Family

You should collect kids instead of coins.

My kids don’t get what other kids get. Because there are so many of them they kind of get the shaft. I have five little clones and there just ain’t enough to go around. Ever. The shaft is not limited to my time. There ain’t enough of anything around here. Except kids…there are plenty of those.

So tonight, as I was brushing my teeth, I was thinking about my kids. (I always think about them when I’m brushing my teeth. Cavity bugs and kids have a lot in common…they sneak up on me every night at 1 AM.) Anyhow, I was thinking about how shafted they really are. When I compare what we give to our kids to what so many other parents give their kids it’s actually a little embarrassing and perhaps criminal.

It’s just impossible for us to give our five children what other people give their one, two, or three children. Maybe four is pretty even, but for argument’s sake let’s just skip four. Knick knack, paddy whack, give a dog a bone. (You double-figure families are a whole other story.) From me and my hubby, my kids may never get a European tour, a cruise, college tuition (much less room and board), ski passes, equestrian pursuits, private music lessons, designer clothes, sports camps, unnecessary shoes, to fly (anywhere), and/or a lot of other things.

I’m not judging you that do have fewer kids and/or can afford the finer things in life…more power to you. (Although, one warning: the therapeutic boarding school I worked at was full of kids from really wealthy families. They had a lot of “stuff” but not enough of what really mattered.) I’m also not writing this for you to feel sorry for me or my kids. I am just trying to paint a picture of what it is like to live in a large family. Let’s face it, when a couple chooses to have many children (I’ll let you define many, but I would definitely say our family is large) they know they are choosing family over wealth.

Interestingly, last month, in my environmental writing class I learned this FACT: When societies are more successful economically their family sizes drastically reduce…so, of course the opposite is generally true…when families are large there is typically less of a focus on materialism. In my family size I know I’ve chosen the better part. All one has to do is spend some one-on-one time with my kids to see that they trump any amount of money, possessions, or leisure I could ever stockpile. (Do not judge my opinion over one of our family dinners, with all the noise, you’d never possibly agree.)

So, as I was circling the bristles onto my gums encasing my molars I got a grand notion: instead of focusing on what I am NOT giving my kids, maybe I should start pondering on what I am giving them.

After all, they are amazing kids. They really are. I must be doing something right. I might as well give myself some credit.
what they getCome to find out, I am actually giving my kids a lot of pretty amazing stuff.
As part of a large family here are what my kids get.

They get to learn that the world doesn’t revolve around them.
They get to learn how to make do.
They get negotiating skills.
They get a model of two parents who value family more than “stuff”.
They get communication.
They get never-ending support.
They get to live vicariously.
They get first-aid proficiency.
They get “do-it-yourself”.
They get trade secrets.
They get friends for life they also call siblings.
They get respect for the institution of marriage.
They get respect for the organization (or chaos – however you see it) of family.
They get a master’s degree in child development before heading to college.
They get to learn selflessness.
They get make it from scratch.
They get more psychology, human relations, and sociology than most people.
They get others to divvy with the responsibility of aging parents.
They get to know how to share.
They get a greater understanding of the opposite sex.
They get a greater understanding of the same sex.
They get goodnight John Boy’s and Maryann’s.
They get how to take care of a baby.
They get their place in a bigger plan.
They get to serve.
They get to survive living with a hormonal teenager before ever having one of their own.
They get gratitude for the little things.
They get cooperation and collaboration.
They get “fix it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”
They get emotional know-how.
They get respect for difference of opinions.
They get empathy.
They get joy in the little things.
They get real appreciation for anything and everything given to them.
They get frugality.
The get homemade.
They get love.
They get even more love.
They get so much love, they don’t want anymore.
They get real connection.
They get patience.

After writing this little piece, I am now believing that all of our societal woes are actually based in the shrinking family size. Also, I came across this video that expresses the four most important things that a parent give to their child. 1-Time 2-Education 3-Spirituality and 4-Love

I guess I am doing a pretty decent job after all. My kids now sound like the luckiest kids alive. And, well, maybe they are…even without the expensive vacations.

Next time I will write about what I get. I’m sure it’s way better than any coin collection.

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It’s About Who’s Waiting For Us in the End.

Come with me back to a high school track meet. It happened two weeks ago. I sat in the stands watching my teenage daughter and hundreds of other high-schoolers, all vying for their own personal records, hoping to beat out all the other competitors. Unlike the athletes, I, however, had a completely opposing mantra for myself. “Let it go, Alice.” “Let it go.” The Sunday before, my track-star daughter, my husband, and I had a heart-to-heart. Come to find out, I have always put undue pressure on the poor girl in all areas of her life, but especially when it comes to sports and grades. Yeah, I’m not proud. What can I say? She’s my firstborn? That doesn’t really cut it. You’ll be relieved to know that I am working on it. I have specific goals, one of which is not being result-obsessed.

