In the beginning, JD adamantly only wanted two children. I thought that four would be perfect. Once we caught God's vision of putting orphans into families, our plan was multiplied by God. We are currently blessed with 12 children; five biological, six adopted and one more waiting in Ethiopia. Our first adoption was from the U.S., the next three were from Liberia, West Africa, and our last two were from Ethiopia. We are supporting our 12th child in Ethiopia after her adoption could not pass court.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How's Your Hair?

Think you are having a bad hair day? Check out these four.....

They are something fancy like Crested Polish chickens; we call them afros. And it's true, I bought them only for the fun of watching their "afros" bob around as they walk.

God must have a sense of humor.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I Love the Country

I love living in the country. I love the fact that my children have outside chores everyday. I love that they can do them in their pajamas on Sundays to avoid messing up their church clothes. I love gathering new eggs from the chicken coop and new tomatoes from the garden. I realize that there are many people who wouldn't want this life, but I don't really grasp why.

Today we put our new baby chicks outside in the chicken yard for the first time. While I didn't get pictures of them, I did of the turtle that James found.

I turned to Tori and asked her if she liked living where we find all these cool animals. She replied, "yes, except the foxes - they are totally NOT cool!" I agree, Tori, they are on my bad animal list!

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Whole Lot of Blogs Jammed Into One

I am not sure why I've been too busy to blog, but it seemed to be the case all weekend. For starters, I went to several trial classes at the Y on Saturday; now every part of my body aches. Today I attended a Christian yoga class, tomorrow is my training session in the gym. I think it's going to be good for my stress level as well as my heart and back.

The boys all needed haircuts and it is time for Julia and Tori's hair to be re-done. I took Julia's out on Saturday night and have yet to get twists put back in. Here she is sitting up asleep while I worked away.

Elijah was determined to get out of a haircut, but I bribed him with candy and a 4-wheeler ride. It's so nice to be able to see his eyes again!

We are a bit behind on all our paperwork, so JD utilized our big, Amish table to make his piles to file. There are always medical things to catch up on turning in!

Our local video store went out of business. I was really glad that I popped into the store because they were selling everything including the book-cases. This bookshelf I got for $25 was exactly what I needed for my canning jars in the storage room. The shelves are narrow and the perfect spacing for quart jars.

I found out that our local berry farm had 1/2 price blackberries, so I bought four buckets.

Yesterday I turned two buckets into a little stash of jam; today I'm making a blackberry cobbler.

Lastly, and truly deserving a blog of its own - my Toy Story cereal story. I don't think my Liberians had ever been to the big theater. We have a small theater on base that they've been to a few times, but nothing ever seems worth a $100 trip to the real movies. Well, I bought Toy Story 1 and 2 on DVD and they each came with a free ticket to Toy Story 3, so I only needed seven more (Gabriel was at work and Elijah stayed with Aunt Deb.) Still, seven tickets is around $60 and then there's the thousand dollar pop-corn and the hundred dollar sodas. However, when I was grocery shopping, I saw this....

Free movie pass with six boxes of cereal! To really sweeten the deal, I got most of the cereal for $1 a box because of coupons they had hanging right there for me. The last ten boxes or so actually were $2 each, but that's still not a bad deal. It's really too bad that I don't have a picture of the 60 boxes of cereal that I bought!
The conclusion is that nine of us went to Toy Story 3 and had three large pop-corns, courtesy of Kellogg's AND we have our entire summer of cereal in the store-room. The only down-fall is that all the fronts of the boxes are cut open from Alyssa entering the codes for me! It was a good movie and a fun memory.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Early Morning Routine

Like it or not, we have developed a very strict early morning routine around here. Once Elijah wakes me up (and Julia is generally already up,) I put my tea water on to boil. If I'm really lucky, I can make the actual cup of tea, but usually I just pour it over the tea bag to brew. By this time, Elijah is already jumping up and down to go bye-bye bunnies vroom-vroom ( go on the 4-wheeler to see bunnies) and is carrying around the keys.

At this point, Julia has selected a tupper-ware to pick blackberries at the end of the road. So, I load the two little guys on the 4-wheeler while we are all still in our pajamas and head out. We drive vroom-vroom to the end of the road where we generally see three to five wild rabbits munching grass. Then we drive around the corner to where the wild blackberries are ripe and ready; we pick enough to put on that morning's cereal and yogurt.

