Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Q&A: Child Spacing

Thank you all again for your thoughtful questions. I have seven more to answer, and I will try to get to at least one each week for the next little bit.

Today's question is from Katie:
What is the age difference in your kids, what's the easiest age span, the most difficult, and do you think those qualifications have more to do with months or with specific personalities?


When I was a freshman in high school, my older brother was a senior. We weren't close, but we were good to one another. One day, I was eating lunch with friends in a classroom when he appeared in the doorway, with tears in his eyes. My friends and the teacher in that room scattered, and I held my brother as tears ran down both our cheeks. He'd gotten the results of an important test, and they were devastating to him. He was worried about his future, and he turned for sympathy to his sister. At that moment, I realized the strength in the solid bonds of siblings.

The spacing between my kids is:
Lillian is 18 months exactly older than Joseph.
Joseph is 18 months and one week older than Michael.
Michael is 2 years and 2 months older than Allison and Sarah.
Allison is 7 minutes older than Sarah (but don't tell her that; we tell them they're the same age!)
Sarah and Allison are 2 years and 4 months older than Eliza.
Eliza is 21 months older than Harmony.
Harmony is 21 months older than Katie.
Katie will be 21 months older than our newest baby.

For those of you who are keeping track, that's three in three years, five in five years, and soon to be eight in eleven years.

However, in some ways I've experienced lots of different age spans, because I've been able to see how all of my kids interact with the new baby, not just the youngest. So I've gotten to watch how a three-year-old and a six-year-old respond to a new baby as well as a nine-year-old and I've seen the relationships that develop between my children.

I'm of the opinion that many different spacings work fine. Joseph has a special bond with Eliza, for example, and they are six years apart. Their birthdays are just a few days apart, and when we were asking Joey what he wanted for his birthday that year, his first response was "A new baby!" Even now, three years later, we call Eliza "Joey's birthday present," and tease him that that's why they're so close.

I do think that personalities have a lot to do with the bonds between children. Lillian and Joey had a really hard time getting along his first two years of life. He has a very strong personality, and she wanted to be the leader in their relationship. There was no way he was going to follow her lead! It wasn't until after Michael was born that they finally worked out a truce, and their relationship has been strong ever since. Eliza is so easy-going and endearing that everyone in our family adores her; there is absolutely no rivalry where she is concerned.

I've also found that my children almost always respond very well to the addition of a new baby. Especially in the early years, I used to worry about rivalry and feelings of displacement when the new baby came home, but I think the only hard thing for some of them was that mom was gone for two days at the hospital. They seemed to welcome the new baby with love, or at least indifference. The rivalry I worried about doesn't occur until six months later, when the new baby starts to crawl and range into their territory. Even Eliza, one of my easiest and kindest children, had a tough time when Harmony started crawling. All of a sudden the baby isn't just an object anymore; it's a rival for toys and attention. The change can be overwhelming to a little person secure in her world.

In the short run, it is definitely easier on the mother to have kids further apart. The older the first one is when the next is born, the less work is involved. The older one can entertain themselves, for instance, and even be somewhat helpful with the younger one. In the long run, though, I think there are so many advantages to having children close in age. They can be real friends, be involved in some of the same activities, and really be there for one another. It has been wonderful for me to watch the friendship develop between my children close in age.

But I also understand that planning and spacing our children is both a luxury and often an illusion. Those who have struggled with infertility will tell you of their best plans going by the wayside and about learning to be content with whatever spacing they get. Others will tell you of the wonderful bond between them and a sibling who is much older or younger in age.

It's also interesting to see how birthdays and school spacing enter into the equation. My first three are eighteen months apart, but Lillian is two grades ahead of Joey, and Joey and Michael are just a year apart in school. It's been good for them, as they can share some of their friends and play together at recess sometimes. Eliza and Harmony are almost two years apart in age, but because of the way their birthdays fall in October and August, they will also be just a year apart in school.

In our family, we haven't tried to plan our spacing. I do want my children close in age, partly so I can get them here while I'm still young and strong enough to chase after them, and partly because of the friendships I want them to develop. I remember a doctor asking about one of my pregnancies, "Now, was this a planned pregnancy?" The question took us aback, because, well, it wasn't NOT planned, but it wasn't really planned, either. I know that's an ambivalent answer, but the long and short of it is, we've decided in our family to simply let our children come, trusting that Heavenly Father is wiser than we are. Sometimes that's been sooner than we would have chosen, sometimes later, but we have felt every time that it was the right time.

