Thursday, May 31, 2012

It's just not working.

I try very hard to make things work for every member of our family.  My goal is to make our home reasonably pleasant, peaceful, organized, clean and a place that we all WANT to be.  This is a real challenge with six kids who are all home...all day...every day.  The work and messes are inevitable but there are some things that I have learned (and many more that I will learn I'm sure) that help make things work when it's just not working.

First thing in the morning is the time when I have the most work to get done in the shortest amount of time.  There are diapers to be changed, babies to get dressed, breakfast, clean up, starting laundry, and then checking on my older kids to ensure that they are getting their things done. 

I aim to get up early (between 7 and 7:30 is early for me!) and spend time in the Word and prayer as well as get myself presentable for the day BEFORE any kids are up.  Sometimes it works, sometimes I have weepy toddlers hanging on my ankles as I drink my morning water and brush my teeth...haha.  But, the latter happens most often when I hit that "start your day late" button.  I would like to start school at 9 in the morning (we are NOT early risers).  But, this takes some real focus and planning.  I found that I was having to chase after the kids and do too much correcting first thing in the morning.  It adds to my morning work and just honestly isn't a good peaceful start to our day.  It also led to me checking their morning chores on a rather random schedule and not truly holding them accountable.

So, I thought I would try bribing  rewarding our children.  I do expect my children to obey with a cheerful heart immediately but if I can get them to make a habit of this by rewarding them for a few months and avoiding all of the fussing and discipline then I am all for that.  Games and rewards are fun for everyone. I hope to do more training than's so much more fun.  I have not always felt this way but it is something that the Lord has laid on my heart in the last few years as I am working to gain the hearts of my children...and it is hard work for me.  It comes natural for some but for me I have to work hard and stay focused on the goal. 

I thought that if they get up, get dressed, make their beds, pick up their rooms, do their morning chore, eat breakfast, and are sitting on the couch ready to begin school by 9 am without me having to tell them a thing...that deserves a reward!!  My 10, 9, 7, and 5 year olds can all do this.  It's amazing!  If the reward falls within their currency, they will do amazing things to get that reward. 

I made a quick chart (which I can't post here without embarrassing some of my I won't) to keep track of who earns a reward each morning and put it on the side of the fridge.  Then, at 9 am EVERY morning, I trek back up the stairs and check all rooms and chores.  Accountability is key for my kids.  If they are not ready by 9, we still start school anyway but they have to use their "free time" later to complete whatever wasn't done yet...and no reward.

So far, I have had peaceful mornings and many mornings most of the kids are sitting on the couch ready at 9 am.  Why didn't I do this sooner?  haha.  It's wonderful.  Now, our mornings can be more peaceful...I love peaceful!

What do you do to get your kids up and ready for school in the mornings? 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Nine years with Brennan

I am leaving my "Large Family Organization" series again this Wednesday to celebrate Brennan turning nine.  His birthday was the 28th but with traveling, sickness, and recovery from both, I am just now posting about him.

Brennan John.  There is so much that I could say about him.  He changed our lives.  He taught us how to juggle multiple children and filled our home with laughter.  He has always been our little guy who is full of energy.  He is our very (very, very) active, curious, joking, laughing, nurturing child who is full of warm hugs all the time.  Even now, if I sit down for more than a minute, he will be at my side snuggled up.

I just can't believe that we have had Brennan with us for nearly a decade.  It seems like just yesterday I was a mom of two little boys frequenting mall play areas, story time at the library, women's Bible study at church, and weekly mom's group.  This was my life when Brennan joined us. 

Here is Brennan as a baby.  I actually don't have many baby pictures of him in digital form.  Yep, he is that old...haha.  Our digital pictures started with Abby:)

Tons of pictures ahead!

Three months

Six months

Eight months and sporting the blue eyes that later turned green.

Eleven months

Thirteen Months

Eighteen Months

At just twenty three months, Brennan became a very loving big brother.

Two years old. 

Yep, that's him throwing the pumpkin...haha.

Three years old

Four years old

 Five years old.

Six years old.

Seven years.

Eight years old.

Always the nurturing big brother.

And, nine years old. 

He is athletic, artistic, and musical and we are so proud of the young man that he is becoming!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Large Family Organization...vacation packing

On this Wednesday, I am back to posting on how we organize our large family.

Because I am in the midst of packing for a "stay-cation" for the upcoming holiday weekend, I thought I would post on that very thing.  We will be driving a few hours and house sitting at the home of Peter's parents while they are out of town.  This is a wonderful way for us to get away from the everyday commitments, enjoy a pool, and in turn take care of the pool and plants.

A few years ago, I learned a little packing tip from another mother of many.  I have used this method ever since and I love it.  It is a little more preparation but the reward is an organized chaos-free time away...well mostly:)

I pack all of my littles things by the day.  So, I make a pile for each day that we will be gone of everything that each child will need to wear (excluding shoes) even down to underwear and socks.  Then I bag each "day" in a recycled Wal-mart bag, tie it, and label it.  Then I place all of the bags in the suitcase.  Here is my bag for this weekend.  It has all of the clothes, pjs, and shoes for my four littlest ones.

