Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Braces, take two!

Another one is getting braces! No, not the little guy (though I'm sure his time will come), but the big one! Christopher (14) went for his first appointment to the orthodontist yesterday. He has quite a bit of work to be done, as he has an open bite, meaning his teeth do not fully come together when his mouth closes. He also has 2 baby teeth that do not want to come out, so it's preventing the permanent ones from coming in. He may have to have some permanent teeth pulled, too, in order to make room for all this adjusting to happen. Fortunately, he's not nervous about it at all. I visited 2 highly recommended orthodontists and chose the one I felt most comfortable with. He was very thorough at explaining everything and I truly believe he'll do a wonderful job with Christopher. Christopher likes the fact that they have video games in the waiting room, too! Best case scenario, they will be off in 2 years, but that is also dependent on him wearing his rubber bands and following the ortho's instructions. I say that because my oldest in braces really struggles with remembering those things! So hopefully in the next few weeks, he'll actually have the brackets put on and start the teeth rearranging. I'll be sure to post a picture of that!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Winding down our school year...

It's nearly May now, which means our school year is coming to a close. Yay! By this time (actually, more like around March) I am feeling such a need to be done with schoolwork and have a short break. It has it's benefits, though, since this is also the time I usually start taking a few more field trips, going fun places, or just spending more time outside because of the great weather. That spring sunshine is addicting! As I look back and evaluate this year, I would have to say this has been one of our more difficult. Sure, we had a lot of changes that brought their own stresses with them, but we also just didn't seem to enjoy our learning as well. I think part of this had to do with the curriculum we used-In an effort to help me with all the prep time, we steered more toward a textbook approach, which got a little monotonous after a while. I also had some of my older kids doing some computer-based learning, which helped them be more independent, but also cut down on some our interaction-and I missed that. I plan on changing things for this coming year and have so many different things floating around in my head. I'm really not sure which direction to go at this point! I have realized, though, that I really need to just sit tight and pray-and not make any decisions yet-until I'm sure of the direction the Lord wants us to go. It's so easy to get swept away by the newest, latest curriculum out there without considering whether it is right for my family. As I'm coming up on my 12th year of homeschooling, one simple truth is finally starting to sink in. It's not about how well my child can spell or how quickly they can do their times tables, the goal is to teach my children God's word and introduce them to Jesus Christ!
Deuteronomy 6:6,7: These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Even if I failed in the other academic areas, I have succeded in my job if I have taught them the truths from the Bible! What an eye opening, but refreshing verse to hear. I find that I constantly need to refocus and remember what my goals really are, instead of being sidetracked by what the world says I should do or what others may be doing. I'm a work in progress, and I am thankful that the Lord is so very patient with me. I am praying for a new start for the upcoming year and another chance to focus on Him!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Products I love....

Over the years of being married and having kids, I feel like I've bought my fair share of products that just don't work well or that I just wouldn't buy again. If you ever tried an epilady back in it's heyday, you know what I'm talking about! But there are some that stand out among my favorites, for many different reasons. Most often, it is because it makes my life easier-and with a busy house, I can use all the help I can get! So here goes-a list of a few products I love and wouldn't want to do without!

1. Crocs (or for me, the cheaper imitation crocs!) I love these shoes and I never thought I would. My husband thinks they are the ugliest things-maybe so-but they are comfortable! I first started wearing them often when I was pregnant with Luke-not only did they help my back, but toward the end, I was so swollen, they were the only shoes I could fit in! Now I can fit back in my regular shoes, but these are my official "around the house" shoes. Love 'em!

2. Baby highchair with wipeable pad. I'm not partial to a particular brand, just the fact that you can wipe it off. I never understood the logic of a fabric pad on a highchair-must be for those moms that love doing wash! I use my highchair everyday with my babes and toddlers. Can't do without!

3. Nursing tank tops. After Luke was born, I gave up on nursing bras. I never could find one that fit well or wasn't truly ugly. I also hated having my tummy exposed every time I went to feed my baby. Enter the nursing tank top! I tried several brands, but my favorite by far are these. They are so comfy and less expensive than some other ones.

4. My Bosch mixer. This thing is my workhorse. I use it constantly for making bread to cookies and everything inbetween. I've burned out more handmixers than I can count-the Bosch is here to stay!

5. Baby carrots. Okay, kind of a random thing, but I love those peeled baby carrots that come in bags. I spend way more on these than I should, but I love that it's just all done for you. One of those splurges that is well worth it in my book.

