Continuing on the fact that it's still cold out with no snow, we did find one thing to do...
It was kind of a "duh" moment but if it's been so darn cold that does mean ice! We live about a mile from a cute little lake that the kids like to play at. Unfortunately from run off it is not a lake to swim in but we play at the playground and skip/throw rocks into the lake, practice fishing (catch and release) and now we "ice skate"! We didn't bring skates (because we don't HAVE any... well, one pair but it doesn't fit anyone!) but shoes work well. No puck for hockey? A chunk of ice works great. Someone was there before us and even cleared off an area to play on. I hadn't thought of it until I saw all the ice fishermen out. It was cold and even though it's only a mile we decided to drive because I was afraid we'd be so frozen by the time we got there we wouldn't want to stay and play on the ice! Just a note though... 1yo's in snow gear who don't walk too well and don't like cold much... HATE ICE! Ha!! Luckily for us there was a play ground.
Now the boys want to know if we can go everyday! Ah.... NO! It's COLD out there! But we will go again soon, maybe. Today I was informed it may be in the 40's by the weekend. See, I told you, it's like February in December!
I know. Weird title huh? I have to confess to you in the northern part of the U.S everyone knows that February is brutal for moms. We have little sunshine and bitter cold and the kids, well, it depends on who you talk to- they either have "cabin fever" or are "stir crazy". It seems February has come early to us this year. Our weather man said the other night we must have "snow repellent"! Every major snow storm literally splits and goes north AND south of us but leaves us frozen and green! NO SNOW! We had a little bit but it melted. No white Christmas. No sledding. No snowball fights and forts. Pretty much no outside. It's boring! It's freezing, grey and not much fun to ride your bike or shoot hoops when the wind chill is 10!
So here we are in December stuck inside and going a little crazy! There are only so many movies to watch and only so much gaming you can allow. Today I had bunkers built in my basement for a Nerf battle you can't even imagine! The neighbor boy was over and the bullets were flying. I had to step in once to remind them that wars are fought to defend the women and children and if they couldn't find a safe hiding place for the 5yo girl then Mama was going to have end the war. That and a kind reminder that all girls are children of King Jesus so that does indeed make the 5yo a princess so stop telling her she's not.
The girls had a tea party while we watched The Sound of Music and I assured the 5yo that Daddy WILL be at her wedding. And yes, I'm sure he won't have to work that day ;0) I reminded the 10yo that picking on a 1yo is fun for only so long. When her screech starts to break glass you have officially pushed her past her limit. The Christmas candy was munched and the day ended with a "tomato".
When one of our children has reached a breaking point and can't seem to make good choices we make them stay by us. We call it "being a tomato". This is an idea from the website Raising Godly Tomatoes. Although we don't agree with everything they share we have seen great results in pulling our children close when they have been disobedient rather than separating them or pushing them away. Today's tomato... the 7yo. Why you ask? Well, one golden rule in our house is if someone is bugging you you can't just whine "stooooop" you have to say "please stop". If someone says "please stop" you HAVE TO STOP or else you are in BIG trouble. There is a catch to it though. If you say it and they don't stop your job is to get a grown up to help NOT take matters into your own hands. This is not too hard to remember but, apparently after a long week of Christmas excitement, little sleep and too much candy it was just to much for 7yo Elijah. When 10yo big brother started shooting him with his Nerf gun he said "please stop" but when big brother didn't stop poor Elijah lost it, tackled the 10yo and tried to strangle the guy!! He had reached his breaking point. It was kind of hard not to laugh because... well, when the 7yo takes down the 10yo it's pretty funny! BUT since we do not allow beating of ones siblings a tomato he became.
So, few of you may know that the day AFTER Christmas is yet another national holiday... my husband's birthday! He tells the kids every year it's the best day of the year! I've heard about the horrors of having a Christmas birthday from him for years now. It's pretty funny actually. He's a great story teller and will sometimes have you believing you actually COULD walk uphill to school both ways!
We had a great day as a family yesterday just relaxing (and finding the floors and counters under all the scraps of paper and new gifts laying around). We slept in after having every intention of making it to church! Addison NEVER sleeps past 8/8:30 but apparently after almost a week of either missing or being woken from naps and missing normal bedtimes it caught up to her. So our "Addie alarm" didn't go off until almost 9:30 and amazingly the rest of the family slept that long too! We did head out to the store to pick up daddy's gift to himself. He got something for Christmas and wanted to get an additional part of it as his birthday gift. So I drove us around while he called various stores to see if they had it. While trekking around I stopped and used my new gift card for Biggby Coffee!! My happy place :0) Then I drove around "Miss Daisy" wherever he pleased! That in and of itself was pretty funny because he always drives when we're together.
Once home we had leftovers for lunch and watched the Lions WIN!! Yes you heard that right! The first time they've won 3 in a row in like 6 years! So that was his second birthday present of the day! Then I baked him a German chocolate cake (because you do NOT have anything green or red or with any signs of Christmas on a cake for someone with a Christmas time birthday... you will NEVER hear the end of it!!). As it was cooling his Mom showed up with some authentic Mexican and Puerto Rican food that he loved and has grown up eating. He's hoping I'll learn to cook some of these things from his Mom. It's a whole world of things I've never heard of!! Curious? It was Rellenos De Papa, some REAL Spanish rice and Mexican Mole (pronounced mo-lay). Pretty tasty I must say and doesn't sound too horribly hard to make... we'll see. Then we sang Happy Birthday and he had to take three breaths to blow out all the candles! I took all the kids birthday candles, like the 2, 5, 7- you know the big candles that say the number, I added that up and then put singles for what was left along with a "too old to count" candle! Ha! I get to pick on him all year for being "so old" and then for one month we are the same age and he picks on me. I so enjoy the fact I get 11 months and he only gets 1!!
