Large Family

I mentioned in a previous post (or 5) that a major challenge of this move has been the fact that we downsized from a 2400 sq.foot house to a 1600 sq. ft (plus basement) home.  We took our family of 7 from a 4 bedroom home to a 3 bedroom.  And, most challenging of all, we moved our rather extensive homeschool and personal library from a home with lots of storage to a home that had almost none.  Ever wonder what that might look like?  Yeah, I’m ashamed to admit, most of our summer involved our loft looking like this:

Rail side of loft, before....

Rail side of loft, before….

Window side of loft, before....

Window side of loft, before….

Yeah, that’s our boxes and books piled up on the floor, with hardly a trail to find what we needed.  You can’t see the makeshift box and card table set-up in the left corner for the computer and printer.  It was an unorganized mess, and I needed a plan, fast.  (For the record, that branch-type arch on the far wall was painted on as a faux headboard by the last owner.  It’s still there.  I will get around to painting it one day, but that’s pretty low on the priority list right now.)  With school starting in the near future, I had to get that space functional and organized.  Thus, I sat down with my drawing pad, came up with ideas, figured out a plan, and started to work on it.

First, I needed a plan for all the stuff, so I decided to build shelves in the hallway outside the loft.  Although the hall shelves actually went up AFTER the loft project, it was still a critical part of getting the final result:

I have to add one more shelf on the bottom before this project is complete, but you get the idea.  The decorating part is thanks to my mom.

I have to add one more shelf on the bottom before this project is complete, but you get the idea. The decorating part is thanks to my mom.

Once I got stuff out of the way, though, I was able to start building in the loft.  This was by far my most challenging project yet, as I wanted to build a wall-mounted counter/desk area.  It had to be built in place, though, which was a much bigger deal than I originally anticipated.  After having to start over on the project twice, I called in a relative who has made a career and a retirement out of his building skills.  He came and rescued me (and my loft).  I told him what I wanted, showed him how far I had gotten, he made a few changes and finished the rest of the building.  Then, I had to go back and fill gaps with wood putty, sand everything as smooth as I could (let’s just say it’s a good thing I like the “rough-cut” look and feel!), and stain the whole thing.  After several weeks of work though, I am absolutely thrilled with the final result:

....The railing side of the loft, after.

….The railing side of the loft, after.

...The window side of the loft, after.

…The window side of the loft, after.

I designed the counter to wrap around three walls of the loft.  The left side has the computer and printer, the center area also has 2 shelves for the boys’ school stuff, and the far wall has 2 more shelves and more counter space for additional school and activity storage.  The counter space beneath each window serves as individual desks for the boys.  In this photo, you can also see a TV table in front of N, as, until I find another chair like A has, N is too short to color on the new desk.  So, he uses the TV table for his worksheets instead.  The boys are in different grades, K4 and K5, and each have their own DVD player, class programs, and so forth.  As a result, they wear ear phones to help with their focus, and it seems to work pretty well so far.  If there is likely to be a lot of distractions in a lesson one day, then I always have the option of putting one of the boys at my desk outside the loft, or downstairs at the table.  For the most part, though, this setup works, allowing me to sit and read a book, do some paperwork, or work on the computer, all while monitoring their school day.  Most mornings, R sits beside N and does some of his easier K4 lessons with him.

I still have a bit of tweaking to do to totally finish this area–cord control, a little lamp/reading table by the lounger, painting those faux headboards (there is a second one behind the computer area), etc.  I’ll also be dusting and wiping this area for months before I will get the dust that still remains after the sanding job.  Oh well.  I just love this area, though, and since school has started, it’s a good thing since I likely now spend more time here than anywhere else.

It has been another few weeks of busy-ness around here.  Sorry for the absence.  I realized I haven’t even taken any photos!  To catch you up a bit, though…

Building:  I built more shelves.  Lots of shelves.  I will die happy if I never build another shelf, but unfortunately, I have at least 3 more to finish, which means planing, installing, painting, you get the idea.  I got a little help on a couple of projects from an in-law who lives close by and is very good with construction, I finally have desks, shelves, and a reading closet in both the girls’ and boys’ room, plus a new “activity counter” with 2 more desks and some shelves in our loft.  I promise photos soon.  I have a little more tweaking to finish it all.

