Thursday, May 21, 2009


I am so thankful that I get to be a stay-at-home mom. Otherwise I would miss opportunities like today's bake sale. I have just really enjoyed my time as a mom lately. I feel like I am starting to finally get a groove with our daily lives and with getting the house in shape, dinner on the table, etc. I am spending more time playing with the kids and more time in my sanity room (doing art or sewing) and more time reading books I want to read. The house may not still be really clean all the time but I do think that it has been more consistently better. I am thankful for this.

Really I am so thankful that I get to be a stay-at-home mom and see my children develop. I have spent so much time just enjoying each of their different personalities. I love watching them interact. I love watching them learn new things and figure things out for themselves. I love picking up W from school and having him tell me all about everything he has learned. This week it is India- which is so fun and hilarious to hear him tell me about Ghandi and elephants for horses and more. I love watching K2 adore his older siblings and try to copy their every move. I love to watch K and K2 wrestle. I love to listen to P and her make-believe play. I love to sit and read with K and cuddle. I love to just hang out and talk with my kids. W wanted to have a bake sale today so we did. We forgot about the house needing to be cleaned or the laundry needing to be finished. I already had dinner cooking. So we whipped up a few cookies and spent the rest of the afternoon/evening having a bake sale and hanging out outside. The opportunities I would miss if I didn't get to stay home with my kids!

Sometimes it is hard to be a stay-at-home mom (or any kind of mom for that matter!). Staying home requires making sacrifices (not to mention making it a priority). It means not getting to live the same kind of lives as some of my friends and sometimes being envious of that. It means maybe not getting the recognition or appreciation for all you do. It means perhaps going all day not talking to an adult or being ready to pull your hair out by day's end. But it is so worth it and I am so grateful that I get to and for all the additional blessings it brings. I could not have imagined the added bonuses and additional joy it would bring in all those little moments and little things that I get to be a part of by staying home and being there with the kids.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

date night for your health.

One of the things I am asked most is "how do you do it?"  This is of course referring to the having 4 kids in 5 years and being still standing. But I always have the same basic responses. First of all, I just do. Secondly, my house is not clean. And lastly and most importantly, I have regular date nights with my husband and time to myself. Seriously, it is my sanity-saver and I cannot see how anyone survives without it.

When my husband and I were getting married we were interviewed by our then Stake President, Ed J. Pinegar.  What a wise and wonderful man! He gave us very sound counsel for our marriage and told us to always have weekly dates and to go away overnight without any children once every 3 months.  He told us that so long as we did that then we would be fine.

DH and I both grew up with parents who went on Friday night dates every week.  It was the standard.  It was expected.  So we never really saw us doing anything any differently. What I think we didn't account for was how hard it can be to find a sitter, especially when you have a little one, or how much Satan tempts you to just let it slide.  I understand anxiety about leaving a little baby with a sitter.  I understand children who are attached to you or have special needs.  However, I don't see these as excuses.  If anything, I see them as reasons you should be more inclined to follow this advice because you need the break!  I also understand not having money for dates (or so you think).  I even understand difficult schedules...but nobody said you can only go out at night or on a Friday (for a while we did every Wednesday because that was DH's day off from his second job).

What I have learned in the 7 years we have been married is that what you make a priority is what you make happen. When we have set that Friday date night as a priority then it happens. Yes, there have been the occasional weekend where it just didn't happen, despite all our best efforts.  Or there are the times when someone is sick and unable to be left. But you make it happen even if you have to be very creative about it. 

