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

Inertia

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.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lieutenant Mother

We were recently featured in the Abilene Reporter News.  Somehow they thought it was news for a family in a small town to have a large family.  As three-year-old Ezra says, Whatever.

As I read through the comments on the article, I found myself wanting to answer some questions that people have.  Some are legitimate questions that I would also wonder if I were trying to look in from the outside.  I am a curious person and often wonder how other families and individuals tick.  I am also fairly willing to share my life because it continues to amaze me that others might possibly find it interesting.

So I'll be doing a series of blogs about these things.  If you have a question--not a criticism--about how our family works, feel free to ask in one of the comments.  If I want to answer it and can get around to it, I'll do so.

So the thing I'm starting with is the criticism in the comments about calling Grace the Lieutenant Mother.  I'm starting with this one because it really bothers Grace.  The term was coined by the journalist, not me.  He had asked me to run through each of the kids and give a brief synopsis of their personalities (as if you can truly do anyone justice in a brief synopsis--and if you know me, you know I don't use words in any sort of a brief way.)  I was telling him how much she loves to help me and he came up with that phrase.  It fits her because she has the glorious gift of loving to serve.  I greatly admire that trait in her.  I absolutely have not forced it on her.  I think if I'd tried she would resent it and not love serving people.

About a year ago, I began to really struggle with my relationship with Grace.  I felt she was trying to take over my job as mother.  I did NOT want her to have to do so much work with her younger siblings.  I am the oldest daughter in my family and I didn't want Grace to struggle with the guilt of growing up and leaving younger siblings "uncared for" (my perception as I grew up, not necessarily reality).  I didn't want her to be burned out on cooking before she even had her own household.  Yet the more I told her no, the more unhappy she seemed.  I finally began to let her help and she loves it.  She often asks me if she can go make dinner or lunch for me.  In the newspaper article there are pictures of her fixing the fruit salad.  Why was she doing that and not me? Because she WANTED to.  Letting her help me has restored a great relationship.  Sometimes she works alone, other times she comes and works beside me so we can talk.  I'm clearly the mom, but there will be a lifelong friendship.

She was in Colorado helping out with her new nephew for the month of February.  She had to step back while there and not do the cooking.  She was bored.  She loved seeing her nephew and sister-in-law (I don't think any of the kids add the in-law part, but I did for clarification) but missed feeling needed and useful.  When she came home we were all used to functioning without her and she got a bit depressed, confiding in me that she felt she had lost her place in the family.  We didn't seem to need her anymore.

All the kids have chores.  So do I and so does Roger.  How else do you keep any household functioning?  I suppose I could do it all myself, but why?  Why is it wrong to let them be a part of the family and know their lives have purpose and meaning and that they are needed in this world?  Look around you.  So many kids today are pampered and spoiled.  And are they happy?  What I see is a bunch of kids who have no purpose and just get sullen and withdrawn.  I don't want that for my kids.  When my older ones were younger and I saw that in some of their peers, I purposed to STOP doing everything for them and allow them to have meaningful lives. (Ask any mom, it's usually easier to do it yourself than to teach a young child to do something right.)  Maybe cleaning a toilet doesn't seem meaningful to an adult, but my 5 yr old Gloria (Happy Birthday, Sweety!) lights up when we "let" her clean a toilet!

When we make chore assignments we look at several factors. 
  1. What needs to be done?
  2. Who is the youngest person capable of doing this?
  3. Is that person the best choice for this job, or is there another job he/she would enjoy more and therefore do better with?
  4. Is there an older sibling that could train someone to start doing this job so the older one can give it up?
  5. Who WANTS the job?
And yes, most of the jobs get requested by someone.

Grace does a lot of the cooking and she LOVES playing with her younger siblings.  She hates cleaning bathrooms.  She doesn't get the bathroom job.  It goes to whoever requested it.

