Sunday, July 31, 2011

Our Van Story: "The Dramatic Twist"

(Part 1)

In April 2007, Owen was about eight months old and we had owned our van for about a year.  We decided to take a family day trip to the zoo on a Sunday.  My parents and two younger sisters joined us.  To avoid the city congestion, each family drove their vehicle to the train station and we rode the train into the city.  Before we boarded the train, we put a bank envelope containing $100 in the lock box under the seat.  As an afterthought, we threw in another loose $20 to save for dinner and tolls on the way home. 

The weather was beautiful and the kids had a lovely time, but when the day was over and we were riding the train that evening, we were exhausted.  As we pulled back into the station, my dad pointed out the window to the parking lot and said, "Let's see if we can see our vehicles from here." 

He found his truck right away, but the space beside it was empty.  We found that odd since we had parked side by side.  Our first thought was that he had pointed out the wrong truck, but, no, we were sure that was his vehicle.  So, where was our van?  Our next thought was that maybe we had been towed for illegal parking (though we had parked in a valid spot). 

The next few minutes were a blur as we gathered our things and hurried off the train to scour the parking lot to be sure.  There was my dad's truck.  And there was our empty parking space. 

In a bit of shock and confusion, we went back into the station to find an employee.  They knew nothing of our vehicle, but they offered to call the state police.  By this time, the kids were asking a lot of questions and were teary and tired.  (So was I.)  The police arrived and confirmed what we feared-- our van had been stolen, most likely by a local gang.  They took our name and number, but gave us a bleak outlook.  Many stolen vehicles were never recovered and the ones that were found were stripped or badly damaged.

Blissfully unaware

We hitched a ride home and the despair sunk in.  How were we going to afford another vehicle?  We had some cash saved, but not enough for a vehicle of equal value.  Could we make do with one car that barely fit us all together?  Was it wise to spend money on a temporary car or should we save for another van or should we take on a car payment?  For days, we agonized over this decision.  Friends and family chipped in money and replaced our car seats.  We took Brian to and from work (about a 30 minute drive each way) if we needed the car for the day.  Still, we struggled with questions of why God had provided for us and then took it away 12 months later.   

On Saturday afternoon (6 days after our trip), we were sitting on our front step watching the kids play when the phone rang.  We had invited company for dinner so we expected a call from them.  Brian answered the phone, but his expression changed.  He jotted down some information and then hung up the phone.  Our van had been found abandoned in a shopping center parking lot, just five miles from the train station.  We were given little information other than it needed to be towed home and that we would be charged for each day it stayed at the impound station.  We scrambled to make arrangements to bring it home.  My brother, Ryan, offered to use his AAA membership to get free towing.  

Early Sunday morning, Ryan and Brian set off to retrieve the van.  After they signed the paperwork, they walked around to look check the condition of the van while they waiting for the tow truck to arrive.  As they rounded the corner, they glimpsed a vehicle of the same color with the roof completely smashed in.  They looked at each other in astonishment before they saw our "real" van.  The lock on the passenger door was bent, the ignition had been severely damaged (it was hanging down from the steering column), and the gas tank had been emptied, but otherwise, the van appeared unscathed.  The car seats, the kids' stuffed animals and toys, and even the Twizzlers we had brought for a snack were all where we had left them.  The last check was the lock box.  The lock had been bent and broken, but the thief had only managed to jar the box open about an inch.  The loose $20 had been removed, but the bank envelope with $100 was lying untouched!

You know that temporary panic you get when you come out of the grocery store and don't see your car and can't remember where you parked?  We feel it every time because we remember what it's like for that to become a reality.  I know the experience helped me to not take my van for granted.  I also know firsthand that God takes care of His children and He has proved that care to us. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

God's Provision: The Story of our Van

In the spring, I shared the story of our quest to buy a home and how we saw God's hand in every step of our seemingly-long 2 year journey.  Not long after I published my series of posts, my friend, Lu, shared her own home story.  In great contrast to mine, her search was a whirlwind, but just like my story, Lu's story illustrates God's perfect hand.  My friend, Suzanne, and her family have just set off on a journey to find a home. They need their journey to be a whirlwind, too, since they have a time deadline. I'm praying for her and I can't wait to read her miracle story.  It is easier to see God's perfect hand in a completed journey than one you are in the midst of walking, but we rejoice in knowing God promises that if He cares for the birds, He surely cares for us. 

