Sunday, June 27, 2010

Summer Fun that doesn’t cost a lot

Financially we are really struggling this year, however, I still want us to have FUN as a family.  Last month I heard about the National Wildlife Federation Great American Backyard Campout.  I knew it was unlikely that we would actually sleep outside in our backyard, but I decided to join the Facebook page and incorporate the ideas into something fun for my kids.

Yesterday was the big day!  It was also our oldest daughter’s 10th birthday.  She didn’t want to cook out for her birthday, so we had her favorite meal and cake in the house and then we took sleeping bags out on the deck and spent the evening gazing at the fire flies and the stars.  We also had a great game of Chubby Bunny.  If you have never played Chubby Bunny you don’t know what you are missing.  You start out with a bag of large marshmallows.  You line all the kids up and give them one marshmallow.  They have to put it in their mouth and without chewing say “chubby bunny”  Everyone who is successful moves to the next round and gets another marshmallow.  Maggie's birthday 10 029 You continue on like this with the kids saying “chubby bunny” each time they add another marshmallow to their mouth until you only have one person left.  This is definitely an outside game, it almost always ends with at least one kid spewing a mouth full of slobber and marshmallows all over the ground.Maggie's birthday 10 032

After Chubby Bunny we spent another hour star gazing, then the kids brought in their sleeping bags and had a campout on the living room floor.

The only added cost for this night of fun was the bag of marshmallows.  I think we have gotten into the mind set as a country that things are only FUN if we spend a lot of money on them.  This year, my family will not be spending money, but we will be having fun.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fitting It All In (a little at a time)

As the mom of (almost) eight, I often get questions like this: "How do you do it? I'm amazed at all you accomplish." or "How do you ever find time for yourself?" There's a huge perception that if you have a lot of kids, there must never be any down time. But really, while one of the most frustrating parts of having lots of kids is that there is always more to do than can be done, there is also time to rest, time to think, and time to develop talents and work on personal projects.

I've decided that there are two types of approaches to housework and projects. One is the tortoise approach, the "slow and steady wins the race" philosophy. This type of woman approaches her work a little at a time, at a steady pace. She'll do one load of laundry, folding it and putting it away each day. She cleans up after every meal, picks up the toys and books whenever they're out of place, and enjoys the peace of a clean and comfortable home. But while she does great with the day-to-day things, she avoids the big projects and panics when she's in charge of a big event.

(this is Tommy, by the way. He's our desert tortoise hatchling. Do you know they live to be a hundred years old? That means, assuming he survives life at our house, we may even have to make provision for this guy in our will.)

Then there's the rabbit philosophy, the "hurry up and finish so you can rest for a while" woman. She loves to tackle the huge projects. It's so thrilling to clean out the garage in one fell swoop. She loves to do a huge clothing sort or go through all the toys in one afternoon. She'll tackle organizing and scrapbooking her family's photos a year at a time and finish in the course of one week. Then she'll move on to the next project. Her laundry piles up and then gets done one day a week, in a big marathon folding session. But sometimes the day-to-day things get overwhelming. The mail ends up in a huge pile of papers that get ignored until the pile is overflowing and then tackled in a marathon "I'll-never-let-it-get-this-bad-again" session. The pantry gets stocked at the huge sales during the year, but she'll run out of milk or the needed ingredients for that night's dinner. There are always several areas of the house in perfect order, but several more in a great state of deterioration.
(this is a stock photo because no WAY am I crazy enough to have a pet rabbit!)

Most women will probably identify more closely with one or the other philosophy, but will find themselves using both in different areas in their lives.

In general, I'm a rabbit. I love to tackle the big things. I love big organization projects and the satisfaction of really making a huge difference as I create my yearly photo books or clean out the pantry or wipe down all the cabinets. But that approach also has its disadvantages. I'll work really hard to get the family office cleaned and organized just so but then I'll ignore it for months until I find myself facing the same mess again. My garage is very clean right now, but the storage area needs a major overhaul. And then there's the day-to-day stuff that I really should use a better slow-and-steady approach on. I'll get really organized with my menu and my plans for weekly shopping, but then let the daily follow-through slide until I'm facing the 5:00 hour and wondering, "What in the world do I cook?"

