Primarily written by Adrienne, a homeschooling mother of seven, ages 10 and under. She chronicles life, laughs, struggles, and lessons learned as she raises a larger-than-most sized family and tries to figure out what she's doing day by day.

With occasional posts, Alexandra, Adrienne's older sister, writes of her ranch life in Nevada and raising four sons, ages 5 and under. Life is never dull and her boys have given her some pretty awesome stories to tell.

Stick around awhile, and you're sure to laugh, nod, smile, be encouraged, and see what life is like with a big (little) family.


The story of us. Part thirteen.

Read part one here.
Read part two here.
Read part three here.
Read part four here.
Read part five here.
Read part six here.
Read part seven here.
Read part eight here.
Read part nine here.
Read part ten here.
Read part eleven here.
Read part twelve here.
“We moved into the house without hot water, a gutted laundry room, and dripping septic lines. That was just the beginning - and I was six months pregnant with our fifth child.”
Those first months were a lesson in patience and what we really needed not just wanted. Hot water, while oh so pleasant, really is a luxury. We learned that, by turning two giant canners on high, we’d have boiling water in 45 minutes. I’d fill them the night before, and in the morning Blaine would get up, turn the stove on, and go back to bed. His next alarm went off 45 minutes later, and he’d have enough boiling water to heat up a bathtub full of cold. He’d take a bath, and then I’d take one in the same water. It was like something out of the stories I’ve heard from years past.

The lawn took me five hours to mow with our push mower. The first time I mowed, I had to mow backwards, pulling the mower, to keep it from dying on the overgrown mess we started out with. Oh, the memories. I managed to mow until I was 30 weeks pregnant. Every bit of our lawn is a hill, and when I finally gave up mowing it myself, it was dry enough it didn’t really need to be mowed. Just before Charlotte was born we were blessed with a riding lawn mower for a very, very low price. Right then, that was amazing. Nearly three years later, it’s still the mower I use.

Over Labor Day weekend, 3 1/2 months after we bought our house, we had hot water for the first time. In the process of replacing the gas lines, Blaine had been dripped upon from the septic lines and the water lines, and much of that had to be replaced as well. Before any of it could start, he had to dig out the crawl space, on his belly, just to get back to the lines. A good chunk of electric lines have also needed to be replaced, the hot water heater had to be replaced, but the bright light in it all was that Blaine was capable – and willing – but not exactly excited – to do it all himself. A lot of trips to Lowe’s, a definite blow to the finances, but it could have been so much worse.

The air conditioner (and heater) to our home was broken when we bought the house. It’s the only thing wrong with the place that we knew about. That was one hot summer. We still haven’t fixed either, despite saying we ought to do that. We’ve grown accustomed to hot, hot summers and hot, hot winters. The basement contained an amazing machine – one we didn’t realize quite what we had when we bought the place. We have a wood burning furnace down there that has (over) heated the house each winter and saved us huge amounts of money, for sure. Despite the problems we’ve dealt with here, this house has been perfect for us in some very lean years.

Charlotte was born three weeks after the hot water was fixed in the house. That story is a fun one, and can be read here for those that are interested. She came home to running cold and hot water, something to be thankful for. She was – and still is – about as quiet as they come. It’s nigh unto impossible to get that girl to yell. (Unless she’s hurt. Then… oh my.) She was happy and easy and such a joy to add to our family.
Blaine headed back to California for his yearly work trip in January. While he was gone, nursing 3 month old Charlotte suddenly took a dive, and that could only mean one thing.

I was expecting again.

Sheep.–On a cattle ranch…

We have free ranging sheep. We also have free ranging chickens, but they are another story for another day…


Back to the sheep. They started out as these 2 cute little leppy lambs that my two dear oldest boys named “Mr. Black” (the female, of course) and the other, after “What is that noise that he makes called?" "Yeah, lets just call him that if you are absolutely sure that we can’t have 2 sheep with the same name.” Alrighty then, “Baa” it is.

