Friday, May 27, 2016

Photo bomb!

A blog post with Chloe's birth story is still in the works. In the meantime, here are some (okay, a lot of) cute pictures of her and the other kids.

She was enjoying the mild evening breeze and listening to the birds chirping while everyone else was off at church. 

In her cute little skirt from Grandma (actually, everything else in the picture was also from Grandma).

Chloe loves the hanging cradle, which was a relief after how much time and effort went into it. She will nap quite long in it if her older siblings don't yell her awake, to the point where I wake her after a couple of hours to make sure she eats enough.  

So, yes, I put my babies on their bellies or sides to nap, so they actually stay asleep. I always have, with all nine kids, though I would NOT do so on a conventional mattress, as I am of the opinion that many SIDS cases are caused by the off-gassing of toxic flame retardants and other chemicals in the materials. Just throwing that out there for the haters.

At night, she sleeps by my side in bed. And look at that little stinker, cozily snoozing with both her hands up by her face. This is exactly how she was born.

Some pics with biggest brother. This young man will be 15 in the fall. With school done for the summer (he just finished his sophomore year of High School!), he has been spending much time this last week looking for a job. There are many places in Arizona that start hiring at 14, and he is one eager beaver to start earning "real" money, so he can save up for a car and start driving in less than a year. Insanity! He was just a wee newborn himself a few years ago. He had summer jobs the last couple of summers, but is now looking for something that he can keep doing even when school resumes, since he can ride the bus to places that are within reasonable distance. Lots of exciting but nerve-wrecking changes ahead! Having kids of all ages is not for the faint of heart. I feel like I have been strapped to the rack, and am slowly being stre-e-e-e-tched well beyond my comfort zone.

The following pictures were all taken by Miriam. I think she did a fabulous job, don't you? She said she wants to make a scrapbook for each of the younger kids, something she noticed I haven't had time for since I made a baby album for her.

Boaz, the little heartthrob. He's as lovable as he is mischievous. 

 Miriam and I spent an afternoon making headbands with interchangeable hair bows for Chloe.

Up next: birth story. Have a wonderful holiday weekend with your loves!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

SHE is here!

Little Chloe Pearl Anderson was born yesterday, Wednesday May 18th, at 9:48 a.m. weighing 6 lbs 15 oz and measuring 19 inches.

As you can see, little Chloe is perfect in every way!! :) She has a full head of beautiful, silky brown hair, more than any of our other babies have had. She nurses like a champ, and is very alert and content when she is not peacefully snoozing. It seems like she has always been part of our family, and not like she was born just yesterday.

We are all smitten with her, of course. Such a precious surprise after we were all rather sure we were having another little boy. So much so, that we had literally zero baby girl clothes on hand, as we had given them all away after two boys in a row. Grandma and the girls had fun going shopping for their sweet little sister. 

 Oldest proudly loving on youngest - makes my heart skip a beat! 


 Becca - I'm glad she likes having her pictures taken again


Boaz is beyond thrilled with Chloe. We have never had issues with siblings being jealous of a new baby, but 
he takes it to a whole new level. He sings songs to her, and about her, admires her tiny fingers and toes, strokes her hair, and is just completely in awe of her. The only time he got mad was when he woke from his nap, and found Anna sitting on the sofa with me, holding "his" baby, and wailed "I want to hold it! I want to hold it!"

Thank you for your prayers for a safe delivery. The labor was pretty easy until the very end, which was challenging because Chloe was born with BOTH her hands up by her face. (More on that in a separate blog post with the detailed birth story.) We are joking she was trying to plug her ears, knowing she had eight older, loud siblings. In fact, if you look carefully, you can see that this is how she still sleeps.

Lots more pictures and birth story coming soon! :)

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Baby's Little Nest

Can you tell that with the school year finished, I have more time to blog? :) I have been having fun preparing for baby in my extra time.

We needed to get a new bassinet, but I wanted to just use a Moses basket this time around because it is much smaller, more portable (since baby might need to nap in different rooms on different days), and non-toxic. I absolutely detest that virtually all baby products in the US come doused in flame retardants, which are known carcinogens, and are what I believe the biggest culprit behind SIDS. Whenever possible, I try to avoid them. 

Amazon carries a really nice Moses basket. They also sell an organic mattress pad for it, but that may or may not mean it has been treated with funky chemicals, not to mention it looks thin and stiff because it is covered in plastic. The bumper pad I found was nice, but too pricey.

Instead, I opted to buy barrier cloth and wool to make a mattress, and flannel and sateen tape to make the bumper. I already had wool batting in the house for the bumper, so my total cost was far less than getting these items ready-made, plus I had fun making them.

