Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Obligatory Christmas Post

(My computer died last week. So there are no pictures for this post and I'll probably be MIA for a while as I figure out whether to focus on getting my computer running again or on begging DH for a new computer and then getting THAT one going. Luckily, I didn't lose any data.)

I love Christmas. Every year on Christmas I find myself feeling sorry for families and couples who don't have young children around to enjoy it with. The magic, wonder and excitement of watching it through young eyes makes all the hard parts of having a large family worth it.

A few memorable moments:
* We had a full week off of school before Christmas and while it was great to have everyone home, it's always easier to entertain eight kids after Christmas, when they have their new toys and games to occupy them. We set a "no media" rule except for two hours of quiet time in the afternoons and then after dinner in the evenings and while a couple of my kids claimed boredom, most found plenty to do.

* I found a nearby gym with open-play hours and we had a blast one morning, jumping on trampolines, doing their climbing wall and swinging from their trapeze (though when I say "we" I mean "they," of course. I watched). A liberal amount of foam cubes in various pits contributed to the safety of the event and though it was somewhat crowded, we still had a great time.

* The week leading up to Christmas was a hard one with Harmony. Perhaps staying up later every night contributed to the problems, but my 3.5-year-old who was easily potty-trained this summer and has almost never had an accident since, suddenly was having accidents all the time, of both varieties. She pooped on the floor in various corners of the house four days in a row, including Christmas Eve! There's a reason we don't have a dog, but at least with a dog, you know to expect this kind of thing. Angelic 3.5-year-olds should know better, right? I'm hoping getting back to a routine (and more regular sleep) will help.

* My husband and I went to the play A Christmas Carol at a theater here with some friends. There's something about that Charles Dickens masterpiece that really brings home the message of the season.

* We enjoyed our 25 Days of Christmas Stories tradition, gathering each night to read another true Christmas story and gorging ourselves on the goodies our neighbors brought. With ten of us, though, it was mind-boggling how fast those treats disappeared, though. We'd get out a box of chocolates, give everyone two or three and find the box empty. Next year, we'll have our first teenager in the house, and with the five oldest being born in five years, soon there will be a whole horde of them -- think we can keep up in the food department?

* At the dentist office a few weeks ago, I used my Blackberry to entertain Katie, finding Muppet videos on Youtube for her. Her favorite is one with Beaker singing Ode to Joy. She comes running to me all the time asking for the "mi mi mi" song. She's dragged Joey over to the computer a dozen times and had him play the video for her and every time she sees my phone, she tries to grab it and watch her favorite "mi mi mi." At least she's charming about it!

* Christmas Eve always starts for us with a trip to our favorite Chinese restaurant. They've learned to expect us and we go early enough in the evening to have the place nearly to ourselves. The food was fantastic.

* We had the best Christmas Eve program yet. Just our family. We read the Christmas story from the Bible while the children acted it out. Mary (played by Allison) was particularly reverent, though baby Jesus was a doll this year -- Katie can't sit still for more than two seconds. Without being asked, Lillian had taken the initiative earlier that day to assign parts, gather costumes, and run through a dress rehearsal with the kids.

* One of the best parts of having older kids as well as younger ones is that the older ones enthusiastically embrace the traditions (and the associated work involved) that a tired, pregnant mom is tempted to skip. My kids did almost all of the decorating, Lillian loves wrapping so she did all that, and I didn't have to do anything at all to prepare for the Christmas program.

* After our Christmas pageant, we put Katie to bed and watched "Joy to the World," a video about the Savior's birth and life produced by my Church and so touching. I had actually thought I was putting on the shorter, 5 minute video that tells just the story of the nativity (paired with an Amy Grant song on Youtube here), but what we watched was much more involved and much sweeter, as it included both the nativity as well as vignettes of Christ's life, work, mission, and death. Some of us were teary-eyed by the end, as we contemplated the real reason we celebrate Christmas and the gift of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.

* We ended the evening by opening one present each. I love how grateful my children are.

* Every year we try to keep Christmas to two main presents, one from us and one from Santa, with some little things as well. And every year, I'm amazed at how many "little things" get added -- nothing expensive, but books, clothes, stickers, little toys, etc. make everyone's Christmas haul seem enormous. We had plenty to enjoy this Christmas.

* We had Santa deliver presents to our larger great room rather than our front room this year. We've outgrown that space!

* We start with stocking and Santa gifts (those aren't wrapped). Santa brought Lillian a laminating machine and some books, Joey a large toolbox, Micheal a couple of Lego sets, Allison and Sarah remote control cars, dresses, and tiny American Girl dolls. Eliza, Harmony and Katie also got tiny American Girl dolls along with one or two other things.

* We had a lovely breakfast of butterscotch rolls, then headed to Church for a lovely musical sacrament meeting. I really enjoyed having Christmas on a Sunday.

* After Church, we headed home, changed (most of us back into pajamas) and opened the rest of the presents.

