Friday, October 30, 2015

11 Year Anniversary

I was reminded by Timehop on my phone this morning that today is my 11th anniversary of blogging!  I started on Oct. 30, 2004.  I didn't know how to link articles, post pictures, or really do anything other than type words (not that I do anything all that exciting now, LOL).  

We had 4 boys at the time.  Nathan had just turned 7 a week before we moved to DC the July 4th weekend, and Jonathan had just turned 1.  I was so overwhelmed and busy!  How could I ever consider having any more kids?!  This picture is technically from 2005, but the faces look pretty familiar.  Cute boys!  Hard to believe Nathan is in college now.  Where does the time go?!

I have to laugh when I think that I had 4 kids 7 and under at that point--and now, 11 years later, I still have 4 kids 7 and under--plus 6 older ones.  Ay yi yi.  I didn't even have an inkling about what being busy really was!  Sure I dealt with messes, and it was hard to homeschool with toddlers around.  But they all went to bed around 8:00, and then I was done.  I wasn't staying up for hours trying to dredge my memory for how to use the chi square test to check results of a fruit fly genetic experiment or making up Latin practice sentences using 3rd conjugation verbs (present tense only!) plus selected prepositions and nouns from the vocab lists.  I didn't have to write exams and practice worksheets or search around the internet for alternative labs since I can't get the supplies for many AP labs as written.  Compared to now, there was no mental strain, and I know I got more sleep and exercise than I do now!  I never really dreamed that any stage could be harder than the toddler stage, but it turns out the "high schoolers plus toddlers" stage is 1000x more exhausting.

I'm so glad I started blogging.  It has always mainly been to keep in touch with family and friends, especially in the "pre-Facebook" world (remember that dim, dark epoch of time?).  I didn't realize that a few short years after I started blogging I would become way too busy to keep up with scrapbooking, and this blog has become a scrapbook, especially once I figured out how to post pictures (and got a digital camera in 2006, which was the first step--we are not early adopters of new technology, LOL).  It's really fun for me to look back and reread old posts from way back when.  I only regret now not having enough time to blog, so a lot of the fun little day-to-day things are getting forgotten.  Poor Drew is only going to be remembered for his "Autumn of Accidents", LOL. I need to do another month of everyday blogging, like I did in October 2013.  Maybe when things get easier . . . haha!  I crack myself up!  It is somewhat encouraging to think that in 11 more years, I should NOT have 4 kids 7 and under.  It is incredibly weird, however, to think that I could potentially be a grandma by then.  Well, I'll keep on blogging, and we'll see where we are then!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

"Making Time"

The book I read while Bob and I were on our lovely Colorado trip (was that a month ago?  or just a dream, perhaps?!) was Making Time:  Lillian Moller Gilbreth--A Life Beyond Cheaper by the Dozen" by Jane Lancaster.  I read Cheaper by the Dozen as well as the sequel, Belles on Their Toes, for the first time back when I was in junior high, and I loved the books.  They were so funny!  They definitely made life with a big family seem so totally fun, and I would have told you I wanted 12 kids for sure had you asked me then (although when I was a much more mature high schooler, I realized it would be crazy to have more than say 4, which to me WAS a big family . . .)  Somehow I read about this book a few years ago (amazon reviews, maybe?), and I requested it for a present.  I did receive it, and then it sat on the shelf because I just didn't have time to read it.  The trip to Colorado was a perfect time for some pleasure reading, however, so I took it along and started reading it on the plane.

I was fascinated by it.  I finished it a few weeks back, but I've kept thinking about it, and about Lillian Moller Gilbreth, who is the mom in Cheaper by the Dozen.   We really have a lot in common, and I felt a real kinship with her.  I wish I could have met her!

