Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I live and I ramble

We found out in September that I was pregnant again. #13. Due mid-May. It took me about 10 minutes to get excited about it. It was a long ten minutes. But I got excited. I just wasn't thrilled about more sleepless nights and more morning sickness and all that. My little guy just hit a year and LOVES to nurse. I didn't want to have to wean him because I just can't take the nausea when he nurses and I'm pregnant.

But it is God who creates life and if He wills for me to carry another baby, who am I to question that? I thought about how I didn't want a fifth, but I'm so thrilled with Claire and who she is. I cannot even imagine my life without her. And I didn't want more than 6, but God told us to leave it to Him from there on out. That's half my children! And they're all so incredible! Smart, beautiful, fun, imaginative, wonderful people. So I trust God. I really do. And I'll do whatever He asks of me no matter how hard it is. I just couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong with this baby and I didn't know if I could handle that.

It turns out I don't have to. Whatever was wrong, it's over now. The baby, Charlotte was the only name we all agreed on so far, has passed on. We never got to meet her, or even know if she's really a she. I made it through most of the morning sickness, updated my maternity wardrobe, was ready to start making curtains for her room, etc. But no need. She's gone.

And while that is sad and enough to deal with, it wasn't enough. I started bleeding with the miscarriage. I'd been warned there would be a lot of blood. But it kept getting worse and worse and wouldn't stop. I passed out. When I came to I couldn't move. We called an ambulance.

[Warning: I am sharing this to help myself process all the thoughts going through my head. I will give details that are not fit for all to read. Read it at your own risk. Plus it gets really long so if you bore easily, just close it now.]

So here I am still in my pjs, another diaper in my panties to catch all the blood (but still not enough) and no bra, and the paramedics show up to take me to the hospital. I was sure I was about to die and I knew I needed their help to live and take care of my children. But I sure wished I had more dignity about me. Strange the things that bother me at such a time.

Anyone who knows me knows I have large veins. They stick up on my hands and wiggle across my feet making me think bugs are crawling on me. But I'd lost so much blood they couldn't find a vein. They managed to get an IV in my hand which still hurts it got so sore.

I spent hours in the ER losing blood. They all assumed I'd need a D&C so I wasn't supposed to eat or drink. If you donate blood, they give you a cookie and juice. I got nothing. But this all started before breakfast and I was tired and hungry. I couldn't sleep with tubes all over me and people in and out checking on me. I was horrified by the mess I was leaving everywhere.

Finally it was time to go to Labor and Delivery to see the OB/Gyn. (It was dinnertime, too, but who was thinking about food?) It was across the street so I had to be transported by ambulance again. This time I was dressed in nothing but a hospital gown that was missing ties. My panties with diaper have now been replaced by a towel between my legs. When you have a baby, modesty goes out the window. When you have a miscarriage and your body tries to bleed to death, you still feel modest. The guys that moved me got an eyeful of all of me. I'm aware that it's all in a day's work and means nothing to them, but it's not normal for ME. And then to be kind and make conversation, the guy gets in the ambulance and says, "So I hear you have 12 kids? You look great for having 12 kids." Um, thanks, but can we not talk about the fact that you know EXACTLY how I look? I was hoping to not think about that!

Everyone was great though. The doctors and nurses and whoever I dealt with were all kind and willing to answer my questions and explain things. No one wanted to do more than needed to be done. I had people praying for me and I know it helped because I never needed a D&C. It just took so long because apparently I was the first of many (at least 12) ambulance calls within a few minutes. And others were worse off than me.

At L&D, the doc did an exam and found that there was tissue caught in my cervix. Yep, I had prayed and commanded my body not to let go of this baby. I guess there's power in Jesus' name even when we don't realize what we're really saying. (I'm still mulling this over. It's just so odd to me that I endured as much time in labor with a miscarriage as with my longest labor ever. My body knows how to have a baby. Why couldn't I handle a miscarriage properly?) So this led to what seemed another comical/humiliating experience. Here I am, all splayed out for the world to see with my legs in stirrups while they discuss the best speculum to use and where to plug in the lighted one and will the cord reach? The doctor kept laughing and saying "home birth". I guess referring to how NOT professional this seemed. But I liked them--the doctors and the nurses. And for me to say I like a doctor is saying a lot. I tend not to trust them much. So he yanked and tugged and took care of me. It wasn't fun or comfortable, but it avoided my having to have a D&C which has it's own risks. The bleeding almost stopped when he finished. The problem was solved and I could begin to recover. Phew!

Then began the discussion about whether I stay overnight or go home. I knew at home I would want to hold my kids. I knew that if Max woke up at night I would go get him. But I also knew I'd hear babies cry if I stayed. I asked them, "If I stay here, will I hear babies crying all night? If I have to hear babies crying I want it to be mine." And I cried. The doctor was surprised. He commented that I'd been so tough through all that he just didn't realize... And I wondered about that. Do I give the illusion that I have it so together that things don't bother me?  Is that why so often people assume I don't need help? Because I have it all together? I hold it together because if I don't, who will? I have to be strong because I have not been able to count on a lot of people to help me.

God has been telling me for a couple of years now that I need to learn to accept help. I guess a near death experience is a way to learn that. I cried as they carried me out of the house to the ambulance. Not because I was in pain, but because it was humiliating to me to have all the neighbors see me so helpless. To let everyone know I had failed with this pregnancy. I worried about my kids and how they were doing. I was scared for my life. I knew I needed to do what we were doing. I knew I needed the help. And I hated it.

