Photo shoot

So, during my little blog hiatus Perry and I had a quick photo shoot.  I know we’re long overdue for an update to our photo header, but this one was more fun and much easier.

We shared one of the photos on Facebook, but it was really hard to choose a favorite so I’m going to share my six favorites here.  Which is your favorite?

IMG_5933 IMG_5929

IMG_5928 IMG_5926

IMG_5920 IMG_5919

Baby update: Calvin at 10 months

After such a long blog break, it’s only fitting for a mom of 11 to start with an update on the baby, right?  Here he is, by popular demand:

Our first blue-eyed blonde.

blue eyes

Bethany was blonde as a baby, but her hair seems to be darkening with age.


And her eyes have always been a striking hazel.


She’s a beauty, but I’m not talking about her today.  I’m talking about this guy:


Well, actually I’m not talking about that guy.  That’s Johnny Matthis.  I meant this guy:



He’s crawling at breakneck speeds now, and standing unsupported for several seconds at a time.  He always waits for the round of applause before he sinks back to the floor.  He has been known to take a few steps, but hasn’t decided to walk yet.

saying bye

He is also becoming proficient at communicating.  His spoken words include poop, Dad, dog, hi, bye, hello (spoken in his phone voice), and Mom – in that order.  He also understands and uses several signs: hungry, thirsty, please, tired, more, and no.  We’re working on thank you, but he fails to see the point once he’s already got what he wants.


Fair enough, once you see it from his perspective.  Now he just needs to learn to see it from ours.

Everything you ever needed to know about sleeping babies

I’ve posted quite a bit about sleeping babies in the past, but this short essay sums up everything I ever learned.  I didn’t write it myself, but I could have.  Maybe I did write it myself, in the course of all my posts.  I can’t remember because I’m a little short on sleep.

Snapshot : happy helper


8yo Rachael couldn’t wait to learn to change Calvin’s diapers. She is now certified for wet diapers and working toward her degree in Infant Poop Changes.

4 Moms: First weeks with a new baby

4moms35kids What do your first few weeks look like with a new baby?  If your house is anything like mine, it’s not always a pretty sight.  We’re all excited to meet the little one, Mom is out of commission, and all are more than a little distracted.  Household chores don’t get done, standards of obedience begin to slip, and the combination of exitement and distraction results in something that feels a little like the day after Christmas or coming home from a vacation: tired, grumpy people everywhere you look.

While Mom rests and works to agree on a new schedule with the baby, the rest of the household tries to adjust to a less involved Mom for the time being.  Then just as things seem to be slipping into a new sort of normal, it all changes and we start over again.

Sound familiar?

Here’s my advice: relax.  Go with it.  Prioritize.  

Let the clingy little ones crawl up on the bed with you and the baby for as long as you can stand the jiggling, then thank them for keeping you company and kindly send them on a new mission.

Do what you must, not what you can.  Don’t push yourself to jump back in and do everything you think you can do, just because you feel great now.  You’ll pay for it in a few weeks when everyone quite reasonably expects you to be recovered and you’re actually an exhausted emotional wreck because you didn’t rest when they told you to.  Rest is as necessary for your mind as for your body.

Ask for help with dishes and laundry, but let the other housekeeping slide as much as necessary if you don’t have older children or other help to keep it up.

Let the kids watch DVDs if it helps you get the rest you need.  Try to have some good ones on hand, and discuss them afterward to assuage the guilt of using your TV as a babysitter.

What do those first few weeks look like in your house?  How do you manage the adjustment period?

See what the other moms say:

Upcoming topics for 4 Moms:

  • September 6 – Q&A
  • September 13 – Handling different standards between you and your husband (homeschooling, dress, etc.)

Recent topics:

About 4 Moms, including a complete list of all past topics

Giveaway and round-up of baby posts

This giveaway has ended.  The winner was Kate McKinney!

