Thursday, March 31, 2016

Easter Celebrations

Last Saturday, I took all our kids (ALL of them, all 9) to our church's Easter egg hunt extravaganza.

The egg hunts were pretty crazy. The weather was gorgeous and our church had a great turnout, so there were an incredible number of egg hunting kids.  It was like a swarm of locusts picking up eggs.  They sensibly divided the hunt by ages.  Miriam and Angela only got a few eggs, Sarah and Daniel got quite a few (because there weren't as many kids) and Rose could have made out like a bandit, except she didn't care.  WHY would I want these stupid plastic eggs, seemed to be her question.

Bouncy house was fun.

         We got home to find Kevin knee deep in home improvement and repair products, and this lovely fruit bouquet that Kevin's mother sent us.

         The next day was Easter, and we didn't go to church.  Easter is the most popular day in the whole year to go to church, and we are always intimidated with huge crowds and a packed parking lot (especially with a 15 passenger van to find space for.)  So we stayed home and most of the kids watched "The Miracle Maker", a fabulous claymation movie about Jesus's life.  

      Kevin's mom and our niece came for Easter dinner, which worked out well as our niece had to head back to college mid afternoon.  After a scrumptious lunch, the children had another egg hunt courtesy of their grandmother and cousin.  

     The weather was absolutely lovely and they had a fantastic time. And thanks to their relatives' hard work, they each had lots of candy and eggs.

    On a serious note, I've realized that I am not really much of a "holiday" person. I know that God gave the Israelite's holidays as part of their worship, and I totally love Christmas and Easter for Christians to think about Jesus' birth and death and resurrection.  I think it is great that we have special times of the year to focus on specific aspects of our Christian faith. But I find that my own spiritual journey ties into daily life events more than the Christian calendar.  God uses things like pregnancy and childbirth and crazy toddlers and work problems and financial decisions to teach me what I need to know. Right now I'm in this amazing season of life where I am aware, as I never have been before, how much the Lord loves me just the way I am.  He really does. So while I know church is precious and I enjoy and relish and value going, I'm also realizing that on those weekends when we have sick children, or an Easter when the kids are excited about candy and spending time with Grandma and their only female cousin, it is fine to stay home.  So we did. And it was good.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Toddlers Are Great

  Rose is awesome and totally wears me out.  No fooling. She continues to have very little sense and she climbs and she grabs things out of the cupboard and she makes messes.

She is great. And I am tired.

  So I am thinking again about how blessed we are to have a healthy little person who can climb on chairs and tables and fall off said chairs and tables.  Not that I want her to fall off, but she IS mobile, she is healthy, and that is a blessing.

  There are times when I really get frustrated with her energy level.  But then I think of precious kids who can't walk.  I think of children with physical struggles from birth,  And I am thankful.

 In addition to being in nearly constant motion when she is awake, Rose is also starting to talk.  She says a bunch of words and a few phrases, and can point to various body parts.  One thing she can mimic is the words "I so cute" and "I adorable."  It is out of this world awesome.

  So yep, Kid, you are great.  And you wear me out.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

This Week

Ok, busy week.

Kevin has been out of town since Monday, and gets back late tomorrow night.

My parents came down yesterday and have been helping with "the hordes."

So let's see, a quick recap of this week.

   Nice braces on the old arms, huh?  Isaac took a hard fall on Sunday and Kevin had to take him to the ER to check for breaks. Thankfully, no breaks, just sprains. He's all better now, but spent a few days with pain and tenderness and an inability to do some chores :-).  We're thankful he is Ok.

Rose didn't remember my parents at first, but have warmed up to them nicely now.

Grandpa has an AWESOME Ipad.

My parents took the kids to a local science museum.  Much fun was had by all.

Kevin gets home tomorrow. He'll be tired, I'll be tired.  I did get a nap today, which was great.  Last night, Rose was up coughing so I didn't get enough sleep. Here's hoping tonight is better.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

This Is a Triumph

After a couple of really HARD weeks for the kids, we did it!  We ate ALL the cereal. Even the less than exciting fruit ring cereal!  The lower picture shows fruit rings with marshmallows, like rice crispy treats.  I guess they tasted good but they were also super messy. I am never buying fruit rings again so we won't have to go through THAT.

So yeah, interesting weeks in the food department.  As I said in a previous post, I've been trying to eat up what we have to lower our grocery bill this month, in the hopes of pumping up our savings a bit.  We bought that almost new car, which we are thoroughly enjoying.  It is 10 years newer than our big van, and there is all kinds of fun technology, like it connects to our cell phones using Blue Tooth and we can do hands free calls using voice recognition. Wow.

All this is practical, but honestly it has been something of a spiritual experience as well.  We have SO MUCH FOOD.  So much.