Mr. Black and Baa are a pair. A pair of troublemakers! The 3 older boys spend more time chasing the sheep out of my flower beds and off the porch…(Do you know what kind of a mess a sheep leaves on the porch for a 1 year old to run into with bare feet? Now that you have a clear mental picture of what I am talking about... you're welcome.) We have chased them out the house, – and not just “get out of the mud room, Mr. Black. You don’t belong here!” But “ What the*#!! is ‘Baa’ doing in my bedroom and in my bathroom!!!!!” “I don’t appreciate cleaning up… “
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Okay, you all get the picture plenty well enough. We are now in the process of finding a new home for Mr. Black and Baa – one where they will be slightly more loved and have slightly better fencing! In the meantime though, we are desperately trying to hang on to our last frayed string of sanity… (Turns out that fencing for cattle and fencing for sheep have entirely different definitions.)


From the mouths of…

Last night, as I walked the halls of the church where the kids have been attending VBS, I overheard the following conversation:

Older gentleman: “How are you?”

Five(ish) little girl: “Em-barr-assed.” 

Older gentleman: “Aww, why?”

Five(ish) little girl: “I passed gas.”

Older gentleman, after a moment of silence during which I can only assume, not seeing his face, he was attempting to gather his wits and not laugh:

“Well, at least we’re walking away. I bet no one noticed.”

Five(ish little girl: “They noticed.”

I was trying not to laugh as I followed them down the hall. I have to give it to the guy, he didn’t ever act like anything was out of the ordinary during the conversation. I couldn’t help but wish I could meet this little girl. Any child so concerned with propriety has to be one funny little girl. The man wasn’t her father, because I saw her call someone else “Daddy” later, but I suppose he could have been her grandfather. At any rate, it gave me my ab workout for the day – trying to be quiet while I cried laughing.


Let’s try that again…
And maybe there is hope for the day after all.


The learning curve

CT is learning to use the toilet this summer. That in and of itself is a little (too) adventurous, as we have all learned from Pierce. I will spare you all those messy details.  I do, however, feel like one story is worth sharing, despite my husband's obvious misgivings.


It was late, (okay, I don’t know about you all, but in our world, 9pm is late…) like 8:30. All the boys were in bed and I was washing the last of the dinner dishes, when my shoulders slumped. My dear and precious husband noticed this when walking into the room and asked what was wrong. I replied that I had forgotten to change CT’s sheets from this afternoon’s nap accident.

Being the dear man that he is, he responded that he would change the sheets if I would get him some and I could finish dishes. Thank you Matthew. About 1/2 hour later I went to start another load of laundry and try to call it a day and I notice that there were no sheets from the toddler bed. Upon asking Matthew were they were, (and knowing full well his strong desire to excel at any kind of housework) I was informed that he didn't know where they were. Most certainly not on his bed when he went to remake it for me!

He put clean sheets on the toddler bed, on top of the peed on sheets. CT didn't mind, I had a little more laundry to do the next day, and my husband and I both had a good laugh at his expense. Now you all did too!


Sterling’s new glasses.


Sterling had to get new glasses… again… because his dear brother broke them… again… so instead of blue, he chose the same frame in black. He’s pretty happy. I loved the blue, but he tells me that was so yesterday.


In other news, my flower beds are oh so colorful right now. It makes me smile.

You know those weeks where you’re stressed to the max and nothing is getting accomplished properly? When I have those, blogging falls by the wayside.

I’ve been having those kinds of days.

On the bright side, we had the rest of the older kids eye appointments yesterday and Pierce didn’t poop on the floor again.

It’s the little things.

Sterling got new frames for his glasses that M. P broke for him. He chose black. When he wakes up and gets the sleep wiped from his eyes, I’ll take a photo.

The kids went to a nearby church for VBS last night. I ended up in the nursery with Charlotte and Pierce. When the workers in there asked if I had an older child in the program, I said I had several. The one worker asked how many children I have and when I said six, he replied,

“I figured.”

What does that mean? How on earth, by seeing one woman with two children – children close in age, to be sure, but two children nonetheless – can you come to the conclusion that I have many? This has me entirely curious.

Tomorrow my oldest daughter hits double digits. Craziness.

