Thursday, 30 December 2010

Still Playing

There is no excitement around here.....
and no work
and no school
just a few days of relaxing and playing with all the new toys.

 
I really love the week after Christmas - such a wonderful calm in the year!
Even brothers who have more than a little brotherly competitiveness between them seem to have called a truce.
Momentairly...............



 

Monday, 27 December 2010

Goodwill To All Men (Nerf Wars)


So if this season is all about "Peace on Earth", why is everyone at my house so heavily armed?

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

"You're a freak with a red nose and nobody likes you." the Grinch

All I wanted was a Christmas tree.....and some lights and well, you have to have the stockings hung and those little candles in every window, but it was hard this year.  

Getting all the kids together at one time has been a challenge.  David is working and going to school and is buying his first home.....all at the same time. (I'll tell you later about helping him find a house - it was just like House Hunters!)  AnnaClaire has a job and Corinne is on the basketball team at school and of course there are church programs and parties and recitals.  It's been like waiting for the planets to align trying capture everyone for our must do Christmas traditions.

This Sunday we carved out time after the early service at church (which I will never attempt to go to again) and before AnnaClaire left for work and finally chopped down our tree.  This year it was Ezra's turn to cut the tree and he didn't do too bad.  

It's perfect of course and we decorated it while listening to our favorite Christmas music - the soundtrack from "The Grinch". I gave the kids all the beautiful bulbs to hang first and enjoyed a 20 second view of my lovely tree before they started hanging the "kid made" decorations.  We have boxes full of  Rudolphs made from candy canes and stars made of gingerbread that crumble a little more each year and miniature wreaths with pictures of kids I don't even remember anymore.




But I'm happy with it and all is now well in Whooville!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

MIlestones - Tossing It To the Curb!

We just celebrated Jeremiah's 8th birthday and there's reason to celebrate.
Yes, of course he's wonderful and he's grown so much and we can't believe what a great son he is, however, the real reason for celebration.....
We're down to 1 car seat!!
In West Virginia to graduate from a car seat you have to be 8 or 4'9".  My short children apparently won't be 4'9" until middle school, so 8 years is the goal.
We placed our daughter Kirsten in a car seat in 1977 and it's been an unending nuisance of buckling and strapping and figuring the stupid things out since then.
So Jeremiah has been liberated and we only have one more to go.

Happy Birthday Jeremiah and good riddance to your car seat!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Just a Little Away

We have a whole lot of people here.
 I love every minute of it although sometimes it feels like a zoo.
And every year on our anniversary James and I leave our bunch of darling little animals behind and go and be by ourselves.
All alone and we remember just how lucky blessed we are to have each other.
So today we're off.
Don't call and say "mom".
I changed my mind.....call me - I miss you already.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

On The Hunt

There's something new going on at our house.....dead animals.  David has joined his brother in laws into the world of hunting. Living in the country in West Virginia  provides him plenty of opportunity to find victims in his new pursuit.  While I'd prefer that he would rid our yard of some of the prolific deer that are eating everything in sight, he has started a bit smaller.  His first kill was a squirrel.  I did sauté it in some garlic and we all had a taste and it wasn't disgusting.  Some of us had more than one taste and although I liked it, I've been considering becoming a vegetarian lately.  After bringing home a few more squirrels he moved on to a raccoon.  It was fried in way too much grease at my daughter's house (while she wasn't home) and I think the smell still lingers there.  The meat was more like chewing gum and we have forbidden him to bring another one home.


Of course all his younger brothers are dreaming of the day they can start hunting and have been running around outside with long sticks tucked into their belts, ready at a moments notice to shoot something.






I was thinking that I should be bothered by all this violence but  the only problem I've really had is when the dogs get a hold of some carcass parts and then return home to throw up all over the couch. 

One good thing about David is that he's ADHD and nothing holds his interest for too long.








Monday, 4 October 2010

If The Shoe Fits.....or Is Laying Around

  With 24 feet attached to 12 bodies in the house, shoes become an issue.  I'm not talking about buying them - it's where they end up when everyone comes in.  (And I know this is a different subject altogether, but why is it that little boys come in and out of the same door at least three times more than girls when they play?  Do they lose their way?  What's the deal with that?)

