Thursday, November 19, 2009

Not The Ideal Situation

My husband and I have been waiting for this to happen. We had been hoping we would not have to deal with it, but it looks as though we have no choice now.

What am I talking about? The almighty ban on children visiting family members in the hospital due to H1N1 contamination fears.

Up until this point, our hospital (one of the biggest in our very large city), had only limited visitors if they were showing actual signs of the flu. Today, we found out that ANY child under the age of 16, healthy or sick, will be banned from visiting hospital patients. This includes children whose mother has just given birth to their newest sibling.

While I completely understand the need to keep people who have the flu (or are exhibiting flu-like symptoms) away from very sick people, patients recovering from surgery, or new babies, I cannot see what the difference is between allowing a "well" 20-something person to visit me and a "well" 2 year old visit me.

Here are my problem with "blanket" hospital policies:
-the incubation period for any strain of flu is the same in an adult as it is in a child. So, while
there is a statistically slightly higher chance of a child carrying more flu bugs than an adult
does, logically-speaking, both have almost the same chance of appearing healthy while
being contagious.
-making any policy so widespread for such a large population of patients (who all have
different reasons for being hospitalized) and such a large population of visitors is bound to
cause more panic than it is to prevent the spread of germs. Just this week, WHO (the World
Health Organization) published their findings from a study on countries who instituted
extremely strict "preventative measures". What did they find? That NONE of these
countries were even slightly more successful than other countries (who implemented less
drastic measures) at preventing the spread of H1N1. It's spreading, people; that's what the
flu does.
-The people who enforce any hospital policy on a "patient level" (staff-to-patient relation-
ship), are almost never the people who drafted the policy or participated in any discussions
as to the reasons why such a policy was created and implemented. So, these staff members
just know that they are required to enforce the policy, but they usually have no idea as to
why they do or what it means or how to apply any commonsense measures to a policy.
So, when your Average Josephine (me!) begins to question a nurse, or even a doctor, as to
why this policy is in place, or to suggest that it may not apply to every (or even most!) person,
Josephine is met with answers that have been memorized from a hospital "script" co-written
by the Legal Department and The Nameless Board. If Josephine actually goes even further
and makes suggestions as to how the policy could be improved so that it still accomplishes
what the hospital wants and it eases things for patients and their families, she is either
ignored altogether or written off as a "kook".
-Do not even get me started on the fact that "statistically" the most dangerous germs are
running rampant all over the same hospital, and pose a much greater risk to my new baby
does her healthy 9-year-old sister.

What all of this means for my family is that my husband and I will go into the hospital on an early Thursday morning, have our precious daughter delivered by c-section, and, with God's mercy, go home on Saturday (at the earliest). The entire time we are at the hospital, our other children (ages 14, 11, 9, 6, 2) will not see their mother or meet their new sister. Not because they are sick, but because they are lumped into a group which has a slightly higher chance of possibly carrying more germs than does a 30-something friend of mine who is allowed to visit.

Now, try explaining this all to a 2-year-old boy who has never been away from his parents for a night, and does not comprehend what this "new baby" thing is all about. I know from a lot of personal experience that a toddler adjusting to a new sibling is difficult enough in the best circumstances, but adding to that child's stress by not allowing him to see his mother or bond with this new "stranger" who just usurped his position as The Baby is just plain cruel.

In all the panic over flu germs and vaccinations and health care, not ONE person in "authority" has stopped to use any common sense when addressing these very valid concerns. And, if one more person in health care tells me that it's in the best interest of my baby, I am going to flip! I am my baby's mother; my husband and I are the people most concerned with her well-being because we love her! We take our vocations as parents extremely seriously and educate and inform ourselves (as we have done in this case) to the very best of our abilities in all areas that might possibly concern our children. After all, we have the most to lose, don't we? And, in one tragic instance, we have lost the most. We do not take our responsibilities lightly. Ever.

Our family's best hope, at this point, is to have a safe and healthy delivery for both Mom and Baby, followed by a very healthy and very, very short stay in the hospital, ending with an extremely joyful and positive reunion of the whole family at home. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers in ALL of these areas.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Maternity Clothes? You can HAVE them!

I will be the very first to say that, these days, it's uncommon to find a woman who has been wearing maternity clothes (periodically!) for the last 14 1/2 years. But, I fit (no pun intended) that description exactly.

I will also freely admit that, within the last 14 1/2 years, maternity clothes have improved in fit and variety. I will also freely admit that they could not have gotten much worse --- denim overalls on a bulbous figure? What idiot thought that was a good idea?

Which brings me to the point of this post: who is in charge of designing and producing maternity clothes? It certainly is NOT anyone who has ever been pregnant with her 7th large baby during a hot summer, and who also possesses a short stature and is very short-waisted.

More than likely, I suspect that the designers' panel consists of an 18-year-old-girl, a crusty old bachelor, and a circus clown. It's the only possible explanation for why a maternity store would try to sell a very tight, short t-shirt in neon horizontal stripes paired with a pair of very low-riding capri leggings. Of course any woman in her 3rd trimester would love to parade around town in an outfit that not only highlights all of her most prominent features, but constricts her already compromised airways, while simultaneously causing her maternity "bloomers" to fall to her ankles.

And, the word "parade" accurately describes how, at almost 32 weeks along, I am feeling about my appearance: like a splendid and very large float in a single-float parade. On my really good days, when I catch a glimpse of myself walking down the street, the image of a penguin kicking a beach-ball comes to mind. So, yes, I would love to draw even more attention to myself by wearing uncomfortable, tight, short, and colorful clothing. Who wouldn't?

For any of you who have been pregnant recently, I have two words for you: MATERNITY JEANS. What was that? I think I just heard a collective growl, tinged with a bit of regret at paying a ridiculous sum of money for a piece of clothing that is designed to drive a woman out of her mind. Is it not bad enough that our usual gracefulness that has been impeded by a major change in our center of gravity is ALSO compromised by a denim torture chamber? Hike up that stretchy waistband 500 times a day! Roll up the cuffs you keep tripping over! Rip off those nightmarish pants and throw them into your closet with a primal scream! And, that's just Day 1! (Most maternity jeans never make it to Day 2.)

Now, I am sure that the fore-mentioned "designers' panel", along with some very foolhardy husbands of pregnant women, will say that it's just my hormones combined with the advanced stage of my pregnancy that are causing me to have such strong opinions about maternity-wear. To be fair, I am sure those things do not help my mood. But, for any person who does not believe that maternity clothes are designed for pregnant 12-year-olds should don one of those horrid "pregnancy suits" (with the big bellies and bottoms), choose two items of clothing from any maternity collection, and wear the whole get-up in public for 3 weeks.

Only then will I deign to even speak to you... as soon as I can waddle over.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mom! What's For Dinner?

That is the most-dreaded question of my day. And, being that four of my kids are boys, that question is usually first asked right after breakfast (I am not joking, even slightly).

Hey, do not misunderstand me! I like eating dinner as much as the next guy, and I do not even mind making dinner (on most nights!). However, I detest coming up with dinner ideas which will please all the particular palates in my house. There is one dinner that makes everybody at our table happy: meat (roast beef, chicken, or turkey) and mashed potatoes. Once I veer away from that menu, it is a indisputable fact that at least one person will dislike whatever meal is on the table. Since our oldest child could verbalize his displeasure, my husband made the hard-and-fast rule that no one can say he/she does not "like" the meal, that person can state that he/she does not "care for" that particular meal. It may not seem like much, but to the ears of the chef, it sounds a lot less hostile!

Long ago I gave up the idea of trying to please every person, and instead aimed to please most family members. As long as you can ignore the sad, puppy-dog eyes and the mournful sighs, this approach works most of the time. But, there are days when it is very difficult to sit through a meal when you are flanked by people pushing food around their plates, then, as soon as dinner is over, watching those people rush to the cabinet that holds the bread and peanut butter to make themselves a sandwich.

The actual meal is not what bothers me the most, though. What really saps my creative juices is coming up with an entire dinner menu that sounds new, exciting, and delicious only to be asked the dreaded question, "Mom! What's for dinner?". It may not look like it, but that is when my palms get sweaty and my knees starting shaking. I try to look enthusiastic, as I stammer out the different "courses", only to have my nervous attempts prematurely shut down by one of my tweens' disappointed looks. These looks are often followed by the comment, "Sounds good, Mom. Do we have any yogurt or luncheon meat?".

In recent years, a new "dinner rule" has been instituted: no child may ask Mom about dinner until she is actually cooking it. The only person that is made happy by this rule is me, as I no longer feel the need to change a dinner menu at the last minute, or be ridden with unnecessary guilt for six hours. What the children do not realize, is that this rule does save them from a crabby mother and six hours of energy-sapping whining. A "win-win" situation, in my book.

