 people in the house, the kitchen is a constant battle.

  So, these pics are ... fine.  I'm pleased with how these areas look, though they need constant work to keep them in good shape.

Now let me share my area of shame:


Loyal blog readers may remember that a few months ago, my mom and dad came down and my mom brought spare plants from her extensive and gorgeous  and WELL WEEDED flower beds.

This was in mid June:

And this is now:

So obviously, it totally and completely got away from me.  (Sorry, Mom!)

My poor metal birds are lost in the waving weeds.

I am showing my shameful flower bed because I want to point we all have our areas of giftedness. I'm decent at keeping a house in order.  I have had people indicate that they think I'm some kind of super mom for homeschooling and keeping the house moderately tidy with 9 busy kids.

But house cleaning comes naturally, and I don't get attached to objects much, so I'm able to keep clutter down by ruthlessly tossing unwanted items.

BUT, I'm a lousy gardener. I don't like dirt, I don't like sweat, and I don't like CHIGGERS.  I'm horribly allergic to chigger bites, so working outside in the summer is fraught with danger.  I literally struggle to sleep well for a week after getting a chigger bite because of the vile itching.  Chiggers do come off if scrubbed thoroughly during a shower, but sometimes one stays on me and then, ugh.

So really, this flower bed is a mess and I'm not even ashamed of it.  I know my limitations, and I know that I prioritized other things, and that's Ok. 

In a month, the frosts will start and the weeds will die.

Next year, I hope I'll do better than this year.  Or teach the kids to weed :-).


Our Little Climber...

Yep, she scares me.

Lord, please keep our sweet Rose safe.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Word of God

    This copy of the NIV Bible has very thin pages. I made the mistake of leaving it where Rose could get to it, and she showed her love of the Word of God by ripping out a couple of pages of the Psalms.  She then crumpled the pages beyond my ability to smooth and reattach them to the Bible.

  So now we have an NIV without Psalms 63-69.

 For one brief moment, I considered getting rid of that Bible -- not, I assure you, because of some feeling that it has been desecrated or theologically damaged. I just don't like books with missing pages.

 And then it occurred to me that throughout the world, there are men and women who don't have the Bible in their mother tongue at all.

And in other countries, the Bible is in the mother tongue of the people, but Bibles are impossibly expensive to obtain.

And in other countries, the Bible is a forbidden book and the government has forcibly removed them from circulation and persecuted those people caught with a Bible.

Indeed, entire congregations of Christians have been known to deliberately and carefully rip up Bibles and distribute a few pages to the members attending the church.

And here we are, with at least a dozen Bibles in our house, NOT including all the children's Bibles.

I decided to keep the Bible (which is in fine shape otherwise.)

And I'm thankful that English Bibles are readily available, and that we have copies, and that we can read the Bible.  I am very thankful.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Random Communications

In a house filled with 11 people, 9 of them under age 16, there is plenty of communication.  Some of it is edifying, some of it is arguing, some of it is informative, and some of it is useful.

Every once in a while, we hear or see something funny in the way of communication, mostly from the little ones.  So here are a few remarks and phrases that have floated around recently.

From our toddler son (calling loudly up the stairs as I lay in bed, sort of napping...):  "Naomi, Lydia, please tell Mom that I have a poopy diaper." (This was said in the courteous tone of an Eastern diplomat, and it made me smile as I launched myself out of bed.)

This next one will sound vaguely shocking, but it was just a struggle to put heartfelt feelings into words:

Sarah (age 4):  "Mom, I hate you when you sing."

What she MEANT was that she doesn't like my singing, which is funny as I've been on worship teams and even sang the National Anthem at an official event. So I can sing.  We worked on an alternate phrasing:  "Mom, I don't like it when you sing."

Sarah (again):  "Mom, I'm so bored with this sleeping thing."

That SOUNDS like grumpiness about sleeping, but actually she was saying she wanted to change out of her pajamas into a dress.

Sarah (is there a theme here?):  "MOM, Daniel just hit my lips with his lips!"  Again, sounds shocking, but they were rolling around in sleeping bags and crashed into each other.  With their lips?

Daniel:  "Mom, I don't want to eat my squash!"

The funny thing about THAT is that it is a phrase from one of our favorite A-Team episodes (a show from the 1980's, for those who don't know) in which the mad pilot H. M. Murdoch is putting on a particularly insane show to convince an army doctor that he is indeed crazy.  Daniel hasn't seen the show, but the older kids say it enough that he's picked up on it.

And...Daniel...:  "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father, prepare to die."

Princess Bride. Which he hasn't (of course) seen. But he's heard the older kids say.  And there is a magnet with that phrase on the refrigerator.  One of the funniest lines in that movie.

A random note on the table:  Pick tree worms at 7.

Translation?  Isaac, who has the less than stellar job of killing the tree worms that are infesting our evergreens, discovered some and wrote a note about destroying them when it was cooler.  We don't pick tree worms like we pick green beans, I assure you.

Rose doesn't talk much and her words won't sound amazingly creative, but they tug our heart strings.  She cries out "Da da da da da" when she sees Dad after he's been gone at work all day.  I'm sure it makes coming home all the sweeter.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Rosie Shoe

I hauled 5 girls off to Target on Monday, and bought shoes for 4 of them (Lydia came along for crowd control purposes.)

And I got Rose her first pair of shoes.

I'd like to say she took to them like a duck to water, but in actual fact, she was a bit bewildered at first. But it didn't take long, as you can see, for her to march around with them.  (And say HELLO to Lydia's braced finger, which photobombed us.)

Her shoes are cute, with polka dots.

And Rose likes them BEST when they are not on her feet.

She likes hauling them all over.  I keep finding them in strange rooms, in strange corners.

Tonight, one shoe is here:

In the bathroom, on the (clean) diaper changing mat.

I don't know where the other one is.

Stay tuned...for more adventures of Rosie's Shoe.