Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Holiday Homeschooling



Anyone else have a hard time with that??

What happens to my brain, and to the kids?  Whatever it is, it starts immediately prior to Thanksgiving and doesn't let up till after New Years.

We'd rather bake cookies than read Herodotus.  We'd rather make gifts than study long division.  Or for the shorter members of the tribe...we'd rather race around like maniacs than anything else. 

But, you know, for all the virtues in some of these must go on.  I don't actually want to take the entire last 6 weeks of the year off.  We already take a month - last three weeks of December, first week of January.  I think 7 weeks is probably pushing it.  Possibly.

So how does one beat the holiday lack of focus?  Here are some thoughts:

  1. Be firm.  Okay, so the first one's no fun.  But, let's face it, that's the way it goes sometimes.  As a mom, sometimes I feel like the Official Spoiler of Fun in the family.  Don't you?  It's good for all of us to just slog through when we don't feel like it.  Great life lesson for the kids.  And, it will make you all feel better if you make yourselves stay on target and accomplish what you planned.
  2. Switch things up.  Now that you've been the Schoolwork Grinch, get back in their good graces by planning something different.  I find that planned fun is more fun and also less generally disruptive than the spontaneous kind that happens when you all just throw in the towel.  Hopefully it's even educational.  That being said...
  3. Know when to quit.  I know, I'm a bundle of contradictions.  ;-)  Leave room in your schedule for when you'd rather live to school another day.  If you are consistently staying on track, don't feel guilty if you need to tell everyone to pack it up early once in a while.  It's not the end of the world, and if Mama can't take much more - learning is not going to be optimal, anyway.  Remember how much learning happens out of the books, and how much developing faith and character is what we are really about here.
Now, if you're craving more order than my holiday-beleaguered brain can offer you, here is a good post on the subject.

So, tomorrow - I'm going for Point 1.  How about you?

Update:  "Point 1" went so swell that the following day we strung Christmas lights and made gingerbread men...:-D

This post is linked to No Ordinary Blog Hop.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

$600 Vision Forum Giveaways at 6 different blogs!

Oh my.  I don't post giveaways too frequently...but this one is rather worth a look if you like Vision Forum.  You can enter to win $300, $200, and $100 gift certificates - and not just on one blog, but on six.  Here they are:

Vision Forum is one of our favorite resources for Christian books,  movies, and toys.  They are very thoughtful, and very intentional about challenging the culture.   Very good stuff - but they can be a little pricey, so I like to watch for sales.  Now, if I had a $300 gift certificate, I would have a great time watching for sales!! :-D

Monday, November 28, 2011

Our Chore System

The chore system we use, like most everything I do, bears the distinctive hallmarks of somebody-else's-system, jury rigged and stuffed, slightly crooked, into my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants style of managing things.  I figure if it works, that's ok. is what we do for chores.  I think I've mentioned before that I like Managers of Their Chores by the Maxwells.  Their chore card system is extremely helpful, and a little over a year ago I sat down with it and put it all together for my four oldest kids. 

Wait...did I say four?  Yes. And yes, there are only two in the picture.  Here's why.

For a lot of years, I felt terribly guilty, because I have never been good at teaching my tiny ones to do chores.  Sure, the toddler sometimes can be persuaded that putting away blocks is fun.  My four year old is now pretty sure that putting his shoes away means he won't have to search high and low for them next time he needs them.  My five year old, bless her born-organized little heart, makes her bed every morning even though I have never asked her to - or *blush* even taught her how.  I do call them to help put away toys they left out, and we all work together on lots of things.  So I'm not a total slacker or anything, here. ;-)  But routine chores....mmmm, no, not really.  Not for the littles.  I wait until they are older - around 6 or so - before introducing routine, written down, daily chores that they are accountable for.   So I made up little chore packs for them, but never really used them.

I used to do this by accident, and feel guilty.  Now, as I have seen that it works out well for us, I do it on purpose.

