Monthly Archives: July 2014

The importance of teaching children to work

I believe in teaching my kids to work, and to do things for themselves. Each has daily jobs they are responsible for, and they have developed many amazing skills. I also believe strongly in helping them learn to serve others.

Abby, bottle-feeding a baby goat

Abby, bottle-feeding a baby goat

This began out of necessity, and probably was influenced by my own childhood experiences with work. I had five children before the oldest was six years old. Life was busy. I got the basics done: food, dishes, laundry. I seldom had time or energy left to do things like washing windows or sweeping floors.

Enter the idea of allowing my oldest to “help” me. No, she did not do an expert job of sweeping at age five. But she was willing; and with a few pointers, she did the job at least halfway … which, by my reckoning, was better than not at all. The thing is, she loved it! She thrived on helping mommy. She began to learn to work with joy. And her skills improved. I have tried to start my children working when they are still toddlers. Nothing major, just “let’s clean up the toys,” and then make it fun.

By age 2 or 3, they can help me stuff the washer with dirty laundry or switch the freshly washed clothes to the dryer. They pull the wheeled hampers to the laundry room. This is fun for them.

Yes, it is a bit more effort for me initially, but fast forward a few years and I’ll tell you what they are capable of:

All kids are responsible for making their own bed, maintaining basic hygiene, keeping their drawers neat, putting dirty laundry in a hamper, and a few other basic tasks.

Stephen, age 4, daily gathers the dirty laundry and brings it to the laundry room for sorting. He helps with switching the laundry from the washer to the dryer. He helps put away his own clothes in his drawers. He helps fold wash cloths and dish towels. Takes his dishes to the sink after meals. Cleans up toys he has taken out. I do have to remind him to do most of these things. But he is learning.

Landen, age 4-going-on-5, daily empties all the wastebaskets from around the house into the main trashcan in the kitchen. He helps put away his own clothes in his drawers. He helps fold wash cloths and dish towels. Takes his dishes to the sink after meals. Cleans up toys he has taken out. He also needs reminding to do most of these things. But he is learning.

Noah, age 8, vacuums the main living areas and a bedroom (on a rotation) every day. He is responsible for folding and putting away all his own laundry. He folds smaller towels, napkins, wash clothes. He collects eggs and does other small jobs involving the animals. He sweeps the floors and even washes them on occasion. He is usually a willing helper.

James, age 11, is responsible for washing the milking related dishes and tools twice daily after the goats are milked. He unloads the dishwasher in the morning and loads it back up with dirty dishes after breakfast. He is responsible for folding and putting away all his own laundry plus the folding and putting away of underwear and socks for everyone in the family. He is the second-call substitute milker when Isaac is not available. He cheerfully volunteers for “new and novel” jobs, but is less than enthusiastic about his regularly assigned tasks. But we are working together on the character quality of diligence and the integrity of hard work when it goes unnoticed and unappreciated. This is life.

Abigail, age 12 (soon to be 13), makes breakfast for herself and her siblings every day. She, along with Naomi, makes lunch and helps make dinner most days. She folds and puts away her own laundry. She is also responsible for washing the eggs that Noah collects from our chickens daily, and for feeding our baby goats their bottles. She helps watch her younger brother and nephew. Sometimes she gives them their baths. She takes a turn making our family’s bread approximately every 10-14 days. Abby is wonderfully capable.

Naomi, age 14, is responsible for keeping our 3 bathrooms clean. She folds and puts away her own laundry. She, along with Abby, makes lunch and dinner most days. She feeds the baby goats and is the stand-in for milking the goats when Isaac, the regular milker, is not available. She helps watch her younger brother and nephew. Sometimes she gives them their baths. She takes a turn making our family’s bread approximately every 10-14 days. Naomi is able to able to manage the house reasonably well in my absence.

Isaac, age 16, milks the goats twice a day. He cares for all the animals morning and night. (That’s a big job, with 30-odd chickens, baby chicks, 7 goats, a half dozen cats, several kittens, a dog, a turtle and sometimes a pig and/or turkey) He folds and puts away his own laundry. He helps with “fix it” and maintenance jobs around the house and property. He wipes the kitchen table after meals. He takes a turn making our family’s bread approximately every 10-14 days. He helps watch his younger brother and nephew, giving baths if needed.