On the way home, we normally pass my neighbor walking her dog. It's always a bit embarrassing as we hardly ever see her later in the day when we actually look fit to be out of the house.

Once we make it home, we walk out and water the garden. The last few days, there has been the first few cucumbers and tomatoes to pick as well.

I'm the most excited about the cantaloupe. I only planted seven plants, but it looks like we are going to have lots and lots of yummy cantaloupes.

By the time we are done in the garden, the rest of the kids are generally getting up and we can start our day.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Laundry Room -- Part 2

For the first time ever, I actually have a laundry room. Until now, I've had the wonderful laundry closet or the washer and dryer in a small mud room. The laundry room required some design variations due to other pipes that required a bump out wall, but it all worked out fine. Along the left wall we have the freezer, the laundry sorter bag which is going to be replaced with three hampers for pre-sorting, the new washer and dryer, the older stackable unit and a bit of room on the back wall for shelves.

Along the right wall, JD put in a utility sink, cabinets and a counter for folding. Past the counter is laundry basket room and a drying rack spot. We are also going to have a clothes rod so I can pre-hang things before they travel upstairs.

There's actually a window over the ugly hamper area. I also plan to enlarge and frame some laundry shots that we took in Liberia. Remembering the women scrubbing clothes on rocks along the creeks in Liberia will help me be thankful even when I'm buried in the laundry room!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Birthday Catch Up and Birthday Simplify Ideas

On Friday, our sweet Alyssa turned 11. Alyssa, as most of the kids, has not had a birthday party with friends in several years; something about several adoptions and building a house took our excess energy. Not that I'm oozing in energy, but I have hosted or am planning on hosting several birthday parties this year. So, yesterday we took Alyssa and five friends to the Y water park that we have passes to. Then they came home with us for a cook out and sleep-over.
Alyssa is a wonderful big sister to her five younger siblings! When we started discussing adoption, Alyssa was only three or four when she asked if we could please adopt a Chinese or black baby, because having all white kids was too boring. Funny statement, but I agree.....I'd still love to add a Chinese, but that's another post for another day.

Alyssa really wanted a Steeler jersey for those rare moments when her Dad gets to stop working and watch football with his kids. (Someday the house will be done...someday.)

While we are on the birthday topic, I want to combine my missed post yesterday on living simply. Linny at www.aplacecalledsimplicity.blogspot.com came up with the plan of sharing ideas about simplifying our lives and allowing time for what really matters. My old plan for birthdays when I had four children was to host a party every other year, then do something special with just our family in the off year. We have never had expensive parties, like Chuck E. Cheese or anything, just usually some friends at our house for dinner, games and cake. Actually, the off years that we took our family out to dinner often ended up costing more than the party years.

Since the last few years have been taken "off" I am having one party for each child either this year or next; then we are starting our new party guidelines. The problem is that I am not sure what our new guidelines should be! On one hand, having nine children and working towards a more simple life-style seems to lend itself to the need for less parties. On the other hand, birthdays are just a good excuse to prioritize what I really love to do anyhow - have people over and feed them.

The other thing I have going for us at this point is that we have plenty of fun right here at home. We have pool, ping-pong and air hockey in the basement. We have a swimming pool outside. We have tons of room to run around and play games, so it's fairly easy to host fun birthday parties inexpensively here at home.

So, I guess my living simply tip today is really a question....what ideas and balance do I adopt for my big family? Any ideas?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

I'm Behind

Yesterday was Alyssa's 11th birthday, but that post hasn't been started.

Today is my Simplify Saturday, but that post hasn't been started either.

My laundry room is almost done, but my laundry room part 2 blog - you know - hasn't begun.

What I have done is taken my daughter out for a Chinese lunch yesterday, then went on a date with my husband last night. Today we took our tribe and five of Alyssa's friends to the water park. Now I'm feeding them all a cook-out dinner and they are all spending the night.

Tomorrow, I'm hauling 14 children to church, then I'll work on blog catch up.

I hope everyone is having a good weekend!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Laundry Room - Part One

We are approaching our 2nd anniversary of moving into our home. Since we moved in with tons undone, we are still plugging on with finishing rooms and projects. This little mud room has been my laundry room for the last two years. Thankfully, I did have a dryer stacked on the washer, but I took this picture right after JD and Gabriel carried it down-stairs. There was obviously only room for our 2nd fridge, the stacked washer and dryer and one hamper. The cat and dog food have lived in front of the seldom used door as well.