I have learned that the saying "You can't please all of the people, all of the time." is very true; especially when "all of the people" are under eighteen and very opinionated. What does work is trying rotate through a series of dinner menus that please half of the people, half of the time. The nice surprise has been that, very occasionally, one member of the "other half" tries the food that he/she does not "care for", and finds that it actually tastes good! A small victory, but it's better than watching that child lean on the counter while he/she eats a container of yogurt after dinner.

So, what's for dinner at your house tonight?

Monday, September 14, 2009

WHAT is going on?

I really wish I had a nickel for every time I yelled (yes, I yell sometimes) the above sentence out to my children; I would be a wealthy woman by now. In all fairness to myself, it is truly a question that I ask with some incredulity, mixed with a good amount of annoyance. I really do wonder, "what in-the-name-of-all-that-is-holy-and-pure is going on with you goofballs?!?".

It is a question that is usually asked after I have been subjected to a long period of listening to them scream (usually not in anger or pain). Generally, other unidentifiable sounds are paired with these hoots and hollers; BANG, SLAM, BUMP! And, most of the time, at least one child leaves the fracas in a hurry, while giggling maniacally.

Am I surrounded by a bunch of raving lunatics? Quite possibly. (And, as we all know, nothing can make you crazier than an insane person.) But, more likely is the possibility that my children have too much imagination and not enough outlets for that kind of "energy".

So, should I sign them up for drama class? Should I start calling various agencies who represent child actors? Do I need to sign them up for art classes? Good Lord, I hope not!

I have finally figured out the answer to my problem: it is me! I am the one who needs to allow them to get a little loud and messy while they play with one another. I need to stop stepping in because I am annoyed by the noise level or amount of mess. I should only step in when it's getting so out of control that people are going to get hurt or property is being destroyed. And, to be perfectly frank, those two things happen very infrequently.

Did Michelangelo's mother stop him from painting because he splashed a little paint on the floor? Maybe, but I doubt it. Certainly, Edison's mother respected his need to putter around and learn at his own pace, and look where that got him (and us!)?

Now, I am not saying that I have little Michelangelos and Edisons running around my house (certainly not if they inherited too many of my genes!). What I am saying is that I can hardly expect healthy, happy children to sit quietly with a book 100% of the time, just so I can preserve my sense of peace. I know I have to look inward (and Heaven-ward!) to find that sense of peace, and let it work alongside my sense of humor.

I realize that it is quite easy to fall into the trap of worrying about keeping the house neat as a pin, or thinking that children should behave as if they are mini-adults. I am probably stuck in that trap 4 or 5 days out of every week! It takes a much gentler and more appreciative soul to look at their occasional rambunctiousness and rowdiness from a joyful perspective. Right now, I am striving to be that gentle and appreciative soul and love my kids in all their noise and activity levels!

And, that is what is going on!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

How DO I do it?

If you are a parent of more than three kids, you are frequently asked, "How do you do it?" (of course, it's almost always accompanied by an incredulous look). Last night was no exception to that rule.

I was leading a Parents Club meeting at our younger kids' school, and, as it was the first meeting of the school year, decided to have everyone in the group (no, it was not well-attended!) take a turn introducing himself/herself. It was only fair that I begin the exercise, and so launched into my standard explanation of our family: "My husband and I have five kids. The oldest is in high school, the younger four attend this school. And, we have a baby girl due in December." I will spare you the details of the very few people who chose to give me a look of disgust (not kidding!). I have become used to the usual comments ("Wow! You are an expert!" or "God Bless You!"), and chose to play them off humorously and move the meeting along.

It was not until the meeting was over that one of the moms there came up to me and said, "I really want to know: How do you do it? Six kids? I have two and I'm losing my mind! Are you just a really patient person?"

While pointing to my stomach, I replied, "Well, the sixth one is pretty easy and quiet so far, so I have no issues with her yet! As for the other ones, I honestly don't know how I do it! I DO remember that I almost lost MY mind when I had two kids, though!"

I went on to explain that my oldest two are almost three years apart, and when the second one was about a month old, I was lamenting to my older son's toddler teacher that it was "sooooo hard" to take care of both of the boys. The teacher had two kids who were grade-school-age, but also 3 years apart, and she said something which I will never forget, "At these ages, this is the hardest it will ever get. These two guys are labor intensive, high-need, and totally dependent on you for everything. It only gets easier from here on out!" And, do you know what? She was RIGHT!

Another thing I learned was that it was OK to ask my older child to help me with small things. For example, "helping me" by being quiet while the baby napped, or helping me by making a peanut butter sandwich for himself and me while I nursed the baby (yes, even a three-year-old can make a pretty decent PB&J!). This accomplished two things: 1) it really DID help me in small ways, and 2) it convinced my older son that he was capable of doing so many things all by himself! When talking to this other mom last night, I did , however, include the caveat that while young kids can certainly do things by themselves, they will not be to "adult standards", but this should not discourage either the parent or the child.

Another thing that we are all guilty of (myself included!) is that we tend to think of our kids as if they are frozen in time. We think that little Clyde will never stop having temper tantrums in public. Or, that tiny Suzy will always need her mommy to help her in the bathroom. But, that is just not true! Children do, by nature and God's good graces, mature sooner than we think! They begin to be able to do most things for themselves, and only come to us occasionally for help or advice. This does not mean that they do not need us anymore! It means that they need us less in a "labor intensive" way, and increasingly in an emotional and intellectual way.

I tried to explain that I was not raising six children who were all at the same ages and levels of development, but, rather, I was raising six children who are all at varying degrees on the developmental plane. Certainly, a teen or pre-teen can understand that he has to patiently wait to ask me a question, while I deal with a very crabby two-year-old's temper tantrum. I explained that I am not sitting in the midst of six crying, hungry children day after day!

I could see that while she was "getting it" on one level (the "oh, yes, 14-year-olds make great babysitters!" level), she was not seeing that there is an inherent beauty and sense of wonderment in raising "many" kids of varying ages. I am not sure that I can explain how valuable and wonderful it is to see my nine-year-old daughter happily fixing her two-year-old brother his favorite snack as if she is his second mother. I do not really know how to explain the feelings of overwhelming love and tenderness I experience when my six-year-old tells me (with hero-worship in his eyes), "When I grow up and go to high school, I am going to go to the same high school my big brother goes to!". Those are the moments when you realize just how truly blessed you are to have all these beautiful souls surrounding you!

Of course, I had to be honest with the other mom, and tell her that I still have bad days... Even bad weeks. There are plenty of occasions where I feel overwhelmed, under-prepared, and completely helpless. I really do not think that that is particular to being a mother of many children. I think it is particular to being a mother, though. I explained that having a bad day does not make you a bad mom, it just makes you human; it is a fact we all need to be reminded of every once in a while.

And, to be completely truthful, being a mother to one, two, or twenty children is a demanding job. I think most of us are shocked when the realization of just how difficult and permanent it truly is! In my opinion, though, we cannot use this first shock as an excuse to "give up"; whether "giving up" means not trying to do our best, or "giving up" means limiting the number of children with which we are blessed. We should try not to confuse "difficult" with "impossible".

So, I will practice what I preach, and on my most "impossible" days, I will choose to overcome the "difficulties" by looking for (or, at least remembering!) all the ways I am blessed by my vocation of motherhood.

I cannot say what that mother was thinking when she left the meeting last night; she did seem a little dissatisfied with my answers. It seemed she thought that because I had many kids, that I must have found the Fountain of Perfect Parenting. Maybe she was a little disappointed to hear that there is no secret to being a "good" parent. Being a "good" parent is a lot of hard work, worry, and aggravation. But, being a "good" parent is also a lot of joy, love, and laughter, as well. It is your choice which type of "good" parent you want to be.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Change Is In The Air

Yesterday was a big day for our family: we learned that the baby who we are so eager to meet this December is... a... GIRL!

OK, so maybe it was a bigger day for some members of our family, than others. Our four sons were all rather quiet when my husband and I showed them the ultrasound pictures. Their 9-year-old sister was beyond elated and shocked. I have to think that the rather unladylike "in your face!" comments she made to her brothers had something to do with their unusually quiet reactions.

As a female and a girl who waited through 9 1/2 years (and 2 brothers) to finally "get a sister", I understood how my daughter was feeling; although, not completely, as I never had to deal with waiting for a baby sister and then learning that she died before we ever had the chance to meet. So, this new baby sister is even more special.