This week’s giveaway is baby themed for a very good reason, and I’m celebrating that reason with a round-up of some of my past baby posts:

  1. All About Parker – Parker’s first birthday post, with updates on his development, personality and lots of photos.
  2. Sleep? What’s that? – In which I desperately long for sleep.
  3. Sleep training: a 10 day log – In which I futilely try to get a full night’s sleep.
  4. Car seat training – In which I enjoy rather more success, though I don’t get any more sleep than before.
  5. 13 uses for receiving blankets – Because I never knew what to do with all those receiving blankets, and maybe others shared my bewilderment.
  6. Something fun and crazy that happened to me when I was expecting our first boy after 7 girls.
  7. Two related polls about how early and how late your babies have started walking.
  8. Video posts highlighting my crazy crawlers, Bethany and Perry.  Parker did it too, but we must have forgotten to get him on video.
  9. Sleeping babies Q & A, because before Parker came along I was really good at this.
  10. Birth stories, which make up an entire category.
  11. And finally, the fun way we announced a new pregnancy to the kids, long ago when we were expecting #8.

So…do you know why I chose this particular theme for this week’s giveaway?  Did you spot any of the clues I planted over the past week?  Or were you already on our mailing list, so you got The Newsletter?


Babies, Adoption, and Family LogisticsWe’re going to choose one winner to receive Babies, Adoption, and Family Logistics, 24 audio messages from the 2010 Baby Conference!

As always, there are several ways to enter.  Remember to leave a separate comment for each entry!

  1. Leave a comment on this post.
  2. Leave a second comment on this post about a clue or hint that you spotted.  This entry will only count if you’re the first to mention that particular clue, so be as specific as possible, and please mention just one clue to leave more chances for others.
  3. Post about this giveaway on facebook, twitter, and/or your blog. Each counts as a separate entry.
  4. Post about your favorite Vision Forum product on facebook and/or your blog.
  5. Like Vision Forum on Facebook.
  6. Use the little Facebook button to recommend Babies, Adoption and Family Logistics to your FB friends.

I’ll take entries until next Friday, then choose a random winner.  Unless I’m too busy throwing up by then.  In that case, I’ll be busy taking this advice.




All About Parker

my handsome little manSince today is Parker’s birthday (and since Suki asked), today’s post is all about Parker.  This is my substitute for a baby book and will serve as my memory in years to come, but we hope you’ll enjoy it too.

Today is National Chocolate Ice Cream, and it’s also Parker’s first birthday.  Please don’t think I’m a bad mom because I put the ice cream first.  After all, it’s chocolate.  Wait, I meant to say that I was going from least important to most.  That’s what I meant.

We can’t believe it’s only been a year since we met Parker.  He’s such a personable little guy, he makes everyone feel like his best friend.  I mean that quite literally.  I can’t count the number of people who have told me, “I think I’m his favorite person!”

His charm puppy dog eyes

He’s quite popular everywhere we go, and it’s not just because he’s a baby.  He’s also a shameless flirt.  I often catch him scanning the crowds, trying to catch someone’s eye.  It’s always a girl or woman, and when she looks his way he flashes his brightest, sweetest smile.

My sister told me his smile looks like when Squints smiles at Wendy Peffercorn in the movie Sandlot, and I can’t deny it. In the store, in the parking lot, in the fast food restaurant (who? me?)…every time I take him out I hear the ladies around us giggle and whisper.  “Look – he smiled at me!  He likes me!  Did you see him?  He’s so cute!”  It’s like being Justin Bieber’s mom.

At large gatherings of people we know, he’s passed around so much I have to hunt him down for feedings.  “Ladies,” he tells them in a svelte voice. “There’s plenty of me to go around.”  At a recent wedding I asked Mother Hen’s hubby if he knew where Parker was and he replied, “Oh, he’s off body-surfing the crowd somewhere.”  That’s my little rock star baby.


He is a very pleasant guy, always ready with a smile, but it’s unbelievably hard to make him laugh out loud.  The only reliable way to get even a chuckle is to eat his ribs.  A backup method that sometimes gets good results is to help him punch and kick his brother.

Nothing pleases him more than to understand and be understood, and he loves to be in the middle of everything.  As a tenth child, he can sleep through anything but silence, and he gets nervous and clingy when not surrounded by a crowd of loving family and friends.

