Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My children's emergency broadcasting system (aka my cell phone)

You remember those wonderful public safety announcements? The ones that always came on and interrupted the most interesting part of a show to inform us that "This is only a test. Had it been a real emergency, no one would have known because they'd already have changed the channel." Now they no longer show the annoying striped screen, but the voice is still there as the protestations of no real emergency roll across the bottom of the screen. My children must be paying attention because they, too, like to test our emergency broadcasting system (aka my cell phone).

After a disastrous attempt to take all 6 kids grocery shopping last week, this week I wizened up and only took Kirsti and Matthew. The rest were left at home with Elise. I love that my worry is lessened when leaving my kids because, in case of emergency, I can always be reached on my cell phone. I think, however, I may need to review the meaning of emergency with them. The following are examples of things too pressing to wait till I got home:

  • What's for dinner tonight?

  • What are you going to assign us for our chores today?

  • What can we eat for an afternoon snack when you get home?

  • Can we go on the beach later?

  • When are you going to get home? (3 times)

  • Ryan and Ethan are throwing the full size mattress at each other.
This one might actually qualify as an emergency, except it happened 10 minutes before the call was made and was only added as a side note to the dinner question. You really don't want to know the details of why (or how) they were throwing a huge mattress at each other.
  • Can I play on the computer first today?

So, I am now not sure if it is less annoying to bring the kids with me or leave them at home. I'm leaning toward leaving them because
  1. the chore question was so they could get a jump start to get to the beach faster,

  2. the computer question reminded me I had promised Ethan 1st turn on computer and saved me the hassle of accidentally promising two people,

  3. and the dinner & snack question was asked because Elise wanted to make both (which is exactly what she did),

The only information I would have rather not known was the only thing close to an emergency: the mattress throwing incident. Mostly because I prefer to think of my life as normal and my children's fighting habits as usual.

These calls are not an isolated incident. It happens every time I leave the house. It might actually be more obnoxious than trying to use the bathroom with privacy. The worse part is that I know if I ignore the call, it will be the time the house is on fire. So I answer the phone. I referee fights, make simple household decisions, tell people where to find their shoes (or socks or favorite toy or common sense), and solve you-could-have-figured-it-out-on-your-own dilemmas. I remind myself it is a small price to pay for a little freedom.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Lions and Tigers and Bears. Oh, My!

It recently occurred to me that we have not visited a zoo in a really long time. The last time, in fact, was the National Zoo in DC back when we lived in Pennsylvania. In the hopes that my children might appear less wild in comparison, we started out out summer vacation by visiting the Bronx Zoo in NYC.

We bought a family membership (mostly because when your family is as large as mine it is the same price as regular one day admission). We were there 5 hours and saw maybe half the zoo. It was 2 hours down, but the zoo closed at 5 (think rush hour leaving NYC) so it took 3 hours back. Next time we get there and leave a little earlier. I learned a lot at the zoo:

1) All families fight and my family really enjoys watching a good fight (especially if it is preluded by teasing).

2) It is hard to tell which is more wild: the kids or the monkeys?

3) There are some crazy looking creatures out there, and the animal in the background is funky, too.

4) The bonds between parents and children are always beautiful (and all mothers can have that exhausted look).

5) We were not the only one to find a day at the zoo exhausting.

Can't wait to go back and see the rest of the zoo!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Tween boys, giggling, and goals in life

I have recently incorporated a new daily goal into my life. It's a simple enough goal, attained without much effort, but it gives me immense satisfaction and I look forward to its fruition every day. What is this goal? To make my tween boy giggle.

It is a wonderfully fantastic game. As we talk, I watch closely for his mouth to begin twitching. This flicker of encouragement is all I need; I know I'm on the right track. Not long till I get a "Mo-om" as he desperately tries to turn that smile upside down. But eventually he loses control and a giggle breaks forth. Sometimes (these are the best) the giggle is silent, heard only in his throat as he bends over, racked in giggliness.

As I mentioned, it isn't a difficult thing to do. Sometimes all it takes is a reference to bodily functions. Other times a well placed raised eyebrow does the trick, especially when his younger siblings innocently say something that could be construed wrong. There are days a silly song is what is needed, nothing like mixed up lyrics to make a boy giggle. Other days I pull out the big guns, trying to work words like "duty" or even "Uranus" into our conversation. Is there a tween alive that can resist giggling when asked, "What did you learn about Uranus today?"

My husband has picked up on the fun and started participating. He'll make a comment and we both turn to watch its effect on our 11 year old son. As he giggles, we lock eyes and smile. I suppose common goals are a healthy thing in relationships.