It's best as a mother and a homemaker to be both a tortoise and a rabbit, and I've been learning some great lessons from the tortoise the past few months. At the beginning of the year, I was feeling a bit discouraged by all the things I was not making progress on. I was emerging from the forced slow-down of morning sickness and feeling more energy, but also annoyed that the energy wasn't being put towards all the projects I'd been putting off: I’d outlined a series of essays I wanted to write back in September but hadn’t touched it in months; I’d gotten a new camera for my birthday in November and still didn’t know how to use it; It had been ages since I’d scrapbooked or designed anything, and so on.

As I prayed for guidance and tried to set goals for the year, it was obvious I needed to manage my time better. I was allowing my extra time to get swallowed up in whatever felt needed at the moment, using up all my rabbit energy for things that were urgent but not necessarily important. For instance, I felt like I was using up all the time with the twins were in kindergarten just doing housework. While my house was clean and my laundry folded every week, I felt like my personal projects were constantly being put aside.

As I analyzed what I was doing and could to better, I made two resolutions and some plans:

1. I would have my kitchen cleaned thoroughly, including floor swept, first thing in the morning before doing anything else. My goal was to have it done by 9:00 every day. Before, I'd putter around in the kitchen, get it mostly done, then go attack another area of the house, leaving dishes in the sink and crumbs on the floor to be tackled later.

2. I would no longer use the time while the twins were in school to fold laundry or do other mundane projects. Mornings are my best thinking and project time and I was wasting it by folding laundry and doing things that did not require much mental concentration. I know I'm disciplined enough that the laundry would still get folded, but I can always do something like that in the evening when I'm tired, when writing or creating would be impossible.

Next, I wrote down a list of everything I wished I was doing with my life, all the things I felt I didn’t have enough time for as well as my regular commitments. Then I wrote down how often I'd like to be doing them. For example, my mother’s group is a monthly event, while visiting the library, writing for my blog, writing my Sunday emails, and grocery shopping are weekly activities. Exercise should happen three or four times a week. By the time I was done writing, I had a huge list of things I wanted to fit into my life.

Next, I made a weekly schedule, determined what the most important things are, and gave them the best times. Monday mornings, I set aside an hour to write for my blog. Tuesday and Thursday mornings became my volunteering at the school time. Later Tuesday morning became our library day, and Tuesday afternoon, I decided I would bake something each week. Wednesday morning, I set aside another few hours to write. And Saturday afternoon, I decided I'd set aside an hour each week to do a photoshoot.

Did I fit it ALL in? No. Some of the things I had on my list just plain didn't fit into my schedule and I had to say, "someday." But I've learned a lot over the last few months of trying to be a tortoise, and I have been so excited by how much I HAVE fit in. I’m learning my camera and improving my photography so quickly, using just a few hours each week. Doing something creative has brought me joy, and I love having something that I can finish each week that doesn't have to be done again (unlike, say, the dishes, the laundry, the vacuuming, the cleaning, etc.)

I've been more consistent on posting on my blog, though I still have dozens of half-written posts I haven't gotten to yet. I'm making progress on my essays, little by little. Until I got too huge with pregnancy, I woke up before scriptures three days a week to exercise and felt so energized because of it. It was also a treat that Joey decided to wake up with me. I enjoyed spending time with him.

As I approach the end of this pregnancy (six and a half weeks to go now!), I'm having to re-evaluate and slow down. I've stopped going to the school so I can have a few more hours at home, I'm resting more in the afternoons, and I'm no longer waking up early to exercise. I have fit in more walking, more outside time with the kids, and a few fun outings, but I'm writing less and I've had to return a few photography books back to the library without finishing them (it feels like the ultimate insult to leave a great book unfinished!).

Once the baby's born and summer's here, I'll have to change the schedule and evaluate again what I have time for and how to fit it all in, and I'm sure I'll tackle that challenge like the rabbit I am, in one fell swoop, giving it lots of thought and energy and plans. But to implement it, I'll have to be more like a tortoise, and that's okay too. I'm learning to make room for that little guy in my life.