January 2006

Though our home story is of a grander scale, the story of our van is also a testimony to the Lord's provision.  I found out I was pregnant with our third child around Christmas in 2005.  At the time we had two cars: a 1984 Toyota Camry that Brian drove back and forth to work and a 1995 Nissan Altima that served as our "family car."  Despite their age, both cars were dependable, but neither was large enough to hold three car seats.  In the spring of 2006, we began our search for vehicle that  1) was large enough to hold our family of 5 and 2) was within our price range, preferably inexpensive enough that we could pay cash for it.  We also had preferences on make and model, but we knew we couldn't afford to be too picky.

We scoured the classified ads for weeks.  Most of what we found had either high mileage or a high price tag.  One Sunday in April, we stayed home from our weekly dinner at my parents' house because Gavin was recovering from an illness.  Brian went out and brought home a newspaper, and once again, we ran our fingers down the classified listings.  Midway down the list, our fingers slowed and stopped on a listing.  An individual (as opposed to a car dealership) had listed a van in the exact make, model, and even color we had been hoping for.  The mileage was reasonable and the price was too good to be true.  We assumed that it probably was too good to be true and that something was probably wrong with the vehicle, but we decided to drive out (with our slightly sick child) for a look anyway. 

May 2006
A visual inspection of the van confirmed it was exactly what we had been looking for, but there was a slight problem.  We had most of the money to pay cash, but we wouldn't have the rest in hand until we received our income tax check in the mail.  We asked if they seller would accept a down payment to hold the van for us.  He agreed on the condition that we pay him the balance by Friday.  We prayed hard that the money would arrive, and on Tuesday, our prayers were answered.  We wrote out a check and drove the van home Tuesday evening. 

Before we could switch over the title and tag the van in our name, we needed to have it state inspected.  We were hoping that no expensive repairs were needed because money felt a little tight after such a large cash purchase.  Thankfully, a new set of wiper blades was all we needed to pass inspection! 
By early May, the van was officially ours.  We sold the Camry, figured out who would be sitting where in the new van, and installed the car seats with plenty of room to spare.  In August, Owen was born and we rejoiced that we now owned a vehicle that was large enough to accommodate the five of us together, but the story of our van was about to take a dramatic new twist. 

(Part 2: The Dramatic Twist)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Her Plate

Six months ago, Alaine and I were in a nursing crisis.  She fought me every time I tried to nurse her, but yet she cried to be fed.  We never had to resort to supplementation (though I did wonder whether we'd eventually need to), but after weeks and weeks of nursing struggles, she moved into a stage of acceptance, and finally the stage she is in now: the stage of total dedication.  She asks to nurse many times in the daytime hours-- when she's bored, when she's tired, when she's thirsty, when she's nervous, when she's hurt.  You get the picture.  She sleeps well, though, and only wakes to nurse once (or none at all) in the middle of the night.  (Don't hate me.  She is the first baby I've had who has almost consistently slept through the night before 18 months.) 

When she went for a well visit at 7 1/2 months, her pediatrician asked if she was eating any solid food.  I've never used jarred baby food and since Alaine had not shown any interest in table food, I told him that no, she was still exclusively nursing.  A few days later, I was eating a banana and she practically wrestled it from my hand and into her mouth, but she was not overly impressed.   At 8 1/2 months old, Alaine was still content to nurse and maybe sample a nibble or two of banana a couple of times a week. 

And then something snapped.

Suddenly, she wanted it all.  Banana?  She needed it!  Peaches?  She wanted that, too.  Oatmeal?  Yes, please!  Tomato?  Rice?  Cole slaw?  Yes, yes, yes.  Admittedly, I threw the conventional "1 new food every 3 days" advice soaring out the window. She could not get enough.  Between every bite, she cried (literally) for more.  

Healthy eating at its best...or not.

Alaine will be 11 months old on Monday.  She now eats three meals a day in my lap.  We gave away our big highchair before Benjamin was born so he used a booster in a chair at the table.  I have been reluctant to monopolize a chair this time around so I put off taking that step and simply hold her while we all eat together.  Our toddlers usually move to their own seat at the table between 15-18 months old anyway so it should be short-lived. 

At breakfast, Alaine usually eats from my plate, but I fix her a separate plate at lunch and dinner.  I feed her the messy stuff, but she can capably handle finger foods, and she is beginning to use a spoon, too. These are Alaine's  before and after plates from a meal we had last week.  (Her plate is a small dessert-sized plate.)