All in all in was a great "holiday"! We also had a fantastic Christmas and are so thankful we still have a week to recover before heading back to the school routine... course we have New Years in there too. Not sure how recovered we'll be! We won't complain though!
Well, we're off to watch The Sound of Music. It was on TV last night but too late for us so I ran out and got it from the video store. Hannah watched the beginning and it was hard to pull her away. It appears that, like her mother, she has a love for musicals! Yay! And because it touches a little bit on World War 2 I even get my big boys watching it! Score!!
This will probably be my last post for the week as we get ready for Christmas and family time. I have presents to wrap and clues to write. Yup, you read that right. Clues to write!
Growing up Christmas was HUGE in our home. To this day my Mom has a fake tree and doesn't put on a large part of the bottom section to leave room for presents. No, I'm NOT kidding. I knew I didn't want to continue this tradition in my family because once you start it's hard to stop. Once it's expected you feel the pressure to keep up with... yourself! I wanted my family to be different (not that I ever minded being spoiled by my Mom!). Well, it turns out I didn't have a big choice in this in the beginning anyways. When I quit working full time to stay home we cut our income in half, literally. We didn't have much to live on. Christmas was going to be small. The first few years weren't a big deal but when Carter, our oldest, was maybe 4 or 5 and knew of all the glorious gifts waiting at Grandma's I felt he was going to be disappointed with our family and just counting the moments to leave to Grandma's if we didn't do something. We did two somethings. First is our gifts often require time with Mom and Dad. One year they got to build treasure boxes and Paul spent all morning helping them pound and assemble. A couple of years they got different K-Nex building sets that needed someone to help. Gifts like that became my goal. Then, just one year we decided to make them go hunting for a few gifts just to make the present opening last a little longer. Little did we know at the time that this would become expected and their favorite part of Christmas.
So this is how Christmas morning goes for us. We all wake slowly and the kids can open their stockings with us as they wait for younger ones to wake up. After everyone's up we turn on our local TV channel that has the "Yule Log" burning because I long for a fireplace and this cracks everyone up when I excitedly "start our fire"! We open gifts one or two at a time and usually there is only one or two under the tree for each person. This year I think our boys will have only two gifts under the tree combined. They are getting "brother gifts", something given to all of them together and our girls will be getting two "sister gifts". Itching for an example? Nothing fancy. Our girls will be opening a big box and it will have a Raggedy Ann doll for both of them and have 4 or 5 Raggedy Ann story books wrapped to open inside the box. One of the boys gifts is simply a Pictionary type game made by Lego. Iit's called Creationary. Instead of drawing something to guess you build it. They'll love it. At some point they'll open "baby Jesus" and we will stop and do the Christmas story. Then when the opening is done they'll start searching. Somewhere around the tree will be the first clue. The clues lead them through our tiny house several times before they land on their last gift. This year there will be a "boys gift" and a "girls gift". The clues are getting tougher and were figuring out how to mix this up for all different ages. This year the clues may be addressed to individuals so they all have a chance to find the next clue. We never thought this would be such a big hit but now we all look forward to it. The only thing I don't like is my dear husband insists we wait until Christmas Eve night to write them! One other year we tied a piece of yarn to their gift and then walked throughout the house and up and down and around and around and then left the other end at the tree. They had to follow their string and untwist and untie until they came to the gift. That was fun too, but a little hard to get around! With so few presents this year maybe we'll do both!
What kind of traditions do you have? Try mixing things up a bit this year and trying something new.
Sunday we started a new tradition! Our church does Christmas caroling every year and we have never participated. I expected a huge group and... it was not! Really only 5 families showed up but it ended up being a great time.
I must say I started with a really bad attitude. My husband was working and the night before we had a family Christmas party. For some reason, baby decided not to nap for the first time I can remember. She did well but I stressed all day waiting for her to lose it. We got home and got kids into bed and my oldest had to be up and ready to leave by 7:15 to go serve breakfast with his Sunday school class at a place similar to a Ronald McDonald Home. Thankfully he got a ride and I didn't need to have 5 kids ready to go that early! I let the kids sleep in as much as I could and we went only to our second service. However, little one decided to still wake at her normal 8/8:30 wake up even though she was still exhausted! We packed lunches and hats and mittens and headed off with said cranky baby knowing caroling was right in the middle of her nap time. Ergh. After church we made a pit stop at Grandma's to eat lunch and chill for about an hour. Our church is about a 20 minute drive so we didn't really have time (or gas) to head all the way home to eat. After a little play time we were off again.
The kids had no idea what they were in for. The boys were a little unsure but 5yo Hannah was sooooo excited. She was hoping we'd all hold hands and sway back and forth and sing We Wish You a Merry Christmas. I'm not sure where that came from but she was excited and burst into church saying, "This is my FIRST time Christmas caroling!" My two oldest I think became even more unsure when they realized we had to sing and they were the only ones their age. I think they were hoping to blend into the background but... there was no background! We headed off and hit 3 houses and 2 nursing homes. The couple who headed the whole thing up had some cookies and a picture some of the children did to hand out.
I didn't plan on this becoming a tradition and really I didn't plan on it being too fun! With a fussy baby who does NOT love cold or being buckled into a car seat repeatedly I was ready for a lot of complaining from her and the olders. Honestly, I'm not sure why I was so determined to do it except I just felt we should. I felt the Lord laying it heavy upon my heart that this was what we were suppose to do that day. I started a little crabby but soon got over it because they all loved it! Well, I don't know if they loved the singing part but they loved to see the smiling faces of everyone. In fact in the two hours we were out they never complained and were amazed to see the clock say 5 on our way home. They said it didn't feel that long at all. Baby complained getting in over and over again but really did quite well!
