Sunday, March 30, 2008

Pinewood Derby and G&G's Visit

So Ashton had his first Pinewood Derby for Scouts. He and Jared made a remarkably good car, especially given that they did it in only 2 days (Jared was out of town and then was super sick but still pulled it off!). The car was modeled after "Kit," the car on Knight Rider - anyone remember that show from way back when. I guess it was one of Jared's favorite new shows and now there's a new version which is Ashton's favorite show - a show about a robot car that talks and can change colors while driving - pretty much the coolest thing ever in Ashton's book. Anyway, the car did great - won 2 out of 4 heats and Ashton got a couple trophies and came in first among the Cub Scouts. Go Ashton and Kit! The whole event was extra fun since Grammie and Grandfather were able to be there (on their way back to SLC from meetings in Vegas). Ashton was SO pleased they could come.
Earlier this week, on their way TO Vegas, Mom and Dad very bravely and very successfully took all our kids and Ana and Cam out to dinner and a movie (Horton Hears a Who) and they all had the time of their lives. It was the twins' first movie in a movie theater and they very excitedly told me and Jared all about the plot of the show when they got home - so cute to see them try to describe the bigness and wonder of the thing while using their limited vocabulary to share what it was about - "Da MEAN kangaroo try to HURT da teeny people. Da Elfant try to HELP da teeny people. Da BAD BAD birdy trow da flower DOWN!..."

I love seeing my parents with my kids. They always show the kids such a good time. There's total craziness when dad's around - helping them do all sorts of silly things and making up imaginative games and stories for them. And when Mom's around, the kids love telling her all sorts of things and seeing her really be interested and feeling her total love for them. What great grandparents these kids have!
Jared's been sick sick sick with this weird chills and fever, toxic snot and sore throat sickness that kept him up many nights (and consequently kept me up here and there). Poor guy! The sickness is finally pretty much gone. The tough guy hardly took any time off work - so much going on there right now as they start up a new brokerage arm of the company and deal with the neverending issues that arise. Plus he tried to do what he could to help me out with my crazy week including a PTA meeting, a big fancy etiquette dinner for the youth that I was partly in charge of, the Pinewood Derby and a series of baptisms and parties the kids needed to attend yesterday. We made it through somehow!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Little Details on Little People

Eliza's really into playing this little "would you rather..." game - several times a day, she comes up with a new question. In the car today she asked: "Would you rather stay in the dark for 1000 years or go to a party where all the treats were made of mud and you had to eat them?" She comes up with some pretty interesting stuff. Her other favorite "game" is to say stuff like "you can't see my hands, right? Do you think I have anything in my hands?" Then you have to make a random guess and she's really really excited if it turns out that you're right! She's been bringing up lately how different moms do different things as well as being a mom and the other day she asked me what I do when I'm sitting at the computer. I explained that I do this blog sometimes and I do a lot of emails to help people know how to do good Joy Schools. Then today, Liza told me today that Frizzle's mom (Frizzle is her imaginary friend) is "just a regular mom who teaches Joy School but she needs some ideas so I've been paying a lot of attention at Joy School so that I can email her some ideas about how to teach better - isn't that nice of me?" Oh, this girl of mine is such a fun one!

The twins have really really great days - sometimes a few in a row. Yesterday they were angels and I was so in love with them. We had a wonderful time at the park and they stayed right by me and we fed the ducks and had a lovely little picnic and I was basking in the end of a long era of always being totally stressed out when I was in a public place with always at least one rambunctious and danger-seeking toddler in tow. But they also still have their really bad days - like today. Today they repeatedly tore all the pillows off the couch, turned a simple walk down to the mailbox into a stressful and crazy long trip full of danger and anger and trying to run after two kids going in different directions, sought out and ate all the leftover Easter candy in one fell swoop, wouldn't go down for naps, whined incessantly about EVERYTHING, ran out of the classroom and into the adjoining parking lot repeatedly and announced they had to "go potty" many times while I was supposed to be teaching the lesson in Eliza's pre-K class (luckily another mom pitched in and did a great job), and ran around and out of the church like wild monkeys during Ashton's Pinewood Derby tonight. There's no real rhyme or reason to their behavior - you just never know what sort of day you'll get with these little guys. But in general, they're doing much much better and I guess I should just expect some bad days and be glad the good ones are outnumbering the bad!

