Introducing Collin

It’s only taken me 11 days to get to this, and I know all y’all are impatient to hear the whole story, so here goes…

Introducing to the world (through the blogosphere)

Collin James
Born May 1st, 2012 at 2:59 am

8 lbs, 2 oz. and 20 inches long.

Yes, that is a whole mess of dark hair you see all over his head. He has darker skin, too (so now we have a complete set: 2 light haired/ fair skinned boys and 2 dark haired/ olive skinned boys). He is absolutely perfect.

His big brothers all completely adore him. How could they not? They all just want to hold him and comfort him when he’s upset and talk to him about anything and everything. They have to say goodbye to him each morning and run into the house after school to say hello.

Collin sleeps really well all day long and loves to chill out all night long (which is why I’m writing this post at 3:30 in the morning. Just letting Collin lay here and stare at the ceiling while I type. Fun for us all!)

Collin hates diaper changes and sponge baths. He loves to have his hands up near his face, being wrapped up in a towel right after a bath, and sleeping on my chest.

He is such a perfect addition to our family. We’re all in love with him and I already can’t imagine what I was thinking just a year ago when I thought we were done and three boys was it for us. I am so, so happy to be wrong. 🙂

Well, Collin is asleep finally, so I’ll have to tell you the actual story later… after I’ve gotten some sleep. (I need to prop my eyes open just to finish this sentence!) Stay tuned…

End of the Road… Almost

We are now down to under 2 weeks until the baby is born. If the baby waits until the scheduled day, I will be going to the hospital at 530 am on Mother’s Day for a 730 surgery. Not too bad. If the baby comes early… well, I’ll just go in to the hospital and see what happens.

I hear the hospital I have chosen is a good one. You get to order your food like room service! Just call them up at any time and say, “May I have this please?” and they bring it to you. At. Any. Time. Not just “pick from this menu and here are the meal times.” And all the rooms have huge flat screens. AND free WiFi. My one friend said she blogged from the hospital. And something broke down in the middle of the night and they still came and fixed it right away. I asked about what the nurses were like (I thought the nurses when I had Parker were actually pretty mean), and was assured that they are all pretty great and you can just request a different nurse if you don’t get along. YAY. It’s going to be like a little vacation for me, apparently.

I had some friends throw me a baby shower, and we are feeling so blessed right now. Yes, this is our fourth baby, and yes, it is also a boy, so who would think I would get a baby shower, right? I should have everything I need, right? Wrong! It has been long enough since we had Parker that we actually thought we were done and we were in the process of getting rid of everything. I had just given away all the clothes. We got rid of most of our baby gear. It feels like we are starting over! Well, we have some amazing friends apparently, both near and far. I now have a car seat and stroller (not from the baby shower… just a really, really awesome and generous friend!), a swing (someone was just giving it away! Score!), a crib (astonished as this was presented to me as the group gift at the shower!), clothes (cutest outfits ever! And my friend who inherited all our previous clothes returned everything she borrowed! Double score!), pacifiers and bottles (yay for baby showers!) and oh my gosh I have never had so many diapers at one time in one place in my life. Ches and I both felt a huge weight come off our shoulders Saturday night as we went through everything. There are still a couple of things we need to get (diaper bag, breast pump, monitor), but overall we are ready for the baby.

If we can only come up with a name…

It’s still shocking to me that we are having another baby. We used to say we wanted four, but we had accepted that we had 3 wonderful boys and felt complete. Life is funny that way, though. Just when I think I have things figured out, I get thrown a curve ball. It’s been a hard adjustment for me to make in my mind, and I’m not quite there. Maybe when he makes his appearance I’ll be able to reconcile it. I don’t know. I’m happy about it though. I feel ready for whatever mental games happens, too. Having gone through PPD twice before, we know exactly what to look for. In fact, at my next doctor’s appointment, I’m going to ask how quickly I can be put on medication just because it was something I was looking at doing before I got pregnant anyway. I’m not sure I’m ready for the middle of the night feedings and the constant diaper changing… but I’m ready for another person to be added to our family.

We have so much going on in our lives right now. It’s the tail end of the school year, which means concerts, class plays, more concerts, guard and drumline auditions, banquets, concerts, field trips, graduations, concerts… If only the baby was due in June… But we’ll work it out just fine.

I didn’t sleep well last night. I hurt all over. I had a huge headache. When I did sleep, I had crazy dreams. Mostly I just had the overwhelming feeling that I needed to wake up and pack my bag and make all the arrangements necessary for the baby to come. I felt like the baby is going to come TODAY. I don’t know how valid the feeling is, really. I more than likely won’t be having a baby today. However, it is best to be prepared, so that’s what I’m doing. Well, right after I hit “publish”, that is. 😀

I’ll blog from the hospital. Just because I can.

All Happiness and All Grief

It has been so hard to actually come here and write. My emotions have been up and down for about two weeks now. I have had some really great and wonderful things happen… And I’ve had some really terrible, tragic things happen. Not to me, but to people I care about and love greatly, and it has broken my heart.