So, my daughter had just run her 100m. Unlike her past track experiences, she’s not typically in the Top 3 this year. She’s running at the middle of the pack. Thus the mantra. “Let it go, Alice.” I was pep-talking myself, “This is about your daughter, not about you. Abigail is having fun. Abigail is getting exercise. Just because you want her to be in first place, it doesn’t mean that is where she needs to be. Be happy. Love your girl. Let it go.”

Then an amazing thing happened.

the end

It was the boy’s mile. The mile takes forever. As my thoughts were repeating in circles, I haphazardly watched the male athletes going round and around. I watched while I wrestled with my only baby boy and started imagining his future. I wondered to myself if I could master being a better mother by the time he takes to the track. I hoped I would never put too much pressure on him, too. I questioned whether or not he will even be an athlete and silently wished I will be able to embrace whatever it is he decides to love, even if he only loves it with mediocrity.

The race was over….or so I thought. My mind moved on. Then, right in front of me, I saw some super energetic young man rally his whole school to their feet. He hooted, hollered, jumped, cajoled, begged, and demanded full participation. I silently hoped, “Oh, I don’t wish that for Max. Please let him be an athlete, instead of a cheerleader.” Stay with me. My mind was abruptly changed.

It so happened that there was one runner left. He was way behind the pack. He belonged to this crazy make-shift athlete turned cheerleader’s school. This runner was a runt. He was slow. He was in last place. Yet. Yet, as he slowly made his way to the finish line in front of the crowd, his school was cheering for him like he was an Olympic gold medalist. All because of the efforts of his crazy encouraging teammate (that he hadn’t even seen rally the crowd) his stride quickened. His chin lifted up in pride. There was a wide smile on his face. The finish of this race is one he will never forget. Neither will I.

I hid my face in shame for being such a proud person. And because I was bawling my eyes out. I whispered to Max, “You don’t have to be an athlete, but please be a make-shift cheerleader wherever you go.”

Then I ran over to tell Abigail that she did awesome in that 100m.

The following Sunday, while I was driving to church, this song came on the radio. It took me hours to find it but it was worth every search effort.

Enjoy.

It’s not about how fast we get there, it’s about who’s waiting for us in the end.

Had I Remembered {a reflection on motherhood}

 

wpid-wp-1424717239819.jpegHad I remembered…..

the nights that I have to retrieve a pacifier at least every hour

and the mornings where I just want to read a single chapter of my book but the multiple feedings, epic dirty diaper, bath-time and the fact that for whatever reason he won’t go to sleep without being held make me give it up all together because it’s already noon

the teething

the whining and crying whenever I put him down

the poop that spills out of at least every other poopy diaper and up his back

the cost of diapers, wipes, and formula

the expense of changing wardrobes every three months

the spit up on every imaginable surface

the nap-times that are always too short

the date-nights that happen less frequently and for shorter spans of time

the little fingers that want to help my type

the impossibility of going to a movie as a family

the sex that only happens in a state of pure exhaustion

the weight of 20 pounds in my arms all day every day

the lugging of a car-seat everywhere I go

the sacrifice of about 90% of my free time

the difficulty of finding the time to just keep the house clean

the regular appointments to the pediatrician

and the fussy days after immunizations

the inconvenience of cooking a meal with a monkey on my back

the drooling like a puppy

the frustration of unloading a dishwasher when he grabs at everything

the impossibility of eating a meal with him in my lap

the fact that no matter how hungry I am he always needs to be fed first

the walking around like a zombie feeling that never goes away

the arduousness of Sunday mornings

{the list could go on and on}

…..but I’m so glad that I forgot. Had I remembered I probably never would have had him, and without him I would have missed out on….

his huge smile (that cheers everyone he sees – including the ornery old guy at church)

the fun times that his sisters play dress-up (see video below)

the cute way he sucks his lower lip and looks like a turtle

all the times he learns something new (he’s playing the piano below)

watching his face light up every time he sees his daddy

the euphoria of peekaboo (cutest video ever to be shared in the future whenever I get it off daddy’s phone)

his love of music

his fascination with the TV

the way he covers his eyes with his arm when falling asleep

rediscovering the softness of baby blankets and the way he likes to hold them against his face

getting to smell baby scent any time I want

watching him kick and squirm like crazy any time he’s naked or in the bath

his stubbornness and laziness that surfaces every time he refuses to hold his own bottle

his piqued curiosity every time he catches eye of our dog walking close by and how he loves to grab his ears

the way he screams instead of talking

the feeling when he finally relaxes and falls asleep in my arms (and sometimes sucks on his invisible pacifier like below)

his chubby cheeks….and legs…and fingers

his adorable laugh

The 3 Keys to Managing Your Kids’ Emotional Hypersensitivity

I am not a licensed therapist,  but write this post as a very experienced mom who understands emotional sensitivity.

