Monday, March 31, 2008

What's a mom to do?

Okay, moms, I need your help! I am currently in search of some modest/trendy/sun protectant swim wear for my young ladies. For what I'm finding the sizes come 2-16 or women's. My 11 year old would not be very modest in an unlined suit without "support" that my 6 year old would wear, nor would it be proper to put her in a woman's suit.

I had to laugh when Victoria's Secret was listed under "modest swim wear". You've got to be kidding me! Then I had to ponder what it would feel like to swim clothed from head to foot with my huge hair covered in a hood. I think not.

What's a mom to do? If only I had hours to surf the web, but alas, I do not. I'm open for some ideas here.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Questions answered- Part 2

I went to a curriculum sharing last Saturday. Sometimes choosing and purchasing materials for homeschooling is overwhelming. So a list was compiled about what people wanted to see and what people had to show. Hopefully, this can save us all a lot of grief and money at the homeschool convention next month as we look through aisle after aisle of material.

As I sat and listened to each mom share I was amazed at what an incredible job they are doing! They seemed so sure about what works well and their children bear this out. I had a few things to share, but of course walked away wondering if my children are getting what they need academically. Why is it that we moms are always comparing ourselves to others?

A few weeks ago some of you asked me some questions about how we school. Here are those answers only if you promise not to compare yourselves to me. Okay, go ahead and do it if it will make you feel better. I'm here to encourage you:)

Shay asked, "Do you ever want to 'quit' and send your kids to school? How do you deal with this? How do you know the difference between this and God asking you to change direction? "

In my heart of hearts I do not want to quit, though I have threatened this a few times. I've been doing this for 6 years now and am finally feeling some freedom because the older girls are becoming more independent in their work. Now ask me in another 6 years and I might answer that question differently.

We plan to send our children to High School where my husband teaches so I know that my days with homeschooling are numbered. I think that helps my outlook when I'm burnt out or frustrated. My hats off to all the parents who year to year faithfully ask God how to educate their children and follow that decision through.

...what do you do for Science?

Initially I bought Sonlight Science. It was too detailed and tedious. I want Science that engages all ages and opens doors for learning, not sucks all my energy getting experiments ready.

We are doing God's Design for Science curriculum. We've done the Body and now are on the Animal Kingdom. The kids love it and so do I. It's strikes a great balance for us.

Mary commented, " I am particularly interested in how you handle the kids activities outside the house. Are there rules about how many they can do, etc?

Along the same lines Catherine asked, "how in a large family do you figure out activities? I presume that just logistically you can't have each child doing several sports/music/lessons type activities, but how do you decide which interests are worth pursuing and which need to be let go?

This is a tough one for us for three reasons. First, we want to be a family, not 9 individuals going 9 different directions. Second, everything costs money and it's not growing on trees over here. Third, we are 9 individuals with different gifts and interests.

So we've decided this for now. Any extra curricular activity that can be done during the day should be scheduled then. We count it as school and try our best to keep our evenings freed up for family.

We want the kids to have opportunity to explore music, art and sports on some level, but not until they are old enough to appreciate it and actually develop some skill. We just don't have the resources to have our preschoolers in soccer or dance. I've felt guilty about this at times, but I know realistically that they won't ever know the difference.

At this point the oldest three take piano and art lessons once a week during the day. We started piano when Hannah was 7 and Lydia 6 and did that for a few years. Lydia stepped away from it for a while because it just wasn't her thing. She practiced hard and was learning, but she didn't love it. She cried a lot. We've started again and she wants to give it a try. Looking back, we probably should have waited until she was reading more fluently. I think this would have freed up some of her brain for learning music and alleviated some frustration.

The oldest four just finished up a winter season of Upward Basketball. We were really drained by the time it ended. They all practiced on Thursday nights, which worked out well. But we had games Friday nights and three games on Saturday. They improved greatly and learned so much. We don't regret it, but this was our first real season of sports and we are glad for a break. This is especially hard on Sean because I often work on Saturdays so he would be juggling all seven kids that day. We were thankful for grandparents and extra fans to help us. A winter sport in Indiana is almost a must because it is so dreary and blah.
We would like the sports that the kids learn to be ones that we can all play together. Tennis, basketball and volleyball are our top picks. But we know that each kid being different there might be a baseball player or a track star among us. We'll just have to keep our eyes open and ask God to show us.