And just so you all know, after reading the comments on the newspaper article, I joked with Grace that she's no longer allowed to help me in the kitchen or tickle Ezra because I didn't want to take away her childhood.  I could hear the catch in her voice as she said, "If you were serious, I think I would cry."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Little Bits of Movement

Yesterday morning I woke early--before the sun, before most of the kids--and wanted to just go back to sleep. Then I felt it.  A little bump against my belly.  I placed my hand over my lower abdomen and there it was again.  I could even feel it with my hand.  Now I KNOW this isn't just gas. :)  The little one kicking around in there kept me up and smiling for at least 15 minutes.  I am in my 17th week of pregnancy.  I've been feeling these little bits of movement for about a month now, but never really sure if it's baby or what.  Now I know for sure and it's exciting!

It's kind of funny when you think about it.  From everything I've read that little one is anywhere from 4-6 inches long.  It swims and moves around all the time.  Yet I rarely feel it.  How weird is that?  Imagine you had a 4-6 inch long gas bubble moving around in your stomach.  Think there's any chance you would NOT feel that? 

The Bible calls the womb the "secret place."  That seems so accurate.  This little one has been there hiding.  We knew it, but only now can I feel it.

And though this is the 12th time I've been in my 17th week of pregnancy, it is no less exciting, wonderful, or new to feel the movements for sure for the first time.  I am still amazed that there is such a tiny little person growing inside of me.  And I continue to be more and more amazed that God would choose to bless me with this life.  I think the more times I experience it, the more in awe I am of the whole thing.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Long Night

A new record was set at our house last night.  Longest night's sleep for a baby. 

I put Gwen to bed at 9pm last night.  She had a bit of a fever and sounded hoarse--like maybe a sore throat.  I had just changed her diaper, but decided to change her again in case she slept late.  Good decision.

5pm this evening she woke up.  Thanks to my sister we have a video monitor. (I used to think they were a silly waste of money.  Boy have I changed my tune since Julie gave me one!) I was able to see her and check on her all day long.  I missed her!  Sometimes I just stopped what I was doing and stared!

I did get a lot done today though.  But 20 hours is rather excessive!!  Then she went right back to bed at 9pm tonight.  Poor baby has a fever still though so if anyone wants to pray for quick healing we'd sure appreciate it!

Monday, March 21, 2011

King Ranch Chicken

I wanted to share this recipe.  I made it several years ago for a group of teenagers who claimed they didn't like any vegetables or anything healthy.  They loved it.  I made it again recently when we had friends over and it was a hit.  It had never occurred to me that others might like to see how to make things with OUT using condensed soups in order to avoid MSG in their food.

All you do is make a white sauce and add a little chicken or beef base to it.  Finding that without MSG isn't always easy.  At times I've just added some salt and onion and garlic powder for flavor.

Here's one recipe that we make that called for condensed soup, but I altered it to leave that out.

King Ranch Chicken

1 lb tortilla chips, crushed
1-2 cups chicken, cooked and cubed
1/2 lb grated cheddar cheese
1 green pepper
1 onion
1/2 T chili powder
1/2 t garlic powder
4 T butter (1/2 stick)
4 T flour
2 t chicken bouillon or chicken base
2 c water
1 can Rotel tomatoes

Layer chips, chicken pieces and cheese in a large greased 9" x 13" pan. Use food processor and puree the green pepper and onion.  In a pan, melt the butter.  Add flour and stir to form a thick paste.  Next stir in pureed veggies, garlic powder, chili powder, chicken base, and water.  Cook and stir until you have a thick sauce.  This may take a little time, but be patient.  Stir in Rotel tomatoes and mix well.  Pour this over the chips, cheese and chicken.  Sprinkle some extra cheese over the top and bake in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes or until bubbly hot.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

New School Year

Our school year starts and ends at a different time from anyone else I know.  This year it ended just in time for a spring break and we will start a new year on Monday.

I've worked at trying to create some excitement with new books.  Apparently it's working.  Three of my six students for this coming year are already several pages into a couple of their books.

So I'm wondering.  Does that mean we get a few extra days off? :)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Purim

This is a new holiday for us.  It's like a gift from God to me so I wanted to share the story.

