Cousins are the Best

Cousins are like candy, the more you have, the better.  They are sweet and sour and wonderful, some are squishy and some are hard.   I hope you are blessed with many of them.  Cousins can be like extra siblings or better.  A cousin can be the sister or brother that you do not have.  A cousin can be your first playmate and best friend.

Barb, L & D

My cousin, my sister and I

How many cousins are enough?   My children have 8 first cousins.  I had 37 and my husband had almost that many too.  Some of ours have passed away.  Nearly all have married (a few multiple times) have children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren.   All of which, equates to more cousins.  No one has any control over how many cousins they have.  You get what you get (many life lessons there).

Make time for your children to know their cousins, even the ones who live far away.  Consider vacationing together or just visiting at their house.  Invite them to your house.   One precious memory I have was when my parents, siblings and their families went with my family to Starved Rock State Park to spend the day with my aunt, uncle and their children and grandchildren.  I only wish we had done it more than once.  Throughout our lives friends come and go and change, but cousins endure with us.   Our common family history and experiences bond us together.

Lilicia Park deer

Me, with our 4 children (daughter in back pack), plus 2 of their cousins at Lilacia Park, Lombard, IL

Connecting with cousins also gives us opportunities to relate to people beyond our own age and gender. I had far more boy cousins than girl cousins.   I learned to interact and relate to my boy cousins in a very natural way without the weirdness that often accompanies cross-gender friendships. (At age 14 there was one whom I wished could have been my boyfriend).   I recall having fun pestering some older cousins (trying to count freckles) and sometimes being thrilled and terrified by older cousins.  I admired and adored them and loved being with them.

Among my grandchildren it is fun to watch the cousins play together.  Generally the boys play with the boys and the girls with the girls.  Younger and older play together.  My heart is warmed at their friendships.  I heard that last summer at junior high church camp my grandson and my petite granddaughter who are only 2 months apart in age but many inches apart in height hung out with each other and often sat together.  He is caring and protective and she is sweetness.   I am certain that at camp someday soon they will clearly identify each other as cousins.

Attend your family gatherings at holidays, weddings, showers, funerals, and reunions.  If those really big gatherings are overwhelming, then plan some frequent little ones.  May your family be a blessing in your life.  If it is not, I give you my condolences, and may you have wisdom to set healthy boundaries.



Most women have, or know someone who has, experienced a miscarriage. Which one are you?  I am both.  How did you, or they, handle it?

My first miscarriage happened when I was 20 years old, had a 9 month old son, and we were out of state attending a family wedding. It was a difficult situation. Even though the second pregnancy was a surprise we were happy and then we were crushed.  I was about eight to nine weeks along and suddenly everything changed.  I began bleeding and even with no activity and rest I was cramping.  I went to an unfamiliar doctor at an unfamiliar hospital.  The worst part was that I was treated in the maternity wing and could hear other newborn babies being wheeled down the hall.  I hope hospitals have changed that policy.

It didn’t matter that I had only been pregnant a short time.  I still loved my unborn child and his passing was a loss.  Yes, I grieved.   Even years later, when I would think of him I would be sad and then think about how old he would be and what kind of personality he would have.  It is a grief I have kept to myself or talked about with just my husband, or maybe my sister, because others don’t want to discuss your unborn child.IMG_2060

Family and close friends express sympathy and that helps.  Time and life bring healing.  Focusing on others and family also brings healing.

When our daughter, child #4, was almost two years old I miscarried again before I even realized I was pregnant.    Eight months later we conceived again.  We were excited and convinced our daughter would finally have a sister and not just brothers.  With much relief I passed the eight – ten week mark.   At twelve weeks it reoccurred.  Even though I had four living children, this loss was the greatest.

Of course, my husband was with me through all of this and he grieved in his way. Again family and friends expressed sympathy.  But there were two people who did things which I still fondly remember.

My sister returned to the store some maternity clothes which I had just purchased.  That task was emotionally impossible for me to do.  Her doing this was a tremendous help to me. Thank you, Linda.

IMG_2062A week or two later a friend at church gave me a hug and said he was sorry.  He was the only male (besides closest family) who verbally acknowledged our loss and grief.  Thank you, Brian B. for your courage and tenderness.

The loss of a child is the loss of a dream and a future.  We are left only to imagine the possibilities.  I am thankful for the comfort of knowing that someday in heaven I will meet and know our other three children.

Expecting a bonus baby

I thought my family was complete.  My children were all in school and various activities.  They were maturing and becoming quite independent.  Life was simpler than it used to be.  One day I notice I was feeling rather nauseous.  I hadn’t felt that way for many years, but it was familiar.  Could it possibly be?

Yes, I was pregnant.  What?  Shocking.  Unbelievable.  Not the plan.  I have to start over, again?!  My children were 9, 11, 13, and 16 years old and we were expecting again.   I was going back to diapers and middle of the night feedings.   This was going to be a HUGE adjustment for all of us. How would we add another child to our family and our home?

I soon discovered we were not a young couple having a baby.  We were a family having a baby.  It was different this time.fam

Many things had changed since I was expecting #4, our only daughter.  Furthermore I had forgotten lots of the little details of being pregnant.  When I went to my first OB appointment I was informed that I was an “old” mom.   When our daughter was born I was 27 years old, now I was  . . . . . 36!  I was asked if I wanted to explore genetic testing of the baby.  No, I did not.