So, the chore cards.  My oldest two daughters use them, and they are really quite wonderful.  The book has you write down the things that need done, divvy them up to different children, and then print off cards to go in the chore packs that clip on to the kids' clothes (good for the forgetful child).  I love that part of our schedule is morning and afternoon job time; the girls know what they need to do, and since they have had the same jobs for a long time, they are getting quite good at them.  It puts the whole thing on autopilot, and saves me quite a bit of brain power, thinking of what all needs done.  I do have to remember to check on them, because quality will slide if I don't.  They tend to start skipping the weekly type jobs if I'm not paying attention, too.

The book includes wonderful resources for keeping tabs on everything in a more systematic way, which is great...but like I said, other people's systems.  My distinctive, less-than-systematic touch. :)

We also have evening jobs, but we don't have cards for that.  I think we used to, but since it's pretty much helping fix dinner, set the table, tend the baby while I cook, and help clean up, we don't really need them.

The kids really like doing things this way, because they know I'm not normally going to jump on them with a list of jobs out of the blue.  They know what to expect and when to expect it.  I think it is because of that, at least partly, that I never hear any complaining about job times. 

I know that as my littler ones get older and get added into the job time crew, the job packs will be even more helpful at keeping everyone's assignments organized, doable, and remembered.

Do you have a chore system for your kids?  Do share!

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On Worry and Contentment

"Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.   But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.  Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses."     I Timothy 6:6-12 NKJV

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
  “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;  and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven,
will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
  “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day
is its own trouble,"  Matthew 6:25-34

Contentment.  Worry.  What a struggle for me.  This has always been an area of weakness for me, and so, it sometimes seems that the Lord prepares special trials for me in this area.  A weak muscle, I suppose, requires extra exercise.

I'm kind of an idealist (an INFP, if anybody else is amused by such things).  I have lofty dreams and goals, and I'm not real patient.  

We have been in a state of feeling financially precarious for many years; up until this year, we never knew what our income would be from semester to semester.  Currently, we have been greatly blessed by a one-year position with a dependable and much higher salary than we used to have - but when the year is up, we don't know what is next.  It is a challenging time to find a position in my husband's field - not to mention, his ideology is not precisely popular in mainstream academia.  It seems for us that every door we try is jammed shut.  And yet, this past year, when we had just given up hope for a better year (again) - he was offered this one year position that had not even been made public or applied for.  It has been such a blessing!

Yet I struggle.  I'm tired of not knowing, from year to year, how things will be.  I'm tired of prefacing any statement about the coming year with, "if we still live here."  I like to have a plan.  I like to at least think I know what that plan is for the next 12 months.  I know that no plan of ours is guaranteed.  I just like to have one.  And, I'm realizing to my dismay that nearly twice what we used to live on is still pretty tight.

But I know that my path is not my own.  I'm not here in this world to fulfill my dreams - and oddly, that's a comfort.  It's a comfort, because it means that if I never get my dreams, it's ok.  It's a comfort, because I know that my path and my end are in God's hands, and will serve His purposes in the way that He chooses.  My part is to obey; the provision is His.  With that, I can truly be content no matter what comes - petty discomfort or heart-rending trials. 

Take a moment to listen to one of my all-time favorite songs.  I hope it will be a comfort and encouragement to you, as it has been to me!

Please note:  I am not affiliated in any way with Matthew Smith and don't receive any benefit of any kind from including the song.  It is just a blessing to me and I hope it will be to you, too. :)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Birth Story #4 - Jonathan a.k.a. "elevator boy"

Okay.  How to begin?  This is the birth story I am modestly famous for.  At least, it feels that way, because from time to time I am introduced to someone I have never met, who I find has already heard this story.  I guess I'll tell it how I experienced it.

Once I got to baby #4, my body pretty much seemed to know what it was doing.  That was the first pregnancy I remember where I began to feel like I was in the early stages of labor for the entire final month.  I wish I knew whether this is a common thing with moms of many, or is it just me?  If you also experience this, I would really love to hear from you.  This happens in every pregnancy for me, now.  Beginning around 35 or 36 weeks, I feel "labory."  My Braxton Hicks contractions are quite uncomfortable; I get low backache, nausea, exhaustion, emotional labor signs, the whole shebang.