6. Paper plates-or for us, we also use the sheets of wax paper in the plastic baskets. As long as it's not a dish that has to be washed, I love it.

7. My washing machine and dryer. Need I say more?

8. My combination playpen/changing table. I have the Combi one and I love it, but I don't know if they sell it anymore. I keep this downstairs in our living room and it is so convenient having a place to change the babies during the day besides the floor. And the changer folds down and out of the way, too. It wasn't cheap, but well worth it.

9. Luna Bars. I only recently discovered these during my pregnancy. They are a healthy snack bar that come in many different flavors. They have protein and lots of vitamins, so good for pregnant or nursing moms. If you're not used to eating protein bars, they don't taste like a candy bar or anything, but these are one of the better tasting.

10. My Bible. I saved the best for last! This is one thing I would never want to be without. It's my favorite book-and often, the only thing I set aside time to read. I prefer my NKJV study Bible over any other. No matter how much I read it, God is always teaching me something new from it.

Well, there you have it! It's not fancy or even that well thought out, really-but it's a quick list of a few things I love and wouldn't want to do without at this point. If you have a product that you love, too, I'd love to hear!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Look who's 5 months old!

Sweet little Luke is now 5 months old! It's hard to believe he is getting so big. He is growing into such a sweet boy and has a great personality. He loves people and smiles at everyone, including strangers! He is so playful and loves his toys and rattles. He spends some time everyday in his exersaucer with a bunch of toys, just playing away. He is rolling over a lot, which is great, but he often gets stuck and can't seem to roll himself back over. He is just a very curious baby, so I know as a toddler he will be very busy indeed! Most everyone I run into tells me that Luke looks just like his Daddy. I guess that must be accurate, since it is hard for me to tell resemblances with my own kids. That must just mean he is very handsome! I'm so happy to see Luke grow, but I wish the time didn't pass so quickly! I need to just make sure to take advantage of all those snuggly moments with him and cherish each moment I have with him!

What a cutie!!!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Being green

In honor of Earth Day, I thought I should write something about this topic. I wouldn't consider myself an environmentalist, but after watching a show a while back with my kids that featured a family who throws out one bag of trash PER YEAR (yes, you read that right!), it got me thinking about my own habits. I don't do enough to help the environment, I'm aware of that-after all, I drive a huge, gas guzzling 15 passenger van, use disposable diapers on my kids (yes, I know they take 75 years to decompose) , and throw out at least one bag of trash PER DAY-usually more! Ugh-it's almost shameful to admit that! With my son, Michael as the inspiration, we came up with something we could do! I can't give up the van, won't give up the diapers, but we can cut down on the amount of that trash! So, we are officially recycling!
Big deal, you're thinking, I already do that! Well, we're starting small. Baby steps, everyone! We do not have curbside pickup for recyclables here, so we actually have to tote them down to the dropoff. Not a really big deal, since it is close, and we plan to take it when we make our weekly library trip. We had our first dropoff last week and it felt good to know that we were doing something to help our planet stay nicer! A little rant here, though, I do wish companies would do their part and cut down on some of the excessive packaging for their products. For some things, there's more packaging than there is product! Much of it is not recyclable either, so in the trash it goes. We don't have any special plans to take part in any official earth day celebrations tomorrow, but we will be spending some time outside, enjoying God's creation and being thankful for how He has blessed us! Happy Earth Day!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Under the weather...

The past couple days here have been quite yucky-dark, rainy, and gloomy.

