Saturday, February 28, 2009

Darn this economy stinks! ... and why I love my brother

Lay-offs seem to be going around right now the way colds do in the winter.

Case in point: My older brother Nathan, a brilliant computer scientist with a master's degree and a lot of experience, sent us an email yesterday letting us know of some changes in his life:

Due to some severe downsizing at the Vancouver Site, I will not be at my present job with HP after March 27th. They've offered me a brief period to look for scarce job opportunities within HP, plus an open ended period (as long as I want!) to look for opportunities elsewhere.

It is early to say what or where the next, exciting phase of my career will consist of. I am still largely in the laborious resume revision and other paperwork stage. I will attempt to gain some time by skipping the shock-denial-anger phase, philosophical life reasessment phase, and the self esteem teardown / rebuild phase. Thanks to all family members for their fine examples in handling life's big changes.

My brother is an eternal optimist and can find humor even in life's toughest moments. I really admire that about him.

This darn economy touches us all, doesn't it?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

About Joey




Joseph
Age:
8

Hobbies & Interests:
comics, inventions, piano, scouts, exploring, reading, science, rocks, outdoors

Most Likely to:
* Draw comic pages and invention ideas
* Explore the woods
* Ride his bike like a maniac
* Draw pictures for his siblings
* Be kind to Eliza and Harmony
* Argue about jobs he's asked to do
* Give his mom sincere hugs and appreciation
* Apologize sincerely when he's been in the wrong (but not until several hours later)
* Be polite and respectful to his teachers and leaders
* Conquer the world with his determination and stubbornness

Least likely to:
* clean his room
* remember what he's asked to do several minutes later
* clean out his backpack
* get in trouble at school
* refuse to eat something (he's our best, most adventurous eater!)
* complain about being tired, even on hikes and adventures

Sometimes gets in trouble for:
* fighting with Michael
* arguing
* talking back, especially about chores
* procrastinating chores or doing a half job


Likely Future Career:

Paleontologist
Geologist
Biologist
Attorney
Business Owner
All of the above put together?

My favorite things about Joseph:
* Joseph is an absolute joy to take on vacation. He loves to explore the world and learn everything about it. He's curious and interested, and therefore, always interesting.
* Joey loves to learn.
* Joseph's teachers love him. He's polite and always thanks them for what they do for him.
* Joey is very honest and is a good sport.
* Joey really loves me and expresses it through hugs and thank yous.
* Joey is a very tender and loving big brother. He adores Eliza and Harmony and loves reading to the twins and Michael.
* He is very creative and is always up for an adventure.

Monday, February 23, 2009

I have six other kids, you know . . . (about Lillian)

It's fun to go to the library and meet other moms. Usually, the twins are at preschool when I go, so I have just Harmony and Eliza with me. I'll be visiting with another mom when she'll say something like, "So you just have two girls?" and I'll say, "No, I have five girls . . . " then I'll pause while their jaw drops a bit, and I'll add, ". . . and two boys."

I realized that most pictures I've posted lately have been of Harmony. Did you know I have six other kids? Want to know more about them? I thought I'd post a little bit about each of them, starting with Lillian:

Lillian


Age:
Almost 10

Hobbies & Interests:
Piano, Violin, Travel, Cooking, Reading

Most Likely to:
* be responsible with anything and everything,
* keep her room neat
* help without being asked
* insist on pushing the stroller when we're out for a walk
* save her money
* be the best babysitter on the planet
* be a peacemaker

Least likely to:
* Procrastinate
* Forget to finish homework, practice piano or violin
* Get to school late
* be found coloring

Sometimes gets in trouble for:
* being bossy with her siblings
*being impatient
* panicking over things not being perfect
* freaking out about small things


Likely Future Career:

Music Teacher
Mother
Anything she puts her mind to

My favorite things about Lillian:
* She is absolutely responsible with anything I ask her to do. She almost never has to be reminded about her chores.
* She loves to cook.
* She's kind and loving, and fun to be with.
* She likes to do puzzles with me.
* She's got a great sense of humor.
* She's wonderful with her brothers and sisters.
* She is eager to help. She loves reading to the twins, and holding Harmony.