What's been your experience with the spacing and bonds between your children? How have their personalities entered the equation?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Wow!

Boy, if I was ever tempted to feel like I really was all alone in this cold, cruel world, you all have crushed those feelings by your kind response to my last post! I wish I could reach out to all of you and thank you for your kind words. I'd love to have you all over for lunch at my house, potluck of course, because I'm not really feeling up to cooking much lately!

Lana, you made me laugh with your comment:

OH CHRISTINA!! I am so glad to hear you are normal. I thought for a moment that you were super woman sent here to this earth to show us how you do things so perfectly and positively =)


Let me assure you right now that if I'm super anything, it's super-normal! In fact, if you were to drop by right now, you'd see it for yourself, in the lingering smell of sour milk as we wash the towels we used to clean up the latest disaster -- a full gallon of milk fell to the floor yesterday and burst all over. You'd see it in the piles of projects I have not gotten to yet, the dishes piled in the sink, the baskets of laundry I've yet to fold, the floors that need a good mopping, and my smudgy windows. You'd have seen it yesterday at Church as I spent more time than usual out in the hallway with some misbehaving kids, or this morning when two of my kids would not get dressed and get their room clean in time for school. Or last week, when the snakes I allowed Joey and Allison to keep for a few days escaped their terrarium and I happened upon them slithering on the floor!

In fact, yesterday, I was telling Sarah how much I loved her. Then I said, “But you know what? There’s someone who loves you even more than I do.” She perked right up, “I know! Sister Cooper!” That wasn't who I meant, and I AM glad that Sister Cooper is such a good friend to her, but, well, I guess I need to work on showing her I love her at least as much as Sister Cooper!

I do tend to be positive in this blog. Naturally, I'm a cheerful person and sometimes my life's motto seems to be "Oh, well." I find great joy in my life and I absolutely adore my children. Thanks to those of you who reminded me of what a blessing it is to be a mother.

The other reason I'm mostly positive in the blog, though, is that by the time I'm done handling a really tough day, the last thing I want to do is sit down and tell you all the details! Even if there were time, which is too often in short supply, sometimes it's better to just block it out and remind myself of the positive.

I still wish I knew more families with lots of children (Lori, I remember that mom of 9 -- does she have a blog?), but I'm feeling lots less lonely after your sweet response. Thanks again!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Lonely

So, by now most of you know I'm expecting, this time my eighth child. Reactions to the news have mostly been positive, but there have been a few negative comments and some raised eyebrows. Perhaps I'm just ultra-sensitive, ready to pick up on the least hint of negativity, or perhaps I'm just pregnant and emotional, but I've felt the hurt of it -- the feeling that others are rejecting this baby or judging me.

I've announced my pregnancy to some friends, expecting them to share my excitement and gotten instead shrugged shoulders and a change of subject. I guess I can understand it a bit; after all, I've done this before, so perhaps they think that for me, it's just become routine, like announcing we're buying a new car or going on a vacation, nothing too new or different or exciting.

But to me, this is something to be celebrated. It's exciting and wonderful and miraculous. This child is unique and special, and this is his chance to experience earth life. I believe, as it says in Job, that we were there at the foundations of the world, "when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy" (Job 38:7) This child I am welcoming was among them, and I don't think he feels short-changed in any way because his mother has given birth before. This is his time, his place, his chance, his miracle.

Sometimes I feel very lonely, especially for a mentor, for someone who has been there and understands what I'm experiencing. We have more kids than anyone I know personally (at least that's still raising them). I wish I knew lots of moms who had more children, so I could ask them my questions, pour out my heart, and learn from their experiences. Actually, I'd be happy to know just one or two! The internet, with its wonderful, connecting power, helps some, as I've made some friends through blogs and other forums.

But there's something so nourishing about an in-person friendship. A phone call, a walk, sitting together at a park or in a living room and really understanding one another. I do understand that I have a lot to learn from women whose experiences are different from my own, but it often seems that I am left on the outside of friendships with those who have fewer children, even when we're the same age. We don't get invited to dinner or to join in activities. Again, I get it; seven kids is a lot to invite over, and surely, that mom with seven is far enough along in life that she's plenty busy and doesn't need your friendship. We tend to congregate around those who are at the same stage of life as we are in. Most of the moms who live around me have two or three children, so it's natural they tend to band together and enjoy each other.