Daniel, age 21, works outside the home on a regular basis, so he no longer has regular chores. Instead, he does projects, such as “build a play kitchen for the little kids,” “build an enclosure for the buck,” “install this new light fixture”, “paint the house.” Pretty much any job I throw at him, he can do it.

Robert, age 22, is developmentally disabled, and will live with us indefinitely. He is responsible for washing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen after lunch and dinner. This means he is responsible for washing dishes, loading the dishwasher, wiping the table, sweeping the floor, cleaning the microwave and stove counters, and drying and putting away dishes. He empties the kitchen trash and recycle bin when needed. He takes the trash to the street each week for pickup. He is responsible for folding and putting away his own laundry. He also does all the outside watering of garden, trees and landscaping.

Each of the older kids babysits as needed. Each one is capable of filling in for another sibling if they are sick or for some other reason unable to do their jobs.

Why work? We are designed to work. The sense of accomplishment is healthy. Rather than having a sense of entitlement, I want my kids to be willing and able to work hard to reach their goals. They have a much greater appreciation for things that they must work for. “Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase.” (Prov. 13:11)

A few things about how to teach a child to work: First of all, work with them when they are young. As they get older, teach with this pattern:

  • I do, you watch
  • I do, you help
  • You do, I help
  • You do, I watch

Spend as long as necessary on each step. You may have to go back to a previous step if things aren’t going well. But once they get it, you can be confident that the job will get done properly. But remember: you can’t expect what you won’t inspect. Frequent checkups are really important, at least until you’re sure that the child won’t try to skip out on jobs. (And every child tries it! and some kids never stop trying!!!)

My husband says be sure to mention the balance between work and play. It may seem as though all we do is work, as you consider the many jobs that my kids do. Play is important too. I think that our society places a higher priority on play for kids, so it is not something that I feel needs a lot of explaining or focus. Here are a couple of tips:

  • Use timers. Hurry to beat the timer, and then set the timer for play as well.
  • Find ways to make the work fun. Almost anything can be turned into a game, with a little creativity.

All this work helps to develop the ability to serve others. This has been a goal of mine for many years. There is always someone who needs a helping hand. What better way could there be to share the love of Christ, than to serve? Since I’m confident that my older kids know how to work, I feel secure in sending them to help those in our church and community who have needs. It is an absolute JOY for me to hear back how blessed others are by the work that my kids do. This has had the unexpected benefit of leading to paying work for my all my teenage and young adult kids. Their initiative and hard work are noticed and valued by others. Time will tell, but I expect that this will carry over into their adult lives.

If you are interested in encouraging your kids to serve, let me give you a few ideas of how our kids get involved helping others.

James helps hand out bulletins at church.

He helps our elderly friend “Ms. Pat” get her special chair set up before the church service, and fixes her coffee for her.

Abby babysits during a midweek Bible study so a busy mom can actually participate.

Naomi sings on the worship team at church.

Robert, Isaac, Daniel (and some of my adult children who no longer live at home) volunteer whenever someone needs help moving.

We try to always attend work days at church.

We put the word out that we are willing to be available when an elderly person needs something heavy moved, or to reach something that is high (even changing a light bulb).

We try to listen when we hear people talking about things that are broken that need fixing or things they have not been able to find the time to do or are unable to do for some reason.

I try to always bring a meal to a family going through a tough situation, or after a baby is born.

Daniel (and some of the others in past years) volunteers to help with Awana at a local church.

The older kids help with VBS.

Daniel and Isaac volunteer at Camp Julian Oaks (a camp for kids in the foster care system).

Most of these things are minor. They don’t take much effort or even tremendous skill — just TIME — and, usually, just a little bit of time.

What are some ways in which you have been blessed by others? Have friends or strangers ever served you in a time of need?

What are ways in which you or your family have been able to serve others in your church or community?

Please share your experiences and ideas. It will help our family to improve.

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Zucchini Jam

Stephen, with a ZOUS (zucchini of unusual size)

Stephen, with a ZOUS
(zucchini of unusual size)

It’s July. Which means, if you are a gardener, that you probably have more zucchini than you know what to do with. (And if you are not a gardener, that you have probably been gifted someone’s excess.) Zucchini bread, zucchini fritters, steamed zucchini, skewered zucchini, stuffed zucchini and zucchini jam. Yes, I said zucchini jam! I came across this recipe on an email group for moms of big families and I modified it a bit to suit our family’s preferences. I will explain a little bit about canning jam after the recipe.