And so, one morning very late in pregnancy, I got up feeling pretty unwell.  This was no great shock to me at 39 weeks along.  I was having some contractions; nothing too regular or bothersome.  Timing them revealed no pattern at all, so I fixed breakfast and went slowly about my business.  I spent a good part of the morning sitting at the table drinking tea while I let my two older girls entertain my toddler.

After a while, I was just feeling so excessively pregnant that I decided a bath might feel nice; I stayed there for quite some time. Mark came home from teaching his morning class.  When he arrived, I told him, "I don't feel well.  I think the baby will come in the next few days."  With that, I went to take a nap.

The nap was cut short; as I was just dozing off, I was startled back awake - my water broke.  I was amazed by this, as before it had not happened spontaneously until just before birth.  That fact also made me a little anxious to get to the hospital; I wasn't too worried, though, as I wasn't having any obvious contractions.  I got cleaned up and stripped the bed while Mark called his mom to let her know we wanted to head for the hospital - she would be watching our other three children.

In the half hour or so that it took for Lisa to arrive, I began to have some strong, regular contractions.  I've no idea how far apart they were, but I do remember lying down while I waited; I must have been starting to feel that things were moving along quickly.  We left promptly for the hospital once Lisa was there.

On the way, it became clear that I was really in labor.  Every tiny bump in the road - I think every pebble we ran over! - was agony to me.  It was a ten minute trip on smooth city roads, but it was excruciatingly long to me!  I think it was around now that my husband began to worry.  I wasn't worried, though.  I have no idea why - I guess I was too busy!

We arrived at the hospital, and being somewhat distracted managed to park in the employee parking garage that is freestanding beside the hospital, rather than the Women's Center parking garage which is attached to the hospital.  I hear they have improved their signage, all on my account.

Mark had asked me if I wanted him to pull up to the front and go get a wheelchair, but I was insistent that I didn't want him to leave me alone. So, we parked and walked to the elevator - thinking that it would lead up to the Women's Center lobby.  Instead, it only led to more parking garage.

While we were still confused about that...

"OH NO!"  I yelled.

"What!?" Mark answered.  "He sounds a little tense,"  I remember thinking in some calm, detached part of my head.

"He's coming!!"

A flurry while we blocked the elevator door open with my bag to keep from going up and down.

I was down on the floor. 

Some lady with a cell phone told me not to push and called the hospital for us.  I was pushing anyway; I couldn't help it. The lady left at some point; I don't remember when, or why.

An elderly couple walked by, stared, and kept walking when Mark waved them on.

I was conscious of the characteristic, earthy yells of a woman in hard labor echoing through the mostly deserted garage.

I knew there was no more time.  "You have to catch him,"  I said to Mark.  He had that one figured out way ahead of me.  "I know,"  was all he said.  And he did.  As the baby slid into his hands, I heard him say only, "Jonathan..."

The brief pause there always is, to realize labor is over.

Then he is in my arms.  We wrap him in a blanket from our things.  He looks fine.  I think we may have started to laugh at that point...

It wasn't until about ten minutes later that the doctor and nurses arrived.  It turns out that Cell Phone Lady was mixed up and sent them to the parking garage on the opposite end of the hospital.  Jonathan was nursing by then.

With my permission - I was worried about him, I remember, it was a cold day - they whisked first him, and then me, off to our delivery room to get checked out, cleaned up, etc.  We were both totally fine.

My following hospital stay was lovely; I was somewhat of a celebrity, and the nurses all felt so sorry for me that they absolutely doted on me.  I have since heard that they invented a whole new code color after that, just for someone who is in distress on hospital grounds, but not in the hospital proper.  At nurse's trainings, when they learn the code, they hear my story - at least, they did last I heard, a couple years ago.

