It was a sunny day, in the middle of winter, with moderate temperatures. The high winds had stopped, and the cows had been chased out of the yard. All that said, it was a good day to send the children outside to play. But #8 has a love of travel. To keep him from wandering off somewhere in the wild-blue-yonder, Wife closed the porch gate. Continue reading
When I was small and still growing upwards, I used to read the newspaper comics religiously. I only understood about a quarter of them, but that did not stop me from laughing at all the points that seemed appropriate. The truth was that a lot of the jokes simply flew right over my head. I had to finish growing up in order to reach them. And other jokes required children for true appreciation. Continue reading
With so many moving parts in our family, it’s common for one piece or another to be out of sequence. In other words, they don’t always march to the same beat. Most often, only one or two are out of orbit at a time, and only once in a while does the entire thing spring apart like a dropped clock. Continue reading
For nearly ten years, I have received by-the-minute-up-dates about the children from Wife. I’ve always known, whether I wanted to know or not, when a child cut their first tooth, when they first rolled over, and when they did whatever came next. I’ve been the first Wife told for so long, that I had started to think of it as an inconvenient right of mine. And so, I would attempt to show the appropriate amount of excitement, while feeling little of it. Wife was never fooled.
After eight children, I felt I had a good idea of the flow of our babies’ development. And the other night, when the baby was about two weeks old, I realized that Wife had not yet announced that his umbilical cord had fallen off. I inquired when she thought it would happen. She responded, “Oh, it fell off days ago.”
I was shocked. What happened? Why wasn’t I told? When did I get taken off the Need-To-Know List!
Wife then said that the children had all gotten very excited when she told them.
The kids knew before me?
She said that they all “oohed” and “awed” very nicely. They peered into the empty belly-button. They squealed with pleasure. I think someone even asked if they could keep the umbilical cord. (Don’t get grossed out. Wife wouldn’t allow that.) The girls were especially excited. Wife found in her little court of young ladies, all the enthusiasm over the baby that she felt herself.
I, on the other hand, with all my external indifference, had worked myself out of a job. That was unexpected!
I’ve heard it said before that nature has a way of filling in the gaps, or that God provides whatever is needed. So, He gave Wife daughters first, to give her the help she would need. In our four girls, she found little hands to make her work lighter. Either with meals, cleaning their younger siblings, or house work, they are their mother’s big helpers. As they are growing into young ladies, they are also becoming lifetime companions for one another, as well as for their mother.
While part of me misses the attention that our girls are now getting from Wife, I am happy to see the job done properly. After all, it’s never good to try and force a square peg into a heart shaped hole.
Over forty-one weeks in the making, arriving twelve days late, with an overall weight of nine pounds and four ounces, our package finally made it home. #9 joined our clan. With his contribution, for the first time ever, the boys out number the girls. And after four girls in a row, that’s something I thought I would never say.
#9’s entrance into the world was without complications; however that is not to say it was without anxiety and a good deal of pain. He was due mid December, and Wife had all the symptoms of early labor. We were ready for his appearance at the end of November, but our boy had other ideas. Either he was very comfortable where he was, or he really didn’t want to face the world, in which case I can’t blame him. After several weeks of false labor, it continued to be false labor.
I’ve already written about how Wife had prepared for Christmas, so that when the baby came she would be able to recover without any worries about any of the Christmas details. About a week and a half before Christmas, she ran out of things to organize for the big day. Then she started to pace.
Have you ever seen a woman pace when she is over-due? She holds her belly with all the tender love and affection that makes a mother’s love incomparable. She strolls around with the comical waddle of a penguin. Her eyes dart back and forth seeking any mischief or mess-makers with the directness of a tiger. And the whole package has enough force to rival a typhoon.
At long last, after a full day of doubtful contractions, Wife’s mother made the call, she was definitely in labor. I met them at the hospital after work and thought that the twenty-third of December was a good night to have a baby. It was not quite as good as the twelfth, but it was better than the twenty-fourth. And so Wife labored into the night, until the twenty-fourth rolled around.
Yes you read right, a Christmas Eve baby. He was a great gift, but his timing was about the last thing I expected. I’ve often heard of Christmas babies, and always thought it was a bad date for a birthday. I would never do that to one of my children. I mean, what are the odds? But then my sister pointed out, “Well, the odds for your family are about one in nine.”
The evidence is piling up. No one believes me, but it has to be true. Despite all the reasoning, despite all the skepticism, there can be no other explanation. Even though Wife firmly disagrees, I must say it… there is a ghost in our house.
We have a poltergeist whose soul purpose is to torment first Wife, and then me. And it finds the most devilish ways to do it. Primarily, it wakes up the small children late at night. Under the guise of a nightmare, or a wet diaper, or cold feet, our phantom prods a baby or two awake, which in turn keeps Wife or myself awake. At times the fiend is so successful that it can ruin a night’s sleep for the both of us.
Yet, we have not been idle, no not in the least. We have continued to have children so to eventually overwhelm our phantom. And the fruit is beginning to ripen. Our older girls already calm down and put back to sleep the toddlers most of the time. #1 especially, takes care of her younger siblings; changing diapers and refilling bottles, she and #2 are a great help in securing their parents’ sleep. More and more often, we can sleep through the night, only disturbed by the new baby still growing within Wife.
