Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Scary Side of Parenting

There are many different sides to parenting. Parenting is one of those complex shapes that has an infinite amount of sides, angles, degrees, and all that other stuff that made me hate geometry. It is the ultimate ride at a theme park; full of thrills, screams, hands in the air, hair-raising ups and downs. I suppose this is what people are thinking when they ask me if I am crazy because I have embarked on this journey seven times. Yet, parenting has so many perks. The problem is, no one ever tells you how frightening parenting can be. Words cannot prepare you for how you will feel the first time you see your toddling baby fall for the first time. People forget to warn you that when something happens to your child, no matter how old they are, your breath catches, your heart plummets to your stomach, your body temperature rises, and you utter that nearly soundless, "Oh!"
From the moment you discover you are expecting a baby, the worry begins. "Will the baby be healthy?", "Will there be any problems?", "What if....?" Trust me when I say I am the queen of worry and my imaginative mind plays very cruel tricks on me. When something minor happens, I manage to think of the worst case scenario times twenty. When the adrenaline kicks in and my heart is racing, I seem to forget that everything is okay, and I really need to let go of the "Yeah, but what if" or "It could have been so bad" images that play in my head.
With seven kids, you would think I would have been through it all. Well, if I am completely honest, I have been through a lot. Thank the Lord I have my husband to reign me in when my mind gets the better of me. I am not 100% certain, but I think this is something that women go through more than men. Moms just seem to know the consequences and outcomes of too many situations. We have that instinctual "worry" mechanism that develops during the nine months of pregnancy.
Is it the bond that develops during those nine months that triggers the worry? I am sure that many dads out there that worry or freak out just as much as moms do, and I do feel that some moms and dads take it to the extreme. Let's face it, we can't put our kids in bubbles, as much as we would like to. I have to admit that the more children I have had, the less extreme my freaking out is. Most of the time we say, "Get up, brush yourself off, and you will be okay." You can tell by the way your child cries whether the situation is serious or not. Does is require a trip to the hospital or are they being overly dramatic and just need to hear, "Are you bleeding? Are any bones hanging out? Do you have a gaping wound?" About 95% of the time their response is "No." Well then, no need to panic. Wash it off with a little soap and water and slap a band aid on it.
But when the cry is real, and the pain is real, how do you keep your heart in your chest? When you learn that your 6 week old infant has to have eye surgery and needs to be put under anesthesia during the procedure, how do you not crumble to the floor, weeping, and wondering, "What do I do?" When your 6 month old baby is wheezing and having trouble breathing at two in the morning because he has croup, how do you remain calm and strong?
We have been through surgeries, stitches, broken bones, dislocated joints, H1N1, fevers of 104 degrees, and my personal favorite, the call to poison control (which I have done enough for them to know me by first name). The list goes on and on. Recently, our oldest son was clipped by a car as he was walking to school. That was a first and I pray to God the last. He didn't even get knocked down, and really, all that he has to show for it is a bruise. Yet the call that I received at work to tell me what had happened caused me to crumble immediately. That feeling of helplessness and the sense that I was so far away from the situation caused my normally strong composure to disintegrate. I balled like a baby and honestly, I still find myself thinking, "What if it was worse?" These are the situations that make you hug your kids until they cry out that they can't breathe.
This is why I love my husband dearly. He is so much stronger than I am. He is my pillar and God is my rock. When these things happen my husband will hug me and remind me that God only gives us what we can handle. He tells me that we need to remember that although it could have been worse, it wasn't, and we need to thank the good Lord for that. He also reminds me that we have been so blessed and that we have it so easy compared to some. My heart goes out to those that suffer daily. I pray for all of you and your children that you may feel God's healing touch.
As parents we need to remember that God is there for us and that He wants us to lean on Him for the answers and for support. He is there to relieve that sense of helplessness. Things do happen for a reason, and often these things make us stronger. Yes, parenting can be scary and nerve-wracking, but the joys trump the upsetting moments. Parenting is a roller coaster full of cork-screws, tunnels, sharp turns, and tickle-your-tummy drops. Just remember that if it was impossible or too scary, then no one would do it, and then where would we be?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Raising Spiritually Healthy Kids

I grew up in a Catholic family. I was baptized in a Catholic church and attended Catholic schools through sixth grade. My husband grew up in a Methodist family. His family is very involved in their church. My husband and I married in a Presbyterian church but found ourselves becoming members of a Methodist church years later. Regardless of your faith or the church you choose to attend, raising your children to become spiritually healthy should be your top priority. Never will you hear me say that I am a perfect parent and that I know everything there is to know about raising kids. If anything, raising seven kids has made me more humble and I have realized that I make mistakes, and that is perfectly okay.
I can remember having faith or an idea of faith for as long as my memory goes back. I have always gone to bed and prayed in the evening. I will never forget singing in the children's choir or taking part in the Christmas Story that our church did every year. I remember my first communion and how nervous I was before making my first confession. Of course I will never forget the seriousness with which I made my wedding vows (even though we were shaking with laughter at the beads of sweat dripping from my soon to be husband's nose). I meant every word.
In all honesty though, it wasn't until a few years ago that I wanted with fierce ferocity to belong to a church as a family and to teach my children what it means to have faith. It wasn't something that we disregarded. We did attend church every now and then and we did pray as a family. On occasion we would read stories from the Bible. But I didn't feel like we were really doing what God has asked us to do as parents.
What does it mean to raise spiritually healthy kids? What does God want us to do? When I began to ask myself these questions, I did some reading. I decided to read the Bible in a year. I read Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren and then my pastor asked me to read The Relationship Principles of Jesus by Tom Holladay and because of my own curiosity, I read The Shack by Wm. Paul Young. It is no joke when I say that these books are life changing books. I began to see that I was making quite a few mistakes as a parent. But I also learned that the purpose of life is not at all what I thought it was. I was seriously missing out.
I believe that people too often make the mistake in thinking that the purpose of life is some mysterious, hidden secret that you have to dig up in ancient Egypt or something. In all actuality, God put us here to develop a relationship with Him. He put us here to be his friend and to live out His commandments. All He wants is for us to trust in Him and to put our faith in Him.
This is what we need to teach our children. They are the greatest gift that God could ever bestow on us. But we have to remember that they are a gift and that we are responsible for showing them the proper way and to guide them through life here on Earth. When we abuse or neglect our children, we are showing major disrespect to our maker. All children are God's children, He just let us borrow them for awhile. That is why we must show them the way to Christ. We must teach them that serving God is so much more than simply attending church or behaving or following the commandments. Serving God is the answer to living a blessed life, to finding happiness, and to (what should be our ultimate goal) Heaven. We have nothing to fear in getting to know Christ and developing a relationship with Him. He is there to listen, to guide us, to heal us, and to be our friend. He will never reject us, turn away from us, or leave us. He is here to protect us.
Why shouldn't we teach our children that God is their best friend? I agree that children should learn to respect their parents and other adults and that they should listen to them and live a disciplined life. That is what God wants us to teach them. He commands it.
It is such a relief to be able to talk to God and to develop a relationship with Him. It is freedom, and the key to living a blessed life. We can always turn to God. It isn't always easy, but it lifts your spirit.
Teach your children to talk to God, to be His friend, and to accept Him. Knowing Christ and having faith is a gift that we should share with them. They should feel at ease talking about God and to Him. One of the best things I have ever done is ask God to be my friend. I am going to do my best to show my kids that they should do the same.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Boys vs. Girls