At my next appointment, the nurse handed me a little plastic container and asked for a urine sample. “I did that last month,” I said.   She replied, “Yes, and you will do it at every appointment.”   I really had forgotten soooooo much.   By my third month appointment, the baby’s siblings started taking turns attending the appointments so they could hear the baby’s heartbeat and hear about the progress.

fam5Hubby and I took a one day Lamaze refresher course. Most of the other couples there were very young.   We went on the tour of the hospital and its new Labor/Delivery/Recovery room.   The hospital where we had delivered three of our four children had made significant changes.   I kept thinking to myself, “I can’t believe I am doing this again.”

I did not own any maternity clothes.   A few friends shared some with me and I shopped for more at rummage sales and garage sales.   What about all the baby equipment?  Where would the baby sleep?

We did some dry walling and painting in the basement and set up a room for #2 and #3 sons.  Daughter moved into the former boys’ room, which was painted purple for her.  Her former room was repainted for the baby.  Daughter and I made new curtains for 2 bedrooms.  #1 son carried the old crib from the attic to the new nursery.   The crib and a highchair were the only baby equipment we still had.  We shopped at more rummage and garage sales.

When I was expecting the other children ultrasounds were rarely used.  If they were used, they were not entirely dependable.  They were about 50% accurate at determining the baby’s gender.    Now every expectant mom had at least one ultrasound.  I had two this time.  The technician was 90% certain we were having a

During the eighth month I developed pre-toxemia and was restricted to total bedrest.  Within a week I seizured and lost consciousness.   Our son was delivered hours later via caesarean section.  He weighed less than 6 pounds but was healthy.  I awoke three days later to a beautiful red headed baby, who has been an incredible joy and blessing to our family.

A bonus is defined as an unexpected extra, a dividend, a plus, an advantage.   I have met many families who had a bonus child.  They are all thankful for their bonuses despite many adjustments.  So are we.

How many children?

While I was in labor with our second son I told my husband, “You are absolutely right.  Two children are enough.”  Later we had two miscarriages and three more live births.  No major decision should be made in the midst of a crisis such as labor.   Never, never make important decisions in a HAT.  H.A.T. stands for Hungry, Angry, Tired.  All of these could happen in labor.

What criteria does a couple use to decide how many children they should have?  For some, like my sister and husband it was reality.  Before having any children they thought they would have a dozen.  After having two children they stopped.   Parenting is very hard work.  Parenting has very big rewards.  Parenting is ever evolving and changing and continues for a lifetime.

There is the “how many can we afford” dogma.   It usually sounds something like this: We can only afford one or two children because we only make ____ amount of money or we are choosing a particular lifestyle or we have certain plans and goals.  This thinking tries to measure expenses and potential income.  Its focus is monetary.  It is an extremely realistic, but extremely narrow view of family.  Yes, raising a family is financially costly and requires self-sacrifice. Frequent evaluation of real needs versus wants is revealing. Most of us do not need much of what we think we need.  Fifty years ago bigger families fit in smaller houses because they had less stuff.

A guideline I often wrestled with is the “this is all I can manage well” argument.  I felt that I managed three boys really well and was ready for a fourth child.  But after the fourth child was born I felt I really had my hands full enough.   In fact, I clearly recall asking myself what in the world was I thinking.  I was homeschooling and wanted to be sure I was doing my very best at it.  I still think this argument has merit.  However I have since learned a few things and had a fifth child.
DSCN0141Some people follow what I call the blessing ideology.  I agree with them that all children are a blessing from the Lord.  They also believe they should not hinder conception.   These families usually have many children.  Hooray for them.

These are my own brief synopsizes of these principles of which books have been written.   The crux of the matter is that every couple must decide for themselves what is best.  They need to pray about this matter and seek God’s guidance for their family planning.   Equally important is the need to be totally in agreement.  If they are not in agreement there will be resentment and anger and other marital issues.

This is not a decision to be made once and never considered again.  I think the issue needs to be revisited every few years.  Couples need to continue to be in agreement or at least in a mutual compromise.   The issue needs to be reconsidered in view of major circumstances such as parental health changes.

Believe it or not I have met people who wished, too late, that they had had more children.  I have never met anyone who wished they had less.  Of course, there are those who are disappointed with their children’s lives.

I recently discovered comedian Jim Gaffigan who has five children.  He answered the why so many children question like this. “Well, why not? I guess the reasons against having more children always seem uninspiring and superficial. What exactly am I missing out on? Money?  A few more hours of sleep?  A more peaceful meal?  More hair? These are nothing compared to what I get from these five monsters who rule my life. I believe each of my five children has made me a better man. So I figure I only need another thirty-four kids to be a pretty decent guy.”

I like his perspective.  Yes, our children impact our lives in almost all positive ways.  Yes, they are a lot of work.  It is work worth doing.  It is work with an eternal impact.  As we do it we are learning and growing and becoming better people.   If two children can provide a lifetime of education and meaningful relationships, imagine what four or more will do.

Here is my crazy advice for your family.  Have two children close in age, then wait 3-5 years and have two more.  Repeat as often as you care or dare!  Even with this formula you will eventually not have anyone in diapers and you will eventually have an empty nest.  Don’t rush through your children’s childhood.  They will be grown and gone before you know it.

our kids1

This picture was taken on the last Easter that all our children lived at home.  3.31.97