That was 2 days ago. Today I tried to just sit in a chair and have a somewhat normal day while the kids did chores and schoolwork around me. It was too much. Now I have a killer headache and can't even nap through it. Why is it so hard for me to just rest and relax and recover? Why can't I let others do work for me and just sit back and get better? Why does it bother me so much to let go of control for a little while and let others take care of us? I don't know. I know I need to get over this and I'm trying. It's just so hard.

Yesterday when I got home, I was greeted by 9 beautiful young people who were all happy I am alive and getting well and HOME. I was only gone about 24 hours, but it was a LONG 24 hours. It was scary for all of us. Two year old Gwen keeps talking about Mommy was bleeding and she had to go cause she was very bad. I have no idea how to explain all this to her. They're sad about the baby. They were scared for me. But what did I do that was bad? How do you get into the mind of a 2 yr old and understand how to help? So there's more than just physical recovery needed here. Prayers would be greatly appreciated.

I've found that I'm emotionally strong most of the time. But every time I am alone for a few minutes--even in the ER--I just start crying. Somehow I can keep my mind off the loss until I'm alone. Then I cry. My belly isn't going to grow into that cute round shape. I get to nurse my toddler, but not a newborn. I won't even feel her moving inside of me. I just got the nausea, the loss, the fear, and the pain.

I've seen God's hand in different areas and friends have pointed out other areas I hadn't noticed. Roger got home from a meeting Monday morning within minutes of my needing him so badly. And he is awesome in an emergency! He stays so calm! He was such a comfort to me. I could look up and see his face and know that all would be well as long as he was with me.

And I got to find out about a couple of doctors that I might be able to trust. That could help us avoid future trips to the ER.

I spent some time ministering to someone at the hospital who was really needing some encouragement. It felt really good to be able to reach out to someone else and stop thinking about my own problems.

And I get to live. I get to keep on being the mother of 12 wonderful children and the wife of an incredible man. I get to know that I live in a neighborhood full of people who care and reach out to help each other. I get to know I live in a community that if I am in a life or death situation, there is help available and they are good people. God is watching over me. I may not understand His ways, but I know that He loves me and He does what is best for me. I know that I have a mother and sister who are willing to drop everything to come take care of me and my family when I need them. And that's not an easy job! And I know that my children and husband love me and appreciate me. Not all moms get to know that.

Throughout the whole day Monday, I kept seeing beautiful people. Every one just looked so beautiful to me. I think it was a gift from God. I got to see people the way He sees them for a little while. It's pretty amazing. Not one person seemed to have any blemish or problem and they all were so kind I could SEE it. Every one of the paramedics, the techs, the doctors, the nurses were just beautiful. My guess is that is the way God sees me too. And you.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Ice Cream Alternative

I'm kind of a health nut now. But ice cream is my downfall. I just can't say no. This smoothie recipe is the next best thing if not better. There is no sugar, but it's super good!

Pour into blender and blend until smooth:
2 c milk
2 eggs
splash of vanilla
6 oz orange juice concentrate
Frozen fruit of your choice (we really like strawberries and mangoes but use whatever) to fill the blender to 6 cups.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Knowing How To Cook

I learned this week that when you think you know how to cook, it really is just a matter of knowing how to use the tools available to you. 

We used to use the microwave a lot. Then we quit because we heard it isn't very good for your food. I understand that's considered controversial, but I'm not going to argue that because it's really not what I'm writing about right now. The point is, I had to re-learn how to cook.  I had to stop putting frozen veggies into a plastic container and pushing buttons and start putting those same veggies into a pot and steam or boil them. No big deal, but at first I felt rather silly for having to stop and think about what to do with them.

We do a lot of cooking "from scratch."  I tend to be a bit prideful about that. So this week I got knocked down a peg or two. One of my children had a friend over who can't eat wheat. So she brought her own dinner.  All I had to do was microwave it. Uh huh. Sounded easy enough.

It turns out in the 5 years or so since I stopped using a microwave they started printing the instructions really, really small. (No, it has nothing to do with me getting older and my eyes not seeing that small print.) I couldn't figure out what I was supposed to do. I finally managed to squint just right to see it says to slit the overwrap. Whoops. I guess that's the plastic package we tried to remove completely.  Then microwave on medium for so many minutes and then high for so many more minutes. I have absolutely no idea how to change the power setting! We only have a microwave because it was built in when we moved in.  I hope the food came out edible because we just microwaved it on high the whole time. (At least I think that's the default setting.)

So, yes, I know how to cook on a stove or bake in an oven. But microwaves are a whole 'nother story!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Random Things I Love About My Baby

I'm not asleep. It's 3am and I'm awake. Why? No, I haven't had insomnia in 22 years. I'm up with this adorable little baby beside me.

People always ask if your baby is "good". Well, Max wouldn't qualify as a good baby I think, by most people's standards. He has long (well, they seem long at the time) periods where he cries and I can't seem to soothe him. He doesn't sleep very well either.

But he smiles when he's happy and he gives me these looks like he adores me. I love the little moments. They keep me going.

He'll be sleeping in my arms and begin to wake up. He'll see me, smile, then relax and go back to sleep. It's like he just needed to be sure I was still there. (I think that's why he doesn't sleep well. There are those times I put him down, rare as they may be.)

I love those times when he falls asleep nursing and we seem to just fit perfectly together. Like he just belongs there and we are both so relaxed.

