Thursday, 28 February 2013

Insanity and weather..

I so mean to keep this updated more often, but the last week-and-a-half have been insane with crazy weather, crazy kids, and well.. crazy life! LOL

First, my husband works as a snow plow operator, so when we get snowstorms (which isn't as frequent as you would think, given that we live in Canada!) he's got weird and wacky hours. For example, with one storm, he ended up working 30+ hours out of 70 or so. He would work 12 hours and come home, eat quick and crash for a few hours, and then head back out to work. I always appreciated snow plow drivers before, but now? I understand way more how hard the job can be at times.

So when he's working weird hours like that, it throws our whole family life off. Because he's working nights (usually) and then sleeping during the day, not only am I the only adult home at night, which is nerve racking in and of itself, but then I'm the only adult during the day too! It feels almost like solo parenting again. Plus, either I make our meals to fit his schedule, which can be next to impossible, or I feed the kids at semi-regular times, and try to eat with him.. or everyone eats at odd times, which is more likely. So our whole daily routine gets thrown off too.

Oddly enough, speaking of routines, we are slowly falling into a routine around here. I'm becoming more consistent with doing preschool with my middle girls, and staying on top of the regular household chores (though the place is in desperate need of a thorough spring cleaning!) And I'm able to fit in working too, which has been a goal of mine for a few months now -- being more consistent in my business approach, as well as my roles as wife, mom, teacher and housekeeper.

I really do love my crazy life.


Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Baby bump blues and pregnant pauses..

You would think after four children I would have maternity clothes that fit throughout a pregnancy, right? Apparently not. I'm running out of decent, going-out, look-nice, cover-all-the-necessary-bits, feel-comfortable clothes. I'm down to about 2 pairs of pants, and maybe 3 shirts that I can wear going out. Now, I have plenty of shloppy, baby-stained, mommy clothes that are comfy. They don't look the nicest, but at least I'm covered and clothed.. it's going out places and looking decent that is a problem. 

Part of the problem is that I guess it took 5 pregnancies for my body to actually get the idea that it's supposed to show a baby bump. With my first pregnancy, you couldn't tell I was pregnant -- even at 9 months! With my 2nd and 3rd, I looked barely pregnant (think 4-5 months along) when I was close to my due dates. With number 3, I finally had a decent baby belly at 9 months, but I honestly only looked about 6-ish.. With this one? Oh anyone can tell that I'm having a baby. I'm not used to not being able to see my toes. I'm not used to not having a lap to hold children on, or finding it this difficult to get up out of a soft chair. It is definitely different. 

Another part of the problem is that maternity clothes are so danged expensive! And even if I weren't on a limited budget, I still refuse to pay $50-60 just for a shirt or a pair of pants I'll wear for just a few months!! To me, that is frankly ridiculous. Now, I know the chances of me wearing it again are fairly high (hello -- pregnant again in a year? probably!), so I'd probably get my money's worth, but there is that limited budget thing too. So.. I shop clearance, I get used, I look for donations.. which means actual maternity clothes are few and far between for me. 

I do need to start looking for a few postpartum and nursing undergarments though. That's one area I will not skimp on, as those are daily usage, and need to not only be comfortable, but durable. So far, the durability thing doesn't seem to be working for me. I wear them out by the time I'm done nursing (or pregnant again!) but I guess the daily usage is harder on those items than I expect. 

I'm still needing to limit my activity levels. Which, as a busy mom, is inconvenient to say the least.. But whatever it takes to avoid a premature baby is worth it. I want my baby at home, in my arms, not in a hospital because I couldn't be bothered to take care of myself properly. I hope I'm a bit more responsible than that. LOL -- I'd better be, yes? 

Being off my feet so much, however, has allowed me to focus on a few projects I've been wanting to get to -- like blogging a tad more regularly. Also, working on a preschool/kindergarten curriculum for my girls, since I can't find anything that I like! I will post more when I have some more things pulled together, but at this point I'm satisfied with my nice framework. I have 6 weeks of topics, coordinated by theme and Bible story, so I'm kind of proud of that. I'm covering basic language and numeracy skills, and skimming over some science, art, music and theme topics weekly too. My girls love variety, so I'm hoping to strike a balance between the repetition necessary for learning and the creativity they thrive on. 

