Tuesday, July 10, 2018

June 2018 In Our Home

*I also lag behind in these posts because of the extra time involved in adding photos. It takes a while for me to get photos transferred from a device to a computer and then to the blog. Instead of letting these posts fall to the wayside, I may just publish them without photos and then add photos later when I'm able. I enjoy creating these posts as a means of personal reflection, and then having them later to really understand where we've been and perhaps where we're going. So, if future posts are lacking in photos then perhaps just revisit at a later time. (Or, visit my Instagram (username: OurHomemakingStory) as I frequently post photos there!). Also, this post is long. Since I wrote it in pieces throughout the month, I didn't realize just how long it was until I finished. If you actually make it to the end.. bravo! hahaha.

     I've been noticing how the Bible portion of our curriculum is written to be so conversational. It includes a very short passage from the provided Preschooler's Bible, and then a page of suggested dialogue in which you're essentially retelling and discussing the story. I haven't been as diligent in including these portions to our school time lately as such things feel so forced and unnatural to me to implement during "school time." However, I'm seeing more and more how easily they may be used for personal conversation versus a lesson. I think this is how faith is conveyed. I think it is first witnessed through the examples provided in daily living and then discussed as though a normal, natural part of conversation.  If my children are to one day walk in faith, then I want that faith to be deep and genuine. 
     Last month I downloaded a chronological one-year Bible into the Kindle app on my phone with the intention that I would simple read a portion whenever I picked up my phone. It sounds like a good plan. However, I'm still not great at reading on a device, and would much prefer to have a book in hand. Early morning coffee plus a printed copy of that particular Bible would be my ideal. In the meantime, I like the idea of using our curriculum's Bible and dialogue to prompt greater faith conversation between my eldest and myself. He always wants an extra story and cuddle before falling asleep, and this has been a perfect place for stories and conversations of faith. 

Family Updates
3 years old!
(She likes to do big brother's prek school activities.
We might need to work on cutting skills a little more though! haha)
   Annelise turned three years old! This girl is "spirited" and thoroughly enjoys herself at all times. She spends much of her day running, singing, and having a good time regardless of us being at home or elsewhere. If any of the children were to do something wild and crazy, it's likely her. I adore her kooky little ways (although some of those ways are also a bit mischievous!). Her best friend is clearly her big brother. She looks up to him quite a bit, and can often be found mimicking him. She enjoys playing with him (and occasionally, will wake him up to play if she wakes sooner. He's not a big fan of this practice though.). I'm grateful they're so close, and hope they will remain close friends in life. She is strong willed and highly persistent in her desires. I pray this will be a positive and will serve her well in life. She challenges and pushes me daily. But, I know that sweet little heart. I adore moments I get to spend with her and connect with her deeply (she's a strong daddy's girl so these moments don't come often enough). I've watched her grown and change so much this past year. I'm excited to see where this next year will take us. I'm so glad to have each day with her (even if she does know just which buttons to push! haha). I love her dearly.
    To celebrate her birthday this year, we decided to celebrate in small ways on her actual birthday, and then throw her a birthday party soon after. I decided to get her a wonderful dollhouse**, doll*, furniture set*, and book* for her birthday gifts. I made our traditional birthday donuts for breakfast. And then we simply enjoyed the day together.
Birthday tea party for our girl!
     For her party, I have had a tea party in mind for her for years. We invited friends from our homeschool co-op group and friends from church. Since her grandparents were planning a trip around the same time, we delayed the party a week so they could attend. (This is the first birthday any extended family have been able to be present for for any of the children!). As is our usual tradition, it was a complete push to the minute of people arriving. (Please tell me I'm not the only one who doesn't come close to a Pinterest-perfect party and yet still struggles to get everything done on time!). Thankfully, my in-laws were here and lent a hand where ever they could. All in all, I think things turned out pretty well. Although, soon after the initial lull the children got rather restless and rather wild (all but one guest were energetic boys! haha). After that point, it was hard to get them to be a little more orderly. (Annelise always enjoys running around with them at co-op, so I don't think she minded. Mama, on the other hand, was rather worn out by all the energy! haha). So, some of what I had in mind and prepared for didn't work out too well. But, they're just three years old, so that's okay. We were glad they came to celebrate her birthday!