But where does that leave me? There are not an abundance of large families nearby for me to band together with! In fact, a recent article reported that according to the 2006 census, just .5 percent, or one mother in two hundred, has more than seven children. No wonder I'm beginning to feel as if I'm the only person in the world with more than six kids! I understand a lot of the reasons there aren't more large families, from the pressure to fit into the world's standards of acceptable to the very real financial, emotional, and health concerns to the pain of infertility. The fact is, even if a couple wanted to have a lot of children and eschewed birth control, many would never have eight children. A hundred years ago, there were a lot of large families of eight, ten, and even twelve or more children, yes, but there were also families of one, two, or none.

I'm really not complaining (Okay, maybe I am, a little). And I should point out that I have been blessed with good friendships. One of my best friends has six children and is the one I call or walk with when life gets just a bit too tough. Another of my best friends lives in New York, and thanks to email, our friendship has survived eleven years, through several moves, her life in Sweden and Israel, and soon-to-be thirteen births between us. Some of my other friends send me quick notes in response to my weekly emails or lift me in other ways. I am so grateful for the good people around me.

But sometimes, I feel lonely.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

What I Believe -- My Foundation for Living, Part One

There are a lot of people reading my blog (I know because I spy on them via my Sitemeter). Most don't comment, but some do (thank you! It always makes me day when you do!). Some of my readers I know in real life and others are strangers to me. Still others are friends I just haven't met yet.

Some, like me, are members of my Church and the terminology and foundation for my life are understood. Many others are not LDS, but belong to other denominations. By and large, most are women of faith, and I have been so impressed with the wonderful women I have met through blogging.

I've been thinking about writing a post like this for a long time, explaining my beliefs. For one thing, Mormons aren't always well understood and sometimes assumptions are made that aren't accurate. For another, I'm always curious about what others believe, but sometimes I'm afraid to ask for fear of offending that person or showing my ignorance.

Finally, my faith forms the deepest part of me and influences all the decisions I make as a person, as a mother, and as a wife. My beliefs form the foundation for my life. Since this blog is about my life, I've tried to never shy away from appropriately sharing things of a spiritual nature.

So I've decided to share my basic beliefs, inviting you to ask me anything else that might be of interest to you. I promise I will try to answer any sincere questions. (If you want to insult me or debate me, however, I will probably just delete your comment. I have to say that because of the small number of weirdos out there.)

I'll present my beliefs in two parts, the first, my beliefs in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the second, my beliefs about the family. I realize, of course, that faith is not so easily compartmentalized and there will be overlap in what I write.

So, without further introduction, here are some of my fundamental beliefs:
1. I believe in Jesus Christ. He is my Savior and the light and life of the world. He atoned for my sins and suffered that all mankind might be able to repent and return one day to our Heavenly Home. "Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink— Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men." (D&C 19:18-19)

He is the Son of God, with power to lay down his life and take it up again. He was resurrected on the third day, and through him, all will one day be resurrected.
He went about doing good and entreats us to do the same. He called, "Come, follow me," and He is my guide and example. He declared, "If ye love me, keep my commandments," (John 14:15) and "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matt. 25:40). I try to live my life the way he showed, by loving others and giving myself to selfless, patient, humble service.

He performed miracles when he was on the earth. He had power to heal the sick, raise the dead, and make the blind to see. He has that same power to heal, touch, and teach today. My heart has been healed, my eyes have been opened, and my life has been richly blessed by following his teachings.
Jesus Christ lives. He will once more come to earth, this time to reign and rule in wisdom and love. After his resurrection, Christ ministered among the church in his time for forty days. He ascended in glory, and two angels appeared, declaring, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven."


2. I believe in prayer. I believe that God listens and hears my prayers of gratitude, of supplication, and even of desperation. He answers them, as a loving Father does the pleadings of his child. He does not take away all pain or anguish because He knows that we need hard times in order to grow. But He who notes the sparrow's fall also knows of our every tear and hears each word of every prayer. He has given me strength in times of weakness and comfort in times of my deepest sorrows.
God has a purpose for each of us on earth, and through prayer, we can receive wisdom and help through all of our problems and concerns. Through prayer, I have been directed in my life. I have been warned of danger, received counsel, felt need of change, learned more of God, and received guidance for decisions both small and large. Not every prayer has been answered in the way I hoped, but they have all been answered.

