The Stubborn Tooth

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.Tools of extraction 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.A womanly took box

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.

Look out!

Look out!

As the tongs were withdrawn, the tooth, knowing the game was over, threw its hands up and shouted, “You got me mommy!”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.

The Toothpaste Fiend

Why do messy items always seem to be stored in glass jars, but the sticky stuff is kept in soft plastic tubes? These are disasters waiting to happen, believe me, as I have watched them happen with now all of my children. A dropped jar of pickles, and exploded bottles of mustard, a plastic jar of coconut oil which was dropped perfectly to crack it right down the middle, as well as other culinary losses. But the damage was limited to the children who could carry in the groceries… at least I thought so.sweet baby

The other night the children were preparing for bed while I was still up. That does not happen often as I have always been “early to bed, early to rise.” Wife on the other hand, still struggles with her old habits which are the opposite of my nature. The children, on a third hand, have quite completely hit the extremes of both their parents, and I phrase them as “late to bed, early to rise; though it grieves their mother so.” That night I decided to put the children to bed at my bedtime, to help Wife get some extra sleep that night.

The girls were busy cleaning the dinner dishes, so the boys, #5, #6, and #7, were sent to brush their teeth. The usual brushing-teeth-question was produced that night by #5, “Can we use toothpaste?”

You might think it is a strange question, and you would be right, except in this case, where you are wrong. The two younger children, and there are always two younger children, who forget from time to time that toothpaste is not to be eaten. Therefore, when a younger child is caught sucking on their brush rather than brushing with it, toothpaste gets banded from all children under a certain age of reason, and at the moment that is all the boys.

Once I assented to their request, #5 trotted out with his toothbrush in one hand and toothpaste in the other. Behind him the other too boys lined up. #8 rolled on the floor as he is too young for either toothbrush or toothpaste. I took the tube of child-toothpaste and squeezed it with the expectation of a little paste squishing out onto #5’s toothbrush. To my surprise the toothpaste did not come out of the open end of the tube, but rather out of a hole on the side of the tube, almost dead center.

I looked up to #5 and exclaimed, “What happened here?” I pointed to the undesired hole.

#5 shrugged. “It always does that.”

Really? To get to the bottom of it, I call for the one person in the house who was sure to know how long the tube had been broken. #1 trotted up to me and I extended out the toothpaste. #1 also shrugged. She said, “It’s been like that for a long while. I don’t know who did it.” #1 went back to finish loading the dishwasher with her sisters.

I looked closer at the tube. There were tooth marks! Yes, tooth marks on the toothpaste tube. Then I knew, the culprit was rolling on the carpet before me. Someone left the toothpaste down so that the little devil got hold of it… or the fiend has wings. I bent down to take a closer look.

A devil with an angel's face.

A devil with an angel’s face.

The Justice of #4

The ability to recognize that it is not a good practice to tattle on someone when you are the entire cause of the problem is not known to children naturally. They have to learn it. And we parents are to be the unwitting teachers in that endeavor. Sooner or later, the kids pick it up. However I would have thought that #4 would already be familiar with that truth. I have written about it before in the past post Discipline and Observation.

When #4 walked in hauling #5 by the arm, he looked as guilty as if he had been caught stealing cookies. #4 presented her captive to Wife as to an executioner. She announced, “He stepped on #6’s head!”

You've just been told on.

You’ve just been told on.

Wife turned to the four year-old. “Why did you step on your brother’s head?”

#5 stammered, “I… well… I didn’t… well she pushed me!” He pointed an accusing finger at #4.

She seemed to shrink into herself like a turtle as Wife rounded on her. Before Wife could unleash her reserves of discipline upon the little girl, #4 blurted out her defense as only a five year-old could. “I didn’t know! I didn’t know that if I pushed #5 he would step on #6’s head! I didn’t know!”

Needless to say, her excuse was not enough to save her from the trouble she was in.