My "elevator boy" today
As for Mark and I, we were far less traumatized than people seemed to expect us to be.  I have some post-elevator thoughts to share, but I will add those in a followup post, forthcoming.  If you have any questions about it, feel free to ask and I will try to answer them in the followup, too. :)

All the birth stories...
Birth Story #6 - Abigail
Birth Story #5 - Alex
Birth Story #4 - Jonathan
Birth Story #3 - Rebecca
Birth Story #2 - Anna
Birth Story #1: Erin

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Thanksgiving Paean

For harvest plenty
And harvest moon
For leaves that fall
O'er ground are strewn-

For restful homes
And warm firelight
For steaming tea
On winters' night.

For storm that howls
And winds that blow
For peril and fright
Make faith to grow.

For crown of thorns
And bitter cross
For empty tomb
And burnt-off dross.

For all these things
And many more
We give Thee thanks


This post is linked to No Ordinary Blog Hop

Monday, November 21, 2011

Organizing our schoolbooks

"Schoolbooks."  "Organizing."

Ah.  Yes, that.  If you are anything like me you may want to run screaming when those two words find themselves together.

See, as you probably noticed when I posted the picture of the master bedroom, I'm not really the "born organized" type.  Any organization I possess is by virtue of sheer necessity of survival.

In this case, even with only two in school, we had constant issues with misplaced notebooks, books, pencils, you name it.  It was a hugely frustrating time waster.  What drives any parent more insane than to endure one's own flaws replicated over and over in one's children??  I mean, how can I harp on my 12 year old for losing her notebook nearly every day, when I frequently lose equally important items?  See my problem?

So this year, with Kid #3 coming up into first grade, I decided it was time to try something new.  For many years, this was our school shelf.  It held all schoolbooks, notebooks, teacher manuals, pencils boxes, and all for the current year.  The problem was, one child rummaging through for her things would move someone else's.  Or one child would forget to put her books away, and someone else would put them in the wrong place, either on or off the shelf.

This year we are trying this:

Each child of school age has their own basket.  Everyone knows to whom each basket belongs.  The only items permitted in school baskets are books, notebooks, and planners that are in current use.  That means, not just this year, but this week!  That keeps the baskets from getting overloaded.

Other materials, like books needed later in the year, teacher's manuals, test books, answer keys, dictionaries, pencil boxes, etc, still go on the old friendly school shelf.  The school shelf is located near the kitchen, so I commandeered the top shelf for cookbooks.  I didn't clean it up totally for the picture; you can see some cooking magazines trying to escape. 

Notice the pencil sharpener bolted to the school shelf - after electric ones breaking and little hand ones going missing, I bought an old public-school style sharpener on ebay and bolted it right to the shelf.  I love it. It never breaks and it never gets lost.

So far the baskets have worked great.  Everyone knows where their own things go, and they know where other people's things go, too, so at the frenzied evening cleanup, things mostly end up in the right place.  We have had much less lost-book frustration this year - which makes for happier and more effective school days.

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Cooking for Carnivores (on a budget) - Crock Pottery

Taco Soup
Crock pots!  I LOVE my crock pot.  There are a million and one websites and cookbooks extolling the virtues of crock pots, and rightly so.  I'm not going to try to rehash all that info here.

I will make a couple of points here, though, to do particularly with cookng for carnivores and also to do with cooking with children underfoot.

First, slow cooking is a splendid way to cook inexpensive cuts of meat.  Any cheap cuts usually wants to be cooked a long time over low, moist heat - which is exactly what the crock pot delivers.  Pot roasts, stews, chilis, and chicken thighs all do very well in the slow cooker.  A word of caution - in my experience, pot roasts in the slow cooker need to cook significantly longer than most recipes say they do.  I usually do mine for the full time the recipe says for low temperature - but I do it on high.  That way I get the moist, falling-apart pot roast that makes my kids crazy.

In my family, the slow cooker is one of the best ways to serve beans.  My family is a bunch of bean-haters - but they do like chili.  And they do like taco soup, and picnic beans.  These are all great options for busy days.

For me, the place where the crock pot (are you wishing I'd make up my mind?  Slow cooker?  Crock pot?  Sorry.  I call it both in my real life, too.)  Anyway.  The best thing about the whatever-you-want-to-call-it is the ability to be really flexible on when you do the actual cooking.  Insane crazy day in the works?  Load it up in the morning and forget about it.  Crazier than that?  Load it up the night before and leave it in the fridge.  In the morning, get it out and turn it on.

