Renovate? Big Time!

Did you ever have a dream to create, use your own hands, start from scratch and make something all your own? Well, that’s what we’ve been working on…for years ūüôā We bought an old, abandon house and completely gutted it out and moved into it (yes, in that order) and started to create with very little in the way of resources, our ‘dream’ home.

The House?

And then of course there was the beautiful back of the house.

The Beautiful Back of the House

Our goal was to live debt-free, but our goal was also to have a big enough house for all of our children. So we bought this house that was large enough. It had an acre of land, with a golf course on one side and a lake on the other. Picture perfect area.

I know. You can’t believe what a beautiful house we found! Yeah, I know. Its a disaster. Actually, this photo was taken after we’d worked on it for quite a long time. Free windows, gathered from who knows where and some plywood siding to start off and we were off and running.

But this is what its evolving into….

The House ūüôā

When I say evolving into…wait til you see the balconies and driveway and garage (in the future, I hope). Well I’ll tell you I’ve worked hard on this house, very hard. Back-breaking labor from early in the morning til late into the night, many, many days, but I can’t really take the credit at all. It is all thanks to the ‘man’. My man to be exact. He is a workhorse. Seriously. He never stops. He has done it all, almost single-handedly and I’m so proud of him.

Since our life has been a saga of raising 9 children, working a job, homeschooling, building a business and building a house while living in it…its been an interesting journey, so far and I can’t wait to show you some of the pictures along the way and I can’t wait to show you what we’re working on right now

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Fourth Baby

That’s Joshua before we could see him.¬† I was probably about 6 months pregnant and feeling very¬†comfortable¬†about eating up a storm at the picnic.

¬†We were in a crazy time of turmoil when Sarah was born, trying to save up for a down payment for our first house,¬† living with my Mom, trying to learn how to home-school, yuck!¬† Then, out of no-where…I’m pregnant.¬† There¬†are only¬†13 1/2 months between Sarah and Josh.¬† I know, lots of others have¬†had many¬†children close,¬†but it felt like a lot to me¬†to have¬†4 kids, 6 years old and under.¬† Davey¬†turned 6¬†the day¬†Josh was born, Bethany was¬†4 and Sarah was only¬†1 and a couple of months.

We needed a new¬†obstetrician and a friend recommended a wonderful doctor at the University of Michigan Hospital.¬† He was a specialist in high risk pregnancy, and infertility. We just called him up because of her recommendation¬†and he always joked about taking me on as patient because I didn’t fit either of those categories.

Turns out I really needed him, because Josh’s heart rate kept plummeting in labor and the doc just got him out superfast.¬† I didn’t even see him¬†fully as they whisked him over to the other side of the room to work on him.¬† David put his head down on my shoulder as we listened to the team work on Josh to make sure he was breathing.¬† I asked David what we just had and he said, ‘A Smurf’.¬† He was definitely blue for¬†the first¬†few minutes.

What a sweet baby he was.  I could talk to him and just say hi Josh, or snap my fingers and he would just grin from ear to ear.  His Uncle Brian named him Dr. Grin for a while because he just never stopped smiling.

¬†When we bought our construction project abandoned house, Josh wasn’t even born yet and we had to work on it for a¬†year before we could even move in.¬† It was so messy with nails and sawdust and piles of wood and drywall, I really¬†didn’t want him to get down in the mess¬†and learn to walk.¬† We had this really¬†old-fashioned¬†and totally unapproved baby walker that was so fast and slick that Josh could manoeuver it really well¬†and fly¬†all over the house and I was able to keep him relatively safe and clean from construction materials.

¬†When we bought our house, we¬†had this great attitude going in to the project.¬†¬†Since we had a goal to be debt free and build our own¬†house for our own¬†family, without loans as much as possible, we needed to do whatever it took to make that happen.¬† If that meant waiting for furniture, carpet, conveniences, then that’s what we had to do.¬† It was an adventure and the kids were in it with us.¬† We were like pioneers.¬† When the pump went out, we bathed in the lake.¬† When we didn’t¬†pay the¬†utility bill because we bought too¬†many building supplies¬†at Home Depot, we just went without hot water till we had the money.¬† We didn’t have any kind of kitchen for several years, and we found out that¬†it is very possible to go without a lot¬†of things if you’re determined and have the right attitude.¬† Really it would have been so much easier to get a giant mortgage and have mostly everything done right away, but where’s the triumph in that.¬† We scrimped, went without and came out way ahead in the long run.

We used this little blue plastic bathtub for 8 out of 9 babies.¬† For some reason a bathtub was one of the last conveniences that we bought.¬† Our bathroom is big and uniquely designed, but had only¬†a shower.¬† It’s not too exciting to tell your 2-year-old to get tough and get in the shower¬†because¬†that’s what big people do!

