Sunday, 31 August 2014

Happy 21st Anna Maria!!!!!

Wishing our Anna Maria much love, 21 today!!!!!
We are so very proud of you darling, words can not adequately express how much we love you.
It seems like only yesterday we were blessed with our precious girl who changed our lives forever.
Many, many Happy Birthday wishes darlin'

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Before I Had A Seven Year Old

Kate has asked mothers of older children to share what it was like 'back in the day', back when all their children were under seven. So heading down 'memory lane,' sharing a few recollections of those years.

We are blessed with ten children and one whom awaits us in Heaven. Our girls are; 21, 12, 10 & 8 months. Our boys are; 19, 17, 15, 8, 5 & 3. Once upon a time, many years ago we only had little ones, they were special years and they were stretching years.  

When our oldest was six we had four children, they were 6, 4, 2 and a baby, and life was actually becoming easier. The winter our fourth child was born is one I look back on with fond memories, it was a 'picture perfect' winter in which the children and I spent most of the time snuggled together under a doona on the lounge reading Beatrix Potter for hours and hours. The truth is any phase of our lives has seemed far easier compared to the years in which we had three under four, our four year old was easy, but our two year old was a handful and the baby had colic/reflux and screamed and screamed and screamed.  It might seem funny to say that life with ten children is easier than life with three but it's true.  Never since have I known such sheer exhaustion and felt regularly that my life was totally out of control, 'little' details seemed so insurmountable, everything was an effort. We had no local family support, our parents lived a couple of hours away and my Prince Charming worked long, long hours, sometimes coming home for tea and going back to work again until the wee hours of the morning, a few times he even pulled all nighters! 

The overwhelming feelings were balanced with the fact that we lived life at a slower pace. It was a time of making solid friendships, our friendships forged in those years still continue today and those friends share pieces of our lives that forever entwines us.  Nursing Mother's, Playgroup, Mother's groups at Church, morning tea with friends whilst children played together, these times were imperative to sanity. Talking to today's young mums I'm not certain this rhythm happens as much and it saddens me, they are missing a sense of community. 

It was a time of really immersing ourselves in our little ones' world, focusing on their joy and wonder as they discovered the world around them.  They baked, we read, they dug in the dirt, swung from trees and played hide-go-seek, we played make believe games, they explored the world around them and we had charming conversations. We enjoyed focusing on the world from the viewpoint of only little people, having only little ones is a precious time that can never be recaptured again. We still have little children and enjoy watching them discover the world around them, but there are now more distractions as we are also busy navigating the world from the eyes of older children as well.  

When we only had little ones every undertaking was mammoth; getting out the door, loading up the car, arriving at Church in a timely manner, visiting the shops, morning tea with friends, many details were involved and they loomed largely. It became easier to load up the pram and walk to the shops and Church rather than struggling with car seats and the pram.  I certainly became fit and the loaded up double pram 'clocked up frequent flyer points'. By nature I'm fairly laid back but I always found dinner prep and bath times stressful when we had only little ones, this time of the day involved a lot of juggling and it was a challenge. As the children grew older and their 'hands' were available it got easier, but we ate far more pizza than was healthy back then. 

As the children grew life became a little easier, they were able to help in small ways, they learnt to clean up after themselves (of a sort and some better than others;) most importantly they entertained siblings (no longer did I daily have to play make believe games, oh yeah!) and we began to have meaningful conversations. Today I no longer have to take all the children with me wherever I go, whilst I still often have a child or two with me I can duck out leaving teenagers in charge, most life changing recently with an adult daughter at home is I have even left our baby a couple of times! 