I’m so happy to announce the end of such a successful winter guard season. My guard won first place at their last regular competition, then competed at state championships where again, they won first place in their division. It wasn’t our best performance, but it was enough. The girls worked so hard this season. My staff and I wanted this win not just for them, but for us. I felt like I really had something to prove as I am not part of the “in crowd” of guard coaches. I run my program differently than most people do. I never marched drum corps. In fact, I was never a member of a winter guard!! This whole activity is new to me, and I wanted to come out and make a statement. I think I did. I’m disappointed a bit in some of our local judges. I felt like there were a couple who took an instant dislike to our show and no matter what we did, it wasn’t going to be good enough for them. Their scores did hurt us in the end. However, the majority of the judges seemed to really love us. I am very excited for marching band in the fall and next year’s winter guard. I hope we only get stronger. (And I hope next year our state doesn’t “cheap out” and actually brings in some judges who haven’t seen us at every local competition all season. Who aren’t invested in particular programs because they are on staff at those schools. Who aren’t part of “the club”, as I call it.)

My pregnancy is moving along just fine. It’s definitely harder than my others, but knowing this is my last pregnancy also makes me want to try to enjoy it for what it is. I may be tired and sore all the time (seriously, I’m in SO MUCH pain!!), but there is nothing in the world like feeling that little being inside me and knowing I’m making a human. I can’t wait to meet our little guy!! I honestly can’t believe I’m about to have another baby… another boy! Wow! I’m going to be a mom of FOUR boys! It’s just… trippy. Can’t really think of a better word. It’s amazing and scary and wonderful and frightening. Okay, so none of that is any different from any other pregnancy. 🙂

While I was at winter guard championships, I got a devastating phone call. A close friend’s son passed away. When I got the call, there were no details yet. We have a group of women who are pretty tight, and they didn’t want me to come home, get online, and suddenly see everything posted all over Facebook. No one wanted to send me into an early labor. I appreciated that. So I got a call from one of the other women. What made it worse was knowing that this little boy’s father was killed just one year earlier. I was devastated for my friend and for her young daughter. How could so much tragedy come to just one family?? When I got home, I found out this little 2 year old boy was being a normal child… a tragic accident that could happen to anyone. My friend has asked for privacy, so I won’t go into details. Just know that kids are kids and sometimes, no matter what you do, things happen. I’m still completely broken hearted over this. My friend is amazing and has said she doesn’t blame God or anything. She knows tragedy and fate has had a heavy hand in her life. She is fighting to stay strong for her daughter, who needs all the prayers and support we can give one so young. My friend doesn’t seem to question, but I sure do. All I could ask for days was “WHY?!”

And then, not even a week later, Julia posted the news about her daughter, Liz. Again, another child being a child. A freak and tragic accident. We could all only pray, as Liz was in the PICU. Then, exactly one week after the loss of one friend’s son, Julia and Paul lost Liz. I called my mom to let her know (she knew Paul from when he and I were classmates at Ricks, and my mom grew to know and love Julia through her blog). My mom said, “Oh, after everything they’ve gone through with their son’s health, it just doesn’t seem fair…” I interrupted her. “How is ANY of this EVER fair?” I am devastated and I am angry. I now know two families in the space of one week who have lost children. Doesn’t matter what the circumstances were. It’s just plain NOT FAIR.

I am so touched, however, by the unselfish generosity that Paul and Julia have bestowed on four strangers. With their 12 year old daughter’s death, two people will receive sight, one young man will walk, and a baby has received a new heart valve. Could there be anything more beautiful?

Most of you who read my blog know Paul and Julia, or you know my other friend. You all know the emotions I am feeling. We are all devastated.

I can’t help but feel a bit guilty. I’m trying not to, but I still do. How can I find such happiness in my own life when there has been so much despair for these two families? And right now, I AM finding happiness.

Aiden and Dallin and Parker are my three sons. They drive me crazy, but they fill me with happiness. I’ve been reading “Holes” to them before bed each night, and it’s been so fun! They have all looked forward to this mother/son time and when it doesn’t happen because I am gone for the evening or it just wasn’t a good day and every one is getting into bed an hour late, they are disappointed. They cry and they beg. I’m disappointed, too. It’s a lot of fun to experience things with them. I went on a field trip today just to be with Dallin. I had to miss out on one with him recently because they could only take a small amount of chaperones and I was so sad! I have never missed a field trip with Aiden or Dallin. Today was hard (it was the Zoo… lots of walking, hot weather, etc…), but it was still SO FUN. I am signed up to go with Aiden’s class to the science center in a couple of weeks. I get to volunteer in Aiden’s classroom each week and it’s just fun to sit and grade papers and watch the class go. I love that they want me there and Aiden is really upset if something comes up and I can’t come to his class. I love spending all this time with Parker just before he goes to Kindergarten. It’s a good thing we have this baby coming because otherwise I would be SO lonely when he goes to school next year! He’s my little buddy. We read together and go to the park and run errands and he is always asking me the most interesting questions, like “When Arizona was the Wild West, what did the first people do to find food?” and “Do we still have birthdays after we come back from Heaven?” We sing along together to the radio (seriously, you should hear this kid sing Adele. SO cute!!) and read books together and race up the stairs (he always wins). These boys fill me up with happiness.