I love when he "talks" to me (like right now) with a series of gurgles and aahs and goos. And his expressions are so serious as if he just wants me to understand. But then suddenly breaks into almost a laugh and we laugh together at his "joke". I love the sound of his voice.

I love kissing baby foreheads. And his cute blond fuzz that will someday need a haircut.

I love those moments when I think I've calmed him.

I love how his siblings love him--each in their own way. Gwen, at 20 mos, can have a dangerous love and I have to watch her closely, but she means well. She bit him last week. Like Max in the storybook Where the Wild Things Are he has to watch out for those who will eat him up they love him so. Speaking of wild things, 11 yr old Clark can turn so calm when he gets a turn to hold Max. I love that.

I really love that when I check if he's breathing, he is. I had a scare with that today and I'm so grateful it was nothing.

And I really, really love that he's almost asleep as I finish this post one-handed.

Typing this helped this late night seem not so bad. I may have to do a post on things I love about my 3 yr old soon (and there are many) the next time he throws a tantrum or I step on one of his cars in the middle of the night.

Shhh. He's asleep! G'night!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Max Isaiah's birth

Our twelfth child has arrived.  It's a boy! That makes 6 boys and 6 girls. How awesome is that? He is absolutely beautiful!

7 lbs, 10 oz. 20 3/4 inches. He was born on Monday, September 5 (Labor Day) at 7:47pm.

His birth story still amazes me.  If you don't want the gory details, stop here. I don't know what is gross to others, I just share the story as it happened.

I've had some really intense labors. And obviously, not just one or two births. It's true that after my first I forgot most of the pain. After my second I still didn't think the pain was that big of a deal. My 3rd was like a 2 hour contraction that was so intense I was afraid of labor with my 4th. And that fear has been an issue for me ever since. Some of my labors have been worse than that 3rd one, others about the same. I tend to have my babies come fast and furious and after a while it's just scary knowing it's coming. With this last pregnancy, one of the first thoughts I had when I saw two lines on the pregnancy test was, "Oh, I have to go through labor again!"  Seriously folks, I spent time last weekend thinking "I'm stuck. I don't wanna stay pregnant, but there's no way to get this baby out without some pain."  So I prayed a lot. And I asked a lot of people to pray for me. I was praying for a pain free labor. You know, you hear about young girls not even realizing they're in labor and then they need to push. I figured why not ask? The book of James tells us we do not have because we do not ask. So I asked. And I asked for prayers about the fear too.

God answered all my prayers with this labor.  About 2 weeks before he was born I was noticing I still hadn't even really had any Braxton Hicks contractions. That seemed weird to me. I usually have tons.  But I've been drinking red raspberry leaf tea every single day for a long time now and figured maybe my uterus is plenty strong now and didn't need the "practice."  Who knows. Then I started "talking" with a fellow momys (from the email list MOMYS--mothers of many young siblings of which I've been a member for about 8 years now) who was due about the same time.  She was sharing her similar experiences of fast, intense labor and that God answered her prayers and had given her pain free labor. She did what we tried with Gwen's birth--to focus on God and praise and worship Him through the labor instead of focusing on contractions--and it worked for her. With Gwen's birth the worship time got interrupted and I never could get back to it.  But I was determined to make it work this time. I discussed it with my midwife and she was in agreement with me that we could have an awesome birth experience if we worshiped God through it.

So after first praying and asking God for pain free labor, that very night I began to have some light contractions. They didn't feel like Braxton Hicks. They felt like they were actually working, but not very hard and not very fast. My momys friend said she'd had this for about 2 weeks before her pain free deliveries, so I figured cool, I could handle a long, slow labor that let me still function throughout it. I tolerated these contractions quite nicely. Sometimes they'd take my breath away and I would have to stop what I was doing, but they never hurt at all.  Just felt like things were happening really really slowly.  After about a week and a half of this, I was dilated to 4, but still couldn't say for sure I was in labor. The contractions would come and go and never hurt and were never regular and just fit in with my life as I went about taking care of the kids and house and trying to get projects done before the baby came.

I had a list of things I wanted to get done before the baby came. It was written on the chalkboard we have up on the wall in our dining room. On Labor Day, I got up and began to work on the last two items on my list--get the fan pull done for the baby's room, and bind the last 2 of the 3 quilts Grace, Claire and I had made for the baby's room. I finished one, then cut and pressed strips of fabric to make binding for the very last one. I was ready to go sew it onto the quilt, but went to the bathroom first. Bloody show. In the past that meant we'd have a baby in 12-24 hours so I let Roger and the midwife know, then hurried to the sewing room to finish the quilt. I felt a few contractions as I sewed and figured this was nothing really. It didn't even hurt as much as menstrual cramps.  But I also knew that the position I was sitting in trying to hurry and finish this quilt was making me more uncomfortable and I needed to go relax. But I finished the quilt, posted pics on facebook, got the fan pull ready to be hung (and it's still waiting for someone to attach it to the chain for the fan), then went to lay down and rest. I was feeling really sleepy.

I laid down on the bed and slept. I would wake up, realize a contraction was ending and lay there for a while wondering what was going on because I could feel my body changing, but nothing hurt at all.  Occasionally I'd feel a big contraction coming on, lots of tightening, but suddenly it was as if I was drugged and I'd fall asleep. Then I'd wake as it ended. My awesome heavenly Father was putting me to sleep for the strong contractions!! I seriously never felt pain with these!

