Monday, December 26, 2011

2011 Christmas Letter

For us, 2011 was a year of learning…

Thomas (9) learned to serve others by volunteering to gather and take out the garbage at a local pregnancy center.  He reports for duty every Monday and greatly enjoys the work! He also learned the value of a dollar as he worked for several neighbors and friends doing yard work and house/pet sitting this past spring and summer to earn money for art camp. Thomas is continuing to work and save his money as he plans to go with our church’s youth group to The Wilds Christian Camp in the mountains of North Carolina for one week this upcoming summer. We are excited about how the Lord will work in his life, especially while at camp.

Tanner (6 ½) is learning to read in school. It has been fun to witness him read words on his own as we drive around town. He has also begun to read more books to his younger sisters, which is a great help to me! This summer and fall, Tanner learned to operate the lawn mower and leaf blower. If you know Tanner well, you know how much he enjoys doing yard work and helping out around the house in that way! Above all, Tanner is learning about salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ, and we are excited that he is beginning to understand what true salvation is (and is not). We are praying the Lord will continue to open up Tanner’s heart so that he can truly understand and be saved; we ask that you would do the same.

Tristin-Grace (5) learned to play T-ball this year. She participated on a team through the local YMCA and enjoyed it very much! This was her first experience playing organized sports. Her coach fondly nicknamed her “Princess Pink” because she wore a pink shirt, pink pants, pink shoes, a pink hair bow, and used a pink baseball glove at each practice. Despite her petite frame, she hit the ball with all her might and even got a few doubles! Tristin-Grace is looking forward to playing T-ball again in a few months.

Teagan (3) really learned a lot this year, beginning with learning to talk. She is now talking fluently (and non-stop!) and was dismissed from speech therapy in August. The progress she has made over the years amazes me, and I am extremely thankful for all the wonderful therapists who worked with her to help her reach this point!  Teagan also learned to use the potty, pump her legs by herself on the swing, and to pedal her bike up and down the driveway. She has made some huge developmental strides this year, and we are so proud! 

Taylor Ann (Annie- 21 months) has learned to walk, run, jump, climb, hit, say “No!”, and is even beginning to sing songs, among other things. She is full of life and very busy! Annie’s favorite thing to do is brush her teeth, and she disappears into the bathroom to do so at any opportunity she gets. Annie started attending preschool 2 mornings per week to help occupy her time and expose her to life outside of the bathroom door. =)

Taryn Eileen is the newest member of the family, joining us 4 weeks before her due date on November 25th. Since birth, she has learned to eat really well, about every 2 hours. Taryn has also learned to ignore loud noises such as crying kids, barking dogs, and vacuum cleaners!  She is still working on learning to sleep as she does most of it during the day and not enough at night. I hope that she’ll master this skill soon! Please pray that I will draw on the Lord’s strength as I battle sleep deprivation and  face my daily tasks as a mother.

TJ learned to better use his singing talents by joining our church’s choir and singing before the church as part of a small group. This year TJ sang his first solo in front of the church! He also participated in a recital and performed for the residents of a local nursing home. Singing and music are a major part of TJ’s life, and as his family, we benefit from his beautiful voice. TJ also continues to work at Winthrop University. The Lord has opened up many doors (and hearts!) in terms of providing TJ with opportunities to witness to and encourage his coworkers. It has been a blessing to see the Lord use TJ in this way! Please pray the Lord will continue to open hearts to the truth of God’s word at Winthrop.

I, Terra, learned about couponing this year. I started in May, and I will admit, I am an addict! It takes effort but knowing that I am saving my family money (over $1,000 to date!) is very rewarding and worth the time. In all seriousness, this year I learned a lot about complete faith and trust in God. I found out mid-April I was pregnant again, and I immediately put my trust in the Lord to care for me throughout the pregnancy. The struggle came when we were faced with some unexpected financial pressures. I would find myself awake at night, worrying about how we were going to pay for the things we were facing (pregnancy-related and non-related). The Lord dealt with me over a period of about six weeks. During that time, I saw God answering prayers and using the people in my life to not only rebuke me, but also encourage me along the way. I am thankful that I was able to learn this lesson on trusting God in all areas of my life.

As we draw to the end of both this family update and 2011, we pray you have a joyous Christmas and blessed New Year!
   
With Love,
TJ, Terra, Thomas, Tanner, Tristin-Grace, Teagan, Annie, & Taryn

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Family


Here is our most recent family picture. I am including it in our Christmas card...if I can ever find the time to write them!