I really can't help myself, I thoroughly and completely enjoy watching my tween try not to laugh. I love to hear that giggle erupt unwillingly. I often ponder why such a little thing brings me so much pleasure. Why afterwards I feel a little lighter, a little happier. Maybe I like to feel connected to my son as he begins his plunge into teenagehood. Maybe I need an excuse to be silly every day. Maybe there is no real rhyme or reason. I don't think I really need to know the reason why as long as I can enjoy it why it lasts. I dread the day that giggle is replaced with eye rolls, sighs, or vacant stare. Until then, I'll hold to my daily goal.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Six Births and One Epidural Part 4

Shocked. Incredulous. Honestly, a little scared and angry. I looked at the pregnancy test and saw two faint pink lines. Two? Two. Two! I counted to nine over and over, but the result never changed: my husband’s graduation from med school was just overscheduled with the birth of our fourth baby. I was waiting for the first day of my cycle to switch from the mini to regular birth control pill. That day wasn’t going to arrive for 18 more months.

A little over seven months later I was eight and a half months pregnant. Two weeks earlier I’d flown half way across the country with three children and my mother (a story that deserves its own post) to attend Peter’s graduation in Missouri. Peter had met us there with the moving truck and then continued on to PA. We both flew back to Utah to await the baby’s birth.

My official due date was 2 weeks after Peter was due to begin residency across the country. A lot of math, frustration, and scenario brainstorming had led us to one conclusion: we had to have this baby early. Factoring in Peter’s start date, time to travel from Utah to PA, and recovery time for the baby and me, we had a “no later than” date 2.5 weeks before the due date. Somehow we convinced the doctor to schedule an inducement.

The day of the inducement, I woke up feeling odd. I had a tightening feeling that came and went. It wasn’t painful, regularly spaced, or consistent in duration or intensity. My mother began to worry after 3 hours and suggested I go to the hospital. Mostly to humor her, I went. The doctor met us there to check me out. I was ready to give my mom an “I told you so” after being sent home. I wasn’t, after all, in any sort of pain. Instead the doctor informed us I was dilated to 8.5 cm.

Not yet in a delivery room, the nurses offered a wheel chair as transportation. I declined in favor of walking. I remember the nurse proclaiming in awe to her colleagues that I was walking to my room while dilated to 8.5. Soon we were settled and the doctor broke my water. I had my first painful contraction and directly afterwards felt ready to push. It seemed only one large push before our baby was born. It was the easiest labor imaginable.

Some things I learned:

  • This was the only birth my mother-in-law was able to attend. Want to get bonus points as daughter-in-law? Have a relatively pain free labor where you can joke around through the whole thing and let her watch.
  • After four kids, delivering the head and then waiting to deliver the body is next to impossible. That baby comes out like a projectile.
  • If you can mildly walk down a hall, smiling and joking, while minutes from delivery, you increase your chances of getting the best delivery & recovery room in the hospital.
  • Nurses talk. I was visited at every shift change by all the new nurses asking if I was “the one who had that labor.”
  • After a labor like that you will be paranoid the next baby will fall out in the middle of washing dishes or something.
  • Travelling across the country with a 3 day old isn’t as bad as it seems- they are still sleeping a lot.
  • Always listen to your mother.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

If it won't get warm, we'll just pretend

In an attempt to keep our sanity despite 60 degree weather in the middle of June, we have decided to ignore reality at our house. It is summer. We will act like it is summer. We will wear shorts, ignore jackets, and enjoy ice cream and sandals. When Peter's work had a party at a local attraction that included a splash pad, we ignored the high 60's forecast, put on our swimsuits and headed over. Unfortunately, I did forget to grab towels. But, being that it is summer, we decided to let the warm sun dry us (not to be confused with the breeze turning us into icicles, that can't happen in the middle of summer!).

See, we're not cold:

No freezing involved:

We don't need towels, it is summer, after all:

We even enjoyed some ice cream afterwards:

On another note, I wish this place didn't cost a small fortune (Peter's work paid for it this time) because the park area is AWESOME. Why aren't there more places that cater to older children? Some of the equipment is just plain cool. I've never seen it anywhere before. Check out the rope climbs:

And the jumping areas:

They have equipment for younger kids, too:

They even have mock dinosaurs on a trail walk:

I sure am glad we've had all this wonderful summer weather to enjoy all the fun!!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Say Again?

Regardless of the availability of water to make splashes, my kids call big jumps cannon balls. Every child but Matthew, who mispronounces it in an entertaining way.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Conversation While Driving in the Car...