Pregnancy limitations does have its uses, I suppose! It's been interesting, though I can see my library expanding in the near future.. LOL, I'll probably end up starting a lending library eventually, with all the books I'll collect. But we love love LOVE books around here, and I'd rather buy books than toys, so I think it's worth it!


Thursday, 14 February 2013

Routine days of learning..

Scheduling is the bane of my life! I love my routines, and being orderly and organized, but living according to a clock drives me crazy. Not to mention that with three preschoolers and toddlers around, we get horribly behind schedule before we even start. So when people tell me that they homeschool their children, and school starts and ends at certain times of the day, like clockwork, I just shake my head with a vague sense of nagging underachievement. 

School for my oldest, on paper, should take about 4 hours to complete. I say "on paper" and "should" because that is not  much like reality. Reality says that we will start actual academics around 10:30-11ish in the morning and call it a day sometime before supper. And we may or may not have actually completed everything I had planned for that day. But this is the reality of living in a family where mom is 8 months pregnant, and we have a 17 mo old and 2.5 yr old still in diapers, and said 2.5 yr old is just starting potty training and her 4.5 yr old sister has sensory issues and some developmental delays... And there's a house to keep reasonably clean, laundry to do, meals to cook and general keeping of home and family... 

Actual academics work may only be about 4 hours in length, but it ain't gonna be 4 hours in one sitting. It will be 20 minutes here, break for diaper changes and snacks, 10 minutes before mom has to go sort out a fight between the 2 and 4 yr old, 15 more minutes before needing to go clean up all the garbage the toddler just pulled out (again!), and maybe 20 more minutes before needing to pause for character training and perhaps a wiggle break... Well, you get the idea. 

Currently, our academics consists of about 5 "subjects" covered in a day. Every day we do Bible, math, two language arts topics, and either science and geography or history. Our language arts program consists of spelling alternating with vocabulary, and grammar alternating with writing. History combines studying actual history, along with art and literature. Geography covers modern social studies and current events, as well as physical geography, and science.. well that's science, lol! All this is done at approximate a 4th-6th grade level, varying between subjects, depending on my daughter's aptitude and liking for the subject,  -- math is at 4th grade, history at around 6th grade, etc. I really don't pay attention to "levels" except for mastery and finding something that will challenge her to grow and think. 

On the other side, I do have preschoolers, so I do attempt a preschool program with my 2 and 4 yr old girls (with the toddler joining in as she likes..). This works out to watching videos through www.chalkpreschool.com, then working on our calendar board as a group (still tweaking this) and some coloring/tracing for letter recognition. It's very low-key right now, but I keep looking for easy ways to bring in more structure to their day, as the more activities I can "assign" the less sibling rivalry/mess/mischief they have time to get into!  Even my toddler likes to have some activities, usually activity bags with her own-level games and toys to play with. I don't really do crayon work with her yet, as she's teething currently, so .. yeah, a blue crayon mouth is not my idea of preschool right now. 

We soo do not "schedule" our school work or our day. It's just not practical at the moment, and frankly, with my fertility and our family's lifestyle, I don't see ever taking a "by-the-clock" approach. We do have a routine, in that "after-this-happens, that-happens". But nothing ever really happens at exactly the same time.. and you know what? I'm ok with that. There's room for improvement, of course, but nothing has to be set in stone. 

After all, part of the attraction of home education is the flexibility of your day, right? No one says it has to look like public school! 


Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Around the World in Love

Tonight was our church's midweek service night, and I volunteer with the children's program. Tonight was a party night. We were going "Around the World in Love", with a mission focus. It was a lot of fun to plan and prepare for. One of the things we did was give each child a "passport" as their invitation.




What do you think? I found them on homeschoolshare.com, and they worked great! When we signed the kids in tonight, I stamped each passport with a "date of arrival", just as if they were at an airport. Then I directed them to the room our opening activities were in. .

