Saturday, September 17, 2016

Loving Our Babies

I just love this squishy little guy.  I admit, I had a hard time during my pregnancy with the idea that I was having another child.  I love my children and I knew I would love this baby too, but I really didn't want any more kids because I was already feeling quite overwhelmed with the six I had plus my sixth is a major handful and there are many, many days that I wish I could put her in a strait jacket.

But this chunk of chubbiness has absolutely stolen my heart (for the seventh time).  He is just such a sweet baby.  He's happy almost all the time and so fascinated by the world around him.  He loves his Spider-man and several other toys to the point that when we show him the toy, he gets excited and laughs and waves his hands around.  I absolutely love listening to the older kids making him laugh--it has to be one of my most favorite sounds in the world.

With this baby, I have done a lot of thinking.  It seems these days that hardly a day goes by without some news story popping up on my social media feed about some parent or step-parent or boyfriend of a mom abusing some baby or toddler.  These stories break my heart and make me feel both sad and angry at the same time. 

There are times when my little one won't stop crying and fussing.  He's sick or tired or hungry or bored or all of the above.  He wants my undivided attention, which is often hard to give him with all the chaos in our house.  There are times that his cries are maddening to listen to, but then when I pick him up to see what he might need, he instantly calms.  His chubby little hands grip my arm or my neck or my face and he pulls me close and gives me a slobbery tongue kiss (yes, that's what I call it because he sticks his tongue out, but I'm pretty certain he's trying to kiss us). 

He relies on us for EVERYTHING.  These little ones come to us not even able to hold up their own heads or control their own bodies.  Unlike other animals in the animal kingdom, human babies are completely reliant on their parents to take care of them.  They have to be held, fed, and changed.  They have to have social interaction to learn social cues and develop an understanding of human emotions and behavior.  Other animals can find their own food, walk on their own, and aren't as reliant on the parent for as long when they are babies.  But human babies take a year or more to learn to walk, months to hold up their heads, roll around, scoot and crawl.  Even grasping small items takes months and feeding themselves can take more than a year, sometimes two.

Why do you suppose that these little humans come to us with such neediness?  I have always believed (ever since I took a child development class in college) that human babies come to us this way to force us to love them and care for them and learn to serve them.  If they came to us already doing all those things, we could easily let them fend for themselves, but because they rely on us for everything, we are forced to take care of them. 

Every time I start to feel annoyed or anxious because I don't know why my baby is fussing, I try to remember that he just needs me.  There will be a time he won't need me as much but right now, I can hold him in my rocking chair during the night if he has an upset tummy and let him sleep on my shoulder.  I can snuggle with him instead of washing the dishes because he needs me right then.  He needs a diaper change, a bottle, or just to be held and played with, so it's my job as his parent to provide that for him.  When I chose to have a child, I chose to be his caretaker and provider and make sure that he has what he needs from me.  Heavenly Father intended it to be this way.  It's all part of His plan.

And who can resist?  Look at those chubby cheeks and fat little hands!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Chore Workshop

A few weeks ago, I noticed that my children had really started slacking off on their chores.  What does a manager or boss do when their employees start slacking off?  They retrain!  So I thought it would be a good idea to hold a chore workshop to retrain the kids on how to do the chores correctly for a job well done.

I  have written about my chore system before.  Since then, I have added a child to the system and adjusted the chores so that the "laundry/garbage" chore is now divided into "laundry" and "garbage".  I also no longer do tokens for earning video game minutes.  I will briefly summarize.  We rotate through the chores on a weekly basis.  Each regular weekly chore has a Saturday chore, which is more difficult and involved, attached to it.  It was mostly the Saturday chores that the kids were slacking on, but while we were retraining them, we touched briefly on the weekly job as well.

A few years ago, I printed out checklists for each chore, including regular weekday chores and Saturday chores.  I laminated them and bought several Vis-a-vis markers to use on the charts.  Here is an example of one of the charts:

For our chore workshop, which really sounds more involved than it was, we divided up who was teaching what.  My husband is very particular about  how the sweeping and mopping gets done for the table setter's Saturday chore, so he took that chore.  Since the other part of the downstairs involves sweeping and swiffering, he took that one too (see above picture).  Another Saturday chore is vacuuming, and he took that one as well.  I trained on bathroom cleaning and "dog duty", which involves picking up the poop in the backyard, and they didn't need retraining on that, and dusting the whole house, including the wooden part of the stairs, which holds the banister.