  Back to the shoes...... over the years we've tried numerous plans to address the shoe mountain that inevitably accumulates by the door in large families.  For awhile we had a chore called "shoe deliverer" and that person was responsible for carrying the abandoned shoes to the room they belonged, but just like all of America, nobody was willing to take on that job for the small pay it received.  For quite a few years James has used the "chuck" method to rid the foyer of unwanted footwear.  Whenever he found the left behind shoes he simply opened the front door and chucked them as far as he could into the front yard.  One memorable time the dog, Moose, across the street took one of the shoes back home for a chew toy.  The made for a fun Sunday morning.   Repeat offenders might find their sneakers floating precariously on the surface of the pool. 
  Last week James announced a new shoe policy at our family meeting.  He would be collecting the offending shoes and hiding them in shoe jail.  When the person realizes that their shoes are being held hostage they would be required to pay one dollar to redeem them. 
  Nobody seemed upset about this new training method until James collected $8 yesterday.  
  He has way to much fun with all this.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Stink Bug Solution

Stink bugs are a plague around here at the Moses and the "let my people go" level.  They have come from somewhere in Asia and have decided that North America is a nice place to vacation and....what the heck, let's just stay here.  


These strange prehistoric looking bugs are EVERYWHERE!  They can do the limbo and squeeze through the smallest crevice to enter the house where they hang out on the ceiling and walls and now and then decide to swoop around the room  often landing on body parts much to every one's dismay.


They are disgusting and everyone is searching for a way to get rid of them.  There have been rumors of certain pesticides that are having some success, but they carry the risk of producing grandchildren that may top out their career as a Wal-Mart greeter.


Stink Bug Hunters
But yesterday James came up with the perfect solution - a Stink Bug Contest.  He presented all of the children with a coffee can with their name on it.  He told the kids that he was giving a prize of $15 to the child that collected the most stink bugs in or on the house by next Saturday.


Within 15 minutes their was not a Stink Bug in sight.  It's big excitement around here and everyone has their eye on the prize.  It is a little gross when the kids shake their cans and the dead bodies thunk around inside and you don't put your nose anywhere near the cans as the bugs are aptly named.


So if you'd like to have a Stink Bug free home here's the formula.


a. adopt 10 kids
b. give them all cans and offer a money prize


Simple.



We Didn't Have Enough Kids Apparently So......

  Here is Corinne, our wonderfully sweet, smart Chinese exchange student. (although I did not exchange any of mine to China)  She joined our family for the school year through an automated phone call extolling the joys of hosting a young person from another country,to which I responded by pushing the number "1" if I was interested and a few weeks later we were at the airport welcoming her to America!   (I often do things on a whim, but this was a big chance even for me.)

  A few days after her arrival there was no doubt in anyone's mind that she was supposed to be here.  She said she "loved it here" and we love her.  My middles introduced her to Jesus  at  lunch her second day  on the front porch over a ham sandwich.

  Corinne wants to experience all things American.  A friend said they hoped I told her that we weren't a normal American family, referring to our 18 kids and the fact that we homeschool,  live out in the country and none of our kids have cell phones.  I think it's a good thing for a smart young Chinese girl to go back to her country and share this experience with her friends. Maybe she can be a seed to change the One Child Policy that her country enforces or to insure them that all America isn't about guns and drugs (which she believed)

 And in the meantime, she is having a wonderful time catching crayfish in the river.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Summer Ceases and I'm Okay With It

Ahhh, my favorite time of the year - the beginning of school.  It feels like the beginning of everything.

Earlier in the summer the kids begged to go swimming and I reluctantly gave up hours to sit and watch them jump and splash and call my name every 3 and 1/2 seconds.

By the end of August when they're thrashing around with apathy or agony of boredom  and I suggest a swim they act like I'm sentencing them to a death march.  By this point in the summer they have exhausted every argument they could possibly have with every combination of siblings in the house and therefore have nothing left to do or say.

Pitiful.

But there's a bright spot.  School starts!  
Life will have structure and purpose. And the heat that wears me down like a steam roller will be swept away with the beautiful September clouds.


Monday morning was like an awakening here.  The children all got up early and I know for a fact that they all brushed their teeth, which I could not certify happened each day in the summer.  There were places to be and things to do and I liked it.


Our three littles went out the door to public school and the older six were at our homeschool table ready to start when I got home from my walk.  


I know I'll be sick of all this come about February, but then Spring will be right around the corner and summer won't be far behind.


So Happy New Year!  I'm throwing pencils into the air.





Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Not Looking at the Calendar


As the summer keeps trying to slip away, I continue to try to catch at it's hem and hold it back.
A trip to Home Depot scored beautiful blue Adirondack chairs for pool side sitting at 25% off and 15 bags of sand box sand.

We have an extravagantly large three tier sand box behind the house and I have never begrudged the area it takes up. Our sand box has provided countless children hours of sifting, pouring, building and scooping. I remember one little boy who came to us for a short while in foster care who wasn't about to talk to anyone here. He chose the sand box every morning and by the third day of sitting with him and driving my car over the sandy roads to his house, we had become best buddies.

Our sand box is uncovered and uncomplicated and a certain amount of cat poop finds it's way in, but when it dries it can be easily popped into the air and over the side with a shovel.(actually it can be fun) The sand has been around for so long that treasures from some other time and kids are buried deep, waiting to be unearthed and delighted in.

