Oh my goodness what a great break!!  We took a vacation (literally) from the internet and our television.  I initially intended for the vacay to be 21 days.  BUT, then I loved it and decided I’d make it ’til December 1st.  Alas cabin fever set in and I caved after TWENTY THREE days.  But, with a twist.  I went ahead and installed a child guard software on the computer that only allows me a certain amount of time on the computer and only during very specific hours.  It’s one half hour in the AM (6:00-6:30) so that it falls after dressing/devotions and before the little ones are awake.  In the afternoon it’s an hour between 2:00 and 3:00 – so after phonics (little kids) and history/science with the big kids.   So far so good!

Although it took a LOT of work!  I had to transfer all my files into shared folders and set up separate windows accounts for each family member.  DH was sweet enough to password protect his account and promises not to tell me the password, lol.  Truth is, I have NO self control, so I have to build it in for myself.  And it’s working beautifully so far.

So, did I accomplish anything during those 23 days?  Sure did!  I switched out all of the summer/spring clothes for winter/fall and packed up the warm stuff.  Separated everything into Trash, Give Away, and Keep piles and got them packed back up, with the exception of the shoes.  I made the girls dresses and skirts for Unschool Day and we have really thrown ourselves into Tapestry of Grace and we’re loving it!

Unschool Day Picnic

Unschool Day Picnic

Pic1 Unschool Morning

I had time to make Abigail a new bag and an apron, complete with an EGG pocket for her birthday.

An apron like mama's!

An apron like mama's!

A mama from RGT made milk crate covers and they were so cute we made some as well!

Milk Crate Covers a la Hungry Catepillar style

Milk Crate Covers a la Hungry Catepillar style

I did INDEED learn to knit while we were on our break and I can now honestly say I can cast on, knit, purl, yarn over, bind off, and a couple other hand things.  With the help of online friends I discovered RAVELRY.com and I’m loving that!   Now, there are knitting sites and there are KNITTING sites.  This is the latter.  Oh my!  You can look up yarn reviews, patterns that are most popular, HUNDREDS of free patterns, you can sort through them, see the completed projects… It’s absolutely incredible.

My next project is LegWarmies.

LegWarmies - Photo from Ravelry.com

LegWarmies - Photo from Ravelry.com

I just know they’re perfect for us because the little girls will go through tights like crazy but Iowa in the winter is too cold for just socks.  I’m going to forego the stripes for the first pair and give it a shot on some pretty peony colored wool.  I’m using this pattern and I’m pretty excited to get started!   Ana suggested I size them for Sarah so that IF they’re too small they can be for baby Daniella and if they’re too big then Abigail can wear them.  Good idea!

So, it was a pretty fruitful three weeks.  We spent a few weekends at the timber and on the trail.  We gathered wild berries, wild elderberries, wild plums.  We harvested most of the garden.

Yes, it IS a turnip.

Yes, it IS a turnip.

And some taters

And some taters

Did a little baking…

Pic9 Making bread on the weekend

We’re preparing to hatch our last round of laying hens for the year.  I can’t emphasize enough how grateful I am that we got out of the house and enjoyed the bounty of the season.  It’s hard to truly appreciate how beautiful fall is unless you’re outdoors.  Here in Iowa  it is absolutely the BEST time of year.  It isn’t too hot, it’s not too cold, and there is a harvest to be seen all around you.

Gathering Picnic at the Timber

Gathering Picnic at the Timber

Our Bounty of Plums!

Our Bounty of Plums!

Trail5

Big Sister and Little Sister having a moment

Big Sister and Little Sister having a moment

And, naturally we had time to read a few good books.

Pic11 Reading more

Legend has grown this year into a big beautiful brute.   Tira, our beloved good mama, has had a new litter of baby bunnies.