It rained so much, our backyard was starting to turn into a lake!
The weather also seemed to match the way I was feeling, which is why I haven't posted in several days. I woke up Friday morning feeling sick, with my chest hurting, and realized I was battling mastitis again. I have been nursing Luke for 5 months and this is my fourth infection so far. I couldn't believe it was back again, since I had just finished up a round of antibiotics for the other one. Back I went on the meds. I did a lot of laying around and resting and used a heating pad often to relieve the pain and swelling. It wasn't until today, Sunday, that I have felt somewhat better. I must be honest, there have been times when I have asked myself, is nursing him really worth this? This has, by far, been the most difficult time I have had with any of my children. Besides the infections, he has had trouble gaining weight this past month, so I have started supplementing with bottles, which has helped. I expected that, since I have had to do this with each of my children since my 4th baby. It seemed odd, since I had nursed by second and third babies with no problem. They gained well, needed no bottles, and didn't stop until around 14 months, by their choice. I was quite proud of that fact, too! Ugh-that was the problem..I was proud. So proud, that I didn't understand why any mom would want to feed their child some second-rate formula..and I ended up judging others quite unfairly. I truly believe the Lord allowed the problems I had with my 4th baby and on to get rid of that pride. At the time, it was hard, as I felt like I wasn't being a good mom if I couldn't feed her the way I wanted! How silly of me. It hasn't taken me long to realize that nursing or formula feeding has nothing to do with being a good mom. I am thankful that He allowed me to go through what I did with my babies! Otherwise, I never would have realized that and would have continued in my awful pride! So why not just throw in the towel now and go to bottles with Luke? Well, I'm not giving up yet. I do want what's best for him-and for me that means nursing as long as I can,to give him all the good stuff he needs. Yes, I am supplementing with formula, but I'm okay with that. What's best for him is to gain enough weight, so he needs it! I probably won't nurse as long as I would have liked, but i know I have given it my best shot. And when I look down at his sweet little chubby face and he smiles back at me, I know it's all worth it! Even though I've been down and out for the past few days, I was able to get in some much needed rest, along with some of the kids, too! Being cooped up inside watching cartoons all day can make anyone sleepy...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

More vacation fun!

On Tuesday we had the chance to visit the Houston Museum of Natural Science downtown for the first time. It was free admission from 2-8 p.m., so off we went! We saw huge dinosaurs...

Learned all about energy and electricity..

and had some goofy fun with this alien cutout!
They had a very large animal exhibit (don't worry..nothing alive!) Here's John with the alligator:

Mary was a little unsure of this lion exhibit. There were bloody zebra limbs all over..Kinda creepy.
We had fun and left when little ones started getting antsy. After our long day, we went out to eat at McDonald's-a real treat for everyone-and especially me since I didn't have to cook!
Today we ventured a little farther. We decided to head down toward Galveston and visit the beach. We'd only been there once since we've lived here, as it's about an hour and a half away, but the girls have not stopped talking about going back! First stop before Galveston was the Lego shop. This opened last year at a mall about 15 miles outside of Galveston. This is the only one in all of Texas, so we really wanted to go visit. Since Christopher and Michael are very much into Lego animation, they were in heaven! They had every Lego set you could want!
They even had a pick-a-brick wall where you could purchase individual bricks in case some were missing. Kind of cool:

Christopher purchased several things he had been wanting, so he was happy! By this time, it was lunchtime, so we stopped at the Chili's in Galveston, overlooking the ocean. A very pretty view and we all were starving! We had the nicest server, too, which is such a blessing when you have many children! Finally, after we were done, we headed across the street to the beach. Unfortunately, we didn't realize it was going to be 30 mile per hour winds and kind of chilly! The kids still collected shells and put their feet in the water (okay, some just dove in, I think!)

Eden got to do some digging in the sand, too, which she loved! When we got home, she even continued that digging in her sandbox...minus the 30 mph winds.

On the way home, several of the little ones passed out and slept-isn't that the best part? We were all happy to get home by about 4:30 or so and were really worn out from such a long day-we had been gone since 9:30. We skipped our usual Wednesday nite activities, as we were just too beat. I'm sure they will all sleep well tonite! It was the first time I've heard my kids ask me if we could please just stay home for a while! Hee hee! :-)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Zoo day..

Yay! Dad is on vacation this week, so we made plans to do lots of fun stuff we have never gotten a chance to do. Today was our first trip to the Houston zoo. The zoo here is downtown, which seems a little odd at first, since you're surrounded by huge office buildings! It was perfect weather to be outside-nice and sunny! We hit the children's zoo first. The kids enjoyed petting some goats (Eden especially!).

They also liked the prarie dog exhibit, where you can poke your head up in the middle of the exhibit in these little plastic tubes...

We saw some cool animals, like the elephant-

Sorry John, that's not a real elephant!

The giraffes (they had 5 of them!)

And this odd looking half-zebra thing. I can't remember the name.

My kids thought the highlight of the trip was feeding the ducks! That is, until we were shooed away by the zoo staff and told that we couldn't feed them bread because they'd get fat. I had never heard that before.

It was a fun day together, though the zoo wasn't as good as we expected. But we are looking forward to more fun things this week while Dad's home!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Resurrection Day!