Unpacking:  I’ve been slowly unpacking for almost 4 months.  Every move in the past has taken 2-3 weeks, tops.  Every house in the past, though, has had shelves and not been a farm when we moved in.  This house had almost no shelves, hence all the building.  Trying to move a family of 7 with a large homeschool library into a 3 bedroom, 1900 square foot house with little storage was challenging to say the least.  I’m getting there, though.  My upstairs still has paths, but the paths are widening by the day.  I’m almost there.

Visiting:  Nana (my mom) heard my inner plea for help, and came to stay for a while.  She has been here about 2 weeks so far, and has been a tremendous help.  She is filling my normal domestic and mommy role to a great extent, while I focus on finishing many of these necessary outdoor and construction projects.

Homeschooling:  We started our school year the last week of August.  N is K4, A is K5, M is 2nd grade, and JR is 4th grade.  And I still haven’t taken their annual school pictures.  Add that to my list of “to-do’s.”  We are doing Abeka Academy again this year, and loving it.  N and A take a lot of focus, which Nana is mostly handling right now.  Once she leaves, the first half of my day will mostly be spent sitting beside them as they work.  JR and M are totally independent, though.  R is always into things, so that’s why God gave mommies (and Nana’s) eyes in the back of their heads.

More visiting:  S came home!!!  Only for a quick visit, but it was great!  I had a short list of projects he worked on for me, the kids got their “daddy-fix” while wrestling, jumping on the trampoline (oh, yeah, I spent 2 days assembling that thing!), and just being with him.  Then I got my time with him when Nana agreed to watch the kiddos while we headed over to a Bed and Breakfast for the night.

Goats:  I’m trying to sell my 2 remaining goat kids, but I’m finding dairy goats are not as popular here as they were in CO.  It’s a much harder sell around here.  In the mean time, I have had to move poor Pride (our buckling) out with the pigs, to ensure he doesn’t breed Caramel (our too-small doeling).  To reduce my workload, I’ve also gone to once a day milking.  I’m not exactly sure how the milk will hold up, especially since I’m considering milking through rather than breeding this fall, but I’ll just play that one as the time passes.

Cattle:  Red Bull finally went home.  He was sweet and never gave me a days trouble–unless you count the time he somehow got into an adjacent paddock to the cows, the other time when he bred my dairy heifer without permission, or the time when he decided to scratch on an old fence and succeeded in knocking it down, releasing all the cows into the pig forest.  No biggie, though.  They were still inside the perimeter fence.  I just set up a water trough down lower in the pasture so they had to come out of the woods periodically so I could check on them.  It actually made my day easier temporarily, and started some clearing in the next section the pigs will move to.  That all being said, the day finally arrived for the sweet bull to go home.  As soon as he saw his owner approaching with the halter, he turned into a beast.  He completely mangled a 5 foot cattle panel as he lept over it (trying to get AWAY from his owner), then easily cleared 3 hot wire fences.  Watching a 1,000 pounds of pure muscle soar gracefully over a fence without hardly touching it is a very impressive sight indeed!  I was finally able to halter my jersey, Abbigail, and lead her to a stall in the barn, and that finally got Red Bull distracted enough to follow her so he could be confined and caught.  Once caught, he walked out of the barn and hopped up in that trailer with a grace and timeliness that would shame any horse.