Before:  half of a twice-baked potato, diced raw tomato, 3 small pieces baked chicken, diced peaches and pears

After: potato skin, 1 small piece of baked chicken

For such a big eater, she is still the smallest baby I've had, weighing in at about 18 pounds.  (Owen was 18 pounds at 2 months-- no kidding!) 

One last thing: I tried introducing a sippy cup about the same time she began eating voraciously, but she couldn't get the hang of it so I put it away in the cabinet for awhile.  (I made sure she was getting enough fluids through nursing.)  Around 10 months, I tried the sippy again and she caught on right away.  Now she sucks down her water almost as enthusiastically as she eats her meals!  
What are your baby's eating habits?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Questions on Family Worship

A follow-up to my Tri-Moms post on family worship and my separate  post on family devotions...

Stacy said:   I'm just curious about things like tithing and communion.
Amanda said:   I like Stacy's question on tithing.  I know you can do communion yourselves at home, but it would be fun to know if you do and how you do it. 

You know, we have never done communion at home, but I don't see why we couldn't.  At few days before Easter, we did our own impromptu foot washing, but we have never taken communion together. 

Tithing is something that we do, though.  Tithing was first mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 14: 20 where Melchizedek blesses Abram and Abram gives him a tenth of his wealth.  Tithing was also included in the Old Testament law (Leviticus 27:30, Deuteronomy 12:6). 

As Christians living under the New Convenant, we believe that we are no longer required to pay tithe.  Romans 8:2 says, "Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." 

That being said, while we believe we have freedom in Christ, we do not believe tithing is wrong and we have chosen to continue setting aside ten percent of our income.  (Romans 13: 10-- "Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.")  Because we do not belong to an organized church, the issue of where to give our tithe is a tricky one.  Since we believe The Church is "the Body" and not "the building," we give our tithe to those who belong to the body.  In the past, we have given our tithe to Bible-believing organizations that we wish to support.  We have also given money to individuals (or families) in need. 

But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom,
and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it--
he will be blessed in what he does.

James 2:26 

 Jenna said:   How do you find other Christians to fellowship with?

One of the benefits of homeschooling is that our children learn to communicate with and be friends with people of all ages.  In the spring, we had a adult female friend come to our home to drop off some things.  She came in and spent the next hour talking with Gavin (8) on the couch about clocks and dinosaurs and the Titanic and the Lucitania!  How does that relate to finding people to fellowship with?  It simply means that the friends we make as a family are varied.  We encourage our kids to be friends with those of any age, not only those in their exact age or gender. 

We are fortunate to be close (in proximity and in relationship) to our family.  My youngest sister is 10 and she is my kids' best friend.  Plus they have 8 cousins under the age of 10 on Brian's side of the family!  One of their favorite people to be around is their Uncle Max, my dad's older brother.  When they find our he is going to be joining our Sunday activities, they are as excited as if he were a kid, too. 

Brian is blessed to work for a Christian business.  While not all of his co-workers are believers, some of them are and he has fellowship with them.

We are part of a homeschool group.  It is not a group of families that meets for regular meetings, but more of a large network of families in the areas who comes together for various events: Field Day or field trips or co-ops.  We've made like-minded friends at soccer (Brian was assistant coach),  Talent Show, and Charlotte Mason support group.  There is always some way to meet people. And by the way, like-minded does not mean that we think everyone must be exactly like us.  Most, if not all,  of our friends do not worship exclusively at home the way we do. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Family Devotions

I was surprised at the response to my Tri-Moms post on family worship.  I'll admit I was nervous about addressing the topic because the reaction to our decision to worship at home has not always been positive.  Several of you have asked questions (about tithing and communion and fellowship).  I will get to those later this week, but for now, this is a look at our family devotions time. 

Bible Study

Family devotions at our house is a weekly event, much like going to church would be.  We pray together daily as a family and during the school year, the kids and I daily work on our memory verses and read the Bible together, but our more in-depth study as a family is a once-a-week affair.  Brian has been struggling for years to find something that all of the kids-- from the youngest to the oldest-- can engage in together.  We don't like fluff, but we still want something to engage them on their level.  

For about a year now, Brian has been working with them through Shirley's Dobson's My Bible Coloring Book. Each page lists the Bible reference for a particular story and he reads to us straight from the Bible (either the NIV or the NLT).  We all discuss it and Brian usually asks questions and asks someone to tell the story back to him.  After we are done, we pray together and then the kids run to the table to color their picture.  