Zucchini Jam

Peel a large zucchini. You can use the biggest monster zucchini you can find. Scoop out the seeds. Put the flesh through a food processor, or finely shred using a hand held grater. I process all my extra-jumbo zucchini at once and then divide up the shreds into 6 cup portions and freeze what I won’t be using right away, in freezer bags, for future jam making sessions.

Cook 6 cups peeled, shredded zucchini with 1/4 cup water until translucent.

Add:

  • 6 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup bottled lemon juice
  • 1 cup fruit of choice

Bring to a boil. Boil 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat. Add one 6-oz or two 3-oz packages of flavored gelatin (i.e., Jello)

Stir well to combine.

Pour into clean, hot Mason jars, leaving 1/4″ head space. Wipe rims of jars. Add lids and rings. Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes, or store the jam in the refrigerator. Or, do what I do and turn the sealed jars upside down on a towel for 1 hour. Turn right side up and leave to cool for 12 to 24 hours. Yield: About 8 cups.

There is a lot of flexibility in this recipe. Choose whatever fruit you have on hand, and then select a flavor of jello to match or complement the flavors. For example: Strawberries and strawberry jello, Strawberries and peach jello, strawberries and orange jello, orange pulp and orange jello. Chopped peaches and raspberry jello, Pineapple and lemon jello. There are many possibilities.

Just in case it freaks anyone out that I don’t always process my jam in a water bath, I will explain currently recommended protocol and why I choose not to follow it for jams and jellies intended for my own family’s consumption. First, my reasoning for skipping the water bath for jams: I happen to have personally observed canners from previous generations doing things this way. The “old-fashioned” way. With no ill effects.

Actually, my mom used to use plain jelly jars, the kind that don’t have threaded tops for lids. She put jam in them, topped with paraffin wax. The jam contains so much sugar that it is rare to have any sort of spoilage. In 20+ years of canning, I have never had any spoilage in jams and jellies. Because I am careful to avoid contamination, doing it this way is within my comfort level. It saves me time and keeps my house cooler. I inspect the jars upon opening, and we go through jars of jam in this house like nobody’s business, so they don’t sit around very long.

If I intend to give the jam as I gift, I do process it in a water bath because I have no control over the manner in which it is stored, or for how long, once it leaves my home. Educate yourself on canning protocol and decide for yourself your comfort level. I will list a few resources that I have found helpful at the end of this post. But nothing beats learning hands-on from an experienced canner.

Quick canning overview

Zucchini jam

Zucchini jam

There are two ways to process home canned food: water bath and pressure canning. The water bath method is used for high acid and high sugar foods. Fruits, jams, jellies, pickles, and tomatoes are all safe to process using the water bath method. The pressure method is used for vegetables, meats, soups, chili, salsa, spaghetti sauce, etc.

Both methods use the same preparations techniques. One must wash the canning jars and keep them hot. This can be done by running them through the dishwasher, simmering them in a large pot on the stove or placing them in a warm oven. The two piece lids/rings must be placed in a pot and brought to a simmer. Prepared food is ladled into jars (usually done hot, but sometimes cold or room temperature with boiling water poured over). Any air bubbles are forced out of the jars by running a spatula or non metal knife around the inside edge of the jar. The jar rim is wiped clean with a sterile (boiled) cloth. The lid is placed on the jar and tightened down with a ring. There is a handy magnet tool for removing the lids from the pot of simmering water.

For water bath canning, the jars are then placed in a large kettle/pot of boiling water that has a rack on the bottom to keep the jars from direct contact with the bottom of the pan. Water is added to the pot after the jars are in place until the water level is above the tops of the jars. The jars must remain covered in boiling water for the entire time of processing.

