Thursday, February 25, 2010


Today we took our five youngest children to Target. Bakugan figures were on clearance, so I promised one (or the equivalent cash value) to everyone who helped me with some undesirable chores. Rich came along to help because it always takes time for each child to choose his or her heart's desire. Multiple times during the trip, we got irritated glances or wide-eyed stares from other shoppers. In the past when this happens, I am always tempted to casually mention the three children who are still in school, just for the shock value. Today, what I really wanted to announce to each one of the questioning fellow shoppers was that our family is actually quite mainstream.

You might wonder how a family with eight children in California could possibly be mainstream. Well, I read an article the other day about the Duggar Family, a family from Arkansas who had their 19th baby in December. Reading the article made me curious to see the TV show about them that I have heard so much about. Since we don't have cable, I had to hunt down episodes on You Tube. I have to say, first, that they seem to be unusually exceptional parents. I admire how committed they are to their faith and how willing they are to share personal family experiences, in a hope to inspire others. That said, I had a complete paradigm shift when I watched their show.

Often, I have sat in church or gone places with our family and felt so different than other people. We homeschool some of our children. We have lots of children. We still want more children. Because of the large number of people in our family, we can't practically do the same things that other, smaller families can do, like eating out or going on expensive vacations or having our children participate in multiple activities all the time. But taking a look into the life of a family with nineteen children made me look at our life very differently. For instance, we dress like most people we know. We go to school. We go to church. We go to college. We dance and date and even think it's okay to kiss before you are married. Sure, we drive a 15-passenger van, but it doesn't take a used Pro-Hockey tour bus to drive our whole family somewhere. I sat in church the Sunday after I had watched those Duggar shows and looked around. You know,I thought to myself, we are pretty much the same as everyone else. We just have a couple more kids.

So the next time someone stares at us open-mouthed when we are in public, or the next time my neighbor rolls her eyes as she moves a scooter off her lawn to my driveway, maybe I'll shout out with a wink, "Hey, at least there are only 10 of us, not 21!"

It feels good to be mainstream.

Friday, February 19, 2010

One last thing about Valentine's Day

I can't move on from Valentine's Day without preserving in history one last little, but significant, moment from this year. It was 17 years ago this Valentine's Day that Rich first told me he loved me. And it was 15 years ago this Valentine's Day that Rich first forgot to do anything for me. I was patient at first, but after three days had passed with nothing--not even a card--I got mad. I accused him of never forgetting Secretaries' Day but of forgetting his own eternal companion. In hindsight, he was undoubtedly overwhelmed by grad school, baby twins, and his part in starting a new company, and I was too sensitive about my own feelings and not sensitive enough to his. But, being still newly married, I took it personally.

This year, when I was out running errands the day before Valentine's Day, I bought myself a little something for him to give to me. He almost always remembers holidays now, but we had been unusually busy this year, so I thought I would help him out. I brought my little self-purchased treat home and presented it to him, and he thanked me for being understanding.

On Valentine's Day morning, Rich got up while I was taking a shower. He told me he had a little something for me, which I could see sticking out from beneath my towel. It sure didn't look like the treat I had bought myself. It wasn't! He had gotten me a box of See's Candy, my absolutely favorite candy in the whole world. He had even paid full price! When a trained accountant pays full price for something, then you know he really loves you.

So I guess we have both learned a few things over the years. Somewhere along the way, I stopped getting my feelings hurt and learned to give him the benefit of the doubt that, while he really does love me, he just doesn't show his love by making a big deal about insignificant holidays. And somewhere along the way, he learned that, even though something isn't important to him, it probably is to me, and he should make it a priority just in case. : ) I guess we are both getting a little better at this marriage thing!!

Sunday, February 14, 2010


I made things harder than I needed to today. We have certain fun traditions that we usually keep every Valentine's Day. I hadn't done a great job with Christmas traditions in 2009. In fact, we mostly abandoned them all. So I have been looking forward to Valentine's Day and thinking of what little treat we would get everyone and what we would have for meals and what the little girls would wear to church--you know, all the fun things that make holidays special. So, at 7 am this morning, when I would have loved to roll back over and sleep for another half hour, I instead dragged myself out of bed. I had to get ready so that I would have time to make pink pancakes and waffles before church at 9 am. I also bought toppings for strawberry waffles for those with more refined tastes. Rich reminded me not, however, to turn the syrup and milk pink, which always make little children wary and would not be good early in the morning when we are trying to get to church on time. I was all ready to serve breakfast as sleepy-headed children wandered up about 8 am. I was met with these happy comments:

"Pancakes and waffles? What about cereal?"
"Can we have cereal anyway?"
"What are we going to do with the cereal then?"
"Well, when can we have cereal?"

