Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Snow

We have had really amazing snow this week.


We are right in a snow belt and have discovered that we will often get twice as much snow as people as little as 15 minute's drive away.  It is my favorite!


The kids have been playing nonstop and we have had cousins and friends over several times.
They've made lemonade out of lemons and constructed some fun sledding runs on our pile of topsoil that still hasn't been spread over our land.


Today they discovered these giant icicles.  Check out the one Camilla is holding!  It is easily three feet long!
I don't know why I didn't get pictures of the cousins, but they were all holding these giant sabers.


The little guy had to get in on the icicle action, too.  One small section of an icicle kept him busy for quite a while.


No matter the time of day, it seems like there is always at least one member of the family out in the great white world.  It hasn't been terribly cold, so it isn't pure misery to be outside.

Nonetheless, we've found a few ways to keep the chill from becoming overwhelming.
Justin has built a couple of roaring bon fires to keep everyone toasty.


And there's nothing like a bowl of chicken noodle soup and fresh homemade bread to warm up body and soul.


I am so grateful to be in our house this year.  For four years, every time we have one of these remarkable snows, we could hardly enjoy it.  The windows that weren't covered in blankets to keep some heat in the trailer would get so foggy or frosted that we couldn't see outside unless we were outside.
This year, I find myself stopping mid-chore to stand and stare at my wonderland.
Laundry is easier, dishes are easier, all of the mundane parts of life are easier
with this breathtaking vision!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve

Happy Christmas Eve, everyone!


Daddy made a fire in the middle of the snow.  Our little one made himself a couch out of the ample snow.


When the cousins came for the Christmas Eve activities, everyone went sledding, then gathered around the fire, drinking wassail.  It was Justin's dream Christmas Eve!
We had about 30 of Justin's relatives over for dinner and games.  I cannot tell you what a thrill and joy it is to be in this house, witnessing how well it is working with the large numbers of people.
There was a lot of playing in the snow and our mudroom was one big puddle by the time everyone was done!  What fun!

Isaac went out earlier in the day to test out the snow for himself.  It was a little deep!


He scaled the top of one of our many mounds of dirt and leapt into the heaps of snow.


That is one, solitary leg poking up out of the snow.

Friends and kids' teachers received a plate of goodies, neighbors (many of whom are elderly and diabetic) received a 50 hour candle and deck of cards to prep for the next power outage.



Laundry was a cinch, with a view like this.


And now some last minute Christmas prep then OFF TO BED.
This is a tired mama!

Monday, December 21, 2015

My Tiny Beauty

I can't get over this girl lately.  She is fourteen and, at 5'1" is probably done growing.  
She is tiny in stature which is grossly disproportionate to her personality.

Once again, I find myself frustrated that my children's lives are documented by such crappy cameras!


She had a band concert the other night.  For those of you who don't know, she decided she wanted to learn how to play the drums.  Since her mother won't allow drums in the house, Eliza decided to go to the local high school for just the one class every day and learn percussion there.
Percussion, as you know, consists of a lot of instruments and it was fun to watch her flitting from triangle to crash symbols to xylophone to the as-big-as-her bass drum and so on.


That's it.  No deep philosophical nothin'.  Just a mama in love with her girl 
and wanting to tell anyone who will listen.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Baby Education

Since I've been having babies every couple of years for the past 16 years, my children have been raised learning about prenatal care, intrauterine development, labor and delivery, and postnatal care and recovery.  We have a few fascinating books with charts, illustrations and photographs of fetuses and newborns, complete with girl and boy "parts" and their explanatory captions, and some graphic images of women delivering babies.  I know there are some people who think I'm too open with the children, but it has always felt right to me to talk to my people like what they are: people.

I was visiting with my seven year old's Primary teacher.  She described how my little girl is so excited about our baby and comes each week with some new tidbit about what is happening with the new one.


Then she told a story.  Last week, they were talking about how we were Spirits before we came to this earth.  One of the other little girls asked, "Where do baby's come from?"

The sweet teacher, had a perfect Sunday School answer worked up and was about to start explaining when my educated daughter piped up:

Looking at her friend, she declared knowingly,
"You need to have The Talk with your mom!"

I was SO glad this was her response!  I try to emphasize the fact that some of the things we talk about aren't things to talk about with friends or even cousins, but you just never know if they hear you!