I am re-reading, for the second time, the Martian, the book on which the movie of the same name is based.  It is a fictional book about a guy accidentally abandoned on Mars and his struggle to survive in a barren wasteland.

Awesome book. Awesome. With, unfortunately, a lot of language, so I won't let the kids read it yet.  But it is totally geeky (for an engineer like myself) plus exciting plus the main character is tons of fun.

Anyway, I hope I'm not spoiling anything by saying that in this fictional book, food is an issue.  Stuck on Mars, a barren wasteland?  Not a great situation in the food department.

And then I think about people in 3rd world countries, and how they go day to day wondering if they'll have food.

We have friends who live in India who are in the middle of a water shortage and sometimes they don't have water in their bathroom (though so far the water in the kitchen is holding out, for some reason.)

They have poorer friends who line up public spigots for water.

And every stinking time I turn on the faucet here, water comes out. Every time.

I can even turn it to hot!

Queen Elizabeth the First (of 500 years ago fame) had a great deal of wealth, but she never lived as good as I've got in terms of plumbing.  In fact, I understand that wealthy people in that day would move from house to house because after a while, a house became disgusting due to the lack of sanitary arrangements.

So I am realizing how blessed we are, again.  And I am thankful.

At the other end of the spectrum, it is actually difficult to not buy casually.  I said in a previous post that I am not someone who "buys casually" and I don't think I generally do, but the decision to be super careful this month is pushing some buttons.

I remember as a graduate student that I thought long and hard about a casual $10 purchase.  I was poor back then.  Now, well, lifestyle creep has moved in somewhat.  I don't think a lot about a $10 purchase anymore.  But this month I am, and sometimes I feel a twinge when I make the decision to pass on a purchase.

It is even harder when I deny the CHILDREN something.  I like giving my children things, and I think that is fine in moderation.  But I'm surprised how often they ask for something totally reasonable and I buy it.  I mean, there is nothing wrong with reasonable (new art supplies, for example) BUT we actually have a lot of art supplies already and we should use them up.

So I'm in a "use it up" mode right now.

Within reason.  I'm still buying lots of necessary items.  I need to buy shoes for Rose (I think -- I need to look through our stash.)  And Lydia has one pair of jeans to her name so I need to get her some more.

But I'm trying to step back and think about things instead of just buying an item.  And as I said, it isn't just practical, it has its spiritual aspects.  Which is good.

Sometimes, This is My LIFE

Nuff said.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Spring! (?)

LOVELY weather this week!

Highs in the 70's on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Books and Movies and Politics, Oh My!

  I feel tired, somewhat physically, mostly mentally.  So this week, we're having a light week of school.  I may take some kids clothes shopping for spring/summer clothes, and we WILL enjoy the spring like weather.  The forecast is for 70 degrees on Tuesday!  Amazing.

  I was thinking, what would I do if I had all the time in the world? Answer: read fun books and watch movies I like.  Ha.  I am reading more than usual right now. I stumbled across a new mystery series, the Flavia de Luce mysteries by author Alan Bradley.  Flavia is an 11 year old fascinated with chemistry in general and poisons in particular.  She isn't an exemplary character and her family relationships are complicated.  But the writing is brilliant and the plots are interesting.

  And speaking of messed up main characters, I took the plunge and let Lydia read Harry Potter. I've held off 'til now, but she is 14 and a half and old enough to analyze books, so, here we go. She loves them.  I read the first book the week after I had Daniel, and I was enraged by a number of the plot themes.  The "good" magical people are irritating incompetents in many cases, and their abandonment of Harry as an infant on the door step of evil relatives did not make me happy.  I was flooded with post partum hormones and held a newborn son in my arms, so I felt really really angry at the indifferent people who should have protected Baby Harry. There are other reasons I don't like the Harry Potter books, but it feels fine to let Lydia read them.  As the kids get older, they have to be discerning.

  I'm still drawing the line at the Twilight series, as I don't like the themes in that series EVEN MORE :-).  Books about a teen girl totally OBSESSED about a man bother me.  When the man in question is a vampire, its even more problematic.

  Another book I'm reading is The Martian, which is the book the movie (by the same name) is based on. Kevin and I watched the movie recently and really enjoyed it. There is some language in both the book and the movie, which makes it problematic for younger people.  But yeah, really quite a brilliant plot with many interesting facets.