Silas has become very polite lately. He's always saying "excuse me" when we wants to say something - finally, one of my kids is getting this! He's been a good example to the older kids. And rather than saying "yeah" like most kids do, he always says "yes" with an emphasis on the "s" - very cute. Oliver has become very particular. He simply MUST sit on the same stool at each meal and the other kids, who really don't care, have been very nice to make sure and save that stool for him most of the time. He HAS to sit in the carseat in the back of the car and freaks out if Silas takes that spot. He's really mellow and easy-going about most things and quite flexible in general, happy to listen to an explanation and change his mind about most things. But he's got a few things he really must have - and we can respect that!

So there are a couple things about these three little people who I spend SO much time with that I didn't want to forget. I love getting to know them more and more and they have such fun little personalities. After a crazy day like today, I can still say that I wouldn't trade the chance to be their mom for the world.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter 2008

It’s been a great week of celebration and teaching. The kids and I (and Jared when he wasn't at work) have been learning each day about what happened during the last week of Christ’s life and doing a lot of fun activities to go along with the final events of Christ’s life and the Atonement and Resurrection.

We got some great ideas from the book  and came up with a bunch of our own. Here are all the simple little things we did (well, most of them were simple...):

  • We learned all about Palm Sunday and the cleansing of the temple and many parables Christ shared in his last week. 
  • We learned about Passover and had our own pseudo-Passoverish meal while talking about the events of the Last Supper. 
  • We did the story of Easter using symbols and scriptures in plastic eggs (olive leaves, twine, thorns, a cross, an empty egg…) (thanks Aja). 
  • We read books about Jesus and learned the song “He is Risen.” 
  • We did secret buddies and tried to be Jesus’ hands here on earth, serving each other (the kids were so cute about this). 
  • We made “Easter Story Cookies” where you learn about many aspects of the Easter story as you put in ingredients symbolic of many parts of the story (vinegar, eggs, salt, sugar for Jesus’ love for us, nuts for the rocky tomb – you put them in a warm oven overnight and they become these hollow meringue cookies to represent the empty tomb – the kids really got into this). 
  • When we dyed Easter eggs, we dyed the first egg red to symbolize Christ’s blood (like they do in Bulgaria). 
And we did most of this with Ollie and Si doing their best to thwart our efforts! We did the whole Easter egg hunt and candy thing on Saturday to save Sunday for the real meaning of Easter. We really didn’t do presents other than some great Easter books and fun little things that Grandma Loosli sent. We tried to focus on the idea that JESUS is the Easter present that matters.

It was hard to tell how much of all this effort was really sinking in with the kids. They seemed to enjoy everything though, so what the heck. And there were those moments when I could see the understanding and the empathy and love for Jesus in their eyes. Most importantly, throughout the week, I got the chance to bear my testimony in different ways to the kids as I told them the stories of Christ’s life and that gave me a chance to really deepen my testimony of the Atonement. There’s nothing like explaining something to someone else to help you understand it better yourself!

Then today after church as I was out on the balcony reading and the kids were downstairs playing some rather rough game about space ships in the backyard (involved a lot of wrestling and knocking the twin’s little slide over again and again), I suggested that they pick something else to do like an Easter play or something. They got right on it and it was so fun to listen in as they made up their little play. Ashton: “Isaac you’re Judas – you put out your hand and I’ll say ‘chink chink’ and then you be the bad guys and get me because I’m Jesus. Then you be Pilate.” Isaac as Pilate: “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this guy – should we let him go?” Isaac still (after moving over a couple feet): “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Eliza (who insisted on being Mary Magdalene and no one else): “I’ll be over here crying and then when I say ‘ding’ Ashton leaves the tomb and then it’s empty when I look in it and then I go over and ask this guy if he’s seen Jesus but it’s really is Jesus, OK?” There were so many funny comments – and so many comments that showed they really took in the Easter story and remembered it.