The opportunity also arose for the Hannah and Lydia to be in a production of the Music Man. This was their first stage performance and such an awesome opportunity to see what it is like to sing/act/dance in front of a live crowd. I think trying out was the hardest, though. Again, the schedule was intense especially as the performance drew near. They worked hard and were quite tired when it was over. But because it was at Sean's school and he, too, was in the play we thought it would be the best possible scenario for our family. We prayed about it and looked over the schedule more than a few times before deciding.
I don't know if/when they will do something like this again. They are eager and we told them to just pray about it for now. One thing I do know, though, is that my girls look a little too grown up in make-up for my taste!

Hopefully, a little exposure to many things when they are young will spark in them a love of something in particular. I think BALANCE is the key here. I pray as they get older that their direction will become more clear. That is one of the many things I love about homeschooling- time to explore and learn together.

What homeschooling books?

I initially started out 100% Sonlight. I love their approach with an emphasis on great literature. I found the actual schedule a bit much for us; so at this point I'm using their reading books as the basis of our curriculum. We have a pretty amazing library now thanks to Sonlight.

Explode the Code for phonics

Miquon Math

Singapore Math (yes, we do two math curriculums)

Sequential Spelling (I can use this for the three oldest all at once)

Institute for Excellence in Writing (just started this)

Grammar Ace

Getty-Dubbay Italiac Handwriting

Mavis Beacon Typing

Catherine also inquired, "How do you decide what subjects to cover? How do you decide what curriculum or approach will be best for different children? How do you stay on top of it all?"

When we decided to homeschool I interviewed the moms of the homeschooling kids that I thought were intelligent and balanced. I asked them about their approaches, organization, and choice of curriculum. I read a lot of books from the library on learning styles and teaching methods. That's where I started.

And today? We do our best to cover the basics every day- Reading/phonics and Math. As the kids have gotten older they have more on their plates- history, composition, spelling, grammar, handwriting, science. These are added in slowly as they are able to read well on their own and work more independently. Many of these are weekly assignment at which they can pace themselves, which is nice.

We feel the best thing we can do is expose them to great books and books that explore a particular interest they may have. So every day they get to read for one hour quietly. We lovingly refer to this as "resting and reading time". I'm not teaching them, but they sure are learning a whole lot and the little ones are getting a little nap, too.

How do I stay on top of it? Well, since I'm quite a failure at following any preprinted schedule so nicely prepared by curriculum companies, I make my own for each child. I plan a semester at a time and write down their assignments on a blank weekly sheet which is kept in a binder. They are able to see what is required of them on particular days/weeks as well as field trips, lessons and co-op days. I also schedule in days to work on projects for Rosebuds and required practice. It's their own personal calendar. I check off their work as they do it.

I know that it seems very time consuming, but each of them is so different and goes at a different pace that it serves to help me set realistic expectations for them. With the preprinted schedule I never could easily adjust for their learning needs and I felt really blind as the teacher not knowing where we were headed. When I do the planning, I can see the big picture and teaching is much more enjoyable. Plus if I find some good supplemental material I can add it in or just as easily take out what isn't working.

Planning for the three oldest took me about two days for each semester- not bad really. And I saved a load of money doing it myself. These schedules can cost as much as $100 per grade.

Thanks for the great questions. It is good for me to sit down and answer them. Hopefully some day the kids will read this and realize that, yes, there was a method to my madness.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Our Rosebuds

For a few years now we have been a part of a wonderful mother/daughter club called Rosebuds. It is a group that meets once a month 8 months a year to focus on skills that we want our daughters to learn but often don't have the skills or the motivation ourselves to make it happen. At each of the meetings the girls are introduced to a topic usually by an older woman from one our churches. This guest speaker provides inspiration and hands on instruction. The girls are then given a "requirement" sheet that they can work on for the next two months to continue practicing what they have learned and earn a button. There is a short devotion and some snacks and play time, too.

Rosebuds has been a huge blessing to me. Although it does not give me much "one-on-one" time (I have four Rosebuds) it does make me stop working on the daily tasks and spend time with my girls in a different context. They love it and so do I. Because I don't possess a great number of the skills we learn about, we get to experience them together for the first time. I'm always amazed at how quickly they pick it up and how diligent they are to stick with it to complete the project.

Our meetings this year were: Summer Social, Fitness (water aerobics), Honoring Father with Joyfulness, Baking Grandma's cookies, locker hooking, machine sewing a pillow, Hospitality (how to be a gracious guest), Scripture recital (Ephesians 6).

The girls learned to make Biscotti

Learning to Lockerhook

The girls' pillows- I enjoy how individual they are in expressing themselves.