I’m starting Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred today. I’m writing that so I’ll be held to it. If I die, you’ll know what happened.


The story of us. Part twelve.

I managed to hold onto my news until Blaine got home. It was one of the harder secrets to keep - I've always at least had Blaine to tell right away. I wasn't sleeping well when he was away and he wasn't due for many more days. I'd been out on a walk earlier in the week when I was approached and propositioned by several men on a street near ours, so I was rather freaked out at the neighborhood we were living in. I was sleeping on the couch in the living room after getting up in the night when the front door was opened around midnight.

Back up. I'm blind. Not really, but without my glasses things aren't so clear. So when my locked door was unlocked and opened in the night, I was awake and in the face of the intruder before I even knew what was happening. It took me several seconds to focus on the face of the man I love.

It was my husband. He was really glad I wasn't armed at that moment. And disturbed that my first reaction was to get in his face instead of running for the kids' rooms.

We began searching in earnest for a house to buy that spring. We finally found one, made an offer, and were under contract. We'd looked at dozens of homes, but none of them were exactly what we wanted. In the end, we purchased a two bedroom home that had been under foreclosure on a small acreage. We bought it in May, gutted the laundry room since it had had a leaky roof and mold was growing, and then filled the propane tank for the water heater. Then, we found out it had a gas leak. 

We moved into the house without hot water, a gutted laundry room, and dripping septic lines. That was just the beginning - and I was six months pregnant with our fifth child.



Get the little sister to do it.

Overheard between Charlotte and Ruby:

“You just swing your hand like this and it’ll fly away.”

Charlotte stood, hand raised above the moth, frozen in fear.

“Charlie! You just swing your hand like this and it’ll fly off the chair.”

Still, Charlie stared at the bug, unwilling to swing.

“Char-lie! Just swing at it. It won’t hurt you. Those kind of bugs don’t bite or anything. Just swing it away.”

I finally stepped in.

“Ruby, why does Charlie need to sweep the moth off of your chair?”

I knew. I already knew. And yet.

“Ugh, Momma, I don’t want to touch that thing! It’s gross!”


Smelly tales.

Yesterday, after a great morning at home, I decided Pierce was ready to go to the store without a diaper. It was his first outing, so we packed lots of extra clothes and headed out, hoping for the best.

He did great. He used the bathrooms in Walmart and Dillons, keeping his pants dry like a pro.

Then we got to the eye doctor’s. He’d gone just minutes before at Dillon’s, so I was feeling pretty confident.

Mistake. The smell that suddenly permeated the waiting area meant only one thing. Turns out, Pierce’s new boxers are not all-containing. The rug was littered with the source of that smell.

Oh. My.

I sent Liberty to the van for the diaper bag, I begged for paper towels from the receptionist, and looked for an outside trash (There wasn’t one.) Declining the receptionists offer to just empty the garbage once I’d used it, I stuffed the paper towels in the wet bag and watch my pride go in there with them.

I couldn’t believe that had just happened. While the receptionist is the doctor’s daughter and the oldest of eight and had experienced similar humiliation (or witnessed it in her own family at the very least) and couldn’t have been any nicer, it was one of the most embarrassing motherhood moments to date. Next week, when we visit the same doctor for two more appointments, I’m thinking a diaper is in order.

My pride can’t take it.

Pierce isn’t going to live this down. It’ll be told and retold, I’m afraid. All five of his older siblings watched their frazzled mother cleaning up poop off the carpet at the eye doctor’s, all the while praying no one walked in the doors until it was all contained. It’ll go down in infamy.


Pierce: potty training.

I’ve been working on potty training Pierce for six days now. Today was his best day yet – and the one that gave me hope we might actually be successful with this before I give up. Then again, when he was given underwear for the first time, he got this look on his face:


and then did this:


which gave me cause to wonder once again.

We’re out of M&M’s. Something I should have looked into before I started potty training. When I sent Liberty to the candy stash to find something small for a post-potty treat, she came back with chocolate covered coffee beans. I cringed but decided at the rate of success we’d been having, it would be fine.

