Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Two Cute Girls (Wordless Wednesday)

Harmony's hard to get pictures of lately. She moves quickly and barely glances at the camera. But I love this shot with her looking toward the window.

Eliza is not much better at looking at the camera, but she sits still longer and she has the most expressive face.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Q&A: Pets

From Bjalstrom:
I have a question for you about the kitties I see in some of your pictures. How did you decide to add pets to the picture? How did you decide on cats? How do you teach your children to treat the animals? How do you not traumatize the pets with excited little kiddies? Just curious. I've always wondered how adding pets to a family works out when the children are small.
Pets seem to happen naturally in a house with kids. I don't think any special effort needs to be made to seek them out, only to keep them from moving in and taking over! While my husband and I have planned other aspects of our lives, our pets just seem to find us.

I do have one rule, however: No dogs. My husband would love one, as would all of my kids, but I KNOW how much work those adorable little puppies take and I don't need to make my life more difficult. I've told DH that as soon as he's retired and is home to train the dog himself, then he can have one.

We actually did own a dog for about a month. He was one of the neighbor's puppies my children begged me to adopt (see what I mean about pets just happening?). I was pregnant with #4 at the time, but everyone fell in love with these little eyes and I figured we could handle it.
I was wrong. We were told Cindy was half Australian Shepherd, half black lab, but after she kept biting our children, I researched it and figured out she was actually half Australian cattle dog, and they are trained to herd cattle by biting, so it was not something she was going to outgrow.

About this same time, we discovered I was not pregnant with just number 4, but also number 5. That was the end of our time as dog owners. We found a nice young couple who was happy to have a new dog and the kids quickly got over their disappointment when we adopted a nice cat a few months later.

We've had cats ever since. Currently we have three, which is one too many in my book, but works out great when there are three little girls who all want to hold one. They're mostly outside, since my mother-in-law is allergic, but we let them inside when the kids want to hold and play with them.

Cats make great pets. They are small and fluffy and fun to cuddle with, but thrive just as much on being ignored as on getting attention. They also don't put up with too much abuse, and minor cat scratches teach little ones very quickly to hold them gently. Cats are very good at avoiding kids who aren't gentle, but they also put up with a little bit of loving:

(this picture always makes me smile. Eliza's so happy and the kitty's so . . . well?)
Our other pet right now is a desert tortoise named Tommy, who has made some appearances on our blog. He's about three inches long right now, but will grow to the size of a frying pan and live to be a hundred years old.

We got him in October when we were in Palm Springs California. Allison found him in the desert when we were trying to rockhound and held him high over her head, screaming, "A turtle! A turtle! I found a turtle!" We took him with us back to our hotel, wanting to do some research and make sure they weren't endangered before we decided what to do with him. We found out that no, they are not endangered, though it is illegal to take them from the desert. Oops! Then we read further and found out that it is ALSO illegal to return them to the desert after they've been in your care, even if it is only overnight. So either way, we were in the wrong.

What sealed the deal for us was to find out that the tortoise was a hatchling and to read that most hatchlings do not survive in the wild. We figured he'd have a better chance with us, and we took him home. He's spent most of his time since then sleeping. In truth, up until a few weeks ago, he's been a rather boring pet. He's ignored all the grass and lettuce and snacks we've put in his cage and been content with tortoise pellets and water, and he's only moved around a few minutes at a time.

Then spring came, and with the change in the season, he's wide awake, climbing all over his cage and excitedly sampling our tulip leaves and grass when we take him out for exercise.

The kids are always trying to convince me to let them have more pets, but I think I've reached my limit with four. I do let the kids keep snakes and bugs they find during the summer, and I'll even let Joey keep grubs in the fridge to feed the snakes, but the rule is they have to let them go after a week or two.

We also had a fun time one summer with an abandoned raccoon named Bandit we kept for a week before giving him to a wildlife rehabilitator.