Some people say to do nothing at all if you have a child who is overly-sensitive. They argue that to tread on a child’s emotions is to kill their spirit. Others try to break their kids of it as if they are a rodeo horse. As an overly-sensitive adult and a mom of 5, I say the best thing you can do to help your child with their hypersensitivity is to give them 1- awareness, 2- tools, and 3- model healthy behavior.
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1 – Awareness sounds like it should be so easy, but it can be really hard to approach a sensitive child about their sensitivity. hurtyfeelingsThat’s where Hurty Feelings by Helen Lester comes in. It’s a cute and fun easy-to-read picture book that will keep your kid’s attention. It is also packed with an emotional-wellness-punch. Fragility the Hippo is super-sensitive. This book explores what happens when one takes offense too easily and it also offers a great outcome in overcoming the problem…I’ll give you a hint….the answer has to do with Fragility finding her own voice. You can find the book at Amazon, here. I highly recommend it for its entertainment value as well as for the great opportunity it will provide to approach a sensitive (ha!) subject with your sensitive child.

My only other piece of advice with awareness is DO NOT approach your child with this subject when they are in hypersensitive meltdown mode. Wait until things have calmed down….way down. Maybe even broach it over a special dinner. Definitely make sure you are showing love and support and not criticism. Ideally it should be a constant dialogue. “Uh-oh, here comes that flood of emotions. What should we do about it?”

2 – Tools. There are all kinds of tools that your kids can learn when it comes to over-sensitivity. I’ve been going to therapy for years to learn and really internalize them. Here a few of the ones that I have found most helpful:

1- Self-esteem. This is NOT giving your child something to be proud of. That can help temporarily, but will not solve the problem long-term. Self-esteem is rooted in an inner dialogue which consists only of the message, “I am worthy.” Period. Every individual has worth. Not because of what they accomplish. Not because of who loves them. Not because of anything except for the fact that they are an individual and they are of worth. Religious people might call this being a child of God. I am not sure what atheists call it, but whatever you teach your child, just teach them that they are of infinite worth just because THEY ARE.

2- Order of love – This goes hand in hand with the self-esteem. It is something my current therapist harps on in every single session. It is a principle that has slowly changed my life and the life of my husband. The order of love should be like this: from God, from self, for others, from others. Many people get this screwed up and they seek to find their worth from the latter places first instead of giving it to themselves. It screws them up. Royally.

3- The victim triangle – In the triangle you have a victim, a pursuer, and a rescuer. Learn about it. Change it. If you are being bullied or your kids are being bullied, congratulations, you have perfected being the victim. Change.

4- Boundaries – Usually your kids are struggling with this because you haven’t taught it to them with your own behavior. Boundaries can be tricky, but I have found they are VITAL to emotional health. Essentially, you have to learn to say no. You also shouldn’t be an over-pleaser. You need to honor other people’s boundaries. Here is a good place to read the basics. I also highly recommend the book Boundaries by Townsend and Cloud.

5. Get rid of the shame! Feelings are feelings. No one should be made to be ashamed of how they feel. They literally can’t help it. Always validate feelings (for others and yourself) and teach your kids to process them healthfully. One of my daughters processes well when doing sports, the other by painting. Sometimes we all just need some alone time.

One of my husband’s cousins contacted me a while back and asked me for advice about one of her kids who is highly sensitive. She said, “You seem to have a good handle on processing your emotions.” I busted a gut. If she only knew! The reason I have a handle on it is because if I didn’t learn to process my overabundance of emotions I literally would have been locked up years ago.

As a mother I completely get her concern. One of my daughters is overly sensitive too. {I won’t say who or things could take a downhill real fast.} As a mother it is very very concerning to see her create this huge black hole around herself. Even as her family we are afraid to approach her a lot of the time. This daughter takes everything to heart and she gets hurt by the most random stuff. You have to walk on eggshells around her. She doesn’t fully realize that because she is so sensitive she is actually hurting her ability to connect with others. She is holding herself hostage with her emotions all of the time. Because she is sensitive she is perfect prey for bullies and the equally emotionally unhealthy. We are constantly trying to raise her awareness and give her tools to help.

This brings me to my last point: 3 – Modeling healthy behavior. If your child is struggling with being emotionally healthy it is very likely that you are too. I get my overly sensitive daughter. I am just like her. Over the years I have learned how to manage the sensitivity. I’m always practicing at it. I’ve also learned that being sensitive is not always a totally bad thing. In some ways my sensitivity is a huge blessing: I can see things going on around me that others don’t. I tend to appreciate beauty more. But more often than not my hypersensitivity has caused me trouble.

Recently after being in a social situation with some friends, one friend lamented to me that two of the other friends were making fun of her. I hadn’t noticed it. I asked the friend, “Are you sure they were talking about you? Could you just be overly-sensitive? Whenever I see two people talking, I always think they are talking about me. No matter who they are. Even if they don’t know me I think they are out to get me.”

I’ve learned to calm my sensitive inner dialogue in these types of situations. Awareness of my over-sensitivity has probably been my greatest aid in overcoming it. The second best technique I already mentioned above. I have worked hard on loving myself and letting go of whether or not others love me. I’ve had to stop living my life to please other people. It was literally making me insane.

As I’ve learned to be emotionally healthier I have noticed my kids improve also.

The good news is that your sensitivity makes your beautiful self even more beautiful. You can learn to manage it and as you do, you will have greater happiness and so will your kids.

