Thursday, November 5, 2015

One Month Old

It is still surreal to know I have four daughters and two sons. When Elaina was a month old I dolled her up in this pretty cream romper with soft pastel pink flowers and got a few pictures. When Abigail came along I pulled the same romper out and ended up with a similar photo/pose for her one-month photo. So I continued the tradition and have a picture of each of my girls sleeping in the romper at the same exact age. They all look so different and yet you can tell they're sisters. My first three girls had a little fuzz for hair but Thea had a lot of hair! She's lost quite a bit of it but still has more than her sisters did at their first birthdays.

Sweet sleepy girl. She has tiny storkbites on her eyelids. She sleeps so well for a new baby! One month at 10/13/15.

She's wondering what the big flashy thing is that I keep pointing at her (camera).

This is the end of her grin. She has these HUGE, silent grins. Seriously the most joyful baby.

Some cute shots. At first she wasn't sure about sitting propped up, then she saw me, smiled and about fell over with her full body grin. Swoon!

I waited a long, long time to bathe this beauty. I wiped her neck and underarms when necessary but otherwise she didn't get a bath until she was over a month old. I have only washed her hair with water and thus far no cradle cap (I swear even the eco-conscious stuff can cause that junk). I don't have an infant tub so we used the sink. She was unsure at first but was okay once she adjusted to the water. Just check out those delicious chunky rolls! She's got rolls on top of rolls. She's even more roly-poly since this pic was taken a few weeks ago.

Fixer Upper

We have been working on our house exterior since March of this year. Replaced wood rot, scraped and painted and replaced the roof. Our house was built in 1909. We've had a lot of things we've had to fix, upgrade and replace on this old house. The exterior was no exception! So let's go on a little journey... you get to see it all in one post but it took months (and a LOT of tears on my part) to get from this first pic to the last!

Replace wood rot.

Unfortunately these guys didn't hang the gutters back up correctly after they replaced rotted wood. Wood that rotted due to poorly hung gutters. So if you recall this was a very wet year for the Midwest. It rained almost an entire month after we got the wood replaced. I bawled my eyes out every time because water would leak between the gutter and house and it would leak into the house. The new wood itself did look good and all ended up being well! Just wish they had hung the gutters up better.

STEP TWO: Scrape and paint!
Colors are Lagoon and Alabaster (Sherwin Williams)

The painters started in September when Thea was one-week-old, giving us only a few hours notice that they would begin work. Daniel started a new job where he was up all night. I was up all night with the baby. Painters started early, right as the sun came up, for 10 business days. Due to lead paint I actually took all six kids over to my in-laws' house for the first couple days while scraping was done. It was insane!

I was so nervous when I saw just the blue on the house with all the old brown trim. But the white trim started balancing it all out. This paint company was overpriced and underwhelming, very sloppy. We complained and got some money off but overall I would not recommend the company. I'm going to have to fix some things on the first level. I hate hiring people to do work, have I ever mentioned that? The end result is still beautiful overall...

Ta da!


Our roof was 100% free to us and they did a phenomenal I-can't-complain job. Funnily enough we had issues with the contractors who replaced the rotted wood and the painters, both of which were paid by us. Go figure! I assume their good job was due to the fact that the city inspector inspects the work when they're done. Can't beat free and can't beat a job that is done well.

So how was the roof free?! I saw that a grant was available for weatherization and roofing on our city website. I applied to have our roof replaced. We were approved!

The city sent out their professional inspector and he measured everything and wrote up the work order. The city hired the roofers and paid them from the grant money. We picked out our shingle color (dark charcoal) from a limited selection. Roofers came out the week after the painters left and got the old roof removed and the new one laid in just three days. They kicked butt and our roof looks amazing! They caulked, put in new flashing, and properly replaced rotted wood around the chimney stack where it would leak (the contractor we hired and paid to do that, back at Step One, didn't do it right and it still leaked).