The Recital

Throughout the year all of the girls work on memorizing a book of the Bible. We memorized Ephesians 6 this year by singing it. Learning it this way made all of the difference! We found an "adult version" of music to memorize that is quite relaxing and beautiful. What a powerful passage in many aspects. I know God will be using in their lives now that they have it hidden in their heart. Last night I missed the recital due to sick Joseph, but the fathers were invited to watch the girls recite and then take them out for a special date. Sean took our girls to a fancy Chinese restaurant. They were sweet and brought me home a sample of leftovers.

This is Hannah's last year to be in Rosebuds. Bittersweet. She's learned that she loves to machine sew and I have to always ask her to thread the machine for me. I can't believe how quickly they are growing. What a blessing it has been to spend this time with them. I am so in love with these girls and proud to be their mom.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Waltons gone sour


My morning started at 4:30 with the herald of all good news, Betsy, talking in my ear. "Joseph, is making a sound like he is sick. It is sounds bad." Of course, my mind went right to the croup. You know, the barking dog, can't breathe, panting for life drama that Joseph has given us twice this winter. I told her to help him down the stairs.

At 4:30:30 beside me stood Joseph with cupped hands full of vomit. Nice. Don't hold it over me, please. He looked so confused as to how this could have happened and on HIS pillow and blanket, no less.

Hands got washed and the bathtub started running.

"Mommy, I had a feeling. A very, very, very bad feeling in my stomach and it came OUT!!!" he sobbed. "I think that my stomach had a very, very, very bad dream or something."

"Yes, that could be," I replied trying to adjust to the lights.

He looked fine. Not pasty white sick or anything. We had plans to go pick up some free organic food today, but that will not happen. Who knows when the next victim will fall. I don't want to be 40 minutes from home in a van full of puking kids. We just cleaned the van yesterday.

"Mommy, who will clean it all up? Is my blanket ruined?" The thought of this is sad.

"I clean it up, Joseph. That's what mommies do when their children are sick like this. I'll wash your clothes and your things and it will all be fine."

After the bath I made a spot on the floor by our bed which is a straight shot to the bathroom.

"Mom do I have to spit in the toilet where I poop and pee? Remember when I was sick and pooped on the stairs...." He started to get teary. I was shocked that he even remembered this at all because he was so young when it happened. Perhaps his sisters have reminded him about it a few times since then.

I didn't like where this conversation was going so I went and got "the bowl" to lay by his head. I turned off the light and said goodnight. Then something like an episode at the Walton's happened. You know- the end where all the kids won't be quiet but keep saying, "Good night, so-and-so..."

This was more like a constant firing of questions about bodily functions. Just when we would get drowsy another questions would come out. It got quite funny and I had to control myself from laughing. These are the ones I remember.

"But mom we cook with this bowl. What if I get sick? That's gross."

"Honey, I will clean it."

"How will you clean it?"

"With soap and water."

"But then the bubbles will be disgusting. Who will clean the bubbles? Hmmm..."

Joseph sat up.

"I can feel it. It's here (heart level). Now it's here (throat level). I think...."

"Joseph, lean over the bowl."

"Oh, now it's gone. Where does it go?"

"How does it come out like that? It's so fast and hot."

"Have you ever seen a volcano?"


"Okay. Have you ever seen a volcano in a book?"


"It's like that. It gets all bubbly in your stomach until your stomach can't hold it any more and it has to come out."

"I think I have a very strong stomach."

"Can you hear that? It's making noise in there. It's here (pointing the the left of his tummy). Now it's over there (pointing to the right). Why is it so busy? Can you hear that?"

I actually could.

"Where is that music coming from? How does dad do that when he's asleep?"

It was in fact the alarm clock going off to start the day.

He did fall asleep for a while. So far, so good. But I'm not holding my breath. Better start up the washer and dryer. I wonder who I'll be talking with tomorrow morning?

Postscript: I take back the "so far,so good"claim. The poor guy is sick and now REALLY confused because it's coming out both ends.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Will the real me please stand up?

Last week I went to a mom's meeting organized by our homeschool group. This is a laid back discussion time in someone's home. I rarely attend these meetings because they are either held in the daytime during naps or in the evenings when I am scheduled to work or need to be home that night.

I had a rare opportunity to attend the meeting and jumped at it. The topic was "being real". This has been on my mind. I had recently broken out in hives after hearing what "works for other homeschool families" in regards to curriculum. I have a tendency to compare myself to others probably to a fault. This turns into wanting to represent myself to others in the best light possible in order that I or my home or my marriage or my children or my homeschool or my faith will somehow measure up. What does this accomplish? It probably makes the other person break out in hives and begin comparing themselves as well. So needless to say this was a timely topic for me.