(*note: I'm sharing the following not at a boast, but as simply sharing our experience and perhaps providing some encouragement towards the possibility of a debt-limited approach to family finances. I share where we are now, but also where we've been. We've not lost sight of our humble beginning)
     Also, we bought a van this month! We have been saving for a van for a little over a year. In the meantime, we've been squeezing into our suv. It contained five seats and we have been a five person family, and so I saw no reason to take on the debt of having another vehicle. It was a time of learning contentment (and blocking out the sheer volume of noise radiating from a backseat behind us containing three carseats side by side!). We were determined to not take on any more loan or payment than we've had in the past. But, as we approach the arrival of our newest baby the time had come to turn our savings into a purchase. We need more seats! 
Finally, a van!
     So, we took a trip to a town a few hours away to purchase a new (to us) van. We were very excited to have been able to purchase our biggest and most expensive vehicle, but yet take the least amount of loan for it. By combining the trade-in value of one of our vehicles that we had full ownership of and the cash saved, we were able to take out the same amount of loan we had for our previous two vehicles which we've paid off in half the time using the debt snowball method. So, in theory we should be able to pay this vehicle off in a similar timeframe. We'll then start the cycle over again of saving for the next replacement vehicle. Little by little, the goal is to take less and less load each time and eventually reach a place where we no longer need to rely on loans for vehicles. We're getting there! 
     We're certainly a ways away from where we started when we married. At that time we had a vehicle completely die a couple months after we married. David hadn't been out of college long and I was still in school, and neither of us had any debt beyond school loans but that doesn't count towards your credit. So, we had no other option but to co-sign with a family member. We ended up with a total junker car on a bad loan. It was an awful experience. But, we didn't have credit or cash at the time, so we did what we had to do. We've worked diligently since to move beyond that point. It feels like quite the accomplishment!
      As far as functions and features pertaining to a Mama of little ones, this van is a dream vehicle! Everyone has their own full size seat in the corners of the vehicle (hooray for no one having to ride with a sibling kicking a foot in their face! Real life, friends.). The seats all wipe clean, which is so nice with little ones. And, the best feature of all- the first row is "captain seats" which means there is an aisle in the middle to get to the back row. This spacing allows me and the children to all be inside the vehicle and out of the road or parking lot while I'm taking the time to get everyone buckled and unbuckled (and that does that quite some time when it's just me). Oh, and sliding doors are nice too as that takes up far less space while getting carseats situated (because sheesh do people get impatient when you're having to stand with a door partially opened while you buckle or unbuckle children!). All in all, I'm loving having a van with all the children! ...Just don't ask me to park or maneuver in any tight spots. haha

     All garage shelves are built & we're now just continuing to resell what we can, donate anything else, and trash the rest. Once we pulled everything out, it became a big job (especially with little ones). It's shaping up though! I can see how everything having a home will be a big help in keeping the space cleaned up. The investment in building the shelves was absolutely worthwhile! I will most certainly want to do the same as soon as possible in the next house we have!
     We purchased a couple of long floating shelves for our living room. Since the walls are wood paneling, I've been hesitant to hang anything on them because once a hole goes in there is no going back. The room is rather long, and so we have it split into two sections- a seating section and then the play yard play area. My thought was to use overlapping long shelves to connect those two sections of the room. I like the way the shelves look, and feel as though the purpose was achieved. After two years of blank walls, the space looks rather different with something on them now! Haha. I now just have to find an uncluttered way to decorate them. For that, I'll probably call on the assistance of a couple of friends who have a gift for decorating (I absolutely do not! haha). 