We got started bright and early--7 am.  Our plan was to finish by 9 am and eat donuts.  I started by training the kids on the downstairs bathroom.  All of our bathrooms are full bathrooms and require the same procedure, except our master bathroom has a big jetted tub and shower that are separate and the other two bathrooms have the shower/tub combination.  I will probably still have to review our bathroom with each kid just because there is a little more work involved.  They all stood in the bathroom doorway (the five older kids, Dad hung out with the younger two) and watched while I explained step-by-step, asking questions and checking for understanding.  I  had some of them do some of the steps too.  It took about 20 minutes.  We also pointed out the time and reminded them that if it takes twenty minutes per bathroom (and that was with me stopping and explaining things), then it should take them about 1 hour to do all three bathrooms.

After finishing with the downstairs bathroom, I reviewed dusting with them, showing them what needed to be dusted in all of the rooms.  Then my husband took over and had them pick up toys and clutter off the floors so he could sweep, mop, swiffer and vacuum.  He then showed them what those chores entailed.  After we were done with our demonstrations, some of the kids had parts of their chores left, like the other two bathrooms needed finishing and rugs, chairs, and other items needed to be put back into place.

We also reviewed the steps for Saturday room cleaning and daily room cleaning, for which I also have charts hanging in each of their rooms.  Here is that chart:

This week we sat down and had breakfast before doing our chores.  As we ate breakfast, I reminded them each of what their chore was and pulled out the charts to review.  I will probably make a pocket of some sort to keep the Saturday chore lists on a wall somewhere so that all they have to do on Saturday is go pull their chore and follow the checklist.  The bathroom checklist stays with the bathroom cleaning supplies  in the carrier.  The room cleaning and bed making lists are hanging on their doors.

One nice thing about this was that I was able to see what revisions I needed to make that were unique to this house or that I've added or done away with for each chore.  So in the coming week I am planning to edit the ones that need changing and print and laminate the updated charts.

I feel that teaching and training our children this way sets clear expectations and prepares them for when they have a job outside the house.  I feel that teaching children how to work and working with them is an important part of childhood that often gets overlooked and even frowned upon in our modern culture.  But my kids really rose to the challenge and did an excellent job on their chores this week.  I even went grocery shopping with the younger two while the other five were working on chores and came home to a mostly clean house, with a few exceptions.  It was fantastic!  And my kids felt so great about their accomplishments.

Monday, February 22, 2016

More the Same than Different

I am Mormon.  I was born and raised in the LDS Church, aka the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  I have never been secretive about this fact.  I may not go around openly proclaiming it all the time, but when asked directly what church I go to, I have always been open about it.  My kids are too. 

In recent years, especially with the candidacy of Mitt Romney for president, I have seen a lot of hateful rhetoric spewed about Mormons.  I've frequented blogs by women of other faiths whom I admire only to find they are critical and downright rude about Mormons, to the point where I've found myself defending our church in the comments sections of these blogs.  The thing is, most of the blogs I have read belong to members of other Christian sects.  The writers have a lot of opinions and ideas similar to mine, which is why I would frequent the blogs.  I don't know if these Christian women even realize how we are so similar because often, when Mormonism comes up, they are very hostile towards our church.  They probably don't even realize how many LDS women follow their blogs.

I have always wanted to start a blog with a fellow Christian who is not a Mormon to show that we have a lot of similar beliefs and ideals and to show how our common ground could give us strength together.  I have never had that chance, mostly because most of the time, when one of these women finds out I'm Mormon, I am automatically shunned from their world.  I find this so sad because we have a lot in common.  Especially when Mitt Romney was running and many other Christians claimed they could  never vote for him because he was a Mormon.  They completely disregarded anything he stood for and just because he held different beliefs about the nature of God and what we Mormons call the Godhead, they couldn't find anything else in his platform they could agree with because they heard "Mormon" and stopped looking.  So I would like to talk about the similarities we have.

