Archive for the ‘Large Families’ Category

Family Fun

When you have a variety of ages in your house, it is hard to find activities that suit everyone.  Usually, the activities tend to be more for the younger ones and then the older kids are bored.  Activities that are too difficult for the younger ones or that have age or height restrictions mean us having to get someone else to watch the younger ones so we are always on the lookout for things that we can do as a family all together.  We have a restriction that most families don’t, in that the activities have to be indoors because one of our daughters can’t be outside in the Spring, Summer, and Fall.

At Christmas, Auntie Leah and Uncle Jarred had given us a gift certificate for a local indoor amusement centre so on Saturday, we set off to put it to use.  I had gone to the website and knew that the only things to do there were 10-pin bowling, arcade games, and laser tag.  Before we left home, we settled on the bowling.  When we got there, the bowling wasn’t available and so by default, laser tag won out.  We really didn’t think it would fly with Sedaya as the vests are five pounds and initially, she found it too heavy and was complaining.  Once we got in there though, she forgot all about the weight of the vest and she has a blast!  All the kids did!  This was one activity that was perfect for the variety of ages and interests in our family.  All the kids agree on one thing: Laser Tag was awesome!

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The Grocery Challenge

A few years ago, Mark and I decided to get out of debt and we were almost able to do so by using the system in Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover”.  When we were close to our goal, a series of circumstances beyond our control including an unexpected crisis with the adoption we were in the middle of (agency went bankrupt, stranding our kids with three days of food left half a world away), a real estate holding disaster, the area of Mark’s work being hit hard by the economy, and Gracelyn becoming gravely ill, led us back into a debt as large as the one we had just clawed our way out of.  Dave Ramsey’s system is not a “get-rich-quick” scheme or a strategy of getting out of debt easily.  It is hard work and just as it took time to get into debt, it takes time to get out of debt.

After we descended back into debt, we abandoned Dave’s system, largely because Mark’s income could not be counted on and because of how overwhelmed we felt.  Even though we knew the system worked, we were afraid to look at the numbers (ie: the truth!) and create another budget and debt repayment plan.  Things only got worse.  Burying your head in the sand helps no one!

Finally, we decided that we would begin Dave’s Total Money Makeover again on the first of March.  This week, I sat down to run the numbers and fill out the worksheets and come up with a plan.  What I found is that we will need to be very creative to find extra money to put down onto our debt.  I came up with a few ideas and the first is a grocery challenge, whereby we could cut $1000 off what we normally spend a month for groceries, cleaning supplies, and toiletries and apply that onto a debt.  The way we would do this would be to eat out of our pantry and freezer and buy as few groceries as possible for March.

I have set the amount we are allowed to spend on groceries at $200 for March.  Considering that we have seven children, including two teen boys and two pre-teen boys, this is no small feat!  What I did was to inventory everything that is currently in our freezer and pantry.  I then tried to create as many meals as I could from that list.  My goal was to come up with 31 suppers and 31 lunches.  Breakfasts will be oatmeal and perhaps eggs or pancakes on Sundays (if we can fit syrop into the budget!)

Dinners:

Chicken Fried Rice

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Mexican Lasagna

Not-so-chili pasta

Basa topped with Salsa, Rice, and frozen vegetables

Shrimp Stir Fry *will need peppers and mushrooms

Chili

Chicken Teriyaki, Wild Mushroom Rice, and Corn

Beef Hash

Soup made from leftovers

Asparagus and Asiago Quiche

Cod and French Fries

Tamale Pie

Frittata and Hash Brown Casserole

Sweet Chicken Tostadas *will need tostadas

Tortellini Soup

Meatballs and Rice

Soup made from leftovers

Beef Hash

Lemon-Mustard Chicken, Basmati Rice, and Green Beans

Chili

Ham, Scalloped Potatoes, and Peas

Tamale Pie

Beef Stew *will need potatoes and carrots

Lemon Mustard Chicken, Green Bean Casserole

Meatballs and Rice

Teriyaki Chicken, Wild Mushroom Rice, and Creamed Corn

Macaroni Casserole

Pinto Tortilla Soup

Baked Pasta *will need mushrooms and peppers

Beef and Bean Burritos *will need peppers

Voila!  31 Suppers!