As "spoiled" as my daughter can seem at times (especially to her brothers), she is (through no one's fault) living a life that is a bit isolated.
Sure, she has her own room, but she misses out on the late-night giggles and secrets I hear her brothers sharing every night in their shared rooms.
Yes, she never has to wear hand-me-downs, but she has also never has the special moments of hero-worship when she hands down a special piece of clothing to a younger sibling who acts as if it's made of pure gold.
I also see the pure joy on her face as she plays with her many girl cousins and friends from school. I know she is thinking, "Now HERE are people who understand why purple, grape lip-gloss is EXCITING!", or something along those lines.

Of course, she also has a pretty unique perspective on males, in general, and her brothers, in particular. She has no problem playing with her brothers when the games they are playing are interesting to her (and they often are). Her teachers have often commented that she gets along equally well with both female and male classmates, which is not the "norm" for most children her age. I also see a really healthy, and uncommon, competitiveness in her demeanor which enables her to believe that she really can do anything she wants to do, or at least to try. Also, her father is pretty impressed that she can take an accidental shot to the head with a basketball during a pick-up game and just shake it off and keep playing.

With the impending arrival of her new sister, there are some pieces of information regarding younger sisters which I would like to share with her. However, I know that her experience will be different from mine, and, more importantly, I just cannot rain on her happy parade right now.

I cannot tell her that an almost-10 year age difference makes for a pretty lengthy delay in sharing late-night stories, giggles, and secrets. Something like a 20 year delay.
I cannot tell her that this sister will eventually come to an age where she does NOT wanted to be treated like doll, whose only purpose is to be dressed and coiffed by her older sister.
I cannot tell her that, most times, hero-worship has to be earned.

Right now, all I can do is enjoy the moment with her. She and I can surf the web together, looking for matching sister outfits for Christmas. We can plan out how she and her sister will divide the dresser drawers in her (now "their"!) room. And, she and I can both enjoy the small tempering of testosterone in our home --- it's been a LONG time coming!

Monday, July 27, 2009

What a Chore!

Lately, I have been fielding some questions on my kids' chore list and various related topics, so I thought I would use this post to explain how and why we handle this area.

Actually, when I had only two or three young kids (who had chores!) it bemused me when people would act surprised that my husband and I would expect them to participate in "housekeeping duties". People wanted to know why we "forced" our kids to help clear the dinner table or unload the dryer. Were we paying them an allowance or giving them "gold stars" (???) on a chart? (The answer is no to both questions.)

The whole "chore thing" evolved very naturally from both my husband's and my upbringings; we were raised in families where each member participated in helping to make the family home a nice place to live. After all, if each of us like to eat meals (and from clean dishes!), wear clean clothes, and have a clean floor to walk on, then it falls to each member of the family to help keep the house in some kind of order. The family home "belongs" to each member, and when something belongs to you, you naturally have a sense of pride and investiture in that thing.

So, it just seemed natural to both my husband and me to assume that, just as we included our children in other aspects of family life (meals, vacations, etc), we would also include them in the care-taking aspect of family life. It was only when other people began to question us as to why we would do such a thing, that I began to analyze our reasons more closely.

The first reason outlined above -- a sense of pride and belonging -- was the first and most obvious reason to me. I could see a real sense of joy and pride on my 20-month-old's face as he carefully walked the salad dressing from the fridge to the dinner table; he was helping Mom and Dad get ready for dinner!

The next reason that occurred to me was that I was preparing my kids for the rest of their lives. Before you start to think that I'm getting overly dramatic and puffed-up about a 9-year-old taking out the garbage, remember this: the child who is expected to clean up after himself, eventually makes the leap to the college student who can keep his dorm room AND his college classes organized (i.e. the less new things he has to cope with, the better his chances of academically succeeding).

Thirdly, after child #3 made her appearance, it was beginning to dawn on me that doing the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and errand-running for five people was not something that could successfully be achieved by only one person. Yes, it could be done, but it was not done well or without a cost (my sanity, for one thing!). I was relating my stress and feelings of failure to my oldest son's teacher, who then looked quizzically at me and said, "Do you think that I should not expect the kids in my class to help clean up a spill or clean up something they are finished working on? Because, I do expect them to participate in all aspects of classroom life. I would not be able to teach even one lesson, if I spent my entire day cleaning up after these kids!". To quote a celebrity I'm not too fond of, it was a "light bulb" moment for me. Being a "mom" was not the equivalent of being a slave! Duh! So, now one of my favorite sayings to my kids is, "Did I dirty all the dishes that are in that sink? No? So, maybe we can all take turns cleaning up the mess we all made."

So, do my kids get an allowance for these chores? Nope. I believe that helping to make our home a nice, livable place should be the reward in and of itself. If I have extra chores that I would like them to do, I post them on our dry-erase board along with the dollar amount I am willing to pay and any child that would like that 1-time extra job (and money!) can write his/her initials next to that job. Just on observation, I have seen rewards like allowances and gold-star charts fail time and again because the reward loses it's allure. If I expect that my child is able and should have a certain chore, and I explain why ("it helps our family, it makes our home more inviting to friends") they are expected to do it, then I don't have to field any arguments/statements such as, "I don't feel like loading the dishwasher. I don't care if I don't get an allowance this week.".

Does all of this mean that my husband and I are slave-drivers, who sit on our couch and pick up our feet so the kids can sweep underneath them? Gosh, that would be nice! However, if I expect my kids to take pride in their home, then I have to set a good example. Things like cooking, some of the laundry, some garbage duty, driving, shopping, changing diapers, nursing babies, etc still fall to me to complete (hopefully, cheerfully!). The rest of the chores, are divvied up between everyone else. At the end of this post, I will give an example of what chores are appropriate/expected for certain age groups in our home.

OK, so when do I let my kids "be kids"? Well, I say, who the heck could STOP them from being kids?! The oldest child's actual TOTAL time spent doing chores each day, averages a little less than an hour (give or take the day, and how much he drags his feet!). That leaves plenty of time to play, read, relax, goof around, or watch TV. I have met the children (who will remain nameless, mostly because there are too many to name!) who are not expected to lift a finger in their own homes, and they are usually (not always) disinterested in schoolwork, always looking to be entertained, and generally unconscious of anyone else's needs. The flip side of this is the children who are expected to participate in household chores: they are usually (again, not always!) excited about new academic challenges, eager to find things to do, and very conscious of other people's physical and emotional needs. (If you are the parent of a child whose biggest "chore" is to brush his own teeth, but you swear he is going to be the doctor who cures cancer while running 3 soup kitchens... well, call me when this actually comes to pass.)
Also, (to paraphrase Spiderman) with increased responsibility come increased privileges! Obviously, if you can show me that you can cheerfully accomplish your chores and wake up on time every day, then I can extend your bedtime by 30 to 60 minutes (depending on age). If you show me that you are responsible enough to wipe up a spills you make without my asking you and keep your room tidy, then I can trust you to ride your bike to the library by yourself. These are just examples, and only you know what privileges are appropriate for your kids, but don't forget that you need to recognize their growing abilities and responsibilities, too! How it makes their little faces light up!

All this being said, the proof is always in the pudding and am still waiting on the finished product. I do have some pretty good examples in myself, my husband, and all of our siblings (15 in total!); we are all fairly well-rounded adults, who lead active, productive, and happy lives. Those of us who are married have an understanding of the give-and-take of this vocation, and those of us who are parents also understand the sacrifices involved; so far, no one has been overly shocked at the work involved, nor the at the awesome rewards received. Most of the time, I think we view chores as a part of life, not as a drudgery to avoid. Going to work is "what you do", not something to constantly complain about and avoid. Would we have turned out differently if our parents had not "involved" us in household chores as children? I cannot be sure, but I do have some "anecdotal evidence" of our peers in similar life-stations, and they don't seem to be as well-adjusted. Just an observation, mind you.

So, if my opinion counts for anything (this matter is up for debate in many circles!), I say, "Don't be afraid to include your children in household chores!". It can be rewarding and enriching for all of you, and, guaranteed, everyone will learn something!