I love Easter! No, not for the chocolate bunnies, easter egg hunts, or pretty spring dresses-I love it because it is the time of year we remember and celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! What could be more wonderful than that? It can be hard, with any holiday, not to be distracted by all the other "stuff" that the rest of the world tells us is important. If you're not sure what I mean, just visit any store's Easter section and see how many items being sold show the resurrection of Jesus, versus how many are related to bunnies, chickens, or eggs. Now, I am not saying there is anything inherently wrong with eggs or bunnies (or Peeps!) , just that this is not the focus I want my children to have when it comes to Easter. I want them to know and understand the truth. With that goal in mind, but still wanting to make the teaching fun, we use the Resurrection Eggs from Family Life for the couple of weeks leading up to Easter, to visually tell the story of Jesus' crucifixion. If you don't know what these are, it is a dozen plastic eggs, each filled with a different trinket that helps tell the story. For instance, one day there might be a small piece of leather to represent the whip the soldiers used on Jesus. Another contained 3 fake coins to represent the pieces of silver that Judas' betrayed Jesus for. You open one each day and read the accompanying story until the final day, when the egg is empty (the day Jesus rose from the dead!) The little kids especially love it because of the little treasures hidden in each egg. What fun it is to have a new surprise each morning!
We also made the Resurrection cookies the night before Easter and told the story of Easter while making them. These are essentially a meringue cookie-each ingredient has a special meaning-vinegar represents what was given to Jesus to drink as He was on the cross, beating the pecans into pieces is representative of the Roman soldiers beating Jesus, and so on. We then put them in the oven, turn it off, and seal the outside with tape. In the morning, we open the oven and take a bite of the cookies, which are hollow inside, just as the tomb of Jesus was!
Finally, this year we dyed Easter eggs, which we really don't normally do, but we found a cute kit at Walmart with cute religious symbols to use. Here they are..decorating away with Dad!

The only bad part was when our counters stained pink because we didn't put newspaper down. :-( Nothing a little magic erasering couldn't take care of! They had a great time and quite enjoyed eating the eggs today! After a very stormy morning, our weather here is clearing up and turning beautifully sunny! I hope everyone has a blessed Easter!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Teaching toddlers

I think the toddler stage is one of the most fun times with kids. Challenging, yes, but so very fun to see them growing! They are also super-fun to teach new things, as they're so eager to learn and their minds are like little sponges, just absorbing everything! Yesterday, I was sitting with Eden (my little princess in the pictures) while she told me about the colors in her blanket. She did pretty well telling me white, blue, green, and yellow, but got a little mixed up on her pink and purple. Not bad for not even being two yet!
She also likes to count and point out numbers that she sees on things. I don't remember my older ones picking up on these things quite as quickly as she has, but Eden has so many older brothers and sisters, that it seems natural she would learn things just by hearing so much. I do have a few favorite things I like use with my toddlers to help teach them. And when I say teaching, this is not sitting down and doing endless workbook pages-we just have fun! We read often and stock up on tons of library books each week. We have simple workbooks we use with coloring, cutting things out, writing letters, etc. Again, no pressure for them to do it 'just right'-they're just learning to have fun. I also love using the Lauri toys Good selection there-I especially love the color and shape sorter. They are good for occupying little ones when you are homeschooling the older ones. Another great item I just recently bought at Christmastime are the preschool prep videos . We got the shapes, letters, numbers, and colors DVD's. I was skeptical at first,, but they truly work and little kids love them! Warning, though, they can be quite annoying to parents after a while, as they repeat words over and over. Well worth the investment. I am hoping to get the other sight words videos that we do not have soon. I also love the Leapfrog videos , though we don't own any right now. We check them out from the library from time to time and my kids love them! I am always open to new ideas about teaching my younger ones-and big ones too! If you have any great ideas that work for you, please share! Happy teaching! :-)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Horse camp, take two!

My 3 girls, Sarah, Rachel, and Mary had a chance to go back to miniature horse camp today for the more advanced class, where they learned even more about taking care of miniature horses! They loved every minute of it-they have not stop talking aobut it ever since they took the first class back in January! The lady who teaches the class is so very patient with the kids and so kind, which I'm sure made them that much more eager to return!
Here are Mary doing some grooming on their horses:

They also did practicing on the obstacle course:

Sarah even learned how to get her horse to jump! She did great!

They even had a fun carriage ride at the end!

John, even though he didn't participate in the camp, loved the horses, and petted many of them. He was sad to have to leave them!