- finished 
     - Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World by Emily P. Freeman*
           I liked this book fairly well. It's not great but it's also not terrible. I really liked the emphasis on the significance of small. I, myself, feel as though I am a rather small personality and lead a small life, yet am apart of a society that praises that which is big and extravagant. So, in that regard her message was quite encouraging. On the converse, I felt as though she was trying really hard to create the content for the book. I don't believe I've ever come across such overuse of metaphors. There were times, as well, in which she seemed to get tangled in her own reflective thoughts. I did find plenty to underline or note in the pages, and so I believe it will remain on my bookshelf a bit longer. 
     - Shopping for Time: how to Do It All and NOT be Overwhelmed by Carolyn Mahaney, Nicole Mahaney Whitacre, Kristin Chesemore, and Janelle Bradshaw *
           This book was quite disappointing. I had seen this book be praised and promoted within the homemaking realm quite a bit. I bought the ebook version and was able to complete it in just a few days as it was really short (ie less than 100 pages!). The subtitle, "How to Do it All and Not Be Overwhelmed," leads you to believe strategies for managing time or tasks will be offered. Instead, it's entirely concerning the authors' philosophy towards time management and religion. They offer little to no practical applications regarding time or task management. The writing was very informal and conversational, and as though you were with them. However, the casual tone perhaps worked to discredit the work a bit as it doesn't lend itself to more elaborate or thorough writing. 

- currently reading
     -Be Mature (James): Growing Up in Christ by Warren Wiersbe*

For more books read and desired to read, visit my online bookshelves!

      The library had a huge book sale. We don't have any used bookstores or other options locally, and so I was very eager to shop this sale. I didn't quite find some of what I was looking for, but I did find a lot of other great books. The sheer quantity of books offered (and disorganization within the children's section) was a bit overwhelming. So, I tried to focus on books that where part of series or type that we enjoy (ie Golden books), as well as seasonal books. I used to think seasonal books were frivilous, but have since found them to be a delightfully simple way to celebrate the first day of a season or holiday. I found a couple new books for me to read as well. I was most excited to have found a couple of Sally Clarkson's books as I've yet to find one by the Clarkson family that I didn't enjoy!

Family Fun
Enjoying the water activity at
the children's museum we visited!
    When we began the search for a new vehicle, we knew we would need to drive to a larger city to find the best deal. We decided that we'd use that opportunity for a mini family weekend vacation and make the most of it. Because we normally need to set aside David's vacation time from work and save as much funds as possible for making our annual trip to visit with our families, we've never taken a vacation or even much of a weekend vacation. However, we decided that since we'll not being making a trip back this year and with work and life being rather stressful currently, we'd take the opportunity for some family fun. 
     So, after we purchased the van we made a trip to IKEA. The plan was to simply go for dinner and pick up a dollhouse for Annelise's birthday. Well, IKEA gets me. We ended up coming back with a dollhouse, two shelves, and a couple of packages of sand toys for the children. (I wanted the children's picnic table too, but held myself back! haha). It was hard to resist picking up a couple extras when we're normally so far from the store and their prices are half of what's available to us locally. I love IKEA. haha
    The next day we went to a (massive!) aquarium. It was incredible! The habitats were so well done. I'm always so impressed when zoos or aquariums design their habitats in a way that are so natural! It was a great experience. (But, wow are places like that expensive!)
     After the aquarium we headed to a children's science and history museum. The science portion was really interesting..to David and myself. It was too advance for the children. But, then we came upon a small world type area with several activities sized down for little ones. Annelise and Huxley loved the grocery store playarea. Tennyson most enjoyed the outside water activity in which you could rearrange pipes to channel the flow of water. We unfortunately got to the museum late in the day and only got to partake in a small fraction of all that was available there. (It would be fun to go again, but like the other attraction it was so very expensive.)
      We certainly made a full weekend out of a trip to purchase a vehicle! We were all pretty tired afterwards, but it was so good to simply get away and have some fun as a family!

     I created a new daily schedule for the summer for us. A good schedule makes all the difference in our days. Without one, I feel like there are four of us attempting to go in four different directions simultaneously, and that is completely overwhelming to me. I need a little order, especially at this point in the pregnancy (ie I don't have the energy to be chasing after people or stuff all day long. hah). One of the goals of this new schedule was to account for needing to spend more time inside than outside. The swarms of mosquitoes, potential presence of rattlesnakes, fire ants, scorpions etc, and sweltering triple digit heat make summers in Texas my least favorite time of year. So, we try to go out as soon as possible in the mornings and then focus on cleaning and school activities in the afternoons. It works wonderfully! A good schedule is always my #1 when asked about managing all little ones every day. 