Some of you have been following us long enough to know we don't celebrate Christmas anymore.  You can read about that on our post about why we don't if you are interested.  Well, when we stopped celebrating Christmas, Roger and I really wanted to still give our children gifts, so we looked for how we could do that still.  We came up with Hanukkah.  For 8 nights, we gave our children gifts every night.  We read about the Maccabees and love the story.  It is so inspiring to read about how devoted they were to God and following His ways.  If all Christians were that devoted to God, I believe the world would be very different.  Anyway, that's not the point of this post.

So after a few years of celebrating Hanukkah, in 2009 at the end of the feast I woke up feeling God was clearly telling me we had now added Mammon (demon of riches and avarice) to Hanukkah.  I knew He was right, but I didn't like it.  Roger and I discussed it and agreed we would still do birthday gifts (God hasn't spoken anything to us about this being wrong so if someone has something to say about it, just shhhh.  I don't want to hear.) but not Hanukkah gifts.  But we love the Holiday so we kept that.

During Hanukkah this last year, we still remembered the Maccabees and celebrated their bravery in a much quieter way (no gifts--which really had nothing to do with Hanukkah anyway).  We still enjoyed it.  The eighth morning I was thinking to myself how awesome it was that not one child complained or seemed to feel a bit slighted that we didn't do gifts.  We talked about it together just before we read the Bible that morning and the kids agreed that they didn't feel they'd missed out on anything.

We'd been reading through Esther.  If you've never read it, or haven't in a while, I encourage you to read it.  It's a good story.  Or watch One Night With A King if you are more into movies.  That morning we just happened to be near the end of the book--chapter 9.  As we finished our reading we read this:

"But the Jews who were at Shushan assembled together on the thirteenth day, as well as the fourteenth; and on the fifteenth of the month they rested, and made it a day of feasting and gladness.  Therefore the Jews of the villages who dwelt in the unwalled towns celebrated the fourteenth day of the month of Adar with gladness and feasting, as a holiday, and for sending presents to one another."  Esther 9:18-19

Did you catch those last few words? We were so excited! It's been there all along, but what an awesome Father to show it to me so clearly right after we obeyed Him and refrained from giving gifts at a time He'd told us not to!

So the 14th of Adar begins at sunset this evening.  We will be celebrating with gladness and feasting and giving each other gifts.  I'm sure we aren't doing any of the traditional celebrating that the Jews do because we don't even know what they do.  But all it says is gladness and feasting and sending presents and we can do that!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dye Free Shamrock Shakes

I love mint and I love ice cream.  I used to be a huge fan of McDonald's Shamrock shakes.  But they have dyes so I've never been able to let my children experience that wonderful taste.  Yesterday I came across this link to a recipe for Shamrock Shakes and had to make them--with some substituting. 

Here's what I did.

Shamrock Shakes

small handful (12-15 maybe?) baby spinach leaves (for color--you don't taste it at all)
2 cups milk
4 cups vanilla ice cream
1/2 tsp mint extract

In my 6 cup capacity blender, I placed about a handful of frozen spinach leaves.  Fresh would work too, but we've found if we take fresh leaves and store them in the freezer, they blend nicely and you notice it less in your smoothies.  Worked for our shakes, too.  I then added a little bit of the 2 cups of milk I'd measured out.  I let the blender run until it was just a green liquid and no little bits of spinach were left.  It took a couple minutes on the highest speed.  It kinda looked like there were chunks of butter on top, but I'd bet most milk wouldn't work that way.  I used whole raw milk so it had lots of cream.

Next I added 1/2 teaspoon mint extract (although I only had 1/4 tsp left for the second batch and it was just as good) and filled it to the 6 cup line with vanilla ice cream.  I blended it until it was creamy (Sam made sure because he'd read the recipe and knew it was supposed to be creamy.)

I was going to take a picture.  It came out a nice minty green color.  But no one wanted to wait to drink theirs.  It was gone before cameras could be found. :)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Being Supermom

It's lonely at the top.

Not that I think I'm supermom, or that I'm a better mom than anyone else (well, honestly I've seen a couple moms that I wondered about, but in general I don't think so), or that I'm at the top in any way.  But people seem to perceive me that way.