PC and I were blessed to have been raised in large families and as I was the eldest of eight over a twenty year age span I was most familiar and comfortable with many aspects of parenting. I'd been fortunate in seeing my mother breastfeed my siblings for extended periods of time and breastfeeding to me was a comfortable and familiar part of being a mother. We have always consciously focused on developing independence within our children, this has been a major decider in much of our parenting approaches and choices. Though being a sibling certainly isn't the same as having your own children I did enter parenthood with experience and confidence. Parenting ten children ranging from twenty-one to eight months has its own challenges; the early years stretched us personally and physically, the middle years stretched us mentally, and the teen and young adult years are stretching us spiritually. 

Parenting has been a wonderful journey of falling in love with our children and of self discovery. Although sometimes I long to go back and give a little advice to my younger self, I'd encourage myself to focus more on our, my husband and I, relationship, reassuring myself that our children won't suffer for spending a few hours occasionally with a trusted babysitter and about 'at home date nights'. I'd also let myself into a secret, that making sure I nurture myself doesn't mean I'm selfish, it means if I'm nurtured then I have more to give to my children.  Mostly though I would tell myself the years will race by and you will never have this time again, I'd tell myself to hold onto these years, to treasure and savour them.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

My Daybook: August 27th, 2014

Outside my window...
it's an overcast day, hoping for more rain, the water tanks need filling

I am thankful...
  • to be living in freedom 
  • to be able to tuck our children into a warm bed at night with full bellies
  • to be able to worship my God 
I am thinking...
about the atrocities in Iraq and Israel/Palestine, my heart is heavy, so heavy, God is weeping

First time slashing the paddocks:)
Learning all the time...
  • interest and ability in reading for Jelly Bean and Jack Jack is coming along at a great pace:)
  • steady progress in all areas for the children. Totally astounded that despite all the stresses of our life at present, learning is the one area that is booming! God's Grace.
Celebrating the liturgical year......
um, not really, just surviving at this stage

From the kitchen...
healthy salads, lots of salads, minimising sugars and grains

I am creating...
excel and word documents for our upcoming homeschool camp next week

I am working on...
  • achieving all on my 'to do' list for said camp, including a plan to 'fit it all in'
  • finalising menu plans for camp, Anna Maria(21) and Einstein (17) are catering this year for the first time

I am going...
shopping with the children this week to finish buying presents for our Anna Maria's 21st in 5 days!!

I am hoping...
camp brings many Graces to all

I am praying...
  • for our College boy, far from home and extremely ill with the flu
  • for our adult daughter who turns 21 this week!
  • for the success of our annual Catholic homeschool camp next week
  • for our brothers and sisters in Iraq

I am pondering....
egos and pettiness

I am reading...
Alvin Fernald, Foreign Trader to the children, and um Enid Blyton to myself, blush. I am completely stressed and only capable of total fluff

I am listening to......
nothing really Sarah's podcasts are still on my 'to do' list

I am hearing...
silence, the children are sleeping in, love it when the house is quiet:)

I am struggling...
with staying calm, to savour the moment

Clicking around...
Back to School - "This is your season of life, your time to be with your young children, or not so young children. They will grow up and need you less (though, in my experience, they will never NOT need you at all, thankfully).   Try if you can to live in the moment, savouring this precious time with your children making the boring sameness of the moments count. Try not to waste the time you will never be granted again. Try to savour it."

Tepee building with old trampoline mats
Around the house...
  • PC has just completed tiling and grouting the bathroom:):):)
  • The laundry is being waterproofed this week:)
  • We moved all the tools out of the laundry in preparation. Huge shelving of tools now resides in the toyroom opposite the children's toys, 'cause everyone has tools in their toyroom don't they? Big boys and little boys toys together;) 
One of my favorite things...
Teaching Jem(5) to ride a bike yesterday!  He picked it up so quickly!!

