Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mysteries Revealed, Part 4

My new friend, Angela, asked how I divide up chores and other household duties now. Angela has 2 sweet little ones at home now, but I see a houseful of munchkins from all over the world in her future... near future.

Answer: Well, our basic theory on chores is that we are a family, we share a home, therefore we all need to work together to make this home run smoothly, while remaining at least slightly on this side of chaos.  We want our kids to learn responsibility, and helpfulness.... but I don't want to be a dictator, and have little soldiers for kids.  I'm finding that it is pretty easy to fall into mean military Mom mode.  I'm working very hard to find the balance between having routines and expectations, while still having a happy, relaxing, safe harbor home.  I think that the key to this is for the kids to all know what is expected of them, and when it is expected of them.  In come our chore charts.  On our refrigerator are 6 chore charts, 1 for each child in school.  They are laminated.  When they complete a task they mark it off with an Expo marker (conveniently located in a magnetic pen holder on the side of the fridge).  I wipe off the charts each night.  Right now, we are all getting used to the charts, so no consequences for missing jobs, they just get a reminder for now.  

Here is our fridge: 

Here is Nathan's chart up close (click on it to make it bigger):
Everybody pitches in after each meal to get the kitchen and table cleaned off.  Even the littlest ones help by wiping off the chairs.  Everybody pitches in cleaning on the weekends as well.  I just take a look at what needs to be done and divvy up the chores.  In the past, I've tried to chart specific chores for each child.  That just doesn't work for me very well, because one person's job is always the toilet.  That's not fair.  Then we tried alternating weekends.  That didn't work, either.  Either we forgot what weekend it was, or someone wasn't home to do there's, or we were too busy one weekend.  'Clean Sweep' is making a loop through the house, picking up anything that belongs to you, or you got out.  It's not all that detailed or all inclusive, but for us, Keep It Simple Stupid works out really well.

So, I think that's it in a nutshell.  It's been working pretty well.  So far, so good!  Thanks, Angela, for the question!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Magical Munchkin Moments

Here's what we stay at home folks have been up to while everyone else is slaving away at work or school:

Running lots of errands (some may call it shopping, but that's just a technicality).
Going on Thursday fun outings with some good friends; parks, Williamsburg, Malls... it's all fun!
Having Munchkin Movie Mornings.  They love them some Veggie Tales!

And their absolute favorite.... dress up time!  Ishmael thinks he is hilarious with a wig on, and I have to agree.  He'll wear those itchy things for hours at a time.  (Steve thinks I should draw the line at the pink leotard, though).

Aah, rough is the life of a Mother of Preschoolers.  Really....

(Especially the 2 hour nap time they will have this afternoon)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Mysteries Revealed, Part 3

Asked by a sweet friend, Katie, whom I only knew a short time before she had to move away.  : (
What are my best money saving tips? What questions did we ask ourselves before adopting? What are my best recipes?

Answer part 1: Money saving tips? Being that I am a great lover of all things shopping, and Steve says we should put on our bib overalls and live off of the land, I'm pretty sure I should refer all money related questions to somebody far better at it than me.... Dave Ramsey. His system takes some discipline, but really, truly works.

Answer part 2: Questions we asked ourselves before we adopted: 1) Could we afford it? 2) Could we TRULY love a child not bone of our bone? 3) Could we TRULY loves a child of a different race? 4) Could we TRULY love a child that may have some "needs"? As it turns out, all of those questions were completely irrelevant. No matter how God places a child in your arms, his manner of growing your heart to love them remains the same. I will say that becoming a transracial family makes you a little conspicuous. We had never really been noticed before. Adopted a child from another culture requires you to be willing to become part of that culture. Adoption IS expensive, but in our case The Lord took care of the money issues in truly remarkable ways. Once you see that little face, all of your questions are irrelevant (or at least were for us). Once you see the need.... well, then you know the truth.... there is ALWAYS ROOM FOR ONE MORE!!!! I would say the only question that truly needs to be asked and answered is this... what would God have you do? Our answer came in this verse:

James 1:27
27Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

(Katie, I do not really LOVE to cook, beyond LOVING to eat, and LOVING to feed my family. I don't have any remarkable recipes, but when I come across some, I'll be sure to post them, okay?)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pumpkin Patch!! (and our first picture of our whole family)

We just had a completely fantabulous day at the pumpkin patch!  We loaded up the kids, along with 2 of the kids' friends, and 2 of our friends, and headed to the farm. The major highlight of this farm is the mountain they have built out of dirt and mulch.  It's big.  Majorly big.  Like 2nd story window big.  They've installed slides down the sides, and the whole thing is fairly safe and just innocent fun, until.  Until your husband decides to sit halfway down the side of the mountain and encourage all of his children to take a running start and leap OVER him.  DOWN the hill.  By the grace of God, no children were injured during this picture shoot.  A good mom would have intervened.  Me?  I whipped out the camera. 