Of course it must be mentioned that #4 is more intelligent than I would like. A stupid child might take some time to learn what is unacceptable, however once learned they simply stop. But a smart child takes longer, especially if they are obstinate like #4, for once it got through her thick head picking on her younger siblings by tattling would only get her in trouble, she quickly began to explore other avenues. So now we have to watch out for her more subtle manipulations. Let me illustrate.

#4 had been waiting for her turn with the toy that #6 had. #6 decided that he had not had enough time. #4 took matters into her own hands. “Ok,” she said, “if you don’t give it to me I’m gonna to count to ten. I’m going to count to ten and if you don’t give it to me I’m gonna tell you that your drawing, the one you drew for mommy, I gonna tell you that it is ugly. Ok. One… two… three… four… five… six… seven… eight… nine… ten! Ok! Your drawing is ugly!”

The shock of all was it worked! The three year-old burst into uncontrollable weeping until his sister took the toy and then assured him that his drawing was not ugly.

Back to My Roots, Way Up High

Wife cut the children free from their home studies early one Saturday and we all wandered over to my parents. Yes, when the schooling gets behind Wife will make them study on the weekend, provided she is up to the extra work. But sometimes even Wife needs her rest. That was how we ended up sitting in my mother’s garden with my parents and several of my siblings while the children literally ran off all the pent up energy that was nearly bursting from their little bodies. Strangely, it seems to be the same kind of energy they build up when they clean the house. Huh?

Climbing trees

Climbing trees

I sat in a remarkably comfortable wire patio chair and absentmindedly rocked for the baby that I was not holding. After almost ten years of constant babies, I sometimes find myself rocking or swaying out of habit, and it can be embarrassing. However, as I was in a rocking chair, nobody noticed. As I sat and visited with my family, I just noticed out of the corner of my eye that some of the children were playing around and in the lower branches of a pine tree.

Some part of my mind woke up memories of long ago when I was nimble enough to scale the tall trees and light enough for the higher branches to hold me. I remembered looking out onto the world that spread out below. Even though I had just been among the landscape, it always seemed to fall away as I left it behind and disappeared into the green world high above. And if my mother happened to see me, which happened quite often as children like to show-off their achievements, she would usually have something close to a panic-attack when she saw me ten, twenty, or even thirty feet high, and demand that I play closer to the ground.

Two to a tree.

Two to a tree.

While I remembered and lost the thread of the conversation around me, we all heard several of my daughters squealing for our attention. After a minute of pondering what the children wanted us to see, we saw it, or rather saw them. #1 was a little way up the pine tree, but the excitement was all over #4 who had made her way up to the very top of the tree. Once their grandmother saw my daughter way up there on the thin branches she let out a squeak that brought me right back again to my childhood.

Way up high.

Way up high.

Predictably, my mother made both of the girls climb down so that she could be sure that neither would fall out. I’m glad to see that some things never change.

The Daddy Stage

#8 has entered the “daddy stage.” The phase of his life when he has the unusually strong yearning for his father’s attention; especially the kind that comes in the form of being held. Now that could be because he finds that Wife’s pregnant belly gets in his way, and I, well not nearly as soft, at least provide a flat surface. So the little boy toddles up to me and does his best to follow when I’m home. And that reminds me, I really need to fix the latch on the bathroom door.

Doors don’t stop #8, not in the least.

#8 is not a clingy child by any means. He derives attention and entertainment from his siblings in equal amounts. Stumbling along with their games, and if they laid out a board game, well then he is as quick to make a mess of it as a tornado in a trailer-park. But then he remembers that dad is home, and there he goes. If I am working on something in the front yard, he might scream at me from the porch until I acknowledge him. If I’m relaxing in the house, he’ll try to crawl into my lap. If I’m writing in my office, he’ll simply push open the door. That’s another door I need to fix.

He won’t be in this stage for very long, none of the children were. In a few months he’ll become even more mobile and able to keep up with his older siblings. Even more importantly, he’ll have a fighting chance when his brothers wrestle with him. I won’t get forgotten, but he will have much more to distract him.