Thinking about getting a Moses basket reminded me that back in Germany when my brother was little (he is 16 years younger than me), my mother used a special hanging cradle for him, which he loved. This contraption basically consists of a soft spring attached to the ceiling that moves very gently up and down and side to side if the baby stirs at all, with a net hanging from the spring that holds the Moses basket (or a pram top or car seat - recommendations in the Old Country are not subject to the same safety concerns as here). Sadly, does not ship this item to the US, but I was able to get it from a different online vendor in Germany. I was getting nervous that it would not arrive in time, but it did get here in less than 3 weeks total.

This beautiful hanging cradle now adorns my room, though we do also have hooks in the ceiling in two other rooms of the house should it need to be moved for a nap. The motion of this cradle is almost magical. I like to bump it when I lie in bed just to admire it. It swings/rocks about 70 times per minute, mimicking mom's heartbeat and motions. I can see why babies would love it! 

For now, Boaz gave it a little test drive, and certainly enjoyed that.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my mother-in-law had given my bedroom a fresh coat of paint on her last visit here, and had also decorated the room with some new pictures and other items. She did not hang any pictures on the walls above the bed, because she knew they were likely to get knocked down by little people sleeping in my bed.

One morning this week, I woke up and thought, "I should stencil something onto this wall!" and did just that. It took me all afternoon until almost midnight, but I got it done in one sitting. There really was no other option as I was using a projector, and there would have been no way to get it to line up exactly a second time if I took it down in between working on the project.

This is not the room I plan to give birth in, but these verses always make me think about pregnancy, birth, and child rearing. 

 A look around the rest of the room. It is the smallest bedroom in the house, but I really like how it turned out. This will be my little quiet retreat during the postpartum recovery.

The girls were all impressed with my art work, but one of their big brothers quickly gave me a reality check when I overheard him telling his sisters, "It's not like mom is some great artist or anything, she just used a projector to throw it on the wall, and then drew it on." Oh-kay! I agree it's not the Sistine Chapel, but it was tedious work, and took a lot of time.

In addition to the bassinet, I also wanted to make a quilt for baby. The fabrics I had on hand had actually been picked out for a blanket for Boaz, but I never did get around to making him one, so I was going to use it this time around instead. However, once the quilt top was assembled, I realized it was far too big for a little baby, and would indeed be better suited for Boaz, who is now in his own toddler bed (and mighty proud of it). 

Miriam really has an eye for making things look pretty. She not only put the quilt on his bed, but then went on to decorate his little "den" by matching the safari theme of the blanket with a stuffed elephant, a book about a giraffe, and a tissue box of the same color. Then she snuggled up with Boaz in his bed and read stories to him. :)

Miriam and Becca have been wanting to learn quilting, which I thought they are just a tad too young for, so instead I picked up some pre-printed/quilted flannel top for them that they could use to practice just the layering, quilting, and binding part on, without having to actually do any piecing. Once they are done, those little quilts will be plenty warm for the baby - not like we really need much in the way of blankets in this summer heat.

Yesterday, my husband and I finally also settled on a girl name, after already having chosen a boy name some time ago. This is pretty unusual for us to do ahead of the birth, especially because both names were picked by me this time. Don't ask what they are, though - we won't tell until after baby is born and named. Announcing baby names ahead of time is a rookie mistake that seems to invite others' unsolicited opinions. ;) Both are New Testament names, so you can have fun guessing if you like.

And with that, we are all set for baby here, and are just waiting for his/her arrival any day now. :)

Friday, May 13, 2016

Freezer meals for after baby

In a recent blog post on the topic of preparing for a new baby, I mentioned how important it is for me to have our freezers stashed with lots of meals for the first month after the birth. This typically ends up lasting us closer to 6 weeks with meals thrown in here and there by visitors, my husband, and the kids, which seems to be the ideal time frame for me. 

Today's blog post is about sharing the meals I have made in case you need ideas for food that freezes well, does not take up too much space, is easy to reheat and serve, and that is both nourishing to a new mom as well as appealing to a variety of ages and taste buds. 

In our family, I cook enough food every night to serve the leftovers for lunch the next day. So every dinner below is sufficient to also feed us lunch the next day. All meals are designed to feed 12 people. That means that "1 serving" of breakfast is equal to 12 individual serving sizes, whereas "1 serving" of dinner is equal to 24 individual serving sizes.

 Please click on the images to enlarge and see the list of actual foods.

Seeing as I have managed to precook a total of 30 breakfasts and 27 dinners, that comes out to over 1,000 individual servings! Large family math is always a little nauseating and overwhelming, especially when crunching the $ amounts of said food! I would have loved to freeze a few more dinners, but the space is simply not there. :) Not only will I not have to cook for a while, but I also won't have to go to the grocery store. This in turn will free up room in the budget for unexpected expenses such as the tongue tie correction we dealt with last time around (and all that came with it - lactation consultation, breast pump and scale rental, etc.).