Chickens:  While S was home, our biggest project was harvesting our 25 Cornish Cross meat birds.  We used our new Featherman Pro chicken plucker too.  Can I just say, THAT.  WAS. AWEWOME!!!!!  Expensive, yes, but totally awesome.  We may decide to rent it to other home poultry raisers to try to help pay for it.  Otherwise, it’ll take like 50 years to pay the thing off.  But, then again, when I consider the fact that I will never have to pluck another bird, I realize it is priceless!  We did 25 birds in about 3 hours, but that includes all the stops and distractions we had with the kiddos and lack of preparation here at this new farm.  The replacement pullets are growing well.  They still live in the barn, but free-range the pastures all day.  Our layers are also doing well.  We’ve had one go broody on us, so I got smart and decided to get some fertile eggs from a friend.  Unfortunately, at the same time she went broody, another has become an egg-eater.  I have no idea which girl it is, but in addition to eating 1 or more of our eggs each day, she has also destroyed 6 of the 8 fertile eggs.  I’m not sure any will survive to hatch.  Other hens are randomly kicking the broody hen off her nest each day to lay their eggs, and one of them is eating some while doing so.  I tried moving the broody hen into the barn, but she refused the new nest, and after 24 hours, I released her, only to have her run straight back to her original nest in the coop.  Oh well.  I guess she’ll just have to go through the natural cycle for a while, and then we’ll try again next year when our new roosters can ensure all our eggs are fertile.  In addition to losing eggs to an egg-eating hen, we are also losing a few chickens lately.  The girls–both the older ones, and the younger replacement ones, have begun doing some foraging deep in the woods, outside of the main pasture and perimeter fence.  There are openings on one side of the perimeter where the hens can get through, but the dogs and other animals can’t.  Obviously, the dogs can’t protect the girls on that side of the fence, so some of them never seem to make it back up.  I remain hopeful that one or two may have gone broody and are just hiding down there.  Realistically, though, I’m pretty confident they were some wild critter’s lunch.  We’ve lost 4 older hens and 5 little ones.  There isn’t much I can do about it right now, except hope that the remaining ones will learn and stay in the fence.  Only time will tell.

Rabbits:  Nothing too new there, other than the fact that we harvested our summer litter.  That takes us back to our one mature doe, 2 mature bucks, and 2 young does that that we brought with us from CO, and will be ready for breeding in December.

Donkey:  The only farm vehicle I have around here is a 4-wheeler.  I use it to haul supplies down to the pig paddocks, to move my portable shelters, to haul wagon loads of dirt, to haul fence posts, and to have fun.  Before we left CO, S and I decided that Shiloh, the donkey would help earn her keep by becoming a work donkey.  We bought a little homemade driving cart to start out with.  After we moved, I ordered her a custom donkey harness.  With the number of projects I had this summer though, I never really had a chance to teach Shiloh to drive.  Then, my 4-wheeler–long over-due for a tune-up and basic maintenance–essentially died on me.  While it’s waiting for a ride to a shop, I’ve had to get creative.  There are still water buckets, feed, dirt, and fencing that has to be hauled.  Time for Shiloh!  I reviewed the basics of long-reigning I had taught Shiloh in the past, spent a few days reviewing all her basics and getting her accustomed to her new harness, and then took full and total advantage of her being a calm and laid back donkey rather than a flighty horse, and hooked her up to the cart.  Since Nana was here at that point, she offered some assistance for safety in the early stages, but Shiloh took to it with ease.  She still has a little trouble turning in the cart, but that is likely due in great part to the fact the shafts on the cart wound up way too big for her.  Now, I have my first real equine-power on the farm.  I can hitch her up to the cart, and then use the cart to haul all the buckets, feed bags, materials, etc, she can drag small logs, and more.  Eventually we will get new shafts that fit better, but I use these in the mean time.  Pictures will follow as soon as I get the chance.

Dogs and cats:  Due to the unintended and unexpected increase in cats around here, I wound up rehoming our barn cat, Katie, and her litter of 6 kittens.  A new farm was looking for a whole slew of cats to stock their barn with, and they jumped at the chance when they heard about her.  That leaves us with Sarah and her litter of 5 kittens, and she is much better mannered as a house cat, so I have a better chance of keeping her indoors until she can be spayed.  The only cat outside at the moment is Shadow.  Callie is still inside, as always.  Will, the house pet, has loved having all these cats around.  He has discovered there is always a dish of cat food sitting around somewhere, and has become quite adept at finding all my hiding spots.  As a result, he has gained somewhere between 5 and 10 pounds over the last 6 weeks.  At this point, my hiding places are getting higher and higher up on shelves, in an attempt to keep them accessible to the cats, but well out of Will’s reach.  Iris and Athena are doing great.  In fact, Iris has entered her fall heat cycle, and I am debating breeding her this fall or waiting until spring.  I finally found the (hopefully) perfect stud dog.  He is in the next state, so quite a drive, but he is of the Colorado Mountain Dog breeding and quality I am looking for, and has already proven himself as a guardian and homestead-type dog.  As usual, we’ll see how this plays out.

