Goodbye, 2014

As I sit here, on the eve of a new year, the memories from the last 365 days come flooding in.

This year has been bittersweet. We have officially lived in our new state for one year. One year we have lived away from our family support system. One year we have spent adjusting to a new area. One year I have missed my former home with every inch of my heart.

But along with the heartache came hope. New friendships were made and are growing even as I type this out. Our house on the farm feels more like home than it did at this same time last year. Our family grew again this past summer, filling a hole I didn’t know we had.

The kids are growing and learning and changing so fast. Much more quickly than I would like them to. I am so thankful for the time I have at home with my six children. Our days are spent exploring with each other and enjoying each other.

Looking onward to next year, I am anticipating great things. I’m setting a goal to daily journal my life at home with each of the kids in order to attempt to preserve these sweet memories. The things my kids say, the things we do together, the fleeting moments we can’t get back. These really are the best days of our lives.

And so, goodbye, 2014! It has been a year of growing and changing. I’m thankful for all of my blessings this year brought, and I’m hopeful for many more blessings to come!

You might have a large family if…

Just a quick, fun post today! ūüôā Enjoy!

You might have a large family if…

toothbrushes

Your toothbrushes are color-coded.

You buy a “family size” bag of cereal and it only lasts you one day.

You have enough clothing in your closets to clothe a small nation.

You have to check out two rooms at hotels in order to stay under their per-room capacity limits.

You can’t spend less than $30 when going out to eat, even at McDonalds.

You only go out to eat at certain restaurants on nights when kids eat free.

You use three cans of “family size” condensed soup for one meal.

You realize that your family is too¬†big for most things¬†“family size”.

You have more kids than almost anyone you personally know.

Your kids always have someone to play with.

You debate buying a dairy cow because of how much milk you go through in one month.

You traded in your mini-van for a 15 passenger van, and wouldn’t have it any other way.

You don’t remember the last time you haven’t had a child in diapers.

You buy memberships at museums and zoos instead of a ticket per person because it is cheaper that way.

Your older kids “fight” over who gets to hold the baby next.

You pack more things for an overnight trip than most families pack for a week-long vacation.

You have multiple sets of bunk-beds.

You have a pile of shoes in all colors and sizes by your front door.

You can’t get behind on laundry or you will never catch back up.

You group your kids into two groups: the big kids and the little kids.

Your kids are used to stares, questions and comments by strangers when out in public.

You never have enough lines when filling out forms requiring you to list dependents.

You take advantage of group discount days.

You have been compared to the Duggar family.

You and/or your spouse have/has a difficult time remembering the birthdates of your children. (It’s actually kind of entertaining watching my husband try. ūüėČ )

Your toyroom looks like a hodge-podge toy store for boys and girls of all ages.

You have to start getting ready to leave an hour before you need to be somewhere 10 miles away.

You can’t imagine life any other way. ‚̧

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

mother

My great aunt sent me this poem when I was pregnant with our fifth child. (Click HERE to read it.)¬† It is titled “Song for a Fifth Child” by Ruth Hamilton. It is a beautiful poem about putting aside daily tasks to be more present with our children, because they grow up too fast. The dust and cobwebs will always be there; our babies will not.

Don’t let things, tasks, people stop you from enjoying your kids while they are still here in your home, needing you.

My house may not be “Pinterest perfect” (my last Pinterest attempt actually ended in an ER visit and stitches), and my countertops are seldom clear of piles of mail, the kids’ artwork, or the dishes from supper last night.¬† But our days are full of laughter and learning and cuddling and singing and playing.

Except.

Except for when I get trapped in the time vortex known as Facebook.  I can sit down with the intent of giving myself a 20 minute break to unwind on Facebook during naptime, and then look up to realize it is supper time and my house is in complete chaos.

Lack of discipline? Yes. Lack of self-control? Definitely.

Can anyone else relate?

I decided that in order to more fully enjoy my kids, and to be more present with them during the day (and maybe even stay caught up with the laundry??), I’m breaking up with Facebook.

Those that know me well know that I have always had a love-hate relationship with Facebook.