In addition to breakfasts and dinners/lunches, I also like to have some other convenience items on hand, as well as make a list of easy meals that can be thrown together in a pinch.
Last but not least, it is important to have the right foods on hand for labor, for mom as well as for the birth team and the rest of the family. Because - shocking but true - kids still expect to eat even when mom is in the middle of pushing! Ha! 

The above sheets were made using Google Drive. The nice thing about it is that I can access the file from anywhere, including my phone, in case I have ideas or need to make updates while not near the computer. I like to include as much detail and directions as possible, so my husband or the kids can take care of the final prep if necessary.

In order to fit this much food, I have been converting many of the bulk items we keep in the freezers into ready meals. We have a total of 4 freezers: one side-by-side fridge/freezer and one freezer on top/fridge on the bottom combo in the kitchen, as well as one chest deep freezer and one stand-up deep freezer in the school room. This is not only great when preparing for baby, but it also allows us to stock up when certain items go on sale seasonally. I typically will buy an entire year's worth of sale items, allowing us to keep grocery costs as low as possible year-round. If you do not currently have enough freezer space to allow you to shop or cook in bulk, but have room in your house to fit another fridge/freezer, I would encourage you to start looking on Craigslist and Freecycle. Two of our fridges/freezers were given to us for free, and two of them were bought for about $100 each on Craigslist.  People are always moving, and giving away their appliances for free, or for pennies on the dollar.

Now imagine this x4!

While I do not usually use plastic or aluminum anything in my kitchen, I do find these conveniences invaluable when preparing for a baby. For most frozen foods, I use disposable steam pans bought in bulk at Sam's Club or Costco. Once the food is frozen, they can be tightly covered with aluminum foil without leaving any room for air, which is best for preventing freezer burn (air is the enemy!). They also stack wonderfully with virtually no wasted dead space. Since most meals will be reheated in the oven, the foil on top is necessary anyway to get the food hot without drying it, so it saves that step. 

For soups, I have found that disposable plastic deli-style quart containers work best. Even though they don't stack perfectly, they can be stored really nicely in the freezer doors, and unlike glass mason jars, they never burst.

Any other odds and ends can be frozen in quart and gallon size freezer bags, which can be stacked flat, or rolled up and stuffed into empty spaces here and there.

Of course, any food in the freezer should be labeled clearly. This is best done before freezing, because once it's frozen, the condensation on the packaging makes it much harder to write on. 

That about sums it up. If you have any other tips or ideas, please share them below.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Mother's Day

Mother's Day was precious, of course. The kids were excited to make me gifts, but I didn't care about "being spoiled" - I am just thankful to be the mother of them all. They are all the gifts I ever need! My husband, too, spoils me year-round, and then also took me out for not one, but two lunch dates on Saturday and Sunday. 

Guys, the best way to show your wife you love her and affirm her as a competent wife and mother is to make her a mother again and again! It's also a great way to secure your wife's enduring love. :)

I am not one to enjoy breakfast (or any meal for that matter) in bed. In fact, I can't stand to stay in bed once I wake up. The kids all know this, so they just quietly stayed in bed while I puttered around the kitchen making breakfast - overnight sourdough waffles with whipped cream and strawberry sauce. 

How's that for a double-barrelled shotgun?? These cast-iron beauties are actually antiques, as the company that used to make them went out of business many decades ago. Besides not needing non-stick coating, these cannot be beat for churning out the most flavorful waffles that are crisp on the outside, yet soft and chewy on the inside. I am always looking to find these waffle irons used, as I am determined to send each of my children into marriage owning one of them. :)


There are many things that never used to bother me when we had fewer children. One of these is being asked: "What's for breakfast/lunch/dinner?" It is a perfectly normal and understandable question - until I am asked it in excess of two dozen times each day. At this point, I just can't bear to be asked that question ever again. It's not because I don't have a plan for every meal of the day (that would be impossible with how many mouths I am feeding), I just feel like my lips and brain get fuzzy saying the same thing again and again. Just being realistic here! So, in an attempt to get the kids to stop asking, my pat answer has become "Food!" It worked, sort of, except now they slink around the kitchen trying to figure out what I am making instead of asking. 

Well, John came up with this cute laminated menu plan to keep on the fridge. I write the meals on with a wet erase marker (lunch and dinner today, breakfast tomorrow), and we all live happily ever after.

Solomon and Isaac surprised me with a very unique and cool gift. They had found an abandoned wild bee hive at the peach orchard two days before Mother's Day, and decided to turn the beeswax from it into hand lotion. They melted and strained the wax, added other ingredients based on a recipe they were using, and then scented it with my vanilla essential oil. It turned out really nice!!


Solomon also made me a paper-quilled card.


 Anna liked what he did so much, she used some of the materials to make me one, too. :)


I know I am biased, but these eight kids are the best in the world. I cannot believe I have been blessed with them all!

 Please excuse the post-meal mess. They are still super cute even when their faces and clothes are dirty.