And then there’s Ches. Our 14th anniversary is coming up in a few short weeks, and I can’t believe how much I am still in love with this guy. Sometimes I can still look at him and my heart skips a beat. When he’s not near me, I’m sad. It’s true. He’s about to go on a trip with his band and orchestra, and more than anything else, I’m sad to not have him in bed, snoring the night away. I love just sitting next to him on the couch. I love him teasing me the way he does (mostly). He’s funniest guy I know. He’s just plain fun. He makes me want to be better. Always and forever, I want to be a better person just because I can be… for him. We are so happy together. I love it.

Where am I going with this? I dont’ know. I have so many insane pregnancy hormones and emotions going on!! It’s hard to jump between the happy and the sad. And I just had to spit it out there for all of you to read.

Laying Down the Law

I have had it. I try and I try to make myself clear to my children in my expectations. I try to give rewards when expectations are fulfilled. I have made out nice, type written, attractive-looking chore charts and lists. I have set timers and put on loud music. I have threatened, cajoled, promised, cried, screamed, pled, whispered, and begged in order to get things done.

All that ends now. I’m sticking with “The List” because when they follow The List, it works. But I’m serious this time. They don’t follow The List, they don’t get any privileges. None. We’re talking no screen time (computer or TV). No toys. No books. No friends. No park. No cub scouts. No sleepovers. No extra school activities. Nothing until The List has been completed.

I should not have to yell at my children 25 times in the space of 15 minutes to remind them to put on their clothes for school. I should not have to yell at them 25 times in the space of 15 minutes to brush their teeth. A 9 year old and a 6 year old are more than capable of picking out their own clothes and getting dressed. They don’t need me to sit in their room and make sure it’s getting done. I refuse to do it. And if that means they are late to school… so be it. I can not do everything for them. They know how to read. They know how to follow The List.

So why don’t they do it? Do they enjoy being late for school? Do they enjoy me being so upset that I lecture them the whole 4 miles drive to school? Do they enjoy having things taken away from them? I do not understand why they can’t just follow a few simple instructions.

I don’t like being the mom that has to yell in order to get anything done (and don’t tell me to whisper and talk calmly. I have tried that. Many, many times have I tried that. It. Doesn’t. Work. Maybe it works with your kids, but not mine.). I don’t like being the mom who’s last words as she drops her kids off to school are “run before the gate gets locked” rather than “have a good day! I love you!” I don’t like being the mom that never lets her kids invite friends over because they haven’t made their bed or picked up their Legos from three days ago. I don’t like being the mom that I am.

It’s my own fault. I do too much for them and can’t relinquish enough control. And then I just plain snap so easily. I want to be the nice, happy mom that is able to get her kids to fulfill the expectations without anger. I want this last month and a half of my pregnancy to be a joyful time with the three boys as we prepare for the baby. I don’t want to be full of stress and contention.

This morning I said to the boys that I’m laying down the law. They WILL do their chores. They WILL follow The List. Or they get nothing until The List has been completed. We’ll see how it goes. It feels like more of the same… I have been laying down the law for years. The boys do great for a few days… then go back to old habits. I let it happen.

Something’s got to change. Something’s got to give. I just don’t know what.

When Abnormal *IS* Normal!

As you may be aware, we have really been struggling with Aiden. He is very behind in his school work and just not performing up to his potential. No where near his potential. It’s frustrating how unfocused he can be. It’s disconcerting in so many ways. And it’s a major reason that we’re pursuing the ADD/ADHD route.

Last night I kept Aiden up until 11:11 pm, working on research and a rough draft. The rough draft was due last Friday. His final draft is due tomorrow. We will be up late again tonight because he will turn this paper in on time. I have been so overwhelmed by the amount of work he has to do and doesn’t get done. I even had a panic attack about the paper yesterday! I do not feel that I should be there, holding his hand constantly just so he can get his regular homework or school work done. He is 9 and a half years old and in the 4th grade. He should be able to get it done, right? He is given plenty of time at school and plenty of time at home to get the various assignments done. Yet things still get lost and forgotten. More like everything still gets lost and forgotten. I am at my wit’s end.

Today I got to volunteer in Aiden’s classroom again. I walked in and his teacher said, “How are you at math?” Normally I feel shaky, but some boys needed help on a math packet (that I had insisted on Aiden bringing home earlier in the week so he could get our help if needed and get it done early, thereby giving him more class time to work on stuff he kept leaving in his desk…), so I said, “Oh, I can do that!”

Please remember that Aiden is in a self-contained Gifted classroom. This means that ALL of the children in this class are exceptionally bright kids. They kind of scare me with their collective intelligence sometimes! However, it also means that each of these kids has different personal, social, mental, or emotional issues they have to deal with because of the “Gifted-ness”. It can be so fun to work with their fast little brains, but it can be very frustrating at times. And the level of work they do is so far advanced of what I did at that age!! Wow. It’s hard to keep up with them, and I’m just so grateful for the teacher in this class because she is so wonderful for these kids. She really gets them. She likes each and every one of these kids! She works so well with and for them. I love to watch her interact with the kids and I love to watch her teach.

