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.