With this packing strategy, there is no question about what to wear each day.  Peter or the older kids can help get the littles ready without putting them in church clothes to play in the backyard...haha.

I also pack a little suitcase with all of the diaper products and blankets.  Here is a picture of that.

This time, I decided to let my (almost) 9 and 10 year old boys pack for themselves.  I gave them each a list of what to pack that was something like this.

5 shirts
5 shorts
5 underwear
5 socks
1 church shirt
1 church pants
church shoes
tennis shoes
swim suit
2 pjs

They seemed to really enjoy the challenge and we only had to make a few modifications:)

Depending on the trip, I will sometimes pack food items in a few bags and include bottles, sippy cups, and bibs in this bag.  On this trip, I am taking some nonperishable foods that I prefer to buy at my local store.  So, I made a list and packed bags with supplies.  I also made a list of the groceries that we will pick up on the way across town.  This way I get to spend the trip enjoying family and not running errands.

Now to get the adults packed...haha.

When we get the van loaded, I will add a few pictures just for kicks.  We now have eight people in a minivan and travel is always tight.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Family Olympics

This past week we completed our theme unit study that the kids and I work through as a family.  So, on Friday, we had a celebration to mark the end of this school year.  

(We will continue with morning Math and Language lessons through most of the summer as a year round schedule just seems to fit our lifestyle.)  

Because we had been studying early Greek life, we decided to have our very own family Olympics.  Each family member planned their own competition or race and we spent the morning at the neighborhood park.  Here are a few pictures from our day.

The little boys played in the sand for much of the morning.

Ransom decided to join the fun by snatching our cones at every opportunity.

Each team had a plastic spoon for a baton.


I love this one of Wesley.  He was trying so hard to keep up with the "big kids".  And, he did really well!

Toddler race...haha.

After our games were done, we picked up some Greek food and took it to a local splash pad to cool off.  Because, after all, how can we learn about Athens and Sparta without a little Greek food...haha.

Sethy's little hand.  I love the details that photography allows me to capture.

 This will be one "last day of school" that the kids will not soon forget...and neither will Peter and I.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

14 Years...and counting.

On this Wednesday, I am going to skip my "Large Family Organization" post to celebrate our anniversary:)


Today I celebrate fourteen years of marriage to the love of my life.

  (wow...look how young we were back then...haha)

When we met as young college kids, we had no idea what the Lord had in store for our lives.  We look back and just have to laugh at how immature and inexperienced we were back then.  I'm sure we will look back fourteen years from now and feel the same way...haha.

Our life together has been many things...and they have all worked together for good:)  Here are a few of the things that come to mind as I look back over the last fourteen years of our lives together.

It has been fourteen years of adventure.

Boy, what an adventure it has been.

We have lived in two states, five cities, seven houses, completed four years of graduate school and had six children.

There has been work.

Relationships take a great deal of work and marriage is definitely no exception.  As much as we had in common, we had just as much different about us, our personalities, likes, and background.  We have had to navigate through so many issues and work hard to keep our marriage fresh and alive.

There has been fun.

If you know Peter and his free spirited approach to life, you know that our lives couldn't be anything but fun.  He has taken me along with him...sometimes kicking and the long drives to nowhere or looking at houses that we will never own.  But it has been fun.  And, I have learned to let go of efficiency and just enjoy the ride...sometimes:)

There have been seasons of grief.

 (This was Grammie's 100th birthday)

In our fourteen years, we have had many losses and seasons of grief.  We lost three of our precious little ones before they were born and the grief just cannot be put into words.  Even though we have six children here with us, we will always grieve the three who are in Heaven. In addition to this loss, we have lost family members who we loved dearly and some whom we will never have the joy of knowing.

There has been lots of sweet little ones to snuggle.

With six kids, there has never been a shortage of hugs and snuggles in our lives.

There has been laughter.

From laughing at ourselves to the cute things the littles do and say, we have so much laughter in our home...and there's never a dull moment.  Laughter truly is good medicine...and it's a god thing because...

There have been hospital stays and emergency room visits.

Actually , I think Peter and I deserve a "fast pass" in the ER.  From broken bones to gaping wounds to rare medication reactions to a near scalping we are at home in the ER...haha.  Beyond six labor and delivery hospital stays we have also had a child who was a cardiac patient and three other minor surgeries...that just don't seem minor when they involve your kids or you.  But we have gone through it all together:)

There have been blessed family get-aways.

While we have taken a few family vacations over the years, some of the best get-aways have been day trips to play in the snow or visit friends/family a short distance away.  One of our favorite get-aways is the homeschool convention where Peter and I have a chance to be together for a few days and set goals for the next year.  

There has been so much much!

After the kids are in bed, we love to watch political talk shows, listen to Supreme Court cases, and analyze current  Even as I type this post, Peter is reading aloud to me a book about the attempted Reagan assassination.

We have spent countless hours to support the causes that are near and dear to our hearts.  And, we look forward to the countless hours that we are yet to spend supporting causes together.

(Nathan and Brennan shaking hands.)

But above all else there has been an enduring love and commitment to both each other and maintaining a biblical perspective in our lives.

Thank you Peter for choosing me and being the husband and father that you are.