I had some praise and worship music still prepared on my computer from Gwen's birth. I had Roger turn that on for me, and at some point I had to get up so they could prepare the bed. The whole labor is really a bit of a blur for me since I slept through most of it. I know at one point I felt this weird movement in my belly. I have no way to describe it other than it felt the baby just jumped down into position. I glanced at the time and saw it was 7:02 and knew that now it was safe to push. We were past Samuel's birth minute.  But for some reason, I just couldn't believe it could possibly be time to push. Nothing had hurt yet, no one was there telling me I could push, I just felt I had to wait until everyone was ready. From that point on, the contractions hurt because I was literally holding back trying to work against them and not push.  But I only had a few and the pain of holding back is nothing like the pain I'd experienced in past labors.

I finally asked the midwife to check me. She said I was fully dilated and could push. I didn't believe her. She kept assuring me it was okay. Roger climbed up on the bed to support me, but then we had to wait for him to take off his boots. Then he needed support so Claire climbed behind him. I had these visions of poor Claire getting squished by her dad because I was pushing against him. I remember trying to lean forward more so she wouldn't get squished. I remember looking up once and seeing a wall of kids watching off to the side, then looking up a little later and that wall of kids had moved way closer. And I pushed. I don't know how long, but even that didn't hurt. We were all praying and worshiping as I pushed. Usually I feel stinging as the baby comes out, but not this time. And then he was here. A boy! And so beautiful! And we were done! I am still just in awe over the beauty of it all.

That night as everyone else slept, I just kept going over the birth in my mind and would have to suppress laughter. God answered every single prayer I'd had over this birth. Our daughter Faith was home for the weekend and had to leave by 8 to get back to school before curfew. It had to be hard for her to leave, but at least I wasn't still in labor! She got to see her new brother before she left. And there were so many other little things that were all needing to fall in place and they did. God is so amazingly awesome and loves us so much. He wants to give us good things, but we have to ask and be willing to receive.

I do have to say, I've asked for pain free labor before and didn't receive it. I think the big difference this time was that I focused on HIM through the labor. I asked Him to help me through, but then didn't focus on me this time, I focused on Him.  When I stopped listening to Him, I did have pain. He was telling me it was time to push and I wouldn't listen. I wouldn't believe. And it hurt. But when I re-focused on Him, the pain went away again.  What a life lesson that is! 

It makes me think of this old hymn--Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.  It's so true! Jesus, please help me remember that every day!!!

Monday, July 11, 2011

All Things Work Together For Good

Saturday night just after midnight we got a call that one of our cows had to be put down due to dogs attacking. We didn't know which cow it was.  We still had 3 cows left on that property--Esther who is waiting for us to have room in the freezer, Stella who is a mean, nasty jersey, and Flo who is our best milk cow.  So Roger got up and went to Coleman (an hour away) to find out what was going on.

It was Stella.  It was a relief because of the 3 she was the one least disappointing to lose.  But still, no one wants to lose a cow.  And then it turns out the dogs belonged to the people renting our house and they didn't care.  That's a whole other nightmare we need to deal with.

We were pretty upset about the whole thing.  Roger came home and finally got a bit of sleep, but had to leave again first thing in the morning to get our remaining two cows and bring them here.  We really don't have enough land here to support 3 cows (those 2 plus Bella--Roger's favorite cow that hates me.  If she weren't a cow I'd be jealous.  She's the one currently giving us milk though.) but we needed to do something to keep them safe until the dogs are gone. 

Flo and Esther both looked pretty bad.  They had cuts and scrapes from running through barbed wire to get away from the dogs.  And there are bites on them.  Flo looked like she was either about to give birth or recently had.  Her udders were full.  Roger thought she looked ready to give birth, but someone more experienced with animals said no, she had already.  So he figured he was wrong and wanted to try milking.  She's a mess and he did his best to doctor her up, but said she seemed to have bad mastitis.  We prayed for her and figured a visit to the vet was in line as soon as we could get her there.

We've both struggled with anger, but figure it doesn't do any good and we try to let it go.  It's hard.  But little things happen to brighten our days.  For example, this evening I was about to make dinner.  I looked out the window and saw a baby deer in our cow pasture "playing" with our rooster.  Fighting, playing, what's the difference, right?  No one got hurt and it was so cute to watch.  So Clark went outside with the binoculars to watch them.  Roger got some video of it.  Then Clark came in and calmly said, "there's a calf in the pen with Flo."  WHAT?!? We'd been convinced she'd had the calf and figured the dogs had got it.  So we went out to check and sure enough, there's an adorable brand new baby calf in the pen.  And it's a girl! 

Before all this, we didn't even realize Flo was pregnant.  She carries well and it barely shows.  Had we not brought her home because of the dogs, we'd have totally missed out.  And chances are, the dogs would have gotten this calf.  Our last two or three calves just "mysteriously disappeared" out there.  But this one would have been an even greater loss because she's a full blooded jersey and will probably be a great milk cow in a couple years!

So we searched for names that mean "Blessed" because we know we are.  Gwen is already taken by our daughter so we went with Trixie.

Meet Trixie, just hours old at most.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Doing It All

Our cow has been giving us some delicious milk lately and we are feeling so excited to get to drink it!  I've been in several conversations with people where they ask if I'm making my own butter with the cream.  When I say no, they just look so disappointed in me!

Let me point something out here.  There are 12 people living in my house.  I don't do all the cooking and cleaning because we work together and that greatly lightens the load, but I am primarily responsible for it all.  If no one else feels like cooking, I do it.  If someone is gone for the hour/day/week that a job needs to get done, I do it.  It's a lot!  It's bearable and I'm grateful for the blessings that I have, but it's still a lot of work.