They met some interesting people and saw others from our church taking time to care about people the world often forgets. The first stop, the older lady there sang some of the carols we sang in German and told a funny story about taking care of kids when she was younger. The boys thought the German was pretty cool and we talked on our drive to the next house about why she may know that language. It was fun to imagine. We made a few stops here and there and ended at a residential home for people with disabilities. This was the kicker that really grabbed my heart and got my older children thinking. Years ago before we were at our current church, the associate pastor at the time had an adult son who was 30 I think they said. Big strong guy. He was married and a pilot. He got into a car accident and is now paralyzed. I don't know if technically he is a quadriplegic but basically unable to care for himself at all. His wife divorced him and his family moved. It sounds like his family is involved but not able to see him everyday (I could be wrong on that part. I don't know all the details of his whole family). He can move his arms some and can talk but it's hard to understand. His smile however was not hard to understand! He was beaming. After enjoying the songs he made it clear he wanted to eat a cookie NOW! It was pretty funny and then he made the comment that had us thinking and talking the whole way home. He said he prayed for us everyday. Us being the church we attend. It overwhelms me even typing it now. The tragedy in his life, the heart ache and pain you could see reflected on his outward body but his spirit was well in tact and he was praying for us! Of all the people who have the right to sit and sulk and be bitter, he is praying everyday for us. I'm sure he has had his days of course but the impact on my boys (and me) was big. It was a reminder of how delicate life is but at the same time how tough the human spirit coupled with God can be. You could see in their eyes the wheels turning as they thought about this man's life. My oldest said, "and he prays for us... huh" and shook his head in a gesture of disbelief and amazement. Caleb (10) was very quiet and just thinking for awhile in the car.
They ended up really liking it and want to do it again next year. This was about stepping out of our comfort zone and thinking about others. I love to sing but often get tongue tied when trying to come up with something to talk about with someone I don't know and my older kids are not big singers at all. But it wasn't about us and that was the point! I'm not sure we'd cut it going on our own but as long as we can find a few others to go with we will continue this tradition for sure. Hannah however asked if next year we could do it in the summer so it wouldn't be so cold! LOL! Good idea Hannie!
This week I will post on some fun Christmas traditions we do at our house. Really... none of them started out with the plan of being a tradition, they just kind of did! Today though we'll start with a new idea that I AM planning on making a tradition!
I read about this idea this week in Homeschooling Today Magazine and I loved it! It was mentioned along with other ideas and I may understand it a little differently, but this is how we are going to do it. You take a baby doll and wrap it in rags and wrap it up like any other gift. Address it to someone and place it amongst the other gifts under the tree. When someone opens "baby Jesus" everything stops. This is when you read the Christmas story and remember the real reason for the gifts and the excitement. They ended this time with singing Away in a Manger.
I love the thought of stopping in the middle of gifts. It's easy to talk about Jesus before and during Christmas but at least at our house all that seems lost when the paper starts flying. I'm really excited to add this to our Christmas day.
This past week the Jesse Tree has been going well and we get to light another candle on the Advent Wreath. The big day is creeping closer! After a year with some terrible health issues I am so happy and feel so blessed to simply be alive and watch the fun and excitement in my children's eyes. Thank you LORD for so many simple blessings. Thank you LORD for LIFE and that this year in particular I am aware that I have it "more abundantly"! (John 10:10).
Normally I want this blog to be a happy place but today I'm going to bring it down just a little. We've heard of some very sad events for three families this week and I know there are so many more out there. Today maybe we can pray for those going through difficult times while the rest of the world seems to be sparkly and smiling.
Our friends we stayed with last week while our boys were at state have two sons in high school. The oldest was going to be there when we arrived but his plans changed to be with a friend. His friends dad got very sick on Tuesday of that week. He got some kind of infection of strep and pneumonia or something along those lines. Apparently the spleen fights that infection and he had his removed as a child. He died on Friday. Can you imagine? This poor family the week before was probably busy with holiday plans and suddenly life just stops.
Another friend of mine just suddenly lost her father-in-law. No warning. Now a family plans a funeral instead of Christmas dinner this week.
This morning I was planning on posting on other things until I got an email from church. We do basketball at our church a little girl named Kendall went in to get her appendix out and came out with the knowledge she has Leukemia.
My heart just breaks for these families. I know things like this happen all the time. I remember losing a loved one and driving to the funeral and seeing smiling faces in cars and just wanting to scream, "Don't you know what's happening today!!! This is a bad day! You don't even know what we're going through today!". And I can imagine in the midst of Christmas it's a million times harder. I don't question where God is during all of this. I think the fact we see the difference in joy and sorrow, laughter and pain shows there is good and bad in this world. God is good, all the time. I've heard someone say if you could see what God sees in the midst of your pain and tragedy, you would choose 100% to be where you are. I know from experience that is very hard to remember when you're neck deep.
Please pray for these families and others you may know that they may be so fully covered in prayer and peace that they joyfully run to the Savior's arms. Pray that their hearts are not hardened by the pain and the words they speak bring glory to God. I listened to a speaker talk on heartbreak and pain and he shared that when you are going through times like this you have a megaphone to your mouth. Everything you say to others is magnified. Think of the difference of some guy sharing about forgiveness and saying you should forgive others and then change that picture to that of a tearful mother showing a picture of her young child who was killed by a drunk driver. She shares her pain and her sorrow but then she brings out the man who killed her child and hugs him and introduces him as a friend. She shares her struggle to forgive and their vision to now encourage others to forgive as well. Whole different picture huh.