Since our little mud room is right next to the school room, I tend to throw mounds of clothes in front of our one book-case all day long until the time the kids fold it in the evening. Alei folds mine and the little guys and leaves it on our school table for me to put away. Sometimes it sits there for days (hard to believe!) and we just move school to the kitchen table.

Granted, this system isn't my dream system for laundry for 11, so I've been kind of anxious to move the whole operation (and mess) downstairs!

Another by-product of this is that there wasn't any room for shoes in the mud-room, so we lived with lovely, lovely shoe shelves from our old mud room on the front porch. Not attractive, to say the least! So, yesterday, the kids and I moved the ugly shoe shelves to the mud-room.

We then loaded the wheelbarrow with shoes and hauled them around also. While I did dispose of an entire bag of shoes, it still seems ludicrous that 11 people need this many pairs of shoes!

I still want to build new, more effective use of space shelves in the mud room, but for now at least they are off the porch!

Here's Julia smiling on the front porch that has been converted from out-door shoe gallery into an actual front porch!

The downstairs laundry room will be part two tomorrow - JD is actually at Lowe's right now to get supplies to finish hooking up the second washer and dryer.

I don't know a big family that doesn't understand what a challenge laundry (and shoes) are for a large family and I am certainly no exception!

Monday, June 14, 2010

100 Pounds of Weed

I packed up the van with half the big kids and all the little kids and headed out to run some local errands. After the Y and school board, but before a store, I stopped at a lady's home that is the dropping point for an food co-op that gets delivered once a month. This place is my constant wheat supplier for making bread. This time I ordered 100 pounds of wheat and we loaded the two big bags in the van. Tori was obviously preoccupied with the other kids there, because as we were arriving at our next stop, she became alarmed (and loud) and announced, "Oh, no, Mom, we forgot to pick up your 100 pounds of WEED!"

Thanks, Tori...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

If I Ever Needed A Camera.....

Too bad I'm so bad about taking videos, because I would have loved, loved one of Julia today. Of course, I would have been forced to stand in a few feet of water and hope that no one splashed the camera too much, but it would have been worth it to video Julia. We are blessed with a membership at a YMCA water park for a tiny fraction of the normal cost, because Gabriel works for the Y. Since the water park is about one mile from our church and 30 miles from our home, it makes sense to head over after church as much as we can fit it in. So, today was visit #1. Julia wasn't really tall enough for the tube water slide that she was eyeing up, but for whatever reason, the life-guard told us that she could go down as long as there was someone down at the bottom to help her as she plunged into the water that she couldn't touch in.

So, over and over, Julia came screeching and screaming down the slide (have I mentioned that she has a tone that resembles an air-raid siren?) You never knew how she would emerge from the slide, sometimes feet-first on her back, other times head-first with her feet straight up in the air. She would then plunge into the water, squealing with delight and scrambling to surface for a breathe. At that point, we would grab her and tell her to swim for the side. She would half swim, half run on the bottom under water, until she'd make it to the steps to start over again. She was laughing the whole time. It was quite entertaining for everyone around!

So, while I have no pictures of Julia today; I do have these that give a glimpse into her personality. She is entertaining!

Good thing we homeschool, or I'd have quite a class clown on my hands!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Living Simply - Where to Begin

Sometimes the task of organizing our homes is so overwhelming that we either don't start or start and stop to the point that progress is never made. Today I just want to share my simple, but effective, idea that I use about twice a year to "spring" clean and de-clutter. I use a note-book and list a room at the top of every page; I recommend having a page for each room even if you don't think that there's anything that needs to be done in that room. Then I list everything that I want to do in that room, no matter how big or small. At the bottom of the page, I have a separate little list for anything that I need to buy to finish the job of that room.

I usually start in the kitchen since that's basically where I live. I would divide my work in doable sections for that area, such as:

Clean outside of each cabinet.
Gut and organize each top cabinet.
Gut and organize each bottom cabinet.
Clean out pantry.
Move canning jars from kitchen to storage room.
Etc, etc,

On the bottom list, I often add things as I'm cleaning, like -

Bulletin board
Chip clips

Of course, while I'm organizing that room, I am constantly bagging items to sell or donate that I don't need anymore. I always ask myself, "If I get rid of this, will I actually miss it?" If the answers no, it's got to go.....