Several weeks ago he chose to take a break from the coloring books to work our way through The Answers Book for Kids series written by Ken Ham.  We chose this series as a continuation of the worldview study we began in the winter.  Each of the four books in the series addresses a different general topic.  (Volume 1 is Creation and the Fall.  Volume 2 is Dinosaurs and the Flood of Noah.  Volume 3 is God and the Bible.  Volume 4 is Sin, Salvation, and the Christian Life.)  The books are recommended for ages 6-12, but Owen, our almost 5-year-old, can grasp many of the concepts.  Who wouldn't like to read a whole lesson about whether Adam and Eve had belly buttons?!  

Family devotions time is a happy and flexible time.  Sometimes we go outside.  Sometimes everyone sits around the coffee table with cookies (and coffee for Daddy). We expect respect and reverence, but we do let the kids be relaxed.


This is another aspect Brian has been working on with the kids for a long time! He wants them to understand that praying is nothing more than talking to God.  He wants them to thank Him as well as ask Him for things.  Some of the kids have a tendency to say a rote prayer, "Thanks for my day.  Thanks for everything you've given us," every time and not think about what they really want to say so we're all working on that together. 
We pray aloud during our family time.  Usually Brian assigns an order: Gavin then Owen then Ben (yes, the 2-year-old prays, too!) and so on.  Last week, we tried something new.  Brian began the prayer and then he paused.  Whatever child wanted to go next could then jump in and when they were done, they would pause.  Then the next child could begin.  No one was require to pray, but everyone did.  I ended the prayer after everyone else  had their chance. 


Worship is not complete without singing our praise.  We don't often include this in our family time, though maybe we should.  However, we are always, always singing in our house.  Since Gavin was a baby, we have listened to "Hide 'Em In Your Heart", a 2-volume set of scriptures set to music.  

I also want my children to be familiar with the words of the old hymns. We (as in all of us-- the whole family) love Kids' Praise 7: "Psalty's Hymnological Adventure Through Time", a fun musical CD of the stories behind a handful of well-known hymns.  We also discovered "Hymns For A Kid's Heart" in the spring.  We were able to enjoy Volume 1 (which I believe is out of print) from our local library, but we ordered Volume 4 to keep for our own and to use in our coming school year.


We choose to live the words of Psalm 34:1: "I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips."  We want our relationship with the Lord to be ever-changing, ever-growing.  Therefore, our family worship and family devotions time is just a springboard to a life of praise and devotion to our Savior.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tri-Moms: Family Worship

The Tri-Moms want to delve into a conversation about family worship this week.  Our family has not regularly attended a church for five or six years.   It was a tough decision, but it is our conscious choice (not a default decision).  Though I can discuss our reasons sometime if anyone is interested, today I want to address the insecurities of Christ-following families who do not attend a church building.

It seems as though more and more of us are, for a variety of reasons, are choosing to leave the establishment to bring our worship into the home.  Others are new to an area and searching for a church but have not yet found a church family...and some are not new to an area, but have chosen to find a new church home for another reason, but the search is stalled.  This is for all of us!

We did not make this decision lightly or without great thought and prayer.  These are the two big issues for us (and maybe for you):

1) Can you be a Christian but not go to church?

The New Testament is clear that The Church is not a building, The Church is His people-- The Body of Christ.  Paul paints a beautiful picture of this Body in Corinthians.  When we are tempted to think that by not going to church we are somehow not a part of this Body, we look to I Corinthians 12: 14, 18-21, 26-27:

Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.  But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body.  The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
This is illustrated daily in our own family. Some of us are ears: good listeners.  Some of us are mouths: gifted peacemakers.  Some of us are hands: dinner makers.  {Wink.}  Within our family unit, we are examples of the Body every day and when we meet with others, we naturally continue.

...which leads into our next insecurity:

2) What about where the Bible says not to stop meeting with other Christians?

This is sort of the like the thinking that if a child is homeschooled, he therefore is not socialized.  If we learned at home and worshiped at home and stayed at home all the time,  maybe this could be a valid concern. But we don't live in a box.  We meet with friends and welcome friends into our home.  We fellowship with family and people of all ages.  We meet and share with like-minded folk in our homeschool group and co-op.  We take meals to those in need.  We pray and discuss Scripture with others in our home and theirs.