      David's parent's visited for a week this month! They had been wanting to visit during the summer, and then David being gone for work provided a good opportunity. They planned it so they'd be here a couple days while he was still here, and then be available to lend me a hand while he gone. I was certainly grateful for the company and extra hand in completing household tasks. I don't think I did dishes all week! The children had a bit of a challenge warming up to them. (They hadn't seem them since November of last year. Even then, we don't see extended family but briefly a couple times a year). Huxley, though, easily goes to anyone and quickly figured out how to use that one-year-old cuteness to get to be held all of naptime each day. haha. Now that we've all been reacquainted a bit, I think their next visit when baby 4 arrives will be a bit smoother. I really appreciate them coming to visit and do so much to help me out! 

    Our homeschool co-op group is amazing! These mamas have really impressed me with their commitment and participation. I knew in staring this that it would be essential to have mamas who would be "all in" just as much as I am. Well, it's been exactly that. Mamas have hosted gatherings and planned fantastic activities. We have a great variety of approaches as some mamas are more s.t.e.m. oriented, some are literature-based, some are Montessori in style etc. This past month we did a unit on bugs (with the most amazing exploration bin!), we did a unit on the book Blueberries for Sal while also focusing on the letter b and color blue, we did a unit on the ocean (with three fantastic exploration bins that all the children loved!). We concluded the month with an open playdate at a local indoor attraction comprised of bounce houses, slides, and other play equipement. Next month, two  mamas have volunteered to host and plan activities. (Which means I don't have have to worry about doing so myself! I enjoy it, but breaks are nice too). It's going to be great! I'm so, so grateful for this group! (Who knew a strong introvert like myself could create something like this?!)
      As far as our own homeschooling, I feel like we're getting closer to finding our groove. The key is to determine which activities can be done together and which really need to be done one-on-one. I find that, like most things, we can accomplish far more when everyone is separated. Plus, it's excellent one-on-one time for me and each of the children, which is part of the purpose in our "school time" currently. Even with our snail's pace, our school work board fills up fast!

16 months old and full of energy!
    Parenting well has been challenged during this pregnancy. I'm so very, very exhausted. Some days I can push through, but far too many I've not been my best parenting self. There is one thing certain about children and that is they are very perceptive and responsive. They absolutely know when I'm tense or tired, and will behave in certain manner in response. It's been a struggle for me to be all that I need to be for each one, especially when so exhausted. I've wrestled with guilt quite a bit regarding this manner. I want to be and do so much for each of the, but I'm finding adequate energy difficult to come by. 
      Each child has such a distinct personality. One is highly sensitive and needs a lot of personal attention. Another is strong-willed and has a way of finding the edge of boundaries (or running straight through them!). Another is coming into his own more and more, and has become rather assertive in his desires. So many personalities, so many needs. I worry as to if I'm adequately meeting everyone's needs. I press on, but all the while praying for the strength to make the next day a little better. 

Personal Growth
     I've made a greater effort in getting up before everyone else to have just 30 minutes to myself before the day gets started. This moment of personal investment makes a huge impact. My introverted soul needs that moment of solitude. I've mostly enjoyed a cup of coffee and a book, or coffee and blog writing. Even though these moments make a big difference for me, I've learned to not be dependent on them. There are still many mornings in which at least one child will wake as soon as he/she hears that someone else is awake. Seasons. I keep reminding myself that there are seasons. I'll enjoy the pieces of solitude when they come within this season. 

Looking Ahead
- July might be our calmest month in months!

*Note: I am a personal affiliate with Amazon.com. As such, I receive a compensation for any products purchased through the links provided. I was not provided any products listed at a discount in exchange for my opinion. (I'm simply sharing products we use, and could be of interest to others!)

**I am not a personal affiliate with IKEA. I have received no compensation for the recommendation of the listed product. All opinions are my own. 

Monday, July 2, 2018

Baby 4 Pregnancy Journal: Week 32!

I have a cold, but I was still getting a 32 week picture to keep up with the journal!

This baby deep inside me, ever so small, is a child of God. A child that God gave me to take care of whether for a day or for years. That care began at conception. Whether he or she lives or dies each day I am with him or her is a gift and has a purpose with eternal consequences. My baby is now part of my life, my testimony. -Brenda Rogers, "New Rules for Announcing a Pregnancy"

How Far Along? 32 weeks! Only 8 weeks remaining!