I just can't really do it all.  I have my limits.  I bake bread occasionally, but too often we just buy it. Claire is 13 now and becoming our expert Artisan Bread baker. (Google Artisan bread in 5 minutes a day. I don't have time to do it for you right now.  It's worth your time!) and she loves that bread enough she makes time to bake it for dinner.  Home made bread is better.  It's healthier, less expensive, and way yummier.  But we only get 24 hours a day and I am finding that at this stage of pregnancy, sleep is a must. Home made butter is the same.  It's healthier, yummier, and less expensive.  But it's a LOT of work.  First you skim the cream, then you shake it, then you rinse it, then salt it, and only then is it ready to put in some sort of container for storage (and that container will be another thing to wash later). And it's not like we just use a little bit of butter.  We're talking more than a pound a week.  And did I mention we love our milk? We aren't currently skimming cream off it, so we'd have to give up quantity and quality in our milk to get the cream so we could do all that work to have butter.  It's more than an hour's work to get a pound of butter which I could buy at the store for under $3.

So I just kinda wanted to remind everyone that people have to prioritize what they do themselves and what they buy or pay someone to do.  Don't try to lay a guilt trip on someone just because they choose different priorities than you do.  We all have our own lives to live.  Which means also that if you've read something on this blog that I do that leaves you feeling bad because you don't, stop it!  I'm not judging anyone for what they do or don't do themselves.  I write this blog because I like to write.  Sometimes I think things I say might help someone, but it is in no way intended to make you feel like you should work harder (unless you're lazy and just sit around reading blogs ALL day long, then you should get up and do something!) or change your life to fit mine.

Now, if someone wants to come over and make us some butter with our cream from our cow, we might let ya! ;)  We might even share.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Adding More to the Mix

We have added friends and family to our home every day this past week.  We kept four girls Sunday through Friday while their parents were out of town, then Saturday friends and family arrived to help us celebrate Faith's graduation from high school. 

So every day I made lunch for at least 15 people.  You might think that would be no big deal to me since there are so many of us on a regular basis, but it was really different.  First, I learned that we don't eat much compared to other people.  I think it's because we snack on fruits and veggies and nuts throughout the day, so at meal time we don't need as much.  Apparently other people don't eat that way so they need to eat a lot more at each meal.  I had to more than double what our family normally eats.  Since we eat a lot to start with, that really made a big difference!

The picture is just bread on plates as I began to prepare lunch yesterday.  Yep, just plain old peanut butter and honey sandwiches.  First we had to clear a huge amount of counter top (and doesn't everyone's counter get covered again as soon as you clean it up?  So when you need it there are miscellaneous papers, mail, etc to move?  If you don't have that problem, tell me how to solve it!).  Then we had to take care of Ezra who gets almond butter due to a peanut allergy.  And his sandwich has to be cut and placed just right on his plate so it looks like whatever he is asking for that day--this can only be done after properly interpreting what in the world the 3 yr old boy is saying.  Then we have to accommodate special requests such as open face peanut butter with no honey, or peanut butter and butter hold the honey.  Of course there are shouts of "I want mine with just honey!" which I ignore.  They know me better than that.  Or, "can I have 2 sandwiches?" (yes, Samuel, I already know you'll need that 2nd sandwich before I can even sit down.)  "How come we don't have jelly anymore?" Can you even begin to comprehend the headache of all the different flavors of jelly they would be requesting and how complicated a simple sandwich could become if I bought jelly? Not to mention it's usually got things in it like sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup that cause me to prefer honey.

While sandwiches are being prepared and handed out, milk is being poured by someone else.  There's often craziness in the kitchen as they come in looking for cups or wanting to know how much longer or checking to be sure I'm doing their sandwich the way they want it.  And all this for a simple meal of sandwiches. 

Bedtime was another thing.  Looking back, I'm not sure we did baths the whole week, but we did have them in the pool every day at least.  But one evening after I tucked in everyone 8 and under, I came down stairs and one of the girls said, "That sure took a long time!"  I felt a bit put down, and defended myself by pointing out that it does take a while to tuck in SEVEN children!

Anyway, my point to this whole thing is that people often ask me how I do it.  They have trouble with their 1 or 2 or 3 or even 4 and they can't imagine having 11.  I usually respond by explaining I do it one at a time.  This week just drove that point home for me.  Adding 4 all at once made it hard.  And they are good kids!  It's a leap from what I'm used to rather than a step.  I'm very thankful for my children, and along with that, I'm thankful that I have had them one at a time, not all at once.  It's easier to walk up stairs one by one than it is to skip steps.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011


In high school I had to memorize the definition of inertia. It was something along the lines of: an object in motion will remain in motion and an object at rest will remain at rest until acted on by another force.

This principle applies to so many areas of my life.

I have found that if I get up and get going first thing in the morning, I accomplish a lot that day.  I get started and keep moving.  But if I get up and I don't get going--like perhaps getting on my computer too early, or sit around talking to kids too long--I just seem to stay at rest.  I suspect this is true for most people.

Children can act as a force that changes my current state of motion.  If I am at rest and hear certain things, like crying, something breaking, or quite a few other things actually, I will jump up pretty quickly.  If I am in motion and a child needs comfort, I will find myself at rest holding that child. 

And my will power can change my state of motion too.  This is an important principle I have finally figured out.  I can be busy and needing rest and tell myself, "Stop!" and then get some rest.  When I do this, I find I'm better able to get things done later.  Duh.  It shouldn't have taken me so long to learn this.  And equally important is that when I find myself resting too much and not getting things done, I can tell myself, "Time to get moving." and get up and get going.  And I feel good when I'm running around getting things done. 

