Thursday, June 30, 2011

Journal Writing

Journal writing is something we are supposed to do. Sometimes I've been really good at this and other times not as much.

Recently, my oldest child turned eight. It was tradition in my family that when you turned eight, you got a set of scriptures with your name engraved, a scripture case and a journal, also with your name engraved. I remember being eight and getting those things, but I also remember being disappointed that it was all I got. No toys, no clothes. Just those three things. So when our oldest turned eight, I wanted to give him a few more presents. We got him a game, a notebook, and a sketch pad. We gave him a birthday party. My parents bought him a set of scriptures. I bought the scripture case. We bought him some new church clothes. In the end, we ran out of money and the journal was forgotten.

My husband only wrote in his journal from his youth about four times. Two of the entries were from high school and about his high school girlfriend. The rest of his journaling consists of the required daily writing while on his mission. I haven't written in my journal consistently since I've been married. I've had months here and there where I write at least once a week, but then I'll go for months without writing.

So a journal wasn't high on the list of priorities for presents, even though I had brought it up.

Well, last week, I happened across my journal that I got when I was eight. I only wrote in it for about a year and quite infrequently. When I was ten, the primary in our ward gave out journals to all the kids and that's when I started to really write. I filled that journal and subsequently four more, but I never went back to that first one. Anyway, I pulled it out.

My oldest son was having a bad attitude moment, so I sat down and started flipping through it right next to where he was having his mood. I started reading the entries out loud. Soon enough, he had joined me in looking at the writing (and the misspelled words), the pictures, and laughing at what I wrote. Then all the other kids joined in. We went through the whole journal.

Yesterday, after an incident in which my oldest got into a lot of trouble for fighting with and really hurting his little brother, he decided he needed write down what had happened. He asked for a journal so he could write it down. Since he got a notebook for his birthday, he pulled that out and used it. Tonight, he wrote down what happened today. He told me that he is excited about writing in a journal and wants to write every night.

Maybe all that was needed to teach him about journal writing was showing him that journal of mine. It sure was fun to read and remember. And it probably gave him (and the other kids) some insight into who I was when I was a kid.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Lowdown on Skinny

I have always been skinny. Genetics are on my side. From the beginning I have been petite. I was born one week before my due date and weighed only 5 lbs 14 oz. It is written in my baby book that at 15 months, I only weighed 18 pounds. And so the story continues. I think I finally broke 100 after graduating from high school and putting on a little extra during freshman year of college. From that point on, I never went back below 100.

I am also 5'4". At 5'4", I should weigh about 115 to be at the healthy weight for my height. As a teen and young adult, I never was able to put on that weight, even if I tried. Once, I even tried drinking protein drinks, you know the substitution for meals for people who want to lose weight? I tried drinking those WITH my meals because I was so skinny.

In the sixth grade, someone asked me if I was anorexic. Being ignorant, I thought anorexic was a fancy way of saying I was so skinny and couldn't gain weight. So I said yes.

Now I am in my thirties. I have had five babies. I no longer am underweight and skeletal-skinny. In fact, I was looking at some pictures of me in our first year of marriage and I looked frighteningly thin! I wonder if people thought I had an eating disorder!

Despite that, I don't like how I look anymore. I am currently about five pounds above my "healthy" weight, but on me, where my natural weight as a teen and young adult always fell, that looks a little bit soft all over.

Most people tell me I look great. They are shocked that I lost most of the baby weight so fast. But that's where it gets complicated.

I think I feel MORE pressure to be thin than people who aren't told that regularly. Because people tell me when I'm pregnant "I bet you lose the baby weight right away!" or "You're so tiny, you're so lucky!" when I can't lose the weight and see the bulges flopping out over my swimsuit on my back, shoulders, thighs, belly, hips, you get the picture, I get extremely frustrated.

I feel like I need to be the stick thin teenager I was just so I can fit everyone's idea of what I really look like underneath all my clothes. And since I don't (I have such badly stretched stomach skin that even I went back to 100 pounds, I would still have skin hanging there!), I get extremely depressed about it.