Things that I love about Facebook include: keeping in touch with friends and family that live far away, being able to make new friends in various groups, and having the ability to keep up to date on news happenings around the world. And that’s about it.

I don’t love the drama (oooooh the drama), or the negativity, or the time-sucking, or the constant “I need to know anything and everything about your life” that floods¬†my newsfeed. I have lost friends due to things posted on Facebook.¬† And, sadly,¬†I’ve missed out on daily interactions with my kids.

Ouch.¬† It hurts to say that out loud. But if I’m being honest, then yes, it is true.

So, last weekend I made the decision to deactivate my Facebook account. <<Again.>>¬†(Don’t get me wrong, this is much easier said than done!)

I’m putting a stake in the ground and saying I’ve had enough. This time with my kids at home is more important than anything I can see on Facebook.¬†No offense,¬†but¬†adi√≥s, Facebook!¬† At least until I learn some self-control and discipline. ūüėČ

In regards to the poem I shared above, I give to you my own rendition that more aptly fits into our generation of parenting. With so many things competing for our attention nowadays, let’s make sure our kids aren’t coming in last place! Maybe you can find the courage to unplug more often. Or maybe you¬†want to try a break-up with Facebook (or Twitter, or your e-mail account, etc.). You have nothing to lose and everything worthwhile¬†to gain! ūüôā


Song For A 21st Century Child

Mother, oh Mother, check your inbox.
Text back your friend, talk, talk, talk.
Notifications and friend requests, too;
try to go viral with a hit on youtube.
Where is the mother who isn’t updating?
She’s out in the backyard, blissfully playing.

Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as I dislike to.
(giggling, smiling, cuddling, too).
E-mails are waiting, I forgot how to Tweet
(running and skipping and hide-and-go-seek).

My blog’s not updated and my followers are blue,
and my password needs changing to something new.
But I’m playing pirates and kissing boo-boos.
Look at those toes! Aren’t they just cute?
(giggling, smiling, cuddling, too).

Facebook and Twitter will wait ’til tomorrow,
for kiddos grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So turn off the iPad, silence the beep.
I’m snuggling my baby for babies don’t keep.

Our Homeschool Schedule

On Tuesday of last week we began our second year of homeschool.¬† To say I felt confident going into the new school year would be a slight over-exaggeration. ūüėČ However, having one year under my belt, I definitely felt a lot better about everything than I did at the start of ¬†last school year.¬† This year I have a first grader, kindergartener, and preschooler, and three other little ones not yet “school age” (although I do try hard to include everyone in our daily learning activities).

Over the last month or so I have had a few people ask me how I “do it all” (in regards to homeschooling the kids). Honestly, I don’t know, LOL!¬† I often point out the fact that teachers in a public school setting have MANY more students to teach than I do, so I don’t necessarily feel like I’m doing anything extraordinary.¬† Other than just pushing through the hard days and embracing the good days, we just do what we have to do.¬†

Here is a rough idea of what a “normal” homeschool day looks like for us.¬† ūüôā

We wake up (aka- my little alarm clocks come running into my room) around 7:00.¬† Some days this is earlier, some days this is later.¬† But for the most part, 7:00 a.m. is an average wake-up time (for the kids… mentally, I’m not up and running until 8:00 or so, LOL!)

We meander downstairs and hang out in the living room and watch an educational TV show (Word World, LeapFrog, Word Girl, Ruff Ruffman, etc.– Like I mentioned above, I am not mentally up and running right away in the morning so I need this 20-25 minutes of “vegging out” to come to grips that, yes, another day has arrived) while I nurse the baby. I also change the¬†diapers of my three non-potty-trained kiddos.