First, some details about her that most people, even ones who read the books, don't know about her.  In the books she was mentioned as part of the "motion study" team, always trying to figure out the most efficient way of doing things, and they talked about her visiting factories, but that part of her life was definitely glossed over.  I had no idea that she was such a well-respected academic herself!  She received a master's in literature from UC-Berkeley before she even met her future husband, Frank.  She met him in Boston.  He had never gone to college, but he was interested in workplace efficiency, and Lillian became interested in that as well.  She got her first PhD from Brown in 1915 in industrial psychology (first one ever granted because it was a totally new field), already having 4 children.  She and Frank started a "scientific management principles" consulting business, where they worked on "time and motion studies" to make factories and businesses run most efficiently, and she worked right alongside him.  Because of her psychology background, she was able to help convince workers that these new ways were better for them, and she really pushed for better working conditions and incentives, since she was more interested in the "human element", rather than just the technical benefits of efficiency.  They developed the concept of "ergonomics", really, as well as the discipline of industrial engineering, a subject dear to my heart, since my sister-in-law and niece are both industrial engineers.

Lillian always deflected any praise away from herself and towards her husband, so it wasn't until after Frank died on June 14, 1924, that people started realizing that she was actually the one who had written most of the many books they had published.  She was able to keep running by herself the business they had started, and she also became a professor of industrial engineering at a bunch of prestigious universities.  She was awarded a boatload of awards and impacted our lives in dozens of ways that I don't think anyone really realizes anymore.  For example, she conducted a ton of research to help determine the most efficient way to set up a kitchen (the whole "work triangle concept" came from her), as well as the best standard height for stoves and sinks.  She came up with the idea for shelves in the refrigerator door and the foot-pedal trash can (something I appreciate very much!), and dozens of other things we just accept as common-place now.  She also worked to develop methods for physically-handicapped people to do common tasks.  She kept teaching and consulting until she was 90 years old, and she died when she was 93.

So . . . wow!  All that is amazing, but what I was really interested in was her family life.  She actually bore 13 children--her second child, Mary, died of diphtheria when she was 5, and Lillian also delivered a stillborn child for her 8th child--but there were only really 11 kids, although Frank and Lillian always referred to them as their "dozen".  Now here is where the bias of the author really shines through.  I have no idea about the author at all, except after reading the book, I have the mental image of a feminist spinster who definitely doesn't have any children of her own.  Through the whole book, the author is clearly astounded that anyone would ever *really* choose to have so many kids, even though Lillian herself says in many of her own writings that from a young age, she wanted a "strenuous life", rather than the life of ease she had grown up with.  Lillian was the oldest of 9, so she was used to a big family and for being responsible for a lot of younger kids.  From the get-go, Frank had wanted "6 boys and 6 girls", although Lillian later wrote, "This seemed an easy undertaking to a person who had practically been an only child, but was a little appalling to the oldest of nine".  It seems from her later writings that having a big family was definitely a part of their scientific management experimentation, as they wanted to see if there could possibly be "one best way" to manage a big household and raise a lot of kids.  After Frank died, though, a lot of his more regimented ideas went by the wayside.

Lillian was pregnant within 6 weeks of their marriage, and she continued to have babies pretty much every 15 months.  Now the author gives a few other reasons for Lillian continuing to produce these children, the last of which is "a sheer love of children".  The most insulting reason given is basically, Lillian was just too prudish to ever discuss birth control.  I find it hard to believe that such a strong, intelligent woman working in a man's field, in such an equal partnership with her husband, was just too delicate to ever bring up the subject!   More likely, as the author grudgingly alludes to, she just didn't like birth control and didn't want to use it.  I can relate!  I think that even for someone who was used to a lot of children, and knew what a lot of work they were, Lillian had children because she really did love each and every one of them.  There were several quotes throughout the book that show how much enjoyment Lillian got from her kids, and how much she enjoyed having them around her.  Plus, Lillian said herself that all the children were "planned", and the timing was so that during her "unavoidable delay" of post-partum recovery, which back then meant several weeks of lying in bed, she could proof galleys for whatever book was getting ready to be published, since that was a job she could do in bed.  The weirdest reason given for why Lillian and Frank had so many kids was that they were into "positive eugenics".  The book says, "Rather than calling for forcible sterilization of the less 'fit', they applied their theories to themselves and produced their own large family.  They also wanted to demonstrate by means of their family system that is was possible to rear and educate many healthy children, and do it economically and efficiently, while leaving time for the mother to be professionally active."  I can tell you very honestly that we did not have 10 kids because we thought our genes were somehow superior and because we wanted to demonstrate the superiority of our system of raising them!  Haha!  We were much less deliberate about the whole thing, and here is where we differ greatly--we have all our children because we believe God blessed us with them, in His perfect timing.  And believe me, we are very thankful for His grace as we raise them, since we know for a fact there is nothing remotely superior about any set of 2 sinful parents raising a bunch of little sinners!