There's this line of thinking that seems to be automatic.  I did it myself back when I just had a few kids.  You meet someone with lots of kids and there's this automatic feeling of awe.  How can she handle all those kids?  She must be Supermom!

But you know what? I'm not.  Yes, I have more experience, and yes, I have my hands full.  But I mess up just like any other mom--probably more so since I have more opportunity.  And I worry about each and every thing about my kids just like any mom.  Maybe more so in some areas because I've seen more problems, but less in other areas because I've seen those things are okay.  But overall, I worry a lot.  And just like any mom, I need fellowship with other moms.  I need to be able to talk to people and share my trials and triumphs just like any other mom.

And please don't think I know everything.  You know how you can't remember what you had for dinner last week? Neither can I.  You know how you forget things and when you had your second child, or babysat your friend's child, you couldn't remember things about that stage you've already been through with your child?  I do that too.  It doesn't matter that I'm pregnant with my 12th.  I still have to look up each stage of pregnancy to try to remember what's going on.  And I still can't remember things about what age a newborn should do what.  I have to keep my babycare books handy.  Not as handy as with my first, but still there.  And I still get frustrated when they cry and I can't figure out what's wrong and sometimes end up crying myself because I just don't know what to do or I'm so tired I can't function.  I'm still in awe of how smart they can be or how cute they are and laugh at their silliness.  It's all new every time.

So when you meet a mom who has a lot of kids and you are in awe, just remember that she's just a mom who does what you do-- just more of it.  She needs to talk, just like you do, only maybe more.  Don't walk away scared because you think she'll judge your lack of experience.  She's too busy to be judging you.  Just treat her like you would any other mom--say hi, talk to her, ask questions about her kids, talk about your own, share your trials and triumphs and let her share hers. Offer to help her if she needs help or accept her help if she offers it.  Take time to talk to her at church and don't be afraid of her because she's some weirdo. She's as much like you as any other mom, just busy. But never too busy for friends.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Forgot to mention Victor

Last week, on Gwen's birthday, our cow Bella finally--and I mean finally--had a calf.  We named him Victor in honor of Gwen Victoria.

We'd had two other cows calf in October.  Looking at Bella it was clear she was bigger than usual so we expected her to have her calf soon as well.  We brought her to Clyde so she'd be near us because the plan was to milk her once the calf was born.

So we waited and waited and waited.  I watched her out the window several times.  She would look like she was pushing, but all she'd have were cow patties.  This happened way too many times.  I was about convinced that she wasn't really pregnant but just gaining weight.

Then it finally happened.  And he's really cute.

Just One Batch

Cooking around here takes a lot of food.  We have a cookbook from the Momys (Mothers of Many Young Siblings) where the recipes are designed to feed about 8 people.  We have to double those recipes.  When we use a regular recipe that feeds about 4 people, we triple or quadruple it.  I am accustomed to this as are my older 3 daughters.  It's nothing for us to need 9 cups of flour in a recipe.

Last week I made just one batch of muffins--a dozen.  I was amazed when I first saw 1 3/4 c flour.  I scanned through the recipe looking for the rest of the flour when I realized that was it and laughed at myself.  Again when I got to the eggs and it called for 1 egg I laughed out loud and said, "Only one?"

Today Faith is making cookies.  She decided to make oatmeal and reminisced a bit about the time Grammy made oatmeal cookies and forgot the oats and they were good anyway. Faith is making just one batch and substituting xylitol and honey for sugar since several of us are sick right now. So she got started and said, "Where's the rest of the flour? Only 1 cup?"  A bit later she exclaims, "Only one?" Sure enough, she was to the point of needing eggs.  We both laughed about how weird it is to not need a half dozen eggs when making something.

She had most of the cookies on the baking sheet when she yelled, "Now I know how she did it!"  Had it not been for Gloria asking, "aren't you making oatmeal cookies?" Faith would have forgotten the oats.  We've long joked that she cooks like her grandmother who has a tendency to forget she's cooking and burn things.  Now we know it to be true.  I guess sometimes those intelligent people get a bit scatterbrained and forget crucial steps in cooking.  It's okay.  We love you both anyway!  And in Faith's defense, she did have a lot of math to do to substitute the xylitol and honey for the sugars.