People, usually strangers, often approach me. "How do you do it?" "You must be the most patient person in the world." "You're children are ALWAYS well behaved." "I don't know how you do it ALL!" "I'd love to be a fly on the wall at your house." "You must be really organized."

I don't know what the proper response should be. I want to be real. I want to bring honor to God, my sustainer. I want to proclaim His goodness and grace toward me. I want to encourage them by my responses. I want to be one who does not complain because life gets hard.

I want to be real. I want to let them know that my house is not clean. I want them to know that if they were a fly on the wall that they would be safe because in my disorganization I can never find the fly swatter. I want them to realize that I'm struggling with the same insecurities that I've had for years. I want them to know I sometimes disappoint my husband and children and they disappoint me.

Blogging is a funny thing to me. It's my world edited by me. What gets better than that? You get to read my best thoughts and see the prettiest pictures. If I change my mind, I can edit it or delete it into the unknown.

Though blogging has become one of my favorite pastimes and I don't plan to stop anytime soon, I walked away from that meeting being thankful for flesh and bone, like-minded women with whom to share and the inspiration that comes from another's wise words. I am blessed by those who enter my disorganized, noisy home to spend time with my family. It is comforting to know that there are people who know the real me and choose to call me friend.

All this to say, those of you who know me in real life, thanks for letting me be ME. And for those of you who know me through my blogging life, thanks for continuing to visit. I pray that this is a place of blessing for you and not comparison.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Gifts of Love

Lydia made a sculpture of me with everyone on my lap.

Joseph brought me this picture early in the morning. It is the first time that he ever wrote the word "love". He told me that the arrows show his love going up and down to me over and over again. I love that boy.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

New blogs in my life

There's a few new-to-me blogs out there that I've been enjoying recently and I thought I'd pass them on to you.

If only I had Super Powers
This is a blog written by an everyday mom who is also a speech pathologist. She highlights children's books and exercises to improve a child's speech weekly. I have found this so helpful in supplementing my kid's therapy as well as being able to relate to my friends who have children with Autism spectrum disorder.

The Flourishing Mother
I love visiting this blog because it oozes beauty and peace. Andrea is clearly a woman who loves her Lord and serves her family well. Inspiring.

The Place Beneath

Saralyn is constantly challenging me to think deeper about my "everyday" life. I am blessed every time I read what she has been learning and teaching her children. I've only "known" her a short time but I am the wiser for it.

Share with me- what is one of your newest, favorite blogs?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Funny family

This is a Navel Orange

This is a Meyer lemon

Tonight at dinner we had some big juicy oranges for desert. Sean inquired what had happened to those "puny" oranges that he had for lunch. "They just didn't taste right."

Those were in fact lemons that I had bought only because they were on the quick sale rack and smelled good. I was using them solely for decoration and scent.

Then the girls proceeded to tell a story about how they had taken one for a snack to play practice but ended up using it like a ball to play catch. They didn't have the heart to eat it because it looked like a "sickly orange".

I love my family. They make me laugh.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
John 12:24-25

Frugal $400 March update

We are halfway through March and here's where we stand on keeping within the budget.

I have been working hard on using more coupons and I've been amazed by the savings. This is not taking up all of my time, I'm just paying attention, checking some blogs, printing or clipping those individual coupons only and dropping by the store when I can. I go in only for that item and to peruse any manager's special meat. Then I use the self scan so I can be in and out of the store in five to ten minutes.

So far this month I've been able to get these grocery items for free or nearly free with coupons:
8 small jars of Peter Pan Peanut Butter (Kroger)
6 boxes of cereal (Kroger)
8 boxes of Fiber One bars (Kroger)
8 bags of frozen vegetables (Meijer)
12 bunches of broccoli (Target-which I blanched and froze)

My favorite purchase? 6 gallons of organic skim milk for $12! They were near expiration and went right into my freezer. Skim milk thaws well and tastes no different after being frozen.

I also made a Sam's Club trip at the beginning of the month for produce hoping that it would last longer and save money. I was thrilled with the quality. The fruit was HUGE and one piece was easily shared between two people. No food went to waste. I've found that when I stock up on regular grocery sale produce it begins to go bad in just a few days.

This is what I purchased for $45.96. In nine days it was gone. Not bad, really. The bananas lasted the longest. We ate the last one on Wednesday.