Life for me has become even busier than it was before. I am struggling to find a balance between my expectations and reality of what I can accomplish in a day. My "To Do" list is so long and yet it seems I spend all my time between laundry, dishes, and caring for children. It is discouraging to see my list get longer instead of shorter, but I know soon enough a routine will be established and life will get back to "normal," whatever that was.

On a different note, Taryn is gaining weight quickly because she eats so often! During the day, she goes about 2 hours between feedings. However, starting around 8pm, she feeds about every hour and a half. I am nursing her but find myself giving her bottles of formula more and more because she just doesn't seem satisfied, even after nursing for 30 minutes or more. On the bright side, the kids (& TJ) can help feed her bottles whereas with nursing they obviously can't. The down side is that formula is expensive and pumping is too time consuming.

Sleep is still a rare and precious commodity for me, and I chuckle every time someone (well-meaning) advices me to nap when the kids nap. I really wish I could (trust me!) but it seems that Taryn wakes to eat when the others go down for a nap, and by the time I'm done feeding her, Ta is usually walking in the door from school and we begin our routine of homework, snacks, and getting him ready for school the next day. Once we're finished, the girls are waking from their naps and supper needs to be prepared, etc. In my "spare" time, I try to get another load of laundry going, the kids to help me with chores, and Annie down from wherever she's climbed. I am thankful this is only a season of life because sometimes I feel like my head is going to spin off my shoulders!  It truly is a busy household, but God has blessed me abundantly and I love my children dearly.

Because I doubt I have a chance to update before then, I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. Once I finish our yearly update, I will share it here. =)

Monday, December 5, 2011

{ A Thanksgiving Blessing }

My dad and a close family friend (Donna) drove down from Ohio to visit us for Thanksgiving. They arrived around 1:30pm on Thanksgiving day. After some playtime with Grandpa and a tour of the house for Donna, the younger kids settled down for naps while Th and the adults chatted and  I finished up dinner preparations.

We ate our Thanksgiving meal around 4:30pm, I cleaned up and then prepared dessert while the kids and other adults played outside, enjoying the unseasonably warm temperatures. Shortly before 7pm the kids came in and began their bedtime routines of showers/baths. We then sat and enjoyed a variety of desserts prepared by both Donna and myself. Once dessert was over, bedtime for the kids was not far behind, and by 8:30pm all of the adults were gathered in the living room for the evening.

The busyness of the day left me exhausted and as I sat watching TV and chatting with the family, I realized I was having mild contractions accompanied by cramping. They were not anything serious, and by no means close together, but they were strong enough to get my attention. When we went to bed about 11:15pm, I briefly mentioned the contractions/cramping to TJ just to keep him informed as to how I was feeling. I immediately fell asleep and slept great...until about 3:15AM.

I woke to find a pain in my lower right side, and thinking it was because my bladder was full, I used the bathroom. Upon returning to bed, I found it difficult to get comfortable and the more I tossed and turned, the more contractions I had again accompanied by cramping. After trying for more than an hour to get back to sleep, I decided to get up and take a bath to see if that helped to relax me. I woke TJ to tell him of my plan (so he wouldn't worry if he woke & found me not in bed) and he mumbled "Okay" and rolled back over to sleep. =)

Once in the bathroom, I again used the potty before getting into the bathtub. It was then I saw spotting and knew the situation was more serious than I had thought. I proceeded to get in the tub but the contractions only became stronger and more frequently. Finally, about 5am, I made the decision to wake TJ so we could prepare to head to the hospital. He asked if he needed to do anything immediately and upon hearing me say "No", he told me to wake him when I was ready to go and again rolled back over to sleep. =)

Because I was just 36 weeks that day, I was not prepared for a hospital stay. I opened the door to the crawl space under the house to search for a suitcase, stopping only to breath through each contraction. Since Donna was asleep in T.G.'s room, T.G. was asleep on the floor in our room. I didn't want to turn on the light and wake her so I used the light from my cell phone to pull clothes out of my drawer and throw into the suitcase. In my haste to get to the hospital, I couldn't think clearly enough to remember what to bring. Let's just say I'm thankful we live close to the hospital so TJ could bring me the items I forgot. =)

Once I was packed up and ready to go, I again woke TJ and put a phone call into the doctor's office. In the meantime, TJ woke my dad, explained the situation, and gave instructions for the kids upon their awakening. We then got in the car and headed for the hospital. We arrived shortly before 6am. The nurse took me to the "Triage" room where she checked me, asked if this was my first baby, and, after picking her jaw up from the floor because of my response, immediately escorted TJ and I to a L&D room.  I was given a hospital gown, an IV was inserted, and preparations for delivery were made. The doctor and anesthesiologist were paged, and we waited for them both, all the while I tried to breath through my contractions. About 7:15am I received an epidural and at 7:45am the doctor came in. And about 5 minutes later he left...Let's just say I was not very happy with him!