I know, I shouldn't let what other people think affect me that way, but I can't help it. I guess I'm afraid that if they really saw me, like in my swimsuit, they would take it all back and secretly make fun of me and laugh at the fact they ever thought I lost the baby weight.

Plus, I don't fit into any of my old clothes. And the problem is, I don't know what I fit into. The 4's I used to wear are way too tight, but when I buy 6's at the store, they don't fit right either. My body type and size say 4, especially since I'm short. But I'm not short ENOUGH for the petites, so those don't fit right either. It's very frustrating.

I'm just saying that even though when wearing a T-shirt and jeans (which are a size 10, by the way), and I look slim, I'm not near where I was before I ever had kids. And sometimes I wish I really was one of those women who bounce right back. I might look like I am, but I'm really not.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Of exhaustion, babies, and endless housework

I really want to enjoy my baby boy, but it's so hard to do it because I can't get him to nap. At all. I try all day long. To the point where I end up neglecting my other kids. He simply refuses to sleep during the day. He does sleep well at night, and so I hear comments from people like, "Well, if he sleeps at night, what's the problem?"

The problem is that a baby is not well rested who is awake from dawn until dusk. They NEED to nap. Their brains rely on those precious hours of sleep to mature and their bodies need it to grow. The sleep periods NEED to be at least 45 minutes long or they aren't restorative.

So when you have a baby who refuses to nap, that means you also have a fussy baby. No, not a colicky one. Not one who screams endlessly. My baby will at least respond to the swing, the carseat, being held, even being played with. But I cannot constantly be giving him that kind of attention. I have a house to run and four other children to take care of.

The minute I try to devote a lot of time to the baby, that's when all chaos breaks loose. Somebody hits someone. Somebody falls off something. The screaming starts. And it's always right when I finally get the baby to that sweet moment where he is drifting off to sleep. Someone will come slamming through the nursery door needing a band-aid, a drink of water, a new shirt. And then the baby wakes up.

Right now, he is in his crib. He has been fed, changed, rocked, swaddled. I don't know what else to do. When I saw his eyes drooping and his little yawns, I whisked him upstairs with a small bottle to put him down for a nap, but he decided to wake right back up the minute I changed his diaper (which needed to be changed, super soggy). And as soon as I had him quieted and starting to close his eyes again, after 30 minutes of rocking, rocking, rocking while the other kids murdered their brain cells by watching mindless television, my 3-year-old burst into the room singing.

I gave up. I can't sit there with him anymore. I feel like screaming at him to just go to sleep (and obviously, that is not going to help) or just screaming at someone or something. So I laid him in his crib, wide awake and madly sucking his blanket (still hungry after 2 ounces plus the 6 ounces he had 45 minutes earlier?) and left the room. I don't even have a baby monitor, so I have no idea if he's in there crying or what because I can't hear him from downstairs.

Seriously, how can you enjoy the journey when you are so sleep-deprived and such a bundle of anxious nerves that you can't sit still for more than 15 minutes at a time? That you yell at all your other kids for simply asking for a glass of water because they are being too loud when really they're not?

The other things I have to do are piling up and I can't get anything done. Not the wash, not the meals. I've had six bags of children's clothes that my brother sent me three weeks ago sitting in my living room. My baby does not fit anything we own for him anymore but I haven't had a chance to go through these clothes and see if anything in there does fit him.

And if I say anything about it, all I get are remarks like, "Stop complaining. That's all you ever do." Or... "The only thing that NEEDS to get done is taking care of your baby." Right. Like the other kids can fend completely for themselves without destroying the house. Like the laundry and the dishes will wash themselves and the bills will pay themselves and the dog will let himself in and out of the house and the dinner will fix itself.

You know what I would like? Instead of criticism for how hard of a time I'm having, I'd like someone to say, "How can I help you? Can I fold your laundry? Can I clean that bathroom? Can I hold your baby so you can do all that?" It would be nice, especially, if it were my husband offering, but usually he is the first to tell me that I need to relax and not worry about all those other things, yet he doesn't jump in and take care of those other things. If he's not going to do it, I HAVE to do it.