It was also very interesting to consider Lillian's daily schedule and how she could accomplish so much.  She had help!  Live-in help!  (And I don't mean her kids, LOL.)  As the book says, "She neither cooked nor cleaned, and although she scheduled much more time with her children than most women who work outside the home usually manage, she had assistance with the children during the hours she spent on her professional work."  I can't imagine not cooking and cleaning.  Just not cleaning would be great!  I actually enjoy cooking, even in the vast quantities I must produce right now.  But I am constantly behind on cleaning, and one of my biggest frustrations is that I can't even get all areas of the house clean enough at once to get an estimate for a cleaning lady to come once a month.  If one just happened to walk in, she would run the other way screaming, or even worse, charge us a fortune, since at least some parts always look like a disaster area!

Ha, that reminded me of another part of the book.  In Cheaper by the Dozen, they describe this great big house in New Jersey that Frank bought for them, and that was where they had the foreign language victrolas in the bathroom, and all the charts, and so on.  I was hoping to see a picture of the house or something, but after all the kids were on their own, Lillian moved to a little apartment--and she had the house torn down!!  She said it was in too bad of a shape to ever be sold.  Well--I guess I can identify with that sentiment too, LOL, although I'm sure that was a drastic step.  Too bad!

As Lillian got older, she did more with simplifying household management.  She started to sound like me though, cautioning against using "sterling silver standards where stainless steel would be more appropriate".  She was not a fan of silver flatware as a wedding gift, because then the bride would feel obligated to get nice china, linen, etc. to go with it.  Her conclusion:  "The homemaker who holds a job has to be especially careful not to cling too hard to a set of standards that dates back to the time when the lady of the house was always at home and moreover had servants to help her."  Amen!  I would consider homeschooling to be a full time job, especially at the high school level!

The last thing that I found particularly interesting was the her kids were never interested in dishing out dirt on their mom (much to the disappointment of the author of this book, I think).  All she could get was that eventually Jane, the youngest, who was only 2 when her dad died, lamented her mom's "physical and emotional distance".  The author of the book says, "Most of the Gilbreth children, however, seem determined to put a positive spin on their upbringing."  I don't think she could ever believe that kids might possibly have enjoyed growing up in a big family.  It is telling, however, that none of her kids had very big families--Martha, who married last because she stayed around and helped raise the youngest kids for her mom, had the biggest family, 4 kids.  Lillian ended up with 30 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren when she died in 1972.  Their family system was more along the lines of the Duggars, with the older kids each being responsible for a younger kid, and it was a big responsibility since the older kid had to get the younger kid all ready for school each day.  I don't think we have as much of a reliance on the older kids to help parent the younger ones.  The older kids are pretty busy with school and extra-curricular stuff at this point anyway.  Honestly, the biggest thing I took away from the book is that I need a cleaning lady!

