Thursday, October 13, 2016

We Set Out

After a mere two hours of sleep, it was time to get up and get going.  The good news is that everyone was excited, so the morning went smoothly. We got all nine of us checked in, bags checked, through security, and onto the airplane.

After researching buying and RV, renting an RV, renting a van and driving the whole distance, taking the Amtrak train for some of the distance, and flyng into several differnt cities, the most cost effectve solution ended up being the last.  I checked airline fairs and rental van pricees every other day for four months.  When Southwest had a sale to Milwaukee that corresponded to Budget having a sale on 12 seater van rental, we pounced.  Several of our kids had never flown, so they were especially excited and nervous about the trip.

We watched the sun come up and it was mesmerizing.  

Our flights were uneventful, except the general thrill of doing something mankind dreamed of doing for centuries.

It was a bit of an adventure getting our crowd through the aIrport with all pieces and bits and parts intact, but we did.

I pondered for a long time about whether we should bother hauling around the carseat for this guy.  In the end, we decided familiarity was more valuable than convenience.  At one point, we went to the airplane lavatory.  By the time we got back to our seats, the baby girl was having a small meltdown.  I tended to her and let the three year old remain unbuckled for a few minutes.  He was up and down and turned around and inside out.  I was SO glad we decided to bring that carseat!!

Besides the one hiccop, our little one was happy and well-behaved.  It helps that she likes me so much. She would be content if she could be in my arms at all times forever and always.

After waiting in a forever line, we got the rental van, loaded up, checked into our hotel, and landed on our beds in a heap.  I did have to rally to go buy groceries (another way we are saving money in order to make this endeaver possible).

Off an exhausted, dreamless sleep.  Tomorrow we begin seeing the sites!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Oh, the Laundry

I was so proud of myself this morning as I told my husband, "There is NO dirty laundry in this house."  We have been cleaning all week and I have asked the children repeatedly and specifically if they had every scrap of dirty laundry in the laundry room.  Assured that they had, I was confident as I stepped into their rooms to begin packing this afternoon.  I knew I would have every pair of pants, every matched sock, every folded shirt, and piles of happily laundered undies from which to choose.

I was terribly wrong.

Not only did I not have all of the dirty clothes in the laundry room (much less washed, dried, and folded), but I was going to be up LATE doing the laundry so it would be done before we left for our trip.

Indeed, here it is, 11 o'clock at night and I still have two loads to go.  I also need to pack breakfast and lunch for eight people (that's sixteen sack meals, if you need help).  This was work that should have been done this afternoon when I was, instead, cleaning closets and sorting clothes.

We leave for the airport at 3:30 in the morning.

To the credit of the children, there has been massive repenting and heartfelt apologies.  Also, the blame is not shared by all of the children.  I will not specify the offenders because I love them and do not believe in public humiliation.  The end.

You know, in case you thought my house was filled with sunshine and tulips all the livelong day.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Bye, Bye, Piggies!

We took a spectacular drive this morning, through predominantly evergreen forests whose scattered aspens and birches are busy turning gold.

The drive was made even more lovely because we were dropping off these smelly fellows:

Did you hear that giant sigh of relief?!
We still have our runt, but the big guys are gone.

That was it! Our last major hurdle!
Oh, my goodness, you guys.  This is actually, really, truly happening.
Now we pack!

So Tired

My nephew married his sweetheart yesterday in my sister's backyard.  It was a beautiful October day and the celebration was lovely.  We could not have asked for more perfect weather.
But we didn't know that it would be that way on Friday when it was POURING down rain.
There was a lot of scrambling to figure out alternatives, clean up places that weren't meant to be seen, and prepare for the worst weather. Luckily, my parents live right next door and Dad has a shelter that worked perfectly.  

We got home late last night, exhausted but happy.  Crawled into bed and zonked out cold until it was time to get up for church this morning.  I looked forward to a nap after church, but didn't get one.  So sad!  I quickly cleaned the kitchen and baked because my Camilla girl had her 13th birthday party tonight.

(Earlier in the week, I asked the girls to get out some autumn decorations, they put out the Halloween AND the Thanksgiving decorations and I just don't care enough to change it. We're rolling with all the fall festivals on the mantle.)

She wanted baked potatoes and chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting.
It was all well received and she was thrilled with the family and the gifts they brought.
We are so lucky to have such good people around us.

After everyone left, I cleaned up a tiny bit and hit the hay.
Guess who can't sleep?
Yes.  Me.  The exhausted mama.

I'm tired, but I have had some wonderful experiences this week.  We have been chipping away and a huge and intimidating list of things that had to be done before we leave on our trip.  The final things that were tackled in the last few days included preparing the yard for winter, deep cleaning the house, helping with Kevin and Kenzie's wedding, and Camilla's birthday. Tomorrow is the last big hurdle:  we take the pigs to the butcher!  Hooray!  My husband was an absolute superhero this week, scrubbing and organizing like nobody's business.  I only knew the guy for a few minutes before we were married, but trusted in my Heavenly Father.  He gave me a good one.  I am so thankful that Justin is not above helping out around the house.