To begin with, let's dispel with the three great differences between Mormons and many other Christian sects.  First, we believe that God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three separate and distinctly different beings who are unified in purpose.  Many other Christan sects believe that they are all one and the same being, The Trinity.  This just does not make sense to me, but even with that different belief, we can still agree that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the World. 

Second, other Christians claim that Mormons do not believe in being saved by grace.  That is absolutely untrue.  The fact is there is a great deal misunderstood about grace, but we do believe in being saved by grace.  It is only through the grace of Jesus Christ that we can attain salvation.  However, that doesn't mean we can live depraved lives, making terrible choices, and still be saved because we proclaim we believe in Jesus Christ.  We do  have to try our best to be good and do good things throughout our lives.  But despite being wonderful, without the grace of Jesus Christ, we could not be saved.  That is what it means that we are a gospel of works. 

Third, the whole fact that we have another book that we call scripture in addition to the Bible is a disputing point for other Christians.  We simply believe that our Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ.  We also believe the Bible and adhere to its teachings as well.  How bad can we be when we claim to have more to know about Jesus Christ and his mission? 

So, there you have it.  The three doctrinal points that get other Christian sects all riled up about Mormonism.  There are other differences we have with individual sects that they also have with each other.  For example, infant baptism and/or baptism by immersion.  Some baptize by sprinkling, others by immersion, most believe in infant baptism, but we do not.  However, I have in my possession a list of doctrinal points that vary sect by sect and there are many that disagree with each other on many points, including the Mormons. 

But I prefer to focus on what we have in common.

Most people of faith believe the Ten Commandments and try to teach them to their children.  Mormons do this, Catholics do this, Baptists do this, and many other sects.  We believe that adultery is wrong, we believe in honoring parents, in not killing, etc. 

Most people of faith are trying to teach their children to live moral, upright lives.  Depending on the level of their commitment, this may mean no sex until marriage for many of them.  Mormons certainly believe that. 

Many people of faith agree that same sex marriage is wrong and distorts God's plan for families.  Many people of faith agree that abortion is evil.  Many people of faith believe there is value in having a mother be a homemaker and teaching boys to treat girls with respect and girls to treat boys with respect.  Many people of faith understand that pornography is evil and the effect it has on the minds of those who view and fight against it.

In a lot of ways, I am similar to my non-Mormon, but religious, mother peers in that I am trying to teach my boys to be respectful of women and to be honorable and valiant young men.  I am trying to teach my daughters to be modest and to believe in their worth as a daughter of God.  I am trying to teach my children that using profanity is not a good way of communication.  I am trying to teach my children that Heavenly Father loves His children and that they each have individual worth only because they are God's child.  I'm trying to teach my children to love one another, to succor one another in their trials, to be kind to everyone they meet, and to follow Jesus Christ. 

We may not agree on every doctrinal point, but we can agree that we are trying to teach our children to follow Jesus Christ and be like Him.  We want them to live moral lives, to contribute to society, to become good mothers and fathers who will lead their own children in the direction of light.  We are more the same than different on a lot of issues.  We believe in strong families and commitment to God.  We believe in righteousness and service.  I really hope that someday we can all come together and recognize our similarities and see them as a strength that binds us together instead of the differences in doctrine that divide us. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Ten Things I'd Rather Be Doing Than Breastfeeding

I know, I know.  Just the title sends a horribly selfish vibe.  Yes, I suppose there is quite a bit of selfishness in the choice I have made the last six babies and will for this surprise number seven when it comes to breastfeeding.  With my first who was born early and spent two weeks in the NICU, I spent hours pumping and feeding him bottles while he learned to suck.  I then nursed him, but every feeding lasted about 45 minutes PER SIDE and then I still  had to give him a bottle for him to seem content and not hungry.  So after four months of doing that and pumping, I quit.  I just couldn't do it anymore.  It was way too stressful and gave me a lot of anxiety that left me with an upset stomach constantly.