I really enjoyed reading about her and her family though.  It was all just so interesting, and like I said, I really related to her.  There's a story in this book about a train trip she took to California from Rhode Island to visit her family.  She had 7 kids, ages 11 down to 11 months, and it was a nightmare.  Kids were sick, she was 7 months pregnant, and it was a long trip.  She had planned to get the kids all cleaned up before meeting her parents in Oakland, but her brother met them on the train in Sacramento, and found diapers everywhere, crying children, and just a scene of general chaos.  Lillian was mortified because she was trying to convince her family that "she had made the right choice in marrying her 'strenuous' husband, that she could cope with the children, and that Gilbreth, Inc. was prospering."  That was not the impression she gave, and boy, could I feel for her there, having been in  situations like that before myself!  The book also quotes a letter she wrote to Frank during one of his many business trips, saying, "I know I have made a million mistakes, but anyone would who typed against the clatter I do."  Ha!  I'm right there!  And another time she forgot to enclose something, so she wrote later, "It isn't any wonder I do strange things for I work in the midst of confusion all the time . . . and the children rampaging all over the place and asking a hundred questions a minute."  Good to know my kids aren't unique, and really it did encourage me that such an accomplished and brilliant woman could struggle with the same day-to-day issues that I do!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Brief Breath

When I think about the school year, the mental image I get is of being underwater.  Every August I take a deep breath and dive in.  Now that it's October, I think we're finally getting in somewhat of a routine.  It's not easy, but I'm enjoying everything more than I thought I would back in August, when I was pretty much having panic attacks about starting Rivendell again. The 3 new moms we have this year have been *such* blessings.  It's actually 4 new teachers, because the mom of one mom just moved out here, and she is teaching for us too.  Having this much more coverage has meant Christine and I haven't been so stretched by our teaching responsibilities this year.

I am SO enjoying not having to teach both junior high and high school science. That has been such a burden lifted.  AP biology has still consumed a ton of my time--but I don't feel quite as much like I am fumbling around in the dark as I was the first time I taught it.  I am having to rework all the labs, and I didn't start giving the boys reading questions to help them get through the chapters until later in the year last time, so I've had to come up with those.  I usually work on these things late at night, since it's hard to get anything accomplished when all the littles are still up.  But there is a trade-off, because I'm really tired late at night.  For the last set of reading questions, here is how I numbered them:  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 7, 7, 8, 9, 10 . . .  When he started working on them, Luke came downstairs to ask me if Micah or Drew had numbered them!  Ha!  I spaced them really weirdly too.  Maybe I was sleep-typing.  I am really enjoying the group of 3 boys I have.  They're a lot of fun, and they all have similar personalities.  It's an intense class, and we cover a ton of material each week though.  I think we are all looking forward to January, once we get through all the genetics/virus/new technology chapters and start on more population biology and ecology, which is just easier.

Latin is going well too.  It has taken me a ton of time to make up all the extra practice sheets for the kids, because I have to come up with sentences to translate that only use the vocab they have learned so far, and that emphasizes the new concepts they are learning with each new lesson, but I think the sheets are helping.  The kids seem much more confidant than they were last year.  I'm only a week or 2 ahead for making up the practice sheets, so anytime I have to go anywhere to wait (like the orthodontist's office), I bring Latin along and try to come up with more sentences.  Staving off Alzheimer's, I always say. My mental capacities have really been stretched this year though, with Latin and biology.  My poor brain is always so tired--no wonder I can't even count any more!

I'm always thankful when we get through another Tuesday.  It used to be that I could really relax Tuesday nights, but this year not only do Luke and Caleb have CAP Tuesday nights, Jonathan has cross-country practice, and Anna and Grace have gymnastics, so instead I'm driving a bunch of places.  Wednesday night is my relaxing "weekend" night, and I try not to do any school work that night.  Thursday night I'm prepping for lab on Friday, and then the weekend I try to get caught up (ha! never!) on laundry and everything else around the house that has gone to pot during the week, as well as prepare for Latin on Monday and Rivendell on Tuesday.   I guess that's why it feels like being underwater, with no time to come up for air.