God has a sense of humor. He saw fit to bless me with five boys before torturing me with two girls. Really, my girls are a dream come true and I love all seven of my children with all my heart and soul. I am one of four children. I have two older sisters and a younger brother. My brother and I were very close growing up. We did just about everything together including setting Barbie and GI Joe up on blind dates. If GI Joe wasn't available, then HeMan would step up to the plate. My sisters and I tormented one another until I was old enough to be tolerated.
As a kid I was surrounded by boys. Family was and is a big part of our growing up and we often spent a lot of time with cousins. Even as a child I was a firm believer in the fact that girls can do anything boys can do- even pee standing up which I don't recommend. My brother and our cousins were obsessed with playing army, and I thought it was necessary to join in. They lived in camo and were never caught without a toy gun or knife. We all ran around the house having fake wars with our fake weapons (that is if they felt the need to give me weapons). Being that my position in afore mentioned wars was "nurse," I required very little in the weapons department.
At school, I had lots of friends, but as I got older I discovered that girls are ridiculously dramatic and that boys are more fun. I played sports but still maintained a strong-willed feminine edge. I was very into women's rights in high school and equality. When my husband and I began our family, I realized the reason God kept handing us boys was because girls drove me nuts.
Well, as a typical female, I am never happy with what I have and begged and prayed for a girl. God answers prayers. As a family we welcomed our baby girl with open arms- and spoiled her rotten. The moment we found out it was a girl we went straight to Babys R Us and bought shoes, dresses, and anything pink! I was given three baby showers and by the time our little princess arrived she could want for nothing. When our second daughter arrived, we did the same thing all over again.
Our girls are complete drama queens even at the ages of three years and sixteen months. They are coddled, spoiled, and treated like royalty. I truly fear for my life when puberty hits and the poor things realize that having five older brothers puts a damper on romantic relationships.
To me, boys are much easier to handle. They could care less if plaids don't go with stripes or if purple football socks look hideous with yellow basketball shorts and a red t-shirt. They don't seem to notice their own stench their bodies develop if they haven't showered in five days or if they have worn the same pair of socks until they get trench foot. They don't have melt downs if they can't go shopping or if their favorite outfit isn't clean. Boys put holes in the walls, pee all over the toilet seat, and constantly feel the need to show dominance by wrestling. They burp and fart and think they are hilarious when doing so. Boys don't scream at decibels so high that they break the sound barrier. Boys don't care about visits from the hair fairy or getting stains on their shirts because there were no napkins readily available. Boys destroy things. They eat food in rooms that have been declared off limits for food and drink. They tend to forget where the garbage can is and therefore put trash under their beds, on the table, and in between the sofa cushions. They leave globs of toothpaste all over the sink and forget to re-cap the toothpaste. Boys will stand with the refrigerator door wide open for five full minutes demanding to know where the ketchup is when it is right in front of them.
There are so many things that boys do and girls don't, and vice versa.
Girls demand attention and if they don't get it right away they tend to raise their voices. Girls are tattle tails. It was literally ten minutes ago that my three year old daughter walked into my room to tell me that "her" boys weren't listening and that they needed to put their heads down. I am almost certain that she is going to be a teacher some day. She actually has turned into quite the little snitch, making up things to get her brothers in trouble for. One day she locked the front door while the younger boys were outside and she then came up the stairs telling daddy that her oldest brother did it. Her oldest brother just happened to be sitting there talking to daddy. Needless to say her brother didn't get in trouble and she did.
Girls are soooooo whiny. They cry all the time about goofy things like the sun isn't shining or that they don't want to wear Crocs because it's not Wacky Water Day at school. They stomp their feet and scream at you if you try to make them wear dresses when all they want to wear are shorts. They don't understand why the boys get to run around with their shirts off and they don't. Girls freak out if they are standing next to the pool and they get splashed and really don't want to get wet.
Girls tell you "no" with their arms crossed and are not afraid of the consequences, or at least think they are going to get away with it. They think that cuteness will get them out of anything. Girls get into mommy's makeup and paint the bathroom with it. Girls change their clothes an infinite amount of times each day.
Girls are nurturing. They sing and dance and love having an audience until you ask them to perform and they are suddenly shy. Girls love to snuggle and take care of people. Girls are much harder to discipline than boys, and they know it.
This is all my own experience and opinion. I know that all children are different and that some boys may do some of the things that girls do and some girls may do some of the things that boys do. I find it very challenging to raise two girls after all those boys. There are just as many similarities as there are differences between the two genders. I feel very lucky and blessed to have the opportunity to raise both. My mother swears up and down that raising boys is much harder than raising girls. She had three girls before having my brother. I think when you have so many of one before the other, you go into shock. You have to change your way of thinking; retrain yourself.
It's funny to think that for the longest time I never thought I would get the chance to raise a girl, let alone two. I think of things like that when we are in the car and my newly potty trained daughter says she has to go potty and I go into panic because I can't just pull over and have her pee on the side of the road like the boys.  