The 15 bags of sand brought a few of the kids out to give it a try. Wait...don't go just yet summer.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Peachy Kino


Our little orchard has finally started producing this year. James has battled the deer with a huge fence around the perimeter and won. He has his beehives next to the trees pollinating happily all day long.

And the trees have cooperated and given us peaches!

They look a little odd but let me tell you - when you bite into them the sweetest juice runs down your throat and it tastes like heaven!!

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Trying Again and Again and...


Do you ever get that thought that if you could just do that thing over again, you would do it differently? Maybe you would add a bit more sugar to the cornbread or you would have stopped at the library first instead of picking up the kid at the soccer field who was fifteen minutes late coming out to the car anyway.
There are lots of situations I have looked back on and wished I had done things differently, but we don't often get second chances - or thirds of fourths.

But when it comes to parenting, I've been given about 64 tries. Really. At least that many kids have come through our home, whether for a life time or a few days and each one has given me another turn, another try, another chance at being their mom.

Kids are all different, but they need pretty much the same things. They need shelter and food and safety (those are the easy things) and acceptance and boundaries and encouragement and someone to be their advocate and times of joy and a mom who enjoys them and the list is endless. And with some kids I've bumbled through, at best, trying to meet their needs and finding a way to affect their hearts. Not all of these tries have been successful. Some kids have left here and I can't imagine what will become of them. And I wish I could have done some things differently.

Tonight I tucked eight kids into bed. Our littlest guy Sam is only six years old and I've been given another chance to love him and be the mom that he needs. Will I get it all right? No, but if he is my last....Can I just tell you that I will cherish this one last try at it?!

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Hand that Down


With so many boys so close together in age I've had to come up with some creative ways to organize and pass the clothes down from one boy to the next. I have a whole system of marking the tags in each piece of clothing and labeling the crates in the attic so that I don't mistakenly bring down the Easter baskets when I really was looking for winter boots.

And we pass EVERYTHING down.

Well, except for underwear because that's just disgusting.

And not shoes because I have discovered that unlike girls, who wear shoes to cover their feet, boys have a much wider range of uses for their shoes, which makes them good for basically nothing after they wear them.

Boys apparently use shoes for..

a. Brakes. Why bother to peddle backwards when you want to stop your bike, when you can much more easily drag the top of your shoes into the pavement and rip them to shreds?

b. Shovels. That rock in bedded in the yard must be removed and "oh look" your shoes will do the trick if you kick and dig with them until the dirt has covered the shoe so deeply that you can't remember what color they were originally where they looked so nice on the shelf in the store.

c. Exterminator. I have seen boys sneakers with a sample from every family, genus and species of animal in North America smashed into the heels of their shoes. Run bug - run!

d. Amphibious Vehicle. Every puddle calls their name.

And they often smell. I don't know if boys don't change their socks often enough or if they have sweat glands in their toes, but I'm just saying that you should not breathe deep in some of my boys closets.

So it's off to the shoe store tomorrow to buy each boy all new shoes because I threw all the old ones in the garbage.

Monday, 2 August 2010

From the Inside Out


When kids come to our house, they often come with i pods - fully loaded. I never say much at first but I know that what is sliding out of the ear-buds into their ears are often words that are about a life that we don't live here.
They don't think anything about it.
It's what they listen to and I don't say anything about it.
I just wait.
Over time they see a family that loves. Not love like they're listening to - but love that is clean and right. They hear words that heal and not tear down. And they meet a Savior who draws them to worship.
And soon they come to me and ask me to take off certain songs from their i pod because they don't sound good to them anymore. And then they ask, "Who sings that song that goes..."Oh how He loves me"?
And I don't say anything, but little by little I see their i pod lists changing along with their hearts.

Emma has a completely remodeled i pod and spends many days producing plays with her little brothers and has actually gotten them to perform praise dance with her - which is remarkable in itself.
When I sit and watch this group of kids sing to Jesus I am amazed at His power to gently make new creations of us.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

High and Tight


David has a huge responsibility around here - there are five little men who want to be him.
The standard for the "right" sneakers is whatever he has on his feet. They wait to see what he orders at a restaurant before they make their choice. Most of them now want to go into the Air Force...you guessed it - just like David.
And just like him they all now get their hair cut, "high and tight".


And I'm okay with this - mostly.

When I have a son with an attitude I can say, "Do you ever hear David talk to me disrespectfully?" They are ashamed because he would not - ever. I can encourage them to work hard like David, both at his job and especially around the house. They see him gladly go to church every Sunday and live out a life that shows love to not only the people he knows but even to the stranger on the corner.

But there is his room. If any of them EVER let their room turn into a pig sty like David's...well, nobody can be perfect. Oh and I really don't want them wearing their pants below the underwear top.

