Sunday, April 30, 2017

A few glimpses into our life

I apologize to my regular readers for the longer and more frequent blogging absences. Life in a large family moves at astonishing speed. I blink my eyes and ***whoosh*** an entire month has passed. Our days are full, blessed, and busy. Here are a few things in no particular order to give you an idea of what we've been up to:


- "No spend April" is almost over, and has gone marvelously well. I sold several unused items on Craigslist, which covered most of what I needed to spend on fresh produce and dairy this month, which wasn't much to begin with. I had a few gift cards left from my birthday, and others from the past year that I had not gotten around to use, which covered some other necessary expenses like gas and doctor's visits, and also provided 'free' weekly dates for my husband and I. Some things I needed I was miraculously blessed with, even though the giver did not know I needed them. For example, I wanted to buy a very specific supplement, but decided to use up the one I already had in stock instead, and buy the better one next month. The next day someone gave me the exact item, even though they had no way of knowing that I had been tossing back and forth the idea of making an exception and buying it.




In fact, this month went so well, and I depleted so few of my food stores (I have four freezers and a giant pantry), that I have decided to extend the spending freeze for the time being. I have so much stuff to use up yet! For instance, I have been buying almond milk ready, when I have plenty of almonds in stock that should be used to make my own. There are many other examples like it. Making do with what I have, and using up the stores, will cut down on pantry clutter and get me to move along inventory before it expires.


Chloe adores her big brothers, and they love her right back.


I will continue to make exceptions for regular bills and essential expenses such as medical/mechanical needs, gas, fresh goods such as dairy and produce, etc. but am continuing to see how long I can get by without buying many of the everyday items I can use up creatively.

This will help offset the taxes we just paid, as well as some unexpected medical expenses we have had this month that were exempted from the 'no spend' challenge.


- Speaking of medical needs... just the topic of 'staying on top of everyone's health in a large family' makes my head spin and could become its own blog series. 

For years, I had been taking the kids to a family dentist about an hour's drive away. She was a good dentist, and worth the drive, but I eventually stopped going to her because her hygienist kept harassing me about not giving the kids fluoride. For a couple of years after that, I went to a 'naturopathic' dentist that did not give me grief about the fluoride, but was instead doing a terrible job as a dentist, doing fillings that fell out, missing some issues and overtreating others, pushing xylitol, etc. I became so annoyed with her that I had not taken the kids back to her in a couple of years, while looking for a new dentist I could trust for treatment, without being bullied into things I did not agree with.


The entire office staff was amazed at Miriam's ability to get Chloe to sleep while I was at the dentist.


Long story short, I really liked the pediatric dentist that did the tongue tie revisions on Chloe and Solomon. I have been taking all the kids there for cleanings and checkups in the last couple of months. The good news was that I seem to have figured out the secret to not getting any more cavities, as only two of the eight kids needed to go back for some dental work on old cavities I had been keeping an eye on since the last dentist (who was inept at filling them so I didn't bother, thinking the kids would lose those teeth eventually anyway). I am working on a separate blog post with what I have learned in that regard. 

This dentist was the first to point out to me that Solomon (age 15) still has his baby canine teeth up top. An x-ray revealed that his adult canines are indeed there, buried deep in the gums out of sight. Instead of growing straight down (south), they are coming in at a 45 degree angle, heading at his front incisors in a southwest/southeast direction towards the midline from both sides. What is the big deal with that? Well, there is a real possibility that these canines putting pressure on the roots of the front teeth will cause said roots to dissolve, resulting in the loss of his four front teeth AND the canines.


I took Solomon to an ortho who took a really cool 3D x-ray image of his mouth/face, which confirmed the dentist's findings. The options are to:

1. do nothing, hope the adult canines stop moving and the baby ones don't fall out, while risking the loss of 6 teeth and subsequently need implants for life, or

2. extract the baby canines, expose the adult canines through laser cutting of the gums, and most likely need  braces to get them to come down to where they need to be as they are likely to continue on their diagonal path rather than straight down. 

Besides the issue of the eye-popping cost associated with this second option, it is also a highly invasive, painful, and prolonged treatment (12-18 months). I have been talking to others who have retained baby teeth as adults and even seniors, to gauge how these teeth might perform, but from my findings those who still have their baby teeth did not have permanent teeth to replace them with, which is not the case for Solomon. 

If you have any advice or insight to share in this area, please do so in the comments below! We are most likely going to proceed with the second option (extraction and exposure for now, and go back for braces in two months if the permanent teeth continue on their current trajectory), unless we learn of a better alternative. 