***
Want to play along? Introduce each of your kids along with the description "Age:" "Hobbies:" "Most likely to:" "Least Likely to:" "Sometimes Gets in Trouble For" "Likely Future Career" and "My favorite things about _______" Let me know when you've posted so I can read about your kids, too!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Large Family Critics

I wasn't going to say anything about the controversy raging right now over "Octumom" -- you know, the woman in California who had 6 children via in vitro, then went back for more and had 8, all born amazingly healthy at 30 1/2 weeks. Carrying 8 babies that long in a pregnancy is an outright miracle, and their delivery was hailed, rightly, as an amazing act of modern science and medicine.

But then the focus turned to the mother of these 8 babies and as more details emerged, the news articles and blogosphere was raging, and not in a positive way. I watched the interviews with the mom and almost felt sorry for her. I think she was deluded enough to think that she'd be famous -- the next "Jon and Kate Plus Eight" only this time called "Super Single Mom of Fourteen." She didn't seem to "get" that people weren't going to hail her as a hero for having optional procedures to get pregnant when she was an unemployed single mother using food stamps, barely able to take care of the six children she already had.

I'm not inclined to defend Nadya. To be honest, I think she's a little crazy and probably looking for fame and fortune. I do feel sorry for her and I worry about how she will be able to care for her fourteen children.

What has bothered me is that the spotlight that has shined on Nadya has brought out comments and criticisms directed at all large families. I read one article that said it would cost “millions and millions” to raise that many children. Another article claimed that there just isn’t enough time in the day to nurture that many kids.

I’m not a fan of Nadya, but it’s not just because she ended up with fourteen children. I don’t think she was being wise to go back for even “just” a seventh when she wasn’t able to care for the first six and when she couldn’t provide her children with a father. Call me old-fashioned but I believe that children do best when they have both a mother and a father who love and care for them.

Sure, there are single mothers (and sometimes fathers) who do a great job, but usually they become single after they have their children, not before. They don't deliberately make a choice to have more children when they can't care for the ones they already have.

But while I don’t think it’s possible for Nadya to provide physically, financially, and emotionally for her 14 children, I do think that a mother and a father who are dedicated to their family can certainly take care of 10, 12, 14, or even more. I don’t think it takes “millions and millions” to do so, and I DO think there are plenty of hours in the day to meet all of their needs. Easy? No, but definitely possible.

I take my responsibility as a mother seriously. It's hard work, mentally, emotionally, and physically, to do all that is required to rear children in love and to teach them good principles. My faith teaches me that:

Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. "Children are an heritage of the Lord" (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. (The Family: A Proclamation to the World)

That's a huge undertaking! It takes a mom and a dad who are devoted and dedicated to their family to make it work. I've said it before, but I know very few large families who simply "pop out the kids" without serious thought and consideration for how they can care for and nurture them.

And that's why I'm a little frustrated that the criticism of Nadya has expanded to criticism of large families in general. I don't defend Nadya, but I will defend the many moms I know who have large families and raise them well.

One of the main criticisms I've seen leveled at large families is that it is wasteful of the Earth's resources to have so many children. Many of the comments after this article, for example, rage about how the average American baby uses up 40 times the resources of a baby in a third-world country and so therefore, it's irresponsible to have lots of them. I could argue a lot about carbon footprints, and whether global warming is caused by men or environmental factors, or even about whether global warming is the calamity that so many believe it is, but I'll leave those discussions to more scientific minds than mine. What I will say is that in most industrial countries, the birthrate is at or below replacement levels, and family size in general is shrinking so fast that the very few mothers with lots of children are hardly the energy-hogs we're made out to be. In fact, according to the 2006 census, just .5 percent of women ages 40 to 44 had more than seven children. 4 percent had 5 or more and 28 percent of women had three or more.

And while I disagree about the "wastefulness" of raising lots of children, this kind of censure also makes me laugh, because it seems that the large family critics want it both ways — they criticize large families for being excessive and wasting resources, and then they turn ariound and say that large families don’t do enough or provide enough for each of their children. I had someone tell me once that they knew a family who had too many kids because they couldn’t afford to let their kids play soccer. Now, if you can't afford food or shelter, or if emotionally you can't be patient with lots of children, then yes, you shouldn't continue to have children. But soccer lessons? I think that's an extra that a family can take or leave.