So there's one law of physics I'm finally mastering.  If only my children could figure out the one about how no two objects can occupy the same place at the same time (like my lap perhaps) and then if there isn't one already, there should be one about how no one can be in two places at once.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How Can You Afford All Those Kids? part 4--know what you need

To cut spending it is crucial to know the difference between Wants and Needs.  Needs are things you absolutely cannot live without.  Wants are everything else.

Food, shelter and clothing are needs.  You must have those things to survive.  You must provide those things for your children.

We must feed ourselves and our children.  But McDonald's food is not at all a need.  (And if you stop eating it for a while, you'll find it's not even a Want anymore because it will make you sick to your stomach if you try it again later.)  Needs in groceries, in my way of thinking, would include meats and other protein sources, dairy, fruits and veggies, and breads. (I was raised on the Basic 4 Food groups and still think that way.  It works for me.)  Most of our meat and milk comes from our cows.  It costs us time and money to raise them, but it's worth it to us.  And we save a LOT of money that way.  Our dairy cow costs us less to feed and care for than the milk we would have bought at the store.  To get milk from her she has to have a calf.  So since we have 2 dairy cows, if we rotate them each year, we get milk and a calf once a year.  When that calf is about a year old, we can take it to be processed.  The meat we get costs us less than a dollar a pound and feeds us for about a year.  It works out really nicely for us if we can keep up with the timing of things. 

We eat pretty healthy.  We cook most things from scratch mostly because it's just cheaper that way, but we've also seen how much healthier it is and how much better we feel.  Recently we've been buying store bought cereal so our grocery costs have climbed quite a bit.  But when we are less lazy and actually get up and fix breakfast we save a lot of money.  Oatmeal is WAY cheaper and healthier than cold cereal.  We make coffee cake with 1/2 the sugar and use whole wheat flour.  It's yummy, more filling than cereal, and cheaper.  Rather than buying crackers, chips, or other junk food for snacks, we eat fruits, nuts and carrots.  I do spend the extra on baby carrots because I've found that overall they are cheaper for us.  If I buy regular carrots, they go bad in the fridge because let's face it, when you want a snack you want grab-and-go, not wash and peel and then finally eat.  So we get baby carrots and just eat them straight out of the bag.  My kids will go through a 2 lb bag in a day, but can you think of a healthier snack?  Good for their eyes, skin, teeth, immune systems, and full of fiber.  That 2 lb bag costs me um, I think it was $3 last time I paid attention.  I could easily pay that much or more for a couple bags of chips (which is what it would take to satisfy 12 of us) or cookies or crackers, without the health benefit.  At first it was disappointing to the kids because they were used to junk, but they got used to it and LOVE them now.  Also apples, oranges, or whatever fruit is in season can make great snacks.  Popcorn is great, but with two in braces it seems cruel to make it and not let them have any.  So basically healthy food is a Need, everything else is a Want.  Don't buy the Wants if you can't afford them.

Clothing is a need.  We need appropriate clothes for each season.  Style is a Want. We try to find ways to afford the Wants in this area though.  We shop second hand when that works out or we sew when needed.  We also make good use of hand-me-downs whenever we can.  I really can't understand when some people can sell their kids' clothes second hand because mine seem to wear everything out, but I'm sure glad it happens.  I recently visited a local 2nd hand store for kids and spent about $65.  I came home with a bag of clothes for my grandson, 3 fancy dresses for 5 yr old Gloria (who was being bribed not to suck her thumb during the day anymore), a wooden puzzle, some swimsuits for the kids, and a bunch of new-to-me maternity clothes.  I'm wearing what I consider to be a pretty cute top with a tank top and denim maternity shorts right now.  Total cost to me for this outfit: $9.  It was all in great shape and fits me well so I'm excited.  I looked for brand new shorts the other day and couldn't find any for less than $35.  And that's just the shorts!  I have THREE TEENAGE GIRLS in the house now.  A good chunk of our clothing fund goes to their clothing.  Probably a higher percentage of our clothing fund goes to their clothes these days, but I do understand their desire to be in style.  Thankfully, they've learned well from me.  They aren't all that keen on second hand clothes, but they like to find bargains and have gotten quite good at it. 

Shelter is the final need area.  For most people you are already living where you are living and moving is a huge expense in and of itself.  But if you will be changing where you live, try to keep in mind that the nicest house on the block is not a Need, it's a Want.  Same goes for furnishings and decorations.  You don't have to have all the nicest stuff filling your house.  If you can afford it, great, but know the difference and make your choice accordingly.

We also save money on Wants in many ways.  We have a nice TV and have a Netflix account for entertainment.  We do not pay for cable or satellite.  While occasionally we'll attend a movie at a theatre, for the most part we wait until it's at a dollar theatre or on DVD.  That's a sacrifice we've made in order to afford all these kids.  We definitely prefer each child over any movie we could go see.