I recommend going over here and testing yourself. And here and here you will find some good suggestions on managing your emotions. Here is a great list of what NOT to do. Here is a great list of what optimal emotional health looks like. If all of this isn’t enough, do not be afraid to find professional help. For you Utah County Utah locals our therapist Joyce is really great. For the rest of you, ask around. Make sure you get a good therapist. There are a lot of quacks out there.

Life is always worthwhile when you cry or smile.

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When I die the most important thing I would want to say to my family is “I love you and I’ll see you on the other side.” If I was allowed more than one sentence I would probably elaborate on my wishes for them to live good authentic lives.

I would tell them how I hope for their happiness, and I would tell them I would regret not being able to be there for them physically in their times of sadness. I would want them to know that if I can negotiate something with God, I will and I will always be right by their sides watching over them until we are reunited.

The song “Smile” from Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 movie Modern Times is one of my favorite songs. (Did you know the lyrics were added later based from themes and scenes from the original film?) This song brings back a lot of good memories for me. LG gave me some Happy by Clinique perfume for one of our first Christmases together. It came with a CD full of happy songs. We used to lay in bed together listening to the CD. When “Smile” came on it always seemed so appropriate. Those were really happy times, some of my favorite from my entire life.

However while re-listening to this song recently I discovered how the message of smiling when you are in pain is just kind of screwed up. I thought about Michael Jackson and Judy Garland (both have beautiful renditions of this song – go ahead – hit their links) and how their lives came to tragic ends way too soon. I thought about how they both may have lacked the emotional intelligence and/or support they needed. Maybe nobody ever told them it was o.k. to cry? I wish I could have helped them somehow and see them die in happiness, not out of their desperate attempts to escape.

Crying is an important part of life. Without times of sadness we wouldn’t know how much to treasure the times of happiness. We don’t have to run away from sadness. In fact I’ve found trying to run from it makes things much worse. Sometimes we just need to take time to process our emotions. We need permission to cry in our pain. Everyone should have someone in their lives that will just hold them while they cry.

I’m thinking about the pains I’ve experienced in life. They have been my very best tutors. Not all my days have been spent smiling while laying in my bed with my husband. In fact, I would say that I’ve probably had a close equal amount of time laying in my bed alone crying over life’s sadness. (If you read my blog regularly, you know this. I often use this as a place to process a lot of my emotions.)

So, in short, what I am trying to say is. It’s o.k. to cry. In fact it’s as necessary as smiling is for your emotional health. So do both. When you are in the middle of either happy or sad, most of all, know that your life is worthwhile.

I changed the words of the song to reflect the healthier message.
I am not voice-trained so feel free to skip the video, I made it for my family. I love you guys.

 

Mom’s new year seems so old.

Two things are pressing on my mind today.

1- I need to make my new year resolutions.
2- How am I going to stay sane this year?

Maybe they can be related? Yesterday in church there were a bunch of new ladies. We were to go around the room and tell a few things about ourselves. Our name. Where we live. Our favorite treat. Our job. Our hobby.

I was all prepped to give me answers. I’m Alice Gold. I live within walking distance from the rest of you. In a two bedroom condo. With 5 kids. And a dog. I’m still blessed beyond measure. My favorite treat is whenever I don’t have to cook. (Who said treats have to be sugary anyway?) My jobs are to stay sane and to be kind, both which are greatly challenging and fulfilling. My hobbies are all in trouble this year because I have a newborn.

And then I had to leave the room to change the baby’s stinkiest diaper of all time. I decided I would change my hobby to figuring out if it is possible to change a boy diaper in under 10 baby wipes. By the time I got back to the room, they had changed the game to just telling everyone your name. (They were running out of time.) psh.

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I don’t even think I made resolutions last year. I was pregnant. Totally off the hook. My goal last year was to grow a baby. I did it. I’m amazing.

My other goal was to give birth all-natural. I failed. I tried and tried. I labored for what seemed like forever and I thought I would die. I wanted to push the baby out. The doctor said I was only at a 7 and wasn’t allowed to push, yet. I felt destroyed and figured I experienced enough all-natural and that the actors in movies really don’t exaggerate. I was not being kind or staying sane. I begged my husband for the epidural and cussed out the anesthesiologist enough when he got there that he gave me the spinal dose. (You mean you didn’t give me the spinal dose on my other 4 kids? What the heck?) One contraction later…literally…the doctor examined me and said the baby was crowning. I’m blaming the lack of all-natural delivery on him, but we all know it is really my inability to relax without almost lethal doses of drugs.

I’m not gonna lie. I’ve pondered how much easier life would be to live on a constant dose of lethal drugs, or laughing gas…or marijuana. Lucky for me, I’ve never crossed that ponder to action or else I would be a drug addict, in rehab, or dead. Life was meant to hurt. Drugs rob us of the very essence of mortality…except in labor…those drugs are legit. (This paragraph is a total sidenote that I can’t bring myself to omit.)