With a young baby, you can do the cooking whenever baby's schedule - or lack thereof - allows.  You don't have to follow the cooking times slavishly.  I have never heard anyone recommend this, but here is what I do, and I have never had a problem:

On most slow cookers, the "low" setting takes twice as long as the "high" setting.  So, a recipe will say to cook it for 8 hours on low or 4 on high, etc.

If you have the kind of life that makes it occasionally difficult to get a meal done on time, that doesn't always change if you are trying to meet a deadline that is 8 hours before dinner!  What if the time that is good for you to prepare the meal is 5 or 6 hours beforehand?

Just turn it on high part of the time, and then turn it down.  If I am cooking something that wants to have 8 hours on low, but I only have 6 hours left, I will do the first 2 hours on high.

Since 2 hours on high is the same as 4 hours on low, I've now taken care of 4 hours worth of cooking in just two hours.  Now I have 4 hours left until dinner - so I'll turn it down to low for the rest of the time.

Make sense?  You can do this for any amount of time between the times for the high and low settings.  Just remember that high is twice as fast as low, and you can take it from there.  Also remember that slow cookers are very forgiving.  Not only do they not mind if you can't decide what to call them, they also won't overcook your food unless you leave it in way, way longer than you are supposed to.  An extra hour won't hurt anything.

Need some recipes?  I found a whopping list of them here.

Happy crock pottery!  (Or merry slow cookery.  Whatever.)

This post is linked to No Ordinary Blog Hop

Linked up with Works For Me Wednesday!

And with: 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Baby rabbits - four weeks and popping

Here they are at four weeks!  They look bigger every day, and they eat more than I would have imagined possible.

The kits seem to have settled into a routine of being out and about; last week they were driving their mother crazy, following her around and trying to nurse all the time; this week, they have stopped doing that, and Hazel seems much happier and less harassed.  They all seem to enjoy hanging around together, now.

One thing I have learned about baby rabbits this week: they "pop."  If you watch a litter of young rabbits for very long, you will notice some similarities to watching popcorn in action.  They just pop suddenly straight up in the air, quite often, and with a whole group of them doing it, it's hilarious.  We stand at the window and watch them just to get a laugh!  Erin tells me that it is a reflex that is designed to get them to leave the nest when they are ready - they start popping and fall out of the nest, and off they go.

Erin and Hazel

Hmm.  I'm glad teenagers don't do this.  It would be awkward in church.

Find previous bunny posts:

Bunnies on the Way!
Rabbits - New Arrivals! 
Week-old rabbits
Two week old bunnies - eyes open and hopping around!
Baby Rabbits at Three Weeks

Photo Credit: Anna Hausam

Friday, November 18, 2011

Giveaway - New Creation Apparel

You've got to be kidding me.  I just found a giveaway for New Creation Apparel on Life in a Shoe.

New Creation happens to be my favorite clothing shop.  Hands down, no competition.  Especially their maternity skirts; I live in them when I am pregnant. They are long, classy, and comfy.

Nobody's paying me or giving me a free skirt to say this - but I do get entered in the giveaway for saying it.  And I'm not passing that up!  If you wear skirts, scoot over there and enter.

Or don't.  Because then I'll have a better chance of winning one.  ;o)

Weekly Challenge: 4 Girls, 1 Room - the end (and a new mess)

So for a "weekly" challenge, I'm a little off schedule.  Welcome to my world. ;-)  Here is the finished product.  One benefit of my having neglected to post the "final" pictures is that I got to test out if the organizing in there did the job - the whole point is for the kids to have few enough things and enough usable storage to be able keep the room tidy without help.

They have an assigned time to straighten their room in the morning before school, but before, they just couldn't keep up.  Since we finished the project in there, they have been able to keep it tidy with 10 minutes or less per day of straightening.  Mission accomplished!

