The Secret to a Clean Home

So I have not made a habit of posting in a while… Sorry about that. I hope you haven’t missed me too much.

While I was away, I have discovered how to keep a clean home. (And I have 6 children and a dog, so this truly is miraculous!)

The first step is to clean your home… If you can get this done in one day, by the end of the day, that is best. Stretching it out for more than one day risks undoing any cleaning that got done on that first day.

Next, when you wake up on that second morning… Go on vacation! Get everyone and everything into your packed vehicle and get outta town!

When you come home, your house will still be clean! 

It’s amazing! My house stayed clean for a week and I didn’t have to do anything to maintain it.

The 8 of us (minus the dog… Who was with my parents) slept and lived in this quaint cabin up at Somerset Beach Campground and had a blast. And Ethan learned how to ride a 2-wheeler without training wheels. But the secret to that success lies with my husband… I was just a cheerleader on the sidelines of that one.

Let the Summer Games Begin!!!

Homeschoolers… Are we ever really “done” with our school year? In our family, we have a few more lessons until we are done with our current textbooks. Just in time for a camping trip we’re not going to be doing schoolwork on. I do plan to do some light schoolwork through the summer once we get back, but we’ll just be sticking to the famous 3-R’s: Reading, (W)riting, and ‘Rithmatic.

I have a few activities I would like to do this summer, but I am always looking for more ideas. I especially love free, but cheap might be doable.

For one, we have recently rearranged our backyard to be more accommodating. My husband built a playhouse for the children, which we (mostly he) moved to the back of our yard… Clearing out driveway space on the backyard side of the fence. When the gate is opened, the driveway from our garage to the parked cars (about 3-car lengths) is free for bike riding! (Ethan is learning to ride without training wheels… Daddy has said if he learns before our camping trip, we can bring his bike on the trip with us!)

The trampoline had been back there for a few years, and we recently acquired a “playground for our own backyard” which is more commonly known as a swing set. Fabulous outdoor playthings.

My husband also built a children’s picnic table (he made it extra long to make space for the copious amounts of children we have acquired. Great for outdoor picnic lunches. It’s amazing how popular outdoor lunches are, even though the food is run-of-the-mill… The experience is what makes it special.

I found a recipe for kinetic sand I am interested in trying out, and it only has 3 ingredients: play sand, flour, and oil. Outdoor activity, although the recipe I found says it doesn’t stick to hands like regular sand, so hopefully that means less mess.

We have bubble things, but used up our bubble stash on a field day. I love the Dollar Tree for things like this… Because you know 6 kids 7 and under will break the toys. Better not to have a huge $investment$ in toys with a short life span.

I would also like to tour the awesome metroparks we have in the Toledo area. Last time I was at the park we frequent, I picked up a guide for all the metroparks… We have 15! I also picked up a pamphlet about a canal experience (which is not free) at one of the parks… So maybe we’ll have an educational park day one day.

We also have 19 library branches, PLUS the main library that I would like to tour. I’ve lived in Toledo all my life and there are some I’ve never visited. There are also a few that have been renovated since my last visit… So I’m excited about that.

I signed myself and my two oldest up for the Summer Reading Challenge, although I can’t remember the last time I finished a book I read for pleasure.

The main library, downtown, has “Brown Bag Concerts” every Wednesday from 12:15-1:15 that my mom usually joins us for as well. Different local bands each week, but the children’s music week is the one that I definitely try to make happen.

We are YMCA members this year, so there will be swimming and baseball and maybe some other activities there, and we’ve been Zoo members since Ethan was a baby. We will also attend a week-long BackYard Bible Club I volunteer at, and my kids go through, as well as maybe another carnival-type VBS (vacation Bible school) that happens down the road from us.

As I look at my list of summer things, it doesn’t seem too complicated; it doesn’t even really seem full. But I know summer will go fast. I plan to beef up the homeschooling at the beginning of August, and our co-op starts at the end of August, but that doesn’t mean park days or library visits or Zoo experiences need to stop. 