Why can't people just see that? I can let things slide to a point (the kids' room is a complete disaster zone and has been for about a month now), but some things (like tonight's dinner) cannot be put off too much or we simply won't eat.

Okay, that's the end of my rant. Thanks for listening.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Beating Summer Boredom

I love summer break. It seems to me that I am the only mom out there who actually enjoys having the kids home for 2-1/2 straight months. I love it. I look forward to it. Perhaps it is because I still have kids at home that I am able to keep entertained and busy that I don't have much of a struggle finding things to keep the older ones busy too.

Summer is a wonderful time for learning. The best kind of learning, the kind of learning that naturally happens as a child learns to work and play with parents and siblings. The rich kind of learning that happens naturally that you can start with answering one question and it can lead into a whole series of events and activities. Perhaps this is why I love summer so much.

In April, I saw on the website Kids.Woot an offer for a butterfly garden. It was $5, with $5 shipping and handling, and then $5 for the live caterpillars to be shipped separately. In anticipation for the upcoming summer break, I went ahead and ordered it.

In addition to our butterfly life cycle, we have so many other things to do that keep us busy. In fact, we have been so busy these first few weeks of summer that my kids are begging for a breather and I have actually allotted a few hours of the afternoon time as "free time" or "playtime" when they can just play and do what they want.

The four kids are enrolled in swimming lessons. It wasn't cheap but I feel swimming lessons are necessary. Especially since I love to take them to the swimming pool on hot summer afternoons. It's much easier to handle four kids (well, five) at the pool when most of them can swim independently. Plus we visit Arizona every summer and my parents have a backyard pool. I feel swimming lessons are a safety precaution.

We also bought a family zoo pass for the year, which we'll use often in the summer. I find that $70-$100 is worth it to be able to return many times with such a large group. Last summer we had a pass to another attraction here that offered a museum, a farm and some rolling gardens. Unfortunately, budget constraints made it impossible to renew that pass for another year, but perhaps next year we'll do it again.

In addition to all that, I look for free or cheap events in the community, things like parades and carnivals. Where we live, the smaller cities often have "Town Days" where they celebrate the founding of the town with rodeos, parades, carnivals, and other attractions.

Just going to the regular park is fun. We have so many parks around our city that there are many to choose from. Perhaps it's because I don't take my kids to the park very often during the school year or maybe they just love parks and being outside, but they never tire of going to a park. We often ride bikes to the park and the parks have bike paths to ride around on too. Or we take sports equipment and a picnic. For some reason, eating at a park is so much more fun than eating at home, even when it's the same old pb&j's.

Also where we live there are paths in the canyons to take bikes or roller blades on as well as just walk/hike and enjoy nature.

And besides all the free time stuff, I decided to utilize my talents this year. I have often struggled with the idea that some people are extraordinarily talented in certain areas--they play an instrument really well or they are gifted in dance or a sport. I have no areas in which I am super-talented. But I'm finally realizing that being well-rounded and having an interest in lots of things and learning those skills is my strength. Therefore, I am using my strength to bless my family.

I am taking it upon myself to teach the basics in piano, dance, tumbling, and art to my children. Why should I pay someone else to do something I am quite capable of doing myself?

And in addition to all that, my school-age kids will be doing reading time and math time to retain what they have learned. They will be doing workbooks too, but I will be actively engaged in helping them, answering questions and helping them to review it.

I figure that since I signed on as mom, part of my job is to make sure my children are learning, so that is what I will spend my summer doing. Sure it cuts in on my own personal time that I'm used to having when they are at school, but it's worth it to keep them busy, out of trouble, learning, and happy.

So bring on summer. I can't wait! Sad that already two weeks of the summer break are already over...

If you would like to follow what we are doing to glean some ideas, check out my other blog Love For Learning.


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