They did straighten up right before I took pictures - but not a whole lot.  The closet, especially, is pretty real - we didn't fix it up for the photo.  It's not the most fantastically organized closet in the world, but I'm ok with that.  It does the job.   It also needs the board games weeded out, but they aren't causing too much trouble, so I'll probably let that slide for now, in favor of moving on to another project that sorta needs my attention.

So, that's that.  I am now perfectly organized, and will spend tomorrow sipping lemonade and lounging on my porch swing....oh wait, I don't have a porch swing.  I don't really like lemonade.  Besides, it's a little cold for that.  But I assure you, the master bedroom is not completely out of control.  It does NOT look like this:

*Gulp*  That was hard to post.  But the most encouraging thing to me is when people let me see their real life - not the show.  So, yes, this is my room, as it looks just now.  I don't like it.  The mess is mostly mine; I really struggle with that.  I try not to beat myself up about it, because once I get started, I can get pretty mean.  Besides, I've had a very busy...year.  No, I really have.

New weekly challenge time!  And no time limit on this one.  I have no idea how long this will take, but reporting in weekly (or so) will keep me accountable.  I hope that as it gets cleaned up, you can be encouraged if you struggle with a lack of native tidiness as well!

4 Girls, One Room - Week 1 
4 Girls, One Room - Week 2 
4 Girls, One Room - Week 3

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Birth Story #3 - Rebecca

Here we go - another birth story!  With Miss Becca, the story starts a few weeks before birth...

I was eight months pregnant and hanging out with my four and six year old daughters outside our apartment.  We played (well, as I recall I was pretty stationary about it!) for a while, and then one of then remembered a toy that was urgently needed for the game.  Not wanting to get up and waddle inside myself, I asked my oldest to run in after it.

No sooner was she out of sight than I heard her screaming like mad - a truly panic-stricken scream that set off all my mommy-alarms.  I had no idea whether she was hurt, or if someone was trying to take her, or what - but I jumped up and ran as fast as I could go to rescue her, without a care to the protests of my heavily pregnant body.  I found her just inside the door - the inner door of our apartment building was very heavy and swung itself shut, and she had gotten her fingers trapped by the door.  It didn't turn out to be too big a deal for her; her fingers were sore but otherwise ok.

My dash across the yard was not without its price, though.  By the time I got her back to the apartment to examine her fingers, the adrenaline had more or less worn off, and I began to hurt.  Very soon, I hurt so much I could barely walk.  The motion of my uninhibited sprint had damaged one of the ligaments that support the womb, and it was around a week before I could walk very well again.  I was nervous about how this might affect my labor, but as my due date approached, the ligament pain disappeared entirely, and I relaxed.

Fast forward - The week I was due, I got sick with a fever.  I stayed in bed for several days; then, one morning I woke up feeling terrible.  I was still feverish, I was sick to my stomach, and the ligament pain returned and became severe.  I had no signs of labor, but I was worried by the fever especially, so I called my doctor to get her advice.  My symptoms led her to think there might be a problem with the placenta, so I called Mark, who headed home from work (almost an hour commute, at the time).  I also called Grandma, who came to take me to the hospital and keep the girls.

Mark met us at the hospital, where I was shortly to get quite a surprise.  The nurse took my temperature - my fever was gone.  Then, when she hooked me up to the monitor to see how baby was doing, she looked at me kind of funny and said, "you're in labor!"

How could I be in labor!?  Can you be in labor with no contractions??  But there were contractions, right there on the little monitor screen - I just couldn't feel them.  The pain of my ligament injury was so severe that it blocked out any sensations of labor.

At this point I began to be really afraid.  I was in a lot of pain already, and it was not the ebb-and-flow of labor that I knew how to focus and cope with.  How was I going to deal with this pain as labor progressed?

Hoping for relief, I got in the bathtub.  Now, in general, I'm not big on water labor - it just doesn't help me that much.  But this time - it was incredible!  The warm water melted away the ligament pain, and instantly I could feel my contractions.  I stayed there for just a little while, then I felt like I needed to get up and walk around.  As soon as I emerged, the contractions redoubled themselves, and I began to bleed.  A nurse suggested I return to the bed.