But if the little boys turn out like David, I'll be okay with that. Really okay.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Internet Death - okay, I'm Exaggerating a Little


Yesterday a good old summer storm slammed through our area with winds of over 70 miles per hour. It was quite spectacular to watch from the back porch windows. Most of the trees bent to God's awesome power and sprang back, but a few - a couple of pines who seem rather stiff necked and one Bradford Pear tree in particular decided to stand up against the wind. And we all know what happens when we refuse to bend.

The Bradford Pear did not go down gracefully and grabbed hold of the power lines that stretched between the road and our house as it toppled. The phone lines snapped at the pole and in an instant took out our land line, Internet and cell phones that use the Internet to amp up our signal.
The electric line stayed connected although it is laying across our driveway, and we still have electricity. I expressed my concern to the electric company and they basically said to get in line. I tried to scare them into hurrying by saying - "I sure hope none of my 9 kids ride over the line and DIE!!" Maybe they think with that many kids I shouldn't worry about losing one or two because they never showed up to fix it. They did send someone out to drape red caution tape over the wire as it hangs low enough to snag a UPS truck.
The kids are not too upset about this destruction as they still can swim.
I, on the other hand, am about to go crazy isolated from the world.
Will someone please hook us back up!!

Friday, 23 July 2010

What's That Crawling in the Garbage?


Elijah is our garbage man( he's the one on the right). He handles it all...emptying the many cans in the house, including the kitchen can which needs emptying at least 2 times a day, moving all the trash to the 3 big red cans in the garage, sorting out the recycling stuff and getting the cans out to the road once a week.

This guy does a great job - he takes it seriously. So he tackled his latest garbage job with a flair yesterday. The cans had maggots. The temperature has been in the 90's for the last week and we baby-sat some diaper clad kids, whose waste made a tasty treat for the maggots.

Disgusting!

Elijah got out the cans and the hose and a broom and got to work. Now, why his brothers thought this looked fun, I really have no idea, but there they were - scrubbing maggots and having a great time.

Nothing like maggot removal for a good time.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Beep Beep!


A new driver at our house and I'm so HAPPY.

AnnaClaire got her driver's license this week on the third try (and I'm not allowed to talk about the first two attempts) so my running should be cut in half. The beauty of a new driver is that they will drive anywhere at anytime for anything.

Sweet!

And it's not so easy to qualify to drive in our house.

First, you must be trustworthy. We have to know that what you say is the truth. We must fully believe that you follow the rules we have wether we are with you or not.

Secondly, you must have a good attitude. Doing all that is asked with a cheerful response. Being a peacemaker among the children (after all, you will be driving them around).

Thirdly, good driving skills are necessary. A very nice person that crashes into telephone poles kind of defeats the purpose.

And AnnaClaire is all of those things and more. I don't know when I've felt as comfortable with a new driver as I do with her. She is wonderful.

And the big bonus for her is that she now gets a cell phone. (Kids in our house don't have phones at age 10. AnnaClaire will be 18 in a month and she actually survived without a phone all this time.)

You've earned this AnnaClaire and remember that the left turn never has the right of way!!




Sunday, 18 July 2010

Not exactly Jurassic Park

While the teens were gone to summer camp I was left with a large group of kids that needed something to do in the worse kind of way. And I was bored.
So we made the trip to Dinosaur Land. This hokey little place is basically in some one's backyard. It's been around forever - a half acre of giant dinosaurs with chipped paint and missing pieces. And the kids LOVE it. All kids. I worry that this time we go - someone will be too old and realize how goofy this place is - but no - it's every one's favorite. The little kids ask me over and over - "Are they real?" I always tell them, "All the dinosaurs are dead now" which allows them to believe one more year that these are dead dinosaurs - right here in some one's backyard.
Truth is - I love Dinosaur Land. And the gift shop is unbelievable.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Under the Pillow


Ezra lost a tooth yesterday which in itself is not terribly remarkable for a 7 year old. What is remarkable is that I got to be his mom when it happened.

We have adopted alot of kids that are long past tooth loosening age. I didn't get to rock most of my kids to sleep or clap for their first step. When they said "momma" for the first time they weren't looking into my eyes. I didn't change their diapers and haven't even seen their butts. So when one of my kids starts Kindergarten or learns to ride a bike or looses a tooth - I get excited!


Ezra of course, was beyond excited and spent the evening showing everyone the tooth, planning how it would be under his pillow, asking me for the 100th time if I was really the toothfairy and running his tongue into the new space in his mouth.


I'm a lucky mom.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Wait - come back!