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Art at Home

My kids like taking on art projects, just like I remember loving Friday afternoon art in elementary school.
The problem is that I don't particularly enjoy crafts.
I can do crafts, basically, but the tedium of tiny repetitive actions, glitter on everything forever, little paper scraps spread hither and thither, and pipe cleaners inadvertently glued to the kitchen table make me nuts.
Honestly, unless I only have to make a couple of whatever, I revolt.
Ask me to spend 90 hours cementing river rock to a wall and I get amped, but ask me to spend 90 minutes cutting and folding and gluing bits of paper, particularly with a bunch of children, and I sulk in the corner.

At the beginning of the school year, I resolved to provide art time for the children.
I began scouring Pinterest, looking for ideas that complimented my weekly scholastic theme.
There are some seriously creative people out there!  They have instructions for construction paper ships that look like they are moving upon the great waters, Native American rain sticks made out of paper towel tubes, and so many cute Thanksgiving projects even the scissors themselves get excited!
But the more projects I found, the deeper the dread welled up in my soul.

Then, it dawned on me.  Art time isn't called craft time; it is called ART TIME.
I began searching for art projects, lessons on color, shape, perspective, light, even brush techniques.
Suddenly, this resolution of mine made me excited!


We learned how paint tones taught a lesson or portrayed a meaning.
Because Baby Jesus is the central figure, the focus is on him with the use of the white paint.
It also implies glory
and that Christ's light pushes away the darkness.


They all turned out so cute and the best part is that 
 I didn't no one lost their cool.



Sunday, December 13, 2015

Why? What do you do at 10 PM?

This child has got his sleep schedule all messed up.  He fights naps like crazy and lately has been fighting it until the evening, when he crashes, impossible to rouse.
Then he wakes up at about 9:30 refreshed and ready to play.


Last night, he was playing with playdoh (after he had played with the Little People's Nativity, laid under the tree with his head on a red pillow to look up at the lights, and "read" himself about 30 books).  He was working quietly for a time, then brought his creations over to me.
"Look, Mom!  I made a rose!  Isn't it cute?"

Well, geesh.  
Can you imagine a two year old who knows that he did not just create a flower. 
The flower he created has a name, good golly.

Also, I think this whole exchange is the direct result of having four sisters.

His bedroom is in the basement and when his big brother is gone, he is too scared to stay down there.  That means he is in our bed, again.  Early this morning, he got out of bed and went around the house, turning on every light as he went.  Then he trooped upstairs to pester his sleeping sisters.  What are the chances that, with FOUR sisters, not one of them was awake to play?! After failing to rouse them (at 3 o'clock in the morning) he settled on playing with their toys.  The seven year old found him an hour later, sound asleep on her floor, surrounded by her toys.

Guess who slept in until 9:45?


And who is awake right now.
Dumping out his sister's coin jar.
It is 10:01 PM.

Ah, two.
Not terrible at all, but certainly keeps things hoppin'!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Shopping Dates

As we've continued to add children to the family over the years, it became increasingly difficult for the children to buy for their siblings.  Some while back, we started drawing names, that way each person can focus their efforts on one sibling.  When we started this, no one could drive themselves and, to keep the gifts a surprise, the purchases had to be made without spying eyes.  
The result?  
My favorite Christmas tradition: 
Personalized shopping trips with mom.

Camilla, about to discover that crepes are her new favorite food.
First things first, get the Christmas shopping done.  It is always fun for me to learn about my kids from my kids.  They know things about each other that I don't know or they understand things that I thought no one else understood about that brother or sister!  They know favorites, likes and dislikes, whether the sibling has outgrown a phase or is on the cusp of a new one.  I can't give away secrets because they all read this blog, but so far, so good.  I am often surprised and pleased by their intuition about one another.  

After shopping, we also get a little something to eat (every child has their saved-up requests) and other things that that particular child needs--one needed a haircut, another needed to visit Santa, and so on.


Because, here's the thing, with six children, it takes determined choices to make sure each child is receiving the parental attention they need.  They are rarely lonely because there are so many playmates or confidants in a large family that they are hardly starved for attention.  BUT, that precious one-on-one time, where I can listen to just her, without input (or derision) from a sibling, has to be intentionally sought.  I think all mothers-of-many wish they were better at this.  My whole goal during these outings is to make sure that one sweet child is heard and treated, understood and needed.   Sometimes that results in face paint . . . with glitter . . . that matches her dress . . . which made her absolutely giddy.
Worth it!