Anyway, so I took three boys out in the hall to a table so we could work without distraction. These boys really didn’t need my help (other than an initial “How many mL are there in a liter? I know you don’t like working with metrics. Neither do I. We’re American. But Aiden’s dad is Canadian and he totally helped us, so it’s easy. Let’s think this through…” Quite comical, actually.). They are smart and can problem solve and think and they really knew what they were doing for the entire packet. No, what I really had to do was sit next to them and say, “Do your work. Do your work. Got that question done? Good. Do the next one. No, don’t talk to Jaedin. Do your work. Darius, do not go get another drink of water. Do the next question. Yes, Jaedin, I know he’s distracting you. Aidan D., stop distracting Jaedin. No, Darius, you can not have a second one of Rachel’s birthday donuts. You can finish your question. Aiden D., get a pencil you can actually write with and then finish the page.”

It was exactly — I really mean exactly — like working with my own Aiden. It’s constant redirection and focusing. It’s a constant presence to make sure they get the work done. Like I said, they are all smart enough they can do the work with no help. They just need someone there making sure they get it done.

After my volunteer time was up I went to pick up Parker from preschool. I was talking to a mom at the park after preschool. This mom also has a daughter in Aiden’s class. I mentioned that Aiden had to stay up late to finish his rough draft and how we’ve been spending so much time trying to play catch up that I think he’s getting behind in a lot of his current work. Best thing I heard? She said, “SAME HERE!!” She had to keep her daughter up late to finish one assignment a couple of days ago and her daughter just turned in another major assignment (that was due weeks ago… and one that we want Aiden to redo since he only got 11 out of 52 points) just today. Her daughter kept asking, “Can’t I just go lie down for a minute? Can’t I have a short break?” It is exactly like Aiden!!

The moral to my story? I do not at all think it’s normal for kids to be this unfocused on a regular basis. However, Aiden isn’t the only one. All of these kids are abnormal, thus making them normal. It makes me breathe so much easier to know that we are all fighting the same fight.

Oh, guess what? I’m going to win, too. Aiden is being taught to be responsible and focused. It will work. I will win. There is no other option.

Working Dad Dilemma

We’ve all heard of the Mommy Wars and the dilemma mothers have with whether or not they should work or stay home full time. I realized the other day I can fully count myself as a working mother now. No, I don’t work full-time and I am mostly home during the day, but I teach color guard and private flute lessons. It takes me away from my family four afternoons a week and most Saturdays. I also get paid. It’s not much, but I am able to contribute somewhat to my family’s finances. I am not just a stay-at-home-mom anymore. However, this is not what I really want to talk about today. I want to talk about the working dads.

I was thinking that while we just expect fathers to be the primary bread winner in our family (because traditionally, that’s exactly the case. For centuries it’s been up to the husband and father to work and earn a living, to support his family), does that mean working fathers don’t also have regrets about working and missing out on things at home? I think a lot of them do. I just don’t think they are “allowed” to talk about it like wives and mothers are.

I think mostly about my own husband, of course. He has a very demanding, very busy job. He works about 75 hours a week and gets paid for 40. He puts his heart and soul into his job. He has to. He’s a high school band teacher. It’s what they do. However, it doesn’t come without a lot of sacrifice.

Ches’ job is not one for a family man. He is rarely home in the evening or on the weekends. Even when he is, he is doing work to prepare for classes or answering calls from boosters or studying scores of new music or watching videos of other marching bands… The work is never done. I understand there are lots of jobs that are demanding of home time. However, Ches and I are really feeling the sacrifice now that we have 3 (almost 4) kids… and those kids are old enough now to have their own activities that kind of need a dad. Yes, moms can do things like Cub Scouts and after school sports and the like, but sometimes a kid just needs his dad. Mom can’t do everything, all the time. And when you are in a two parent home, Mom should do everything, all the time.

We have been talking to each other for a while now and what to do to make a change. So Ches can be home and see the kids, have dinner with the family, attend Pack Meeting, or whatever. Basically, we have two options: Ches can completely change careers, or Ches can teach at a different level (middle school doesn’t have marching band, jazz band, pep band, winter guard, winter drumline, etc., so it’s a lot less demanding on the out of school time stuff).

Now, if we went with option 1 (completely change careers), what would Ches do? We spent years and tens of thousands of dollars on his schooling. Ches has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in music education. He is not trained for anything else. Oh, and he’s good at it, by the way. He’s a successful teacher and his students (most of them) seem to really love him. He also loves teaching. No, he doesn’t love the long hours and he gets frustrated when he gives his all and the students don’t prepare (there’s a concert tonight and festival tomorrow and Ches is quite discouraged right now…). But over all, he really, really loves his job. He loves those kids. He cares for his students on a very personal level, too. How lucky is he to have a job where he loves what he does and he’s good at it, too? So option 1 just doesn’t seem likely.