For the lunches, the list is mostly soups, (Pumpkin Soup, Minestrone, Black Bean, Mushroom Cheddar, Lentil Soup, Tomato etc.), Bean Casseroles, and Pastas.

Snacks will be the most difficult, but I do have some baking in the freezer that can be used and some of the applesauce left that I made in the Fall.

The only things that are on the” approved list of things to buy” are milk, eggs, Good-Night diapers for Sedaya, and the few items needed to finish the above dishes.  I am excited to see how it goes!

Not only will this free up a big chunk of money to put towards a debt, it will also clean out the pantry and freezer and ensure that none of the food gets wasted.

I think that this grocery challenge will really get our new financial life off to a great start.  I will let you know how it goes!

Here are some of the soup recipes I will be using:

http://notecook.com/soup/crock-pot-tortellini-soup-recipe/

http://notecook.com/soup/soups-using-leftovers/

http://notecook.com/soup/spicy-lentil-soup-recipe/

http://notecook.com/soup/healthy-lentil-soup-recipe/

 

The Benefit of Perspective

I passed by some writing on the wall today, not of the figurative kind, but of the literal kind.  One of my youngest daughters, who is just learning to print, had printed her name, one of her sister’s names, and my name, “mommy”, on the wall in pencil and drawn a heart.  Many years ago, when my oldest sons were little boys, this would have upset me.  I probably would have lectured the culprit about writing on paper, not on walls or furniture, and would have made him erase it or wash it off.  Today, it upset me for different reasons.  It upset me because this might be the last time an early printer practices proudly on my wall.

I remember when my oldest sons, who are now teens used to leave me things like this to find; crayon drawings on night tables, army stick men pencilled on my bedroom wall, scribbles in permanent marker on my wedding photo, and brightly coloured stickers on my van windows.  It used to anger and frustrate me, and now, I miss their little fingerprints on the coffee table.

Experience and age bring a perspective I wish I had had when my older kids were little.  My youngest daughters may be our last children and there likely will be no more crudely sketched hearts once these ones are erased.  I took a good look at the markings on the wall and tried to cement them in my memory.  My heart swelled as I thought of the love this little one felt for me when she carefully printed my name and hers next to the heart she drew.  As I continued down the hall, I felt regret for not fully appreciating the tender hearts of young children when my boys were younger.  Now I know that the time goes by so quickly…

 

Red Carpet Premiere Family Fun

For our most recent Family Fun Night, we did a theatre theme.  Some of the kids even dressed up and pretended to be stars going to a Hollywood Premiere!  Anyway, I don’t have the best pictures, but you’ll get the general idea.  The theme idea came from Karen, who also does Family Fun Nights with her family.  (thanks Karen!)

I decorated with movie themed tablecloth, cups, napkins, and skewers and used the extra paper popcorn boxes as more decorations.  We had a make-your-own nachos bar for supper with blue and white tortilla chips, cheeses, peppers, tomatoes, onions, and jalapenos.  The kids all assembled their own and then I cooked them.

After a nutritious supper of nachos (!), the kids were each given a ticket that they could redeem at the “concession”.

The concession was a hit of course!  Even at a real movie theatre, there is no way the kids would be allowed that much junk to eat!

I had closed all the blinds and curtains in the house, trying to make it as dark as possible to make it like a theatre.  As a family, we watched “The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry” which was perfect as it was appropriate for all the ages.  Later, when the younger five kids had gone to bed, Mark Mackenzie, Jonah, and I watched “The Blind Side”.  It was a great Family Fun Night and the kids all had a blast!

 

New Year, New Goals

I just love fresh starts.  I may have mentioned that hundreds of times already in previous posts, but it is so true!  I just love the possibilities that fresh starts bring.  So, of course, I am the sort of person who makes New Year’s Resolutions, though I have gotten better at making them over the years.  I used to write things like “get healthy” or “be better at…”.  Those types of non-specific, non-measurable goals are impossible to attain.  Now, I keep my resolutions more specific and I make a sublist to go along with them to outline how I am going to go about achieving them.  I won’t bore you with all of my goals this year, but there are a few that I will share, including one in which I have put myself “out there” so to speak publicly to increase the chances that I achieve it by being accountable.