So I've got just uner $200 left in the budget for the month. My freezer is well stocked with meat that I've been picking up on manager's special. I'm going to try not to go to the store again this month (to spend my own money:) in order that I may use this remaining money to purchase what will be needed for freezer cooking with my sister Barbara.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What's in your kid's nose?

Sean, Hannah and Lydia are consumed this week with Music Man rehearsals. So it's me and the younger five fending for ourselves here. I'm always amazed at how family dynamics change when there is a different mix of kids.

Tonight at the dinner table our discussion revolved about noses- who has put what up their nose and how Mom managed to get it out. I'm proud to report that all but Baby John (though I know he was taking notes from his high chair) had their own story to tell.

Miriam put an Altoid up her nose and kept sucking it in instead blowing it out. The thing was melting and the peppermint was making her eyes water profusely. It looked painful!

Elizabeth wedged a polly pocket shoe in her nostril in the spot that goes around the curve that is really hard to reach even with tweezers. That was a scare. After that incident I vacuumed up those shoes whenever they were laying on the floor.

Joseph got a pencil eraser stuck sideways in his nose. His nose started to run and made the thing so slippery I could barely get a hold of it. He kept sucking it in, too.

Rebekah shoved a rather large Lego up her nose. Thankfully, it didn't stretch her nostril out permanently. Now that would be a new trend!

How about your kids? What weird things have they stuck up their noses and how ever did you get it out?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Questions Answered- Part 2

If you make it through this, you deserve a prize!!

Mindi asked "...have you ever felt worthless as a parent? Unable to cope with the task, and not sure of what to do when faced with a given situation?"

There have been many, many moments of motherhood where I've sat on the stairs and just cried. Or taken a long drive bawling my eyes out. Or hidden in the shower so that I could pray and be alone. Being a mom is an incredible responsibility that is just to much to shoulder sometimes. I'm usually at my lowest in the first six months after having a baby or after a change of some kind.

There are days when I work hard for my kids and then lay in bed at night wondering if they know that I love them, because my actions and tone that day didn't testify to that fact. I've actually gone in a woken them up just so that they can (hopefully) remember one nice moment from me that day.

I can't think of one task in particular that I was unsure of- it's more like, "Can I get up tomorrow and do this again?"

Now that they are getting older, I'm dealing with a lot of emotions coming from all directions. Sadness. Frustration. Anger. Hormones. This is an entirely different story. It's one thing to train and discipline a little one. But it's another thing to learn to be a good listener and not react to what I'm seeing and hearing. Aaahhh! That's hard. I've got so much yet to learn!!

Thankfully, most days I can hold it together until the kids go to bed and then I get some encouragement and feedback from Sean. And then taking Sunday as a day of rest really is the spark that keeps me going from week to week. To actually sit under the teaching of Scripture, worship and pull away from all the pressure, is God's grace to this Mom.

Catherine was thinking along the same lines, "...are you the kind of person who has just always had it all together, or is that a skill you learned as you went along?"

In truth, I don't consider myself as having it all together. I do tend to not become easily rattled so I think that is in my favor at this point. And I have this expression that those who love me call "the blank expression". It is neither happy nor sad. I'm just watching.

My children would probably tell you that I can never find the phone or my keys. I have to work HARD to be organized and I lack consistency. I do love spontaneity and am often secretly excited when plans change. I don't like to be bound by the daily lists that make life run smoothly.

I also live with the most patient, laid back man on earth and he has rubbed off quite a bit. And I don't want to make him look bad by freaking out all of the time.

Mary asked, "What parenting books have been most effective for you as you raise your kids?"

Years ago when our oldest were 2 and 3 we went through the course "Growing Kids God's Way". It didn't change our lives or anything, but they did give us a lot of things to discuss and encouraged us to think seriously about what characteristics we wanted to define our family.

At our church a few years later we did the "Shepherding your Child's Heart" video series. This gave us some very practical instruction that we've used.

We read a lot of the Lamplighter books which are classic fiction Christian/moral literature. Some of the characters in these books have provided us incredible inspiration and examples of Godly parenting.

"How do you manage alone time with each child on some sort of regular basis?"

We don't have an official system or calendar set up. The kids can "earn" a date by reading 25 books on their own. These are special outings like rollerskating or shopping or going out to eat.

But we encourage them to ask for individual time they need if they feel they are not getting it. This takes many forms like talking on the couch when the other kids are in bed. Playing a game together before going to sleep. Reading together. Working on a project. Building Legos. Scrapbooking or stamping. Cooking or baking. Going for a walk. Going on an errand. Getting to sit in the front seat to talk.