I think many critics look through a very Western perspective when they criticize large families, especially in terms of “you can’t do enough for your kids if you have more than two or three.” In my opinion, parenting is about nurturing, about helping children read adulthood ready to contribute to society and people around them, not about how many “things” you can give your children.

We are fairly well-off, but we do without a lot of things because we prize other values, such as shared experiences on vacations and having a comfortable home, above things such as cable television, gaming systems, and expensive karate classes (and no, my kids don't do soccer, at least not for now). We read together as a family daily. We go swimming and wander the woods in the summer. We teach our children to be kind. We watch funny movies together. Time together as a family is valued and cherished.

If we looked at how families live and struggle throughout the whole world, we’d be a lot more able to put large families in context. We have so many resources and opportunities in this country for education and charitable acts. My children are taught to share and give and will likely grow up, earn good livings themselves, pay for an older generation’s social security, and contribute their time, money and efforts on behalf of those with less throughout the world.

We in this country have been abundantly blessed, and I believe because of that, we have a responsibility to help the rest of the world. I’m raising seven children to believe that whole-heartedly. What are the critics of large families doing to help the world’s very real problems?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Six Month Magic

Last week, Harmony started pulling up on small things, like our feet and her brother's toy bin. I thought, "hmmm, can I count this as pulling to a stand?"

Yesterday, Harmony did this:




I'm counting it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Housework Misery

Most moms I talk to hate laundry. The way it piles up, the way it's never done, the way it seems to multiply.

Me? I've never minded laundry much. I wash it all one day, let it pile up in baskets, then fold it the next. Folding laundry is about the only time I watch videos, so it's almost a treat to settle down for several hours and fold. I used to do all the laundry once a week, but the piles became too enormous and overwhelming, so now I wash on Mondays and Thursdays and fold on Tuesdays and Fridays. It always amazes me how many loads I can wash, though, even doing it twice a week. Yesterday, I folded 8 baskets of clothes. My thoughts started wandering towards speculating how much laundry there would be when we have six teenagers at home plus other children. I had to tell my mind to change the subject, as I began to feel a bit overwhelmed.



But while laundry is no big deal to me, what I really hate doing is cleaning my hard floors. I don't mind vacuuming, but mopping?

When we built our house, we put in a rather large kitchen area, with space for several tables when we have guests. We also put in lots of laminate flooring, which is fairly indestructible and fairly easy to clean. In addition to the kitchen, we have about five rooms with hard floors and over 1000 square feet of it. With seven messy kids wandering in and out, the floors get pretty dirty really quickly. I love everything about my big kitchen, until it comes time to clean the floors. I don't know why I hate it, but I do.

So what housework do you hate the most?

Friday, February 06, 2009

Me Me, the World's about Me

The title of this post comes from a song my sister used to sing when her children were being particularly selfish or self-centered. I sing it for my kids, too, but it doesn't seem to work.

So, you want to know more about me? Of course you do! My friend Wendy sent me some interview questions that I really enjoyed answering. (By the way, I tried to find a picture of me that didn't include at least one child without success.)


1. On your bad days, the ones where you get really frustrated, what do you do to help yourself unwind?

One thing that's been helping me lately is reading to the twins at night. They are finally old enough to understand chapter books instead of just picture stories, so I've been reading lots of Junie B. Jones stories to them. As I lie on one of their beds reading, they gather around and usually Joey and Michael and sometimes Lillian wander in the room to laugh and giggle and enjoy it too. It's so unifying to be there laughing over the funny voices I make, to get to the end of a chapter and have everyone beg for just one more.

Once the kids are in bed, then it's my time to relax. I like to read or go to my favorite online forums or search out news stories I'm interested in. About every six months or so, when I really need to get away, I escape to Barnes & Noble, where I scour the shelves for interesting titles, pick up half a dozen books, skim through a few of them, then settle in to read for an hour or so. Did I mention I read a lot?

