Tuesday, June 08, 2010

News and Pictures

having a large family means there's
always someone to play with


In my head are about a dozen blog posts, each worthy of several hours to develop the thought and write it.

But with eight kids home this summer, a new baby and a thousand other things calling for my attention, you'll have to make do with this random, newsy post.

Katie



Katie is growing up and just barely starting to outgrow that cross-eyed, scrunchy-monkey newborn look. She woke up only twice last Saturday night, which is a new record! Usually, I'm up with her at least three times and every couple of nights, she decides to stay awake in the middle of the night for a few hours.

It's exhausting work, but it's also a blessed and exalted work. I'm not just saying that because it sounds nice; it's how I feel every day when I care for Katie's needs. At no other time in her life will I do so much for her without her even being aware of what I do. I was thinking this week of all that I do for my children that they don't comprehend or remember and that they will probably never thank me for. And then I started to realize just how much my own mother has done for me over the years and how I hardly ever bother to thank her or remember her sacrifice. Which brought me to the Savior. He has given so much to me and sacrificed so much, and yet how often do I really think about that and try to comprehend it? Jesus gave without thought of reward, and raising children is so much like His work.



Saudi Arabia

Our other big news right now is that my husband is going to spend a month teaching in Saudi Arabia! The opportunity just came up this week and we decided it wasn't one to be missed. I'm really excited for the chance DH will have to experience a culture so different from our own, and I'm not nervous at all about being left with eight kids. No, really, I'm not! Maybe I should be, particularly as Katie is so young, but I've felt nothing but peace about it since the idea was first presented, which is part of the reason we knew it was the right thing to do. Last night, I ran to the library and grabbed a bunch of books about the country. DH and I each took one and read through them, pausing every so often to read out facts like, "It is illegal to possess non-Islamic religious texts or belong to a non-Islamic religion (they do make some exceptions for non-citizens)" or "women do not usually associate outside their homes, while men will often visit and meet in coffee houses."

(edited 7/18 to add: The class DH was going to teach has now been canceled, so we won't be without him after all. We're disappointed but hope another opportunity will come along later.)

Colorado

We spent last week in Colorado, enjoying the scenery of Vail, hiking, rockhounding, and swimming. Every time we go on a vacation the first week of summer, I vow never to do it again, then a few months later, I'll forget how challenging it is to simultaneously plan a trip while handling the ten billion things that go along with finishing up a school year and say, "yeah, that sounds like the perfect way to celebrate the summer, let's plan it."

This particular trip was scheduled last summer, before I was pregnant. DH offered to take just the older kids and let me stay home with the two little ones and rest, and up until a few days before the trip, I was seriously considering that. But this is the only family trip we have planned this summer, and I didn't want to miss out, so I went along. We hiked, rockhounded, swam, hung out at some awesome parks (they make the ones around here seem pathetic), toured a cave, visited Leadville and Glenwood Springs, and had a great time. I have billions of pictures I could share from the trip, but here are a few of my favorite:











Along for the Ride

I got a kick out of the concierge at our place in Vail. I brought Katie with me to ask about hiking trails and area attractions. The clerk at the desk and the conceirge admired her -- "ah, so small!" "So sweet." "What's her name?" -- then asked, "Is she your first?" I almost burst into hysterical laughter right there, but I composed myself, and answered wryly, "Actually, no, she's my eighth!" They were amazed and surprised and remarked that I looked like a baby myself. "I'm 32," I told them, "and my oldest is only 11, so they're pretty close in age." The whole conversation ended up bringing an extra benefit, since as we discussed our plans for the week, the desk clerk brought over a pass to the Recreation Center nearby so we could go swimming for free the whole week. Since the place had a splashpool, a lazy river, a water slide and a large lap pool, it was a huge attraction for our kids.

Sometimes I stop and compare how different my later baby's experiences are from Lillian's.
When she was born, our house was quiet. None of our other babies have had that luxury. And in so many ways the world revolved around her. I always felt the house was too quiet. I had to constantly come up with things to do to stimulate Lillian's brain and interact with her. I kept up a constant stream of conversation when she was awake, and tried to play music and take her on walks and plan outings for her. I tried to sit down with her every day at the piano so she would learn to appreciate music. We planned the evenings around her nightly routine.

Joey, our second, got some of the same focus and planning.

