Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A playmate for my little friend

I recently asked a dear friend of mine if she thought her sweet girls might each like a doll of their own. She said "Yes!" so I went to work. It took me quite a while to finish this doll, since life has become so busy around here, but I was quite happy with how she turned out.

This is the first of the dolls, and the only one I've completed so far. I gave her pretty curly brown wool hair, and bright purple eyes. I think she has the sweetest expression on her face. I made her several changes of clothes, which was it's own experiment. Since I had made up my own pattern for the doll, I also had to create patterns for clothes to fit her! That was one of the hardest parts for me. Hopefully when I get to that part of the process for her sister's doll, it won't take me nearly so long or be so difficult, now that I have made clothes patterns to fit this little doll!

Before she went to her new home she told me she likes to climb trees and...

 search for frogs and goldfish in the pond!

Her new little mommy is also a little girl that loves to play outside, so they should get along just fine!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Christmas in July

Last Summer I happened to find a vintage record player that worked. I bought it up and hid it away until Christmas, planning to give it to the children then. I actually ended up giving it to them for the first day of winter as a "Winter Solstice" gift so they could enjoy the Christmas records I bought for them at least a few days before Christmas day! I spent most of that summer on the lookout for records I thought they would enjoy, children's stories, Bible stories, Christmas music, folk music, favorite artists of the 60's and 70's, classical music, old TV shows theme songs, etc. The gift was a hit! They still love to pull out their record player and listen to it, especially while doing chores. (Folding laundry is a favorite time to enjoy it!) This morning Ethan asked if he could listen to Christmas music, "It's really my very favorite music, Mom!" So I helped him put on Christmas music and we enjoyed Bing Crosby belting out White Christmas while having our snack. And while the weather outside right now may be considered frightful by some, it definitely isn't white! It is exceptionally hot and humid!!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Cluck, Cluck, Cluck

This morning I went out to check on the chickens and this is what I found!

It all started last week when the boys and I were outside clearing brush and gathering wood scraps etc. for a bonfire. We tore down a small pile of scraps and threw them into the wheelbarrow and what did we find underneath but one of our large laying hens setting on 18(!) eggs. Yikes! One of the eggs was cracked pretty badly when we moved the wood, and inside we found a nearly mature chick. The rest of the eggs survived but the mama hen ran off when we moved the scraps and joined the all the others that looked just like her! Now what?! We had a pile of exposed eggs in the center of the chicken yard, and no way to tell who mama was, plus it was getting ready to storm and we couldn't put the wood scraps back in a way that would be adequate to protect her and the eggs from the elements. We waited for a while hoping to see which hen came back to care for the eggs, but none did, and the sky was getting blacker and blacker and the thunder had started up in earnest.

We carefully gathered the eggs up and put them in Matthew's shirt, and he carried them into the chicken coop. We put the eggs in one of the nest boxes and grabbed a little bitty banty hen. (Side note: about 2 weeks ago we let one of our little banty hens go broody. She was setting on her 5 little eggs faithfully and we were looking forward to watching the mama hen with her chicks in another week. Her identical twin also wanted in on the action and sat in the empty nest box next to her sister every day even though I didn't leave any eggs under her, she still sat as if she had a bunch of eggs there.) So we placed the egg-less banty hen on top of all 17 large eggs and she was thrilled! She settled right down clucking and cooing to her new brood, gathering them carefully closer with her beak. She was so little she could barely cover them all.

We have no idea when these eggs began to be incubated, thus no way of knowing if they will all hatch at the same time. (For those of you who don't already know, chickens will usually lay one egg a day without trying to incubate them until they feel like they have laid enough to raise a good size family, then they will stop laying and begin sitting on them so that all of the eggs will hatch on the same day. That is called going broody. Usually 21 days after beginning incubation the eggs will all hatch within a few hours of each other. But if you have more than one hen (we have several!) they often lay eggs in each other's nests, so we have no way of knowing if these eggs are from one hen, or several hens, possibly laid long after the incubation process was begun on the initial batch of eggs.

When I snapped this picture this afternoon there where already 5 chicks hatched. And when I went out to check on them after dark there where 9 totally hatched and several more just starting to crack their eggs. I can't wait to see how many we have in the morning! Once she gets off the nest with the chicks that have hatched, I am thinking I might stick any remaining eggs under the other banty that still has a week left to incubate her eggs and see if we get any more little ones that way. I hate to just leave the fertilized eggs to be abandoned after being incubated for who knows how long.