Flying McStud Muffin

This is "my person", Beth.  You know the one.  The one you can count on, call about anything.  The one that has your back, loves ALL of your kids and keeps coming back for more.  (Oh, and her husband, Robbie is ok too).
Hope and "her person", Paige.

All of the kids with their pumpkin picks.
This pic is just cute of Elias and Ishmael.  I love it.  And them.  All is well in our world right now.  Gotta love that.  Gotta praise The Lord for that.  Amazing what a big pile of mulch and a field of gourds will do for ya.....

Mysteries Revealed, Part 2

Question #2, asked by my very best blogging friend, Fabu (who just brought home 3 gorgeous kiddos from Ghana) asked how I tackle the laundry, and if we think we may adopt one more.

Answer part 1:  Laundry, schmaundry.  This is what we are doing. and it seems to be working well so far.  Each room has one laundry basket with the names of the room's residents written in Sharpie marker on the side.  Also, the kids bathroom has a basket (because no matter how hard I try, I can't seem to get kids to take their dirties back to their own rooms).   Most baskets are for 2 people (Steve and I, Jamison and Jorah, Ishmael and Elias) but the older girls' basket is for 4 (Hope, Emma, Stella and Beatrice) and Nathan has a basket to himself (lucky guy gets a room to himself).  Each day I find a basket that is completely overflowing and take it down to the laundry room.  My goal is to get that load of laundry washed, dried, folded and back into that rooms basket before the kids get off of the bus (lofty goal).  Each time I change a load, I put in another load.  We can stay on top of the laundry if we do one complete rotation of laundry a day.  The full basket of folded clothes gets put up into their prospective rooms, and the kids are responsible for putting them away after their homework is done.  Why this system?  Well, I've found that folding one rooms worth is tons easier that folding a little of everybody's.  We only have a couple different kinds of socks to match, instead of 11.  The only time this is different is the bathroom hamper loads.  I'm willing to deal with this in order to keep that bathroom a little more orderly.  That is how we do the laundry.  I'm sure there are tons easier, more efficient ways to do it, but until Santa brings me my Whirlpool Duet, we will stick with the system. 

Answer part 2:  As to whether we are going to adopt one more....... hmmm depends on who you ask.  The Hubster is sitting next to me and says "No", with a big grin on his face.  Hope wants to adopt her best friend Paige, but her Mom would like to keep custody of her.  Emma and Hope think that we need a newborn boy next.  All I know is that we were "done" with 3, we were "done" with 5, so now I don't attempt to guess what the Lord has in store for us.  I could see us being "done" with 9, but there is "Always Room For One More" in our home and our hearts so who knows..... it is exciting not to know.  Will I ever completely feel "done"?  I dunno.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Mysteries Revealed, Part 1

Question #1, asked by my Adoption Warrior Princess/Adoption Coordinator/Friend, Anita-  How have my grocery buying habits changed, and did I change the foods I cook, amounts etc.?

Answer-Thankfully, thanks to my awesome friends from church (thanks, Jamie), we had wonderful home cooked meals delivered every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday for the first month we were home.  I mean good meals, too.  I've been flying solo lately, and am managing pretty well, amazingly enough.  Now, cooking and grocery shopping are not my 'thing'.  I abhor grocery shopping.  First you have to put the item in your cart, then onto the conveyor belt, then into your cart again, then into your car, then into your house, then into your pantry.  After all of that, you are supposed to plan the meal, cook it, and clean up afterwards.... 3 times a day.  Therefore, it was our habit to scrounge around in the refrigerator for meals for as many days as possible before going to the store again, which usually meant more meals eaten out than our budget could afford.  Now with 9 kids, we not only 'shouldn't' eat out, we 'can't'.  Therefore, I am playing The Grocery Game, found at  It is a system that matches up coupons with the sales at local grocery stores.  For instance, last Tuesday I bought $230 worth of groceries for $126, for a savings of 45%.  The only catch is that you have to buy what is on your list, not what you NEED.  Eventually you will catch up, and virtually be able to shop out of your pantry, because the sales cycle will have come full circle.  After 12 weeks, you should be set on everything from peanut butter to toilet paper.  I'm on week 4, and I'm enjoying the game aspect of it now, and enjoying the savings.  So I shop at Kroger with coupons on Tuesday night (while Steve puts the kids to bed), and I go to Costco Wednesday night, while all of the kids are at church activities.   At Costco I buy lunch packing supplies (lunch meat, chips, fruit, Capri Suns), fruit, detergent, rice, gatorade.  My total grocery bill has gone up, but not exponentially, as you would expect adding 4 HUGE EATERS (these kids can to our family.  Also, we have eaten out WAY less.  Usually pizza with coupons one night a week.  Not eating out is the biggest savings of all for us.
     As far as cooking goes, I've just been more diligent about planning for dinner in the morning.  Lately the crockpot and rice cooker have been my friend.  I put in some cheap meat, marinade of some sort, veggies of some sort, and let it cook away, making rice sometime in the afternoon.  It's awesome!!  Put out some fruit or salad and voila!  I do make more food, but we are more careful with portions.  We start with very small portions, then they can have 2nds, 3rds or whatever, but they have to eat what's on their plates first.  This has kept us from wasting tons of food!