By the time our third baby arrived, though, life was no longer all about stimulating the baby. I had places to go and things to do with my other kids and in many ways Michael was just along for the ride -- not that he was an afterthought, but that caring for a baby no longer consumed all my energy. I found it was just as easy to care for his needs while doing and going places designed for my older ones.

I didn't have to think about how to stimulate his brain -- it was exposed constantly to thousands of conversations large and small. I didn't have to turn on music for him because I was already singing and dancing with the older kids. He got to go all sorts of fun and interesting places I would never have taken Lillian, like the zoo and the pet store and the park. He was definitely along for the ride, and enjoying it immensely.

Each child that has joined our family since then has had those same advantages, along with a few others. Sure, I don't have the time to be the one-woman entertainment committee like I did with Lillian, but I'm not that great of an entertainer anyway. All these little people that surround our new baby are much better at it. Katie is loved and stimulated by many adoring fans, and she thrives on it. As she grows, I'm sure she'll find, like Harmony, plenty of excitement from her older siblings as well. Harmony knows just how to get what she wants from each member of this family, and loves to toddle after her older siblings. When it comes to comfort and security, I'm all she wants, but entertainment and stimulation? What's mom compared to older sisters who catch roly-polys and raccoons?

(our house is always full of excitement -- today, it was Allison who caught these little guys we named Chip & Dale, and Harmony who giggled and shrieked about them)


My younger kids have also benefited from having a more experienced mom. When I was first feeding Lillian, it was a major production. I had to get my nursing pillow and my water and a book and situate myself just so on my new rocking chair. Now, I can breastfeed anywhere, anytime and I have -- the most exotic place I think was in the Louvre in Paris when Eliza was six months old. Right there, near the Mona Lisa, I discreetly fed my baby, who was certainly along for the ride on that exotic trip. I know how to handle spit up and soothe babies and I don't rage against the universe when the baby takes more of my time and energy than I expected. I don't relish the early zombie months, but I've come to accept that it's part of the package. I remember feeling helpless sometimes with Lillian, wondering just what it was this little creature needed when she cried, but now it's second nature to interpret and respond appropriately to my baby's cries.

I love what I was able to give Lillian, that she was my sole focus and my world for eighteen months, and I know that she got what she needed. But I also love the way my other babies are thriving in different ways, that we've been able to meet their needs in a dynamic, crazy and wonderful way. I'm glad they joined our family, and I'm glad I get to be along for the ride.





7 comments:

Mostly Diane said...

I always appreciate your attitude about being a mom. Sometimes, I worry about my little ones not getting the same attention. But they still seem to do pretty well.

When does your husband go to Saudi Arabia?

Kristen and Tyson Cramer said...

Thanks for the compliment on the photo of Ellie. Tyson and I have talked about going to Glenwood springs for a vacation sometime. It looks like a fun area! That is certainly a fun reason to miss a baby blessing.

Courtney said...

What a great post! I had no idea you were so young (although you definitely look it).

Kacy said...

Love the picture of Joey. He looks almost like a teenager.

Angie said...

I love how different kids are depending upon their place in life. Our Emma has learned to say "Share me!!" far sooner than any of our other kids just by virture of coming after 3 rowdy brothers. She is still a girly girl, but she can tussle and wrestle with the boys--something Cydney would never have done at that age. Sometimes I think that subsequent siblings go through life with far more security of place than oldest kids, because they don't have to trailblaze anything.

I have a dear family friend who was the military attache to the American ambassador to the royal Saudi family for several years. He loved it, but it was really hard on his wife and daughters, so perhaps it will be best for DH that he is flying solo on this one! How exciting for him (and you, flying solo at home for that long with definitely be an adventure of its own!)

April Perry said...

You are doing incredible work, Christina! I thought of you today as I was struggling to keep my eyes open after not so much sleep. "If Christina can do it with 8, I can do it with 4!" You're an inspiration!

Cherie said...

I love the differences between babies! I put our 4 month old down to play for a minute this last week while I got some work done around the house and my others were sleeping. He got so mad at me! *laugh* I could hear in my head "mom, I came 4th so that I'd never have to be alone!" I'm glad we do have our little gaggle, there's never a dull moment and they sure do love to entertain each other! I don't know where their creativity came from, certainly wasn't from me!

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