I was so ecstatic for the first rain to fall after the roofers were done. I had to wait several days and finally it rained... and NO LEAKS. Roofs are so expensive. We would never have been able to afford it after all the other work we had done. I am so grateful for the grant. I am grateful that I don't have leaks inside anymore. If the roofers hadn't come and done the work, fixed the gutters... we'd be causing more damage and making more expensive fixes later on. THANK YOU ROOFERS!


If you've followed me for a long time then you know we've been waiting for this moment for several years. She's finally painted up and all pretty! The porch needs attention but at least the major, major work is done.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Goodbye October

We just celebrated the last birthday of the year, for our little (er big) family with Zoe turning 6 at October's end. I'm so behind on recording all the funnies, all the difficult moments... our lives. I try so hard to not get on the computer all day so blogging often escapes my thoughts until I'm in bed. Then I'm too tired!

But enough of that! Check out these cheeks. Here's Thea at one-month-old! She was sitting up but fell over and was making silly faces.

One-month and tuckered out. She is so so so peaceful. When she does cry it is so cute it about breaks your heart and you want to drop everything and make it all better.

Oh hey, I have other kiddos! Look, I got all six of them in a picture. This is the first pic of all six of my babies together, on Halloween of all days. Coordinating them into clothes with brushed hair and good attitudes is next to impossible. There's always the ONE kid (or two) who has to rebel. But Halloween? They were more than cooperative, as I said I wanted a pic before we went out!

We've got Elsa, Iron Man, a Renaissance princess (her dress is amazing; reminds me of Merida's in Once Upon a Time), a unicorn and Batman! Thea didn't have a costume. She wore her skull booties and a crocheted pumpkin hat while I wore her in the Moby-style carrier.

Get this: I took all six out trick-or-treating BY MYSELF. They did really well. Just had a few touch-and-go moments with the 2-year-old but thankfully our neighborhood is blocked off from traffic during trick-or-treat. We stayed out for quite a bit and had fun. I made baked macaroni-and-cheese for dinner (I used Muenster in it, which all the kids pronounce as Monster Cheese) and we watched Halloween Wars. The kids ate so much candy when we got home and got busy trading their goodies.

Silas was SO cute trick-or-treating. He's a pretty ornery kid. But he just grinned and grinned at everyone. He refused to say "trick or treat". One woman bent down to his level and asked him to say it. He grinned at her for a solid 20 seconds before he sweetly said, "No" and then giggled. She busted up laughing and gave him the candy. He kept trying to look at everyone behind us so I was pretty much dragging him house-to-house. Every time he got a piece of candy he giggled and just had so much wonder and joy in his eyes. I love seeing things through the eyes of a toddler! All is so shiny and new and joyous.

Another Silas funny: he loves to tell a joke. But before I get to that I have to explain that we are Whovians (and by "WE" I do mean every single person under the roof of my house, kids included). We watch Dr. Who weekly. We obsess over all the toys and gadgets one can buy. My kids pretend-play Dr. Who all day, everyday. They LOVE it.

So Silas loves to tell his joke:
Silas: "Knock knock!"
Me: "Who's there?"
Silas: "Doctor."
Me: "Doctor Who?"

Cue insane giggling. Every time! It never gets old to him.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

New Baby Pics

Thea is almost 2-months old now but here are some pictures of her during her newborn stage. She was born with more hair than any of her other siblings. It's also the darkest haired baby I've had (Daddy has black hair). Her eyes are blue and getting lighter and brighter as time goes on.

Breastfeeding is going great now. But the first couple weeks were really hard. She has a tiny mouth, I was tender and I had the worst afterbirth pains than any other time. Then I got a milk blister (it feels like someone is grinding shards of glass into your flesh when baby latches on - it hurts SO bad!). After the blister healed and the afterbirth pains stopped and her latch improved... we're doing great. I haven't had to supplement and she's SO chubby even her rolls have rolls!

We are cosleeping but she likes her own space. She doesn't like to sleep in the crook of my arm. She prefers to be near but doesn't have to be ON me, like most of her siblings needed to be. It has meant decent sleep for me, for the most part. Sometimes she likes to wake up and party for a couple hours at night, from time-to-time.

