August

The last month of our summer vacation was lovely. The highlight for us was visiting with some friends who we had not seen for a while. One of the families has lived in Texas (not near us) for almost two years, and the other family flew in from our old home town for a vacation. Seeing all of them together was too great a chance to miss out on, so we drove out for a day of fun. We met for lunch, and then went to a nearby park for a few hours. The kids had a great time playing together, and the adults had a great time catching up. We’ve missed everyone so much, and this visit was wonderful!

friends

thank God for good friends!

Between all three families, there are seventeen children! And you know, they were all so delightful. I think a number like seventeen could strike fear into the hearts of many people, but it wasn’t at all the way lots of folks might imagine. These kids aren’t just numbers. They are sweet and precious children, and they all played beautifully together.

Children

we love every single one of these young blessings!

In case you are counting, there are only fifteen in the photo. Two little ones had gone home for naps. :)

A few more pictures of our day…

guys

two of the men

gals

the ladies

We celebrated two birthdays this month!

The young man with the Lego cake was very happy to turn seven.

birthday

Happy Birthday to Conductor!

His daddy, on the other hand, wasn’t too happy to turn… not seven.

birthdaydad

happy birthday to Daddy! or not…

Since we decided not to go away on a vacation this year, my husband took three days off work and so we could have some local family fun.

2014-08-24_15.42.24

getting ready for a swim

We swam every day.

I’m continually amazed at how far the children have come in their swimming skills. When we moved into our house less than three months ago, we had only four strong swimmers. Now, we have six! Strawberry and Conductor no longer need the help of flotation devices at all.

2014-08-24_15.22.24

vest-free boy on the left

swim

super swimming girl

Although the two youngest boys still need to wear vests, they have become much more brave and skillful in the water.

Our baby girl, however, believes she is a fish!

swimminggirl

our fish

Seriously. This baby wants so much to be independent in the water. She hates the restraint of parental arms holding her back. She’s been fighting for freedom almost since her first swim! A few weeks ago, we invested in a Puddle Jumper, with the hopes that it would allow us to give her a little more freedom of movement. It is a little big for her, as it is made for children at least 30 pounds, but it does the job pretty well. She can stay afloat, mostly with her face above water, but we keep our eyes constantly on her and our arms ready to grab her at any second. Although we are still very cautious with her in water, she is so pleased with her newfound feeling of independence. Wearing her puddle jumper, she kicks, swims, and gets around really well… all under Mommy or Daddy’s watchful eye and ready hands!

swimminggirl2

little miss independence

The bad news for August was a head injury for Happy. The guys were tearing down a wall in the play room, and a two-by-four fell on our young man’s head. No concussion, but the crown of his head was cut pretty badly. Lots of blood… boy oh boy, do heads ever bleed! We took him to the ER, and he was a tough guy. Three staples, and he didn’t flinch. The staples were removed after a week, and his head is healing perfectly.

happy

feeling better

Also in August, we:

  • took a ride on a homemade train…
train

creativity with boxes

  • did some cooking…
waiting

what’s that about a watched pot? or a watched baking sheet?

  • played with Conductor’s super-cool helicopter that he got for his birthday…
helicopter

look up!

family

Looking ahead…

We also started school in the very last week of August, but that will be a post for another time. We are excited to see what September, and our school year, will hold!



Weekend Links

Dear Stressed Out Mama: Words For Your Life

You don’t have to iron so much, or hardly at all. If you hang clothes up out of the dryer (or off the line) most are not too wrinkled to wear. There are the occasional pieces that will need ironed for church or other nice events, but for most things, non-ironed clothes will suffice, especially for young children. Cherish a neat appearance without obsessing about perfection. And really, ironing is just an example of all the ways we feel pressured to be perfect. Give your best, but know that your best will vary in different seasons of life. If your best, with a house full of little people, is getting them out the door with matching shoes (or shoes at all), exhale and accept it. In a different season, your best may look…better.

Read more here.

Fundamentally Afraid

Parents, are your children cowered into becoming frightened poster-boys of your ideology? Know this: fear eventually wears off. And when it does, they will search for sure footing and find none. They’ll wish you had been honest, upfront and gracious about truth, instead of focusing so much on fear.

Read more here.

When You Want to Know How to Get It All Done

How do I teach each child their lessons AND cook 3 nutritious meals a day AND nurse the baby AND keep everyone in clean clothes AND keep the dust bunnies at bay, all on very little sleep?! Did I mention that right now I’m only teaching 3 out of my 6 and we are focusing just on phonics and math?