Trouble finding a sitter?  Think outside the box!  Look to friends who don't have children but would like to spend time with them. Or friends who do have children and wouldn't mind getting away from them! Especially if you are willing to go out later, after kids are in bed, then that may be an option. I know I would be one to jump at the opportunity to sit in a quiet house that I don't have to think about cleaning and just read while a friend got to get out of the house and have some alone time with her husband.  Swap sitting with a friend of neighbor.  We have been blessed to have a neighbor who suggested this.  It is easiest when you have someone with a similar number of kids or at least ones the same age.  Set a time frame (we try to stick to around 6-10pm) and a day (we do Fridays and they do Saturdays or we'll swap weeks if it doesn't work). The kids have a great time playing together and you don't have to pay a sitter. We usually play and hang out until 8 or 8:30. At that time they put on their jammies and lie down on the floor for a movie- where they usually fall asleep and can just be carried back home to their beds when their parents get home. However, we have even had the kids at our house but then I have taken them to theirs to put them to bed and sat in their quite house until their parents returned.  Another option is family members. This is usually a last resort for me because I know how busy they are and they don't usually let me pay them.  However, DH has several younger cousins and we are blessed that some of them are willing to be our backup babysitters.  Which is the last thing- find a regular sitter.  When you go on a regular date then it is easier to plan and prepare for it.  When you get a sitter that you like then it is easier to just have that person plan for watching your kids each and every Friday night unless you tell them otherwise. If you don't know who to ask then if you are LDS  just ask your youth leaders to put together a list of willing babysitters in your ward. The youth can volunteer and even specify if they are unwilling to watch in certain circumstances (i.e. not comfortable with newborns).  I have even had an instance where we had a youth in our ward who babysat regularly but whose mother would regularly watch our newborn.  For her it was a chance to sit and enjoy some peace.  K was the baby and needed special care and attention. She could get it and it made her happier to give him it. So we would drop of K at her house when picking up her kid to babysit W and P. When people tell me that they never go out because they can never find a sitter then I just don't always believe it.  You need to be creative.  You may even need to go out of your comfort zone by asking someone you wouldn't normally. I have recently asked a friend's younger sister who is single as well as a couple of friends whose husbands work nights (one of which has kids and one who just has a baby). Trying out a new sitter is hard and unnerving, especially with little ones who may need more specific care. But it can be quite rewarding...especially if you would not have gotten to go out otherwise.

The other thing I hear is that you don't have the money to go on a date.  There's two parts to this- paying for the date and paying for the sitter.  First of all, if you're concerned about paying a sitter then you need an adult or family member.  If you can't swap sitting then find some other service you can swap.  Or just don't go out as long. Going on an hour long date to grab some ice cream is still going on a date.  There are so many ways to keep it cheap.  Go to the gym together.  Go on a walk or hike.  Have a picnic at the park. Check out the bookstore or library. Visit friends. Have game or movie nights with them. Just because you're not in high school or college anymore doesn't mean you can't hang out at your friend's house with your date. Especially in the summertime in Vegas there are a lot of free films and outdoor concerts to take advantage of around town. If you are LDS and concerned about cost, then go to the temple every single week. You will be astounded at the blessings you will receive and the closeness you will feel with your spouse.

Some women complain to me that they never go on a date or have never left their children (who are sometimes older than mine). I just can't fathom this! I love my children. I love them dearly. But I love them more because I get breaks from them. My marriage comes first and because I feel fulfilled in my marriage and as an individual person, I am able to be a better mother. These women say "You're so lucky that you go on dates every week."  Luck has nothing to do with it.  It is simply a matter of saying it is going to happen, making it a priority, and working hard to make it happen.  The payoff is always worth it. 

I like this quote from Elder Joe Christensen of the Presidency of the Seventy:
"Keep your courtship alive. Make time to do things together- just the two of you. As important as it is to be with the children as a family, you need regular weekly time alone together. Scheduling it will let your children know that you feel that your marriage is so important that you need to nurture it. That takes commitment  planning, and scheduling. It doesn't need to be costly. The time together is the most important element." (Conference Report, April 1995)

If there are men out there reading this who don't really think a date is a big deal to your wife...I promise you, it is. I have told my husband that come Friday night I am going out. I would love for him to join me. By arranging a sitter and planning a date, he shows me that he wants to be with me. I know he wants to be with me but I like the show of effort to make it happen. I have been home with the children all week. It is my place of employment as a stay-at-home mom. I don't really get to be 'done' with work at the end of the week. However, I get to be done with it for an hour or two when I go out on a date with my husband. I get to be a teenager again and date and hold hands and talk about things other than children and their latest antics etc. I get to be a grown-up and have intelligent conversation. I get to get dressed up for something. It is good for my self-esteem and it is good for my husband to see me dressed up too. It is good for us to go places together, as a couple, and show the world that that is what we are.