What kind of pets do you have at your house? Do you think my kids are missing out on the joy of having a dog? What's your policy on kids and their snakes and bugs?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Fitting it all in (but slowing down)

I often get questions like this: "How do you do it? I'm amazed at all you accomplish." or "How do you ever find time for yourself?" There's a huge perception that if you have a lot of kids, there must never be any down time. But really, while one of the most frustrating parts of having lots of kids is that there is always more to do than can be done, there is also time to rest, time to think, and time to develop talents and work on personal projects.

I've decided that there are two types of approaches to housework and projects. One is the tortoise approach, the "slow and steady wins the race" philosophy. This type of woman approaches her work a little at a time, at a steady pace. She'll do one load of laundry, folding it and putting it away each day. She cleans up after every meal, picks up the toys and books whenever they're out of place, and enjoys the peace of a clean and comfortable home. But while she does great with the day-to-day things, she avoids the big projects and panics when she's in charge of a big event.

(this is Tommy, by the way. He's our desert tortoise hatchling. Do you know they live to be a hundred years old? That means, assuming he survives life at our house, we may even have to make provision for this guy in our will.)

Then there's the rabbit philosophy, the "hurry up and finish so you can rest for a while" woman. She loves to tackle the huge projects. It's so thrilling to clean out the garage in one fell swoop. She loves to do a huge clothing sort or go through all the toys in one afternoon. She'll tackle organizing and scrapbooking her family's photos a year at a time and finish in the course of one week. Then she'll move on to the next project. Her laundry piles up and then gets done one day a week, in a big marathon folding session. But sometimes the day-to-day things get overwhelming. The mail ends up in a huge pile of papers that get ignored until the pile is overflowing and then tackled in a marathon "I'll-never-let-it-get-this-bad-again" session. The pantry gets stocked at the huge sales during the year, but she'll run out of milk or the needed ingredients for that night's dinner. There are always several areas of the house in perfect order, but several more in a great state of deterioration.
(this is a stock photo because no WAY am I crazy enough to have a pet rabbit!)

Most women will probably identify more closely with one or the other philosophy, but will find themselves using both in different areas in their lives.

In general, I'm a rabbit. I love to tackle the big things. I love big organization projects and the satisfaction of really making a huge difference as I create my yearly photo books or clean out the pantry or wipe down all the cabinets. But that approach also has its disadvantages. I'll work really hard to get the family office cleaned and organized just so but then I'll ignore it for months until I find myself facing the same mess again. My garage is very clean right now, but the storage area needs a major overhaul. And then there's the day-to-day stuff that I really should use a better slow-and-steady approach on. I'll get really organized with my menu and my plans for weekly shopping, but then let the daily follow-through slide until I'm facing the 5:00 hour and wondering, "What in the world do I cook?"

It's best as a mother and a homemaker to be both a tortoise and a rabbit, and I've been learning some great lessons from the tortoise the past few months. At the beginning of the year, I was feeling a bit discouraged by all the things I was not making progress on. I was emerging from the forced slow-down of morning sickness and feeling more energy, but also annoyed that the energy wasn't being put towards all the projects I'd been putting off: I’d outlined a series of essays I wanted to write back in September but hadn’t touched it in months; I’d gotten a new camera for my birthday in November and still didn’t know how to use it; It had been ages since I’d scrapbooked or designed anything, and so on.

As I prayed for guidance and tried to set goals for the year, it was obvious I needed to manage my time better. I was allowing my extra time to get swallowed up in whatever felt needed at the moment, using up all my rabbit energy for things that were urgent but not necessarily important. For instance, I felt like I was using up all the time with the twins were in kindergarten just doing housework. While my house was clean and my laundry folded every week, I felt like my personal projects were constantly being put aside.

As I analyzed what I was doing and could to better, I made two resolutions and some plans:

1. I would have my kitchen cleaned thoroughly, including floor swept, first thing in the morning before doing anything else. My goal was to have it done by 9:00 every day. Before, I'd putter around in the kitchen, get it mostly done, then go attack another area of the house, leaving dishes in the sink and crumbs on the floor to be tackled later.