Pigs:  The pigs are growing well on their forest forage diet.  I continue to supplement with excess milk and eggs (though the eggs are few and far between with an egg-eating hen on our hands!), and occasional organic grains.  I am working on setting up their next paddock this weekend.  I estimate their weight to be around 100 lbs. now, so I think they are growing well.  I should research and find out averages for this breed so I have something to compare to.  Whatever the weight, they are big enough now that the kids don’t really go in the paddock unsupervised.  The pigs are very friendly, and in their quest for attention, plenty big enough they could easily knock a child down.

That pretty much brings you up to speed for now.  There’s never a dull moment around here, that’s for sure!!

Whether you call it a Daily Operations Center, Operation Central, Family Organization Center, or whatever else you prefer, when you have children, I have decided it makes life soooo much easier.  It’s one of the first things I try to get up when we move to a new house.  I have had several over the years, and they progressed from a simple chore chart on the wall to several items I found myself needing throughout the day.

Our "Training Center" condensed to a standard-sized bulletin board.

Our “Training Center” condensed to a standard-sized bulletin board.

This time, I wanted more than just a simple bulletin board.  The only wall I had to put it on was a centrally located wall in my dining room, which is also one of the first walls seen when you enter our front door.  Thus, I also needed it to look somewhat nice.  It desperately needed a new paint job anyway, but it meant I had to find a new location for the piano (which we don’t yet play, but it has been in S’s family for a while now).  This was the wall before:



Amazing what  a little paint, some picture frames, cork board, simple wood shelving and stain, and some trips to Hobby Lobby can create:




Our new “Family Operations Center” includes a small rack that contains baskets with our table cloths, napkins, and placemats, all plates and bowls, and our utensils so the kiddos whose job is to set the table have easy access, without being under-foot in the kitchen.  The upper shelf on the wall is just a decorative shelf I used to bring it all together.  It just looked better with it.  On the left is a basic photo frame with a calendar I drew on poster board.  With the glass over it, it makes a perfect, decorative, dry erase calendar.  Under that is our “Penny Jars,”  which I will explain in another post.  Below the shelf are where the Chore Packs hang.  You can read more about that HERE.  I have made some changes to the Chore Pack system we used in the past, which I will also discuss in a future post.

To the right of those things is another picture frame, with no glass.  I cut a cork board to fit in about 2/3 of it, where I can hang our “If-Then Chart”, our “Extra Chore Chart”, and a bit of room to expand.  The other 1/3 is a vinyl cover that creates another dry-erase section for to-do lists and such.

Finally, all the way to the right is our new “Family Rules” list.  I couldn’t find a pretty one that was Christian based, but this one was pretty good.  It has things like “Do Your Best,” “Hug Often,” “Laugh at Yourself,” “Share,” and other such things can generally keep peace in a home.

I am very pleased with how it turned out.  Now maybe I can start getting things more organized around here, now that the kids have some direction to help out!

We have serious issues with clothing, socks in particular.  It’s not for lack of purchasing new socks, or insufficient supply of hand-me down socks.  It’s more an issue of having 5 children who couldn’t care less how they look, who live on a farm and play hard, who would prefer to be barefoot, or at least shoeless most of the time, and who are notorious for losing their good socks and somehow managing to keep up with only the ones that have seen better days (perhaps they are throwing the good ones in the trash?).  In any case, as we sat down for some family time last night, I couldn’t help but notice my children’s feet:


Need a better look to see what I’m talking about?

4-yr-old A, wearing socks that appear a little too big for him, but otherwise OK.

4-yr-old A, wearing socks that appear a little too big for him, but otherwise OK.  Notice the shirt collar he has stretched out though.  Also, notice S’s work-around-the-farm pants, which consist of patches and duct tape.  

6-yr-old M, wearing one normal sock and one sock that clearly should've been trashed weeks ago.  Then again, at least, she has a sock on each foot.....

6-yr-old M, wearing one normal sock and one sock that clearly should’ve been trashed weeks ago. Then again, at least, she has a sock on each foot…..and one to spare, apparently, hanging under one foot.  I have no idea where that came from.  Maybe it’s N’s?

4-yr-old N, wearing one sock.  He had two on the last time I saw him.  Amazingly, it totally disappeared somewhere between when I saw him upstairs, and when he arrived at the couch downstairs.