I will tell you that the times that have been rockier in our marriage have been the times where we have discovered that we have slacked in our date nights. You might not go on dates and might have a good marriage. But what you might not realize is just how much better it will be when you do. And if you are struggling or things just have been a little 'off', then make a date a priority this week and see what it can do for you!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

an essay on mommyhood.

One of my best friends recently gave birth to her first baby. I fear that the new mommyhood and newborn stage are a little bit of a surprise to her. See, you hear all these well wishes and congratulations for this great new thing in your life. Your life will never be the same. You know that. Babies are so great. So you hear. You might hear horror stories and tales about labor and delivery. Women love to share these things, especially with those about to give birth. It's like comparing battle wounds or something. What you never hear about is the battle wounds of being a new mom, or of being a new mom again when you have your second or third or whatever newborn. Why is that? I think because we don't talk about it beforehand. Then when you're home with that newborn and it's not that idyllic life, you begin to wonder what happened.

You go into having your baby with the idea that finally you'll be able to get some sleep. At least you won't be waking up every couple of hours trying to get comfortable or going to the bathroom. You think that you'll finally get something done around the house because you can move again, or maybe because you think you'll get energy back again. After all, don't newborns sleep all the time? You might even have visions of sitting and rocking your baby peacefully. You probably plan to breastfeed because it is such a great bonding time for you and the baby and because it's really the best option.

Well, here's how I think it really goes down. Yes, newborns sleep. Generally a lot. Sometimes they don't though. Sometimes newborns only sleep when you're holding them. Oh, and just because your first baby was a great sleeper, or a scheduled baby, or a happy baby- don't you dare go thinking you've got this thing down and that future babies will be the same. My last was my most difficult. He was the one who wouldn't sleep unless you were holding him. Don't underestimate the power of sleep, or of being sleep-deprived. You don't know it until you've been there. You will want sleep so badly that it might bring you to tears. Maybe you used to wish for 6 or 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Those days are gone. You will find yourself just dying for 3 to 5 hours. Even if your baby goes a stretch that long between feedings, at night if you're really lucky, you won't sleep that long. There's the time it takes to decide he's actually asleep before laying him down. You can't go to bed right away either because you know that inevitably if you do then the baby will know and will wake up. So you have to wait until he is for sure, really asleep.

Oh, and that feeding thing. I've got news for you. Breastfeeding isn't the greatest thing in the world for everyone. Some women just don't enjoy it. Some just don't quite get the hang of it. Some babies are fussy at the end of the day even though they've eaten regularly only to be calmed down by a bottle. Some have that perfectly idyllic time of it. You just never know and you shouldn't feel guilty if it is less than perfect. Now, I'm not advocating one way or the other. I've done it all. You know what, my kids are all pretty smart. I even think the youngest ones, the ones who were bottle fed from their early days for medical reasons, might be smarter. They also haven't been as sick. Okay, so I was secretly relieved that they had to be bottle-fed. Do I enjoy the $200 spent on the specialty formula they have each month? No. But do I love the freedom of not having to be the one to feed them every time? Yes. I never loved nursing and I'm told my mother didn't either. I was happier when I was feeding my baby a bottle. A happier mom bonds better. So if it isn't working for you, keep trying. It takes time. It's messy.  It's awkward.  It might even be embarrassing.  Some people can't do it in front of others.  That's fine.  But if you keep trying and it's not going any differently, then don't feel bad. You can always pump and then feed a bottle. It won't last as long but it might make you both happier. Then, I have my own issues with pumping.  It's nice, sometimes even essential.  But I sure don't like feeling like a dairy cow.

Which brings me to another thing. Sex after baby. By the time that 6-week appointment rolls around, you might be so anxious. So much so that maybe you disregarded it. Unless you've got good girlfriends or read the books, it might be a surprise to you. If you are nursing, you might never want him near your boobs again. Even if you fed the baby right before hand, it is bound to get in the way. Plus, I swear kids know when you are about to have some 'me' time. It's like how children always find you hiding in the bathroom. It's like they have sex-dar. Welcome to the next 18 years of their life. If you thought that trying to do anything in that last trimester was difficult, well, I'm sorry but it might not be better just yet.