Pic12 Leg and Abby

On the homeschooling front we’re also seeing our hard work come to fruition.  Little Rebecca has memorized almost all of her phonics… She’s in SUCH a big hurry to be able to read.  But her enthusiasm is lovely.  Elizabeth Grace is reading quite well now.  She memorizes with ease and we made her some flashcards yesterday, lol.  She was so excited.   She’s reading four and five letter words now with ease and some that are larger as long as they are phonetically correct.  We ordered new math books for her yesterday as she is a WORKBOOK lover.  Gasp!  Yes, I suppose every family has to have one.   Ana and Christian are enjoying TOG.  Although I’ll readily admit that Christian is the one who loves it most.  This surprised me VERY much as he was originally a hesitant book lover.  I’m thrilled!

Tapestry is working out just as I had hoped.  At this point I can safely say we WILL be using Tapestry next year as we enter our first year of high school.

And finally our most important update.  You all know we had our cerclage surgery in Iowa City.  The placenta had moved 100% out of the way and is not even considered low lying.  I’m now past 22 weeks…. A point we greatly feared we’d never even make it to.  God is good…  ALL the time.   Our Baby Girl is growing beautifully and is right on track.  We had a beautiful ultrasound of her last week and we are SO incredibly grateful for this little one.  I get comments like this must be old hat.  She’s our ninth baby, our eleventh pregnancy.  No, no it never is.  Each time is special, each time is unique.  Each pregnancy is a completely and totally different resulting in a completely unique and beautiful blessing especially meant for our family.  Old hat?  Um, no.

Sooooooooo… What’s next for the family?

Well, we have play-doh and some bread to make today.  Afterall it’s difficult to make the earth without play-doh.   It’s time to gather nuts and I’m wrangling for a trip to the timber again this weekend.  My great uncle went through and labeled various types of trees in the timber… It will make for an incredible leaf collection for the children.  They’ve learned to identify many trees but there are SO many we don’t know yet.  I’m dreadful… I can tell a maple from an oak, but the only tree I REALLY know is a shagbark hickory.  And that one is REALLY obvious.    We have a pioneer festival coming up in October that will be fun and exciting.  We go every year and drink real rootbeer, see blacksmithing and spinning, and enjoy talking to the soap lady.  They always have lefse and Ana enjoys the lady who does geneaology.  It inspired the trip to the Norwegian festival this year.    The boys are going on their annual camping trip to Wisconsin in the next few weeks. I’m only a tiny bit jealous, kwim?  Ana and I have a llama and alpaca festival planned for October as well.  We’re going to buy some natural yarn and try our hands at some simple dying…. tutorial here if you want to peek.  I’m terribly excited about this… And a little fearful that I’ll destroy some really beautiful Alpaca wool.  And, of course, we’re expecting the wee one to debut in December.

We’re also planning a move.  To where?  Oh sigh.  DH got transferred in his job.  The REALLY big decision is whether to have him drive there 2-3 days per week or to move there full time and he’ll work there 4 days a week with one day at home.  He’s been doing the drive for weeks now while all of this medical mess was up in the air.   But, we’re thinking we’d like to be moved by Spring.   We like this house well enough, but I’m not going to lie… If we could find a house with an acreage with a BIG barn or with a little pasture, we’d love it!  A four bedroom farm house with a horse barn and pasture came up last week, but it would only increase his drive at this point.

We’re still very much up in the air about this and it is on my prayer list…  Not to necessarily find the “perfect” house but to be where God wants me when He wants me there…  After all, that’s the best place to be, blossoming wherever God plants us.

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It’s a common enough theme.  I’ve been asked how we can afford it.  I’ve been told by others that they would have more, but children are too expensive.   It’s a common discussion on MOMYS, on Quiverfull, on any large family forum.  Bottom line, either people want to be assured it’s very affordable or that’s it’s completely unaffordable and therein they are not compelled to have another child.

Bah humbug.  The question never was, “Can you afford it?”  It never should be.

I’ve tried to address it in my various forums.  And, mostly because I’m lazy and I want to get onto the rest of my day, you’re just going to get a copy and pasted response.  Enjoy.