* This is not really a Christmas memory, but I'm excited to report that I now have less than 6 weeks to go before this baby arrives! I spent a good part of November and the first half of December trying not to feel resentment at how awkward and exhausting this pregnancy has become. Hardest for me is that I'm sleeping so poorly at night, waking up multiple times and having trouble falling back asleep. It makes the days tougher. But I'm happy that halfway through December, I had some experiences that gave me a change of heart and I've been enjoying the privilege of pregnancy once again. This little one is probably not our last baby, but it is likely she is our last little girl, and I want to savor the last few weeks of having her kick and move around inside me.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Effective Discipline Principles and Practices, Part One

This morning, our mother's group had a discussion on "Creative Discipline: Getting Kids to Mind without Losing Your Mind." I loved discussing this topic with other bright, creative, and loving moms and I realized as I did so that I have learned a lot more about this subject over the years than I'd realized.

Since I have a tendency to try to bite off more than I can chew, I thought I'd share what I've learned in small pieces and focus on just one or two parenting principles at a time, starting with this one:

Parenting Principle #1: There's a difference between principles and practices (and why you shouldn't be a technique snob).

In disciplining, I think it's important to distinguish between discipline principles and discipline practices. A principle is a truth or a standard (children need to understand that their choices have consequences), while a practice is a way of applying the principle (time-outs, logical consequences, etc.). Too many parenting books, in my opinion, focus too much on practices and not enough on principles. If you only learn "THE WAY" they are promoting in their book, then everything will go perfectly. Without their tried-and-true amazing technique, you're lost! While certainly some practices or techniques work better than others and we can all stand to improve in our methods, I think focusing on following to the letter some so-called expert's advice can distract us from the overall picture and goal of discipline.

For example, many books are hyper-critical of the exact words parents use in their teaching of their children. It's important to use "I" statements and communicate more clearly, they say. Change your wording and your child's behavior will magically improve! But too often lost in the whiz-bang presentation of their ideas are the more important principles that should underlie all your communication. For example, one of the first parenting principles I will discuss is "Discipline should be built on the foundation of a loving relationship." Without love and trust between a parent and child, no "I" statements in the world can improve behavior long-term.

Getting hung up on a certain practice of parenting can limit the long-term growth of your family. It's like the difference between understanding the principles of nutrition and using them to plan your menus versus simply copying a recipe. Good cooks know many recipes and are willing to try new ones, all with the overall goal of creating a healthy family. In contrast, someone with little understanding of nutrition or cooking might still be able to follow a recipe and turn out a passable dish, but there could be problems along the way. Your double-fudge brownies might turn out to taste amazing, for example, but if you start making them every day, it's going to be a disaster for your family's long-term health. Even if you discover a more healthy basic recipe -- say, a great casserole -- your family is still going to hate having it served at every meal.

In the same way, the techniques you use to discipline your children should vary. Go ahead and read the parenting books and try the techniques. Share those "recipes" with others. But don't get so hung up on method that you become a snob about it. Sometimes, I see pointless and mean-spirited conversations on the internet about why this method or that one is THE BEST and why everyone who doesn't use it is just evil or clueless or a child abuser or whatever (never let your kid cry it out vs. teaching a child to sleep independently, pacifier vs. thumbsucking, baby-wearing vs. putting a baby down, etc.). I cringe when I read these conversations because sometimes it's like debating whether you should serve meatloaf and potatoes for dinner or a chicken and broccoli casserole. Neither are bad or wrong, they're just different ways of applying the overall principles of nutrition. Your family may happen to love broccoli. It may be your favorite dish and you may grow it organically in your back garden and eat it three times a month and assume that if everyone were just as smart as you, they'd do the same. But all your arguments in the world for why your recipe is best might just not be convincing to a family who doesn't like the taste of broccoli. That's why they've chosen different meals for their table. (And yes, I know the analogy here breaks down for those who eschew meat at their table -- but that's another debate I refuse to engage in here).

Except in extreme cases, I like to assume that parents are doing their very best to teach and rear their children and if they choose a different method for doing so, then I try to assume they are doing it because they feel it's best for them. While I might pass along my favorite recipes and share my reasons for using and liking them, I'm not offended if people don't choose to use them.

So while parenting principles are always true, their application, or the practices we use to implement them, will change based on a parent or child's temperament, maturity, the situation, family dynamics and culture. So while I will discuss both principles and practices in this series, please understand that when I give examples of ways the principles could be enacted, these are simply suggestions and ideas. Your family may decide to use other methods and they might work better for you. And hey, if they do, please, share the recipe!

Christmas Gifts (Friday Favorites)

I love how generous people are with their time and talents this season. Here are a few of the gifts I've found:

Shawna Edwards wrote this beautiful song for the season:

And My Church has created beautiful Bible stories free for your use. See all of them here (and more to come).

This one would be wonderful to share with your family this Christmas:

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Five Years Ago (Wordless Wednesday)

This is what our cute family looked like. We'd survived selling a house, building one, living in a hotel for six weeks, bringing a newborn "home" to that hotel, moving into a new home, and half a year with two-year-old twins. Lillian was 7, Joey was 6, Michael was 4, Allison and Sarah were 2, and Eliza was six weeks old.

See? Our family's always been crazy!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving Memories (Wordless Wednesday)

We spent the weekend before Thanksgiving in Park City. We enjoyed lots of art projects . . .