As an added effect, I made "stamps" for each activity we were doing tonight, (snack, story, game) and assigned the activity/room to be in a different country. Each stamp then was their stamp of arrival. Well, since I couldn't actually provide the stamps and ink, I made stickers. I probably could have printed them on labels,  but we wanted them to be different shapes and sizes. Do they make labels in circle form? 
Anyways, I just made the stickers from scratch. Another mom from my church had this great recipe to make a sticker using jello. And it worked awesomely! 
First, take 2 tbsp of flavored gelatin  -- the only flavor I had in the house was "Margharita". LOL, at least it was tropical! -- and dissolve in 4 tbsp of hot water.

With a paint brush, paint the backs of your stickers (precut, of course) until they are wet. It was best to use a lined cookie sheet to let them dry on, as they will stick to just about anything while wet! I used parchment paper, but I imagine wax paper would work even better. 


When they were all dry, which took a few hours, btw, I peeled them off, and stored them in plastic bags to transport and hand to each leader of each activity. They in turn gave each child a sticker-stamp at the end of their activity, to "lick and stick" into their passport. 




They look sooo cool!! And the kids thought the flavor was yummy too!

We also raised money for Project Seedbag, a program that sends Christian discipleship tools into schools in other countries, as well as trains teachers on how to teach it, and provides each child in the program with a discipleship workbook, a New Testament, school supplies and a toy, all in a neat canvas backpack.  Check it out at www.seeds.org -- what's really neat about this program is that it is fully supported and welcomed by the governments of these countries. Imagine what would happen to a country in 10 years, if every child that went to school was taught about the love of Jesus at some point in their education! Transformation, I believe.. And an awesome way for us to really send God's love "around the world".

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Birth-days

I am feeling very very pregnant these days. It's amazing how quickly pregnancy goes by, when you have several children already. I remember with my first pregnancy, how the days seemed to drag on, and the milestones never seemed to arrive, and now.. well it feels like just yesterday that the second line showed up on the test. Except for the fact that getting out of chairs takes way more effort than its worth, and I will call one of my children to pick something up off the floor at my feet rather than try bending down to get it myself! I have the usual pregnancy complaints, of course, at 8 months pregnant. Back aches, and heart burn, swollen feet and feeling out of breath at times.. I have some unique to me, as well, like bad excema. It's hormonally triggered as well as environmentally, but mostly hormonal, which is why every pregnancy, I get itchy rashes and easily broken skin, all over. Lovely, I know. I have some symptoms with this pregnancy that I haven't had with any other, like the aching crampiness I've experienced for the last few weeks, that is concerning my midwife slightly. But despite all the discomforts of pregnancy, I love being pregnant. Which is probably a good thing, since the last 5 years or so have seen me pregnant or nursing or both, almost constantly. With this child, I will have had 4 children each 18 months apart. That means that I've gotten pregnant again about 9-10 months after having had a baby. What is amazing to me about this whole thing is the fact that my cycles, my supposed fertility, was considered non-existent. I would go months between cycles as a teen and in my early 20s, with no real explanation. And no, I didn't take birth control as a teen to regulate cycles either. In fact, at one point, a doctor had told me I would be unable to have children without medical intervention, because I didn't ovulate frequently. Guess we proved them wrong, huh? Since then, my various care providers have commented on how easy my pregnancies and deliveries have been. I tend to have fast deliveries, with no complications. I've even been blessed to have experienced a home birth, and we are currently planning on doing it again. The comparison between hospital births with an OB/GYN and a home birth with a midwife is like night and day -- and I much prefer being at home. I don't mean to brag, but I thank God with every child that He gives me, that I do not have much pain and difficulty to bring them into the world. I cringe to hear the birth stories out there of women who labour for days, not just hours, who require interventions to bear their children, and count myself extremely blessed. My labour is counted in mere hours and minutes, and I've never required more than a pitocin drip as intervention.. and that only after my waters had broken and labour hadn't started through any other means. I cannot wait to hold this baby in my arms, not just in my womb. I have dreamed of cradling her, of cuddles and soft baby coos. I love the newborn stage -- new babies are soo easy to care for! They need to eat and be cleaned up, and they tend to sleep the rest of the time. Of course those things need to happen quite frequently, but unlike mobile toddlers, you can leave them in one place and be relatively assured that when you come back they will be in the spot you left them. Honestly though, I have to say I enjoy every stage of growth a baby goes through. The delight in watching all their firsts is always special, no matter how many children you have. I adore the curiosity of my toddlers, frustrating though it can be at times, and I treasure the smiles and coos and kisses and cuddles, the questions and chatter, and even training them in independence is awe-inspiring. Watching my own children grow gives me so many insights into my relationship with my Heavenly Father. He must delight in us even more than I delight in them. When He labours to bring into us His Spirit, and then He watches us grow in faith, in love, in becoming more like Him, it must make Him smile so much more than I do in watching my own. I get a glimpse of His love for me in the way I feel about my own children. And while I fail to be a perfect parent -- I lose my patience at times, I get angry or irritated at their childishness, my expectations don't always match up with their abilities, I forget my promises -- He never fails. He is infinitely patient, He knows exactly what I'm capable of and calls me higher, and He always keeps His word. He loves me far greater than I can imagine. In carrying this child, in the wait for her birth-day, I remember my Father's care of me, and I smile, feeling loved.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Languages of love..