-help set and clear table (does not have to be done to adult standards; learning that the fork goes to the left of the plate can be taught later, over time.)
-sweep crumbs from table with small hand-broom and dustpan
-help Mom, Dad, older sibling switch loads of laundry (can add soap, turn dials, press buttons)
-help fold his/her own laundry (again, will not be to adult standards) and put away in drawers
-"wash" dishes (more fun for them, than for you, but they do eventually gain some knowledge!)
-clean up the spills he/she makes (again, not to adult standards, but you can finish up when they are not looking!)
-do weeding and planting in a garden (Thanks to Diane for reminding me of this!)
-Keep his/her own room neat and tidy
-put away toys that he/she plays with (younger kids will need some encouragement/direction)

-more involved in setting and clearing of table (can put flatware in proper places, wrap up leftovers, rinse dishes)
-unload silverware from dishwasher (actually, some personalities are really suited and soothed by placing all the pieces in their correct places!)
-sweep floors and vacuum area rugs
-take dirty laundry to laundry room and help switch loads.
-fold own laundry and put it away
-clean windows and mirrors (a small spray bottle filled with vinegar/water mixture and paper towel are all they need!)
-Simple cleaning jobs, such as a small bathroom sink or polishing a wood side table.
-Keep bedroom clean
-put away his/her own toys and offer help to younger siblings
-help put away non-perishable items from grocery store

-unload plates, bowls, glasses, etc from dishwasher and kids older than 8 can even load the dishwasher quite well!
-take out garbage
-set and clear table
-sweep and vacuum floors
-make his/her own lunch for school*** Actually, my kids start taking lunches at age 5 and I have NEVER made a lunch for them. If they pack their own lunch, then they will be more likely to know how much to take and only take the foods they like (you must "supervise nutritionally"!), so NO WASTE!*****
-mop floors and vacuum bigger areas
-carry groceries into house from car and help put away
-can handle (and usually enjoy!) cleaning a powder room or straightening a living room.
-Switch loads of laundry from washer to dryer (this is better as a "team sport")
-Keep bedroom clean
-help younger children with their chores, if needed
-pet care

-All of the above chores listed are appropriate for this age and can continue in differing ways, as older kids will have more homework, more demanding sport schedules, and even jobs!
-small errand running (kids on bikes can return library books, run to the corner store to buy milk, while driving teens -- I can't wait! -- can grocery shop or carpool younger sibs to friends' houses)
-yard work, such as mowing lawns.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

To Laugh or Not To Laugh...

Sometimes, that IS the question.

Most kids go through a phase where they unknowingly say really funny, yet inappropriate, things. In a larger family, these phases repeat and increase because of the influence of older kids on their younger siblings. As parents, it is sometimes very difficult NOT to laugh at something you know you should be correcting.

I am certain you would like some concrete examples, and you are in luck! Currently, our 6-year-old son is in the middle of one of these phases and he is providing a LOT of fodder! While we were on vacation last week, our son seemed to be trying for a gold medal in the Big Mouth Olympics...

While on vacation, we rented a pontoon boat for a few days. While my husband was docking the boat one day, our son stood on the dock and yelled as loud as he could, "Hey Dad! How's that ointment working out for ya'?"

Where did he hear that? Answer: his older brother.
Why would he wait until he was out on a lake full of other people and shout it over a medium (water) that carries sound so well? Answer: Apparently, he's a comedic genius.
How can I hide the fact that I'm laughing, so that I can reprimand this child, and, later, give his brother what-for? Answer: I couldn't, but his father was able to contain his giggling long enough to take both siblings to task.

Here's another one from vacation:

Right after I said bedtime prayers with my son one night, which included praying for the new baby, he asked me THE BIG ONE, "Mom, how do babies get into your stomach?". Feeling so proud of myself for not panicking (as I did with his 3 older siblings), I confidently stated, "God loves a Mom and Dad so much that He wants to show his love by giving them a baby. He puts the tiny baby in the mom's tummy right under her heart, so the baby can hear the heartbeat and know he's loved, too.". Here is where my smug smile was replaced by an almost uncontrollable urge to laugh out loud, as my son replied, "But really, the mom and dad just put an egg in there that has the baby in it.".

My only question/comment for this? What friend's parent thought it was a brilliant idea to give a 6-year-old ALL the scientific facts on human breeding, and then let THAT kid loose on my kid? Just because they ASK an adult-sounding question does NOT mean they are ready for the adult explanation, People!!!

Of course, there are also the moments when you think it's perfectly fine to laugh at your child's comments, but it causes great embarrassment (and even tears!) for your child. For example, one night we went out for a boat ride after dark, to let my dad test out the boat for the first time. Although we knew we were low on gas, we did not realize how low, until we stopped moving right in the middle of the lake! Immediately, we all began looking for a nearby boat to tow us in, and my 6-year-old thought this was great fun. When we heard some voices nearby, my husband began yelling "Hello? Can you help?". Apparently, the 6-year-old thought that my husband could use some help, so he started yelling, "If you can hear me, follow the sound of my voice!". In a tense situation, it was all too much for the three adults on our boat, and we started laughing. My son, however, was so offended and embarrassed that he folded his arms and put his head down.

Funny? You bet.
Did my son intend for it to be funny? Nope. He thought he was helping all of us out of a bad situation.

What's a parent to do?

Well, for one, I have to work on getting better about seeing these comments as a source of entertainment while I am in the presence of the child who is making the comments. Believe it or not, I have made huge strides since my oldest was born fourteen years ago, but I still have some work to do.

Secondly, my husband or I sometimes crack down too hard on comments which we see as a sign of impending behavior problems, when they are really just things the child has overheard in innocence and is unwittingly repeating (see "ointment" story above!). In this case, it's a "don't laugh, don't yell" policy.

Lastly, I need to remember to record these funny moments for posterity (and that child's wedding!). Too many of these episodes with my other kids have passed by and have already been forgotten. Hopefully, this blog will help correct this issue.

All in all, our vacation was enlivened and enriched by these hilarious moments and make for some great family memories. I am glad that I try to take the time to listen to what my children are saying, even if it makes me snort my cola out of my nose!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Happy Independence Day!

Celebrate Our Country's Great History and Unique Freedoms!

On the 4th of July, our family celebrates by shooting off fireworks (set to patriotic music!) at our lake house!

I would LOVE to hear how YOU celebrate our nation's birthday!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Celebration Season Has Arrived!

In our family, we tend to have "clumps" of birthdays/anniversaries/holidays, and we are in the midst of a very thick clump right now.
At our address alone (so, not counting any extended family!), from June 18th through July 23rd, we have FOUR (4) birthdays and one anniversary (ours!). Other than the anniversary, there was not a whole lot we could have done to change this; of course, the anniversary happened first, so...
That can be complicated (and expensive!) enough, but when you begin throwing in aunts', uncles', and cousins' birthdays in there, our calendar begins to resemble a work of abstract art.

To give you an idea of the "evolution" of this particular season (and my anxiety!), allow me to present a brief timeline of events:
June, 1994-We are married! Who cares if our anniversary will occur two weeks before my birthday every year? Doesn't that just mean he has to buy me an extra-special piece of jewelry?
June, 1995-Our first child is born just 5 days after our 1st anniversary! Things have come full-circle! Of course, with this baby's birthday looming so close to mine, I may have to take a back seat in the gift-receiving department.
July, 2000-Our third child (and first daughter!) is born EXACTLY 2 weeks after my birthday and EXACTLY one month after her oldest brother's 5th birthday! Hmmm.... Two kids' birthdays a month apart, with my birthday thrown smack-dab in the middle... This could be interesting.
July, 2007-When the OB scheduled my c-section for 5 days before our daughter's 7th birthday, I began to panic (and not due to the surgery!). How the HECK were we going to do parties, cakes, presents, etc????? (If you've read my other posts, then you know that I am a list-maker and this kind of thing throws even the best of us into a major tizzy!)

I am relieved to report that two years later, the kids are thoroughly enjoying this birthday-cake-filled month. And, me? I am just happy if someone else makes dinner for me on my "day of days". Really.

The Christmas Holidays have also been a bit crazy since our fourth child was born (early!) on December 23rd, 2002. His actual birth day and his first birthday (and those Christmas mornings) were not exactly fun for him or me, but we have learned how to separate and really enjoy both events.; it DID take a bit of work to convince my son that the Christmas Tree was not his Birthday Tree, though!
And, now, we are happily faced with an addition to the season of clumped occasions this coming December! By my best estimations this new baby will arrive the second week of December, a mere two weeks before his/her brother's 7th birthday and Christmas. The panic has not begun to set in yet.

For now, I'm just trying to focus on how it will be "so much fun" to send out birth announcements with a holiday theme, adding another Christmas stocking to the collection, remembering to make sure that Santa knows that he has to leave a gift for the new baby, and so on.
THAT is the lesson I have learned in all this clumping: if you cannot keep your focus on the fun things for which you should be grateful, then you will become a bitter Mommy who resents the day(s) her children were born.

Yes, birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays are all expensive and busy things. But, all of them commemorate a special event in our lives; events that have probably changed us permanently, and hopefully for the better!

And, my kids may roll their eyes when I refer to them as my Summer Babies, Spring Babies, or (gasp!) Kissy-Christmas Babies, but I know that it makes them feel special and loved. I have even caught them using some of those terms when they refer to each other (e.g. "He's one of the Summer Babies").

So, I say, "Bring on the clumps!"!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Feeling Crunched?

I am.
And, by "crunched", I mean "crunched".