Knowing that this time will fly by, I try not to get distracted myself. But at the same time, I have had the blessing of seven other children to go through the “daddy stage” with and at least one more on the way. That means that I have been able to enjoy each child without the worry that I will miss anything.

And with that is mind, I have no regrets about jamming the door shut to give myself a little quiet.

Door jamb

Door jamb

Post From Wife: Musing

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.Loving little ones

“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.Sweet little face.

How Many Children Can A Sink Hold?

A certain law of physics dictates that only one object can occupy a given space at any given time; and it does so by pushing away all other objects. Now picture in your mind seven little objects, all attempting to occupy the same sink at once, they are our children brushing their teeth… with all the excitement of an undertaker.

I wish I could state that my children rush to the sink in giddy anticipation for the clean feeling of clean teeth. I wish I could tell you how they line up, youngest to oldest and the older ones help their younger siblings with great-big smiles. I also wish I could show you the clean and dry sink after they were through, free of puddles and toothpaste. However, as Wife feels it would be a sin for me to tell my readers complete lies, so I will leave the above as the unfulfilled wish that it is.

Consequently, for the health of my soul, the truth is that our children dislike brushing their teeth, though I am sure by now you gathered as much. I understand that they dislike it because, unlike their father, they hate going to bed; and brushing teeth is the first step toward their dreaded mattresses. Yet since they are obedient children, I get no fight as they slump into the bathroom.Brushing teeth

The children gather around the sink like sparrows in a birdbath, splashing around and generally making a mess. And like sparrows, there is always one who simply has to stand in the middle, getting in everyone’s way; that would be #7. Quite often, Wife has walked into the bathroom to find the two year-old standing on top of the sink looking down on his siblings like some kind of Olympian god. He’s been dethroned enough times now that he has given up his elevated position, now he would rather clean his teeth in solitude… at the bathtub. The rest of the children simply fill the void of #7 by squeezing together tighter.

Wife’s second in command, #1 does her utmost to take charge of the bathroom sink, shouting out orders and berating her siblings. I often hear her dealing out to each child their ration of toothpaste (much to the irritation of her sisters) and requesting a sister to help the youngest brother… who was already at the bathtub. While #3 and #4 squabble over the footstool, #2 dawdles about trying to be invisible. Finally #1 ends up helping #7.

In the end, everyone has brushed their teeth and the boys are mostly dry, which is more than can be said for the bathroom floor. I find the oddest part about the nightly ritual is that we have a second bathroom, which is completely ignored.

Adventures in Home Schooling

I claim, with great fervor, that Wife is a successful home schooling mother. After all, the two virtues that most help in her occupation are consistency and fortitude; of which she holds both in abundance. For children are naturally inclined to learn. Give them a bit of information and they soak it up like a sponge. The difficulty comes with getting them to retain what they were just taught. While the children love to learn, they hate to work at it. That is where Wife’s consistency and fortitude come into play.

Homeschooling all together.

Home schooling all together.

Workbooks are the special demons created specifically to torment our children. Those little books of words and figures designed to tattoo little brains with its knowledge have the uncanny ability of sending our children into certain boredom. Thus, Wife continually has to refocus the children back onto their own workbooks, and off of whatever the sibling next to them was doing.Homestudy

It is not uncommon for Wife to return from instructing #2 only to find #1’s school abandoned. And where was #1? She had moved over to help #3 with her math, an easier task than her own. When #1 was summoned back to her own math, it was with many sighs and drooping shoulders.

Wife has often found when she was teaching science to a child, they all slowly crowd in. When she was teaching #4 her kindergarten world science, she would ask the child a line of questions like, “What is round?”

To which #4 tentatively responded, “A ball?”

“Yes,” Wife reassured. “Now, what’s hard?”

“Ah… a rock,” said #4 with more confidence.

“Good, and what’s soft?”

#4 nearly shouted, “My stuffed-animals!”

“Very good. Now what’s furry?”