"In these past few weeks, it's all about practice, practice, practice as she hones the skills she'll need to thrive outside the womb -- from swallowing and breathing to kicking and sucking. And speaking of sucking, your little one has been able to suck her thumb for a while now. Something else to note: As more and more fat accumulates under your baby's skin, she's becoming less transparent and more opaque." -What to Expect When You're Expecting, 4th ed. 

Baby Size:  According to the most recent ultrasound, the baby is measuring right on track at 3lbs. 13oz. Having had one baby born at 3lb. 11oz, I have a pretty good idea of this little one's current size. Although, he/she feels so much bigger wiggling around in there! haha

"tipping the scales at almost four pounds and topping out at just about 19 inches." -What to Expect When You're Expecting, 4th ed. 

Gender: We'll find out when he/she arrives! Tennyson is now wanting a baby brother, and Annelise is wanting a baby sister. One will be correct! (I'm still absolutely convinced the baby's a boy.)
Is that not a hilarious side angle photo, or what?!
 I still have 8 more weeks to go!

Weight Gain: up to 138lbs, which is 24lbs more than pre-pregnancy weight. Interestingly, this is the exact gain by this point as in my third pregnancy (although, I feel much differently this time). 

Belly: Baby belly is quite large yet definitive. This baby seems to be sitting rather low at times as well, which accentuates the ball-like shape. 

Sleep: Oh, sleep. I don't sleep soundly much at all. More often than not, I'm simply too uncomfortable to rest easily. Add the recent cold that has gone through our family, and rest has been even harder to find. 

Symptoms: *Sigh* Too many to list. The body is very clearly done. 

Clothing: Still enjoying all the dresses I purchased for this pregnancy! I recent painting project got a little messy, and so I'll definitely be replacing that dress soon. I love comfy dresses!

Movement: I'm pretty slow these days as I'm lacking energy to go much faster. If given any moment of opportunity, I gladly take a seat. 

Baby Movement: This baby's movements reminds me a lot of my first pregnancy. In both cases, I would have to breath through the movements they would be so uncomfortable. Interestingly, both of these babies had a similar position (and my middle two babies shared a different position). Sometimes, he/she gets me good with kicks. The most uncomfortable though is when he/she gets up towards my ribs. Of course, there's also the big movements as though he/she's trying to rotate around are really quite uncomfortable and will cause me to pause and breathe until he/she finds a new position. All this, I believe, is due to his/her position. We learned in our latest ob and mfm appointments that the baby is breech. As soon as this was said, I thought "no wonder!" That's most definitely a head up at my ribs and feet down below. 

Food Adversions: Nothing in particular. 

Food Cravings: Nothing in particular. Although, David has commented about it being difficult to plan meatless meals when I end up wanting something "meatier" haha

Other Notes:
     At the most recent ob & MFM appointments, we saw that he/she is measuring perfectly on track with no signs of growth restrictions or any other complications! We also learned that he/she is in a breech position. We were told that while a baby typically has assumed his/her position at this point, he/she can still flip. But, if he/she doesn't then we'll be scheduled for a c-section. (My first baby was also breech and we had a c-section for him as well). Given the circumstance, I'm okay with a c-section. There are certain situations I'll advocate for a vbac and certain ones I won't. This is one of those cases in which I feel it is safer to deliver via c-section when the baby is in a breech position. We'll see what happens though because we've already been back and forth between eligible for a vbac and not several times as various situations have changed.

     This week also marked being down with another sickness we've passed along in our family. At 30 weeks, we caught the stomach bug. And, now at 32 weeks we caught a cold. In both cases, sickness really compounds the difficulties of this pregnancy. If we catch anything else, I'm quarantining everyone until delivery! haha

    Last week, David had to travel out of town for work for several days. His parents were wanting to come for a visit anyways, and so this provided a good opportunity for that trip. They were here for several days while he was still here, and then stayed for the days he was gone to help me out. Even though it was a bit of a challenging adjust to people they're not entirely familiar with being here all the time, I'm so grateful to have had an extra set of hands! (Since we live at a distance from all family, the children only see extended family a couple times a year). My sweet mother-in-law cleaned the kitchen all week. That alone was such a nice break! I believe this was the longest they've visited. It's certainly the first time they've been around the children with all three mobile and very active (and loud!). I hope we didn't wear them out too much. I imagine they're enjoying their quiet home again now!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Summer 2018 Schedule

   We've been needing a new game plan with regards to our daily schedule. Normally, I like to have the children play outside for an hour or more in the mornings and afternoons. However, the temperatures are now steadily in the triple digits and it's simply too hot by the afternoon. The mosquitos are also out in full force, and they just love us. So, we spend more time indoors in the summer months, and that requires extra attention to how our time is being spent. 