Option 2 (switch to teaching middle school) is a lot more likely. He spent 3 years teaching middle school in Idaho (while teaching high school), a year of just middle school here in Arizona, and then two years teaching middle school while teaching high school. He can do it. Like I mentioned before, middle school is a lot less time consuming because there just plain aren’t the myriad of extra activities for the students that he has to be in charge of. The biggest problem with option 2 is the money thing. We all know teachers don’t get paid much. Honestly, we are barely scraping by (thank goodness for tax refunds… we are able to catch up on the bills!), and Ches makes as much as he does because of the extra activities. He gets a small stipend for each activity. It doesn’t adequately compensate for all the extra time he puts in, but it’s something. In middle school, he doesn’t have that opportunity. On the other hand, he would have more time to get another part time job or maybe work as an assistant with a high school marching band or whatever. Then again, we’re back to him not being home with his own family, like he wants, because he has to make that extra money. Sigh. I feel like we’re just running around in circles.

In church the last few weeks the topic has come up quite a bit, actually. The feeling I’m getting over all is that they are telling men to stop sacrificing their family time for their jobs. Even if you have to change jobs or careers, you have to do whatever you can to be home with the kids and your wife. Your family needs you at home. Ches and I have been feeling that for a while now anyway, but it suddenly just seems to be thrown in our face everywhere we turn.

Oh, the other problem is that once Ches makes whatever changes to be home with the family, doesn’t that just free him up to have more involved church callings? Ches was saying that he remembers his own dad not spending the evenings at work, rather most of his evenings he was gone for church things. I’m not saying that’s bad, and there are lots of things that need to be done. I appreciate the sacrifice the leaders of the youth make for the teenagers, whether through Young Women’s or Scouting. I know a bishop has a LOT to do to run the ward. But if the point of making this change is to spend more time with his family, how is he supposed to do that when he’s gone several nights a week to do things for the church? How much family life should be sacrificed for church callings? (Am I a total apostate for even asking this question???)

Working dads have the same dilemmas as working moms do. Budgeting time and resources to make the family unit run smoothly is really hard. There is always going to be a lot of sacrifice, whether it’s the job that suffers, the kids that suffer, or the church attendance that suffers. Something has to give. And knowing what it is that has to be cut down or taken out completely? That’s the hardest decision of all.

Boys Vs. Girls

It shouldn’t be a contest, but apparently it is. Everyone seems to expect that because I have three boys and I’m pregnant again that I want a little girl. Everyone seems to think that they have to wish pink on me. Everyone is very vocal about hoping that I finally get the daughter I am “obviously” trying for.

Let me make myself very clear on this. I was not trying to have a girl. I was not trying to have another baby. We thought we were done. It’s been over 5 years, after all, since the last baby. I don’t get pregnant easily. I don’t like being pregnant. This is a surprise. A happy one (I *do* love newborn babies!!), but a surprise nonetheless.

Also, I love my boys. Very, very much. I love having all boys. Yes, they are messy and loud and active doesn’t even begin to describe the boys. I love having Star Wars toys and Legos and cars and trucks and dinosaurs spread throughout the house. I hate ironing, but I love getting those crisp, white shirts on them each Sunday and fighting about whether or not they should wear a tie (the answer is always yes, by the way). Yes, I feel outnumbered in the house, but I love being the only girl. It’s what I know.

Do I want this baby to be a girl? Not really. Like I said… I know boys. I am a mom of boys. I am used to boys. I know how to change boy diapers and how to comb boy hair and where to find the cute and fun boy clothes. I know what boy toys to buy and what boy books to read to them. I know BOYS.

I will admit to having a desire for a daughter. I want to put bows in her hair and dress her up in pink plaid or cordouroy dresses. I love cute little Mary Jane shoes and white tights. I want a daughter to buy a prom dress for. To take to dance lessons and have in my color guard. I want to be able to go wedding dress shopping with my daughter someday. Several months before I got pregnant Ches caught me watching “Say Yes To The Dress” on Netflix and asked me why I was crying. “Because I’ll never have the experience of watching my daughter try on wedding dresses!” He was mystified and said, “But you’ll have daughters in law. You can go with them.”

“It’s not the same,” I answered. You see, while I am amazingly blessed to have a mother-in-law who I love dearly and who seems to be pretty fond of me, I know that is not the case for everyone. What if my sons marry girls who don’t want to have anything to do with me? Or don’t respect me? Or just plain don’t like me? What if I don’t like them??? What I have with Heide seems to be rare. I love her, I respect her, I want her to be a part of our lives. From talking with my friends, that is the exception more than the rule. That makes me sad.

Having a daughter is different than having a son. Teenage girls are SO different from boys. I work with teenage girls. I love my girls. You have no idea how much I love them and I try to keep track of them after they leave me. But I come home from work and then I whisper to my belly, “Please be a boy. Please be a boy.”

Girls are just so full of drama. Believe me, I know. I am a girl! When boys have a problem with someone, they punch it out and are done. Either they are friends again or they aren’t. Doesn’t matter. They are done. When girls have a problem, they talk to their other friends. They spread gossip and play mind games. They hold grudges. For yeeeeaaaaarrrrrssss. I am still upset at the girl “friend” of mine who, in 1994, sat down next to me in AP Biology II and said out of the blue, “Even though you’re Mormon and going to Hell, I’ll still be friends with you.” Oh, and then a year later, when my boyfriend and I broke up because we were going to universities like 2000 miles away from each other, she KISSED him that very night. Not cool. So yeah, I’m still holding a grudge. You know the movie “Mean Girls”?? That’s exactly how girls are. In middle school, high school, college, the work force… it just doesn’t end. I don’t want that in my house. I don’t want a girl because I can’t handle that kind of drama.