We recently started another, obviously more-appreciated tradition of having cold cereal on Sunday morning to save time. We banned cereal during the week ever since Rich bought six gallons of milk on Tuesday after work and discovered we were out again on Thursday (although, in defense of the children, I have to add that we also had chocolate chip cookies during that same time period. I mean, what child can have a couple of chocolate chip cookies without a full glass of cold milk to dip them in?) Well, I just figured children who were used to pink pancakes and waffles every Valentine's Day would be upset if they didn't get them just because I was too tired or because it was Sunday and we were in a hurry. I should have asked the children. On the other hand, if I had gone with cereal, I probably would have gotten a bunch of complaints from other children. Sometimes you just can't win.

So the second half of the story came after we made it to church. We did make it to church on time, by the way. Because we were later than usual, we slipped into nine chairs in the back, which was actually enough space for us all to sit together. One of the burdens of a large family in a big ward is that you don't fit just anywhere, so usually we are crammed into a space smaller than we actually fit in, and frequently, someone has to sit in a pew in front or behind, usually one of the bigger, Sacrament-passing boys who come later. Today, despite being just on time, we all got to sit together. When you sit in chairs in the back, you can't really cram. Everyone takes an individual chair (although Joshua did suggest after church that we could probably fit our whole family in six chairs if we just had a few people sit on half-chairs. I'm not going to try it.) It was such a treat after the Sacrament, after Anna had spilled her juice box and we cleaned it up, and after Beth and Jeffrey had a big fight about who got to sit by just Mom or Dad and who got to sit between them, and after Jeffrey and Anna both had to go "pottie", despite the fact that Anna still wears diapers, after we finally got settled, there we sat with our whole family together. Jacob, Katie, Daniel, Josh and Adam were all sitting to my right. Jeffrey got the coveted spot in between Mom and Dad, Rich had Anna on his lap, and I could just see Beth's white tights and black church shoes sticking out on the other side of Rich. I sat there looking at each of our children, feeling how much I loved each one individually so much. I felt grateful for three independent, helpful teenagers who are all working so hard at school and participating in their individual activities. Then, my two best-friend brothers, who can't be quiet in Sacrament Meeting to save their lives, but who are so sweet and good and fun. Then our little Jeffrey. I kissed his head and told him he didn't need to wear red to church for Valentine's Day. He comes with his own red. And then two little wiggly girls who are sweet and affectionate and love to paint nails and wear pretend make-up and push strollers and pretend to talk on a cell phone. I felt like my heart was full to bursting with love. Could there be a better family than this? It's busy and crazy and I'm not always appreciated for my efforts, but it is very happy and full of love. I absolutely wouldn't change a thing!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

All we need is love

Yesterday, Beth attended a long birthday party. We dropped her off at 12:30, and her ride did not bring her home until 5:30. Right around that same time, Rich left to attend a temple session. I hadn't been feeling great, so I was a little crabby when Beth began moaning and groaning to me about what a hard day it had been for her. I had asked her to finish her chores while I made dinner. She immediately started to cry, saying how everyone had so much fun and she never had any fun. The rest of the family had been home all afternoon doing chores, so I reminded her how we had all been working and that she needed to do her part without complaining. I felt impatient with how ungrateful she was and frustrated that I had to work so hard. As I heard her crying and complaining, I thought, "I don't know how Heavenly Father does it with all His children complaining and moaning about this or that to Him all the time." Then I remembered that I am one of the moaners. "I wonder if he ever just gets sick of me," I thought. As if to answer my question, the idea came to think about how my heavenly father responds to me when I come to Him upset or discouraged or with a problem. Almost without exception, when I pray about something that I am upset about, no matter how simple or insignificant it is, I feel loved, understood, listened to, encouraged, and validated. Suddenly, I realized that was what Beth needed. She needed me to just love her.