And then today. He went like a pro with only a few accidents.

My son was hyped up on sugar and caffeine like it was nobody’s business.

Caffeine hurried along the apple juice, we’d have more success, more coffee beans, and well, you get the picture. Pierce was a happy camper this afternoon. Naptime was short. On the bright side, with only a short nap, he woke up dry. Quite good, since he’d been sent to bed for being naughty and fallen asleep without pants on.

Tomorrow, we’re switching to raisins. They’ll hurry along the other, I suppose.

Education: beginning again.


These four children started back to school today.

Ruby’s in kindergarten.

Sterling’s in first grade.

Eden’s in fourth grade.

Liberty’s in fifth grade.

Momma’s in shock.


These two have the sole responsibility to keep themselves busy – and out of trouble – during our educating hours.

Deep breath. I can do this. We did it today. We got done before supper time. Laundry is four loads deep but didn’t get started until 4 pm. Supper happened, late, but it happened. The house… yeah, don’t ask too many questions about it.

I can do this.

TOS Review: Baker Publishing


I’ve had the opportunity these last few weeks to review two paperback fiction books from Baker Publishing Group as part of the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew. I received Life with Lily and A New Home for Lily, both written by Mary Ann Kinsinger and Suzanne Woods Fisher. Written for ages 8-12 and chronicling the life of Lily Lapp, an Amish girl, Life with Lily and A New Home for Lily are books one and two in The Adventures of Lily Lapp series.

These books tell the stories of Lily’s home, school, and friends. Lily deals with choosing good friends, annoying boys, and adjustments with moving and new siblings and wishing for a sister. I really appreciated the stance taken – that while we can’t control life, we can use self-control and make Godly decisions in life. We can choose contentment and learn from mistakes. Lily isn’t perfect – she’s pretty easy to relate to! While they weren’t quite thrilling page-turners for me, when I finished the books and handed them over to Liberty, age 9, and then she finished them and gave it to Eden, age 8, they found both books to be precisely that: thrilling. Amish fiction is pretty popular in our house and I knew, from the moment I saw the info on these books, that the girls were going to love them. We weren’t disappointed.

Liberty, my less-than-enthusiastic reader, read about Lily every chance she got. She finished Life with Lily in less than a week and jumped into A New Home for Lily, finishing the second book in about a week. As a child who doesn’t choose reading as her favorite pastime, this was pretty impressive. Eden, on the other hand, reads every waking moment she can get away with it, and finished Life with Lily in just a few days. She’s just started A New Home for Lily. Both of the girls loved the first book and conversations have centered around Lily, the Amish, and parts of these books for a week now. I got a few questions on culture things – there were a few terms they just didn’t understand – but as a whole, Life with Lily and A New Home for Lily were great books for the girls at their ages. There wasn’t anything objectionable to me in either book. At one point, in Life with Lily, a pow-wow doctor was mentioned, but only in an appropriate light for what we believe – the characters were objecting to the use of one. This sparked a small discussion, but nothing major.

I read both books first, then had Liberty and Eden read them. We’ll definitely look for more books by Mary Ann Kinsinger and Suzanne Woods Fisher – including the additions to this series due in coming months. I hadn’t heard of Baker Publishing itself before, but upon investigation, I found Bethany House and Revell – both of which I had been familiar – are divisions on Baker Publishing Group. I, and my children, have enjoyed many books from these publishers. I was glad to find a complete publishing group that I can be confident in – books that I can be certain are Biblically based and quality materials for my girls.

The cover art work is engaging and colorful. Both of my girls, separately, commented on how pretty Lily is on the covers. I know a book ought not be judged by the cover, but this one is spot on and made my girls want to read Lily’s story. I have to compliment Smartt Guys Design and Dan Davis Photography, credited with the cover design and cover photo. They are beautiful.

Life with Lily has 288 pages and is listed for $12.99 for either e-book or paperback and there is a list of retailers available here. A New Home for Lily has 272 pages and the list of retailers is available here in e-book or paperback for a listed price of $12.99.

To read what others on the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about Life with Lily and A New Home for Lily, visit this blog post on the Review Crew Blog.


