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What I’m Thankful For…

The kids and I are keeping journals for the next three weeks.  Each day we are recording what we are thankful for.  Here are a few of mine.

Kids' playdoh creations.

Patrick made lemon meringue pie. It was actually pretty cute.

Foster cousin's birthday parties! It is pleasure and an honor to be a part of baby girl's life. She's absolutely precious!

Grandmas helping sweet baby boys sign foster cousin's birthday book.

Sweet baby boys sleeping in foster cousin's beds.

The glass of caffeine (also known as hot tea) that gets me through each morning. I never was a coffee drinker.

Sneaky dogs. The back door is open and she's not supposed to be in the house. She amuses me nonetheless. Note that by this point she's past the rug and sneaking under Patrick's chair.

Beautiful fall-like weather and really cool tire swings that daddies build.

speech therapy for precious kids that need it,

children that may not agree with the discipline being given to them, but obey nonetheless,

a sister-in-law that is also my best friend.  Tammy, I love that we still talk almost every day after 11 years of friendship!

a Heavenly Father that knows the end of my story.  I’m thankful I don’t have to see where I’m going or how I’m going to get there.  I have the suspicion that I might skip the most important parts of the journey.  Life is hard!

a home that is way too big for us (did you ever think that a mom with 7 kids would say that?).

I just had to add one more: little boys that play with gusto! That is marker on his forehead, pen on his cheek and forehead, and dirt on his chin from the acorns he tried to eat before his sister caught him. Love it!

What are you thankful for?

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Today is grocery day.  I’ve been putting it off.  I hate strongly dislike getting groceries.  It’s not the grocery shopping that I’m avoiding, it’s the list making.

For some reason, a blank list overwhelms me.

Today, however, the creative juices are flowing.  Daniel had a melt-down after being called in from playing outside.  As I sat in my favorite chair and rocked him, I picked up the ever-present pen and paper from the table beside my chair and got to work.

And a rough menu plan was born!  I worked through dinner first.  Because I’m a routine kind of girl, this is what I came up with.

Monday-Salad

Tuesday-Soup

Wednesday-Beans

Thursday-Salad

Friday-Pasta

Saturday-Rice

Sunday-leftovers

Then I worked out the choices under each category.

Salads are pretty standard: lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, raw sunflower seeds, and your salad dressing of choice.  I change up the protein:  fajita meat, lunch meat (I cut this up in little cubes) and boiled eggs, chicken strips (if I have some of the frozen ones in the freezer), or chicken breast cooked in zesty italian salad dressing.

Soups are either beef stew, gumbo, or chicken tortellini.

On Wednesday mornings, I put on a pot of pinto, black, navy, or great northern beans.  My method of preparation is pretty standard:  sort/rinse beans.  Dump in pot of water.  Bring to a boil for an hour.  Drain.  Rinse beans again.  Fill pot back up with water and beans.  Add 1/4 package of bacon ends and pieces, one medium or large onion (roughly cut, it will disintegrate during cooking anyway), salt, pepper, and garlic.  Bring to a boil.  Then, I simmer for 4-6 hours, stirring occasionally.  Bean dishes are either beans and cornbread pancakes, nachos, bean “burritos”, and, if I forget to put on a pot of beans, beenie weenies.

Pasta dish choices are pasta salad with chicken (I’ve been known to cut up the Oscar Mayor beef weenies instead if that’s all I have), spaghetti, or goulash.  I’m dairy free when I’m nursing a baby, so lasagna is out.  Bummer.

And, last but certainly not least, rice dishes are chicken and rice, gumbo and rice, or smothered pork chops and rice.  My Cajun roots are definitely coming out here.

The purpose of the choices is because I like to have a choice when I’m ready to cook.  For example, I check out the menu in the morning and decide which pasta dish I’m in the mood for.

Breakfast is pretty standard:  Monday/scrambled eggs and a tortilla, Tuesday/toast and fruit, Wednesday-cereal, Thursday-bean and cheese tacos (remember the pot of beans I made the day before?), Friday-oatmeal, Saturday-yogurt and half of a bagel, and Sunday-cereal.

Lunch is sandwiches.  The last thing I want to have to do is think at lunch time…..

I came to the computer and typed it all up to put on the fridge.

Little man slept through it all.

The baby is awake now, so creation of the actual grocery list will have to wait until later.

Preparing for the Week

In my quest to be authentic and real, I suppose I should share with you that I sat down this afternoon to plan for next week.   I surfed online for printable yearly calendars, printed one out, and figured out how many lessons in math each of the kids have to do each week to get us “caught up” to the point where I’d like each of them to be.  As I was shuffling papers around, trying to organize my thoughts and figure out what else I need to do before tomorrow, I realized that I don’t need to be doing this at all.  Next week is our week off of school! Yay!

After a weekend that included this

Dessert at the Tower of the Americas

Smiling at Grandma

this,

Incredible Pizza Co.

