Monday, January 30, 2012

Follow by E-mail!

Okay, so I added something new to the blog! To the left at the top of the page, is a "follow by e-mail" button. You can just type your e-mail address in there, follow the steps, and then you'll receive an alert when I post some more adorable pictures of our little people!

I hope that will help the grandparents and friends keep up with our family! (Don't worry, Mutti, I already signed you up. Just answer the e-mail that comes to your inbox about it. ;-)

Love to all!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Little People Survival Guide

Well, in the spirit of multi-tasking…
A friend just asked me to jot down some helpful hints for staying organized in a house with only little ones. I am blessed now to have helpers who are getting older every day, but not that long ago, there were only little people in our home.

(That's Nathan, Megan, and Evan in 2005!)

When a mom has only young children, it can make life really challenging, because little people make BIG messes. Here are a few things that helped our family maintain some semblance of order and peace.

Get up before the kiddos. There’s no better way to stay a step ahead than to get up just a little bit earlier than the children do. It makes for a calmer mommy.

Spend time in the Word. Many people advocate a daily quiet time, and it’s true: Spending time reading the Bible and praying is an important part of growing and having peace as a Christian. For most moms with little ones, though, this goal seems unreachable, and failing to accomplish that daily “quiet time” requirement can make them feel like spiritual failures. Well, ladies, I’m here to tell you that there’s no law in Scripture that mandates that you sit down with a cup of tea in one hand, your prayer journal in the other, Bible open on the table to spend time in peaceful meditation. Read the Bible WITH your children. Listen to Scripture set to music. (We like Steve Green’s Hide ‘Em in Your Heart.) The Lord is ever-present and His Word is powerful no matter where or how we read it.

Now, on to keeping things clean (or at least not disgustingly dirty)

Throw stuff away. It’s amazing how much more we have than really need, isn’t it? And, somehow, all that stuff ends up on the floor, scattered around. The more you get rid of, the less you have to clean up.

Cut down on the number of toys. This dovetails off of the first point. We have SOOO many toys these days and it makes clean up very difficult. Some people rotate which toys they have out on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. I’ve found it more effective just to have the kids choose which toys they really like and keep those out. We give away and throw away as many as I can get them to part with. We store the rest in the attic, and some of those gradually rotate to Goodwill. No one ever mentions them, so they’re obviously not worth keeping. Be sneaky with little kids. They tend to want to hold onto everything they can see. Notice I said everything they can SEE. Out of sight, out of mind. Once stuff is gone, they rarely think about it again.

Keep your kids’ organization system simple. I have made the mistake of having systems that were too complicated. Bins that kids can’t open or divisions that don’t make sense to them can doom a system to failure. Make sure they can access the toys and clothes, and that they can understand how you expect things to be sorted. Bins for trains, cars, and dolls make sense; bins for Thomas the Tank, Target brand trains, American Girl dolls, dump trucks, sedans, dolls with cloth bodies, and so on, do NOT.

•Confine the toys. In our house, toys belong in the playroom. If you don’t have a playroom, toys might belong in the bedroom. This doesn’t mean that toys can NEVER come out of those rooms. It just means that that is where the toys “live.” Only one bin at a time comes out of the toy “home” and it returns as soon as possible. That way, you can at least shut the door to the toy room at the end of a hard day, and sit down in a living room that’s relatively clean. Otherwise, you will find yourself stepping on Legos in the middle of the night. (No, it is not okay to sell all the Legos after one impales your foot. It’s just one of those parenting sacrifices you have to make.)

•Do “Quick Cleans.” I got this idea from the Duggar’s book and it has made a tremendous difference to us. Three or four times a day, announce a “Quick clean!” and have everyone clean up as much as they can in five, ten, or fifteen minutes. You can pick a specific area to focus on, and you can encourage your kids to go as fast as they can. Otherwise, in a house with preschoolers, you can find yourself neck-deep in chaos by the time Daddy gets home. Even though Daddy knows better than to ask, “What did you do all day?” you may look around and find yourself asking that very question.

•Pile it up. Little kids are really not very good at picking up. (“Is your room clean?” “Yes.” “Then why is _____________ still on the floor?” “Oh, I didn’t see it.”) I’ve had much better success getting my preschoolers to clean up an area by quickly piling up everything I want put away in the middle of the room. Then, they can see exactly what needs to be put away. (And, yes, I still sometimes use that with my older kids when “mess blindness” strikes.)

•Toss it in the basket. I hit upon this method out of desperation a couple of years ago. PEOPLE were coming over (don’t remember who) and the place was NOT getting cleaned up anywhere near fast enough. I grabbed a laundry basket and a trash bag and tore around the house tossing trash (papers and so on) in the trash bag and everything that was out of place in the laundry basket. Then, I put the laundry basket in the middle of the table, set the timer, and we all dashed around like mad putting the stuff away. It worked! I’ve used that at least once a week since then, and now, I also have a bin in my closet where I just toss things that I find throughout the week. The kids call it “The Confiscation Bin” and they get to retrieve the stuff from it once a week when we clean it out. And, now that I use the method regularly, a little bin suffices- no more need for a big laundry basket to contain the mess. (NOTE: Stashing the full basket in the closet is NOT a good idea. You have to actually clean the junk out and put it away.)