It can be hard to give individual time while at home because others want to join in. But they are pretty respectful of leaving us be alone knowing that next time it could be them:)

Alaina asked, "What kind of chores do you have your kids do? When (as in time of day, days of the week etc.? What age do you start? "

Being that I am not very consistent I struggle in this area. Everyone has "morning chores". These are things like get dressed, brush teeth, brush hair, find shoes and socks (even if we aren't going anywhere that moment), put away PJs, clean up after breakfast.

Then as the day goes on each child has to do three chores of my choice. This is usually based on what needs to be done and our schedule. Normally, they do chores right before dinner.
Once a week (Fridays) we clean the upstairs and their rooms well. You wouldn't be able to tell that if you visit on Monday, however:)

I'm always amazed at how the smaller kids are eager to help with chores. The best advise I was ever given in this regards is this: Never ask an older child to do what a younger one is able to do. I try to remember that in order to not burden Hannah and Lydia with too much.

Baby and up- pick up toys and trash
3 and up- clean windows, wipe off table, help in kitchen, gather laundry, carry/put away groceries, hold the "scooper" (dust pan)
5 and up- vacuum, sweep, clean bathrooms, make own breakfast (scrambled eggs included and microwave use), dust
7 and up- Take trash out to curb, clean own room unsupervised, load dishwasher, mop, wash pans by hand, fold and put away laundry, bathe and clothe little ones.

Do you give an allowance to your older kids or have a way for them to earn money?

We don't have an allowance system in place. I go back and forth. Where is the line between working to serve your family and being compensated for work well done? I don't know.

As you know my children are obsessed with coins:) so I let them keep whatever they find when they are working.

The older girls will tell me about what they want to buy or how much money they need and then ask for a special job to earn it. I usually ask for an hour of their free time and pay them that way. There's always plenty of things to do around here!

Monday, March 10, 2008

He cracks me up!

Joseph is becoming famous for one-liners around here. The best part is that he has no idea how funny he is. Here's a few of this week's favorites.

We were having tacos in a hard shell for lunch. The hard shells were gone, but Joseph wanted more.

"Mom, could I have an easy shell instead?"

He's really interested in writing names, words or anything he sees. Today he brought me a paper and asked.

"What does IOS spell, Monica?"


His eyes lit up and he yelled up the stairs, "Betsy I spelled nothing!!"

Over at Mary's read other things that kids are saying. It's good for a laugh!

Questions Answered- Part 1

Thanks for all of the great questions! Tonight I'll answer the questions that don't require a lengthy answer because I really should be getting off to my bed soon.

Michelle asked, "Can we come with you on your wonderful trip this summer?"

I'd be glad to have you along, but we'll really only have 2 seats available due to all the luggage and therefore, you'd have to leave some of your boys behind and that would be sad. And since you'll be feeling so much better this summer, I think that you'd better stay and play with them:)

Really, I wish I could take everyone along. We are still in shock that we actually received the award in the first place. Sean will be documenting our trip via a blog. So stay tuned!

By the way, our story made it in the local paper. The kids were thrilled to see their picture in black and white. Very fun!

Ducky Girl wondered,
"What is your favorite board game?"

Settler's of Canaan. I actually have to discipline myself to play board games because I'm always thinking of about a hundred other things that I should be doing instead. That's sad.

"Do you have any allergies?"

I used to be allergic to cats, but I outgrew that. Then last fall we went on a field trip to a honey bee farm. We sampled all kinds of honey and by the end my tongue had swollen up. It was really weird. Now whenever I have raw honey, even the smallest bit, my mouth gets that same strange tingling feeling. So I'm thinking that I'm allergic to honey now.

"What are your top three favorite candy bars?"

Snickers- frozen
Reese's Peanut Butter Cup

Cindy asked, "Who is your favorite strawberry blonde, freckled old roommate with big thighs?"

Why, Cindy of course. We became friends our Freshman year of college and were roomates for some of that time. She is one of my all time favorite people and I wish everyone could know her! By the way, her thighs really aren't as big as she claims.

Jen was curious, "Will you come and be my nurse when I give birth?

If only I could, I would be honored. Please if you have any questions (especially about breastfeeding) as the days go on email or call me. I'd love to help you any way I could!!

Sniz inquired, "So, are you planning to have more kids???

It would be an act of God. My uterus wore itself out with big babies and a few C-sections to boot. During John's birth the surgeon came around the operating drape and told me that it was all he could do to get me put back together.
It was sad news for us, but not unexpected. I waited awhile and when the timing was right I had a tubal ligation. The babies I already have still need their mama:) It COULD technically still happen and if it did I certainly welcome it.
Sean's still good to go. So if I die prematurely he could remarry and have more children. He thinks I'm crazy when I say that:)!!

