Life With Nine Kids

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Life With Little Kids

I had to take the four little kids for dental cleanings this week (Sebastian, Penelope and Everett –Beatrice is lucky to have no teeth yet.) It went very well but I wanted a margarita by the time it was over with. When I’m out with the kids it is an adventure and test in all kinds of parenting skills and patience. Come to think of it, it’s a test in those things at home too! I'm finding I need to reach down realllly deep for patience lately. The little boys are making me crazy. They are very free spirited. On a side note, Sebastian has been making friends lately! It's wonderful to see him be social!

Penelope warmed my heart and said all kinds of lovely things that made my world perfect and lovely. Unfortunately I can’t remember many of them. But this is one lovely thing she said:
"I know how to take care of babies. Because I know what babies need a lot of, mom. Do you know what they need a lot of?  They need a lot of love."

Last night we went to a church picnic, it was a lot of fun, met really wonderful people, lots to do... but the kids put Ricky and I through the ringer! Sebastian ran away from us 3 times and Everett is impossible to get out of a bounce house (but SO CUTE!), and Ricky and I spilled bright red snow cone all over a little kid that wasn't even ours.

Carrying an umbrella stroller & diaper bag & newborn +5 bags of chips and 5 trays of food while trying to get an angry Sebastian and bored Everett to stay in line and help carry their own stuff is way more impossible than it even sounds.

Poor Ricky enjoyed the picnic, but he was exhausted from work (up at 5am yesterday) and I told him we'd get home around 8:30 and the little kids would be asleep in the car. Well we got home at 9:30, Beatrice cried most the way, and NO little kids were asleep in the car. LOL. That my friends, is life with a gaggle of little kids! I'm still glad we went, but oh man was it an adventurous challenge.
I can't wait for the look on my husbands face the next time I tell him we are going anywhere, hahaha.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Going Out, Penelope as the Oldest, Toddlers, Seasons...

I took the younger kids to the botanical garden today while the older kids are all at Six Flags with family. I felt very crazy taking 4 kids all 6 and under. Charlotte said I'm not crazy, just brave!
I'd never been there before and did not know what to expect. Today was a free kids day to celebrate the founder's birth-date, and it was really quite lovely. I had no idea the children's garden was that incredible! The kids and I played and had many, many great adventures! I want a membership now. (Pricy though compared to our other memberships) Beatrice slept tucked away in her carrier on my chest. And a fellow mom and blog follower of mine, who I hadn't met before, spotted me and said hello to me!!! It made my day! I'm a mini-mom-celebrity --lol ;) She is a kind and cute mama and I hope I meet her again.

Penelope (6) was amazing and stepped up as the oldest child. She pushed the stroller, held on to Everett, took him on slides and helped me in anyway she could. She naturally began to fill the role of the oldest child the minute we left the house. It was precious. I hadn't expected it at all. She watched Everett like a hawk! It's bittersweet seeing these kids grow up. I'm glad we have so many, I swear it mostly makes the days go by slower. Everett's been two FOREVER. We're pretty much ready for him to get older! LOL. He's a nut! One day though you wake up and they are 10, 12 or 16...and you realize that perhaps it's not going as slowly as you thought. Layla will be 9 in a week... and a couple weeks later Sebastian will be 5. Penelope 7 in October. You know what Penelope does to make me crazy and afraid? She constantly asks or tells me how old she will be when Beatrice is 5 or 10. And how old she will be when Everett's 5 or 10. It's freaking me out!! The worst is when she asks me how old Charlotte will be when she is Charlotte's age. Ahhhhhhhh ;)