He informed me that he was going off-shift and the next doctor coming on had a C-section scheduled for 8am. He was only "hanging around" until after she finished the C-section in case there were women, like me, in labor. But, since my water hadn't yet broke, he wanted me to wait until the female doctor could deliver. I was upset because, although I had an epidural, I could still feel the contractions and I was in a great deal of pain on my right side. I simply wanted the baby out!!

A ceiling tile in my L&D room...supposed to help me to focus on my breathing & not the pain.
My hero, I mean my doctor, arrived about 9:15am and immediately broke my water. A few pushes later Taryn Eileen arrived at 9:26am. She was 6 pounds, 15 ounces and 19.75 inches long. She has dark hair and a round face like her siblings.
Shortly after birth
Taryn did not do so well for the first 24 hours. She did not eat (nurse or bottle) and had problems with mucus in her stomach. She actually choked so badly (complete with turning blue) at one point that she was taken to the NICU for observation for a couple of hours. It was rather scary for me because I was alone at that point and didn't really know what was going on with her. Thankfully my nurse was sweet and kept me informed, and she didn't mind that I called her a few times just to check on the baby.
Th was the first to hold her (being the eldest has its privileges)


Despite his tough exterior, Ta couldn't WAIT to hold the baby! =)
We left the hospital Sunday afternoon and Taryn's discharge weight was around 6 pounds, 3 ounces. She was seen by her pediatrician last Monday and was up an ounce to 6.4 pounds. By Thursday she had gained another 2..5 ounces. Taryn returns this upcoming Thursday and the goal is to be up to 6.12 pounds. I am both nursing and giving her formula, and her feedings vary between every 2-4 hours (of course at night it's more frequent).
The "Mini Mommy" & her baby

So far she is a good baby and the biggest challenge for me is trying to keep her safe from her siblings. Annie and the other girls all want to help care for her, and sometimes they aren't as gentle as they should be. =) I know their intentions are good but it is often overwhelming for me as they literally fight over the baby.
Teagan couldn't believe she really came out of my belly. =)

We've had help in the form of family staying to help with the other children, friends taking some of the other children, meals, and of course prayers. I am still rather unstable emotionally and yesterday as I finished getting all the girls and myself ready for church, I began to cry in the bathroom. I was physically and mentally exhausted from the process! I know it will take time to adjust, but the lack of sleep and extra time needed for feedings is taking its toll. I am still also trying to keep Th on track with his schooling (so thankful he is a diligent student & willing to be flexible with me!) so that we won't get too far behind. I am thankful I pushed him hard in the beginning of the year because we are actually 5 days ahead of schedule but I don't want to stop him for Christmas break yet because we are not at good stopping points. This week we'll end 2 subjects so next week we'll only have to focus on 4...should be an easy and managable task that will keep him on track and allow me time to continue to adjust to life as a family of 8.
My dad & Taryn
(so thankful the Lord allowed him to be visiting with us!)

A shot just to put her tiny size into perspective...the carseat swallows her up!

Wow. Still can't believe I have 6 kids. I'm beginning to wonder if my quiver is full, although somehow I doubt it...  =)
Close up of her face

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bump!

Teagan is not known for her grace and poise. I can't count the number of times she has bumped her head, some worse than others. She had two goose-eggs on her forehead within 3 months of each other because of falls that were only stopped by her head pounding the ground.  Simply put, she is quite the klutz!

TJ picked her up from preschool on Monday afternoon to find her crying. Apparently she had just had an incident in the playroom where she was running and ran into another child. Upon their collision, she fell and hit her forehead on the floor. There was no bump, not even a mark, but she was pretty upset. TJ brought her home and we proceded to try to calm her down so she could eat lunch. As soon as she was sitting in her chair, she began to vomit. We knew then that she needed to be seen by a doctor.