With number two, he learned a lot faster and things went more smoothly, but by four months, again, I was nursing him from each side about 45 minutes and still having to give a bottle for him to seem content.  For him, it was a formula bottle, rather than pumped milk as with my first (whose pumped milk lasted another two months--so technically he got breastmilk through month six, the first did).  After one really long weekend where he wouldn't sleep at all and screamed and screamed and I was about ready to do something horrible to him, I decided that I needed to just give formula and allow my husband to take turns feeding him.  I was much calmer and happier after that. 

With number three, I tried again but only made it two months.  With number four, same thing.  With number five, I made it six weeks and then when number six came around, I still nursed her in the hospital to give her that good colostrum and tried for the first few weeks, but my heart was no longer in it.  I knew that it was a hugely stressful thing for me.  Plus, I don't know how other moms can just sit and pop a baby on and off, no big deal. I have to have about four pillows stacked all around me for comfort, so getting ready to breastfeed is a major project for me, and to have to do that every 1-2 hours for more than an hour at a time makes it a highly unpleasant experience for me.  I hate having huge achy breasts, I hate the feel of the baby suckling my nipple, and I just don't have the patience it takes to sit there for long hours without knowing if the baby is getting enough. 

I am grateful that modern science has provided an option in the form of formula and while I'm intelligent enough to understand completely that formula does not come close to replicating breastmilk and the amazing thing that it is, I still appreciate that it's there. 

As I'm coming up on the birth of surprise baby number seven, I am recognizing the massive anxiety and panic I am feeling over having to consider this choice all over again, as I thought I had left that in the past with number six and had finally gotten over the guilt of my breastfeeding-loathing.  Part of me doesn't even want to bother with it at all, just give him formula right from the start and forget about breastfeeding entirely, but I still feel guilt over this feeling of mine.  I will probably try again, knowing full well it's something I really hate to do.  So, as I was showering the other morning and thinking about the possibility of giving birth anytime now and realizing that the choice is upon me, I started thinking of all the things I'd rather do than breastfeed.

Keep in mind, these are things I really don't like to do.  Here it is:

#10.  Perform any type of car repair.
I know I'm capable of repairing certain parts of cars, like changing the oil.  I even replaced the light bulb in one of the front headlights of my husband's car for a Christmas gift to him, to save us $100+ on having a shop do it.  It was time-consuming and gave me anxiety, but I did it.  I didn't enjoy it,  but I'm glad to say I did it.  But I don't like trying to fix cars and even watching car repair videos on Youtube to see how something is done gives me anxiety.  But if I had to choose between sitting and breastfeeding a baby or changing that oil, I'd want to change the oil.

#9.  Cleaning up dog vomit.
This is something that since we've had a dog, I have had a hard time stomaching.  I have done it many times, but if the dog ever throws up when my husband is home, I make him do it because I can't stomach it very well.  It usually makes me heave and sometimes even throw up myself.  But I'd rather do that than have to sit and breastfeed.

#8.  Fly to Japan (or anywhere that keeps me on a plane for so long over water).
I haven't flown all that much in my life, and every time I do, I get nervous.  But the two times I flew over water, I majorly panicked.  It was really scary to me.  But I'd rather make that trip than have to breastfeed.

#7.  Plan and execute a social event.
Wow.  Planning any type of social event, even a birthday party for my kids, is not my forte.  I do not feel comfortable doing anything like that. I usually encourage my kids to choose a fun family activity, like bowling, rather than have a birthday party.  Planning social gatherings for adults is even more out of my comfort zone. I recently attended a cub scout banquet and was in awe at how well it was put together, with the food and the decorations and the activities.  Nothing my poor brain could have come up with or executed, especially the decorating part.  But if I had to choose between doing that and breastfeeding, I'd rather do that.

#6.  Go to the dentist.
Like most people, I do not like going to the dentist.  I don't like it for probably different reasons, though.  I don't like that there is a chance I may have a cavity, which means money will be spent to fix it.  I also don't like the sound of the scraping of my teeth.  It's a horrible sound, akin to fingernails on a blackboard, and there is no way to tune it out because it reverberates in my head, so even earplugs wouldn't work.  But I'd take that horrible, miserable 30 minutes over breastfeeding any day.