At that point, it gets a little blurry.  I had only been there for 45 minutes - I had only known I was in labor for 45 minutes, and now, baby was coming.  I was pushing involuntarily; my doctor was busy with a birth at another hospital, and the nurses were in a panic.  I was a little busy, but through the haze, I remember the room filling with what must have been every labor nurse on the floor, and I remember hearing them paging a doctor, any doctor, to come right away.  No one made it in time, but praise God, there were no complications.  My water never broke; she was born still in the intact membranes, caught by a very anxious labor nurse.   

I always wonder what that labor would have been like if I had not damaged that ligament - but as it was, we were kind of stunned at how fast it all happened.  If we had known what would happen at the next birth, however - it would have seemed pretty normal by comparison!

All the birth stories...
Birth Story #6 - Abigail
Birth Story #5 - Alex
Birth Story #4 - Jonathan
Birth Story #3 - Rebecca
Birth Story #2 - Anna
Birth Story #1 - Erin

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Our evening schedule

Over the years I have used a lot of scheduling methods for our daytime routine - most of them stopped working when I hit four kids + homeschooling.  The only one I would still recommend is Managers Of Their Homes and Managers of Their Chores by Steven and Teri Maxwell.  That being said, aside from the Chore Packs, I don't really use that system anymore either - I've pretty much absorbed the information and do my own thing now.  I'm not the schedule-the-day-down-to-the-minute sort.  It makes me tired. :-)

One thing that has always remained constant is that the evening is Daddy's domain; I don't schedule that without him.  It's his time to lead family worship and spend time with us in the way that makes sense in the phase we're in, and I see my role as a facilitator to that.

We've had all manner of evening schedules.  Right now we are blessed to have Mark home most every evening, with only a few occasional exceptions.  That has often not been the case, and so we've had to be flexible.  Here is what we do this semester:

  • 5:00 pm Mark is done with work and takes over baby and toddler while I fix dinner.
  • 5:30 pm 5:45 pm 6:00pm Dinner is supposed to be ready, and we are supposed to eat.
  • After dinner, the older kids help with cleanup, and the little ones play with Dad.
  • 7:15 - 2 year old goes to bed, and I take baby.
  • After that, Mark leads in family worship.  Our four year old is free to wander in and out, but the rest of the children have to be there.  
  • 8:15 (we hope) - family worship is over, and four year old goes to bed.
  • 8:30 We rotate this time between reading aloud every other day (currently reading The Hobbit), and play time.  "Play time" for us means that the oldest three take turns choosing a game or activity to play with Dad.  Sometimes I join - usually, I am busy with baby or doing my own thing at that time.  On Friday we all watch Star Trek. 
  • 9:30 - Older children to bed.  The oldest sometimes sits up and reads until 10:00 - on the condition that Mom and Dad are not available for any non-emergency needs, wants, or conversation. 
Well, that is one way of working the evenings.  We consider that time very precious, and guard it pretty zealously.  Not that there aren't times when someone isn't home, or we up and run off for ice cream - sure there are.  But those are by far the exception, not the rule.

There are doubtless as many ways of managing evenings as there are families who do it; this is what works for us right now.

Leave a comment and share how you use your evening time!  Or, do you have your family time at another time of day due to work schedules, etc.?  I'd love to hear how you manage that, too!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Transporting the little big family - up to nine

Our previous 94 Town and Country
Recently we purchased a new vehicle; our most recent baby put us at 8, while our trusty, but rather elderly, minivan only seated 7.  Well, I suppose the van was getting to the point where it was more elderly than trusty.  Just now, I can't remember how many miles were on it, but trust me, it was a lot, and it had more than a few, ah, quirks to show for it. 

Well, for three months after Abby's birth, we drove two vehicles everywhere we went as a whole family - which is mainly church, and often a museum trip or some such on Saturdays.  We put off shopping for a new vehicle because we really wanted to pay cash for one, rather than finance it.  There were a few reasons we changed our minds - the main one being a desire to travel to visit faraway family.  Also, we never realized how much we value the conversation time, driving places together.  When all the kids are belted in and Mark and I are up front, we get more time to talk than almost any other.  We missed that terribly.  Finally, the van kept having more and more problems, and we wanted to put the money toward a new vehicle instead of the old one!  So, we took the plunge and went shopping.