Our kids are not involved in tons of sports and activities.  We usually make them wait until they are 10 to sign up for sports because our experience is that before then, they don't really care that much and are more likely to burn out on the sport before they get old enough to really do anything with it.  I am not saying it's wrong to take your kids to stuff, just that this is our choice.  And then when they are 10, they may choose ONE activity at a time.  This is to save both money AND our sanity.  All of us.  For those kids I've seen who are in a different activity every day of the week, I don't see a lot of joy.  When do they get to play?  People talk longingly of the old days when kids played in their yard and just hung out and played board games or made up games to play together, etc.  Well, this is still a reality at our house.  Our kids are happy and creative and get lots of time to play.  We have activities we do together, and the older kids have their separate activities that they do.  They're still pretty busy and we miss them when they aren't home, but we all feel we've found a good balance between quiet times and busy times.  And we don't overspend on activities.

I was discussing this with my teens the other day and one of them commented, "I can't imagine being so selfish that I thought it so important that I be able to do more, that someone else couldn't even have life."  They all see their siblings as being Needs, not Wants, and would be happy to give up more stuff, if necessary, to have more siblings.  It's called Love.  We have it in abundance and it's free.  And those little kids provide the older kids with oodles of entertainment.

So we save money by balancing our wants and our needs and this allows us to afford all these kids and still live happy, satisfying lives.

Monday, May 30, 2011

How Can You Afford All Those Kids? part 3--We're debt free

I posted yesterday about our savings plan and how we set money aside in separate accounts for different expenses that we know will come up.  But how do we have extra money to put into savings?  We're debt free.

It helped a lot that we moved from an expensive house into a much less expensive house.  We had equity built up so when we sold the expensive house we were able to pay off the debt on the expensive house, pay for the new house in full, and pay off the van.  Then with the money we saved from not having house and van payments, we were able to pay off the truck and suburban pretty quickly.  I cannot tell you how incredibly freeing it is to have no car payments or house payment.  (Although we still save each month to be able to pay the taxes and insurance on these things!)

It really changes the way you see your vehicle, too.  It used to be that I knew we had to pay a car payment so the way I saw it, I should be driving the nicest car/van I could get for that monthly amount.  It didn't bother me to trade in a vehicle after a few years (when we weren't upside down anymore) and get a new vehicle as long as the payment was about the same.  I figured I was doing great.  I feel so stupid now when I look back on my "logic" from those days.  I would never have been done. 

So now I've been driving the same 15 passenger van for 8 years.  It's got some dents and places where the paint has come off.  We've had to have some work done to it over the years, too, to keep it running well.  But when we looked it up, the cost of a new van was in the vicinity of $50K!!  That's a lot of money!  A used van isn't really much better when you consider that ours is used and still runs good.  So we looked into what it would cost to fix it up and get the dents out and the paint re-done.  When the dents were new we took it to a supposedly Christian place in the metroplex and they wanted nearly $4000 to fix it.  Now we have a local guy out here in Clyde who really knows how to fix dents and not just replace the panel.  His estimate to do all the work we want done was under $2000.  Hmm.  Compare that to the cost of payments for the next 5 years and it's a no brainer.  We're gonna keep driving our good ol' trusty van.  Chances are we'll need to spend money on it again over the next 10 years, but I bet we can keep it running for less than $50K.  And it will be as pretty as any 15 passenger van can be.

If the day ever comes that I can drive something smaller, we won't buy new.  We'll save until we can afford a new-to-us vehicle and then we'll get something used but in good condition.  It's just not worth it to us to pay a huge amount of money for the fanciest car around. 

Same thing with credit cards.  If we don't have the money in the bank to pay for what we are buying, we don't buy it.  We don't assume we can pay the payments and eventually be done.  That's debt and it's not fun.  Debt is a stressful thing and we have enough stress in our lives already, thank you.  Besides, that cute new outfit or that cool cd on sale is not as good of a deal when you add in the interest you'll pay on the credit card if you can't pay it in full.

But I do like having a credit card.  I like the Reward Points.  And I like the convenience of just swiping it at the cash register when I have a pack of kids with me.  We have used a debit card more frequently because it's easier to be sure we don't overspend that way, but recently Roger rented a car to go to his sister's college graduation.  He figured out that the cost of the rental that got good gas mileage plus gas was less than the cost of gas in his truck or suburban. So he went to rent the car and they wouldn't take a debit card.  So there's another benefit to at least having a credit card.  I use it for things like orthodontist payments, too.  I've already allotted that amount to be spent each month, so if I put it on the card I can get reward points for it yet know that I can pay it in full when the bill comes.

Being debt free can be hard to achieve, and there are sacrifices you make along the way. But once you get there, it's such a great feeling you'll never want to go back!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

How Can You Afford All Those Kids? part 2--spending and saving

We used to spend our money as we received it and lived paycheck to paycheck.  But then things would come up and we hadn't saved for them.  We'd have to scramble to come up with the money and pinch hard somewhere to make it work.

But you learn as you grow older.  I now have a system set up where we set money aside each month for things that we know we'll need/want money for in the future. (And I think it's really important to pay attention to what is a need and what is a want.)  We have our regular amount we know we'll need for food, bills, gas, etc.  And then we divide up what we can into separate categories, deciding together how much to allot to each category.

Each family would want to choose their own categories, but here's our list in case you are curious:
taxes, clothing, computers, furniture, vehicles, education, vacations, gifts, medical/dental, date night, kids college, house/farm capital, allowances--for Roger and myself.  We haven't really felt convinced the kids should get an allowance so they don't.  But they do occasionally do extra jobs that earn them money.  I think that's our whole list, but I may have missed something.

Each payday when I pay bills, I take the allotted amount and transfer it to savings.  Then I move it from what I call Emergency Savings to all the separate little accounts on Quicken.  As far as my bank knows, it's all just one savings account.  When we have an expense that fits one of these categories I can reimburse our checking account from that specific savings account.  It's so nice when the seasons change and we need new clothing to know that our clothing savings has built up over the last few months when we didn't need to be buying clothes.  Or when we hit birthday season (6 of the kids' birthdays are in the first 3 months of the year) and we can afford gifts.