As we all know, the U.S.'s current economy has not been doing very well lately, and does not look as if it will be improving any time in the near future. Blessedly (VERY blessedly), my husband's job status has not been adversely affected by the current economic recession, although the company he works for is very much feeling it's effects. Because of this, my husband has had to lay-off some employees (SO much easier said than done) and did not get an annual raise (no one did, as it sounded like a better deal than getting laid-off!).

Of course, at the time we learned about not getting a salary increase this year, we were just grateful that my husband still had a job (still are!), and I really did not think it would have a huge impact on our daily life. WRONG!

I am not sure how or why, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to figure out how to buy all the things we need (not want, need). Not that it was ever super-easy to do this, but it was not this difficult, either. And, EVERYTHING seems to cost more, too! Clothes, food, electricity, gas.......

Lately, it has forced me to really analyze and define my lifestyle, and decide what is a "luxury" and what is a "necessity". Here is what I came up with:

-Obviously, food is a necessity, but we could make-do with generic brands all the time, instead of throwing a few name brand items in the shopping cart. Easy. I can probably save a minimum of $30 each shopping trip.
-The newspaper subscription that used to cost us $5 each quarter, just increased to $17 a quarter (!); not a huge sum of money to pay every few months, but it is definitely a luxury item that I can live without.
-OK, I am admitting that I have a cleaning crew come into my house every other Friday. It costs me $80 each time ($160/month) and I am guaranteed a clean house. For most people this is a HUGE luxury, but most people do not have 5 (soon-to-be 6) kids running through their house, so I deemed this one a "draw"; neither luxury, nor necessity. However, I will be cutting it down to just once a month, as it forces all of us to thoroughly clean prior to their arrival, and I am physically slowing down for the next few months.
-Weight Watchers Online. Not exactly a "necessity" when you're pregnant, so I will be saving that $17 each month until the baby is born.
-I am reducing the minutes on my cell-phone plan. I do not even use all the minutes I currently have, and because I have a teen that only texts, I end up using that feature a lot more. I figure I can save at least $20 each month.
-Walking to more free things (pool, library, concerts at the park, etc) instead of driving. Also, taking advantage of cheaper public transportation fees (our city's trains have summer specials for families) when I want to take the kids into the city for something free/cheap, but different (art exhibits, etc). You have no idea how it pains me to even say the words "public transportation"; I am a spoiled girl.

Believe it or not, we do not really have anything else in the "luxury" department: no one is signed up for any sports or music/dance lessons, no vacations, we buy clothes at Target/WalMart, etc., only have 1 car, my husband got the cable company to reduce our monthly fee (just by asking!), no bad habits to support (I knew clean living would pay off, eventually!).

So, that does it for reducing costs. Unless, I can convince the gas and electric companies to reduce our rates; and, do not think that my husband has not already asked them.

Which leaves me with bringing some more money into the budget. Obviously, besides our commitment to having a parent stay at home with the kids, at this point the day care costs for 4 kids to go to day care/day camps would far, far outweigh any money I could make by getting a job. So, the kids and I got mildly creative, and began going through all the old toys in our basement.

Allow me to preface this by saying that my children have some very generous relatives, who lavishly shower them with birthday and Christmas gifts. Even my kids will admit that they cannot play with all of the toys they receive. So, we are selling a huge lot of them on Craigslist for rock-bottom prices. I have sold things on Craigslist before, and if you do it wisely, it can be a very nice experience. I was truly amazed at my kids' excitement at the prospect of selling their toys until I overheard my 11-year-old whisper to his 6-year-old brother, "If we make enough money, then maybe Mom will buy us a Wii!". OK, maybe some people are missing the point, but they'll figure it out soon enough.

There are some things which I cannot control and which are inevitable. Things such as: growing children's insatiable appetites (especially after swimming all afternoon), a child's ability to outgrow all his old clothing in a few weeks (while simultaneously destroying that clothing which could be handed down), car and mortgage payments, inflation, and the need for toilet paper.

I did occur to me that if I could somehow learn to control even one of the above items, I could make a lot of money offering my services.......

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Here We Go, AGAIN!

Yes, I realize it has been a little while since I have posted anything. Morning sickness and overwhelming exhaustion tends to slow a person down a bit!

You read that correctly: we are very happily expecting a new baby! Our "Latest Addition" will be arriving some time in early-to-mid December 2009, so Merry Christmas to us!

We have just started to tell people, and here are some of the reactions/comments we have received, so far:

"Congratulations! Wait, was this planned?" (This was from the nurse at the OB's office)



"Are you kidding?"

"I'm just trying to picture having another sister..." (This was from our 11-year-old-son, and, no we don't know the gender of the baby, yet. He has only ONE living sister, but 3 brothers. He's a "panicker"!)

"Wait, how do you know? Who told YOU?" (This was from our 6-year-old son.)

"Well, thanks for the birthday present!" (Also from our 6-year-old, who's birthday is Dec. 23!)


Based on past experience (just a little), I know that as my belly grows, the comments get more interesting. Take this classic exchange for example...

"Is this your first baby?"
"Well, no, it's my 7th."
"Did you say 2nd?"
"Oh, Honey, you've got your hands full!"
"Well, technically, until the baby's born, it's just my belly that is full."

Do I grow weary of the constant barrage of comments, questions, and "advice"? Well, doesn't EVERY pregnant woman, whether it's her first or fifteenth baby, get tired of that kind of thing?

It's a weird phenomenon, is it not?

What I mean is this: you never see people asking to touch a really obese person's stomach, but they sure love to lay hands on a pregnant lady's personage. And, most (not all!) people are somewhat reluctant to offer up nutritional advice to the person standing next to them in the checkout line, but pregnant women often hear what they should/should not be eating from perfect strangers. Do not even get me started on people sharing their horrific birthing stories with a pregnant woman, all in the name of "education" ("I just wish somebody had told me how bad it hurts when I was pregnant!" Yes, I'm sure that would have prepared you for childbirth.)

All in all, I enjoy every aspect of pregnancy..... Well, I am trying to enjoy them all, as I never know if this will be my last baby and, after losing babies, I really try to focus on loving the baby and remembering every detail of the pregnancy because regret is a lonely feeling to have to endure. Also, my children are my greatest "accomplishments", most valuable treasures, and biggest blessings, so I am overwhelmed with joy that my husband and I have been chosen to receive another Gift!

My husband, myself, and our children are very excited for the future and all that it holds. We ask that you share in our excitement and add to our prayers for a healthy pregnancy and baby!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

To all of the mothers, moms, mamas, mommies, grandmas, aunties, godmothers, and "mothers-in-spirit": May you have the very happiest of Mother's Days and know how much you are loved and needed!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Once Upon A Time

My daughter, at the ripe old age of almost nine-years-old, has hit the eye-rolling stage. This is about two years earlier than either of her older brothers hit the same stage, but, she potty-trained earlier than they did, so I guess there are some trade-offs.

She is very much like I was at the same age: she does not care to "share" a lot of information regarding her daily life, and she believes that when something "unfair" happens to her that the whole world is going to end. DRAMA!

During one of her very rare moments of sharing a story about a disagreement between her and her school friends, I attempted to use my own similar story from my third-grade days. About one-fourth of the way into my story, I realized her eyes had glazed over and she was not paying attention to a word I was saying. After all, that was, like, a hundred years ago and I have no idea of how unjustly she was being treated. So, in a brief moment of inspiration, I switched gears completely. I began with....

"Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Beth. She lived in a nice house with her parents and her little brothers and sisters. When Beth was small, she sometimes got frustrated with her family, and would run into her bedroom and slam the door REALLY HARD. Other times, she would be upset that all her clothes 'felt funny", and would throw them all around the room and kick her stuffed animals. As Beth got older, she did those things less and less because she was learning that, usually, things got better if you gave them some time: brothers stopped bothering you if you ignored them, clothes started to feel more comfortable once you wore them a few times.
Beth went to a really nice school and she had lots of friends. One of her favorite things to do was to organize games at recess. She loved to play Red Rover, Red Rover and kickball with her friends and classmates and they usually had a great time. But, some days people did not get along with each other so well, and arguments would get louder and louder. People would stomp away angry, saying, 'I'm not playing with you, Beth!'. This hurt Beth's feelings.... a LOT. She never let them see her cry, though. She preferred to yell something equally hurtful right back at those mean people. But, it never made her feel better.
What DID make her feel better were the days when she figured out a way for everybody to play the game they wanted to play, and to make jokes about the little things that were upsetting people. Actually, those days seemed better to everybody else, too.
So, Beth grew older and older and pretty soon, she went to middle school. It was a new school with new friends and she was nervous and excited about meeting new kids and teachers. What Beth could not have known, and what no middle-schooler ever knows, is that every single kid in middle school is a nervous wreck who is worried about being embarrassed all the time. Unfortunately, this makes some kids behave in strange and hurtful ways. These kids think that if they embarrass other kids, then no one will notice the embarrassing mistakes these kids are making themselves! Wow! Beth was not one of these kids, but she met a lot of them in middle school and some days were very difficult for her. When you are hurting, it it sometimes hard to see that a lot of people around you are hurting, as well, and Beth spent a lot of time hurting, stuck in her own head.
Luckily, most kids start to grow out of these nervous behaviors by the time high school begins, and Beth had a very enjoyable four years of high school! Instead of organizing games, she was now organizing dances and parties and group outings with all of her friends. Sometimes, people would still disagree, but, by now, a very interesting thing had happened: a phenomenon called maturity. People could usually resolve their differences by talking with each other and coming up with solutions that worked for everybody. It was not always easy, but it was so much better than it had been in grade school and middle school.
By the time Beth was ready to graduate from high school and go off to college, another wonderful thing had happened to her: she had met the boy who she would someday marry and, with whom she would have children! They spent a few years getting to know each other and learning really interesting things at college, then they got married!
During all of those years from the time Beth was born until she had her first baby, she did SO many interesting and cool things: travel, act in plays, learn to cook and bake, vote for presidents, learn more and more about God, drive a car, wear makeup, grocery shop for herself, have lots of fun jobs, and much more!
If you had asked 8-year-old Beth if she thought she would have done all those things by the time she was a grown-up, she would have giggled at your silliness and said, 'I don't know! I'm only 8!'. But, there it was. Those were the facts. Beth had been a real kid with real feelings and real problems and real adventures all before she became a mom.
The secret that Beth-the-Mom liked to think about was this: her kids had no idea that she had been Beth the Kid, Beth the Teenager, Beth the Worker, Beth the Girlfriend, and Beth the Wife all BEFORE they had ever been born! It made Beth the Mom smile to herself sometimes."

At this point, my very aware daughter asked, "Mom, is this story about you? Are you 'Beth'?"

I could not resist, I had to give her a dose of her own medicine and just shrug my shoulders and say, "I don't know.". But, my story had piqued her interest and she said, "Well, I'm asking Dad when he comes home!".

Beth the Mom just smiled to herself.....

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Kid's a Genius!

Yes, he must be a genius! What else could he be?

My second-born son just turned 11 years old this week, and every day he lets us know exactly how much more he knows than anyone else in the world.

Obscure facts about any member of the animal kingdom? He knows all of them. I'm sorry, did you just try to correct him? Don't bother, because he is always right. Always.

The best way to fix a broken appliance? I am so relieved that I do not have to call a repairman, because our son can just talk my husband through the job. Are you questioning his knowledge of electrical systems? Please refrain from doing that as he is always right. Always.

One of his younger brothers is not pulling his fair share of cleaning up their bedroom? After my second-born reads his brother the riot act, he then proceeds to let me know how I am screwing up in my discipline methods. Did I correct him? You betcha! He got to stew in his self-righteousness and in the bathroom for 3o minutes. But, he's still always right. Always.

My sweet boy has always had very good self-esteem and self-confidence. I wish I could pat myself on the back for that, but I think it was an inherited trait (I am looking every which way but the mirror...). Up until lately, his self-proclaimed infallibility has been an annoyance to his siblings and a reason for my husband and I to chuckle behind his back. But, I am becoming more and more aware that we need to nip this attitude in the bud... well, maybe it's already bloomed a bit.

After some brainstorming, my husband and I have come up with several ideas (please keep in mind that we took the "Malcolm in the Middle" parenting class)...

Idea #1: The basic "writing lines" discipline. "I will not put myself above my parents. I will not put myself above my parents". The problem with this is it's inherent non-creativeness and ultimate ineffectiveness.

Idea #2: For every "fact" he produces, he must also produce four pages of proof, double-spaced, complete with a bibliography. The problem with this is very apparent... I have no desire to correct homework.

Idea #3: So, he likes thinking he always knows the best method of doing something? That is wonderful news, because I have a good-sized bag of dirty cloth diapers just waiting to be rinsed and laundered. I think we're getting closer to a solution.

Idea #4: That dear boy is fairly certain that we, his parents, do not really have a handle on this parenting-thing (thank goodness, they have ONE perfect child!). But, in order to be certain, we should really run our methods by the "resident expert", don't you think? So, every time he lets us know that another sibling is misbehaving, his father and I will give him the consequence his sibling deserves. After all, we should not waste our time giving a child an ineffective consequence, and our second-born can let us know if we are "making the right choices".

Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner, folks! Just wait until that kid gives me another "lesson"!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thinking "Summer"....

It has been one of the longest winters in my memory. I know that the calendar indicates that it is Spring, but here in the Midwest we have been mired in cold, miserable, rainy/snowy/icy, cloudy, and dreary weather since November. It is truly a mark of how awful it has been when people visibly perk up after hearing a forecast of "Sunny and 45 degrees".

So, I have been trying to fool myself into thinking that Spring has sprung with a few different "tricks":
- when the sun does make an appearance, I sit in the sunniest place in the house and absorb
as much vitamin D as I can.
- buy potted Spring flowering plants which are highly aromatic (i.e. hyacinths, Easter lilies)
- wear shorts and capris around the house.
- grill Spring/Summer-type foods, such as shish-kekabs, as much as possible.
- plan my vegetable garden
- try to relish the earlier sunrises and later sunsets
- welcome the sounds of early birds chirping at ungodly hours
- buy the kids' swimsuits

Has it worked? Is my brain moved over into "warm weather mode"?
Um, partially....

I am pretty excited about my summer veggie garden and even have plans for canning and preserving all the produce I will grow. And, the house sure does smell fresh and pretty with all the spring flowers I have purchased.

However, the days of sun have been few and far between, so it's been hard to convince my brain to produce more serotonin, thereby improving my mood. And, while I enjoy eating dinner while it is still daylight, I am not a morning person, so the earlier sunrises are really lost on me.

For the last three years, Spring has become a very difficult time of year for me. Early Spring of 2006 is when our baby girl passed away, so instead of the sights and smells heralding new life, they are fraught with sorrow. This latest Spring has been the worst, and it took me completely by surprise. Maybe it was because my youngest (the baby that was born after we lost our daughter) is a big toddler now, and I don't have a little baby to absorb some of my attention. Maybe it's because I'm not pregnant, and I don't have that event to look forward to in the near future. Both of these things were very much present the last two anniversaries of our daughter's death. But, I think the continuing dreary weather is playing a huge role in my almost-constant battle with the blues this Spring.

In fact, in the last few days the sun has been more visible and I already feel more positive; more like my old self. (Of course, my old self would have never have admitted to feeling depressed!) It has really caused me to think about how the weather affects us emotionally. Most of us have heard of people who have been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and how they fare much worse in colder, darker climates; depression, anger, and, even suicide are the hallmarks of this disorder. Forms of light-therapy seem to improve the symptoms associated with SAD, and I am beginning to understand (on a much smaller scale) how people with the disorder must feel. They are literally prisoners of the weather!

Weather and climate affect us all physically and emotionally, and there is nothing we can do to change the weather. Oh sure, maybe some of us can move to better climates or try different forms of therapy to combat the effects of weather. But, overall, weather is everywhere, it's inescapable.

For now, I'm trying to roll with the punches and enjoy each day as it comes. Prayer is a constant companion for me, and my husband has been beyond supportive and understanding during this Spring. I am also trying to force myself to smile more, because I have noticed that even a forced smile soon becomes a real smile, and my mood improves! My kids also provide endless opportunities for me to experience laughter and gratefulness; I knew there was a reason I kept those kids around!

As for the weather, well, it's bound to improve at some point. Of course, when that first 90 degree temperature hits, I am sure to complain about that kind of weather, too!!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

My son, the Tyrannosaurus Rex!

If you have ever seen the movie "Jurassic Park" (or read the book that it was based on), then you will surely remember the T-Rex. The animal was described as not-too-bright, extremely aggressive, very fast, and could only see what moved. So, if a character stood perfectly still right in front of the dinosaur, he stood a better chance of surviving than if he ran away, screaming.

My almost-21-month-old son is very similar to that dino. While he differs in some ways (extremely intelligent and very cuddly!), he is lightening-fast and does not seem to notice my existence if I hide myself in a small corner. If I move, even to stretch my cramped legs, it's as if alarms and flares go off and he is on me like a fly on honey. Also, he won't let go.... at all.

Just like his dinosaur counterpart, he will eagerly follow me into the bathroom; although, the comparison stops at the part where the dino eats his prey.