- Speaking of tongue ties, I am working on a separate blog post on that topic, too. This is knowledge that has all but fallen off the face of the earth during a couple of generations of bottle-feeding. All of our kids except Stephen Jr. have/had posterior tongue ties. My husband and Solomon also have/had anterior ties. The two youngest kids have been laser revised as babies, Solomon had it done about 6 months ago because it was causing him problems, so that leaves kids #2-6 with unadressed tongue ties. Next week, Isaac and John are going in to have their ties released, as they are starting to see the same problems as they approach their teen years that Solomon was having. My husband is going in week after next - his problems from his tight ties being the worst in the family. Like I said, more on all that in a separate post. I am giving kids #4-6 the option of getting a revision if/when they choose to do it, if there are problems. It is very painful and scary to have the procedure done, so I don't want to force it on them.
Keeping on top of scheduling and keeping these appointments, in addition to keeping all the other plates spinning, is a logistical challenge. This week alone, I went to the pediatrician on Monday morning with John (he had been having stabbing pains in his chest which I figured were growing pains, but wanted to make sure it was not his heart or lungs because the pain kept coming back with physical exertion - the doc confirmed growing pains), the dentist on Monday afternoon for some sealants on the big kids' teeth, to the ortho on Tuesday morning for an evaluation, and back to the dentist on Tue afternoon with an unresolved issue from the previous day. Next week, I am scheduled to go to the dentist Mon, Thu, and Fri for dental work on one kid and the tongue tie revisions on the two big boys. Tuesday I have jury duty, which I guess leaves Wednesday for an inevitable emergency, ha! 

If one more person tells me having more kids means less work for mom because they represent more helpers, I just might die laughing.

On a funny side note, Boaz has been pretending 'dentist' by putting plastic baggies on his hands and picking at my teeth with his sharp little fingers.

Coming to get you!


- Solomon is actually 15 1/2 now and with that, old enough to get his learner's permit and is learning to drive. Oh boy, that sure cropped up out of nowhere! I know for a fact he was a toddler on his tricycle just a couple of years ago! Now, by the time I will be done teaching him, I will need to start on the next child down the line, and on and on for at least the next 18 years.


Since we only have one vehicle, he is learning to drive in the big van, which means two things: 1. he will never drive it alone (he'll have to buy his own car for that), and 2. he'll do really well navigating a normal car after learning to drive in a tank. It's like pediatric surgeons who practice on mice to hone their skills - by comparison, a regular car will be a cake walk.


Teen driving statistics are dismal. I encourage any parent to read and learn all they can on the topic, and not to be afraid to not let their teen drive alone until they are much older than required by law before turning them loose on their own. One foolish decision could prove fatal or bring lifelong consequences.


- My family and friends spoiled me for my 38th birthday last month.

 Dinner with my handsome man


 A home spa set up by the girls

I returned the favor by taking them all for pedis for the first time on some birthday money from grandma.



Solomon went to IKEA with friends of the family and bought a whole bunch of things to redecorate my bedroom with, and spent hours more getting it all dialed in at home. He also installed the new headboard and fancy new bedding handmade from organic flax somewhere in the Mediterranean (gifts from friends). I can't even make this stuff up!



Lunch at a Brazilian steak house with a gift card we received for Christmas. We LOVE this place, but it's astronomical, so we have only been when someone treated us.






Boaz and Chloe are up next in early and mid May and with that, Birthday season is winding down in our home for four months except for Steven Sr. and Stephen Jr. in July. I guess that's not much of a winding down, ha!


Boaz is turning 3 next week, or as he says, "I'm turning into 3!" This is the first year he has a concept of being a twin, one of a set, and is starting to ask questions about where his brother is. Ugh. I am not ready for this. I am not sure how to best strike a balance between not keeping his twinship a secret (and possibly giving him the impression we have something to hide, or that he is somehow culpable in his brother's death), yet not making him feel like he is not 'complete' as a person on his own. One night last week, he asked me where his brother was, and then cried himself to sleep saying he was sad and missed 'Jake.' Oh, that broke my heart. :'( The following day, he twice declared that a man in our church, who is an identical twin but almost always comes to church by himself and not with his brother, is his twin. Boaz is the sweetest little boy with a heart of gold. He is a blessing and brings joy to us all every day. I know God has great plans for him.

 Lunching with superheroes


Chloe will be turning 1 year old on a trip my husband and I are taking to Maine in May. We are also bringing along Miriam for an extra set of hands, to hopefully give us time alone here and there as she occupies the baby. 

 Swim season is here




- We only have 4 weeks of homeschooling left for the school year, with the last two of those weeks being a half-load so the kids are likely to finish up early and strong.

 
 Becca is an absolute book worm. She cranks out her school work quickly, then finds a quiet nook somewhere and reads for hours.

 She is not going to let Lincoln get off the hook for the bloodshed of the Civil War.


We will take about two months of summer break, and start back sometime in August or possibly September. This will be Solomon's final year of high school, and he is only taking three credit hours to finish up a couple of requirements. He has been working every week for almost a year now. Isaac, who is going into 10th grade but taking a full course load, just started working on the side last month.

 
 Isaac - too cool for school

Isaac found this giant moth (?) in our yard. That's a pint and half jar he's holding.


The other kids will be in grades 8, 6, 4, 2, and K. My one room schoolhouse will reach critical mass at 7 students in as many grades! It seems like I just started with one pre-K student, and now he's ready to graduate and move into the working world. We have all heard 'the days are long but the years fly by' and it could not be more true.

 Boaz used tiles from the game "Scrabble Apple" to make a Macbook laptop!


This blog post has exceeded all recommendations about keeping posts short, sweet, and frequent - but at least you have a bit of an idea what we've been up to. :) Of course, I can't let you go without a few more pictures of my cuties!