We don't have TV, but we do check out DVDs from the library. We're allowed two non-fiction and two fiction, and while the fiction I choose is usually for the kids, I really enjoy the non-fiction. I watched one last week about building the Panama Canal and another about Yellow Fever. I recently watched The Sound and Fury and was perplexed at the choices made by two loving families about their deaf children.

And maybe it sounds trite, but I find solace and rest in studying the scriptures each evening before I go to bed. I've been reading Finding Peace, Joy and Happiness by Richard G. Scott lately, and while it's a heavy, dense read, I've grown a lot from the insights in the book. When I put my problems into the perspective of eternity, I find myself less frustrated and more content with the daily challenges. Ultimately, I know that what I am doing is important and valued, and I want to do it well. One of my biggest sources of frustration is my own failings and mistakes. I really want to be perfect and I'm not, plain and simple. But as I spend some time in quiet reflection, I find the strength to do better the next day.

2. What's the funnest thing you and your husband have done together?

Funnest? I don't know. I think all of our vacations as a family have been a blast. We pack our days full to overflowing -- what's not to like about Disneyland, Sea World, and various museums? I really loved our last Arizona trip over Christmas. Hiking the Petrified Forest with our children was a lot of fun.

Most adventurous was definitely our tenth anniversary two years ago, when DH's parents were in Armenia and generously paid for us to visit them. I'd never been outside the U.S. before, and traveling internationally was a thrill. We took our 6-year-old son Joey and our 6-month-old daughter Eliza with us. On our way home, we stopped in Paris for three days. We had a fabulous time.

Most amazing to me was how valued and appreciated a baby was, particularly in Armenia. Everywhere we went she was admired, adored, and cherished. Families there are very small because of limited income and opportunities, so babies are rare and precious. From the moment we got off the airplane in Armenia, we were overwhelmed with people who wanted to see Eliza. The security guard checking our passports called to all the others in his office to come and see the baby. Beautiful, wrinkled old women dressed in shawls would approach us, touch Eliza's toes and exclaim that she must be cold (they bundle their children up in three layers of clothes even in in the sunny spring!). Women passing us on the street would giggle and point at my husband who carried Eliza in a Baby Bjorn. At a restaurant, while I was holding Eliza and trying to eat, the waitress asked if she could hold her, then took her off to the kitchen to show the cooks! Everywhere we went, I was humbled by the realization that I was privileged to have what these people valued above measure -- a child.

3. What advantages and disadvantages are there to having twins?

Disadvantages for the parents -- there's nothing like having two-year-old twins, especially if you're blessed, as we were, with two very high-spirited, determined children. They both wanted the same toys, they both were prone to kick and scream and throw tantrums to get their way, and both tried us to our limit. There's also synergy with twins -- they put ideas together that most single toddlers wouldn't even think of or try. They feed off each other's most negative aspects and come up with astounding ways to destroy their mother's sanity.

The biggest disadvantage of twins, however, is the high-risk pregnancy. Thankfully, we were blessed to have healthy 38-weekers, but I know many who were not so lucky, and I read enough during my twin pregnancy to know all too well what could happen. Half of twins are born early and many are handicapped by prematurity. Many moms spend most of their pregnancy on bedrest, either at home or in the hospital. Sometimes one or both twins will die. When people tell me, "I always wanted twins" or "Oh, I wish I had twins," I don't think they are really aware of all the scary things that can happen with a twin pregnancy. The human body is not really designed to carry more than one baby. While I feel blessed to have healthy twins, and I wouldn't mind another set later on, I really don't think people should seek out twins.

Disadvantages for the children -- It is really tough when you're going through your toddler "Me Me Me" stage to have a twin who is going through her own "Me Me Me" stage. For identical twins like mine, there's also the problem of having people confuse you with your sister. There are also less playdates with people outside your family and I imagine as my girls go through their school years there will be issues of making friends outside your twinship and maybe even some jealousies between the girls about who is doing better in school or on a particular test or who got invited to what birthday party. Some twins (not mine, thankfully) also have issues of dependency, where they rely on the support of their twin to an unhealthy degree.