But the phantom is not defeated. If it cannot keep us up with normal methods, it ushers in the flu, a most unkind trick. Wife, with all her motherly instincts, can not help but bring our sick, suffering children into our room. Normally, she mothers the child to sleep a couple of times a night, and always puts him to bed with us. He then, almost immediately turns and kicks me. The other night #7 fell prey to not only the flu, but also our fiend, who kept waking him up every hour, on the hour. It is not right for a father to have evil thoughts about his own son… but yes, I did. Oh so evil thoughts.
Luckily, flus and colds are seasonal. So our poltergeist has large parts of the year in which it has neither viruses nor bacteria in its bag of tricks. It then works overtime causing nightmares for our girls, especially #3. She has the unique disposition to get night-terrors after watching a lot of movies, due to her overactive imagination and I’m sure a little prodding from our fiend. There are few things that will get me out of bed quicker than her soft stumbling and shrill whimpers. Among its tricks, I find this one the cruelest.
Then the sun rises. In the bright, early rays our fiend retreats to whatever dark hole it dwells in, for it seems that even poltergeists need their sleep. Once the oppression of the phantom has lifted, spirits in our household also rise, and I am met with joyful children as if the night had never happened. Even when the children are sick, the morning brings them a special kind of rejuvenation. So as the happy noises of playing children steadily increases, I have a spiteful thought. I hope the phantom sleeps under the floorboards so our children can keep it awake, returning the favor.
The children all seem to pass through some mischief phase or another. With all our children, one right after the other, I would have thought that Wife and I would be able to correct any misbehavior almost before it happens. Well, it so happens that while all the children fall into the same patterns, they, very cleverly, find very different way to execute them.
Wife, now seven and a half months pregnant, waddled out to the porch like a penguin in high-gear. The screams that modulated between annoyance and terror, all stemming from the miniature lungs or #8, were the cause for Wife’s swift pace. And when she burst through the screen door, she was met with a sight that sent her temper up to match her quickening stride. The fourteen month-old, #8, was pinned down by his two year-old brother, #7, who was attempting to run over #8 with a big-wheel.
Like an avenging angel, Wife swooped in and with a blur of motion had #7 by the scruff of his shirt. He looked up with an expression of horrified amazement, as if to say, “Where on earth did you come from?” But after that he had no time for conscious thought, for he was caught in the whirlwind of his mother’s wrath; and before he knew what happened, he was whisked away in a tornado of arms and legs and left nearly spinning on his bed with the strict command to, “THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU DID!”
Wife then lifted up and comforted #8, and as he laid his head on her shoulder she turned and notice #5 and #6 for the first time. #5 piped up, “We saw him runnin’ over the baby, we saw him!” And next to his brother, #6 was nodding his head. It would have been better if he had said nothing.
Wife’s motherly instincts became indignant, and her flash-powder-temper had already been ignited. “Then why didn’t you stop HIM!”
At that point, the National Weather Service satellites recorded a second tornado blowing through my house which has taken hold of two little boys.
Here I must stop my wit for a brief moment and declare a wisdom that I had previously overlooked. The children’s bedrooms consist of bunk beds, sheets, and pillows. No toys. No books. No stuffed animals. All Wife’s design. Which means, when children are sent to bed, they have nothing to do but sit in bed… and start the crying that always accompanies discipline.
When I got home at the end of the day, all three boys were still in their beds, fast asleep, some four hours later. And bed-time-out worked. I know now #7 learned that #8 is not a speed-bump, for he has not tried to ride over him again. On the other hand, #8 keeps his distance when #7 in on his big-wheel. And #5 and #6 have learned that they are their “brothers’ keepers,” or at least they plead ignorance after the fact…
The two middle girls, #2 and #3, are going through the trouble of loosing teeth. They deal with the sharp pains that come from a loose tooth sitting incorrectly. They struggle with the inconvenience of one tooth wiggling uncomfortably just as they eat. And Wife lives with the constant dread that they might swallow a tooth. The fact is, my children are falling apart.
This past week #2 lost a tooth, or rather, it was kinda, sorta, maybe, forcibly removed?
Her complaints had reached a tipping point, so Wife condescended to bend as low as she could, which at this point in her pregnancy is not very low, and then tipped back the little girls head as far as Wife felt safe. There a stubborn tooth held on by one corner, as if dangling by its hand. They decided it was time for the tooth to come out, now how to do it?
Wife is an incredible mother, changing diapers, changing nose-bleed bed sheets, cleaning up vomit, and all around take-care-of-business. However, the thought of putting her fingers into a mouth, other than a baby’s, nearly upset her stomach. She straightened, looked at our eldest, and asked, “Can you pull out your sister’s tooth?”
Both girls screamed and jumped back form one other.
That won’t work. Wife set her mind in overdrive, and walked to her womanly toolbox, the kitchen. Now I would have worried, watching Wife scan her multiplicity of implements, that in an Aztec temple would have been the instruments of sacrifice and torture; but #2 simply followed her in with no idea what a mother is capable of, surrounded by the weapons of choice.