As far as personality: she is super smiley and happy and sweet. She rarely gets upset and is easily consoled. She lets me put her down for decent amounts of time so I can get some things done real quick and get back to snuggling her. She's also pretty quiet, content to watch everyone and even doze off on her own (like she did just now when I set her in the bouncer so I could get some homeschool lessons done).

She's the perfect little addition to our family!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

U - G - L - Y

I need some help, friends! Before we even purchased our house we knew we needed to renovate the kitchen. 9 years later and it's still pretty much the same. We just got done funneling money into exterior repairs and paint (it looks SO good and one of my next posts will be all the before-and-after pics of the work) and now we're trying to get a family vehicle. All with six kids and a one-person income. So the money just isn't there.

So... how can you help?! I entered our kitchen into an ugly room contest, hosted by our bank, where two winners will receive $5,000 each and $500 to a charity of their choice. $5K does not sound like much but it should be plenty for what we need to do. I'm so desperate to win this!

Please visit my bank's FB page and vote for our UGLY KITCHEN!

You can vote once per day. I don't believe you have to have FB to vote (but you will have to create a username/login so they can track where votes are coming from and prevent cheating).

If you do this I cannot even begin to express my gratitude! It would mean the absolute world to me!!! THANK YOU!


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Thea's Birth Story

Thea Sue
9-13-2015 at 10:12am
W: 7lbs 12oz  L: 20"

Saturday, September 12, was a gorgeous day. I was 41 weeks pregnant that day. We spent the evening in the backyard as a family (pic below) and little did we know that in the morning we'd have a baby! I had been having braxton hicks contractions like crazy for weeks, some were pretty intense. But I always knew it wasn't the real deal. But this particular Saturday evening I was having a few sporadic contractions and had an inkling that maybe it would be the start of something. I had zero symptoms or signs that anything would happen but I still wondered. I went to bed praying for rest, that if baby was going to come that it would not be the middle of the night like our last birth!

Last pic as a group of five siblings!

Thankfully sleep came readily and easily that night. I kept dreaming of contractions and labor. I slowly woke in the morning realizing these dream contractions were actually real contractions. And they were coming closer and stronger. At 5:30 I finally got up and timed them. They were 4-5 minutes apart and lasting for about 45 seconds. After about an hour of timing I woke Daniel up and told him it was baby time. The contractions were starting to make me really uncomfortable.

I helped Daniel make up our bed with a tarp, then clean sheets, then a huge chucks pad and another clean sheet. Daniel started getting the birth tub ready, at my request. Getting in too early can stall things but I didn't care. I just wanted in the water and wanted in the water ASAP. The air pump Daniel used was great but it was super loud, like an airplane engine! He went off to call his mom so she could come watch the boys, who were now stirring and waking.

As soon as there was a bit of water in the tub I got in. During my last days of pregnancy I had been reading Ina May Gaskin's book "Spiritual Midwifery" and was trying to be very conscientious about my attitude and about being positive. I was trying to "keep my humor" so there were some laughs here and there. Daniel or I texted my midwife at some point to come on over. Daniel put on some worship music by Kim Walker-Smith and I melted into labor.

I was taking a potty break in the bathroom when the midwives arrived. They got all set up and then helped me back in the tub. They listened to Thea's heart and were really good about being present but also giving me my space. My body kept shaking this birth, a lot. I don't know if I was cold, if it was hormones, if it was transition... maybe all of the above. But my body was super shaky almost the entire time.

Our daughters wandered into our room. At one point I held the hands of Abigail and Zoe between contractions. Elaina left a couple times to grab things for Daniel like a snack and water. Zoe left a couple times to go play because she got bored. Abigail stayed the entire time; she didn't want to miss a thing! I was so careful to watch my speech and actually avoided saying a single curse word. Go me!

It got painful. Fast. And was very reminiscent of my last birth (of Silas) where I was in the worst pain I'd ever been in. Obviously it was worth it because here I was, willing to do it all over again with Thea. I threw up twice but because we had just woken up for the day my stomach was empty. I don't know if it is worse to have a ton to puke up or absolutely nothing but it was the latter.