Anyway, I'm glad I decided not to waste this beautiful day indoors. I have a goal to get out more with the kids this fall, last year was our most 'at home' year and we didn't go on as many adventures or filed trips as we usually do. I felt really bad about it but I really just didn't have it in me. I felt overwhelmed, and not just with kids either. I often felt like we had so much to do at home. It didn't help things that at the time Sebastian was a real challenge, he gets bored easily and doesn't hang out at classes/field trips very easily. I think he's changing a little bit finally. He is also a bit of a recluse and he doesn't have an easy time communicating/playing with others outside his family. Now that's he's learning more self control it's time I try to introduce him to new situations and people again. Likewise a few months ago Ricky and I noticed Everett didn't know how to act in public. He was not doing well in grocery stores and I quickly realized it was because I'd do all my shopping and errands while he was at home with Charlotte. So Ricky and I started taking him along with us every time so he could get out more. He's still an average 2 year old in the store, but his patience and understanding while out has totally changed for the better! He's learning simple things like waiting in line means we are almost done and we have to wait in line in order to leave. He learns how we communicate and talk to people we know and don't know. We talk about and see all kinds of things. Time spent out of the house, even if it's only doing mundane tasks, is so good for kids. As an adult it's easy to get preoccupied and rush through the day --but when I slow down and show him the world around him he gets quality time and life experience. Slowing down also teaches me to be a better mother. Lately I've been trying to balance home responsibilities with a newborn and fun; in August we add school to that equation. It's been a good month for it since we have had tons to do and lots of family in town --I feel like it's practice for the fall. Sometimes I get too obsessed with running the household that I forget to make time for getting out of the house! We have a list of things we'd like to do this fall and we plan on going to the library every week again. So far Beatrice is a good car rider! Yay for that! If she tuens into a difficult car rider we'll be stranded all fall! So I hope that doesn't happen. (In the winter we stay home a lot.) My kids say I'm a hibernating bear. I love how at the beginning of a season I want it to last forever:
--the sweet smell of spring, planting, mowing, rain, muddy kids, renewal
--the warm fun of summer, swimming, the river, vine ripped tomatoes, making pickles, picking peaches
--the crisp air of fall, the colors, making scarecrows, pumpkins, Halloween, thankful, cinnamon, apples
--the family essence of winter, Christmas, decorating, snow, baking, crafts

As each season passes we welcome another.
I wrote down this cute conversation this morning in regards to the kids going home with Sharon after Six Flags:
Penelope to Sebastian: The big kids got to spend the night at Aunt Sharon's!!
Sebastian: I don't care.
Penelope: YOU DON'T?
Sebastian: I only care if they get to spend the night at Six Flags.
Penelope: But, Layla?
Sebastian: I don't care about the boys spending the night at Aunt Sharon's. But I do care Layla spends the night. 

I have a list of things I need to do before September and it's growing rapidly. When I have a list of things to do I generally add fun stuff to the list and bump the blah stuff down some spots. Can't do that forever though. We have so many appointments we need to make /go to. I hate boring stuff!

In "me" news I tied for 6th as one of the top 25 moms with big families on the Circle of Moms website. Now I have a 2012 and 2013 badge for my blog. That's neat! Thanks to those who voted for me!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Days Go By, Family, & How Nurturing Children and Their Experiences Might Alter Family DNA

I can't seem to get everything written that I want to, not even close, not even a little bit.
Days are filled with laughter and craziness. Days are filled with hilarious children and also screaming children. Days are filled with fun and also hard work. Days are filled with stress and also peace. Days are filled with boredom and excitement, laundry, and an army of hungry kids. Days and nights are filled with nursing a hungry, sweet, bright eyed baby. (I'm in total awe of her and I smell and kiss her all of the time. It's as if I've never had a baby before. I just look at her totally amazed she came from *us.*) Days are filled with temper tantrums --both mine and the kids'. Days are filled with appreciation for many blessings, and days are filled with too much to do.

I wish I could remember all of the things I wanted to write over this past week...or three. But I at least remember laughter and silliness, I remember hilarious kids, I remember family time, I remember Penelope's excitement and fabulous joy as she discovered she can touch the pool bottom now --and swim without floaties. I remember a lot of love and friendship between family. I remember thinking to's always been this way in my life, whether I knew it at the time or not. What a blessing.
I remember wanting to write about the simple lovely images I tried hard to burn into my mind last week... my grandma cutting watermelon, my aunt who made cupcakes for the kids to decorate, the kids playing games, the refreshing swimming pool, Aunt Sharon cooking up a storm, Aunt Holly's wit, good company and helpfulness, Echo's helpful and friendly presence. We look forward to July every year. I want to hold onto those memories because the years seem to roll on too fast and it scares me.
As I watched the kids playing and visiting with family I looked on and carefully listened as our aunts, uncles, and grandma talked and played with the kids. Even the youngest ones are allowed to help cook and water plants when they ask. I notice they bring the kids along to feed the hummingbirds or let them have the hose to water plants and many other things. The children are included so much in everything we all do. It was this moment I realized that I was destined to be a good mother, I didn't know it at age 7 or 12 or 16 ... but I was destined to be a loving person, and I was destined to be happy. I believe it is because of my family. When children are shown love and joy they carry it with them.