One of my goals is to set an alarm on weekdays and wake up before my kids do.  Yuck!!!  I am a night owl.  I have to force myself to go to bed before midnight and mornings are not my friend.  Normally, I drag myself out of bed when the kids get up, which is sometime between 7 and 8 a.m. and more often than not, I lie there wishing I could go back to sleep.  But I know that in order to homeschool the way that I want to, I need to get off to a better start and greet my kids each morning with a cheerful heart so that their days get started in the right way as well.

This morning, I set my alarm for a few minutes before 7 and when it went off, I admit to briefly entertaining thoughts of going back to sleep, but I stuck to my plan and got up, had a shower, and was dressed when the first of my kids started to come into my bathroom.  I was able to greet them with a smile and “good morning” instead of a grumpy, “what time is it?”  Later, while the kids were eating their breakfast at the kitchen table, I brought in our devotions book and read to them while they ate and then we started our day off with a prayer before we went into the homeschool room to start their math and history lesson.  Wow!  What a different way to start the day!!!  Everyone is so much more cheerful than usual today, even still, hours later.  Mornings are generally the time in our house with the most bickering, squabbles over toothpaste and toys, or downright fights between the boys!  This morning, the sounds in the house have been different and that is reward enough for me to be willing to set my alarm again for tomorrow morning.

The public goal I have set is one that I have some trepidation about, both because achieving it overwhelms me and because I am scared that I will fail and also because admitting that I have this problem and being completely real and honest about it is frankly, embarrassing.  I have given myself a Challenge, a De-Cluttering Challenge.  To follow along on my progress and to see the pictures that I so did not want to share, you can check out Day 1 here and Day 2 here.  Now that I have shared those pictures, I want to go and hide, but I can’t because, as you can see, I have work to do!!!

So, what are your goals for 2011?

You Have Enough Kids

Over the years, starting even when we had just two kids, I have heard statements (from friends, family, and strangers alike) such as “you don’t need any more kids”, “you have enough kids”, “well surely now you have enough kids” and “why would you adopt again? You have enough kids already!”

These types of statements used to make me feel like I had to explain our decisions or they used to make me feel like I needed to be a better parent because maybe if they saw that I was the best parent in the universe, they would think that I could “handle” more kids.

I have tried (in vain) to explain to people that we are adopting children WHO DO NOT HAVE A FAMILY, kids who NEED A HOME, but this does not seem to matter to those who continue to make this statement after or before each addition we have made to our growing family.  I know that some of it has been said by those who are concerned because they do not want to see us overwhelmed or having a harder life than we could have if we chose the easier path, but this is the path we have chosen and all we need need is support.  We are not demanding that others open their homes and adopt.  (I do encourage adoption, but I never ask my friends and family directly why they are not doing more to help the plight of orphans in the world!)

Recently, a family member said to me again, “you have enough kids” and for the first time, instead of feeling like I needed to justify our decisions and make excuses and explanations, I felt angry.  I thought about all the other times that people have said to me similar things and I realized that many of those things were said before the addition of some of our kids, kids who those same people now love and adore.  Kids who now have a home and a family.  Kids who are no longer orphans.  Kids who I could not be more proud to call my children.  Kids who have made our lives richer, not harder.  Kids who have taught me more than I have taught them.  Kids who have given me more than I have given them.  Kids who we would not know had we thought of our family in terms of “enough”.  And I was angry.

We have been on the adoption journey for more than ten years now and it is one that has had its share of heartache and I am well aware that some of that heartache has been shared by our close friends and family, even though they did not get any say in our decision to choose this path.  But they have also had the opportunity to get to know and love tiny humans who are so precious and have so much to give.  I have listened to well meaning friends or family members over the years say things that have hurt, badly, and for the most part, I have remained silent.  I have talked to Mark about my feelings about certain things that have been said.  I have cried about some of the more hurtful comments.  I have tried to understand where the person is coming from and for the most part, I have not gotten angry.

But suddenly, when this last comment was made, all those other hurts came bubbling up to the surface and I felt ready to attack!  I held my tongue, but have given a lot of thought as to why that one comment has upset me so much.  I think part of it is because of the implications.  Some people said this when we only had two kids or three or four, if four was “enough kids”, then what does that say about the last three?