I pray for their comfort. I pray they can still have times of joy and peace this season. I pray that if YOU are going through times like these you know others are praying for you and wanting to help. Mostly, I pray that if these families don't know Christ someone near them does and has the opportunity to share with them the greatest gift of all.
For unto us a child is born! Unto us a son is given!!
With Christmas right around the corner I thought I'd share with you how we manage toys. We have a pretty small house for a family of 7. I believe it's around 1100 square feet but we do have a finished basement. We have a pretty typical 60 year old ranch. Main floor has a galley kitchen (that's a fancy way to say a single hallway kitchen!), a dinette, living room (we call it our Front Room), 1 bathroom and 3 bedrooms. The Schoolroom is one of those. During our 4th pregnancy we finished the basement to include a family room, bathroom and a big bedroom for our boys. Many of our friends in big houses with 1-3 kids are amazed we fit in this space but we do and we really like it. When people visit they are often surprised that it doesn't feel crowded. It is well organized and we don't have a ton of "stuff" basically, because we don't have room for it!
Anyways!! Back to toys. We do a couple things that help keep our home from feeling like a Toys R' Us. One is we don't buy a lot of toys!! Of course that doesn't matter because grandparents, aunts and uncles buy toys and we are often given toys other families "out grow". Usually twice a year we go through toys and get rid of some. We toss ones with broken pieces and we donate ones still working. We share with our kids that some families can't afford a lot around Christmas so if we donate these toys we never play with to Goodwill or a mission thrift store and a mom or dad shops there, they will be so thrilled to have found a great toy for their kids. BUT think of how sad they'd be Christmas morning if they open up the game and find it doesn't have all the pieces or the toy's arms keep falling off because they are broken. That keeps their attention at finding all pieces and making good choices of donate or dump. This usually happens in early December and sometime in the summer.
Along with not buying many we do have a limit. This wasn't too difficult in a small house. We found a space for toys and if it doesn't fit... we don't keep it! We have a clothes baskets for stuffed animals (which all my kids love for some reason- and I swear they multiply all on their own!). If the basket is overflowing we dump everything out on the floor and start reloading by letting each child choose their favorite and put it in the basket. We do this one at a time until it's full and then we're done. They take a second look at what's on the floor to make sure they're happy with their choices and then we pack up what's left for Goodwill. We also do this with our toy closet and bins. The girls right now have more toys because they are the "littles". So we have baby toys and horses and dolls etc. These are in bins in the Schoolroom.
This week I'll go through these and take out what they don't play with and make room for a few new things I know they are getting for Christmas. The green topped box has dress-up stuff in it and the same goes for that, if it doesn't shut, it's time to get rid of some stuff. You can see the stuffed animal basket on top. We have one basket for the girls and one for the boys which is in their room.
Our Toy Closet is our other space. It is built under the steps downstairs.
If something doesn't come in a handy bin or box we put it in one. When this area is full we decide what to get rid of. As my boys are getting older they don't play with as many things so this is getting easier and easier to keep control of. Pretty soon I'll be deciding what to keep forever for other kids to play with and what is no longer needed (sniff sniff). This closet IS a closet so we can shut the door and you will see NO toys! The only other things we have are a Little Tykes kitchen in our family room and a few things in our boy's room. We struggled for years on how to tame Legos and finally found a good system for us.
These are from the floor to my chest high and the kids separated them by color. You can see on the floor in front there are still Legos on the floor but it's better than them dumping a huge box out to find one piece. Besides Legos they have Nerf guns stored in an under bed box... under their bed and some Bionicles in another under bed box.
That's it! I could probably get rid of what's in the Toy Closet and nobody would ever notice! The boys pretty much do Lego and Nerf and really always have. This is the first year EVER they've asked for anything for Christmas or Birthdays that was not Lego. The girls pretty much stick to stuffed animals and dolls. Again it seems the more kids we've had the less toys we need. They play pretend and wrestle and play games. Toys are what we do when there is no one to play with and we're really bored! On another day I'll share what we do with their electronics and "special things".
My friend and future sister-in-law made a comment the other day of "thank you for having everything!" in response to me lending her a baby carrier. I told her that's what happens when you have five kiddos... you tend to collect "everything"! It made me think though, if I could go back in time or to the future and share with my daughters or daughter-in-laws about to start a family, what are some of my favorite things I would not want them or me to be without? Interestingly enough... not a lot! So I'll share a very few of my favorite "things" that have gotten me through.
My most favorite baby thing is my Ergo Baby Carrier. I am getting nothing from you checking this out, so don't think I'm trying to make a sale... this is by far my favorite baby accessory! It is the most comfortable baby carrier I've ever tried and I've tried a lot! It's especially comfy for those cranky 1yo's who want up and held when not feeling well or tired or feeling ignored while you teach. Those little ones get HEAVY after awhile! Even in a sling! The Ergo is like a hiking backpack and all the weight goes on your hips, not your shoulders or back. I use to play kick ball with Hannah on my back and practically forget she was there minus the giggles and swinging feet by my side! My Ergo is what makes it possible for me to go to church every other week with five kids all alone! Addison goes on my back and I still have two hands to hold papers, drinks or grab shirts as children go flying by me! I will say,I don't use my Ergo until they are about 3 months old. Before that I use a sling. But as soon as they are comfortable not being right on my chest they are in the Ergo. I don't "wear" my babies all the time but if they are fussy and it works I go with it! The Ergo's are expensive but they resell on eBay for about the same price. I didn't get mine until baby #4 and I wish I had it before!!
A baby jumper. I couldn't find our exact one and this one is a bit fancier but the same idea. I know there's an old wives tales that they shouldn't stand or bounce because it's bad for their legs. I'll leave that up to you. We were told it was fine and according to instructions you just want their tip toes to touch. They're basically hanging and they catch on they can swing or bounce after awhile. It's the funniest thing to watch and all my babies loved it! The best part is it's easy to bring anywhere. Everyone has a closet or doorway available and it's much easier than bringing an exersaucer!!