Hebrews 10: 24-25 says:
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,  not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. 
 It says not to give up meeting together.  It doesn't say meeting must occur in a church building.

Choosing to worship at home may be a short season for us or it may be a longer one.  We are open to the Lord's leading, but while we wait, we are encouraged by the words of Matthew 18:20:
For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.
Two or three.  He promises to be with us even if our group is small.  That means He is with us when we sing and pray as a family.  He is with us as we cry with a hurting friend on the phone.  He is with us when we share a meal with other believers.  What a promise!

(This week I'll share a little about our family devotions time and how we worship in our home so be sure to stop back in.)

In the meantime, hop over to Kathi's blog and Suzanne's blog, too, and read what they have to say about family worship.   And of course, hop back here and link up to your blog post about how or why you worship at home.

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Up next: August 2
  Summer Fun on a Budget
How do you entertain your family with limited expense?
Do you have a great list of family movies?
Not got a lot of time, but want to share a picture of your family's cheap fun?
Consider linking up!

Coming Soon:
August 16: Clothing a Bunch

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


My PopPop 
George Baxter 
July 4, 1924- July 12, 2011

My grandfather passed away tonight.  He turned 87 a week ago on July 4th and celebrated the day at a family picnic.  But...his health had been failing since a stroke in the spring. 

He and my grandmother had been married 66 years and together they raised 8 children.  They have 18 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren.  PopPop's name was George Baxter.  He passed his middle name onto my dad, Ronald Baxter, the 5th child and 2nd son.  We were blessed to pass that name on to our own Owen Baxter, our 3rd child and 2nd son.  

I grew up with four grandparents and now, at the age of 30, I have lost the first one.  I know I am blessed to have had this many years with him.  (My own children know the joy of only 3 grandparents, as Brian's dad passed away almost 7 years ago.) 

There is sadness, but there is also joy.  Tonight as we prayed with the kids before bed, Brian reminded us that tonight PopPop is in his heavenly home where his body is no longer weak and failing.  We are blessed by his Godly example and are beyond blessed for the Godly heritage.  

Weeping may remain for a night, 
but rejoicing comes in the morning.
Psalm 30:5

Monday, July 11, 2011

Are You Homeschooling With a Baby...and Maybe a Toddler, Too?

This is my "I've been there" story:

Each of my kids is about 2 years apart.  The smallest span is 20 months and the largest span is 26 months, but it is safe to say we have had a new babe about every other year.  There are numerous blessings with this arrangement.  My kids are the best of friends.  (Don't think this means they don't argue or nitpick!)  There is always someone around to play dress-up or share a story or push you on the swing.  Hand-me-downs don't have time to go out of style before being passed to the next child and bath time can be a big party since I can plop two or three little ones into the tub at the same time. 

The close spacing has had its share of challenges, too.  I haven't gone one day in over 8 ½ years without changing a diaper, and there have been many months with more than one child in diapers.  Collectively, I have spent 109 months nursing so far.  (Do the math and you'll find that means I even tandem nursed for a bit.)  The noise level in our house can be intolerable, sometimes from silly squabbles and sometimes from nothing more than many voices talking at once.  Loading kids into the van is a bit tricky, too.  Two of my kids can strap their own seatbelts now, but 3 of them still need help with the buckles. 

Perhaps the toughest challenge has been homeschooling the older children with a baby in the mix.  When Benjamin was born in 2008, Gavin was in 1st grade.  Maddie was doing a bit of phonics work at the table each day, but that still left me with a 2-year-old (Owen) and an infant.

February 2009
 I've spoken before about how Owen defined the term "high needs child."  He has always been sensitive to noises, colors in his food, tags in his shirt, cooking smells, strangers, and crowds.  He had a difficult time playing alone and needed to be entertained constantly.  Every issue--big or small-- was a reason to cry and he cried multiple times a day, every day.  If Owen had been my only child, perhaps it wouldn't have been as difficult, but tending to him while teaching two others and caring for a baby was a daunting responsibility.  

The school year after Benjamin was born was tough.  I knew that homeschooling was the right way for us and that thought kept us hanging on, but there were days I didn't know if we'd make it.  Of course, I knew we'd all physically get through, but emotionally, I was a wreck.  We'd have good school days and then we'd have days where I would try to teach Gavin his math lesson with a clingy, whiny toddler in my lap and a baby putting an eraser in his mouth and trying to tear the pages out of the book.  I wondered why in the world we were even attempting to do this!  