4-yr-old N, wearing one sock. He had two on the last time I saw him. Amazingly, it totally disappeared somewhere between when I saw him upstairs, and when he arrived at the couch downstairs.

2-yr-old R, clearly discovered some spare socks laying around somewhere.

2-yr-old R, clearly discovered some spare socks laying around somewhere.

In addition to socks, I have had some realizations lately.  When a parent has one or two children, and their clothes begin to look like rags, the cause is clearly understood to be “kids will be kids!”  It seems to be widely accepted that children can be hard on clothes, wear them out quickly, mismatch, and lose them on a regular basis.  I noticed, however, that somewhere between child 3 and 5, this accepted norm turned into pity for the “large family with too many kids and can’t afford to dress them.”

In fact, a great example is a few months ago when we were scheduled to have family portraits done.  We chose the white-shirt and jeans attire, and I went out and bought brand new white shirts for everyone.  I kept them in the store bag, knotted tightly and high up on a shelf where no little hands could touch them, until the morning of the photos.  After the kids ate breakfast, I carefully washed their hands and faces, dressed them, and immediately put light coats on and zipped them up snuggly, in hopes of preventing anything from getting on those shirts.  We arrived at the outdoor photo shoot (red rocks equal red rock dust, ftr!) and forbid the children to touch any of the rocks, lest they transfer rock dust to their white shirts.  Finally, I positioned the kiddos, removed their coats, and we took the photos.  Then, within an hour, N had a nose bleed–you guessed it, all over his brand new shirt!!


Just recently, I once again had an offer for some hand-me downs.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE hand-me downs, thrift stores, department store clearances, and yard sale clothing.  Kids (shoot, even me for that matter!) go through clothes so fast, it’s ridiculous to buy new clothes all the time.  However, I do happen to take some pride in the appearance of myself and my children.  I prefer clothes that have no holes or stains or tears, especially when going out somewhere publicly.  On occasion, one of the children slips past my inspection though, and manages to get into a public place wearing their “play” clothes.  I’m sure that doesn’t help any with public perceptions.  But, that’s life, and I do have bigger issues to worry about.  I just find it interesting how, when I had one or two kiddos, people passed on clothes just to share and recycle.  Nowadays, when someone offers hand-me-downs, they are often worn out already, full of stains, and being given to us because the previous owner (often strangers we don’t know at all) seems to pity our “situation”–whether they know anything about our situation or not.  When I receive a new bag of used clothing, I often spend a significant amount of time sorting through (often smelly) clothing, trying to find pieces that look half decent and wearable.  Sometimes, I get a good batch; other times, it is frustrating that someone would think we are so desperate as to need their junk cast-offs.  Nonetheless, for now, I try to be appreciative in the hopes I can always save a few $$ and find some diamond-in-the-rough clothes in that bag, in order to replace some worn-out jeans, lost socks, or other apparel that would suggest my children might be orphans.

Oh, the moment every parent dreads….the BIG talk.

S and I have discussed this event on numerous occasions, and the importance of explaining it in such a way that the children would understand that Biblically-founded marital intimacy is a wonderful, God-designed, and God-intended thing.  Like most parents, though, it was a very mature topic we weren’t exactly looking forward to discussing with the children.  Because of the many pregnancies of animals and friends the children have been exposed to, we have described pregnancy in detail.  We just kinda left out the actual conception part of things.  They understood the basics–girls have eggs all the time (that’s why hens lay them for us to eat).  It takes a boy to make the eggs fertile, which is why there are no chicks without a rooster, and no baby bunnies or goats without a buck.  In the beginning, it was easier to allow the children to make up their own ideas as to how conception occurred.  For the most part, early on, they believed a girl just didn’t get pregnant until God blessed her with a man, and they got married.  For some reason, they didn’t link humans and animals at first.  However, I suppose it was inevitable seeing as how JR has been heading up our rabbit program for about a year now.  I still handled the actual breedings of the rabbits, since JR was clueless as to the details of how to know when the breeding was successful, but I have been ready to hand that over to him for some time no.  Miraculously, despite all the children being witness to rabbit and goat breedings, certain, um, details, remained (thankfully) hidden from view.  As time went by, though, questions began arising….