Including the youngest kids in the simplest things, talking to them, and spending time with them teaches an important lesson: be kind to children. I notice that when I'm stressed, short tempered, or angry at the younger kids in our household the older kids act that way to them too. When I'm calm,  respectful, patient and sensitive to them and I treat them like the innocent small human beings that they are the older kids act the same.
I watch the whole cycle start again as Charlotte (16) patiently takes Everett (2) with her to gather eggs and feed the chickens. My Aunt Sharon used to take me to feed my Grandma's chickens at that age.

Charlotte lets Penelope 'be on her team to play 'big kid games' even though it takes longer and Penelope might make “wrong” choices. Penelope feels special and has so much fun. Sage and Ethan also include the younger kids in far more things and are far more patient than I could have imagined.

I vividly remember being on grown up 'teams' when I was young, even when the game didn't require teams. It's one of the nicest and inclusive things you can do for a child; make them feel important and equal and 'big.' I didn't tell her to include Penelope, she just did. It's just what you do in a family: include, love, enjoy. I'm lucky to have had a long line of nurturing family members with various talents, interests, hobbies...all with a wild and wacky sense of humor and love of children.
Then I look at my husband: patient and nurturing, kind and honest. He's hardworking, humble and unselfish. Just like his parents.
 As I wrote this blog post this fascinating article came across my desk "Grandma's Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Genes" 
I'll be sharing it with my children. We tell them all the time how various things we do can help or hurt babies and kids.

According to the new insights of behavioral epigenetics, traumatic experiences in our past, or in our recent ancestors’ past, leave molecular scars adhering to our DNA. Jews whose great-grandparents were chased from their Russian shtetls; Chinese whose grandparents lived through the ravages of the Cultural Revolution; young immigrants from Africa whose parents survived massacres; adults of every ethnicity who grew up with alcoholic or abusive parents — all carry with them more than just memories. 

"...our experiences, and those of our forebears, are never gone, even if they have been forgotten. They become a part of us, a molecular residue holding fast to our genetic scaffolding. The DNA remains the same, but psychological and behavioral tendencies are inherited. You might have inherited not just your grandmother’s knobby knees, but also her predisposition toward depression caused by the neglect she suffered as a newborn.  Or not. If your grandmother was adopted by nurturing parents, you might be enjoying the boost she received thanks to their love and support. The mechanisms of behavioral epigenetics underlie not only deficits and weaknesses but strengths and resiliencies, too."

 I've long known that excessive crying is not good for babies.

Research has shown that infants who are routinely separated from parents in a stressful way have abnormally high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as lower growth hormone levels. These imbalances inhibit the development of nerve tissue in the brain, suppress growth, and depress the immune system. 5, 9, 11, 16 

Dr. Bruce Perry’s research at Baylor University may explain this finding. He found when chronic stress over-stimulates an infant’s brain stem (the part of the brain that controls adrenaline release), and the portions of the brain that thrive on physical and emotional input are neglected (such as when a baby is repeatedly left to cry alone), the child will grow up with an over-active adrenaline system. Such a child will display increased aggression, impulsivity, and violence later in life because the brainstem floods the body with adrenaline and other stress hormones at inappropriate and frequent times. 