Swimming . . .

sledding . . .

And having a great time.

Thanksgiving was spent at our house with our family and the addition of my in-laws. DH cooked a seriously delicious deep-fried turkey plus a few other things, I added some amazing rolls and brownies, and the food was wonderful.


After eating, Lillian pulled out her gratitude jar, a tradition she started last year. She'd asked us all to name things we were grateful for. As she read off each item, we were supposed to guess who had said it. Some of them were very funny.

It was a lovely day. Our house felt full to overflowing even with "just" our family and the grandparents, and I couldn't help imagining the gatherings we might have in the future, with dozens of grandkids and our grown-up kids joining us for fun and celebration. What a blessing it is to belong to a family.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Why am I doing this again? (Friday Favorites)

I loved what Janene Baadsgaard, a mother of ten, has to say in this experience she had while expecting yet another child:

One day I was waiting in line for my child’s evaluation with his new kindergarten teacher. A stylish young mother and her son sat in the chairs next to us because the teacher was running behind. I was obviously eight months pregnant and hovering on the huge side of big.

This young mother stared at my belly and asked, “Why do you want to do that again?” Her question caught me off guard. I blushed. “This is it for me,” she added. “Boy am I ever ready to get this last one in school. Now it’s my turn for me.” She was wearing beautifully tailored clothes, her hair was elegantly styled and her long fake fingernails were polished pink with jeweled flowers on the tips. “Just bought that,” she finished pointing to a shiny red sports car in the parking lot. “Nice huh.”

I looked down at my protruding mid-section and asked myself . . . Why am I doing this again? My worn maternity clothes were stained orange across the belly with my preschooler’s spaghetti from lunch. I still had dirt under my fingernails from playing in the sandbox. My wind-blown hair was stuck to several sticky kisses on my cheeks. The old van I drove was covered with mud and still smelled like hot dog and marshmallow smoke from our last family camp out. Yet, I knew exactly why I was doing this again.

I cleared my throat several times, turned to this woman and asked, “What if a highly important person brought you to the opening of a diamond mine and said you could go inside and gather as many diamonds as you wanted? But, there was one condition. You only had a certain amount of time before your opportunity was over and then you couldn’t gather any more diamonds. Would you do it?”

“Sure, who wouldn’t,” the stylish young mother answered.

“What if some of the diamonds were hidden in the rocks and you had to work really hard to find them and keep them?”

“I’d be willing to do whatever it took to get those diamonds because then I’d be rich,” the young mother answered. “Even one diamond is worth a fortune.”

“That’s why I’m doing this again,” I answered patting my abdomen.

I’m not sure that woman understood what I was trying to say. But I noticed that my little boy, who was seated next to me, took my hand and quite literally beamed.

Children always know when they’re somebody’s treasure.

Wiping runny noses, changing messy diapers, fixing endless meals, sorting dirty laundry, soothing crying infants, waiting up for teenagers, supervising homework, cleaning up after the stomach flu, washing dishes, bringing in a paycheck and picking up after another toddler tornado doesn’t seem like important work. It is. Loving and serving children of all ages is the only work that really matters. The value of each person’s soul is priceless.

So, the next time you’re in the middle of cleaning up yet another mess, repeat these words . . . Children are my diamonds. I’ll do whatever it takes to nurture their souls because then I’ll be rich with love forever.

Many people ask me if I'm planning on more kids. Up until a few weeks ago, my answer has been, "Sure, I'm only 33; I've got time." But being confronted with the number 34, which seems not so far from 35 and so on, I decided to see how much time I really do have.

This site points out:

Declining fertility is more of an issue for women than for men. Assuming that [husband and wife are actively trying to conceive] and that there are no medical or health problems, statistics show that:

  • At the age of 25, a woman has a 30% –35% chance of conceiving per cycle.
  • At the age of 35, a woman has a 15% –20% chance of conceiving per cycle.
  • At the age of 45, a woman has a 3% –5% chance of conceiving per cycle.
And I also found this chart interesting, showing the likelihood of a woman getting pregnant over the course of a year:
Assuming those averages prove true in my case, it shows me that I really don't have that much time. The years to be gathering our treasures are surprisingly short.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fall Trip to Cedar Breaks & Bryce Canyon (Wordless Wednesday)

We had a fabulous time staying a week in Brian Head in mid October. We went hiking every day, swimming nearly every day (an indoor pool made that nice), and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. Many of our hikes were at high elevation -- as much as 11,000 feet -- and with Katie going through a "mommy-only" phase, I carried her on a lot of them. It made me very grateful for the fitness I've worked so hard for this year.

I went up a day early with the seven youngest kids. DH, who had some work things to finish up and Lillian, who had a school project to finish, came up later. Our first hike was to an amazing waterfall.

Cedar Breaks:

My five little girls in a row. I'm so excited they'll get another sister in February:

Bryce Canyon:

Notice the chipmunk posing perfectly for this one?

On the Twisted Forest Trail, among the Ancient Bristlecone Pines, some of the oldest trees in the world:
And we saw lots of these:


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