I called her pediatrician and they recommended we take her straight to the ER. TJ gathered Teagan and had Th go with him to try to keep her awake and talking in the car. In the meantime, I hastily tried to get in touch with 2 college students who have babysat for us in the past. Neither answered the phone. I then tried my neighbor, and she, too, did not answer. I put Annie & T.G. in the car and began to drive, not really thinking about where I was going. Once I realized which direction I had gone, the Lord brought to mind a friend from church whose house I was just about to pass. I quickly dialed her number and thankfully she was home and more than willing to keep the girls with her. I dropped them off and met TJ at the hospital at 1pm.

Teagan continued to vomit while we were in the waiting room so the ER nurse contacted the doctor for approval for a CT scan. The scan was approved and she had the scan at about 2:15pm. Then, we were sent back to the waiting room. We waited for 2 1/2 hours all the while Teagan continued to vomit. TJ and I took turns inquiring about the status of the scan, but of course no one could tell us anything. We were very concerned because Teagan was still vomiting and becoming lethargic. Finally, around 5pm I left to gather the kids from my friend's house, as well as Ta from another sitter (one of the college girls saw I called and returned my call) so they could eat and we could begin our nightly routine of baths, etc. TJ and Teagan arrived home shortly after I did.

Just as I left, the nurse called TJ back where Teagan was examined. Her scan and vital signs were normal so she was released under the diagnosis of a mild concussion. I followed up the next day with her pediatrician. Because she was still lethargic, vomiting, and complaining of a headache, he recommended her activity be limited. She is excited about being able to return to preschool tomorrow!

                                                         *    *    *
After talking with someone who has more experience with concussions than I do, I am thankful this happened now rather than later. As was previously stated, Teagan has hit her head many times, some even harder than this. I firmly believe that each bump and fall progressively built up to this. Now we know she is extremely susceptible to head injuries, and we will monitor her reactions to bumps/falls more closely.

Also, the Lord used so many people to encourage us during the entire ordeal. I promise you, it was the Lord who provided the sitter for Annie & T.G. as I was so upset I wasn't thinking clearly. I left my neighborhood not headed in the direction of the hospital (let's hope that doesn't happen when I go into labor!) and couldn't think clearly enough to get bearings. My friend lives in the next neighborhood so I turned there in an attempt to turn around. The fact that she was home, answered her phone (after I had called 3 other people), and was able to help with childcare was a huge answer to prayer!!!

When TJ and I got home from the hospital, my neighbor called to say that the director of the preschool felt so terrible about what happened she had brought pizza over for us. Since we weren't home yet, she left it at the neighbor's who stuck it in the oven to keep warm. What a blessing to not have to prepare supper after unexpectedly being gone all afternoon!

The next day, for Teagan's follow up appointment, another girl from our church stayed with the kids so I didn't have to take them with me. Her sweet mother prepared a meal for us and brought it over when she came to pick up her daughter. Again, a huge blessing as I was still tired from everything that had happened on Monday. This particular girl had her own experience with a serious concussion (she almost died) back in February so it was a blessing to be able to see the progress she's made, plus gain insight into the signs I needed to look for from now on. I know it was a painful and difficult experience for her, but the Lord has used it greatly in her own life and now in mine. Her family knew exactly what we were facing and just what we needed.

I praise God for His hand in the entire situation. It is extremely evident to me that He orchestrated all of the events and will use this in all of our lives. I pray that He continues to protect Teagan just as He's been doing. =)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

An Unexpected Blessing

As I've shared before, money is extremely tight as we prepare for the arrival of baby #6, upkeep and maintenance on the house, and feeding/caring for a large family. I have been trying to refinish some of the dressers we already have but we still needed a dresser for Taryn (baby #6). I was just going to make space down in my bedroom for her clothes until we had the money to buy something. Imagine my delight as we were driving home from Th's football banquet and passed a house where a woman was standing outside, removing knobs from a wooden dresser. TJ noticed her and mentioned to me that, for some reason, he thought she was going to be getting rid of it. We turned the van around and drove past again, and sure enough, she was carrying a drawer to the curb. We stopped and inquired about the dresser's fate, and she happily gave it to us. It is a solid wood dresser with lots of potential. I can't wait to muster up the energy to strip the paint and refinish it. I already know how I want it to look as I can picture it in my mind, complete with glass knobs. Just what I need- another project! ;)

Proof that God knows our needs and provides for His children. =)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Happy 5th Birthday, T.G.!