Kirsti- Mom, you haven't ordered a jump rope yet. When we get home will you order a jump rope?

Me- We can look when we get home to see what they have online.

Joseph- When we get home will you order a pizza?

Kirsti- Joseph, we already had dinner, remember?

Joseph- I know. We can order the pizza as dessert.

Me-We're not ordering a pizza!

Kirsti- No, Joseph, she didn't promise you a pizza. She promised to order me a jump rope. Remember, Mom, you promised to order a jump rope. You haven't ordered a jump rope. Will you order one when we get home?

Joseph- Why is she going to order you a jump rope?

Kirsti- We were at the store and she said she didn't like the ones they had and she would go home and order one from the computer. She has to go online and type "jumprope" and then a package or something comes with a jump rope in it.

Joseph- Oh. Mom, will you order a jump rope when we get home?

(Please note that I did NOT promise to order a jump rope. I merely mentioned a jump rope might be fun, but when I saw the selection at the store I was unimpressed and said - half to myself- that I would check online to see if they had something more like what I wanted. Also note that after this conversation I bought 2 jump ropes for Kirsti's upcoming birthday: a double dutch set and a single jump one. Also please note that the above conversation- and millions more like it- are the reason I listen to talk radio in the car. As much fun as it is to have the same questions repeated over and over and over while I give the same answer every time, sometimes I need a break.)

On another note- here is Kirsti's (and her brothers') hair for crazy hair day and what it looked like the next morning. I think I should do this every Saturday night!:

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sunday- the Good, the Bad, & the Tender Mercies.

Because of Peter's work schedule, there are many Sundays I attend church alone. Not really alone, though, as I bring the six kids with me. I hate coming late those days with the walk of shame up the isle to the only spots left with enough space for my family- the front of the chapel. So I try really hard to leave the house on time, early even. Last Sunday I almost made it.

All the kids were newly-ish bathed or showered with clean clothes and real, matching Sunday shoes. Breakfast (for the ones too young to fast) was bananas and homemade toasted bread, much better than our usual fare of a handful of cereal thrown into a bag to eat on the way. In fact, the only glitch was when I remembered I owned a skirt that matched my new shirt and, after digging into the depths of my closet, found that it didn't fit anymore. But that was only small hiccup and, having exercised the day before, I didn't feel too bad.

In the final lead up to leaving I noticed that Joseph had somehow smeared butter all over the front of his Sunday shirt. I had my hands full of Kirsti's hair so I asked him to wait. Instead he rubbed it into the shirt. I could change him or keep on time. Reasoning that the dark brown color would hide the stain, I choose to keep the schedule.

I loaded the kids in the van, a few minutes behind but still well within my goal. I turned the key to wake the engine, but it protested. Click. Click. Clickity-click. I remembered Matthew climbing in yesterday to play. He must have left a light on.

I can handle this. Peter had gotten home from working the night shift a half hour earlier and his car was parked next to mine. Luckily our driveway has a slight incline so I could shift into nuetral and back down. I ran inside, grabbed Peter's keys, and postioned his car in front of mine for a jump. But I couldn't find the hood release. I looked for a couple minutes before resigning myself to my fate: I needed to wake my husband and ask him how to open the hood. Let's just say he woke up the way he always does and it wasn't fun. The Suburban started immediately and I headed to church, which began 5 minutes into our 20 minute drive.

Now I am in church. I've fixed my slightly cried into makeup and straightened everyone's clothes as I wait for the Sacrament to end so we can find a place in the chapel. As I always do before I begin the long walk up to a seat, in front of the whole congregation, I take a deep breath and hold my head high.

We walk to our seats and as I position myself on the bench I notice a lot of smiles. They weren't "we're happy to see you" smiles they were "I'm trying not to laugh" smiles. I know from experience this means one of two things- one of the kids has snuck in wearing something silly or carrying something silly. A quick check reveals the culprit. Joseph has carried in his toothbrush. It has a suction cup on the end and he has stuck it on the back of the bench. Having just drawn the attention of everyone as we tramped up the isle, at least half the congregation was watching him do it. Oh, joy.

As I try to find something to entertain Matthew in my church bag I notice it has some unusual contents in there as well. Like the missing toilet paper roll and an old, smashed bag of cereal. In fact, my bag is a total mess. The kids' clothes are a mess. I am a mess.

And then...miracles. The kids all sit quietly through the meeting! Not a single fight or yelled "whisper" or bathroom break needed. Even Matthew, who is in the midst of the wiggle and talk stage, sits with his head in my lap. Then, during the last two hours of meeting, my Sunbeam class is half its normal size. All children listen and participate. It is the best the class has been so far. I leave church amazed that the calmest 3 hours of church I've had all year was preluded by so much frustration.