Another thing is that when I, for example, move the canning jars to the storage room, I don't spend time finding a place for them unless I've already completed that room. I would tackle that job with that room. That allows me to continue spending my time in my "assigned" room.

I find the notebook a nice way to accomplish something everyday and I can usually work through about two rooms in a week.

Slow and steady wins the race.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Outside Distractions

The weather has been so perfect that we all have been a bit distracted from school-work and house-work. I'm even worse than the kids; I'd rather stare at my garden than hit the books inside. It's so funny, because I remember thinking my mother was one boring person, hanging out in the backyard pulling weeds in her garden. Now I get it! Thankfully, I have at least a few kids who are as excited about my garden as I am!

Here's some shots proving that we have been having more fun than the public schoolers the last few days (yes, school is still in where I live.)

Ben and Tori on the home-made water slide.

James -

Alyssa -

Kitty Kaden -

Elijah on vroom-vroom. We seriously go on 3-4 ATV rides a day.

Ben on the slip-and-slide -

Elijah threatening the chickens with a swat. He does the same thing with Julia, which causes her to scream extra loud!

Lastly, Julia taking Elijah on a walk.

I'm figuring that it's going to get hot enough in a month or so that none of us will want to be out during the middle of the day. That will be a perfect time to finish up those waiting books. I must be getting easier going in my old age, because I would have never gone for that idea five years ago.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Chicken Babies

What could be more appropriate on a Monday morning than some pictures of our baby chickens? Our four silkies and four little polish babies are about two and half weeks old. Check out the little "afro" on this baby.

Here's a couple of the silkie babies.

I think this is the first time that Elijah actually wanted to hold one.

Silkies have an extra toe and cute fluff on their feet.

I really need to get some more practical, egg-laying hens, since we are down to seven - thanks to the foxes.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Quest for Simplicity

I am following in Linny's foot-steps, at http://www.aplacecalledsimplicity.blogspot.com/ and devoting my Saturday posts to ideas for living simply while managing and organizing for a large family. While I have much room for improvement in this area, I have also learned from others as my family has grown to 11! I'm afraid I often see the idea of living simply as a contradiction to being thrifty and prepared. In my mind, living simply means that you just pass on your children's clothes instead of storing them for the next child; being thrifty leans to the idea that you save and store in order to avoid re-buying. Of course, I don't think Dave Ramsey and simple living have to clash, so I am going to do my best to balance continuing to get out of debt, being prepared for the future and living simply.

I'm not sure the path all my Saturday posts will take but I am going to incorporate my best big family organizational ideas. I will label the Saturday posts - living simply, so a search should produce all the organizational ideas for anyone who is searching just for those.

Here's one idea that has evolved into a great system at our house - it's a shoe holder for hats and gloves. For several years, we dug through a box in the coat closet. Then I bought a shoe holder, but everyone dug through each pocket, leaving a pile under the holder. Now everyone has two pockets - one for a hat and one for mittens. (Actually, you can fit more than one pair in a pocket if you'd like.) I simply wrote the names on the pockets and no one has any need to dig in anyone else's pocket. Not only is it much simpler for each person to find what they are looking for, I automatically know who's to blame if there is a pair thrown on the floor.

Since it's now summer, I was considering packing up the hats and mittens and reusing the same shoe holder for summer hats, swim goggles and floaties. The top pockets are also perfect for sun-screen and bug spray right by the front door.

I do keep a rubbermaid container of less-used hats and gloves in my storage room, like snow gloves, etc. Any other ideas in this area, anyone?

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Pool is not Open Yet

It's hot out and it's officially past time to open the pool for the summer. I'm kind of dreading it, because the kids tend to be forgetful with the ladder and it scares me with an almost two year old. I've done this the last few years, however, so I'll guess I'll just remain on high guard again. It may sound nuts, but I have a swim-only-once-a-day rule much like my only-go-out-to-play-in-the-snow-once-a-day rule. I find with this rule, the kids swim for up to a few hours and it's worth the towels and mess; without this rule, they get in and out of the pool 12 times a day, use nine towels each and put on at least four out-fits. The rule really helps my sanity.

Anyway, today there is no pool, so they made water-town. The wheel-barrows were filled with water and water toys and they ran the hose down the slides. They all had a good time.

Elijah is completely attached to his black tennis shoes, in fact, he calls them Black, like their name. When I insist he wear sandals, he often cries for a few minutes about it. For water time, I pulled out the flip-flops; he has never worn them, but he was crying, "No, fip-fops, no fip-fops." I kept telling him to just try them. Once he got outside, he happily smiled and kept telling me, "try fip-fops" quite pleased with himself.