There was big excitement around here this morning - our teens were leaving for camp. The girls were packed days ago and had outfits for any camp mood, pens and flashlights, bathing suits and cover ups and flip flops to match. I found Isaiah however, wondering aimlessly through the house moments before we left. He had no soap or towels, couldn't find his Bible and generally didn't seem to concerned about any of it. Boys are about other things I suppose.


Grace gets her medicine sent from Care Mark pharmacy via U.P.S. and unfortunately it hadn't arrived as we were ready to leave for camp. I told the kids to pray for a miracle as I didn't really want to drive all the way to camp tomorrow to bring the meds to her. While we were unpacking their luggage at church the UPS driver called and offered to wait at a location nearby till I could get there and meet her. I thanked her and told her that God had used her in a miracle today. When she looked disbelievingly, I assured her that God uses UPS when he wants something done fast. She agreed to that.


So the teens are off for a week of getting to be with their friends, worshiping the Lord and having fun and I'm left with the littles and no dishwasher or laundry help or floor cleaner or kitchen help or kid sitter.....and missing four of my favorite people!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Here's to the Kidney!!


Yesterday was exactly a year since Laurie, the transplant coordinator at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, DC, called and woke me up in the middle of the night - to which I stupidly replied, "Oh, hi Laurie- what's up?".

"I've got good news!", she said and my mind thumbed through the possibilities - maybe she found my favorite camera that I lost 6 or 7 years ago on a trip to Texas for our nieces' first communion or maybe she was going to tell me that at Grace's next clinic visit the Usborne book dealer was setting up in the huge atrium at Childrens again and I would be purchasing large amounts of their books. This is truthfully how my mind works when I'm woken up.

Surprised at my silence she almost shouted - "There's a kidney for Grace!".

"What??!!"

Grace had been waiting so long that that seemed even more improbable than the scenarios that I had come up with, but it was true and that call set off Grace's marvelous kidney transplant.

After an almost week stay in the hospital she came home loaded with medicines and instructions and warnings and hand sanitizer. She would be on strong anti rejection meds for the rest of her life so that her body's defense system when doing it's hourly walk through, would see that strange kidney sitting there and instead of kicking it to the curb, would give it a wink and look in the other direction. The problem with that is that it would then give the wink to other not so nice things like bacteria and viruses and other creepy, bad for you stuff. We had been through something similar with Grace as a baby when she was on chemo for a brain tumor.

So, we all washed our hands every few minutes and put up signs on the door about how welcome people with colds were and we didn't eat at buffets. But just like every other dangerous thing, the longer you survive around it the more relaxed you become. Soon the giant hand sanitizer bottle that was being pumped every half hour was sitting untouched, the sign fell down and Grace celebrated with a big meal at her favorite restaurant, Golden Corral.

And nothing happened.

Then we noticed something weird. We had a case of Mersa go through the boys - highly contagious - and Grace didn't get it. A round of stomach bug went around the house - we were all sick as dogs, while Grace felt perfectly fine. When the Swine Flu epidemic rampaged in our town and we went to the local hospital for some blood draws, she walked through the coughing, sneezing crowd as if in a bubble. She basically can be counted on to catch nothing.

Amazing! Grace!

Life is great for Grace. No more dialysis - her strength has returned and she feels free as a bird. We are so happy for her.

And on this one year anniversary our prayers are with the family of the young man who, in his tragic death, provided this gift of an organ donation to not only Grace but to six other people as well.

Thank you.



Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Beat the Heat


The east coast is having record breaking heat which means the kids are in the pool most of the day.
Bikes and skates are getting a rest and water guns are the "must have" of the week. Even
the neighborhood boys have appeared armed and ready for battle.

Super Soakers can deliver a stream of water from one side of our pool to the other and I really don't mind when I accidentally get shot on the sidelines.

The teen girls however, aren't particularly fond of water guns, as they prefer to lay on large tubes and gently float around the water.

Shouldn't I be doing something productive?

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Wearing Me Down

I really don't have a big problem with messes or childish behavior or even downright disobeying. It's the angry, sulky, disrespectful attitudes that I don't deal well with.
It gives me an attitude of my own. (Trickle down effect? oh that's right, I'm at the top)
And I'm outnumbered.
So if you just happen to be the third or fourth of my children in a row to stomp away mad.... pity you.

The good news in a large family is there are always a few I like at any given moment.

It's been one of those days.



Wednesday, 30 June 2010

It's Kinda Like Kid Crack


We have been doing foster/adoption care since 1989 and have many periods of "swinging doors" - kids in and out in rapid secession. We kept boxes of clothes in the attic of every size and used them often.
We're not in one of those seasons now.
There are nine kids at home and all of them are permanent. The final group will be adopted in the next few months.
And then we will be done.
Really.
When we last filled up our home with adoptions it seemed like we were done.
Not so.
They grew up and left - some to soar and some to crash and we were down to 4.
4 kids was just weird. We all felt it.
We ran the dishwasher a couple times a week and we fit in small cars and people actually invited us over for dinner.
Weird. And pretty much boring.
There was a call to fill the house - just one more time.
So by the time that Samuel (6) graduates we will have been in the kid business for 44 years.
I think we will be done with this group.
But I did drop off the last of the paper work to D.H.H.R. yesterday to keep our foster care license current - you know.....just in case.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Camping!


