December 31, 2013

The End of 2013

Today is the last day of the year and I am okay with it because tomorrow will be the start of a new year which is an even number year so that alone makes me excited! Yes something that simple makes me happy.

2013 was a good year for us. Less hours of sleep than I would have preferred, lots of giggles and of course a fair amount of crying, a marriage that has grown stronger, a new home to raise our children in, a cancer scare, but most importantly we had 7 amazing children to share every single day of 2013 with. At the end of this year I am content. There is nothing that I feel I am lacking as we move into 2014. In years past I have felt my family was incomplete; I knew we needed another child to fill an empty space. Years past I have felt there was something missing in my relationship with my husband; a missing connection. In the past I have felt we needed to provide a home that would allow our children the type of childhood Paul and I had growing up in Minnesota. But this year everything has fallen into place and it is an amazing feeling to feel simply content.

Tonight when I go to bed, well before midnight, I will look back at this year and be thankful. It was a great year and I only pray that 2014 will be just the same. My prayer for all of you is that this next year will be a year of contentment, happiness and fulfillment for each of you.

Happy New Year from the Lesnau's

December 27, 2013

Affording Christmas With A Large Family

Long time ago, or maybe not that long ago, we had the mind set that when December came around we would just charge everything to a credit card and then pay it off in January which then would leave us very tight for that month. We always felt that it was worth penny pinching in January to get everyone something really nice for Christmas. We use to way over spend and get way to many gifts for our children and others. Then we struggled a little financially, took a Dave Ramsey course, and to add a cherry to the top got pregnant with quadruplets. Gift giving at Christmas time has changed a lot in the last couple of years for us. To start we are a family that does not use credit cards anymore. We have one that Paul has hidden for major emergencies, such as the night our dog Bailey ended up in the emergency vet. So now we save up a little the couple of months prior to December so we have money in our budget for the month of December. I also try and grab extra overtime hours during the fall that helps cushion the bank account. We also have started doing family gifts for aunts and uncles. This allows a little larger gift to be given rather than a whole bunch of smaller ones.
Ever since we started having kids Santa always finds a way to bring pj's to us before we start opening presents. During the day on Christmas Eve the girls asked numerous times how I thought Santa would bring us our jammies this year. So fun to see them catch on to some of our family traditions Paul and I have incorporated into our holidays.

When it comes to our own children we do not buy a bunch of toys, rather it is things that can be used over and over and hopefully passed on to other siblings. When gifts are bought we try to either have them be outside toys where they will run off energy and get in some physical exercise without even knowing it or have it be something that they will have to use their imagination. Last year Santa bought them a Wii with dance games and I can tell you that it has not been turned on even once since New Years last year. Our kids thankfully have not been around video games often so they have no idea they even exist. We will keep it this way as long as possible.

The baby boys wanted nothing to do with taking a picture with daddy.
My little family

This year our kids wishlist were very short and that probably had to do with us not getting forwarded a single Christmas catalog because we moved. The girls did get one American Doll magazine in which they spent thirty minutes circling things they liked but then after that it was forgotten. When we asked them what they wanted they would literally look around our house and name things we already had. Our kids are just not that big into toys as I have mentioned in previous posts. Drew did have one consistent 'want' and that was a skateboard!
We have a rule that only one present is opened at a time and everyone waits their turn. The kids do great with this and it allows gift opening to last a little longer than it would if it was a free for all. And of course with my type A personality all wrapping paper is put into a bag before the next present is opened.

I have always had a love for reading but I hate spending the money on books because I read too fast and find it a waste of money. I also don't have time to get to the library and browse the shelves for myslef so I was super excited to learn about being able to borrow books from the Amazon Prime membership we got. The only problem was I didn't have a Kindle device. Paul solved that problem by buying me one for Christmas. I am almost 50% done with my first book and I have enjoyed spending some free moments reading the last couple of days.
The big kids found the following items under the tree this year; a bean bag chair for each, a sleeping bag, an art table for the girls room and of course that wanted skateboard. Paul and I spend a lot of time on the floor so the bean bag chairs will be used by our entire family. The babies love climbing on top of them and truly act like they are the king of the mountain when they reach summit. We decided the big kids are at the point where sleeping bags will get used. Since we moved to our new house they have wanted to camp out in their rooms. Also if we go places most hotels are not equipped to sleep a family of 9 and I can guarantee you that Paul and I will not be the ones to give up bed space which means there will be some big kids sleeping on the floor. We did not get the sleeping bags monogrammed because we know eventually the quads will be sharing said sleeping bags. We also got bags that are big enough to fit an adult, well unless you are Paul and are 6'6"! This means we do not have to get new ones in a couple of years when they outgrow them.