Through prayer, we come to know our loving Father and His Son Jesus Christ. As we seek His will and pray to know and do it, we find ourselves growing in every way. "Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace." (Ezra Taft Benson, Jesus Christ -- Gifts and Expectations)


3. I believe in scriptures. They are not simple stories without basis in reality intended for us to draw life lessons from, like Aesop's fables. Instead, they are the records of God's dealings with His children. In reading and studying them, we come to know the nature of God, His goodness, His justice, and His mercy. They were never intended to sit on the shelf next to the dictionary, available simply as a reference book from time to time. They are to be studied, sought after, and drawn from. I have studied the scriptures nearly every day since I was 14, and my life has been enriched as a result.

I love the Old Testament, with its stories of brave and bold men and women, choosing to follow God against the sophistries of the world. I love reading of Esther, whose faith and courage saved her people because she listened to the words, "who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" I love reading of Hannah, who prayed for a child, and of Samuel, who heard the voice of the Lord while still very young. I've had this picture displayed in my home for years, to help remind me that God speaks to children.
I love the New Testament with its powerful testimony of the life and mission of Christ. I love reading of Paul's conversion and his boldness in declaring what he knew to be true. I love reading of the miracles of Jesus Christ and his tender care. "Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 19:14, Mark 10:14, Luke 18:16).
I also love the Book of Mormon, which is another testament of Jesus Christ and his dealings and ministry among the people who lived on the American continent. It was translated by Joseph Smith, and contains stories of many of my heroes, people like Nephi, Moroni, Jared, and Abinidi, who gave his life for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The crowning testimony in the Book of Mormon is its narration of the events of Christ's ministry to the people of the Americas after His resurrection. He told them, "And verily I say unto you, that ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd." He taught them the teachings in the Sermon on the Mount. He called for their lame, their blind and crippled and He healed them. "He took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them." (3 Nephi 17:21)
Reading the Book of Mormon has brought me closer to God. But you don't have to take my word for it. There are many, many missionaries in my Church (serving at their own expense, I might add) anxious to share this gift with the world. If you find our clean-cut missionaries scary, however, you could also read it online. I think you'll find it is much different than you expect, and very familiar to those who have read the Bible.

At the most, it could change your life for the better. And at the very least, you'll understand the LDS faith a little better. (Incidentally, I'm always surprised by those who want to dissuade me or debate my faith who have not taken the time to read the Book of Mormon. I mean, really, if someone wanted to save me from the error of my ways, it might help if they understood a little bit about what those ways are!)

3. I believe in prophets and apostles. The Lord's Church has always been led by prophets. "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." (Amos 3:7) . Prophets are called of God and are set apart by the power of God. One of the articles of faith in my Church states, "We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth."

4. I believe in priesthood. The priesthood is the power to act in God's name. It includes the power to baptize, the power to heal, and the power to lead the Lord's Church on the earth. A person cannot call himself to the priesthood. "And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron." (Hebrews 5:4) Aaron was called of God and anointed by Moses and set apart to have the power of God. (see Exodus 40:15).
5. I believe there was a falling away from the truths of the gospel. After Christ's death and the days of the apostles, there was a falling away from the truth. Division and contention and the killing of the prophets and apostles resulted in the loss of the priesthood. The Lord's true Church was taken from the earth because of the apostasy and unbelief of the people. Many truths remained, and many good people lived according to the light they had, but the Lord's true Church was not upon the earth. This was prophesied of in the Bible. "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord" (Amos 8:11) "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come [the Second Coming], except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition" (2 Thes 2:3)

Many good men over the years have recognized the loss of revelation and the need for greater communication between God and men. I believe that the Reformation was divinely inspired by good men who did a great work in spreading the word of God among many.

6. I believe in restoration. Specifically, I believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ. Because many of the plain and precious truths of the Lord's gospel were lost during the dark ages of the world, it was necessary for God to restore again to the earth that which was lost.

