Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Santa vs. Shakespeare

Recently, the following conversation / fierce argument was overheard at our house:

Henry to Bronwen: Santa's not real, you know.
Bronwen: He is too!
Henry: No, he isn't. He's just Mom & Dad.
Bronwen: Well, Shakespeare's not real!
Henry, indignantly: Oh, yes, he is.
Bronwen: No, he isn't! Shakespeare isn't real!
Henry, now hot (he ramps up quickly, in case you didn't know, particularly in such dire situations when heroes are threatened.): Bronwen, Shakespeare WAS TOO REAL! He wrote hundreds of plays! You don't know what you are talking about!

This conversation continued with much of the same back and forth while I laughed in the other room until I feared they might come to blows and had to break it up. Too funny! Ever since, when Bronwen wants to get his goat, (which basically means she's bored because her brothers are doing homework and she wants their attention,) she pipes up with "Shakespeare isn't real, you know!"

It gets them every time.

Funny, she just let the accusations about Santa roll right off her back and turned the tables lickety-split. Smart cookie, that one.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Nora's Birth Story

Introducing . . . Nora Allison. This sweet bundle joined our family on October 4th. She couldn't possibly be more adored by her brothers, sisters, and parents. 

    As her mother, I particularly feel that Nora is a blessing from heaven. You see, we were feeling pretty content (and at times, overwhelmed) with our family of seven. Five kids kept us busy as can be, and with three boys and two girls, I thought we really had the perfect family. Then, one day just over a year ago, when I was praying about something completely unrelated, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the feeling that there was one more baby waiting to join our family.

    Although I immediately knew that we would do what Heavenly Father wanted, I will admit that I spent a few weeks asking Him if He was sure, if I had heard correctly, if there wasn't some mistake. I felt inadequate. I was scared. I wondered how we could make room in our lives for a baby. But there was no mistake. Time after time when I asked, I felt a warmth and a peace that only comes from the Lord. I knew we needed to take a leap of faith and have another baby. I knew that we would be blessed by this child and would always be grateful that we had listened to the promptings of the Holy Ghost to expand our family. But I still didn't know HOW it was going to work.

    Throughout my pregnancy, I will admit that I mostly tried to not think of what life would be like when she was born. Not because I didn't want her, but because I still wasn't sure about the how. But I knew that it would be okay.

    Towards the end, I needed lots of help. My blood pressure started rising and my doctor told me to cut back my activities. Each week when I saw him, he told me to cut back some more. Thankfully, unlike two previous pregnancies when high blood pressure had been an issue, this time the baby seemed unaffected by it. Friends and family reached out to me and insisted they help. At first it was hard to accept, but I knew I needed to do what was best for the baby and my own health, and had to humble myself.

    Then, three weeks and two days before she was due, I had a miserable night. My blood pressure had been harder to control, even with rest, for the past three days, and on this night, I could barely sleep because I kept having contractions. I knew I needed to get checked out at the hospital-- they aren't really keen on having a woman with 5 previous C-sections labor because of the risk of uterine rupture-- but I had also been through this kind of thing before. I knew that I would get to the hospital and my contractions would stop, my blood pressure would drop, and after several hours they would send me home. So I waited for morning. After I dropped my kids off at school and preschool, I headed in to get checked out. Things felt different and I fully expected to deliver our baby sooner than her scheduled delivery date which was still over two weeks away.

    Sure enough, my contractions stopped cold as soon as they began monitoring me and my blood pressure dropped after about half an hour of resting. The nurses assured me that I'd be going home soon, but that my doctor had ordered some labs just to be sure. I am sure they get plenty of women coming in with a few weeks to go in their pregnancy, desperate to find a reason to deliver early and have pregnancy over with, but  I am not one of those women. I knew that Nora was going to make her entrance sooner rather than later.