It's Valentine's Day this week, in case you hadn't noticed all the pink and red, hearts and flowers, and chocolate trophies being thrown at shoppers.. Not exactly my favorite holiday... but not for the reasons you might think. I've never had a horrible Valentine's. Quite the opposite, I've had some really special ones, in the past. But its mostly because I'm not a traditional "romantic".

The traditional "romantic" woman is one who loves "happy-ever-after" stories, expects (and gets) flowers, cards, lace-and-bows traditional gifts, dresses up to impress, and enjoys the chivalrous actions of her partner(s). Which is soo not me. I like happy-ever-after, well enough, but I want more than just "riding off into the sunset, Disney-style".. I like real life better, and I know real life doesn't end at the engagement/wedding/first kiss. Relationships take work.  I think flowers are pretty, and I do enjoy their beauty, but I'd much prefer a plant to put in my garden than a cut bouquet to put in a vase. To me, that's a waste of money, since they won't last. I adore chocolate and treats, but honestly? I really don't need too much of that -- not good for my health, my skin or my waistline, such as it is... I can (and do) dress to impress, but for the most part, I prefer to be comfortable and wear things that are safe for young children, since I have a few around me, lol. I dress neat, clean, modest and try to be attractive, but I don't wear bling and sparkle all the time, and I rarely wear make-up! And while I expect courtesy and respect from any relationship, the traditional date-night chivalry tends to make me roll my eyes.

I guess my issue is that I'm too practical to be romantic. Romance is for optimists, and I'm too realistic to be that optimistic. Unfortunately, my husband is a die-hard optimist, and my lack of romance drives him crazy. He's the one who would love to spend tons of money on roses, chocolates, jewelry and fancy dinners out. He insists (most of the time) on opening my car door, holding my hand and tends to be very affectionate. Ok, I can't lie and say I don't like that part :) But for the most part, I would rather he spent the money on a nice potted geranium than a dozen roses, on pizza for the family instead of dinner out, and save the expensive jewelry money for a vacation trip or perhaps even just to pay down the mortgage.

It comes down to love languages, I guess. I highly recommend Gary Chapman's book on the subject, and so do most of my family and friends (we were given 3 of them when we got engaged!! LOL), and it was very enlightening for us. My husband's love language is words of affirmation, with a secondary of gifts, which is why I get the compliments and treats. Mine is quality time, emphasis on quality listening/conversation, and my secondary is physical affection, so I would rather spend long hours in discussion about anything and everything, cuddled up on the couch.

With love languages, the reverse of them is the absolute worst thing you can do to a person. If you want to hurt someone who's love language is say, physical affection, refuse to make love with them.. it will hurt them right at the core of who they are. So my husband has a really hard time with criticism of any kind, as he takes it very very personally. And I get very hurt if I don't feel listened to, or if I feel misunderstood. These things attack the heart of our being. You might as well stick a knife in the relationship, metaphorically speaking.