Maybe there will be a mini-horse someday in our future..I know that would be my girls' dream! They just love them!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Trusting God....

Sometimes when I am out and about....okay, often when I am out and about, I get asked questions about my family. After all, you don't see too many families with so many people, do you? I was in the Sam's Club the other day when one of these situations came up. I was checking out, with only 3 of my girls and the baby in tow. The young-20 something cashier asked me if that was my only boy. I told him that, well, he was the only one HERE. Then he asked me the big question-how many kids do you have? Uh-oh, here goes. I told him 10 and he just looked at me a little odd and kept ringing things up. He paused for a few moments and said, "I just have to ask you...what made you decide to have 10 kids?" Without hesitating, I told him that, well, I really didn't decide to have 10 kids-God chose the timing of each of our children, I was just willing to accept them! And so far, he's given us 10! He stared at me for a few moments as if I had worms coming out of my nose and then said "O-kay....Well......good luck if you have anymore.." Then handed me my receipt! Hmmmm...I thought about it in the car-was my answer really that strange? When I told Larry, he said I must have been the talk of Sam's club the rest of the afternoon. Probably so, but it did make me sad to think how odd it is to hear anyone say they trust God for anything! We get so caught up in our own lives and where they're going, we just sort of push God to the side and go where we want to. I am just as guilty of this as any other and I am truly ashamed of that. With Easter approaching, it is the perfect time to reflect on all that Christ has done for each of us. Not only does he love us, he showed us that by his dying on the cross and taking our sin upon Himself. How could I not trust someone who showed me that kind of love? I have never done anything remotely close to what Jesus did for me, but so many times I turn to myself for guidance instead of to Him. Maybe I am just 'wise in my own eyes'....or maybe I just sometimes want things my own way. Whatever it is, when I decide to take control myself, I always end up in the wrong place, which makes me wonder why I didn't just trust Him in the first place! I am so thankful I serve such a loving, merciful, forgiving Lord! Next time I hear someone say they are trusting God with their finances, size of their family, or anything else, I want to be an encouragement to them in a time when so many others think it a strange thing to do!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Fun at the Folk Festival!!

This weekend, our family had a chance to go to the Family Folk Festival here in our town of Katy. This is the second year we have attended and it was so much fun! The festival reenacts the pioneer times and has many activities for the kids to do from the 1800's time period. The girls made rag dolls from fabric and stuffing. Here is Rachel's with hers:

They just loved making them and want to make some more on our own! They also made cornhusk dolls, with Larry helping them. I was nursing the baby, so I didn't get to participate in this one! Here is Mary, proud of her finished doll:

Sarah participated in some nut shelling (pecans, yummy!)

and tried her hand at calligraphy using a special pen and an inkwell. It's much harder than it looks!
John tried out roping the cows,

and chasing chickens.

Here the kids are preparing corn to grind into cornmeal:

John put all his muscle into that grinding...

We had such a fun day, even little Luke. Look how happy he is when I peeked in on him in his stroller!

We can't wait until next year's festival!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Our little garden...

This is our little garden we planted for this season. We received all the supplies (except the potting soil) for free from our extension office as part of their outreach to schools and homeschools (that's us!). We had several of the neighbor kids over to help haul bags of potting soil, fill the containers with it, and then plant their seeds. The kids all had such a fun time. It's barely been a couple weeks and we're already getting little sprouts coming up! We have dill, cucumbers, butterfly weed, lettuce, parsley, and a couple other things. It is very fun and kid-friendly, which is super important. In the past, we have always had a larger in-ground garden, but have been unable to do that here due to the rabbit problem we have. Last year, they ate my vegetables down to nothing-and they have mowed through most all of my flowers in the front. Nothing has stopped them from chomping their way through the neighborhood! Someday, I would love to have a garden to supply a large part of our vegetables, but it will not be at this house! For now, this is perfect for us and it is a lot of fun! I'll keep updating when things start growing!

My oldest three boys are also in the beginning of their seasonal lawn mowing business. They have already mowed 4 lawns in the neighborhood and love having that extra spending money. Michael just came on this year, so he is still in the training phase, but here he is mowing our neighbor's lawn-the mower looks huge next to him, but he did a great job!

Here's Matthew doing some edging. They actually do quite a nice job. Unfortunately, they have to do our lawn for free, which they don't like, but Dad lets them use his mower, so it seems like a fair trade!