Read more here.

Ladies Still Exist

There are many virtuous women left in this dark world, candles burning brightly, fighting their own quiet “culture war” by making their homes havens, appreciating and cultivating beauty, and being chaste, loyal, and others-centered.

Read more here.

Lead Like a Boss, Dad

A Canadian ad agency has just broken every politically correct rule of TV fatherhood. General Mills Canada hired the Toronto firm to pitch a product that’s “awesome and responsible”: Peanut Butter Cheerios. The commercial’s Creative Director Josh Stein did something truly creative. He associated the two words with fatherhood. The result: a two minute tour of family life narrated by a young middle class dad who isn’t dopey, clueless, cowardly, or detached from reality. And get this: he comes with a wife and children who respond to him in the home with affection and respect.

Read more here.

How to Study the World

Everyone loves a good story, and history is just that; a continuous string of narratives of human beings and their trials and triumphs. Studying these stories as simply events and dates is like stripping a scrumptious chicken of its flesh and leaving only the bones–nothing much left in the way of soul-nourishing food.

It is the storytellers that bring history alive to us, that make it accessible, that bring us into contact with places, ideas, and experiences that can become as fresh in our minds as in the days they occurred.

Read more here.

Reading in the House of Busirane 

(Reading advice for girls)

When it comes to unrealistic expectations about men, it can be very healthy for a girl to read plenty of books by men, especially if she doesn’t have brothers to relate to. Books by women tend to cater to feminine weaknesses, and reading books by men is a fantastic way for a girl to see the world through another point of view. I can never help comparing two pot-boiler swashbucklers on this point. In Mary Johnston’s fun To Have and To Hold, the life of the hero revolves around the heroine. But in Anthony Hope’s exciting The Prisoner of Zenda, the hero remarks at one fraught moment that he was not thinking of the heroine, but of how much he’d like to smoke a pipe. Because I had read The Prisoner of Zenda and other books by men, I knew that To Have and To Hold was being a little unrealistic on this point.

Read more here.

Which Jane Austen Character Are You, Really?

Just for fun… Did you ever take one of those Jane Austen quizzes? Let me guess… you were Elizabeth Bennett, Emma Woodhouse, or Elinor Dashwood, right? This quiz is quite different from any of the others. If you are a fan of Jane Austen, this will make you smile!

Take the quiz here.



New Flexi Clips on Sale!

Heads up, ladies! Lilla Rose is having a three-day sale on certain flexi clips and other hair accessories, beginning today! Several new styles, shown below, are 10% off! Additionally, some retiring styles (not shown below) are on sale for 20% off. Check them out!

sale2014aug21

FYI, the sale will not apply to backorders, so if you find something you love, don’t wait!

For more information about Lilla Rose and why you need a flexi clip (or if you’re like me, a dozen flexi clips!) click here to read the review I wrote upon discovering them three years ago. I loved them so much I signed up to be a consultant. I confess I did this mainly so that I could buy them at a discount for my daughters and myself!

If you have fallen in love with flexi clips and are interested in feeding your addiction, or if you’d like to make some extra money, consider becoming a Lilla Rose consultant! If you are interested, you can learn more here.

Visit Lilla Rose here!



Outdoor Fun

We have a small side yard filled with wood chips, a fantastic place for the little kids to play! Only problem is that, being still somewhat new to this house, we haven’t put much back there for them to play with yet! We’re taking our time in deciding what larger playsets we may want to invest in. We are considering a swing or two on a simple A-frame (the area isn’t wide enough for any more than that), or a dome climbing dome (this one from Amazon looks nice). Space is limited, so we need to choose carefully.  In the meantime, we added two small activities this week. Both involved minimal expense and effort, and maximum fun in using. ;)

Chalkboard!

chalkboard

The 4-year-old helped them write the “A.” :-)

Yes, it was these young men that made it. And I’m sure you will agree, it is SUPER cool. We used three pieces of pressure treated wood so it should last for years to come. We made our own chalkboard paint, because I read that pre-mixed chalkboard paint doesn’t hold up well outdoors. I read on this blog that we could make our own by mixing black exterior paint with un-sanded tile grout, a ratio of 1 cup paint to 2 tablespoons grout. Then the guys screwed it into our fence. We later added one furring strip (painted with exterior paint for durability) on the bottom to keep the boards straighter. chalkboard2 The kids love it! Notice the little tin buckets on each side. That’s where we keep the chalk. We poked holes in the bottom for water drainage. chalkboard3 Even Princess likes it! chalkboard4