Are you more like a tortoise or a hare in how you tackle the workload in your life? What have you done to fit in the most important things in your life? How do you manage those months when you have to slow down?

(also posted on my blog, Hands Full & Loving It (Mostly)

Monday, January 11, 2010

You Know You Have a Large Family When . . .

* People ask you if you have two sets of twins. Or about your triplets. You don't have either.

* You get in line for a tour at a museum and they give you your own tour guide.

* You hear "You've got your hands full" at least three times every time you're out in public with your children.

* You start reading a story to one child and end up reading stories to three or four.

* You buy a family pass at a museum but have to pay extra to add all of your children.

* You DO have two sets of twins. And/or triplets.

* You don't fit into a normal minivan.

* You read the fine print on the "Kids Eat Free" offers.

* Everyone you know has less children than you do.

* You go to the grocery store and buy 36 bags of cereal at a time.

* Four pounds of bananas only lasts a day

* You make four dozen cookies and they're all gone the next day.

Anyone got some to add?

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Let the Ball Drop!

*** Cross-posted at all the Lotsofkids blogs. ***

It's New Year's Eve (at least in this part of the world). 2009 is almost gone and 2010 is standing before us. It was a difficult year for many people. Financial hardships and insecurity made the year a struggle for so many. That said, even though things were hard, the trials led so many back to focusing on what is important, such as family and friends, as well as simple living.

2009 was a difficult time for us over at Lotsofkids, as we had to focus our spare time on projects to help make money to pay the bills, including our server costs. Though things are not particularly better now, we are thankfully at a point where we can re-focus on the site and our blogs like we want to.

A big "thank you" to all of our followers here, as well as our wonderful Bloggers who have kept things going during this down time. We appreciate you all! We are looking forward to 2010 and hopes for better times. We are excited as the prospects and hopeful that in the coming weeks we'll be getting things back to normal with regular blog posts and new content.

In the meantime (and while there is still a couple days left in the "holiday" season), we leave you with a little visual/musical gift created by me and my husband. We hope you like it...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Now if they'd just invent a magic pill for the exhaustion . . .

It's been three and a half days since I felt it . . . the overpowering nausea that has been the bane of my existence for about seven weeks. I'd like to say it's because I've moved past that stage of pregnancy or that it's because I've discovered some new form of hypnosis that solved the problem, but it's not. For the first time ever, I'm taking Zofran, the anti-nausea miracle pill originally intended for cancer patients. So far, it appears to be working. I haven't had to stop several times during dinner to rush to the bathroom and gag, and it's been strange to change diapers and be around lots of smells without that overpowering sensation of nausea.

Last Friday was my first appointment for this pregnancy. The doctor, after exclaiming, "Oh, you're back!" asked me how I was feeling. I told her the truth: "Awful. I hate pregnancy." She looked surprised, "You? You can't hate pregnancy!"

I get that reaction a lot, and it seems like the more children I have, the more I hear, "Oh, you must have easy pregnancies." or "But you don't get sick, do you." And in some ways, I do have it easy. I've never been hospitalized for dehydration, I've never been anemic, I've never been on bedrest, and I've never delivered a pre-term infant.

But like most women, pregnancy for me is hardly a walk in the park. It's hard to battle morning-sickness at all hours of the day for months at a time. It's hard to put aside a lot of the extras in order to focus on just getting through a challenging time. It's hard to depend more on my husband to do things I'd rather be doing for our family, such as a larger share of the cooking. And that's just the first few months -- those last few aren't exactly my favorite, either.

Recently, MSNBC reported on a story about the growing number of "bumpaholics" -- women addicted to pregnancy. The Today show jumped on the trend with a mostly-fluffy and offensive discussion of the subject -- "What would drive women to do something like this?" they asked. The reason psychologists were called in to explain the trend? "More than a quarter of [births in 2007] were to women having their third or fourth child" -- shocking, I know. Practically unbelievable. There must be something wrong with women like that, right?