Can't wait to taste those cookies!  Gotta eat dinner first though!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Grain update

Yes, we still have grain available.  I've been asked a couple of times this week for updates on prices.  My prices haven't changed, but neither has my stock.  I have the same grain that I've had since last May.  I have less of everything, but haven't had a need to re-order.  As far as I can tell, it's all still in great shape, although supply is getting low in a few areas.

We do not sell peanuts anymore.  Our source closed.

The phone number I listed on the blog should be no longer good after today.  We got tired of having a land line that got only calls from charities asking for Roger's parents who passed away several years ago.  I don't really want to post my cell phone number, but if you need to reach me you can email me at mommawomma at gmail dot com and I'll give you my number.   (Or message me on Facebook)

Here are the prices:
45 lb pails Bronze Chief Wheat  $33
45 lb pails Prairie Gold Wheat  $35
45 lb pail Long Grain brown rice  $65
50 lb bag Prairie Gold Wheat  $28
50 lb bag Rolled Oats  $42
2 lb jar Honey  $10
5 lb bag Prairie Gold Flour  $4

We have 4 bottles of honey left and 2 pails of rice.  1 bag of flour, but I could grind some for you if necessary.  My main purpose in ordering was to have lots of wheat available and that we have.  We may be getting low on oats.  I forgot to check when I was out there.  I'll add a comment later with how many bags of oats are left.

These prices are what you'll pay.  Nothing added later.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

I'm learning how to feed a baby

I have been very blessed.  I've had 11 babies with no miscarriages and so far so good with the 12th pregnancy.  I've been able to nurse all 11 babies until now without much need to supplement.

My first child got to have formula in a cup once a day starting at 6 mos.  I went to classes during the morning and since I've never been able to pump, he got formula.  He did fine with it.  Just a sippy cup with handles, no special no-spill spout because they didn't make those yet.

None of my kids would ever take a bottle.  Ever.  Even if I managed to pump and put breastmilk in it.  So it wasn't a taste issue.  They just didn't know what to do with it I guess.  But it's never been a problem.  I just make sure I'm always around and they get what they need when they need it.  They've all become chubby little things by the age of 6 mos, then begin to stretch into the slender young people they are today.

But now we have Gwen.  She grew chubby the first two months.  Then everything changed.  Her appetite dramatically decreased and she stopped gaining weight.  It took a long time to get her to nurse well again, although she continued to want only to nurse.  Once she finally began to increase her appetite, it turned out I was pregnant and my supply began to decrease.  Now that she wanted more, I produced less.  We had no choice but to supplement.

She still did not want anything.  We got her to start eating solids.  That helped a lot.  But she'd get thirsty.  Her diapers were staying dry for way too long for my comfort.  She got constipated.  But she didn't want to drink anything I offered her.  She would start to, but then spit it all out.  We tried water, juice, goat's milk, cow's milk and formula.  Everything got spit out.  Finally she started to drink the goat's milk for a couple of days.  Then I got her to switch to formula (more calories per serving).  But still she'd spit out more than she'd swallow.  I had to have a pile of napkins or paper towels every time she wanted a drink.  Nothing about feeding this baby has been easy since she was 2 mos old.

We tried different cups with different spouts.  She seemed to do best with no lid, but I had to hold the cup so carefully and I just don't have that patience.  Then she seemed to like the spouts that would spill, just a spout, no fancy gadgets, but it would come so fast she would spit out a lot.  She hated the spill proof spouts which was fine with me since we had a child who had speech delay possibly due to using those spouts for way too long.  But as she got used to the whole idea of a cup, she gradually wanted slower and slower spouts.  Her favorite cup now has a slow spill-proof spout.  