Yesterday we invited the McKenzie family to a camp out in the backyard. It was great fun - although our 50+ year old bodies are questioning the wisdom of sleeping on the ground when we have a perfectly wonderful mattress a few hundred feet a way in the house.
David assembled the six tents and helped keep the fire burning in our new fire pit. Every single boy was compelled most of the day and night to throw additional wood on the fire, as the propensity for pyromania seems stamped into the male gene. Never mind that it was over 90 degrees - we sure weren't going to freeze to death with that fire roaring.
James devised an nontraditional cook stove over the fire which appeared to be two rails from an old car roof rack supporting the round surface from an old charcoal grill. Despite it's ghetto appearance, it worked well and we had baked beans and hot dogs for dinner. Some of the kids preferred to impale their hot dog on the end of a long stick and drag it through dirt and ashes before eating it.
After a night swim to extinguish some of that campfire heat from our bodies, we assembled the smores brigade and told scary stories. Other than the cat finding my tent and throwing up discarded hot dogs and marshmallows on my blanket, we had a restful night.

ahh.........summer memories.




Thursday, 24 June 2010

I'm Done with the Day

Closing out the day in a large family requires a fairly large investment of time. There are six kids bedrooms with presently 9 kids occupying them.

Bedtimes during the summer are a little more relaxed.

The
littles are almost always in bed by 9. They need it and I need it. Bedtime stories lately are either one of the many "Curious George" adventures or the "Ezra, Jeremiah and Sam to the Rescue" made up tales, of their incredible bravery and heroism. (They've done everything from saving an entire village from man eating lions to being the only boys brave enough to stand up for Jesus.)

The
middles have a more flexible curfew. It basically works like this: After the littles are in bed, James and I can relax a bit more and they can find things to amuse themselves. Sometimes they go out for a night swim, or a few more games of basketball. The key to their bedtime is "out of sight - out of mind". The longer they allow James and I to sit and talk, the longer they get to stay up. They've gotten good at this and often 10 o'clock will sneak up on us. They still get tucked in with prayers, but no bed time story.

The
bigs get to stay up with us and watch an episode of a Netflix tv show. We rent the shows to eliminate commercials (which are completely irritating) and to keep continuity, which is important with many of the series we watch. I really love having some time with the bigs alone. They do so much for me during the day...watching littles, cleaning, cooking....it's nice to just hang out with them.

And then the sweetest time of day - everyone quiet and in bed.
(of course there's sleep-overs, but that's another things all-together)


Wednesday, 23 June 2010

"Mom. Watch"


Sometimes our pool gets so full of people it's hard to get wet when you get in. It's often just a few families, but they all seem to have lots of kids....imagine that.

Yesterday was no exception. Wall to wall kids.

And what is the worse creature in any pool???

Little boys. They can't just swim - no - they jump and splash and dunk and tip unsuspecting people out of their tubes and they shout loudly while doing all the a fore mentioned activities.

Girls float and pretend to be mermaids and dolphins.

We did have a brief interlude to all the mayhem yesterday. One of the older boys decided to show off his dives. Every little competitive boy in the pool promptly lined up behind him and for over a half hour they took their turn jumping off the board. This left the pool fairly empty and all we had to do was glance an admiring look their way every few minutes or so.

"Cannon Ball"

Monday, 21 June 2010

Just Summer


The first day of summer makes me incredibly happy with life. Just saying it makes time seem to slow down. I've never gotten over the thrill of a summer stretched out ahead of me. I mark down all the camps and commitments and appointments until September and then fill in enjoyment around them.

One perfect pleasure of summer is sleeping in. Not for me. I try to get up crazy early each morning, knowing that I could have an hour or two or could it possibly be three hours, to myself, before the kids waken. When they come down to the kitchen still sleepy after nine o'clock, I'm ready for them - a few cups of coffee and sweet solitude under my belt.

I love to watch the kids hair slowly turn, just a little blonde, as they run around in bathing suits and flip flops and - who needs a bath when you swim in the pool all day?

There's not much that isn't perfect about summer.



Tuesday, 15 June 2010

He's Arrived


Last week Isaiah became a teen!

In our family that means he is no longer a "middle" but has joined the ranks of the "bigs". A big gets to stay up with us and watch a tv show at night, go for night swims, and make more decisions on their own.