The girls have an area in their room that we knew we wanted to make into an art corner. A couple days before Christmas we decided we wanted to get them a desk to start transforming this area. The desk that I wanted that would fit 2 was from Pottery Barn and only had a price tag of $1300. A tad out of our Christmas budget! So I started searching craigslist. I came across a table that I knew would be perfect and was what I was envisioning for this space. It needs a new coat of paint but it is a solid table and the neat thing is that it has two leaves that are permanently on the table that pull out from the bottom and you are able to pull out one or both of the leaves.  The amazing part was that I got the table and 4 oak chairs for $100. We will be replacing the chairs with a bench but for now the chairs are working just fine. Last thing on our shopping list for the big kids was a skateboard for Drew and he was so excited when he opened this gift. All his dreams had come true.

Their smiles went from ear to ear.
The table is going to be painted white with yellow chevrons and then I will be adding a white bench instead of the chairs.
Next up were the quads. They really do not need anything but we did find a couple B Toys that are sold at Target that we do not have. A keyboard, a guitar and keys that look very real. We also got them two "pop" books that they love playing with during therapy. That was it. Some may say we don't include them but they have 3 older siblings so they have enough toys to get them through toddlerhood, enough books to chew, and plenty of hand me downs for clothing. Santa did bring them a Step 2 roller coaster and they are having a blast with it. I didn't think they would be ready for it and it would sit until this summer but they proved me wrong. Kenzie does think Santa brought it for just her so we have had a couple tears when we have made her share.

Santa usually brings one large gift for the older kids and that is what he did this year too. This years gift was a trampoline and the kids have jumped for hours each day since getting it. They love it and for the most part there is very little arguing when they are on it. It has even made for some very early bedtimes, as in 5:45! Santa does fill stockings with things like socks, art supplies, and of course one treat for all.
I have no pictures of the big kids in the trampoline but I found out that throwing a couple of balls in with four babies makes for lots of giggles...
until they realize they have been trapped.
Christmas could cost us a fortune with the number of kids we have but we really try to not make gifts the main focus of Christmas. I was actually really impressed with the big kids this year when they finished opening their stockings and the couple art supplies that were too big to fit in their stocking we told them that we thought that Santa brought the roller coaster for the babies and the art supplies for them and there was not a single complaint that Santa did not bring much. Instead they agreed with us that the coaster really was for the babies. It wasn't until about 15 minutes later when they walked into the kitchen that they saw the trampoline sitting in the yard. I also watch for sales. Very seldom to I buy anything not on sale. Actually the only thing that I bought for the kids this year that was not on sale was Drew's skateboard. Everything else I bought when it was a least 20% off. Those 20% offs add up when you are buying items in multiples.  So when it comes down to it you can get buy at Christmas time without spending a fortune if you are practical and buy things you know kids will get good use out of, buy items when they are on sale and realize that there is more to Christmas than presents.

And just a few more pictures from Christmas day...
It was gorgeous on Christmas so we spent the entire day outside. I miss the snow on Christmas but mid-60's may be even better.

I asked Kenzie to smile and she tilted her head and did just what I asked. We are in trouble!

Boys will be boys. Can't imagine when there is 2 more in this pile next year.

This 31in hard plastic spiderman was a gift to Drew from my sister. Pay backs are going to be so much fun when she has kids. What is he suppose to do with this but of course he doesn't want me to return it for something he can play with!
My little artist coloring with Grandpa

Finishing the night with birthday cake for Jesus.