So, this morning the high of having a newborn wore off. I almost made it 4 months. That’s pretty good if you ask me. When everyone else in the family took off to work and school, I enjoyed the silence for 5 minutes until the baby started crying out of hunger. I looked down at him and felt a little resentment. I’m 41 and still waiting for “my turn”. What I really want is to pursue my own goals, yet for the past 15 years it feels like all I’ve done is take care of babies…I stared at baby Max in the eyes and committed to continued sacrifice. I’ll get my turn eventually.

[I don’t want to turn this in to a stay-home mom vs. working mom debate as I think the choice is personal. I did however laugh a while back when I asked one of my working mom friends which would be better to take a trip to Hawaii with or without children (if you could only go once in a lifetime). She answered, “With kids. We would never go without the kids, we would just miss them too much.” I was like, “yea right, I might get that if I hadn’t committed every waking hour to my kids for 15 years. I would miss my kids after about 5 days and then I would get over it for a few more.” It’s a lot harder to miss your kids when you are always with them.]

Anyhow, the older I have gotten, the more I realize that I can be a mom and pursue my goals. I just can’t pursue them in an all-out fashion like I would prefer. I have to balance my time for me with my time for them. I tend to give them a lot more than I give me, and I hope someday I will look back on that decision with no regrets. Let’s face it, I’m not taking any career with me to the next life, but I do think God will sit me down and one of his first questions will be, “How are your kids? How is your relationship with your kids?”

So this very long post has helped me to process my two things “to do” today. Thanks for riding along. I’m going to stay sane one day at a time and not expect too much out of myself or even for myself. I’ve done it 15 years. What is five more? And, really, is it the end of the world that I’ve been writing this all day instead of doing Caroline’s homework, working on the budget, or cleaning out the stove? Nah.

My answer #2.
Here are some simple goals.

1. Don’t have another baby. Ever. Check. This should be easy. See last post entitled “I’ve been fixed.” But gosh dangit as soon as I heal up from surgery LG and I plan to die trying. 12 weeks of celibacy in a 4 month period of time is rough.
2. Write. When I can and/or feel like it. Maybe join a writing group or class?
3. Take care of myself. This will hopefully include getting back to my running upon doctor’s approval, biking some, eating healthier, and getting back down to pre-baby weight before Maximus’s first birthday. (the occasional pedicure too)
4. Take pictures. When I can and/or feel like it. Read my camera manual if I get around to it.
5. Camp and hike.
6. Love. My husband and kids, mostly.
7. Self-improve. Focusing on being kind and gracious, letting go of control, living in the moment, and being happy.
8. Self-discipline. Focusing on not wasting as much time on FB and being a better morning person, which really means getting to bed earlier.
9. Give more to God. Having daily quiet time. Look for ways to serve my fellowman.
10. Read. (I’m not making a reading goal ever again as per the advice of my therapist.)
11. Save at least $10,000 towards purchasing a home. Sacrifice.
12. Overcome my fear of physics. Watch some smart youtube videos.
13. Remember!!! My family is my greatest blessing. Ever. Make sure they know that I know.

What’s not to love?

Just the way you are, you matter to him.

uchtdorf

Here is some great spiritual enlightenment for your day.

The older I get the more I appreciate my kids’ imaginations.

A while back while I ran in to pay for gas after my card didn’t work at the pump, Bella captured Caroline lip-syncing. It’s so cute how Caroline always keeps up with her older sisters on pop culture. Days later as I came across this surprise video on my phone it brought tears to my eyes, partially because the words to the song were so fitting and partially because of the tenderness of one sister being able to see the value in the moment of her little sister just being little and care-free. Watching in after the fact was super overwhelming to this emotional proud mom. I also got a little chuckle about the fact that my kids can’t just sit in their seat-belts for 30 seconds unsupervised but always have to misbehave and jump around in the car.

As a busy mother of 5, I really love the one-on-one time I get with Caroline right after kindergarten gets out at noon. While Max naps, she tells me all about her day. Yesterday in P.E. they got to play with a parachute. She thought that was totally awesome and I smiled thinking back to a time when I was young and innocent and experienced the large parachute at school for the first time. I thought it was awesome too.

A few weeks back, while talking to Caroline about everything and nothing at all, she declared:

“Mom, when I grow up, I am going to create a green planet with rings around it.”

I immediately got out the watercolors and had her paint me a prototype.
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I hope she will get the privilege of making her own planets someday, (which is totally possible according to Mormon doctrine) but for now I am so glad that her whole big universe with infinite imagination can fit on my fridge. What a beautiful beautiful privilege it is to be a mom.

[Oh, and on a cool sidenote: I love it when science catches up with God’s truths about the galaxy. I believe God definitely has his children helping him out with planet creations. I know if it’s up to me someday I am totally putting Caroline in charge of all the green planets.]

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After post; check this out;
We Lived with God: http://youtu.be/JR8qIrJcJh4

This scientist says my thoughts way better than me.

Maximus is the greatest

Introducing our SON
Maximus LeGrand Gold
Born at 1:17 pm. 7 lb. 9 oz. 20″

aliec and max

At the ripe age of forty, I gave birth to my crowning jewel last Monday. After four wonderful beautiful daughters, God saw it fit to bless us with a son. I don’t deserve him. I don’t deserve any of them, yet, they are here and they are mine. Bear with me as I indulge myself a post to reflect on motherhood and what it means to me.