They practiced for a while (with a little too much emphasis on Isaac dragging Ashton around and beating him up and probably some borderline sacrilegious stuff thrown in) and then they had me come down and watch. They put on a great little play and ended it by singing “He is Risen” very nicely together at the end. Bigtime payoff as a Mom. They picked up so much this week!
The Hand of the Lord has been active in our home this week. I’ve been more patient, more at peace, more in-tune, more happy with my life than I have been in a long time. I’ve also been more tired than I have been in a long time. But it was worth it!

Here are a few more pictures of our weekend:

We had a fun Easter egg hunt Saturday morning. The twins were totally into it!

Our traditional Eggs Benedict Easter Breakfast
(Ashton: " This is the best food in the whole entire world!")
New Easter clothes (Eliza was definitely the most excited)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Spring Break in San Diego

Here we are at Balboa Park

We love San Diego. We had such a great trip and Jared and I were so excited to find that family trips are actually becoming higher on the enjoyability scale and lower on the stressful scale. The kids were great in the car (movies and treats help) and it was so fun to have all the kids at ages where they could all enjoy similar things. Here's the story of the trip in photos:

After leaving just a few hours late on Tuesday morning (even though we were totally packed the night before and planning to leave at 8:30am it was somehow 11 before we actually left!), we made it to San Diego by about 5:30pm and had a great evening exploring Balboa Park. It was so green and there were flowers in bloom everywhere. I'd forgotten how great California can smell in the spring! We loved the fountains and great architecture of the museums and had a nice picnic dinner.
The kids found a cool sculpture that they could climb all over and there was a really fun kids' playground and we all fell in love with the place. Nothing was open so we had to go back later on and spend a 1/2 day at the awesome Fleet Science Museum where there were tons of hands-on exhibits (like the Exploratorium in San Francisco) and where we saw this IMAX movie about ancient sea monsters that all the kids loved.
Ollie loved this thing that helped you see sound waves.
Here we are trying out Ashton's favorite "ear trickers" and "animal ears" -
we learned a lot about our ears!

We spent a day at Sea World and everyone really enjoyed seeing a Shamu show (ran into some of our good friends from St George there and hung out with them for a while - small world!), a dolphin show and a really great seal show (our favorite). We got to feed and pet dolphins (we were so excited about this we forgot to take pictures - darn!), touch sting rays, watch penguins, and learn tons about all sorts of crazy and interesting and beautiful sea creatures. The kids loved the rides and we all had a totally fun day.

You can barely see it, but there's a shark behind these excited boys.
They loved seeing the sharks.
Here we are looking at Shamu. He swam right by us lots of times but of course I missed that with the camera. He's way in the back in this photo:The next day we hit Mission Beach and were planning to just walk along the beach and play in the sand a little since the forecast was for it to barely break 60 degrees.
But it felt pretty warm and that water was awfully enticing so we found some old and pretty tiny shorts in our 72 hour kit in the car for Ashton and Isaac to wear and let the twins and Eliza wear their underwear to head out into the water. We had a great white trash look going on - and the kids had a fabulous time.
Have you ever seen a funnier looking kid? Had to bribe him for this photo since he knew he looked a little funny in Oliver's shorts. Nice hair and teeth and outfit, huh? Isaac trying not to complain too much about how cold he was!
Liza wasn't too keen on swimming in her underwear until I pointed out that her pink underwear would match the heart on her shirt and it would totally look like a matched swim set. Then she was all smiles.I love the ocean - there's nothing like the sound, the smell, the breeze, the beauty and rythmn of the waves crashing again and again. Ollie and Si had never really had a chance to play in the waves before and it was so fun to watch them delight in the waves creeping up on them. Si kept yelling "Ollie - the water's coming to get you!" then they'd run up the beach in glee. With no towels, the kids had to run around in the cool wind to get somewhat dry and everyone was somewhat blue-lipped at the end - but what a great time we all had!

