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.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


 We lost our dear dog, Charlie, two days ago in a tragic accident. He was actually Alyssa's dog,  but we all dearly loved him. Aside from a few bad habits, he was the perfect family dog!  I'm really having a hard enough time dealing with the reality that he's gone and I know Alyssa feels the same. It has been a long, long time since I've cried that long and that hard!

Here's the sweet stone that Alyssa painted for him. 

We also planted flowers and a Hosta at his grave site. 

Alyssa and I made a trip to Michael's craft store and bought this shadow box to display the paw print and hair tuft that the vet gave to Alyssa. I think she did such a beautiful job making it; it's now hanging in her room. 

He was one loved dog.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Oh Happy Day

 Oh happy day, it's noon and the little guys and I are DONE with school and Julia's hair! Her hair was a simple re-do using the same parts, but sometimes even that can take hours. You can see the fresh coconut oil glistening in the sun in this picture. 

Elijah spent his school time playing with trucks, standing on the dining room table pretending it was a deck and finding this cool mustache in Moriah's room. 

Speaking of deck, JD and "the builder guy" finished framing the screened in porch over the weekend and roofers actually roofed it yesterday.

Here's the view up now. 

JD only has a few more decking boards that need to go down as well; then I think he will move on to railings, which means I'll be a lot less nervous having the little people out there!

I have missed a few blog-worthy occasions this last week. One was a fun trip to a farm and the other was Moriah's 14th birthday. Happy birthday Moriah -  (and now will you update the ages on the pictures on the side of the blog?) 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday on the Deck

Today was the day that the "building guy" came to help JD build and tie in the screened in porch  walls and roof into the house roof-line. They made an amazing amount of progress for one day. 

Here's our back yard; good thing we have a front yard for the kids to play in . 

Our new view up - 

JD gets to continue the work tomorrow with the five youngest while I take Moriah, her sisters and a few friends out to lunch and shopping for her 14th birthday. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Bonus of the Deck

 A bonus of JD building the deck is that he goes to work super early and comes home super early to work on it. First of all, it really helps with my homeschooling efforts because he can hear when the kids argue with me through the window. I just snicker when the door opens and he steps in to say, "what did you just say to your mother?" and you can read the face of the little offender thinking, "man, I forgot he was out there!"

Also, the kids and I just get to see him more of the day; it's going to be a tough adjustment when he stays at work again all afternoon. We often sit out there and talk to him as he is laboring. The boys have also all helped at different points. James was happy to help hold the boards while they were nailed in place a few days ago. 

Since they all share a scared-of-heights mom, they think they are privileged if Dad needs them and they can walk out on the not-yet-done deck part. Otherwise, they hear, "move back" from me pretty frequently. 

Here's Tori and Elijah with a front row seat for sawing. JD is very good about explaining things to them when they ask. In fact, Elijah just talks and talks for hours out there to JD and I just smile when I hear him through the windows because it's a break after answering his questions all morning!

The deck boards are getting a break while JD takes off the siding that is in the way of building the screened in porch walls and roof - which starts tomorrow!

Here's our last night supply run sitting in the front of the house. My idea of a great shopping trip is when you get to spend quality time at 84 Lumber AND Lowe's!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rain, Rain

 It's raining again, so we are heading to town to purchase the shingles for the screened in porch roof. JD has a "builder" guy coming Friday to begin building and roofing the screened in porch side of the deck. 

We have to have set some record for rainfall this fall, but it hasn't slowed JD (or Elijah) down too much. Thankfully, Elijah's rain boots appear to be very water-proof.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Friday (on Monday)

This was me last Friday after we finished school; of course, when I first made my way out to the "deck," I was alone. Shortly after, Elijah joined me. Shortly after that, Julia came to be in the picture while Moriah took the picture. It shows how generally energetic I feel by the close of a week of school. 

I have to put a plug in the for the movie, Courageous, that is by the same church as Fireproof. We went and saw it on Friday night after I peeled myself up from the "deck."  It is an awesome movie that every dad in America needs to see. We had a gift card for the theater that JD received at the work Christmas 2009 gift exchange, if that indicates how often we go to the movies, but it is was really worth it even if you have to pay "real" money!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Balance Continued

Continuing with my balance post, I thought I'd share some of the practical day to day balances that I've had to strike to run a large family. When it comes to cleaning, we generally do everything only once a week. That means while I wipe down the kitchen multiple times a day and sweep the floor almost every day, we clean the appliances (stainless steel shows horrible finger prints,) clean behind all the counter clutter and mop the floor once a week. Does it really need it more? Yes, but that is adequate to keep it at a "stand able level" for me.

We also clean each bathroom once a week; I only clean the master bath and the children are designated the other bathrooms. Generally they don't do as good as a job as I do, but I don't have time to clean four bathrooms -  so again, it's the balance that we've struck.