There you go, Anita.  First question answered!

Anymore questions, anyone? Ask away!  (And fill out my survey, so I know I'm not writing posts for 14 people)!!! 

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Questions Anyone?

I know I promised an in depth, behind the scenes look at our home with 9 kids for my next post, but the Hubster took the camera to work and has yet to return it. Instead, I thought I'd open up the mic and give you guys a chance to ask me some questions. Do you have adoption questions? Organization questions? Scheduling questions? Agency questions? I know I have plenty of questions for some of my fellow bloggers, but feel like I shouldn't ask. I realize you may be a little gun shy, due to my previous post. But, please, ask away. Wanna know how Steve and I met, my views on the election, how old I am, my favorite food? I'm giving you permission.... what do enquiring minds want to know?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Heather's Helpful Handbook of Hurtful Things Not To Say....

1) You sure have your hands full! What I say is "yes we do, and our hearts are too". What I think is, "man , that's a good one, I hadn't noticed, and I surely have never heard that one before". What I wish is that people would stop pointing out the obvious. If I look a little flustered or am carrying 2 kids and chasing down a third, please don't remind me how 'full' my hands are... lend me one of yours, or at least just give me a knowing (non-condemning) smile.

2) Are all of these kids yours? We don't get asked this nearly as much as you think.. I'm pretty sure that's because someone is calling me "Mommy", "Momma", or "Mom" at a rate of once every 10 seconds. You don't have to watch us very long to figure it out! My answer when asked, though, is "absolutely"!

3) Are they brothers and sisters? Now this one bugs the tar out of me, especially when asked in front of the kids. Because of course they are brothers and sisters! They live together, eat together, fight together and love together. They are true siblings in every single sense of the word. It undermines everything that we are trying to instill in them to even care which ones are blood related, so please don't ask... it truly does not matter!

4) How do your real kids feel about you adopting so many more? Another doozy. They are ALL my real kids. They all have 8 brothers and sisters. They all share a bathroom. They all sit rather cozily around the kitchen table. They all 'sacrifice' some extras. No one asked Jamison, Jorah, Stella, Beatrice, Elias or Ishmael if they would like to be adopted. We were very open about our desire to adopt with Nathan, Hope and Emma, but we did not ask for their permission. We are the parents, we are led by The Lord to lead this family. Incidentally, however, they are as passionate about adopting as we are and are already on us about who our 'next one' will be. They remind us that there is room for one more around the table and in our van.

5) What happened to their parents? I understand the curiosity, really I do. But this is one area that is private, each child's story for themselves. They will learn the entire story when they are older, and they can make the choice who to tell, and how much they will share with whom. Something about the children being orphans at one point in their lives makes people think that they should be able to know all of the details. It's true, at one point in each of their lives, they didn't have anyone advocating for them, anyone to protect them from danger. But now they do, they have Steve and I. In order for a child to be in an orphanage, or placed for adoption, something very traumatic and hard had to have happened in their young lives. Their life here will be hard enough (learning English, learning a new family, being in a trans racial family) without people whispering behind their backs about their pasts. So please just don't ask, it matters, a lot, to THEM but we just aren't going to be telling YOU. Please try to be understanding about this.

6) Where do they all sleep? I want to tell people that we have plenty of room, because, hey, they all sleep on mats laid out in rows on the floor. Or maybe that we believe in co-sleeping and they all share our bed. The question does carry with it a certain amount of doubt that we can adequately care for all of our children, or at the very least an amount of curiousness as to how big our house is (therefore how much money we make). Most of the kids do share rooms, but we have space for everyone. (My next post will be "What does a home with 9 kids LOOK like", so stay tuned).