Bob and I keep telling ourselves that it's going to get easier.  In 6 more years, Verity will be 7!  Surely there will be less messes then!  Her new trick is unrolling all the toilet paper in the bathroom, so that's super helpful.  She also likes climbing the stool and knocking everything within reach off the counter.  Bonus points if there's liquid in the cup!  I will say Drew has stopped making so many pee messes, so that is a relief.  I guess he's handed off liquid mess-making to Verity.  In fact, I had to actually make a point of cleaning the toilet today, because I didn't have to clean it the past few days while cleaning up a mess.  Yay!  In 6 more years, we will have graduated 3 more boys, so that will be weird.  I'll only be cooking for 8, and the oldest 3 will be girls!  Hopefully I won't be teaching any more new classes at that point either.  I think that is what really is wearing me out.  Six more years--surely I can make it that long!

Friday, October 02, 2015

A Good Day For Drew

Today was a good day for Drew.  No accidents, and not even a pair of damp underwear.  That is really good news because the rest of the week has NOT been a good one.  At all.

The whole week was one characterized by accidents.  Lots of pee. In pull-ups, on underwear, on the floor.

 Wednesday I had a dentist appointment first thing in the morning, and then I went to both Wegmans and Costco.  When I got home, I discovered that Drew had both peed and pooped in the pull-up, and in fact that pull-up was the same one he had worn to bed the night before. He had never even put on a pair of underwear, and what's more, he wasn't even bothered by it.  He was laughing when I wiped him up, and I was *highly* irritated.  He hadn't eaten lunch yet, so I put him straight in the high chair and put a bib on him.  He was not liking that, and kept saying that he was a "big boy", but I wowed him with my impeccable logic: "Does Micah poop in his pants?  No?  Does Verity?  Yes?  And is Verity a baby?  Yes?  Aaaand . . . you must be a baby too, because you are pooping in your pants."  

So I made him his sandwich and tore it up into little pieces, like I do for Verity (who was fortunately napping right then).  Oh, Drew cried and wailed.  He took off the bib.  Eventually he did settle down and eat a little bit, but he was not happy.  When I got him down, I told him he was going to take a nap soon, as babies do.  He wasn't happy about that either.  I got wrapped up in trying to get our ancient desktop computer to cooperate with me, so I didn't put him down right away . . . but soon Anna realized that Drew had peed on her arm as she was by the counter, and he was on a stool next to her!  What in the world?!?  Not puddles of pee, but enough to get his underwear wet, as well as the sister on whom he was leaning.  So after taking him to the potty, and having him clean the stool, he was indeed hustled off to a nap.  Good grief!

Thursday was not much better.  I was getting so frustrated!  I was reminding him to go to the potty frequently, but even so, he peed all over the bathroom floor once, and then, right before bed, Faith realized that he had peed on 2 couch cushions.  He was put to bed immediately, after going potty and getting rinsed off in the tub.  I was so irritated!

When I got up this morning and looked at my TimeHop, this popped up from 6 years ago, when Grace was potty-training:

It's almost 2:30, and I still haven't taken a shower.  I have, however, cleaned up 2 poopy accidents, and 1 pee accident.  Not sure what is to blame for this day of bad pottying!

It was very depressing to realize that could potentially be the description of my day today, 6 years later.  How much things stay the same!  The different thing is that today I had AP bio lab, so I needed to prepare some solutions and generally think about things, not be constantly worried about reminding Drew to go potty.   It didn't help that today was the same miserable, cold, rainy weather that we've had for the past few days.  Certainly a day for lots of accidents!

But no.  Drew didn't have one accident at all!  He went on his own to the potty the entire day with no problems.  It was as if I dreamed the whole week.  He had asked for gum throughout the week, which I had refused ("Babies can't chew gum"), so I offered him a piece this afternoon, which he accepted happily.  "I'm a BIG boy!"  I still have no idea what caused this sea change, and it may or may not last.  It was a good breather for me, though.  I had to "go back to Colorado" in my mind quite a few times earlier this week!

I'm hoping I can look back on this week a year from now and laugh at this funny memory of all these accidents, since the memory had faded from my mind . . .