And out of nowhere, #2 announced her presence by interjecting, “Daddy!”

Suddenly the inmates were running the madhouse, as all the girls began a chorus of giggles and laughter that Wife was unable to resist.

Furry Daddy

Furry Daddy

A Pinecone Parable

Nobody said parenting eight children was going to be easy. On the contrary, everybody seems to know that it is as difficult as uprooting a century old pine tree with a silver spoon. OK, it’s not that hard, however we do have to watch out for falling pinecones. Those cause a distraction every time.

Look ma!

Look ma!

One night, while I was bathing off the days grime from work, I heard an uproar start up with some of the children. I shook my head. There’s always a ruckus of some kind or another with so many, but I could hear Wife arriving on the scene and knew full well that she would take care of it.

I could hear something about #2 abusing #5. Likely he deserved whatever he got, however hitting is not tolerated; so Wife began to lay into #2 like a new ax into a sapling. But then a pinecone fell.

I hear #2 shout out, “Mom! Ah! There’s a…”

Wife screamed and I heard slapping at clothes followed by enthusiastic stomping.

“Wow mom, I saw…” #2 started.

I heard Wife cut her off with a sharp tone. “Next time you see a spider on my sweater, get it off! Don’t just stand there and point at it!”

“OK mom,” I heard #2 respond.

At that point the spider had effectively let the steam out of Wife. She scowled at the two children before her and dismissed them with a, “Now you two behave and play nice.”

This photo is a reenactment, minus the spider, as I was unable to convince Wife to hold still with it.

This photo is a reenactment, minus the spider, as I was unable to convince Wife to hold still with it.

When Wife walked into our bedroom she immediately took off her sweatshirt and shook it out hard enough to shake loose even the strongest of spiders. Then she hung it up, still wary about the ninja spiders that must have sewn themselves into the seams and were carefully waiting to surprise her. Well Wife could out last them.

Then I did a very foolish thing. I saw humor in her tragedy, and laughed.

Let’s just say that I was glad that there were no pinecones lying around.

The Importance of Priority

#3 rushed into the house, out of breath, and demanded my attention with the announcement that #7 was, “BLEEDING!” She had me. I was standing up as she continued, “Oh yeah, and there is a dog here, and I don’t know who it is… but it’s not our dog, and…”

“Wait!” I interrupted, “which one is more important?”

“Oh yeah,” she said, and to her credit, she didn’t have to think about it twice. “I’ll get my brother.” And she darted out.

Whose dog was that anyway?

Whose dog was that anyway?

Lesson learned, I thought, pleased at the success. Now #3 knows that a bleeding #7 is more important than a stray dog. Next, enlighten her with the knowledge that all her siblings are more important than all the dogs, stray or otherwise. You see, the children, my children, no all children have the fatal inability to prioritize. Like everything else with them, it must be taught… multiple times.

Wife has done an excellent job with the little ones in that respect, especially when it comes to fruits and vegetables. Yes, these children place vegetables in a higher priority than gummy-bears. I know, I didn’t believe it either, until my sisters told me so. They took the older ones to an amusement park and to their shock, and mine too, the bag of carrots vanished well before the gummy-bears were even thinking about leaving. Prioritization at its finest.

If only the children were that good with all aspects of their little lives, however when it comes to cleaning up their rooms… they take after me. Only a few days seem to pass at a time before Wife looses it and sends the whole bunch running into their rooms to clean it up before Wife does it for them. Don’t be fooled that she is doing them a favor. Her idea of cleaning their rooms is throwing most of it away. So they do clean. However when #4 realized what a mess they made, she let out a very loud curse, “Oh, MUFFINS!”

The children are learning, slowly, but they are picking it up. And in case you were wondering about my priorities, be at ease, #7 only suffered a scraped knee. He’s just fine. As a father, prioritizing is a necessity. A father without the ability to prioritize is a bachelor.

A scraped knee won't stop him.

A scraped knee won’t stop him.