 Science tells us that when babies cry alone and unattended, they experience panic and anxiety. Their bodies and brains are flooded with adrenaline and cortisol stress hormones. Science has also found that when developing brain tissue is exposed to these hormones for prolonged periods these nerves won’t form connections to other nerves and will degenerate. Is it therefore possible that infants who endure many nights or weeks of crying-it-out alone are actually suffering harmful neurologic effects that may have permanent implications on the development of sections of their brain? Here is how science answers this alarming question:Chemical and hormonal imbalances in the brain
Research has shown that infants who are routinely separated from parents in a stressful way have abnormally high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as lower growth hormone levels. These imbalances inhibit the development of nerve tissue in the brain, suppress growth, and depress the immune system. 5, 9, 11, 16
Researchers at Yale University and Harvard Medical School found that intense stress early in life can alter the brain’s neurotransmitter systems and cause structural and functional changes in regions of the brain similar to those seen in adults with depression. 17
One study showed infants who experienced persistent crying episodes were 10 times more likely to have ADHD as a child, along with poor school performance and antisocial behavior. The researchers concluded these findings may be due to the lack of responsive attitude of the parents toward their babies. 14.
Dr. Bruce Perry’s research at Baylor University may explain this finding. He found when chronic stress over-stimulates an infant’s brain stem (the part of the brain that controls adrenaline release), and the portions of the brain that thrive on physical and emotional input are neglected (such as when a baby is repeatedly left to cry alone), the child will grow up with an over-active adrenaline system. Such a child will display increased aggression, impulsivity, and violence later in life because the brainstem floods the body with adrenaline and other stress hormones at inappropriate and frequent times. 6
Dr. Allan Schore of the UCLA School of Medicine has demonstrated that the stress hormone cortisol (which floods the brain during intense crying and other stressful events) actually destroys nerve connections in critical portions of an infant’s developing brain. In addition, when the portions of the brain responsible for attachment and emotional control are not stimulated during infancy (as may occur when a baby is repeatedly neglected) these sections of the brain will not develop. The result – a violent, impulsive, emotionally unattached child. He concludes that the sensitivity and responsiveness of a parent stimulates and shapes the nerve connections in key sections of the brain responsible for attachment and emotional well-being. 7, 8
Decreased intellectual, emotional, and social development
Infant developmental specialist Dr. Michael Lewis presented research findings at an American Academy of Pediatrics meeting, concluding that “the single most important influence of a child’s intellectual development is the responsiveness of the mother to the cues of her baby.”
Researchers have found babies whose cries are usually ignored will not develop healthy intellectual and social skills. 19
Dr. Rao and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health showed that infants with prolonged crying (but not due to colic) in the first 3 months of life had an average IQ 9 points lower at 5 years of age. They also showed poor fine motor development. (2)
Researchers at Pennsylvania State and Arizona State Universities found that infants with excessive crying during the early months showed more difficulty controlling their emotions and became even fussier when parents tried to consol them at 10 months. 15
Other research has shown that these babies have a more annoying quality to their cry, are more clingy during the day, and take longer to become independent as children 1.
Harmful physiologic changes
Animal and human research has shown when separated from parents, infants and children show unstable temperatures, heart arrhythmias, and decreased REM sleep (the stage of sleep that promotes brain development). 10 12, 13
Dr. Brazy at Duke University and Ludington-Hoe and colleagues at Case Western University showed in 2 separate studies how prolonged crying in infants causes increased blood pressure in the brain, elevates stress hormones, obstructs blood from draining out of the brain, and decreases oxygenation to the brain. They concluded that caregivers should answer cries swiftly, consistently, and comprehensively. (3) and (4)
  1. P. Heron, “Non-Reactive Cosleeping and Child Behavior: Getting a Good Night’s Sleep All Night, Every Night,” Master’s thesis, Department of Psychology, University of Bristol, 1994.
  2. M R Rao, et al; Long Term Cognitive Development in Children with Prolonged Crying, National Institutes of Health, Archives of Disease in Childhood 2004; 89:989-992.
  3. J pediatrics 1988 Brazy, J E. Mar 112 (3): 457-61. Duke University
  4. Ludington-Hoe SM, Case Western U, Neonatal Network 2002 Mar; 21(2): 29-36
  5. Butler, S R, et al. Maternal Behavior as a Regulator of Polyamine Biosynthesis in Brain and Heart of Developing Rat Pups. Science 1978, 199:445-447.
  6. Perry, B. (1997), “Incubated in Terror: Neurodevelopmental Factors in the Cycle of Violence,” Children in a Violent Society, Guilford Press, New York.
  7. Schore, A.N. (1996), “The Experience-Dependent Maturation of a Regulatory System in the Orbital Prefrontal Cortex and the Origen of Developmental Psychopathology,” Development and Psychopathology 8: 59 – 87.
  8. Karr-Morse, R, Wiley, M. Interview With Dr. Allan Schore, Ghosts From the Nursery, 1997, pg 200.
  9. Kuhn, C M, et al. Selective Depression of Serum Growth Hormone During Maternal Deprivation in Rat Pups. Science 1978, 201:1035-1036.
  10. Hollenbeck, A R, et al. Children with Serious Illness: Behavioral Correlates of Separation and Solution. Child Psychiatry and Human Development 1980, 11:3-11.
  11. Coe, C L, et al. Endocrine and Immune Responses to Separation and Maternal Loss in Non-Human Primates. The Psychology of Attachment and Separation, ed. M Reite and T Fields, 1985. Pg. 163-199. New York: Academic Press.
  12. Rosenblum and Moltz, The Mother-Infant Interaction as a Regulator of Infant Physiology and Behavior. In Symbiosis in Parent-Offspring Interactions, New York: Plenum, 1983.
  13. Hofer, M and H. Shair, Control of Sleep-Wake States in the Infant Rat by Features of the Mother-Infant Relationship. Developmental Psychobiology, 1982, 15:229-243.
  14. Wolke, D, et al, Persistent Infant Crying and Hyperactivity Problems in Middle Childhood, Pediatrics, 2002; 109:1054-1060.
  15. Stifter and Spinrad, The Effect of Excessive Crying on the Development of Emotion Regulation, Infancy, 2002; 3(2), 133-152.
  16. Ahnert L, et al, Transition to Child Care: Associations with Infant-mother Attachment, Infant Negative Emotion, and Cortisol Elevations, Child Development, 2004, May-June; 75(3):649-650.
  17. Kaufman J, Charney D. Effects of Early Stress on Brain Structure and Function: Implications for Understanding the Relationship Between Child Maltreatment and Depression, Developmental Psychopathology, 2001 Summer; 13(3):451-471.
  18. Teicher MH et al, The Neurobiological Consequences of Early Stress and Childhood Maltreatment, Neuroscience Biobehavior Review 2003, Jan-Mar; 27(1-2):33-44.
  19. Leiberman, A. F., & Zeanah, H., Disorders of Attachment in Infancy, Infant Psychiatry 1995, 4:571-587. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