This is the end of Julia's fun. It's amazing that she can stand in the water wheel-barrow and not expect to get her face wet, but that's Julia. Here she is hitting her high-pitch scream that let us know the fun was over for her. Notice the other kids are so accustomed to it that they hardly notice!

JD is on a plane headed for home. After taking 24 hours to get across the country on Monday, due to mechanical failure on the first plane and a bad storm re-routing on the second flight, it seems to be repeating on the way home. The plane was heading down the run-way when it didn't take off due to mechanical problems. After he managed to get on another flight a few hours later, weather doesn't look too good in Chicago. Hopefully, he'll make it home late tonight. I'm praying!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Macy's Potty Crises

I think back to when I naively just had Gabriel as a baby. I didn't think I'd ever come off like some of the crazed Moms I occasionally saw at the grocery store. I figured that you taught your children at home and then they wouldn't humiliate you in public; little did I know that humiliation can often come with the title of "mom." Last night I set off with my three older daughters and the three little guys. I dropped one daughter off and had about 30 minutes before Alei needed to be at Aunt Deb's Bible study. 30 minutes was just enough time to pop into Macy's and see the bargain comforter set that I saw in the flyer.

As we were rounding the mall parking lot, Tori informed me that she needed to go potty. I told her that we would go as soon as we got into Macy's. I had to drive to the far side of the mall and find a spot to accommodate my school bus, I mean big van. Really, all of that took maybe 10 minutes. Once parked, Tori sounded a little more frantic, "Mom, I got to go really bad." This is where I began to get concerned because Tori has a history of not giving me adequate time to even find a bathroom, let alone actually wait in a potential line. In fact, on a few occasions Tori has been forced to use the ditch by the side of the road on the 30 miles between our house and "town." Anyway, back to Macy's.... I rush and unload everyone and we rush across the parking lot. The more we walk, the louder Tori's voice gets, "Mom, Mom, I have to go bad." She accompanies this volume increase with a special walk that involves spreading her legs just a bit and strategically putting both hands you-know-where to try and hold off the pee-pee. Once we hit the door, I have no idea where a bathroom is, but I'm frantically scanning for any signs or hints of a logical bathroom location. Of course, Tori is practically screaming, "Mom, Mom, it's coming, I can't hold it, I can't hold it!" I'm searching, searching while dragging Julia along and shouting to Alei to hold Elijah. As Tori's voice is getting louder, I'm running faster, until we approach the make-up area looking like some contestants on the Amazing Race. I interrupt the only Macy's employee I see, who is attempting to help a costumer, to ask where the very nearest bathroom is. She says something and points towards the children's department, but Tori is so loud that I couldn't really hear anything she tried to say. I grab Tori and start my final sprint towards the area she pointed, only to wonder if Julia was even still with me. I just kept running, hoping that Alei found her along the trail if she hadn't been able to keep up with me.

Once throwing ourselves into the bathroom and plunging Tori on the toilet, I looked back to see little Julia standing right behind me. As Tori was washing her hands, Alei came into the bathroom smiling. She told me that three departments back, when I hit the full sprint, she decided that Elijah and she would cease being in our shopping party. I don't think I blame her; we were rather embarrassing. She also got to enjoy the faces and snickers of the people that I zoomed by as she leisurely made her way to the bathroom behind Tori and I.

So, one more moment in public that makes me thankful that I don't have the Paparazzi following me around with cameras! Oh, and the comforter set that I really loved? They didn't have it in stock, but I got another one that I like and it was even less.

I present the new red bed. The sleeping baby wasn't included; he's just a semi-permanent feature on my bed.

Next, I need a bargain head-board; preferably at a furniture store that houses a bathroom near the store entrance!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Day Two

Day two of solo-parent week has gone remarkably well. I managed to re-do Julia's hair, clean out both freezers and now I have the big event of the day - a trip to town. Actually, I have to drop two daughters off at two different places and manage to do several errands, with the little guys in tow, until I pick one daughter back up considerably past the little guys normal bed-time. It could be fine; it could be a disaster!

I'm all excited because I have looked and looked for an affordable comforter set for our new king-sized bed and there is one on clearance at Macy's that I like the looks of, so Macy's here we come..... here we all come!