A few plans for this week...
  • Dance lessons for Princess
  • Soccer 'break up' party for Jem and Jelly Bean
  • Grandma staying for an overnight visit 
  • Physics teacher coming for a lesson with Einstein
  • Shopping for Anna Maria's birthday 
  • Shopping for camp catering (an epic and daunting undertaking)
  • Packing for camp (for 10 people this is epic too) 
  • Celebrating Anna Maria's 21st!!!!!!!
A little peek at my day...
Dance, soccer and Grandma today, the lull before the storm.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Families of Four Children

I'm really enjoying writing about larger than average families, so many books I'm adding to my 'go back and re-read with the younger children' pile.  Thanks also to your comments I'm hearing of new titles too:) keep the suggestions coming and at the conclusion of this series I'll gather all your suggestions into one post.

Not wanting to leave 'average' nor 'smaller than average' families (still haven't a definition of average;) out of the fun I'm going to broaden my family series to include families of three, two and one child/ren. Though finding books with one child could be another challenge luckily I love book challenges.

Chatting today about families with four children, some of our absolute favourites here.

We LOVE, LOVE the Melendy Family Quartet by Elizabeth Enright. The series opens with The Saturdays, a family of four children, their father and housekeeper Cuffy who live in New York city. The children Mona is 13, Rush 12, Randy 10.5 and Oliver 6 are intelligent and extremely creative. In the second book The Four-Story Mistake the family moves to the country into an unusual architectural house. Then There Were Five and Spiderweb For Two are the last two books in the quartet, where Mark a close friend who becomes a brother joins in the tales. The children are totally likable and interesting and are very close knit, we enjoy not only reading about their adventures but reading about their interactions. We've read these a few times over the years. Highly recommended!

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall is another huge hit! A family of four girls, who like the Melendy family are raised by their widowed father, are an absolutely fascinating blend of personalities, we love these sisters. Who can resist a family with characters such as a four year old who always wears butterfly wings and is called Batty. Sequels are Penderwicks at Point Mouette and Penderwicks on Gardam Street. We always love sequels with our favourite friends, time to re-read with our younger children. Highly recommended.

The Bantry Bay series by Hilda Van Stockum is about the O'Sullivan family who live in country Ireland in the 1930s, the older children Brigid and Michael are responsible and warm and the twins Liam and Francie are adventurous and mischievous. The series opens with Cottage at Bantry Bay and continues the adventures of the O'Sullivan family with Francie On The Run and Pegeen, the illustrations are delightful. Interwoven throughout is the Catholic faith and Irish wisdom, history and culture.  We've read the Bantry Bay books a few times already, a huge family favourite:) Highly recommended.

Linnets and Valerians - Elizabeth Goudge
Set in England in 1912, four siblings are sent to live with their Grandmother after their mother dies, father is away in the army. Grandmother is too strict so they make their escape in a pony cart and set off, eventually ending up at their Uncle Ambrose's home.  Once there the children solve a mystery that 'hangs over' the local village through a series of adventures. Interwoven through the story are touches of 'pure magic', more detailed reviews to explain.  A new find which we enjoyed last year.

The Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
The most well known book of the chronicles is The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe in which 4 siblings are sent to the country for safety during the War.  They discover another world on the other side of the Wardrobe, a world in which Good vs Evil and they become Kings and Queens of Narnia. Lots of sibling interaction, children confronting their weaknesses and growing in their strengths. Some of Chronicles are about Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, others introduce different characters. Another I really must re-read to our younger children. Recommended.

Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
The story of the four March girls who live in American during and after the Civil War with their Mother, their Father is away at War.  The girls are pretty Meg, tomboy Jo, shy Beth and vain Amy. To be honest I'm not a Little Women fan, I find the 'girlishness' of most of the characters insipid and irritating, though I realise I mightn't be popular saying so. Next book in the series is Good Wives.  I am however a Jo fan, I relate to Jo which is probably why I like Little Men and in particular Jo's Boys.

The Moffats - Eleanor Estes
We actually haven't read the Moffats, they sit waiting on our shelves, however they sound delightful, similar in parts to Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, a widowed mother and her children, although the children sound rather adventurous and rambunctious.  Set in American during World War 1. Sequels are; The Middle MoffatRufus M and The Moffat Museum.