If you are an emergent big family like us, you may be just getting to that point when you realize that not only do you no longer "fit in" the culture in a figurative sense, you don't "fit in" most places literally either!  The culture and its stuff are both built around small families.  This was painfully apparent as we car shopped!  Let me share some things that I learned from many hours of research.  If it saves you a few hours, drop me a comment and let me know that my car hunt suffering served a greater good! ;)

We considered a 12 passenger van.  Pros:
  • Plenty of space - room for luggage and room to grow.
  • With room to grow, no need to car shop for a good many years.  I hate car shopping!
  • Less comfort.  Most models are quite basic, without headrests in the back, CD players, or other creature comforts.  These features are out there, but a little hard to find.  Most comfy: Dodge Sprinter.  You pay for that comfort, though.
  • No 4 wheel drive, that we were able to find.  That was important to us, as we often travel in the winter.
  • Beastly to drive.  
  • Awful gas mileage.
Then we considered 9-passenger SUV's.  Pros:
  • Much more comfortable.  In fact they tend to be downright luxurious feeling - at least to me.  It probably does depend on what you are used to.
  • 4 wheel drive is easy to find.
  • Much more pleasant to handle, especially the smaller ones.
  • Gas mileage - middling.  Better than the 12 passenger.
  • Less room to grow or transport company - only one spare seat, for us. 
Well, from the list you probably guessed it - we went with the SUV.   It's an 05 Chevy Tahoe, seats nine, four wheel drive, and we love it.  The Tahoe is pretty much a short Suburban; it's almost two feet shorter.  It is that much easier to drive and gets better gas mileage, but also has almost no cargo space when all the seats are up.  We were ok with that trade-off; we plan to use a top carrier for long trips and enjoy easier parking maneuvers the rest of the year!

The Chevy Suburban, the Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon, and the Ford Expedition can all seat up to nine.  Not all models do - some only seat seven or eight.  If you are searching for used online, the easiest way to tell the difference is to look at the front seats.  If there is a fold-down middle seat, it probably seats nine.  If it doesn't, it can't seat more than eight.

If you are hauling more than seven, how do you do it?  Or if I missed a nine-seater, please share!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Soli Deo Gloria

Within Your hand
The world spins
Not a sparrow falls
Nor a grass-blade bend
Nor a breeze whisper
Apart from Your will.

Under Your grace
The world breathes
And You bear with us 
In Your great mercy
Sending sun and rain 
Pouring down blessing.

Beyond Your reach
None may flee
As You save and change
Sinners into saints
As You bring justice
On Your enemies.

For Your glory
The world spins
All of creation
Even in revolt
Serves Your perfect will.
To God be glory!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Baby rabbits at three weeks

At three weeks the rabbit babies have been out and about, bounding around the cage and from all appearances driving their mother crazy.  They have a hearty appetite, and follow her around wanting more milk than is good for them.  Baby rabbits will actually eat themselves to death if the mother lets them nurse as much as they want.  So Hazel will be innocently munching on her hay, and up comes a baby rabbit wiggling under her after milk - and BOING - she leaps right over it to get away.  With five active little babies who only actually need to eat once a day, she does this a lot! They are now ridiculously cute, as you can see; anyone who looks out the window and sees one scampering around the hutch is bound to make some sort of "awwww" sound.  Well, anyone female, anyway. ;)

They are old enough now to have a still-tentative announcement on gender - we are pretty sure that they are all boys except for the little black one (who seemed to always be piled under her brothers for the picture session).   Erin is hoping to keep the black doe and two of the bucks for breeding.

Erin received a second hutch for her birthday from Grandma and Grandpa.  It will house the two does (Hazel and the black baby) for a while, once the boys are weaned.  Then when the two booted bucks have been sold, she wants to swap the does back into the other hutch and put the boys in the new one.