I'll write about homeschooling/parenting/kid questions soon. I certainly don't have the corner on the market on wisdom in these areas, but I can share what's working and not working for us.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Go ahead and ask me anything

I've been low on creative juices lately. So now it's your turn. Have you ever wanted to ask me a question? Want to know something about my "real" life? Now is your chance. Randomness is welcomed. That's usually what my posts are anyway:)

Those of you out there who think that you can not leave a comment because you do not blog, do not be deceived. Just click on "post a comment" and sign in as an anonymous user. But be sure to mention who you are at the end of your comment if you want me to know.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Simple Life

There are certain people in my life whose homes radiate beauty, warmth, calm, peace....Whenever I visit them, I come home more motivated to care for my family and create the same in our house. I'm thinking in particular of my sister, Lucinda, and a friend of mine, Karen.

Lately my book bag from the library has consisted of decorating, organization and frugal type books. They really all tell me the same thing- get yourself organized. There are various methods and tips which are all helpful, but seem impossible to keep up long term. And when I consider all the components (7 children) that make up my life, these programs seem even more implausible.

Being frugal was something that I once perfected out of sheer necessity. When we were first married I was in my last year of nursing school and Sean was in grad school. He worked at the university and I as the biscuit maker at McDonald's at 4:30 am. We brought in just over $300 a month. Being frugal wasn't an option. We wanted to eat, so we learned quickly. I'd say it was wonderful and we were very content.

Over time I had gotten away from it, but this year I've set some frugal goals. However, being frugal does not make one's life simple I've discovered. It takes some planning and I get a lot of pleasure from saving money for our family, but it doesn't equate to a peaceful home.

People assume that I must be organized because of the sheer number of children that we have and the fact that I homeschool. I strive and succeed sometimes. And other times it is apparent that I am not. There is a system in place and it works as well as it can at this point.

Reflecting on all of this, I realized that the simple life that I admire in others has more to do with what they don't have than what they do. Both Lucinda and Karen work hard to keep the "stuff" out of their home. Not to say that their homes are barren caves, but they are not stepping over "stuff" to get to what they need. They really are grateful for what God has provided and walk close with Him. They've learned to trust instead of hold onto the things of the world tightly. Striving for frugality can sometimes cause me to live with closed hands rather than open ones, to keep instead of give.

Lucinda and Karen are both very creative in gardening, cooking and decorating due in part to the fact that they have time. They both regularly invite others over because they have a ready home. They both have energy to serve others in times of need because their own homes are already in order.

Gardening, cooking and decorating are not my priorities, but a joyful, inviting, clean home is. So as I continue to be frugal out of necessity, I will be working hard these next few weeks on getting rid of those things that are cluttering our lives and causing frustration. I will be organizing, but not organizing "stuff". Maybe I'll even find a few hidden treasures. And then there will be some serious Spring cleaning going on around here!

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. -1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

In need of inspiration

This hutch was given to me by my childhood friend, Carrie, a few years ago. It was originally in her parent's home. Her father was a farmer and I don't doubt that it came from a farmhouse many years ago. Her family is very dear to me and I am honored to have it.

I don't have fancy china, but I do have several items that were given to us by our grandmothers that I store in here. It's fun to pull them out as serving pieces. They are not of much value, but they are precious to us. I like having a safe place to display them.

Currently I keep linens in the drawers and homeschool books underneath. It's very useful, but not all that it could be. I see the word "potential" written all over it, but I lack inspiration.

Carrie painted it white to match her home before it came my way. I taped wall paper on the back of the shelves for interest. But it's not very interesting.

Help me out here. My kitchen is a nice yellow (not greenish like picture). The counter tops are green. I have a lot of reddish accents around. I'd say the style is "want to be like Pottery Barn" but far from it.

Inspire me. What do you envision? What would you change? What would you do to do to accent up this great piece of furniture?

There are a lot more people like me who need help over at Works for me Wednesday Backwards Edition!! Check it out.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Literal minds want to know

I was talking to Betsy on the Lord's Day about the Ten Commandments. We were reading from a children's book and our conversation went something like this:

Question: What does the first commandment teach us?

Answer: To worship God alone.

Her eyes got as big as saucers and she said, "I think there is a problem. When we go to church there are a lot of people there. This says to worship God ALONE."

She makes me smile.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Will it ever get done?

I write that question knowing full well that I am choosing to sit here and blog instead of making another check on my list. A girl just needs a break sometimes.