That’s a perfect example, though, of our ‘lets get it done, do what it takes’¬†attitude.¬† I doesn’t hurt a baby to have a shower, it just isn’t the nice pampering that you like to do with a¬†little one.¬†¬†When Josh was really little and we had no kitchen, we used to use styrofoam plates and bowls all the time. Well I must have started feeling ecologically guilty, so I bought each kid their own set of dishes, like Batman and Barbie etc.¬†and taught them how to wash their own set¬†every day in the bathroom.

We weren’t really pioneers, but we felt like it.¬† We’re so much softer now.¬† If the cable goes out or my cell phone runs out of battery, it’s a big problem!

What a beautiful child he was!¬† I can¬†only say that because I didn’t create him.¬† He was a gift given to us by God.¬† I’m so glad for photo studios who can take¬†such good pictures because photography is not my talent. ¬†It was well worth the money to preserve our memories.

Josh¬†was certainly born during a more challenging time in our lives.¬† I hope it helped to shape him and give him¬†more strength of¬†character than if he’d been born into an easier time of¬†life where everything was handed to him on¬†a platter, not that there are any platters around here still, just ask the other kids.

You¬†can tell that¬†I haven’t gotten too extravagant when I let 3 little boys go to the store and I give them¬†$1.50 to spend.¬† It turns out that they wanted something to split that cost $2.00 and they asked for a discount.¬† The store owner said he’d give it to them if they each picked up 5 pieces of trash in his parking lot.¬† Cool deal.¬† I’m proud of them.

You can see that by the time he was about 2 years old, we still didn’t have carpet.¬† I called them soft wood floors (aka. plywood), but he had toys and we had fun.

When you work on a major project together as a family, I think it teaches you how to work together, it bonds you together and give develops wonderful, fun memories for a lifetime.

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10 Things I Love About Babies

Sometimes I can be so serious and sometimes, although I’d never admit it, I am so silly.

1.¬†“Snuggle Buggle”.¬† My¬†very favorite thing to do is to¬†cuddle and rock my baby.¬† But instead of saying cuddle, I started saying snuggle.¬† And possibly due to the influence of Dr. Seuss, I just started saying snuggle buggle and even worse than that, I use the phrase as an action verb.¬† Do you want to “….”?! You know what I’m saying.

2.¬† I love¬†singing Baby Songs with the baby¬†on my lap; of course I have a huge repertoire of songs.¬† We sit face to face so we can do all the actions together. The youngest baby, who can barely sit up, gets to start with Patty Cake.¬† Then we¬†grow into Running¬†Over, Deep and Wide,¬†Itsy¬†bitsy¬†spider, Jesus Loves Me, and then our version of¬†Jesus loves my little children¬†which goes…Jesus loves my little children, and Mommy and Daddy too, Davey, Bethany, Sarah, Josh, Abigail and Michael and Joel and my little Isaac and my Caleb too.¬† If you know the tune, I dare you to sing it with all¬†those names.¬† I started out singing it this way when we only had 5 kids, up to Abigail, and I managed to add a name and change the rhythm enough to accommodate all 9 of them.

3.  Bath-time.  How fun is that, even if you have to keep your underwear on because 2 of you are girls and 1 is a boy, everyone is having a good time.

4.¬† Fever – I¬†know, sounds bad…¬†Don’t judge me. My favorite is not the part where they’re sick, its¬†when the baby is really sick with fever, which hopefully doesn’t happen too often, they want¬†their mommy¬†and they¬†need me¬†to¬†somehow make them¬†comfortable and secure when they’re not feeling well, and¬†I¬†get¬†to hold them and rock them for hours till they’re all better.

5.¬† Their smell, baby’s breath, yup, say no more, there’s nothing sweeter.


6.  The little cooing sounds they make when they first learn to use their voice.  When babies are about 2 to 3 weeks old, they suddenly discover that they can make cute little noises and sounds with their voice that is completely different from crying.  I figured out that if I make similar sounds back and do these happy goofy faces, I can get them to keep making those sweet little sounds. Totally worth it.

7.¬† The wrap.¬† Some people don’t like the wrap but I have found that when a baby is fussing and flailing, if you swaddle¬†them and then, don’t laugh, snuggle buggle, they become calm, secure and usually fall asleep.¬† Everybody’s happy.

8. ¬†Evolution, or should I say the de-evolution¬†of words.¬†Intelligent and sensible¬†adults named the item that a baby can suck on, a¬†Pacifier.¬† Some grownups call it a soother.¬† My Dad, smart man that he is, named this item a¬†plug.¬† Efficient, to the point and a very¬†self-explanatory¬†use of language, because that’s often what the item¬†does, plugs.

 Instead of being grownup and sophisticated, we changed the word over time and it became a pluggy; silly.

But then with the last baby, our silliness¬†de-evolved the word¬†even more into¬†“puggy”.¬† Now there’s no way any thinking adult would know what¬†we’re talking about.¬† We make up all kinds of silly things. I can say with a straight face to anyone in my family..”He got an¬†owie¬†¬†and needs his puggie¬†and now we’re going to snuggle buggle,” and they will understand the whole situation.