Boys are easy to dress. Blue jeans and a t-shrt and they’re good. Girls have to have “outfits”. And yes, there are tons of cute things out there that I drool over every time I go to the store, but the thought of having to actually buy any of that scares the heck out of me! Certain shirts with certain pants. Skirts and dresses. Casual skirts, dressy dresses. And the HAIR. My boys are lucky if we even comb their hair in the morning (well, Aiden likes his hair long, so we definitely have to brush and comb it every day…), but with girls? Brush, comb, style. Every stinking day so they don’t look like paupers going to school.

And then there are just the looks. This is going to make me sound so shallow, but it’s something I have thought a lot about. I just hope I can type out properly what I am thinking.

There is a certain standard of what is considered pretty, beautiful, cute, or whatever when it comes to females. I feel like it’s a lot more strict and a lot harder to be truly attractive as a girl. Males don’t have those same standards. I mean, how many times do we watch a TV show and the husband is this awkward looking, over-weight guy, but the wife is always super thin and super hot? Men can be downright ugly as long as they are smart and funny and friendly. Women have to beautiful no matter what.

I was a skinny, scrawny, nerdy, awkward little thing. I felt very keenly from a young age that I didn’t measure up. I never had clothes that fit me properly. I remember hanging around after church with all the kids in the gym, running around, waiting for our parents to finish gabbing so we could go home and have lunch. The older girls would play with the younger girls. You know, swing them around or play tag or whatever. I noticed, however, that the older girls only played with certain younger girls. The younger girls that wore the pretty, frilly dresses and had their hair done in perfect curls and intricate braids. These younger girls were “cute” and “pretty” already, by the age of 5 or 6. And other people noticed it. I wasn’t one of those girls. No one EVER swung me around. I was easily overlooked. Of course, my memory (like any distant memory) is flawed and it may not at all have been how I perceived it. But it was my perception. In middle school I had bad skin and a bad perm. In high school I was “one of the guys” for so long, I honestly didn’t know how to react when I was asked out on a date for the first time. (I thought he was joking. I shot him down. Big time. In front of half the band. I’ll never know if it was real. We never went out. I couldn’t figure out why someone would WANT to go out with me!) I just never was one of the pretty girls, no matter what my mom said to me.

I don’t want that for my daughter. I don’t want her to feel awkward and ugly at age 6 or 16. I’m scared of the standards our society has set out for beauty for girls and I just plain don’t want to deal with it. I don’t have the best body image of myself, and I don’t want to be a bad example to her because I feel so fat and ugly and unsure of myself at age 35. I’m scared of eating disorders. I’m scared of outside influences. I’m scared of my influence.

And now you know. I don’t want a girl. I want another boy.

I’ll find out in probably another 2 weeks. And if it’s a girl, I WILL rejoice and look forward to all the great things a girl will bring to our family. For now, however, I will continue to hope for another boy. I don’t want to hear another word about it.

What If I Could Write A Letter To Myself?

What if I could write a letter to myself? My younger self, that is. With all that I know now that could help erase some of the pain of back then? Or what if my future, older self could write me a letter that I could get today that would tell me yes, everything really will be okay? Would it help me now to get through all our trials? And what seems so huge today… will it seem that huge in 5, 10, 25 years?

Today a couple in my ward blessed their baby. They had been trying for a long time to get pregnant. It got to the point where they were just about to give up and were looking into adoption, when she got pregnant. And stayed pregnant. It wasn’t the easiest pregnancy (really, are there actually easy pregnancies? I don’t believe there are, no matter what some women say!), and several weeks before the baby was due, the mother and her father were in a car wreck. It was bad enough that the mother was in the hospital and they were trying to prevent an early labor. It was too early to have a healthy baby. Thankfully, everything turned out just fine the worst that happened was her baby shower had to be rescheduled. The couple has a healthy baby boy a few months ago.

When the mother got up to bear her testimony during Sacrament Meeting today, she said, “If someone had told me a year ago I would be here today, blessing my baby boy, I would have laughed in their face. No, I would have cried in their face and thought it a cruel joke.”

I remember those feelings all too well. I remember how long it felt we tried (unsuccessfully) to have a baby. I remember feeling the desperation as I watched friends and family members seemingly have an easy time of it. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t get pregnant. And when I finally did get pregnant, it resulted in a miscarriage. It was such a tough time. I sometimes wonder how it was the Ches and I made it through that because there was so much strain. So many tears. And then… Aiden. I couldn’t believe we actually got this little miracle who was so perfect and so lovely. I didn’t know how I could ever be so happy again. I never forgot the pain of the years before Aiden came to us, but the pain was lessened so much by that little being we were blessed with.

And now look at us… three boys. Three wonderful, active, smart, funny boys. After a long break where we thought our family was complete, we found ourselves blessed again. In the next 15 weeks we will have our fourth child. FOURTH!