#5.  Eat brussel sprouts.
Even the smell of brussel sprouts give me the dry heaves.  The thought of how they taste just makes me feel sick.  But I'd rather eat a serving of them than sit and breastfeed a baby for one session.

#4.  Run a marathon.
I know there are a lot of people for whom running is a great escape and fills them with vigor and excitement.  I am not one of those people.  Ever since I was a little girl and was a gymnast, I struggled with the lung capacity to really run.  I hate running.  It is one type of exercise I just do not ever do.  But I would rather do that than have to sit and breastfeed a baby.

#3.  Make a phone call.
If you know me, you know now nervous this makes me.  Even when something important is on the line, I will postpone phone calls until I no longer can.  Or, if possible, I will go talk to that person IN PERSON over making a phone call.  Like taking care of a bill at a dentist office recently, I took the time to drive over there with my two little kids and sit with the insurance manager to go over it, which was definitely something that could have been done by phone.  I just am uncomfortable making phone calls.  But if making that phone call would get me out of breastfeeding, I'd do it.

#2.  Speak at an all-male convention.
Generally, I don't mind speaking.  In fact, I'd rather give a talk in church than have to make phone calls for a church calling.  But speaking in front of men makes me nervous.  I've never had any bad experiences around men, but I just prefer to talk to women over men.  In fact, I choose my kids' pediatrician and my other doctors from an all-female list because I know I will be more likely to ask questions and talk about any problems with a female than with a male.  Speaking in front of just men would terrify me.  But I'd rather do that than breastfeed, if that were the choice given.

#1.  Clean bathrooms or any other unpleasant household chore.
I would much rather do housework than sit and nurse my babies.  I don't mind bottle feeding them and then getting to work, but trying to breastfeed took so much time and effort that I was never able to get anything done.  So if I had to choose to breastfeed or clean the bathrooms, I'd rather clean the bathrooms.

Okay, I realize this earns me the "worst mom of the world" award and people can now start their mudslinging and symbolic stone-throwing.  I get so tired of reading articles and blogs that talk about how wonderful breastfeeding is and how essential it is to that mom-baby bond, but that there are medical exceptions.  However, in my opinion, the reasons don't really matter.  If a mom doesn't like to breastfeed and would rather pay hundreds of dollars every month to formula feed, she should have that right without being ostracized.  If she really tries hard to do it and just can't get it to work right no matter what she does and feels incredible guilt over it, she should be able to formula feed without being ostracized.

Besides, I never once was asked whether I breastfed or formula fed once my kids were past age one.  Even when we moved more than once and got new doctors, if the kid was over one, the question of whether I breastfed that child or not wasn't even asked.  It wasn't asked when they started school, it wasn't asked when they took IQ exams or gifted exams, never.  So far, my kids are pretty healthy and happy and well rounded.  Oh, and the bonding thing?  My six kids all seem to think the world of me (so far--we are getting into the teen years with the oldest, so we'll see, but so far, he still tells me I'm a great mom).  I guess I managed to bond with them after all, even though I didn't breastfeed for an entire year with any of them.  Somehow, we managed to bond and have healthy, happy kids without exclusively breastfeeding any of them, and only doing the bare minimum with a few of them.

That said, I will support any other mom's choice to breastfeed.  Just because I don't like it and can't do it very well doesn't mean I'm opposed to it and am all "formula is the way to go!"  I do wish I enjoyed it and that I wanted to do it and that I had been successful at it, but I'm not going to waste time and energy feeling bad about it when there is another option out there that, based on my life experience with my own children, has been a successful way to feed a baby. 

So there.  I said it.  I will not be breastfeeding beyond the first few weeks with this baby.  Not because I can't, but because I choose not to.  I don't like it and am a happier mom when I don't do it or spend hours trying in vain to do it.  Yes, it's hard, and I'm not willing to sacrifice whatever it will take to make it work.  I suppose I'm selfish for that, but I'd rather be happy and a little selfish than angry all the time because I'm breastfeeding.


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