To top off the beach experience, the kids got to go on the old wooden roller coaster and carousel on the boardwalk there which they thought was awesome.
After the beach, we explored Little Italy and had some great Italian food then hiked up to the Presidio in Old Town where we got a great view of the city and saw the site of the first European settlement in California.
We also stumbled across a memorial to the Mormon Battalion. The kids got to dress up as Battalion members and we watched a well done and very interesting little movie about the Mormon Battalion at a visitor's center that the church has there.
Did you know the 500 members of the Mormon Battalion left their bedraggled families in the midst of the exodus from Nauvoo to raise much needed funds through their military salaries and comply with a request from the government that had just allowed them to be driven from their homes? Did you know they marched 2000 miles and never ended up having to fight but helped found San Diego and San Francisco, were among the first to discover gold in the Bay Area but left the prospect of riches behind to go re-join their families? Did you know they helped build the first road from the Bay Area to SLC? I knew bits and pieces of the story but wow, it's quite an amazing story. What sacrifices they made! What big things they did!

The kids REALLY crashed each night after jam-packed fun days. We had a king bed and a twin in the kids' room and they did great with 4 kids in the king and one on the twin. One night they fell asleep in such great poses, we had to take a picture. I don't know how Silas didn't fall out.

On Friday we had our last embarassingly big free breakfast at the hotel (after 3 bowls of cereal, 3 packs of instant oatmeal, several glasses of juice, a bagel with cream cheese, toast, and a waffle or two EACH, the kids were still asking for more - they LOVED the hotel's free breakfast buffet!) and then did some swimming in the pool and checked out. We visited the Science museum (described earlier) and then stopped by the San Diego temple on our way up to Irvine to stay with Bruce and Connie for the night. It was so cute hearing Si break into the song "I love to see the temple" as we walked around the ground there. What a beautiful temple!
Jared and I put the kids down at Bruce and Connie's and went over to see the tail end of the big production of "Savior of the World" - Connie's done all the amazing costumes and Bruce plays one of the disciples and Mary's father. Wow - what a production! The singing was great, the scenery amazing, the whole thing just really impressive.

It was great to see Bruce and Connie and Rachel and James and we spend the next day at my favorite museum in the world - the Getty Center.
The architecture of the place alone would make it worth the trip - and then the art collections are really amazing - a little bit of everything, beautifully presented - plus it helps that they have a cafe with excellent and inexpensive food. Plus the museum is free. Plus you get to ride on a little train from the parking area up to the museum and the twins of course LOVED that. Jared took off with the twins and was so nice to entertain them so that I could tell the older kids all the stuff I could remember from my Art History days about the great artwork we got to see. The kids loved going to the sketching room and trying their hand at sketching some busts and paintings they had there. Ashton got really into doing a face with shadows, Liza did a rendition of the Angel Moroni (flashback to the day before at the San Diego Temple), and Isaac did a pretty cool cubist sort of picture of some grapes in a basket. I love art! And I love seeing my kids get excited about the many ways that the beauties and realities of the world are represented in art.

Then the drive home - 2 hours to get out of LA thanks to a random snow storm in the hills right outside the city. Annoying but the kids were good. We made it home before midnight and Sam and Chelsea beat us here and stayed a couple nights - great to see them. Good to be home.

What a trip we had! We're all still glowing from the adventures and fun (and the sun - had a few sunscreen forgetting moments there). Jared and I are so excited that we now have quite a travel-worthy family and we all fell more in love with each other which is always nice.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Good Times