•When everything is melting down, stop and read a book. No, not a novel to yourself, a book to your children. It calms everyone down, lets you be the “good Mommy who reads to her children,” and resets the day. Who knows, maybe you will get to take a bath with that novel later on after all.

•Remember that little ones grow up WAY too fast. I have a ten year old. A TEN YEAR OLD! The other day he was discussing how best to fund and select his future college. Just yesterday, or maybe it was the day before, he was painting my bathroom with nail polish and running off with my freshly baked bread.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Rainy Days and Mondays

Mondays are always a little hectic around here. There’s something about trying to get back into the swing of things after the weekend, I guess. We have AWANA on Sunday night, and, since we’re in charge, that takes up almost all of Sunday afternoon and evening. That, of course, means that we start Monday morning a little behind.

This Monday, however, was even more of a Monday than usual. For starters, Austin had a LOT of trouble settling down last night. I think the craziness of Sunday and Store Night at AWANA had just overstimulated him. We paced and rocked in the rocker, and finally crawled into bed around one. He ate a few hours later, and at five, I was absolutely determined NOT to get up and exercise.

I still managed to shower and be ready for the kiddos by 6:45, but by then I was regretting not exercising. As hard as it is to get out of bed and get ON the elliptical, after a couple of miles, it feels really good to get OFF. At any rate, apparently I was not the only one who was tired this morning. Getting the kids up and going was next to impossible. Even once they were up, they weren’t really going. Except Steffen, of course. He started the day with a huge blowout and seemed to have plenty of energy, particularly of the destructive two year old kind.

Plus, it was raining. I’m not complaining. It would be positively sinful to complain about the rain considering our drought. Nevertheless, the gray chilliness did not help with our motivation to get stuff done. And there’s the fact that rain keeps everyone inside. This confinement is especially hard on Justin. Boys need to have lots of room to run off their energy. Otherwise, they roll around on the floor wrestling like puppies.

As we went through the day, I had some time to reflect, and I realized that it would probably be in our best interest to switch things around in the future. (Stressful days take me back to the drawing board. What do we need to change to make things better? As far as I’m concerned, all problems can be resolved by making a list. ;-) Sometimes, when life changes, we fail to change with it. We race around doing what we’ve always done in the way we’ve always done it, and wonder why things aren’t working like they used to.

Now, I knew at the beginning of this school year that we would be having a new baby- no denying that huge belly! What I failed to take into account was that I would, for the first time, be teaching four different grades. Yes, that’s FOUR grades. That’s a lot of juggling. That means that school takes more time, and I’m going to have to account for that. I plan to come up with some strategies that will make life easier. I’ll post those here as we go along.

Yes, this rainy Monday drove me to reevaluating and list-making, but maybe I would have been better off following Austin’s lead: Fuzzy blanket and a smile.

So, why a Monday post on Saturday? Did I fail to mention that the internet and phones were out on Monday too? Just another bump in the road…

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Two Little Men

Steffen loves "Austin Baby," as he calls him. He is fascinated by everything Austin does. At first, he was a little upset that his place on center stage had been occupied by a newcomer, but he has come to terms with his new role as big brother.

Steffen talks ALL the time. Lately, he's started adding phrases like "by the way" and "actually." "By the way, Daddy is at work." He likes music- especially Peter and the Wolf and hymns like Holy, Holy, Holy. He sings as he runs around the house. He is so full of energy, and we're hard-pressed to keep up with him. He shares a room with Megan (May-day, according to Steffen) and the two of them have a special relationship. We all know that when it gets too quiet, we'd better go and hunt for Steffen. Usually, he can be found playing with the Ipad or Iphone, carefully selecting which music he wants to listen to. All this activity can really wear a little guy out!

Austin is the happiest baby we've ever had. We keep him close by, either in Mommy or Nathan or Megan's arms, or in his bouncy seat. He loves taking baths.

He also loves taking walks. He can stay awake the whole time, just looking around and enjoying the scenery.

Austin really enjoys people. As soon as anyone starts to talk to him, he just stares straight at them and starts cooing and smiling.

Most of all, Austin loves his Mommy. And his Mommy loves him too!

Little Baby Austin

We have a new baby!

Well, okay, he's not BRAND new, but he's pretty new. And I do want to introduce him before his first birthday.

(Funny thing about having seven kids: There are tons of things to blog about but very little time to blog. I do plan on making an attempt to blog more frequently, though. How else will the grandparents keep up with the kids who are growing at the speed of light? Nathan suggested I spend less time reading other people's blogs and more time writing our own. Point taken.)

So, back to that adorable new baby. He is the joy of the entire family! Even Steffen has come around. He loves to smile and coo. He’s patient, and as long as there are loving arms and a rocking chair, he’s happy.