2. I would no longer use the time while the twins were in school to fold laundry or do other mundane projects. Mornings are my best thinking and project time and I was wasting it by folding laundry and doing things that did not require much mental concentration. I know I'm disciplined enough that the laundry would still get folded, but I can always do something like that in the evening when I'm tired, when writing or creating would be impossible.

Next, I wrote down a list of everything I wished I was doing with my life, all the things I felt I didn’t have enough time for as well as my regular commitments. Then I wrote down how often I'd like to be doing them. For example, visiting teaching is a monthly thing, as is my mother’s group, while visiting the library, writing for my blog, writing my Sunday emails, and grocery shopping are weekly activities. Exercise should happen three or four times a week, and scripture study is a daily task. By the time I was done writing, I had a huge list of things I wanted to fit into my life.

Next, I made a weekly schedule, determined what the most important things are, and gave them the best times. Monday mornings, I set aside an hour to write for my blog. Tuesday and Thursday mornings became my volunteering at the school time. Later Tuesday morning became our library day, and Tuesday afternoon, I decided I would bake something each week. Wednesday morning, I set aside another few hours to write. Fridays were for rotating activities, whether mother's group, temple attendance, or design work. And Saturday afternoon, I decided I'd set aside an hour each week to do a photoshoot.

Did I fit it ALL in? No. Some of the things I had on my list just plain didn't fit into my schedule and I had to say, "someday." But I've learned a lot over the last few months of trying to be a tortoise, and I have been so excited by how much I HAVE fit in. I’m learning my camera and improving my photography so quickly, using just a few hours each week. Doing something creative has brought me joy, and I love having something that I can finish each week that doesn't have to be done again (unlike, say, the dishes, the laundry, the vacuuming, the cleaning, etc.)

I've been more consistent on posting on this blog, though I still have dozens of half-written posts I haven't gotten to yet. I'm making progress on my essays, little by little. Until I got too huge with pregnancy, I woke up before scriptures three days a week to exercise and felt so energized because of it. It was also a treat that Joey decided to wake up with me. I enjoyed spending time with him.

As I approach the end of this pregnancy (six and a half weeks to go now!), I'm having to re-evaluate and slow down. I've stopped going to the school so I can have a few more hours at home, I'm resting more in the afternoons, and I'm no longer waking up early to exercise. I have fit in more walking, more outside time with the kids, and a few fun outings, but I'm writing less and I've had to return a few photography books back to the library without finishing them (it feels like the ultimate insult to leave a great book unfinished!).

Once the baby's born and summer's here, I'll have to change the schedule and evaluate again what I have time for and how to fit it all in, and I'm sure I'll tackle that challenge like the rabbit I am, in one fell swoop, giving it lots of thought and energy and plans. But to implement it, I'll have to be more like a tortoise, and that's okay too. I'm learning to make room for that little guy in my life.

Are you more like a tortoise or a rabbit in how you tackle the workload in your life? What have you done to fit in the most important things in your life? How do you manage those months when you have to slow down?

Spring, Spring, Spring (Wordless Wednesday)

Isn't it a lovely time of year?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Fears of the Future

When I was young and newly married, a Sunday School teacher asked the question, "What are some of your fears about the future?" There was a long, long, uncomfortable pause as no one ventured an answer, so I raised my hand. (I was a teacher myself at the time, and felt sorry for the poor guy.)

"One of my biggest fears," I said, "is that my husband and I know we're going to have a big family. I worry about how I'm going to feed all those kids!"

The teacher, thankful to have a response -- any response -- jumped and ran with the rest of his lesson, talking about how we can overcome our fears, such as mine about providing for a large family, through faith.

I didn't correct him (at least not that I remember), but really, I wasn't worried at all about providing food for all those kids.

I was worried about feeding them.

Every meal.

Every day.