9.¬† Looking at their beautiful faces when they’re sound asleep.¬† This makes me very happy.

10.  First day of life.  How precious and helpless and beautiful.

And first day home from the hospital.¬† Everything is new and fresh and beautiful and exciting.¬† You’ve got to try it.

Tender, sweet and silly moments.  Makes the world go round.

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Scrooge On Valentines?

We’ve been to see the live play¬†–¬†A Christmas Carol several times.

The theater company does an excellent job and they always manage to choose a wonderful actor to play Ebenezer Scrooge and he carries the whole story.¬† I find myself¬†whisked away in my imagination, envisioning being alone and cranky and having several ghosts visit me in the night.¬† Its scary and exciting to watch the process as Ebenezer, and the audience start to realize that the series¬†of ghosts that¬†show up, one after the other,¬†all have the same goal;… to teach mean old Ebenezer that there’s more to Christmas than¬†‘Ba Humbug!’

The one ghost takes Ebenezer Scrooge to a scene of a family preparing dinner and waiting for their father to come home from work.¬† The mother is Belle, Scrooge’s former fiance, who couldn’t stand¬†his selfishness and¬†greed over money any longer, and she¬†married another man and had several beautiful¬†children.¬† The scene was heartbreaking for Scrooge, realizing that his greed had cost him¬†a quality of life with a family¬†that he’d never realize.

It was the most darling scene.¬† The loving, sweet mother was instructing all of her beautiful children how to set out and prepare a warm, filling dinner for Daddy so that when he got home, the family would enjoy a wonderful Christmas dinner together.¬† When the children heard Daddy coming in the door, one hid under the table, laughing his head off and the rest rushed into their Daddy’s arms, rejoicing in his arrival so that the festivities could begin.¬† There was lots of hilarity as the father pretended to look for the ‘lost’ child and when he found him, they all gathered around as he took his wife into his arms and greeted her lovingly as if they’d been apart for days and days.

As I was sitting, watching the scene unfold, I started to have feelings of longing and envy for such warmth and beauty.¬† I thought to myself, “How lucky that mother is to have so many children, a warm lovely home and a handsome loving husband”.¬† And then, it was like a voice speaking to me in my head, as if God was gently¬†nudging¬†me out of my absorption with the scene playing out¬†in front of me…”You…Have…That!” And I thought to myself, “I do, I have that!”¬†¬†It was a quiet voice that reverberated loudly throughout my whole being and all I could feel was a surge of gratitude and contentment with my world.

After the play, we went to dinner and David asked me how I liked it.  I start to tell him about the scene and my thoughts, and it just brought tears to my eyes and I told him all that I was remembering about that one beautiful moment in the play.

Even though we saw the play for our anniversary before Christmas, what could be more Valentines¬†romantic than to have a house full of children and still have the love and the beauty that young couples¬†dream about¬†before they are even married and having babies¬†and starting out on their life’s journey.

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More Modelling For The Cove

Abby and I did a few new pics this week for the Clothing Cove.

We had so much fun and they even did this cute Mother/Daughter shot.

Of course they want her for lots of shots because she’s beautiful.¬† It was really fun to work together.¬† The photographer was even pleasantly surprised that a Mother and Daughter could get along so well.¬† Of course Abby told him that we get along or else¬†she’ll get ‘smacked’!¬† ‘No comment’, I said..¬† Actually¬†we’re just joking.¬† We really do get along very well.

Abby¬†always told me their jeans, at the store,¬†were really cool, and she’s obviously right.¬† The store is so beautiful just to shop in, but its worth going to to get some great ideas and be up on some really great deals.

Some of our best shots came near the end of the day when we became a lot more relaxed and started getting silly and having more fun with the job.

Its so hard to be yourself and not be uptight.  Somehow you have to be in a funny, uncomfortable position, yet look like you stand like that all day long and love it.

I¬†think I’ll be doing a little bit more this week and then who knows.

What I’d really like to do this spring is some outdoor shots.¬† Our town is so pretty and there are so many places that you can go shoot pictures outside with background that has character, like brick walls, park benches and streams.¬† We’ll see….

I just have to tell the children that Mommy needs to work a few more hours to buy a really sweet wardrobe.¬† Do you think they’ll go for it?¬† Somehow, I think if I told them that I had to work a few more hours and then I could buy them some really sweet toys, they’d be a little¬†more enthusiastic.¬† The kids are really great about being responsible for a few short hours while I’m 10 minutes away playing dress up.

So as I wind up my day, I realize its been fun getting my picture taken several times and its been fun playing dress up and being very girlie, but it is now very rewarding to be home, in front of the fire laughing with the boys about funny pictures they made today, awesome Lego structures that were created and letting everyone indulge in big bowls of ice cream, just because its Friday night.

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