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Funny Things Kids Say

When you raise children, you often hear some entertaining words come out of their mouths. I think the time between the ages of two and eight is the prime time to hear some of the most hilarious things known to parents. Over the years, my husband and I have witnessed the comic genius that kids tend to be whether they mean to or not. When I stated out loud that I would be writing about funny things kids say, I was immediately surrounded by three of my children who felt obliged to bombard me with "funniness." I must admit that when they intentionally try to be funny, it doesn't work. They dressed up in costumes, did silly dances, made ridiculous faces, and tried to make unusual noises. That is their typical, daily behavior.
Kids often make up their own words, and mispronounce words. I love it when they repeat things that they hear incorrectly. The best is when they say something and have the most serious look known to kid-dom on faces. When my second son was not quite two, he called chocolate milk "cha cha milk." It has been known as cha cha milk ever since. In our house, pacifiers are called "pooty." The unusual name comes from my favorite movie, Orange County.  My husband and I both thought it was a funny name, so we dubbed it "the pooty." Our three year old calls her backpack "packpack," which she carries everywhere, even to church. You would think she would use her Dora backpack which is the actual "Backpack" from the cartoon. No, she uses her pink "packpack." Unfortunately, we all call them packpacks now. No one can stand to correct her because it is cute and funny. She also calls bathing suits "babysoup" and I believe if I remember correctly, that is what I called them as a little girl. Kids have their catchphrases and cute sayings. Our three year old has been saying some of the funniest things lately, that I just have to share them with everyone.
You have to remember that my girls are the youngest of seven, and the older five are all boys. Sadly, they tend to pick up some things that girls shouldn't say. For instance: "Oh my balls!" is something she would say and still says on occasion when they are all wrestling and she hears the boys saying it. I had to explain to her that girls don't have "balls" and that she shouldn't say that because it's not lady-like. She said this just the other night while she was sitting on the couch with my husband and I, "I farted in my mouth." What she did was burp. Why she decided to say she farted in her mouth I will never know. She knows the difference between the two, believe me. Our oldest daughter has an uncanny ability to tell you how it is too. She once saw me eating the last of the ice cream out of the carton and said, "Why are you eating that whole box of ice cream?" Honestly, there was only a couple of scoops left. She loves to tell her brothers that they are "nasty" or "gisgusting." She thinks that gum is an actual food group and sometimes says, "Can I have some gum cause I'm hungry." She can be very serious and demanding. When she was just two years old, she had been listening to me talk to her dad and said, "You serious mom?" She has told me more than once, "Don't be ridiculous." I know I can count on her to be honest with me, whether I want her to or not. She was trying to get my attention the other night and said, "You gotta watch me, alright?" She has tried to bribe me with "I'll be your best friend" and is well known for saying, "What the heck?" I can always count on her to say or do something noteworthy like suddenly breaking out in a chorus of "all the single ladies, all the single ladies." Too funny.
My five year old cannot tell a lie and is unforgivingly honest. He loves to tell me, "You have a big belly" but he also tells me, "Mommy, you are so beautiful." Such a sweet boy. He often tells his younger sister, "You are so annoying" and I can't possibly imagine where he heard that.
My eight year old is quite the comedian. He says things without meaning to be funny and it just comes out that way. There was one summer when we were visiting my sister weeks before she adopted her daughter. He asked my sister for a banana but said, "I want a benina." My sister thought he said I want to be Nina, which is her daughter's name. We all laughed because it was a great stress reliever. All my boys remember the one morning during football season when my little man was getting dressed for school and had put on a pair of undies that had been transformed into a "girdle" for football. He was watching tv and pulling the new fangled undies and realized they had holes in the sides. He exclaimed, "We can, she's got, hey, I got pockets in my underwear!" How exciting to have pockets in your underwear!
I could write an entire book if I could remember all the crazy things my kids have said. There are some that I will never forget and I will bring them up at appropriate times in their adult lives. Just like no one will EVER let me live this one down, "Stick your boobies in Jell-O!"- a statement I had said one time when my sister had friends over. My husband enjoyed reminiscing his own childhood and came up with "Jungle when I pee," which is what he thought the monkeys sang in The Jungle Book. It's actually "jungle VIP." Silly boy.
These goofy moments happen all the time and are a helpful reminder of what a blessing children truly are. They make waking up in the morning a delight (if I have been blessed with at least 8 hours of shut eye).

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lay off my kids' Happy Meal

I am all for eating healthy and for teaching my kids the importance of nutrition; both my husband and myself have struggled with our weight and we work very hard to shed unwanted pounds. None of my children are remotely obese, they all eat fruits and veggies, whole grains, and they get plenty of calcium from milk, yogurt, and cheese. I am proud to say that my kiddos eat things like asparagus, spinach, and broccoli. It is very rare that we find ourselves going through a drive thru not only because it costs a small fortune to feed nine people that way, but we as parents know that although a quick and easy choice, it's not the healthiest. BUT when we do make that choice, it's for the sake of having fun and getting a treat, not to get our daily dose of fruits and vegetables!
You know, we live in a free country. We have the right to choose the food we put into our bodies and feed our children. We maybe eat out or get drive thru three times a month. I think that's pretty good considering the fact that I don't get home from work until six or so and it would be so much easier to swing by McDonald's and pick something up for dinner. I suppose my family is lucky in that I absolutely love to cook. I love trying new things and exposing my kids to nutritious foods that most kids have never even heard of. Our local grocery store is a Meijer and they offer a variety of exotic fruits and vegetables. It is so much fun to try them out! In an effort to lose weight, my husband and I have tried a number of things. We have tried eliminating junk food and buying organic, and foods that do not contain preservatives or artificial junk. This is expensive and difficult to maintain, especially when you have four boys ages 16 down to 8 home for the summer. Sure I buy them things like chips and cookies, but I also buy them cheese sticks, fresh fruits, carrots and celery, and other healthy snacks. It all comes down to choice and discipline.
We do things as a family. We eat as a family, we exercise as a family, and we play as a family. We want our children to learn from our example. Yes, if you choose to eat at McDonald's three nights a week, you are going to create bad habits and very likely become obese. The key word here is CHOOSE. We as Americans should have the right to say, "I am not cooking dinner tonight so let's go to McDonald's!"
Recently, McDonald's has been sued over their Happy Meals for enticing children with the toys that come with the meals. Are you kidding me? They make it sound like all kids kick and scream every night for McDonald's. I am sure that there are kids out there that do have a tantrum if they don't get a Happy Meal for dinner, but that is just bad parenting and a whole blog within itself. I have seven kids. Not a single one of them has EVER thrown a fit when we have said "no" to dinner at McDonald's. Not a single one of them has seen the toys in an advertisement and said, "I want a Happy Meal so I can get that toy!" As a parent you are responsible for making a positive, healthy choice and for disciplining your child if they don't like the choice you make. Be the parent.
I don't think the government should be telling me or anyone for that matter how much salt, sugar, and fat a person is allowed to ingest. If I want to sit around and eat a bowl full of sugar, who the heck cares? When it comes to your kids, have some common sense. I know I don't want my kids all "jacked up" on junk, so I don't let them have it all the time. My kids have been taught the difference between healthy and unhealthy. They have been taught the importance of exercise. Where did they learn it? From their parents, not from a "Healthy Happy Meal." I reserve the right to treat my children to an occasional junk meal. It's getting scary out their America. Soon, they will come up with a pill supplement that they will force us all to take in order to be "healthy". Until then, eat the junk while you can- McDonald's changes their Happy Meal in September!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Breastfeeding Controversy