T.G., I had no idea how being your mom would be such a blessing! You are a sweet, kind, caring girl who loves her baby sisters so much. God has given you a nurturing spirit, and you do it so well! You are helpful, especially when it relates to babies, cleaning, or cooking. I can already tell you will be a GREAT mommy when you get older! :)


You have your own ideas regarding fashion and clothing, and your favorite color continues to be pink. If you had it your way, you'd wear pink from head to toe every day of your life! You also have an expressed opinion about hair styles and how you want to wear yours each day, and you refuse to have your hair cut except for an occasional trim. I am amazed that you don't mind it so long (it's almost to the bottom of your back) but it is absolutely beautiful, especially when you wear it down. We have had to start conditioning it daily in order to be able to brush it in the mornings, and you LOVE that you get to use grown-up conditioner. :)

This past spring you participated on your first organized sports team and played T-ball. You loved it, although at first you weren't so sure! You were affectionately called "Princess Pink" by your coaches because you wore pink shoes, had a pink glove, and wore pink pants with a matching hairbow to practice each day (your choice). You had fun and we enjoyed watching your skills improve over the course of the season. 




You still like 'Hello Kitty' and the Disney Princesses, however this year your interests have expanded to include 'Strawberry Shortcake'. You enjoy coloring and puzzles, and are now able to complete advanced puzzles with more than 350+ pieces. I am astonished at your ability to simply look at a stray puzzle piece and know which puzzle it goes with. You are doing great with your phonics and letter recognition, and have even started reading a few words (which is pretty exciting!).


I can't wait to see how you change over this next year, especially with us having a new baby soon.  You are excited about sharing your room, although I think it will be challenging for you to get used to not having your own space anymore. I love you so much, T.G., and I am so thankful the Lord blessed me with you!!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Small Pleasures

Since money has been (and still is!) so tight for us, my mom sent money for us to take the kids to a pottery place to do something fun for T.G.'s birthday. T.G. has never been to one before and has wanted to go since Th has been doing his homeschool pottery class. We planned it on a day when TJ's dad and step-mom were coming out so they could help us with Annie. The boys painted airplanes and the girls painted butterflies. We ended our afternoon with a Strawberry Shortcake birthday cake as a special treat for T.G. (she has recently become infatuated with her).  =)












Monday, October 24, 2011

Worried...Why?

Last Spring I began couponing, trying to plan and prepare for purchasing a vehicle that would accommodate our growing family because I knew we would not have the money to pay for something fully with cash. That has been going well and I honestly hate buying something without a coupon (but sometimes we need certain items so I at least try to buy them during a sale). Anyway, my plan was in full swing and going great: our grocery budget was cut in half or more depending on the week and so I was able to save a few dollars.

In August our budget shrunk unexpectedly. We took a whirlwind trip to Ohio to visit family. While we were gone, we received a phone call from the people watching our house informing us that our A/C wasn't working. By the time we got back home, the house had warmed up to a toasty 87 degrees!!! We ended up having to replace our entire A/C unit. It was definitely an unplanned expense!

We also received notice that we have hail damage to our roof, meaning we need to get it replaced. TJ found out the insurance company didn't take into consideration all of the materials needed, so we are now in the process of appealing to them to include those in the price of the roof. Regardless, we are still responsible for covering our deductible, and again is an added expense.

About a month ago, we found out the family currently renting our other house was moving. We immediately cut out any unnecessary spending and began fervently praying that the Lord would provide more renters. We found out this past Wednesday that the Lord answered our prayers and a new family is moving in soon (praise the Lord!!!).

The same day the Lord answered our prayer regarding our rental situation, we received notice that our property taxes are increasing. We have to pay the difference for this year and then our mortgage is going up starting in January to cover next year's taxes in our escrow account. Again, an unexpected expense.

I have been struggling with worry regarding our finances: how are we going to pay the taxes due by the end of December? How are we going to afford to pay the deductible on a new roof? And what about a larger vehicle-how are we going to be able to buy something so that we can all fit in one car? I get sad every time I think about the fact that we will no longer be able to go ANYWHERE together as a family unless we get a bigger vehicle.

Nevertheless, I do know God has a plan, a much better plan than mine. Truth be told, I think the Lord used couponing as a way to prepare me for this. All of these expenses came as a surprise to us, but they sure were not a surprise to Him. The last three church services I have attended have all dealt with finances, worry, and anxiety. I have been so convicted regarding my lack of faith in God's ability to care for me and my (not so little) family. To be quite honest, it is going to take a miracle (or close to it!) for us to be able to pay for all of these expenses, but thankfully God is in the business of working miracles. As I was reminded in today's service, the Lord knows of our need and will provide (Matt. 6:25-34).