4th of July and Family Freedom

As I rushed around baking pie and helping my kids get their supplies to make their cute desserts, as I asked everyone to wear red, white, and blue this year for our 4th annual 4th of July family photo, as I prepared appetizers, treats, dinner, desserts...

As placed band-aids on boo-boos, as I got dressed, as I nursed my baby, as we laughed and played, as we had a watermelon eating contest, and as I watched my husband make himself a cocktail with mint and lime....

As we dug through fireworks and put flag football belts on, as I watched the kids wrestle and play leap frog, as we took photos and shared family time...

As we did all of this I thought to myself how important today is to our family. I took many moments to reflect on what freedom means to to us as a family and how important freedom is.
Ways We Are Free
If we lived somewhere else we might not be able to have as many children as we do, by law. If we lived somewhere else I could even be forced (taken from my home and literally held down and forced) to have an abortion (even of a term baby). It happens in 2013.
If we lived somewhere else we might not be able to homeschool our children. Our children could be taken away from us even if we were giving them a good education, even if we tried to comply with laws (which are often inconsistent even when homeschooling is allowed) and even if we attempted to move somewhere where else it was legal. It happens. Parents lose their kids and/or are forced to put them in government schools, it happens in 2013.
If we lived somewhere else we might not be allowed to be any religion we wanted and able to raise our children that way if we want. It still happens in 2013. 
If we lived somewhere else we might not have as much health care freedom, although ours is slipping away and parental rights have been grossly challenged in the past two decades, we still have freedom. And we still live in a country that has vaccine exemptions for school attendance because no one should ever be forced to consume anything against ones own will whatever their medical, religious or personal reasons/convictions may be. Forced vaccination/ medication happens in 2013.

If we lived somewhere else we might not be allowed to stay home and give birth the way we chose to unassisted. (Or we'd have to lie about it.) Midwife assisted homebirth however is legal in many but not all states.
I'm thankful for these freedoms, and many more. Not everyone needs or wants the same freedoms, and that's why being free is so, so darn important.