For the rest of my life.

I don't like to cook. I didn't then and I don't now. And I was serious when I said one of my fears about life was that as a mother, my job would be to cook on a regular basis.

Over time, I've gotten used to the task of cooking. I have my set recipes I use often and my menu plan that I need to get back to using again. It hasn't been as hard as I thought it would be to keep up with the cooking I need to do.

And yet, on some days, it's harder. When I'm worn out from a long day, cooking is the last thing I want to do. When I'm sick with pregnancy or busy with carting kids from one activity to another, I just don't think about dinner until it's upon me.

But I lucked out. I am twice blessed. First, my husband is a great cook and loves to do it. He cooks on the weekends and often on the days when I don't feel up to it. I can stand at the refrigerator door wondering just how I can use up that leftover chicken and feeling confounded, or I can call him and ask, "Hey, I haven't figured out what to make for dinner. We've got that leftover chicken. Any ideas?" He immediately has great ideas and often, he'll tell me he'll take care of it.

And my oldest daughter is amazing. She's smart, responsible, fun, patient, kind, and thoughtful. And the best part is, she also loves to cook. Last summer, we made her our lunch captain and she came up with great ideas and made lunch for the whole crew every day. And lest you think I'm torturing the poor girl with too much responsibility, she asked me just two days ago if she could be lunch captain again this summer. The girl is wonderful, did I mention?

Instead of a zone to clean up in the afternoon, she's in charge of helping me with dinner every day. Which on some days, especially days when we're having Mexican salad or stroganoff (meals she LOVES), means she makes the whole thing. Complete with a fruit and a vegetable. Last week, she wanted to make sure everyone was eating healthy, so she set the table, then put three carrots and several slices of orange on every plate. "That way, they don't get away without eating something healthy."

Amazing, right? Have I mentioned I love her? God knew what I needed when he sent her to our family first.

And while I'm bragging about Lillian, let me also say that last night was a tough one. DH and Joey are out of town and we had time only for a snack before we rushed from one event to another (a baptism and Lillian's concert). We got home late, ate late, and the kitchen was a huge mess after I sent everyone to bed. It was Michael's night to help with dishes, but I'd sent him to bed with the others, knowing he needed to rest. As I surveyed the mess, Lillian reminded me it was Michael's night to help. "I know," I said, "but I'll take care of it tomorrow. Unless you're up to filling up a dishwasher."

Guess what?

She was.

That load of dishes, ready to put away this morning, lightened my load considerably.

I love that child!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I spoke too soon

In one of those ironic twists, guess what broke down completely yesterday, all full of slimy dishes ready to be washed?

Yep, we're down to one dishwasher. Which is still better than none, right?

So feel free to laugh heartily at me now.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Days like this . . . (Wordless Wednesday)

Make me thankful we have two dishwashers! Ah, the wonderful things you get to do when you build your own house.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Two Months!

It's March 9th, which means just two more months until May 9th, my due date! I can't believe it's that close! On the other hand, my body is showing signs all the time that it really IS that soon. I wake up at least once every night because of all the pressure on my bladder, my back hurts often, I'm starting to waddle when I walk, I'm getting short of breath, and I'm feeling pretty exhausted sometimes. But it's only gotten hard the last few weeks, and it's not to the totally-miserable stage yet, so that's great! Those middle few months, from mid-December until late February, were wonderful. I had so much energy, the morning sickness was gone, the baby started moving, and I felt on top of the world. Up to a month ago, I was still running, one or two miles at a time, but now I get contractions just from walking around. This little girl is active, moving and kicking me and reminding me all the time that she's on her way.