Never mind.

While at my parents, I learned to use their zero-turn lawnmower. Once I got the hang of it, it was pretty cool. So fast! So when I got back home and was working on the lawn Saturday, I had the momentary thought. “Man, this would go so much faster with a zero-turn mower instead of my lawn tractor.”

The, the lawn tractor quit.

I mowed with the push mower while Blaine worked on the tractor. It takes five hours to mow with the push mower. Our entire lawn is a hill. I mowed with it for about an hour before Blaine got the tractor up and running again.

Covetousness moment over.

Itchy itchy.


One poor boy got a mosquito bite. On. His. Ear.


The story of us. Part eleven.

We talked a lot that night, and finally decided to go to the church anyway. I was picturing an awkward group of mourners on the last weeks of their church services, but what we came upon was nothing of the sort. The church closing wasn't even mentioned until we asked about it. 

Instead, we met a group of about 20 people who were committed to a church plant in our new town. The current church plant was no more, but the people were still there. What we ended up in the middle of was a new church plant with a group of people who became dear friends. We planned to join into a thriving, existing church, but God had other plans for us. We joined the group of people wanting to grow the church and have been watching it grow amazingly ever since.

As we settled into life in Missouri, Blaine found a job at a landscaping business. He worked for one week and was let go for lack of foresight on how much the owner really needed (or could afford) a hired hand. As this was all in the midst of wondering what would happen with the church, we were still wondering on our decision to move here. But, God.

Less than two months after we moved here, Blaine started a job with a large company. He wasn't a photographer, but he was in the photography department. Dressing mannequins. Ah, yes, the things we had to learn. Perseverance moved Blaine through the department and soon he was an assistant photographer. Far happier in that realm than adjusting blouses on dolls, we settled into life and the church was growing. In January, Blaine traveled to California and then Florida for work trips. While he was away, I learned our family was growing again. 



Going for a ride…

Matthew had a bull get in with the wrong bunch of cows yesterday, and had to run the horses in off the hill to get the bull situation taken care of. Since we had the horses in the corral, the boys talked us into going for a ride.


CT leading his (my) horse to the barn.


Good old Baldy. Her little boy is Brent. I apparently didn’t get a good picture of them together.


CT and Danielle


Gus and Hoot


And they're off!    


What a trio…



I refer to Adrienne as "Sister". Growing up I called her "Ade", but when we were both in our early twenties and she informed me, yet again, that she did not appreciate the nickname, I finally had the maturity to call her something different. While trying to come up with another nickname I called her "Sister". It stuck.  So, as I already said, I fondly refer to Adrienne as "Sister", and while I don't know that she -fondly- refers to me in any circumstance, she has invited me to be a contributor on her blog.


My name is Alexandra and I live on a cattle ranch in Nevada with my husband, Matthew, and 4 boys. Brent and Gus are 4 year old twins, CT is almost 2 and Tell is 7 months. My contributions to Sister's blog will sometimes have a different style because of our way of life, but I hope that they are interesting and maybe even a little entertaining.IMG_1621


Camping: Stump Lake, ND


While the kids spun around on an old-fashioned (read: super fun) merry-go-round, my mother took these photos:

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In order to get said photos, she did this:


I’m nearly positive it is the first time I have ever seen my mother on a merry-go-round. Go Mom.

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In other stories, Charlotte gave it her best attempt in learning to ride a bike. She was marginally successful.









And since Sterling learned how to do this:

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and do it fabulously well, Ruby decided to do this:

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although she’s not quite so fabulous at it. Give her some time. She’s not about to be one-upped by her older brother.

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An introduction…

After deep considerations (Not really. It was more of a spur of the moment thing. But I don’t regret opening my big mouth, so all’s good.) I invited my sister to contribute to my blog.

She’s not me. Not. Even. Close.

Really, not even close. I’m told we sound alike, but we don’t look so much alike. We don’t write alike. And we don’t parent alike.

This ought to be a lot of fun.

