Friday, March 28, 2008


Ultrasound confirmed this morning that we have 10 fingers, 10 toes, two arms, two legs, a four-chambered heart, healthy lips, healthy brain, and NO . . . well, you get the point. She's definitely a girl! We're thrilled and excited, and look forward to our fifth girl and seventh child. The boys are definitely outnumbered around here. But Eliza gets her special sister close in age!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Logistics (a.k.a. There's no such thing as a quick trip)

I was talking with my neighbor today. She had her third child a few weeks ago and was brave enough to run errands for the first time this week. It's a bit intimidating to figure out how to do that with a new little life along. Her husband asked her, "Well, how does Christina do it?"

So, here's the lowdown: Mostly, I don't do it. I put off errands as much as possible. I make lists of all the things I have to buy and then wait and wait until I really can't wait anymore to buy those diapers or onions or bananas. Then I just do it.

My other secret? DH does most of the shopping. He LIKES to, and he's pretty good at it, too. His mind is like a steel trap when it comes to prices and good deals. He remembers exactly what he paid for things even years ago. He knows when to buy pineapple because it's the best price it's going to be, and when to stock up on cans of green chiles and when something is not a good price. Me? I see something on sale and think, "Oh, I think we need some of that." But usually I don't know how good of a sale it really is, so I only buy a few items and then let DH stock up when HE goes out shopping.

Yep, I'm spoiled. Did I also mention DH likes to cook? I never cook on weekends; that's his job. However, he hates weeding and yardwork and doesn't mow the lawn. That's my job. In fact, I mowed the lawn up until my 34th week of pregnancy with the twins. That's when my neighbor, a labor & delivery nurse, scolded me so badly I thought I better not let her catch me at it again. I actually enjoy mowing the lawn. I get some quiet time to myself while DH manages the kids. Ah, peace.

But back to logistics. There are certainly times I have to go places and buy things and usually, I'm dragging 4 to 6 kids with me. I also go out quite often to take the kids somewhere fun, and I go to the library once a week for storytime and new books.

When the twins were babies, it was challenging, but doable. I kept a triple stroller in the car and pulled it out for all shopping trips. Pop the carseats and my 2-year-old in, have the 3 and 5-year-old hang onto the sides, and we were off. The basket underneath the triple stroller is nearly inaccessible, so if I had to buy more than a few items, I'd drag a grocery cart behind me or have my 5-year-old push one. When we went to the library (once a week, starting when the twins were 2 weeks old), the 2-year-old walked so I could use the backseat for the basket of books and the front two seats for babies.

Nowadays, I keep a double stroller in the car. The twins long since gave up letting me buckle them into a stroller and hanging out quietly while we searched the store for some random item. But that extra seat still comes in handy for carrying gear or groceries or sometimes one or two of the twins, when they are in the mood.

But even with all my preparations, there is still no such thing as a quick trip, as I was reminded this morning. I had 20 minutes to spare from when I picked up the twins from playgroup and needed to be at the school to pick up my kindergartner. I thought we could make a quick trip to the library, drop off our items and quickly grab a few videos before heading back home. I'm not sure what I was thinking, because between hurrying the twins up, searching for Sarah when she mysteriously disappeared, then dragging Allison away from the library computers three times, choosing a couple of videos, letting the girls get a drink from the drinking fountain, and then checking out with our items, and then convincing Allison & Sarah that they needed to buckle themselves into the van RIGHT NOW, it was anything but quick. I was 10 minutes late picking up Michael, and a bit frazzled.

Here's some other tips for logistics:

*Keep a stroller of appropriate size in the car.