I only dust and vacuum once a week as well. Thankfully, our Berber carpet really doesn't show dirt because I was forced to do it more frequently in other homes. I definitely know that since the vacuum canister goes from empty to full in one vacuum, I could stand to do it more; however, it takes a long time to declutter the floors for vacuuming, so it's also landed in the once a week list. 

I also make sure the kid's rooms, playroom and family room down-stairs are cleaned, swept or vacuumed once a week. Since these are all designated kid jobs, I have the found the saying, "kids do what you inspect NOT expect" to be very true. I normally check the job a few times before they are satisfactory but they do get it to that point.

I do have to do laundry every day! My oldest four completely do their own. When I do the younger kid's laundry, I put it in their designated basket and James, Ben and Tori fold and put away their own. (Tori just took over her clothes this fall.) This just leaves me four people that I have to fold and put away. Until recently, Alei did that folding for me, but I'm finding it piles up too high since she is going to school and working, so I've currently re assumed that job. Moriah is responsible for all the towels, so they go in a separate basket for her to put away. 

I also push the girl's hair to about three weeks when it really needs to be redone at two! That leaves me the rotation of Tori's one week, Julia's the next and then one week off. I usually pay Ben to take out Tori's but have to do both jobs of Julia's (she yells too loud for the kids.) Sometimes I do them the same day or split the take out and put back in over two days. 

I'm trying to focus on twice a week cooking and plan and prepare three to four days of food then. I'd love to do once a week on the weekends, but there are too many soccer games at this point. Maybe I can try that plan this winter. 

I am consciously making time for the Y right now. The kids love the twice a week homeschool PE classes, so a friend and I are working out during those two hours. My only challenge is Elijah right now because he hasn't been real excited about the playroom. I really hate to mess up our school day to leave the house, but my stress level needs the exercise even more than the kids. 

My biggest challenge is all my "town" runs that are unavoidable. At this point, there are still many doctor and therapy runs that throw off days that would otherwise be very productive. I push hard those mornings to get school done and dinner started just so I can head out in the afternoon. My favorite days are the days I don't have to leave the house but they are often few and far between.

I feel like I've rambled on for way too long, but I hope this may be of help to someone who is struggling with feeling like that can't do everything that needs to be done as well as they'd like. I don't either, but I think it's done enough that the kids don't live in a health hazard or will they remember their mother as a cleaning crazy woman (hopefully.) 

Why play in the playroom or bed room when you can drag it all into the living room? I'll miss the sweet little girl toys one day, so I just let them - but I do make them pick them up when they are done!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Deliberate Balance

I'm sure finding balance in life is a challenge for many people, but I think it has to be an even larger challenge for big families. Like all large families, I have many children that have individual needs and there's seldom enough time for JD and I to meet all of their needs and interests. Since that challenge is obviously going to be an issue for me for many more years, I'm deciding that I need to focus less on pushing myself to meet all the needs and more on my attitude while I'm meeting the ones that I feel take priority. 

I tend to pick the strengths in others and try to rise to that level. When I see how magnificently some homeschool their children with fabulous projects and lap-books, I feel like I'm really failing plugging through our workbooks. 

When I see the amazing crafts, quilts, etc that some make and feature on their blogs, I can become slightly resentful that I never get to do anything fun for myself that I was accustomed to many children ago.

When I read the cooking articles in magazines (only sitting in Dr. offices,) I dream of creating exciting new dinners. When I come home at 6:00 and there's nothing even in the plans for dinner, it causes me to just sigh. 

When I'm at the soccer games, I'm so thrilled with the progress I see in whatever child is playing, but the rest of the week soccer is an incredible inconvenience that hits right at dinner time. 

I am dealing with the reality that I have nine children that would get a lot more catering to if they lived in a family with only two or three children. They would, however, also miss out on the natural benefits that large families are blessed with. It is also a given that I am unable to homeschool, cook, craft, garden and clean like they are each the most important focus in my life. While I want to do all of the above decently, I have to find the balance that each deserve in my schedule and not allow guilt to enter into the equation when all of them are done less than I wish. 

I am working to grasp the "let all you do, be done to the glory of God." I'm thinking that means less about the quality of the meatloaf than it does about the presentation of the meatloaf.  

What I really want to focus on is not allowing the demands and schedules to become stressers that zap the joy out of mine and my children's day to day life. That is going to mean putting the attitude and joy above the task itself. In reality, wouldn't most kids rather have PB and J with a cheerful, joyous mom than stuffed turkey with a mom that is barking orders at them and complaining?

I have to say, we do stop and laugh many times a day at the antics of Elijah; it's a welcome break when we are concentrating. Here's what he was doing today while I was desperately trying to explain infinitives to James and Ben. He was showing his muscles (and balance.)