This past week I figured out a solution.  I thickened her milk.  The old trick they used to use to try to get babies to sleep through the night, the one where you add cereal to the bottle, works for Gwen.  It wasn't needed to get her to sleep through the night, but to get her to swallow most of her drink.  It seems if it is a little thicker she will drink it.

She has finally begun to gain weight.  She began to gain late December or early January.  She got up to 14 lb 10 oz a couple of weeks ago (after being 13 pounds from June through November), then we got the flu and she lost her appetite again.  It's hard to eat or drink when your nose is too stuffy to breathe.  She lost a half pound, but as of this morning is back to 14 lbs 10 oz. 

She asks for drinks now.  She has this distinctive high-pitched scream she seems to use only when she wants a drink.  It's quite annoying and we're working on words and/or sign language to replace it, but so far she just looks at me and screams.  It works.  I give her a drink to shut her up!

She has a cup with handles and a cup without.  It doesn't seem to matter.  Her favorite way to drink is to hold her arms way out to the sides while *I* hold the cup for her.  This is all so foreign to me.  All the other kids were so independent.  They nursed until 12-18 mos, then went to a cup that they held themselves.  I'm  not sure how to deal with this.  Do I just hold the cup, or try to encourage her to do it herself?  I think I may baby her until she gains another pound or so, then start encouraging independence.  If I stay patient that long.

As I said, nothing about feeding this child has been easy.  But she's growing and happy.  She's been happy and healthy all along, just tiny.

It's made me laugh though to think that here I am a mother of eleven and I still can't figure out how to get my baby to eat.  You'd think I would know the basics by now.  Just goes to show that you can never know everything.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Just some observations about marriages

Through the years I have observed many couples.  I'm a people watcher and I've always been interested in couples and why some seem so happy and some do not.  There are many factors, but this is just one of the things I've observed and was thinking about today.

Each partner in a marriage is a part of a team.  As a team, they try to make up for each other's weaknesses and allow the strengths to shine.  Sometimes this is done intentionally, but often subconsciously.  Let me share some examples.

I've witnessed many couples where one parent is very relaxed about discipline and the other is very strict.  I believe that often what happens is that one of the parents thinks the other isn't doing it right, so they try to compensate.  Maybe the mom is too relaxed and the dad thinks the kids are getting the run of the place.  So he tries to compensate by being very strict.  Or perhaps it's the other way around.  Mom thinks Dad is too strict so she tries to be "nicer" to the kids to give them a break.  I often wonder if one of them would try to support the other rather than swing the pendulum the other direction, if they wouldn't meet in the middle and be happy.  In my own marriage I've seen this happen.  I will usually get way too relaxed right after I have a baby.  Roger does a great job taking care of the kids as I recover, but you can almost see the relief when I start to get back to myself and help more with the discipline.  And recently I've been too relaxed just out of laziness.  He's had to be the bad guy to compensate.  As I step up and take my place as his partner, I can see him relax and have more fun with the kids.

Another example I've witnessed is attention to the kids.  Dads have a tendency to get buried in work.  Sometimes they just have to because work needs more attention.  Mom feels Dad is not giving the kids enough attention and tries to compensate by spending more time with them.  Dad feels Mom is spending too much time with the kids and he feels left out.  So he either tries to get more time alone with her or buries himself in work even more where he feels needed.  Either of these leave Mom feeling MORE of a need to spend more time with the kids.  It becomes a cycle that pulls them apart.  If Dad were to just join the family in their activities, I wonder if he realizes how attractive that would make him to his wife?  Or if Mom would stop and spend some quality time with her husband, I wonder if she realizes he would then want to be with her AND the kids more?  As a team, either partner needs to be the one to step up and support the other rather than waiting for the other to take care of you.  It's a partnership.  It's not all about you getting your own needs met.

These are just a couple of examples, but I see them over and over.  People doing the opposite of what their spouse really wants/needs.  I think part of why this is on my mind right now is because recently there were a couple of small issues bothering me.  You know, we all have times where that person we love the most annoys us--like leaving every door open. ;)  Twice recently things have come up where I was annoyed about something stupid like that.  I pray a lot.  I pretty much just take everything to God.  I don't always give Him a chance to answer, but I talk to Him a lot.  Sometimes He manages to get a word in edgewise and on these two occasions, He did just that.  I complained about a small trivial thing and God asked me, "And why would he do that?  What about you causes this reaction?"  Ouch.  But yes, it was me.  When I fixed my bad behavior (complaining too much, for example), my complaint about my husband (him seeing me as grumpy) disappeared.  Imagine that.