I can't tell you how many times I have arrived at church on the brink of a meltdown. Frustrated and stressed and ready to just give up. Because getting 6 kids ready, taking them, and sitting through an hour plus meeting is hard. Doing it by myself is insanity. Wrestling with a class full of 3 to 4 year olds for the next couple of hours makes it harder. And EVERY time I feel close to breaking something happens. A kind word, an offered help, or a peaceful meeting. I am continually reminded that God knows my struggle by the tender mercies He shows.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The introduction of a hammock into our home.

A couple months ago, ever optimistic about the approach of spring weather even in the frigid northeast, I bought a hammock. By optimistic I mean in complete denial because it wasn't warm enough to put up and enjoy until 2 weeks ago. Oh, it has been grand!! I sit in it and wonder how I ever survived summers without one: peacefully rocking while watching the kids and reading a book. When I am crowned complete ruler of the universe, my throne will be a hammock. (Drat! All this relaxation made me slip out my evil plans)

My children have also loved this new toy. My children enjoying peaceful relaxation? No, they think it has replaced our trampoline. I looked outside the other day and they were taking turns running full blast into the hammock and flipping it around to land underneath. This would be fine if the hammock and stand were made out of unbreakable material and the children's bones were made out of rubber. (I would wish for them to be unbreakable, too but it already hurts when they accidentally run into me, step on me, and/or roll their arm over and hit me while sleeping; unbreakable bones would make this worse so I'll keep wishing for rubber.)

So, practicing my ruling skills for my eventual universal domination, I went out and lectured about proper hammock usage. They stopped the hammock circus, or at least figured out how to do it when I'm not looking.

Actually, the "proper hammock usage" lecture has been given a lot since I put it up. Since it is large enough to hold two big people or three little ones, they are constantly getting in and out. "You have to give warning before climbing off, you're going to make us tip!" "Don't lean too far to the side, you're going to flip us!" "Be careful climbing on, I have to scoot over first!" (all repeated 100 times).

The other day my husband and I were reading in the hammock, our heads at either end, while the kids played. I was telling him my adventures to date with the hammock. "Why, oh why, can't the kids learn to be careful? They are going to flip me off this hammock. It isn't that hard to be careful." As I laughed at my kids' inability to properly use the hammock, I went to grab my book off the ground, upsetting the balance and flipping the hammock over. We both sat stunned on the ground.

Days of rough housing on the hammock. Numerous on and off patterns. Warnings without end. Who has sustained injury so far? Me. My husband. My dignity. Maybe my kids should teach me proper hammock usage. I wish my bones were made of rubber.

Have you ever lectured about the dangers of something only to be caught as the one breaking the rules?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Phone lines and aliens don't mix. Or do they?

I almost called Coast to Coast last week. You know- the midnight aliens-are-among-us radio show. Why would I have cause to call? Had I decided to start wearing a tinfoil hat or did I decide the Earth really is flat? Well, something like that.

You see it all started when my husband called me while at work. That is strange in itself, but nothing to cause worry. There was a lot of background noise, but he does work in the Emergency Department (which isn't exactly well known for calmness). A couple minutes into our conversation a female voice yelled out, as though on the line with us, "You will NOT throw stinky diapers at me!" Now this is odd. Very odd. My husband and I both heard it. Odder still, this is exactly what I had yelled at Matthew that morning.

--- Matthew thought it would be funny to take an all night wet in diaper and toss is at Joseph. Joseph mistakenly thought screeching and running around would discourage his younger brother. Instead it caused several more tosses and an eventual hit on me. I was on the computer that diaper gave into the stress by exploding pee filled crystals all over me. I am pretty sure he will never try it again.---

How, you may ask, did that phrase travel through time and into my phone line? I didn't know. Wire tapping? Warp in the space-time continuum? Tinfoil hats on a flat earth? All I know is it was WAY freakier than when we saw the UFO.

--- One day we were driving to Utah and saw a bright fire fly across the sky and crash over the mountain. Way too big and low to be a meteor, we thought a plane had crashed. We immediately called my parents in the valley and asked. They called the TV news who reported nothing had hit. Not a plane, not a meteor. Nothing. But we were the third call about something flying across the sky appearing to crash into the valley. Never did figure that one out ---

Having no viable explanation for this glitch in time I did what anyone would do. I ignored it. And while ignoring it thoroughly considered joining the ranks of Coast to Coast callers. Luckily I am quite reluctant to show my craziness to the public (Hey, that wasn't a joke, I'm serious. Stop laughing!) plus it is hard to call about something I'm completely ignoring.