If you can think of fun, simple outdoor summer activities I can add to our list, let me know! Some things my children love to do over and over (even some things I don’t think are that great, they end up loving) and other things I think will be great turn out to be a flop. But it is flip flop season, so I’m prepared for the flipping and flopping of plans.

Plans gone awry

This is a weird sort of anniversary, one I once probably knew without needing to be reminded, and now I am reminded by Facebook memories. In the past 10 years, I have called off a wedding, found a new church home, met a new man, gotten engaged/married, and had 6 children.

10 years ago, the man who asked me to marry him in December told me that he prayed about our relationship and “God told him no.” I was devistated, as you would expect. My parents were out of town, I had some time off from work, and school was on a break… it was a bad 2 weeks; I had no reason to get out of bed, and my dear, dear friend made me come over and force fed me pizza. 

The heart of man plans his ways, but the Lord establishes his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

Never in a million years would I have thought, 10 years ago, that I would be where I am today. And I am so thankful that my plans were not carried out. I was a new Christian, and young. (22 was so young, I wouldn’t have believed it then!) I have grown in so many ways I know I would not have had we stayed together. Last I heard, he was married and has recently had his first child. (In an odd twist of events, his sister and best friend’s wife have come to my church’s mom’s group.)

Praise God that I am not in control of my life! Life is not perfect, but the one who writes my story is! He has given me a far better life than I would have been able to make for myself.

Feed the Babies

In one of last posts, I mentioned how babies #1-3 all gained weight well, and babies #4-6 have thrown a couple of curveballs my way. (This post has cuter pics, tho.)

One curveball was my inability to feed them as I had always been able to before. I’m talking about breastfeeding. There, I said it. 

You still with me? Good. 

How about a picture of a not-breastfeeding baby? 

 

When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I never questioned how I would feed him. It never occured to me that I could opt to not breastfeed him. Added benefit was that money was tight and we wouldn’t have to buy bottles or formula… but that didn’t occur to me until after I had made my decision.

After Daniel, my 4th child, my husband (who is a carpenter) began working 12 hour shifts, at a location an hour’s drive away, 13 days out of every 14. (That’s 15 hours a day away, with only every other Sunday off… Even when he was home, he promptly took a shower, ate dinner, and went straight to bed. Not exactly helpful for relief from the stresses of raising four young children).

From 4 to 5 months, toward the end of the crazy work schedule, Daniel only gained 4 ounces. From 5 to 6 months, he lost an ounce. Not huge numbers, but enough to know that something was up. That something was that I was losing my milk supply, most likely from the stress of basically single-handedly raising 4 children ages 4 and under.

Phoebe, baby #5, made it through the 4/5 month period without losing weight, and I was relieved that nothing was “wrong with me” again. But from her 6-month well check to her 9-month well check, she stayed the same height (25.5 inches) but she went from 16 pounds 10 ounces to 15 pounds 5 ounces. Not encouraging at all.

Ezekiel (baby #6), went from 3 months to 5 months (because… Busy mama forgot to schedule the 4 month) and lost 12 ounces. Who knows what the 4 month well-check would have shown. 

Well-checks aren’t just for vaccinations, people. I thank God for those well-checks because I probably would not have noticed the weight loss until they were well on their way to starving to death.
By 6 months (only 1 month of not breastfeeding), Ezekiel had gained 13 ounces and was back on track as the good doctor showed me the curve and where he fell on it.

I know, and genreally agree with, the notion that “breast is best,” although I feel silly telling people that. What is really best is feeding your baby in a way that fits with your family. Obviously, eating out at McDonalds every day because ‘you’re a family on the move and the dollar menu is cheap and everyone likes it’ isn’t what I mean by that, so there are some ways that are better than others… But don’t beat yourself up because you do something other than the doctor-recommended method.

One thing I remember reading, I believe from one of the ladies who write the blog at feminagirls (years ago when ibwas new to the parenting thing), is that there are principles and there are methods. The principle is that mamas feed their babies. The method could be breastfeeding, formula feeding, or homemade-formula feeding. 

Maybe there are even other options out there. Like starting baby cereal at 4 months or 6 months or one year. (FYI, I start at 6 months) Or breastfeeding, to some degree, until age 4 (My goal has always been 12 months). 