I have spent many a road trip turned sideways in the front passenger seat, pressed tightly against the door, in an effort to make my toddler forget my existence. I can't tell you the relief my back and neck feel when he finally falls asleep in his car-seat!

"Prey"....hmmmmm.... That is a very appropriate word to describe how I feel on some days. I am being hunted by small, sticky, loud, demanding "hunters". If I can quietly sneak off to another room (the laundry room or the bathroom in the basement are 2 prime choices), without my hunters detecting me, I am safe for 5 to 10 minutes. Once they root me out with their stellar tracking abilities, the hunt is on! I have only recently decided that this game must be fun for them. Otherwise, why would they have honed their abilities so sharply?

And, I decided even more recently, that "the hunt" can be fun for me, too! I like trying to outwit my hunters. And, the "punishment" for being rooted out is a really big smile and a loud "Mommy!", followed by a huge hug. And, really, all I need is a couple of 10-minute breaks every day; I'm not looking to escape any of my kids forever.

So, the next time you want to watch a good documentary on a-day-in-the-life-of-a-toddler, try watching "Jurassic Park". Keep a notebook handy so you can jot down any comparisons between your child and the dinosaurs in the movie --- and, so you can take a few notes on how to expertly evade these darling predators.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Random Thoughts.....

Sometimes, right before I fall asleep or while I'm in the shower, a series of random thoughts run through my brain. I'm sure it's because my body is at rest/relaxing, and my mind is free to focus on other things. There have been days where I wished I could turn some of these random thoughts into posts for this blog, but there wasn't enough material to make for an interesting post.

Yesterday, one of my random thoughts was this: why can't I turn all those, seemingly disconnected, thoughts into one post; sort of lump them all together? The answer, of course, is I CAN!

So, without further ado, here are my random thoughts (obviously, in no particular order!)...

1) Why do most people in the Western Hemisphere seem to measure everybody by their financial worth and financial intelligence?

a) If you asked most people if finances were a good yardstick for deciding if someone would
make a good friend or spouse, I'm sure they would say, "Of course not!"
b) If you asked most parents if they loved their children because they had the potential
to earn a good living, they would look at you like you were crazy.
c) If you asked any God-fearing person if he/she thought God would check his/her credit
score before allowing him/her through the Pearly Gates, the answer would be a
resounding "no!".
Unfortunately, our society measures ALL things with that financial yardstick, and because we
are human, we integrate that into our personalities. What I mean to say is, we begin to believe the financial hype (or, lack thereof) about ourselves and others: "I must not be a very good person, if I can't pay my bills/don't make enough money/don't drive a new car", and conversely, "I am better than so-and-so because my mortgage payment is always on time and I invest wisely".
But, you and I, dear Reader, know the Truth, don't we? We don't want a friend whose best character traits are balancing a checkbook, a credit score of 750, and 6 months worth of salary in the bank? NO, we do not! (Shake your head with me!)

2) Why does it take 3 months of careful eating and exercise to lose 14.8 pounds (my weight loss total, to date!), but eating 1 candy bar in one week results in a 2 pound weight gain?

a) I'll get back to you on this one.....

3) If I buy one of my kids 12 pairs of socks on Tuesday, and by Friday he claims he can only find
5 socks (that's 2.5 pairs) that all have holes, where am I going wrong?

a) Should I not be buying this child any socks at all?
b) Should I force him to carry a mesh bag around his neck at all times, so that he can place his
dirty socks in it and then throw the bag into the wash on laundry day?

4) Can a mom of a large-ish family find the time to learn a new language?

a) I'd like to learn French; it's such a pretty language and I never learned Spanish properly
in school, so it would be nice to "have a language".
b) Do I even have time to take a class and complete the homework?
c) More importantly, do I even want homework?
d) Are those Learn in Your Car Cd's at the library capable of really teaching me?
e) Am I ever truly going to go to France? Or, will I just end up sounding really snooty when I
order my lunch at the local Panera ("Oui, I'd like a turkey CWA-SAHN with some Brie")?

5) Is it normal to get fed up so easily with other people's behavior?

a) Yes, it bothers me when people use "supposably" as if it's a real word. Instead of correcting
them (which I feel would be rude) on things such as this, I tolerate it (sometimes for years)
until I have to take a "vacation" from that person for a while.
b) Does this make me cranky? Probably. But, if that bothers people, they are free to take a
"vacation" from me, as well.
c) Apparently, some people have tried giving me the silent treatment in the past, and
after some length of time has passed, ended up telling me that they weren't speaking
to me because I hadn't noticed. (this includes one of my children who sulked in the
bathroom for 2 hours without my noticing it).

6) Am I the only person on the planet who believes that her biggest job as a mother is NOT to make sure her children are happy?

a) Do I want them to be happy? SURE! But, that can't be how I choose to make decisions
regarding their lifestyles.
b) I have friends (or, at least I did before they read Random Thought #5!), I am not
interested in being my children's friends. This does not mean I am not kind to them, or
that I do not enjoy joking around with them. It simply means that I am able to enforce
rules without being afraid that they'll "hate me for it".
c) It costs a lot of money to be my kids' friend. It's a lot cheaper to be their mom (and that's
still pretty expensive!).

7) Why does the lady at the dry cleaners always say that I must be rich because I have "so many kids"?

a) Um, HELLO, my lack of wealth is precisely because I do have "so many kids".
b) My husband and I didn't say, "Let's win the Lottery, THEN have lots of kids!"
c) Shoot! I forgot to buy a Lottery ticket!

So, these are some of the thoughts that pop into my head during my "quiet time". Most of the time, they don't really lead anywhere. Some of the time, they make me more upset than I needed to be. And, the rest of the time I actually solve a problem.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Wearing of the Green

Yup. We're Irish. Some of us are more Irish than others; I'm 75%, my husband is 50%, so that makes our kids 62.5% (they like to point out that they are more Irish than their father!). Most of our kids have Irish first &/or middle names, and we all have an Irish surname. And, we're Catholic. (Spare me your inane Irish-Catholic-Big-Families jokes. I've heard them all.)

So, yes, St. Patrick's Day is a big deal for us. Maybe not as big of deal as Christmas, but pretty big. We decorate our house. We have a large stockpile of Irish-themed/green clothing that gets put to extra use on March 17th (we are guilty of wearing it all year long, though!). We plan on eating corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes at a minimum of 2 meals in mid-March. Our Guinness supply, which is always on hand, is stepped up a notch in March. All of my kids' teachers know that our family will supply their classes with Irish Soda Bread in honor of the Sainted Man's Feast Day, while my mother will make a small presentation about Patrick in each class. And, my husband proudly trots out his polyester shamrock tie every year (I think he secretly loves wearing that thing!).

Over the years, as our family has grown, some of the traditions have changed, though. My husband and I no longer drag ourselves, or our children, to the St. Patrick's Day Parade; since we have to be responsible for little ones, we can no longer keep ourselves warm in the 20-degree temperatures with mass quantities of beer. We don't host/attend crazy 24-hour debaucheries in the name of proving that we're worthy of our heritage (once you have more than 4 kids, you've proven that in another way!).

However, some traditions still continue: I still make my Bailey's Irish Cream Cake, I still wear the Celtic Cross pin my husband gave me for our 1st St. Patrick's Day, we listen to Irish music all day long, we eat Irish Soda Bread at every meal on March 17th, we still tell the kids the story of how St. Patrick used the shamrock as a way to explain the Holy Trinity and how he drove out the snakes from Ireland, we still gather at my parents' house for dinner, and, after the kids go to bed, my husband and I cuddle up on the couch to watch The Quiet Man (can you guess who I was named for?).

I like it. I like that we can proudly display our heritage. I like that my kids can see that they have a rich (albeit somewhat checkered!) ancestry that can be traced back for thousands of years. I like that feeling of camaraderie with my fellow Gaels. I like that it's another reason for our family to spend time together. And, I like that we display our pride in the clothes we wear on that day.

I even like that darn polyester shamrock tie my husband wears; but, don't tell him that!

Monday, March 9, 2009

So help me.......

Remember when you were 7 years old and you kept pestering your mother while she was chatting on the phone?
What was her reaction?
Well, if she was at all similar to most mothers, she probably snapped her fingers in an angry manner in order to focus your attention, and then she shook her fist at you. That, of course, was followed by a tinkling bout of laughter at whatever her phone-friend was saying to her.

This behavior also bears some resemblance to another kind of "mom episode", where the doorbell is ringing and you and your brother are in the fight of your lives on the living room floor. On her way to answer the door, your mother stoops very low to both of you, hisses out a warning (it's very colorful verbiage hints at some glorious punishment, as well), then opens the door with a supermodel smile and a "well, HELLO there!".