Are you depressed yet? Don't worry, it might just be PPD, or baby blues. It's a real thing. Don't underestimate it. Don't feel bad if you get it. Your body is way out of whack. They also don't tell you that your thyroid can get screwed up after having a baby. Because sleep-deprivation due to baby isn't enough. Add the effects of an underactive thyroid and you're really screwed. My poor husband. You do whatever you need to to cope. When my last one really couldn't make it without being held, I found myself losing it. I had 3 little ones I still needed to care for. Things to do. The swing only lasted so long. The bouncy seat, same. I couldn't really do the whole sling thing because I'm so short and my arms are so short that I'd be banging him into counter after counter. So, you know what I did to cope? I bought a Wii. It was an expensive, maybe not necessary purchase. But it sure helped to be able to have something 'fun' to do while sitting and holding the baby all day long. It was nice to have a 'change of scenery.' And I could play it with my kids too. If I beat a level on a game, well, at least I got something done that day. My time sitting and holding my last two was only aggravated by the fact that they had really bad reflux and needed to be kept upright for an hour after eating. When they are eating every 2-3 hours, there goes most of your day. Even though my last baby was my hardest, and most tiring, I never needed medication. I thought about it. I have had it in the past. But I found a way to cope, I talked about it, and I felt it coming on because I had been there so I was able to work on it before then. We were all fine. You know what else? He's my happiest kid now. You know when it changed? 3 months. When we finally found the right medication that helped his reflux and the right dosage and feeding combination. He was a different kid after that.

So all this can be pretty depressing. As if postpartum hormones weren't enough. Now you have to add to it extreme sleep-deprivation. Don't forget not feeling fulfilled. Don't plan on getting things done for the first 3-6 months or you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Even if they sleep during the day without you holding them like they are supposed to, then you'll be so exhausted you will be a zombie- preferably a sleeping one. So now you're probably down on yourself because you're not getting any sleep, not getting anything done, not having that idyllic newborn life, not exactly having fun with the hubby, and you might even miss being pregnant. Take heart. It's amazing how quickly we can forget things. My husband even says that being the mom to a newborn is one of the hardest times because it is so much exhausting work with little to no reward. Though that time may seem like it is dragging on. You may feel like you can stand to watch another tv show or sit in front of the computer again. That time will pass all too quickly and you will find yourself longing for those days of just sitting and holding a newborn again. Sleep on the couch with him snuggled on you. Take a shower with him in the bassinet or swing next to the shower. At least he's not asking you everything about you or complaining of who hit who. Those smiles will come. The sleep will come, eventually. Let your husband take over wherever possible. Don't forget, your body is still in recovery and you need your rest too. Get out of the house. Even if it takes all day, get ready for the day. You'll feel better. You may find yourself wondering why you did this. It's okay. The rewards come and are greater than you can imagine. To see that first smile. To hear that laugh. To hear them call you ma-ma. To watch as they figure something out or learn something new. To send them off to school and hear them tell you of all the new, exciting, and wonderful things they learned that day. It's all worth it. It's worth every sleepless moment. It's worth every ache and pain. It's worth every bit of it all. You don't know it until you've experienced it. Please remind me this when my 2-year old paints the tub in nail polish again. I'm still trying to get it off.

Oh, and here's another thing. We moms have been there. We are happy to help. We know how it is to just wish to get a shower. That's all you want in a day. So if you need to reach out so that you don't go crazy or don't feel crazy or don't feel alone- please do! Don't feel silly. The best advice I ever got on being a mom was to take care of myself and relax. My mother-in-law was so right when she told me that babies can sense your moods. Not just babies. It affects them. More than you might think. I had more than one doctor say something to the effect of that the best thing you can do for your baby (or child) is to take care of yourself. So if that means leaving the baby with someone and a bottle so that you can go out (by yourself or on a date), then do! Don't feel guilty. It's hard to give when you feel empty and drained. Don't feel guilty for sleeping at any opportunity. For those first few months, you probably should. And talk to your spouse. They probably have no clue what it is like for you. They might not ever. But they won't be any better and won't know any better unless you clue them in. Let them, or make them (whichever applies), help so that they can get a sense. Parenting is supposed to be a two-person job. It needs to start off that way. That's why it takes two people to make one. It takes two to raise them. I so do not envy those single parents. If you are one (or feel like one), then ask for members, friends, neighbors, family members- whoever!