“Why does he have to mount the back end?  Why can’t she get pregnant if he mounts the front end?”  (“umm, That’s just the rule. Hey, did you finish your schoolwork?”)

“Why do we have to actually wait until the rabbit squeaks and falls over?”  (“umm, That’s his way of telling us he’s finished. Hey, did you finish cleaning your room?”)

We quickly learned short answers to specific questions were key, and then distraction worked wonders.   Then, of course, we experienced our first open adoption, where the kids have gotten to know a single birth mom.  JR caught on really quick.  The other evening, as we sat down dinner, he asked, “I don’t understand…animals don’t get married, and since a girl doesn’t really have to be married, and she just has to be close to a boy, then how does she know she won’t get pregnant while sitting in church and boy sits next to her?”  OH BOY!  He HAD to ask at the dinner table, in front of all the other siblings, and he HAD to select church of all places as his example!!

I looked at Daddy, who agreed, nonchalantly, to chat with him about it later, and we changed the subject.  We quietly told JR to stay up when the other kids went to bed.  After tucking the other kids into bed, Daddy took JR downstairs to have THE talk.  I made myself very busy, of course ensuring I could eavesdrop on the conversation.  I had no clue what to expect from such a conversation.  Shoot, my folks managed to hide the facts from me until I was well into my teens, and then gave me a book to read that contained the details.

JR, age 8. Photo by A Better Image Photography

JR, age 8.
Photo by A Better Image Photography

I won’t offer details, but Daddy explained the principles behind it, how God intended things to be, how sometimes people mess up that intention, and then related it to JR’s rabbits.  Finally, he emphasized that discreetness was needed out of respect for other parents and children who didn’t know.  This was a very special adult subject, and  children should only know about it when their parents thought they were ready.  JR was surprisingly mature about the conversation.  He asked a few questions, and we could tell the little wheels in his head were spinning as he absorbed the information.  Behind his eyes, we could tell he was fitting all the pieces of the puzzle together, and things were finally making sense to him.  About 10 minutes later, the discussion was over, we all exchanged hugs and kisses and sent him off to bed.

Surprisingly, though, JR hasn’t brought up the subject since.  It’s as though all his questions were finally answered, he feels all the pieces of the puzzle have fitted together, and he is totally content with that.  Out of respect to his siblings and our wishes, he has never even eluded to the topic with them.  Now that we have crossed this major milestone, we have one down, four to go.  I have a feeling it won’t get any easier.  Our plan has long been that I will talk to the girls, and S will talk to the boys.  I guess it’s my turn next, but I confess, I’m sure glad we have only 2 girls and 3 boys!!

What do you get if 2 children come running around a corner from opposite directions?

A major collision of heads, which can potentially result in the older, thicker-headed one having a minor goose-egg on his forehead, and the younger having……. well, see for yourself:


And this looks good compared to the day it happened!  Within a few minutes of the collision, poor M’s face swelled up and turned all sorts of shades of blue, red, and purple about 3 inches from her eye in every direction.  She didn’t actually hit her eye, just the bone surrounding it.  I can’t help but wonder if she fractured it a bit due to the swelling and colors.  Not much you can do for a fracture in that area, and she didn’t complain of any headaches or vision trouble, so we just iced it well and kept a close eye on her.  The swelling was down some the next day, but the colors intensified.  By day 3, when this photo was taken, the swelling was almost gone, but the bruising was starting to drain down around eye, and the area surrounding it had turned a nice shade of olive.  This girl is one tough cookie, and hasn’t uttered a word of complaint.  She hardly cried when it happened.  I saw it happen, but neither kiddo made a fuss, so I continued what I was doing.  Then I heard a muffled sound, and walked over to check on her, to find she was actually injured.  She isn’t a complainer by nature, so I have to watch her very closely and ask very specific questions to find out just how bad an injury is with her.  Guess that’s partly a result of being a woman 😉 and partly the result of having 3 brothers!

Do you ever have “one of those days?”  Particularly as a parent?  You know, the kind of day where you are thankful for your children, but you can’t quite remember why they are considered a blessing?  Yeah, that was my day today, as I continually reminded myself how I couldn’t possibly live without them.  However, the day was supported on each end by some really cool events!