Here's to enduring the last two months! Want to know the sad thing? After enduring the twins' pregnancy, I vowed I'd never complain about the last bit of pregnancy again. At 30 weeks, I measured larger than I had ever before, and I was absolutely miserable. My feet swelled up, and my uterus outgrew my stomach area so much that my ribs were constantly pushing into my belly and causing me sharp pain. I felt ready to burst. But that's not the sad part. The sad part is that while the end of Eliza's pregnancy was easier to endure because that was fresh in my mind, those memories are starting to fade and I'm becoming more of a wimp than I wanted to let myself become. In fact, the last month of pregnancy with Harmony, I begged my fellow twin-moms to remind me exactly how hard it was so I wouldn't complain so much!

In any case, two months from now and I'll be greeting our newest little girl. I still marvel that we'll have five girls under 6 years old and I'm excited to watch them grow up together.

Thanks everyone, for all the wonderful name suggestions, by the way. I took them all, as well as some others I liked, wrote down their meanings, and then asked DH and the older five kids which ones they liked. They put their initial by the names they liked, then I sorted the names by how many people liked them.

Weighing in with three votes each were:
Julie (meaning: youthful, downy)
Amelia (to strive, excel)
Emma (universal)
Getting four votes was:

Anna (gracious, merciful; though we already have an Harmony Anne and an Allison, so this isn't a very good option)

And the clear winner (thanks goes to Kacy who first suggested it) with five votes (Mom, Dad, Lillian, Joey, and Allison):
Katherine (pure)

We've had a few months to let the name settle, and it still sounds wonderful. So, Baby Katie it is!

But now we don't have a middle name for her! I'd really like something short, sweet, and beautiful. My first preferences were for Grace or Hope, but DH vetoed both of those.

So, once again, anyone have some suggestions?

(edited to add: for middle names, we've already used Jane, Christine, Joy, and Anne)

Monday, March 08, 2010

Q&A: Why So Large? How Will You Know You're Done?

After this post, I'll have finally worked through all the questions I was asked last summer! Thanks for your patience with me as I've taken a lot longer to answer them than I thought I would. There were many questions about our large family, and because these questions are so personal and important to me, I've saved them for the last.

From The Depews:
Did you always know you wanted such a large family?

From Katie:
How did you come about having a large family? Did you always know you'd have so many so close, or was it something that kind of happened?
Before I met my husband, I never really thought about how many kids I'd eventually have. I knew being a mother was something I wanted to do with my life, but I wasn't one of those girls that spends her days planning her future family, what they'll look like, what their names will be, etc. I didn't date a lot in high school, and to be truthful, I sometimes wondered if I'd even find the right man to marry -- I guess I figured I was old maid material! So most of my plans were in the academic field, though even there, beyond trying to earn as many scholarships I could, I didn't even know what I wanted to study!

I do remember as a very little girl, the fifth of six kids, telling my mother once that I wanted to have only two kids because I wanted to spoil them. I probably told her that right after she told me I couldn't have something I wanted.

When I met my husband my freshman year of college, it was exciting to find someone who was so wonderful and who liked me too! He was smart, determined, hard-working, and dedicated to our faith. He and I met because we were asked to teach a Sunday School class together in our student ward at BYU, and we got to know each other really well as we discussed gospel subjects.

We never really had a surface friendship or superficial conversations. He had returned home just a few months before from serving a mission to Brazil, and he wasn't one to waste time talking about the weather. In fact, on our first date (two weeks after we met and two weeks before he got rid of his other girlfriend), as we drove to a concert in Salt Lake, he turned to me and asked, "How do you feel about children?" (In case you're wondering, I was in favor of them, as was he.) It was the first of many great conversations where we found out we were very compatible.

(starry-eyed engaged couple in 1997. I was a lot cuter back then.)

As we dated more seriously and became engaged, we had lots of conversations about the home and family we wanted to have together. I don't remember ever discussing what number of kids we wanted to have, though, beyond deciding that we wanted "a lot." We both felt that such a decision at that point in our lives was a bit presumptuous and that we'd rather wait and see what the Lord had in store for us and our family. When asked, we'd say the same thing we tell people now, "We'll have as many as come."