My mother called me at 8am this morning to tell me to turn the channel to Fox and Friends (part of Fox News). As I did so, she proceeded to tell me what was going on that made her call me. Mom is very supportive of me and reads my blog. She has been there for a few of my seven childbirths or arrived shortly after the babies did. When I chose to breastfeed, she supported my choice, and assisted me when I needed a helping hand. The purpose of her call and me watching Fox was so that I could see a new baby doll that is coming out called "The Breast Milk Baby."
This is a new baby doll that comes with a little tie on bra type top that the little girls can put on (it has pink cloth discs where nipples would be) and mimic their mother's breastfeeding. The doll actually makes a sucking noise and the mouth moves as if sucking. Their is nothing in the top that sticks out like actual breasts or nipples, so the doll does not actually latch on to anything. You can see the advertisement and news clip if you go to I am sure if you just Googled "Breast Milk Baby Doll" you could see it that way too. Apparently, the toy company that has come up with the doll is catching a whole lot of heck.
During the news clip, they interviewed a psychiatrist and a mommy blogger/parenting expert. Of course the doctor had nothing good to say. He declared this doll to be "damaging" and said it blurred the line between child and adult. Forgive me if I am wrong, but haven't young girls immitated their mothers' feeding babies for centuries? He also made several references to young girls thinking of their breasts in a sexual way. Personally, I do not know many young girls that think of the breasts sexually. Unless they have witnessed some sexual behavior, how would they even know that at some point, breasts become sexual? Well, the mommy blogger called him out on it. Kudos to her because she made him look like a goober. She disagreed with the man saying that breastfeeding is not a sexual behavior. It has nothing to do with sex, and if he thinks of it that way, then he must have issues. I have to agree.
I am not a die hard breastfeeder. I nursed four of my seven children and am terribly sad that I did not nurse all of them. It is a personal choice and I in no way shape or form hold it against anyone that feeds their baby via bottle and formula. Nor do I hold it against those moms that nurse babies for years. The longest I managed to nurse my babies was for six months. I think breastfeeding is a beautiful, natural way to bond and feed an infant.
What is wrong with breastfeeding is how society views it. America seems to be the only country that has issues with it. Breastfeeding is becoming much more popular and many businesses provide private, quiet places for a mom to nurse a baby. Hospitals, as well as doctors, are strongly supporting breastfeeding. There are so many new and cool things to help breastfeeding moms. With my last baby, I had purchased nursing shawls. These are like aprons that can cover an infant while nursing. I was able to go to the store, walk through the mall, or go anywhere in public while nursing my baby. They come in a variety of funky fabrics too. No mom should ever feel that breastfeeding is wrong, or should be made to feel uncomfortable for it.
So what is wrong with a baby doll that allows a young girl to "feed" her baby? Isn't that what you do with bottles too? There is absolutely nothing sexual about breastfeeding. Those people who think so are just uncomfortable with it and therefore they have issues with it. Nursing is the most natural, healthy, inexpensive way to feed an infant. What did women do before formula? They breastfed. I doubt anyone complained then.
When my baby was just a couple of weeks old, I was sitting on the couch feeding her. My two year old daughter had been watching and went and got one of her baby dolls. She came up to me and lifted her shirt and held her doll as if breastfeeding and said, "I feed my baby too." I never made a big deal out of the fact that I was using my breasts to feed the baby. Of course my two toddlers were curious. They had questions. I simply explained that when mommies have babies they get milk in their boobies to feed the babies. And that was enough. They said okay and never appeared distracted or disturbed by it. I did my best to be conservative about it because I did have a fifteen year old who over-exaggerated his emberrassment at seeing his mom's breasts.
It is all in how we portray breastfeeding. I think that it is most definately becoming more mainstream especially because it is so cheap! If we give our children the notion that breastfeeding is gross or wrong or inappropriate, then that is how they will perceive it. If we show them that it is perfectly natural and acceptable, then that is what they will think too. Little girls feed their baby dolls with bottles, why not with a shirt that makes it seem as if they are nursing? It teaches them that this is a practical way to feed an infant, just like with a bottle. My children watched the Fox and Friends video clip with me and I asked them if they would be bothered by it. They all said no. They said that we should get the doll for their sisters.
My husband believes that there is nothing wrong with the doll also. How could there be anything wrong with teaching a young girl how to feed a baby? They make baby dolls that poop and pee, that cry, that talk, that walk, and that eat baby food. They make baby dolls that have heartbeats and get red cheeks like they have a fever. There is nothing wrong with children immitating their parents- it's how they learn.
I think the negativity surrounding this new baby doll would be better spent on things like magazines that portray unhealthy images like half naked anorexic looking stars. What kinds of messages are young girls getting from that? There are many things out in society now that are far worse than a breastfeeding baby doll. Like my husband said, "If you have a problem with it, don't buy it. I don't like those BRATZ dolls that they have on the shelves, but I don't try to persuade the toy company to take them off the shelves. I just don't buy them for my daughters." Hmm. Sounds logical to me. If you don't like it, don't buy it. If it bothers you, turn your head. Just because you are uncomfortable with breastfeeding doesn't mean that it should be outlawed.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tricks of the Trade