The problems come when the languages get crossed or mixed up. When I forget my "please"s and "thank you"s, or if I complain about something my husband has done too often, he will become very grumpy and upset with me. If he asks me to repeat myself several times, or several days go by without a kiss or a touch of some kind, I feel neglected and undervalued. Obviously, this leads to more issues, in a spiraling cycle of anger and hurt.

Your love language is what comes naturally to you. It's how you naturally express how you feel about someone. But if they don't share your love language, as Gary said, you might as well be speaking a foreign language, for all the good it will do you. It takes work to remember and express yourself in ways your partner will receive as loving. But, it is worth it.

This Valentine's Day, treat it as a good reminder of how your partner really experiences love. You don't have to spend a ton of money or go out to a fancy dinner, especially if neither of you see that time and money as being especially loving. Perhaps the pizza and a movie, cuddled on the couch after the kids in bed will be a ton more special. Or a love note left in a secret place, or a well-planned seduction? The possibilities are endless, and creativity is very useful when you consider your mate's love language.

Me? I'm hoping for a love letter or well-written card, with perhaps some quality time later in the evening.... *wink wink*...


Saturday, 9 February 2013

Connecting the dots..

Crazy weather people! In Canada here, I guess we're used to a snowstorm, but oy, seeing some of those reports from the US makes me wonder where y'all go with all that!? We got a nice amount of snow here, about 25 cm (10" for you imperial folks), which makes me wish I could take the kids out in it to romp. However, at 8 months pregnant, moving around the house with clear floors is hard enough sometimes, let alone trying to keep track of 4 kids in deeper snow...

The man here has been working looong shifts -- he's a snowplow operator, on call -- which means that both of us are tired people. Him because he works nights and worked almost 30 hours out of 48, and me because guess who gets to solo parent for a bit? Nap time has become my best friend again.. not just because of a noise break, but because I actually get to sleep too!

Last night, since I was by myself and the kids were in bed.. ahhh, peace!.. I did some thinking and planning for this blog. It's fairly random, but I do have some topics I want to explore more in writing here. Things like  having a larger family with lots of little ones (and no big ones to help!) since there doesn't seem to be much out there like that.. lol, hmm I wonder why? Probably because when you have lots of littles and little help, it can be hard to carve out a few minutes to sit down and write. And also probably because a lot of those families who were once in that stage were there when blogging was brand new and not at all popular. Perhaps some thoughts on parenting, because I have children!, lol, homeschooling (since we do and have since "birth"), including how we do it when I'm pregnant or nursing (or both!!) frequently, and maybe some thoughts on family planning, or lack of it as the case may be, since we have had a number of children closely spaced, and all the details related to that, like organization and routines and schedules and all the other sanity savers I've gleaned from experience and moms who've "been there, done that, wish-I-did-this-then" -- all of these may come up and more. Also may include topics such as my faith and its practical-living-out, and maybe even on marriage and relationships, though I do not claim to be an expert there!

Lots of things to explore. But life's like that. Everything we do is related to everything else. I mean, my faith influences my parenting choices and philosophy, which is in part why we homeschool, which affects our daily routines and schedules, which changes with each new child, which affects my marriage and parenting choices, which describe my faith lived out loud.. there is no dividing line between one and the other, no matter what my written out schedule tries to tell me. We can block out periods of time to prioritize a particular area of life on paper, but real life means that trying to have a conversation with one's husband may be sidetracked by answering your grade-schooler's question in spelling which in turn may be interrupted by a diaper change, which may result in needing to empty the garbage, while re-directing the toddler away from it and correcting the preschooler who put her toys there, and breathing a prayer for more patience, and then needing to write down garbage bags on the shopping list, which reminds you that you still haven't finished the history book list you were working on in the first place before you started talking to your husband... Maybe its just me??

Anyways, the point of this random rambling post is that I have lots of ideas, and hopefully experiences that will help others out there, or at least provide a laugh or two and show a few moms they aren't the only ones.. lol or maybe I'm the only one, and you aren't as bad as I am!

Enjoy and feel free to send me ideas, questions or comments..