So I don't know if anyone will find this helpful or if it just gave me a chance to write--something I love to do but don't make enough time for.  I'm not sure it has anything to do with our blog, but most of life doesn't anymore.  We still have a large and growing family, but we don't live on the farm anymore.  We do still have milk cows and hope to get chickens again soon. And we're still different from most people in many ways.  But I don't blog often because the point of the blog was originally about leaving the city for the country and well, we're in between now so who knows what yall want to hear about now?  So I'll just ramble about my thoughts whenever I feel like it. :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Meeting the new grandson and how a large family vacations

I was going to try to skip blogging about our new grandson to give Stephen's little family a bit of privacy from the blogworld, but I just can't.  He's too cute!  I gotta shout it out to the world!

Gabriel Joseph was born Dec 28, 2010 and he is right up there among the cutest babies ever born.  I immediately knew I was going to love this little guy when I heard the love in his daddy's voice when he called to tell me he was born.  But oh my goodness, words cannot describe it.  What an incredible feeling!






The picture was taken last night as Gabriel snoozed in his Grand Dad's arms.

Roger and I and the 9 kids still living at home left early Friday morning.  It's a 12 hour drive so we got up at 4am and were out the door by 5.  We made good time and had a time change in our favor so we arrived at about 4:30pm. 

A family our size can't just get a single hotel room.  And since the max for most hotel rooms is 4 people, we can't even get 2 hotel rooms.  I scouted out the area and found that there are some hotel suites.  One allows up to 8 people which is great, BUT we still would need 2 suites.  That's not very convenient.  The suite that sleeps 8 costs over $200 per night and we'd have to double that!  Another hotel suite sleeps 6 for $100 per night.  So with 2 of those we'd have spent $200 per night with a free breakfast and 2 kitchens.  But we still wouldn't all be together.  So I searched vrbo.com and found not much available for under $500 per night.  Yikes.  But then we found and stayed here.  It cost a bit more than the smaller suite because of the cleaning fee and we didn't get a free breakfast, but we were all together in one house.  There were a couple of problems when we first got there, but they were minor and taken care of quickly.  I think we'd be willing to do that again. 

We didn't have to eat fast food at all! We evaluated what our cooking options were based on pots, pans, etc, then made a menu and went shopping.  Our hope was to cook and freeze some extra food for the new family.  We forgot to ask ahead of time if they had room in their freezer though.  Oops.

I really, really enjoyed seeing Gabriel, but it was also great to see Stephen and Chonie.  She's an excellent mother.  I used to worry about how I'd be as a mother-in-law.  Would I think they are doing everything wrong as parents?  Well, okay, they've only been parents for less than 2 weeks, but so far so good.  I think they are doing a great job.  Stephen seems to really enjoy being a daddy.  It's funny how you think you love a person as much as you possibly could, then you see a new side to them and that love grows. 

We even snuck in some time to go explore the area.  This was our 3rd trip to Colorado Springs, but the first time we did any sight seeing.  We spent some time at Garden of the Gods which is beautiful, but cold.  You could tell we were Texans by looking at us.  The locals were wearing jackets at best, but here we were all bundled up in our coats and still chilly.

The plan was to leave this morning to come home, but when the weather forecast changed our plans changed.  We left at dinnertime and just ate snacks in the van as we drove.  Around 9:30 we talked about our day and prayed and then I told everyone to go to sleep--except Roger who did most of the driving.  (I drove less than an hour and a half on the whole trip, but Faith got in a couple hours--after we passed the snow.)

So we got home about an hour and 15 minutes earlier than we were even going to leave.  Today is a nap day.  And after all those snacks, I think I'm ready to just eat fruit all day today!