    The labs came back with results that landed me an overnight in the hospital while they ran more tests. It seemed that my kidneys were struggling and that the PIH was affecting me, even though the baby appeared to be fine. They gave me one of those nifty steroid shots that help the baby's lungs just in case, and I spent the next several hours figuring out the logistics of my family's needs with mommy in the hospital. Even though they were saying I would be in for 24 hours, I went ahead and made arrangements for help with kids, meals, etc, through the end of the week, feeling like it would be easy to cancel if needed. (Wouldn't you know it, my mom was out of town, visiting my brother and his wife and newest baby.) Thankfully, I had many people offer to help and had it all figured out by dinner time.

    The next day, after more labs, my amazing Dr. S. and I agreed that we were not going to wait for Nora's scheduled c-section, still two weeks away. We decided to wait one more day to give the steroids the best effect, and scheduled the c-section for 5pm the following day.

     The next evening we welcomed our sweet baby into the world. It took the doctors quite a while to work through all my scar tissue after so many surgeries; we were all bantering about needing a saw and talking in a relaxed way. When they got to my uterus, I heard the tone of my doctor's voice change. 
"Have you been having contractions, Michal?" 
"I had them the day and night before I checked into the hospital, but they have mostly gone away since I've been in bed here," I replied.
"I think we are delivering this baby on the right day," he said, sounding somewhat solemn.

    Apparently, my uterus was so thin that he proceeded to open it with his finger, not even needing a tool. When he did so, it sort of fell apart. My friend, Kristen, who was there and who is a L&D nurse, said after one look at it, she was sure that I would need a hysterectomy on the spot, because they would never get that fragile, spent organ sewn together again. Miraculously, they were able to stitch up the silvery tissue just as it needed to be. We all felt that it was God's hand that prevented my uterus from rupturing earlier, during my contractions (which would have been extremely serious and life threatening to both Nora and me), and that allowed me to avoid hemorrhaging or a hysterectomy.

    I am so grateful for this sweet little girl in my life. I am grateful for the Lord's tender mercies in sparing her life and mine, as well as for the many, many people He has prompted to bless us with help over the past months. 

    Our life is crazy with six kids, to be sure, but blessed and wonderful. I love being a mother, even though it pushes me to my very limits sometimes; even though I make mistakes and have to apologize to my children; even though it wreaks havoc on my sleep, my body, and my patience. It is the best choice that I have ever made and I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to be a mother to these six wonderful kids. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Our Summer Incentive Program

Summer break began yesterday, much to my relief. Sending my boys to school this year has been wonderful for them. They have really blossomed socially and each has gained confidence in a new area this year. I can't say that this would be true for any neighborhood school-- our charter school is one that teaches values, studies the classics, encourages service, and emphasizes the heroes of the past and what made them great. Thus, not only are these things taught, but the families who send their kids to the school all support the same values at home. It has been a wonderful blessing for our family.

Contrary to popular opinion, it has not been "easier" for me with my kids in school this year. We spent lots more time in the car, doing homework while I was making dinner or after bedtime (which is a real drag), meeting other people's deadlines, volunteering, and attending all sorts of meetings, field trips, and class parties, etc. I would say we were busier than ever, had less time for the kids to spend on chores and piano practice, and spent less time together as a family for sure. It was the right thing for us this year and probably for a while, but it has not been easier. And I welcomed summer break.

My kids, however, were not as excited, particularly as they heard me rejoicing in how much work I would have them help me with around the house. However, when I unveiled my incentive plan for the summer, they were very enthusiastic. They didn't even realize that it was not only an incentive plan for them to get the things done that matter to me, but that it will help me regulate their media time while allowing them to self-regulate within my parameters. Perhaps since we have had a "no media on school days" policy for our boys this won't be a shock to their system.

It goes like this. Each morning, each school aged child (including Bronwen, who starts kindergarten in August,) must complete the list of our morning routine. This includes: family devotional, breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth, make bed, pick up bedroom, do a chore (different each day, but assigned by me), practice the piano 30 minutes, and schoolwork (a 20-30 minute drill in math most days, also assigned by me. Bronwen is doing handwriting or reading practice).  If they complete this list by noon, (they can easily complete it by 10 am if they are focused), they receive 2 "Screen Time" Tickets, each worth 30 minutes.