It all started about 48 hours ago, when S asked me to check his e-mail for something.  One seemed a typical phishing e-mail–the type that tries to get you to click a link and get your personal info.  It said we had a check they were trying to send us, but they needed to confirm info.  I almost deleted it, but then noticed that the e-mail did NOT contain a link to click, but did contain a good bit of personal info about us already, which got my attention and made me nervous.  The signature line included the name and contact information for someone supposedly from the Attorney General’s Office of CO.  Rather than responding directly to the e-mail, I decided to investigate.  I googled the CO AG’s office, called that number, spoke to the operator, and asked her if a person by the name listed in our e-mail worked there.  They did, so I left a message on their voicemail.  She called a couple hours later, and turns out it was totally legit!  Two years ago, a debt collector trying to find someone else, called our house at 5:30 in the morning, waking us up, and putting S in a REALLY bad mood.  Later that day, he filed a complaint with the AG’s office per CO instructions.  We never heard another word about it, and totally forgot about it until this person reminded me.  Apparently, a few others had done the same, and the AG began an investigation.  Recently, the investigation was closed, and the debt collection company was fined a significant sum for breaking CO laws regarding when and who they were allowed to call.  Now, the AG office was trying to track down the “victims” of those calls, and send them their portion of the fines.  Now, we are expecting a nice, unexpected Christmas bonus!!

Then, yesterday morning started out pretty typical, but after breakfast, R began vomiting.  My day’s plans were shot, though I rather enjoyed spending a few hours just laying on the couch with her, bucket handy of course.  She slept a few hours, then seemed to improve around lunch time.  I kept her on the BRAT diet for most of the day until I was confident she would keep food down.

First thing this morning my little “biggest” rebel, N, who just can’t seem to resist any sort of temptation, snuck a lollipop, gobbled it up, and when I caught him, he flat out lied about it.  Of course, the “Very Berry” flavored breath was a dead give-away.  As a part of his discipline, I told him he would not be allowed any yummy treats that we were making.  Later, the other kids and I made Monkey Bread, and I specifically instructed N not to touch it, and had a discussion with him to ensure he understood what he had done wrong.  We fed him a non-sweet snack to at least help him not be hungry.  Yet, no sooner did I turn my back, he snuck into the kitchen, and ate the treat.  Let’s just say that was his last fun moment of the day, as it got REALLY boring after that.

After my lecture to N, I stood up and turned around to find R drinking out of the dog bowl.

Shortly after, JR reported to me (for the second day in a row) that one of his school books was lost.  I threatened him with consequences if he didn’t find it.  He eventually found it, but only after half-emptying his school bookshelf all over the floor, crying about it a bit, and insisting it had to be his brothers that misplaced it (it wasn’t).  Then, he had trouble with his math, and his entire school day took him over 9 hours with a few breaks in the middle (it should take 3-4).  That was followed by an incredibly sore throat that left him unable to eat dinner or speak this evening.

M and A have both suffered a bit of discipline over the last two days due to their seeming inability to listen and follow instruction of late.  She was better today, but still had her fair share of arguments with her brothers.  A and N have both begun whining a lot, which drives me batty.  “Talk like a big boy” has become a common phrase around this house.

As if that wasn’t enough, R, who has been potty training for the last 2 weeks (and doing extremely well), came into the room where I was to see what I was doing.  A sudden and unexpected bought of diarrhea hit her, and the next thing I knew, I had stinky mush on my carpet.  Got that cleaned up, took a deep breath, and said, “I think I can, I think I can….”

Nap time finally arrived, and I got online to do some Christmas shopping.  Shopping for the children when the children haven’t exactly been on their best behavior can be a good thing, actually.  I have a feeling it SAVED me quite a bit of money!  I did however find a great gift on Craigslist.  I contacted S and he arranged to pick the gift up on his way home.  We really needed two, but one would suffice for now.  He arrived at the persons house, only to find out that they had TWO!!  For slightly less than retail price for one, we got TWO awesome gifts for the kids this winter!