I have been faithful in saving money and caring for my family as best I can, and I just need to continue to fulfill those responsibilities. My worrying isn't going to make money grow on the Oak trees in my yard, and it actually prevents my mind from focusing fully on my responsibilities. So, please pray for me, for us. Pray that I wouldn't worry and that I would remember to "cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7). Pray that I would "be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God" so that I would have "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding" to "guard my heart and mind through Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:6-7).

*I wrote this post Sunday, 10/23 and just now found out that the insurance company is going to pay an additional $1700 to off-set the expense of the roof. Obviously the Lord is showing me He is going to provide, I just need to trust Him. I have tears in my eyes from both joy and shame: Joy that the Lord keeps His promises and shame that I didn't fully trust Him.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

"No!"

Annie is 19 months old and I haven't really updated the milestones she's recently reached.

Language- Annie knows some sign language and is able to verbalize words, as well. They are listed below.
Signs:
  • yes
  • more
  • eat
  • please
  • thank you
  • I love you
  • cheese
  • bird
Speech:
  • hi
  • no
  • more
  • mine
  • thank you
  • Mommy
  • Daddy
  • ni-night
  • shoes
  • Rainbow (for cat, since our cat's name is Rainbow)
  • nose
  • baby
  • please
  • bye bye
  • move
  • uh-oh
Gross motor- Annie is walking, running, going up/down steps, climbing, jumping (with both feet off the ground), doing somersaults (yes, you read that correctly), and just plain ol' getting into everything! She is a very busy girl who is able to keep up with her older siblings just fine.
Fine motor- She can self-feed using a spoon/fork, drink from a regular cup (although I still give her sippy cups for my own sanity!), string beads onto a pipe cleaner, and push small buttons (you know, like to turn off the television or change the channel on the remote when others are perfectly content watching a show).
Cognitive- Annie knows a plug goes into an outlet, understands when I say, "Let's go outside" that she needs to get her shoes (and now jacket), and that puzzle pieces fit into a puzzle a certain way. She also knows that I can't be everywhere all the time, and she waits for the perfect opportunity to take advantage of me being preoccupied before she clears the computer desk, shreds the napkins, dumps the clean laundry baskets, or colors on the doors/walls with pencils or crayons she's meticulously hidden. I often hear the following words from my other kids: "Mom, look at Annie!" Annie is too smart for her own good!! She fits right in with our family, and I am so thankful for her spunky personality, even if she does exhaust me! =)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fire Prevention Coloring Contest

October is Fire Prevention month and to celebrate, our local school district, along with some local private schools, participated in a coloring contest for area first graders. Ta won the contest for his school, and was awarded $25 and a frame that contained his winning picture and certificate. We all joined him at a local fire station for a reception where he met the Mayor, Fire Chief, and Fire Marshal. Yay Ta- we're so proud of you!!

Ta accepting his award from the Mayor and Fire Chief

Friday, October 7, 2011

Busy Bag Activities

I recently joined a subgroup of my homeschool group in which we make and swap activity bags. The activities contained in each bag are geared for preschool/kindergarten-aged children, but honestly, all of my children LOVE to do them.  Each activity is supposed to entertain the child for approximately 20 minutes; however, depending on the age/skill level of the child and the type of activity, it could take him/her longer to complete the task. 

I currently have about a dozen different activities that range from easy to difficult. They also include tasks that focus on fine motor skills, counting/numeracy, letters/phonics, and logic. I like them in that Annie all the way up through Th enjoy doing them, and it gives me a chance to prepare supper, throw in a load of laundry, or do whatever (like use the bathroom alone!) while they are ALL occupied at the same time.   


I am in the midst of another swap so by the end of next week I will have another 18 activities to add to my collection. I keep some of the activities in the car for when we go places where the children have to wait (i.e. doctor’s appointments, restaurants). I have also started making some to give away as gifts to those with young(er) children. With 5 kids, it seems like one of my children gets invited to a birthday party at least once a month. With Christmas quickly approaching and a super-tight budget, these homemade gifts are the perfect gift for my younger nieces/nephews! 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Family Time!!

A couple of weeks ago, TJ and I took the kids to the Carolina’s Aviation Museum.  The museum recently acquired the US Airways jet “The Miracle on the Hudson: Flight 1549.”  We had a fun morning of looking at airplanes up close, followed by lunch at the Charlotte airport overlook where the kids were able to witness the busyness of the flightline.  It was a beautiful day spent as a family!
Standing next to a main gear strut.

TJ & the kids at the back of a cargo plane.