Thank you for reading here in spite of my sporadic and jumbled updates and entirely too many pictures of my family.


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Christmas and New Year's 2016

I can't believe I am posting this in April. Blogging is one of my last hobbies, which means that at this stage of mothering, having a hobby is pretty much a thing of the past, at least while I have a bazillion kids living at home. 

So... four months late, I bring you our Christmas pictures. The older I get, and the bigger our family gets, the more I love Christmas. This year (well, technically last year), with the way Christmas fell on a weekend, we celebrated from Christmas Adam (Fri, Dec. 23) until Boxing Day (Mon, Dec. 26). 

I already blogged about our main gift to the kids, a cabin mini-vacation up north. My husband bought his own last minute gifts for each of the kids. They were all from the Lego store, and naturally popular with the kids.




For the last several years, we have made an effort to focus on gifts that create memories rather than clutter. Mostly, that means giving them things that are not toys.

Chloe being the youngest and needing a safe place to play on our all-tile floors got a jumparoo and a play yard, which she still enjoys.





The big girls got matching outfits for themselves and their dolls. They still play dolls together every day, often for hours, and these outfits were a huge hit with them.




My gift for my husband was a new fire pit for the backyard. Since Christmas, I have also completely re-landscaped the entire backyard and pool area, where we can now have relaxing and beautiful at-home dates after the kids are in bed. 

The big boys each got pie irons which they have been using again and again to cook up their own concoctions.  I also got them each a recipe book to go with them. Their favorite of these is this one. If you are looking for a fun, yet practical and educational gift, I highly recommend these!!





One of our favorite things to stuff in the pie irons is frozen puff pastry, filled with sweets like Nutella and banana, or savories like ham and cheese. The possibilities are endless!



John is an awesome big brother to all his younger siblings. Chloe is becoming rather spoiled.



Then there was the Christmas food - glorious holiday fare from all different countries in our combined past. 

I made German Rouladen and potato dumplings...


Pork Wellington (home-smoked pork loin baked in puff pastry)...




and a traditional American ham Christmas dinner. There's a lot that can be accomplished food-wise when you take four full days to celebrate!

Since New Year's Eve fell on a Saturday night, our church did not host a Watchnight Service this year. Our family tradition for years has been do to fondue on New Year's Eve, so we enjoyed a cheese one for dinner, and a chocolate one for dessert.








The kids wanted to stay up till midnight, but we parents are getting too old for that kind of stuff. They were all tucked into bed by their usual bedtime, and we parents were right behind them.





Christmas in April... but who's counting! I'm hoping to have the Easter post up sooner. ;)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

No spend April

Inspired by the book/blog "Living Well and Spending Less," I first participated in their 31-day "Living Well and Spending Zero" challenge in March 2014. It raised some eyebrows and concerns from those who thought we must have been on the brink of financial ruin to participate in such a challenge.

Quite the opposite was true. I found that we already had so much stuff in the house that we could not use or even keep track of it all, which caused us to go out and buy more rather than use what we already had. The one-month challenge worked wonders as a 'reboot', not to mention shaved a couple thousand dollars off that month's spending. In spite of Boaz' pregnancy at that time having racked up tens of thousands of dollars by the time I was 6 months pregnant, we were able to pay off every last medical bill by the time he was born. Cutting back on spending and using what we already had played a huge role in that. 

Besides saving a boatload of money, spending zero for a month also reduces clutter (by taking inventory of and using up what we have), stress (no running around, more time), and generally shakes things up for the better.

Since that first challenge, I have done this about once per year, usually in the spring. Well, it's time again! April is a short month, there are no birthdays in it, and our freezers are full to the gills and need a good depleting before summer and all its bounty of inexpensive produce need to be put away for leaner times. 



My ground rules will pretty much be the same as in the past: 

- No groceries except for fresh milk and dairy products, and minimal fresh produce. My goal is to use up what we have in the (four!stuffed!) freezers and the pantry. We have several month's worth of food in storage.

- Only essential goods (like TP, diapers, etc.) and services (doctor, mechanical breakdown, etc.) can be purchased.

- Things I will not be spending money on: entertainment, dates, dining out, field trips, books, toys, clothes, hobbies, gifts, household items, furniture, etc. Many of these same things can be enjoyed for free by using the library, gift cards we have, looking for free alternatives, etc.

- For gas, my goal is to drive less so I can make one tank last two weeks instead of one.

- I will attempt to pay for most of the permissible spending mentioned above by selling off stuff we no longer use and need. I don't have time to do a yard sale, but I do have a handful of larger items I will list on Craigslist and OfferUp. This will help declutter by turning unwanted stuff into cash.

- Obviously we will still be paying all of our regular bills like mortgage, utilities, etc.

- This challenge is for me, not my husband. I do about 90% of the spending for our family so that will cover most, plus I don't want to start policing his spending. 


If you have never done anything like this, I encourage you to give it a try. Your wallet and your sanity will thank you.

For tons of helpful resources, go to the Living Well Spending Zero resources page or go through them day by day starting with Day 1.