The boys where thrilled with the surprise chicks! And now I finally know why I have been getting fewer eggs for the past couple of weeks. I thought it was the heat making them less inclined to lay, but instead they apparently had raising families on their little chicken brains!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wooden sorting toys for the very young

Lately I have been trying very hard to find a little time to make something creative, no matter how small or simple it is or how quickly it comes together. Making things makes me happy. The way I figure it is right now I could technically sweep the floor 4 or 5 times a day but it would still look exactly the same by the time dinner is over. So instead of spending every moment I'm not playing with or reading aloud to kids, or changing diapers and wiping rear ends, cleaning the ever messy house, I am taking a little time (at least every once in a while) to do something fun. And fun for me is making stuff! For the record, I do still sweep the floor at least twice a day :-) but I find that I can work myself to utter exhaustion and my house will never look perfect, it's just a small house filled with many small messy people. I keep it comfortable for our family with the big boys' help and try not to worry about the rest!

Now this is actually what I started the whole post to tell you about: First is the little wooden box I decorated to store the wooden sorting toys I made for Claire last week. I really like how pretty it turned out. The original artwork is from a very old children's reader from the 1920's. (I love very old children's books and keep adding to our collection every chance I get.) I drew it with pencil on the top of the little box and burnt in all of the details with my handy dandy wood burner and painted it with very dilute water colors.

 Claire has shown a lot of interest lately in sorting  and matching things. So I decided to make her a simple set of wooden sorting toys. She adores little wooden peg people, she calls them her "babies". So I painted up 2 different sized sets of them in rainbow colors. Then I painted little wooden pots for them to fit into, to match each set of her peg people "babies".

She really enjoys playing with these and asks for her new toys to be taken off the shelf so she can play  with them every day.  I keep them up high where she can't reach them by herself for right now since some of them are quite small. She does not put them in her mouth, however I only allow her to play with them when I can sit with her and supervise the entire time, as they are small enough to pose a choking hazard. Plus two of our foster children do put toys into their mouths constantly... so I keep these up and out of the way most of the day, for safety's sake.

She also enjoys putting the babies with their daddies. Matching both colors and large and small... she is the one that told me the big "people" were the Daddies and the little ones the babies!

Silly face. She was pleased with herself for matching them all correctly. 

After playing she likes to put her babies to "sleep" in the box. She actually takes each one out of it's pot and lays it on the floor of the box and tells them "night-night" and closes the lid.

Doesn't that look like a better use of my time than sweeping the floor for the umpteenth time in a day?! I certainly think so. Plus the added benefit is that while she usually wakes up from her nap between a half hour and one hour earlier than the other little ones I can let her play with these at the table (or on the table like in these pictures) while I sew or work on something else fun beside her!

{P.S. The other little ones mentioned in this post were three foster children, all toddlers, all still in diapers! They have since left our care, but at the time I was truly busy changing diapers and cleaning all day long!- Just wanted to mention that to avoid confusion- updated January 2013}

Monday, July 18, 2011

Our new family car

I mentioned the other day that we had had to get another vehicle for our family as we had seriously outgrown our 7 passenger mini-van. It took a long time to find something adequate for us all! Rodrigo searched and searched online, and I called over 40 car dealerships in a three or four hour driving distance from our home asking about something that could hold a family our size. Most of the people I talked to didn't even understand what I was looking for. I'd tell them we had 7 children and another on the way (soon!) and they'd try to sell me another mini-van for seven people... "No that won't work for us" I'd explain. More than a few times the reply was "Well it'd be a tight squeeze, but you could probably fit that many people in a seven passenger mini-van... they are quite roomy!" I politely told them no thank you and would call the next one on the list. But inside I was thinking this: Um... yeah right! I thought, why don't you try to fit 6 car seats plus 3 other people in a seven passenger minivan and see how roomy it is, HaHa!. Apparently they have never heard of child restraint laws, or basic vehicular safety, you know simple stuff like one person per seat belt! After all they are only car salesmen, why would they know about things pertaining to car safety?!? By law here in Tennessee, children must travel in a car seat or booster seat until the age of 8 or until they reach a certain height and weight. Neither Matthew nor Ethan has actually reached the height or weight limit yet although Matthew is going to be 11 this autumn and Ethan just turned 8! So both of them still sit in a simple booster seat to make them a little taller and help the regular seat belt fit them better, and the 4 little ones have actual car seats. 

Rodrigo finally found a full sized van online late one evening. I called the dealership the next morning to find out if they still had it... they did! So as soon as he got home from work we went to look at it. 