Annie in the tire that was once on the space shuttle.

The boys watching the documentary about the landing on the Hudson. They were enthralled by it!

"The Miracle on the Hudson"

Contents that were recovered from the Hudson. The cans of soda were still sealed, which is amazing to me considering the impact of the crash.

Other side of the plane.

Ready for our picnic at the airport overlook.

Coupon Finds!

Just a post to show some of the food items one can purchase using coupons matched with a sale. I paid around $40 for all of this, and total retail value is well over $80. I apologize I don’t remember the exact amounts but this picture was taken a couple of weeks ago.   =)


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Happy 9th Birthday, Th!

My life forever changed the day you were born.  I had no idea how being a mom could teach me so much about the character of God: I have a better understanding of God's love for me because of the love I feel towards you; I also better understand God's ability to forgive because I've been both the offended and the offender.  I am better able to serve others because of the many ways I watch you serve: each week you look forward to going to the pregnancy center to gather up the garbage and take it to the curb. It's a job that seems so menial yet blesses so many people who work at and visit the center. It is an important job that must be done in order for the pregnancy center to function on its core task: to save the lives of unborn babies. You do your work purposefully and to the best of your ability, and you don't mind that you don't get recognition for it. It is a reality check for me as a mother because so often what I do goes unnoticed yet is so crucial to the functioning of our family. Thank you for the reminder that we are serving the Lord in those tasks and He sees all that is done!


You enjoy a variety of activities including football, baseball, and soccer. I love that you are willing to try new things despite how intimidating they might seem. I also love that you are determined to finish something you start, whether you enjoy it or not. You are not a quitter, and I take pleasure in sharing in the sense of accomplishment you feel when you have completed a task you don't really care to do (particularly cleaning the toilets!).

You enjoy critters of any type, especially insects and reptiles. I have enjoyed being your science teacher the past year and few months because I have been able to witness first-hand your ability to seek, find, and care for those critters. Even though I personally don't like them, you are able to share with me God's purpose in creating them.

But, mainly this year you have shown me how much you care about others, especially your siblings. I think this picture says it all- just look at their faces! You had just finished putting on a show for them and they were so excited to be in a picture with the "star" of the show! Your kind and compassionate personality shines through in all you do, and my prayer for you this next year is to continue to love God by loving others.

Happy 9th birthday!!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Happy 3rd Birthday Teagan!

Our family changed for the better the day you were born. Although you faced many developmental challenges, you have managed to overcome them by God's grace and great therapists. I am so happy to say that you right where you should be in all areas of development, and you continue to learn and grow each day.

You are so special and so sweet! We love you!!


Happy 3rd birthday, baby girl!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11

I'm sure everyone who's old enough to remember the events of September 11, 2001 can describe vividly the details of the day and how it's forever changed our nation. I am no exception...

TJ and I were living in California at the time. He was still in the Air Force, and I worked as an Administrative Assistant at the Regional Office of Marshalls Department Store. TJ woke up first, showered, and turned on the TV to watch the news as he ironed his uniform. I awoke to TJ telling me that an airplane had hit the World Trade Center, and I remember watching the TV while trying to process everything. Keep in mind, living in CA, we were 3 hours behind the East Coast so the first plane hit at 5:46am PT. We continued watching the news coverage, and like many, were horrified as we watched the second plane hit on live TV. Even to this day, as I watch the news footage, I still find myself thinking it looks more like a scene from a movie than reality.

We both readied ourselves for work and proceeded on with our morning. I had to be at work early that morning because some buyers from the TJX, Co. in Boston (parent company of Marshalls and TJ Maxx Stores) were flying into San Francisco that morning to tour the stores in our region that week. They were meeting with the Regional President, my boss, that afternoon. It wasn't until I got into the office that it occurred to me one of the planes that hit the WT Center was from Boston. I quickly checked my email for the flight information and was immediately brought to tears: they were dead, along with so many others.

As my co-workers arrived at the office, we gathered together and continued to watch the news of the day as it unfolded. Soon the first tower fell, then the second, and soon the phone calls were coming in from the home office regarding the deaths of the 3 buyers. It was just an all-around sad day. Families ripped apart at the blink of an eye. Loved ones never to be seen or heard from again. No time to say good-bye. No warning, no preparation.

Life changed for TJ and I after that day. TJ was supposed to get out of the AF the following March, but Stop-Loss was put in place. Stop-Loss meant TJ couldn't get out; he was being forced to extend his time in service. There was no set time frame, so we had no way to prepare. At least if he had re-enlisted, we'd know it was for another 4 years. Since his time was extended, we were at the mercy of the DoD.