For pressure canning one needs a pressure canner, which is a large pressure cooker designed for canning. A small amount of water is added. (There are usually markings on the pot to indicate how much water to add.) The jars are loaded into the canner (again, on a rack to keep the jars from direct contact with the pot). The lid of the canner is placed tightly on the pot and heat is turned up on the pot to bring it up to the desired pressure. I have used both a dial gauge and a weighted gauge to regulate what pressure I need to cook at. I vastly prefer the weighted gauge. With the dial gauge, you have to be right there looking at to to be sure it stays at the proper pressure; but the weighted gauge makes a sound, so I can be busy doing other things while the food processes and still oversee the operation. Once the correct pressure is reached, it is simply a matter of maintaining that pressure for the amount of time needed to safely preserve the chosen food. Then the pressure is allowed to reduce slowly (no quick release). The times and pressures for various foods are found in the Ball Blue Book and other canning resources.

When the processing time for either method is complete, jars are removed with canning tongs and placed on a towel or other stable, heat-proof surface and allowed to sit until completely cool. One of the most satisfying sounds ever is the “ping” from the lid of a home canned jar as it cools and seals. Once cool (usually 12-24 hours later), you gently remove the rings from the jars. Wipe the jars off if necessary. Check that they actually sealed by observing whether the middle of the dome lid has pulled down. Any jars that didn’t seal should either be reprocessed, or refrigerated and used promptly. Label and store the sealed jars in your pantry until needed.

Canning Resources

Facebook groups

  • Canning Granny
  • Canning
  • Canning & Preserving For Christians

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

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Bread baking – French Bread

Bread

I love to bake bread… specifically yeast breads. When I was a child, my mother made the most amazing cinnamon rolls. About the time I was 10 or 11 years old, I was determined to learn how to make them myself. My mother, wonderful woman that she is, took the time to teach me. Thus began a lifelong love affair with bread baking. In our home, we make all of our sandwich bread and many other bread products as well.

There are a number of reasons I can think of for baking your own bread.

It saves money. I can bake a loaf of bread using high quality ingredients for about 1/2 the cost of the least expensive loaf of bread from the grocery store.

It saves time. This won’t be true for everyone, but as a stay at home mom, I’m here at home to oversee the process of baking bread…. It takes me less time to make a loaf of bread than it would take to run to the store to buy one.

There is no denying the enjoyment of freshly baked bread. The aroma of bread baking is intoxicating. And a slice of fresh, warm bread with butter is heavenly. I like to give gifts of homemade bread. It is always well received. When ever I bring a meal to a new mom or someone going through a rough time, I try to include homemade bread. From the feedback I receive, I have come to believe that homemade bread is truly comforting.

I like that I have total control of the ingredients in my bread. Only want to use organic products? No problem. Avoiding dairy? No problem. Need extra fiber? No problem.

It’s a great way to experiment with new flavors and textures. Dense and chewy to soft and fluffy, sweet to spicy to savory. All are possible.

Still, in spite of these benefits, many people have never tried baking bread. There are a couple of reasons I’ve heard expressed over and over. One is time. It’s true. Bread baking start to finish takes between 1.5-3 hours depending on a variety of factors. However, this is NOT 1.5-3 hours of work. There is a difference. It is about 20 minutes total of hands on work broken into 3-4 smaller chunks of time with the rest of the time being rising time and baking time. This is totally doable for a busy mom.

Another concern is that bread baking is complicated or exacting. Not true. There is a learning curve with anything, but now with all the tutorials available online you can have your own personal teacher available at your beck and call. Bread dough is extremely forgiving. Take the time to learn what your dough should look and feel like. Everything else will fall into place. Along with this is just the uncertainty of the process. That is what I aim to teach today as I show you the process of making…..

French bread.

Combine:

2 1/2 C warm water (around 105° F)
2-1/2 C warm water (around 105° F)

4 t sugar
5 t yeast (I prefer SAF brand found at Smart and Final)
Let sit 5-10 minutes or until bubbly.
Let sit 5-10 minutes or until bubbly.

Then add:
2 T olive oil
1 T salt
7 C flour
2 T olive oil, 1 T salt, 7 C flour
Ingredients mixed, but not kneaded.
Ingredients mixed, but not kneaded.

Knead for 6-8 minutes in a Kitchen Aid or similar mixer (I use a Bosch Universal) or 8-10 minutes by hand.
Knead for 6-8 minutes in a Kitchen Aid or similar mixer or 8-10 minutes by hand.
After kneading. Notice the texture difference in the dough between this picture and the previous one.