There is, according to the article. It's called being a "Bumpaholic," and it's an addiction, at least according to the "professionals" they interviewed -- "Having babies isn't addictive in the way that alcohol and narcotics can be. But bumpaholics feel compelled to procreate for many of the same reasons that substance abusers turn to booze or drugs." Women do it, they say, to fill some void in their life or to compensate for a bad childhood. "Women who are obsessed with being pregnant are literally filling an emptiness inside of them, just as alcoholics and drug addicts use substances to fill a psychological void" says one expert, ironically practicing in Beverly Hills, where I'm sure she sees many women who have large families. These women supposedly crave the wonderful, euphoric feeling they get when they are pregnant. And let's not forget all that positive attention from strangers! "The belly-rubbing high hits the pregnant woman as well as the people who surround her. The expectant mother gets an oxytocin blast and rubs her belly as a way of bonding."

Not to worry, the article notes, most couples stop at one or two children. "This is because we can use our higher brain functions to keep those instincts in check, reminding ourselves that children cost money — about $950 a month until they're 18 — and require an extraordinary amount of time and energy."

Reading an article like this, besides making me rather angry, makes me wonder, "Have any of the psuedo-professionals they quote ever BEEN pregnant?" Because there is no way, short of amnesia, that someone would do this just to get a psychological "high." There are plenty of much easier ways to seek attention.

But according to these "experts," I must have some sort of psycological addiction to pregnancy. So I did a quick inventory of all the ways my body and life has changed over the last few months, hoping to figure out which one might be filling up the emptiness inside me:

* My hair has become lifeless and brittle and is coming out by the handful.
* I've been throwing up three or four times a week this month.
* I've spent many hours on the couch, willing myself not to throw up.
* I wake at odd times of the night and have weird, obnoxious dreams.
* I'm exhausted all the time.
* I was finally losing the extra weight from some of those previous baby bumps -- I lost 12 lbs this summer -- but I've had to put that on hold.
* I know that having more children puts off some of my own educational goals.
* With the twins in kindergarten, I finally felt like I was catching up on many long-awaited projects, but once the morning sickness took hold, I'm back to being hopelessly behind.
* I've had to cut back on a writing project I loved.
* My house, while still acceptable, is not kept as clean as it was a few months ago.
* I've dealt with some negative comments and criticism.

Pregnancy is hard. And being pregnant when you already have a couple of kids (or more) is even harder. The chances for much-needed rest get slimmer, and the demands on the mother are much greater. And as for craving attention, some of these professionals should go out in public with a mother and her five or six "addictions" and see for themselves how many positive comments come her way.

The fact is,being a mother of a large family is largely a thankless task. Your children don't thank you because, well, they're children and they don't really understand the sacrifices entailed in bringing them up. Your husband doesn't usually thank you because he's too busy pulling his own full weight and more. The world doesn't thank you because sadly, raising good children just isn't valued anymore -- go out and make a lot of money, and you're praised to the skies. But stay home and raise thoughtful, compassionate children? There must be something wrong with you. News reporters and psychologists make up fake disorders to describe what fifty years ago would have been considered normal. Perfect strangers question your sanity, ask you about your birth control choices, and make unkind judgments.

So why DO I do this?

First, why is any explanation necessary or demanded? What happened to people having children because they like them and feel like it's a good thing to do? I love what Meagan Francis has to say about it -- "it's become suspicious even to admit that we like kids, much less that we could be reasonably happy raising them. If someone volunteers for a nonprofit or has a large circle of friends, no armchair psychologist would bother to question whether she was trying to "fill a void" with meaningful activity or companionship. It would instead be accepted that creating relationships with other human beings is a normal, natural and human desire. When did it become weird to like children, to want them . . . even more than two?" And I love this article by Rabbi Shmuley, father of nine, who says to his critics, "“As soon as I find something I enjoy as much as my kids I will have a lot of that as well.”

I do enjoy children and I believe that they are gifts from God. Each one is precious and unique, and I feel that I can do no greater work than to raise happy, smart, kind, and compassionate children. It is worth every sacrifice and every inconvenience and yes, even every stare and thinly-veiled attack in the media. It may be a cliche, worthy of a song or two ("I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way . . ."), but I believe that what the world needs now more than ever are good people. And how do people get to be good? By and large, by learning values in a caring environment in their homes.