Also the deployments started for the squadron to which we belonged. Although I was no longer in the AF, all of our friends were military and many were being deployed to places unknown even to them. Security, of course, was put into High alert so troops weren't told of where they were going until 12 hours prior to departure, at which time they were already at the squadron doing their out-processing. Again, families were ripped apart and loved ones were saying good-bye to their soldier not knowing how long they'd be gone, where they were going, or how soon they'd hear from them.

Base security also became an issue, and it was more difficult to have guests on base. Without a military ID, people were being turned away from the gate. Also, personally speaking, my own sense of security was shaken to the core. Anything could happen at anytime, and I didn't feel safe outside the walls of the base. I only went off base when it was necessary, and it took some time for me to feel safe again.

TJ and I had plans to fly to Florida that October to go visit his grandmother. We weren't able to make the trip because he wasn't able to take leave. The squadron was pretty much empty because of all the deployments, but I was thankful he wasn't in a job that deployed (he was working in the computer office at this time).
I think it's important to remember the events of September 11, 2001. Soon enough it will be another day in history, much like Pearl Harbor Day and D-Day. Future generations, particularly those born after 9/11, can only learn about the significance of that day from those of us who experienced it first-hand.

So, to all of the lives lost on that day and in the days since, your sacrifice was not in vain. Our country is a better nation as a result. President George W. Bush read this letter at today's commemoration ceremony, and I agree it is very appropriate:
Executive Mansion,
Washington, Nov. 21, 1864.


Dear Madam,--

I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,

A. Lincoln

Friday, September 2, 2011

{ Endless Projects }

I had a plan that, during the summer while on break from homeschooling and taxiing my kids around from place to place, I would:
  • organize and file all of Th's schoolwork from last year
  • sort through toys and prepare them for consignment/donation
  • strip and refinish Th's school desk
  • strip and refinish T.G.'s bedroom furniture (which includes a double headboard/footboard, dresser, night table, desk, and chair)
  • sand and refinish Teagan's bed
  • swap out & pack away the kids' clothes for the next size up
  • unpack and sort through the pile of boxes in my dining room and bedroom that are leftover from our move (you know, over a year ago!)
Items on my list that actually were completed: none

Items on my list that are partially completed:
  • Th's schoolwork from last year is organized but not yet filed
  • Th's school desk is stripped and I'm in the process of painting it
I had high expectations and am a little disappointed that I didn't completely finish anything, nor get started on more of my "to do" list.  The furniture project is a big undertaking and I really don't have much more time before the weather no longer cooperates. I don't want to wait until next spring because, well, I'll probably have other items on my list to accomplish, not to mention a new baby. The toys and clothes projects I simply cannot do while my children are around- as I sort through stuff they want to play, and we all end up getting frustrated. The toy sorting and putting away takes all day, and I just don't have the extra energy at this point in time. We just don't have space in our playroom for their current toys plus whatever else they get for birthdays and Christmas (3 of my 5 kids have birthdays prior to Christmas. I'm not being mean by getting rid of toys, I'm simply being practical). However, the way I combat this "problem" is by having them go through and decide which toys they are willing to part with (if each child parts with 5 items, that's 25 items in all!).

Hopefully, once Th's school desk is complete, I can begin working on Teagan's bed since she'll need it when the baby arrives. Currently she sleeps in a toddler bed and Annie sleeps in the crib, but we'll need to move Annie into the toddler bed so Teagan is moving up to a twin bed. Teagan's and Annie's room is painted a light shade of purple, so my plan is to paint their beds a pale yellow. I already have their bedding (Christmas gift from last year) so I'm excited to see the finished result. Plus, with my new paint gun, painting is a breeze (it's the clean up I dislike!)

Th's desk before

Th's desk after (actually, it's just the 1st coat)
TJ has also had a few projects he's been working on this summer. We had talked about redoing our laundry room because the orientation of the washer and dryer was not making the most use of the space. Since I began couponing at the beginning of the summer, space became more important to us. He ripped up the ugly brown carpet, put linoleum tiles down, painted the walls, moved the washer and dryer, and hung a shelving system. He still needs to rewire all the electrical and move the water pipes so they will be hidden, along with putting another shelf up above the one already hanging over the washer/dryer. But, all in all, I am thrilled with the result and especially love the blue.
 
Laundry room before (picture taken prior to us moving in)

Laundry room after