I believe I could just type “All I’ve got is tears,” and that may be my best explanation, but let me try and put those tears into words, no matter how pathetic it may turn out.

We struggled with naming Max. LeGrand got to pick the name and was really set on Nathaniel, but our 15-year-old, Abigail, hated the name. I liked it, especially since it is the name of one of LG’s really cool great great grandfathers, but I didn’t want it to be shortened to Nathan or Nate. And you know that they (meaning everyone) always shorten everything (coming from the mom of an Abigail who is Abbie, an Isabella who is Bella, and a Sophia who is NOT Sophie out of her sure determination in correcting everyone.) Sophia loves Greek and Roman tradition and so we went back to the drawing board (the internet) and looked up Latin names. When I read aloud Maximus, the name instantly sang to the whole family. As everyone gave their approvals individually it became official as we went around the room and each one-at-a-time declared a collective fondness for Maximus. It just clicked with all of us. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. The meaning of the name was just a perfectly fit bonus:

The Greatest

Not only did “The Greatest” go good with the already chosen middle name of LeGrand, which means the “The Big”, but it was a ringing of what was in all of our hearts…we were all finally getting another man in our family and that was pretty much the greatest thing that could ever happen. And we have not been disappointed. He is the greatest. Honestly.

I don’t know what it is, but there is something special about this baby. I don’t know if it’s because I am so much older or if it’s because he’s a boy, or maybe it’s just that I am reflecting an obvious adoration from our whole family, but this kid is the greatest. I have never been so proud. I feel like a peacock strutting around with my feathers. He is total perfection…..and God granted me the privilege of creating him, growing him, and birthing him. How does God find me worthy for that? I don’t know, but He does. It’s completely astounding.Totally overwhelmed is how I feel at the honor of the privilege and responsibility.

Last night as we were going to bed, LG and I talked about each of our kids individually (as we often do) and submerged into the swamp of life as we reflected on emotional, physical, and spiritual needs that always seem greater than what we feel we have to give. If you think about it, it really is a miracle that parents show up every day, knowing they are going to fail no matter how hard they try….and that they do that day after day, year after year. The hardest part about kids growing up is not that they become sassy teenagers (that’s actually pretty entertaining): it’s that they become your reflection.

I’ve been made to stare at myself four times over with my girls: at times all of my glory shines through them…all of God’s glory shines through them. Often, though, all I can see is my many vulnerable raw flaws in them….ones that I don’t want to have, much less bestow upon my most beloved children. Yet, I’ve given it all to them: the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. Looking through my own trash is the hardest thing that I’ve ever done. Knowing that I’ve embedded even the tiniest sliver of it into them is suffocating: like a deadly respiratory virus with no doctor. I know that I’ve screwed them up. I can’t deny it. No matter how hard I have tried to keep my trash to myself, it somehow got to them and tarnished them. Oh, how that fact hurts.

But, guess what? When I allow Him, God sorts through their trash -my trash- for me and He throws it all out and allows me to see only the shining jewel that I started with. The shining jewel that was His, that he loaned me, because He loves me and believes in me and wants to give me His joy. All five (it sounds so awesome to say FIVE) of my children are shining jewels. Walking miracles. Beloved son and daughters of God. It is God that gives me the greatest miracle – the miracle of the atonement – the miracle that sometimes shines brightest for me today in my kids: imagine it: only shining jewels to be found where for years I have involuntarily deposited my trash.

It’s just that when I look at Maximus (and oh how I could stare at him all day), there isn’t any trash to sort through just yet. The only deposit I have made so far is not trash but my greatest gift to offer: childbirth. God in his infinite wisdom and mercy knew exactly what He was doing when He called upon me to be that “older” mom. He wasn’t giving me a burden, He gifted me a rare jewel. Max is the greatest because it is he who has helped me see the jewel in all of them. Maximus is the perfect name because he came with the greatest message, “They are mine Alice. They are all mine. They are the rarest jewels, and yeah, you will dirty them up, but you are still good enough to be their mother. I will clean up your mistakes: all of them. You are my jewel and I have not a single flaw.” God is so good at reminders.

I’m sorry, mom.

I haven’t blogged since Father’s Day. I feel like I haven’t even breathed since Father’s Day. Life has been nuts. Between moving, summer visitors, and being pregnant, I have felt totally depleted every. single. day.

And then today it somehow got infinitesimally worse.

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People ask why I don’t blog like I used to. I give them various reasons, but one reason towards the top of  the list is that as my kids have gotten older it’s very shaky business blogging about family life. As a mother, I don’t want to disparage them, and let’s face it, they just don’t do things quite as cute as they used to.

Yesterday we had a family pow-wow that consisted of LG and I wrangling the kids in for the recurrent lecture about sibling kindness, taking personal responsibility…yadda yadda yadda. LG whispered to me after the half hour of torture that “everyone has to suck at parenting.” At least he still makes me smile every day.