Better to dwell in a corner of a housetop, Than in a house shared with a contentious woman. Prov. 21:9

Monday, October 10, 2011

While I Was Away

I had a wonderful weekend away with my sister and my "sisters" from church on a retreat in the mountains. I did not even take my camera, but would have loved to take a picture from the top of the mountain that I climbed. Since JD and I are heading back to the mountains at the end of the month, I'll get one then. I'm thinking my sore legs will recover by then!

While I was away, everyone did well. JD took them to the annual fall festival. The parade has become one of our annual fall traditions. Unfortunately,  I had to miss the police gorilla - we do live in a rural community so he's about as fancy as we get!

JD also managed to accomplish more on the deck. All the support boards are in and the posts are now going up. After we had to cancel on the Amish the last two weeks due to supplies not being in, they cancelled on us this week. So JD is just plugging along. 

Sometimes coming home is really hard because the kids all seem to be extra needy, but this time was thankfully smooth. I'm back to bagels I cook myself with child conversation instead of being served breakfast and adult conversation. 

I'm also back to teaching instead of learning, but it's all good. 

Now that I think about it, my kids are blessed every day with what I went away for - quality teaching and meals made for me! Too bad they don't appreciate as much as I did, but that's just part of the circle of life I guess. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Day in the Kitchen

 I am leaving for a woman's retreat this weekend, so wanted to make a few items for my family while I am away. It turned into most of the day in the food realm. I started out by cleaning out both fridges, making a grocery list and clipping coupons. I then baked bread and cookies before I headed out for two grocery stores. 

Thankfully, even if everyone else has higher interests, Julia always helps in the kitchen. She is actually quite good help for a five year old. 

Once I put the groceries away, I made three dinners for Thursday through Saturday.

I've always been interested in the once a month cooking that people do, but I think I'll start by cooking twice a week and making three to four meals at a time. It really didn't take much longer than the usual one and I could try for one round on the weekend and only one cooking round during the school week. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Deck Continued

Julia and Elijah are only allowed out on the new "deck" that doesn't have railings if they are with me and they sit here. It's funny, but they still find it an exciting activity. Today was really thrilling for Elijah because we got out his fall clothes and this Bob the Builder shirt and work boots were in the bin. He even made a trip to Lowe's with Daddy in them. Fortunately, he didn't add the Spiderman mask to the outfit until he came home. 

Here's the drop off to the left. 

The deck will be off to the right of the screened in porch; JD is working on it now. 

Here's the view from the backyard. The higher part will be the screened in porch off the kitchen and the lower level will be the deck off of the dining room. 

We are once again planning for the Amish to come Monday to build, tie in and roof the screened in  porch side. We were held up again because 84 Lumber didn't have some engineered support beam built.  JD will continue working on the deck and chimney that has to be built while the Amish are here.

The project has seemed to move quite quickly I think, but next week should be radical progress.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Just a Picture...and a few words

I should be in bed, but I just realized that I forgot to take a picture of the kids with their Grandma this morning before church as I planned. I'm amazed with how many pictures I take that I often miss the important family pictures that really matter. JD and Alyssa are leaving early in the morning to make the trip to take Grandma back to her house. We had a wonderful week with her here. It was filled with school, girl's hair and applesauce, but very enjoyable. 

Here's a picture of Julia checking out how clean the baby guineas feet were before she carried him up to the house to show Grandma. You can see the corn-rows that I put in her hair. I just wish it was faster to do their hair; the time is hard on them and me!

Aunt Deb is coming to spend the day with us tomorrow. Since the hair is done, it's looking like school, applesauce and laundry! Nothing like breaking up the monotony!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Chicken Trouble

 Here's the math for my chickens - I have about 10 full-size egg-laying chickens; they have eaten a few hundred dollars of food this summer and laid about 10 eggs. When they do bother to lay an egg, they go ahead and crack it open and eat it themselves! On the other hand, my guineas that roam free have laid hundreds of eggs this summer; too bad we don't just eat them, but we do put them in the incubator or sell them. As a last chance, I re-arranged the chickens today; the big layers moved to the smaller size of the coop (still way more room than they need,) but it has more laying boxes. We moved the smaller, yet to lay, chickens in the bigger side. My motivation in not mixing them is to hope that the large batch of younger chickens won't learn the older one's bad behavior. We also placed a few Easter eggs in the boxes, which is supposed to discourage them from cracking the eggs. If this doesn't work, they are leaving in one large group to whoever wants them from Craigslist!  I get why the Amish replace their layers every year; my three year old chickens aren't doing much. 

While the boys and I were trimming wings and re-arranging chickens, I asked Julia to feed them. She decided to give them each a catered lunch. 

We'll see if they appreciate it enough to lay an egg or two.