I muster up the strength to get up and get breakfast started, usually around 7:30ish.¬† I try to serve something different each breakfast (pancakes, waffles, eggs, toast, bagels, fresh fruit, etc.), but with having a newborn baby in the house, lately we have been having a lot of cold cereal. We clean up our dishes, table, floor, and kitchen when we are finished eating.¬† I have one of the older kids unload the dishwasher from the night before while the littler ones come with me to get dressed for the day. Then the “big” kids get themselves dressed in the outfits they picked out the night before.¬† Everyone brushes their teeth and hair.¬† We are ready to attack the day by 8:30. ūüôā

We all sit down around the dining table and do our daily routine.¬† We sing the days of the week and the months of the year¬†songs followed by talking about what day it is using a calendar.¬† Then we go over our Bible memory verse (one new verse each week).¬† I read out loud our Bible reading for the day and discuss is with the kids¬†(this coincides with my first grader’s curriculum). If there is enough time, we play either Simon Says or Mother, May I before beginning our lessons.¬† I’m hoping to get out any extra¬†wiggles while also working on their listening skills. ūüėČ

By 9:00, I get my first grader set up on the computer and he starts his daily reading lesson.¬† Right now he is reading his first chapter book,¬†“The Tale of Jolly Robin”.¬† I have him read out loud so I can hear him and help him with any words he may be mispronouncing.¬† My kindergartener does her reading app on her Kindle Fire (we splurged this year and bought Kindle Fires so our older three will each have their own… both for school/learning apps and for long car trips.) I¬†bring¬†my 18 month old to the toy room upstairs and make sure he is settled with his favorite toys (right now he is obsessed with trucks and tractors).¬† I give my almost-3-year-old and 4 year old letter worksheets to color quietly¬†(we are learning about one letter each week including the letter sounds). Then they get to practice using scissors and glue sticks by cutting out their pictures and gluing them to construction paper.

When my first grader is done with reading, we discuss what he read and he writes a little bit in his reading journal.¬† When he is finished with reading, he moves on to math.¬† This usually only takes him about 15 minutes, depending on how quick he catches on to the material. I send my almost-3 and 4 year olds upstairs to either play with their little brother or play by¬†themselves.¬†¬†They can each pick out a “new” tote of toys to play with (totes of toys in the closet¬†we don’t keep¬†readily accessible). This will usually keep them entertained¬†for 20-30 minutes.¬† My kindergartner comes to the table and we work on reading together.¬† We are using the McGuffey Readers as a learning tool, which is what I also used for my first grader.¬† I love them!¬† When she is finished with her lesson she moves on to handwriting (Handwriting Without Tears)¬† By this point in time, my first grader is usually done with math, so I have him sit at the table and work on handwriting, too.¬†Right now he is working on his block printing skills.¬† I’m hoping to start cursive with him later this year.

Between 10:00-10:15 the baby is usually up and hungry so I feed her while the kids have free time.¬† If the weather is nice I send them outside with snacks for a half an hour or so, to burn off any excess energy they have built up. ūüôā I take this opportunity to get lunch started.¬†This also gives me time to get out any materials I need for art, English, etc.¬† (and to make another cup of coffee if needed, LOL!)

Once free time is over, I set the little ones up at the table for “art class”.¬† Usually they play with Playdoh, color, paint, etc. While they are busy making a mess, I mean, being creative, I start my kindergartner on the computer for her math lesson.¬† On the other computer I start my first grader on his English lesson.¬† He usually has a worksheet or two to complete, so I make sure he can print what he needs.¬†When they are finished with their lessons, they can have art time as well.

I help the little kids clean up their art supplies around 11:15.¬†Everyone helps set the table for lunch, and I try to make sure we are eating lunch by 11:30. After lunch, together we clean up the dining room and living room again. I get my 18 month old, 2 year old, and 4 year old¬†ready for their naps at this point.¬† My first grader and kindergartener are free to watch another educational TV show on Netflix (my first grader is currently obsessed with Beakman’s World) or play a game on their Kindles.

Once everyone is settled quietly¬†where they need to be, I give myself a little break. ūüôā This usually includes me folding a load of laundry or loading the dishwasher. ūüėČ

After I feel refreshed, my first grader, kindergartener and I will move to the living room.¬† We own a Smart TV that has internet capabilities (another thing I LOVE) so we do the last portion of our homeschool day basically¬†from the comfort of our couch (which works out perfectly because the baby is usually hungry again by then, so I can feed her while teaching the others). ūüôā This includes our history, science, formal art and “critical thinking” lessons, all of which are available online.¬† When we are finished with¬†those lessons (which usually takes about 45 minutes), we¬†log on to YouTube and watch¬†whatever videos we can find¬†related to what we learned that day. Around 2:00¬†the kids have free time to play, read, draw, whatever they want, because our school day is done. ūüôā

So that is our day in a (very large) nutshell.¬† Remember, this is only a description of an IDEAL homeschool day.¬† Obviously life isn’t wrinkle-free so there are days we have to adjust and adapt to whatever is going on. ¬†But basically the actual lesson-type learning is done in a total of 2-3 hours, which leaves the kids plenty of time to play and be kids! ūüôā

For those that homeschool, let me know what your homeschool day looks like! I would love to hear what works for your family.