But more then a package of benefits the real change in our family when you become a big is the added responsibilities. You take on the care of one of our "littles". Littles need assistance at the buffet when we eat out - they need help finding their glasses, reaching a plate, pouring their own cereal and tying their shoes. Bigs have to be peace makers, not quarreling with their brothers or sisters. Their work load around the house increases as does their weekly allowance.

Although the work in this new teen role out weighs the pleasures, it is a coveted place to be.
And Isaiah is up to the challenge. He whispered to me the night of his birthday, "I'm going to be a great teen and I won't give you any bad attitudes, ever."

This may be the kid to do it!



Thursday, 29 April 2010

Grown Up is Not the End

Although there are enough kids here at the house to keep me and a full time circus trainer busy, the last few days have been about the kids that have grown and left. There are eight kids whose laundry I no longer do. I think that's the best measure of grown, because out of the house certainly doesn't end the relationship in most other ways.

We drove across the state to pick up one of our sons upon his release from jail. He had a difficult time reentering this world as he heard the gate click behind him for the first time in almost four years. The ride home was long and he had apprehension and regrets to express. We dropped him off where he will be staying and I surrounded him in prayers for his fresh start.

While on the road we visited Jacob who lives three hours from here. Jacob has had some difficulties, but we were happily surprised to see how well he was doing, and left missing him again already.

While traveling we got a call from Kelly who moved out to "try and do things my own way" a few months ago. And just as we all figure out at some point, "our own way" is usually the road to disaster, she is finding her situation pretty grim. Although she isn't to the point of the prodigal son, she does want to come to church on Sunday and we are all anxious to hug her and not let go.

Upon arriving home from the trip we were shocked to find that nothing had gone wrong with the nine still at here and all was well.

Either that or they were all lying to give me a little peace and I accept!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Real Men Use Shovels


When a boy at our house reaches a certain age, he is given increasingly harder physical jobs. Often the work is outside as we have 3 acres to maintain. Recently David dug a fire pit for our campfires and that left four very large mounds of dirt.

And that's where Isaiah's work training began. He had a set amount of days to move the dirt to a new location and he was expected to work at it till it was done properly. Surprisingly, he had a great attitude - not a single complaint.

Yesterday was the deadline to have the job finished and he was still working when I called everyone in for dinner. He knew he would have to miss church and his heart was broken, as was mine, when we all drove away and waved him goodbye.

And yet, what quiet pride he had when we returned and he had accomplished his task. I see a good man in his future.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Fools in the Pool again.......


Once again the mass of super white, goose bumped bodies lined up for their moment of pain and fame. Yesterday was the ever popular, Fools in the Pool Day.

As always, there are no shortage of fools around here to amuse us wiser observers.

Emma was hands down our biggest fool. Not only did she jump right in, but she stayed and swam for at least ten minutes.

David, although much to old to still be foolish, made it his business to be first one in. His competitiveness won out over his wisdom.

So the pool is officially open but the temperature is 36 degrees as I write this.

I'm ready for summer!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

It's Who You Know

I started the the book of Matthew and dutifully read in the first chapter down through the line of Jesus. I was struck by the many big names in his ancestry - Abraham, Issac, Jacob - the "Big Three", and Boaz and Ruth (everybody's favorite girl) and Rahab (everybody's favorite bad girl gone good). But it doesn't end there! There was of course David, who was like the person in the Bible everyone would most like to be and his "oh yea, I'm the smartest" son Solomon. I wasn't really surprised by such a stellar lineage, I mean, after all, we're talking Jesus here.

But then the last entry in this family tree hit me.

Joseph!

Joseph?

Wait a minute, there wasn't a drop of this great line of people in Jesus' blood. All those good genes gone to waste on Joseph.

Then I got it. All those people of faith, all those blessed and brilliant and beloved people were poured into Joseph so he could raise Jesus.

Foster and adopted kids don't often have a lot of "Who's Who" in their background. You might find their great grandparents on a prison roster more often then on a commemorative plaque.

But God gives us an incredible spiritual heritage so that we can raise these kids. We can give them more than status- we can give them more than security or privilege or things. We can give them a hope for an eternity with God.

And their names can be added to a long spiritual family line as they tell their kids, and their kids and on and on.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Spic and Mostly Span


Last Mother's Day my kids got together and gave me a very large gift certificate for a one time house-cleaning service. It was large amount, because with so many kids, even if they all give a little, it adds up. Which as it turns out was a good thing because they charge per room and we have 8 bedrooms.

I finally decided two days ago that I probably should use the certificate as we were rapidly approaching Mother's Day - one year later.

So now they're here....cleaning my house.