*Keep some snacks handy in the car. Last year, we had to drive our kids twice a day to school, and my 2-year-olds were anything but happy about being in the car for 20 minutes at a time. My desperation attempt to soothe them? Dum-dum suckers. It gave me at least 5 minutes peace while they slowly consumed them. Nowadays, I don't need the dum-dums but I do keep some fruit snacks in the car for the occasional reward/bribe

*Keep some emergency supplies in the car. Sure, a first aid kit is nice and all, but I'm talking about REAL emergencies. A towel can do a lot when you've got a child throwing up all over. I keep plastic bags in the car for similar reasons. And wet wipes. And diapers. I also keep a bin of crayons and some paper, not to use in the car, but for those times when I realize I have to keep three little girls occupied and I haven't got a single thing for them to do, such as those darn PTO meetings. It also came in handy when we were headed to Church in Arizona and all of a sudden I realized I was facing 70 minutes of sacrament meeting without my handy church bag.

*Make a list before you go shopping. If you know what you're buying, you'll save lots of time and money.

*Don't have television. You might be wondering just what television has to do with logistics, but trust me, it saves us a ton of grief. The kids don't watch any commercials, so they don't beg me for useless toys and sugary garbage. I've never had a tantrum thrown on me because of some item the child just had to have. (I've had tantrums thrown for tons of other things, but not that).

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Few Videos

In Which Michael Describes his Horrible Fate at Disneyland:

At California Adventure this week, DH took the kids on the Grizzly River Rapids. At one point on the ride, there is a geyser that soaks the whole boat. The geyser goes off randomly most of the time, except when enterprising young souls pay a quarter to time it just right. When DH and the kids got to that point, Lillian and Joey called out to the boys on the pier to turn on the geyser. They did, soaking everyone thoroughly. Everyone thought it was great fun, except Michael, who went into a tirade afterwards. He calmed down a bit later as they enjoyed lots of other rides, and even returned to watch and laugh at other boats getting soaked!

In Which Allison & Sarah try to Change the Subject:

I tried to get Allison & Sarah to admit their fear of the bathtub, but Allison would have none of it, changing the subject. (for background, see this post)

In Which Eliza is Cute

Nothing special here, except that my mom in Switzerland hasn't seen Eliza in nearly a year and might enjoy seeing how cute she is! Joey & Lillian fight over whose turn it is to take Eliza on the trike; they both adore her and want to give her a fun time.

Here's something you don't see everyday

DH took the three older kids to Southern California this weekend while I stayed home with the three little ones and enjoyed the quieter house. On their trip, they visited Disneyland, the beach, the Santa Ana Science Center, and the La Brea Tar Pits. Evidently the latter was quite an exciting place to be, with lots of mammoth, saber-tooth cat, and ice age skeletons, as well as thick, sticky tar on the ground. I'd always pictured the place as one big pit, but nope, there are a number of pits of all sizes, including ones that pop up at random in the grass.

A Picture is Worth How Much?

Taking a Bath in the Sink

Here's Sarah having a great time "bathing" in our sink!

Good Habits Start Young

This afternoon, Sarah wanted to play a coloring game on the computer. I told her she needed to clean up all the papers on the floor in the office first. She did, and started playing. I was quite impressed with her initiative and the cleanliness of the office floor. It wasn’t until I opened the closet to put something away that I discovered just where all those books and papers had gone – yep, on the floor in the closet! Great job, Sarah! I didn’t even know you knew that trick! =)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Footnote to my "Allison -- Where Are You?" Post

Just had to say that this past week it's been Allison waking in the night and calling out, "Sarah!"

One night late last week (the same night Grandma died, incidentally), neither girl could sleep for some reason. I finally put on a movie for Allison, who woke up first. Sarah joined her a bit later, and instead of making her own spot, Allison scooted over and made room on the couch. I moved the cushions off the couch behind them so they'd have a bit more room. (see photo above)

Allison really tries to take care of everyone and protect them. We were playing outside and Eliza took a few steps into the street (we live on a quiet culdesac). I called to Eliza to come back and she had started back when out of nowhere Allison ran up and grabbed her by the coat, dragging her back to the grass. Allison was so mad when I reprimanded her for her rough treatment of her little sister. "But she was going in the street!" she said, "She could get hurt!" It was sweet, if a bit overzealous.