None of this would be possible if we just bought whatever we want whenever we want it.  We have a credit card, but we don't buy things we can't afford.  We use our credit card because I really like those reward points, but we pay it in full every month.  It would cost too much to pay the interest.  But that's another post for another day.

This video clip really sums it all up.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

How Can You Afford All Those Kids? part 1--Who helps us

The real question here is often, "Are you getting government assistance?"  And while the answer could really be, "It's none of your business." I'll be honest and say, "NO."

There was a time, just prior to beginning this blog in 2005, that we were in the top bracket for income tax.  We certainly paid our fair share.  At that time I didn't think it fair that the more money you made the higher percentage you paid.  I still feel that way.  And between then and now when we would have qualified for gov't assistance, but chose not to even apply, I still didn't think it was right that there are different brackets like that.  The Bible says, "if anyone does not work, neither should he be fed." I believe that is a good principle.  I also think it is good and useful for those who cannot find work or find honest disabilities prevent them from working that they get help when they need it.  But none of my opinions matter.  It is what it is.  I vote and that is the best I can do on these matters.  But what I really want to say here is that when we paid a ton of money in taxes, it was none of my business which individuals were receiving assistance.  So why anyone would think it their business to know who receives assistance is beyond my understanding.  Put yourself in their place.  If you were desperate and had to apply for assistance, would you want that to be public knowledge?

Anyway, enough of that.  Government help is not how we afford these kids.  Common sense in our spending and God's grace allow it.

There have been times where we truly wondered how in the world we could afford to keep going.  I once needed money for something and prayed, "God, you're going to have to drop money from the sky to meet this need."  Within a few days I was reminded that our credit card was a rewards card and we earned air miles.  Those air miles could be turned in for cash.  It was just the right amount to cover our need!  God is good.  I gave Him the credit for allowing me to learn of this application of our miles in perfect timing.

Other times we can't figure out how it worked out, but it did.  The money just seems to be there.  But we are faithful and tithe at least 10% from our income.  We figure 100% of it really is God's money.  And He lets us do what we want with 90% of that.  It's really a small amount when you think of it that way.  It's hard to get started, but He is faithful to supply ALL our needs when we are faithful to Him.

So to sum up part 1 of this answer, no, we don't get help from the government, but yes, we do get help from God.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The State of My Health

Many of those commenting on the article about us, A Dozen Blessings, seem concerned about my health.  That perhaps having all these babies is hard on my health and I might not live until menopause.

Okay, first I had to stop laughing at that one.  Now I can go on and write this post.

I guess I can't give an official word from my doctor.  I haven't seen a doctor in, oh, something like 10 years and that was a complete waste of time and money.  My midwives have not seemed concerned about my health.  They don't consider me a high risk pregnancy in spite of my age (43.25 yrs) or number of children I have had.

About the only health concerns I've ever heard from medical professionals regarding myself would be the time when I was about 21 that a doctor told me that I would probably never be able to conceive a baby, and the time after our 7th child was born that the ultrasound showed blockage in one of my fallopian tubes.  The diagnosis was 50% reduction in fertility, but the doctor said why worry about that with 7 children already.  We agreed.  If God wanted us to have more babies, He would make sure it happened.  And if not, we're happy with what we have. 

I eat a healthier than average diet.  I have never been a smoker.  I don't eat at fast food restaurants anymore--I think it's been 5 or 6 years now.  I haven't had a taste of alcohol since my first pregnancy.  You know how when you are pregnant or nursing you are extra careful with your diet and even what medicines you might take?  Imagine how healthy you would be if you were that careful for 22 years straight.  Yep, that's me.  How many women can say that?

The risk of many cancers decreases when you are not ovulating or menstruating.  By next week I'll have been pregnant 106 months of my life.  In addition to that I have had about 6 mos of suppressed cycles due to nursing after each baby so that's another 66 mos.  So there's a total of 172 mos of no cycles.  That's good for me.  I'm not citing sources of info here because I've read it in so many places now that I consider it common knowledge.

Most people look at me and wonder how I keep so trim and young.  Um, maybe it's all the kids? Maybe it's my healthy diet? Maybe it's a blessing from God because He has this plan for me to keep up with all these kids? Maybe it's just genetic.  My 92 yr old grandmother had 8 children and is still going strong.  She bowls 3 nights a week!

Aside from fertility issues, every doctor or midwife that has ever been my caregiver has agreed.  I was built for having babies.  My body snaps back and does well with it.  I do have an abdominal issue where my muscles are split--called diastasis recti--and can get quite uncomfortable.  I've been praying through that this pregnancy and so far the prayer is helping a lot.  I have a Great Physician who is the best Healer ever.  If you haven't met Him, you ought to give Him a call because there is no one better.  It's easy to reach Him.  Just bow your head in prayer and He's listening.  No long wait in His waiting room and no insurance needed.

If I live long enough to reach menopause, it's because God has given me the blessing to live that long.  He has numbered my days and He decides when I will live or die.  But meanwhile, as the steward of the body He has given me, I am working to keep it working great.  I intend to live a full and happy life and in order to do that, I need to maintain the best possible health.  So far I've been successful with that.

I probably could stand to exercise more, but other than that I bet it would be hard to find many forty-something mothers in better health.