At first glance many people think that Perry Boy takes after his dad, but in reality he looks like his dad now. He looks nothing like his dad did as a little boy.  Instead, Parker is the spitting image of his dad at this age.  From what I’ve heard, the personalities of our two boys work the same way.  Parker is friendly but quiet and laid back like his dad was as a little guy.  Perry is gregarious, fun and just a little bit crazy like his dad is now. 🙂


As of his first birthday, Parker is not crawling and it seems safe to assume he won’t until he’s old enough to do it in play.  His primary mode of transportation is the butt-scoot just like his older brother did.  It’s just as fast as crawling and even more efficient since it can leave one hand free if he wants to carry something with him.  It’s not completely hands-free like Bethany’s mode of transportation was, but it works for him.

He cruises around the furniture with ease, and loves to cling to our legs and tug at our skirts.  Elastic waistbands, beware!

He can stand unsupported for a few seconds at a time, and his sisters are convinced that he could walk if he just tried hard enough.  He objects vociferously when they try to force him to take steps on his own, but I’m sure he’ll be walking very soon.


I seem to remember that a baby has an average of 20 words on his/her first birthday.  Some of our children have hit the average, while others were far more verbal.  Deanna regularly used over 150 words by her first birthday.  She was my first, so I have the actual list.

Parker is bright and observant, but I don’t think his list of words is up to 20 yet.  His people skills outweigh his verbal skills, which is fine.  We enjoy his charm. He tries to say many of his siblings’ names, but here are the words he uses unprompted:

  1. mama or mom (he uses both)
  2. dada or dad
  3. boo (when he wants to nurse)
  4. dog
  5. this
  6. that
  7. hi
  8. bye
  9. outside
  10. guys (our term for siblings, as in “Where are your guys?”  I think it’s a north-western thing left over from my first 13 years in Oregon.)
  11. thirsty (he learned to say this very soon after he learned the sign)

Parker does the sign for "more"I love to teach my babies sign language, and Parker has quickly picked up a few of the most useful signs when I remember to introduce them and uses them with enthusiasm.

If we count sign language he’s much closer to 20 words, and he’s very good now at making his wishes known, something he thoroughly appreciates.

  1. no
  2. please
  3. hungry
  4. thirsty
  5. more
  6. yes
  7. poop (our made-up sign resembles the letter P and he added some appropriate sound effects)
  8. thank you (just beginning to get this one)


  • weight: 21 lbs.
  • height: 28.5″
  • teeth: 7 (4 on top, 3 on bottom)
  • shoe size: 3
  • clothing size: 6-9 mos


I loved and used blanket training for some of my older children back when I didn’t have so many helpers.  Now Parker has eyes on him everywhere he goes, nearly every minute of the day so he has learned his boundaries differently.

He knows that there’s one cabinet he is allowed to play in – the one that holds all the plastic bowls, containers, lids, etc. – and he knows not to eat the dog food or play in the dog water.  Well, at least in theory.

He understands and obeys when we tell him no, and he even tells himself no (in sign language) if we catch him where he shouldn’t be, doing what he shouldn’t do.  Then he smiles disarmingly (“See?” his eyes say.  “We agree!”) and scoots away.  Oh, he’s a charmer, he is.  This houseful of women is in trouble.

Sleepbeautiful sleeping baby boy

Parker has just begun reliably sleeping through the night.  This is utterly unheard of in our household.  Rachael occasionally woke up during the night after the age of 6 months, but all the others have slept 7-9 solid hours starting somewhere between 6 weeks and 4 months.

I think at least two factors have contributed to this:

  • I’m getting soft in my old age. One of my basic principles for teaching a baby to sleep through the night is to let them work up to a real cry before I get them out of bed.  This doesn’t mean I let them cry it out, but it does mean I don’t pick up a baby who is just fussing and might easily fall back to sleep.  In Parker’s case, he fussed and fussed and fussed…never a real cry, but just enough to keep me awake for a long, long time.  I don’t know if I would do it differently now, but after a while I just started getting him up as soon as the fussing began.
  • He’s always been a scrawny guy. Several of my babies have been very wiry and were very good sleepers, but when a baby is on the small side we all want to play it safe.  If he woke up during the night and said he was hungry, I didn’t make him work to convince me.  I took him at his word much more readily than I would a chunkier baby.