I’m sure everyone (mother/parent or not) has opinions on all of those things, and you are entitled to your opinion. But you shouldn’t (dare I say “can’t”) force your opinion on others. (I realize that is my opinion… But you are not forced to keep reading.) You do what works for you, and maybe offer advice if asked for, but don’t be outraged by someone not doing what you do, because they are not you.
Now, if you’ve ever tried to build back up your supply, you know it is not easy. If I breastfeed, then offer a bottle, somehow more and more of the bottle is taken and less and less from the breast. So, I didn’t try to kill myself by sleep deprivation to pump. Yet, my babies have never tasted store-bought formula either. 

Cow’s milk is a big no-no for people under age 1, but goat’s milk is most like human milk, with no known allergies. Even adults who are lactose intolerant can have goat’s milk. But for an infant, plain goat’s milk is not enough. Added to the fact that it’s naturally deficient in vitamin B12 and folic acid, goat milk is only the base for a make-your-own baby formula.

Mt. Capra (as in capra-corn… Get it?) makes a delightful powdered-goat milk that I used as the base, and if you subscribe to their emails, they will share their formula recipe. (Although I got it from a friend before subscribing to them).

And thanks to bottle feeding, I could enjoy a nice Cosmopolitan, with raspberry vodka, at Easter.

*Side note: the brain is made of fat, so consuming fat is critical to brain development in those early months and years of life outside the mama. Also, the typical amount of protein in the ratio for making pure goat milk using the powder would be a bit much for one so small as a baby. So the formula isn’t some super-secret ingredients, but just ratios tweaked enough to be best for what a baby needs.

A week ago, I changed my last size 3 diaper. Ezekiel, at 7 months, is in the same size diaper as Phoebe, who will be 2 in August. Both of them are on track, and doing great! And that is a relief for this breastfeeding mama who was unable to breastfeed as long as expected.

Mother’s Day Lessons

When you homeschool, it seems like you can make a lesson out of anything. It also seems like sometimes we do nothing but “lessons” all day.
Today, I had an eye doctor appointment, so my soon-to-be retiring dad (read: free babysitter) came over when we normally do formal math and writing lessons. After lunch, I put the little ones down for nap/quiet time and Ethan, Naomi, and I began our schoolwork for the day. 

Math was simple; a test today makes for easy work for teacher-mama. After having them write a few practice words in cursive, I excuse Ethan and call Naomi to join me on the living room couch as I tell her she has one more lesson to to.

“Mooooooooom. We’ve already done 1,000 lessons today!” (She is my most dramatic child; she amuses me after-the-fact, but she can be difficult in the midst of things.)

However, when I pull the book out (Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons), she practically jumps to my side and she eagerly opens to where the bookmark is. All conplaints of “having to do one more lesson” have vanished. We snuggle while she reads. We’re only on Lesson 62, but she can do most of the reading with minimal help or correction from me. And my heart is filled.

When my schedule gets busy and so many things need to be done, we don’t always do a reading lesson a day (I aim for at least 3 a week; they only take 10-15 minutes a lesson) but it’s times like these that make me realize that there’s more going on that her learning to read. It’s something we’re doing together, something she can see she’s doing well at and that the praise I give her is not superficial. (She is good at math too, but both she and Ethan get so discouraged if they get even 1 question wrong on a worksheet, despite my praise. And she tends to need more love poured into her than the others anyway.)

Daddy asked them last night what they wanted to do with Mommy for Mother’s Day. Grand plans for presents and cake and vacations were discussed. Then how much everything costs vs. how much money they had was discussed (math lesson!)… I’m probably getting handmade gifts, but I will treasure them always. I have a “Tim box” of mementos from our relationship, and I have a “mom box” of cards or pictures or small tokens the kids have given me. And I will treasure those boxes, and the memories they hold, forever.

(My Mama, and the ones who make me a mama.)

Happy Mother’s Day Weekend!

Scrumptions Snacktime!

I simply have to share this, it’s almost unbelievable: a healthy snack everyone in the family enjoys!