I’ll let her introduce herself, but I thought I’d throw this out there for now. Hold onto your horses, because there will be horses. And ranches, and dogs, and pickups, and little boys, and cowboys. Life on the ranch ain’t exactly what I have going on. But it is what my sister has going on.

Variety is the spice of life. And folks, spice my sister does. She makes me look downright boring and traditional.

Just a warning, though. She only wears her socks on the same feet, all the time. Right on right, left on left. I’ve never heard of such a thing.

I never said she was normal. But entertaining, most definitely. I'm pretty excited she's agreed to help me entertain y'all too.

TOS Review: Prima Latina from Memoria Press

For the past several weeks, we’ve been using Prima Latina from Memoria Press as part of a review for the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew. For grades 2-4, Prima Latina is a beginner course that leads up to Latina Christiana from Memoria Press. I’ve chosen to have all of my school aged children sit in during the DVD instruction (ages 4-9) and then had Liberty, grade 5 this fall, and Eden, grade 4 this fall, work on the workbook and flash cards.

I’ll readily admit, when I got the notification that I’d been chosen for this review, I groaned. Latin scares me. Foreign language in general scares me. But my months on the Review Crew have been learning ones, stretching ones, and not in a bad way. When I received the books and DVDs and CDs and flashcards for Prima Latina, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to this review. Turns out, I don’t have to teach Latin. Leigh Lowe can do it. Whew.

The evening after we did the very first lesson, my six year old son was saying hello to me in Latin. He then turned to his sisters and said hello to them in the plural form. Okay, maybe we can learn a bit of Latin! Prayers, Hymns from Lingua Angelica, constellations, and sayings are all taught on Prima Latina. The Lord’s Prayer is included, and contained the Catholic version of the prayer. We aren’t Catholic so this was a little bit disappointing, but that was the only thing negative I found in the curriculum during this review period.

The DVDs are interesting and fun. Yes, Latin and fun can be in the same sentence. Imagine that. There are 3 DVDs in the case, each with lessons that last 3 hours for a total of 25 lessons lasting 15-20 minutes each. The pronunciation leaves no room for misunderstanding. It’s repeated and repeated for the student to say it with the DVD, you say it on your own, and repeated some more. We all walked away able to repeat again what we’d learned and the chatter for the rest of the evening was often on the DVD’s lesson. I love that they are interested enough to continue talking about it later! There are tests every five lessons to review what the student has learned and check for retention and mastery. The flashcards are a huge help – every word the kids learned are in there.

The kids all actually asked to do this curriculum. We used it just a few days a week, but they could have easily done it more often – but I figured since the kids were doing it, I was going to watch and learn too, so we went slow enough for my old(er) brain to keep up. The kids would have easily been able to do it on their own with very little instruction, but then I’d have no idea what they were saying to me!

We’ll definitely be finishing this curriculum in the coming school year. Prima Latina and teacher Leigh Lowe have changed my mind on how hard Latin (doesn’t) have to be. I think the knowledge they gain from Prima Latina will help greatly as they explore English and the origin of the words. Noticing how many English words began as Latin root words has been fun for all of us.

The Prima Latina complete set is available on the Memoria Press website for $90.90. From their website, it contains:

  • Student Book
  • Teacher Manual
  • Pronunciation CD
  • Instructional DVDs
  • Flashcards

For more reviews from others on the review crew of this curriculum and of Geography I, both from Memoria Press, visit the Review Crew blog.


It’s a zoo.

Since the friends we went to the zoo with here in South Dakota are far more on the ball than I am (While I took pictures, my camera still holds them captive.) I’m going to steal her photos and share them all with you. Thanks, LC.

My kids love the head boards. Or whatever you call these things.


I just want to know what was going through Eden’s mind when she made this face. Close up, for good measure:


Oh, dear girl, you make me laugh.

Pierce really enjoyed the zoo. He took in most of it from this position:


Yep. Thrilling.

Once I get my camera back into my parent’s house from the van and our most recent trip to North Dakota for camping, rain bathing, and mosquito blood donation, I’ll share a few more. In the meantime, half a dozen loads of laundry a bit of calamine might be in order.