It is a 12 passenger behemoth! But we all fit with a a little room to spare! I was a little worried that it would be difficult to drive. but honestly it's not that hard at all. The only thing I really notice that is different about driving it is the fact that it doesn't fit in the average compact car parking space easily. I can't just pull in without having to do some back and forth maneuvering a bit first. 

* I had to cover the foster babies' faces for the blog, which was a real shame since they all had the sweetest smiles on their faces in this picture. Our driveway is quite steep, slanting up towards the road, so Rodrigo adjusted the angle of the camera on the tripod to make things look straighter for the picture. But it turned out looking like we are all leaning towards the rear of the van. It reminds me of that V8 juice commercial several years  back... Looks like somebody forgot their V8! 

Friday, July 15, 2011

As mayor of Munchkin City, I welcome you most regally...

To my view of our little ones' room! We were brought another foster child last weekend, Little Miss H. So we are up to 4 toddlers now, 2 girls and 2 boys, our own Claire, Miss H and our two foster sons B and J.

We've had to get a bigger vehicle. We've moved up from a 7 passenger mini-van to something a bit more accommodating to a family of our size. I'll try to get a picture of that on here in a day or two!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A trip to the beach

A couple of weeks ago we took a trip to the beach. We packed up all 6 kids, and ourselves, and went on vacation with my Mom and Dad. 

{Beach Baby}

I was honestly a little nervous about going on vacation (and the 8 hour one way road trip) with our new foster babies. I mean what person in their right mind takes 2 extra toddlers they barely know on vacation for a week? But we had already made plans, and we all agreed that we would just go and do our best to make sure everyone enjoyed themselves.
{napping in the van on the way to the beach}

I can honestly say in retrospect that we had a wonderful time! My worries were completely unfounded. Sure there was more "stuff" to take with us, and more food and water to carry down to the beach for snacks, but it really wasn't at all like I worried that it would be. There were no major melt-downs, no near death drowning  experiences, no major problems of any kind. I did actually get to sit and relax (at least a little bit!) I had a chance to get in the water and swim... Rodrigo and I got to take a few walks along the beach at night during the full moon. It was really nice! It helped a lot that we had the foresight to bring a beach shade tent and 2 portable cribs with us. We set up the tent every morning on the beach and put one of the cribs inside along with a quilt. Claire would nap on the quilt and the little boys, B and J, napped in the crib together every afternoon for at least 2 hours. My dad likes sitting on the beach watching the world go by, so he stayed with the babies and I got to swim and play with our big boys! Mom and I took very long walks down the beach looking for treasures, sometimes the boys tagged along and sometimes they just stayed and played in the water closer to Daddy and Grandpa. 
{Ethan hunting for crabs}

{Claire and B in the shallows}

{Matthew heading out to play on the boogie board, even I played on the boogie board a few days we were there... although there is no photographic evidence!} 

{The toddlers playing together}

{Me watching the little ones}

{Claire fell asleep on her Grandma after a full morning in the sun and waves!}

{Matthew and Claire}

{Logan comforting Claire after she decided to go all the way under!}

{In the condo, packing snacks and water to take with us down to the beach}

{Rodrigo took Ethan fishing}

{His first fish ever! He was so proud!}

{Daddy and Claire}

{I love this picture of the two of them!}

{Our fearless baby girl! He tried pulling B and J slowly around, and they really didn't like it thank you very much!}  

{Claire loved it!}

My dad invited Rodrigo and Logan to go deep sea fishing with him one early morning. They had an awesome time. Logan said he caught a ton of fish. He was especially impressed that his Daddy managed to catch a shark! As they were pulling it onto the boat out of the water the line snapped and it got away... oh well maybe next time! The bummer was they didn't get any pictures of the shark! 

{Logan with his Grandpa on the boat}

{Logan and his Daddy}

{He caught 2 fish at once on his pole!!}
 On our last evening there my parents met my uncle who lives nearby for dinner. Rodrigo and I decided to take the kids out to town and see what we could find to do. There is this fun place called "Broadway at the Beach" that was just the thing! Rodrigo spotted a museum featuring the work of Gunther von Hagens called Bodies Revealed. So he took the big boys there while I walked around the boardwalk with the little ones. The picture below is of the boys when they came out. Logan was calling me to find out where I was so they could come meet us and find a place to have dinner. Doesn't he look all grown up? It shocks me! 

{we found a loud happy place to have dinner, 6 children fit right in with all of their noises and mess! }

{The big boys were given balloon hats...}

{chaos ensued :-)}

{Happy, goofy boys!}

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