2 avocados + an 8oz block of softened cream cheese + a tablespoon or so of garlic (more or less to taste) + salt and pepper (also to taste)

Mash together (which is fun for all ages as well). I used corn chips, but I imagine carrots would be a good carrier too.

Phoebe, 1.5 years old, will eat the dip and not the chip. Quite different than other dips she tries, where she’ll eat tons of chips and not much dip. (Which is a hassle when we make chili dip or something for dinner…)

Low carb (depending on what vehicle you use to get the dip from the bowl to your mouth) and healthy.

Next time I make it, it might have to be after the kids are in bed so that I can enjoy more of it myself…

One of those weeks

It’s been a rough week. Even the end of last week was rough. The weekend was rough, which is unusual because Tim and I are both home to keep the short people in line. And it hasn’t gotten easier as this week has progressed.

It’s been rainy, so finding tasks for the children to do inside when they want to run and play outside is not fun. Balancing school and chores and play is never easy. Play is very important for young children, but so is teaching them responsibility and taking ownership of thehouse and being a part of the family. We’ve been spoiled by having a very mild winter (a few years ago, Toledo was voted the #1 worst city to survive winter… right under the polar vortex that made the “Real Feel” temperature -40°) so outside play during winter was cold,  but dry. We had a winter of +40s this year. (I have a short memory, it may have been colder/warmer, but nowhere near what it was a few years ago.)

This week, attitudes have been bad, backtalk has been spoken, fits have been thrown, and mama has lost her temper. It is all coming to a head, and I know tell only thing I can do is pray. It seems like it should seem strange that praying can produce such an immediate result. But even though God knows what we will ask before we have even thought to ask it, He has told us to come to Him. I can’t raise 6 children on my own, Tim and I can’t even do it together. Sure, our children will most likely survive to adulthood and be functioning members of society no matter what, we are past the era of children dying from diseases and other hazards, but I am reminded every day of how short I fall of any goal I set when I try to accomplish it in my own strength.

Days when we wake up and pray together over breakfast sets a tone for the day. If we rush through that (because we have appointments scheduled and need to move quickly), the effect is noticable. If I am spanking a child for getting out of her bed for the umpteenth time at nap and don’t take the time to restore our relationship with prayer and hugs, she’s so much more likely to keep disobeying. When I take the time to sing a short song and rub her back (or even a simple hug and prayer when I first lay her down), the results of nap time are drastically different. I am less stressed, and everyone is more relaxed. And guess what, relaxed children fall asleep easier than tightly-wound ones. 

I love my children. God gave them to me (and my husband) with the instructions to raise them for His glory. I am commanded to train them up in the way they will go, so that they will not depart from it when they are older (*gasp* teeangers!); not to mention I love spending time with my kiddos. I am constantly torn between getting things checked off on my to-do list (be it homeschool work or general chores around the house) and going places and doing fun things with my family.

But this week, I could use a break. Praise the Lord, today was better… but we also had 3 friends over so maybe that’s why behavior was better. 9 children 7 and under for 5 hours had a positive effect!? Now, that’s crazy!

Scripture tells us children are a blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127:3) but do you ever notice how God’s blessings are inextricably tied to work? Work was around before the fall (Genesis 2:15 The Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it). Blessings have come after the work since the beginning (Genesis 2:3 God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made). 

I have been blessed with children. I did not “plan” any one of them, nor did I pray and ask for the blessing. I am thankful for them, to the One who made them and gave them to me, but some days I question if that was a good decision on His part… trusting me with 6 little ones who look to me for everything. (Of course it was, man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps…) Bearing children is not the blessing (although that’s part of it). Raising children is work, hard work, and I don’t get to rest from it on weekends, but the blessings come from the work. I would not trade this job for the world, I would not give up any of them to have “the perfect family” (the one boy/one girl combo people think is so perfect) although there are days I want to turn the TV on, set the kids in front of it, and go hide in my room. Times like those are when I may need to do that for a moment, so I can go pray and order my thoughts (that is to say: line them up with God’s thoughts), roll my sleeves up and get back to work.