S got home, took over the kiddos before my head exploded, and I went and cooked dinner.  I read a book to the children for a little while, we ate dinner, and then S put the kids to bed while I went for a jog.  I can’t even remember the last time I did that!!!  I think it was about the time the number of children outgrew the number of seats in the jogging stroller!  Yeah, I really needed to blow off some steam so I could focus on hubby for once today!!

Oh, this is my life.  The good, the bad, the exhilirating, the exhausting, and the downright ugly.  I guess I need days like this sometimes to keep me humble and remind me that I am NOTHING without Christ.  So, despite days like this, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.


I just spent over 2 hours bathing all the kids, and giving hair cuts to S, JR, and M. 

Trim for S

S decided several years ago that he couldn’t stand paying $10 every two weeks for a trim.  Instead, he spent $80 on a nice hair clipper set with attachments and instructions, and gave it to me.  He figured if it lasted even 3 months, he would be ahead.  So, I set to work studying how to cut hair.  Over the years, I have gotten better and better.  Every now and then, I have a little fun and experiment with a new cutting method, but it never fails I make some kind of “OOPS!” during those times.  As a result, I do limit those experiments.  I’ve also gotten really good at M’s hair by watching what beauticians do when I get my once-a-year trim.  As I have grown more comfortable, I have started instructing S on how to do mine.  It literally costs me $20-$50 for a basic hair cut (depending on whether we have a beauty school around), so I really rejoice in the fact that S is willing to cut my hair.  So far, he has only snipped his hand once, and he has gotten better over time.  It is so nice to be able to just pull out clippers, call folks in one at a time for their turn, clean up and put them away.  It doesn’t cost me anything, S usually even offers to clean up for me, and I don’t have to worry about lugging a pile of kiddos to a barber.  EXCELLENT deal for me!! 

Oh, and after the kids get their hair cut, we have to shake the loose, trimmed pieces out so they don’t itch….

OK, I'm kidding. It's just a photo taken recently I thought was cute, but didn't have any topic to put it with.

So, now I am quite tired, my back is a little sore, and I’m ready for bed.  But, the kids and hubby have nice hair, and the kids are clean.  Now, if I can just talk hubby into a shower before bed, we’ll be set!

School is just around the corner, and we can’t wait!  We will start our homeschool the first week of August…that’s NEXT Monday!  I can hardly believe it!  With all the chaos and instability the kids (and I) have had over the last few months with the move, the changes in plans, the house-hunting trip and cross-country vacation, settling into the new house, etc., we have greatly anticipated the start of our school year.  With it comes structure, schedules, stability, routine, and we all thrive on that! 

To help prepare, much like last year we have set up our “Operation Center”–for lack of a better name.  Interestingly, a year after I posted about this (which wound up being featured on an organizing tips website ), it is still my #1 post to be pulled up and viewed in random searches! 

Our "Operation Center" condensed to a standard-sized bulletin board.

On this board, I have posted the following items:

  • Our daily schedule in the top left corner
  • My personal daily chore list in the top right corner
  • Under that is a small monthly calendar.  I have all my chores divided into individual days and weeks to help ensure most items around the house get done at least once each month.  The calendar helps me keep track, at a glance, as to which week of the month we are on. 
  • Under the calendar is the older kids’ Chorepacks, within easy reach.
  • Under the Chorepacks is our “If-Then” chart to aid with disciplinary issues that may arise during the day.
  • In the bottom left corner is our new “Extra Chore” chart which I will post about another day.  Essentially, this is extra, out-of-the-ordinary chores the kids can do to earn money.

This bulletin board is located in an area that is convenient, easy to see and remember, and easily accessible to everyone.  The items that are more for my use are on the top, while items the children need are located on the bottom. 

We have been weaning ourselves into using it, as it is more detailed than the way we had it set up last year.  For someone like me, though, who is not naturally self-disciplined and is easily side-tracked and distracted, this center is a tremendous help for keeping me on track and organized!

This week, it came to my attention that there is a great risk in having a family closet!  Be forewarned, should you choose to go this route!

When multiple children have piles of folded jeans in shelves next to each other, and they are responsible for getting their own clothing for the day, there is a risk that one child might mistakenly grab jeans from a younger sibling’s stack.

JR came upstairs complaining, “Mom, I think we’re gonna have to get me some new pants.  These are getting pretty tight!”  Turns out he was wearing N’s size 18 month jeans!

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