December 25, 2013

Christmas Preparation

It is 11:15 on Christmas Eve and I can say everything is done, well except for one Santa gift that Paul is outside assembling. He thinks the kids would much rather find a trampoline fully assembled in the morning and I am so very thankful he took on that task because I think I would have wrapped it and put a bow on it and called it good. So while Paul is finishing I find myself sitting at the computer with a ziploc bag full of puppy chow because I was too lazy to put it in a bowl. It amazes me how much work goes into making Christmas special and I have decided Christmas was a lot more fun when I was a kid rather than when I was a mom! It is so fun to see Christmas through their eyes though so maybe it is a wash. This year I really wanted to start giving the older kids experiences that they would start to remember so that when they think of Christmas it isn't all about presents. We actually do very few presents for the kids and stay tuned for the next post that deals with our large family and gifts. I knew all my fabulous plans were not going to work out perfectly but that was okay. I also knew things like taking the kids sledding or ice skating would be difficult because it would mean getting a sitter for the younger kids. Also since Thanksgiving was so late  this year we lost a full week of being able to fit things in. Then add in two parents who work full time and two girls who go to school from 8am-3pm five days a week and it equals a very busy December.

We started it all off on December 1 when Paws, our elf, showed up to start watching the kids so he could report back to Santa each night. I am just going to say it now that whoever came up with this great idea must not have kids. Three years in and I am so done with this red and white doll. Do you have any clue how many times we would make ourselves figure out something to do with Paws so the kids could find him within 5 seconds of being up in the morning. All I wanted to do was crawl into bed and now here was Paul and I dying milk red, setting up a bath for a doll, or having a campfire with smores on our kitchen table. And I can guarentee that having Paws "watch" the kids all day long did not make them behave any better. The threat has worn off and they could care less. I was very happy last night when I wrote the letter to the kids from Paws saying today would be the last day he would be visiting!

We also started an Advent Calendar the same day as Paws and I had a lot more fun with this one. The kids knew mom and dad were the ones putting items in the box. Some days it was treats, and yes some of it may have been left over Halloween candy, other days it was art projects for them to work on. It was a lot of fun and I know we will be doing this again. The Target $1 bins were great for finding things to fill the calendar.

Next up was getting pictures taken with Santa. We did the mall Santa a couple years back and I will never go there again. We waited forever and then when it was all said and done we came home with over priced pictures that were so grainy and had a major green hue to them. I don't think I even kept them. Luckily for us our photographer Monica does Santa pictures and they turn out great every year.

Now it was time to get the Christmas cards made so I could get them sent out before Christmas actually came. I ordered them in plenty of time but then unfortunately I lost our mailbox keys and had to wait about four days to get it re-keyed and you can guess what was sitting the entire time in my box. So frustrating but they did get out last week so it all ended well.

A friend of mine posted a recipe for peppermint playdoh and I knew we had to try that one. After school one day the kids came home and we made up a batch. It smelled amazing and I am sure Drew could tell us how it tasted since he seems to think playdoh is like cookie dough. The kids then played for almost 90 minutes with rolling pins and cookie cutters. That playdoh has been played with many times since we made it and I think we will be adding peppermint to all of our homemade playdoh form now on just because it smells so yummy.

Grandma Lesnau sends the kids art envelopes every holiday and they love when these come in the mail. Natalie will complete one or two of the projects but Aubrey will sit and do them all over a couple of days. She loves coloring and anything to do with art. She spent close to 2 hours working on the penguin project Grandma sent her. She then made cards with the penguins that will be going out as thank you's for gifts they receive for Christmas.

This year I loved having a big kitchen to make cookies in. I could be baking and the older kids could be working on something at the table and we all had room without getting in each others way. Having a large oven too was great because I could bake a whole batch of cookies at one time. Next year I will be adding more baking pans to my list and I will be able to get them done even faster. The kids are also at an age where they are actually helpful in the kitchen. They loved counting out cups or tsps in Spanish, grabbing containers of flour or sugar, and their favorite was trying ever single batch of dough we made. Today we took cookie trays to many of our new neighbors and it was fun to see how excited the kids were to ring the door bells to wish them a Merry Christmas.

The kids also had some fun getting dressed up after we finally unpacked the "dress up" box from moving. Some day Drew will probably hate me for these but he is just so darn cute at the age of 3!