The older your kids get, the more your weaknesses manifest themselves in your kids. It sucks. Big time.

[Let me start out this story with a disclaimer that my kids are pretty good. They each have great strengths but like every other sucker in this world, they have weaknesses. I need the readers of this post to know that I love my kids with all my heart. I believe in them. I am proud of them. I have faith in what they will accomplish in their lives. I wish I was a better mother equal to their greatness. I also just feel a need to write honestly. I hope this won’t cause harm.]

Well, after a really rough 24 hours where our last night’s lecture didn’t seem to do anything but make things worse, LG came home tonight as my knight in shining armor saying he wanted to have an emergency family meeting. (This could or could not have been prompted by my cry for help via e-mail earlier today.)

Just an hour ago, we sat down with our kids and LG talked about things we need to do differently,  improving individually and collectively. The kids all responded in their own way. Abigail takes after her dad and I in a lot of ways. One thing that she instinctively does is point fingers at others in a way of avoiding her own overwhelming emotions of self-doubt and disappointment. Somehow, I became her target tonight. I am always the target. They never go after their dad…he’s just too nice.

She laid into me, “If you would just stop talking about how horrible it is being pregnant and start doing some more fun activities with us. …. if we could just have a real summer, like all the other kids…we need to have fun…we need a vacation…” (Tell me about it!!!) At the end of my rope, I came unleashed. Out of my mouth, came the exact words I remember hearing from my own mother so many times. I hated that also accompanying the words were big huge heavy sobs.

“Abigail, you have no idea what you are talking about. You don’t know what it feels like to be forty and pregnant. You have no idea what I’ve done just for you this summer. I’ve sacrificed mornings for soccer, money for physical therapy, time for your two stints at girls’ camp, and money and time that could have been used for a family vacation for you to go to EFY. You need to get out of your selfishness. I have given up my ENTIRE LIFE for my children. Everything I do is for you and your sisters.”

I said a few more things, and then stopped myself and sat sobbing into my palms as LG quickly finished up the family counseling session. Second parent-fail in two days. I had no smiles to give in secret this time around. I sat badly hurt and frustrated not just with my teenage daughter but with my life and even my husband who always seems to escape the fury even when he holds as much responsibility for it. Five-year-old Caroline kept asking, “Mom, why are you crying?” LG saved me more talking and told her that I didn’t feel appreciated and rightly so.

I hurried to my bedroom afterward and sobbed into my pillow some more. “How did I get here?” I thought. “How did I become my mother?” Years ago, when I was Abigail’s age I promised myself I would never lay into my kids like that…I remember how horrible it made me feel when she did it to me. But, by golly, Abigail needed to hear it. She’s an adolescent becoming more wrapped up in herself every day. I’ve given her everything I’ve had to give this summer (even if is has been pathetic) and the fourteen others before that.  Why didn’t my rant make me feel any better? Was I solely in the wrong? Is she totally right? Am I really not giving enough?

And, you know what. I don’t have the answers. And it sucks. Big time. I hope we can find them together.

I do have one thing to say though, “Mom, I am so so so very sorry for ever saying anything or doing anything or not doing something that made you feel how I did an hour ago. You matter. Your sacrifices are known. I love you. I appreciate you. And the longer I live, the more I want to emulate you as a mother. Yes, there are ways that you let me down, but there are so many more ways that you supported, sacrificed, and loved unconditionally. You were the BEST mother you could be. Not perfect, but the BEST. Motherhood mattered to you more than anything, and I take that example into my life every day. I love you eternally.”

But, mom, I also have a question….if we are such good mothers who both sacrifice so much for our kids…….how the heck did you and I both end up with such a rotten ungrateful selfish daughter? Is that just part of the journey? Do I just need to hold on for another twenty years until she writes me my very own apology? PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE share with me all of your mothering secrets! I feel so clueless.

Mom, I’m here. Don’t forget me.

I sounded so crabby at the therapist’s office the other day while explaining my mixed emotions about being 40 and pregnant, “I’ve never been the kind of woman who was like, ‘Oh, please let me bear children. It’s my life dream to have a whole houseful of darlings. My only ambition is to be a mother.’ ” In fact, even though I’ve always assumed I would have a large family and was even quoted in my high-school yearbook that I planned to have a dozen kids, I have also been quite conflicted about it ever since I can remember. I love kids. I came from a large family that I also love. But, I have always also been full of dreams and ambitions that had nothing to do with family. In fact, I knew kids would just get in the way of a lot of what I wanted to do: graduate from college, serve in the Peace Corps, write a book or two, travel, and have a successful career in one thing or another.

I further explained to the therapist, “I’m a willing vessel, I’m just a broken one.” LeGrand and I both chuckled. Ain’t that the truth! He knows it even more intimately than I do. I am a very spiritual person and I try to live my life in communication with God. This is a good thing and a bad one. Because I listen to the voice of God, my life is always full of conflict. What He wants for me always seems to be in direct opposition of what I want for myself.