Eliza gets her turn next week and Isaac, even though he can drive and is fully capable of shopping on his own, will get his date when he returns from Texas.
After all, it is tradition!

A Churro from Costco was the one thing she wanted most out of our date.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Adult?

Isaac (16) has had some fun experiences the last couple of months.  He was hired by two different schools, one in San Antonio and the other in Midland, Texas, to be a guest artist in their Nutcracker performances.  They are his first paid gigs and he has loved it.

Children's Ballet of San Antonio
We have stayed in contact the same way we've always done: phone calls, texts, and Facebook.  Today, he sent me the following message:

I have to call you with an adult problem.

My mind instantly flew out of control.  Gears and wires and springs went flying as my brain function jerked into full reverse.  Sound the sirens, we are under attack!


Why would you have an adult problem when you have only just lost your first teeth?
How could you be addressing adult issues when your hair refuses to lie flat and I have to use my master skills to convince you to not wear a Robin or Superman or Anakin costume every waking (well, and sleeping) minute?!


Furthermore, what the heckfire kind of statement is that to flippantly toss at your mother?  
What is an "adult problem?"  
We've already covered body hair, basic banking, how to know when a girl wants to hold your hand, laundry procedures and how to ship a package.  The only remaining options have got to be the bigger problems; the emotional, spiritual or major life decisions types of problems.  

Oh, save me.  I cannot face it!  
All is lost.  

As I stare at the nuts and bolts of my soul, scattered haphazardly around me, and hyperventilate into a paper bag, he, just as nonchalantly as he sent the first message, offers the next line:
I've never paid taxes before and I don't know how to fill out this form.

Oh, for mercy's sake.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

I'm Back!

Oh, you guys.  I thought it would never happen, but I feel better!  This whole week, I've reminded myself that I'm not a lazy, lay-in-my-bed-half-the-day, do-the-job-half-way person.  That isn't who I am, it was just a short-term pause in my usually busy lifestyle.  I finished reading the eighth 600 page book in a nine book series and, as much as I want to finish the series, I don't want to even pick up the last book.  I'm sick of reading!  I want to move my body, get stuff checked off my list.

This week, I cleaned, went grocery shopping, did some Christmas shopping (in a store--where you walk around and choose things, instead of online where you sit on your hiney and read endless reviews), decorated for Christmas, caught up on laundry and crafted.  You read that right:  I crafted.


I'm getting things checked off my list, things I'd beginning to think I would never get done.  It is amazing how I nearly forgot who I was!  I would look at a big project I had done in the house (the tile or the fireplace, for instance) and wonder where I got the time or energy to complete those jobs.  Would I ever accomplish anything again?!


We were able to get the house Christmasified.  My cottagy house, with all the wood and stone, lends itself so easily to Christmas decorating.  The vision in my head was thwarted by the fact that I've lived in a small space for years; the decorations I do have don't fill up the new house.  Also, the ideas I've nurtured for our Christmas house is expensive to do all at once!  Darn.  I went back to my roots and came up with inexpensive or free decorating ideas.  It is cute and I'm happy with it.  I'll continue to make or buy (on clearance) a little bit here and there to fill out my Christmas house vision.

It is so good to be Emily again.  My family has been patiently waiting for me to come back.  I am so happy to be here.

Promising to visit with you again soon,
The MotherShip

Friday, November 27, 2015

Our First Thanksgiving

We hosted our first Thanksgiving (which is actually our 19th Thanksgiving, Justin and I) in our new home yesterday.  Those of you who have been following our journey for a while will know that part of my planning of this house was especially for large events such as these.  We both come from large families and are creating a rather large family of our own.  We have come to recognize how important it is to have an area big enough for many people.  We've had a few birthday parties here and several spontaneous youth gatherings, but the kitchen was yet untried. This was to be the test.

The first order of business was this passive-aggressive sign.


It worked remarkably well, except for the fact that we weren't very good with following through with the punishment.  The message was delivered and generally followed.

I love this picture.  I love it because my Eliza is so beautiful, obviously, but also because of what is going on in the background. The grandfather is sitting attentively and the cousins are playing the guitar.
The day was a cacophony of music--we counted six guitars, an electric bass, a ukulele, and the piano, as well as random moments of vocal contributions.