It's official. The twins are potty trained. We're going on 5 days now with no accidents and life is GREAT. We've had kids in diapers continuously for over 8 years now and the prospect of a life without diapers is delightful. After two pretty gruesome weeks of devoting almost every waking moment to this endeavor and enduring dozens of accidents a day (and the resulting gross clean-ups) and engaging in more begging and bribery than I ever imagined was part of good parenting, something finally clicked and these guys have really got it. The first day they were clean and dry all day we had a pizza party and the second day we made cookies and the third day we did "Eyre Fire" cheers again and again at Ollie and Si's insistence. To top it all off we're headed out tomorrow morning on a big fat celebration trip to San Diego. Well, the trip's not totally due to the potty training but it's spring break so everyone's out of school and we all just really need some fun family time so Jared's working late tonight to tie up a million loose ends at work and I've been doing laundry and packing and trying to keep things fun for the kids all day and we're headed out first thing tomorrow. Yeah! The kids are SO excited and so are we. This is how we're going to look first thing in the morning!
Here are a few photos of what's been going on lately with us.
Here we are hiking last weekend - did this great 3 hour hike that starts off right from our house. You can sort of see Ashton's crazy teeth and shaggy long hair (he insists he must let it keep growing and I really haven't had the time to get it cut anyway) if you enlarge this photo but here's a close up of one of the best looking sets of teeth you'll see:
After helping Ollie and Si get their underwear and pants off and on about 100 times a day, they've finally started doing it for themselves - and as this picture shows, getting your underwear on the right way can be challenging:
We had Dr Suess week this week at school and I loved reading Horton Hears a Who to Isaac's class (one of my favorite books). Here are the boys on crazy hair day. I offered to do Ashton's hair in pig tails for him since it's so long but he declined.
And last, here are the twins doing their favorite thing - drinking smoothies. They are so excited about their "moothie" (as they call it) that they have to drink fast and that always leads to a serious mustache. How cute are these wonderful potty trained boys of ours?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Feeling Better

OK, sorry that last entry was a downer. Things are so much better today. I was sort of in a downward spiral for a while but with the schedule back to normal this week (the boys had 1/2 days of school last week which meant I never got a minute of quiet time while the twins were napping...) and the twins totally going to the potty on their own today with no accidents so far (first day ever), things are definitely feeling "up." I don't know what happened but the twins really seem to be getting it. And the last couple days the big kids have really been helpful and have been getting along great and we really seem to be in a better place - at least for now. We're planning some little excursions for Spring Break next week and that should help us all feel better. And I'm stepping up my babysitting-finding efforts.

I know when things get bad that they will get better. I have a great husband and wonderful kids. I always know this. But sometimes bad things happen and downward spirals start and it's so hard to stop them once they get going! We're all so interconnected and dependent on each other in the little world of our family that one bad thing that affects one person ends up affecting everyone. And when lots of small and big bad things happen to a lot of different people at once, the effects can be quite crazy as bad moods and bad actions and impatience and frustration and worries compound and build on each other.

So, just wanted to say we're OK. And we're working to be more OK more often.

Here are a few more tidbits on positive things about the kids:

Ashton's really struggled with being adequately challenged on his English days at school and hasn't really been doing well because he's bored and thinks some assignments aren't worthy of his time or effort. So we've been working on that and giving him extra work to challenge him. He's been writing these great little essays on random topics I assign him or that he makes up. Here's one of of his latest (based on this new toy microscope he bought with his hard-earned money). I wish you could see it in his own handwriting - but no scanner - but this is typed in exactly as he wrote it:
Super Power Microscopes
Super Power Microscopes (SPM's) are useful for sientists. They help see very very closely. SPMs are very fun to use. I lik to look at crystals in my SPM. SPMs help you learn, too. They help you know what things look like up close. I have learned a lot more thanks to my SPM. I read in a book that SPMs help you see better. You look and focus into a SPM's lens and then it helps you see. Do you know what lens are? Lens are disc-shaped pieses of glass that help you look more close or more far back. here is an object you can do to learn more about lens: you will need:
one plastic learn spoon
one silver spoon
1. look at the silver spoon. You are upside down!
2. now look at hte clear spoon. the bump should be facing you.
3. put the siver spoon behind the clear spoon
4. Now you are bigger
5. this is how lens work

I am glad I hav an SPM.

I love getting glimpses into Ashton's brain.

Isaac is the most friendly kid - he's very socially conscious and really seems to get what's going on and get how people are feeling. When we had Ashton's Cub Scout Blue and Gold dinner last week and the Bishop was dishing up food for people, Isaac looked him right in the eye, smiled and said "Hi Bishop!" So many kids (including our other kids) seem pretty oblivious to anything happening above their eye-level and don't really talk much to adults - but Ike's different. And Ollie's picking up on it. Usually the less social of the twins, Ollie's suddenly taken it upon himself to say "hi" to everyone in stores as we walk up and down the aisles. It's pretty cute - and he gets a lot of "hi's" back which really makes him happy.