Now he’s eating a lot more solid food, and while he still looks more like a spider monkey than a chunky monkey, he has begun sleeping for longer stretches.


His name is Parker Cromwell, named after my dad Stephen Parker Brown who passed away just over 2 months ago at the age of 58. We’re big on nicknames and I can’t begin to list all of his.

His most commonly used nicknames include Pickle (from Bethany’s pronunciation of Parker), Buddy, and Doodle, which he has nearly outgrown.   I’ve also called him Milkman, Monkey Boy, Booby Boy, and Poop Monster when it suits the occasion.

Favorites parker loves outside

He loves to play the keyboard, ride his brother’s pedal car, play in the plastics cupboard, watch movies with his guys, share earbuds with his sisters, read books with or without a narrator.

Our huge 11yo cat, who should be old and cranky by now, is strangely tolerant of his attentions.

He loves to be outside and is fascinated by wind, trees, the moon and all the other wonders of creation. And he loves me.  I think I’m his favorite person!

Sleep training: a 10 day log

I’ve bragged in the past about how early my babies sleep through the night.  Did anyone notice that I’ve been strangely silent on that topic for the last few months?  Go ahead.  Yuck it up, people.  Laugh me to scorn.  After a brief but glorious stint of 7 hour nights, Parker is back to waking up every 4 hours or less.  At 4 months, my boy is still waking up at least once/night, usually twice – especially if you, like me, consider 6 AM to be part of the night.  If I’m not up yet, it’s night.  That’s how the definition reads in my dictionary.

I think I’ve become soft in my old age.  I used to wait until my babies got good and angry before I got them up, and all but one slept through the night by 2 months.  Now, I value sleep so much that I’m not willing to lie there listening to a cranky baby complain.  I’d rather get him up and feed him so we can both get some sleep.


Like a good adult, I finally woke up to the fact that a short-term sacrifice of sleep might be a win for the longterm cause.  If I buckle down and exert some tough love, we’ll all sleep better and be better people.  We’ll be doing our bit to further world peace.

It helps that I have suddenly realized that he’s just toying with me.  When he wakes up at 2:00, he doesn’t cry.  Not really. He fusses.  He whines.  He tosses and turns, and complains that he can’t get back to sleep.  He asks for a drink of milk.  Then he wakes again at 4 AM and does the same thing.  The boy is bored, not hungry.  Boredom just doesn’t tug at the heartstrings like a wailing hungry little babe.  Proof: when I get him up to feed him, he falls asleep before he finishes.

And so I resolved to take my own advice.


  1. Wait to get him up until he really and truly cries.  Once he works into a genuine cry, give him a minute or two to make sure he means it.
  2. Cut feedings short, ending them as soon as the baby begins to slow down.
  3. No socializing: keep lights out, and don’t talk or play.  Don’t change diapers unless absolutely necessary.
  4. Put baby back to bed asap.  DO NOT doze off and let baby sleep at the breast.

Let me clarify: There is nothing wrong with doing any or all of the above if you don’t care whether your baby sleeps straight through the night.  If you’re convinced that your baby is waking because he’s truly hungry, by all means feed him.  If your baby is scared, comfort him.  If you enjoy his company at 2 AM and expect to continue enjoying it, then don’t let me change your mind.

But if you long for a full night’s sleep while your baby is waking up because he thinks sleeping at night is just boring and he has better things to do, you might want to try my tips.  This is the method that has helped all of my babies to sleep through the night at very early ages.

Here’s what happened the first 10 nights after I decided that I really did want to sleep through the night and actually took my own advice.


Unless otherwise specified, Parker usually goes to bed around 11 PM.  Then…


On the first night after my resolution, he fussed for nearly 2 hours from 2 AM until 4 AM before he finally got angry and started wailing.  At that point, I brought him to my bed for a quick feeding.  He was asleep and back in his own bed in less than 15 minutes, without even taking time for a full feeding.  He slept until nearly 7 AM that morning.


The second night, he didn’t wake up until 4 AM.  He fussed for about 40 minutes, then fell back asleep without ever crying!  He woke at 6:30, moderately hungry but not famished as I would have expected.