I love to tell my kids that I have special powers. I firmly believe that when a woman becomes a mother, she morphs into this being that can do amazing things like speak while her teeth are clenched, see things behind her because she has eyes in the back of her head, bring a teenager to his knees just by pulling his ear lobe, has ESP, can speak in tongues when things are especially challenging, and get the attention of a room full of rowdy kids just by using her quiet voice.
On a good day, I only have to use one or two of my special powers. Some of my powers are a two for one kind of deal. I love catching my kids in the act of unruly behavior and surprising them when they least expect it. I have been known to clench my teeth, point at my children, and speak in this strange language that I am pretty sure is native only to the women on my mother's side of the family. I have many memories of my mother doing the same thing. She still has the power to over annunciate words in order to get her meaning across. I think the powers may also be genetic because I can also do things like "box your ears" and send you to "manners school." You can ask my kids. They will not only tell you that I do these things, but their mamaw does to.
I truly enjoy hearing my kids say, "How did you know I was doing that?" They always seem so shocked when I know what they are going to do before they do it. When I tell them about the eyes in the back of my head, they usually laugh-nervously.
Moms are also healers. We fix boo boos with kisses and bandages. We bring them ginger ale and soda crackers when they are sick. We make sure they are comfortable and have everything they need. We know our children and what they need. We know their cries, their fears, and what makes them laugh.
Moms are teachers. Our children learn valuable lessons from us. We are role models. Whether we mean for them to or not, whether we want them to or not, our children mimic us. Maybe that's why I act like my mom as much as I do.
We only do the things we do because we love our children. They may not believe it when we tell them it's for their own good, but really, it is. I hate to think what my kids would act like if I didn't have my special powers. Kids need discipline as much as they need love. Could you imagine having kids like the ones on Willy Wonka? Oh, and then, little Oompa Loompas would pop out and sing songs everytime they acted like spoiled brats. I might actually try it myself-"Oompa Loompa Dopity Do I've got another puzzle for you."

Maybe I will just stick to clenched teeth and ESP. My kids might try and lock me up if I sang that song all the time. I will continue to mold my children in ways that I was taught. And I will continue to tell them that I have super powers. Cuz I do-really.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Whatever happened to those family vacations where everyone just piled into one vehicle and drove off into the sunset? It didn't matter how many people were in the car because we didn't have to wear seatbelts. Everyone just crammed right in; personal space stayed home. Picture a bunch of clowns getting into their tiny clown car.
That's what we look like everytime we go somewhere as a family of nine. A bunch of clowns. For the holiday weekend, we went home to visit family. We drove seperately; I had three kids and the dog, my husband had the other four kids and all the luggage. For a long weekend, you wouldn't think you would have to pack everything under the sun, but when you are packing for nine people, it certainly seems that way. We crammed in fishing poles, sleeping bags, 3 suitcases, 3 large duffle bags, and a partridge in a pear tree. I was grateful for the fact that I got to ride with the baby, my oldest, and our five year old. No one took their shoes off, so we avoided the "stinky foot funk" that almost always surfaces on long car rides. The dog didn't whine and cry, and the baby only tortured us for fifteen minutes. The radio station played some of my favorite tunes before we lost the station and I had to turn on my ipod. My oldest brought his own and even though he wore earphones, I could still hear his as well as my own.
It was actually kind of fun caravanning (forgive me if that is not a word). I wish we had walkie talkies instead of cell phones just to add to the excitement. My husband and his crew felt the need to air themselves out by sticking their feet and hands out the windows and sunroof (I am guessing it was because they all took their shoes off or passed gas or both if they were really wound up). I did my best to sing and dance while driving not only because I am naturally talented and love to share said talents with everyone, but also because I wanted to emberrass my oldest son. I must be losing my touch-he seemed unphased by the whole show.
Everytime we were able to pull up next to each other on the highway, my twelve year old who was riding shotgun made the most fascinating faces I have ever seen. I wanted to tell him that if someone were to smack him on the back while he made faces it would actually stay that way. All we were missing was a sign that said, "To Beverly or Bust." What the heck does that mean anyway?
I can remember as a kid going on vacation all those great games we used to play, you know, before technology ruined everything? Games like I Spy, liscense plate games, On the Way to the Zoo, Twenty Questions, etc. Those were the days. My younger brother and I liked to play a game called, "Mom, she hit me!" and my personal favorite, "Thumb War." Thumb wars almost always turned into more violent games and led to Dad shouting, "If you two don't cut that out I am going to pull this car over!" Memories.
I was shocked by the fact that we didn't have to stop once on our trip home to go potty or to find a pacifier or sippy cup. Granted, it's only a four hour drive, but with that many kids, we made it without pulling over! I am terrified to discover how long car rides with two toilet trained girls go. Our three year old is still working on getting rid of her pull-ups. At least with boys you can just pull over to the side of the road. I told my husband that we need to bring the little potty when we go on trips so the girls can just use that.
Aside from enduring the "car ride stench," family vacations are so much fun. They provide plenty of bonding time, spontaneous teachable moments, and they create memories that last a lifetime. Even if your vacation destination is just an hour away, there is always that excitement that comes with being somewhere else. Who could forget those lasting memories of someone barfing in the backseat? Of shoving matches over who sits where? Of leaving half of what you packed back home? Of older siblings telling younger siblings to stop singing because they are trying to sleep? Of older siblings asking for a bite of younger siblings candy bar and taking half of it because they are mean?
Family vacations are a right of passage for every family. Some of my favorite movies are all about family vacations. As long as you don't eat food in the picnic basket that the dog whizzed on and you don't get the car stuck under a logger truck, vacation should go smoothly. I highly suggest brushing up on some kiddie songs and some travel games before leaving. I find making a list of everything I need to pack, buy, and do before leaving helps tremendously (that is if you check everything off that list and don't forget anything at home). And one last little tip-don't forget the Benedryl! You can knock the kids out or yourself if you're not driving!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Motherhood is Exhausting