The Boxcar Children - Gertrude Chandler Warner
Four orphaned children appear in a town, frightened to live with their unknown Grandfather they make a home for themselves in an abandoned red boxcar.  We only have the first of this series, admittedly I haven't read it though the children have read it to themselves, there are hundreds in the series.

Bobbsey Twins - Laura Lee Hope
The Bobbsey's live in Lakeport, America, Father is a prosperous lumber merchant, Mother is home full time and the children are two sets of twins. Bert and Nan are 12 and Flossie and Freddie are 6, they have lots of adventures and often solve mysteries. Written for 8 year olds, I remember the series with fondness from my childhood, however re-visiting as an adult the formulaic plots becomes 'old' quick and the racial typecasting of that era is a concern. The children have read them, though they haven't held interest for too long.

Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
The four Walker children set sail in The Swallow for Wild Cat Island, however their plans are disturbed by the fierce Blackett sisters. A battle ensues, in which afterwards all six children join forces for a memorable summer. A marvelous series, 12 books in all, full of adventures, sailing, fishing, swimming, camping, secret codes and carrier pigeons.  Our older children were wildly keen on the Swallows and Amazon books, though the younger ones have yet to become fans. Recommended.

Friday, 22 August 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol 204)

Jem's (5) funny of the week: "Superman has two weaknesses, Kryptonite and Good Looking Girls" Um yeah...

One of the benefits of educating your children is furthering your own education along with them. Currently the younger four children and I are reading Our Island Story and for my own recreational reading I've been enjoying a few of the Brother Cadfael mysteries. This week I realised our history reading was background to my lighter reading, Brother Cadfael's Penance is set in England 1145 during the Civil War between King Stephen and Empress Maud. I became engrossed in the Civil War and wanted to know the outcome, I only needed to skip forward in our History book to know 'who won'.

Working my way solidly through my 'to do' list for the two upcoming Weddings we are all attending. This week I finalised ordering dresses (after hours of study on ebay) for all the ladies of the house, three dresses have arrived so far and oo la la. Though it has been declared Bella looks like a cupcake;) I have borrowed suits for the three youngest boys, and they look goood:) Only ones to take care of now are PC and two of the older boys, the boys are a little trickier, they have a man's length but a boy's slenderness. Oh yes there is still shoes, cardigans, jewellery, hair and makeup to consider for the girls but that's for another day.

I was finally successful in baking sourdough bread:) However Bella, Bass(3) and I were the only ones who liked it (all the more for me;).  Most excitedly I didn't have any negative reactions, no cramping at all. Normally we never give our babies grains under 12 months, but considering it was fermented I thought it would be save enough to give Bella (8 months) a taste.  She went absolutely crazy over the sourdough, she ended up having far more than at taste! Needing to do some research to see if fermented grains are okay to give to babies, have you read anything?

Honing my skills as a writer is something I'm always striving to do, listening to and implementing advice is one way to improve.  I was so pleased when a loved family member said to me this week, "Your writing has improved, you no longer use, 'very' and 'much'" True I don't, constructive criticism is helpful.  Another loved family member encourages me to stretch my skills by confessing sometimes my 7 Quick Takes are "pedestrian" the weeks I earn higher praise I'm ecstatic. (I acknowledge freely that sometimes they are pedestrian)

Theresa's series on Preschool focuses on the joy and wonder of small children as they discover the world around them.  She encourages us to see and enjoy the world from the viewpoint of our little people.  As I read Theresa's series I kept thinking how once upon a time, only a few decades ago, children didn't 'do preschool' instead they played and explored and baked and talked and listened to a few stories. In short they just enjoyed being small children, a precious time that can never be recaptured again.

Thinking it might be time to reinstate Handwriting Boot Camp, I might hold 'camp' in a few weeks time, the last week or two of Term.  Have you ever had older children struggle with handwriting? Any stories, tips to share?

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