As a boy living in upstate New York, Joseph Smith was greatly impressed by the religious excitement in his day. He wanted nothing more than to find the true Church of God. He attended many meetings and listened to many different interpretations of the gospel. He wrote,
“So great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was . . . to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong. . . . In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?” ( Joseph Smith—History 1:8, 10).
As he read in the Bible, he was greatly impressed by James 1:5 "“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” He wrote of this experience,
"Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.
At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture."(Joseph Smith -- History)
Joseph went to a grove of trees nearby and there was visited by God the Father and Jesus Christ, who told him that none of the churches on the earth contained the fulness of the gospel. From thence, through this new prophet, God proceeded to restore His Church to the earth.

Many have taught that the heavens are closed and that prophets and apostles only existed in the past, not for our day. But we believe that prophets still speak to us and that God's Church is restored. Now, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we understand that this is a strange belief to some and that many are skeptical of our claims. One of our prophets, President Gordon B. Hinckley, said this:

"We declare without equivocation that God the Father and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, appeared in person to the boy Joseph Smith.

When I was interviewed by Mike Wallace on the 60 Minutes program, he asked me if I actually believed that. I replied, “Yes, sir. That’s the miracle of it.”

That is the way I feel about it. Our whole strength rests on the validity of that vision. It either occurred or it did not occur. If it did not, then this work is a fraud. If it did, then it is the most important and wonderful work under the heavens." (The Marvelous Foundation of our Faith)

7. I believe in personal revelation. One of the hallmarks of our Church is that we believe that God can and does speak to his children. We believe that He answers our prayers and gives us knowledge. Just as a belief in God may seem preposterous to those who have not felt His love and power in their lives, our beliefs may seem unusual to those who have not learned about them.

If you were ever to meet with our missionaries, you would find that the foundation of our belief in Joseph Smith and the restoration does not rest on external evidences, though we have those in abundance, but on a personal witness from the Holy Ghost. After the apostles spent time walking with the resurrected Jesus and not understanding who he was, the scriptures record "And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? (Luke 24:31-32)

In the same way those apostles received a witness of Jesus Christ, we believe that God can and will speak to any of His children who seek Him. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." (James 1:5)

I truly believe that the heavens are open, that God speaks to us through prophets and apostles, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God who teaches us of Jesus Christ and his marvelous gospel. How can I believe it? Because I have studied it and asked God for a witness and He has given it to me. I have felt of His love and His goodness in my life. All that is good in my life has been brought to me because of my faith in Jesus Christ and his Church.

* * *
Thank you for reading my feelings about my faith. I had much more I wanted to say, but I think this post is long enough. Fairly soon, I will post "What I Believe About Families -- My Foundation for Living, Part Two." If you have questions about my faith, I would be happy to answer them, or you might invite a few missionaries to share more with you.

What do you have to lose?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Weekend in Idaho (Nearly Wordless Wednesday)

We had a beautiful trip to Idaho last week. We stayed two nights in small cabins on Payette Lake with my parents, my sister's family and my brother's family.

I think genetics is a funny thing. My kids have always been on the small side. Harmony, for instance, at a year old, is only a little over 17 lbs. She's always been in the 3rd percentile for weight. Her cousin, Jonah, on the other hand . . .
is half her age and twice her size. (Well, not quite, but he is over twenty pounds at six months of age!)

And Jonah's older sister Sydney is not to be outdone. She's four months older than Eliza, and barely 3, but she's almost as tall as my five-year-olds.
Here's Allison, Sydney, and Eliza standing together:


The trip was great -- we fed cows at my parents house,





played and canoed in the lake (even though it was rather cold),




went on my dad's ATVs,
enjoyed a lovely hike,
gathered interesting bugs, rocks, and pinecones

and really enjoyed ourselves!

Monday, September 14, 2009

First Impressions

"That's an ugly sculpture." I told my husband as we looked through the pictures he brought back from his trip to Chicago last spring. "It looks like a shiny bike helmet."

I was ready to move on, dismissive of the ugly, new-fangled sculpture.

"Actually," he pointed out, "It's quite amazing. As you get closer, it reflects all the buildings and becomes really beautiful."

He flipped ahead to this picture:
He was right. Looking closer at the sculpture and understanding it within the context of its surroundings made all the difference in my appreciation for its beauty.

How often are we like that in life? How many times do we dismiss out-of-hand another person based on our initial first impression?

I've done that with friendships sometimes. My initial impression of a person will be something like, She seems nice enough, but we probably don't have anything in common. Luckily, I'm a pretty nice person, so I've gotten to know some people out of simple politeness. Some of them have turned out to be my best friends. I'm glad I didn't let a false first impression spoil some of my most enriching friendships

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"But how fast can you go?"