She's also watching out for Sarah, particularly saving her from the evils of taking a bath. Yep, all of a sudden baths are the enemy around here. We watched Ghostbusters 2 a few months ago with the kids. Mind you, I had the remote control in my hands and fast-forwarded anything that might be remotely too scary for the little ones. Well, at one point, slime comes out of the bathtub faucet. We fast-forwarded the next part, where it turns into an evil creature, but evidently the slime coming out of the faucet was scary enough that the twins now refuse to take baths. The funny thing is that we watched the movie 2 or 3 months ago, and up utnil two weeks ago, they played away happily in the tub. Now, they adamantly refuse to go near it, particularly Allison. If I remind her that her hair needs to be washed and she needs to get clean, she'll run into the bathroom and put water on her head so she can "wash" it herself. The other day, DH had Sarah convinced and excited to take bath and she was walking towards the bathroom when Allison swooped in out of nowhere, screaming, "NO! NO! You can't take a bath! Or there will be slime!" She grabbed Sarah and tried to pull her away from DH. Sarah, sufficiently warned, did not get into the tub.

Lest you think I've given up on cleanliness, however, I would like to point out that I was able to get them into the shower long enough to get clean last week, and this week, when they refused the shower, I cleaned out our sink and washed them in there. They were quite sweet about it, and even seemed to like it.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

A Tribute to Izola Bartholomew

My husband's grandmother died Tuesday morning. We went as a family to see her on Sunday right after Church. We expected to have the kids sing her songs, assure her of our love, and then go home as usual. Instead, we walked in and found her lying on her bed with an oxygen mask on, struggling for breath. My immediate thought was, "She's dying." The kids were very sad to see her that way. She wasn't coherent, but we told her how much we loved her, talked to the nurse about how she was doing (not good, she hadn't eaten all day), and very sadly left the nursing home. My husband's father, her only child, spent much of Sunday and Monday with her, and her niece and almost-daughter spent more time with her Monday night. Tuesday morning, around 3 a.m., she left this life for a better one. I'm so glad she didn't linger longer.

Izola was a strong woman who was blessed with a long and relatively healthy life. She turned 95 last year, and up until 14 months ago, she was able to live on her own with very little help. A fall made it necessary for her to move to assisted living. Since her only child was out of the country until last July, it fell to DH and his siblings to find and help her settle into a new place. We moved her to assisted living in our town and I became very close to her, taking her to her doctor's appointments, seeing to her needs, and visiting her every night.

At first I visited because the adjustment was so hard for her, then I continued to visit because I loved her and I was part of her security. She loved it when I brought Eliza along, just 2 months old when she moved here. She adored Eliza and they had a special connection. We soon settled into a routine. I would visit with her, trying to come up with interesting things to tell her about the kids or something going on in the world. I'd bring her sections of the newspaper, which she'd devour. I'd ask her about her day and her life and her history. I learned the names of her brothers and sisters and some of her cousins, checked her phone for messages, helped her call her sisters and sister-in-law, then helped her dress for bed and settled her in for the night. I really enjoyed my time with her and was grateful that I could serve her in this way. I felt blessed with extra energy and strength, and honestly, it felt so good to be able to serve her in this way. She protested a bit in the beginning, saying she knew I needed to be with my family and not looking after an old lady, but I told her I wasn't doing anything she wouldn't have done for her own mother. She'd given and given all her life to others; perhaps this was her season to be given to.

Last July, just a few hours before DH's parents were due to get on a plane and return home, and within 12 hours of my father-in-law being released as mission president for my Church, she fell, breaking her hip in the process. DH's parents rushed home and she underwent surgery to replace her hip. The last 8 months of her life have been spent first in rehabilitation and then in a nursing home. Despite the challenge and shock of the surgery, she has recovered fairly well and had a good quality of life. We were grateful DH's parents could be here to help her through her and spend time with her before she passed on.

Thank you for a life well lived, Grandma Bartholomew. I will be singing "Be Still My Soul" at her funeral on Saturday.

Lillian is named after this wonderful woman, and we're grateful they had a chance to know each other. The picture above was taken by Grandma's niece just one week before Grandma fell.

A Blessing . . .