Have you ever been so tired that you just want to dive face first into a nice comfy mattress? If you are a mom you have. No matter how many children you have, I know you have been this tired. You know you are tired enough to say your exhausted when your fourteen month old is feeding the dog her dinner and you just ignore it. You know you are exhausted when there are dishes piled high in the sink and you just don't really care. You know you are totally done in when the kids keep nagging you for something (at that moment you are zoning out and aren't even sure that they are speaking english) so you tell them to go ask their dad.
I went back to work in May and it seems that it is finally hitting me. I teach at a childcare and learning center. My three youngest children get to go with me. It is a fabulous school and I love working there, but I am tired. My kids are tired. It takes a toll on all of us. When I am exhausted, it spreads to the rest of the family. It is a contagious disease and it spreads like wildfire. Everyone gets grumpy and argues. The boys take it upon themselves to start primetime wrestlemania in my living room. This is when I ask myself, "Where do they get the energy to do this when they are as tired as I am?" Someday, I am going to find a way to harness the energy that children have and bottle it and sell it. It will be located on the shelf right next to patience.
Have you ever noticed that when you are exhausted that your kids take it as their cue to act like wild apes and do things like jump on the furniture, play tag in the house, and literally climb the walls? I am totally serious-three of my children can climb the walls. Should I talk to the pediatrician about that? My mother would say, "I used to know a little girl that did the same thing." This is also the time when they decide to fight like cats and dogs. Typically, my kids get along quite well with one another. When mommy is ready to lose her marbles because she is sooooooo tired, they act like Rocky and the Russian.
One of these days I think I will just take a day off. I threaten to do it all the time. What would really happen if I took a day off? I shudder at the thought. It couldn't be any worse than what happens on a daily basis. I come home from work and the house is trashed-thanks to kids on summer break who think the house is their bachelor pad. I am going to have to pull a "mom" and leave them do-lists. Yes, that is the answer. I know for a fact all they do is eat, sleep, and play video games. I think it's time they had something to keep them busy.
I am going to declare it "Mom's Day Off" and treat myself to a nap, laying in bed reading, soaking in the tub, and ignoring everything that falls under the title "Mom."
You know, it is healthy to do something for yourself every once and awhile. Take time for yourself. It not only makes you feel better, but everyone else seems to realize how wonderful you are.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Patience Is a Virtue

My mother often told me as I was growing up that patience is a virtue. No matter how many times I repeat this saying to myself, I fail to gain any of the stuff. It's not something you can buy at the store as much as I wish it was (I would drive right over to Sam's Club right now and buy in bulk!). It doesn't grow on trees-it seems to be as unatainable as money! I try very hard on a daily basis to muster the tiniest bit of patience to no avail. I am not patient. Nor am I a saint, which some people seem to think whenever they see me in public with my seven in tow. "You must have the patience of a saint" they say. When I am finally able to speak after laughing hysterically, I kindly explain that I am quite the opposite. Patience no, short fuse, yes.
There are many reasons why I lack patience. I can name seven right off the bat. Add a dog and a husband who is sometimes indistinguishable from the kids, and I can immediately name nine. Throw in genetics, shake it all up like James Bond's martini, and ta da! The result is zero patience. Allow me to tell you about a few instances when the afore said reasons tried my patience-and won.
The first instance happened just the other day when I happened to have a few moments to watch a little Food Network. The baby was sleeping and the other kids were playing and entertaining one another, or so I thought. I was thoroughly engrossed by my show when I heard my eleven year old exclaim, "What are you doing?" This question/statement was directed at my five year old son. Curious (why wouldn't I be?), I looked into the dining room where my youngest son was standing on a chair next to the hutch, stirring the poor little beta fish in the bowl with a paint brush while his three year old sister watched in utter fascination. I sighed (something else I inherited with the lack of patience) and with great gusto told the little stinker to dispose of the paint brush and to leave the half-dead-from-dizziness-beta fish alone. Thankfully he did as I told him. His three year old sister however, acted as though she didn't comprehend the events that just took place right before her eyes. She proceeded to stir the fishie in his bowl with her two hands. Ugh. Gross. Sigh. Sigh again. Maybe one more time for good measure. I asked her big brother to help her wash her hands after telling her to leave the fish and his bowl alone. I figured we would find the poor fish belly up in the morning. Before my pretty little princess could get to the bathroom to wash her hands, she came over to me, showed me her hands, and said, "My hands are all wet Mommy." Yes, yes they are.
Another instance in which I found myself throwing up my hands ocurred just the other day. My oldest said, "I guess you've had a 'crappy day'" with an evil chuckle. After coming home from work, I fed the baby and her big sister. I let them go play after eating so that I can work on dinner for everyone else while my husband is still at work. I manage to find a moment to read a little from my book when the baby toddles over to me and rubs her hands all over my pants. "Something stinks.", I thought to myself. I asked the baby if she pooped (why do I do this? it's not like she's going to answer) and quickly diverted my eyes to her little hands. OOOOHHHHH NNNOOOO! She found dog poop!!!! Our cute little puppy still likes to leave a little present here and there. The baby had found it and picked it up. Evidently she dropped it after smelling it and thank goodness she had her pacifier in her mouth! I grabbed her up and ran to the bathroom and put her in the tub clothes and all. Her big sister came into the bathroom and asked to take a bath too. After rinsing the doodoo off of the baby, I filled the tub and proceeded to undress my three year old. Low and behold, she had a surprise for me in her pull-up. Gee whiz. I cleaned her up with wipes as I repeatedly asked her why she can't do that in the potty. I put her in the tub. After the bath, I got the girls in their jammies and returned to my book. Not ten minutes later, my eight year old son comes up the stairs telling me my five year old pooped his pants. Ha ha ha, very funny. My denial continued until my five year old came up the stairs walking in an awkward way. Seriously? I asked him what happened and he said he couldn't get into to downstairs bathroom fast enough. Obviously. He managed to take care of his situation without me assisting him, and he took a bath. As I repeated the smelly events to my husband, my oldest son, who could hardly contain himself said, "I guess you've had a crappy day." Next time he can clean it all up.
Over the years, we have endured some pretty trying circumstances. When you have seven kids, you hit the lottery when it comes to grossness, disasters, phone calls to poison control, and much more. I will quickly list a few of the funnier ones.
  1. The baby found mommy's "girl stuff." I will give you one guess.
  2. As a toddler, my fourth son took it upon himself to launch eggs from the top of the stairs to the landing while my mother and I were out shopping and daddy was supposed to be "watching."
  3. I have a picture of the same child that same year standing in the toilet (I repeat "IN") fully clothed with shoes and all during my other son's birthday party.
  4. "Mom, the baby was splashing in the toilet again!"
  5. I prefer to think of my walls as blank canvasses in which my budding artists can freely express themselves.
  6. Can holes in the walls be considered art?
  7. My youngest son decided holes in the walls were indeed art and proceeded to add one in the hallway with a hammer.
  8. My oldest daughter drew a perfect target around her eye with my makeup.
I do not have patience. What I do have is a sense of humor and the ability to laugh at the little things. I may not find it funny at the time, but I manage to giggle when it's all said and done. The KJV of the Bible says that "patience is the ability to bear trials without grumbling." I pray night and day for patience and the strength to handle what life gives me. God has blessed me with seven beautiful, amazing, adventurous miracles. And a sense of humor.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