So . . . I took up running this summer. (She says casually, as if it's the most natural thing in the world).

Yep, I am now one of those crazy people waking up three or four days a week while it's still dark, pulling on the shoes and hitting the streets. It's an interesting world out there. I'm starting to recognize some of the same people out and about, from the real runners who intimidate me with their teeny shorts and their fast pace to the older couples out walking and holding hands. Then there's that one lady, a grandma in her 60s who power-walks, smiles at me sincerely, and calls out every time I see her, "You're doing great!" I love that woman!

I am doing great, and I am really proud of myself. Before this summer, I had never run a mile straight. In my life. No, not even when the P.E. teacher blew her whistle and announced cheerfully, "It's time for the mile run!" I just figured running was something other people did, not me.

But that's changed, in a really satisfying way. I can't say I love running. In fact, I probably can't in all honesty say I even like it. But there is something so wonderfully pleasing about the fact that I can actually see and feel the improvement.

Three months ago, I had never run a mile straight.

Two months ago, I could run a mile, but it about killed me.

Six weeks ago, I could run a mile and a half without stopping.

A month ago, I pushed myself to the limits and found I could run 1.75 miles.

Three weeks ago, I pushed a little harder and ran 2 miles.

Two weeks ago, it was 2.25 miles.

Last week, it was three miles. Yes, three miles! As in, a full 5K! Well, minus the .1 part. Now I know I'm not going to totally embarrass myself on October 24th when I run my first 5K. Yes, I've even become one of those people who sign up for races they have absolutely no chance of winning, just for the chance to do something hard. Oh, and to get a T-shirt.

I've made exercise an important part of my life for years, but this is different. When I worked out to videos, the progress wasn't so obvious. I could say, "wow, this is a bit easier than last time," or "I'm not as short of breath as I used to be," but it was much more subjective. I love that running is objective. I can add up the miles, the quarter miles, and I can even check the clock as I leave and return, recording how long the route took me.

Which brings me back to the title of this post. I ran into an acquaintance at the twins' gymnastics last week that I hadn't seen in many years. She has three kids and she and her husband are runners, both of them training for a huge relay in Las Vegas. I mentioned how I've taken up running this summer and that I’ve been happy with my improvement. "But how fast can you go?" she asked, "Because that's what really matters."

I have laughed a lot about that since. To me, how fast I can go is so far from my thoughts. The fact that I am running over a mile for the first time in my life is just amazing to me, and I could care less if I run it slower than someone else (though I did check last year's time on the 5K I'm running next month, and I can safely say I will not be last!).

This morning, as I pushed myself to keep running to the next marker and the next, I began making a list of all the things I do like about running:

* I like that I can easily measure my progress.

* I like that I'm doing something hard.

* I like that by the time I'm done running three miles, even my fingertips are sweaty.

* I like that woman who says, "You're doing great!" I really, really like her.

* I like the extra energy I feel later that morning.

* I like that I'm doing crazy things like checking out training schedules for half-marathons, thinking about signing up for long races, and mapping out runs (using mapmyrun) that I am nowhere near capable of completing at this point in my life, like that 7.5 mile route that takes me along the river, up a hill and around the temple.

* I like that I haven't given up even though I've had good reasons to.

* I even like the battle I wage with myself every day:
Me: You're getting tired. Maybe you should walk for a while.
Myself: No way. I can go a little further.
Me: No, you can't. You need to stop and walk.
Myself: Yes, I can. I did it yesterday, remember? So I can do it today too!
Me: Oh, yeah. I guess maybe you can. But you're still tired, you know?
Myself: Oh hush!

* I like that it gets easier to keep going the more I do it.


I thought about listing the things I don't like about running, too, but then I realized they're fairly obvious:
* The first half mile.
* The last half mile.
* The middle couple of miles.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Brandon Mull


Lillian's favorite books are the Fablehaven series, so she was thrilled to meet the author, Brandon Mull, last Saturday. He took the time to talk to her and Joey and find out their interests, even though there was a long line. She was especially excited when he told her the next Fablehaven book would be out in March, just in time for her birthday. He was gracious, and afterwards, Lillian told me, "I bet he's a good dad."