I really kicked myself later for not drinking red raspberry leaf tea. I feel that maybe if I had it would have helped tone and prepare my uterus more. The old gal just had such a hard time, being baby number six. She wasn't a happy camper about it and I felt the fury. Despite that I was still trying to remain positive and present. In between contractions I noticed one of the student midwives had made some coffee and was using my Dr. Who mug so I piped up that she had the best mug in the house! I liked her even more knowing she was a Dr. Who fangirl.

The pain got worse. I was asked where the pain was, like back or pubic bone, and I couldn't articulate where it was. I finally realized it was my cervix and told her. My midwife told me I should get out of the water and have a few contractions on the toilet. I inwardly panicked. I felt SO close and knew I didn't want to get out so I decided to close my eyes and ignore everyone. I finally had my midwife check me a few minutes later, around 10am or so (hadn't been checked once my entire pregnancy or up to this point in labor). She said I was 9cm but had a lip of cervix. Oh and when she touched that bit that wasn't budging I about jumped out of my skin. Yup, that's where all the pain was coming from! She told me to let baby's head work through it, slowly. But a few contractions later I was pushing! I warned the student midwife that I push fast and this birth was no exception.

I was still in the birth tub, leaning over the edge and facing Daniel. I had my right knee down on the bottom of the pool but I lifted my left leg up in a squat position. I had my hand there and pushed out the tiniest little baby head. I gasped and said, "Her head! Her head is out!" I felt cord around her neck but the student midwife was already on it and slipped the cord over Thea's head and out of the way. I was still on that same contraction, it all happened so fast, and the rest of Thea came sliding out and into the water. The student midwife said, "Take your baby!" and I pulled up our petite princess, silently thanking God that the hard part was finally over!

It was then I reminded Daniel to take some pictures! So all these birth tub pictures are from Daniel's iPhone. So glad I have these first pictures of Thea because her face changed so quickly.

My first thought when I pulled her up was, "Oh I know you! You're here!" Next thing I noticed was all her dark hair. It was black and it was long, for a newborn. She was really quiet and didn't seem to be taking any breaths so we worked her up and that's why she appears to be crying in almost every picture (she actually only cried for a few seconds). And this baby had so much vernix it was crazy. It was just layered on her like frosting on a cake.

The big sisters were present when Thea was born! They were so so so excited. The brothers stayed downstairs with Nonna. The kids had to wait quite awhile to hold Thea, though. When she was born we did skin-to-skin while all the siblings went off to Nonna's house. After a few hours away they came back home, climbed into my bed next to me and finally got to take turns fighting over the baby.

 Abbie (age 8) and Thea

 Elaina (age 10) and Thea

 Silas (age 2) and Thea (she's a few days old here and in the rest of the pics)

 Judah (turned 4 twelve days after Thea was born) and Thea

Zoe (age 5) and Thea

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

2015-2016 Curriculum

I think one of the most fun parts about homeschooling is picking out the curriculum. It can be overwhelming! But once those books that you've carefully selected begin to pour in, you just get a little giddy inside. Even the kids can't wait to dive in!

So here's a breakdown of what each of my school-aged kids will be doing and what grade they'll be going into. Judah won't be 4 until the end of September but he may do some "work" to keep busy and to be like his big sisters.

Some are websites and are hyperlinked if you want to check them out (they are not affiliate links).
BEWARE: This is super, super, super long!!!

Elaina - Grade 5
  • English/Grammar = 'English 5' by Bob Jones University (BJU)
                  We used BJU English in the past and I really, really like it. It's done very well and I don't feel like it is "dumbed down" like some other books I've seen where they won't even refer to the grammatical rules by their proper name.

  • Spelling =
                   I don't necessarily want to do all of our subjects online but I haven't really found a spelling program that was fun, interactive and independent. When I found this website I decided we should give it a try! You can make your own spelling lists or use theirs. When I find a website like this I always test it out myself. Also, look into getting AdBlocker Plus on your browser! A lot of these sites have tons of distracting ads for other learning sites and games.