"Rude and Wacky Questions"

As the mother of seven children, I often am accosted by complete and total strangers who like to ask questions. Some of these people are nice and offer stories from their own experience and others act as if I am breaking some sort of law by having so many children. Depending on how my day is going and what kind of mood I am in determines the answers I give.
Quite possibly the most frequently asked question I get from people is, "How do you stay sane?" I have to say this is the least rude question I have been asked. I have heard this hundreds of times, beginning with the arrival of child number four.
Well, to be honest, being a mother of seven most certainly is not easy. I am not ashamed to admit that as much as I'd like to say I am supermom and can handle anything, I am anything but. Yes, there are moments (and plenty of them) when I have to stop and say, "Okay, I'm gonna lose it!", which causes everyone in the house to scatter. This is the verbal warning I give before my head spins and I barf pea soup. Not really.
My first response to this query is to say, "My husband does a lot: laundry, dishes, playtime, reallly anything that I need him to do." My husband and I are like a tag team. We both know the other's limits, and that's when we step in to take over. We do our best to give one another a break.
When my husband isn't here, I give myself a break, even if it's only two minutes. When the girls are napping I can usually take a few minutes to eat some chocolate or read in my favorite book or magazine. It's truly beneficial to everyone in the family to be somewhat stress-free. Another "sanity-keeper" is a scheduled date night. My husband and I have a date night once a month. Under no circumstances can we cancel-well most circumstances. Dinner, a movie, working out at the gym, or just window shopping can often be enough to keep it less stressful until the next date!
Now a more nasty, rude, and inconsiderate question that we hear is, "Don't you know what causes that?". That being pregnancy and more children. Frankly, it's nobody's business how many children we have. It's not as if we pawn them off on anyone or don't take care of them. We set out to have a large family and accomplished that goal. We often get this question from total strangers, and from friends who I think are trying to be funny, but don't really understand that it's rude. We do our best to laugh and say something to the effect of, "We keep bumping into each other in the hallway" or "Rubbing another woman's pregnant tummy is taboo.". Sadly, some people haven't learned to mind their p's and q's. It's not that I can't take a joke or appreciate humor (come on, for those of you who know me I married the class clown!) it's just that sometimes it is just plain rude to comment on someone's marital/familial relationship, especially if you don't know them.
One of my favorite questions has to be, "Are they all yours?". Hmmmm...well, the last time I checked they were! Don't get me wrong, people mean well and don't intend to sound ignorant and rude. This is the question though that sparks my irish/scottish heritage and my sarcastic sense of humor takes over. It's not hard to imagine the attention we get when we are out and about as a family (which is becoming more rare). Total strangers love to ask this question, and it has taken me a few years to gain the courage to respond in my sarcastic manner. For example, I love to say, "Well actually, this one is the mailman's, and this one the UPS guy..." and so on and so forth. People typically don't know how to respond to that, but we get a good laugh! Sometimes we say we found a couple of them on the corner and we thought they were cute. The idea is to keep a sense of humor.
I have to admit we do get just as many positive comments as we do negative. When we go  out to dinner as a family of nine, we usually hear, "What well-behaved children!" or "It is so nice to see such a big happy family." So, not everyone is an ignoramous. Nothing pleases my husband and I more than to hear these positive comments. It makes us feel like we're doing this parenting thing right (somewhat).
Aside from wanting to start my own t-shirt line with quirky responses to rude questions, I do my best to keep my sense of humor. When total strangers feel as though they need to offer their advice or when another mom on your son's baseball team feels the need to step in and "mother" your child for you (one of my personal favorites), don't be afraid to tell them how it is. Say something to stop them in their tracks. We all have the tendency to say things without thinking first, so remember how it feels when it happens to you. Try not to take it personally or become too offended. Sometimes just ignoring them works really well. My husband and I have to remember that it was our decision to have this huge family, and we have to take what comes with it. People whisper, point, count, and stare. In the end, it is amazing to be such a big, happy family. It is something we are proud of and we love every minute of it (most of the time!).