Isaac used some of his earnings from his first paid gig as a ballet dancer to buy a 12 string guitar.
Here he plays with Uncle Kevin.
All photos credit of my mother dear, by the way, because I was busy and didn't think of it.
Thanks, Mom!

This was the scene in the kitchen at one point.  There were frequently four, five, six bums in the kitchen and there wasn't much interference. I was so happy!!  I thought it would work, but you just never know until you're in there.  
Parenthetically, I need to come up with some label for the garbage cans because the pull-out drawer looks like a regular cabinet.  

Here, my beautiful 87 year old grandma, a couple of my girls and my sister enjoy squeezing up together.  

Grandma's attendance tested another function of our house: wheelchair accessibility.  There are two stairs at the entrances, but beyond that, all of the necessities are on the main floor.  We were able to scoot grandma all around, even to take a nap on my bed at one point, without running into walls or door jams.  Yay!

My nephew sandwiching himself in the pocket doors that lead to the library.
We rolled up the living room rug and pushed the couches aside to make room for another table.  There was room and to spare.  After dinner, we put that long table in the adjoining library for games and to separate some of the happy chaos.
My brothers Zachery and Daniel
It was such a nice day!  My kitchen was entirely functional, even with 25 attendees.  There were places for people to go (once the basement is finished, that will help even more with that need) and we were able to really enjoy one another.

I know Thanksgiving isn't supposed to be about things, but our house made our celebration that much sweeter.  To see generations, five, actually, comfortable and full and having fun together, in my long-planned home, was really a lovely thing for me.


After everyone left, Justin and I took note of the things we needed to change or adjust, either immediately or over time, to continue to oil the machine.

It is good to know that even after these kids have kids, we'll have room for them at the party.

As long as they label their cup!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Black Out


A pretty serious windstorm blew through our region last week.  Winds were from 60-100 miles per hour, in our area (stronger in other places!), which is hurricane strength.  There is a problem with hurricane strength winds when you live in a forest. 

NOT my house. This is an example of what we saw.  Photo by Garth Davis
You see, pine trees do snow, they don't do wind.  They pulled themselves straight up out of the ground. 

Photo by Doug Clark
And when pine trees and power lines share airspace, things can get dicey!


We lost power, of course, but were prepared.
We had about a day to get ready because all the news stations were warning us about the impending storm.  We pulled out the oil lamps and candles, just in case.
I made dinner ahead of time.
We made sure we had water in pitchers and pots, in addition to the water we have stored long-term.


It was this girl's 10th birthday!  The power went out on her birthday a couple of years ago and I didn't get her cake made in time.  This year, I learned from my mistake and had her cake made well before the wind started coming through.


This picture cracks me up because, though we got a little cold, Justin's outfit may have been a tad overkill.

"What?!  I'm warm!" ha-ha!
We were without power for two days.  In many ways, the storm was a blessing for us.  We are in our new house, instead of the single-wide trailer still on wheels, we had no trees fall (I credit that to the slight valley in which we are nestled), and the fact that it never got really cold.  Being in a new house, it was a good practice run for us, since every house is different.  We discovered that we need to begin storing flushing water because, though we had plenty of drinking water, we didn't want to use that precious commodity in the toilets.  We discovered that having the foresight to build a wood stove CHIMNEY into the house is insufficient without a WOOD STOVE.  The plan all along has been to have that second heat source, but since building the house cleaned out our bank account, we were saving up.


We have two ways to cook during a power outage: our propane grill and our camp stove. We've had our camp stove since our first summer together (18 years now) and use it regularly.  There are several of the little green canisters stored in our camping gear and I really thought it would be no problem.
What we couldn't have foreseen, and certainly didn't expect, was that our camp stove didn't perform when called upon.  Justin opened the whole thing up and discovered the lines were filled with gunk.  Servicing the camp stove is a first priority before another storm hits!


Is it strange to say it?  I was a touch sad when the power came back on.
Everyone was together for 42 something hours.
No one was diverted by a video game, movie, YouTube, Facebook or other electronic distraction.
We played games, ate food, and read books (put book light on my list because reading by lamp light is too dim and a flashlight is too bright!).  There was a sense of togetherness and adventure, even though the Walmart had backup generators and the McDonald's never lost power; we weren't that far from civilization.

In all, it was a good trial run and we are grateful for how much we were spared.