Speaking of bringing things with you, we got this with Addie and again I would've bought it right from the get go if it existed!! A rotating hook on baby seat. This thing ROCKS! It hooks on to most tables... it does not hook well to one of our antique tables and it does much better in a center than an end. It takes the place of a high chair and it turns all the way around. So if you're sitting next to them to feed them you just turn it and lock it in place facing you. You can obviously face them to the table or turn it all the way backwards and they can watch you cook and sweep right under them. I love that it has a tray to feed them on, it washes easily and it is super easy to travel with. I even took it to church for our Thanksgiving dinner. She hung out watching the world, could sit right at the table with us, didn't take up a ton of room and still had her own clean tray to eat off of.
I have to say most everything else is optional! I did like having a little bouncy seat of some sort to feed them in and let them watch the world when tiny. We had many other things but none of them that important to us! Truly the more kids you have the less you need! Honest! Who needs toys when you have brothers and sisters to watch? Who needs baby seats when everyone fights over who holds you next? Again, who needs toys when you have Rubbermaid bowls and wooden spoons!! Of course we do have a stroller too. We've had many from pricey to cheap and can't say there's a huge difference there either. Each one served it's purpose.
I must admit, I LOVE babies!! I'd have a million more if my husband would let me-he will not :0( My favorite place to shop is ANY baby section or baby store, it doesn't matter if I have a baby or not! That was my favorite section long before I even had children (hubby should have taken note huh!)! They come up with some of the cutest coolest things but, thirteen years later these are still our top three. If you are expecting a little one or have one now check these out.
When my first child was born I decided I was going to write about my pregnancy and delivery and the funny things he did. As a first time mom I was incredibly detailed and it took until my second child was born to move on! I believe it's very detailed and then suddenly stops and says, "Then you were born. Labor was long and hard but you were a great baby the end! Caleb your labor was short and you were/are a TERRIBLE baby!! The end!" Then I started just writing in the funny things they did and said. Kind of like a journal I guess but not super detailed. By the way, he was a terrible baby... that's me being nice!
The funny stuff doesn't happen much until they start talking or another child joins the family so I guess when Carter was around two we started filling it in. The kids never knew I did it until they were probably around 4 and 6 I guess. One day they asked me what I was doing and I started reading some of the funny things they did and they were rolling on the floor laughing. I was surprised they found it so entertaining but they were pretty funny and after all it was all about them! Thus began the tradition of reading our "Funny Story" aloud every month or so. Sometimes we'll forget but usually someone asks every month. They really do know most of the stories by heart but that doesn't seem to matter.
A couple favorites... When Hannah was around two she wanted to sit like a "big girl" at the table but she couldn't quite say "big girl" so it would come out sounding like "bugar" and the boys would say, "Hannah, a big girl or a bugar like in your nose??" And she would say, "Ah bugar, yeah, in a nose." She had no idea she was being funny but they died laughing every time and still do when I read it. Another one was Caleb who was slow to talk and once he did, he had this funny way of twisting his words and sounding like he was Yoda! While on the trampoline he would say, "Jumping I am!" They like that one too. This week I entered Elijah telling me he was going to cheat on his math using a calendar (he meant a calculator) and Hannah was pretending to drive and told me she was putting it on onomatopoeia instead of auto pilot (only a homeschooled 5yo would come up with that one!).
I don't write often. In fact there are times I'll miss a whole year but I will just sit and reminisce and they will come to me or the kids will remind me. Now with five kids it seems there's always something funny so I keep it on my bedside table and grab it when I think of it. We read through it again last night because I needed to add that not only did my lovely boys teach my sweet baby girl to shoot people with her fingers and hilarious noises, after seeing them fall injured and moaning she now joins them complete with a dizzy head look and falls to the ground saying "ohhhh ohhh oh" and then lays like a limp rag doll for a minute before jumping back up to join the battle! Weirdo!
I do know looking back that these times go by so fast! I'm not sure I'd ever remember them without writing them down. And something about sharing them together seems to make us all feel closer, like yes, this is MY family, I am an important part and I add a lot here. We have almost filled a one subject spiral notebook so that's how little I write... that's at least 10 years worth of memories but oh, they are so sweet. If you've never done this there's no time like the present! Just start writing! After awhile it will be a great way to gather as a family making new memories as you laugh at old ones.
I've heard it said that usually the biggest annoyance you have with your child/children is your own issues being mirrored back. So true in this house. Time must be one of my top "love languages". If my husband spends more time on anything over me I feel he is choosing IT over me. Even if I don't want anything from him! Even if we've already spent time together. I guess in my book, time equals heart. I'm not sure this personality is clear when they are younger because they always have your time but two of my three older ones are like this. I find myself having the same conversations with these two lately as I have with myself.
Today my Caleb was very upset that after spending the whole morning with his older brother that Carter chose to talk on the phone with his cousin and hang out on the computer for awhile instead of continuing to be with him. By dinner time they were back together but I know if Carter said he was done it would be heartache all over again. In the afternoon Elijah came in crying because the kids outside were being mean and "not listening to me!!". He was going to come inside and be alone and sad. I shared with them both what a friend shared with me and has made such a difference; don't put your key to happiness in someone else's pocket. So simple but so true. I shared with Caleb he could not give Carter control of his whole day being good or bad based on how much time they spent together (note to self). Later I shared with Elijah that choosing to be lonely and sad because someone was mean is the worst choice for HIM! Again I told him not to let those big kids make his day sad! HE gets to CHOOSE how to react and what to do. My suggestion, go out and find something way more fun to do than what they were doing and pretty soon they'd be coming to him... and they did.