I'm sure I can (and eventually I probably will) write a much longer, more detailed explanation about why I have a large family, but for now, I state it simply: I believe that children are a gift from God. I enjoy raising them, and I feel I am doing an important work. I believe that children raised in good homes have the power to change the world for the better. I believe that sacrificing on behalf of the next generation is one of the ways we become refined and better human beings. Our own rough, selfish, hedonistic tendencies are worn away as we serve and love our children.

Call me old-fashioned, if you will, but don't ever call me a bumpaholic.

(Cross-posted from my blog, Hands Full & Loving It)

Saturday, September 26, 2009


So, by now some of you know I'm expecting, this time my eighth child. Reactions to the news have mostly been positive, but there have been a few negative comments and some raised eyebrows. Perhaps I'm just ultra-sensitive, ready to pick up on the least hint of negativity, or perhaps I'm just pregnant and emotional, but I've felt the hurt of it -- the feeling that others are rejecting this baby or judging me.

I've announced my pregnancy to some friends, expecting them to share my excitement and gotten instead shrugged shoulders and a change of subject. I guess I can understand it a bit; after all, I've done this before, so perhaps they think that for me, it's just become routine, like announcing we're buying a new car or going on a vacation, nothing too new or different or exciting.

But to me, this is something to be celebrated. It's exciting and wonderful and miraculous. This child is unique and special, and this is his chance to experience earth life. I believe, as it says in Job, that we were there at the foundations of the world, "when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy" (Job 38:7) This child I am welcoming was among them, and I don't think he feels short-changed in any way because his mother has given birth before. This is his time, his place, his chance, his miracle.

Sometimes I feel very lonely, especially for a mentor, for someone who has been there and understands what I'm experiencing. We have more kids than anyone I know personally (at least that's still raising them). I wish I knew lots of moms who had more children, so I could ask them my questions, pour out my heart, and learn from their experiences. Actually, I'd be happy to know just one or two! The internet, with its wonderful, connecting power, helps some, as I've made some friends through blogs and other forums.

But there's something so nourishing about an in-person friendship. A phone call, a walk, sitting together at a park or in a living room and really understanding one another. I do understand that I have a lot to learn from women whose experiences are different from my own, but it often seems that I am left on the outside of friendships with those who have fewer children, even when we're the same age. We don't get invited to dinner or to join in activities or babysitting groups. Again, I get it; seven kids is a lot to invite over, and surely, that mom with seven is far enough along in life that she's plenty busy and doesn't need your friendship. We tend to congregate around those who are at the same stage of life as we are in. Most of the moms who live around me have two or three children, so it's natural they tend to band together and enjoy each other.

But where does that leave me? There are not an abundance of large families nearby for me to band together with! In fact, a recent article reported that just .5 percent, or one mother in two hundred, will have more than seven children in her lifetime. No wonder I'm beginning to feel as if I'm the only person in the world with more than six kids! I understand a lot of the reasons there aren't more large families, from the pressure to fit into the world's standards of acceptable to the very real financial, emotional, and health concerns to the pain of infertility. The fact is, even if a couple wanted to have a lot of children and eschewed birth control, many would never have eight children. A hundred years ago, there were a lot of large families of eight, ten, and even twelve or more children, yes, but there were also families of one, two, or none.

I'm really not complaining (Okay, maybe I am, a little). And I should point out that I have been blessed with good friendships. One of my best friends has six children and is the one I call or walk with when life gets just a bit too tough. Another of my best friends lives in New York, and thanks to email, our friendship has survived eleven years, through several moves, her life in Sweden and Israel, and soon-to-be thirteen births between us. Some of my other friends send me quick notes in response to my weekly emails or lift me in other ways. I am so grateful for the good people around me.

But sometimes, I feel lonely.

(also posted on my blog, Hands Full and Loving It)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Enter to win a LOK Friendly bike!!!

Madsen Cycles Cargo Bikes

Madsen is giving away a bike every Wednesday on their site. There are several ways to enter. I was really impressed when I took a look at the specs on this bike. The above picture shows 2 kids riding in the bucket, but each seat actually has two seat belts, so a total of 4 kids could safely ride!!!

Click on the bike picture to enter. Also if anyone has ever seen one of these bikes in action, I would LOVE to hear about it!!!