A few weeks before my marriage, I was given a priesthood blessing. In our faith, we believe that we can seek special counsel or healing through the power of God through one who holds the priesthood. We don't seek blessings lightly, usually only when we feel a special need, such as when we are beginning a new phase in our lives or when we are dealing with a difficult trial or when we are sick.

During the blessing, I was told a little about the children who would come to our family, and I was promised that my body would be healthy and strong to bear the "many, many souls" who would come to our family. It was a powerful glimpse of the future for me, and afterwards, my husband and I simply stared at each other for a few moments. "Many, many?" one of us asked, "I wonder how many that will be?"

We still don't know, and I don't think we ever imagined our family would grow quite so quickly, but I know we're not there yet! It has been comforting to me over the years to seek God's help and inspiration in planning our family and in reassuring me that somehow, I can do this. It has not always been easy and many times it has taken me a great deal of faith to follow this path, but I have always felt the love of my Father in Heaven and the importance of the work I do in my home.

From The Depews:
Have you and your husband ever disagreed on "the right number?" If so, how did you work through it?
We really haven't ever disagreed on our plans for our family, though sometimes I've been more anxious about getting the next one here than he has been. Since we have usually simply allowed our children to come, it hasn't been much of a discussion. He's said a few times, "I hope it's a long time before the next one comes," and I'll ask if he thinks we need to do something to prevent it, but that has never felt right and that's been the end of the discussion.

It helped a lot that we had worked through our feelings and thoughts on this subject before we were married. We'd discussed a lot of important subjects, such as the decision to have me be at home raising our children. This, to me, was one thing I would not compromise on and if my husband had felt differently about the importance of a mother in the home, I would have broken it off. I was glad that we were both committed to it, because we had many lean years as my husband finished school and worked to support our family. We had five kids before he started his career, but we were always blessed with enough, and my children had the privilege of having a mother devoting her full efforts to raising them.

We have always prayed together about the major decisions in our lives and if we ever were to disagree about the number of children, then that's how we'd handle it.

From Allison:
I know you plan on more babies, but have you ever felt 'done'? What if you did? Do you have a magic number? I ask this because I felt very strongly that we were 'done' after Jake. My body had a very difficult time with the pregnancy, and my husband and I both felt pretty strongly that Jake was our caboose. Fast forward to Audrey. She was such a surprise to us! Now, though, we can't imagine our life without her! I feel very much like she was meant to join our family. Now, I still feel very much like our family is complete, but I worry that there are more babies meant to come to our family, KWIM? Once I am pregnant and even more so once they get here, they feel so RIGHT and I am trying to reconcile the fact that we are done, with the fact that I know any others that came would fill a void in our family that I didn't know we had......

from Katie:
I know you plan on more babies, but is there a certain magic number at which you'll say 'enough!'? How will you know when you're done?
These are both great questions, and the plain answer is, "I don't know!" We don't have a magic number, though I think we'll probably have more than ten before we're done and less than thirteen.

What I do have is a strong conviction that we have more children ready to come to our family. I don't know how it will feel to be done; I just know what it's like to know our family is still going to grow.

I do hope my children are all here before I'm 40 (I'm 32 right now), and I would really like them all here before my oldest leaves for college, but I don't know if that will happen or not. I certainly don't want to miss out on a baby who is meant to be in our family simply because of some arbitrary number or age cut-off I've decided on.

I really hope that at some point, we'll just know that our family is complete, but I've known a lot of people who have felt done only to be happily surprised by another, like Allison was. My sister, for one, was done for about seven years before little Rachel joined their family. A friend and her husband felt that three kids were just right for them, but a few years later, they are so grateful they changed their minds and had number four. And while I think we are often surprised by life's little twists, I don't think God ever is. I don't think He scrambles around, thinking, "Oh gee, the Smith family is pregnant again and I already sent them all the kids they were supposed to have. Where am I going to come up with another child for them?" I think He knows and loves us and our children and He blesses us according to our faith and desires. While my sister might not have known about little Rachel, God had a plan for her life and her family. The joy she has brought to that home is amazing to watch.