If I had any doubt that we weren't called to homeschooling, I would have closed up shop that year, but I knew I could never send my kids off on the big yellow bus.  We were home for a reason and those reasons hadn't changed.

May 2009

Summer break was a God-send that year.  Images of the school year haunted me all June and July, though.  I dreaded starting back up again.  I knew when school commenced, I would have a 2nd grader, a kindergartener, a 3-year-old, and a 10-month-old crawling explorer, but somehow, though the days were still hard, the summer break had changed us.  I felt freer to stop when we needed to stop, to do our school work sprawled on the floor if it was the easiest way to keep up with the littlest ones, to go to the library and call it school, to remember that life is learning and that the atmosphere of our home was more important than cramming academics.

September 2010
I had the chance to do it all again two years later when Alaine was born.  She was due in mid-September so we started our school year in early August, allowing a 6-week jump-start before the rigors of schooling a 3rd grader and a 1st grader with a pre-schooler (Owen), toddler (Benjamin) and a baby!  Alaine had other plans.  She made her appearance 3 weeks early.  We took a 2 week break from school and then began to ease back in.  I was prepared for tears.  I was prepared for confusion and taking lots of breaks.  However, it went much more smoothly this time.  Owen was a little older and enjoyed doing his own workbooks at the table and Alaine was a quiet content baby.  Benjamin was...well, Benjamin was 2.  He had his toddler breakdowns, but it didn't get me down this time.

January 2011
My mom has said many times that homeschooling with a baby is the easy part.  It's homeschooling with a toddler that's the challenge.  At 10 months, Alaine is standing alone and taking a few steps.   She likes to get into our school drawers.  I caught her with purple marker on her hands yesterday.  It seems as though we will have a full-blown toddler by the time school resumes in August, but still it doesn't scare me as much as thinking of   homeschooling with those dangerous postpartum, weepy hormones.

If I could go back to that super-difficult year, there are two things I would tell myself:

1) Recognize that it is hard.  It is very hard.  Also recognize that it will get better.  So what if you skip math (or science or phonics) for a week... or 4 weeks?  There won't always be an infant in the house.

2) Don't feel guilty about letting the little ones watch more TV than usual.  Don't feel guilty about handing out more snacks or letting the toddler go all day in just a diaper.  Don't feel guilty about serving peanut butter and jelly for lunch every day.  It is all about survival at the beginning.  If survival mode needs to continue for months, that's okay, too.  Looking back, you'll realize that a few extra hours of TV and an extra helping of goldfish don't really matter in the long run.

What does matter in the long run is happy memories and a happy family.   


Friday, July 8, 2011

Townhouse Living

Alternately titled: Big Family in a Small Space

Allyson said...

One of the home options available to us right now is a 2 bedroom townhome, but I'm not sure how townhome living will affect our family. Would you mind giving me some ideas of what it was like for your family to live in a townhome?

We lived in a townhouse from April 2005 through  April 2011. Before  we moved in, we had been living in a small 2-bedroom apartment.  We had 2 kids-- a 2-year-old and an 8-month-old.  When we moved out, we had 5 kids, ages 8, 6, 4, 2, and 8 months.  Our townhouse was about 1200 square feet, but we used one bedroom exclusively for storage so we figure we had about 1100 square feet of living space.  There were times when we felt cramped and desperately wanted more space!  I think Brian felt it more than I did.  I was there all day long so it was my cozy space and I made it work, but after Brian had been at work all day, he came home and the tight space could be confining.  I don't mean to say that he complained about it.  The small space just bothered him more than it did me.

We had to be very careful about how much "stuff" came into our house.  We had to limit large toys and toys with small pieces.  The 4 older kids shared a bedroom and the baby shared our room.  Their kids' closet was relatively large so we stored toys on shelves and hung up a lot of their clothes.  We also had a storage spot in their closet for underwear, socks, and PJs. 

For me, the hardest part of living in a townhouse was our lack of privacy.  Any time we went anywhere, our neighbors knew.  Most of our neighbors were friendly and none of them were nosy, but just knowing they knew our every move was a little disconcerting.  We had no problem with noise.  Apparently the walls were built thick, but I still worried when the kids got rowdy or loud.  When we moved into our new house, it was amazing how much freer we felt to come and go. 

She also asked...