I so very much enjoy homeschooling our children. This year, by God's grace, I am attempting to teach 5th, 4th, 2nd and 1st grade while overseeing my own day care consisting of a 4,3 and 1 year old. I once thought that having our children so close together would mean that homeschooling would be all the easier because I could teach them together. Apart from science, this has never been the case.

Each one of them is such an individual with different learning styles and needs that I've come to the realization that it is just not going to happen. That's okay.

But, frankly, it's hard to juggle it all. Today was a prime example:

6:30 Woke up early to get some things done but had the pleasure of Joseph's company. The boy can talk, even at 6:30, and was insistent on me recreating the rocket that I had built yesterday from Kinnex.

7:00 Rocket built. Oatmeal boiling, three kids hungrily hovering.

7:15 Oatmeal served. 2 more kids awake. Sent one to shower. Dressed 2. Came back and Baby John was covered in oatmeal, but happy. Cleaned him up.

8:00 Miriam looking high and low for school books that she had left on our bed. Needs her hair brushed which takes about 15 minutes and lots of tears. Nephews dropped off for the morning.

8:30 Everyone awake, dressed and getting ready for school. Little kids playing legos and space men.

9:00 Baby John poops and makes a mess. Clean him up. Teaching improper fractions, division and trying to give a quiz.

10:00 School continues. Thinking about what's for lunch because 4 kids are asking. Trying to mail in forms that are due today because I procrastinated. Put in movie for little ones.

10:30 Discover that Baby John has used a marker to draw himself a beard and color on the windows, walls, his socks and table. Clean him up again.

11:30 Trying to keep the kids on track with their school work. History. When is lunch?

11:45 Fix scrambled eggs and bacon in a tortilla shell because there is nothing else and I need to get out the door.

12:00 Take my nephews back home.

1:00 Grocery shop and attempt to put away groceries and clean up. Declare school complete for today.

2:50 Speech therapy for Elizabeth and Miriam

3:45 Drop off Hannah and Lydia for play practice, visit with Sean. On the white board teach phonics and addition with carrying.

5:00 Shopping at Sam's Club.

6:00 Home. Cook meat for the next 2 week's meals, make salsa, clean up kitchen.

7:00 Pick up downstairs (mostly)

8:00 Can't wait to go to bed and do it all again.

What's not done? The bedrooms need some serious attention. The clean laundry still needs put away and socks folded. The carpets would probably appreciate being vacuumed.

And so it goes.

Hannah showed some serious motivation and focus in math. The little ones had a great playtime with their cousins. Some lightbulbs went on in Lydia's sweet little head today regarding division. Miriam finished her phonics book. The marker is washable. Elizabeth learned the -ing sound and then wrote her own sentence.

I'd say overall that it was a pretty good day.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

SSSTTRREECCCHHHH- February Frugal $400 Final

It came down to the wire, but we made it. I came in $4.08 over my budget of $400. But whose counting right?

Obviously things were again tight, but it didn't feel nearly as restricting as last month. I think this was in part to the fact that I spread the money out more effectively and that I got a lot of chocolate from CVS :) A girl with a stash of chocolate never feels deprived.

I also started using newspaper insert coupons again. I saved about $20 alone using these this month. With some organization on my part I think this could be better.

We are now officially out our freezer reserves except for one turkey that I was surprised to find at the bottom. We'll use that one in March.

I've discovered that the one thing I'm having difficulty keeping on hand is produce. I'm not willing to give up fresh fruits and vegetables, but need to find a more economical source to deal with the shear numbers of mouths here. I'm going to try out Sam's Club produce this month and see if I'm able to make it work. I know I'll like the quality and that the quantity will be more. It's just a matter of whether or not it will be a cost saving. We'll see.

We turned in all of our change from the month and came up with $11. 53. These will be going to buy compact florescent light bulbs. When it is all said and done and we replace all 16 bulbs in our house it will be a savings of:

$ 355.10

energy bill savings


pounds of C02 prevented

I found this by entering in our numbers on a nifty online calculator. Give it a try.

These are my goals for March:

1. Prepare some freezer meals with my sister Barb.

2. Buy bulk produce at Sam's twice this month.

3. Work on coupon organization.

4. Start stocking up on free CVS items for a garage sale this spring.

5. Declutter, declutter, declutter and use, give away and resell whatever I can.

Many of you comment to me personally about how you are saving. Share it with the rest of us and leave a comment. Your ideas and savings might help me or someone else!! Tell us- what did you do right in February and what are your plans for March?