This time, he woke around 3 AM.  He talked to himself and quietly complained for about 40 minutes before dozing off.  He didn’t make a peep until 8:30.  He woke up good and hungry this time.


Parker went to bed around 10, and woke up at 1:50 AM. That could be my fault, since Perry and I were sneaking into bed just about that time. I let Parker fuss, expecting that he would doze off as he had for the past few nights. Not so. He fussed for over 30 minutes, and then finally broke into a real cry, so I got him up and nursed him. After that he slept soundly until 8:30 AM.

The fact that I had to give him that nighttime feeding was a little disappointing since he’s been doing so well during this transition, but I don’t think it’s a big deal. I didn’t expect him to progress so quickly anyway – I’m thankful that we’ve seen such immediate changes already, and if really is hungry now and then during the night then of course I’ll feed the poor guy!


Pickle – did I tell you his nickname?  That’s how Bethany pronounced Parker at first, and it stuck – Pickle went to bed early this night, about 9:30.  I didn’t expect him to make it through the night, and he didn’t.  He did sleep until 4, a stretch of 6 1/2 hours.  He woke and fussed as usual, finally breaking into a cry after about 20 minutes.  He dozed off 15 minutes into a feeding, and slept until 8:30 AM.


Fell asleep around 10, up at 5 to eat.  We’re still not where I’d like to be, but a 7 hour stretch is nothing to complain about.  I’m proud of my little guy.


The little guy slept from 11 to 5:45, woke for a quick half-hearted feeding, and went back to bed for a gloriously long time.  This is progress!


We seem to have a new norm.  Once again, he went to bed between 10 and 11, and woke for a brief feeding around 5:30 or 6.  This is a nice stretch, but I’m hoping it lengthens gradually – or better yet, I’m hoping it lengthens quickly.  Just another hour would make it a full night’s sleep!  We’re so close!


Ten nights into this effort, Parker finally slept an 8 hour stretch!  Unfortunately, he went to bed earlier than usual so the end of his 8 hours came much earlier than the end of mine, but I’m not complaining!  I wonder if he’ll give an encore performance?


You might be wondering if sleeping through the night will affect your baby’s daytime routine.  Every baby is different, but in our case improved sleep patterns at night seem to help with daytime sleep as well.  My babies seem to take longer naps, sleep more deeply, and wake in a better mood if they’re sleeping well at night.

This link between daytime and nighttime sleep patterns carries over to something we’ve noticed about our 4yo boy:  He still needs naps.  If he misses his nap, he seems fine until after bedtime.  Then he’s far more prone to wake up crying or angry during the night (often multiple times) or to wet the bed – something he never does if he’s had a nap.

This isn’t just about sleep for a tired mama.  A good night’s sleep makes life easier for the little ones too.

13 uses for receiving blankets

I took a plan trip with a 3 month old baby last week, meeting connecting flights in both directions.  Along the way, I picked up a couple of new uses for the ever-present receiving blanket.

  1. As a teething toy – Tie a knot in one corner of the blanket to give baby something to hold and chew.
  2. As a nursing cover – Most receiving blankets aren’t quite big enough to make a really good nursing cover, but remember that knot you tied in the corner?  Catch that corner over the baby’s head and you’ll find that the rest of the blanket covers the business areas rather handily.  The pocket formed by the knot makes it harder for baby to surprise you and bystanders by tugging the blanket loose.
  3. As a changing pad – Lay blanket down before you change baby to protect the surface beneath.
  4. For playing/lying on the floor or other questionable surfaces – Many receiving blankets are printed only on one side, so they have a “right” side and a “wrong” side.  Just place blanket wrong side down to give baby a clean surface to lie or play.  Re-use as many times as desired, always placing wrong side down.  In between uses, I like to fold mine carefully to keep the wrong side from touching the right side.
  5. A play surface for legos, etc – Spread the blanket on your play surface for quieter play.  Clean up is a snap: just gather all 4 corners
  6. To cover an infant seat – Drape over an infant seat to give baby a private area for napping or unwinding.  If your baby becomes used to this, it becomes a portable bedroom and baby always feels right at home no matter where you are.
  7. To catch people jumping from a burning building – Stretch the 4 corners between 4 strong people and…well, maybe not…
  8. To wrap a baby gift – Use a receiving blanket and a bit of ribbon to wrap baby gifts, or to pad and decorate a basket of baby goodies.  Cute and useful!
  9. As a burp rag – Handy, and it does the job.
  10. Make a quilt – If standard issue receiving blankets are too small for your taste, cut 2 or 3 into squares and assemble into a simple quilt that is more to your taste.
  11. As an emergency cloth diaper – Most receiving blankets are flannel, the perfect fabric for cloth diapers.  Just fold yours into the right size & shape and lay inside a waterproof cover.  It’ll do in a pinch.
  12. As a lap cover – Did the baby manage to ruin your clothes?  Drape a blanket over your lap to hide the damage until you can change.  If it’s going to be a while, try tying the blanket around your waist or wrapping it loosely around the baby and letting it drape strategically over the problem area.  With a baby in your arms, nobody will give your fashion choices a second thought.
  13. Adjustable blankets for baby – Add or remove lightweight receiving blankets to keep baby comfortable in varying temperatures.