Pass the Super Glue, Please!

Source: glossyinc.com

Source: glossyinc.com

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is this: “How do you do it all?”¬† (In reference to raising five-soon-to-be-six young kids, homeschooling, housekeeping, etc.)

The long answer I usually give is¬†something along the lines of, “My husband is an awesome helper! We are a team and take care of whatever needs to be done. Our kids are also learning to help more so our family unit functions more smoothly.” (Which is, quite frankly, 100% true… I have an awesome hubby who steps in helps right from the moment he gets home from work!)

But wanna hear the more-real short answer?¬† Quite honestly, most days I don’t, I can’t, do it all.

Exhibit A:

My clean clothing pile from this morning.

My clean clothing pile from this morning.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.¬†¬†Looking around my house and examining my day-to-day life, I really don’t feel like I have it all together.¬†¬†Have you seen the pile of papers on my counter that still needs to be sorted through? And the reading lessons waiting to be completed by my¬†five and six year olds? And phone calls and messages waiting to be returned? And the¬†sink full of dirty dishes? And Pinterest projects waiting to be started? (Thank heavens my kids don’t have Pinterest accounts so they can’t see all the awesome things other moms are doing with their kids!!)

I most definitely do not have it all together.¬†And to be honest, I don’t¬†know if any of us do. (However, if you DO know how to keep it all together all the time, please feel free to share your secret because I would love to know!) And you know what? I’m ok with not having it all together!¬† The times I feel most stressed out are the times I let the things I “need to do”, the things I¬†feel I must complete in order to be a good mom, wife, friend,¬†fill up my immediate¬†vision and I lose sight of what really matters most: this time in life I have here¬†with my kids.

How can we possibly fit cleaning, laundry, school/learning, exploring, creative outlets, food preparation, reading, nurturing, character building, life skills, socializing, and sleep all in one 24 hour period?¬† I don’t know about you, but I physically can’t do it all, no matter how much coffee I consume.

Some days are picture-perfect, while (many) other days are filled with the “bumps” and “hiccups” of life. Unexpected injuries (like, hypothetically speaking,¬†someone pushing their little sister out of a bunk bed, resulting in a broken arm and several hours spent at the ER, because that would never happen here… right…) and needs seem to pop up at the most inconvenient times.¬† Our best laid-out plans and schedules¬†need to pause while we tend to the most important issue of the moment, which often revolves around the little ones in our lives.¬† (One of the many reasons my bedroom floor is usually covered in clean laundry, patiently waiting to be folded and put away properly.)

Some things in life have got to give and take the back burner while we focus our time and energy on what is most important.    For some of us, the list of things to do seems never ending, growing longer by the day.  And while we should make goals to try to get caught up (eventually), our number one goal should be to be present with our kids.  Right here, right now.  The laundry piles, dirty dishes, e-mail and Facebook messages, school lessons, shopping lists, piles of paperwork will always be there, no matter how hard we try to stay caught up.  Our kids, however, are only here for a brief moment in our lives.

Everything can’t be a priority in life, so I’m learning¬†it is ok to backlog things that aren’t as important as¬†my children.¬† Don’t be afraid to let the laundry get backed up a little. In fact, I challenge you to embrace the daily “messes” of life! Muddy footprints on the floor; healthy little bodies to run. Dirty dishes in the sink; full tummies. Sleepless nights; comforted babies. Full laundry baskets; even fuller hearts. Happy children; happy homes.

family

Yes, having Mommy¬†Super Glue available for the times I am barely¬†hanging on by a thread, trying to keep it all together, would be really handy.¬†¬†But¬†going through the trials and experiences of daily life, learning along the way how to function and make our lives work when we feel like there just aren’t enough hours in a day, figuring out what our real priorities in life are,¬†is way more beneficial than a quick-fix.