  I've been stressing about the political situation, but am doing better about laying it at the Lord's feet.  A couple of weeks ago, the Lord reminded me of Israel during the time of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. They were horrible people and horrible rulers, but the Lord preserved a remnant of His people who never bowed the knee to Baal.  I have no idea what our political future holds.  A country where Donald Trump will likely be the Republican nominee is a screwed up country.  It really does remind me a LITTLE of Adolf Hitler, not that Trump is a Hitler. Praise God for THAT.  But he does say such screwy, terrible, ugly, nasty, vindictive, childish things, and people still vote for him.  Hitler was actually elected leader of Germany, and he had already written Mein Kampf, with it's open hatred of the Jewish people, and people still voted for him. Enough that he was elected. Crazy.  Hitler was, apparently, a compelling speaker and a smart man (and a psychopath.)  I'm not saying that Trump is the same, I AM saying that the man has said many things that make him an embarrassment.  I won't vote for him. And I won't vote for Clinton. So...I might not vote for a president this time around.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Money Musings

        I read an interesting book a couple of weeks ago, called The Year Without a Purchase.  The author and his wife decided to try a crazy experiment to buy nothing "long lived" for a year. By that, I mean they could buy food and toiletries and items that would be used up quickly.  They also allowed themselves "experience" purchases, so going on vacation and going to museums and movies were permitted.

    It's an interesting read.  They found themselves being very creative about opportunities like their children going to birthday parties -- what could their kids bring for a gift if they couldn't purchase anything? They did "cheat" 3 or 4 times on absolute necessities.

   It is clear from the beginning of the book that both partners enjoyed shopping for fun, which isn't true of me.  The husband, who wrote the book, commented that all 4 of them (they have 2 young children) had enough clothes for a year so definitely didn't buy any clothes. That is NOT true of us, as with 9 children we often have kids moving into new sizes and seasons that require clothing purchases.

   All in all, I found it interesting but, at first, not particularly relevant.  I am not someone who shops for fun and I have this perception of myself as not buying items casually.


  Last week, we bought a "new" car for ourselves, as described in a previous blog post. That slashed our savings significantly.  I admit that I cling to savings for reassurance, so I find our much smaller savings account a bit unnerving.  I have been reminded, again, that the Lord is our refuge and caretaker.  Money is just money. It is a tool, and a helpful one, but I should not put my hope in it.

   However, savings are also wise given that life can throw curveballs when suddenly a big expense crops up. So...I decided, mostly for fun, to try to cut back on personal purchases for at least a month.  By that, I mean I'll happily and easily buy all "necessities" but I'll think long and hard about ANYTHING extraneous.

  The author of The Year Without a Purchase repeatedly makes a relevant point, that people like him (and our family) have a luxury beyond belief to "decide" to save extra money by being careful with purchases.  Billions of people live in poverty.  Many moms and dads go to bed at night wondering if they'll be able to feed their children in the morning.  There is a danger of pride and/or foolish feelings of deprivation for someone like me.  We have enough food in the house to feed us all comfortable for likely several weeks.  We have credit cards and loving relatives nearby.  We are SO blessed materially that to put a word like "frugal" on what we do seems somewhat prideful.

  Having said all that, there is value (of course) in thinking about purchases.  The older I get, the less "fun" stuff I find myself buying, partially because we have 9 children to provide for and partly because I don't need more clutter in our house.  I don't need much more STUFF in our house. The stuff we have already overwhelms me at times :-).

   Anyway, last week I decided 2 things. One, we would poke around cupboards and eat up food languishing in corners (that is still good, of course.)  I think you know how it is -- we buy something and then don't use it and it just sits in a corner.  We also still have sweet potatoes and squash from last fall's harvest. They are still good, but the sweet potatoes have been picked over and are small.  I've discovered the hordes LOVES sweet potato fries, so I've been making them often.

   I also decided to go all hard nose on breakfast. The kids have their "favorite cereals" and eat those in preference to other cereals. I decided I wouldn't buy more breakfast cereal 'til we ate up what we had.  Right now, we are down to 3 or 4 large bags of fruit rings (like Fruit Loops.)  So, I guess the kids don't like those.  I wish I had known that earlier :-).  Oh, we have a little granola, too.  Most of the kids have turned their nose up to the available cereal, and are having toast and apples and I've been making muffins sometimes, you get the picture. Almost certainly healthier, but breakfast is taking more time.

  I'm also not buying items casually. I already said I don't usually, but I'm aware, Ok, I do.  For example, my mother in law gave us an old Rubik's Cube last week.  Many kids were excited about it and there was a war over it. I thought, briefly, of buying a NEW Rubik's Cube so we'd have 2 available. But then I thought, no, I'm not making extraneous purchases.

  So I was feeling all proud of myself, but the Rubik's Cube we have broke this morning!  Well, I'm still not buying one right now. I refuse :-).

  So we'll see how the next month goes.  Will cutting back on groceries and some extra purchases make a difference?  I'll try to report later on how it goes.