Advantages for the parents -- On a twins forum I visit, a lot of parents with just twins get annoyed by people who say, "I have kids x months apart so I know what you're going through." They get mad both because raising kids close in age is not like having twins and they get upset because they are convinced that raising twins is much, much harder than having kids close in age. I try to simply point out that both situations have lots in common -- both are difficult, frustrating, demanding, and very rewarding. Having done both, I can honestly say the hardest parenting I ever had was the time when my twins were about 18 months until they turned 3.

But truthfully, there are many ways in which raising twins is easier than having two kids close in age. They're both at the same level, so you can more easily sit them on your lap for a joint story (rather than nursing one while reading to her older sister). And there are some things that are simply assembly line functions -- spoon-feeding two babies doesn't take any longer than spoon-feeding one, for example, because while one is swallowing, you're giving the other her bite of food. Tandem-nursing is a whole lot easier than nursing a baby while trying to make a peanut-butter sandwich for her older sibling. And as they grow old enough for activities, you can bring them both at the same time for preschool, gymnastics, or whatever, rather than having to make arrangements for two different age groups.

And once twins are past their trying twos and threes, they can be a lot easier than just having one. Allison and Sarah have developed a depth of compassion that astounds me. They are close friends and empathise with each other in a way a single child cannot fathom. At this age, my girls almost never fight and when there are arguments, they are just as likely to solve them alone rather than need me to intervene. They share more easily than other children.

Advantages for the twins -- I have yet to meet an identical twin who didn't say wonderful, positive things about her experience. One grown twin told me last week that there is no better way to grow up than with a best friend. Honestly, some days I look at the friendship my twins have and I'm a little jealous. I wish I had a friend that close, someone I could call and would immediately understand what I'm going through. Allison and Sarah love each other and their relationship will be a strength to them as they meet challenges in their lives. As I said above, they learn early on in their life to empathise and share, lessons that will bring them great joy in the future.

4. What would your "perfect day" be like?

Hmmmm -- I have really simple needs. My perfect day would be one in which my children are getting along, my house is fairly clean, dinner hour goes smoothly, my husband and I find time to talk, I exercise, and I get to work on a project I enjoy. I consider that a great day. If I feel well-rested and if just one person would say "thank you" for something I did for them, then the day would be nearly perfect.

The best part about my definition of a perfect day? I actually have them a couple of times a month!

5. Is there anything that you've always wanted to do but haven't been able to yet? What is it, and why?

Yes and no.
Most things that I really want to do I can enjoy in small measure now.

I like school and was able to finish my degree three days before Lillian was born. I suppose at some point, I'd like to go back for an advanced degree, but in the meantime I really enjoy learning on my own.


I really enjoy teaching and I get to do that in my home.

I like to write and here's my blog to prove it.

I enjoy art, and while I can't paint or take classes right now, I can play with photoshop and digital scrapbooking.

I'd love to travel and see the whole world someday. While finances and family obligations keep me from that dreamed-of trip to Egypt or China, however, I have gotten to see a lot of beautiful things in my own corner of the world and better yet, to share them with my children.
I wish I had more time for friendships and social things, but I have several close friendships that enrich my life and I'm sure as time goes on, I'll find more time for friends. I wish I had more time to serve people outside my family, but even though my time is mostly focused on the 9 people who live in my home, I still find ways to support and help others.

So yes, there are things I really want MORE time for, but really, almost everything I really want to do I can enjoy right now, just in smaller doses.

***
Do you want to play along and get interviewed too?
Here's the directions:
1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me," along with your email address if I don't have it (or a link to your blog where I can post a comment with questions).
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. (I get to pick the questions).
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Feel free to leave a comment even if you'd rather not be interviewed yourself -- I love comments!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Shameless Adoration

Harmony's almost six months old, and I know it's sounds clicheish (is that even a word?), but where does the time go? I am so thankful to have her in my life; it's hard to remember life without her. I was sorting through pictures from last year and came across one of our whole family just before a hike we went on. I was looking at my children and thinking, "something's missing here -- where's Harmony?" It took me a moment to realize that the picture was taken before she was born. She entered our lives and captured our hearts immediately. The love I feel for her is as special and unique as the love I felt for my first baby.

She's cute, she's fun, and she's adorable.

Want proof?







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