Friday, 8 February 2013

Yet.. after all

I know, I know.. it's been forever since I posted, and I had said I would put up pictures of our reorganized playroom. It's just.. oops? I may have overdone it on that little room-rearranging-weekend, because I've ended up on a modified form of bedrest. When you're not quite 8 months pregnant, cramping and contractions are not a good sign..

So here is my reorganized playroom. Having it (almost) finished for the last couple of weeks, and test driving it on the kids, I must say it turned out rather well. I'd like to paint/decorate/make-it-pretty-as-well-as-useful, but for right now, I'll settle for useful, and easier to keep clean.

Clean. It is sooo much easier to keep clean, now that every toy and play item has a place, and not everything is visible to the ever-curious fingers of a overly-mischievious toddler who likes nothing better than to pull everything off shelves.

Honestly, all three (four?) room rearranging went much better than I expected, closer to what I hoped. I'm really liking the living room set-up, and I love love LOVE how our dining room/school room turned out. Though it is a tad cramped.. it still works awesome. The cramped space actually works in my favor, because the little girls don't want to play in there, so it stays tidier. Completely a plus, in my opinion. I am wishing now I had done before photos of all the rooms, but oh well. You'll have to be satisfied with one.

The little kids' bookshelf got moved in here from where it was in the dining room (now the living room). This means that if all the books get pulled off the shelves (which they do frequently!) they aren't in a high-traffic area, and no one is going to trip over them on their way from one room to another... especially if they have hot food in their hand or something.  We also put hooks/screws in the wall to hold dress up clothes, with bins for shoes, crowns, gloves, bags, tails and other assorted accessories. Way better than the big ugly box! The play kitchen set is light enough the older of my little girls can move it herself, if she chooses. But so far they haven't really been into that kind of imaginative play .. yet.. 

This dresser is repurposed from the little girls' room (along with a matching one now in my dining/school room, holding craft supplies). This one holds all the many "sets" of toys, things like cars, balls, play food, play dishes, baby doll clothes, blocks, etc. Each drawer has a divider, so there are 6 drawers, divided into 2, for 12 different places for "sets". I plan on putting pictures on each drawer to label them for what set goes where, but so far they only know a few places. I don't think they realize all what's in there... yet.. 

 The original plan was for this futon to be put into storage, but then I realized that a) we need a place for cuddles and storytime, b) it doubles as a guest bed (it will fold out into a double bed), and c) I plan on having a home birth, and this is one of my options! I do want to cover it, but I haven't decided between just getting sheets or getting a slipcover (or two or three, for washing purposes).. yet..

I know, the wire shelving looks out of place, but I did need a place for some plants since I ran out of room in my other rooms, and the shelving is high enough the plants are safe from toddler fingers. The bottom shelves actually came in useful for some of the girls' pull-toys and a basket for a wooden block train set. The other "wood" shelving unit used to be our tv cabinet (we got one with a smaller profile) so this one now contains puzzles and games, with a convenient surface to put them on. My 4 yr old likes to pull her chair (the pink rocker) in front of it and do puzzles, and my 2 yr old likes to just stand there to play with flashcards. My toddler just likes to pull everything out, but the damage is generally minimal, since she can't undo ziploc bags... yet... 

The table basically stayed in the same spot as it was before. I was debating about moving it against one of the other walls, but it works so well here, and keeps little hands from playing with curtains/standing on windowsills/banging on windows, that I decided to leave it. The pink bin underneath it (such a great place to store larger items!!) contains our collection of megablocks/duplo, and they know how to pull it out and .. now, thankfully, to put it back too. Now to keep the 4 yr old from locking the toddler IN the box... sigh..  I have hope they will eventually learn to get along, but it hasn't happened ... yet...

So there you have it. As I said, I'd like to give the whole room a fresh coat of paint, and we want to lift the laminate to put a layer of insulation in the floor (it gets really cold!!) so there may be changes yet. I'd also like to put some nicer pictures on the wall, and perhaps some wall shelving for my oldest's toys/games, so she feels like she has a place in here too. But at this stage of pregnancy, lol, this is as good as it gets.