Let rise in bowl until doubled in size (about 1 hour).
Let rise in bowl until doubled in size (about 1 hour)

Punch dough down.
Punch dough down (1) Punch dough down (2) Punch dough down (3)

Divide dough in half. Put dough on floured surface and let rest for 10 minutes.

before the 10 minute rest
before the 10 minute rest

after the 10 minute rest
after the 10 minute rest

While the dough is resting, grease a French bread pan and sprinkle with cornmeal. If you don’t have a French bread pan, just use a 9×13 cake pan and lay your loaves side by side. The shape will be different but it will still taste yummy.
Grease a French bread pan and sprinkle with cornmeal

Shape into French bread shape. I do this by rolling out each ball of dough until flattened then rolling it up and tucking in the ends. There is not really a right or wrong way to shape. Just what works for you.
Shape into French bread shape (1) Shape into French bread shape (2) Shape into French bread shape (3)

Place in your prepared pan.
Place in your prepared pan

Cover with a towel and let rise until nearly double. About 30 minutes.
Cover with a towel and let rise until nearly double. About 30 minutes.

Very carefully slash the risen loaves with a very sharp knife. If you press too hard, the loaves will deflate.
Very carefully slash the risen loaves with a very sharp knife

Bake in a 375° F oven for 20-25 minutes or until browned.
Bake in a 375° F oven for 20-25 minutes or until browned

Remove from pan to cooling rack after about 5 minutes.
Remove from pan to cooling rack after about 5 minutes

Wait to cut into the loaf for at least 30 minutes. I know it is hard, but if you don’t wait, the bread won’t be able to stand up to the pressure of the knife and your bread will get squished.
Wait to cut into the loaf for at least 30 minutes

If you divide the recipe in half and make a single loaf, you can use a bread machine to knead the dough and then remove it to bake in the traditional oven.

Above all, enjoy the process. And, of course, the finished product.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

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On Comments and Questions from Strangers

So I’m a mom of a “large” family. Large in this case = 11 kids. Over the years we have heard many, many rude, insensitive, unhelpful, prying, inappropriate comments on our family size and topics relevant to that… such as our fertility/sex life.

Though it has been done before (search Google for “things not to say to a mom of a large family” if you are curious), I will compile a list for you of some of the comments and questions I have personally received:

Nosy

  • Are they all yours?
  • Are you Mormon? Catholic?
  • How to you handle it? I’m going crazy with just my two (while their kids are standing right there, usually).
  • How many loads of laundry do you do per week?
  • Do you have more than one washer and dryer?
  • What does your husband do? or Your husband must have a good job.
  • Do you also home school?
  • How many boys/girls?
  • What are the ages?
  • Any twins? Wow, all single births? Are any adopted?
  • What is the age range of your kids?

Intrusive or rude

  • Do you know what causes that?
  • Don’t you have a television?
  • Do they all have the same father?
  • What is your grocery bill like?
  • How many bedrooms do you have?
  • You must be rich.
  • You gave birth to them all?
  • Are you going to have any more?
  • Are you done now?
  • How old were you when you got married?
  • How old were you when you started?
  • You must have been married at 14.
  • You don’t look old enough to have 11 kids.
  • How old are you??
  • You look great for having 11 kids.
  • Were they planned? Did you plan to have __ kids?
  • Do you use birth control?
  • Why do you have so many children?
  • When are you going to stop having kids?
  • How do you afford it?
  • Do you take government assistance? (e.g. welfare, food stamps)
  • There’s a cure for that.
  • You don’t look like you have 11 children.
  • Are you a blended family? (His, Mine and Ours?)

Absurd

  • Are you related to the Duggars?
  • Do you know the Duggars?
  • You must be patient.
  • You are so brave.
  • They are so well-behaved!
  • You are lucky you got _____(calm, happy, kind, easygoing, etc) kids.
  • Like Cheaper by the Dozen? (the one with Steve Martin is what people are thinking of… Umm, no!)
  • Just wait until they are teenagers.

Captain Obvious

  • Boy, you have your hands full.
  • You must be busy!
  • Do you work?
  • Wow, you’re still smiling.
  • You look happy.
  • You look relaxed.
  • I’d go crazy!
  • Better you than me.
  • I could never do that.
  • Looks like you have some helpers with you today.