Videogames!

and this,

A birthday party with our friends, the Ryans.

Stomp Rockets!

I tried to get a picture of the rocket when the kids jumped on the bottle, but I never did get a good pic.

Rescuing a stomp rocket.

Not understanding that he needed baking soda AND vinegar in his film canister in order to make the top pop off, Daniel filled his with baking soda and shook it. I don't think the result was quite what he expected.

Later, the little kids figured out that they could fill their canisters with soda, shake them, and the tops would fly off. Fun party!

my scatter-brained-itude-iness is forgivable, right?

One of the comments I hear most often is “How can you home school so many children?”  Several times in the last couple of months I’ve been asked, “How DO you home school your kids?”  And, if the question comes from a new-to-homeschooling parent, it inevitably leads to, “Do you home school them all at the same time?  Where do you home school?  Do you have a schoolroom?  What curricula do you use?  What about standardized testing?  How do you know that your kids are learning what they need to know?  What about adult time?  Don’t you go crazy when you’re with your kids 24-7?”  And so on.  As the barrage of questions continues, I warm to the subject…

Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to let you guys peek in at how homeschooling works in our home.  I’ll try to give you as honest a look as I can.  If I actually catch a little me-time, I may even address the different types of curricula and the pros and cons of each one.  Either way, I hope you leave blessed for having peeked in at us.

First things first:  little man is 5 months old.  I’m amazed at how healthy and happy he is.  Raising babies never gets old.  Yes, you get tired.  But you got tired with the first baby, too, didn’t you?  Here’s a pic of our 7th baby, Aaron Nathaniel.  He’s in the arms of my right-hand helper, Brook Lynne.

Back to peeking in at our home school day.

I need to share some terminology with you so that you’ll understand my posts.  When I mention the “middle kids”, I’m referring to 10-year-old Patrick, 9-year-old Brook Lynne, and 7-year-old Allison.  The younger kids are 4-year-old Timothy and 2-year-old Daniel.  Obviously, Aaron is the baby.  And Bryan, our 17-year-old is the oldest.  Because he’s currently living with his uncle, he won’t factor into the home school equation this year.

Today, we read Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch.  It’s a sweet book.  I was pretty choked up by the end.  .

Almost anything goes during reading time, as long as everyone is quiet.

The baby usually lays and plays on the pink blanket on the floor (sorry we don’t have a more boyish comforter for you to play on, Aaron!).  Today, he was sleeping.  And that’s my current bible study book on the floor.  I tend to stack everything on that table beside the chair I’m sitting in.  We try to clear it off every day, but we don’t always get to it.  Today, my table is overflowing and the book fell to the floor.  I’m not going to stop and pick it up, though.  The kids are all listening intently.  I will not interrupt!

We’re going to read lots this year!  I started this week off by teaching the kids the parts of a book, how to find the author, illustrator, and publisher, and even showed them the dedication page.  We talked a little about the illustrations, especially noting that the cat appears in most of the illustrations in the book we read today.  We talked about how the illustrator carefully chooses their color palette and the symbolism of the different things in the picture.  I have no idea how we got off on this topic, but it came up, so we discussed it.  I didn’t even know I knew anything about illustrations!

After reading, all the kids and I moved to the dining room table to work on book reports.  We move the salt and pepper shakers, napkins, and silverware bucket down to the end of the table.

Timothy and Daniel are at the other end of the table, wreaking havoc.  I’ll get a picture of them next time.

Unless he is sleeping, Aaron is almost always on my hip during school time.  Somehow, he’s always fussy when I’m trying to “teach”.  It’s Murphy’s Law, right?

Below, Allison is telling me one of the “events” in the book.

This week, I’m content with our goals being learning to play quietly while Momma reads and talking about the books we’re reading.  I’m primarily looking for comprehension of what I read to them.  Our book report format will most likely vary.  Next week, I’ll assign both Patrick and Brook Lynne books that are more appropriate for their reading level.

After we finished up, the little boys came running down the hallway.  They are so creative.  I love it!

I wonder. Was it really a chance encounter?

Thirteen years ago, I decided to change my life.  I was 23, divorced, and a single momma. I worked 50 plus hours a week, trying to give my son what I thought was a good life. But I was struggling to belong.  Belong to what, you wonder? I don’t think I knew. I just knew that I was lonely. There was an emptiness in my life that I couldn’t define.

I woke up one morning with an idea. I thought it was original. My own. I decided to go to church.

I hadn’t been in several years. I dressed myself and my son in what I hoped was appropriate for church, and walked in the doors of church.

Two things stand out about my time at that particular church. One was how obedient Bryan was. He was 4 years old and could be trusted to sit in the front row BY HIMSELF during the first 20 minutes of Sunday morning service. I would pack a snack, crayons, paper, and a couple of books. Bryan would sit there munching on his cookies, not making a sound. When I finished singing with the choir, I joined him in the pews. The second memory I have is Pete. I’m sure lots of other people spoke to me that year. But, for some reason, I remember Pete.