  • Cursive
                   I have some workbooks for cursive. I really like how the Kumon books look. This is one of those things that comes with just practice, practice, practice. Most of the workbooks are pretty boring and just copying. The brunt of it will be to just use it in daily work (Elaina has already learned cursive lettering, now it's just refining it and focusing on neatness).
  • Reading/Literature = Understood Betsy, Little Princess, etc.
                 We have a huge list of age appropriate literature for Elaina to work through. This child is a bookworm. We will be doing literature the "Charlotte Mason way" by reading it s-l-o-w-l-y and soaking it in. One chapter a week, most likely, depending on the book. Elaina will also have free reads that she can read faster. She usually spends the weekend absorbed in books.
  • Science = 'Exploring Creation with Astronomy' by Apologia and Nature Study
                 I have five Apologia textbooks. We used the Zoology 2 books (sea creatures) our first year of homeschooling and it was such a huge hit. We learned a lot. One thing I wished I had gotten was the accompanying journal. So this year we'll have the journal as we learn about Astronomy.

                Another important part of science is 'nature study'. You may have noticed this trend recently. Get into nature, observe and explore, then journal it. It might be a watercolor, it might just be field notes with a picture, etc. This is NOT just for children. We do it together. We have wonderful books like "Nature Anatomy" and "Handbook of Nature Study" as well as a ton of science books I've found at thrift stores on various topics to help us learn more about our observations.
  • Math = Khan Academy
               If you like free and you aren't a proficient mathematician then look no further than Khan Academy. It's calculates how well your student is doing, teachers new concepts through video, lots of practice. Check it out! It is free. I have all three girls on my account so you can add as many students as you need.  
  • History/Geography = 'America the Beautiful' by Notgrass
                This is one subject that I was adamant on needing to be thorough and done really well. I happened to stumble upon this curriculum by Notgrass and became obsessed with getting it. I found it gently used on homeschoolclassifieds from someone so we're all set for learning our American History and Geography!
  • Computer/Keyboarding - Fun to Type and
                  Elaina has been practicing keyboarding (typing) for the last couple of years. Obviously that has to be done online and there are plenty of free games and lessons online. These are just two that we use.
  • Guitar = online guitar course
                   My husband plays guitar but that doesn't mean he can teach it. He has showed Elaina a few things but we decided finding an online course might be best, from someone who knows how to teach it to children. I haven't found what I'm looking for yet.
  • Ballet = ?
    We took Elaina out of her ballet school due to some negligence on her teacher's part, the resulting dishonesty of the teacher about her negligence and the overall disorganization of the school.  It was a tough, yet easy, decision to make but we're left trying to figure out what we will do this upcoming season. I found another school that I think she'd really like that is modest and teaches classical ballet and also costs less. We shall see! Nothing is set in stone on that yet as we have to also fit it in our budget with me not working. Eek!
Abigail - Grade 3
  • English/Grammar = 'English 3' by BJU
                   Same as Elaina, but for grade 3.
  • Spelling =
                   Same as Elaina but grade 3.
  • Cursive = Skill Builders and Kumon
                   Miss Abbie hasn't learned cursive yet. So she will be using Skill Builders first, just a regular old cursive workbook, to learn the lettering. And then I found this really cool book by Kumon about writing cursive words. So once she's gotten the lettering down we'll focus on the Kumon book.
  • Reading/Literature = Reading Eggs; Charlotte's Web, Little House on the Prairie                              
                    Abbie is my struggling reader. She refuses to read chapter books. I am not entirely sure how this is going to work this year. During summer we're still focusing heavily on reading. She has a subscription to Reading Eggs that helps but I need her to actually READ BOOKS as well. So our summer focus is getting her ready for these age-appropriate chapter books.
  • Science = Astronomy by Apologia and Nature Study               
                   We combine our science. The great thing about this subject is that we can learn the same material. Apologia even has each chapter end with questions and projects for younger students and then something different for older students, making it very easy to use their curriculum over a multitude of ages.
  • Math = Khan Academy                