Monday, June 20, 2011

Seventh Heaven

I suppose for my first post I should have introduced myself. Hind sight is 20/20. Well, this is me, and what I am all about.
My name is Ali Baker. I have seven kids. Five boys and two girls, in that order. Yes, I just had to keep trying for my girl. If I would have had my girls first, I would have thrown in the towel. God knew what he was doing. Oh, and yes, I do know what causes pregnancy, thank you very much. My husband likes to joke that our hallways are too narrow and we just keep bumping in to one another. Actually, all we have to do is look at each other and I end up pregnant. I have been forbidden from patting another woman's pregnant tummy as this seems to cause the same reaction-I end up pregnant. All seven children are the product of my husband and me although at times I wouldn't claim a single one of them.
It's obvious that we love kids. I even work with kids other than my own. I am a teacher. I have spent time at home here and there, sometimes a year, sometimes just a few months, before I get back out there and try to educate our youth. Working with kids and raising my own brood has taught me so much. Despite what most people think or even say out loud, no I am not crazy. I love kids. Especially babies. The problem with babies is that they grow up, you know? Like puppies. I have worked with every age group, even infants. I have worked with autistic children and teenagers with mental and behavioral disorders. Two of my own children have battled with ADD. I have seen a lot. It is this experience and backround that I feel I could answer some questions about parenting. No, I don't know it all. No, I have no medical background other than my CPR, First Aid, Communicable Disease, Child Abuse Recognition training. I have also taught Sunday school classes and am currently working with a close friend and my pastor on a young families group at church.
My husband and I are extremely blessed to have the family we have. For the most part we are all healthy and happy. Our oldest just turned sixteen-yikes!-and our youngest is almost 14 months. In the middle we have a 12 1/2 year old, 11, 8, 5, and 3 year olds. I can't really remember a time when I wasn't pregnant, breast feeding, carrying a diaper bag around, trying to potty train a kid (or a dog), or buying diapers. A friend and I once tried to calculate how many years of my life I have spent pregnant-it ends up being a little over 5 years. Actually, it doesn't seem like that much when I think of it that way.
Each one of my children have their own personalities, attitudes, and talents. Some of them share common attributes, especially in looks. Each pregnancy was different, each delivery as well. I actually think we saved the best for last. After six fairly easy pregnancies and deliveries, I ended up having surgery on my jaw (don't ask) at 20 weeks and a c-section to deliver our last bundle of joy. That was the only pregnancy in which I experienced high blood pressure, had to take that horrific glucose test three times, lost sixteen pounds and then gained it all double, and my water broke naturally at 3:30am in bed. I felt like I was living out an episode on A Baby Story on TLC. I am so glad to have experienced it all. I should also mention that I delivered my fifth baby naturally with pitocin to induce labor. Let me just say, "@#$%*!!!." I can honestly say kudos to those women who can do that and make it look so easy and beautiful. My husband told me he wished he would have taped the sound because I sounded like the ROUS's on the movie The Princess Bride. If you haven't seen it, check it out, simply to find out what an ROUS is. My hubby is quite the comedian.
Well, that's it in a nutshell. A very large nutshell. Maybe a nuthouse. Okay, maybe I am a little crazy.

What It Means To Love Your Children And For Them To Love You Back

Love is an amazing feeling. Unconditional love is priceless. To give love, to be able to give love, is a great gift. To receive love is a blessing. When you find a partner that you can share love with- true, unconditional love- you are two of the luckiest people on earth. If you are blessed with children, whether naturally, through adoption, or other means, your heart and your ability to love grows an infinite amount.
Children are amazing beings. When nourished, provided for, given positive attention and love, children grow into happy adults. Unfortunately, there are those children that are denied one or more of these necessities. Sadly, these children develop problems throughout their lives. Lack of love can lead to emotional and mental issues. It can even effect children physically. Love is not just a feeling, it is a necessity. It is sustenance. Children need to feel loved. Adults need to feel loved.
Having seven children of my own (yes you read correctly), my husband and I are surrounded (some may say outnumbered-we pray there is never a mutiny!) by seven beautiful miracles. Each one of them shares love in a different way. But that's the key; they share love.
The more children we had, the more my husband feared that we couldn't possibly divide our love and attention equally among them. Chalk that fear up to the "we are about to become parents again" paranoia. I simply did not share this fear due to the fact that I carried each child and already had that unbreakable in-utero bond. As each pregnancy progressed, my husband's big heart swallowed all his fears. He was and is so capable of love. He possesses the strength and courage to demonstrate love for us all.
It seems strange, but there are those people that are unable to say or show their families that they love them. It's not neccessary to shower them with gifts. Love is a gift. It's as simple as saying "I love you" or giving a hug, a kiss, help with a project, or a pat on the back.
Children however, seem to know just what to do, and when to do it. When you give them love, they return it doublefold. They can sense your emotions as easily as you can sense theirs. My oldest is sixteen and right now is more interested in his girlfriend than his parents, but he still gives us hugs and says, "I love you mommy." He offers to clean up or watch the baby for a little while. He does his best to act authoritative and take charge when my husband and I are helping one of the other kids or making dinner. Our second oldest has become very loving and snuggly this year. He is 12 1/2 and entered middle school this past year. He tells me about his day, he lets me know he needs me, and he still comes up to me on the couch and sits on my lap. He does his best in everything just because he wants us to be proud and he wants to be proud of himself. Our third child is eleven, and he has always been lovey-dovey. He loves to cuddle and snuggle up on the couch with me. He is very nurturing and caring, especially when it comes to his little sisters. One of these days, he's gonna knock some girl out with his beautiful dimply smile! I can always count on his "sneak-attack" hugs. It's hard to feel sad around him. Our fourth child is 8 and loves to write us notes saying "I love you mom and dad." He draws pictures of us all together- he is a fantastic artist. He tries very hard to please everyone and really enjoys spending time together as a family. He is quite the entertainer and has a terrific voice. Our youngest son who is five does his best to nap in my lap everyday (that is until I went back to work recently). He is very affectionate. He often says "I love you" out of the blue, tells me I am beautiful and cute, and loves to learn new things. He also has one heck of an arm in baseball. Our oldest daughter is three and is so full of love that she is adored by everyone. She is very cuddly and her hugs usually come with "You're the best" or "I love you" or my personal fav-"You're my best friend." To hear her say those things amazes me and warms my heart. That leaves our youngest and second daughter who is one. She has learned to say "love you" and blow kisses, and she gives hugs while patting your back. Even at two in the morning when she ends up in our bed I can't help but squeeze her and smother her with kisses!
My husband and I are very proud of our family. We may not have the nicest house or the coolest car, but we do have a very loving family. Who needs more than that? In February, our pastor at church did a sermon series called "Love First." Let me just say that during those Sundays, I was captivated by his words and what the Bible had to say about love. Here are a few things that I learned:
  1. "Love is supernatural because it lasts forever." In 1 Corinthians 13:13 it says, "These three things continue forever. Faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love."
  2. "Love bears all things." We must be willing to forgive, to accept, and to protect. No one is perfect. We must do these things with grace.
  3. Love means we believe and trust all things. "Love gives the benefit of the doubt. Faith and love are intertwined because love is built on trust."
  4. Jesus said in John 13:34, "I am giving you a new commandment; love each other in the same way that I have loved you."
  5. The NIV says love "always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perserveres." The NLT says "love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance." And the KJV says, "love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."
These quotes were taken from my church bulletin. Three different versions of the Bible say such similar things. It must be true.