Has it been easy? Not by a long shot. Am I a good parent? I try. I don’t think I am (not what this post is about, however), but I try. Is everything perfect since we got our long-awaited for children? Not by a long shot. We still have so many trials and tribulations. Sometimes it feels like we are bogged down so far into the muck there is no way of pulling ourselves out. But I don’t know what it will be like a year from now. Will I be able to look back at this year and say, “I am so blessed. We kept working and trying, and things are better. We are happy.”

That’s all I really want. To be able to acknowledge that life isn’t always great, but we’re still happy. I have Ches. I have my kids. We’re still working and we’re still trying to pull out of this muck. Little by little, we’ll get there. Maybe I don’t need a letter after all. And maybe I need the pain to make the reward that much sweeter.

Waking Up

Why is it so hard to wake kids up for school each morning? They moan and groan and tell me how tired they are and that they didn’t get enough good sleep during the night. I have one who would rather skip orchestra, another who would rather skip breakfast. It’s a battle as I try to find the right way to gently wake them in the morning so they will be in a good mood and productive in the morning right before school. I gently rub backs and whisper, “Time to wake up.” in my most soothing voice. I turn on the hall light rather than the bedroom light. I talk to them softly to ease them into wakefulness. I remember having lights turned on and blankets abruptly pulled off me to wake me up faster. All that ever did was make me even more grumpy. So on the weekdays, I work hard to help us all have good, grumpy-free mornings. (It doesn’t always work…)

Then Saturday rolls around. The first Saturday in weeks that we don’t have to be anywhere at 8 or 9 am. The first Saturday that I don’t have to set my alarm because we can just wake up whenever we want. The sun isn’t even up yet, and I can hear those little feet, running up and down the stairs. Then I hear voices. At first, the voices are trying to stay quiet, but they are boys, you know. Boys don’t know what the word “quiet” actually means. A boy’s whisper is more like a hoarse shout. I can hear one voice, then two, then three. I hear laughter. I hear screaming (at least it’s happy screaming!). I hear more running, doors slamming (at least he closed the bathroom door, right?), dishes banging.

I look at the clock. 7:15 am. Sigh. I bury myself further into my blankets, knowing that My husband isn’t leaving the house for at least 15 more minutes. Sure enough, he comes into the bedroom just 5 minutes later to kiss me goodbye. I hear the front door close and I the not-so distant sound of his car starting. It’s just me with the wolf pack. 

The kids are apparently hungry and I hear more dishes banging. Suddenly, I hear screaming. This time it’s angry screaming. Crying screaming. Dallin has toasted the last two PopTarts and Parker didn’t want his PopTart toasted. I call them to my room and convince Parker to stick his PopTart in the fridge. Dallin happily eats his breakfast and says, “At least I got myself food, right?” Several minutes later, I’m getting requests to play on the laptop or the Wii.  Someone else is asking for help getting something out of the pantry. Soon I’m going to have to drive the Cub Scout to meet his den (it’s Scouting For Food collection day). We don’t have much required of us today, but it feels like it’s going to be a full day.

8 am and I’m up. That’s all the “sleeping in” I’ll get for today.

Is it nap time yet? 

Where’s That Parenting Handbook??

I’m finding it harder and harder to be a parent. It’s not like I ever thought it would be easy, I just don’t think I ever realized how difficult it could actually be. I have three boys who are so very different from each other and each one has such highly specific needs right now. I often feel like I’m being pulled in a million directions and it’s hard for me to focus on one kid and his problems when another kid and his problems come up.

I’m going to write in more detail about each boy later. For now, here’s a run-down of what is on my plate:

AIDEN
We have decided to move forward with having him tested for ADD/ADHD. I have been quite reluctant about doing this for several years now, but a lot of factors have come in to play this school year and have brought it to the forefront of my mind. The more reading and studying I do I about it, the more I see how beneficial it would be if he is diagnosed because then we can move forward with medications and solutions. I want my son to succeed. At this point, by trying to ignore these symptoms, I’m facilitating his frustrations and failures. My job as a parent is to help my child, not hinder them. So… off to the doctor we go.

Aiden also is kind of a hypochondriac. A few weeks ago he was doing this massive study at school on OCD and is now convinced he has it. He jumped up and ran away from the dinner table one night because he said he was having OCD thoughts and his reading says when that happens, you run away from it. ~sigh~ I’m sure he does have a small amount of OCD (every body does), but he convinced himself it’s worse than normal for him. So not true. I think he’s forgotten about it, though. This week he is convinced he has asthma.

Aiden is a worrier. He worries and worries about needless things, and they escalate until he has a complete breakdown. Last night was Cub Scout night. The boys were in the van, waiting for me to drive Aiden, when I realized Aiden was sobbing in the back seat. I got him to calm down enough to talk, and everything came out in a rush. “I hate being poor! We have this stupid van from 2004. Why can’t we ever have anything new? Nothing we own is ever new!! Why do we have to spend thousands of dollars on mine and Parker’s health? And I need more money in my lunch account because my lunch time is so late and I’m so hungry that I’m eating all of my sack lunch for snack and then I’m hungry at lunch time!! Why do we have to be so poor??” Wow. So I spent some time calming him down and talking to him about each issue he said. Aiden is taking too much of his environment to heart.