Another reason it has me so upset is that we are talking about human beings here, precious children, not possessions.  To say that one can ever have “enough” children sort of sounds like they are shoes or something.  (on that note, I only have three or four pairs of shoes and some women have hundreds…maybe I value children more than shoes!)

Another is that I have never seen how it is deemed okay for people to question our personal decisions and give unsolicited advise and judgments, but it is not okay for us to do the same to them.  What I mean is that when it comes to things that go against the norm, things like adoption, having a large family, and homeschooling, it seems that everyone and their neighbour thinks it’s somehow acceptable to tell us what a terrible thing we are doing.  (Honestly, a family member told me when the boys were little that if I chose to homeschool, I would RUIN my children and they would never be normal – I have seen “normal” and believe me…I will be so glad if my kids are not “normal”!)  Can you imagine how inappropriate it would be for me to say to a friend that I thought it was a selfish decision to go back to work full time when their baby was four months old because they wanted to pay for a nicer vacation or to say to a family member that it sickens me to think of all the starving children who could be fed for the cost of one of the brand new vehicles they buy for themselves every year?  People judge it wrong that we went into debt to pay for an adoption of two children, but think nothing of going into debt themselves for a newer car, a bigger house, or even the latest computers, gadgets, and fashions!

I do not walk around telling people that they should not move because the house they have is “enough” or that they should not get another TV because the two they already own are “enough” or that they should not buy the latest iPhone because they just bought the last version and that should be “enough”.  And if you are shaking your head thinking, “yeah, but those are things, not children” then you are starting to get the point here!  It is actually pretty uninformed to say “you have enough kids” as though they were objects.  If there were ever anything I would want “too many” of, it would be children.  Children are a blessing.  As Michelle Duggar says “saying there are too many children is like saying there are too many flowers”.

“The Bible calls debt a curse and children a blessing.  But our culture applies for curses and rejects blessings” – Doug Phillips

In response to the inevitable question, “are we going to adopt more kids?”, the answer is this:  I don’t know.  If you look only at logic, then the answer is…probably not.  Logic dictates that seven children is nowadays, in North America, a huge family.  Logic dictates that seven children is a huge expense.  Logic dictates that I have a husband who is much more rational than I am and is less apt to make decisions based purely on emotion.  Logic dictates a lot, but it does not dictate the size of our family.  For now, we are done.  That could mean forever.  Or it could mean that tomorrow we will start the process for another adoption.  Because God trumps all logic in my mind and in my heart.  Our family size will be determined by God.  He has called us to adopt and I know that He is still working in our family.  That does not necessarily mean that He will add children to it though.  But if God did lead us to add more children to our family through adoption, they would be as much of a blessing as each of our other seven are.  Our lives would not be as rich or as fun or as crazy or as full of love as they are were it not for each one of our SEVEN children, each one.

As a message to our friends and family and to the friends and families of others who choose paths that are less socially acceptable…

Please support and love us where we are at, on the path that we have chosen.  Pray for us, because the path that we have chosen is not an easy one.  We know that you did not choose this path and we are not asking you to homeschool yourself or adopt yourself or have a large family yourself.  We are not even asking you to understand or like the path we have chosen.  If you choose to come and visit us on this journey once in awhile and ask how we are or offer your help, we would appreciate it greatly, but if you can only offer judgment and harsh words, please heed the wise advise of Thumper in “Bambi”…”if you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all”!

You Know You Have a Large Family When…

Where we live, there are separate days to register your kids for the regular recreation programs and for swimming.  Last week, I spent an hour and a half filling out their registration for some rec. programs.  Today, I received a Christmas card in the mail and when I opened it up, out fell a $25 gift card for Parks and Recreation in our community and the card read…

“Congrats on setting a new record!  54 program registrations in one day!  Way to Go!  Thank you for being active in our community.  from your friends at Recreation”

So…you know you have a large family when…you set a new record for the amount of program registrations in one day!!!

This week is the week for swimming registrations and I will be registering 4 or 5 kids for that, so the $25 gift card will come in very handy!!!