Because the best things in life take time and are more appreciated when all is said and done. ūüôā

The Problem With Opinions

source: quotes.hacklife.org

source: quotes.lifehack.org

In one of my other posts, I touched on what I wish people knew about raising a large family and what it is like to be a part of a large family.¬† I love the positive reaction I received from other parents with many children and/or people who grew up in a large family!¬† I feel blessed that I have been given the opportunity to raise so many little ones! ūüôā

The other day I was browsing the internet and came across this awesome blog post at “Tales From the Mommy Trenches”. (Seriously, go check it out!)¬†I couldn’t help but empathize with the author and every word she wrote.¬† If I had a dollar for each time some Johnny-Do-Gooder tried to shame me¬†in¬†my choice¬†to have¬†a large family, I would have quite a bit of cash in my pocket.

Last night, as I was laying in bed trying to quiet my mind, I couldn’t help but think about the mom in the blog post, as well as myself and other moms of many.¬† And moms in general, no matter how many kids they have or how their family came to be (whether grown in their womb or in their heart).¬†I didn’t realize¬†gaining the title of mom came with the open invitation for others to speak their minds on how we are running our lives.

Every time I walk into the store with my “gaggle” of children, I notice the stares and comments given by strangers.¬† Oftentimes someone in one of the stores will feel it is their duty (?) to come up and inform me that I have my hands full, or some other typical comment.¬† I usually smile and try to be polite about it.¬† I do not want my kids to be ashamed of having a large number of siblings, even though I’m sometimes meant to feel shame when answering embarrassing questions. (“Do you know what causes it?” “Have you heard of birth control?” “Are you addicted to pregnancy?”)

Not too many years ago, having a large family was the norm.  Now?  It is viewed as a physical anomaly, much like sprouting an extra head or set of arms (which, by the way, I would not mind at. all.).

There have been a couple of reasons thrown around various blogs lately; some¬†authors have even gone so far as to say choosing to have¬†a large family¬†is “irresponsible”. Many people feel that having a large family is selfish and the cause for overpopulation.¬† I wish I had the ability to describe my feelings in regards to that¬†as eloquently as this author did. Other people feel that we can’t quite possibly know our children on a personal level because there are so many of them.¬† I don’t even feel the need to explain how ridiculous I think¬†that thought process is. But despite my feelings and opinions on the matter, most people cannot will not change the way they interact with parents.

And it is often times heart breaking.

Making jokes about large family parents needing to find a different hobby, or suggesting that we put a TV in our bedroom (no thank you!!) are not clever, nor are they appropriate.¬† Would the commenters¬†like¬†it if someone¬†started making¬†jokes out of¬†their private life?¬†Since when is talking about a couple’s private life¬†acceptable?¬†Those opinions are the open door to shaming someone else.

Telling a mom that maybe she should stop having children because one of her current children is throwing a tantrum in the check-out lane is anything but helpful.  Telling a large family mom that she cannot handle her kids after she mentioned having a rough day with the kids is extremely hurtful. Moms with many kids have the right to have a bad day, the same as a mom with fewer kids.  Instead of passing judgment and issuing hurtful comments, offer support and a hug.  Sometimes that is all that we really need.

Reminders that “this too shall pass”, “it won’t always be like this”, “you’re doing great”, and anything else that is edifying are wonderful, NOT belittling.

Children are a blessing and something to be celebrated, whether that child is a couple’s first or twentieth! Each person on this planet has a purpose and unique role to fill.¬† Making a parent feel shame for bringing another life into the world is not only rude but it is also unproductive.

The problem with opinions is that we cannot control the opinions of others. ¬† The good news is that we can control our own opinions and practice the old adage “If you can’t say something nice [or uplifting or positive or motivational], don’t say anything at all.”

Now excuse me while I go cuddle with my little blessings! ūüôā

A True Mother’s Day

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I woke up early today, thanks to my little hiccupping alarm clock currently stationed in my womb.