Okay, well, there’s never enough. Period. I know people who have their 2.1 children, who make $100+ K, and who don’t feel they make enough $$. I know another family that makes approximately $30K/year, they have four children, they have paid off all their debts (NOT that they never had them, but that they paid them all off!), and only owe about $30-$40K on their house. It’s new too, they built it about 5 years ago, and no, it’s not LAVISH, but it certainly is comfy and they love it, on an acreage to boot.

A lot of “comfort” depends on what area you’re in. You might make the big bucks on the east or west coast, but I’ll GUARANTEE you won’t be able to buy as much (housing, food, gas, etc.) as we can here in the Midwest. Here you can buy a NICE house in a NICE neighborhood for $125K. And a gorgeous house, newly built for less than $200K and you’d have a REAL yard, unless of course you’d like acres, and then you could do that too.

Having a large family is NOT affordable. I’ll say it again if you’d like. A lot of people want to know that it is easily affordable and you’ll be able to have all the toys and all the frills that a family would have if they only had one child. Well, you won’t. A long time ago, when I first started on Quiverfull digest, I latched onto this saying, “Children aren’t expensive, lifestyles are.” I think that’s an awesome saying and I think all young couples should latch onto it. Because by the time they find out it’s not true, lol, then they’ve figured out what’s really important.

Yeah, that’s right. It’s not true. Lifestyles are expensive. So are children. No, they really are. If you have seven children, I can almost guarantee at least 1-2 trips to the ER per year. Not to mention paying for a delivery every 18 months. It’s true. While little ones don’t eat much, let me tell you, by the time they start to hit pre-teen, teen years, you’re left thinking, “But I DOUBLED that recipe? Where’d it all go?” No matter what your lifestyle is like, six children eat for six children, not for one. That’s a fact.

Let’s go onto the “but” though – C’mon, you knew there would be one.
We won’t be paying for our childrens’ college. Evil aren’t we? But the Army paid back $64,000 in student loans of dh’s and then put him through over $35K in more school and we took on another $30+K in college loans while we were in. We found a way. And our parent’s didn’t pay for it. Let’s take our own children for example. When they’re little you have visions of doctors and lawyers dancing in their heads. But as you have a half dozen, you’ll see, hopefully, that they are VERY uniquely gifted. As a rule, U.S. couples have 1-2 children that they just KNOW are little geniuses and even if Little Junior doesn’t “apply” himself, they’re still willing to fork over $40K to send him to get the paper degree in Dances of the Northwest Cultures. As parents of a large family, we are in a unique position. We can see that some of our children are going to be very academic, some are very industrious, more than academic. I know in our culture we prize academia over every other thing, but it only leaves kids feeling short. Why would we do that? Is not a happy, hardworking child’s worth valued as much as a bitter, sour child who always fell short of their parents’ goals? Our oldest is VERY academic. She knows she is expected to get scholarships. She gets up in the AM and she is very devoted. She is going into the 8th grade is narrowing her focus already. We’ve geared her schooling towards her PSAT with the goal being a National Merit scholar. My goal isn’t to pay her way. It’s to EQUIP with her what she needs to succeed. That can’t be bought.
Our oldest son is not as  academically inclined as our daughter. But the child has a heart a mile wide and two miles deep. His love for his God and his country is pretty awesome in a 10 year old. He wants to serve. He has no academic goals, but of course our duty is STILL to equip him… both by building him up with strong character, his academic abilities still need to be strong, and he needs to be willing to serve.  Again, OUR job is to equip our children to use their unique GIFTS.  God wired them each in a different way.
Our third child only wants to act. It’s been that way since she was three. We really are at a loss what to do with it – It’s a gift, I have no doubt. I’m just a little clueless how we can use it for good instead of evil. Sigh.