Any creative ways of playing with kids outside in a very limited space?
I'm sure we didn't go outside  nearly enough.  Again, it was the privacy issue and the lack of space. We did have a sand table on our back patio that got lots of use, although the neighborhood kids used it, too, and enjoyed throwing our sand on the ground.  We went through a lot of sidewalk chalk.  That was a way to be out in the fresh air without needing a lot of space to move.  We also had quite a collection of bikes and tricycles to use on the many sidewalks around our house. For you, that would depend on the roads near your house and whether such an activity would be safe. Bubbles were another fun thing.  I would blow and the kids would chase and pop.


What suggestions would you give for storing/organizing homeschool material in the main living quarters?

I had to be careful about the amount of homeschool stuff I collected.  We had a tall bookshelf in our bedroom.  One shelf was devoted to homeschool things I wasn't currently using.  That included Bible books we were finished with or math books in a level we hadn't reached or sewing cards or math manipulatives,  plus supplies like paper and markers.  We had another bookshelf downstairs that housed the kids' favorite books and the books we used all the time as a family (the dictionary, a medical book, etc.).  I reserved the  very short top shelf for stacking homeschool materials we used often: current teacher guides, our art prints for the year, the 3-hole punch.  Sometimes I also used the top of the bookshelf to house loose papers like our reading list or coloring sheets.  Finally, each of the older kids had a small tote bag or backpack to hold their personal workbooks and pencils.  We tucked those beside the bookshelf and I insisted on neatness.  No sloppily tossed bags allowed! 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Tri-Moms: Bulk Shopping

When Kathi suggested we talk about bulk shopping this week, I'll admit I wondered if I would have anything at all to say.  We do not do the whole warehouse shopping thing.  We have purchased a membership to Sam's Club several times in the past, but we found that we didn't use it enough to justify the upfront money, and until we moved in May, we didn't have the space to store large quantities. 

Still, compared to when we were a family of three or four, most of our purchases as a family of seven can be considered "bulk."  Gone are the days of 4-packs of toilet paper and quarts of milk.  So while I don't have bunches of advice or tips on how you can be the master of bulk shopping, I can share how we handle our larger than average purchases.

1) We grocery shop every other week.  I make a huge list, the cart is heaped, and the bags are bulging.  We (the kids and I) make an effort to get everything we need for meals and snacks for the next two weeks so we don't make repeat trips to the store.  (We try, but sometimes we do miss an item or two.)  We make an exception for milk, apples, and bananas.  We restock those items between regular grocery trips. 

2) Every Friday night or Saturday, we make a Walmart run for non-food items.  We've chosen to keep this separate from food shopping.  On Thursday nights (our bills night), we make a list.  We verbally run through the list of things we may need.  Shampoo?  Nope, we have plenty.  Toothpaste?  No.  Diapers?  Yes, both kids are almost out.  Dish soap?  No, we're good.  Laundry soap?  Yes, we're getting low.  Again, we are careful to get everything we need because there won't be another shopping chance until the following weekend.  In general, we don't stock up on many items, the exception being the weeks before I'm due to give birth.  Then we make sure we have at least double of everything so we can be free to snuggle the new baby instead of running out for napkins or deodorant!


Suzanne is the linky hostess for this week. 

Up next: July 19
 Worshiping at Home
Do you worship at home on Sundays? Consider chiming in!  
Do you regularly attend a church?  You can join us, too!

Think about family devotions...think about music you play at home...think of how you build each other up.
Think...and tell us about it!
Linky Hostess: me

Coming Soon:
August  2: Summer Fun on a Budget
August 16: Clothing a Bunch

Saturday, July 2, 2011

When Your Aunt Is Only 10

My youngest sister, Bekah,  is 10 years old.  
That makes her just 20 months older than my Gavin, her nephew! 
It is pretty neat when your aunt is also one of your best friends.

Bekah spent this hot, sunny day at our house.  
It began with a demure dip in the pool.

Don't let the plastic smiles fool you.
By afternoon, the pool was old news and we had moved on to the bigger guns...
sailing down the super-slippery playground slide.  

Stumbling.  Laughing.

Falling. Giggling.

And tearing up the grass just a bit (much to Brian's chagrin)!

(What is a hot day without a drink from the hose?!
Several of the kids had to sample the rubbery goodness.) 

Everyone was worn out by dinner time.  
One even fell asleep at the table. 
The rest managed to eat their dinner and their 4th of July cake...
but ALL were sound asleep by 9 o'clock!


Oh, happy day!

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