Wife went for the barbecue tongs.
Now the events that occurred during the actual extraction are a little fuzzy, and I suspect that everyone present may have blacked-out a little. But this is the best I could put together.
With a superhuman accuracy, Wife clamped onto the correct tooth with her tongs; while #2 strained to open her mouth wide enough to fit the tongs, so her tongued would not get pulled out at the same time as the tooth. Wife gave a gentle tug, which means she may or may not have put pressure on it. #2 whined, in anticipation of the agony to come. Then, they both gave up, as it was sure to be too difficult on all the parties involved.
As the tongs were withdrawn, the tooth, knowing the game was over, threw its hands up and shouted, “You got me mommy!” and because its hands were up, it tumbled head-over-heels out of the little girls mouth onto the kitchen floor. #2 squealed with joy. Wife screamed with fear, as she thought the tooth had been swallowed. But she soon saw the tooth on the floor, and quickly became sick to her stomach at the sight
So, let it not be said that Wife will shrink back from any challenge if it is for the health of her children, no matter how disgusting she finds it. Also, may it be known to teeth everywhere, you are no match for Wife, or her barbecue tongs.
I have been called irresponsible, stupid and crazy for having so many children. And now that I am facing minor health problems in this ninth pregnancy, I began to wonder if maybe the accusations are accurate. But then I think about my vocation and its meaning in the universe. I am mother to nine beautiful souls. Nine people who would not exist if I or my husband had to taken measures to deny or terminate their existence… and I realized just how selfish those accusations are. My husband and I are building the kingdom of God to the best of our God-given abilities. We fail. We are not perfect, as our ancestors weren’t before us. But is that a reason to not procreate? I think not.
“We are crowding an already crowded world.” False. My husband and I live on a ranch of many acres with other families. We have wide open spaces for our children to run around and play. If we didn’t leave the ranch to go into town, we would not see another person because of how far off the beaten path we live. Being without a vehicle for a week made this observation clear to me!
I am on my ninth pregnancy, I may not be as fast on my feet as I was in my dancing days, or as quick to jump to my feet when I realize what I have left to do before nighttime, (and these things frustrate me) but I have been successfully running my own household for ten years. Now my firstborn daughters are quickly picking up the pieces that are necessary. Maybe that was part of God’s plan for us, to slow me down so that my children would learn to dress themselves and bathe themselves and brush their own teeth, because otherwise I would still be doing so if I weren’t being distracted by their younger siblings needs.
I know in my heart that even though society tells me how I am bogged down by these nine responsibilities, I have made the choice to further God’s Creation by allowing Him to use me as the vessel for these little souls to incubate in. And because of the trust that I have put in Him, the rewards have overwhelmed the sacrifices I have made to bring these little ones into the world.
We never had a nursery. Wife wouldn’t have been able to stomach putting the baby in another room anyway. The night #1 was born; she cradled her baby throughout the night, never letting her so much as brush the bed. I don’t think the baby learned what bed sheets were for about a week. As #2 and #3 came into the bed, they stayed in the bed; and I found myself creeping ever closer to the edge. I might have begun to wonder if Wife was pushing me out, but I was sure that “nurseries” were fables out of England and Disney films. So I happily hugged the edge of the bed while #2 kicked me in the back.
When #4 arrived our housing had changed and the two eldest moved into their own room, where #3 would visit on occasion. Suddenly I had all kinds of room on my side of the bed. I was able to stretch out; then #4 turned sideways.
We slowly converted rooms into bedrooms. We thought that that the best rooming arrangement was to bed them in pairs. The older girls were in one room with their younger sisters next door. Then we tried a trial with one older and a younger per room, but they all seemed to end up in one room. I take that back, they almost always seem to leave one behind, often soaking her pillow with tears. For our children, who are practically one right on top of another, solitude is frightening.
By the time Wife had #7 we had added another bedroom. That was unfortunately my office; the sacrifices of a growing family. #5 and #6 were set together in the new room. It was an unmitigated disaster. They were too young to put alone together. Either they slept with #1, or wandered into our bed, or split forces, or simply cried until a parent slept with them. All the while the girls kept up their game of “guess who’s sleeping where.”
It took awhile, but we finally figured it out, or to be more precise, Wife had had enough! The bed-swapping and children left behind had to stop. When #8 was about six months old, I came home and was surprised to see that Wife had followed through with her threats. She had moved them all into one bedroom. The smaller dresser was in the hall, and the boys’ bedroom was carpeted with a pair of double mattresses beside the boys’ bed. Problem fixed! All I had to do was set up the bunk beds; no small task, but hey, if she can birth them then the least I can do is give them proper beds.
We’ve discovered an unintended consequence though. When mixing children together, be careful of the ratios, and more importantly the quantity… there will be a reaction. Unfortunately not the reaction I wanted. I hoped for fumes that would render the children sleepy for twelve hours. Instead they were stimulated. Feeding energy directly into one another, I now have a room full of active children captured under blankets. As a side effect, I have less energy than ever.
And as the saying goes, “When the cat’s away, the mice will…” oh never mind. I’m going to bed.