Now, on to the story of his birth: (Warning: Long Blog Post to Follow)
We were expecting the newest little person on October 14th. I’ve had babies both early and late (and even one on the due date), so there was no telling when the newest addition would arrive. I thought I would go past the due date this time.
On the morning of Friday, October 7th, I was teaching Latin to my elementary aged students, and I started having contractions. Nothing too terrible, but it was a bit annoying to have to talk through them. When we all got home around lunch time, I decided to lie down and see if they’d let up. Nope. They actually felt stronger when I was lying down, so I got up. I wasn’t timing them ( I HATE timing contractions) but they were about 10 to 15 minutes apart. They continued on like that into the evening.

I decided that I REALLY needed Indian food, so I called Bryan and we met him at the restaurant. We had a delicious meal, and then headed home. I had enough contractions on the way home to make me think that driving probably wasn’t the best activity for me to be doing.

Bryan insisted on timing the contractions that evening. (He LOVES timing contractions.) So, over my objections, he clocked them at about 10 minutes apart. I was hoping that I’d be able to sleep. When I was in labor with Steffen, I couldn’t sleep through the contractions and I was EXHAUSTED by the time he finally came. This time, however, I only woke up a few times. The rest of the time, I dreamed that I was having contractions. It was really funny! I would be talking to people, and then I’d shush them when a contraction would start and breathe through it- just like in real life.

Now, Saturday was Yom Kippur, and Bryan was of course fasting. I was too pregnant to fast, and I was concerned that he might be shaky or something if these contractions really took off. He didn’t think it would be a problem, and, in fact, decided to go ahead and go to a Yom Kippur service. I should have known then that this labor was the real thing because I was, shall we say, less than pleased about that.

Bryan was gone for several hours. Justin had gone with him, but everyone else was with me. I was bouncing on the exercise ball, pacing around- usual labor stuff. Steffen kept climbing on me during the contractions and driving me crazy. That little guy loves his Mommy!

When Bryan got home, I tried to lie down for a nap, but I was far too uncomfortable. I tried getting in the tub instead, and that’s when things really started to take off. The contractions got closer together- about every five minutes- and my back started to hurt.

We were supposed to go to a friend’s birthday party that night after sundown, and I had already decided that I wasn’t going to make it. Instead, our friends got more than just our presence at the party. They got all six of our kids for the night! The little birthday boy was thrilled with the sleepover. Our friends have five kids of their own, and let it be known that they actually managed to get all 11 kids to church the next day! Now, THAT’S impressive.

When Bryan got back from dropping the kids off at their house, he came back ready to go to the midwife right away. Since she was in Austin, it was going to take us about an hour to get there. I, on the other hand, had different plans. I wanted to stay home as long as possible and just keep doing whatever I wanted: laundry, mopping, baking, anything to take my mind off the contractions. He eventually won out and we got in the car just before 10 PM.

The drive there wasn’t too bad, although I still much prefer to give birth in the comfort of my own home. (Background: The midwife I had used before was booked, and the midwife in Austin wouldn’t come to us. It was too far.) I kept telling myself that at least we weren’t driving to a hospital!

We arrived in Austin right around 11 PM, and I was 4 CM. SEE- I could have stayed home and done laundry. I was very concerned that Bryan get some rest, because even though he had eaten after sundown, his fasting had wiped him out. He napped on the bed, and I alternated between the bed and the chair. The midwife was a little concerned that my contractions weren’t lasting long enough based on her observing my reaction to them. They seemed long enough to me! We had timed the contractions at home, and they were right at a minute long. I think she was basing them on how long I was breathing through them, but I was only doing that during the 30 seconds or so that would peak.

Around 3 AM, I was getting really discouraged. I wanted to be at home, and I was pretty convinced that all of these contractions were taking me nowhere. At that point, I had a momentary flash of reason, and I realized that I had no idea whether they were “working” or not because I hadn’t been checked since I got there. So Michelle (the wonderful midwife who did a great job responding to my need to be left alone to labor in peace) checked me. 6 CM! Progress!

I hit transition pretty quickly after that. Always before, I’ve started pushing when it was “time.” This time, I wanted to just let my body dictate the time. When I started pushing some, I asked Michelle to break my water and then I got in the tub. She left me to push some on my own with just Bryan there, but she must have had her ear pressed to the door, because when the time came to REALLY push, she shot back into that room without having to be called twice! At that point, everything calmed down, and I went into that lovely haze that gave me a chance to rest for a few minutes. Bryan was like, “Umm, did the contractions stop?” Then, one push and out came the little person. Michelle tried to untangle him from the umbilical cord, but it was wrapped pretty tightly. Another half push and the baby was born!
We unwound the cord which was wrapped FOUR times around the neck. (Our theory, considering the back labor I had had was that he turned from face up to face down during transition. I could feel him turning during those final contractions. ) Then I finally got to pick him up out of the water. We rubbed his back and thumped his feet, and then he started to pink up really quickly. It was then that Bryan and I took a peek- ANOTHER BOY!!! We both laughed. What are the chances? (50/50- I know, but it doesn’t seem like it when you have five boys in a row.)

I couldn’t believe how small he was! 6 pounds 8 ounces, 20 inches. When you’ve had 9 pounders, a guy that little looks like a preemie! But Michelle reassured me that he was a perfectly normal size.

We fell in love immediately, and a few hours later, we brought our little Austin Matthew home where he belonged.