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Some Interesting Random Conversations

*Thursday mornings Jonathan has a math class (because I realized my limitations last year, LOL).  I take him over to my friend Jenny's house at 8:05, and she drives him (such a blessing!), her 2 kids, and 2 other kids, over to Sara's house for the class (which Jonathan absolutely loves).  This morning Jonathan came downstairs complaining of having had a terrible night sleep and saying he would definitely take a nap later on today, if he could just stay awake through math class.  After the class he stays at Sara's house for 2 more hours while Jenny's daughter has his class, and then Jenny brings him back to her house around 1:00, which means I can get an uninterrupted morning of school done with the girls (well, as uninterrupted as a morning can be with Micah, Drew, and Verity still around).  So Jonathan and I were discussing what work he would take, and he said something about finishing reading "Beowulf", among other things.  After I dropped him off and came back home, I noticed that Caleb was reading what I assumed was our copy of "Beowulf", so then I wondered if someone else in Rivendell might have left their copy here.  When I picked up Jonathan, and we got home, he said he had indeed finished "Beowulf".  I asked him who might have left their copy here, since we had this other copy.  He looked at it with a very puzzled look--"That looks like our copy" [which I had bought used off amazon and definitely has some distinctive markings].  So then he started hunting through his backpack, but he couldn't find the book.  He looked out in the van, but it wasn't there either.  We were both really stumped.  Then Jonathan eventually came over to me, all excited, and said, "OH!  I remember what happened now!  I actually finished reading it really early in the morning when I couldn't sleep, but I forgot about that this morning.  And I fell asleep on the couch at Mrs. J's house, and I dreamed about reading the ending, where Beowulf kills this dragon with bees, but I thought I was really reading it!"  Ooookay.  Hopefully he'll get a good night's sleep tonight, LOL.

*Yesterday I had my teeth cleaned.  The hygienist is a really sweet girl, and we usually talk about the kids, homeschooling, etc.  Yesterday she mentioned she had gotten married 2 months ago, so I asked how they had met.  It was an arranged marriage!  She had gone back to Bangladesh with her family this summer to visit relatives there.  Her uncle owns a business that is in the same building as this guy who is a good friend of his.  The uncle mentioned to the friend that his family was visiting, and that they were looking for a groom.  The man said his younger brother happened to be visiting as well and would be a good groom for her (a girl he had never met)!  So the next night, the friend's family came over with the younger brother, and the hygienist was asked to say hi, which she did for about 3 minutes.  The next night the 2 sets of parents met for dinner and settled on a wedding date.  Wedding invitations went out starting the next day, and the wedding shopping began.  Two weeks later, they were married.  The first time they actually spoke to each other was on their wedding night!  Wow!  I asked her how it had turned out, and she said great!  She said she couldn't have picked a better match for herself if she had tried.  The only problem is that her husband, who is a computer engineer from New York, had already agreed to go on a 2-year assignment with his company to Australia, seeing as how he had no plans for you know, getting married or anything in the near future, LOL.  So he left a few weeks ago, but he's only going to stay a few months.   Still--what a fascinating story!

*Several days ago, I was doing stuff on the computer with our pictures from Colorado when Faith came up and launched into a completely random conversation.

Faith:  "So you're telling me that Nathan is going to college to learn how to be a dad?"

Me:  "Ummm, no??  What in the world?  He's going to college to be able to get a job later and support himself, and then hopefully support a wife and family."

Faith:  "Oh.  So where do you learn how to be a mom or dad?"

Me:  "Well, not in college.  You pray and ask God to lead you.  You watch other people and ask them questions, like we asked Grandma and Grandpa, and the L's.  You aren't taught it anywhere." (Although that is a shame, LOL.)

Faith:  "Oh.  Well, then--where do you learn how to do THIS?" [big dramatic finger-point to the computer screen]

Me:  "Umm . . . do what?"

Faith:  "Learn to put PICTURES from your PHONE to the COMPUTER."

I think Faith might be disappointed when she discovers college is not quite as practical as she is thinking it is.