Eliza is really into understanding the nuances of words lately. She'll come ask me things like "Mommy, what's the difference between struggles and problems" and I really have to think to answer her. And she picks up this funny teenagerish, almost Valley Girlish way of talking when she and her little friend Olivia are together - it's so funny to hear them giggling and chatting together. I don't know where they get this stuff - neither has any big sisters or watches shows with teenage girls. Eliza is so helpful and so sweet so much of the time.

Silas has this funny thing he does where he walks up to me or Jared and says "I miling" and does this funny cheesy grin. It took us a while to realize he was saying "I'm smiling." My favorite thing is when I'm laying next to Si to help him fall asleep for a nap and he puts his little arm around my neck and falls asleep that way - it melts my heart and wipes away all his naughtiness from earlier that day.

I've got a couple new favorite parts of the day that have helped carry me through the last couple hard weeks. One is family prayer in the morning where we all kneel together and Jared and I take turns praying over our family. The kids have really grown attached to this new tradition and I love peeking at them in the prayer, sometimes catching a little sheepish grin from someone else peeking, sometimes seeing eyes scrunched shut and arms tightly folded, sometimes seeing a little hug or squeeze from one kid to the next. I love the feeling of kneeling together and really praying for specific things for each member of the family and feeling that the Lord is really listening.

My other favorite thing is reading to the kids at bedtime. I've been trying to get the kids to bed early enough to really listen to all the things they always want to tell me at bedtime rather than telling them to save their stuff for another time since it's already past bedtime and I'm already DONE being a mom for the day. And along with listening to them, I've been reading them a chapter or two of The Tale of Despareaux which is such a great book, well-written and full of themes and moments that offer great opportunity for discussion and empathy. I love reading with my kids and I love that they love it so much. I always feel great about life when I'm teaching the kids about something or reading them something and they're totally into it and I feel like I'm in the right place at the right time doing something really important and really fun.

So anyway - just had to write about lots of good stuff to help balance out all the bad stuff in my last post!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Wow - what a week! I've been working hard-core on potty training the twins for the past week. They still have several accidents a day and it's been almost beyond my ability not to scream and hurt them when they insist they don't need to go potty one minute then poo in their underwear the next! I've decided one of the worst things about being a mom is cleaning up poo - it's not fun wiping bums of diapered kids but it's really disgusting trying to get a kid out of underwear filled with poo and clean up the mess (I've thrown away a few pairs of underwear in despair rather than try to clean them). I've dealt with at least one poo accident and at least 3 pee accidents every day and all the ensuing cleaning of floors and laundry hasn't been fun. As soon as I turn my back for one little minute, the twins seem to have an accident so I'm constantly on edge and stressed out and the twins have been begging for their diapers back. But we have small victories like today when Ollie decided to go potty independently (even though that meant he covered the wall across the room with pee! That guy has some serious difficulties with his aim). Oh, the sheer glamor of my life!

Jared's been very busy with work - they had a major problem with their new payroll system and all drivers got overpaid by a lot in the last three pay periods and now that they're trying to take money out of current and future paychecks to gradually recoup part of the loss, many drivers have threatened to quit and Jared's done a great job helping them understand the situation and most have decided to stay but it's been VERY stressful and has involved LONG hours from Jared.

And with everything going on with me and Jared, it seems the older kids have really been affected by the stress in the air and have manifested it with record-breaking bad behavior on the part of the boys and bed-wetting and excessive neediness of my attention on the part of Eliza. Ashton went to a friend's house after school on Tuesday without asking and I had Ana and Ike searching the school while I called anyone I could think of on the phone and tryed to keep track of the twins and Jake (who I drive home). So often I feel like I'm herding cats - some very ellusive, some who meow a lot! I finally found Ashton who strangely had decided to walk home with a friend's older brother even though his friend was at the dentist and wouldn't even be there to play with him. That was weird and we had a big talk and he got grounded.