In addition, they can earn up to 2 more ST Tickets each day. To earn one ticket they can do 30 minutes in extra chores chosen by me, 30 minutes of extra piano practice, 60 minutes of reading, etc. They can also earn a bonus ticket any time during the week by memorizing our Scripture of the Week and passing it off. Jared & I can also award one MVP ticket for exceptional behavior every day, although we may not give them every day-- it depends on the behavior.

To make things even more interesting (and to help them choose things other than Wii and TV for their free time), I am also offering a Buy-Back Program. They can turn in accumulated, unused tickets for other things. For 6 tickets they can go get an ice cream cone, Jamba Juice, or frozen yogurt. For 8 tickets they can skip a chore one morning and reduce their piano practice to 20 minutes that day. For 15 tickets, we will take them to a movie or let them choose a new book; 25 tickets gets them $20 to spend and a trip to the LEGO store (where I never want to go because it's half an hour away). 40 tickets earns a new Wii game. If they save up 50 tickets, they can have $50 cash or a day at a waterpark with their dad. We will probably have more Buy Back items and Extra Ticket options added as the summer progresses, but so far they are busy earning new tickets cheerfully and saving at least half of them for other things.

I know when things are fresh it is easier to be excited about them, but I am hopeful that this will keep us on track this summer to be productive, have fun, and not rot in front of the TV. I hope it will teach my kids the pleasure of delayed gratification and the importance of being industrious. Most of all, I hope this will help us have a great summer together.

What are your summer strategies with kids at home?

Monday, January 2, 2012


I'm the kind of person who is always setting goals and resolving to make improvements on the work in progress known as Michal, so New Year's Resolutions are right up my alley. I really try to make them realistic, but some years I am better at that than others. Not to worry-- I'll be setting new goals soon if these don't take!:)

This year, I am making some "more or less" resolutions. Instead of saying never, always, or making specific requirements, I am resolving to do more of some things and less of others. Writing it down and publishing makes me accountable. I'm also going to post these somewhere in my bedroom (the short versions) so that I can see them frequently and keep my focus.

  • Listen more-- to my children, my husband, and to the Spirit. This will also mean speaking less, and taking the time to really understand. It might even include listening to recounts of Arthur episodes or Calvin & Hobbes comics that I don't really care about, just because it is important to someone I love.
  • Learn more-- from the scriptures, the words of living prophets, and out of the best books-- classics and other books that will help me be a better person. Right after I finish the Hunger Games trilogy:)
  • Make more time-- to be the wife, mother, sister, daughter, and friend that I want to be. This involves rushing around less, committing to less that will take me away from these important roles. I have been struggling for some time to figure out how to be less busy and to slow down. I think I've decided (for now at least) that I just need to make the time, take the time when I need it, regardless of the to-dos pressing down on me. I was inspired yesterday by a story I read about George Albert Smith, a very busy man and prophet in the 1940s. It spoke of an experience when he was running late to catch a plane, and came across a woman and her four children who were anxious to shake the hand of a prophet. He paused and spoke with each one individually, shaking their hands. This moment had great meaning in the lives of this family, and was time well spent. I also think of the Savior, who frequently took the time for individuals in the midst of all He was striving to do during his brief ministry. I hope I can follow these examples. 
  • Show more gratitude-- to the Lord in prayer, by recording His blessings and tender mercies in my journal, and by sending thank you notes (something that I am terrible about).
  • Spend more wisely-- money, time, and calories. I really want to be more mindful in these areas in order to:  afford a kitchen remodel I've been dreaming of (money), in order to accomplish all of my other goals (time), and in order to be healthier (calories).
What have you resolved to improve in 2012? I love hearing other people's goals and aspirations. Go on, inspire me!