Okay, I've never done this before and it was difficult. My first thought was, "I've got to clean my house before they get here or they'll think I'm a pig." Then I decided that cleaning everything first was so...stupid and they would know that I cleaned first and think I was....stupid. So that left me with only one option. Clean enough before hand that they would think..."Well, this place isn't so bad for someone with all those kids" and yet leave it dirty enough so that my dear children didn't waste their money.

This all was such a fine balance that I had a slight headache thinking about it.

In the end, I had everyone somewhat pick up their rooms and then got so busy that I forgot to do much more than that.

I was at peace with it all until I saw her dusting around the 48 pairs of earrings, 6 books, one homeschool catalog and a bag of Easter candy that didn't fit in the kid's baskets, that was cluttering up my dresser top.

I'm hoping for a gift certificate to eat out this year - Much less stress.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Two of our Bigs


AnnaClaire and Grace.

Sisters and best friends and now they are thinking about their future. Of all the kids I have homeschooled, these two are the first that will graduate from the house to the world. Next year will be their senior year and the planning has begun in earnest.

It's exciting and scary and I love being a part of the planning.

Among the things that they are considering, is the possibility that they may go separate paths. Although some sisters would consider this a good thing - AnnaClaire and Grace do not. They share a bedroom, a classroom, a social life and a world and neither are sure who they are without the other.

Maybe this would be considered unhealthy by some. Maybe some, like me, see this as the way a family should be. I like the way the compliment each other, encourage and enjoy each other. This closeness is a wonderful dress rehearsal for other relationships that they will have as adults.

So the plans are taking shape. College for one and not for the other. Interests explored, options prayed over.

This nest will miss these two sisters.



Saturday, 10 April 2010

Small Changes

Nobody will ever accuse me of going overboard with health foods. The cereals presently in my pantry are (in no particular order)
1. Cookie Crisp
2. Reese's Puffs
3. Cinnamon Toast Crunch
4. Lucky Charms
5. Trix
6. and just to ruin what could have been a healthy choice - Chocolate Cheerios

When I make pancakes or waffles, I don't throw in wheat germ - no - mini chocolate chips are what my kids prefer.

But lately I've made some moves in the "better for us" direction. One of the best changes is serving only water at dinner instead of Hi C faux juice or ice tea. Not only are we all getting nice and hydrated without all the sugar, but the kids are eating more. The water only policy has also saved us a ton of money when we eat out - drinks for 11 people can get expensive!

I'm considering weaning the kids from whole milk to skim. Maybe do a little mixing for awhile.
Where is all this leading? Who knows - I might even have them give up chocolate pop-tarts.



Thursday, 8 April 2010

The Mommy Merry-Go-Round


When I first saw my baby, Kirsten, 32 years ago, I had no idea that she was the start of this wild parenting adventure that James and I are on.

I did know that being her mommy felt so right- righter than anything else I had done.

Now all these years later, being a mom is still wonderful. There's nothing I would rather do....most of the time.
Sometimes things are crazy and I feel upside down...not an altogether bad place to be.

Monday, 5 April 2010

King of Stink


I've come to understand that any time you put a large group of young boys together there is bound to be some competition lurking around the corner. But this was ridiculous!

Sitting on the couch with Ezra last night after a full day of outdoor play, I smelled something. After sniffing around, I realized that Ezra had armpit B.O.. I explained to him what it was and also told him I was surprised that already at age 7 he had to start using deodorant. Elijah, age 10, overheard the conversation and came running. He insisted that I couldn't be right about Ezra and had to sniff the offending armpit for himself.
Well, now he was mad. How come Ezra at 7 already had B.O. but he didn't? When was he going to get it? How can you make yourself get it? Would Ezra now grow armpit hair before him and etc......

I tried to explain that B.O. isn't something that people are happy to have but he wasn't hearing me.
Somehow, in the male kingdom, Ezra, with his stench had just moved up a notch and that was that.


Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Introducing....

Since the McKenzie family has been back from Africa and conveniently living right next door - we have been treated to a "play" or "concert" two or three times a week.
This week Annalise and Ezra took stage front with their original song
entitled, "Our Day Going to School". It was something between a rap song and a ballad. I think about half way through it became pure ab lib which in my opinion didn't detract from the performance at all.
This one probably won't go gold but the singers were darn cute.
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Sunday, 21 March 2010

These first few spring evenings have been perfect. Basketball and bike riding have gone on till there is almost no light left in the sky. And tonight, after the littles had been put to bed, I found the rest of the kids outside on the front porch listening to AnnaClaire read them a story.
Can we just freeze time right here for a few years?
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Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Last To Ride


Sunday after church we went to Wal-Mart and all the kids got to pick out a new bike. This was pretty exciting but not as monumental as Samuel learning to ride a 2 wheeler. He mastered it in just a few hours of James running up and down the road with him.
Being the youngest of 18 makes everything he does amazing - complete with a huge cheering section.
They're all off and pedaling.