A few days later I tried to call Peter at home while I was out shopping. After a few rings, the phone was answered. All I could here was a lot of background noise. Like someone picked up the phone, set it down and walked away. Curious I listened longer. A few minutes into the call I heard myself yell to Matthew about throwing diapers. And then I heard the beep. Somehow I had managed to accidentally hit the record greeting button. For the last several days anyone reaching my answering machine could hear minutes of background noise and an embarrassing exclamation. I was naturally thrilled.

I remembered Peter complaining that one of the kids kept answering the phone and not saying anything. I asked around and other people had experienced the same. I think (hope) I was the only one who listened till the end. It was probably 3 minutes before something was said (yelled).

Mystery solved, no matter how embarrassing. Of course maybe the aliens in tinfoil hats, bitter that our Earth is really flat, hit that record button for kicks. Coast to Coast, here I come!

Monday, June 1, 2009

I Had an Eat You Up Week

Ever have one of those weeks that seems to chew you up, sucking out the fun and spitting you out as a chunk of grumpy, lumpy, slumpy mess? If you answer no to that question, you might reconsider reading this post. You just won't get it. Normally I can feel depression sneaking up on me and head it off, but sometimes I get slammed. I think my problem last week was I had all three of my stressors hit at the same week: situational, environmental, and physical.

#1 Situational

I knew before it started that the last week was going to be stressful. Not only was my schedule jam packed, but Peter was going to be gone. In an effort to motivate themselves to lose weight he and a friend had set a prize of a weekend golf trip. It worked, so a couple Wednesday afternoons ago they loaded up and set out. A weekend alone is always stressful, but after years of practice, I know how to handle it.

On the drive down to South Carolina he got the call we had both expected and dreaded: his 22 year old niece had finally lost her battle with cancer. Now his much anticipated trip included finding flight plans and leaving Saturday morning for Texas. The funeral was Tuesday and Peter was able to rearrange his shifts to be gone longer so he could be there for his family. The emotional toll of dealing with death, combined with additional days alone, took a lot out of me.

Then I lost Joseph. Saturday night I called the kids to get into PJ's and come down for prayer. But Joseph didn't answer. I thought he was in the playroom, so I sent Elise up for him, but he wasn't upstairs. Nor was he downstairs. Getting upset that he had gone out to play in the yard (or maybe I hadn't noticed he stayed outside when the other kids came in? I was pretty sure he'd come in, though) I ran out to call him inside. No one. Did he go onto the beach? It's empty. I could feel that initial prick of panic.

Now I searched the upstairs. And the downstairs. And the outside again. No Joseph. With every second the panic is building. He has left the yard. The kids are searching the neighborhood to see if he took the scooter out for a spin while I search the water breaks to see if he tried to climb the rocks alone and fell. There is nothing quite like searching the water for your son. I was bordering on hysterical.

Ten minutes after we started searching I see a tiny figure leave the driveway of a friend down the street (not a friend Joseph's age, a friend my mom's age). He had gone down the street on the scooter and, seeing grandkids playing in the backyard, stopped to play awhile. I was relieved and extremely angry. Three times he had been reminded not to leave the yard without permission! Punishment was no outside play for a week. A punishment for us both. I am additionally punished with nightmare of searching the water for one of my babies.
No outside play while being home coupled with an out of town husband requires a lot of errands to keep away cabin fever. I'll never know if it would've worked, though, because two of my kids developed pink eye Monday night. Now I can't go outside or leave the house. All the while still under the shadow of dealing with a death in the family. Definitely a high stress week.

#2 Environmental

We had finally warmed up enough for shorts. Finally warm enough to enjoy the beach and go for walks. And then last week the lovely North East decided to become cold and rainy again. Dreary. Drab. Yucky. Just what someone on the border of depression needs, right? Normally I would combat yucky weather with a trip to an indoor playland or the library, but I was quarantined with pink eyed children.

#3 Physical

I went to put on a pair of pants and I couldn't get the button together. It wouldn't reach. In the time it took for my husband to lose 15 pounds, I managed to find at least 7. In addition, the following equation became relevant: certain time of month = always a little down. Enough said about that.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
So last week was the perfect storm for a depressed me. When Peter came home he could tell I was barely holding onto sanity. The house was a mess. I was exhausted. The kids were climbing the walls. He cleaned up, retamed the children, and let me take a nap. The weather warmed again. The week grounding ended. Pink eye left the house (for the most part). I feel better. Some weeks are just like that.