DALLIN
Dallin is a sweet kid, a good helper, and hard worker, and really smart. But boy, does he have some emotional issues. He can snap in a second. Yesterday he got an answer right in class, so he got to pick out a pencil. He didn’t like the pencil (it was the only one left) and said it was dumb. So he got very angry and started throwing the pencil. He says he threw it 10 times. The last time it went across the classroom and hit a little girl, who promptly got up, left the class, pulled out a cell phone, and called her dad. Her dad called the principal, who then went to the classroom where Dallin was under a desk, kicking and screaming because he was mad about this pencil. Ches and I already had an appointment with the principal and vice-principal about Dallin, so we got to hear all about this right after it happened. Again, all his teachers and the principals and the office staff say he is a complete sweetheart. He just has these emotional outbursts for a few minutes. Then they get him to calm down, and he’s perfect for 3 or 4 weeks. Then the cycle starts all over again. It’s so frustrating.

PARKER
A few months ago Parker woke up in the middle of the night with the worst case of croup any of my kids has ever had. Nothing I could do made it better. So I actually took him, at 1 am, to a children’s all-night urgent care. He was given a breathing treatment and sent home. The next day, I was talking to one of my assistants about it, and she insisted on calling her mom and stepdad who have a clinic for children. They deal specifically with breathing issues and allergies. Stephanie’s mom checked Parker out thoroughly, and the nurses ran several tests. We found out that Parker actually has allergy-induced asthma. He is allergic to olive trees and just about every kind of grass (bermuda, ragweed, etc.) that we use here in Arizona. He is allergic to the area of the valley we live in. (He is also allergic to shrimp and cod, but not to dairy, like we had wondered.) Stephanie’s mom gave us medication and a nebulizer (it has a cool dragon mask for him to breathe into!). We got more prescriptions and bought children’s Zyrtec. He’s doing much better, overall, breathing wise. But we have to keep right on it.

And most of you know that for the last several years we have been dealing with Parker’s digestive issues. He is very small for his age — extremely short and underweight. He just doesn’t eat (turns out food just makes him hurt!). He had rectal prolapse. We spent a year and a half giving him Miralax every day and watching him to make the rectal prolapse correct itself so we didn’t have to have surgery. Right before he turned 5, after another check-up with the GI specialist, we took him completely off dairy for 2 weeks. The immediate response in his body was amazing. He doesn’t have to have Miralax every day! He is allowed small amounts of dairy, but we really watch his intake. Like I said, he’s not allergic to dairy. But he obviously has an intolerance. So he is allowed a piece of cheese pizza or a bowl of mac-n-cheese. Sometimes we even let him have small bowls of ice cream. For the most part, however, he doesn’t drink dairy milk (we buy Silk at Costco now, just for him), he isn’t allowed yogurt or string cheese for snacks, and we try to find non-dairy frozen yogurt for him to eat if we go out someplace special. We make an effort to limit the amount of dairy he has, and it has made all the difference in the world! He’s finally gaining weight!! He’s grown a couple of inches!!

CHES
I know, he’s not my son. But we have issues, too, you know! Ches broke his elbow a couple days after Christmas and it has been really hard for him. He is not in a cast of splint of any kind. It was a non-displaced fracture, meaning the bones didn’t move out of place. That’s good because it means no surgery. So Ches has been in a sling. He’s still in a lot of pain and he doesn’t feel like he has any strength in his grip. He’s getting a lot of movement back now, so we know he’s healing. It’s just slow. It’s especially been hard because he can’t play his trumpet. Oh! Did I mention it’s his right elbow, and he’s right handed? He can’t write or type. And don’t forget… he’s a band and orchestra conductor. He has to do only left handed conducting, which is hard to do. He’s used to having both hands to be effective. I have had to take over a lot more duties around the house and with the boys because Ches just can’t do it. I had to drive our entire trip to California (not fun for the pregnant lady!!). I had to cut the wood and help waaaay more than I would have liked with Aiden’s Pinewood Derby car (but hey! Aiden got 1st place!). I have to do more chores. And honestly, I’m missing out on a lot of sleep because I’m so worried about bumping into Ches’ arm during the night. A queen size bed isn’t that large when you have an expanding belly and your husband has a broken elbow. I also really miss little things. For example, Ches hasn’t yet felt the baby move. He can’t just reach over with his arm like he did when I was pregnant with the others. And the other night I woke up with a massive anxiety attack. In the past, Ches has always been there to rub my back, help calm me down, etc. But with the broken elbow, he has to stay back because I’m violently shaking and I could seriously hurt him. I miss just the feeling at night of his arm sneaking around my waist when he’s sleeping. It’s killing me to not have that physical contact when he’s RIGHT THERE.

So that’s about it. We are all crazy in this house. We all have a bajillion issues going on. And I’m feeling completely stressed out on a regular basis and like a total failure because I just can’t keep up with it all. I just want to go to bed and sleep for about a week.