Then on Friday I really reached my breaking point. I expressly told Ashton NOT to take his bike out because he'd wanted to play outside with Cam and Ollie and he needed to be playing with them and watching them, not riding his bike. We had a big talk about him really watching the little kids while I cleaned up Si (from another poo accident) - but I guess he came and got his bike when I wasn't watching. So he was riding around (and Ollie wasn't being supervised) and Ike got his bike and they went in an area between Jo's house and the next house and Isaac knocked into a pipe and broke it, creating a big water fountain and a Jo and Aja had to turn off their water and it was quite a process for Jared to fix it. Poor Jo had had this terrible terrible week at work and the last thing he needed was to deal with another problem with Isaac and Ashton who were claiming they had NO idea how the pipe got broken.

I went over there and while I tried to get the truth out of the big boys, Ollie and Si ran off and started up the scary stairwell that goes to the roof of Jo's neighbor's house and Jo yelled at them to get down and they didn't listen and Jonah had to drag them down. So I sat them in time out on the curb next to me while finishing talking with the big boys. After insisting on his innocence numerous times, Isaac finally told the truth and apologized to Jonah and we talked about how he'd have to pay to get it fixed and it was a big sad thing for Jo and Aja to have to turn of their water. During this discussion, Ollie filled his underwear and pant legs with poo as he obediently stayed on the curb where I had sternly told him he must quietly sit. I walked home with a bunch of disobedient difficult kids, one of them a big liar and one of them covered in poo and I felt more desperately hopeless than I've felt in a long long time, wondering how I could quit this job. There are just too many kids and not enough of me to do this job.

I've been getting better at saying no to a lot of things. I'm trying not to notice too many needs that I have the ability but not the time to solve. Once I see a need, I feel very guilty if I don't do something about it. I want to save the world, darn it, and I have all these ideas and I've got a lot of education and experience and connections. But I know I need to focus on the very needy and very important little world of my own family for this season of my life. So what do I do? I've really scaled back on a lot of things - I've put CareerMothers on the back burner (after all that work to get the website and manual almost done, it just felt right to leave it alone for a while), I just do the basics which only takes a few hours every few months on Joy School stuff (I just do the billing and support the 12 schools using the curriculum with a little email here and there - I'm going to rewrite those lesson plans someday...), I don't even ask about Mountain Interiors anymore and just let Jared handle it (after doing so much work to get the whole website rewritten a while back), I keep things simple while still trying to really give good lessons and be a good leader for the girls in Young Women's, I've passed off a lot of responsibility on the parent participation program that I started at the kids' school to someone else.

So I've pared things down to what feels like the bare minimum of what I need to do in order to maintain my sanity - I'm just doing what's necessary to keep from totally giving up on things I've worked hard to build and to keep from loosing my vital few links to other adults and the larger world. But there's still not enough of me to meet the needs of my kids and be even close to the sort of mother I yearn to be - and there wouldn't be enough of me even if I cast off every single non-motherhood thing I ever do. I simply can't watch every kid all the time. I can't give every kid all the attention he or she needs. I can't sit by Isaac help him have a positive experience with his challenging homework after school while showing adequate enthusiam over the 10 works of art that Eliza produces every hour while trying to get Ashton to focus on the essay he's supposed to write while making sure the twins don't spread food all over the pantry floor or pee or poo in their pants. I could meet the needs of 2 or 3 kids simultaneously - but 5? It just doesn't work. There are infrequent moments in some days where I feel like things are OK - like when I've got the twins down for a nap after laying by them for 20 minutes (interrupted by the phone or Eliza and having to start the falling-asleep process all over again often) and I get to sit and read to Eliza for a few minutes in peace and she's in heaven and so am I - or when I've got Ashton helping Isaac nicely with homework while I read to the twins and Eliza happily plays with Polly Pockets. The moments where things are in balance and everyone's getting what they need do happen - usually because I've worked hard to stagger things a bit and get a couple kids doing one thing so I can help others with something else. But somehow my carefully orchestrated good times are generally short and usually followed by a crazy mess of moments where everyone suddenly needs attention all at once - I'm trying to cook dinner and the twins come in covered in pee and as I'm cleaning up their trails around the house and trying to get them to stay in the bathtub, the phone is ringing and Ashton is asking me if I know how many noses a slug has and Eliza wants me to listen to her new song and Isaac is crying because he needs help with his next page of homework. It seems like at least 10 times a day, at least 4 people simultaneously need something quite desperately from me - and their needs are mutually exclusive and quite noisy!