     At this point in my pregnancy, children running wild through the house is not an option. I mentally and physically cannot keep up with the chaos that ensues. Everyone needs to be productively occupied. On a similar note, I'm presently at a place in which messes in the house cause me a lot of stress, and therefore need to have a couple of built-in times in the day in which we can all work together to get things cleaned up. We also need a feasible way to do "school time" and/or have some one-on-one time with each child in a day. All this to say- we need a good schedule!

*I've labeled outside play as either independent or dependent. It's easy for me to simply say "go play!" While I do want them to have some playtime without my direction or involvement, I also don't want to miss out on the opportunity to play and explore with them outside. I don't want to fall into the tendency to "check out." So, I've set aside a portion of time for them to play apart from me (hello, outside reading time for Mama!) as well as time for us to play together, read stories outside together, or go for a walk in the neighborhood. 

*Cleaning- I've finally figured out the key to accomplishing cleaning with all little ones is to separate them. Two children play in the play yard together while I work with a third. Then, after 15 minutes I rotate one child into the play yard and one child out to help clean. When cleaning with a child, I'm able to give specific instructions. I simply bring the child along in what I'm doing. This has worked really well. I allot 45 minutes each morning and afternoon to rotate everyone through their cleaning role. It works!

*School time- Like cleaning, I've learned that separation is again key. Some arts and crafts and reading can be done together, but for the most part the older two are able to focus so much better without someone else in the room providing entertainment. For our oldest two children we use activities from My Father's World. For our youngest, I use select activities from abcjesuslovesme.com In all cases, the activities are very simple and playful, and not heavy academics at this point. It's just an opportunity for me to spend one-on-one time with each of them. 

*Table activity- We've gotten into a bad habit of expecting to simply get down from the table when finished eating. (For a young child, they may finish before David and I even get seated!). It's difficult to enjoy a meal if we're constantly getting up to supervise the children when they're in complete free play. We also need them to better understand and develop the ability to remain seated when we're at a restaurant. Furthermore, having them sit for just a little longer once they finish allows me the opportunity to clean up the meal mess. Otherwise, it can be difficult to clean it up and it remains all day (reminding me of it's presence! haha). 

*Naptime- I have two children who need a good naptime, and one who can go without. However, we all need the break and time alone. So, the rule is that you can sleep, play with a toy quietly or look at books, but you must be quiet and you must stay in your room. For the child that often doesn't like to sleep, I have an Okay to Wake! clock in the room. When the clock lights up, then she may come out of her room. I had gotten overly relaxed about allowing her out of her room once she woke, and that was causing a problem in the rest of us (including Mama) getting the break/rest time we needed in the day. It's also good for her to be able to play to herself at times. 

     The biggest change in this schedule is just the implementation of more directed means of being productively occupied. There's time built in for many areas: independent play, collective play between siblings, cleaning time, school time etc. Rotation of activities has been key. 

     Perhaps to some, a schedule with little fully free play would be overly restrictive. I like the notion of "wild and free," but presently that just doesn't work too well with all the children being relatively closely spaced and they all still being quite young. I believe there will come a time in which they can be permitted to have greater free play. It makes more sense to offer that opportunity when they can resist impulses a little better (ie not empty an entire cabinet or draw with or on something they shouldn't. haha). In the meantime, find that we all function far better with a schedule and pre-planned activities. They're not creating means of entertainment for themselves, which inevitably results in disputes and colossal messes. I also feel less overwhelmed and tempted to lose my patience or temper. To me, maintaining joy and relationship with them is an important priority. They also are thriving far more with the designated times that are created to be alone with me. It just works for us in this current season. 

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