And the rest, we’re waiting to see. But my point here is not only should you NOT pay for your child’s college, but that NOT every child SHOULD go to college. We, as a culture, consider it the end all be all, and it leaves an awful lot of kids, who could be hard working, happy, and strong and feeling good in their unique GIFTS, feel stupid, worthless, and short changed. And those children who have vision, know where they want to go, what they want to be, are driven, and are academic – well, they’ll get scholarships anyway.

As for house space, we’re working on stacking them. Our oldest shares a  bed with her “beloved” Abigail (2) and while there were some shortfalls (while we potty trained) they get along VERY well when Abby doesn’t pee on her blanket, lol. Truth is, Ana, if given her own room, would be hyper-protective, and rude about it to her sisters. This is a built in character builder for her. On the other side of the room is a set of bunk beds for Rebecca and Elizabeth. Underneath that is going the trundle for Miss Sarah who will be moving up there in approximately 5 months. Now, if we need to, we can switch the full bed AND the twin bunks to twin over fulls and put trundles under each of them. The girls room CAN hold at least eight, reasonably, lol. We hang and color code almost all of their clothing. And we don’t keep extra. Ana has learned that good clothes are for good and you take care of your things. If all girls had to share a room (AND BE NICE) with their little sisters we’d see girls who take care of their stuff and assign value to them. And it’s good for the little girls to learn that things are special and belong to someone else so they can’t treat them badly and can’t touch everything they’d like. The boys share twin bunks. There are two bedrooms upstairs, one is more like a glorified large hallway. The boys don’t care. I love boys. My goodness they’re easy.

DH & I share a cubby hole that was meant to be the computer room. There is enough room for our bed, for our dresser, and he can even walk on his side of the bed! Since it’s our bedroom and we SLEEP there, we’re not too stressed about it. Our living areas are huge. But see this all changed with the culture of America. This was an old farmhouse. The people congregated in the kitchen, which of course, was eat-in. This is where they lived essentially. The living room is modest sized. The bedrooms are small because children and parents didn’t retreat there… The family stayed together, worked together, and played together. And then SLEPT in their bedrooms.
DH mentioned to me the other day, I’ve been morning sick and the house isn’t exactly spotless. Well, that might be an understatement. But, he mentioned, with the chaos, that maybe this house WAS too small. It’s not. As a matter of fact, I feel we have more space here than we did in town. Because I can cook a huge meal and have elbow room. Because the kids go out and run and jump and scream and then come in and sit still. (I like that part of living in the country.) So, living space isn’t very relevant.

Yes, money is tight. It always is. Mostly because we’re not great with  money.   But, we’re listening to good ‘ole Dave and we’re getting there. This last year I really wondered if it would be responsible for us to get pregnant before the end of the year. Due to the year change, our surgery will be in 2009, but the baby won’t be born until 2010. Which means we’ll max out our deductible this year and then turn around in January and max it out all over again. Sigh. But you know what? I’ll bet you in 20, or 10, or 5, or EVEN 2 years from this January, I won’t look at that little face and see the hospital bill. I bet I just see the face of a child, a blessing, that I’m so grateful to have that I don’t even notice the cost.

So,  I’m pregnant. And it’s going to cost us a mint. Did I mention I HATE being pregnant? Hate it. I hate that I have to have surgery every single pregnancy. I hate that I throw up from the anesthesia. As a matter of fact, delivery is WONDERFUL compared to week 14.

Things that are precious have a cost, a high cost. If they didn’t cost a lot, monetarily, emotionally, or physically, they wouldn’t be considered precious. If you could walk out in your backyard and pick up a handful of diamonds, they would be worthless. Afterall, they’re just shiny rocks.
It is their COST that gives them value, that makes others consider them precious. The U.S. does not appreciate their children. The years gone by from disease and poor medical care has made children fairly easy to raise.
They are no longer precious. But ask an infertile couple what they would give to have a child.