                  Abbie will also use the free math course online. We've already begun actually. The kids beg to play it. The kids earn points when they complete videos, practice and master skills. If they don't know something they can watch a video to learn the concept or click the button "I haven't learned this yet" so the program can adjust itself to fit each student's needs. No two kids will have the exact same course. It is all customized based on how your child works and progresses. You also receive emails or can login to view their progress.
  • History = 'Our American History Grade 3' by A Beka                  
                    Abigail is still finishing up this history textbook because we started it the last quarter of this past year. She may end up just doing the Notgrass books (same as Elaina) if we find it'll work for her age/grade. I really like A Beka's science and history books in grade 3 so I do recommend them. But for ease with schooling three different grades with a newborn, toddler and preschooler in tow... we may combine as many subjects as possible lol!
  • Computer/Keyboarding = Fun to Type and Typing Web                
                  Third grade is when I start teaching keyboarding (typing) so this will be Abigail's first time learning how to type. I am actually curious to see if learning to type will actually boost her ability to read because this child can read sheet music better than the written word! I wonder if it will all line up and be that missing piece to the puzzle. We may have to start this now to find out!
  • Piano = private lessons
    Eight months ago Abigail started taking private piano lessons from a woman in the area. In fact we just had her end-of-year recital. Abigail has blown through all of the beginner piano books and has even made her own songs. She has played Ode to Joy by Beethoven in church. She has a natural ear and talent for piano. I'm convinced her teacher has an amazing gift because it seems all of her students do really, really well. Proud of them all!
Zoe - Grade K
  • Poetry = A Child's Book of Poetry                
                    Oh poetry! We are actually doing poetry with ALL the girls. This is the most precious poetry book. We have a lot of others, including Shel Silverstein and more classics. Kids love poetry. If you don't have it included in your course definitely do it! We do ours after Bible.
  • Phonics/Reading = Reading Eggs, '100 Words Book' and Modern Curriculum Press Phonics
    Zoe is already reading and even writing several words. I get 50% off for the second child on Reading Eggs but she isn't subscribed yet. She did amazing on her free two-week trial so I'm definitely considering signing her up. For now she is definitely using Modern Curriculum Press and this great book I found on Amazon called '100 Words Book' that teaches sight words.
  • Science = Nature Study
    My main focus in Kindergarten isn't necessarily teaching science vocab. It is exploration, discovery and from there we go through our nature books and learn more about what interests her. She will also listen in and do the astronomy work with us because she's just one smart cookie and enjoys being included. So even if she doesn't "get it" she'll be with us and absorbing some things with regard to astronomy.
  • Math = Khan Academy               
                     Yes, there is even Kindergarten on Khan Academy (at least in math; not in other subjects as of this date). Zoe has already begun. My only beef with it is that I wish the area on the screen with her math problems was bigger and easier for her to answer (in other words, more age appropriate visually). As it is I have to sit with her and help her a LOT because the buttons where she selects her answer are SO tiny. She can move a mouse and play kid games but she has a tough time with the really fine motor skills needed for such small buttons. I still have her try but help her before she gets too frustrated and gives up entirely.
  • Art = a compilation of free lessons I've found online
    This is another one for ALL the kids, including the boys if they want to participate. Art is very important to me. There is so so so much you can do in art. But a lot of it is technique that I do not know how to teach. I took art and drawing and clay and all sorts of creative classes in school. I can teach some but not all. So my quest to find online lessons began just a few weeks ago and I'm compiling them into my own handmade book (see my last post). From watercolors to shading to stills to clay and everything in between, at several grade levels. We are going to focus a lot of creativity this next year because it has gotten pushed to the backburner way too much the last two years.

So there you have it! It is eclectic. I love the idea of an all-in-one curriculum. But I also love piecing ours together. You can't go wrong. I'd love to hear what everyone is doing or thinking about doing! If you're not homeschooling but interested in starting CLICK HERE and use the tabs at the top of that page to explore getting started.