Just one more week! We've been enjoying the season here. Monday night we went out to dinner for Family Home Evening, then we did some shopping for other families in need. The kids had donated generously of their own meager allowances to the Christmas fund so we could do it.
As part of Family Home Evening, we talked about why we expect our kids to be well-behaved at restaurants and in public. I said that they are representing our family and our values and also talked about how many people think children are a bother and that families shouldn't have very many of them. "If a small family has two kids acting wild, people look at them and think, 'Look at those rotten kids,'" I pointed out. "But if a large family has two of their kids acting up, then people look and think, 'they have too many kids.' It's not fair, but it happens." We also talked about how we could respond when people ask us questions about our family, as some in the restaurant had, and our responsibility to be good examples of our family and our beliefs.
I shared the Savior's words in Matthew 5: "Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven." We talked about how silly it would be to light a candle so you could see and then put it underneath a basket. The lesson went well and we had a wonderful time helping choose presents for other people.
Later, I was thinking about how blessed our family has been lately, and not in a financial sense. We have so many blessings, seen and unseen. Perhaps it's just the contrast between the two wild toddlers we had when the twins were younger and the calm, easy toddlers we have now, or maybe it's the influence of our older kids, but I am really enjoying the stage our family is at right now. Our children are good friends and rarely fight. They share and work hard and we enjoy time spent as a family. Our older children are becoming really responsible and reliable and I love interacting with these little people.
I've gotten lots of compliments lately on how "good" my children are, which at first surprised me, but then I realized at this point, they really are good. Sure, we have our squabbles and our misbehavior, but by and large, our children are kind and loving and respectful.
I especially love watching how good the twins are to each other (especially when I contrast it with how absolutely horrid they were to each other a few years ago!). The other day I took the four little girls to the grocery store, where the car cart only seats two. Allison and Eliza hopped in, but when Sarah expressed dismay about it, Allison hopped right out and said, "you can have the first turn!" Then she turned to me and said, "Know why I gave Sarah the first turn? Because I'm trying to be like Jesus. That's why I'm being so good at school, too."
And she IS being good at school. Her teacher says she's amazed at how Allison sits quietly on the rug "like a first grader." Allison's full of exuberance and enthusiasm, so I know it takes her a lot of effort to do it, and I'm proud of her.
Sarah is also unselfish. There was a squabble a few days ago over who was going to wear which new pajamas to school on pajama day. Sarah had been ready first, so she'd chosen the polka dotted pair and put them on, but when Allison started to pout about having to wear the pink pair, Sarah took off the polka dots and handed them over.
And the older kids have been so fun to watch during this Christmas season. Lillian's used virtually all of her money to buy presents for each of her siblings, not just her "Secret Buddy." And there's been lots of sneaking around and secret-keeping around here.
A few weeks ago, DH put a couple of CD players in our prize basket, worth 30 tickets each. Lillian was really excited about earning enough tickets for one and was just short a few tickets when Michael and Joey started pooling their tickets to buy it too. I was worried about who would earn it first and about the selfishness I thought the kids were showing, when Joey came and whispered in my ear, "I'm sharing my tickets with Michael because he wants to give it to Lillian for Christmas." Michael did indeed get ahold of 30 tickets before Lillian, and he bought the CD player. She was not happy, but I think she'll change her tune in about a week (get it, change her tune? Oh wow, I'm so witty ;P ).
I said to some friends last week that one thing that always amazes me is how quickly things can change in a family, especially in regards to problem behaviors in children. I've made a habit of recording my concerns and worries in my journal twice a year, usually around conference time. The other day I was reading through what I wrote down in April. Of the eight or nine major worries, only a few of them are still concerns today. Things improve, sometimes just simply with maturity and patience, and sometimes miraculously.
For instance, one thing I worried about greatly in the winter and spring was Michael's reading. He was struggling so much with it and I just could not find the extra time to devote to intervention. I felt like a failure as his reading continued to be extremely slow and labored, berating myself for not giving him more of my time and efforts in this area. I prayed about what to do and felt some of the worry subside, and felt greater patience in the place of anxiety. Over the course of several months, Michael's reading improved dramatically. He still wasn't up to grade level by the end of first grade, but he had improved so much his teachers were amazed. The reason for the difference? Joey, who I had confided my concerns to, had begun inviting Michael down to the bottom bunk of their bed each night to read together. His loving service had answered my prayers and brought a greater bond between brothers.
I still had some worries about Michael's reading, but now, eight months later, he has caught up and even surpassed some of his peers. He's in second grade and he's finally reading for enjoyment, mostly Magic Tree House chapter books.
I guess this post has been pretty random, so I'll keep up with that trend and end on a few other notes about our lives:
* I'm now halfway through my pregnancy! I'll be 20 weeks on Sunday and my ultrasound is scheduled for Tuesday. I'm still 95% sure it's a boy, but I'll be just as thrilled with a girl.
* I've felt the baby move a few times now. That is such an amazing experience, and one I look forward to enjoying many more months.
* I'm so tired of being tired! I just cannot get a good night's rest anymore. I toss and turn and wake with vivid, weird dreams every single night (last night, we were walking through a house we'd just built that was much smaller than our current one. We were all excited about moving, but then halfway through, I said, "Wait, we just BUILT a house," and the rest of the dream was deciding which house to keep and which house to move into). I've been blessed with some nourishing naps during the day, though, and that helps. And compared to how rotten I felt even a month ago, I'll put up with stupid dreams any day.
* The morning sickness and nausea have finally subsided, slowly diminishing until they were all gone at around 18 weeks.
* I'm still running about three days a week, though not as intense as I used to be. Partly that's because I just don't like running on a treadmill, even if I can read a magazine or watch a video while I do it. I'm tired of winter already. But still, this morning, I ran two miles straight. It felt good.
* DH instituted a new tradition a few nights ago called the Ten Days of Christmas. We brainstormed a few books to read and treats to eat and now we meet each night before bed to celebrate Christmas with a treat and a story. We're nearly done with The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, which is my favorite read-aloud Christmas book ever (the movie is also good). It's humorous and fun, but has a great message about the transforming power of the story of Christ's birth. DH wants to read A Christmas Carol next.
* We're going caroling on Monday. The kids know more songs than I expected.
* I've been sorting through and organizing all our photos for the year. I label all the ones with Sarah and Allison in them so we'll always know who is who. I was given that advice when the twins were babies. I thought sometimes it seemed like a waste of time because it was so easy for me to always know who was who in a photo, but it's amazing how that changes after a few years. While I can easily tell in any recent picture who is who, I will look at their baby and toddler photos and need to see my labels to remember in some of them. All this to say, if you have identical twins you can easily tell apart, please, still, label their pictures!
* I also take the best photos from each month and put them in a separate folder in our "Favorite Pictures 2009" folder. It helps me quickly use the best ones when I do our books. It was so fun to remember all the great and small events of the year. And you know what else? I've got really cute kids. Don't you agree?