As soon as these pigs are welcomed into their new, frigid home, we will be down to our final loop in the chain.  Final loads of laundry.  Final loads of dishes, final sweeping and vacuuming of the floors.
And the packing will commence!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Trip Education

We are getting ready to take a long family trip.  It isn't a vacation, per se, because there will be no sitting on beaches soaking in the sun and no quiet mountain cabin off the grid somewhere.  While it is getting away from our regular lives, it will be more like extended classroom time than a relaxing getaway.

With this in mind, I completed one of my giant trip prep tasks today.  I got the educational materials completed and compiled.  It was an involved undertaking because I fear wasting a moment of learning--especially because this isn't a trip that will be repeated for many, many years.

Each child will receive a personalized bag.  In the bags, they will find booklets with lots of educational materials.  There are sheets with each state bird, tree, flower, animal, flag, etc. that will require matching and (hopefully) spotting in real life.  We will be passing through 10 states and one Canadian Province and we will be learning about each of those states.  The children get points for correct answers and for correctly identifying a symbol while we are there (pointing out a sugar maple, for instance).

Because we will be covering thousands of miles, the books also have a few fun road printables such as a car scavenger hunt, tic tac toe, state license game, battleship, and many others.  I printed up six different common code ciphers that the kids could use to write secret messages.

In trying to keep the luggage to a minimum, we are avoiding toys, generally.  An entertainment tool that doesn't take up much space is a clipboard.  Each is loaded with blank paper for the most part, but everyone has a handful of drawing step-by-step tutorials, each different from one another.  If they can draw something new by the end of the drive, I will be satisfied that my time was well spent.

Everyone will have a book to read, we will have audio books, and I have some poetry to read and discuss during our long drives between sites.

In addition to all of the these prepared devices to keep seven children happy on the road, I have one device designed to help them remember the feelings, thoughts, and moments seeing all of the things;  
I am requiring journals.
More specifically, Smash Journals.
If you haven't heard of those, look them up.  They look so cool!
Sometimes I will give writing prompts, but most of the time I want everyone to fill the pages in their own way.

I have an entire bin of markers, crayons, colored pencils, glue, stickers and Washi tape to help each member of the family create their personalized book.
I cannot wait to see what they do!

My husband and I have been teaching the family about the sites we will be visiting since the beginning of the year.  Ten months worth of lessons in anticipation of this journey, pilgrimage really.  We have taught, but we have also given assignments and the kids have studied and taught the family different subjects as well.  While Dad and I keep teaching, teaching, teaching on the trip, they will each have one specific opportunity to give an oral presentation about one of our stops.  For instance, one child will teach us about the Niagara Falls, another about the Erie Canal, one about the head of the Oregon Trail and another about the Indian Mounds.  
So, you can see a little bit of how home school works around here.  I hope it is as effective as I envision.  Learning about a place, seeing it in real life, then writing or otherwise recording your personal experience about that place will stick with them.  I hope, in fact, it will change them.

Monday, September 19, 2016

A Bunch of Nothing

I bought these today at Costco.
There is no way I'm going one more spring without my beloved tulips!
I will skimp on my food budget this month, but I will buy bags and bags of bulbs.

Autumn is off to a glorious start for us this year.
My Camilla girl is always quick to capture anything amazing.

 This child. She is a chubby, happy four month old.  I cry every few days as I take clothes she is quickly outgrowing and putting them in the box to donate, rather than the box to put away for the next baby.

  She rolls and pivots on her belly to get where she wants to be.  The race is on. Oh, yes, and the drool.  The drool is also on.

After too long a silence, I went in search for this little guy.  
I found him, in MY bed, laying on a bed full of sprinkles. 

Also, a sister decided this was the best way to babysit recently.

The flies have been atrocious this year.  I can't get my kids to close the doors (we're going to have to get screen doors next year).  I finally reverted to this nasty solution and it is working--rather miraculously.

Finally, our trip is close enough that we have a paper chain.
A paper chain!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Good Doctor

Today was my baby's first doctor's appointment.  The first couple of visits one would normally make were done with the midwife, so this was her first time to meet our family doctor.  Also, she is four months old and it was time to get started on those immunizations.

When the eight year old gets the baby dressed.  As fancy as possible.
He has been watching out for our family for several years now and I really like him.  He works quickly, but I never feel like he's trying to rush us out.  Isaac has had to go in several times for very specific ballet physicals and trips to far away lands.  Our doctor is always excited to help and cheers Isaac on in his unusual teen life.
Like I said, it was time to start shots.  He asked if we were ready to do that today.  I told him that I was feeling a weird trepidation about the shots for some reason. I want my baby protected, but I am also concerned about the high number of vaccinations recommended for her tiny body.  Instead of instantly judging or demanding, he heard me out, understood as I vocally grappled with the quandary of whether it was mother's intuition to hold off a bit on this baby or whether it was the louder and louder anit-vax noise from the world.  In the end, we decided to do the most essential vaccinations and will stretch out our schedule so her little body doesn't have to battle it all at once.

It is so nice to have a doctor that listens and trusts me.  He sees everyone in the family and has a pretty good sense of what is happening in our home.  He is nothing but encouraging and supportive.  And frankly, after last week, it is refreshing to have a professional with an outsider's view believe in me.

Thanks, Doc.