Did your mom have a split personality? Maybe, but I don't think so. There is a much simpler explanation, that only a mother would understand.

Your mother's insane behavior was fueled entirely by YOU. Yep, YOU and YOUR SIBLINGS (if any), are 100% responsible for your mother's trips to Crazyland.

How do I know this?
Because, I am that mother.
I have been to Crazyland and it's not a nice place.

I have the not-so-unique perspective of most mothers: I have been that pestering child and I have been that hissing mother. So, I can confidently speak to both positions.

CHILD: "What the HECK?!? Mom is wigging out AGAIN? All I want is an answer on whether or not she is signing me up for bow-hunting lessons. I just need to know when that is going to happen, and if I can practice in the basement, and if it's OK to shoot out all our windows, and if it's OK to blindfold my younger sister and shoot at the feather she is holding above her head. Hello, MOM? Can you just answer this question really quickly RIGHT AWAY? Geez!"

MOTHER: "What the HECK?!? Is my child really doing this AGAIN? Did I not make myself expressly clear the last 17 times he tried this while I was talking on the phone? Does some kind of 'Alarm for Idiotic Questions' go off when I pick up this phone? This kid cannot be for real. Does he have a hidden camera somewhere, recording all of this for a TV show? Hey, kid, I'm gonna lose it in about 5 seconds! Warning! Exploding Mommy-Head!"

Accurate on both sides?
While I have you agreeing with me, keep on nodding your head to show your solidarity with mothers everywhere. These kids are nuts, right? Any mother has a right to lose her mind under these harsh conditions, correct?
Can I get an "AMEN"?

As a child, you think you are being completely reasonable and cannot understand why your behavior would bother your mother, in the least. However, there is some part of your subconscious which switches into "annoying-kid-high-gear" whenever the phone starts ringing.

But, even an adult with a semi-functioning brain can see that trying to maintain a conversation with someone, while trying to field ridiculous requests from munchkins is highly frustrating and nearly impossible. And, just like your child, a certain part of your subconscious goes into "defensive-pity-me/aggressive-take-away-TV-privileges" mode when you hear the phone ring.

So, who wins? I'd like to say that no one wins. But, that wouldn't be truthful (and the Good Lord knows that all I have left to me is my honesty).

Approximately, 79% of the time, the kid (or kids) win. Annoying behavior will almost always get you something; even if it's a "buy-off prize", such as a popsicle (plug up that noisemaker with some sugar!).

The other 21% of the time? It's a toss-up. Sometimes, mothers will win: the child will actually fall silent and wait. The rest of the time no one claims victory: both parties end up in angry tears.

Solution? Yeah, right. Like I have any answers!
So far, what I have done is NEVER announce that I will be making/receiving a phone call, then hide myself in a closet when I do have to use the phone.

The one bright spot? (Cue Maniacal Laughter)
Already I am realizing just how much fun it is to interrupt my teenager while he's on the phone, or speaking in person to his friends. ("Mom, please. I'll be done in a minute!").

And, Crazyland? Well, I plan to be here for a while. Tomorrow, I'm having a recliner delivered here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A VERY Necessary Addendum!

I was just catching up on my blog reading, when I realized that I had been chosen as one of someone's 5 favorite blogs to read! (
Yay, and THANK YOU, Stacey; I love YOUR blog and am always excited when you post! Now, I guess I'm supposed to choose my fave 5 blogs, but that will have to wait for a time when my eyes can stay open.......

Only because I feel like it.....

I'm sure this is probably true of most people, but it just hit me the other day: I can be really good at things if I decide to be good at them. Could explain a large portion of my high school years.
Not exactly an epiphany, I know, but it struck me in the middle of cleaning the bathroom.
There I was scrubbing the yucky crevice where the toilet meets the floor and I was grumbling at how the cleaning service (don't judge me!) who comes every other week seems to always miss this spot.
"I mean, how hard is it to take 2 extra minutes and just scrub this? It makes all the difference and they just won't do it! Look at me! It's taken me all of 45 seconds to scrub it out and it looks brand new! Why WON'T they do that?" Grrr......
Then, it hit me: I'm good at it because I have a vested interest in keeping my house clean. I do a good job at cleaning because I want to do a good job.

So, of course, I continued onto the rest of the bathroom and while my hands worked my mind carried on with this train of thought....

When my husband and I got married at a comparatively young age (almost 21 and 20! gasp!), and then proceeded to have children right away, I am sure people wondered if we could hack it as a couple and as parents.
I didn't.
Not once.

Marrying my husband and having kids was exactly what I wanted. I couldn't wait to be good at it. I was the person in pre-Cana class and, then, in childbirth class who annoys everyone else with her copious note-taking and question-asking. I wasn't going to leave any stone unturned. I was going to try my hardest at being the best wife and mother possible.

It's the same when I try a new recipe or make a new friend. I really want to make that beef stew perfectly. I absolutely have to make my new friend comfortable and happy in my presence.

But, present me with a challenge that doesn't interest me and I'm a completely different person (hence, 5th grade math class issues!). For example, I wanted to take up knitting as a hobby. It's not that I don't understand the mechanics involved, or that I'm afraid I won't be able to produce a recognizable item. It was simply this: when I thought about it, it seemed pointless. I barely have enough time in my day to complete household tasks, care for kids, volunteer at school, and have a 5 minute conversation with my husband. When am I going to find time to knit a blanket, and why? Target has lots of blankets on Clearance all the time!

I think the answer to my own "issues" with my "thwarted perfectionism" is to really try to be good at all the things that come my way. Even the things that are boring, or truly repulsive (i.e. folding and putting away laundry).

So, how do I factor in this blog? Easy! This is my S.O.S., my one cry for help! This blog allows me to say, "Hey! Here I am! I'm not completely crazy, just really distracted! I share a lot of the same feelings everyone else has! Hear me out before you judge me!"

OK, now I'm off to attack that basket of clean laundry that I have been trying to ignore for 2 days......

Monday, February 9, 2009

Another quick update.....

Five weeks into my latest Weight Watchers Adventure, I have lost 9 1/2 pounds and have ceased to feel too crabby about the calorie reduction. I'm at that point in the program where I can actually discern *real* hunger from *stress* hunger, and I also feel fuller sooner. All good things, so I feel encouraged to keep trucking along!

More later.........

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Oh, yes, I AM a list-maker!

If you don't believe me, just ask my family.
Shopping lists, to-do lists, invitation lists, what-to-pack lists, you-name-it! If there is any possible way to make a list for something, I will make one (sometimes, TWO lists!). One time, I even made a list of lists I should make (I am not joking at all).

Lately, my "addiction" --- I'll call it "Facebook" --- is all about making lists. Lists of 25 things about yourself, lists of iPod songs, etc. For a couple days, my two favorite things to do were combined into one, attention-absorbing thing! Needless to say, I was a little distracted during that time.

However, it got me to thinking: I cannot be the only person in the world who likes to make lists. Hardly a revelation, but it was not something I had ever thought about before. I know my husband finds it highly amusing, slightly endearing, and a bit annoying that I make lists (especially when I make lists for him!). I know my kids roll their eyes behind their backs when they walk into our kitchen and see a new chore list on the Infamous Dry-Erase Board. And, I definitely am aware of how annoying it is for the cashiers at the grocery stores to wait for me to sift through my purse-ful of old lists looking for my wallet.

You can call it a way of trying to stay in control.
You can say it's because I'm a firstborn (we're very Type A people).
You can even say it's a warped way of "getting back" at people who find list-making aggravating.

But, I can't seem to stop. I like it.

I think making lists gives me some clarity and perspective on certain issues; hence, my many Pro-Con Lists. If I can't make a decision on what color to paint the living room, I'll whittle my choices down to two or three colors, then make Pro-Con Lists for each color. The one with the most Pros is the winner!

I also find that list-making keeps me somewhat organized. When we are planning a weekend trip for the family, the first thing I do is whip out my notepad and make lists for each child, so that he/she will know what to pack. If we are staying anywhere besides our lake house, I also pack the lists so that we can make sure we bring home all our clothes.

List-making helps me to plan things like parties or small home-improvement projects. For parties, I begin by making a list of people to invite, which serves two other purposes: letting me know how many invitations to purchase and an RSVP list. I also make lists of foods I will be serving, decorations needed, and pick-up/delivery times for purchased and catered foods. If gifts are given, then I make a list of which person gave what gift so that I can send out Thank You notes.

Making lists may seem a little Obsessive-Compulsive to some people (mostly the people I live with!), but it makes me feel like I can see the "bigger picture" and stay on top of some of the details that would, otherwise, be overlooked.

So, now, I am interested in knowing what "quirks" all of you rely on to keep you feeling "in order"!

Hmmmmm.... Maybe I should make a list of them?