I remember when my hubby and I had been married for just a month. We went to the temple together and separated to do some work. I was 24, he was 22. We were both in college and working full-time. After we were done with our service in the temple, we walked out to the car hand in hand, both very quiet. Something was up. You could cut the dark sky in front of us with a pocketknife. My newer-than-new husband turned to me and said, “Alice, I felt it too, we are supposed to start our family now, and have joy in our posterity.” Nooooooooooo. I couldn’t keep the spiritual impressions I had felt in my own heart a secret like I had planned. This was crazy, but it was also undoubtedly what God wanted for us. I knew that this family business would rob me of all if not most of my own dreams. It took me six months to even become willing to go off birth control and then I was still resentful. And pregnant.

So, bring us up to the present day. We have four kids. I’ve had four miscarriages. I am forty and pregnant. Four seems to be an important number for me right now. This is my fourth and final blog. I know many people are reasonably questioning the child growing inside of me. Heck, they can’t question any more than I am. I am questioning. My husband is questioning. The only ones who are not questioning are our four children. They couldn’t be any more excited. Kids are really good at instinctively knowing what is most important…plus they don’t have to worry about paying the bills or losing three years of sleep.

I’d like to take this chance to explain and write down this little tale so that I will always remember it. There is one reason and one reason alone I am pregnant. The reason is that this child spoke to me from its pre-mortal realm. In August of 2012, my hubby and I found ourselves again at the temple. I had just suffered a pretty brutal miscarriage at 18 weeks. As we sat in the chapel, I turned to my husband and said, “LeGrand, I am not praying about this today, but I just want to be done having kids. I’m 38. I’m so tired, and I don’t think I can handle it emotionally anymore.” LG answered with his full support, “It’s up to you Alice. I don’t blame you. I don’t want you to have to go through that again either.” I wasn’t going to pray about it because I didn’t want any other answer from God besides my own.

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But something miraculous happened. Something I couldn’t deny. God sent a messenger to the temple that day. In the spirit form of a child. My child. The one I hadn’t yet given birth to.

It’s hard to explain the special place that are Mormon temples. They are very sacred. God is always there. They are a place where the veil between two worlds is very thin. In the temple I’ve felt the presence of many of my deceased loved ones who have gone on before me.  They have been there with me often, telling me that they are watching over me.

I never expected to be visited by someone who had yet to come to earth, but somebody had an important message that day. One that I really didn’t want to hear. In fact it was the last thing I wanted to hear.

I felt a tap on my shoulder and looked behind me to see no one there but to feel someone as assuredly as if they were standing there. There was no doubt someone was there. I then heard an audible voice, “Mom, I’m here. Please, don’t forget me.”

I instantly started bawling. How selfish I am! How easily distracted I become. I so willingly forget that this earth-life isn’t about gaining the adventures that I want to have, but is all about being willing to take on the ones that I already promised God (and others) that I would achieve. My most important calling in this life is to be a vessel, even if I’m the most broken one that there ever was. I answered with a pledge in my heart, “I won’t. I promise. I could never forget you.” It took me sixteen more months to get pregnant again. Every day I was haunted by the pleading of my child. I was so worried that I wouldn’t be able to get pregnant or stay pregnant. I convinced myself that it was just the miscarried kid talking to me. I would maybe get to meet him at a later day in heaven. I told God that if he wanted it to happen, forty was as high as I was willing to go. Miraculously, I got pregnant on the first cycle after my 40th birthday, almost as if God wanted me to know that he got the message. But also in typical God-fashion..in the 11th hour…after we’ve been tested to the limit.

I’ve vacillated between anxiousness, depression, and elation. I’m only four months in and I’ve already had to give up my running,  my plans to go back to school and work, and a portion of my sanity. A big chunk of money that was put aside for our new home will now be used for doctor bills and baby items. I worry every day that this child will have special needs, but one thing dismisses my many worries. There is one thing that I will always know: this child is special. More than anything, this child wanted a chance to be mortal. He knew that for that to happen I had to be his mama. He traveled from wherever he was all the way to the temple to remind me of my promise long ago to not forget. I smile at his bravery and his audacity because he chose the day that I least wanted to hear it to remind me.

And then I cringe at what is in store for him. He’s going to be stubborn. He’s going to be brave. He’s going to have his own ideas. He will also have a mother to remind him that more than anything he wanted to come to earth because that is what God wanted him to do. I will remind him as much as I will myself: We might as well keep on listening to God…no matter how much harder it seems to make our lives and how much it robs us of our own dreams and ambitions. Ultimately we both will have to answer for how we used our time on earth and every single one of our choices. God will never be concerned with how much we traveled or achieved, His main concern is for the immortality and eternal life of all of His children. For that to happen, He first has to get them to earth….even if the vessel is forty and all washed up. All we can hope for is our own willingness to say, “I am a vessel, God. I am broken but I am here and I am listening.”

* I say “he” because I have this secret wish that the lucky number five will be the son for which I’ve prayed for my husband, but we are 99.9% sure that “he” is really Vivienne. There is always that .01% though, I’ll let you know in a couple of weeks.