Now most people are just curious. They ask questions because they are interested and care. They may come across as insensitive or rude. But I have to remember that they are not educated in politically correct terms. They haven't been made to attend hours upon hours of training to in order to be deemed worthy of raising their children. So I smile, answer their questions as honestly and forthrightly as I can. I know that we are a conspicuous family when we are out, but to us, this is normal, this is just our family living life together.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tagged... I'm it!

I was tagged by my BBFF (Best Blogging Friend Forever) Amy Fabu.
Okay, in trying to come up with 7 fabulous, exciting or at least interesting things about myself I've made a discovery. I am boring. I am a total middle of the roader in all areas. I am organized, but not a neat freak. I'm sorta creative, but don't while away the hours in endless streams of artistic endeavors. I'm smart enough, but not nearly a Mensa candidate. I like to think I'm adventurous, but haven't done anything newsworthy. I wasn't exactly a tomboy, nor a girlie girl (I climbed trees AND made up roller skating routines to "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun"). I'm pretty athletic, but not outstanding. I plan sorta, and fly by the seat of my pants sorta. I'm part practical, part dreamer. I had an extremely hard time coming up with ANYTHING!!! But you know what? I'm okay with it. You know why? Because God created me in this particular way to be the perfect wife, mother and friend to all of the amazing people He has put into my life. If I had any outstanding talents, gifts, dreams or traits to speak of, this wouldn't be my life. I would be off curing cancer, winning Gold medals or writing the next Newberry Award winning novel. Instead I spend my days cooking roast to feed my family, watching the dishes pile up while I sing Eensy Weensy Spider AGAIN, put ice on boo boos, drive to gymnastics and the Doctors office, do loads upon loads of laundry and tuck 9 beautiful children into bed each night. I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm rather glad I'm not 'good' at anything other than counting to 10, naming my colors, reading "Go Dogs Go" listening to the latest Middle School drama and changing diapers.

That being said, here is my attempt at coming up with 7 interesting things about myself:

1) I change my hair color and style almost daily. I've been blond, brown, red, bronze, multi-hued and even orange at times. I've had it long, curly, straight, flippy, spiky, angular, bobbed and asymmetrical. The people that know me in real life don't even comment, or really even notice when I change it anymore. I love to peruse the hair color aisle at Walmart, pick a cool color, go home and see what happens. I usually end up grabbing the scissors afterwards to 'trim' my hair to match the new color. I think this is my creative outlet, my little rebellion. I'm currently under contract with my good friend and my daughter to grow it out, though. So currently it's neither cool nor trendy... ugh.

2) I'm an adventurous eater, I love to try new exotic things. I love all sorts of foods that other people consider weird. There are 3 foods, however, that totally gross me out. I avoid them like the plague. I've been dared to eat them and have gagged hard enough to have the darers relent and dare me to do something different. Those 3 foods? Melon, milk and peanut butter.

3) Growing up I got into 3 fist fights with boys. In 3rd grade I punched a bully in the gut for putting his PB&J in my Vegetable Beef Soup (I didn't get in trouble). In 5th grade I knocked a boy to the ground for trying to kick us out of our tree fort (his Dad came to our house and told on me, my Dad laughed in his face and told him to toughen up his wimpy son). In 11th grade Science class a football player kept knocking me in the head, so I stood up, told him to stop it, he got embarrassed and shoved me, I threw a punch and gave him a bloody lip, he bled onto his white pants (we both got lunch detention, because I should've acted more lady-like).

4) I've lived in 18 different houses. My Dad was in the Navy and we moved every 2 years. Then I married Steve, and he was in the Air Force. He has been out for 8 years, but I still get wander lust after I live somewhere for about a year and a half. We've been in this house for about 16 months, so watch out! We can't go far, though, because Steve owns a local business.

5) I've got the world's biggest forehead. People that don't believe me have been shocked and embarrassed for me when they finally see it (it's safely hidden behind bangs now). I got the high forehead from Mom, and the wide forehead from Dad. If I was a good blogger I'd show you a picture, but I can't bring myself to do it.

6) I attended 4 different colleges, and still haven't graduated. Charles County Community College, Towson State, MD., University of Oklahoma, and University of Central Oklahoma. I was majoring in Physical Education. I may finish one day, but have no real desire to go back.

7) Steve and I dated long distance for the entirety of our courtship. I lived in Maryland then Oklahoma, he was from Iowa going to school in Colorado. We dated for 2 years, but saw each other for a total of less than one month before we got married. I didn't question our decision at all, neither did he, our parents, or any of our friends. It was just so natural and meant to be!!

Ok, there you have my great list. Now I tag Lauren and April.