Wow -- three posts in one day! Don't get too excited. I joined a Photoshop extras site for one day only -- until midnight tonight I can download as many goodies as my internet speed and my clicking finger will allow. Inevitably, there's been a lot of waiting, and waiting for one file to download so I can click on the next. So I've been blogging. =)

But back to my point: This afternoon, I felt my baby move for the first time. She must have been doing backflips. I sat and savored the experience, which was over all too soon, and felt so blessed that tears came to my eyes. I'm so thankful to be the mother of this new life.

ALLISON -- WHERE - ARE - YOU? (and other twin issues)

When I found out we were having twins nearly 4 years ago, I couldn't have been more thrilled. Part of the excitement was the unknown. I wondered what it would be like to have two little girls running around with identical faces. I wondered what kind of friendship they would form, how they would relate to other kids, whether they would gang up on me, whether they would fight, and a hundred other things. After reading lots of books about twins, I mostly just hoped the pregnancy would go well -- all those chapters about bedrest and NICU babies and what to do if one baby died scared me to death. Once I got far enough along that the babies could be born safely, I turned my thoughts again to what having twins would be like.

Well, at 3 and a half, "the twins" (Did you know it's a crime to call them that? They are individuals and should always be referred to by their names. I figure, if that's true, then I'm also ruining the self-esteem of "the boys" and "the big kids" and "the girls" in my family) are so fun to watch together. They are certainly individuals and I think of them very differently. I'm always surprised when people ask me how *I* tell them apart, as if because they see two girls who look just alike, that must be the way everyone sees them. I always say, "they just look different to me." But it's more than that. To me, they are as separate as any other child in my family. I can hear their voices in another room and I know who is saying what. In the dark of the night, when one appears by my bed, I know just who it is even before the timid voice says, "Mommy, can I sleep with you?" When one is throwing a tantrum in the hall at church, I usually know just who it is. I can anticipate their individual whims and separate needs.

That's not to say I don't have occasional moments of confusion; when their back is turned or I'm far away and I realize the reason the girl I'm calling is not turning around is because I'm using the wrong name, or times when I assume the child in the other room that's yelling is Allison because that's usually what she yells about and I find that this time, it's Sarah doing the yelling. But those don't happen that often.

While Sarah & Allison (see, look how good I am at not using the phrase "the twins"!) are separate people, they also function and work as a unit, completely different from any other sibling unit in our family. They have a twin bond and a closeness that I love to watch develop.

Case in point: Lately, the girls have fallen asleep in all sorts of places other than their beds. Mostly this is because they fall asleep faster if they are not in the same room together, talking and giggling and deciding that bedtime is a perfect time to get out all the ponies from their closet or rearrange their dolls. So we put one down in her bed and one down in ours. Or one down on the couch. Or sometimes, when they insist, they both fall asleep on our bed. (my motto: anything that makes bedtime easier goes!) But it also means that sometimes they are separated at night, which is not acceptable to Sarah. She tends to wake up once a night anyway and can often be found crawling into bed with us in the wee hours of the morning. But I realized that her first order of business is to know exactly where Allison is. Several times in the last few weeks, I've woken up to an urgent yell, "ALLISON -- WHERE - ARE - YOU? ALLISON -- WHERE - ARE - YOU?" The first time, Allison happened to be sleeping next to me and she immediately popped up and yelled, "Right HE-ERe!" Another time, I think she must have been sleeping on the couch in the family room right outside Sarah's bedroom, because Sarah quieted right down.

I love that they love each other so much. They keep up a constant chatter and figure out solutions to problems faster than I want them to sometimes (for example, how do we get down that spray bottle mom put up on top of the freezer in the pantry so we can make a mess with it?). But they also really depend on each other. Sarah sends Allison into Daddy's office when he's working from home to ask for treats for each of them. Sarah wanted to do something the other day, so she sent Allison downstairs to ask me, "Mommy, can Sarah have . . . ?" If one of them finds something exciting, the other is the first to know. They are getting pretty good at sharing, though fights are still common.