I have to say I have little patience sometimes for this problem and can see how my husband may feel. But as soon as I start to want to have a "give me a break" conversation with them I feel the Lord gently prick my heart and remind me how their heart is feeling at that time. It usually works because I SO understand that hurt even though it annoys me that it's even a problem for them or me! I do need to share this with my husband a bit more because lately I think it appears I'm overriding his decisions often. I'm not trying to override just deal with a heart issue that doesn't always need discipline but some understanding. (Good thing he reads my blog!) I do know we balance each other well though and sometimes they do just need to get over it (another note to self).
I must say until recently I didn't quite understand this verse: 1 Timothy 2:15 Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control. I don't claim to be a Biblical scholar and maybe I'm way off on what this verse means but I think I have learned more about myself, my faults, my faith and my failings through my children than I have with anything else EVER. And it ultimately leads me back to my Savior... where we all belong anyway. In the end they are an ever present reminder of my need to be saved! Only our awesome God could create a relationship that is so hard and teaches so much but is filled with so much love you wouldn't ever give it up for the world!
I thought I'd answer a few questions that have been thrown my way and give you an update on our busy weekend. I have pictures but have to apologize for the quality. They're all from my cell which is old.
First our Jesse Tree. Honestly, it's going... ok. I think by the time it becomes a habit for us it will be done! We've been very busy so some nights we aren't even reading the Scripture! Our older kids know a lot of the stories well so if we can't dig in I use it as a quiz game of sorts. I show them the picture on the ornament and they have to guess what it represents and when they do they have to tell me the story. I've been pretty impressed so far. Now that we are on our school break I hope we will have more time to focus on this. Oh and the tree is not looking quite as pretty because the climbing toddler has toppled it a few times!
I've had a few wondering if the Schoolroom still looked nice and neat or if it had exploded yet! Ha! Well, here's a small confession... I hate clutter!! My floors may not always shine but the house is generally tidy. Now if you come during school hours not so much, but afterwards everything is put in it's place. It drives me crazy when stuff is all over and I am known to call kids upstairs a million times to have them put things away as I find them. So that being said it's working pretty well. The kids know where things go and are generally putting them back on their own... or when told! This is how I found it this morning-
Now our busy weekend! The boys had their State Competition on Saturday but it was about a two hour drive and they needed to be there by 7:30 in the morning. We decided to stay with friends who were only 45 minutes from Competition. We LOVE staying with them and talking late into the night. They love spoiling our kids! Especially our little girls since they have two boys who are now in high school! They kept the girls while we headed out all day Saturday. But first just to make things crazier Hannah and I went and saw the Nutcracker. Her ballet class was able to get tickets for the school showing and we headed out around lunch time. She loved it! Her favorite part was, "all the pretty dresses". Mommy's least favorite part was my daughter's curiosity with public restrooms and the need to visit them three times in a two hour trip!!
As for State, it didn't go so well :0( Unfortunately what the judges loved at Regionals they did not love at State! They really had a ton of fun though and learned a lot. I'm not sure they want to put in as much work as is required to go to Worlds anyways. There were other teams who walked away empty handed after being at State three times now! So live and learn. There were a TON of kids and we were thrilled when the other area homeschool team won it all and is headed to Worlds!! Here's a few pics-
THEN we rushed home that evening asking for prayers because we were suppose to have this HUGE snow storm! We got home as it started to snow and the kids were all excited (and so was I) to wake up to these 4-8 inches of snow on top of ice from the warm rain that day. This is what I saw when I opened the window Sunday morning-
We made it to church no problems! That afternoon it did get icy and they cancelled lots of events and all the neighborhood kids were hoping for a snow day today but it really looks about the same out my window! Bummer!
Our last big weekend news... climbing girl found yet another thing NONE of my other children ever thought of to climb!
Doesn't look to bad until you realize she was trying to get on top of this so she could have a short cut up the stairs!!! Crazy kid!
I wrote the other day about having time alone for me and my husband but I didn't talk much about time together. I thought I'd share a bit.
I have to confess I hate when people say the secret to a happy marriage is a regular date night. I hate it because being a single income family with many little ones the money just isn't there. Yes, you choose what you spend your money on and we choose to spend it on other things we want more than a "date night". We have family around but no one who wanted to volunteer on a regular basis to watch our kids. We tried a swap with friends and it just didn't always work out. We were not willing to fork over $50-$100 to pay for a sitter and to go out to a movie or dinner. And to be honest I wasn't big on leaving my kids with someone else. Then we realized we were killing ourselves to get out and do something someone else told us "should be" important to us!
We are both homebodies really. We like to snuggle up on our own couch at night and watch a show or a movie. We do like to go out to eat sometimes but we are just as happy going and picking it up and bringing it home to eat. So that became our "date night". After the kids are tucked in we'll rent a movie and pick up a meal or even just a snack. Our corner store I swear stays in business from our late night runs for a pop and beef jerky or ice cream or something along those lines. We don't have an official night or even call it a date night, we just do it. Sometimes there will be a movie on TV or on demand we'll do. We don't always do a meal or treat but when we do it feels "official"! Ha!
Now lest you think we are the most boring people in the world, we do have other things we do together! We live where the snow flies and it is down right cold from November through March. Those are our movie date times. Once the warm weather hits we LOVE to cycle!!! We take the whole family to trails often but our most fun is heading out on our own (or with only one child to pull behind us) and ride off into the sunset... or sunrise! This summer we rode a 40 mile covered bridge bike tour for our anniversary! It was the best. This coming year we hope to train together and ride at least one if not more "century rides" (100 miles). In the warm weather we do have regular days we go out just us. Once a week we meet some of my husbands buddies from work to ride local trails and every other Saturday we meet a group in the morning to ride. The weekday is a pretty short ride and we swap grandparents. One week my parents will watch them for a couple hours and the next week his mom will. On Saturdays we bring the baby and the older kids can hold down the fort while we're gone. The neighbors are home and without a little one around they handle themselves quite well (ahhh, the joys of having a real "big" in the big kid group!!). I love the winter but I have to say I sure do miss cycling already! I should add that when it's warm and we ride we do not still do the time alone day. Cards are not played and girlfriend time is set aside to ride together.