So I look forward to seeing what life holds. It would be really great if I could plan it all out right now, but that wouldn't be nearly as much fun! I used to want to know everything that was going to happen to me and when, but as I've matured, I've gotten better at being happy with knowing enough for now. I love the words of the song, "Lead Kindly Light" that say, in part, "Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see The distant scene—one step enough for me."

How have you and your husband decided on the right number of children? If you are "done," how did YOU know it?

Monday, March 01, 2010

Q&A: Naps

From Tiffany:
I want to know how and if you ever manage naps during the daytime for yourself.

Something you never realize before becoming a mom is just how much of your life with little children revolves around sleep: having it interrupted, trying to get it, and often, surviving without it.

I'm a huge believer in the restorative power of naps. An experienced mom told me once that an hour in the afternoon is worth two at night and I think that's true.

As to whether I manage to actually get those naps, it depends on which year you're asking about! The year my twins were born, and I had five kids ages 5 and under, it was an enormous challenge. I was waking sometimes thrice a night to care for those girls -- who like all my others didn't sleep through the night until they were about ten months old -- and with five kids home in the afternoon (Lillian had morning kindergarten), it was nearly impossible to get naps during the week. Late afternoons and evenings were the hardest, as I often felt like a zombie. I really had to pray a lot that year for patience and strength and the ability to function even though I was so tired. I think if all my prayers that year were played back, half of them would be some variation of, "Father, I'm tired. Please help." By the time the weekend rolled around, I was running on empty. Then a wonderful thing would happen. On Sunday afternoon, while my husband took care of the kids, I'd collapse on my bed and sleep for several hours. By the time I woke up, I felt renewed and ready to face another week.

Naps lately have been easier. While I'm mostly sleeping through the night right now, my body is working hard nourishing this baby, and I really need that afternoon nap. My kids are at a great stage right now, and the three little girls who are awake in the afternoon are getting along great. They know that afternoons are quiet time for a few hours. Quiet time is something I've tried to have for years, so it's part of the routine. While Harmony naps, I'll either put on a video (Yep -- TV is used as a babysitter, but because my kids get so little of it, it's a pretty effective one!) or get the girls started on playing something. Then I'll lie down in the next room and try to rest. Sometimes I don't sleep, but use the time to read or work on a project.

Some days are better than others and I of course have those days where nothing happens as it should and I don't get a nap when I really need one, as well as those times when the kids are fighting or needy and not able to let me sleep. Last week, I got an extra long nap on a day I really needed it. The girls were playing quietly for a long time and when I woke up, I thought, "Wow, these girls are so great." Then I walked into the kitchen. They had gotten the watercolor paints out of the family office (where they are kept up high), and their creations were everywhere, along with drips of paint-colored water, on the table, on the floor, on the counter. Not only that, but somehow, they had found the playdough bin I keep up on the very top shelf of the pantry. Half-dried, abandoned Playdough was all over the table, the chairs, and the floor. But luckily, having that wonderful nap helped me keep my sense of humor and the four of us tackled the mess and got it cleaned up.

It's nice to have that quiet few hours in the afternoon because as soon as all the kids come home from school, it's time to kick it into high gear, as I manage tons of simultaneous demands: one child needing this signed, another needing spelling words printed out, another wanting help with math, a third needing encouragement on his chores, and dinner needing to be started. When I've gotten a nap and feel rested, it's a fun and enjoyable time of day. When I'm over-tired, it's stressful and I feel on edge.

How have you managed to get enough rest? How does your body handle interrupted sleep?

As a sidenote, I once read a blog post by a mom of three, with a newborn, who said that as long as she's not up for very long at night, she can wake up several times at night without feeling tired in the morning. Do you think she was delusional or is such a thing actually possible? I wake up for five minutes to go to the bathroom (baby pressing on my bladder!), and feel exhausted the next day.


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