Strep decided to come pay us an early Christmas visit. Now don't get me wrong, I would much rather have strep over colds or flu but was I happy to see it leave. It started with Tate who got better pretty quickly and never had to go into the doctor. It then hit me and knocked me to the ground. I have not been so sick in a very long time. On the third day of literally feeling like I could not function anymore I went in and got diagnosed with Strep. It is amazing what 24 hours of antibiotics can do. Two days later Aubrey woke up crying telling me her throat hurt and after a stop at urgent care she also was on antibiotics. During this entire time none of the babies were sleeping well and I dreaded night time. It brought me back to the days of getting up every three hours but now I was up every hour for one of the seven. It was no fun at all. The next day after Aubrey started antibiotics Drew woke up 3 times just miserable. In the morning he was able to tell me he was crying because his mouth hurt. Of course this was the day Paul was gone all day long so after taking the girls to school I took the other 5 to urgent care. Drew and Kenzie were both diagnosed with Strep and then we were off to Target for more antibiotics with 4 babies who were now an hour past their naptime. I was so ready for my morning cup of coffee when we got home at 10am! Forty-eight hours later and I finally had kids sleeping through the night and kids who wanted to play instead of cuddle all day long. Healthy kids are so much fun to be around compared to sick ones.
You can just tell in their eyes that they were not feeling well.

I have wanted to get a new kitchen table for a while because mine is ten years old and after giving the quads baths every night on it for months it had seen better days. I was hesitant to get a new table though because I have seen what the older kids have done to my table and I know I have four more toddlers who will be using it soon. I had painted the baby girls dresser with Annie Sloan paint and loved how it turned out so decided that I would paint my table instead of buying new. Now that it is painted I am going to find someone to build two long benches for either side and paint them a turquoise color to match the picture on the wall and then find two fun captain chairs for the ends. Then I must find a grey rug for under the table, curtains for the window, a buffet table and the list goes on and on. Amazing how much stuff is needed to make a room feel complete but at least for now I don't need to buy a new table too.

Christmas decorations and a tree also had to go up right after Thanksgiving. It was kind of funny how in our old house I had decorations spread throughout and in our new house pretty much all of my Christmas decorations fill up only one room. I will definitely be watching for after Christmas sales on decorations. I usually leave my tree up til the week after New Years but I think it will be coming down next Monday after we have our last Christmas celebration with my dad on Sunday. The tree is starting to get dry and after the presents are put away the tree looks so bare. The kids each have their own tree in their room which is where they get to hang all of their special ornaments. The tree in the living room is mommas and only a few 'ornaments' get hung on it. That is how my mom did our tree growing up and I now love having a tree that is more grown up.

Never did get around to buying the quads stockings before they sold out at Pottery Barn. Not a big deal this year because they have no idea who Santa is but they will need them next year.

My dad started putting our family cards in the tree many years ago. My kids know when I ask them to put a card by the tree it means 'in' the tree.

Our first ornament to represent our family. We were about 25 weeks pregnant with the twins for Christmas 2007.

My step mom has made all the kids a book like this. Each year when we take Christmas down we measure the kids on a piece of wrapping paper and then mark it on the string of lights inside the book. It is so neat to see how they grow from year to year.

We got this nativity scene from Paul's aunt and uncle when we got married. It is the first year I have had room to put it out. Now to get my dad or Paul's to make us a stable for next year.

Many times throughout the day we would find the kids sitting next to the tree checking to see who's name was on the presents. Never once did I see them shaking it or trying to peak inside.
Last Thursday the girls had their Christmas performance at school. They have been practicing at school for many weeks and it was fun to hear them singing along to the radio as they learned the words to many of the Christmas songs this year. Both Natalie and Aubrey loved getting all dressed up and did so good during the performance. Drew was more interested in getting a cookie afterwards!

The girls and their teachers

So when you are 3 and you have thirty minutes to wait until a show starts, what do you do to burn time? You make silly faces of course.

This one made me laugh because Paul told Drew to touch his tongue to his nose so here he is trying to pull his nose down!

The girls are starting to want to use mom's camera. Not so sure I am a fan of this idea.
Today was a big day for Rylan because he got to share his first bowl of cereal with his daddy. It was so darn cute and Rylan knew he was doing something he has never done.

Rylan had milk dripping on his face so he grabbed one of the folded wash clothes I had sitting on the counter and started wiping his face. He also was so excited he kept signing all done instead of more.

Paul has now finished the trampoline and is warming up next to the fire. The babies are tucked into their cribs and the big kids are all sleeping next to the girls Christmas tree in their new sleeping bags. Santa has visited our house and it is officially Christmas Day so I will leave you by wishing you a very Merry Christmas.

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