Then there are the many many times when I'm faced with horrible decisions with no good answer. Should I go volunteer in the boys' classes which they love so much even if it means I have to beg for babysitting favors and/or stress out about all the stars being aligned so that the twins will be sound asleep for naps right on time and Aja can listen for them without any worries? Should I let the kids play outside when they've been begging to go out all day even though we don't have a fenced yard and cars often drive fast by the house and the twins are not 100% good at staying out of the street and I can't watch all of them all the time? Should I keep trying to do this parent participation program that really feels inspired even though the PTA president doesn't care about it and there are only a handful of teachers and parents who are really excited about it? How can I get the support I need as a mother without starting a mothers' group that I will inevitably have to be in charge of and it will be one more thing to worry about? Should I even bother trying to call anyone or return phone calls when the kids will almost certainly hang on me and talk to me when I'm on the phone and I'll be totally stressed out and annoyed? How do I be a good friend and neighbor and Young Women's leader and visiting teacher when I can never seem to make or return phone calls? Should I stop offering to help since I really don't have time to help and people seldom seem to really value my help or offer to help me in return? If so, how can I live with myself and my overactive conscience and need to be involved in things beyond my own home? I could go on and on but I'll spare you...

We moved here from California for many reasons but one was so that Jared could be more actively involved in parenting these kids during this busy crucial time where they're all so young and needy - and could be so much fun if they could get a little more attention. But Jared's working very very hard to get a struggling company off the ground and things look very promising with Miller Gordon overall despite large and small setbacks that keep popping up just when things are really starting to go well. He loves being the boss and I'm so happy he has this opportunity to really take the helm and learn so much and see the fruits of his work little by little. He's going to try to be home an afternoon or two a week when things are most wild and that will certainly help. He is so incredibly helpful and so much more involved with the kids than most dads and I count my blessings daily to have such an amazing husband. But he's busy with other things so I've got to be the primary parent and I just can't seem to quite do this. We keep trying to get babysitters to help out - even though we can't really afford them - but nothing seems to be panning out and what the kids really need is not a babysitter but another person or two just around all the time. The times that I really really really need some extra help aren't generally times that I could anticipate and plan to have another person here to help. I just need two or three of me and a couple Jareds as well. I'm still looking for a babysitter so that I can get a few hours a week to do errands that just don't work with the twins, help in the big kids' classes and maybe even chip away at a couple back-burner projects that could give me a chance to feel like I'm accomplishing something tangible in the larger world (a need I've realized isn't going to go away).

So things are tough - but I know the answers are out there and I will find them. The kids memorized Nephi's "I will go and do the things the Lord has commanded for I know that he giveth no commandment unto the children of men save he shall prepare a way for them to accomplish the thing which he has commanded" (something like that - I've been trying to keep the twins distracted while Jared has helped the big kids memorize the scripture on the mornings where chaos subsides enough for scripture time). I know the Lord wouldn't have given us these 5 beautiful busy children in 5 years if He didn't know we could handle them. But part of handling them, I've come to understand, is seeing where I need help and trying to find it. So we'll keep watching and praying and doing the best we can do and trying to cherish the good moments and forget the bad. If I could just get the quantity of good moments a little higher than the quantity of desperate horrible moments, that would help! I know a lot of this involves me using the Spirit more and I know I get too angry and too frustrated and the Spirit could really help make crazy situations seem more bearable. So that'll be my focus this week.

Sorry for the ramblings. I only post this in case something here may help someone out there feel less alone and more able to face their own challenges!


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