In 2001 we gave birth to our daughter, Hannah Elizabeth. Unfortunately she was 26 weeks along and less than 2 lbs. She had decent chances, statistically speaking and did really well for a little while. On Day 12 we held her while she died. It wasn’t a short death. It wasn’t a painless death. It was long, and they gave her several morphine shots. You know your life has been changed forever when you stop praying for your child to live and instead pray for her relief through death. Life is precious. Her life was all of 12 days long. Sometimes it is not the length of time you live, but the impact of your life on those around you….. And if that is so, her life had true meaning.

Housing, space, money, college, it all means very little. If you have a house, it is enough. If you have space, it is enough. If you have food, the money is enough. If there is a will to get to college, it is enough. These things are very much not relevant compared to the preciousness of one life. And if you have the opportunity to give the world one precious life, it is a trick of the mind (and more as I know many Christians would believe and attest) that it should be denied because they might have to share a bedroom, or you can’t pay for four years of college.

We’re all sick here with the exception of a lucky few, so this is going to be short and sweet…

Went to a farm on Sunday and picked up fertilized eggs.  A variety of colors for a variety of chickens.  They’ll all be cross bred, but I’m not starting with $8-$12/dozen eggs to see if our incubator works!  The neighbors charged me a whopping $1.50 per dozen 🙂  They even threw in a free cat, lol. 

A variety of eggs!

A variety of eggs!

 The intention had been to  make our own incubator.   We went to Lowe’s and tossed the necessary equipment into our cart.  I was pretty excited.  But then we added up the bill and to make the incubator would have cost us approximately $65.  This incubator (a still air Little Giant) was $40.  That sweet and handy husband of mine has intentions of adding a fan to it.  (Old computers ARE good for something!)  For those of you who would really like to make your own, you can find great instructions at the Backyard Chicken Forum here.

Little Giant Still Air Incubator and Sweetest Pea

Little Giant Still Air Incubator and Sweetest Pea

 

Personally if I were going to recommend one, it would probably be the Hovabator brand and NOT this one, but you know what?  It was local and it was cheap and it was there when I had eggs.  Now, that said, we’ll be curious to see what kind of hatch we get…  If I got 50% I’d be happy.  If I  get 2/3 to hatch, I”ll be thrilled!  Honestly, with as many times as the kids have gotten on the table to “just look” if we get two chickens we should be ecstatic.

Eggs!!  In the Incubator!!

Eggs!! In the Incubator!!

This is pretty exciting for me.  It’s supposed to be for school, for the kids, blah, blah, blah.  We all know this is for Mom and that she’s probably the biggest kid of all.  But it’s pretty exciting!  Now, to just remember to turn them 3 times a day.  

For those of you also doing this, check out the University of Nebraska’s Embryology page.  Links to see candling, developing embryos, and more.  For those of you who don’t think you can do this because you can’t keep the chickens, local farmers are MORE than willing to “loan” out the eggs and then take the hens off your hands.  As a matter of fact, you’re doing all the hard work and they’re getting chickens!

*Do you realize sick children do not interrupt?  In here 15 minutes already and nothing…  Yup, that’s how you can tell they’re sick.  Have a good day.

As I watched my husband unload wood with our two boys, that there was a more efficient way to do it.  He could have just done it himself.  Hopped up there, tossed the wood to the basement and been done with it.

Instead, he allowed our two boys to help.  Slowing down to alternate throws with them, tossing overtop of them.  Then they had to pick up the ones that Tim dropped short of the cellar door.

He could have done it much faster.  But he didn’t.

And it occurred to me that too often we have a, “Git ‘er done” philosophy.  There’s so much work to do in the day.   So much that presses on our time, so much to accomplish.  But I think perhaps instead of “getting it done” we need to be training hearts and attitudes.

Today, I watched  as my husband took the time to do this hard work with the boys.  And he taught them, through actions, not empty words,  to enjoy their work and to get the job done.  And our boys were proud of themselves.  Christian loaded that load of wood while dh cut it.  Just the two of them, out in the trees. 

My Boys

My Boys