We also like to play boardgames together and the occasional video game! I am a master at Tetris! I tell him I get my skills from arranging everything in our refrigerator on grocery day! I don't do all that well at "boy" games like war and speeding but every once in awhile I'll give it a try.
So there you have it. How we spend husband and wife time together. How do you spend your time? Are you overlooking something simple and fun you love to do because you feel you "have" to have a "date night"?
I have wanted a whiteboard on an easel for the last year or so. I have a little table-top one that is just not big enough anymore. We've looked here and there and found them to be flimsy or really expensive! I tried a child's size easel but it was too low for the kids to see at table. Then I had this genius idea!! A friend was talking about her kids loving window markers and while I didn't have those, I had a box full of dry erase markers. I decided to be daring and give it a try. Well it worked like a charm. It wiped right off! BUT it didn't show up very well. With the light coming through, the trees, grass and all of that in the background made it hard to see. So, step two, I found a poster board I had lying around and I taped it to the outside of our slider. Perfect! The slider is right at the table where we do school and I can easily go out and tape the poster board up and take it down. It's not pretty but it works!
I just use duct tape and when I take it down I simply stick it to the back of our schoolroom door. I haven't even had to replace the tape yet. I'm sure everyone once in awhile I'll need to. Like I said, not pretty but works great! We use it for spelling rules, verses to copy, brain storming... all sorts of "stuff". The added bonus is you can put your one year old up on a chair next to you and give her an eraser! As I teach and write I'll lean over and scribble on the other side of the slider or write letters and she'll erase them. Keeps her entertained forever!
I'm sure I am NOT the first one to figure this out but it was so helpful to me I had to share!
Some of you are wondering what kind of school year we have that gives us three weeks of Christmas Break. This is a new schedule for us this year and so far we are loving it! We got the idea from our Sonlight curriculum. We started school the first week of August instead of the first or second week of September. We work for four weeks and then take a week off. It worked out perfect because it gave us the Labor Day week off to be with friends before they started school. Then if we continue that routine of four on, one off and take two weeks off at Christmas, we fall right at our normal 5th week off. So it gives us three weeks instead of two. Continue through the year and take a week off at Easter and again it hits a fifth week and gives us a two week Spring Break. Then we will take the whole month of July off as our Summer Break.
Fortunately in our state we don't have a required amount of days we have to school but it does make life easier when you figure out how many days your on. You can divide your work up to fit your year easily and it gives you something concrete to tell family. We chose to follow the typical 180 days because it seems most curriculum's are set up to follow a 36 week school year. Even the ones that are not are close (some are 24 weeks that we have used). But that lets us know if we need to spend more time on something, we have it.
The best part of this has been the chance to breathe! The week off we can do some fun things as a family. I can make doctor/dentist appointments. We can catch up with housework and organize our school stuff without trying to juggle all of that AND school. And honestly... after four weeks I'm either bored of routine or overwhelmed by life! Just like my count down to Christmas Break of "5 more days.... 5 more days", I can do the same when heading to our week off if I need too.
The kids love it. They brag to all their friends when it's a week off. The only catch is summer. I'm not sure they're going to think it's so great with only a month off in the summer. We'll have to see how it works. All I know is ALL moms by the end of summer are dying to get back on a routine. Maybe a month will be a big enough break to relax but not so much that I'm counting down the days to "normal" again. Like I said, we'll see.
I must say this is the best and worst part of homeschooling for me. I love that we get to make our own choices like this but at the same time it's hard to make a choice and stick to it when you know you can change it!! This year we're determined to stick with it. So far, so good.
The other day I mentioned being crabby with my husband and part was being tired and part was planning... remember that here? Well, I thought today I'd share the planning ahead part.
One of the reasons I was crabby was that I was watching my husband take the time he wanted for himself with no guilt and it really annoyed me! I always wanted a husband that said, "Honey, you work so hard. Take a break. Let me do dinner. You go rest in your room or go out for a coffee. Let me do." Well, I really love him but he is not that husband! But I do have a husband that wants to help me, he just doesn't want to have be a mind reader (go figure). He also needs a plan. Springing it on him made him very crabby, which made me feel guilty for going and mad for feeling guilty!
The breakthrough? After talking we realized if he knew when I was going out and we had a plan for the evening he was totally cool with it. We also realized I was feeling short changed. He goes "out" once a week and plays cards with all the "old men" at my Dad's. It's actually quite cute. They are all 64 + and play at noon! He loves shootin the breeze with the "old guys" and comes home four hours later happy and refreshed. I don't mind because it doesn't mess with our schedule at all. It's during school hours for us. BUT for me to find even an hour seemed hard at times. Then all of a sudden there was a light bulb moment... if he comes home around 4:30 ish and we work as a team together to get an easy dinner together, I can head out by 5 or so. Then it's only one day a week for both of us to get a nice break and I'd rather have an evening over an afternoon any day. I can go to the thrift stores or have coffee with a friend or some days I may even hang out in my room with a good book or phone a friend ( Hi Sena!). Because he always knows the day it never phased him and I'm downright giddy to have some time. Honestly, I don't even need it every week. I really like to be home, but knowing it's there and an option I love.