I’m sure you can add to the list.  What else do you do with receiving blankets?

Car seat training

Of our 10 living children, we have only had 1 vociferous car seat objector: Parker.  The others took most of their naps in their car seats, rode happily wherever life took them, and enjoyed being able to watch life unfold from a vantage point provided by their seat on the table or counter.

Parker is different.  He hates his car seat.  He finds nothing soothing about a ride to town.  He yells as soon as we strap him in, cries himself to sleep if he has time, and wakes up ready for more.

No, I’m not putting him in a hot seat that has been left baking in the van.  No, the problem is not insufficient padding.  And the problem really isn’t that we expect a young baby to spend hours entertaining himself while we ignore him.  Hah.  I mock you.  I laugh you to scorn.

He really just hates being in the car seat.  He wants to be held, plain and simple.  The boy has us wrapped around his little finger and he knows it.

I’m reasonably sure this is because we have stayed home far more with him than with any of the others.  We’re living an hour from town and our 2nd car has been dead since some time before he arrived so he just hasn’t been forced to get used to the car seat.  The poor boy has become a homebody.  He’s my homeboy, mah homey.  He’s tense and unpleasant if we are away from home for more than a few hours, and he visibly relaxes when we get home again.

I’m sure the fact that he has 9 older siblings is also a factor.  When I had only little ones, the babies had to be set down frequently, and the car seat was my tool of choice.  The car seat made it easy to rock the baby with one foot when a toddler needed some attention; easy to move a sleeping baby from room to room with me so that the preschooler couldn’t practice her creativity upon the baby unsupervised; easy to set the seat up on a table top so the baby could watch the rest of the family doing school.

Now that we have so many sets of arms in the house, the baby need never be set down.  It seems easy to pass a demanding baby from one set of arms to another, but eventually it creates problems.  We’re learning this the hard way.

I have also moved away from the habit of putting our babies down for naps in their car seat.  Our first 9 babies took nearly all their naps in the car seat whether we were at home or abroad.  Most of them even spent the night in their car seat, next to our bed.  They took to it very quickly and seemed to find comfort in the semi-fetal position, surrounded by padding on 3 sides.  For some reason I didn’t start that habit with Parker, and now we’re reaping the consequences.

But I’m going to try to change that this week.  He’s going to spend a lot of short periods in his car seat this week, sometimes being entertained and other times being left to entertain himself.  He’s also going to be taking most or all of his naps this week in his car seat.

That’s Parker’s part of the deal.  The rest of us will work very hard at not pitching him, ourselves or each other over the rail of the deck.  OK, I’m exaggerating.  But we all know that stress levels can rise when there’s a cranky baby in the house.

So far, he has done surprisingly well.  I wish I had worked on this weeks ago.  He cries for much shorter times than in the van, quickly settling down to watch his toys and swat at them.  His naps are much shorter than usual, but at least he’s sleeping in his car seat.  That’s not usually on his list of  Things to Do on Road Trips.  Of course the real test will be our next outing.

And don’t worry – we’re taking him out for plenty of loving!  This little boy has 11 pairs of arms to love him.  His problem isn’t that he spends too much time alone.  He doesn’t know the meaning of the word.