Animal Pond

The second project was an idea that came from Lowes: a play pond. We made it from a large water heater drip pan, with a cork to plug it up. We intended it to be a little boat pond, but we couldn’t find any small toy boats at Wal-mart, and our attempt at homemade aluminum foil boats was unimpressive. Wal-mart did stock toy lake animals in the baby bath section, so an animal pond it is! Actually, the children like the animals better anyhow. Their preference may or may not have something to do with the ability to squirt the animals at each other! pond1 You may notice in the first picture that Handsome’s hair is wet. That’s because he likes to do this: pond2 You may notice Princess watching him closely. I think she briefly considered trying it herself, but wasn’t quite brave enough. Instead, she decided to dip her boot! pond3 I don’t think I’ll be letting them play here unsupervised! pond4 Loads of fun! What do your kids love to play with outside? I can use some more ideas!



Household Staples Inventory

inventory

As a large family, we certainly seem to fly through household staples! For several years, we’ve been shopping in bulk at warehouse stores, but even that doesn’t keep us stocked as long as we’d expect. We keep a handy shopping list on the fridge where we can jot down items as we run out, but there are some things we don’t want to run out of! Lately, we’ve had a few too many close calls. Down to the last three rolls of toilet paper in the entire house. Down to the last bottle of contact lens cleaner (with four contact wearers in the family). Down to four diapers. Oops… not enough sugar to make those six loaves of bread… Or heaven forbid, we’re fresh out of ketchup!

We live near many shops where we can quickly buy any needed items, but even with such convenience, our unplanned  shopping trips have been too many, and really add up to a lot of precious time, not to mention gas money.

Last week I began to pray and ask the Lord what I could do to more efficiently keep stocked up on household staples. He brought to my memory my college days when I worked as a waitress. I remembered that every so often a man would come to the restaurant: the inventory guy. He would walk through the kitchen and freezer with a clipboard, taking note of how many boxes were in stock of each item. He then could make a good assessment of how many more boxes were needed, so that the restaurant would always have essential items available.

The thought occurred that this principle could be applied to my own household. Why not make an inventory list of essential items for my own family, so that we could always keep them “in stock”? The idea seemed so sensible, I couldn’t believe that in nineteen years of marriage, I’d never thought of it before.

I searched online for some sort of “Household Inventory” template to use, but came up empty. Silly Google… it thinks that a household inventory means itemizing a family’s possessions for insurance purposes. Okay, maybe not silly, but not quite what I had in mind!

Since I could not find what I wanted, I decided to make my own. I created a new document on my PC, and down one side of a page, I made a categorized list of items I consider to be household staples. Across the top, I made a column for each month so that the list would last two years. I did it all in a table format so that the rest of the page would be full of check-boxes. This is a pretty simple concept, but I must humbly tell you it took me quite a while to figure out how to structure it!

On Friday, we had planned a trip to Costco, so I used the inventory list for the first time. I decided to put a dot in the check-boxes where we were well-supplied, and a star in those where we needed to buy more. It took only about ten minutes to go through the entire house. Afterward, I used the starred items to help me make my shopping list. When we returned home from our shopping trip, I looked at the stars on my inventory list to determine which room some of the items needed to go. For example, I could see at a glance that the contact lens cleaner was needed in the girls’ bathroom, but the shampoo was  needed in the boys’.

This was by far the easiest Costco-preparation trip ever, and I am pleased to know that we didn’t forget anything important, and didn’t accidentally overstock on anything. How good God was to put the idea in my head. He does give generously when we ask for his wisdom!

Next month, I may use the list a little differently. Instead of dots and stars, I may put a check-mark for the items in good supply, and leave the “need more” items blank. I reason that after I do my shopping, I can check off the items we bought. This may work better, because not all of the items can be bought in a single shopping trip.  For example, while we bought most items at Costco, our Costco doesn’t sell yeast, and toothbrushes and floss are cheaper at the Dollar Store. Right now those items are loosely floating around in my brain, where they can be easily forgotten. ;-)

Since my internet search indicates that this type of thing is not commonly done, I thought I’d share my list here for anyone who’d like to try something similar. It’s nothing fancy, and one of you are likely to think of a way to improve it, but it’s a start. If you have ideas to tweak and make it better, please share! And, since inventory and shopping go hand-in-hand, I’m also sharing a link to my grocery list, which I have used and loved for years.

Click below for:

Inventory List

Grocery List

How do you stay on top of stocking those essential household items? Please share in the comments below!