I looked outside and saw the dim lights of a brand new day coming over the horizon.  I looked at my cell phone clock: 5:38. I laid in bed, closing my eyes again, debating making one last attempt to fall back asleep before my five little balls of energy ignite for the day.

Nah, they’ll be up soon anyway.¬† I might as well get all of my Facebook, e-mail and blog checks done early. (For those that don’t know me, I am NOT a morning person.¬† I’m also not a night person. I’m more of a 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. person, as long as I can squeeze a nap in somewhere in there.)

After all my checks were done, my mind started making a mental list of all that I need to do today: midwife appointment¬†and glucose test this morning (yahoo…. can you sense my sarcasm??), pack for our weekend away, clean the house before we leave (nothing stresses me out more than coming home from a weekend away to a house that is in utter ruins), clean out the van (again), get an oil change, and make sure I don’t lose my sanity with kids during the process.

I might as well get up and get going.¬† A busy day leading into the busy weekend ahead: Mother’s Day weekend.¬† And this year I get to spend it with most of my favorite moms.¬† I feel so blessed!

When it comes to celebrating actual Mother’s Day, I like to keep it as low-key as possible.¬† I don’t mind spending the day chasing the kids, changing diapers, preparing snacks and meals, or any of the other things I do on a daily basis.¬† I love serving my kids and my husband, and sometimes I even manage to do so joyfully!

But I didn’t always feel that way.¬†¬†Up until a¬†couple of¬†years ago¬†I felt like I was entitled to a free-pass card that day. And if I had to do any kind of¬†mothering on Mother’s Day, I would make my unhappiness known.¬† Thankfully, my attitude and appreciation for the whole day has changed.

When I became a mom, I gave up all that was only me.  From the time of conception of my first child, my body was no longer my own.  Every food I ate, every choice I made, had a direct effect on the little one growing deep inside of me.  My body changed (both temporarily and permanently) in ways I never imagined it would. I grew round, my hips grew wider, and my understanding of love grew deeper.

In becoming a mom, I willingly gave up the ability to pick up and go out at the drop of a hat.¬† I now have to consider those I have been entrusted with. Every minute that I’m awake (and even sometimes in my sleep) I am thinking about my kids, whether I realize it or not.¬† It is funny how our mom-brains are wired that way.¬† Don’t get me wrong, there are times I would love more than anything to just get up and go, without having to pack a diaper bag, or change diapers, or do potty runs, or find a half dozen pairs of matching socks. And I do have times (thanks to my awesome husband) where I get time away to recharge my batteries.¬† But that is no longer a priority of mine.

In becoming a mom, I gave up my hopes and dreams (even if only for a short time) to focus all of my energy and talents on raising these human beings.  But I also gained the ability to help nurture their hopes and dreams, and to help sharpen their energy and talents to become the people God wants them to be!  There is absolutely no career or degree that can offer deep fulfillment like that.

In becoming a mom, I realized just how very human I am.¬† My faults and short-comings and sins are even more apparent now with all of these little eyes watching me.¬† When I catch them doing the same things I know I shouldn’t do, it is a huge reality check.¬† Lessons on humility are coming more frequently the older my kids get.¬† Because of that, because of my kids and their child-like faith, I am slowly becoming a better person.

So on Mother’s Day this year, I am choosing to not sulk and pout over the imminent fact that my kids will, as usual, be up before the sun.¬† I won’t be mad when I have to change one of the¬†many poopy diapers my son produces, or help make snacks and meals, or¬†any of the other¬†tasks I usually do.

My kids¬†are only¬†young once, and I chose to have them over having my life to myself (I can’t have it both ways).¬† I don’t want them to¬†ever feel like they are an inconvenience, or that they are a bother.¬† I love¬†having the ability to serve them in these small, seemingly insignificant ways.¬† One day they won’t need me to do these things for them (at least I hope my kids will one day have the ability to take care of their own bathroom business without my assistance). For me, it wouldn’t be a true Mother’s Day without these little things!

Speaking of little things, my little ones are up and ready for the day. Here’s to a morning filled with coffee and snuggles!

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms out there!¬† I hope you get to spend your day surrounded by the family you helped create! ūüôā