***
edited to add: Until Debbie's comment, I hadn't realized that yes, years ago, I went to Church every week with Brandon Mull, before he was famous. This was back when we had just two children and before I knew DH would one day arrive an hour early just to get his autograph. =) In fact, I just pulled out a picture directory of the BYU 54th Ward, and there he is, looking essentially the same as he does in the picture above!

My husband has been saying for months that he knew him from somewhere, and now we know where!

Friday, September 04, 2009

Q&A: Schooling & Homework

(So, remember when I said it might be a "few weeks" before I get to everyone's questions? One more example of my tendency to be overly optimistic. Please don't take it personally if I haven't answered your question yet. I will get to it! Some of the questions I've avoided so far are because I know they'll take me a lot of thought to answer just right and I haven't had the concentrated time to do them justice.)

from Shaunda:

Do you homeschool your children or send them to public school and why?

It's probably obvious by now that I don't homeschool my children. We live in an area with very good schools with great and dedicated teachers who have always done a great job nurturing and loving my children. I could see situations where I would want or need to homeschool and I think I could do it if necessary, but I'm grateful I don't need to. My children are getting a wonderful education and I'm very thrilled about it. I've mentioned before that they go to a charter school, which for us means homework, strong emphasis in academics, uniforms (eh -- not my favorite thing, but not so bad either), and lots of great programs. My daughter's been involved in early morning orchestra for three years, my son was able to do track after school, and in general, we love our school and we love our teachers.

Even if the charter school were not an option, I'd still send my kids to school. The local elementary schools are very good as well, and Lillian spent two years in our regular school before we moved her to the charter school. Our main reason for moving her was that she needed to be challenged more, and the only way to do that at the other school was to have her skip a grade. Our charter school allowed her to be challenged while remaining with her peers. For one thing, the whole school does math at the same time and the children are divided by ability, not grade. There are no slow math classes, just each child learning at his level. For another, the strong academic focus was a great fit.

From Jacki:
Oooh- give me [homework] tips! We start Back to School next week, and I'm not ready for the Homework chaos! We have a snack after school, then they do homework. they used to sit together at the kitchen table, but then they started poking each other and writing on each other's papers, and,chatting instead of working. Now they each go to a separate room, and I rotate if they need any help. One of them still sat there for literally hours not getting it done!
Remember, I don't have five boys, but I do have five kids in school this year. This is how we've made homework work at our house:

* Homework is done right after school. To do it later is just not an option. This gives everyone an incentive to get it done in a decent amount of time. There are no battles about this, because we've had this as the rule ever since we had a child in school.

* Homework is done at the tables in the kitchen. This year, I added another table so the kids could spread out a bit and work.

* Kindergartners (I have two this year, can you believe it?) do their homework with the other kids. This way, they get to come home, put their things away and have some play time before focusing on school again. They also get to feel part of something, as they sit at the table doing homework with their older brothers and sister.

* Like Jacki, we give out "homework snacks." I think it's important that they be called "homework snacks" so that there is at least one positive thing associated with homework! I've been making a small batch of cookies a lot this year for snacks, or we have crackers, fruit, granola bars, or whatever they can find.

* As much as possible, my kids are responsible for their own homework. I don't hover and I don't help unless they absolutely need it. Unless I'm asked by one of them for help, I don't check over their math, I don't correct their spelling or grammer, and I don't concern myself with their grades being perfect. The teachers at our school are all really good at expecting the kids to be accountable, so I leave most things between my child and the teacher. For instance, if my child forgets their homework at school, they are responsible for figuring out a solution to the problem.

* Going along with the above, one of my gripes about homework is when the teacher expects the parent to do too much. Except in the early grades, when perhaps they'll need help reading the directions, or in the cases of a child struggling in a certain subject, I really think homework ought to be something that children can do independently. I'm still trying to figure out why I have to sign my fifth grade daughter's planner every day, but I guess that's a small annoyance, and since it's my daughter who finds me a pen and shoves the planner in my face every day, I guess it's still her doing the work.

* As for fighting and poking and gabbing, I don't really have that problem right now, so I don't have any advice for it.

Anyone else have some suggestions?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

What I'm up to . . .


I'm starting a fun group -- The Amazing Mother's Guild. First meeting is next Friday morning at my house. If you live nearby and want to come, just let me know and I'll send you an invite with the address.

Homework Time (Wordless Wednesday)


(and no, my kitchen is not always this clean.)

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