On the other hand, they don't gravitate towards each other or depend on each other too much. At the storytime at the library, they run in the door separately and sit down with the other kids, rarely next to each other. They started preschool for the first time this week, a fun class run by the child development class at the local high school. When I dropped them off both times, they rushed off to different activities in different parts of the room. When I pick them up, Allison has been at the reading center while Sarah is washing her hands or playing with toys somewhere else. I'm glad to see them separate so well.

I look forward to watching their relationship grow over the years. They are blessed to have each other, and I am blessed to have them.

Family Work Day

Yesterday, I mopped my kitchen floor. It badly needed it -- with so many kids and a rather large kitchen, the floor can suffer. It's a laminate floor, so fairly easy to clean, but I also tend to put off that chore. In any case, once the floor was mopped (only took 20 minutes!), I realized what a boost it was to have it done.

But that, along with a conversation with a friend this morning, reminded me that house-cleaning can be a huge undertaking in a large family. I thought I'd write a bit this morning about how we handle chores and cleaning.

Every Saturday is Family Work Day. It's gotten so ingrained that our kids don't ask, "Is it Saturday?" but rather, "Is it Family Work Day?" We've been doing it so long that no one complains about it, though sometimes they fuss about specific chores.

We began this tradition in January of 2005, when our kids were 5, 4, 2, 6 months and 6 months. It was becoming quite overwhelming to me to keep up with all the work myself during the week, so we designated Saturday as our family cleaning day.

Since then, up until a month ago, each Saturday has been pretty predictable. We make a list of all the jobs that need to be done and get to work. Usually the kids did their own rooms and a few simple jobs on their own, then reported back to help with other jobs. Gradually, the kids have gotten more and more independent with the jobs they can do. When we moved over a year ago, I was able to teach the two oldest how to clean a bathroom and surprisingly, they loved that job and even fought over who got to clean the toilet! Sadly, that enthusiasm has waned somewhat, especially for Joey, who threw a fit a few weeks ago when he was asked to clean just ONE toilet. =)

A month ago, we tried something new. Here's what I wrote the next day about it:

It’s been a normal week here. Yesterday, I tried something new for Family Work Day. Usually, we make a list of all the jobs to be done and then figure out who’s doing what as we go along. This time, I wrote down specific, manageable chores for Joey, Michael and Lillian. Michael and Lillian were thrilled and excited, especially Michael. He’s become quite an enthusiastic worker (quite shocking, I know) who will gladly and cheerfully clean up toys or straighten the mud room. I gave him mostly jobs he likes. Lillian liked the idea of doing her list quickly and then being done! Sarah was my helper and Allison followed Lillian around and helped her with her jobs. DH worked on cleaning out his office. After 90 minutes or so, Lillian finished, then Michael finished soon after. It was a roaring success, except for the third worker. Joey took an hour to pout and rant and every once in a while put something away in his room, then spent the next three hours feeling picked on. He was given a fairly light workload, but just plain moped instead of working. I told the kids early in the day that if they were all good workers, I’d take them sledding.

Despite plenty of warning and lots of encouragement, Joey did not finish his work in time to go with us. He was angry, but I think it was a good lesson for him. DH stayed home with Joey and Eliza while I took the other four sledding.

After that initial day, we've continued this tradition the last few Saturdays, with excellent results. Joey has kept up with the others and the house has gotten whipped into shape faster than ever before. Last Saturday, we had more jobs than usual, so I wrote out the list, assigned a few "must-do" jobs (own rooms, put away own clothes) then had the kids take turns picking what they wanted their other jobs to be. Despite having more to do than usual, the kids were happy and enthusiastic the whole time.

I still have quite a lot of work to do during the week, and most of the laundry and laundry folding falls on me. I try to wash all the laundry on Fridays, then fold it between Friday night and Saturday morning. The three older kids are somewhat helpful in folding (Lillian is wonderful), and sometimes that's part of our Saturday chores.

In any case, once a week our house is picked up, cleaned, and ready for another week.

Anyone else have a good system going?


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