There are the non-verbal “comments” too. The shocked, open-mouth stare. The obvious head counting. The furtive whispering. Early on in my mothering career… say, after child three… when I received the “big family”, “rapid rate of reproduction” comments, I was irritated and frustrated. Why couldn’t people just keep their comments to themselves? Why could they not see that they had no right to pry into our intimate life, and no business asking the kinds of things I was regularly being asked? Why could they not imagine how they would feel if the tables were turned? Golden Rule anyone?

I pondered and arrived at a variety of appropriate responses to these rude questions. Sassy, pointed and sometimes vague responses. With the intent that hopefully they would take a hint and spare the next poor mother of many. My responses, even to the same question, varied depending on the context of the situation. Who was asking, under what circumstances, what was their tone, what did I sense was their reason for asking? Was this a person with whom I was to have a lasting friendship/acquaintance, or just a passing stranger?

Somewhere along the line, my perspective on these questions, and on the askers of these questions, changed. And I can only think it was God who orchestrated the change in me. There was a defining moment about 13 years ago… I had all my kids (7 kids all age 10 and under at that point and I was pregnant with my 8th) with me in the public library. We were weekly visitors there and the staff “knew” us. On this particular day, there was a new staff member (volunteer, perhaps?) helping out. She was an older woman. She made audible “whispered” comments to another volunteer about me and the kids. Finally she chose to speak to me directly. “Are they all yours?”, “How many boys/girls?”, etc.

And then came a question I was totally unprepared for. One that I had never before been asked. “Do they all have the same father?”

My mouth dropped open and my brain went nuts trying to think of a proper response to this rude and intrusive question. As it so happens all my children do have the same father, but that is NOBODY’s business! I could not believe this woman, from another generation than me, a generation that generally speaking I have found to have better manners than more recent generations, would ask such a thing.

I was about to retort sharply that it was none of her business to ask such a thing, when I heard a voice of caution in my head and a revelation hit me. What she was trying to say was “Are you a blended family?” Still a bit prying, but much less rude in my opinion. In this day and age of step- and half-siblings, my family dynamics are an anomaly.

So I replied, “Do you mean, ‘Are we a blended family?'” And she nodded. I’m thankful for that caution I had. That moment of pause that kept me from rudely responding to a woman who had the misfortune to put her foot in her mouth. How many times have I done that? Say something, intending to communicate one thing, and having it come out so wrong that it is just awful.

I’m so thankful for gracious responses when I screw up. If I had responded rudely, what would the result have been? I would have alienated someone, not just from our family, but from all big families. The next family to come along would be treated with contempt and disdain as she would have had a negative association in her mind.

I need to act above reproach. People asking curious, often prying and intrusive questions are ones for whom Christ died. Do I really want to eliminate any opportunity I might have to share Christ with them by my harsh or unkind responses? I have come to realize that the vast majority of people who ask these nosy, rude, insensitive or just plain absurd sorts of questions are simply curious. Not malicious, not hateful, not even trying to be rude. They just aren’t thinking through what they really want to communicate before they let their words out, which is something I am frequently guilty of, much to my shame. We all need better filters. We all need to think through the impact our words will have before we speak them.

Still, I do enjoy a feisty comeback to some of these questions, particularly when I feel that the answer is personal/private and I don’t care to discuss it. I keep a smile on my face. Answer the things that I’m comfortable with and try to make my responses lighthearted and gently pointed in the hope that the speaker will take the subtle hint as to the inappropriateness of their comments.

I think that as my own attitude has changed toward the intrusive questions (viewing them more as an opportunity to share the joy of a large family), the overall tone of my interactions with people has changed. I think at least 95% of all comments and questions I receive are pleasant, curious (without being negative), supportive and positive. Seldom do I receive a negative comment. Some things that I have had said to me or done that have just made my day: a genuine smile from a stranger as they pass by, comments (when appropriate) such as, “Your children are well-behaved,” “You are blessed,” “How nice to see a big family.”

What I’m mostly discussing here are interactions with total strangers. I’m a pretty open, forthright person. If a friend has a genuine question, I’m almost always willing to share. A deeper relationship brings with it a right to ask deeper questions. And once in a while, a “total stranger” interaction turns into a lasting friendship. Many of those friends are the ones who have encouraged me to write a blog to share the ups and downs, the real-life, nitty-gritty details of my big family life. The Hands-full Life.

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