Doesn't that sound so simple? Don't we sound so smart?? Only took us thirteen years to figure that one out! Duh!!!!
Remember "senioritis"? End of your senior year and you couldn't concentrate on anything but being DONE! Well I have it this week... "Christmasitis" maybe. This is our last week of school before a nice long three week break and I'm soooo ready! I've had a hard time keeping us on track since the week of Thanksgiving!! I want to curl up on the couch and watch Christmas movies and just hang out with my kids!
I love it when life slows down. Staying up and sleeping in a little later, special treats and favorite stories read aloud over hot cocoa. Ahhhh. Now I keep telling myself, "5 more days... focus... only 5 more days!" I think I'm worse than the kids this year!! Ironically, by the new year I will be dying to get back on track because we'll all be crazy and ready for some structure to our days!
I guess all that proves is there indeed a time and season for everything!
I was sharing with some friends that my darling husband was bugging me this week. I couldn't put my finger on it. He was just irking me. He kept laughing at me because I didn't have an answer for my grumpiness towards him but I was sure I had the right to be crabby! I discovered one part of my problem was just being down right tired. Nothing crazy. I just needed a couple really good nights of sleep. Amazing how life changes when you're not exhausted! The other issue was a lack of planning with him (I'll share about that some other day).
In the midst of all this talk Brooke popped in with a great tool I wanted to share. Someone shared with her in college to H.A.L.T which was not to talk if you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired. I thought that was such a great way to remember to watch your words. I must say when I lose it and say things I wish I hadn't or get all emotional, one of those four things are usually at play. Of course the joke then went- if I'm a homeschool mom of many children and I shouldn't talk if I'm hungry, angry, lonely or tired... I'll be mute for the next twenty years!!! It IS a possibility!
Next time you're ready to blow H.A.L.T before you speak. If you're hungry...EAT! If you're angry...PRAY. If you're lonely...call a friend or pull out your Bible and read and talk to your best friend! If you're tired...SLEEP! How often do we mom's not take care of our own basic needs trying to do it all and in the end cause some of our own problems. Speaking for myself here but I can't imagine I'm alone!
Hope this idea blesses you as much as it has me! Have a good weekend!!
Mumbling under my breath- I can't believe I'm going to bat here for "The Park" err...
I wanted to share a need with you all from a friend of mine. Her husband is a teacher at Wyoming Park High School in Wyoming Michigan. When I was in school (goll, now I am officially old! In a minute I'll tell you how I walked up hill both ways in the snow) they were one of two "well off" financially and very competitive schools in the city. My school was the other. Our parents were almost all employed by General Motors and Steelcase. Anyone who knows anything about Michigan's economy doesn't even need to hear the rest of this story, for those of you who don't I'll make it short and sweet. General Motors is gone. It closed down pretty much everything in the area and Steelcase is down to maybe a quarter of it's former employees. So many houses in foreclosure. So many families struggling with what to do next. It's a different town with many needs it never had before.
Here's where you may come in. One of the things both of these schools always prided themselves in was their marching bands. A blanket email was sent sharing that now 2/3 of their students are using school owned instruments and the need is going up. They may have to turn kids away in the future especially if the economy doesn't change quickly in the area. Here's their request-
The band program is in need of your used instruments! I’m sure that many of you (or people you know) have used instruments that are collecting dust in an attic or storage bin. Now is the time to put those instruments to good use! If you would be willing to donate (or, even loan) the instrument for a student’s use, that would be terrific! Our students will greatly benefit from your generosity, and the instrument will be used to make music once again!
That is where YOU come in! Please consider allowing our students to use your old instruments! We will be sure to get you a receipt for tax purposes. Please contact me with questions...thank you very much!
Shawn Gurk - Director of Bands: Wyoming Park High School
"Impacting students to be contributing members of society through the pursuit of musical excellence."
Wyoming Park High School
2125 Wrenwood, Wyoming, MI 49519 Main Office 530-7560
email@example.com (Shawn Gurk)
Wouldn't it be awesome to just bless them with loads of instruments! I was a choir girl myself but my husband was a band geek marched and I'm sure like many of you, his mom kept his trumpet and over time I think just donated it to Goodwill or something. If yours hasn't been "donated or something" please consider passing it on!
Okay, okay band people! Settle down. I was only joking about the geek part! Band actually rocked in our school so REALLY it's just a joke!!
We LOVE snow!! And today we got it! A few inches so far. Two of the five are out playing now and I'm sure the two oldest will join them when they get home from their friend's house. Addison (18 months) already has a love hate relationship with snow. She loves her sister and brothers who are out playing in it but doesn't want anything to do with touching it! She was the same way with beach sand this summer, refused to get off the blanket! So she stands at the slider and babbles and then cries. I'm not sure if she's telling the snow to go away or warning the kids to get out of it. Hilarious!
The first snow to stick to the ground means a lot around here. It means... LOCO HOT COCOA! We make a big pot of hot cocoa and top it with whip cream and chocolate chips. Mmmmm. We make this off and on throughout the winter but always on the first real snow. In fact I've been trying to hide the whip cream for weeks now waiting for the snow to come. If they find it, this is what happens-
They all stand around their Dad like little birds with mouths open and heads thrown back as he squirts it in. I yell at them and act stern like a mom should while smirking at my husband. I know these are memories they'll have forever and one day share with their own kids. I can hear them already saying, "This is what my Dad always did with us." Needless to say I've had to buy several cans over the past few weeks between daddy and Thanksgiving pies.
When I woke up this morning and saw the snow I quickly checked the can and was thrilled to see it was full. The first words out of every child's mouth this morning (besides the one who doesn't talk yet) was not, "snow!" but, "MOM!! Loco Hot Cocoa!". And of course we did.