Pete stood beside me during choir practice every Wednesday night during the year I attended church there. He was married and had 2 young children. Pete chit-chatted with me between songs. He treated me like a child of God, not like the fence-riding, soul-searching, sort-of-a-Christian girl that I was. And Pete loved his family. I remember that clearly.

A couple of years later, I ran into Pete and his wife again. By this time, I was married and was expecting my 4th child. I remember seeing Pete’s wife carry their new baby down the aisle at the church where my husband and I were members. That day, the church’s sanctuary was filled with AWANA Quiz-Bowlers from many different churches. I waved hi to Pete and his wife.

I saw them again, at the same event, the next year.

I ran into Pete and his growing family again. At my sister in law’s invitation, my husband and I took the kids to the Christmas program at her church. It turns out that Pete and his wife were members there.

I saw them there again the next year. They had quite a few children by this time. So did we.

For the last year and a half, my husband has passed Pete in the hallway numerous times at work. A contract my husband’s father’s company had, had him working at an army medical base. Apparently, Pete works there, too.

At the beginning of summer, Bryan, my oldest child, met a girl while volunteering. You got it! She’s Pete’s daughter.

Several days ago, I sent an email to a Yahoo group I’m a part of, letting people know that I wanted to sell my grain mill. A woman named Vicki replied. Guess what. She’s Pete’s wife.

It tickles me to think that God has been orchestrating this all along. As I ponder Vicki’s email, asking if I was the Darlene that Pete remembers from church all those years ago, I’m amazed at how much our families have in common now. And I’m touched when I think of Pete’s kindness to me.

God has filled that emptiness I felt long ago, with Himself. He has blessed me with a husband and children to love. And scores of His people have touched my life along the way. Some of them are Pete and his family.

After all these “encounters” I think it’s time for our families to get to know each other better. Hmmmmmm……. Does anyone know a good place for dinner that has tables for 17?

Love

Really?

Patrick was in the middle of picking up toys when he saw these glasses on the kitchen floor.  His laughter brought the rest of us into the room.  While I’m sure Aaron will hate these pictures some day, no baby has been more loved than this one.

Daily I am amazed at my family’s capacity to love.

When we first began our journey we were told that we should only have as many children as we could afford.  I’m here to tell you that we can afford to love them all.  And there’s still more love to share.

We were told that each successive baby would get less and less of Momma and Daddy’s attention.  After this baby sits on his Momma’s hip just as much as the other children ever did, his brothers and sisters argue over who gets to play with him next.  I seriously doubt he ever gets more than a minute or two to himself.

I have been told several times that having baby after baby would cause me to age more quickly.  It’s the children that are keeping me active, healthy and strong.

Our family doctor recently said, “You’re going to have to stop having children or you won’t be able to homeschool them all.”  I will not deny a life’s existence because it will require effort, flexibility and creativity to homeschool so many children.

When I am worn out and weary, I’ve often been told, “Children are hard.  You’ll just have to stick it out.”  My response now is, “Children are amazing!  I am honored to have been blessed with so many.”

I am richly blessed to see my 9 year old daughter carry her baby brother on her hip, singing a silly song to him while I cook dinner.

I am richly blessed to see my 10 year old son teach his 4 year old brother karate.

I am richly blessed to hear my 7 year old daughter reading to her 2 younger brothers before bedtime.

I am richly blessed when I hear that same daughter trying to teach my 4 year old son to spell.

I am richly blessed to hear my 2 year old son argue with me about which sibling he wants to sleep with, instead of in his own bed.

I am richly blessed when my 4 year old son tells me that his drooling baby brother is Baby Ironman.

I am richly blessed when I peek in the kids’ rooms late at night and see my precious children peacefully sleeping.

I am richly blessed when I lay my head down on my pillow, soundly sleeping husband on one side, precious baby on the other.

I truly am blessed.

The Zoo In July?!

Who does that?!  Apparently I do.

We went to the zoo today with an old friend that is moving away.

A Family Tradition-A pic on the lions at the entrance.

The kids hadn't seen each other in over a year. They warmed up immediately. And so did the temperature outside.

We realized what a blessed life we lead-Crystal and I have 12 children altogether.

Eleven of them were with us at the zoo today. The oldest child is 13. Everyone else is obviously younger.

God doesn't ask for or expect perfection from us. All He asks is for a willing spirit. Crystal and I have been blessed with so many precious souls to raise.

It's not often that God brings true friends your way. You know the kind of friends I'm talking about. The kind that just get you. They don't ask questions when you're telling a story because they just understand.

Before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye. Crystal and her family are moving to Connecticut at the end of the month.

 We’ll miss you, Olwert Family!