So I tried it. I stopped what I was doing for a moment, had her come to me, and I gave her a long hug. I told her how sorry I was that she felt tired and sad about her day. Then I asked her to tell me about what had happened that made her feel so sad, while I made dinner. So she began to tell me how the other girls at the party had left her out of some things, and how one girl in particular had told her she was bossy. This same girl had also called her another name during the party. She also felt disappointed that she didn't get to play with the birthday girl as much as she wanted. (This was all a good reminder to me that 5 hours is probably too long for that many little girls to be together!) I listened and tried to understand how she was feeling. I tried to validate her feelings. We talked for as long as she needed, while I made our dinner. It was amazing how quickly she cheered up and went off to do her chores.

Love. Kindness. Understanding. Validation. If only I could remember more that this is what my children are looking for. If only I could slow down before I minimize their feelings, and listen to them. That is how my heavenly father treats me. That is the kind of parent that I want to be more of the time.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Why I Am Glad That I Am Not Pregnant

Nearly 17 years ago, when Rich and I were dating and engaged, we decided it would be fun to have nine children. It was just a silly number we came up with. I never thought it really mattered, until now. For some reason, I can't give up the idea that someone is missing. So we have been hoping to have another baby for one year now. Can I tell you what an eye opening year this has been?! I don't know how women do this, the emotional ups and downs, the thinking "this is the month" only to be so disappointed when it's not the month, the thoughtless responses by a well-meaning husband who isn't quite as...well, quite as impatient. I have a whole new respect for women who have experienced infertility. I will say it again--how do you do it?

So for some reason I thought this month was the month. I don't why I let myself get all excited. I kept saying it didn't matter, and then the fateful day came when I knew I wasn't pregnant, and I was depressed. It doesn't really make any sense, to be honest. I have a great family and certainly plenty of work to do! But I have still felt disappointed. So laying in bed last night, I started to think of all the reasons why it is so great that I am not pregnant. Here are some of them:

--I get to eat barbecue sauce, which I cannot eat, or even see, or even speak of, or even have others speak of, when I am pregnant. I like barbecue sauce. Hooray for barbeque sauce! I think I am in the mood for chicken with barbecue sauce!!

--The little black hairs, which grow so abundantly all over my husband's chest, back, arms and legs--but curiously not on the top of his head--do not currently make me sick. In fact, I can clean the shower without even noticing those little black hairs. I can change the bed sheets without wanting to throw up from seeing those little black hairs. I can even admire them on my dear husband without feeling even one little bit sick. Hooray for the ability to ignore little black hairs!

--I care about whether or not the house is clean. Now I am not saying that the house is clean, because I just don't think one woman can fight the apathy of nine other people who don't seem to care if the house is clean. But right now I actually do care about the house and so I make efforts to move it in the direction that I like, which is clean. When I am pregnant, I don't care and the apathy takes total control of the house. Oh, they all pretend to care and make pitiful efforts at doing extra chores in the name of "helping Mom" but they know that I don't really have the energy to care and to be pregnant, and they can let a lot slide. So hooray for caring about a clean house!!

--I can put my head on my bed pillow and not feel like throwing up. There is something about smells that really get me when I am pregnant. The smell of the bathroom, the smell of the laundry, the smell of my husband and the smell of myself (both sad but true), the smell of the bedsheets, the smell of the unmentionable barbecue sauce. All these things make me pretty darn sick when I am pregnant, especially in the beginning. So hooray for a comfy bed pillow and the ability to lay my head down on it (especially since that pillow sometimes also has little black hairs on it!)

--Well, I could go on and on, but here's just one last thing. (And I'll bet this is one that Rich will shout hooray for, too.) I like being able to eat the food that we actually have in the house. When I am pregnant, the only food that sounds good to me is food that is not in our house and has not been mentioned recently in our house. Oh, how good it is to be able to eat peanut butter and jelly or tuna, for instance, for lunch today and tomorrow and then again the next day. Isn't that great?! When I am pregnant, I might be able to stand it today, and I might let you eat it tomorrow with me in the room, but the next day, and for the next six months, it will be completely out as a food option. It's so good to just be able to eat and feel full and go on with the day. (And I will bet you anything that Rich is saying how good it is that he is not the one out hunting for the food that sounds good to me that is not in our house!) So hooray for eating normal, easy-to-access, available food!

See all the reasons why I am glad that I am not pregnant? And I think these reasons will sustain me all month long, and I will be absolutely sure that I am so happy not to be pregnant and not to be dealing with all this, right up until that fateful day next month when I find out again that I am not pregnant. And then I will probably be depressed and have to start a new list! ; )